Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pickled Green Tomatoes

You know the expression “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”?  So what are you supposed to do if universe gives you green tomatoes?  Lots of them, more than I can count. 
My tomato harvest this year exceeded all my expectations; there were hundreds of beautiful tomatoes that even managed to escape the squirrels.  There was only one problem, most of them never ripened. 
There is something weird about my backyard, all plants bloom later than normal.  In the spring my lilac just starts to bloom at the end of May, when others long forgot about it’s flowers.  My roses don’t peak until July and my vegetables don’t get going until August.  I plant my tomatoes with everyone else, one weekend after Mother’s day.  And everyone I know is proudly munching on their own tomatoes in August, where I only start to get little green ones.  By end of September, everyone is done harvesting, and I may have picked a couple red ones and my tomato bushes are breaking under the heaviness of beautiful but still green fruit.  And as October frost sets in I realize that sadly, these beauties will never ripen and I just need to cut my losses again this year. 
As I stared at basket after basket of green tomatoes to be thrown away, my husband suggested I pickle them instead.  A pickled green tomato makes a classic Russian vodka chaser.  You just have to remember to give those lots and lots of flavor as they have none of their own.  And these can last in the fridge for months , no need to fiddle around with mason jars and preservation process. 
So now I have enough pickled green tomatoes to throw a serious vodka party, or to give away as gifts or to sell at a market, if I am so inclined…. They are taking up half of my auxiliary  fridge and better be eaten by spring…

Pickled Green Tomatoes

Green or just slightly pink tomatoes
A glass or plastic container with a lid that can fit all of the tomatoes snuggly but not squeezed in
The recipe for the brine and spices below is for a 2 gallon container, but can easily be scaled up or down

For the brine

3 cups of white vinegar
1.5 gallons of water
1 cup kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar

 Pickling spices

6 cloves of garlic, cleaned and slightly crashed
1 or 2 hot peppers cut in halves
½ tbs coriander seeds
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano

Combine all the brine ingredients and bring to a boil.  Simmer until all salt and sugar is dissolved.  User right away.
Wash the tomatoes and fit them snuggly into the clean jar.  Along with tomatoes add the hot peppers, garlic and the pickling spices.
Pour hot brine over the tomatoes, making sure they are fully submerged.  Close tightly and refrigerate.
The pickled tomatoes should be ready in 7 -10 days.  These can last in the fridge for several months if they are submerged in brine.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Swordfish steaks and favorite things.

Just recently my son was mopping around the house complaining that he has nothing to look forward to…. Must be genetic, because the anticipation is what drives me and keeps me happy.  Looking forward to trips, cooking projects, and other fun things is my favorite past time and if nothing is coming up I get antsy…
And if I have nothing big to look forward I think of all the little things that can keep me going for now…. This time of year is look forward to the chilly air and the way the sun hits a golden maple tree in my back yard, to the feel of wearing favorite boots for the first time, to pumpkin everything, to lots of venison in the freezer, to the daunting task for coming up with the Thanksgiving menu and to confiscating my children’s Halloween candy and then eating all my favorite ones in secret.  I look forward to the my orchids blooming in the winter, to warm blankets and cozy pj’s , to getting snowed in on the weekend and heaving nothing to do but cook, eat and watch Breaking Bad.
I look forward to comfort foods and foods that will take me back to summer, back to Italy, back to the blue waters of Mediterranean…  what better choice than a nice, hearty, Swordfish steak. 
Originally, I was going to serve the Swordfish with Potatoes Au Gratin and Green Beans, but my Au Gratin didn’t work ( contrary to popular belief, some things do fail in my kitchen and more often than you think) so a few thousand calories were saved and a much healthier dinner was served.

The biggest trick to cooking swordfish is not to over or under cook it… it needs to be a perfect medium, because anything over is bone dry and anything under is just not flavorful enough.  You also want the freshest cuts, preferably not previously frozen and the stakes have to be at least ½ inch thick, although 2/3 of an Inch thick is the best.
Pan Seared Swordfish Steaks with Lemon Herb butter
4 Swordfish steaks – 2/3 inch thick at room temperature
¼ cup of fine flour (also called sauce or sauté flour)
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for the pan
For the sauce
½ tbs of rosemary minced
1 tsp of fresh thyme
1 tbs of fresh parsley
Juice of half a lemon
2 cloves of garlic
Salt / Pepper
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil ( the fruitiest you can find)
1 tbs of melted butter

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pan until almost smoking.  Salt and pepper the stakes on both sides and dip into the fine flour (shake off the excess).  Sear on each side until just golden ( 1 -2 minutes).  Prepare the sauce -  combine all the ingredients in the food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.    Dress the fish with the sauce immediately after taking off the heat ( you may want to slightly heat the sauce as well).  Serve hot.

Delicious, hearty but still light!  Unlike the 100 lbs of venison in my freezer, which I am very much looking forward to cooking!