Eastern Europe: Pickles

pickles

Hey, Spicebox Supperclub!  I shared Dave’s pickles from the last supperclub on Spicebox Travels with #LetsLunch, a virtual monthly potluck of food writers and bloggers from around the world.  This month’s theme is all about pickles and I hadn’t had a chance to post Dave’s recipes yet, so it was perfect timing.  Thanks, Dave, and here’s the post!

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Aside from my Quick Asian Pickles, which I posted recently, I am not much of a pickler. But I love to eat anything pickled. Pickles, and fermented foods in general, are all the rage these days. Dating back millennia, fermentation was one of the original methods to preserve food. These days, from kimchi to yogurt, it’s all about the probiotics. Probiotics, or good bacteria, are increasingly being seen as beneficial not only for digestive health but possibly also for allergies and even weight loss.

The most recent homemade pickles I’ve enjoyed were at a recent dinner by the supper club I’ve belonged to for the past year. Unlike other supper clubs, which are usually pop-up restaurants hosting meals for strangers, ours is a private affair. A year ago, a couple of friends proposed the idea of having a supper club. The idea for our supper club came about from a member who has vivid memories of his parents’ supper club in the ’70s, enigmatic adult-only dinner parties that would last into the wee hours of the morning. We’re reviving the model and plan quarterly themed dinner parties. We’re a group of four couples in San Francisco who share a love of food, travel, adventure and conversation. To be clear, we really, really love food. Several of us have been known to fly across the oceans in pursuit of one particular meal. As might be expected from people who travel to eat, we can be a bit fanatical in our menu planning.

While all of us were friends with the organizing hosts, several of us were strangers to each other when the supper club began. But after marathon dinners stretching for 6 hours or more, we’ve gotten to know each other quite well. A lot of things come up around food. One time, the host recalled a particularly embarrassing incident involving an ill-fitting sky blue suit jacket. (Sadly, this was before social media.) Another time, when we were going around sharing where we’d gone to college and what we’d studied, one of us couldn’t stop giggling at the revelation that another member had majored in European History. The rest of us are still not sure why that was so amusing. But, all is accepted without judgment in our supper club family. With all this bonding, these supper club dinners have produced some truly wonderful meals as well as nourished, or since we’re talking pickles, fermented some great friendships.

What have we cooked? The first year’s supper clubs explored ethnic themes, either based upon the host’s heritage or a recent trip. We started with an Asian Mashup, which explored one of the host’s Indian heritage as well as other food from Asia. That was followed by Comida Porteño, based upon the host’s recent trip to Buenos Aires. We followed with a Trini Carnival themed menu that explored the Indian and Afro-Carbiiean foods of my husband’s home, Trinidad. And most recently, we explored the foods of Eastern Europe and the varied Eastern European backgrounds of our hosts. If you’re interested in the menus, recipes and stories, please visit our group blog, Spicebox Supperclub. Who knows where we’ll go next?

Now, for the pickles. Our host, Dave, presented a trio of typical Eastern European pickles: cucumbers, carrots and turnips. These presented a bright and tart contrast to the rich Eastern European fare.

Quick Cucumber Pickles

from http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2013/08/quick-pickles/

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 48 Hours
Servings: 10-12 pickles

Ingredients

8 garlic cloves, sliced
2 handfuls handfuls fresh dill
2 bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp dill seeds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp fennel seed
1 ¾ lbs. Kirby or Persian cucumbers (small pickling cucumbers, no wax on skin)
4 cups water
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tbsp kosher salt

Equipment

Two 1 quart mason jars or one ½ gallon jar, funnel, whisk, saucepan

Technique

1. Place the sliced garlic in a small saucepan of water and bring to a boil. Boil the garlic for 1 minute, then drain immediately. This blanching process will keep the garlic from turning blue in the pickle jar.
2. Place the blanched garlic, fresh dill, bay leaves and other spices into the pickling jar or jars. If using two jars, divide the ingredients evenly between them, half in each. The red pepper flakes are optional, and will add a little kick to your pickles—if you don’t like spice, feel free to omit.
3. Slice off the tip ends of each cucumber, then place them into the jars, half in each jar. It’s okay if they’re tightly packed, they will shrink up a bit as they pickle.
4. In a saucepan, bring the water, white vinegar, and kosher salt to a boil, whisking till the salt is fully dissolved. Boil the mixture for about 1 minute, then remove from heat. Pour the hot brine through a funnel into each jar, submerging the cucumbers completely in liquid.
5. Let the jars cool completely to room temperature (this will take a few hours). Secure the lids and place pickles in the refrigerator. Your first pickle will be ready to eat in 48 hours; they’ll become more pickled and flavorful as they age. Pickles will keep for up to 2 months.
Tip: For crunchier pickles, before pickling you can place the cucumbers in a bowl and cover them with ice water. Soak them in the refrigerator in ice water for 4-5 hours. Drain and proceed with recipe. If you already have pre-mixed pickling spice on hard, you may substitute 4 tsp pickling spice for the spices (if using two jars, divide the spices between jars, half in one, half in the other).

Pickled Turnips

from http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2012/09/pickled-turnips-turnip-recipe/

Ingredients

3 cups (750 ml) water
1/3 cup (70 g) coarse white salt, such as kosher salt or sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 cup (250 ml) white vinegar (distilled)
2-pounds (1 kg) turnips, peeled
1 small beet, or a few slices from a regular-size beet, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

Technique
1. In a saucepan, heat about one-third of the water. Add the salt and bay leaf, stirring until the salt is dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the vinegar and the rest of the water.

3. Cut the turnips and the beet into batons, about the size of French fries. Put the turnips, beets, and garlic slices into a large, clean jar, then pour the salted brine over them in the jar, including the bay leaf.

4. Cover and let sit at room temperature, in a relatively cool place, for one week. Once done, they can be refrigerated until ready to serve.

Pickled Carrots

from http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/11/easy-pickled-carrots/

Ingredients

1 pound (450 g) carrots, peeled
1 1/4 cups (310 ml) water
1 cup (280 ml) cider vinegar
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
2 garlic cloves, lightly-crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel, dill, or anise seeds (See Note)
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 bay leaves

Technique
1. Cut the carrots into stick approximately the size of your fourth finger. Bring a medium-sized pot of lightly-salted water to a boil. (Use a non-reactive pot.)

2. When the water boils, drop the carrots in and simmer for one minute. Pour into a colander and rinse under cold water. Drain thoroughly.

3. In the same pot, heat the remaining ingredients. Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes.

4. Remove from heat and add the carrot sticks. Cool until room temperature, then put into jars and chill.

Carrot sticks should be made at least one day in advance, and will keep for up to four weeks in the refrigerator.

Have any of you participated in a supper club before? If so, please share your stories!

And please come back later for more pickle recipes and stories from #LetsLunch.

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Eastern Europe: Citrus in Rosemary Syrup

oranges

The last few bites of our Eastern European Spicebox Supperclub were some of my favorites.  For the third part of our dessert trio, Nalin treated us to a light and elegant dessert–  a medley of seasonal citrus in an herbal rosemary syrup.  The brightness of the citrus contrasted nicely with the rich crunch of chopped pistachios.

Sweet Citrus Rosemary Medley

Recipe adapted from the Shiksa in the Kitchen.

Servings: 8

Kosher Key: Pareve, Kosher for Passover

Prep Time: 30 Minutes

INGREDIENTS

4 1/2 lbs oranges – navel, cara cara, tangerines, moro blood oranges or a mix (if using smaller oranges, you may need more)

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 sprigs rosemary

2 tbsp pistachios – if you have nut allergies, omit

8 dates, sliced or chopped

8 sprigs mint for garnish (optional)

TECHNIQUE

1. Combine 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Add the fresh rosemary sprigs and reduce heat to a simmer. Let the syrup simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Leave the rosemary sprigs to steep as the syrup cools.

2. Use a sharp paring knife or serrated knife to slice off the peel down the sides of the orange. Remove as much peel and white pith as possible. Try not to slice into the fruit itself (a little of the fruit will inevitably get sliced… just be as careful as you can). Once the peel is removed, slice the orange into thin ¼ inch rounds. Reserve slices and repeat process for remaining oranges.

3. When rosemary syrup has completely cooled, remove the rosemary with a slotted spoon and strain the syrup through a wire mesh strainer. Spread the peeled slices out in a pie dish or similar ceramic or glass container. Pour the rosemary syrup over them. If you’re using blood oranges/moro oranges, store those slices separately from the lighter colored slices in their own quantity of rosemary syrup, otherwise they will cause the lighter oranges and syrup to take on a reddish color. Cover the dish and refrigerate the orange slices for at least 2 hours, up to 2 days. Re-layer the orange slices every so often to make sure they’re all equally exposed to the sweet syrup.

4. Before serving, chop the pistachios in a food processor or coffee grinder into very fine pieces, somewhere in between chunks and powder, to create a coarse pistachio meal. Slice each date into thin strips. To serve, divide the chilled marinated orange slices between 8 small dessert plates. Drizzle each serving with 1-2 tbsp rosemary syrup, just enough to moisten (you will have leftover syrup, which you can use to flavor drinks). Sprinkle with 1 tsp chopped pistachios and top each orange slice with a date strip. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve. Note: If you have nut allergies, you can leave out the pistachios. The oranges taste delightful in their syrup without any additions, so if you want to keep things simple feel free to serve the oranges on their own in a glass dessert bowl garnished with mint.

Thanks for coming by! This is the last post of the Spicebox Supperclub’s Eastern European dinner.  If you missed them, please visit the overview of our lovely menu to see the rest of that fantastic meal.  We’ll be taking a break for a few months, so check back soon.  Who know where the Spicebox Supperclub will be taking you next?

Eastern Europe: Dessert Dumplings (Marillenknödel/Apricot Dumplings)

dumpling

Because one dessert is not nearly enough for the Spicebox Supperclub, Nalin excused himself to the kitchen to freshly prepare those Eastern European dessert dumplings for us. This was an intriguing combination of dumpling dough filled with a fresh apricot, wish fresh shavings of dark chocolate as a garnish.

Marillenknödel (Apricot Dumplings)

Recipe from The Wednesday Chef (adapted from Nicole Stitch’s Marillenknödel – http://www.deliciousdays.com)

Makes 12

INGREDIENTS

1 pound fresh quark cheese

2 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest

12 small apricots

12 sugar cubes or 12 teaspoons of Demerara sugar

8 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

2 large egg yolk

1 1/2 cup semolina flour

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

Scant 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for forming

2/3 cup plain, unseasoned breadcrumbs (increase to 1 cup)

Powdered sugar

TECHNIQUE

1. Place the quark in a fine mesh sieve and let drain for an hour into the sink. If you don’t have an hour, 15 to 30 minutes are fine. Wash the apricots and dry them, then cut them open along their seams (only halfway!) and remove their pits. Fill with either a sugar cube or half a teaspoon of Demerara sugar.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add a generous pinch of salt, and reduce the temperature until the water bubbles just very lightly.

3. In a big bowl cream together the strained quark, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of soft butter, egg yolk, semolina, sugar, vanilla, and salt using a wooden spoon. When it’s well-combined and fluffy, fold in the flour. Don’t over-mix. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and with well-floured hands, form the dough gently into a thick log.

4. Cut the log into into 6 equally sized pieces. With floured hands, gently pat each piece into a small disc, then place a sugar-filled apricot in the middle of the dough and gently wrap the dough around the apricot. Form a neat little dumpling (re-flour your hands as necessary) and double check that the apricots are completely covered by the dough. There will be seams, but try to make sure they are as closed as possible.

5. Carefully slip the dumplings into the water and watch to make sure none got stuck to the bottom of the pot, stirring, if needed. Let them simmer at low heat for 12 to 14 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a pan over medium heat and toast the breadcrumbs in the butter for a few minutes. Remove the dumplings with a skimmer, then roll them in the pan with the buttered breadcrumbs until evenly covered. Pile the dumplings on a serving plate and dust generously with powdered sugar. Serve hot.

Yum! And for our final dessert, see you next week!

Eastern Europe: Chocolate Beet Cake

choc beet cake

Heather, who normally shies away from the executive chef role, surprised us with the first of not just one but three desserts she and Nalin brought to the Supperclub.  This was a wonderful addition playing on the Eastern European theme by including beets, this time hidden in a luscious chocolate cake from Nigel Slater via David Lebovitz.  The beets added an incredible moistness and lightness to the cake and paired well with sour cream (also very Eastern European).  For the recipe, visit http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/11/moist-chocolate-beet-cake-recipe-nigel-slater/.

Come back next week for the next of the decadent Spicebox Supperclub’s trio of Eastern European desserts!

Eastern Europe: Sarma (Croatian Stuffed Cabbage)

cabbage

You’d think that after those lovely (but not light) chicken and wild mushroom blintzes that we were done for the meal.  But no, not the Spicebox Supperclub.  We go all out, and then beyond! A wonderful counterpart to the blintzes were some of the best stuffed cabbage rolls we’ve ever had, paired with olive oil mashed potatoes.  These cabbage rolls were in tribute to Rani’s Croatian heritage.

Sarma (Croatian stuffed cabbage)

http://thelifeshemade.com/2012/08/03/sarma-croatian-stuffed-cabbage-rolls/

Notes from Chef Dave:

I added 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and some nutmeg.

I found that the jarred cabbage leaves were better and easier than making your own cabbage leaves in vinegared boiling water.

I took the cooked cabbage rolls our of the tomato/chicken broth mixture that the rolls have been cooking in and let them cool and then chilled them in fridge overnight. I then put the paprika and garlic roux in the tomato sauce and thickened it. Finally, I split the sauce in two, reserving half for reheating the rolls and blending the other half smooth.

Olive oil mashed potatoes

2 lbs Yukon gold, roughly cut
Salted water
1/3 cup olive oil
Pepper
Salt to taste

1. Cook the potatoes until the potatoes flake. Drain and reserve 1 cup of cooking water.
2. Heat olive oil, then take the pot off the flame. Put the drained potatoes in the hot oil (watch for spitting oil) and mash. Use reserved water to reach desired consistency.
3. Season with salt and pepper.

Eastern Europe: Chicken and Wild Mushroom Blintzes

blintz

Ever the culinary perfectionist, Dave did not deign to serve the Supperclub pre-made blintzes. Instead, he took a few moments to excuse himself to the kitchen to prepare this next, lovely course.  The rich aroma of butter was seductive, so much so that the less wise of us asked for two, not one, of these decadent blintzes upon their arrival to the table.

Chicken and Wild Mushroom Blintzes by David Tanis (modified)

Serves 8 -10.

http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/1015852/chicken-blintzes-with-wild-mushrooms.html

Note from Dave: I changed the mushrooms to use porcini and crimini instead of chanterelles. I also tripled (!) the blintze (crepe) recipe.

Eastern Europe: Russian Borscht

borscht

After the delightful Eastern European style salad nicoise, our palates were cleansed with a classic Russian Borscht, the iconic beet soup.  This was a delightful presentation, vegetable hearty yet light.  We learned that while borscht originated in the Ukraine, there are as many versions of borscht as there are cultures in Eastern Europe, including a green version made with sorrel and/or spinach.  Borscht may be served hot or cold.

Russian Borscht

modified from The New York Times Cookbook recipe

Serves 8.

Ingredients

1 qt beef broth or bouillon
1 qt water
2 cups shredded beets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
2 TB tomato paste
2 TB vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 TB butter
1/2 small cabbage, finely shredded
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
2 bay leaves
Garnish: Sour cream and dill sprig

Technique

1. Heat the broth and water together in covered pot.
2. Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, simmer the beets, carrots, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar and butter, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir frequently. Add shredded cabbage and cook 10 minutes longer.
3. Add vegetable mixture, pepper and bay leaves to broth. Adjust seasoning and cook until vegetables are tender. Add more vinegar, if desired.
4. Serve in warm bowls with sour cream and dill.