Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pickled Watermelon Rinds

So, watermelon season is drawing to a close. As an homage to my southern roots, I decided to put up a few pints of pickled watermelon rinds this year. Mmmmm. Pickled Watermelon Rinds seems to be an American invention...and an acquired taste. Lo Gung despises these pickles. (Oh well - more for BBJ and me!) They're intensely sweet, and intensely sour, with a sniff of cloves thrown in for a kick.
In other words, they're divine!
I used the recipe from the 75th Anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking, modified just a bit for the amount of watermelon I had on hand. (About half of the watermelon the recipe called for. The original recipe called for 20 pounds of watermelon, to yield 8-10 1-pint jars. I had one 10-pound watermelon.)
First, cut your watermelon into eights, then cut away most of the red flesh. Save it, eat it, juice it...just don't pickle it. Not crunchy = Not tasty here.

Once the flesh cut away, you can hold your watermelon rind in your hand and, using a vegetable peeler, careful pare away the green outer rind. You want to be left with just the white part on the outside. The green part will never get soft during the pickling process.

(Do you love how I'm multitasking here? I fed the kids lunch while I was prepping my watermelon. If I do big cooking projects while they're asleep...they don't stay asleep for long!)

Once your green outer skin is peeled away, you can dice up your rinds. Cut them into pieces that are approximately 1" square. (Incidentally, these pickles aren't really good for anything except snacking. Not as far as I know. Anyone else have any great uses for these fabu little pickles?)
Blanch your little pickle-ettes in boiling water until they are crisp-tender, about ten minutes. Drain and set aside in a large non-reactive bowl or another container you can cover.

Now for the fun part - the pickling!

Gather your materials: white vinegar, sugar, cinnamon and powdered cloves.

Put your ingredients together in a large pot (I used a 5-qt dutch oven) and bring to a boil.

Pour your boiled syrup into your large bowl, just covering the watermelon rinds. Cover and let them hang out in the refrigerator overnight.

On the second day, drain the syrup back out into a large pan and bring to a boil again. Then pour it back over the rinds. Cover and let it chill out, just like the first night.

(That golden wire-y thingy in the bowl up there is called a "spider" and I LOVE it. It's perfect for scooping things out of liquids. We use it for wontons, making pickles, boiling greens...whatever needs to be scooped and drained! I picked mine up at a restaurant supply shop in Chinatown, but I've seen them all over the place. The bamboo handle makes it nice and sturdy - my plastic "spider" tends to bend when I scoop up anything heavy.)

On the third day, put the whole mess into a big pan and bring it to a boil. Remove the rinds to your prepared jars, then add your hot syrup. Process your cans....and you've got pickles that will last the rest of the year!

Pickled Watermelon Rinds
(Adapted from Joy of Cooking)
Day 1: Slice, de-fruit and peel 10 pounds of watermelon. Cut the watermelon rinds into 1" squares and blanch in boiling water until crisp-tender - about ten minutes. Drain and set aside in a large non-reactive bowl.
In a large skillet or pot, combine 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. ground cloves.
Bring to a boil. Pour over the watermelon rinds. Cover, cool, and store in the refrigerator overnight to plump the pickles.
Day 2: Drain the syrup back into a large skillet or pot. Bring to a boil. Pour over the pickles. Cool as on Day 1.
Day 3: Prepare 4 or 5 pint-sized jars for canning. Pour the pickles and syrup into a large pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, pack the hot rinds into your prepared (read: warm) jars, then pour in enough syrup to cover the rinds and leave 1/2" of headspace. (Any pickles that lack the proper amount of syrup can be packed away into jars and put into the refrigerator for immediate consumption. Or foisted off onto your friends. Make sure you pick friends that like intensely sweet and sour pickles, otherwise you might lose your friends.)
Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
(For more information on how to can, visit www.FreshPreserving.com)

No Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe came from the Sun Times. I was looking for some butter-free chocolate chip cookies to serve at a party at home. These are tasty, but I really prefer my cookies a bit thicker and chewier. However, if you are looking for a dairy-free (sub out the chocolate chips!) cookie to nibble on, and like them on the crispy side, these are for you!
(See my notes in parenthesis below.)

No Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from a recipe at Sun Times

In a medium bowl, whisk together:

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. (Saigon) cinnamon

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat well:

2 eggs


1/4 cup oil

Blend until well mixed.

Add and mix in well:

1/2 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture slowly, and then fold in:

1 cup chocolate chips

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a Silpat lined cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes.

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lo Gung's Razor Clams with Jalapenos

(Foreground: Razor clams with jalapenos. Background: Italian Asiago Sausage with carrots and broccoli)

We've developed a love affair with the razor clam. (As an aside, I never had ANY idea why the clam actually had that name. I had always assumed razor was a kind of messed up "racer" and the clams were really fast and, thus, hard to catch. Heh. Turns out they're called "razor clams" because they're long and skinny. Like a knife. Or a shaving razor.)

When we find fresh razor clams, I know just what to do - hand them to Lo Gung and walk away!

On that note, I'm going to hand this over to Lo Gung. I asked him for his recipe, to share with y'all. (I really hope this doesn't backfire. Honey, you're still the official Clam Cooker, right? Right? *chirp chirp*)

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1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 1/2 Tablespoon of Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon of Black Bean Sauce
1 chopped hot pepper (skinny ones - with seeds removed)
1 lbs of razor clams

1) Heat oil in pan until "hot". sizzling if you touch it with a chopstick
2) Stir in the garlic and let garlic cook a little bit (not too long - do NOT burn the garlic)
3) Add clams to the oil and garlic
4) Stir in the black bean sauce
5) cover and cook for 3 minutes and stir
5a) add in the peppers and stir
6) check to see if clams are all opened (if they are, they are done)
7) if not, stir, cover, and let it cook for another 2 minutes.

Then enjoy.

As always, this is a Chinese-style "side dish", meant to be served family style and eaten with a bowl of white rice and one or two other "sides", preferably vegetables.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MaMa's Oatmeal

I can't believe I haven't posted this yet!

Well, actually, I can. It's oatmeal. Oatmeal porridge. It's grey and...it's oatmeal.

However, fear not - this happens to be one of my mother's favorite breakfasts when she's visiting us. This is how my mother-in-law (MaMa) cooks oatmeal for her family. She cooks it nearly every morning, and serves it with a slice of buttered toast and a glass of milk for a breakfast that is healthy and very tasty! The oatmeal is cooked slowly over medium heat, to make a porridge that isn't watery and isn't gloppy. Delicious!

MaMa's Oatmeal

(adapted by Aunt LoLo)


1 cup Old-Fashioned Oats

3 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup brown sugar (unpacked), or to taste (I just use the 1/4 cup scoop in my canister and scoop a bit out.)

In a medium saucepan, combine the oats and water. Cover and place over medium heat. Stay close - if this mess boils over, it's a bear to clean up.

Once the mixture starts to bubble, uncover and keep it at a simmer until the water thickens and gets glossy - about 10 minutes.

Add sugar to taste and serve!

Kids love this. Adults love this. Perfect for an autumn morning!

*Serves 2

(In the original recipe, MaMa soaks the oats for about 20 minutes before cooking, so that they don't need to simmer so long. Also, she uses white sugar, to taste - approximately 2 T.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Curry-Chicken-Noodle-ish Noodles with Carrots

Just dashing in to share this recipe before I forget it. Both kids love it, it was relatively painfree to make, and it's just as good the second day.

Aunt LoLo's Curry-Chicken-Noodle-ish Noodles with Carrots
2 carrots
1/2 pound pasta (macaroni works well)
2 tsp. chicken base
1 pinch curry powder
1 tsp. olive oil

In a soup pot, bring water to a boil (enough to boil pasta). Add the carrots and simmer until nearly tender. Add the pasta, chicken base and curry powder. Boil until the noodles are cooked to desired tenderness. (I like to boil it a bit past al dente when serving it to my little guy. He's not a fan of hard foods yet.)

Strain, toss with olive oil and serve!