Rosemary Cocktail Onions

I’m kind of addicted to tiny vegetables–baby carrots, mini eggplants, and of course, tiny onions. Not to mention that I love savory cocktails, so cocktail onions are kind of a necessity around here. Unfortunately, some of the commercial ones have either a really flat and bland flavor profile or a ton of preservatives that you don’t really need. So, I made my own. It’s slightly herbal, but the brine itself is still simple enough that it doesn’t have a ton of strong flavors that would compete with the onions.

Some notes: If you grow your own rosemary and bay leaves, they’ll make this recipe even better. Otherwise, if you don’t have access to the fresh stuff a dried bay leaf and a couple pinches of dried rosemary will work too. Also, you’ll make more brine than you need when you prepare this recipe. I prefer having too much brine to not enough so I don’t have to stop the whole preparation process to make another batch. This recipe yields one pint, but you can multiply it very easily.

Rosemary Cocktail Onions

10 oz white pearl onions
6 peppercorns
2 cups water
2 cups vinegar
2 tbsp salt
1 bay leaf
2 small sprigs rosemary

-Prepare your canning jars (I used two half pint jars) by placing in boiling water to sterilize (if you haven’t canned before, this is a pretty good tutorial)
-Combine all ingredients besides onions and rosemary in a pan and simmer for ten minutes.
-Meanwhile, drop the onions (peels and all) into boiling water and boil for three minutes.
-Remove the onions to a bowl of ice water.
-Cut off the root end of the onion, and gently squeeze the top to push the onion out of its skin.
-Remove sterilized jars from water and add a rosemary sprig to the bottom of each.
-Divide the onions between the jars, and ladle hot brine over them to cover, leaving 1/2 inch of space in the jar.
-Top with lids and rings, place in hot water bath and process for 15 minutes.



Easy Peasy Candied Rosehips

In my home town, we have a very special place called the Dushanbe Teahouse. The tea house was a gift from our sister city, which is located in Tajikistan (a country I’d love to visit someday), and is a stunning building that is carved by hand. When I was in high school, the tea house opened as a restaurant and (of course) a purveyor of wonderful teas. The tea house is a place that has gifted me with many great food memories, and served as the venue for meals and conversation with some of my favorite Coloradans. One of these was the candied rosehips that were brought out as a nibbler for guests while they looked over the menu. I remember gobbling down the entire serving before the waiter even returned with my water during my first visit!

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one, because the teahouse stopped serving the rosehips not long after (when I asked, they said that the starter was so popular that it was costing them a lot of money to provide them to patrons). That experience is what got me interested in rosehips though, and is the reason I always leap at the chance to eat anything with rosehips in it. Today, I was pondering on what to make for New Year’s treats, and glanced over at a box of dried rosehips I bought before the holiday mayhem and set aside. This is my last New Year’s in Tallahassee (I’m moving to Brooklyn in May), and I’ve made some truly incredible friends during my time here. A few of them are coming over to have champagne and snacks on New Year’s Eve, and I thought the best way to celebrate them and all the wonderful things they’ve brought to my life would be to share a dish with them that takes me back to my home.

If you have a special event coming up (New Year’s Eve party, perhaps?) or are looking for a way to use up rosehips, this is a great last-minute treat. Candying dried rosehips is super easy (I promise!) and you’ll be rewarded with a pretty and tasty snack that is incredibly addictive. If you don’t have dried rosehips on hand, don’t fret: you can usually find them in specialty markets and Middle Eastern markets. I used the vanilla sugar to add a bit of warmth, but regular ol’ granulated sugar works just fine here, and you can play around with adding your own flavors. This amount serves 4-6 people.

Candied Rosehips

-2/3 c vanilla sugar
-pinch of sea salt
-1/4 cup water
-1 cup dried rosehips

1. Add sugar, water, and salt to a flat-bottomed pan (I used a medium skillet)
2. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a hard ball when dropped in ice water (Read more about candy-making stages here.)
3. Toss the rosehips in the pan, and toss to evenly coat. Work quickly, since the sugar will start to harden once you remove it from the heat.
4. As quickly as possible, transfer the rosehips to a baking sheet that has been coated with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Make sure they are in one layer (rather than piled up on top of each other) for cooling
5. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes, then serve!




Kimchi kimchi kimchi!

Given how much I love making and eating sauerkraut (this is the recipe I use), it should come as no great shock that I also love its spicy, but also fermented cabbage-y, cousin kimchi. I do a hybrid of a couple recipes, and honestly I don’t always measure out each ingredient, but I’ll put down a rough estimate of what I usually use for you to use as a guide. I’ve also put bean sprouts in a couple times, although I’ve been told it’s even better without them by the folks I’ve shared it with (I happen to like it both ways). I’ve been meaning to write down what I put in mine for a while after a few requests, so here you go! I know the post is a bit long and rambling, but I promise the process is as simple as chopping and grating some things, tossing them with tasty flavorings, and letting them sit there a while. The purpose of all the words and steps isn’t to scare anyone off, it’s to try to clarify the process as much as possible so you won’t be intimidated by making this incredibly simple and heathy food. And the reward is jar upon jar of delicious kimchi!

First, the ingredients…

-1 large head napa cabbage
-fermented chili paste (learn more about it here: available at Asian groceries)*
-about 2-3 tbsp fish sauce (also available in Asian grocery stores. This has an image of the brand I use. Just make sure to *not* give the thicker, opaque sauce)**
-chopped garlic scapes (or green garlic; it looks like scallions)–I use one bunch, which usually has about a dozen of the little guys in it.
-1 daikon radish, grated
-1 ginger root, grated
-sea salt
*I use about 1/4 cup in mine, which is spicy but doesn’t punch you in the face too much. You can obviously adjust it to your tastes. The same peppers are available in powder form, which is what is traditionally used, but until recently I had trouble finding it so I’ve always just used the paste).
**Fish sauce won’t make your kimchi taste like fish–instead, it gives it a savory flavor that is delicious. You’ll find the amount that’s right for you, but I tend to stick with a few generous splashes from my bottle when making a batch.

Next, the preparation…
My technique is a combination of the sauerkraut recipe I mentioned before, and this very helpful kimchi primer. I use Tigress’ primer to feel out the proportions of ingredients I want to use, what size pieces to cut the cabbage into, how long to soak everything, etc. I use the Headspace kraut-in-a-jar method for the actual fermentation, because it keeps the lid on tightly enough to help calm my paranoia about bugs getting in my food (I am in Florida, after all), and because it keeps the house from smelling like fermented cabbage (which my upstairs neighbor probably appreciates). Just like with the kraut, make sure to loosen the ring on your lid ever-so-slightly every few days, or when you press on the top of the jar and it doesn’t give it all. If you don’t release a bit of pressure once in a while, you risk getting a face full of brine when you do open the jar to check on your food. Incidentally, you can use the same in-jar method for my new favorite hot sauce, which I made a *ton* of this year.
OK, that was kind of a long, rambling rant. Ready to make some kimchi? Good. Here’s how:
1. Wash all your veggies, grate the radish and ginger, chop the garlic scapes, and core and chop your cabbage.
2. Combine all your veggies and roots (everything but the salt, pepper paste, and fish sauce). I usually use two large mixing bowls for each batch, so when I make a lot of kimchi I end up using every bowl and pot I have. Press down, and make sure to leave some space at the top, since you’re adding liquid to it.*
3. Pour brine (or salt water) over the veggies to cover them. For my brine (and all my salt needs), I only use fine sea salt, which is available in my natural food co-op in bulk and which has a flavor and texture I prefer over other salts. Tigress calls for  1/4 c sea salt to quart of water, which is roughly the ratio I use as well.
4. The next day, drain your veggies with a fine mesh strainer (but preserve the brine!) and toss them with the fish sauce and the hot pepper paste until everything is nice and thoroughly coated (I wear latex gloves for this).
5. Put the mixture into jars, filling most (but not all) of the way (I follow Tigress here too and go with 3/4 full). Pour the reserved brine over the top of each jar until the mixture is covered, then put on the lids and set aside to ferment (I choose a place away from direct sunlight or heat, such as the corner of my counter top).
*I’ve also made a quick kimchi without the overnight soaking before, and it turned out pretty well (although the soaked version was a tad better). If you’re in a rush, you can skip the overnight soaking (steps 2-3). Just make sure you are still combining all your veggies before you mix them with peppers and jar them up so you get some of each in all your jars.

And finally…you have kimchi!
Once your kimchi is all jarred up, it’s just a matter of waiting for it to ferment as long as you’d like. The speed of fermentation varies dramatically depending on all sorts of environmental factors, so I check any ferment I’m doing every day. I open the jars and smell the kimchi, and I’ll pluck a piece out to taste. If it’s not done, you’ll know (really), and once it gets to a level of softness and ferment-y flavor that you like, go ahead and put it in the fridge (which is cool enough to keep the probiotic critters from continuing to ferment it). Kimchi keeps for a long time (Tigress says a year, I’ve never kept it around much longer than a month before I’ve eaten through it or given it away as gifts), and goes with just about everything.
Do you have other ways of preparing kimchi? Other ingredients you prefer? Let me know in the comments!


Lacto-Fermented Pesto

I planted a ton of basil this year, and I’ve been looking for ways to preserve it so I can enjoy it in the winter. I searched around for lacto-fermented pesto recipes, but all the ones I found seemed to have a ton of brine in them. Then the thought occurred that I could modify the sauerkraut recipe I use to get enough basil packed in the jars to make a thicker pesto. Best of all, it’s super easy! Once the pesto is done fermenting, just dump the whole jar into the blender or food processor and process until it’s the texture you like. As an added bonus, toss the stems in some water with some sugar and a pinch of sea salt to make an excellent basil simple syrup.
I made two jars so I could try it out, and it worked very well! I ate one jar right away, and canned the other in a hot water bath to see if it would hold up (it does). The flavor is about the same as regular old pesto, but slightly more savory thanks to the fermentation process. Because it’s packed in brine, it also is thinner than traditional pesto, but still is a good consistency to toss with pastas, stir in to soups, or add to just about anything else!

Jars of pesto

The jars prior to fermenting.

Lacto-Fermented Pesto

~3 cups fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp salt (I use sea salt)
1 1/2-2 c water
2 cloves garlic
2 pint jars

-Tightly pack the basil leaves into the pint jars, pressing down as you add more leaves to the jars.
-Place a clove of garlic on top of each jar.
-Mix the salt in the water until dissolved.
-Pour the brine over the leaves until they are covered.
-Place the lids of the jars and set aside for two weeks to ferment.

Basil Simple Syrup

1 cup basil stems
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
pinch sea salt

-Combine water, salt, and basil in a pot.
-Heat until simmering, and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the infusion is as strong as you would like.
-Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.