Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are my favourite.  Of all the flavours I miss from the States, they’re at the top of my list.  The first time I tried a dill pickle in the U.K. I was surprised by how sweet it was.  I’ve tried many others since, but none live up to the crunchy, garlicky, vingeary goodness of my youth.

For a while when I was a kid, I went through a phase of only eating matzo ball soup or reuben sandwiches. Luckily for me, my parents had a house account at Greenblatt’s Deli.  I ordered food from there all the time.  I ordered it so much that when went I went to college my dad called them to place a delivery one day and when the driver arrived at the house he was surprised to find someone other than me at the door.  “Where’s the little girl?” Yves wanted to know.  Each time I’d come home for the holidays, I would go to Greenblatt’s to get my fill of pastrami and pickles.

Here is my refrigerator pickle recipe.  I’m too greedy and impatient to let anything ferment properly.  I simply cannot wait that long.  Like the dill pickles I love , these have a sharpness that are sure to “make your toikey poikey” as the Vlasic pelican would say.

p.s. I have Russian friends who swear drinking pickle juice is the best hangover cure.

 

Ingredients:

1 pint jar with a lid, washed and sterilized

3-4 Persian or Kirby cucumbers

2 smashed garlic cloves

1 tsp mustard yellow seeds

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp dill seeds

a few stems of fresh dill (these aren’t necessary as the dill flavour comes from the seeds, but I like the way the fresh dill looks–like seaweed swaying in a briny current)

1/2 c cider vinegar (for a bit of sweetness)

1/2 c white wine vinegar (for sharpness)

1 cup water

1 1/2 tbsp salt

optional: 1 tsp of sugar if you really want

Method:

Place the garlic, mustard seeds, dill seeds, and dill weed in the bottom of your jar.

Next, wash and dry the cucumbers then cut off their blossom ends.  If you don’t,  your pickles might go soggy.  Quarter the cucumbers and put them in the jar, packing them as tight as you can.  If you have to trim them so their tops don’t stick out, do so.

In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegars, salt, and sugar if you’re using it, to a boil.  Once a rolling boil has been reached, take the brine off the heat.  Pour it over the cucumbers leaving a 1/2″ of head room.  Seal the jar and let it come to room temperature then place it in the refrigerator.  Try to wait at least 2 days before cracking it open.  I never can, but the flavour does intensify the longer you can leave it on a refrigerator shelf.

Small side note:  I usually can’t fit 4 cucumbers in a jar, but I always need more than 3.  What I like to do is top up my cucumber spears each time I take one out.

pickles

 

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Fish Pie

If you observe the liturgical calendar and give up meat during the Lenten season, this is a wonderful dish.  Even if you don’t. . . It’s delicious–warm and comforting like a pie but with the briny goodness of the sea.  I tend to make it when it’s cold outside and need a meal that’ll stick to my ribs.  For me, fish pie is the lunch or dinner equivalent of steel cut oats with almonds and berries at breakfast.  It’s a dish that will warm you and make you feel like a winner and keep you going for hours.  Frankly, it’s what I like to imagine the Royal Navy and RAF had before defeating the boys in Das Boot.

 

First make your mash:

1 kg  floury potatoes , peeled, and boiled

50g butter

2 heaping tablespoons crème fraiche

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

 

Method: Once the potatoes are soft, drain them then put them back in the pot with the other ingredients.  They should be quite thick.

At this time you should preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6.

 

For the sauce:

75g butter

75g plain flour

450ml of whole milk

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp lemon zest

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1 teaspoon English mustard powder

2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

a small bunch of dill, chopped

salt and pepper

 

Method: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  When it starts to bubble, quickly whisk in the flour.  Whisk constantly to avoid sticking.  Do this over a low flame for a minute or two.  Let this roux thicken but do not let it brown.  Take the roux off the flame and whisk in a bit of milk.  When it’s incorporated add the rest of the milk and return to the heat.  Keep whisking.  When the sauce looks thick enough, remove it from the flame and add all remaining ingredients.  Mix well and be sure to remove the bay leaves before using.

 

roux

 

Now add the seafood and construct your pie:

1kg of mixed offcuts from the fishmonger (I use prawns, regular cod, smoked cod, and salmon)

Be sure the fish has no bones in it and has been cut into 1″ chunks.

Method: Put the seafood in the bottom of a deep ceramic dish.  Pour the sauce over the top.  Next, spoon on the potato mash.  Use a fork to make ridges in this top layer.  Grate a little cheese (I use parmesan and cheddar) over everything and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden brown and the sides are bubbling.  I like to serve this with peas.

fish layers draw a fish add cheese fish pie

Crab Cakes for Lenny Bruce

Recently, I walked through the aisles of my local supermarket and was horrified when I stumbled upon the American section.  Imagine a few shelves packed with every manner of preservative and artificial color.  Everything from Fruity Pebbles to Nerds and Cheetos to Pop Tarts and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.  Basically, food for children.  Or stoned people.  I was so embarrassed I had to walk away.  I didn’t want other shoppers to think I was contemplating putting any of these items into my basket.  Then I saw the Boylan’s Black Cherry Soda and I couldn’t resist.  I also couldn’t help thinking about Lenny Bruce.

In the 1960s, Bruce neologized Jewish and Goyish as part of his act.  In it, he included many foods.  Black cherry soda being one of them and to me the most memorable.  Probably because as a kid it was my favorite drink to order when eating Reuben sandwiches at Greenblatt’s.

Kool-Aid is goyish. All Drake’s cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish, and, as you know, white bread is very goyish. Instant potatoes–goyish. Black cherry soda’s very Jewish. Macaroons are very Jewish–very Jewish cake. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish.”  This is what played out in my head as I stood mouth agape looking at the black cherry soda of my youth.  I started to feel self-conscious with all the passersby witnessing my struggle.   

Eventually I put the indecision to an end and put the bottle of Boylan’s in my basket.  I headed for the check out and drank my soda with relish on the way home.  When it was finished, I hid the evidence of my crime against acceptable cuisine in some random recycling bin on the street.  I wanted no evidence to shame my English family.

Then the snob in me surfaced.  Sure I might have been purchasing crap from the American section of the grocery store but I was buying Jewish crap, not Goyish. Not that any English person would necessarily know the difference.  Nor any Goy.  But I knew and this made me feel superior.

When I came home, I had Lenny Bruce on the brain and that night his spirit found its way into my cooking.  Throughout his career, Bruce was frequently arrested under charges of obscenity.  And as obscene as he was charged for being, I topped that in the kitchen by making the most unkosher thing imaginable(not that I’m kosher).  Crab cakes with creme fraiche on top.

Lenny, I dedicate this obscenely good crab cake recipe to you and if you were around, I’d invite over for dinner so you wouldn’t have to be all alone.

Ingredients:  

1/2 a pound of cooked crab meat

2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced, boiled and steam dried

a bunch of dill, chopped

a bunch of chives, chopped

2 tablespoons of capers, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sumac

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

the zest and juice of a lemon

3 tablespoons creme fraiche

1/4 cup mayonnaise

vegetable oil for frying

salt & pepper

a plate of flour for dredging

a plate of one whisked egg

a plate of bread crumbs (I find 2 pieces of toast is all I need)

 

Method: 

In a large bowl, mash the potatoes with half the herbs, spices, zest, and juice.  Then mix in the crab and incorporate well.

crab mixture

Form the mixture into cakes and refrigerate them about half an hour.  While they are chilling, combine the creme fraiche, mayonnaise, remaining herbs/spices/juice/zest for your sauce.  Set this aside.

crab cakes

Dredge the cakes in flour, then egg, then coat with breadcrumbs.

pre-frying

Place some oil in a large skillet.  Over medium heat, fry the cakes until golden on both sides.

frying

Serve immediately topped with sauce.

crab cakes with sauce

 

Beet Greens Salad

Some people love beetroot.  I am not one of them.  Though I have always loved a good borscht, I have never loved beets.  In fact there was a time when I wouldn’t even eat them.  Not until I was 25 and my kid sister’s nanny always made them for her–roasted and served with balsamic vinegar, was I able to eat them without grimacing or furtively giving them to the dog under the table.  But what I have always loved are beet greens.  Sweet and delicious and packed full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and protein.  They’re also really pretty with bright purple veins running throughout.  It’s a shame but most supermarkets sell beetroot without the greens attached.  To get them go to a farmer’s market or just grow them yourself.  You won’t regret it.

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Ingredients:

1 bunch of beet greens, washed and chopped

a bunch of dill, chopped

1/4 cup toasted chopped almonds

the juice of 1 lemon

a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper

 

Method:  Put all the ingredients into a large dish, toss ,and serve.

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Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous Salad with Turmeric Vinaigrette

Despite being from Los Angeles, I am not a health nut.  Sure I drank juice elixirs laden with spirulina during my teen years, but I did so because they tasted nice.  That and you try ordering juice in Southern California that doesn’t already come with added super foods.  It’s damn near impossible.

My reason for using whole wheat Israeli or pearl couscous as it is also known is not health related.  Though it’s true whole wheat has more fiber and iron than the regular stuff, I really don’t care.  Its nutritional value is just an added bonus.  The reason I use it is because it tastes better.  I love its nutty flavor.  I also prefer its size as I think big grains are better in salads.

Given the grain’s natural nuttiness, I thought the salad should be decidedly nutty.  Which is why I added toasted almonds and hazelnuts.  They’re my favorite nuts but you should use what you like.  Same with the herbs.  Experiment.  Discover a combination you like best.

 

Ingredients:

150 grams whole wheat Israeli or pearl couscous

1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs (dill and flat leaf parsley)

1/4 cup toasted roughly chopped hazelnuts

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

1 sweet red Ramiro pepper, diced

Turmeric vinaigrette: 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup cyder vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, salt and pepper to taste

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Method:

First, boil the coucous for about 6 minutes.  Make sure there is still a tiny bit of chew when you take it off.  Strain it and rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking.  Set this aside.

Next, toast your nuts over a low flame.  Sorry, the 9 year old in me can’t stop laughing over that last sentence.  But seriously, toast your nuts over a low flame.  Make sure they do not burn.    You only want them slightly browned.  Generally, I use my nose to tell me when they’re done. The moment you can smell warm hazelnuts and almonds, they’re probably ready.

Now chop your herbs and dice your red pepper.

Add all ingredients to a large bowl and gently mix.  Be sure not to smash your couscous.  Spoon over the vinaigrette.  I do this a tablespoon at a time so as to not get too much dressing on your salad.  A soggy salad is never good.  Season to taste and serve.

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