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Pickle Me This

Making quick refrigerator pickles only take a few minutes, and you can eat them in as little as 30-40 minutes. I like the idea of making small batches, and changing the herbs or seasoning level between jars. Have fun and experiment with flavor!

Quick Pickles

Ingredients
3/4 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp kosher or pickling salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup water
1-1 1/2 lbs cucumbers
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved (or 1 tsp minced garlic)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
8 dried cloves
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
4 pint jars with lids, washed and sterilized

Combine the salt, sugar, and vinegar in a small non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved, then removed from heat. Add in the water and let cool.

Slice the cucumbers into thin rounds or spears and put into cleaned and sterilized pint jars. Mix coriander, red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, dill, and garlic. Split evenly between the jars, and add the cloves. Add the cooled brine to the jars, dividing evenly. You can add a little cold water if needed until the liquid covers the cucumbers. Place the lids on the jar and tighten and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but they will have a better flavor if you can wait 24 hours. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

I like waiting 48 hours to 2 weeks before opening my quick pickles, but you can certainly eat them sooner than that. The nice thing about doing small batches is that you can experiment with different vegetables or spices without committing to a large amount.

Variations: asparagus, carrots, green beans, cabbage, brussels sprouts, radishes, cherries

Pickled Onions

Ingredients
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp honey or granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 pint canning jar (I always have an extra jar on hand, just in case I make too much for one jar)

Clean and sterilize the canning jar(s) and lid(s) and set aside. Pack the onions into the jar, and set in the sink or on a kitchen towel in case the vinegar splashes later.

In a non-reactive saucepan mix the vinegar, water, honey (or sugar), salt, and pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then pour over the onions in the jar.

Use the back of a spoon to make sure the onions are submerged in the vinegar mixture. Carefully tighten the lids on the jar(s) and let cool to room temperature. It should take about 30-40 minutes.

You can eat the pickled onions after they’ve cooled off, or you can store them for up to three weeks. They are best eaten within a week of pickling, and make sure to store them in the refrigerator.

Quick Sandwich Bread

One of my biggest regrets is not learning how to make bread at an earlier point in life. Not only is it easy, relatively quick (with a little planning), and delicious, but it is rewarding and fun as well. If you have children, you can get them to help measure ingredients and knead the bread. It is a great way to help them connect to what they are eating.

Ingredients

3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package dry active yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water into a small bowl or cup and stir in the yeast and sugar. Stir gently, and let sit for 5 minutes. If the yeast is not foamy after 5 minutes, discard and purchase fresh yeast.

Place 1 cup of the flour into a bowl and add the rest of the water. Stir until well blended (it will be fairly runny and gloppy). Add the rest of the flour a cup at a time, salt, butter or oil, and stir well. The dough will be shaggy and sticky at this point. If you have a stand mixer, combine in the same steps using a dough hook. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board (or let the stand mixer work it with the dough hook) for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth. It should feel soft and a little springy to the touch at this point.

Shape the dough into a ball and put it into an oiled bowl, then flip the dough over so that the ball has a light coat of oil. This will help keep the surface elastic while rising. Cover the bowl with a clean damp towel and let it rest on the in a warm area for 1-1 1/2 hours until it is doubled in size.

Lightly butter or oil a loaf pan and set aside. The dough should be puffy and rounded. Punch the dough down, then place back on a lightly floured board. Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes. It will feel tighter than the first kneading due to the development of gluten.

Stretch the dough into as much of a rectangle that you can, then fold up in thirds. Place the dough into the loaf pan with the seam (edge of loaf) on the bottom. Brush the top of the loaf lightly with oil or melted butter, cover with the damp towel again, and leave in a warm area for an hour. The dough should almost double in size again.

Once the dough has doubled it should be at or near the top of the bread pan. Preheat the oven to 375°F and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown. Remove the loaf from the pan and set on a rack to cool.

Let the loaf cool for 2-3 hours before cutting. If you slice it too soon, the inside will be gummy instead of nice and fluffy.

Wasn’t that easy? Enjoy!

Bulgogi Broccoli Beef

I love going through my cookbooks looking for new ideas. There are times that I can’t quite decide between two recipes to use for a meal. This one was no exception. I love Jet Tila’s book, 101 Asian Dishes To Cook Before You Die, and was torn between the Broccoli and Beef and Bulgogi Beef. I combined the two, and this is the result.

Ingredients

2 large broccoli florets
1 ½-2 lbs chuck roast
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seed, toasted
3 cloves (or 3 tsp) minced garlic
3 tbsp granulated or brown sugar
¼ cup water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp cornstarch
¼ cup fish sauce (you can use more or less depending on preference) *

Slice the beef thinly into strips across the grain, about ¼ inch thick, and set aside.

Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seed, garlic, sugar, and water, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the sliced beef and mix thoroughly. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator three hours or as long as overnight. If you are short on space put in a gallon zip bag (close tightly), and store it in the refrigerator in that instead of a bowl.

Cut the broccoli florets into pieces and blanch in boiling salted water for 2-4 minutes until slightly tender and bright green. Remove from hot water and put in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok on high heat and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the meat into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until brown. Stir and turn the meat over, continuing cooking another minute or two until browned but not cooked completely. You might need to do it in a batch or two depending on how much meat and how large the pan is.

Add the broccoli and cook another 1-2 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve it. Drizzle it into the pan with the broccoli and meat, continuously stirring the whole time. Add the fish sauce, and cook 1-3 minutes on medium high heat until the sauce it thickened.

Serve immediately and enjoy.

Options: You can also serve it over rice or noodles, and add in additional vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, bok choy, water chestnuts, or whatever you have on hand.

*I use Viet Kieu Dipping Sauce for the fish sauce. I find it isn’t overly “fishy” yet still adds a bit of umami.

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