Why is this always the first question anyone asks when I offer up homemade oatmeal cookies or carrot cake? What’s wrong with raisins? I enjoy raisins in both bakes, but usually leave them out if I’m sharing, in an effort to appease the large raisin-hating crowd. Why are raisins so polarizing? Is it their flavor – who could hate a little pop of fruity sweetness? Is it their texture – a bit dry, chewy and gritty, if not prepped properly (I always re-hydrate my raisins before using)? Is it their appearance which can often resemble a rat turd? Regardless, I’m a huge raisin fan, especially plump, juicy golden raisins, which I enjoy adding to dishes both sweet and savory.
One of my favorite ways to sneak raisins into a savory dish is by pickling them. The first time I was introduced to pickled raisins was at the now-defunct Lincoln restaurant in North Portland. They were scattered over simply-roasted cauliflower and were a culinary epiphany, adding a complex pop of sweet, tart, herby, fruitiness to what would have otherwise been a rather boring side dish. That night, I wrote down “pickled raisins” in my food notebook and, upon returning home, sought out a recipe to try myself, which led me to this slightly adapted version of Suzanne Goin’s recipe.
In addition to pickled raisins’ fruity tartness, this recipe also includes a bit of herby rosemary and spicy heat. For those wondering how you would use pickled raisins, besides the roasted cauliflower I mention above, here are a few other options. I’d love to hear your ideas as well.
– Scatter over any meat that pairs with fruit, such as pork or duck
– Throw in tagines or any Middle Eastern or Moroccan chicken and rice dishes
– Include on a cheese board for a unique addition
– Add to stuffing
– Sprinkle over roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots
– Include in salads like kale or grain salad
– Add to coleslaw
– Pimp up your standard chicken salad
Pickled raisins add a complex pop of sweet, tart, spicy fruitiness to roasted meats, roasted vegetables, and salads.
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 cup water
½ cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 dried chile de arbol, stemmed and crumbled
1 bay leaf, crumbled
½ pound golden raisins
4 thyme sprigs
2 small rosemary sprigs
In a small saucepan, toast the mustard seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until the seeds just start to pop. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the liquid has reduced by half, about 8 minutes.
Transfer raisins to canning jars along with spices in pan. Cover completely with remaining liquid in pan. Cool completely and refrigerate, turning jar occasionally. Use within a week.
3.. To preserve for longer than a week, use your preferred canning method.
You can file this one under any of the following categories:
Recipes to make during social distancing that don’t require a special trip to the store
Stovetop cooking that will scent your entire house with clean, lemony goodness
Condiments that add a unique complexity to your weeknight standards
My prolific lemon tree is pregnant with fragrant fruit again. Unfortunately, this yellow-orbed bounty resides in my front yard – easily accessible for plucking from neighbors and fruit sellers alike. I welcome the neighbors; not so much those that profit from purloined pickings. Fully ripe in April, the bountiful tree is often stripped bare by July. While I’m sequestered at home, I’ve been staring through my front window at the pounds of pluckable citrus, chiding myself for not using this stretch of time to whip up a pitcher or two of fresh lemonade before the fruit disappears.
Yesterday, a coworker (yes, a real coworker – not my cats) reminded me of another use – preserved lemons. Preserved lemons are an indispensable ingredient in Moroccan cooking and add a tart, salty, spicy, somewhat bitter punch that can’t be duplicated with lemon juice or zest. How could I forget preserved lemons – one of my top five favorite ingredients? In culinary school, during my final exams, my Moroccan-Spanish menu demanded jars of preserved lemons – for empanadas, for tagines, for a decadently rich dark chocolate tart. One of my favorite uses is simply adding preserved lemons to roasted fingerling potatoes.
I claim that this recipe doesn’t require a special trip to the store, but I also realize that most people don’t necessarily keep items like coriander seeds in their pantry. This recipe is great for substitutions – or leaving spices out completely. If you only have ground versions of any of the spices, use ⅛ or ¼ teaspoon instead. The only things you really need are lemons, kosher salt and water, although some of the spicy complexity will be lost.
Preserved lemons are an indispensable ingredient in Moroccan cooking and add a tart, salty, spicy, somewhat bitter punch to recipes.
3 cups water
3 Tablespoons Kosher salt
3 whole cloves
1 dried bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick (about 3” long)
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
Rinse lemons and score peels down length of lemons, about 1-inch apart. In a saucepan, combine lemons, water and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the peel can be pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
Transfer lemons to a canning jar, pressing down slightly to release a bit of juice. Reserve salt water in pan. Add cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, and black peppercorns to lemons in jar.
Pour reserved salt water over lemons, filling jar and submerging lemons completely. Seal with lid.
Cool completely and refrigerate, turning jar occasionally. Allow lemons to rest for at least 5 days and up to 3 months. To preserve for longer than 3 months, use your preferred canning method.
NOTE: You may notice a lacy, white substance clinging to preserved lemons in the jar. It is perfectly harmless, but should be rinsed off for aesthetic reasons just before the lemons are used.
Researchers have discovered it takes a mere seven seconds to make a first – and lasting – impression.
I’m partial to the convenience and practicality of online dating – I can quickly weed out the jesus freaks, the ones who can’t string words together into a coherent sentence, the boring, the gym rats, men who live with their mamas. But still, sometimes I get it terribly wrong.
As he walked towards me, I know I’m wasting my time. What looked like “ska” in his profile, reads “dork” in person (and not the cute geek-chic kind). What read as manners on the page is really an obsessive adherence to gender roles. Once we sit down, I ask questions and he talks…about himself…I essentially interview him so he can hear himself speak. He drones on about his brainiac career, his adult children that attend MIT and Yale, about his expertise on every subject – homelessness, drugs, religion. There’s a brief pause in his self-aggrandizement to proclaim I can’t call myself an atheist since I haven’t studied the bible cover to cover (as, of course, he has). There’s mansplaining, condescension, boasting. I feel my V-jay snap shut like an abalone. I gulp down my scalding cappuccino and furtively scan the coffee house for the nearest escape hatch.
I long for a dating convention where it’s entirely acceptable for either party to walk out in the first few seconds without explanation – the seven second rule. All I think about for the next 44 minutes and 53 seconds is…I left my kitchen for this?
A roasted garlic version of Greek Htipiti, similar to romesco and a healthy yet flavorful sandwich spread and dip. I've been eating a liberal dollop of this spread on my chicken, mushroom, and spinach wraps all week. Mmmm.
8 roasted garlic cloves
8 oz. feta, crumbled
2 fire roasted red peppers (hand roasted or jarred)
2 pepperoncini, stemmed and seeded
Parsley sprigs from 6 stems parsley
Dill sprigs from 3 stems dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off about 15 times until well combined yet still slightly chunky. Use as a sandwich spread and a dip for toasted pita chips.
“That one should be disqualified – that’s not salsa. It’s good, but it’s not salsa,” He whispered while pointing to her Tupperware container.
In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, her office was holding their annual salsa-making competition. Never one to go the traditional route, she had decided on a Tropical Fruit Salsa – a twist on the same ol’ tomato, onion, and chilies. She knew her flavor combinations weren’t for Everyman – and now there was “controversy” over whether her tropical fruit version was actually even salsa.
She smiled to herself – always seeming to end up in some sort of controversy. She knew it was good, even thrown together in 20 minutes the night before – even if most of them didn’t “get” it. Hers was only Tupperware actually empty at the end.
Like a tennis player that’s been training all year for their first match, I walk into the kitchen, full of bravado, throw the culinary ball into the air, serve it across the net and hear the words “FAULT,” followed by the words, “DOUBLE FAULT,” soon after.
Two cookie recipes in as many days – two epic fails.
Disappointment. It’s officially six days into Cookie Baking Season and I feel like a big o’ Failure. I’m a baker above anything else and this should be my time to SHINE, rather than falter. Blame the recipe. Blame the quality of the ingredients. Blame my mindset. I sound like John McEnroe.
My first attempt, an anise-scented honey cookie lightly glazed and decorated with candied orange peel, was an unmitigated disaster. The texture was all wrong – too dense – and the anise too strong, resulting in a cookie reminiscent of those hard Scandinavian licorice lozenges.
The second recipe, baked yesterday, was supposed to be delicate sandwich cookies filled with mint and dipped in milk chocolate. I was hoping for an elevated version of Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (an addiction of mine) crossed with a Girl Scout Thin Mint. What I actually created were misshapen oval disks sandwiching a dollop of minty goo similar to Crest toothpaste. I didn’t even bother with the chocolate dip – in to the trash they went as well.
Rather than squander another pound of butter, I thought I would take a break today, step away from the cookies, and try something else entirely – something that didn’t require baking. I settled on these spice-laden pickled carrots – a better late-night snacking option to a plate of cookies anyway. An array of colorful pickled veggies like these, using a variety of spice combinations, would make a great alternative to the standard holiday crudité platter – no baking required.
This pickling recipe would work with whatever fresh veggies you happened to have on hand – cauliflower, onions, beans, or beets – to name just a few.
6 garlic cloves
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons allspice berries
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground ginger
6-8 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks and lightly blanched
1 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 ½ Tablespoon salt
Divide garlic, thyme, mustard seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks,peppercorns and cloves between two quart jars. Pack blanched carrot sticks tightly into jars.
In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until boiling. Pour hot liquid into jars filling ¼” from top. If there isn’t enough vinegar mixture, fill remaining space in jars with hot water.
Close jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.