Pickled Carrots

Homemade Pickled Vegetables Recipe
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.


Pickled Carrots

  • Servings: 2 quart jars
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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.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 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
  • Hot water

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Close jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

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Apple Cherry Tart

Apple Cherry Chinese 5-spice Tart
Me:  “What are some of your favorite things to eat?”

Him:  “I dunno, I like lots of things…I think I told you, Chocolate soufflé.”

Me:  “Yeah, but it’s difficult to keep and photograph a soufflé without it collapsing. It’s more of an à la minute dessert. What about nuts? Do you like nuts?”

Him: “Sure, I like nuts. What about a tart – a fruit tart?”

Me: “Hmmm…maybe. I could bake a tart with autumn fruit…”

We had “the talk.” That’s the talk where I explain baking for him doesn’t mean he’s earmarked for fathering my children. A cake doesn’t mean I want him to put a ring on it. Sometimes an éclair is just an éclair. I bake – it’s what I do. I bake for people I like – it makes me happy. It’s the perk of knowing me – don’t overthink it; enjoy it.

I decided on this impressive looking yet relatively simple autumn apple and dried cherry tart flavored with warming Chinese 5-spice – an ideal holiday dessert to provide the wow-factor to any table. Plus, it’s a good classic dessert when baking for a guy for the first time – who doesn’t like apples and buttery pastry?


Apple Cherry Tart

  • Servings: One 9” Tart
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Slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated French Apple Tart. This easy no-roll, no-chill crust is my go-to crust for many types of tarts.

Ingredients

    Crust
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 4 oz. tart dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 10 Golden Delicious apples (about 5 lbs.), peeled and cored
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • ½ cup apricot preserves
  • ¾ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. To make the crust, adjust 1 oven rack to the lowest position and the second rack about 5” from the broiler element. Heat oven to 350⁰ F. Stir together flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. Add melted butter and stir until dough forms. Press dough smoothly and evenly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Place pan on a wire rack set on a baking sheet and bake on lowest rack until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Set aside.
  2. For the filling, cover the dried cherries with boiling water and soften until ready to use. Cut 5 apples into quarters and each quarter into 4 slices (each apple should yield 16 slices). Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices, and water and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples begin to turn translucent and slightly pliable, about 5 minutes. Spread apples on a plate in a single layer to cool. Pour any accumulated liquid from the skillet.
  3. While the apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Strain 3 Tablespoons of preserves through a small mesh strainer and set aside for step 7.
  4. Cut remaining apples into ½” cubes. Melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in skillet. Add drained cherries, remaining un-strained apricot preserves, cubed apples, Chinese 5-spice and salt to skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples are soft, about 10 minutes. Mash apples to puree with a fork or potato masher. Continue to cook, uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated and puree is reduced to about 2 cups, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer puree to tart shell and smooth. Arrange apple slices, tightly overlapping in concentric circles with outside curve of slices pointing up (see photo above). Bake tart, still on wire rack in baking sheet, on lowest rack for about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.
  6. While broiler heats, warm reserved strained preserves in microwave until fluid, about 30 seconds. Brush over apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds, and moving if necessary until apples are caramelized, about 2 minutes total. Let tart cool for 1 ½ hours before removing ring and slicing.

7-spice Pumpkin Bread

Chinese 5 spice mini pumpkin bread with cream cheese frosting
Growing up here, I feel the almost imperceptible California shift from late summer into fall. Newbies to this state, especially from the East, think I’m crazy.

Yesterday, I left my home, stepping into a darkening evening full of clouds and chill. Defiantly, I put the top down on my car but resigned to wrap myself in a scarf as a buffer to the cold. When did these days begin to shorten? Weeks ago, but I only noticed yesterday. Autumn is my favorite season. To me, it’s a “renewal” – a description usually left for spring. Fat pumpkins and squash almost magically appear on the ground – they’ve been there, growing for months, but only now say, “Look at me.” Trees explode in a riot of color – plum, gold, orange and russet. Yes, some of our trees actually do change color. The sky feels alive with a fresh chill or, alternately, the warm Santa Ana winds. Fall gives me reason again to simmer rich stews and comforting soups for hours, filling the house with superb smells. My long-dusty fireplace again crackles with burning logs.

Autumn is the time to draw within, to take stock of ourselves and to contemplate. It’s a time to close our doors and windows to our neighbors and snuggle in with ourselves. It’s a perfect time to prune back our over-extended commitments, to focus on our essence, to become cozy with who we are. Autumn is not a sad dying, but its own living – an insular living that renews in its own way – a quiet Yin to spring’s Yang. Autumn is a time to reconnect with ourselves.

Pumpkin-spice mania has had its run – while I love pumpkin anything, this is my last autumnal pumpkin recipe for this year…


7-spice Pumpkin Bread

  • Servings: 3 mini loaves
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This is my go-to recipe for using up leftover canned pureed pumpkin. Instead of making one large loaf, I like baking mini loaves so I can eat one now and freeze the rest for a rainy day…or tomorrow.

Ingredients

  • 7.5 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ginger

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Butter and flour 3 mini loaf pans (or one standard size loaf pan). In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, Chinese 5-spice, nutmeg and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined (don’t over-mix).
  2. Pour batter evenly into the tins. Don’t overfill. Bake 35-45 minutes (longer for a standard loaf pan) or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool and enjoy. I smother my bread with maple cream cheese frosting and maple walnuts.


 

Pistachio Gelato

a bowl of homemade pistachio gelato
Ninety-four degrees and not even 11:00 a.m. yet. My walk this morning, more than any other morning this summer, brought to mind summertime memories of my childhood. My family didn’t spend the season at our grandparent’s lakefront cottage. There was no lake. There was no cottage. Our summers were the long days of middle-class suburban kids in Anaheim. Our summers were dusty, scorched, pavement summers. I’d wake up late morning, suffocating from the stifling air of my bedroom – air conditioning was an unnecessary luxury. I’d throw on shorts and a tank top and amble, on summer-calloused bare feet, to a friend’s house. At her home, as sweltering as my own and stocked with grape Otter Pops, we’d make plans to stay cool for the day. None of us had a pool, except one older girl, who doled out invites sparingly, and only to those she deemed worthy (I was rarely worthy). My favorite days were those when we combined funds to buy a bag of water balloons from Hanshaw’s liquor store and compete in boys-against-girls neighborhood balloon fights that always seemed to end with turning the hose on each other. On special summer occasions, like July 4th, my family would hand-churn ice cream in the late afternoon.


Pistachio Gelato

  • Servings: 1 ½ quarts
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Don’t be surprised by the color – the bright green of most pistachio products is from additional coloring. The final color will be brighter green if you take the time to remove the pistachio skins (I did not). Measurements are in grams.

Ingredients

  • 955 grams 2% milk
  • 215 grams sugar
  • 54 grams corn syrup
  • 1 gram salt
  • 33 grams powdered milk
  • 1 gram guar gum
  • 1 gram carob
  • 215 grams shelled pistachios, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 2 grams vanilla

Directions

  1. Heat milk to 104 degrees. Add sugar, corn syrup and salt. Continue heating and stirring milk mixture until sugar is dissolved. At 144 degrees, add powdered milk mixed well with guar gum and carob. Stir well to incorporate. Heat milk to 194 degrees to pasteurize and immediately remove from heat.
  2. Pulse pistachios in a food processor until chopped (don’t chop them fine). Add a cup of the hot milk mixture and process well.
  3. Add nut mixture from food processor to remaining milk mixture. Cool milk mixture in an ice bath, adding vanilla when mixture’s temperature is reduced to 144 degrees. When mixture has cooled to room temperature, refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day, strain gelato mixture pressing on the nuts to extract maximum flavor. Make gelato in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Garnish with additional chopped pistachios if desired.

After 8 Mint Chip Gelato (Version 2)

Mint Chip Gelato Recipe
I’m an autumn girl. This favored season of mine showers me with crisp sweater weather, falling crimson leaves and cozy fires that align with my introvert’s sensibilities. And I cannot forget autumn’s bounty of rib-sticking roasted meats, soups and stews that beckon my German sensibilities as well. And yet, I bask in the first few weeks of summer – perhaps even more than autumn. Summer’s constant sun soaks through my tired flesh and warms my very soul. Birds sing the song of summer throughout the trees during the day while crickets serenade the night away, calming me. The longer days encourage my evening walks and dining alfresco – the TV is left silent. And my kitchen is inspired by summer’s bounty of sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, juicy nectarines and, of course, freshly made gelato.


After 8 Mint Chip Gelato (Version 2)

  • Servings: 1 ½ quarts
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This is my post-gelato school updated version of a 2012 recipe. Measurements are in grams.

Ingredients

  • 500 grams 2% milk
  • 1 bunch fresh mint leaves, washed, patted dry and lightly packed – about 2 cups
  • 145 grams sugar
  • 16 grams corn syrup
  • 1 gram salt
  • 38 grams powdered milk
  • 1 gram guar gum
  • 1 gram carob
  • 250 grams heavy whipping cream
  • 2 grams vanilla
  • 1 package chocolate dinner mints, chopped (such as Andes) – about 1 cup

Directions

  1. Heat milk to 104 degrees. Remove from heat, add ¾ of mint leaves, stir, cover and let steep for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Strain mint, pressing to extract as much mint oil as possible. Re-warm milk mixture. At 104 degrees, add sugar, corn syrup and salt. Continue heating and stirring milk mixture. At 144 degrees, add powdered milk mixed well with guar gum and carob. Heat milk to 194 degrees to pasteurize and immediately remove from heat.
  2. Cool milk mixture in ice bath, adding cream and vanilla when mixture’s temperature is reduced to 144 degrees. Add remaining 1/4 of mint leaves and emulsify with a stick blender. When mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour through a sieve and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Make gelato in ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Add chopped mints about one minute before gelato is finished.

Mint Chip Gelato Recpe