Count Broccula's veg-head ramblings

My home experiments with vegetarian cooking. Focused on seasonal produce with some vegan stuff thrown in for good measure. I may include random other food-related stuff as I please.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PIcalilli circus

More detail later, but here's the recipe exactly as my mom wrote it:


4 pounds green tomatoes
6 medium onions, washed and peeled
2 green bell peppers
1 red bell pepper
½ cup salt

2 cups sugar
1 pint (2 cups) cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons celery salt
4 Tablespoons mustard seed
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
2 Tablespoons cinnamon

Chop green tomatoes, onions and peppers in food processor. Using a large glass or ceramic bowl, layer the chopped vegetables, sprinkling the salt over the layers (4 or 5 layers.) Place a plate on top of the vegetables (to force out the excess water) and put aside for 3 or 4 hours. After the elapsed time, drain the liquid off of the vegetables using a colander or strainer. Rinse the vegetables with water to take the salt off.

Heat the sugar and vinegar until dissolved and add the vegetables and spices. The whole cloves and cinnamon should be wrapped in a piece of cheesecloth or other cloth before being placed in the pot. Cook everything on a low simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Either put into jars and place in the refrigerator or use the sterile canning method.

The tips your grandmother gave were as follows:

If you prefer, you can substitute “pickling spice” for the celery salts, mustard seed, cloves and cinnamon. It’s available in the spice section of the store and she said that she has made it that way lots of times and it is good. However, she also said that when you use those, you do have to use cheesecloth or a cloth bag.

This is better if you don’t eat it right away but let it marinate for a few weeks. She said that she has heard of people leaving the vegetables soaking in the brine overnight but she feels that this is too long and that a few hours works fine. She also said to be sure to use green tomatoes, not ones that have started to ripen. Apparently once they have started to ripen, they are softer and don’t work very well.

She also said that it’s easy to chop the vegetables in the food processor but you should use a setting that doesn’t pulverize things…the vegetables should be finely chopped, in small pieces.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Avgolemono (lemon rice soup)

Okay, I think it's traditionally rice, but most of the recipes I looked up called for orzo instead (a small rice-shaped pasta), and my Greek friend said she preferred orzo as well, so I went with it.

Last time I attempted avgolemono, it was an unmitigated disaster*. It is one of the only things I have ever made that I really couldn't force down. So I decided I'd go with a recipe and stick to it carefully. I chose this one, and I don't think I altered a single thing.

It was SUPERB. In fact, I announced that I was going to add this soup to my rotation, and my husband cheered. He declared it silky, buttery, hearty, and satisfying.

I made a loaf of whole wheat bread as well, and it was a very satisfying dinner.

*Long story short, I forgot that California lemons are like four times as big as lemons elsewhere, so when it said "juice of two lemons," it was way too much lemon. It tasted rather like one of these, but with rice:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Greek week!

Monday is almost always pizza day around here. I made Greek-za this week -- our normal pizza with a little bell pepper and feta and a lot of Greek olives added. I also really jazzed up the tomato sauce with the oil I had used to cook some garlic cloves. But pizza is pizza, right?

Last night I made spanakopita. I used a Cooking Light recipe, more or less, because I know it can be a very fattening dish. The main difference is using cooking spray instead of butter between the sheets of phyllo. It doesn't affect the texture, but it doesn't have the same rich, buttery taste. It made up for it, though, with the addition of sun-dried tomatoes. I based my dish on this recipe, with just a few changes.

First, I didn't like the idea of rice in the dish, so I used just a cup of low-fat ricotta. I also doubled the spinach, since I freaking love spinach. Instead of one big strudel, I made three medium-sized ones. It came out great! The crust was nice and flaky, the tomatoes had a nice tart, chewy texture, and there was spinach for days!

I also served a Greek salad on the side. My friend Althea gave me her recipe, which was sort of a suggestion rather than amounts, so I'll give you the same...

Cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, big chunks of feta, black olives, capers (if you like them). Mix oil and vinegar for the dressing (I used good olive oil and cider vinegar, and I tend to go heavy on the vinegar). Black pepper.

She didn't suggest any herbs, but I had some fresh flat-leaf parsley, and I thought it might be a nice addition. I leave the veggies in pretty big pieces, more than one bite each. I actually added just a little salt to the dressing (1/2 tsp?), but you wouldn't have to. The feta and olives provided plenty of salty flavor. (I used kalamata, but you could use black olives.)

Tomorrow night I'm doing avgolemono (lemon and rice or orzo soup), and Friday I think it's a big mezze platter. Althea suggested I try a green bean dish, and I may, but it will depend on how much time and work I'm putting into everything else. I try pretty hard to get dinner on the table quickly, and I certainly don't want my family to starve while we're waiting for green beans to cook.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

In love with my new bread book

Okay, so I found this article online with a bunch of recipes. The idea is that you mix up the ingredients for bread dough, then leave them in the fridge and tear off a hunk whenever you want to make bread. No proofing the yeast, no kneading... The article references a book, which I bought after making a few of the recipes from the article. I was so pleased and it was, indeed, so easy, that I plan to keep some bread dough in the fridge all the time!

Although it's called "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day," it's not actually five minutes from fridge to hot bread (I know you know that), but it is only about 5 minutes of labor, and the rest is resting and baking time. And it makes REALLY good bread. I used about half whole wheat, and everyone who has tried it agrees that it's fantastic.

And here is how easy it is, in a photo essay:

3 cups lukewarm water (just run the tap).

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast.

1 1 /2 tablespoons salt.

6 1/2 cups flour.


When it looks like this, stop. (Less than a minute.)

Leave it on the counter for two hours, then throw it in the fridge. The next day, it looks like this:

Later on, just hack off about a third* of it, and with floured hands, form it into a ball by tucking the sides into the bottom. Then let it rest for 40 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 450, throw the bread onto a baking stone (if you have one -- I guess I baking sheet would work, too), and cook for 30 minutes.

There's some fancy little touches, like you can cut a design in the top with a serrated knife, or you could put seeds on top, or you could cook it on cornmeal (I don't like the way cornmeal smokes, so I put it on parchment paper)... I've used the dough for pizza crust and pecan sticky rolls, and both were delightful.

It keeps for two weeks in the fridge.

* They say to use 1/4 of the dough at a time, but it makes a pretty small loaf, and a much smaller pizza than we're used to.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Pecan sticky rolls!


I've been looking at this web site with an article about baking artisan bread in five minutes a day. I actually just bought the book, because I've been so pleased with how it has worked so far.

The basic idea is that you mix up the ingredients for bread dough (no proofing the yeast or anything, just throw it in), let it rest for a while, then put it in a big container and throw it in the fridge. It lasts for two weeks, and any time you want to make a loaf of bread, you grab a hunk, shape it into a ball, let it rest for a while, then bake. Voila!

The great thing, though, is that you can also use the basic recipe for pizza crust, cinnamon twists, pitas, naan, and more. I made the dough on Saturday and made the pecan sticky rolls on Sunday morning.

It was pretty easy -- I mixed sugar and butter in a cake pan and added pecan halves. Then I rolled out the dough into a rectangle and added a butter/sugar/cinnamon/chopped pecan mixture, then rolled it up. Then I sliced it, put the slices in the cake pan, rested it for 40 minutes, then baked it for 40 minutes.

Sweetie declared them better than those we got at Busy Bee Bakery in Point Reyes, and that's saying something, as we went back there almost every morning that we stayed in Point Reyes!

I will totally keep this recipe on hand; it would be great for when family or friends are visiting, or for a morning after a sleepover for Z and some of her friends.

Chard, not charred, burritos

I've been trying to cook from a recipe once a week, and this week I turned to Jack Bishop. He has several cookbooks, and I actually consult Vegetables Every Day most often, but A Year In a Vegetarian Kitchen is a lovely book, too, and is the one I used this week.

The recipe was for chard and rice burritos with tomato-chipotle salsa. It called for rainbow chard, if that was available, and I scored!! The rainbow chard at the organic guy's stand at the farmers market was like an explosion of beauty. In fact, the recipe called for only 1 pound, but it looked so good that I bought almost 2 pounds. I used it all tonight and it wasn't too much, since we all had seconds!

Essentially, you just make rice, saute down some chard stems and an onion, add garlic and the chard leaves, and wrap 'em up in a tortilla! The salsa recipe that came with it was really... simple. I guess that could be positive or negative, depending on your perspective. It was just tomatoes and a chipotle and a bit of oregano, essentially. I perked it up wish some salt (which neither the salsa or the burrito recipe called for), but it would have benefitted from lime juice or cilantro. Not that it was bad, just awfully plain. I actually substituted the canned chipotle with a fresh scotch bonnet, since we had some.

Anyway, I quite liked it, and the baby ate all of hers, and Sweetie had seconds. It wasn't spectacular, but it tasted fresh and healthy and filling. I'd make it again.

Here are the chard stems in the food processor. Rainbow, indeed!