Showing posts with label Thanksgiving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thanksgiving. Show all posts

Friday, November 20, 2020

Thanksgiving's Best Appetizer: Turkey Liver Pâté

Usually we order a twenty pound turkey to feed the twenty to twenty-five friends and family who gather at our home for Thanksgiving.


In this 2020-COVID year, we only need a twelve pound turkey for the five of us. That will leave us a good supply of left-overs that we can turn into turkey stew with dumplings, turkey salad and turkey sandwiches. With the bones we can make several quarts of turkey stock to freeze in pint-sized containers to use during the winter when we crave comfort-food turkey soup with vegetables.


With a smaller guest list finalized and our favorite recipes organized, there is only one unanswered question: what to do with the turkey liver?
Even people who love chicken livers view turkey liver as too much of a good thing.
Whoever has the job of prepping the turkey on Thanksgiving Day frequently looks with bewilderment at the large double-lobed liver in the bag tucked ever so neatly inside the turkey.
Following my mother’s lead, my solution is to turn lemons into lemonade or, in this case, turkey liver into pate.
My mother prepared chicken chopped liver using a shallow wooden bowl and a beat-up, double-handled, single-bladed mezzaluna knife that her mother had given her.
She would cut up and sauté the liver with a chopped up onion. Two eggs would go into boiling water. Once hard-boiled, they would join the sautéed liver and onion in the wooden bowl, which she would hand to me along with the mezzaluna.
While she prepared the chicken, she put me to work.
As a 9-year-old, I would sit on a stool with the wooden bowl on my lap, rocking the mezzaluna back and forth, chopping up the livers and hard-boiled eggs.
Periodically my mother would check on my progress and, when everything was reduced to a fine chop, she would retrieve the bowl, add melted chicken fat and mix everything together.
Just before our guests arrived, she transferred the chopped liver to a serving bowl and put it on the dining room table with a plate of saltines and the other appetizers, a platter of black pitted olives, whole radishes and vegetable crudités.

I have adapted her recipe to use turkey liver. The result is the same. A creamy, tasty, fat-satisfying umami flavor.

Mushroom and Turkey Liver Pâté

My mother liked her chopped liver rustic style. It is a matter of taste, but I prefer turkey liver when it is made with a food processor, creating a smooth pâté.
To balance the richness of the liver, the pâté needs sweetness (caramelized onions), saltiness (sea salt), heat (black pepper) and earthiness (hard-boiled egg and mushrooms).
Serves 8
Ingredients
1 turkey liver, approximately ½ cup

2 fresh, large eggs

2 medium yellow onions, ends and peel removed, washed, roughly chopped

2 cups mushrooms, brown, shiitake or portabella, washed, roughly chopped

¼ cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, skins removed, washed, finely chopped (optional)

2 tablespoons sweet butter

¼ cup olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper
Directions
  1. Wash the uncooked liver and pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, remove and discard all fat and membranes. Cut liver into half-dollar-sized pieces.
  2. Place the eggs into a pot of boiling water. Cook 10 minutes, remove from water, let soak in cold water to cool, remove and discard shells.
  3. In a large sauté pan over a medium flame, melt the butter and lightly brown the onions, mushrooms, parsley and garlic. Add the pieces of turkey liver and sauté until lightly brown being careful not to overcook the liver, which should be pink inside. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the sautéed liver and vegetables into a large food processor, add the hard-boiled eggs and pulse. Slowly add olive oil, a little at a time. Use the rubber spatula to push any accumulation off the sides of the mixing bowl.
  5. Continue pulsing and adding small amounts of olive oil until the pate is creamy. Depending on the size of the turkey liver, you might use more or less of the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.
  6. Use the spatula to transfer the pâté from the food processor to a serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The pâté can be kept in the refrigerator 1-2 days.
  7. Before serving, take the pâté out of the refrigerator, place on the counter out of the sun and allow to come to room temperature. Serve with crackers, toast points, fresh sourdough or French bread.
Variations
  • Instead of Italian parsley, use 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves.
  • For a denser pâté, use 1 hard-boiled egg instead of 2.
  • Add ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder to the sauté for heat.
  • Add 1 slice bacon, finely chopped to the sauté and brown until crisp.
  • Add 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar to the sauté.
  • Sprinkle 2 tablespoons red onion or scallions, finely chopped, over the pâté just before serving.

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 in the Time of Covid - Making Pickles

My mother loved Thanksgiving.

For her, Thanksgiving brought together friends and family in a celebration of life and food.  I came to share that love as my own family grew. 

The happy ritual for my wife and myself is everyone gathers early at 3PM so we can enjoy the light at the end of the day. Our small house fills with the musical rhythm of the front door opening and familiar voices greeting us as they add their dishes to the feast or flowers to brighten the dining room. 

While my wife keeps the group refreshed with beverages and appetizers, I am focused in the kitchen. Putting dishes in and out of the Wolf stove's large oven. Prepping salads and putting the finishing touches on the desserts. 

The main event is, of course, the turkey. Usually twenty-four pounds so I can send our sons to their homes with several days' worth of left-overs. 


All too often, I would have visitors in our closet-sized kitchen. I appreciated their desire to keep me company, but in such a small space and such a large menu, I'm best left to myself so I can pull baking trays from the hot oven without burning them or myself, sauté string beans with almonds in a giant carbon steel pan and stir the shiitake mushroom/pan drippings gravy. 


We loved how our home was filled with a friendly clamor as people caught up on the latest personal news, laughed and clinked glasses to celebrate what is best about our lives. That was what my mother loved and we did too.

But, as they say, that was then. This is 2020 and Thanksgiving will still be a good time to be thankful for all that we have but it will certainly be different.

We will keep COVID-distant and respect the need to have a smaller group. Instead of twenty we will have five. At the beginning of the meal, we will place a Zoom call and gather with my wife's mother in New Jersey and our sons who are our of town having a holiday together.  We will stay connected, even though we are apart.

With our friends, we will have our meal outside on the patio. I will finally have the kitchen to myself. But I look forward to next year when COVID is behind us and we can gather again as my mother would want, in a house full of family and friends, sharing stories about the year and being thankful for what is best in life.

In the meantime, in this and several posts, I will reprise favorite recipes. 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a safe New Year. 

Homemade Pickles

Pickles are delicious anytime of the year. For Thanksgiving they are especially good. Their crunch and acidity counterbalances the deliciousness of gravy, mashed potatoes and roast turkey. 


For Thanksgiving I always make two kinds of pickles. Kosher dill pickles and Moroccan-style pickled vegetables. Kosher dills should be made a few days before served. Moroccan-style pickled vegetables should be made two weeks ahead. They will keep, sealed in a jar, refrigerated for as long as a year.


No doubt the people who made the first pickles thought they had made a mistake. Somebody accidentally forgot about some raw vegetables in a pot with an acid and salt. Surprise, surprise. A week later, the vegetables weren’t moldy, no bugs had eaten them and, deliciously, they had a nice crunch and tang. Thus was born, the pickle!

In the 1920s, my great-grandfather made pickles on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Grandmother Caroline used to tell stories about working in their little grocery store as a child. When customers would want pickles, she would hop off the counter and go out front to the pickle barrels and fish out the ones they wanted.

I never knew her parents. I never ate their pickles, but I must have brine in my veins because wherever I travel, I am always on the look out for pickles.


Moroccan pickled veggies

In Morocco at a cooking class in Marrakech at La Maison Arabe, Amaggie Wafa and Ayada Benijei taught us to make Berber bread, couscous with chicken and vegetables, chicken tagine with preserved lemons and clarified butter, tomato marmalade, eggplant-tomato salad and preserved vegetables.
The cooking class lasted four hours. The time it took to show us how to make preserved or pickled vegetables: five minutes.
To Wafa and Benijei, the process was so easy, there were no pickle recipes. A little of this, a little of that, throw the vegetables into a jar, shake it up, put it in a cupboard and in a week, voila, you have pickles.

Pickle recipes tip from Grandma

From my grandmother I learned that making kosher dill pickles was a little more complicated. In retrospect, I think that’s because pickling cukes are more prone to decay than are the carrots, parsnip, fennel and green beans used in Morocco.
Every Thanksgiving I make both.
Pickles are very personal. What one person loves might be too salty or vinegary to another. It may take you several tries before you settle on the mix of salt, vinegar and spices that suits your palate.

Garlic is usually added to brine. My grandmother didn't put garlic in hers and I don't put any in mine so I indicated garlic as optional.

Lower East Side Kosher Dill Pickles

When making kosher dill pickles keep in mind four very important steps:
1. Select pickling cukes, not salad cucumbers, and pick ones without blemishes or soft spots.
2. Taste the brine to confirm you like the balance of salt-to-vinegar. The flavor of the brine will approximate the flavor of the pickles.
3. Once the cukes are in the brine, they must be kept submerged in an open container.
4. When the pickles have achieved the degree of pickling you like, which could take three days to a week, store the pickles in the brine, seal and keep in a refrigerator where they will last for several weeks.
Ingredients
8 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt
1 cup white wine vinegar or yellow Iranian vinegar (my preference)
4 garlic cloves, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips (optional)
5 dried bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
10 whole mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open
5 sprigs of fresh dill
5 pounds small pickling cucumbers, washed, stems removed, dried
Directions
1. In a non-reactive pot, heat the water and vinegar on a medium flame. When the water gently simmers, add the salt and stir to dissolve. Do not allow the water to boil.
2. Dip your finger in the brine, taste and adjust the flavor with a bit more salt, water or vinegar.
3. Place the garlic and spices in the bottom of a gallon glass or plastic container. Arrange the cucumbers inside.
4. Pour in the hot brine being careful to cover the cucumbers. Reserve 1 cup of brine.
5. To keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine, find a plastic cup that is not as wide as the mouth of the container. Place the reserved cup of brine into the plastic cup and put into the container to press down on the cucumbers.
6. Place the container in a dark, cool corner of the kitchen. Check daily to make sure the cucumbers are submerged. If the brine evaporates, use the reserved brine in the plastic cup, replenishing the liquid in the cup with water to weigh down the cukes.
7. After three days, remove one cucumber and sample. If you like your pickles crisp, that may be enough time. If they aren’t pickled enough for you, let them stay on the counter another few days.
8. When you like how they taste, remove the cup and seal the top. Refrigerate the container.

Moroccan Style Preserved Vegetables

In Morocco, virtually any vegetable can be preserved. In the class, we were shown green beans, fennel, parsnips and carrots. Experiment and see what you like, including asparagus, zucchini, beets, daikon, eggplant, daikon and broccoli.



For myself, over the years I have settled on onions, carrots, cauliflower florets and green cabbage. Recently I have been making celery hearts because every morning my wife juices a celery stalk to begin her day with a glass of healthy celery juice. That  makes me the beneficiary of a great many celery hearts, which I am making into delicious pickles. 
Whatever you try, prepare the vegetable by washing, peeling and cutting them into pieces similar in size, about a 1/4" except with the celery hearts. I leave the bottom of the hearts so they pickle as a stalk.
The fun thing about pickling is you can personalize your pickles, making them any way you like.

Save the pickling brine. It is delicious poured over warm Japanese rice or mixed with olive oil to make a salad dressing.
Ingredients
2 whole carrots, ends trimmed, washed, peeled, cut into rounds, ¼-inch thick

2 celery hearts, root end trimmed

1 medium yellow onion, washed, root and stem ends removed, peeled, sliced lengthwise (root to stem) 1/4" slices
1 small whole green cabbage, washed, any brown outer leaves removed and discarded, cut in half, cut out core and reserve for soup, cut into 1/4" squares

1 small white cauliflower, washed, leaves removed (instructions below)
4 bay leaves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips (optional)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ cups white wine or yellow Iranian vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions
1. Sterilize two quart-sized glass or plastic containers.

2. Finalize the prep on the cauliflower by using a sharp pairing knife to create 1" long florets about 1/4" thick. Use the remaining stems for a stir fry or soup.


3. Toss the vegetables together to mix well in a large bowl.

4. Place the mixed vegetables into the two jars.

5. Add equal amounts of the aromatics to each jar.
6. Combine the kosher salt, water and vinegar. Mix well. Taste. If you find the mixture too acidic, slowly add water until you like the flavor. If not salty enough, add a small amount of kosher salt
7. Pour the water-vinegar mixture into the jars, making sure the liquid covers the vegetables. If more liquid is needed, make more brine and reserve any left over.

8. Top off each jar with equal amounts of olive oil.
9. Seal the jars and shake well to dissolve the salt and mix the aromatics.
10. Refrigerate. Wait one week and taste. Wait longer if they aren’t pickled enough. They will keep in the refrigerator for months.

     

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: Make Italian Limoncello

For the moment, long distance travel to Italy, one of my favorite destinations, is not possible. To remind myself of my trip last fall to Milan and the Piedmont, I have been enjoying Italian treats. Charred red peppers topped with anchovies. Homemade pasta. And, limoncello.

From the scourges of the pandemic, we can learn that our good fortune is fragile and that our determination to overcome adversity is indomitable.

Staying safe at home, we're taking the long view.


The days are good. We do our work remotely. At dinner we watch the PBS NewsHourthen we stream episodes of the Swedish The Restaurant or the French The Bureau or the Israeli Shtisel.


We look forward to the time when we'll be able to have a meal at a restaurant, meet friends for a walk on the beach (even as we still observe social distancing), go to a movie theater and have a dinner party at our house.

To celebrate that time, I'm infusing spirits. Italian limoncello is made with vodka, a great number of lemon peels and simple syrup (sugar "melted" in water) and Japanese Umeshu (more about that in another post) is made with fresh Ume (green sour plums), Japanese rock sugar and vodka.

I make limoncello because my wife drinks an iced tea every afternoon. Now that our dining room is her "office," I know that her daily routine is to have an iced black tea with a lot of fresh lemons.

When Michelle leaves me her post-squeezed lemons, I trim off the white, bitter pith and add the peels to a jar of vodka I keep on a shelf in the garage. Day by day, the lemon peels accumulate and fill the jar.

Over time they transfer their citrus-intensity to the neutral vodka. The more time, the more depth of flavor.

Waiting six months is good. Twelve months is better. To transform the lemon infused vodka into limoncello, I'll add simple syrup and place the bottles in the freezer. When it's time to toast the resumption of our lives, we can raise our glasses with homemade limoncello and celebrate life!


Homemade Limoncello

I first enjoyed limoncello in Italy. Of course. Nothing could be better than sitting at a table at an outdoor cafe, watching people walk by, sipping an ice cold glass of limoncello. Italy has been through so much during the pandemic. So have we all. I can think of no better way to celebrate a return to our new-normal lives than to toast Italy and the resilience of life!

Cin Cin!

Since the vodka will be flavored with lemon peels and simple syrup, no need to buy a premium brand. Use an inexpensive spirit like the off-brands sold in supermarkets or in Smart & Final.

Only use unblemished lemon peels. Meyer lemons have a milder quality and I like to use them when available.


Select a large jar with room for the lemon peels. In general that means filling the jar only 2/3s with vodka, leaving the remainder of the space to be filled with lemon peels.

Do not add lemon juice.

The amount of simple syrup combined with the infused vodka depends on whether you enjoy a dry or a sweet limoncello.  I suggest as you add the simple syrup, taste as you combine the two. You might want to use less simple syrup. Any simple syrup not used can be saved indefinitely for other uses in cocktails, baking and cooking.

Ingredients

20 lemons, peels only, no juice, washed, white pith and pulp removed and discarded

Fifth of vodka

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

Directions

Place the glass jar and lid into the dishwasher or wash with hot water and soap to sterilize.

Pour in vodka no more than 2/3s of the volume of the jar.

Add lemon peels as you use lemons. If you have a lemon tree, you will be able to add many lemon peels at once.

After six or more months, strain out lemon peels for another use. (Kept in a small amount of vodka, the peels will can be sliced thin and used to flavor cocktails and desserts.)

Measure and set aside vodka.

In a saucepan add an amount of white sugar that equals the amount of vodka.

To the saucepan, add an amount of water equal to the white sugar.

Set on a low flame. Do not stir or disturb.

As bubbles rise from the bottom of the pan, the sugar will slowly dissolve. When the sugar has dissolved completely, allow simple syrup to cool.


Combine simple syrup and vodka, tasting as you add to determine the level of sweetness you prefer. Mix well. If you want a sweeter limoncello, make more simple syrup using the same proportions.

Keep bottle in freezer. Allow bottle to sit on the counter for 15 minutes and serve icy-cold.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ready, Set, Go. Sharpen Your Knives for Thanksgiving and Holiday Entertaining

I enjoy cooking the most when I've taken the time to plan what I'm cooking. I made a recipe list and finished the shopping. The kitchen is cleared of clutter. The ingredients are organized and my knives are sharpened.

That preparation is most important when we're having a dinner party or a seasonal celebration. Right now, that means Thanksgiving.


In reviewing the recipes we want to use, we culled out ones that weren't as good last year as we hoped and searched for dishes that take us in new directions. We confirmed our standby favorites like roasted Brussel sprouts, cornbread stuffing with apricots and shiitake mushrooms, kosher and Moroccan style pickles, whole roasted tomatoes, made-from-scratch cranberry sauce and so many more.


We're organizing all the kitchen implements we need. Roasting pans, turkey baster, oven thermometer and, most importantly, that our knives are sharp.

A Good Knife is a Sharp Knife

If you enjoy cooking, you know the value of a good knife. There is nothing so unsatisfying as using dull knives to prepare a big meal like Thanksgiving dinner. The chopping and carving that should be a delight become a tedious, unhappy chore.


Over the years, I have put together a good collection of carbon stainless steel knives. I prefer Japanese style knives with their thiner blades and harder steel.

I have a filleting knife, a half dozen pairing knives, a serrated bread knife, utility knifes and several chefs knives. I also have a sushi knife for those occasions when I want to make thin slices of raw fish to serve on steamed rice or on a fresh green salad.


I want my knives with me wherever I am. Even when I travel, packed safely in my checked luggage, I always carry one of the pairing knives and a chef knife.

Cooking is one of the best ways to explore a destination if you have a kitchen where you are staying. Shopping puts you close to the local rhythms of life and cooking with fresh, local products is so much fun.

Or, if you are staying with friends, nothing says "thank you for letting me be a guest in your home" than making a meal for your hosts.

But a knife is only as good its edge. When you feel the knife drag as you slice a carrot or cut through a chicken breast, you know it's time to sharpen the blade.

For many years I used a steel rod, the kind butchers use to carve a thick pork chop or trim a rack of spareribs. But when the steel rod didn't give me the sharp edge I wanted, I switched to an electric knife sharpener. That made all the deference. Every couple of weeks, when I noticed that slicing a tomato wasn't as easy as it used to be, I'd run the knives through the sharpener and I'd be back in business.

I was perfectly happy with the knife sharpener I had, and then, I was asked to try the Work Sharp E5.

The Work Sharp E5 Electric Kitchen Knife Sharpener

When I used my old knife sharpener, my knives sharpened up nicely, but they didn't hold their edge. Now that I've been using the E5, I find my knives are sharper than before and they hold their edge longer.


Created by Work Sharp Culinary, the E5, its sister the E3 and the newest and most economical the E2-S sharpen every type of kitchen knife.

The more expensive E5 sharpens as well as the E3 with the added advantage of timed sharpening. Draw the knife through the sharpening slot, once, twice or as many times as necessary. The machine can sense when the edge is sharp and turns off.


To finish the sharpening processes, both the E3 and E5 come with a ceramic honing rod for fine tuning your blades. The E5 honing rod has an ingenious addition. On the side of the handle, a v-shaped notch is actually a MicoForge, designed to clean up the edge of your knife blade, extending its sharpness and giving you more control when you are slicing.


The E3 and E5 will also sharpen blades that are sharp on only one side like serrated bread knives, scissors, kitchen shears and my Japanese sushi knife.

Unlike my old sharpener which relies on factory installed disks to straighten and sharpen. The E3 and E5 use replaceable belts of varying grades (extra coarse, coarse, medium and fine). Color coded, they are easily replaced by flipping open the front panel and threading around three rollers. The belts slide off and on with ease.

The 17° guide that comes with the E3 and E5 works well with both East and West style knives. For a finer edge, I was given an Upgrade Kit which includes 15° (East) and 20° (West) guides and an expanded selection of belts.

Since my knives are mostly made in Japan, I switched out the 17° for the 15° guide. I'll be interested to see if I notice a difference in time.

Right now I'm seeing a big improvement in the sharpness of my knives.  Of course, the true test will be Thanksgiving, when all hands and all knives will be pressed into action to bring the half a dozen salads, dozen side dishes and a carved turkey to the table.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Ready, Set, Prep: Planning Makes Thanksgiving a Lot More Fun

Thanksgiving was my mother's favorite holiday. She loved the food, the gathering of friends and family and the positive outlook of a holiday that sought to bring everyone to the table. My wife and I enjoy having a gathering at our house as a time to celebrate what is good about our life, to see family and friends we don't see often enough and to have a really great feast.

Because we host the meal at our house, there is a lot to do.


Whether you are hosting a dinner of six or twenty-six, with so many dishes part of the celebration, planning is essential. And that means being prepared. Planning ahead ultimately means less stress and more fun on Thanksgiving. 

The First Step - Make a List 

Step 1 - as soon as you decide you will host, invite the guests so you have a head-count and ask who will bring a favorite Thanksgiving dish

Step 2 - pull out the recipes you want to make, make an ingredients list and a preparation time line (some dishes like pickles can be made the week before, some like an apple pie and the turkey are best made on Thanksgiving)

Step 3 - clean the house

Step 4 - borrow extra chairs

Step 5 - pull the extra table out of the garage

Step 6 - shop

Step 7 - cook

Step 8 - eat

Step 9 - clean up

Step 10 - lie down

The recipes we use are a mix of the ones we've perfected over the years and a couple that are new to us. We want to have the favorites and also to shake it up a bit, to have some surprises.

Among the favorites are kosher dill pickles, corn bread stuffing with Italian sausage and shiitake mushrooms, cranberry sauce with nuts and orange juice, shiitake mushroom-turkey liver pate and chocolate banana walnut cake.

I've already made the Moroccan style pickles that I learned to make on a trip to Marrakech. The kosher dill pickles only need 2-3 days to cure, so I'll make those on Monday of Thanksgiving week.

10 Delicious Holiday Recipes

To help prepare for Thanksgiving, I published an e-cookbook 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.
The ten recipes are easy-to-make, festive and fun. With a recipe for roasting a perfect Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing.

Using the Kindle App you can read the recipes on any smart phone, computer or tablet. The app is free and downloads easily.

I hope you'll buy my book and let me help you plan your holiday meals with recipes for special cocktails, appetizers, salads, sides, entrees and really delicious desserts.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Ready, Set, Brine - Making Pickles for Thanksgiving and Anytime

My mother loved Thanksgiving because it brought together friends and family to enjoy a celebration of life, love and food. I came to share that love as my own family grew. I loved the crowd that filled our small house. Too many people tried to come into our closet-sized kitchen to see what was cooking. Repeatedly I would shoo them out so I could have the space it took to pull baking trays from the hot oven, to saute string beans with almonds on the stove top and stir the shiitake mushroom/pan drippings gravy. Family and friends circulated between the warmth of the kitchen to the outdoor patio where we would set up beverage and appetizer tables. A few would enjoy the quiet of our living room, but mostly our home was filled with a friendly clamor as people caught up on the latest personal news. This year. Not so much. Keeping COVID-distant and respecting the need to have smaller groups, instead of 20-25 people, we will have 5 and my wife's mother in New Jersey on Zoom The meal will be outside on the patio. We will still have a good time, sharing catch-up and enjoying the meal and I will finally have the kitchen to myself. But I look forward to next year when COVID is behind us and we can gather again as my mother would want. In the meantime, in several posts I will reprise favorite recipes. The first and a favorite are recipes for pickles. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a safe New Year. .

Pickles are delicious anytime of the year. For Thanksgiving they are especially good. Their crunch and acidity counterbalances the deliciousness of gravy, mashed potatoes and roast turkey. 

For Thanksgiving I always make two kinds of pickles. Kosher dill pickles and Moroccan-style pickled vegetables. Kosher dills should be made a few days before served. Moroccan-style pickled vegetables should be made two weeks ahead. They will keep, sealed in a jar, refrigerated for as long as a year.


No doubt the people who made the first pickles thought they had made a mistake. Somebody accidentally forgot about some raw vegetables in a pot with an acid and salt. Surprise, surprise. A week later, the vegetables weren’t moldy, no bugs had eaten them and, deliciously, they had a nice crunch and tang. Thus was born, the pickle!

In the 1920s, my great-grandfather made pickles on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Grandmother Caroline used to tell stories about working in their little grocery store as a child. When customers would want pickles, she would hop off the counter and go out front to the pickle barrels and fish out the ones they wanted.

I never knew her parents. I never ate their pickles, but I must have brine in my veins because wherever I travel, I am always on the look out for pickles.


Moroccan pickled veggies

In Morocco at a cooking class in Marrakech at La Maison Arabe, Amaggie Wafa and Ayada Benijei taught us to make Berber bread, couscous with chicken and vegetables, chicken tagine with preserved lemons and clarified butter, tomato marmalade, eggplant-tomato salad and preserved vegetables.
The cooking class lasted four hours. The time it took to show us how to make preserved or pickled vegetables: five minutes.
To Wafa and Benijei, the process was so easy, there were no pickle recipes. A little of this, a little of that, throw the vegetables into a jar, shake it up, put it in a cupboard and in a week, voila, you have pickles.

Pickle recipes tip from Grandma

From my grandmother I learned that making kosher dill pickles was a little more complicated. In retrospect, I think that’s because pickling cukes are more prone to decay than are the carrots, parsnip, fennel and green beans used in Morocco.
Every Thanksgiving I make both.
Pickles are very personal. What one person loves might be too salty or vinegary to another. It may take you several tries before you settle on the mix of salt, vinegar and spices that suits your palate.

Garlic is usually added to brine. My grandmother didn't put garlic in hers and I don't put any in mine so I indicated garlic as optional.

Lower East Side Kosher Dill Pickles

When making kosher dill pickles keep in mind four very important steps:
1. Select pickling cukes, not salad cucumbers, and pick ones without blemishes or soft spots.
2. Taste the brine to confirm you like the balance of salt-to-vinegar. The flavor of the brine will approximate the flavor of the pickles.
3. Once the cukes are in the brine, they must be kept submerged in an open container.
4. When the pickles have achieved the degree of pickling you like, which could take three days to a week, store the pickles in the brine, seal and keep in a refrigerator where they will last for several weeks.
Ingredients
8 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt
1 cup white wine vinegar or yellow Iranian vinegar (my preference)
4 garlic cloves, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips (optional)
5 dried bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
10 whole mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open
5 sprigs of fresh dill
5 pounds small pickling cucumbers, washed, stems removed, dried
Directions
1. In a non-reactive pot, heat the water and vinegar on a medium flame. When the water gently simmers, add the salt and stir to dissolve. Do not allow the water to boil.
2. Dip your finger in the brine, taste and adjust the flavor with a bit more salt, water or vinegar.
3. Place the garlic and spices in the bottom of a gallon glass or plastic container. Arrange the cucumbers inside.
4. Pour in the hot brine being careful to cover the cucumbers. Reserve 1 cup of brine.
5. To keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine, find a plastic cup that is not as wide as the mouth of the container. Place the reserved cup of brine into the plastic cup and put into the container to press down on the cucumbers.
6. Place the container in a dark, cool corner of the kitchen. Check daily to make sure the cucumbers are submerged. If the brine evaporates, use the reserved brine in the plastic cup, replenishing the liquid in the cup with water to weigh down the cukes.
7. After three days, remove one cucumber and sample. If you like your pickles crisp, that may be enough time. If they aren’t pickled enough for you, let them stay on the counter another few days.
8. When you like how they taste, remove the cup and seal the top. Refrigerate the container.

Moroccan Style Preserved Vegetables

In Morocco, virtually any vegetable can be preserved. In the class, we were shown green beans, fennel, parsnips and carrots. Experiment and see what you like, including asparagus, zucchini, beets, daikon, eggplant, daikon and broccoli.



For myself, over the years I have settled on onions, carrots, cauliflower florets and green cabbage. Recently I have been making celery hearts because every morning my wife juices a celery stalk to begin her day with a glass of healthy celery juice. That  makes me the beneficiary of a great many celery stalks, which I am making into pickles. Which I love.
Whatever you try, prepare the vegetable by washing, peeling and cutting them into pieces similar in size, about a 1/4" except with the celery hearts. I leave the bottom of the hearts so they pickle as a stalk.
The fun thing about pickling is you can personalize your pickles, making them any way you like.

Save the pickling brine. It is delicious poured over warm Japanese rice or mixed with olive oil to make a salad dressing.
Ingredients
2 whole carrots, ends trimmed, washed, peeled, cut into rounds, ¼-inch thick

2 celery hearts, root end trimmed

1 medium yellow onion, washed, root and stem ends removed, peeled, sliced lengthwise (root to stem) 1/4" slices
1 small whole green cabbage, washed, any brown outer leaves removed and discarded, cut in half, cut out core and reserve for soup, cut into 1/4" squares

1 small white cauliflower, washed, leaves removed (instructions below)
4 bay leaves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips (optional)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ cups white wine or yellow Iranian vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions
1. Sterilize two quart-sized glass or plastic containers.

2. Finalize the prep on the cauliflower by using a sharp pairing knife to create 1" long florets about 1/4" thick. Use the remaining stems for a stir fry or soup.


3. Toss the vegetables together to mix well in a large bowl.

4. Place the mixed vegetables into the two jars.

5. Add equal amounts of the aromatics to each jar.
6. Combine the kosher salt, water and vinegar. Mix well. Taste. If you find the mixture too acidic, slowly add water until you like the flavor. If not salty enough, add a small amount of kosher salt
7. Pour the water-vinegar mixture into the jars, making sure the liquid covers the vegetables. If more liquid is needed, make more brine and reserve any left over.

8. Top off each jar with equal amounts of olive oil.
9. Seal the jars and shake well to dissolve the salt and mix the aromatics.
10. Refrigerate. Wait one week and taste. Wait longer if they aren’t pickled enough. They will keep in the refrigerator for months.

   

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