Pickled Jalapenos

With my first batch of pickles done, I knew I had opened the flood gates for a barrage of new pickling endeavors. I always have store-bought ones in my fridge, so I was excited to see what they would taste like making them at home.

After the Carolina Reaper cukes – it had to be a pepper. And I put pickled jalapenos in everything, so it was a natural next step.

I knowingly overdo it with garlic. So my pickled vegetables will probably always have a heavy garlic vibe going on – including these jalapenos.

The other pickling ingredient I wanted to try out was mustard seed. Black peppercorns are a necessity according to what I read online – but I love mustard flavor, and figured that extra spicy punch might jive with the jalapenos.  It did. I want to slowly try new pickling spices as I go – to be able to see what each spice does for the batch. If I added too many at once, I don’t know that I’d be able to taste what each spice is doing to the brining liquid.

Mustard seed added a complex flavor. A little bit like what you’d taste with cornichon – which automatically made me think of pickled vegetables you’d find on a cheese plate.

I also upped the brininess of the pickling liquid here – adding more vinegar, salt and sugar. It helped pickle the jalapenos a bit quicker, I think, and the flavor was punchier. Not everyone is a fan of the brine factor, but for those who are, this ups that yummy sour factor that only vinegar can give you.

Next vegetable to pickle? Who knows. It’ll probably come to me when I’m least expecting it. But I do have a very large, stalky ginger root in my pantry right now… 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 32. oz jar of pickles.

  • 6 jalapenos, tops removed, cut into slices
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • Small handful of black peppercorns
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 stems parlsey leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white distilled vinegar, plus 1 / 4 cup
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon sugar, plus 1 / 2 teaspoon

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the water, vinegar, salt and sugar until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Let the pickling liquid cool.
  2. Put the jalapenos, peppercorns, mustard seeds, garlic and parsley in a large mason jar. Pour the cooled pickling liquid over the jalapenos and other ingredients. Seal the jar, and put in the fridge to pickle for 5 to 7 days.

Brown Butter Bacon & Shrimp Risotto

My job requires travel to Louisiana. Due to lingering hours waiting for connecting flights at airports, I’ve had ample time to hone in on where to eat the minute I land.

I was interested to hear from a Lafayette native that northern Louisiana – specifically north of Alexandria if you drew a line across – embodies an entirely different culture than the southern half, which she claims has a more Cajun attitude toward food and life.

Louisiana natives, what is a Cajun attitude toward life? Because whatever that is, I’m pretty sure I want it.

I had flown into Shreveport and noticed there were a lot of Mexican restaurants. All makes sense, as someone described the Shreveport area as “Eastern Texas.” But I was set on Cajun food this trip.

Some research into the best restaurants in the Shreveport area yielded Crawdaddy’s Kitchen and Marilynn’s Place – and Marilynn’s Place ended up being the place to go, because it was the closest stop from the airport and I was I’m About To Pass Out-level hungry.

Side question for local Louisianans – what other standbys do folks recommend in the Shreveport area?

I love southern flavors, I think. But one thing I have quickly assumed to be true – is that there’s probably no such thing. I’m no expert in southern food, and I wish I was. I’ve just noticed that there’s an added emphasis on seafood, spices, and deep smoky flavors, compared to other American cuisines. All things I’m a loud fan of.

Back home and inspired to cook something southern-tasting, this recipe came to mind.

The roux which serves as the foundation for many southern meals, most notably Jambalaya, was the inspiration for the brown butter used start to this risotto off.

The rest of the cooking is relatively predictable – it’s a risotto after all!

I think a bold, homemade seafood stock made from prawn carcasses would be an amazing cooking liquid for this instead, but here I just used store-bought chicken stock.

The other reason to love risotto? It’s therapy. A slow, mindless process that quells the busy thoughts – at least for me. Maybe this is the Cajun way to eat – take-your-time kind of food. I hope you enjoy. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 liter chicken stock (I like College Inn)
  • 2 / 3 cup parm reg
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 10 slices hardwood smoked bacon, small diced
  • 1 / 2 white onion, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 dozen shrimp, almost cooked through and cut in\ bite sized pieces, plus additional whole shrimp for garnish, if desired
  • Louisiana Hot Sauce, if desired
  • Hot peppers of your choosing, if desired

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the stock until it’s simmering – you will be ladling heated stock into the risotto throughout the cooking process.
  2. In a large pot, brown the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove from the pot. Add the onions, sprinkling with a dash of salt. Saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape up any brown drippings from the bacon on the bottom of the pan.
  3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan, heat the butter. Cook on medium-low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until the milk solids begin to brown. Remove from the heat as soon as you see the liquid turn golden.
  4. Add the butter to the onions, garlic, and add the bacon back into the pot.
  5. Stir in the arborio rice, and allow to absorb some of the liquid from the pot and toast lightly, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add a ladle of stock and stir. Keeping the heat on medium-low, gently stir the rice intermittently, and when the rice appears to get a bit dry, add more stock. After about 20 minutes, test the doneness of the rice. The rice should be al-dente, and the consistency of the risotto should be creamy.
  7. At this point, add the parm reg, and stir until incorporated. Then add the shrimp, and stir until heated through, cooking for an additional 2 minutes or so.
  8. Serve hot, topped with Louisiana Hot Sauce, sliced hot peppers, and extra shrimp, if desired.

Deviled Jalapenos

What makes a food devilable?

Because I would devil a glass of water if I could.

I’ve oogled over Trisha Yearwood’s Deviled Potatoes. And recently, learned about a deviled crab recipe that originated in the American south. I’m sure there’s a million versions. A food capable of holding in filling must be a requirement, but I gave my imagination ample space to run wild after that.

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Enter jalapenos.

This wouldn’t cut it as a crowd-pleasing recipe – I don’t think. You can remove the seeds and membranes, and leave out the pickled jalapeno if you need to cut some of the burn, but you’re still chomping into a raw jalapeno.

An obvious alternative? Use the sweet, small tri-colored peppers you can usually get in bulk at any grocery store nowadays. If you want to go this route, just substitute the sweet peppers and nix the pickled jalapeno – the preparation instructions will remain the same, with an equally scrumptious outcome.

I’ve been contemplating new ideas for game day bites that can be made ahead of time and tossed on the coffee table. I’ve already made enough buffalo chicken dip in my life to fill a 10-foot hole in the ground.

But my boyfriend can’t tolerate spicy food, even in moderate amounts. I had purportedly added hot sauce to a dish, and after a minute of did-I-didn’t-I, we realized he was feeling heat from the black pepper that must’ve been a bit too freshly cracked.

I haven’t isolated a hard and fast rule as to what makes something deviled. One of my earlier blog posts for Tuna Nicoise Deviled Eggs recounts the history of the word deviled, which essentially meant anything heavily seasoned. Like the deviled egg, this recipe includes dairy ingredients, and presents itself halves-side-open.

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Whether it’s the jalapenos or the sweet peppers that appeal to you, you aren’t going to disappoint your guests with a dairy-saturated cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and aromatic garlic filling.

And it’s about time I gave Buffalo Chicken Dip a much-deserved break.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 10 jalapenos, all cut in half longwise, with half the peppers minced
  • 1 / 2 block room temperature cream cheese
  • 1 / 4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated finely
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 3 to 5 dashes Tabasco sauce
  •  5 pepperoncinis, minced, for garnish

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Plate 10 jalapeno halves, mincing the remaining jalapeno halves for including in the filling. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a bowl, combine the minced jalapeno, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, and most of the pepperoncinis, reserving 3 to 4 minced tablespoons for garnish.
  3. Equally distribute the filling amongst the jalapeno halves, overfilling them a little bit. Top each half with the remaining pepperoncini.
  4. Pop the plate in the fridge to allow the peppers to chill.
  5. Serve within 2 hours, or the pepper flesh will begin to dry out and shrivel.

 

Orange Pizza

I had fun making this one.

I’ve started to think of food in terms of colors – it gives you visual permission to play with ingredients you may not have mingled together otherwise.

None of the toppings here are too far off in terms of what you expect to go on a pizza – tomato-based sauce, tomatoes, peppers and cheese. But each of the keystone ingredients is tweaked a bit into something unexpected.

It all started and ended with a run of the produce section to seek out any orange veggies, and I walked out of there with sweet peppers and sunrise grape tomatoes. Easy enough, and suitable for a pizza. Orange cheese? Cheddar, obviously. And smoked gouda, that’s orange right? Perfect.

And let’s not forget the festive orange color – Halloween is right around the corner. Cut into squares, I imagine this would be a fun party appetizer. Add some crushed black peppercorns, and you’re serving orange and black pizza.

From the picture, you’ll notice this pizza also received the buffalo sauce treatment, Hankerings-style. Depending on how much you like spicy condiments on your pizza, I’d recommend this route.

Moving through the rainbow, what do we think about a green pizza? Pesto base, asparagus, herb-y goat cheese? My mouth’s already watering…

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 large pizza.

  • Pizza dough, recipe below.
  • 1 1 / 2 cup sunrise orange grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup orange sweet peppers, sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup orange sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup smoked gouda, shredded
  • 1 / 2 cup vodka tomato sauce*
  • Buffalo hot sauce for topping, if desired

*Rao’s tomato sauces are wonderful. I’d recommend them in any recipe where you want to use a store-bought brand. They’re sold in most grocery stores.

F o r  t h e  P i z z a  D o u g h  ( A d a p t e d  c / o  t h e  B a r e f o o t  C o n t e s s a )

  • 2 / 3 cups warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoons salt

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat oven to 500*.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 1 / 2 cups flour, then the salt, and mix.
  3. While mixing, add 1/ 2 more cup of flour.
  4. Knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough and put on a floured board or stone countertop, and knead by hand a dozen times.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and stretch the ball into a rough 16-inch circle using a rolling pin, and place it on a pizza baking sheet.
  9. Brush the vodka sauce across the pie. Topping with the shredded cheeses, then the peppers and the cherry tomatoes.
  10. Put the pizza in the oven, baking for about 15 minutes, until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling hot.
  11. Let rest for 5 minutes or so, topping with buffalo hot sauce, if desired, then slice and serve immediately.

 

Carolina Reaper Pickles

Homemade, spicy pickles are fermenting in my fridge as we speak.

My boyfriend is a genius for buying a pickle starter set – along with a cheese and hot sauce starter set – for my birthday.

Just one of those would have been enough to keep me occupied for hours, and hours. And hours.

I went to the farmer’s market here in DC – FRESHFARM in Dupont Circle. The place is overwhelming with things I wanted to go home with, but of all of the vendors, I honed in on a pepper stand.

peppers.png

I can’t get over the hyperbolic, certifiable names we give hot peppers & sauces nowadays – to give you a sense of today’s hot sauce market, you can select from such favorites as Ass Blaster Hot Sauce, Delicious Suffering Hot Sauce or Weapons of Ass Destruction Hot Sauce.

Picking a few unknowns, I decided to infuse the pickling brine with the peppers, but only after I had a chance to taste each one.  My first taste of a raw Carolina Reaper reminded me of a habanero on steroids. Nearly-identical flavor, and really hot, but not a singe-your-mouth hot. Just a lingering, yummy burn.

The Jamaican Hot Chocolate earned its name – it had definite chocolatey undertones, and made me wish I’d bought pounds of them for freezing.

The others were a bit milder, bell-peppery, and tasted familiar. I seeded and slivered the Sugar Rush Peach into spear shapes which would mingle with the cucumbers. The rest of the peppers, not including the Carolina Reaper, were sliced crosswise and added to the brine as well. I decided to mince the Carolina Reaper for the brine, seeds included. I do not regret this decision.

I did the right thing and made a batch of regular dill pickles for anyone who didn’t want to voluntarily hurt themselves – the brine base of which I used for the spicy pickles.

Nothing too crazy, just the appropriate proportions of vinegar, water, salt and sugar, and the go-to prerequisites for cucumber pickling – garlic, peppercorns and fresh dill.

The fermenting lids from Easy Fermenter we bought claim to help mitigate unwanted aerobic bacteria growth, and expel oxygen from the lid as it ferments. Anything and everything I can do to make these pickles perfect, I’m going to do – and I love specialty kitchen items like this.

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So which pickle team are you on – traditional garlic & dill, or Carolina Reaper?

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 2 32 oz. jars of pickles.

  • 2 cucumbers, cut in half, seeded & sliced into spears
  • 6 to 8 3 to 4 inch mild to hot peppers of your choosing, seeded & sliced into spears
  • 6 to 8 small, mild to hot peppers of your choosing, sliced crosswise
  • 2 Carolina Reapers, minced
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • Approximately 10 cloves garlic, smashed & skins removed
  • Approximately 20 stems fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the water, vinegar, salt and sugar on the stovetop until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the peppercorns and garlic and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. In a clean 32. oz mason jar, add half the cucumber spears tucked alongside half the dill stems, along with half the pepper spears, sliced peppers, and minced pepper. Repeat for the second jar.
  3. Once cooled, pour the brine over the cucumbers and peppers, and try to divvy equal amounts of garlic cloves and black peppercorns into each jar. If you’re using a fermenting lid, don’t fill to the top – leave one inch between the brining liquid and the lid. If using regular mason jar lids, fill to the near top.
  4. Store the pickles in the fridge for 5 to 7 days. The longer the more picklier, and therefore better. Once opened, pickles will last for about 2 months in the fridge.