Monthly Archives: July 2008

Nose to Tail Watermelon

I hate waste and I love pickles. So preserving the rind of a juicy summer watermelon makes perfect sense to me. I get jars and jars of delicious pickles, crisp pink watermelon cubes, and of course the satisfaction of using every part of the beast. And believe me, a 15-pound watermelon is a beast. This recipe is sweet, spicy, and slightly sour and features some of my favorite flavors – cinnamon, lemon, mustard seed, vinegar. It’s worth getting a whole watermelon just to make these.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

For the rind:

  • 1 15-pound watermelon
  • 8c water
  • 1 Tbs coarse sea salt

For the brine:

  • 2c cider vinegar
  • 1c water
  • 1c turbinado sugar
  • 1 Tbs coarse sea salt
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 1 lemon’s zest, peeled off in long strips
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs brown mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs coriander seed
  • 1 large bay leaf

With a chef’s knife, cut the watermelon into quarters. Slide the knife between the rind and flesh of each quarter the way you’d loosen a cake from its pan. Pull the flesh out in one chunk and reserve for a sorbet, salad, or snack. Use a soup spoon to scrape the remaining flesh from the white part of the rind. Strip the green skin away with a vegetable peeler. Cut the rind into 1-inch squares. Place the rind and 1Tbs salt in a large stock pot and cover with the 8c water. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer about 5 minutes, until the rind begins to turn translucent. Remove from heat, drain well in a colander. Put the cubes into sterilized jars, leaving about 2 inches at the top. (I used one 2-quart jar and two pint jars.)

In another pot, place all the brine ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook just until the sugar and salt dissolve. Ladle the brine and spices over the rind cubes. Cover with 2-piece lids and boil in a water bath for 15 minutes. Or if you don’t care about sealing the jars, leave them on the counter for 3 or so hours until they’re at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

The pickles are ready to eat after a day of brining, but their flavors fully develop after a week.

4 Comments

Filed under Fruit, Preserving, Recipe, Side Dish

Mujadara

Tuesday it was about 95 degrees, and despite the heat, I was hungry. Rather than order takeout or eat raw seasonal vegetables like any sensible person, I ended up cooking the plainest of pantry staples. I don’t know why, exactly, but I was craving mujadara. It’s a mixture of rice, lentils and onion, and not much else besides a little salt and olive oil. It sounds dull at first, but the way the sweet caramelized onions slither amongst the rice and lentils melding the flavors, is nothing short of extraordinary. I’ve had versions of mujadara that involve herbs, spices, stock, and vegetables, but when I make it at home, I like to give the stage to the trio of rice, lentil, and onion. This version uses brown rice and red lentils because that’s what I happened to have on hand, but it would be equally delicious with the traditional long-grain white rice and brown lentils or any other rice or lentil you can find. The cooking times for each would just need to be adjusted.

My method of cooking red lentils is a little unorthodox, but it’s necessary for these delicate little lentils. If I cook them like other lentils, no matter how gently I simmer them they always seem to dissolve into a potful of mush. Sometimes that’s perfect, but for this recipe, they need to keep their structural integrity.

I’ve been having this for lunch all week, accompanied by watermelon, juicy apricots, and sunburn. It was totally worth the steamy evening in the kitchen.

Mujadara

For the lentils:

  • 1 1/4 c red lentils
  • 1 1/2 c water

For the rice:

  • 1 c brown rice
  • 1 1/2 c water

For the onions:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c water (may not need all of it)
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Start with the lentils. Bring their 1 1/2 c water and 1/2 tsp salt to a rolling boil. Stir in the lentils and return to a boil for 2 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring gently and re-covering after 30 minutes. The key is to let the lentils absorb water at their own pace. The salt toughens them just enough to let them hold their shape.

While the lentils are soaking, get the rice going. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh sieve, then put in a small pot with the 1 1/2 c water. Cover and bring to a boil, which takes about 5 minutes. Reduce to low heat and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat, keeping covered, and let stand 15 minutes.

During that half-hour when the rice is cooking and the lentils soaking, start on the onions. Dice the onion (or slice into half-moons, but I prefer smaller pieces), making sure the pieces are all about the same size. Heat the ordinary olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions once the oil shimmers. Add the salt and stir, then reduce heat to medium. Stir ever two or three minutes until the onions lose most of their moisture. Then turn down the heat keep stirring at short intervals. Eventually, the sugar in the onions will begin to caramelize and stick to the pan. The darker they are, the more flavorful, but be careful not to burn them. Splash a tablespoon or two of water into the pan to deglaze it and pick up the fond (that sweet dark pan-crust). Keep stirring until your onions are a rick golden brown, about 25 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Stir the extra virgin olive oil into the onions. Fluff the rice with a fork and stir that into the pan of onions, too. (If your skillet is getting full, you can transfer the contents to a mixing bowl. Gently fold the lentils into the rice mixture, taste, and add more salt if needed.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

3 Comments

Filed under Main Dish, Pantry, Recipe, Side Dish

Ice Cream Party

"it's an eating-too-much-ice-cream party and you're invited"

I’m back on the ice-cream making wagon again. It’s hot, I only want to eat frozen things (and raw vegetables sliced with my new knife), so this makes perfect sense. My only problem is deciding which ice creams and sorbets to make.

I took a short break from my creamy, cold obsession after the monster pictured above took up residence in my stomach. Kimball Farm is just down the road from Ian’s family home and we walked over for dessert one night during our brief visit to Carlisle, Massachusetts. Foolishly, I ordered a small coffee and cookies, which is about three scoops. Ian got the kiddie size chocolate peanut butter and it looked exactly as big as mine. But we were strong, and in the epic battle of man vs. ice cream, we emerged victorious. Yes, I ate all of that, and I didn’t share any with the cute farm animals, even though they were all named after ice cream flavors (by us, at least). The ice cream was great, of course, but the memory of the giant cup’s slow journey into my bloodstream was enough to make me cringe every time I heard the Mr. Softee chimes for two weeks.

I think I’m over it now. This weekend Ian & I were in the mood for a fresh, tart sorbet. He had the great idea to make a blackberry-lemon sorbet, so we churned up a batch. The flavors are great together, but since citrus zest is so powerful, the lemon overwhelmed the berry. I’m going to re-work this recipe and put it up later.

But in the meantime, all I can think about is what frozen treat I want to make next. Rose and mastic, Sour cherry, Chocolate with a peanut butter swirl, Smoky Spanish Almond,  Rosemary and lime sorbet, fresh blueberry sorbet, espresso granita…  I’m sure there’s a 12-step program for this.

What are some of your favorite flavors?

Leave a comment

Filed under Sweets, Things I Did Not Cook

Corn and Basil Chowder

fresh and clean summer soup

This is a variation on a corn, basil, and tomato salad that I made every week in August last year. The tomatoes are not quite worth their $4.50 a pound at the greenmarket, so my sweet corn and basil had to cosy up to some pimentòn de la vera instead. The barest hint of smoke and spice adds a bacon-esque richness to what is otherwise a very lean soup, and a squeeze of lime brightens the flavors. Making a stock from the cobs and basil stems gives the soup a little more depth. I made sure to keep boiling time to a minimum, since the entire point of summer cooking is to stay away from the stove whenever possible. We all know that time is better spent at the beach.

Corn and Basil Chowder

4 ears of sweet corn

4 c water

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs butter

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (I used agridulce, but hot or sweet would also work)

1c basil leaves, lightly packed (reserve the stems)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 lime

Using a sharp knife, slice the kernels of corn from the cob. Reserve corn, and place the cobs and basil stems in a large pot. Cover with the water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.

Chiffonade the basil leaves, set aside. Mince the garlic.

In a small skillet, heat the butter on medium-high until it foams. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from heat. Stir in paprika and salt.

Turn off the simmering pot of cobs. Discard the basil stems. Lift the cobs out of the water with tongs and shake excess water into the pot. Transfer to a cutting board and hold with the tongs in one hand while you scrape the last bits of corn off with the back of your knife. Discard cobs, add corn scrapings to the pot.

Add garlic mixture, corn kernels, and basil to the pot of corn stock. Squeeze the lime half over the pot and add a few grinds of black pepper. Stir everything up and taste it. Add more salt or pepper if you like.

Serve warm, room-temperature, or cold. The flavors develop after a day or two in the refrigerator, and the soup keeps up to a week. Makes an excellent breakfast on days you don’t want to cook.

1 Comment

Filed under Main Dish, Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetables