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Weekend Baking/Cooking Marathon

January 7, 2008

Last weekend, I went crazy. Instead of having a nice relaxing Sunday watching the Chargers win their first playoff game in 13 years (I think, I don’t actually watch football…ever), I decided to bake one or two things. It was raining, I had just come home from the grocery store (went over budget, again), and Jared and Kelie were about to start watching the game.

When I was at the store, I found some nice cucumbers sitting there, just staring at me! There is this restaurant in Petaluma called Dempsey’s and among other things, they have the best Bread and Butter Pickles I’ve ever had. So, when those cucumbers were just sitting there, I thought it was time I tried to replicate Dempsey’s masterpiece. And since pickles take about 12 hours to make, I started on those first thing.

Here they are finished, and while this is definitely a Claussen pickle jar, these are definitely home made and so much better. An approximation of Dempsey’s pickles — not quite the real thing — but really good nonetheless.

After the pickles were nicely salted and resting in the fridge, it was time to bake. I started with a Lemon Yogurt cake, borrowed happily from Ina Garten. When I’m baking, I always have the tendency to mess something up. I don’t follow recipes well, and so I’ll mess up the order, the quantity, the temperature, or any of a number of other things (there’s a reason nobody got to see a post about the Christmas Marshmallows I made…what a disaster!)

After the Lemon Yogurt cake, I realized I had three bananas that were about to go bad. Wham! An hour later, Banana Pistachio Bread was in the oven. Simple and delicious.

I had bought too many apples because I was daydreaming while putting them into my cart. So when I got home and realized that I had 10 extra apples for the week, I decided to do the only sensible thing: make Applesauce! Applesauce is the easiest possible thing to make. I make mine with a little Apple Cider Vinegar. Makes it just a little extra tart and helps break down the apples faster while cooking.

After applesauce came the dinner prep.  On the menu was Ceviche with Sea Bass and Scallops and a Radicchio and Endive Salad with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing. Oh, and for the hell of it, I also made Buttermilk Biscuits from this previously-posted recipe.

They take 25 minutes start to finish, so it was an easy investment.

A long day of cooking in the kitchen, but the Charger’s won, and I had a good time.  Here are the recipes/techniques for everything above:


Bread and Butter Pickles

Easier than making pudding, first slice very thin several cucumbers and a white/brown onion.  If you have a mandoline (slicer) this is made much easier. And as for the type of cucumber, I’d use an English cucumber or Persian cucumber.  Avoid the garden (typical) cucumber for this.

Pour half a cup of kosher salt on top of the cucumbers/onions, then place in a colander over a bowl. Place a damp cloth over them, then in the fridge for 12 hours or so.

Once they’ve cured, rinse them and dry them well.  You want to remove all that salt from them.

In a pot, boil equal parts rice wine and distilled white vinegars, along with coriander seed, whole garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, cumin seed, celery seed, and ground turmeric.  Add vegetables and heat back just to scald — don’t let it reach a boil again!

Turn off the heat, let it cool, then place in clean jars.  Eat on…well, anything.

Applesauce

Easy.  Chop up into small pieces whatever apples you have leftover.  You should peel them first. Add half a cup of water for every 2 pounds or so of apples.  You can add cinnamon, cloves, whatever you want at this stage.  I usually squeeze a little lemon juice and a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar, too. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the apples are soft.  It helps to mash them up with a potato masher.  If you want really smooth applesauce, put the whole shebang in a blender. If the sauce needs sugar, add sugar.  If it needs more tartness, add a little more vinegar and/or lemon juice. Eat.

Ceviche

Chop up into small equal parts soft white fish and bay scallops.  Cover with lime juice and a pinch each of sugar and kosher salt.  Let sit for 8 – 15 minutes until the fish is opaque and the scallops are firm when pinched.  Discard the lime juice.  Toss with cilantro, kosher salt and black pepper. Serve.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Now is a good time to remind you that if you’re baking, always always always use unsalted butter…at room temperature.

But I’m actually just going to send you to the Food Network website on this one.  Use whole milk yogurt. Seriously. Do it.

Banana Pistachio Bread

This is my all-time favorite Banana Bread recipe.  I just substituted the walnuts for pistachios. Since the pistachios were salted, though, I omitted the rest of the salt from the recipe.  

8 T unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c whole wheat flour
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. 
2. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and beat.
3. Sift all-purpose flour, soda, salt together, stir in whole wheat flour, add to butter mixture, mixing well.
4. Fold in bananas, vanilla, walnuts.
5. Pour into pan. Bake 50-60 min, or until vake tesster comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then on rack.

Enjoy my friends! xoxo!
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