Cooking thread, anyone?

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,212
Downeast Maine
As the weather heats up here in Texas, I try to move away from using the kitchen oven as much. I’ve been relying more on the crockpot and the grill. I don’t have a grill pan for veggies but discovered that a pizza plate that I own but don’t usually use (it doesn’t quite fit properly in our usual oven) worked well for fish and brussels sprouts.

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We’re also endeavoring to raise a bunch of cucumbers this year, which we eat in a variety of ways. My kids all love pickles, though, so I promised to ferment a batch. The right-hand jar is sliced spears that I started earlier in the weak. The cloudy brine and more olive tone to the skins is a sign that fermentation is progressing. The left-hand jar is whole pickling cucumbers just after they were packed in brine. There are a few peppers thrown in as well.

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I wanted to try something different with a few of the cucumbers this week, so today I made a cucumber sorbet. I simply pureed a pound of cucumbers with 2 tablespoons of lime juice and 2/3 cup of sugar in my blender and froze it in our ice-cream maker. It was a huge hit with most of the family. I liked it, but prefer savory cucumbers. It was good for variety, though, and is a great summer dessert. I think lemon juice would be even better.
Is there any secret to making pickles? I'm surprised to see you using bail lid jars, I've read they aren't to be trusted with preserving foods, but I really have no idea. I have several larger 2-3 liter bail lid jars for flour, grain, etc.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
655
MA
Only tried pickles once. They weren't what what I wanted as far as taste. I like half sour pickles.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
580
Texas
Is there any secret to making pickles? I'm surprised to see you using bail lid jars, I've read they aren't to be trusted with preserving foods, but I really have no idea. I have several larger 2-3 liter bail lid jars for flour, grain, etc.
These aren’t the usual vinegar-based, canned pickles so widely available. These pickles are lactofermented only with a saltwater brine and time. They can take a couple of weeks just to make them in the first place, but they are very stable because the fermentation is a natural preservation process. (It’s very similar to sauerkraut.) I’ll refrigerate them once the flavor deepens to our liking, and that slows down the fermentation. We’ll eat them fast enough that I don’t really have to worry about a long-term storage solution. I’d love to have so many cucumbers that I had jars and jars of pickles to last through winter, but that hasn’t ever happened. I’ve never tried to preserve by canning in these jars.

If you are thinking of pickle-making, two tips I’ve found very helpful are to be sure to cut off the ends of the cucumber even if you’re leaving it whole. I think there may be some enzyme at the blossom end that can contribute to mushiness. Also, a source of tannins such as horseradish, grape, or oak leaves in the jar can help preserve the crunch.

@PaulOinMA , were the pickles you tried vinegar-based or fermented? It might be easier to achieve the half-sour flavor with natural fermentation. It just takes some time and testing.
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
655
MA
It was so long ago that I don't remember. Really wishing I had a jar of half sour pickles in front of me now. :)
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
580
Texas
It was so long ago that I don't remember. Really wishing I had a jar of half sour pickles in front of me now. :)
You made me wish it, too. My daughter just suggested that we needed to taste test them again, and I agreed. We were quite surprised to find that they had, in our opinion, fermented enough to taste delicious. We had to have a second spear to verify, but they’ve now moved to the refrigerator. It’s been hot down here in Texas, so that speeds up fermentation, and the pickles are in small spears rather than whole, and that speeds the process, too.
 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
580
Texas
in that one jar it was cloudy is there a reason?
It’s just part of the lactic acid bacteria fermentation process. Eventually the cloudiness can settle into white particles at the bottom of the jar.

https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/common-pickle-problems/

I was just commenting to my older daughter yesterday that I far prefer the aesthetics of the unfermented pickles in brine. Her response was nice. “I prefer the cloudy, dull ones because that means deliciousness.” She‘s a pretty big pickle fan, to the point that she adopted the nickname of ”Pickles” for a while.
 
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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
580
Texas
My older daughter got it into her head this past weekend that she wanted to make gumbo. Two of our children may be allergic to shellfish, so the shrimp had to be prepared separately and only added to the bowls of those who could have them. (Thankfully the allergic children don’t really care for shrimp, so they didn’t mind. ) It was a good opportunity to help my twelve year old learn more about meal planning and cooking, and we had two good dinners out of it. It makes me want the okra in the garden to hurry up. It’s still tiny right now.

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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,212
Downeast Maine
My older daughter got it into her head this past weekend that she wanted to make gumbo. Two of our children may be allergic to shellfish, so the shrimp had to be prepared separately and only added to the bowls of those who could have them. (Thankfully the allergic children don’t really care for shrimp, so they didn’t mind. ) It was a good opportunity to help my twelve year old learn more about meal planning and cooking, and we had two good dinners out of it. It makes me want the okra in the garden to hurry up. It’s still tiny right now.

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Gumbo sounds good, definitely a lot of meals!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,668
South Puget Sound, WA
There are several delicious Indian recipes for okra. I love it and I bet the kids would too. Serve with rice and dahl. Extra points if you have some naan with it. There are many variants, some mild, some spicy, some with curry, etc. Just Google Indian Okra Recipe and you will find a lot of them. Here is a simple one that is not spicy. We like to make Bhindi Masala too.

 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
580
Texas
There are several delicious Indian recipes for okra. I love it and I bet the kids would too. Serve with rice and dahl. Extra points if you have some naan with it. There are many variants, some mild, some spicy, some with curry, etc. Just Google Indian Okra Recipe and you will find a lot of them. Here is a simple one that is not spicy. We like to make Bhindi Masala too.

Mmm. I love Bhindi Masala. My husband and I used to do quite a lot of Indian cooking before we discovered food allergies in our family that had us on a pretty limited diet for a number of years. We’re beginning to expand again, though, and I did some very mild Indian cuisine today for lunch: aloo gobi and a cucumber raita.

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Our okra in the garden is still only about four inches tall. I can buy big bags of frozen okra, but I sure hope to harvest some fresh pods this summer.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
655
MA
Made Sloppy Joes last weekend. Joy of Cooking recipe, with double-concentrated tomato paste added to make it like what mom made when I was a kid in the 1960s.

Had it open-faced on a roll with shredded Monterey Jack and scallions.

Really took me back to being a kid growing up in Huntington, CT. Will definitely be making them again this summer. :)
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,212
Downeast Maine
I made a really ugly loaf of bread in my 14 qt dutch oven suspended over a fire today. It's not photo worthy, but it does taste good. The bottom was pretty badly burned so I had to cut it off, otherwise it's pretty good. Probably next time I'll try a little less hydration and a smaller loaf. This one was quite large and took an eternity. The dutch oven probably could have been closer to the fire as well. I can't wait for indoor baking weather to return!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,668
South Puget Sound, WA
I made a really ugly loaf of bread in my 14 qt dutch oven suspended over a fire today. It's not photo worthy, but it does taste good. The bottom was pretty badly burned so I had to cut it off, otherwise it's pretty good. Probably next time I'll try a little less hydration and a smaller loaf. This one was quite large and took an eternity. The dutch oven probably could have been closer to the fire as well. I can't wait for indoor baking weather to return!
May I suggest a good bread machine for summer? There are times when electricity is a better solution than fire.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,212
Downeast Maine
May I suggest a good bread machine for summer? There are times when electricity is a better solution than fire.
Indeed, we have one, but I don't know how to use it. The dutch oven method is really more of a novelty. I do enjoy frying and sauteing with my Ecozoom Versa, but the automatic bread maker is probably worth finding recipes for. I pretty much only use spelt four, so finding recipes is hard.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
82,668
South Puget Sound, WA
Indeed, we have one, but I don't know how to use it. The dutch oven method is really more of a novelty. I do enjoy frying and sauteing with my Ecozoom Versa, but the automatic bread maker is probably worth finding recipes for. I pretty much only use spelt four, so finding recipes is hard.
If interested I can recruit my wife to get you started on a good whole wheat bread and if you are very nice, also a pizza dough. I will ask her about spelt flour changes. What make/model bread machine do you have?
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,212
Downeast Maine
If interested I can recruit my wife to get you started on a good whole wheat bread and if you are very nice, also a pizza dough. What make/model bread machine do you have?
It is a machine my wife bought many years ago, right out of high school if I remember correctly. It's a White Westinghouse WRT-7000 automatic bread maker. Can't find the manual online, but I think if I weigh out my flour appropriately I can get away with using the 1 1/2 or 2 lb whole wheat bread settings and substituting "bread machine yeast" for sourdough starter. I'm not even sure if it works, I grabbed it out of the mother in law's storage unit on a whim while helping her pack it up. It took me a while of searching before finding a whole wheat recipe my wife likes, turns out sourdough was the key. Now she doesn't really care for white bread anymore, which I didn't think would ever happen.

Of course it gets really hot just as I get good at baking high hydration spelt loaves. My last indoor loaf was 75% hydration with 100% spelt flour and I was able to get "windows" while stretching and folding. I'll probably mix the dough by hand, fold it, and then use the bread maker just for the very end. I'm also considering using my counter top convection oven, it makes wonderful cookies, but I've never tried bread in it. I think even the countertop oven or the bread maker will make the house warm, but hopefully after this weekend I'll be able to bake in the evenings again without getting the house too warm. We fried eggplant and made meat sauce with the wood cooker a few days ago, the weather this year has been wild.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
655
MA
Making this today:

Skillet Pasta with Summer Squash, Ricotta and Basil

Very good summer pasta recipe. Will add ricotta to plated servings, as we will have leftovers, and don't want the ricotta to disappear in the dish.

 

DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
580
Texas
@PaulOinMA , one of my favorite sauces for pasta is higher in zucchini than tomatoes. I’m a pretty big squash fan, though. The recipe you posted also looked quite good to me.

@SpaceBus, I used to use a lot of spelt for bread before switching over to einkorn. I’m not sure I have a recipe to offer for the breadmaker, but I’ll look and see. I do use the breadmaker successfully for einkorn sourdough. Einkorn is very sticky, so I let the breadmaker knead it for me, then I cut it off until it’s time to bake. It takes some care, but I find it helps me. Right now I’m off of gluten entirely for a bit, so I’m not sure when I’ll next make a loaf of bread.

I got a used breadmaker last summer just to avoid heating up the house with the oven. In my case we have a large pantry, and the breadmaker actually does its job in there, and that keeps the heat out of the kitchen. I don’t notice it warming the pantry too much.

I cooked tonight’s dinner on the grill (likewise an effort to keep the oven off and the heat out of the house). I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I had made some mayonnaise with lime basil recently, and the flavor was a little too strong for my children as a dip or spread, but the last of it worked very well as a rub on the chicken before roasting. They were quite surprised at dinner when I told them the “secret ingredient.”

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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,212
Downeast Maine
I need to take more pics of our food. Yesterday we made a small eggplant lasagna. We baked the lasagna in the countertop convection oven and it came out perfect and the house didn't get hot. It ended up cooling off yesterday evening so we baked a banana bread loaf in the wood cooker.

This summer weather has been great for cooking outside and I've been pan frying breaded eggplant. I like this much better than doing it inside, so much less splatter and mess.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
655
MA
For bread baking in a Dutch oven ... there are charts showing number of charcoal briquettes on top and bottom of a Dutch oven corresponding to temperature in the oven by size of Dutch oven..
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
655
MA
Had the leftover pasta as a cold pasta salad for dinner the past two nights. Great summer dish. Never had it cold before.

Will consider making it to bring to a summer potluck. Very good cold with ricotta dollops and freshly grated Parmesan Romano.

Might also add fresh mozzarella next time I make it.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
655
MA
Strawberries were on sale. Nan made shortcake yesterday.

Someone asked her what she uses for strawberry shortcake, and couldn't understand when she said "shortcake." They kept asking if it was pound cake or something else.

Here's the recipe from a colleague's wife. They're English. Very easy. Pretty much a plain scone.

Shortcake

Recipe from Tom Wolf’s wife, 1990. Tom was a colleague at Colgate-Palmolive Company.

Stir together:

2 cups flour
4 tsps. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/16 tsp. nutmeg

Blend in: 1/3 cup butter/margarine –

Stir up: 1 egg plus 1/3 cup milk and stir in, little by little, into dry ingredients – till dough holds together.

Can either make one 9-inch pan and one shortcake – or individual ones. Just make piles of them on a baking sheet and sort of pat them into shape with a fork. Makes about eight-plus or so.

Bake 12 minutes at 425 °F – but watch them. Sometimes they burn on bottom.
 

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DuaeGuttae

Minister of Fire
Oct 26, 2016
580
Texas
Yum, we love shortcake and scones around here.

@SpaceBus, I’ve thought of you several times this week as I’ve been working in the kitchen, probably because I’m very conscious of trying to keep heat out of the kitchen.

One thought that I had was I wondered if you have a crock pot/slow cooker. Those can be surprisingly versatile. One of my favorite uses is to cook “baked” potatoes or sweet potatoes. The baked potatoes won’t have the dry skin, but they are still yummy. We used ours earlier this week to simmer meatballs and tomato sauce. (I did use a skillet to brown the meatballs first and to cook down the sauce some to speed the process.)

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The tomatoes came from a neighbor’s garden, not ours, but I went out and picked the herbs (parsley for meatballs, basil and oregano for the sauce). It was quite a hit.

I made a sweet potato bread the other day. I used the food processor for the batter but baked it in my bread maker. Out of curiosity I measured the temperature of the wall in my pantry before and after baking. It was 79 degrees before baking, 84 degrees after. This was in the immediate vicinity of the breadmaker. A few feet away it was 80 degrees. Our kitchen has a western wall of windows and is usually warmer than our interior pantry, so I’m glad to have the additional heat contained there, even though it doesn’t seem to add a lot.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
4,212
Downeast Maine
We actually put the electric range back in the kitchen, but haven't used it. For a week it got really hot, but then dropped back down. I baked a loaf of peanut butter bread in the wood cooker last night since it was under 60df all day.

I do think about a crock pot, it would be handy for making broth in the summer. We tend to buy bone in meat, so I save the bones for broth and dog food.