Friday, July 20, 2012

Pickled Prunes

My google doc with lists of what to pack for school is getting a little ridiculous. Coffee mugs, towels, nail polish, a can opener (for making peanut soup, of course), both of my tin Yellow Submarine lunch boxes... and a jar of pickled prunes, canned by yours truly. I have been planning on learning to can forever. I had my first attempt with this recipe, and while the canning process was a bit of a disaster, the fruit came out just right.

This chutney-like recipe yields soft, rich fruit in a sticky glaze. The fruit is both sweet and savory; chopped pickled prunes instantly add depth to any dish. My ideas for using the prunes and raisins: toss cold chunks of steamed cauliflower with chopped prunes and a spoonful or two of syrup for a yummy salad. Saute or steam carrot sticks, then top with prunes for a tsimmesish creation. Fill celery sticks with chopped poached chicken, then sprinkle with raisins. 

Pickled Prunes
adapted from Serious Eats
I made this recipe with 3/4 prunes and 1/4 raisins. I thought the raisins were delicious and would happily repeat this with just raisins. There isn't much liquid and it's syrupy, not briny, so I'd classify this more as a chutney than pickles... but either way you should give it a try.

1 pound prunes or raisins
1 c red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c honey
1 t fresh grated ginger
1/2 t whole black peppercorns
pinch ground cloves
pinch red chili flakes
pinch ground allspice
1 bay leaf
pinch salt

Combine fruit and vinegar in a medium saucepan. Add strips of lemon zest removed with a peeler and the lemon juice. Add all the rest of the ingredients and bring it all to a simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes, until prunes have plumped and liquid is a thin syrup. Remove pan from heat and cool slightly. Spoon into a jar and refrigerate, where it'll keep for a month. Or can using proper canning techniques and save it for even longer! (I haven't mastered this yet so I won't explain how.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pancakes on a Diet

No matter how much criticism fad diets get, there must be a little bit of good in each diet. If it was complete disgusting nonsense, it wouldn't be popular enough to qualify as a fad. I recently read Dr. Dukan's diet book, which is full of complete crap (suck on ice cubes and watch the pounds float away!) but also has a few nice tips and recipes.

My favorite thing about the Dukan diet is that he is totally obsessed with oat bran. Gluten-free and full of fiber, it was the perfect thing for me to add to my diet. Dukan recommends having a certain amount of bran every day, whether the bran is sprinkled on yogurt, cooked to make hot cereal, or made into his most amazing creation- the oat bran galette. I've changed a few things about his galette to make it less obsessive and more delicious, and the savory pancakes have become my new favorite meal. 

Bea's Doctored-Up Dukan Pancakes
Make one big galette or three smaller pancakes. Either way, you'll be impressed with the light texture of these gluten-free, high-protein, fiber-filled cakes. 
I prefer these to be savory, so I put in salt and pepper and serve it with ketchup and/or mustard. If you want to go the other way, you should totally drizzle your pancakes with honey and serve with fruit and yogurt. 

2 T plain Greek yogurt
2 T oat bran
1 egg, separated*
salt**, pepper, red pepper flakes, and other spices to taste
olive oil***

Mix the yolk, yogurt, and oat bran with any spices you desire. Beat the egg white until it has soft peaks. Heat a little olive oil in a pan. While it's heating, fold the white into the yolk mixture. 
When the pan is ready, drop the batter into the pan by the spoonful and cook like pancakes. Serve with chutney, ketchup, mustard, or salsa. 

*Dr. Dukan would say trash the yolk and just use the protein-filled white. I vote that throwing away a yummy, nutritious yolk is a crime. 
**Finicky Dukan says no salt, but I say that's absurd. 
***The persnickety doctor would recommend using no oil/butter at all to grease the pan because he's afraid of the fat. I don't think a little olive oil ever hurt anyone. 

Summer Heat

I have eaten so many beautiful things this summer, both meals out at new restaurants and meals I have cooked for myself. In chronological order, here are a few dishes I intended to post as recipes, but never got around to posting:

This asparagus slaw was inspired by the one served (until the menu changed a week or two ago) at Red House under pan-seared scallops. I blanched the asparagus, then cut them on the mandoline. The dressing was lots of lemon zest and juice, whole grain mustard, dijon, and a bit of olive oil. The asparagus was a pain in the butt, but so delicious. 

Mmm frozen chunks of watermelon with lime and mint... I caught Zoe in the middle of making drinks. Frozen watermelon is the perfect ice cube.

Joy's crispy coconut kale is a delight. Much more complex in flavoring than my basic kale dishes, it's a fun way to enjoy the best veggie ever. 

These pretty peas were getting ready to be blended with that mess of fresh parsley and basil you see. I chopped the herbs with some oil until they made pesto, then smashed the peas in. The resulting smash was an earthy garnish for a very simple roasted beet soup. I just pureed roasted beets with some broth and water for the freshest dose of magenta beets.