Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pickled Beets- a Fall Tradition

By the end of September, I will have canned my pickled beets.  So much better than store bought!  In exchange for a day of labour, beet red hands and a little sweat, I will enjoy a winter of delicious beets.  This is my recipe, but every canner has his or her own version- a little less spice, a little more sugar, white vinegar, cider vinegar... you get the picture.  These are best made with a friend to share the job, and the bounty.

To make 4 500-ml jars.  Feel free to double or triple.

1     lb beets (red, orange, white...)
2     cups, liquid from cooked beets
1     cup cider vinegar
1     white onion, sliced
1/4  cup white sugar, or to taste
1     tbsp star anise
1     tbsp whole cloves
pinch of salt

Prepare your jars and lids- keep the jars hot.

Put the beets in a large saucepan and add water to cover.  If using different coloured beets, cook them separately.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beets are tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain the beets, reserving two cups of the liquid.

When cool enough to handle, peel and slice 1/4-inch thick.  Divide the beet and onion slices among the jars.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved cooking liquid, vinegar, sugar, star anise, cloves and salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Ladle the hot vinegar into the jars, evenly distributing the spices and leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles.  Wipe the rims clean and seal tightly with the lids.

Process the jars for seven minutes in a boiling water bath.  Remove from the water and let stand until cooled.  Set aside for one week to let the flavours develop.  The sealed jars can be stored for up to six months in a cool, dark place.  If a seal fails, store in the refrigerator.

That's Italian! Passata

What to do with the bounty of local tomatoes available by mid-August?  If you're Italian, you get the family together and can your tomatoes for the coming year.  My sister and I aren't Italian, but, with a little help from our Italian friends, we got the low down on the Italian "way".  Three hundred pounds of tomatoes will provide us with enough incredibly fresh, tasty, healthy passata- a light tomato sauce- for the next six months. The thing is, this sauce has a minimal amount of salt and a maximum amount of tomato flavour.
64 500-ml jars of tomato goodness- passata

300 lbs of roma tomatoes
 (each box holds 25 lbs)
Elyse (my sister) underestimated the yield per 25 lbs box, so we ended up canning twice the amount of jars we had planned for.  She will enjoy 64 litres of tomatoes (from 200 lbs of roma tomatoes) and I will have half that amount. 

Here is what you can expect: 25 lbs of roma tomatoes will provide you with 8 litres of passata.  That's 8 x 1 litre jars or 16 x 500 ml jars... And, timewise, expect to spend about one hour for every 25 lbs of tomatoes.  All well worth it! 

We tried out two new tools this weekend: a large tomato hand press and the food puree attachment for the KitchenAid.  Both worked admirably and I would highly recommend them.  The KitchenAid attachment was great to press the juices from the tomatoes.  The hand press' bigger hopper allows more tomatoes to be processed at once.  We each used one of the "tools" then passed all of the seeds and skins through the KitchenAid a second time to catch all of the pulp for our sauce.

To make a twenty-five lbs batch of tomatoes- 8 one-litre jars.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Best Banana Bread!

I just ate the most wonderful banana bread!  Light and nutty with lots of banana flavour.  I baked mini breads so I can limit my portions to just one, at a time.  Perfect!

I've included some healthy ingredients to my recipe: flax seeds, yogourt and toasted nuts.  The usual butter is replaced by healthier grapeseed oil.

This recipe will make one regular size bread or about 10 mini breads.

Delicioso- Pistachio Pesto and Pasta

One of my favourite Kelowna Italian restaurants, Casa Sasso, introduced me to this pasta dish.  I was hooked- it is delicious.  Gaby, the owner/chef at Casa Sasso, is keeping her recipe top secret.  And, I don't blame her- it is wonderful.

My version is based on a recipe from a great little pasta cookbook entitled "100 Ways to be Pasta" and  "tweaked".  The pistachio pesto provides an unexpected great flavour for the pasta, not the usual tomato or cream sauce we are accustomed to.  This pasta dish is quick and easy to make with a little help from the food processor.

To serve 4

5     garlic cloves
1     cup whole basil leaves
1     cup Italian parsley
2     cups shelled, toasted (in a dry pan) pistachios, divided - 1 cup for the pesto and 1 cup for garnish
1/4  cup pinenuts
1     cup extra virgin olive oil
1     tsp salt, plus more for the pasta water
3     tbsp unsalted butter
3/4  lb dry pasta- tagliatelle, linguine, penne or farfelle
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put the garlic, basil, pistachios, pine nuts, 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and blend.  Gradually pour the rest of the oil through the feed tube until all the ingredients are integrated into a paste with a slightly coarse texture.  The pesto should be fluid, not hard or dry.  Keep adding olive oil until you have a runny paste.

Place the pesto in a large serving bowl, reserving a large spoonful.  Place the butter on top of the pesto.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Stir in a fistful of salt, a splash of olive oil and the pasta.  Cook, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking, until the pasta is al dente.  Lift the pasta from the pot and into the bowl with the pesto and butter.  Add a splash of pasta water and toss the pasta until the butter is melted and the pasta is coated.  Add the rest of the pistachios (1 cup) and toss again.  Dust with Parmesan cheese and serve very hot, with more Parmesan at the table.

Add cooked shrimp to your dish.  Or lightly brown cubed chicken until cooked through and add to the pasta, then toss.

You can also play with the proportion of basil and parsley- if you want more or less basil flavour.

Double or triple the pesto recipe, freeze in ice cube trays and you have an almost instant dinner!  Just try to thaw the pesto in the refrigerator at least a few hours before using.