Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jan's Damn Good Garlic Dills

My mom once canned just about everything out of the garden. We even have a root cellar which she would pack with pickles, green beans, peaches etc. This was all several years ago so I'm not too familiar with canning. Making jam is really the extent of my preserving experience but his year I changed that. I ran across this great recipe in our local paper for refrigerator pickles. The recipe is really easy and the best thing is you don't have to "can" or "process" these pickles because you put them straight into the refrigerator. All you need is food grade sealing containers. I think I let our cucumbers go a way beyond the whole pickling size so I sliced most of them in wedges; did one jar of waffle cut pickles for sandwiches and had a little left over brine which I used to pickle a few beets. I'm really excited to try these in a month or so. Refrigerator pickles claim to be much crisper and zestier.


  • 4 quarts pickling cucumbers, rinsed well with blossom ends rubbed off
  • 16 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced4 heads fresh pickling dill, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart cider vinegar
  • 1 quart water
  • 1/4 cup pickling spices
  • 1/3 cup pickling salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 cup chopped fresh pickling dill


    Pack the cucumbers into clean, airtight jars (they don’t have to be “canning” jars) or food grade plastic containers (such as Rubbermaid canisters), leaving ½ inch head space.

    Divide the sliced pieces of garlic and halved heads of fresh pickling dill among the containers. Add a pinch (about ¼ of a teaspoon per quart) of the dried red pepper flakes to each container (another pinch of two should be used for those folks who enjoy more “bite” in their pickles).

    Prepare the brine by combining the vinegar, water, pickling spices, salt, sugar, turmeric and 1 cup of chopped fresh dill in a nonaluminum pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain off the seasonings from the brine. Then ladle the hot brine into the containers, leaving ½ inch head space. Attach lids. Let cool to room temperature, then store in the refrigerator.

    The pickles start to get good after seven to 10 days of aging, but really need at least a month to really blossom in flavor. Even then, they will continue to improve for 12 months or more.

    Makes about 4 quarts.

Recipe by Everett Herald food columnist Jan Robert-Dominguez

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blackberry Turnovers

These are so easy* I'm not even going to post a recipe. I love making individual desserts and turnovers are very simple especially when using store bought puff pastry. Mix up some berries, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, thickener of your choice (I like tapioca) and fold it into some puff pastry. You will then have flaky turnovers that are much better than the ones you can buy at the bakery in your grocery store that often skimp on the filling.

This is a perfect time to stock pile some berries in the freezer so you can whip up some turnovers, cobblers, pies etc. all through the year. I will be picking gallons of blackberries soon.

*Well I guess this super easy turnover does not sound so easy to everyone. I will explain my technique a little more but have to say I have not used a recipe for these since I was 12 but here is goes...

  • about 4 cups blackberries
  • sugar to taste, about 1/2 to 1 cup (I like them a little tart especially if I am serving with ice cream)
  • about 1 table spoon lemon juice
  • about 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • about 1/8 cup tapioca (you could use corn starch as well but adjust amount)
  • 2 sheets puff pastry thawed
  • sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
For berry pies and turnovers I like to make the filling on the stove top so that I can make sure the filling will taste and set right. It is not necessary to cook the filling. You could mix all the above ingredients and add straight to a pie shell or pastry but as I said, I can see exactly how the filling will taste and set this way.

In a heavy bottom sauce pan add your berries, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and tapioca. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. I let the filling boil for about 30-60 seconds until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and cool before assembling the turnovers (not necessary to cool if making a pie). Once filling is cool, roll out the puff pastry on a floured board and cut into squares of desired size. I like making big turnovers so I cut one sheet into 4 squares. Moisten the edges of the square with egg wash and add a heaping spoonful of the filling into the middle of the square. Fold one corner of the dough over to the opposite corner and seal edges with a fork. Wash the turnover with the beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar and cut one or two vents in the top. Repeat until all turnovers are assembled and bake at 400 degrees until they have reached a deep golden brown (about 25 minutes).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tiramisu Cake

We had a family gathering the other weekend and the theme for the dinner was Italian. It was my uncle's birthday and I was assigned dessert. I wanted to stick with the theme but I also wanted a cake. I thought about it for a few minutes then I remembered this recipe for tiramisu cake. It was perfect to go along with the Italian dinner.

The cake was really good. The only thing I would change would be to make double the amount of the filling/frosting. I would have like to have had a thicker layer between the layers and all over.

For the cake layers:
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the espresso extract:
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons boiling water

For the espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy ( I used Kahlua)

For the filling and frosting:
1 8-ounce container mascarpone
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto, Kahlua, or brandy (I used Kahlua)
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for decoration (optional)
Cocoa powder, for dusting

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake:
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.

To make the extract:
Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.

To make the syrup:
Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.

To make the filling and frosting:
Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.

To assemble the cake:
If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer - user about 1 1/4 cups - and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.

With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. If you want to decorate the cake with chocolate-covered espresso beans, press them into the filling, making concentric circles of beans or just putting some beans in the center of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving - the elements need time to meld.

Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with cocoa.

Recipe from:

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

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