Monday, June 09, 2008

Too hot to cook (much)!

Was it or was it not me who was just griping about a frost advisory AFTER Memorial Day? Well, no sooner than we had taken the insulation materials down from the old, drafty windows and dispelled the darkness from our tomb of a house, we are now looking at covering up the view once again with an air conditioner! The heat wave that was promised came, and came with a soggy, muggy vengeance! We tried to suck it up and live without the AC last night, but by the wee hours of the morning, it was a pitiful scene down in the living room: Cyd was passed out on the couch, I was on an Aero Bed on the floor with at least one dog on my feet, and the other two hounds were sprawled out on the floor--all of us in front of the ginormous air hanger-sized fan, trying just to live through it! UGH! I hate it so much! And as they say, it's not the heat, it's the humidity--you know, where you shower but then your skin never does dry off afterward? ICK! It's too early for this, I say--TOO EARLY!

(Sigh.) Ok, I'll stop shaking my pudgy little fist in the air and try to calm myself down enough to discuss the food projects of the weekend. Of course, there weren't many, because I still had to get the vegetable gardens planted. I tried to finish them before the sweltering heat descended, but I was rather less than successful. After spending Thursday and Friday just planting the tomatoes (all 70 different kinds--YIKES!), by Saturday, my back was saying (as Amy Winehouse before it) NO NO NO! Plus, it was yucky and hot, and I just didn't want to! So that left Sunday to finish everything else. I didn't, of course, but I did manage yellow squash (both straight and crookneck), zucchini (both grey and some Italian thing called cucuzzi, which sounds quite vulgar!), eggplants, and four different kinds of sweet corn that each matures at a different rate. So that still leaves the pepper patch to be done, but I rarely plant more than 20 of those (tee hee), so I suppose I can tuck them into the last available space in the planting bed sometime this week if this merciless heat will ever let up and I can do it between thunderstorms!

Because of the hideous heat and my physical paralysis, I wasn't really feeling like cooking much on Saturday either, but I have to share one recipe that is quick and quite delicious. I may seem like I'm going a little relish-crazy over here (having just made nine pints of Vidalia relish), but someone over at the Harvest Forum recently inquired about a commercial product called "Miner's Relish" that she enjoys and would like to be able to make at home. She listed the main ingredients, and it was essentially a sauerkraut-based relish. I did a quick internet search and found a recipe that I thought I could use as a jump-off point, and I think it turned out really well. We had it with grilled smoked sausages on toasted buns with some sharp cheddar cheese and chopped Vidalia onions, and not only was it visually striking, it was scrumptious stuff! Having a jar of this in the fridge might tide me over until the Vidalia relish is ready (I like to wait a month for pickled things to develop their full flavor).

Sauerkraut Relish
(Source: adapted from a recipe in 150th Goshen Church Anniversary Country Cookbook, 1837-1987)

2 pounds sauerkraut, washed (and chopped if the pieces are very long)
1/2 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped (you can use all red pepper as I did, but the different colors would be pretty--next time, I may swap this out for some jalapeno for a little kick!)
1 medium onion, chopped (I used a Vidalia)
1 cup carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup granulated sugar (if you prefer a sweet relish, you can take this to a cup or even a cup and a half)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup vinegar (I used white but cider would be good, too)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons ground celery (or celery salt)
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
good pinch of salt (omit if you used celery salt)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Wash sauerkraut, chop vegetables and put all in non-aluminum bowl.

In a non-aluminum saucepan combine sugar, salad oil, vinegar, and water.

Bring ingredients in pan to a low boil. Remove immediately and pour over vegetables and kraut in bowl. Add seasonings, mustard, and parsley and stir gently to combine. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.

Yield: about two quarts or four pints.

I have one more gorgeous recipe to share from the weekend, another savory item (yes, Cyd has been grumbling that there are no sweets in the house!) called Gruyere-Stuffed Crusty Loaves. I received a copy of this recipe in a newsletter from King Arthur sometime back in March, but it took me this long to get around to trying it. In the meantime, a Yahoo group of bakers (a subset of the Daring Bakers, I believe) had their way with this bread, and the consensus was that the bread was INCREDIBLE--and I concur! I used my special KA Sir Lancelot (hard wheat, high-gluten) flour that I hand-carried back from Vermont last year before the price of flour went through the roof. The flour has been languishing in the freezer until now, waiting for just the right occasion. This was it. The outside of the bread is crackly-crisp, the inside is tender but punctuated with craggy craters of melty cheese which also comes erupting out of the top of each loaf. What's not to like? This bread is amazing as is, but I could also envision versions with different cheeses, garlic, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, or jalapenos--the sky's the limit! Trust me, this bread is worth heating up your oven on a hot day for!

Gruyère-Stuffed Crusty Loaves
King Arthur Flour)

1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I used Sir Lancelot)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water

all of the starter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) to 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) lukewarm water*
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

*Use the greater amount of water in winter, when conditions are dry; and the lesser amount in summer, when the weather is humid. (It was humid as all get out yesterday when I made this, and I needed all the water, and perhaps two or three tablespoons more--that darn Sir Lancelot was thirsty!)

2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese, or the grated/shredded cheese of your choice (I used closer to three cups--two of baby swiss and one of aged provolone)

To make the starter: Mix the 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, yeast, and 1/2 cup water in a medium-sized bowl. Mix till well combined. Cover and let rest overnight at room temperature.

To make the dough: Combine the risen starter with the water, salt, flour, and yeast. Knead—by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle—to make a smooth dough. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and pat and stretch it into a 3/4"-thick rectangle, about 9" x 12". Spritz with water, and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Starting with a long side, roll it into a log, pinching the seam to seal. Place the log, seam-side down, on a lightly floured or lightly oiled surface. Cover it and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it’s puffy though not doubled in bulk. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Gently cut the log into four crosswise slices, for mini-breads; or simply cut the dough in half for two normal-sized loaves. Place them on one (for two loaves) or two (for four mini-loaves) lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, cut side up. Spread them open a bit, if necessary, to more fully expose the cheese. Spritz with warm water, and immediately place them in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes (for the mini-loaves), or 35 minutes (for the full-sized loaves), or until the cheese is melted and the loaves are a very deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Yield: four mini-loaves or two standard-size loaves (I made the "minis" though they were still a good size. We ate one straight away, we'll have another soon, and I froze the other two for the near future--a good option when there are just two of you.)


Lisa said...

That looks amazing, Gina. I love cheese stuffed breads. That bread would go so well with either A) A 'kicked up' Reuben, or even better, B) Spread with a fig or date paste *your own personal 'hand held' cheese*. YUM!! I can't wait to try it!

jsgrant said...

Wow that's a whole lot of vegg in your garden - don't the dogs eat them? My guys eat the lettuce and the figs, the avocados but not the lemons or the fiejoas

Just the Right Size said...

Hey, if you show me your cucuzzi, I'll show you mine!

Girl, you're gonna have a whole heck of a lot of canning going on in a couple of months! I'm jealous!

Found a really cool relish recipe myself a while ago & maybe I'll post & make it this weekend.

Randi said...

Its the air that you wear!!