Tuesday, March 01, 2011

In which I am revealed to be a tightwad...

This story begins with my love of all things pickled. Starting around Thanksgiving, I make up a big vat of pickled things, comprised of all the homemade pickles in my pantry, plus some purchased pepperoncini and olives and whatever else I decide to toss into the brine, and keep the bucket in the fridge to munch on when I get the urge. But then tragedy struck, and I ran out of homemade pickled carrots.

I was just going to buy some more, but A) you can't often find carrots by themselves that aren't in giardiniera (and I hate cauliflower), and B) if you do find a jar of just carrots, they are $6 or $7 a jar! Refusing to fork out that kind of dough, I bought a 3 lb. bag of baby carrots at Sam's Club for four bucks, a package of Mrs. Wages kosher pickling mix at Wal-Mart for a dollar-fifty, and with less than an hour's worth of work, I had six pints of pickled carrots cooling on the counter for about $1.33/jar!

Did you know that you can use Mrs. Wages on vegetables other than cucumbers? Me neither! I simply followed the instructions on the package but used (rinsed) baby carrots instead, although I added a peeled and cracked clove of garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to each jar. Also, I hot water bathed the jars for ten minutes, as I did not sterilize the jars up front.

It's only been ten days, but I opened a jar and snuck a sample. DELISH, and just the right texture between tender and crunchy (at least, to my tastes). And the flavor will be even better in a couple more weeks. Score one for the cheapskates!

My second miserly tale begins in Burlington, Vermont when my roommate and I took our youngest kitty (Nova aka Itty Bitty or just Bitty) for his big boy surgery. While he was having his, err, bits removed, we took ourselves to brunch. We initially wanted to go to our favorite cafe, Penny Cluse, but the wait was over an hour! So we walked over to Church Street and down to Leunig's Bistro, which I had heard from friends was wonderful, but a bit pricey for dinner. I am pleased to report that brunch was quite reasonable, and SO GOOD!

We started with some piping hot beignets drizzled with real maple syrup. Then Cyd had their signature skillet with local bacon and Cabot cheddar and caramelized onions, and I had this awesome twist on Eggs Benedict. It had a big, fluffy English muffin on the bottom spread with an avocado hummus, then it was supposed to have a tomato slice, but I opted for fresh salsa, then a spicy black bean cake, a perfectly poached egg, and finished with cilantro Hollandaise. Amazing! And everything on the menu looked wonderful--I can't wait to go back!

After brunch, we made our way down to our favorite health food market, the store we affectionately call the Wealthy Living Market or the Healthy Wealthy People Store. They have an incredible deli and salad bar there, and I saw this edamame and corn salad that I wanted to try, but it was $5.50 for a little cup of it! I think you know what I did. I took note of the ingredients of said salad, and I went home and whipped up my own version that turned out very well--so fresh and tasty!--for much, much less.

One of the ingredients in the salad was miso, something I am not that familiar with. Oh, I have enjoyed miso soups and miso dressings in my travels, perhaps even salmon with a miso marinade or glaze, but I have never cooked with it myself. Despite my tightwad ways, I actually splurged and spent twelve bucks on a large jar of sweet white miso that was handcrafted according to ancient Japanese traditions at a small farm in Massachusetts called South River Miso Company. And guess what? I tasted a little from the jar, and I love it! It sort of tastes like something in the soy sauce family, but also kind of nutty.

South River Miso makes at least a half dozen kinds of miso, but I thought I'd start with the mildest variety which would probably be the most versatile. Now I find myself throwing a little into everything! And miso is a fermented product, so it has all of those probiotic benefits like yogurt and such IF you don't cook it. So either use it uncooked or stir it into whatever you're making at the very end over the lowest heat. Good stuff!

Edamame and Corn Salad with Orange-Miso Vinaigrette

1 lb. bag frozen edamame
12 oz. bag frozen corn
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
2 or 3 hot peppers (jalapeno, serrano, Fresno, cascabella, etc.), seeded and diced
4 large scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (preferably, 2T white and 2T black)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
2 teaspoons miso (I used mild/sweet white)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add a couple of good pinches of salt, then the edamame and corn. Cook for five minutes, or until the veggies are tender. Drain and run under cold water until completely cool. In a large bowl, combine the cooled edamame and corn, along with the chopped peppers, scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, miso, honey, soy sauce and black pepper until thoroughly combined. Stir 1/2 to 3/4 cup* of the vinaigrette into the vegetable mixture. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours until the flavors marry.

*Use the leftover dressing to make a tasty salad with mixed greens, shredded carrots, slivered shallots, some cilantro leaves, and sliced almonds. MMM!

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