Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Still savoring my winter break...

Hello there. It's been almost a week since I checked in here at the old blogspot. I wish I had terribly exciting news of some kind to share, but mostly, I'm just hanging out, enjoying what's left of my winter break. I did finish a couple of books: Dead Until Dark (the first in the Sookie Stackhouse series on which the fabulously trashy "True Blood" on HBO is based) and Jeffrey Eugenides Pulitzer-prize winner, Middlesex (so good--highly recommend it!). Of course, I had at least three more books waiting in the wings that I hoped to get to, but oh well. ("Three Books Waiting in the Wings" could be my Native American name!) Part of the problem is that my media time is split between reading, watching old, brilliant-but-cancelled TV shows on YouTube (Wonderfalls, Freaks and Geeks), and getting my Golden Globes on. Speaking of films, I have many more to see--most of them terribly serious dramas about life-and-death subjects, or corsetted costume pieces starring some English dame or another. But so far, my favorite movies of 2008 are both contemporary side-splitters.

First, I cannot recommend highly enough that you rush right out and rent Tropic Thunder. My beloved Robert Downey, Jr. is BRILLIANT as a Russell Crowe-type Australian method actor playing a "black dude" in the movie-within-a-movie. Also fabulous is Tom Cruise in a non-credited role as a sleezy Hollywood agent--it's all about watching him dance! Both have been nominated for supporting actor Golden Globes with all good reason. Then, in a continuing Steve Coogan theme, I just watched Hamlet 2. HEAVEN HELP ME, but that was the funniest movie I have seen in ages! For my conservative, religious subscribers, I suggest you stop reading now and just walk away, because there are those that might consider this film more than a little off-sides and perhaps a wee bit sacrilegious. After all, the big number from the film is called "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus." It sounds worse than it is; the playwright suggests that, if Jesus were to have come to earth in the present day, he would have had to market himself like a "hot" (said in a Paris Hilton intonation) celebrity. Personally, I disagree. I think He would use Facebook to "friend" an initial 12 devoted followers, shoot a homespun but powerful video of His message of love, peace and redemption, and then rock the world by going viral on YouTube. Just saying. ;-)

In addition to books, TV, and movies, I am also monitoring my indoor gardening experiment. Check it:

On day three, even in this freezing cold house, my lettuces had already sprouted! And the next day, the first herb (thyme) was up. Yesterday (day five), the basil showed its face. So now I'm just waiting on the parsley and the dill. Fun! I guess growing fresh veggies awakened my barely-latent canning obsession. Unfortunately, the only thing seasonally appropriate to preserve would be all the lovely citrus fruits that are very plentiful in the supermarkets right now, but I put up WAY too much marmalade last year. So when I ran out of nacho slices, I decided to make my own pickled jalapenos, or escabeche. It'll be a month before the pickled veggies will be ready to taste, but I snuck a couple of carrots from the over-full jars as I was canning them, and I think they are going to be delish! Plus, the stuff looks so colorful and beautiful, does it not? This should be a great recipe to have on hand next fall when I am overrun with hot peppers from my garden. I am imagining it with fried fish, as a condiment for fish tacos (or any kind of tacos, for that matter), in a quesadilla, and on nachos, of course. Then again, I like to eat pepperocini as a snack by themselves, so I may just nibble on those spicy, pickled carrots out of hand. Yum!

Jalapeno Escabeche
(Source: adapted from Michael Gokey via
Foodie Mama)
Makes 3 to 5 pint jars , depending on whether you follow the original recipe (3) or my adaptation (5)

1 lb. jalapeƱo or serrano chile peppers, sliced into rounds of desired thickness (may also be left whole--then you may wish to blister their skins in a hot pan with a trace of oil first)
1 medium white or yellow onion, 1/4 inch thickly sliced (I used TWO yellow onions sliced somewhat thinly)
2 medium carrots, peeled and 1/4 inch thickly sliced (I used a whole pound of carrots, peeled and not as thickly sliced)
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled (I used 2 cracked cloves per pint jar)

3 cups apple cider vinegar (could also use white, but I like the subtle sweetness of cider vinegar here)
3 cups water
2 tablespoons pickling salt
1 tablespoon sugar (I used about 2 teaspoons)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4-6 sprigs of fresh marjoram or 1/4 teaspoon dried
4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
20-30 mixed black and red peppercorns (I just used black)
*I added 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin, too (would have preferred seeds if I had them)

Prepare the pickling brine (you may need to increase the brine by 25% if you follow my version). Add the vinegar, water, salt, dry herbs, and sugar to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.

Wash your vegetables well with no soap. Now peel and slice to prepare. Add at least one clove of garlic, 3-4 peppercorns, to each of the sterilized jars. If you are using fresh herbs then, pack one sprig each in each of the jars.

Pack the chile vegetable mixture into sterilized jars leaving 1/2" head space. To help reduce bubbles, slowly fill the packed jars slowly with the pickling brine, plucking out the bay leaves. Make sure you use a plastic bubble remover and slide it around the inside of the jar wall.

Seal and process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Store your pickled en escabeche jalapenos for four weeks in a cool, dark place before serving. Once opened, they can keep well for one to two months in the refrigerator.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It has come to my attention--through the guidance of some helpful folks at the GardenWeb Harvest Forum--that this recipe is too low in vinegar to be perfectly safe (especially as I added extra low-acid vegetables to my mix). A safer ratio would be two cups of vinegar to every one cup of water, although three to one might be even better! So the next time I make this, my brine will consist of at least four cups of vinegar to two cups water, or perhaps even 4 1/2 cups vinegar and 1 1/2 cups water. Better safe than botulism, right?!

Good grief! I was going to blog about some of the other tasty things that I've whipped up in the kitchen lately, but this post already seems too long. Perhaps I'll save that for a part deux within the next day or two, eh? Stay tuned...


Just the Right Size said...

Oh Gina, those look delish! I may use those to substitute for my horribly failed dill pickles that I try to make every year.

Sara said...

Those jalapenos look great. I'll have to plant some peppers in my garden this coming summer so I have plenty to work with!

Dave said...

Per the current safety guidelines, your Jalapeno Escabeche is far too low in vinegar for that large amount of low-acid vegetables. It would be considered safe for refrigerator storage but not for canning. Has this recipe ever been tested and approved for safety? I would at least double the vinegar if I were making it.

Joy Bugaloo said...

Thanks for the guidance, Dave. Yeah, I think maybe even a three-to-one ratio of vinegar to water might be for the best. I will make a note of this in the post.