A recent cooking challenge that I haven’t gotten a chance to post about yet was to resurrect some old favorites. I chose backyard barbecue favorites in honor of our new, expanded, gorgeous deck, and to give my husband a chance to cook for a change.
The menu was: grilled turkey burgers, mini baked potatoes and quick pickles. I have posted the turkey burger recipe before. This is the only turkey burger recipe I have found that results in juicy, tasty burgers rather than dried-out hockey pucks. Giving credit where credit is due, the original recipe came from Sara Foster’s Casual Cooking.
That cookbook was also the source for the mini baked potatoes idea. You don’t even need a recipe for these. Just substitute medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes for russets. Poke holes in the top and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Load them up with all your favorite fixings. Despite being so simple, this is a genius idea, because often a full-sized baked potato is just too much.
Finally, the quick pickles came from another Sara Foster book that I’ve been featuring a lot on this blog lately: Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen. (Expect a full-fledged review very soon.) Even though this was a new recipe I was trying, it qualifies as an old favorite because I’ve been making some variant of these pickles for years. It’s a great way to eat garden cucumbers, and it also works for zucchini.
Here’s my version of a quick recipe for quick pickles. For 1 pound of cucumber slices, combine 2 cups water and 1 cup white wine vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon coarse salt, plus fresh dill, red pepper flakes and/or sliced garlic, as desired. You can also throw in diced red onion, if you like. Let the pickles marinate at least 1 hour. These pickles keep about 1 week in the fridge.
For topping the sliders I served on Super Bowl Sunday, I made a quick red onion pickle. I used Thomas Keller’s recipe from Ad Hoc at Home, which is super-simple but very good, and I think it’s really all you need to do to end up with a tasty pickle. The recipe says to let the onions pickle at least 24 hours, but you can certainly eat them the same day if you don’t mind them still being somewhat onion-y. Scroll down for the recipe, which makes a lot of pickles! I usually halve it or even quarter it, because we can’t go through that many pickles in a month.
My husband has neglected to provide me with a challenge for this weekend, so I came up with one for myself. I am going to make my husband and son a chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day. This may not sound like much of a challenge, but I have never made a chocolate cake before and I do not have a great track record with baked goods. We’ll see how I do.
Pickled Red Onions
Makes about 4 cups.
2 large red onions (about 1¼ pounds each)
1½ cups red wine vinegar
¾ cup granulated sugar
Cut off the top and bottom of each onion and cut lengthwise in half. Remove and discard the outer layer. Cut a V-shaped wedge from the bottom of each half to remove the roots and the very center pieces of onion. Put the onions cut side down on the cutting board and slice lengthwise into ⅛-inch-thick slices, following the nature lines on the outside of the onion. Pack the onions into a 1-quart canning jar; reserve any slices that don’t fit.
Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the onions. Once the onions begin to wilt, add any remaining onion slices to the jar, gently pushing them down into the liquid to submerge them. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or for up to 1 month.
Everyone knows that tomatoes from the garden taste the best. They are warm, sweet and taste like sunshine on a plate. Nothing you can buy in the grocery store can come close to tomatoes you grow yourself.
This year, we are growing cucumbers for the first time, and I have discovered that the same is true of them. Usually, I can take or leave cucumbers. But the cucumbers from our garden actually have flavor. They are cool, crisp and herbaceous, great with just a touch of salt or lightly pickled. After eating my own homegrown cucumbers, I think I’ll have to give up supermarket cukes altogether.
My favorite way to prepare cucumbers is to marinate the slices in vinegar and seasonings. I keep a bowl of these “pickles” in the fridge and snack on them guilt-free before dinner or throw them into salads. This isn’t a recipe so much as a set of guidelines. Feel free to experiment.
Lightly Pickled Cucumbers
Peel and slice the cucumbers. For 1 lb. of cucumber slices, combine 2 cups water and 1 cup white wine vinegar. Add 1 tbsp. coarse salt plus fresh dill, hot red pepper flakes and sliced garlic, as desired. Let the cucumbers marinate at least 1 hour. Keeps up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
If I have too many cucumbers to eat fresh, I plan to make freezer pickles. Here’s a recipe from Sidewalk Shoes.