Red Onion Jam

Hello, there.  I meant to post more last week but, well, life kind of got in the way.   Darling Daughter, who was supposed to be walking down the aisle this past weekend, instead packed up all her worldly goods and moved to Podunk to start afresh.  (Long story, but it seems that Mr. Fixit’s feet got a little on the chilly side.  That’s okay; he’ll have plenty of time to kick himself with those sized 9 1/2 ice blocks in the future.  The very near future.)  She’s bearing up well, and while she’s sad and hurt, she’s also excited at the opportunities her future now holds.

At any rate, after spending the week dealing with the logistics of getting DD, as well as her stuff, here in very short order, we had a moderately large family gathering on Sunday for Chocolate Bunny Day dinner at our house.  I’m exhausted, but things went quite nicely, and the dinner was delicious.

Our main course was boneless leg of lamb – or, as The G Man called it, Lego Lamb (hey, it got him to eat it) – that I butterflied and stuffed with a mixture of mint, parsley, dried currants, toasted pecans and sourdough bread crumbs.  It was just delicious, but since mint was part of the stuffing, it was served with this incredibly simple but oh-so-delicious condiment.

Nor is this jam good with just lamb (many variations of lamb, as you’ll see with my next recipe), but it would go excellently with beef, pork, or game – in fact, venison will probably be the next protein I make to to serve with it.  It would also be a lovely part of a charcuterie or cheese platter.

While this isn’t hard to make, it does take a little time – about 45 minutes (it’s so worth it, though).  A little goes a long way, however – you’ll start off with at least 6 cups of sliced onion that will cook down to about 2 cups, and a serving is a mere 2 tablespoons.  A wonderfully flavorful – tart, sweet and earthy – 2 tablespoon that will totally rock your taste buds.

Red Onion Jam. This richly-colored, sweet and tangy condiment goes really well with red meats and strong cheeses.

Click the image to enlarge

Red Onion Jam
Serves: 16
[i]Makes about 2 cups[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with a little salt and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft but not brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and honey; reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and almost all of the liquid has cooked out, another 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar; season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the jam to cool to room temperature before serving.
  4. Nutrition Facts
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 96 calories, 5.9g total fat, 15.3mg cholesterol, 3.7mg sodium, 13.1mg potassium, 9.7g
  6. carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 4.9g sugar, <1g protein

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions

Lately, we’ve been eating more legumes – beans, peas, lentils, all soaked and/or sprouted, and all very delicious.

And, if you care about such things, full of prebiotic goodness in the form of resistant starch.

(If you’re worried about the whole “legumes aren’t paleo!” thing, Chris Kresser has a thing or three to say about that and, quite frankly, I no longer give a big rat’s patootie if they are or not. So shoot me.)

Whatever.

Reintroducing legumes to our diet makes me happy, because I’ve always loved them.  A good thing, since growing up in a blue collar Texas household, we ate a lot of them.  They are tasty, cheap, filling and certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, nutritionally speaking, especially when properly prepared. (If, that is, you tolerate them reasonably well.)

However, I never ate lentils growing up – legumes in our house were almost always pinto beans or black-eyed peas, with the occasional foray into navy  or black beans, depending on whether we were eating ham or something Mexican.  Even into adulthood, I’d never given lentils much thought – which is really a shame, because they’re really very tasty and cook much more quickly than other legumes, especially when they’ve been soaked or sprouted.

So, once a week or so while I’m cooking dinner, I whip out a package of lentils (or, if the truth be known, quinoa or brown rice) and combine them with filtered water (at about a 2:1 ratio – twice as much water as lentils), a tablespoon or so of homemade yogurt, cover the container with a clean dish cloth and let them sit out on the counter until the next evening when it’s time to cook dinner again.

They’re not at all difficult to make, they just take a little forethought. And are fairly inexpensive, especially if you purchase them in bulk.

This particular dish, made with red lentils (that are really more pinkish-orange and turn yellow when cooked), caramelized onions and spinach is one of our favorites.  It’s simple, reasonably quick to prepare, versatile – in the photo below, I served it with pan-roasted venison loin, but it would be equally delicious with poultry or fish – and quite delicious.  Leftovers reheat well, too; the next day at work, my coworkers kept wandering past my office (no small feat, since it’s at the end of a hall), going, “What are you eating? It smells wonderful!”

Lesson learned? Make this, and your coworkers will be jealous.

Note: If you don’t have the time or inclination – or forgot – to soak the lentils, you can buy them pre-sprouted and dried, although they’re not exactly cheap.  Please take note that the package will say to cook them for 4 to 5 minutes, but I can tell you from experience they won’t be done.  Cook them 15 to 20 minutes.

This can also be easily made vegetarian/vegan by substituting the ghee or butter with olive oil and the chicken stock/broth with vegetable stock.

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions. It may require a little planning, but this simple side dish is easy, versatile and quite delicious.

Click the image to enlarge

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup red lentils, soaked for 12 to 24 hours (measured before soaking)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee or butter in a medium saute pan or skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar; remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Drain the lentils and rinse thoroughly. Combine with the chicken broth and carrot in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until the lentils are done, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover the lentils and stir; they should be very soft and a little soupy. Stir in the spinach and caramelized onions; continue cooking over low heat until the spinach is wilted and the onions are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a clean dish towel, then the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 195 calories, 5g total fat, 12mg cholesterol, 115.2mg sodium, 565.2mg potassium, 26.9g carbohydrates, 11g fiber, 4.5g sugar, 10.8g protein

Sprout Kraut

The last batch of sauerkraut I made is but a memory, the dilly beans are long gone and the escabeche is but a few pitiful carrots and jalapeno slices floating around in a jar.

Time for another ferment.

The idea for this came from a recipe for Brussels sprouts, halved and fermented with dill, garlic and chilies I found at Saveur.com.  I was tickled that it was actually fermented; most mainstream recipes I find for pickles (and that’s all a ferment really is) are made with vinegar.  But since Beloved has been asking me to make more ‘kraut – he loves it with the grass-fed beef hot dogs our butcher has begun making – I decided to see just how it would taste using my favorite cruciferous vegetable.

It’s interesting.  I tend to prefer ferments before they get too terribly sour (the exception to that was the dilly beans, which just got better the longer they fermented); not much of a problem because we eat them quickly once they make the transition from the counter to the refrigerator.  This particular ferment, however, is different.

Brussels sprouts have a much stronger flavor than cabbage and even a week after transferring the jar to fridge, the kraut still tasted overwhelmingly of garlic and Brussels sprouts.  The longer it cures, though, the more sour – and the tastier – it becomes; I’ve begun to wish I’d left it on the counter for at least a week before putting it in cold storage, which slows down the fermentation process (but does not stop it).

Again, it’s interesting; I pull the jar out of the fridge every day or two and eat a big forkful to see how it’s coming along.  I’m literally tasting it as it changes character from salty, garlicky Brussels sprouts to a sharp, sour kraut that makes my tastebuds tingle.  It’s going to be marvelous by the time we get to the end of our jar, and I’ll make it again.

I used celery seed in this instead of the fresh dill called for in the original recipe because, for one, I have a large jar of celery seed in my spice cabinet that should be used and because the fresh dill in the dilly beans, while delicious, was a bit of a mess at the end and I didn’t want to have to pick most of it out of the kraut in order to eat it.  It was a good choice; the celery flavor is subtle, but delicious.  You can leave out the red pepper flakes if you like, but they do a lot to tame the strong, cabbagey flavor of the sprouts.  The garlic is a must – don’t skip it.

Sprout Kraut. For a twist on traditional sauerkraut, shredded Brussels sprouts are fermented with celery seed, peppercorns and garlic.

Click  the image to enlarge

Sprout Kraut
Serves: 16
[i]Makes 1 quart[/i]
Ingredients
  • 4 cups shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • filtered water
Instructions
  1. Have ready a clean, dry 1 quart glass jar.
  2. Layer the shredded Brussels sprouts into the jar until it is about 1/4 full. Sprinkle some of the salt on top of the cabbage and pound it down with a wooden spoon or pestle until the sprouts begin to give off liquid. Sprinkle in a bit of the celery seed, a few peppercorns, a pinch of the red pepper flakes and a clove of garlic.
  3. Repeat the previous step, pounding the mixture between each layer, until all of the ingredients are in the jar. Add enough filtered water to cover the kraut. There should be about 1 inch between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar.
  4. Top off the kraut with about 1/4 cup of olive or coconut oil to keep the cabbage submerged, or use a [url href=”http://www.pickl-it.com/products/94/pickl-it-dunk-r-3-pack/” target=”_blank”]glass weight[/url]. Cap loosely and store at room temperature (on a counter out of direct sunlight is fine) for 3 days, or until the kraut begins to bubble.
  5. Transfer to the refrigerator and continue to cure for 3 to 4 weeks before eating.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 13 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 358.6mg sodium, 99.3mg potassium, 2.7g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, <1g sugar, <1g protein

Jalapenos en Escabeche

Oh, look – another ferment.  What can I say?  I’ve come to love them and tend to have one in the fridge at all times.  Right now, I have three:  the small remains of our last batch of sauerkraut, the rapidly diminishing dilly beans, and now this.

The reason I made this is because in the comments of the dilly bean recipe, Lisa – one of the most stylish style bloggers you will ever find, to say nothing of being an incredibly beautiful,  intelligent and gracious woman – said, “The Mexican restaurants around here do a pickled jalapeno carrot that’s INCREDIBLE. Want to backwards engineer a recipe for me?”

Oh, that all requests should be so easy.

Those jalapeno carrots fall into a broad category of pickled vegetables known as escabeche (which literally translates to “pickle”), a common condiment in many Mexican kitchens and restaurants (meat-based escabeche – usually fish, poached or fried, and marinated in an acidic mixture before serving – is popular in many Mediterranean cuisines, particularly Spanish).  Almost all recipes include jalapenos or other hot chilies, carrots, onions and garlic, and many contain other vegetables; cauliflower is the most common.

The vast majority of commercially available escabeche is preserved in vinegar, making it shelf stable.  Not necessarily a bad route to go – I still have many, many jars of cucumber and watermelon pickles safely tucked away in my basement from last year’s canning frenzy.  However, this method cooks the vegetables, leaving them rather limp and, if you wish to make it at home, is a bit of a production.

Lacto-fermentation results in a tangy, fiery escabeche that is fresh, crisp, delicious and easy – not to mention oh, so good for you.

Note:  I did not seed the jalapenos at all; I simply sliced them.  This is quite spicy (10 jalapenos, after all) and will become more so as it continues to ferment.  If you or members of your family have a tender palate, you may want to halve the chilies lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and veins before adding them to the carrots and onions.  Also, according to most sources I’ve found, this will last many months in cold storage (one account cited it as still being good a year later), but I’d still probably eat this within 3 or 4 months.

Jalapenos en Escabeche. This classic Mexican condiment is naturally fermented and full of probiotic goodness.

Click the image to enlarge

Jalapenos en Escabeche
[i]It’s important that the vegetables be completely submerged beneath the liquid to avoid mold and promote the proliferation of the good bacteria. Pouring olive or coconut oil on top after adding the liquid is helpful, or Pickl-It sells [url href=”http://www.pickl-it.com/products/94/pickl-it-dunk-r-3-pack/” target=”_blank”]handy glass weights[/url] that fit inside the mouth of the jar. Makes one quart[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
  • 10 jalapeno peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced into half rounds and separated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • filtered water
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the water, in a large bowl and toss to distribute the salt. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Pack the vegetables into a clean, wide-mouth quart jar. Add the water until the jar is filled to 1 inch below the rim.
  3. Cap the jar, not too tightly, and keep at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 2 to 3 days or until the liquid in the jar beings to bubble. Transfer to the refrigerator.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 37 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 886.4mg sodium, 258.9mg potassium, 8.6g carbohydrates, 2.6g fiber, 3.7g sugar, 1g protein

Russian Beet Salad

This is an interesting little dish that I made last week as a way to use up some baby beets I’d roasted and peeled a day or two before, but hadn’t eaten.

Thursday, before we caught our flight to Sin City, I made us lunch.  One of the lunch items was something we’d never experienced before – leftover Slow Cooker Pot Roast (we NEVER had leftover beef of any sort before The Young One went away to college); we also scarfed down some of those delicious Dilly Beans.   I spied the beets in the fridge, and knew that if I didn’t do something with them that I’d just end up throwing them away.  But what to do with them?

I’ll tell you what:  make this salad.  It. Is. WONDERFUL.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely think of Russia as having it’s own cuisine.  Of course it does, and beets play a prominent part in it.  This is a lovely, simple salad of cooked beets, walnuts, garlic and mayonnaise and it really couldn’t be more delicious.

It helps to cook, peel and chill the beets ahead of time; once they’ve been shredded or grated, the salad comes together in a snap.  I used Better Than Miracle Whip to dress it and added raisins because that’s what I had on hand, but plain mayonnaise and chopped prunes are traditional.  Beloved, who adores beets, couldn’t get enough of it and I quite happily ate the leftovers when I returned home from Vegas.

Russian Beet Salad. This lovely, vibrant salad is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to eat beets you'll ever find.

Click the image to enlarge

Russian Beet Salad
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 pounds beets, roasted, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the salt and pepper, in a bowl, stirring until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate for half an hour before serving.
  2. Nutrition (per serving): 227 calories, 14.8g total fat, 11.3mg cholesterol, 116mg sodium, 499.1mg potassium, 23.1g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 16.8g sugar, 4.1g protein