August 17, 2012
I picked up a beautiful, heavy and sweet local watermelon at my neighborhood Giant Eagle Market District. I still can’t believe that this is my normal, everyday, hey-we’re-out-of-milk grocery store – it’s humongous. But I have to give them props: for being as huge as they are, they do try for a couple of months to really bring in a bunch of locally grown and raised produce. I really like that.
So back home, I was cutting it up and then slicing up all the leftover rinds so that they would break down faster in the compost pile and it hit me. People make pickles out of this stuff. And thankfully it’s less for the compost pile to try to digest, which is a good thing this time of year, just ask my husband, who often gets stuck with the job of carting out all the scraps. He’s a good man.
Is that a cucumber in the foreground? No! Just a well trimmed watermelon rind.
So a quick browse around and it’s a simpler method than I even thought. For half of a medium watermelon the brine is
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May 26, 2012
I’d been following the FB posts of Dorothy Lane Market and tracking when the Copper River salmon was coming in. It was the king that was in the store Friday. Its brief season is only May and June. But it is so very, very worth making every effort to find and indulge in it the fleeting moments you can catch it.
This year, I did something I almost can’t believe I did with the costly pound I purchased.
I made gravlax.
Making true gravlax requires no smoking. It is, in essence, the purest Scandinavian method of preserving fish.
Only the best salmon, lovely coarse sea salt, pounded peppercorns, sugar, a handful of backyard dill. Wrapped tightly in clingfilm and flipped twice a day for two days.
The dry salt-sugar coat results in the fish giving up all its water content and producing a oceany brine that the fish luxuriates in for the duration of its cure.
Once removed from its bath, it is finely shaved and mounded on potatoes, or garden baby greens for the most precious of all culinary experiences.
But the most important aspect of all of this? You can do it. You don’t need any special equipment or know how. Make it and enjoy it. While it lasts.
Copper River Gravlax, made using the instructions from Rick Stein in Complete Seafood. If you don’t have this book, I don’t know what else to tell you except that you have to get it. You have to.
One pound Copper River King Salmon
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October 2, 2011
I haven’t made a whole lot of pork lately. I’ve been swooning over spice-rubbed chicken, braising all manner of cuts beef, and grilling plenty of fish. I think pork needs its due. I am a big fan, particularly of bacon and pork belly. It must be the fat. But what about the old standby favorites? I think I’ve been shying away from cuts like pork chops and fresh hams simply because, at first blush, seem kind of mundane.
Enter brining. A great primer, including a simple ratio, from Cooks Illustrated can be found here. But in a nutshell, this technique of soaking in a salt, sugar and spice “stock,” really livens up the flavor of the more lean cuts of pork and bumps up the much needed moisture. It doesn’t require any silly flavor injectors and it’s foolproof. Adjust the flavors and seasonings as you wish and you’ll have a dinner either as familiar or exotic as you want it to be. Add in some locally and thoughtfully raised pork, mine was from Curly Tail Organic Farm, and the noble pig doesn’t get much better than this.
Basic Brine, make 1 quart per pound of meat
1 qt water
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