Pickles 101

Being raised in a Polish family, naturally pickles are a part of this Kitty's culinary vocabulary. This is not unique to the Poles, but there is such a thing as "Polish Dill Pickles". So let's not quibble. The home you are born into is your world, and my world was distinctly Polish; in a Polish neighborhood. So Polish, my part of town was called Poletown. Alas, no more. They paved paradise and put up — in this case — a Cadillac car plant. Anyhow, pickle-wise (which I unashamedly am) you could say pickles of all types were part of my vaccination regimen. It's in my blood. Vampires seem to stay away. Too sour. Now, don't you wish you were Polish too?

So I know from pickles ...

There are two types of pickles: 1. Fermented. 2. Refrigerator.

Please learn the distinction and you will forever sing my praises. Not the least of which it the pure fact that you will be enjoying some really good and tasty homemade pickles.

This is an overview. At the bottom of each section is a link to the full spiel to get you going on the road to Pickledom. 

1. Fermented Pickles are fermented. Raw vegetables in a saline brine left to ferment and sour. Easy as pie once you crack your pickle cherry and just go ahead and do it. 

The secret is in the brine. The proportion of salt to water. 2 Tablespoons per quart of water. That's around 3.5% salinity by weight. And — CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT — the kind of salt and the kind of water. Salt with no Iodine. Pickling salt, or Kosher. Water without Chlorine. Spring water, or boiled tap water (removes the chlorine.) Those two elements will retard/fail the fermentation process. 

Remember too, fermentation is an anaerobic process. Pickles (any vegetable) being processed with fermentation must be kept under the brine liquid.

2. Refrigerator Pickles are made in a vinegar based brine. If you search the Internet you'll see lots of recipes. And, the use of lots of vinegar. Too much for even this Kitten's taste. Here's all's you ever be needing to know about vinegar brine: Brine Ratio ... 1 Cup Vinegar : 2 Cups water. 

Memorize that.

Refrigerator pickles are just about any vegetable or hard fruit processed in a hot brine flavored to your liking. Boil brine, pour over vegetables, let cool. Put in the fridge. Next day ... enjoy. Depending on the type of vegetable being processed you may want to par boil in the brine to tenderize. 



I bet you can't even eat one:

Some good stuff on how the heat of chili peppers is measured.


Food ... CLOSE UP!

We watch the occasional cooking show. Currently Pati's Mexican Table is a fave. 


Someone has been messing with her show. Probably, in their mind, improved things. Added some "production values". Just like what happened to Daisy Martinez and her original Daisy Cooks delightfully demonstrating the Puerto Rican Caribbean cuisine. 

Daisy and Pati originally produced homey simple shows, expertly and unpretentiously presenting the cuisines of their forebears. 

When Daisy moved to Food Network the art directors moved in to up those "production values". Daisy got a new kitchen, a new hairdo, a make over. And the original aesthetic was sophisticated-up for a wider audience. More gloss. The essence was lost.

Now we're seeing Pati with what seems to be a new format. She's still pretty much as before, just that someone has decided to zero in on every shot. Close. Up. CLOSE. UP. Not a bit appetizing.

We are not amused. There seems to be an aesthetic strain in the world of cooking shows where the camera is directed to get ever so close for a look. Especially when performing the most mundane tasks; like, peeling an onion. Hey! I think we got that one pretty good.

The only shows we appreciate the close ups are Nigella's and Giadda's.

But, please. Seriously. Do we really need to see everything close up with lots of quick cuts? The term "food porn" comes to mind. Like strapping a camera to a chef's knife so we can see the exquisite juicy details of slicing into an onion. Or, penetrating a melon.

If you want to see it done right, see anything with Jacques Pepin.


Elephant Ears

Now is the season!* Any way you say it — patra, aluchya, vadya, patra patrode. It’s a great snack dish made with colocasia, the leaves of the taro plant. You may know it as elephant-ear, taro, cocoyam, dasheen, chembu, or eddoe.

The leaves are layered with a savory paste, rolled, steamed, and sliced. Or, as I prefer, steamed, sliced and fried to crispy in a little vegetable oil. I’m in the kitchen as (if) you read this. If you want a recipe, I can provide.

*[But, when is it ever not so.]   


Vegetarian Pepperoni Pizza

David Wronski writes . . .

Every Saturday evening for a long time in my formative years I would make a pepperoni pizza from scratch using the Chef Boyadee Pizza Kit. I am a lifetime committed pepperoni junkie; and, to me, pizza and pepperoni pizza are interchangeable.

I know that some of the legion of Cooky Cat followers abstain from eating meat, so here is a vegetarian alternative. No, Ms. Marcella Hazen, we are not suggesting tempeh here. (In a prior post on Borlengo Cooky Cat suggested using tempeh as an alternative to pork bits in the piece on Borlengo and Ms. Hazan commented in a separate message, and in typical direct authoritative fashion, ". . . Very tasty. Forget about tempeh, please.")

I should also mention that I am arguably THE or (grudgingly) one of THE originators of what is now so commonplace, so called "Fusion Cooking". You know, mixing ingredients from the various world cuisines, mixing menu items in the same way. It was in the Brooklyn years that me and a neighbor friend, Stan Mongin (RIP) formed the Polish Pavillion. It was a weekend catering venture. We like to cook and Stan had the largest Garland restaurant stove, so we thought it would be a fun thing to do as a sideline. (In this entry there is another reference to the Polish Pavillion; specifically, how we cooked up that name.) Stan had an in at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and we did a few gigs there. There was some talk of taking over the in-house catering there, but I wasn't interested in a full time career change into food service. (I did a stint at Whole Wheat and Wild Berries, a Village healthy food restuarant, and I am completely disabused of that typical fantasy of running a restuarant.)

I know I am digressing a bit. But, that is what I do. Check out Wronski's Wramblings to get a snoot full.

Seitan Pepperoni http://fooddoodles.com/2011/04/04/pepperoni-seitan/