Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pickled Baby Beets

When Brad's family came to visit for the wedding his mom brought along some pickled beets that barely made it around the table at dinner.  They were so delicious, with a bit of spicy zip.

To make these pickled beets, I combined parts of Thomas Keller's basic pickling recipe from his ad hoc at home cookbook with a recipe in the Mercer County Historical Society of Beulah, North Dakota "Then and Now" cookbook.

(Sorry, no Amazon link for the Mercer County cookbook.  You'll have to marry a North Dakota boy to get your own copy.)

The result is a delicious, sophisticated twist on pickled beets.

Hope you enjoy them!

Pickled Baby Beets

Several bunches of baby beets
1 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup beet water (reserved from boiling beets)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice

Remove beets from stems, reserving the greens for another use (we sauteed them with a bit garlic of olive oil).  Scrub and trim the beets, and place in a medium saucepan.  Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook until fork tender.  (Cooking time will vary according to the size of the beets.)

Remove beets with a slotted spoon and let cool.  Reserve the beet water.

Peel beets and cut in half.  Wear disposable gloves to avoid staining your hands.  And wear a dark colored shirt.  Just trust me on this.

Place the beets in a jar and add the spices.

Bring the champagne vinegar, sugar and 1/2 cup of the beet water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Pour this pickling brine into the jar, covering the beets completely.

Seal the jar, let it cool a bit, then place it in the refrigerator.  For best results, let them hang out in the fridge for about a week before eating them.  If you can.

They can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.  But they won't last that long.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Island Banana Bread

I love cookbooks.  An ideal Sunday for me would be spent curled up on the couch with a new cookbook, which I always devour from front to back just like a novel.  And let's say it's Sunday evening so I can (respectfully) have a glass of wine.  And Brad's on the couch with me, probably watching football.  

Sigh.  Perfection.

I began exploring cooking with my mom's copy of the ubiquitous Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  She also had a well-worn copy of Joy of Cooking.  I used them both often, but it wasn't until college that I truly feel in love with cookbooks.

It was Fall 1988 in Boulder, Colorado and my college roommate had just returned from summering with her family on Nantucket Island.  She brought back with her a copy of Sarah Leah Chase's Open-House Cookbook and stories of fabulous picnics on the beach with food from Chase's take-out shop, Que Sera Sarah.

This cookbook was so much more to me than a cookbook; it was the story of a life that I found utterly irresistible.  

When Chase's Cold-Weather Cooking was published a few years later, it too became a favorite.  Perhaps even more loved because so many of the recipes were well suited to cold Colorado days.

I couldn't tell you how many times I've made this banana bread from Chase's Cold-Weather Cooking.  It's my absolute favorite banana bread recipe. 

And when I realized I had some very ripe bananas, some macadamia nuts we'd brought back from Kona, and some rum we'd brought back from our Christmas trip to the Grenadines, I knew what to do with my cold and gray Saturday.
I've yet to run off to an island to open a shop like Que Sera Sarah, but flipping through Chase's cookbooks again I'm reminded of the passion I'd once felt for this dream.

Island Banana Bread
From Cold-Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase.

1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup good-quality rum (we used Mount Gay from Barbados)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 medium (or 4 small) very ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup roasted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray loaf pan with cooking spray with flour (such as Pam for baking) and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring raisins and rum to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Place all dry ingredients in a medium bowl, combine with a whisk, and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add egg and beat until fluffy, then add vanilla.

Add dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with banana.  Mix well after each addition.

Gently fold in the macadamia nuts, coconut and raisins (along with any rum that remains in the saucepan).

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes to an hour.  

Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve either warm or at room temperature.  Enjoy!