Sloppy Joes

My husband has permanently etched this song in my head.  Once you listen to it, all you’ll hear from now on is “SLOPPY JOES, SLOP-SLOPPY JOES …”  every time you see the words “sloppy joes”.  FOREVER.

We had a lazy night last week and neither of us wanted to put much effort into either cooking or going to the grocery store.  The result was these modified sloppy joes, and they were pretty good.  This recipe makes two large sloppy joe sandwiches, but you can easily multiply the recipe to suit your appetite.

In a wide-bottomed saucepan, brown up 1/2lb lean ground beef with about 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1/4 of an onion, chopped (we didn’t have any onions, but you can do what you want).

In a small bowl, mix together the following:

1/2 cup ketchup or barbecue sauce

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire (wooster) sauce

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon paprika (we used Hungarian paprika, but I don’t really know what the difference is)

1 tablespoon brown sugar.

Add the sauce to the browned meat and simmer for a few minutes until thickened.

Serve on hamburger buns or toasted bread.  We topped ours with sautéed mushrooms and had carrots on the side. Total cooking time: about ten minutes.

Sweet and Sour Pineapple Relish

My grandmother came over for coffee yesterday (which for you is about ten days ago) and brought with her about two dozen canning jars she didn’t use anymore.  As well, she brought me an early Christmas present: Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew’s Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles.  Today the book is already covered in stains, just like every good cookbook should be.  I am in love.

Each recipe is simple with regard to ingredients and the instructions are straightforward.  I’ll prove it to you by showing you a fantastically easy relish I made in less than an hour.  I am relishing my first attempt at this particular preserve.

I tripled the recipe in the book and came out with 7 250mL jars of relish.

Open and drain 6 14oz cans of crushed pineapple.  You can use rings, which drain faster, but then you have to cut them up.  Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the juice.

Set the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and leave that for a while to get all the drippings.

Chop up 12-16 green onions (scallions), and mince 6 jalapeno peppers.  The recipe calls for red chillies but I didn’t have any.

Pare the rind from 3 lemons and juice them while you’re at it.

Put the lemon rind and juice in a large saucepan (I prefer a maslin pan for the evaporation) together with 9 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar.

Heat on low, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a boil.  Cook like this on medium, stirring, for about ten minutes or until the syrup has thickened slightly.

Add in the chopped onions and peppers, together with your reserved pineapple juice as well as any that has dripped out while you were waiting.  Cook this for about five minutes, until things get quite syrupy.

Increase the heat and add the pineapple.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Can according to your canner’s instructions.  We’ve got some tips on canning here, as well.

This relish keeps for about three months, and, once opened, should be kept in the refrigerator.  Great with chicken, pork, and white fish.

 

Bread and Butter Pickles

One summer when I was young, our kitchen was filled with cucumbers.  We made them into dill pickles and bread and butter pickles and there wasn’t a single counter that wasn’t packed with shiny, hot jars of the stuff.  The whole house smelled of vinegar.  It was great.

We made two batches of bread and butter pickles on this particular day and it took a long time, what with the sterilization and the soaking and the canning, so make sure you have a free day and plenty of space when you’re going to do this.

One batch of bread and butter pickles yields about six 1-pint jars and uses 3L (about 4lb) of pickling cucumbers.

Wash your cucumbers.  Scrub them and all their knobby bits well.

Cut the tops and bottoms of the cucumbers off (the bloom and stem ends).Using a mandolin or a food processor, slice the cucumbers into 1/4″ thick rounds.

Please do not cut off any of your fingers.  Mandolins are vicious.

This will take a while, especially if you are doing two batches.

Now you have a helluva lotta cucumber slices.  Put some on your eyes and take a rest for a while.

Just kidding.  There’s work to be done.

Now you have to slice some onions.  Use about three medium onions per batch of pickles.  Peel the onion and slice it in half lengthwise, then use a mandolin or food processor to slice them the same thickness as your cucumbers.

I like to use the Onion Goggles here to avoid bloodshed.  Or tearshed.  Or both.  If I’m weeping uncontrollably I may slice off an appendage on the mandolin.

Put all your cucumber and onion slices in an enormous bowl and sprinkle them with kosher or coarse pickling salt.  Cover with ice water (or water with ice cubes in it) and leave to soak for three hours.

Now you can take a break.  Or make something else while you wait.

You know what, why don’t you cut up two sweet red peppers, sliced thin on the mandolin again, and add them to the pile?  They make for a nice colour contrast in the jar.

Drain the vegetables after their three-hour soak, rinse them thoroughly in cold water, and then drain them again really well.

At this point you should probably start preparing your jars and lids.

Put your lids and rings in a pot of water and set that to boil. 

Plop your jars in your canner and set that to boil as well.  This will take a while.Now you can prepare your pickling brine.

The key spices here are celery seed, turmeric, and yellow mustard seeds.

In a small bowl, put 2 tablespoons mustard seed, 2 1/2 teaspoons celery seed, and 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric (the turmeric is what turns everything yellow).  Set it aside for now.

In an enormous pot (we used the large maslin pan from Lee Valley), put 5 cups granulated sugar (I know, it seems like an awful lot).

Add to this 4 cups pickling vinegar.  My grandmother insists that all pickling (unless otherwise stated) must use pickling vinegar.  It’s about twice as strong as regular distilled white vinegar.

Add in your pickling spices and give it a stir.

Bring it to a boil and dissolve the sugar.

Now plop in your vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until they are tender and yellow and the liquid is once more boiling, about fifteen minutes. 

Once your jars have been boiling for ten minutes, you can haul them out of the canner.  Turn off the heat for now to allow the water to cool slightly.

Drain the jars carefully using a jar gripper and put them near your pickle pot.

Using a canning funnel, carefully ladle pickle mixture into your six jars to within a half or quarter inch of the top of the jar. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you, your counter tops, and everything around you will become extremely sticky at this point.Make sure there is plenty of liquid in the jar as well, but be careful to leave some space at the top.

Use a wooden skewer (don’t use metal) to poke around and remove the air bubbles from amongst the pickles.

Remove your lids and rings from the heat and carefully place the lids on the jars. 

Twist the rings on to fingertip tightness and return the jars to your canner. 

Dunk them under and bring the water to a boil for fifteen minutes.

Remove the jars from the canner and allow to cool.  As they cool they will seal with a lovely POP sound.

You can eat these pickles right away, but store opened jars in the refrigerator.  Serve as a side to your dishes, put in sandwiches, or just eat straight from the jar.  Your choice.Our two batches left us with some extra pickles, which we put in a jar in the fridge. 

The rest we saved for you!You know you want one …

Poached Eggs

Today my dad taught me how to poach eggs.  Turns out it’s ridiculously easy.  I mean they’ll never be Julia Child quality or anything but they are tasty.

Set a pot of water to boiling and add a dash or two of vinegar.  This keeps the egg whites from going absolutely everywhere.  Dad says he probably put too much water in the pot but whatever.

Once the water is boiling just gently crack the eggs into it. 

There will be some weird feathery things but don’t fret.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop out an egg to check it for firmness.  Give it a poke to see if it’s as firm as you like.

When you’ve reached desired firmness, scoop ’em out and serve. 

We had ours with English muffins, sausage, and fresh tomatoes from our own garden.  Mmm …

Halloum Sandwiches

I’d never seen halloum (or halloom or haloumi) before, and then it popped up at our local Save Easy, which is run by Loblaws.  Because we will try pretty much anything (well, I will, and the Pie will if I don’t tell him what it is), we bought some.  It has the same texture and tastes similar to a very large cheese curd.

And it sat in our fridge for a while until I internet researched ways people ate it.

Most people just fry it up and put herbs on it and stuff it in sandwiches.  Easy enough.  So that’s what I did for a nice Sunday sammich for me and my man.

Take a pocketless pita (or one with a pocket and you just don’t open it) and smother it with mayonnaise.  Slice up a tomato in thick slices as well and dust the slices with salt and pepper.  Slip them onto one half of the pita.

Pick yourself several leaves of fresh basil and drop them on top of the tomato.

Slice the halloum so each piece is about a quarter of an inch thick.  The package I have advises me to divide the amount into eight slices, so that’s what it comes out to.  I used three slices per sandwich (one with four), which uses up two whole little 250g packages and makes five sandwiches.

Slide them into a hot skillet and brown both sides.

Pop the hot grilled cheese on top of the tomato and fold over the top of the pita.

EAT.

Tomato Lunch

A rain charm to fend off the storm.

It’s a rainy afternoon from where I’m writing.  It’s only eight degrees outside but I’m determined to think of summer.  What better lunch, then, than a tomato salad?

Here is my tomato.  It’s had a hard life being imported from somewhere into my refrigerator, but I’m not a snob when it comes to aesthetics.  Of course, this would be a different post altogether if I had my mother’s multicoloured heritage tomatoes at hand.  But we make do with what we can.

Let me take this opportunity to introduce to you a tiny piece of steel that makes eating tomatoes so much easier: the tomato huller

Rather than simply slicing off the top of the tomato and discarding it, or using a knife to cut into the top and leaving a tomato slice that looks like a victim of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this little tool quickly and neatly removes the tough bits of tomato attaching the stem to the flesh without wasting all that tomato-y goodness.

So first you remove the stem.  Just pop that sucker right off.

Then take the huller and dig the little spokes into the area around the stem-hole.

Ease the huller around the edge of the stem-hole and work it underneath, like an ice cream scoop.

Then just scoop away the icky parts.  Tada.

Makes it easy to slice up your tomato, lay it, salted and peppered, on a plate with some fresh basil leaves, and drizzle it with a smidgen of vintage balsamic vinegar (because we all know how much I love vinegar).

You can see how that lovely top slice didn’t go to waste.

I grated a wee bit of asiago cheese on top and ate it with a roll (which I baked myself!) to sop up the juices.  Mmm.

Best Chicken Sandwich – Ever.

At least that’s what the recipe says.  A recipe for a sammy.  Don’t that just beat all …  Nevertheless this is super easy and super awesome and it serves two, for a romantically messy meal you can eat with your fingers.

It’s from a book called Food Cook Eat by Lulu Grimes that my mother gave to the Pie for Christmas a few years back.  Page 108 for those of you following along at home.

First, slice up a tomato, half an avocado, and wash some leaves of lettuce (get fancy and use arugula or frisé or whatever), and set those aside.

Cut two large pieces of ciabatta or Turkish bread in half horizontally and put that aside as well.

Take a boneless, skinless chicken breast (or a boned, skin-covered one and work some magic with it, which is what I did), trim off the excess sinew and fat, and cut it in half horizontally.

Flatten the pieces out a bit by hitting them with the side of your knife, the flat of a cleaver, your fist, or a mallet.  Work out your frustrations, but don’t go crazy and break the flesh.  You just want to thin it out a little.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large pan and slip in the breast pieces, cooking them on both sides for a few minutes until brown and cooked through.  Sprinkle them with some lemon juice and take them out of the pan.  Put ’em on a plate or something.

Take your bread pieces and put them, cut side down, in the pan. Press them down a bit to soak up the chicken and lemon juices and leave them in there for a minute or two.

When you take the bread out of the pan, rub the cut side with a garlic clove, cut in half, then generously spread all the pieces with mayonnaise

Put a piece of chicken on the bottom pieces of the bread. 

Top with tomato, avocado, and lettuce, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. 

Plop the top of the bread back on and eat the crap out of that thing.  Tada: your sammich.

Tabouleh tabouleh tabouleh

I really like the word tabouleh.  I remember eating it often as a kid.  It’s a good quick salad and it works well in a pita sandwich.

We made this recipe with couscous, but you can substitute it for quinoa or bulgur or other grains.

Stir the couscous and oil into the water and allow to expand for 2 minutes.

To prepare the couscous, bring a cup of salted water to a boil in a small pot.  Remove from the heat and pour in a cup of couscous.  Add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, stir, and allow the pasta to expand for two minutes.

Return the couscous to a low heat on the stove.  Drop in 2 to 3 teaspoons of butter and stir until well-blended.  Allow to cool.

Add butter to couscous and stir on low heat until melted.

We got this tabouleh recipe from the Joy of Cooking (2006 edition) by Rombauer & Becker, and we replaced the bulgur with couscous, of course, and  we weren’t all that good at measuring, either, so we fiddled with the amounts.

Finely chop 2 to 3 tomatoes, 2 cups of fresh parsley, 1 cup of fresh mint, and 1 bunch of scallions or green onions. See my tips and tricks entry on how to finely chop herbs.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, emulsify 1/3 cup olive oil with 1/3 cup lemon juice.  To do this, I took a very small whisk and rubbed it between my palms until the liquid was creamy and custard coloured.

Use a small whisk to emulsify the ingredients.
Rub the whisk briskly between your palms until the liquid is custardy.

In a large bowl, mix the couscous, tomatoes, onions, and herbs together thoroughly.  Toss with the olive oil/lemon juice emulsion and serve.

Serve as a salad or in a sandwich.

We spooned the tabouleh into open pita pockets lined with baby spinach and home-made hummus and ate them with Garbage Soup.

Pita pockets with hummus, tabouleh, and baby spinach.