Fermented pickles

I know almost all of us love pickles. Right? Especially the fermented ones. Because there is a difference when you get a pickle with fermentation. Ordinary pickle has vinegar to achieve the sour taste. Vinegar by default blocks fermentation. Which means, using vinegar you will have sour pickle without the benefits and flavor of fermentation. Since my palate is addicted to sour, I love both. But fermented food just has that extra funky flavor to it too, that I can’t resist. These fermented pickles are the star of every summer in Hungary alongside with corn and watermelon. I will tell you how traditionally it is made, and how I manage to make it without a fail now. BUT. I still have questions about the whole process and I decided to get to the bottom of it this summer. Will update you on my findings.

So how is this Hungarian fermented pickle different from the well known kosher pickles? I have tried many kosher pickles since we live in the US. Kosher pickle is traditionally made in salt brine and only garlic and dill is used as flavors. So it should b the same. Almost. Not one of the pickles I tried here resemble to these Hungarian pickles. So I have to draw the conclusion,  it will be the bread. The name of this pickle in Hungarian is “kovaszos cucumber” which means sourdough cucumber.  I did fail many times making this here in California. And the only thing I can think of as a culprit is the bread. “Sourdough bread is made by the fermentation of dough using naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeast. Sourdough bread has a mildly sour taste not present in most breads made with baker’s yeast and better inherent keeping qualities than other breads, due to the lactic acid produced by the lactobacilli.”  I will have a few experiments during this cucumber season and I will try and ferment it with sourdough starter too.

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Important tips

  1. maybe needless to say but use pickling cucumbers (this is a specific cucumber variety) and possibly smaller ones, they can keep their crunchiness more
  2. get some good quality white sourdough bread
  3. make sure the weather is sunny for the next 4-5 days, this pickle is fermented OUTSIDE, IN THE SUN. If the nights get cold where you live, move the jar inside for the evening.
  4. if you add more salt to the brine, fermentation will need more time, if you add less, fermentation may not happen
  5. it is best to stack the cucumbers standing in the jar, probably in 2 levels. unfortunately they were a bit big this time so the 2nd layer had to lie down. It still turned out to be perfect.
  6. for best flavor try and get flowering dill

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Ingredients (I used a 2Q jar that fit 10 bigger cucumbers, see picture below)

  • a clean pickling jar
  • about 3lbs of pickling cucumber, possibly very similar size (amount depends on the jar you have). A 2Q jar can fit about 13 smaller pickling cucumber or 10 medium sized one. This should weigh about 3lbs.
  • 1 big bunch of flowering dill
  • 6-8 garlic cloves
  • 2 thick slices of white sourdough bread
  • 3.5% brine (2Tbsp salt to 1Q filtered water)

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Method

PLEASE CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM PROFILE HIGHLIGHT FOR SOME PRACTICAL VIDEOS IF SOMETHING IS NOT CLEAR!

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  1. Wash the cucumbers and cut off both ends. Make sure to taste each and every single end you cut off. If it is bitter, keep cutting off bits of the cucumber until you reach no bitter :). It might happen you have a bitter cucumber as a whole, so get rid of it. PLEASE REMEMBER, ONE SINGLE BITTER CUCUMBER CAN RUIN YOUR BATCH. It happened to me.
  2. Slit halfway each cucumber at both ends, so that the brine can get through the cucumber. Do not cut any cucumbers in half, keep them whole.
  3. Get other ingredients ready: dill, peeled garlic cloves and 2 chunky slices of white sourdough bread.
  4. Stack the cucumbers in the jar, layering with dill and garlic cloves.IMG-5126.jpg
  5. Bring the filtered watered to a boil and dissolve salt.
  6. Pour boiling hot brine over the cucumbers.
  7. Place bread slices on top of the cucumbers and add more brine, making sure everything is submerged under.
  8. Cover with cheesecloth or a loose lid, that will let liquid bubble out at fermentation.
  9. Place the jar outside, in the sun.
  10. Check every day to see there is still enough brine to cover everything, if not, add more.
  11. You should see bubbles and color changes after 2 days. The brine will become cloudy and the the cucumbers change color too.
  12. It will have a pleasant sour smell. Any other bad smell means for some reason fermentation was not successful.
  13. In nice sunny weather fermentation is done in 4-5 days, after that transfer cucumbers into a clean jar, strain the brine, get rid of the dill and keep the pickles in the fridge, in the clean jar, covered in the pickling liquid.

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ENJOY!

Zucchini “cannelloni” with kohlrabi filling and red pepper sauce

I made this raw vegan dish after hosting a dinner, having some leftover lemon basil pesto and myself feeling really “heavy” with all the cooking and also eating and drinking…. So the next day I really wanted to have a very light dinner and also making good use of my leftover. Raw vegan pasta reminiscent dishes use a certain vegetable that can be cut into the shape of the original pasta. In this case green summer squash, aka zucchini replaced canneloni. Or lay it down and call it ravioli. The filling was finely chopped kochlrabi marinated in the lemon basil pesto. Then rolled up and sat on a bed of pepper sauce.

This recipe yields for 2, it is your date night dinner 🙂

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Ingredients (yields 2 portions)

  • 2 smaller green and/or yellow summer squash (zucchini) (sliced on mandolin into 1-2mm thickness)
  • 1 medium size or 2 small kohlrabi (chopped into smal cubes)
  • salt, pepper, olive oil
  • to garnish and serve: finely chopped pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, micro greens, edible flowers, garlic blossoms

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For the lemon basil pesto

  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemoon
  • 1 red thai chili minced well (or chili flakes)
  • 1-2 tsp nutritional yeast

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For the red pepper sauce

  • 1 red california pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/3 cup of soaked cashew
  • olive oil, salt, black pepper

Instructions

  1. Start making the lemon basil pesto. Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix them well.
  2. Chop the kohlrabi, season with salt and pepper and mix into the pesto. This will be the filling in the canneloni.
  3. Blend all the ingredients of the pepper sauce in Vitamix or other high power blender.
  4. Slice zucchini on mandolin about 2 mm thickness. Season lightly with salt, black pepper and olive oil. Set them on a sheet for a few minutes to marinate. This will also help the zucchini soften up a bit, make it easier to digest.
  5. For plating spoon some pepper sauce in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Roll up zucchini, place on top of the sauce and fill with the kohrabi lemon basil pesto. If you can only lay them, like an original canelloni dish, that is fine too. Sprinkle with chopped or ground pine nut/ pumpkin seeds. I really liked it with the pumpkin seeds.
  6. Decorate your plate with micro greens, herbs and edible blossoms.

ENJOY!

 

Plum financier

Next to the madeleine, the financier is probably the most popular little French cake, common street food for morning or afternoon snacking. The cake’s name probably comes from the fact that a financier resembles a solid gold brick. Curiously, as popular as they are, financiers seldom appear in recipe books or in French literature.

The secret to a good financier is in the baking: For a good crust, they must begin baking in a very hot oven. Then the temperature is reduced to keep the interior moist. Placing the molds on a thick baking sheet while they are in the oven is an important baking hint from the Left Bank pastry chef Jean-Luc Poujauran, who worked for months to perfect his financiers, which are among the best in Paris.” – Epicurious

My version has plums in it, because I need to use those beautiful, flavorful market plums and it is such a great fruit when it starts baking. And it goes so perfectly with the almond taste of these little cute financiers.

You can of course experiment with any kind of fruits but make sure the one you choose will not release too much juice, and ruins the texture of the financier.

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Ingredients for 9 financiers

  • 3 1/4 oz unsalted butter, plus some extra for greasing the tin
  • 4 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 10 tbsp almond flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 6 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 plums, each sliced into 8 slivers, sprinkled with cinnamon and golden cane sugar if very tart (you will have a few slivers left)
  • icing sugar and toasted almond to serve

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Instructions

  1. Prepare a muffin tin with at least 9 holes and grease them very well with butter. This will help in developing a nice crust on the outside of your petit financier.
  2. Melt butter completely and transfer into a small bowl and let it cool a little bit.
  3. In a bowl mix egg whites and almond extract. Don’t have to whip the egg whites, just mix properly.
  4. In another bowl add flour, almond flour, sugar and pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add egg whites to the dry mixture, mixing well.
  6. Gradually pour in the melted butter, mixing constantly, to achieve pancake batter texture.      TIP      I suggest to have some extra melted butter and almond flour by hand in case you need to adjust batter. In baking the variables are endless, and anything that works at sea level in my dry kitchen with my home grounded almond flour, will very well may not be exactly the same in your home!
  7. Pour butter in muffin tin, filling each hole only to 1/3. You want some pretty short financiers.
  8. Arrange 3-4 plum slivers in each one.
  9. Start baking in a hot oven, around 410 F. Bake only for 8 minutes, keeping an eye on it. If you see any quick browning around the edge, turn the heat down.
  10. After 8 minutes turn the temperature to 320F and finish baking. From this point they will need around 8 more minutes.

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You can serve the financiers warm, with a little bit of caramelized plum and tarragon sauce on the side. If you wish so, here is my version. Don’t be scared of combining plum and tarragon. It is a really great match! If it is really new for you, add just a little tarragon first, and taste after a bit of cooking and you will see if you like the combination and if you want to add more of this fragrant herb.

Ingredients for caramelized plum and tarragon sauce

  • 1 pound of black plum, pitted and cut into quarters
  • 1/2 cup of golden cane sugar
  • 1/2 lemon – juiced
  • chopped tarragon – according to your taste, I suggest 1 tablespoon

Instrucions

  1. Sprinkle sugar evenly in a thick bottom pan. Put on medium heat and without stirring let it melt and then caramelized. Be careful, not to burn it!
  2. Once it is caramelized, add plums and lemon juice and give it a stir.
  3. Once starts bubbling, reduce heat, add tarragon and start cooking without lid on.
  4. Cook it to a texture you want, depending on whether you want to have chunks of plum or you want it more sauce-y.
  5. Taste at some point and add more lemon juice or tarragon if needed.

 

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Summery spinach and herb gnudi

 

Last year I attended a farm to table bootcamp at the Culinary Institute of America, in St Helena, Napa Valley. It was a really great experience that taught me a lot about sustainable farming and wine making. I also got to spend every day at the CIA kitchen, cooking farm fresh, California produce driven dishes. Coming out of this program I have a definite favorite recipe that I am ready to share with you. I have cooked it so many times and each and every time I am totally in love with the flavors. I always make it with roasted tomato beurre blanc but I realize this might be a bit too much of work for most of you. Hence, I came up with my own recipe that allows you to make it quicker and achieve a very similar taste. Also this recipe uses lardons. If you want to keep the dish vegetarian just remove the lardons and use some very strong, good quality smoked salt and it will bring  some smoky flavor to the plate 🙂

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First you will make a dough for the gnudi with sauteed spinach and fresh herbs, then cook the corn and roast the tomatoes. Before serving fry some lardons and sage in butter, cook the gnudi and transfer everything into a skillet.

Ingredients (yields 4)

  • 1 cup of blanched, chopped spinach
  • 2 tbsp of mixed chopped fines herbs  (chive, parsley, chevril)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of ricotta
  • 3/4 cup of all purpose flour (and some more for the rolling)
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 2 corns
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup lardon (smoked thick bacon)
  • cold butter
  • 10-15 sage leaves both chiffonaded and in whole
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt, black pepper

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 Instructions

  • Blanch the spinach in boiling, heavily salted water for just a few seconds. Immediately transfer into a big bowl of iced water, to stop cooking and retain color. Drain and squeeze out all the water. Then chop the spinach very well.
  • Chop some chive, parsley and chevril to have enough of at least 3 teaspoon of chopped herbs. More is better.
  • In a big bowl mix 2 egg yolks, ricotta, chopped spinach and herbs, parmesan and season with salt and black pepper. Let it rest in the fridge until you are ready with the remaining components.
  • Place the cherry tomatoes in a baking dish (so you can save the juice), drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt. Roast the tomatoes at 450F until they start to fall apart. Be careful not to over roast, so they are still juicy!
  • Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the corns. Rinse them with cold water and keep them in warm water. When you are ready to use it, cut the corns off the kernels.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of butter and lardons in a skillet and pan roast the lardons . Add the sage and the minced shallot and sautee them for a few minutes, keeping an eye on it, not the burn the onions. Add the cherry tomatoes and when everything is very hot, add the vinegar and make sure you keep it on high heat and carefully stirring for a minute, to cook down the vinegar a touch. Finally add the corn kernels that you cut off the corn.

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  • In the meantime bring salted water to a boil for cooking the gnudi.
  • Place the gnudi dough on a very well floured surface. Divide it into 3-4 manageable portions. Roll each mixture into a rope shape, (about 1 inch in diameter) adding as much flour as needed to be able to JUST work with it! Not more because you will end up with a hard, chewy, floury gnudi.
  • Dust your hands with flour and start cutting the gnudis with a bench knife (about 3/4 inch long). You can transfer the gnudi from the floured board in the boiling water.
  • Cook gnudi for 2-3 minutes. They will come to surface very quickly, you will need to cook a bit more than that.
  • Drain the cooked gnudi and immediately transfer into the skillet with the warm sage lardon mix. Add tomatotes and corn kernels. Carefully mix everything so it covered fully in the sage butter and also some juice that the cherry tomatoes are releasing.
  • Serve with fresh, tiny herb leaves of sage and chevril and/or chopped chives.

ENJOY!

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Creamed sorrel and kale Turkish egg

Breakfast and brunch is my favorite meal. This is the time of the day when we should eat the biggest portion of food and preferably full of nutrients. It is so easy to make something that is nourishing your body, let it be vegan, dairy free, gluten free or no dietary restrictions. This recipe uses dairy and the toast has trace amount of gluten only. I buy a local multigrain sourdough bread.

The simplest version of a Turkish egg is yogurt topped with a poached egg, drizzled with generous amount of chili oil and adding fresh herbs. Dill, chive goes really well with the yogurt. But you can add parsley, tarragon, mint, anything you prefer. This photo here shows this version.

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For another version of Turkish egg I replace a part of the yogurt with a sour cream creamed sauteed sorrel and kale. This way you can add lots of green in the dish, providing more nutrition.  You can use any kinds of green leaves that you like. However sorrel makes a huge difference. In case you haven’t tried it and you like tartness, you should give it a go. Sauteed sorrel tastes completely different from any other greens.

I seasoned the yogurt with only himalayan salt, minced garlic, EVO and chopped chive and dill. For the sorrel and kale sautee you will need EVO, green leaves (sorrel, kale, spinach, chard, etc) , sour cream, salt and black pepper. You can drizzle the plated dish with chili oil or use chili flakes. I garnished my plate with young sorrel leaves, chopped chive, dill, chili flakes, chive and garlic chive blossoms.

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Ingredients (yields 2)

  • 2 cups of your choice of yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp EVO
  • 1 tbsp chopped chive and dill
  • salt
  • 1 big bunch of sorrel leaves
  • 1/2 bunch of kale leaves
  • 3-4 tbsp sour cream
  • salt, black pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. For the creamed sorrel clean the green leaves, remove hard stalks. Pat them dry.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pan, add greens, pinch of salt and wilt them just for a couple of minutes. Drizzle a bit of water on it if it is too dry and starts browning. If you use sorrel, do not panic!!!! it will turn brown when cooking. The kale or spinach will help to keep the green color.
  3. Add the greens in your blender with the sour cream. Blend it to a creamy texture. If it is too thick you can add very little ice cold water.
  4. Season it with salt and pepper.
  5. Start boiling water for the poached eggs!
  6. For the garlic yogurt mince the garlic, or grate directly into the yogurt. Mix very well, add salt, pepper and the chopped chive and dill.
  7. Add some vinegar to the water.
  8. Always use fresh, good quality, preferably AA eggs for poaching.
  9. Poach eggs. (if you don’t like poaching, the dish is really good with a very softly fried egg too.
  10. For plating spoon the creamed greens around the plate, leaving a round spot in the middle to fill with yogurt and poached egg.
  11. Spoon the yogurt in the middle, place poached egg on top and garnish.

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I served this dish with a very flavorful and colorful toast with vegan cayenne spiced garlic spread from https://www.majesticgarlic.com/. This has been my favorite spread for 3 years!!!  On top of the garlic spread I had avocado cream, cherry tomatoes and purslane. This is such a pretty combination of really healthy and delicious ingredients.

Enjoy a good breakfast EVERYDAY!

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Green gazpacho with grilled watermelon and goat cheese cream

I was about to make my favorite juice of cucumber, celery, watermelon, mint and lemon juice.

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And while I was looking at the cut vegetables and fruits I just decided to try and make a dish using them instead of juicing. This is how the idea was born.

I made a simple, green gazpacho using the celery and cucumber, added some chopped white onion, a garlic clove and a slice of the watermelon. Seasoned generously with salt, a little bit of lemon juice and a pinch of ground black pepper.

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I wanted to keep the clean freshness of the cucumber and celery. Why? Because of the grilled watermelon. In case you never grilled watermelon before I highly recommend you try it.

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It changes its taste drastically, also the texture is modified. The sugar gets caramelized and intensifies the flavor. It is the richness of the grilled watermelon that made me keep the gazpacho light and not to season it heavily. During grilling I seasoned the watermelon with some salt and cayenne pepper. The touch of heat was so yummy in the sweet, rich watermelon.

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I also made some goat cheese cream because it goes very well with both the watermelon and the greens. Its salty tang is just the perfect extra touch that really makes this simple, healthy, beautiful summer soup…. well, something special. 🙂

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For the vegan version the only change I made is to leave out the goat cheese cream. You can simply make a thick cream of any of your favorite nuts  and drizzle that over the soup. I decided to make the soup creamier with blending soaked cashews into the soup. This is the reason for the different color. This is a quicker way to make the soup, it is up to you how you want to make it.

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If you want to keep the soup raw you will have to skip grilling the watermelon. This will however change the taste completely. If you have a vacuum sealer, you can vacuum the watermelon, it will get compressed and its taste will also intensify and the texture will be modified too. This is a good way to make this soup entirely raw but also add something extra to the watermelon.

For garnishing in both soup I used the leaves and blossoms of anise hyssop and arugula oil.

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Anise hyssop has a bit of anise taste so if you don’t like that or just can’t find the herb, mint is a perfect replacement.

Hope you enjoy the version that suits your diet and celebrate the summer with this beauty!

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Ingredients (yields 4)

  • 3 cucumbers
  • 8-10 celery stalks (depending on the size and how much celery taste you like in the soup)
  • 1 thick slice of watermelon
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • salt, lemon juice, ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon chevre at room temperature (soft goat cheese)
  • 2 tablespoon goat milk (if you substitute with milk it will not have that intense goat chees flavor, but still works)
  • 4 slices of watermelon, keep the rind on while grilling
  • olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • Chop all the vegetables and blend well in your blender. Season with salt, black pepper and a little bit of lemon juice. Pour in a container and keep in the fridge to make sure it is cold when serving.
  • For the goat cheese cream, using a fork mix the soft, room temperature chevre with the goat milk and season with salt.
  • Grill the watermelon just before eating the soup. It will be the best warm, off the grill with the cold gazpacho.
  • Brush both sides of the watermelon with olive oil. Season very lightly with salt.
  • Grill one side. While grilling, season it with cayenne pepper lightly, only on the second side.
  • Flip the watermelon and grill the cayenne pepper seasoned side too.
  • For plating pour the soup in shallow bowls, drizzle the cream in spots, add small cubes or triangles of grilled watermelon an sprinkle some chopped anise hyssop or mint or even basil over the soup.

For the vegan version

  • Follow all the steps as above. Leave out the goat cheese cream.
  • For a nut based cream simply blend same amount of soaked nuts with same amount of filtered water and strain. Use the cream as it says above in the instructions.
  • Alternatively if you want to save some time, or prefer, blend 1/2 cup of soaked cashew in the soup and make the soup a creamy texture.

ENJOY!