True confessions time: I don't like cucumbers. At all. I mean, I don't even like them to touch my real food. Their icky flavor invades everything it touches. Yuck. But I love pickles. Oh, the hidden depths of me. So, when I saw the post on Boston Dish about making pickles, I figured I'd give it a go. I used the recipe she linked as my starting point, and made just a few changes.
4 medium sized cucumbers (I only had regular cukes, no pickling cukes)
1 Tablespoon pickling salt
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh dill
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano pepper
Thinly slice cucumbers and place in a large bowl. Add salt, mix, and place in the refrigerator for 90 minutes to 3 hours (no need to be exact...I forgot about mine!).
Place cucumbers in a colander and rinse under cold water, then return to the bowl.
Peel and crush garlic cloves. Cut the serrano pepper in half and remove seeds.
In a medium saucepan, place all remaining ingredients (except the cucumbers). Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until all the sugar dissolves. Take my advice and do not put your face over the boiling vinegar. And if you do, certainly don't take a big breath. Just my two cents, based on hard-learned experience!
Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the cucumbers. Cover, refrigerate, and wait around 24 hours. Then voila! Magic occurs, and those cucumbers have become pickles! Keep refrigerated and eat within 2 weeks. Or 5 days, if you're us.
These pickles were surprisingly good. I took them to a picnic, and overheard a couple of elementary school kids talking about how good they were. And how sweet they were. These pickles are pretty sweet, which isn't a big surprise given the huge quantity of sugar in the recipe. The longer the pickles sat in the fridge, the more sour they became. So if you don't like very sweet pickles, you may want to give it a few days before you try them.
On an unrelated note, one of my favorite eggplant dishes is Baba Ghanoush. However, I've never been able to find a recipe that is anywhere near as good as our favorite, which sadly is from a restaurant in Atlanta. Not exactly some place we can just pop in when the urge takes us. So in my ongoing quest to find a great Baba Ganoush recipe, I tried one from The Figs Table by Todd English and Sally Sampson. I was intrigued by this recipe as it included mint, an ingredient I never thought to try in Baba Ganoush. I made a few minor changes to the recipe:
4 Chinese Eggplants
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of one lemon
8 mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
minced scallions, lemon zest, and additional olive oil for garnishing
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick egglants all over with a fork, then rub with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet, and roast in the oven, turning once, for approximately 30 minutes (until soft...depends on the size of your eggplant). Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 mintues.
Peel the garlic cloves and throw into a blender (or large food processor if you're lucky enough to have one. My mini just didn't seem up to the challenge of four eggplants!). Cut then ends off each eggplant, cut a slit down the side of each eggplant, and peel the skin off with your fingers. Add the flesh of the eggplant to the blender. Add the tahini and blend until smooth. You'll have to stop and use a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients around from time to time.
Add the lemon juice, mint leaves, salt, and pepper, and continue blending (and stirring when necessary) until the mint leaves have been completely incorporated.
Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Remove to a plate, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, and garnish with scallions and lemon zest. Serve with pita bread for dipping.
We enjoyed this recipe, although it still didn't quite live up to our restaurant favorite. The mint was a very interesting addition, and this worked just fine with Chinese Eggplant (the original recipe called for one regular eggplant). While this was good, though, I'll probably keep searching for the elusive "perfect" Baba Ghanoush.