Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Quick Pickles

This recipe will blow your mind. You will never buy pickles again. There was a summer where I made a vat a week. I went to a food swap in Brooklyn recently and was told later that someone I swapped with liked them so much she was rationing them out to 1 or 2 pickle slices a day. Crunchy and spicy with a little sweetness it's great with everything from BBQ to a cheese plate. I like them out of the jar for breakfast. :) Try the onions and garlic on your next grilled hot dog.

This recipe came from my tinkering with Chris Schesinger's Famous Back Eddy House Pickles. When I lived in Somerville, Mass. his East Coast Grill restaurant was one of my favorites. As soon as you sit down in the restearnt your brought a little dish of these pickles. I've simplified it by not sauteeing the onion and garlic. I also don't bother with sliced carrots and peppers, though by all means go for it if you like. If you are interested in experimenting with more delicious quick pickles I absolutely recommend his cookbook Quick Pickles, Easy Recipes with Big Flavor. I've gotten alot of use out of it.

Actual work time is no more than 1/2 hr.

3 lb of pickling cucumbers
3 Tbsp salt
8 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
2 onions, sliced
4 cups cider vinegar
2 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cloves
4 bay leaves
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds (FYI you can use any mustard seeds you can find.
2 Tablespoon Dijon, I'm sure any good mustard would work
2 tsp whole allspice, cracked (put on a cutting board and press down very hard with your heaviest pan)
2 tsp whole coriander seeds, cracked

Prep the veg:
Slice cucumbers into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rounds. Remove both ends, some people say if you leave the blossom end in the pickle it could turn the batch bitter. I haven't seen any science on this, but just in case I slice them off. Maybe someday I'll do a head to head with two batches.
Toss slices with the salt in a large bowl and top with some ice. I never have more than one tray actually full in my freezer so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Put this bowl in your fridge for 3 to 9 hours.
Remove from the fridge, rinse the slices well and set aside in a non-reactive heat proof bowl. I use a large mixing bowl.
Make the brine:
In a non-reactive pan dissolve the sugar in the vinegar over medium heat. Stir in spices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Pour your boiling syrup over cucumbers and onion/garlic mix. Let it cool before refrigerating. I would wait maybe 4 or 5 days for best flavor, if you can wait that long. This will keep about a month in the fridge, but I doubt it will last that long once you've tasted them.
Your kitchen could smell like vinegar for about a day. I tend to toss my box fan in the kitchen window blowing out and that takes care of it. One day of your place smelling a little like vinegar is worth these terrific pickles!
You can vary these spices depending on what you like. I've been thinking of tossing a few serrano chili peppers poked with a fork a few times in with the cukes.

Let me know if you make them! I know you'll love this easy recipe.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Plaza opens a Euro Style Food Hall

I love this concept. Imagine if your local mall's food court was taken over by the terrific chef Todd English and a great sommelier. Just imagine it for a moment.

That is what that iconic New York hotel has created, sans The Plaza prices. I was invited to the opening-day launch and the layout is very much what you find at a food court, but with very comfortable seating in front of each of the eight stations. The space was beautifully designed to look like a European food hall by architect Jeffrey Beers.

I sat at the wine bar counter and had a perfectly tender and seasoned octopus, some slightly overcooked and under seasoned lamb skewers, terrific sashimi and a very nice chianti. The bonus was I met a really cool girl sitting at the bar with me. Emily works nearby and was excited to have some new food options in what is a Manhattan food deadzone.

I really think this will catch on with the local office workers. You can eat at the bars and as a bonus, order from any of the other stations no matter where you sit. Sit at the Grill and order from the Dumpling Bar. A pretty ingenious idea.

Stations at The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English include The Ocean Grill & Oyster Bar, The Bakery, The Cheese & Charcuterie Counter, The Wine Bar, The Grill, Pizza, The Dumpling Bar, and The Sushi Bar. If you are in the area I recommend it, the food quality was stellar, but if you're short on time they are still working out the service kinks. It took a while for my dishes to arrive. If you're on your lunch break, you might want to get your food to go.

The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English will be open Monday through Sunday from 7am to 9pm. It is located at One Central Park South, New York, NY 10019.