Fresh Tomato, Cucumber, Basil, & Orzo Salad

This salad couldn’t be simpler to make. Every time I make it, I am surprised at how much I love the flavor.

P8111962.JPG

First, slice up some tomatoes and cucumbers.

I used about 1 1/2 cups of each. I sliced, as well as cubed the cucumbers to have a variation in texture.

Toss in a couple tablespoons of fresh basil leaves.

Add in about 2 cups of cooked orzo.

Top with 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That’s it! And it’s absolutely easy and fresh. I grew up eating cucumbers and love them fresh, but apparently not everyone does. Hopefully you do, and you maybe try this salad and tell me how good it was!

Peace and love,

Kristan

Fermented Refrigerator Pickles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Do you love pickles? Are you on the fence about pickles? I always liked pickles, but wouldn’t necessarily choose to snack on them. Ever since I first made these perfect peck of pickled cucumbers, I look forward to having them again every year. Perhaps the “fermented” part of the title drew you here. These are left on the counter for a couple days to sour, and then need to be kept in the refrigerator. The water-bath canning method would kill off any bacteria, so those cannot really be fermented.

I think if you are hesitant to make your own pickles, you should start with these. They are incredibly delicious. I love them, and I end up even fishing out the garlic pieces to munch on those when the cucumbers are all gone.

Let’s talk about what you’ll more or less need to make this delicious fermented food.

You’ll want some dill. Fresh seems to be quite easy to find for me this time of year at every grocery store I’ve been to, so I have that, but if you only can find dried dill weed and dill seed, use those. It’ll be amazing.

Oh, and those are grape leaves pictured above. I came across a little city-owned garden with grapes because I live in Idaho’s wine country now and I “borrowed” some leaves for my pickling project. I’ve never used grape leaves before, but I have read multiple times that it can help with texture due to the tannins.

Also, I am using pickling cucumbers here, but honestly regular cucumbers would work fine and I’ve done that in the past. You could slice them up, or just pack in maybe 4 or 5 into a large jar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pickling spice is super easy to toss together yourself if you keep pungent seeds on hand.

This is 1 tablespoon each of mustard seed, peppercorns, coriander, dill seeds and then about 4 crushed up bay leaves because that is all I had left. I didn’t have any allspice berries, but I had a really old bag of allspice and I just tossed about 1/2 tablespoon in there. I like spice, so I also added in 1/2 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes.

You will most definitely want garlic. Even if you think you don’t like garlic, it’s what gives these pickles that special flavor edge that store bought can never quite attain. You’ll want at least 2 heads of garlic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Water, vinegar, and salt are the other ingredients (besides cucumbers!) you’ll want to have on hand.

Boil approximately a quart of water, then let that cool all the way down to room temperature, then add in 4 giant tablespoons of salt and 3/4 cup of white distilled vinegar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ready? Let’s get started.

I just read that it’s possible to get soggy, mushy cucumbers from some enzyme left from the blossom end of the cucumber. So I chopped off that end. Usually I would just leave them whole, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Into a very clean jar place a lot of dill into the bottom. I use a combination of the leaves and the heads with seeds on them.

Then pack in the cucumbers. It actually does help to stack them nicely. I lay the jar on its side and place them in. I had a few extra so I decided to make an extra small jar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now it’s time for the spices! The allspice powder is not so appealing, but I love seeing all the seeds floating once I add the brine. Add in a bunch of garlic cloves. Yum! I took this opportunity to use any of the garlic cloves that looked like they might not make it through the winter due to damage from being dug up violently… Not by me.

To the half gallon jar I added 1 heaping tablespoon of the pickling spice, and the pint jar I added 1/2 tablespoon. I know that math doesn’t equate, but it’s what I did. There is probably a good 1 1/2 heads of garlic in the half gallon jar and about 1/2 head in the pint jar.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you have any access to grape leaves, add one or two of those in now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Perhaps you have a spicy pepper lying around waiting to be used? Yeah, slice that and throw it in, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now top this lovely concoction off with MORE DILL! Again, heads as well as leaves work well. My dill was not so fresh, but it still smelled divine and will do the trick.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now pour your prepared brine into the jars. Mine happened to be the perfect amount (must be my lucky day!) but if you need to make more brine, just do it and be patient.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m going to place linen on the tops of these and let them sit on the counter for three days, and then taste them by slicing off a chunk. Once they are super tasty, place normal lids on them, and keep in the refrigerator.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I may have also “borrowed” a few roses as well as some grapes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I couldn’t resist this bi-colored rose!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wine grapes are actually not very nice to eat as they are like 50% seeds inside.

Peace and love,

Kristan

 

May Groceries + a life hack!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Everything seen here was purchased at Cliff’s Country Market. I went with my sister as she had never been there before. We had a very interesting and fun conversation with an employee about when a person can tell certain fruits are ripe. We discussed how when local cantaloupes are in season, one can smell them from the parking lot. Mmm.

We also talked about the future of the business, and I, like always, gently suggested beautiful, fantastic bulk bins! Apparently the owner doesn’t want children getting into them and has some other hesitations about them. I think pull down bins would be the best option if there is concern about children’s hands going into the bins and contaminating the contents. Perhaps someday!

They were having a sale on mangoes! 12 for $8, so of course I had to get them. When I worked in Australia, I would stop and buy a mango each time I made a delivery to a certain fruit and veg shop. It was such a treat, and mangoes are difficult to find around these parts (for good reason!), but I just couldn’t resist.

I’m thinking of making this trending vegan mango coconut yogurt from Minimalist Baker.

Other items on my list include:

  • Greek salad
  • Watermelon salad
  • White bean + sweet potato burgers
  • Tacos (still some mushrooms in the fridge) + freshly cooked black beans
  • Roasted cabbage wedges
  • Ginger beer (always!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ok so my life hack is probably not new to anyone but myself, but you never know when a tip can be just the thing you never thought about doing that could change a so-so day into an awesome day.

I started taking all the produce stickers off my fruit & veg as soon as I get home! That way I don’t have to worry about them as I put peels / rinds in the compost / vinegar jar, etc. It doesn’t hurt that it looks way prettier when I take a photo of my groceries. I never thought I would ever be taking photos of my groceries… yet here I am.

Peace and love,

Kristan