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

 

Plastic Free Berries

Now is the time to take advantage of the low prices on abundant fruit to stock up for winter!

It’s honestly so easy to have berries ready for smoothies for basically the whole winter and into spring. I still have raspberries from last summer because I stretched out their use.  The summer previous was the first time I had frozen my own berries in glass jars so I was being extra cautious to not use them all up before more were available this season.

I’ll show how I do this and how I avoid making any trash in the process.

Start with fresh berries. My first choices are raspberries and blueberries. My mom and I picked the raspberries from her bushes, and I purchased the flat of blueberries for $24. They are local and delicious. I love blueberries fresh, so I’ve been eating more of them than freezing for right now. I’ll probably freeze more later.

I used a large and a small baking tray for the raspberries first. Simply place them in the freezer for a few hours and they should all be frozen. The reason you need to spread them out is so they don’t all just freeze together into one clump and become impossible to separate for smoothies / baking / snacking. I didn’t bother washing these as they would have taken forever to dry and would have become stuck to the tray. I trust the source of these and was not worried but had picked through them a bit before placing them onto the tray.

Blueberries are even easier than raspberries due to their spherical shape without so many crannies.

My freezer is regular size and the large tray fit fine in here. I know it’s very disorganized and needs a cleaning at the moment.

Once frozen, I used a metal spatula to just lift the raspberries from their frozen spots.

It’s easier to use a wide funnel for the regular mouth mason jars, but it’s not necessary.

So I have about 4 1/2 quarts of raspberries here which will last a long time! This took very little effort on my part and was also essentially free. The blueberries are a different story, of course, but will end up being much less expensive than frozen berries in the store, especially local berries.

I have 2 quarts of blueberries frozen from just the large tray and I’m sure I’ll freeze more soon.

I don’t have to use glass jars, but I trust that the lids will keep my berries sealed. I’m careful to not slam the jar down on the counter top and make sure these are placed safely in the freezer.

Peace and love,

Kristan