Niagara is a great place to live, and especially in the fall with autumn colours around and harvest season upon us. We have a garden and usually grow tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers (at one time we also grew beans but we've given-up after being outsmarted by bunnies too many years in a row). A great thing about our location is an abundance of local farms: everything from pick-your-own strawberries in June to apples, pears, and peaches in the fall. We cook and bake a lot, as well as do a lot of home canning.
Baba's Pickled Peppers
What do you do when you get a bumper-crop of peppers? Can them, of course! Here is a recipe from my Baba for her pickled peppers
One Recipe of Pickling Solution:
3 cups water
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp pickling salt
One recipe of solution makes almost 2 jars (1 litre size), Make 4 recipes for a canner load of 7 jars
One-half bushel of peppers makes 10 litre jars. Use a mix of hot and sweet peppers including shepherd, hot banana, hot Hungarian wax, super-stuffers, and sweet cherry peppers - anything goes.
Wearing gloves (these are hot), prepare peppers by washing, splitting, removing seeds, and cutting into one-inch wide strips. Into each jar add one peeled clove of garlic (whole) at the bottom and pre-pack pepper strips into litre jars, arranging to fit tightly.
Boil all ingredients together to make the solution. Pour solution into each jar leaving ½ inch of headspace, cover with a snap-seal, and process in boiling water for 15 minutes (Most canning books recommend 25 min processing but this yields 'mushy' peppers).
Over the years I have made several version of Shrimp Creole but this one is the best. Adapted from a recipe we got while on a cruise. Serves four.1 lb raw shrimp (large tiger shrimp, zipperback)
1/4 cup white wine
Olive oil or Olive/Canola blend
1 cup half-and-half cream
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 large onion
half red pepper, chopped into eigth-inch pieces
half green pepper, chopped into eigth-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
half can tomato paste
Pre-chop all ingredients and put into separate bowls. Peel raw shrimp and saute in oil over high heat until just cooked: cook until both sides are pink but do not overcook. Remove from pan and set aside. In oil, saute onions and garlic until just brown. Add chopped green and red peppers to pan and cook. Add tomato paste and stir until vegetables are coated. Add chopped tomato and cook until all pieces tender. Now add white wine, stir well, then add cream. Reduce over heat until thickened and add previously cooked shrimp bringing back to a low boil. Add cayenne (about 1/2 tsp), salt (about 1 tsp), and pepper (about 1/2 tsp) to taste. Remove from heat, sprinkle top with dried parsley flakes, and serve atop a bed of rice.
Here's an interesting recipe developed with a good bit of prototyping over many years. These are HOT wings and trust me, the flavour and HEAT blows other wings out of the water! Nowadays, we no longer use wings but uinstead pieces of chicken breast cut into pieces about 1 inch long ... lower fat than wings and far less waste.
12 Wings per person or a half large-breast cut into pieces per person ... deep fry for 12 mins. from frozen, 4 mins. for fresh pieces
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tbsp vinegar
1/4 cup Frank's hot sauce (100-150 shots from the bottle)
1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp chili peppers (crushed chillies)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp oregano
Combine all ingredients & heat until butter is melted. Deep fry wings (or chicken pieces) and put into sauce. Shake until wings covered with sauce. Put wings with sauce in a glass baking dish into oven at 250 degrees F to keep warm until rest are ready. If you prepare the sauce ahead of time ane let it sit several hours, the heat soaks out of the crushed chillies and the sauce increases in heat!
Makes six 500ml jars8 Cups of Tomatoes
7 Jalapeno Peppers
3 Larges Onions
3 Garlic Cloves
2 Green Bell Peppers
2 Tbsp Dry Coriander Seeds (ground) or 2 tsp ground Coriander
3/4 Cup White Vinegar
1/2 tsp ground Cumin
1 can(156ml) Tomato Paste
2 tsp Cayenne (see below)
7 Hot Hungarian Yellow Peppers (mild) (see below)
3 Hot Hungarian Red Peppers (see below)
Blanche and coarsely chop tomatoes.
Wearing rubber gloves, slit Jalapeno and optional hot peppers (see explanation
below) down the sides and remove all seeds.
Finely chop all peppers, onions and garlic (food Processor works great)
Combine all ingredients into large heavy saucepan. Bring to boil reduce heat and
gently boil, uncovered, until Salsa reaches desired consistency: between 30 mins to 2 hours
Put into 500 ml or 250 ml canning jars and process in hot water canner for 20 mins.
For MILD salsa: Just add the Jalapenos (essential) and skip the Cayenne and Hot Peppers
For MEDIUM salsa: Add the Cayenne and an extra four or five hot peppers as well
For HOT salsa: Use a dozen or more very HOT peppers. My favorites this year are SuperChillies grown in my garden (see the picture below). These are much hotter than regular chilli peppers. For increased heat you could use Habañero peppers (if you can find them). These peppers are one of the hottest varieties grown anywhere!
Our latest experiment is in Mediterranean cooking. If you like garlic and you like oregano you're sure to love this one, adapted from three recipes I found on the web.
Mix the following ingredients together:
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Red Cooking Wine or Cooking Sherry
3 cloves of minced garlic
3 tablespoons of dried oregano
Add two pounds of chicken pieces, cut from white meat into 1 inch squares, to the mixture and put into a sealable container. Let marinate overnight in the fridge (at least three hours is required to get the flavour ... overnight is best). Skewer chicken pieces (saving the liquid marinade) on bamboo skewers and put on the top rack of a barbecue on low ... the chicken should take 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Be sure to turn the skewers every few minutes and cut open to ensure they are fully cooked. Put the recovered marinade into a deep skillet and heat to boiling. Add pieces (1" square) of onion, green pepper, and mushrooms (cut in half) and fry in the marinade in the skillet while the chicken is cooking on the barbecue.
When all is cooked, de-skewer the chicken and serve. Serve pita bread on a plate and add a few tablespoons of tzatziki - a spread made of cucumber, garlic, and yogurt spread. It tastes better than it sounds and the best brand I've found so far is 'Skotidakis farms' from St. Eugene, Ontario available at Costco. On top of the pita and tzatziki add some chicken and vegetables and enjoy! You can _try_ to fold it and eat like a sandwich but a knife and fork are considerably neater.
If you have FRESH oregano available (I do during the summer when I grow it in the backyard) use this instead of dried. Strip the leaves from the stems and wash the leaves. Chop finely and use like regular oregano
Cherry Lattice Pie
Ahhhh, the end of July and fresh Ontario red tart cherries are out. Available only for two weeks,
I buy a 5kg pail and freeze them for winter ... nothing reminds you of summer like a pie made
with fresh cherries during the cold winter months.
This recipe is for a cherry lattice pie in which the top crust is made of strips of pie shell dough and is one of my favorites.
If buying a pail of cherries like I do, separate into 2lb margarine containers for freezing. Be sure to divide the liquid evenly between the containers. For this pie use a single 2lb container. Drain 2 lbs of fresh cherries saving the liquid. In a saucepan combine 1 cup of the cherry liquid with 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cornstarch. Heat to boiling (medium heat) and stir constantly until very thick. The mixture must be VERY thick - like molasses or even thicker before continuing - this could take up to ten minutes.
Remove from heat. Add one tablespoon of margarine, six drops of almond extract, and another 1/4 cup of sugar and stir in. Stir in cherries and put the entire mixture into a pie shell before it cools (since it will be too thick to work with is when it cools).
Now the fun part: the top crust. Flatten a crust and cut into 8mm (1/4") wide strips, preferably with a serated-edge cutter (like the type used for the kifli recipe below). Weave each strip under/over as per the photograph and press into the edge of the lower crust using a fork.
To prevent burning the thin edge of the crust, cover the edges of the crust in aluminum foil strips about 2" wide. Fold these over the edge of the entire pie and place in a 350F convection oven (probably 375 if non-convection) for 25 min. Remove the foil and bake for another 25 uncovered. Cool on a wire rack.
Fudge Sundae Pie
A cool treat for a hot day. CRUST: Combine 1/4 cup corn syrup, 2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar, and 3 Tbsp margarine or butter in a sauce pan and heat over low heat stirring occasionally untl mixture boils. Remove from heat and add 2.5 Cups of rice krispies cereal until well coated. Press evenly into a 9" pie pan (sprayed with cooking spray) to form the crust. Put crust into freezer until solid.
Stir together 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup fudge sauce (the type used for ice cream), and 6 Tbsp corn syrup. Spread a half of the mixture onto the crust, going up the edges, and again put into the freezer until solid. This layer seals the crust.
Now spoon slightly softened ice cream into the crust until full and again freeze until solid.
Finally, top with remaining fudge sauce and freeze again. Keep frozen until served
An excellent summertime treat, cool and easy to make!
Mix 1/2 cup of margarine and 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs together. Put into a pie plate (forming a crust) and bake for eight minutes at 350F (325F for glass). Let the crust cool.
For the filling, beat (with a mixer) 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and one 6 oz. can of frozen lemonade. Fold into the mixture one large tub of cool whip. Pour the mixture into the crust and sprinkle a smal quantity of graham crumbs on top of the pie. This recipe can be made a day ahead. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
Wenny's Salsa Dip
This one, borrowed from a friend, made me a lover of sour cream!. With a hand blender mix about 1/2 cup of sour cream and 1/2 cup of cream cheese together. Whip until smooth and layer into a plastic or glass dish (glass looks nice when guests come over :). On top of this add a layer of salsa. Chop three small green onions into fine pieces and sprinkle across the top of the salsa layer. Finally, chop two ripe tomatoes into fine chunks and spread on top. Add a thin layer of finely shredded cheese (I use a fine grater for this) and you're done. If stored in the fridge, microwave for a minute before serving.
For a low-fat snack, use fat-free sour cream, light cream cheese, and serve with chips made from dried Pita breads (left-over from Souvlaki, usually). Rip Pitas into chunks and put in a 225F over for an hour to dry.
Artichoke Spinach Dip
This is a classic recipe from Disney's Sci-Fi restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios Park in Florida. At the Sci-Fi, patrons can enjoy "good food" while watching "bad movies" while sitting in a car at the drive-in. You can reproduce the effect, I suppose, by nibbling on the following recipe while watching a "classic" like "Plan 9 from Outer Space" :).
As of 2009 the restaurant has changed the dip (apparently eliminating Asiago and substituting with parmesan), but this recipe, taken from a Disney planning board, is the original! We've made a few minor changes as well.
Using a food scale, weigh-out the following and mix together in a bowl, the set aside:
2 oz. Swiss cheese (shredded)
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese (shredded)
2 oz. Asiago cheeese (grated)
In a second bowl, mix together the following:
6 oz. fresh spinach leaves (chopped finely)
2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 can (11 oz.) artichoke hearts (chopped)
1/2 tsp. pickling salt
1/2 of a medium red pepper, roasted in the oven and chopped
1/4 tsp. pepper
Now, in a saucepan, add 500mL of 18% heavy cream. Heat, and boil for 10 min. to thicken. Add cheeses slowly to the cream until it is all melted into a creamy cheese sauce. Add the ingredients from the second bowl (veggies and spices) into the mixture. Simmer for a few minutes, then serve with chips. The dip can also be transferred to ceramic serving bowls, frozen, and later reheated in a microwave then the oven before serving.
Puffed French Toast
Another Disney recipe, this time from the Crystal Palace buffet. Found of the "kids" table, I always dive into these gems when at the crystal palace and evidently I'm not the only adult to do so! Serve with bacon (I'm Canadian, after all, and following the stereotype really love my bacon).
Mix the following ingredients for the sugar topping and set aside:
4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
Now make a batter as follows:
2 eggs (beaten)
2 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
After blending all of the above ingredients slowly add the following, mixing until smooth:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
Now, prepare slices of soft bread. We use French bread, making slices 3/4 inch thick, cutting the large slices in half, and cutting the crusts off. The above recipe will make nine slices of French bread (cut in half to make eighteen pieces).
Preheat a quarter-inch of oil in a pan. Dip bread into batter, covering both sides, and fry in the oil on each side until golden brown (about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes each side). Remove from hot oil, place on a paper towel for just a few seconds to remove excess oil, and roll the entire piece in the sugar mix to thoroughly coat it. Place completed pieces on a cookie sheet, and finish in a hot oven (325 F, convection) for 15 minutes.
Kifli / Roszky
A rare recipe for an Eastern-European desert known as Kifli (Key-Flea)
or Roszky/Rozky (Rho-Sh-Key). Filled with Lacvar (Leck-Var) Plum jam, this is one of my favorites of all time. This is a hybrid recipe derived from recipes from both my Hungarian grandmother and from my Baba (Slovak for Grandmother).
We're working on perfecting meat sticks as well. Since I was a kid I treasured these delicacies and now I understand why we rarely got them ... they are a _lot_ of work to make! Our last attempt had the right taste, but the sticks were too moist. I'll post a recipe here once we've got it right.