Preserved Zucchini and Summer Squash

IMG_3129Zucchini.
It’s a simple thing, really.
Until the end of August when the mere mention of it can make even the strongest person shudder with apprehension!

It’s one of those vegetables that we all look forward to in the beginning of summer, but by mid-August, there is such an over-abundance, you just can’t give it away. People see you walking toward them with a zucchini as big as a toddler’s whiffle ball bat, and they either pretend that they don’t know you, or they make a sharp left, and head in another direction to avoid you!

You can only freeze so much of it for breads and muffins. You can only make so many zucchini boats stuffed with saucy meat, or sautéed with summer squash and onions, or sliced into thin strips as fake spaghetti. Yep. I jumped on that wagon too.

Don’t get me wrong. I love zucchini. But I have had so much of it, I’m running out of ideas! So the last time I went to pick up my CSA box, Sally, the “pick up point person” was telling me that she’s been making bread and butter pickles from them. I thought that was an awesome idea… and as I was searching for a bread and butter pickle recipe… a thought popped into my head. Instead of pickles, which I really wouldn’t use much…what if I preserved them in olive oil?
IMG_3127This idea actually came from a friend of mine who shared some hot peppers preserved in olive oil with me a year or so ago. They were so delicious! I went through that jar in no time…putting them on sandwiches, grilled cheese, cottage cheese, and even cooked them in eggs, or threw a spoonful or two in sauce! So going on the premise of those hot peppers, I decided to do a little research and see if zucchini would do well in olive oil too. I’m thrilled to say that it does!

IMG_3098I found a recipe from Mario Batalli, in which he boiled the zucchini for a few minutes in a mixture of salt water and vinegar, and then placed it into a jar with anchovies and garlic. Mario also mentioned that as long as you keep the zucchini covered in olive oil, it would keep for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.

Perfect.

As hard as I try, I’m just not a fan of anchovies.
Yet.
So as of now they weren’t even a consideration for this recipe.
That may change sometime in the future when I do like them.

IMG_3139And with those hot peppers still in my head, I started slicing zucchini and summer squash really thin on my mandolin slicer. I chose some hot peppers, such as cherry peppers and jalapenos… as well as sweet peppers to add to the jar. A few cloves of garlic roughly chopped and some chopped fresh basil finished it off perfectly.

Ok, I’m not going to lie to you here… I’ll come home from work, grab a fork and eat this right out of the jar. It’s just that delicious. You can seriously serve these as thin pickles. Throw them on a hunk of crusty bread alone…or throw them on a sandwich, like I did here with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella, a thick slice of tomato right out of the garden, a few leaves of basil, all topped off with the preserved zucchini and summer squash…served on fresh Italian bread… delicious.

IMG_3247The thing that I loved about this recipe the most, was that I took a taste of them immediately after I put them in the jar, and the flavors had just melded together so perfectly. Just a few minutes…and they were ready to eat. The next day, they were even better!

My first jar is almost used up, and I plan to get another jar made up this week. I’m thinking that if I slice the zucchini and summer squash and freeze it, I can do this all winter long!

All of a sudden, I find myself asking for zucchini!
Crazy, but true.

Life is good. It’s a “Zucchini is coming out of our ears….but it’s all good…and preserving it? Well, that just makes it even better…” kind of good…

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Preserved Zucchini and Summer Squash
Makes 1 Quart

 Adapted from Mario Batalli’s Zucchine Sott’Olio

2 lbs zucchini and summer squash combined, sliced thin
4 cups water
1/3 cup sea salt
2 cups cider vinegar
3 cherry peppers, sliced thin
3 jalapenos, sliced thin
6 mini sweet peppers (red, orange, and yellow) sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups olive oil (or more, enough to cover the zucchini in the jar)
½ cup white wine vinegar

In a large saucepan, bring the water, sea salt and vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat. Add the slices of zucchini and summer squash, and simmer for five minutes. Drain, discarding the water/vinegar mixture.

Place the zucchini and summer squash mixture into a large bowl, and add the cherry peppers, jalapenos, sweet peppers, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil leaves. Mix thoroughly.

Using a wide mouth funnel, add the zucchini mixture to a quart canning jar. Mix the olive oil and white wine vinegar together, and pour over the zucchini mixture until it is completely submerged in oil.

Cover and refrigerate. This will keep up to six weeks in the refrigerator as long as the zucchini remains submerged in oil.

Enjoy!

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Hot Dog Sauce

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I’ve spent most of my life in a love / hate relationship with hot dogs.
Ok, that’s not entirely true.
I can’t say that I hate them.

I mean, I love them. I really do… But then I go through spurts in which I have no desire to eat them. I bet that I went a good five years at one point without eating one. I don’t know… they just didn’t tickle my fancy. It wasn’t that I hated them…I just didn’t feel like eating them. I have a feeling it was because at that point, we had a gas grill, and they didn’t have that delicious charcoal taste to them. But even more so, I’ve yet to find a hot dog that I can say has the perfect taste, the perfect spiciness, or the perfect ‘snap’ when you bite into one.

Honestly? I think eating a hot dog today is all about your surroundings. I’ve eaten the best hot dogs in my life with my co-workers friends… sitting around a table at a little hot dog stand that sits on a little creek in Niagara Falls…it has a charming little deck that sits out over the water.

Let me take that back…maybe it wasn’t my surroundings that made them delicious… Because the hot dog stand is in the vicinity of Love Canal (Long sad story…you can Google it and find one of the lowest points in the history of Niagara Falls)..

We lovingly and half-jokingly call the hot dog stand “Dysentery Ditch”, so you get the idea. I described that little deck to you as charming, when in reality… it’s on a dirty little creek….there’s an overpass that’s practically above our heads as we’re eating… and there’s baskets with plastic flowers hanging here and there. But it’s clean, the food is good, it’s about five minutes from work, and most of all…I love it there.

So let me start over…. I’ve eaten hot dogs with some of the best people in my life…We’ve spent some really happy times on our lunch at Dysentery Ditch… filled with laughter, some very strong discussions, or just a quiet lunch, the quiet comfort that we’re in the company of people I’ve come to call my family… the people I’ve come to love. So for me, that’s when I can say I’ve eaten the most delicious hot dogs.

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And while I do still eat hot dogs at home, the couple of brands that seem to be the best in my simple little world…the ones that I buy, are just “eh”..

I don’t know…maybe you’re thinking… “Prudy, maybe you just don’t like hot dogs”.

That’s truly not the case. I love them. I crave them at times. I just can’t find one that really satisfies….at least one that I don’t have to load up with gobbilty gook.

Maybe I need to create my own version of hot dog.

So, when I eat a hot dog, it always has to be spiced up. Loaded with ketchup, mustard, relish, hot sauce, and onions…. Or LeFrois sauce, which I believe is a Western New York thing..and the it’s the best sauce ever!

….Or I’ll make this hamburger sauce, which is kind of like a Coney Island sauce…a great sauce that definitely makes any hot dog “hot dog worthy” in my book.

While I love the sloppiness that the sauce brings to the hot dog (because I like everything sloppy), it’s the combination of flavors that really get me. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about taking a bite of something savory, but getting that hint of cinnamon in the end. It just works for me every time. Add a line of prepared mustard and some chopped onions, and you’ve got a winner!    …And while I’m talking about it for hot dogs, this sauce is really delicious on hamburgers too! Throw some green pepper in while you’re sautéing the onions, serve it kind of like sloppy joes! I honestly love this sauce. It’s a perfect year round condiment!

Update to this post:   My friend Mr Fitz, from Cooking with Mr Fitz just shared one of his posts with me…and I’d like to share it with you… he seems to sum the hot dog dilemma all up!   I hope you stop by and visit his blog… He’s a great guy, he’s hilarious, and always has awesome recipes up his sleeve!

IMG_2400I’m taking my hot dog sauce to Angie’s Fiesta Friday over at The Novice Gardener, where Saucy from Saucy Gander, and Margot from Gather and Graze are hosting.  It should be a great time! Thanks to Saucy and Margot for hosting this week, I know that they’ll make this party an event to remember! And … Angie… thank you for hosting this party for the 27th week in a row! Time flies…

I hope you stop by the party to see what all of the talented people have shared this week! If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, it’s a great way to meet other bloggers, and to gain exposure. You will love this wonderful blogging community…everyone is so friendly, you’ll feel like you’ve known us all for years!

Life is good, it’s a “I really wish I could find the perfect hot dog, but even if I did, I’d probably still slop the condiments on, so in the end it doesn’t really matter” kind of good…

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Hot Dog Sauce

Just a quick note… I wanted to mention that this sauce freezes really well.  I’ll usually make a double batch, and then put it in freezer containers to use for the next few months.  It will keep up to six months in the freezer, and about a week in the refrigerator.

This recipe came from my great Aunt Tish, so I’ve posted her recipe exactly how she had it written.  The beauty of this sauce is that you can make it to suit your taste.  If you like it hot, then add some hot peppers, or hot sauce…  if you like it vinegary, then add more vinegar. I like to add a few extra splashes of worcestershire!

1 cup cold water
1 pound ground beef
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 large onion, diced
1 – 10.75 oz can tomato soup
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer, stirring and breaking the ground beef up. Simmer for at least 1/2 hour to 1 hour.

Serve hot.

Enjoy!
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Horseradish Pickles

Have you ever opened your mouth, and inserted your foot? I have. I’m actually quite famous for that…
IMG_2745I tend to be the ‘pickle in the middle’ a lot at work. “Prudy, can you tell ‘so and so’ that I need him in my office?” “Prudy, tell ‘so and so’ that he has to contact ‘him or her’ to re-open that work order number before the end of the day today”….

Well, I used to work with a guy named Horatio**, and one day was given direction to tell him to move some boxes for Jezebel**.   In other words… I was asked to be the pickle in the middle.
**Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the Jezebel.

I knew that this wasn’t going to go over very well…given the animosity between Horatio and Jezebel…and I knew that Horatio was really busy working on another job… but I was given a task, and I had to carry it through.

I found Horatio busy working on that job.
“Hey, Horatio… I’m wondering if you would have some time to move some boxes…” I asked him.
“For who?” He asked me.
“Um..Jezebel” I reply.

IMG_2764I could see his frustration…and stood there quietly while he expressed his displeasure..

“What do you people think I am?” he asked (a bit heated), and I’m sure didn’t want me to answer.

But… in my uneasiness…my clumsy Prudy way….
Yep.
Of course I did.
I gave him an answer.

“Horatio…I don’t think you’re anything…”

Let’s all pause a moment, and let those words sink in….

Mmhmm. Yep. I said those words. I opened mouth…and inserted foot.
Big time.

But I truly didn’t mean them to come out the way they sounded. What I was trying to say was that I didn’t think he was lower than me, nor did I think he was lower than Jezebel…or anyone who we work with for that matter. I look at him as a co-worker. A good guy. I look at him as an extremely talented craftsman. I look at him as a friend.

That’s not how it came out…and I felt terrible for it…and I still feel terrible for it.
Deep down….he knew… he knew that I didn’t mean it the way it sounded….but he had to be mad for a little while, he had to take some time for it to really sink in…and realize that I didn’t mean for those words to sound the way that they did. We hugged it out a couple of days later… and we were back to normal after that.

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The pickle in the middle.
That’s me.

And in honor of my pickleness… I want to share with you my Aunt Lizzy’s Horseradish Pickles.
They’re sweet… they’re sour…. And they have a definite bite to them. They’re delicious! And so, SO easy to make!

Now here is where I can actually use those words…and really mean them…

“I don’t think the prep work is anything…”

It’s a matter of slicing up the pickles if you so choose, cooking up a simple horseradish syrup, and switching out the pickle juice for the horseradish syrup…

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However… they do take a few days to actually pickle. But that’s just a few days of flipping the jar once a day to make sure that the flavor goes through the whole jar.

They’re great for picnics, lunch, dinner, or even breakfast if you like pickles with your eggs… and they’re even great to grab out of the jar and eat…you know…just because you wanted a pickle.

And Aunt Lizzy was such a character…I know that she would have been laughing with tears streaming down her face if she would have seen that whole scene going down!

Life is good, it’s a “sometimes it doesn’t pay to be the pickle in the middle…but it always pays to be the pickle maker”, kind of good.

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Aunt Lizzy’s Horseradish Pickles
Makes 1-1/2 Pints Pickles

1-1/2 pints dill spears (drain and throw the juice away)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
4 oz strong prepared horseradish

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and vinegar to a boil. Boil just until the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat, and add the horseradish. (Make sure you keep your face away from the pan! It’s pretty strong!)

Place the pickles in your own canning jar, or you can keep them right in the jar you bought them in. Pour the horseradish syrup over the pickles, and place the lid on the jar tightly.

Let stand for five days, flipping jar once a day to stir up the mixture.

Store in the refrigerator. Keeps for about a year (but won’t last that long!)

Enjoy!
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Homemade Ketchup and French Fries

IMG_2388I was driving home the other day thinking about, and craving french fries and ketchup. It made me start wondering if I can really even be considered a foodie, because I still do like to eat regular food, such as …well… french fries and ketchup.

Would a foodie be driving down the road craving french fries?
Maybe. Or maybe not.
I mean, what exactly is a foodie?

Well, according to Wikipedia:

“A foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicurean can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude.”

My interest in food is definitely ardent, or passionate, if you will…and sometimes it’s refined..although I truly cannot be called an epicurean. I admit that my knowledge of food is limited, but I’m continually learning, and growing in that knowledge.

Like most foodies, I enjoy trying new things…I’m one of those people who will “ooh and ahh” over a one inch cube of tuna tartare sitting in the middle of a fine china dinner plate… topped with a truffle paste, and a single pea, all drizzled in 1000 year old tahitian olive oil. I’ll enjoy that three second bite of it, and then rave about it for hours on end.

But then…

There are days like the other day, that I just want a pile of french fries with a dollop of ketchup on a plate in front of me, while I sit back for the rest of the night with the button on my jeans undone, watching an episode of Seinfeld that I’ve seen 100 times before.

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So, in the end, can I really be called a foodie? You know what? It doesn’t matter. I get excited for something extraordinarily crazy and new….and I get excited for something comforting and familiar.

Call me what you want.
Foodie or not….I just love food.

Like ketchup. And french fries.

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And of course, I prefer homemade. I prefer homemade everything…

There is such a freshness to it.
You know… it tastes real.
Better.

And there’s something about making everything from scratch…it’s satisfying. It’s fulfilling. It’s a little wiggle of the hips to the music in your head.. gratifying.

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Life is good, it’s a “call me what you want, but just don’t call me late for dinner…” kind of good…

Sweet and Spicy Ketchup

This ketchup is a touch spicy, yet a touch sweet. It’s nice and thick, so it sticks to your fries, or your hot dog, burger, or whatever you love to eat ketchup on! It’s easy to make, but it’s always better the next day, so plan for keeping it in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Of course you can serve it immediately…but like most foods, it just tastes better when all of the flavors have time to get to know each other. It will keep up to four weeks in the fridge.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp jalapeño pepper, minced
12 oz can tomato paste
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp dry ground mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/3 cup cider vinegar
4 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1/3 cup water

Feeling a little frisky? Add a teaspoon or more of anchovy paste to the mix when adding the tomato paste and other ingredients to the sautéed onions!

In a medium saucepan, saute the onions, garlic, and jalapeño in the olive oil until translucent and tender. Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, ground mustard, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cayenne pepper, cider vinegar, worchestershire sauce, and water. Simmer on low for about 1/2 hour. If it seems to be thickening too quickly, add about 1/4 cup more water.

Let cool completely. Pour the ketchup mixture into a food processor, and blend until smooth.
Transfer to a container with a lid, and refrigerate overnight. Keep refrigerated up to four weeks.

The French Fries

These are basically made the same way as my potato chips…except cut into fries, rather than slices.

4 large russet potatoes
1 cup vinegar
5 cups water
3 cups canola oil
sea salt to taste

Wash and dry the potatoes. Slice into 1/4” thick fries. Try to keep them as uniform in thickness as possible, so that they cook in the same amount of time.

Bring the vinegar and water to boil in a medium saucepan or dutch oven. Add one half of the potatoes and boil for exactly four minutes. Remove with a wire spider skimmer and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Let them dry completely, flipping them so that they dry on all sides. Let cool completely. Repeat with the other half of the potatoes.

While the potatoes are cooling, heat the canola oil in a large saucepan (You want the oil to be at least 2” deep, so add more oil if you think you need it). I deep fry them when the oil reaches 350 degrees.

When the oil is ready, add a few potatoes at a time to the pan. Don’t overcrowd them. Deep fry for 3 minutes. Remove with a wire spider skimmer to a baking sheet with a cooling rack placed on top. Repeat with remaining potatoes, and let cool completely on the cooling rack, which by the time you’ve finished the last of the potatoes, the first batch will have already cooled.

At this point the fries will still be white and soft.
Now to bring a little color and crispiness to the fries….This is where you really need to stand over the pan and watch the french fries cook…Add 1/2 of the cooled potatoes back to the oil, and let them fry until they’re golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oil with the wire skimmer, and drain them on the baking sheet with the cooling rack.  Keep in warm oven until the remainder of the french fries are cooked.

Serve immediately!
Enjoy!
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