Back in the day before vegetables were genetically modified to grow in winter and still retained their natural look, taste and smell, each produce had its own growing season. You couldn’t walk into a grocery store in December and expect to find a watermelon or a tomato* and it was OK, there was something to look forward to in the spring and summer. Even though it’s now available year round, I still don’t eat watermelon in winter, but it’s nice to know that I could if I wanted to. To overcome the fruit and vegetable shortage people invented many ways to preserve foods for the winter – canning, drying, pickling, etc. Many families including mine had a closet like you see on the left where we stored a variety of preserves my Mom and Dad cooked during the summer. Opening one of those jars always brought back the summer even if only for a few minutes. Today’s recipe is a simple to make throwback to these years.
Imagine one day you are browsing around Costco, mentally restraining yourself from buying another gargantuan item when you see these:
“Only two pounds, could be worse”, you think to yourself, putting the package into your cart. There are so many things you can do with peppers including just eating them raw. At home you can just wash the peppers in the sink.
Combine 1 cup of regular vinegar and 1 cup of vegetable oil (don’t waste olive oil):
By the way, if you use the term “EVOO” I don’t mind losing you as a reader of this blog, feel free to never come back.
Pour oil and vinegar into a medium sized pot, add half-a-cup of water,3/4 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of honey, a handful of whole peppercorns and a bay leaf if you have it (I do). Bring to boil and make sure it’s all incorporated. While that’s going on, cut off the tops and slice the peppers in strips. These are pretty small (and I know a small pepper when I see one), so I just quartered them.
Try the marinade, see if you like it, it should have a pleasant sweet and sour taste. I felt like I needed to add some more honey, which I did. Add sliced peppers to the boiling marinade (in batches if needed) and boil for 3-5 minutes. This recipe works best for heavier thicker peppers, these are pretty thin and you want them to retain texture, you are not making mashed peppers here.
Take the peppers out with a slotted spoon and place them in a jar, then cook another batch.
After all the peppers are cooked, pour the cooking liquid over them to cover completely. I had to add some boiled hot water to have all the peppers covered. Let them cool down.
These peppers are good with everything: salads, sandwiches, garnish, vodka, whatever you can think of. I am not sure how long they will keep in the refrigerator, but peppers this delicious will not last that long anyway.
I’d like to mention that my friend Donna recently tried my borscht recipe and not only liked it but is still in good health. That’s better than having a seal of approval.
Even though we now have everything available all year long, summer is still the best for cooking and eating vegetables. Enjoy!
*you were lucky to find cabbage and potatoes at the grocery store in December
**due to unforeseen circumstances I was using my old camera, so the picture quality is not the best.
Oh Trader Joe’s, Your Croissants Are Calling,
From end to end with chocolate at heart.
I should have bought a case of those pastries
But I did not, I wasn’t very smart.
The next morning:
Twenty five minutes later:
Oh, Trader Joe’s!
Just as I wrote about my omnipresent awesome tipsters they came through for me again. Today on my way from work they were flagging me down from the opposite lane of the highway with lights and neon-striped suits. I couldn’t pass it up and had to get off the road to join other onlookers so I can photograph the upside-down car which backed up the traffic from the Johnson Drive all the way to the 87th street.
So you come home with 20 pounds of apples in a bag. No need to panic, I am here to tell you what to do. In about an hour or two you could be eating the best apple cake you have ever tried in your life. In fact, it so good that you will try to eat it all while declining tempting offers to exchange some of the cake for money and/or sexual favors. The cake is called “Sharlotka” and yes, there will be people who will tell you that this is not the right way to make it. Tell them to go f make their own Sharlotka, because this is the one and only way to make it and they don’t know what they are talking about. I would also like to warn “the creative types” not to post here with comments like “I added a pinch of salt to the recipe, some chicken, vegetables and a pie crust and now it’s a chicken pot pie”. I will ban you from this blog without regret.
For this recipe you will need a baking dish with flat bottom, some apples, 6 eggs, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour. That’s it.
Peel, core and slice the apples. If you are a lady, cut the apples into uniform cubes of about 1/4 inches. If you are a gentleman, reach for your favorite (apple-peeling) tool-device.
This machine cores, peels and slices the apples in one smooth motion. There is no excuse for not having it. Women and small children love it. Hack processed apples into smaller pieces. Peeled apples may brown after sitting on the counter. If you care, you can sprinkle them with lemon juice; I personally don’t care – it’s a cake,not a painting.
Place the apples into your baking dish. Here I clearly went overboard, peeling them was so much fun (unless you are a lady) that I went through a few too many. Don’t worry, you can never over-apple the apple cake.
Now proceed to separate the yolks from the whites. Whipping egg whites is easier if they are cold and no particles of yolks were accidentally mixed in. However, I did just that (not on purpose) and everything turned out OK. If you are an older person like me you would remember that back in the day we whipped egg whites with a whisk. It was tedious, boring and exhausting process. Fancy households had mechanical egg beaters, still a hassle and lots of cranking. Then came electric mixers and only here my dream to own a stand mixer finally came true. If you have one, place egg whites in the bowl and slowly raise the speed to “high”. If you don’t have the right equipment you can use any of the lesser tools.
You will need to attain stiff peaks (not my stripper name) but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Slowly add sugar and continue whipping. The foam will become shiny and you will not be able to feel sugar crunch on your teeth. This may take 5 minutes or so.
Add egg yolks and whip some more.
Add flour and get it to blend in, no one likes unbaked chunks of flour in the cake, you won’t get any points for a crappy product. Pour the mixture on top of the apples and spread it evenly.
In a 350F preheated oven it goes for an hour. Leave it alone.
In the meantime you still have your apple peeler out and plenty more apples to use. Add a small amount of apple juice, Sprite, water of other tasty liquid to a sauce pan and place it on the medium-low heat. Peel and slice as many apples as will fit.
Pour some honey on top. Do not go crazy with it unless you like it too sweet.
Cover and cook on medium low until apples look and feel soft.
Use potato masher to make some apple sauce of the desired consistency.
Now get the cake out of the oven. Test it by sticking a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, you are done.
After the cake cools, get your favorite bottle of Homewood Hooch from the fridge and enjoy the cake.
And this (to quote John McCain), “my friends”, is how you bake “Sharlotka”.
If you are not just headed to the Kansas City Public Library to look at porn or have sex, you may want to visit their excellent free exhibit Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow: Living With the Atomic Bomb, 1945-65. Whether you are a history buff or just want to know why your crazy grandpa is storing canned water in the basement, you will find this collection of books, posters, games, educational materials, art and toys curious, exciting and somewhat morbid.
It’s hard to comprehend that generations of Americans grew up with the thought of a nuclear blast being a sure thing always in the back of their mind. And although Geiger counters and Atomic trains seem like cool toys today, at the time they served to get the children used to the idea that someday they will be using the real thing. From the neighborhood and personal fallout shelters to the best-selling atomic handbooks the subject of an inevitable nuclear attack determined the foreign and domestic policy for 20 years after United States bombed Japan and throughout the Cold War era.
As always I took a lot of pictures, but I suggest you check it out for yourself. The exhibit is fairly small and will take you about 30 minutes to get through.