Quick Pickled Green Beans + Bloody Mary

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Hi Folks. Hope everyone is having a great summer. I’m getting back to some quick pickling again. Not too long ago we bought a big bag of green beans, for potato salad and whatever else. But we couldn’t eat that many that fast so I decided to pickle what we had left. And I’m glad I did, they’re really good, makes a great garnish for a Bloody Mary so I posted that recipe as well. 

The ratio of green beans to liquid from the original recipe didn’t work out well, so I’ve made some notes in the recipe below that might be helpful. But don’t feel that you have to get everything super exact. After my second and third attempt I just started tossing a few things in here and there, adding the hot water and vinegar, it all works out, mostly, ha ha. I’m looking forward to trying this with other vegetables. One vegetable I’ve had pickled that I didn’t like was celery. The texture was too weird and it was hard to eat because it was so rubbery. I’ve had some excellent pickled mushrooms which I never thought I would like, but I do very much and plan on trying out some recipes. 

Initially I just photographed a plate of the pickled green beans, but it didn’t look very impressive, lol, then I remembered how good they were in a Bloody Mary so I whisked that together and I think the cocktail gives the green beans more visual appeal and context for photo styling purposes. 

Anything can look good!

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Quick Pickled Green Beans

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups white vinegar 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 3-4 garlic cloves (1 for each jar)
  • A handful of fresh dill weed (and flowering dill seed if available)

Place the beans in canning jars (about 3 or 4 jars). Distribute the mustard seeds, crushed red pepper and dill among the jars evenly. Add a garlic clove to each jar. (I do it this way because when I worked from the original recipe, which was adding all these things to the pot, it was more difficult to distribute evenly in several containers)

In a pot, heat the vinegar and water to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the salt and sugar. Whisk until the salt and sugar dissolve.

Pour the liquid over the green beans. Add water to top off if needed (I ended up heating more vinegar and water because the ratios were way off, 1 lb of green beans is a lot!). Let cool, and then cover and place in the refrigerator. Allow the beans to pickle 24 hours before using. Pickled green beans will keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

(Adapted from The Food Network)

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Bloody Mary

  • 6 ounces tomato juice
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish 
  • A few drops worcestershire sauce
  • A few drops hot sauce
  • Fresh lemon and juice
  • 1.5 ounce vodka

In a glass whisk together tomato juice, horseradish, worcestershire sauce and hot sauce, squeeze in juice of about a 1/4 lemon, stir and taste. (adjust as needed, I like 1 teaspoon horseradish but Jeff likes 1/2 teaspoon) It’s all about preferred taste, but this is what I like.  Add ice, garnish with lemon wedge and pickled green beans! Makes 1 drink.

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Preserved Lemon + Herb Focaccia

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And I’m back with a Preserved Lemon recipe! You might remember I preserved lemons in April and wanted to follow up with some ideas on how to use them. I’ve since added them to dishes like rice salad and they really add some great flavor. The lemons are super salty (even after rinsing) which makes me think I might have used too much salt, so something to keep in mind for next time. I got the idea for this Focaccia bread not too long ago. The bakery at my local grocery store makes this and wow, it’s incredible. It’s very flavorful, you can eat it on its own or with pasta or salad. For this recipe I used dried oregano, I wished I had used more so that it would look a little more “herby” for the photos.

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Preserved Lemon + Herb Focaccia

  • 2 cups warm water (105°-110°F)
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • olive oil
  • Oregano (fresh or dried)
  • 2 preserved lemons, rinsed, rinds chopped
  • kosher or sea salt for sprinkling over the top

 

Preheat oven to 425°F

Put the yeast in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the warm water. Add the salt and 2 cups of the flour, mix into a soft and sticky dough. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and mix well. (The dough will be sticky)

In a large bowl add olive oil, enough to cover interior of bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover the dough with some olive oil. Cover and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Press out the dough on a well oiled baking sheet. Using your fingers, shape into a rectangle approximately 9”x13”.

Add olive oil to the top of the dough, poking the bread surface and leaving little pools of oil. Do this all over the bread. Don't skimp; this will result in great flavor after the bread is baked.

Top with the preserved lemon and oregano and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden.

 

Adapted from The View from Great Island

Coconut Cake

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Wouldn’t you know. On Jeff’s Birthday I’m ready to make this cake and… the oven is broken. It won’t heat and it’s only three years old! Luckily I had only prepared the cake pans while attempting to preheat the oven, so it wasn’t a total loss. We had an extended warranty on the stove but even with that it took a couple weeks to be resolved. Like it didn’t work when the repairman showed up, then it did and he left unsure of what was wrong, and then it didn’t again so he came back the next week after ordering parts. Turns out the ignitor needed replacing. Anyway, back to cake! I changed a few things but mostly stuck to this recipe. The original recipe says to buy a coconut and drill holes in it, bake it, crack it and all sorts of crazy stuff I didn’t want to do, so I just bought coconut cream and milk in cans at the market. It came out great. Really great. The texture of the cake is perfect, it has a nice density to it. The flavor is exactly what you would want. I read the reviews on the cake and one of the biggest complaints was the frosting, that it tasted too much like marshmallow, and I knew I didn’t want that super sweet stuff, so I made a version of the frosting I made last year for Jeff’s Birthday Cake with Mascarpone and whipped cream. Last time I ran short on frosting, so for this recipe I doubled it, then I went lightly frosting the layers (as you can see), but I ended up with so much leftover! I was concerned about running out, but believe me you can pile on the frosting between layers and have plenty for the top and sides. This is a delicious cake and well worth making.

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Coconut Cake

  • Butter, for cake pan
  • 14 1/4 ounces cake flour, plus extra for pans, approximately 3 cups
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut cream
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 16 ounces sugar, approximately 2 1/4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • Coconut flakes 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 2 (9-inch) cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and then flour the pans. Set aside.

Place the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Combine the coconut milk and coconut cream in small bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the sugar slowly over 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and continue creaming until the mixture noticeably lightens in texture and increases slightly in volume, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut extract.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, ending with the milk mixture. Do not over mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter, just until combined. Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bang the pans on the counter top several times to remove any air and to distribute the batter evenly in the pan. Place in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is light golden in color and reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees F.

Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate, they will be easier to slice. While the cakes are chilling prepare the frosting (recipe below) Assemble: Cut across the equator of each to form 4 layers.  Frost each layer with a generous amount, then top with coconut flakes.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cup mascarpone
  • 2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Beat together all ingredients in a stand mixer for a couple minutes until fluffy. 

Adapted from Alton Brown

Preserved Lemons

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One night last week we walked over to Wilder for happy hour. One of the things we ordered was Fried Green Beans with spicy remoulade, and on top of the green beans laid a few slices of fried Preserved Lemons, and, wow, that’s what got me wanting to make them. The flavor is intense! Super rich lemony flavor, and not tart, they’re really amazing. Eating them on their own is a bit much, even when fried like french fries, so they’re mostly used to enhance flavors in salads, tabouli or fish.

I’m looking forward to using these in the next few weeks (they need to sit for 3-4 weeks, most people say 4 weeks) I’m going with the most basic recipe here. I’ve seen other recipes that add sugar, sometimes fresh herb or peppercorns. And from what I’ve read they will last a very long time refrigerated, some say a year, some say forever! But something tells me they won’t sit forever in the fridge. A couple things to keep in mind:

Salt. I did a little research on what kind of salt to use. I have Morton kosher salt and Mrs. Wages Pickling Salt, and everyone seems to say to use a kosher salt or any salt free of iodine, which can inhibit fermentation, so you won’t want to use basic table salt. I went with Mrs. Wages pickling salt since I still have quite a bit left from my pickling adventures. Also, the amount of salt? I’ve seen anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1 cup for a one quart jar. I ended up using 1/2 cup and I think a lot depends on the kind of salt you use, kosher is more granular so you would probably want to use more of that than pickling or a finer salt. 

Lemons. Many people recommend Meyer lemons, but you can use any kind of lemon, I would recommend using organic since you’ll be eating the peel. I used six large lemons, four for preserving in jar and two for additional juice.

See you in a few weeks with maybe a Moroccan dish! I’m looking forward to it.

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Preserved Lemons

  • 6 large Organic Lemons (or 8-9 Meyer Lemons)
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt (see notes above)

Sterilize a 1 quart canning jar. Fill jar with boiling water and let sit at least 10 minutes, then discard water. 

Trim the ends off lemons then slice the lemons into quarters.

Add 1/4 cup of salt to bottom of jar, add 2 or 3 slices of lemon, mash them with wooden spoon until they become soft and release their juice. Add a teaspoon or two of salt and then add more lemons, then more salt. Continue adding lemons, mashing and salting until jar is full. Top with more lemon juice if needed.

Ferment at room temperature for a couple days, giving the jar a shake here and there. Then refrigerate. In a few days, the salt will draw out enough juice to cover the lemons, add more lemon juice if needed. They will be ready to use in 3 to 4 weeks. They can be kept refrigerated up to 1 year.

Mushroom Lasagna

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This Mushroom Lasagna is absolutely delicious. It’s the second time I’ve made it and even changing the types of mushrooms and cheese did not disappoint. I saw the recipe about two years ago on Adventures in Cooking and finally gave it a try. Mushroom, cheese and pasta generally are a good combination, still sometimes things sound good but are just meh. Not this time. It was wow! it’s so good! And it makes quite a bit too, even with four people we had leftover. It’s even better the second day.

I shopped at Trader Joe’s knowing they would have better prices on the cheese, but I would sacrifice mushroom selection. The last time I made this Mushroom Lasagna I had shopped at Whole Foods, and the selection for Ricotta cheese was slim, I had the choice to fork over $7 for one container (and you need two for this recipe), or get the low fat version at around $4+. They were all out of the 365 brand, and this seems to be an ongoing problem with Whole Foods lately, the shelves are bare! They started a new inventory system called order-to-shelf (OTS), which was designed and implemented a year ago (long before Amazon purchased them, so don’t blame Amazon as tempting as it is), the new system is good in that it’s cost-cutting, and will help prevent food spoilage from excess inventory going bad in the storage room, but damn, if you look at some of those photos, I haven’t seen it that bad here in Portland but I have experienced times where some fairly basic items normally in stock are just not there. Mostly in produce, like where’s the parsley? Hopefully now that it’s had some press Amazon will do something about this. 

The recipe is very forgiving in that you can add whatever mushrooms or cheese you have. The original recipe used a sharp cheddar, which I did the first time, but then I opted for Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio on the second time. Both were delicious so you can mix up whatever kind of shredded cheese you want.

When this came out of the oven yesterday it smelled so amazing, but then I thought, no way was this going on the blog, it just looked like a big heap of stuff in my old ugly-ass pyrex dish, but a day later and a few food styling tweaks, it looked presentable. There are certain foods, dishes, that really don’t lend themselves to sexy food. For example, raw mushroom, sexy! Cooked mushroom, er, um, cover me up please. I took some photos of the sliced mushrooms cooking on the stove and it looked so unappetizing I didn’t include it here. Smelled great though.

By the way, January marks my five year anniversary with Pixels + Crumbs blog. And guess what, my very first post was a mushroom post! Mushroom Soup. I remember how I labored over it, the whole thing seemed to take forever and I wondered if I’d gotten myself into something a bit crazy. It’s like hours of cooking, hours of food styling, photos and editing and writing. Well the writing gets a bit short because I’m completely burnt out at that point, ha ha. But I’ve kept this blog alive after five years. I don’t post as much as I used to, now it’s more of a monthly post, but I can’t seem to let it go. 

See you next month and thanks for stopping by.

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Mushroom Lasagna

Mushroom Layer

  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 ounces chantarelles, chopped (all mushrooms will work, I used only white button mushrooms and Crimini and it tasted great)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Cheese Layers

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 30 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves chopped (or dried, but tastes better with fresh)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound (12 oz bag)  white cheddar, grated (or mixed cheeses)

Lasagna Layers

  • 9 sheets dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil on bottom of pan
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch black pepper

For the mushroom layer, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sautee onion and garlic in the butter until softened and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and olive oil and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the white wine. Cook until most of the liquid is gone for an additional 5 minutes or so. Remove the mushrooms and onion, place in a small bowl and set aside to cool.

For the cheese layer, add 1/4 cup butter to the pan and allow it to melt. Add the flour, a little bit at a time, whisking constantly until a roux forms. Place the roux in a large bowl and add the ricotta cheese, milk, thyme, sage, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Set aside.

Toss the quartered crimini mushrooms with the olive oil and salt in a medium bowl and set them aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place some of the lasagna noodles in the water and allow to cook until slightly bendable, about 3-4 minutes, working in batches as necessary. Remove with tongs and place three of the noodles on the bottom of a roughly 9 x 13-inch rectangular casserole dish, keeping them in a flat even layer.

Spread 1/4 of the sautéed mushroom mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheddar cheese. Spread 1/4 of the ricotta mixture over the cheddar, then place 3 to 4 noodles in an even layer on top of the ricotta. Repeat until you have used all of the sautéed mushrooms, cheddar, and ricotta, but do not place noodles over the top and final layer of ricotta. Instead, evenly distribute the quartered mushrooms over the top and sprinkle with a pinch of black pepper. Place the pan on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the oven. Cook until the cheese is bubbly around the edges and the mushrooms on top have turned a deep brown and wrinkled, about 45-50 minutes. 

Adapted from Adventures in Cooking

 

Montana Hiking Bar

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A couple of weeks ago we went to visit Glacier National Park in Montana and it was really spectacular. The day we were heading out to Many Glaciers on the east side of the park, we stopped by this bakery in East Glacier for a bite to eat. if you’re in that area it’s worth a visit. They had a hiking bar that was so good it inspired me to make my own. They also had some braided pastry with spinach and sun dried tomatoes that was absolutely delicious. 

We drove along the Going-to-the-Sun Road where you will find many trail heads to stop and explore. It’s an absolutely beautiful ride. I thought it might be a little scary driving the road since it’s narrow with huge drop offs on the side of the mountain, but most of the way they have barriers, and where there isn’t (gasp) just look at the road or the scenery. I have some fear of heights but luckily it didn’t freak me out.

 Going-to-the-Sun Road

Going-to-the-Sun Road

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Many Glacier Swiftcurrent Lake. This is definitely a destination and it's worth planning to spend some time here since it’s far away from other areas in the park, and you’re almost in Canada!

 Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier

Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier

Saint Mary Lake. I didn’t know until after we were back, but this is where the opening scene of The Shining is filmed, and that scene ends with the Timberline lodge at Mount Hood here in Oregon.

 Saint Mary Lake

Saint Mary Lake

Trail to Virginia Falls and Saint Mary Falls, the forest burned due to a fire in 2015, and it wasn’t what I was expecting, the trail description was “Soon the trail enters the canopy of a dense conifer forest…” I hadn’t realized how much of the park burns every year, almost always due to lightning. But it was quite striking and beautiful with the black trees and colorful new growth.

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 Virginia Falls

Virginia Falls

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Avalanche Lake. This is a beautiful hike with creeks along the way through the forest, it starts at Trail of the Cedars and brings you to Avalanche Lake where you can take a rest and enjoy the views. The trail is considered moderate, it’s about 2 miles climbing up but it’s not too steep and fun on the way back down. There were bears spotted not too far from where we were, and while it was tempting to go further and see them, we took the advice of going in the opposite direction of where the bears are.

 Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake

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Hidden Lake Nature Trail from Logan Pass. It was our last day in the park and we had to be back in Whitefish early evening to get something to eat before catching the train back to Portland. When we arrived at Logan Pass parking lot it was packed, apparently you have to get there around 8am for easy parking, otherwise, like us, you will be circling that lot forever. But Jeff chatted with a ranger and he said we could park 3 miles east down the road and catch the shuttle back. So that’s what we did. We were lucky to find a parking spot on the side of the road near the shuttle stop. And so we waited, and waited, and waited (The shuttle coming from the east side can take up to a 1 hour wait, but on the west side it’s more like 20-30 minutes.) Time was ticking and we were wondering if we would have any kind of time for this hike, because you have to factor in getting back again. A couple days prior a ranger had told us if you’re ever in need of a ride in the park just hitchhike. So we joked about doing it and a woman there said she would do it if she didn’t have her kids with her. So we stuck our thumbs out on Going-to-the-Sun Road, many cars passed, but one stopped. It was this sweet older couple from Missouri that have been traveling all over the west including Alaska. We offered them money but they wouldn’t take it, at one point she mentioned Rice Krispies treats that were in the back seat! They were very cute and very nice people. We get to the trail head and discovered it’s a boardwalk almost the entire length until you reach Hidden Lake Overlook. I would say this was our least favorite trail. It was like climbing up stairs for 2 miles. You would think it would make it easier but I much prefer a natural path. I had read that this is THE place to see mountain goats, but we didn’t see any at all, I think you have to go early in the morning or early evening to see wildlife.

 Hidden Lake Nature Trail

Hidden Lake Nature Trail

 Hidden Lake Overlook

Hidden Lake Overlook

In addition to the trails there is much to see just along side of the road, we were there for 5 days and I feel like I would have wanted at least 10 days to explore. When you go to the park I definitely recommend bringing some food and leaving it in the car, or if you carry it with you it should be sealed up so that hungry bears don’t start following you. Lake McDonald Lodge has a restaurant but it’s not always open, and when it is open it's packed. I got most info on hikes at Hiking in Glacier, and it’s always good to check in on Glacier National Park’s website for any closures or delays. You can view the parks webcams here which is pretty cool. 

Below is a recipe for the hiking bars, you can make all different kinds but the basics are always the same with dried fruit, nuts, a syrup, a nut butter and oats. I didn’t want to have to buy 10 bags of different nuts and dried fruit, so I went to Trader Joe’s and bought a back of mixed nuts and a bag of dried fruit (dried cherry, strawberry and blueberry is good!) They have a great selection there. 

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Montana Hiking Bar

  • 1 cup dried fruit
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 cup roasted salted nuts
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats or quick cooking steel cut oats
  • 7 oz dark chocolate
  • optional additions: chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, banana chips, vanilla, etc.

Spread the oats on a cookie sheet and toast the oats for 15 minutes in 350°F oven, then allow to cool.

Place oats, dried fruit and nuts in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir and pour over oat mixture and stir until combined.

Line a 8”x8” baking pan with parchment paper, then spread the mixture in the pan, pressing down firmly until flattened. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave, then pour it evenly over the mixture, shake the pan to even out the chocolate.

Cover the pan and refrigerate 20-30 minutes until firm. Remove bars from pan and cut into 9 squares. Store in an airtight container for up to a few days. Store in freezer for longer duration.