Happy Blogiversary!!

Turning 3 is something special.  You're old enough to enjoy your cake and end up with most of it in your mouth, not on the floor or smeared all over your face.  I'm hoping that we are civilized enough to meet up to these standards.  But really, who are we kidding?

Pickled Rose's 3rd year has been a great one, and we can't thank you enough for continuing to tune in to what we've been conjuring up in the kitchen.  So raise your forks, and celebrate another fantastic year of recipes and ramblings!  

Bittersweet Champagne Cocktail

We may be a day late with this post, but it's never too late to pamper yourself or your loved one with a champagne cocktail.  Pick your favorite bottle of bubbly, add a splash of Campari, and voilà!,  your champagne just got a pair of rose colored glasses.  Campari is slightly bitter and also quite sweet, so you only need to add about 1/3 of an ounce.  You don't want to overpower the champagne, just enhance it.  

So whether your Valentine's Day was bitter or sweet, cheers to you! 

xoxo, Pickled Rose  

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This past October Pickled Rose took a little trip to Las Vegas and did the unthinkable, GOT MARRIED!  The amount of love felt from all our family and friends was overwhelming in the best possible way, and is a day neither John or I will ever forget.   I have to apologize that in the midst of all the planning the blog took a backseat to invitations, gift bags, and vows.  Pretty lame, I know, but I promise that this recipe will make it up to you.

One of the best and most special wedding gifts I received was a stack of family recipes from my Aunt Chris.  I come from a long line of great cooks, and have learned so much about food from the matriarchs in my family.  I will cherish their wisdom, recipes, and memory forever.  This recipe comes from my Grandma Ebeling and does not disappoint.  Not only is the coffee cake easy to make, but it is so moist and delicious that you will want to keep it all for your self.  Every. Last. Crumb.

The secret ingredient in this recipe is sour cream.  It keeps the cake moist and balances out the sweetness of the filling.  Chopped walnuts add a wonderful crunch.  The inside of the cake is soft with swirls of cinnamon and brown sugar, and has a nice crumb to it.  The top is crunchy and sweet like any good coffee cake should be.  This is best served warm with a hot cup of coffee and is guaranteed to brighten even the dreariest of days.  

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees


Grease a 10" tube pan with non-stick cooking spray or good old fashioned butter.  I used coconut oil cooking spray.  Next prepare the filling by combining brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a small bow.  Set aside. 

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Next, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined.  Sift dry ingredients together.  Add to creamed mixture, alternating between dry ingredients and sour cream.  Beat until batter is smooth.  

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Pour 1/3 of batter into bottom of the tube pan.  Smooth out until there is an even layer.  Top with 1/3 of the filling.  Repeat 2 more times, so that you finish with the cinnamon and sugar mixture on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until the top is crusty and brown and a knife comes clean from the cake.

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Beautiful Possibility Tour: an ingestible travelogue

Picture this: driving cross country, windows down, trailer strapped to the back of your car, and a jug full of apples fermenting in your trunk.  This may not sound like your typical road trip, but for artist Alison Pebworth, this was her life for 3 years as she traveled around the United States and Canada in search of the histories of post-industrial cities, literally and figuratively distilling the cultures of "Lost America" into an ingestible travelogue.  During her tour across the country, Alison collected stories, surveys, and edible ingredients all culminating in what she calls her "Beautiful Possibility Elixir".       

Last week I had the opportunity to hear Alison speak about the Beautiful Possibility Tour at Southern Exposure, where the project launched back in 2010.  The event began with a slide show where Alison talked about the last twelve months of her tour. Her epic road trip began in the Dakotas, where she spent time on an Indian reservation.  Next she drove through the Midwest stopping in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Cleveland, then traveling to the East Coast where she lived with the last living Shaker Community in Maine for a month.   Alison then headed down to the very tip of Florida, through parts of the deep South, and then finally back to San Francisco where her journey began.

Most of the places on the Beautiful Possibility Tour were urban farming communities, or other groups of people that were actively engaged in their local landscape.  At each stop along the tour an infused tonic was made on site at the location where the ingredients were gathered.  All of the tonics were infused in a clear alcohol base that was either locally produced or distilled by the artist herself.  Over the course of 3 years more than 200 ingredients were used to make tonics that were blended into the Beautiful Possibility Elixir.  

At the end of the slideshow, Alison did a final and ceremonious blending of the last few tonics to be added to the elixir.   She stood behind a long table that was decorated with a collection of glass bottles filled with individual tonics, all glimmering under the gallery lights.  Each tonic had a different hue and some still had the original infused ingredients in them, acting as a reminder of the place the flavor came from.  In the center of the table there was a large glass decanter/serving apparatus that the elixir was poured in to for the tasting.  As Alison stood behind the table meticulously mixing and pouring, she transformed from an artist to an apothecary, to a shaman bartender mixing up a cure-all cocktail.

Once the elixir was mixed just right, Alison walked around the room pouring her potion from her decanter into our mouths one at a time, in a ritualistic fashion.  The elixir tasting felt almost spiritual, as if we were taking holy communion in a speakeasy, ingesting the artist's travels, filling us each with hopefulness and beautiful possibility.  

It was the ultimate moonshine, and each flavor was as distinct as the story behind it.  Notes of citrus, licorice, dirt, and flowers all flooded my tastebuds at once.  The elixir was slightly sweet at first, then bitter with a medicinal aftertaste, but surprisingly smooth.  It was the most complex, deliciously-horrible shot of booze I have ever taken in my life.  I think I'll stick with bourbon.    

More information about Alison Pebworth's project and her travelogue can be found here.

 

When life hands you lemons, make doughnuts!

Oh dear readers, I'm so sorry for neglecting you lately.  I hope you're still out there.  Life has just gotten away from me.  Planning a wedding (which is only 136 days away!) having a job that just won't quit, and going to the gym like it's my job leaves my plate very full these days.  Sadly I have been neglecting the things that matter to me most, like cooking and babbling into the blogosphere.  It's been over a month since I've actually cooked anything besides a salad, which requires absolutely no cooking at all.  Absolutely pathetic , I know!  Luckily John has been making delicious meals so I don't have to live off of string cheese and grapefruit.    

So in a very grandiose effort to fill this void, I decided to make doughnuts.  But not just any doughnuts, the most beautiful and delicious doughnuts my meager brain could think of.  I so desperately needed, as if I really just might die , to make the greatest doughnut known to man.  Luckily for me, I'd never made a doughnut in my life.  Sure, I'd eaten plenty, and that counts for something, right?

I will be the first to admit that there are a LOT of failures in the Pickled Rose kitchen.  For some reason, we don't talk about those nearly enough.  Now I wouldn't say my doughnut adventure was a complete failure.  They were actually pretty good for a first try at them, but definitely not what I had imagined, and could use a whole lot of work.  The size was inconsistent, you could taste the frying oil, and the vibrant purple glaze was almost untraceable against the darkness of the over-fried doughnut holes.  My blackberry doughnuts with blackberry lavender glaze were not the epitome of beauty or taste, but they were a reason to get back into the kitchen, and in the end that was all I really needed.

The Terrible 2's

So, it's been two years since the humble beginnings of Pickled Rose. We started with 4 or 5 regular readers, and in the intervening years, our readership has doubled. At least. If you're one of those few people, thank you. I really do mean that.

So, what are we doing for this blog's second birthday? Well, befitting anybody's second birthday, there's alcohol involved. For the parents, of course. Websites can't drink. Don't be ridiculous.

Anyway, we decided to come up with a cocktail. This drink requires only one specialized ingredient, and it's one that you can make yourself with two simple ingredients: pepper and vodka. 

This cocktail combines the classic flavors of citrus and bourbon with the spice and earthiness of pepper vodka and fresh sage. Pepper vodka is quite easy to make - it involves combining whole peppercorns with vodka, letting it steep for several days, and then straining it.

Pepper Vodka

  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 750 ML vodka

In an airtight container, combine the pepper and the vodka. Place in a cool, dark place and allow to steep for 3-4 days. Taste a small amount (just a few drops) every day or so, until the pepper flavor is very pronounced. When the flavor reaches the desired intensity, run the vodka through a fine strainer, and discard the peppercorns. Store the pepper vodka in an airtight container, away from heat and light.

Terrible 2's

  • 3 oz. bourbon
  • 2 oz. of orange/lemon juice mixture: juice of 3 blood oranges and 1/2 of a Meyer lemon, combined.
  • 1/2 oz. pepper vodka
  • 3 fresh sage leaves
  • Ice cubes

In a small bowl, mix the orange and lemon juice. 

In a cocktail shaker, combine the bourbon, 2 ounces of the blood orange/lemon juice mixture, the pepper vodka, the sage leaves, and a few ice cubes. Shake until the cocktail is chilled and mixed, about 30 seconds.

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Pour into a chilled glass, and garnish with a sage leaf, if desired.

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Enjoy. Here's to two more years.

Boyfriends and Bolognese

My high school boyfriend and I used to celebrate our "anniversary" every month with the same romantic gesture.  I would bake him a batch of chocolate chip cookies and he would get me a rose for every month that we had been dating.  We'd walk through the halls hand in hand, parading around our tokens of affection for each other like two young puppies in love.  Our relationship lasted for a year and three months, which in high school time is more like 3 years.  For our one year anniversary I planned a romantic dinner for two at my house, and what better dish to prepare than homemade lasagna.  

In my family lasagna was made only for very special occasions, and rightfully so.  Lasagna is truly a labor of love.  I had seen my grandmother make lasagna several times, an all day process that was not to be taken lightly.  The par boiled noodles would be set out to dry in between red and white striped kitchen towels lining the kitchen table, and the smell of bolognese sauce cooking on her avocado green stove would perfume the house, reassuring us that this meal would be worth the wait.  

I asked my mom for the recipe, but like most of the recipes in our family, there wasn't one written down.  This was a dish learned through watching, a recipe that changed slightly with every generation it was passed down to.  My mom did happen to leave me with a few words of advice: water is lasagna's worst enemy.  Like a good kid, I did as I was told.  I drained the ricotta overnight and let the par-boiled noodles sit out to dry between kitchen towels just as I had seen my grandmother do so many times before.  I relied on my strong Italian genes to instinctively make a bolognese sauce, letting it cook all day long until it was thick and meaty.  Each layer of lasagna was carefully crafted until the large glass dish was full to the brim.  Sauce, noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, repeat.        

That was my first and last lasagna in nearly 15 years.  

I didn't avoid this recipe for all these years because I made it for the first guy to break my heart, or the fact that it takes more than a day to make.  And to be perfectly honest, I can't give you a straight answer as to why.  But this time of year, with Valentine's Day having come and gone so quickly, got me thinking about why we cook.  Sure, eating is a necessity of life, but we choose to cook things that are labor intensive or make something from scratch that could just as easily be bought at the store.   Even the simplest of meals says a lot about who are as humans.  I take great comfort in sitting around the kitchen table laughing and sharing stories, or even in silence, just knowing that the meal in front of me is a such a thoughtful gift.  Cooking a meal for someone else is the most sincere gesture of love.  So let us all make lasagna and show our special someone just how much we care.  And even if you only make it once, or every 15 years, I promise you it will be worth the effort.

Lasagna

 

Ingredients:

2 lbs ricotta cheese, preferably whole milk

1-1 1/4 lbs Italian sausage, approximately 6 links

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 oz. pancetta, diced 

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground pork

1 sprig fresh rosemary

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh oregano

2 bay leaves

1 medium yellow onion, minced

1 head garlic, minced

1, 6 oz. can tomato paste

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon red chili flake

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup red wine

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3, 28 oz. cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1 cup grated smoked mozzarella

2 cups grated provolone 

3 cups grated mozzarella

1 cup grated pecorino

1 heaping tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 egg

4 large sheets fresh pasta dough, approximately 18 x 18"

*I put my own spin on this lasagna by adding pancetta to the bolognese sauce, and then played up its smokiness by adding smoked mozzarella to my cheese blend.  I also used fresh pasta to avoid the hassle of pre-boiling the noodles and drying it out for hours.  I did have to give the pasta a quick rinse to remove the excess flour, and pat them dry a bit, but using fresh pasta noodles was a huge time saver.      

The Night Before:

Drain ricotta in a large mesh strainer over a bowl.  Cover strainer with plastic wrap and leave in refrigerator over night to drain until you are ready to assemble the lasagna.

The Next Day:

At least 4 hours before you want to serve the lasagna, start the bolognese sauce.  In a large 6-7 quart soup pot , preferably enameled cast iron, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat and add Italian sausage.  Brown the sausage, approximately 3-5 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same pot cook pancetta for 6-8 minutes until it has browned and the fat has rendered a bit and crisped up.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same pot add the ground pork, breaking it up into small chunks with a wooden spoon.  Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the meat has cooked on the outside.  Don't worry if it's not cooked all the way through.  It will finish cooking in the sauce.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Repeat this step, cooking the ground beef this time, until it is almost completely cooked through.  Drain all fat from pot and wipe clean.  

Prepare bouquet garni of fresh herbs and bay leaves in a cheesecloth satchel.  If you don't have cheesecloth, tie the herbs together with cooking twine for easy removal later.  

Over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sweat the minced onions and garlic in the soup pot until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Next add Italian seasoning, chili flakes, garlic powder, salt, and tomato paste.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until the tomato paste has thickened slightly and darkened in color.  Deglaze the pan with red wine and balsamic vinegar.  Continue stirring to scrape up any brown bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan.  Add crushed tomatoes and stir to combine the tomato paste mixture.  Then, return all of the meat to the pot.  Give everything a good stir and throw in the bouquet garni, burying it in the sauce.  Bring sauce up to a boil, cover and then reduce heat to low.  Let the sauce simmer for at least 2 hours.  3 would be better.  Make sure to stir and taste occasionally to check if the sauce needs any additional seasoning.  Somehow the bolognese gods were with me the day I made this and I didn't have to add anything else to the sauce.  I just let it cook for hours and the flavors developed wonderfully on their own.  At the end of 3 hours, your sauce should be very thick.  Remember WATER IS THE ENEMY!!  

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While your sauce is simmering grate all of the cheeses in a large bowl.  Mix so that everything is well combined.  Next, prepare the ricotta.  Discard the liquid in the bowl and wipe it dry.  In the same bowl combine ricotta, egg, and basil, and divide into thirds.  

Next, you'll want to give your fresh pasta noodles a bath to remove any excess flour.  Carefully run the sheets under warm water in the sink.  Some of the noodles may want to tear, but that's OK, you'll have to cut the sheets to fit in the lasagna pan anyway.  Lay the noodles flat onto kitchen towels to absorb the excess water.  

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Once your sauce is ready, it's FINALLY time to assemble the lasagna.  In a deep 9 x 13" baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom.  Next, put a single layer of pasta noodles over the sauce.  Fresh lasagna noodles are fairly thin, so if you like your lasagna to have more of a noodle presence, double up your noodle layer.  If you decide to do this, be sure to double the amount of pasta called for in the recipe.  Next spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture on the noodles so that most of the pasta is covered.  Sprinkle approximately 1 3/4 cups of the cheese mixture on top of the ricotta.  Cover the cheese layer with more sauce and then repeat the whole process until you have 3 layers of ricotta.  The last layer should just be sauce and grated cheese.  

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is melted on top and has browned slightly.  Let the lasagna rest for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting into it.  Serve with a side of Italian sausage, and if you're feeling really gluttonous, some garlic bread.