Smoked Sausage, Greens, and Bean Soup

We’ve been making this soup with Good Mother Stallard beans, which may be taking away from how good the beans are on their own. But it’s a good soup.

Put one bag (one pound? 22 ounces? I forget how much is in a bag, but it’s at least a pound) of beans in water to soak overnight. In the morning, put them in the crock pot with a split onion, some garlic, a few bay leaves, and boiling water (to get the pot up to temperature more quickly). They should be ready in about three hours.

When the beans are creamy, remove the onion and bay leaves, and any of the garlic that hasn’t turned to paste. In a large pot or dutch oven, soften an onion, a couple of bell peppers, celery, and carrots. Probably at least a cup of each, although maybe less carrots than everything else. Don’t skimp on the bell peppers or celery. Add less than one chopped Kiolbassa smoked sausage, some garlic granules, and red pepper flakes. Add in the beans and their broth, and some Better Than Bouillon chicken stock base, probably around a tablespoon, maybe less. Toss in a whole bunch of chopped greens — collards, kale, turnip greens, beet greens, whatever. I just had half a pound each of frozen collards and turnip greens in the freezer, so I used those. If you’ve got fresh savory, scrape the leaves from a good hunk of that in as well. If you don’t have savory, thyme is probably good.

If you salted the beans while they were cooking and you put in too much chicken base, you might have to add some diced potato to bring the saltiness down. Simmer everything for 15-30 minutes. A dash of Cholula with a serving is delicious.

Mazurka

Cam and I both have strong memories of getting Mazurkas after high school, her at the Rising Sun fruit stand and me probably from Espresso Express or PCC. They were cheap, tasty, felt just a step up from homemade, and great for eating as you walked home from school. And apparently they were a super local Seattle thing, made by Jessica Reisman at McGraw Street Bakery in Queen Anne.

You can still get “oat bars” at a lot of coffeeshops around town (or at least I assume you can; I haven’t actually been in one in over a year now), but they aren’t the same. I don’t know why we were thinking about them recently, but we were, and we found the recipe. Here’s how I made it tonight:

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The Best Gingersnaps

This recipe comes from The Perfect Cookie, a cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. It’s the first recipe I’ve tried out of that book, and so far it’s living up to its title. The baking soda gives these a great cracked surface, and baking them longer at a lower temperature makes them completely crunchy like a good gingersnap should be, not chewy like a molasses cookie.

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Firecracker carrot comparison

I’m making a couple quick batches of pickled baby carrots today, to see what variations on Alton Brown’s recipe do. For the first batch I’m using the recipe straight from Alton Brown. For the second batch I’m adding 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, doubling the crushed chili peppers, adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and using white vinegar instead of cider vinegar. Oh, and I added a dash of cayenne, because why not.

The hard part will be letting them sit for a week before trying them. The last batch I made, I ate within the next 48 hours. It had no discernible heat, though, and in theory letting Alton’s recipe sit for a week could have brought that out. So these two batches I will do my best to leave alone at least until the weekend.

Note to self: the jar with the black tape on it is the experimental batch. Also, Alton’s recipe calls for 1/2 pound of carrots, which is nuts. That amount of liquid is more than enough for a whole pound.

Red and Green Sauce

Posting this here because we keep meaning to try to recreate the recipe, and then losing the photo of the ingredients.

Javier’s Red and Green Sauces, from Veggie Alley, circa 2011:

Green: Cilantro, Parsley, Vinegar, Salt, Olive Oil

Red: Red Bell Pepper, Jabanero, Onion, Garlic, Salt, Olive Oil, Vinegar

Ginger Beer

It’s summer, which means ginger beer! Or, I guess, force-carbonated ginger lemonade.

The batch I just made had these proportions:

  • 160g lemon juice
  • 150g ginger juice
  • 250g cayenne simple syrup
  • 1000g water

The cayenne simple syrup was made with 1 cup each of sugar and water, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne. It has a bit of heat right now; we’ll see if it gets hotter as it sits. If so, maybe cut that back to 1/2 a teaspoon, because I think where it is right now is good.

We originally set out to clone Rachel’s Ginger Beer, but our test batches kept tasting not ginger-y enough, and I haven’t had a reference taste of RGB recently. I’d be willing to bet that even without the cayenne, this has more of a kick now, though.

The recipe we started with called for 1 part ginger, 2 parts lemon, 3 parts simple syrup, and 10 parts water. After a bunch of experimentation, we seem to like it with roughly equal lemon and ginger, and a bit less sugar. The cayenne is a new experiment with this batch, based on really liking Columbia Gorge’s Meyer Ginger Lemonade, which has some cayenne in it. We’ll see if that’s worth keeping or not.

A note on carbonation: I’m carbonating this with a rig I put together myself after I’d crunched the numbers on whether it made more sense to buy a SodaStream or put together a carbonation rig from the homebrew supply shop. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:

“Basic ball-lock keg kit (regulator, gas hose, beer hose with party faucet, fittings): $55. New aluminum 5-lb CO2 tank: $65. Carbonation cap for PET bottles: $15. Shipping: $8. Fill-up of CO2 tank at local fire extinguisher supply house: $15. Total cost: $158. (And I have some extra parts that I can use to tap a corny keg should one of my homebrewing friends bring me one of his batches.)

The cheapest basic sodastream starter kit runs around $85, so up front, I’m down $73. (That’s the lowest-end sodastream kit’s online price, mind you, not including shipping or tax. Buying one of the higher-end models at retail, I might be breaking even already.)

A 60L sodastream tank holds 14.5oz of CO2. So one refill of the 5lb tank is equivalent to 5.5 sodastream tanks. Each 14.5oz tank exchange costs $15, and I’ll need 4.5 more of those to match the amount of CO2 in my tank. That’s $67.50, so by the time I need a refill of my tank, I’ll only be down $9.50.

By the time I’ve gone through my second tank of C02, I’ll have spent another $15. If I had gone with sodastream, I would have needed another 5.5 tank exchanges, or $82.50. At this point, I’ll be ahead $58. Every time after this that I fill my tank, I’ll be ahead by another $67.50.

And that’s ignoring the fact that there’s nearly 10% local sales tax on the sodastream tank exchange, while the $15 refill of my 5lb tank includes tax. It also ignores the fact that sodastream bottles (the ones the soda goes in, and which need to be replaced periodically) cost $10 each, while reused 2L or 1L bottles are essentially free for me.”

Rhubarb Ginger Shrub

Cam told me about shrubs (the colonial preservation method of making a vinegar syrup) the other day, as a suggestion for what we could do with our rhubarb. So I’m trying it today. I’ll update this post as it develops.

So far, I’ve cut up two ~9 ounce bunches of rhubarb, added 9 ounces of sugar to each, and about 2 ounces of ginger to one of them. I’ve got them sitting for a while now, and will macerate them and let them sit at least overnight next. After that, I’ll add 9 ounces of Rockridge apple cider vinegar and let them sit at room temperature for a couple of days, and then in the fridge for a week or two before straining.

Captain Crepe Pan

Back in September, I backed a Kickstarter project for “Captain Crepe Pan“, a guy raising money to make cast iron crepe pans on a larger scale than he could do at home. I think Cam pointed it out to me originally, and hinted that it might be a good Christmas present, what with us collecting manhole covers and enjoying crepes, and this basically being a small manhole cover you could cook on. The project made five times its funding goal, and our pan arrived on the morning of Christmas Eve, just in time to be a present, hooray! The creator had offered a seasoned and non-seasoned version of the pan, and I asked for non-seasoned so I could give the method Sheryl Canter posted about a try.

Well, first I got a 60-grit sanding wheel for the drill and spent half an hour sanding the cooking surface smoother. The maker had ground off the casting flash and the worst of the roughness from sand casting, but it was still a pretty pebbled surface, and while I’m sure it would have worked just fine if I’d seasoned it as it came, I wanted to start off smoother. So half an hour with a sanding wheel later, it felt pretty smooth and I started seasoning it.

Wow, flax oil is definitely the way to go for seasoning cast iron. I’m tempted to get some oven cleaner and un-season most of our other cast iron objects so I can re-season them with flax oil. (Although if I do that I’ll also want to borrow an angle grinder so I can smooth the bottoms of the Lodge pans we have — they’re ok, but they’re no Griswold.) Six very thin coats of flax oil later, the surface of the crepe pan is very, very slick. I fried an egg on it as a test, and had no issues with sticking whatsoever.

In fact, it might be a little too slick — during the first test batch of crepes I made tonight, I lost one crepe off the side of the pan when I underestimated how easy it would be to rotate the crepe with my fingers. I gave it what I thought was a little push to get it un-stuck, and it shot right off the side. I guess it hadn’t been stuck at all to begin with. Oops.

It’ll take a while to get the motion with the batter spreader down, but around the fourth or fifth crepe I made, I think I was starting to get it. (The spreader, incidentally, was difficult to find at retail — the clerk at the restaurant supply store suggested I try Sur La Table, but I didn’t feel like going down there, so I went to Rockler and got some cherry dowels and made my own.)

The pan is 13 inches in diameter, so it’s smaller than a commercial crepe machine (which are 15 3/4″ in diameter, and cost upwards of $650) but larger than any other home crepe pan I’ve seen (which seem to all be 11″ or smaller). About four ounces of batter seems to be the right amount to spread right out to the edges without spilling over (which should tell you something about the size of the finished crepe — Alton Brown’s recipe calls for one ounce of batter per crepe). It heats pretty evenly, possibly thanks to the design on the non-cooking side, and I suspect would heat even more evenly if I cleaned the burner on the stove. There are no handles, so you have to let it cool before taking it off the stove, unless you’ve got welder’s gloves and a heatproof place to store it.

I’m looking forward to putting it to a lot more use. Once we’ve got the technique down and the house cleaned up, I hope we can have friends over for a crepe party. If you’re interested in getting your own pan, he’s taking pre-orders for a post-Kickstarter round of pans at CaptainCrepe.com.

Crepe Pan Seasoning, Third Coat Fully Seasoned Not a crepe First try First try Fully Seasoned