Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How do you preserve your memories?

When I was younger, we spent a lot of time with my family on Keuka Lake and this is where my heart calls home. One of my aunts was a champion at canning, and dilly beans were my favorite family-get-together-staple. Canning is deeply rooted in my childhood, not only because of the goodies from my aunt but because of the jams my mom, sister and I would spend all day making in early June.

So I’ve tried to take on canning not only to preserve some great local eats, but to help preserve my memories of vineyards, shale rocks in the lake and juice out of yogurt cups. And it only seemed right to try my hand at my favorite dilly beans.

So I decided to can without really having any of the right tools, except for the cans. I’ve since been gifted a huge canning pot and all of the nifty Ball Canning tools, thanks to my parents for my birthday. But that’s for another post. But my largest stock pot did quite fine, and (*perfectly*) fit six pint jars and lids for sterilizing. There’s nothing like the clanging of boiling jars to signal that canning has begun!


Using some great green beans from a farm in Lakewood, I got to chopping. I started out with a pairing knife but quickly gave up. I think that in an alternative life I was a Prep Chef – I love the quiet and rhythmic method that goes into preparing veggies for cooking. But it was late (an 8:00 start on a work night wasn’t the best idea) and I really just needed to get going. The jars were stuffed with beans, some dill weed, cayenne pepper and a whole clove of garlic. It felt like the jars were over stuffed, but after everything was processed and devoured I think that it was just the right amount.

After cooking down a tremendous amount of cider vinegar, salt and water, and filling my home with the most incredible smell, the jars were filled with the brine and processed away.

These babies didn’t last long, and even got the best compliment I could ever receive – “Just like Mom’s!” from my cousin :) Exactly what I was hoping for.

Dilly Beans

2 lbs. green beans
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 bushy branches fresh dill
4 tsp. dried dill or dill seed
½ cup salt
2 ½ cups cider vinegar
2 ½ cups water

Choose long, unblemished green beans and trim ends if desired. Wash under cold water and drain.

Sterilize 4 pint jars, then pack beans vertically in hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. To each jar add 1/4 tsp cayenne, 1 clove garlic, and 1/4 of the dill.

Combine salt, vinegar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over beans to cover, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles by stirring gently with a long, thin object such as a chopstick or a spoon handle.

Cover each jar with a lid and ring and process 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

Let ripen at least 2 weeks and preferably a month. (4 pints)

Recipe adapted from BigOven.com.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I know, I know.


I've been a bit...absent lately...since February. Whoops.

Sometimes life gets in the way.

But I'm excited to share with my friends that writing about my foodie love is coming back to the front of the line! The best boy and I have moved Downtown, I have discovered a new love for canning (more on this later), and life has finally settled enough that I can get back down to business. In the last few weeks I have been thinking of recipes and outings to share, and questions to pose. All the while I have been asked by Block Club Magazine to participate in an exciting new venture!

Barring anything crazy, in October Block Club Magazine will be kicking off a great new blogging component that I am flattered to be a part of! I will be sharing my thoughts on cooking, eating and everything in between and of course...loving up on Buffalo. Even my dear friend Jessica will be joining the fun!

Stay tuned, not only for my Block Club fun, but for some postings about my new found love for canning!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Speaking of Buffalo...

So back in the 90's, when I didn't care about football and thought Buffalo was on the other side of the world, aparently they had a pretty good football team. They weren't really good but there's never been another team in history to make it to the Superbowl four times in a row. Now that I care about football and live in a "beer-drinking city with a football problem," our team needs...some help...

But no worries here - I don't care about football so much that I can't enjoy a day full of gorging on delicious and terrible-for-you food! Tomorrow I'll be enjoying the spread that the best boy's mom puts on for us, and this year I'll be adding to the mix. I will be making the ever-popular Wing Dip! This tasty treat was introduced to me by none other than my big sister (of whom most of my culinary knowledge is derived). Unfortunately they lost their recipie box in the big move (ack!!!) and I've been trying to piece together a good recipie.

The key is to not make it too spicy that you can't eat it, but not too cheesey that it's a rock in your stomach. I'm insistent on making sure it's as authentic as possible - none of this Ranch dressing business. I do like to cheat a little because I'm lazy, but I also believe in using some of the real-deal ingredients. Most people would be inclined to use Anchor Bar sauce or some other variation of wing sauce. For multiple reasons I don't think this is a great idea, but the most important to me is the authenticity. I encourage you to just stick with Frank's Hot Sauce and use a quality blue cheese dressing or dip - I like Marie's Blue Cheese Dressing because it's thick and has a lot of blue cheese bits in it.

Enjoy, and Go (insert good team here)!

Wing Dip
1 pkg. (8 oz.) whipped cream cheese
2 cans (12.5 oz ea.) canned chicken - may substitute 2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup Frank's Hot Sauce
1/2 cup Marie's blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cheddar cheese - for topping

Preheat oven to 350'

1. Mix creme cheese, chicken, hot sauce, dressing and cheddar cheese in bowl until mixture is smooth. Transfer to a 9" deep baking dish. Top with reserved 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

2. Bake at 350' for 20 minutes until hot and bubbling.

Serve with: celery, hearty crackers (Triscuits), or Tostios Scoops (my favorite!)

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Ode to South Buffalo

Four years ago I made the snap decision to move to Buffalo. I'm fully aware that snap decisions aren't necessarily the best made, and I often mull things over until there's no fun left in the decision. But this one - much like my snap decision to go to England and my snap decision to attend Canisius - was super. I love Buffalo. I love living here, being a part of the community here, building my leadership skills here, and most importantly I love eating here.

Two years ago I was convinced to move to South Buffalo. This is such a wonderful area of the city that I truly do love and identify quite well with. Soon I'll be leaving for Downtown, but South Buffalo will always have a place in my heart. The pubs are some of the best you'll see in Buffalo, and very authentic to their Irish-American roots.

This past Monday, Blackthorn Restaurant & Pub was featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Once again, Buffalo's culinary scene has made it to the big-time! Even more exciting is that it was right in my backyard, at a pub that we adore, owned by a guy that means so much to the neighborhood. And...even more exciting for me...is their deep and engrained love for the Buffalo Fire Department.


When you go to Blackthorn, be sure to say hi to Pat, the owner. Pat's a fireman with the city, as have been many of the men in his family. He's usually behind the bar chatting it up with a local (that my best boy inevitably knows). It's important to never forget that this is truly sacred ground to South Buffalonians - Tim Russert is a Blackthorn legend. His presence is everywhere, and the impact he had on the guys in SoBuff will never be forgotten.

Drafts include the usual: Blue, Blue Light, Sam Adams, Yuengling, Guiness and the occasional seasonal favorite. I'm a big fan of their Fish & Chips - almost like being back in England! The beer cheese soup is fabulous, as well as Kev's Favorite. The Buffalo staples - Beef on Weck, Chicken Finger Sandwich and Wings - are all great finds too! You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu.

So belly up with a pint and watch Pat and his crew get the kudos they so rightly deserve. Cheers!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Love Affair with Basil

I (heart) Basil. If my desk belonged to a local school district I'd likely be carving out a profession of my love for future generations to see. But like any love affair, basil and I face our rocky points too. Like the fact that my beloved Wegmans often only sells basil plants and not their single-use packets of fresh basil. Now, I've tried this route of raising a basil plant. You see...my sister has an amazing green thumb and true to little sister form I've tried to copy her. But alas, every basil plant (and most other plants, really) I've ever, ever had...I've killed.

Why can't I keep my basil alive?? I water it. Nibble on it's frawns. Whisper it sweet nothings. But still it shrivels up, turns black and is gone for good. It's not like my lone hearty "house plant" (as the official tag says) that comes back after each attempt to tie cement blocks to its roots and toss it in the Buffalo River.

So tonight I'm perusing my Produce section in search of ingredients for a pasta salad, including my beloved basil. Every time I go on this same hunt, I head to the same shelf, look at the same area and feel the same dissapointment. But tonight! Tonight, tonight...my basil has transformed into the most beautiful form a busy girl could ever ask for:

A tube of basil! For $5.00 I can save my basil and eat it too! Now the price is certainly not cheap and I kept wandering back to the produce department to reshelve it. But considering the amount of basil that gets dumped in the trash, $5.00 seems pretty well worth it. The flavor is tremendous and a perfect substitute. I even convinced a sweet elderly gentleman in line with me to ditch his basil plant (he too lives alone and shares the same love affair with basil).

Anywho, stay tuned for that super-duper pasta recipie. Big sister may even recognize my copy-cat tactics again!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Dinner

This has got to be the easiest yet most incredible chicken dinner ever. Great for entertaining, or for learning how to time your dishes. Simply rinse chicken, DRY DRY DRY (inside & out). Coat the cavity of the chicken with a salt & pepper mix, add a small amount of any fresh herb you have on hand (thyme, bay leaves, sage), truss the chicken and then coat the outside with the same S&P mixture. Pop in a 450 degree oven for 60 minutes, and voila!

My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken - courtesy of Epicurious Don't be intimidated by the length of the recipie; it goes into detail about trussing a chicken (a vital lesson!). Do, however, be excited at the prospect of a great and inexpensive main course. With a small roaster ranging in price from $4 - $6, all you're "splurging" on is a fresh herb.

The chicken is very moist and it has beautiful flavor. We so often use chicken as a go-to protein that we strive to create new flavors. In this instance, you have the opportunity to enjoy the actual chicken flavor (there is such a thing) and not be overwhelmed with marinades, bastings or other secondary flavors. Trust me, I understand that after 8 nights of chicken you want to taste something else but then I challange you to try a new protein. But I digress...

Photos Below:
Chicken, right out of the oven! It's heavy with salt and pepper. I didn't have any thyme or other substitutes on hand tonight. Amazing none-the-less. Between the best boy and I we ate a good amount, but a small roaster like this still allows for great leftovers (chicken salad?).




Red and white fingerlings from my crop share through Promised Land CSA in Corfu, NY. Very good!