Tag Archives: Pickles

Growing (and pickling) Mouse Melons / Cucamelons

31 Jul

Back in mid-February I started some mouse melon seeds indoors under a grow light. Within a few weeks:


Six weeks later, they were reaching out to grab onto anything nearby:


Finally in mid-April I was able to plant them out (after “hardening them off” for a week by setting the seedlings outdoors under an awning in partial shade, to acclimate them to the outdoor weather). A makeshift trellis made from wire mesh and pieces of bamboo, at the end of a raised bed with compost and some drip irrigation along the roots:


They grew slowly and tentatively at first, only gradually climbing the trellis as single vines… but as the weather warmed up and they got their roots established, they exploded, covering the entire trellis edge to edge.

By July they’re pumping out hundreds of tiny, crisp vegetables that look like a miniature melon and taste like a cucumber injected with a bit of lime juice. There are several dozen in this photo alone if you look carefully:




We’ve been eating them raw straight off the vine (they’re especially good when picked just slightly below peak size), put some in salads, and I turned a few quarts into kosher-style dill pickles– lactofermenting them at room temperature in a 5% sea salt brine with dill and garlic from the garden as well as mustard seed and peppercorns (and in one case, some leftover brine from a previous Jimmy Nardello ferment). They worked well as pickles, keeping their crispness, and developing that nice half-sour pickle tang after 4 days fermenting at room temperature and a few weeks in the fridge…


[the left jar is a new batch about to ferment, the right jar is pickled and ready to eat]

They work well as snacks, and I look forward to trying them as a cocktail garnish…




Japanese Food Dinner Party

26 May

A few weeks ago I had friends over for some Japanese food (sushi rolls, as well as various dishes focused on a few simple ingredients, inspired by Japanese Farm Food).





Boiled Edamame with Hickory-smoked Salt (from The Meadow)

Smashed Cucumber Pickles: Japanese cucumbers roughly crushed with a dowel and torn into irregular chunks, mixed with a whole stalk of sliced green garlic, sea salt, and a little ginger, and sealed in a ziploc bag in the fridge for two hours before dinner. Really good– one of my favorite new kinds of pickle.

Turnips and Leaves Pickled in Salt: sliced Tokyo turnips along with the freshest leaves, salt, young ginger, dry red chile (a little), an entire Meyer lemon’s worth of zest (in lieu of yuzu), and salt, also refrigerated in a bag for two hours, then rinsed in water to cut down on the salt.

Snap Peas: Fried sliced young ginger and red chiles in sesame oil, then added the snap peas for just three minutes, until they started to turn bright green. A bit oily but still quite good.

Fried Shishito Peppers: no recipe needed…

Cured Salmon Roe: Fresh salmon roe, rinsed several times until the water ran clear (very gently to avoid breaking them), mixed with a little sea salt, another meyer lemon’s worth of zest and juice, then let sit for a few hours. Served on top of a seared slab of salmon, topped with a little lemon-infused flake salt.

and of course, the team-effort sushi rolls: Dry sushi rice rinsed and drained 8 times until the water ran clear,  boiled with a strip of kombu, spread out on a board and drizzled with rice vinegar while vigorously fanning to rapidly cool it. Then rolled up in nori with some mix of maguro, toro, hamachi, salmon, shiso leaf, avocado, cucumber, and pickled ginger. With fresh-grated real wasabi root (a rare find, at Nijiya).

Great food and company, one of the best evenings in a while.


12 May

What I meant to be a quick solo dinner at home turned into my first time making something oyakodon-like.


Sauteed a chicken thigh in a little sesame oil with garlic for 10 minutes.

Poured some chicken broth and a little soy sauce and brown rice vinegar around it, then let it simmer covered on medium until mostly reduced and thick, another 10 minutes or so. I poked at the chicken and it didn’t look pink any more…

Cracked in two eggs, whisked them, and covered it again to steam them on low for another few minutes. Then laid it out on cooked rice (rinsed 6 times until clear, mixed 1:1 rice:water, brought to a boil, then let sit covered on low heat until done, about 20 minutes). Not bad, but it could have used less soy and some other sauce or seasoning at the end. Hmm.

Plus my new favorite quick pickles (inspired by Nancy Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food): coarsely smashed/hand-torn cucumbers + sea salt + minced green garlic (bulb and stalk), mixed together, sealed in a ziploc bag, and refrigerated for an hour.


Korean BBQ, camping

29 Jul

For a camping trip with a few friends, I decreed “no burgers, no sausages”, and a very loose theme of “Korean BBQ”.

I don’t think I’d ever cooked Korean food before, but the general idea of marinated, grilled, thin-sliced meat and lots of banchan (side dishes, most of which could be made ahead of time) seemed feasible for camping, and a break from the ordinary.

I bought a nice large marbled ribeye steak and sliced it thinly  against the grain (following an online suggestion to pre-freeze it for an hour to aid with slicing thin helped):

Based on a quick recipe lookup on my phone the night before (while running around getting ready), I made a marinade of soy sauce (tamari, diluted 1:1 in water), sesame oil, sesame seeds, lots of crushed garlic, and minced fresh ginger, and ended up soaking the ribeye for about 24 hours before grilling it. The next morning I decided to add tri tip so we had more meat, and sliced that (a bit thicker), and marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and black pepper for about 12 hours.

That evening, on the grill at the camp site.

Served with lettuce leaves to wrap it, as well as a bean sprout salad (a package of bean sprouts boiled for about 4 minutes on a gas camping stove, then drained and mixed with minced raw garlic, green onions, chili flakes, and sesame seeds). A good refreshing counterpart to the meat (though I could have also cooked the garlic a bit).

Also on the side: spicy cucumber fresh pickles (cucumbers soaked for 2 days in the fridge in a mix of white vinegar, seasoned rice vinegar, a little water and salt, and sriracha: sort of a half-assed pickle not carefully set up to ferment or preserve, just for flavor), and some excellent spicy pickled broccolini that someone else brought, as well as kimchee. The nori sheets worked to wrap beef once the lettuce ran out.

For dessert: grilled pineapple, and grilled nectarines with creme fraiche (another excellent set of contributions from a friend):

Overall, this was a successful dinner. I thought the marinated ribeye turned out really well, but the tri tip ended up a bit too salty (I should have diluted the soy sauce, or had something to balance it like sugar?)– but some people preferred the salty tri tip. I’ll have to try variants again in the future.

Oh, not shown: a delicious marinated pork belly that someone else butchered and brought.

Side note: we packed the food, beer, ice, cooking tools, and so on in and out by bike. Shown below is a bike-mounted cooler. Just because…

Deviled Eggs, Pickled Fennel, Kale, Squash w/ Sage Butter

11 Nov

CSA Week Two, a recent trip to City Beer, and a friend visiting from Boston inspired another little dinner party:

Deviled eggs (perhaps the best variant I’ve made: hard boiled eggs, the yolks mashed with quite a bit of olive oil (and no mayo!) and a little mustard, salt, and pepper, sprinkled with smoked paprika, and topped with crispy-fried capers, a crowning touch inspired by this printer & piemaker post).

Salami (Olli Napoli, smoked pork with red wide– fine but not remarkable, I probably wouldn’t buy it again).

Lightly-pickled fennel (two days earlier I boiled a mix of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water, with a few tsp of mustard seed, 1 tsp salt, and maybe 1/2 tsp coriander seed, then poured the hot liquid over a jar of sliced fennel and refrigerated it). I wasn’t sure anyone else would like it but we ate the whole pint.

Kale (minced shallots cooked in sesame oil over medium heat for 10 minutes until crisping. In parallel, kale boiled/steamed in about an inch of water for 8 minutes, rinsed in cold water and drained, then added to the skillet with the shallots for a few minutes).

Carrots brushed with olive oil and roasted for about 20 minutes at 400F.

Squash: a butternut squash and an acorn squash, each cut in half and brushed with olive oil and baked at 400F face down for about 40 minutes, until soft. I actually did this two nights before, scooped out the squash, and put it in the fridge, reheating it the night of the dinner. With a little salt and pepper and sage brown butter drizzled over it right before serving (5 Tbsp of butter melted over medium heat with maybe 1/4 cup of chopped fresh sage for 5-10 minutes). Quite good, and easy.

And the meal only took about an hour to make (not counting the prep a few days before).

Beer included Upright Brewing’s Six (a slightly malty rye beer, which I continue to love), La Fin Du Monde (a belgian-style tripel / golden ale), Upright Flora Rustica (from a Portland trip, saison-style but slightly vegetative and strange, in a good way), and La Trappe Dubbel. And Corona, but we won’t talk about that.