Archive for August, 2010

Fresh Peach Chutney

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

This past weekend was a canning extravaganza! My foodie friend Caitlin and I had been planning for weeks. Emails were volleyed back and forth with recipes and variations and shopping lists and yet more recipes. We could hardly contain ourselves. We were complete jar heads.

We finally agreed on a handful of recipes. Set aside for the time being were tempting concoctions including tomatillo salsa and pickled peppers and berry jams. We’ll save those for another day. This weekend we focused on bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, hot pickled beans, balsamic roasted fennel & onion jam and, my personal favorite, fresh peach chutney. At one point Caitlin’s husband even tossed a few errant carrots into some leftover pickling liquid and, voila, pickled carrots. Divine.

But back to the peach chutney. Peaches are bountiful everywhere I look these days. And friends down in California just finished their annual peach-canning weekend (they “adopt” a peach tree every year and always concoct the most amazing preserve recipes).  So I’ve been inspired to try some new peachy delights. Luckily my friend Leslie shared a mouth-watering recipe for mango chutney with me not too long ago. So – kismet. Why not try it with peaches?

I’m happy to say that the result is sublime. Tart from the vinegar and sweet from the peaches and aromatic from ginger and garlic and cardamom. This was my first foray into chutney preparation and I couldn’t be happier.  I served it last night with a local sharp white cheddar and fresh French bread and am looking forward to pairing it with a cauliflower and chickpea curry soon. The sweet/savory combination would obviously lend itself well to any kind of Indian-inspired chicken dish – or just plain old roast chicken I would think. And, dare I say it, perhaps this new favorite preserve might be a delectable topping for a bit of thick, creamy Greek yogurt. Endless possibilities…

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Fresh Peach Chutney

Yield: ~ 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs firm peaches (approximately 4 large)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vinegar (apple cider or white)
  • 3″ piece ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder (i.e. Cayenne Pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Instructions

Blanch peaches by cutting a small “X” at the end and dunking in boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove and set aside to cool for at least 10-15 minutes. Remove skin and pits. Then cut into a small dice and set aside. Note – if you’re going to do this in advance, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the peaches to prevent browning.

Place sugar and vinegar in a medium saucepan over medium low heat and simmer for 10 minutes

Remove the skin from the ginger (using a small spoon to scrap it off works well) and use a microplane to grate the ginger directly into the hot sugar & vinegar mixture. Press the garlic into the mixture as well and then add the rest of the spices and simmer another 10 minutes.

Add the peaches and raisins and cook, uncovered, for about 25 minutes.

Stir occasionally as the chutney thickens.  (The chutney may continue to thicken slightly when cool). If it doesn’t thicken adequately, you can add about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch by spooning a few tablespoons of the hot liquid from the saucepan into a small bowl and mixing in the cornstarch. Then add this mixture back into the saucepan and mix well.

When desired consistency is reached, remove from heat and ladle into jars. This will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so. Or you can preserve the jars in a hot water bath by processing for approximately 5-10 minutes.

Balsamic Onion Marmalade

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Italian Red Torpedo Onions

Until I yanked them from the ground, my garden was lousy with onions. They sprung up suddenly over the past few weeks – heavy, green cylinders shooting up out of the earth. And they’re not just plain old, mild green onions. Nope – these are Italian Red Torpedo onions. Streaked with vivid hues of purple and resembling mini submarines in shape, they have a pungent bite a bit stronger than your average, spherical red onion.

My gardening pal Rachel procured what seemed like a bushel of them from a friend and planted them in my backyard. When she first put them in, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic. They appeared a bit anemic. Tiny little, pale purple tubers dangling from delicate green threads. But her green thumb is much more pronounced than mine so off she went, trowel in hand, to bury the fragile plants in the earth. Thank god she had more faith in the little guys than I did – because these are some of the most delicious onions I’ve ever tasted. And they made me appreciate these vegetables that I have long taken for granted.

sliced onions

Once I noticed the plethora of onions gracing my garden, my mind went immediately to onion jam – or marmalade. Slathered on thick, rustic bread topped with a hearty cheese and a few stems of peppery arugula – this savory/sweet spread is a personal favorite. And I hoped to figure out a way to make my own – rather than shelling out the extortionary fees usually charged for this delicacy.

So I scanned the internet for recipes. And there are a ton. Too many to count. And all of them suggest different ingredients and methods. Red onions, yellow onions, sweet onions, and plain old white. Balsamic, white, cider or sherry vinegars. Cook them on top of the stove. Bake them in the oven. The recipes were all over the map. But when I landed on a recipe by my favorite Top Chef master Tom Colicchio – I knew I need look no further. Especially considering the title of the book from which this recipe hails – “’wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal — And a Meal into a Sandwich.”

Now, I wanted to incorporate my fancy red onions into the recipe – so I sliced them thinly and, wanting to support our local farmers, combined them with sweet Walla Wallas. Tom used plain old yellow onions – which are likely delicious. And perhaps even easier as they don’t have the high water content of sweet onions – and would therefore need less cooking time. Also, I recognize that not everybody has Italian Red Torpedo onions lying about. So I’m pretty confident you can use any kind of onion you want. And no doubt many of the other recipes scattered on the internet are equally delectable. I merely liked the simplicity of this ‘wichcraft recipe – just onions, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.

balsamic onion marmalade

And the result? Sublime. Velvety and succulent. As promised, a fine balance of sweet and savory. The perfect accompaniment to a fabulous cheese platter. For meat eaters – no doubt a tasty topping for roasted pork – or any roasted meat for that matter. I’m planning on loading some on top of some baked sweet potatoes in the not-too-distant future.  Or slathering some on toast to serve with the fresh eggs I received from my friendly neighbor the other day. The applications are virtually endless.

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Balsamic Onion Marmalade

Yield: approximately 6 cups

Ingredients:onion marmalade with goat cheese

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 large sweet onions (Walla Wallla or Vidalia), thinly sliced (about 12 cups)
  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sugar (brown or white)
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat until it easily slips across the bottom. Add the onions, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft.

Add the sugar and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 – 30 minutes, until the onions appear dry. (Note: the original recipe called for only 10 minutes for this step. However, as noted, I replaced sweet onions for the “regular” onions in Tom’s recipe and the sweet ones have a higher water content. So I had to cook them much longer – closer to 30 minutes.)

Add the vinegar and reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the onions are soft and dry. Note – if you’re using sweet onions, you might be left with a lot of liquid as they simmer. After the first hour, try turning up the heat to medium high and gently boil the onions for about 10 minutes. Then return to low and continue to cook until most of the liquid dissipates.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Store in well-sealed canning jars in the refrigerator. It will keep for a few weeks.