Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Grain Salad with Barley using Ferments

Last week I used up some leftover wild rice to make a side "salad" dish for a really wonderful Kalbi Flank Steak; both recipes were posted 3 days ago. I love grain "salads" though I don't make them terribly often. I had gone for labs last week also, and found my cholesterol is a bit high. In researching foods that help with the LDL side of things, barley was mentioned in many different sites, because of its soluble fiber. While my husband will not go straight for a grain salad, he will eat them. Yesterday when I made this salad he ate other things he preferred, so it was my side dish. Tonight it will be my main dish as he will not be home for dinner and I often go meatless.

Barley Salad with Fermented Red Onion

I initially set some barley to cook without any true idea of what I was going to do with it. As it cooked, I started thinking of how good the Wild Rice and Corn Salad turned out and realized I still had the other half of the red and green bell peppers I had used in the Wild Rice and Corn Salad, so obviously I would use those in this Barley Salad. The other thing I thought of, after the fact, was that I had a jar of fermented Red Onion Relish in the fridge and had yet to use it. I am sure it would have made an excellent addition to the Wild Rice and Corn Salad, had I remembered it. I also have a jar of Fermented Jalapeno Slices in the fridge and I love a little bit of piquant heat in my foods. 

With these two fermented foods in mind, I decided that this time I was going to use them in this new salad, so these items went into my list. Since I am making fermented foods all the time, I have a lot of them to eat so I may as well use them in recipes. Please understand, if you have not
Pickled Red Onions
jumped onto the fermented Foods Bandwagon, it is no big deal. Another relish of choice would also work, as well as chopped up Pickled Red Onions, which are much quicker to make. If neither of these is available, they can be left out completely. 

A few of the ingredients in the Wild Rice and Corn Salad went into this new Barley Salad, though with small variations the flavors went in a completely different direction. I eliminated the corn completely, kept the Feta cheese, scallions and cilantro. I substituted the pine nuts with pumpkin seeds and added in some dried cranberries (craisins). The dressing started out basically the same, using olive oil and lime or lemon juice. I also used the Sichuan peppercorns, just because I have them. These can easily be left out. 

One other ingredient that occurred to me at the last moment was probably one that just absolutely "made" this dish: Kalamata Olive Tapenade. I posted this recipe in April of this year, but will post it here again, because if you like olives, you really must try this out. It is so good, and so very easy to make. And, what an amazing thing to add to this vinaigrette-type dressing!

Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Kalamata Olive Tapenade

7 - 8 ounces pitted Calamata/Kalamata olives, drained
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil (more, or less, as desired)

Place the olives, parsley and garlic in a food processor to finely chop. With processor running, add in olive oil until the mixture is at the consistency you prefer. 

Here is the recipe I made last evening for Barley Salad with Fermented Red Onion:

Barley Salad with Fermented Red Onion

serves 8 or more
Barley Salad with Fermented Red Onion

1 cup pearl barley (long-cooking kind)
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 green bell pepper (about 3/4 cup), chopped
1/2 red bell pepper (about 3/4 cup), chopped
1/2 cup Fermented Red Onion Relish
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (or as desired)
1/4 cup Fermented Jalapeno Peppers, minced
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger root
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon more salt, if needed

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorns, crushed, optional
1 tablespoon Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Set the barley to cook in a saucepan with the water and the teaspoon of salt. Lower heat and cover. Cook for about 50 to 55 minutes or until the barley is cooked to your taste.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bell peppers, Red Onion Relish, Feta cheese, cilantro, Jalapeno peppers, craisins, pumpkin seeds, ginger and scallions. Once the barley is cooked through, drain any excess water and allow the barley to cool slightly. Once cooled, combine the barley with the ingredients in the bowl and toss. Pour in the Dressing and toss well to coat. Taste for salt, adding more only if needed. The salad is best served at room temperature.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Quick and Easy Peach Parfait

My son and his wife were visiting last week, and whenever they come to visit they come with tales of wonderful foods they've eaten or created themselves. We are all foodies of the highest order and we all cook, except my husband who leaves that aspect to me in general. He is still willing to try most of my experiments!

Peach Tarragon Parfaits with Mascarpone Cream

My son, Kenneth, is good at seeing a recipe somewhere and then winging it afterwards, using his own little twists. I had never seen this before, but on the off chance he did find this somewhere online - which obviously he did - I went online to search and found a Sandra Lee recipe. Hers is slightly different from what Kenneth did at my house last week, and plus, with me in the kitchen there were even more changes involved. 

The dessert Ken made was presented parfait style, with layers of peaches, biscotti, and mascarpone whipped cream. Ken said he had made this once before, and when we went to the grocery to pick up the needed items, he was going to go for canned peaches. Since it is summer and there are peaches available in every grocery in town, I suggested using fresh peaches. While it might be good with canned or frozen peaches, fresh are always better, in my book. When he started to prepare the dessert, he asked if I had tarragon. As it happens, my tarragon plant this year is growing lushly, so I had plenty.

Tarragon is an herb that I like to have available, but rarely use, so having something new to use it in was exciting. Tarragon has a slightly anise-like flavor, and is good in various applications, but I had never, ever thought to use it in a dessert before, so I was curious. 

Ken was reluctant to use fresh peaches at first, but as it turned out, the peaches we got were perfect. Perfectly ripe and juicy, he sliced the peaches into wedges, and left them slightly thick. This turned out to make eating difficult, as one of the larger wedges was far from bite-sized. The desserts he created were extremely large portions - really way too much for one, and possibly more than enough for even two people. Still, most of them went; a testament to the great flavors.
Tarragon Herb and Macerating Peaches

The peaches were macerated in a goodly bit of Gran Marnier Liqueur (Ken did not measure), and while I am sure this could be made with some other flavoring agent (fruit nectar was suggested on the Sandra Lee video), I think possibly some orange juice would also do the job. Since Grand Marnier is very sweet and almost the only sweetener going into this dessert, making a simple syrup, flavored with orange peel and tarragon would also be an excellent substitute. When I asked Ken how much tarragon to chop for the mixture, he just said "lots!" I chopped at least 3 tablespoons worth (after chopping = 3 tablespoons) and threw that all in with the peaches and Grand Marnier. 

Peach Tarragon Parfaits with Mascarpone Cream
The cookie layer he used was biscotti. The only kind available here in town were lemon flavored and he was uncertain, but I felt that lemon flavor would add dimension. The Grand Marnier is orange flavor and would play nice with the lemon biscotti. Plus, grating a fine bit of lemon zest over the top would look great and just tie everything together. The biscotti we found here were mid sized, at about 6 or 7-inches long. I have seen little 4-inch biscotti and I have seen far larger ones at about 9 or more inches. If the biscotti you find are longer or shorter, you may have to play with the amounts as desired. These 7-inch ones were just the perfect amount per serving.

Peach Tarragon Parfaits with Mascarpone Cream
Peach Tarragon Parfaits with Mascarpone Cream

makes 2 servings (multiply as needed for more portions) 

1 large, ripe peach
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
1/4 cup Grand Marnier liqueur 
2 plain or anise biscotti, about 7-inches apiece or equivalent amount
4 ounces (1/4 cup) cold whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

fine shreds of lemon zest
tarragon sprigs or whole leaves for decoration

At least 1 to 2 hours before assembling the desserts, cut the peach into thin wedges and place in a bowl with a tight fitting lid (a zip-top bag will also work). Top with the minced tarragon and the Grand Marnier liqueur and seal the bowl. Shake to distribute the herbs and liqueur and allow the mixture to macerate for at least one hour, or two if possible. Shake the bowl often to make sure all the fruit is evenly flavored.

If using the 7-inch size biscotti, and they are individually wrapped (mine were), just use a meat tenderizer mallet with a flat size and whack the biscotti gently to break into crumbs. This does not have to be tiny crumbs, as the cookie will soften when mixed with the juicy fruit and the whipped mascarpone. Place 1/2 of one biscotti in the bottom of each of two bowls or parfait glasses.

In a small mixing bowl, whip the cold whipping cream until it just begins to hold shape. Add the confectioners' sugar and continue to beat until it will hold shape well. Do not over beat. Now add the 4 ounces of mascarpone cheese all at once, and beat very briefly, only just until the mascarpone is incorporated. If you are not yet ready to assemble the dessert, cover and refrigerate this whipped mixture until needed. 

When ready to assemble, drop about 1/4 of the whipped mascarpone cream into each bowl or glass, atop the crumbled biscotti. Top with 1/4 of the peach mixture per glass, including juices. Repeat with another 1/2  crumbled biscotti over top, then the remaining peaches and juices and then top with the remaining whipped mascarpone cream. 

The cream can be piped into the bowl or glass, for a fancier presentation if desired. Top with fine shreds of lemon zest and a sprig of tarragon for garnish.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fermented Red Onions and Fermented Jalapenos

More fermented foods! I have been trying a few new things here and there with fermenting. Some are great successes and other not so much. It all boils down to personal taste, as with most anything else. 

Fermented Red Onions & Jalapenos
I tried making a fermented version of Ajvar, a mixture of red bell peppers and eggplant with onion and garlic. That was a definite "no" for me. For a fermented food, it had very little flavor and nothing about it made me want to eat more. I even tried it on my eggs, but nope. That one was a dud. Another I had high hopes for was Fermented Salsa Verde. I made it with basically the same ingredients as my cooked version of Salsa Verde (which is just stupendous if I do say so myself!), even first charring the onions and garlic to add in some flavors. The resultant fermented version of this salsa was extremely tart with little to recommend it. I will likely slog through it, since I made it, but it is not a highlight. I read other comments on fermented salsas with a base of tomatillos with similar commentary. Too tart to enjoy. 

One that I tried and like just fine is Fermented Red Onion. Anyone who has used red onions will know that adding in vinegar will make them turn bright hot pink, just as it will do with red cabbage. Unfortunately with fermenting foods, adding in more than the tiniest splash of vinegar will inhibit the fermentation process. I found a recipe online at and it sounded like it might be good, so I only made the tiniest of variations, but this woman's recipe called for topping the mixture with a slice of red beet, which will give great color to the onions while they ferment, without the use of vinegar. Genius!

I chose not to chop the onions very fine, as did the person at "killerpickles". I halved the recipe, as I was not sure how they would taste and didn't want to have huge jars of something I would not eat. Ultimately, it is a wonderful tasting condiment, and would be great on hot dogs or brats, or as in the case of a couple of salads I made recently, they add great piquancy.

Fermented Red Onions

makes about 1 quart

1 pound red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 - 2 slices red beet

This is best made in a Fido type jar, with the latching mechanism. I did not use an air lock device, but left the ferment, submerged and weighted, just under the latched jar and it went well.

Prepare the onions as desired. I sliced them thinly and then did a rough chop. Place them into a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Toss well and let the mixture set on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes. The onions will begin releasing liquid. Mix in the peppercorns and pack the mixture into a jar at least 1.2 to 1.5 quart. This mixture releases a lot of liquids. Stick the bay leaf down into the mixture as you add it to the jar. Press down the onions tightly using hands or some other tamping tool. Set the beet slice or slices on top (I used a wide jar, so I used 2 slices of small beet) and then weight the mixture with glass weights, another jar that will fit inside or very clean stones (not limestone, as they will dissolve). Clamp the lid on the jar and set the jar in a dark place, or cover it with a towel to keep out of light. Keep in a cool area (not cold!) and allow to ferment for about 6 weeks or until all signs of bubbling have ceased. 

The mixture should release enough liquid to submerge the onions, beet and weights within 24 hours. If it does not, mix a small amount of brine, using 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt in 1/2 cup water and add this brine to the jar until everything is submerged by at least 1/2 inch.

Once the bubbling ceases, remove the weights and the beet slices and refrigerate. This will keep for a long while in the refrigerator. 

Fermented Red Onions & Jalapenos
When I made fermented Jalapeno peppers, I chose to slice them across into rings and push out most of the seeds. I was not being picky to get all the seeds, but I wanted to be able to eat them. I added in some carrot slices also, as I had always added carrot to my pickled Jalapenos in the past. In the case of fermenting, carrot slices help foods retain some crispness.

To make the Jalapenos:

Slice about enough peppers to make about 4 cups, packed. Press these into a 1.2 to 1.5 quart jar, adding in some carrot slices along the way. Press the peppers down well and top with a cabbage leaf or a butterflied pepper or two to help them stay submerged once topped with brine. Set a weight on top to keep everything down and pour on a brine made with: 2 - 3 tablespoons of sea salt with 1 quart of filtered water, stirring until the salt is dissolved. The brine is poured over the peppers to cover everything by about 1 inch at least. Cover the jar, preferably a clamp type jar such as a Fido. If an airlock is desired this is a great addition, to keep air out of the mixture. Air is the enemy to a proper ferment.

Ferment the jalapenos for up to 3 weeks in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate them whenever they look and taste as you prefer. They will keep for a long while in the fridge. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Kalbi Flank Steak and Wild Rice Corn Salad

My son and his wife were visiting over the course of 2 weekends and whenever they are around, we tend to try new recipes and revisit old ones. We all love food and we all love wine and between us we really have an excellent time at table. They brought some wines with them that were discovered earlier this year on a trip out to the Seattle area. The winery, tiny and kept that way on purpose is called Harbinger, and the 3 wines they brought were all wonderful. My favorite of all was a Tempranillo blend caller "Bolero", and not far behind was a Sangiovese called "Rapture". Another really good one was a Cabernet Franc.
Wild Rice and Corn Salad

On the last evening they were here, I had marinated a flank steak with Kalbi type flavorings. The firt time I ever heard of Kalbi was on a cruise ship. On the first afternoon onboard there is generally a sort of cafeteria style lineup of foods, and I tried some thin strips of meat that were just out of this world. I raved so much that the chef gave me the recipe. Unfortunately, trying to pare down a recipe for thousands into a recipe for home use obviously didn't translate well, and when I tried it at home it fell so far short that I never tried it again. That was a long time ago.

Many, many years have passed since then, and I have become far more confident of concocting my own recipes. When recently I was reading a little blurb on a restaurant somewhere that served Kalbi, made using some sort of short ribs, I was first just struck by the name. I know the thin strips of meat I ate onboard the cruise ship were not short ribs by anyone's definition, but the flavors certainly came up in the "Asian" category. I revisited the recipe.

I added some things and took out others and generally just made it my own way, using a flank steak. Flank Steak can be a really tough cup of meat if overcooked. It can also be difficult to eat unless it is sliced across the grain. There is little to no fat on a flank steak, so long cooking will only dry the meat further. I have made many many flank steaks through the years, and I truly love them. They play well with marinades and are quick to broil or grill. A match made in heaven for a Kalbi flavored marinade.

Kalbi Flank Steak

Kalbi Flank Steak
serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Mirin (or use Sake)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dark (toasted) sesame oil
1 - 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
1 walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated or minced

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large flat container or a gallon sized zip-top bag. Place the flank steak into the marinade, coating it on both sides. Press out all the air if using a bag. Marinate the steak for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight, turning occasionally so the meat is flavored on both sides equally.

Preheat a broiler or a grill. Grill or broil the meat over high heat for about 6 minutes per side. It should stay pink in the center, or it tends to toughen. Once grilled to desired doneness, set the meat on a platter and cover with foil for a few minutes before slicing. Slice the meat across the grain either very thinly, or in less than 1-inch thick slices to serve. 

Racking my brain for something new to make as a side dish for this meal, I finally settled on something with a wild rice base. This came about because as it happened, I had about 3 cups of cooked wild rice in the fridge. It had set on the burner for too long and had all burst open. none of those pretty black strands for this dish! There was nothing wrong with the flavors though, and adding in a lot of other flavors would only be absorbed the better for its burst open state. As I sat thinking about what I had and what I would like to add, I came up with this recipe, and as it happens it was truly inspired. We were practically inhaling it! It made a perfect side for the Kalbi Flank Steak.
Wild Rice and Corn Salad

I used 3 cups of cooked wild rice and 1 cup of white rice, as these were the amounts I had already existing in the fridge. The quantities can be changed, reversed, or used half and half, but about 4 cups of rice will be needed in total. You will need to cook about 3/4 cup wild rice in about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of water with 1 teaspoon salt for nearly an hour, covered. For 1 cup of white rice, cook 1/2 cup white rice with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 cup water, covered, for 15 minutes.

Wild Rice and Corn Salad

Serves 6 to 8
Wild Rice and Corn Salad

3 cups cooked wild rice (3/4 cup dry wild rice)
1 cup cooked white rice (1/2 cup dry white rice)
2 tablespoons pine nuts or cashews
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
3 - 4 scallions, chopped
2 ears fresh corn, shucked
2 to 3 ounces crumbled Feta cheese
chopped cilantro to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon crushed Sichuan / Szechuan peppercorns, optional
1 teaspoon Asian Dark Sesame Oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more, if needed

Have the rice cooked and cooled well ahead of time, or the day before.

Heat a grill or broiler and grill the corn until there is some char on about 1/3 to 1/2 of the kernels, turning often to grill evenly.

Place both the cooled rices in a large bowl and fluff the rice to separate the grains. Add in the pine nuts, green and red pepper, scallions and Feta. Cut the kernels from both of the cobs of corn and add them in. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the rice mixture and toss well. Add in cilantro and mix well. I used at least 1/2 cup of cilantro. If this is not to your taste, alter the amount as needed. Taste the mixture and add in the salt if needed.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.