Sunday, May 26, 2013

Relishing Life!

Memorial Weekend marks the unofficial start to summer and barbecue season (unless you are in Seattle, like me). I heard on the news this morning that Americans eat 7 billion hot dogs each summer. That's enough to stretch between Washington DC and Los Angeles 5 times! 

I admit to eating a few hot dogs each summer.  After all, I have to do my part as an American. I think my favorite combination is mustard, onions, and relish. If you are looking to streamline that idea, several companies make what is commonly called Hot Dog Relish. So with that in mind, I thought a relish recipe might be perfect for a blog. 

When I was writing The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook, I came up with a number of different relish recipes including sweet pickle relish, corn relish, tri-colored onion relish and so on, but I didn't think about riffing on the Hot Dog Relish theme. 

I was contacted by Annie Dolce, the editor of The Daily Meal, an online community dedicated to culinary content covering everything from restaurant reviews and chef profiles to recipes and travel tips, and more.  It's super cool and if you are a foodie, you should definitely check it out. Annie is writing an article on relishes that will include several of my recipes and some tips for making your own relish.  I developed this recipe for her article.  

My Hot Dog Relish is a tangy, slightly sweet combination of flavors that borrows from classics like chow chow, sweet pickle relish, and even my grandmother, Nell's, mustard pickle recipe. I've done some comparing among the commercial brands and must say, "mine's better!" No really, I tasted a few that were so sweet they set my teeth on edge. If you typically top your hot dog the way I do, I think you'll agree that this Hot Dog Relish is a great balance between pungent yellow mustard and lightly sweet relish.  Through some onions on top and you are golden (Pony Boy). It's also yummy mixed into potato salad, macaroni salad, egg salad, etc.  Happy summer eating!

Hot Dog Relish
Yield: Makes one 1-pint (475 ml) jar

3/4 lb (340 g) pickling cucumbers (about 4), washed and finely diced
1/2 cup minced green cabbage
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
2 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
4 teaspoons (20 g) kosher or pickling salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) distilled white vinegar
1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder

Place cucumbers, cabbage, onion, and red bell pepper in a medium-sized nonreactive mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt, stir well. Let stand for 1 hour.

Drain mixture in a colander, rinse under cold water and drain again, pressing out any excess moisture.

In a medium-sized nonreactive saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, prepared mustard, dry mustard, mustard seed, celery seed, paprika, turmeric and cornstarch. Whisk until fully blended. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has thickened slightly.

Add cucumber mixture, and return the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the relish has finished cooking, transfer it into a sterilized pint jar and refrigerate until cool, then cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cioppino - Fisherman's Wharf-Style "Stone Soup"

Have you ever heard the story of Stone Soup? A traveler arrives in a town and announces to the peasants that he can make the most delicious soup from a stone. He gets a pot, fills it with water, and drops in the stone. After the pot begins to simmer, the traveler tastes it and says it's delicious but it could use a little onion. One of the peasants gives him an onion. The soup continues to cook and the traveler tastes it again and claims it's wonderful but if he had a few carrots it would taste even better. This tasting and chipping in goes on until, low and behold, he's actually created a wonderful pot of soup from a stone - and a community.

This story reminds me of the origin of cioppino. Cioppino was created at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It got its name because the fishermen would pitch in something for a communal stew when they returned with their daily catch. They'd chip in. Many were Italian immigrants. Walking along the dock, the cry would sound like chip-ino or chi-peen-o - and that, boys and girls is how Cioppino came to be.

If you've never had cioppino, it's a savory, sometimes spicy, fish and shellfish stew. It's usually served without removing the shells, so you'll be using your fingers a minute or two after you start eating. You can make it with almost any combination of fish and shellfish. As a matter of fact there are shellfish-only versions too. It's a quick, low calorie and super-flavorful. You can pair it with some garlic bread if you are so inclined.

Here's my version:


Serves 2

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup slivered onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel
Pinch dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 small garlic clove, minced
12 mussels (see Chef's tip)
4 oz medium tail-on shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 oz cod or other mild white fish
1 cup canned San Marzanno Tomatoes, chopped
2 cups fish stock (or chicken stock in a pinch)
1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp sea salt or more to taste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp dry sherry
Lemon wedges for garnish (optional)

In a medium-size saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, fennel, dried basil, and bay leaf, and cook slowly until the onion and fennel are translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so longer.

Add the mussels to the vegetables, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the shrimp, cod, tomatoes, stock, parsley, salt, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Bring the stew to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and the cod flakes easily.

Just before serving, add the sherry and check to see if you'd like to add additional salt. Ladle into bowls, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve with garlic bread.

Note: Feel free to play with the fish and shellfish in this recipe. You can add clams, oysters, crab - whatever you like! Here in Seattle, they even include salmon.