Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recipe: Pickled Basil Stems, or how to avoid throwing away anything ever

Recently, someone called me a serious picnicker. I suppose that's true. HM and I recently made banh mi for a day trip to the Hood River Fruit Loop. A friend and former co-worker pointed out that while most people brought PB&J to field work, I had "the best sandwiches." It's true--there was usually avocado, some kind of cheese, caramelized onions, and smoked or baked tofu. That one is still a work week favorite, except now I eat at a table instead of on the ground somewhere in the Oregon wilderness. And the summer that I discovered pan bagnat, I made them for every hiking trip, day trip, or other trip that would bring my companions and me outdoors at a meal time.

I'm not going to tell you how to make pan bagnat today, but rather how to make a condiment for your pan bagnat. Or salad or other sandwich or whatever else you can imagine. If you have a burning desire to learn more about pan bagnat, I wrote about it two years ago. You can also check out from the library Clotilde Dusoulier's first cookbook Chocolate and Zucchini which provides a recipe and background information. It's the type of sandwich that relies less on a recipe and more on guidelines. One of which is the inclusion of pickled ingredients, and another of which is the sandwich's past as peasant food. This recipe for thrift is consistent with pan bagnat's traditional past.

This tangentially related photo is of a place we've picnicked recently. I am including pictures of such things to buffer the very bad camera-phone pictures of food that accompany the recipe portion of this blog post.

The inspiration for this recipe is partially a 2011 New York Times article, That's Not Trash, That's Dinner!, about the less-eaten, typically discarded, perfectly edible and sometimes delicious parts of well-known fruit and vegetable plants; as well as the pickle platter small plate at one of my favorite restaurants, Grain and Gristle, which has of late been serving small pieces of pickled kale stems. The last time I had basil and cilantro beginning, as is their wont, to go bad in the crisper drawer, before washing and freezing the stems for stock, I hesitated. Then I turned to Google for ideas. I found no recipes for pickled herb stems, but I did find their mention on fancy restaurant menus or blogs about trips to fancy restaurants. So at the very least, they're not poisonous, I thought. Someone's tried it.

And with that pre-ramble, I give you a very simple recipe.

The view from the picnic site where these pickled stems were first tried.

Quick Pickled Basil Stems

Basil stems and wilty or dried but not rotten basil leaves
A jar big enough to fit them
Acidic liquid such as vinegar - I used lemon juice
Additional spices you'd care to include

Wash the basil. Chop the stems into small pieces, 1/4" or so in length. Add these and any leave you are using to the jar. Add salt. For one bunch of basil stems, I added about 2 tsp of salt. Then add your acidic liquid. I squeezed lemons directly into the jar. You want to submerge the stem pieces in the liquid. What I did, since I didn't want to use more than two lemons, was cut the remaining lemon peel into wedges and push them into the jar, using their weight to submerge and pickle both the lemon peels and the basil stems. Another note--some basil stems might be too tough and wooden to turn into soft, edible pickles. It's up to you if you want to add these to the brine; they may add flavor, or they may just get in the way.

Let sit in the liquid at least overnight. I'm not sure how long they keep; I made them a little over two weeks ago. The morning after I made these, roughly two weeks ago, I made pan bagnat with them and brought them to Cannon Beach.

This was actually taken while picnicking with the above-referenced pan bagnat and pickled stems.

I haven't tried these on salads or in pasta yet, but I'll let you know how it works out. Other than pan bagnat, I've made a mid-morning work snack with these consisting of teff polenta (or you could use normal polenta, or a cracker, or a slice of bread, or a sliced cucumber or radish) with smoked tofu (or smoked mozzarella or regular mozzarella or other cheese or a piece of meat) with a slice of tomato, the pickled basil stems and leaves topping the ensemble.

To further distract you from my ugly camera phone pictures, I present you with a flower near Mount Hood waving goodbye.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Newest Old Camera

I originally tried to combine this post with a post about picnicking and a recipe, and it just got out of control, a big monster post that was doomed to stay in draft form forever.

So, I've broken it up, and today you will get pictures only. Tomorrow or shortly thereafter, you will get the recipe.

A little more than two weeks ago, I was walking to the Hollywood Farmers Market with two friends. As is common on that route, we passed a garage sale. Something made us stop. I am told it was a mop. No really, there was something about a free mop or a mop for sale that grabbed my friends' attention, whereas I was distracted by something orange in the free box. It was a square scarf! For free. Yippee! You see, I love scarves as well as orange.

It seems we stumbled into the Garage Sale of Destiny. There, I found a pair of sunglasses for 50 cents, which was fortuitous as my previous pair had spontaneously snapped and shattered a few days earlier, as well as another square headscarf for $1. While waiting on line to pay for these items, I spotted something amazing. A black and gray bag with very heavy zippers sat on the table, looking very dark and industrial. One zippered section was slightly ajar, and into its shadowy depths I caught a glimpse of light.

I also caught a glimpse of a price tag. "Camera, Bag, Everything - $12!" The seller seemed at least somewhat aware of the amazingness of this bag, its contents, and its price.

For $13.50 I got two square scarves, a pair of sunglasses, a Pentax K1000, a couple of lenses, a flash, a bunch of filters, a roll of film (B&W and expired eight years ago, but still!), and what was perhaps the best surprise of all - a bunch of photos that were left in the bag. Mostly pictures of an office which, based on the computer monitors, probably came from the early 90's. There's a picture of a Christmas tree, a some pictures of cats (as my friend noted, the film days were full of, "We gotta finish the roll; just take a picture of the cat!"), and the best picture of all - a picture of another man in the office taking the photographer's picture.

Not currently having access to a scanner, I can't share those with you, not yet. But thanks to Fred Meyer's film-to-CD services, I can share with you the first roll I shot at Cannon Beach. The actual first roll I shot was a test roll, and I'd forgotten to remove the UV filter so the pictures are very, very dark. Also, this camera's light meter does not work, even when I replaced the battery. The following are pictures of Cannon Beach from just over two weeks ago, the result of my light meter guesswork.

It's not perfect; a few pictures show that the camera has some light leak issues. If I can't get it fixed, I guess I can use it for a hipster Instagram-like effect.

From Cannon Beach August 2012

Click the link to see the whole album.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sea Frenemies

HM commented this weekend that I haven't posted in awhile. Let me tell you a few things, and then ask yourself if you really want me to be posting on here.

Friday night, a little more than two weeks ago, HM and I went to Fred Meyer to buy an air conditioner to prepare for the 100-degree heat wave. Selecting the air conditioner took not much time, not as much time as we spent picking out beer, which was still less time than we spent picking out...

Extension cords.

I am now in a place where I spend a significant part of my Friday nights debating the merits of various extension cords.

That was Exhibit 1. Exhibit 2 is as follows:

Last week, I had a lengthy, detailed dream in which I decided to switch credit unions. The dream dealt with nothing but the process of switching from OnPoint (which I have no intention of doing anytime soon) to Advantis (the ATMs of which I frequently use.)

In case you were about to die of boredom, I present you with a pretty picture.

This is interesting, but not a lengthy story. Two days after the Extension Cord Incident, I explored tide pools in Arch Cape. There, I saw a starfish and stuck my toe on a sea anemone!

That's it. That's the whole story. Click the pictures for a link to the album, where you can find more pictures that tell the story better than I can with words.