I’ve already written about my passion for, nay, addiction to spicy foods. My long-cauterized palate is apparently incapable of tasting anything unless it’s got a capsaicin kick.
Subsequently, there’s always a wealth of hot sauces in the house. Sometimes I reach for the clean vinegar-based heat of Tabasco; other times it’ll be a dollop of spicy salsa from our local taqueria that is like pure crack to me. But most often of all, Sriracha is my go-to hot stuff.
It’s practically perfect in every way, with clean, sharp heat, good body and a faint sweetness to back it up and create a longer finish. For ages, I assumed this magically-balanced sauce must employ some mysterious Asian ingredient that makes the whole thing sing. And yet, on the rooster-adorned bottle, the ingredients are just chili, sugar, salt, garlic and distilled vinegar. Oh yeah, plus potassium sorbate, sodium bisulfite and xanthan gum. I could live without those last few ingredients.
It turns out that those first five ingredients really are all that are needed to make a flavorful, almost shockingly red sauce that stands up to the stuff in the bottle. Best of all, you can tweak the heat up or down with the selection of peppers. I used a mix of red jalapeño, habanero and red padron peppers; if you want to tone it down a bit, feel free to include sweet red peppers in the mix as well.
Sriracha-Style Hot Sauce
Total time: 24 hours
Prep: 30 minutes
Inactive: 23 hours
Cook: 20 minutes plus 10 minutes
Continue Reading How to Make Your Own Hot Sauce
Most days, I like to eat pretty sensibly in the morning. A couple eggs, a forkful of kraut and beans are regular staples on our plate. But if there’s pie in the house, you can be darn sure I’m eating it for breakfast.
I’m not particular; any kind will do. Classic apple is always nice, though the tartness of cherry plays nicely against a bracing cup of coffee. During the holidays, pumpkin pie is perfect for both the beginning and end of the day.
It’s easy to justify as a breakfast food. After all, pumpkin pie employs three food groups: Grain in the crust, dairy in the form of butter and cream, plus protein from the eggs in the custard. Heck, it’s even made with a vegetable. It’s practically health food.
But diet food, it ain’t. That’s why, when I’m craving breakfast pie, I fall back on the next best thing: Pumpkin butter. It’s a great delivery mechanism for the flavors of pumpkin pie, without the added pound of butter and pint of cream.
Slathered on an English muffin, you can almost trick yourself into believing you’re enjoying that slice of pie for breakfast. Well, maybe before you’ve had your coffee.
Continue Reading Like Pie for Breakfast (Sort Of)
Making your own kraut is easy and cheap, and the process uses ingredients and equipment you can easily source, if you don’t already have them on hand: a big bowl, a quart-size Mason jar, vegetables and sea salt. Cabbage is the traditional base for kraut, but you can include any other crunchy vegetables such as carrots, radishes or turnips. You’ll use a little more than one tablespoon of salt for every two pounds of vegetables. For this batch we used one small red cabbage, about one pound, three large carrots, again about one pound, slightly more than one tablespoon sea salt, and one teaspoon each yellow mustard seed and fennel seed.
Continue Reading How to Make Your Own Quick and Easy Sauerkraut
In preserving, as with most things, it’s all about the right tool for the job. To the untrained eye, one mason jar may look more or less like another, and while it’s true they all get the job done, each has its strengths. For example, wide-mouth jars with shoulders are particularly good for when you need to pack things in and not have them float, like pickles or whole fruit. I have a cache of more than 50 quart jars that we use almost exclusively for our annual tomato-canning extravaganza. And while you can never have enough half-pint jars for jams, I also really love the tiny 4-oz. jars expressly because they make quick, cute and inexpensive gifts.
But there are two jars that have particular use: The Ball 12-oz. quilted jars and 24-oz. pint-and-a-half jars. Each of these is 50% larger than their standard counterparts (half pint and pint, respectively), and each has a straight, cylindrical profile. This, then, makes them perfect for canning long, narrow things, like asparagus — and green beans.
When I’m feeling a bit peckish, I don’t grab candy. Salty snacks and crackers have a siren song, but even then I can navigate those waters. No, my ultimate go-to bite is a pickle. It ticks all the boxes: Cool, juicy, salty, tangy. And if it can be a bit spicy, so much the better. Dilly beans tick all the boxes. You can settle in front of the tube with a big bowl of popcorn; I’ll curl up with a jarful of these slender, spicy spears.
Continue Reading Bean There, Jarred That
While the rest of the country swelters, we’ve been enjoying one of the most gloriously mild and sunny summers I’ve experienced in more than two decades in San Francisco. Normally around now, the city is covered with a heavy, wet fog, and blustery winds slap sheets of it in your face like a cold washcloth. Instead, once the morning fog pulls back, it’s been downright nice, even occasionally what passes for hot around here. Like, in the 70s.
If you’re in the scorched center or eastern parts of the company, maybe you’re looking for some of that cold washcloth treatment to cut the edge. I can’t deliver the fog to you, but I can offer you a solution that’s almost as good.
Think about it. When else do you sit around sweating in unreasonable heat and humidity? That’s right, in a sauna or steam room. And what refreshes in said environment? Spa water. Only, we’re talking summer here, and mere water just ain’t gonna cut it this time. No, clearly this calls for vodka. Ice. Cold. Vodka.
Continue Reading Summer Spa Water, or Cucumber-Infused Vodka
Smoky burgers fresh off the grill. Savory BLTs with tomatoes fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun. Club sandwiches with crisp lettuce, salty bacon and creamy avocado. All of these things are mouthwatering all on their own. But to my mind, each of them needs a foil, a companion condiment to bring out their best: a pickle.
Continue Reading Quick Pickles Pick Up Your Summer Sandwiches
I’m absolutely crazy for stone fruit. From the moment the first cherries come in, I quiver in anticipation of what’s to follow: sweet-tart plums and pluots, gushingly juicy peaches. I most look forward to the apricots, seductive and demure.
I could eat a bushel of them right out of hand, but apricot jam is my favorite, bar none, so every year I hunker down and make a bunch. Apricots don’t need much; their flavor blooms as you cook them down, but they also take nicely to a little spice. A few peppercorns, some cardamom, perhaps half a stick of cinnamon all bundled into a cheesecloth sachet will leave a subtle undertone to your jam. But if you want to create something special, crack open a few of the apricot pits and toss the kernels into the sachet.
Continue Reading Going Ape for Apricot Preserves
I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for those Day-Glow red maraschino cherries that lurk in the murky depths of the classic Manhattan. They’re nostalgic, and always good for a bar bet if you can tie the stems with your tongue. But let’s face it: They don’t really taste much like cherries. Or, for that matter, anything but sugar. And red.
In the interest of having a cherry that tastes like a cherry, consider making your own maraschinos. It really couldn’t be easier, other than the grueling effort of pitting the stubborn little buggers. (This can be greatly expedited by employing eager, young hands and one of these swank tabletop cherry pitters.) Or not: You can leave the pits in some or all; they lend a pleasing, almond-like flavor to the final product. That flavor happens to come from – ahem – cyanide, but it’s in quantities small enough to be merely delicious, not deadly.
Continue Reading Cherry Condition
They turn your head. Maybe it’s the flash of lurid red in the corner of your eye as you walk by the booth at the farmer’s market. More likely it’s the intense, candy-like perfume that fills your sinuses. Maybe you weren’t conscious of the triggers, but you suddenly find yourself salivating. Strawberries have a siren song.
So irresistible are they that, I confess, I have found myself mystified upon return home on how, exactly, I managed to purchase two groaningly heavy flats of the beauties. Mmm hmm, like you haven’t.
The problem is that the glorious music that is a perfectly ripe strawberry is fleeting. From the minute you pick them, the berries begin to wither and decay. If you want to capture it, you’d better work fast.
Continue Reading Your (Not-So) Basic Strawberry Jam Recipe
Aside from judging pickles and standing in line for hours at various street food vendors at last year’s Bay Area Eat Real Fest, I also attended the adjunct Eat Real Lit Fest. It featured a wide range of brainy foodies alternately reading from their works or extemporizing on the topic of street food and other burgeoning trends.
One of the highlights was local chef Richie Nakano. Cribbing from his notes and brandishing his inked arms, he regaled the audience with the saga of how he left a stable kitchen gig to launch his own street food business, Hapa Ramen. On opening day, exhausted from an all-night noodle-making session, faced with missing valves and other logistical problems, Richie was exasperated. But he persevered and went on to become one of the hottest street vendors in the city of San Francisco, as well as one of my more regular lunch treats on market days at the Ferry Building.
Richie’s ramen is worth the trip, for sure, but should you find yourself at his booth, don’t forget to order the extra carton of kimchi and pickles for just a buck more. Richie uses seasonal veggies for the pickles, which rest on a bed of salty-spicy kimchi.
Continue Reading DIY Kimchi Recipe