Sunday, June 29, 2014

Miso Pickles

I've always loved the idea of pickling and canning vegetables and fruit, but have always been daunted by the process, feeling I lacked the proper equipment or knowledge to do it properly. Plus, I've always been fortunate enough to have ample folk around me who excel at the process, so I've been happy to enjoy the fruits (and veg) of their labors. 

Still - in the height of market season, I often find my eyes are bigger than my fridge or food prep capabilities in a week, and not everything works by tossing it in the freezer. So when I heard an interview and description on Splendid Table of 'Miso Pickles', I was intrigued. I love miso, and even had just about everything I needed on hand to try it out. 

homemade tastes better on handmade, miso pickles
the players - the first batch was made in the casserole,
with a plate on top. Now I just put them directly into a jar.

Looking over the recipe and method, I felt pretty secure in tampering a bit with some ingredients. Below is my method, and if you'd like to see the original, you can find it on the Splendid Table website. I saw another interesting version at the Cultured Food LIfe site too - lots of options!

The broadcast and web article also talk about making a 'bed' of the pickling paste, and I'll be trying that next - here's my take on the submersion version:

Miso Pickles

1 cup white miso
4 TBSP rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
2 TBSP rice wine
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 small knob of ginger, grated

1-2 cups vegetables (I used thinly sliced carrots and green beans - quantity is determined some by size of the veg as you need to make sure everything is well coated by the paste)

Combine the first six ingredients in a bowl and mix into a loose paste. Pour the paste into a jar or other container with a lid (I did my first test batch in a small ceramic casserole). Submerge the vegetables into the paste - make sure all veg gets thoroughly coated. As I was filling the jar, I would periodically put on the lid and give it a light shake to distribute everything.

homemade tastes better on handmade, miso pickles
pasty pickles

Let this sit on the counter overnight, then transfer to the fridge for storage. When you want to eat the pickles, take them out of the jar and rinse them first. I didn't slice the green beans, and I'm finding that the longer they stay in the paste (you should be able to keep them in the fridge for several months), the tastier they get. The thinly sliced carrots became tender and tasty overnight. 

homemade tastes better on handmade, miso pickles
delicate, lightly crunchy, and delicious alone or added to a dish.

I'm letting all the veg 'cure' in the pickling bed for another week before I take them out, so I can see how it continues to develop, and then as long as the base doesn't become too watery, I'll use it again. I have another test batch of thinly sliced beets in another container - not sure of how long the veg should last out of the pickling paste, but so far I've been using them as fast as I can rinse them so perhaps that's not an issue at all. 

I've eaten these alone and added them to salads, and the flavor is a mildly 'miso' that is quite tasty. I'm looking forward to trying this with other veg, and then eventually when the miso paste loses its pickling power, turning that into a nice marinade.

Friday, June 6, 2014

More Strawberry Love

Breakfast on the Go:

A quickie, but an old favorite. Still looking for ways to enjoy this season's delicious strawberries, and not always having a lot of time. I love them just the way they are, but sometimes a little more substance is needed for the start of the day. And some people think oatmeal is just for the cooler months, and I agree that I don't eat a lot of hot oatmeal in the summer, but that doesn't mean you need to neglect it for the entire season!

I took a small jar and started with about 1/3 cup of oats, topped with a handful of sliced strawberries and a small peach. Grated a small bit of fresh ginger, drizzled some honey, then topped with about 1/2 cup of goat milk yogurt and a couple of leaves each of fresh basil and mint, torn into small pieces. 

the ingredients

I gave the jar a good shake, then tossed it in my bag and headed to the studio. By the time I got to the studio, the oats had begun to soften and the flavors of the fresh fruit were nicely mingled with the ginger, honey, and herbs. 

brekkie in a jar
I'm looking forward to more combinations throughout the season. And I realize I don't have a lovely image of my morning porridge in a beautiful handmade bowl, but I was just hungry enough when I got to the studio that I ate this out of the jar. If I were to (and when I do) 'plate' this, I think a yunomi tea bowl will be the vessel. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


I love going through Spring as fruits and veg start crowding each other at Farmer's Market stalls, and the strawberries have been so luscious this year that it's been hard to resist! 

Recently, having picked up berries at the weekend Tailgate, I had the chance to get some more from another favorite farm, Mudluscious Gardens. I didn't want any to go bad, and there's only so much room in the freezer. No time for jams or preserves, so what else? 

Cue the serendipity please: a random re-organization of a kitchen drawer led to the re-discovery of a popsicle mold, and even better, some sticks! Combine that with a forecast for rising temps, a few other key ingredients:

...and we have a plan. Goat milk yogurt, berries, honey, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of basil. I was throwing this together before work, so I didn't measure exactly (big surprise!), but I found this recipe at that more or less shared my ingredient list - I used goat milk yogurt and I think a bit less honey. Also, I just tossed everything in the food processer and let it rip until it was well blended - what they detail below would be excellent as well to pull even more flavors out:

Strawberry Basil Popsicles
Makes: 8 to 9 popsicles
What You Need
  • 1 pound / pint (2 cups) strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 10 basil leaves
 Technical note: if you have this type of popsicle mold, make sure your sticks are standing STRAIGHT up, to avoid a rather comical event when it's time to take off the lid. :)
What To Do
  1. Hull and roughly chop strawberries. In a bowl, combine the strawberries with ⅓ cup honey and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, and let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Blend together the strawberries with 1 cup Greek yogurt and 10 basil leaves using a blender or immersion blender, until thoroughly combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
Adapted from The Kitchn

My review: refreshing but not too sweet - big win and can't wait to try other versions!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Spring Market Inspirations

Good News! Studio life is ramping up (mmmmm...ramps!), and the rest of the year looks productively busy and fruitful (mmmm....fruit!). And although I may not be home to cook as much, even the studio kitchen is getting more beefed up (mmmm...ok, I'll stop) with the addition of an oven/stove. Watch for studio creations in the future. And I did manage to get a bit of garden planted, with great hopes to continue - also another post to come.

Tonight's fun in the kitchen was motivated by running across a sale on lamb chops at the Farmer's Market, followed by a lucky grabbing of the last bunch of pencil-thin asparagus at another booth. 

As the chops were marinating in a bit of garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, and olive oil, I looked through what else was on hand, and this is what happened (recipe is in there if you pay attention!):

The sweet potatoes were cut up and boiled for a mash, and while they simmered and the meat marinated, the garlic scapes and shallots were chopped (small dice) and saute-ed in olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Sliced mushrooms were added to that, and after it cooked down a bit over medium heat, a small drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and about 3 tbsp of stock were added before I placed the asparagus on top. Covered that and let it steam on med-lo heat while I seared off the chops in a hot cast iron pan in a bit of olive oil over med-hi heat. After they were browned on both sides (3 minutes or so each side), they went into a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, during which, the sweet potatoes were mashed with 2 tbsp butter, a splash of almond milk, a few grates of pecorino romano, and salt/pepper to taste. The chops were taken out of the oven and moved to a platter to rest for a bit while asparagus was plated and topped with mushrooms/scapes along with the mash, and then we had dinner!

Continuing a Legacy

I have been given an incredible honor - Marty & Eileen Black, who have recently retired The Potter's Mark studio and gallery, have given me their process and glazes/recipes for their signature line of pottery, in the hopes that I will be able to continue the legacy they've built over the past 30+ years.

I am indeed honored and very excited about what possibilities lie ahead with this opportunity. Currently, I'm in the process of testing two of the most popular glazes, their signature 'Red', and the 'Spirit' glaze. The first tests of using these glazes on my clay body in a different kiln were very encouraging, but I won't begin regular production in any of these glazes until I have consistent results in several firings. After I nail down these two glazes, I'll test through others. While I may not carry items in every glaze, my plan is to be able to fill replacement orders for long time collectors in any glaze they have. I will only produce bodies of work in 2-3 glazes for show and sale in The Village Potters' gallery and in other regional galleries, all under the name "The Potter's Mark Line". 

The overall list of items that will be offered will be less than what Marty and Eileen originally carried, as  they, working together full time, were able to carry over 50 items, many available for wholesale as well as retail. I will have to pare down that list as I will be working solo. I'll also be carrying on my own work - if you check out my website 'Portfolio' link, you'll see that I've added a section for The Potter's Mark. As I continue the tests and achieve consistent results, I'll begin posting samples of the glazes that will be available. But testing is imperative, and cannot be rushed! If you'd like to keep up with my progress, I invite you to join The Potter's Mark mailing list for monthly updates and opportunities to win very special, very one-of-a-kind test pieces during this process. You'll also get first dibs on placing orders once that time comes!

The standing bowl, above, is The Potter's Mark signature Red Glaze. On the right, first test firing in my kiln. Encouraged to get red at all, but still some work to do!

For those who have been collecting The Potter's Mark wares, I will be carrying the most popular forms, and while I will make every effort to stay true to the spirit of Marty & Eileen's forms, they will be different as different hands are making them. I would never attempt to copy their style - indeed, one of the reasons I have been given this great honor and opportunity is because our styles, while different on the surface and in our decoration, have much in common when you look at the base forms. I believe that when current collectors see the range of forms available, that they may not have or may not have considered, with Potter's Mark glazes, they will be very pleased to add them to the collection.

Stay tuned for more!