Bodega Blooms

Stacie usually spends her days arranging flowers in the homes of the stars, but she met me outside a bodega to show me what could be done with the most pedestrian blossoms. With skill and style, she transformed these unremarkable bunches into high-end designs. Here are her tips for selecting and arranging corner store flowers.

Click here to read them all.

From Sweets & Bitters Volume 2, Corner Store Entertaining:

Pickled Jalapeños

 

You know those little orange cans with the glamorous Mexican lady offering pickled peppers? They are one of the best things you can buy in a bodega. I love the can’s cheery kitsch, and the pickles are as good with a hasty breakfast of eggs and leftover rice as with tacos or burritos. (They get an honorable mention in the latest edition of Sweets & Bitters Quarterly, Corner Store Entertaining.)

There’s nothing wrong with opening one of those cans, but you can make pickled jalapeños from scratch really easily. The advantages of cooking your own are that you can add other vegetables–cauliflower, radishes, young turnips–and the sense of pride that you get from making something yourself.

I’m going to give you a recipe, but you don’t need one. Just slice some carrots and pierce some jalapeños (so the brine gets inside, and so they don't squirt you in the eye when you bite them). Put them in pot and cover them with equal parts of water and vinegar. Season the brine with salt and sugar, and a handful of pickling spice if you have it. Garlic is good too. Some people drizzle in a bit of olive oil. Bring it all to a boil and simmer it until the peppers change color. That's it. Now put everything in glass jars, refrigerate them, and wait at least a day (three is better) before eating the pickles.

Pickled Jalapeños

makes 2 quarts

  • 8 medium carrots
  • 15 jalapeños
  • 12 cloves (1 bulb) garlic, peeled
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups apple cider or white vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt*
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons pickling spice
  • (or 1 Tablespoon peppercorns and a cinnamon stick)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)

Wash the carrots and jalapeños. Slice the carrots into ¼ thick rounds. Pierce each jalapeño.

Put everything in a large non-reactive pot. If the vegetables aren’t covered, add a little more liquid. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the jalapenos change color (from bright green to olive green). Scoop the vegetables into clean glass jars, then cover them with brine. Seal and refrigerate.

*Iodized table salt contains anti-caking agents that will cloud  brine. Also, due to the crystal size it’s nearly twice as much salt per volume as kosher salt. You can use table salt if you don’t mind cloudy brine, but use half as much.

 

 

Homebound Cooking

photo courtesy of nasaAll the recipes I've been playing with for the forthcoming "Corner Store Entertaining" volume of Sweets & Bitters Quarterly seem especially pertinent as Hurricane Sandy shuts down New York City. If there are stores open, they are mom and pop delis where the proprietors live upstairs. I'm not the only one thinking about how to make good meals out of canned goods and pantry staples right now–what else is there to do besides cook, drink, and obsessively scan social media for storm pictures?

Here are two recipes you shouldn't have to leave the house (or at least the block) to make. Improvise a hurricane cocktail, see what's in the pantry, and get cooking before the power goes out.

Grandma Joan's Pimento Cheese

  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • ½ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • two 4-oz jars pimentos, finely chopped
  • 25 shakes Tabasco

Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. It should be thick but spreadable. Add more mayonnaise if it’s too thick, and more Tabasco if you like it spicy. Transfer to a pretty serving bowl.

Serve with Ritz crackers, baguette slices, or beer bread.

Beer Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375, and grease a bread pan (fold one out of doubled up aluminum foil if you don't own one).

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Dump in the beer and brikly mix together to moisten the flour but leave it lumpy. Transfer the batter to the pan so it's somewhat evenly distributed, and pour the butter or olive oil over the top.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a skewer or fork comes out mostly clean. Remove it from the pan to cool for about 15 minuted before slicing.

Notes: Avoid using a bitter beer, something cheap and light is ideal. Substitute up to 1 cup of the flour with wheat flour. Add spices or shredded cheese for fun.