Monday, July 27, 2009

perfect half-sour pickles

Dear reader, as you know, I get on kicks--or cravings, or the hunt for, etc . . . Well the latest has been a search for a great, crispy, bright green deli pickle. I always called them dill pickles. Sounds right, but I had no idea how they were made--oh sure, vinegar, dill, spice, sealed in a jar? No. The pickle I was looking for was different. Garlicky, crisp, briny, with no vinegar. I discovered that the pickle I was craving is called the half-sour, a staple of east coast deli's.

I did some research and found that the half-sour gets its flavor and its name from a very quick (and fairly simple) fermentation process. I liked the idea of not canning anything, so I thought that this is the pickle recipe for me. I adapted the recipe from at least 4 web recipes that had very similar ingredients and instructions. I assumed that at least 4 people could not be completely wrong. Half the fun was shopping for the ingredients--it gave me an excuse to go to the new Berkeley Bowl West, 920 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley, CA. and believe me it was worth it. The produce selection is bar none and the prices are very reasonable. A 2 quart Mason glass jar with locking lid and I was good to go. Since the fermentation process involves leaving your cukes at room temp for a few days, please be sure that every surface and utensil you use is very clean to avoid any unwanted contamination.

The ingredients:
8 cups cold, filtered water
1/4 cup kosher salt (no iodine)
1 bunch of fresh dill, stem end trimmed off
6 garlic cloves, cut in half
10-20 black peppercorns
1/8 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbl pickling spices
1 small dry red chili (optional)
10 small-medium Kirby cucumbers (not Persians)
2 grape leaves

Don't cut down on the spice. The cucumbers absorb alot of flavor. Clean the cucumbers well and trim off any attached stem. Place the cucumbers lengthwise into the jar. Dissolve salt in the filtered water and pour over the cucumbers to cover. Add all other ingredients and stir gentle to mix. Place a small saucer or bowl in the opening of the jar to keep the cucumbers submerged. You may need to add a weight to the plate to keep it down. The cukes cannot have contact with air or they will rot. Do not close the lid, but place a loose piece of plastic wrap over the opening. The idea is for some of the natural bacteria in the air to react with the brine. The grape leaves have been found to give the crispness you want in the final pickle.

Place the jar in clean area with the temp about 68 degrees. Since this is a low salt half-sour pickle, the cucumbers remain unrefrigerated for only 3 days. A slight cloudiness will form, and a few bubbles, a sign of the fermentation. After 3 days, skim any foam on top, check pickles to see if they are bright green, with a great dill/garlic smell. They should look and smell good. If it smells funky or the pickles are slimy, discard. When in doubt, discard. Otherwise, seal the lid and refrigerate for 5 days. They are now ready to eat! They last a month refrigerated .

Friday, July 10, 2009

historic requa inn and dining at steelhead lodge in klamath, ca.

Ah, June 21st, a day that has always been the best birthday, clear, sunny and the longest of the year, a day to stretch out as long as you can . . .So this year it's Father's Day too, and we decide to take a drive from Crescent City to Klamath up the scenic Requa Road to the mouth of the Klamath River. First stop on the bluff overlooking the river sits the Requa Inn, 451 Requa Road, a quaint, rustic bed and breakfast first built in 1914 as a 22 room hotel. Now with 10 unique rooms with spectacular views, this inn is included in National Geographic Traveler magazine's 2009 stay list of 129 "hotels we love" in North America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The inn features a hot tub, custom made breakfast and a carbon neutral footprint adding a little modernity to this historic property. Check out their web site at .
So, back down the hill, across the highway and into the Klamath Glen. Winding through the redwoods with houses tucked in the trees, you reach the Steelhead Lodge. Located at 330 Terwer Riffle Road, this a favorite of locals with good reason. I love things that remain traditional--old school--I've mentioned that before in the search for classic Mexican. Steelhead Lodge certainly does that.

You start with a great all wood bar with captain chairs and fishbowl size classic cocktails. The dinners are all inclusive of the generous kind, with an alderwood burning grill and grill master right outside the door! A salad of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot and red cabbage served family style begins the meal. You know the one--the classic American salad. The dressing is a creamy house made ranch blended with blue cheese. It can't get any better. Lovely, soft, flaky rolls top it off.

We selected the 26oz. rib eye for 2 (but enough for 3) 39.00, an absolutely perfectly medium rare, smoky, tender steak with little bits of caramelized fat at the edges. You could choose a side of rice pilaf or chili, but the standout is the potato cooked in it's skin at the grill and rubbed lightly with oil and sea salt. Really divine. Steelhead Lodge does fresh cod, snapper and lobster, but a real show stopper that flew by me was a rack of pork ribs stacked with a half of a grilled chicken. A large bowl of steaming mushrooms in wine and butter was right behind. It's a simple menu done very well. Visit their website at .

It was very satisfying on this longest day of summer to know that little gems in pristine settings still exist in this world.