Spare No Detail

If you’re anything like me when it comes to food, and you probably are if you’re reading this blog, then you love a good meal recap. What they served at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding? Tell me more! You just had an incredible meal at a farm-to-table spot in Nashville? Spare no detail, please. With that in mind, I hope you will appreciate hearing about the meals we had over Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot. Perhaps they will inspire your own menus. This is going to take a while, and there’s no formal recipe at the end, but I do describe how I made some of the dishes as I go.

First Night of Rosh Hashanah

The first night of Rosh Hashanah was just us four, so I kept the meal small. This was also because I was putting so much effort into the second night’s meal. But for first night, I took the caramelized onions I’d made in the crock pot and made them into a caramelized onion and blue cheese whole wheat tart. The butter from the crust dripped onto the floor of the oven, setting off the fire alarm. I roasted an acorn squash from the CSA with olive oil, salt, pepper and brown sugar, which dripped off the squash and set off the fire alarm when it wasn’t going off because of the tart. Those two, along with a simple salad, is how we started the new year. (Shout out to Rich who oversaw the oven’s self-cleaning overnight to get ready for the main event.)

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Second Night of Rosh Hashanah

For second night, we hosted my parents, my friend Dan, and some friends in town, whom I put in charge of the first fruit. They did a stellar job, bringing rambutan (a cousin of the lychee) and a durian fruit. (For better or worse, the durian was frozen and we didn’t get a chance to open it, but we will later this month. I’m so excited!)

For dinner we had, roughly in order:

Dates stuffed with Goat Cheese. Lilli is 100% completely in charge of this dish. She’s become very adept at using a butter knife to pit the dates.

Potato leek soup, with a dollop of crème fraiche. If you’re going to gild the lily one night of the year, it might as well be Rosh Hashanah.

Baked brie peach chutney in puff pastry. The same friend who brought the wacky fruit had a few weeks earlier collected peaches from her neighbor’s yard, which I made into peach chutney. I sliced off the top of a round of Camembert cheese, piled a few tablespoons of the chutney on top, wrapped it in puff pastry, applied an egg wash and baked it at 400F for 20 minutes — without setting off the smoke alarm! It was marvelous with the round challah from Small Oven Bakery.

Pickled cherry tomatoes. From a new cookbook by Leah Koenig I borrowed from the library that week.

A salad of mesclun, fresh figs, red grapes, blue cheese and candied pecans. I sautéed the grapes with a sprig of fresh rosemary and salt and made a sweet balsamic dressing I made with the local honey we dipped our apples in.

Delicata squash with thyme bread crumbs. Also from Leah Koenig.

Caprese salad with a balsamic reduction.

Farro with honeyed apples. Definitely worth cooking the honey in sweet apple cider.

Baked haddock. Don’t ever overlook Old Bay spice; there are entire states whose cuisines are based on it. I threw together a quick and easy tartar sauce with relish, mayonnaise, kosher salt and fresh lemon. My parents requested a non-dairy dressing to bring to their Shabbat dinner the following night, so I turned the tartar sauce into Thousand Island by adding 2 tablespoons ketchup, a teaspoon white vinegar; I forgot the half minced white onion, but I think it was fine.

Roasted mushrooms. I served these specifically because I thought Bea would eat them. She did!

Roasted carrots. Super low key, just coconut oil, kosher salt and pepper.

Dessert was plum cake, apple and walnut bars, and honey cake.

Special shout out to Thuy, who brought the spectacular new fruits and cleared the table and washed every dish in a matter of 20 minutes. You’re welcome back any time!

Sukkot

First night Sukkot was small, just us four and my parents. Still, the meal is still worth talking about. We had:

Carrot ginger soup

Baba ganoush (more to come on this)

Slow-roasted plum tomatoes. These looked like canoes when I took them out of the oven, so I filled with dollops of ricotta and chives.

Leek-artichoke tarts topped with blue and parmesan cheeses.

Radish and tonnato

Kale salad with roasted delicata squash and pomegranate

Peanut butter mousse ganache pie (recipe to come, soon!)

And ice cream, courtesy of Oma and Zayde.

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I’ll be following up with full recipes for the baba and peanut butter pie. But now I’m going to take a break. Just recapping all that cooking has made me tired. Happy new year, everyone!

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A Sukkah of One’s Own

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I’m teaching Hebrew School this year at the Reform Temple in town, where we go to Tot Shabbat every month. Last week we had our Open House where I met seven families whose children, ages Pre-K through second grade, will be in my class this year. I somehow convinced the rabbi we could definitely handle making a really easy plum cake recipe – with each family. We ended up making 10!

One of the bonuses to teaching Hebrew School, I mean, on top of making my parents unbelievably proud, is to fulfill my dream of having a sukkah.  (Daycare costs are KILLING us, so I used this extra income to purchase a sukkah kit we found online.) Well, on Sunday we hosted a sukkah building and decorating party for our friends and neighbors. It kind of reminded me of the Christmas tree decorating party I held back in Boston, mostly for my Jewish friends who’d always wanted to decorate a tree.

 

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Rich filled a cooler with cider, beer and seltzer, and I set up a craft project: build your own sukkah out of cream cheese, graham crackers and pretzel rods. I covered a table in arts and crafts projects: sequins, pre-cut paper for a colorful chain, popsicle sticks, beads, fishing line, pipe cleaners, paint, brushes, stickers. Just a ton of materials, much of which ended up in the grass courtesy of Beatrix.

 

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I filled a second table with tons of baked goods: blondies, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, apricot bars with an oat and whole wheat crust, one of the plum cakes from last week (defrosted that morning). I also made chive and cheddar scones because Sylvie thought I needed something savory in the mix. I adapted a sweet scone recipe, using 1 Tablespoon of sugar instead of 3, and sprinkled shredded cheese and chives, cut with kitchen shears, when it called for currants to be added.

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So, yes, that’s a lot. In fact, one of the reasons I didn’t post last week was I was too busy baking! But the recipe I’m most excited to share with you are the salted fudge brownies. I realized as I made them last week I don’t have a brownie recipe in my collection. But I think these are going to be my go-to brownies because they’re wicked easy to make, and quite tasty.

They’re from Desserts, from the editors and writers of Food & Wine which, as you all know, is my favorite of the food magazines. (Moment of silence for Lucky Peach, please.) The first thing I cooked from the book is a recipe that both Rich and I singled out: a chocolate chip cookie for one. It was terrific, took five minutes to put together, and cooked up nicely in my toaster oven. I’ve bookmarked the salted caramel pie, but I need to find the time to cook the sweetened condensed milk. And I’m going to need a few hours to put together the pumpkin pie bars.

One feature about the cookbook I’m really appreciating is that it tells you an estimate of how long a recipe is going to take to put together, bake and also cooling down time. Very helpful as I plan projects with the girls.

These brownies, however, are great because they were so easy to put together. It only took a few minutes, and it’s all done in one pot, so there’s very little to clean up. You start by melting baker’s chocolate and two sticks of butter in a pot. Once everything has melted together, you add the rest of your standard brownie ingredients, stir it up, then put it in a brownie pan that’s been covered in foil and then buttered. Couldn’t be easier. It is worth mentioning that I only had 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate and used chocolate chips for the other ounce, so I cut down the sugar from 2 cups to one. It didn’t seem to make a difference, and I’m sure they’re even better if you follow the recipe.

Salted Fudge Brownies from Desserts by Food and Wine

Ingredients

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp. Maldon sea salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square metal cake pan with foil, draping the foil over the edges. Lightly butter the foil.

In a large saucepan, melt the 1 ½ sticks of butter with the unsweetened chocolate over very low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat. Whisking them in 1 at a time until thoroughly incorporated, add the cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the batter. Using a butter knife, swirl the salt into the batter.

Bake the brownies in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes, until the edges are set but the center is still a bit soft and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out coated with a little of the batter. Let the brownies cool at room temperature in the pan for 1 hour, then refrigerate just until firm, about 1 hour. Lift the brownies from the pan and peel off the foil. Cut the brownies into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.

The brownies can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month.

 

 

Hot Crock Time Machine

I’m about to make your holiday cooking about 10 times easier. Seriously. Those caramelized onions you need for that potato kugel or chopped liver?  What if I told you you can do them in your sleep — literally?

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It had never occurred to me to caramelize onions in a crockpot, which is genius. The credit goes to someone named Barbara L. who submitted the recipe to Stock the Crock, a follow up to Phyllis Good’s bestselling Fix-It and Forget It series. The recipes are crowd sourced and compiled by Ms. Good. One of the cookbooks was sent to me a few years ago, and I made a very disappointing sweet potato curry from it. But reading that these books have outsold Ina Garten, Giada De Laurentis and Jamie Oliver, combined, had me picking up this newest with renewed curiosity. Here she’s compiled 100 recipes, as well as 200 easy-to-follow variations for dietary preferences including gluten-free, paleo, and vegan.

Given that this is a Crock-Pot cookbook, there’s a ton of meat recipes, but I immediately bookmarked the Indian Lentil Soup and Butternut Squash and Kale Gratin. But it was the onions, melted down ostensibly for French Onion Soup, that stopped me in my tracks. You mean I can do this in my sleep? While I’m at work? If this worked, I thought, this book is worth its weight in gold delicious oniony goodness.

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Turns out it did work, and the house now smells like caramelized onions. The hardest part of all was slicing up all the onions. Rich came into the kitchen this morning and saw me weeping at the counter and asked what was wrong.  Then he looked down and saw the onions. If you can, the recipe suggests you stir the onions after the first and third hours, but it does also say they’ll be fine if you can’t. The onions give off so much liquid that there’s no way they’ll scorch on the bottom of the pot.

So consider this a Rosh Hashanah present, from me to you, or an early time-saver looking ahead to Thanksgiving, etc.

Caramelized Onions for Soup (Or Sandwiches. Or Kugels.) from Stock the Crock by Phyllis Good

Ingredients

2 ½ lbs. red onions

1/3 cup avocado oil or olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

A few peeled garlic cloves, optional

Directions

Grease the interior of the 6 qt. slow cooker crock with nonstick cooking spray

Cut the onions in half on a cutting board, place them flat sides down, and cut them into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the sides in the crock. If they come almost to the top, don’t worry. They’ll sweat and shrink down.

Pour the oil and spoon the salt over the onions. Add the garlic cloves, if desired. Stir. Cover. Cook on High for 6 hours.

If you are home, stir up from the bottom after the first hour of cooking and again after another 2 hours. But if you’re away or cooking overnight, it’s not a problem.

After 6 hours you have caramelized onions. I personally waited for mine to cool down, then I wrapped them up and stuck them into the freezer to be used later this week.

Kitchen Helper

“What’s your house like?” asked a little girl Lilli was on a playdate with. “It’s…messy. Really messy.” I’d actually found myself in a similar conversation with a rabbi I’m working with days before. There are always projects going on — not renovations, more like this morning’s empty milk carton is about to become a robot’s head. And used toilet paper and paper towel rolls are clearly supposed to be arms and legs of figurines waiting to be made. Empty pizza boxes are dragons’ mouths; close your eyes and you can practically already see their teeth.

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And then, of course, are the kitchen projects. Nowadays Lilli is always by my side, armed with a butter knife, ready to cut anything soft enough. Ripe stone fruit work. So do tomatoes and some cheeses. And then there is the veggie sausage she cut for the vegan jambalaya, made with the okra Lilli and I would hand pick at the farm each week. That sausage came from a Western Mass company called LightLife, which invited me to enjoy some of their vegan sausages and hot dogs this summer.

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They also sent us a cute little portable grill, with a case that doubles as a cooler; a very handsome set of grilling tools, and Sir Kensington condiments. Beatrix, as it turned out, is a Lightlife hot dog fanatic. She gobbles them up, then asks for more while smashing her hands to sign “more” to hammer home the message. I ended up sending cut up pieces of the fake dogs in her lunch box this summer.

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I can report that Rich grilled the hot dogs successfully on the tiny grill, though he felt slight ridiculous with his Weber kettle standing at the ready. But let’s talk about this jambalaya recipe I developed this summer and love making. It starts with New Orleans Holy Trinity flavor base of onions, green peppers and celery. I add a healthy dose of tomato paste, which I keep flattened in a plastic Zip Loc in the freezer, to bolster the flavor.

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Once the veggies are softened, I browned the sausage, then added the okra, a small can of tomato sauce, then stock or water. My personal choice is water and the vegetarian Better Than Bouillon. To keep things simple, I use a can of black beans, drained. And instead of rice, which is totally fine to use, I tend to reach for the 10 Minute Farro from Trader Joe’s. That really cuts down on the prep time, making this an easy weeknight dinner. Because there is always squash in the fridge, I’ll sometimes quarter one and add it to the pot when I add the okra.

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This makes an immense amount of food. It can serve four adults as a main, with leftovers for days. It also freezes well; I have some in the freezer now.

Vegan Jambalaya

Ingredients

1 package Lightlife sausages, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 green pepper, seeded and chopped

1 small white onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

8 fresh okra, chopped or 1 cup frozen

1 small yellow summer squash, quartered

1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce

1 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro or 1 cup brown rice

2 cups vegetable stock (I use Better Than Bouillon)

Salt

Directions:

In a very large, lidded skillet with sides, soften the pepper, onion and celery in the tomato paste. Sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt.

Once softened, add the chopped sausage; brown it. Add the okra and summer squash; cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, black beans, farro and stock. Stir and salt. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer.

Cook the stew until the farro or brown rice has softened. If you’re using the Farro, check it in 15 minutes. If you’re using the brown rice, it will be closer to an hour.

Check to see if the farro has cooked. Serve.

This post was sponsored by Lightlife. Opinions are my own.

Oh, Fudge!

What do you have on the door of your fridge? Ketchup? Sriracha? Maybe (blech) mustard? May I suggest adding a jar of this hot fudge? There’s nothing more impressive when friends show up with ice cream for dessert and you can say, “Hold on, let me get out the hot fudge.”

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That has happened in our house three separate times this summer. The fudge also came in handy on National Ice Cream Sundae Day and, of course, on National Hot Fudge Day. When Lilli got terrible stage fright at her Ballet Camp recital, hot fudge worked wonders at soothing a delicate ballerina’s soul.

When I told Rich I was going to put a hot fudge recipe on the blog, he thought it was blasphemy, since we live in Northampton, home of Herrell’s and their famous hot fudge. But since I made our own, I haven’t heard much complaining.

This hot fudge is what the Editors of Food & Wine have determined to be a “Master Recipe.” It’s just one part of their ice cream sundae section, which also includes Butterscotch Sauce, Strawberry Sauce, Fresh Pineapple Sauce and Mixed Nuts. This is all in the Level 1 section of the book, which means the editors have determined that, for starters, people should all know how to make a good ice cream sundae, along with other easy basics like a roux and macaroni and cheese. I approve of this editorial decision.

Food & Wine has been my favorite food magazine for years. When we moved from Boston last year I came across recipes I’d clipped from the magazine back when I lived in Harlem 15 years ago. I still renew my subscription annually, and am genuinely curious as to what is going to happen next as their test kitchens move south. The magazine has never disappointed me, and neither does this book.

There are 4 Levels to the book. Level 2 tackles Pho, Yogurt, and Popovers, while Level 3 has you kneading out dough for Challah and making Vermouth. And I look forward to making Tofu from Level 4. Rich does not seem as enthusiastic.

The recipe does call for light corn syrup, which I do keep on hand for brittles and certain frostings. I don’t often offer you recipes with the ingredient, and am only doing so because this is a great recipe, one we’ve really enjoyed this summer.

It’s worth noting that while I was making the fudge I really couldn’t tell if it was ready or not, but only after I’d stepped away from the stove for bath and bed time and then returned that the sauce had really come into its own.

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I’ve kept it in the fridge in a leftover salsa jar. I warm it up straight in the jar at 30 second intervals in the microwave. You’ll notice in the photo we had ours with Graeter’s Ice Cream, whose makers wanted me to let you know it’s now available at Wegman’s. As it happened, I bought their Black Raspberry Chip, only to have guests bring the same flavor over from a different company the next night. The difference of quality was easy to see, even before we tasted it.

Hot Fudge Sauce from Master Recipes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Cooking Like a Pro By the Editors of Food & Wine

Ingredients

5 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used chocolate chips)

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

6 Tbsps. unsalted butter

1 cup plus 2 Tbsps. light corn syrup

¾ cup sugar

¾ tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine both chocolates with the butter. Set the bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and blended. Remove the bowl and set aside. Pour off the water.

In the same saucepan, combine the corn syrup, sugar, salt and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and whisk in the melted chocolate. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and shiny, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Use immediately or let cool completely and refrigerate. Rewarm in a microwave before serving.

 

From the Test Kitchen

We’re a PBS household around here. The worst part of moving from Boston was losing our DVR, and with it the Paul McCartney: Live in Performance at the White House, which had been on there since I think 2011. Some afternoons Rich will turn on WGBY to have the cooking shows on in the background, including the OCD tandem of cooking shows: America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country. It’s like The Odd Couple, but they’re both Felixes. I find most of their takes overly complicated, but I do like their taste tests of common products and ingredients.

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That may have been where I got the idea for my own taste test. This summer I received two separate chocolate hazelnut spreads to sample. I jumped at the offer, as Beatrix is a Nutella fiend. (I know, mother of the year.) So we held our own blind taste test with Lilli, Beatrix and a pal of Lilli’s. And yes, I double checked with the mom before serving him three different types of chocolate hazelnut spread.

 

The spreads were served on challah from Tart Baking Company, which has become our go-to for challah. It’s got a hint of sourdough while still managing that slight cakey texture.

 

The spread of spreads comprised: Nutella, the gold standard, the control group; Nutiva, a dark organic hazelnut spread made with palm oil, touted to have 40% less sugar, 450mg of omega-3 per serving and certified gluten-free and vegan; and Nocciolata, organic, non-GMO, vegan, palm oil-free, gluten-free, and certified kosher.

The clear winner was the Nocciolata, which, according to the promotional materials, takes “36 hours of artisanal preparation to develop its rich and complex flavor and easy-to-spread texture.” Honestly, it was like Nutella, but, well, richer and more complex. And the Nutiva? It was remarkably not good. We couldn’t really taste the chocolate or hazelnut, and it was quite bitter from the lack of sugar.

With the children sufficiently sugared, we set out for the side yard, with its new picket fence and hand-me-down swing set. It’s nice to be able to host playdates for Lilli and Bea’s friends. And now we know what kind of fancy hazelnut spread to offer our guests.

 

Home on the Range

According to the Internet and her book jacket, Shannon Stonger and her husband have five children, various farm animals and live off the grid on their five-acre homestead in Texas. I want that to sink in for just a second. This woman has five children and somehow managed to write a cookbook. A good one, I might add.

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I have two little girls and live very much on the grid, and I can barely get up three paragraphs once a week on this blog. How she found the time to sit and write a book is blowing my mind right now.

When her book Traditionally Fermented Foods arrived in the mail in late May, I honed in on the kimchi, or, as she puts it, “Homestead ‘Chi”. Most everything I needed for it was in the CSA: cabbage, turnips, and green onions. All that was left to add was garlic, spice, and time, and I’d eventually have kimchi.

And, oh, how I tended to my kimchi. For the first week I had to “burp” the built-up gases nightly, by quickly opening and shutting the cap. It gave the most satisfying little exhale. Of course, this was pre-snake, back when I would go down to the basement.

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The ‘chi rested for about a month and a half in two large jars at the bottom of the stairs. I’d fashioned the fermentation weights with stones I found outside and wrapped in cheesecloth. I know they sell special weights in kitchen stores, but I encourage you to improvise as well.

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And while your kimchi ferments, there’s much, much more in the book to try.  A sourdough section, kombucha, and a dairy section with kefir and sour cream.

We’ve stirred our kimchi into leftover brown rice and topped it with a scallion salad and fried egg for a meal.  I tucked some of it into a grilled cheese sandwich on Sunday night and it was PHENOMENAL. It’s become a go-to condiment in our house, right next to the ketchup, mustard and sriracha.

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To prep the jars, wash them in very hot soapy water. Do not dry the washed bottles or jars, but put them upright on a baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and put in the oven. Turn on the heat to 350F and once the oven has reached this temperature, leave the bottles or jars in the oven for 20 minutes to ensure they are completely sterilized. Wear protective oven mitts when handling hot bottles and jars.

Homestead ‘Chi from Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stonger

Ingredients

2 medium heads green cabbage

2 large (softball-size) turnips, grated

12 green onions, chopped roughly

8 large garlic cloves, minced

3-4 tbsp (45-60 g) salt (4 tbsp [60g] only if temperatures exceed 80F (27C])

3 tbsp (22g) ground sweet paprika

1-2 tbsp (2-4g) red pepper flakes or 1/4 -1/2 cup (43-85) diced hot peppers

Directions

Shred the cabbage thinly using a knife and cutting board or mandolin. Add the cabbage and all remaining ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Mix well with hands to combine. Pound the cabbage with a mallet or potato masher to release the juices. Alternatively, allow to sit, covered for 1 hour to allow the juices to be released.

Pack kimchi tightly in a half-gallon (2-L)-size jar or 2 quart (1-L)-size jars, leaving at least 2 inches (50mm) of headspace. Add the fermentation weight of your choosing. Check that the brine is above the level of the fermentation weight. If not, mix 1 cup (236ml) of water with 1 ½ teaspoons (8g) of salt and pour this brine into the jar until the fermentation weight is completely covered.

Place at cool room temperature (60 to 80F [16 to 27C], optimally) and allow to ferment for at least three weeks. If you haven’t used an airlock, then during this period, especially during the first 5 to 7 days, you will need to burp the jars by quickly opening them to release the built-up gases that result from the fermentation. To do so, carefully and quickly open the jar, listen for the release of gas and close jar back up with just a bit of the gases still remaining inside.

This ferment pairs wonderfully with eggs, beans and salads, and makes a delicious spread when mixed with soft cheese.