Refrigerator Dill Pickles

I feel like I’ve been brainwashed as a child of the consumer generation, led to believe that I cannot produce much on my own, hence must buy it from the shelves of the sellers. This belief leaves me at the mercy of those who create the products. Have you ever checked out the labels of the foods you buy? Lately, I’ve grown wary of what goes into supermarket packaged foods. And even what goes into growing produce. And let’s not even get into the meat industry. I don’t feel good about it–any of it.

But I do have some control over my food. I’ve pleasantly discovered that creating many of the items I used to buy pre-packaged are really quite easy to make myself. One of these items includes dill pickles.

Yes, pickles. And they are so incredibly easy to throw together! Mix a few spices with a brine of salt, water, and vinegar, pour over the cut kirby cucumbers, stuff in the fridge, and one day later you have delicious pickles! See, I told you it was incredibly easy. And far, far more economical than buying those pricey jars of storebought pickles.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

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Yield: 3 pints

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds kirby cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups filtered water
  • 2 tbsp. sea salt or pickling salt (that’s 2 tsp. per jar)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled (2 cloves per jar)
  • 2 spring onions (whites only), chopped
  • 3 tsp. dill seed (1 tsp. per jar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns (1/2 tsp. per jar)
  • 3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (1/4 tsp. per jar)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash and dry cucumbers. Chop off ends and slice into spears or rounds. Set aside.
  2. Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
  3. Equally divide the garlic cloves, onions, dill seed, black peppercorns, and crushed red pepper between the jars. Pack the cucumber spears into the jars as tightly as you can without crushing them.
  4. Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Tap the jars gently on the countertop to dislodge any trapped air bubbles. Apply lids on the jars and let them cool on the countertop. Once they reach room temperature, store them in the refrigerator. Let them cure for at least a day before eating. Pickles will keep in the fridge for up to a month (mine have even tasted fine several months later).

SOURCE:  adapted from Food in Jars (definitely check out her post because she includes pics of the process; plus, her site is awesome for small batch canning AND she has a new book about small batch canning) and Kitchn.com (love this site; and this is a post from the gal who sponsors Food in Jars)

Chicken Gyros and Tzatziki Sauce

We arrived home after a 10-day trip to find 25 cucumbers had ripened on our vines!! And that’s not counting the 25+ picked prior to the trip, most of which we gave away. Next year we know to plant less cucumber seeds :  )

For now, though, I need to find ways to use these up, and one of my tastiest involves grating the cucumber to mix with yogurt and garlic and lemon juice for tzatziki sauce.

I used to think tzatziki was made from mayonnaise, one of my least-liked foods, so I avoided it like the plague. Then one day I found courage to taste it when I learned it was made from yogurt. And I loved it! So light and refreshing yet with the slight lemon zing offset by the bite of garlic.

I’ve actually made this a few times in the past few months but haven’t managed to get a decent picture worth posting until now. Sometimes I’ve followed the chicken marinade from this recipe; sometimes I’ve just baked it with seasonings sprinkled on it. It’s the tzatziki that gives the gyros the ultimate flavor, in my opinion.

I’ve tried a variety of pitas for this: homemade (time consuming and labor intensive), Trader Joe’s, and the local Farmer’s Market. All of them have broken when folded and fall apart. I’m still searching for a pita that will be soft and pliable like the one from Athen’s West, a local Greek fast food joint. Or maybe I need to learn how to heat these so they become pliable, though I’ve tried wrapping them in foil and sticking in the oven for a few minutes. I’ll keep searching for both a pita and a heating method that work.

However, in the meantime, I find just the leftover chicken pieces dipped into the tzatziki sauce quite yummy for next-day’s lunch, so the pita can be left out altogether–but then you wouldn’t actually have gyros…just a dipping sauce for chicken. Delicious either way!

Chicken Gyros and Tzatziki Sauce

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INGREDIENTS

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16 oz. plain yogurt, water drained out for at least 2 hours…or use Greek yogurt, which requires no draining (save 2 heaping tbsp. for chicken marinade)
  • 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill, minced (I haven’t actually included dill when I’ve made it but have seen it in other recipes)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice (then use rest of juice for chicken marinade)
  • extra virgin olive oil

Chicken Marinade

  • 1 1/4 lbs. chicken (I use two boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 2 heaping tbsp. plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Other

  • pita bread
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced
  • lettuce (or cucumbers)
  • red onion, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

Tzatziki Sauce

  1. If using plain yogurt, strain the yogurt using a sieve placed over a bowl; cover with foil and let drain for at least 2 hours up to overnight in refrigerator.
  2. Shred the peeled and seeded cucumber. Wrap in cheesecloth or a sturdy paper towel and squeeze out as much water as possible.
  3. Mix cucumber, yogurt, garlic, white wine vinegar, dill, salt and pepper, and lemon juice.
  4. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Note: the sauce can be made at least a day in advance.

Chicken

  1. Mix the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Add the chicken breasts; mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about one hour.
  3. Cook the chicken, either in a skillet or under the broiler. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into strips.

Assembly

  1. Heat pitas: either spray with olive oil and pop in toaster oven for a few minutes or wrap in foil and heat for 5-10 minutes in oven at 350 degrees F.
  2. Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes, lettuce, and onions.

SOURCE: adapted from Annie’s Eats who adapted from Elly Says Opa!

Chopped Salad with Tuna (and a way to use up cucumbers, tomatoes, and radishes from garden abundance)

When I had a wedding shower five years ago, I received The South Beach Diet book from a dear friend. Looking up in puzzlement after I opened it, for I was slim and trim back then and in need of no diet, she laughed and announced, “I didn’t buy it for you to diet. I thought you would like some of the recipes in it.”

Well, this dear friend is my summer scrapbooking buddy, and a couple of summers ago we decided to serve our scrapbooking-day lunches solely from the South Beach books since we both owned them. It forced us to explore some of the recipes, and we found quite a few that we continue to make.

One such dish is this Chopped Salad with Tuna. Not only is it loaded with healthy veggies and protein from the tuna, but the dressing adds quite a punch of flavor for it includes tangy lime juice, pungent garlic, and spicy pepper.

Although the recipe calls for lime juice, I often use lemon instead simply because it’s more accessible to me since we have a lemon tree in the backyard. I have begun buying limes, though, and freezing the juice in ice-cube trays then storing them in Ziploc baggies after frozen–very handy and useful for the variety of recipes I come across that call for lime juice.

And rather than layer all the chopped items as the recipe states, I mix it all up, including dressing.

I highly recommend trying this salad. It’s easy, healthy, and delish.

Chopped Salad with Tuna

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Serves 1

INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • 1 can (6 oz.) water-packed tuna
  • 1/3 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/3 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/3 cup chopped avocado
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup chopped radishes
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce

Dressing

  • 4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Salad

Layer the tuna, cucumber, tomato, avocado, celery, radishes, and lettuce in a decorative glass bowl.

Dressing

Mix the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, and pepper. Drizzle over the salad.

SOURCE: The South Beach Diet (page 140)

Wasabi Cucumber Sesame Salad

In addition to an abundant supply of zucchini and squash, our garden is cranking out an excessive amount of cucumbers, too. And they seem to grow overnight, just like all the squash. One night we actually harvested eight!

I haven’t come across as many recipes for using cucumber…yet. However, this salad made with cucumbers and wasabi dressing rivals that served in sushi restaurants.

The wasabi, mind you, gives quite a peppery kick, but that is exactly what makes this a sublime dressing. The combo of sugar and soy sauce gives a sweet and salty flavor while the sesame seeds provide a slightly nutty crunch. Of course, all of these flavors enhance the crisp fruit (yes, it’s called a fruit).

To get the cucumber slices very thin, I used a mandoline. Oxo makes an inexpensive version if you need one.

Served with fish made Asian style or gyoza or any Asian dish, this serves as the perfect accompaniment–light, tasty, refreshing.

Wasabi Cucumber Sesame Salad

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Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 medium-sized cucumbers, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. prepared wasabi (you can use the prepared paste or the dry mix)
  • 1/4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a colander, spread sliced cucumbers out and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of salt. Let stand and drain for about 15 minutes. Gently squeeze out any excess water (I used a cheesecloth) and add to bowl.
  2. While cucumbers are draining, toast sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, until browned, stirring and tossing occasionally–about 5 minutes (or, just buy already toasted sesame seeds).
  3. Mix rice vinegar, wasabi, soy sauce, and sugar.
  4. Toss cucumber, sesame seeds, and wasabi dressing until combined.
Note: I also sprinkled on an Asian topping mix of sesame seeds with seaweed bits and a few other spices

SOURCE: adapted from She Wears Many Hats who found this on the Epicurious app