Fresh Pickles: Old-Fashioned Barrel Cukes

Right around the time I started this blog, there were two new culinary revelations in my life: Homemade pickles and fresh buttercream frosting. Pickles and Cake was born!

I needed more guidance so a pickle recipe book was in order. I started searching on Alibris and low and behold, Chris Schlesinger had published a book called Quick Pickles. My hero! The book simplifies pickling and the recipes cover pickles from around the world.

Chris Schlesinger’s The Back Eddy in Westport, MA is the perfect place to end up after a day at the beach or an afternoon of wine tasting at Westport Rivers Vineyard. The food is fantastic and every meal starts with a pickle sampler on the table. Chris is the author of my favorite cookbook Thrill of the Grill – the stories and insight jump off the page and the recipes will change the way you grill forever.

Old Fashioned Barrel Cukes

I modified the Kick-Ass Westport River Barrel Cukes recipe from Schlesinger’s book. You will never find a pickle at the supermarket with this authentic flavor-packed pickle barrel flavor. The fresh horseradish made the difference. The grape/oak leaves aren’t necessary but will keep the pickles crisp for a longer period of time – we ate ours so fast, we didn’t even need them.


4 pounds small cucumbers
5 small red chiles
1 large head of garlic, cloves peeled and minced
1 cup peeled, grated fresh horseradish
1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced into small wedges
1 generous handful fresh dill fronds/heads
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
2 tablespoons craked coriander seed
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn
3 crushed bay leaves
8 cups water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup white vinegar
6 tablespoons of kosher salt
1 handful of grape or oak leaves (optional)

Combine cucumbers, chiles, garlic, horseradish, onion, dill, mustard seed, coriander seed, peppercorn, bay leaves and grape leaves in a extra-large crock or bowl.

In a seperate bowl combine water, vinegar and salt to make the brine. Stir until the salt dissolves. Pour in the brine.

I used a crock to pickle the cukes but the large bowl will work. Place the right-sized plate or saucer over the cukes and weight it down with a can or jar. The object is to completely submerge the cucumbers.

Cover with a clean cloth and keep it in the darkest corner of your kitchen counter out of the sun for 5 to 7 days. Make sure the contents are submerged at all times.

Skim off any foam that has formed on the surface of the brine and transfer to the fridge.

The pickles will be ready in about a week but taste great even on the third day. We tried one every day and it was fun to taste the change. Reach into that pickle jar and grab a good one!

We made 4 different kinds of pickles so far this summer and these were the hands down favorite. Crunchy, salty and packed with flavor – every sandwich’s best friend.

Sadie loves the extra-crunchy small ones the best.


Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho Recipe
June 22, 2009, 9:29 pm
Filed under: chris, gourmet kids recipe, lillie, picklesandcake, recipe, sadie, sauter

It’s summertime in Florida which means hot soups are off the menu. Gazpacho is a traditional chilled raw-veggie soup from Spain with a tomato base. It’s like a refreshing liquid salad. I remember John Croatti occasionally making an amazing grilled vegetable gazpacho at the Berkeley Grille so I gave him a call to find out how it’s done. Grilling off a few veggies adds a complexity and heartiness to the soup that is worth trying.

Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho

3 ripe tomatoes, cut in half
1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 6 pieces
1 zucchini, cut into 1/3″ strips (see photo)
1/2 onion
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tbsp fresh cilantro
2 average sized cucumbers, peeled, halved and seeded
3 cups V8 or tomato juice
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp course salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

The first step is to brush the veggies on both sides with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and place on a hot grill.

Grill for about 3 minutes on each side. You want the zucchini to still be a little firm in the middle. Drop veggies into an ice bath (large bowl filled with ice and water) for a few minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the skin from tomatoes and peppers.

Pulse tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs in the food processor (the blender would work too) until finely minced but not pureed. 12 pulses should do it.

Finely dice peppers, cucumbers and zucchini by hand. Pour puree into large mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients. If it is too chunky, add a little extra tomato juice. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours – overnight if you can. The grilled veggie flavor was perfect 24 hours later.

Serve up with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a little more cracked pepper.

Sadie quietly ate her whole cup of soup.

Lillie loved the gazpacho as well! Another winner!

Best Guacamole Ever
May 25, 2009, 10:45 pm
Filed under: gourmet kids recipe, guacamole, picklesandcake, recipe, sauter

Best Guacamole Ever

3 ripe Haas avocados
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 small tomato, seeded and 1/4 inch cubed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste (1/4 tsp recommended)

Cut avocados in half and use your blade to twist and pop out the pit.

Slice a crisscross (Jump Jump!) pattern down into the halved avocados without piercing the skin.

Flip inside out and drop the two softest avocados into a mixing bowl. Save the firmest avocado for last.

Use a fork to mash the first two avocados.

Add the remaining ingredients…

Mix well with your fork and then gently fold in the last avocado for some more solid density and texture.

Serve! Here is a video of me serving the girls guacamole in the musical sombrero. The reaction is priceless.

This easy fresh-flavored dip is perfect for chips or fajitas.

Chipotle Pulled Pork Enchiladas
April 22, 2009, 9:50 pm
Filed under: chipotle, enchiladas, gourmet kids recipe, mexican, picklesandcake, pulled pork, sauter

Old pal Brandi Marsh Panzarino asked me to share some Mexican-themed recipes for an upcoming fiesta. I decided to update the classic enchilada with a smokey pulled pork filling – I used the Chicken Enchilada recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook as a guide and let the rest fall into place.

Knowing I was serving this to a 2 and 4 year old, I pulled back on the Chipotle and used Ancho chili powder to make the dish less spicy. Ancho chilies are smokey and sweet without all the heat of a traditional chili powder. The Ancho chili powder can be hard to find, so you can substitute chipotle or traditional chili powder if you crave the spicy fire.

There are a few steps to this recipe but they are all relatively simple and will be worth it in the end. Just ask my little oven-mitted helper.

The first step is to slow cook the pork. I use a crockpot to get just the right pulled pork consistency without a smoker, etc. It will take about 8 to 10 hours so make the pulled pork the day before if you can.

Ancho Pulled Pork

3 – 4 lb Boston Butt pork roast
1 sweet onion
1 tbsp taco seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Ancho or regular chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika (add two canned chipotles instead for a little more spice)
1 tsp cumin
2 cups white wine (or a can of beer)
1 cup bbq sauce
1 cup v8 or tomato juice (remainder of can will be used for enchilada sauce)
2 packets Goya sazon

Thinly slice the onion and place on the bottom of your crockpot. Add all dry ingredients over onions.

Place pork into crockpot and then add wine and tomato juice. Pour bbq sauce over pork. Turn on High for 2 hours to jump start the cooking process.

Set on Low and cook for an additional 6 to 8 hours. Carefully rotate pork top side down with tongs 3 or 4 times during the cooking process. When done, the pork will be falling off the bone.

Remove roast from crockpot onto a cookie sheet or large plate. Careful now! That pork is hot and at the same time, is falling apart. Let it cool and then use a fork or even your hands to pull the pork into small shreds and pieces. Discard any fat and the bone – the pork should be as lean as possible. Depending on the fat content, in the end you might have more pork than you need for the recipe. If you have enough, you can make a double batch or freeze the remaining pork and save for quesadillas, etc.

Strain cooked onions from the crockpot and set aside for the enchilada sauce.

The next two sauce recipes are quickies.

Chipotle Enchilada Sauce

1 15 or 16 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup v8 or tomato juice
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Ancho chili powder (use traditional chili powder for more of a kick)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup reserved onions from pulled pork (just onions, not liquid)
1 tbsp adobo sauce (from canned chipotles)
1 whole chipotle (add 2 or 3 if you like a little more spice)

Most enchilada sauces start with softening some onions in a saute pan. Since I already had some seriously flavorful onions, I figured I’d take a different approach. This no-cook enchilada sauce knocked my socks off and is the star of the dish. If smoked paprika is difficult to find, used an additional chipotle or adobo sauce to add more smokiness.

Throw all ingredients into blender and puree for 1 minute. Set aside sauce in bowl, rinse blender and reuse for the cilantro sour cream.

Cilantro Sour Cream

1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp fresh lime juice
pinch of salt
cracked pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and blend for 30 seconds. Place into ziptop bag and refrigerate until needed.

Chipotle Pulled Pork Enchiladas

3 cups shredded pulled pork
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese mix
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups enchilada sauce
1 cup black beans, drained
12 to 14 6″ soft corn tortillas
1 whole tomato, chopped (for garnish)

Heat oven to 400 degrees and adjust rack to the middle position.

Combine pulled pork, 1 cup enchilada sauce, 2 cups of cheese and black beans in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stack tortillas on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until warm and pliable – maybe 60 seconds. Don’t skip this step or your tortillas will tear. I know from experience. Boo!

Coat 9 x 13 inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Place 1/3 cup of pulled pork mixture down center of each tortilla and then gently roll tortilla tightly around filling. Place into baking dish 5 or 6 down each side – pack those suckers in there. If you don’t have room for the last few enchiladas, stack a few in the middle.

Lightly spray tops of enchiladas with vegetable oil spray.

Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle 1 cup of cheddar down the center of enchiladas.

Cover with foil and bake until enchiladas are heated all the way through – about 20 minutes.

Remove foil and continue to bake until cheddar browns up, about 10 minutes.

Plate one or two enchiladas at a time. Cut corner of ziptop bag and drizzle each enchilada with cilantro lime sour cream. Garnish with fresh tomato and a little cilantro. Enjoy!

Hurry up and take the picture already, so I can eat!

Lillie’s big bite!

Leftovers are portioned and go right into tupperware containers. Anything we arent going to eat in 48 hours goes into the freezer.


Fresh-Sauced Gemelli with Artichoke, Feta and Grilled Chicken

I’m a relatively new convert to the fresh sauce revolution and I still can’t believe how easy it is to make. Fresh ingredients never cooked that come together from the heat of the pasta. Fresh flavor at its best. I’ve tried different variations several times including one of my first Pickles and Cake recipe postings. This time around, I was inspired by a batch of beautiful yellow tomatoes and a craving for artichokes. Some grilled chicken on top infused with some complimentary flavors will push this dish over the edge.

The first step is to marinate the chicken. I marinated about a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts with the following:

Mediterranean Marinade

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp grape seed or canola oil
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp season salt (I used the Tuscan Chicken grinder below)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp fresh basil, thyme and parsley – rough chopped

Combine all ingredients in ziplock bag and marinate in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

Grill off the chicken on high heat and let it rest. Slice thin just before plating.

(why didn’t I take any photos of the chicken on the grill?!)

Fresh “No-Cook” Tomato Sauce with Artichoke Hearts and Feta

2 Tbsp spring onion
2 Cups deseeded, chopped tomato
1/2 Cup artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 Tbsp fresh basil, thyme and parsley
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Chopped Feta

The girls will eat anything I make, as long as I involve them in the cooking experience.

The first step is to pick some fresh herbs. Lillie is a pro at carefully plucking off the basil leaves.

I set Lillie up to deseed the tomatoes. Its important to pull all the seeds and the jelly stuff out of the locule chambers.

She does a great job – this is what they look like once they are cleaned out and cleaned up…

While she was deseeding the golden beauties, I opened a can of baby artichoke hearts.

Then I rolled up an herb ball for easy cutting.

A quick chop to all and we are one step closer.

I chop chop the tomatoes and and throw everything in a bowl.

A quick stir and the sauce is ready to go. Well, ready to sit anyway. It needs to sit on the counter for a few hours for all the flavors to meld.

Boil your favorite stubby pasta and transfer to individual bowls just as the pasta is al dente. I generally use a multigrain penne but I’m a sucker for Barilla’s gemelli and could care less about the extra carbs with a fresh, healthy meal like this. Gemelli is dense and perfect for this type of sauce.

Toss pasta with the sauce. Once the sauce hits the hot pasta the herbs wilt and the garlic mellows. Top with sliced chicken and some feta. Done!

Sadie was starving and finished this entire bowl!

Lillie wolfed down the whole bowl too.

It was a perfect night outside so we set up a little table by the pool.

This was probably one of the best dishes I’ve made in a while. The smokiness of the grilled chicken and the full savory flavor of the fresh sauce – the accent of the feta and texture of the gemelli. Every taste bud was smiling and the kids loved it all.

Lillie and Sadie love Mussels!
March 6, 2009, 4:59 am
Filed under: gourmet kids recipe, lillie, mussels, pickles and cake, recipe, sadie

Lillie teaches us how to properly use a mussel shell to pull out the next mussel.

Smokey Pumpkin Seeds
November 25, 2008, 1:06 am
Filed under: gourmet kids recipe, kids food blog, pickles and cake, pumpkin seeds, recipe

The only thing better than a triple mushroom, bbq pumpkin burger is a batch of delicious smokey pumpkin seeds.

Split open a fresh pumpkin very carefully!

Pull all the seeds out of the pumpkin and rinse in a colander. Massage with your fingers to eliminate most of the pumpkin fiber. Rinse one last time…

Transfer to a bowl and shake on your favorite savory season blends. This batch was flavor-blasted with a combo of smoked paprika, Penzeys bbq 3000 and Penzeys smokey seasoned salt. Maybe a 1/4 cup for a large pumpkins worth of seeds.

Spread over a foil-lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes until they are nice and crunchy. Use a spatula to remove and let cool.

Eat them shell and all!

Lillie can’t stop snacking!