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.


Dinosaur Chicken Nugget, Asparagus and Black Olive Pizza

I asked the girls on the way home Friday night what they wanted for dinner. Pizza was the overwhelming choice. When I asked them what they wanted on their pizza, a new Pickles and Cake feature was born.

“Dinosaur Chicken Nuggets!” Sadie blurted out.
“Olives! And Asparagus!” Lillie shouted.

I processed the request for a second and realized that enthusiasm always wins out.

“You imagine it and we will make it!”

Now where to find dinosaur chicken nuggets!

I ran out of time to make my own dough so I picked up some Flatout Wraps – nice and easy.

Popped them onto a baking sheet and laid down the sauce, nuggets, veggies and cheese.

Baked in an oven for 12 minutes at 425 degrees.

The crust was crispy and crunchy!

A quick slice and our new pizza was ready to eat. Sadie was starving and ate every bite.

The pizza was really tasty and the fun meter was pegged because they got to make their own imagined meal.

I asked Lillie what she thought of her new creation.

“Are you kidding?! This pizza is phenomulous!”

What?! Is that a combination of fabulous and phenomenal? Am I really that out of touch?

Lillie and her dinosaur friend enjoying dino chicken nugget pizza

Will They Eat It? Japanese Crab Snacks

Talk about a hardcore snack – these crunchy little whole crabs are coated with a savory soy glaze and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. As soon as I saw this unique snack from Japan, it jumped to the top of the “Will They Eat It?” list.

Yes, this is really a snack! Sadie was ready to go and could hardly wait for me to set up the shot.

Hmmmm? Crunchy crab snack? I am so ready!

Love this shot! Bye Mr. Crabs!

Lillie was a little more skeptical but said she loved them. She put on a good show. Check the video at the end for her Oscar-caliber performance.

Check out the video! Sadie crunching the crab is so funny and Lillie’s hesitant praise is dead on. I ate one and could barely get it down. The intense and concentrated seafood flavor was over the top.

Ladybug Lost in the Baby Greens
May 14, 2009, 8:06 pm
Filed under: baby greens, ladybug, pickles and cake

Look who I found hiding in the tub of baby greens. I’ve had this in the fridge for about a week – poor guy. I brought him outside and put him with the tomato plants.

Lillie Loves Corn
April 28, 2009, 9:13 pm
Filed under: corn, epcot, lillie, pickles and cake, sauter
corn power!

Finally tall enough for Soarin’ and Test Track, Lillie was itching to go back to Epcot without Sadie to hit up some new rides. The two of us arrived during their Garden and Flower Festival on a late afternoon.

The weather was perfect and she loved both rides. They had some great playgrounds set up to wear her out.

We took a corn break in the park and then headed home as the sun was setting. Perfect afternoon with my little buddy.

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.

Will They Eat It? Sardines!
March 12, 2009, 4:18 pm
Filed under: lillie, pickles and cake, sadie, sauter, will they eat it?

A few months ago Lillie and I were watching a documentary where dolphins circle a school of sardines and churn them into a giant “bait ball” that attracts birds, sharks and just about anybody else in the area that has a hankering for some sardines…like my children. I actually found the moment of the show that sparked her interest…

Lillie: (rubbing belly and smiling) Mmmmm! I love sardines!
Me: (laughing out loud) You do? Have you ever tried a sardine?
Lillie: Mmm hmm! I love sardines…
Me: Really?
Lillie: Yes!
Me: If I bought some sardines, would you eat them?
Lillie: Yes!!!!

Time for another “Will She Eat it?” Challenge!

And so I picked up some sardines, but not just any sardines…”Mediterranean-style” sardines with olive oil, garlic, red pepper and black olive….

And suddenly even I was interested in trying these sardines. I remember eating them on crackers as a snack growing up ALL THE TIME until one day I took a bite, but not all the way through. I pulled back and saw a tiny little skeleton on my cracker! Last sardine in 25 years!

So now it is the moment of truth! Will they eat it? They are both so excited and ready to go even after seeing the contents of the tin…

Lillie eats her sardine in two bites and gives it a big thumbs up.

Sadie has thrown her picky ways behind her and was all in!

She was actually the first to ask for seconds!

I tried them myself and they were actually pretty delicious. I chewed it quick. My first thought was, “this would be great whipped into a Caesar dressing.”