AUGUST REMINDS ME of my childhood: the sticky hot humid days in Chicago, barely relieved by the big swamp cooler in the basement. We had no air conditioning and my two sisters and I slept in an upstairs attic-type room, catching what little breeze we could from the open window and a fan. A thunderstorm was an evening’s entertainment: From our screened-in back porch, we’d listen to the thunder, watch the streaks of lightning and smell the oncoming rain.
But best of all, August meant we would pack up the car (I always had a case full of books) and leave the city for a rented cabin in Ephraim, Wisconsin, or South Haven, Michigan, where we’d swim in Lake Michigan (Yes, we did that at home too, but here it was even better) and eat fresh peaches and blueberries, corn and tomatoes, trout and smoked whitefish, and bakery white rolls. And cherry pie.
Wherever you are, fresh produce is abundant this month, and dinner doesn’t have to be salad. On these lazy days, I love to center an August meal around corn on the cob. Or potato and green beans in a vinaigrette. Or cherry tomatoes, as in the photo above, roasted (or sauteed) with some garlic and oil and sprinkled with basil, to dress a pasta. With a side of green beans with lemon zest, and a simple salad with beets (dressed in another vinaigrette) and hazelnuts, it was a light but satisfying meal that didn’t take long at the stove.
This kitchen blog began in 2009 with Blackberry Cobbler No. 8, a recipe for the eighth version I had made of blackberry cobbler.
This week my daughter and I picked blackberries (it’s been unusually hot here so it’s almost end-of-the-season) for a cobbler and decided that the No. 8 version is still hard to beat, with very tender biscuits with a touch of cornmeal. There’s not too much sugar in it, and a dollop of ice cream on the warm cobbler will suit it just fine.
When I was growing up in Chicago, for a while my aunt and uncle ran Batt’s Delicatessen, and it had a real pickle barrel, so visits there always included a big wonderfully crisp, garlicky dill pickle. Kosher dill pickles were also the treat of choice when I had to go to Sunday school at South Shore Temple. Afterwards, my sisters, brother and I would stop at Kosmer’s (or was it Cosmer’s?) Deli on Jeffery Blvd. where we bought big salty garlicky pickles, which were wrapped in brown paper so we could eat them as we walked home. Ah, what a delight!
Well, it’s not easy to get such a pickle these days if you don’t live near a good deli. I always thought it was a complicated, long procedure to make real kosher-style dill pickles. And maybe it is, but thanks to Mark Bittman (again!), I found it’s easy to make great pickles. You just need salt, plus garlic and dill. And pickling cucumbers, of course.
I bought a couple pounds of pickling cucumbers at the Mount Vernon farmers’ market yesterday, put the pickles in a bowl with brine last night, and had bright green, crisp and crunchy garlicky pickles in the morning (not so good for breakfast, but excellent any other time of the day).
Kosher Pickles the Right Way
From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
Makes about 30 pickle quarters or 15 halves
Time: 1 to 2 days
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 pounds small (“Kirby”) cucumbers, washed (scrub if spiny) and cut lengthwise into halves or quarters
- At least 5 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 large bunch dill, preferably fresh and with flowers, or substitute 2 tablespoons dried dill and 1 teaspoon dill seeds or 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1. Combine the salt and boiling water in a large bowl; stir to dissolve the salt. Add a handful of ice cubes to cool down the mixture, then add all the remaining ingredients.
2. Add cold water to cover. Use a plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl and a small weight to hold the cucumbers under the water. Keep at room temperature.
3. Begin sampling the cucumbers after 4 hours if you’ve quartered them, 8 hours if you’ve cut them in half. In either case, it will probably take from 12 to 24 or even 48 hours for them to taste “pickle-y” enough to suit your taste.
4. When they are ready, refrigerate them, still in the brine. The pickles will continue to ferment as they sit, more quickly at room temperature, more slowly in the refrigerator. They will keep well for up to a week.
As Bittman says, these pickles won’t keep long–a week or so in the refrigerator–but you’ll eat them quickly enough that you won’t notice. So, make kosher style dills in small batches and eat ’em up without restraint….