Refrigerator Pickles

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

Grandma had a sunporch that was nearly falling off the southeast side of her old farmhouse. Each year, after the late-summer cucumber harvest, a rickety shelf running along the ceiling of the sunporch was lined with jars of the most unnaturally green sweet pickles a child could imagine. The same nuclear green pickles could be found in the refrigerator, for the grandkids to help themselves to. It was not unusual to be playing ball outside each summer and notice the players on both teams had green-stained fingertips. When I ate my first hot dog in Chicago, I finally came face to face with another relish as green as Grandma’s. I was relieved to know my grandma wasn’t the only crazy green pickle maker in the nation. Thank you, Vienna Beef. I’m forever grateful.
Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Green Grass Refrigerator Pickles
yields 2 quart jars

What You Need
4 large cucumbers, skin left on
2 banana peppers
1 medium white onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
4 drops green food coloring (optional)

Step 1.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Slice the cucumbers and peppers into thick slices, and the onion into thin slices.

Step 2: 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Put the sliced vegetables in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Toss to coat and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Step 3: 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, celery seeds, and 1 cup water.

Step 4. 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Add the green food coloring, if using, to the vinegar mixture. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

Step 5. 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Transfer the cucumber mixture to 2 clean quart jars or other glass containers.

Step 6. 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Pour the brine over the cucumber mixture, cover, and refrigerate for 2 days before eating.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Pickles, How To, Recipe, Whole Hog Cookbook
Pickles are ready to eat. They are best when eaten within 2 weeks.

Kool-Aid Pickles

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

If you have ever stopped at a roadside market along a Southern highway, these pickles are no stranger to you. Pickles floating in jars of a brightly colored brine are normally lined up at the cash register. These Kool-Aid pickles may seem odd at first, but once you bite into one you’ll appreciate the sweet and sour flavors. Let me just warn you, because no one warned me, your fingers may just turn the color of the pickle you’re eating!

Red Kool-Aid Pickles
yields 1 (90-ounce) jar

What you need:
1 (90-ounce) jar of whole dill pickles
4 packets Kool-Aid (I prefer cherry—it’s just how I roll)
2 cups sugar

What to do:
Drain the juice from the pickle jar and discard, leaving the pickles inside.

In a medium pitcher, combine the Kool-Aid, sugar, and 4 cups water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour enough of the Kool-Aid mixture over the pickles in the jar to completely cover them. Put the lid on the jar and refrigerate for 1 to 2 weeks before eating.
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Chewy Chocolate Bread

Words and recipe by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong
Model: Anne Chaddock Donegan
Supergirl costume by Jessica Duthu

I live in a neighborhood of seventeen houses and twenty- two children (the odds are against me). I’ve tested this recipe on many of my adult neighbors and they love it, but it was the children who seemed extra-excited and intrigued by the large, round chocolate loaf. One curly- yellow-haired girl in particular would punch through the crust with her #ngers when she thought no one was looking and scoop out a chunk of the soft chocolate center to eat. The young girl’s name is Anne Chaddock, and she is a supergirl who runs the neighborhood fueled by my Chewy Chocolate Bread! 

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Chewy Chocolate Bread, Bread Week

Chewy Chocolate Bread

(loads of chocolate but barely sweet)
yields 1 loaf 

Ingredients:
1⁄2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1⁄3 cup sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄3 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1⁄4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal, for dusting
1⁄2 cup good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar, mixing with your finger until the yeast is dissolved. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam. With the mixer on low speed, add 1 1⁄4 cups room-temperature water, the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix just until the dough is blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at warm room temperature for 8 hours (I like to do this overnight).

Line a baking sheet with a kitchen towel that has been dusted with cornmeal. Set aside.

Turn the dough out onto a liberally floured work surface and pour the chocolate chunks over the top. Sprinkle with more flour before folding the dough over itself a few times to evenly distribute the chocolate. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it, seam side down, to the prepared baking sheet. Dust the top of the dough ball with cornmeal, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place a heavy cast-iron (or ceramic) 6- to 8-quart pot with a lid in the oven to heat until the oven comes to temperature.

Carefully remove the heated pot from the oven and place the dough in it (seam side up or down—it doesn’t matter). Don’t worry if it looks like a hot mess; it will bake up beautifully. Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Cover the pot and return it to the oven to bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for another 20 minutes, or until the loaf is a gorgeous dark brown and gives a dull sound when thumped. Let the bread cool before eating.

 

2 Fabulous Flatbread Recipes

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

Flat breads are an easy intro into bread baking. Somehow, even if you think they aren’t going to work out…they always do! Here are two of my favorites.

Libbie Summers, A Food-Inspired Life, Bread Recipes
Flat-chested Flat Bread
(grilled, sweet, spicy, + cheesy)
yields 8

A training bread, if you will. A soft, chewy, simple bread grilled and brought alive with the sweet heat of brown sugar and chile oil. A bread to honor flat-chested girls everywhere. I was once one of you . . . spicy, sweet, and just waiting to rise.

What you need:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for the grill
3 cups warm water
2 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons salt
1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons chile oil (available in the international section of your grocery store)
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil with the water. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flours to the yeast mixture and mix on low speed just until a loose, raggedy dough forms. Cover the bowl of the mixer and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Add the salt and yogurt to the dough and mix for 5 minutes, until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl to form a loose ball. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill to high.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface. Divide the dough into eight equal portions and roll out each portion to 1⁄4 inch thick (or press with your hands). Don’t
worry about uniformity: the less perfect, the better. Stack
the dough rounds on the bottom of an overturned baking sheet, placing a sheet of oiled plastic wrap between them so they won’t stick together.

Brush the grill liberally with oil and, working two at a time, grill the flatbreads for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until there is a nice black/brown char on the grill side and the top is puffing up. If the dough sticks to the grill when you try to turn it, the flatbread has not cooked long enough.

When the flatbreads are hot off the grill, drizzle them lightly with chile oil (a little goes a long way) and sprinkle with a little brown sugar and cheese. Serve warm.

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Forgiveness Naan
(pillowy garlic butter flatbread)
yields 10

Naan is my yeast-based guilty pleasure. Wherever I may be traveling in the world, I’m searching for this pillowy flatbread with the crisp bottom. If there is a restaurant with naan on the menu, mark my words, I will find it.

Although I have yet to taste dreamy Chef Suvir Saran’s naan (he promises to make me some one day), my favorite naan is made at a seedy back-alley restaurant in the West Indies by a guy named Sanjay (come to think of it, most of the naan bakers I’ve met are named Sanjay). I’ve been lucky enough to land on Sanjay’s island many times over the years while cooking on boats. Even luckier, he has always been around, is always wearing too much cologne, and is always willing to bake me a fresh basketful of naan—no matter what time of day. Each piece of Sanjay’s naan is the size of a roadmap, spilling over the sides of the basket of bread he brings to the table. It has the perfect charred bottom and buttery flavor . . . with just a hint of Old Spice.

Once you start baking your own naan, you’ll quickly discover what all Sanjay naan bakers already know: Naan gets better every time you make it. Like an elastic waistband, the dough is very forgiving.

What you need:

6 tablespoons clarified butter, melted
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1⁄4 cups warm milk (110° F)
3 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons minced garlic

Use a small bit of the clarified butter to lightly grease a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, brown sugar, and milk. Briefly stir with a spoon. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, or until
it begins to foam. With the mixer on low speed, add the yogurt, 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter, and the salt. Add the flour, starting with 2 cups and mixing well to combine. Gradually add enough flour until the dough forms and cleanly pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Mix for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in the greased mixing bowl, cover, and let it
rest at room temperature for 11⁄2 to 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into ten equal portions. Use your palms to form each into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500° F. Position one oven rack on the lowest level of the oven and remove or place the other rack high enough in the oven to stay out of your way. Place a baking stone (or pizza stone) on the lowest rack. Have a spray bottle of water and a cooling rack ready.

Stir the garlic into the remaining butter.

Roll each piece of dough out (or pat the dough out with your hands and fingertips) to an 8- to 10-inch circle. Pull one end of the dough to form a teardrop shape. Brush the dough lightly with the garlic butter. Working with one shaped piece of dough at a time, carefully place it on the hot baking stone and spritz the dough with water. Bake for about 4 minutes, until brown spots start to form on top and the dough begins to puff up. Remove the naan from the oven and brush again lightly with the garlic butter. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough, keeping the cooked naan covered and warm until ready to serve. At my house, the naan doesn’t stand a chance of getting cold. Every piece seems to disappear as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Five American Recipe Hacks Using Chinese Five Spice

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
Photography by Chia Chong

When I first dipped my finger into a small pot of Chinese Five Spice, my mind started spinning. The blend of star anise, fennel, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and clove is warm and sweet and just begging to be put in places that it never thought of going. Check out these five “American Hacks” using my new favorite spice.

1.
Ice Cream Recipes, Ice Cream Hacks, Chinese Five Spice Recipes, Chinese New Year, Libbie Summers, A food-inspired life
Chinese Five Spice Ice Cream
(vanilla ice cream with a hint of the orient)
makes 1 pint

What you need:
1 pint high quality vanilla ice cream
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
Ice cream cones (optional)
What to do:
Remove ice cream from container into a bowl and allow to soften slightly. Add Chinese five spice and stir JUST to combine (do not thoroughly mix in). Scoop back into container and freeze completely before scooping into ice cream cones (optional).
2.
Quick bread recipes, Chocolate Bread, Chocolate Recipes, Chinese Five Spice Recipes, Chinese New Year Party Food, A food-inspired life, Libbie Summers
Chocolate Chinese Spice Bread
(Chinese five spiced chocolate quick bread, green tea frosting)
makes 1 loaf

What you need:
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1⁄2 cups packed light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup apple butter (can substitute apple sauce)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (can substitute extract)
1⁄4 cup milk
3 ounces chopped dark chocolate (your favorite brand)
Green Tea Frosting, recipe to follow
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with a strip of parchment paper the width of your pan and long enough to hang over both sides by a couple of inches if draped across the middle (this method gives you two handles to pull the finished bread out). Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, Chinese 5 spice, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar and butter and blend until just combined. Add the eggs, apple butter, vanilla paste, and milk. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to combine. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing gently until combined. Fold in 1⁄2 cup of the chocolate pieces.

Divide the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1⁄2 cup dark chocolate pieces down the center of each loaf lengthwise and pat them down into the batter to just below the surface. Bake for 60-90 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of each loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning out. To turn out, grab each side of the parchment paper and lift. Let cool completely. Spoon Green Tea Frosting over, slice and serve.
Green Tea Frosting
3 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon matcha powder
1 cup confectioners sugar

Stir together all ingredients.

3.
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Five Spice Bugles
makes five cups

What you need:
5 cups plain Bugles Snacks®
¼ cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice
What to do:
Preheat oven to 250ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Whisk Chinese five spice into butter. Spread Bugles onto baking sheet and pour butter mixture over. Toss with hands to coat. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for one hour. Cool and serve.

4.
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Chinese Five Spicerdoodles
makes 40ish cookies

What you need:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
3 teaspoons ground Chinese five spiceWhat to do: 
Preheat oven to 400º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Set aside.In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add the butter, shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Cream together. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined. Add the vanilla paste and mix until combined.
Add dry ingredients to the mixer and mix until just combined.
In a small bowl, stir together the remaining sugar and Chinese five spice.  Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls and roll in the sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet and bake until just set (about 8-10 minutes).

5.
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Chinese Five Spice Donut Holes
(small and spicy donut poppers)
makes 100

What You Need:
2 tablespoons plus 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted, plus more for greasing
1 1⁄3 cups warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1⁄3 cup plus 1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice, divided
What to do:
Grease a large mixing bowl with butter and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer, stir together the milk, yeast, 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons melted butter with a spoon. Let the mixture rest for about 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to foam.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and nutmeg.

Fit a dough hook on the standing mixer. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice, and the flour mixture and beat for 3 minutes, until the dough is smooth and tacky and pulls away from the side of the bowl. At this point, you can adjust the dough’s texture if needed. Add a little more milk if it is too dry, or a little more flour if it is too wet; the goal is for it to be smooth and tacky. Continue mixing the dough for 5 minutes more, until it becomes smooth and shiny. Transfer the dough to the prepared mixing bowl and turn over so both sides of the dough are buttered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.

Line two or three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Punch the dough down and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 1⁄2 inch thick. Using a donut-hole cutter or a small (1-inch) ring mold, cut out circles of dough and transfer them to the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between the circles. Cover the tray with lightly greased plastic wrap. (At this point, you can refrigerate the donuts overnight then let them rise in the morning before baking.) Let the donuts rise for about 45 minutes, until they are puffed and nearly doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the remaining 11⁄2 cups granulated sugar and remaining Chinese five spice and set aside. Pour the remaining 1 cup butter into a separate bowl.

Bake the donut holes for 5 to 7 minutes, until the bottoms of the donuts are just golden brown. The donuts should be pale on the top, and the insides just barely baked through. They will continue to bake after they are removed from the oven. Cool for 2 minutes, then dip them into the melted butter just to moisten and roll them in the Chinese five spice-sugar mixture to coat. Serve immediately.