Gunderpickles Dill Pickles -A Review


I used to hate pickles.  Well, hate is a strong word.  Let’s just say I didn’t get pickles, probably because the only pickles I ever had growing up were, for the most part, those sad, limp, barely green things they put on hamburgers.  Not a lot of reason to love.  But then, several years ago, I had the chance to try pickles from my wife’s Aunt Theresa.  It was like a revelation.  They’re precious things, these jars of pickles.  We usually only get one or two a year.  They’re coveted and cherished.  And since I tried them I’ve developed this slow love affair with pickles (and pretty much anything pickled, brined or fermented, including kimchi and sauerkraut, which I also used to not care for).

I’ve been wanting to try Gunderpickles for a while now, but just never seem to have gotten the opportunity.  When I saw their tent at Spring Fest I HAD to try them.


What you get when you bite into a Gunderpickle dill pickle?  Well, I won’t say that they’re better than Aunt Theresa’s pickles.  But they hold a special place in my heart.  They’re definitely a more assertive pickle, spicy and bold.  You can see the red chiles, garlic, dill sprigs and spices (I’m fairly certain I saw mustard seed, and maybe some caraway?) floating in the bottom of the jar.  They’re also amazingly crisp.  Oddly enough, their vinegary-briny flavor is also very refreshing, given how spicy they are.  Definitely in my top two of all my favorite pickles, including the ones I’ve made myself.

Try them, if you get a chance.  The jar I bought was $10, but worth every penny, especially knowing that you’re getting a vastly superior product.  An ‘eating pickle’, if you will.  It’s also good to know you’re supporting a local business (there’s a whole post or series of posts there, about local foodie culture and local businesses, I’m sure).

Gunderpickles has a facebook page, as well.  I’m sure they’d love it if you went over there and gave them a like (or two or three!).

KJ Sushi and Korean BBQ – A Review

Dolsot Bap

This week I had the great pleasure to visit KJ Sushi and Korean BBQ in Fayetteville.  It’s tradition in our family to go out to eat for birthdays, and the birthday boy (or gal, in the case of my wife) gets to pick where we eat.  Luckily enough, my wife was craving Korean food, so we decided to go to KJ Sushi and Korean BBQ on College Avenue, in Fayetteville (I do love Korean food).

My wife ended up getting the dolcet bap, pictured above.  Dolcet bap is a variation of bibimbap, essentially chopped vegetables and an egg served on cooked rice in a hot stone bowl.  It’s usually served with a spicy gojuchang pepper sauce.  The sesame oil in the hot bowl fries the rice at the bottom, making this exquisite crust, almost nutty in flavor.

chop chae

For the kids we got a big plate of japchae (sweet potato noodles stir fried with sesame oil and vegetables).  Our kids loved the japchae, and had fun using the kid chopsticks (they gave us these little plastic things to attach to the chopsticks, making them easier to use).  My daughter particularly loved the mushrooms in the japchae.  Pretty odd for a four year old, but then again the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose.

I ended up getting the bulgogi, or Korean BBQ.

Korean BBQ

The bulgogi was sinfully delicious, the beef cooked to perfection and served on a bed of cabbage and other vegetables.  The beef was flavorful and tender, with a slight sweetness.


We also had a large number of little side dishes, or banchan, as well as miso soup.  Our kids devoured the miso soup (something I’m going to have to remember the next time they’re craving soup).  The kimchi was amazing, as was the cucumber kimchi.


We couldn’t resist getting the gyoza dumplings, either.  They served it with a yummy sesame/ginger/garlic/soy sauce dipping sauce.  They were crunchy on the outside, with a light and airy texture, but the ground meat filling was tender and savory.

This was the end result of our feast.

photo 3

Happy plates.  :)

So yes, please give KJ Sushi and Korean BBQ a chance.  They’re quite friendly and make amazingly delicious food.  Next time I think I’m going to try the sushi.

The Count of Monte Cristo Sandwich


As odd as it may seem, sometimes certain books make remind me of certain foods.  One of the side effects of having been a bookseller for so long, I’m sure.  The other day I was reading ‘The Black Count’ by Tom Reese, a nonfiction historical biography about the father of Alexander Dumas, an extraordinary man who, despite being the son of a slave and an exiled aristocrat, rose to a position of prominence in the French army.  In essence, many of the elements of the story of the Count of Monte Cristo are based on real biographical details from Dumas’ father’s life.  It’s a remarkable book; you really should read it.  What’s better than reading an extraordinary book on a lazy Sunday afternoon?  Eating an extraordinary sandwich while at the same time! Hence, the Monte Cristo sandwich recipe (essentially an American variation on the croque-monsieur).


The technique:

The essential technique for any food prep work is assembling all of your ingredients so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute to find something while something is burning on the stove.

You’ll need thin sliced ham, swiss cheese, and sandwich bread cut a little thick.  Assemble your sandwich, alternating layers of ham, cheese, then ham and cheese.

Next, make an egg wash with three eggs, a little milk, salt and pepper.  Mix well, then dip your sandwiches in the egg washing, being sure to coat each side well.


Then fry the sandwiches in a little bit of butter.  The resulting sandwich doesn’t have quite the structural integrity of a deep fried sandwich, but I’m sure it’s not quite as bad for you, either.


After a few minutes you’ll flip the sandwich and fry the other side.


When you plate up the Monte Cristo sandwich, slice it in half, dust with powdered sugar, and serve with jam or preserves.  Raspberry would be the traditional choice, but I opted for strawberry this time.

I hope the next lazy Sunday you have a chance that you’ll try making a Monte Cristo sandwich yourself.  It’s easier than you think.  The best part is you don’t have to spend years in a French prison to learn how to make one, either!

The ingredients:

  • sliced ham
  • sliced Swiss cheese
  • whole grain sandwich bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter per sandwich
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • dash pepper and salt
  • strawberry or raspberry jam



Some Things Are Bad for You, or, a Chupaqueso Recipe


This, dear readers, will probably get me slapped by your cardiologist.  So, caveat emptor, forewarned is fore-armed and all that.  This recipe achieves a frankly Caligulan level of culinary decadence, but that’s just how I roll sometimes (something has to balance out the healthy smoothies!).  What is a chupaqueso, you may ask?  Not only does it have the dubious honor of being the mostly unhealthy thing to put in your body next to a deep fried twinky, it’s also, strangely enough, inspired by a magnificent Space Opera webcomic called Schlock Mercenary (which is both intensely hilarious and great Sci Fi).  I love Schlock Mercenary so much, that I just had to do my own riff on a chupaqueso recipe.

So, far in the future, when bands of space mercenaries are hungry, they get chupaquesos (“cheese sucker”?) from automated vending machines on their space ships.  Howard Tayler, the writer/artist of Schlock Mercenary, came up with an actual recipe for chupaquesos that you can make in your own home, if you so dare.  And, as unhealthy as his recipe is, it’s amazingly delicious.

The technique:

The key to a good chupaqueso is a nonstick pan and some good whole fat cheese.

Irish cheddar

I used a good Irish cheddar for mine.

grated cheese

Grate the cheese into a nonstick pan on a medium heat.  Let it get melty.


You’re basically frying the cheese in its own fat.  Brilliant!  It will start to solidify and look something like this.  Poke in the edges so that it has some structural integrity.


Then flip it over and fry the other side for about a minute.  Then flip it back over.


Once you have a basic cheese ‘shell’ you can add other ingredients.  The classic chupaqueso recipe calls for a little parmesan.  I opted for a little mozarella, some tomato sauce and a little dried oregano.


Fold the edges over and fry a little more on both sides, melting the cheese inside, hopefully.

Finally, when it was done I plated it up with a little more tomato sauce and some feta cheese crumbles on top.  Pizza chupaqueso!


  • about 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 slice of mozarella, about 4 tablespoons
  • about 4 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • sprinkle of oregano
  • feta cheese crumbles

So yes, try this!  If you dare.  And if dairy is an option for you.  Let me know how it goes.  And go read Schlock Mercenary.  It’s amazing.

Impromptu Smoothies

Mango Pineapple Strawberry Smoothie

I recently had a chance to play with a Vitamix at my day job, and couldn’t resist coming up with a delicious smoothie recipe.  This one is a mango pineapple strawberry smoothie.

First I cut the fruit and placed it in the Vitamix.


Then I added a little ground flax seed (that’s some healthy stuff, yo!), fresh grated nutmeg (don’t get that pre-ground stuff, that’s nasty) and ground cinnamon.  Some ice and some water and we were ready for the magic to happen.


Et voila, VROOM VROOM VROOM! smoothie!

It would have probably been better if I’d added a bit of yogurt, vanilla extract and a bit more ice.

The ingredients:

  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into pieces
  • several slices of fresh pineapple
  • a handful of fresh strawberries
  • ice
  • water
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground flax seed

As far as proportions, this isn’t science.  Eyeballing it is probably the best thing to do when making a smoothie.

Impromptu Smoothies
Recipe type: Fruit smoothie
Cuisine: Health

Making a healthy and nutritious smoothie is easy and delicious.
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into pieces
  • several slices of fresh pineapple
  • a handful of fresh strawberries
  • ice
  • water
  • ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ½ tablespoon ground flax seed

  1. Add the fruit to the blender.
  2. Grate nutmeg.
  3. Add cinnamon.
  4. Add ice and water.
  5. Add ground flax seed.
  6. Blend until smooth.


Peter’s Carrot Cake Recipe

Carrot Cake

Ages ago I worked at a small family owned cafe.  My bosses were characters, to say the least, but they also had enormous hearts.  One of the jobs I was entrusted with was baking our own fresh carrot cake (it was very meditative, getting there before anyone else, making some coffee, baking some carrot cake).  We got other cakes, cheesecakes and such, from a restaurant supply company, but our carrot cake was always our own.  This is my own elaboration on that carrot cake recipe.

The key to a flavorful carrot cake are the spices, particularly the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Fresh nutmeg.  It has to be fresh nutmeg.  I can’t stress this enough.  Ground nutmeg just doesn’t have the depth or complexity of flavor that fresh grated nutmeg has.


The technique:

First assemble your ingredients (flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, carrots and salt).

Then, grate your carrots in a food processor.


Next, sift your flour and sugar.  I had help, as you can see.


Add the spices and baking powder, mixing thoroughly.


Then add the eggs, oil, vanilla extract and grated carrot.


Mix well.  I had help with that too.


Finally, pour the batter into a buttered cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.  Ovens vary, so keep checking it every 5 or 10 minutes with a toothpick.  If the toothpick comes out of the cake dry, then it’s done.

Next, make the icing.  Add cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and softened/partially melted butter to a bowl.


Mix thoroughly.


Until it’s creamy and smooth.  Like so:


Let the cake cool, then ice it in layers.  Finally, share it with someone you love.


If you like my carrot cake recipe, please let me know.

The ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 large to medium carrots, grated
  • dash of fresh pepper
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Smothered Green Chile Pork Burritos with Lime Rice

Smothered Pork

Sometimes when winter is getting me down, I need something spicy to eat to kind of lift me out of the winter blues.  That’s when I usually make Smothered Green Chile Pork Burritos and lime rice.


There are few things quite as satisfying as pork slow cooked in some sort of flavorful liquid over a long, lazy late winter afternoon.  I admit that I liberally borrowed (stole) this recipe from my friend Mike, although my addition of the tomatillos and hoja santa (a Mexican herb with a vaguely root beer kind of flavor) and hoja aguacate (almost a licorice/fennel sort of flavor) are my own elaborations.

The technique:

First I seasoned and seared the exterior of a pork loin.  I seasoned it with fresh cracked pepper, ground cumin, ground mustard and kosher salt.  I then placed the pork in a large pot with 3 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium high heat.  I seared both sides for several minutes, until a good crusty exterior developed.

Searing Pork

While the pork was searing, I chopped up several Anaheim peppers (I like Anaheims because they have some heat, but it’s not so bad, only 1000 to 1500 Scoville units).  I also sliced half an onion and quartered several tomatillos.

Green Chilis Onions Tomatillos

After the pork was seared, I removed it from the pot and added the onions, tomatillos and peppers (and several diced garlic cloves).  At this point I also added the hoja santa, the hoja aguacate, and several bay leaves.

Herba Santa

Then I added the pork, water and the rest of the spices, and brought everything to a boil.  Once it was boiling I lowered the heat and let if simmer on low for two hours, covered.  The sauce reduced during this time, so that it was nice and thick.


Once the pork was falling apart, I removed it from the pot and shredded it.

Shredded pork

Next, I smeared a warm tortilla with some fat free refried beans.  This acts as sort of a glue for the burrito.

Refried beans

Finally I added the pork, some of the sauce with peppers, and then two kinds of cheese, mozarella and shredded cheddar.  The mozarella melts very nicely.

Burrito assembly

Finally, I folded each burrito over, pinning them closed with a toothpick.  Then I ladled a little bit of sauce over the top of each burrito, and broiled them on high for about 3 or 4 minutes.

The lime rice that accompanied it was simplicity itself.  It was two cups of rice cooked like normal, with the zest and juice of one lime added just after cooking, and allowed to soak in before serving.

The ingredients:

  • 1 pork loin
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 3 large Anaheim peppers
  • 5 to 6 tomatillos, quartered
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • several leaves hoja santa
  • several leaves hoja aguacate
  • a few bay leaves
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 to 4 cups water, just to cover the pork loin
  • flour tortillas
  • refried beans
  • cheese (fresh mozarella and shredded cheddar)

The ‘exotic’ ingredients like hoja santa (I also use hoja santa in my homemade rootbeer syrup) and hoja aguacate are getting easier to find.  Just check the Mexican section of your local supermarket.

If you find this recipe inspiring and want to try cooking smothered green chile pork burritos, let me know how it turns out.

Ethiopian Venison Sausage Recipe

venison sausage

I was recently given the opportunity to cook some venison sausage by my sister-in-law.  I was already planning on cooking Ethiopian food (that particular blend of spice and heat is enthralling).  I’m pretty sure my eyeballs popped out of my head when I was offered the chance to cook Ethiopian venison sausage.

It was fairly easy.  I don’t have an awful lot of experience cooking deer (other than a little Korean bulgogi), so I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor.  It wasn’t that different from cooking with ground beef, to be honest, with very little ‘gaminess.’

The technique:

Obviously, you’ll want to get some venison sausage.  You could also use ground beef if you don’t have access to deer meat.


Form little meatballs and fry them in niter kibbeh.  You could use my vegan niter kibbeh too.  That’s what I did here.  Fry them until they’re well browned, then set them aside.


Once you have cooked all of the meatballs, dry fry half a red onion.


Once the red onion has begun to turn translucent with little brown bits, add niter kibbeh and fry the red onion for several minutes.


Add the cooked meatballs, grated ginger, garlic and berbere.


Finally, add water or beef stock and reduce.  An optional final step would be to add hard boiled eggs.


This goes really well with injera and shiro wat.  If you try making Ethiopian venison sausage, let me know what you think.

The ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons niter kibbeh (or vegan niter kibbeh), 2 for meatballs, 2 for the onions
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons berbere
  • 1 cup water or stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • approximately 2 lbs deer meat, formed into meatballs
Ethiopian Venison Sausage
Recipe type: meatball stew
Cuisine: Ethiopian

Venison makes an interesting variation on an Ethiopian stew.
  • 4 tablespoons niter kibbeh (or vegan niter kibbeh), 2 for meatballs, 2 for the onions
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons berbere
  • 1 cup water or stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • approximately 2 lbs deer meat, formed into meatballs

  1. Fry meatballs in niter kibbeh, set aside.
  2. Dry fry onions.
  3. Add niter kibbeh and fry for several minutes.
  4. Add meatballs, ginger, garlic, berbere and water.
  5. Cook until sauce thickens.


Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Everything Bagels

bagel recipe

There are some foods that I’m obsessive about (I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this).  Everything bagels are one of those foods that I obsess about.  I love a good everything bagel.  And the truth is, even a mediocre everything bagel is better than no bagel at all, most mornings.

Debates about what actually goes in an everything bagel kind of go along with the obsessiveness.  It’s somewhat inherent, I believe.  But of course, knowing myself, I favor a modest amount of complexity and experimentation over the traditional.  So my recipe for everything bagels is somewhat different from most others.  Typically you would include sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion and garlic in most everything bagels.  Sometimes caraway seeds (and/or kosher salt).  Mine is somewhat more complex.  I use very small amounts of fennel seeds, celery seeds, charnushka and dill seeds.  When added in very small amounts they add something hard to define but delicious.  Trust me.


The technique:

A bagel is nothing without dough.  Mix flour, whole wheat flour and buckwheat flour, salt, pepper and yeast.  Add warm water and mix.


Mix thoroughly for several minutes.  You want to develop the gluten, because that’s what gives the bagel its structure.


Then cover it with a warm, damp cloth and let it rise for about an hour.


Then divide the dough into balls.  Place the balls on greased, aluminum foil covered cookie sheets, punching holes in each one to give them a donut shape.


Broil them for three minutes a side.  This will toast up the outside quite nicely.


In a large stock pot have a thin layer of water boiling.  You want to give the bagels a very quick dip in the boiling water.  Don’t leave them in too long or they’ll start to fall apart.  This step is crucial for giving them a nice, crusty exterior.


Next, mix all of your toppings and place them in a bowl.  Dip your boiled bagels into the topping mixture and lightly press the topping into the exterior of the bagels.


Place the topped bagels back on the cookie sheets.  You might cover the cookie sheets with cornmeal so that the bagels don’t stick while they’re baking.


Finally bake them for 20 minutes in a 450 degree oven, a bit longer if you want them toastier.


The ingredients:

  • 2 cups white bread flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt (for dough)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • approximately 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onions
  • 1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon charnushka
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely diced

I love these everything bagels with cream cheese, avocado and smoked salmon.  They’re also great with warm turkey and swiss, with a think layer of hummus.  Let me know if you try to bake them.

Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Everything Bagels
Recipe type: Everything Bagel
Cuisine: baked

Everything bagels are delicious, for breakfast or lunch or dinner.
  • 2 cups white bread flour
  • ½ cup wheat flour
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt (for dough)
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • approximately 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onions
  • ½ tablespoon caraway seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon charnushka
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon dill seeds
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely diced

  1. Mix flours, salt, yeast and water.
  2. Mix other ingredients to form topping mixture.
  3. Mix well to develop gluten.
  4. Let rise for an hour.
  5. Divide into balls, then punch holes to form donut shapes.
  6. Broil 3 minutes a side.
  7. Quickly boil bagels.
  8. Cover with topping mixture.
  9. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes until toasty.


Shiro Wat

shiro wot

Ethiopian food typically is served family style, little bits of stews (‘wat’ or ‘wot’ usually) or vegetable dishes served on injera flatbread.  You scoop up bites with the bread, instead of using utensils, for the most part.  One of my favorite dishes is called shiro wat.  It’s a vegetarian friendly stew, primarily made with ground roasted chickpeas.  Here’s how.

The technique:

First, roast chickpeas in an oven at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  Let them cool, then place them in your food processor.

roasted chickpeas

Pulse them until they’re a fine powder.  It might take you a while.


Next, you’ll need some niter kibbeh and some berbere (or you could use my vegan niter kibbeh recipe).  Like so.


Dice half a red onion.  The finer you can dice it, the better.  Dry fry the onion in a pot until the onion begins to brown.


Then add a diced roma tomato and the niter kibbeh.  Fry until everything turns sort of brown and translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the berbere, grated ginger and chopped garlic and fry for another few minutes.  It will become very aromatic at this point.

add tomatoes

Finally, add the ground chickpeas, water or stock, and salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.


And that’s it.  Shiro wat.  If you make it with my vegan niter kibbeh it’s vegan friendly.  It’s also profoundly tasty for something made from such humble ingredients (of course, the best food is usually made from humble ingredients; I’ll skip the rant about why peasant food has always been better than the food of kings).

The ingredients:

  • 1 can of garbanzos, drained, rinsed and roasted
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 3 tablespoons niter kibbeh
  • 2 tablespoons berbere (more if you want it hotter)
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Shiro Wat
Recipe type: vegetarian stew
Cuisine: Ethiopian

Shiro wat is a vegetarian friendly stew that’s more than the sum of its parts.
  • 1 can of garbanzos, drained, rinsed and roasted
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 3 tablespoons niter kibbeh
  • 2 tablespoons berbere (more if you want it hotter)
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • ½ red onion diced
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Roast garbanzo beans, then grind them in a food processor.
  2. Dry fry diced onion until browned.
  3. Add niter kibbeh and tomato, then fry.
  4. Add berbere, garlic and ginger, frying for another few minutes.
  5. Add ground garbanzos and water, then salt and pepper.
  6. Reduce to a simmer.