TWO UNUSUAL TAKES ON ROASTED VEGGIES

I guess it is the season to turn the oven on at high temperatures and help the house stay warm. Do I like this weather? What do you think? I despise it. BUT, I do love roasted veggies, so I try to concentrate on that instead of the fact that someone decided to make repairs in the heating system of our building and the labs were freezing from Christmas break all the way through the first week of January.  I could see my breath while working, and confess to snapping at a couple of colleagues who had the nerve of greeting me with a  “Good morning, Sally.”  Anyway, I digress. Roasted veggies are a beautiful thing, and today I share two recipes, both delicious, but the second one, the second one blew my little mind away! I kept munching on those little morsels of deliciousness and beating myself for never trying them before.  Without further ado, Roasted Pears and Parsnips and…. drum roll… drum roll increasing…. drum roll at maximum blast:  Roasted Radishes. Now, do not leave. Do not. Even if you hate radishes with all your being. Trust me. You need to roast them. You just do.

roasted-parsnips-and-pears

ROASTED PEARS AND PARSNIPS
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1-1/2 lb. parsnips cut into 1-inch pieces
2 firm pears, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbs.  olive oil
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Heat oven to 425 F.

Toss the parsnips and pears with the oil, paprika, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.

Roast the vegetables in the oven until tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Toss with the vinegar and Herbes the Provence. Adjust seasoning and serve. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I was composing this post, I noticed a new blog entry by my dear friend Maureen, from Orgasmic Chef. She professed her love for Jacques Pepin (we are twin sisters, obviously) and included a short video with our guru talking about what constitutes a recipe, and how we should never follow it blindly. So many variables at play, if you follow a recipe without being aware of its ultimate goal (taste great), you might be doomed for failure. I strongly suggest you visit her post and watch the short video.

These roasted parsnips and pears are a perfect example of Pepin’s wise lesson.  First of all, I think of all fruits, pears might be the most finicky to cook with. So many different kinds, if the recipe doesn’t specify which one to use, you could already be set for trouble. Plus, even if a specific type is called for, its level of ripeness will have a huge impact on the outcome. In my first time making this dish, I used regular white pears with light green skin. They were ripe, not overly so, but definitely ripe. What happened is that they were a bit too soft once the parsnips were perfectly cooked. The taste was superb, but had I thought more carefully about it, I would have added the pears a mere 10 minutes before serving time. On my next attempt, I intend to use Bosc pears and roast them from the beginning with the parsnips. They are very sturdy and will stand better to the oven. But don’t let this small detail prevent you from making this unusual veggie roast. It turned out spectacular, paired very well with a juicy, medium-rare standing rib roast, lovingly prepared by my perfect match.

dinner-served

And now, let’s talk radishes, shall we? Let’s suppose when you see a bag of radishes you look the other way, and your lips pucker a little just thinking of how harsh they are. Do not let that prevent you from making this. Talk about a full transformation by heat, that’s what it is. Magic in radish form.

roasted-radishes

ROASTED RADISHES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 bag of radishes (or any amount to serve two)
olive oil to coat
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
water
squirt of lemon juice

Heat the oven to 400F.

Cut each radish in half, if you have very large ones in the bag, quarter them.  Place in a bowl and drizzle olive oil to coat them. Season with paprika, salt and pepper.

Place as a single layer on a baking dish, add about one tablespoon of water, cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast, covered for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 15 to 20 minutes more, moving them around occasionally, until fully tender and starting to get golden brown.  Squirt lemon juice right before serving, not too much, just a light drizzle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I own several cookbooks that include recipes for braised radishes.  I promptly ignored them all. Who would braise a radish, I kept asking myself? Radishes are supposed to be enjoyed raw. Thin slices over baguette smeared with the best possible quality butter, seasoned with salt flakes. That is the way it’s done. So, why did I finally roast these babies? I was browsing a forum on ketogenic recipes, and people were going nuts about them. Granted, it was a more substantial version, one that goes around the net as “Loaded Radishes.”  It is radishes plus olive oil plus butter plus cheese plus bacon. I kid you not. I was not that interested in the super high fat content, but what intrigued me was that every single person who made it compared the radishes to potatoes in taste. Gone was the sharp, almost bitter taste that makes radish… a radish!  I had to find out if they were onto something, so I more or less used the steam-roasted method of my recent past, and came up with this recipe. It is absolutely delicious, and yes, think about very light potatoes, and you’ll be on the right taste path. Of course, braised radishes will be on our menu very soon. I just know I’ll fall in love with them too…

Note to self: a mind open is a beautiful mind.

two-takes-on-roasted-veggies-from-bewitching-kitchen

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STEAM-ROASTED INDIAN-SPICED CAULIFLOWER

Recently I blogged about a new way to roast veggies that stole my heart. At that time, carrots were the star of the show. Now, I share my second experiment with the method, following a recipe from the same issue in Fine Cooking, applied to cauliflower. A couple of tips are important for maximal deliciousness. First, do not cut the florets too small, keep them a bit chunky. Second, make sure to leave a flat, large side when you cut them. That will provide better browning during roasting.  The roasted cauliflower is finished with a mixture containing a lot of ginger and other Indian spices. Read my thoughts about it in the comments.

steam-roasted-cauliflower

STEAM-ROASTED INDIAN-SPICED CAULIFLOWER
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 large head cauliflower cut into very large florets, florets halved lengthwise to make flat surfaces
5 Tbs. vegetable oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower and garlic with 3 Tbs. of the oil, 3/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Arrange the florets flat side down in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil and transfer to the oven to steam for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil, rotate the baking sheet, and roast until the bottom side is nicely browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Flip the cauliflower and continue roasting until just tender and deeply browned, 10 to 12 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Swirl in the lemon juice.

Transfer the roasted cauliflower to a serving bowl. Add the spice mixture, and toss gently. Season to taste with more salt, if needed, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

caulicomp

Comments: Once again I found the method wonderful to deliver perfectly roasted cauliflower florets. Now, about that spice mixture. I notice quite often these days that many recipes follow what I like to call The Ottolenghi Path:  they call for the addition of many spices and herbs to a dish, often in unexpected combinations. That is not necessarily a bad thing, he is for sure a gastronomic genius, but there is also something to be said about a simply roasted veggie, with a smidgen of olive oil, salt, pepper, and perhaps a single added spice. Of course, cookbooks, magazines, cooking shows, they all need to come up with clever, exotic ways to make food, otherwise, why would we bother paying attention to them, right?  Anyway, in this particular recipe I felt that the addition of the sautéed spices plus the lemon juice messed up slightly the texture of the roasted cauliflower, and also overpowered its flavor a bit. Granted, it made the dish feel more festive. But, if you are in the mood for a classic approach, omit it all, roast it, and serve it as it is. You won’t be disappointed. I will be steam-roasting cauliflower again and again, either in its natural state, or using this recipe with the following modifications: cut the ginger by half, keep the turmeric and coriander, add some lemon zest, and omit the lemon juice and cayenne. That might be a real winner for me.

steam-roasted-cauliflower-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

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A NEW WAY TO ROAST VEGGIES

Fine Cooking is my favorite cooking magazine. I do like Saveur, but for some odd reason never cook anything from it, I like Food and Wine a lot, and have mixed feelings about Bon Appetit. In some ways, I think the magazine is going a bit heavy on the trendy, fashionable, hip. Maybe hip is a dated term already, but you catch my drift. Fine Cooking focuses on recipes, good cooking, tips and advice that help not only the novice cook, but those who feel comfortable around the kitchen. My success rate with Fine Cooking recipes is pretty close to 100%, so what’s not to like, right? The latest issue had a nice article on “A New Way to Roast Vegetables” and it’s at the same time simple and clever. They offer many examples of veggie combinations, but the basic idea is that whatever veggie you intend to roast, first you place it in the oven covered with aluminum foil, that will essentially steam the veggie and partially cook it. Next, you remove the cover foil and proceed with the roasting.  To make clean up even easier,  it is a good idea to line the baking sheet with aluminum foil too, so that during roasting whatever could stick to the pan will stick to the foil instead. Of course, you could steam the veggies in a regular pan first, or even pre-cook them in a microwave, but the simplicity of this method won me over.  I did not follow their recipe for carrots, but if you own the magazine take a look at it. They use smallish carrots with the tops still on, and serve them as the appetizer course with a yogurt-spice sauce drizzled all over. I opted for a more austere version, pairing carrots with paprika, not much else.

roasted-carrots

STEAM-ROASTED CARROTS WITH PAPRIKA
(inspired by Fine Cooking)

5 large carrots, cut any way you like
drizzle of olive oil to coat them
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the over to 440 F.

Place the cut carrots in a large bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle spices all over.

Mix well to coat.

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil to allow for easier cleaning later. Make sure to use a rimmed baking sheet, not a baking utensil with tall sides, that will prevent proper browning.  Arrange the carrots on a single layer, cover the baking sheet with a second sheet of aluminum foil, and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the top aluminum foil (use tongs), and leave it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes more, moving the pieces around after 10 minutes.  Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

roasting

Comments: We absolutely loved the texture of these carrots. I normally find that roasted carrots need to be cut pretty small to allow for homogeneous cooking at high temperature, and even doing that I end up with some pieces that are too hard, some too soft.  This method delivers on all counts, texture and flavor. Of course, you can use all sorts of spices, maybe a bit of maple syrup or Sriracha together with the olive oil (I’ll be trying that combo soon),  and serve the carrots with a yogurt-based sauce, with tahini, lemon, whatever you crave at the moment.   As I mentioned, I opted for a very basic version, which is a real test for the method, no distractions. Cauliflower, potatoes, eggplant, turnips, they can all be roasted this way, for the most part all veggies have enough moisture to steam while covered.

roasted-carrots-with-paprika

 

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: PAALAK PANEER, A FAREWELL POST

the-end11Not sure even how to break this to my readers. This will be my last post with The Secret Recipe Club. Not because I am leaving, but because the club as a whole will be shutting down. It is sad, very sad, I’ve been a member for a long time. My first post was in October 2011. Five long yeas, and I enjoyed every single month of it. But, many members were quitting, not enough new members joining, so that is that, folks. We knew about this for over a month, and I’ve been dreading this post with the bitter taste of farewell. Farewell to a good thing. Anyway, my last assigned blog was My Hobbie Lobbie, hosted by Trisha and I can say it allowed me to close this blogging chapter with a golden key. I learned so much by stalking her site, Trisha cooks a lot of authentic Indian food, a cuisine I adore but find a bit intimidating.  I had a mile-long list of stuff bookmarked, will share a few of my choices to give you a taste (pun intended) of what her site is all about.  For starters, her take on Tiramisu…   But then, she tempted me with Homemade Samosas (sigh). Or Methi Namakpare, something you probably don’t know what to make of, but jump over there to start dreaming about it.  Her take on Chicken Tikka is another show-stopper. But the one that I really wanted to make and if life was a little less frantic I would have: Chicken Biryani, the very best according to Trisha. I even bought all the ingredients to make it, just never got to it. Not yet, that is…  Another heavy contender – a very unusual daal using black chickpeas. Guess what? I found those in our Oriental market, so stay tuned, it will be on the blog sometime soon. Anyway, you can see how much I adored getting her blog for my final assignment.  Final assignment. This is really sad.

Note added after publication. For this final adventure in SRC, my blog was assigned to Sawsan, from Chef in Disguise. I woke up today to read her post that shall stay with me forever.  I am touched beyond words. If you’d like to see what she cooked from my blog (it’s a great bread!), visit her wonderful site.

paneer

 

PALAAK PANEER
(slightly modified from My Hobbie Lobbie)

750 g spinach, washed and drained
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 shallot, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 green chile, whole
2 tsp coriander powder
250g Paneer cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 – 1 tsp garam masala powder
6 tbsp whole milk
1-2 tsp lemon juice, or to taste
Salt, to taste

Blanch the spinach in hot water till wilted. This should take about 3 minutes.

Drain using a colander and run under some cold water till it cools down. This will help maintain its lovely color and will prevent it from cooking any further. Blend it to a smooth paste and set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan. Add the cumin and fry till it is fragrant. Don’t let it burn. Add the shallot and let it fry on low heat till it turns soft. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Add the ginger  and chile and cook for another minute.
Add the coriander powder and salt and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the spinach puree and a tiny splash of water if necessary. The puree should be loose, but not watery.  Bring this to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the garam masala powder, paneer cubes and milk. Stir and cook for a few minutes till the spinach is nice and creamy. Add lemon juice to taste. Serve over rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

composite
Comments: I’ve had Paalak paneer in Indian restaurants quite often. Love the stuff. The creaminess, the spices, but I never attempted to make it at home. Like sushi, palaak paneer is something I reserved for dining out. Once I got this assignment and spotted the recipe on Trisha’s site, I could not quite get it out of my mind. Plus, our Oriental market carries paneer cheese, so the trickiest ingredient involved did not pose a problem. My only advice is, get a lot of spinach. A LOT. I did not bother weighing, but I just got a lot more than I thought I needed, and that was a wise decision. I intended to  make some of her Jeera rice, but ended up serving it with normal, plain Basmati. My favorite rice in the whole wide world.

served

After we enjoyed it at dinner, there was a little bit of Paalak left. Not enough to stand on its own as a side dish. I considered adding to a frittata or omelette for my lunch next day, but then it hit me: why not use it as the flavoring base for a soufflé? At first I tried to fight that idea. The spices seemed wrong and out-of-place. But shouldn’t we try to open our horizons instead of accepting preconceptions?  I went ahead with it. Used my basic Julia Child’s method, and… one word for you: WOW!

indiansoufflee
We devoured this soufflé with abandon… it was spectacular. So, yes, I recommend that you not only make the Paalak paneer, but then save a little bit of it to use in this quite successful fusion cuisine experiment.  It was creamy, tasty, the spices made it absolutely special.

creamyDinner is served: Paalak Soufflé with grilled flank steak and mushrooms… 
Life is good!

goodnight

Well, folks this is it for the Secret Recipe Club. It was great while it lasted, that’s for sure.
Like the beautiful full moon that was shinning the night we enjoyed the Paalak Paneer…

A big thank you to the organizers, moderators, members,
that kept such great atmosphere in the background.
I had a blast with all of you.

palaak-paneer-souffle-from-bewitching-kitchen

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THE BEST, THE VERY BEST HUMMUS

We eat hummus all the time. Almost always store-bought, because we actually like the two brands available in our neck of the woods: Sabra and Athenos. Sometimes I refresh it with a little lemon juice, olive oil, some cumin or paprika, but sometimes we just dig in, straight from the container. I have quite a few hummus-like recipes in the blog, departures from the classic, using avocado, edamame, even pumpkin. Oddly enough, I never posted the classic, chickpea-tahini entity. Until now, that is. The recipe I tried this past weekend was a revelation, and I am still kicking myself for taking such a long time to try it, when bloggers and cookbook authors have been raving about it for ages. This is the way hummus is prepared in the Middle East. The prominent flavor is exactly what is intended to be: chickpeas and tahini. No distractions. The texture, unbeatable. Absolutely nothing to do with the grocery store variety. This might just spoil you forever.  I adapted the recipe from a few sources, including Ottolenghi, to make a version that has a little bit less tahini and more lemony. Play with it, but don’t mess with the cooking of the chickpeas.

hummus
THE VERY BEST HUMMUS
(adapted from several sources)

1 cup dried chickpeas
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tahini (best quality you can find)
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup cold water
red pepper flakes (optional)
cumin or paprika for decoration (optional)

The night before making the hummus, cover the chickpeas with enough water to cover by 2 inches and soak them for 12 hours. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan with the baking soda. Cover them a couple of  inches of water and bring the water to a boil. Simmer for an hour or until very tender. Drain the beans, let them cool slightly and add to a powerful mixer (Vitamix is available). If you don’t have a Vitamix, use a food processor.

Add the lemon juice, tahini, salt, and blend until very smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the water and continue to blend for a few more minutes. Taste and season with additional salt if needed. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and mix gently. Transfer to a serving dish, top with a drizzle of olive oil, maybe some cumin or paprika sprinkled on top. If you like, a little bit of fresh lemon juice brightens up the flavors.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: When Phil tried the first bite of Ak-Mak cracker with this creamy hummus spread on it, he was silent for a few seconds, then told me it was the best hummus he’s ever had. Followed by… you know you’ll have to make this all the time now, right? I have to agree, the texture is three logs of magnitude better than any hummus you can buy or make by simply opening a can of chickpeas. I guarantee you it is worth the time you’ll have to wait for the beans to get tender. Just go for it, do it on a Saturday morning, while you sip your coffee, your tea, while you read the newspaper. Just remember to soak the beans the evening before. That is all.  You will notice there is no garlic in my version. It is listed as optional by some, mandatory by others. I am very partial to the pure flavor of chickpeas and tahini and find that garlic would throw this delicate balance off. You should do what your taste buds tell you to…  Olive oil? Only drizzled on top at the time you serve it. In the hummus itself, water is the best emulsifier. Just think about it, tahini is extremely oily, adding more oil to the dip makes no sense.   It is soooo creamy, I tried to capture the texture on my first photo, it has the feeling of a luscious mousse. Everyone was mesmerized by its looks. Everyone.

bogeyhummus


Go ahead, make my day and pin me!

the-very-best-hummus-by-bewitching-kitchen

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GOING NAKED… AND MY HUSBAND LOVED IT!

Obviously, I am talking naked tomatoes. Obviously. Another almost non-recipe that went from spotting on a site to preparing and blogging in record time… The source for this little gem is the video blog Food Wishes, hosted by Chef John. I’ve been following his site for a long time, he always posts interesting stuff, but I admit to rarely watching the videos. I am a very impatient person. Give me the recipe, if possible with just a photo or two, and I’m a happy camper. But, I must say whenever I watch his videos, I feel happy I did. He is a natural teacher, concise, and very witty. Anyway, these naked tomatoes intrigued me. I read his post while we were away in Portland. We landed back in town, and stopped at the grocery store on our way home. I made a beeline for the fresh produce stand. Not a single cherry tomato to be found. However, gorgeous grape tomatoes said hello to me, so I asked “do you mind if I take your clothes off?”

naked-grape-tomatoes2

NAKED GRAPE TOMATOES
(adapted from Food Wishes)

a bunch of grape tomatoes
salted boiling water
ice water bath
a little patience and loving care
extra-virgin olive oil
white balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic, or sherry vinegar)
dried thyme to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Make two very small and not too deep incisions in each grape tomato on the side opposite of the stem.

Drop them in salted boiling water for just a few seconds. The moment the skin starts to curl up, remove them quickly and dump them in ice water until cold.

Carefully peel off the skin, one by one. Be Zen. It is good for you.

Add them to a small bowl. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, thyme (or another herb of your choice), salt and pepper. Pour over the tomatoes, cover with plastic and leave at room temperature until serving time.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositenaked

Comments: I will not lie to you, peeling small tomatoes is a labor of love. But worth it. If you have a dinner party, these would be amazing as appetizers. Grab a toothpick, pop one of these naked cuties in your mouth, repeat. I also envision them served over crostini, a nice smear of ricotta underneath, maybe even baked ricotta. Have you ever had baked ricotta? Here is a recipe for you, just to make things easier. Both Phil and I loved these tomatoes, the resulting texture is wonderful! The dressing, instead of slipping off the tomato skin, permeates delicately through its flesh. Is that sexy or what?

dinner-servedDinner is served: Turkey Portobello Burgers, avocados,
and Naughty Grape Tomatoes… 

naked-grape-tomatoes-from-bewitching-kitchen

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PICKLED RED ONIONS

Those who follow my blog might notice that onions rarely appear in our recipes. But here I am to give them full attention in a simple but delicious preparation I saw over at Kelly’s Inspired Edibles. For unknown reasons, in the past few years I’ve developed a huge passion for pickled stuff. I’ve always enjoyed olives and capers, but now every time I see a recipe calling for pickled anything, I start anticipating that sharp bite on the back of the tongue that only the right amount of acid will cause.  Perhaps I developed a “pickled tooth?”  I do take liberties with the English language, but maybe that’s a bit much. At any rate, I loved the fuchsia color of the onions and the pickling liquid, and with each passing day it only got better. I enjoyed the full batch, from first to last slice, since Phil and onions do not get along well.  This recipe is ready in minutes, I hope you’ll give it a try.

Pickled Red Onions

PICKLED RED ONIONS
(from Inspired Edibles)

1 medium red onion, peeled quartered and sliced thin
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
8 or so peppercorns
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Bring a kettle of water to boil. Place sliced onions in a colander or mesh sieve and hold over sink. Carefully pour boiling water over the onions to soften them, allowing the water to drain through. Set aside.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a clean pint size mason jar until sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Layer in the warm soft onions, thyme sprigs and peppercorns, making sure everything is submerged in the vinegar mixture. The jar will be quite full, you might have leftover onions, just save them for another purpose.

Place lid and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. Leftover pickled onions will store for 10 days or so in the fridge.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Served

Comments: These onions go well on many types of food.  My favorite was spooned over ground chicken with Tex-Mex spices served with a corn tortilla, but I had it on salad greens, with grilled salmon, and… just to make sure Kelly was onto something, I munched on pieces standing in front of the fridge, fork in hand, smile on face. Yeap, she is right. It will curl your toes in every direction.. and that’s a good thing!  The pickling liquid is fantastic as the base of a vinaigrette, and I even enjoyed a little drizzle over avocado slices. Once again, this recipe proves that simplicity can be very good. I know there is a time and place for dressings that mix 17 spices, half of them roasted, juice of preserved lemons emulsified with first pressed pistachio oil, but… when you have something that awes your palate with only a few ingredients… it’s a gold mine. Make this, marvel at the color, the taste, and stop by Kelly’s site to say merci beaucoups!

Pickled Red Onions, from Bewitching Kitchen

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