Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu 2011

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. Perhaps because I can spread it out for weeks beforehand, and at least a week after.

Finding the recipes and hauling in the groceries, planning the cocktails, and trying new wines, it's all about ceremony.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cajun Corn Macque Choux

Creamy, buttery, flavorful, and the perfect backdrop to fried...or saucy...or spicy Cajun food.

This dish, pronounced "mock shoe," is hands down, my and John's favorite NOLA side dish. If it's on the menu, it's on our bill.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Steamed Wontons

Now that Denise and I live more that two inches away from each other on a 12x12 U.S. map, no one is around to make me wontons regularly.* I tried it as a date dinner with the boy, and we are hooked. Seriously; we made about thirty dumplings and were still looking for more when they were gone. 

An Alton Brown recipe was my starting point, but I modified it rather a lot, particularly to use what fresh veg I had left over from other meals. I subbed that which the refrigerator yielded at the time to great effect, and added a few things I considered the original to be missing.  We paired with this with a homemade, practically drinkable dumpling sauce without which these should not be eaten.

The video instructions provided here by the inestimable Mr. Brown really make it fun to do as a project with your better half, especially if you, like myself, don't have a dedicated wonton steamer on hand. These freeze well. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Avocado Poblano Sauce

So says wiki "It is common for people to experience pleasurable and even euphoriant effects from eating capsaicin-flavored foods." Such is the case with this recipe, which capitalizes on the capsaicin naturally present in a variety of peppers.

John experiments in the kitchen, unlike me. I like to begin with a particular end in mind, whereas he likes to explore a few directions and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes his stuff great, sometimes it is regrettable (like the time he used left over Vietnamese take out black bean sauce in scrambled egg sandwiches...). This time, however, was the best, EVER.

Steak topped with Avocado Poblano Sauce, served on arugula with salted heirloom tomatoes
I have used this creamy, smoky, spicy-but-not-too-much-so, slightly sweet sauce on just about everything. It's like a really great fresh salsa combined with a really great taco sauce, topped with avocado slices...except easier. Sometimes I even add actual avocado slices to ante up the 'cado quotient. See below for a few usage ideas.

This recipe will yield about 2 cups, which, in my house, is gone in 5 days. For more info on heat measurements and chile identifications, check out this index.

2 Poblano peppers
1 New Mexico, Espanola, or Cubanelle chile (large, mild light green chile, similar to Anaheim but with thinner skin)
1 Seeded jalepeno
3 Thai or Bird's Eye chilis w/ seeds
3 Roma tomatoes
1/2 Avocado
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground chipotle powder

1. If you have sensitive skin, put on kitchen gloves. Then, de-stem all the peppers and the tomatoes.

2. Heat adjustment: the INSIDE of the peppers contain all the heat, thinks to capsaicin, which is a chemical compound found in the pith surrounding the seeds. The above recipe yields a medium-hot sauce. You may adjust up or down by including or excluding differing amounts of pepper innards.

3. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet to so-hot-it-is-almost-smoking (or use a grill) and roast all prepared peppers and tomatoes. Try for a nice char on the outside, as this will lend great flavor to the sauce. Try also to keep the insides from fully cooking, as partially raw veggies will add a fresh pico-like edge.

4. Add all roasted veggies to a food processor or blender. Add avocado and blend till you reach uniform consistency--sort of a runny salsa, but really whatever you desire. Add a splash of olive oild and lime juice with the motor running. Taste for seasoning and salt, pepper, and chipotle powder to taste.

5. Experiment with myriad uses, such as topping a turkey sandwich, topping tacos, as a dip for raw veggies, or...

Pan-fry green tomatoes in olive oil, top with sauce.

Spread over baked tofu, serve with grilled vegetables.

My favorite: spoon over scrambled egg whites, top with more avocado.

Thin sauce out with sherry vinegar, toss with salad greens.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kitchen Bitchin': Poppin' Fresh Must Die

There are a few things that are way too easy to make at home. Oatmeal, for one. And popcorn. But you know what? Biscuits, that's what. Biscuits are easy. Crazy easy. Like so easy your grandma could do it. Did you know that canned biscuits have been directly correlated to grandmother grave-rolling? Scientific fact.
So there are a few tricks to biscuits, not going to lie. Cold everything, for one. Ice-cold bowls, ice-cold fat (two kinds, mind you), ice-cold flour, cold-enough buttermilk. And don't over-handle the stuff (we'll talk about warm hands and gluten development later).
Um, that's it. Don't worry about the stupid rules you hear on Food Network. Thumb prints in biscuits? No. Don't do it, that's stupid. Also, why would you ever buy a biscuit cutter? Use an overturned mason jar; it's what your grandma did, and hers turned out all right, didn't they?
Also, full disclosure, this is Alton Brown's recipe. I use it because it's good, smart, and basic. Just buttermilk, butter, lard (or shortening), salt, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Meatless Monday: Maximum Corniness

image via wikipedia commons

Since summer is here in a big way right now in Texas, corn is in. I love the sweetness of summer corn - I add it raw to salads so it's as sugary as it can be. I ran across a corn chowder recipe in an old Saveur years ago that recommended grating the cobs with a grater or the flat side of a knife in order to get all the corny goodness out. It made the best batch of chowder I've ever had.

Texas summer definitely means that hot soup is out, but there are so many ripe vegetables right now that it's the perfect time for pastas and giant salads. I made this up on the fly to use up our bounty and was delighted with the result. It's sweet and fragrant and bursting with flavors from everything you can get your hands on from the farmer's market.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Warm Radish and Cabbage Salad

Radishes and cabbage, really, the two least sexy vegetables. And yet, hearty and inexpensive, tangy and full of opportunity.

This recipe has totally blown me away. There's something about the vegetables, and the procedure, that maximizes the brown-butter flavor. And I don't really love radishes nor cabbage, so I find it odd that this dish magically transforms such ordinary ingredients.

We've made this quite a few times due to it's rich taste, ease of prep, and deep sweetness perfectly suited to serve with pork tenderloin or spicy chicken sausage.

The original recipe calls for watercress, which is far cooler than cabbage, but also more expensive and harder to find. If you can find radishes with the greens still on, those will also work in place of the watercress or cabbage.

Adapted from Gourmet, November 2005

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bunches radishes (1 1/2 lb total), radishes halved lengthwise, then sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 head of green cabbage, coarsely sliced (Or, greens from radishes, or 2 bunches watercress, coarse stems discarded, washed well, and cut into 2-inch lengths)

Heat butter with oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté radishes with salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, 6 minutes. Add water and cook, covered, until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes, then cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is evaporated, 1 to 4 minutes. Add greens and sauté, stirring, until wilted, about 1 minute.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuscan White Bean Fettunta and Grilled Bread

Some have said the quickest way to kill your passion is to make it your profession. Well, for the last 3 months, I have been working 20-40 hours a week in food, at a local upscale market. I've worked as a cheesemonger, deli slicer, pizza maker, sandwich maker, salad maker, and food prepper. In the name of exploring the career opportunities within my passion, I've taken a huge paycut, learned a lot about humility, and developed a terrible case of carpal tunnel (wrist braces 'n' all).

I have blogged zero times. I have let myself down, and let all 4 of you readers down. I sincerely apologize, and wish to end the guilt right now.

Fortunately, I have still been cooking up great and tasty things, and documenting them with lots of photos--I knew I would get my act together and come back to blog them eventually.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: Gram's Bread and Butter Pickles

I hated bread and butter pickles when I was little. The variety they served in restaurants was cloyingly sweet and weirdly yellow and did not make my sandwiches better. My grandmother's homemade ones are very different, very fresh, and very good.

I don't remember that she ever bothered with canning these for real, but they're tasty as soon as they're cold and keep nicely in the fridge. I eat them on sandwiches sometimes, but mostly just straight out of the jar. I hope you make some for yourselves this Spring! 

Here's her recipe, verbatim:
  • 4 good-sized cucumbers, sliced           
  • 9 or so onions, thinly sliced     
  • 2 Tb. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/3 cup salt                         
  • 2 tsp. celery seed
  • 3 cups cider vinegar             
  • 1 tsp. powdered ginger
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns       
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  1. Mix the cukes, onions, and salt in big bowl; cover top with ice cubes.
  2. Let stand for 2 hrs.; drain, rinse, and drain again.
  3. Combine everything else with the vinegar in non-reactive(?) pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the cucumber and onion mixture, and return to boil again.
  5. Cook one minute and remove from heat.
(Pack in sterilized jars, etc.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Guest Post - Creamy Grits with Fresh Tomato Pan Sauce

As long as they're well seasoned, I've not met a bowl of grits I didn't like, but I know a lot of foodies who won't touch them. These lost souls love polenta, but will tell you that they don't like grits. It's probably due to having been served sub-par specimens.  It's a shame.   
Whether it's sold as one or the other seems to be a regional marketing thing.
Tomāto, tomäto? I'm not a fan of the bar-like hunks of polenta or the super-thin grits you get at some restaurants, but I appreciate this ground corn porridge in all its other forms. A marriage of the two is my favorite way to prepare it; fluffy, thick grits with a fresh tomato sauce to thin it a bit. We ate a version of this twice a month at a (lovely but expensive) brunch place 'til I realized I could make it at home for pennies a serving. It's filling and unusual and sticks to your ribs.

image via here

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Lavender Milk Bread

This bread is the product of insomnia and chick lit. When I can't sleep, I re-read. Sarah Addison Allen's "Garden Spells," fit the bill last night. When still wide awake halfway through it, I was inspired to cook from it as well. 

The story centers around a garden with  flowers which, if eaten, have magic properties. I have to admit that some of the recipes there are probably also imaginary, (though if anyone knows how honeysuckle wine could be made, I'm all ears). However, some, like the rose petal scones or chive blossom vinegar, sound real and really wonderful.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tuscan Ribollita

Photo Credit: Stephen Lewis
I was lucky enough to have studied at a small cooking school in Florence. Our "text" was a hodge podge of documents comprised of basically an old Italian grandma telling some stories and doing her best to not be vague about cooking processes that are second nature to her. And from her lips, then translated by someone who is about a 3rd grade English level.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beef Negimaki

I served this wonderful party food on New Year's Eve, for a small gathering of family and some visiting friends from London. The presentation was lovely and interesting, and the dish proved a real crowd-pleaser. If you've ever had one of those fouffy faux rolls of beef tenderloin at a sushi restaurant, it was likely a version of negi maki.

As finger foods go, this is straightforward and healthy, with a deep flavor. Too often hors d'oeuvres depend on puff pastry, butter, or loads of cheese. The greasy bits are bad for fancy clothes, and the goo just weighs you down too much prior to the meal. Leave it to the Japanese to simplify and beautify the humble hors d'oeuvres.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Veggie Burgers

Veggie burgers don't need much of an introduction, but they are in need of some revitalization. They've left their nutritionalist roots for $greener pastures - you can get them at a lot of fast food restaurants and their cowardly commercially available cousins are only a bit less plastic. They have no tofu, no nuts, and no soul.

These, however, are a laundry list of the whole foods you want to crowbar into your diet, and here somehow (cumin and mustard, amen!) they taste fantastic when combined.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I've been on a soup kick lately, especially soups that taste way more decadent than they actually are. I've made 5 different butternut squash soups in the last 2 months, but the flavor profile here is the deepest and most balanced.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Meatless Monday: Curried Brassicae, Pt. I

The family's got everything. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, radishes; they're all in there. Curry is exotic, hot and attainable. Cue the moody lighting ... shorvedar subzi is the love-child of Brassica oleracea and all my favorite spices.

I made it this week and ate it for three meals a day 'til it was gone. It takes the chill right off of January.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Curried Tuna Salad

My future mother-in-law has a talent. Regardless of when we arrive at their gorgeous lake cabin in Northern Minnesota, there is always food ready. Flights can be delayed, or early, we can drive in, we can get a ride doesn't matter. There's always good food in the fridge, just waiting for our (hungry) arrival.

Her trick is make-ahead dishes that can be refrigerated and not loose any tastiness. This recipe is actually tastier if you make it ahead, she taught me. Like any mayo-based salad, it can be served on lettuce wraps, toast, crackers, whatever your heart desires. I happen to hate diesel mayo, aka full fat, so this uses just enough of the light stuff to keep the salad together.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What To Do With Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam and 15-spice Ketchup, ready for application.
A few weeks ago, I posted about Bacon Jam as I was making it for Christmas gifting. I enjoy project cooking, so the actual making of the jam was a great time. But the applications of this spread are far better and varied than I realized. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Meatless Monday: Country-Fried Seitan

Vegan-friendly crowd-pleasing kid food exists, in this case mostly due to mustard. My friend Jess makes this recipe at home and it was always my answer to her "do you want me to bring anything?"  I love the mustardy flavor, but it also has two other ingredients that will get your vegetarian friends to offer to do the dishes if you use them together: seitan and nutritional yeast.