Thursday, June 3, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

I tend to ignore some of the conventions of dining. Like the ones about when certain foods can be eaten in the day. My personal philosophy is if I can eat it for dinner than I can certainly eat the leftovers for breakfast. I don't discriminate. Seafood, shortribs, fried chicken, Chinese food, and pizza have all been eaten for breakfast. Similarly, living in an air conditioned house, I have been known to make food that was seasonally inappropriate. Like today when I made macaroni and cheese and Deb's amazing coffee cake. If you haven't made this coffee cake yet, do yourself a favor and make it before it gets to hot out. Although, did I mention it was 80 degrees today? 

In my defense, I only heated up my whole house to help one of my best friends, Jenna. Her college roommate's dad passed away earlier this week. Not knowing what else to do, as they have grown apart in recently, Jenna wanted to make food for the family. One small problem though: She doesn't really cook and may be the pickiest eater I have ever met. 

No one wants to eat healthy when they're sad, assuming they want to eat at all. If someone is grieving, it is time to make comfort foods (preferably with lots of cheese), and I have yet to meet someone who thinks a salad is comforting.

This is the best macaroni and cheese I have eaten in a long time. And in the spirit of my salsa, this recipe is from my boyfriend's mom. I was surprised she was willing to part with it. Especially to me. Clearly, she is more generous with her "signature" recipes than I am.

There aren't any picture because I can't find my charger, and I couldn't cut into macaroni and cheese I was giving to someone else. The next time I make it (which will be post bathing suit season) I will take pictures. In the meantime, if you make it and *happen* to take a picture I could use that would be delightful. That's besides the point. My point is that with a ratio of 2+ pounds of cheese to 1 pound of pasta, this is going to be good, if not at all diet friendly.

Macaroni and Cheese
The only change I made is I use black pepper instead of white because I do not like white pepper. If you want to use white, use 1/3 teaspoon. Oh, and I used penne instead of rigatoni because its what I had available.
1 pound rigatoni (I used penne)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1/2 cup parmesan
1/4 cup romano
2 teaspoons Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 lb sharp cheddar (grated)
1 lb mozzarella (grated)
1 1/2 cups whole milk

Melt the butter over medium heat and add flour. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the floury taste is gone. Do not let it brown. Slowly add 3 cups of milk. Increase heat to medium high, and stir until smooth and thickened. About 5 minutes. Add the parmesan and romano cheese, as well as the Tabasco, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and chili powder. Remove from heat.

Cook the rigatoni 4 minutes and drain. Add the pasta to the bechamel sauce.

Layer 1/2 of the pasta mixture in a 9x13 inch pan. Top with half of the cheese. Repeat with remaining pasta and cheese. Before baking, pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk over the top of the dish. Bake for 45 minutes. If it begins to brown to quickly, cover with foil.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Favorite Salsa

I went to Atlanta when I was 14. It was the first time I had been to a major city where toilet seat covers weren't provided. It was also the first time I was in a major city that, quite frankly, was dirty (maybe it's changed since then). It was in Atlanta that I created my first theory of food (of which I now have many). My theory was: the cleaner the bathroom, the better the food. It proved to be true, and has held true since.

 I'm upgrading it to a Law of Dining.

 (Yes, some of my peppers were a little on the old side)

 The best meal we had was at Horseradish Grill (the cleanest bathrooms, and a nonsmoking restaurant in a city that permitted smoking. Yay!)

 The worst was a restaurant we went to after the CNN and Coca Cola factory tours. I have no idea what it was called, but I remember being terrified of the food, and I held my business until we got back to the hotel.

The next food theory I devised is in a similar vain. Always judge a Mexican restaurant by its salsa.

One of my very favorite Mexican restaurant has the standard tri-color chips (not the best), but the salsa is amazing. The food rivals is easily as good as what I ate when I went to Frontera.

Growing up in Southern California, I have eaten a lot of salsa. My favorite is not from a restaurant though. It is a recipe that I stole acquired from my friend Corey. I have a lot to thank Corey for: she made working for Disney fun, is the co-creator of the Pirates of the Caribbean drinking game, she makes this salsa, oh and she introduced me to my boyfriend. God bless this girl.

According to Corey, the recipe for this salsa is "the only good thing [she] ever got from her ex-boyfriend." That is enough of an endorsement for me. (The recipe is technically his mom's.)

The salsa is garlicky, and has a depth not found in most salsas (definitely found not in pico de gallo which I don't particularly care for). Sure, there are a few more steps than you might be used to, but it is worth it. And easy. I promise.

(Blurry and my battery died right after this picture)

My Favorite Salsa or "The only good thing Corey ever got from her ex-boyfriend" Salsa 
My salsa always ends green because I love cilantro and tend to go a little crazy with it. The recipe below calls for less than what I used. I also don't seed the peppers because I want the salsa to have some heat. If you're scared of it being too hot, seed some or all them. 

1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion (doesn't matter what variety. I usually use red or a sweet onion)
3 jalapenos
2 dried chilis de arbol
2 Santa Fe Grande chilis (also known as a guero chili)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 bunch cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the top off the head of garlic so the cloves are exposed. Pour the olive oil over the garlic and seal in a foil pouch. Roast for 45 minutes, or until garlic is soft and sweet. When cool enough to handle, remove the garlic from the papery stuff.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over high heat (or under the broiler) blacken all of the chilis as well as the onion. Allow to cool, then remove the stems (and seeds if you want to).

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Season with salt to taste (keep in mind how salty your chips are.) Serve with chips and a margarita and enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Almost Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

I've been holding out. I made this ice cream over a week ago. I also haven't posted in over a week. That is because I haven't been home to eat. I have been at various graduation parties or at work. Now, at 2 in the morning, I can't sleep so I'm eating the ice cream straight from the container. Cause dairy totally makes you sleepy... yeah that's why I'm eating it.

Anyways, the following is (for me at least) a super sentimental (it's the right time of the year) and rather long post that you may feel free to skip as it doesn't really talk about food. Food description starts in the 2nd to last paragraph. Also? There *should* be pictures by 12 hours from now.

My Aunt Fran was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She was caring, dedicated, hard working, and extremely loving. At 20, she married her high school sweet heart, much to her parent's chagrin. They were convinced it couldn't last because they were too you. My grandparents were wrong though, because my aunt and uncle were married for 30 years.

As Director of Athletics at a local community college, she single-handedly revitalized their athletics program. Her standard uniform anywhere was: shorts, polo shirt, hair in a ponytail, and a visor. Convenient if she wanted to hit a bucket of balls after work.

When I decided I wanted to play volleyball in 5th grade, she stopped by my house after work to make sure I had the correct form. She would know since she had both played and coached at the collegiate level. She was also the person I called when I needed help again in 8th grade, and in 10th grade when I switched to water polo.

Despite her athletic exterior, for holidays and gatherings, she was Martha Stewart. Perfectly set tables and flower arrangements were signatures of her parties. So was chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. There were bowls of M&M's scattered throughout the house, and her fudge was ledgen-wait for it-dary.

I would like to think that there is a lot of aunt Fran in me. My love of sports, chocolate, and oddly enough my handwriting are reminiscent of her. (My mom used to order strawberry ice cream instead of chocolate at Baskin Robins. Sacrilege. Everyone knows you order the Peanut Butter and Chocolate).

My freshmen year of high school she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After having several surgeries, and extensive chemo and radiation, doctors thought they had caught it all. Even when she was too sick to work, she did. The next year, when she probably would have been more comfortable sitting at home, she came and sat on cold metal bleachers to watch me play in my first water polo tournament.

My junior year of high school, the cancer came back. This time in her liver and spine. It was inoperable and it was only a matter of time and comfort. Within 2 months, it was apparent that the time was coming. I visited her almost everyday for the last two weeks. When she wasn't eating, I would bake chocolate cookies, hoping that the smell would make her happy. On one of her last trips downstairs, she saw me thumbing through a cookbook her best friend had given her. The book was an autographed copy of Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow. It had never been used, and she gave it to me. It is the second most important cookbook I own, the first being a copy of The Joy of Cooking that she inscribed and gave to me for Christmas.

Since she passed away in 2005, I have never had an problem using the Joy of Cooking, but Pure Chocolate remained uncooked from. What if the recipes don't work? What if it's too hard? It sat on my shelf. Flipping through it one day, I noticed a completely chocolate free recipe. It wasn't the recipe my aunt would have chosen, but it made it easier for me to test the waters (so to speak).

I really liked this ice cream. I did have a slight issue with the directions, but it was minor. The recipe results in a thick, creamy ice cream that is not the saccharine sweet of most caramel ice creams. There is bitterness and depth. A sprinkle of sea salt over the top of a scoop really make the flavors sing.

 (Dots on the right are the correct color, dots on the left are too light)

I can't wait to make more recipes from the book, and while I may never eat fudge again, her legacy lives on, and I am so very proud to be a small part of it.

Almost Burnt Sugar Ice Cream
From Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
2 cups (1 pint) whole milk
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
8 large egg yolks

In a heavy sauce pan, combine the first 3 ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to a simmer. Remove the vanilla beans. Discard (or do what I did and make vanilla sugar). Reduce heat to low.

Place sugar in a small pan (light colored if you have it). Turn heat to medium, and do not stir. Wait until the sugar on the sides and bottom begins to melt. Once you can see melted sugar, very gently begin to stir. (If the sugar clumps, lower heat and do not stir. It will melt again. I promise.) Now here is where it gets a little challenging. You are playing chicken with the sugar. The closer it gets to burning the more flavor it has, but if it burns, you have to start over. Having a white plate nearby to do test drops on makes it easier to judge, especially if you are using a dark bottomed pan. You're sugar will smoke. You want it too. You also want it to be the color of a dark penny which requires a lot of smoke. See David for a more comprehensive tutorial.

Slowly pour the caramel into the cream mixture, stirring until completely smooth. Remove from heat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour in 1 1/2 cups of the cream mixture, stirring constantly. Pour egg mix back into the cream mixture.

Return the cream to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken and coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and run through a sieve into a bowl. (Nothing worse than scrambled eggs in your ice cream).

Cover the custard with plastic wrap touching the top so it doesn't get that gross skin, and chill for 8 hours, or over night. Freeze in an ice cream maker according the the manufacturer's directions.

On a completely irrelevent note, I'm still an Amazon Affiliate. I have no idea if I'm supposed to tell you that, but I don't want to get in trouble for not mentioning it. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thai Slaw

While I was driving home from work today, I was craving coleslaw (yet again). I would make coleslaw everyday if I didn't think it would result in a mutiny. Set to make coleslaw, I mentally debated what kind of coleslaw to make. Nothing was shouting "Make me!" until I drove past the Thai restaurant at the bottom of my street. Cue light bulb.

My dad is tired of going out for Thai food with me and my mom. Not because we won't let him choose what to order (on the contrary, he usually has free rain), or because we won't let him order food as spicy as he would like. It's because we insist nay demand that we order the Green Papaya Salad every single time we go. I've seen it on the menu of every Thai restaurant I have been in. And for good reason. It's delicious. Crunchy, crisp, refreshing, and light. I could make a meal on it alone.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bacon Pancakes

There is a restaurant near my house that serves the best pancakes. The restaurant closes everyday by 3, but is the perfect place to go after a night on the town. It holds the dubious honor of being one of my favorite places to go when I've gone to bed at a perfectly respectable hour on a Saturday night imbibed too much the night before. (Hi Mom!)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Seafood Linguine

I love noodles. Noodles rank very high on my list of favorite foods. Other food type items on this list include (in no particular order): corned beef, coleslaw, streuseled anything, peanut butter, clams, cheese, cream cheese, artichokes, hollandaise sauce, poached eggs, and squash.

Whew. Now where was I going with this? Oh right, so I love noodles and I eat them regularly. At home, this is usually in the form of pasta (or my guilty pleasure, Top Ramen). But mainly pasta. Sometime though, I want something new and different. I love tomato sauce, pesto, and carbonara. I also love me some Thai green curry which is usually served over rice. Unfortunately rice, while perfectly tasty, is not my favorite starch.

Much to my surprise linguine makes a perfect match for a green curry full of seafood. I was hesitant at first, but figured what did I really have to lose? (The 140 positive reviews also helped). From what I have been told by my father and boyfriend the pasta is very tasty. I don't really know how it tasted because I accidentally made it ridiculously spicy and could barely eat it. I did manage to eat 1 bowl full, which you would think would be great for limiting calories, but no. I had inhaled a bottle of beer and two glasses of wine just so I could eat it. Lesson learned: test your jalapenos.

Its a shame pictures can't turn out when I'm starving. 

Thai Green Curry Linguine
Adapted from Gourmet
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (4-inch-long) fresh hot red chile or 2 jalapenos, thinly sliced crosswise (I would recommend serrano because you know its going to be spicy)
1 small onion thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger
2 pounds mixed shellfish (I used the frozen mixed seafood from Costco. Shrimp and scallops on their own are would be delicious though)
1 (14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk (I used low fat)
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
12 oz dried thin linguine
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Berry Pie with Almond, Orange, and Ginger Streusel

Almost everyone is familiar with the Old Lady that Swallowed a Fly. Why, oh why did she swallow that fly? She should have been like the Old Lady that Swallowed a Pie. I'm sure it tasted better.

I have a love/hate relationship with berry pies. I do not like uncooked berry pies, especially strawberry. I don't understand why every recipe seems to call for jello. Cooked berry pies tend to be harder to find unless it's blueberry and even though they are amazing for you, I'm not a huge fan of blueberries. My very favorite berry pie is boysenberry, but they are really hard to find.

(Never heard of a boysenberry? It's a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry and it was invented at Knott's Berry Farm which is 10 miles from my house. Knott's Berry Farm no longer produces fruit though, and is now an amusement park)

When boysenberries are no where to be found, I make mixed berry pie. It allows me to use whatever is the best of the season, or whatever is lying around in my freezer. The pie today? It's good. It only requires rolling out 1 crust (yay!) and has a streusel topping. I love streusel!

The orange and ginger flavor in the streusel is pretty mild. There was some concern it might be too strong until I made it, and was eating it raw right out of the food processor. This topping is seriously good. I am using the flavor combo the next time I make shortbread.

Mixed Berry Pie with Orange, Ginger and Almond
Adapted from Bon Apetit 

For Crust:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Nice Cup Of Tea

Sometimes all you want is a nice cup of tea drunk out of the finest bone china of course.

Other times, a watermelon mojito might be the order of the day.

A mojito or tea are great for watching Herman do his thing.

This is Herman. He likes to eat the fish in our pond. 
Today was a day for tea.

Except it wasn't tea at all.

Because it's homemade Sweet Tea Vodka. Easy, delicious, refreshing, and to quote both my cousin and boyfriend, it is "dangerous". This is smooth and really easy to drink on the rocks, with a splash of lemonade (or limoncello if you just made it and have some lying around) its the perfect lounging around by the pool drink. Or, if you live in a state where it is illegal to drink on the beach, it might be the perfect drink to smuggle in.

Sweet Tea Vodka

1 liter vodka (I used the cheap stuff. I really don't think it makes a difference)
3 tea bags (I used 2 black teas, 1 Earl Grey)
1/2 cup simple syrup

Cut the tops off the tea bags, and pour the tea into the bottle of vodka. Shake, and let sit for 24 hours. Using a coffee filter (or cheese cloth) filter out the tea while pouring the vodka into a separate container add simple syrup to taste, starting with 1/4 cup. Rinse vodka bottle to get rid of any remaining tea leaves and pour the sweetened vodka back in. Enjoy over ice.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Harry Potter and the Butterbeer Cake

I have a confession to make. I love Harry Potter. It is quite possibly my favorite book series ever. The first two books were released in the US when I was but a wee little 6th grader. I have devoured every book since. The last of which may be sitting on my nightstand because it is being reread for the 9 billionth time. The Harry Potter franchise has made its author one of the wealthiest people in Britain, and the most highly paid author ever. If you haven't read the books and have only seen the movies, you are missing out. I know that "they aren't for everyone", but I just don't see how that could be, especially if you like food.

These books revolve around food. They talk about it all the time. All the food is tasty sounding British food, a fanciful sounding confection (licorice snap, chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans), and most importantly (now that I am past the legal drinking age) the tasty sounding alcohol Butterbeer (and Fire Whiskey). 

Today I bring you: Butterbeer Cake. This cake required a few revisions, because the only recipes I could find for Beer Cake called for either boxed cake mix or chocolate. And while I have absolutely nothing against chocolate, I didn't want it to get in the way of the other flavors I had in mind, namely beer, browned butter, and butterscotch. So I had to develop my own recipe from start to finish.

This cake is not very sweet. I wanted the nuttiness of both the beer and the browned butter to be able to shine through. The sweetness is found in the homemade butterscotch glaze. Since the first version of the cake was made, (which I brought to a party of all things) this has quickly become a very requested cake. (Which I'm fine with because its easy to make and delicious.)

This maybe the first time I use Harry Potter for inspiration, but it most definitely will not be the last.

Dossier for: Harry Potter and the ________ (I'm not picking a specific book)
Author: J.K. Rowling
Characters: Harry Potter, Hermoine Granger, Ron Weasley, Dumbledore, and Voldermort
Setting: Britain, mainly Hogwarts and London

Butterbeer Cake
There is not a lot of sugar in this cake, but as mentioned before that is because the glaze is sweet. Also, this is not the time to use the crappy, light beer you have sitting in your fridge leftover from a party. If the only thing you drink is light beer, go to the store and buy a single bottle of full calorie beer. Light beer is made by reducing the carbohydrate content of the beer. In beer, the carbohydrate is maltose, a type of sugar, which is needed to sweeten the cake.
  •  2 sticks unsalted butter
  •  2.5 cups all purpose flour
  •  1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 cups beer (preferably Fat Tire or another amber ale)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan (or you can use cupcakes). In a small skillet, brown butter until dark and nutty smelling. (If you don't know how to brown butter, here are directions). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the beer, eggs, vanilla, and butter. Add the beer mixture to the flour and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Pour into the prepared bundt cake pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (check at 15 minutes for cupcakes). Allow the cake to cool then pour slightly, warm butterscotch sauce over the top of the cake. (I used all of the butterscotch)

Recipe from
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over moderate heat. Add the sugar, cream, and salt and whisk until well blended. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Taste the butterscotch and adjust the vanilla and salt to your liking. (I made mine a little on the saltier side and found it to be perfect with the cake.) Allow to cool until thickened but still pourable before putting on the cake.

Oh and this- I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to tell you that I'm an Amazon Affiliate. Normally not my kind of thing but I'm cooking from a book every week, some of which (next week's!) are obscure so it made sense.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ham and Cheddar Scones

My family can never seem to decide what to make for family gatherings, especially around the holidays. My grandpa loves ham but hates seafood, my grandma loves seafood but hates ham, 1 uncle is lactose intolerant, 1 uncle is on a diet, yada yada yada. Being the gracious hosts, my parents try to work around everyone's dietary preferences. This means that for Easter, we had: ham, leg of lamb, potato salad, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, horseradish sauce, prepared horseradish, etc...

This also leads to an abundance of leftovers. The leg of lamb got turned into what I called Greek Tacos, but what to do with the ham? I had already eaten it with eggs, as a sandwich, and I knew the bone was destined for soup.

 (Anemic scones- what happens when you forget to brush the top with milk)

Long story short, I made scones (at least that is what I am calling them). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, these are easy to make and a perfect choice for people who are nervous about their baking skills. They don't have to be rolled out and with some scrambled eggs would be a fantastic addition to a brunch buffet (although if you still had some hard boiled eggs leftover from Easter those work well too). They freeze well, and don't have to be rolled out. Anyways, sorry for yet another ham recipe (we're out now yay!) but after you try them I am sure you'll forgive me.

Ham and Cheddar Scones

These need to be served warm. When I ate them the next day, they got split in half, toasted and smeared with butter and dijon mustard.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 8 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 6 oz ham, cubed
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • milk for brushing the top (optional. I forgot so mine are a little anemic) 

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Obvious Choice- Green Eggs and Ham

Some days it can be hard to be inspired. Or motivated. From getting out of bed to oh my God putting on clothes, nothing seems seems like a good idea. Its those days where inspiration strikes and you feel like hitting yourself. "Why didn't I think of that sooner?". You might have the recent words of the lovely Jaden floating around your head: Do something unique. Something that makes you different.

That's when I decided I am going to post a recipe once a week (most likely on Friday) that has been inspired by a children's book. It might not be a picture book, but it will be a book found in the children's section (why? because I love kid's lit). Its fun and whimsical and full of good messages. How can I not want to reread it? And while I don't have any kids myself (gah I'm only 22), reading a book and cooking something based on it is something I used to do all the time when I babysat. It was always a big hit. I would love to promise that all of the food will be kid friendly, but at least one of the books I have in mind might not work that way (actually, I know it won't work that way... think of it as an opportunity to get them to try new foods).

Without further ado, this week's book.

Book: Green Eggs and Ham

Or in a box, or with a fox, on a boat, or with a goat!

Author: Theodor Suess Geisel
Characters: Sam-I-Am and the person (thing?) who will not eat the Green Eggs and Ham (never named)
Setting: Here, there, anywhere

Recipe: Green Eggs and Ham 
              Serves 2
Prepared pesto can be used in place of the homemade pesto. This can very easily be multiplied to serve more people. Cooking the eggs over low heat may seem unusual but I love slowly cooked scrambled eggs. If you are serving it to kids and truly want green eggs, add a few drops of food coloring to the eggs. My mom did it when I was younger and it was the coolest thing ever (at the time).  I was out of food coloring and feeding adults so I left it out.

  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  •  1 clove garlic
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup toasted pinenuts
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 4 oz ham, diced
 In the work bowl of a food processor, combine basil, cheese, olive oil, garlic, and pinenuts. Blend until pesto forms. Taste and adjust seasoning/consistency as necessary.

Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over low heat. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, ham, milk and 1 tablespoon pesto together. Pour into the pan and scramble until soft.

To serve
Place scrambled eggs on a plate and top with 1 tablespoon (or more) of the pesto.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Morrocan Beef Meatball Tagine

Setting: My kitchen
 Time of day: Late afternoon, roughly 4:45

Me: "I think meatloaf for dinner sounds good."

Me: "No, I don't want mashed potatoes (the only starch that can be served with meatloaf)"

Me: "I could make hamburgers."

Me: "No we're out of buns. And pickles. And tomatoes. And its raining."

Me: "I could make um...."

By this point I had defrosted almost 2 pounds of ground beef, no idea what I was going to do with it, and dinner was rapidly approaching. (And yes, I talk to myself. What? It's perfectly normal) I had to make something. So I Epicurioused (same concept as "googled") ground beef.

Me: "Nooooo... yes!" (victory dance ensues)

Success. Houston, we have dinner. It was quick, easy, and we had everything on hand. Exactly what I needed in the middle of the week. I have no idea how authentic they are, (I'm not an expert like someone I could mention) but they tasted really good. And we had leftovers which are now sitting in the freezer.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tri-Color Potato Salad

I think that it is fairly safe to say that most people consider potato salad to be a summer food. After all, it's usually served cold with barbecue. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this. I love potato salad though, and after a long winter (well So Cal winter) without it, I decided enough was enough.

Actually, that isn't entirely true. See, the restaurant I work at has an amazing Sirloin Steak Salad. Its steak with warm potato salad, spinach, and crispy onions. And I've become addicted to the aforementioned potato salad. I beg the cooks to sneak me bites of it. I'm usually not successful. Last Friday, there was nothing I wanted more than the potato salad. I was willing to buy it even... but it has bacon, and given it is was still Lent, I was thwarted. Until I came home and made some myself.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Monkey Danish

Success! I have wanted this danish for almost four years. It was my favorite breakfast (along with the ham and cheese croissant) when I was in culinary school. Technically, I was supposed to eat breakfast in one of the school's kitchens, but I was never hungry at 6:30 (aka 30 minutes before my butt was supposed to be sitting in Food Safety). So in between class, my roommate and I would run to the Apple Pie Bakery and grab a danish and an Italian soda for consumption during Gastronomy. 


In the years since I left, I have often thought of this danish. I mentally planned many trips to New York just for the danish. And last summer when I was in NYC I was ready to hop on a train to get it when I discovered the school was closed for the month.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Inspiration and Always Wash Your Vegetables

Today, after a week of full of midterms and learning a new job (and finally getting over the failures of last week), I was finally inspired to cook. I had a pasta dish that in my head sounded good. I wanted to combine braised kale, sauteed mushrooms, parmesan anchovy bread crumbs, and a poached egg on top of spaghetti.  Sounded pretty good. In fact, I even got so far as to start the kale when I encountered a problem.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fails (both epic and otherwise)

Sometimes, nothing wants to go your way. Either you're trying a new recipe or making one up and it just won't work. Hopefully it is confined to just a day. Sometimes though it lasts a week (Please please please let it be just a week).

In the last week I have made at least 3 things that in one way or another didn't work. Only 1 got photographed though so we will discuss that one first.

There is the old adage that "what grows together goes together". I seem to recall reading about a salad (that I can't find anywhere so it would seem I was wrong)of pea shoots, peas, and asparagus all tossed with a buttermilk dressing. Sounded tasty. Unfortunately, it tasted like grass with a really tasty dressing. I did not realize how much I dislike raw asparagus until I ate that salad. It was a stunning salad to look at, not so much on that palate.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Guinness Corned Beef: 2 days late and 2 dollars short

I have problem. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite (well, one of my favorite) foods is I'm kind of embarrassed to answer. I have a reputation as a food snob (I am not though) though so perhaps if more people knew one of my top 5 favorite foods was corned beef, the reputation would diminish... slightly.

(Look at that! I bought a 6 pack for a recipe that requires 1 bottle. Not to worry, the other 5 found a good home)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Indian Spiced Okra

Before we get to the recipe and lots of parenthesis (one set doesn't count as a lot...this is just the beginning) I have a haiku to share:

Some call you slimy
But I'll eat you in gumbo 
and hell, deep fried too

So, as it happens,  I love okra. It might have something to do with my southern-ness (is that a word? it is now). I've had okra deep fried, in gumbo, in a British curry (completely different than Indian curry), and in Indian food (someday I will try them pickled). I love them all. I can't pick a favorite. 

Ok, I can actually pick a favorite. I love Indian style okra. There is a restaurant near my house, The Clay Oven, that makes some highly addictive Indian food. While I've never had anything bad there, my standout dish has always been the okra. I guess because I thought it was hard to make. Or because its one of those vegetables we just didn't make at home. Well the times have changed because twice in the last 2 weeks I have made okra. 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Oscars- A Recap

At my house, the Oscars are one of the biggest events of the year. My mom goes so far as to refer to them as her version of the Super Bowl. I love the Super Bowl, mainly for the food and commercials (and who am I kidding? guys in tight pants). The food of the Super Bowl is hearty, typically greasy, and not at all even in the slightest diet friendly. To me, it is easy food, but still food I love eating and making (maybe someday I will share my recipe for Crack Dip)(oh it got made for the Oscars too because I don't want a mutiny). The Oscars on the other hand, are my time to show off.

I like to show off with my food. For the Oscars this year I spent a whole day going to 4 different grocery stores and the better part of 4 days cooking. The Oscar menu this year included: short ribs on crispy polenta bites, baba ghanouj, crack dip, Zov's Calamari, caramelized pork belly lettuce wraps, mushroom strudel, cheese straws, potato pancakes with smoked salmon, and last put certainly not least...potted chicken rilletes (ps: there will be more on the calamari and strudel soon). With the amount of time I spent doing the savory food I have to admit that I made none of the desserts. Thank goodness my wonderful cousin loves to bake provided some amazing ones.

Back to the chicken rilletes. The rillet definition makes it sound like a cross between a confit and a pate. Which makes me think  that maybe, just maybe this is almost kind of healthier. This recipe for chicken rillets was ridiculously good and best of all can be made up to 5 days in advance. The basic steps to make it are easy enough, but doing them all correctly can take awhile. When it came to the 1 1/2 cups of shallots I got lazy and used the food processor... a short cut I highly recommend. I also used dried thyme because its what we had. It was served on baguettes (I had to go to the store midway through the party for more bread cause we were plowing through it) and was best at room temperature (and straight out of the pan when I was making it). With a salad it would be a delicious light dinner, but it works marvelously on an appetizer buffet.

Potted Chicken Rillets
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Marinade the Chicken

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon dried thyme
4 bay leaves (preferably fresh); 2 finely chopped
2 2.5-3 pound whole chicken
Salt and Pepper

Combine all of the above ingredients. Cover and chill over night.

1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a heavy, oven safe pan brown chicken on all sides and remove. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add white wine and cook until almost all the wine has evaporated. Return the chicken to the pan, add stock until it comes halfway up the chicken. Cover and bake for 1 hour or until fully cooked. Remove chicken from stock, allow to cool until able to handle. Remove skin and bones from chicken and shred into bite-size pieces. Reduce the chicken stock until only 21/2 cups remain. (Can be done 1 day in advance)

Chicken rillettes:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, divided
1 1/2 (7 to 8 oz) cups finely chopped shallots (in the food processor so I feel better about my laziness)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Shredded braised chicken (from recipe above)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add remaining 3/4 cup butter to skillet and allow to melt. Stir in tarragon and thyme, then shredded chicken and reserved 2 1/2 cups braising liquid. Simmer until chicken is very moist and tender and liquid is slightly reduced but some liquid still remains, about 5 minutes. Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Cool slightly. Mix in parsley and chives. Pack chicken rillettes into large glass jar or divide among smaller jars. Chill uncovered until cold, then seal jar and keep chilled.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 5 days ahead. Keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Serve rillettes with crusty bread and pickles.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010


    When I was in 4th grade I saw Gone With the Wind for the first time. When I was in 6th grade I read it for the first time. Somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to be Katie Scarlett O'Hara. If I couldn't be her I was willing to settle for being a Southern Belle. I wanted to sit on the porch drinking sweet tea and eating bbq. I wanted the accent. (Actually I still want all of those things.). When I was in 9th grade I went to Atlanta.

    Oh Atlanta, you are the city that brings Gone With the Wind to life. You are where all the best parts take place. I'll admit it you captured my imagination. I knew you had grown up, but I hoped you had still retained some of your southern charm. Too bad you didn't.

    I was so excited to go to Atlanta. Then I got there. It was dirty. And humid. And hot. I thought it lacked any kind of Southern charm. I returned home dejected. I cried for days. Weeks even. Sure, I still have high hopes for Savannah, Charlotte, and Charleston but are featured in GWTW. There is another city that is mentioned though.

    New Orleans. Scarlett and Rhett go on their honeymoon. A vibrant city with a strong cultural identity that is seen in its food, music, and architecture. A city I have also been to. I went post Katrina and was astonished by the passion with which the Creoles speak of their city. I'll admit I went with low expectations. It was the city in the midst of a revival and I was very pleasantly surprised by everything I encountered.

    Someday I will go back, but until I do, homemade gumbo will more than suffice. While a certain part (cough cough the dark roux) requires near constant attention, once that is done the gumbo is more than happy to just sit on the stove and take care of itself. This is not the stuff usually found in restaurants though. It is thicker and definitely spicier. My dad calls it the best gumbo he's ever eaten. While I'm not close to southern or Creole by birth this is a nod to my imaginary heritage.

    I usually use chicken andouille sausage because it is all I can find. If you use pork, brown it in a separate pan and drain the fat before adding it to the gumbo. If you're shrimp aren't pre-peeled and you are using chicken stock, combine the chicken stock and peels in a small sauce pan and heat on medium while the roux is being made to up the shrimp flavor of the dish.


    1 cup flour
    1 cup vegetable oil
    1 cup diced celery
    2 green bell peppers diced
    2 cups onion diced
    8-10 cups chicken or shrimp stock
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    2 bay leaves
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1 pound andouille sausage
    1 fryer chicken cut into parts, or 8 pieces of chicken
    2 pounds shrimp, peeled
    1-2 tablespoons gumbo file (optional)


    Make the Roux:
    In a heavy 8 quart pot combine flour and oil. Cook over medium low heat whisking constantly, until the color of chocolate. For a rough estimate of time, I can listen to 2 albums worth of music or drink 2 beers.

    When it is the same color as chocolate add the celery, bell peppers, and onions. Cook until softened, about ten minutes. Add chicken or shrimp stock, spices, and the chicken pieces. Cook for 1 hour over medium low heat.

    After an hour, add andouille sausage and cook for another 1.5 hours. Somewhere around an hour check the spices and salt level.

    Right before serving, turn off heat and add shrimp and gumbo file. Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken and cook the shrimp before serving.

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    Spinach Mushroom Benedict

    (So I finally think I have a decent picture and what do I find? A string egg goo that is not very appealing. Go me.)
    In the 6 months I attended culinary school I honestly didn't learn that much. I can make stock and attempt to name the mother sauces and break down a piece of meat. I might be able to fillet a fish on a good day. While a lot of these are skills that I almost never use, I did actually employ one today for breakfast. I woke up with a craving for what the most perfect, rich, sinful sauce in all the land. Composed of 2 different fats and occasionally temprimental this is not a sauce for the faint of heart. The sauce in question is of course Hollandaise. But since once can not live on sauce alone, brown some mushrooms in butter with a 1/4 teaspoon of thyme. Poach some eggs (I figure 2 per person). Saute some spinach. Semi-artfully arrange on a plate and pour on the hollandaise sauce.

    This came together pretty easily and is definitely hearty enough (for me at least) to be served as an entree at dinner. Too bad I can only get away with it when my dad is out of town.

    Hollandaise Sauce

    This is the way I learned how to do it at school. I know you can use a blender. I just don't. There also aren't any exact measurements because its based on proportions. I always use at least 2 yolks when making hollandaise but I suppose you could make one. But why would you do that?

    The proportions are:

    1 yolk: 1-2 TBSP melted butter
    Tabasco sauce (couple shakes)
    Salt and pepper
    Fresh lemon juice (just a small squeeze people)

    To Make:
    Take a kitchen towel and shape it into a donut. When you need to whisk off the heat set the bowl on this and it won't spin on you. Or get out ye old silpat and set the bowl on there.

    Get out your double boiler. Off the heat whisk the egg yolks, lemon juice and Tabasco together.

    Move to heat and whisk constantly until the yolks begin to thicken. This usually takes about 4 minutes. When the whisk begins to leave a visible path in the yolks, aka you can see the bottom of the bowl for a few seconds after every stroke, pull it off the heat.

    Slowly drizzle in the butter while whisking constantly. You might not use all the butter just get the sauce to a consistency you like. Add salt and pepper (or any other spices you can think of. Old Bay is really good). Serve warm over everything.

    Note: This sauce can be used as the base for a number of sauces, including bernaise sauce which is crazy good on burgers.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Chimay Braised Shortribs

    For a few years now (well before I was legally able to drink at least) I've believed that a light beer is a summertime drink. In the winter reach for porters, or lagers, or stouts. Keep the ales and heffs and whites and wheats for the summer. The spicier, heavier beers are perfect for winter foods. I was happy and very much content with my basic rules for drinking beer. (Other rules include only cheap beer for beer pong and always ALWAYS say no to light beer even for beer pong.) It was basic. Rudimentary even but I knew that I could safely order a beer and maybe guess the food pairing. Then *cue ominous music* Judy Rodgers came into my life.

    You of course know Judy Rodgers as the mastermind behind the Zuni Cafe. Before we continue I have to confess that I have had the Zuni Cafe Cookbook in my possession for years. And today was the first time I used it. (Why yes, I am currently hanging my head in shame.). I always assumed it was among the legions of cookbooks that are meant to be coffee table books. Not actually used. (I'm looking at you French Laundry Cookbook) Today, I realized my mistake. The recipes in this book are easy, seasonal, and delicious. Take for example, the recipe that rocked my world today: Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale.

    Some things I learned from this recipe: 1) the beers for braising are Belgian Ales. CLEARLY not the stouts I had been using. 2) Mustard was meant to be broiled.

    While I could wax rhapsodic (is that the phrase? I'm never sure) for the next 3 weeks (ps: I can and will) for the purposes of saving time I am just going to tell you TO MAKE THESE SHORT RIBS. NOW!

    Short Ribs Braised in Chimay Ale
    adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
    serves 4

    The notes before the recipe say that duck or goose legs are equally good in this preparation. Something to try next.

    A note about the book: the ingredients and directions can be a tad vague. Just go with it. It will all work out.


    About 2 1/2 pounds short ribs, cut across the bond into 2 in. bands
    1 to 2 tablespoons mild olive oil
    1 1/2 pounds yellow onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
    2 bay leaves
    A few whole white peppercorns (I used black because its all I have and I don't like white pepper)
    1/2 box crimini mushrooms sliced 1/4 inch thick
    Up to 1 cup beef or chicken stock
    Up to 1 cup Chimay ale or similar Belgian style ale
    About 1/4 cup Dijon mustard

    Cooking the Shortribs:

    Preheat oven to 300. Evenly sprinkle salt all over shortribs. Warm oil in a 3 heavy oven safe pan. Wipe pieces of meat dry. Brown short ribs on the three meaty sides. Pour off excess fat.

    Return meat to pan with bone side down. Add onions, bay, peppercorns, mushrooms, and equal parts stock and ale to come to a depth of about 3/4 of a inch. C
    over and put in oven for 2 hours. Rotate meat 2 or 3 times during cooking. Remove from oven, remove meat, prop pan at slight angle and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

    Turn on the broiler.

    Skim fat that has collected at the lower side of the pan. Taste juice and simmer as needed to concentrate the flavor. Salt as needed. Put meat back in juice bone side down then brush or smear the tops with mustard. Set the pan under the broiler, about 5 inches from the element, to brown the mustard and glaze the surface of the onion stew, about 5 minutes.

    Serve with mashed potatoes or spatzle.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Pear Cranberry Spice Cake

    Its finally happened. It feels like winter in Southern California. Not just any winter mind you. This is Storm Watch 2010. While I love that I can finally FINALLY wear my many sweaters and jackets and coats, I have discovered that I lack the appropriate footwear for the occasion. It also doesn't help that I completely disregard whatever the weather people say. Unfortunately for my poor suede boots Dallas Rains was right today.

    As I type it appears that the weather is about to pick up again. Gray, ominous clouds are beginning to cover my blue skies and the wind is going. Hopefully not strong enough for another Tornado Warning seeing as NO ONE HAS A BASEMENT or storm shelter. I think I would have to hide in my parent's closet should one strike. (Mine is full.)

    Don't get me wrong though. I love the rain. I love the sound and playing in it. Most importantly though, I love staying inside and cooking anything that requires standing over a stove or having the oven on for a long time. Today is the day for spicy cakes, slow braises, and hot chocolate. By the end of the day I will have consumed all three.

    For right now though, lets focus on the spicy cake. This cake features some of the best flavors of fall, pears and cranberries. As much as I LOVE the flavor of pears, overall I am not a fan of their texture (exempt from this rule? Asain Pears). While apples would be delicious in this cake as well, I loved the slight pear flavor. The cake remained moist for days and was just as good for breakfast as it was for dessert.

    Pear Cranberry Cake
    adapted from Gourmet Magazine

    At my house we always have candied ginger laying around. I think it really compliments the flavor of the pears and adds a little more depth to the cake. I also added some walnuts for crunch. Normally nuts get left out of my baked goods but here I really liked them. For the glaze I did a basic powdered sugar glaze. I didn't want anything to compete with the flavor of the cake. Final note: apples can very easily be substituted for the pears. I'm also thinking about trying the recipe with cut up pineapple and upping the spices.

    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
    1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon finely minced candied ginger (optional)
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
    4 large eggs
    1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    3 Bosc pears (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 3/4-inch pieces (I used closer to 2 pounds)
    1 cup cranberries
    1 cup walnuts roughly chopped (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter cake pan.
    Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices.
    Beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla with an electric mixer until combined well.
    By hand, mix in pears, cranberries and walnuts, then mix in flour mixture until incorporated.
    Spoon batter into pan.
    Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
    Cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.