Monday, August 20, 2012

Pimiento Cheese

I have a bit of a southern streak in that I have a love of southern food that might make you think I grew up much father below the Mason-Dixon line than is actually the case.  On our way down to Bald Head Island this summer, my family stopped for lunch at Wilbur's, which is a restaurant on the historic North Carolina barbecue trail (when I found out about that, I decided that I probably needed to incorporate more of them into my future NC road trips, not that I have any of those planned but still...).  Anyways, a pitcher of sweet tea, a bottomless basket of hush puppies and a plate of pulled pork and I was a happy camper.  I feel the same way about fried green tomatoes (it totally counts as a vegetable right?  It's even green), biscuits and gravy, and pimiento cheese.  It may not be pretty or sophisticated or in any way healthy but it is delicious and some days isn't that what really matters?  This pimiento cheese was not something that I was going to blog about, because honestly, grated cheese mixed with mayo isn't exactly photogenic nor is it the easiest thing to write about and make it sound as good as it is.  Because it is good, the flavors work so well together, the worcestershire and grated onion give it a little tang and the pimentos add some color and you can eat it on crackers or add it to a grilled cheese or mix it into macaroni and cheese and before you know it the entire bowl is gone and you are trying to figure out when you can make it again, even though you realize that maybe eating a pound of cheese in less than a week may not have been the healthiest choice but it was probably the most tasty.  It is also dead easy, I feel almost feel a bit silly giving you this recipe.  But to get back to the point, I was going to keep the pimiento cheese as my dirty little secret, so I just jotted down the recipe in my recipe book and didn't bother noting where I found it, but then decided I needed to share it, and so I have no idea where this recipe came from, sorry about that.

Start out by mixing together the mayo, diced pimientos, worcestershire sauce, grated onion and a dash of cayenne.  

Now for the difficult part (it's really not that bad and I think you could make it even easier by using a food processor to grate the cheese).  Grate 8 oz. of sharp cheddar and 8 oz. of extra sharp cheddar.  I don't know how to discuss the gauge of cheese grating options, but my Ikea cheese grater has two options, one with regular size holes and one with smaller holes, you do one block of cheese on the regular holes and one on the smaller holes.  And yes, grating the cheese on the smaller holes takes longer and gets tedious, consider yourselves warned.    

Stir the cheese into the mayo mixture and enjoy, it will keep in the fridge for about a week.

Pimiento Cheese

1 1/2 cup mayo
4 oz. diced pimientos
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. finely grated onion
dash cayenne
8 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar, finely grated

Mix the mayo, pimientos, worcestershire sauce, onion and cayenne together until well mixed.  Stir in the cheese.  Store in a covered container up to one week.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A new kitchen

Hello dear readers, as many of you already know, I have moved into an adorable new apartment!  Naturally the kitchen was the first thing I sorted out, the rest of the place is either a mess (my bedroom) or empty (my living room).  While I will miss having my sous chef on hand to delegate to, and being able to put anything on the grocery list and having it appear every weekend in the kitchen, I am excited about striking out on my own.  And with that independence comes a tighter budget and more planning.  In the coming weeks look out for budget friendly meals and my cooking for one experiments (seeing how well individual portions of some of my favorites freeze and just how many days of leftovers I can stand and for when I realize that day was yesterday, where within walking distance has the best happy hour).                                

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bread and Butter Pickles

Every once in awhile I read a recipe and I just know that I HAVE to make it, even if I have not previously been that excited about that particular food before.  And usually it turns out that I adore whatever it is that I have made and wonder why it has taken me so long to come around to it.  Sometimes, something about reading about the ingredients and how they come together changes something from so-so into yum for me and these bread and butter pickles were one of those.  Before I read this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, I would rather chow down on a nice salty dill pickle and while I would eat a bread and butter one, the sweetness was always mildly startling.  Now, I have a rapidly dwindling jar of b&b's in the fridge because I can't stop snacking on them and have made everyone who sets foot in my house try them.  These pickles are salty and sweet and crunchy and tangy and delicious and as refrigerator pickles are quick to make and don't require proper canning.  
Technically you should make these with kirby cucumbers, or some other small pickling cucumber, but they didn't have those at Safeway, so I just used 4 of the smallest of the regular cucumbers they had and it worked out just fine.  Wash the cukes and slice them into 1/4 inch coins and thinly slice 1/2 of a sweet onion.

Mix the cucumbers, onion and salt together, then let sit for 2 hours.  Smitten Kitchen tells you to put ice on top of the mixture, but as I read after I made them you could ditch the ice and just pop the bowl in the fridge which is what I will be doing next time.

After your cuckes have sat for 2 hours, mix the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, mustard seeds, coriander and vinegar together and bring to a boil.

Drain the cucumbers, tossing any ice that is left.

Add the cucumbers to the vinegar mixture and bring it almost back up to a boil then take it off the heat.

Put the whole mess (pickles, onions, vinegar and spices) in a jar and enjoy within 3 weeks.

The full recipe can be found on Smitten Kitchen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Coconut Cream Pie

This past weekend we went to visit our family in the country.  We spent a lovely afternoon sitting on my aunt's deck snacking on vichyssoise and pasta salad with homegrown vegetables, staying out of the range of my cousins water guns (or attempting to anyways) and generally enjoying ourselves.  And then it was time for dessert.  When we suggested this get together, in order to sweeten the deal, I offered to make my coconut cream pie.  The beauty of this pie is that you can make it ahead of time, and it is super easy to make it gluten free without sacrificing the taste or the texture of the crust.  If you don't have any gluten restrictions feel free to replace the brown rice flour and the cornstarch with regular flour, which is what the original recipe calls for.  This pie is not difficult to make, but it DOES require some advance planing, the crust needs to chill out in the fridge on two separate occasions and all the components need to cool entirely before you can put them together.  But it is worth it, I think my uncle put it best, he took one bite looked up and said "Damn, that's good pie." 
Pulse the dry ingredients for the crust, I always find the descriptions of what the crumbs are supposed to look like somewhat unhelpful, but basically you want the butter chunks to all be broken up.

Then you slowly add the water, the dough will not turn into a nice cohesive ball, but when you smush it with your fingers it will hold together.  When it has reached this stage you chill it in plastic for an hour.

After it has taken a nice rest in the fridge, press it into the pan, don't even bother trying to roll it out, especially with the brown rice flour in the crust.  Then you have to chill it again before you bake it.  After you bake it it will have a nice toasty brown color.

Meanwhile you can start in on the custard.  Mix up the eggs, sugar and cornstarch so they can come up to room temperature while the milk heats up, I have a theory this helps when you temper them although I have no idea if that is actually true.

Then you heat up the milk with the coconut and vanilla bean (if you don't have vanilla beans you can substitute a splash of vanilla extract).  Next you temper the eggs and add them back into the milk so that they don't scramble.  And then you whisk.  And whisk.  Every time I feel like it is taking forever and maybe something went wrong and it is never going to thicken properly and right around that point it always comes together and starts looking more like pudding and less like milk with coconut floating in it.

When it is properly thick, cool it down over an ice bath.  This is delicious just as it is at this point, but it is even better in the pie crust.  Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

The day you are going to serve it pour the custard into the crust and put plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard until right before you serve it.  

Top the custard with a thick layer of whipped cream and liberally sprinkle with the toasted coconut and white chocolate shavings, slice and enjoy! 

Coconut Cream Pie (I have no idea where I found this recipe, but whoever I got it from adapted it from Tom Douglas's Seattle Kitchen and I adapted it from theirs to make it gluten free)

For the coconut crust:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons brown rice flour
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup cold butter, diced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ice water, more if needed

For the coconut cream:
2 cups milk
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 vanilla bean, split with the beans scraped out
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch 
1/4 cup softened butter

For the whipped cream:
half pint of heavy cream
sugar to taste

For the garnish:
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
2 oz. white chocolate, shaved

Making the crust:
Blitz everything but the water in a food processor until the mix resembles small pebbly crumbs.  Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing in between additions, until the dough holds together when you press it with your fingers.
Dump dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap it up and pop it in the fridge for an hour.
Lightly grease a 9 inch pie pan and press the dough in, evenly covering the bottom and sides of the pan. Pop it back in the fridge for another hour.
Cover the crust with tin foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans and bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden.  Remove the foil and weights and continue baking for about 10 more minutes to lightly brown the center.
Cool completely.

Making the coconut cream:
Whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornstarch and set aside.
In a medium saucepan combine the milk, coconut and vanilla bean (seeds and pod) and bring almost to a boil, over medium-high heat.
Scoop out about 1/3 cup of the hot milk mixture and add to the eggs, whisking constantly.
Slowly pour the warmed up egg mix into the saucepan with the rest of the milk, whisking constantly.  Whisk over medium-high heat until the custard is very thick and starts to bubble, about 8 min.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and take out the vanilla pod.
Cool custard over an ice bath, stirring occasionally.  When cool, put plastic wrap directly on the surface to stop a skin from forming and pop it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the pie.

Making the whipped cream:
With a whisk or mixer whip the cream with sugar until it forms soft peaks.

Making the garnish:
Toast the coconut on a cookie sheet at 350, stirring it every few minutes until most of it is a light golden color and all of it is crispy.  Careful, it burns easily.
Make the chocolate shavings with a veggie peeler.

Assembling the pie:
The various components can be made a day ahead of time, but don't assemble them until the day you want to eat the pie, and don't do the whipped cream and garnishes until right before serving.  Put the filling in the crust, top with the whipped cream right before serving and then sprinkle the whipped cream with the toasted coconut and white chocolate.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Malted Milk Ice Cream Cake with Blackberry Sauce

For Mother's Day my sister and I made brunch, we pretty much copied the Mother's Day brunch menu from A Cup of Jo, and it was delicious.  However, for Father's Day we decided to make dinner and unfortunately Joanna Goddard did not oblige us with a complete dinner menu to draw from.  Fortunately my sister had some apps she wanted to try out (pear slices with goat cheese and craisins), and a limoncello cocktail (lemonade for grownups) and we have our Sister Shrimp Pasta that is always a hit.  As for dessert, well I took that on.  I was going to make a truly decadent coconut cream pie, BUT we ended up picking up a friends CSA share for that week (thanks Lisa!), a box full of the most delicious strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries and the coconut cream pie idea went out the window because I needed to make something involving berries in some way.  Which is where this ice cream cake comes in.  You make a thin cake layer, top it off with malted milk ice cream, then drench each slice with blackberry sauce.
The recipe calls for homemade malted milk ice cream, and while I have an ice cream maker, I also have a family that let out a collective shudder at the thought of using 11 egg yolks in a single item, so instead I used store bought french vanilla ice cream, which I'm sure also has egg yolks in it, but I have no idea just how many and ignorance is bliss.  Anyways, I softened the ice cream in the fridge for about 5 minutes and then mixed in 3/4 cup of malted milk powder, the chocolate flavor as that was all I could find.  The mixing was a pain, so I left as more of a "swirl" aka I got tired and decided it was mixed enough and put it back in the freezer until I needed it again.

Then I moved on to the cake, it was a pretty basic yellow cake but with tiny portions because you are only making one 1/2 inch layer, it was like baking for an Easy Bake Oven.  The recipe said to sift the dry ingredients 3 times, which I think we can all agree is a bit excessive and in protest I didn't sift them at all.  I noticed no ill effects from the lack of sifting, but then again, I probably wouldn't, I hardly ever sift.  You bake the cake in a spring form pan for about 15 minutes, and you may want to put the pan on a cookie sheet when you bake it in case your spring form pan doesn't have the tightest seal and some starts leaking out.  Just a suggestion.

Once the cake is cool, soften the ice cream again and spread it over the cake, leaving the sides on the pan for the time being.  Pop it back in the freezer, you can leave it in the freezer for a few days at this point.

Now, onto the blackberry sauce, take 1/2 of your huge luscious blackberries, 1/2 cup of water, 6 tablespoons of sugar (or more depending on how tart your berries are) and boil them together.

You may may to mash some of the berries with a fork to help them along, when they are adequately saucy, take the pan off the heat and stir in the rest of the berries.  My berries were huge so I mashed them once or twice with a potato masher to incorporate them into the sauce a bit more. 

To serve, take the ring off and slice the cake, topping with plenty of blackberry sauce and enjoy!

Malted Milk Ice Cream Cake with Blackberry Sauce, from Bon Appetit 
For the cake:
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temp
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375.  Cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk.  Pour into a spring form pan and bake for 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  If you quite particular you can shave off the top of the cake when it is done to make it an even 1/2 inch all around.  I am not.

For the ice cream:
1.5 quarts vanilla ice cream
3/4 cup malted milk powder

Soften ice cream in fridge for about 5-10 minutes, until it is soft enough to work with but not melted.  Mix in malted milk powder and return to freezer.  Alternately, make it from scratch from this recipe.

For the blackberry sauce:
2 pints blackberries
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons sugar

Mix the sugar, water and 1 pint blackberries in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, mashing the berries as necessary, until the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the berries, cool.

Assembling the cake:
Top the cake with the ice cream and return to freezer.  When ready to serve remove the sides of the pan, slice the cake and top with the blackberry sauce.

Monday, May 28, 2012

People's Pops

I just stumbled across a delightful looking new cookbook for the summer, called People's Pops.  The people behind the trendy (ok, honestly I have never been and can in no way vouch for its trendiness but I for sure want to check it out the next time I am in New York) popsicle stand of the same name are releasing a book in June with recipes for gems such as peach and bourbon popsicles.  I may need a copy.  I dare you to check out their website  or their blog and not want to try some of their creations.  You can pre-order from Powell's. (P.S. People's Pops have no idea I even exist, this is not a sponsored post, but if they want to throw a book my way I would be game...  Just kidding.  Sort of...)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dutch Crunch Bread

This weekend I stumbled upon a picture of a sandwich on a delicious dutch crunch roll, which naturally I decided looked pretty darn fabulous and that I needed one of my own asap.  And naturally, the only place I have ever seen dutch crunch rolls is California (for those of you who don't have family in California to introduce to you to the wonders of dutch crunch, it is a crunchy, crackly topping on white bread and it is delicious).  And no, I don't live in California, in case you didn't know, I live 3,000 miles away from California, but that was not going to stop me, o no.  I researched and found a crazy informative blog about the crackle topping here, which it turns out is actually made from rice flour/sugar/yeast/water paste slathered on regular white bread before baking.  Easy right?  That blog mentioned the recipe being from Rose Levy Beranbaum's book The Bread Bible so I promptly went to the library and picked it up, and didn't find anything about dutch crunch in there, which I now realize is because she calls it tiger bread.  Anyways, I used her soft white bread recipe, which is a bit more involved than some bread recipes, but has great flavor, you could use whatever recipe you want and top it with the very first rice flour paste recipe from this blog, which you should probably cut in half because it makes a massive amount (and as I discovered baking the leftover paste on a cookie sheet does NOT make a delicious crunchy snack but rather makes a strangely textured blob).

Start out with your favorite bread dough, whatever you like to use for sammies, I have only seen it with white bread but you could use wheat if that is what floats your boat.  This is the Basic Soft White Sandwich Loaf and I would give you the recipe except it is a full 5 pages in The Bread Bible.  So I won't.

Timing wise, you want to form your rolls so that they can start in on their final rise while you mix the crunch topping and let that sit for its 15 minutes to meld.

The crunch mix is odd, I ended up adding more rice flour to get it to the stiff royal icing consistency called for, I don't really know how much, I sort of got frustrated and dumped a bunch in and that ended up being the right amount, magic.

This is another strange part, these snowballs are the rolls after I slathered the crunch goop on them with my fingers, make sure to cover the whole roll with a relatively thick coat, if it's too thin it won't crackle properly and it won't crackle much at all if it's too thick.  It is messy.  Just a warning.

Bake them up and enjoy.  If you need any clarification regarding the crunch topping check out this blog ( I know, I know, this is the third time I have linked to it, but really, it is quite useful)

Dutch Crunch Topping (this is the halved version, should make enough for about a dozen rolls/ one standard batch of bread dough, if there is such a thing)
1 Tbs yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs veggie oil
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup rice flour

Mix all the ingredients together, adding more water or rice flour as needed to make it the consistency of a stiff royal icing.
Let sit 15 min.
Slather a good coat on your rolls or bread and bake according to the bread instructions.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Red Shrimp and Mango Curry

I love curry.  A lot.  I could probably eat a different type of curry every week for quite some time without getting tired of it.  Lemongrass has a delicious masaman curry and the yellow curry simmer sauce from Trader Joe's is quite tasty as well, but after seeing several recipes in various cookbooks by Nigella Lawson (love her, even more than I love curry) I decided to try my hand at making some on my own, after all if Nigella can do it so can I.  She claims it is quite simple to make, and it is, provided you find the butternut squash, sweet potato and mango already peeled and cubed, it really is.  If not, be prepared to add on a bit of time consuming prep work.  I did not find the prepackaged stuff, and as such peeled and cubed it the night before to save time.  In other news, I realized that I have never dealt with a whole mango before and doing so is not what one would call one of my innate skills.  I am too timid to wield a sharp knife while dealing with something so slippery.  Here is the link to the recipe.

It really is a simple recipe, the hardest part is the slicing and dicing.  You start out by sauteing some green onions and the curry paste.  Then pour in the broth, coconut milk (the whole can) and fish sauce (don't worry if you don't have fish sauce, just make sure to add a little extra salt).  Toss in the sweet potatoes and squash and simmer until they are cooked through (it always takes longer than 15 min. for me).

When the squash is done stir in the shrimp and continue cooking until the shrimp is cooked through.  Add the mango and a splash of lime juice right before you take it off the heat.  Serve it over rice, topped with cilantro.  This is a Nigella Lawson recipe, you can find it here.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Infused Vodka Update #2

I know you have all been waiting on the edges of your seats to hear how the rest of the infused vodka turned out, and I finally got around to taking some pictures of the results so here you go.  I do believe the pomegranate is my favorite of the three combinations (the other two being cranberry and a cran/pom combo in case you forgot, I know it's been awhile).  In general I would say that all three are not as strongly flavored as I expected them to be, but are still quite tasty nonetheless.  I have been drinking them with soda water, which makes for a beautifully rosy cocktail that is refreshing and light.  I think if you added a splash of Pom or cranberry juice it would bump up the flavor nicely, although I still need to experiment a bit more with various cocktail combinations.  All in all they are more subtly flavored than the flavored vodka you can buy but with none of the chemically, fake taste which is a major plus, for me at least.