2 red jalapeno peppers
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
2 red jalapeno peppers
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
One recipe in particular caught my eye as a challenge: a pie of greens with phyllo dough made from scratch! You can make phyllo from scratch? And the recipe calls for VODKA and SODA? I was so giddy with the prospect of my new project that I went out, bought all of the necessary furnishments for hortopita and chopped my way through the afternoon in anticipation of a Sunday full of culinary domination. I was going to rule that phyllo dough. I was going to whip it into shape. To celebrate, I poured myself a little vodka/soda cocktail and headed out with friends for a Saturday night.
Here's a link to Saveur's instructions for making homemade phyllo, you sober show-off, you.
8 scallions, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. mixture of swiss chard and/or rainbow kale
- fresh dill
- fresh mint
- fresh parsley
Give the phyllo several hours to thaw. Keep it in the box until you are ready to use it. When you take it out, carefully unroll and cover it with a damp towel at all times you aren't using it.
Mince garlic and scallions and set aside. Wash, drain and chop chard/kale. I put about a cup of the chard/kale into a food processor for a fine texture and left the rest roughly chopped. Wash drain and food process the dill, mint and parsley together.
Heat the 2 tablesoons of olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Saute the garlic and scallions until transluscent, then turn down the heat. Add all of the chard/kale and saute until completely wilted (you might have to add a few tablespoons water now and then and cover the skillet). Shut off the heat. Add in the fresh herbs, salt and fresh ground pepper and stir it all together to let the ambient heat of the greens invite the herbs to mingle their flavors. Let cool for 15 minutes, then add the crumbled feta. Let it cool to room temperature.
At this point, you can put the pockets on a cookie sheet so they aren't touching and put them in the freezer. When they're totally frozen through, layer them in a tupperware and separate the layers with wax paper. They freeze beautifully and I take them out 2 or three at a time to stick in the oven for dinner.
If you're ready to make them, heat the oven to 350. Lay them on a cookie sheet and let them bake for about 15 minutes. Flip them over and let them bake another 10 or until nicely browned on each side. They will be HOT in the middle....so take care (and patience) when biting in.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Now, I know how she felt. My completely comfortable nest is about to be taken apart. My feathers are going to get a little ruffled. My life is going to feel a little panick-y, a little strange in the midst of transition. But soon I'll have a nest somewhere else that I get to share with someone else...even if that means flying my DC coop. Because birds of a feather flock together. But I wonder whose going to rule the roost? HA! OK! I'm done.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Do you know how many people in the world just LOVE Little Debbie Snacks? My favorite as a kid was the Strawberry Jelly Roll. I had a boyfriend in college who could eat Christmas Tree Cakes morning, noon and night (and he sang a little song that went with his method of eating them branch by branch). Our favorite older backyard neighbors would slyly slip us treats of Nutty Bars when we raked their leaves. And who doesn't love a Swiss Cake Roll? Deb's motto is "Unwrap a Smile". I cannot argue with such a positive slogan about the power of baked goods.
But I've got a score to settle with Debbie.
Before I was actually aware of "high fructose corn syrup" or other red dye #42-type ingredients, I never had a problem eating one of those big marshmallow coconut Snowballs, or an Oatmeal Creme Pie, or a Ding-Dong for crying out loud! Those things were GOOD. But now we are all more conscious about the risks of putting preservative-laced, mass-produced packaged foods in our mouths. I understand that those ingredients are necessary for any type of factory-made, processed snack that has to travel umpteen miles from the factory floor to your grocery shelf. It isn't her fault. But in the process Little Debbie loses a lot of of innocence.
Still, I love the all-American image she represents. So why not recreate Little Debbie at home where I can control what goes into the dessert?
I decided to start with the iconic Chocolate Cupcake with the white piping on top in honor of my colleague Helen who was leaving our office for a new, awesome job in the historic house of her dreams. In thinking about the perfect dessert to honor Helen, who loves chocolate, I wanted something that would represent a down-home, midwestern picture of simplistic joy. This is what Helen exudes and thus, her departing dessert had to be representative of her sparkling personality.
Before I get to the actual recipe, I must admit that this is a bit of an undertaking. But I promise its a LOT of fun to get into the process and the techniques are pretty simple and versitile. Above you see a sharp knife going into the center of a cupcake. I made an "x" cut all the way down into each cake so the cream filling met less resistance when piped in (below).
This cake is from Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, which she adapted from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes. The batter may give you pause because its so liquidy. I put it into a plastic water pitcher so I could pour it into the cups evenly.
Cake: yield about 26 cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Pour into cupcake liners. Bake for about 19-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let them cool completely.
While the cakes are baking, make your ganache. This is an AWESOME recipe and very versitile. As you let it cool it comes to a bunch of different textures.
Ganache: yield about 3 cups ganache
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp corn syrup
*You can double this recipe if you intend to fill and frost a layer cake.
Into a heavy 2 quart saucepan measure the chocolate chips and heavy cream. Stir constantly while the chips melt and the mixture becomes homogenous. Let it come to a mild simmer and continue stirring for about 5-7 minutes to let it thicken, scraping the bottom consistantly. When thick, pour it into a mixing bowl and stir in 1 tsp. corn syrup. Let it cool, giving it a stir every 10 minutes or so in the beginning, and every 30 minutes or so after awhile. The stiring part is key. If you forget, it will cool into a BRICK. Stiring it keeps it light.
For this recipe I used the ganache for a glaze on top (at about the 2.5 hour cooling mark) and then put the fully cooled ganache (about 5 to 6 hours cooled) into a pastry bag to make the swirls you can see on top of some of the cupcakes. You can also use this fully cooled ganache as a smooth frosting that makes great glossy swoops on a birthday cake by letting it cool the full 6 hours and then giving it a good beating with a wooden spoon to put a little air in it before spreading onto a cake.
Filling: yield about 2 cups filling
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Put all ingredients into a clean, dry mixing bowl. Use electric beaters (handheld works best) to whip the cream. When it is VERY stiff, like almost to the point you think it might turn to butter- stop. It has to be very thick to hold up in the cupcake.
*If you can find Rich's non-dairy RichWhip topping at your grocery store ( I couldn't) I recommend trying that. It's already sweetened and holds up well in the cupcake.
White frosting for piping: yield about 1/3 cup
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablspoon butter, soft and at room temperature
Whip these ingredients with handheld beaters until they come together. You might need a little more or a little less milk to get it to a place where it feels very stable. Put into pastry bag with standard lettering tip.
So after your cupcakes have cooled, stick them in the fridge for an hour or freezer for 30 minutes to firm up because they are soft and fudgy and will fall apart otherwise. Take out of the freezer and use a super sharp knife to make an "X" all the way to the bottom in the center. Wipe the knife clean after each cupcake. Fill with the cream filling by gently inserting a pastry bag with the cream as far down into the cupcake as possible without creating a giant crater. Fill it further than you think is necessary. It WILL plump up the cupcake.
Dip the tops into the cooled ganache that is still liquid-y. I actually gave them two dips into the ganache and refrigerated between dips. The second dip is optional.
Refrigerate again so the ganache cools and smooths. Some of your cupcakes might still have a crater impression in the center. It's ok: just put more chocolate on them! Decorate as you see fit (see my photos below). I put the completely cooled ganache into a pastry bag with a large tip to make swirls of chocolate over the craters. Pipe the Little Debbie squiggley onto any cupcake that is smooth enough to do so.
I'm completely inspired by the classic, kitschy snacks out there that I want to modernize and purify. I've got BIG PLANS people. There are grand Twinkie dreams in our near future :)
Anybody out there want to invest in my 70's bake shop? You'll get to wear an apron too. Pinkie swear.
Monday, September 27, 2010
NCCC is a team-based, residential program that serves 5 key areas: Education, Environment, Public Safety, and Disaster Relief and.......We trained for a month on a campus in Anacostia and then were placed on teams of 9 or 10 people, according to our skills. My team and I fell in love with one another. We bickered, we argued, we beat one another up, and we fell asleep snuggling. We traveled in a stinky 12 passenger van all over the east coast serving in project after project. Our very first “spike” (as travel projects were called) was in West Virginia building a walking trail and educating West Virginia’s most obese county (Putnam) on health and wellness. I totally understood why this county would have a high obesity rating. They had Tudor’s Biscuit World.
Oh dear, how I miss it. Tudor’s is a fast food chain that sells BISCUITS. Honestly, before that fateful day in October 2003, I had never had a biscuit. My family never made them. So, like Hansel and Gretel in a gingerbread house, I dove in. We all did. Here we are: 10 of us generally thin and fit people educating the masses about making healthy food choices while secretly gorging on all the things that contribute to obesity in the first place. Principle among the fattening agents: biscuits and apple butter. I must have gained 6 pounds on that spike.
I’ve not been back to Tudor’s since then, but this fall, due to an amazing find of a Foley Food mill for TWO BUCKS in a thrift store, I decided to revisit what was once an obsession. I mean, I’ve grown up, right? I know how to restrain myself, right?
The first step to making apple butter is to make applesauce. We went back to Homestead Farms to pick a ridiculous amount of apples. There is something very childlike and innocent about applesauce. Unadorned and sweetened little, its mother nature’s most soothing carbohydrate. At the bottom of this entry you'll find the necessary instructions for making applesauce and applebutter. But first I'd like to get on a soapbox about why this is a worthwhile venture. I have a few reasons.
Reason #1: Applesauce is a family-friendly recipe. First, you can teach your child about canning. Which teaches them about following instructions. And also teaches them about a heritage. Which brings you family members together in a kitchen. And allows you to relive fun family memories when you pull jars out of the cabinet months later. And, your child begins a process of recognizing where food comes from. Hopefully they'll wonder the same thing about Doritos someday down the road....
Reason #2: its economical. 30 pounds of apples is basically all it takes as long as you've invested in the jars. We got about 15 pint jars of apple sauce or butter out of $1.49 a pound apples. See how much it costs to purchase 15 jars of boutique organic apple butter at a store.
Reason #3: it planet-friendly. Seriously. Aside from replacing lids every year, the jars are filled, used, washed and re-used next year. There is no waste. That is a priceless investment.
So, to make applesauce (and then applebutter):
We also made apple pie that night. But by 2:00am, I wasn't churning out the best pies in the world. Another story, another day.
So the moral of today's posting is: hit the orchard. Take your family. Create a tradition and teach your kids to be mindful of where their food is coming from. Those experiences truly made me who I am today and I wouldn't trade any of it for a $3.49 jar of grocery store applesauce.
Monday, September 20, 2010
If I make it to the next round I'll need your help and suggestions for making a dish from a more exotic cuisine. What's the most exotic dish from another culture that you've ever had?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
So sings Neil Young. Listen to Neil. He knows best.
When you turn 21, most kids get things like savings bonds. Or liquor. Or their first suit. Me? I got expensive cinnamon and a professional 9x13 pan for cinnamon rolls. And a shot of Luksusowa vodka, of course. In our Polish farm family, that meant "I confer upon you the responsibilities of a head-of-household woman. Go forth, have many babies, fatten them on cinnamon rolls". Well 8 years later, still no babies. But someday when they arrive, I'll be ready for them.
I hadn't made cinnamon buns in awhile, but two things prompted me to hop to it. First, Eric begged. Second, Aunt Linda gifted me with some King Arthur SAF Red Instant yeast and I wanted to take it for a spin. I wish I'd taken a photo of the sponge because HOLY MAN the yeast was a MONSTER. I was afraid that if I stuck my hand in the bowl, it would eat off my fingertips. After a lifetime of Fleishmanns in the packet, this changed my world.
Look at that happy dough! It was smooth as a baby's bottom and very elastic. I used King Arthur Flour too. I think we can safely say that I'm a snooty King Arthur convert now.
Fun fact: did you know that the majority of the cinnamon available in the US is not actually real cinnamon? If you go to the supermarket and purchase a bottle of "cinnamon", its most likely cassia, a cousin of cinnamon with a stronger flavor and much broader geographic region of cultivation. Basically, its more plentiful and therefore cheaper. True Cinnamon is generally marked as Ceylon Cinnamon, (name for the place of its origin in Sri Lanka). It's sweeter and milder. Read more about the history of cinnamon/cassia here. You can find Ceylon Cinnamon in the US through Penzey's but honestly, you might find it boring and mild since our American taste-buds are used to the strong flavor of cassia. I use Penzey's Vietnamese "cinnamon", a kick-butt potent and fragrant spice.
I'll get to the recipe below, but check out the method for cutting the log of dough. Yes, that's dental floss. Be sure to get plain dental floss. Unless you like to freshen your breath while eating cinnamon buns.
This dough log is just ooooozing butter, sugar and cinnamon. Sometimes its hard to restrain your boyfriend from licking the end of the log.
And here is where we reveal the secret waistline killer: pecan rolls. So the cinnamon roll dough makes either plain buns or pecan buns. The whole recipe generally fits into a 9x13 pan, so I separated it into two 8x8 pans for some variety.
These guys rise twice. Remember this when 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night rolls around and you get the brilliant idea to make cinnamon buns, like I did. Don't plan on getting to bed until 2 am. The good news is that when they are through with their second rise, you can cover with plastic wrap and stick them in the fridge. If you stir from your slumber early the next morning, go take them out of the fridge and set them on the counter to come to room temperature and set the oven to pre-heat. Go back to bed for an hour (or more).
Parysek Family Cinnamon Rolls:
Recipe by my Grams
2 packages dry yeast (if you use a big canister of yeast, each packet holds 2 and 1/4 teaspoons) dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 cups milk
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup Sugar plus 3 tablespoons
1/2 cup butter plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup "lard" (because my grandma often renders her own. You can use Crisco's with non-hydrogenated oil shortening if you don't have any pigs nearby. Some grocery stores will indeed carry lard, though).
About 7 cups white flour (it was a humid day, I needed an extra 3/4 cup)
Raisins or nuts (optional)
Cinnamon, as much as you like
Confectioner's sugar and milk if you want a glaze
Dissolve your yeast in water. If you want to make it grow, add 1/2 tsp of sugar to get a nice sponge. Set aside. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer (or just a large bowl) combine butter (does not have to be softened) sugar and lard. In a saucepan heat the milk and water until very warm but not boiling. Add nutmeg and salt to milk mixture. Stir and allow salt to dissolve, then pour the milk mixture into the butter/sugar/lard bowl mixing bowl. Stir and then let cool to at least 115 degrees. When cooled, add the yeast sponge and hook it up to your dough hook on your mixer. Add the eggs and flour alternatively, ending with flour when you have a cohesive, sticky mass.
Dump it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth (8-10 minutes). It should still be a little tacky and could absorb more flour, but you don't want to dry out the dough. Put it back in the mixing bowl and cover with a towel to let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour or until doubled. Check it often if you try the Super-Monster Yeast. Mine spilled over the top of the bowl within 40 mintues.
Roll it out flat on a floured work surface. Melt your extra 2-3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and spread it over the dough. Sprinkle with 2-3 tablspoons sugar and as much cinnamon as you wish. This is a good time to add raisins or chopped nuts. Roll it up like a jelly roll. Use dental floss to cut it into about 2.5 inch slices and place them in a well-greased pan. Smoosh them in good and let rise a second time for at least an hour. Bake immedietly or refrigerate overnight.
My Grams says to bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes. That's too hot for my oven and they brown too quickly, so I stick with 350 for 35 to 40 min.
If you want to make the pecan rolls (and I'm pretty sure you do), melt 1/4 cup butter with 1/4 cup milk in a saucepan. Add 1 cup packed brown sugar and cook slowly for five minutes until simmering and thickened. Pour into the bottom of an already greased pan and sprinkle with whole or chopped pecans. Place the rolls on top of that and follow the rest of the steps by letting it rise a second time.
Those with wild sweet tooths can make a glaze out of confectioner's sugar and milk or soymilk to drizzle over the top of the sweet rolls. OMG YUM!
Monday, September 13, 2010
Tales from the Fruit Cellar is unique because I always feature the people at the heart of the recipe and the relationships and heritages that are bound by what we perceive to be our individual food culture. I love to instigate a discourse about why we step into our kitchens in the first place and I hold myself responsible for acting as a virtual scribe to record the conversations. I'm eager to bring people back to a tradition-based food system, regardless of how the individual defines "tradition". I love to celebrate the fact that we all define tradition in myriad ways.
I generally power up my computer to write not because I’m so worked up about a recipe, but because I can’t wait to tell you about the people that have become inextricably linked with that recipe. Today, I’ve got a love story for you.
Eric and I met in 2008 on the island of St. John in the Caribbean. He was from Indianapolis, I from DC. We didn’t want anything to do with long distance. A few months later, we were heavy in the throes of a Long. Distance. Relationship. Sigh.
For those of you who would rather eat worms that get involved with someone who lives over 50 miles away, I’m here to tell you: long distance really isn’t all that terrible. When you’ve got a full and busy life, it’s actually quite nice to set aside chunks of time to spend 100% focused on one another. It’s exciting to fly back and forth and discover a new town you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Especially when that town has Goose the Market.
Eric and I fell in love over a sandwich. Seriously. You know how its way more enjoyable to eat a hot fudge sundae with someone who oohs and ahhs over it as loudly as you? Well foodies about the globe know what I mean when I say that falling in love with a person feels much more punch drunk when your time with that person is punctuated by fabulous food you’re equally smitten with. For us, that was the Batali sandwich. Oh my goodness…I can’t even write about it without feeling wispy nostalgia tear at my heart.
Goose the Market, in Indianapolis, is like a souk for the modern Midwest urban explorer. Filling a brightly colored store-front in a newly reclaimed part of the city, Goose opened in 2008 and knocked the pants right off the Indy food scene. Would you like to join a Bacon of the Month club? At Goose, you can. Need to find blue-ribbon local cheeses? They’ve got it. Hungry for gelato? Hit it up. But under no circumstances should you ever leave the market without a Batali.
The next thing you know it’s a once a month occurrence where I’m running to find my new love at the baggage claim at Reagan airport, giving him a quick kiss hello and saying “where’s my sandwich??” Tourists in DC would watch us, thinking that I must not eaten for days with the way I am ravenously tearing into a sandwich at baggage claim. Eric watches with a little frustration that I’m paying no attention to my freshly arrived boyfriend, but with a little pride too. “That’s my girl”, he thinks. “Can I have a bite?” he says. We share a greasy, spicy kiss and the Batali is gone in under 5 minutes.
Eric and I now live just two hours apart: he in school at VCU in Richmond, me still in DC. When he arrived in Richmond this past winter, I wrote a love letter to Goose, imploring them to share the secret of the Batali with me. Graciously, they shared their recipes and we attempted our first recreation of the Batali in Richmond. The issue is that while our recreation came out mostly alright, we used a jarred Giardiniera that seemed to have no spice or sass. I spent a few sleepless nights wondering what went wrong before deciding that the Giardiniera is what left our homemade Batali lacking. So we said "let's try again, but make the Giardiniera ourselves".
Like many of my recipes, this one is a classic, banal item that you probably buy in a jar at the grocery store. But the secret is that its unfailingly simple to make at home where you have more control over what you put in the jar. Use organics and quality vinegar or oil; I promise you’ll be glad you did. We used a lot of super extra hot peppers, again from Clagett Farm, and we tried both the oil method and the vinegar method to see which we preferred. The answer is: I like to mix a tablespoon out of the oil jar and a tablespoon out of the vinegar jar!
2 red or green bell peppers cut into strips
We haven't re-made the sandwiches yet, but I'm gearing up to make the onions and tomato preserves. Undoubtedly, the act of making a Batali will make me think fondly of my now-seasoned relationship and our first sparks of love. When you think back to your favorite recipe, who are the people that make it special for you?