Monday, July 16, 2007

Fancy, spicy minnercheese (pimiento cheese, for the non-southern among you)

Whoa.. I'm probably going to get drummed out of the Southerner club for making this fancy version of pimiento cheese, but it's REAL DAMN GOOD.

10-12 oz extra sharp aged Vermont cheddar
10-12 oz pepper jack (I used Cabot for both cheeses)
1 medium yellow onion
3 roasted peppers (I had one yellow, one red, and one orange on hand, so that's what I used)
About 1/2-3/4 cup homemade mayo, enough to bind the pimiento cheese without being gross (I made it with white wine vinegar and peanut oil this time, and hit the dry mustard and the cayenne pretty hard)

Grate the two cheeses in the food processor using the grater blade (another heresy!!) Run the onion through the grater as well. Spin the roasted peppers a couple of times, till they are in bits ranging from breadcrumb size to julienne size. Combine with the cheese and onion and the mayonnaise; mix and EAT IT UP!!

So good - so spicy and sweet. Eat it on crackers, on soft white bread (Pepperidge Farm thin white is classic, or use the potato bread recipe below,) in a grilled cheese, broiled onto toasted white bread, on potato chips as an appetizer, on top of grilled burgers...the list is endless!! Mmmmmmmmmm.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


(Title: so corny. But I can't help myself.)

We had a throw-together dinner from some of our farmer's market yummies. I had some leftover roasted peppers from something else, and I sliced japanese eggplants and zucchini longways, and an onion into thick slices. I slathered it all in olive oil with italian herbs and salt and grilled them up. I grilled some chicken breasts, and topped the grilled veggie stack with about 1.5 oz goat cheese, then put the chicken breasts on top. The goat cheese got all melty (yum, warm goat cheese is the BEST. If you haven't put it in an omelet yet, you are missing out!) and it was a great contrast between the charred crispy almost bitter edges and the creamy soft middles. So good.

And I baked a HUGE loaf of sourdough that I'm having a hard time keeping my mitts off of right now.

Judy Rodgers' Zuni Cafe Cookbook and MOBILE, TOOTHY BABY!

Thing One: Run! Don't walk! Buy this book ASAP! Not only is the Zuni roast chicken and bread salad FABULOUS - the entire book is packed with amazing recipes. Rodgers is amazing. I can't recommend it highly enough. As soon as we get back from the beach (have to use up what's in the fridge now - farmers' market bounty and much defrosted meat - before we buy anything else perishable) I will be cooking many many things out of this book. Instead of studying for my PhD exams. Perhaps I will cook something delicious for my committee when it comes time for my orals, and they will kindly overlook the fact that I'm slack as hell and pass me anyway!

Thing Two: Baby is mobile! I've been trying to make enchilada sauce for two days now, and the nugget won't allow it. R is in the middle of building a huge storage unit for the living room, so he's outside from dawn to dusk, and I'm inside with the newly crawling, newly cruising and obsessively standing up (and OVERNIGHT THREE NEW TOOTH-GROWING) baby. If I put him in the walker (no steps in our house, it's safe, and I watch him all the time anyway) he immediately rams it into the dog's water bowl, or chases me around the kitchen in it. If he's in the kitchen with me, he's pulling over the trash can, or trying to eat the dogfood, or trying to stand up holding onto the cabinet door handles (it opens! He falls! He cries! He does it again!) If he's in the living room (attached to the kitchen) he immediately crawls! away! into another room! that's far less childproofed as of now! (We can't do everything at once, unlike Archie, who mastered standing/cruising/crawling literally in three days, after barely rolling over for 9 months.)

Pair all this motion with the fact that last night he woke up at 3 am ready to party! And did so until 10:30 am (his normal schedule is wake at 6:30, nap by 9:00 at the latest.) He slept till 12:30, when I woke him up. This action was debated hotly with my husband, but I wanted him to take his normal afternoon nap. WHICH HE DIDN'T. But he just fell asleep at 5:45, and will hopefully just stay asleep for the rest of the night.

Toddlerhood, here we come!! So...I haven't gotten much done on the enchilada sauce. ANYWAY, buy the book. And tell me that we'll get the house babyproofed soon, and I won't have to be all up in his grill every second. Or just commiserate with me on the lack of sleep.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Potato Bread (and Cinnamon Rolls!)

The potato bread is the perfect American-style white bread, in my book - and it makes so much dough that you have to use 1/3 of it to make cinnamon rolls! These are super yummy (tender and soft, as cinnamon rolls should be, not hard and crusty, as yeast-raised cinnamon rolls often are in this flawed world of ours.)

We had meatloaf and mashed potatoes last night, and I made extra potatoes on purpose to make this bread. It's the homemade equivalent to the Pepperidge Farm white - tight crumb, tender, a bit sweet. The recipe is from Ellen Foscue Johnson's The Bread Book: A Baker's Almanac.

Farmhouse Potato Bread

1 cup milk
1 stick butter
1 cup warm mashed potatoes
1/3-1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 tbs dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (preferably potato water)
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
6-7 cups unbleached bread flour
1/4 cup wheat germ (optional)
1 egg for the glaze

Bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan; Remove from heat and stir in butter, mashed potatoes, and honey. Let cook to lukewarm.

Proof yeast in the potato water with the 1/2 tsp honey. Add the lukewarm potato mixture, and the ginger, eggs, and salt and beat well. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and beat at least 2 minutes in the KitchenAid. (I use the paddle for this, then switch to the dough hook for the next bit.)

Gradually add more flour, as much as it takes to make a workable dough. (This dough will remain a bit tacky b/c of the richness; don't over-flour it. It won't be exactly sticky, but VERY elastic and soft.) Turn out and knead till smooth.

Raise till doubled in a greased bowl. Punch down, let rest 10 minutes, and divide into three. Form 2 of the pieces into loaves and place in greased loaf pans; roll the last out into a rectangle, smear with ample softened butter and load up with sugar and cinnamon (and chopped nuts, if you swing that way.) Roll into a log (jelly-roll style) and cut into spirals; lay into a greased 9 inch cake pan. (I also drizzle with additional melted butter at this point, b/c my sugar and cinnamon are all dry and sprinkle-y.)

If it's now late and you're tired, bung the pans into the fridge and allow to rise overnight. If you do this, definitely brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter first and cover all pans with greased plastic wrap. If you didn't do this after dinner like a dumbass, press on! Preheat the oven to 425 for the rolls and let them rise on top of the stove (you want them to bake first.) Set the loaves aside in a cooler spot in the kitchen to rise more slowly.

When rolls are doubled, bake for about 20-25 minutes, till golden on top. They'll still be tender and soft, not crusty, so look for the browning. Pull them out and turn them out onto a plate while still hot, so the gooey bits underneath don't harden and stick to the pan. They're the best part!

Lower the oven temp to 350 and bake the loaves for about 30 minutes, again till golden on top. In last 5 minutes of baking, brush tops with an egg wash. Cool on racks and eat - delicious toasted with butter, makes fabulous tomato sandwiches or BLTs - it's sort of brioche-like. Yum!!

Monday, July 09, 2007


Well, the baby didn't go to sleep until 9:45 pee em tonight. Teething? Maternal caffeine? Simple obstreperousness? Who knows. I nursed him and rocked him and sang to him until I was so annoyed (not at him, at FUCKING APPLE MAIL, a program not worth of Apple. Unintuitive, ugly, slow, and SUCKS A BIG SMELLY ASS. If you're an Apple Genius, I'll be glad to tell you of my woes. They involve Gmail [which works fine with evil-empire-Microsoft, btw.] and not being able to delete a mailbox/account once created. Below par, Apple. WAY below par.) ANYWAY, no sleepy, much play-ey and giggl-y. No sleep till Brooklyn.

So we made mint cheesecake swirl brownies (4 bowls, I admit, but way easy.)

adapted from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything.

4 oz Trader Joe's bittersweet chocolate
3 tbs + 2 tbs butter
4 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup + 3/4 cup sugar
1 egg + 2 eggs
1 cup + 1 tbs flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp mint extract (I bet mint oil would be better, but I don't have any.)

Preheat to 350, grease a square baking pan

Bowl 1: (I used a Pyrex measuring cup): melt the chocolate and 3 tbs of the butter in the microwave on half power (about 4 minutes.) Stir till smooth and set aside.

Bowl 2: Use hand mixer to beat the cream cheese with the 2 tbs butter. Add the 1/4 cup sugar and then one egg; beat well, then add the 1 tbs of flour and the mint extract.

Bowl 3: Use mixer to beat the remaining 2 eggs with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar to the ribbon stage.

Bowl 4: Mix together the cup of flour with the salt and baking powder. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the egg mixture.

Pour half the chocolate mixture in the greased pan, and top with the cream cheese mixture, then the rest of the chocolate mixture. Marble a bit if you desire.

Bake at 350 for about 22-25 minutes.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Celery and Green Onion Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing

Celery and Green Onion Salad with Lemon-Dijon Dressing

I had NOTHING in the fridge in the way of fresh vegetables and no time nor inclination to do anything about it, so to go with our roast pork tenderloin with cider jus ala je mange la ville (no linking! battery dying!) I put together what we had. And it's delicious - fresh and crisp and light.

1 bunch celery, trimmed and sliced thinly
1 bunch green onions, stripped of its somewhat slimy outer leaves from sitting in the fridge just a day or so too long and sliced thinly

1/4-1/3 cup homemade mayo
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs dijon mustard

Mix the celery and onion; mix the dressing ingredients (obviously, the wet things!) and toss with the celery. Can refrigerate for up to 30 minutes while your husband finishes painting the living room wall the color of a ripe cantaloupe, if desired.

Friday, July 06, 2007

4th of July BBQ

Whoa, I cooked up a storm for 2 days. I'm posting recipes here with notes for future reference!

Reposado Margaritas (adapted from Cook's Illustrated (These were AWESOME and totally worth doing ahead of time.)

Makes about 1 quart, serving 4 to 6 (I doubled this and upped the liquor content, as you'll see)

The zest, peeled off with a veg peeler, from 8 limes and 6 huge lemons
The juice from said limes and lemons
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch table salt
1 bottle rotgut tequila
1 bottle triple sec

Process the strips of zest with the sugar in the food processor. Combine with the juice from the citrus and let sit (CI specifies 4-24 hrs, saying that it becomes more intensely citrusy the longer it sits. We did it for 24 hrs.)

Strain this mixture and combine with the tequila and triple sec (I probably should have done 4 more limes and 3 more lemons for this amount of liquor, but it was GOOD, just killer strong, as we discovered after drinking one!!) and serve over ice.

Nummy. 5 stars.

Barefoot Contessa's Pan-Fried Onion Dip, from here. Oh my GOD, this was so good. Seriously, Robert, Leslie, and I ate at least half of this before ANYBODY showed up. It was easy to make, not expensive, and you'll NEVER make Lipton Onion Dip again once you try it. Trust me, go make this TODAY!!

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I used way more, like 1/2 tsp or more)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Slice the onions into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes (you want the onions to brown.) Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Serve at room temperature (delicious with those kettle-cooked potato chips - or if you're really going all out, homemade ones would be fabu!)

Can't tell you how good this was. 5 stars PLUS.

Grilled Pork Burgers Indochine (From here. Everybody else LOVED these; I didn't think they were as good as I thought they were going to be, even though we ground the pork fresh! 3 stars from me, 5 from everybody else.

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Thai basil leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam)
4 teaspoons jaggery (palm sugar) or brown sugar (I used a combination of maple sugar and brown sugar)
1 teaspoon sriracha or other Asian hot chili sauce (I used a tablespoon)
2 pounds freshly ground pork
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill rack
6 French rolls, split
6 interior butter lettuce leaves

Make the dressing ahead of time: combine the mayonnaise, basil, cilantro, green onions, and lime juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. (I thought it needed more basil, but I completely decimated my Thai basil plant to get the 2 cups. The sauce was a bit flat to me, though I added a tablespoon of fish sauce to give it depth. Perhaps I should have added some regular basil? I'll make some changes next time I make this.)

Mix the fish sauce, jaggery, and chili sauce in a medium bowl. Add the pork, peanut butter, ginger (I used a garlic press to avoid getting too many chunks of ginger strings in the mixture,) garlic, and star anise and blend loosely with a fork. Form into 6 equal patties.

Brush the grill rack with oil. Grill the patties with the grill top closed for 4 minutes. Turn and grill until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the patties registers 160 degrees F, about 4 minutes longer.

Grill the buns, spread with the dresssing, top with more dressing and lettuce leaves, and serve.

I thought it was a bit too peanut-buttery and not spicy enough for me. I'll cut down on the pb and add more sriracha next time. As I said, everyone else freaked over these, but I thought they were just good. (Nowhere CLOSE to the pineapple jerk burgers, for me!!)

King Arthur's Golden Hotdog/Hamburger Buns (Very good. Would have been best if served still warm, though. Nice and tender and sweet-ish and wheaty. 4 stars.)

3/4 cup (6 ounces) lukewarm milk
3/4 cup (6 ounces) lukewarm water
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Baker's Special Dry Milk
3 tablespoons (1 1/8 ounces) potato flour or 1/3 cup dried potato flakes
1/2 cup (2 3/8 ounces) Hi-maizeĀ® Natural Fiber
3 cups (12 ounces) King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

Dump everything into the mixer and work with dough hook for about 5 minutes (I know, it's crazy, but that's what they have you do.) Pull out and knead by hand till it feels right (sorry, if you don't bake bread, go to the website and they have better directions; if you do, this is what you do anyway!!) Let rise 2 + hours in a greased bowl (probably won't double but will get puffy.)

Form into burger-sized rolls and put them on an ungreased pan, so that sides will be touching once they've risen somewhat. Let rise another hour and a half or so, then bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes. Yields 16 rolls.

The next part was a huge pain in the ass - I spent the whole day making custard-base ice creams. The peach was worth it, the mint was NOT.

To be continued...I'm tired of typing!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Baja Fish Tacos

Y'all, this was really good. We usually do blackened tuna tacos with mango salsa and habanero-lime white sauce, but we decided to do a typical Baja taco this time, and it's going into the rotation!

1.5 lb cod or other firm white fish, cut into fish-stick type shapes
Flour, cornmeal, Tony Chachere's seasoning, 2 eggs for breading
oil for frying
4 flour tortillas

1/4 cup very hot Habanero salsa
1 cup sour cream or full-fat Fage greek yogurt

1 small head cabbage, shredded very finely
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup homemade mayo
1 small head fennel, shaved
1 apple, finely chopped
1/2 white onion, minced fine

Make the slaw:
Mix the cabbage, fennel, onion, and apple with the lime juice and zest and the mayo. Let sit for at least 2 hours to meld the flavors.

Make the white sauce:
Mix the yogurt and the hot salsa.

Make the fish:
Dip the fish in the flour, then in the beaten egg, then in a half and half mixture of cornmeal and flour, heavily seasoned with Tony Chachere's. Pan-fry for about 4 minutes per side over a medium hot flame in aobut 1/2 inch of oil.

Assemble the tacos:
Put 2-3 fish fingers into the center of a warmed tortilla. Top with 4 tbs of the sour cream/salsa mixture and about 3/4 cup of the slaw mixture. PIG OUT!!

(I'll post the blackened tuna tacos another day if anybody wants me to - just ask!)

Simple tomato soup with dill

I bought a HUGE can of tomato puree at Costco and didn't want to make that much marinara sauce, so I decided to make a simple, homestyle tomato soup for lunches this week. We ate it with grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade oatmeal bread - I made them with havarti and cheddar and added sliced farmer's market tomatoes, avocado slices, and radish sprouts. Even the baby loved it!

This recipe is simple to make, quick, and delicious (as well as cheap - and it's all things I keep on hand all the time.) You can do it with pretty much any fresh herb that strikes your fancy - our dill needed to be cut back or I would have used basil, but rosemary would have been wonderful too!

2 tbs butter
1 onion, minced
1 carrot, in very small dice
1 rib celery, minced
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups tomato puree (fresh or canned; if fresh, strain to remove seeds)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 cup half and half
4 tbs minced fresh dill (or herb of your choice)

Cook down the veggies in the butter over medium heat until they're very soft and translucent, about 8 minutes or so. Add the chicken stock and tomato and simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the baking soda and sugar. Stir till the baking soda stops foaming, then blend with an immersion blender till vegetables are smooth. Add dill and half and half and bring back to a simmer. (It's even better after reheating the next day!)

Also made a fruit tart with leftover pate brisee and some peaches and raspberries from the in-laws' garden. It's chillin in the fridge right now. Pastry cream is a way smaller pain in the ass than I'd thought - it's no harder than pudding. (But a little less delicious, to be honest. It's a bit eggy for my taste.) Hopefully the fruit will make it more interesting.

Am I supposed to do something with melted apricot or strawberry jam? I just have the fruit arranged on top of the pastry cream right now.....