Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Look what I got! I feel an exponential increase in my baking confidence just having this bad boy in my apartment. Thanks be to dad! I thought you had to get married to get one of these!! (hehe...bt dubbs Paul, this doesn't let you off the hook) (kidding, kidding!).
Okay so anyways... not only did I get a boss Kitchenaid stand mixer (!!!). I got two coveted cookbooks:
Oh, Molly, Molly, I have nothing but hearts and flowers for you and so far curling up with your book is super sweet. I need to make everything. Right. Now.
BITTMAN! For those that don't know Bittman is THE MAN. His column/blog/everything is pretty much 8 shades of awesome and NOW, I have not only a Bittman cookbook but the international one! (say "international" like the mom of Ricky in Better Off Dead when she says "you know...the international language). My kitchen is going to be mega exotic from now on thanks to Eric and Anne!
Anywho...I'm not finished. My creative scientific genius of a mans hooked me up with a full rig to start experimenting with cooking sous vide at home! Do you not know what sous vide is? Well, that's fine because like you, I also only knew the term from a couple exhilerating episodes of Top Chef. Well if you would like to know more about it, peep this, this or this. All you need to know about me and sous vide is that I now have top to bottom a full setup to start messing around with this "slow and low" cooking method.
So then, I come into work yesterday and there's like two articles on Serious Eats about sous vide. Is my dude cutting edge or WHAT? Apparently, it's going to revolutionize home cooking in ways the microwave couldn't even do! I'm pretty stoked about this because I have already mastered microwave cooking. Sous vide here I come!
Friday, December 18, 2009
December is an insane, mad person sprint of a month. It is not, in any way shape or form, a normally timed month. I know this because I don't have time for much. Like last week's post, there's no time for love, Dr. Jones. Straight to the nitty gritty.
Remember my cousin's cheeseball. Well, I made it and it's a total knockout. You should know about this cheeseball, you're going to want to be alone with it.
2 packages cream cheese (don't even think about getting reduced fat)
2 jars Kraft Olde English OR 1 tub Cheddar Wis-Pride spread*
5-6 ounces crumbled blue cheese or gorganzola
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
couple shakes of garlic salt
Combine everything in a bowl and beat together with an electric mixer. Divide cheese amalgam in half and shape into two balls. It was helpful to lightly spray my hands with olive oil spray before doing this. Roll each cheeseball in crushed nuts (I used pecans) or chopped, fresh herbs.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. I made mine the night before. I used one at my party and the other five days later. Both were delicious. Do it!
* Kraft Olde English was not at my grocery store. I improvised and used Wis-Pride. I figured, well, it's orange, so it must be the same thing. It was.
Hey cheeseball, meet your two new friends, red wine and vodka, you guys will be seeing a lot of each other this holiday season.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
As in snappy appetizers. Yes, I know, I’m the world’s biggest cheeseball. Speaking of cheeseballs, I am making one for my Christmas party on Saturday night. Apparently my cousin Jenny made this cheeseball for Thanksgiving and nobody could shut up about how good it was. They even went so far as to curse her name the next day when they mistakenly thought she had taken the cheeseball leftovers home with her. When she cleared up that rumor we forgave her. So anyways, I’m already taking up too much time. No time for witty banter this week kids, it’s crunch time. December is sort of beating the tar out of me right now. Does anyone else feel this way? It seems like about ten seconds ago, it was Thanksgiving and I was going to blog “over the weekend” or “early next week” about my stuffed mushrooms. Obviously, because I am a proven liar, “over the weekend” meant “definitely not this weekend” and “early next week” meant “probably not for two weeks” but anyways, I digress. It’s December 10th already! We’re into double digits and there’s no more time for dilly dallying: onward! To the appetizers!
These are two Sue Pithie classics that I am generously gifting upon ye. My mom has never met a savory appetizer she wasn’t able to conquer. I hope to continue this legacy for the next generation of party snackers. I’m telling you right now, if you make these, you will get compliments.
Two large packages white button mushrooms. (Baby Bellas would also work well)
One red bell pepper, diced
One small bunch scallions, chopped
1 ½ to 2 sleeves Ritz crackers (as with all recipes calling for Ritz, let me just tell you right now, there simply is no substitution)
½ - 1 stick butter, melted
Brush mushrooms off with a damp cloth. Snap out stems and set aside onto your cutting board. The intact caps can be set aside into a bowl. The caps that don’t make it, well they can join the stems. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and drizzle a bit of olive oil in. Coarsely chop your mushroom stems. Add the stems, along with the diced red pepper and chopped scallions to the sauté pan and cook a few minutes, until it smells fragrant and the mushrooms have purged a bit of liquid.
Dump the lot of this mixture into your Cuis’ Food Processor. Add the Ritz. Pulse mixture until it reassembles a stuffing-ish mixture. Return your skillet to the heat, lower the stove a bit, to medium and melt your butter. When the butter is melted, pour it over the stuff in your Cuis’, pulse some more. Until all the Ritz are chopped up well and there aren’t any large, identifiable half crackers floating around in there. Stuff your mushroom caps with the stuffing mixture (der). Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
TOMATO, BASIL & FETA SALSA with PITA CHIPS
For the Chips:
One package large or small pita. This is a great thing to do with pitas that are too stale to eat. When you bake them up, they’re like a whole new beast.
Garlic Salt (optional)
For the “Salsa”
*Any type tomato will do here. Since it’s winter, I use any good looking cherry tomatoes I find at the store and cut them into halves, or quarters, depending on their size. The last batch I picked up were gargantuan, so they got the quarter treatment.
One of the good things about this recipe is you can make a huge batch for a party or just a small amount for yourself. It gets tastier as it sits overnight in the fridge, but is also great immediately after you make it. It’s a very forgiving and versatile, like my long grey sweater, that’s why I like it. I also whip this up a lot in the summer as a side dish, sometimes adding diced purple onion.
Preheat oven to 350. Cut your pitas into triangles. The option here is to split them, to make thin chips, or leave them together. Your call. My mom likes them thicker and therefore leaves them together, I like to split them so they’re lighter and you can make more of them. Arrange cut pitas on baking sheet. Pour a palm full of olive oil into your hand and rub both hands together. Using your hands distribute the oil over the pita slices. Repeat if necessary. I don’t like mine too oily, so I go light. My mother makes her pita chips not with olive oil, but with melted butter, because well, she’s trying to kill us all. Sprinkle with sea salt and garlic salt. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping half way through.
Meanwhile, rinse your tomatoes and slice into halves or quarters. If using full size tomatoes, cut into a chunky dice. Chiffonade a couple handfuls of basil. To do this, take a few leaves at a time and roll them up, then cut thin, vertical slices across your rolled up leaves. The result is delicate ribbon-y threads of basil that look cute. Add basil to tomatoes, and add feta. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper and stir everything together. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with pita chips. Open your ears to hear the compliments, and try not to pull a muscle patting yourself on the back!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Please do not be alarmed that the word “sausage” is in the title of this soup. Honestly when trying to name this mish mash of a soup that I made up last week, I really did not want to include sausage in the title. There’s something about the words “sausage soup” that make me picture a gigantic bread loaf hollowed out and filled with baked potato, cheese and cheddar soup with carmelized kielbasa or something in it. Something that adds 7 pounds to my ass if I even look at it sideways, and something that if you eat the only words to describe your condition afterwards are “completely” and “destroyed.” The concept of sausage soup also reminds me of a certain menu item that would appear periodically at the unnamed American bar & grill where I used to sling food. That menu item was BLT soup and yes, it was just as disgusting as you are imagining right now. I mean BLTs: good; soup: good. BLT soup: NOT GOOD. Any soup with flecks of floating lettuce in it is just not okay with me. And if it’s okay with you I’d like you to keep that to yourself because I really like you and I don’t want that to change. It made me wonder how the cook who’s brainchild this recipe was could take two seemingly wonderful food items and by combining them together create something almost inherently evil. One day when he was preparing this culinary abomination he asked “Jess, you’re a vegetarian right?” to which I pishawed him and said “no” and he was like, “oh, well here, I want you to try the soup of the day.” “What is it?” “BLT soup” “Oh, um, honestly, I don’t really feel well right now and I just don’t think I can eat anything with bacon in it. Thanks though. It sounds so good.” I lied. I really didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I was not about to make smiley faces any yummy noises as I slurped down a nappy dish of the Worst Soup Ever Made by
But sincerely though, even though I am not happy with the title of this soup per se, I don’t believe it would have come out quite as good if I had skipped the sausage. A nice browned meat can add a lot to the flavor of a soup, even bacon, just don’t combine it with wilted, wet lettuce and don’t let me think that maybe you may have included mayonnaise as one of your soup ingredients (ugh! I just got the chills when I typed that!!). Wow Jess, you are really doing a spectacular job of working up appetites over here. But honestly, I swear MY soup is good, and there’s no lettuce in it. And there never will be any lettuce in any soup that comes out of the Porky Test Kitchens. Lettuce has a place: in salads and on tacos, let’s keep it that way. So anyways though, focusing our attention back to the soup:
Two sweet Italian or fennel sausages*
One bag baby pearl onions**
Two cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
Splash of sherry vinegar
2 russet potatoes, diced
Chicken broth or stock, to cover
* The sausages I used in this soup were leftover from a package of Dom’s sausages from Dom’s Sausage Company in Malden. This place is amazing. Their meats are great and their prices are reasonable. My friend Michelle drives up there to stock up every few weeks and on her last visit she gifted me with some of these sweet, fennel sausages. I’m normally a hot sausage girl myself (hehehe- sorry) but these changed my mind. Ah-mazing.
**I purchased myself a satchel of the most adorable baby onion blend from where else? Trader Joes. They were a blend of baby purple, white and yellow onions and they were so great, because not only were they so cute, their flavor was wonderful. You could likewise use regular diced onions or the normal baby pearls, or even cipollini.
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat, add your bag of onions and blanch them for a few minutes (I left mine in approx. 3). Drain onions and let cool a bit. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings and brown, breaking up with a wooden spoon or spatula until well browned. Peel onions from their skins and add to pot. The easiest way to do this I found was to nip the end off with a pairing knife and then squeeze the little suckers out of their skins. Be fair warned that some of these onions will fly across your kitchen. It’s sort of hilarious. Sauté the sausage and onions together for a bit, add the garlic, a bit of salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper. Add the tomato paste and stir everything together well. Dash in some of the sherry vinegar and let the vinegar cook off. This only takes a moment, really.
Add your potatoes and chicken stock to cover. Turn the heat up to a boil. Let boil until potatoes are tender and cooked through. Once the potatoes are tender you can serve or turn down and let simmer until you’re ready to eat. Top with crunched up crackers or pita chips and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
Oh by the way, I also served this to myself with a grilled cheddar, avocado and bacon sandwich. Good fat meets bad fat in a battle of the fats. Clearly in this battle, my tastebuds win.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
So I would love to write a squishy post all about how thankful I am for my life, my fam, my buds, my boyf and my blog and I did. But once again the evil gods of technology are breathing down my neck and at this point in time, I just need to play it safe in the interest of posting just a little something as we come into one of my very favorite holidays. Thanksgiving is special because it’s a wonderful excuse to take time out and slow down. I don’t need to tell you I can get behind the idea of devoting an entire day to the cooking and the eating of deliciousness. One thing I love that my family always does is that everybody goes around the table and says something they’re thankful for. The answers are usually in varying degrees of seriousness and silliness because that’s just how we roll. We’re cheesy but we’re cute. Seriously, one year we dressed as pilgrims for Thanksgiving. I’m not joking, I have the photos. My sister said her and her husband are planning on making pilgrim hats this year in order to embarrass his sister, who is bringing her new boyfriend to Thanksgiving at their house. Incredible. I wish I could be there.
Another reason why I love Thanksgiving is that though it is steeped in tradition, my own family Thanksgiving takes different shapes every year. We’re not a stick to one location or guest list type of fam. Sometimes there are 6 of us, sometimes, 20. It’s whatever works. I appreciate the flexibility. Last year and the year before the whole extended family gathered at my aunts’ house in Chatham. The year before that just my Dad and I went out to a super fancy dinner. That was a really nice one. Other years my sister has been home from California, and in others, it’s been just me, my mom and my brother’s brood. This year, I will join Paul and his family at his aunt’s house in Connecticut. I love that my Thanksgiving takes different shapes, because the ultimate feeling I end up with is the same. Now, I’m not talking about the triptophan coma, although, all a happy-full-sleepy feeling is SO nice. I’m talking about taking the time to devote a day to one simple premise: the idea of being thankful. Gratitude is something that is so vital to our happiness, that we don’t often take the time to recognize. During the daily grind we bust our way through traffic and crowded subway cars, peel our eyes open in front of the computer screen, shrug our shoulders back and just try to maintain. We don’t think “I’m grateful for my job, I’m grateful for my car getting me from here to there and I’m grateful for my super comfortable, very full life.” It would behoove us all to be thankful at least once every day, not just on this day. So my goal for this Thanksgiving (besides making stellar stuffed mushrooms and a pumpkin roll) is to take a little bit of this holiday premise with me into the next day, and the day after that, and the next week and to keep it with me throughout the holiday season and hopefully, foreva. We may wake up from the food coma, but the feeling of peace that comes from embracing gratitude is something special that we can keep in our bellies long after we’ve left the table.
So leaving with those Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey, I’m off to seriously mess up my kitchen. I’m making stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and a pumpkin roll as well. I will post about how they come out over the weekend or early next week!
Also, because on the other side of “thanks” is “give” I did want to give you a recipe today. Because this is Porky Dickens and there is no Porky Thanksgiving without a cocktail or two, I wanted to share a super simple, delicious drink recipe that is very Thanksgiving appropriate.
APPLE CIDER MIMOSAS
Your finest Champag-nah (perhaps a nice 2007 Andre?)
Cinnamon and Sugar
Optional garnishes: cinnamon sticks, apple slices
When I was a bartender, I used to work brunch. So every weekend, I would be in charge of coming up with a different type of mimosa as an alternative to the standard orange and champangah. This little lady was my Fall classic and was very popular. They are soooo good. Be warned, you can drink like 70 of these before you know it. I wouldn’t recommend that unless your family is the kind of family that enjoys when a holiday ends up with you break dancing on the kitchen floor (a la me circa Christmas 2001).
Dip rim of glass in cider, then roll in cinnamon and sugar (this is optional but adds a little something to the taste and look of this drink). Fill glass ¾ full with champagnah, top with cider to taste. Add garnish, if applicable. Enjoy (with caution)!
Friday, November 20, 2009
My work computer is cooked, my home computer is several years old and has a battery issue. I have been attempting for about three days and 45 minutes to try and post something and neither the computer I am working on now, or my home computer can seem to handle me trying post a simple blog.
I'm truly embarassed to admit this but I have been sitting here whimpering trying to CUT and PASTE my word document into this field and it's not working (now imagine me crying a little bit) it's JUST. NOT. WORKING. Frustration can not really express how I feel at this point in time but I'm going to persevere right now and do what I always try and remember to do when things are super frusterating: keep it simple.
I'm not going to complain any further about the fact that due to not having a computer/ being able to work at my own desk I have been a nomadic secretary for the past week, I'm also not going to complain that I just haven't had much time to cook lately and that my back hurts and that I have class ALL day long on Saturday and I don't even know WHEN I'm going to cook things for Thanksgiving, no I swear I'm not going to bog this forum down with a vicious cycle of whines. I swear, I'm finished. I'll save all my whining for Paul and my mom. That's what I pay them for, right? Instead I'm going to provide the Porky faithful with a GO-TO recipe.
Many people might not believe in oven fries. "They can't get crispy" you think, but I'm here to tell you, well, you're wrong. These oven fries are not only crispy but they are also the perfect compliment to say, a leftover half a sandwich you saved for dinner, or a nice grilled piece of fish or chicken or on the side of a nice big salad. There are only a few trade secrets that need be applied to ensure delectable oven fries and I will provide them right here because you deserve them. And when I'm feeling like a whiny baby, I like to share, it takes the focus off the whining. French fries are quite possibly, my perfect comfort food. So in this haze of self pity and computer complaints, I thought I would share a little self love. Because as I noshed these bad boys down last night with my leftovers from Chacarera, well, I loved myself for making them. I loved my self a whole lot.
OVEN FRIES for ONE
One russet potato, cut into semi-uniform sized sticks
Salt and Pepper
I kept these simple last night, because I wanted to get them into the oven and into my belly ASAP, but you can jazz them up with different spices, sometimes I use curry powder, chili powder or some nice paprika. But always, sea salt and pepper do the trick.
Heat oven to 400. Cut your tater into fry shapes. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with olive oil spray or nonstick spray. Arrange your taters on the pan. Pour a palm full of olive oil into your hand, rub hands together and then man handle your fries until all of them are coated with oil. I find this trick ensures that I don't use too much oil; also, I just wash my hands after, so no additional utensils/dishes necessito. Jess like this. Generously salt and pepper your tater sticks and then arrange them as best you can so that each fry has his own personal space. The key, I mean KEY to crispy oven fries is two fold (this also goes for sweet potato fries) 1: space the suckers out; 2: nice hot oven. open the door ONLY ONCE to flip them over. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping at the 20 minute mark. Maybe add a little more salt and pepper when they're done. Maybe serve with some decadent horseradish mayo* for dipping. Maybe eat them on the coach, without even pausing to change the channel for several minutes, maybe that's just me.
Aaaahhh....I feel better already. Thanks for bearing with me through the whining. Enjoy your oven fries and Happy Friday!
* just stir together a bit of horseradish with a few tablespoons of mayo. Salt and pepper. This stuff is amazing. I feel like the fact that the oven fries are lo cal and the mayo is not balances itself out and life is all about balance, right? I also like to pair this horseradish mayo with ketchup and dip my fries in not one but both because I have a dipping sauce weakness issue.
PS- apparently I can't paste photos in either. Ugh. Whatever. I hate computers. The pics aren't that good anyways, so I'm just going to let this one go.
PPS- "Angel Eyes" by Jeff Healy Band just came on the radio, despite technical difficulties this day can't be ALL bad, right?!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Confession: I haven’t done much in the way of cooking this week. I’ve been mooching most of my meals off of other people (read: my ma). I’m like sitting here feeling kind of guilty because dude. It’s Nov-em-ber. High eating season is upon us and I have been cooking repeats the past two weeks!
But I swear on all that is porky, I’m going to cook something in the next day or two and share it. I feel like mushrooms wicked bad lately. Maybe I am anticipating my stuffed mushroom apps on Thanksgiving or maybe I just read the words “foraged mushroom ragu” on the Saporitos menu online and passed out in my chair a little. Stay tuned to find out.
Meanwhiles, did you want to see our Halloween costumes? I thought you might.
Friday, November 6, 2009
A single egg on toast. This is what I have found myself in front of for the last two weeks at breakfast time. I would like to say I’m embracing minimalism, but the truth is I’m flat broke at the moment, so an egg on toast is about as fancy as I can get. But you know what? Look at that egg on toast. It's absolute perfection and I haven't gotten tired of it once. Mmmm. I'd eat one right now.
I pride myself on being pretty frugal. I don’t blow money on fancy lattes, and I rarely go out to lunch. I like to try my best to pay my bills early and on time. I try to resist the dangerous lure of Anthropologie online. I understand when a lady of my means (as in a decent income earner but with redonkulous debt/ bills) isn’t rolling in dough, but I usually have enough leftover in the kitty for one grocery store splurge per week. So when I find myself flat broke as in, no I can’t buy coffee if I want my rent check to clear broke, as in sob to my boyfriend about the oil bill broke, I’m like “what the heck is going on?” And then I’m like “what the heck am I going to eat?” The answer I found, is check out what you’ve got and make stuff up. And then eat it, because well, you sort of have no other options. And then you find that sometimes its our restrictions that enable us to be the most creative. Alls you’ve got is some garlic, stale bread and a dream, this is when kitchen miracles can happen.
But also sometimes, when we’re too busy being lame-os boo hooing about our grocery budget and cobbling together meals, we also forget to take any decent pictures of anything. Like I did. So please forgive the lack of formal recipes or nice photos in this week’s post. I’ll get you back I promise.
So last week I unintentionally made some Halloween colored lunch. I cut up and roasted a butternut squash with some chunks of onion and some smashed, but not peeled, garlic cloves. Roasted at 400 for about 40 minutes. When the veggies were done, I squeezed the roasted garlic into a bowl, added a few splashes of sherry vinegar, some salt, pepper and sugar, whisked in some olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Then I made some Trader Joe’s instant beluga lentils (in the micro—although I will say I get skeeved about cooking foods in plastic bags but you know you gotta do what you gotta do). Tossed the lentils with the roasted veggies in the vinaigrette. I then ate this for three days for lunch with a couple crumbles of goat cheese on top. Dynomite. Also, black and orange! So festive.
THEN, on Tuesday night I was making dinner for the mans and me. I listed him the options: I have this, that, this, that, and bacon. He was like “oh use the bacon and the gnocchi” and I was like “hmmmm…okay” and then I set to work making one of those meals you’re kind of nervous the whole time you’re cooking that the end result is going to be disgusting. You know the ones? I fried up a couple slices of bacon, crumbled them, set them aside. Poured the bacon grease out of the pan. Using the same skillet added a little olive oil and sautéed some diced onion. When the onion was translucent I added some minced garlic, then some baby spinach, the bacon crumbles. I tossed all of this over some TJ’s gnocchi (oh btws, you do know that Trader Joe’s is the budget gourmand’s BFF 4EVA, right? If you didn’t now you know) and added, guess what? Goat cheese. If I ever have a show like Emeril goat cheese will be my BAM! Except I’ll have to figure out a good way to make it pop, like a real tag line. GOAT CHEESE! Maybe I’ll just bleat, like a goat. Or not. We’ll have to have a reader poll for that. And I also won’t be as annoying as Emeril I promise. Anywho. To accompany the spinach and bacon gnocchi, I roasted some cauliflower. Guess what? I really like cauliflower. I did not know this until recently. This Winter’s going to be cauliflower central, mark my words. So I sliced her up, drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar and tossed with salt and peps. Into a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Flip the cauliflower about half way through. It should get nice and caramelized on each side.
Meanwhile in a small pan toast some chopped almonds and bread crumbs (I used cracker crumbs, no diff.) in a tablespoon or so of butter. Just for a few minutes over med-low heat. When the cauliflower comes out toss in a bowl with the breadcrumbs and almonds. Say what? Do you know what butter toasted almonds and breadcrumbs can do to anything? Well, skies the limit.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
So the crusade of Fall cuisine continues here on Porky Dickens. How can we deny it? Fall is super sweet. Plus cooler weather makes you want to eat, right? Even if you prefer Summer, you can still at least appreciate Fall in all its glory, right? For one, it’s the season of harvest, it’s the start of the school year, it’s a good time to reincorporate scarves back into ye olde wardrobe, it can be brilliantly beautiful, you get to make Halloween costumes and also, everything and anything that isn’t nailed down gets the pumpkin spice treatment. Between pumpkin donuts, lattes, muffins and candles, Fall is the time when we are stretched to our collective pumpkin tolerance limits. It’s almost a bit much for me, because I live with a certified Fallcoholic. If there is something on your menu that involves pumpkin, is made with pumpkin or has spent any amount of time in, at or around a pumpkin patch, this woman is going to order it. She’s nuts for all things punkin’ (and you have to say it like that, too ‘punkin’).
Sometimes I roll my eyes, but I must admit that for some reason this year, I’m heavy into punkin’ myself. I’m ready to sprinkle pumpkin pie spice on everything that passes across my kitchen counter until at LEAST the day after Thanksgiving. When you’re baking with punkin’ and the related spices that hang with same, it smells like absolute heaven in your house. Last Friday I came home after work and set to work making these pumpkin muffins and a batch of homemade granola. On a whim, I decided to mix up my spices in the granola and add some pumpkin pie spice, as well as a little molasses, since I had to replace the brown sugar with regular sugar. Can I just tell you? Best. Granola. Eva. And the punkin’ muffins you ask? Easiest thing you ever saw and this is coming from an admitted total spaz when it comes to baking. About half way through any involved baking recipe, my kitchen looks like a tsunami of King Arthur Flour just rolled through and I’m at the point where I don’t care if it’s mixed right, I just want the dadgum thing in the oven already.
But these muffins are a dream. Make them. Your roommate will thank you. When I told Erica I had whipped up a batch she declared it the best Friday night of her whole life. If that makes us seem like pathetic old ladies, then I thank you to keep your judgment to yourself. These muffins have stayed moist and delicious all week long. Do yourself a favor and add a little punkin spice to your life. Also, while you’re at it, make my homemade granoler, and add punkin pie spice. You won’t regret it.
EASY PUNKIN’ MUFFINS
(slightly tweaked from a few different recipes found on Gourmet, smitten kitchen, and serious eats)
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 can solid packed punkin’
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin cups. Whisk pumpkin, oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt until smooth. Add in flour and baking powder and stir together until just combined.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. A little scoop with a scraper if perfect for this and measures it just right. Batter should be about ¾ of the way up the cup. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. Side note: I also think you could put together a nice streusel topping for this and they would be even more amazing, but I didn’t think of this until after mine were done.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Oh say, speaking of punkins check me out circa ‘ween of 85. Nice specs, right?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Last week I checked something off my list that I have been dying to try for a while. I finally made Indian food at home. Let me just say that the spices in Indian food make me go weak in the knees. I am in love with them. But I never really thought I could possibly reproduce the flavors in my very own kitchen.
This love affair with all things saag is a pretty recent development in my life. I mean, I had Indian food before the spring of 2007, but I never really got into it until then. I have NO idea why… I mean I guess I’ll just chalk up my lack of interest in Indian cuisine right up there with my former penchant for cargo pants: I was young, stupid and inexperienced hence, I had no taste. And jeez, let me just tell you that now Indian food is at the tippity top of my ethnic food echelon. Which is saying a lot because I have never met a drunken noodle that I didn’t like.
Fast forward to present day, when Paul and I go out for Indian food almost once a week. My spiral into malai kofta addiction has been aided in no small part by the fact that Paul’s apartment is within spitting distance to the ORIGINAL, as in very first, Indian restaurant in all of Cambridge. Sweet, sweet India Pavilion. When a place has been dishing out anything since the early 1970s and still draws a crowd: that my friends, is the place you wanna be. The Pavilion is our textbook Old Married Couple spot, where we, without fail, order the same thing every time, scrape our plates clean and are in and out of there in under 45 minutes for less than 40 bucks, with tip. Booyah. It’s a thing of beauty.
So eventually I just knew I would have to try my hand at making this cuisine in the comfort of my own home. And so I have been gearing up to make some homemade Indian food ever since my birthday when my dad’s girlfriend got me the best spice kit eva. I mean, it’s like a starter kit for all those great heady spices, and I love it because it means that I didn’t have to go to the exotic spice store and drop a mortgage payment picking up more packages of spices than I would ever rightly need and then ending up with them languishing on my spice rack for eternity if I failed at making anything palatable. This kit was like Indian cooking training wheels and I’m all about it. It also meant that when I once again came across this dope recipe for Chana Masala that I had every single one of the spices it called for.
Now it’s no secret that I really, really, really admire Orangette, the gorgeous, brilliantly written blog of Molly Wizenberg, and this here recipe is one that her main squeeze made for her and she in turn posted up on her site. Their love story is too cute for words and their collaborative recipes like this one are downright ridiculous. I made this last Thursday night after my millionth yoga class of the week. I felt so pious, sweating out my toxins with a few billion chattarungas and then whipping up some delicious Indian cuisine in my kitchen. I was a little nervous, I mean, what if it didn’t come out good? But I followed this recipe to a T and it was so delicious! See that picture below? That is me running into the living room to sit down and eat this. You can actually SEE my idiotic little foot sprinting towards the couch. The only modification that I made to this is that at the end, I dashed in a bit more cayenne and coriander and also, I did not use any cilantro; because cilantro is my mortal enemy. Also, I opted for the variation with yogurt. Meaning I spooned about two tablespoons of Greek yogurt in right before I ate it. It was SO good this way. This recipe is so spot on and detailed, I’m not going to muck it up by offering my own interpretation, I simply wanted to point you in its direction and urge you to make this. It’s also probably the cheapest thing I’ve ever cooked for dinner, I mean alls I needed was a can of tomatoes and two cans of chickpeas, hello! Perfect for the New Depression lifestyle.
Why Mass Pike Masala you ask? Oh I’m just realizing right now that my title is kind of random and odd because I rambled so much about Indian food, I didn’t even mention the Mass Pike. However, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you to go where we went on Sunday: out to North Adams in the Berkshires. It’s a heck of a drive but the towns in that area are quaint to the max and you absolutely have to go to Mass MoCA at some point in time. It’s such an excellent museum. The two main exhibits this time around were not as great as we had hoped (Hello, can some one put a ban on video art? Because I just feel like most of it sucks. Maybe that’s the jaded media studies student in me. My apologies). But regardless, it’s a beautiful drive and such a cool town and museum space. Let’s just say I highly recommend. Also, on the way home you can stop for a couple pudding pops in Shelburne Falls, Bill Cosby lives there.
More recipes to come, later on. I swear it.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Sweet mother of god, I have reached a new pizza utopia and its name is Skillet Pizza. (Infomercial voice now) What if I were to tell you in less than five minutes you would have a hot piping, cheesy slice of heaven in your hand without ever dialing the phone or having to tip a delivery man? What if I were to tell you that you would need only ONE PAN for the job. Ladies and gentlemen, Skillet Pizza has arrived.
Last Saturday night I was in charge of getting one of my main homies to her surprise 30th birthday party. As part of the web of lies that I spun trying to make this Saturday night out seem as natural as possible, I used this here blog as an excuse. “Say, I have to make something to post on Porky Dickens. Maybe instead of going out for a full dinner we could just eat some snacks at my house and then go out for dessert drinks and cocktails?” See, I had to occupy my friend’s time from 5:30 until 9: when we were scheduled to arrive at the party. BUT, in the interest of getting the surprise to go forward on time, we couldn’t take the risk of going out to dinner. And I dunno about your friends, but with my friends if we are hanging out together for a three hour stretch and one of the three major meals is not involved, it’s seriously suspect. So cheese, crackers and skillet pizzas to the rescue because if I’m lying to a dear friend, I’d at least like to be eating pizza while I’m doing it.
Only in recent years have I gotten into making pizza at home. It was always one of those dishes that I sort of felt like “why would I do this when [insert pizza place nearest my house] can do it so much better? And I don’t have to do dishes.” And I haaaaaaaate doing dishes because I’m allllwwaaays doing dishes. Enter THIS homemade pizza can be made in FIVE minutes, which means that you don’t have to sit in the pizza place waiting for it AND it means that you can drink wine while making it, which is something that most pizza places might frown upon/judge you for doing. Oh AND it’s ONE pan. Which is CAST IRON, which you don’t technically WASH! Dishes problem solved! Huzzah! (SO MANY CAPITALS! I FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT THIS PIZZA!)
Enough of the Caps Lock key, to the process:
(originally found on www.thekitchn.com)
Preheat broiler. Pour a tiny bit of olive oil into your skillet, spread evenly over the entire bottom of the pan in a thin coating. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Have all of your toppings ready to go. Once these things get sizzling you won’t have much time. I used store bought pizza dough (for shame) and I split the package in two in order to make two, thin-ish, round-ish pizza shapes. On a floured surface, roll out your dough to ½ or ¼ inch thickness and to a shape that resembles or at least fits in the confines of the pan you are using. Mine pizza was a bit on the thicker side despite the fact I had let my dough sit at room temperature for like, ever (which FYI makes it so much easy to roll out and handle). BUT, our apartment was without heat last week despite the temperature plummeting to 30 degrees in Massachusetts. So I prepared dinner in a coat and scarf and the preparation was peppered with awkward conversations with our landlord. Later in the evening, we offered our guests complimentary scarves and socks upon entry to our freeze box. Being a renter is so glam.
Place dough in hot skillet and let cook for a few minutes (about two). Lift corner of the dough and check for crispiness, it should be good and brown, maybe with some nice char in spots. If it’s ready, flip the dough over and add your toppings. Now, to cook the toppings and melt the cheese, you can do one of two things: you can place a lid on your pan to melt them (which I did not do because I don’t have a lid that fits on my awesomely ginormous skillet); or, alternately, you can place your skillet under the broiler and keep a close eye on it. Watch for your toppings to brown and your cheese to bubble. Take her out and slice her up.
Top your skillet pizzas with anything your little heart desires. I wanted to do a traditional pizza and a funky one. My first, I topped with pesto, roasted tomatoes and mozzarella and the second I topped with matchstick apples, bacon crumbles, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese. The apple bacon was ah-mazing. Be creative, be traditional, maybe just smear it with some butter and cinnamon and sugar and call it Poor Man's Fried Dough. Do whatever you want, just make sure to invite me over.
Friday, October 16, 2009
One medium white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Hot Italian chicken sausages
Salt, pepper, dried sage, crushed red pepper flakes (a good pinch of each)
½ cup white wine
1 large can cannellini beans, drained and briefly rinsed
1 large can crushed tomatoes, or whole peeled tomatoes in sauce
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Remove sausage from casing, or, slice into chunks, brown for a few minutes, until almost cooked through. Add chopped onions and sauté for another few minutes. Add garlic, salt, pepper, sage and crushed red pepper. Turn heat up just a touch and pour in wine. Stir to get browned bits off bottom of pan and let wine reduce (about 3-4 minutes). Add tomatoes and season to taste. Let simmer for about 30-40 minutes, while you prepare the rest of your dinner. I seasoned this quite a bit, because the tomatoes I had weren’t the greatest. So my sauce needed a big pinch of sugar and even more of salt for the tomato flavor to taste right to me. If you had some good tomatoes like San Marzona, this probably wouldn’t be necessary. I served this over wheat spaghetti, with whole grain bread and some sautéed spinach. It was a very filling and tasty dinner. Also, just the sauce heated up and spread on toast is a great partner to a salad for a healthy lunch the next day.
4-5 apples, peeled and sliced into smallish chunks
Equal parts light brown and white sugar (about 1/3 cup total)
Generous teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Zest and juice from half a lemon
Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg
½-1 cup brown sugar
Handfull rolled oats
1 package instant oatmeal, preferably in a flavor like cinnamon or maple Generous
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Preheat oven to 375. Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl. Toss and let sit while you prepare the crisp. Combine first four topping ingredients in a medium bowl. Add small cubes of cold butter and using a pastry blender or two knives combine into crumbles. Pour filling into a buttered baking dish, by now it should be nice and gooey and juicy. Top with crumble. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if you know what’s good for you.
*Disclaimer: every single thing about this recipe is an approximation. I used way more sugar originally, so in my directions above I scaled it back. I’m also writing this from memory and it’s Friday morning, so no guarantees on my recall abilities. Any crisp could be made with a general combination of the ingredients listed above. In a pinch, you can even make a crisp for two with only a packet of instant oatmeal, some brown sugar and a few dabs of butter.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Do you know what it’s like to live your whole entire life in a constant state of flinch? Well, I do. My sister can not help herself but to throw things. Perhaps you know a person like this. When we were little and my mom would bake bread or make homemade pizza dough she would use our big kitchen counter as her work space. There would be scraps, hunks and balls of dough lying around all over the place. If you thought perhaps you would be able to visit my house without being beaned off the top of the head with a hunk of raw dough, well, you had another thing coming.
Heather has, since my earliest memory, been throwing things at my head. For a lefty, she has a pretty good aim and almost always makes her mark. The process goes a little something like this: throw, (thud) when dough/roll hits person (usually me) in head, Heather then lets out a loud cackle and, depending on her liquid intake that day, pees her pants. This sequence happens in short order and it is as much a family tradition as French donuts and quiche on Christmas morning. Her arsenal of good-throwin’ objects includes, but is not limited to: raw bread dough, fully cooked dinner rolls, play dough, bouncy balls (any size) and on one unfortunate occasion, a breakfast sausage link. Visiting friends and family members alike have become accustomed to her. Either they develop faster reflexes or they just learn to fight back.
Now if you know someone like my sister, probably the last thing you’re ever going to want to do with them is take them to an apple orchard. There is ammunition EVERYWHERE, all of which is in varying stages of decay. The decay ups the chances that the apple, when it comes into contact with your skull, will splatter. This is hugely awesome for someone who likes to throw things at other people. Something hits you in the head while you’re unsuspectingly picking apples: awesome. Said something that hits you in the head splatters apart: double awesome. Fallen apples are by far one of the most disgusting, and therefore highly sought after, forms of ammunition for someone like my sister. Heather doesn’t say “let’s go apple picking” she says “I can’t wait to go apple hucking.” So much so that the term apple hucking has become part of our fall vernacular.
Me I don’t so much like to huck apples. Partly because I am such a bad throw, I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, but also partly because I’m mostly trying to get through the apple picking part of the day as quickly as possible so I can get to the donut eating, cider drinking part of the day, and then later the part of the day where you make something delicious with your apples that fills your house with cinnamon-y smells. So if you come apple picking with me, don’t expect to get beaned off the top of your head with apples. Instead, if you find me ‘round the orchard, no need to flinch, I will be too busy doing any of the following activities:
Enlisting the help of some pint sized assistants:
Becoming obsessed with the wee baby apples:
Thinking to myself “good lawd, how is it possible I am this pale already?”
Taking more pictures of apples than the average parent takes of their first born children.
Baking those very apples into tiny hand pies. Maybe channeling a little Martha and wrapping those pies with wax paper and string for a photo op. Jeez, so corny, I might as well have dressed the pies up in a doggy tutu or some other ridiculousness.
You might also see me getting so lazy and tired of folding together tiny pies that I scoop the remainder of the crust/ apple filling up and dump it all into a rather messy galette-ish type creation.
You might also see me dropping said galette face down onto the filthy stairs of my apartment as I try to carry in the groceries, laundry, lunch bag and (unused) gym clothes in one carry. You might also hear some swear words.
But then the next night you might see me fearlessly tackle yet another apple dessert. Opting this time for the easy peas-y crowd pleasing, cheap, I-have-all-the-ingredients-right-here Apple Crisp.
You might hear me say multiple times while peeling, coring, chopping, sugaring and crumble-making say something to the effect of “I got her numbah. How do you like them apples?” You might think I am complete tool for this, but I will say it approximately 14 times. And maybe even once more while writing this.
You might also hear me being a total dork and saying "apples, prepare to meet your maker" while staging the above photo. I mean what do you expect? I titled my last blog post "Porky Chickens" for god's sake. I'm a total corn ball.
You might see me do all of these things with apples, but you won’t see me throwing them at your head. At least, you won’t see me hitting you in the head, like I said, I’m a bad shot. Luckily I’ve got my sister for that.
Recipes to come.