Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dinner Report - Pork Arepas with Cabbage Slaw from Food and Wine

Against my better judgement I let Vince pick a dinner this week.  Amazingly, he didn't pick the single most labor intensive thing he could think of but rather Pork Arepas with Cabbage Slaw from January's Food and Wine.  If you haven't had an arepa, you have missed out - its masa dough wrapped around a filling of something delicious (in this case roast pork and cheese) then fried until crispy and brown.  This recipe called for topping the arepas with sour cream, pickled jalapeno and cilantro plus a tangy red cabbage and onion slaw.  All in all the dish was spectacular - the creamy, crispy arepa, cold sour cream, blazing hot jalapeno, and cruncy slaw with just a touch of cilantro.  I was in heaven. 

As always I didn't get a good picture but I've borrowed the illustration from Food and Wine's website where you will find the recipe if you're of a mind.  Actually I think ours looked better but that's just me.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

My condiment problem

It actually might qualify as an addiction.  I have almost never met a condiment I didn't want to buy.  Pickled garlic cloves?  Oh yeah.  Habanero orange jelly?  Bring it on.  Salsa de pocha?  Do I even know what that is?  Doesn't matter, I want it.  Does it have a cool name or a vintage style label?  I'm there even faster.

The end result of this is a refrigerator crammed with jars, bottles and cans, in some cases stacked two deep in the door. It doesn't help me much that nobody in this house worships at the altar of the condiment like I do. 

In keeping with my plan to do new things this year, I'm going to set my mind to creating meals using up some of these goodies and if they turn out not to be so good, I will toss the stuff out.  Maybe by 2013, I'll have one of those clean, spare refrigerators like you see on Barefoot Contessa. 

Don't hold your breath.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The best peanut butter cookies you'll ever bake (or taste)

So far I haven't been eating very dangerously in 2012 but another of my resolutions has been to wean my kids off store bought cookies and snacks in favor of the homemade version.  To that end, I made my favorite peanut butter cookies yesterday for the lunch boxes this week.  Its an insanely easy recipe with a secret weapon - Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Minis. 

If you haven't encountered these little darlings, they are tiny peanut butter cups which come in a bag already unwrapped.  They're a bit bigger than a chocolate chip, which means they're a little too big to add to the cookie dough whole.  Sadly, the chef has to chop them lightly, which often causes one or two to leap off the cutting board and into the mouth of the person chopping.  Yeah, its a dirty job...

At any rate, if you can't find Reese's Minis, milk chocolate chips are a reasonable substitution.  Happy baking!

Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes ~24 cookies

1-1/2 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup smooth peanut butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped miniature peanut butter cups or milk chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line with parchment two cookie sheets.

2. Whisk the flour and baking soda together and set aside.

3. Beat the butter and sugars together until well blended. Add egg, peanut butter and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat until just brought together.

4. Mix in peanut butter cups or chocolate chips (if using) by hand until well distributed.

5. Scoop into 1-inch cookies and criss cross the tops with a fork, pressing down lightly. A bit of water on the fork helps if the dough is soft.

6. Bake 12-14 minutes, watching carefully as they can burn rather quickly. Better to underbake than overbake so don’t let them get too brown.

7. Cool then store in an airtight container for up to a week.


• You can substitute almond butter, tahini or cashew butter for the peanut butter. I haven’t used chunky peanut butter but I imagine it would work just fine.
• Chocolate chips or peanut butter cups are optional but add a lot to the finished cookie.
• You can also add chopped nuts or other chunky items (toffee chips, crisped rice, etc.) to add texture.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lemony Pickled Cauliflower

Okay, so this jar looks like something Hannibal Lechter had in his garage, which only proves yet again that I'm a terrible photographer, but in reality it contains amazing, cold, crunchy deliciousness in the form of lemony pickled cauliflower.  I know, I know, cauliflower is probably second only to Brussels sprouts in  the hated vegetable pantheon but really that's only because it has been abused so much over the years.  I always felt it needed to be blanketed in as much cheese sauce as possible to make it palatable so I'm not sure what made me try this recipe but boy, did it change my opinion.  

I got the original recipe from Serious Eats and ended up tweaking it a bit to make it even more lemony and tart.  Once the cauliflower has rested in the pickling brine for a bit, pull some out, drizzle it with a little olive oil and toss in some parsley for an amazing winter salad.  Caroline and I served it at her house with ham and the ravening hoardes fell on it like it was their last meal.  The best part is that since its a refrigerator pickle, you don't have to have any special equipment to partake of its goodness.  

This recipe makes two quarts

2 lemons, washed and slices
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
8-10 black peppercorns
1 good sized head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups water
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • Prepare two clean quart jars by adding two slices of lemon, one slice garlic clove and 4-5 peppercorns to the bottom of each jar.
  • Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil in a sauce pan large enough to hold all the cauliflower.
  • Once the water/vinegar mixture is boiling, stir to dissolve the salt then add the cauliflower.
  • Stir the cauliflower until the water/vinegar mixture returns to the boil then remove from the heat.
  • Using a slotted spoon, fill each jar halfway with cauliflower.  Add another couple of lemon slices to the jar then fill with the rest of the cauliflower.  
  • Pour the hot water/vinegar brine over the cauliflower then top each jar with another lemon slice.
  • Cap the jars, allow to cool a little then refrigerate for at least 12 hours before eating.
  • Admire your handiwork (the jars look really pretty in person - much better than my pathetic photo above) then eat and enjoy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Biscuits, Part Deux

I'm in no danger of becoming a great photographer so I've finally given in and started using #2's iPod to get quick pictures without a lot of fuss.  It gets even better now that I've figured out how to e-mail the pictures directly from the iPod to the blog.  Maybe someday I'll get a great camera but in the meantime the shoot and send thing is working. 


Here's the biscuit recipe.  I think I posted it once before but I'm such a lazy blogger I'm just going to do it again and be done with it.  Many thanks to Betty Crocker and my dear mom for many breakfasts of delicious flaky goodies.

Makes about 15 1.5 inch biscuits

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with parchment or a spray of cooking spray.
  • Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. 
  • Cut the butter into small pieces and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers.
  • Mix in the buttermilk until just blended then turn out onto a floured board or counter.
  • Knead lightly until the dough just comes together then pat out about 1 inch thick.
  • Cut into rounds with a biscuit or cookie cutter and place on the prepared cookie sheet about an inch apart.
  • Bake for 10-14 minutes, depending on your oven, until golden brown.
  • Serve with LOTS of butter, jelly or sausage gravy.
I'm not going to lie - I've been known to make the dough in the food processor but honestly, the texture is so much better when you cut the butter in by hand that I try not to.  Another thing to note is that the better the butter (think Plugra or Kerrygold) the better the biscuit but Land O Lakes works just fine if that's what you have.

Oh, and you can add cheese if you want to.  About half a cup of good cheddar works great and they're even better if you add a pinch of cayenne or chipotle pepper. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Brand New Year but the Same Old Breakfast

Welcome 2012!  Another year and more potential culinary adventures.  I can't wait to see what this year brings.

In the meantime it never ceases to entertain me that my Chinese children love biscuits and gravy more than any other thing I've ever fed them.  No congee for my young ones, no sir, they love the artery clogging deliciousness of sausage gravy poured over my mother's famous biscuits. 

It was a revelation to me that my mother's delicious biscuits were not some long secret family recipe only to be revealed on one's deathbed but rather straight from the pages of her 1956 Betty Crocker cookbook. When she died I took possession of said cookbook and I have to admit, I've never made a better biscuit than the recipe she used.

I'm going to post this now because I want to get it done for January 1, but I'll post the recipe tomorrow.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2012 - My Year of Eating Dangerously

I haven't been a very good blogger, which is abundantly clear to anyone who has ever looked at this blog.  Part of it is the challenge of not having a good camera, part is that my original intent has been overcome by the reality of life with a full time job, two kids (or three if you consider the 52 year old who also lives in my house), sports, laptop issues, you name it.  I know there are plenty of bloggers who are able to pull it all together and blog regularly but I don't seem to be one of them.

So I've decided to change my approach and do something different for 2012.  Because I've been in such a rut, I'm going to try some new things, in fact, I want to try at least one new thing a month for the year then write about it.  A couple of things I'm thinking about are almost embarrassing for someone who claims to be a foodie - I want to try Korean food.  Yeah, I know, it is so last year but I've never had it and think it is something I ought to experience.  I'm also going to try my hardest to like fish in some form other than battered and fried.  That one might be a harder sell than Korean but I'm going to give it a shot. 

I already took a leap, which sounds completely lame to anyone who is a die hard foodie, but I ate a Cuban sandwich not long ago.  I always thought they sounded good but I'm not a pickle lover so I avoided them because of the pickles.  Anyway, Jane, Barbara and I went to Bryan Voltaggio's new lunch place in Frederick and I tried the Cuban.  I won't say the heavens opened and the angels sang but it was tasty enough that I was sorry I waited this long to try one. 

Here's a picture of Chef Voltaggio, who just happened to be working the counter the day we were there.  He's mighty cute in person, ladies.  Oh, yeah, mighty, mighty cute.

And if there's anyone out there who has any suggestions for more dangerous things for me to eat, I'll take them.  And if there's anything interesting that happens in between dangerous posts, I'll blog about that as well.