A kitchen scavenger and general force of chaos and destruction which somehow leads, in the end, to dinner.
Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Normally this means a two-hour drive to see the in-laws, but we’ve moved now. I suppose if we were diligent young people we would make the drive this year as well, either back to Texas for his family or down to Florida for mine.
We are staying in New Orleans. The original plan was a low-key Thanksgiving dinner at home, just us corvids and our cats. But people are really nice here. A pair of our new friends discovered we were planning to spend Thanksgiving alone and invited us to join them.
Obviously we’re bringing food. Lime pie. Biscuits. And this corn bread.
The best thing about this is how moist the pumpkin makes the finished bread. I wasn’t even remotely tempted to add butter or more maple syrup to serve. It’s also unbelievably easy to put together, but don’t tell our new friends that. I want them to be impressed.
This recipe is adapted from the Comfort of Cooking.
Ingredients (makes two 9-inch round loaves. serves 12-16)
8 T butter
2/3 C sugar
3 T maple syrup
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 C milk
2/3 C pumpkin puree
1/2 t salt
1 C corn meal
1 C flour
Melt the butter.
Add sugar and maple syrup to the butter.
Whisk to combine.
Add milk and eggs.
Whisk again and add the pumpkin.
More whisking. Such a lovely shade of orange.
Add the dry ingredients.
Do not whisk. Fold the flour and corn meal and baking soda salt into the batter. Do not over-mix.
Scoop the batter into two buttered 9-inch cake pans.
Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.
This is perfect unadorned. Mr. B likes to dunk his cornbread in milk. I like mine with a side of simmered greens. And of course it goes perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner.
Every time I drive down to New Orleans proper, I regret leaving my camera at home. I’ll find myself pulling over to write down the intersection of a building whose cracks seem held together only by the lacing shut of climbing ivy, another house so splintered and broken it’s hard to imagine people once lived there. I have always been fond of broken things, and a great deal of the city is just that. In less broken places, I stare at trees. There’s so much green here. Combine the effects of general clumsiness (made worse by my petulant insistence on wearing heels), the crevasses and undulations of local sidewalks, and this new habit of staring up to follow whorls of bark and twists of branches, and there’s no doubt I’m going to end up falling rather horribly one of these days. But somehow, whenever I step out I think I’ll be too busy to take pictures; better leave the camera at home till next time.
Yeah. That needs to stop.
Succotash is a simple Southern dish. I like to pair it with black bean burgers, using the same spices for both and letting the sweetness of the corn balance the savory burgers.
Ingredients (serves 4 as a side)
2 T butter
1 cup frozen lima beans
1 cup frozen corn
2 T mustard
2 t paprika
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cream
This is so easy. Pop the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Add the lima beans and corn.
Then add mustard, paprika, and lime
Stir and cook for 5-7 minutes to ensure that the vegetables are no longer frozen. Add the cream and stir briefly.
Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has reduced and the lima beans are tender through.
Serve with black bean burgers.
I love cheeseburgers.
For those of you blinking in surprise, or perhaps double checking that this is in fact a kosher blog, don’t worry. They’re vegetarian.
See, black beans make even better patties than meat. They’re flavorful and moist and not at all chewy. I can’t be the only person in the world who thinks that ground beef has a slightly unpleasant texture, can I? Surely someone else has noticed this. Black beans, though? Sublime.
This is one of those things that I just throw together in my poor, overworked food processor. I’m sure it would be possible to make without a food processor, but I have not done it any other way, so all directions are going to assume you have one.
Okay. It’s burger time.
Ingredients (makes about 6 sliders or probably 3-4 regular burgers.)
1 slider bun, either left on the counter overnight or slightly toasted
1 15-oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
zest of 1 lime
cilantro (fresh or dried) to taste
1/2-1 t mustard powder
1 t chile powder
1/2 t paprika (not shown)
1-2 t salt
Tear up the bun and put it in the bowl of your food processor.
Pulse until you’ve got crumbs no larger than peas.
Add lime zest, cilantro, chile powder, paprika, mustard powder, and salt.
Pulse just to combine.
Add black beans and egg.
Pulse a few more times to break up the beans and make a paste.
Form patties with your hands and fry with a little butter or oil (except really, you’re going to use butter, right? Butter is better.) in a skillet over medium-high heat. The sliders took about 3-4 minutes a side to crisp up nicely and cook through. I did not take pictures of this step because my hands were covered in bean paste and I prefer my camera to be not-covered in bean paste.
Add cheese and buns and all your favorite burger toppings.
Serve with succotash. You may have thought fries would be more appropriate, but no. Burgers are meant to go with succotash.
I made these back in Texas. These are not po-boys (though I am discovering that the roast beef po-boy is a thing of beauty, truly). There is nothing N’awlins about these sandwiches.
Which is a shame, because they are so very good.
Also, I put french fries directly into my sandwiches. ‘Cause folks, I am classy. You know how I know it’s classy? When I was fourteen, I went to France. There was a lovely little sandwich shop in Nice where the incredibly snooty gentleman running this hole-in-the-wall made just such a sandwich, with roast beef and mustard and greens and fries all wrapped up in the bun. And clearly if it is done in France, even in a little backstreet dive, it is classy.
It is possible that I need to get out more.
This is one of my favorite sandwiches. It is in all ways superior to the hamburger, containing chopped beef instead of a ground beef patty, a good (though in this instance store-bought) roll instead of a too-soft hamburger bun, an abundance of spinach, and of course, the fries are inside the sandwich.
A fact which gives me no end of glee. Just go with it, okay?
Ingredients (makes 2 big sandwiches)
For the steak:
1/2 to 3/4 lb inexpensive steak
3-4 T red wine vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T mustard
salt, paprika, and white pepper to taste
For the sandwiches:
1/2 to 3/4 lb cooked and chopped steak
2 crusty sandwich rolls (or one baguette)
a big handful of spinach
1 large potato and cooking oil for french fries
mustard, to taste (my preference is for about 2 T/sandwich
hot sauce to taste
Make the steak. For me, the only way to do this is with my delightful mini-smoker. Seriously, that thing was hands down the best $30 I ever spent for the kitchen, and now it’s only $22. Combine all the marinade items in a zip-top bag and add the steak. Marinate at least an hour.
Smoke for 25 minutes or cook it another way if you aren’t into perfect smoked meat straight off the stove. While it’s smoking (or pan-searing or braising or however you cook your steak), heat a few inches of vegetable oil, slice a potato into 1/2 inch sticks, and fry.
Set the fries aside. When the steak is done, give it a couple of minutes to rest away from heat.
Now is a good time to grill up your bread. Not a required step, but oh so good. Just heat a bit of olive oil or margarine and maybe a smashed clove of garlic in a small skillet and grill.
Now chop your beef.
Spread mustard on the top half of your roll, and dot some hot sauce on the bottom. If that doesn’t look like much hot sauce, please bear in mind that it is Blair’s After Death sauce, which is pretty darn hot, and also I am a complete wimp when it comes to Scovilles.
Add spinach, meat, and some fries.
Devour. Crunch spinach, gnaw meat, make sad little whimpering noises because Blair’s hot sauce is really quite hot and there are about ten whole drops of it on this one little sandwich.
You can stop laughing anytime. I already admitted that I’m a capsaicin wuss.
I won’t call this my favorite sandwich. There’s a grilled cheese with that honor which I think will never be unseated. But it definitely makes the top three. It is delightful, contains only a smidgen of guilt, and is simple enough to make on a weeknight when you’d rather eat with your hands in front of the television than at the table like people.
The hardest thing for me to get used to in New Orleans is one of the things I like most about it. But I also hate it. It’s ridiculous.
See, I’m not a people person. I’m shy, and awkward, and really really don’t know how to handle it when strangers strike up conversations out of the blue.
Everyone is just so darn nice here. They all want to talk. They’re friendly. They actually wait, looking interested in your answer, after saying “hi, how are you?” I just want to run away and hide in the produce department until they’ve all gone. Maybe I could live there, among the collard greens.
My first visit to the local grocery store involved no fewer than four conversations with strangers. While I was just shopping quietly. First a lovely older gentleman asked me whether “that green stuff” I’d just put in my cart was kale. It was not. It was collard greens. Two pounds of them. Don’t judge me. At any rate, I took a few minutes to show the man to the kale, tell him how to cook it, and nod while he complained about his wife making him buy this crap she saw on “that food channel on the TV.” Okay, fine. I’ve got all day to shop, and food is a more than comfortable topic for me. I was even cheerful at the end of it.
So I moved on from produce. And as I picked up some soy sauce a teenaged girl in a hoodie came up and said “Hey, what are you having for dinner tonight?”
Surely she’s just mistaken me for someone she knows, I thought. But she looked so expectant. “Sorry, me?” I asked.
“Yeah. I don’t know what to make. Give me some ideas. My name’s Sam, by the way.”
“Um. I’m making tacos.” She looked pointedly at the soy sauce. “This is for tomorrow. Teriyaki chicken.”
This was followed by ten minutes of explaining and writing down how to make teriyaki. Again, this is in the middle of an aisle of the grocery store. By this point I was seriously befuddled. I don’t know what I would have done without my grocery list.
The third conversation was expected, at least. It’s normal for customers and clerks to chat in order to avoid awkward silences during check out.
Still. She took one look at my driver’s license and said “You ain’t from Dallas.”
“Dallas. That’s not where you’re from originally. You’re a small town girl. I can tell.”
It’s true, actually, though my small town in South Florida has gotten pretty big since I’ve moved away. At this point, I’d surpassed my ability to converse with strangers for the day. I had a ton of groceries, which seemed like a good excuse to go home.
Unfortunately, I had a ton of groceries. Unfortunately, everyone around here is unreasonably nice. So a random guy in the parking lot offered to help me load my car. While talking nonstop about football. (Thanks for the help, random guy, but to be honest I wasn’t even sure what sport the Saints played until halfway through that conversation*. Sorry.)
So basically, everyone here is very friendly and it’s very nice and I just want to hide in my apartment alone and talk to people on the Internet like God intended from now on. And bake blondies. With liquor in them. Everything’s better with moonshine, right?
Ingredients (makes an 8×8″ pan of bars, about 12-16 servings)
1 stick/8 T/ 1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T apple flavored moonshine. Or Goldschlager. Or just a nice bourbon.
1 C flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 T cinnamon
2 apples (I used a gala and a Braeburn, because that’s what was in the apartment)
1 C butterscotch chips (substitute nuts if you like. My way is less healthy, but way tastier.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl.
Cream them well and add an egg.
Add moonshine, too. Mix just to combine.
Add the flour, leavenings, salt, and cinnamon. Mix just to combine.
Peel and chop your apples. (If Arctic Apples get put on the market, you’ll be able to do this ahead of time without them browning. I want to play with this feature.)
Add the apple bits and butterscotch chips (or nuts, if using)
Fold them into the batter.
Butter an 8×8″ pan and spread the batter evenly into it.
Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes. These are easier to cut once they’ve cooled, but it’s hard to wait that long.
They are ooey-gooey, tasty, apple-filled delights. Serve alone, or with a shot of moonshine (no, grandma, I’m not an alcoholic. The flavors are complementary.), or the very best way, with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. Devour.
*The Saints do play football, right? I hope so, because otherwise I made an ass of myself in that convesation.
Posted in Uncategorized on September 27, 2012
So, it’s been a while. Months and months. See, I’ve been traveling. A quick jaunt to Missouri for a wedding. A preliminary saunter to Louisiana to look at apartments. A trip (and fall) to New York to hang out with my sister (who canceled) and some very old friends (who did not). The official word came somewhere in all of this: Mr. Blackbird’s entire lab was transferring to New Orleans. We suddenly had to pack, break our lease, find a new one, no really, actually pack things in boxes, see friends in Dallas almost daily because all too soon they won’t be local, oh dear God we’re moving in three days why is nothing packed?
So, that was fun. We made it, driving through nonstop rain on Rosh Hashanah. Almost everything is unpacked, though in this smaller apartment I don’t know where to set up to take pictures yet. The kitchen is stocked and I’m ready to get back to the blog.
So far, the most interesting thing about New Orleans appears to be…everything. We live within walking distance of a drive through daiquiri place and an OTB parlor. Mr. B worried that this might mean we’re in a bad part of town, at first. Then he realized that every part of town is like that. The city has so much personality, and I’m excited to start digging into it. But the biggest culture shock so far has been this.
That’s moonshine. Corn whiskey in a mason jar. I picked it up at the grocery store. Now, maybe that’s not a big deal to some folks, but back in Texas if you want liquor, you’ve got to go to the liquor store. It won’t be open anytime convenient (and definitely not on Sundays) and it’ll be down in Dallas county because the cities you live and work in are semi-dry. The liquor store most certainly won’t carry apple pie flavored moonshine in a mason jar. And as whiskey is my only real vice, I just about started dancing in the aisles when I saw this in the grocery store. Next to the blueberry, cherry, and rhubarb moonshine. A few steps away from the sweet tea vodka. Now, if you notice the half-empty
bottle mason jar and realize that I’ve lived here less than two weeks… well, in my defense, I was sick as can be for the first five days or so and a few hot toddies do wonders for a sore throat. Also, yum.
Plus, baking! I love baking with liquor, and liquor that tastes like apple pie is just begging to be made into apple-filled desserts. Bread pudding with apples and cranberries. Apple pie blondies. Maybe a shot or two while the blondies are in the oven. Guys, this moonshine is delicious.
I really did make apple pie and moonshine blondies. Once we get back from this next holy-Moses-this-had-better-be-the-last-trip-for-awhile weekend back in Dallas, I’ll even give y’all a recipe.
Anyone who prefers to eat seasonally should probably look away until autumn. July is no time for casseroles, surely. No time for pumpkin and kale, or the heady scent of nutmeg.
Sometimes I’m ready for fall before it’s ready for me. Sometimes you need a deep dish of savory bread pudding, and who cares if it’s 90 degrees outside after dark? Greens are good all year round, and this recipe prefers silky canned pumpkin to the fresh little ones we won’t be able to find at the shops until September, so it can be made anytime. If you can bear to turn on your oven in this heat, this is the dish to do it for.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1/2 of a baguette, sliced
1 lb kale
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups milk
4 oz cheese (I used half Gruyère and half Drunken Goat)
white pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Trim away the kale stems, tear the leaves into manageable chunks, and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain well.
Arrange the baguette slices in an oval pan or an 8×8 inch brownie pan.
Stuff kale between the slices.
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.
Combine the eggs, pumpkin, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl.
Mix them together thoroughly.
Pour the mixture over the bread and kale and sprinkle the Parmesan over the top.
Wait 5-10 minutes to let the liquid soak completely into the bread. Turn the oven to 375°F while you wait. When ready, bake the bread pudding for 40-45 minutes.
Serve immediately. This would be good with a light salad, but I had no difficulty eating this on its own and justifying seconds by telling myself it had kale in it, so it’s practically health food.
How could anyone say no to that?
I seem to have developed an addiction to garam masala. It’s good in curries, on cooked greens, even sprinkled over popcorn. The fact that I’d never even tried Indian food until a few months ago seems to be no deterrent at all to now trying a new Indian recipe every week or two. It’s delightful; how did I go almost twenty-seven years without tasting the cuisine of an entire sub-continent?
Last week Mr. B and I were both sick, in need of comfort food, but also in the mood for something new and different. A curry of chicken and potatoes, spooned over warm naan, fit the bill perfectly.
I adapted this recipe rather heavily from e-curry (a blog I can’t seem to stop reading), replacing tomato sauce with one made from carrots among other things.
Ingredients (serves 4)
For the marinade:
6 T Greek yogurt
3 T lime juice
1 T turmeric
1 T chile powder (less if you don’t want it too hot. Hatch pepper is pretty mild, though)
1 t mustard powder
1 t salt
1- 1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs or breasts
For the curry:
3 T vegetable or olive oil
2 t garam masala
1 t turmeric
1 t salt
1/2 cup carrot sauce (substitute tomato sauce if you like)
2-3 hot chiles
1 T brown sugar
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup lime juice
1 cup peas (optional)
Combine all marinade ingredients (except the chicken) in a zip top bag.
Mush them together and add the chicken. Marinate at least an hour. Overnight is better.
Cut the potato into large chunks (about 12). Heat the 3 T oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and add the potatoes.
Sprinkle the potatoes with turmeric and garam masala and salt.
Crank the heat down to medium-low and add the chicken and its marinade.
Add the carrot sauce* (or tomato, if using)
Add the broth and stir well. Split the chiles lengthwise and add them as well.
Stir in the brown sugar.
Cover the pot and lower the heat to a bare simmer. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes.
Remove the lid and Stir in the lime juice. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until the sauce is the desired consistency. Add peas directly if you like. Mr. B does not care for peas so I cooked them separately and stirred them into my portion.
Serve with warm naan or over rice.
This is good, hot, just-spicy-enough comfort food. For a little more kick, add a few dried pequin peppers before simmering, or a dash of very hot sauce.
* I’ve made carrot sauce here before, but (1) frankly I’m embarrassed at how this blog used to look (not that it’s all that much better now…) and (2) that sauce is bay-leaved and parmesaned and otherwise Italian influenced, so here’s a more basic straight-up carrot sauce.
Ingredients (makes 2 cups)
1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped
2 T olive oil or butter
2 t salt
2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
1/2 cup white wine
Heat the oil or butter in a pot over medium-high heat and add the carrots. Sprinkle with salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until the carrots caramelize.
Add the broth or water an simmer, covered, about 15 minutes
Remove the lid and add the wine.
Continue cooking to reduce the liquid by about half.
Turn the now-soft carrots and liquid into a sauce using an immersion blender, a blender, a food processor, or a potato ricer and patience.
Add any flavors you like, serve over pasta or use to replace tomato sauce in any recipe.
Pizza is not at all difficult to make. It requires a little planning, and a choice between a food processor and elbow grease. That’s about it. Make pizza at home, and not only will it be piping hot and crispy-crusted from the oven, but you can put any toppings you want on it, and any (or no) sauce.
I make pizza at home by necessity. While there are pizza places I can trust not to attempt tomato homicide (love ya, Urban Crust), for the most part pizza out just isn’t worth the risk or the expense. Enter pizza at home. You don’t have to have a pizza stone to make it–heck, my “pizza stone” is an old stone chess board I picked up for $3 (The chess pieces are my pie weights), and it replaces an 18″ square unfinished stone tile from Home Depot that snapped when we moved. Before the tile, I used a cookie sheet. Want a deep dish pizza? Use a cast iron skillet. Ignore people who tell you the only way to make good pizza at home is with expensive equipment. It just isn’t true, and you’ll miss out on good pizza if you trust them.
For the crust, I adapt Mark Bittman’s crust from How to Cook Everything. For the topping, I just use whatever I feel like at the time–in this case, asparagus, artichokes, and goat cheese. This recipe makes a small pizza to serve 2-3 people. Double it to serve more.
For the crust:
1 t instant yeast
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 cup warm water
2 T olive oil
For the topping:
1/2 lb grated mozzarella
4 oz goat cheese
1/2 lb cooked asparagus (steamed, roasted, however you like)
10-12 cooked artichoke hearts (sautéed in lemon butter is best; steamed, boiled, or roasted will work)
a pinch of salt
1-1 1/2 cups sauce of your choice, if desired
Pour the flour, yeast, and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse briefly to combine.
With the blade running, drizzle in the water and olive oil. As soon as the dough comes together in a cohesive ball, turn off the food processor.
Knead the dough briefly and form it into as round a ball as you can. Place this dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl.
Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise for at least an hour or up to two. If you need it to rest longer, put it in the fridge.
Turn the risen dough out onto a chess board/tile/cookie sheet that you’ve lightly dusted with a bit of flour or cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 500°F. No, that is not a typo. You need a really hot oven for pizza. it will cook fast and crisp up beautifully.
Punch it into a rough circle. (Full disclosure: my pizzas are usually unholy trapezoids, shapes that fit neatly into the dreams of great Cthulhu and are best not seen by sane men. This is the real reason I’ve never written about a pizza on here before. This one looks all right, though.)
Let the crust sit another ten minutes or so, so that you can smack it back into shape if that pesky gluten tries to contract and shrink your pizza. Add your sauce, if using, then cheese and toppings. I actually like to put the toppings underneath the cheese, because the cheese glues them down and keeps them from sliding around when the pizza is cut, but they look better on top. It’s up to you.
Bake at 500°F for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt (and any other spices you like) and serve piping hot.
So good. Pizza you can eat on the couch, knowing it hasn’t been marinating in its own sweat for half an hour in the backseat of a delivery person’s car.
A note about cutting pizza: I hate pizza cutting wheels, because there is not enough room in anyone’s kitchen for a tool that’s only good for one thing. I use a sharp knife and press down with a gentle rocking motion, without sawing or sliding, until it cuts through. The pizza gets cut, all the cheese does not slide off, everyone is happy. Well, everyone except the guy who was secretly trying to steal all the cheese.
Cauliflower gets a bad rap. It really isn’t fair. It’s mild, succulent, and easy to prepare, yet I know far too many people who won’t consider eating it without first drowning it beyond recognition in an unholy sauce of Velveeta cheese. Don’t get me wrong here, I love cheese, but sometimes your vegetables deserve better.
Enter cauliflower couscous. During Passover, it takes the place of grains. The rest of the time, it’s simply a favorite accompaniment to salmon or a cheese plate or anything made of lamb.
I saw this recipe in a cookbook called the Breakaway Cook and for some reason failed to buy it. I probably changed the method drastically, and added greens because everything is better with greens. Add a good dose of citrus and a touch of olive oil and you’re good to go.
1 head of cauliflower
1/3 to 1/2 lb collard green chiffonade
1/4 cup yuzu, lime, or lemon juice (yuzu juice can be hard to find, but more than worth keeping an eye out for.)
2-3 T olive oil
salt, to taste
Chop the cauliflower into florets.
Place the florets in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the pieces mostly range between the size of peas and grains of rice. I find this easier in small batches, a handful at a time, but if your food processor is larger and less prone to let pieces of food surf above the blades than mine, feel free to do it all at once.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat and add the cauliflower. Drizzle the olive oil over it and sauté for about 10 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the yuzu (or lemon or lime) juice. Pop a lid over the pan and steam for another 10 minutes.
Crank the heat back up to high and add the greens. Cook, stirring constantly, another 3-5 minutes.
Add salt to taste and serve piping hot. This is an amazing accompaniment to honey-braised lamb shanks, but just as good as a main dish with a plate of olives and bocconcini. It’s simple enough to be worth making even when cooking for one, and good enough to bring out for company. It’s especially useful if, like most of us, you’re used to providing some kind of grain with dinner but are feeding someone who can’t eat gluten.
You could easily mix it up to complement a different palate–make it with peas and turmeric instead of greens with Indian food, or add some diced eggplant and apricots for a Middle Eastern meal. Use orange juice and sliced olives one time, red wine and figs the next. I’ll always come back to greens, though; there’s nothing quite like greens in almost any savory dish you can think of.