Monday, April 30, 2012

Farewell, my trusty KitchenAid

I think my KitchenAid is dying.

If so, it's had a good life. I've used it almost daily for ten years. I've lugged it into eight different residences, bought and replaced various attachments, and taken a screwdriver to it more than once. I've definitely gotten my money's worth out of it (especially since it was a gift in the first place).

But now, there's something not quite right with it. The top part is sagging, so that the attachments scrape the bottom of the bowl. I've tightened, and loosened, all the screws, to no avail. Also the top wobbles from side to side.

I think it's time to bid a fond farewell and upgrade to the Professional series, with the six-quart bowl.

That KitchenAid has been the cornerstone of my kitchen for a decade. I can't recommend one highly enough.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grapefruit ice cream

Grapefruit lends itself particularly well to sorbet (as in this grapefruit-Campari sorbet), but I was feeling like something with a little more fat to it. Hence grapefruit ice cream.

I used this recipe, reprinted below. The result was a delicate, creamy grapefruit flavor, and a really light-bodied pale ice cream. Really delicious.

1 cup grapefruit juice with 1 tbls zest
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Begin by making a simple syrup, place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer until the syrup begins to reduces, about 15 minutes. Cool, refrigerate overnight and strain.

1/3 cup whipping cream
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar

Make the custard by heating the cream, half and half and 1/3 cup sugar to just below a boil, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until they are doubled in size and a pale yellow. Temper the eggs with the hot milk, return everything back to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the custard coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat, cool and allow to rest in the refrigerator overnight.

1 cup of whipped cream
1/4 cup sugar

Whip the cream and the sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled custard, add the grapefruit syrup and then pour into ice cream maker. Process according to the manufacturer's directions.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dill risotto, with smoked salmon

My salmon toasts kick from last week is almost done--I'm just about out of salmon. This leaves me with most of a bunch of fresh dill, just a little smoked salmon, and most of a container of sour cream. The sour cream I'll use in a sour cream coffee cake--the dill was more problematic, as it's such a pungent herb, and doesn't have universal applications like parsley.

So I made dill risotto, and topped it with smoked salmon.

Follow the standard risotto recipe (without the butternut squash and chard, of course); at the end, add a bunch of chopped dill and a big scoop of sour cream. (Adding parmesan cheese at this point is strictly optional.) Salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spinach and fresh mozzarella lasagna

It's the last lasagna of the season, folks. Using the first of the spring spinach!

Lasagna is another great way to use up random ends of stuff. Veggies and cheese lend themselves particularly well. I use no-boil noodles, this tomato sauce, and a ricotta mixture made up of ricotta, an egg or two, a splash of milk, and some pesto.

I've also made spinach and red pepper lasagna, sweet potato and red pepper lasagna, beet lasagna, chard lasagna, and butternut squash lasagna. But I think this one is especially tasty, as the spinach is really fresh, and the fresh mozzarella gets ooey-gooey.

You can use this lasagna  recipe as a template. Layer sauce, noodles, ricotta mix, slabs of fresh mozzarella (3-5 per layer), handfuls of fresh spinach to cover, parmesan cheese, in that order. Continue until you run out of something (noodles, sauce, an ingredient, or room in your lasagna pan). Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

No-tomato tabbouleh

I've made tabbouleh with cilantro many times; to me, tabbouleh is a summer dish, full of tomatoes and fresh herbs, something that can be eaten room-temperature (so it's great for work lunches, car rides, etc.).

I harvested the first of my mint and cilantro yesterday, and realized I had some parsley in the fridge. The first thing I thought of making was tabbouleh, but I didn't have any tomatoes. (Nor will I, until they're officially in season. I refuse to eat tomatoes before their time.)

So I made tabbouleh without tomatoes.

Which is essentially bulgur wheat salad, with herbs.

Start with one cup of bulgur wheat, uncooked. Cover it with enough cold water so there's an inch of water above the grains, and let soak for 20 minutes. While it's soaking, chop:
a big handful of mint
a big handful of parsley
a big handful of cilantro
some very finely chopped onion or a few green onions (I went light on the onions since I'm not a huge fan of raw onion)
Drain the wheat and add this stuff to it, along with the juice of one lemon and maybe 1/4 cup of olive oil, and salt to taste. Let this sit for another hour or so, to allow the flavors to combine. Eat. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Salad as a way to use things up

In winter, when I have a lot of random bits of things that need to be used up, I make soup. In spring and summer, I make a salad.

Salads are a great way to use up veggies, meat and cheese. Limp carrots, a last bit of cheese, a handful of nuts and/or dried fruit, a last slice or two of lunch meat, eggs, bacon, croutons, mushrooms, half a pepper, the last blueberries, all those things and more can be chopped up and thrown onto a bed of spinach to great acclaim.

Last night I made four salads (in Tupperware, for future use) with spinach--thanks, garden!--the last of some fresh mozzarella cheese, four sliced mushrooms, croutons, a sliced roasted red pepper, and a shaved carrot. The dressing was my mom's raspberry vinaigrette. Each salad is a meal, so we've got fresh healthy veggie meals for a couple of days.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Barritt's ginger beer

A good Dark n' Stormy is one of my favorite drinks. It makes me think of summer and the ocean (regardless of when and where I'm drinking one).

Of course, I'm particular about the ingredients. Goslings rum is best, and Barritt's ginger beer is by far and away the best. It's smooth, it's sweet, it's not as aggressively carbonated or gingery as other brands of ginger beer.

The problem with that is that Barritt's is, for some reason, notoriously difficult to find these days. I haven't been able to find a steady supply anywhere for the last few years; I managed to score a couple of cases for my wedding, but I haven't had any since then. Every long once in a while I'd stumble across a bar that served Barritt's, but had no luck finding any in grocery or liquor stores. I was forced to use either Goslings ginger beer or Reeds (both acceptable substitutes in a pinch, but nowhere near as delicious as Barritt's).

But o happy day! Yesterday I discovered the liquor store near my house sells Barritt's!

I bought two cases.

I'm ready for summer.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat beer

One of my favorite things about traveling is discovering new indigenous treasures, things I can only find in that place and in no other.

The problem with that, of course, is that you can only find those things in the one place.

While hanging out with the in-laws in Missouri, we had lunch one afternoon in a local pub and I discovered Tallgrass Buffalo Sweat.

Tallgrass Brewing Company is based in Kansas, and their Buffalo Sweat is one of the best dark stouts I've ever tasted. Sweet, creamy, not bitter in the finish like Guinness can be.

Their beers are available through a wide swath of the Midwest, as far east as Alabama, but naturally not anywhere near my part of the world. Shame. Make an effort to find and drink some, if you're in their part of the world.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Champagne mangoes

I've recently discovered champagne mangoes.

I first heard of their existence a few weeks ago, at work. They made their appearance on the menu, and when I asked what the difference was between champagne and regular mangoes, I was gently chided--apparently their is no such thing as a "regular" mango. By "regular," I mean the kind that are normally sold in the store. You know what I'm talking about--faintly reddish on the outside, super juicy, about the size of my hand.

So when I saw champagne mangoes in the grocery store, I picked up a couple.

Oh. My. God.

They're smaller than "regular" mangoes, golden-colored both inside and outside, and the flavor is much creamier. Much less fruit acid, less drippy juice, more concentrated mango flavor. I ended up peeling them and eating them over the sink like an apple. DELICIOUS.

If you see some, buy them and eat them immediately.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Caesar salad

I've written about kale caesar salad before, but something about spring cries out for a nice crisp caesar salad with romaine lettuce and freshly-made dressing.

I added some leftover pork loin, too. Pork caesar salad is the best.

There are all kinds of recipes for caesar dressing, some involving eggs and/or anchovies, most involving lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and possibly Worchestershire. This is Mark Bittman's.

1 clove garlic, halved
2 eggs, boiled for 60 seconds (enough to turn the whites white, but not enough to solidify anything)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced anchovies or anchovy paste
Dash Worchestershire
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Run the cut side of the garlic around the inside of the bowl and discard. (If you like a particularly garlicky dressing, you can mince it, mash it to create a little garlic paste, and continue.) Crack the eggs in and beat lightly. Add the lemon juice, anchovies, and Worchestershire. Whisk the olive oil in, in a steady stream. Salt and pepper to taste.

And of course, the salad itself is romaine lettuce, croutons, and fresh parmesan cheese. (Pork is optional.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Orzo with feta, tomato sauce, and spinach

This is one of my standard recipe templates; I've written about a couple of different variations on this theme, here and here. Orzo (rice-shaped pasta) + feta cheese + some kind of tomato sauce + vegetable, baked. It makes a yummy cheesy pasta casserole type thing. I've also done it with shrimp, but since shrimp tends to be expensive, I usually leave that out.

1 box of orzo, cooked and drained
2-3 cups of tomato sauce (depending on how saucy you want it)
1 box frozen spinach, thawed, with excess water squeezed out (a box of frozen peas or green beans also works well)
1 block of feta cheese, broken into crumbles

Mix everything together in a bowl and dump into a large casserole dish. Cover with more crumbled feta, and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pizza with fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers

Sometimes homemade pizza is just, you know, average. But when it's really good--it's really, really good.

This is one of those really good pizzas.

This pizza crust + this tomato sauce + rounds of fresh mozzarella + roasted red peppers (I used the kind out of a jar) + grated parmesan on top (in that order). Bake on a pizza stone at 475 until the cheese is melty and browned. Makes one medium-size pizza, which will feed two adults.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Smoked salmon toasts

When I go grocery shopping, I tend to do it big. I used to do it once every three months; now that budgeting isn't quite as tight, I do it about once a month (sometimes once every six weeks). Because I have a long list, I'm not tempted to buy frivolous impulse things. That said, I like to treat myself to one special thing each time. Sometimes it's a fancy cheese; sometimes it's exotic fruit; sometimes a pork roast or lamb chops.

This time I got smoked salmon.

I've been having smoked salmon cravings lately (I don't know why). So I made sure I also had the appropriate smoked salmon fixin's: sour cream, fresh dill, crusty bread, and capers.

If you have smoked salmon, or really any kind of smoked fish, that's the best way to eat it. A piece of crusty baguette, a slice of smoked salmon, a smear of sour cream, a piece of fresh dill, and a couple of capers. In that order. 10 or 12 of those makes a fine lunch.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Home again

Returning home after a vacation usually means coming home to an empty refrigerator. I make sure to let our food supply run down a lot before vacations, thereby a) cleaning out the refrigerator, but also b) saving some money for the trip.

But that, of course, means coming home and having to scrounge for food. (And sometimes not having any money for groceries.)

Fortunately, I have an ample supply of pesto in the freezer. That, and pasta, became our dinner for the day we returned. (See 3Ps.)

I went grocery shopping yesterday, but I had a list of dishes I could cobble together, based on what little was available.

A big batch of tomato sauce
Orzo with feta, tomatoes and peas
White bean soup with spinach
Corn and potato chowder
Pizza with fresh mozzarella
Sweet potato, corn and cranberry bean soup
Pasta puttanesca

Also there were still two whole fish in the freezer, which I could have cobbled together with some frozen veggies (peas, corn or green beans) and rice or potatoes for a quick meal. Dried fruit could have provided some more needed vitamins.

As an added bonus, my spinach went crazy while we were gone--there was enough baby spinach to provide us with a fresh spinach salad upon our return.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Starbucks coffee bags = free coffee

Hello everyone! I've been vacationing for the last week with the in-laws in Missouri. I'm home now and feeling incredibly well-rested (and well-fed).

And while I was there, I learned this:

If you take the empty Starbucks coffee bags back to Starbucks, you get a free cup of coffee.


I know! It says so, right on the bag. I don't know how I didn't know this before.

Probably because I don't drink Starbucks. They have plenty enough money without any of my own, and their coffee tastes burnt to me. (It is burnt--they dark-roast their beans, and dark-roasting is usually done to disguise the poor quality of inferior beans. Starbucks = crappy, inferior coffee.) But my husband is quite happy to drink their Kool-Aid, metaphorically speaking, and my in-laws purchase their bags of coffee to use at home. They gave us their back supply of empty bags, so now my husband has 10 or 12 free cups of coffee in his future.

So if you drink Starbucks at home, too, remember to cash those empty bags back in for your free cup of joe.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Manhattan

...the classic version, as opposed to a doctored version. (Rum Manhattan, Irish Manhattan, Paris Manhattan,or the Apple Manhattan.)

1/4 cup bourbon
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet vermouth
Dash (or two) Angostura bitters

Stir, serve over ice.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Negroni

Finally, a classic cocktail!

Traditionally this is 1 oz gin, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and 1 oz Campari. Substituting 1 oz potato vodka for the gin is very delicious.

Stir, strain, serve up with a lemon twist.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Pug Monkey

Another delicious old drink special, sans proportions. Again, I'm totally guessing on those. Start there and work up.

2 oz gin
1/2 oz OJ
1/2 oz ginger simple syrup
1/4 oz lemon juice
splash of grenadine

Shake, stir, serve in a glass with an absinthe rinse.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Waterlily

This was a particularly delicious cocktail special featured one night at my old job. I didn't write down the proportions, just the ingredients, so the below is a bit of a guess. I would start with those amounts and work up from there.

1 oz gin
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz Creme de Violette
1/4 oz lemon juice

Shake, strain, serve with lime wedge.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Bracer

1 1/4 oz sweet vermouth
1 1/4 oz pastis (like Herbsaint)
dash of Angostura bitters

Stir, strain, serve over ice.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Hermitage

More weird uses of strange leftover booze!

2 oz mezcal
1/4 oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
3 dashes grapefruit bitter
3 dashes absinthe

Stir, strain, serve over ice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Tuscan

1 oz Tuaca (an Italian vanilla liqueur)
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 maraschino liqueur

Shake, strain, serve over ice.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Road food

It's challenging to make for a road trip when there isn't much food in the house to begin with.

The usual stuff, right? Sandwiches, chips, fruit, water, drinks.

Except I don't have sandwich bread, sandwich meat, chips, or drinks.

I'm okay on fruit and water.

So, in preparation for our annual 21-hour drive to Missouri, I had to get creative. (Why be creative?, you ask. Why not just buy some sandwiches and call it a day? Well, a) to use up what I did have, and b) I can't afford to spend money on sandwiches since I'm losing a week of income this month. See above-referenced drive to Missouri.)

I used leftover stale restaurant hamburger buns and rolls as sandwich bases; the rolls got mustard, cheese, and bacon, and the hamburger buns got cheese, bacon, and scrambled eggs mixed with fresh spinach and herbs from my container garden. Bonus: used up all the eggs, bacon, and stale bread. And those will be some kick-ass egg sandwiches.

Next, I made a bag of snack stuff. Popcorn, apples, dried mango slices, almonds, granola bars, graham crackers, plenty of tea bags (both hot and iced) and chocolate chips.

Drinks will consist of bottled water (frozen, so as to provide ice for the sandwiches, and also they'll melt slowly and stay cold for the whole trip) plus two large thermoses; one with hot water for tea, one with pre-made coffee.

We won't have to buy food or caffeine at any point; our only stops will be for gas and bathroom breaks.

Missouri, here we come!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gardening update

Surprisingly, the outdoor plants are doing better than the indoor plants. Look how happy and green the spinach is! I'm getting fresh growth from the mint and the cilantro, as well.

The indoor herbs have about a 40% germination rate; I replanted some and we'll see what happens. If those don't sprout, either, then maybe I need to get new dirt. (Or new seeds.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Rum Manhattan

Just like a regular Manhattan, but with gold rum.

2 oz gold rum
3/4 tablespoon sweet vermouth
Dash of bitters
Cherry garnish optional