Cooler-cooked steaks

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I finally tried the whole sous-vide thing, but I did it in a beer cooler! Thanks to The Food Lab, I also salted and air-cured the ribeyes for three days in my fridge. I’d do both of these things again, but I recommend reducing the number of curing days. For the record though, my partner says that it was the best steak ever and wouldn’t change a thing.

I paired the ribeye with grilled green beans and new potatoes and a homemade Bearnaise sauce (which is kind of like hollandaise but with white wine vinegar instead of lemon juice and the addition of tarragon).

First pat your thick-cut steaks dry and pat all over with kosher salt. Set them on a rack over a pan and place in your fridge for 12-24 hours. Brush off any remaining salt and seal the steaks in a vacuum sealed bag (or a ziplock bag). Then follow Kenji’s instructions for cooking meat in a beer cooler. I have to say, I was skeptical, but the ability to consistently attain the perfect temperature steak each and every time is pretty alluring. Plus, if you are having a bunch of folks over, the meat could be held in the water bath, and you can sear to order in a matter of minutes. No need to stand over a grill/stove while your guests are having fun, and lower chance of getting distracted and over cooking.

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Roasted spaghetti squash

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It’s squash roasting season, obviously, but I wanted to make a specific plug for spaghetti squash. Cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, coat with olive oil and fill the halves with sliced garlic, herb sprigs and a sprinkle of salt.

Place, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until the squash strands separate as you drag a fork across them. The texture should remain crisp, and it’s better to under-bake than over. If you really want to soften it, just throw it back in the oven for a few more minutes. An over-baked squash is just mushy and sad.

I like to toss the strands with toasted walnuts, red pepper flakes, black pepper and shards of parmesan or aged gouda. It’s also great coated with some fresh pesto.

Savory rice waffles (again)

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This post is only to remind you that you should make rice waffles for dinner very soon, and, more broadly, that you can put so many things in your waffle maker! These rice waffles were pretty basic, but topped with some seared bass, sauteed cabbage and a spicy black bean sauce.

Just take day-old (or week old, I’m not judging) rice, mix in an egg, some salt and any other add-ins (green onions, basil, chopped bacon, diced cooked shrimp). Cook in your waffle maker until the edges are nice and crispy. Top with sauteed veggies, meats, gravies, melted cheese, you name it. You can usually make a topping in the time it takes your waffle to crisp up!

Chocolate cookie ice-box cake

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It’s always fun when something is even better tasting than you imagined. This was one of them. I made it as a celebration cake for a loved one using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe (minuse the peanut butter). I didn’t bother making it look perfect, so the shape was more modern art than “bakery case ready,” but that didn’t affect our enjoyment of it one bit. I did top with chocolate curls and cocoa nibs, so that made up for the shape a little.

While it was a lot of work to roll out and bake each layer individually, it was fun to have the layered look when cutting into it. I might not bother in the future, just rolling out random shapes and then layering them up as best I can like a triffle. Either way, super delicous.

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Johnny cakes for every meal

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Johnny cakes are kind of like fried cornbread, but easier to make. While the roots of the name are debated, we definitely can give credit to Native Tribes up and down the eastern Americas for the dish itself. While you can make more of a cornbread batter and fry like pancakes, these are simpler, denser, and satisfyingly toothsome. I like them savory with melted butter or cheese, as a side for BBQ or braised meats, or sweet with a drizzle of maple syrup or  honey.

  • 1 cup course cornmeal (this is a great time to use that heirloom, stoneground stuff you’ve been saving, because the taste of the corn is front and center)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (if you want them sweet, otherwise, you can leave it out)

Combine all of the ingredients, pouring in the boiling water or milk gradually until you get a wet mixture that will plop off the end of your spoon and flatten out slightly. Cook in a greased medium-hot griddle or pan for about 6-10 minutes per side, depending on how dark you like your edges. I like to keep them warm in the oven on a rack while I make a whole batch. The time in the oven also helps to soften the corn granules in the middle, as they can be a bit crunchy at first.

Sometimes you just need nachos

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With everything going on, sometimes you just need nachos. I am not saying that nachos fix anything, but they don’t hurt, that’s for sure. I’ll take all the comfort I can get, plus, I need fuel for getting back up to keep fighting.

These particular nachos included pinto beans, ground bison cooked with onions, garlic and my homemade spice mix (cumin, ghost chilis, chipotles, black pepper and coriander), cheddar cheese, pickled jalapenos, greek yogurt, cilantro and (jarred, *gasp!*) salsa. It was exactly what I needed. Also, please note that I do not endorse “scoop” shaped chips, but these were on sale. What can you do?

To make up for the fact that there is no recipe in this post, here is a photo of some chopped carrots that ended up looking like a heart! I was taking a picture of the knife to send to the gift-giver that gifted it to me, and I noticed the shape of the carrots afterwards.img_0308

Spicy lamb, cherry, smoked mozzarella flatbread

A memory of a spiced lamb flatbread in a Turkish restaurant in North Carolina inspired this version. I didn’t have enough tomatoes on hand for the lamb mixture, so I used cherries and cherry tomatoes. A winning combination.

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I’ve already posted recipes for pizza crust here, so feel free to make your favorite kind. I’ll focus on the lamb topping here.

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ras el hanout spice mix
  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted, quartered
  • 1/2 cup smoked mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Brown the lamb, onion and garlic in a little olive oil over medium high heat. Add salt, ras el hanout and cherries and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Roll out your dough to the size of a large cookie sheet and place on parchment paper on a sheet pan. Pack on the lamb topping so that it adheres in one layer. Distribute the cheese evenly and place in a 500 F oven for 15-20 minutes or until the bottom of the crust is crispy and golden. It should sound hollow when tapped.

Scatter the tomatoes over the top, slice and serve.

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Magic quiche (crustless egg pie)

My mom used to make a betty crocker recipe called something like “impossible hamburger pie,” that consisted of bisquick, eggs, and some kind of filling and cheese. I had the idea to try the same recipe structure, using gluten-free biscuit mix instead. It is fantastic, and easy, and can be made with nearly any ingredients. Perfect go-to weeknight meal (plus leftovers were delish for lunch).

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Magic Quiche

  • 1/2 cup gluten free biscuit mix (or regular mix)
  • 1 cup milk (regular or dairy free)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb meat or meatless filling (I used garlic pork sausage. You could use mushrooms, veggie meat product, ground beef or lamb, etc)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar or your favorite cheese

Whisk the biscuit mix, milk and egg together. Set aside.

Brown the meat or meatless filling in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and stir to cook until transparent. Remove to a greased pie pan. Cook the kale in the same pan with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt until wilted. Add to pie pan. I sprinkled in some chopped basil, just because I had some growing at the time. Green onions and other fresh herbs would be great as well.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the fillings in the pie pan. Top with the shredded cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes in a 400 F oven or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. As with most gluten free baking, the cook time can be a bit longer. If you are using regular biscuit mix, cut the time by 5 minutes.

Arepas with eggs, salsa, and cilantro-jalapeño crema

Fresh arepas are closer at hand than you might think, and an impressive addition to the classic brunch combo of eggs and salsa.

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  • 1 lb masa harina (fine corn flour), about 4 cups
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fat (can be coconut oil, butter, lard, vegetable shortening)
  • 4 cups warm water

Mix masa, salt and fat together until combined, and then add the water, stirring to mix evenly. Let the dough rest, covered, for about 10 minutes. This allows the masa to hydrate, soaking up the water.

Portion the dough into about 8 equal balls and flatten to about 1/2 inch in thickness. Cook each arepa in a hot, oiled pan for 2 minutes on each side. This “seals” the arepa and ensures a crispy crust. Then put the arepas into the oven at 350 F for 10-15 minutes to finish cooking through. They are done when they sound hollow when tapped and are crispy on the outside.

You can slice these open to stuff with fillings, or top with eggs, salsa and crema, as I did. I’ll let y’all cook your eggs how you like and pick your favorite salsa recipe, but here is a simple recipe for the crema.

Cilantro jalapeño crema

  • 1 cup cilantro, washed and dried (can use leaves and stems too)
  • 1 jalapeño, stem removed
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix in blender until smooth and season to taste. This is great as a salad dressing or dip as well.

Pesto-caesar with kale, christmas beans and toasted pepitas

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Dark green dino kale (the flat, oval shaped kind), heavily massaged and coated in a pesto-caesar style dressing and toasted pepitas with pretty, speckled christmas beans and cornbread on the side. The christmas beans are also called chestnut beans, and are in the lima family. They have a nutty-sweet, smooth interior, and are just lovely. Unlike most beans, they keep their pretty pattern even after cooking.

Pesto-ceasar dressing

  • 2 cups basil, washed, stemmed
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan, romano or other hard Italian cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 anchovies, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • white wine vinegar or lemon juice to taste, start with 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 bunches Tuscan kale
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and let whir until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. I will admit that I actually add an entire tin of anchovies, but I don’t recommend that unless you really love that fishy, umami, which I do! You can also leave them out completely to make this a vegetarian dressing.

Wash and de-stem the kale, tearing into small pieces. Massage the kale with a few tablespoons of dressing for at least 5 minutes. This will improve the texture immensely. Add more dressing to taste and sprinkle with toasted pepitas.

Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

  • 2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1 egg white, beaten to loosen
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac

Mix all of the ingredients together and spread out on a greased or lined cookie sheet in one layer. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until turning golden and starting to puff out in the middle. The pepitas will change shape from flat to more football shaped as they toast. In case you are wondering, the egg white helps the spices to stick and creates an extra crispy coating. You can leave it out if you prefer, and use a drizzle of olive oil and water instead.

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