Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Persephone’s Drinks Cabinet | Cherry Mint Julep

All summer long, as things have grown I’ve picked them.  And put them in alcohol.  Rhubarb, blueberries, apricots, cherries, peaches.  Tonight I enjoyed a fabulous cherry mint julep.

Simple, classic.  And like the fastest pony at the Derby, always a winner.

Southerners: people partial to front porches, magnolias, fresh peaches, cool breezes, fast horses and mint juleps.

PK’s Cherry Mint Julep, Makes 1

2 sprigs fresh mint

heaping t. powdered sugar or sugar in the raw

2 shots Cherry bourbon, plus a bit more to top off the drink (I like Knob Creek with dark red cherries steeped for about a month)

In a cocktail shaker muddle the mint leaves from one sprig along with the sugar and a few tiny pieces of crushed ice.  Fill shaker with ice, pour in bourbon.  Shake well to chill thoroughly.  Pour over more crushed ice in a silver mint julep cup (I prefer mine with a bit of tarnish, for character and a casual feel) or in a short cocktail glass.  Garnish with remaining mint sprig.  Top off with additional bourbon if desired.

Playlist included the cover of Islands in the Stream, by Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket and Neko Case.

 

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August 30, 2011

My Favorite Summer Corn | Maque Choux

Although summer corn here in Ohio is some of the sweetest and loveliest I’ve ever eaten, I still can’t help but occasionally add to an already great thing.  Gilding the already golden lily, if you will.  This is an easy, flavorful recipe that I’ve made countless times this summer, because it seems to go with everything.  And left to my own devices, I would eat bowls of this all alone for dinner.  It’s so delicious.

Maque Choux (say mock shoe) is a traditional Cajun dish of braised corn, along with

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August 28, 2011

A Nomad’s Meal | Kicked Up Hatch Chili

It’s a short season.  They’re only really available at the tail end of August.  And I can see why people are obsessedFestivals and cooking competitions span New Mexico and beyond as fans of Hatch’s heat put them in everything from quesadillas to key lime pie.

Hatch chiles are meaty, flavorful green chiles with a skin that slips off easily after a deep roast over my stove’s gas burner cranked to high, and a quick steam in a bowl covered with cling film.  They freeze wonderfully well if you take care to roast them and remove the skins before you freeze them.  One word of warning: they get hotter the longer you freeze them.

I bought a pound of chiles and roasted some for a batch of chili.  After roasting and removing the skin and seeds, I pureed them with a few rehydrated dried chiles for some smoky depth.  I ended up with quite a nomad’s version of chili.

There are several tricks to great chili, the first being you should probably work to develop your own house style.  Start with a recipe that you love.  Use better than average meat: thinly sliced sirloin, cut into short ribbons works worlds away better than basic ground round.  Deeply browned meat and softened onions provide a good flavor base for the chiles and spices.  You are by no means stuck with beef: lamb and buffalo are great options as well.

Use a combination of chiles for the best flavor.  Today I soaked pasilla, ancho and chipotle chiles and blended these with the fresh roasted hatch and a little water for my own chile paste.  Extra paste freezes really well in ice cube trays.

In terms of spicing, think beyond chile powder and cumin to possibly include black cardamom pod (adds a great note of smokiness), a bit of paprika, tiny amounts of cinnamon and cloves, a sprinkling of ground coffee, a drizzle of molasses, apple cider or rice vinegar for balance.  Adding these seemingly exotic spices only deepens the complexities of the chili.  Chili is really not far off from a curry  — its just a matter of how you look at it.

Add in some local beer along with the water depending on where you live: Shiner Bock if you’re in Texas; a bottle of Columbus Brewing Company Pale Ale if you’re in Ohio.  If you choose to add beans, think of perhaps adding a dried bean mix.  Today I used Goya’s 16 bean mix.

By all means let this concoction simmer for several hours, covered to keep in the moisture.  This is a dish that develops over the day.  Keep your spices and seasonings handy as an hour into the cooking will taste much different than three hours into it.  Take your time and trust your palate.  Adjust, adjust, adjust.

Just before serving, you can add in a tablespoon or two of masa harina to thicken and add a bit more flavor.  Serve over rice, if you like.  I believe a Basmati for extra fragrance and interest does wonders.  But remember, there are no rules when you’re making the house recipe.

Playlist included Someday by Ceremony.

August 23, 2011

A Quick Pickle | Szechuan and Dill

These are my first pickles.

I thank sites like Hounds in the Kitchen and Food in Jars for giving me the nudge in the direction of preserving and pickling.

What is it about these methods that seem so daunting?  Perhaps it is that you hear stories of the six thousand pints that your grandmother used to make at one sitting. (Who has time?)  Perhaps it’s the old stories that it won’t keep as well as you hope.  Fear mongers.  Truly folks, don’t listen.  You can put up just a few pints at a time, in two hours or less.

And the satisfaction of a pickle from a cucumber you grew or just picked up at a farmers’ market is like nothing else.

I made up my own pickling spice, because I think things can be a bit boring if you go the conventional route.  I like a bit of extra spice.  I also kicked in some fresh ginger in some and a massive quantity of garlic as well.  They turned out crispy and salty and kind of awesome.

PK Szechuan Dill Pickling Spice

1 t caraway seeds

1 T corriander seeds

1 t cumin seeds

1 t celery seeds

5 cloves

10 juniper berries

8 green cardamom pods

1 T black peppercorns

1 T Szechuan peppercorns

2 T dill seed

Lightly crush all larger spices, especially the cardamom pods and juniper berries.  Use in quantities as your pickle recipe advises.

Playlist included My Heart Skips a Beat by The Secret Sisters.

 

August 20, 2011

Simplicity from the Farmers’ Market | On the Grill

Honestly in the summer I can’t be bothered with much.  Dinner of a meat and a veg.  Perhaps a second veg.  If it doesn’t require cooking.  And if Cherub loves it.   Only then.

So if you’re like me and don’t feel up to much, stop by the farmers’ market in your town on Saturday morning and pick up two or three things for a Saturday night grilled dinner: some chicken thighs with the bone removed but the tasty skin left on, some fresh sweet corn and some grape or cherry tomatoes.

If you buy your ingredients from reputable and local farmers, you can be assured of freshness and flavor you wouldn’t normally get at the grocery store.  And if you’re a lazy cook in the summer, these are the greatest things you can buy because you have only the slightest work to make something really tasty.

Spiced Chicken Thighs with Grilled Corn and Lime Butter, serves four

6 chicken thighs, bone removed, skin left on

1 garlic clove

1 T chili powder

1 T whole cumin seeds

1 T brown sugar

1 t salt

2 T olive oil

4 ears sweet corn

4 T butter

1 t chili powder

Zest from 1 lime, juice from 1/2

Salt

Prepare grill (I prefer a charcoal).

In a mortar and pestle combine garlic, all spices and olive oil and mash to a consistent paste.  Rub onto chicken and allow to marinate from 15 minutes to two hours.

Grill chicken for 15 to 20 minutes or until meat is no longer pink and juices run clear.

While chicken is cooking, gently peel back husks to remove silk from corn, carefully replacing husks to cover back over the corn.  Mix lime zest with juice and spices along with softened (not melted) butter to create an even mixture.  Place corn in husks over cooler coals after chicken is cooked and resting and cook for approximately 10 minutes, turning frequently.

To serve, eat outside, for God’s sake.

Remove husks from corn and slather with butter mixture.  Serve with chicken.  And perhaps some of those tomatoes that you didn’t bother to cook, merely wash.  And a wine, maybe an A to Z 2009 Pinot Gris.

Playlist included Thursday, the mixtape by The Weeknd.

August 17, 2011

New Friends, New Endeavors | Baking Brioche

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I have, admittedly, had trouble baking bread.  After a couple of missed attempts, I now tend towards simple recipes that are somewhat fail proof.

I am grateful to Dave, my new friend who is quite the talented baker (and thinker, improver and eater) for offering me a lesson.   So this past Saturday morning, he opened his kitchen (and his home, quite frankly, because Cherub tagged along and she explores just about everywhere) and gave me a course in bread baking 101 (he also fed me and Cherub lunch, natch, lucky us!).

I choose to tackle brioche.  Because I mean, come on.  Butter, eggs.  In bread?  It’s heaven.  It makes the most fabulous toast.  Not to mention French toast. 

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August 14, 2011

Persephone’s Drinks Cabinet | Fig Margarita

Several years ago, before Cherub was born, I bought my mother a fig tree.  For years she had longed for a tree like the one that grew in the backyard of the little house in Austin where she raised her two little girls.  She always loved feeding me peeled figs when I was tiny and just beginning to enjoy my first tastes of  real food.  This was something she hoped to recreate with soon-to-be-born grandbabies.  She needed a tree in the ground early, she told me, so the harvest would be ready when I got around to having one.

Ahh, how she forgot what a harvest she would have from just one, abundant tree.  Now in its prime, at peak season, she picks five and six pounds of figs a day from that little tree.

The babies, that so recently mashed just-picked and peeled figs between soft pink gums, now grab branches and haul themselves up to climb to the places Demeter can’t reach.  And she has lots and lots of figs.

I still love them.

When she visited, she brought me a couple of bottles of fig syrup.  Because to make a moderate amount of syrup you need lots and lots of fruit.

I am more than a little grown up now, and I enjoy figs in all sorts of ways.  Most recently in the form of a fig margarita.  This margarita would be equally enchanting with fruit syrups of any kind (raspberry, certainly strawberry, peach).  Just give some thought to what spices on the rim might marry best with the fruit you choose.  This cocktail is all about celebrating a bounty in unexpected way.

Aggie Lane Margarita, makes one

For the rim:

1/2 t brown sugar

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