Thai Basil Whatever

thai basil

 

I wanted to share with you a recipe I’ve been making for years.  Matt and I cooked a lot of Thai food in the first few years we were married.   Matt had a version of this dish while living in Nashville at a place that served Chinese food, but had Thai posters all over their walls.  So Matt asked one day if they would make him some Thai food and the guy excitedly made a chopped chicken dish with Thai basil and hot Thai chilies.  Matt was hooked.  We love the flavors of fish sauce, soy sauce, the heat of peppers and the sweetness of basil that this dish brings.  It’s a wonderful mix of sweet/sour/spicy.  Over the years, we’ve lost the original recipe we first referenced and so this is legitimately a Palmer original.

Again – don’t be afraid of fish sauce.  It’s completely essential to the flavor balance of this dish.  If you can’t find Thai basil, regular Italian basil works just fine.  I’ve used ground pork, chicken and turkey, as well as hand chopped chicken thighs (so good), but my go-to is ground turkey.  Don’t leave off the fried egg!

Thai Basil Turkey 
serves 4

1lb ground chicken, turkey or pork
3 tbs peanut oil or canola oil
1 medium white onion, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 or 5 seeded jalapenos, diced (or Thai chilies, or whatever kind of pepper/heat level you want)
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

This recipe goes quicker if you use a large wok over really high heat.  If you don’t have a wok, use the largest stainless steal skillet, or cast iron skillet you have.  Heat the oil over medium high heat till it shimmers.  Add in the onion and stir a few times till they soften.  Working quickly, stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add in your ground meat and jalapenos and stir until meat is cooked through.  If you want more heat, stir in your chilies closer to the end of cooking.  When the meat has cooked through, toss in the fish and soy sauce and stir to coat.  Remove the pan from heat, stir in the chopped basil and cover to keep warm.  In a non-stick skillet, fry a couple eggs in peanut oil, and a splash of soy sauce and serve on top.

I typically serve this over about a half cup of rice.  I’m not going to tell you how to cook rice.

 

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Grown-Up Sticky Buns

sticky buns

I decided to tackle a Pinterest recipe yesterday.  It had been sitting there on my Recipes board, looking amazing, yet going unmade and uneaten. (Also known as every pin on Pinterest)

The Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake was intriguing and beautiful and I loved how the original baker created one gigantic cinnamon roll effect.  I loved it so much that I didn’t do it that way.  I knew without a doubt, that mine would not look the same, I’d cut it wrong, placing it wrong, and get frustrated and end up drinking the whiskey instead of adding it to the caramel sauce.  So I decided I’d make a crowded pan of cinnamon rolls, call them sticky buns, and be happy!

I had a really great time making this recipe.  Matt is usually the one who bakes, but when I do, I really enjoy kneading the dough, working with it to form it into something pretty.  I love clearing off a huge space on our counter to roll out the dough.  Makes me think of my mom making biscuits.  There’s something so wonderful about baking that instantly connects you to bakers from centuries past, who had flour on their bellies from leaning against the counter too far, and a happy heart from their necessary taste-testing.

I used my antique coffee grinder

photo

to grind the cardamom pods because we have a spice grinder, but it’s forever known as Cumin Grinder because once you grind cumin seeds, congratulations, you now have an exclusive cumin grinder.  If you grind anything else, it will have a faint whiff of cumin, or B.O.  (also known as cumin).  I don’t know why we eat a spice that smells like B.O.  I’ll chalk it up to things that taste delicious but smell horrible.  Like cheese.  Oh, cheese, you stinky wonder…

The caramel sauce called for a teaspoon of whiskey.  My first thought was, “that’s not enough – just one teaspoon?” but when I gave Matt a taste, wanting him to identify the mystery ingredient, it took him a half second to shout, “You put whiskey in the caramel?!” Yes, and not just any whiskey, but his Laphroaig 10 Year Smoke Bomb whiskey.  (Not its official name) And even though there was only one teaspoon, it was obvious!  I also added a generous sprinkling of kosher salt, because I feel strongly that when something calls for brown sugar, butter AND corn syrup, you’ve GOT to add a bit of salt.  Everything sweet needs balance and caramel is definitely one of those things!  I also forgot to add butterscotch chips, like she did, but they were still amazing.  The dough has so much flavor, that you almost don’t need the extra sweetness.  However, I think adding the chips would be a great addition.

My crowded cinnamon roll approach kinda worked and kinda didn’t.  When they baked they BURST up out of the pan in a sprawling fashion.  No fuss – I just smooshed them back down before inverting them on a plate.

butterscotch sticky buns

If you want to do the gigantic cinnamon roll swirl like the super cool blogger/baker lady did, go for it!  I know my weaknesses and copying a recipe word for word is one of them.  If you make it look different, you won’t be sad when it does.  (Make sense?)

These are AWESOME, by the way.  Like Monkey Bread for grown-ups.  Sweet, buttery, sticky and with a hint of smoke.  Pretty amazing.

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Grown-Up Sticky Buns*

For the Dough
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cup AP flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (2-ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
2 extra large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Butterscotch Glaze
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (2-ounces) unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon Scotch whisky
1/2 tsp kosher salt
For the Cinnamon-Butter Filling
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons (1-ounce) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup butterscotch chips, chopped (I forgot this step)
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For the Dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 2 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, salt, cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon.  In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the milk and butter just until the butter melts.  Add the water and set aside until warm (120º F-130º F), about 1 minute.  Pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after addition.  Add the vanilla. Add 1/2 cup more flour and continue to mix on low speed until smooth, about 30-45 seconds.  Add 2 tablespoons of additional flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, but slightly sticky.  Sprinkle the work surface with flour, and knead the dough gently until it is smooth and no longer sticky, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour if needed.  Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about an hour.
For the Butterscotch Glaze
Meanwhile, lightly coat a 9 x 2-inch round cake pan with non-stick spray.  In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the sugar, butter, and corn syrup and heat until the butter is completely melted.  Sprinkle in the salt, stir to dissolve and taste test.  Does it taste like butterscotch?  Good!  Not yet?  Add more salt!  Remove from the heat and stir in the whiskey.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and tilt the pan to cover the bottom evenly; set aside.
For the Cinnamon-Butter Filling
In a small bowl, stir together the butter and cinnamon. Don’t forget to chop up the butterscotch chips that you went to the store, specifically to buy.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350º F. Gently de-gas the dough by pressing lightly.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 16 x 12-inch rectangle.  Using a pastry brush, spread the cinnamon-butter evenly over the dough.  Sprinkle the dough with the chopped chips. Roll the dough up, length-wise, and cut into 1″ rolls and place side by side. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the cake rise in a warm place until it is almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Bake the cake until the top is deep golden brown, about 35 minutes.  Check after 20 minutes to make sure the top is not browning too fast.  If so, cover the top loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil for the last 10-15 minutes to prevent over browning.  Transfer to a wire rack (remove the foil if used) and let cool for 10 minutes.
Gently tilt the pan and tap the side on a counter to release the sides of the cake.  Invert a serving platter on top of the cake, then invert the pan and the plate.  Leave the pan on the cake for 1 minute so the glaze transfers to the cake, then gently lift off the pan.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape out any glaze remaining in the pan and spread it over the warm surface of the coffee cake.  Serve the cake warm or at room temperature with a cup of coffee and a friend.  This is an adult dessert – enjoy being one and let the kids marvel at the mystery 🙂

*recipe adapted from The Galley Gourmet

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Cooking from a Food Memory

Chicken Brian

The first time I went down to Tulsa, Oklahoma to meet Matt in person, we ate this dish together with his family at a restaurant called Carrabba’s.  (We met via instant messenger, after a dear friend of mine, who was talking to both of us at the same time said, “Here, you guys talk to each other, you’re telling me about the same band” (Jurassic 5) and after talking that day, we talked every day, increasing in hours logged (we had only land lines way back in 2003 and ran through multiple calling cards each week.)  6 months later we were engaged, and a year after that, we got married.  We’ve been eating good meals together ever since. Aww)

Matt ordered the Chicken Bryan and we both marveled at the melty goat cheese and sun dried tomato mix that was tangy and sweet.  A revelation!  Since that day, I’ve tried to recreate it multiple times, but I never can quite replicate it.  (Not enough butter?)

This week, I tried again and I’m slowly getting closer.  It’s such a good dish, and as I look at their online menu, it says they drizzle a basil lemon butter sauce on top.  Ah.  That might help. Will try again next time!  I happily used up the rest of my goat cheese and even made a mini portion on a bread and butter China plate for Olive, just so she’d feel fancy, too.  (I think it worked, as she made some of the chicken into a hat near the end of the meal.)

As a side, I made the creamed spinach and basil recipe from a few weeks ago, and put a scoop inside squares of puff pastry, baked it, and although they didn’t stay together in the neat little pouches I folded, they were still amazingly good and a perfect side for this dish.

spinach puffs 2

Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Basil
serves 4 to 6

1 lb chicken tenderloins
Salt and pepper
4 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, sliced in half
8-12 basil leaves
1 shallot, diced small (1/4 cup – you can use an onion if that’s what you have on hand)
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
4 oz goat cheese

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season each side with kosher salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil (go two tablespoons at a time) over medium heat until shimmering and cook the chicken strips in batches, not over crowding the pan, or they won’t get a good sear.  Chicken strips don’t take long to cook, maybe 1-2 minutes per side. Let the strips sit on a plate, covered in foil to keep warm until ready to plate.  In your empty skillet, add the diced shallot and saute until golden.  Then, add in a splash of wine or chicken stock, scraping up the browned chicken bits and then add a tablespoon of butter to make a pan sauce.  Set your sauce off the burner so it won’t continue to reduce.

Put your chopped sun dried tomatoes in a saucepan with a quarter cup of water and let it simmer to re-hydrate a bit.  Assemble the chicken, two strips per plate, with a sprinkling of sun dried tomatoes, a basil leaf or two, and a slice of goat cheese.  Place the plates under the broiler until the cheese melts.  Drizzle your reserved sauce over the cheese and serve!

Pasta Carbonara – tried and true recipes

pasta carbonara bowl

I’m going back to some basics this week.  I’ve exhausted myself on trying something new nearly every single day for two months.  Time for some repeats!  I have made some form of pasta carbonara on a regular basis since Matt and I were first married, 8 years ago.  Carbonara is one of those dishes that you can nearly always make, even when you don’t think you have anything in the fridge for dinner.  (Hello, Monday dilemma)  Nearly everyone has some form of pasta on hand. Carbonara is traditionally made with spaghetti, but it can really be just fine with any kind of dried pasta you have on hand.  Also – most people have bacon either in the fridge or freezer.  The sauce for this dish comes from cheese and egg yolks – that’s it!  And if you’re wanting something extra tossed in, try frozen peas or corn or lima beans – any kind of random bag of frozen veg you have in the freezer that has been labeled “too little for a side dish, too much to throw away”

I love the comfort of this dish – I love the simplicity and I love that in about 25 minutes, I can have a dish on the table that makes everyone feel good.  The little darlin’ loved it, too.

pasta carbonara for lunch

carbonara

pasta carbonara

Good for little fingers is any kind of smaller pasta such as rigatoni, fusilli, macaroni, or these cute little corkscrew shapes (which I think are just un-trimmed macaroni)  really – whatever you think your toddler can grab or stab with a fork – go for it!

carbonara bowl

Pasta Carbonara
serves 2.5 (two big people and one little person) or 4 as a side dish

8 ounces dried pasta, cooked al dente (maybe cook a little longer for the baby if they don’t have more than 8 teeth, like mine)
4 strips of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small onion, diced small
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup frozen peas (or other vegetable of your choice)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks

1. Salt your pasta water.  I usually put about 1/4 cup of salt into a large pot of water (at least a half gallon of water.)  EEEEEEEK, SALT!  Here’s the thing: it flavors your pasta.  You don’t have to salt the dish upon completion because you salted along the way.  Just enough salt gets absorbed into the pasta and it’s perfect.  The noodles could be eaten on their own.  Try it next time.  And if you’re still worried, just look at how much sodium is in the powdered cheese on your blue box mac and cheese.

2. Bring the water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta till al dente, or a little over for the little mouths that will be eating.  Reserve a cup of pasta water and then drain your pasta, rinse and set aside.

3. Cook the bacon strips in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy.  Reserve on a paper towel and drain all but a tablespoon of the oil from the pan.  Toss in your onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until translucent.  Add in your frozen vegetables and pasta and a splash of the pasta water and stir until combined.

4. Remove the pan from the burner and while stirring constantly, add the egg yolks and cheese.  Stir stir stir stir as to not get scrambled eggs.  The heat from the pasta will cook your yolks and they will combine with the cheese to make a sauce.  If the pasta looks a bit too dry, add more of your reserved water and stir to combine.  Pasta water is starchy and salty and PERFECT for making a pasta sauce.

5. Fold in the bacon, garnish with more cheese, if desired, and serve with a crusty piece of buttered bread.

6. And a glass of Malbec for the big people.

Enjoy!

Strawberry Banana Split Crepes

crepes

I’ve posted a lot of recipes lately that have strawberries, but there is a good reason – they’re in season!  When you’re at the store and strawberries are $1.30 for a pound, instead of $4 – that’s your sign that they are in season!  Now, I’m not kidding myself into believing that they aren’t grown in hot houses, BUT at least it’s the season for them, and in my mind, that makes me feel like they taste better.

I wanted to make a strawberry crepe, so I looked up a simple crepe recipe, and where it called for 1/2 cup of water, I added a 1/2 cup of strawberry puree instead, plus a bit more water to thin it out.  My strawberry puree was made-up, too, as was the strawberry-vanilla bean whipped cream!

You need to make your crepe batter the night before you use it, so make this batter tonight and have crepes in the morning while the weekend is still here!  This recipe looks like a sugar bomb, but it actually wasn’t.  The crepes have zero sugar except the strawberry puree, which only has 3 tbs and it’s also used to sweeten the whipped cream. So if you don’t add the chocolate sauce, this is really low sugar!  And it definitely doesn’t taste like you held back!

bsplit crepes

Strawberry Crepes

3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup strawberry puree (recipe follows)
2 tbs water
3 tbs melted butter

Put all the ingredients into a bowl or a large, tall cup and with your immersion blender, blend for 15-20 seconds until fully mixed.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a regular blender for the same time.  Transfer to a container and chill for one hour, up to 48 hours (I just did this step before I went to bed and used it the next morning.)

In a 10″ non-stick, shallow skillet, heat teaspoon of butter over medium high heat, or just spray with non stick spray, but you want your pan to be pretty hot.  Add a quarter cup of batter to the pan and swirl around till it’s spread as thin as possible. THE FIRST CREPE IS ALWAYS CRAP.  Just throw it away.  Now, you’re ready to begin.  By 1/4 cup scoops, (I used a ladle) swirl your batter in the pan very quickly and let it set for at least 1 to 2 minutes before flipping.  If your pan is hotter than mine, you may need to alter your time.  With a wide spatula (I used a fish spatula), slide under the crepe and flip over.  The other side won’t take as long to cook.  Keep finished crepes covered in a towel so they will stay warm and pliable.  This batter made about 8-10 crepes for me, but if you’re really skilled at swirling your batter, you could squeeze 15 crepes out of this amount.  I am not skilled and my crepes are always thicker than they should be, but they’re still delicious!

Fill the crepe with sliced bananas, a drizzle of left over strawberry puree, and a dollop of whipped cream.  Add more strawberries and whipped cream on top, and if you’re feeling the entire banana split thing, drizzle in chocolate syrup (I used Torani chocolate syrup.)  Or even some toasted pecans!  Have fun – it’s the weekend!

Strawberry Puree

1 lb of fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
3 tbs sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped of its seeds. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, wait, and add some vanilla paste or vanilla extract later when you’re blending)
1/4 cup water

Place all the ingredients into a medium saucepan and cook over medium low heat till bubbly.  Cook for about 15 minutes until the strawberries begin to break down.  Remove the vanilla bean and transfer to a blender or a tall cup with your immersion blender and blend, with an extra 1/2 cup of water till fully blended and no chunks remain.  Add the vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (about 1 tsp) if you want and blend again.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup strawberry puree

Place all ingredients into a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.  (I used my immersion blender, duh)

Freezer Staple – frozen shrimp

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This could be considered the first post of many where I will talk about the joys of a well stocked kitchen/pantry.  There are a few things shown in the pic above that should be in every well-stocked kitchen.

1. Rice.  I keep several types of rice on hand: Basmati (so flavorful for Indian and Thai dishes) Brown, Sweet (sticky rice for Asian desserts), Long Grain and White short grain.  It’s easy to store, it’s cheap (usually no more than $2 per pound) and in a pinch, you have an instant side dish.

2. Onions/Leeks/Shallots – Don’t keep these in the fridge.  DO keep them in a dry, dark place in your kitchen, separate from other fruits and vegetables.  I don’t always have leeks on hand, but I DO always have onions and shallots.  When I’m at the grocery store, whether I have a recipe in mind or not, I assume that I will need onions.  I usually buy medium sized, sweet yellow or Spanish onions.  I would guess that 9 out of 10 recipes I make include onions in some form.  Okay, maybe 10 out of 10.

3. Frozen Shrimp.  Kind of the wild card that you might not think of, but in the frozen section, usually near the meat department in both grocery stores and big chain stores (walmart, target, etc).  They come in a few options: raw with shell, raw, shelled and deveined or cooked.  Get the raw, shelled, deveined.  You don’t want to have to fuss with peeling shrimp and you definitely don’t want to mess with removing the poop chute.  You may not think that you’ll use shrimp often enough to always buy a bag when you’re buying other frozen items, but you’d be surprised.  Shrimp tacos, shrimp lettuce wraps, shrimp stir-fry, or coconut shrimp and rice…

Coconut Shrimp with Basmati Rice*
serves 4

1 tbs butter
1tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek (about a cup, white and pale green parts only – halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced thin)
4 scallions (white and some green tops, sliced and save some for a rice garnish)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp
1 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbs fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup of dry Basmati rice, cooked to package instructions

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the leek, scallion strips, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the leek starts to wilt, about 2 minutes.  Add the shrimp, curry powder, and salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the shrimp turn pink, about 2 minutes.  Add the wine or chicken broth and cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduced by half-about one minute.  Add the coconut milk and simmer until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat, add the cilantro, and let stand, covered, for about 10 minutes to meld the flavors.

Serve on top of rice, garnished with extra scallion and cilantro, if desired.

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*recipe adapted from the Bonne Femme Cookbook

Strawberries in Balsamic Caramel – Rethinking desserts

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Since Olive started eating from the table, I’ve been 10x more mindful of what I serve for lunch and dinner.  I have re-thought the structure of a meal from the way we sit at the table to the kinds of  things we have for dessert.  Dessert is certainly not something that I grew up eating every night.  I’m not sure any of us did.  I think there are a couple reasons for this.  For one, American versions of desserts are really sweet and really indulgent, for the most part.  And usually really big.  So naturally, we don’t think of desserts as something you should have every night, which is inherently a good thing, but it’s caused us to view things like fruits in nearly the same category as vegetables: something we HAVE to eat, or are too expensive to eat, or aren’t very exciting to eat.  I think most people would feel slightly jipped if someone suggested strawberries for a dessert out at a restaurant.  Strawberries?  That’s it?  Where’s the colossal strawberry cheesecake with the dulce de leche syrup and giant mount of whipped cream?

You see the problem.  Besides dark chocolate, fruit has been the only sweet Olive has consumed on a regular basis.  She’s geared to think fruits are the sweetest things in the world.  Her favorite sweet is a banana. A friend of ours from Mexico City once said in the most endearing, non-native to America-way, “What could be sweeter than a banana?!”  That statement struck me because I instantly thought of a myriad of things we eat on a daily basis that are, in fact, much sweeter than a banana and have loads more sugar (cereal, fruit snacks, bottled juice, packaged cookies, even sweetened yogurts can have up to 21 grams of sugar per serving).  So I want to retrain my mind to accept fruits as a dessert by themselves.  And the types of colossal sugar bombs we typically think of as desserts, I want to think of as rare treats, instead of the normal dessert option.  This is a challenge for me.  I feel cheated when I get that sugar craving in the afternoon and the only thing in my house is either fruit or dark chocolate and what I really want is a piece of cake or a brownie or something reserved for a feastal weekend meal instead of a boring ol’ Monday afternoon.  It’s hard to have discipline with dessert, but I feel that if it can be accomplished, a natural limit on sugar will take place in my life and a greater joy will be present when I do indulge in the Super Desserts that all good blog posts are made of.

For today, simple strawberries-coated in a balsamic caramel sauce.  Simple, incredibly flavorful and a wonderful way to liven up your tastebuds at the end of the meal.  When I made this last week, we were out on the front porch and Olive was walking in circles around the bushes and each time she passed me, she got this giggly fit and opened her mouth for another bite.  Like a little, tasty game.  Food is fun and sharing food is even better.  Remember that this week as you prepare meals for your family!

Strawberries in Vinegar*

serves 6

1.5 lbs medium sized strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
3/4 cup sugar (I know, I just talked about sugar bombs.  However, this is making a caramel and coating the strawberries.  You don’t consume all the glaze!)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup boiling water

Put the sugar into a wide saucepan and place the pan over low to medium heat.  You will start to see darker patches of caramel starting to appear.  Stir to make an even, dark caramel.  Carefully pour in the boiling water using a metal ladle.  The caramel will bubble dramatically, so be careful to not get too close.  Let the caramel cool a bit before pouring in the vinegar because boiling vinegar will singe your nostril hairs right off.
Pour in the vinegar and mix well.  Cool the caramel in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.  It will become thick.
Put the strawberries into a bowl, then pour over the vinegar caramel.  Marinate in the fridge for one hour before serving.
These are wonderful, eaten with a simple glass of rose.  However, if you wanted to make a more indulgent dessert, I think these would be killer on a strawberry shortcake with homemade vanilla bean whipped cream.  Mmmmmm…

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*recipe adapted from Ferran Adria’s book, titled (not coincidentally) The Family Meal.  🙂 This book was an inspiration for the title of my blog because I really couldn’t think of a better way to title it.  His book is filled with the recipes his staff would share together before dinner service at elBulli in northern Spain (formerly the best restaurant in the world, which is now, sadly closed).  I’d highly recommend this incredibly simple, straight-forward book and its wonderful layout with pictures of each step of the cooking process.

Corn Cookies

momofuku corn cookies

momofuku corn cookies 3

This is one of the best cookies I’ve ever had in my entire life.  Crispy on the outside, chewy and soft in the middle.  Sweet, salty, and incredibly buttery.  It uses a mystery ingredient: corn powder. All you do (and believe me, slackers, this ingredient is worth whatever effort you don’t want to put forth) is buy a bag of freeze dried corn off Amazon and pulse it in your blender or food processor till it looks like powder.  Then, you’ll have enough for a few batches of these amazing cookies.  The corn powder adds to the incredible butter flavor and if you don’t tell anyone, they won’t be able to pick out the secret ingredient.  They’ll just sit and marvel that they are enjoying the greatest cookie (that doesn’t include chocolate) of their life.

This recipe is from the wonderful Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook.  Matt made Olive’s first birth-day (made it when we came home from the hospital with her) cake from this book, my birthday cake and the Crack Pie that we’ve made a few times and won a smallish award (in a contest created by us) for best non-fruit pie at our Pie Bake-Off.  Christina Tosi is undoubtedly a genius, as Momofuku  Milk Bar’s creative pastry chef.  It’s only her hummingbird-like brain that could come up with such nostalgic, creative, sugar-rush kind of desserts.  She is a child at heart, which shows so evidently throughout this cookbook.

Word of caution: if you like to get in and out of the kitchen quick, this book isn’t for you.  (the cookies were easy enough but the rest…) My birthday cake had Matt in the kitchen for two days and involved around 5 different recipes for one cake alone.  However, it was the best cake ever.  I don’t need to reiterate that good things are worth the hard work, but I will.  To quote Bob Kelso, “Nothing in this world worth having comes easy.”

And every recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar is worth having.

momofuku corn cookies 2

Corn Cookies
yield: 13-15 cookies

*225 g butter, at room temp (2 sticks)
300 g sugar (1.5 cups)
1 egg
225 g flour (1 1/3 cups)
45 g corn flour (1/4 cup – if you don’t have corn flour, which I didn’t, mix 1/4 flour and 4 tsp corn powder)
65 g freeze dried corn powder (2/3 cup)
3 g baking powder (3/4 tsp
1.5 g baking soda (1/4 tsp)
6 g kosher salt (1.5 tsp)

1. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium for 2 to 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes (this is important.  This long mixing process is what gives the cookies their amazing texture)

2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. Using a 1/3 cup measuring scoop, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.  Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat.  Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Do NOT baking your cookies from room temp – they WILL NOT bake properly.

4. Heat oven to 350F.

5. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment or silpat-lined sheet pans.  Bake for 18 minutes (Mine looked perfect in exactly 18 min. They know their stuff) The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread.  After 18 minutes, they should be faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center; give them an extra minute if not.

6. Cool the cookies completely ON the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or your mouth (yeah right, you know you’ll eat a warm one and you SHOULD).  At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh in an air-tight container for 5 days.  But I really doubt they’ll last that long.

*I think measuring your flour, corn flour and corn powder by weight is really important.  Reason:  I first did it by volume and measured out 1 1/3 cups.  Then, to double check, I weighed the flour I’d measured and it was only something like 210 grams.  That’s enough of a difference to matter in the final result.  Just FYI!

momofuku corn cookies 5

Kale Paneer

7G9A1648

I received several requests for kale recipes when I asked a couple weeks ago for ideas for this blog.  I wanted to do something a little more challenging or interesting than the typical things you see for kale in the sea of Pinterest such as kale chips, kale salads, wilted kale, etc.  Basically, all the things you could use spinach for, if you were less ambitious.  I’m still not altogether familiar with kale’s flavor profile, but after turning a big bunch of it into creamy, soul-satisfying Indian food, I’m dedicated to finding ways to use this super food.

One of our favorite things to order at our local Indian restaurant is spinach paneer.  Creamy spinach with warm cubes of Indian cheese that doesn’t melt, but spreads wonderfully on a piece of garlic naan.  Truly a comfort food.  I saw this recipe for kale paneer and so I decided to try it for myself.  This girl calls for making a cream by boiling a cup of cashews soaked in hot water.  That sounded like a vegan move and I didn’t really want to buy a cup of cashews (hello, expensive) so I just subbed in  heavy cream, which I always seem to have on hand, and it turned out wonderful.  I also decided after tasting it that the cashews would have added a certain sweetness, so I added in two tablespoons of brown sugar and it was the right move – just enough sweetness to offset the bitterness of the kale and all the spices and it mellowed everything out really well.

For all of you who were wishing I’d do something a little more healthy with kale, like I said; there’s always next time.  But especially on this snowy day (wha?!) I think this recipe fits the bill.  If you lack the myriad of spices this recipe calls for, (I had them all! Proud moment) don’t waste your money at a regular grocery store.  Please go to Ghandi Bazar if you live in Lubbock, (or come to my house; seriously) and if you live elsewhere, I’m sure you can find an Indian market on some back street in your own town.  They know their spices and they’re cheaper than you’d EVER find at a chain grocery store.  Oh, and I didn’t go to Ghandi Bazar to find the paneer.  I was at United and looked up that Queso Blanco (or queso fresco) is very similar to paneer as it won’t melt and has very similar flavors.  It turned out great and got better with each day!

Kale Paneer*
1 medium yellow onion
2 – 3 Garlic Cloves
1 tbsp Minced Ginger
1 tbsp Sunflower or Canola oil
1 1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Black Mustard Seeds
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp Ground Coriander
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Ground Indian Chili Powder OR Cayenne (depending on how spicy you want it to be)
6 cups Chopped Curly Green Kale, packed
1 cup Plain Yogurt
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbs brown sugar
8 oz Paneer* OR Queso Blanco
Salt, to taste

Roughly chop the onion, garlic, and ginger. Heat a large pot over low-medium heat, add oil, then the onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute over low-medium heat until the onions begin to brown, at least 5 minutes. Once browned, add all of the spices and saute for another 1 or 2 minutes.
Add the chopped kale to the pot and saute until bright green.
Add the heavy cream to the kale mixture along with the yogurt and brown sugar, and stir in. Begin pureeing the curry with an immersion blender (or in batches in the regular blender) until smooth and no lumps remain, then transfer to a large bowl.
Once the entire curry has been pureed continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Slice the cheese into small cubes and add to the simmering curry. Keep cooking, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the curry thickens. If you prefer a thinner sauce, or you find the curry has gotten too thick, just add more water until it reaches your desired consistency. Season with salt, to taste, and more brown sugar, if necessary.

*recipe adapted from the adorable blog, Noms for the Poor (what a great name)

Homemade Goat Cheese

pure goat cheese

Good Monday Morning to you all!  I’ve been meaning to blog about homemade goat cheese for several weeks, now.  I stumbled upon this process because I’d bought a quart of goat’s milk when Olive was starting to wean and I read or heard or saw somewhere that goat’s milk digests easier than cow’s milk, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I naturally tasted it before I gave it to her.  It tasted like liquid goat cheese.  I wouldn’t personally want to drink that, but I let her try it in the name of not pushing my personal tastes onto my child.  She wouldn’t take more than one sip.  Actually cried (this was around 9 months) so I bought a quart of whole cow’s milk instead and we haven’t looked back.  So I turned the goat’s milk into a nice, creamy 4 ounce log of goat cheese with garlic and herbs.  It was delicious.

I guess I’ll take this time to tell you that I don’t believe in eating something just because it has health benefits.  Eating grass straight from the yard is probably beneficial in some way, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it.  I believe things should have flavor, seasoning, and should taste wonderful in addition to however many antioxidants they might have.  So this, I suppose, ties in to the way I have always cooked for Olive.  I haven’t ever given her something without seasoning.  From 6 months, whatever she’s eaten has been seasoned with something (yes, less salt than I’d prefer, don’t worry.) And now that she’s eating from the table, it’s game ON.  Welcome to the wonderful world of food, Ollie.  We have chocolate!

Making goat cheese is easier than making bread, but the two go together quite nicely.  I don’t personally think that it’s easier or cheaper than buying goat cheese at the store.  I think a quart of goat’s milk is comparable to a cheap log of goat cheese.  However, it’s fun to do stuff from scratch, it’s creamier, tastier and gives you a sense of self satisfaction that you did something the old way.  Isn’t that reason enough to at least give it a try?

 

DIY Goat Cheese – adapted from Serious Eats
makes one, 4 oz log of goat cheese

1 quart of full fat goat’s milk (I bought this brand)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from one large lemon, maybe two)
1/2 clove freshly grated garlic
a few pinches of salt
Herbs – whatever sounds good to you (rosemary, chives, herbs de Provence, non herbs like honey, chopped dried fruits, etc.  Possibilities are endless.  If you use something sweet, omit the garlic)

Fill a medium saucepan with goat’s milk.  Heat gradually until it reaches 180F.  Watch closely.  It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.  A candy thermometer works nice in this situation, but I used a probe meat thermometer the second time because it was more accurate (pictured here was my first attempt.)
cooking goat milk

Once it hits the magical temperature, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Let stand until milk starts to curdle, about 20 seconds. Don’t expect curdles, like cottage cheese curdles. Slight clumping will occur, but nothing too drastic. You can add a few extra droplets if nothing is actually happening.

Line a colander with a thin, flour sack kitchen towel.  Or lots and lots of layers of cheese cloth that you probably don’t have on hand.  Most of you have a thin kitchen towel that you can almost see through. As long as there aren’t holes, use it.  It’s efficient, it works great and just remember to wash it quickly and don’t throw it in the used-towel bin for a week all wadded up in a sweaty goat cheese smelling ball.  Like I did.

Set your lined colander over a deep bowl and ladle in the milk.  It will seem like it’s all seeping through, but don’t fret. Tie up the ends of the towel and suspend over the bowl and let it drain for about 2 hours.
straining goats milk

Transfer the cheese to a bowl and mix in seasonings to taste.  The first time I did it, I added the grated garlic, salt and about a teaspoon of herbs de Provence.  The second time, I roasted my garlic and added in olive oil.  SO GOOD. This time, I left out the garlic and stirred in some raw honey and a little salt and used it in a salad recipe from the Bonne Femme cookbook.  Amazing results.  Have fun with it!

After you mix in your flavors, if you want to be able to cut it or have some sort of shape, wrap it up in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for a couple hours to let it firm up.  (see below) then you can cut it for bread or whatever you like.

goat cheese with baguette and raw honey

 

With just bread and extra honey it’s basically a dessert!

goat cheese honey salad

 

On top of baguette slices, broiled and then drizzled with extra honey.  Set on top of a mixed greens salad with toasted pine nuts and a sherry vinaigrette.  An excellent lunch!