May, 2009 Archive

Friday, May 29, 2009

graham crackers

graham crackers

Let’s say I was an alien, or new here or something — er, not entirely impossible, if you consider that I woke up yesterday with small feet fidgeting way further up my rib cage than I thought anatomically possible, leading me to wonder what I actually know about anatomy, leading to an inadvisable, rash amount of Google Image searching, leading to my eyes popping out of my head and whoa, I’ve digressed mightily — and I asked you to explain to me what is this “graham cracker” flavor that you speak of, could you do it?

dark brown sugarbutter, cubedhoneygraham cracker dough

Because I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what it was, and seeing the wide range of graham cracker — they’re something like digestive biscuits, for those of you across the pond — recipes out there, it’s not just me. There was the one I tried a couple years ago with rye flour, which I can assure you, was not the answer. Graham flour — a coarsely, exactingly ground whole wheat flour — would be the obvious answer, since they originate with one Rev. Sylvester Graham himself, but that doesn’t go far to explain the curious flavor of the cookie-like crackers. Cinnamon is another thing most recipes agree on, but when I tried a version with a lot of cinnamon in it (rather than on it, in a cinnamon-sugar coating), it tasted wrong. Ditto with another that contained an excess of molasses.

cutting the graham crackerscutting the graham crackersgraham crackers, ready to bakegraham crackers, ready to bake

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

grilled shrimp cocktail

shrimp cocktail

My friend Alexis smartly concluded this weekend that our new goals in life should be to cultivate as many friends as possible with a) vacation homes, b) access to family vacation homes and c) a strong interest in making elaborate home-cooked meals in their free time. And you know, I think she’s onto something. We spent the holiday weekend back in Highlands, North Carolina, guests of my friend Molly’s parents who were themselves out of town, allowing even more of my friends to pile in. (Remember when having parents out of town meant “kegger!”? Ah, you know you’re in your thirties when it means “mocktails” and “let’s make our own remoulade!”.) It was fantastic.

seedy watermelonwatermelon seeds

The weather didn’t much cooperate, so we didn’t get any hiking in which was a bummer, as I suspect I’m wearing every one of those meals around my midsection right now, trying to pass it off as “it’s the baby, swear” because, frankly, it’s never too soon to blame it for everything, right? But the ick weather just left us more time in one of those kitchens with more than one counter and enough cabinets that when you can’t find something, it takes a good few minutes to find where it is hiding. I tried not to get used to it.

We cooked up a storm. Ang fried green tomatoes and okra:

okra was fried

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

strawberry shortcakes

strawberry shortcake

Let me guess: It’s Sunday. If you’re lucky, you’ve got at least a whole extra day left of a summer-summoning holiday weekend and if you’re even luckier, and the weather is a little more barbecue, pot-luck or picnic-friendly than it is where I am in the mountains of North Carolina, and maybe, just maybe, you’re trying to figure out what you can bring that won’t take you any time to make.

egg yolk shortcake doughshortcake dough

Well, Smitten Kitchen is here for you! A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times’ ran an article on shortcakes, no not those little “foam discs” that you find next to the strawberries at the grocery store, but lightly sweetened cream biscuits — rich and buttery, coming to a crunch at the edges (often hastened by a sprinkling of coarse sugar), just the perfect cake to offset some lightly sweetened whipped cream and slightly macerated berries. Drooling yet? I was and the accompanying recipe was quickly moved to the top of the Cook This Now or Lose It Forever list. (Top Gun, anyone?)

shortcakebrushing shortcakes with creamsprinkled with sugarshortcakes, cooling

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

slaw tartare

slaw tartare

I had great plans for our holiday weekends, my friends. We were all going to kick it off by making homemade hamburger buns that we could use right away, or stash in the freezer until the weather cooperates. Really, nothing should have been simpler. Most hamburger buns are an enriched white bread, which is ridiculously simple to make, and rolls are so much quicker to bake than large loaves. Because isn’t it funny how in this day and age where so many of us grind our own meats for our signature burger blends that we’re generally still getting those buns from a bag or bakery?

hamburger buns, duds

Well, eight hours of frustrated cooking later, I can tell you that the force was not with us, or at least nowhere within a mile radius of the dud recipe I chose. It took all of the flour (and the patience) I had to (barely) pull it together. It nearly overflowed in the bowl twice. The suggested height of the buns didn’t yield anything you’d want to prop a burger on (but perhaps some falafel, with its pita-like proportions) and the flavor was nothing spectacular. A few hours later, they were already stale (never a good sign). And thus it is with a heavy sigh that I tell you that this will not be the Smitten Kitchen-approved hamburger bun recipe I’d dreamed of. Stay tuned this summer: homemade hamburger buns will be mine. Ours.

red onioncornichoncaperstartar sauce

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

raspberry buttermilk cake

raspberry buttermilk cake

As you may have guessed, I have a serious soft spot for everyday cakes.* I call them Dinner Party Cakes. Or Potluck Cakes. Or I Heard You Were Coming and So I Baked You a Cake, cakes. Or If You Bake a Cake, The People Will Come cakes, as a fresh-from-the-oven cake has a way of drawing friends around your coffee table on an otherwise blah Monday night. Home baked goods are magical like that.

buttermilk cake batter

This one was no exception. (Well, except for the part where the preggo in the audience may have fallen asleep before actually telling people when to ring the doorbell. But let’s not talk about that.) I saw it in Gourmet last week and it sounded so deliciously summery, I was “fixin'” (as my friend Molly says) to bake it immediately. Alas, I’m still convinced my new kitchen conspires against me, as this time the oven which had been working a whole 36 hours before had mysteriously stopped (Said “mystery” turned out to be a pilot light that needed re-lighting. What? I’m new here, okay?) and I had to wait a whole four days to actually get to this.

raspberries, not scattered

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