February, 2013 Archive

Friday, February 22, 2013

blood orange margaritas

blood orange margaritas

Is everyone on vacation without you? Are your social media feeds one big blur of the freckled faces of people you once thought you loved basking in the Caribbean sun, showing unintentional contempt for you, back here, shivering and damp? Do your so-called friends in warmer climes gush about pea tendrils and new artichokes while your local market has shriveled roots that last saw the unfrozen earth in October? Of last year? Maybe, just this one time, an exception should be made and a tidy, brief pity party would be acceptable. I have just the elixir.

blood oranges
freshly squeezed blood orange juice

You may not be in the tropics, but glass-for-glass, we can fake it. You may not have fresh coconuts overhead and sweet mango and papaya slices on your breakfast plate, but if we hurry, we can grab onto the tail end of blood orange season and squeeze it into something better.

the prettiest thing

Continued after the jump »

Monday, February 18, 2013

italian stuffed cabbage

italian stuffed cabbage

Prior to November, what I knew of stuffed cabbage rolls were limited to the Jewish/Eastern European variety, which I make the way my mother-in-law does. I hadn’t given it further thought because as far as I was concerned, it was never broken, and needed little improvement, and when there’s little room for me to tinker in the kitchen, I quickly lose interest. But if I had, it might have occurred to me that cabbage, being one of the ultimate peasant foods, has probably been wrapped around meat that’s been ground and then stretched (always budget-minded, those peasants) with other ingredients and cooked in a sauce in a zillion different ways over the centuries. And oh, the fun we might have been having this whole time.

peeling the savoy
big floppy cabbage leaves

As it turns out, it could be argued that any region that can grow large cabbage leaves is indeed stuffing them with something. The most cursory of Google searches leads one on a tour of Greek lahanodolmathes, stuffed with ground beef and rice and covered with a traditional egg and lemon (avgolemono) sauce; French chou farci, stuffed with beef or pork, sometimes mushrooms, wrapped in large layers of cabbage leaves and served in wedges; Polish gloabki, or “little pigeons,” with pork and beef, and rice or barley (sigh); Slovak holubky or halupki; Serb or Croatian sarma with (hold me) sauerkraut and ham hocks, and Arabic mahshi malfouf which adds lemon juice, cinnamon and mint (swoon) to the usual ground meat and rice medley. And guys, I’m just getting started. The idea that there are this many ways to fall in love with stuffed cabbage torments me, and leaves me daydreaming about a Westeros-length winter wherein we could audition each one.

quickly blanching the cabbage leaves

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, February 7, 2013

salted caramel brownies

runny salted caramel brownies

A couple months ago, someone requested that I try my hand at caramel brownies. Amazingly, this person was not my husband, but he endorsed this idea so wholeheartedly that I suspect he might have paid this person off. Then again, in most people’s minds, who doesn’t want to make caramel brownies? What kind of strange person considers what would happen when sea salt-flecked deeply copper-colored homemade caramel meets a chewy, rich homemade brownie and then shrugs it off, “Eh, I’ll pass.” Guys, it’s me. It’s not that I didn’t think that a salted caramel brownie could be delicious, it’s just that I imagine it’s well-trodden territory, which to me translates as “people who want to make this already know how to” and then I figure my time would be better spent making other things, like weird egg salads and silky hummus.

granulated sugar, starting to meltmelted sugar, copper-coloredadding butter, hiss, fizzbubbling and smelling awesome

But then, as I did a quick search or two, I discovered things that caused me to make that crooked face that I made when I’m thinking really hard, because sometimes after a day of explaining to a preschooler why we have to wear pants when we leave the apartment when I fully understand the desire to simply not wear pants sometimes, thinking is really hard. The first is that a whole lot recipes started with store-bought caramels or caramel sauce, which made me sad, because the homemade stuff requires three ingredients that you probably have, is really easy to make and the flavor comparison (especially if you add a fourth ingredient, salt) … well, there is none. They barely deserve to share the same name. The next thing that gave me pause was that they all looked achingly sweet, as if little consideration was given to the fact that dousing an already-sweet brownie with caramel sauce might cause teeth to hurt/dentists to buy new vacation homes.

pour onto a parchment-lined plate

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

egg salad with pickled celery and coarse dijon

egg salad with pickled celery and coarse dijon

Someone pointed out to me a few weeks ago that this site has not a single recipe in the archives for egg salad. However, unlike the time I realized the broccoli archives boasted but a single recipe (and quickly sought to populate it) or the time I accepted that a quickie from-scratch homemade chicken noodle soup deserves a place in every arsenal, the egg salad-shaped hole in the archives went unnoticed less due to editorial oversight and more because, well, you know: egg salad; it’s pretty dull. Could anything be more uninspired than an amalgamation of smashed-up hard-boiled eggs and the dreaded mayonnaise? I mean, have you seen the yellow, flavorless mounds of dubious origin and assembly date most delis scoop onto a slice of bread and try to pass off as lunch? It would hardly make an enthusiast out of you. Or anyone.

hoping they're perfect inside
whisking the pickling liquid + helper

But for those of us who see past the lack of beauty-queen stature and fervor around it, we know egg salad can be rather delicious if made properly, which is to say, at home, with perfectly cooked eggs and just enough dressing to cling, not drown them. At home, I make three small additions that I think transform it from the unglamorous status-quo to something I find crunchy, bright and absolutely perfect on a slice of whole-grain toasted bread in the middle of the day. The first is that I love to use coarse, or whole-grain Dijon mustard. Not only is it the prettiest thing in my fridge, the combination of the faintly crisp/crackly seeds and its milder flavor are heavenly here, adding texture and just enough kick to the eggs. The second is finely minced shallot, just a little. You could use red onion, too, but I think the texture is key. You want it to be noticeable enough that you enjoy it but not so loud that it upstages the star, kind of like surprise guests at a halftime show.

sad old celery from the back of the fridge

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