This dish is adapted from Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Black Sesame Otsu from her upcoming book, Super Natural Everyday. If you haven’t visited her food blog (101 Cookbooks) before, go. She is one of my favorite healthy food recipe authors and I can’t wait to get my hands on her new book.
This dish is everything you want in a Spring dinner–nice and light-tasting, not too heavy and packed with green leafy goodness. The only change I would make next time would be adding more cayenne. 2 big pinches just wasn’t enough for us.
Now on to the goodness that is a bowl of Japanese noodles.
Black Sesame Walnut Noodles
1/2 c. walnuts, shelled
1/2 c. black sesame seeds (note: these will end up looking like coffee grounds. If that bothers you, use white sesame seeds)
1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. shoyu
1 1/2 tsp. mirin
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. rice (sushi) vinegar
2 big pinches cayenne pepper
12 oz. soba noodles
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Handful Chinese chives, chopped (optional)
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
Toast the walnuts in a dry pan over medium-high heat until they begin to release their aroma and are lightly toasted. Don’t forget to shake the pan regularly to avoid burnt spots. Add the sesame seeds and toast for only a minute or so, until they smell toasted. Be careful not to over-toast!
Transfer the nuts to a mortar & pestle or bowl of a food processor. Crush until the mixture looks like black sand. Add the sugar, shoe, miring, sesame oil, vinegar and cayenne. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning.
Wash and slice your chard into thin ribbons.
When the water is boiling, add the soba and cook according to package directions until tender (about 3 minutes). In the last minute or so of cooking, add the chard and stir.
When your noodles are tender and the chard is nicely cooked, drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.
Reserve some of the sesame paste and the chives for a garnish. Scoop the rest into a large mixing bowl and thin with 1/3 c. of the reserved cooking liquid to form a sauce.
Add everything else to the bowl and toss until combined. Serve topped with the reserved sesame paste and chives.
Serves 2 for dinner, with enough left over for a nice lunch.
I’ve been a bit nostalgic for one of the places I’ve called home lately. It started with a listing I ran across of Saveur Magazine’s Top 100. Biscuitville made the list! I love Biscuitville! I miss biscuits! We don’t really have Southern-style biscuits in Miami.
This led to a Facebook conversation with an old friend about the biscuits we loved from my college days in Eastern North Carolina. These biscuits were the bomb-diggety and almost ubiquitous on campus, as well as in little local gas stations and breakfast joints (the top examples for me being the The Wright Place on East Carolina University’s main campus and a little ghetto gas station on the outskirts of known town we used to frequent just for the biscuits and cheap cigarettes). This led the Facebook friend and I on an Internet-wide search for the perfect Eastern North Carolina biscuit, which in turn led to stumbling upon a fight that has been raging for ages on the subject on Chowhound. It seems no one can agree on a recipe, or even if the hyper-local biscuits even exist. They *do* exist. And apparently we aren’t the only ex-East Carolinians who remember them with fondness.
These are not Red Lobster-style cheddar biscuits, though (as legend has it) those hail from the Carolinas too. These biscuits are huge (bigger than your hand or cat head sized as some call it), have a nice dense crumb with slightly crispy outside from touching the sides of the pan and come with a thick layer of gooey cheddar-like orange melty cheese in the center. Not, I repeat, Not mixed in with the batter. Those are indeed some great biscuits, but not what I’m talking about here. You might ask, what’s the big freaking deal? They’re biscuits with cheese in the middle. Pop open a can of Pillsbury and be done with it. To which I’d retort, blasphemer! Those aren’t the same thing at. all. These, aside from dipped in nostalgia, are flaky yet toothsome, gooey from the cheese, almost greasy to the touch, and satisfying to the core. These are cheese biscuits that don’t even need a fried egg, country ham or bacon to be good. And that, my friends, is a feat in and of itself.
A note on cheese: Proponents of the biscuit gospel call for something called a “hoop cheese”. According to Wikipedia, hoop cheese is a firm dry cheese made from milk alone and is popular throughout the rural South. I can believe this, though the cheese I remember is more cheddar-like, so I found a nice stout cheddar to slice. What you’re looking for is a good melty cheese that can stand up to a buttermilk biscuit without becoming molten when heated. Something that would taste good wrapped on waxed paper after it has oozed out the side of your biscuit and solidified.
A note on lightness & flakiness: The original author of this recipe likes her biscuits a bit more flaky and light than I was looking for, so I kneaded my dough a bit more than she called for. I wanted a somewhat dense biscuit; if you, like my DH, want lighter biscuits, knead less.
2 1/4 c. All Purpose flour
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
4 1/2 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter
1 c. buttermilk
Stout cheddar-like cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Add the butter a piece at a time to the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until you have a mixture the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Although I’m sure the writer of the original recipe would cringe, I very rarely bake, don’t own a pastry cutter, and no one in my life trusts me to dual-wield knives without losing a finger or two like the recipe called for alternately. So, I beat the crap out of the butter with a metal potato masher and hands that I periodically chilled in the freezer until the right consistency was reached. Whatever works.
Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the buttermilk. Gently scrape the sides of the bowl and fold the mixture until barely combined. Don’t mix it to death, just incorporate all the dry wispy bits of flour from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be lumpy, sticky in places and shaggy around the edges. This dough is not pretty and to the baking uninitiated like me, will look like it is not going to work. Pick the dough up and knead it carefully in the bowl, turning over with each pass, 3-5 times (I did 5, the original author stuck to 3), until almost all the mixture forms a cohesive mass. Don’t knead any more, or you will get hockey pucks.
To form the biscuits, pinch off a ball of dough about 2 1/2 inches around and form into a thick free-form patty. This recipe should yield 6 large biscuits. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Slice and serve with sturdy cheddar-like cheese, heating in the microwave until just-melted.
These grits are good. Like jump-up-and-smack-yo-momma good. Better than the stone ground fancified grits at my favorite restaurant good. And the best part? I can have them any time I please. This is another comfort dish my DH has taken and made his own. Love it when he does that.
Chris’ Bomb-Ass Grits
2 cups milk (we use 2% Horizon Farms Organic)
2 cups water
1 cup yellow grits (we used Arrowhead Farms organic yellow corn grits)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. grated parmesan
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Pour the milk and water into a saucepan on medium-high. Cover & wait for the milk to boil. When it does, add the grits & salt and kick the heat down to medium. Stir constantly (yes, constantly means what you think it does) until the grits look like a thick soup, approximately 8 mins.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring only every 2-3 minutes until the grits thicken and fall nicely from the spoon, 7-8 minutes. You’re not looking for crazy thick here, just a nice thick but not concrete consistency.
When the grits reach that golden consistency, start stirring constantly for a little longer until they become creamy, fluffy & soft. Turn off the heat.
Add the parmesan, butter, pepper & red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Taste for salt and add if needed.
Serve with anything. We’ve had them with a great slow cooked ragout of mini bell peppers, onion and swiss chard and a plain topping of fire roasted tomatoes with kale.
To make the pepper & onion ragout: slice 1 pint mini bell peppers into 1/4 inch thick rings, 2 cloves garlic and 2 small white onions into thin slices. Sautee, stirring frequently to avoid burning, over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. olive oil 20 mins. or until caramelized. Add 1 bunch chopped rainbow chard and 1/4 c. water and cook until chard wilts and water evaporates. Add 1 tsp. chipotle Tabasco sauce and sriracha (Chicken Sauce) to taste (for me, that’s a turn of the pan and a half). Salt & pepper to taste.
Serve over grits with thick batons of home made bacon.
If by some miracle you happen to have any leftovers, try this recipe inspired by Carla from Top Chef:
Fried Grit Fritters
Heat a medium pan on medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil.
Take roughly 1/4 cup of your now solidified grits and dump them on a plate. Carefully with either your hands or a spoon, smash and spread the grits out until they look like a free form pancake about 1/2 inch thick. It doesn’t matter if you have little cracks here and there; you’re looking for something that will more or less stay together in the pan.
Transfer carefully to the pan and fry until golden brown. Flip & repeat.
This treatment wakes the leftover grits up and gives them a pleasant, almost nutty taste.
Wondering what to do with all the pickled beets you just made? Well so was I, so I whipped up a little light salad to use up some CSA veggies.
Pickle Me Pink Salad
Oh no she didn’t go there; that recipe title is terrible! Ok, so I’m a dork, so sue me ;p
1 c. bulgur wheat
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. broken walnuts
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 bunch spinach, washed & chopped
3 oz. goat cheese crumbles
3/4 c. sliced pickled beets
1/4 c. + 2 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
Add bulgur to 2 1/2 c. boiling water, turn off the heat, slap on a lid and let sit for 30 mins.
In the meantime, slice garlic wafer thin and add to a pan on medium heat with 2 tsp. olive oil. Sautee until golden and crisp. Set aside and wipe the pan.
Put the pan back over medium heat and add walnuts. Toast in a dry pan until starting to color and smell sweet. Add maple syrup and cook, stirring frequently, until most of the syrup has evaporated. Remove immediately to a dish to cool fully.
In a large bowl, whisk together the juice of 1 grapefruit, dijon mustard and 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil. Salt & pepper to taste.
Add the bulgur (drain if it is a little wet), chopped spinach, goat cheese crumbles and sliced pickled beets to the dressing. Stir & serve.
Makes a nice healthy meal for 2, with enough left over for lunch the next day.
Much-reviled beets are one of the few foods on Earth I find truly repulsive. I think they taste exactly like musty dirt and generally want absolutely nothing to do with them. And then came my crusade to eat more seasonably and locally and my decision to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) club. My CSA ships year-round organic vegetables that are sourced as locally as is possible/cost effective. Part of that commitment was bound to include trying new things. Enter the beets.
I remember as a kid thinking after the first taste made my taste buds want to retreat down my throat that beets must have been something you ate in the depression, because they were less hard than pebbles, and that anyone that still ate beets was a: ancient and had no taste left, or b: wanted to eat what they ate when they were little.
I’m fairly certain that an ancient person was the first to get me to try beets. Possibly my grandfather with Althziemers. Maybe it was only my father. I did think he was ancient, after all. (what can I say? I was a little kid. Being in your 30s was one and the same with being in your 60s or 80s to me at the time. Yeek!)
The first time I got beets, I was terrified. Beets, while a beautiful shade of claret, are gross. They taste like dirt. What the crap could I possibly do to them to make them edible?
I made pasta. My fresh beet pasta came out a beautiful shade of burgundy and I served it with a brown butter and poppyseed pan sauce, because everything is better with butter. And you know what? It worked. The beets were only slightly earthy; combined with the butter and some fresh shaved parmesan, they were great. And pretty.
I’m not scared of you any more, beets. You hear that? I’ve kicked your ass and lived to tell the tale.
Now I know, I can’t serve them in pasta every time I get them. I’ve also roasted and shredded them for beet and potato latkes, and they were great.
Every time I mention beets to my father and how I’m running out of the limited things I can do to disguise them, he tells me how great pickled beets are. I’m skeptical to say the least–sounds like some weird old people shit to me–I’m willing to try it for him. If for nothing else, but a reason to talk a little smack.
Pickled Beets Adapted from Simple Recipes
5 beets (about 2 c.)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Scrub beets and cut into uniform sizes so they will cook evenly. Boil for 15-30 minutes depending upon how large your pieces are, until a fork slides easily into them.
Drain and rinse in cold water until cool enough to handle. use your fingers or a paring knife to slip the skins off. They should come off easily. Discard the peels and slice the beets 1/4 inch thick.
Whisk the rest of the ingredients together to form a vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking. Salt & pepper to taste.
Add beets to the bowl and stir to coat. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes, stir again, and let sit 15 minutes more.
The verdict: Well, shit. These are actually pretty derned good. The first bite tasted a little like dirt in a not unpleasant way, and subsequent bites tasted sharp and sweet. I could even eat these in a salad without dying. So, dad, you were right ;p.
My husband is awesome. We are both addicted to food TV (though he won’t admit it), especially No Reservations and Top Chef. Our favorite this season (Top Chef Allstars) happens to be Richard Blais, and the prospect of molecular gastronomy intrigues us to no end. Since Miami has yet to spring its own version of Alinea, this Christmas my Darling Husband (DH) surprised me with a molecular gastronomy kit. Devoid of the really cool stuff like liquid nitrogen or a sous vide cooker, this kit is perfect for a first-time getting-her-feet-wet gastronomer.
The Kit, Cuisine R-ÉVOLUTION by MOLÉCULE-R comes with 10 packets each of Agar-Agar, Sodium Alginate, Calcium Lactate, Soy Lecithin and Xanthan Gum, a slotted spoon, measuring spoons, pipettes, food grade syringe and silicone tubes, instructional DVD and 50 recipes.
For Valentines day this year, we decided to give the kit a whirl.
Arugula Spaghetti with Goat Cheese Ravioli and Balsamic Vinegar Pearls
Pan-Seared Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Onions and Port Sauce
Twice-Cooked Smashed Red Bliss Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bacon Dust
Frozen Chocolate Wind with Berry Raviolis
The Arugula Spaghetti was a complete and utter mess. A beautiful shade of healthy Swamp-Thing green, I managed to shoot the globby-but-not-globby-enough concoction all over my nice clean kitchen. The recipe called for liquefying arugula, bringing it to a boil with Aga-Agar, and piping it into long tubes to set. I have a sneaky suspicion that where we went wrong is in the measuring. The directions called for 2 cups chopped arugula, but didn’t specify whether this was a packed 2 cups or loose. We used 5 oz., which in hindsight was too much.
Goat Cheese Raviolis were fairly successful. Not as pretty as the picture, but that could come with time. This preparation called for preparing the cheese with calcium lactate and floating delicate globes in a sodium alginate bath. The taste ended up nice, and the experiment was overall successful.
The Balsamic Vinegar Pearls were successful as well. This preparation called for mixing the vinegar with Agar-Agar, bringing it to a boil, and pipetting small spheres into a cold bowl of oil to set. Although we had drama with the directions–I’m fairly certain they were translated from French, and aren’t the most specific when it comes to things like how much oil to put in the freezer and what you’re looking for to tell if anything is ready–the pearls turned out semi-pearl ish.
The Balsamic Vinegar Pearls were to be half of the “dressing” of our first course salad, along with a drizzle of olive oil. Since we had no “salad” to our salad, they ended up being a topper to the goat cheese. Not a well-rounded dish, but not a terrible one either.
This recipe is from one of my favorite food blogs: Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, and is the recipe The Chef made for Gluten Free Girl the night he proposed. When I saw this post last week, it was a no-brainer and I followed it exactly (except for halving the amount of balsamic vinegar used since I didn’t have enough left over from the pearls).
This recipe turned out fantastic and I will definitely have to make the onion sauce again. Pan-seared beef tenderloin has already kind of become our generic holiday staple, and this cooking method is pretty much the method I always use.
Twice-Cooked Smashed Red Bliss Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bacon Dust
This is one of my DH’s favorite go-to potato recipes. I call it a recipe, but it’s really not too involved or complicated. Take your desired amount and type of scrubbed potatoes, put them in a pot with water and boil until done; drain; smash lightly with a potato masher, meat press, back of a frying pan, or anything else you can use to crush them lightly; sprinkle with your desired type of cheese, minced garlic and bacon if you’d like; broil until the cheese is golden and melted. Easy as pie. Mmm.. pie. The Bacon Dust was made by crisping a few strips of our fresh cured home made bacon and smashing the crap out of it in a plastic bag with something heavy.
We always love this preparation, and aside from being a bit dry since we had to re-heat them, the potatoes were lovely as always. Dessert Course
The Frozen Chocolate Wind was a total flop. Although we followed the directions to a T, foam was just not to be had. The only thing I can think we did wrong was to use electric beaters instead of an immersion blender. The directions said to use a hand blender or eggbeater to produce the foam, and we figured electric beaters are what we use to beat eggs, so they would work. Maybe in France they’re talking about something else. Yet another reason I should break down and purchase an immersion blender.
To go with our Chocolate Wind was a Berry Ravioli. Like the goat cheese raviolis, these turned out well. A full dessert they did not make, and I still feel a little gypped, but they tasted good.
We may have bitten off more than we could chew, but at least we spent two hours doing something together we both love. And no one (namely my long-suffering DH) lost a limb. Or got thrown out of the kitchen. 🙂 And after all, isn’t some QT with a loved or liked one what Valentine’s Day (or the day after in our case) is all about?
Now on to the love story.
A recipe was not all I read in Gluten Girl and the Chef’s post about the beef tenderloin. In her eloquent way, she shared her tender and life-affirming story of love, and encouraged readers from all walks of life to share similar stories. If you haven’t seen the post already, do. Go! The stories are hilarious, sad, and heartwarming. Just the thing for mid-February.
Inspired by Gluten Free Girl, here is the story of how I met my Darling, Dearest Husband.
I met my now husband on an Internet dating site. Yahoo, to be exact. He was in Bahrain on a minesweeper looking for a penpal back home (Raleigh, NC) and I didn’t have anything better to do that day.
I still don’t know what made me answer his initial e-mail. He broke all my “rules”–he hadn’t posted a picture *and* he was in the military. All I can say, is I was bored that day and in a pique of ‘doing my patriotic duty’ I answered the “not so drunk sailor” back. And boy am I ever glad I did. He sent a picture in short order, and he was h-o-t.
In the following months, I told him all about my adventures becoming someone who went on dates; about going out with friends, what movies I’d watched, what bands I’d seen, what books I was reading; about all the little details in life you share when you don’t really expect to ever see the person on the other end of the line. He told me about everything he liked, everything he was and what he got to do during the small amount of free time he was allowed to spend off the ship.
We got to know each other. He had a girlfriend and I was trying to be a dater, so a friendship blossomed. I created a chat space on my website so I could rush home from work and we could talk without him getting in trouble; he rearranged his schedule to be at the computer when I got off of work each day. We chatted. We griped. We both held on and looked forward to our time together more and more each day. He even managed to call a time or two. Then he told me he was coming back home.
And we lost touch for a few months while he adjusted to life back in the States.
Thankfully, one of his sisters intervened and got him to call me. I still thought about him, but in a ‘that was a nice chapter, let’s see what kind of drama I can get into instead’ way and had thought that ship had crashed and burned before it even left the dock.
And then he called and my heart skipped a beat. We had our first date on December 26, 2004, and the bottom fell out. He picked me up (which was a rarity–I never gave out my home address to strangers) and we went to see The Aviator. During the movie, he reached over and just barely held my hand and I wanted to jump out of my skin. After dinner (at my favorite Italian restaurant at that time), he kissed me in the car and I thought I was going to die. It was all over from there. We ended up talking (literally–not a euphemism, ok, there was some kissing and a lot of snuggling but that’s all) all night and I got maybe half an hour of sleep before work the next day. He came back the next weekend (he was stationed in Florida), and the next, and the next, until it was clear that I needed to move to be with him. I remember thinking that this was the thing I was waiting for all through high school, all through college, in order to feel like I could really start my life.
We’ve been married coming up on five years in April, I couldn’t be happier about my decision to be with him and can’t wait to tell him so when we renew our vows in Vegas this year.
Crema is a Mexican condiment that is much like sour creme or creme fraiche in taste. Either can be substituted for crema in a recipe, but since crema is so ridiculously easy to make, it’s little trouble to have some on hand.
Plus, you can spice it up any way you like with the addition of chopped chipotle pepper (or the adobo sauce chipotles come packaged in), chopped cilantro or chives, lemon or lime juice/zest, or diced onion. Crema is a great multi-purpose ingredient not only for Mexican dishes, but to add body to a quick pan sauce for pasta or rice, as a quick dressing for fish or chicken, or as a base for salad dressing.
Make it once, use it a thousand different ways.
Stuck on what to do with the extra buttermilk? You can always make some fresh ricotta or a batch of Southern-style biscuits.
2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. buttermilk
big pinch salt
big pinch pepper
Bring your cream up to room temperature by setting it on your counter for an hour or so.
Stir in the buttermilk, cover with plastic, and let set in a warm place (80-90 degrees F) over night. If you are using a jar or other lidded container for this step, make sure not to secure the lid tight; you need bacteria to come in and do its thing. I made mine in a glass measuring cup covered with plastic wrap and it worked like a charm.
Voila. In the morning, you will have a cream that is noticeably thicker than the night before. Add salt & pepper and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours more to continue the thickening process and there you go. Crema, and lots of it.
Add your optional ingredients and enjoy. The first thing I enjoyed mine in was the Nacho Empanadas (recipe to come) I made on Superbowl Sunday.
This, perhaps, is my favorite ingredient right this minute, currently beating out both garlic and sriracha. Double-smoked bacon is one of the richest and most decadent pork products ever to cross my threshold, and it’s smoky, porky goodness has found a way into dishes aplenty over the last few months.
This bacon comes slabbed, so you can slice it as you wish, cooks evenly, and lends a sublime smokiness to any dish.
Try it sliced on an egg and sharp cheddar sandwich on nice challah knots, cubed into crisp little crunchy nuggets in green vegetables, or sliced into lardons with onions in a potato hash.
This is not my first 365 photo project. Last year, I managed to take pictures all but 4 days; a small feat in itself. Some of the pictures (ok, most if I’m being honest) are complete crap, but that’s not the point. The blog got my juices flowing and I took more pictures last year than the year before. So, I think I will do it again. I haven’t decided whether or not I will be limiting myself to iPhone pictures this year–I think I’ll keep it open–but I have a feeling that the majority of pictures will be taken with it. And the 12 camera apps I have so far 🙂 I’m a bit obsessed.
If you’re curious, 2010’s 365 photo blog can be found here.
This year’s blog will also cover just what exactly to do with a bi-weekly box of CSA vegetables. Last year, I documented the contents and should have been blogging the recipes all along instead of storing them, squirrel-like, waiting for 2011 to roll around so I could start a cookbook. The cookbook is coming, it will be awhile, but it will come. There’s a hell of a pile of recipes sitting next to me, staring at me, just waiting for me to start.
I also may get around to posting about life issues, you know, the things that keep me up until 3 a.m.; driving me to scribble by monitor light in my little graph paper notebook.
Time will tell.
If you’re following from 2010’s blog, thanks. I’m always surprised when I find out people actually read the things I write on my off time. Hell, I’m surprised when people read the things I write for business, too.
If you’re just joining us, welcome. I hope to make it an entertaining ride at the very least.