Sunday, August 31, 2008

not your typical white person

quick post. when i was buying the ingredients to make up some red beans and rice for our tailgate party tomorrow (go bruins!), i had to ask the butcher if they had any ham hocks because there weren't any out in the open cases. the other person standing at the counter at the time, a black guy about my age, turned to me and said, "ham hocks? you are NOT a typical white person!" i thanked him for the complement and left the store grinning ear to ear!

update - because joanna asked so nicely and she is such a good friend of the blog, here's the recipe. p.s., sorry, j, this won't ever be entered for consideration on the heart of the matter! anyway, here it is...

auntie lil bird's n'awlins red beans and rice

(adapted from emeril's red beans and rice from his louisiana real and rustic cookbook)

1 lb dried small red beans, rinsed and sorted, soaked overnight and drained
2 tbsp canola oil
1 c chopped onions
1/2 c chopped bell pepper
1/2 c chopped celery
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
4 bay leaves
1 lb boiled ham, cut into 1/2 in cubes
1 smoked ham hock (skin scored crosswise)
8 oz smoked sausage, cut in half then into 1/4 in slices (half moons, if you will)
3 tbsp chopped garlic
8 - 10 c water
steamed white rice

bust out your large heavy pot (le creuset or similar works best) and saute the trinity (onions, peppers, celery) and spices for about 5 mins over med-high heat. add the bay leaves, ham and ham hock and saute for an additional 5 or so minutes. (note, i did not say to add the sausage yet. simon says, back to the beginning!) add the garlic and saute until you start to smell it but before it burns. add the beans and then enough water to cover all ingredients. bring to a boil, then reduce heat. simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. add more water, if things start to get too dry and thick. at about the 2 hour mark, take your spoon and start mashing the beans against the side of the pot until you've mashed about 1/2 of the beans. (tip from auntie, do this on the side of the pot that is facing the back of the stove, in case you push the pot, it won't fall off the stove and spill boiling beans all over you!) this is the critical step as this is what gives the dish its creamy texture. now stir in your cut up sausage pieces and continue to stir for another 1 1/2 hours or so until mixture is creamy and beans are soft. feel free to add more water, the texture should be liquid but not watery, ifyaknowwhutimean. before serving, remove the bay leaves and the ham hock, salvage any of the non-fatty meat from the hock and return it to the pot. serve over steamed white rice with plenty of crystal hot sauce and an ice cold abita amber beer.

red beans

as a bit of history - red beans and rice is still typically served on mondays in new orleans. the reason: monday was wash day and a pot of red beans was easy to cook as it could be left relatively unattended while the lady of the house was busy all day in the yard with the laundry.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Where are those women?

You might be wondering where we've been lately. I can answer for all of us. It's just that summer time comes with responsibilities. Friends visiting, hot summer nights that don't require any additional cooking because you've baked your body all day, and let's throw in a bit o' work. Summer is just too much fun to be in the kitchen, well for me it has been. We do promise to get back to it soon.

With the long weekend here and yes, another bbq, I hope to have one new recipe to post on Tuesday but until then, ponder this.

As the days get shorter I'm starting to think of trying something new in the kitchen. I've been toying with a list of recipes I've always wanted to try and before it becomes a novel I should start ticking off a few.

These are by no mean all of my list or in any particular order:

Angel food cake
Dill pickles
Low-fat dishes that are tasty
More outdoor dutch oven cooking
More smoked meats
Chicken Molé
Real sourdough bread from my own starter

The list is growing and maybe when the thermometer dips a bit in the coming months I can tackle something new.

How did your summer go?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vegetarians: no monkeys were harmed in the making of this dish

When I'm in a fix for something sweet to make, in a short amount of time, I'll go to my standard, Monkey Bread. It serves as well as a dessert as it does a breakfast treat. I've never had to take any leftovers home. It's so simple it amazes me when people rave about it. Must be the brown sugar and cinnamon, gets them every time. Since there are few ingredients needed I always keep them on hand for that last minute surprise potluck. The refrigerator biscuits last forever. It's scary but I try not to think about it.

Please, no one turn up their noses at the canned biscuits used in this tasty treat. I've made it from scratch and to be honest, I like the texture of the Pillsbury biscuits better. Some recipes call for dipping each piece of dough in butter then rolling in sugar. Takes too much time and, again, not much different in the final product.

Monkey Bread
4 cans Pillsbury Buttermilk Biscuits, ten in the can. I buy 4 wrapped together in their "value pack"
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon (sometimes I throw in a bit of fresh nutmeg, too)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 stick unsalted butter (do not use margarine)

Grease the sides of a tube/bundt pan.
Mix white sugar and cinnamon together and put in a bag.

Open cans one at a time and cut each biscuit into four pieces. Put all of the one can's cut biscuits into the bag with the cinnamon sugar and shake to coat the pieces.

Start layering the biscuits into the prepared pan. If you desire, you can add chopped nuts or raisins with each layer. Do each can then set aside as you make the syrup.

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a small pan. Bring to a boil and cook for about two minutes stirring continuously. Pour over biscuits in prepared pan.

Bake in 350 oven for about 30-40 minutes until they biscuits are golden and puffed. Don't over bake. Let cool for about 10/15 minutes or so; if not, all the monkeys fall out. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn upside down on a plate.

Serve warm or cold. Use a fork to separate a piece, cutting can be difficult unless it's cold.

I'd like to show a photo but every time I make this I'm rushing out the door.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rigatoni with Roasted Red Peppers

One morning laying on the sofa trying to rid myself of a crummy sinus headache......what better way to take your mind off of your ills than by watching someone cook on TV, just seems to take me elsewhere. Well I ran across an older spot by Giada De Laurentis...........sounded so easy I knew I had to try it..........cause it had all the ingredients we like.

Couple of comments about the following recipe....

  • don't overpower the rigatoni with too much of the bread crumbs
  • I used my own red peppers that I roasted on the can use jarred red peppers but make sure they are packed in water and not oil
  • I also added a bit more garlic cloves while pulsing the croûtons
  • Also when toasting your almonds..careful not to burn heat, five minutes. Keep shaking the pan to move the almonds around.
  • use rigatoni as with the little ridges it hold the bread crumb mixture.

1 pound rigatoni pasta
3 cups purchased garlic-flavored croûtons, (about 5 ounces)
1/4 cup slivered almonds (about 1 ounce), toasted
1 cup julienned roasted red bell peppers
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta into a large bowl.

Place the extra garlic, croutons and the almonds in a food processor. Pulse until it becomes the texture of bread crumbs. Add the mixture to the hot pasta. Add the peppers and the olive oil. Toss to combine and serve.

Now if you are someone who likes to have tomato sauce on your pasta.........this dish is not for you. My sweet husband is a purist and likes tomato sauce on his pasta, so I took a big chance with this dish, but he LOVED it.........the man never ceases to amaze me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The answer

The can on the left was the product I was hoping someone would identify. One person said it was baking powder, Laura from Laura Rebecca's Kitchen and she was as wrong as me. I picked up this can at Trader Joe's thinking:
  • I need baking powder
  • baking powder comes in a round can
  • baking soda comes in a square box
  • I'm in such a hurry
I then went home to bake some cookies that have three teaspoons of baking powder. I was baking them for a gallery opening I was involved in. When I tasted them they had a very flat flavor with an aftertaste. They were frosted with a great ganache, what's not to love there, but they still were a bit off. I've made this recipe before and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out the problem.

Fast forward to last week when I got out the ingredients for biscuits and actually read the can. Yikes! I'd used baking soda instead of baking powder. I don't know about you but I'm a very graphic person and relied on my memory of what the can looked like and failed to read the label.

Laura Rebecca, because you were as smart as I was and thought the can looked like baking powder I'm sending you a homemade felt lapel pin. Just contact me with a mailing address via e-mail.

Everyone else, be wary of just grabbing something to use before you read the label. I know I shall not make that mistake again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Can you guess?

How about a game today?

Who can tell us: what's this product?

One comment said Baking Powder. Who thinks this is Baking Powder? Go look at your's in the cupboard.

Post a comment with your guess. If no one can answer I'll post a hint, tomorrow. I might even have a prize but just the knowledge that you are smarter than Moon is worth a lot. Wait, there are many smarter than Moon. I should give a prize.

Click the comments, all comments welcome. If you are a "nonny mouse" include your e-mail.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

i heart trader joe's

have i said that before? well, let me say it again. not only are they cheaper than the supermarkets, their selection is better and fresher and they offer so many options that are better for you and the environment.

i made this lemon pepper papardelle with sundried tomato alfredo sauce and grilled chicken for my grandmother's recent visit. it was a perfect summer afternoon meal and we enjoyed the meal and each other's company with a nice rex goliath pinot grigio.

here's the tj's shopping list:

sundried tomatoes (the dry ones, not the ones in oil)
kosher chicken breasts
lemon pepper papardelle
alfredo sauce
parmesan cheese
pinot grigio

grill chicken and cut into slices. chop sundried tomatoes into strips and simmer with one or two smashed cloves of garlic in some of the wine until soft. add jar of alfredo sauce and simmer until flavors blend. meanwhile, boil the papardelle until al dente. drain pasta, add to sauce and heat over low for a few minutes so the pasta finishes cooking and soaks up some of the sauce. plate pasta and put the grilled chicken on top. garnish with grated parmesan cheese, basil ribbons and lemon zest. enjoy with a glass of the wine!

Friday, August 08, 2008


We are very excited Doodles won their contest so here is another recipe from the magazine. This time I'll let you go buy Cook's Country or at very least, join online. I made this as an appetizer for last weekend's dinner party and it was very successful. It does take some pre-prep but then it goes together quickly.

The whole trick to this is instead of making a normal pizza dough with yeast you make a dough with beer. Because you don't need it to rise you can roll it out and slap it in the skillet. I wanted to have them ready to go so I rolled them out and slapped them between two pieces of waxed paper and slapped them in the refrigerator. I love slapping things.

When it came time to fix them I oiled my non-stick pan and cooked the first side. When it's nice and crispy flip it over, load on the toppings and cover until the bottom is crisp and the chees is melty. This is all similar to the pizza on the grill, another America Test Kitchen recipe, that is fun, but a lot more work. I cut them into bit sized pieces and served them hot. Six adults when through three nine-inch pizzas quickly and if I didn't already have dinner cooked I might have made more.

Photo editor's note: Before I slid the last pizza out on the cutting board, plastic; I set down the pan to take a snap. When I lifted the pan, the cutting board came with it. Glad this was my last pizza. Just a little calamity in the kitchen, when it all cooled it was easy to scrap the melted plastic off the skillet bottom but the board, not so lucky. I was happy to see it bore the little recycle triangle so at least it could be made into something else.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

If you are not drooling …

When Doodle's won the recipe contest in the September issue of Cook's Country I, of course, picked up the magazine. I do enjoy this magazine because they have no ads only good recipes and a few hints and product reviews. I was not disappointed with this issue and tried a number of recipes for a dinner this weekend.

Often, when going to a potluck or planning an informal dinner get-together, I want a simple dessert that's portable. There is nothing more difficult than trying to get a fancy dessert on the road. I'd rather be a roadie for a rock band than have to transport something with whipped cream. This unbelievably light lemon sheet cake answered both those requests, and did I mention, it was easy and delicious.

I did not change this recipe one bit but my cake texture was not as dense as the picture in the magazine. Mine turned out very fluffy with lots of crumbs. I might have beat mine longer but it didn't seem to affect the flavor. The sugar and zest combo on the top was great. The topping gave a bit of crunch to the, other wise, tender cake.

Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake
serves 16

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temp
3 tablespoons grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 3 large lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks of softened unsalted butter
3 large eggs plus 1 yolk, room temp

3 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons buttermilk

For the cake: heat oven 325 degrees. Grease and flour 13x9 baking pan. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Combine buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla.

With electric mixer on medium speed, beat granulated sugar and lemon zest until moist and fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer 1/4 cup sugar mixture to small bowl, cover, and reserve. Add butter to remaining sugar mixture and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs and yolk, one at a time, until incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of buttermilk mixture, and mix until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Scrape batter into pan and smooth top. Bake until cake is golden brown and tooth pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25-35 minutes. Transfer cake pan to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes.

For the glaze: Whisk confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and buttermilk until smooth. Gently spread glaze over warm cake and sprinkle evenly with reserved sugar mixture. Cool completely, two hours. Serve.