culinary.

Jeweled Brown Sugar Cranberry Tart



I was told to bring whatever I wanted to Thanksgiving this year, so we brought two desserts...Pumpkin Cheesecake with Eggnog Caramel, and this Brown Sugar Cranberry Tart. In preliminary taste tests, this tart was the favorite, but I do have a tenuous relationship with Pumpkin. I know Thanksgiving is over, but there is still more than a month toscarf enjoy festive desserts. The cranberries are so pretty in the custard!
Apple-Pecan Caramel Skillet Crisp


Cornmeal-Crusted Trout with Warm Tomato Salsa


I know. Fish are a polarizing food. Whole fish are especially polarizing. We didn't eat a lot of fish growing up, although we asked for fish sticks as kids, which my mom didn't pretend to understand. Really? You want these? With Ketchup? Really?

As a poor college student, I definitely didn't eat fish. Too expensive. I was also too busy eating rice and salsa, which was about the extent of my culinary prowess.

However, I do like fish. David didn't grow up on fish either, so we're en-devouring on this journey together. How exactly to you scale a fish? How do you bone it? Why go to all this effort when you can roast a chicken in 45 minutes flat and not even have to look at the weird fish eye staring at you? 

Because, my precious: "The rock and pool, is nice and cool, so juicy sweet. Our only wish, to catch a fish, so juicy sweet."


Fat Bottom Quiche

We host guests often.

Part of hosting guests is providing a bang-a-rang breakfast to start everyone's day.  That being said, I'm not a morning person. Me and my pillow are best friends at 6am.  This means, I try to get everything ready in advance, so all I have to do is pull things that have already been prepared in my zombie state.

Y'all are smart, so I'm sure you already know about baking bacon. If you don't bake your bacon, please start ASAP, and here is why (as if you needed reasons):

1. It makes less mess. You're not going to have bacon grease splattered all over your range, your teapot, your favorite shirt, your kitchenaid... I'm a mess. Anything I can do to alleviate my natural propensity toward turning everything in the kitchen into a cleaning war zone is quickly added to my list.
2. Bacon grease is at least 25% of the reason why I love bacon. Bakin' bacon means that the fat is rendered very gracefully (yes, gracefully) from the meat. The fat does not have burned particles floating throughout, and can be very easily poured off into a bowl/tupperware to save for Magical breakfast dishes. Like the crust of this Fat Bottom quiche.
3. You have bacon on hand for whenever. For breakfast in the morning (just flash in the pan, and they're ready to serve). Or for, you know...whenever the 'bacon mood' strikes. Which for me is at least every two hours.

So, if you love quiche, bacon, easy cleanup and easy preparation, this recipe is for you.


 


Vanilla Cardamom Peach-Berry Pie


This pie, as always, has a story.


Turkish Zucchini Pancakes


You thought I was done with zucchini?

You were wrong.

Recipe after the jump...

Strawberry Basil Goat Cheese Chicken Pizza


I know. I cried too when Labor Day passed. I cried because of all the 'summery' things I'd meant to do, but never did. On our fridge is a 'Summer To Do' list . Here's a sampling of what didn't get crossed off:
1. Skip stones at the lake.
2. Night swim.
3. Breakfast on the patio.
4. Catch lighting bugs.
5. Picnic at the park
6. Make the best banana split.
7. Sparklers

But, here are some things that were enjoyed in all their summery splendor:
6. Play with water balloons.
5. Street. Fests.
4. Watch the sunset

and what was number one on my list? Me, the non-pizza person? 1. Invent a new summer pizza. I know. I was aiming pretty high there... but, guess what? After three months, I have got it!

The 90 degree temps here in Chicago are broadcasting that summer isn't really over. And really, everything on the first list is still in the cards... 'cause for as long as I can...I'm holding on to summer here, Muchachos.


Pumpkin Spice Cake with Banana Rum Cream Frosting

I have a tenuous relationship with pumpkin.

Growing up, we lived one town over from 'The Pumpkin Capital of the World".  Morton, IL celebrates the 'Pumpkin Festival' every September via 'punkin chunkin', a pumpkin pancake eating contest, pumpkin chili, doughnuts, shakes, ice cream etc...all merrily prepared and consumed by the kiloton.  Every fall, people in central Illinois go gaga for pumpkin.

Pumpkin ice cream aside, I haven't been sold. I've been duped by the promises of pumpkin too many times. Bland. Muddy. Gummy...gross. I really wanted to love pumpkin, I did. But I always felt like the spices overwhelmed whatever warm, happy flavor pumpkin brought to the dish. Still, I keep trying. Because when pumpkin is right, it's so right. Unfortunately, last year, my shaky relationship with Pumpkin was calculabley derailed by a pumpkin pie I made that, unfortunately, Rachel was present to taste.

There has been one can (yes, can) of pumpkin staring me down in my pantry ever since. Some rum, bananas and caramel also looked lonely. After referring to Bon Appetit, I decided that these willing participants could likely make a Pumpkin Party that even I would want to attend. And guess what? Party we did. This cake is just the right amount of bright, boozy, smoky, tangy goodness. Why aren't banana and pumpkin paired often? The mellow nutty flavors blend so well.

Don't take my word for it.


Homemade Aioli


The word 'mayo' strikes fear in the heart of many men.

For me, it strikes chords at two ends of the spectrum: fake mayonnaise (bleh), and DMK's heavenly aioli (oh, DMK....droooooool). For some reason, people are more ok with aioli. But guess what, people? Aioli is just fancy mayonnaise. Maybe not even fancy mayonnaise. It sounds better, though, doesn't it? Nothing to be afraid of there.

However, I've had issues with making mayonnaise. Sorry. I've had issues with making aioli. Emulsification is a tricky, tricky game. Do it right, and you have heavenly homemade spread. You pour the oil in even a TINY bit too fast, and the whole thing breaks into an oily, gross mess. Or, you just have thin goop. Not my cup o' mayo.

This recipe is pretty fool-proof. The food processor takes the guess-work out of it, and you have two hands free to control the flow of oil. I was concerned at first...it didn't seem to be emulsifying properly, but then...magic! The trick is to pour s...l...o...w...l...y, and to let the food processor crank away with all its emulsifying magic. At first, it will seem thin, and like you are doing it wrong. Trust the food processor, you will. And remember: pour slow.

Now you have aioli. Or mayonnaise. Or aiolinnaise.

Dip those fries, baby. Dip 'em. Or sammich it. Or serve with bread. or fish. or chicken. or sushi it. or put it in a salad. or in salad dressing. maybe make some Alabama White Barbecue Sauce with it. maybe serve it with some crab cakes.. Ok. I'm beginning to feel a bit like Bubba here.


Pasta with Spinach, Grapes and Nuts


My husband works hard. Sometimes, when he comes home, I think he's a little delirious from doing construction all day. Two nights ago, as he was eating dinner, friends came over and he offered them some pasta.
"It's good. It has chicken..."
"No chicken." I interject.
"It's got fish..." he tried again.
"No fish."
"Well, what is the meat then?"
"No meat."
"Whaaaat?" (Inspects bowl of pasta incredulously, looking for signs of meat).

Your family might notice the absence of meat, but David didn't. I think the toasty nuts, butter, and Parmesan signaled "Protein! Protein!" to his brain.  The original recipe asks for raisins soaked in hot water for a few minutes, but I had some grapes I needed to use up. Some people think sweet and salty dishes are a mixed metaphor. I am not one of them.

That being said, this is good, but it's not my favorite pasta dish. Just want to be honest here.

Chicken Basil Goat Cheese Rolls with White Wine Sauce


I don't like hammering meat. I get what it's supposed to do, but the whole idea of hammering something that's already dead just doesn't make sense to me. Couple that with the tip from our chef friend that the more you overwork hamburger meat, the worse the burger is... and I just quietly step away from overworking meat altogether (plus, I kind of really get into things. I envision raw chicken flying everywhere if I were to start hammering...).

Still, sometimes you want to get all fancy in the kitchen. Sometimes you want stuffed chicken breasts. And sometimes Bon Appetit wants you to hammer your chicken breasts.

Guess what? I didn't hammer my breasts, and the chicken rolls turned out amazing. Sometimes Bon Appetit is wrong. But not very often. Instead of hammering, I spiral cut the chicken breasts. You could butterfly if your pretty little heart desires. But the important thing here is: these rolls took less then 15 minutes to prepare, and nary a hammer was used.



Roasted Vegetable and Sausage Lasagna

 

Well, the bread was a hit. David came home last night while I was cooking.  I turned around to see him gnawing (gnawing!) at the end of the loaf. We're real civilized around these here parts. That bread? Was HIS. Which, I'm cool with, because we have a TON of bread.  Unlike lasagna, I could eat zucchini bread until the cows come home.

You see, we like lasagna the way we like pizza. I can do pizza once in a while, but if I have to eat it too many times in a week:
non va bene. It'll be months before I can even think about a slice. But, here's the problem: people rarely make a small lasagna. No, everyone expects that they'll make Texan-sized lasagna, which everyone will eat until their hearts and stomachs are full, and the pan is gone. Then, they'll sit around the fire and talk about the lasagna they wish they were still eating.

This never happens.



Zucchini Blueberry Bread



We have many many cups of zucchini. If I look away, the dang stuff multiplies.

I'm working an insane schedule, as is David. We also have a teeny kitchen sink, and two dishwashers located at the ends of my arms. I've recently discovered that while the Borrowers like to eat chocolate zucchini cake...they don't like to do chocolate zucchini dishes. Or any other dishes for that matter. Neither do I.

SO, in an attempt to minimize dishes AND cups of zucchini, I made a double recipe of Zucchini Blueberry Bread. And a few other zucchini-related dishes. Somehow, I think my fridge still has 16 cups chilling out. I know my freezer has three much more photogenic loaves of Zucchini Blueberry Bread waiting in its belly. Leave it to me to pick the ugliest of the litter to wrap last.

Maybe I can bribe the Borrowers to do the dishes if I make some more Zucchini Cake.


Chocolate Zucchini Cake



We have parents who garden. Their garden bounty puts our potted city plants to shame. 

This weekend we went home, and David's dad gave us three (mutant) zucchini. Though not as big as the one our Chinese landlord grew last summer, they were pretty close. What do I do with 18+ cups of zucchini?
Consort Bon Appetit, that's what.
And of course, Bon Appetit delivered...the most delicious, moist, wonderful chocolate cake you've ever eaten on this side of the Mississippi. I pulled a definite kitchen no-no with this one and left my cake unattended while we went to Simone's for a snicky-snack (I know! Horrors!). Growing up without any sense of fear or common sense, my dad used to tell me to imagine everything that could go wrong and assume that it would. I imagined a burned cake, and felt I could live with that. Instead, I rode my bike back in time to pull out the worlds fastest, easiest, most wonderful chocolate zucchini cake to grace the planet with it's presence. Did I learn my lesson? Most definitely. Zucchini cake likes me to go to Simone's.
The cake came out at 9:30pm. Half the pan was gone when I woke up at 6:30. I think we have some greedy 'Borrowers'...


Doughnuts, Part Deux: Do-Rite!

So, Kristen and I decided that since we love donuts/doughnuts so much, it will be no problem doing a series on these specialty shops throughout the city.



For those of you who aren't in Chicago, I'm sorry to tempt you. But at least you'll have an idea of where to go when you visit!


Goat Cheese Oven-Roasted Tomato Basil Pizza


We’ve said it before: not everyone likes tomatoes. We’ve all had the tasteless, mealy supermarket step-sister of the garden tomato. Her watery mess ruins all parties from salads to sandwiches. She makes small children cry. She crushes the dreams of hopeful dinners in a single bound. Friends! It doesn’t have to be like this! Even supermarket tomatoes can woo you (and the picky eaters in your life).

This post is really about pizza. But before pizza, you must have good tomatoes.

A few years ago, Deb at Smitten Kitchen changed my perspective on sub-par tomatoes indefinitely.  She suggested slow-roasting to both preserve garden tomatoes (you can freeze the roasted goodness!), or to transform the mealy, watery mess of the store-bought varietal that is mysteriously always in season. Slow roast those babies, and they become the perfect blend of succulent and tart, rich and creamy.

Oh? What’s that you say? The tomatoes at the store are 30 cents a pound and orange-yellow and frankensteinian? Trust me. Buy them. Buy them all. Because when your freezer stash runs out in January, you will cry.



Lately, my modus operendi has been lazy cooking. Lazy, lazy, lazy. 

However, lazy doesn’t mean bland. Today I celebrate my favorite summer fruit: tomatoes.  I know, I know. Not everyone writes love letters about tomatoes. In fact, my husband used to say he disliked tomatoes. But that was before bruchette and slow roasting.

Bruchette is the garden tomato’s super-swag singles party; one of the perfect summer foods. Antipasto? Yes. Pretend lunch? Yes. Snicky snack? Of course.

And when you get really lazy, and can’t finish your bruchetta,  use it to make the best pizza possibly ever.

Though I’ve had the joy of pulling one tomato from the vine, I am a long way from the cart-loads of tomatoes I’m dreaming of in August.
 





Bananas Foster Cheesecake

Ok. I'm cheating a bit here with the picture (it's not mine), but let me explain why before you run away.
You see, I have this history of desserts on July 4th... last year, my husband and I were riding our scooter to a friend’s house with a peach cobbler bungee-d on the back.  100 yards from our destination, we hit an enormous pothole, and I turned to witness the beautiful cobbler rising before crashing to the ground and sliding like a hockey puck a good thirty feet, straight as an arrow.  In awe, David stuck out his foot and stopped it.  The pyrex (and cobbler!) were virtually unharmed.  We marveled at modern engineering, vowing to write pyrex to tell them how awesome they were. We gleefully bungee-strapped that sucker back on the scooter,  and laughed as we rounded the final corner… only to hear a gooey crunching sound as the pyrex shattered into a billion pieces, and cobbler glass glued itself to the scooter. Pyrex did NOT get a letter.
At least this year we got to try the dessert, which is why I’m still posting the recipe, sans my own picture of this beautiful cheesecake. It was THAT good.

Only 25% of Mr. Cheesecake got consumed (we arrived late, and he was competing with a sexy rival: Ms. Triple Cherry Cheesecake.
I’ll be gone this weekend, and was happy that so much awesome would be left with my husband. I mean, seriously. Wouldn't want to go a night without dessert. In his excitement to be home, Mr. Cheesecake got caught totally off-guard by the sidewalk. A few seconds later, his fate was clinched by a slide down the stairs.  There was mourning, however, he was not followed in death by Ms. Triple Cherry , whom my husband caught in mid-air. Yes, I am that clumsy.  No, I didn’t have anything to drink, but it’s cute you were trying to find an excuse for me. And yes. I tried to save it after a drop on the SIDEWALK because I wasn't willing to say goodbye yet (or the time spent making it), and because it is THAT GOOD.  So, all this to say, there wasn't even a slice photograph. Not. one.

I wanted to pout when I got home, but somehow that didn't seem very grown up. Also, David was so excited to go on the roof to see the fireworks that all our neighbors were shooting off. There was a 360 degree view (and also the loudest fireworks ever produced, thoughtfully shot off ad nauseum by our neighbors. Seriously. They set off car alarms every. time).


                                                        See recipe after the jump...


The Doughnut Vault: Worth the Wait

Hi there, friends (and other peeps)!

Rachel, here.

Kristen and I are very excited to share our first blog post with you. It was only appropriate we experienced the deliciousness that is The Doughnut Vault, together (and with family!) this past weekend.

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