October 29, 2010

Fried Pickle Chips with Zippy Feta Dipping Sauce

16 oz sliced pickles, drained
2/3 cup Instant Blending Flour*
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

for the dipping sauce
8 oz sour cream (reduced fat is okay)
4 oz crumbled feta
1/4 cup minced chives
3 tablespoons mayonnaise or buttermilk (if needed to thin out the sauce)
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

canola oil for frying


Mix together all dipping sauce ingredients. Set aside. Heat about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil in a large, shallow skillet, enough to cover the pickles. Meanwhile pour the egg, flour and cornmeal into separate shallow bowls. Stir the the spices to the cornmeal. Stir the Worcestershire sauce into the egg. Dredge each pickle in the flour, then in the egg then the cornmeal. Drop the pickle slices into the hot oil, taking care that they do not overlap or bump into each other. Cook until golden on all sides, about 1 minute. They should float to the top when ready and not need to be flipped. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

*aka Wondra flour. It is very fine and dissolves easily in water (or in this case, doesn't make the pickles too thick with flour). Use all purpose if you have to.

My thoughts:
Fried pickles are a bit of a Southern thing but they can be found on menus else where. I've had several different varieties including ones breaded with panko, bread crumbs and even crackers but I think the best flavored ones have a cornmeal crust. The slightly sweet flavor complements the salty pickle. I've heard complaints about the difficulty of getting the cornmeal to stick to the pickle but this is a fool-proof recipe. The trick is thoroughly dredging in super fine powder before the egg dip and resisting the urge to soak the pickle in anything other than pickle juice. Ranch dressing is a bit more traditional but I had it with a cheesy dip before and I liked the combination a lot so I developed a robust a zesty feta sauce to go with them. It was the perfect partner.

October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Black Bottoms

for the filling:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
6 oz miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg, at room temperature

for the batter:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.
for the filling:
Cream together the pumpkin, cream cheese and sugar. Beat in egg until well mixed. Fold in chocolate chips. Set aside.

for the batter:
Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa and baking soda in a large bowl. Add water, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Beat VERY thoroughly. Line mini muffin pans. Fill pans less then 2/3 full with chocolate batter. Do not overfill. Drop approximately 1/2 teaspoon of the filling on top. Bake on the center rack for 20 minutes or until toothpick stuck in the center of a center cupcake comes out clean. Cool briefly in the pans on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely.

Yield: 6 dozen

My thoughts:
Black bottoms are a major holiday tradition in my family. My mom has been making pretty much the same recipe since I was born. She even makes a double or triple batch (216 black bottoms!) and freezes and gives them away. I generally stick to the six dozen which is still a lot. They do freeze so I just stash whatever we don't eat in the freezer. Having a pan that makes two dozen at a time helps too. Anyway, I realized I hadn't made a treat for Halloween yet so I thought I'd try making a fall version of our usual black bottom. It turned out so well! Sort of a cross between the pumpkin cheesecake brownie I created a few years ago and our traditional black bottom. Delicious and seasonal.

October 25, 2010

Spicy Smoked Turkey

13-14 lb turkey
olive oil

for the dry rub:
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons hot paprika
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

mesquite grilling wood chips

In a small bowl, whisk together the dry rub ingredients. Pour some olive oil over the turkey. Rub in the dry rub. Arrange the coals around a rectangular foil pan filled with water. Place the turkey over the pan on the grill. Place a foil packet of wood chips on the coals.

Vent/leave the lid askew until it really starts smoking. Then cover. Cook, adding loose coals and wood chips every 30 minutes, until fully cooked. Rotate the turkey every other coal add or so.

To keep the smoke/low heat going, occasionally vent until it gets smoky then fully cover again. Refill the pan with water as needed. All in all, it should take about 3 1/2-4 hours to be fully cooked. Allow to sit on a platter under a foil tent for 5 minutes before carving.

My thoughts:
This is by far the biggest thing we've ever grilled. I had the idea at about 4 pm on a Saturday, Matt ran to the store and by a little after 4:30 it was on the grill. It was dark by the time it was finished cooking (so excuse the slightly funky looking photographs) but that was okay, it required little in the way of attention so we just hung out inside and dashed out periodically to add more coals and wood chips.

Onto more important tastes amazing! The skin was crisp, the dry rub added heat and it was perfectly smoked. Perfectly! The meat was juicy and tender in a way that

October 22, 2010

Lasagna with Homemade Basil Noodles and Sausage-Tomato Sauce


for the sauce:
2 lb bulk Italian sausage (casing removed if necessary)
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cubanelle pepper, minced
56 oz canned coarse ground tomatoes
14 oz canned diced tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
red wine (optional)
10 basil leaves

for the pasta:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup finely minced basil
3 eggs

for the filling:
1 lb ricotta
1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 1/2 cup mixed Italian cheese*
1 egg

extra shredded cheese for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Start the sauce first. Brown the sausage in a large, heavy pot (I used this dutch oven) breaking up any large pieces. When nearly fully cooked, drain off as much fat as possible. Add the onion, garlic and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic, salt and pepper. Simmer as you make the pasta. It should reduce by about an inch and half or so. Add wine if desired periodically. Stir occasionally. When the sauce is cooked, stir in the basil leaves.

for the pasta:
While the sauce is bubbling away, pour the flour onto a clean counter top. Create a well on top and add the eggs. Knead together until a ball forms then work in the basil. Knead until a flexible dough forms. Divide into 9 equal balls. Roll through a pasta machine according to the package instructions. We rolled ours out through #5, rolling at each level twice on this machine. Hang until you are ready to use them.

for the filling:
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

Ladle a even layer of sauce over the bottom of a standard 9x13 inch pan, covering it thoroughly. Arrange three noodles in a single layer. Top with 1/2 of the cheese mixture then ladle more sauce on top. Repeat. Top for the remaining three noodles and cover with sauce.

Sprinkle with cheese. Cover in foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake an additional 30 minutes or until heated through. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before slicing.

*I used a shredded six cheese blend that included Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Fontina, Romano and aged Asiago.

My thoughts:
This was a fun weekend food project. We planned out what we wanted to do and was on sauce and filling duty while Matt rolled the pasta out. It was surprisingly easy! Why has it taken so long for us to make fresh pasta for the first time. It didn't take as long as I would have thought and I think with practice we will get every faster. I think lasagna was a good first homemade pasta experiment because it was not only delicious (I loved the hint of basil) but we didn't have to bother boiling the noodles before using them because they were going to be baked buried in sauce. It sounds silly but eliminating that one step was great, I went right from finishing the noodles to layering to popping it in the oven with no lag time. Let me tell you, it was a spectacular lasagna. The sauce was complexly flavored, the noodles were awesome and well, we liked it so much, we had it for dinner twice vs. our usual leftovers for lunch/frozen for later new food for dinner routine. Yum. I already want to make it again.

Note: while it looks like a lot of sauce, I promise you will end up using all of it!

If you use sausage in your pasta dishes, enter this Johnsonville contest.

October 20, 2010

Stayman-Winesap Apple Butter

10 Stayman Winesap apples, sliced
1 cup apple cider
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Vent by placing the lid on askew and cook on low for an additional 10-12 hours or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the cinnamon stick then pour the mixture into the food processor and puree. Cool completely and refrigerate up to 3 weeks or ladle when warm into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.

Yield: about 5 8-oz jars.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
Stayman-Winesap apples are my absolute favorites. When I was growing up my grandpop could buy a bushel and store them on his (enclosed) basement steps. This year I decided to follow in his footsteps and we bought a bushel of apples at our local farmers market. Stayman-Winesaps normally show up on "cooking" and "baking" apple lists but I like them out of hand and spread with peanut butter or topped with sharp cheddar. I'd be content with that but since I have so many, apple butter seemed to be the thing to make. I came up with the 24 hour slow cooker fruit butter method a few years ago and it is by far many favorite method. No stirring, no scorching, no hands-on work needed except for the apple slicing (made easy with an apple slicer) and it makes your house smell amazing for a whole day. I made a batch of pear butter (recipe to come) at the same time and it really felt like fall. Try apple butter on muffins, rolls, toast, pancakes or as an ingredient in sauces, sandwiches, or baked goods. So versatile and so delicious.

October 18, 2010

Apple Cider Jelly Candy

1.75 oz powdered fruit pectin
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup*
3/4 cup apple cider
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

extra sugar for dredging

Warning: this is a two day project. Oil a flat sided loaf pan. Whisk together pectin, apple cider and baking soda in small pan. Cook on high heat. At the same time, bring the sugar and corn syrup to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. When it reaches boiling, add the pectin/cider mixture. Cook for about 1 additional minute stirring constantly. Pour into the prepared pan and allow to cool, loosely covered with plastic wrap, overnight. The next day invert the pan on to a plate full of sugar. If you have trouble unmolding the candy, use a knife to loosen it from the perimeter of the pan and carefully slide your fingers underneath the candy to gently peel the candy out of the pan. Press both sides of the candy into the sugar. Use a pizza cutter to cut the candy into 1/4 inch slices, then cut each slice into cubes. Roll each cube in sugar.

*I use HFCS-free corn syrup.

My thoughts:
Last winter I had this dessert plate at Woodberry Kitchen which had a variety of miniature sweets including one that seemed to be a homemade apple cider jelly candy. Every since then it has been on my "to make" list. I had to wait until I could buy apple cider at the farmers market but it was worth it. This might be my new favorite fall candy, it tastes just like cider in solid form.

October 15, 2010

Black Mission Fig Jam

2 1/2 lb Black Mission Figs, quartered & stems removed
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice*
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon bergamot extract

Prep jars/lids. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon juice and figs. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for a hour, stirring occasionally and mashing up any big bits. Add the halfway point add the extract. Ladle into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: about 4 8-oz jars

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

*I used bottled lemon juice instead of fresh because figs are a low acid fruit and I wanted to make sure that the acid content was high enough to safely use the hot water method. The acidity of fresh lemons can vary but the acidity of bottled lemon juice is constant.

My thoughts:
I am really into figs this year. We planted two fig trees this year and while I don't expect too much of a harvest from them right away, I've been practicing making things with figs lately. I've noticed that Black Mission figs are the most common variety found in grocery stores around here. I actually made two different types of fig jam using two different varieties but since Black Mission will probably be the easiest to find, I thought I'd share this recipe first.

I'm excited about this jam because it was the first one I made without using commercial pectin. I had noticed that the Black Mission figs thickened well when heated while making a different recipe so instead of adding pectin, I just kept cooking the fruit until it turned jammy. It took less time than I thought and honestly didn't require too much hands on time which I appreciated. I added bergamot extract (if you are unfamiliar with bergamot, it is a dominant flavor in Earl Grey tea) which added a slightly bitter citrus note that tempered the figs sweetness. Orange or lemon extract could be substituted for the bergamot if necessary but honestly, it is bergamot extract is well worth seeking out.

October 13, 2010

Duck with Orange-Five Spice Sauce

for the duck:
1 5-6 lb duck
1/4 cara cara orange (1 large wedge)

dry rub:
2 tablespoons five spice powder
1 1/2 tablespoons orange peel*
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon sea salt

1 1/2 cup cara cara orange juice
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons shoaxing
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 325. In a small bowl, whisk together the dry rub. Rub the dry rub into the skin of the duck. Place the duck on a roasting rack on a roasting pan. Stick the orange quarter into the cavity of the duck and roast for 2 hours or until cooked though. Meanwhile, saute the onion and garlic in a small saucepan (using duck fat of a bit of olive oil) until softened. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Whisk in a bit of corn starch (dissolved in an equal amount of water) if it isn't thick enough. Ladle over sliced duck.

*Powdered/ground peel, not zest.

My thoughts:
Duck a l'Orange is the American version of a classic French dish that hit its peak during the '60s French cooking/home entertaining craze. While it still pops up on menus now and again, I thought it was time for an update. Five spice powder is one of my favorite spices, I've used it in both sweet and savory dishes and am always pleased with the savory-spicy flavor it gives anything it touches. I didn't want to leave tradition entirely behind so I used some Cara Cara oranges, their sweet but complex fruitiness was the perfect foil for the rich duck and spices. This dish scarcely takes anymore effort than roasting a chicken but is immensely rewarding, the duck is juicy and generously spiced throughout and the sauce is almost gilding the lily.

Get the most out of your duck:
Save the carcass and make duck stock.

Siphon off any fat that drips into the roasting pan every 20-30. Pour it into a heat safe container. Allow to cool then strain it using a mine mesh strainer. Store it in the fridge until ready to use.

October 11, 2010

Bacon Cheddar Chipotle Cornbread

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup shredded chipotle cheddar
1/4 cup diced green onion
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 strips thick cut bacon, crumbled
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400. Oil or spray with baking spray one 8x8 baking pan. In a medium bowl, beat together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, egg, buttermilk and oil until well combined. Fold in the cheese, bacon and green onion. Pour into prepared pan and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown and a tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

My thoughts:
It's been a while since I've made cornbread so when Matt put in the request for some I was happy to oblige. At first he wanted a chile cornbread but then found a bag shredded chipotle cheddar at the store so we decided to try that instead. The bacon was added to accent the smoky flavor and the green onions were a last minute flash of genius. The result is a really moist, surprising not heavy, slightly smoky-spicy cornbread that not only complements chili but pretty much any Southern/Southwestern entree.

October 08, 2010

Pan-fried Soft Crabs

4 soft crabs, cleaned
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon Old Bay
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together the milk and Old Bay in a medium bowl. Soak the crabs in the milk for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, salt and pepper together. Dredge both sides of the crab in the seasoned flour. Melt more butter than you'd think in a skillet. Fry the crabs for about 3 minutes on each side. Try and keep the legs from tucking under the body of the crab; arrange them straight out. Serve naked or in a sandwich.

My thoughts:
Soft crabs are in season again. If I had to name a favorite food, I think it would be soft crabs. When I posted the how to clean soft crabs last spring, I received a few requests on how to prepare them. Honestly, I've never made them any way but pan-fried and in a sandwich. For this recipe, I splashed out and added Old Bay but honestly I mostly just season them with salt and pepper. You don't want anything to cover up the crab flavor but in Baltimore, Old Bay is always a welcome addition. Anything fancier just seems wrong to me!

Note: It is traditional to soak the crab in milk before cooking, it sort of tenderizes the shells (if they are a bit tough) and allows you to coat the crab in flour without needing egg. I added the Old Bay for a bit of kick without being overpowering.

October 06, 2010

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies

6 oz semisweet chips
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Add the pumpkin, vanilla and sugar into a large bowl. Stir together. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in the chips. Place tablespoon sized blobs of dough on the lined cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart and bake for 12 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just golden. Carefully pull the cookies-still on the parchment paper- onto a wire rack to cool for five minutes. Remove the cookies from the parchment paper to the wire rack and cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
It is that time of year again; when I explore making things with pumpkin without pumpkin pie spice. Long time readers should know the deal, I like pumpkin (and other winter squash) but pumpkin pie is on my do not eat list (along with cantaloupe and ketchup, yuck). So I try to use pumpkin in other ways. These cookies are especially fun because they are both pumpkin-y and really low in fat because I didn't use butter, just pumpkin. The result? A moist, chewy cookie with a great pumpkin flavor.

October 04, 2010

Autumnal Turkey Chili

3 cups cubed cooked turkey breast
30 oz canned kidney beans, drained
15 oz canned cubed tomatoes
6 ounces tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 (jarred) fire roasted red pepper
1 chipotle chile pepper in adobo, minced
1 Bosc pear, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground jalapeno
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Place all ingredients in 1 4 quart slow cooker, stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Cook on low 6 hours.

My thoughts:
I've made a lot of chili over the years. I love making it in the slow cooker most of all because it is just so easy. The flavors meld wonderfully, it is impossible to overcook and frees up my time. If I use leftover cooked meat and cut the vegetables up the night before it takes virtually no effort the day I make it. I even put the spices in the (cold) slow cooker the night before so I just dump everything else in and stir. For this chili I decided to add the decidedly nontraditional ingredients of pumpkin and pear. I had this teeny amount of pumpkin puree in my refrigerator that was taking up entirely too much room so I tossed that in, then I spotted a pear starting to turn and on impulse peeled and cubed it and added that to the mix. It was a gamble that paid off. I used spices vaguely inspired by Cincinnati chili and the pumpkin/pear combo added to the subtle sweetness. When my unsuspecting husband tried the chili he couldn't discern what the the secret ingredients were but he raved over the flavor. It is just a really rich, robust and very autumnal flavored chili.

October 01, 2010

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham

5 cups ham stock
2 cups cubed smoked ham
1 cup green split peas
1 cup yellow split peas
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon celery flakes
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried chervil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1 bay leaf
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Pick over split peas to remove any stones or stems that might be present. Place all ingredients EXCEPT the ham in a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low 10 hours. Stir in the ham during the last 45 minutes of cooking. Fish out the bay leaf prior to serving.
My thoughts:
This a wonderful soup, if unphotogenic. I have a slightly less traditional split pea soup that I love and a third recipe for it in my book but I think this is my favorite when you really just want a classic split pea. The smokiness of the ham adds a lot to the depth of flavor. I also think it is the best use of ham stock that I know. But perhaps better than all that is how easy this soup is to make. The split peas do not need to be soaked before using and if you want to have this for lunch, just start it before you go bed. How much easier can you get?