A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Italian Spring

I made a sort of minestrone last night with red and orange peppers,
garlic, carrots, fennel, arugula, and tomatoes with fresh oregano,
rosemary, and thyme. I used some frozen homemade pizza dough to make
flatbread. Pickles, anchovies, and cheese provided some salty contrast.

Man, what a messy table.

German Chocolate Cupcakes

How long can the cupcake remain wildly fashionable? When I decided to make cupcakes rather than cake for my recital refreshments this weekend I looked on the web and found that there are whole cupcake blogs, and cupcake shops!

I used to make the time-consuming traditional German chocolate cake recipe found on the back of the package: separate egg whites folded in at the end, extended creaming of butter with sugar, and so forth. This time around I used a delicious one-bowl recipe which I found at Diana's Kitchen.

German Chocolate Cake

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter,
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
4 ounces sweet baking
chocolate, melted
1/2 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease and flour two 8-inch square baking pans.
In a large bowl,
combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, butter, sour cream, eggs, chocolate,
milk, and vanilla. Beat with mixer at low speed until blended. Increase mixer to
high and beat 2 minutes longer. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake in a
preheated 350° oven for about 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
Remove to
racks to cool completely.
(I filled cupcake liners 2/3 full and baked them 20 minutes. It yielded 32. I used the topping recipe from the back of the package.)

In a stroke of genius, I used a paring knife to make a big divot in each cupcake. This made room for more coconut-pecan topping, resulting in a better topping-to-cake ratio. I am saving the divots in the freezer to make a trifle or something.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Pizza

That's a really pretentious name for our very best favorite pizza. I think I started making this when you were in high school.

For this one I made a crust of 2/3 white and 1/3 spelt flours. I baked 10 garlic cloves in olive oil in a little baking dish for 30 minutes. I soaked some sun-dried tomatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes, then drained them and tossed them with a little of the oil from the garlic.

I brushed the raw pizza crust with the garlic oil, then spread on a thin layer of mixed shredded Italian cheeses. Then I decorated it with the sun-dried tomatoes, the chopped garlic, and 6 ounces crumbled goat cheese, and sprinkled it with chopped fresh basil and parsley. Mmmm.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

NY Times: Southern Cooks Use Premade Biscuits

And some of the best barbecue joints serve canned sweet potatoes and flavorless storebought dinner rolls. Just because these foods have authentic uses doesn't mean they're any good.

I sure do want to try some Sister Schubert rolls now, though.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Guatemalan Longaniza

Hey, Mom, I finally re-created the sausage you and Dad and I had at that Guatemalan restaurant (aptly named "Guatemalan Restaurant") in Tucson.

The menu, you'll remember, said:

Longaniza: Guatemalan style sausage stuffed with ground pork,
onions, jalapeno peppers, mint and spices.

The sausage was grilled over hot coals, almost blackened in some places but never burnt. It was stuffed in hog casings that the chef split open prior to grilling. The pork was quite lean and finely ground for sausage. The mint and chiles were fresh and abundant. It was like nothing I'd had before.

So I looked for a recipe. And it turns out this post is destined to become the top search result for the phrase "Guatemalan longaniza," simply because I couldn't find any such thing anywhere on the internet or in any of my cookbooks. There's Spanish longaniza, which is smoked and mint-free. There's Mexican longaniza, which appears to be like Mexican chorizo except in casings (look, a video from Arizona on Mexican sausagemaking in which the narrator has a Castilian accent. Seriously, listen to the Spanish version. Where did they find that guy?)

And there's Filipino longaniza, which is garlicky, spicy, sometimes sweet, and occasionally contains mint.

But no Guatemalan longaniza. I wonder if the chef, the older woman at that restaurant, has connections or family in the Philippines? Maybe there's a Filipino community in Guatemala? You'll have to do further investigative work for me, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I bought a Boston butt on sale at Publix and cut the meat off the bone. I used about three pounds of meat and froze the rest. I decided not to add any fat as I usually would for sausage: the butt was quite fatty already, and I wanted to keep it lean like what we had.

So I mixed the following together and sent it through my grinder fitted with the finer of the two blades:
  • 3 pounds fatty pork, cut into strips
  • a white onion, diced and sauteed in olive oil
  • a clove of garlic, minced and added to saute pan at end
  • a handful of fresh mint
  • a jalapeno from the grocery store
  • a few tabascos from last year's garden, frozen, since grocery store jalapenos are so lame
  • red pepper flakes to round up the chile flavor
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper (lots)
  • fresh thyme (not much)
  • 1/3 cup light rum
I also separately chiffonaded another handful of mint and mixed it in after the grinding, since the grind was so fine and I wanted some visible mint leaves.

But it wasn't quite right. I put the mixture in the fridge and thought about it for a whole day...and finally realized the secret ingredient had to be a good dose of sugar. That would account for the scorched look of the restaurant sausages where the filling had burbled out of the slits. And it worked: it pulled the mint and spices together in a very Vietnamese way.

So I added:
  • several tablespoonfuls of sugar
In fact, Lawson's first comment on the sausages (which he liked) was that they reminded him of the Chinese sweet sausages he used to eat in NYC and at The Orient, the Chinese restaurant in Columbia where he learned much of what he knows about Chinese cooking.

Next time I think I will add lime or orange zest or juice, just a touch. I may also play with some other spices besides thyme and pepper.

I stuffed these into medium hog casings, tied them into 5" links, and hung them in the fridge for two days. I used the gas grill to cook them the first batch, but I will grill them over wood next time. I have been enjoying my homemade sausages grilled over wood so, so, so much more than over gas. The wood seems to fill in the flavor gaps and mellow any dominant flavors -- like, my bratwurst over gas taste too strongly of nutmeg, but over wood they have the right musky, earthy-homemade nutmeg solidity but don't necessarily taste like snickerdoodles.

The longaniza was good. I'll make it again -- it's a very summery sausage.

I have sausages and pork on the brain after interviewing local food activist, politician, and fancypants pig farmer Emile DeFelice a few days ago for an upcoming Free Times story. We foraged for mushrooms (well, as much as my inappropriate footwear would allow). Fangirl and journalist struggled mightily within me. Fortunately, the best defense against asking questions like "How'd you get so awesome?" is to ask as few questions as possible and just let a guy talk. (Actually, that's pretty much my one and only interview tactic: Shut the hell up.) Look for the article on Wednesday.

No good sausage or Emile pictures, sorry. My camera woes continue.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stir Fried Shrimp and Vegetables

Tonight I made a pretty good stir fry with shrimp, snow peas, spinach, and rice noodles (and of course garlic and jalapenos). I served it with some baked tofu topped with your peanut sauce.

What I like about this meal was the number of things that came from our garden: spinach, snow peas, cilantro, basil, jalapenos, green onions, and lettuce.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Cooks improvise and substitute constantly in their cooking--the alternative is slavishly following written recipes and running to the store for every missing item.

I began to make bouillabaisse today for our Easter dinner and discovered I had no fresh fennel, no leek, and no celery for the broth (note to self: read recipe before shopping). Instead I used anise seed, onion, and celery seed. There's plenty of flavor in this dish already with saffron, wine, and fish stock. For seafood I used two crab legs, scallops, shrimp, and tilapia. It was good.

Grandma made bread and lemon pudding, I made the soup, and Dad made the salad. Mary Ellen brought champagne and red wine and we had an excellent party. Happy Easter to all. I missed dyeing and hiding eggs, though.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Grilled Radicchio Salad

I'm glad you got out of town for a few days, Mom.

I invented a salad. I guess this means my cooking slump is over. I don't know if Lawson loves it as much as I do; he is not as into bitter leafy things as I. Too bad for him.

I've grilled radicchio before, but I was never successful at tempering its bitterness very well. This works, though. It accompanies easy grilled meals well, too, because you do most of the speedy prep ahead of time, then grill the radicchio along with your burgers or sausage or whatever right before serving.

Toss together and set aside at room temperature for at least an hour:
  • cherry tomatoes, halved (or chopped good summer tomatoes, when available)
  • sugar snap peas, de-stringed, halved if desired
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • merest hint of salt
  • pepper
Then quarter one head of radicchio and lightly spray all sides with olive oil cooking spray. Grill quarters over direct but not too high gas or coals, turning as needed, until radicchio is browned but not charred.

Cut grilled radicchio pieces roughly with scissors, toss with tomato mixture, and serve.

The picture is blurry because my camera sucks. I am in the market for a new one.