Korean Fried Chicken Sliders

Holy Balls, Batman

Korean Fried Chicken Sliders

Oh haaaaaaaaaay!

Anyone there? Have you left me? It would be well deserved – I am a giant slacker and I apologize. This has been, perhaps, the busiest six months of my life, and I am exhausted. Just when I think things are easing up, they absolutely do not do that. Luckily it’s been mostly great, fun, exciting and lovely stuff, but I am tired. I have a list a mile long to tell you about, but it’s been so long since I have made some of the things I want to share, I am going to have to go back and make them again.

BUT, I had to write today, because as it turns out, today B&G turns FIVE. That’s right. Today is Bread & Ginger’s fifth blogiversary. I am currently celebrating with a delicious gimlet and some pork chops that I can’t wait to tell you about, but we are going to celebrate with some fried chicken sliders, which might be how I celebrate everything from now on, because they are good. I first made this a full sized sandwich, which was good but it was a lot. I like the sliders better for their spicy/sweet meat-to-everything-else ratio.

These are good and easy and quick! There is some deep frying but hopefully that doesn’t scare you anymore. The sauce is sweet and spicy and nutty from the sesame, and also has a hint of funk from the fish sauce. (A good thing, I promise…) There are some ingredients in here that you may not have, but if you have an Asian supermarket nearby you will be able to find all of them ( if you don’t  - Amazon!) Gochujang – Korean chile paste – is spicy, but spicy like sriracha, rather than spicy like Frank’s or Texas Pete. There is a great depth of flavor and umami-ness to it. The spice is balanced by the sweetness from the sugar, and the pickles and the Kewpie mayo and the buttery brioche combine with the sauce for crazy goodness.

I miss you all, and B&G. I am still working on making more hours in the day. If anyone has any ideas, I am all ears.

Happy Blogiversary B&G! And thank you all for reading!!

Seriously, you are not gonna want to stop.

Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

1. It is apparently National Junk Food Day which makes me feel way better about the snacks I had today.

2. I will watch Parks and Recreation any time it is on, notwithstanding how many times I have seen a particular episode.

3. I am currently reading A Clash of Kings. I am currently listening to Beyonce as often as possible. I saw her and Jay in concert a couple weeks back. It was amazing – life changing even. (Too hyperbolic?)

4. I am recovering from an ankle sprain. Apparently walking is a struggle. I wear heels for days, and hike around Denver, and a curb in front of one of my favorite restaurants three blocks from home lays me low while I am wearing top-siders. My high school soccer career is coming back to haunt me. Forever a champion. (This is the most annoying because I was starting to run again, and I have a Jawbone. It counted crutching, which was nice, but I am falling way short of my goal while I have a bum wheel.)

5. MAKE THESE SLIDERS. They are so good. You are going to like them. (And then use whatever sauce you have leftover for chicken wings. I am planning on doing just that this week.)

Korean Fried Chicken Sliders (makes 8 sliders)

For sauce:

4 cloves garlic

1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped

3 tbl gochujang (Korean chile paste, available at Asian markets or online)

3 tbl dark soy sauce (available at Asian markets)

1 tbl fish sauce

1 tbl brown sugar

1 tbl sesame oil

2-3 tbl rice vinegar

Put all ingredients and two tablespoons of the vinegar in a blender and pulse until ingredients are mixed and ginger and garlic are minced. If sauce seems a little thick, add another tablespoon of vinegar and blend to combine. Place in bowl and set aside.

For chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in two equal pieces each

1 egg

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup masa harina (corn flour)

1 tbl corn starch

Salt and pepper

oil for frying

Heat three inches of oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Meanwhile, in one bowl mix egg with 1 tbl water and whisk until combined. In another bowl, mix both flours, the cornstarch and generous pinches of salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Dredge chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then the flour mixture, and then again in the egg and then the flour. Fry chicken in batches until light brown and crispy, about 6 or 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let the oil come back to temperature and repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces.

For sliders:

8 small brioche rolls

butter for toasting

dill pickle slices

kewpie mayonnaise (Japanese style mayonnaise – can be found in Asian markets and some supermarkets.)

Spread butter on the sliced brioche rolls, and toast until cut sides are golden brown and toasty. Spread each side generously with kewpie mayonnaise and layer pickle slices on the bottom roll. Dredge fried chicken pieces in sauce until well coated, and place on top of the pickles. Cover with the top of the roll and voila!

B&G Classics: Chicken Noodle Soup

Wahoooooooo!

That means I passed my test, in case it wasn’t clear. And I am so so glad. That was easily the most stressful thing I have done in a long time. I felt unprepared and I HATE feeling unprepared. It was hard. I woke up this morning and honestly felt like a year had passed since last Friday. But it is over! And studying did give me the opportunity to procrastinate and make lots of soup, so that is nice. Sorry about the three day hiatus, I was going to blog every day to get all the soup in, but Sunday got a little hairy as the test was getting closer, and Monday was for test taking and then bubbly-drinking and yesterday was for the rest of life. But today is soup day again! Specifically, Chicken Noodle. There are a million ways to make it, but the gist is chicken vegetables and noodles in chicken broth. (I mean, there probably aren’t a MILLION ways to make it, but you know what I mean.) This is a pretty basic, classic version. (This one is classic with a twist and I am DYING to try it. Related: have you guys ever checked out Sweet Paul? It is GORGEOUS.)

A cure for what ails you

A cure for what ails you

This version is perfect for post-chicken dinner leftovers. The key is homemade stock. While I suppose it is not technically necessary, I am saying it’s necessary. You are going to be so happy with yourself if you use homemade stock. It will be infinitely better. Truly. There are plenty of times where homemade stock isn’t that noticeable because of other things that are going into the soup, but this is not one of those times. (STOCK REMINDER: put six lbs of chicken backs in a large pot and cover with water. (Use wings or legs if you don’t collect chicken backs in your freezer/can’t get them from your butcher or grocery store. Pro-tip – ask for them at your butcher or grocery store. Whole Foods often has them packaged with the other chicken for .99 a pound. Way cheaper than you’ll pay for wings.) When the water boils, take the chicken out, dump the water (and the sludge that will come along with it) rinse out the pot, and add the chicken back in with two onions peeled and cut in half, three carrots peeled and cut in large pieces, three celery stalks peeled and cut in pieces, a head of garlic sliced in half width wise, two or three bay leaves, a handful of fresh parsley, some black peppercorns and a good dash of salt. Cover with a ton of water (I use a 12 quart pot and fill it close to the top.) Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, simmer for two to four hours or as long as you are hanging around the house, strain the solids out, and voila! Chicken stock! Let it cool, skim the fat off the top and use what you need and freeze the rest!)

Other than the stock and the leftover chicken, I like onion, celery, a little bit of garlic, carrots, egg noodles and dill. And that’s it. Soften the vegetables without browning them. Add the stock, bring to a simmer and cook until the carrots are soft. Add the egg noodles and the chicken, cook until the noodles are done. Add the dill, voila! That’s it. It all happens in about half an hour, which is pretty funny, considering Chicken Soup is the quintessential comfort food. It seems like the quintessential comfort food that cures all ills and is essentially a word that has come to symbolize home itself should be an undertaking of some sort. But it’s not. Go forth. Make soup.

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup (Makes a lot)

2 tbl olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

3 carrots, peeled a chopped in half moons

3 stalks celery, peeled and sliced in half moons

1 large clove garlic, minced

8 cups chicken stock

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

4-6 oz egg noodles

1 handful dill, chopped (optional, but I recommend it!)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add all the vegetables and saute until they are soft, without letting them brown. Add the chicken stock, bring the soup to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the chicken and the noodles, and cook for another five or six minutes until the noodles are cooked through. Add the dill, taste for salt and pepper and add as needed, and serve! (IF you are planning on freezing or bringing this to someone’s house, or saving it for later, and you are worried about the noodles getting too mushy, leave them out at this point. Or take some of the soup out for freezing or transporting and just add the appropriate amount of noodles to what you are going to eat now, and add the rest to the defrosted/transported/saved part, so they don’t get mushy!)

Gingery Carrot Soup

You guys, January was going to be soup month, and it IS actually soup month. I’ve made a bunch, and it’s been soupier than I even anticipated, due to some client requests. Of course, it hasn’t be post-ier than normal (though this will be the third one this month, so maybe it has) which means there are SO MANY SOUPS to discuss. So I have to post every day between now and next Thursday, because I have so much soup to talk about and I couldn’t POSSIBLY let soup trickle into February, because if these arbitrary monthly themes that I decide at totally random times for absolutely no rhyme or reason and based on no one’s whims but my own don’t mean anything, WHAT DOES? (Related: February’s theme? Indian Food! I’ve been craving it.)

carrot ginger

carrot ginger

This particular soup is a bit of a palate cleanser. It’s light and healthy and can easily be made vegetarian or vegan with equally delicious results. (For real! I’ve done it!) It has a ton of flavor, but is not heavy at all. It would be great as part of a multi-course meal, it would work in all kinds of weather, and is kind of perfect if you are using January to detox from the holidays. I made it for the first time in November when I was cooking a dinner that had quite a few dietary restrictions (kosher, vegan, soy and gluten allergies) and had to come up with a soup that would please vegans and meat eaters alike. I made a quick vegetable stock, because a) store bought vegetable stocks can taste real weird, and b) because store bought stocks can have all sorts of surprise soy and gluten in them, and both the vegetable stock (quick trick! Add a potato!) and the soup itself came out pretty damn delicious, if I do say so myself. Toot Toot! When I made it at home for myself, I used chicken stock, because that’s how I roll. It was also delicious.

Basically, this soup should not taste as good as it does, because there are basically four ingredients and one of them is carrots. But it does! I mean, it tastes like carrots, it’s not like it tastes like steak, but it is delicious. And the ginger gives it a serious kick. It would be really nice if you were sick. The ginger will clear out your sinuses AND settle your stomach! It’s magic! (I’m pretty sure ginger can cure the common cold too. I had a DOOZY coming on one day a while back, and I made this and the next day it was GONE. Not even kidding. It was amazing.) So what I’m saying is, if you get sick soon, make this soup and keep me posted on what happens. If I have unwittingly discovered the cure for the common cold and/or stomach upset, Imma need to know. I’ve always wanted to be rich and famous. I HAVE BIG PLANS.

Alright, back to the studying. Hasta mañana.

Carrot – Ginger Soup (serves 6-8)

4 tbl butter or olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

1 ½ lbs carrots, peeled and sliced in half moons

2 tbl minced ginger

8 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt butter, or heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Sauté just until soft and add carrots. Cook onions and carrots until the carrots are just beginning to get tender. Don’t let the vegetables brown. Add the ginger, a pinch of salt and pepper, and then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer until the carrots are cooked all the way through and quite soft, 20 – 30 minutes. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes, before pureeing in batches in a blender until very smooth. (An immersion blender is not going to give you the smoothness you want here. Go full bore with the blender for this one.) Reheat if necessary, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Feel healthy and virtuous!

Fish Tacos, Finally (for Em, because they are her favorite)

crispy and delicious

crispy and delicious

I have been working on this post for quite some time, but I am glad I waited, because it took me a while to get it right. Now I suspect they will be in the regular rotation. There are a couple components, but most of them can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for weeknights, which is very convenient because these are delicious and the perfect antidote for the crappy days that occasionally pop up during the week.

These are fairly basic, in that there aren’t too many components. You could absolutely change this up and add your own twists. Pico de gallo, guacamole instead of just avocado, cotija cheese. Find your bliss! You do you! I will tell you though, the sauce is key. This one is really spicy, but the spice is from sriracha, so it’s flavorful round spice, not the kind that smacks your mouth and makes your eyes water. And it is mellowed by the slaw and the avocado. The slaw is a little bit sweet and adds good crunch, and the fish is fried in beer batter, which makes everything delicious. I usually just use tilapia, because it is easy to find and cheap, but any white fish would be excellent. And I prefer flour to corn tortillas for these, but you can absolutely switch those out. I generally like to have both in the fridge anyway. If you have the slaw and the sauce on hand (and they both keep pretty well) these go together in about 15 minutes. Easy peasy.

assembly

assembly

All the things:

1. I am still studying for the Series 79. It is miserable. I need it to be over.

2. I’m going back to Cali, Cali, Cali. Another California trip for this girl in April. The ladies are going to Sonoma and San Francisco, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s my favorite place on earth.

3. I am trying to eat healthy lunches, so I decided to make a salad on Sunday to bring with me for the week. The first one was quinoa, edamame, red cabbage and carrots with an orange soy vinaigrette. I ate it with avocado on it. It was delicious.

quinoa, red cabbage, carrots, edamame, orange-soy vinaigrette

quinoa, red cabbage, carrots, edamame, orange-soy vinaigrette

4. I am STILL reading The Goldfinch, but only because I have a job and a non-profit and a test to take so I can’t just read without stopping. It is GREAT.

5. Speaking of non-profits – IGNITE the NITE is February 27th! Get your tickets Bostonians! It is going to be an amazing time again this year!!

6. It’s almost the Superbowl! The most glorious snack filled day of the year. I mean, I could not care less about who wins this one, but I can make snacks, so that’s pretty good.

7. I still couldn’t love anything more than I love my new camera. I can’t wait to be done with this test so I can spend some good quality time with it and learn all the tricks.

8. Make these tacos asap. You are going to like them.

For the Tacos

8 pieces batter fried fish (see recipe below)

8 flour tortillas

One avocado, sliced

2 cups cabbage slaw (see recipe below)

Spicy sauce (see recipe below)

Warm the tortillas (if you have a gas stove, toast them over a burner. It is delightful.) Lay one piece of fish over each tortilla. Top with avocado slices, slaw and sauce.

Enjoy!

For the Fish

2 Tilapia filets, each cut in four strips lengthwise

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Salt and black pepper

1 cup beer of your choice (I really like Negra Modelo or something similar, but Bud Light works just fine)

Oil for frying

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cayenne if you are using, a generous pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper.  Add the beer and whisk to combine. Add the fish to the batter and make sure all the pieces are coated well. Heat 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch of oil in a large (10″) high sided frying pan over medium high heat until it shimmers. Test it by dropping in a bit of the batter, if it starts to puff and turn golden right away, the oil is ready. Drop four pieces into the oil and cook until the bottom is golden brown and flip, cooking the other side the same way, about five minutes total. Remove the fish to a plate lined with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the second batch of fish. Voila!

For the Slaw

¼ head red cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, peeled shredded (in a food processor or on a box grater)

Chopped cilantro to taste (this is personal preference, though I don’t love cilantro, and I still like quite a bit in this slaw)

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tbl neutral oil, like canola

1 tbl honey

2 tsp salt

Combine the shredded cabbage, the carrot and the cilantro in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to combine. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and refrigerate. (Let sit for ideally an hour or so before using to allow flavors to meld)

For the Sauce

½ cup mayo

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup whole milk

¼ cup sriracha (this is a lot. Feel free to use less if you are nervous. The final product is really spicy on its own, but meshes really nicely with everything on the taco.)

2 cloves garlic mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt

1 tbl soy sauce

Zest and juice from one lime.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well to combine. This makes a lot, but leftovers obviously keep (and you’ll use more than you think, I suspect)

Clam Chowder

New England style

New England style

Happy New Year friends!

It’s 2014, which is weird. It sounds like it’s out of science fiction. 2014. This might be the year The Others come. Hopefully they’ll be nice. And single.

I’ve got big hopes for 2014. Unfortunately most of them require vast amounts of wealth and free time, of which I have neither, so small hopes will have to do.

I hope GLOW raises ALL THE MONEY this year, and that IGNITE the NITE is a rousing success again, and that I am still sane when that time rolls around. I hope to pass the Series 79 and 63. I hope to have time to read all the books I bought last year that I haven’t gotten to yet. I hope to learn how to make duck confit. I hope to run a half marathon (which involves the hope that I can figure out how to work regular work outs into my schedule.) I hope to go on vacation in April for my birthday. I hope to finish (start) all the improvements I have planned for my apartment. I hope to eat more ramen (the real stuff) and less ramen (the packaged stuff). I hope to spend more time with my bf Shania because we keep talking about it but can never get our acts together. I hope to get to the beach more. I hope to actually write Christmas cards this year. I hope to learn to love gin. I hope to see my littlest sister more. I hope to see my entire family more. I hope to meet more single dudes. I hope to cross some of the reportedly amazing new restaurants in the area off my “to-try” list. I hope to be more patient. I hope to remember to listen well and to be a good friend because I have amazing people in my life that deserve that from me. I hope to do more yoga. I hope to eat more vegetables. I hope to get to NYC for no other reason than just to visit. I hope to have more impromptu dinner parties. I hope to spend more time here.

And this month, I hope you like soup, because there will be a fair amount of it. January seems like a good month for soup. I made chowder this weekend and it was really good. I can’t recall if I’ve ever made clam chowder before, which is kind of crazy since I like clam chowder and I live in the clam chowder center of the universe. But I have now! It’s very rich. There’s plenty of cream in it, but the richness comes mostly from the clam broth. It’s not as thick as many of the pure white stewy style chowders that you get in mass quantities up here. The broth is much thinner. A spoon is not standing upright in a bowl of this. But it is richer, nonetheless. The clams are all added at the end, as to remain really tender and delicate, rather than chewy and overcooked, and it could be easily modified to include more celery, corn or other shellfish.

I am off to my first of three GLOW meetings this week. SO MANY MEETINGS! But I missed you all! And here’s hoping you will be seeing more of me around here. I have three more weeks of studying to do, so you’ll get AT LEAST three more weeks of regular posting. And maybe I’ll have more to say. Writer’s block is a fearsome beast.

Things:

I am studying for the Series 79 right now. It is miserable. You know what I like more than studying? EVERYTHING. You are getting your first post in several months. This is hardly a coincidence.

I bought myself a really fun new toy. I have wanted a good camera forever and I finally treated myself. I love it like I have never loved before. I don’t even know how to use it yet, and my pictures are a million times better.

There are some fun new food and drink places popping up around here these days. I am particularly enamored with Tavern Road. The food is so good and it is a place that I want to be when it’s cold out, or when I have had a bad day, or on New Year’s Eve. My other favorites at the moment, some new and some not so new, are JM Curley’s, Trillium Brewing, Toro (always), Neptune Oyster (of course) and Row 34. Boston is a really fun place to eat and drink these days. And I haven’t even ventured over to Cambridge recently. There are approximately eleventy new places I need to try asap.

What I am listening to: Beyonce. Obviously.

What I am reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. And the Knopman Series 79 study guide. And the IRS guidelines for a 501 (c) (3). The Goldfinch I can definitely recommend.

Clam Chowder (serves 6)

2 dozen littlenecks, scrubbed clean

1 dozen quahogs or two dozen cherrystones, scrubbed clean

2 tbl unsalted butter

1/2 lb thick cut or slab bacon or pancetta, cut in half inch pieces

2 stalks celery, diced

2 small onions, diced (about a cup)

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 bay leaves

pinch of dried red pepper flakes (optional)

2 tbls all-purpose flour

2 large yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs) scrubbed and diced in 1/2 inch pieces

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup whole milk

pepper to taste

parsley to serve

Put the quahogs (cherrystones) in a large pot with quart of water over high heat and steam the clams, watching them and removing  each clam as they open. Put them aside to cool. Strain the water through a sieve lined with cheese cloth and set it aside, you should have about a quart. Wash the pot thoroughly to get ride of the grit. Remove the meat from the reserved clams and chop the meat into large pieces (about an inch) and set aside.

Heat the butter and bacon or pancetta in the pot over medium heat, until the bacon is brown and crispy and the fat has rendered. Add the celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves and red pepper flakes, if using, and saute until the vegetables are soft, about five minutes.

the early stages...

the early stages…

Add the flour and stir for two minutes or so, until all the vegetables and bacon are well coated. Add the potatoes and continue to stir for several more minutes. Add the reserved steaming water, raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about ten minutes. The potatoes will be starting to soften, but won’t yet be cooked through. Add the heavy cream and the milk, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the littlenecks and cook the chowder until the clams open. Add the reserved clam meat and heat just a couple minutes more until all the littlenecks are open and the chopped clams are cooke through. There is a good chance the chowder will look “broken” at this point. (You will likely see small bubbles of oil on the top of the soup.) If this bothers you, and it did me, there’s an easy fix! Strain the chowder through a strainer over a large bowl. Put the solids back in the pot, and then run the liquids through the blender in batches and then pour back into the pot over the solids. Reheat the soup until piping hot and taste for pepper (and salt, though you will likely not need it. The clams and the bacon are plenty salty!) Serve with a good sprinkle of parsley over the top of each bowl.

Enjoy!!

Grilled Ham and Cheese

Remember how I love sandwiches? I do. I love them so much. They are really the ultimate comfort food for me. Probably because of the bread. Sandwiches on really good bread are hard to beat – hearty, filling, a little guilty – carbs! bah! But oh man. Some days a sandwich is just what the doctor ordered. I have had several of those days lately.

AH MAH GAHD

Sweet sweet redemption

Sandwiches man, little portable stacks of heaven. And this one is particularly good and restorative. It’s sort of my makeshift version of a Cuban sandwich. I love Cubans. They are meaty and smoky and spicy and there are pickles. But they require roasted pork, which is lovely, but I don’t generally have it on hand. This is not a bad alternative at all, if I do say so myself. I made some chipotle garlic mayo to add smokiness and lots of flavor, and then I grilled it up. Pro tip, if you have a brick lying around, wrap it in aluminum foil and use it to weigh down your sandwich while you are toasting it up. Instant panini press!

Imma make this quick, because it’s late, and I have another very long day ahead of me tomorrow. I can’t wait for the weekend. But I had to share this with you, because it was so good. Better than I actually expected. The mayo makes it. Make a bunch, keep it on hand.

And now…

A public service announcement to the classless, ignorant mother-daughter duo in Grandstand 12 at Fenway for the Sox-Orioles game last night – there is no better way to incur my wrath than to belittle and harass my little sis and her gf for being who they are. Life is long, and if you want to spend yours making someone else feel small, know that it will all come back around tenfold. You should rue the day I find out who you are, because HELL HATH NO FURY like a protective older sister. I know a lot of big words and have no qualms about publicly shaming ignorant shitbags. I will also have a few choice words for all the cowards sitting around them that didn’t feel it was their duty to stick up for their fellow humans in the face of bigotry…

Deep breaths…

In other news:

I have a new best friend. She is tiny and adorable and I can’t wait to spend A LOT more time with her. Welcome to the world Baby A. I adore you already.

So I actually got a little sad when I read this…because apparently the marriage itself and the fact that he is a famous person that I don’t actually know didn’t completely drive the point home that it probably wasn’t meant to be for us. But a kid, man. I guess it really isn’t happening.

What I am reading: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. I am really enjoying it, though I haven’t found myself with much time to read the last 10 days.

New TV is coming back and I am EXCITED about it. That means Scandal is coming back. Woot! And football is back. And it feels like fall. It is really wonderful. These sandwiches are perfect for fall! And football games! And tv!

Grilled Ham & Cheese (makes one sandwich)

2 slices of your favorite bread

3 slices ham

2 slices swiss cheese

3 pickle slices (lengthwise slices) (I like the Claussen Sandwich Stackers. Or just slice your favorite dill pickle in lengthwise slices.)

Mustard (I like Guilden’s Spicy Brown)

Chipotle Garlic Mayo (see recipe below)

1 tbl butter

Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter. Spread the other side of one piece of bread with mustard and the other with mayo. Stack the ham, cheese and pickles in between the slices of bread with the butter sides out. Grill the sandwich in a grill pan or frying pan over medium low heat until bread is toasty and brown and the cheese is melty. I like to press the sandwich under a weight to make it extra crusty. Enjoy! This sandwich is going to blow your mind.

Chipotle Garlic Mayo (makes about a quarter cup)

1/4 cup regular mayo

1 medium garlic clove, minced into a paste

1 smallish chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced into a paste

Pinch Salt

Mix all the ingredients together. Use on everything because you are going to like it a real lot.

Feels Like Home: My Mom’s Gazpacho

Summer in a bowl

Summer in a bowl

I have a post about fish tacos in the works but it is detailed and there are lots of accoutrements and it was taking me awhile, so I am going with this instead. I wanted to get a post out before I go away for the weekend AND I wanted to make sure I got this out while there are still delicious tomatoes to be had at the farmers’ market. If there is ever a time for using good tomatoes, this is it.

This is also the first installment in what will hopefully be another new feature on this here blog, which I will call Feels Like Home. I may have mentioned that we ate well growing up. Not fancy, necessarily – there were four of us kids, and two of us were not super adventurous, so I’m not talking about wild, fussy, earth shattering stuff, but very delicious, nonetheless. My plan is to share some of that with you all, if for no other reason than because that means that I get to make and eat them all again myself. They are all things that make me think of home…

This first one, ironically, is not really ever something I was particularly interested in eating when I was younger. I have realized, despite my insistence that I eat everything, that I actually have a fair number of weird food hangups. Every time I turn around on here I feel like I am telling you about something I don’t really love, or didn’t used to like, but whatever, I’m evolving. Gazpacho is a cold soup. Weird, and usually no thank you, especially since people looooooove to serve it in a shot glass, and in case you missed it, I DO NOT DRINK FOODS. I drink drinks, and I eat foods. I need a spoon with my soup. It is a food. BUT, as it turns out, my mom makes a really good, really crowd pleasing gazpacho. And she serves it in a bowl with a spoon. And with croutons. I think the croutons are what actually won me over.

This is so very easy. Essentially, most everything goes in the food processor, and that is the end of that. The only extra step is to blanch the tomatoes first to remove the skins, which takes less than a minute, and to make the croutons, which while technically are “optional” they are not at all optional and you definitely need to make them. Get some bread, it doesn’t even have to be good bread, any bread will do. Slice it about an inch thick, then cut it into cubes. Brown them in olive oil on top of the stove, or toss them with the oil and stick them in the oven until they get brown. Sprinkle them with salt – croutons! Make a bunch and keep them in tupperware for salads or soup or snacks. It will be the best thing you’ve ever done.

In addition to the croutons, I added avocado as a garnish and I do not regret it. I also added some Sun Gold cherry tomatoes because I had them. I hope Mom approves. The avocado in particular was top notch.

Basically, this is super easy. Make it while the tomatoes are still good. Hurry.

Mom’s Gazpacho (serves at least 6)

2 large tomatoes (about two pounds) (I actually used three medium Brandywines to get two pounds worth.)

One cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped

One green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped

One roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine!) roughly chopped

One medium onion, roughly chopped

1 1/2 cups tomato juice

1 1/2 tsp hot sauce (or more to taste)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste (be generous with both!)

Croutons for garnish (and avocado, if you have it.)

Cut an X into the base of each tomato, and blanch in boiling water for about 15 seconds. The skins will peel off very easily. Remove the skins and the cores of each tomato.

In a food processor (you will likely need to do it in a couple batches, unless you have a giant, industrial sized food processor) combine all ingredients through the hot sauce, and process until almost smooth. (This is a matter of preference. I like it to be almost a purée, but if you like it a little chunkier, that’s fine! Run it through the processor for less time.)

Combine the vegetable mixture in a large bowl and add the olive oil, vinegar and the salt and pepper. Taste for additional salt, pepper or hot sauce to your liking. Chill well and serve very cold with croutons to garnish. Enjoy!!

All the thoughts…

1. I just finished reading Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker and it was amazing. It was remarkably funny considering it is a book about a mentally ill, suicidal woman that goes home with the intention of ruining her identical twin sister’s wedding. It was witty, exhausting and really really lovely. I got it from Emily Books, an independent bookstore that sells e-books. They pick one book a month, often unknown books by women, that they feel very strongly about. It’s kind of great. And this book is so good. Read it.

2. Have I mentioned how I feel about Candy Crush yet? Basically it’s good that you have a limit five lives before they have to refuel, because without that break I could probably play Candy Crush for ever and ever nonstop, amen.

3. FOOTBALL. It’s back, and I am watching, and Wes Welker is a Bronco. That’s weird. He just dropped a fair catch kick return though. Oops. Good thing he’s not on my team.

4. This is wonderful.

Be good to one another.

Homemade Ranch Dressing: The food of kings.

Let them eat ranch

Let them eat ranch

I like to think I am a lady of sophisticated tastes. I have eaten at the French Laundry, I will spend $15 on a tiny jar of crushed French red pepper, I like anchovies in things, you know, très chic. But there is one place where I can’t keep up my fancy pretenses; where my refined palate is too embarrassed to show its face; where my eight year old self takes charge; a magical place called the salad bar. I love a good salad bar, which means, for me, that there are croutons and ranch dressing available. I know vinaigrette has a place, there is a wonderful ginger dressing on here that I adore, and there is a yogurt miso one from 101 cookbooks that is divine, but my first love is ranch. My salad tastes skew towards that of a picky kid. Creamy dressings, basic vegetables, eggs, bacon, lots of croutons, you know, the really good stuff.

Back in the day, ranch dressing was from a packet (way better than the bottle.) Add a little mayo and milk and voila – covering up the taste of vegetables in households with small children everywhere. But I have discovered something. When you make it yourself, like from SCRATCH, it really only takes about three minutes longer than the packet does, and you get to pick the herbs you put in, which means you can punch up the best flavors (i.e. dill) to your liking. Start with two parts buttermilk to one part mayo and work your way out from there. I added garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and chives, dill and chervil, because that’s what I had. I would say the chives are standard, but everything else can be just the way you want it. I add dill because it is my absolute favorite, but if you are not a fan of dill, use parsley. Tarragon would be interesting, thyme would be interesting and basil would add a great twist, I think. It truly takes about five minutes and is so much better than the packet or bottle. Much more sophisticated, for sure. Impressive AND crowd-pleasing.

So sophisticated

So sophisticated

What I am reading: Almost finished with Beautiful Ruins and I am loving it. Not sure what I am going to read next, but it may have to be Furious Love.

What I am listening to: I am all over the map. Yesterday it was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in the morning and Top 40 for my run.

I got nothing else today. I am really tired and there are currently no sheets on my bed. How is it only Tuesday?

Homemade Ranch Dressing (makes about 1.5 cups)

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, minced to paste

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbl minced chives

1 tbl minced dill

1 tbl minced chervil or parsely

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Close the top and shake like mad to mix. (You could also mix it in a bowl with a whisk, but it’s way less fun.) Feel free to mix up the herbs it whatever combo suits you best!

Serve over your favorite salad. (Or just dip random vegetables right in it. I won’t tell.)

Cooking the Books: Smothered Cauliflower with Yellow Tomatoes

Guess what, Nerds! I am starting something new around here…let me introduce Cooking the Books, a new feature? series? (what am I, fancy?) on this here blog. I have a bit of a cookbook collection. I also get food mags, A LOT of food mags. I tend to read my cookbooks like novels for inspiration, and I dutifully read through my magazines every month and tear out the recipes that I think look delicious. (Except for Fine Cooking, I don’t tear anything out of my Fine Cookings, they stay intact and go right into my bookshelf.) But then I rarely actually USE them. I will go back through the cookbooks for more inspiration, and I will look for recipes for things I am craving on the interwebs, and then promptly modify it to my tastes. I thought it might be fun at least once a month or so, to find a recipe that looks good and cook it EXACTLY as presented (to the best of my ability) and report back to you all. There you have it, Cooking the Books (my other job is in finance, “cooking the books”, GET IT?!?!)

I knew immediately what my first one would be, because this is one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. I mean look at it.

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine, August 2013

Gorgeous. And it sounded intriguing. Cauliflower dredged in flour and caramelized and then cooked with yellow tomatoes? OK! Topped with runny eggs? Heck yes.

The plan for these is to cook them exactly as directed. I will set a timer if an estimated time is given, and I will try to follow the directions and cooking times exactly as they are presented. Here goes…

Recipe: Smothered Cauliflower with Eggs (recipe here)

Source: Heidi Swanson in the Food & Wine Magazine August 2013 issue

Time required: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Right off the bat, I do not have marjoram leaves or herb flowers for the optional garnish. Good thing it’s optional. I DO have chervil. I do not think this is the most appropriate substitution, but it’s green, so it will look pretty! Additionally, I suspect the one pound of yellow tomatoes they call for were intended to be the size and heft of your standard field tomatoes, but my little farmers’ market didn’t have those. They had these:

Yellow

Yellow

They apparently ALSO had a faulty scale, because they told me that I had just over a pound, and my scale told a different story. Luckily, I had little yellow cherry tomatoes in the house, so I could supplement. I ended up with EXACTLY a pound.

See? Exact.

See? Exact.

Also, oddly enough, this recipe called for a 10 ounce head of cauliflower. That would be a really tiny head of cauliflower. I got one of the smaller ones (at Whole Foods, none of the stalls at my little farmers’ market had cauliflower either, I am going to have to start going to the bigger market) and it was THIRTY ounces. Easy enough to fix I guess, but none the less, not exact.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s do this.

First, I set the timer for 40 minutes.

I then started a medium sized saucepan of water with a good dose of salt to boil.

As the water boiled I sliced the cauliflower and chopped the tomatoes. They referred to cutting the cauliflower in slabs. I took that to mean cutting it vertically into steaks. I got two good steaks and the rest of it kind of fell apart. No matter, I just used the smaller pieces. I also chopped the tomatoes. It calls for 1 pound with 3 cups in parentheses.  I did not get three cups, maybe 2 and a quarter?

Not three cups

Not three cups

Once the water boiled I added the cauliflower and timed it for three minutes. I drained it and patted it dry and tossed with the flour. I heated the olive oil over medium high heat in my 12-inch frying pan, and browned the cauliflower. It didn’t recommend a length of time, but it was probably eight or ten minutes total to get it browned on both sides, like so:

browned

browned

While the cauliflower was browning I grated the lemon peel on my microplane grater. When the cauliflower was browned and caramelized, I added the tomatoes, red pepper, lemon peel and a good pinch of salt, turned the heat down to medium and cooked for five minutes as directed. It was pretty clear at this point that I did not have enough tomatoes. I get the impression the tomatoes were supposed to completely cover the cauliflower, and when the cooked down a bit, they were supposed to be really saucy with a fair amount of liquid in the pan. There were definitely not enough tomatoes to do that.

I toasted two tablespoons of sliced almonds over low heat while the tomatoes were cooking down. I kept the heat low and it took about five minutes.

After the tomatoes cooked down, I cracked four eggs over the tomatoes and cauliflower. The instructions said to make four wells in the tomatoes to crack the eggs into, but there was not enough tomato sauce to make wells in, so I just cracked them over the top, turned the heat down to medium low and covered to cook until the eggs set. Instructions said it would take about 3 minutes, but it probably took closer to six or eight before the eggs set completely. Once they had, I took the pan off the heat, sprinkled on the almonds and chopped chervil for garnish, and voila.

my version

my version

Verdict: The timing was right on, the 40 minute timer went off just as I finished photographing the final dish, which was great. This dish grew on me, actually. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t sure about the first bite. By the end, I was sad it was gone. And I had it for breakfast the other day and it actually reheated pretty well, even with the runny egg, and it was delicious. It absolutely needed more tomatoes. I think I will double the amount next time, because it would have been really really great with more “sauce.” Yellow tomatoes are really sweet and not as acidic as red tomatoes. The cauliflower had really good flavor. The lemon seemed kind of random but was actually really nice. I couldn’t really taste the red pepper, so I may add a touch more next time. And a runny egg makes everything amazing. The almonds added some good texture. It was really nice. Not as pretty, but delicious. I will make this again, I suspect.

In other news…

What I am reading: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

What I am listening to: El Camino by The Black Keys. I somehow missed out on The Black Keys being a thing until recently. A friend reminded me of them this weekend and I put the album on my phone and have been listening to it quite a bit. (That and Neko Case, which is good for headphones at my desk listening. The Black Keys are great for walking to work or cooking listening.)

Things that have captured my attention this week:

The Quotable Jane Austen for Evil People from The Toast made me laugh a lot.

That Zillow commercial where the woman and man are looking for a house and chatting via Skype and then she  and the kid walk into their new home and he is there in uniform to surprise them? AH MAH GAHD, I cry EVERY time. And it’s on a lot.

Do you guys watch Scandal? You should totally be watching Scandal. I cannot wait until it comes back. First season is streaming on Netflix, Season Two is streaming on Hulu. Watch Scandal.

“Guess what day it is?!” This commercial best be on every Wednesday for the rest of the time that I am on this earth.

I had a fried chicken throwdown at my house the other night. And by throwdown I just mean that I used two different methods to prep the chicken and then a couple of my besties and I tried to decide which one we liked better. I used a recipe that Bon Appetit called the best fried chicken ever about 18 months ago, which is tossed with spices the night before, then dipped in buttermilk and egg and dredged in flour and cornstarch the day of, and then a more basic, chicken in buttermilk overnight and then dredged in flour the day of. We actually came out somewhere in between. I liked the extra flavor that the spices gave the chicken but it was a lot of extra kick, and there is something to be said for the simplicity and purity of your basic buttermilk brine. I think maybe next time I will try to split the difference. Use the spice combo from Bon Appetit and temper it by combining that with buttermilk to marinate overnight. I guess I’ll just have to make it again soon, so I can tell you about it. The thing that I don’t have to try again, but will definitely be making again??? A corn salad based on the very famous and VERY delicious Mexican street corn from Toro. Not to worry, I will be telling you about that soon. Very soon.

Football is back in our lives. Football has its issues for sure, but there is just something about Sundays in the fall and winter, football on the tv, people in my house and something delicious on the stove that is absolute perfection.

Grown ass classy lady moment of the week: I gave myself a stomach ache twice because I ate too many fried chicken leftovers for lunch. Congratulations Meghan, you are a puppy.

Cleaning Out the Fridge: Quinoa Zucchini Cakes with Feta and Red Onion

A happy accident

A happy accident

This was a fluke. It was my first day back from vacation and my grocery situation was bleak. A few things had unexpectedly survived in the crisper drawer, including a zucchini and a red onion, and I randomly had some feta cheese in the cheese drawer. I don’t generally care for feta cheese all that much, so I rarely buy it. I have no idea how or when it got in there, but I went with it.

I have made these thrice since.

You guys. These were so good. Stupid good. There was so much flavor here. They were way more than the sum of their parts. They tasted rich, like it took a long time for the flavors to develop. They were filling but still light. They were really really good leftover. Remember how I like to say I could NEVER be a vegetarian? These could sway me. (Though, full disclosure, the first time I made these I did cook the quinoa in chicken stock. It was goooood.) I pretty much ate these three or four times a week for three weeks AND I WOULD MAKE THEM AGAIN RIGHT NOW. I don’t know, I really don’t. It’s inexplicable.

Basically, make these as soon as possible. Next time you have leftover cooked quinoa? Make them. Next time you have a zucchini hanging out in your fridge without purpose? Make them. Next time you just feel like it? Make them. Just make them, basically. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t hold together quite as well as you were expecting when you form the cakes. The crispiness from the frying is what ultimately keeps them together. And the crispy crust is the best part.

In other news…

1. I have purchased EIGHT BOOKS in the last month. EIGHT. I have read two, and they are not even two of the eight that I bought. But I can not say no to a Kindle Daily Deal. Actually, that’s not true. I can say no, UNLESS it is a book that is already on my list, or one by an author whose name I recognize. My purchases: People Who Eat Darkness, The Sisters Brothers, The Fifties (this was super random but got good reviews? I don’t know.) Bring Up the Bodies, Furious Love, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, A Clash of Kings, and Beautiful Ruins. There’s a job somewhere that entails reading books and cooking all day right? Because I want it. I am IMMENSELY qualified. I will always be on time and I will read faster and cook more than you can possibly imagine. Salary negotiable. Thank you for your consideration.

2. I read A Game of Thrones. I held out a long time. I haven’t gotten into the show because I know it is really violent and I have a really hard time with violence and scary stuff. I am a wimp. I was (still am??) afraid of Large Marge in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Remember when he is in the truck and the driver turns around and says “Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya” and turns into a scary cartoon…zombie face? Ghost? Ghoul? I don’t actually know BECAUSE I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY SEEN IT. I close my eyes. IT’S A CARTOON. I told you. I will be avoiding Game of Thrones the show thankyouverymuch. BUT, I was feeling left out, and I was assured that even though fantasy is not really my bag, so I thought, that I would really enjoy it. So I bought it. I read 800 pages in EIGHT DAYS. Eight work days. I couldn’t stop. It was awesome. (I actually hated the end. Just like the last paragraph, so literally, just the end. But I am sure it will redeem itself in the next book. Which I just bought.) It was great. It made me realize a couple of things: 1.) I would be a terrible fiction writer because I HATE bad guys. Mean people? Get rid of them. If I was a writer my protagonists would have literally no enemies. I can do life obstacles, I can totally get behind a good life obstacle story, but mean, evil people? No thanks, not into it.  My books would be Lannister-free. It would be all rainbows and friendship and happiness. 2.) I missed reading. Like really reading, and getting into a book and wanting to do nothing but that, and actually letting myself do nothing but that. I have to read more. It’s the best.

3. Neko Case’s new album is streaming on NPR prior to its September 3rd release. And that is what I will be listening to for the next couple of weeks. I just bought tickets for my mom and I to see her in November. I am very excited.

4. I just spoke to some of my favorite West Coast people, whom I miss terribly, and found out I will be heading to Nantucket with them at the end of September. Yay!

Ok, that’s all for tonight. I have to get up early and run. There are not enough hours in my day. Blerg.

White quinoa, round two.

White quinoa, round two.

Quinoa Zucchini Cakes (serves 4 for lunch or a light dinner)

2 cups cooked quinoa (I’ve used red or white, doesn’t matter a bit.)

1 medium zucchini, shredded in the food processor or with a cheese grater (about two cups)

Generous 1/2 cup red onion, sliced into 1 inch pieces (to mimic the size of the zucchini shreds)

Generous 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2-3 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste (don’t be stingy with either)

Oil (of your choice) for frying

Place the shredded zucchini in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and salt generously. Let sit for 20 minute or so and then press on the zucchini to extract excess liquid.

Combine quinoa, zucchini, red onion and feta cheese in a large bowl and salt and pepper generously. Stir to combine well. Add the panko and two of the eggs and stir to combine again. Test the mixture to see how well it holds together. It should not hold together firmly, but if it doesn’t stick together at all, add the third egg and stir well to combine.

Heat a bit of oil, enough to nicely cover the bottom of the pan, in a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Form the mixture into cakes (About a third of a cup for each works nicely) and fry until deep golden brown and then flip and repeat on the second side. (About five minutes a side? The crispier and browner the better.) Repeat with remaining mixture. Serve with a salad or wilted spinach or just by themselves. THEY DON’T EVEN NEED A SAUCE.

Get ready for your mind to be blown.