I have a deep an abiding love for pickled foods. Really almost anything that’s come in contact with vinegar for, let’s say, over an hour makes me very happy. Salty foods and spicy foods are also very high on my list of “what I will eat at any hour of the day”. Sour, spicy, and salty combine to make the holy trinity of a perfect drink. Especially on a Sunday. With alcohol. And a side of eggs dripping in hollandaise.For the last month or so, I’ve been craving a Bloody Mary every single weekend, but for so many reasons haven’t been able to have a (good) one. (There was one upstate a few weeks back, but it was so sadly disappointing that even the memory is bringing my taste buds down.)
Then, finally, we had a brunch on the calendar! Bloody Mary’s here I come! But in that moment, thinking only of food and wanting to impress our out of town friends, I chose the best brunch place in our neighborhood: Queens Comfort.Then disaster. I remembered the restaurant is BYOB, which is almost never disastrous, except when you’ve been craving a Bloody Mary. After giving in to a little silent pouting, I decided that an inconvenience like having to bring all the pieces to make the perfect brunch drink wasn’t going to stop me. The real problem was that I hadn’t ever made a Bloody Mary mix from scratch before.
Obviously it was going to need good heat, salt, and acid in it, but what about the garnish? I love when a Bloody Mary basically has a whole meal just sitting on top of it. It needed to be more than a celery stalk, but it couldn’t be too much more because it was coming along with us to a restaurant. Like my friend Maya (check out her Bloody Blog), I detest when the garnish is a simple lemon or lime. The drink is hearty and bold – it should have hearty and bold food to go with it.In New York we don’t really have pickled eggs for purchase, and by the time I came to the idea of putting an egg on it I had less than 24 hours to make them. Turns out eggs can get that delicious pickled taste pretty quickly. They’re also super good in spicy tomato juice – hearty, and bold.
Once the eggs were set we went to work putting together the mix. Since neither Ari nor myself had ever made a Bloody Mary mix before, our kitchen transformed into a full on lab. More lime! Enough pepper! Touch of salt! What about this? Throw it in!Half an hour later we had what we thought was possibly the most delicious pitcher of tomato juice ever crafted. After letting it hang out in the fridge overnight we bottled it up, packed up the garnish and vodka and headed off for the most epic BYOB brunch ever. This “classic recipe with a twist” was a hit. Earning high marks from friends, who drank it with and without the alcohol, its status was upgraded to blog-worthy.
So here’s to the last days of summer. To hot lazy weekends, long brunches, and glasses filled with ice cubes slowly melting in the sun. I can’t wait for the fall but I sure will miss this amazing season. Cheers!
1 can, 46 oz, of Tomato Juice (we used Sacramento)
Many turns of Fresh Black Pepper (to taste)
Salt to taste
For the rim
Seasoned salt or your favorite spice (we used the Mexican spice Tajin Clásico - an incredible blend of chilies, lime, and salt)
Quick Pickled Eggs
Bring all the ingredients (minus the eggs) to a boil in a small saucepan. Use a whisk to incorporate the sugar and salt. Turn off the heat and let it cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
Pour the liquid and spices over the shelled hard boiled eggs in the container you will pickle them in (I used a jam jar). Let the jar of eggs and pickling mix cool fully before putting it into the fridge. I turned it upside down in the fridge to make sure the eggs were all submerged.
Eggs are ready 12-24 hours later. I liked them best within a day or two but you can keep them up to a week in the refrigerator.
Bloody Mary Mix
In a pitcher, or small bowl, break down the celery seed in the worcestershire sauce using the back of a spoon or pestle.
Transfer the celery seed/worcestershire sauce to the pitcher or bowl you will use to mix everything together and add all the ingredients except the tomato juice. Mix together.
Add the tomato juice and stir it all up. Taste for seasoning. Let sit for at least a couple hours in the fridge or overnight.
Moisten the rim of the glass with a lemon or lime. Roll the glass rim in whatever salt or seasoning you're using.
Place a few ice cubes in the glass and, if you're using vodka, pour the vodka over the ice. We used 1 part vodka to 2 parts mix. Fill the rest of the glass with your Bloody Mary mix and stir.
Garnish with spicy and salty things. Things I thought about but didn't use: cubes of cheese, pickles, smoked meats, and pickled carrots. I used seven olives because three seemed too few and eleven couldn't fit on the skewer.
Yo stone fruit, I’m really happy for you, and Imma let you finish out this season, but the fruit butter version of yourself is just so ridiculously good that I can’t wait. I don’t go back to school anymore and my jobs aren’t seasonal so I’ve found new ways to mark the end of summer… in the kitchen. I’m already daydreaming about roast meats, root vegetables, and hearty breads yet at the same time I’m hoarding all the fresh fruit I can get my hands on. It’s cool, I’m just playing the food field.
Recently a friend asked if I wanted to participate in a canning exchange that she organizes. Everyone who joins in (8-10 people) cans or pickles 8-10 jars of something delicious. They mail it to the canning master and she repackages so we all get one of everything and then she mails them back out. Edible (or drinkable) mail is my favorite kind of mail.I’ve had tons of ideas for this exchange but haven’t yet decided what I’ll make. Also, I’ve never really canned food, the proper stay-on-the-shelf forever kind of way, and I’m totally afraid of poisoning someone. I think I’ve read every “how to not give people botulism” article out there.
While I was thinking long and hard about what to contribute to the exchange, and at the same time buying up way too many nectarines and plums, I decided to test out a method for making fruit butter. This was inspired by not only the pounds of fruit laying around my kitchen but also this article I read awhile back claiming you can make fruit butters in your slow cooker.A no stove time, set it and forget it, easy way to make delicious plum butter?! Amazing.
Not only was it a great time to test a recipe (and method), but plum butter fit my book club’s theme for snacking this month at our meeting* so I got to try out the final product on a group of willing and gracious friends.*We try to theme the snacks at our meet-ups so that they’re somehow tied to the book. This month we read Gone Girl so the theme was “food that isn’t what you think it is”. I have some pretty genius friends, right? So plum butter isn’t really butter! Trust me, when I realized that it was the perfect fit, I was just as excited as you must be right now.
I’m so excited to share this recipe. It’s close to the easiest recipe I now know and the final product is delicious and versatile. It’s also the perfect thing to make right now when you realize there is, indeed, a limit to the amount of fresh fruit an adult can consume in one day even though it’s all sitting in your fridge…or in two months from now when you forget that and start hoarding gorgeous fall apples.
2 lbs plums halved and the pit taken out (I read you can leave the pit and just take them out easily when done cooking)
¼ cup white sugar
¼-1/2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp vanilla
Place plums in slow cooker and toss them in the sugar (no need to add any extra liquid!). Cover and set your cooker to low for 12-13 hours.
After 12-13 hours take cover off and test the plums with a fork. They will look stewed (much darker) and should fall apart when the fork hits them. If there's a lot of liquid inside keep the cover off and let it cook for another 1-2 hours. Shut the heat.
To blend it up I used an immersion blender right in the slow cooker. You can also transfer the plums to another dish or into a food processor or blender. Blend till smooth. Add in the cinnamon and vanilla to taste and blend one final time.
Let it cool. Eat it straight away or keep it in the fridge for a week or two. You can also can it and enjoy it later (like in the middle of the winter with those roasts and hearty breads).
Before I jump into anything about this bowl of deliciousness I need to apologize. This recipe marks the third in a row that uses heavy cream. Normally I would never ever apologize for using that ingredient but I realize this might be a little excessive. The reason for all the heavy cream usage is that I bought a large container for my Blueberry Cream Scones and have been building recipes around, in part, what ingredients I have hanging out at home. I’m new to sharing what goes on in my kitchen and I’m still figuring it all out. (I’ve also used leeks twice in a row now, but enough with the counting. On to the recipe!)
This recipe is inspired by the soup-kitchen I cook in twice a week: Crossroads Community Services at St. Bartholomew’s Church in NYC. We’re very lucky to have fresh produce to work with, and we’ve been able to prepare many amazing roasted and/or grilled cauliflower dishes that have gone over really well with our guests. I’ve learned that cauliflower is very quick to break down to its florets, absorbs spices and flavors beautifully, and roasts to perfection in about 20 minutes.
This is totally silly but whenever I eat or talk about cauliflower this (truly brilliant) joke from when I was a kid bubbles up. I’m going to share it with you so you can giggle along as you think about cooking your cauliflower.One day the Duchess of Bialy woke up and decided that more than anything in the world, she wanted to be a cauliflower. She went to the royal witch and said “turn me into a cauliflower!”. The witch, who understood this deep need to be a cauliflower, nodded solemnly and said she would do it, but that the Duchess should know once she was transformed there was no returning to human form. “That’s fine by me!” said the Duchess..for she really truly wanted to be a cauliflower. There was a poof! and the Duchess was changed. — One day this cauliflower is walking down the street and sees a young boy standing in the middle of the road and he is completely oblivious to a giant truck speeding right towards him. The cauliflower leaps to the boy’s rescue, scoops him up, deposits him safely next to his panicked mother, and then runs away. The boy looks up at his mother in shock and awe and asks “Mom, who was that?!” “Don’t you know my son?” she replied, “That was super cauliflower ex-Bialy Duchess”. I’m still working on turning this into a full length cauliflower-themed Mary Poppins parody…
Usually, I don’t think cauliflower needs a sauce of any kind but recently my world was rocked when I was in New Orleans and I ate the most exquisite whole roasted cauliflower at Domenica. It was served with labneh-like feta and goat cheese and my understanding of cauliflower was transformed – from roasting it whole (which is on my to-do list) to serving it with a sauce or dip of sorts.Back at home this past week, while in the kitchen and thinking about what to make for lunch, I remembered that amazing Domenica experience and decided to create a sauce for this roasted cauliflower. I wanted something light but a sauce that would also help elevate the veg to a heartier side dish. As you now know, I already had the cream and leeks. After a quick browse of my refrigerator I pulled out lemons, some garlic, and got to work.
As the final touch, and to pull it all together in taste and color, I threw some sprigs of fresh cilantro over the top. I love how cilantro adds a burst of freshness and plays so well with bold spices and lemon flavors. If cilantro isn’t an herb you use, some fresh italian parsley would be great on this as well.It was hard not to eat it up all at once. I kept swatting Ari’s hand away, then finally gave up, and for the rest of the afternoon we were picking up pieces of cauliflower and popping them in our mouths as if they were candy.
1 medium leek, halved and thinly sliced, white and pale green parts only
1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
Juice from 1 whole lemon
½ cup of heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F
Spread cauliflower florets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil over the pieces (you'll want to be a little generous here because the cauliflower soaks it all up quickly). Sprinkle the cumin, curry powder, salt and pepper over all the pieces. I like to spice foods boldly but I'll leave this to individual taste. I did use a mild curry powder but it had a bit of a kick to it. Also, a strongly spiced cauliflower will work really well with the cooling effects of the cream sauce.
Get your hands into the tray and rub the olive oil and spices into the cauliflower.
Place in oven for 15 minutes and then take them out and turn the pieces over so they cook evenly. At this point it's a good idea to roll them in any extra oil on the pan to help prevent burning and keep them moist.
Place back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes (check after 5). Check for a deep golden brown and if they start getting too dark take them out and taste to make sure they're cooked through.
Let cool on baking sheet until ready to use (or eat).
Lemon Leek Sauce
In a saucepan over medium-high heat melt butter and add leeks and smashed garlic cloves. Sauté for a couple minutes and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes until the leeks are tender. Make sure to keep stirring them every couple minutes as they might begin to stick.
Once the leeks are soft, after about 15 minutes, raise the heat to medium and add the lemon juice. Stir until the juice evaporates. Add cream and simmer the mixture another 2-3 minutes until the cream begins to reduce. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool slightly.
Pour the contents of the pot into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain the sauce into a bowl or pot using a fine mesh strainer- you'll want to create a smooth sauce. Using the back of a spoon (or your hands) push out all the liquid from the solids left in the strainer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Lightly drizzle the sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle fresh cilantro or parsley on top.
Weekends are my favorite time for fresh baked goods. Not that I’ve ever said no to a perfectly buttery flakey croissant on, let’s say, a Wednesday, but there’s just something special about warm pastry to welcome long lazy weekend days. So it really doesn’t make much sense that I baked a batch of these blueberry cream scones as we were (literally) running out the door to drive 4 hours up to the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY for the annual Belgium Comes To Cooperstown beer/food/music/and general awesomeness festival. Delicious car food? Yes. Logical? Eh..
The thing was that we hadn’t had a “long lazy weekend day” in a while and I wanted to do something to help me pretend like we weren’t about to hop in a car for hours and race to snag a good camping spot for the night. Enter the scones. They give the illusion of hard work when in reality they’re truly easy to pull together. I still fool myself every time.
Earlier in the week I’d spotted some gorgeous blueberries at a great price and picked up a few pints. I have a knack for eating whole pints of blueberries very quickly. Practicing a little self-restraint, I had the perfect pint sitting in the fridge waiting to be tossed into some scone dough.
Blueberries are so spectacularly summery but growing up, I didn’t always associate them with their proper season. My mom used to buy up pints of blueberries in the summer (and then cranberries in the fall) and freeze them. You could open up the freezer in mid December and she’d have at least 8 pints of fresh Jersey blues waiting to be tossed into pancakes or muffins. I’m making it my mission to do a little stocking up of my own this year. The season is just too short for the best local berries and I want to see how far into winter we can be eating warm sweet blueberry treats.
Back to the scones – that morning the smell of the baking blueberries was enough to draw my man into the kitchen but somehow not enough for him to pounce on the freshly baked goods immediately.I have the uncanny ability to be ready to eat butter all the time whereas my beloved does not. In fact he sprints from the room the second he smells butter cooking. But in the spirit of a peaceful marriage I will say that I “understand” the 6:30am aversion to stuffing his face with buttery scones.
Because I cannot pass you a scone through this screen I will tell you they were delicious and I encourage you to try your hand at making some on a weekend or any other old day because, let’s be real, it’s always a good time for a blueberry scone.P.S. They also make a delicious car snack.
Cut the butter into individual tablespoons and use a pastry blender (or two knives, or your fingers) to blend the butter into the flour mixture till you get the coarse crumbs.
Carefully toss the blueberries into the mixture. I like to use a silicone spatula for this because it's gentle and you don't want to mash your blueberries - just mix them and coat them in the flour.
Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Stir it together until the dough forms (this will take very little time..seconds!). Make sure not to overwork the dough - there will be little bits at the bottom that you can press into the dough in just a minute.
Prepare an un-greased baking sheet. I like to use parchment paper or a Silpat.
Transfer the dough to a very well floured work surface and using your hands push out the dough to ¾-1 inch thickness. It is now that you can gently incorporate the flour-y pieces and crumbs back into the top and knead them in with your fingers. Scones are very forgiving.
Once the dough is at the right thickness grab whatever shape you're using to cut out the individual scones. I like to use a drinking glass and dip the rim in flour first. You can also cut out your scones with a knife.
Place them on the baking sheets a little bit apart from each other and bake 18-20 min at 400 or until the tops have a nice brown color.
Let them cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before diving in face-first.
It’s been a tomato takeover in my food-related news feed the last few weeks. There have been amazing recipes posted all over including this delicious looking grilled bread with ricotta and tomatoes and a post titled “Tomatoes, Tomatoes, and More Tomatoes!“. Being someone who is easily influenced by gorgeous photos and recipes I was immediately (seriously, immediately) ready to eat handfuls of summer tomatoes. It was too hot to turn on the oven to get a good roasted tomato going so I decided on some fresh pesto pasta as the most perfect vehicle for fresh juicy tomatoes.
Not only is pesto incredibly easy to turn-out, it also lasts for awhile, freezes well, and is great on oh-so-many-food-things…and spoons. Spoonfuls of pesto are awesome too.
My favorite pesto to make is a couple steps away from strictly traditional but it’s equally tasty. First off, I don’t use pine nuts anymore because a few months back my main man got pine mouth after eating some at home and it lasted for almost two weeks Everything he ate tasted metallic and pretty terrible so I use them infrequently now. Instead I’ve started using toasted walnuts which make a great substitute.
I’m also not a basil purist. I love fresh basil but I like to mix things up in pesto by throwing in a big handful of parsley. Parsley has that fresh spring taste, it’s a little peppery, and adds a delicious layer of flavor.
Once the herbs are dry I throw them into the food processor with the nuts, 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic, fresh squeezed lemon juice (also not super traditional), some parmesan or pecorino romano (I’ll use either), and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
Now that you have a big beautiful bowl of pesto it’s time to put it on something. I opted for pasta but it would be perfect slathered on a nice thick piece of toast and tomatoes layered on top, on a pizza crust, in eggs, or any other carb or starch-loaded things you have in the kitchen.
About the pasta- I always have a box or two in the house because it is hands down the fastest way to go from “I want to eat pasta” to actually eating pasta but sometimes I’d really prefer homemade pasta which has a totally different texture and quality. Before the eye rolls start getting sent my way you should know making pasta by hand isn’t all that time consuming (add another 30-40 minutes to the process) or difficult and the results are OH WOW THIS IS SO GOOD. So I made some pasta.
Awhile back I invested in the KitchenAid pasta attachments when I stumbled on a great price. While the traditional hand crank pasta machine is usually perfect, I found that as a lefty I struggle way more than my righty counterparts in coordinating rolling and holding the dough. Using the attachments probably speeds everything up a bit. I’m also using the mixing bowl from the stand mixer the bring the ingredients (egg, flour, water, salt…yup that’s all) together before hand kneading to save on clean-up.
I’ll write a more in depth pasta post in the future but here are the highlights:
The kneaded dough ball
Rolling out sheets of dough (I roll these to 7)
Very salted boiling water and making a vortex in it just before throwing in pasta
Post-knead the dough gets wrapped in a disc to rest
Cut pasta on parchment paper and tossed with flour
Fresh pasta take so little time cook! I usually test about a minute in and never let it stay in longer than 2 min.
Once the pasta was done I tossed it with the pesto and then cut up the beautiful tomatoes to top it. The tomatoes added a sweetness and an amazing texture to each bite. It was a bowl that tasted like summer.
*NOTE: Here’s the first recipe I’m posting and here’s where you learn that I’m not a recipe writer.
People have asked me for recipes for years and I don’t have the patience (or will) to figure out how much of a spice or oil I’m adding. I will use the words “about” and “not more than” and “to taste”. I’m not aiming to send perfected recipes out into the world since I’m usually the person who takes the perfected recipe and then edits it to my own taste while cooking. Instead, I want to write about flavors, seasonal foods, techniques, and using ingredients in different and delicious ways. If you’re planning to cook what I post here get ready to taste a ton. Some recipes will be more specific than others and I promise to never post something that wasn’t truly awesome.
2 cups mixed basil and parsley leaves** I used a little more basil than parsley (Maybe 1 and ⅓ Basil to ⅔ Parsley)
2-3 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup toasted walnuts
Juice from half a lemon
½ cup olive oil (maybe a little more or less)
¼-1/3 cup of shredded pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, I really like either.
Pull the basil leaves off the stems and grab the tops of the parsley- some parsley stem is fine- and thoroughly wash and dry.
Throw the greens, garlic, and walnuts in the food processor and blend till they look coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Keep an eye on it - you can always add more oil but if you go over it'll be difficult to edit.
I like to add the cheese now and taste for salt (I primarily use kosher salt in cooking) and pepper and then give it one more spin in the food processor. You can also mix in the seasonings and cheese by hand if you prefer.
Eat immediately or save it to use later. You've probably seen the ice cube tray method and/or just use an airtight container. Either way make sure to add a little extra olive oil on the top before putting it in the freezer to keep that bright beautiful green color intact. Then whenever the mood strikes..pesto!
**Every pesto recipe starts with x number of cups of "packed" basil leaves. I am still not sure what this really means. I usually take a measuring cup that holds 2 cups and start shoving the greens in but not too tightly. I know that's about as helpful as "packed" but I just still haven't figured it out.