Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Slow Cooker Beef and Lamb Chili

It's chili night, y'all!

I know I'm not very good at consistent blogging anymore, but I do often post pictures of dinner over on instagram. I'm a fan of the near-instant posting, and since most of my photos are taken on my phone these days (who wants to carry around a DSLR when an iPhone fits in your pocket?), that particular social media has won out of this one. I like that the pictures are usually sort of messy and un-styled, too (note chili splash marks and chipped bowl). Unfortunately, iPhone keyboards are not so excellent for typing out entire recipes, so here I am again! Let's talk chili.

I make a big batch of chili at least once each winter. It's a fantastic recipe that I got from my friend Kristen, and I will certainly bring it out at some point during football season, but man, is that sucker a project: there's lots of chopping and hours of simmering, and it feeds twenty (twenty!) people. I needed to make some room in the freezer this week, and the weather has turned cool again, but I didn't have hours to tend to a pot - in fact, I threw this in the crockpot in about 30 minutes after Bones the other night and dinner was done before I even woke up the next day. This version is a slimmed down, use-what-you've-got interpretation of my old stand by, so there's a little bit of pre-cooking and a little bit of finishing, but the batch was perfect for dinner for two and a few lunches worth of leftovers.

Slow Cooker Beef and Lamb Chili
Serves 6-8, or 2 with plenty of lunches for the week

By all means, use all beef if that's what you've got (or what you like) but we really enjoyed the added flavor from the ground lamb. And a note on fat: Adam doesn't eat pork on principle, but we do have bacon once a year (New Year's Day, when we have guests for brunch), and I save the fat and cook with it from time to time when it seems like a good fit. If you don't save bacon fat, you could certainly use olive oil, or a combination of oil and butter as in the original, or any other interesting fat you feel like cooking with that day. Or you could cook some bacon with your breakfast and use the fat to start slow-cooker chili that you'll eat for dinner that night. I used home-canned tomatoes from my #crazycanninglady frenzy of Labor Day weekend, but I'm sure store bought would work just fine. 

about 2 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil, divided
2 stalks celery, cut into half moons about 1/2" thick
2 jalapenos, seeded, minced

2 green peppers, diced into 3/4" pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium white or yellow onions, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 lb ground lamb
1 lb stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
2 14.5 ounce cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used dark red kidney beans and pink beans, but use what you like)
1 28-32 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-16 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoon* cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon red chili flakes
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning as you go
kosher salt

*I happen to have a 1/2 tablespoon measure, but if you don't, it's equivalent to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Heat 1-2 teaspoons fat in a cast iron or other large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the green peppers, celery and jalapenos and saute for 5-7 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the garlic, season with a big pinch of kosher salt, and saute for one minute more. Scrape the vegetables into the slow cooker.

Add another 1-2 teaspoons fat in the same skillet, and add the onion. Saute for 5 or so minutes, or until the onion is just starting to get translucent. Add the lamb to the skillet, breaking it up with your spatula, and season with a big pinch of salt. Cook until the lamb is no longer pink, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks. If your lamb gives off a fair amount of fat as it cooks, tilt the skillet and spoon out most of the fat before scraping the lamb and onions into the slow cooker. (Pro tip: I used one of the empty bean cans as a place to put the fat before it solidified and I could throw it out - never put fat down the drain!)

Add another 1-2 teaspoons fat to the skillet, then add half the beef. Turn the pieces occasionally, trying to get a good dark golden crust on at least two sides of each piece. When the first batch is golden brown on a couple of sides, scrape them into the slow cooker and repeat with the second half of the beef. If your skillet is very large you won't need to work in batches, but mine isn't huge, and crowding the meat will cause it to steam instead of developing the golden brown crust you're after.

So now you've got partially cooked vegetables and meat in the slow cooker. Add the beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce, then add all the spices - you can use more or less chili powder or chili flake to adjust the heat level, or you could add hot sauce if you like. For me, this amount of seasoning amounted to a medium heat level - I didn't add any additional fire power to my bowl, but Adam added pickled jalapenos to his. Anyway, add another large pinch of salt, stir the whole thing together, then put on the lid and turn the slow cooker to low.

Cook on low for about 8 hours or overnight (it is kind of weird and awesome to wake up to a house that smells like chili). When you get up, take the lid off the slow cooker but let it keep simmering, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to thicken slightly (totally ok to skip this if you don't have time, it'll just be a little more soupy). Taste the chili for seasoning - it may need more salt depending on how aggressive you were when seasoning during cooking. Serve hot, with all the fixins if you've got 'em: sour cream, grated cheese, extra hot sauce, sliced green onion, cornbread, fritos, etc, etc.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crazy Canning Lady 2013 (and some useful links)

Final tally: 17 jars crushed tomatoes, 4 jars tomato sauce, 12 jars tomato juice, 38 jars tomato salsa, 4 jars tomatillo salsa. I had two failed seals, so there's a bit of salsa in the fridge. Nachos for dinner solves part of the problem :)

My most-used hashtag lately has been #crazycanninglady. What you see above is what I made from 100+ pounds of tomatoes over labor day weekend: 38 pints of salsa; 8 quarts, 5 24 oz jars, and 4 pints of crushed tomatoes; 5 pints of thin tomato sauce; and 12 pints of tomato juice that I squeeze out of the seeds and peels at the end of the weekend. I bought 4 cases of seconds (the less-than-perfect tomatoes that go for cheap and are just fine for canning) for a mere $12 per case, and then because I'm a nutter I bought another box the following weekend used the whole box to make another 7 pints of thick tomato sauce.

In the last month I've also made kosher style dill pickles, tomatillo salsa verde, dilly beans, stone fruit + blackberry jam, mixed berry jam, and Asian style plum sauce. I've got tomatoes at home destined for tomato jam tomorrow night, and we're going apple picking this weekend which will inevitably lead to overbuying, so I'm guessing there's apple jelly in my future. (Thanks for the idea, Mom! I bought a jelly strainer the other day!)

If you want to be a crazy canning lady like me, here are some extremely useful links about how to do it safely:

Understanding Acid and pH in Boiling Water Bath Canning from Food in Jars.

How Not to Die from Botulism from Northwest Edible Life

Canning Q&A: The Difference Between Jam, Jelly, Marmalade and Preserves from Food Fanatic

Canning Q&A: Differences Between Jam vs. Jelly, Marmalade and Preserves - See more at:
Canning Q&A: Differences Between Jam vs. Jelly, Marmalade and Preserves - See more at:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Last Night's Dinner (and a recipe for Roasted Carrot "Hummus")

The cover recipe from Plenty (Pom molasses instead of Pom seeds), carrot "hummus" from river cottage veg and sautéed kale. And naan. #dinner #awyeah

Adam's been traveling for work a lot lately, spending Sunday through Friday in New York and coming home just long enough to do laundry and give me a quick hug before getting back on a train. That project is almost over, thank goodness, but while he's been gone I've reverted to my single lady food habits. By which I mean that I've had an awful lot of tomato sandwiches for lunch and dinner in the last month.

Anyway, he got to come home early this week and yesterday I made us an actual honest to goodness dinner with some actual honest to goodness thought behind it. I started with the cover recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's gorgeous book Plenty, but at Rivka's suggestion I used pomegranate molasses instead of the out-of-season pomegranate seeds. Sauteed kale was a no brainer given the enormous bunch taking up half the space in my refrigerator.

Then, since the oven was already on, I figured it was time to try the roasted carrot "hummus" that my friend Samantha suggested as a way to use up a glut of carrots (oh the woes of a CSA member!) I put hummus in quotes because there are no chickpeas in here, but carrot dip sounds like something you dip carrots in, not a dip made of carrots, and carrot spread just doesn't really capture the vaguely middle eastern flair of it. This stuff is so good, you guys. It's sweet from the honey and the carrots themselves, with smokey, herbaceous notes from the toasted cumin and coriander. I threw together some quick flatbread to scoop this up with, but I think it would be equally good on crudites (especially cauliflower) or crackers. If you can eat this outside to enjoy the waning summer (sob) so much the better.

Roasted Carrot "Hummus"
adapted (but not much) from River Cottage Veg

When I make this again (after we inevitably get another pound or two of carrots next week) I want to try using the green coriander from the gone-to-seed cilantro plants in my garden to bump up the vegetal flavors.

1 - 1.5 pounds carrots
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon neutral flavored honey 
3-4 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons tahini
juice of one orange
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you peel the carrots and cut them into 1 inch chunks.

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds together in a dry skillet just until fragrant (if using green coriander, just toast the cumin). Transfer to a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder and grind to a fine-ish powder. Combine the spices with 1/4 cup of olive oil, a big pinch of salt and the honey, then toss the carrots in the mixture, spread on a baking sheet, add the garlic (don't peel it) and roast, tossing once, for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are dark brown (but not burnt!) in spots.

When the carrots are out of the oven, let them cool for a minute or two, then add them to a food processor with the garlic (it should be easy to squeeze the garlic from the skins, now), tahini, orange and lemon juices and another big pinch of salt. Pulse a few times to get it started, then add 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil and pulse a bit more. You may need more oil, or you may not, but keep adding oil and pulsing until you get a thick paste. Taste for seasoning - I added more lemon juice and more black pepper - and pulse again if you add anything just to finish mixing. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with a little more olive oil if you like. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Food Poetry Friday


Peeling Onions
by Adrienne Rich

Only to have a grief
equal to all these tears!

There's not a sob in my chest.
Dry-hearted as Peer Gynt

I pare away, no hero,
merely a cook.

Crying was labor, once
when I'd good cause.
Walking, I felt my eyes like wounds
raw in my head,
so postal-clerks, I thought, must stare.
A dog's look, a cat's, burnt to my brain -
yet all that stayed
stuffed in my lungs like smog.

These old tears in the chopping-bowl.


This seemed appropriate for a dreary, grey Friday.  I took the photo on our trip to California in May; it's from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. I hope your cooking projects this weekend only bring tears to your eyes with their sheer deliciousness!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Strawberry Season

Last week my landlady picked a bunch of my strawberries before they were ripe, rendering them useless and me livid. Today a friend of mine sent me these as a replacement. I am one lucky lady (with an office that smells like summer!)

If we are facebook friends you might have noticed my rant when my well-intentioned landlady picked a bunch of my strawberries "so the animals don't get them!" Unfortunately, they weren't ripe yet, and they don't ripen once they've been picked. She also washed them (and I just keep telling myself she meant well, sigh), which meant they needed to be used immediately before they started to mold, but what do you do with under ripe strawberries? Well, not much. I ate the borderline ones and chucked the rest. It was so sad. But then a very nice chef instructor friend of mine bought me half a flat of strawberries from his CSA farm, becuase he is a very nice friend who understand the indignity of misappropriated fruit. Man, my office smelled good that day. With half of the berries I made this frozen strawberry pie from A Year of Pies, which I got as a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law.

Frozen strawberry pie!
Though challenging to slice (leave it out on the counter for 20 minutes to soften, but expect that the bottom crust will crumble anyway), it's been a perfect dessert in the heatwave we're experiencing this week. I wasn't sure what to do with the rest of the berries, since I've still got a couple jars of last year's jam in the cupboard, but this simple recipe for compote (a much looser preserve) seemed intriguing.

Cutting board stained pink, strawberries ready to macerate, compote in progress. #thepeoplehavespoken #summer #canningseason

So I chopped up the rest of the berries, leaving my cutting board stained pink. After an over night maceration (apparently macerating helps the berries keep their shape better in the finished product, but mostly it was just too late for me to keep going!), I cooked and canned this vibrantly colored sauce. From a generous 6 cups of sliced fruit, I ended up with 4 half pint jars and a little bit leftover, which I ate on vanilla yogurt as a late night snack yesterday.

Late night snack

Strawberry Citrus Compote
adapted from One Green Tomato
makes about 4 half pints

This compote is tangy from the lime juice and just sweet enough. Since there's not nearly as much sugar as in jam, I'm guessing the shelf life is going to be shorter, so I'm planning to eat this within 6 months, and not just on yogurt. Soon I will upgrade to ice cream, and I'm guessing waffles or pancakes or shortcakes aren't far behind. 

6 cups washed, hulled and sliced strawberries (from a little less than 2 quarts)
zest and juice of one orange
zest and juice of one lime
1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and let macerate overnight in the fridge or for up to 48 hours. When you're ready to cook, get the boiling water bath canner and your jars ready, and then move the fruit, which should now be swimming in delightful red juice, into a 3-4 quart pot (if you won't need it in the meantime, you could macerate directly in the pot). Bring to a boil, stirring to avoid scorching, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer (keep stirring occasionally) and cook until slightly reduced and thickened. In my pot, this took about 30 minutes. Ladle compote into hot jars, wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Shut off the heat after 10 minutes and allow the jars to sit in the water bath for one additional minute, then remove to a towel lined counter. Check seals after 1 hour, then allow to cool completely before labeling and storing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What's Cooking.

At the beginning of May Adam and I took a two week trip to California. You can see all the photos here. One thing that's different about previous trips we've taken is that I didn't bring my DSLR camera, I only brought my iPhone. There's certainly a noticeable difference in quality, but the trade off was that I didn't have to carry a big camera. I'm not ready to give up my camera entirely, but it was nice not to worry about another electronic something or other. Anyway, here are a few of my favorite shots:

Vacation selfie!

Vacation is the best.

Bixby Canyon Bridge


Elephant seeeeeals!


We got back a month ago, but I already can't wait to go back. Since then, we've had a lovely visit from family, including this little heartbreaker, who I only have blurry photos of, because he is in constant motion.

Donuts for breakfast, ice cream for dinner. #auntielife #spoilemrotten

That was the day we had donuts for breakfast and ice cream for dinner in an attempt to show the whole family the best that Somerville has to offer. Yeah, I think he enjoyed himself.

After a bout of kitchen malaise when we got back from California (where are MY 8 for a dollar avocados?!), I've been finding my way back to cooking in the last few weeks. I made these excellent muffins (mmm, molasses and raisins), and there are three jars of rhubarb rosemary jam on my counter waiting to be labeled. Last week I threw together a pistachio chimichurri and we've eaten it on fish, beef, eggs, pizza and grilled veggies: one bunch of parsley, one bunch of cilantro, a couple stalks of spring garlic (or a clove or two of mature garlic) 1/3-1/2 cup of roasted pistachios, salt and enough olive oil to make it as loose as you like it. Chop the pistachios in the food processor, then add the herbs, and pour in the oil while the machine runs. Use it on just about anything (my favorite was on grilled steak).

Farmer's markets have been open for a couple of weeks, and our garden is in bloom, now too. The tomatoes are starting to flower, and I've been able to use the chive blossoms to pretty up salads of local greens and baby tomatoes - even if the avocados are $2 a piece and come from across the country.

Chive blossoms, avocado, maters and greens. #lunch

What have you all been up to? What's cooking with you?

Friday, April 26, 2013

What I've Been Eating

 So many crocuses on the way home today! #spring #flowers #wahoo!

The month is drawing to a close, and I wanted to check in and let you know what I've been up to, since that category does not include updating this blog, heh. The crocuses above have come and gone, and now we're firmly in daffodil season. I've even had my first iced coffee of the year!

It's ok to eat meatloaf sandwiches two days in a row if we put a giant salad next to it, right? #latergram #lastnightsdinner #alsotonightsdinner

I also made a truly spectacular meatloaf, which we ate for a week and weren't tired of. In fact, I kind of want to make it again right now.

Almost done! #paella #itswhatsfordinner #yayvegetables

I made this perfectly fine vegetable paella, though I cobbled it together from several recipes and I seem to have missed a step somewhere, because my soccarat was not very crispy. Will have to try again soon, I think. I want to get paella right, since it's so versatile. This time around I did learn that greens are not the best addition, the arugula I used burnt on the bottom before the rice did.

Lewiston's great falls.

We went up to Maine last weekend to escape the madness in Boston, after having spent Friday locked in our house, frantically updating twitter and hoping for some resolution to the city's fear. My dad took us to Fishbones in Lewiston where we had a darn tasty appetizer of lobster and brie inside puff pastry, served with blueberry preserves.


Oh and last night I made this excellent salad using CSA radishes (even the leaves! I love that), plus some guilt-laden cherry tomatoes and mini cukes from the supermarket. I know I should try to hold out for summer veg, but it's starting to warm up here and I am totally over storage crops at this point.


This weekend we'll start planting in the garden - just potatoes and greens, saving the rest until we get back from our vacation in early May - and grill some hot dogs since the weather looks positively dreamy. We might hit 70 on Sunday! So, what have you been eating?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Leftovers Repurposed: Chicken Soup with Shitakes and Kale

Chicken soup with shiitakes and kale

Sometimes I end up with leftover chicken. I bet you do, too. In fact, here's a little secret: whenever I roast a chicken for just the two of us, while we're eating... I'm already thinking about what I'm going to do with the leftovers. This time, I made soup, but I wasn't in the mood for classic chicken noodle. I know it doesn't look like much, but it's earthy from the mushrooms with a little bit of heat from the ginger and scallions, plus it's basically a bowl of kale, so hippies love it. Next time you've got a chicken carcass, don't trash it: make soup!

Chicken Soup with Shitakes and Kale
serves 4, generously

The broth takes an hour or two, so get that started before you prep the soup, ok? I usually carve the rest of the serving pieces off a carcass, then start the broth, then dice or shred the meat while the broth comes up to a boil. This makes more broth than you need for the soup, and if you don't have immediate chicken broth needs you can freeze the extra or keep it in the fridge for up to a week.

For the broth:
1 roasted chicken carcass
one small onion
one stalk of celery, cut into big chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
4-5 slices ginger

For the shitakes:
about 10 dried shitake mushrooms (approximately 1.5 ounces)

For the soup:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 scallions, white and light green parts finely chopped, dark greens sliced and reserved for garnish
3 small cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger (about a one inch piece)
1 bunch lacinato kale, sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch (or thinner) strips*
about 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
soy sauce to taste
lime juice to taste
cooked white or brown rice
sliced scallion greens and sriracha for serving (optional, but tasty)

*Cutting the kale this way means you don't have to yank out the nice, nutritious stems - when you cut across the leaf the stems end up in small pieces that cook quickly and don't feel tough or fibrous in your mouth. 

First, start the broth: carve or pick all the serving pieces and remaining meaty chunks off the chicken carcass, then stick it in a 6-8 quart pot. Cut the hairy end off the onion, then cut it in quarters (I cut it through the root for ease of fishing-it-out-later) and stick that in the pot. Add a couple of smashed garlic cloves and a few thick slices of ginger. Add water just to cover the carcass - it shouldn't float, but it shouldn't stick out - and bring it up to a boil, then back it down to a simmer and let it go for about an hour, or two if you have time.

While the broth simmers, put the shitakes in a heat proof bowl and add 2.5 cups of very hot water. Weigh the mushrooms down with a plate, if need be, to keep them submerged. They'll need at least 30 minutes to soften. When they're soft, lift them from the liquid (but don't dump it!). Use a sharp knife to trim off the stems, then thinly slice the caps. Add the stems to the simmering broth. Let the soaking liquid sit so any grit settles to the bottom, then carefully pour it into a clean measuring cup, leaving the sediment behind (or strain it through a fine mesh filter, if you prefer). You should have about 2 cups. NB: while the mushrooms soak is a good time to start cooking some white or brown rice - I use a cheap-o rice cooker that I got about 6 weeks ago and I reeeally like it. So nice to have the rice cooking over on the counter across the room instead of taking up space on the stove.

Just before you make the soup, strain the broth, or just ladle 4 cups of broth through a strainer into a bowl and deal with the rest of the broth after you eat.

To make the soup, heat the oil in a large pot (I use a 5 quart dutch oven... and I just realized it's basically the only pot I ever use for making soup. Huh.) over medium high heat. Add the scallions, garlic and ginger and saute for a minute or two, until the scallions soften up a bit and it starts to smell really good. Add a good pinch of salt, then add the 2-ish cups of mushroom soaking liquid. Add 4 cups of chicken broth, then add the kale and stir/poke the kale down under the liquid. Let the kale cook for a couple of minutes, then taste it to see if it's soft enough for you. Let it go a little longer if need be, then add the shitakes and chicken. Let them warm up, then season the soup with a splash of soy sauce (start with a teaspoon or two). Stir, then taste again. It might need a squeeze of lime juice or more soy. Once it's seasoned to your liking, serve it ladled over rice and sprinkled with the scallion tops. If you like spicy, feel free to add sriracha.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Awesome Weekend Eats

One of these things is not like the other. #donuts #bacon #fitness?

If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen these collages, so you already know I had quite a tasty weekend. We started Saturday morning, meeting some friends at Union Square Donuts, the hottest donut shop in town, with a chocolate chipotle (good chocolate flavor, medium chipotle burn), a dulce de leche cinnamon bun (could use a bit more gooey-ness) and a maple bacon (mapley frosting, crispy bacon...this is a perfect donut).

So much fun today with @BOSFoodTours, and such amazing food! #yum #boston #food #dontneedtoeatdinnernow

That afternoon I headed into Boston for a Boston Foodie Tour and I had an absolute blast. We started with lobster pizza at Scampo, and (along with a few other stops that I didn't get good photos of) worked our way through Georgetown Cupcakes, Bon Me's deviled tea egg, Turner Fisheries' surprisingly light clam chowder and ended at the Mandarin Oriental for this "strawberry shortcake" dessert that I am still thinking about (what are those little strawberry jello bead thingies?!)

Nice shoes, fancy a cluck?

Sunday Adam and I got on the green line (yes, that's how famous this sandwich has become) and went into Brookline Village for Cutty's Super Cluckin' Sunday - they're not usually open on Sundays but sometimes they open up to serve this one fried chicken sandwich (no other sandwiches, just this one, epic sandwich) - and they just stay open until they run out of chicken. It was really amazing - hot, juicy chicken, honey mustard with a serious dijon bite, cheddar cheese, mayo, iceberg on a sesame brioche bun. It was a fitting end to my weekend of outstanding food.

I did some cooking this weekend, too, and I'll be back in a day or two with soup. Did you guys have any noteworthy snacks this weekend?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chocolate Pumpkinseed Bark

334: Chocolate Pepita Bark

I made a batch of this bark a while back and it is long gone. However, given that it is SNOWING AGAIN (grrrrrrrr) I might have to go home tonight and replenish my supply... you know, so I can switch it up and eat my feelings in chocolate instead of popcorn.

Toast 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast 3 tablespoons sesame seeds in the same manner. Melt 8 ounces dark chocolate (30 second bursts in the microwave, stirring between), spread it on a parchment-lined sheet pan and sprinkle the seeds, plus 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (I like Maldon), evenly on top. Let it set (or shove it in the fridge to speed it up), then break it into pieces. So easy, so tasty, and it feels fairly virtuous since you're basically eating bird seed. Thanks for the idea, Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 15, 2013

First Robin of Spring!

First robin of the year

Anybody else get a total kick out of the first robin they see every spring? Maybe it's because I grew up further north (they're only gone for a couple of months here), but I always enjoy it. This year I got a picture! Hi, bird. Welcome back.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Homemade Mozzarella, Take One


It takes kind of a lot for me to be amazed by something that happens in the kitchen. I  mean, I've studied cooking, I've watched a lot of Good Eats, and I work at a culinary school, so I get that pitas puff in the heat of the oven, corn pops when it gets too hot and proteins caramelize to make many things tastier. This doesn't mean I'm hard to impress (really!) just that few things really feel magical to me anymore.

I've made fresh, no-rennet cheeses plenty of times - ricotta, paneer, things of that nature. But making mozzarella feels like magic. Milky, delicious magic. You start with a pot of milk, turn it into milky jello, and then after a couple of quick trips in the microwave, you can roll it into a ball. A ball of CHEESE!


I followed the directions from Animal Vegetable Miracle pretty much to the letter (except I cut the recipe in half, so I used shorter bursts in the microwave.) We ate this blob yesterday, under some of last summer's slow roasted tomatoes, a flurry of salt and pepper, and a drizzle of good olive oil and condimento balsamico. I wish I had added more salt while I was making the cheese. I also wish I had left it with a little more moisture (experienced cheesemakers: could I use a little less rennet for a more tender cheese?).

Last year's slow roasted tomatoes meet last weekend's homemade mozzarella. #latergram #food #cheese #local

Apologies for crappy iPhone photos, but do know that I'll be making this again VERY soon. Roasted tomatoes, while delicious, are entirely different from fresh, and I'm happy to have time to perfect my mozzarella technique before tomato season rolls around again.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sriracha Popcorn


We are big popcorn eaters in this house. Occasionally, on particularly lazy weekend days when breakfast isn't until 10 and lunch happens at 3 (ahem, yesterday...) popcorn is dinner. We pop it on the stove top in a special popcorn pot with a hand-crank handle that keeps the kernels moving (a lot like this one).


Usually we season it with melted butter, salt and pepper. Sometimes we toast jalapeno flakes and grind them up and use that, occasionally other herbs or spices (pro tip: smoked paprika makes popcorn taste a lot like bacon). Yesterday we used sriracha, which was surprisingly sweet and spicy. Two of my favorite things in one snack! I think it's going in the regular rotation.


Sriracha popcorn
serves 2, or 1 if you're really into popcorn
adapted from Food52, one of my recent favorite sites for inspiration

1/2 cup popcorn kernels, popped on the stovetop or in an air popper*
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds black pepper

To pop corn on the stovetop, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a pot with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn and put on the lid. When you hear it start popping, shake the whole pot every few seconds to redistribute. When the popping slows, check your corn. It's probably done.

Melt the butter and sriracha together in the microwave, sprinkle the salt and pepper over the popped corn, then pour the sriracha butter over. Put the lid back on and shake it like crazy to distribute the seasoning. We do the seasoning/shaking in a big plastic bowl with a lid, and then we just take off the lid and eat.

*I don't have an air popper, but if you've got one, just follow the directions, I guess?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

And just like that, it feels like spring again.

The abominable snow...face? Tree man? I don't know.

Walking around in the sunshine today, we came across this face that somebody drew on a tree. Yeah, that's how I feel about winter, too. It was QUITE windy during yesterdays storm - steps we shoveled yesterday were covered in drifts this morning, trees and signposts wore little jackets of white until the sun hit them and then they melted into streams and rivers flowing down the street. Oh, New England. Your weather is so bizarre.

But this morning the sun is out, my mood is much improved, and my thoughts have turned to garden plants. I made my Johnny's order this morning. Woo!

Almost time, my pretties.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dreaming of spring while the snow falls: Kitchen Garden Farm Share

So it's snowing again. I can't even tell you how profoundly unamused I am by this fact. Here's my walk to work this morning:
I get that you don't technically have to shovel till after it stops snowing, but I think only about 15% of people had made even the most cursory pass of their sidewalks this morning. #wishihadsnowshoes #stillsnowing #ugh
Note the lack of shoveling. I genuinely wished I had a pair of snow shoes. We're supposed to have dinner tonight with one of Adam's cousins, who is allegedly flying in around 4. It's 11 now and it's still coming down hard, so we'll see. I was perusing some old draft posts and saw these photos from last year's spring treat* CSA share and I thought I'd share them in case you, too, wanted to remember what spring/summer looks like.

51: CSA spring share pickup #1
 First spring treat share: onions, spinach, potatoes, cabbage, eggs, lettuce mix and parsley. Some silly fool put a cabbage in the swap box, and I traded a jar of jam for it since I have a lot of jam.

Spring Treat Share #3
Spring treat share: green garlic, harukei turnips, popcorn, Four Star Farms cornmeal, eggs, chili flakes, spinach and tea.

79: Spring Treat Share #4
Spring treat share: spinach, eggs, sunchokes, radishes, chives, shallots, scallions, asparagus and Sidehill Farm Yogurt.

107: Final Spring Treat Share
Final spring treat share: two heads of lettuce, white russian kale, bok choy, radishes, lettuce mix, eggs and an entire quart (!) of strawberries.

122: Kitchen Garden Farm Share 1
First summer share: radishes, spinach, butterhead lettuce, swiss chard and garlic scapes (woo!).

*Our CSA share is with Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, MA; in past years we've purchased a "spring treat share" as well as the summer and early fall shares. This year they switched it up to a summer and a winter share, and we've been enjoying excellent produce from them all winter long - onions, garlic, winter squash, lots of sweet and regular potatoes, herbs and greens. Pickups are every two weeks until June, but alas, I don't get to do the picking up - we're signed up for a downtown pickup near where Adam works, and I work too far away and too late on Wednesdays. I'm hoping to be able to photograph some of our shares again this summer, but often my very kind husband has already put them away by the time I get home... and I'm lazy. If you're looking for a CSA with pickup options in Boston and various parts of Cambridge, I strongly encourage you to check out The Kitchen Garden - the produce is great and they are excellent communicators. And it's almost spring! Please?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

30x30: Month 13 and Beyond

Sometimes snow is pretty.

So, here's the deal: I didn't actually do all 30 things on my 30x30 list. I did a lot, though! Almost twenty things before February 7, 2013, aka my 30th birthday.

1. I made turkey breakfast sausage - well, turkey sausage that we ate at breakfast, but it was technically turkey chorizo. Lots of paprika and chili powder. Quite delicious.
2. I made croissants for our annual New Year's Day brunch.
3. I brewed some ginger beer.
4. I made some duck prosciutto using this recipe.
5. We ate the duck prosciutto while we watched The Godfather Trilogy with some friends.
6. I taught a class on pickling and preserving.
7. I went back to Europe.
8. I completed Project 365, though as of this writing I still have a few photos to edit and upload to complete that set.
9. I cleaned up my Google Reader.
10. I read 30 books. Possibly my favorite part of this whole project.
11. I purged my cookbook collection (and sold a bunch of them at Harvard Bookstore before donating the rest).
12. I got a hamper for our bedroom.
13. I cleaned out under the guest bed.
14. I cleaned out a big trunk full of crap in our basement.
15. I condensed and organized our DVD collection.
16. I switched to using homemade, natural cleaning products.
17. I got curtains for the living room.
18. I did two chinups in a row.
19. I didn't run a 10k in under an hour, but I did complete a half marathon, so I'm calling it done.

There are still things on the list that I want to do, so I'm just segueing the whole project into a Mighty Life List, that is, a list of goals and ideas for leading a more awesome life. It seems likely that the list will never be finished, and that's ok. The point is to do more awesome things. You can find the work-in-progress list right here, and there's a new tab at the top of the page, too.  So ANYWAY, let's get back to business as usual around here, huh?

Photo is from a recent snowstorm, but not the one we are currently experiencing. That one left some pretty fluffy white stuff, this one is leaving nothing but sleet and slush. I tell you what I am ready for the sun to come back.