July 30, 2010

Mm mm peach cobbler

Hooray for summer!

Hooray, because, this is the best time of year for fresh, seasonal cooking. Tomatoes, peppers, green beans, okra -- all kinds of yummies in abundance!

This being Georgia, y'all can well imagine the peaches. I can smell them walking around the farmer's market. Sweet and tender and two-napkin juicy. And even though I know I'm running the risk of spoilage and waste, I can never resist the bursting half-peck paper bags. They call to me.


So despite the heat I was inspired to bake last night. Baking at night = not unbearably miserable. Chef Google hooked me up with this recipe for fresh peach cobbler, and get this: I even tinkered a little. I'm gettin brave y'all.

So here we go: I set out a stick of butter in a 2-quart casserole to start getting soft.

Total health food here

Then I put a huge, covered pot of water on medium. Once it was boiling I dropped in 5 peaches and let them go, covered, for 5 minutes. Meanwhile I added 1/2 cup sugar to my large mixing bowl, which got me to thinking. I bet a teaspoon of cinnamon would be brilliant in there. Only one way to know for sure right?

Looks brilliant!

When the peaches were sufficiently boiled I transferred them to a big bowl of ice water, where I left them for another 5 minutes. After that, the skins just fell off. Sweet. Then I sliced up 2 and 1/2 cups' worth, which was 4 and a half large peaches. I ate the leftover half, and gently combined the slices with the sugar mixture.

Screw the cobbler. Gimme a spoon!

At this point I turned the oven on 350° to pre-heat and set the peach filling aside for a few minutes. I sifted 3/4 cup of flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder, while I melted the butter in the microwave.

NOTE: Here you see the biggest challenge I faced with this here cobbler. That would be finding a surface in my kitchen level enough that all the butter didn't run into one corner of the casserole.

I actually had to make shims.

Then I added a cup of sugar and 3/4 cup of milk to the flour mixture. The recipe instructs, "Pour batter over melted butter. Do not mix or stir together." So that's what I did, even though...

Is it just me, or is this kinda gross?

Then it says pour the peach mixture over the top of that. Okay... That helped...

Is it just me, or is this kinda awesome?

Then it went into the oven for about an hour. The house filled up with the cinnamon fragrance. My tummy growled like a sasquatch. And this came out:

Makes me think of church potlucks in my youth.

By the time it had cooled about 20 minutes, I could wait no longer. Into a bowl with a scoop of vanilla. I almost fell off the couch.

Oh. So. Worth. The effort.

Two things:

One, Doug promised if I made this he would try some. But he better get on the stick, because I can't stay the hell out of it. He may find it all devoured before he works up his nerve.

Two, this actually doesn't remind me of the church ladies' cobblers from back in the day. I remember a crust that was flaky and crisp, kinda pie-like. This has a cakey crust -- a lot like pancake, in fact. Which is not a complaint, just a "wonder" I guess. I wonder what kind of batter I'd need to get that old-school crispy cobbler?

Probably a really difficult one. But I'd love your suggestions!

July 29, 2010

Thanks Mom!

 A knock at my door last week startled the crap out of me. Who could it be?

"UPS delivery."

Huh? I haven't ordered anything...

But check this out. My adorable mom, home shopping addict she is, had sent me a lil som' som' -- stackable green boxes. Sweet!

Bless her!

I'm a sucker for these green boxes. A lot of that As Seen On TV crap is, well... you know... crap. But these actually do what they promise: keep food fresher longer. Especially awesome since I'm a farmer's market shopper. Perfectly ripe peaches will go bad on the counter in a couple of days. In a green box, they've stayed good up to two weeks!

So thanks mom. Even though you turned me into an info-mercial. Teehee.

July 17, 2010

Beef and broccoli for cheaters

You know how sometimes, you get to the end of the week, and you don't want to deal with the grocery store, but you still have to cook, because -- well, you know -- you're hungry? That can't be just me, can it? I hope not, because it sure happens around here, allthefreakintime.

When it does, I find myself with my head in the fridge, inspecting the slim pickings, and trying to imagine how they all might go together. It doesn't always work out. Sometimes a grocery run is totally unavoidable. I thought I'd come to that point with this dish, before I figured out a cheat.

So what did I find when I raided the fridge?

These veggies...

and this meat.

Broccoli, onion, garlic, and beef -- making Cantonese style beef and broccoli an obvious choice. Except that Chef Google was adamant that authentic beef and broccoli required ingredients I didn't have. Well screw it then. I was gonna have to cheat.

Beef and broccoli for cheaters

First I put on some long-grain white rice, according to package directions. Then I set a skillet over medium to preheat. Last, I started heating about 2 inches of lightly salted water in my stove-top steamer.

Forgive me, folks, for the gross lack of pictures here. A three-burner project is a lot to manage, especially when I'm starved and cranky. But wouldn't I be a condescending bitch if I explained how to steam broccoli anyway? Just go with me...

Once the skillet was hot I added a tablespoon or two of sesame oil and brought that up to temperature. Meanwhile I was slicing up the beef into thin strips.

They call this cutting "on the bias." Why not just "diagonal?"

I used cubed steak for this particular dish. I like it because I find it on sale pretty often, and it's useful for a variety of applications. If I ever master chicken-fried steak, for example, you'll be sure to see this ingredient again.

I also broke down the broccoli into florets, and the onion into smallish slices. The garlic, I minced.

By the time all that chopping was done, my steamer water was boiling and my sesame oil was sizzling. So, into the oil went the thin-sliced beef with a bit of salt and pepper. The broccoli went into the top tier of the steamer.

I let the beef get slightly brown before tossing in onion and garlic.

Imagine the burst of aroma!

After a minute or two I turned the heat to low, and proceeded with my cheat. I had about 1/4 of a bottle of oyster sauce in the fridge, which I dumped in the pan.

I'm guessing this is not authentic.

Before long, my broccoli was getting done steaming: bright green and just fork tender. I stirred that into the skillet, and realized I had two problems. One, there wasn't enough sauce to coat everything. Two, I wasn't really digging on the flavor I'd created.

The solution to both problems came in the form of some soy sauce, lemon juice, and ground ginger. I couldn't begin to tell you how much of each of these went in there. I just kept sprinkling and tasting until I was happy. But when all was said and done, damn I was happy!

Except with this picture. 

But overcooking was not an option.

I served the beef and broccoli with the long-grain rice I breezed over earlier. Which? Led to an important discovery. If you want a good, sticky, chopstick-friendly rice, you gotta skip the butter called for on the rice package! Duh, I guess. But, live and learn...

Not bad for a dirty cheater

Doug flat freaked out over this. And it was super yummy, if I do say so myself. Guess I ought to fix Chinese more often. Only next time I'd like to try a more authentic approach.

Last thought: even though this dish uses three burners, it's an ideal summer dinner. The whole thing took no longer than 25 minutes, brilliantly limiting the heat I kicked out. Hooray for late-week desperation dishes. They are my enduring inspiration.

What inspires you to try new things?

July 13, 2010

Sunday brunch: Black bean frittata

"You've been quiet," said Gina in a text exchange yesterday.

I know. Stuff going on, man. Class prep, Tour de France, and using the laptop as a DVD player have cut severely into my blogging time.

Sadly, Lance Armstrong got his ass handed to him on Sunday. But I hold out hope for Levi Leipheimer, maybe Cadel Evans. Actually anyone but that dick Alberto Contador. Because you guys sooo care about the Tour de France. Anyway...

Also on Sunday I decided to try a certifiably snooty-sounding late breakfast: black bean frittata. Well, actually I decided that on Saturday night, which is good because dry beans have to soak.

Black Bean Frittata

 What I used:
  • 1/2 cup dry black beans
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • About 1/3 cup each onion and bell pepper
  • About 1/4 cup tomato
  • 4 eggs
  • Splash of milk
  • Tasty herbs and spices (I know I used marjoram, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.)
  • Handful of mozzarella
So like I said this recipe started on Saturday night, when I measured out and sorted a half cup of black beans. Theoretically, sorting beans just means making sure you get all the rocks out. I also prefer to pull out any broken or shriveled beans -- they just don't cook up right in my experience.


Next I give them a good rinse right in the pot.

Still feeling for rocks, by the way

Then pour off the rinse water.

 Also still checking for broken beans

Now the beans go back in the pot with 2 cups of cold water. I stuck a lid on there and left it to soak overnight.

First thing Sunday morning, I did another quick rinse and sort, before adding a fresh 2 cups of water. Then the pot went on the stove with its lid tilted. I simmered the beans over low heat for about 2 hours. Now you see what makes this a lovely brunch, but a lousy breakfast. That is, unless you pre-cook the beans or (gasp) just open a can.

The picture with the lid was useless.

Fast forward through a couple of hours of Tour de France coverage. Now, I know the ingredients gave actual measurements for these veggies, but I have to admit that was pretty much a guess. "What was left in the fridge" sounded super lame, despite its truth. How about...

...this much?

I poured a generous amount of olive oil into an enameled iron skillet. Then I let it get hot enough for a sprinkle of black pepper to sizzle.

Possibly the best trick I ever learned

Meanwhile I combined the eggs, milk, and spices. Basically it's just like mixing up scrambled eggs, except for the addition of the garlic powder and marjoram. Into the skillet went the onion and green pepper.

Just the lightest sautee

Next went the tomatoes and about half* of the black beans.

Don't waste time here, lest the tomatoes turn to goop.

As soon all those ingredients were stirred together good, I poured in the egg mixture.

Okay, this bit isn't tricky, but kinda hard to describe (and a nightmare to photograph). Basically, once the outside edges of the egg get solid, you want to carefully run your spatula between the egg and the skillet. Then gently pull the solid egg away from the edge, and let the liquid part from the middle run down in there.

The best of probably 15 pictures

Making frittata is basically repeating this step over and over. I stopped when the most dramatic pan-tilting no longer produced any eggy runoff.

Almost done!

Next, I sprinkled on a generous helping of mozzarella, and some parsley to make it pretty.

In hindsight, I shoulda used basil.

Here's why I love that enameled cast iron. It's small across, but deep, which is perfect for this recipe. It has a nonstick coating inside, but not a wussy one like T-Fal or whatever. You can even use metal utensils in it! Most important, it's safe to put in the toaster oven.

Rapidly becoming my new BFF in the kitchen

It just takes two or three minutes to melt the cheese. And then?

Mmmm... melty...

I cut it into quarters and served it with some crazy farmer's market bread Doug picked out.

So this bread? Had seeds in it! I felt so betrayed.

But who was I kidding with that one-egg portion? I went back for seconds without a second thought.

One important note: I meant what I said above about using basil. I mean, this was yummy and all, but my mouth could just imagine a little extra, awesome kick. Sadly, I'm not convinced Doug was as impressed as I had hoped he'd be. Next time, if there is a next time, basil is in.

I am sad to report, by the time I finished typing this, Cadel Evans cracked on the slopes of the Alps, falling out of contention in the Tour de France. Gonna have to put my money on Alex Andy* Schleck I guess. Cuz I'm serious. Anyone but Contador. That guy is a dick.

*Edited July 17: My husband read this post, and called me out on two bonehead mistakes. I only used about half the cooked beans in our frittata. We had the rest later as burrito filling. Also, it's Andy, not Alex, Schleck. Oops...

July 04, 2010

Devilishly delicious birthday

This is a special weekend for us. We celebrate Doug's birthday of course. But we also reflect on the night twelve (OMG, TWELVE) years ago, when we first met. The night I crashed -- that's right, crashed -- his twenty-[censored] birthday party.

Mind you, that story sounds a lot more romantic when he tells it: "she showed up on my doorstep." Awww... Whether you're grinning or gagging right now, you're probably feeling the right thing.

At the start of last week, his story was, he didn't want a birthday cake. Say what?! I would be super depressed if I didn't have a birthday cake. I insisted. He relented. "How about something chocolate?" Speak to me, baby. The language of love.

Devil's food. I could get behind that. It would mark my first foray into the world of Baker's chocolate. It would press me and the KitchenAid to our greatest challenge yet. It would be scary. It would be messy. It would be epic.

So I got myself a recipe, consulting with Chef Google, and I got to myself to work making the magic.

NOTE: By "making the magic," I naturally mean, "obsessively following the directions." Which means I don't have much to say about the process -- the recipe's author did a bang-up job of that. Why re-invent the devil's food cake, you know?

But I couldn't resist the lure of visual proof...

Print recipe, stick to cupboard

Grease & flour trusty cake pan

Boil some water

Melt butter with chocolate

Cool, drool

Measure sugar, crack eggs

Cream eggs and sugar, worship mixer

Sift dry ingredients

 Add chocolate, make mess...

...of pot

...of self

...of mixer

...of counter

...even of the freakin floor!

Add water, end up with this

NOTE #2: After I'd slung chocolate over half the kitchen, I realized, better I should put down the camera and focus on getting the dry ingredients into the bowl. Wisdom.

Add milk/vinegar mixture. Hey neato! It fizzes!

Pour into pan

Don't waste a drop

NOTE #3: Thanks, babe, for using valuable birthday time to take some chocolate action photos.

Pop into oven, take well earned break




Devil's food cake from scratch, bitches. I don't even feel bad about gloating. Well I take that back. It was Doug's day after all. But I absolutely don't feel bad about eating cake for breakfast today. Again.

Scary? A little. Messy? A lot. Complicated? Kinda. But you know what? I wouldn't call it difficult.

I would call it delicious. And totally worth it.