hurricane food

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did you hear?  the storm of the century hit the east coast this weekend.

well, sort of.  it wasn’t that bad where we live.  just rainy.  windy.  i still managed to go on an 8-mile run saturday, and sun-bathe at the pool on sunday, so i’m feeling unimpressed.

but some of us got a little spooked.

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i tried telling rio that you hide in the bathroom for tornadoes not hurricanes, but she’s crazy stubborn.  and a scaredy cat.

good thing we didn’t lose power.  i had cooking to do.

pizza with candied cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, capers and pesto.

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pairs well with an entire bottle of prosecco as you’re listening to the hurricane-force wind and rain and praying that your husband, on an airplane in the middle of said wind and rain, makes it to california safely.

the candied cherry tomatoes, courtesy of the splendid table, have been a real champ.  i made a bunch and have been throwing them on salads, sandwiches, crostini with goat cheese.

but i also made this:

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that’s smitten kitchen’s southwestern pulled brisket.  it was good on jim lahey’s no knead bread with cheddar.

it was also good in a tortilla, with pepper jack and watermelon rind pickles (recipe coming soon!).

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spicy.  manchego approved.  take that “hurricane” irene.

double batch of coworker charm cookies

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so, i started a new job last week. same building, same agency, new boss, new office (windows!  a door!).  definitely a step in the right direction.

one challenge?  their IT seems to be stuck in 1995.  no youtube.  no flickr.  facebook?  you be dreaming.  taxpayers, your bureaucrats are resigned to focusing on their actual work. 

sort of.

anyway.  it might make things a little slower in my blogland, since i usually get home with just about enough energy to cook, but always enough to cook + blog.  me = lazy.  moving on.

anyone who bakes should be smart enough to bake for coworkers.  the old cookie charm offensive, that's what i like to call it.  make friends.  lull people into a false sense of security with chocolate chips.  be that girl, the one who's office is great for gossip because you never know when there'll be a banana bread.  

or, these: 

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i decided, pick a tried-and-true recipe, and went with a double batch!  ha ha!  cleaned me out of: butter, eggs, vanilla, flour and nearly sugar.  whew.  it takes a lot of butter for these bad boys.

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four sticks.  turning brown.  it takes a while to brown a pound of butter, let me tell you. 

i also needed some coconut.  toasty.

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my kitchenaid was up to the task.  although it got a little dicey there.

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thank goodness mom, er, i mean "santa" put that cute cookie scoop in my stocking last year!

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don't they kind of look like cookie pac-men?  is that just me?  or are they pac-man ghosts? 

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in any event, they turned out perfect.  thanks joy the baker!  and hey, new coworkers: i'm gonna be emailing you needing stuff.  like, needing stuff yesterday.  please remember the deliciousness of my baked goods and help me help you. 

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Browned Butter, Toasted Coconut, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Visit Joy the Baker for her recipe and just double it.  Or not.  Double makes a lot of cookies!  Hope you have hungry coworkers!

spicy corn saute

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there’s a lot of corn in the world right now.  it keeps following me home.  there are going to be a LOT of corn recipes coming up, folks.  bear with me.

today’s corn recipe comes courtesy of the spilled milk podcast.  do you know spilled milk?  you should.  and if you don’t you’re in for a treat.  i just discovered it about a month ago which means i have several years of past episodes to catch up on.

this is one of my favorite things – playing catch-up on books or tv shows.  i’m impatient, so it works out not having to wait for new content, but also means i’m usually about two years behind the world, culture wise.  highlights of the year: working my way through five seasons of friday night lights and discovering the bazillion pages of the first four game of thrones books.  the two weeks i had to wait until the next book was released this summer?  let’s just say, good thing i was mostly in spain.  lots of lovely temperanillo and worrying about the somm avoiding the bulls in pamplona to distract me.

anyway, this is a food blog, and spilled milk is a food podcast.  a hilarious food podcast.   and about a year ago, they did a great episode on cord off the cob . . . or corn on the spoon as we prefer to call it around here.

you should always start with super fresh corn.  this kind of fresh:

tell you what: they weren’t lying.  farmer’s market produce, not for the faint of heart.

this corn is spicy.  no kidding spicy.  it calls for a whole jalepeno to four ears of corn, but man.  i used about two thirds of a pepper (and no seeds) and it still killed me.

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saute it up.  this recipe is based around not just the jalepeno, but the yummy layer of brown gunky stuff that gums up the bottom of the pan when you saute corn.  all the sugar and flavor of the corn.  gunk.  molly & matthew on spilled milk have assured me, it’s a technical term!

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admission: i have been known to scrape that gunk up and eat it off the spatula.  salty, sweet, like corn msg.  this recipe is better, and less likely to disgust your friends and loved ones.  deglaze the pan with a little water (or maybe even wine?  live large!) and the corn kernals soak all that flavor back up.

i couldn’t tell if manchego approved or not.

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he doesn’t particularly enjoy corn and can’t quite understand why if i’m going to cook rather than play laser tag with him i don’t cook something with protein.  now, roasted chicken.  there’s something he can get behind.

sorry dude.  this corn was good.  better in a quesadilla, where the cheese helped cut the burning fire in my mouth.  hello jalepeno!

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For this recipe: Corn off the Cob by Spilled Milk

My changes: less jalepeno, a mix of scallions and red onion cause that was what i had, and sprinkle of pepitas on top.

italian prune plum cake

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we are back to the farmer's market this week.  i was seduced by a plum.  it's hardly my fault. 

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there are lots of pretty plums in the world.  the typical red Satsuma plums.  the little yellow and green plums. 

but the plums that got me were these.  italian prune plums.  so dark purple they are almost blue with a lovely ashy skin.  according to the internets, they aren't so good for eating out of hand, but better for baking.  especially on a stormy summer afternoon.  sold!

manchego liked them too.  or maybe it was the squirrel stealing our cherry tomatoes outside the window.

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just kidding.  the porch plants are so weak this year, the squirrel has given up on us.  i've given up on us.  on the plus side, since i've stopped watering the squash and tomatoes, i have SO MUCH MORE TIME.  war and peace kind of time.  plum cake kind of time.

sincere apologies to the dear friend who helped keep them alive during our vacation this year.  i started the summer with such hope.  there's always next year.

anyway, here are our ingredients.  it's a simple cake.  

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there are a lot of plum recipes out there.  tarts.  rustic crostatas and galettescrepes.  treats involving almond flour, pastry cream, spring-form pans.  sorbets for those uninclined to turn on the oven.  if you are feeling ambitious, i encourage you to try any of those yummy looking recipes.

me, i've been on a lazy streak lately. 

i googled until i found something super easy.  yet, something classic.  something blessed by not just the new york times and the spendid table, but also by an anonymous chowhound commenter

let's get started.  halve those plums.

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so pretty, the pale green center with the dusty purple skin.

i'll be honest – the pits were a little bit of a b*!@& to pry out of the plums.  we had words. 

once you've liberated your plum halves, let them hang out with the lemon juice and cinnamon.  then nestle them in the batter.  the batter is thick and sticky.

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the plums cook down and get jammy.  they stay a little tart, which is a nice foil against the cake, which is sweet but not too sweet.  not as sweet as the amount of sugar would lead you to believe.  and the cake has a nice light crumb.

the edges of the cake are a lovely chewy crust – and with a slightly gooey center, it's kind of like a really good brownie.  without the chocolate.  win some, lose some.

i slightly undercooked the cake.  don't be like me.  gooey is good – but the middle of my cake was inedible.  don't tell the cake police.  just bake your cake until it's done!

but the edges. 

crusty, chewy, just the right amount of gooey.

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see?  it's even like the cake is smiling.

Italian Prune Plum Cake

Basically as seen in: The New York Times and the Spendid Table, but also by an Anonymous Chowhound Commenter

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 lemon, zest & juice
  • 7 Italian (prune or purple) plums
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or more, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Halve and pit the plums.  Toss with 2 tablespoons of sugar, cinnamon and juice of one lemon.  Let the plums soak up the goodness.

Cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar.  Let it get good and fluffy.  Add flour and baking power and mix until just combined.  Add eggs, salt and lemon zest, and mix again until just combined.  Light touch! 

Scoop into a greased baking dish.  I used a 12x9ish baking pan.  Nestle in your plums, skin side down.  Don't be shy with that cinnamon.

Bake for about an hour or until the middle isn't gooey.  Let it get good and golden brown.  Cool, slice and serve with a little powdered sugar!

fudgy salty peanut butter brownies

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let's break these down.  layer of brownie (with peanuts).  layer of thick, chunky peanut butter frosting.  layer of chocolate ganache.  sprinkle of salted, roasted peanuts.

i mean, things have been too healthy on the blog lately.  too much summer produce, not enough butter. 

although, is too much summer fruit and veg possible?!?! i'm certainly doing my best to see.  for example, my current experiment is determining just how many pounds of cherries can one safely consume without turning into violet beauregarde.  i'll keep eating and report back.

in the meantime, these brownies are heaven on a plate any time of year.  it's a dorie greenspan recipe by way of epicurious.  and i really didn't change much.  other than adding more peanuts on TOP of the brownies despite the many layers of peanuts within, but i'm a glutton for a salty crunch.

you're going to have to melt a lot of chocolate for these bad boys.

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ok, i lied about not changing anything.  dorie says use a mix of unsweetened and semi-sweet chocolate.  i made these brownies as a part of a peanut butter & chocolate week of celebration (including a butterfinger layer cake.  to die for.) and i had two gorgeous blocks of callebaut milk and dark chocolate.  i used some of that.  and some ghirardelli and other assorted bits of chocolate around the kitchen i wanted to use up.  and i cut back on the sugar to compensate.  it worked out. 

there's also a lot of good peanut butter in this.  use jif.  always use jif.

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choosy bakers who love chunks choose jif.  choosy somms also choose jif.  but can someone please explain to me why all the dc-area grocery stores stopped selling reduced-fat chunky jif?  is it a conspiracy to make me start using full fat?  to make me drop peanut butter toast cold turkey?  to make me start buying grocieries through amazon? 

i probably could have made it through this post without showing you how i cut a corner out of the brownies before ganaching and frosting them.

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but, i am doing this as a public service announcement.  don't be like me.  don't eat these brownies without the toppings.  don't get me wrong, they are fine brownies.  especially warm.  but there is something about the package deal that is so much better.  the brownie stops being so cakey and and really does get moist and fudgy.  it's almost like candy – super rich. 

i thought the peanuts on top were a good add.  had these brownies lasted longer than a day, they might have gotten a bit soft, but the day-of they were a nice crunchy, salty contrast to the everything else.

you won't be able to have just one.

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Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts

Use this recipe, but add more nuts on top.  Do it.


corn, tomato & zucchini pie

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isn’t corn just wonderful?  it really is one of my favorite foods.  i love that corn can go either sweet or savory – or both, hitting that salty-sweet combo that just sings to me.  like peanut butter or kettle corn or flaky sea salt on brownies.

last year, we went to san francisco for my (and a friends!) birthday and had dinner one night at a swanky restaurant with corn-themed dessert.  it was a crazy landscape of a dessert.  literally. it had “soil” and little plants and all kinds of amazing corn-based delights and i think i just planted my face into it and hoped the somm and friend were enjoying some other dessert menu item.

i’m not a good sharer.

at least when it comes to dessert.  i’m totally happy to share this recipe – which is savory despite that long corn-dessert aside.  homemade corn ice cream is sooooo on my summer wish list.

this corn “pie” delivers the essence of corn in all it’s summer glory.  it’s rich but light, and the sweet corn is perfectly complemented by the crispy, cheesey topping and herbal notes from the basil and thyme.

plus it couldn’t be easier.

cut the kernels off your corn.  i like to do it in a bowl.  it keeps the kernels from going everywhere.

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use your knife skills to matchstick some zucchini.  this is not my best effort.  but, to be honest, i put this bad boy together post happy hour on a friday.  anything more advanced than take out or a bowl of cereal was winning.

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throw it together in a pie dish with herbs, salt & pepper and some melted butter.

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pretty.

layer on some tomatoes.

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red and yellow.  gorgeous.

finish it off with bread crumbs and parmesan.

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bake until brown and crispy.  nom nom.

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Corn, Tomato & Zucchini Pie

Adapted from Epicurious 

  • 3 ears of corn worth of corn kernels
  • 1-2 medium zucchini, cut into matchstick pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil and/or thyme
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs, Panko-type are best
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil – I used basil-flavored, yum

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a 9-inch pie dish, combine the corn, zucchini, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, the herbs, and the melted butter, tossing to coat the vegetables. Cover the vegetables with the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the cheese and the bread crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the tomatoes and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake the pie for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling. Remove it from the oven, and let it stand for 5 minutes before serving.

roasted tomatillo & corn salsa

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this salsa is a major victory.  i mean, it tastes great – smoky and tangy and sweet and spicy – but the victory comes from the fact that it was produced and consumed without harm to myself or the kitchen.

the last time i made this salsa, i felt like i was starring in my very own adam sandler movie.  jalepeno in my eye, me futily splashing it with water while the sommelier frantically googles for antedotes, then milk everywhere – especially crusted around my red, swollen face.  add in a huge, bleeding cut in my fingertip to distract me, and to top it off, we inaugurated the kitchen fire extinguisher when the broiler got the best of the homemade tortilla chips.

not my finest hour.

at multiple points during this experience, the sommelier suggested perhaps some takeout from the lovely chicken place down the street might be a good idea. this is why he was better in economics . . . he knows a sunk cost when he sees one and is ready to move on. 

but i'm a crazy cook, so i persisted.  and was rewarded with yummy tomatillo salsa! 

this time, having only slightly learned from past mishaps, i decided to step it up and char both the corn and the tomatillos.  which i mananged without burning ANYTHING.  so, let's get started.

have you met the tomatillo?

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when you pull off the papery skins, they kind of look like little, unripe tomatoes.  they're a little sticky, so you have to give them a good rinse.

to make salsa, you can blend them up raw, or roast them under the broiler.

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kind of looks like a marimekko print, don't you think?

i went for roasted, because i also wanted to add some charred corn.  i'd never done this before.  now i've done it twice without burning anything that wasn't meant to be burned!  progress!

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the corn does pop a little, and the inevitable corn silk stuck between the kernels does flare up and burn off a bit.  it kind of freaked the sommelier out, cause he knew i was up to no good.  but i stood back at a safe distance.  had the fire extinguisher out and ready (this particular kitchen safety measure, like the knife skills lesson, was totally the somm's idea).  we worked through it, and it was worth it.

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fact: add this stuff to roasted cherry tomatoes with some lime, cilantro, salt & pepper and the barest splash of balsamic and you'll have yourself a lovely summer salad.  or, enjoy while standing at your cutting board and trying not to drop any on the floor.  mmm.

but we're focusing on the tomatillo today.

blend up your roasted tomatillo with some onion, jalepeno, and lime juice.  stir in the corn, chopped cilantro and salt to taste.

total victory.  and yes, this time we skipped the homemade tortilla chips.

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Roasted Tomatillo & Corn Salsa

adapted from Simply Recipes, via Kuhn Orchards at my local farmers market 

  • 1 1/2 lb tomatillos
  • 2 ears corn
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 1/2 to 1 lime, jucied, to taste
  • 2 Jalapeño peppers OR 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste

Remove papery husks from tomatillos and rinse well.  Slice in half and roast, cut side down, under the broiler until almost black.

Husk corn and char – carefully – over a gas burner.  Slice kernals from cob.

In food processor, blend tomatillos with onion, lime and jalepeno.  Place in bowl, and stir in cilantro and corn.  Season and enjoy!