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Hurricanes for the Hurricane

October 28, 2012

In the words of Sophia Petrillo, a hurricane’s a-comin’.   Please stock up on batteries, water, non-perishable foods, and then batten down the hatches and stay safe.

We have finished battening down our hatches, moving our herbs inside, filling pitchers with water just in case, etc.  Since we’re the hurricane couple, we completed our preparation by sitting down and drinking a couple of hurricanes.

Forgive the iPhone photo 🙂

I developed this recipe for our anniversary (we decided that we’d make drinking hurricanes an anniversary tradition, since they made one heck of a signature cocktail for our hurricane wedding).   I just haven’t had time to share it, because this fall has been all kinds of busy.

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Dark and Summer-Stormy (Cherry-Infused Dark and Stormy)

August 8, 2012

The beloved carnivore is a huge fan of the classic Dark and Stormy drink.  And he’s eager to introduce others to this drink.  I dare you to come visit us and get away with not drinking one.  Unless you have religious or other personal objections to drinking alcohol, you likely will not succeed.

All of which is somewhat hilarious to me because my roommate from the first year of law school is from Bermuda and taught me all about this drink.  But I’ll at least give Chris credit for me drinking it more than once a year.

Somewhat randomly, I decided to put some cherry simple syrup in a dark and stormy.  It was delicious, in my opinion.  I actually liked just the cherry syrup and ginger beer mixed together even better than the cherry-infused dark and stormy, but I forgot to take a photo of that bright pink concoction before dumping in the dark rum.   You should try that, too, especially if you’re looking for a fun and tasty non-alcoholic drink.
These glasses are one of my favorite wedding presents that we received.  They were a gift from my uncle’s mother (who is not my grandmother; my uncle was brave enough to marry into our family).  She is such a sweetheart and told me that someone gave her and her husband these glasses a long time ago and she wanted to make sure they stayed in the family.  It’s one of the sweetest things anyone’s ever said to me – I am always so touched when someone adopts a broad view of what constitutes “family” and includes me in that definition even though they don’t have to.

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Back in the Saddle Again (Roasted Cherry Chocolate Tart)

August 6, 2012

My apologies for the radio silence.  It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I, for one, am still recovering from what will go down in history as the most epic of all Smitten Kitchen days, the one during which Emily and I learned our cooking limits by far surpassing them and cooking into the not-so-wee hours of the morning.  Had I not fallen asleep precisely when I did, the sun would’ve risen before I got to sleep.   It was a little ridiculous, and I think we’ll both exercise a little more menu-restraint next time, but we can hardly be blamed for our eager addition of dishes to the menu.  We had not cooked together since August, and I think we’re still not used to this whole “twice a year” version of our cooking extravaganzas.

Now that I’ve recovered a bit, I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite dishes we cooked, which I’ve already duplicated in my own kitchen.  It’s a roasted cherry and whipped cream tart with a chocolate crust.  We knew we were exhausted because when we ate our “dinner” at approximately 4:30 in the morning, we didn’t want to bother with cutting and serving it.  That’s okay, because it made a phenomenal breakfast.  Light, airy, but indulgent and heavenly all the same–the roasted cherries taste like grown-up maraschino cherries.  Next time I’m visiting my mom, stepdad, brother, and sister, I want to make this for my stepdad–it tastes a lot like one of his favorite ice cream flavors (cherry with chocolate chips, I can’t remember the formal title).

The best part is that you could use this method of roasting cherries for almost any purpose.  I can’t wait to try to use these cherries to make other kinds of tarts, or scones, or even cookies.  I guess I’d better hurry, as cherry season is tragically coming to a close.  I can’t think about that, I’ll think about it tomorrow, Scarlett O’Hara style.   Today, I’m thinking only about this tart and how much I need to tell you how to make it so you can go out, buy cherries while you still can, and treat yourself to this deliciousness.

Oh, and the second best part?  Roasting the cherries releases a decent amount of cherry juice that you won’t want to dump in your tart, or it will get soggy.  Instead of making a soggy tart, you can make a simple syrup with the juice (instructions included below), and use some of it to decorate the tart.   You can keep the leftovers in your fridge and flavor drinks–both alcoholic and non–with it.  It’d be a great way to spice up a Sprite or 7-Up, and later this week, I’ll share an adult beverage recipe that takes advantage of this yummy syrup.

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Pecan Sandies

July 16, 2012

My wonderful grandfather (he of the excellent cherry pie and etouffee) is turning 95 today.   Such an occasion calls for an epic cake, but with the record-breaking heat waves we’ve been having lately, I didn’t think I could send anything resembling a cake through the U.S. mail.  Not that I could normally, but the heat is my excuse this time.

Pecan sandies seemed like the perfect cake substitute, not only because they are unlikely to melt but also because I have inherited my love of pecans from my grandfather.

I wanted to make pecan sandies just like his, because his are perfect.  Unfortunately, it turns out I don’t have his recipe or at least could not find it after a reasonable amount of searching time.  In order to maintain the surprise element of these cookies, I had to search for a new recipe.

After much poking around on the internet, I settled on using the Smitten Kitchen recipe as my base.  However, I wanted cookies with sizable pecan chunks in them, not just cookies flavored with ground pecans – delicious as those would be, they just weren’t what I was looking for.  I also wanted round cookies instead of square ones because, well, I did.  And when I put in chunks of pecans, rolling the dough into a log to slice into round cookies was next to impossible – the pecan chunks made it hard to roll the dough evenly without it cracking along pecan-created fault lines.  So, I improvised, and I rolled the dough into individual balls.  Then, after the first batch (that didn’t fall on the floor) came out very shortbready and delicious but not quite what I had in mind, I decided to roll the dough balls in sugar.  It worked like a charm – the sugar made the cookies soft and puffy.  I was one happy camper.

My only regret was not making a double batch so that I could keep some for myself without feeling guilty, but I was more than satisfied with the cookies I ate while taste testing.  Don’t laugh, taste testing is a critical part of baking.  ahem.

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Shortcuts to a Better Cherry Pie

July 13, 2012

Cherry pie is one of those foods for me.  When I was in high school, I spent two weeks at my grandfather’s house while I was going to debate camp (yes, I did high school debate and became a lawyer.  I am a walking cliché).  Every night when I got home, he’d serve me a slice of cherry pie with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream in one of those bowls that have been around since before I was born and call forth scores of Christmas memories every time I see them.

My grandfather has made me many a cherry pie since then and over the years, I’ve picked up some of his tricks.  I’m told he learned some of them from my grandmother, but I don’t know that I ever had a slice of her cherry pie – as a child, I used to be so devoted to pecan pie that anything but was simply not going in my mouth.  But I’m always happy to have one more reason to feel connected to her while I’m performing everyday tasks, even if I don’t have my own memories of her doing whatever it is I’m doing.

The main, overarching lesson I’ve learned is that a great cherry pie does not need to be made from scratch, even though such pies are yummy.  There are lots of little things you can do to make a cherry pie delicious without going all out.  And with the heatwave we’re having, being in the kitchen for a shorter period of time is certainly appealing to me – and was probably appealing to my grandmother back in the days of non-air-conditioning (in Texas, no less).

For example, instead of using two cans of cherry pie filling, use one can of cherry pie filling and one can of tart cherries.  It’s amazing how much that one little change will take your pie from tasting like any old cherry pie to tasting a tad more complex and, more importantly for my purposes, less cloyingly sweet.  I used tart cherries canned in water,  but if you wanted something sweeter, you could also use tart cherries canned in their own syrup; I think it would still make for a more interesting pie.

If you’re making a deep dish pie or using a larger pie pan, you could also blend one can of cherries with two cans of filling, or even two cans of cherries with two cans of filling.  Any leftover cherries would make a tasty ice cream topping, so it’s not like a surplus of filling would be a problem.

Some of these tricks are from other sources, like an episode of Giada that I watched a couple of weeks ago.  She suggested using ground up tapioca pearls to thicken the pie.  I’ve read that trick before but never got around to trying it.  It works like a charm, and the best part is you don’t actually need to go buy tapioca flour; you can just grind up Minute Tapioca pearls, which I always have on hand because my roommate senior year of college made tapioca pudding on a regular basis.  And topped it with fresh strawberries.  Mmm.  Good times.

The tapioca trick works like a charm – I’ve never been able to cut a pie so easily or had a cherry pie not be at least a little runny.  I do want to point out that if you’re using ground up tapioca pearls, you should probably make a standard, double-crusted pie rather than a lattice pie or something like it.  I found that the ground-up pearls at the very top made a strange, tough film, which did not happen in the other parts of the pie filling.  I don’t think that would happen (or matter if it did) with a pure double-crusted pie.  However, if you’ve landed on this blog because you’ve had the same problem, here’s what I did to mostly solve the problem.  While the pie was still relatively warm from the oven, I used a fork and poked it down in the holes in the lattice, and this pushed most of the strange skin into the rest of the filling, which kind of melted it a bit (I assume, since I never noticed it while eating slices of the pie) and also ensured that the top of the pie had a more attractive appearance.

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Creamed Onions (Alfredo Style)

July 11, 2012

On the one year anniversary of my first date with my husband, I made Deb’s creamed onions with chives and bacon, and fully intended to tell you more about it after first mentioning it.  Of course I failed to do so.  And this still is not that recipe.  Just use Deb’s recipe, enjoy, and be happy.

However, on the Fourth of July, I made an alfredo version of those creamed onions, and they were also delicious.  We reserved most of the onions for leftovers, to be reheated with a little extra cream.  But that was just because I made them at a strange time of day, with the intention of eating them another time.  We still sampled the onions and made happy, my-tummy-is-full-of-deliciousness noises, and I think we both wished it had been dinner time so we could just eat the rest of them right then and there.  After all, cheese and cream and onions and nutmeg makes both of us happy.

I keep searching in vain for frozen, peeled pearl onions, which would make this dish three times as easy to make.  My grocery store doesn’t appear to carry them, but if yours does, please try that.  I imagine they would be just as delicious, and you would not have to peel all of the onions one by one, which is a worthwhile process but a time-consuming one.

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Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

July 9, 2012

I wanted to love this salsa, but I only liked it.  I think the problem is that I was trying to duplicate something that’s not actually standard salsa verde.  It’s a green salsa they serve at a place in Connecticut, where Em, our friend Sarah, and I used to sit and bug the waiters by asking “More chips, please!” every five to ten minutes.  When I’m up there this month, I intend to insist on the recipe.  Or, if I don’t feel that bold, I’ll just study the flavors and try to reverse engineer it.

If I didn’t have that salsa in mind, I think I would have been perfectly happy with this salsa.  Next time, I am going to try just boiling the tomatillos (as in this recipe), or maybe slow-roasting them, just to see how that affects the flavor.  I’m also going to wait to make it again until the grocery store has jalapenos stocked, because picking random peppers with which I am unfamiliar resulted in a far spicier salsa than I intended.  On the plus side, it cleared out my sinuses better than the over-the-counter medicine I was taking when I made it.

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