Friday, February 5, 2016

A Playbook of Football-Watching Snacks
What’s cooking? The Kitchen Goddess's Top 5 Noshes for Super Bowl Friends



Hut 1, hut 2,... What the hell does “hut” mean anyway? (And you thought you’d tuned into this blog for the cooking.)

It’s the sort of question I ask myself now and then, when I come upon a word used in a way that doesn’t make sense to me. After all, a hut is a small dwelling, usually of a rough or simple construction. But that’s obviously not the way it’s used on the football field. So I wandered out onto the interweb to see what I could find.

The answer came from an article by linguist Ben Zimmer, executive editor of Vocabulary.com and a language columnist for The Wall Street Journal. According to Zimmer, monosyllables like “hip,” “hup,” and “hep” have been used for centuries by coachmen and herders as a short, sharp sound that would get the attention of their animals. Early in the 20th century, drill sergeants in the military began to make similar use of these sounds to establish a cadence for marching. One usage in particular was of “Atten-hut!” as a call to attention. It’s not easy to get that last “-shun” sound in “attention” to be loud and forceful, so the substitution of “-hut” gives a natural accent to the syllable.

At about the same time – and with a similar result in mind – these grunt-like interjections were also being adopted in the world of football. John Heisman – yes, that Heisman – in his quarterbacking days (1890-91), introduced the word “hike” to signal that the ball was being put into motion. Next up, Knute Rockne – as a coach in the 1920s – introduced shift formations in which the quarterback first called the signal, then yelled “hip” to initiate a shift by the backfield to new positions.

In the post-WWII era, among the many ways in which the language of war and the military were absorbed by the general public, “hut” spread from the drill sergeant to the quarterback, though more as a signal for the snap and not necessarily for a shift by the offensive line. Today, though much about the game has changed, “hut” retains its use at the line of scrimmage.

In preparation for this day of days in the football world, I had planned to look around for a new and exciting snacky thing for you to serve as you watch. But nothing seemed as good as the “playbook” of noshes I’ve already got. So here are what I’ll call my Top 5 What to Serve for Super Bowl 50. [KG note: Click on the recipe titles to go directly to the post with the recipe.]

Cheesy Black-eyed Pea Dip


Nothing beats this dip. Nothing. I’ve served it time and again, and it always disappears faster than you can say “forward pass.” Serve it with chips. Use a chafing dish because it’s infinitely better warm and when the cheese is runny. And be sure to try it before you put it on the table, because otherwise, you won’t get any.


Artichoke Pesto


At the healthy end of the spectrum, this one works with chips and crudité veggies. Easy to make ahead of time, and if you have any left over (doubtful), I mix it with scrambled eggs for breakfast, or roll some up in a lettuce leaf for a low-cal lunch.



Corn & Black Bean Relish


Gluten-free, low sugar – so healthy looking you might think it’s not even fun. But it is. And easy to make – just throw everything into a bowl and stir. Sweet and crunchy from the corn, tart from the lime juice, and a hint of smoke from the black beans. If you start tasting it to correct the seasoning, don’t be surprised if you look down and find that you’ve eaten half the bowl. It’s that addictive.



Sausage-Stuffed Dates 


[KG note: You'll have to scroll far down on the link to get to the recipe for this.]
Right – not a dip. But easy to make a bunch of these ahead of time and cook them in batches. The last time I served these, I heard moaning from the crowd.



Mexican Shrimp Dip


There’s no photo for this last dip – shame on me. Something I’ll have to do this spring. But you can trust the Kitchen Goddess, can’t you? Shrimp, tomato, avocado, lime, and a bit of cilantro – what’s not to like? If you’re not dieting, this stuff is great on chips or pita crisps; for the dieters, health nuts, or gluten-avoiders, it’s equally good on bell pepper scoops or cucumber slices.

Bonus item: Greek Almond Cookies


As you know, the Kitchen Goddess wouldn’t feel right without including something sweet here. These cookies are amazingly easy – the whole process, including gathering your ingredients, takes less than an hour. They’re also gluten-free and low cal (except that it’s hard to stop eating them).


Go team!





Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thoughts that Run Around in My Head
What’s cooking? Thai Curry Soup with Broccoli, Spinach, and Cilantro



Even after last summer’s season ended in New Jersey, my hubby and I stayed north for a month to attend a couple of weddings. With the swimming pool closed and my granddaughter in pre-school, I had some slow days, and spent much of the time transitioning to a new laptop. The process encouraged me to put at least a modest effort toward cleaning out my email files, slashing and burning the ones that went back and forth to make lunch dates from three years ago, the obligatory deluge from Facebook and LinkedIn, or sale notices from Staples or the lighting company I bought a lamp from last year. I'm not sure what the retailers are thinking about: it seems like if you just bought a lamp or a printer cartridge, you’re probably not in the market for another just yet.

Among the curiosities I noticed was a series of emails from Microsoft between August 26 and December 15 of last year, no fewer than 12 of which were reminders that my Microsoft Office “trial” (which I put into quotes because I had already bought the package through amazon.com, where it was cheaper) was either “almost over” or “ending soon.” And at least four of those were “last chances.” So I wondered if they just think I didn’t notice, or if Microsoft is like the rug dealer in my town in New Jersey who was always going out of business.

So being a writer carries its own form of curse: you notice things that completely escape most people. Or at least I think they do. Having managed to eliminate more than 1000(!) priceless missives from my email files, I decided to get some air. The fall weather in Jersey City had hit one of those beautiful, crisp periods that practically push you outside, so I headed out for a walk around the neighborhood. Along the way, I found a number of cute, new restaurants in our area. One that looked particularly interesting offered outdoor seating, which is always fun in nice weather, so I went a bit closer to check out the menu. And right near the sidewalk tables was a large sign that read, “Please ask host to be seated.” I’m not sure anyone else got the unintended meaning, but I laughed all the way home.

On a slow day, I almost always feel like cooking, and on one of those days recently, I needed to come up with something to feed my book group. As a subscriber to regular emails from epicurious.com, I’d received a recipe for a puréed broccoli soup accented with Thai green curry paste and coconut milk. Mmm... the Kitchen Goddess was intrigued. As it happened, I actually had Thai green curry paste in my fridge – the remains of a jar I’d bought to make a perfectly wonderful hors d’oeuvre, Thai Meatballs and Green Curry Sauce, that I adapted from the CIA. I took it as a sign from the universe.

Kitchen Goddess note: Let me just say here that Thai green curry paste is one of those indestructible ingredients. If you buy the canned version, once you’re done, remove what’s left and store it – refrigerated – in either a zip-lock bag with the air squeezed out, or in a tightly lidded jar. According to the sources I found online, the stuff will last “a few months,” “about 5 years,” or simply “ages,” depending on who you ask. I know I’ve had mine for a couple of years, and as long as you don’t find any mold on it, it should be fine. Mine even retained all the original heat. So glad I never threw it out; and now that I have this delightful soup recipe, I may even have to buy more.

As with any recipe from epicurious.com, the Kitchen Goddess checked the reviews before diving in. The ratings were outstanding – 4 forks (top rating) from 48 reviewers, and ALL of them would make it again. But – again as with many of the offerings on epicurious – the ratings hid a number of recommendations to “fix” the original. So this version incorporates several of the more popular suggestions. The Goddess is not a lover of spicy heat, and while the first batch she made was delicious, the spiciness very nearly set her hair on fire, so she cut way back on the curry paste for the second batch. Feel free to add extra curry paste if you are a heat freak, but do so sparingly – remember, you can always add more. The KG also found the original soup to be a bit thin, so she added some cream.

This soup is not an entrée soup. Like many Asian foods, it might fill you up, but not for long. On the other hand, it makes a great lunch, and can easily work as a side dish for dinner. Also, it is chock-a-block with green veggies, simple to cook, and damn good either hot or cold. You can ask my book group, who devoured it.

One final note: The crispy shallots are a definite enhancement. The original recipe called for store-bought (canned!) crispy shallots or onions, but that is not the Kitchen Goddess way. The real thing is ridiculously easy to produce, but you must make your own decision on that. Instructions on making your own crispy shallots follow the recipe below.


Thai Curry Soup with Broccoli, Spinach, and Cilantro


Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, October 2015

Serves 4-6.

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 can (13.5 ounces) lite coconut milk
3 cups chicken stock
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound broccoli florets, chopped
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
½ cup heavy cream (can use light cream)

Garnishes:
– Crispy shallots (see below)
– Cilantro leaves
– Shredded scallions


PREPARATION
In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir the curry paste with a wooden spoon for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the coconut milk, chicken broth, and salt and pepper until smooth and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the broccoli, cover and adjust the heat to a hard simmer. Simmer until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes.

When the broccoli is tender, remove the mixture from the heat and immediately stir in the spinach leaves, the cup of cilantro, and the lime juice. Continue stirring until the spinach wilts completely.

Using either an immersion blender or a standalone blender, blend the soup 2-3 minutes or until smooth. If serving hot, return the soup to the saucepan and add the cream. Heat on medium-low until the soup is hot.

Serve in small bowls or cups garnished with cilantro, scallions, and crispy shallots.





Crispy Shallots


4-5 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
¼ cup vegetable oil (or canola oil or grapeseed oil)
Sea salt, finely ground

In a 10-inch frying pan, heat the oil at medium-high until it begins to shimmer. Add the shallots, reduce the heat to medium, and cook 5-10 minutes (I know that’s a big range, but it all depends on how brown you want the shallots to get), stirring occasionally to let the shallots brown evenly. When they reach a color you like, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Dust lightly with fine sea salt and store at room temperature in an air-tight plastic container. The crispy shallots will keep that way for several days.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Battling the Post-Holiday Blues
What’s cooking? Parmesan Crisps and Roast Chicken Provençal


January is such a dismal month. Cold, gray days, and the bills for all that Christmas frivolity have replaced the jolly cards that only a few weeks ago were appearing in your mailbox. On the other hand, the days are getting longer (yes!), and the Kitchen Goddess is here to perk up your cooking.

If you’re like me, all that holiday entertaining has severely depleted the pantry. And since global warming doesn’t all happen at once, you’ll want to be prepared in the event of... WEATHER. (I don’t want to tempt the fates by mentioning the s-word.) So here are a handful of items you’ll want to be sure are on hand as we move into winter:

1. Fresh ginger – Freeze it whole or grate it and freeze it in teaspoon-sized knobs. The Kitchen Goddess likes it in Roasted Sesame Green Beans, Sweet Potato Ginger Soufflé, and Chestnut Ginger Soup, and she often tosses candied ginger into scones, sugar cookies, and muffins. Ginger is also a time-tested aid to congestion, so if you or a loved one has a cold, try making tea with honey and lemon and ginger.

Cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2. Parmigiano rind – That tough cheese rind you used to throw away? Never again. Just add a piece into any chicken soup or vegetable soup, and you’ll be amazed at the improvement in flavor. And – here’s a flash – it makes a great nibbler for your next dinner party. Would the Kitchen Goddess kid you? Take that tough-as-nails piece of rind, cut it into cubes about ½ inch square and microwave the little bits 30-45 seconds. Crispy, chewy, salty, cheesy. Also amazing. You’re welcome.

After microwaving















Parmesan crisps - ready for snacking















3. Parsley – For something so cheap, parsley adds impressive zip to soups, salads, and fish or chicken. And you can make it last longer than you’d ever have imagined. Cut an inch off the stems, then let the bunch swim around in cold water for 15-20 minutes. Dry it in a salad spinner, wrap it in a paper towel, and store it in a plastic ziplock bag with all possible air pushed out. It’ll last a couple of weeks. When I’m adding it to soup, I put some in early with the other herbs for the flavor, but I always add a bit more at the very end, to contribute color and that little extra zing.

herbes de Provence
4. Your spice cabinet – It’s that time of year to assess your inventory of dried herbs and spices. Specifically, do the smell test. Properly stored (in a cool, dark, and dry environment – not next to your stove), herbs and spices will last a year – two at most. Open each jar, and first take a look, as spices that are fresh will still have their original color. Take a toothpick and stir them up a bit; if the scent isn’t fresh and clear, replace them (and remember to date the new jars). If you’re routinely tossing big jars of herbs and spices, try buying smaller quantities. Penzey’s (my favorite source) sells ¼-cup jars of almost everything, so I buy large jars of dried thyme and dill and cumin because I use them so often, but small jars of odd fellows like turmeric and white pepper. And I’ve learned that it’s even better – for that one recipe you make that uses Chinese Five Spice Powder – to check the bulk aisle of your grocery. For today’s recipe, in fact, I turned to the bulk aisle for herbes de Provence. In all my years of cooking, I’d never come across a recipe that called for it. Of course, this one recipe is so perfectly perfect that I may take to buying large jars of the stuff.

5. Mirepoix – Onions, Carrots, Celery. The basics for 1001 soups, so you always want to have them at hand. To keep carrots fresh, I cut off any greenery and put the carrots in air-tight zip-lock plastic bags. For celery, I trim an inch or so off the top and bag them as well. (If I only have smaller bags, I just cut the celery in half before bagging it.) If the veggies seem limp when you go to use them, try cutting an inch off the ends and soaking them in cold water for 20-30 minutes. Most of the time, that will improve the crispness. Keep onions in a cool, dry place (not in the fridge) and away from light. Not in plastic bags and not near your potatoes. Potatoes need the same kind of storage conditions, but don’t keep potatoes and onions near each other – both give off gasses that increase the rate of spoilage in the other.

Crowdsourcing a Recipe


I love The New York Times. I’ve been reading it since 1969. And while I occasionally submit to the online version, I’m much happier with the physical paper spread out in front of me at my kitchen island. There, I can quickly scan the news of the world and the opinions of some of my favorite columnists and op-editors. And there are no brighter moments in my professional history than those days when I could open up the paper and see my own work splashed across a page.

These days, I wait most eagerly for the Wednesday paper and its Food section. Not long ago, in a year-end review, the food editors put together a list of the most popular recipes of 2015, based on the number of Times readers who saved it to an online recipe box. Now, the Kitchen Goddess is generally skeptical of crowdsourced information – except in the realm of recipes. And if NYT readers saved this recipe more than any other from the whole year, well, I had to give it a try.

Oh, my. It was the perfect dish for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner: ridiculously simple to prepare (one small bowl, and a single rimmed baking sheet) and a wondrous marriage of flavors for a winter night. The shallots and garlic were transformed by the roasting into sweet delicacies; even the lemon, after its warm bath in chicken juices and vermouth, was entirely edible. And the chicken went so quickly I didn’t even get a second piece. I can hardly wait to serve it at a dinner party.

The pan juices are not to be ignored, so you’ll want either crusty French bread or rice or noodles as accompaniment. All else you need is a simple green salad.


Roast Chicken Provençal


Adapted from Sam Sifton in The New York Times.

Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup all-purpose flour
4 chicken legs or 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, quartered lengthwise
8-10 medium-large cloves garlic, peeled
4 to 6 medium-sized shallots, peeled
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
⅓ cup dry vermouth
Garnish: 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme

PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 400º. Pour the olive oil into a large roasting pan (I used a rimmed half-sheet pan), and use your fingers to spread it evenly around the pan.

Put the flour into a small shallow bowl. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces all over, and dredge them in the flour, shaking each piece lightly so as to remove any excess flour. As you flour each piece, place it in the roasting pan, skin side up.



Cut the shallots in half lengthwise, and scatter them among the chicken parts along with the garlic and the lemon quarters. Sprinkle the herbes de Provence over all and add the vermouth.

Put the pan into the oven for 50-60 minutes, stopping halfway through to baste the chicken with any pan juices. The skin will be very crisp when done.

Serve in the roasting pan or a large platter. If you use a separate platter, be sure to warm the platter with hot water before use. Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme.

Serve with rice or noodles or warmed French bread, and a simple green salad.

Bon appetit!


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Good Intentions: Donut Go There
What’s cooking? Red Lentil Soup


I only know about two people in this world who are not on a diet. (That would be you, Leslie, and I’m sure there’s at least one other person.) One of the remaining 99.9% met me for coffee the other day and asked – in the nicest way possible – if I might want to join her in starting up with Weight Watchers in 2016.

Let me say here that the WW folks have probably dedicated a building to me by now, given the number of times I’ve succumbed to their siren call. And, truth be told, it’s the only program that’s ever worked for me. But you can imagine how difficult it is for the Kitchen Goddess to stick to a regimen, regardless of my efforts or the flexibility of the program. Here’s one reason why.

Fully caffeinated and brimming with resolve, I headed from Starbucks to the grocery store, determined to buy only those things on the list in my hot little hand. And as I passed through the big glass doors, I very distinctly heard my brain say one word: “Donut.”

Not a scream, not a whisper, just a statement of fact. And – what the heck – Weight Watchers was a full three days away, and I hadn’t had lunch.

But it’s now a new year. And the Kitchen Goddess wants to be healthier, and she wants to help you be healthy, too. So while no one expects either of us to eschew sugar or fat entirely from our diets, there are lots of foods that go easy on those two ingredients while remaining both yummy and healthy, and I am going to find some of them for you. At least for January.

* * *

We’re going to start today with red lentils. Oh, don’t give me that look. I fed some to my prince last night and they were perfectly wonderful. I can hardly wait to have the leftovers for lunch. This recipe is a mash-up of one from Melissa Clark in The New York Times and a recent offering from Cook’s Illustrated. I’ve jazzed up the spices and included the carrots from Clark’s version, and I do believe you’ll love it. The onions and garlic and butter provide a hearty base for the delicate legumes, the tomato paste delivers the umami, and the spice mixture – sautéed to bring out all the lovely warm flavors – makes you feel as if you were being served in a tiny café near the marketplace in Marrakesh.

Red lentils are the Manolo Blahniks of the lentil world – the classy, glamorous cousins of green and brown lentils. Smaller than the green and brown varieties, they are a split and hulled version of yellow lentils, so they cook faster than the others. And without the hulls, the taste is sweeter and more like a vegetable than a bean. Other interesting factoids:

1. For those of you who notice these things, lentils are a rich source of several essential nutrients (folate, thiamin, phosphorus, iron, and zinc), as well as dietary fiber (11g/100g raw) and protein (25g). Low in readily digested starch and high in slowly digested starch, lentils are especially recommended for anyone with diabetes. Lentils have the second-highest ratio of protein per calorie of any legume, after soybeans.

2. Although lentils originated in Asia and North Africa, today, Canada and India make up more than half the world’s production. Much of India’s product is consumed domestically, so Canada is by far the largest export producer. The U.S. is the fifth largest, with production coming from Washington, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota.

3. In Italy and Hungary, there’s a tradition of eating lentils on New Year’s Eve, to symbolize hope for a prosperous new year, most likely because of their round, coin-like form.

Nerdy health note: The Kitchen Goddess was shocked – SHOCKED! – to learn that most beans (except soybeans), are an incomplete protein, which means they don’t supply the full quota of amino acids the body needs to make use of protein. One way to complete the package is to include a grain with your legumes. Think peanut butter with toast. Or rice with beans. Who knew? So you could throw some rice into your lentil soup, but the KG thinks a way better idea is to serve your yummy red lentil soup with cornbread in order to produce a serving of complete proteins. You’ll find my favorite cornbread recipe here (click on link). The KG always has your best interests at heart.



Red Lentil Soup


Adapted from Melissa Clark in The New York Times and Andrea Geary at Cook's Illustrated.
Serves 4-5.


INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons butter, separated
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or a pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
10½ ounces (1½ cups) red lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 large carrots, peeled and cut in ¼-inch dice
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2-2½ tablespoons), plus more to taste
Garnish:
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper

PREPARATION

In a large soup pot (I used a 5½-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven), heat 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and salt and sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and the peppers, and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and continue to stir for another minute.

Add the broth, water, lentils, and diced carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to simmer the lentils until they’re soft and about half have broken down, about 20 minutes.

Remove 3 cups of the soup to a blender or food processor and purée the mixture, then add it back to the pot. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with additional salt or lemon juice. Reheat the soup if necessary.

In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and stir in the paprika and Aleppo pepper (or a dash of cayenne). Serve bowls of the soup drizzled with the spiced butter and a sprinkling of cilantro.

And in case you’ve forgotten (or didn’t want to follow the link), I recommend serving this soup with some of your favorite cornbread. Here’s mine:


Texas Cornbread


1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups yellow corn meal
3 tablespoons sugar
4½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
⅔ c milk (room temperature works best)
⅓ c melted butter
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Heat oven to 425º.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the dry ingredients – flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate, small bowl, beat the egg well with a fork, then stir in the milk and melted butter. Pour the liquid mixture all at once into the dry, stirring with a fork only until the flour is thoroughly moistened. (It’s okay if the mixture is lumpy – just don’t overstir.) Stir in the corn kernels just until evenly distributed.

Pour the mixture into an 8-inch cast-iron skillet or a greased 8x8-inch baking pan and bake 25-30 minutes until the top is browned and a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

Something for Santa?
What’s cooking? Ice Cream Sandwiches with Molasses Cookies


Don’t ask me why I decided to make ice cream sandwiches to be the dessert for our Christmas Eve dinner, but there it is.

Well, since you ask, I think it started when I was thumbing through one of my new favorite cookbooks, Food52 Genius Recipes. The Kitchen Goddess was taking a bit of umbrage at the “genius” part of the title, snorting about who these people think they are, claiming that sort of stature.

Then I saw the recipe for Molasses Cookies. Oh, my. They looked soft and chewy and just the sort of cookie I lust after in cold weather. Starbucks used to have a ginger molasses cookie that looked very much like this one and would cause me to practically drool in front of the counter before I could stammer out my request. But those disappeared a couple of years ago, and my Starbucks visits haven’t been the same since.

So there they were, these perfect Molasses Cookies, emerging apparently from the kitchens of the Silver Palate. One of the “genius” things the Food52 people have done is to wheedle recipes of specialties from some of the best cooks in the country. And then they mention – oh, so casually – that these large, flat cookies are perfect for ice cream sandwiches.

That did it for me. I’d been scratching my head for weeks as to what to serve at the Christmas Eve dinner that would appeal to the five adults as well as the two pre-schoolers, and this seemed a perfect solution.

The cookies themselves are easy to make – you only have to be sure you allow enough room between blobs of dough on the baking sheet, because they will spread, and once they kiss, at least one of them won’t be exactly round any more.


And the assembly process was a lot easier than I expected, as well. The key is to use a scoop – maybe a scoop and a spoon for pushing – that produces shaves of ice cream, not blobs. Then you can mash them around on top of the cookie however you want before depositing the second cookie on top. If you’re not eating them immediately, wrap them in cellophane wrap and freeze them until it’s time. Easy, peasy. And fun!

The Kitchen Goddess wanted desperately to make this project into a real project, if you get my drift, by making her own ice cream. Then she had a moment of clarity and bought some Dreyers’ Vanilla Bean ice cream, and life smiled again. You can do whatever you damn well please – don’t let me stop you. Just know that my store-bought ice cream and my soft, buttery molasses cookies were just fine together, without the extra sweat and angst.



Molasses Cookies


Adapted from The Silver Palate, as appeared in Food52 Genius Recipes.

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on the size.

12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg, lightly beaten
1¾ cups (220 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350º. Line the bottoms of two large rimmed baking sheets with foil.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and add the sugar and the molasses. Remove from the heat and stir energetically with a whisk to get the ingredients well mixed, then add the egg and whisk again to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients all at once. Stir well, making sure to incorporate the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl. Even when the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, the batter will be fairly wet.

Drop tablespoons of batter onto the foil, leaving about 3 inches between cookies. Bake at 350º for 9-10 minutes, until the cookies start to darken. Cookies should cool on the foil, but you can slide the foil sheet out of the pan and onto your counter without damaging the cookies. Then add a new sheet of foil to the pan for the next batch.


Kitchen Goddess note: If you’re planning to make ice cream sandwiches, you’ll want to get consistently sized cookies. I used a 1 tablespoon measure, which yielded 34 large, flat cookies that were 3 inches in diameter, and seemed a perfect size for sandwiches.

These cookies still had a slightly chewy center, but if you want smaller, chewier cookies, try substituting Crisco for half the butter. The Crisco has a higher melting point than butter and will keep the cookies from spreading so much.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Holy Cranberries, Martha! It’s a Holiday Salsa
What’s cooking? Cranberry-Jalapeño Salsa


The Kitchen Goddess is ever on the lookout for a good recipe. Last weekend, in the middle of the shopping and the wrapping and the constant effort to remember what I still have to buy, a little Christmas miracle came my way.

I was wandering through Williams-Sonoma looking for a gift, and one of the salespeople was helping me. After a while, it became clear that they didn’t have what I needed, even though she knew exactly what I was looking for. So as I was thanking her for her efforts, another store employee came up to us and said to her, “I wanted to thank you for bringing that great cranberry salsa to the party. It was delicious!”

My ears perked up. “Cranberry salsa?” I said. “You have a cranberry salsa? That sounds really good. Can I get the recipe? And do you serve it with chips?” Yes, yes, and yes.

And that is how I came to find this delightfully colorful, delectably festive salsa that you will want to serve to those friends who drop by during the holidays, or the folks waiting around for Christmas dinner to be served, or maybe just to yourself and your spouse as you address your holiday cards. It satisfies all of your taste buds – a slightly sweet, salty, tart combo of flavors, with a hint of heat and a bit of crunch from the berries. It takes almost no time to prepare because most of the action happens in your food processor. (Ok, there’s a little work: the lime zesting and the ginger grating and the jalapeño seeding. We must suffer a tiny bit for art.)

So here it is – from her to me to you. Happy holidays!


Cranberry-Jalapeño Salsa


Adapted from a recipe by Julia at Williams-Sonoma at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey.

Makes about 3 cups.

1 bag fresh cranberries
juice and zest from 2 limes
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 large jalapeño (seeds and ribs removed), diced*
4 green onions (white and light green parts only), sliced
1 bunch cilantro (about 1½ cups), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt*
½ cup sugar*

Put all but the sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the salsa reaches a consistency you like.


Remove the salsa to a bowl, stir in the sugar, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

Kitchen Goddess note: As with most dishes, this one can be made more or less sweet, more or less salty, or with more or less heat. You may want to add some of the salt and taste before you add it all. Same with the sugar. A restaurateur friend tells me the heat of a jalapeño comes from the ribs, so if you want more heat, leave some or all of the ribs in. And whether or not you do, be sure to wear rubber gloves when working with jalapeños.



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

And the Beet Goes On...
What’s cooking? Beet-Crusted Pork Tenderloin and Grated Beet Salad


In the holiday season, I always like to have a dish that seems celebratory. And while you may not be a fan of beets, you should give this one a try. First of all, the color is beautiful. And second, it doesn’t taste anything like beets.

Now I will admit that I’m a great lover of beets. Always have been. Even as a child, when I experienced beets only from the can, they were one of my favorite veggies. It was that period in American culinary history when fresh vegetables never really made an appearance in the kitchen. Only canned and frozen. At least, that was the way it was at my house. But I loved the lightly sweet taste and that great color.

In college, I was one of the few who actually ate the beets turned out by the dorm kitchen. I remember friends being amazed as I shoveled them down. And in my poor and harried single days in New York, those cans of sliced beets were often part – or maybe all – of dinner. Then I got married.

My husband has never been a fan. Of beets, that is. And I recognize that lots of people won’t touch them no matter how long I wax eloquent on the subject. But the Kitchen Goddess doesn’t give up without a fight, so for my family at least, I’ve offered them in purées with cooked apples, in salads tossed with oranges and a light vinaigrette, in a lovely gingery cream soup...

I’m always looking for a new way to serve these red beauties, and to my hubby’s credit, he’ll generally try at least a taste. He actually liked this pork tenderloin presentation – the beet skins do a great job of keeping the pork moist, and they add nicely earthy notes to the meat. But when I offered him the raw beet salad – after all, the writer in The New York Times claimed that even people who swear they hate beets love this salad – he cautioned me, “Let’s not get carried away, Lee. In the end,... it’s beets.”

* * *

The Kitchen Goddess bets you are now thinking, “So, I make this recipe and then I’m stuck with a bunch of raw beets.” Patience, Grasshopper. It’s true that in the current trend to consume all parts of a plant, it’s not often you get to start with the skin. Usually, that’s the part you really want to throw away, even if it makes you feel guilty. Well, guilt no more. Buy a bunch of beets with those big gorgeous leaves intact. Then: (1) ribbon the leaves and add them to a soup or sauté them for a pasta dish; (2) peel the beets and use the peel with your pork tenderloin; and, finally, (3) shred the peeled beets for a crisp, tangy salad that you’ll find at the bottom of this post.


Beet-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, November 2015

Serves 6.

Peels from 1-1½ pounds beets (red or yellow – wash them well first!), ideally about 1½ cups of peel
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 pork tenderloins, about 1¼ pounds each
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Garnish: drizzle of olive oil, and lemon wedges

Put the peels into the bowl of a food processor with the salt and caraway seeds, and process well to produce a finely ground paste.

Pat the pork dry with paper towels, and lay the tenderloins on a rimmed baking sheet. Pat half the paste onto each piece of meat, and allow the tenderloins with the paste to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400º. Drizzle each tenderloin with a tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle with a few fresh grinds of black pepper.


Roast 25-30 minutes at 400º, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted at the center of the meat reads 135º. Let the meat rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing the tenderloins into ½-inch thick rounds. Lightly drizzle the sliced meat with olive oil, and serve with lemon wedges.







Kitchen Goddess note: The peel paste can be made a day or two ahead and kept in a jar in the fridge.

And now that you have those nicely peeled, raw beets...


Grated Raw Beet Salad

Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman in The New York Times (July 7, 2010)

Serves 6.

1-1½ pounds raw beets, peeled
6 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
4 tablespoons minced parsley or mint (or a combination of the two)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For serving: small romaine lettuce leaves, or baby arugula, or watercress

Grate the peeled beets using a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, and set aside.

In a small bowl or jar, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, and olive oil and mix well. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Put the grated beets into a medium-sized bowl, and toss them well with the dressing.


 Adjust seasoning to taste, and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes before serving. Serve on romaine lettuce leaves or a bed of baby arugula or watercress.


Kitchen Goddess note: This salad actually improves with age – the beet juices mix deliciously with the citrus juices. So if you want to make it a day or two before serving, just keep it tightly covered, in the fridge. Be sure to toss the salad well before serving.

Or have it for lunch with some crackers and bleu cheese and a few leaves of endive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Happy Holidays! It’s the Kitchen Goddess’s Gift Guide for the Foodie in Your Life
What’s cooking? Are you kidding? Who has time to cook?



The shopping season is now in full force, though I hope you all had the good sense to stay home with your feet up on Black Friday. If there’s a foodie on your list, or you’re writing to Santa and can’t decide what to ask for this year, the Kitchen Goddess has a few suggestions.

Please note: The Kitchen Goddess has not received as much as a jingle bell for these recommendations. She is a wonder of ethical virtue.

$20 and under


It’s always fun to find something I like for less than $20. And it doesn’t happen that often, so take note.

I gave one of these little crumb-catcher gizmos to my daughter-in-law last year, and she says it’s awesome. Claims she uses it several times a day. It’s even fun to use. So if you have children or grandchildren under the age of 10, or anyone in your house who has a tendency to leave the table looking less than pristine, this is the gift. It comes in a red ladybug design or this cute mouse in white. I got it at the Container Store for $11.99.

You have no idea how useful an egg slicer can be. Really. In fact, calling it an egg slicer may qualify as the understatement of the century. Yes, eggs, but also mushrooms, strawberries, soft cheese, olives (seeded), bananas, avocado (also seeded),... Use your imagination. And you don’t have to look far: they’re at prices from $3.99 to $14.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Sur la Table, amazon.com, your local restaurant supply store, and (if you have time) a nifty online resource called WebstaurantStore.com.



If your Kitchen God or Goddess has a KitchenAid mixer, put this beater blade on your list. Designed with rubber “wipers” to eliminate the need to stop and scrape the bowl manually, the blade has garnered outstanding reviews. Just be sure to get the one that matches your recipient’s model KitchenAid machine – the tilt-head version takes a different shape than the one for the lift mixer. Comes in yellow with blue blades, white with red blades, and as shown here. At amazon.com, it’s $16.59.

A repeat from last year, because it’s worth it: Here’s something you never knew you or your local home chef needed. A bread wrap. Yes, you read that right: a bread wrap. It’s $15 from a company called Bee’s Wrap, but you can also get it at Food52.com for $18. Organic cotton muslin that’s been dipped or somehow saturated with beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. Sounds weird, I know, but you wrap a loaf of bread in this cloth, then use the warmth of your hands to mold the wrap around the bread. It’s antibacterial, seals perfectly, and keeps the bread fresh. You can wash the wrap in cool water and use it over and over. And it works. Take it from the Kitchen Goddess.




Over $20


After years of limping along with my analog cooking thermometer (for candy and oil) and the cheapo variety – that never worked – for meats, the Kitchen Goddess finally bit the bullet and got this fancy-schmancy digital version: the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm ($59). It’s the favorite of the America’s Test Kitchen folks, and you know how they torture a product before they commit. This piece of equipment is amazingly easy to operate, with clear and straightforward labeling of the various functions. Smashing reviews on amazon.com, but as far as I can tell, only available through the ThermoWorks company.


Cutco Traditional Cheese Knife ($84 at the Cutco website or at Cutco retail stores), with what the company calls a Double-D®-edge blade. Its original use was for cheeses, but the company has figured out that the cut-out style of the blade also keeps vegetables and fruits from sticking. Which makes slicing those items a lot easier than with a traditional blade. I tested it out in the new Cutco store here in Austin, and was so impressed I bought one for myself. The Kitchen Goddess is into “easier.”




A couple of years ago, I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign because I thought the product they were making was so completely cool. I still think so, and it looks like others agree with me because that product is now available at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) store. The Porthole Infuser ($100 to non-members, $90 to members) is a gadget for creating cocktails, infused oils and syrups, salad dressings, and more. It comes completely apart for cleaning and is dishwasher safe. You load in your spices, herbs, fruits, and liquid, then let the mix sit for varying amounts of time, then serve. It stands 7 inches high and holds about 13 ounces of stuff. I love the look, but even more I love the fun of building the display. There’s a Facebook page (but of course!) for owners to share recipes, and a website with featured mixes.



You may remember that the Kitchen Goddess is extremely fond of candles. They’re a symbol of hospitality and hope. Candlelight creates a mood that’s friendly and warm, quiet and intimate, regardless of what’s being served. Everyone looks better in candlelight. So whenever I set the table for a dinner party, candles are a major factor in the decor. And the most beautiful votive candle holders – in my view – are from Glassybaby ($44 each). From a deep, yummy plummy to pale celery or baby’s-bottom pink, the range of colors can match any decor, and the glass imparts a glow that’s soft and inviting. Lovely as individual notes, and great in groups. I have 5 in my kitchen: four shades of green and a purple. If you live in Washington state or California, check out the stores; otherwise, shop online at glassybaby.com.




Way over $20


If you’re looking to really drop some dough on a great present, consider a Vitamix. On amazon.com, models range from the 1914 2-speed Blender ($300, refurbished) to the newest 780 ($690). At a book fair last year, I heard cookbook author Michael Ruhlman (The Making of a Chef as well as books with Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert) call these machines “the Mazzerati of kitchen equipment.” I scoffed. Then my darling hubby gave me one for Christmas. Oh, my – what fun. Just turn that sucker on and watch it pulverize the world.







Cookbooks


A list of foodie gifts wouldn’t be complete without a few of the latest cookbooks. Here you go:

■ San Antonio restaurateur (and Kitchen Goddess friend!) Cappy Lawton, in collaboration with food writer, Chris Waters Dunn, has produced the first ever book on Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex ($30.55 on amazon.com). And what fun it is! The authors open with a clear and amazingly helpful range of topics, from a primer on Mexican spices and cheeses and chiles, to instructions for a delicious and healthy cactus salad, and how to make your own tortillas and Crema Mexicana. Once you get to the recipes, you recognize the terms and ingredients, and the cuisine feels already familiar. The recipes are carefully crafted in an easily followed, step-by-step format, presenting enchiladas with a broad range of styles and fillings. And the photography is gorgeous.


■ One of the more reliable online sites for recipes is Food52, begun by Amanda Hesser (former food writer/editor for The New York Times) and Merrill Stubbs (freelance food writer, food tester at Cook’s Illustrated, and caterer). While working on The Essential New York Times Cookbook, they conceived of the Food52 site as a way to bring cooks together to exchange recipes and ideas about food. The latest production is Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook ($21 at amazon.com). The recipes come from well-known cooks like Yotam Ottolenghi and Alice Waters, from restaurants like River Café and Momofuku, and from names you’ve never heard of. According to the introduction, “these foolproof recipes rethink cooking tropes, solve problems, get us talking, and make cooking more fun.” At the Texas Book Festival this year, I watched the editor perform magic with a couple of these recipes, and I got so excited, I bought the book.

■ J. Kenji López-Alt has become something of a cult figure in the online world of cooking. Part Bill Nye the Science Guy, part Rachel Ray, he’s a columnist for Cooking Light magazine, and the author of a James Beard Award-nominated website called The Food Lab, which steals the show from its parent site, SeriousEats.com. The man writes with a style that’s engaging and easy to read, delivering short-cuts and scientific explanations for his actions that leave you thinking, “Of course – why didn’t I think of that?” (But we won’t get into your shortcomings here.) In his book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking through Science ($27.47 on amazon.com), he delves into conventional methods for a dish to discover why they don’t always work well, and the newer, simpler ways to achieve far better results. The Kitchen Goddess has not heard so much hype about a cookbook since,... well, ever. And she, ahem, hopes that someone in her family will tell Santa.


Happy holidays, everyone!