Wednesday, May 27, 2015

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, the Kitchen Goddess Is... Baking
What’s cooking? Two Galettes – Blueberry and Blackberry

Is it sunny where you are? I hope so, because someone should have had good weather for the holiday. I can tell you for sure that whoever that is wasn’t in Central Texas.

It was hard to really think about it being Memorial Day weekend – all we’ve had for the past couple of weeks has been rain. And while I know we are all grateful that the rivers and lakes are filling back up (according to my local newspaper, Lake Travis has risen 14 feet since May 20, and parts of the Texas Hill Country got more than 12 inches on Saturday alone)....The hourly forecast for Memorial Day itself felt like a lesson about precipitation from Roget’s Thesaurus: “heavy thunderstorms,” “thunderstorms,” “scattered thunderstorms,” and a couple of hours of just plain “rain.” To say nothing of the Flash Flood Warnings and Tornado Watches. We’re having a blessed day of sun now that the weekend is over, but the forecast for tomorrow is back to “scattered thunderstorms.” I never thought I’d be tired of that pitter-patter sound on my roof, but geez, Louise, could we just get a break?!

The weather doesn’t stop me from cooking, of course, though you do have to stay away from anything that needs stiff egg whites. And we’re fast moving into the berry season, which always makes the Kitchen Goddess happy. Prices on blueberries in particular have been coming down lately, a sure sign that the season is upon us. Sunday – amid a blessed break from the downpour – I stopped in a local farmer’s market and bought these lovely blackberries.

Kitchen Goddess notes about buying/storing/washing berries: 
1. Buying. Berries won’t ripen any more once they’ve been picked. So buy the ripest ones you can find, which is most likely at a farmers’ market.
2. Storing. “Dry and dirty” are the watchwords for storing berries (except strawberries). Don’t wash any until you’re ready to eat them, and store them in the fridge in those little containers they came in. Keeping them on your counter will only make them rot faster, and they won’t get any riper.
3. Washing. To wash strawberries, swish them briefly around in a bowl of water, then let them dry on paper towels. Store them in the fridge in a single layer on a dry paper towel, covered with a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out. For blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, put just the ones you 'll be eating in a colander and give them a brief spray with water. (One chef I met says she never washes raspberries at all.) There are methods you can find that involve vinegar rinses or a hot water bath, but they all sound like a lot of trouble, and I think I’ll just eat faster.

The Kitchen Goddess’s long-suffering husband is a big fan of berries, so today, for him, a berry dessert. Two of them, in fact, though it’s the same dessert made once with blueberries and once with blackberries, just to show you that the Kitchen Goddess is nothing if not flexible.

This is the blueberry galette; blackberry galette is at top of post.

A galette is a sort of free-form tart, most often made with fruit, and therefore sweet, but don’t be afraid to get creative. In a post from last September, I featured a Roasted Tomato-Bacon-Goat-Cheese Galette that is strictly savory and completely delicious.

Today’s blueberry galette was made totally from scratch, with dough you can put together in a food processor. No muss, no fuss. For the blackberry version, I used a sheet of frozen puff pastry dough. Sometimes it just depends on what you have on hand. Neither takes much time. Even with making your own dough, and including the time to let the dough rest in the fridge, the actual work involved in putting this dessert together is less than an hour. If you use frozen dough, you’ll still need to roll it out. The baking/cooling time adds another 45 minutes.

The short form of this recipe is:

■ Make the dough, and refrigerate it;
■ Roll the dough out and trim it to a 10-inch round;
■ Pile the fruit and flavorings into the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border;
■ Fold the dough border in on itself, creating a sort of envelope around the fruit.
■ Bake and enjoy.

Before we jump into the galette recipe, the Kitchen Goddess encourages you to check out her Notes on Pie Crust (modified from the November 10, 2009, post about her heroic adventures with pie crust at the CIA). Now if you’re ready to roll, let’s make the galettes.


For the dough:
1⅓ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons solid shortening (Crisco)
3 tablespoons ice water, more as needed
1 tablespoon vodka

OR 1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough or frozen pie crust dough

For the Blueberry Galette (adapted from Gourmet Magazine, July 2004):
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
finely grated zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon milk (whole, part-skim, or skim)
1 tablespoon coarse sugar (e.g. Sugar in the Raw)

For the Blackberry-Ginger Galette:
Substitute 3 cups blackberries for the blueberries (duh), and 2 tablespoons of candied ginger (minced) for the cinnamon. Remaining ingredients are the same.

Blackberry galette on its way into the oven.
If you’re using packaged dough, be sure to note the time you’ll need for thawing it before you begin. Then skip to preheating the oven, below.

If you will be making your own dough:
Start by dicing the shortening and the butter into teaspoon-sized bits, and put it into the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and pulse 4-5 times to blend. Add the cold butter and shortening to the flour and pulse 12-15 times, or enough to get the butter down to the size of small peas. Drizzle the water and vodka over the mixture and pulse just until the mixture holds together when you squeeze a handful of it. (If necessary, add more water a tablespoon at a time.) Gather and press the dough into a ball, wrap well in cellophane wrap, and chill at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400º.

Blueberry galette just out of the oven.
Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and dust it with flour. Roll your dough on it to a thickness of ⅛ inch and trim the dough (if necessary) to about a 10-inch round. Move the parchment (with the circle of dough) to a baking sheet and refrigerate it again for 10-15 minutes.

While the circle of dough is chilling, gently stir your berries in a large bowl with the remaining filling ingredients, except the milk and coarse sugar. Remove the dough from the fridge and pile the berries into the center of the circle, leaving a border of about 2 inches.

Carefully fold that border of dough over the fruit and toward the center, pinching and folding to create a pleated look. Brush the pleated border with the milk, and sprinkle the coarse sugar over all. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Cool the tart in the pan set on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream, or a dollop of non-fat yogurt with a touch of honey (shown here).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Salty Sweet is the New Black
What’s cooking? Bacon-Onion Jam

Today, I bring you a wordsmithing tidbit about snowclones. If you want to skip the hors d’oeuvre and move straight to the entrée, feel free. It’s down there just after the three ***s.

Several years ago, I was having lunch at a restaurant in midtown Manhattan. I have a habit in restaurants – good or bad, I’m not sure, but shared by my hubby, so... – of checking out the people at nearby tables. I found my attention particularly drawn to a group of about 8 women. The atmosphere around that table fairly vibrated with cool sophistication, and I couldn’t figure  out why until I noticed that they were all dressed either solidly in black or in a combination of black, white, and gray.

In the lexicon of style, black is the color of strength, mystery, and sophistication. So when writers (or more likely, marketers) talk about something being “the new black,” they’re suggesting the ascendancy of that thing to the new power position. The new lead dog.

I have only recently learned that this use of cliché is called a snowclone – a 21st-century word that Wikipedia defines as “a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different variants.” Completely clear to me, now – how about you?

What they’re trying to say is that a snowclone is a fill-in-the-blank template like something you’d get from a game of MadLibs. Like “I have a [blank] and I’m not afraid to use it.” Or “Have [blank], will travel.” Or “The [Xs] called: they want their [Y] back.” Interestingly, both the original cliché and the altered version are considered snowclones. The name emerged from the cliché about Eskimos having so many words for snow.

Now, I don’t know the first use of the phrase, “[blank] is the new black.” It probably came from the cover of some fashion magazine. And I probably should have titled today’s post “Salty Sweet Is the New Umami,” to give the fully parallel structure its due. But then I wouldn’t have had an excuse to tell you about that group I saw at a Manhattan restaurant.

* * *

In any case, fads in the food world are nothing new. Remember when sliders might have been kids on a playground? When the only filling you’d find in a taco was ground beef? When the idea of a $5 cupcake was laughable?

The Kitchen Goddess subscribes to a handful of online food world newsletters – not a great idea, by the way, if you have any illusions of getting something done when you sit down at your desk. At least once every few months, one of these publications will announce a new trend in foodism.

Well, folks, apparently salty sweet is the latest craze. It’s not totally new – witness salted caramels, Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered almonds with sea salt, and these Goat Cheese and Nutella Truffles, which are sprinkled with finishing salt. Then, of course, there’s the whole chocolate-covered bacon thing.

And in that vein, I have discovered a most wonderful spread – a condiment you will want to eat straight out of the jar, if you can even bring yourself to put it into a jar in the first place. Bacon-Onion Jam. Phew. This stuff is so lustful, just saying the words gives me the vapors. Sweet, caramelized onions mixed with crispy bacon. Add a peppery kick and savory notes from beer, coffee, and 2-3 vinegars, then stew it all down to a jammy texture and run the whole thing through your food processor to remove the largest chunks. I read about it first in Sam Sifton’s column in The New York Times, but there are a zillion (okay, quite a few) variations. Today, you get mine.

How to use Bacon-Onion Jam?

■ Add a dollop atop chicken-liver pâté on toast (per Sifton’s recommendation)
■ Spread like a condiment on meat- or chicken-based sandwiches or burgers
■ Combine with cheddar cheese as part of a grilled cheese sandwich
■ Smear some on crackers and add crumbled blue cheese for an hors d’oeuvre
■ Dilute with maple syrup to pour over waffles.

You can thank me later.

Bacon-Onion Jam

Makes 3 cups.

1½ pounds bacon, cut in pieces 2-3 inches long
8 ounces shallots, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped (2½ cups)
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ teaspoons Aleppo pepper (can substitute chili powder)
½ teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked paprika)
¼ cup maple syrup (the real stuff, please)
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ - ¾ cup strong coffee
½ cup malt beverage (like beer) or bourbon
½ cup vinegar mix (I used 2 ounces balsamic, 1 ounce fig-infused, 1 ounce sherry vinegar)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, or a small stockpot (I used an 8-quart stockpot, which kept the bacon fat from spritzing all over my kitchen), cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pot.

Add the onions to the fat and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, then turn the heat to low and add the garlic, Aleppo pepper, and paprika. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the syrup and brown sugar and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves.

Add the coffee, alcohol, and vinegars. Raise the heat to medium high until the mixture reaches a boil, then cover the pot and let it cook (low boil) 15 minutes. Remove the cover, fold in the bacon, and adjust the heat to let the mixture simmer uncovered for about 1 hour, until most of the water has boiled off and the mixture reaches a jammy consistency. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

At this point, you must decide how much texture you want in your jam. Go with it as is, which will have sizeable chunks of bacon. Or scrape the jam into a food processor and process until it reaches a consistency you like. [The Kitchen Goddess prefers hers to be just slightly chunky, so she pulses it in the food processor for about 1 minute.]

Spoon the jam into jars and refrigerate. Well covered, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two. (Hah -- a week? If it survives even a few days, I’ll be impressed.)  Allow the jam to come to room temperature before serving.

It's the cocktail hour somewhere and these bites take no time to construct. Round crackers are brie with bacon jam; hexagonal crackers serve the jam with Maytag blue. Both hit the spot.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Fun, Fast, and Foolproof Mother’s Day Breakfast
What’s Cooking? Paris Breakfast

Today’s recipe is for all you dads and hubbies trying to figure out how to either make her a great breakfast yourself, or to help the kids make one in a way that doesn’t turn the kitchen into a war zone.

I remember having a few of those made for me, and frankly, it doesn’t really matter what you serve because she will eat it all and exclaim about its deliciousness. Won’t we, ladies? Because it’s the giving, not the gift, that counts.

The Mother’s Day that stands out most clearly in my mind is the year when my first-born was about 2½. I was home on maternity leave after the birth of number 2, so you know already I was totally hormonal. It was the Friday before Mother’s Day, and our sitter had gone to pick up number 1 from nursery school, which he had been attending for only a few months. She parked her car on a side street across from our house, and I watched from an upstairs window as she held his hand to cross the street and climb the steep driveway to our home. Then I noticed he had something in his other hand. A piece of paper – some sort of artwork. I caught my breath as, in a flash, it came to me that he’d made me a Mother’s Day card. He had no idea what it meant for there to be something called Mother’s Day, but if they were making something for their moms, well, by golly, he could do that.

Innocence and pure unadulterated love are the remarkable gifts we get from our children, and that I was now the guardian of that innocence and the recipient of that love had not struck me with any great force until that moment. So I was a complete mess by the time they entered the house, but I welcomed the card with as much joy and graciousness as I could muster through the tears that wouldn’t stop flowing down my cheeks.

* * *

This breakfast dish is one you’ll love any day, Mother’s Day or not. I don’t know why it’s called Paris Breakfast – it’s from an ancient cookbook issue of my hometown local newspaper, and the friend of my mother’s who contributed it has long ago passed on to that great Kitchen in the sky. I posted it several years ago, as a Happy New Year’s Day breakfast, but without a photo. (New Year’s Day being the wrong time entirely to ask me to get out my camera.) This time, you can see for yourself that it looks delicious, and I promise you, it delivers on the look. I don’t think anyone has ever made it for me, but one of my sons claims it’s his favorite breakfast treat when I make it for him. And am I happy to make it for him? You bet.

Amazingly, the dish takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Also, because you concoct the whole thing in the blender – that’s right, in your blender! – it’s actually fun to make. The key is in the timing: you want to have the pie pan hot from the oven and the blender mixture well blended, simultaneously. So on the last blending cycle, you should actually be removing the pie pan from the oven while the blending is going on. The beautiful puff that develops in the oven will disappear almost immediately when you remove the pan, but that’s just the way it goes.

Paris Breakfast

Serves 2.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs
½ cup milk (whole, skim or part-skim – your choice), at room temperature (I microwaved mine for 15 seconds to get it there)
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or Cointreau or any other orange-flavored liqueur)
2 tablespoons sugar
Juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Special equipment: a 10-inch glass pie plate.

Preheat oven to 400º. [Kitchen Goddess note: This is one of those recipes in which mise en place is critical. So stop reading now and go get all your ingredients measured out and ready. Then come back.]

Put the butter in a 10-inch glass pie plate and put
the pie plate into the hot oven. Once the butter has melted (about 4 minutes), brush it around the sides and bottom of the pie plate, and return it to the oven.

Ready to pour.
Put the eggs, milk, orange liqueur, sugar, lemon juice, and salt into a blender and blend briefly (about 5 seconds). Add the flour and blend again until frothy (another 25-30 seconds).

Scrape down the sides of the blender and run the blender again while you – carefully! – remove the hot pie plate from the oven. The butter will have begun to brown at this point. Working quickly (but still carefully), pour the mixture into the plate and bake 15 minutes.

On the way into the oven.
Remove the finished product from the oven and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serve with crisp bacon or fruit (or both) and your favorite jam or syrup.

The Kitchen Goddess wishes you a very happy Mother’s Day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

¡Olé! It’s Cinco de Mayo, Time to Celebrate
What’s cooking? Simply Savory Guacamole and Crazy Margaritas

I don’t know why EVERY holiday catches me by surprise, but there it is. I’ve just realized that Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow – ack! now it’s today, because it took me so long to put together this post. And let’s not even discuss the fact that this coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. Ever since our sons graduated from the school system, I no longer have markers like Columbus Day and Spring Break to remind me of time passing. When you’re retired, every day is Saturday.

But back to Cinco de Mayo. Now you may or may not know that the Kitchen Goddess grew up on Tex-Mex food. In San Antonio, where I was born and raised, Tex-Mex is the cuisine du jour not just on the Cinco de Mayo (and how many times do you get to use French and Spanish in the same sentence?), but every day of the year. In the public schools I attended from elementary through high school, Wednesday was Tex-Mex day for all 12 years. Probably still is. In high school, even when it wasn’t Wednesday, we’d haul ass most days over to a tiny Tex-Mex place where we could eat our fill for less than a dollar. And as likely as not, my family would order the stuff to pick up from a nearby restaurant any time my mom didn’t feel like cooking, which was at least once a week.

In San Antonio, tortilla chips with bean dip and chile con queso are de rigueur as party fare. (OMG, English and Spanish food terms with French – it’s a linguistic free-for-all! Can you tell I’m having fun?) In fact, I’ve just returned from a three-day high school reunion there where we had Tex-Mex for dinner on Friday and for brunch on Sunday, and everyone loved it. Salsa is mother’s milk to this group.

Our brunch at La Fonda on Main in San Antonio. Photo by Cindi Bless Bullen.

Historical note: Cinco de Mayo is a celebration – not of Mexico’s Independence Day, which is September 16 – but of an unlikely victory by the Mexican army over the French in the town of Puebla in 1862. In a classic David-vs-Goliath fight, the Mexicans decisively defeated the French, despite having an army about half the size. It took another four years for the Mexicans to finally evict Napoleon III’s army, who were trying to establish an empire that would favor French interests, but the Battle of Pueblo provided an important boost in morale for the Mexicans. Today, Cinco de Mayo celebrations take place all over the U.S., and even in parts of Canada.

The Kitchen Goddess loves to celebrate almost anything, especially if there are some authentic and tasty foods involved. Two of the essentials to any legitimate Cinco de Mayo festivities are guacamole and margaritas. Now I want to say right here that there are a thousand recipes for guac, and probably two thousand for ’ritas. This guac is mine, and it’s so easy I have taught it to my husband, who now thinks he’s a guac expert. I think that’s cute, so I haven’t disabused him of the notion. It’s fairly simple, and you may wish to start with mine and add things like raw onion or cumin or cilantro or jalapeño. The KG doesn’t like raw onion or really hot spiciness, so onions and jalapeños are never a part of our concoction. But we get a lot of compliments on this one, and sometimes simple is best.

The KG has boldly stolen this margarita recipe from friends who grew up in New Jersey, and who said they got it from friends in the South, who got it from other friends. Which only goes to tell you that it’s good enough to pass around. I’d heard about this particular mix, and was, frankly, horrified. But the New Jersey friends made a batch for a recent party and offered the KG one without letting on to the ingredients. Well, friends, let me just say that you must try this before you dismiss it out of hand. Purists will gag at the list and consider burning the KG on a rotisserie grill, but they would be foolish to do so without testing it out. And that’s all I’ll say.

Kitchen Goddess note on buying avocados: If you’re eating them today or tomorrow, buy avocados that yield slightly to gentle pressure in the palm of your hand. Don’t poke them, which causes bruising. Unripe avocados are hard to the touch but will ripen at room temperature in 3-4 days. Avoid ones with indentations, as those are signs of soft spots/bruises. The skin of California avocados (sold both as Hass and as Haas) turns very dark green – almost black – and is covered in small bumps when ripe.

Simply Savory Guacamole

Makes 2 cups.


2 Hass avocados, ripe but not soft
juice of one lemon (or lime juice, if you prefer), about 3 tablespoons
¼ cup Rotel Tomatoes & Green Chilies (from a 10-ounce can), plus 1 tablespoon liquid (see directions below)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
freshly ground pepper to taste (3-4 good grinds)

Cut the avocados in half, then peel and seed them. Add them to a small but deep bowl and, using either a fork or a potato masher or (Kitchen Goddess’s preference) a pastry blender, mash the avocado to a rough texture. Add the lemon juice and continue to mash until the mixture reaches a consistency you like. (The Kitchen Goddess likes it with small bits of avocado still intact.)

Measure out the tomatoes from the can, using a fork or slotted spoon to avoid the juice, and add the tomatoes to the bowl. Then measure out 1 tablespoon of the liquid from the can and add that as well. Add the garlic salt, and stir well. Taste to correct seasoning, and add pepper.

Cover the finished guacamole with cellophane wrap, tucking the cellophane down into the bowl so that it forms a film on top of the guacamole. This will keep the guacamole from turning brown as it chills. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips or (low-cal version) red bell pepper and cucumber pieces.

Margaritas Locas (Crazy Margaritas)

Makes 8 6-ounce drinks.


1 12-ounce can frozen limeade
1 12-ounce can or bottle of beer (I use Corona)
12 ounces tequila
12 ounces 7-Up
limes, cut in wedges
kosher salt, about ¼-inch deep, in a saucer or shallow bowl

Pour the first four ingredients into a pitcher, stir, and chill. When ready to serve, use a wedge of lime to moisten the rims of the glasses, then dip the rims into the salt. Serve the margarita mixture over ice in the salt-rimmed glasses. Add a wedge of lime to each glass.