Monthly Archives: August 2010

Peach Cobbler

Besides sweet potatoes, one of the foods I dreamt most about while living in London was peaches. Juicy, soft, ripe peaches. The kind that taste like sunshine in tangible, edible form. After all, the sunshine I soaked up while operating on Greenwich Meantime was negligible. At least I could consume sunshine–working closely with milk to try my darndest to ward off a case of adult-onset rickets.

I’ve made this recipe too many times to count. I receive frequent demands for it. Maybe I shouldn’t reveal the recipe’s simplicity and should continue to let people think that I’m some kind of cobbler connoisseur. I’ll be generous, though, and share the sunshine with others. I’ve adapted the recipe from the second recipe listed on this page.

In case you weren’t aware, peaches and citrus, with their equally warm demeanors, pair wonderfully together. That’s why I blanch and peel the peaches the day before. Then I slice ’em up and put a bit of orange juice and/or lemon juice on them. Add some cinnamon, mix, and marinate in the refrigerator for as long as you can bear to wait.

After you spoon the cold, citrusy peaches onto the melted butter and batter combo, the loveliest thing happens as the cobbler heats up in the oven. The batter rises up over the peaches, as though it’s trying to remove all memory of the peaches’ isolated, refrigerated past. When butter-batter and peaches cuddle, cobbler results. At least, that’s what occurs in my world of food personification.

Peach Cobbler:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Eight peeled and sliced fresh peaches, with their juices

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
2) Put the butter in a 9×13-inch baking dish and put the dish in the preheating oven. While the butter is melting, mix up the batter by combining the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, vanilla and milk.
3) When the butter is completely melted, remove the pan and pour the batter into the melted butter. Then, carefully spoon the peaches and juice evenly over the batter.
4) Return dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

I pledge not to post about carbs next time. Seriously. Any recipe ideas that don’t involve a starch-a-palooza?

Homemade Pizza

My latest kitchen pride ‘n’ joy: my marble rolling pin. Isn’t it lovely?

My roommate and I find inspiration in the strangest of places. For example, we were sitting in class together yesterday watching Domino’s ads about the company’s new and improved recipe. Normally, this point in the class and in this blog post would be where I go on a long diatribe about cheap food and its ultimate cost to society, yada yada yada. Would probably complain a bit about food advertising and how I’m willing to bet that the new recipe only tastes a little less like what I imagine cardboard to taste like.

Instead, I came home and made pizza. From scratch. The way Domino’s wishes it could if its employees had the time to delight in the pleasures of watching dough slowly rise in its warm glass bowl and the smell of rubbing garlic and olive oil onto a freshly-rolled crust. (Please don’t look at the aforementioned crust too closely in the pictures–it’s embarrassingly misshapen.)

All I’m saying is, homemade pizza is so worth the extra effort. The dough is super-simple to make, and after the dough rises, pizza construction takes less than 30 minutes. That’s how long it takes Domino’s to deliver, apparently.

For the record, this recipe is adapted from my friend’s mom. She’s Italian. You can trust her.

Homemade Pizza:
1 cup hot water
1 packet yeast (2 and 1/4 tsp)
2 TB sugar
1 tsp salt
2 and 1/2 cups flour
olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
4 TB tomato sauce
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
3 TB Italian seasoning

1) Use hot water to warm bowl, pour it out, and then put one cup hot water in bowl. Dissolve yeast in water.
2) Add sugar, salt and two cups flour. Knead dough, adding last 1/2 cup flour a little at a time.
3) Grease bottom of bowl and top of dough with olive oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in draft-free place for approximately one hour. Grease bottom of large pizza pan or cookie sheet with olive oil.
4) When dough is doubled in size, punch down and roll out with rolling pin. Shape onto pizza pan, using palm of hand to roll out to edge.
5) Rub the minced garlic with olive oil on the dough, then spread on tomato sauce and spices.
6) Add meat and vegetable toppings to suit your taste; I just put on mushrooms and broccoli, then added some feta and parmesan ’cause I could. Then I topped with tons and tons of mozzarella cheese.
7) Cook at 400-425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, checking to ensure bottom of pizza is golden brown. Recipe will make one large and one medium thin crust pizza.

Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies

Yes, I made whoopie. Pies. Recently I’ve noticed that an increasing number of publications are predicting the end of the cupcake trend, with these cookie sandwiches replacing cupcakes oh-so-sweetly, and rather sneakily. (See this Times’ article. Oh, and Lee Schrager has endorsed them, too.) Now, I don’t make a living predicting upcoming food trends, not that I wouldn’t adore a job in that field, but I won’t pretend that I do not appreciate the ease of a whoopie pie. With the cake encasing the frosting rather than sinking underneath it, a one-handed approach to eating is significantly more possible. Also, no frosting up one’s nose. I appreciate that.

Anyway, my dear roommate is celebrating her 21st birthday today, so I made mint chocolate whoopie pies for her party last night. Having served cupcakes at parties in the past, I can honestly say that these babies held up way better under pressure. They didn’t crumble all over our new carpet or induce any serious sugar comas. The Bakerella recipe I used was ideally dark chocolatey, a rich, not overwhelmingly sweet flavor that paired well with my mint buttercream frosting. They’re more like cakes than cookies. And not anything like pies. I definitely recommend using a Silpat for its non-stick qualities and a cookie dough baller to achieve uniformly-sized whoopies.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
3) In a bowl, sift together, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
4) In another bowl, beat butter, shortening and sugar with a mixer on low until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.
5) Add egg and vanilla and beat for two more minutes.
6) Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk and beat on low until incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and milk and beat until combined.
7) Using a tablespoon or cookie dough baller (one of my favorite kitchen gadgets), drop batter on baking sheet two inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes each or until pies spring back when pressed gently.
8 ) Remove from oven and cool for about five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. If you have OCD, pair the similarly-shaped ones next to each other for some good-looking sandwiches.
9) Once cool, pipe frosting of your choice onto one whoopie cookie. Top with another similarly-shaped whoopie cookie.

I cannot recommend these highly enough for parties. I’m already trying to rationalize why I ought to buy the cookbook Whoopie Pies. Actually, I don’t even own Joy of Cooking yet. I need to get my cookbook priorities in order.

Has anyone else tried whoopie pies? Do you think it’s time for the cupcake trend to get burned?

Sweet Potato Fries

As I mentioned previously, I paired my crab cakes and pesto aioli with a side of sweet potato fries. For some strange reason, the food I most craved and missed while in London was sweet potato fries, a need that I have since satisfied on far too many occasions. These suckers are subtly sweet and highly addictive, especially with that aioli. I also aspire to dip them in a Buns-style chipotle mayo some time in the near future. Yes, I have big dreams. Big ole’ sweet potato dreams.

I should probably mention that these fries aren’t. Fried, that is. My pantry’s lack of vegetable/canola oil aside, I just can’t bring myself to fill up one of my pots with an obscene amount of oil that will inevitably end up all over our still-relatively-clean kitchen. My friend burned down her kitchen in a French Fry Frying Incident, so I just can’t take that chance.

Sweet Potato Fries:
two to three large sweet potatoes
olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
ground sea salt & black pepper to taste
Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning, if you have it

1) Slice potatoes into French fry-like pieces, trying to keep them as uniform as possible.
2) In a bowl, toss the potatoes with a few tablespoons of olive oil and the spices.
3) Arrange potatoes in a thin layer on a baking sheet.
4) Bake at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes in the middle of the oven. Crank up the heat to 475 degrees and move the rack to the top of the oven. Bake for another 5 or so minutes, until crispy on the outside.

You probably ought to double or triple this recipe, while you’re at it. They won’t last long.

Crab Cakes and Pesto Aioli

Tonight was one of those nights I was feeling particularly joyful to be back in the States. Specifically, back in the South ‘n’ East, where I can combine my love of Southern food and seafood into a fishy carb-fest. (Granted, the fish & chips fare of England could also be coined a “fishy carb-fest,” but my preference still lies below the Mason-Dixon line.)

I joined a Community Supported Fishery this summer, and I could not have been happier to receive a big container of crab meat this week. ‘Twas a sign from the coast and the currents that I needed to make crab cakes. My recipe is loosely based on this one. I found it to be a bit dry, so I added more mayonnaise. You could use another egg instead of an extra tablespoon of mayo, but then you might need to add more crushed crackers. I didn’t add any Old Bay because I didn’t have any, so I’ll have to see to that next time. A coarsely chopped red bell pepper would also make a delicious addition to the mixture. I will conclude, however, by saying that my anti-seafood roommate actually ate multiple bites of these crab cakes, so perhaps no changes are needed, after all.

Crab Cakes:
olive oil
2 green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic
16 ounces of crabmeat
1 egg
2 TB mayonnaise
1 tsp. cumin
5 ounces buttery crackers, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs

1) Mince the onions and garlic and soften in a pan with olive oil on medium heat for about three minutes.
2) Place onions and garlic in a bowl with all other ingredients except the panko crumbs.
3) Pour bread crumbs into shallow dish. Form crab meat mixture into 1/2-inch patties and press into panko crumbs on either side, coating the cakes thoroughly.
4) Cook on medium heat with olive oil until crisp and browned on both sides.

Because making crab cakes for the first time wasn’t ambitious enough, I made my first attempt at an aioli to top the crab cakes. I cheated, since I used pre-made mayo rather than spending half the evening combining olive oil and an egg, but I promise to attempt it from scratch next time. I added homemade pesto (recipe to come, I promise), but you could just use some fresh basil. Or stick with the intense garlic flavor on its own.

Pesto Aioli:
2 TB mayonnaise
lemon juice
olive oil
dash of cayenne pepper
more minced garlic, if desired

1) Mix ingredients. Try to practice self-control. Just try.

We also dipped our sweet potato fries in the aioli. I’m saving that simple (and even more quintessentially Southern) recipe for tomorrow, so stay tuned!

What’s your favorite Southern-inspired recipe? I’m trying to pay homage to this region as I rapidly approach graduation and the possibility of having to leave it.

Salted Caramel Frosting

I entered these, with my chocolate cupcake base, into The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill’s cupcake competition. While they didn’t win, I heard all good things about the frosting. (Confession: After baking an excessive amount of cupcakes these past few weeks, I couldn’t bear to eat even a crumb.) But I trust my friends’ endorsements. I burned my first attempt, and my second attempt hardened into an unpleasant pile on top of last night’s cupcakes.

So, for goodness’ sake, don’t overcook the brown sugar. Heat it, add the milk, and don’t linger around the stove. If anyone asks, though, you slaved away at the stove all day.

Salted Caramel Frosting:
1/4 C. butter
3/4 C. light brown sugar
1/4 C. evaporated milk
2 1/2 C. confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
dash of salt
sea salt

1) Melt butter in a heavy pot. Slowly add brown sugar, combining quickly.
2) Stir in evaporated milk. Remove from heat.
3) Stir in confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and salt.
4) Put in Ziploc bag or pastry bag and swirl onto cooled cupcakes.
5) Immediately top each cupcake with a small pinch of sea salt.

Okay, seriously. Last post about cupcakes for a good long while.

Moving In

It’s very exhausting. I’ll update properly when I’ve rested properly 🙂

A Weekend in Atlanta

Just arrived home from my weekend jaunt in Atlanta. This was the view from our hotel room at the Marriott Marquis. Thank you, Priceline.

The gastronomic pinnacle of our weekend was at Babs, a teeny basement restaurant with a small patio and a rustic interior. The owner is this fantastically flamboyant middle-aged man who berated us mercilessly and helped us burn up most of the calories we’d consumed with his hilarious one-liners. He gave us sweet potato fries for making us wait five minutes past our 1 p.m. reservation. (Devoured too quickly for me to snap a photo.) I ordered a pomegranate lemonade punctuated with pieces of fruit. The ideal solution for a hot summer day.

Our meals were insanely generous, just like the owner himself. Sausage, potato wedges, cheesy scrambled eggs and fruit slices overwhelmed my plate. And the sweet potato waffles, oh my. Light, fluffy, but not intensely sweet. Perfect with the homemade peach honey jam. Everything was served with a side of snark.

Perhaps because we fed his ego, the owner fed us a free lemonade tart. We attacked it with an impressive fervor considering our meal portions. The tart truly tasted like the dessert embodiment of a glass of lemonade. Refreshingly tart and the sweetest ending we could’ve asked for.

If you’re ever in Atlanta, go to Babs. Seriously. But bring your Big Girl panties, because the owner will make fun of you and your waistline will grow to previously unknown proportions.

Being back in the South has renewed my adoration for Sunday brunch. Since seven hours is a long way to drive for a meal, I’m wondering: What do you think the best brunch restaurants in the Triangle are?

Food-Friendly Books

There is truly no better way to start a weekend than with a package from Amazon, particularly one including a cookbook full of food porn and a food writer’s memoir.

I’ll be in Atlanta this weekend celebrating a dear friend’s birthday and getting nostalgic at Something Corporate’s reunion tour, so expect some Atlanta restaurant reviews come Monday. (Any last minute recommendations?)

In the meantime, inspired by my new food-friendly books, I’m wondering: What are your favorite cookbooks and books about food? I’m craving some additions to my bookshelf.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

As I mentioned, I set aside a few chocolate cupcakes on which to perform experiments of a sweet ‘n’ sinister nature.

Well, consider this second post a crucial feature of any food blog: food failure.

I envisioned a chocolate-covered strawberry in cupcake form, a la Hello Cupcake‘s “Prima Donna.” My results were more akin to a faintly pink, sugary, semi-liquid mess. Like my face at our midnight breakfast, post-prom.

I used the same buttercream recipe, but substituted the mint and milk with a few tablespoons of pureed strawberries. Too much liquid, not enough thickener. (I added meringue powder, to no avail.) And yet, despite the puree overload, the flavor wasn’t nearly intense enough. I’ve tried strawberry jam in the past, but it’s equally disastrous and even more sweet.

Does anyone have a strawberry frosting recipe that doesn’t melt under pressure?