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Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Insalata Caprese

Insalata Caprese, using amazingly flavorful tomatoes from my generous friend Silke's farmshare.

Tonight's family dinner made me happy. Very happy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Here's a tip for you. If you thought you'd have a nice caprese and then realized you wouldn't and therefore decide to make pesto with the basil that you've almost let go bad, then add a small handful of baby spinach. That'll green it right up.

Here's another tip for you. If you're going to taste the pesto straight from the food processor, unplug it first!!!

Ginger-Spice Sandwich Cookies...

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good
She was very, very good.
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Ginger-Spice Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Cream, Fine Cooking #99, page 68

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gin & Tonic

About 15 years ago, I lived in the cutest townhouse. My neighbor and I became close friends, partly through our mutual enjoyment of food and drink. We had some good times... a crawfish boil, caviar on tiny spoons, a salsa contest that brought sweat to his brow and tears to my eyes, and a Bloody Mary taste test during which his friend -- my future husband! -- arrived and promptly decided I'd be fun to date.

In the summertime, Cliff would knock on my front door with two highballs of gin & tonic. I'm not sure how a person can knock with his hands full, but he did. We'd sit on the patio, under an arbor of wisteria, sipping those refreshing drinks, sometimes reading quietly, other times chatting, deciding what to throw on the grill.

I came to associate gin & tonic with summertime afternoons on a patio. I'm not sure I could drink a gin & tonic in the winter. Memorial Day through Labor Day, like white patent leather shoes.

Cinnamon Squares

Baking From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Friday, May 22, 2009


My friends Mark & Susan occasionally give me the turnips from their CSA share, because they don't care for them and I love them. I cooked the greens to have for my lunches (for dinner, I'll puree the roots with a russet potato, some leeks, and a bit of cream).

Last night, Susan asked if I'd used bacon fat in the greens. A true southern girl would have, but I didn't. Not because I'm opposed to it -- I LOVE BACON FAT!! -- only because I didn't have any. However, I did make cornbread, which is a "must" with turnip greens. Mmmm...

When I was real little, our cornbread was made with buttermilk and all cornmeal. No flour or sugar; that would be Yankee cornbread. But later my mom was given a recipe called California Cornbread, which tasted nearly like dessert to us and we often ate it for breakfast. I've adapted it since then, and without further ado, I give to you my standard cornbread recipe:

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
4 T. canola (or other neutral flavored) oil

I've never written directions for it. Best I can tell you is to whisk all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl (or more likely, I use the measuring cup I put the milk in), whisk together the wet ingredient. Dump the wet into the dry and stir just until it's all moistened; don't overdo it.

I cook it in my tiny (#5) cast iron skillet, but you could double the amounts and use an 8x8" baking pan. Cast iron gives it a better crust though, especially if you grease it first and put it in the oven while the oven preheats to 425 degrees.

My mother-in-law asked me once how long to bake it. I swear I was not being a smart alek when I said "until it's done". Honest. I don't know... 15 minutes? 20? It will have nice brown flecks on it, and if you poke it with a toothpick, there won't be any wet batter on it when you pull it out.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

My complaint with these cookies is that they are pixie-sized. When cookies are too little, you end up eating two or three anyway. Why not eat one big cookie to begin with? I guess I like hefty cookies.

Basic Whole Grain Cookies, by King Arthur Flour with optional add-ins of Michigan dried tart cherries & Guittard semi-sweet chips. Step-by-step demo here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spatchcock Chicken

Spatchcock is fun to say. The thing is, it's probably not nearly as much fun for the poor chicken as it is for me. It's as if I'm mocking it. I'm not. I swear I'm not. Maybe mock-mocking.

My original plan was to do a step-by-step demo, the way I did salmon steaks. But as I was shooting photos, what I realized is that the pictures aren't particularly flattering, and I'm not sure I want the evidence on my blog. If you just google "spatchcock chicken", you'll find demos galore, including youtube videos. So maybe you don't need me after all and could just take care of things yourself. That would disappoint me if it turned out to be true.

Spatchcock chickens cook more quickly and more evenly than trussed birds. Plan ahead when you do it. Shove some herbs under the skin (eek! the poor chicken gets ravaged! I feel bad enjoying it so much!) and sprinkle it liberally with kosher salt. Leave it uncovered (or very loosely covered if your chicken has any remaining modesty -- mine apparently does not) in the refrigerator overnight.

When you see it the next day, you're going to think I'm crazy and that I've ruined your dinner, because it's going to look withered and dry. Which is going to result in amazingly crisp skin, but supermoist meat. And you'll thank me. Endlessly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

European Peasant Bread

The house smells good this morning!

European Peasant Bread, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pepperoni Pan Pizza

Frnakly, there's no better pizza than what Eric and I make using Peter Reinhart's dough and our very own freshly made ricotta. But sometimes the men in this house want deep-dish pepperoni pan pizza. And if I'm going to eat deep-dish pizza, especially if it's going to have meat on it, then I'd rather eat this than some cheap take-out.

(Although, now that I think about it, this was super yummy too!)

Pepperoni Pan Pizza, Cook's Country, 4/2006

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rice Krispy Treats

As if I haven't had enough to eat already today. And Thursday I get DEXA'ed. What am I thinking? I should have had that done 3 weeks ago!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Supermoist Banana-Nut Muffins (sans nuts)

For the most part, I'm not crazy about nuts in my baked goods. This was confirmed by a bite or two of banana walnut cake on a picnic last week. Imagine my delight when I read the note at the bottom of this recipe:

Flavor Variation: My kids would never forgive me if I didn't share one of their favorite versions of these muffins. On occasion, I substitute an equal amount of semisweet chocolate chips for the chopped walnuts.


From the author who gave me my signature cookies and my signature cake, as well as too many other favorites to single out one (even though I just did), Abigail Johnson Dodge, The Weekend Baker.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


So many breads and so little time to bake them! Things end up being on my to-do list for far too long, until just the right opportunity prompts action.

Not this time. The March & April 2009 issue of Cook's Illustrated includes an article entitled "Discovering Authentic Ciabatta". Opportunity. Action. Dinner tonight. With mussels steamed in white wine.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Vanilla-Coconut Cupcakes

There is no coconut meat (or as my favorite uncle would say, "hair") in these. Coconut milk is reduced on the stove-top until it's the consistency of creme fraiche. It gives both the cupcakes and also the frosting a delicate hint of coconut flavor.

Happy birthday, BFF.

Vanilla-Coconut Cupcakes
, Abigail Johnson Dodge, Bon Appétit April 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie?

Cook's Illustrated calls this the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie. Not being a connoisseur of the finer points of chocolate chips cookies, I shall reserve judgment.

I will go so far as to say that the one that I ate was worth far more than the flour tortilla I traded for it.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Potato Rosemary Bread

"Lately I’ve been feeling low,
A remedy is what I'm seeking..."

I'm oddly out of sorts. I thought baking might be the cure.

Potato Rosemary Bread, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads