I made that!

So I finally cracked.

Posted in I Like Salt Too, Southernness by brandi on July 29, 2009

I miss cooking. A lot. I’m on a little “holiday” from work, meaning I’ve got all the time in the world. But I’m not supposed to use my hands. It’s been 4 weeks or so since I started resting, and still no clarity as to what’s going on. I’m still in pain, and it seems to be spreading. Tomorrow I get to see a rheumatologist and start the lovely process of bloodwork. Good times…

In the meantime, I am bored. I’ve even resorted to arguing health care reform on my hometown’s local newspaper’s website. Sad. So tonight I cracked. I wanted food. Home cooked food. Despite my current useless culinary status, the CSA box just keeps on coming, and those veggies aren’t cooking themselves. So I went “comfort food”, to make me feel better about this annoying moment in my life. Creamed corn, caramelized carrots, lemony zucchini fritters, brown lima beans stewed in bacon. Easy stuff mostly. Stuff that doesn’t really need recipes or technique, just some attention. And some bacon of course.

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And biscuits. Which was probably not the smartest move, but hey, at this point, what’s one more ibuprofen?

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OK, I will officially stop feeling sorry for myself now.

Gnocchi!

Posted in Because, like, I'm Italian, sort of, I Like Salt Too by brandi on July 21, 2009

FINALLY. John cooks for me. Granted there was a dinner party, and we were making an appetizer. But still. I love it when he cooks. And there’s no better way to make me  happy than with homemade gnocchi.

He started by boiling potatoes and pushing them through a ricer.

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Then he mixed in some flour, salt and egg.

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And kneaded it into a dough.

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Then he rolled out little rods and chopped them into little pillows.

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Many many pillows!

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And ok, so I had to do SOMETHING. So I made a sauce to toss those little gnocchi in. A cilantro jalepeno pesto, with a little cream. It was perfect, all I had to do was throw it all in the food processor. So no hurting of my delicate little hands…

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And we served it with some sauteed sweet corn & zucchini, topped with a bit of pancetta and some parmesan.

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And it was awesome.

CILANTRO JALEPENO PESTO:

2 bunches cilantro leaves

2-4 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup almonds

1 jalepeno pepper, seeded

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

- Process everything in the food processor until smooth scraping down the sides.

- Through the feed tube as the machine is running, slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil and continue pureeing until smooth.

Happy Birthday Cherry Almond Cupcakes

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Celebrating with Cake! by brandi on July 18, 2009

So I know I said I needed 4 weeks off, but there was an emergency. A birthday emergency. Today was Pantea’s birthday BBQ and I am the official cupcake maker. I wanted a cupcake that would make Pantea smile, and I knew she was a big fan of the cherry almond combination. So I had a plan. And John offered to fill in for my busted hands.

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First I (John) made an almond cake batter and poured it into cupcake pans.

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Then I (John) placed a cherry on top. As the cake baked, the cherry would sink down to the middle of the cake, a nice little surprise for whoever bit into it.

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While the cakes baked I (John) got started making the frosting. I wanted a swiss meringue buttercream, so I whipped up a meringue.

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Then I (John) whipped in the butter. In case you didn’t already know, there is a LOT of butter in buttercream. Makes me happy just thinking about it.

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Once I had a nice fluffy buttercream, I (John) mixed in some strained cherry jam.

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I let my cupcakes cool on a rack.

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Then I (John) brushed on some of that cherry jam.

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Then topped them with the cherry buttercream.

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And finished them off with some toasted almond slices and a cherry.

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Happy Birthday Pantea!

ALMOND CUPCAKES (adapted from Flo Braker):

2/3 cup AP flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs, room temperature

8 ounces almond paste, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

5 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

- Preheat oven to 350° F.

- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

- Pulse the almond paste and sugar in a food processor until mixture is sandy.

- Pour almond mixture into mixer bowl and beat with paddle for 30 seconds.

- Continue on low speed while adding the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon. Stop the machine after all the buttcr has been added, and scrape the mixture clinging to the sides down into the center of bowl. Increase the speed to medium and cream until mixture is smooth, lighter in color, and fluffy in texture (about 3 minutes). No lumps of almond paste should be visible.

- With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly pour in the eggs one at a time.

- Continue to cream, scraping the sides of the bowl at least once, until the mixture appears light in color and fluffy in texture (about 2 minutes). Beat in the lemon zest.

- Fold in the flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl often and mixing until smooth.

- Pour the batter into a lined cupcake pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center is removed free of cake.

- Allow to cool. Makes around 18 cupcakes.

CHERRY BUTTERCREAM

4 oz egg whites (roughly 4 large eggs)

8 oz sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

22 tbsp (11 oz) butter, room temperature, chopped into ½” chunks.

1 jar of good (no corn syrup) cherry jam

- Strain cherry jam through sieve.

- Heat up some water in a large saucepan.

- Put egg whites and sugar in a kitchen aid mixing bowl and whisk together.

- Place bowl in simmering water and whisk until egg whites register 145 on a thermometer.

- Remove from heat and whip at high speed until cooled and you have a stiff meringue.

- Gradually add the butter in pieces, while whipping constantly.

- Continue mixing until smooth and creamy. The buttercream will go through a phase inversion as (or after) the butter is added. This will make it looked curdled. Keep mixing, it will come back together.

- Add strained cherry jam, 1 TBSP at a time until it tastes like you want.

*Keep buttercream at room temperature, it’s a pain to warm up if it’s been refrigerated.

uuuuuuuuugh…

Posted in All Sugar All The Time by brandi on July 3, 2009

I should be writing about 4th of july foods. I had PLANS people. BIG PLANS. Plans involving BBQs, homemade sloppy joe sliders on homemade brioche buns, cucumber pickles, baked beans (and I make some mean baked beans), pies, popsicles. But instead I’m on leave of absence from my job. “But Brandi”, you say, “doesn’t that leave you more time for painstakingly tedious kitchen experiments?” Yes, it does. Except I’m on leave because of a nasty flare-up of tendinitis in my left hand, which is the good one. So I’m gonna slow down a tad, let my hand rest a bit. It’s actually strapped into a sinister little sleeve, so I don’t have much choice. I’m banking on making puppy face at my friends until they cook for me, and then I’ll write about that. But until that happens, it’s all takeout and Trader Joes frozen chicken tikka masala meals. I did manage to convince John to chop up our CSA box veggies for a soup, so there’s hope that I don’t die of missing homemade food sadness disease.

Next week I’m heading to Bama for my R&R. Mostly to get out of John’s hair, but also to give my grandma the pleasure of taking care of me. I’ll be gone for 10 days and hoping to return with happy and usable fingers…

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