6.30.2010

Diversity quota: a pancake for everyone

On Saturday evening we enjoyed the buttermilk fried chicken (post coming), which naturally led to buttermilk pancakes the following morning. To provide further motivation to tackle a Sunday morning meal, the excess from a family-sized carton of blueberries had been patiently waiting for the past month and a few bananas that were looking past their prime. The results were an excellent way to start the backend of a weekend, buttermilk pancakes in four varieties; blueberry, banana, chocolate chip & banana/chocolate chip. Note: Using the slightly overripe bananas, which have higher concentrations of fructose, provides sweet, caramelized spots when in contact with the griddle.  

Buttermilk Pancakes 


Total cook & prep time: 45 minutes


Four servings

Ingredients:
3 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 ¾ cups buttermilk
4 eggs
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup frozen blueberries, and/or
2 slightly overripe bananas, and/or
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Warm a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven
Whisk first four ingredients in large bowl
Heat large griddle over medium heat (350 degrees if you have an electric griddle)
Separately whisk buttermilk, eggs and butter.  
Gently whisk into dry ingredients: do not over mix
Brush hot griddle with butter and/or vegetable shortening.  
Use 1/3 cup portions of batter to produce each pancake. 
Quickly place/press blueberries, bananas and/or chocolate chips.  


Cook until each side is golden (~three minutes).  
Keep warm in oven until they have all been finished.  
Lightly grease griddle after two batches.  Enjoy!

    ELZ & PAB’s review:  The buttermilk pancake foundation closely resembles, “Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes” in the July ’07 issue of Bon Appétit.  We found it fluffy and flavorful without being dry. An excellent way to finish off the buttermilk binge! 

    Waste not, want not
    elz + pab

    6.29.2010

    Veggies going south? Make soup.


    It was pretty toasty here in Boston today weather-wise, so we decided to make a quick din tonight instead of concocting some intense meal that would have us in a hot kitchen all evening.  So, we decided on asparagus soup.   Why?  Because soup is easy.  (No, not as easy a popping the lid off some processed, high sodium can of Progresso...but far healthier.)  Since we had some leftover asparagus that was starting to wilt and an open carton of heavy cream, it was a no brainer on the type of soup to make. 

    We purchased the asparagus at the market over a week ago.  After its peak and starting to go bad, it would not have sufficed on the grill or as a side anymore.  But low and behold, we gave it a shot in the soup, and it turned out flavorful, an excellent use of our slightly past-its-prime asparagus.  
    Cream of Asparagus Soup



    Prep time: 20 minutes
    Cook time: 30 minutes
    Four small servings
    Ingredients:
    1 pound of asparagus
    1 medium onion, chopped
    2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
    3 cups of chicken broth
    1/3 cup of heavy cream (or crème fraîche)
    Salt & pepper to taste
    1/4 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
    2 tablespoons of fresh chives, finely chopped




    Directions:
    • Cut tips off of the asparagus  (You can save the tips to garnish soup with, however since our asparagus had seen better days...we tossed the tips & opted for fresh chives instead.)
    • Chop asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces
    • Using a large heavy pot, stir the chopped onion in one tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat until softened
    • Add asparagus pieces, and salt & pepper to taste
    • Cook, stirring, for five minutes. 
    • Add the three cups broth and simmer (covered) for about 15-20 minutes, until the asparagus is very tender
    • (If you want to use the asparagus tips as garnish, cook the tips in salted boiling water for three-four minutes until tender, then drain
    • Purée the soup in a food processor in small batches, combine in bowl.
    • Mix in the heavy cream, return to pan.  



























    • Feel free to mix in additional broth if you feel your soup is too thick consistency-wise.
    • Season with additional salt & pepper
    • Bring soup to a boil, whisking in the last tablespoon of butter.
    • Add lemon juice
    • Garnish with chives




    ELZ & PAB's review:  Really great soup!  It turned out well...considering we made it to essentially get rid of a vegetable that was about to go bad.  All things considered, the soup was delicious.  We ate it hot, but a soup like this can also be served cold.  ELZ loves cold soup and is looking forward to lunch time leftovers already.  We'll see if PAB can resist finishing it off during the day tomorrow, as his "office" is next door to the kitchen.

    Waste not, want not
    elz + pab

    6.24.2010

    101: An Apple a Day...

    Well good morning, happy Thursday.  Last night we had the best time at our friends' house for dinner!  And boy, did they go all out: we had grilled surf & turf (scallops and steak) paired with wine.  To top of the meal, they whipped up some fresh cream for the homemade rhubarb crumble, and served it with a fresh honeydew/papaya/apple drink straight from their juicer. Speaking of fresh fruit...


    Modern day transportation infrastructure makes us fortunate enough to have fruits available to us year round (usually at quite a high environmental cost).  However, fruits still do have a season - and it is during this season when you will find them at their peak quality (and minimum distance traveled to get to your table!).
    APPLES: peak in the late summer and fall.  
    Can store unwrapped in the refrigerator for a few weeks. 
    Cut right before use, as they brown quickly when exposed to air.
    BANANAS: peak in the fall and winter. 
    Store at room temperature.  
    As an ingredient in baked goods, overripe bananas are the best, so once they start to go bad on your counter, peel them, put them in a resealable bag, and store in the freezer until use. (If you are lazy like PAB, you can just throw them in the freezer unpeeled, though they are finger numbing to peel while defrosting you save a plastic bag!)
    STRAWBERRIES: peak in the spring
    BLUE/BLACK/RASPBERRIES: peak in summer and fall
    Store in the refrigerator.  
    If you are not using within one day, store in an airtight container with paper towels lining the top & bottom to absorb excess moisture & prevent molding.  Use within five days.  
    Rinse berries right before you use them, not before you store them.
    CRANBERRIES: peak in the late summer and early fall
    Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
    Cranberries also freeze very well. 
    GRAPES: peak in the summer and fall. 
    Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. 
    MANGOES: peak in the spring. 
    Store at room temperature until ripe, then transfer to the refrigerator and enjoy within a week.

    MELONS: peak in the summer and fall.
    Store at room temperature for a few days.  Once ripe, place in the refrigerator (whole, or cut up in an airtight container).
    PEARS: peak in the late summer through early spring.
    Store at room temperature for a few days.  Once ripe, place in the refrigerator.
    PINEAPPLES: peak in winter to summer.
    Store at room temperature.
    Waste not, want not
    elz + pab

    6.22.2010

    Banana bread

    As one of PAB's staple dishes, he sure does make one hell of a banana bread loaf.  Written on a now tattered recipe card, it's nice to finally have this recipe archived!  We were talking over dinner this evening about how much fun this blog is - if not only for other's enjoyment, but ours as well.  At a minimum, we have a great way to keep all of our recipes in order and look back over time, reliving the months past through, well...our eating.






    Ingredients:


    • 1/2 cup of butter
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup mashed bananas
    • 1/2 cup of sour cream
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/2 cup of mashed walnuts, optional
    • 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, optional...for chocolate lovers (sprinkle chips on top before placing in oven)










    Directions:
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Cream butter, sugar, and eggs
    Sift dry ingredients &amp
    Combine with butter/sugar/eggs
    Add bananas, sour cream, and vanilla
    Pour into well-battered 9x5 loaf pan
    Bake for one-hour


    ELZ & PAB's review: We don't really need to say much here, as we both love this recipe.  PAB has been making his banana bread for years.  It is quick & easy, and makes a great hostess gift!

    Waste not, want not
    elz & pab


    Banana Bread, Chocolate Chips Optional on Foodista

    6.21.2010

    Smokin' in the city

    How was your weekend? We had a beautiful Saturday here in Boston, and took full advantage of the nice weather. ELZ's brand-new bicycle arrived on Friday afternoon..so obviously PAB had to drop everything to finish the assembly. Excited for the maiden voyage, we headed down to South Dartmouth to bike alongside the ocean. Sunday was filled with Father's Day celebrations; it is so nice to spend time with the ones you love!

    Before we begin with today's post, we would give a special shout out to the city of Boston and PAB's parents. In a previous dwelling, ELZ had openly defied fire code rules stating that propane grills cannot be placed on a balcony. Armed with this limited knowledge, we operated under the assumption that charcoal grills were kosher. In reality (a place we rarely like to visit), propane grills are permissible as long as they are on a deck 3ft from the building while charcoal is prohibited outright (Boston BBQ Code). While not normally inclined to such blatant disregard of rules, we came to terms with this particular oversight for a few reasons:

    a) Boston Fire Department cites prohibiting charcoal because of improper use of starter fuel... luckily our cheapness motivated us to ditch the lighter fluid and go with the newspaper chimney.

    b) This particular Weber grill was a gift from PAB's parents, and you simply cannot discard items with sentimental value

    c) It can be used to slow roast some pretty spectacular Memphis Style Dry Rub Ribs!





    Prep time: 20 minutes
    Cook time: 3 hours & 30 minutes
    Six servings


    Ingredients:
    Rub:
    4 tablespoons paprika
    4 tablespoons light brown sugar
    1 tablespoon honey
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    2 tablespoon salt
    4 teaspoons chili powder
    3 teaspoons ground black pepper
    2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    Ribs:
    2 racks of St. Louis style spareribs (~3lbs each)
    1 tablespoon honey
    1/2 cup apple juice
    3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    Large disposable aluminum roasting pan
    Optional: soaked wood chips (we did not use) 


    Charcoal Grill Preparation:
    Open vents half-way.  
    Arrange 20 briquettes on one side of the grill.  
    Place three dozen briquettes (half-way) in chimney.  
    Light, wait 15 minutes.  
    Carefully empty burning briquettes from chimney onto the other 20 (unlit) briquettes.  You now have half the grill with briquettes, the other half empty.  
    Place aluminum pan (we used a nine-inch circular one) filled with 1 inch of water onto empty half.  Cover with grate, heat for five minutes.









    Directions:
    • Place the racks on a rimmed baking sheet
    • Combine all the rub ingredients in a small bowl & sprinkle the rub on both sides of each rack, pressing to adhere. Set racks aside; prepare grill.
    • Place ribs on grate over water tray, meat side down. Cook for one hour.  (Grill temperature should remain around 120 degrees - close down vent if it gets too hot.)
    • Combine honey, apple juice, and cider vinegar to create a basting liquid.
    • Flip ribs over, brush meat side with basting liquid and cook for 45 minutes.
    • Baste again and cook until your grill dies down, we got about another hour. 
    • Place ribs on wire rack over a baking sheet, baste a third & final time
    • Place ribs in 300 degree oven until you hit a total cook time of approximately three and a half hours.
    • Remove from oven & tent with tin-foil for 15 minutes before devouring. 
    ELZ & PAB’s unofficial review:  We closely mirrored the Cook’s Illustrated recipe from June/July 2010.  Although a cook time of over three hours may seem daunting, it is a GREAT way to grill out & relax with friends.  Most of the time the ribs can be left relatively unattended, allowing for copious (root)beer consumption. We modified the recipe by leaving out the wood soaked chips, and our ribs came out with a nice, full flavor.  We also made a few executive decisions regarding the rub and cook technique, our modifications are included above.  Overall, we loved the turnout and would absolutely make these again.  Great for company, but limited to two racks unless you have more than one grill.  In a perfect world, we would have had a smoker and have heard great things about the Weber Smokey Mountain.  If you think this recipe sounds cool, give us a shout so we have additional reasons for justifying the purchase of said smoker.

    Waste not, want not
    elz + pab


    Memphis-Style Dry Rub Ribs on Foodista

    6.17.2010

    101: Around the world, around the world...

    Good morning! How is everyone doing today?? I, for one, (elz) am very excited for my post-work agenda: our first kickball game of the season is tonight at 7pm, which will obviously be followed by an evening of celtics-centric activity - let's hope their performance is, ahh-hem, a little better than on Tuesday, yes?  Anyway, I don't know about you...but I'm excited to win game 7 and end the season right.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    We are excited to annouce another feature of our blog: 101's

    In addition to posting recipes, we are looking forward to sharing some common (as well as not-so-common) cooking techniques, tips, definitions, comparisons, etc, along the way.  We have decided to call these types of posts "101's", since hopefully, they will be both informative and interesting. 

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Obviously having fresh ingredients is crucial to a good salad, however another essential is an quality dressing.  By definition, a vinaigrette is:
    • one part vinegar
    • three parts oil
    • plus salt + freshly ground black pepper (which is added to balance the flavors) 
    However, when you vary the type of vinegar and/or oil used, you can create limitless variations - especially when you consider adding additional ingredients, like shallots or garlic or other herbs and spices, mustards, or citrus.  Here are a few popular modifications that you can quickly whip up for your next salad, compliments of our Bon Appetit cookbook: 

    French Vinaigrette:
    • Olive oil and Champagne vinegar
    • Dijon mustard, minced shallots, and fennel seeds (or fresh tarragon)
    Italian Vinaigrette:
    • Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar
    • Minced garlic and dried oregano
    Latin-inspired Vinaigrette:
    • Grapeseed oil and fresh lime juice
    • Minced garlic, fresh cilantro, and chipotle chili powder
    Middle Eastern-inspired Vinaigrette:
    • Olive oil and lemon juice
    • Minced green onions, ground cumin, and dried mint


    ELZ & PAB recommendation:  we have one these glass salad dressing bottles.  On the ouside, there are pre-measured variations, so you have the fill levels for exact proportions to quickly shake your dressing (as if mixing five ingredients in a bowl isn't quick enough). These make great gifts... we sometimes struggle in this discipline as our friend RBJ recently deemed my Father's Day gift "unacceptable" (I stand by the assertion that out of print books are allowed to be well worn...)
    Waste not, want not
    elz + pab

    6.16.2010

    PAB has a lettuce garden

    Although the apartment hunting took place in February, we immediately became enamored with our current digs due to the frozen, outdoor space (despite the pint-sized kitchen).  We should provide some caveats around the term outdoor space. It may not be glamorous, the famously skinny "french doors" are really a glorified bedroom window that allow us access onto a rickety fire escape leading to a second floor deck above our neighbor's bedroom. However, we are determined to turn our modest outdoor space into a private, green urban oasis. There were grandiose plans for a terraced garden and water fountains, but initially we settled on a 4 ft x 4 ft square planter box of lettuce. This cold weather hardy crop was direct seeded into the planter in mid-March and has continued to produce a consistent, and at times bountiful, harvest of leafy greens since early May! There is nothing that makes pab happier than meticulously selecting the individual leaves that are to provide the base for the simplest of garden salads. Here in the bottomless kitchen, there is great pride associated with the labor intensive process that allows for at least a few of our calories (maybe 20?) to be homegrown. Such a small space has provided so much lettuce that we were finally convinced to purchase a new salad spinner. After some research, it seems the most effective and cost efficient model was the OXO spinner.





    The relatively successful first crop has emboldened us to create a larger garden, so expect more on that later! As far as I am concerned, the definitive word on home gardening is Crockett's Victory Garden, this Massachusetts son started the popular PBS series and then wrote the book by the same title (there is also a small memorial to him in Boston's Beacon Hill on Bowdoin St). 

    6.15.2010

    tuna melt upgrade

    We didn't want to spend too much time on dinner tonight (and were unwilling to walk the quarter mile to the store), so we opted to spice up the regular old tuna melt.   Mixing chopped kalamata olives & fennel into the tuna and topping with bacon is certainly enough to give new life to this over worked weekday regular. Pairing with a quick prosciutto salad made from our leftover green beans and radishes, topped this time with shaved ricotta salata (pressed, salted, and dried variety of ricotta cheese), we had ourselves a quick, tasty meal.  (We'll post the salad recipe later this week.)


    Fancy Tuna Melts

    Total cook & prep time: under 45 minutes
    Four servings

    Ingredients:
    2 well-drained cans of solid white tuna
    1/3 cup of mayonnaise
    2/3 cup of finely chopped fennel
    5 Kalamata olives, pitted & chopped
    1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    4 slices of bread, lightly toasted {We used a fresh French loaf from a local farmers’ market.}
    4 ounces of sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
    Optional: bacon
    • Preheat broiler (lightly toast slices)
    • Optional: sizzle some bacon in a skillet
    • In a medium size bowl, separate tuna with a fork (flaking), mix in mayonnaise, fennel, olives, parsley, lemon juice, and salt + pepper to taste
    • Divide tuna onto slices, top with grated cheese.
    • Return to broiler for a couple of minutes, on a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet, four inches from the broiler, until the cheese is melted





    ELZ + PAB’s review:  We closely mirrored the Gourmet, May 1994 recipe.  The recipe recommended using rye bread - we chose a fresh, Sourdough loaf that we purchased from a local Farmers’ market for $4.  The sandwiches were good, much different from your typical white / wheat bread + pre-sliced cheese tuna melt. The olives & fennel pair very nicely with the tuna & bacon.  It was a bit time consuming for a sandwich.


    Waste not, want not
    elz + pab


    Fancy Tuna Melt on Foodista