Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sorry I Crashed Your BBQ Bars (Hello Dolly Bars)

This past weekend we had a good friend from London in town. The kind of good friend who has many good friends. For example, before boarding the plane for Austin he sent us the text: 'We're going to a BBQ on Saturday."

Here was a guy who didn't even live in Austin and he was already invited to a Memorial Day BBQ. We'd been back for two years and were invited to none. Therefore in the laws of entertaining and/or human decency, we would be crashing the BBQ.

For me there is only one way to crash a party - armed with food and booze like you're going to a really fun wake. No one will turn you down when you're drowning in bags from Whole Foods. If it's informal, you're a Godsend, making up for those clueless souls who show up empty handed as if their mere presence is sustenance enough. Or if it is a formal gathering, they'll just assume you're with catering.

Things got even more pressure cooker-y when we realized the people whose BBQ we were crashing were also going to be our new neighbors (as of June 15 when we move to the neighborhood.) Conundrum. Store bought cupcakes weren't going to cut it. Nor were store bought anything. We were going to see these people again.

To top it all off, we had already had a ton planned for Saturday (173 1/2 trips to Goodwill to be exact) and time was short. I turned to my most trusted source for 'accept me into your home' recipes - Southern Living for some 'Hello Dolly Bars.' Only as luck would have it I didn't have all the ingredients for those and had to improvise.

What you see was the outcome, renamed for their powerful friend-making side affects. They are my new 'go to'. They take about 5 seconds to put together and look and taste FANCEE but in a rustic, made with love kind of way.

Sorry I Crashed Your BBQ Bars/Hello Dolly Bars
* Adapted from Southern Living
* Makes 24 bars
9x13 inch glass or pyrex baking dish
nonstick spray
parchment paper (optional)

1/4 cup butter (half a stick of butter)
1 heaping cup vanilla wafer crumbs (pound in a ziploc with a rolling pin)
1 (7 oz) package sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup sliced almonds (or any kind of nuts)
1 heaping cup semi sweet chocolate morsels
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with parchment paper sprayed with nonstick spray (optional - makes cleanup a breeze and the bars easier to remove and cut but not mandatory. Otherwise just spray dish with nonstick spray.) To help the paper lay down/adhere to the dish, place 4 cans of soup or vegetables in the corners while you assemble the ingredients.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Remove the cans from the cans and pour over the paper trying to distribute as evenly as possible. As soon as the butter has covered all of the paper, spread the cookie crumbs over, again trying to distribute them as evenly as possible.

Continue to layer over the next ingredients. Spread the coconut evenly over the crumbs, then the white chocolate chips, the almonds, and semi sweet morsels.

Finally, pour the sweetened condensed milk over, again as evenly as possible. DO NOT STIR.

Put in the middle rack of your oven and bake for 30-35 minutes JUST until the top of the nuts get a little golden but not brown. You don't want to burn the chocolate so watch closely at the end.

Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack for one hour. Remove the bars by gently picking up the corners of the parchment paper and set on a cutting board. Let cool another 20 minutes at least before cutting (a pizza cutter works nicely.) Or if you skipped the parchment, cut right in the pan once completely cool (this will help them stay together versus cutting them warm.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Marilyn's Peach Crisp

This is my mom's crisp. Or depending on where you from - cobbler, crumble, buckle, etc. Basically a quick dough poured over fruit and baked until the fruit is sweeter and more sinful than it could have ever dreamed of being.

The only other peach cobbler I've made was Rebecca Rather's and it was delicious so I couldn't help but be suspicious of a recipe this simple. Then my sister made it and got raves so of course I had to make it.

We were in a hurry to get to Corpus for the weekend so I went ahead and mixed the dry ingredients together in a large ziploc and packed the butter separate in the cooler, softening it later in the microwave until just slightly melty but still generally together. Out of laziness (and not wanting to dirty another dish in a stranger's kitchen) I tossed the butter in the ziploc, smushed it around until all blended then poured the mixture over the sliced peaches. Not sure if I'll do it any other way from here on out. This was the devil in a blue dress. Or a glass baking dish, as was the case here.

Here's to the ziploc method! And to moms!

Marilyn's Peach Crisp
4-5 large peaches, or about 8 of the smaller kind (ones slightly large than a golf ball, a la Fredericksburg peaches this time of year)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use kosher)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cups salted butter, softened (see method below)

vanilla extract (couple dashes)

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter or spray a 9x9 (8x8 works too) glass or pyrex dish and set aside.

If you're up to it, peel the peaches. I generally peel the first few then stop out of laziness and an urgency to get the crisp in the oven. Cut them into smaller 1/2 inch thick slices and add to the prepared dish, spreading out into an even layer. Make sure you leave out the pits;)

Sprinkle the peaches with a couple dashes pure vanilla extract (not necessary but my addition.)

In a large bowl (or ziploc), mix the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon together. Set aside while you soften the butter.

Soften the butter in the microwave on a small plate for just a few seconds until softened. In other words, the butter should still be cohesive, but just melty enough to have a little pool of its own goldenness around it.

Add the butter to the flour mixture and stir around (or smush if using the ziploc) until just blended together.

Crumble over the prepared peaches, in as even as a layer as possible.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until the top is just golden bronze (do not burn though) and the peaches are bubbling away underneath. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving with ice cream or whipped cream.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Comfort Ravioli Soup

Kris' band played in Corpus this weekend. It was super fun except for the fact that he was fighting allergies the whole time. He managed to shine it on though until this morning when it seemed to go into something else.

As I write this, I can tell I'm getting whatever he has. No wonder I was craving soup.

This soup is both comforting and out of the ordinary at the same time. The lime juice adds an unexpected brightness and the variety of vegetables keep things interesting. Of course you can use whatever you have on hand as far as the greens go, but this particular combination is my favorite.

Comfort Ravioli Soup
* Can be made vegetarian - just switch stock to vegetable stock.

2-3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots or onion
4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
plenty of kosher salt, for seasoning
2 carrots, sliced fairly thin
1 bay leaf
3 plum tomatoes
2 bunches Swiss Chard, rinsed well, pulled from the thick stems (discard them) and torn into pieces (not too small - about the size of a lady's palm as they will shrink when they cook)

5 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
juice of 1 healthy lime
lots of fresh grated nutmeg
good pinch red pepper flakes

1/2 cup drained cannellini beans
1 cup frozen lima beans
rind of parmesan (or sub 1/2 cup shredded parm)
1 package (9 oz) three cheese whole wheat pasta, such as Buitoni

Heat the oil in a medium, heavy weight lidded dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots, season with a pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook, stirring often to keep it from burning - about 2 minutes. Add in the carrots (season with a pinch more salt) and bay leaf sauté for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the tops off the tomatoes on the stem side. Hold each tomato over the sink, cut side down, and squeeze the seeds out. Then dice the tomatoes and add them to the carrots.

Cook the tomatoes just long enough to knock the newness off of them, about 3 minutes. Add in the Swiss Chard then pour in the chicken stock and lime juice giving a good stir. Place the lid on and turn the heat to high. Once it's boiling, remove the lid and stir in the nutmeg and red pepper flakes and another pinch of salt.

Let boil for another 2 minutes, then turn the heat to low and add in the cannellini and lima beans and the parmesan rind. Cover and let simmer on low for at least 30 minutes but preferably an hour. Stir every so often to make sure nothing's sticking to the bottom.

Remove the lid and stir in the pasta. Cover again and let simmer for 10 minutes until the pasta has cooked (and puffed.) Taste for seasoning, adding any salt and/or pepper or pepper flakes as needed.

Serve in big bowls with crusty bread alongside. Just make sure you don't eat the bay leaf. Discard if you can find it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Turkey, Pancetta and Parmesan Meatloaf Subs

Turkey, Pancetta and Parmesan Meatloaf Subs
Serves 6-8

1 3 oz package diced pancetta
2 eggs, beaten
1 large shallot, minced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/3 cup chopped, drained artichokes from a jar of marinated artichoke hearts (be sure to discard any 'tough' bits)
2 heaping teaspoons roughly chopped capers (kind packed in brine/liquid, drained)
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (preferably parsley and basil)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
lemon zest from a small lemon
black pepper
good pinch red pepper flakes
good grating fresh nutmeg
1 (1.25 lb) package ground turkey, preferably 93% lean

6-8 best quality hoagie, sub or sandwich rolls, or French bread
Salt and Pepper
Several slices (8-10) Provolone cheese
Mayo, mustard, or other condiments, as desired

Place the pancetta on a medium cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil lightly sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake the pancetta at 400 for 13-15 minutes until golden and just lightly crisp. Set aside to cool and lower the heat to 375.

Meanwhile in a large bowl, gently beat the two eggs. Stir in the breadcrumbs, parmesan, chopped artichokes, capers, fresh herbs, oregano, salt, lemon zest, black and red pepper flakes and nutmeg until well combined. Add in the cooled pancetta (use a slotted spoon so you get some of the fat but not all of it . No need to pat dry first with paper towels as some of that fat is good flavor) and ground turkey and combine until just mixed together. Do not overwork!

Transfer the meatloaf mixture into a sprayed loaf pan.

Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

While the meatloaf cools, slice your sandwich rolls and spread lightly with butter on each half. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in the oven cut side up and toast for 6 minutes. Add the Provolone cheese to the 'top halves' (go for double slices if thin, folding in half if necessary) and bake another 2-3 minutes until melted.

Slice the meatloaf into 1/2 inch thick slices and serve in the rolls with any condiments preferred.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gingery Noodles with Pork, Mushrooms, and Hoisin

Since leaving NYC and coming back to Austin, the one thing I have a hard time finding is good noodles. I know they're out there, I just haven't found them yet. Luckily noodles are a snap to make yourself. The amount of hoisin here can be adjusted according to your own taste and depending on the brand you use. For example, the 'real deal' thick and blackish hoisin is much sweeter and more intense than the organic American brands (like Central Market's) so if I was using that I would scale it back a bit in the quickie marinade. You can always finish the noodles with more hoisin (and/or sriracha) if you think it needs it.

Happy Mother's Day, y'all! I'm headed to Fredericksburg with my sisters and mama...

Gingery Noodles with Pork, Mushrooms, and Hoisin

3 tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger
3/4 pound thin (scallopini) boneless skinless pork chops, snipped with kitchen shears into thin strips 
garlic powder
onion powder
2 shallots, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 cup hoisin sauce, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
pinch red pepper flakes

2 peeled carrots, cut into matchsticks or sliced into ribbons with a veg peeler
red bell pepper, diced or cut into thin strips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped green onion, plus extra for garnish
4 oz shredded cabbage mix
8 oz sliced shitake mushrooms, or button
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
canola or vegetable oil, for frying
1 package udon noodles, or in a pinch linguine or other long pasta noodle
sriracha, optional
handful chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a large ziploc, throw together the ginger, sliced pork (trim the fat off first if it bothers you), garlic and onion powder, shallots, hoisin, soy, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. "Smush" around until all is well blended together and making friends. Seal and leave on your counter while you prep the rest of your ingredients.

Fill a large pot with water and bring over high heat so you can boil your noodles.

Meanwhile, gather and/or finish prepping your carrots, bell pepper, green onions, shredded cabbage, and mushrooms. Pull out your wok or large nonstick frying pan and canola oil.

Before starting the wok, add your noodles to the boiling water and cook until al dente or if using udon, according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.

As soon as you start your noodles, heat your frying pan or wok over medium heat and add just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. Once hot, add the pork and all of its marinade. Cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, or until the outside of the pork is no longer pink. It doesn't (and shouldn't) have to be completely cooked through as you don't want it to dry out and you still have to sauté your veg. You just want every bit of the pork's surface to be kissed by the heat and no longer raw on the outside.

Add in your vegetables (1/2 cup green onions through the mushrooms) and continue cooking and stirring for another 3-4 minutes, just until everything comes together and the mushrooms are nice and wilted from the heat. 

Turn the heat to low and stir in your cooked, drained noodles, toasted sesame seeds and garnish of extra green onions and/or cilantro. Taste to see if you want to add in any more hoisin for sweetness/richness or some sriracha for heat and/or to 'sauce up' the pasta a bit.

Serve with additional green onions/cilantro on top if desired.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Kabobs with Blue Cheese Dip


I got psyched when I daydreamed this recipe. Mostly because I like anything with the word 'buffalo' in the name. I'm super original that way.

But after making them, I got even more excited. They're almost like tandoori (super moist delicious Indian kabobs) but buffalo flavored. And spicy as an ant pile.

As for the sauce, I have no words. Hide your kids. Hide your wife. It's about to get crazy up in here.

I could make this recipe every day for the rest of my life, just swapping out different kinds of meat for the chicken. Salmon would be amazing. Beef would make me weep. And if the squirrels don't stop chewing on the side of my house they too might be bound for buffalo glory.

Buffalo Chicken Kabobs with Blue Cheese Dip

Kabob Marinade:
1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
7 oz greek yogurt, either 2% or whole (not fat free)
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce, or your favorite brand hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
2 fat green onions (white and green parts), chopped
2 smashed garlic cloves, or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
zest of 1 small lime
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (use less if using table salt!)
fresh ground black pepper
Wooden skewers (soak in water for 30 minutes before skewing/grilling)

Mix the marinade ingredients (yogurt through the black pepper) together until all blended and friendly in a medium bowl. Transfer to a large ziploc and add the chicken smushing around until all pieces are well coated. Refrigerate overnight, removing half an hour before threading onto skewers and grilling. THERE IS NO NEED TO SALT THE KABOBS BEFORE GRILLING AS THE MARINADE IS QUITE SALTY.

To grill, heat an outdoor grill to 375. Oil the grates so the kabobs won't stick (grease a folded paper towel with peanut or veg oil use tongs to swipe it along the grates.) Add the kabobs 'against the grain' from where the grates are positioned so no chicken falls through, and close the lid for 4 minutes. Try picking up to see if you have grill marks on the underside. If so, flip over and cook another 4-5 minutes until cooked through, if not cook another 1-2 minutes before checking again and flipping.

Remove and serve with dip, below.

Dip (would also make a killer dip for veg/crackers/etc:)
zest of a small lemon
1-2 green onions, sliced thin
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup light mayo
1/4 cup blue cheese or gorgonzola
salt, but only if needed after tasting and to taste

Mix altogether and store in the refrigerator until needed. Can be made the day before. Serve with the kabobs. Or as a dip for veg and crackers. Or fingers.