Check, please!

27 Mar

Well, dear readers, you may have noticed this blog has not seen any eating or cooking action in quite some time. I’m going to wager it’s been more or less eight months. That’s about when all my energy for cooking got sucked away, transformed into energy for making another human.

My daughter will be born in a few weeks, and from what I hear, I will not be making elaborate seven-part Thanksgiving desserts so soon again. It has been a wonderful journey, and it feels fitting that I leave it behind to begin another wonderful journey. The Gentleman and I both look forward to sharing our love for cooking with our little girl, so perhaps one day we’ll return to show you the delicious things we’ve made.

But for now, I’ll say that it has been an honor and a pleasure to share my foodie nonsense with you. If you’re a friend in real life, or have become one through this blog, please keep in touch!

It’s My First Blogiversary!

15 Oct

One whole year! Happy birthday, blog! Partaaaay!

I’ve been doing this for a whole year! (Except for, oh, the last two months. Did you miss me? I missed you!)

Life has been super interesting and a bit of a whoosh as I became the married Ms. WhatJulieAte. (I kept my name.) All good stuff!

Here’s just a taste of what’s happened since last we touched base:

Melissa made me a cake!

Mel made me a cake!

The inimitable Mel from the Cupcake Friday Project made me a mini wedding cake! A delicious almond cake with espresso frosting and chocolate and salted caramel drizzle. And I mean look at it! Wowsa. I get both Dr. WhatJulieAte and a mini wedding cake in the same month? Jackpot!

I was also brought to the edge of sanity by a fresh, local honeycrisp apple. I ate one and then broke out into full body hives and grotesque plastic-surgery-victim-like swelling of my lips, eyes, hands, and feet. But I didn’t realize it was caused by the apple, so I ate ANOTHER ONE.

I hate you, stupid honeycrisp.

I hate you, stupid honeycrisp.

And then five days later, I stopped itching like a madwoman. Total nightmare. No apples for me for a while!

I also took a trip to the Quad Cities on the Illinois/Iowa border. No great food shakes, but some interesting vittles, like this pepperoni calzone from Huckleberry’s Pizza and Calzones that had a nice zesty sauce:

Hello, I am not health food.

Hello, I am not health food.

We found some legit barbecue at Big Mouthz BBQ in Davenport, Iowa.

BBQ for 2, or more realistically 4.

BBQ for 2, or more realistically 4.

What's that? You want a close up on the meat?

What’s that? You want a close up on the meat?

A side trip to Iowa City, which I really liked, yielded this grilled chicken burger:

The cheeseburger of Iowa

The chickenburger of Iowa

The motto of Iowa is the confusingly plural “Fields of opportunities.” You have the opportunity to plant a field of soy. Or one of corn. That seemed like the extent of the opportunities as far as I could tell.

Truckload of melons

Truckload of melons

The Davenport farmer’s market wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped – there aren’t really heirloom varieties there as much as there are mass quantities of your basic fruits and veggies. Here we see corn and melons. No tricks.

Jumping to another time and place, here is a giant plate of Americana:

Coopersburg Diner Chicken a la Penne

Coopersburg Diner Chicken a la Penne

I love the diners of Pennsylvania, and the Coopersburg Diner is a pretty good one. Above is the curiously named chicken a la penne – kind of literal – in tomato cream sauce with spinach, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Because it also came with soup and salad bar (for $12.95 total!), I barely ate this. And then my mom left the leftovers at the restaurant. Womp womp!

Occasionally I take myself out to lunch, and this meal at the newly-opened Indeblue was an epic success:

Beautiful thali!

Beautiful thali!

This non-vegetarian thali was sooooo good. Every component made me groan with delight. It’s a bit fusiony, but the spicing was right on with everything. Best Indian food I’ve had in Philly.

Also newly opened is Pizzeria Vetri, the newest restaurant from Marc Vetri, whose Osteria held our wedding!

Yummy salad

Yummy salad

That was a baller arugula salad with potatoes, riccota salata, olives, and pesto dressing. I look forward to many more meals there!

And finally, one of my latest obsessions, unsulfured Blenheim apricots from Trader Joes.

So tangy!

So tangy!

So that’s just a little bit of what I’ve been up to. I hope to bring you more cooking and eating stories soon! Thank you for being an important part of year one for the blog!!

Babaganoush

19 Aug

I have been lapping up buckets of babaganoush for years. I buying them from a Middle Eastern grocery, say like Sahadi’s, I would always get a tub of hummus and a tub of baba. But inevitably I’d demolish the baba first.

Making baba, however, seemed like a pain in the tuchus. However faced with a bunch of CSA eggplant to which the Gentleman is allergic, I figured making baba was the way to go. Turns out IT IS THE WAY TO GO.

Eggplants from the CSA, including a white one and some long Japanese ones

Eggplants from the CSA, including a white one and some long Japanese ones

You want to use the right recipe, and let me tell you, this is the right recipe. David Leibovitz knows what he’s doing. (And frankly, the secret to hummus and baba both: lots of tahini.)

I decided to use all the eggplants rather than just the purple globes. I knew if I didn’t, the others would just go to waste. I scorched them over the stovetop flames and then baked the crap out of them – for about an hour. That was much longer than David’s 20-30 minute suggestion, but mine needed it. I took the thin ones out early.

Then I just scooped out the flesh, added the other ingredients to the food processor, and blended.

That's it!

That’s it!

Into the fridge for amazing lunches and dinners all week!

babaganoush

Delicious, delicious babaganoush

I bought two more eggplants that I’m going to roast today and then freeze for future baba making. The internet tells me the best way to freeze baba is to freeze only the roasted eggplant and add everything else after defrosting. If you love baba, make this dish. You’ll be amazed!

Carrot and Watermelon Radish Pickles

17 Aug
Carrot and Watermelon Radish Pickles

Preview: Here is what we’re going for.

It is a little-known fact that carrots and watermelon radishes are good friends.

Fat, stubby carrots from my CSA, along with fat, stubby watermelon radishes

Fat, stubby carrots from my CSA, along with fat, stubby watermelon radishes

To be honest, it’s also a little-known fact that there is something called a “watermelon radish.” They tend to be available only seasonally, and only through farmers or earth-mother style grocery stores. They don’t taste like watermelon, but one open and you’ll understand the name.

Gorgeous, no?

Gorgeous, no?

I decided to pickle my carrots and watermelon radish together, and I made up a recipe based on my previous experience pickling. Well wouldn’t you know – it’s totally delicious. As with many of my recipes, it’s approximate and highly tweakable. I don’t think you can go so wrong with a 50-50 vinegar to water pickling liquid, some garlic, and some spices.

Carrot and Watermelon Radish Pickles

1 cup rice vinegar
A splash of white vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon sea salt
2 cloves garlic, whole or halved
A sprinkling of brown mustard seeds
About a dozen whole black peppercorns

Slice your carrots and radishes into roughly equally-sized coins and put them in a quart jar. Mix together the vinegars, water, and salt until the salt has dissolved. (No need to heat them up.) Pour the brine into the jar until it’s full. I had to throw some of mine out, or if you’re short, add water to the top. Put in the garlic and spices.

Like so

Like so

Put a lid on and stick it in the fridge for a few days. The brine will pink up from the radishes. Mine were delicious within three days. Keep them for a few weeks if you like! Me? I like.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

14 Aug

Why did nobody tell me how easy it is to make ice cream at home? It is notably easier when you have an ice cream maker, which I happily got as a wedding present. I was skeptical it would work, but I can unreservedly say the Gent and I made the best ice cream we’ve ever had with the KitchenAid ice cream attachment and the first recipe that comes up on the internet when you google “salted caramel ice cream.”

Ours might better be called “almost burned caramel,” since we really wanted to go there. Witness the incredible color change:

Ho hum sugar in a hot pan

Ho hum sugar in a hot pan

Whoah, it really is working!

Whoah, it really is working!

Almost done...

Almost done…

Oh heck yes that's done.

DONE. Riding the fine line between deep caramel goodness and nearly ruined.

Cooling in a bowl

Cooling in a bowl

We then made the custard base, during which the Gentleman discovered that ice cream has egg yolks (yes, even the beloved Ben and Jerry’s). He thought he would refuse to eat it, but then when he tasted it, reluctance melted away in creamy bites.

Custard base

Custard base

Mixing the two together was a lovely sight.

Tasted as good as it looks.

Tasted as good as it looks.

That mixture then chills for hours in the fridge.

Dude. Chill. (Because we want to eat you soon.)

Dude. Chill. (Because we want to eat you soon.)

We were visiting my parents, so we put the ice cream attachments on the beautiful raspberry-colored KitchenAid we got her for Mother’s Day about a year ago. I love this color so.

This churns for about 30 minutes

This churns for about 30 minutes

The result was unbelievable. Smooth and creamy, deeply caramelized sugar.

Straight out of the ice cream maker

Straight out of the ice cream maker

If you want less of a melty custard texture, and more of a proper frozen ice cream – both are pretty fantastic – you then let the ice cream set up in the freezer for a few hours.

Hello, I am perfection.

Hello, I am perfection.

You best believe a new batch of this is going to be made soon!

Rustic Homemade Tomato Sauce

12 Aug

When I travel, one of my favorite activities is to take a cooking class. I prefer smaller cooking schools, in someone’s home, if possible. Years ago, I took one in Tuscany, in which I learned to make pasta with a fresh tomato sauce. Ironically the Italian nonna used canned tomatoes and an immersion blender – not exactly centuries old tradition.

I never made pasta at home – storebought will do just fine for me – but I have made sauce many times. And with summer’s tomatoes at their peak right now, this is the time that you, yes you, should make sauce too.

Here is the secret: you cannot screw this up. It’s not a recipe as much as a methodology. I go for the least fuss possible, with zero expectation that it will be perfect. In fact, it will come out different every time. it’s sweeter and sharper than jarred sauce, but it’s great on pasta.

You can start with whatever tomatoes you like. Really. I got these heirlooms from my farm, but the classic sauce tomato would be a plum tomato. I’ve even done it with cherry tomatoes just to save them from certain rot. In truth, you can use canned instead if you like:

An assortment of knobbly heirlooms

An assortment of knobbly heirlooms

I never bother skinning mine – I don’t mind a little bit of skin in the finished sauce. I just chop them up in a haphazard way into moderately small pieces. Look how amazing the heirlooms look diced:

The rainbow coalition of tomatoes

The rainbow coalition of tomatoes

Once they’re ready to go, I heat up my olive oil. I don’t measure it, but I just glug a bunch into a soup pot. What I took away from the lady in Tuscany is that basically, you want to use so much olive oil that you start to think it’s too much.  In New York, I also was able to find the Calabria chilies that they use in Italy. They’re teeny, and they pack a wallop. Use about 2-3 for a soup pot of tomatoes.

This is enough Calabria chilies for your entire life. I've had mine for years, and this is even after I dumped out a giant bag to give away. If you're my friend and you want some, let me know.

This is enough Calabria chilies for your entire life. I’ve had mine for years, and this is even after I dumped out a giant bag to give away. If you’re my friend and you want some, let me know.

I start by heating up some olive oil with a bunch of chopped fresh garlic and the 2-3 chiles. (I used about 5 in this batch, which left me with some pretty spicy sauce.

Infusing the oil

Infusing the oil

Once the garlic just starts to brown, I dump in the sliced tomatoes and stir.

In the pot

In the pot

From here, you just get the thing to a low boil and wait several hours for the tomatoes to break down and become thick sauce. Do not cover it, because you want water to evaporate. They’ll lose a third to a half of their volume. You should stir from time to time so that nothing burns on the bottom, and stir much more often as it gets down to the end. I decided to immersion blend this batch into more of a smooth sauce, but I think I actually prefer it chunky. My three or so pounds of tomatoes cooked down into… 1.75 jars.

Yes, that's really it from all those tomatoes.

Yes, that’s really it from all those tomatoes.

I prefer to freeze mine rather than bother with canning. By the time a big pot of sauce is done, it’s about 2 hours or more from when I started. I’ve had enough of standing over the hot stove in the summertime.

I’ve traditionally frozen my sauce in tupperware of various kinds, or even Ziploc bags. But this year I went the Ball jar route, making sure to use the straight up and down kind meant for freezing (NOT the ones with rounded shoulders), so that as the sauce freezes and expands straight up, it doesn’t crack the jar. There’s a max fill line on the jar, and both jars are filled less than that line. I also avoided any kind of thermal shock by letting the sauce cool down in the jars before freezing.

Sauce is incredibly easy, and it’s so wonderful to pull out a jar of homemade sauce over the winter and know that you made it yourself.

Jerusalem Mixed Bean Salad

8 Aug

There’s been a condition going around in the summer of 2013. You might call it Jerusalem fever. I’ve got it bad.

My enthusiasm for the cookbook, Jerusalem, is unbridled. I can be a picky eater, but this book I literally want to make everything.

You may remember I made its fava bean kuku, and also the semolina marmalade cake. Now, I am on to perhaps the most delicious one yet, the mixed bean salad, whose recipe you can find at the Guardian website right here.

Can you hear the angels singing?

Can you hear the angels singing?

Truly the best green beans I’ve ever eaten. And not all the beans were, in fact, green.

Beans from Plowshare Farms

Beans from Plowshare Farms

Alas the purple ones do turn green when you cook them. But that purple is plenty fun while it lasts. I also felt the hand of kismet come down and muss my hair a bit when I discovered that Whole Foods sells a fresh herb mix for fish that contains dill, parsley, and tarragon, the three herbs I would need. (Nowhere I’ve ever lived in America has had chervil readily for sale.)

I boiled the beans and roasted up the red pepper.

Into the oven!

Into the oven!

I then left them in a bowl to meet and greet while I made an equivalent of a tarka for dal – an oil infused with garlic, cumin, and corriander seed. From there you just spill the oil over the veggies and toss with the chopped herbs. Couldn’t be simpler.

"Pleased to make your acquaintance."

“Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

The flavor is a mixture of sweetness from the veg, fresh brightness from the herbs, and intense spice notes from the seeds, all wrapped up with a garlic kick. Fresh off a farmer’s market run, I paired it with roasted multi-color beets (?!!) lightly dressed with lemon oil, and chicken sausages. I felt pretty impressed with myself!

Finished beans w dinner

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