Olallieberry Scones

Olallieberry Scones

Berries A-Go-Go
I am a big fan of portable breakfast. I mean I also love pancakes and waffles and French toast. But, there is something about grabbing something personal-sized with a cup of coffee that is just too stress-free to pass up. And really, who doesn’t like a fresh croissant or a well-made scone? Or two…

I try to make muffins, or banana bread, or whatever every Sunday so that there is something to grab that is quick and easy Monday morning when no one in my house is really ready to face the new week. Now that spring has arrived my mind is turning towards the berries that should be available soon, most notably the olallieberries.

I became an olallieberry fanatic while going to school in Oregon. The berries there are ridiculous and you will find them everywhere in everything. I once enjoyed an olallieberry scone that was life-changing while walking to class one morning. I have been trying to reproduce it ever since. And, I’ve come close but haven’t gotten it right yet—but the fun part is in the trying.

As the days get warmer the local berry patches will start opening for U-pick. I plan to be first in line. While they may not be quite the same experience as their Oregon relatives, our local berries are so so good, especially warm from the vine. My mouth is watering just thinking about it—and about my next attempt at those magnificent scones.

This is one time where substituting frozen berries for fresh won’t work. The frozen berries would add too much liquid to the scones. So, it looks like you might just have to spend a beautiful day outdoors in a berry patch (or, yes, you could buy them too). It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it!

Olallieberry Scones
Yields 8 American-style scones Read more…

Gochujang Spare Ribs

Gochujang Spare RibsResolutions
I have never really been a New Year resolution kind of gal. Sure, there have been times where I have decided to make some changes in the year to come. But, I wouldn’t call that a resolution per se. That being said, I have a plan for the new year.

Obviously, I like to eat. There are plenty of dishes that I enjoy but have never thought to try to prepare myself. So, in the new year, I’ve decided to challenge myself to navigate uncharted waters.

During the month of December, I started collecting recipes and acquiring cookbooks related to cuisines and flavors that I liked but wasn’t totally familiar with. The first of these would be the flavors of Korea. Anyone who is interested in food and food trends would know that Korean food has exploded in popularity. Gochujang seems to be everywhere and in everything but is it more than just a spicy sauce? This is what I am looking forward to finding out.

My first foray into this world last week was a recipe that was not a traditional recipe but it was darn tasty none the less. The gochujang ribs recipe listed below is very approachable for those who aren’t ready for the deep dive into Korean cuisine. Full disclosure, I didn’t use baby back ribs as directed in the original recipe. I used regular pork spare ribs out of personal preference. I think they taste better and, because they have more fat content, they don’t dry out. Either choice works well.

My plan is to take all of you on this journey with me over the next few weeks. Hopefully, I can inspire you to take up a challenge of your own or at the very least, give something different to try for dinner.

Gochujang Spare Ribs recipe
Adapted from 177 Milk Street
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Gougères

New Year’s Noshing
The Christmas holiday was different. There was no house hopping. No loud boisterous parties.

What wasn’t different? We ate too much. I mean, we ate well, but with all of the focus basically on the food we definitely ate too much. For that reason, New Year’s Eve is going to be on a much smaller scale. Instead of something fabulous like lobster, or *sigh* crab, our plan is to do a bunch of small bites—a variety of appetizer-sized portions that we can set out on the kitchen island and grab as needed.

Appetizers have this way of making things feel festive even when they are not. This is especially true when you are in your sweats sipping champagne on the couch. There are multiple categories of appetizers. You have your dips, your cheese balls, crostini, hot appetizers, crudités and, of course, the Cheese Plate. My plan is to do at least one from each category.

Crostini are a no-brainer because you can pretty much do anything with them. Just slice up a baguette, toast the slices and finish with your favorite toppings. I like using fresh ricotta as a base because it works well with anything. One of my summertime favorites starts with fresh ricotta and some freshly cracked pepper, then I top it with a ripe peach slice and some lightly dressed arugula. It’s December though so I am going to try it using a sweet slice of Honeycrisp apple and see how it goes. A sprinkle of toasted, chopped hazelnuts would take it to another level.

For a dip, I am going to make a hot crab dip for a couple of reasons. The first is because I love crab and the second is because I am impatient and can no longer wait for the fisherman to bring in the crab. So, I will rebel and go with crab meat. I’m planning to try this artichoke version because adding a vegetable automatically makes it healthy, right? And, don’t forget the array of fabulous dips and spreads from our cheese department.  They add great variety to the flavors you serve. As a bonus you can use the same sliced and toasted baguettes to eat the dip.

For the hot appetizers, I am torn—which means I may just end up making both recipes. The first possibility is this recipe for cranberry brie bites. I still have leftovers of both cranberry sauce and brie so it would be an easy way to use those up. All I would need would be some puff pastry from the freezer and we’re good to go. I’m not a fan of walnuts so those will be left out. (Another variation is our recipe for Baked Brie, its easy to make with your choice of savory jam and herbs.)

The second recipe requires a bit more effort, but the result is worth it. If you have never had French Gougères you are missing out. They are essentially cheese puffs that are made everywhere in France and are served with a local aperitif but also go extremely well with champagne—which makes then perfect for New Year’s Eve. I like Dorie Greenspan’s recipe the best. You can use any cheese you prefer like Gruyère, Emmentaler, Gouda or to make things super easy, extra sharp cheddar. The recipe makes approximately 36 Gougères but they go fast so plan accordingly.

I think it goes without saying that we are all looking forward to a new year. I wish you a very happy, very healthy, full of hope and laughter New Year! Bring on 2021!

Gougères Recipe
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan and Epicurious
Yields about 36 gougères

Although you must spoon out these little puffs onto the baking tray as soon as the dough is made, they can be frozen and baked straight from the freezer at a later time (see below). This makes a great do-ahead for a busy day. Read more…

Canal House Style Chicken Thighs with Lemon

Canal House Style Chicken Thighs with LemonCookin’ Up Christmas
I think it’s safe to say that we all have all been doing more cooking than ever this year. Some of it born out of necessity and some of it just out of mind-numbing boredom. On the positive side, maybe you learned a new skill. Or, even better, found a new passion for preparing your own food. To do it right though, you need the right tools.

I have always loved to cook—and I have an embarrassing collection of tools in which I create my favorite flavors. However, there are certain pieces that I use day in and day out. The workhorses if you will. These are my “stuck on a desert island” tools and there are a variety. But, if I had to choose the single most useful thing I have in my cooking arsenal it would be my 12-inch cast iron skillet.

I am fortunate to have collected a number of Le Creuset enameled pieces over the years. Their Dutch ovens are hands down the best investment you can make. But, that’s the thing, they are a rather expensive investment.

My Lodge cast iron skillet however is $25 at Target for the 12-inch. (Or you can check out the Lodge Cast Iron website for the whole line.) If you are looking for the perfect gift for someone who has just discovered cooking, this is the one. And, even better, the price is right. What if your recipient already has one? It’s never a bad idea to have two of the same or another one in a different size.

Cast iron skillets heat evenly and they hold the heat well. You can take the skillet from the stove top to the oven and not have to worry about ruining the pan. They are basically nonstick once you get a good “season” on it. They last forever if you take care of them correctly . More than any other benefit I have found is that you get much better browning with a cast iron pan than with any other.

One of my favorite recipes I use my skillet for is this one for These Canal House Style Chicken Thighs. If you already have a cast iron pan, pull it out and make this for dinner tonight. I promise it will become your new favorite. I admit I leave the preserved lemon out more often than not. Sometimes less is more. The real star of this dish is the crispy skin.

If you like the idea of cast iron as a gift, include a card with this recipe on the pan and maybe a few other favorite recipes for your recipient to try out.

Canal House Style Chicken Thighs with Lemon
Recipe adapted from Food 52 Read more…