Spring Pea Soup with Burrata

Spring Pea Soup with BurrataGolden
My parents celebrated their 50th Anniversary over the weekend. Stop and think about that for a minute. 50 years. How much of their world has changed and what have they experienced since 1967? (And not just the birth of my sister and me!)

In 1967, Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President, and the Vietnam War was in full swing. Ronald Reagan was sworn in as our new Governor in January. A fire killed the crew of the Apollo 1 spacecraft while they were testing on the launch pad, and halted the space race in the US for almost 2 years. The Pirates of The Caribbean attraction opened at Disneyland, in California. The Bee Gees released their first international album. Lastly, Elvis and Priscilla got married. But that wasn’t the biggest wedding of the year. The biggest event, at least to my sister and me, happened March 18th in Oakland, CA.

To be married for 50 years is no small feat. It’s not as common an occurrence as it used to be. Frankly, the fact that my mother has survived my Dad’s snoring for that long without smothering him with a pillow is mindblowing…

There is no way you can let such a milestone like this pass like it is any other day. We celebrated as a family, in style. ‘Cause that’s how we roll. There was a limo and there were fancy clothes. And, because it’s us, there was food. Really good food. And plenty of good things to drink with it, courtesy of Boulevard in San Francisco.

If you ever have the opportunity to dine at Boulevard, do it. I have been there multiple times, and it is always fantastic. That particular night, I enjoyed a green English Pea soup that was amazing. Like, lick the bowl amazing. Alas, that particular recipe is not in their cookbook. (I happen to own a copy…shocking, I know) Nancy, if you or any of your fantastic staff are reading this (‘cause why wouldn’t she?) I would LOVE to have the recipe or maybe even and updated cookbook?

For now, I am on the hunt for something that might come close. I am working with the recipe I posted below—perhaps it’s the closest yet? But we’ll see. The first-of-the-season English peas should be in the market soon. Though, with the return of the rain, who knows? In the meant time some quality, organic, frozen peas will be used. When you do get your hands on some fresh peas, grab as many as you can. And try this cream-free soup as a perfect spring lunch or light dinner.

Spring Pea Soup with Burrata
Yields 4 servings

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Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken

Bundt Pan Rotisserie ChickenTechnological Wonders
I had a plan to talk about Irish food this week—for obvious reasons—everyone is Irish this Friday.

That plan was blown out of the water by one of those ubiquitous cooking videos that pop up daily on my Facebook feed (sometimes hourly). Most of the time I kinda just glance at the video and move on to other things. Every so often, though, I spot that one video, and I drop everything to watch it. Because my mind is blown. (Or there is a lot of chocolate.) Today was one of those days. Total lightbulb moment…I’m still recovering.

If you’ve ever heard of Beer Can Chicken you will get why I was compelled to watch the video, and then immediately make the recipe. I mean it’s genius. Of course, this would be great, it’s Rotisserie Chicken in your home oven. Brilliant! And it looks weird which is always an excellent reason to make anything—if only to keep people guessing about your mad scientist cooking skills…

Adding this recipe to my weekly rotation was easy since we have roast chicken at least once a week. My only complaint is that you can only make one chicken at a time (unless you have two bundt pans). I like to use the second chicken as the base for some other meal later in the week. I know, first world problems!

Feel free to get wacky with the ingredients and the rub for the chicken. I left the carrots and onion out and went with all potatoes and then mixed a spicy dry rub with the olive oil and rubbed all over the chicken. That made for some tasty taters…

Have fun with this one!

Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken
Adapted from Delish

Ingredients
3 cloves garlic
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, quartered
1/2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, quartered
2 large bunches of fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary
Extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 lb chicken (gizzards removed)
1 lemon, sliced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper Read more…

Hamantaschen for Purim

Hamantaschen for PurimEven if you are not participating in a Spiel, you can still make your own Hamantaschen for Purim. And, you can always observe the tradition of sharing sweets with your friends and neighbors.

Hint: they also make a great treat year-round. Read more…

Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers

Amy's Juicy Lucy BurgersBaseball Habit
When our kids first started to play little league, my husband and I swore we would not become those parents. You know who I am talking about. The almost obsessive, uber-involved people who live for game day, and volunteer for everything. We were convinced that would never be us. We were too laid back and easy going. No way would that happen to the two of us. Besides, we didn’t really even like baseball…

I’m not sure where it all went wrong. At first, it was just a little bit of tee ball a couple of nights a week. Just one or two innings here and there. No big deal. As the years went on, we found ourselves at the fields more and more often watching more and more innings. We just couldn’t get enough. It got so bad we even (gasp) starting watching baseball on TV! (Go Giants!)

Baseball was just the beginning, though. Softball came along and we were caught up in its tangled web of fast pitches. Now it’s to the point where our weekends are devoted to tournaments and our vacations are scheduled around potential plate appearances. I’ve even joined the league Board. We’re out of control. Can no one save us?

All kidding aside, this past weekend it was my pleasure to watch the sunrise at our fields as our league set up for our Annual Opening Day Parade and Ceremonies. Every year on Opening Day, the 1800 or so kids in our league and their parents gather to watch the teams parade through our city and end up at the fields where we are treated to a day of sunshine  (not always) and some great playing. It’s the one day of the year that you can bet that you will see literally everyone you know in the bleachers and it is a day that most of us look forward to with great anticipation.

It takes a lot to put something like that together, so dinners last week were not complicated. Friday night we had burgers ‘cause they are awesome. For me, I am all about the cheeseburger—the cheesier the better. This is why I am a big fan of Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers. (Juicy Lucy Burgers are a thing in Minnesota. You can Google it.)

If you have never tried your burgers this way, I highly recommend that you do. You may never go back to the ordinary cheese on top. This is one of the only times I will say that American Cheese is a must. But, mild or medium cheddar is an acceptable substitute.

Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers
Serves 4

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Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden SalsaSwimmin’ with the Fishes
Anytime the weather turns sunny and a smidge warmer, I tend to start eating more fish. Maybe it’s the looming promise of bathing suit season but at the first signs of spring, I feel the need to eat a bit lighter.

To say that I dramatically increase my fish intake would be a stretch. It’s a relative thing because I’m not a big lover of fish. I tend to gravitate more towards a cheeseburger.

When I do make fish, I like to go simple with a lot of flavor. That may sound contradictory but let me explain. If I had to pick my favorite fish recipe it would be this one, Salmon Roasted in Butter. It’s so quick to make and with some really fresh Salmon—it melts in your mouth.  One cannot live on Salmon alone, though. It would be boring.
Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Not all fish does well on the grill. But, Tuna is one of them. Because they are hearty and firm, Tuna steaks are perfect for the grill, and are a great alternative to red meat. They even work well as a burger (for those times when you crave a burger but have to be good). And it happens more than you think…

I usually just brush on some olive oil and sprinkle the steaks with a little salt and pepper. If I want to brighten the flavor up a bit I will top them with mango salsa or even better, with real salsa.

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa
Adapted from Rick Bayless

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Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo for Mardi Gras

Smoked Duck and Andouille GumboFat Tuesday
I got a call from my sister over the weekend to see if I had her cookbook. I did, in fact, have it. I have been holding it for ransom for quite some time.

It is not surprising that she would be looking for this particular cookbook this time of year, because next Tuesday happens to be Mardi Gras. And this cookbook, in my opinion, happens to be one of the best New Orleans cookbooks available. Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking is filled with wonderful things.

New Orleans is one of those bucket list places for me. I have never been, and I have absolutely no desire to visit during Mardi Gras or the heat of the Summer. But I do have a desire to go and eat my way through the city. There is just so much history, not only in the streets but in the music and food. It makes my mouth water to think about it. Just not sure when I am going to get there…

In the meantime, cookbooks like this one give us a taste of the city, and whet our appetites for more. I have written about recipes from Spicer’s book, and I now bring them to your attention in advance of Mardi Gras. Her Autumn Salad with Apples, Comté, and Hazelnuts and Cornmeal-Crusted Crayfish Pies are good, But without question, the best of the best is the Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo.

And for something a little sweet to go with your Mardi Gras feast, there’s Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce from Emeril Lagasse.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Smoked Duck and Andouille Gumbo
Adapted from Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer
Yields 8 Servings
You can substitute an equal amount of roasted chicken for the duck. But if you get a chance to use duck, give it a try. It’s delicious!

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Amy’s Aram Sandwiches

Amy's Aram SandwichesLovin’ Lavash

Hi, my name is Amy and I have been on a bit of a lavash kick lately. I have been rolling whatever I have left over in the fridge in lavash, and calling it a sandwich. We had leftover pork loin the other day. I wrapped it up along with lettuce and some chutney and it was the bomb. Lavash is just so versatile and it’s a nice change from the usual white, wheat or sourdough.

For those who may not be familiar, Lavash is a thin, unleavened flatbread that originated in Armenia. Fresh lavash is soft and pliable which makes it easy to fill with your favorite ingredients and roll it up. You could use a flour tortilla as a substitute, but it doesn’t taste as good in my opinion.

What you fill your lavash with is entirely up to you. The possibilities are endless. The most popular version in my house is roast turkey, roast beef, lettuce and havarti cheese along with a little mayonnaise (and, depending on who’s eating it, some tomato). However, I have also used smoked salmon with cream cheese, red onion and a sprinkling of fresh dill. If you have any leftover grilled veggies they are fantastic in lavash with some spicy hummus…goat cheese works well in these too. And then there is the Greek version with lamb and tzatziki. For a little extra flavor, you can also throw your aram sandwich on the grill to crisp it up. Think of a bacon lettuce tomato and avocado lavash with a little bit of  grill on it. Seriously, I’m drooling right now…

So, the other great thing, besides versatility, is that aram sandwiches are convenient. Basically, it’s wrap, cut and go. And, if you cut them small and arrange them artfully on a platter, they are perfect if you have, say, a volleyball tournament and need to feed 12 hungry spikers.

Amy’s Aram Sandwiches
See filling and condiment recommendations in the post above, or get creative with your own. Read more…

Valentine’s Ice Cream Cake

Valentine’s Ice Cream CakeIce Cream Cupid
If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you will know that Valentine’s Day in my house is not celebrated with chocolates and champagne. Valentine’s Day is all about ice cream.

We’ve done sundaes and root beer floats. We’ve done multi-layer ice cream pies and straight up ice cream cones. This year I want to do a recipe that I love but haven’t had an occasion to make in a while. This Valentine’s Ice Cream Cake is not difficult, and you can use whatever assortment of ingredients inspire you. Your choice of flavors and candies or toppings will depend on the taste buds of your valentine, and individualizing the cake is fun.

The concept is pretty simple. You layer the ice cream of choice and pound cake with your favorite toppings (a.k.a. roughly cut candies, sauce, nuts, toasted coconut…you get the idea, think ice cream sundae). The basic recipe came from The Pioneer Woman, and I have adapted it to my personal tastes.

So, feel free to get wacky with the flavors and go all out with the combinations. Because our ice cream selection at Piedmont Grocery is fairly large, I have had the opportunity to come up with some great ideas. And you can get really creative.

The basic recipe is below, followed by a few of my favorite variations. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Ice Cream Cake

Basic recipe
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Hot Cheezy Things Redux

Hot Cheezy ThingsComfort Me With Football
I have to say I am looking forward to the Super Bowl this weekend, which isn’t new. I generally like to watch the game and the commercials. I really don’t have a team I am rooting for—my husband is a Patriots fan, though. Frankly, I am simply looking at the Super Bowl as a few hours of suspended reality. I think we all could use the break…

The good news about suspended reality? Calories don’t count. And, football means foods that would otherwise be a no-no in larger quantities, foods like sausage, beef, cheese, gooey desserts, etc. You get the idea. I’ve prepared a lot of different foods for Super Bowl, from chili and cornbread, to pulled pork, or grilled brats.

So, I am still working on the menu for the weekend. We will be attending a crab feed the night before, so crab’s out. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am kinda Mexican food-ed out. (I know, is it even possible?!?)

Maybe it’s time for some Oriental Barbecued Ribs, if only as a teaser for the warmer, dryer weather?

Or maybe I’ll just drown myself in fat and cheese with our favorite Hot Cheezy Things. I originally posted this recipe in 2012, but it bears repeating. Every time I whip some up, people go crazy for them. And they are perfect for football.

Hot Cheezy Things
Yep. That’s what we call them. One of our favorite snacks while watching football! I watched my Mom make these as a kid, but I don’t have an actual recipe. I just wing it. You really can’t screw them up, though. I mean it’s cheese and mayo. What could go wrong? Feel free to add cheeses or change the type of cheese you use.
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Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Science of Cookies
My daughter worked on her science project over the weekend. Thankfully, it did not involve an overflowing volcano. It did involve baking soda…

Her experiment was to see what the difference was between cookies that were baked using butter, margarine, and butter flavored Crisco. And, also to see which one would taste better.

I had my own theories as to how things would work out since I have read a number of articles either online or in magazines about which ingredient produces the best cookie. But, the difference with this experiment is that there were no other modifications to the recipe. All three were made the exact same way except for swapping out the butter, margarine, and Crisco. And, they were cooked for the exact same amount of time.

Her hypothesis that the butter would make the best cookie makes sense. Everything is better with butter. But I was still curious to see the results.

The biggest difference was visual. The Crisco cookie was a photo-ready cookie. It looked like the perfect chunky chocolate chip. The butter and margarine were not as visually appealing. They were kinda flat with chocolate chips sticking up. And the margarine cookie could have used more time in the oven to get a little bit more of the golden color.

The flavor difference was insane. The butter one, as expected, was the tastiest of the three and was crispy on the outside chewy on the inside. Margarine produced a very soft cookie with good flavor but you could tell it wasn’t a real butter flavor.

The butter-flavored Crisco was gross. It tasted like eating a spoon full of chemicals. Now, this may be because we went with the butter flavor. Maybe the regular wouldn’t be as bad? It is, after all, fantastic in pie crust. But, even then I go half Crisco half butter. And using Crisco in biscuits makes some super good biscuits. We were all a bit surprised at how bad that cookie was because it looked so good.

Now, to be fair, there are a lot of ways to make cookies without using butter. Sometimes margarine just makes a better cookie. The key is adjusting the rest of the recipe to get the flavor and results you are looking for.

While none of us were surprised by the fact that butter was the winner, what this experiment did was spark a conversation about ingredients and paying attention to what is in the food we eat. (Why exactly do those cookies that we buy look so good? Could it be the hydrogenated oils that were used to make them?)

And, as we sat there feeling superior in our newfound knowledge and determination to not eat the bad stuff, we ate a few more handfuls of the butter ones ‘cause we wouldn’t want them to go to waste!

So, below is the classic Toll House Cookie recipe from the back of the chocolate chips bag. And, if you wish, you can play around with proportions of butter and Crisco, or just take our word for it. And, here is a link to a recipe from King Arthur Flour that combines butter with shortening for a photo ready cookie.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the back of the chocolate chip bag.

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