Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Gem of a Cornbread Mix

Thanksgiving in our house means turkey and stuffing. And, by "stuffing", I mean cornbread stuffing. In this household, we don't cotton to deliberately making good wheat bread go stale, just so we can make it soggy again inside a dead animal. Cornbread, toasted lightly so it's crispy, makes a much richer base for the rest of the ingredients, and remains firmer as it absorbs the juices from a roasting bird. Add to that, the nature of available grain for the first Thanksgiving dinner all those centuries ago, and imported wheat was not to be wasted, so cornbread is a more traditional flavor. Also, there's this wheat intolerance thing. Therefore, cornbread it must always be.

Now, as far as the feast is concerned, we don't mind taking the occasional shortcut – when I was much younger, we made our cornbread from the Jiffy™ mix. It was easy, tasty, and extremely inexpensive. But it has things in it (wheat flour)… well, you get the picture. So I looked around for wheat-free mixes, which usually get labeled as "gluten free". It's no skin off my nose if there's gluten from other grain sources, but, heck, if it's GF, it's also devoid of wheat, so, yay!

So, I tried a honey-cornbread mix from Aldi, and a similar Krusteaz GF mix, and both were very good. Very, very good.  They were just too sweet to use in the bird. We want savory. So I hunted and experimented, and finally found the recipe for me, for this. And I set it up so that Pop, if he gets bored, can make his own, by adding a few basic ingredients, just as though he'd gone & gotten himself a mix from the store.

It's a basic formula for skillet buttermilk cornbread, so you can bake it in one great honkin' disk, or you can turn it into adorable little bite-sized nuggets (my preference, so that I can crumble as many as I want into halves, and save a few to eat with a bowl of chili.).


Basic Cornbread Mix (and assembly instructions)

The Mix:
Ingredients:
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) powdered buttermilk (or powdered milk, if you prefer)
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (I like Pamelas, but Bob's Red Mill 1:1 is good, too)
3/4 cup corn meal
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions for mix:On the outside of a 1-quart zipper storage bag, write instructions in indelible ink* (I like black or blue Sharpies for the purpose) the necessary instructions for baking, which are as follows:

Preheat oven to 400º F. In a medium bowl, combine 2 large eggs, beaten, 1 cup water, and 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted. Mix well. Add dry mix, stir until just mixed (do not overmix!)
Spoon mix into small muffin tins, filling each reservoir to 3/4 full, and bake 15-17 minutes (until golden browned.  Makes up to 3 dozen.

Or, pour into an 8-inch square pan and bake 25-30 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean).
Allow to cool briefly in pan.


In a medium mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Pour into zipper bag, store until needed – if you plan to use it within a few weeks, it can rest on a shelf. If you're uncertain when you'll get to it, freeze it for up to 9 months, and bring to room temperature before mixing.


*You can print out a card with the instructions, and attach it to the bag, if you're feeling lazy.

Simple cornbread dressing, for use as turkey stuffing

Our Thanksgiving turkey doesn't get all decked out the way some others' do. For several generations, now, we've kept it neat and simple, because...why mess with perfection? You pick up a bird, make sure the brine isn't one with too much salt, sugar, or peculiar flavor additives (if I had my druthers, we'd drive an extra 40 minutes -- round trip -- to get one unbrined, so I could fix it just right, but I don't own the car or the budget, so...) 

Not Norman Rockwell, but darned close to it ;)
Anyway.

Plan to begin the process at least three days ahead of serving, because you need *stale* cornbread. And -- here's the tricky part -- you generally don't want that cakey, overly-sweet mix with the honey in it. You want a basic, savory cornbread. If you buy a mix, keep it simple, and buy a couple of boxes of Jiffy brand, or for those who have family with celiac issues, Krusteaz makes a fairly nice gluten-free version. They're as reliable as you can get. For me, since I'm cheap, have problems with wheat, and Pop sometimes gets in a baking mood, I make my own cornbread mix, using Pamela's gluten-free all-purpose flour and Saco brand powdered buttermilk..

Make a double batch of your savory cornbread, using melted butter where it calls for oil. Don't cut corners. This is a holiday food. 

Once you've baked that cornbread and it's just cooled enough to handle, cut it into cubes. Itty bitty cubes. You know those croutons you get at restaurants, from the salad bar? Aim for a tad bigger than that size. Ballpark it, if you have to, but you don't want them any bigger than an inch long. Or, if you have a kid who wants to help, have him break up the cornbread into pieces comparable to the end of a thumb, from joint to tip. 

Cornbread r squared
When it's all in bits, the cornbread needs to thoroughly dry out. Spread it out on a pair of cookie sheets, or a tray of foil, or whatever will allow you to have a loosely-distributed single layer of cubes or crumbs. If you're in a hurry, pop it right back in the not-yet-completely-cooled oven, set the temp around 200°F, and let it toast for 20 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the cornbread chunks alone in there until you're either ready to assemble the rest of the dressing, or you need the oven for soething else (but – and I cannot emphasize this  enough, based upon my own experiences – do not forget it and let it burn. That makes it taste nasty and will set off your fire alarm), whichever comes first.

Then comes the second stage.

You need a roasting pan and a bird.

A minimum of 12 pounds is ideal, for the bird. The weight of the pan is mostly irrelevant, unless you're dealing with a monster bird and a teeny, flimsy, disposable foil pan which... please don't. Go find a real pan. 

Once you have the  pan, and the plan...Panama! Oh, wait. No, let's not butcher a palindrome. Let's just prepare a bird. You'll also need cheesecloth and butter. And a baster or a good spoon for ladling, to baste a roasting bird.

But the bird is another page…

This is about the dressing.

Cornbread. Butter. Mushrooms. Onions. Celery. Rubbed sage. Salt. Pepper. If you have it, chicken or turkey stock. 

Around here, every time we buy a chicken or turkey, we take the bones and other scraps (especially the roasted skin) out before anybody can gnaw on them, and we turn them into our own long-simmered bone broth, which we bag up in a corner of the deep freezer. You can probably get away with using store-boughten broth, though, if you need. I don't recommend the powdered or cubed bouillon, though. Get some good stuff. This is a holiday, gosh dern it!

Once you have all the ingredients prepared, you can make the dressing as much as 24 hours before you plan to use it, but if you're going to stuff the bird with it, don't do that part until right before it goes into the oven (don't want to risk salmonella coming to dinner).

From this point forward, it's all in the assembly, and it becomes a matter of personal taste.  You may decide you want to add a cup of cooked sausage, chopped apples, fresh cranberries, chopped dried apricots, or any of a a gazillion potential combinations, you may decide you like more moisture, or gravy folded in at the beginning… this is just the simple, clean base we like best.

Cornbread Dressing (for use as stuffing, too)
Ingredients: 
8 cups crisply stale or toasted savory cornbread cubes (make at least 2 days ahead, for proper firmness)
2 cups lightly seasoned, low sodium turkey or chicken broth
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), divided into thirds, cut into tablespoon-sized pats
1 pound cleaned, sliced button or cremini (baby bella) mushroms 
1 small red onion, cut coarsely (about 3/4 to 1 full cup)
1 large or 2 small sweet onions, cut coarsely (I use Vidalia onions, when I can)
3 cups celery, sliced on a bias, about 1/4 inch thick – leaves included
1-3 teaspoons rubbed sage (I'm from the less-is-more school, where this is concerned)
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste 

Directions: 
Prepare the cornbread well in advance – baking, breaking into cubes, and allowing it to become crunchy-stale. Put it in a very large bowl.

A bowl full of crunchy bits

In a small saucepan or microwaveable bowl, heat broth until simmering (no need to boil).

Heat a large frying pan, wok, or sauté pan at high temperature. Melt 1/3 of the butter, and, as soon as the solids begin to turn golden-brown, add in half the sliced mushrooms, tossing them to lightly cover with the butter. Allow to cook on high, relatively undisturbed, until they start to brown and slightly crisp, stir, allow other sides to brown around the edges.  Stir into the bowl of cornbread crumbs. Repeat with second half of mushrooms.



'Shroomies. I like to make 'em squeak with anxiety from the high heat.

Two – count them, TWO – varieties of mushrooms, for nuance. Also, these were on sale.
With the last portion of butter, in the same frying pan, stir fry the celery, onions, rubbed sage, salt, and pepper until onions turn translucent. Add 1/2 cup broth*, stir (mostly this is to deglaze the pan & pick up all those caramelized flavors sticking to the bottom).  Add to cornbread and mushrooms. Stir well. Here is where you need to use a little restraint: you may need to add some more broth, at this point, if the bread is still too crisp in the center. But if you add too much, you'll make it soggy and gross. So, if you're adding more broth, do so a couple of tablespoons at a time, tossing well with the wooden spoon after each addition – until the bread is moistened, but still noticeably firmer than you like it when it's served at the table. Then quit adding.  There's already a substantial amount of moisture coming from the vegetables. 

Less is still more.

Onions, celery, rubbed sage, salt, pepper…these are actually pretty tasty even without the rest of the dressing. But let's not stop short of perfection.
Set aside until cool enough to handle. 

May be refrigerated overnight, in bowl (or 1.5 gallon zipper bag).

When you fill your turkey with this, be sure to avoid overstuffing it. It should be very loosely packed into both the body and neck cavities, with plenty left over. What won't fit, put back into the fridge until just before the bird is due to come out of the oven. 

When the turkey is due to come out of the oven, bring out the remaining dressing, put it in a large, buttered, oven-safe bowl, and set it close to where you'll be letting the turkey rest (yes, you'll want a foil tent for the bird, and you'll want the thing to sit under that tent for at least 20 minutes after coming out of the oven, before you try to carve it).  Before you do anything else with the turkey, scoop the stuffing out of the cavities and add it to the reserved dressing. Stir it together, then place it in the oven until completely warmed (about 20 minutes). 


Close. Gonna add another spritz of broth.


*Odds are, you won't need much – if any – of the remaining 1 1/2 cups of broth, but if you like your dressing to be more like a bread pudding, you may want to add it into the mixture until the cornbread is saturated.  We prefer to leave a little bit of resistance – firm cornbread, crunchy bits of celery, etc. I have been known, though, to stir in a half cup or so of gravy right before I put it on the table.



Feast! Family! Fun!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Praline and Butter Pecan Pound Cake (an experiment) (gluten free)

Ring of No Regrets
In case you hadn't figured this out, I love having the opportunity to bake birthday cakes. Twice a year, I get to design and build something more for show, because the feasting will be done, in the majority, by youthful philistines... that is, the party guests of my favorite house monkeys. ;) And so, I have created rough sculptures from flour, sugar, and butter.

This weekend is another birthday, though, for an adult in the family. No sculpture necessary. It just has to be tasty as heck and not look as though a train ran it over and it caused a derailment.

Therefore, I have the freedom to explore a variety of flavors, textures, and extra ingredients, all of which I hope will please the palates of the family. And I may have hit on one. Well, at least if the rest of the crowd isn't impressed, The Bat and I will have some extremely decadent treats.

Because…pecans and butter. What's not to love?


You know you want some of that butter and pecan bliss…

My inspiration was a recipe I found in my mailbox, but I had to adapt it to remove the wheat, and…well, once you mess with flour in a cake, there's a huge risk you're going to end up with something completely different from the original plan. I realize there are some very good gluten-free 1:1 all-purpose flours on the market (I generally use Pamela's™because it's reliable & reasonably priced), but when your recipe is in volume rather than weight, textures can vary. Also, I was interested in finding out whether a cake with nut meal in its base was everything the GF sites said it was.

It is.

Seriously, even if this had come out nothing but crumbs, I'd have spent an hour licking the last crumbs off the countertop.

Try it for yourself.


I made this one using a mix of pecans, brown sugar, and butter in the bottom of the pan. The sugar hardened, & needed help coming out of the pan (hence, the crumbly lines at what would have been the ridges), but it tasted like the Elyssian Fields...And WAY too sweet for most of the family.

Praline and Butter Pecan Pound Cake (gluten free)

Ingredients:

2 cups pecan pieces
3/4 pound unsalted butter (3 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons, divided
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar (plus more for pan)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups almond flour (almond meal)
1 1/2 cups gluten-free 1:1 all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablsepoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pralines (or simple pecan halves) (optional)

 Directions:

Set out all refrigerated ingredients at least 1/2 hour ahead of time, so that everything you work with is at room temperature.

Finely chop 2 cups of pecans (I use a tool designed expressly for the purpose). In a large frying pan, melt 2 Tablespoons butter, add in chopped pecans. Stir until butter covers the pieces completely, continue to stir until they're lightly browned (about 5-8 minutes). Remove from heat, set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 325º F (approx 165º C).

Completely coat the inside of your non-stick baking pan with non-stick spray, then "dust" it with a coating of granulated sugar (I used a bundt pan, but you might want to pull out your large tube pan). Arrange 1/2 cup pecan halves facing downward on the bottom of pan.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together granulated & brown sugars until evenly combined. Set aside.

Into a medium mixing bowl, sift together almond flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Using your stand mixer bowl with paddle (or a heavy-duty hand mixer, if you don't have a solid stand mixer) at low speed, mix together sugar and butter until just combined, add eggs and mix only until the yolks are broken.

With mixer continuing at low speed, begin adding in the dry ingredients a few tablespoons at a time until all combined.

Add in vanilla, mix in completely.

Add chopped pecans, stir by hand, if necessary.

Scoop batter into cake pan carefully, so as to avoid disturbing your layer of pecans.

Bake 75 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven, allow to cool completely.
(If the cake sticks to the pan at this point, warm it a few minutes in the oven, to soften the sugar in the crust enough for it to release from the pan.)

Serve in small slices, perhaps with unsweetened whipped cream or with ice cream.

The Slaw Lane

Just about everybody has a version of slaw handed down from Grandma or stolen from a favorite eatery. It's an unwritten (s)law. 

Personally, I like working variations on a theme. There are the standards (simple shredded cabbage and dressing) and the fancified (mixed cabbages, finely grated fruits, nuts, wine dressings, and airs to put on), and everything in between.

Today, I opted for the "trendy" member of the cabbage family. Cauliflower. It's not because the fashion this year is all things cauliflower. We've been eating the stuff for years. 

It's because...well, just because. I like it. It's tasty, the salad is simple, and that's all.

You can buy cauliflower "rice" -- the pre-grated stuff --  if you're lazy. You can grate it by hand, if you must. Personally, I like putting a fine slicer blade into the Kitchen-Aid attachment (any food processor's fine slicer will do), so as to make pretty bites. 

And, once you have the shredded vegetable matter, the rest is simple.


Zesty Cauliflower Slaw

Ingredients:

1 small head cauliflower, sliced or grated (about 4-5 cups sliced, 3 cups "rice" style)
2/3 cup mayonnaise (I like Hellmann's/Best with Olive Oil, or – even better – homemade)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2-8 drops Tabasco sauce, to taste

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, and hot sauce to make dressing (you will want to use slightly less hot sauce than you think you'll need, because the cauliflower does amplify the heat of the sauce). Stir until completely mixed. 

In a medium bowl, stir the dresing into the cauliflower until evenly distributed. If you need to extend the dressing, sprinkle vinegar lightly and stir until every bit of the cauliflower is coated. 

Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.



It's that simple.







 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Banananana… You won't know when to stop with this nut bread

Over the course of time, most of my old cravings for forbidden (trigger-laden) foods have disappeared. For example, I no longer pine for strawberries every time The Bat brings home a quart of fresh ones for herself and Pop. Grapes come in and go out without my feeling the desire to pope one in my mouth and stop breathing… but breads are a much harder habit to break. 

Worse still, I have desperately missed dessert-y quick breads, like the classic banana-nut loaf which usually happened at least once a month when I was younger – after my brugly other stopped inhaling the fruits, and the occasional banana was allowed to go a little overripe. During those years, The Bat would take out the extra-long loaf pan (the 5x16 incher) and load it up with batter, filling the house with that sweet, heady aroma. If we were lucky, there would also be a brick of cream cheese on the counter when the bread was finished baking, to add a little bite, a little extra richness to the treat. But once wheat was put on my list of things to be avoided, I would glance longingly at those fruits on the counter as they started to show brown spots.

No more, though!  I can have my cake, and eat it, too. 

Welllll… technically, no. I can have my banana bread, though, and make it lower in carbs at the same time I make it wheat-free. This makes it slightly more virtuous a feast, until I slather that cream cheese all over it and treat it as if it were cupcake frosting.

Granted, it's a fairly heavy version of banana bread – Pop likes his to be a little more on the lightly cakey side, whereas this comes out dense, like a pound cake. Still, it's banana-y, nutty, and moist. What's not to like? 


Rich, nutty, fruity, and good for you…like a bran muffin, only without the whole bran muffin attitude 
 


Banana Bread with Coconut Flour
Ingredients:
7 large eggs at room temperature
3 Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 cup sifted coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease a standard glass loaf pan.

In a large bowl, and with Paddle attachment (not dough hook or whisk) combine eggs, honey, oil, and mashed bananas, beat until well blended.

In a separate bowl, sift together coconut flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Whisk in nuts, if you are including them. 

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, in the mixer bowl. Mix until completely combined.
Pour into greased loaf pan, place on middle rack of oven. Bake 1 hour. 

Remove from oven, allow to cool 10 minutes in pan.  

Remove from pan,  allow to cool completely on rack.

This bread is better if allowed to stand overnight. Serve with cream cheese brought to room temperature to soften, for greater cake-like awesomeness.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Green Tomatoes, Not Fried

Jars! I relish them! Also, I just plain preserve what I can.

What does a person do when, as the growing season comes to an end, there are still piles of green tomatoes on the dying vines? 

Well, I'm told that most people allow those little marbles of acid to be added to the compost heap. I, on the other hand, like to savor every last bite of summer as long as I can (I love the foods, even though I hate the heat).

So, today, I started the process for making green tomato relish. It's the kind of thing you need to set aside two days for, because the vegetables need to brine themselves half to death before you can add the seasoning, the vinegar, and the cooking/canning.

So, to begin. gather supplies and ingredients. 

There was a gallon bucket of green 'maters.
Green Tomatoes. You know you want some.

And then there were these cute little baby sweet peppers in the fridge (instead of the recipe's recommended green and red bell peppers), and some sweet (Vidalia) onions...

Suh-WEET! peppers and onions…
 Plus, I had a very nice-looking recipe in one of my more recent additions to the kitchen library, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving   The world was now my oyster. Or, at least, it was my pickle-jar. 

Oh, yes. Jars. You need five half-pint Ball or Kerr sturdy mason jars – sterilized in the dishwasher or in a boiling water bath –  for this recipe, plus a canning kettle and the standard accompanying tools (funnel, jar lifter, etc.). This calls for a hot bath process on day two.

You'll also want a large swatch of cheesecloth out of which to make a spice bag. By "large swatch", I mean something a couple of layers thick, and, if you don't have string to tie it off, about 8x8 inches, so you have enough to tie corners across, to make a "hobo bundle".

Time to begin.

After thoroughly sorting and washing the tomatoes, I cut the cores out and cut them into quarters, to make sure there were no bad spots or unnecessary protein sources (found a stink bug in the bucket. Didn't think that its inclusion would improve the flavor of the relish).

From there, it was just a matter of following the instructions as written in the Ball book on preserving foods. More or less. I'm lazy, so instead of finely chopping the 'maters by hand, I put them through the coarse grater on the food processor. The bits of fruit came out more consistent than I'd have gotten with my best knife. 

Tomatoes grated and ready for the salt, peppers, and onions to be added before steeping overnight.
And, after all that work, I have one jar to give away to somebody special, this Christmas, and four for myself.

Oh, all right. I'll give away two of them. But only because I'm feeling saintly. And because I also put by six pints of whole green tomatoes for use in chili, later this year.

Green Tomato Relish, plus the bonus round of canned tomatoes
Green Tomato Hot Dog Relish

Ingredients:

Day 1
6 cups finely chopped, cored green tomatoes (unpeeled)
2 medium onions, finely chopped (minced) (about 3 cups)
2 green bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup pickling or canning salt

Directions:
In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine green tomatoes, onions, green and red bell peppers and pickling salt. Cover and allow to stand in a cool place (70 to 75º F/ 21 to 23º C) for 12 hours or overnight. 
Just mincing my peppers. A couple of pieces fell out before they could be made teensy, so I had to eat them.

Day 2
Green tomato mixture in salt
1/2 to 1 full teaspoon whole cloves (since our household is not fans of the taste of cloves, I prefer the lower quantity)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 (4-inch / 10 cm) cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 cups white vinegar (I used rice vinegar – it's an allergy thing)
1 1/2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt (I prefer kosher salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
a few drops of food coloring (optional)

Directions:

Remove cover from bowl of green tomatoes, onions, peppers, and salt. Transfer to a colander placed over a sink and allow to drain. Rinse thoroughly with cool water and drain. Using your hands, squeeze out excess liquid. Set aside. 

Lather, rinse, repeat…erm, no, just thoroughly rinse, drain, and squish out liquids

Tie cloves, celery seeds, and cinnamon stick in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, mustard, salt, ginger, and spice bag. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.

Add drained tomato mixture, stir well, and return to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to boil gently, stirring often, until tomatoes are transparent (about 1 hour). Remove and discard spice bag. Add a few drops of green and yellow food coloring, to your preferred shade of green (I used about 4 drops of green, 2 of yellow).

Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars, and lids according to manufacturer's recommendations. (Canner should be filled with water sufficient to cover the jars to at least 1/2 inch above the tops of the jars.)

Ladle hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace (some of the newer jars actually have a "fill to" line beneath the screwtop ridge. It's very helpful.) Wipe rim with clean damp cloth or paper towel. Center lid on jar, screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger-tight.

Place jars in canner, being sure they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil, process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool on a dry towel.

Once they are cooled, remove the screw band, and store*.     


*If you have relatively hard water, or an older canner, you may have some mineral deposits on your jars and lids. It's best to deal with that stuff right away as soon as they're cool, before you try to label your jars. Washing them with vinegar water will get them sparkling and sticky-label or marker ready.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Salmon Jammin' Evening: A Summery Seafood Salad


A nice fresh fish salad with refrigerator pickles…just right on a hot summer day.

It's hot. It's not quite summer by the calendar, and the air outside has reached 92° F (33°C), with a high dew point (and, yes, you Texans and Floridians, etc. can scoff if you will). Our house does not have central air conditioning. This means, nobody wants to spend a second longer than necessary over a hot stove...or even a hot grill.

Since my local weather experts have been fairly reliable in their forecasts, though, I was able to prepare for this eventuality.

Our Friday Night Plates (our regular get-together with our extended, volunteer family) got chillin'. The Bat brewed up and then refrigerated some peppermint tea in advance of the evening, and I prepped a batch of gluten-free key lime tarts (more on that, maybe, in another post), a bowl of fruit compote (I cheat. Canned fruits are very useful when you're between seasons), and, most importantly, a nice big bowl of salmon salad.

In searching the web for ideas, I noticed that the most popular salmon salads are leafy greens piled with hot, freshly grilled fish and a few other must-slave-in-the-heat items. This would not do for me. I was looking for something kind of chill-out-y and picnic-y. 

What I offered the family was easily prepared in advance, can be made with canned, pouched, smoked, steamed, or even grilled salmon, and is relatively low in carbs. 

And it tastes only moderately decadent.


Salad. We like it like that.

Chilled Salmon Salad
Ingredients:

Salad:
1 lb fresh or frozen boneless, skinless salmon filets, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/2- to 3/4 cup diced celery
3 ounces capers, rinsed and drained

Dressing:
4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3  cup lemon or lime juice (or more to taste)

Directions:
At least 3 hours before serving, steam salmon chunks (or bake in a nonstick covered dish at low heat -- about 300-325° F) until just opaque and easily flaked with a fork. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes, either way.

When the salmon is cooked, place in covered dish in refrigerator until completely chilled.

Cut celery into small cubes, rinse and drain capers, setting aside a dozen or so for garnish. Lightly mix the rest into the cold salmon.

For the dressing: in a small mixer bowl, whip softened cream cheese until fluffy, gradually add in olive oil and mix thoroughly. Finally, mix in lemon or lime juice until the dressing has the consistency of mayonnaise. If you want, you can add a little more juice to boost the flavor, but don't get carried away.

Gently stir the dressing into the salmon mixture.

Serve chilled on your favorite bread or a bed of tender leaf lettuce. Garnish with sliced cucumbers or fresh pickles.

Serves 6

Saturday, April 30, 2016

In the Name of Science

Our deep freezer was in desperate need of defrosting. I know these things should be done at least quarterly, so that foods don't get lost far in the back and become bricks of history, but we'd let it go for about 9 months. This meant that the appliance was no longer freezing hard, the way it's supposed to. The ice cream was getting soft. 

Needless to say, the job had to be done.

Now, when you have slightly more than a quart of mostly-melted ice cream, and only two people in the house for the afternoon, you may have a problem disposing of it. It would have been practically a crime to send it down the drain. And thus, the search for the recipe...

The popular "super genius kitchen hack" this past year was the so-called two-ingredient bread, using ice cream and self-rising flour, had come across my screen more than a few times. I decided to give it a try. After looking over quite possibly a hundred variations on the theme, I settled on this one for my trial.


Let me put it this way: I didn't hate it.

It comes out as something along the lines of a loose quick bread, sort of a muffin loaf. Well, actually, since I'd baked mine in a 4-inch round springform pan, it was sort of like a monster muffin.

Reminder to those who want to do the same thing: baking a deep round instead of a small loaf, you're going to need to pretty much double the oven time, which also suggests you may want to put a foil cover over it for part of the time, so it doesn't get too browned. I gave mine an extra 12 minutes (roughly 50% more time than the recipe called for) and it was still a little underdone in the core. I'm not complaining, though. It tasted fine, for an experimental muffin.

As bread or cake, though…I've had better.

Woman's World Book of Unusual Cookery part 3













Woman's World Book of Unusual Cookery part 1

This booklet – another one picked up in a bunch of ephemera at an auction, 'way back in 2010 – had suffered some serious water damage. I did what I could to restore the images, once scanned, but some of the text was just too blurred, and a few of the pages so badly stuck together that it would have given a restoration/conservation expert fits. It was pretty enough, and entertaining enough, though, that I struggled through some dense clouds of mildew to scan what I could (the pages were bigger than my old scanner bed, so each page was scanned in two parts, for as much data as I could rescue), then spent some time in Photoshop, cleaning up and reassembling the images.

As a project, it has a bit to be desired, but I hope you like what I managed to salvage. I'll post it in several segments, because it's a lot to load all at once.