mayonnaise musings

I think I need a muse. It appears that I’ve become so distracted by “my life” that when I’m actually able to carve out a little time for “my self” I’m at a loss. I need inspiration, a creative catalyst, a bit of meaningful illumination. Seriously, I think a muse is the answer. (And just for future reference, if you should one day decide to search ‘creative muse’ on Craigslist be prepared to be surprised.) Okay, so back to my slump… I’ve been trying to come up with an idea for a new post ever since my last one two months ago. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, frankly the cooking is the easy part, it’s that I haven’t had the time to test, photograph and come up with a few snappy lines about the amazing thing I just made. So instead I’ve been pondering and considering, waiting for the ‘spirit of the whisk’ (not a real thing but it should be) to transcend upon me and simply biding my time until it does. After all you can’t rush transcendence.

I was standing in my kitchen the other morning drinking coffee and checking email when the strangest idea popped into my head: “I should really make mayonnaise.” That was it, nothing more. “Huh… Should I?” I thought to myself. I’ve made plenty of perfectly-good-as-store-bought-but-took-the-time-to-make-anyway condiments in the past (including Hollandaise the fancy cousin of mayo), so why not mayonnaise. Why not?

As it happens at the same time I was have my little egg and oil emulsification epiphany the NY Times was running a recipe for Classic Deviled Eggs written by the same co-author of the cookbook I based my mayonnaise recipe on; Sheila Lukins. Was my food processor a portal to the after life? Was Shelia trying to tell me to keep on truckin’? The answer remains unclear, but then you already know my stance on rushing the mystical, her mayonnaise however was a thing of ethereal beauty.

Simple Homemade Mayonnaise
You can totally adjust the tang of this mayo by playing with the amount of lemon juice you use.

mayonnaise

2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. salt
pinch of black pepper
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

  1. Combine all the ingredients except for the oil in the bowl of a food processor and allow to run for 1 minute.
  2. With the motor still running slowly drizzle the oil through the feed tube, allowing the eggs and oil to emulsify. Scrape down the sides, pulse a few more times then transfer into a airtight container. Store in the refrigerator, it will keep for 5 days.

*adapted from the new basics cookbook

 

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gluten-free… is it for me?

A few weeks ago I decided to try going gluten-free. I’ve had quirky issues with my stomach most of my life (ironic since I’m such a food lover right?) and I wanted to see if making the switch would make a difference. It’s too soon to make any concrete declarations but all signs are pointing to… maybe.

Deciding to change your diet can feel like a daunting task. I’ll be honest, my motto is more “Life is too short not enjoy dinner!” than “Moderation is the key too happiness.” With that in mind I’ve tried my best not to let gluten-free mean flavor-free, but it hasn’t been easy. I’ve discovered that potato chips and wine are both gluten-free (which frankly made me one happy girl) and I’ve come to the conclusion that if you fall into three simple categories you’re certain to find eating well gluten-free to be a snap. And here they are:

1.) You like vegetables and are happy to eat lots of them.
2.) You’re not a big fan of carbs and can give them up without a backward glance.
3.) You’re more of a baked goods buyer than a from scratch baker.

Honestly I’ve got no problem with 1. And I’m actually surprised at how easily I’ve given up 2., but the baking part has been tricky. You see while it’s quite possible to find recipes for ooey-gooey gluten-free cinnamon buns and chewy chocolate chip cookies; these recipes are often labor intensive and usually require a boat load of special ingredients. Ingredients such as tapioca and rice flour, xanthan gum, potato starch and agar flakes, things you probably don’t exactly have lying around the pantry. Yeah, I know— annoying. I’ve decide that if I stick with this little wheat-free detour then perhaps I will make the ingredient investment, but until then I’ve been trying to manage with my own little tweaks and substitutions. So what have I come up with? Well I’m glad you asked…

My daughter and I made our own oat flour and used it to bake up some lovely applesauce muffins. I’ve made dozens of loaves of cornbread with a blend of fine and coarse cornmeal, a couple of eggs and some cream style corn— the results were delicious. But my biggest gluten-free success so far has to be macaroni n’ cheese. I swapped regular pasta for rice (I like Trader Joe’s brand the best), used arrowroot powder instead of flour in the roux for the cheese sauce, and punched up the flavor big time by using a combination of goat brie and cheddar. Afraid of that goaty flavor? Don’t be, it’s really subtle but makes a huge flavor impact and this combo seems to be loved by all. Seriously! My family thinks it’s one of the best versions of mac n’ cheese I’ve ever made, which is fantastic, but I really knew I was onto something when I served it at our July 4th barbecue. Not a single one of the dozen kids who were here had anything but “Is there more?” to say about it. I’ll take that as one big fat recipe success.

I guess you can say that I’m slowly learning to navigate the world of gluten-free living. I can almost imagine myself continuing to live this way if I can just conquer one all mighty obstacle… The ultimate crusty loaf of gluten-free bread. So stay tuned!

Gluten-Free Goat Brie + Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese
I make this with goat brie and my family loves it, but you can use all cheddar if you don’t think yours will.

glutenfree mac2

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. arrowroot powder
1 1/2 cups skim milk, warmed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, diced
4 oz. wheel goat brie, peeled and diced
16 oz. gluten-free rice macaroni

  1. Begin cooking the macaroni according to package directions. While it cooks melt the butter in a medium saucepan.
  2. Add the arrowroot powder and whisk until it turns golden. (The key to using arrowroot is not to overheat it, otherwise it loses it’s thickening magic.)
  3. Slowly add the warm milk and whisk until the sauce has thickened. Add the garlic powder, salt and Dijon mustard and stir until well combined.
  4. Drain the macaroni and return to the pot. Add the diced cheese to the white sauce and stir until the sauce is smooth.
  5. Pour half the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and give it a gentle stir. Add additional sauce until the macaroni is coated to your liking. (I often have extra sauce that I use when I reheat the leftovers.)
  6. Serve, enjoy and be amazed at how tasty gluten-free can be!

a winter’s night turkey burgers

Theres nothing like a classic all beef burger to make you feel indulged and satisfied. I’m not talking about some slapped together fast food number (blech, never!) but a nice juicy hand-formed burger cooked medium, with just the right meat to bun ratio and topped off with a delicious bit of cheese. And I love the way burgers taste when they’re cooked outside on the grill, it’s a flavor I’ve never been able to duplicate in my kitchen. (Grilled blue cheese burgers with caramelized onions and Dijon mustard happens to be one of my all time favorite indulgences!) All that being said, in our house good ‘ol classic grilled hamburgers are strictly warm weather fare. There’s no way I’m standing at the grill on a cold dark winter’s night just for a couple of burgers (not even blue cheese ones) and that goes double this Winter. Imagine if for some crazy reason I did decide to brave the cold darkness in an attempt to grill up a few burgers— I would still need to climb over and trudge through three feet of frozen snow just to get to the grill! Nope. Sorry. Not happening… However, since burgers are such a great hectic weeknight meal I realized I had to find a solution to my weather-bound limitations. I happen to love Salmon burgers and would happily eat them on a regular basis, but my family— not so much. I like veggie burgers as well but try as I may to get my recipe perfect, they always seem to wind up a big crumbly mess. And frankly, I’m not so sure my family would be knocked out by the “perfect” veggie burger either. They do however happen to be fans of turkey burgers, which is quite fortunate since I just happen to have a killer turkey burger recipe that actually works better in a skillet than on the grill.

Let me begin by saying that a turkey burger will never satisfy the way a beef burger does. I know this. I acknowledge this. I agree with this. But… What turkey may lack in decadence it totally makes up for in versatility. Ground turkey is a bit like tofu in that it really takes on whatever flavors you add to it beautifully. In fact ground turkey is my go-to protein for many of the dishes I make; Turkey Shepherds PieTurkey & Bean ChiliTurkey Meatloaf with Salsa and Old School Turkey Sloppy Joe’s just to name a few. So the idea of a souped-up turkey burger seemed like a no-brainer to me, particularly one that incorporated all the cool weather flavors I love most; Tart apple, aged cheddar cheese, fresh garlic and sage with just a hint of maple syrup. Sounds kinda crazy, right? It is, in the most wonderful and yummy of ways. And while it won’t ever replace the taste of a freshly grilled beef burger, it has quickly become a Greco family favorite.

Apple, Sage & Maple Turkey Burgers
These burgers totally taste like cool weather to me. A bit of tart apple, aged cheddar and fresh sage with a hint of maple syrup. Yup, frosty winter nights all the way…

replacement

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh sage leaves, minced (about 3 large leaves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. real maple syrup
1/2 a medium green apple, finely grated
1 lb. ground turkey
4 brioche rolls
4 slices cheddar cheese, for garnish
sliced tomatoes and fresh spinach, for garnish
Maple-Dijon sauce (see recipe below)

  1. In a small bowl mash together the garlic, sage, salt and pepper to form a paste. Add the apple cider, maple syrup and grated apple and mix well.
  2. Knead the garlic mixture into the ground turkey and form into 4 patties (they will be very soft and kinda wet, not to worry). Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to give the flavors a chance to meld.
  3. Heat a non-stick griddle or skillet over medium heat, lightly oil and add the burgers. Carefully transfer the burgers to the griddle and cook until firm, cooked through and lightly browned, about 6 minutes per side. Serve on rolls with cheddar cheese, a slice of tomato, fresh spinach leaves and a schemer of maple-dijon sauce.

Maple-Dijon Mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. real maple syrup

  1. While burgers are resting mix together the yogurt, mustard and maple syrup and chill until ready to use.

kicking’ it sloppy + old school

If I say the word “Manwich” and you’re roughly the same age as I am you’ll probably think one of two things; “Oh man, I used to love Sloppy Joe’s as a kid!” or “Ugh, that reminds me of bad school lunches.” I happen to have fond Sloppy Joe memories, although I’m fairly certain my mother never actually bought a can of Hunt’s Manwich. I’m sure it was just another thing on my long list of pre-made, preservative laden, artificial everything foods that 7-year-old me longed for, but that my dearest mother decided to make from scratch instead.

[Fast forward thirty odd years] “Mom, what’s a sloppy Joe?” “Sloppy Joe’s are these great messy sandwiches. They’re filled with ground beef in a tangy tomato sauce and served on squishy rolls. It was one of my favorite dinners as a kid.” “Really?!? Do you think you could make them one day?” “You got it.

A few days later he seems to have forgotten about our conversation, but my husband who overheard it clearly hadn’t. “Sloppy Joe’s tonight?” reads the mid-morning text.

Initially I hadn’t planned on following a recipe, I thought I’d just wing it, tasting as I went until I got it right. But after a quick google search I actually decided to tweak up a Williams-Sonoma recipe. (Yes I know, Williams-Sonoma and Sloppy Joe in the same sentence is an odd juxtaposition, just go with it.) The first thing I did was change the ground beef to turkey, then I bumped up the spices, thickened the sauce a bit and… like greased lightnin’ it was suddenly 1978 again.

Old School Sloppy Joe’s
We totally kicked it old school the night I made these. I served them along with tater tots and frozen mixed vegetables. 7-year-old me would have approved…

sloppy3

1 1/2 cups diced onion
3/4 cup finely diced celery
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/3 cup diced green pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
7-8 hamburger rolls

  1. Add the oil to a large frying pan and heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and green pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent and the pepper is beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the any large clumps of meat, until it’s no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and spices. Add the tomato mixture to the nearly cooked meat, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Divide the meat mixture evenly between the hamburgers rolls, serve with some old school tater tots and enjoy a nostalgia filled evening.

*adapted from williams-sonoma

I ❤ Pork

“What’s for dinner tonight?” they ask. “Pork Medallions with an Orange-Ginger Reduction,” I reply. “Huh,” they say “pork what with what?” “Pork chops that have been sliced and simmered in a sauce of orange juice, soy sauce, garlic and ginger,” I tell them. “Ohhh, sounds good…”

From reading my blog you may imagine dinner at our house as an adventurous affair; exotic curries, soul satisfying soups and garlicky side dishes of every variety. And while some nights are a bit more interesting than others, I also serve not so fancy pasta with red sauce, simple grilled burgers and (the kids favorite) breakfast for dinner. Oh and lets not forget pork chops, also part of my weeknight dinner repertoire.

I would venture to say that I cook pork far more often than any other kind of meat. I think that’s largely due to the fact that it’s extremely versatile, typically inexpensive, and available just about everywhere. (Even Target sells pork loins and chops!) It takes well to marinades or simple salt and pepper and it’s delicious slow roasted, baked, stir-fried or grilled. Pork is like a blank canvas, full of possibilities. Yes, I guess it would be safe to say that I ❤ Pork. (I am the girl who introduced you to Candied Bacon Fudge after all.)

I’m sure you’ve seen the ads and you’re already aware of the existence of The National Pork Board whose mission it is to “educate people on the power of pork.” (Funny, right?) But did you know that they have a blog as well? Yup, it’s called Pork, Knife & Spoon and it’s full of inspiring recipes and interesting posts. This recipe happens not to be one of them, it’s actually one of my own concoctions, but perhaps after I contact the Pork Board they’ll be so impressed with my treatment of their most admired protein that they’ll feature my recipe on their blog and my blogging career will really take off. Then I could say that I owe all my success to pork. Yes, just perhaps…

Sliced Pork with Orange-Ginger Sauce
These are delicious and a far cry from the shake ‘n bake chops of your childhood!

orange-ginger pork

4 boneless center cut pork chops
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/3 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, grated
brown rice, for serving
sliced scallions, for garnish

  1. Heat sesame oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle each chop with salt and pepper, add to the pan and quickly brown, about 2 minutes per side.
  2. Remove the browned chops from the pan and slice each one into 1/4 inch slices. Wipe out the pan and return the sliced meat to it.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger, orange juice, soy sauce, honey, mustard and garlic. Pour the mixture over the pork slices and simmer uncovered for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pork is cooked through and the sauce has reduced a bit.
  4. Serve the sliced pork over brown rice, drizzled with additional sauce and garnished with sliced scallions.