adapted from Ellie Krieger
makes 6-8 tacos
Hello again summertime. It’s certainly been a while hasn’t it? But I welcome you back happily and hungrily but with a touch of bitterness.
I adore you for the long days spent reading outside in my grubby pajamas. I love the rare moments when all of my friends and I suddenly seem to have a simultaneous free time and a long night spent stargazing and inhaling ice cream follows. I love the meals: luscious grilled everything, simple antipasti platters of bread, pesto, cheese, and cold wine, and simple cold salads that keep for days and are perfect from the fridge, requiring no need of an oven.
But summer is also when I stress over the fact that no one wants to hire summer employees. I sit bored, feeling pointless and worthless. And unlike last year, where I spent every moment counting down the days until my trip to London, the anticipation factor is lacking. I ache for opportunity whether it be an internship, design assignment, paid cooking extravaganza, whatever…will it ever come?
So as a self-deemed personal chef for the family, I spend my time cooking, for isn’t that one of those few things that eases the mind; as long as there is cooking it will be better, right? So with an ever-growing list of successful and share-worthy recipes, I’ll begin from the beginning.
On Memorial Day, unofficial start of summer, we celebrated by using a new toy we happened to acquire: our Steven Raichlen Beer Can Chicken Canister for the ultimate roasted/grilled little bird imaginable. Just fill it half way with beer or liquid of choice (aka coke, ginger ale, wine, cider, etc.), pop it in the cavity of a spice-rubbed chicken, place the stand and chicken upright over indirect heat on the grill, and let it go for an hour until the meat is moist and succulent. The liquid (we used Blue Moon) permeated the chicken with citrusy flavor and extreme moisture and it was so delicious we attacked it like a pack of savage wolves. And the best part was, it was the first roasted chicken I’ve made that did not require greasing up the oven and multiple pans and a routine frantic fanning of the smoke alarm. A perfect recipe in my book!
Beer Can Chicken
The key is maintaining a fairly even cooking temperature throughout. Before adding the chicken, get your grill to a steady 400 degrees and once you add the chicken, avoid opening the grill lid as much as possible. This will ensure the bird is cooked through after the hour is up. If you don’t have a special canister tool that we used, feel free to simply stick a half-full beer can into the cavity instead.
1 large organic or free-range chicken
Half of a beer in a can or special cooking canister filled halfway with liquid of choice
Spice rub: Recipe from Jamie’s America by Jamie Oliver
1 heaping tsp. anise seeds
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 heaping tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. mild chili powder
salt and pepper
3 Tbs. olive oil
Get the grill going ahead of time and get it so it stays at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If it has 3 burners, only light the 2 outside ones. This way, you can place the chicken in the middle and it cooks from indirect heat. This will ensure it is cooked though and not burned on the bottom.
Prepare the chicken by rinsing it, removing the innards, and patting it dry. Separate the skin from the meat so it is easier later when you are putting the rub on the chicken. Fill the liquid canister halfway with liquid of choice or open a beer can and remove half of the contents in any manner you’d like.
To make the rub, combine the anise seeds, cumin, paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a spice grinder and blitz until all mixed-up. Pour into a bowl, add the olive oil, and stir together.
Slather the rub on the outside of the whole chicken, between the skin and the meat, and inside the cavity. Insert the beer can or canister into the chicken’s cavity and stand it upright. Shove some thyme sprigs into the top of the chicken.
Place the chicken in the middle of the grill, close the lid, and let it cook for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Once cooked, carefully remove the chicken from the can and let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving. We ate it with some simple steamed swiss chard.
Oh my!! Has is really been a month since my last post…terribly sorry about that. But you know, school ended, so I took a little break from anything writing or work related. Then summer school started and blogging just got lost in the midst of all those things piling up on the to do list. And plus, when the weather is this nice, who wants so sit at their computer desk while the ever-so-cunning sunshine lures you away. So now, much, much too late, I am embarrassingly yet finally getting around to telling you about the Mother’s Day cake I prepared a couple weeks ago.
Now as much as I love baking anything (cakes, cookies, pies, whatever) the funny thing is, I don’t crave that sort of stuff that much. Especially in the summer. If I want something sweet after my meal, what I really want is just some fresh fruit, or a little scoop of ice cream, or some good dark chocolate. Those other desserts are just a little too much when the weather starts warming up. However, on a beautiful, warm mother’s day at my grandparent’s house, I discovered that cake could actually be quite refreshing.
I prepared gorgeous hummingbird cake (and yes, I received confused faces anytime I told someone what it was) and was left to recite a “it’s a southern spice cake with bananas, pineapple, coconut, and pecans and a cream cheese frosting.” This was usually followed by a, “well how many hummingbirds did you have to kill to make it,” or a, “I didn’t get any hummingbirds in my piece!” Well I promise you that no hummingbirds were harmed in the process. The name actually came about because the cake is sweet like the sugar water that hummingbirds feed on. Cute, right?
The cake turned out incredible. It was super moist yet the crumb was very delicate and I actually cut back on the sugar some so the sweetness was not overwhelming and the natural fruit flavors came out more. I also switched out the classic cream cheese frosting for a less sugary alternative. Now, I believe there are two people in the world: those who like American style frosting, heavily laden with powered sugar so that is gets that funny crust on the outside that makes a slight cracking noise when you bite in, or those that like a lighter and thinner whipped frosting. I am of the latter. So instead, I paired the cake with a lightly sweetened, whipped cream, cream cheese and mascarpone frosting. Overall this made for a cake that you ate and when you were done, you didn’t have that guilty sick feeling that usually follows. Rather, we all thought it refreshing and perfect ending to a meal. Though Spring is quickly transitioning into Summer, this southern classic would still make a perfect seasonal treat.
Hummingbird Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
I followed a Martha Stewart recipe for the cake itself. Funnily enough, this was supposed to be more like a quick bread and made by melting the butter and folding the wet with the dry. But, I guess I fail at following directions and just looked at the ingredients and proceeded as I normally would with cake, merrily creaming the butter with the sugar instead. It turned out great though and actually found the cake to still a tad dense so I’m sure that if made it the quick bread way, it would have been more so, so I suggest creaming the butter and sugar.
3 cups flour1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. coconut extract
1¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups mashed banana
1 8oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1 cup sweetened coconut
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare 2 cake pans (9 inch diameter) by placing a round of parchment on the bottom and buttering and flouring the pans.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, pineapple, coconut, and pecans and set aside as well.
In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on high for two minutes. Add the vanilla and coconut extract and add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Continue beating on high until the mixture is pale and fluffy (about another 2 minutes). Add the fruit mixture and beat until just combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients while the mixer is running on low and blend well until batter is smooth, but don’t overmix.
Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes and then invert them onto drying rack to cool completely before frosting.
Whipped Cream Cheese and Mascarpone Frosting Ingredients
8oz. cream cheese, room temperature
8oz. mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1½ cups cold heavy cream
With the paddle attachment on the mixer, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone until for about a minute on medium speed. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat on medium until smooth. Switch to the whisk attachment. On low speed, slowly add the heavy cream. Once all of the cream is added, increase the speed to high and whip until the frosting is thick and fluffy
Assemble the cake in a standard 2-layer fashion by placing about 1/3 to ½ of the frosting between the two layers. With the rest, use a spatula to first apply a thin coating of the frosting to the top and the sides of the cake and let it chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. This is the crumb coating that seals the cake so the final outside frosting layer is smooth, clean, and free of cake crumbs. Apply the rest of the frosting to the outside of the cake and decorate with some toasted coconut and pecans.
Well folks, my junior year of college is officially done. It’s scary though. I can’t believe that three years of college are already gone and in one measly little year, that real life thing is going to happen. I’m not too sure if I’m ready for that to happen…I guess that’s why I’m still banking on 2 years of culinary school to prolong the inevitable, c’mon financial aid.
But along with finishing this semester, I have finished three long years of dorm life as well. Apartment life with a ginormous kitchen in three months! It will hopefully provide for some much more frequent and fun recipe sharing and food writing for you too. But at the very least, my on-campus meal plan this past semester and a new-found confidence in dining alone in restaurants (courtesy of my London trip) led me to try and eat off-campus as much as possible. And in doing so, I discovered some really great eating in my college town and that The Shenandoah Valley is much more health conscious and local/sustainable-loving than I thought.
I really saw it in the small, yet decent farmer’s market where I got my weekly supply of fresh, whole wheat bread for breakfast toast. Though I had no kitchen to cook anything, I’ve admired the beautiful greens, radishes, and rhubarb that popped up the last few weeks. I’ll be sure so buy this produce once I’m cooking on my own. I’ve enjoyed the local sausage, egg, and cheese, sandwiches that send beautiful smells wafting across the pavilion and leave a delicious stream of grease running down my chin. I’ve also indulged in a homemade glazed yeast doughnut or two. (sorry that the only pictures I have are of half-eaten items…a little gross, no?)
I also came to love a little place called The Little Grill Collective, a special little hole-in-the-wall where employees, after 6 months of work, become collective owners of the restaurant. It is a super-hippie place, specializing in mainly vegetarian and vegan fare, but provide some meat options that are all local and free-range. All other ingredients are of superior quality too; It’s the sort of place where you eat so much but you don’t really feel sick because it was so fresh and healthy. It is a mix of Mexican and Mediterranean food (the falafel wraps are out of this world…that’s what is pictured) but every Friday night, they do a down-home southern platter complete with baked chicken, homemade mashed potatoes and mushroom “groovy gravy”, collard greens, and cornbread with honey butter. It’s amazing. But perhaps they are most famous for their breakfast, which includes their famous “blue monkeys”, 12-inch diameter buttermilk pancakes totally coated with blueberries and bananas. They cook up to the thickest, fluffiest, tender, and most delicious pancakes ever. They are real pancakes, oozing with fruitiness, and a stack of two is enough to put you in a fairly severe food coma for a while. Little grill is truly a vital part of our town’s community and I am proud to support them with every bite.
However, my most recent discovery, as of two weeks ago, was the Local Chop and Grill House and as you can judge by its name, almost everything is local, especially the delicious meat. It’s a seed-packing warehouse turned restaurant and it is absolute heaven. They have a formal dining area, which I hope to try someday when I feel like spending the money, but they also have a cozy bar area where you can get some of their cheaper fare, though the quality is not in the least bit sacrificed.
They have some appetizers and a couple fancier meat dishes, but you have to ignore those. It’s all about the burgers, gorgeous 6 oz patties from a variety of meats, served on house made brioche buns. My first visit, I had the bison burger, topped with sea salt, smoked Gouda, smoked bacon, and a mango hoisin sauce. On my second visit (which was just a week later…that’s how good it was) I tried the lamb burger, cooked medium-rare with onions and chopped mint, and topped with crispy onions and a maple-Dijon sauce. Though very different, both were amazing; they were superior in juiciness and full in flavor which contrasted beautifully with the crispy, grilled bun and cool lettuce and tomato. Other selections I hope to try are the pulled duck bbq, the salmon-caper burger, and the curried chickpea burger.
But the most unique aspect is their duck-fat fries, made with Yukon gold potatoes. Now I’ve heard about these fries, seen Bobby Flay and Michael Symon rave about them, but I’ve never found them anywhere. Where were these elusive duck-fat fries that the whole world seemed to rave about? Well I suddenly had them within reach and when they arrived hot and steaming in a paper cone, sea salt sprinkled on top, I salivated immediately. They were nowhere near what I expected. They were 100 times better. They were not greasy, not at all, but instead incredibly light and the fluffiest fries I’ve ever had. They of course had a much meatier flavor than oil fries but it made a world of a difference. They provided the crispiest of crunches and whether I was eating the mouth-burning hot ones or the cold ones at the bottom of the cone that I scraped up at the end, they never had a trace of sogginess. They were paired with homemade peach ketchup that was good too, but I almost preferred them plain, letting the full duck fat flavor shine. I’m certain they will probably make any other future fry incredibly lame in comparison, but at least now I know the perfection in which a fry can exist. This restaurant is amazing and when I’m 21 in a few months, I can’t wait to pair my burger with a beer and spend a wonderful summer evening at this gem.
I’ve discovered many other wonderful eats as well. Just to mention a few, A Bowl of Good, specializing in ethnic healthy comfort food, is amazing for rainy day takeaway. Cally’s makes wonderful Polyface egg quiches for brunch, Clementine’s has good sandwiches and salads, and of course Cocolicious Cupcakes is the cure to my sweet tooth. Though I am excited to cook on my own next semester, I will of course still treat myself to the local eats; they’ve captured my stomach completely.
I’m leaving you with a few links.
I want to have a spring picnic…my friends need to come home now
Want. To. Build. One. Of. These. NOW!!!!!
Liberty was one of my favorite stores is London and their custom fabric prints were beautiful. Unfortunately, they were waaay expensive. But now Liberty print is available of some awesome Nikes, or J-crew shirts…so beautiful…yet still so expensive.
A nice little read for foodies
This wedding is absolutely amazing. Love the bridesmaid dresses. How do people have this much creativity?
I want to make something like this. Time to flea market shop.
Before we begin let me just wish you a lovely Earth Day. I hope it was filled with lots of sustainable fun. I’m currently eating a bowl of organic, local soup and homemade seeded bread to celebrate on this rather chilly day.
I’ve seen quite a few bloggers doing this Friday linking thing lately so I thought I’d join in on the fun. In procrastination of my many final projects I’ve stumbled upon some great things in the last week so hope you enjoy them as much as I did. They really serve well as a means to a break while writing a 15-page media law research paper.
Again, have a wonderful Earth Day and I wish you the happiest of Easters. I hope these April showers finally let up soon and give us some warm, sunny weather for Sunday.
Please let my future house look like this, PLEASE!
I just discovered what ANZAC Day is and seeing that it’s on Monday I would really love to make these. Now about finding a kitchen…
I plan to go here as soon as finals are over. I’ve been meaning to visit all semester but you know how that goes.
The video on this is such an inspiration. I’m working on a small business documentary right now and really hope to bring some of the techniques of this into my piece. Oh and the chocolate looks divine too!!! I LOVE the wrappers.
Just got these shoes! Now I just need a sunny day.
I’m drinking one of these right now and they are amazing. The vanilla is just the perfect amount of sweetness.
I’m on this big hummus kick right now but I’d really love to start making my own. I think this recipe may just do the trick. It looks sooo creamy.
I love yellow and grey together. And they make for beautiful Easter decoration too.
Celebrate Easter and Earth Day at the same time! Dye eggs the natural way.
Well hello there! Yes, I’m still alive. I’ve just been a little bit busy lately. Any moment not exhausted carting around a video camera is instead spent researching media law and U.S. Copyright code. Sweet life. And now April is all of the sudden half over and I’m sitting here absolutely flabbergasted by time’s uncanny ability to just zip right on by.
The time’s been well spent though. Two weeks ago my creative food writing class (yes, that’s right…I’m getting college credit for doing what I love) took a day trip to Polyface Farms, about 40 miles away. For any incomplete person who has yet to read Omnivore’s Dilemma or view Food, Inc., Polyface Farms is, in short, an entirely sustainable farm raising free-range meat for the local market. The owner, Joel Salatin, is a radical food philosopher and I’m pretty sure he can convince anyone that no meat but honest, local, pasture-raised meat is worth eating. But I’m not going to even attempt to teach all that he stands for; I’ll trust that you’ll do a little recreational reading to learn that.
But anyway, my parents came down for the day to join us on our trip. The early April weather provided us with a odd mixture of torrential winds, sleet, hail, and warm sunshine as we trekked over the beautiful, cow-patty laden, rolling hills of southern Virginia. We met happy, fat piggies, an enormous flock of hens, and pens full of rabbits along the way. Our final stop was the Polyface store where we stocked up on a plethora of their exceptional meats. The day ended with an amazing lunch/dinner at Shenandoah Pizza and the Split Banana before I was dumped back at my dorm for the return of stressful college life.
But finally, this weekend I made it home for two nights for a chance to simply get away and to cook. I had just the recipe in mind. You see, all college students have their sure-fire method of procrastination. What do I do? I pore over other food blogs dreaming of things I want to make and in the past week or so I’ve noticed a very prevalent trend: Heidi Swanson.
I’ve read her blog regularly and literally drool over most recipes and I was certainly aware of her forthcoming book. I almost preordered it on Amazon but awful decision maker that I am, never got it (Nia did though). I flipped through the book at Barnes and Noble, loved it, yet still my indecisiveness kept me from purchasing. And now, I realize that I probably won’t ever have to. In the last week, I’m pretty sure that anyone who calls themselves a food blogger has published their experience with one of Heidi’s new recipes. At this point, the contents of the entire book are probably just floating around on the Internet somewhere. So finally home and able to cook, I jumped on the bandwagon and took a stab at one of these beautiful creations myself, Quinoa Cakes, my version of Seven Spoons’ Quinoa Patties, adapted from Heidi’s original recipe. Got that?
They are not as easy and “whip-it-up” of a recipe as I had been led to think. They take some time and make a bit of a mess but they are oh so worth it. The flavor of the cakes is extremely nutty and with just enough kick on pungency from the garlic and onion. It gets beautifully crisp on the outside while the egg keeps the inside moist. Topped with a poached fresh egg and served on a bed of lightly dressed greens and asparagus, it was perfection – the light, healthy and flavorful sort of dish that I long for in my days of dull sandwiches. On a side note, the next evening, we made Polyface Farms pork tenderloin, marinated in garlic, lemon, and herbs, and roasted in the oven. Nothing can compare with the juiciness and completely true and awesome pork flavor…ever.
Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs and Salad
Leftover quinoa cakes are delicious the next day, re-crisped in some oil in a hot pan or simple heated in the microwave so cook up a lot and stockpile if you want amazing lunches for the week. Heidi also suggests adding some chopped vegetables to the patties but I like them best with my veggies on the side so I really get the full flavor of the quinoa and eggs. I would recommend that as brunch, lunch, or dinner.
½ large yellow onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ to 3 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature
4 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs. finely chopped chives
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 ¼ cups whole wheat bread crumbs
-Salad, prepared any way you want (I used spring mix, chopped celery, asparagus, sliced tomato, and an apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing). I can imagine avocado and red bell pepper going nicely with it too.
-1-2 poached eggs per person served
-Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling
-Salt and pepper, to taste
To make the quinoa cakes, heat olive oil over medium in a skillet. Sauté the onion and the garlic for just a minute or two until it begins to turn translucent and soften. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt and mix to combine. Then mix in the chives, onion and garlic mixture, and cheese. Finally, mix in the breadcrumbs. It will seem slightly wet but this is essential for a moist cake. You’ll actually be surprised at how well they end up holding together.
Preheat the oven to the warm setting so you can keep the cooked cakes warm on a plate while the rest are prepared. Divide the quinoa mixture into 8 parts and form each into a ¾ inch thick patty. One will probably be substantial for one person but I found myself snacking on the leftovers while doing dishes and I was grateful for the extras the next day.
Heat 1 Tbs. of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook four cakes at once for about 5 minutes on each side. Press down on them as they cook to really develop a nice crust on the outside and gently ease them over when flipping. Don’t be worried if they look really brown, this is all delicious toasty flavor. Place the first batch in the oven to stay warm while you cook the rest.
Meanwhile, grab a friend to help you prepare your salad and poach the eggs. This will ensure that everything arrives at the table fresh and each component at its proper temperature. Plate the salad, place a quinoa cake in the center, top it with your egg, and sprinkle extra cheese and salt and pepper to taste on top. Before eating, pierce the egg with your knife letting the yummy yolk ooze everywhere.