Special, For Sure

So, I have a confession. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s not something I’d want people to remember me by. But it’s something that you should know about me, regardless.

I sort of have a sort-of addiction to reality TV. But I’ve come a long way, really I have.

I used to watch The Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars, Real World,  The Amazing Race, Chopped, The Next Food Network Star, and pretty much anything on MTV and Food Network. Oh yeah, and The Bachelor/Bachelorette. Thanks for reminding me of that one, Caroline!

Now, I only watch Survivor and Top Chef. Well, and The Next Iron Chef. Duh. Yes, just three! Somehow, my ultra-long list of guilty pleasures was whittled down to just three lil’ ol’ shows. I consider myself fortunate, because I never got into the Real Housewives of Blank or the Extreme Makeovers or the Biggest Losers or the Kardashians or whoever the famous rich people shows are about these days. Heck, I only watched 1 little season of American Idol. And I could care less about The Voice because I don’t like any of the hosts. So….. maybe I’m not that addicted, after all?

Frankly, I could cut out Survivor, but Chris would just die. We’ve watched it for. so. long. that we just can’t stop now!, he says. And truthfully, there is always someone to laugh at, although this season I’m almost embarrassed to be a girl since these chicks can’t seem to get it together. But whatever.

But I can’t not watch Top Chef. Yes, sometimes it’s a train wreck. Yes, sometimes I wonder how certain people even make it to being on the show. And yes, I’d just love to see what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling on those judges because I swear they are three sheets to the wind every night. But I do look forward to it every week, and sadly the last season just wrapped up, so I’m Top Chef-less for a bit.

Ed Lee was one of my favorites this season. I think he made it to the final 5 before he got the boot, although I’d expected him to be in the top 3. I do think the final 2 were the ones who deserved to be there, but even so, Ed was always a favorite of mine and for good reason – he effortlessly combined Asian and Southern comfort food – my favorite cuisines. What’s not to love?

Anyway, Ed already gets plenty of media attention, because he’s awesome, so I’m sure that not winning Top Chef won’t hold him back in the slightest. A while back, he was featured in Food & Wine, and he shared a recipe for these corn griddle cakes that I could not stop thinking about. And since we aren’t usually up and cooking breakfast on the weekends, I didn’t want to wait until we had company to try them, so instead we just had them for dinner one night, and I froze the rest so I could have them on a special morning when we’re out of cereal and oatmeal.

The griddle cakes are so freakin’ tasty that I could probably eat them straight outta the freezer (well, with a little zapping…), but the orange-honey butter adds a perfect element of sweetness, reminding you that these aren’t just everyday breakfast cakes. They’re special, for sure.

Other cornmeal-containing lovelies:

Zucchini Cornbread (aka why my butt’s so big. go ahead, read the story..)
Hushpuppies (these didn’t help, either)
Cornmeal-Blueberry Cookies
Rhubarb-Cornmeal Tarts
Andouille & Sweet Potato Pie

Corn Griddle Cakes with Sausage and Orange-Honey Butter
adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2012; serves 8

time commitment: 1 hour

printable version

ingredients
orange-honey butter
6 T unsalted butter
1/2 c honey
1 1/2 T finely grated orange zest
salt and pepper

corn cakes
6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cooking spray, or olive/grapeseed oil
3/4 c(about 7 ounces) breakfast sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 c fresh (or frozen, thawed) corn kernels
1 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 T sugar
1 t kosher salt
1 t freshly cracked black peppercorns
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/4 c buttermilk
2 large eggs
6 scallions, chopped

instructions
orange-honey butter
Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in honey and orange zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.

corn cakes
Cook sausage in a 10-12″ cast-iron skillet or other large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking up into small pieces with the back of a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a small bowl. Add corn to same skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until browned, 5–6 minutes. Transfer corn to bowl with sausage and let cool.

Whisk cornmeal and next 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and eggs in a large bowl; add dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Fold in sausage, corn, and scallions.

Heat 1 T butter (or oil or spray) in skillet; working in batches and adding butter as needed between batches, add batter to pan by tablespoonfuls. Cook until cakes are crisp and golden brown, 2–3 minutes. Turn cakes over and cook until browned, 1–2 minutes longer. Transfer cakes to paper towels to drain. Serve warm drizzled with orange-honey butter.

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Survival of the Fittest

The day I was born, my dad near about had a heart attack, or at least that’s the story. My parents are both fair-skinned and light-haired. Although technically, my mom truly does have dark roots but you don’t really notice them because she still gets her hair “frosted”. Last time I checked, that’s a pretty common ‘do for her age group. Anyway, I came into the world writhing and crying, full of life and all that good stuff. But I also came out with something that really threw my dad for a loop – I had a head FULL of nearly black hair. WTF?

I would have been confused too.

Anyway, clearly there are no paternity issues. Just like most of us, I recognize that I have some traits from my mom, and some traits from my dad. Some are good, like my big brains, blue eyes, and relatively normally shaped symmetrical head, and some are downright nasty, like my cankles, my big knees, and über mushy upper arms. I mean seriously – you’d think there would have been a selective advantage against such atrocities, but as it turns out cankles and big knees are all kinds of sturdy, so I guess that’s a good thing. The fat arms? Well, I suppose in the event that I’m stranded in Antarctica, it would take me a little bit longer to use up my own mush before I start gnawing on the arms of my friends.

Aside from all that loveliness, I try not to complain too much. Sure, I have a hard time finding boots that zip up over my cankles and ginormous calves (that I’m pretending are all muscle; laugh it up, Simpson!), but all in all I’d say things could be much worse. Yeah, I am as close to legally blind as you can get (dramatic, much?), but that’s nothing a pair of contacts and ultra thick glasses can’t fix.

Then you get the traits that are sorta ‘give or take’. I don’t mind having thinnish hair because it dries quicker. I don’t mind being short because I can make people do stuff for me with a quickness, and it’s always easier to take in length on pants than to let it out. I don’t mind having boobs because at least I didn’t have to stuff my bra when I was 14. Plus, boys generally like boobs. So I guess that’s good.

And then there’s the butt. Hoo boy. Again, there definitely is no denying my true lineage, but I swear there has to be some African American ancestry somewhere in one of my family trees. I guess it’s not impossible, being Southern and all… Because this is the truth: I have a little bit more rhythm than a lot of white folk (and I mean a little bit more…. I am no Beyonce for sure). I have slightly fuller lips (at least the bottom one) than a lot of white folk. Last but certainly not least, I have a ginormous ass for a white chick. It’s not proportional. It’s not right, and I have no idea where it comes from. It’s just not natural.

Here’s where the story gets funny. Because of said unnaturally large ass, I seemed to get harassed by the vast majority of black boys in my school. Maybe it was stylish for a regular looking white girl to wear such an unusually large backside, or maybe there’s some other reason why black boys (and a handful of white boys) like girls with junk in the trunk. Who knows. Either way, I remember one specific group of guys in high school who taunted me almost daily. How rude, right?! But I remembered it, not because of the fact that it was nearly daily, but because of what they said to me every. single. time.

“Girl, you be eatin’ all your cornbread!”

And with that, friends, I have embarrassed myself in front of the whole internets (but only slightly), and! I have given you a great recipe for cornbread. I won’t lie – I do fancy a piece of cornmeal-laden bread every now and then, but it’s not like I ate it all the time as a kid. I’m gonna chalk it up to science, and swear there’s some genetic influence quite a few generations back. Selective advantage? I won’t even try to answer that…

Zucchini Cornbread
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 1 loaf 

this is a really good cornbread recipe, so let’s start with that. it’s not moist, so don’t expect a texture like banana and pumpkin breads. it’s drier, but it’s buttery (with browned butter – yum!) and has just enough sugar to provide a little sweetness, too. You don’t notice the zucchini much, but at least you’re getting veggies, if only a little dab! and to be honest, this is NOT the way Southern cornbread tastes. Southern cornbread is not as sweet, and maybe even a little more dry, a bit heftier. either way, it’s a great side item to a stew, or perhaps Thanksgiving? I ate it as a late-night snack this week, but that could lead to ill effects, as we’ve already discussed…

time commitment: 3 hours (includes cooking + cooling time; only about 30 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c skim milk
1 large zucchini (about 10 ounces)
1 c spelt flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c sugar
1 t baking powder
3/4 t kosher salt
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c medium-grind cornmeal

instructions
Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350 F. Spray or butter a bread pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until butter solids at bottom of pan turn golden brown, about 3 minutes. Scrape butter into a medium bowl. Set aside and let cool. Whisk in eggs and milk.

Peel and coarsely grate zucchini. Add to bowl with butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Whisk together both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, 55 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack. For best flavor, make a day in advance.

Peaches & Rainbows

Over the last three weeks, I’ve made it a point to limit the purchasing of edible items to almost nothing, aside from what’s needed for simple, quick cooking and things that move easily. Also, I’m not buying items I already have in storage. That said, things like soy sauce and sriracha made the cut, but things like flour and butter didn’t.

Of course, all of my 10+ flours might very well be rancid by the time I get to them next weekend, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take in hopes of avoiding starting completely from scratch in the kitchen.

I think that’s why I forced nudged Chris to make a candy bar run earlier this week; I was craving something sweet some kinda fiercely, and even though I hadn’t eaten a Whatchamacallit in years, it seemed like the only appropriate solution. You see, I’m used to having immediate access to things like blenders, mixers, muffin tins, baking sheets, etc. This little temporary ‘kitchen’ has none of the above (I think I’ve already mentioned that about 10 times before, right?!). To that, add the fact that I was already living without my personal belongings for a month, and that equals exactly 2 months of this crap. What can I say; I caved, and I’m sayin’ it loud and proud. (That was a damn good Whatchamacallit.)

But let’s put things in perspective here; while these 2 months haven’t been peaches and rainbows per se, they haven’t been storm clouds and gremlins either. I mean for reals, we’ve had multiple bouts of amazing get-togethers, dinners, drinks, and the like as a result of this move. I didn’t even pay for most of them (lesson: if you want free drinks and dinners, move outta state ;)).

We even threw ourselves a going-away party a couple of months ago, where I decided to whip out a few treats, including these cookies I also started thinking about this week. Hard to believe it’s been that long since I baked cookies, or used my own cutting board, or had access to those dried blueberries that are waiting in storage, but it has.

When I find all of those items I’ve been sorely missing, a few of the first things I’m going to do include buying some butter along with a few other essential items, taking a nap on my long-lost couch, maybe unpacking a few boxes (the one with the flour and dried blueberries, for example), and then high-tailing it into the kitchen and making some cookies.

There will not be leftovers, either.

Cornmeal Blueberry Cookies
adapted from Good to the Grain; makes about 3 dozen

I am a huge lover of cookies of all shapes, flavors, and sizes, but non-traditional cookies hold a very special place in my heart, or belly. these aren’t your average cookies; they are sweet and chewy, but not overpowering on the dessert scale. in fact, you could probably eat a couple for breakfast without feeling too bad about it. dried blueberries are somewhat pricey (i get mine from Costco), but they are so perfect in this recipe. i’m sure you could use other dried fruits, but if they’re larger than blueberries (pea-sized), you’ll want to give ’em a rough chopping.

oh, and these cookies are definitely best eaten the day they’re prepared. they have a tendency to harden quickly, so either eat them the day of or store in an airtight container. i’m guessing you could halve the recipe if you don’t want this many, or even freeze pre-baked, rolled and coated dough, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time and baking straight from the freezer.

time commitment: about 1 hour, half of which is active and half of which involves smelling these things bake.

printable version

ingredients
2 c corn flour
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c finely ground cornmeal
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 t cream of tartar
2 t kosher salt
8 oz (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c milk
1 c dried blueberries (see above)
1/2 c sugar, for finishing

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat, or spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (corn flour through salt) and whisk for a couple of minutes to break up any chunks (Boyce’s recipe says to sift these ingredients together, but I can’t seem to get behind sifting ingredients, although who knows, maybe it does really impact the recipe…).

Add the butter and the brown sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large bowl and a hand mixer). Turn the mixer to low speed and mix until the butter and sugar are combined, then increase the mixer speed to medium and cream for 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the milk and the blueberries. Slowly mix until the dough is evenly combined.

Pour the finishing sugar into a bowl. Scoop mounds of dough, each about 3 tablespoons in size, form them into balls and set them on a plate. Dip each ball into the sugar, coating it lightly. Arrange the balls on the baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between them. Chill any remaining dough until ready to use.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The cookies will puff up and crack at the tops and are ready to come out when the sugar crust is golden brown and the cracks are still a light yellow. They will appear soft, but will harden and cook more when removed from the oven.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Puppy Love

My list of ‘Southern foods I miss’ is rather substantial. I manage to get my fill of some of them over Christmas, or if I’m in NC for any other occasion throughout the year. Fried chicken? Easy. Chicken pastry? As long as Aunt Faye keeps inviting us over, I will put off making my own. Cheerwine? This one’s often forgotten, but I still think about that ginormous styrofoam cup with free refills from the bbq place. Did you know you can find it in Norway? Get out! I even get a biscuit or two and some sweet tea tossed in for good measure.

For whatever reason, I haven’t caught up on my pulled pork or hushpuppy needs. Thankfully, we have a new BBQ spot in our neighborhood that is close to the real deal, and once they decide to straighten up and make some Eastern NC bbq sauce, we’ll be in business. Until then, what they call “Carolina” works alright. Their cornbread leaves a little to be desired though, and if you ask me, I’d prefer a handful or two of hushpuppies anyway.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten bbq pork, hushpuppies, and coleslaw. Rarely eaten at home, it was generally reserved for family get-togethers (like one year when we had a whole pig for Christmas dinner) and after-school functions. Is that weird? I remember those meals pretty clearly, and I certainly remember the take-out plates: those styrofoam sectioned boxes, the big section loaded with bbq, the top left with watery, mayo-ish coleslaw (which was killer), and the top right overflowing with oval-shaped hushpuppies of all sizes. One small container of butter was tucked haphazardly into the box, but typically I had no time to waste on butter – the sooner those things were popped into my mouth, the better.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I’d never made my own hushpuppies. I’m not sure why. Some things, I’d rather not mess with making, like chicken pastry, because I just know it won’t be as good as Aunt Faye’s. Others, I suppose I just never get around to it.

But for some reason, I couldn’t resist a recipe for hushpuppies and green tomato jam. Plus, since I’d already chosen tomatoes as the ingredient for the Iron Chef battle, I took it as a sign that it was time to whip up some hushpuppies so I could serve some of this jam alongside them.

As it turns out, that very well could have been a fatal error. The jam? It was, well, jammy. A little tart, a lot sweet, and something I could imagine working wonderfully on a warm piece of nearly-burnt toast, or a fluffy buttermilk biscuit. Served alongside the hushpuppies? Not a bad idea, for sure. And if I weren’t so into hushpuppies in all their naked glory, I’m sure I would have dropped spoonfuls of that jam on them.

For me though, I love them just the way they are: the thin crispiness on the outside, rugged at the edges, soft in the middle but warm enough that they taste like freshness, and perfectly gritty and rampant with corn flavor. Don’t get me wrong – I could eat them straight outta the fridge too, but let’s just pretend that I didn’t grab one every time I walked into the kitchen, and let’s instead assume that that guy I live with did, and that’s why they disappeared so quickly.

No matter where they disappeared to, I realized in a matter of moments that my feelings toward these little treats can easily get out of control, if I let them. And while a long-term relationship can’t possibly be a bad idea, I’m gonna try to settle on a short-lived occasional fling, a crush of sorts, so that I continue to appreciate them in their ruggedness, their simplicity, and their reminder of all things good in the world.

(Gluten/Dairy-Free) Hush Puppies w/ Green Tomato Jam
Adapted from Food & Wine, July 2010; makes ~3 dozen

It’s worth a mention that these little cornmeal balls are a cinch to whip up, and I’m a little sad about not having done so before. And given the occasion, a gluten-free / dairy-free adaptation was effortless, if that’s what you’re looking for.

printable version

ingredients
hush puppies
1 c yellow cornmeal
1 c all purpose gluten-free flour (or regular ap flour)
3 T sugar
1 T kosher salt
1 T baking powder
1 c plain soy milk (or 1% milk)
3 T vegan butter spread (or butter), melted

jam
2 lbs green tomatoes, 1/2-inch dice
1/2 c honey
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c sugar
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
1 1/2 t g cumin
1/4 t cayenne pepper
salt
canola oil, for frying

instructions
In a large bowl, whisk the cornmeal with the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the egg, soymilk and melted butter and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate the hush puppy batter for at least 1 hour (can refrigerate overnight, if needed).

In a medium saucepan, combine the diced tomatoes with the honey, vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, cumin and cayenne. Bring to a boil and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and jammy, about 40 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. Season the tomato jam with salt. Transfer the jam to a bowl and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Set a rack over a large rimmed baking sheet and place near the stove. Stir the hush puppy batter. Drop tablespoon-size balls of batter into the hot oil, about 6 at a time, and fry, turning a few times, until they’re deeply browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the hush puppies to the rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter. When all of the hush puppies have been fried, reheat them in the oven for about 3 minutes, or until they’re hot (or, reheat when ready to serve). Serve them with the green tomato jam.

The Bandwagon

If you scanned through all the recipes on this blog, paying particular attention to the recipes adapted from various sources (which is most of them), you’d quickly notice that most of them are from magazines. Occasionally, you’ll find one from a website, such as someone’s blog, and you’ll also come across a few from cookbooks.

You see, I get really into my magazines and recipe clippings. They’re easily portable and perusable, and I often use said clippings to figure out what I’m cooking in the week ahead – I grab my stack of clippings, pull out a few for the week, and that’s that. Going through cookbooks seems a bit cumbersome, and the blog recipes I have bookmarked just sit there on my computer as, well, bookmarks.

But every once and a while, I get really really focused on a good cookbook. I become that girl, sitting on the bus reading recipes, staring at pictures of food, and dog-earing page after page. Meanwhile, every one else on the bus is either sleeping, yelling loudly into their cell phones, or eating cheesy hot fries (that’s not a joke, people; the bus-riders love their cheesy hot fries). Recently, this cookbook fixation has happened exactly twice.

One of them, the source of these cutie-patuty tarts you see here, is Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. The other, I’ll get to later, as it’s chock full of meat that I promised myself I wouldn’t eat this month (because I have a few loose screws, I’ve decided). And it’s a HUGE book that I lugged around town, clutching it closely to my chest like a loveletter from my first boyfriend. I promise, later.

This one though, I’ve managed to read through every last page. I started bookmarking recipes, and I quickly realized it wasn’t necessary, as I’d tagged almost every page, every recipe. The 75 recipes, primarily of the dessert/baking genre, are sorted by grain – with chapters devoted to buckwheat, whole wheat, quinoa, rye, even corn and 7 others. Each chapter of recipes is preceded by a thorough, but fascinating, description of the flour, the origin, the taste, the affinities to other flours and foods. It is educational, but intriguing. Thorough, but concise. And  innovative, but totally approachable.

And by now, if you read as many food blogs as I do, you might even be a little bit tired of hearing about this treasure of a book. So with that, I’ll stop – and finish by saying that this is actually the 4th recipe I’ve made from Good to the Grain. Why haven’t I waxed poetic about it after having it atop my fridge (or rather, on my nightstand) for the last 2 months? A simple answer – I actually forgot to take pictures of two of them, and the other will be posted in good time.

These little rhubarb tarts more or less forced themselves upon me, primarily because it’s the cover recipe that glares at me from my nightstand, and because following our first farmers’ market trip, my countertop became a holding place (by holding place, I mean they sat there for exactly 1 hour, if that) for two beautiful bunches of rhubarb. Plus, I couldn’t head over to dinner with friends without bringing something, right? So, here we are.

As one of those friends happened to be Jon, I also needed to make this recipe gluten- and dairy-free. I made both recipes (“his” and “ours”), comparing taste and textures and I must say that, probably thanks to the corn flour and cornmeal, they were eerily similar. In fact, by looks alone, Jennifer incorrectly picked the gf tart – and for those of you cooking gluten-free on a regular basis, you know that many gf dessert recipes are easy to spot when sitting right beside their non gf counterparts.

In fact, the two finished products here are one of each – can you tell which is which?

Don’t you just love rhubarb too? Try this rhubarb crisp if you need something a little simpler. Got any other rhubarb recipes? Share below!

Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
Adapted from Good to the Grain; makes 10 tarts

printable version

ingredients
compote
2 lbs rhubarb
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 T dried hibiscus leaves (optional; can also try vanilla, ginger, etc)

dry mix
1 c corn flour
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c fine cornmeal
1/4 c + 2 T sugar
1 t kosher salt

wet mix
4 oz cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 c + 2 T half & half
2 egg yolks

special ingredients: cheesecloth or tea ball, if using hibiscus; preferably a stand mixer or food processor, although dough can be made by hand or with a pastry cutter, if needed (as long as there is available elbow grease…).

instructions
make compote. rinse rhubarb and trim ends. cut into 3/4-inch chunks. dump 1/2 of rhubarb into bottom of heavy pot. place hibiscus leaves into tea ball or cheesecloth, and add with brown sugar to rhubarb. stir, cover, and turn heat to med-low. cook 15 minutes, covered. remove cover and increase heat to medium; cook 15-17 minutes until rhubarb is broken down. add remaining half of rhubarb to mix and stir to combine. remove hibiscus and pour compote onto large baking sheet to cool. makes ~ 3 cups (will have leftover that’s great on toast!).

to make tarts, combine dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer; whisk together. with stand mixer with paddle attachment, add butter and turn mixer to low to incorporate. turn to medium and mix until mixture resembles cornmeal. add half & half and egg yolks, mix until combined. dough will be slightly crumbly but sticks together when pressed (like pie dough).

to shape tarts, divide dough into 10 equal pieces. on a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, smash dough with hands into a rough circle, about 5 inches diameter. spoon 3 T of rhubarb compote in center of disc. fold edge of dough toward compote and up, to close tart. continue all the way around (if this doesn’t work well, you can sort of crimp however you want – notice these here are not elegant at all…).

line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (they will be going into your freezer, so if you have a lame freezer like me, you can instead place these on parchment-lined plates). slide spatula or bench scraper underneath and place on baking sheet or plate. freeze for 1 hour, at least (can keep frozen, unbaked, for another couple of weeks if needed, but wrap in plastic or place in freezer bags).

preheat oven to 375 F. transfer tarts to baking sheets (or remove sheets from freezer and place directly in oven). bake for 35 minutes, until edges brown and compote bubbles.

Gluten/Dairy-Free Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
Adapted from Good to the Grain; makes 10 tarts

printable version

ingredients
compote
2 lbs rhubarb
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 T dried hibiscus leaves (optional; can also try vanilla, ginger, etc)

dry mix
1 c corn flour
1/2 c sweet rice flour
1/4 c sorghum flour
1/4 c potato starch
1/2 c fine cornmeal
1/4 c + 2 T sugar
1 t kosher salt

wet mix
4 oz cold shortening, cut into small chunks
1/4 c + 2 T vanilla hemp milk
2 egg yolks

special ingredients: cheesecloth or tea ball, if using hibiscus; preferably a stand mixer or food processor, although dough can be made by hand or with a pastry cutter, if needed (as long as there is available elbow grease…).

instructions
make compote. rinse rhubarb and trim ends. cut into 3/4-inch chunks. dump 1/2 of rhubarb into bottom of heavy pot. place hibiscus leaves into tea ball or cheesecloth, and add with brown sugar to rhubarb. stir, cover, and turn heat to med-low. cook 15 minutes, covered. remove cover and increase heat to medium; cook 15-17 minutes until rhubarb is broken down. add remaining half of rhubarb to mix and stir to combine. remove hibiscus and pour compote onto large baking sheet to cool. makes ~ 3 cups (will have leftover that’s great on toast!).

to make tarts, combine dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer; whisk together. with stand mixer with paddle attachment, add shortening and turn mixer to low to incorporate. turn to medium and mix until mixture resembles cornmeal. add hemp milk and egg yolks, mix until combined. dough will be slightly crumbly but sticks together when pressed (like pie dough).

to shape tarts, divide dough into 10 equal pieces. on a lightly floured surface, working with one piece at a time, smash dough with hands into a rough circle, about 5 inches diameter. spoon 3 T of rhubarb compote in center of disc. fold edge of dough toward compote and up, to close tart. continue all the way around (if this doesn’t work well, you can sort of crimp however you want – notice these here are not elegant at all…).

line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (they will be going into your freezer, so if you have a lame freezer like me, you can instead place these on parchment-lined plates). slide spatula or bench scraper underneath and place on baking sheet or plate. freeze for 1 hour, at least (can keep frozen, unbaked, for another couple of weeks if needed, but wrap in plastic or place in freezer bags).

preheat oven to 375 F. transfer tarts to baking sheets (or remove sheets from freezer and place directly in oven). bake for 35 minutes, until edges brown and compote bubbles.

Stewy Indian Giver

ancho pork stew

I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. I might be what some would call an “Indian giver” (Simps – don’t tell Jon I’m talking about his people). I know, amidst my excitement about the oozing with tastiness triple ginger cookies, that I offered to give you guys control of the next post. As things go, that would have ‘technically’ been this post. You all aren’t all that nitpicky though, are you? Will you forgive me? Forego the little details, pretty please?

pork spice mix

You see, I wholeheartedly intended to write 4 straight posts about all those cookies I made. I really did. But two things happened that caused me to veer a wee bit off track.

  1. I worried that maybe I was just a tad too excited about those cookies, and maybe you are not as excited? I was sorta hoping for a close voting battle, a little competition, for the next cookie post. I mean, I did give you a choice, right – the chance to pick the next cookie? I thought that was cool. I thought ya’ll liked cookies as much as me. But I think I must have been delusional as the voting wasn’t quite the fierceness I was anticipating.
  2. Probably more importantly, I worried about ya’ll being all chilly, teeth chattering in your abodes as you nibbled on little morsels of ginger and sugar cookies and chocolate bark. Morsels that surely fill the cookie tins for the work crowd or your home-snacking desires but definitely do not satisfy the soul. Morsels that don’t stop the shivering and nullify the goosebumps caused by (in these parts, at least) the single digit windchills.

jalapeno corn muffins

You know what will take your temp up a notch or two? Stew – it warms the heart and makes that weather seem like a non-issue. Stew makes you want to wrap your sweatered arms around someone you love and stay indoors all weekend without a care in the world.

Specifically pork stew infused with ancho chile powder – the smells emanating from the kitchen, wafting into all nooks and crannies are enough to make you forget about all those sweet treats and instead focus on those Mexican spices, peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, and hominy – if only for a little while. (And I do mean a little while – this is a straight-up under 1 hour recipe from start to finish. Cook it on Monday – I dare you).

stew and muffin

Not to mention a little palm-sized nugget of corn meal, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno. I love cookies, but I can’t (or shouldn’t, rather) dunk cookies into a glowing bowl of ancho-spiced broth and come out with anything close to what happens when you douse these babies with soup broth. I mean, you can eat them without the stew juices, no doubt, but in some households it’s better to sop up juice with muffins rather than lick the bowl clean with your tongue. Just sayin’. Although, you could do both…

stew and muffin

So yeah, I reneged on the cookie offer. But only temporarily – I promise. I hope you forgive me :). In the meantime, whip yourself up some of this yummy stew and some sauce-soppin’ muffins. I’ll be back next week to share another cookie recipe – and from the looks of the comments so far, I’m guessing it’s gonna be those cardamom-clementine sugar cookies. Ya might wanna bake those up for Santa!

Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2009; makes 6 servings
300 kcal, 2.1 g sat fat, 28.9 g protein, 6.1 g fiber

printable recipe

ingredients
2 T ancho chile powder
2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t g cumin
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T olive oil, divided
2 c chopped onion (1 lg yellow onion)
1 1/2 c chopped green bell pepper (1 lg pepper)
1 T minced garlic
1 28-oz can hominy, drained
2 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
1 14.5-0z can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

instructions
combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl (set aside 1.5 t spice mixture) and add in pork, tossing well to coat.

heat 2 t oil in Dutch oven over med-hi heat. add pork and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. remove pork and set aside. add remaining 1 t oil to pan and add onion, pepper, garlic. saute 5 minutes or until tender. return pork to pan. add spice mixture, broth, hominy, tomatoes; bring to a boil. partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.

Cheddar-Jalapeno Corn Muffins*
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009; makes 12 muffins

printable recipe

ingredients
5 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c yellow cornmeal
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c corn (fresh or thawed)
1 1/4 c buttermilk
1 egg
1 3/4 c grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and small-diced

instructions
spray or butter muffin pans and preheat oven to 425 F with rack in middle.

whisk together cornmeal, salt, baking powder and soda in large bowl.

whisk together corn, buttermilk, egg, melted butter in another bowl and then stir it into the flour mixture until just combined. stir in 1 1/2 c cheese and jalapeno.

divide among muffin tins and top muffins with remaining cheese. bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. cool on rack and serve warm or room temp.

If desired, muffins can be frozen individually on a sheet and put into ziploc freezer bag for individual use 🙂

*Muffins gluten-free, not dairy-free