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

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

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.

Dang, We’re Stuffed

Is a break from life awesome, or what? I don’t care how great of a city you live in, or how much you like your job and if you have them, your kids and/or your pets – vacay is where it’s at.

As is customary for the trips we take, we had plenty of fun and ate plenty of food. Stay tuned for a condensed recap, complete with pictures once they’re finally uploaded and edited in their entirety.

Until then, let’s just say that aside from the speeding ticket and the pretty little string of poison oak on my arm, it was a freakin’ blast. I think we ate fish & chips exactly twice (the first and last days), and between those times we consumed our fair share of Tillamook cheese, homemade granola bars, cookies, lots of cuisine a la Thomas Keller, and more. Oh, and wine too.

But now, it’s time to get back to reality (oops there goes gravity… sorry for that Eminem throw-in), and along with that, it means I have to start cooking again, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, let’s be honest. Cooking is one thing I don’t tend to complain about. But it does mean that from time to time, I have to think fast in the event that the CSA produce changes between the time I procure the remainder of my grocery list ingredients and plan recipes for the week. As such, a night that was supposed to involve some sweet corn cookin’ (the fresh corn pesto only had to wait a few days) instead turned into two big ol’ peppers staring me in the face, and a rumbling stomach.

Sure, I could have sliced ’em up and made some sorta stir fry, but the peppers – they were so perfectly shaped and as a result all I could think about was retaining that shape as much as possible by stuffing the hell out of ’em. Of course, all of those plans go awry when said stuffed peppers are baked and come out smelling like an Italian restaurant – but something tells me you wouldn’t fault me one bit for demolishing them in a matter of moments, would ya?

Sausage-Stuffed Peppers
Serves 4

printable version

4 green bell peppers
1 lb Italian sausage
1/2 white onion, medium diced
2 celery stalks, medium diced
1 garlic scape or clove, minced
8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
15 oz can tomato sauce
salt and pepper
basil, roughly (but gently) chopped
parmesan cheese (to your taste)

preheat oven to 350 F. remove tops from peppers and if necessary, remove a little from the bottom, careful not to create a hole in the pepper, but just enough so they stand straight. remove seeds and sit upright on a sprayed baking sheet.

in a large skillet over medium-hi heat, cook sausage. when cooked through, drain some of the oil, then add onion, celery, and garlic. saute about 5 more minutes.

meanwhile, heat tomato sauce and tomatoes; add in basil and season to taste.

combine about 1/2 c of the tomato sauce with the cooked sausage mixture and stuff into each of 4 peppers. sprinkle with about 1 T cheese for each pepper and bake for about 10  minutes. pour more tomato sauce into pepper, add a little more cheese, and bake another 5 minutes.