Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Buttermilk Dip

As many of you know, I have a garden full of tomatoes.  Like totally full.  I planted 32 tomato plants and found many rogue ones sprouting up as well.  It's a jungle in there.  Since I got a late start planting, as many of us did due to heavy rains and cool weather, I didn't have any freshly ripened red tomatoes by mid-July as I normally do.  Seeing these huge tomato tentacles with a million unripe tomatoes on them, screaming na-na-na-na-boo-boo, made me mad.  What did I do?  I fought back.

I marched my tush out into their territory and, with fists on hips, (silently) said a little, "Forget you.  I'm going to eat you now.  Even though you're not ready, I am."  I plucked a few of those big, hard, green orbs in a huff and turned on my heel and stormed back inside.  And with the acquired enemy material, I set off to make some Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Buttermilk Dip.

My husband had never eaten fried green tomatoes until that night.  The poor soul grew up in California so had never experienced this southern delight.  Truth be told, we northerners didn't partake either, but I had at least eaten them before.  Each time I had consumed these gems, I liked them but knew they could be better.

The tartness of the unripe tomato comes out warm and silky after frying.  The contrast in textures is unreal - the creamy tomatoes paired with the crunch of the coating is to die for.  Add a spicy chipotle buttermilk dip and you're set for an evening of pure southern deliciousness.

So for those of you who still have green tomatoes mocking you from your garden, or are salivating so greatly at the thought that you're planning on donning a ghillie suit and raiding your neighbor's garden, try this out. You won't be disappointed.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chipotle Buttermilk Dip
Serves 2 for a meal ~or~ 4 for a side

1-1/2 lbs. green tomatoes (4-5 large)
2/3 c. cornmeal
1/3 c. flour
1-1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg
2 c. vegetable or peanut oil
3 large chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 t. buttermilk
1/2 c. sour cream
pinch Kosher salt

Slice tomatoes 1/4" thick.  Place flat on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.  Cover with another layer of paper towels and let sit 20 minutes.  Pat dry.

Meanwhile, zip 1/3 cup cornmeal in a food processor until ground finely.  Mix ground cornmeal, cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a shallow dish.  In another shallow dish, whisk 2/3 cup buttermilk and egg.

One at a time, dip a tomato slice in the buttermilk mixture, then in the cornmeal mixture, pressing to adhere. Place on clean baking sheet as you continue with the rest.

Heat oil in large skillet to 350*.  Fry the tomato slices in the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan.  They will fry about 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown.  Place on a rack set inside baking sheet.  Feel free to place in a warm 200* oven while you fry the rest.

Mix the chipotles, buttermilk, sour cream, and pinch of salt in a small bowl.  Thin with additional buttermilk if you'd like.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Country 

Corn Chowder

This summer my addiction to corn has reached new heights.  I've eaten so much corn this season I'm pretty sure I'm single-handedly supporting the local farmers.  I've had friends from the past and co-workers emailing me corn recipes (all of which look delicious).  The old lady who sells corn at the end of her farm's driveway has become my new best friend.

When I lived in France, I craved corn something fierce.  Maybe it was my Indiana roots calling me.  Or perhaps it's because so many French people see corn as only a salad topping or feed for the pigs.  I've since made up for losing those 3 years of daily corn.

Summer and hot soup don't really seem to go together.  However, there is nothing better than farm-fresh sweet corn in a steaming bowl of Corn Chowder on a stormy night.  We pair it with a crusty baguette (but then again we pair almost everything with bread).  This chowder is thick and rich and very corny.  So many chowders are overwhelmed by potato flavor, but not this one.  The trick is (gasp!) pureeing canned corn and adding in fresh from-the-cob corn for the, well, fresh corn flavor.  You'll also use the naked cobs to thicken the chowder.

Corn Chowder
Serves 6-8

6 ears corn
2 (15 oz.) cans whole kernel corn, drained (I like Libby's Organic)
5 c. low-sodium chicken broth
5 slices center-cut bacon (or 3 regular)
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. red potatoes, scrubbed and diced 1/2-inch
1 c. heavy cream
4 scallions, sliced thin

Cut kernels from cobs.  An easy way to do this is to cut off one end, set the cob upright, and carefully slice kernels off.  Keep both the kernels and cobs.

Puree the cans of corn in a blender with 2 cups of chicken broth until smooth.

Cook bacon in Dutch oven until crisp.  Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Cook onion, corn kernels, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the bacon grease until softened and golden.

Add potatoes, corn puree, remaining 3 cups broth, and cobs to Dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove and throw away cobs.  Stir in cream, scallions, and bacon.  Season to taste.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Country June/July 09

Strawberry Shortcake with Buttery Pound Cake

You know how every once in a while you have those amazing moments with your children that make all the hard stuff worthwhile?  I had one of those a few weeks ago with my 8-year old daughter.  It's probably not what you think.  She did not form a charity for autism.  Nor did she save a baby from a burning building. However, what she did was remarkable all the same.

My daughter asked to make Strawberry Shortcake together - from scratch!!  Yes, she specifically said, "Can we make strawberry shortcake but make it all from scratch?  Like the cake and the whipped cream and macerate (although she pronounced it mask-er-ite) the strawberries?"  This will go down in the history of our family as one of my proudest moments as a mom.  I've officially succeeded in making my kids foodies. Mama couldn't be prouder.

My other daughter, who is almost 7, loves to cook too so we three piled into my mini-van and headed to the store.  The girls sliced the strawberries, measured the ingredients, and added sugar to the cream as it whipped.  It took forever, and as always it's a lesson in patience to cook with kids.  But it was one of those shining times I'll always treasure.

Strawberry Shortcake with Buttery Pound Cake
Serves 6 (healthy sized portions)

2 lbs. strawberries, hulled, cored, sliced
2 T. sugar

2 sticks butter
6 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1-3/4 c. cake flour
1/2 t. table salt
1-1/4 c. sugar

1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla

Mix sliced strawberries and sugar in a bowl.  Set aside, covered.

Cut butter into chunks and place in bowl of electric mixer.  You want to bring this to just below room temp. Beat lightly 3 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks, and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup.  Set aside to come to room temp with the butter.

Heat oven to 325*.  Butter and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Using the paddle attachment, beat butter and salt for 2-3 minutes, until shiny and smooth, scraping down sides.  Very slowly pour 1-1/4 c. sugar into bowl while running on medium high speed.  Let it run for 5-8 minutes, scraping down sides as necessary.  You're looking for a very pale, fluffy butter mixture.  Turn machine to medium and very slowly pour egg mixture into bowl, scraping down sides.  Turn to med-high and let run for 3-4 minutes.  It's ok if it looks slightly curdled.

In three additions, sift the cake flour over the bowl and fold into the butter mixture with a spatula.  Don't over-mix or the cake will end up tough.

Pour into loaf pan and smooth top.  Bake 70-80 minutes until golden brown and passes the toothpick test.  Let cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Turn out and flip so it's right side up on wire rack and let cool 2 hours before slicing.

To assemble Strawberry Shortcakes:

Place cream in clean bowl of mixer.  With whisk attachment, beat until it starts to increase in volume.   Add the vanilla and slowly add the sugar until stiff peaks form.

Place one or two slices of pound cake on plate.  Top with macerated strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

Recipe for pound cake adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Hard Candy

I fondly remember my mom making lollipops in various flavors for us as kids. My favorite flavors were the cinnamon ones but I also loved the root beer flavor. I recently got into making hard candy, and the candies I made here are lemon flavor.  I haven't made a career out of making hard candy, and honestly never could, but it's an easy and fun way to make some yummy candies at home.

I learned the hard way how super hot the syrup is.  Molten sugar on your skin basically feels like you've just poured lava on yourself.  It's not such a good feeling so please be super careful.

There are so many flavor options as well.  I get my flavoring, which come in drams (single recipe servings), and candy molds from LorAnn.  I get my lollipop sticks from a craft store.

They have a million different flavors such as blueberry, caramel, cinnamon, cherry, root beer, strawberry, peppermint, and blackberry.  The coloring is just basic food coloring available at the supermarket.

The molds I use are for both lollipops and jewels.  Lollipops are fun to make for the kiddos.  You can also package them in a cellophane bag and tie with a pretty ribbon for a cute gift or party favor.

Hard Candy

2 c. sugar
2/3 c. light corn syrup
3/4 c. water
1 dram (1 t.) flavoring
couple drops food coloring
candy thermometer (if you have one)
powdered sugar (optional)

Lightly oil molds or a baking sheet (for randomly shaped pieces).

In a large saucepan, mix sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Over medium heat, stir until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil without stirring.

When syrup reaches 260*, add a few drops of food coloring.

Don't stir the mixture.  The boiling will distribute the coloring.

It really won't take long for the color to work it's way through.

If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can test the doneness of the syrup by dropping a few drops of syrup into cold water.

If it forms hard, brittle threads in the cold water, it's ready.

If you have a candy thermometer, you're looking for 300*.  When you reach this stage, remove pan from heat.  When the boiling stops, add the flavoring and stir. Be careful because sometimes it will bubble up and the steam can be pretty potent, especially if you're using a strong flavor like cinnamon.

Pour syrup into molds or baking sheet.  If you use a baking sheet, you can score shapes with a knife after it sets up a bit.

When cool, break apart pieces of candy.  You can dust the pieces lightly with powdered sugar to prevent them sticking together as you store them.  Keep in airtight container.

Enjoy your old fashioned hard candy!

Stuffed Peppers

I'm sorry.  I apologize for this super-long hiatus in posting.  Life has been, shall we say, really crazy lately. I've barely had time to brush my hair, let alone cook, photograph, and blog about some amazing foods.  I feel bad about the time that has passed since our last encounter.  It's way too long in my book, really.  Oh, FKS blog, how I've missed you.

As some of you know, I've started working again.  This was totally unplanned and quite the surprise.  I really love my job but working coupled with three kids, soccer practice and games, homecoming dances, band rehearsal and gigs, HOA duties, and just basically having a life is a difficult balance for me.  I don't know how you people do it.  I know there are bloggers out there who work full time, have 7 kids, a spouse, and a house full of animals and still manage to post 5 days a week.  Good luck to them and their blood pressure.

So here we are with a fantastic recipe for stuffed peppers.  I actually had never eaten them until I made this recipe.  Therefore, I don't have a great control for what they're supposed to taste like.  All I know is that these are really good.

The peppers are creamy and silky.  The stuffing is hearty and flavorful.  The sauce tastes like it's been simmering on Grandma's stove for 15 hours.  The best part is they cook in the slow-cooker for hours until perfection.  Really delicious on a chilly autumn evening.  It appears I've really been missing out all these years.

Stuffed Peppers
Serves 4

4 bell peppers - red, orange, and/or yellow
1-1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 c. arborio rice
8 oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 onions, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/8 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2-1/2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (1-1/4 c.)
2 T. chopped fresh basil

Slice off the top half-inch of the peppers.  Seed the inside of the pepper cups.  Chop the pepper tops, excluding the stem.  In a large microwavable bowl, microwave the broth and rice for 13-15 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a large non-stick skillet until browned.  Drain, reserving fat in skillet.  Put sausage in the large bowl with the cooked rice.

Add onion and chopped pepper to skillet and cook until browned, 8-10 minutes.  Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, bring to a boil, and remove from heat.

Mix 1 cup of sauce and 1 cup cheese with the rice and sausage.  Pour the rest of the sauce into the slow-cooker.  Using a skewer, poke 4 holes in the bottom of each pepper cup.  Fill each one with the sausage mixture.  Place in slow-cooker.  Top each pepper with the remaining cheese.  Cover and cook on low for  4 to 4-1/2 hours until peppers are tender.

Once done, remove peppers to a plate.  Stir in the fresh basil to the sauce in the slow-cooker and serve with peppers.

Recipe from Cook's Country August/September '11

Garlic and Oil Spaghetti with Parmesan

461...  461 Ocean Boulevard is the address of one of Eric Clapton's recording studios.  NASA announced the discovery of 461 new planet candidates a few days ago.  461 BC is known as the Year of the Consulship of Gallus and Cornutus.  It's also the number of days since my last post.

So much has happened in the last year and 3 months.  I'm still working, which is 99% of the reason I haven't posted in so long.  If you read any of my last few posts, you'll remember how I questioned how any of you fellow bloggers do it while working outside the home.  Luckily, I've found (mostly) a balance with working, kids, husband, and home.  It's only taken this gal 1-1/2 years to do so...  Thus, at the encouragement of my husband and a few friends, I'm going to give FKS another go.  No promises on how often I'll get to partake, but I hope to continue as much as possible nonetheless.

Enough of that.

You may remember our Basset Hound, Sobe.  Unfortunately, he was very sick and died just a few short weeks after my last post in November 2011.  We grieved, and still do, missing him every day.  However, we got a puppy (What were we thinking!?!?) just a few days after Christmas.  Her name is Vera Ellen, after Vera Ellen, from our favorite holiday movie, White Christmas.

Vera is 14 weeks old and full of energy.  We were used to a lazy dog (sorry, Sobe, but it's true). So a highly intelligent, energetic, bouncy little pup is a bit of an adjustment.

My husband and I also decided to go totally vegetarian.  I have never really liked the taste of meat much, so I decided to see if I could go full on vege.  Turns out, it's pretty much the easiest change I've made.  Ever.  Plus I feel good that none of my food ever felt pain.

How about that pasta, you ask?  It's delicious.  It's easy.  You probably have all these ingredients on hand, except maybe fresh parsley.

Don't be alarmed by the large amount of garlic in this recipe.  You're making Garlic and Oil Spaghetti, after all.  It's garlicky but in the sweet, subtle yet pungent way garlic can do when it's behaving.  It is probably a bit spicy for those with a delicate palate, so feel free to cut back on the red pepper flakes.  The lemon and parsley add a brightness to the full garlic flavor.  The buttery breadcrumbs provide a crunch that pairs nicely with the salty Parm.

Garlic and Oil Spaghetti with Parmesan

1-1/2 T. butter
1/2 c. Panko breadcrumbs
1 lb. spaghetti
6 T. olive oil
1/4 c. minced garlic (1-2 heads)
3/4 t. red pepper flakes
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 t. lemon zest
2 t. lemon juice
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
Kosher salt

Heat butter in a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat.  Add Panko and salt, stirring until golden and toasted.  Set aside.  Wipe out skillet.

Heat a large pot of water until boiling.  Add 1 t. Kosher salt.  Cook pasta according to directions. Scoop out about a cup of pasta water and set aside.

Meanwhile, in the same skillet used for the breadcrumbs, heat 3 tablespoons oil, 3 tablespoons garlic, and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt over med-low heat.  The garlic will foam and become light-golden brown after 10 minutes or so.  Be sure to stir very frequently or it'll burn and become bitter.

Pull skillet off heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon garlic, red pepper flakes, parsley, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons pasta water.  Stir to combine.

Put cooked pasta back into the hot pot.  Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, and about 1/3 cup pasta water and toss well.  Add garlic mixture and season to taste.  Add more pasta water if necessary to make it moister.

Place pasta in serving bowls and top with breadcrumbs and Parm.

Lentils with Carrots & Onions

I'm sort of obsessed with Pinterest.  I realize I am not alone in this either.  There are a million zillion people on it, pinning all sorts of things such as crafts, home decor, and of course food.  And now I have a to-do list about 7 miles long, complete with projects and ideas I found on Pinterest.

Apparently there is a "male" version of Pinterest (not that guys aren't on Pinterest - pretty sexist if you ask me) called Manteresting.  You don't pin, you nail.

Looking at so many fixer-upper pins on Pinterest, I could get really excited about reupholstering a chair that someone found in a dumpster.  However, I have never dumpster dived, and (fingers crossed) will never do so.  Thus, all my fun little projects have little hope of ever actually getting done.  And I run the risk of becoming a hoarder like the ones on the shows where they seem to always have a lot of cats and a Big Mouth Billy Bass among the piles of old flannels and 14-year old issues of Women's Day.

Per usual, this has nothing to do with the recipe below.  Just typing as I think.

Back to the food (who cares about my thoughts on Pinterest?)...

This meal is a warm, stick-to-your-ribs kinda food. It has a slight Indian feel to it, but you can always leave out the Garam Masala if you want.  By the way, Garam Masala is available at the supermarket in the spice section - McCormick's makes a good one.  I like a lot of vinegar at the end to add a tartness.  Serve with crusty bread or naan.

Lentils with Carrots & Onions
Serves 6 for a meal

2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
3 teaspoons Garam Masala
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
red wine vinegar, for garnish

Heat a bit of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add carrots and saute for 2 minutes.  Add onions and saute.  Cover pot and cook until the onions are slightly browned, stirring every once in a while.  Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Meanwhile, pour the tomatoes and juice into a bowl.  Using your hands, carefully squeeze the tomatoes, breaking them up into bite-sized pieces.  Pick over the lentils for any rocks or ugly ones.  Rinse.

Now add the garam masala, cumin, and thyme to the onion mixture.  Season to taste.  Allow to cook for a minute.  Add the tomatoes and juice, lentils, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 40-50 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Check it occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn't evaporated.

Once cooked, stir in the cilantro.  Serve with red wine vinegar at the table.  I like a pretty big splash in mine, to cut the sweetness of the onions and carrots.

Serve with naan or crusty bread.


Also known as Tabbouleh and Tabouli, this is a super-refreshing Arab dish.  It's typically eaten as part of a mezze, which is sort of like a tapas thing served in a spread of several small dishes.

Changing an original recipe could be looked at as either amazingly awesome or incredibly blasphemous.  On one hand, we are not limited by conventional "must do it like this" ways and are free to tweak and twist ingredients and foods to fit our own likes and dislikes.  However, there is definitely something to be said for preserving the history of hundreds of years of culinary tradition.

Either way, Tabouleh is a really yummy salad or side or main dish.  It's especially good in the summertime when the tomatoes and cucumbers and parsley are so good it makes me want to slap my Granny.  (I don't really want to slap my Grandma.  For those of you who have not heard that expression, it's a southern thing).

Here's the thing - you can change so many of these ingredients to suit your own palette, it can only be delicious to you.  Some people use green onions instead of red.  You can also leave the mint out if that's too strange to you.  There are recipes that have more of a parsley base and the grain is the addition, but I prefer the grain as the base.  If you don't like Quinoa, you can use the traditional bulgar, or even couscous.

For this batch, I found I was nearly out of Quinoa so I supplemented with some whole-grain couscous.  Play around and let me know what you like the best!


1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
3/4 c. small diced red onion, or about 1/2 a medium onion
1/4 c. lemon juice, or juice from 1 lemon
1 cucumber, peeled and small diced
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and small diced
3/4 c. fresh minced parsley
1/4 c. fresh minced mint leaves
4 T. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix the red onion and lemon juice.  Allow to sit (the lemon juice helps to cut the sting of the onion) while you prepare the rest.

Bring quinoa and water to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer on low, covered, for 15 minutes.  Stir and re-cover, and set aside off heat for 5 minutes.  Bring to room temperature and fluff with a fork.

Mix all ingredients, including the onion/lemon juice mixture and cooled quinoa.  Serve as a side dish, or with pita bread, or in a toasted pita half.