Author Archive

Breaking the Rules -or- The Great Pumpkin Soup

September 22, 2013

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When it comes to preparing recipes, no matter where you look, be it the pages of a magazine to cookbooks to celebrity TV chefs, EVERYONE says the same thing:

“When entertaining guests, don’t prepare something you’ve never made before.”

I realize we’ve got ourselves a double negative there, and perhaps that’s the crux of it; somewhere in my mathematically handicapped brain, two negatives make a positive. (Right?)

So that, dear friends, is why I decided it was a marvelous idea to A) Purchase a whole pumpkin at the Pepper Place Farmers’ Market; B) Hack into said pumpkin, jack-o-lantern style; C) Fill the sucker up with broth and cheese and spicy goodness; and D) Roast the whole thing in the oven until it became an edible tureen. Oh, and E) serve it to company.

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I’d seen a recipe years back and had been dying to try it out. So what that I was breaking the essential entertaining maxim of “cook what you know.” I mean, what could possibly go wrong while roasting a 10-pound gourd full of boiling liquid?

Let’s take a moment, shall we, and stop to ponder the amazing amount of potential mischief that could ensue from such an endeavor:

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #1:
The pumpkin could collapse while roasting in the oven, dousing the heating elements with 7 to 9 cups of broth, cheese, and bread crumbs, which undoubtedly would find a way to catch fire, resulting in much cursing and requiring the procurement of a shop-vac.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #2:
The pumpkin could collapse at the table, resulting in a tsunami of lava broth splashing into the laps of my guests, yielding at least second-degree burns, much yelling, and a potential head injury to a certain cross-eyed feline, who, when scalded by said broth splashdown, would take off like a cat rocket, likely straight into a wall or chair leg.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #3:
Upon finishing cutting the top off my pumpkin, I could have lifted the lid to discover it full of black widow spiders, which would have resulted in yours truly suffering an instant, massive, and undoubtedly fatal heart attack.*

But none of these things happened. Well…to be fair, the pumpkin did leak a little broth, but not a calamitous amount. The soup was savory, rich, and comforting…a perfect bowl of fall goodness. Here’s what you need, and how to pull it off without injuring your friends and/or visually handicapped pets.

Whole-Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 4 to 8 servings 

1 (6 to 8-pound) cinderella or cheese pumpkin

¼ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground fennel (or ½ tsp ground cumin)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup finely ground fresh bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

5 to 7 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Garnish: Parmesan cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

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2. Cut the top off your pumpkin, and scape out all the seeds and stringy bits (like you would if carving a jack-o-lantern). Note: Do NOT carve a face into your pumpkin. Doing so would result in your pumpkin barfing soup out of its mouth, which is a novel yet impractical method of serving the soup.

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3. Once all the stringy bits are gone (from the lid, too), rub the insides of the pumpkin with butter, and sprinkle evenly with fennel, paprika, and cayenne pepper.** Lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin on the prepared pan off-center, leaving enough space on the pan for the lid, eventually (we’ll get to that in a minute).

4. Add cheese, bread crumbs, and garlic. Add broth, filling to within 3 inches of pumpkin rim. (At this point, I’ll be honest; it looks pretty nasty. Just push through.) Place the lid on your pumpkin, pop her in the oven to roast for 1 hour.

MISCHIEF ALERT:
When filled with the broth and all that cheesy spicy goodness, this pumpkin is HEAVY. Move it mindfully, and use full-on oven mitts if you have them. Imagine the horror of burning your hand on the pan, hollering like a big woman, then flinging the hot-lava-pumpkin bomb into the air, spraying your walls (and your cat) with molten cheese and broth. Yeah. So be careful.

5. After an hour, remove the lid, and place it on the baking sheet, bottom side up.  Continue roasting until the pumpkin is tender, 30 to 60 minutes. (You can test this by poking the lid with a fork.) Here’s how she looks after roasting:

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Ta-da! To serve, ladle the broth into bowls. Then, using a spoon and starting near the rim of the pumpkin, gently scrape out spoonfuls of pumpkin, and divide among bowls. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with extra cheese, of course.

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And that, friends, is it. Do I recommend that you tackle this project for a major event without practicing the recipe first? If I were editing this recipe for Taste of the South magazine, I’d caution no. But you know what? This is Kitchen Mischief, so why the hell not? It’s really not that hard. Just follow the instructions, and be careful.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this soup is 110% baby approved! Precious Moment herself, Miss Harper Elaine Walker, commandeered her mother’s portion, exclaiming “More! More!” until there was nary a drop left. Mischief accomplished. J

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*So, about the spiders. A long time ago, somebody told me a story about picking up a discarded jack-o-lantern from their yard, only to find it infested with black widow spiders. Oh, the humanity!!! That horrific image is SEARED into my imagination, hence my irrational fear that any seemingly innocent pumpkin could be a WSD (Weapon of Squirrel Destruction).

**Don’t feel hemmed in by my spice choices. Curry powder would be great, as would a good rich chili powder.

Bacon + Pimiento Cheese = Happy Fourth!

July 2, 2013

Are you there, Kitchen Mischief? It’s me, Josh. Sorry I’ve been away. My new job at Taste of the South magazine has kept me pretty busy! Between dashing downstairs to the Test Kitchen, editing recipes, and trying to not eat myself into a support group, I haven’t had a ton of time for mischief making. But our July-August issue’s Fried Green Tomato and Pimiento Cheese BLT (take a peek here) inspired me to get my mischief on. And so Cornbread Bites with Pimiento Cheese and Bacon were born.

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I’m not one to toot my own horn, but these little darlings are ridiculously delicious! Nothing earth-shattering here, folks…just three classic Southern flavors, all packed into one addictive bite. They’re actually pretty easy…and you can even cheat with store-bought pimiento cheese and cornbread. But why do that when homemade is so easy? Read on and decide for yourself.

Cornbread Bites with Pimiento Cheese and Bacon

8 to 10 appetizer servings

Here’s the gameplan. Tackle the cornbread first. After it’s cooked and toasted, you can make the Pimiento Cheese while it cools. Microwave the bacon while the cornbread cooks.

Cornbread Bites

Martha White “Hot Rize” Yellow Cornmeal Mix
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels cut from cob (optional)

In a large bowl, mix cornbread according to directions on the back of the bag (I cut the sugar down to 1 tablespoon). Stir in corn. I split the mixture between one mini-muffin tin and 1 8×8-inch pan. Bake at 425 degrees until golden, 10 to 15 minutes…watch those tiny muffins; they cook fast!

After the cornbread has cooled, use a knife to hollow out the tops of the mini muffins (you’ll be removing about a teaspoon of cornbread). Cut the 8×8 cornbread into cubes; split cubes in half horizontally.

Place cooked cornbread on a baking sheet, and spray with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and toasted, about 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

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Pimiento Cheese is a personal decision. Some folks like it spicy, some like it mayonnaisy, others pack it full of some crazy stuff. Here’s where I started; take it where you like and make it your own.

Homemade Pimiento Cheese

6 to 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (orange)
6 to 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese (white)
4 to 6 ounces diced pimientos, drained
¼ cup finely minced onion
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)

For starters, grate your own cheese, please. It really makes a huge difference. I used the grating blade on my food processor. Combine cheese and remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stirring to combine.

Tip: To give your pimiento cheese a creamy texture without adding a ton of mayo that drowns out the cheese flavor, put half of the pimiento cheese in the food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulsing a few times. Stir it back into the reserved pimiento cheese.

Assembly: Cook 4 slices of bacon; let cool, and crumble. Spoon or spread about 2 teaspoons Pimento Cheese atop each Cornbread Bite. Crown each little darling with a bacon-crumb crown, and proceed to stuff yo face. ;)

SUPERFAST VERSION:

Grab a loaf of store-bought cornbread; cube and toast as described earlier. Spread with store-bought pimiento cheese, and top with crumbled bacon. D-O-N-E. It won’t be as good as homemade, but it’ll do in a pinch!

Please have a wonderfully Happy Fourth, and grill carefully!

And now, as Jon Stewart would say if he were a culinary blogger and could enjoy bacon, here is your moment of Zen:

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Maple Mischief

February 18, 2013

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Much to Matthew’s chagrin, I’m a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to food-borne illness.

Before you conjure up any horrifying visuals, let me set the record straight. No, I do not lick raw chicken. However, I have been known to taste-test things like eggs and (gasp) burgers before cooking, to test for seasoning. Wise? Hardly. Foolhardy? I suppose. I guess I’ll continue this game of culinary Russian Roulette until I wind up in the E.R.

That being said, my latest devil-may-care mischief involved some maple syrup I purchased at TJ Maxx.

Two years ago.

That I opened one year ago.

And never refrigerated.

I sense that you have questions and concerns, so I’ll do a little roleplay and try to answer them here.

“Josh — of all places, why would you buy maple syrup at TJ Maxx?”

I must admit that, for most people, this IS a valid question. I myself was once terrified at the prospect of purchasing what I called “TJ Snaxx.” Then I found some Nielsen-Massey Vanilla there for half price. Then I found some artisan salts. Next some herbs de provence. I used them and didn’t grow a tail or a horn. So, I gradually got cozy with the idea of what my friend Greg refers to as “distressed merchandise.”

“Why are you using two-year-old maple syrup?”

This is a two-part answer. 1. David grew up during the Great Depression, so we don’t waste ANYTHING in this house, and 2. Maple syrup is best when aged.*

“Why did you never refrigerate the syrup like the label clearly requested?”

Because I can’t read.

“Why did you continue with your food preparation, knowing that your syrup was possibly contaminated by potential pancreas-poisoning toxins?

Ironically, it was a decision based on logistics. Restarting would require two trips — one to TJ Maxx for more maple syrup, and one to the grocery for more sweet potatoes. I measured the potential risk of three days in the hospital versus the definite sacrifice of 25 minutes and $7 for potatoes and distressed maple syrup, and made the logical choice to gamble on the past of less immediate resistance.

So, how did it turn out? Well, it’s twelve hours later, and I’m drinking my morning coffee and writing this blog post. So…so far so good. Wait…I’m sensing another question…something I might have forgotten to mention due to my long-winded dissertation on discount maple syrup…

“This is a food blog, dummy. What did you cook???”

Ah yes. I suppose that would be pertinent. And so we begin. ;)

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Roasted Chicken with Chipotle-Maple Sweet Potatoes
Don’t choke — I actually followed a recipe for once! I snagged this one from the Jan/Feb issue of Taste of the South magazine. I was intrigued by the maple-chipotle combo, and the ease of cooking it all in the cast iron skillet. I was not disappointed — it was very tasty. Recipe adapted below.

1 TBSP + 2 tsp olive oil
4 small chicken breasts (or thighs) … see NOTE
1 tsp salt + half tsp pepper
½ tsp ground coriander (or cumin, I used both)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
¼ maple syrup
1 TBSP minced chipotle pepper … see NOTE
2 lemon wedges.

I like to get all my chopping done before heat comes into play, so I began by taking care of my potatoes, onion, and chipotle. While we’re on the subject of chipotles, if you have no idea where to acquire them, read this. Put onions and potatoes in a medium bowl.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Season your chicken with salt, pepper, and coriander/cumin. Heat a TBSP of oil over medium heat in a 12-inch cast iron (or any oven-proof) skillet and brown chicken for 3-5 minutes, then flip and remove pan from heat.

While that’s settling, add remaining oil, minced chipotle, and maple syrup to sweet potatoes, tossing to coat. Pour veggies around the chicken, and bake for 40 minutes, or until chicken is done.

NOTE: I used tiny chicken breasts, and their packaging indicated a 20- minute cook time due to their size. To solve this issue, I removed the chicken from the cast iron, added the potato mixture, and baked for 20 minutes. Then I added the chicken and cooked for another 20. Perfectly done!

And that, darlings, is pretty much it. Finish with a nice spritz of lemon, and you have a rather tasty, somewhat death-defying, meal.

So what’s the lesson here today? Don’t discriminate against distressed merchandise, but do try your best to avoid distressing it any further before you use it. Happy mischief making! ;)

*This is not a statement of fact. It is pure snarky sarcasm. Kitchen Mischief does not recommend the use of potentially hazardous food items and cannot be held responsible for medical co-pays incurred after consuming such items.

Cast Iron Confessions

January 31, 2013

I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it, but I just got around to purchasing my first proper cast iron skillet. I can hear you now — “(Gasp!)” “I declare!” “What the tarnation?!!”

While I realize that you are neither Foghorn Leghorn nor Yosemite Sam, I can’t imagine your real-life disbelief is far off the mark. I mean, I talk about cooking ALL THE TIME. We have like, hundreds of recipes on here. I’m from MISSISSIPPI, for heaven’s sakes! I accept your culinary shaming and the righteous indignation with which it was delivered. Now can we please get on with the introductions? I’d like you to meet Big Molly.

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I got Big Molly at Little Hardware in Mountain Brook Village shortly after receiving the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas (Thanks, Jen & Ben!). In it, author Deb Perelman (an awesome food blogger) wields her honkin’ cast iron skillet like a culinary swiss army knife, browning, braising, baking, and generally making tons of tasty magic. I simply had to have one for my mischief!

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Truth be told, I’m not a complete cast iron novice. When I moved in with my partner David seven years ago, I inherited a tiny little cast iron skillette (see what I did there? Grin.) I mean, if Puss in Boots were to make anchovy omelets for his Lady Cat Callers, this is the skillet he would use. See how Petite Polly nestles right down into Big Molly’s generously seasoned embrace?

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So I was glad to trade up and graduate to a “traditionally built” cast iron skullet. “U” feels like a more substantial vowel than “I,” yes? I christened Big Molly with an odd dish from the Smitten Kitchen book — Roasted Chicken with Olives and Grapes. Yes, GRAPES. Here’s a peek.

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It was a little weird, but good. Subsequent recipes have been increasingly pleasing. The real tests are yet to come — GIANT cornbread, and yes … Fried Chicken! Thank goodness they built a new fire department just two blocks away in Avondale!

Wish me luck — and the arm strength to dance around this kitchen with Big Molly! Bring on the Mischief! ;)

PS: In the meantime, check out Deb’s blog and try out some of her recipes, or take a peek at the tasty cast iron slideshow I stumbled upon over at Taste of the South.

Super-Cute & Super-Easy Pumpkin Dip

October 26, 2012

Halloween is almost here, so it’s time to break out a Kitchen Mischief Klassic — Pumpkin Dip!

I have to admit, I did not develop this recipe. The good foodies over at Southern Living get credit for that. But of course I mischieffed it up a little bit. You know I am INCAPABLE of following a recipe to the letter. ;)

Here’s what you need and how to do it.

Pumpkin Dip

• 1 box of cream cheese, softened

• 1 ½  to 2 cups powdered sugar

• 1 (15-ounce) canned pumpkin

• 2 tsp ground cinnamon

• 1 tsp ground ginger

• 2 tsp vanilla extract

• ½ tsp ground clove

• the tiniest dash of fine salt

• 1 pie pumpkin (optional)

• serve with ginger snaps

The most important thing is to start with super-soft cream cheese. Mix it together with your powdered sugar, get it nice and smooth, then add your pumpkin.

NOTE: If you try to blend cold cream cheese and canned pumpkin together, the cream cheese will pebble up, yielding you a dip that resembles orange cottage cheese [sound of Josh dry heaving into trash can]. Avoid this mischief at all costs!

Finish it by seasoning to taste. I like mine nice and spicy, and not too sweet. You can also add honey, maple syrup or agave nectar — just watch your consistency.  You don’t want sweet pumpkin soup. ;)

Now, you can always just serve this in a bowl and be done with it. But why do that when you can serve it in a super-cute hollowed-out pie pumpkin? Not only is this adorable, but it makes it clear to your guests that they are not eating hummus.

If you’d like to taste this cute deliciousness in person, stop by Boo Gurl X this weekend! It’s our final Boo, and it’s going to be a blast!

Happy Halloween — get into some mischief, why don’t cha? ;)

Boo Gurl X Info:

Home of Lane Snider: 5721 10th Avenue South, Birmingham (Crestwood); 8-until!
Join us as we celebrate 10 years of Boo Gurl. Boo Gurl X promises to be the best of the BOO. So, put on your creativity smock and come up with a great costume. Funny, Scary, Sexy, Dirty, Political, topical… you choose, but make it good. Hosted by Ray Hydrick, Matthew Warren, Lane Snider, Josh Miller, David Brothers and Vicky Carstens and Jamie Hodge.

Veggie-Packed “Lettuce” Wraps

September 6, 2012

 

—or—

BRING YOUR CABBAGE to WORK(out) DAY!

What's more round, the cabbage, or my head?

 

Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Why does it look like Josh is holding a cabbage in what appears to be a gym/workout facility?” Darlings, it’s because I AM holding a cabbage in a gym/workout facility. Allow me to explain.

So dashing from work to workout, I realized I was missing a key ingredient to that evening’s dinner — cabbage! Before you say “yuck nasty!” like I tend to when contemplating cabbage, know that it’s merely a vehicle for a way-better-than-PF Chang’s version of “lettuce” wraps. Cabbage is to “lettuce” wraps as chips are to rotel. Except not a fat factory. Got it? On we go.

So I zipped past the gym (Birmingham’s LJCC, love it, go there!) and plunged into the Publix. Cabbage in tow, I hurled back gymward, peeling into the parking lot with about 47 seconds to spare before it was time to begin doing sit-ups in unison with a room full of perfect strangers. But I had a cabbage dilemma: Do I leave the cabbage in the car to possibly wilt and yuckify, or do I smuggle her into the gym? Fearing wilt above mockery or inconvenience, I bagged her and sprinted inside.

 

Plastic bags are sinful. Mea culpa, mea culpa!

 

What I failed to factor in was the locker room. Let’s be clear — I’m not knocking the cleanliness of the men’s locker room, but it’s absolutely no place for a cabbage! There’s entirely too many feet and undercarriages swinging about in there. Blech! By this time, I was already fully committed to the mischief-y idea of toting a cabbage around the gym, so off we went to the workout studio!

I briefly considering subbing in the cabbage as a weight plate for lunges, but that seemed a mite ridiculous (ha!). So she sat in the corner, cozy in her Publix bag, while I crouched, crunched, and planked my way toward a six pack that only exists in magazines.

As the class ended, the instructor (who David and I call ‘Sweet Sara’) told us to eat our veggies. Oh, the irony! So of course I had to introduce her to my special guest. Sara is a culinary school-trained foodie, so she totally understood my wilt vs. locker room dilemma. I mean, who wouldn’t? ;)

There’s nothing to the rest of the story, really. I rushed home, chopped a queen’s ransom of vegetables, and combined them with ground chicken and seasonings to yield a very tasty and healthy version of “lettuce” wraps. If this seems familiar, it’s because we’ve already told you how to cook this before. Actually, Matthew did! Here’s the recipe. I simply added the following diced veggies: one red bell pepper, half and onion, an entire bunch of scallions, one pint container of mushrooms, and two large carrots.

 

Mom would be proud!

 

Don’t forget the seasonings! I used a sixfecta of low-sodium soy sauce (salty), fish sauce (sour), chili sauce (hot) honey (sweet), and rice wine vinegar (tangy!).

 

Instead of a wok (which I do own but am terrified of, mainly because my electric stove doesn’t cooperate with it), I used a gigantic skillet, like this:

 

Yummy goodness!

 

And that’s it! A little ground chicken, a little cilantro, and a whole lotta flavor! Oh yeah, I forgot about the cabbage!

 

 

And that, friends, is all she wrote! This is a great recipe if you’d like to play with asian flavors, but you’re intimidated by stir-frying. Just saute it all in stages and you’re all set!

Have fun, cook mischievously, and don’t be afraid to play — or workout — with your food! ;)

Cream Corn, Reborn!

July 30, 2012

I grew up on my grandmother’s cream corn. I don’t know if it had actual cream in it or not, but it definitely had LOTS of butter. Plus, it seemed as if she cooked it for HOURS to get that creamy consistency.

My Mom modernized the routine by microwaving the corn, but she kept her Mom’s requisite butter. Still tasty, and with a good deal less stirring.

Well Mom, and May, I’m sorry — but I’ve got a new plan for cream corn. My method is less creamy, more crunchy, and very fresh. And … it doesn’t depend on butter for the flavor. But that doesn’t mean there’s no fun. Here’s what you need:

Josh’s Sauteed Summer Corn
Serves 4

Four ears of fresh corn
half an onion, diced
3 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup (about) of 1% milk
salt and lots of fresh pepper, to taste
1/cup chopped basil, optional

Shuck your corn and dice your onion. When removing your corn from the cob, place the pointy end in a bundt pan to catch the kernels as you run your knife down the cob, like this:

Next, saute your diced onions. While that’s happening, remove the kernels and set aside, then run your knife along the corn husks to extract the corn milk.*  Best thing to do is show you how. Watch:

Now, add the corn kernels to the pan, along with the corn milk.* After 3-5 minutes (or when the pan is looking dry), add the milk a little at a time, allowing it to cook down. After about 10 minutes, right before serving, add your basil. Done!

There’s nothing better than a plate full of soul food!

If you’re a traditionalist, this may not float your boat, but every time I’ve made it this summer it’s been my favorite thing on the plate. Plus it’s so easy and not that messy.

Matthew & I have been super-busy with work, but we’re going to try to get more quick recipes like this one in front of you more often. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!

Thanks, and happy Mischief-making!

*Corn milk should not be fed to Baby Corn. It prefers soy sauce.

Salsa with Orange, Chili, Fennel, and Kalamata Olives

May 22, 2012

Before you say, “WHAT THE HELL?!!” I have some cool news — Matthew and I got invited to judge the 2nd Annual Salsa Showdown at Pepper Place this weekend! So stop by from 3-7 (tickets are cheaper online now) and watch us stuff our faces with salsa, cheese dip, and guacamole from El Barrio, Cocina Superior, El Donkey, and more! It’s a benefit for the Sidewalk Film Festival, so stroll by and get your snack on!

In honor of the Showdown, I decided to make a non-traditional salsa for you today. In all honesty, this probably isn’t technically a salsa, But “relish” sounds so boring and, well, pickly. So I’m making the call — it’s salsa, dammit!

Salsa with Orange, Chili, Fennel, and Kalamata Olives
SPOILER ALERT: This stuff is good! Sweet, salty, grilly, a little hot, and maybe just an itty bit sweet. It’s a great foil for grilled pork. And I’d bet my biscuits it would be deeeelicious over salmon!

• One and a half navel oranges
• 1 small red chili
• 1/3 cup of sliced kalamata olives
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1 tsp olive juice
• 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
• 2 tbsp chopped parsley
• ½ cup fennel, grilled and chopped

Use a knife to cut away the peel and pith from one whole orange, rough chop it, and place it in a bowl. Half your other orange and repeat. Save your other half for squeezing over whatever meat you’re grilling.

Next, find a patch of sunshine, and add your diced chili. Actually, the sunshine step is optional, but wouldn’t you agree that it’s such a glorious ingredient? Now you may be asking, “What kind of chili is that?” The truth is that I have NO idea. Publix didn’t label the basket. All I know is that it was red and not too hot.

Now, tackle the olives. I’m all about using superior ingredients, but these jarred, pitted kalamatas by Lindsay are cheap, tasty, and easy. Why do I feel like using a “Your Mom” joke here?

Sunshine…on my salsa…makes me happy…

Finish with parsley and grilled fennel. If you’re a particularly attentive foodie, you’ll detect nary a piece of fennel in this shot. That is because it was prettier before I added the fennel. What can I say…pretty matters people!

However, that does not mean you should skip this step!** The grilled fennel added a smokiness (well, duh!) and a complex flavor that added depth to sweetness of the orange, without headbutting the brininess of the olives.

The result: A very flavorful and interesting salsa that took a staple like grilled pork and made it really fun to eat. Hooray!

I totally recommend this funky recipe and give it like, 87 stars. But if non-traditional salsa is not your thing, swing by Pepper Place next Saturday and let the professionals please your palate. Just be sure to say “Hey” and perhaps call an ambulance if Matthew and I appear to be suffering from guacamole overload!

See you soon! ;)

**Upon further review, I found this picture a bit misleading. That grilled item to left is not fennel, it’s actually a tiny grilled onion. I grilled my fennel by slicing it into 1/2 inch slabs and coating with olive oil, white balsamic, and salt and pepper. I grilled on low for about 20 minutes, flipping midway. Cool, then chop.

Asian Grilled Vegetable Salad or How I Very Nearly Committed Cannibalism

April 25, 2012

So David and I JUST got back from a week in Utah. It was a week of culinary indulgence — braised short ribs, pan-seared trout, tasty charcuterie platters of local meats and cheeses, and rich chocolate desserts…

But not a lot of veggies. Let’s face it — if I’m staring at a menu, trying to decide between short ribs or a salad, braised meat ALWAYS wins.

So by the time we hit Houston on the way home, I was veggie-obsessed. You know in the Looney Tunes cartoons, when one character is super-hungry, and he looks at the other one and sees only a steaming roasted chicken? Watch it here. That’s what happened when I looked over at David, only instead of a chicken, he looked like a big steaming stalk of broccoli.

“What’s wrong with you?” He asked, as I stared at him longingly, my stomach growling with hunger. “Snap out of it!”

I’m certain he was scared for his life.

Fortunately, I came to my senses before I took a bite out of his arm. We made it home (kindly picked up at the airport by Ray of the Kitchen Mischief Limo Service), and I bolted for the grocery store with the vague plan for an Asian-inspired grilled vegetable salad. I felt like a plundering pirate. Take a look at my vegetable bounty:

The Publix cashier thought I was a secret shopper testing her produce code knowledge!

In about thirty minutes, I whipped together a tasty, healthy dinner that kept me from resorting to hallucination-induced accidental cannibalism. Here’s how I did it.

 

Asian Salad with Grilled Vegetables (and a little chicken) Serves 2 veggie-deprived, jet-lagged dudes

For the dressing/marinade:
4 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
4 tsp asian chili sauce
4 tsp grated garlic
4 tsp grated ginger (peel on is OK)
4 tsp honey
2 tsp sesame oil
4 tbsp olive/canola oil
2 tbsp chopped cilantro

For the salad:
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
1 bunch broccoli
2 carrots
About half a pound of chicken cutlets
1 box of mixed greens (I love SuperGreens!)
First: Preheat the grill. Nest, mix together your dressing/marinade. Don’t stress if you don’t have all the stuff. Just remember to honor the requirements for tasty Asian food: Spicy (heat), Salty (soy), Sour (lime, vinegar), and Sweet (honey, brown sugar). Pour half in a Ziploc bag; reserve the other half to dress your salad.

Second: Cut your veggies for the grill. The trick is to make sure the pieces are big enough to avoid falling through your grill, but small enough to cook. Later pics should give you a good idea how to handle this. Add your veggies to the bag with the marinade, and give it a shake!

Shake-shake-shake — shake your veggies!

Remove your veggies to a plate, shaking off excess marinade, then add your chicken cutlets to the bag and repeat. Take the whole lot to the grill and cook 6-8 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked and veggies are tender enough for you.

Finish by chopping your veggies and chicken into bite-sized chunks, then dress them and the greens with your reserved dressing.

It wasn’t pretty, and let’s be honest, not quite as tasty as a braised short rib, but this blitzkrieg of post-vacay dinner soothed my crazy veggie cravings. And probably saved my husband’s life. ;)

Kitchen Mischief Discovery: Grilled Broccoli is DELICIOUS! I can’t wait to try it again…

Cupcakes for Breakfast? Yes Ma’am!

March 13, 2012

Mmm...breakfast cupcakes!

One of my favorite lunchbreak pastimes is to peruse Pinterest.com in search of recipe inspiration. While I (responsibly) chew my standard turkey sandwich, I scan the pinned recipes, sometimes laughing (seriously, must you add cake batter to EVERYTHING, people?!) and occasionally lusting after the featured treats.

Now I usually don’t cook ridiculous stuff, especially not early in the morning, and ESPECIALLY not if I’ve been “out on the town” the night before. But one Saturday morning I awoke to find my head a little fuzzy and my tummy in the mood for something more satisfying than yogurt and granola. Then I remembered a tasty little pin from Pinterest: Someone had put ham into muffin tins and cooked eggs in the ham cups. I figured even with a testy head, I could handle this. So off to Publix I dashed. Here’s how it went down…

Breakfast Cupcakes
Serves two hungover guys

4 eggs
sliced ham, speck, prosciutto (any thinly sliced cooked or cured meat)
2 TBSP milk
1/4 cup of cheese (sharp cheddar or Parmesan)
half an onion, diced
small potato, diced
various herbs and what-such

I started by dicing my onion and potato, then got them sauteing in the skillet with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Honestly, you can skip this step (I did once, and they were fine) but I do love a breakfast potato. Cook until tender enough to eat, with a nice crust.

Mmmm...potato...

Speaking of crust, while you’re sauteing, it’s time to start your meat cups! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, spray your muffin tins with cooking spray, and stuff some meat in. I’ve done it regular deli ham and speck (which I think is basically American prosciutto). Just push it down to make a cup.

Mmm...meat cups...

Meanwhile, mix up your eggs. I recommend mixing them in something with a spout (I used my measuring cup) — it makes pouring easier. Combine eggs and milk, whisking well. Add salt and pepper, but salt mindfully, because depending on what meat you use, you could be in for a salt overload (which I did to my family last weekend!). Mix in some herbs (parsley or dill) or sauteed spinach (or even mushrooms!) and you’re good to go. Oh yeah, and cheese. Never forget the cheese!

Mmm...cheese...

Finally, it’s assembly time. If you weren’t too hungover and you did the potato-onion step, add a small spoonful to the bottom of each meat cup (about a tsp). Follow that by carefully filling each cup halfway with the egg mixture (it rises), then top with a dash of pepper and cheese.

Mmm...salmonella cups...

Me, fighting the urge to eat Salmonella Cups...

Then, all you do is pop ‘em in the oven for 15 minutes. That’s it! And here they are!

Mmm...hello delicious!

You would think they’d big ole mess, but they just pop right out! They are a super-cute and super-tasty way to start a Saturday morning. Plus, if you’re like me and have a husband who tends to sleep a little later than you on Saturday, these actually reheat decently (or at least better than scrambled eggs or waffles).

Check out Pinterest.com…there’s a lot of fun stuff — just stay away from the cake-battered chicken tenders, will you? ;)


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