With Apologies to Pakistan: Sweet Potato-Lentil Curry with Kale

October 13, 2014 by

india stew


Are you there Kitchen Mischief? It’s me, Josh.

I never really left you. I’ve been piddling about, doing some professional mischief for my day job at Taste of the South magazine, and some ramshackle weeknight mischief at home, which has been edible but just that; not necessarily remarkable. And then this “curry” happened.

I say “curry” because this dish has curry in it. No self-respecting person of Indian or Pakistani descent would dare call my cooking “Indian.” And that’s OK. Regardless of its authenticity, I can attest to the fact that this stew was durn good.

It was richly spiced but not hot as hell; creamy but not fatty, and vegetarian-ish but not obnoxiously so (I used chicken broth). Oh, and hearty and healthy, thanks to the kale, lentils, and sweet potatoes (thanks, Mom!). And the best part—it took right around 30 minutes.

Let’s get on to that recipe. I’ll ramble on a little more below if you’re still in the mood to read. 😉


Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry with Kale

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Before we begin, a note on spices. Every curry powder is a little different. I would recommend starting with a mild curry powder, a teaspoon at a time, until you get to know each other. You can always increase the heat level to taste with cayenne at the end. If you’re really adventurous, start by toasting whole spices in the canola oil before adding the onion. (I used cumin seeds because I had them). Otherwise, just proceed as directed below, and get ready to have your house smell like Pakistan.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cinnamon stick
1 to 2 tablepoons curry powder* (see note)
5 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1 (48-ounce) container chicken broth
1 1/2 cups reduced fat coconut milk
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1 strip lime zest
About 1 cup water
4 cups chopped fresh kale, firmly packed
¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Toasted naan bread, to serve

FIRST: In a large Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add cinnamon stick, onion, and curry powder. Cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes more. Add sweet potato and salt, stirring to coat.

THEN: Add broth, coconut milk, lentils, zest, and water as needed. Increase heat to medium-high to bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes. Gently stir in kale in batches; cook 5 minutes more. Season with additional salt, to taste. Stir in cilantro just before serving.


About Naan

If you’re not familiar with Indian cuisine, let’s talk about naan (pronounced ‘non,’) which always confuses my father. I say, “Dad, we’re having naan-bread pizzas for supper,” to which he responds with a Southpark-like blink-blink, trying to figure out why I’m taking his bread away, and what the nether-hell I’m going to make the crust out of. Naan bread is an Indian flat bread, like a cross between pita bread and a pizza crust. There’s a version available in many supermarkets by Stonefire; it’s really tasty. Anyhoo, I brushed one flatbread with olive oil, sprinkled with seasoning (cumin and special salt, from Matthew), and baked at 350° for 10 minutes. This pretty picture was not taken by me.





Perhaps this stew was made all the better by the gifts that brought it into being. Mom brought over a bag of sweet potato discards from the garden, sweet little orange runtlings that were destined for the compost heap. After a good scrub and peel, and they were good as new. And Matthew (fresh from Paris) brought me a treasure trove of artisan-blended Parisian spices, which I used to flavor my naan bread. Best. Stuff. Ever. I’ll do a whole post on it later.


india spice


And of course it was made all the more mischievous because I was cooking in our new kitchen. You see, we’re trying to sell our old (current) house, and I’m not joking about the whole your-house-will-smell-like-Pakistan thing. It’s a fragrant truth. And it’s not that I have anything against Pakistan; I just think there’s a reason realtors tell you to whip up a batch of homemade cookies and NOT a pot of curry before potential buyers come over.

ANYWAY, cooking in the new kitchen is like camping—you get to improvise. So when it was time to transport the stew back to the other house for dinner and I couldn’t find pot holders, I had to get resourceful.


india travel


And yes, between coming up with my makeshift potholders and lucking into this delicious stew, I was QUITE pleased with myself. I hope that you have the same success with this “curry” as I did, and that it brings a mischievous smile to your face, too.

Happy Cooking, and light a candle! 😉

Chickpeas Are Not Just for Hummus

February 6, 2014 by


The poor chickpea.  It’s either pulverized for hummus or banished to the salad bar to be glared at and ignored by salad eaters.  But not anymore.  I decided to step out of my comfort zone and make something a little different, a Moroccan stew. Yes, I know this is soup week and this is not called a soup…tomato, to-mah-to, I say.

You will see that I have chicken in my stew.  If you want to go meatless, leave it out! I won’t judge…maybe.  Let’s get this stew started!

All photos and horrible editing by Matthew

All photos and horrible editing by Matthew

Moroccan Stew with Chicken

2 roasted chicken breasts, shredded (recipe below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ cups chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes, drained
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup parsnips, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions, sprinkle with salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yummy caramelized onion

Yummy caramelized onion

Add garlic, tomato paste and cook for an additional minute. Add tomatoes, cumin and cinnamon.  Cook for an additional two minutes.
Add chickpeas, chicken broth, parsnips and carrots.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes.



After 40 minutes, use your potato masher and mash chickpeas a little.  I would say around 10 mashes would do it.

This is not soft-focus, it is steam.

This is not soft-focus, it is steam.

I served it with a little jasmine rice but you could substitute for couscous.

Need another chickpea recipe?

Josh and I found this one online and it looked really fun and tasty.

Crunchy, spicy and yummy

Crunchy, spicy and yummy

Roasted Chickpeas

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the over to 400°.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Spread chickpeas in a even layer on sheet pan.  Roast for 35-40 minutes or until crunchy on outside but tender in the middle.

This was taken by Ray - looks much better

This was taken by Ray – looks much better

This Soup Is To Thai For!

February 5, 2014 by

I love this Thai chicken coconut soup. You can eat it as is or add various noodles to make your favorite noodle bowl.  I know when you see the ingredient list below you may think that I ransacked an Asian market but I really bought most of this at our local mega mart and maybe Whole (Paycheck) Foods.  Believe it or not, this soup can be on your table in less than hour.

A few things before we get to the recipe.  The original recipe calls for fish sauce.  We cannot use fish sauce in our house because of Ray’s allergy (so he says) to fish.  Soup should be warm and comforting, not send you to the hospital.  So I substituted soy sauce for fish sauce.  Also, I was able to find lime leaves at Whole Foods.  These little babies are cheap and pack a punch (steep them in a good green tea).  If you can’t find them, use a vegetable peeler to remove a few strips of zest from a lime.  Last thing, if you can’t find Thai chilies – use Serrano chilies, they are a staple in most mega marts.

Thai Coconut Soup with Chicken and Tofu 
2 32 oz boxes of chicken broth
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in large chunks
2 14 oz cans of coconut milk
10 quarter-sized slices of ginger
2 lemon grass stalks, cut in large chunks
3 Thai chilies, de-ribbed and seeded
5 lime leaves (or 3 large slices of lime zest)
10 whole peppercorns
½ teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or fish sauce)
7 oz (½ loaf) firm tofu, medium diced
2 scallions, sliced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
Cheese cloth

In a stock pot, add the chicken broth and heat over medium heat.  With the back of a heavy knife or rolling pen, whack each piece of lemon grass to open the stalks.  Add lemon grass, ginger, chilies, lime leaves and pepper corns to an 8”x8” piece of cheese cloth and tie into a bundle.

Add bundle and diced chicken to broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

Do not put this sachet in your lingerie drawer

Stir in coconut milk, chili-garlic sauce, chili oil, soy sauce and tofu.

Simmer for 10 additional minutes.  Serve with scallions and mushrooms.

Serving suggestions: 
-Add rice noodles, udon or ramen for a hardy noodle bowl and top it with fresh bean sprouts and extra lime
-Add pre-made dumplings

Can’t take the Heat?
Let’s keep the mischief to a minimum when it comes to working with chilies.  These bad boys are HOT! So here a few tips for keeping the heat down:  When working with any kind of chili, wear gloves to keep the oils from burning your skin.  It may not burn your fingers but wipe your eye or nose and the phrase “feel the burn” has a whole new meaning.
To make chilies a little less hot, remove the seeds and ribs.  Holding your knife horizontally, slowly cut out both.

  • The glove is for safety not a Michael Jackson tribute

We’re Nuts for Butternut Squash Soup!

February 4, 2014 by


Intimidated by the beastly behemoth of a butternut squash? Don’t be! Let Josh hold your hand and guide you through transforming  this plus-sized veggie into a rich, simmering cauldron of velvety butternut goodness. Read on…

Photos by David Brothers and swirl in soup by Josh Miller

Classic Butternut Squash Soup

For the Soup:
1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 large carrots
1 yellow onion
1 head of garlic (optional: see note below)
3 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth (maybe extra)
2 cups milk (maybe extra)

Before You Begin…
First, a note on the quantities here. Plan to have some extra broth. It’s hard to find a squash the exact right size, so you may have to add more liquid to get a consistency you like. Some folks like it thick, some thin. It’s entirely up to you.

Roasting the vegetables is the key to adding rich flavor to this soup. So go ahead and set your oven to 400° before you start chopping.

Conquering the Butternut
Don’t be intimidated by this squashy beast. Just think of her as a pale, rather elongated pumpkin that you’re going to peel like an apple. TIP: Poke the squash a few times with a fork and microwave it for 40 seconds. It helps with the peeling.

TIP: Peel from the base toward you. This seemed to get more peel off without redundant hacking

After you’ve got the peel off, use a big sharp knife to cut the squash in two pieces. You don’t want to split it down the middle yet — unless you’re using a machete, your knife isn’t big enough. Cut it in half horizontally, so you end up with the neck and base, like this:

Off with your head!

Now split these puppies in half, remove the seeds (mostly in the base) and cut the squash into cubes (about 1-inch). And now, a journey in pictures…

The “base” has seeds, the “neck” doesn’t.

David took this picture of me performing a Butternut Magic Trick…

Ta-Da! No seeds!

It’s easy to get excited during this step, but please be careful. I almost ended up with a hook for a hand.

And the winner is…Squirrel! Take that, Butternut. Now you are but rubble on my Boos Block.

Sorry, out of pics, but the rest is pretty simple. Peel your carrots, and give them and your onion a very rough chop. You want big chunks so they cook along with your squash. Toss all the veggies in a bowl and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Empty onto a cookie sheet, and roast for 45 minutes.

The Garlic Option
If you’d like to add the flavor of roasted garlic to your soup (which I love), simply cut the top of a head of garlic, set it on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap it up. It will roast to perfection along with your veggies.

The Blends
Here is the messy — and to be honest — the somewhat annoying part. Getting your lovely roasted vegetables to a delicious, creamy consistency requires the assistance of a small motor. You can use a regular blender, a stick blender, or a food processor. Here’s a quick review:

Stick Blender
This is the least messy option. Start by combining your milk and broth in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When it warms, add half the roasted vegetables (and all garlic, if using) and blend until smooth. Simply add the rest of the veggies and repeat. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or milk. Season to taste. Want to know more about stick blenders…read Matthew’s post here.

Food Processor or Regular Blender
These methods are pretty easy, and result in a smoother texture for the soup. Work in batches, combining half the liquid mixture with half the veggies, blend, pour into dutch oven, then repeat. Heat to simmer then season to taste.

Punching Up the Flavor
If you like exotic flavors, add a tablespoon or two of curry powder to the soup while it’s simmering. I’m not a huge curry fan, but it really works with this soup. You can also use thyme, sage, fennel, smoky paprika — just be sure to use ground spices to preserve the soup’s creamy texture.

And to Top it Off…
Toppings make this soup even more fun. I love toasted walnuts and crunchy bacon, but get creative and see what you can come up with. Barefoot Contessa tops hers with cashews, green onions, banana and coconut. Crazy! The possibilities are endless.

Welcome to Soup Week!

February 3, 2014 by

SOUPWEEKWelcome to Soup Week! We got the idea to share our favorite soups during our harrowing survival of Clusterflake 2014 here in Birmingham. By harrowing survival, I mean Josh spending the night under his desk at the office and me sleeping soundly in my bed under a very warm quilt. 😉

Because the storm quickly brought the city to a standstill, very few folks were able to go grocery shopping. Fortunately, my pantry and freezer were full of mischievous ingredients, so I was able to serve as an impromptu soup kitchen for my friends. Since we have a couple of months of winter left, this is a perfect opportunity to share some of those with you. Check back each day for some of our favorite soups, and a few ideas to make them your own. Up first—Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup…quick, easy, and guaranteed to ward off the chills!

All photos by Ray Hydrick

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 32oz box of chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 cup of orzo
2 medium bone-in chicken breasts, baked and shredded (recipe at bottom) or use a store-bought roasted chicken
2 tablespoons dill, roughly chopped
2 cups kale, shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 lemons, cut in half

Soup ingredient lineup

Soup ingredient lineup

In an 8-quart pot, heat oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add onion, carrots and celery. Stir to coat in oil. Cook until tender. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Instagram of the “holy trinity” – Ray was playing with filters again

Add chicken stock, chicken and bay leaves to the pot. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add pasta and kale. Stir to combine and cook for 10 minutes. Add dill and salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze half a lemon over each serving.

Kale Cutting Tip:

1. Remove the large stem of the middle of the leaf — it is tough and will not soften in time.

That stem is tough

That stem is tough

2. Stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them like a cigar.

This looks nothing like a cigar

This looks nothing like a cigar

3. Cut the leaves in 1/2 inch strips — the big word for this is chiffonade.

Kale ribbons!

Kale ribbons!

Simple Oven-Roasted Chicken Breasts
2 bone-in chicken breasts
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 25-30 minutes (times may vary with size of chicken breasts) or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°.  Let chicken rest for 10 minutes.  Remove skin and shredded meat with fingers or two forks.

Breaking the Rules -or- The Great Pumpkin Soup

September 22, 2013 by


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.


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.


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.


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.

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:


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.


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


*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.

Simple Sunday

August 8, 2013 by
All photos by Matthew

All photos by Matthew

After enjoying a night out with my favorite mischief-maker, Josh Miller, who needs some easy comfort food that didn’t break the calorie bank? This guy! After taking inventory of the fridge and the fig tree from my neighbor’s yard (thank you, Keith!), I just needed a few ingredients for my recovery meal.

Most of the recipes below only have a few ingredients. I keep most of these ingredients on hand. For example, prosciutto is a great, low calorie substitute for bacon, so I grab some from one of the mega wholesale places when I go.

Here are the simple dishes I made this Sunday to make me feel better.

Figs courtesy of Keith

Figs courtesy of Keith

Grilled Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto
2-3 figs per person
1/3 of a slice prosciutto per fig
Balsamic reduction (find in specialty marts)

Preheat grill. Wash and pat dry figs. Wrap prosciutto around each fig and place on grill set at medium heat (350°).

Figs in their little meat jackets

Figs in their little meat jackets

Turn every 2-3 minutes (8 minutes total) until prosciutto is golden brown. Place on tray and serve with a dollop of balsamic reduction.

Sweet, salty and rich.

Weird plating by Matthew

Weird plating by Matthew

Pan Con Tomate

I stole this EASY and tasty dish from Bottega Cafe. This is a very simple way to use those farmers’ market tomatoes that may be going bad.

2 Large ripe tomatoes
4 pieces of French bread
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt & cracked pepper
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
4 large basil leaves
Olive Oil

Wash and dry tomatoes. Using a box grater, grate the tomatoes on the course side – flesh, seeds and all (disregard the skin left). Place the pulp in a sieve or fine mesh strainer over a bowl for 10 minutes.

Don't grate a finger or knuckle...it would blend in!

Don’t grate a finger or knuckle…it would blend in!

While that sits, brush bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill bread until edges are chard and grill marks appear. (You can use your oven broiler – just watch it, I always burn mine). Once the bread is toasted, rub a half clove of garlic on one side of the bread. Do that to each piece and place aside. Place the strained tomato pulp in bowl. Add salt and pepper, mix to combine. Spoon the tomato mixture evenly over each piece of bread, drizzle with olive oil and top with a basil leaf (can be torn).

Fresh, easy and very tasty.

So tasty...I'm addicted.

So tasty…I’m addicted.

Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Broccolini

This is very easy dish and comforting dish. You can use any pasta but I love these little orecchiette from Whole Foods, I do suggest, have you pasta 80% done before starting the sauce – it is very quick (8 minutes total). This makes two large servings.

1/2 box – 1/2 lb Orecchiette Pasta
2 Chicken Italian Sausage (removed from casing) – I used spicy
1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
1 bunch broccolini, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Follow package directions for pasta. With three minutes remaining in cook time, add the broccolini to pasta water. While that cooks, preheat olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and use tongs or spoon to break up the pieces. Stir for 2 minutes, breaking pieces as you go. Add shallots and cook for one minute. Then add tomatoes and stir to combine.

Comfort in the making.

Comfort in the making.

Using tongs, grab the broccolini from pasta water and add to pan. Stir to combine. Using a ladle or measuring cup, add a 3/4 cup of pasta water to the saute pan. Reduce to medium heat. Drain pasta and add to saute pan. Fold to combine. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese.

Simple, spicy, warm, comfort food.

All photos by Matthew

This dishes are easy to make and delicious to eat. My absolute favorite is the Pan Con Tomate – you can’t get any simpler than that.

Hope these dishes give you some ideas for an quick meal at the times you need it most. Maybe next time I’ll just stay home and make this instead of meeting Josh. 😉

Bacon + Pimiento Cheese = Happy Fourth!

July 2, 2013 by

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.

photo-7 copy 2

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.

photo-7 copy

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. 😉


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:

photo-7 copy 3

You Will Gobble Gobble This Up

May 2, 2013 by
All pictures by Ray Hydrick.

All pictures by Ray Hydrick.

Josh first posted about his recreation of his favorite burger in March, 2011 and since then he has been adding to his repertoire of tasty creations. He told me about making a turkey burger with spinach and feta. Sounded delicious! So rather than steal this recipe fair and square, I decided to change it up a little, take the ingredients and turn it into a meatloaf. A recipe tag team of sorts.

The key to any meatloaf and especially turkey meatloaf is keeping it moist. The moist-making lineup for this meatloaf is sautéed spinach and an egg. Since spinach is mostly made up of water, it is the perfect addition. The other technique I used to keep the moisture is cooking it faster. Ever had a really…I mean really dry meatloaf? It usually is in one big loaf. I decided to make four smaller ones to allow it to cook faster. Don’t have a small loaf pan? No worries. I have that covered.

Turkey, Spinach and Feta Meatloaf

1 lb Ground Turkey (93% fat-free)
1 package of baby spinach (6 oz)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (dry bread crumbs soak up too much liquid)
1 teaspoon thyme, fresh
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 egg
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat until tender and translucent. Add the minced garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes. Sauté for one minute – keep stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Burned garlic is bitter garlic

Burned garlic is bitter garlic

Add the package of spinach. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using tongs, turn the spinach until wilted. Place on a plate to cool (hot spinach in cold turkey could create a perfect place for bacteria).

Takes less than a minute to make

Takes less than a minute to make

In a bowl, add ground turkey, spinach mixture, egg, bread crumbs and feta cheese. Mix completely but don’t “squish it” – that makes it very dense.

If it grosses you out to mix with your hands, then good luck.

If it grosses you out to mix with your hands, then good luck.

This is the fun part – place a piece of plastic wrap in a small plastic container. Spoon in the turkey mixture and press gently to compact. Turn the loaf out on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Complete the process until the mixture is gone (mine made 4).

Click on the pic for a better view.  Apparently, my computer wants to give you an eye exam.

Click on the pic for a better view. Apparently, my computer wants to give you an eye exam.

Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the thermometer reads 165°. Let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

165° is the recommended temperature for turkey

165° is the recommended temperature for turkey

I ditched the traditional tomato slather and went for a balsamic reduction drizzle (I found mine at a specialty food store). I served mine over sautéed white northern beans with thyme and escarole. Delicious and healthy!

P.S. – I told Josh that I stole his recipe. After he cut me in Publix Supermarket, he was fine with it. I just think he was just hungry.

P.S.S. – I cannot confirm that Josh cut me.

Maple Mischief

February 18, 2013 by


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. 😉


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.