Archive for the ‘Recipe’ Category

Breaking the Rules -or- The Great Pumpkin Soup

September 22, 2013


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.


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.

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

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.

Tipping the Scales

February 9, 2012

Oh yea, this is happening.

Recently Josh has been tempting your tummy with tasty vegetarian dishes; so healthy that I can feel my arteries clearing as we speak.  But sometimes, within reason, it is okay to be a little naughty.  I am not talking about Lindsay Lohan dirty but more of Taylor Swift dirty.  I am just tipping the scales back to a little mischief.

One of Josh’s and my favorite restaurants is Flip Burger in Birmingham.  Josh mentioned this mecca of yum in his Burger Worthy of a Top Chef post.  This little gem of a burger joint has more than unique meats, they also dabble in amazing shakes.  One of their specialities is a Nutella chocolate shake with burnt marshmallow topping…yea, I said burnt marshmallow topping.  Don’t know what Nutella is?  It is a jar of chocolate-hazelnut love.   

Being that it is “winter” (winter meaning the time of year not that the temperature reflects that), I decided to turn this idea of Nutella and burnt marshmallow from a cold shake to a warm cookie to be enjoyed with a glass of organic milk from my favorite dairy – Working Cows Dairy.  Let’s get started on this yummy little adventure. 

Nutella Cookies with Burnt Marshmallow Filling
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff

Preheat oven 375° degrees.  Sift together flour, salt and baking powder; set aside.

Just sifting my dry stuff.

Cream butter, Nutella and sugars; beat in vanilla and egg.

Oh look! We have a guest in the kitchen. He is excited about using the mixer.

Stir in flour mixture, blending well.

Tip-o-the-day: Add the flour in a little at a time to ensure a well mixed batter.

Shape mixture into ¾-inch balls. Place on greased baking sheets and bake cookies about 10 to 12 minutes.

Totally advise buying a small server to dish out equal portions of dough.

Let those cookies cool on a cooling rack.

Let 'em cool!

This is the point where the real mischief begins…I get to use a blow torch.  Hold your hair or hair product back!  Add a tablespoon or so marshmallow to one side of a cookie.  Place it on a plate and light that bad-boy up.  I would advise holding the flame a few inches away from total cremation. 

Keep that flame moving or burning will occur.

So I warned you about keeping the flame moving — well, that doesn’t go for just the marshmallow, it goes for the napkins under the cookies.

Check out the burned napkin. Why do I keep setting things on fire?

You can eat these as open-face or as a sandwich.

Sandwich version

I did find that these can be a little sweet.  If you like a less-sweet cookie, roll the cookie dough ball in unsweetened cocoa powder and then bake.  I tried that in the picture bove and liked it better

It’s okay to be a little naughty.  Doesn’t mean you eat all the cookies, portion control is key;  but if you are lucky, you won’t catch them all on fire.  😉

Merry Christmas from Kitchen Mischief!

December 24, 2011



Congratulations — you’ve made it to Christmas Eve! You’ve already survived 87 holiday parties, open houses, and meet-n-greets. So now it’s time to tuck in for the big holiday dinners, and for the mischief to really get warmed up!

In years past, my family has taken Christmas as a culinary challenge. Risotto and Beef Wellington graced the menu and turned out well, but we’ve also had our share of mischief. We went a little overboard with a torch one year and had more brulee than creme, and to this day Mother swears she’ll never make another Buche de Noel (Jennifer and I were teenagers and apparently heckled its appearance. I say ‘apparently’ because neither of us remember it, but Mom still wears her Culinary Purple Heart to this day).

This year, we ‘re totally slummin’ it. It’s Soup-a-Palooza at the Miller Household, featuring a Lentil-Spinach Soup (inspired by Matthew’s) a White Chicken Chili (with oodles of toppings) and piles upon piles of cornbread. Mom’s a little stressed about how you set a table that doesn’t look like a soup kitchen, but otherwise we’re kinda pumped about having a dinner plan that doesn’t require six weeks of preperation and an associate’s degree in culinary arts.

That being said, it wouldn’t be Christmas without just a scoche of Mischief. For a snack before we get to slurping our soup, we’re having Turkey Sausage Balls. I’m very proud of this very mischievous recipe, because for the first time, the recipe I devised in my Squirrel Brain actually turned out tasting BETTER than I had imagined. Vive le Mischief!

Before I dive i to briefest of procedurals, allow me some background justification. I LOVE sausage balls, but I am not a fan of the crazy amounts of saturated fat in pork sausage. Turkey sausage has the same flavor, but way less fat. So far so good. But the lack of fat also means a lack of moisture, and nobody loves a dry, Bisquick-brick sausage ball. To fix this, I added a mixture of sauteed onion and spinach, which also added flavor and increased the nutritional value. Okay, maybe not enough to counteract the cheese, but every little bit helps. Here’s the recipe, and how I did it.

Turkey Sausage Balls

1.25 lbs spicy turkey sausage
2.25 cups Bisquick or Pioneer baking mix
1.5 cups sharp cheddar cheese
half a cup of parmesan cheese
1 package of frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic

First, set your sausage out to come to room temperature…otherwise when you mix it up with the other stuff later, your paws will FREEZE. Meanwhile, thaw your spinach in the microwave (follow package instructions). While that’s nuking, finely dice and start sauteeing your onions in a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper for about seven minutes. Squeeze out all the moisture out of the spinach, chop it and finely and add it to the onions, along with the garlic. Shake in a little spice (I used  2 tsp of smoked paprika) and saute for three more minutes.



Meanwhile, add your Bisquick and shredded cheese to a large mixing bowl.



Here’a an important point regarding the cheese: First, shred your own cheese. It tastes SO much better. Second, use full-fat cheese. That reduced fat stuff is like orange wax. It’s a waste of calories. Go real or go home! Okay, time to tackle your sausage.


I used this Jennie-O stuff. Split the casings, then kinda crumble it in with your fingers. No, you DO NOT cook it first. YES, this creeps me out, too. But you need the fat from the cooking to make the baking mix moist. Just don’t think about it too much.

Next, mix in the slightly cooled spinach mixture with the sausage/bisquick/cheese mixture, and use your hands to mix it together. The addition of the spinach and onion makes it come together with less effort than normal pork-only sausage balls.



Finally, just roll into balls, place on a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. I have no “after” pictures because I only made two to test. Trust me, they were surprisingly delicious. We’re making the rest to precede our Soup-a-Palooza on Sunday.

So, that’s it from Kitchen Mischief, at least for 2011. Here’s wishing that whether you decide to go big or small, traditional or mischievous, that you have a fantastic holiday filled with friends, family, and good food. Merry Christmas!



I’m Cuckoo for Quinoa!

July 28, 2011

Hi, I'm Josh Miller, President of the Quinoa Council

I am obsessed with quinoa. It is an absolute wonder-grain. Yep, I said Wonder Grain. I’m not ashamed — I am a total dork in my love for this stuff!

I’ve been cooking with it for years, and Matthew’s a fan — he shared a quinoa salad recipe years ago, and I alluded to its greatness in a post of my own starring avocado bisque. But these paltry posts don’t do my darling quinoa justice.

So, just in case you’re not already cuckoo for quinoa, let me tell you why you should join my culinary lovecult.

Quinoa — The Healthy Alternative
Quinoa has, like SO much protein. This is unusual for grains. And as for other sides like rice, potatoes, and couscous — forget it! Quinoa lays the nutritional smackdown on those punks. Here’s a close-up look:

I'm so happy that David was around to photograph. Whenever I use my point-n-shoot, my hands look like "The Curse of the Monkey Paw."

Quinoa — She’s Fancy
Quinoa has a cool name. It’s pronounced KEEN-WA. Not “Quin-Oh-Ah” like I referred to it for years. Keen-Wa! Like you’re about to karate chop a brick in half. Say with me now: “Keen-WA!” Do it! “Keen-WA!” See, it’s fun.

Quinoa — Versatility is Her Middle Name
It goes with EVERYTHING. You know, sometimes potatoes just don’t go with your meal. Like, who eats potatoes with Asian food? And pasta as a side is just silly. Quinoa is neutral but nutty, a rich flavor that spanks rice in the taste department. Beat, it basmati — quinoa is way tastier!

Quick Quinoa — The Easy-Going Grain
Quinoa’s so easy to cook a four-year-old can do it. Unlike RICE, which I still mess up EVERY SINGLE TIME. And I have a rice cooker! For quinoa, it’s easy — just one part quinoa, two parts water, done! Bring to a boil together, reduce to low, simmer for 15 minutes, DONE.

Spend Every Meal with Lady Quinoa
Quinoa is the perfect side dish at dinner, but it’s also a great option for a filling vegetarian lunch. I’m not saying you have to become a celery-licker and munch on a bowl of alfalfa sprouts, but a little less wouldn’t hurt. In fact, you can make a pilaf of sorts with quinoa and sauteed veggies, have it as a side at supper, and then take the leftovers for lunch. Here’s a quick recipe for one I just made (and that I’m having for lunch today!)…

Quinoa with Sweet Corn and Basil
4 servings

1 cup of quinoa
2 cups water (or chicken/vege broth)
2 ears of corn, shucked and de-cobbed (yes, i made that word up)
half a red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of basil, chopped
salt, pepper*, and olive oil

Shuck and de-cob your corn, then dice your onions. Here’s mine and Matthew’s little trick for corn…

A bundt pan is a corn shucker's best friend! Photo not by David.

Combine your quinoa and water in a saucepan (adding salt if not using broth); bring to a boil, then reduce heat to LOW, cover, and cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté your onions in several teaspoons of olive oil for 5-7 minutes, seasoning to taste. Add garlic and cook for one minute, then add corn and sauté for another 3 or so. Watch it — the corn has more sugar and starts to stick. If you have a little extra basil, toss in about a tablespoon as you sauté, but reserve the bulk of it. Once your quinoa is done, fluff with a fork, then add to the veggie pan. Stir in reserved basil, and you’re done!

I snapped this in a hurry. Again, photo NOT by David. 😉

*Note: I used Penzey’s Shallot Pepper as my primary seasoning. I recommend traveling to Homewood posthaste and picking some up. It may just be the best seasoning ever.

Well now you’ve gone and gotten me distracted. What was I talking about? Quinoa…obession…oh yeah — you can eat it at every meal! It’s healthy, remember, and packed with protein, so you can treat it like oatmeal. In fact, it’s better than oatmeal, because it doesn’t look like throw-up. I added a 1/4 tsp of almond extract while cooking, then a TBSP of honey, a squeeze of orange juice, then stirred in some chopped walnuts and craisins. A dollop of yogurt turned this into a suitable breakfast alternative. I had it this morning and I am still full! Take a look:

Quinoa is part of a healthy, balanced breakfast! Photo by David

I’ll be honest, I’m a bigger fan of it in savory applications, but you gotta love quinoa’s versatility. It’s the little black dress of grains.

So go grab a box today (you can find it at Publix and Whole Foods) … and start playing with flavor and veggie combinations. It’s easy and forgiving, and that’s why we love it — Quinoa: The Quintessential Mischief Grain.™  😉

The Devil’s Advocate

July 21, 2011

See not a devil! All pics except this one by Ray Hydrick

Ladies and gentlemen of the foodie-jury.  I bring before you a food that has been dissed to only live at family reunions, holidays or wherever old people gather.  They have been damned for their cholesterol or their ability to affect your gastrointestinal system.  They hide in their little carrying cases hoping to be chosen by the eager buffet grazer.  But It is time for these little eggs to be no longer damned and associated with the devil.  These chicken ovums have a right to be tasty. 

I present to you three ways to make these so-called Deviled Eggs the highlight of a get-together rather than be snubbed.  And by the way, I do believe calling them Deviled Eggs is offensive!  These eggs do not and have not associated, prayer to or worshiped the devil in any way. 

Before we get started, let me show the jury the proper way to boil an egg.  If you were like me, I would boil those little white ovals to hell and back to where the yolk was grey and unappetizing.  But I read about how to properly boil eggs and have used it ever since.  The eggs are tender and the yolks are bright yellow.

Depending on how many eggs you are making, make sure that you use a pot big enough to hold the eggs and water to cover them by two inches.  Always start the eggs in COLD water, it ensures even cooking.  Bring the eggs to a boil but not to the point where they are dancing and crashing against each other.  When the water begins to boil, cover the pot with a tight lid and take off the heat.  Set your timer for 11 minutes – no more, no less. 

Eggs just sitting around, waiting for the hottub to warm up.

After 11 minutes, place the eggs in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  At this point you can peel the eggs or place them in the fridge for future use. 

I don't think the eggs like this part...really cold.

The egg yolks come out bright yellow with no gray ring. 

No gray ring!

Tips o’ the Day:
* When peeling eggs, line your sink with paper towels for easier clean up.
* Peel the eggs under a thin stream of running water.  Helps the shell slide from the egg white.

We are just full of tips today!

Basic Deviled Egg Recipe (6 eggs)
6 Boiled eggs, shelled and halved
4 tablespoons mayo, more if you like yours really creamy
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

I tend to like my deviled egg mixture more on the firm side so I don’t use tons of mayo, but if you like yours more creamy, add a little more at a time – you don’t want to make it so runny it won’t stay in the egg white. 

Using a fork, chop the egg yolks into small pieces.  Add the mayo and mustard, mix to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remember the egg white has no taste so a little extra seasoning may be necessary.  Mix until smooth.

This would be a great paint color

For a classic deviled egg, at this point, one would add pickle relish and paprika or curry to taste.  Now to make your eggs the hit of the party, try these variations. 

Egg Possibilities
Ham and Eggs – to the basic recipe above add some diced scallion and some shredded cheddar cheese.  Mix to combine.  Fill your egg whites and top with a piece of country ham.

Breakfast in a bite

Shrimp Deviled Eggs – to the basic mixture above add a little horseradish, some freshly minced dill and diced roasted shrimp (recipe see below).  Fill the egg white and top with diced shrimp and sprig of dill.

Ray took this picture wearing his hazmat suit...whatever fish allergy!

Deviled Egg with Basil and Prosciutto – to the basic mixture add minced basil and some parmesan cheese.  Mix to combine.  Fill the egg white and top with crisp prosciutto (fried in a non-stick skillet with non-stick spray) and a piece of basil. 

Looks like a little sailboat sailing...right into my mouth

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for you to decide whether these eggs should be damned like the devil or released from their hell on Earth to be the star of the party.  Give these little eggs a chance – they have been rehabilitated!

Quick Roasted Shrimp
Place peeled shrimp on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper (for a real kick add minced garlic and spritz of fresh lemon juice).  Place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 4-7 (depends on how big your shrimp are) or until pink.  Remove the shrimp from the pan if not using immediately, they will continue to cook and eventually have the texture of a rubber band.

Worthy of a Carb Coma

July 14, 2011

All photos by Ray Hydrick.

I just woke up from my carb coma, that lull you fall in after a great meal where your eyelids are heavy and you have those uncontrollable yawn fits, and I couldn’t be happier.  Usually, you eat that less than superior meal and think, “Why did I eat that?!”  But with this recipe, you’ll welcome the slumber that you get after a comforting, feel-good meal.  I made homemade gnocchi.  Gnocchi are those small pillowy “pasta” made from potatoes, a little flour and an egg.  You may automatically think that pasta made from potatoes would have the consistency of a tater-tot or have the same weight of a small rock or your Aunt Libby’s kidney stone, but surprisingly they are soft and tender.

I researched several different recipes from that of famous chefs, like Mario Batali, to those recipes of the little grandmas that have used the same ones since they were little girls; though basically the same, I chose to use Mario’s but with one modification.  I chose to half the recipe.  Mario’s recipe had me making 12 servings of gnocchi.  That kind of carb coma would put me in full on hibernation – like a grizzly bear in winter. 

You can use gnocchi like any other pasta.  I give a few suggestions for sauces at the end of the post.  Let’s get started.

 Basic Gnocchi Recipe
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, around the same size
1 cup flour and more for dusting
1 large egg, beaten

Place the potatoes in a large sauce pan and cover with COLD water about an inch or so over the potatoes.  Bring to boil and cook for approx. 30 minutes or until the skewer can easily pierce a potato but the skin is not split. 

Tip o’ the Day:  When boiling potatoes, always start with cold water.  Using hot water makes the starches in the potatoes more gluey.  Think of mashed potatoes with that wallpaper paste consistency.

When the potatoes are done, it is important to peel them immediately – they are easier to peel when they are hot.  Place the potato in a kitchen towel and using a paring knife, carefully peel the skin.  It will come off easily. 

If you are careful, you won't burn yourself...but believe me, it's easier when they are hot.

After the potatoes are peeled, use a potato ricer (see pic below) and place the resulting mixture on a sheet pan.  Like the Play-Doh toy that makes hair, this device squeezes the potatoes through holes and makes pieces that will be easy to incorporate (try it making mashed potatoes, you may never be the same).  After ricing the potatoes, spread the potatoes out on the sheet pan to cool. 

See, it looks like a Play-Doh hair maker!

Meanwhile, go ahead and get a large pasta pot of salted water on to boil (if you are planning on storing the gnocchi to make later, get a big bowl of ice water ready).  Also, flour your cutting board or a clean surface to knead dough.

Once the potatoes are cool, pile the potatoes on board or surface and make a hole in the middle.  Sprinkle the cup of flour on the potatoes.  Add the beaten egg in the hole you created at the center of the potatoes.  Using a fork, gently pull the potato mixture into the egg. 

Looks like a mess now, but it gets better.

Eventually, you will use you hands to bring the mixture together into a ball.  The mixture is sticky, lightly dust with extra flour.  Knead for no more than 3 minutes and form into a ball – kneading more that 3 minutes will result in gnocchi that feel like Aunt Libby’s kidney stone.

Almost done kneading...needed a little more flour.

Cut the dough into 4-5 portions.  Roll each portion into a “snake” (and you thought the things you learned in kindergarten you would never use) about 1/2 inch in diameter. 

Look Ma, I can make a dough snake!

Cut into 1/2 inch portions. 

I guess it was 1/2 inch...I was cutting really fast.

This is the fun part…fun if you like a lot of manual labor.  Use the pictures below are reference – take each dough piece and roll them on the tines of a fork.  My first ones looked like sad, deformed snails but I got the hang of it.

Easy as 1,2,3, be honest, I hated this part.

Place them on a floured sheet pan.

Don't forget to flour or you will have sad, sticky gnocchi.

Place a small portion in the salted, boiling water.  Let the gnocchi boil until they float.  Floating = done. 

I was so excited when I saw them was like seeing your Sea Monkies swim for the first time!

If you are using the gnocchi immediately, place directly in the sauce of your choice.  If you are making the gnocchi in advance, place the cooked gnocchi in the ice water to stop the cooking. 

An icy bath to stop the cooking.

Place on a sheet pan covered with a dusted tea towel.    When ready to use, place the gnocchi back in the salted water for 1-2 minutes or until the float. 

A flour dusted tea towel keeps the gnocchi from sticking

Possible Sauces:
Tomato Cream Sauce – This sauce came to me as an accident.  I was watching Ina Garten the other morning and she made pasta sauce that isn’t cooked – it’s her Summertime Pasta.  I made that macerated cherry tomatoes the night before to eat for dinner one night.  I added a few tablespoons to a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. 

This was good by itself.

 I added a teaspoon butter and 1/4 cup of cream.  I simmered to it thickened and added the gnocchi. 

A little cream never hurt anything, right?

I think Ray licked the bowl. 

Before Ray knocked me unconscious to eat this all to himself.

Pesto – Add a couple of tablespoons of pesto (homemade or store-bought) to a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Once bubbling, add the gnocchi.  Stir to coat.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Tomato Sauce – use a store-bought or homemade and do as above.  Add 1/4 cup to a non-stick pan.  Add the gnocchi, stir to coat.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil. (Pic at beginning of post)

Appetizer Idea:
In a non-stick, over medium-high heat add two tablespoons butter.  Once melted add thin slices of sage.  Add COLD-wet gnocchi to the pan.  Saute’ until gnocchi is brown and crisp.  Serve with fresh grated parmesan.  This dish is very rich, so it is perfect for a small-portion appetizer.

If it was legal to marry these, I would.

Try this different wonderfully delicious recipe.  Sure you may be sleepy an hour afterwards but at least it’s a “good sleepy”. 🙂

By the way…
If you want to store the gnocchi for using the next day or two, place the gnocchi in an air tight container and add enough olive or canola oil to coat.  This will keep moist and they won’t stick together.  Don’t worry…that oil will come off when you throw it back in the boiling salt water.

I loving message from the gnocchi.

A Different Kind of Jam

June 18, 2011

All photos by Ray Hydrick...except the jam poster.

Hello Mischief Makers! Sorry for the late post. While Josh and David were out on the open ocean enjoying a cruise and pretending to be Rose and Jack from the movie Titanic (hopefully their cruise won’t end the same as the movie – we don’t need Josh dressed as an old woman throwing a big o’ diamond off the boat), I was holding down the fort at Mischief Central and I have a doozie for you.

Recently, the Ray and I attended a Sangeria Party in Atlanta and while there we ate brunch at Marlow’s Tavern. Great food and bloody marys. At Marlow’s they serve a house-made, sweet-tasting ketchup. It turns out to be tomato-bacon jam. What?! I know! My little mischief mind went a whirling. When I came home and did my research, I was amazed at the fact that this pretty common. There were tons of recipes but all listed the same ingredients and amounts, so apparently a good thing does travel fast. But it would be Kitchen Mischief without a twist. I decided to add a little shredded Granny Smith apple for tartness and natural sweetness. After making the recipe, I found it a little sweet so the recipe below as been altered to make it less sweet – if you want sweet, I will put the amount I used in parentheses. Let’s get this tomato-bacon party started.

Tomato-Bacon Jam
1/2 lb smoked bacon
2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
2/3 cup sugar (1 cup if you like sweet)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook the bacon – if you enjoy the splatter of grease all over you and your stove, cook the bacon in the pan until browned and crisp. If you would like to save yourself from splatter burns, place the bacon on a sheet pan and bake at 375 until browned and crisp. Either way you choose, place the bacon on a paper towel to drain excess grease.

See crispy, flat bacon...with no grease burns! And yes, they were a little over-done.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium. Crumble bacon into mixture. Simmer for 1 hour or until very thick.

Whole bunch of goodness

Marlow’s in Atlanta purees their jam into a tomato sauce, I rather have some texture so I blended my with a hand-blender, but you can use a blender or food processor.

Post blend

What can you do with it?
I made a chicken burger (actually, I made burger-sized portions of this great meatball recipe) and used it as the condiment. It was awesome. But you could put it on Josh’s devil burger to relieve the heat or dip your grilled cheese in it. Heck, use it as ketchup for your fries.

Mmmmm, chicken burger

Jam doesn’t have to be made with berries and such…I even saw a recipe for bacon jam. I love bacon but I may need to save up my Lipitor to try that one. 😉