Saturday, January 31, 2009

Feeling Crabby

Crab dip -- it's one of those foods I really hated as a kid. Like, until I was 26. But then some crab switch flipped in my brain and suddenly: crab dip, crab cakes, crab grass, bring it on! (That last one was a joke.)

My parents used to make crab dip at Christmas, so I've come to associate it with holiday time. I had some when I was home in December, but I decided to make it again this week -- even if it is out of season. What can I say? I like to live life on the edge.

Crab dip is super easy. You can eyeball all the ingredients and it's fun to mix (I like to use my hands). Also, I always use imitation crab meat, but feel free to use the real stuff if you're feeling flush.

Crabby Dip
  • 1 lb. crab meat or imitation crab meat
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • A big scoop or two of mayo (1/4 to 1/2 c.)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • A clove or two of garlic, minced
  • A little ketchup or cocktail sauce (2 or 3 tbsp.)
Roughly chop the crab. Combine everything. Mix it up, baby. Put it in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors blend. Serve with crackers or those cute little pieces of toast.

The food: Crab dip
The verdict: It's not real crab, but it is real good

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New Recipe You Mayo Want to Try

Today was our first ever North Carolina snow day. Four inches just about shut down the Triangle, so Ben and I worked from home, then celebrated the cold with some cold-weather food.

Right after Thanksgiving, I made a turkey potpie with our leftovers. But I had more filling than I could fit in my pie crust -- leftovers from my leftovers, you could say -- so froze the extra filling, thinking it would be good someday heated and served over biscuits. Today was that day.

Normally in this situation, I'd turn to my trusty Bakewell biscuit recipe, but since I mistakenly bought self-rising flour on my last trip to the grocery store, I tried a new recipe to help use it up.

Are you ready for it? Here it is. Two cups self-rising flour. Six tablespoons mayo. That's right, mayo. A little bit of milk to hold it all together. Mix. Drop. Bake. Eat.

Baked goods made with mayo weird me out, even though I know it's just eggs and oil, but I kept an open mind and was pleasantly surprised. These biscuits were fluffus maximus.

So fluffy, in fact, that they were begging to be turned into strawberry shortcake, which I did with a little berry action and whipped cream. One biscuit recipe takes us from dinner to dessert. How versatile!

So that's self-rising flour, mayo and milk. Think about it, people.

The food: Mayo biscuits (with potpie filling -- and with strawberries and whipped cream)
The verdict: Mayo -- it's not just for deviled eggs anymore

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Noodle Not

Tonight's supper was courtesy of Rachael Ray: Hummus Sesame Noodles. This one sounded great before I made it. After I made it, not so great.

Basically, the recipe calls for pasta tossed in hummus, soy sauce and sesame seeds and topped with scallions, snow peas and crushed peanuts. I like hummus. I like soy sauce. I like scallions. And I like pasta. Turns out that I do not like them together. It's just a weird -- and kind of bland -- combination.

The only thing that really saved it was some rockin' sweet chili sauce that was a gift from my coworker McGavock. For Ben, what really saved it was the Italian sausage I threw on his noodles. "Sausage?" you ask. Was I trying for some inspired Thai-Chinese-Middle Eastern-Italian fusion? No. Ben just thinks meatless meals are chick food and the sausage happened to be at the front of the freezer.

The food: Hummus sesame noodles
The verdict: Ho-hummus

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Egged On

I've never been much of an egg cracker, but I had plenty of practice last night while making angel food cake, which called for no fewer than 12 egg whites. (I ended up with all 12 whites, zero yokes and just one tiny fraction of shell, in case you were keeping count. The shell was fished out of the egg white bowl -- there's no place to hide a shell in an angel food cake. Not that I would ever try to hide egg shells in my baking.)

This was my first homemade angel food cake. The recipe promised delight beyond measure and a cake that would far surpass any Betty Crocker Fun-Fetti angel food mix I'd tried in the past.

For a simple cake, it was a recipe with a lot of steps. Whipping. Sifting. Sifting again. Unfortunately, I was so focused on whipping and sifting that I forgot to add the vanilla. So the cake, while lovely in texture and appearance, doesn't taste like much and smells slightly eggy. Really, it's kind of weird to eat, even with whipped cream and strawberries (which help to mask the general egginess).

I think this would be worth another try sometime, assuming I can manage to get the vanilla in. I was thinking other extracts might be good, too -- like lemon or vanilla. Maybe almond. Not peppermint. My recipe also gives suggestions for making a chocolate angel food cake -- replace 1/4 c. of flour with 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder and reduce the vanilla extract by one teaspoon. That sounds like it could be pretty tasty.

But before I make it again, I have to figure out what to do with all my leftover egg yokes.

Angel Food Cake

  • 1 c. cake flour
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 12 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 t. cream of tartar
  • 1 and 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour and salt together. Set aside.

2. With a mixer, beat egg whites until foamy (about one minute). Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Continue to beat, adding sugar gradually. Beat about two minutes, until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla. Beat to combine.

3. Transfer egg white mixture into a wide bowl. In four batches, sift flour mixture over egg whites. Gently fold in to egg white mixture, turning bowl as you fold.

4. Spoon batter into an ungreased angel food pan. Smooth top and gently cut through the batter with a knife to remove air bubbles. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until top is golden. Invert pan and cool 1 hour.

The food: Angel food cake
The verdict: Puffy, fluffy -- and eggy

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Chili Weather We're Having

A few things to love about chili:
  1. It's the perfect winter-weather food.
  2. You don't need a recipe to make it. You can put in whatever you like.
  3. It's a great way to use leftovers. My most recent batch included half a jar of salsa we weren't going to finish and corn from the night before.
  4. It also makes great leftovers because it tastes better the second night.
  5. You can make it in the slow cooker.
  6. It freezes well.
  7. It's an entire meal. In a bowl.
  8. Even our President-Elect makes chili. Although he serves his over rice. That's weird. Based on reason number two to love chili, however, I have to accept his serving-over-rice ways.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bread Head

Because I am generally cold in the winter (and fall and spring), baking is an excellent way to satisfy my culinary urges while also heating up the apartment. Sneaky, I know.

One of my favorites lately has been a really easy, really tasty bread recipe I first heard on The Splendid Table. (Shout out to Lynne Rossetto Kasper!) Called Five-Minute Artisan Bread, it's a recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Basically, you mix up a bunch of flour and yeast and water and salt and put it in your fridge, and then bake it on a pizza stone. No proofing. No kneading. No punching down. And don't be scared of "artisan." That's just a fancy way of saying you made it yourself.

Zoe appeared on The Splendid Table about a year ago to talk about the book and share some tips; the show reaired on Dec. 27. If you're interested in trying her recipe, you can find it here. I'd recommend listening to the show as well. It's worth it to hear Lynne get all misty about a delicious loaf of bread. Lynne, you are my hero.

Oh, and one thing I learned the hard way -- unlike store-bought breads, which have preservatives to keep them fresh, homemade bread goes stale pretty quickly. I think breads with oils or eggs keep longer, but this one is good for 24 hours at most. There are ways to resuscitate it, but my solution is to only make as much bread as we'll eat in one night. Which is lots. We love bread.

The food: Five-Minute Artisan Bread
The verdict: Heat up the oven -- and not just because it's cold