Thursday, July 24, 2008

Crunchy and Sweet

I made this caramel popcorn last week for my sister and her husband as a housewarming gift.  It was so incredible.  Clean-up was less than fun, but it was oh, so worth it.  I woke up this morning thinking about this popcorn.  My kids would have eaten a gallon of it if I had let them.  I'm sure it would be wonderful with some nuts added in, but the recipe was so tasty as written that I just didn't see the need.  I think I'll be taking this to the very next party we attend!

I've made caramel popcorn before, using a couple of different recipes, but had less than stellar results each time.  The only thing that convinced me to try once more was my daughter begging me to make some.  I'm so glad I did, because this recipe was simple and wonderful.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green Tomato Salsa

A couple of good, good friends recently shared some of their garden surplus with me and I've been trying to figure out what to do with the green tomatoes they gave me.  Fried green tomatoes are the obvious choice, but I feel so guilty when I fry a perfectly healthy piece of fruit or vegetable.  And it's so blessed hot.  Heating up a big pan of oil in my already toasty kitchen just didn't appeal to me.  I googled green tomato recipes and discovered a number of recipes for green tomato salsa.  What an idea!  I read them all and then decided to just make my own.  I used what I had on hand- green tomatoes, red onion, pickled jalapenos, salt, pepper, sugar, and cumin.  Oh, and a little lemon juice as I am fresh out of limes.  I just threw it all in the food processor and gave it a few pulses.  The resulting salsa is delicious, healthy, and so pretty with it's vibrant green color!  Now I'll be wishing for more green tomatoes, I know.  So simple.  So good.  It tastes like summer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Swiss Buttercream...

Here they are.  The promised photos of the cake I made with The Frosting.  It was incredibly delicious and every last crumb was gone in a matter of hours.  I'm really looking forward to having an excuse to make another one!
Not that it matters in the least, but the cake was just a jell-o poke cake- bake a vanilla cake and poke holes in the cooled cake.  Pour strawberry jell-o all over the top and refrigerate for a few hours.  Easy and tasty.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

zucchini pancakes and the art of baking

Last night I was in a bit of a funk, so I cooked.  Some people go for a run.  Others see their therapist, or go shopping.  I cook my troubles away.  There's something about being alone in my kitchen, creating whatever meal or dessert that strikes my fancy, that just puts me in a better place.  It's my version of meditation, I suppose. 

  I've always really valued the spontaneity of cooking versus the methodical nature of baking.  Always sort of prided myself on my ability to improvise, to doctor a recipe until it is my own.  But lately, I've found myself gravitationg toward baking.  Has there been some sort of shift in the way I view the world?  Have I become a lover of science over art?  I'm not sure the exact reason why this change has occurred, but I have discovered that the idea of following a recipe exactly as it is written, not tweaking a single ingredient, can be a whole new sort of experience.  And I like it.

I think about those who created the recipe.  The women and men who spent hours in a tiny, hot, kitchen trying just a little more baking powder, maybe not so much flour.  I feel a sort of kinship to those who have baked before.  They've already worked out the kinks.  They've already had the disasters of failed cakes and gritty frostings, so that I don't have to now.  

So anyway, last night, I couldn't get this buttercream recipe off my mind.  Dinner was done, the kids were occupied, and the compulsion to make a delicious frosting was absolutely impossible to ignore.  Nevermind the fact that I had no cake to frost.   I knew I would be making a dessert in a couple of days for our play group, probably a cake.  I could have waited.  But I knew there was a scaled-down version of the recipe just for trying it out.  And I had to do it.  Couldn't stop myself.  

Oh, Glory!  What a delicious frosting!  I want to bake a cake every day just so I can make this yummy icing.  I am not even a big fan of frosting.  When presented with an option, I always choose the cake slice that is mostly cake rather than the slice with all the buttercream flowers all over it.  But this one.  Ooohhh.  It is so very perfect.  Not too sweet or rich, perfectly smooth and creamy.  This will be my new go-to frosting.  I'm only sorry there are no photos.  The making of The Frosting (as my family will no doubt refer to it from now on) was so unplanned that I just didn't think of documentation.  Today when I make a bigger batch, for tomorrow's cake, I'll get some pictures and post them.  

With all of that said, I really must also mention that last night I also made one of the most delicious savory dishes we've had in a while.  I made the Barefoot Contessa's zucchini pancakes using some zucchini from my in-laws' garden.  Wow.  The recipe made such a large batch I figured we'd have leftovers for days, but they were just so heavenly that my family polished off every last one.  Only Charlie, with his fear of all foods green, didn't partake.  His loss.  Who knew a simple mixture of grated zucchini, flour, baking powder, onion, salt and pepper could result in such a lovely dish.  I have to say, every Barefoot Contessa recipe I've tried, save the roasted winter vegetable soup fiasco, has turned out beautifully.  I highly recommend her cookbooks.  The recipes are simple and elegant and always turn out the way they're supposed to.  A big plus in my mind.