Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Week: Pumpkin Bread (and slaughter nails manicure)

Before Halloween weekend, I hadn't had a weekend with no plans, visitors, or traveling in... I don't know... months? So I was very excited to stay in and clean, cook, and sleep. And that's pretty much all I did, with the addition of giving myself possibly my favorite manicure ever: slaughter nails. They are really easy to do, and I think I am going to use the same technique in the future with other colors since I don't think I can rock slaughter nails year-round. You can get a tutorial on Refinery29, but it's basically just painting your nails white then using a straw to blow the red on top.

Back to cooking. The next pumpkin recipe I knew I would make is pumpkin bread. I love pumpkin bread, and it's a very easy thing to make. I am terrible at baking, and even I can handle this recipe.

The below recipe is for one 9-inch loaf.  The pumpkin I roasted yielded enough for two loaves, so I made two: one raisin and walnut and one chocolate chip.  For the chocolate chip version, replace the walnuts and raisins with 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Oh, and if you are roasting your own pumpkin, all you need to do is pre-heat the oven to 350F, cut the pumpkin in half and clean out the seeds and strings, place on a foil lined cookie sheet skin side up, and roast for ~45 minutes or until a knife pierces the pumpkin very easily.  I think I ended up roasting mine for ~55 minutes.  Then remove the pumpkin from the skin and mash.  I like to do it while the pumpkin is still hot because it is easier to get out of the skin and mash.  But be careful not to burn your hands.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 cups pumpkin, mashed (or 1 15-ounce can pumpkin)
1 cup sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped coarse
1 cup raisins

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle positions and heat over to 350 degrees.

2. Generously coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

3. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and ginger together in large bowl. Whisk pumpkin, sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla together in separate bowl until frothy.

4. Gently fold pumpkin mixture into flour mixture with rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in nuts and cranberries or chocolate chips. Batter will be very thick.

5. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth surface. Bake until golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool at least 1 hour before serving. (Bread can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

I didn't check how much sugar I had before I started the recipe, and I didn't have enough white sugar, so I subbed a cup of brown sugar.  I think it improved the recipe, personally, and in fact, next time I make pumpkin bread, I am going to use half white and half brown sugar.

Also, I like chocolate chips an immeasurable amount more than I like raisins and walnuts. I flat out don't like walnuts, and raisins are only so so. But I prefer the raisin walnut bread to the chocolate chip. Interesting, no?

Lastly, This bread is really good with some cream cheese on it. In fact, I kind of wish I had made cream cheese frosting for it. There's always next time, I suppose.

I just have to note one thing pertaining to one reason I don't like to bake, especially things that are frosted. It is very difficult to frost without getting crumbs into the frosting and ruining the aesthetic of the baked good. It took me an absurd amount of time to put cream cheese on those pieces of bread and not have any crumbs or streaks of chocolate showing. And crumbs are showing. Please don't look too closely.

Bon appetit.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Week: Thai Chicken and Pumpkin Curry

Last week a coworker of mine offered up sugar pie pumpkins to the office. Too many had grown, and he needed to get rid of them. I signed up for five.

Deciding on what to do with the pumpkins has been a fun activity. I want to make a variety of dishes, and pumpkin curry seemed like an obvious first choice since I had almost all the ingredients.

1 small pumpkin (sugar pie is best), seeded and cubed (~ 1 lb)
1 small onion, yellow
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp red Thai curry paste
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp grated palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb boneless and skinless thighs, cubed in to 1” pieces
½ red bell pepper, julienned
Juice from 1 lime
Handful of fresh cilantro on stem (1” long pieces)
¼ cup of fresh Thai basil
Steamed rice

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pumpkin and cook until barely tender (approximately 8 minutes). Drain and set aside.

2. Mix together the red curry paste, the onions and garlic. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the mixture over low to medium heat until the aromas of paste begin to emerge.

3. Shake the can of coconut milk well, then whisk in half the coconut milk, the sugar, and the fish sauce to the pan. Once the oil begins to separate from the mixture, add the chicken and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked. Add the pumpkin, red pepper, and the remainder of the coconut milk. Cook until the pumpkin is fork tender. Add the lime juice.

4. Remove from heat, add the basil leaves and garnish with cilantro.

I will be posting the rest of my pumpkin recipes this week, and - spoiler alert - an amazing halloween manicure tomorrow.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Drinking, Eating, and Running in Healdsburg

This past weekend, I flew down to California for the purpose of running a half marathon in Healdsburg with my mom. The weekend actually played out with importance placed on activities in the order listed in the title of this post. Drinking reigned, eating was secondary, and only tertiary was the pesky 13.1 miles.

My mom and I drove up to Healdsburg on Saturday morning, stopping at the Gary Farrell and Hop Kiln wineries on the way to Kendall Jackson where the packet pickup was held.

Gary Farrell (view from patio shown above) produces what are considered the premiere Pinot Noirs of California. My mom and I were very curious to see how they stacked up against Oregon Pinots. The wines were good, so good that I decided to join their wine club. I had motives other than the good wine, though; I want a reason to wine taste more in California, and joining a wine club is the perfect excuse to take a trip to wine country. I look forward to visiting Gary Farrell again.

Hop Kiln (which really did used to be a hop kiln, check out the picture above) makes mostly typical big jammy California reds. My mom and I were not impressed, but we were visiting Hop Kiln for more than just the wine. We were starving and needed a place that sold food. We picked up a round of Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese and some crackers and feasted like fools. I hope no one was watching, because we attacked the cheese (cutting it with a nail file, I may add) like we hadn't eaten in weeks. 

We met up with my little sister in Healdsburg, did some more wine tasting at the tasting rooms around the town square, got a snack at Healdsburg Bar and Grill - where we drank some beer, then headed to our motel to change into some warmer clothes.  

Our dinner reservations weren't until 8 pm, but we headed back to the square to walk around and maybe do some more tasting.  I don't know how we decided to stop into Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar for some oysters and wine, but we did.  Because, you know, it wasn't enough that we were drinking to our hearts content the night before running a half marathon, we had to add raw oysters into the mix.

I had to take multiple pictures of my little sister before she approved this one for inclusion on PEP.

After feasting on oysters, it was off to Baci for pasta carb loading - finally a good pre-race activity - and more wine. Dinner was spectacular, but I forgot to take any pictures.

Despite all the drinking and eating that occurred on Saturday, my mom and I had a pretty good race. And in the words of one of my sisters friends: Why do we run a half marathon?  For the drinks after, of course!

An excellent weekend all around.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby Back Ribs and Baked Beans

I can confidently say that ribs are one of my favorite things to eat, and they have been since I was a very young child. When I was a kid, I couldn't say my rs properly, and my parents still tease me about my reply each year to what I wanted for my birthday meal: WIBS!

I had a couple packages of baby back ribs from the pork I bought last winter that I intended to grill over the summer. I did not grill them, so I needed to find a good baked rib recipe.

I was talking with a friend last week, and he told me he was going to make ribs for a Sunday football watching party. Since he was making oven-baked ribs that he claims are the best, I requested he send me the recipe. The following are the directions I received, straight from his email.

"So the recipe is super easy...

Take a rack of baby back ribs, thawed, and apply fed pepper flake, onion powder, and a little garlic salt. Cover with a thin layer of dark brown sugar and press it into the ribs.

Let sit for an hour.

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Put into a baking pan that is deep enough so when you cover the pan with foil, it doesn't touch the ribs (not a necessity to not touch them).

Brush liberally with Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce. Cover pan with foil and place in the oven.

At hour one remove and baste liberally again with sauce. Back in oven covered with foil.

Do the same at hour two.

At hour three, remove from oven and baste liberally. Kick temp up to 400 and put back on oven uncovered for 15 min or so to just dry the sauce on the ribs a little bit.

Remove and pull the ribs out. Let sit for 15 minutes. Split into chunks of 3 ribs.

You can use the drippings as a sauce if you skim a bit of the fat off. Serve with Bush's honey baked beans.

As a leftover idea, hand pull the leftover rib meat and mix with a little of the leftover beans. Toast two slices of white bread and put a slice of Swiss on it, some jalapeño slices, and the pork/bean mixture. Eat as a sandwich.


Yum is right. I followed the directions exactly, but instead of serving with Bush's beans, I made my own baked beans.  Here's the recipe.

8 cups cold water
2 3/4 cups (1 pound) dried Great Northern beans
4 strips bacon
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 cup beer, preferably  pale ale
2 cups water
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp salt

1. In a large stockpot, bring the cold water to a boil over high heat. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let soak for 1 hour. Drain in a colander and rinse the beans.

2. Heat a 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until golden, turning once. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat.

3. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up the browned bits from the bacon, until golden brown. Add the beans, beer, water, molasses, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, dry mustard, and paprika. Coarsely chop the bacon and add it to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 3 hours. Add water as needed to keep the beans covered. During the last half hour of cooking, remove the lid and don't add any additional water to the beans. When the beans are done, stir in the salt just before serving.

I even used the leftovers to make a sandwich, as instructed. I did deviate from the recipe a bit by using a baguette instead of white bread. Mmm.

Two delicious meals.

Bon appetit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steamed Dungeness Crab and Crab Cakes

I spent a couple days last week in Cannon Beach. It feels wrong to go to the coast and not bring back fresh crab. I mean, what is better than a dungeness crab feast?  Nothing.

I bought two huge crabs and had every intention of gorging myself on them, but after finishing one I was way too full to continue. So I cleaned the meat out of the other one to save for another meal.

The next night, I made crab cakes with that meat. I had every intention of following a Cooks Illustrated recipe, but while looking for that recipe I came across this post.  What better way to pick a recipe than to have someone else try four recipes and write about them?  One of the recipes had this analysis:

"My notes on Katie's recipe start with "pure, unadulterated crab." This is a great recipe if you have fantastic, fresh crab and love to let it shine. It held together better in the pan than it fared in the oven. Perhaps because it was the 4th one I flipped, I started to get better at being gentle. It's very similar to the Cooks Illustrated recipe in terms of flavor, really just without the green onion. So if you love letting the real crab flavor shine, this is a fantastic choice."

My reaction was (1) thank goodness I didn't rely on a Cooks Illustrated recipe because green onions make me gag and (2) this sounds PERFECT for my fresh and delicious crab meat.  Katie's (from Good Things Catered) recipe is as follows.

Real Maryland Crab Cakes

1 lb. fresh lump crab meat
1 egg
1 Tbsp light mayonnaise
1 slice bread, crust removed, soaked in milk
1 tsp old bay seasoning, plus extra for topping
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
3 Tbsp oil

1. In large bowl, combine crab, egg, mayo, bread, 1 tsp old bay (or more if desired), salt, pepper, parsley and mix to combine thoroughly.

2. Pat into 4 inch cakes and place into fridge to set for 20-30 minutes.

3. In medium fry pan, add oil and heat over medium low heat until almost smoking.

4. Place cakes into pan carefully, making sure not to break, and let pan fry until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Carefully flip cakes and let pan fry until other side is golden brown, about 5-8 minutes more.

6. Carefully remove cakes from the pan and place on paper towel lined plate.

7. Sprinkle tops of cakes with old bay and serve immediately.

This recipe was also perfect for me because other than bread and milk, I had all the ingredients. I very much did not want to venture out into the down pour and cold outside, so I substituted about 3 Tbsp plain breadcrumbs for the milk soaked bread. You know, even if I had milk and bread, I might have subbed it for breadcrumbs. The thought of soaking bread in milk makes me gag.

I also made some tartar sauce, but it wasn't very good, so I am not going to share the recipe I made up.

I love crab.

Bon appetit.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dim Sum, Japanese Gardens, and Screen Door

Writing the title of this post reminded me of the What Doesn't Belong? game. Screen Door is the correct answer.

My mom and I had quite the Sunday. We started the day at Fubonn, where I needed to go to pick up a Miracle gadget (see here) for a friend and get some ingredients for a curry. My mom was in awe of the place, and we spent a lot of time going up and down the isles looking at all the fascinating foodstuffs like bottled shrimp, sauces galore, enormous bags of dried mushrooms, and more noodle options than you would believe. I wish I had taken pictures.

After we had finished up shopping, we headed to Legin for some dim sum. I don't know what made us decide to have dim sum. I think we were discussing what we wanted to do on Sunday, and after choosing Fubonn and the Japanese Gardens as our activities, something Asian to eat just seemed right? We feasted on shrimp dumplings, Shaomai, shrimp and spinach dumplings, sticky rice, green beans, pork buns, Congee - a porridge, and for dessert, sesame balls. Delish!

With our tummies full to the brim, we headed into Washington Park to visit the Japanese Garden. I put the pictures at the beginning of the post because they're so pretty!

I haven't yet mentioned that Sunday was not a nice day. When we left Fubonn, it was raining sideways. Thank goodness the rain mostly stopped during our Japanese Garden visit, but it was still grey and cold out. It was perfect weather to curl up on the couch with wine, a blanket, and a movie, so that is exactly what we did. We watched Everything Must Go. We had both heard it was good, and Will Ferrell is in it, so it must be good. And it was good. But it's not a comedy. It is actually really depressing. You've been warned.

After the movie, we walked down the street to maybe my favorite restaurant in Portland, Screen Door. I had the fried chicken, my mom had the Screen Door plate - a combination of her choice of three sides - and she picked a beet salad, a roasted root vegetable dish, and cranberry beans.

Usually my mom and I are really sad when we say goodbye because we don't know when we will see each other again. This time it isn't quite so sad because my parents will be back in 2 weeks for the Portland Marathon. We already have our meals planned out, and this time I get to see my Dad's reaction to some restaurants he has never tried. I can't wait!

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Oktoberfest and Grüner

I think that the weekends my mom comes to visit result in the best Princeton Eats Portland posts, and I know that is because my mom and I do some damn good eating. This past weekend was no different.

Friday night, a friend of mine and I picked up my mom and headed straight to Gustavs/Rheinlander for Oktoberfest. Not one of the three of us expected the festivities that were occurring in the tent covered parking lot adjacent to the restaurant - long tables packed with people guzzling beer out of 1.5 liter steins, a German band playing all the latest polka hits, sausages, pretzels, and fondue galore. Above are some pictures to give you an idea of how awesome it was.

We may have indulged in a bit too much beer, and had it not been for the sausages, pretzels, bread and fondue we ate, it might have been a rough Saturday morning. Instead, my mom and I hopped out of bed around 7am to run 10 miles. "Hopped out of bed" is not really what we did, but we did run the easiest 10 miles either of us have ever run. We agree that perhaps we hadn't yet metabolized all the alcohol from the night before making the run a bit easier. Who knows.

After the run, we wiled away the day eating and drinking and watching football, basically wasting time until dinner. Not to downplay the eating and drinking we did; we had a wonderful breakfast at Bakery Bar, beers at Migration, lunch at Pambiche, then more beers at Migration. Oh, and a hunt for remaining Missoni for Target stuff resulting in a THROW PILLOW for me! And my mom scored an adorable zig zag bikini bottom for $6.  Why it was marked down is a mystery.  A fantastic mystery.

Thank you to whoever returned this to the Mall 205 Target:

Then, the next event: dinner at Grüner. I have been hearing hype about Gruner for many months now, but this was the first chance I got to dine there. We started with a charcuterie plate consisting of, from top right moving clockwise, country pate, rabbit mortadella, salame gentile, liverwurst canapes, speck, spicy coppa, and house made pickles and mustard.

The speck was the star of the show. I have never had speck served like prosciutto. And, yes, I know speck is smoked prosciutto, but I usually see it diced and used in small amounts. Thinly sliced and served alone is a marvelous way to eat it.  Who knew?  The liverwurst canapes and the country pate came in a close second.

Next was frenched green beans, duck breast, blackberries, goat cheese, hazelnuts, black currant vinaigrette, and crisped shallots.  Absolutely delicious.

For the entree, we split grilled golden trout with a white corn ragout, crayfish sauce, and crisped speck and a mixed grill of sudan farms rack lamb chops and cevapcici - spicy slovenian lamb & beef sausages, cherry tomato-parsley salad, and cucumber-yoghurt salad with mint.

And this wasn't all the great food we ate.  Stay tuned for the rest of our eats!

Bon appetit.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tacos with Corn Salsa, Margarita(s), and New Shoes

I don't care what anyone says; I love Katy Perry's pink hair.  
Also, reading In Style was how I spent my evening.

I wasn't planning on blogging this week. I was in New Jersey and New York over the weekend, and I basically didn't sleep so I am in recovery mode (read: ordering pizza and concocting raggameals not fit for publishing).

Actually, I had planned on writing about the food I ate in New York City, but my phone died so I couldn't take any pictures except one of roasted peanuts I bought from a street vendor. As delicious as they are, I don't think I can build a post around roasted peanuts. Okay, fine, here's the picture.

But, Wednesday I went to the farmers market with Kate, and when I saw the huge barrel of corn priced at 5 for $2, I knew I needed to buy some. I haven't eaten much corn this summer because there hasn't been much of it around. In fact, I think the only corn I have eaten was in the sweet corn tomalito I made a couple weeks ago.

With my 5 ears of corn in hand, I quickly chose poblano peppers, heirloom cherry tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro for a corn salsa. I had leftover pizza at home, so I made some corn salsa yesterday to eat some with chips, and made easy ground beef tacos for dinner tonight.

I also made a margarita (we will see if that becomes plural) because this morning a friend at work planted the seed in my brain to do so. The margarita recipe is below, but if you are older than 16 and you don't know how to make one, I highly recommend you re-evaluate the choices you have made in your life up until now.  Seriously.  

Oh, and as I was making my margarita, I looked down and realized I still had my shoes on from work. Usually I take off my shoes the instant I walk in the door, but today for whatever reason, I've been tromping around in these brand new Sam Edelman wedges I snagged at the Rack last week. So, per Santina's request, here's a picture of my new shoes getting busy in the kitchen. I always rest my foot on the towel bar as I cook. (No I don't.)

Nasty raw blister on my heel courtesy of being cute instead of comfortable as I spend an entire day walking around NYC.

2 parts tequila
1 parts lime juice
1 part triple sec

Put all ingredients in a shaker with 3 - 4 cubes ice, shake, pour into a glass with a salted rim and garnish with a slice or round of lime.

Corn Salsa
5 ears of corn
2 poblano peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
1 pint cherry tomatoes, each tomato cut in half, or 1 large tomato, diced
A bunch of cilantro
2 limes

1.  This recipe is tastiest, in my opinion, if you roast the corn on a grill. I did not do so because I am lazy, but if you want to do so, peel back the husks, remove the silks, then close the husks again. Soak the ears in water for ~20 minutes, then place on the grill and grill until they're done. Move them around and rotate them, obviously. If you burn them badly, you grilled them too long. If the kernels aren't soft and a little blackened, you didn't grill them long enough.

If you're lazy like me, just remove the husks and silks and boil the corn in water for a couple minutes.

You can roast the poblanos on the grill too, or if you aren't using the grill method, roast them under the broiler until the skins are blackened. Then put them either in a sealed paper bag or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let them cool ~20 minutes. You can roast the jalapenos in the same way, if you want.

2. Once the corn is cooked in whatever method you chose, cut the kernels off the cob. Place kernels in a large bowl.

3. Once the peppers have cooled, remove the skin, de-seed them, and dice them. Dice up the jalapeno too, whether you roasted it or not.

4. Add the peppers and the halved tomatoes to the corn.

5. The cilantro is probably prettiest if you pick the leaves off the stems and add to the salsa that way, but the stems actually have really good flavor. I usually just tear up the top quarter or so of each sprig. Add as much cilantro as you want. I love cilantro, so I added a lot.

6. Squeeze lime juice over everything and mix.

7. Eat!

I am not going to put a recipe for tacos.  The tacos I made tonight are nothing special: browned ground beef piled in a corn tortilla with corn salsa, regular salsa, cheddar cheese, and sour cream.  Delicious, but how am I supposed to tell you how to make that?

Bon appetit.