Cold Weather Camp Chili
Cold winter weather makes me crave deep, warm, rich foods like pot roast and hearty soups, so when I went camping in the Ozarks in the middle of winter I knew we’d need to make something substantial for dinner. As the temperatures dropped into the twenties I got my buddies to help prepare cast-iron cornbread and turkey chili with white beans and chili. This is hands down the simplest and most flavorful chili I’ve made in a very long time – perfect for any cold night whether you’re cozy at home or braving the great outdoors.
 
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Cold Weather Camp Chili

Cold winter weather makes me crave deep, warm, rich foods like pot roast and hearty soups, so when I went camping in the Ozarks in the middle of winter I knew we’d need to make something substantial for dinner. As the temperatures dropped into the twenties I got my buddies to help prepare cast-iron cornbread and turkey chili with white beans and chili. This is hands down the simplest and most flavorful chili I’ve made in a very long time – perfect for any cold night whether you’re cozy at home or braving the great outdoors.

 

Read More (including the recipe) »

Rigatoni with Beets, Beet Greens and Pine Nuts

It’s May! Summer is almost here in Austin and I just realized it’s been 5 months since I posted to the Food Culturalist. Oops! As usual, there’s just been so much going on. My garden is in full swing, I just finished an intense 5 week project at work, and Ryan and I have been freelancing on top of it all. 

Today, my friend Maura is coming in to frog to share some vegetables from her farm, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and talk to us about the benefits of belonging to a CSA. I’m so excited I can barely wait! So I decided to post this recipe I tried the other night that featured the striped and golden beets I got in last week’s farm share. You can also check it out on the JBG website!

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bunch of beets, chopped into eighths
  • 1 bunch of fresh  beet greens, chopped into inch-wide strips
  • 1 medium sweet onion, thickly diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 pound rigatoni (I had it on hand, but you could use penne or any other short pasta)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt and fresh pepper
  • drizzle of balsamic vinegar

First, toast the pine nuts till golden brown in a cast iron skillet over low heat, turning often to prevent sticking and burning.

In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high and add the onions. Sautee until soft (but not caramelized), then add the garlic and chopped beet greens. Add a pinch of kosher salt and a lots of peper. Sautee the mix for 10 minutes, or until the greens are deliciously wilted, and mix in the cooked beets.

At the same time, boil the beets in a large pot of salted water for 10 minutes or until fork-tender, then move the beets to a bowl and reserve the cooking liquid. Return the water to boiling and add the pasta. Cook the pasta until al dente, then before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. 

Return the pasta to the pot and heat on low. Add the remaining olive oil and the beet mixture and stir to combine. If the mixture is dry, add a tablespoon of the reserved cooking liquid at a time and stir, until the pasta has reached the desired done-ness. Mix in the parmesan cheese, leaving a bit to dust on top.

Divide amongst bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and pine nuts, and drizzle with some balsamic vinegar if desired.

Yields 3-4 servings. Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit, 2009.

I’ve been busy getting ready for Thanksgiving! I’m SO excited. We have friends from New York, Charlotte, and new Austin friends coming for dinner and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This is our third year having friends and family for the big meal!
Planning menus and researching local foods are some of my favorite pastimes, and part of the reason I insist on hosting Thanksgiving. Since we’re in Texas now, there’s a whole new array of possibilities, food resources, farms, and in-season veggies that we can take full advantage of. Here are some of my favorite resources:
•  White Egret Farm is here in Austin and has free-range organic, ethically treated livestock, hormone-free dairy products, and delicious foodstuffs that are prepared on site. I got our turkey from White Egret and I can’t wait to brine it!
•  Johnson’s Backyard Garden Organic Farm is not just a farmer’s market staple or my friend Maura's new job, it's also the source of the most fall produce I've ever seen. I've been altering our traditional menu to include as many home grown veggies as possible.
•  Pinterest! It’s visual note-taking platform that I’m really digging. I can easily post all the recipes I’m looking at, right next to home goods and style inspiration. I’m posting a screenshot of my Turkey Day inspiration because it’s really helping me organize all my ideas. Check it out. 

I’ve been busy getting ready for Thanksgiving! I’m SO excited. We have friends from New York, Charlotte, and new Austin friends coming for dinner and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This is our third year having friends and family for the big meal!

Planning menus and researching local foods are some of my favorite pastimes, and part of the reason I insist on hosting Thanksgiving. Since we’re in Texas now, there’s a whole new array of possibilities, food resources, farms, and in-season veggies that we can take full advantage of. Here are some of my favorite resources:

  • •  White Egret Farm is here in Austin and has free-range organic, ethically treated livestock, hormone-free dairy products, and delicious foodstuffs that are prepared on site. I got our turkey from White Egret and I can’t wait to brine it!
  • •  Johnson’s Backyard Garden Organic Farm is not just a farmer’s market staple or my friend Maura's new job, it's also the source of the most fall produce I've ever seen. I've been altering our traditional menu to include as many home grown veggies as possible.
  • •  Pinterest! It’s visual note-taking platform that I’m really digging. I can easily post all the recipes I’m looking at, right next to home goods and style inspiration. I’m posting a screenshot of my Turkey Day inspiration because it’s really helping me organize all my ideas. Check it out. 

White Beans with Crispy Kale & Brussels Sprouts

Ryan and I have both been so busy this week that I’ve been throwing together tostadas for dinner and eating leftover lasagna for lunch, feeling lucky that we at least had any ingredients in the fridge. Last night I took my girl Katie to dinner at El Camino Real for her birthday and we had some glorious BBQ! (but it still doesn’t compare to our favorite Southern style Sweet Leaf BBQ and corn pudding…)

All these rich eats have left me with a serious hankering for some fresh home cooked veggies! Here’s one of my own recipes for brussels spouts, beans and kale that makes a filling and fresh side dish or single-pot meal for a cold winter night. I think I’ll make this recipe tonight!

What You’ll Need:

1 15 oz can white beans (or navy or cannelloni beans)

1 bunch of kale cut into large pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds

1 red onion, sliced into half rings

3 cups brussels sprouts, sliced lengthwise or with crosses cut into the base

1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, cardamom, curry and smoked paprika

drizzle of balsamic vinegar glaze

kosher salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

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1. Preheat oven to 350º. Toss kale in olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are crispy but not brown.

2. Blanch brussels sprouts then sauté in 1 tablespoon butter with cinnamon, cardamom, curry and smoked paprika.

3. While the kale bakes, warm the beans and caramelize onions in a pan with remaining butter over medium low heat.

4. Toss the kale with the beans, currants, caramelized onions, brussels sprouts and a pinch of salt and pepper. drizzle with balsamic vinegar glaze and serve hot.

Quiche: The Loveliest Breakfast

Quiche is one of my favorite treats to make on the weekend. I made it for Ryan and I this Valentine’s Day and it was by far the most delicious interpretation yet. It always reminds me of my Mom and the broccoli quiches she used to make. I loved broccoli as a kid and I think she snuck red onions into the pie to teach me to like them…and of course it worked! Quiche is amazingly versatile and really tasty despite its stuffy reputation and is great to serve for guests or just as a change from the usual brunch. A different combination of sautéed vegetables, meats and cheeses can make this simple recipe new over and over.

What You’ll Need:

5 large eggs, whisked

½ cups half & half

½ teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1 to 2 cups of your choice of vegetable, sautéed: red onion, leeks, broccoli, asparagus, roasted red pepper, green bell pepper, brussels sprouts leaves, etc.

An optional 1 cup of cooked meat, chopped: herbed chicken or veggie sausage, bacon or turkey bacon.

½ cup your choice of cheese that pairs well with the meat and vegetables: sharp cheddar (for broccoli), aged gruyere (for sausage and onions), fresh goat (for roasted peppers), cubed or pinched into small pieces.

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1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Sauté onions and vegetables with salt and pepper in olive oil until soft and lightly carmelized, then remove from heat.

2. Pour the half & half and eggs directly into the pan to mix everything together then pour into pie crust.

3. Top the quiche with the cheese and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden. Serve hot!

Pie Crust from Scratch

I made my first pie crust from scratch last weekend from a Real Simple recipe that I modified. It was simply the most fun making quiche ever! This recipe for crust is SO easy I bet it’s impossible to screw up, and the result was a buttery, light, flaky crust with much more personality and noteworthiness than any Pillsbury crust I’ve ever used before. This recipe can also be prepared ahead of time and frozen for future use, which I can imagine would be handy during the holidays or for pie season…

What You’ll Need:

1¼ cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling

½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

1. In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, sugar, and salt until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size clumps of butter remaining. Alternately: If you don’t have a food processor like me, combine half the ingredients in a blender until coarse, transfer to a bowl, then blend the other half, making sure that nothing settles to the bottom.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of the water. Pulse until the mixture holds together when squeezed but is still crumbly (add more water, a little at a time, as necessary). Avoid overprocessing, which will make the dough tough. Alternately: Pulse the mixture briefly in the blender then transfer to a bowl and knead lightly by hand.

3. Place the still crumbly mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. (The dough can be frozen at this point for up to 2 months.) Alternately: I was rushed to make the dough and refrigerated it for only 30 minutes while preparing the quiche and it came out fine, so one whole hour may be unnecessary.

4. Place the disk of dough on a floured piece of parchment or wax paper. Using your knuckles, make indentations around the perimeter of the dough to prevent cracking when you roll the dough out. I found this actually works!

5. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 11-inch circle (work from the center outward, and use the parchment to rotate the dough). Flour the rolling pin, parchment, and dough as necessary to prevent sticking.

6. Loosen the dough from the parchment and carefully transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Fit the dough into the plate . Trim the dough to a 1-inch overhang and tuck it under itself to create a thick rim.

7. With the index finger of one hand, press the dough against the thumb and forefinger of the opposite hand; continue around the perimeter of the crust. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days before using. Alternately: I didn’t refrigerate before baking and again, there were no negative effects)

Come back soon! I’ll post my family recipe for quiche in the next update!

Sushi at home

sushi

We made sushi together for the first time the other night. I felt like I needed some fresh in my life (with all this snow around) and there’s a spot in my tummy only sushi can fill. I find it incredible that I can purchase everything I need to make sushi (including fresh fish) within literally 15 yards of my regular route home. Is this the cultural melting pot I’ve heard of for so many years? Or is it just a result of working in Center City? Either way, making sushi at home really isn’t very difficult. Ryan said he’d hesitated because he assumed it would be a prolonged effort with lots of work and mess…but it wasn’t. And sushi for two (plus california rolls for lunch) cost a mere $18. Way cheaper than going out, plus it’s definitely an experience.

Like I said, this is an amazingly simple process—but there is a trade off. As a result of cooking times being minimal there is a lot of prep work. Slicing carrots, beans, cucumber, avocado, mushrooms, fish, and anything else you choose to use takes a little while, then of course rolling the sashimi takes some practice.

sushi

Tuna and Avocado Rolls with Carrots and Cucumber

What you’ll need:

a sushi rolling mat, rice paddle, and a sharp knife

1/3 lb fresh ahi tuna (make sure to ask the fishmonger if it’s fresh enough to eat raw)

1 bag of toasted seaweed sheets (about 5)

1 avocado

1/2 medium cucumber

1/2 medium carrot

1 1/2 cups white sushi or jasmine rice

3 tpsb rice vinegar

pinch of salt

1. In a medium pan, bring 2 1/2 cups water and rice to a boil. Cover, turn down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes, then add rice vinegar and salt and mix to combine.

2. Meanwhile, julienne the carrots and cucumber and slice the avocado into thin c-shapes. Slice the tuna into 1/2 inch wide strips.

3. Fill a small dish with warm water to dip your fingers in so they don’t become stuck to the rice. Then place one leaf of the seaweed on the sushi rolling mat and spread an even amount of rice onto it using your moistened fingers, about 1/4 inch thick, making sure to leave a little less than an inch-high strip of seaweed exposed at the bottom (to make the roll stick together).

4. Evenly distribute the ingredients across the middle of the rice, creating a long pile from one side of the rice-covered seaweed to the other, making sure a bit of carrot sticks out at both ends.

5. Moisten the exposed end of seaweed with dabs of water. Using the rolling mat, pull the far edge of seaweed toward you and begin to tuck it into the rice to make a roll. Continue rolling toward you with light pressure until the ingredients are completely rolled up and press the damp seaweed against the roll to form a seal.

6. Slice the rolls into six even pieces using a damp chefs’ knife and plate.

sushi

In addition to this recipe I also made more traditional sushi—just balls of rice with tuna on top, as well as California rolls. On the side I made a warm salad of sautéed snow peas and enoki mushrooms in toasted sesame oil. Delicious! See more photos of the process here.

Snow Cream and Winter Weather

I’d only ever heard about Snow Cream in Ryan’s stories about Charlotte and Jeremy and childhood. Well, as everyone’s been talking about, Philly got 28 inches of snow on Friday night! We went out to celebrate the Pony Show for First Friday and by the time we came home there were banks and flurries of snow all around! So we asked Jeremy to send us the recipe for his mom’s legendary Snow Cream and this is what we received: Milk. Sugar. Vanilla. That’s it!

We scrambled to the roof straightaway with big bowls to collect the freshest powder, and so the mixing began.

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What you’ll need:

10 cups of the freshest powder (snow) and more to add for consistency if necessary

1/2 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup confectioner’s sugar + 1/4 cup granulated sugar (more or less, depending on your desired sweetness and texture)

And an optional schosh of bourbon!

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1. With a whisk, combine snow with roughly 1/2 cup whole milk in a large bowl.

2. Add vanilla and continue whisking to smooth the snow

3. Add sugar a 1/4 cup at a time while whisking, until desired sweetness is reached and the snow is the creamy consistency of Italian Ice. Serve immediately!

We have yet to try variations on this simple treasure but I imagine that adding the following ingredients would make this an even more epic treat:

  • fresh strawberries or raspberries
  • Framboise (French raspberry liqueur) or Eau-du-vie (brandy)
  • campari and orange zest
  • shaved dark chocolate
  • honey and lemon
  • fresh mint leaves

All of the measurements for Snow Cream are aproximate and to taste—since this is a fabled family recipe, I can’t give away all the secrets!

Happy winter! Many thanks to Jeremy Current and his wonderful Mom Gwen for sharing this with us! Check out all the photos here.