Gorgonzola-Buttermilk Dressing

Once again, a recipe using up buttermilk from a recipe I never posted. It’s just that the more I eat the cornbread I originally bought the buttermilk for, the less I am enchanted with it. So I think I might not post it. It was an adaptation of this cornbread on Smitten Kitchen. It sounded awesome, but I think the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

One of my favorite meal salads is this kit:

[image: stock image of eat smart's sweet kale salad]
[image: stock image of eat smart’s sweet kale salad]

The poppyseed dressing that comes with that kit needs doctoring, though. It is way too sweet and gloppy. I thin it out and tone it down with some fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, and lemon juice. And then I dice up a bit of chicken breast to add some extra protein.

When I can’t make it out to Costco to pick up a giant pack of the Eat Smart salad, I go to Trader Joe’s for a runner-up: the Cruciferous Crunch.

[image: stock image of trader joe's cruciferous crunch salad]
[image: stock image of trader joe’s cruciferous crunch salad]

This is just a bag of salad, no dressing or other crunchy accouterments like the Eat Smart. So I pulled together some ideas on how to make a good blue cheese dressing.

1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
1/4 cup buttermilk*
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar*
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire
heavy dash Tabasco sauce or sriracha
Salt and pepper to taste

* If you don’t have buttermilk, make clabbered milk by whisking together the vinegar with 1/4 cup regular milk. Let sit for 15 minutes before making the dressing.

Whisk everything together in a bowl (or combine in a jar and shake the dickens out of it). Season to taste with salt and pepper. It’s best if you can refrigerate it overnight before using so the flavors can meld together, but I’ve only been able to manage that feat once. (I can’t wait for my salad cravings.)

Braisin’ Semi-Failure: Apple-Apple Pie

Basically: I saw this recipe floating around Tumblr, I had an apple languishing in the crisper, and I still had some leftover pie dough. So I thought I might as well take a stab at it. Unfortunately it turned out kind of a mess. Apparently Golden Delicious apples, while a fine variety to use in pie interiors, are not the sort whose outer walls will hold up particularly well for this application. You want to use a firmer apple, like a Granny Smith or Braeburn or Winesap.

It is also possible that my problem came from scooping the walls too thin. I used a grapefruit spoon to carve out the inside, which on the whole was kind of a pain in the ass. I put the apple in the oven and kept an eye on it as it baked. Good thing, too, because at the 25-minute mark the entire thing slumped down and fell over. I attempted to rescue and prop it back up with an aluminum foil snake for the rest of the baking time, but the damage was done. The pie crust got mangled (I tried to hide the worst of it at the back of the photos).

This wasn’t a total failure. I will try it again with a different apple variety. It definitely tasted good. I’m sure I can make it turn out prettier.

lemon juice
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp AP flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
enough pie dough to make a 3-inch round at 1/4-inch thick
powdered sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 370. Cut off the top of the apple. With a grapefruit spoon or melon baller or really, really carefully with a knife and spoon, scoop out the interior of the apple. Try not to pierce the skin. Discard the core and dice the rest. Peel the top bit you cut off and dice that flesh as well. Mix diced apple with a few drops of lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.

Place apple shells on a lipped baking pan lined with parchment. (If you are making a lot of these—like 12—I read a suggestion to nestle them in a muffin tin, which would totally counteract the slumping problem I had. Don’t cram them in there, just use the wells to sort of cradle their bottoms.) Fill the apple shell with the chopped apple mixture.

Roll out your pie dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out a circle (or use some kind of fun cookie cutter) and poke some holes in it with a straw (steam holes!). Place the dough lid on top of the apple. Don’t mold it down, just place it on top.

Bake for 40 minutes. The dough should be nicely golden on top. Sprinkle top with powdered sugar (optional).

Sweet Potato Spice Bread

[image: loaf of sweet potato spice bread]
[image: loaf of sweet potato spice bread]

It’s funny, I haven’t even posted the recipe I bought the buttermilk for originally, just the ones I made trying to use it up. This bread is good for people who like sweet things. It’s dense, very moist, and heavy on autumn spice flavors. I think it could probably use a bit more salt. And although I used buttermilk, sour cream might be better. Or a bit of orange zest? I just think it needs some more ‘zazz. It’s nice with a cup of tea for breakfast or in the afternoon.

cooking spray or baker’s joy
1–2 sweet potatoes/garnet yams, between 1–1.25 lbs. (you want 1 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potato once they’re steamed)
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk (or sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cinnamon (all spices ground)
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt (full tsp might be better)

Heat oven to 350. Prep a 9×5 loaf pan with cooking spray or baker’s joy.

Cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch chunks and place in a steamer insert. Put an inch of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place insert in pan and steam sweet potatoes for approximately 15 minutes or until quite soft. Remove to a bowl and mash to a pulp. (This can be done by hand, with a hand mixer, or in a stand mixer.)

Mix in the sugars. Add eggs, oil, buttermilk, vanilla and beat until combined. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in stages and mix until the flour mixture has been incorporated thoroughly (however, try not to overbeat—fold in if you’re doing it by hand).

Empty batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake at 350 for 60–75 minutes, checking for doneness with toothpicks. Cool in pan for 15–30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

Buttermilk Curry

[image: curry over rice]
[image: curry over rice]

I had half a carton of buttermilk left after making another recipe (which I haven’t posted here yet). I was looking through my old recipes, trying to find something that wasn’t sweet. I saw Murgh Dehin and was like aha! Curry. I wanted to make something new—as well as something with fewer ingredients—so I did some internetting and combined a few recipes to come up with this. It’s a thin curry, so serving with rice is important.

EDIT: this recipe has been updated as of October 24, 2016

1 Tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 scallions, chopped into 1-inch pieces (EDIT: 4 scallions)
2 cloves garlic, minced (EDIT: 3 cloves)
2 small green chilis, minced (I used my SUPER CHILIS, serranos would also work)
(EDIT: 1 additional pepper, either chili peppers of the mild Anaheim/Pasilla variety or a bell pepper, chopped)
1 lb small pieces of meat (see note below)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (EDIT: 3/4 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup sour cream)
salt, to taste
2-3 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Note: One of the recipes I found called for ground lamb, which was stupidly expensive at the store. I ended up buying a pound of “stir-fry/fajita” pork. I think chicken would also work in similarly-sized small bits. (EDIT: I buy two boneless pork chops and slice them into bite-sized pieces, it’s cheaper for me that way.)

Heat oil over medium high. When it is hot, add mustard seeds. Cover (they’ll fly everywhere otherwise) and shake pan as they pop.

Add cumin and turmeric and stir for a minute. Lower heat to medium and add green onions, garlic, and chili. Cook until softened.

Add meat. Stir until cooked through, about 10 minutes (at least it was for the pork).

Reduce heat to low and stir in buttermilk. Bring up to temperature, but do not let boil (maybe about 5 minutes over low/medium-low). Add salt to taste. Finish by stirring in cilantro and serve over rice.

Pickled Peppers

[image: pint jar of pickled green bell peppers]
[image: pint jar of pickled green bell peppers]

The weather here has started to turn! We’ve gotten a few nights of rain! It’s thrilling! But as the nights have gotten colder, I’ve started to worry about my veggies. We’ve dipped as far as 36F. No frost yet, but I decided to harvest my green bell peppers just in case.

[image: bowl of green bell peppers]
[image: bowl of green bell peppers]

Nine in all! (There’s a runt you can’t see hiding at the bottom of the bowl). I had enough to make a quart of pickles. I sliced most of them into rings, the others into strips. After a day in the fridge, I had very crisp and pickley-tasting pickles! I used a 32 oz. plastic yogurt container. I transferred about half into the pint-sized Ball Jar you see up top so I could get a nice photo.

These are refrigerator pickles because I’m scared of canning.

1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 cloves garlic, peeled
however many sliced peppers can be packed into a quart jar

Put the dill seeds, peppercorns, bay leaf, and garlic in the bottom of your jar or whatever you’re doing the pickling in. Pack in the sliced vegetables.

Bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Carefully pour into your jar (a funnel may be useful here). Make sure everything’s covered with the brine (you may want to employ a weight to squash them down). Refrigerate overnight. Will keep in the fridge for several months.

Potato and Gorgonzola Pie

[image: slice of potato and gorgonzola pie]
[image: slice of potato and gorgonzola pie]

HOLY COW THIS IS SO GOOD. Stopping myself after two pieces was a struggle. I wasn’t sure whether to call it a quiche, since there’s just the one egg in it. The original recipe I read called for a tart pan, but since I didn’t have one, it’s now a pie.

I guess I could have done a better job arranging the potatoes, since that slice up there just looks like I stacked everything up vertically. I don’t even care though, it’s just too delicious.

1 pound small red potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1-4″ thick
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme and rosemary
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pie crust, homemade or purchased (I bought one from Trader Joe’s because I’m lazy, but since it cracked while unrolling, I still had to take to it with a rolling pin to get it back together, thereby sort of undoing the convenience)

Heat oven to 350.

Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Add a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

Line a pie plate with the crust, trimming excess. Arrange potato slices in circles, overlapping each other. Sprinkle gorgonzola on top evenly.

Whisk the cream and egg together, then pour on top. Sprinkle herbs on top, as well as 1/2 tsp kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and put in the oven. Bake at 350 for 45–60 minutes or until browned and bubbling (the original recipe called for 45, but I ended up going for an hour). Cool for a bit on a rack before slicing.

[image: potato and gorgonzola pie]
[image: potato and gorgonzola pie]

Garlic Shrimp

[image: garlic shrimp]
[image: garlic shrimp]

I think this will be the last of the recipes I post from our tapas evening. We made a couple other recipes, but they were not nearly as successful. This one was surprisingly simple and lovely. Oil-poached shrimp with garlic and chilis.

12 31–40 size raw shrimp, cleaned and peeled with tails on (this was 3 small-sized servings of 4 each, but I would gladly have eaten the whole thing by myself)
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small chili peppers, cut in half

Pour the oil in a small pan and add the garlic and chilis. Heat over medium until the oil is hot but before the garlic browns. Add the shrimp and cook for 60–90 seconds on each side or until evenly pink. Pour shrimp and oil mixture into a serving dish and serve hot.

Brussels Sprouts and Pearl Onions with Bacon

[image: mess of brussels sprouts, pearl onions, and bacon]
[image: mess of brussels sprouts, pearl onions, and bacon]

This was a “find a use for the leftovers” dish. I went digging around in the freezer and found a partially used bag of pearl onions. In the fridge there were two pieces of bacon and half a bag of Brussels sprouts. The results were delicious!

Today’s experiment was more successful than yesterday’s. I made a pea pesto with two half-bags of frozen peas. I’ll eat it, but I’m not going to post the recipe. It turned out way too sweet. I’m not quite sure how to cut it yet. Might throw in a chili pepper or two.

8 oz. brussels sprouts
8 oz. frozen pearl onions (thawed)
2 slices bacon
2 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper

Trim and halve the brussels sprouts. Trim and squeeze out the pearl onions, halving them if they’re large (mine weren’t). Slice the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces. Slice the garlic thinly.

Heat oven to 450.

In an oven safe dish (I used a cast iron skillet), arrange the sprouts cut side down. If you’ve halved the onions, put them cut side down as well, otherwise just scatter them. Sprinkle the garlic pieces on top. Lay the bacon pieces on top evenly.

[image: uncooked mess of brussels sprouts, pearl onions, and bacon]
[image: uncooked mess of brussels sprouts, pearl onions, and bacon]

Like that, more or less. Roast for 20–25 minutes until things are well browned and gorgeous. I didn’t stir the mess until it came out of the oven—top photo, right before I crammed it all in my mouth.

Shallot Jam

You will recognize this jam as the companion to the chicken liver spread I posted yesterday. We served it two ways—the other preparation was on toasts with goat cheese broiled on top and sherry-macerated raisins.

This recipe took me forever, because I just read “cover with water” and missed the line in the recipe that actually specified an amount. So I added probably 4 cups of water and was stirring the damn thing for ages.

I had never melted sugar like this before, just BAM sugar in a pot. I stirred it constantly because I was afraid the whole thing would burn, but apparently you’re not supposed to do that? According to the internet, you just shake the pot. I didn’t have any problems with crystals forming, so I guess I dodged a bullet.

6 Tbsp + 2 tsp white granulated sugar (100 grams)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 lb. shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water (or however much it will take to drown everything)
2 Tbsp unflavored oil (canola or vegetable or whatever)

Heat sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar caramelizes. Add the shallots and garlic and coat with the caramel. Cover with water. Add oil and a pinch of salt. Boost the heat a bit and cook, stirring, until it reduces down to a jam consistency and the liquid is pretty much entirely gone.

Chicken Liver Spread

[image: toasts with chicken liver spread and shallot jam]
[image: toasts with chicken liver spread and shallot jam]

That photo has two recipes on it, I’ll put up the shallot jam in the next few days. Brown on brown on brown, such a feast for the eyes!

Today will just be focused on the chicken liver spread. I was going to call it pate, but apparently I already a recipe by that name. Plus I have Julia Child’s recipe for chicken liver mousse. I guess I can’t try another chicken liver recipe until I get a thesaurus. The book calls this one “chicken foie gras,” but that’s way overselling it, not to mention super pretentious. This is just a good basic spread recipe—much easier than the other two I’ve posted. The taste is perhaps a little less… refined? than Julia’s because of the absence of a mega-ton of butter and cream, so you get a bit more of the actual taste of livers. Which I think can be a good thing!

2 Tbsp butter
10–12 oz. chicken livers—drained, rinsed, and trimmed of any green bits or large chunks of fat
1 Tbsp sherry
1 Tbsp freshly chopped aromatic herbs (we used tarragon, thyme, and parsley)
1 tsp white granulated sugar
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add livers, sherry, herbs, sugar, and 1 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt). Cook until the livers are cooked through (poke them apart and look inside, if they bleed, they’re not done). Transfer to a food processor or blender and puree smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

(P.S. tarragon is delicious)