Oregano Pesto

#Pesto Saturday! Mostly oregano, some basil. #greenglop #gardening

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Green glop!

This year, my basil plants ended up a bit pathetic, but the oregano grew like gangbusters. It’s not quite traditional, but I used it in my pesto recipe and it turned out really well! I made three batches over the summer. I oversalted one of them, but once I combined it with the others it evened out. In all I have about four cups, which will be plenty for over the winter.

(Sorry, I’m dealing with a cold and don’t have a lot of energy for things.)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

[image: heart-shaped cardamom butter cookies]
[image: heart-shaped cardamom butter cookies]

I don’t really do pretty cookies. I’m all for cookies that just taste good, regardless of their appearance. So it’s mainly drop cookies for me. However, for Valentine’s Day, I wanted to send some holiday-appropriate cookies to my nephews, so I unearthed a rolled cookie recipe and found a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

The recipe for Cardamom Butter Cookies has you rest the dough for a half hour in the fridge. This is supposed to take the dough from a pile of crumbs into a cohesive mass that can then be rolled. Well, it wasn’t happening. Maybe it was too dry here that day, maybe I hadn’t let the butter warm enough, but—I was panicking, basically. Suddenly I remembered a tip from America’s Test Kitchen (or Good Eats or one of the many cooking shows I had been watching during the aughts). It was a tip for pie crust, to use a bit of vodka when you needed moisture in the dough without adding water (which would make the crust tough). I put my crumbled dough back in the mixer and added two tablespoons of vodka, one at a time, until the dough came together as needed. I was then able to roll and cut it as I wished. I think I could probably skip the whole resting stage entirely next time, to be honest.

And the cookies were great! Happy Valentine’s, everybody!

Tête de Moine

[image: tete de moine cheese ruffle]
[image: tête de moine cheese ruffle]

Tête de Moine (Monk’s Head) is a very fun (and stinky!) cheese. You buy it in whole wheels and shave off thin curls with a device called a Girolle. In French, girolles are a type of chanterelle mushroom, and the device was named for the beautiful curls of cheese it produces which are supposed to resemble the mushroom cap.

[image: girolle cheese slicer with tete de moine]
[image: girolle cheese shaver with tête de moine]

It used to be damn near impossible to locate a Girolle in America, but then internet shopping was invented, so now they’re easy to find on Amazon. You can actually get the cheese on Amazon as well, although I was able to find it at Whole Foods (well, I had to call around and go a couple Whole Foods down the road, but still—I found it locally).

So the trick with the Girolle is that you don’t press down too hard. Light pressure, move it in a circle. Too much downward pressure and you risk cracking the wheel. The purpose of the frilly cheese flowers (besides looking pretty) is that they expose a bunch of surface area to the air which helps maximize the smell (I did mention it was a smelly cheese) and develop the flavor.

I am amused by the official Tête de Moine website. It has a specific section for recipes, but since how the cheese is served is as important as the cheese itself, all the recipes are basically “Make a thing and then put a cheese curl on top.”

This is a really fun addition to any hors d’oeuvres spread. The presentation is beautiful, and it’s fun to shave and serve. To my friends: I’ll put out an APB on Twitter the next time we buy a wheel, and you can come over and try it. Highly recommended!

Lupicia Lucky Bag

[image: nine bags of loose tea from Lupicia]
[image: nine bags of loose tea from Lupicia]

I went into San Francisco yesterday and stopped at Lupicia, one of my favorite tea retailers. I was there to pick up some loose leaf La Belle Epoque, my go-to for “tea-flavored tea.”

While I was there I noticed that they had a display of lucky bags (well, boxes, but same thing). Fukubukuro are a big thing with Japanese stores. They’re a grab bag sold at a discount. I was surprised to see they had any left (stores sell them for the New Year), but I picked up one for $30.

Here’s what was inside (and their descriptions from Lupicia’s website):

  • Momo Oolong Super Grade (retail price $13.00) Savor the succulent flavor and aroma of Japanese white peach in this Taiwanese pouchong blend accented with pink rose petals.
  • Sakurambo (retail price $6.50) Black tea flavored with Japanese cherries, which has a sweet and fruity aroma.
  • Tikuanyin (retail price $11.00) Oolong tea from Fujian province has a rich taste and sweet aroma.
  • Darjeeling Second Flush (retail price $8.50) A blend of summer-plucked Darjeeling tea. Often referred to as “Champagne of teas”.
  • Afternoon Tea (retail price $6.00) A blend of light-bodied Darjeeling and full-bodied Assam. Can be served with milk.
  • Matcha Black Soybean Rice Tea (retail price $5.00) A genmaicha (rice tea) blended with black beans and matcha, to promote “healthy living”.
  • Strawberry & Vanilla (retail price $6.50) Green tea with matcha is flavored with sweet fragrance of strawberry and vanilla.
  • Muscat (retail price $6.50) Refreshing taste of muscat offers an interesting impression. Ideal choice for an iced tea.
  • Cookie (retail price $7.00) Black tea scented with an image of freshly baked caramel cookies. Best served with milk.

So that’s $70 worth of tea for $30! I have had the Momo Oolong before and loved it, but it’s expensive so I’ve only purchased it once. I have sipped my way through several bags of Sakurambo in the past, I like it a lot. The rest are new to me, and I’m very excited to try them all! The only one I’m a bit leery of is the Muscat, but I think I’ll take their advice and brew it for iced tea.

Thanksgiving Prep

Like many Americans, I have spent the past few days shopping for Thanksgiving ingredients. My dad’s trying out a new preparation for the turkey (the house is already awash in the smell of roasting turkey bits for stock and gravy—he’s got it in the oven overnight), my mom has exhausted every single store in the region trying to find the perfect size and shape onions, and I’m girding myself to try out a new sweet potato dish this year.

I really like sweet potatoes (garnet yams, whatever), as long as you keep them away from that goddamn marshmallow topping. I like my sweet potatoes spiced up with chipotle peppers! You may recall that for several years I attempted to make a perfect version of this Bobby Flay recipe, which my parents ate at his Vegas restaurant. At the restaurant, they received a perfect pie-like slice with perfect layers that stayed together beautifully. My version… oof. Time and time again I tried, and time and time again I ended up with a goopy broken sauce, oceans of oil sitting on top, and an upset stomach. Slices? Layers? Ha! It still tastes pretty good, but the presentation is seriously awful.

Last year I gave up and made Alton Brown’s chipotle smashed sweet potatoes. It was fine but not particularly revelatory. It was just fine.

This year, I’m going to try something weird—maybe. I’m going to do a dry run of a recipe tomorrow morning, and if it turns out well, I’ll do a full version for Thanksgiving. If not, well, my brother wants me to give the Bobby Flay version another go, but I don’t know if my digestion can handle it. Seriously we just have way too much heavy cream in everything, and I will give up my sweet potato recipe long, long before I say goodbye to my mom’s creamed onions. Those are my #1 Thanksgiving Must-Eat Dish.

(My other Thanksgiving prep today was putting a basecoat on my fingernails and picking out all the most harvest-y colors in my nail polish collection. Holiday manicure!)

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.)

Chocolate & Strawberry Puer

[image: lupicia's chocolate & strawberry puer tea bag]
[image: lupicia’s chocolate & strawberry puer tea bag]

Last weekend, TeapotGirl and I headed into San Francisco for a day of food, makeup, and (of course) tea. Lupicia is my jam, and I’m lucky enough to live near two of their physical stores. I love going in and spending a quarter hour sticking my nose into all the tea tins. This time, after picking up my obligatory pouch of La Belle Epoque, I was given a bag of Chocolate & Strawberry Puer to sample. I made it today.

I’d never tried puer tea before, but from the reviews of this particular tea on Steepster, it seems like a flavored one was a good way to start. Apparently they can sometimes taste kind of fishy? I don’t know if I’d like that.

But this is a pretty nice tea. Really complimented a slice of sweet potato spice bread well. It’s sweet without needing sugar and creamy without needing milk. The chocolate and strawberry are definitely noticeable. I made two mugfuls with the same teabag since I’m a barbarian. While I don’t know if I would purchase a full pack of this, it was a pleasant enough diversion for an afternoon.


This is my favorite wine! So of course BevMo stopped carrying it last year. A few months ago, I was chatting with an internet friend who worked in the wine business. He said he also enjoyed Albariños, so I asked him if he could recommend a replacement. He suggested one from the Burgáns winery. I wasn’t able to find it anywhere until today!

[image: two bottles of white wine—burgans albariño and raimat albariño]
[image: two bottles of white wine—burgáns albariño and raimat albariño]

The Burgáns was in a special display, so then I went to check their regular wine section. I was able to find another bottle I hadn’t tried. At $12.99 and $10.99, it seemed like a reasonable investment to try and find a new favorite. I have tried a bunch of other Albariños since the Paco & Lola drought, but none of them have really caught my fancy. I’m hoping one of these will fit the bill.

(Bonus: screw-tops. I’m super-classy that way.)

Trapani Salt

[image: dish of trapani salt]
[image: dish of trapani salt]

I made something new tonight, but it didn’t really turn out the way I’d hoped, so hey! Let’s talk about salt.

My parents and I took a trip to Italy back in April/May. We visited the southern part of the country as well as Sicily. While in Sicily, we spent a night in Trapani. Trapani has a salt museum. We had to go there.

[image: windmill atop the salt museum in trapani]
[image: windmill atop the salt museum in trapani]

It’s not a very big museum, but the guides there give a very thorough tour of the machinery they have on display. Plus they will tell you all the manymany reasons why Trapani salt is so much better than French or Hawaiian or any other kind of sea salt. It has to do with the salinity of the water, their salt just tastes way saltier. They are very proud of their product.

[image: pile of salt covered with clay tiles]
[image: pile of salt covered with clay tiles]

We bought a bag (and that was a source of worry, bringing back a kilogram of white granulated substance back into the states), and we keep it out on the counter as our fancy finishing salt (see top photo). Although honestly, I think it’s best eaten straight. Little salt crystal candy. I think I must have once been a deer, I just can’t pass up a good salt lick.

[image: the salt museum's cat]
[image: the salt museum’s cat]

Also the museum had a cat, which automatically shoots them up to the top of my list of favorite museums. (I assume the cat’s name is Sal.)