Every summer for the last few summers I’ve promised myself I will combine watermelon and feta like I kept reading about in the food magazines and then every time I’d buy one we would devour the whole thing before the idea of using it in a recipe even entered my head. The last thing I’m thinking in the height of summer is, “This watermelon could really use something…” because, let’s face it, watermelon doesn’t need anything to compliment it except a couple of napkins.
I finally got around to it and I cannot stop thinking of how delicious a combination watermelon and feta are. Watermelon and salt, really; but watermelon and salty cheese particularly. (Grilled halloom with a refreshing accompaniment? Don’t mind if I do!) It also happens that I grew a planter of mint in the solarium this summer and no matter how many mojitos might have been consumed there’s really no way to keep up.
Though I doubt anyone north of the Carolinas get bored of eating watermelon as it is, if you’re looking for something different and haven’t tried this yet, I sincerely suggest you do so. It’s so simple you don’t even have to make a dressing, and so delicious that you’ll eat all of it and want more, even though your stomach begs restraint.
- 5 cups peeled and seeded watermelon, cubed
- 1 teaspoon castor sugar
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, chiffonade
- 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- salt and pepper
- (optional) drizzle of fruity olive oil
- (Though instructions are hardly necessary) toss watermelon with the sugar, lime juice and mint leaves, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange on plates topped with crumbled feta cheese and drizzle with a good quality, fruity olive oil.
It’s been so long between updates that I’ve nearly forgotten how to use this thing. The only spam message that managed to make it through the filters since April is an urgent notice from a business wanting to become my exclusive ice cream vendor in Iraq. The Internet is a strange place.
A culmination of things has kept me from writing here, but the primary reasons are that I have been doing a lot more non-food writing and my cooking has become rather methodical. This is the easiest way to the survive the summer and we subsisted primarily on various types of tacos. As the weather cools off heading into autumn, and especially now that a fresh hockey season is nowhere in sight, it seems foreseeable I will be finding my way back into the kitchen.
I’m not sure whether it’s the comfort of a “hearth” with the oven running before I bother turning the furnace on or my body compelling me for insulating fat that triggers the desire to bake on the weekends, but I’ve been at it a couple of weeks now and discovered a cookie too good not to break out of hibernation and crack the seal on the accidental hiatus here. I’ll freely admit they don’t look like much, but they smell like everything wonderful about an old fashioned candy shop and taste so good that Shannon said they could mend a broken heart. This is not inaccurate, as one bite in and you’ll forget all your troubles and think, “Where have you been all my life?”
Make sure to use a good quality unsalted butter for these cookies, as the browned butter is the primary flavor. As soon as you cream the butter and sugar together the whole house will smell like caramel; while they bake in the oven, pudding chomeur or butter tarts, which is not unlike the flavor of these surprisingly delicious and oh-so simple morsels.
- 1 1/2 sticks (170g) unsalted butter
- 1/4 stick (30g) cold unsalted butter
- 1 3/4 cups (350g) brown sugar
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/3 cups (290g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar plus 1/4 cup (50g) raw sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack positioned in the center.
- Melt the 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, swirl the pan or stir often until it becomes brown and nutty. Do not allow to burn. Immediately remove it from the heat and stir in the cold butter and brown sugar to reduce the temperature. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Once the butter mixture has cooled, cream it together with the egg and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently mix into the creamed mixture using a spoon or spatula until just combined.
- Roll the dough into approximately 24 one ounce (30g) balls. Combine the remaining brown sugar and raw sugar in a bowl and roll the balls in the sugar.
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Evenly space the balls on the trays and bake until cracks form and the bottoms look golden brown, about 12-13 minutes.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and gently flatten with the back of a wooden spoon. After a minute or two, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes two dozen cookies.
I’ve never really understood the appeal of adding bacon to everything. As far as things to do with pork belly, I’m not even sure bacon is in my top three. Even as a kid I never really cared for bacon, but I was told I had to eat it. I had no problem with broccoli or peas, but bacon was just so… uninteresting. Picture that for a moment: child reluctantly eating bacon with an extra floret hidden under the table.
Somewhat fortunately, I have always loved the combination of salty and sweet, so the method I devised to stomach my crispy bacon rashers was to spread them in copious amounts of peanut butter and chase them with a glass of milk.
Fast forward to this year, where I have been planning a way to make a dessert for a bacon-fanatic friend of mine since January, in celebration of his (probably last) birthday this week. The premise was basically to sandwich peanut butter fudge (I pictured a bacon Payday bar) between two sheets of weaved bacon (a la Epic Mealtime), then cover the whole shebang in a milk chocolate coating.
The results were surprisingly good, even if I’m personally unable to stomach more than a centimeter square of the fudge alone before my sugar gag reflex kicks in. I realize I’m doing a poor job selling this because it’s outside my personal preferences, but I assure you it’s been well received. If you’re into such things as peanut butter cups and bacon, and have always wanted to see them married (or at least in compromising positions in an amateur sex tape) I would suggest you try this recipe out immediately!
- 1 pound (454g) smoky bacon strips
- 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups (250g) brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100g) creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups (210g) icing sugar
- 3/4 cup (110g) roasted peanuts, divided and coarsely chopped
- 6 ounces (180g) milk chocolate, chopped
- 2 teaspoons lard or reserved bacon fat
- Weave the bacon into a lattice pattern an approximate length of the bacon strips on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Cut this weaved bacon in half to make two rectangles. If there were leftover bacon strips, place them alongside on the pan, then place the prepared pan into a cold oven, bring the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake until crispy. Once cooked, drain and save the residual fat, then pat the bacon dry with paper towels. Set aside.
- Combine the butter, brown sugar and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a boil, stirring to ensure everything is homogenous. Then, remove from the heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla extract. With an electric mixer, beat in the icing sugar until fully incorporated, and add half of the roasted peanuts.
- Place half of your bacon weave into a mold that is roughly the same dimensions as the rectangle, top with the prepared peanut butter filling, then top that with the remaining sheet of bacon. Place a weight on top (such as another pan with a few cans, a book, etc.) to ensure everything is pressed together, and refrigerate for one hour.
- When an hour has elapsed, place the chocolate and bacon fat in a double boiler over medium heat and gently melt until smooth. Remove the bacon peanut butter bar from the fridge and gently remove it from the mold and place it on a rack on top of a sheet pan to catch any dripping chocolate. Ladle the melted chocolate over top of the bar, covering as much surface area as possible, then garnish the top with the remaining peanuts and residual bacon bits.
- Chill this until firm, then slice into individual bars with a serrated knife to serve.
I’m not a chili “purist” (whatever that means seems to depend on where you were raised), and I’m sure adding kidney beans draws attention to this fact immediately. I do have a bit of beef with chili con carne that tastes more like spiced tomatoes though. As its name implies, the focus should be on chilies and beef, and that’s unachievable if you’re working with too much beyond that.
Instead of tomatoes, I opt for tomato paste, and instead of beef broth, I bolster the beefiness with concentrate. Ideally you’d make your own meat glaze, but the blend of several chilies and spices masks the “unnatural” flavor ordinarily imparted by a lot of store bought products, so I think it suffices in this application. The only thing that would make this better is substituting ground beef for a stewing shoulder cut or similar, but sometimes you simply don’t want to wait that long for dinner! Leftovers freeze well, but they’re even better the next day, and make a great topping for Michigan-style hot dogs or taco filling, so I can’t say that ever happens.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- (optional) a handful of mixed, mild dried chilies (such as pasilla, ancho or guajillo)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons beef concentrate (such as Better than Bouillon or Bovril)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 16 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
- salt, to taste
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef well in several batches, transferring the cooked beef to a bowl for later.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the onion in the residual fat. If the stuck beef bits (fond) look like they will begin to burn, add a few tablespoons of water and scrap them away from the pan, then continue cooking until the onion is tender.
- Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, dried oregano, cayenne, pepper and mixed chilies, if using, and cook for a couple more minutes to bloom the spices.
- Return the beef to the pan, stir in the tomato paste, beef concentrate, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour.
- After one hour, add the rinsed kidney beans and warm through. Add a bit of water to dilute (or, alternatively, simmer down), then season to taste with salt if necessary. Remove the whole chilies before serving, unless you’re into that kind of thing.
Serve with crusty bread and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.
I was reading recently, I don’t exactly remember where, that some diners will add baking soda to the water they use to cook their hashbrowns. The explanation was that it broke down the starch and roughed up the potatoes as they boiled, allowing them to crisp up better when they fried because of the textural surface area.
Generally when you cook potatoes (all root vegetables really), it is recommended to start with cold water and gradually raise the temperature, rather than plunging whole potatoes into boiling water. This way they cook more evenly through to the center. The opposite would apply in this instance, where you want to just cook the potatoes through while maximizing the surface damage.
I tried this general idea of vigorously boiling cubed potatoes in baking soda water before frying them, and there’s no doubt that the potatoes fried up with a much crispier outer crust and retained a fluffy interior. You can see in the photo that bits of starch from other potatoes sort of coagulated into crispy surface chunks. They’re also, in some cases, no longer cubes. This is definitely a good thing.
However, the baking soda added a certain “acidity” to their flavor, like a splash of malt vinegar had been added into the pan. This isn’t exactly off-putting — some people do this on purpose — but it was unexpected. Perhaps I’ll experiment with less baking soda and see if the textural results are similar without the pronounced flavor, because… well, who doesn’t like a crispier potato?
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- (optional) 1 small onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- salt and pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil with the baking soda added. Cook the potatoes until a fork can easily pierce into their center, then drain and return to the hot, empty pot to allow surface moisture to evaporate.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and onion in a large skillet over medium heat. Sweat the onion until very tender, stirring occasionally, then add the potatoes.
- Raise the heat to medium-high, and allow the potatoes to fry undisturbed until the sides touching the pan form a crispy brown crust. Turn the potatoes and fry the other side as well, then remove from the heat, stir in the tablespoon of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.