Wednesday, January 27, 2010

St. Martin Cliff Notes

While St. Martin is still fresh in my mind (aka I'm still here), I figured I would try to sum up the vacation in a nutshell.  The Cliffs Notes version of the trip, if you will.

Vee and Candy are the two lovely ladies I've been spending lots of time with for the past week.  We try to band together and beat the guys at pinochle.

Here's Vee with her hubby Geoff, also known as the comic relief of the trip.

The views are beautiful all over the island.  You get a little spoiled because it seems every little town and every restaurant has water views. 

There are dogs roaming the island, which is definitely something you don't see in the U.S.  This little guy was taking a bit of a nap sea-side while he waited for some lunch-goers to share some leftover ribs with him.

Speaking of ribs, we've been having them a lot, and I've been quite the happy camper.  Ribs aren't very popular in California, and I've been missing them dearly.  John isn't a fan, so I haven't gone to the trouble to make them for just myself.  I can't figure out if we got BBQ ribs from the Caribbean islands, or if they got it from us.  The locals love this stuff.

This woman was walking down the road with about 10 baguettes.  This is a common sight around here.  The French baguettes are to die for, because we are on the French side of the island of course.  I thought we had great bread in California, but it really is nothing in comparison to real French bread.  I've probably eaten about 3 loaves by myself since we arrived.  

One of the unique things about St. Martin is that their airport is adjacent to a beach (and a bar overlooking said beach).  That means incoming planes look like they're about to touch down on the sand instead of the runway.  This picture would be more exciting if it was a 747, but we only got to see some of the small planes come in. 

At the bar they post the flight arrival times for that day so you know when to pay attention.  

I'm not the only one interested in taking pictures of planes.  It's obviously a popular activity here.  Reminds me of decades ago when people would go to airports just to watch the planes. 

And of course I've been hanging out with this goober a lot.  He complained I wasn't taking enough funny pictures of him on the trip.  So here you go, honey.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lemon Scones (a la Heather)

When Heather and Matt were, here Heather had the foresight to make lemon scones on the afternoon of New Year's Eve, so we had a delicious breakfast waiting for us to start out the New Year.  I've never made scones before, but these were so delicious and moist (unlike the gross dry ones you find in stores so often) that I might need to become a scone baker yet!

Loads of lemon zest gives these scones a delicious citrus sweetness that is balanced out so nicely by the rich creamy butter. 

First you should sift together 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. 

Heather is getting together our 1 1/2 sticks cold butter cut into cubes.

Look at all of that zest - the zest of two whole lemons.  Use a fork to grind zest into 1/2 cup sugar. 

Is that a "yum" or a "yuck" face?

Add 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and the lemon-sugar mixture to the flour mixture. 

With your hands mix the butter cubes into the flour and zest mixture.  I'm glad Heather got this job.  (In all honesty my only job was to take pictures and then eat the scones.)

Once the butter is well mixed in, add in 1 cup of buttermilk.

Use either your hands or a fork to mix in the buttermilk until the dough comes together. 

Take balls of dough and form into triangles on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Brush each triangle with an egg wash mixture (made of 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water) and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Look at these puppies - perfect and golden brown. 

This recipe makes a ton of scones - I am glad we had lots of people to eat these the whole weekend or I wouldn't have had room to eat the waffles John made too.  They are moist and buttery and filled with zesty goodness.  I can't say whether they are hard to make or not because I sat on my laurels during the whole process, but I can attest that they are worth eating.  Worth eating a lot of 'em too.

Lemon Scones
Adapted from Adventures in Shaw

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½  cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 cup buttermilk
Zest of two lemons
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with a tablespoon of water)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, sift together the 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.  In another bowl, zest 2 lemons.  Add in 1/2 cup sugar and use a fork to grind zest into sugar.  Add the lemon mixture and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the flour mixture.  Use your hands, mix 1 1/2 sticks cold butter cubes into the flour mixture until a crumbly meal is formed.  Pour in 1 cup buttermilk and with a fork or your hands combine until dough comes together.  Use hands to form a ball of dough and form it into a triangular shape.  Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and repeat for rest of dough.  Brush each scone with egg wash (made of 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water) and bake them for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vacation of My Discontent

To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing to formally object to the vacation I have been subjected to against my will.  It is entirely unreasonable for me to put up with these conditions.  A personal pool overlooking the ocean is disgusting.  I will not put up with such torture.

And those lounge chairs?  You expect me to grace those things with my presence?  You would have to force me into them with a cocktail and an iPod. 

Clearly you made this queen-sized hammock for someone who enjoys relaxing.  I can't imagine taking a nap there every day for the next week.  That would be ridiculous.  Silly.  Unbelievable. 

I send no compliments to your mother.  You deserve no such attention.  I am most seriously displeased. 

Yours in protest,

Saturday, January 23, 2010


While you are enjoying the rain/cold/snow/winter of wherever you are reading this from, for the next week I will be sitting on the beach/lounging by the pool/snorkeling/sleeping in/(studying for the bar)/eating French food in St. Martin. 


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Kale Chips

Hello, kale.  We rarely meet, and when we do it is not very pleasant.  Yes, yes, I know you are beyond healthy, but so far that hasn't been enough to tempt me.  

I should have known that roasting kale would be the key to making it delicious, since that is my favorite way to eat any vegetable.  And if you do it right, your kale will be as crispy as potato chips and you will be munching it so quickly you'll wish you made more. 

First remove the thick stems with your hands, as shown in the above picture.

 Then rip the kale into bite-sized pieces.  John and I apparently have big bites.

Now here is the key - when you wash the kale you need to make sure it is completely dry.  This will mean you are using your salad spinner multiple times (about 3) until you get as much water off the leaves as possible.  Your kale will not get crispy if you do not dry it well.

Once dry, remove your kale to a bowl and add in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix well until kale is well-covered.  (Do not add salt now!)  Now roast it at 350 degrees on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet for 12-20 minutes (depending on the amount of oil) until leaves are crispy but not browned.

Test the leaves, and if they are fully crisped start eating them immediately.  Okay, that's not required but that's what we did.  Make sure you sprinkle them with kosher salt first, that will make a big difference.

I wasn't joking about eating these kale chips right away.  We were already halfway into them before I got a picture snapped.  Now don't get me wrong, these still taste a bit like kale - they aren't real potato chips after all.  They have great texture and are really fun to eat though, and I definitely recommend you try this super simple recipe soon.  

Kale Chips

4 large handfuls of kale, stems removed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Remove thick stem from leaves of kale.  Rip the leaves into bite-sized pieces.  Wash well and dry thoroughly (very important) in salad spinner.  Once well dried, put kale in a bowl and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.  Mix well until kale is well coated in oil.  Place on lined baking sheet and bake 12-20 minutes until completely crispy and no longer soggy but before they brown.  Sprinkle with kosher salt. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hi, My Name is Romanesco

Mark Bittman, in a piece on his blog a couple of years ago, called romanesco "broccoli from another planet."  I've always loved that description because it describes how this bizarre vegetable looks in a way that you wouldn't get unless you've seen it.  Frankly, looking at a picture is almost unbelievable.  THIS is a vegetable?!  I read that it's sometimes referred to as "coral broccoli," which I also can easily understand.  So maybe it's from another planet or perhaps from the ocean depths, but this broccoli/cauliflower relative is definitely delicious. 

It really is like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli in flavor and texture - I find sometimes it tastes a little more broccoli-y and sometimes more cauliflowery, depending on the particular head.  You break it up into florets and steam or roast it like you might broccoli.  It has a mild, sweet flavor and goes well with almost anything.  We always buy ours at the farmers market, but I've also seen them at specialty grocery stores.  We get romanesco fairly often, so the look doesn't phase me in the least anymore.  Perhaps I should serve it to unsuspecting guests at my next dinner party and see how they react to a vegetable out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Monday, January 18, 2010

BLT Pasta

I love BLTs and I love pasta, so when I saw that a recipe existed for BLT pasta, I knew this would be up my alley.  Speaking of which, where does the phrase "up my alley" come from.  Last I checked, most alleys I've seen are kind of frightening, so things "up my alley" would be dumpsters and rats.  Sorry, back to less gross topics...

I've been making BLT pasta for two or three years now.  I grew up eating spaghetti carbonara; it was my favorite meal that my mom made.  Still probably is.  So basically my relationship with bacon in pasta goes back as long as I can remember.  Yes, it's too bad this cherished relationship isn't a love for beets and cabbage, but so be it.  I've never been able to recreate my mom's spaghetti carbonara, so I had to find another bacon pasta dish to get my fix.  BLT pasta also has the benefit of getting you to eat some arugula, which doesn't happen all that often.  But let's be honest, it's mostly about the bacon for me.

I am officially a thick-cut bacon convert.  It really is just so much better than the thin slices.  Start by placing 6-8 slices of bacon on a rimmed baking sheet.  Make sure it is rimmed because you'll be collecting a ton of bacon grease.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until perfectly browned and cooked. 

Cook 1/2 pound of pasta (for two people) in boiling salted water.  You can use penne or spaghetti.  Or really anything you desire.

And now to the T portion of the meal, grape tomatoes.  I find grape tomatoes to be much sweeter than cherry tomatoes most of the time, so I recommend using these.  For two people you will use about half a pint. 

Cut your tomatoes in half.  Okay looking at this picture makes me think I used more than half a pint.  I like a lot of tomatoes, what can I say.

In a pan heated over a medium flame, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add in all your tomatoes. 

Cook you tomatoes 5-7 minutes, until their juices start escaping, but before they completely lose their shape.

Add your cooked tomatoes to your cooked pasta.

You can use either arugula or spinach in the recipe.  Spinach has a milder flavor, though arugula adds a peppery tone to the dish, which I like.  Because the greens cook down so much you should use more than you think you will need. 

Add about 3.5 ounces of arugula to the same pan you cooked your tomatoes in - but do not wipe down the pan.  You want the excess oil and juices to coat the greens. 

Cook for 1-2 minutes until the green start to wilt but aren't completely massacred.  Use a spoon to mix them constantly so that they wilt evenly.

Add your arugula to the pasta and tomatoes and mix well to combine. 

This dish would be pretty healthy if you just left it like this.  But why would you want to do that when you could add bacon?

Your whole house smells like bacon at this point and you will be thanking your lucky stars that it's almost time for dinner.  Cooking the bacon on a sheet pan means you don't have to tend to it at all, it crisps well, and it cooks evenly.  I highly recommend this method.

Take a few slices of bacon and cut them into 1/2 inch strips.  Feel free to snack on a few since you made lots of bacon anyway.  It's a cook's right I think.

Add the bacon into the pasta and mix thoroughly.  It is best to do this somewhere other than the plates you'll be eating from - much less messy and much better mixing.  Add some kosher salt and black pepper for extra flavor.

We ended up with more toppings and less pasta than I sometimes have, but that suited me just fine.  Mostly I just want ample bacon so that I can have some bacon in almost every bite.  I made BLT pasta for my parents once, and apparently they've started making it at home too.  If you prefer, you can add chopped onions and garlic to the mix, though I prefer the unadulterated BLT-ness of the original version.  Now aren't you glad you have an excuse to have BLTs for dinner now too?

BLT Pasta
Adapted from Real Simple
Serves 2

1/2 pound spaghetti or penne pasta
6-8 slices thick-cut bacon
3.5 oz arugula
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place bacon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes until browned.  Meanwhile, cook 1/2 pound spaghetti or penne in salted boiling water.  In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add in 1/2 pint of halved grape tomatoes and cook 5-7 minutes.  Add cooked tomatoes to cooked, drained pasta.  Add 3.5 ounces of arugula to the same pan the tomatoes were cooked in (do not wipe clean).  Cook the arugula 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until it wilts slightly.  Add to pasta and tomatoes and mix until thoroughly combined.  When bacon is cooked, remove from pan and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add bacon to pasta, sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper, and mix thoroughly. 
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