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Archive for March, 2008

Meh

What is friendship? There are a million different kinds of friends. There are drinking buddies and shopping partners. Lunch/brunch friends who remain blissfully ignorant of the larger intricacies of your life, there merely for casual companionship and a good laugh. Friends that have known you since you were an awkward adolescent mess, and those who you have only known for a short time, but feel an instant connection to. There are friends that call you on your bullshit and those who accept you, warts and all, and you know you can always go to them, no matter what, and they will still love you. Those friends that love you, despite all your flaws, are the most important ones to hold on to.

Those flaw loving friends? They don’t yell at you when you call them at 2 am, giddy and tipsy. They encourage your latest kooky idea. They are the ones that find your foibles, peccadilloes and shortcomings charming. They are the ones who would help you dig a hole for a dead body.

This dish was certainly no dead body, but it did not please me and I needed some encouragement. Everyone seemed to be really in to it, reassuring me that I was being too hard on myself, but I was not impressed with the outcome. The celery flavor was really overpowering; I expected it to be a bit more subtle. After pondering this for over a week, I think this actually was a good recipe, it just didn’t appeal to my specific tastes. My friends might quite possibly be the best liars ever, but for this one, I choose to believe them.
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Celery Root Puree

Adapted from Bon Appetit

3 cups skim milk

3 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

2 large celery roots (about 2 1/2 pounds total), peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes

1 medium russet potato (about 10 ounces), peeled, cut into 2-inch cubes

1 small onion, peeled, quartered

4 tablespoons butter, cut into 5 pieces

Ground pepper

Bring milk, water, and salt just to boil in heavy large saucepan over high heat. Add celery root cubes, potato cubes, and onion quarters; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain, discarding cooking liquid.

Combine vegetables and butter in processor and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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United

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I started up this blog pretty innocently and maybe entered into it with a bit of naivete. I just wanted a little space on this huge internet to ramble on about my kitchen successes and mishaps. By being myself…or Lemmonex, more accurately…I have certainly pissed off a few members of my family and offended more than my fair share of folk. It has all been worth it, though, as I have certainly found a voice, a creative outlet, and most importantly, made some really great friends.

bettyjoan is certainly one of the best. I emailed her one day about one of her recipes, and our relationship hit the ground running. We were soon gchatting daily, becoming quick friends without having even laid eyes upon each other. We organized the DC Food Blogger potluck over email and finally met in person just a few weeks ago.

You know how there are just some people you feel really drawn to? You can sense they are good, and kind, and funny, and caring? That is how I feel about her. You can just tell sometimes you were meant to be friends with someone. It saddens me to no end that she is moving away at the end of May, but there really is no doubt in my mind we will remain in contact and keep building our friendship.

So, yes, I have a huge girl crush on BJ and we both talk about running away to Massachusetts together, living a simple happy life filled with elaborate home cooked meals and lots of wine. If only she didn’t have a boyfriend and I didn’t like sex with men so much.

Not only is BJ an awesome cook and a fantastic new friend, but the girl is a survivor. She kicked cancer’s ass and showed it who was boss. In about 5 weeks, she is participating in Avon’s Breast Cancer walk…and this is my plea to you: please donate. She has been working her ass off, giving cancer the middle finger on a daily basis…the least you can do is throw a few bucks in her direction. I am sure there is something you are feeling guilty about right now: consider helping her out a way to erase your sins. Pretty simple, right? $20 is like a get out of jail free card.

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When I had Bawstin and InspectorG over the other weekend, I did my best to act calm, cool and collected in the kitchen as I rushed to get ready. I have no idea why I felt the need to portray myself in such a manner, as they know the truth about who I really am. I am positive calm, cool, nor collected are words they would choose to describe me.

As I juggled the menu, readjusting cooking times to compensate for Bawstin’s late arrival(damn you, US Government, for holding up my dinner party!), I dumped the batter for this cake in to what I thought was a 9″ round cake tin. I saw InspectorG give the very full pan a sideways glance, but I chose to ignore him. I plugged away and brushed away the warning signs of an impending disaster.

About an hour later, we were all sitting on the couch as the cake baked. The wine floweth, the conversation pinged around with ease…and a smell crept in to the living room. The smell of burned cake, to be exact. FUCK! I ran in to the kitchen, threw the oven open and saw a perfectly formed circle of spilled cake sitting below the pan…the molten batter had crept over the edges. This prompted InspectorG to proclaim “I knew that pan was too full!” Of course, his proclamation annoyed the hell out of me. God dammit, screwing up is bad enough…I do not need someone WHO HAD NEVER HAD SOUP UNTIL COLLEGE schooling me on how to cook.

So, yes, the pan was too small…I accidentally used an 8″ round…size matters and do not let anyone tell you otherwise!! But, this cake was incredibly awesome once I pried it away from the charred edges of it’s vessel. Also, whipped cream can cover a multitude of sins…pay no attention to the ragged edges. It was moist and rich and decadent and all that is right with the world.We tore through this thing at an alarming rate and those boys only made fun of me for about 5 minutes. Once they tasted this, all was forgiven.

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One Pan Mocha Cake

From Pittsburgh Needs Eated

1/3 cup (35g) dutch process cocoa powder
75g unsalted butter (about 6 tbsp)
1/3 cup (80ml) light olive oil
2/3 cup strong black coffee, cooled (or 3 tsp instant espresso powder dissolved in 2/3 cup boiling water)
90g (about 3 ounces) good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
250g castor sugar (about 1 cup + 2 tbsp) NOTE: castor sugar is superfine sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (185g) all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup (80ml) buttermilk (or sour cream or yogurt, in a pinch)

1. Preheat your oven to 150C/300F. Butter a 23cm/9in round cake pan (preferably 3 inches high). Line the base with buttered parchment paper, then dust the pan with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set aside.

2. Put the cocoa, butter, oil, and coffee into a largish saucepan. Bring them to the boil over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture is silky, then take it off the heat. Add the chocolate and sugar and whisk them in until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.

3. Once the mixture has cooled, add the egg and vanilla extract, whisking them in thoroughly. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and stir them in until they’re just combined. Whisk in the buttermilk.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and give it a gentle shake to level it out. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a fine skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert the cake onto a rack, remove the paper and leave it to cool completely.

5. When you’re ready to serve, transfer the cake to a serving plate. Just before serving, spread the cream on top, then use the back of a spoon to swirl it a bit. To finish off, grate some chocolate on top.

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The dapper Virgle Kent asks:

Look I’m not going to do the whole email a question shit for rillz cause a brothas too slack… but

for serious what’s the big deal with the whole “preheating the oven” thing, does it make that much of a difference. I guess I’m a guy so I just turn that shit on to 400 degrees and throw shit in there…. done and done. Why the fuck would I wait 10 five minutes for it to heat up? It’s like an extra step cause it’s going to get to the same temp anyway right?

RIGHT!!!

Because I said so. Is that not reason enough? Seriously, just do what I say. I know how much you like women telling you what to do.

In truth, preheating is much more important when it comes to baking. Baking is a science that depends on precise chemical reactions and exact amounts of time in the oven. If breads, cakes or cookies are placed in an oven that has not reached proper temperature, they bake unevenly and rising could be an issue. It is not such a huge deal when it comes to something like a frozen pizza or even a chicken–it will eventually cook–but it is harder to determine when dinner will be done since the temperature has fluctuated throughout the cooking process. Also, uneven cooking temperatures (ie, one that slowly increases for the first 10 minutes of cooking) can lead to weird texture issues in the food, like chewiness or gumminess.

There are lots of other urban legends on preheating, but I consider them just that. Check them out if you need a laugh though; nothing makes you feel more superior than reading message boards. The internet has convinced me that I am a genius.

The only argument I have ever seen against preheating is from the environmentalists. It obviously wastes a bit of energy. While I could never pour battery acid in the Atlantic Ocean while the engine ran on my Escalade, the environment ain’t really my issues, so I say preheat. Live your life like a excessive glutton, fearless of any consequence; our grandkids can deal with the repercussions…

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Pie Assault

This pie was ravaged last night. A full on frontal attack occurred.

I have always been a little apprehensive about making a key lime pie. It is my absolute favorite dessert (along with carrot cake). It is one of my desert island foods. What if I royally screwed it up? My little heart could not take the disappointment.

This was something I needn’t have been concerned with. Luckily I snapped this (bad, even for me) photo before the pie was pillaged…because all that remains is a fond memory…

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Key Lime Pie

From Emeril Lagasse

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick butter) melted
2 (14-ounce) cans condensed milk
1 cup key lime or regular lime juice
2 whole eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter with your hands. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, and bake until brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

In a separate bowl, combine the condensed milk, lime juice, and eggs. Whisk until well blended and place the filling in the cooled pie shell. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Once chilled, combine the sour cream and powdered sugar and spread over the top of the pie using a spatula. Sprinkle the lime zest as a garnish on top of the sour cream and serve chilled.

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When I was in junior high school, I would obsessively listen to Sarah McLachlan’s “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy”. The lyrics, overwrought, histrionic and coursing with femininity, spoke to my 13-year-old soul. Sarah understood my pain, she got that “the night was my companion and solitude my guide”. I played that album in to the ground, every single time thinking she was singing just to me. Until I discovered Fiona Apple, no album had ever caused me to shed so many ridiculously dramatic tears. I recently downloaded the album to my iPod and was immediately transformed to that place in time; for those 55 minutes, I was once again overweight, covered in acne, and convinced the world was full of pain and torture.

Luckily, my obsessive tendencies now lean towards more satisfying pursuits. A girl can only throw herself sobbing on so many beds. I am way too old for that shit and I have much more important things to do…like obsessively scour the internet for recipes. My latest love affair is with brussel sprouts, and just as I hit replay over and over again all those years ago, I cannot help but search for the perfect brussel sprout recipe for hours.

I know what you are thinking. Brussel sprouts? Really? I feel there are much worse things I could take a shine to… They are a tasty little relative of cabbage, yet heartier and with a more bitter edge. If you think you do not like brussel sprouts, I implore you to try this recipe. They are not mushy, nor overly pungent. The caramelized shallots perfectly compliment the delicately shredded leaves of the sprouts, while the apple adds a sweet tang. The glug of balsamic at the end lends a brightness that cannot be beat. I made these for the DC Food Blogger potluck and they were a huge hit, even with folks who thought they didn’t like sprouts.

I mean, this is a far better way to spend your energy, right?

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Brussel Sprout Hash

Adapted from Bon Appetit

4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 pound shallots, thinly sliced
1 granny smith apple, peeled and finely shopped
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 pounds brussel sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and apple; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes.

Halve brussel sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8-inch) slices. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, 3 minutes. Add shallots and balsamic; season with salt and pepper.

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American Patriot

A few months back, Pagina and I headed out to a party and ended up having a few too many cocktails. (I know, shocking.) We were the kind of buzzed where we danced for hours, not caring who was looking or what people thought of us. All was right with the world…until the sailors showed up.

These boys had to be…19? 20? I think they were drinking seltzer. They had us in their sights. We ducked them for a while, but Pagina, gin and tonic in hand, began to egg me on. This is the phrase that lead to my undoing:

“Lemmonex, what if he goes to war? You should do it for our country”.

So, this is how I ended up smooching a barely legal boy wearing a sailor hat and a dickey. Don’t ever question my patriotism. Turns out, though, that Pagina hates our freedom. She sent me to sacrifice myself for the nation, while she idly stood by, sipping her drink. (Or conversely, while she sat back and behaved like a mature, responsible adult…but I like to blame others for my behavior.)

When I think of Pagina, I always think of those gin and tonics and that night. She had a birthday a couple weeks back, so I took this as my opportunity to give her a great gift and make a simple syrup I have been eying for a while. See…her birthday is about me.

Now, I know this is barely a recipe, but it is worth passing on. The cucumber syrup adds a bright freshness to the gin and tonics and is unlike anything I have ever had. The cucumber can be replaced with countless other fruits, vegetables or herbs. Lemongrass, watermelon, basil, and lavendar simple syrups are some I hope to make in the future.

Pagina enjoyed this…while burning our flag.

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Cucumber Simple Syrup

3 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped

Bring sugar and water to a boil. Let boil for about 2 minutes and turn off heat. Add cucumber chunks and let everything steep for at least an hour. Strain though a coffee filter and add to jar.

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