Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Buttermilk and Bacon Grease Cornbread

Ya know, I've spent the entire twenty-five years of my life in Louisiana, but this dish—more than anything—hammered home that I'm a Southern girl.

There's a lot to love about the South. I eschew the camo and pick-up trucks. But the God, the food.

We're having a potluck at work tomorrow, and I opted to do another Test Kitchen: Creole crawfish and tasso chowder from New Orleans' The Bombay Club. For my addition/enhancement, I went with this cornbread, sourced from Local Milk, the most gorgeous blog I've seen in a while. I don't have natural light in my kitchen—nor do I have that blogger's photography skills. But I'll be damned if I didn't turn out a delicious product. So I'm sure you will too.

So render your bacon, whisk your dry ingredients, pre-heat your cast-iron...and brace yourself. Delicious bread is coming.

Cornmeal mixed with bacon grease—so golden.

Buttermilk Bacon Grease Cornbread (adapted from Local Milk)
Yield: 1 10-inch skillet of cornbread

1 1/4 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons bacon grease (I rendered this from two slices fried, which also greased the skillet for the cornbread)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda, made into a slurry with a bit of water

1. Pre-heat oven to 425. Once bacon is fried, place skillet into oven while it is heating.
2. Whisk together cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Use hands to mix in bacon grease until mixture has achieved a sandy texture.
4. Stir in eggs and buttermilk well. Add in baking soda slurry and combine completely.
5. Pour mixture evenly into heated cast-iron and bake for twenty minutes, until top is golden-brown.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How To: Matchstick Vegetables

This method may be old-hat for some, but for the type of people googling "How To: Matchstick Vegetables" (or some reasonable facsimile, it should hold some appeal.

Sometimes during all the joie-de-vivre, devil-may-care, "I'll tell you what a pinch is" type of cooking many are prone to, technique falls by the wayside. Here's a small step toward recovery.

STEP ONE: Peel vegetables and cut into two- to three-inch segments. Slice off edges until segment is reasonably square.

STEP TWO: Slice each segment into a square about one-quarter inch thick for large matchsticks; one-eighth inch for thin matchsticks.

STEP THREE: Slice into matchsticks! For an increased level of difficulty (but faster pace), you can stack the squares as you slice.

Where do you go from here? I pickled mine (along with carrot), and ate it as a side to my dinner! (Also delicious on bánh mì.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Chayote Curry

Here in Louisiana we call this gourd the mirliton. In its native Mexico, it's the chayote. They call it "chow chow" in South India. I suppose I'll call it the chayote and get on with this.

I picked up the chayote at the produce stand this evening and came home to make this lovely, light curry. Authentic? Possibly not. But it served my purposes of being light and receptive to flavor (of which I tossed plenty into the pot.)

Definitely planning to explore more with this many-monikered fruit. For now, we have this take on a curry.

Chayote ("Chow Chow") Curry
Yield: 2 servings

1 chayote, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
2 candlenuts (Indian walnuts)
2 cardamom pods, cracked
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Cooked rice (for serving)

Note: The chili in the picture is just used as a color prop, but if you'd like a little more heat, feel free to add some!


1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium high. Add mustard seeds and cook until they begin to crackle.
2. Add candlenuts and cardamom pods and cook for another three minutes. Stir in onions and cook, stirring frequently, until golden-brown.
3. Now add remaining spices and chopped chayote. Cook covered, stirring every few minutes and adding water to keep the chayote from burning.
4. Once chayote is golden and softened, remove from heat, extract candlenuts and cardamom pods, and serve over rice.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sweet Potato & Lentil Burgers with a Roasted Garlic Avocado Spread

 Always great when a shoddy weather forecast works in your favor. Purportedly, the area was going to suffer a storm of biblical proportions this weekend, but the ground has barely gotten damp....maybe it's just tardy.

But with the sun out and the weather about-to-rain breezy, I've enjoyed three lengthy bike rides and now these delicious vegan burgers—which are sooo cheap, as well as delicious!

Turmeric adds a fleck of gold to the bold orange sweet potato, so you've got yourself a pretty patty. I threw together the roasted garlic avocado spread on a whim; I was initially going to just top the burgers with sliced avocado, but it was a simple upgrade.

Sweet Potato & Lentil Burgers 
with a Roasted Garlic Avocado Spread
Serves 4.

For the burgers:
1 sweet potato
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup lentils
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons milled flaxseed cereal
2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for cooking
1 pinch dried oregano
2 teaspoons turmeric

For the spread:1 avocado
1 head garlic
Olive oil (for roasting)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 400. Prick sweet potato several times with the tines of a fork, then rub lightly with olive oil. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. Take the head of garlic, peel off the outer layers, and trim the top. Wrap in a small sheet of foil, then drizzle olive oil inside. Place on baking sheet with sweet potato. Bake for 35 minutes, removing garlic after 25.
2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in lentils, then lower heat, cover, and cook for 30—35 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
3. While the lentils, sweet potato, and garlic are cooking, quarter and peel the avocado. Using a potato masher, smash the avocado in a small bowl. When garlic is done roasting, squeeze roasted cloves into the bowl as well. Add lemon juice and stir together until fully combined. Cover and chill for thirty minutes.
4. Drain cooked lentils. Remove sweet potato from oven. Peel and smash. Place both in food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, including 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Combine on medium-high.
5. Form mixture into four small patties. Heat remaining coconut oil in a medium, non-stick skillet. Cook patties, 5—7 minutes on each side.
6. Top with avocado spread and serve.