Sunday, March 13, 2011


Man - that was a real blow.

I just found out - purely by accident - that I did NOT cleverly coin the phrase "kiss and vinegar." Oh, no. Apparently, it was the name of a song in the movie Ratatouille. I'm embarassed, I'm annoyed. Why didn't I think to Google my moniker before cementing my fate and registering? Why?


What's done is done, I suppose, and I stand by my choice. In keeping with tonight's theme of unoriginality, however, I'm going to skip the recipe and photo, and just get to the good stuff: the stuff written by people smarter and more original than I.

I recently discovered Remedial Eating, a real stand-up food 'blog. Her most recent post echoes my previous sentiments about foodshed eating in a place which suffers tragically barren winters (a resident of Ohio, she shares my chilly Pittsburgh clime). She also links to a New York Times article that, much like the NPR editorial I referenced, includes some wonderful (I'm so sorry) food for though on the subject.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Victory Beer Dinner

Rich's menu for this Tuesday's beer dinner with Victory Brewing Company at Shiloh Grill:

Cheddar & Potato Pierogies
Caramelized Onions, Heirloom Bacon Bits
Headwaters Pale Ale

Victory Hop Devil IPA & Cheese Soup
Hop Devil IPA

Spinach Salad
Roasted Beets, Gorgonzola, Warm Vinaigrette
Scarlet Fire Rauchbier

Short Ribs
Braised Beef, Roasted Root Vegetables
Storm King Stout

Creme Brulee
Old Horizontal Barleywine

Sounds pretty delicious - quite a steal at $39. I'm definitely pumped to have some heirloom bacon in-house to munch on, and I can't wait to see what kind of cheese goes into the soup. We have just a few seats left - hurry hurry, call for your reservation! See yinz Wednesday.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


'mid pleasures and palaces
Though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble,

There's no place like home.

I got that from Pa Ingalls when I was a little girl, and man, I've always loved it. No matter how much I enjoy myself while I'm traveling, I'll never not count coming home as one of my favorite parts of the romp. The breweries and Michelin-rated dinners and this market were wonderful, and I plan to tell you all about them some rainy day soon. But right now, I am blistered and jetlagged and grateful for the creature comforts of home: warm baths, my own bed, my dogs, my kitchen.

I really missed those things, tiny as they all are (my bed, actually, is not tiny - but with a six and a half foot man in it, and two dogs as well, my portion of it is quite tiny, I assure you). The grandeur of vacation is delicious, but the humbles of home are sweet as well.

And speaking of humble, I think I promised you quinoa.

Have you met quinoa before? If you haven't, hop to it. Inexpensive and insanely nutritious, this Andean seed (not technically a grain, as it is not a grass) has gotten a lot of press-time recently for - well, for those two very reasons, I imagine. Quinoa is Trendy! But also humble: at about $2 per pound for sustainably raised, fair-trade, organic quinoa, it's hard to beat as a substitute for pricier and less-nutritive rice or couscous - especially once you realize how far a pound goes, as this stuff practically quadruples in volume during cooking.

I mention quinoa along with rice and couscous because it's often used in similar fashions - as a bed for a star protein or vegetable, or in a pilaf-type salad. It gets along swimmingly with some black beans, as Scott would happily report if his mouth weren't full. It's gluten-free, so it's often incorporated into baked goods and crackers and pastas once dried and ground. And it is also, like its rice and other cereal pals, equally tasty in sweet as savory preparations.

The recipe that I'm offering for your new friend, Quinoa, is one that incorporates this slightly more glamorous of plantae, the pomegranate. Did you read that NPR article like I told you? Good! What did you think? I enjoyed reading Peggy's piece because I realized how much my own lifestyle reflects her choices. When it comes to local and seasonal produce, I am passionate but not [usually] preachy. I am conscientious, but I am not a convert. Everyone breaks their own rules sometimes, and I think Peggy's slips are well-thought. Like her, I make the year-round admission of lemons into my kitchen, and I shame up a bit further with bananas (not many, but I make sure I always have some in the freezer for baking; if the lemons are her Achilles' heel, banana bread may be mine). Aside from those, though, I commit to local produce from my farmers' market throughout all of Pittsburgh's growing season. But unlike my lucky locavore friends who live in Florida, we in PA have a seven- to eight-month growing season, start to finish. The winters here are bleak, man; bleak.

It's a common misconception about locavorism that proponents of the movement believe in 100% local, 100% of the time. There are the die-hards, of course, but most of us attend a more lenient school. I fully support trade of foodstuffs, as long as it is done in a manner that recognizes the responsibilities to both the grower and the planet. I don't need the cherries that are shipped from Chile, because I'll get them from right here come June - but I don't know that I see anything wrong with smartly-grown avocados from California while they're in season. Sure, I eat local food in part because it just tastes better (those red things in supermarkets are, I am sorry, NOT tomatoes), but that seasonal CA avocado tastes a lot better than my seasonal PA... nothings. A girl's gotta eat.

Maybe you agree with Peggy and I, and maybe you don't. Before we get preachy, here (or disagreeably screechy, even), let's get back to that pomegranate.

Pomegranates are not native to Pennsylvania - not even close. But they are grown in California, and shipped around the country during the relatively short pom season (October-Februaryish?), and they are delicious. Not to be eaten whole, pomegranates are cracked open and the arils (those beady looking pockets of juice surrounding tiny, nutritious seeds) can be used in myriad ways. Opening a pomegranate and harvesting the arils can be tricky - if you're unfamiliar, or just still having trouble, you can find a million and one solutions online. Everyone seems to have thier own trick. My favorite is probably the most common - crack the pomegranate under water, in a big bowl; as you release the arils, they will sink to the bottom, while the tasteless and plasticky white membranes will float for easy disposal. When you're buying fresh pomegranates, you want one that feels heavy for its size.

Chamomile Quinoa with Pomegranate

This recipe is original, and combines the quinoa and pomegranate with little else. The nutty chew of the quinoa compliments the seeds of the pomegranate really well - your jaw will love this dish. Serve it for breakfast, warm, or keep some cold in the fridge for snacking any time.

Something about this dish seems a little lonely, in a lovely way, so this recipe serves just one. It'll make two or three helpings, easy, but don't misunderstand; it's just for you.

1 fair-trade Chamomile tea bag
1/2 cup of quinoa - there are several varieties available; my preference is red
1 and 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup local honey
1 cup fresh pomegranate arils
yogurt, for serving - PA residents, their maple yogurt is the best ever with this

This is a pretty easy one, as recipes go. Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Now, keep it there for 25-35 minutes until the liquid is mostly gone, the whole thing has gone wonderfully fragrant, and the germ has begun to separate from the seeds (you will see lots of little white curlicues in with the red quinoa). Remove the chamomile tea bag, cover, and turn off the heat. Allow the quinoa to stand for 5-10 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the mess can be fluffed with fork, like perfect rice. If the liquid HASN'T been completely absorbed, it's fine; it'll be delicious anyway.

Toss with the pomegranate arils, and eat with yogurt if you like. Enjoy the layers of texture: the burst of juice, the crunch of the pomegranate seed, the nutty chew of the quinoa. Oh, and a note about the amount of water: this is more than is typically used for quinoa preparation. While you'll see a number of different prep methods, the 1:2, seed:water ratio is quite common. I use more here so that the quinoa can cook just a bit longer - it swells with that honey-chamomile tea in a great way.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I'm off - if this damned weather allows, at any rate - to Barcelona and Brussels for a few weeks. Things have been hectic in preparation for the travel, so I don't have a recipe for you today. I plan to come home with plenty, however, so buff up on your Spanish and get ready to try some Belgian beers.

In the meantime, check out this awesome article by Peggy Bourjaily. I have a recipe to go along with it when I get back - how do you feel about quinoa?

Monday, January 17, 2011

something old & something new, and a bowl of rice to boot.

I have two treasures to share with you today. Three, if you count Penny. And four, if you count the recipe. But we'll focus on the two big'uns. Their names are Betty and Kate.

I rescued this ancient lady from a thrift store over the weekend. Published in 1954 and written (with Ms. Kiene's help) by Betty Furness, this sunny relic of kitchens past is "dedicated to you, a busy homemaker who gladly prepares three meals a day for your family, and who delights in doing it." Hoo boy.

As an unmarried, childless young professional (if you can call what I do "professional," xoxo), I don't believe Betty was speaking to me - but her book does. I hoarde vintage cookbooks, despite their love of overcooking, under- and over-seasoning, vegetable shortening, and MSG. There are real gems in those pages, amid the recipes for "Vegetable Scrapple" (calling for one onion, one carrot, corn mush, peanut butter, and two teaspoons of salt) and this interesting take on gnocchi:

1/2 cup quick-cooking rice cereal
3 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine
1 egg, beaten

Cook cereal in salted water for 5 minutes; add egg and margarine. Pour into greased pan and allow to chill thoroughly. Cut into squares, cover with cheese sauce (optional), and broil for 5 minutes or until browned.


I poke fun, but in honesty, I do treasure these old recipes - not least of all for their insight into the evolution of the home cook. To all of the critics of the American food culture, I say, go get you one of these heirloom books and read up; we've come a long way, baby. We have a long way to go, but thanks are due to gals like Betty for inspiring us to continue down the road.

And hey, speaking of inspiration - have you given Yinzpiration a read yet? You've gotta go meet my friend Kate. You'll love her, as well as all of the new friends she's making over there.

This is Kate (with our friend Penny - special thanks to Daffodil Vintage for the photo!). We've known each other for a few years, but only peripherally. Scott and I recently had Kate and her husband over for a night of Asian food and Californian wine, and let me tell you - she's a hoot. She also makes a wonderful dinner guest, and if she at all minded that one of my dogs was being a rude little ass, she graciously pretended not to mind.

Kate's 'blog is the written account of her adventures in meeting and sharing a cup of coffee with 100 different Pittsburgh locals, at the rate of about one a week. They're all just regular ol' Pittsburghlars, but each of them is uniquely intriguing. I recommend that you have a bowl of the rice below and enjoy it while catching up on Kate's interviews; there are ten, at the time of this posting. You might meet someone fun over there - hell, you might even see a familiar face, and learn something fresh about them. Kudos today to Kate and Betty, for reminding me to see the new in the old.

Bacon & Egg Fried Rice

After that (I'm so sorry, Betty) truly terrifying rice-based gnocchi recipe I just shared with you, rice-redemption seems in order. This is an original recipe of mine, for one of the dishes that I made for Kate and Nik when they came to dinner last week. This makes a lot, which is great; the leftovers are fantastic.

5 cups uncooked jasmine rice
6 slices thick-cut peppered bacon (about 1/2 pound, unsliced), chopped
2 tablespoons freshly minced ginger (now being locally grown by Pittsburgh farmers - amazing!)
2 large eggs (local! local! local!)
1 large bunch scallions (what is that, like a 1/4 pound? I'm a hack), sliced (green parts only)
1 tablespoon sriracha hot pepper sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ponzu sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon key lime juice

Prepare the rice according to directions, or your most tried-and-trusted method. I use a rice cooker, because it does a better job than I do. For this particular preparation, it is important to rinse the rice before cooking to get rid of excess starch - this keeps the rice from sticking too much later, and makes tossing and stir-frying much easier. Set cooked rice aside and keep warm.

Drizzle a small bit of oil or butter into a omelet pan set over medium heat. Add beaten eggs and scramble gently, taking care not to overcook. Remove from pan once cooked through, and set aside.

In a large wok (and I mean large - this makes a lot of rice; I use a big pot most of the time, actually), begin to fry the chopped raw bacon over medium heat. Stir occasionally, rendering as much fat as possible from the bacon without burning it. Once bacon bits are crisped and a good amount of fat has cooked out (8-10 minutes), lower the heat and add the minced ginger. Saute until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add sriracha, soy, and ponzu sauces, as well as lime juice and sesame oil, and stir to combine. Raise heat to high, and add rice. Stir-fry quickly, taking care not to burn your rice and not to make a gigantic mess of your stovetop. Once the rice has been thoroughly combined with the oil, remove from heat.

Toss in scrambled egg and scallions, ensuring that every delicious bite has some bacon, egg, and onion.

Enjoy with chopsticks, if you've got the skill.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

meet for a drink.

It's nice to see you again.

I know - I know. I've been a bad friend, and a worse 'blogger.

I'm hoping to remedy that. It's a new year. Let's catch up.

Let's have a drink.

I can imagine what you might be thinking. This girl gives us two posts - a recipe she ripped off, and a recipe for iced tea - then disappears for ten months, then has the gall to come back and give us another beverage recipe? Hack. Hack hack hack. And a lazy one.

And you'd be right, a little bit. But it's like I said - it's a new year. I'm looking forward to diving into this with a little more dedication, and a lot more gusto, than before. I should warn you, though, that while there will be a lot more food around these parts, there will always be beverages to wash it down with. Most will, hopefully, be boozy enough to make you forget that you once thought I was a hack. Cheers.

So, 2010. How was yours? Mine was pretty righteous. There were dinners at Fette Sau, Lupa, a handful of Garces' restaurants, Salt, and Lolita. There were tons of new cookbooks (I have over 100, now), and an over-productive tomato garden that even my veggie-thieving dogs couldn't keep up with. There's even a new restaurant in my professional life. Christmas brought a new meat cleaver, which I can't wait to use, and a huge pressure canner that you and I are going to have a ton of dangerous fun with once the farmers' markets open.

Some things have changed, as "things" are wont to do. I've added this six-pound sucker to the top of my list off favorite cookbooks; if the two of you haven't met yet, I'll be introducing you soon. And while I'm still doing my best to feed dogs and a boy and friends and ideas as the banner above suggests, I no longer look like the redhead that I am. I'm still drinking a gallon of sugared tea every day, however, because while some things change, some simply never do.

Speaking of drinking - we were supposed to be doing that together, now, weren't we?

I don't have much introduction for this bevvie, so let's get to it. This plea for redemption has been drawn out long enough.

Mea Culpa Matador

1.5 ounces spiced silver tequila (I like Cazadores Blanco)
3 ounces burnt pineapple puree (see below)
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Shake all ingredients well with plenty of ice; strain over fresh ice, or into a chilled cocktail glass. Add fresh lime juice to taste.

A matador is a classic tequila cocktail with only three ingredients: silver (or "blanco") tequila, pineapple juice, and lime juice. A twist on the more popular margarita, it utilizes pineapple in place of orange liqueur, and unlike its more popular cousin, it is rarely served with a salted cocktail rim. Matadors are only OK; even when prepared with quality ingredients, they rarely amount to more than the sum of their parts. A tweaking is in order.

That silver tequila gets its gorgeous jewel-like color by sharing a soak with some ancho chilies. Anchos, dried poblano peppers, have a delicate heat and a fruity, almost wine-like flavor. Two anchos were used to infuse this particular bottle of tequila - one was seeded and stemmed, while the other was not. After two or three days, the tequila was a deep garnet and had a heady bite with pleasant fire. For a milder cocktail, seed both anchos before stuffing them in the bottle; conversely, for a feistier one, leave both peppers whole (or use an angrier pepper altogether).

For the pineapple puree, you will need one fresh pineapple, completely trimmed and cored (I cored mine after treating it; I should have done it first, though it doesn't much matter), one cup of brown sugar, and one liter of quality pineapple juice (no corn syrup, please).

Slice your pineapple crosswise into quarter-inch thick rounds, and sprinkle each side liberally with the dark brown sugar. Allow the sugared fruit to sit in a covered container for at least three hours, or overnight, until the sugar has completely dissolved and alchemized into a thick syrup.

Arrange the pineapple slices in a single layer on a large sheet pan, and pour any leftover syrup over the fruit. Broil until heavily caramelized but not completely charred, 3-6 minutes. Flip the slices over and repeat the broiling process (use tongs; the pineapple will be hot).

Return the fruit to their original container. Use some of the purchased pineapple juice to deglaze the sheet pan, taking care to scrape up all of the sticky, browned bits. Add this juice, as well as the rest of the liter, to the bowl with the caramelized pineapple. Cover and chill in the refrigerator over night. Once completely cooled, puree in a blender until smooth; strain to remove any fibrous bits, if you choose.

While the peppered tequila has an indefinite shelf life, the fruit mixture is a little more volatile. If you can't use it all up within a week or so, try using it in another application - cooked down and reduced with some Chinese five-spice powder, for example, it makes a great sauce for pork or chicken. And a quick note about the bitters: while I recommend Peychaud's, because I think the floral flavors go really well with tequila, Angostura would be completely fine. If you happen to have any Fee Bros. Rhubarb bitters, use them; I think they'd work really well in this application.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photograph of the finished cocktail. Because I drank it.

Your turn.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

a cop of tea.

When I set out to craft this 'blog of mine, I promised myself two things: firstly, that every post would include at least one relevant and original photo; and secondly, that every post would include a recipe. Easy enough, or easier said than done? Remains to be seen, though I am fortunately one for one, thus far.

I have a great recipe to share - one that's simple but seasonal, and one that carries with it, not one, but two spectacular men.

This, however, is just not its night.

I picked that charming little acorn up at the market tonight, once the sun had left my mostly-windowed kitchen in starry-skyed, snowy-lawned shadow. The taking of a proper photo demands that I delay her cooking until tomorrow afternoon, and I am not one to deny a pretty squash her due.

Plus, I am feeling lazy.

Still, I'm going to do my best. I've already included a picture - which, despite its crappy iPhone-ness, is quite original. And before I get to the narcissistic meat of this post, I AM going to share a recipe with you. It just likely isn't what you were expecting. It's a recipe for iced tea.

Someone sent me the following meme, thinking it was something I might enjoy. It has been a long time since I've done one of these (although I will admit, despite an unfamiliarity with the term "meme" until recently, my friends and I filled out embarrassing numbers of chainmail surveys back when we were fourteen), and I thought it might be a fun way to sneak in a total cop of a post. Yes? No? Eh. So here I am, snowed into my cozy little apartment, alone (save for the dogs; you're never alone when you have dogs), sipping an iced tea and preparing to share some answers with you. Go ahead and make yourself a glass before we get started; I'll wait for you.

Burnt-Sugar Iced Tea

As recipes go, this isn't a terribly traditional one. It has just three ingredients, and two of them are marginally variable. The sugar may be added to taste - I use about 3/4 of a cup per gallon of tea, but you should feel free to use more or less as your palate typically dictates. Because the sugars are melted into a caramel and heated to the brink of burnt, though, be advised that you'll likely want to use more sugar than you ordinarily would for a batch of tea; the caramelization adds a roundness and delicate bitterness to this tea that mutes its sweetness. And as for the tea - listen, I am very much in the herbal tea camp. I drink several steamy cups of chamomile, ginger, clover, nettle, spearmint, lemon, or Rooibos tea a week. However, for my iced teas, I am solidly a black tea girl. You use what you like, of course. I won't vouch for the way any herbal flavors meld with the caramel, though, so proceed with caution.

Steep five black tea bags in two cups of water that has just been brought to a boil and removed from the heat for about six minutes. Stir occasionally, being careful all the while not to break the bags. Remove the bags, drain and discard (these are great in compost, by the way). In a deep saucepan (I like to use the base of my double-boiler), heat 3/4 of a cup of white sugar over a high burner, stirring constantly, until the sugar begins to melt. Once the melted sugar has begun to take on the slightest hint of golden color, remove from the heat. Continue stirring until all of the lumps of sugar have melted and the liquid is completely smooth and translucent. Return the sugar to the heat and stir until the caramel darkens to a deep, bronzed chestnut color. Remove from the heat immediately (honestly - sugar can turn from caramel to burnt-like-tar in a split second) and pour in the steeped tea concentrate (exercise a lot of caution here, as it will be very volcanic and spattery, especially if you've used too shallow of a saucepan, and liquid sugar is exceptionally hot). Stir this mixture until all of the caramel has dissolved into the tea concentrate, and then add enough cold water to make one gallon. Enjoy cold, even in February.

A Foodie Meme
Forwarded to me by a dear friend; origin unknown.

What is your go-to ingredient?
Lately, it is definitely oats. Organic oats are a fantastic way to add fiber and protein to just about any dish, and they work equally well in savory as sweet dishes. I put oats into nearly every cookie, cake, bread, pie and cobbler recipe I come across; I always keep large batches of homemade granolas on hand in our kitchen; I regularly employ our slowcooker to make obscenely good overnight oatmeals for breakfast. I've even started using steel cut oats in place of things like polenta, mashed potatoes, and risotto as the starchy base of a meal. Steel cut oats cooked with some wild mushrooms and good Parmesan? Yeah, man. Yeah.

What nationality of food do you like the best?
Growing up, it was Chinese; for the past ten years, Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese have all been vying for first place; lately, I think Indian may be taking over. Too bad for my answer that "Asian" isn't a nationality.

What’s your favorite meal of the day to prepare?
Dinner, as it maxes out the time I have to gather and prepare. But I get to share lunches with Scott much more often than dinners, and while I love cooking for one, I'll always prefer having someone to share with.

What is/are your signature dish? (What dish are you ‘known’ for?)
I don't know that I have a "signature" - see my previous post. Part of me hopes that I never do.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Potatoes, in nearly any incarnation. Dark chocolate brownies with walnuts in them, accompanied by a glass of whole milk. Just about any kind of soup. I love soup so much.

What cooking shows do you watch?
I get really into "Chopped." I take notes when I watch it. Srsly.

Your top three favorite cookbooks are:

"A Homemade Life," "Ratio," and the "Good Cook" series.

Your must-have kitchen accessory is:
A sharp set of quality knives. That is the only acceptable answer to this question.

Do you ever eat fast food? If so, what?
If chain Cal-Mex burrito joints count as fast food, I never stood a chance.

Most memorable meal you’ve had while on vacation:
The steak dinner Scott and I shared in Buenos Aires that involved sixteen side dishes, the best steak I have ever tasted, and a Caesar dressing that forever ruined all others in my mind and mouth.

What restaurant do you want to eat at that you haven’t yet?
Village Whiskey, Dish, Babbo, DiFara, LMNOPea, Ad Hoc, Beast.

What’s your favorite dessert?
Anything with a custard-y texture. Panna cotta, puddings, budinos, pots du creme. And I love savory elements that have been incorporated into desserts - bacon chocolate chip cookies, for example, or black pepper ice cream.

What scent in the kitchen do you love?
This generally isn't located in the kitchen, but I love the smell of grilled meat in the summertime. If they bottled that, I'd wear it like cologne.

What ingredient(s) do you avoid/dislike?
There's not much. I tend to shy from some types of offal, though I'm slowly branching out. And I am relatively certain that I will never, so long as I live, try a raw oyster.

What’s your secret splurge at the grocery store?
Organic whole milk, imported butter, aged Gouda, charcuterie. And I will buy fresh figs whenever I see them, almost regardless of cost.

What’s the most decadent dish you’ve ever had?
Truffled cream of morel soup. And (I'm so sorry that this even exists) chicken-fried bacon.

What’s your favorite midnight snack?
At the restaurant, it's always some type of fresh fish with some type of grilled or sauteed fresh green vegetable (when you're regularly awake until 4:30 in the morning, the ubersnack/minimeal becomes a close friend).

At home, it's just iced tea.