Revenge of the #Basics: Pumpkin Risotto

Confession: I don’t like pumpkin spice _______. I tried one of those latte things at Starbucks last autumn for the first time, and I thought it was kind of gross. I was excited for what I thought would be a pumpkin-flavored coffee, and instead it was cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a lot of sugar.

I love pumpkin, though. Like eggs or sandwiches, it’s unfairly categorized as a thing that is to be eaten and prepared just one way. Eggs are for breakfast. Sandwiches aren’t for dinner. Pumpkins are for sweets. Rubbish, I say.


Risotto isn’t nearly as hard to make as people seem to believe, which is great for you: when you make it, everyone acts very impressed.  Even though it isn’t very photogenic, it is kind of of sexy. Seasonal and filling, this pumpkin take I invented has been a big hit with everyone I made it for. My best friend is convinced this is how she sealed the deal with her new boyfriend, so strong is the allure of a savory pumpkin dish.

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You Should Know How to Do This: Chocolate Syrup

photo 3
I would take a bath in it, I would.

Syrup is a many-splendored thing. A two-to-one ratio of water to sugar can turn into virtually whatever sweet concoction you can imagine. When I was working in fine dining, we had ginger syrups and jalapeno syrups and hibiscus syrups and I don’t even remember what else for our highly fancy cocktails. A dash of simple makes making sweet tea much, much simpler, whatever weird syrups you care to concoct make your Sodastream a thing worth the counter space, and of course the omnipresent bottle of Hersey’s will trick small children (okay, and also me) into drinking their milk. I see pre-made syrups hanging out at the grocery store, and it makes me ultra-crazy because it takes under a minute to make and the sky’s the limit. I’m going to show you how to make chocolate syrup today, but I’ll make some notes after the jump for how to customize it. The method’s the same no matter what.

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Party Like It’s….1Tishrei 5774

Happy New Year to my Jewish friends and family! I hope you are drowning yourselves in honey cakes and apples and whatever else you usually like to have. I was reading the Huffington Post the other morning, and they had some suggestions for great recipes for your celebration, and um, one of them was a bacon thing. Love bacon as I do, I think I can perhaps provide a better guide. Seriously, aren’t they headquartered in New York? Couldn’t they just go outside and ask anyone?

It’s just me this year, so I didn’t want to make a ton of stuff I couldn’t eat alone, and I came up with this very, very traditional Rosh Hashanah panzanella. I’m not going to lie: this came out better than I had dreamed, and I had pretty high hopes. Everybody knows it ain’t trickin’ if you got it, okay?

The word I most closely associate with Jews is definitely Italy.
The word I most closely associate with Jews is definitely Italy.

A word to the wise: panzanella does. not. keep. Either plan to eat this the day you make it, or keep the component parts separate until you’re ready to nosh.

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The Great Cookie Caper: Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies

As some of you know, I’m embarking on a cookie adventure for the next couple months. A lot of you have sent me your favorite recipes (though I still want more!), and this one was one of the first that floated in. My friend Clara is still in middle school, but she is one of the most gifted bakers I know. People from Raleigh to Jackson rave about her cakes and pies, so I was really excited when she shared this with me. I’ll check and see if she’s available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and graduations, but we should probably ask her dad.

The caramel and chocolates are in hiding, but trust.
The caramel and chocolates are in hiding, but trust.

These cookies incorporate my favorite thing: salted caramel. I never, ever saw salted caramel anywhere before 5 or 10 years ago, and now they’re everywhere. I am in no way upset about this development. These cookies are only a little bit tricky, but you absolutely much chill them for the requisite amount of time or they’re not going to turn out. Consider yourself warned.

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ME WANT [recipes for] COOKIES

These are my favorite cookies ever, but getting the recipe would be on par with the Ocean's 11 heist.
These are my favorite cookies ever, but getting the recipe would be on par with the Ocean’s 11 heist.

So, I’m trying to do something cool for some nice friends of mine who have been deployed to Afghanistan for the next year. I want to send them cookies every week, but I don’t want to just send Toll House chocolate chippers every couple days. Would you be willing to share your favorite recipe with me? All the different ways to contact me are in the About column. I’m hoping to get about 50 and I’ll make a little booklet at the end!

Tortilla, But Not What You’re Thinking

When I lived in Spain, I spent a sort of stupid amount of time trying to explain to the people I lived with that I didn’t eat meat (what kinds of meat? All kinds. Not chicken? No. Not fishes? No. Not pork? No. Well, surely you eat ham. Ham is a vegetable.). This really put a crimp in several of my relationships.

As it turns out, the Andalusian diet is not particularly vegetarian-friendly, so about three weeks in I reverted to my omnivorous state to avoid starving to death. In that time, however, I got a pretty great tour of the six-to-eight meat-free dishes in the  cuisine, some of which remain my favorites. Today, I bring you tortilla española.

This is actually not an omelet.
This is actually not an omelet.

No, it’s not beautiful, but you know, neither was Eleanor Roosevelt and we’re still able to come up with dozens of nice things to say about her. The same holds true for tortilla. It’s good hot, cold, and room temperature, keeps for a couple days, costs less than 50 cents a serving, and makes a great sandwich. If that isn’t the Eleanor Roosevelt of weeknight dinners, I don’t know what is.

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Snacks on Snacks on Snacks: Jam Thumbprint Cookies

I don’t know what my deal is, but I’ve been really craving sweets this weekend. We’re having people over in a little bit to watch the season finale of Mad Men, so I have an excuse to make dozens and dozens of cookies that I wouldn’t otherwise have made. It’s way too summery for hamantaschen, but I think we could make some jam thumbprints, right?

I only ate 6 while writing this.
I only ate 6 while writing this.

Right. After the jump, check out my five-ingredient summer remix cookies.

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Snacks on Snacks on Snacks: Homemade Tortilla Chips

Let’s talk about tortilla chips. I can and will eat them all.  When the dude comes around at the Mexican restaurant with the fresh bowl of them, I have been known to lunge wildly toward him.

All these chips are belong to me.
All these chips are belong to me.

So toasty. So crispy. So good for shoveling tasty dips into my mouth. Want to make them yourself? Oh, you can. You can and you should.

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Introducing Miss Jennie Benedict (and other delicacies)

Hometown hero.

For the humans watching at home, the Derby is a marathon, not a sprint (not for the horses. For the horses, it’s over almost as soon as it starts). You need to have sustenance throughout the long day of standing around wearing a big hat and frittering away money on games of chance, so don’t be foolish: plan ahead and make some tasty treats for yourself. One of the snacks I’m sharing with you today is a Southern delicacy, and the other is a Louisville original. Pimento cheese and Benedictine are both great snack spreads that are good on crackers/white bread and are just two or three bites max. You’re going to be very, very busy, as I said, daydrinking and gambling, so you don’t want your hands to be occupied with something as silly as foodstuffs. Hands are for juleps. Continue reading “Introducing Miss Jennie Benedict (and other delicacies)”

Tea Party Tuesday: Delta Mint Sweet Tea

Confession: I’m not nuts about sweet tea. This sounds obvious, but it’s just so sweet. I can manage about two or three glasses of it per annum- any more and I feel like I’m just inviting Type II diabetes into my life.

With that caveat now given (and the weekly tea party announcement that I’m not a doctor), I love love love this tea recipe and this usually makes up about 80% of the sweet tea I consume. I adapted this recipe very liberally from Southern Sideboards, the excellent and tragically out-of-print Junior League of Jackson cookbook.

Sometimes, more is more.


Delta Mint Sweet Tea

7 tea bags (the cheap stuff is just fine)

Rind of 3 lemons

20 springs of mint

8 cups boiling water

Juice of 8 lemons

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

8 cups cold water


Put the tea bags, lemon rinds, and mint in a vessel that will hold at least a gallon of stuff. Pour the hot water on top and let steep for 10-15 minutes.  Use your time wisely and juice the lemons now.

I made a bad mistake and put this in a half-gallon vessel. Don't be like me.
I made a bad mistake and put this in a half-gallon vessel. Don’t be like me.

If you’re concerned about wasting the rinds of those extra 5 lemons, just save the peel and make candied lemon peels with them.

Pick out all those things and dump in the sugar and lemon juice in. Stir until the sugar dissolves totally, then add the cold water. This makes about a gallon.

Okay, unlike most weeks, this is not the part where I tell you what a good thing you’re doing for your body, drinking this tea. Consider this dessert, and believe me when I tell you I cut a huge amount of sugar out of the original recipe. That said, you’re going to drink the whole gallon yourself, so good it is, that it’s safest just to double this recipe from the outset.

Serve over ice, garnish with a lemon wedge and a mint sprig.
Serve over ice, garnish with a lemon wedge and a mint sprig.

This is a great, festive non-alcoholic addition to your Derby party, but it’s also excellent if you Irish it up with a little bit of bourbon.