WEEKLY SUNDRIES

22nd March 2015

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top row: the newest location of Tatte in Beacon Hill, a few arrangements in my kitchen, a helpful hand model on my newest photo shoot for Pantry Stores; bottom row: a scene from Pi Day, another snowy piece of history, the pinnacle of my baking, the “Come and Take It” Skillet Cookie Cake.

sundries, n.

Pronunciation: /ˈsʌndrɪz/
Etymology: plural of sundry adj. used subst.: compare odds n.
Definition: Small articles of a miscellaneous kind; esp. small items lumped together in an account as not needing individual mention.

Though its definition can be a little misleading, I really enjoy the term sundries. It fits well within the Southern vernacular and seems to be a word that is slowly coming back into style. It has an assortment of applications and more or less means a collection of bits and pieces. Which is exactly what this post entails. Bits and pieces from around the world, web, and my frame of reference that I thought might be good to share. I’ve always been fond of little collections – stamps, vintage books, bottle caps, ticket stubs – this is just another one of many (albeit a much less cluttered curation). This week’s sundries are all fairly recent pieces of news, but sometimes an old standby might slip through. The term weekly is also subject to change because weekly is sometimes just too aspirational.


This week on Morning Edition, NPR discussed the fact that most Brits don’t brew their tea for the proper amount of time. Goodness knows, what would happen if they looked at how Americans brew their cups. In other tea-related news, NPR has also started a “weekly” series called Tea Tuesdays in which they look at all things tea. The latest post was on tea’s close cousin, yerba mate, and how it fares against the traditional brew.

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I recently learned of this nifty kickstarter for a deck of artistic paper-cut playing cards (see picture above) called Delicious. Artist Emmanuel Jose has created several other decks – with themes like Curator, Clipped Wings, and Sawdust – but his newest one is entirely food themed and just the kind of deck you’d serve at a dinner party. Be sure to follow the link to his kickstarter and help out if you can!

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Easter is almost here and while I’m perfectly fine with good ol’ vinegar dye eggs, these lovely, lovely DIY Watercolor Easter Eggs from Inkstruck Studio might just make me pick up a paintbrush. Makes me wish I wasn’t the only adult who still likes Easter Egg hunts and getting sweets-filled baskets from their grandma. I’m not, am I?

This next week we’re heading to visit University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and while we’re there I’ll be attending the State of The Plate Food Conference put on in part by my potential future PhD department. So many wonderful Southern voices will be in attendance and I’m especially looking forward to a presentation entilted “From Colewort to the New Kale: Collards and Global Connections in the South.” I’ll be live-tweeting and instagramming the trip and the conference so stay tuned for details. If you happen to have any suggestions about places to eat, things to see, or fun activities in the Research Triangle, do let me know!

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There’s still no grass and no sight of naturally grown flowers for miles, so, of course, I’ve become smitten with this Lavender and Vanilla Bean Cake bespoke with fresh spring time flowers from ForktoBelly. And when I first came across this post, I thought “what a lovely cake stand, so unique.” and that’s when I realized that it’s just a short Mason jar turned upside down and topped with a plate. Extra points for creativity, ForktoBelly, all the extra points.

Happy Sunday, y’all.

HORCHATA ICED COFFEE

19th March 2015

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Nearly a year ago, I attended a Texas-style breakfast pop-up put on by my friend and local Boston chef, Josh Lewin. As a Tex-pats, I’ll jump at any chance to taste the food of my homeland, especially when it’s partnered with old Western movies and bottomless iced coffee and homemade horchata. When we arrived at the event, we were greeted with a table of pitchers and all the regularly coffee fixins. The milk and cream were gone, so I tipped a bit of creamy horchata into my cup of iced coffee. And then my life changed.

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I’m still not sure if Chef Josh intended for us to spike our iced coffees with the homemade horchata – which he spent hours preparing from scratch – but I think he deserves a lot of the credit for this recipe. Whatever his intentions, more people should know about mixing these two warm weather beverages. So I thought I’d create this little PSA recipe for those who haven’t learned about this life-changing combination.

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The real trick to this recipe is to make the horchata from scratch. It’s really quite simple, it just requires a bit of time and planning. And by making your own, you can add as much or as little sugar as you like. Do yourself a favor and buy blanched almonds (you don’t need too many anyways). You can save yourself even more time by using these nifty Grady’s Cold Brew Iced Coffee Bean Bags that I found over in the well-stocked Birchbox Home and Food section. I know I usually suggest you do things from scratch, but you’re already making the horchata and these cold-brew bags are foolproof and make a better cup of coffee than I (and maybe you) ever could. Plus, these bags come pre-spiced with a bit of chicory to make a bolder brew. Make the whole lot late one evening and sip the results of your hard work all week long.

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DIY Horchata
makes about 2 cups concentrated horchata

1 cup blanched almonds
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water

1. To the bowl of your food processor, combine the almonds, cinnamon stick, and sugar and grind until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Pour this mixture into a large Mason jar and top with 2 cups water. Shake to combine and let sit in the refrigerator overnight – or about 8 hours.

2. Remove the jar from the fridge and pour the contents back into the food processor or into a blender, pulsing until smooth (unless you have a Vitamix, the cinnamon while remain in small pieces). Using a fine sieve or a few layers of cheese cloth, strain the horchata into a clean jar. Discard the remaining almond-cinnamon pieces. Store the horchata in the refrigerator until ready to use.

NOTE:
– This horchata is more of a concentrate to use in the coffee, but a bit more water – up to two cups – makes it a stand-alone beverage.
– I don’t like my coffee or my horchata too terribly sweet, but please add more sugar to the beginning of the horchata recipe as you see fit.
– Some separation of the horchata is normal, just shake to combine.
– The horchata should keep for about a week, if it lasts that long.

Horchata Iced Coffee
makes one drink

ice
homemade horchata
cold-brew coffee
extra cinnamon for garnish (optional)

Fill a glass with ice. Add preferred proportions of horchata and cold-brew coffee. Top with additional cinnamon. Pretend like it’s warm outside.

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And there’s your new warm-weather breakfast brew, y’all.

HOMEMADE PEPPER JACK GOLDFISH

14th March 2015

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A few weeks ago, Molly Yeh blogged about her homemade everything bagel cheez-its, which are, of course, life changing and completely representative of Molly and her cooking style. Her recipe made me realize that there isn’t a version of my favorite cheese cracker – Goldfish – in my favorite type of cheese – pepper jack. There’s pizza blasted, double cheddar, goodness they even make vanilla frosted cupcake, but no such luck with pepper jack. I then realized that, much like Molly, I just needed to take my snacking options into my own hands and make some pepper jack Goldfish myself. So I did.

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A tiny, iconic goldfish shaped cookie cutter is hard to come by, so I broke an old metal heart-shaped one I had lying around and bent it into shape with a pair of plyers. A little duct tape later and I was ready to bake. The possibilities are now endless, or at least as endless as the offerings of the Cabot Creamery cheese product lineup.

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My favorite part about these homemade goldfish is not even the wonderful spicy kick, but the odd shape the little smiles turn into after baking. Since the crackers aren’t factory-made, each little fish takes on a personality of its own. Some crackers look a little smug, some quite happy, and others look a bit terrified. They all taste the same though, so if the smiles give you pause just don’t look at them too closely.

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Homemade Pepper Jack Goldfish
makes about 200 crackers, depending upon the size of your cookie cutter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into pieces
8 oz Pepper Jack cheese, cubed then shredded
extra crushed red pepper (optional)
4-6 tablespoons cold water

1. To a large bowl, add the flour, salt, crushed red pepper, and baking soda and stir to combine.

2. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter and the shredded Cheddar into the flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal. The mixture should be as uniform in size as possible. Add one tablespoon of water at a time, until the dough just comes together. Gather the dough, kneading a few times, and form into a small flat disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3. Set oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly flour a flat surface and a rolling pin.

4. Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thick or thinner and cut out crackers with a small goldfish shaped cookie cutter (or other cookie cutter under 1-inch in size). Spread the unbaked crackers evenly between the two baking sheets (they don’t spread much so you can fit plenty on a single sheet) and bake for about 10 minutes or until crisp and slightly golden. Let the sheets cool on the counter. Store crackers in paper bag or other container that isn’t airtight to avoid trapping moisture.

Note: You can make little golfish faces with a toothpick right before baking. This step is optional, but adorable, so…

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Pave your own snack path, y’all.

DIY ROCK CANDY: MATCHA & COFFEE

7th March 2015

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Cabin fever. It’s a real thing, y’all. No one believes me up here in the North when I tell them about the summertime heat advisories that sometimes sequester us to our homes – and our air conditioners. And though the heat makes doing most activities unbearable – why make more sweat – the cold is somehow more difficult to deal with. Not only are you stuck inside, you are relegated to the piles of blankets – in my case, two are electrically heated – to keep you warm. Unless of course you are an oil baron (different kind of oil baron that we have back in Texas) and have the luxury of radiators that don’t cost you a frost-bitten arm and leg by the end of the winter season. But boredom, and bed couch sores, will eventually force you to get up and move about your little ice castle of a home. I like to head directly to another heat source: the kitchen.

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New England newspapers and blogs are teeming with ideas to keep snowbound children occupied during these wintry days, but what about the rest of us? I like a good arts-and-crafts activity as much as all the toddlers I know, so I decided to make an adult-friendly DIY that involves a little kitchen science: DIY Rock Candy. The perk of having science people for parents is that I got to do all sorts of fun home science experiments growing up – like learning the chemistry behind homemade ice cream, but it’s much too cold for that now. This DIY Rock Candy is also kid-friendly, but when you don’t have to worry about little palates, you can make your candy any flavor you’d like. Maybe something like Matcha green tea or freshly brewed dark roast coffee.

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The best part of this experiment is that it doesn’t end right away and keeps you mildly entertained for at least a week. Each day you get to check on your rock candy and watch the little rock crystals form as the sugar solution evaporates. What fun!

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I found that Matcha powder makes for a lovely pale green candy and provides a subtle green tea flavor. If you don’t have this variety of green tea, you could substitute a strong loose leaf green tea – like gunpowder – and steep it in the boiling water (be sure to remove the tea leaves before adding the sugar).

DIY Matcha & Coffee Rock Candy

TO MAKE MATCHA FLAVORED ROCK CANDY:

1 cup of water
2-3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon Matcha green tea
mason jars or other tallish glasses (like a pint glass)
wooden sticks or skewers
tin foil

1. In a small sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the sugar 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring to dissolve. Continue to add sugar until you have a thoroughly saturated solution and no more sugar will dissolve. You can tell when then sugar still remains gritty at the bottom of the pan.

2. Add the Matcha and whisk to combine.

3. Divide the sugar solution between the jars. Loosely cover each jar with a small piece of tin foil to keep cats and dust away. Gently push one or two skewers through the foil – careful not to let the skewers touch each other – and into the sugar solution. Set on an shelf or counter for 7 to 10 days. Check after the first couple of days to make sure the skewers haven’t drifted together and to watch the baby sugar crystals start to form.

4. When your patience is worn, carefully remove the skewers and turn them crystals up in another glass to drain (I set mine in the sink to catch the drips). Let dry overnight.

They are now ready to eat, but remember how long it took to make your pretty rock candy and savor each and every little crystal – or just stuff your face, I’m not your mom.

TO MAKE COFFEE FLAVORED ROCK CANDY:

1 cup of coffee
2-3 cups sugar
pinch of cinnamon

Same process as above, simply swap the water for coffee and boil on the stove as usual. The Matcha is replaced with a pinch of cinnamon (which can be an optional addition).

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Science is pretty awesome, y’all.

COME AND TAKE IT SKILLET COOKIE CAKE

2nd March 2015

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While chocolate chip cookies are not inherently associated with Texas – historically, they are linked to New England – but giant chocolate chip cookies are definitely fair game for the Lone Star State. Last week, the lovely lady behind The Vanilla Bean Blog posted a simple DIY for a giant chocolate chip cookie cake over on Handmade Charlotte and that’s when it hit me. There needs to be a “A Come and Take It” Cookie Cake. And to give a bit more of a Texas feel – it is Texas Independence Day, after all – I baked it in a cast iron skillet.

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Start with your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough – the recipe for mine is below – add anything that vaguely reminds you of Texas and fits well in a cookie – all I had on hand was pecans – and bake in a skillet. Instant historical foodways. Pipe on some equally historically accurate buttercream frosting a la mall-staple Great American Cookie and wish your fellow Texans well.

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While the vanilla frosted “Come and Take It” might seem mild-mannered at first, it will undoubtedly fend off any non-Texans who are unfamiliar with the phrase and save more skillet cookie for you and yours. Who knew that phrase would ever come in handy again?

“Come and Take It” Skillet Cookie Cake
makes 1 10-inch cookie cake

butter for the pan
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

chocolate and vanilla buttercream frosting

1. Set the oven to 350 degrees and butter the bottom and sides of a cast iron skillet.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar (be sure not to overmix). Add the egg and vanilla, mixing another minute more to incorporate. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the chocolate chips and pecan pieces and mix until combined.

4. Pour the cookie dough into the skillet and press into an even layer in the bottom of the pan reaching from edge to edge. Place into the middle of the oven and bake for 18 to 25 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Be sure not to overbake as the cookie will continue to cook due to the residual heat of the cast iron. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

5. Once the cookie is completely cooled, decorate with the chocolate and vanilla buttercream frostings in the Texas-themed design of your choosing. Obviously, I chose the battle flag of Gonzalez that read “Come and Take It” referring, of course, to the small cannon the Mexican forces were trying to seize from the town. History, and victory, never tasted so sweet. Serve with Blue Bell and Shiner, obviously.

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