November 2009


These luscious, bright biscuits, along with the aforementioned fried brussels sprouts, are my contributions to Karina‘s sure-to-be-lovely potluck Thanksgiving. They’re wonderful. But I hesitated to write about them here, because despite my southern roots, I’m a total biscuit novice. These biscuits are, in fact, the only ones I’ve ever made. (Devoted readers, have you noticed my tendency to add sweet potatoes to things that normally don’t include them? I’m a sucker for the sweets in savory concoctions.)

This was the least attractive one, so I had to eat it before Thanksgiving to put it out of its misery.

At this point, though, I’ve now tried the same recipe for sweet potato biscuits three times, so if nothing else, I’m qualified to discuss this particular recipe. (That is, to the extent I’m qualified to discuss anything food-related.) I finally achieved success, on the third try, thanks to two tricks. First, if you have one, use a food processor to cut the butter into the flour mixture AND to combine the sweet potato mash/buttermilk mix into the flour. If no food processor, do combine the wet and dry mixtures thoroughly. My first two efforts ended up lumpy and dense because I didn’t do this—I was so worried about overworking the dough that I didn’t combine it well enough. Second, I found this fabulous tip on the interwebs: when forming the dough into one cohesive lump, it helps greatly to dump the dough from the food processor onto a non-terrycloth kitchen towel or napkin. Then, gather the cloth up into a bundle to press and fold the dough into a ball and then into a disk. The crumbly bits get fully incorporated, the warmth of your hands doesn’t heat up the dough, and—bonus!!—the counter stays clean.
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These brussels sprouts are the reason I started this blog.

I love brussels sprouts so much, I stalk them.

Now, I’ve been a fan of brussels sprouts ever since, a few years ago, I first experienced how delicious, crisp, and almost sweet they are when roasted. I actually recall one phone call with my dad (hi, Dad!) where he was on the verge of boiling some sprouts—I ordered him to stop immediately, turn on the oven, toss the sprouts with olive oil, and roast them instead. The internet has been aflurry with recipes touting brussels sprouts as everyone’s favorite conversion vegetable: people whose only exposure had been nasty boiled brussels (apparently my dad is one of the only people who actually likes them that way) suddenly realizing that they can be tasty when roasted or sauteed. Especially when you cook them with bacon.

Fried brussels sprouts are to roasted brussels as roasted brussels are to boiled ones. Fried : roasted :: roasted : boiled. It’s like the difference between a baked potato and pommes frites. These are brussels sprouts, elevated. They are a delight.

Bubble, bubble, little brussels.

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When I got home tonight, I was TIRED. And LAZY. But I wanted DESSERT. Even regular old lower-case dessert would do.

Two whole minutes later, I had whipped up some chocolate-banana ice cream. Well, it’s not really ice cream, but it’s a very tasty, dead simple, and stupidly healthy sweet frozen dessert. It’s not DESSERT, by any means, but I’ll take it.

Frozen fruit successfully masquerading as dessert.

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For someone who’s not actually a vegetarian, I spend an awful lot of time cooking and eating like one. I just really love vegetables. If I’m at a restaurant where my dish has a choice of protein, chances are good I’ll be ordering tofu. Because I like it, not because it’s my only option. This has caused confusion on many occasions.

As I’ve been facing my food phobias, it’s become clear to me that I’ve been avoiding cooking meat, of all kinds, for most of my cooking life. I always told myself, I guess, that it was cheaper, healthier, more environmentally friendly, and less morally ambiguous to cook vegetarian—but that was rationalization, not a rationale. While those are all good reasons to be vegetarian, I’m just not a vegetarian. If I eat meat, I should be able to cook meat. (I should probably also be willing to hunt it myself, but that’s another story.) It’s time to face the beef.

Meat.

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Last summer, the always-wonderful Smitten Kitchen—who is probably my very favoritest food blogger in the whole world—posted a fascinating survey of her readers’ food phobias. People admitted to fears of risotto, yeast, phyllo, fried chicken, gravy, fish, souffles, and on and on. Until seeing that post, I’d never before been able to articulate that the reason I didn’t cook certain things was because of phobias. But I’d shy away from recipes involving yeast, for example. And deep frying. And steak. To name just a few. It wasn’t that I was afraid of millions of yeasty beasties attacking me while I slept, just a perennial fear that if I tried a yeast bread recipe, it wouldn’t work. And then I guess I’d feel stupid.

Smitten’s list was a call to face my food demons. I now succeed at yeast doughs more often than I fail, and I can almost deep fry like a true Southerner. I’ve made some amazing steak and produced such a juicy roasted chicken that I forgot that I don’t usually like chicken all that much.

And yesterday, I finally tackled one of my last major food phobias: pie crust.

done

3.1415. Etc.

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plate

I love gnocchi. Loooove them. I want to gorge on their pillowy deliciousness until I fall into a deep starchy slumber, and then I will snuggle up like a cat in my bed of potato cushions, and when I wake up I will eat my pillow for breakfast and be thrilled to live in a world where there is such goodness.

gnocchi nora

Nora, helpfully demonstrating the manner in which I would like to curl up with some gnocchi.

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After my kale chip experiment, I still had an abundance of kale slowly wilting in my fridge. Looking for inspiration, I turned to my massive trove of links to recipes I want to try and came across one that seemed almost too simple and plain to note: “Steamed fish on kale.”  Not only is the recipe title lacking in pretty adjectives, but I generally have an aversion to food described merely as “steamed,” as “steamed” often means “entirely lacking in flavor.”  Nevertheless, I figured I’d bookmarked it for a reason, and I have been trying to eat more fish, so I took a look.

fishwithkale

The fish doesn't look angry, but man, is it steamed.

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