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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hominy Grill Pimiento Cheese

I'd like to dedicate this post to my Jen/n Friends. Never met two more charming gals south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but it's their overwhelming mutual love of that Southern staple pimiento cheese that makes this shout-out a must-do.

Back in February this year, Southern Living did a feature titled "Pimiento Cheese: The Pâté of the South." Never been a big fan myself, but the article included five recipes for pimiento cheese from five Southern restaurants and for the first time ever, my interest was piqued.

Since then, when I was in Charleston my friends and I ate at the Tomato Shed Cafe where they served Grilled Pimiento Cheese, which I was first-handly informed was "to die for." Then when I was flipping through The Truck Food Cookbook, the Only Burger recipe featured was for a breakfast burger with a fried green tomato, egg, and pimiento cheese. Okay, time to hop on board this train.

So going back to Southern Living, I decided to give the Hominy Grill Pimiento Cheese a whirl. They had me at cumin and kept me with bourbon. Spicy and boozy, just the way I like it, hope you do too.

Hominy Grill Pimiento Cheese
from Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC
Southern Living, February 2012, page 72 (recipe paraphrased)

6 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated (about 1-1/2 lbs)
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (powdery, not shredded)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup jarred pimiento, rinsed and finely chopped
1-1/2 tbsp bourbon
1 tsp ancho chile powder (red chili powder)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Put the cheeses in a big bowl and mix up together until Cheddar is well-coated with the Parmesan.

In a smaller bowl, mix the mayo, pimiento, bourbon, chili powder, cumin and pepper. Blend until well mixed.

Pour the sauce over the cheese and fold in until everything is evenly coated.

As we like to say in NC, I let my pimiento cheese "set a spell" so that the flavors could get to know each other and come together on friendly terms.

Serve it up on your favorite bread...or with some chips...and you are on your way. Ready to go.


Let me save you a little time and hassle. Say, like me, the first thing you think when you hear pimiento is olives and mosey over to the pickle and olives section. Not going to find them there so just skoot yourself over to the canned veggie isle and skim along the top shelves where they kept the jarred whatnots and there they will be in all their red glory.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grapefruit Pear Cooler

After the first weekend of summer comes to a close, figured a nice fruity cooler would make an excellent way to help wind things down.  I got the recipe for this from First magazine (Dec 2011), but changed it up a bit.  They actually called it a zinger, but it wasn't so zingy to me.

Easy, yes, healthy, yes, fruitily delicious, absolutely.

Grapefruit Pear Cooler

2 pink grapefruits
1 can (11.5 oz) pear nectar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes)
1/4 cup honey

Peel and section the grapefruits.  Remove and discard the pith.

In a blender, puree all the ingredients for 30-45 seconds until well blended.

Put in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours, or you can serve immediately over ice.

Makes 3-4 wine glasses full, depending on the wine glass size.


The lime is super subtle, so if you want more zing, add more lime juice.

The original recipe called for 1 cup of pear nectar, but instead of chucking out 3.5 oz of leftover nectar, I added it to the mix, gives the pear a little more presence.

If you want to make it an adult beverage, I would recommend vodka or gin.

If you want to make it a spritzery drink, I would recommend adding gingerale or champagne. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Check It Out: The Truck Food Cookbook

Good Morning! I know, an early post, how crazy is that? But I've got a good reason for it.

Alright, gang, got another new cookbook for you to check out.  You know I only bring you the fabulous, fun and unusual, and this one fits the bill to a T! The Truck Food Cookbook: 150 Recipes and Ramblings from America's Best Restaurants on Wheels by John T. Edge (Workman Publishing, 2012) is SUPER cool. Not only do you get really exciting recipes it includes informational tidbits about food truck culture from around the country. And you know how I love my didyaknows.

The recipes are listed by food types. Chapters include Fries & Pies, Waffles & Their Kin, Tacopalooza, and Rolling in Sweets, to name a few. And the recipes themselves? drool Those include wheeled treats like Crawfish Pie with Creole Cream Cheese, Waffle Breakfast Tacos, Chicken Peanut Stew, Fried Green Tomato Salad, Grilled Mac and Cheese Sandwiches, Psychedelic Relish for your dogs, Cardamon-spiced Donuts, and Wasabi Peanut Dust and Olive Oil & Sea Salt ice cream toppings. Hungry yet?

But wait, there's more! Tucked in between the recipes are write-ups about featured cities and their street food scene. VERY proud to share that Durham, NC made the short list and two of our own local favorites, Only Burger and DaisyCakes, have recipes featured in the book as well.

It's just a fun book and I can't wait to try out some of the recipes. Look for Chickpea Fries coming soon to a blog near you.

So the reason I wanted to catch you early is because the author, John T. Edge, will be at The Regulator Bookstore (720 Ninth Street) in Durham, NC this evening, W June 20, at 7:00 pm to talk about his book. Fullstream Brewery and Only Burger will be on-hand with food and bev for purchase. For all my area readers, you should go and check it out if you can. I don't know if I'll be able to make it out so if you do go, please send me a message and let me know what you thought, would love to hear from you.

More information about the book -- Workman Publishing, NY, May 2012, paperback, ISBN 978-0-7611-5616-1, 294 pages, $18.85

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Choice: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Rum Pecan Drizzle

A couple of years ago I was out in Phoenix for a conference and I had dinner at a Spanish-influenced restaurant and had the most amazing pumpkin bread pudding for dessert.  Ever since then I've been talking about it and swearing that I was going to try to come up with my own version of it.  So for Father's Day, Guinea Pig Dad asked me to make it for him and the results are in with an enthusiastic two forks up!

The best part of today's post is that both the pumpkin bread and the rum pecan drizzle make great stand-alone items, but together...happy sigh...dessert nivana.

Since bread pudding was basically a recipe developed as a use for day-old and/or stale bread, you'll want to make the pumpkin bread a day or two ahead of time, cube it, and let it sit out to get it ready for its special presentation.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Rum Pecan Sauce

pumpkin bread
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 cups sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
1 cup veggie oil
1/2 cup water

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, blend the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and water until well mixed.

Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture until its all blended into a smooth, slightly runny batter.

Grease flour and line three bread pans.  Or one bread pan and one 8x8 baking pan if you only have one bread pan on hand.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Set the pans on rack to cool.

When the pumpkin bread is completely cooled.  Remove from pans and cut two of the loaves (or the one 8x8 bread) into bite-sized chunks.  Handle carefully because it may tend to crumble a bit and you need solid pieces for the bread pudding.

Because the recipe I used made three loaves and you only need two for the bread pudding, you can enjoy the third on its own, wrap it and save it in the freeze to enjoy later, or take it into the office to placate your co-workers who recently commented on how you haven't brought any pumpkin cupcakes in to share lately (and you know who you are). :)

bread pudding
2 cups milk
4 tbsp butter
4 eggs, beaten, room temp

In a saucepan, bring your butter and milk to a light scald over low heat.  So basically, not boiling, but hot enough that the butter melts into the milk.

Whisk in the beaten eggs until well blended and remove from heat.

Fill a 9x13 baking dish with the pumpkin bread pieces and pour the custard mix over the bread.

The liquid will settle on the bottom, so take a spatula and gently flip all the bread pieces in the pan to make sure that they all get well-coated.

Put pan in oven and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes to set.

rum pecan drizzle
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup light corn syrup
4 tbsp butter
1 tsbp dark rum
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans, rough chopped

In a deep saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add in brown sugar until dissolved, then add in corn starch.

Bring to a boil for 30-45 seconds, then remove from heat.

Add in butter, rum, and vanilla then pecans and stir well until pecans are coated.  The sauce will thicken up slightly as it stands, but will still be fairly thin and runny.

Serve up slices of the pumpkin bread pudding and drizzle mixture on top.


This dessert would go nicely with a scoop of vanilla or butter pecan ice cream on the side.

If you prefer a less boozy topping, omit the rum and serve as is.

Because I used a quick bread for my base, the bread pudding is not going to be as firm as it would if you had started with a yeast bread or danishes which are not as crumbly to begin with.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Green Tea Granita

As it turns out last Wednesday, June 6, was National Iced Tea Day!  Who knew?  Well, the folks at Lipton did and they sent me a message only I didn't read it until today.  So my timing is only a little off, but YAY...TEA!

Wanted to do something different from just a beverage and found a lot of recipes for tea-smoked meats which I might try and bring you sometime later down the road, but with hot summer weather creeping up on us, I thought a cool treat would be more appropriate.

I've never tried to make granita before so this was fun.  It does take some planning ahead because you need several hours to get the proper freeze on, but it's worth the time.  If you're not familiar with it, granita is pretty much Sno-Cone for adults (and you can thank the Sicilians for coming up with this little treat).

Granitas have the same basic ingredients -- sugar, water, and flavoring -- and is in the same family as sorbet or Italian ice only the final product is much coarser and more crystallized.  In lieu of plain water, I chose green tea and added honey for flavoring.  Cool and refreshing, and in this case, the ultimate Iced Tea!

Green Tea Granita

2 cups brewed green tea, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp honey

Mix the sugar and honey into the green tea until both are dissolved.  Pour mixture into a metal 9x13 baking dish and set in freezer.

Every 30-45 minutes, open the freezer and scrape the mixture around with plastic forks to break it up Plastic forks so that you don't have metal scraping on metal.

Continue doing so until granita is completely frozen and grainy.

Serve it up with a garnish of fresh mint.


I used a blend from Southern Seasons called Green Dragon which was a mix of green tea, lemon peel, marigold petals, golden chrysanthemums, passions fruit and lemon flavors.  Smells divine and tastes even better!  Feel free to experiment with your favorite blend of tea.

I had Mr. Coffee help me with my tea.  Put my loose tea leaves in a filter and ran it through twice to get a stronger brew.  It was faster than steeping it.

You can freeze your granita using a tempered glass baking dish, just be aware that it will take longer and make allowances for the additional time.

If you didn't want to do tea, you could use coffee, or your favorite fruit juice.  You can add flavored liqueurs to give it more of an adult taste. Just be aware that most alcohol doesn't freeze so you want to use very little or just realize that your granita will be semi-frozen versus frozen.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

What's Brewing? The Skinny on Tea

A couple of weekends ago I was in Charleston with my GNO* crew and we made a trek out to the Charleston Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in the U.S.  Wasn't quite sure what to expect, but was really excited to bring back some didyaknow trivia about tea! I SO love a good learning experience.

FYI, in the photo, that's Sebastian, my sock monkey. He travels with me.  Don't judge...I mean, who else was going to stand in the tea bushes while I took a photo?  Plus he's pretty darned cute and a great conversation starter.

So, did you know...

That black tea, green tea, and oolong tea are all made from the same tea plant?  It's actually the tea-making process that determines what type it is.  Camellia Sinensis is the plant species used to produce teas.

It takes about 5 years for a tea seedling to grown into a full tea bush and from those tea bushes, only the top 1-2" of the plant is harvested.  This is called the flushe.  Like any shrub that gets cut back, new flushes grow back in anywhere from 7-15 days.

Sebastian holding a flush.

At the Charleston Tea Plantation, they have between 18-20 tea fields that are harvested one at a time, so by the time they roll back around to their first field, the new flushes are ready again for harvesting.  They even have a special piece of machinery called the "Green Giant" which was custom-built for harvesting tea at the plantation.  It sits up high enough from the ground to trim off only the flushes from the bushes which leaves a nice flat even field of tea bushes.

There is a specialty tea known as First Flush.  The tea is made from the first harvest of flushes after a field has laid dormant through the winter.  It's special because it's only available once during a tea season.

It has a more natural, fresher taste than any other harvest and is well worth the extra cost if you are a tea connoisseur.  In the olden days, first flush tea was reserved for consumption by royalty (which is why I wear my tiara as I sip my first flush tea, it just seems appropriate).

Tea Determination

So...process. I'm only going to talk about the three steps that determine the type of tea you end up drinking.  There are a few more steps that follow the full tea process, but these are the ones that matter most.

WILTING -- when moisture is removed from the fresh leaves by putting them under the sun or leaving them in a cool breezy room

DISRUPTION -- leaves are either bruised around the edges by shaking or tossing them about, or crushed by mechanized means

OXIDIZATION -- by leaving them on their own in a climate controlled room where they can darken (due to the break down of chlorophyll and the release of tannins); heating the leaves will stop the oxidization process

Of the three most popularly consumed teas, here is how it happens.

BLACK -- leave are wilted, crushed and fully oxidized; they are stronger in flavor than the other teas and will retain their flavor for several years

GREEN -- leaves are neither wilted nor oxidized; the tea have a shorter flavor life than the other teas (usually just a year)

OOLONG -- (which is fun to say) leaves are wilted then bruised and partially oxidized; slightly less caffeinated than black tea


According to the knowledgeable staff at the Charleston Tea Plantation, studies have shown that heat releases caffeine, so if you have regular tea and want to naturally reduce the amount of caffeine in it, here are their suggestions.

For ICED TEA -- pour cold water over your tea bags, NOT boiling water and let it sit at room temp overnight.  In the AM, you can remove the tea bags, sweeten it up and toss some ice in.

For HOT TEA -- pour boiling water over your tea bags, but just enough to cover the tea bags.  This first steeping will have contains most of the caffeine.  Let it sit for a minute, then discarded, leaving your tea bag in the cup.  Now pour more hot water over your used tea bag and voila!  Less caffeine!  Not promising it won't have a tidge left, but much much less than you would have otherwise.

So now you are in the tea know.  Will have to come up with something clever to cook/bake/use tea for.  Stay tuned!

*girls night out

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Horray for the Red, White and Blue Berries!

Looking for something splashy and fun to serve up at your upcoming Fourth of July celebration?  I saw a photo of these and thought I'd give them a whirl because you know how much I love dipping things in chocolate.

Pretty easy, pretty tasty, and pretty darned cute to boot.

Red, White and Blue Berries

1 qt fresh strawberries, room temp
2 blocks white melting chocolate
blue sugar

Wash and dry your strawberries thoroughly.  You want to make sure there is no extra moisture because it will make your berries sweat.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt your white chocolate until smooth.  Pour the colored sugar into a small bowl.

Carefully dip the strawberries (with their little green hats still on) 2/3 into the chocolate.  Shake off any excess chocolate.

Then carefully dip the bottom 1/3 of the strawberry into the blue sugar.

Set on wax paper and allow the candy to set completely.


I thought about coloring my own sugar, but I would have to use a lot of blue to get the depth of color you get from pre-blued sugar.  Make your life easier and just buy the blue.

Most packs of candy coating chocolate comes in 8 large blocks.  Sometimes the blocks have a breaking mark down the middle (making a total of 16 sections). You want to use 2 of the larger block pieces.

You'll want to store the berries at room temperature.  The best thing to do is make and consume these on the same day.  If you store them in the fridge, when you take them out and they sit out at room temp, they will sweat and your sugar will run, but I found even storing them in an airtight container overnight make the sugar bleed a bit.  Somehow, though, I don't think leftovers will really be an issue with these so the point above may be moot.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chocolate-drenched Cocoa Nib Cookies

So after teasing you with the fabulousness of Adventures with Chocolate, I undertook one of them myself. Pretty successfully I might add though, as usual, mine didn’t look as pretty as those shown in the book, I’m going with the defense that I’m no food photographer.

In any case, the end results are a chocoholics dream AND I might be get away with the claim (barely) that these are good for you too. Cocoa nibs (according to the bag) are a Mayan superfood and dark chocolate is chocked full of antioxidants, so go ahead, enjoy without the guilt, you’re doing something good for your health.

Paul Young’s Chocolate-drenched Cocoa Nib Cookies
from Adventures with Chocolate (Kyle, 2011), page 36
based on recipe and instructions in the book with side notes by K2

1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup demerara sugar I used Sugar in the Raw
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour*
Scant 1 cup alkalized cocoa powder this is just cocoa powder
½ vanilla pod, the seeds scraped out, or ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 large organic egg I did not use an organic egg
50-100g cocoa nibs (as many as you like), or chocolate chips** this translates to approx ½ cup of nibs
10 ½ oz Venezuelan dark chocolate, or your favorite robust dark chocolate I used Ghiradelli 60% cocoa dark chocolate baking chips

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Place the butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and melt thoroughly.

Remove from heat and add the flour, cocoa powder, vanilla seeds (or extract) and the egg, mixing thoroughly.

Add the cocoa nibs and allow the cookie dough to cool for 5 minutes.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, place generous scoops of the dough, leaving 3 inches between each cookie. You’ll probably need to bake in two or three batches.

K2: The 3 inches is in case they spread but my cookies did not spread at all. I did baked mine in 2 batches and made a total of 18 cookies.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, then leave to cool completely.

K2: I kept mine in the full 10 minutes because at 8-9 minutes, they were still a little soft. I also removed mine from the parchment, but if you take them out at 8 minutes and leave them on the pan, they will continue to cook even once you remove them from the oven.

Once you have baked your cookies and resisted eating them all while warm, the next step is to drench them in chocolate.

K2:  FYI, I did not resist and I tried one right away, they are good un-drenched and warm too.

Chop the dark chocolate into pieces. Temper the chocolate according to instructions on pages 18-21.

K2: Okay, I am NOT including tempering instructions from the book because I used chip form baking chocolate and simply melted it, you could also use dark chocolate candy bark they all have the same effect of coating the cookies.

Dip half of each cookie in the tempered (melted) chocolate and place back on the parchment paper (or wax paper) to let the chocolate cool and set fully.

K2: So my cookies baked up with some a serious tendency to fall apart, rather than dip them in the chocolate, I poured the melted chocolate over them and then stuck the pan in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes to help the chocolate set. That way the chocolate helps hold the crumbly buggers together better.

Store the cookies in an airtight container or leave on a place for everyone to enjoy while fresh. They won’t last long.

*The original recipe calls for 1-3/4 cups of flour and the first time I made them, I didn't change the amount, but the cookies were very crumbly and had to be handled carefully.  I decided to up the amount to 2 cups of flour the next time I made them. The dough still more closely resembled brownie dough (shiny & slick) than cookie dough, but the cookies were much less crumbly the second time around.

**Cocoa nibs are not going to be found on your joe schmoe grocer's shelf.  For those in the Triangle, I got mine at Whole Foods in the Health Food section (because they are antioxidants) and just an FYI, they are not inexpensive.  They only came in a large bag for $18.95, so yes, I will be looking for other ways to use them.