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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blueberry Pineapple Salsa (with Grilled Pork)

Haven't gotten around to braving the Orange Pie experiment again so have something new and different for you.  Still fruit-based but inspired by what was on the shelves in the fridge when I was sightseeing in there the other day.

Again, its spring, time to dust off the grills and start some outdoor cooking.  One of my favorite things is grilled pork and since pork is a great vehicle for fruited condiments here is a light and refreshing salsa to accompany it.

Blueberry Pineapple Salsa

2 cups chopped vine ripe tomatoes
1 cup fresh blueberries, divided
1 cup chopped pineapple
2 tbsp. minced green onions
2 tbsp. pineapple juice
1 tbsp. jalapeno, deseeded and minced
1 tsp. salt

In a deep bowl, muddle half of the blueberries.  Then add in the rest of the ingredients.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Very important because the flavors need time to blend.

Grill up some thick chops or pork loin slices.  When done, top with a generous helping of salsa.


As with everything, depending on what your flavor preference feel free to modify amounts to suit your own taste.  If you like it with a bit more bite, add more jalapeno.  If you like it with a bit more zing, add more onion.  For a softer taste, add more bluebs or p'napple.

We did thick cut boneless pork chops and to prepare them I did a really simple rub with ground sage, salt, and cracked black pepper.  Tasty!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gone Awry Pie

FYI, as I am settling into my new job, I find that my weekends are being broken down into Sat = totally useless couch potato recuperation day and Sun = headless chicken impersonation as I run around doing all the things I was too couch potato'd to do the day before.  SO moving forward the plan is to expericook on Sundays, post on Wednesday (I promise, I'll get this figured out yet).

As you may take hint from the post title, Sunday's pie plan didn't turn out the way I'd hoped it would so I thought I'd take this opportunity to turn it into a culinary lesson.


A little background, when I was going through culinary school, I had the best baking instructor, Mr. Kimber.  Great guy, good sense of humor, and knew his baking sh*t like nobody's business.  Because he was so good it was a little nerve wrecking when we had a bake day for grades where you had to present your final product to the panel of instructors for critique and discussion.  Very nerve first.  Then Mr. Kimber explained to us that even if you brought up a biscuit that resembled a charcoal briquette, as long as you understood what went wrong and could explain it, you could still get an A for that day.*  It wasn't about making the perfect product, that's not what they really wanted, it was about the learning experience and what you took away from it.  For me, cooking is fun because it's both a science and an art, and with either you only get better through experimentation and practice.

*Side Note: this was also the day I started honing my "lawyering" skills in the kitchen and was able to product justify my way to a 4.0.

Alright, onto my failed experiment.  Dad told me about an orange pie that he and Mom had on one of their recent travels.  I love key lime pie, I love lemon ice box pie, another citrus pie sounded great to me.  So I decided to use Mandarin oranges.

I modified a key lime pie recipe -- 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk + 3 egg yolks + 1/2 cup Mandarin orange puree blended together and poured into a pie shell, baked for 15 minutes at 350 degrees -- voila! Orange pie!

Was it edible...yes.  Was it good...not so much.  What I did not take into account is that Mandarin oranges lack the zing of the other citrus fruits.  Instead of standing out in a glorious taste display, it kind of got overwhelmed and pushed to the background by the condensed milk.  Poor Mandarin oranges. :(

I tried to cover up the pie gone awry by mixing Mandarin puree with whipping cream and then slathering it over the top.  Yeah, not much help.

So I started thinking about what I could have done different to make it better and here's what I came up with:

(1) orange zest -- I should have zested the pie filling.  The citrus fruit zest is just that, a tangier zippier version of the fruit itself

(2) sugar -- I should have added a touch of sugar to help sweeten up the puree.  Orange puree is not that sweet in and of itself

(3) salt -- I should have added a pinch of salt.  Salt actually tends to bring out the hidden sweetness in fruits that don't seem that sweet

(4) not used a key lime pie recipe in the first place -- something more along the lines of a light custard or mousse may have made a better vehicle for this delicate tasting fruit

Of course it goes without saying that Dad decided he could live with the results and offered to "take care of the problem" for me, but I think next time it will require a little more thought about the qualities of the ingredients and how best to highlight them.

So I know it's not a recipe per se, but more a recipe for life (yes, I just went pompous on you).  While I like it that people think I'm a really good cook, it's never been for lack of trying and I hope that by sharing some of my "whoops" moments, it will encourage you to keep on keeping on in the kitchen even when things go awry (we've got a pie for that now).

Until next week, bon appetite!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dipping Fruit with Basil Sugar

Now that the weather is getting nicer, more people are flocking to the great out of doors to dine al frescoYou can tell that people around here are desperate for sunlight and fresh air because despite the yellow pollen coating EVERYthing the outdoor seating area at a local eatery was packed this morning.

So I was in Paris last week for business (yeah, new job is pretty okay) and we ate ridiculously well.  French food is not only delicious, it's so beautifully and creatively presented that you can't help but eat whatever they put down in front of you.  You will be seeing things coming up that have a Parisian inspiration, including tonight's very simple post.

No matter what time of day, there seemed to be a plethora of fresh fruit to enjoy and tonight's post is based on some of the snacks that we were offered during our work day.  These are light, refreshing, easy to make and a great new addition to any picnic offering.

Dipping Fruit with Basil Sugar

1/4 cup white sugar
1-1/4 tsp. basil paste

Mandarin oranges
pineapple chunks
4" skewers

In a food process, blend together sugar and basil until mixture is a consistent texture.  Put in a small bowl, set aside.

Thread fruit on skewers in descending size order -- pineapple, orange, raspberry, blueberry.

To enjoy, simply dip the fruit in the basil sugar.

Voila, simple dish with a pretty presentation.  Wow your friends.


Basil paste is available in the produce section of the grocery store with the fresh herb packages.

If you can't find basil paste, you can always food process fresh basil leaves before adding to the sugar.  Made sure to add a drop of oil to help it come together as a paste, then add in the sugar afterwards.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Vinegar Pie

So on Mom and Dad's last venture to the NC mountains, they came across a dessert that Dad wanted to see repeated so they tracked down a recipe and here you go...Vinegar Pie!  Yeah, I made that face too, BUT always being up for new food adventures, I thought I'd try it out.

Now the funny thing is that in all the variations of this recipe (which by the way has been around forever from what I can tell) vinegar is actually a minor ingredient.  My theory?  Someone made this pie and it was so good that they told everyone it was "vinegar" pie so that they could have it all to themselves.  Don't blame them.  It's actually a form of custard pie and very tasty.

Vinegar Pie

5 eggs
4-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1-3/4 cups sugar
4-1/2 tsp. flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temp
1/2 cup chopped pecans
9" unbaked deep dish pie crust

Beat eggs, vanilla, and vinegar together in a mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes.  Set aside.  By beating the ingredients for a longer time, it helps aerate the mixture which will add some volume to the final product.

Stir sugar and flour together.  Add in the egg mixture and beat for 5 minutes, or until the mixture is no longer grainy.

Slowly add in the whipping cream.  Then stir in the melted butter until all is well blended.

Pour mixture into the unbaked pie crust.  Sprinkle chopped pecans across the top.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  When time is up, loosely cover the pie with a piece of foil and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  When I pulled the pie from the oven, it was a bit on the puffy side but finally settled after it had some time to rest.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Strawberry Butter (aka Butter Late Than Never)

I'm going to apologize upfront for the bad photos tonight.  Apparently Technical Difficulties is the order of the week.

As best I can tell there is nothing wrong with the TCC blog itself and if you are a subscriber, you should have no problems with the email posts.  There is something wonky that happens sometimes when you try to access the website itself, so as you do with home and work, don't click on anything that you are not familiar with.  Apologize for any inconvenience and let's get back to our usual culinary programming. Thank goodness for fallback Wednesdays, huh? (Yes, that is what I'm calling them now).

So spring is in the air and strawberries are in the market so I wanted to try something new with them.  As the Parental Tasters will attest, this one is pretty sweet (and simple to boot)!

Strawberry Butter

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
3/4 cup strawberries, chopped small
1/4 cup powder sugar

In a mixer, blend together the softened butter and fresh chopped strawberries.

Sift in the powder sugar and mix until blended together.

You can leave your final product chunky (like I did) or blend it until the strawberries break down a bit more.

I baked up some biscuits (sorry, not from scratch) and Dad slathered them with the strawberry butter.  Happiness ensued.


The butter would go great on pancakes or waffles too. 

Should be able to store in the fridge for at least a week, well...if it lasts that long.