Last week I cooked…

20150726_195049Spicy fried chicken sandwich. We had this for dinner on Will’s actual birthday. It was the first fried chicken sandwich I’ve ever made, and I see no reason to ever seek out another recipe. The chicken was spicy, crispy and tender, and the yogurt sauce/slaw was just the right creamy, crunchy contrast. For me this was a perfect balance of spiciness, enough to feel it and warrant spicy in the name, but not so much that it kept you from actually tasting everything. I suppose if your spice tolerance is low you will want to find another recipe, but I’ll be sticking with this one.

Lentil and chickpea salad with feta and tahini. Redemption after a weekend of barbecue and fried chicken. I love the onion salad on top of the creamy legumes. Paired with the tomato salad below.

Tomato salad with pomegranate molasses (from Persiana). I added in some cucumbers and cherry peppers from my garden instead of the Turkish peppers, but loved this simple but new take on a tomato salad. The dressing is super potent, so used sparingly.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersOttolenghi’s black pepper tofu. This has been on my to cook list for too long. The addition of butter is inspired (but really didn’t we all love rice with butter as kids?). The amount of pepper seems ridiculous, but the butter mellows it nicely. I halved the recipe to use a single block of tofu (which usually come in 14 oz portions on the US).

Spicy roasted bok choy. Paired with black pepper tofu. I think my red pepper flakes are especially potent, because this was super spicy, which wasn’t exactly what I was looking for to go with the pepper tofu. I mostly was excited about the ease of preparation and the fact that I didn’t also need to cook this on the stove.

Peach and corn coleslaw. #Summer. This slaw is sweet and a little sour and just the perfect summer salad. I used regular peaches, less cabbage, plus a cucumber.

Grilled eggplant and chickpea salad with pomegranate molasses. I guess pom molasses is the special ingredient of the week here. I made this for a picnic (to eat on Boston Common while seeing King Lear) and it was perfect. I roasted the eggplant since I don’t have a grill, along with green peppers and an onion,  For the picnic I also make a tomato and cucumber salad with balsamic vinegar and the zucchini cornbread again, and my friends brought couscous salad for the best summer salad compilation ever.

Blueberry pie with yogurt. If you ask me, the best way to enjoy leftover pie is for breakfast. Just take a couple big dollops of yogurt, and top with a small slice of pie and some fresh fruit if you have it. Really this is the same concept of those dessert yogurt cups, but 1,000x better.

Last week I cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Not something I cooked, but I went to Brattle Book Shop in Downtown Boston and the cookbook section was incredible. I’m embarrassed to be a born and raised Bay Stater/book store enthusiast and not have know about this place until this weekend. We walked away with Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, Clementine in the Kitchen, and Moose Mousse.

How to throw the easiest rib party (no grill required)

Grill-less Ribs Party - Vegetal MattersWe celebrated a birthday in the house this weekend, and hosted a few friends to eat ribs on the deck. Besides planning out the party, my present was to actually be present for the whole thing and not hide in the kitchen finishing up tasks while our guests enjoyed bourbon punch without me. So I planned out a Southern menu where most everything is prepped in advance (and tastes better that way) for minimal stress and maximal birthday celebration.

The Menu

Appetizer

Drinks

  • Bourbon punch
  • White wine punch. I called this a sangria but revisiting now I don’t know if it qualifies. I added some peach schnapps and blueberries to white wine, and topped it with seltzer.
  • Assorted beers

Dinner

Dessert

  • Blueberry lemon pie with whipped cream (from Flour)

Notes

Overall, I was super please with this menu. Everything was meant to be prepared way in advance or just tossed together right before eating, so the majority of the work was done before noon the day of the party.

When I mixed the cheese dip by hand it was a little too textured for my tastes, so I threw it all in the food processor. I didn’t have harissa powder, so I used some spicy paprika.

I don’t have a blender, and didn’t want to go through the extra effort of blending the drinks when guests were here. I diluted it a bit by adding 2 cups to tea instead of one and then just served over ice.

I was limited with the ribs because we don’t have a grill, but I think these are probably the best ribs you can make without one. The meat doesn’t quite get to the fall off the bone texture, but they are still tender and flavorful, especially with the “sauce.” If you have a grill, Alton’s ribs are an excellent option. But really, I just want to buy a smoker. The beans and the ribs do have slightly different cooking times, but I put them both in the oven together at the ribs’ temp.

I’ve made the slaw and beans before, and both are real winners. Next time I will probably add a little more vinegar to the dressing for more zip in the slaw. And these baked beans are the bomb. My one fluke in all the planning was I forgot to soak the beans overnight, but right when I got up Saturday I boiled the kettle and poured that water over the beans and let them soak for an hour, then proceeded with the recipe. The dried beans stay nice and firm even after cooking for so long, and the sauce is just the right thickness. I used less bacon than was called for, and you could leave it out for a vegetarian side.

Even though this meal was Southern themed, I am a Northerner and I prefer some sweetness to my cornbread. Will declared this the best cornbread he’s ever had, and he is a more critical cornbread consumer than I am. Super moist from the zucchini with a toothsome crunch from the medium grind cornmeal and just the right sweetness. Heavenly with butter and mopping up the baked bean juices.

The only flaw in this plan is I don’t have  two ovens so the cornbread wasn’t ready right as the ribs were coming out of the oven. I sacrificed an earlier dinner time to have just from the oven cornbread on the table, but you could also make it the night before or in the morning if you aren’t making an oven hogging pie.

I think if I was doing this all over again the only thing I would change would be the pie. It was a whole lot of work (including making the crust the night before, rolling it out, chilling in the pan, blind baking, making the filling, and then finally baking the pie for an hour and a half), and I didn’t feel like I got the full return on my effort. I’m more of a cobbler/crisp fan anyways, and they are just so much easier.

Schedule of Events

Day before:
  • Pick blueberries (ok, you could just buy these, but there is a PYO farm a few miles from me and it is SO much cheaper)
  • Make rib rub
  • Soak beans
  • Shred slaw ingredients
  • Make slaw dressing
  • Make pate brisée (crust)
  • Mix corn bread dry ingredients
  • Make bourbon drink
Morning of:
  • Make beans (50 min on stovetop, 6 hours in oven at 225F)
  • Put ribs in oven (6 hours total, 4 at 200F, 2 at 175F)
  • Bake pie (chilled rolled crust for 30 min, bake bottom crust for 30 min, bake whole pie for 1.5 hours)
  • Make pimento cheese
  • Slice veg for serving with pimento cheese
Before dinner:
  • Bake cornbread (1 hour at 350F)
  • Reduce rib jus to make sauce
  • Dress slaw
  • Cut ribs and broil quickly to char

After dinner:

  • Whip cream for pie