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Friday, April 26, 2013

How sweet it is: Unsweetened Tomato Ketchup

America's condiment, the ubiquitous ketchup. All of our delicious, national pride inspiring, hometown   favorite dishes require ketchup: hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, scrambled eggs, beans. I don't know. I guess there aren't many dishes that truly benefit from the addition of tomato syrup. But I eat it on everything anyway. And I've learned a little known secret about this simple sauce: it doesn't need sugar. Tomatoes and sauteed onions are naturally sweet. Granted, without corn syrup, you're looking at a slightly different animal. It's less syrup and more sauce. I think it's more versatile. Maybe.

Unsweetened Tomato Ketchup

32oz can tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste
½ medium onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp cumin
⅛ tsp allspice
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tbs vinegar
3 tbs oil

Start by heating the oil over medium in a large sauce pan with a lid (not on it; you'll need it later). Drop your onions and then your garlic into the pan and saute until the onions are completely clarified but not quite caramelized, stirring often. Then toss in your spices and continue to saute for five minutes. Now get out your blender; it's time to blast these veggies to bits! Put your can of tomatoes in first, then empty the contents of your pan into the blender. Blend on high speed until your sauce is smooth like glass. Maybe it never gets that smooth. In any case blend it well, friends. Blend it well.

ketchup and potatoes
Pour your blended sauce back into the sauce pan and put it on low to simmer. Stir in your vinegar and tomato paste. Now you want to put that lid on because as your sauce thickens, those little simmer bubbles will turn into giant ketchup eruptions (trust me; I know)! Leave the lid slightly askew to allow for steam to escape. Stir occasionally. Always be careful when removing the lid (eruptions!). Simmer for an hour or until desired thickness is reached. You've got yourself some ketchup.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Weekend In Pictures: Thorp

I already waxed poetic on my love of Gus' family home in Thorp, Wash in my last post, but I thought I would stretch everyone's indulgence further by posting a few pictures of the weekend. I tried to record a bit of everything, but Gus' unearthly cute nephew, Roan, was obviously my main target. Sorry,  kiddo.

a rare un-spectacled moment

collecting sap and sticks 
family resemblance #plaid edition

barefoot & in the kitchen 
etsy photoshoot 
print is not dead 
reflector art
calamine lotion 
but the kitchen sink

brother to gus, father to roan, friend to all

hiding from the camera

It was one of my goals this year to take more pictures. While I still don't reach for a camera instinctively, I have been better about capturing a few moments. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of Gus' dad, who is one of my favorite people in the world, and one of the main reasons why visiting is so great. I also didn't Memorex our bike rides, a short trip to Seattle, or our ridiculously good pulled pork dinner. Oh well, I still would rather live in moments than step out to record them. At least most of the time...

Monday, April 15, 2013

Picnic perfection: Broccoli Crunch

broccoli crunch salad

This stuff looks tailor made for the picnic basket. Red, green, gold and white, four bright colors to compliment the season (interestingly, also four Christmas colors) come together in one delicious dish. It might even be healthy (I doubt it)! At least it gets a few vegetables on the table. Just thinking about it makes me ravenous for it despite having devoured the huge bowl I whipped up for Easter.

Broccoli Crunch Salad

4 cups Broccoli Florets (chopped to bite size)
½ Sweet onion (sliced into very thin wedges)
1 Apple (1/4 inch cubed or thinly sliced)
½ cup Dried cranberries (or your favorite dried fruit)
¾ lb. Bacon (fried crisp and crumbled)
½ cup Cashews (or your favorite nut)
1 cup Mayo
½ tbs Mustard powder
1 tbs Honey
2 tbs Cider vinegar
Black pepper to taste

Blanch or steam your broccoli florets for one minute, just enough time to brighten up and sharpen all those shades of  green. Then drain it and set it aside to cool. It's important to drain the broccoli again after it cools or you'll be pouring your dressing down the sink (I learned that the hard and sad way). 

blanched broccoli

In a bowl, thoroughly combine your mustard powder, vinegar, and honey. Then stir in your mayo, and grind in some black pepper. After the broccoli has cooled and been drained again (hey, it's an easy step to forget), throw all the other ingredients into another much larger bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir it for an even coat. 

the long dressing pour

That's broccoli crunch, people! It's almost too simple. A little chopping, a little stirring and badabing! It's Christmas. In April.

As always omissions and substitutions are encouraged, and with this dish it's easier and less risky to do than with almost anything else we've made. So, forget about the bacon, or go ahead and throw chili glazed pecans in there (recipe to come). It's a kind of a la carte, potpurri, bouquet sort of salad. Or not. Enjoy.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chocolate "Recovery Drink"

It's not dessert! Okay? It's my recovery drink! Electrolytes, antioxidants and what not! I'm sure! That's all I have to say about that. 

The Justifiable Chocolate Shake

2 frozen bananas
4 ice cubes
2 ½ tbs unsweetened natural cocoa
2 tbs peanut butter
1 cup almond milk
½ tsp vanilla

Throw your ingredients into your blender in the order they're listed. Pulse that sucker till it's smooth. Garnish with some raw cacao flakes and grab a straw. And a friend. There will be much shake. 

I'm not a nutritionist or an exercise scientist. I don't know if there are any real benefits, but this thing always makes me feel good after some strenuous physical activity. In fact, this dessert -I mean recovery drink- has become my new reason for exercising because it's just so delicious and nutritious. I think. Give it a whirl.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fulfilling ancient promises: Potato Floured French Fries

Warning: The following includes experimental grammar (i.e. I was feeling lazy when I wrote it). Continue reading at your own risk.

Gluten Free Fries

This recipe has been a long time coming (like eons). I heard the Mayans predicted it. The sad thing is, I've made these half a dozen times since I first mentioned them in my potato flour post. I think you'll find them worth the wait. They are delicious. However, in the immortal words of Levar Burton: "You don't have to take my word for it!" That's right. Reading Rainbow made these french fries possible (and viewers like you). For those of you who don't know, Reading Rainbow is more old stuff.

World's Best French Fries*

4 potatoes
¼ cup potato flour
2 tbs rice flour
1 tbs tapioca starch
1 ½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cumin
1 tbs salt (plus 3 more for soaking the potatoes)
1 cup canola oil (more or less depending on the size of your pan)

Slice up your french fries (I always peel mine first unless they're organic and I have yet to make these with organic potatoes. And so I'm not sure how they'll turn out with skins on or why I'm even mentioning it. But then I say -what the hell- go ahead and try it [longest unnecessary parenthetical remark of my writing career (including parentheses within parentheses and really poor punctuation [bonus!])]). I suggest slicing them thin because they cook faster, and depending on the size of your pot, you're likely going to fry multiple batches.

gluten free fry prep

Put the sliced fries into a bowl and cover with cold water. Add three tablespoons of salt to the water and set aside. In another bowl whisk together all of your dry ingredients. You can use almost any dry seasoning you want here (except garlic or onion powder or anything with sugar; they tend to burn). Next get your deepest pot (at least four inches deep). Pour in the oil (any medium-high to high heat oil should suffice). You want about half an inch to an inch covering the bottom. Put the pot on medium-low heat. Strain your potatoes and pat dry removing as much excess water as possible. In a dry bowl, toss your potatoes with enough of your flouring to thoroughly coat them.

french fry spice

Now test your oil  by throwing in your smallest fry, and when the oil around it starts to bubble very rapidly, the oil is ready. If you have a candy thermometer (I do not) this process is much easier. The oil should read around 350 degrees.

fry brine & gluten free flouring

Carefully drop your fries into the hot oil, about a handful at a time depending on how big your pot is. You just want one layer of fries in the oil, so they'll cook evenly. After about ten minutes the fries should be nicely golden brown and cooked completely through. Remove fries from the oil using a big metal slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool. Repeat process until all fries are cooked. Try not to eat them too fast.

A serious word of caution: Hot oil is dangerous (I know you knew, but now I know you know)! Be very careful when dropping your potatoes into and removing them from the oil. These are happy french fries. No one is allowed to get burned while making them.

* It might not be modest; however, it is a fact.