Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sweet Tea.

If you know me well at all, you know how much I love iced tea.

In 2005, I was in Atlanta, Georgia for the United Church of Christ's General Synod. I had my first taste of real sweet tea and thought it was the greatest thing I'd ever tasted. Fast forward to the summer of 2006, where a certain North Carolina native at Lancaster Theological Seminary's Leadership Academy made a pitcher of homemade sweet tea.

Shortly thereafter, I started making my own. It's one of few recipes I can make without a second thought, probably because I make it so often.

In honor of the near-90 degree weather this weekend (which was my birthday, and was excellent):

Sweet Tea
8-10 tea bags (Luzienne is arguably the most "authentic" brand)
1 cup sugar
4 cups water

1. Boil 4 cups water in a medium saucepan.
2. Remove from heat, stir in sugar and add tea bags. Allow to steep for 20-30 minutes.
3. Add ice to a half gallon pitcher. Pour "sweet tea syrup" over ice, and add water to sufficiently fill the half gallon pitcher.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Butterscotch Puddin'.

After getting my wisdom teeth out, I never thought I'd want to eat pudding again.

And then, on the "Contents" page of Gourmet's February 2009 issue was this recipe for butterscotch pudding.

It sounded so easy. It looked so sinfully smooth and velvety. I decided about ten minutes after picking up the magazine that I would make it--that very night.

And it was easy, and it was sinfully smooth and velvety. And it was sweet. I mean, I like sweet, but this stuff is sweet. It's not too sweet though, if you eat it with the whipped cream, or some bananas like I did.

My only complaint is that this recipe serves four and I am only one. It was hard finding other pudding lovers that week, so I ended up eating the whole batch myself. I know, I know--how terrible.

Butterscotch Pudding
from Gourmet, Feb. 2009

1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Butter a sheet of wax paper the size of your serving bowl (you'll need it in the last step). Whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy medium saucepan, then whisk in milk and cream.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently, then boil, whisking, 1 minute.
3. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.
4. Pour into a bowl, then cover surface with buttered wax paper and chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours.
5. Before serving, whisk remaining heavy cream until light and fluffy for whipped cream.

The buttered wax paper prevents the pudding from developing an icky skin on top. I kept it on throughout the pudding's stay in the fridge, but I also covered it with a lid which, I think, damaged the consistency.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

On Rachel Maddow:

I have really enjoyed reading about the prophets this semester. I think most people think of prophets like fortune tellers. True, there are some oracles in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, etc. But the prophets are more political and social commentary than fortune telling.

My Old Testament professor likened prophets, like Jeramiah, to modern comedians--speaking Truth in a very particular style that is almost subversive and garners them lots of attention. I think a better metaphor would be "political comedians" like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The prophets of the Bible are absolutely political--and while not that funny--they seem to be inspired by God to fight important issues and spread "truthiness".

I think Rachel Maddow is a modern day prophet (or an angel). Or at least like a prophet.

I saw the "Storm is Coming" commercial sometime last week and panicked a little. These people were convincing, and racially/age diversified, so much so that without sound, you could assume it was pro-gay marriage. Then I stumbled upon these Rachel Maddow clips.

Not only is Rachel Maddow right, but she's funny (and sassy!). She has a similar sense of humor I imagine God has. The kind of sense of humor that asks, "Really. Really?" The kind of sense of humor that sees stupidity, chuckles, and mercifully remembers to love the least (smart) of these.

I also call Rachel Maddow a prophet for reporting on something that just must be divinely inspired. The audition tapes being leaked? A rainbow coalition? 2M4M? I think something bigger than us is trying to say something. Rachel Maddow appears to be listening and spreading a good word. Take a look for yourself:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Broccoli, two ways.

I was never one of those kids that didn't like broccoli. You've already heard my rant about how much I love brussel sprouts, so I'll spare you that.

Last week I bought two heads of broccoli. It's now almost in season and pretty cheap (if you're buying it off the back of a truck on 13th and Oxford). I ate them two different ways, each easy, cheap and delicious.

The first way you see broccoli is roasted, with shrimp. I don't ordinarily buy real protein--I eat more beans and tofu than I do chicken and fish. But this recipe is a darling of the food blog community (much like no-knead bread)--everyone was making and obsessing over it.

I can understand why. The broccoli gets tender, sweet and deeply flavorful, and the shrimp get cooked perfectly and stay juicy. Oh, and the hardest part is waiting for dinner to be ready.

I halved the recipe, as I was cooking for one, and had plenty for lunch the next day. I also edited the spices a little bit, because I loathe coriander. Watch the quantities in the recipe, not in the ingredient list--most of them get divided. The broccoli also goes in before the shrimp--a point I missed--so I just roasted them for an extra 5 minutes. Everything was fine.

Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp
2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined (you can buy them this way at Whole Foods)
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

2. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Serve over rice with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.

The second offering I have is one that I've made before. I can't find the post, but instead of orecchiette, I used tennis racket shaped pasta and so much cayenne pepper it was barely edible.

I've toned down the recipe since then, but still used cayenne because I lack red pepper flakes.

Spicy Orecchiette with Broccoli
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

12 oz. Orecchiette or other short pasta
2 cloves garlic
2 Tb olive oil
1/4 t or less cayenne pepper, or 1/4 to 1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
1/2 cup good parmesan

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add garlic and cayenne/red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add broccoli and 1/2 cup water; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until broccoli begins to soften, about 8 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until water has evaporated and broccoli is crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes more.

3. To pasta in pot, add broccoli mixture, Parmesan (reserving some for later), and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce that coats pasta. Serve sprinkled with remaining Parmesan.

This technique is called "pan steaming" which allows you to steam, then caramelize the vegetable afterwards. I use it for brussel sprouts all the time.

Things to look forward to: finished knitting projects, "the quilt", more dessert, meatballs, sweet tea, matzoh, and a love letter to a brownie.

Monday, April 6, 2009

On being American:

This is barely theological, but I think Ben Folds and Nanci Griffith gave me some food for thought this week, especially in light of the new legislation in Iowa (!).

Hey son, look at the people lining up for plastic
like to see them in the National Geographic
squatting bare-assed in the dirt eating rice from a bowl
wearing a towel on their head or maybe a bone in their nose
God made us number one because he loves us the best
maybe he should go bless someone else and give us a rest

I am a backseat driver in America
I am not at the wheel of control
I am guilty, I am war, I am the root of all evil
Lord, and I can't drive on the left side of the road

And on Iowa, and why I am so glad (and not surprised) Iowa has passed legislation on gay marriage:

Just watch the first 2 minutes 30 seconds.