Monday, August 27, 2012

Shrimp Boil + Other Fun

It was a weird weekend. A really weird mix of classy and well, the opposite of that. 

Case in point #1: The White Party. 
On Friday, Evan and I dressed in our pre-labor day best, nothing but white head to toe, and met up with four other couples for a local winery's annual summer white party. It all started out super classy. Cocktails and high heels (like, the highest heels I own), champagne and a limo. We really went for it. Then things got a little crazy. The winery party was out in nature. Like, on a giant gravel hill. Have you ever tried to walk on a giant gravel hill, when you've had several glasses (bottles!?) of wine!? It's not pretty, friends. I hate to say it, but this girl did not fare well. Neither did 95% of women there (damn those few with flip flops!). We watched girls fall in the gravel and roll down the hill. It was around that time that someone mentioned that we're a lot closer to 30 than 20. Far too old to behave that way. Or, maybe no one should behave that way? Regardless, it was a night to remember. Or not. See, classy turned upside down (literally) real quick-like. 

Case in point #2: The BBQ Joint.
So, Saturday night, after a full day of recovery (I read an entire book on Saturday… Gillian Flynn, what up!), we decided to hit up the new whiskey bar/BBQ spot in my neighborhood. BBQ is burley food, people. Beans and ribs and giant messy, saucy piles of pork. BBQ is not shimmery skin-tight mini dresses and valet parking. What!? Seriously, Ballard is not skin-tight mini dresses and valet parking. Ballard is jeans and farmers markets and couples in their 30s with a dog and a Subaru. What is happening here!? I feel like I maybe entered a worm hole. (Is that what it's called, a worm hole?) You may see me tumbling down a gravel hill in 5 inch heels, but you will never see me eating BBQ in a sequined spandex dress. I have standards!

Case in point #3: The Shrimp Boil.
Now, I don't think a shrimp boil is anything but amazing. But I mean, it's down home (down south?), messy, eat-with-your-hands food. Throw it all on the table and dig in type food. Wear a bib type food, even. But today I made Evan watch me throw together a shrimp boil (actually, I had him do most of the work), so that he could learn it as his own fancy signature dish. I told him it's really easy (it is!) and that it's the kind of meal that impresses people, you know, the classy kind. I seriously can't decide if I think a shrimp boil is totally super classy, or the opposite of that. All I know is it's easy, and delicious. I mostly followed Bev's instructions for the shrimp boil, but just kinda threw stuff in without measuring (including some Old Bay). I also added lemon juice to the dipping sauce, which I would recommend. Spicy shrimp, corn-on-the-cob, red potatoes, and smoky sausage, dumped out on a table and eaten with your hands…all while wearing yoga pants and the flattest shoes you can find. My kind of food! 


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Old Fashioned Ice Cream Sandwiches

10 Things I did last weekend:
  1. Arranged my pots & pans cupboard. Subsequently, now I want to buy a new cookware set. 
  2. Floated on a river in 104 degree sun and drank beer. And lost my sunglasses in said river.
  3. Ate a dipped cone from DQ. Not only is a small dipped cone quite large, it’s also quite difficult to eat. You can ask Amanda. Or you can look at the chocolate smudges all over her car. Sorry!
  4. Bought exactly what I needed at the farmers market, nothing more, nothing less. Napa cabbage, a lovely little bunch of carrots, and a handful of peas.
  5. Tried to remember every camping trip and beach trip Amanda and I went on as kids. There was frog lake, that-place-with-the-creek, the time housekeeping took our leftover pizza, the hotel where we watched Alf, the time Amanda and I talked only in bad English accents.
  6. Made Biscuit a new cat bed in the cubby shelf the tv sits on. She's avoiding it like the plague. 
  7. Sang Huey Lewis and the News songs, which brought back childhood memories of riding in the way-back of the Subaru with our old friends Jessica and Jared.
  8. Took some photos for a side project I’m working on (see item #4).
  9. Cleaned my room.
  10. Made homemade vanilla ice cream, and baked homemade chocolate chip cookies (guess what? Substituting baking powder for baking soda totally works!), then sandwiched it all together (with a little Nutella).  

Old Fashioned Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes 8 (plus some extra ice cream)
Nothing is better than the classic chocolate chip cookie + vanilla ice cream combo. Unless you add Nutella. 
These are actually a breeze to make. While the cookie dough is firming up in the freezer, whip up your ice cream, then just swap places (throwing the cookies in the oven, and ice cream in the freezer). Once the Nutella is frozen onto the cookies, put two scoops of ice cream on 8 of the cookies (on the Nutella side), and top with other cookie, use both hands to press together. Wrap in wax paper and freeze another 10-15 minutes before serving.
Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Adapted from the original Fannie Farmer cookbook (i.e. my favorite cookies)
¼ lb butter (1 stick), room temp
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
¾ teaspoon vanilla
1/8 cups flour
1/4 t salt
1½ t baking powder
1 cup dark chocolate chunks, chopped 

Preheat oven to 375, and layer 2 cookies sheets with parchment paper. Cream butter, then gradually add the two sugars, beating until light and smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix flour, salt, baking soda together and add to butter mixture, blending well. Stir in chocolate chips (you want them to be fairly small pieces, so that you don't get a big hard-to-chomp bite of frozen chocolate once these become one with the ice cream). Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheets about 1 inch apart, making 16 cookies. Freeze for about 10 minutes, until cookie balls are firm. Roll slightly just to make them even shaped, and lightly smash down (just barely).  and bake 8-10 minutes.  Once completely cooled, spread the inside of each cookie with Nutella, and freeze for about 20 minutes before adding ice cream. 

Vanilla Ice Cream

1 pint whole milk
1 pint whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped (beans discarded)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together all ingredients, and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions (makes 1 1/2 quarts). Freeze for about 24 hrs until its hard enough to scoop in solid scoops. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

Berry Shortcakes

Once upon a time, back when a summer heat wave was just a speck on the horizon, I did a little poll. I asked you all about your favorite summer dessert. And a few of you responded. Or maybe Amanda and Evan just responded several times each, to make me feel better. Either way, it seems that pies were so last summer, and popsicles so two summer ago. The hot items (or…cool items?) these days are ice cream sandwiches. And berry shortcakes! We had a tie! I thought about making some sort of crazy berry shortcake ice cream sandwich. But then I decided I would rather make two desserts. Twice the fun.

Shortcakes and ice cream sandwiches are funny, because they’re super summery, yet you need the oven for both (pies too, but who cares about pies anymore?). And some of you (I’m looking at you southern California) don’t see what the big deal is. Turn up the AC, who cares if the oven is on? Well, in Seattle, we don’t have AC. I mean, get real. We’ve spent about 50 minutes above 80 degrees all year. AC is just not a requirement here. But, on those few scorchers we have each year, we all melt. Or wilt. So our 85 degree days lead to 95 degree homes. Turning an oven on in those conditions is preposterous.

Luckily I made one of the summer desserts before we hit our major heat streak. Introducing raspberry shortcakes with basil-macerated strawberries and lemon whipped cream. Sweet, tangy, fruity, and herbal, in every bite. I used Martha’s recipe for the shortcakes themselves. When something is this delicious, you don’t reinvent the wheel, people. You just don’t. The shortcakes are somewhere between a biscuit and a scone, not too sweet, with soft little pockets of raspberry throughout. Combined with strawberries tossed in basil and sugar, and a tangy whipped cream, you just can't go wrong. 
PS. I do still care about pies and popsicles. Just sayin.
Raspberry Shortcakes with Basil-Strawberries and Lemon Whip
Makes 8 servings
1 lb fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
5 or so basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Juice and zest from half a lemon
While shortcakes are baking, toss strawberries with 1T of the sugar and the basil. Set aside, stirring occasionally. In mixer (or with whisk, or in a jar), whip together cream, remaining sugar, vanilla, and lemon, until desired whipped cream consistency. Top cooled shortcakes with berries and whip. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Squash Toasties

When I moved into the dorms my freshman year of college, I felt a little lost. It wasn't so much the big city that intimidated me, it was the people. More specifically, the people I would be sharing intimate quarters with for the next year of my life. Growing up in a tiny, rural town, I had the same friends pretty much my entire life. Saw the same faces every day from preschool until high school graduation. I didn't really know how to start over and make new friends, and the thought of being forced into friendship with a group of strangers terrified me. 

I was placed in a 'cluster' (like a suite), so I had my roommate, plus 6 other cluster-mates. That first day after the awkward, nervous introductions, we all headed off to the freshman assembly. My roommate, Kristy, claimed she didn't have friends at UW either. That she was also a little fish in the big sea. I believed her… until every five seconds she ran into another friend from high school. By the time we got to the assembly, Kristy had an entourage that was basically the size of my high school graduating class, and I was left in the dust. Luckily, another girl from our cluster was also a small-town country girl, and was right there next to me in the wake of Kristy's posse. Vanessa (whom I fondly refer to on this blog as V, of pizza-party fame), quickly became one of my best friends, ever. Some of my favorite college and post-college memories are with V—skipping class to watch Blink 182 music video countdowns on VH1, partying it up (and meeting Roseanne Bar) in Vegas, watching countless hours of Sex & the City in her tiny bed in her tiny-scary basement bedroom in the house we shared, and rocking out to karaoke jams (either Bonnie Raitt or Gangsters Paradise). I love this girl. And this weekend, she's marrying an awesome, awesome guy. Not only does her fiancĂ©, Ben, have an amazing kitchen and wine cellar (I die), but he's an absolute doll. 
So, now you're wondering how I'm going to tie this in with that tasty toasty there? Well, I'm not. V is getting married, and on a totally unrelated note, I love summer squash! People who hate summer squash are no friend of mine, I mean...seriously, what's not to like? I love it so much I want to marry it. Not really, but that would at least be a good tie in... right? No?

Oh well, I made some super delicious and simple summer squash toasties! 

Summer Squash Toasties
2  medium-sized summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, etc), sliced in thin rounds
1 garlic clove, chopped
olive oil
pinch of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt & pepper
4 slices of good hearty bread (like an artisan loaf)
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium, and add a drizzle of olive oil (to coat bottom). Add cumin seeds, and heat a minute or so, until fragrant. Add squash, and cook for a few minutes, until just getting soft. Add garlic, ground cumin, a hearty sprinkle of salt, and pepper to taste (this is the part where you can sample a bite and see if it's seasoned enough). Cook a few minutes longer, until squash just cooked through and soft (but not soggy). Turn on broiler, and line bread up on baking sheet, toast for a minute or so on each side until juuuust starting to brown (watch closely to not burn or over toast). Spread each slice with a thin layer of mayonnaise, and distribute squash evenly amongst bread. Top with cheese, and put back under broiler until bubbly and melty. 

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