Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pan Bagnat (Tuna Nicoise Sandwich)

I don't know why the end of summer is always the hottest, but August has been killer here in Southern California. As a result, I've been eating more and more meals outside in the evening under the shade of the oak tree in my backyard. I think our apartment has become more of a human oven than a structure for people to live in semi-comfortably. The sun beats down on it all day long and I only have an AC unit in the living room, which means the rest of the place is miserable. Soooo I've been escaping outside as soon as the sun goes down to catch a bit of shade. Something about eating outside always makes me want sandwiches, but I wanted to make something light and cold because of the intense heat, and I wanted it so be a semi-fancy sandwich since I was having my friends Beejoli and Sanjana over, so I ended up going with the traditional sandwich of Southern France, (a very warm place indeed). Pan Bagnat is a seafood sandwich comprised of tuna and anchovies, but it's loaded with cool crisp summer vegetables and a few thin slices of hard boiled eggs. I made some roasted garlic mayonnaise (not the best thing to do to keep my place cool, I know, but SO delish that it's entirely worth it) to slather on the bread, too. And I managed to cut the sandwiches just so even though my bread knife is dull as as heck. Huzzah!! It ended up being the perfect simple and soothing meal for a balmy evening. Light, but filling, and nice and cool.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Something about the summertime always leaves me craving pulled pork sandwiches. I think it's because when I was small my Grandpa would have us over for pulled pork sometimes and I always remember those days being nice and warm and sunny. He always got the pulled pork pre-made (which is too bad because as a southern Indiana man he probably knew some people with pretttty good pulled pork recipes), but a few years ago I tried my hand at making it from scratch and just loved the results. First off, for a $12 pork roast, you end up with a LOT of sandwiches. Secondly, they all taste completely amazing. Like, I'd rather sit here eating this pork than watch the series finale of Lost without this pork amazing. So I decided to try making it again but threw some pickled beets I'd made using Alton Brown's recipe onto the sandwich and my God, was I glad I did. The sweet & sour flavors of the soft, pickled beets really complemented the tangy, smokey flavors of the pulled pork. I love this pulled pork recipe, too, because of how moist the pork is and the softer texture that comes from mixing the caramelized onions into the pork meat. Mmmmm pork meat. Nestled up next to a grilled cob of corn, nothing could taste more like summer.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Peach & Pear Preserves with Rum & Cinnamon

It's nearly peach season here in Southern California, and while I'm planning on going peach-picking next month, I couldn't wait that long to try my hand at making another kind of jam, or preserves, to be precise. I always think of jam as smoother and more pureed than preserves, and I kept nice chunks of the peaches and pears in this one which is why I'm not calling it a jam. This is my new favorite fruit spread though, and while it came out superb, it was not without errors. For example, when I went to add the cinnamon, I grabbed the cumin instead and dumped a teaspoon of it into the pot, before instantly realizing that whatever I'd just plopped in definitely did not smell like cinnamon. So, I promptly freaked out for a full 10 seconds, then managed to calm myself enough to scoop out the vast majority of the cumin and add the cinnamon to remedy my error. But when I tasted the preserves I could kind of taste the cumin, not at all a strong taste, and probably not even identifiable if I didn't know about the cumin already, but it was actually weirdly nice. Kind of added another layer of flavor to the preserves. So I kept a "pinch" of cumin in the recipe here. Thank goodness some mistakes actually end up working out for the better! Unlike those sage green clogs....Also, a tip on peeling the peaches, drop them whole in boiling water for 1 minute and then remove them with tongs and allow them to cool enough to be handled. Make a cut in the skin of the peach, and you should be able to peel off all the skin easily with your hands.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cardamom Brown Sugar Cake with Fresh Cherries & Rose Cream

Jeremy had been out of town for over two weeks when he returned last Sunday, and by then I had run out of household chores to keep me occupied. Having cleaned every knob, vacuumed every corner, and weeded every garden plot, I was tired, lonely, and kind of depressed. So, I did what I knew would make both of us happy upon his return, I made a cake. I used this recipe from Betty Crocker as the base for the cake but added some cardamom (it tastes amazing in desserts!) and then layered in some rose whipped cream with slices of fresh black cherries. The result was a wonderfully rich cake with a light and fluffy floral frosting. While frosting the cake I kind of fell in love with the way the unfrosted sides looked, but I knew that the cake would taste better with more whipped cream pushed in the sides so I went ahead and iced the whole thing. However, if you really like the un-iced look too, you can just cut the recipe for the whipped cream in half so that you have enough only the frost the layers.