Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Romanesco

The first time I ever heard of Romanesco, it was on an episode of Numb3rs, a few years ago. I went online to look it up, and I was in love. It's such a pretty vegetable.

The local supermarket sells a green cauliflower that looks like it wants to be Romanesco, but it's not quite as pointy.

But today, I found it at the farmers market. Just a few small pieces.

I bought them all, then came home and started taking photos because I thought it was sooooo pretty. Every angle was different, and I thought that closeups would be pretty darned cool.

And, well, I have a new camera, so I wanted to play with all of the settings and see what sort of photos I'd end up with. So here are just some of the photos...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Optical Illusion Cracker

I was taking pictures of some crackers I just made, and through the lens of the camera, I saw a face in one of the crackers. Kind of like the man on the moon is made of shadows and ridges. So I took some photos of it, for the fun of it.

But here's the weird thing. When you look at it up close, it sort of looks like a face. Big deal. Sort of a stupid smiley face. But if you step back from your monitor, it changes. It looks like a bear's face.

No, really, I'm serious. Look at the photo, then step back and look again.

I didn't do anything to the cracker before or after I baked it, and I didn't do some sort of Photoshop magic on the photo. Heck, I don't even have Photoshop. The white stuff is a dust of flour that was on the cracker, but there was nothing artistic about that. It's just residual flour. And the image is in the cracker.

But here's the photo. You tell me.


You see it, right?

Could it be a message from Frosty the Polar Bear?

And yes, there is a recipe coming for these delectable crackers. They've got a kick of spice, so I named them Fire Crackers. Check back on July 4 for complete details.

Click here for the recipe that created these crackers.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

BOTD:Crispy Rye Breadsticks

I adore breadsticks. They're nice at the dinner table with just a touch of butter, and they're a great little snack. And they're a lot easier to make than most people imagine.

As a snack, breadsticks aren't the worst you could do. They're not as salt-laden as pretzels or chips, and they aren't sugary like cookies. And if you're making them yourself, you can opt for more whole grains, or top them with your favorite seeds or nuts.

For these, I used both caraway seeds and nigella seeds. Both are optional. I also added extra gluten, which is also optional. It makes these breadsticks easier to handle, but it's not critical if you don't have it on hand.

Another great thing about breadsticks is that the crispy version has an extremely long shelf life. Unlike a moist bread that can get moldy, these are dry, like crackers. And since they're already dry, they don't dry out and get stale. In theory, they can last a long time. In practice, they disappear pretty quickly.

Since I bake a lot of breadsticks, I have a breadstick pan with ridges that keep the breadsticks in place. That sort of pan isn't necessary; a standard baking sheet is just fine. You just need to leave enough room between them so they don't touch while they're baking.

These bake at a relatively low temperature for quite a long time, because you want them to dry all the way through. A completely cooked breadstick will be crispy and shattery. An undercooked one will be like I imagine those rawhide dog chews might be.
The only difficult part about making these is that there's a fine line between being completely cooked and being overbrowned. Once they start browning, don't walk away from them for too long.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding

This is a recipe that I found handwritten in the back of a 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking. Prior to this, I tried a salad dressing recipe written in that same hand.

As I was assembling my ingredients, I started wondering about the person who wrote the recipe. Was it her recipe? Or was it something that someone else gave her? If she got it from someone else, was it a complete, correct recipe? Had she ever made this dish?

Did the person who gave her the recipe like her?

As I started combining things, and I could almost feel her looking over my shoulder. When she wrote the recipe, did she wonder if someone else might see it and make it?

Imagine what she would have said if someone told her that people all over the world could potentially read her recipe some day in the future. There's no way she could have imagined anything like the Internet back in the 40's.

I started imagining her cooking with me. "Get the teakettle on the boil," she might have said. But I don't have a teakettle. I put 3 cups of water into a glass measuring cup and put it into the microwave, while she eyed me skeptically. Beep-beep-beep. Would she even know what those sounds were? If she had lived a long life, she would know about microwaves, but I preferred to imagine her at the time she was writing those recipes, and I was betting that she wrote those recipes shortly after she got the book.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Midwestern "Chop Suey"

When I was growing up, before the first Chinese take-out place opened in our little town, this is what I knew as chop suey. This is my mother's chop suey. Or, it was my mother's chop suey until I tossed out most of the canned goods and chopped up more vegetables.

And while mom's chop suey was something she made purposely, I make it with leftover roast pork. It's a great way to make a completely different meal, and it's something to look forward to when the roast is almost gone.

I usually put bok choy in my chop suey, but the bok choy I thought I bought at the farmer's market was actually napa cabbage, so I used that. It worked just fine. And I usually use fresh bean sprouts, but I couldn't find any, so I had to settle for canned. Yes, I could have grown my own, and I've done that before, but I thought I'd be able to buy 'em, and they weren't there. Sometimes you have to go with what's available.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Visit with The Bald Brewer

This was published in the July, 2010 issue of the Left Hand Valley Courier as part of my Vicinity and Beyond series.

I was pretty excited when I saw a new brewing store that opened up in Longmont. Not that I'm about to start brewing beer and wine at home, but I figured it there would be at least a few interesting things I could use for regular cooking.

The Bald Brewer didn't disappoint. Although it's a tiny building, there are plenty of interesting grains along with some specialty sugars and flavorings that could be very interesting to experiment with. But brewers will find even more, including specialty hops, yeasts, and hardware needed for brewing and bottling.

Miesel said that not only is beer brewing an inexpensive hobby, it can be economical. The cost of ingredients for making 5 gallons of beer is about $35-$45, "and after equipment, it's 30-40 percent cheaper than [buying beer] in the store," Miesel said.

Before opening the store, Miesel’s career had been in psychology, but he said, "I needed a break." So he looked at other businesses. "I looked at coffee before I decided to do brewing." Miesel said. "I brew, myself." Miesel hasn't left his previous career behind, though, since he teaches a master's course online.

Part of the decision to open a brewing store was that he wanted to "do his own thing" and meet interesting people."It's a very unique business," he said. "It generally draws scientifically-minded people."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Napa Cabbage Salad

I decided that the cooked salad dressing that I made recently would make a great slaw dressing. I tempered the tartness with some sugar and thinned it with some buttermilk

As far as the salad, it was:

Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
Onion, thinly sliced
Carrot, shredded
Hakura turnip, quartered and thinly sliced
Frozen peas

And that's it. I dressed it lightly, mixed it up, and served it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

BOTD: Spelt Pull-Slice-Apart Bread

Farro is probably my new favorite grain for cooking, and I was considering grinding some up to make bread. But...but...I read from one source that farro is the Italian name for what we call spelt. And spelt flour is easy to find. In fact, I've made spelt bread before, and I have a spelt sourdough culture started. So no need to waste my whole grains.

Like any alternate grain, I still use some bread flour in the dough because I like the structure it provides.

The form of this bread was a little different. This was first attempt at a different sort of pull-apart loaf, and to be honest, I was being a bit sloppy about it. It was more about the experiment than about getting it perfect. It's still a nice loaf of bread, and it's tasty. But it's not the prettiest thing I've ever made.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Leftover Bread - Crispy Toasts

What do you do when you've got a really great bread, but you know you won't finish it? For a plain bread, breadcrumbs or croutons are a good choice,

But my tomato-cheese bread was so tasty, it deserved a better fate. So I sliced it thin, cut it into squares, and toasted the squares in the oven until they were dry and crisp.

Serving them with cheese seems redundant, but they were really nice with a smoked chevre.

Or, with a bit of butter, a thin slice of radish, and a few flakes of a nice salt.


You can see the bits of cheese better now that they're toasted than you could in the original bread. Of course, they're fine for snacking all by themselves. too. And hey, why not some closeups?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

BOTD: Tomato-Cheese Bread

My inspiration for this bread was my favorite grilled cheese sandwich, which includes a slice of tomato and a sprinkle of dried oregano. And if fresh tomatoes are out of season, that grilled cheese sandwich with a sprinkle of oregano pairs perfectly with a bowl of tomato soup.

This recipe uses tomato powder, which can be found at some spice shops and online. Or, if you have a food dehydrator, you can dry tomatoes then grind them to a powder.

If neither of those options are available, I'd suggest using tomato paste. You might need to add a little more flour or reduce the water a bit to compensate for the moisture in the paste.

My favorite cheese for grilled cheese is colby, but I used a sharp cheddar for this to boost the cheesy flavor.

This bread exceeded all of my expectations. The bits of cheese that were close to the crust browned nicely, just like those bits of cheese that drip out of the sandwich and get a little brown and crunchy in the pan, or like the browned bubbles on a broiled open-faced sandwich. The tomato flavor was definitely there, and the hint of oregano was perfect.

I'm usually patient about waiting for bread to cool before I cut into it, but this one was trying my patience. I didn't cut it, but I kept going back to inhale the amazing scent. Once I cut it, the color was just as enticing. It was a beautiful orange, almost the same color and the cheese that disappeared into it.


Monday, June 21, 2010

"How to Read a French Fry" and Pots de Creme

I know I'm a little late in reading How to Read a French Fry by Russ Parsons since this book came out in 2001. But when I found it at a garage sale I figured it was a deal I couldn't pass up.

Subtitled "and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science" this book is part of that genre that explains the science of how something works in the kitchen and then follows with recipes that use the scientific principles that were just explained.

I have other books of this type, but there's always something new. Or something that's explained better. Or something that I need to be reminded of.

And of course, there are the recipes.

What I found interesting was that there were three different pastry crust recipes. One was for a flaky crust, one was a shortcrust, and one was called a rustic tart crust. I've bookmarked that one to try later, but first I had to have some chocolate.

This recipe was from the book's section on eggs, and demonstrates how eggs set softly to become a custard.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream

This recipe is from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, and if I never made any other recipes from this book, this recipe would be worth the cost of the book. This is a rich, luxurious, decadent ice cream.

I've made this several times, using different types of chocolate and cocoa. This time I used a black cocoa and Guittard semisweet chocolate. Next time I'm sure I'll use something else, because there's always another chocolate around.

The only thing I changed when I made it was that I used 1 teaspoon of vanilla instead of the 1/2 teaspoon. Bad habit. I have a vanilla problem.

I use an attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer to make ice cream. The paddle stalls when the ice cream gets thick, and that's when it's done. Some ice creams take a long time for that to happen and a lot of air gets mixed into the ice cream. Every time I've made this one, it quits early, before a lot of air has been incorporated. But that's okay. The denseness is nice. And since the recipe says that it makes about a quart, I guess I'm doing it right, since that's about what I got from the last batch.

Salad Dressing

In the back of a well-used copy of the 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking, I found this handwritten recipe.

Considering it looks like it was written with a fountain pen, it's probably from the same generation as the book. If you can't make out the writing, this is the recipe:

Salad Dressing

2 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of red pepper
1/2 cup vinegar
Piece of butter the size of small egg

Put on stove in double boiler and stir until it thickens.

And that's it. No other instructions, and no hints as to what sort of salad this is supposed to dress.

So, okay, I figured it was worth a try.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BOTD: Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

The weather was unseasonably cold and rainy. I didn't need another loaf of bread, but turning on the oven sounded appealing. Might as well make a treat, I thought. And might as well make something fun, quirky, unfussy.

And the fact that it's nibble-able makes it even better.

The honey powder I used in this recipe is a fine powder that's coarser than powdered sugar, but finer than granulated. It's available from Savory Spice Shop, and probably other sources as well.

If you can't find honey powder, you could substitute sugar without any problem. Or, if you have honey powder and you want a stronger honey flavor, use all honey powder instead of sugar with the cinnamon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Farro Salad with Feta

If farro was easier to find and cheaper to buy, it would probably be my favorite whole grain. Maybe it would be my favorite grain or any type, if it was cheap and easy enough to experiment with, but for now it's a special item in my kitchen.

Cooked,  farro has a nice chew, but it doesn't harden up when it's cold like some rices do. It's got a nice flavor, but it also plays the background role nicely.

Dried farro reminds me of really plump wheat berries, and they look tough. They look like there might be a nasty husk to deal with, but that isn't the case. The outer portion isn't tough or husk-like at all after cooking, and the cooked farro reminds me of popped popcorn, with the white interior burst outward.

If you can't find farro, this makes a nice pasta salad with orzo pasta.

I started with 1 cup of dry farro, cooked with 3 cups of water in my rice cooker, set on the "brown rice" setting. Or just follow package direction for stovetop cooking. Then I chilled it in the fridge before mixing, but in retrospect, I could have assembled it when it was warm, and chilled it all together.

The measurements are approximate, and you can certain increase, decrease, add or eliminate ingredients as you desire. If you prefer fresh herbs, feel free to substitute fresh for the dried, but since this is something that will be hanging in my fridge for several days

If you don't have meyer lemon olive oil, regular olive oil is fine. You could add some lemon zest or a squeeze of lemon, if you prefer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BOTD: Peanut Butter Bread

The first time I made this bread, I tossed the peanut butter in on a whim. I didn't know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Since then, I've made this several more times, sometimes with variations. But this is the orgininal and most basic version. It has a nice peanut flavor, but it's not a sweet bread, unless your peanut butter of choice happens to be sweet.

You could add in all sorts of things: chopped nuts or dried fruit would be nice. Or you could add flavorings like vanilla or cinnamon.

It's a soft, fluffy bread that's fantastic when it's toasted. Or with a smear of jelly. Or, if you're being decadent, butter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rhubarb Chutney

Recently, I signed up for a cooking class at a Williams Sonoma store. The few people I told about it were a little surprised that I was taking that sort of class, but I had my ulterior motives. First, I had my eye on an item that was a Williams Sonoma exclusive, and members of the class got a 10 percent shopping discount. Second, the price of the class included a cookbook the meal that was being cooked from the book, so once I added it all up, the class was free.

Third, and possibly most important, I wanted to see how the class was run to help me with the demos I've been doing lately. I figured I might pick up a few tips about that, even if I didn't pick up any cooking tips.

The meal was a salad with a breaded and fried round of goat cheese, pork loin with a rhubarb chutney, and ice cream. Honestly, I didn't learn anything new, but I had fun. It's not that often that I hang out with a dozen people who like cooking, so that was definately fun.

The book is nice. It's a Williams Sonomo book called Cooking from the Farmer's Market, and it focuses on using fresh ingredients, which is great. The meal was nice. The fried goat cheese was a nice touch. I might pull that trick out once in a while.

The pork tenderloin was nice, but not amazing. The ice cream was okay, but I'm used to making my own, so I'm pretty hard to impress. Everyone else seemed to like it a lot, though. The rhubarb chutney was my favorite bit though, probably because I don't use rhubarb much. I've had it in pies and cobblers, but usually it's the secondary flavor. It was nice to see it playing a starring role in the chutney.

So when I saw rhubarb at the farmer's market I had to pick some up. And of course, I had to mess with the recipe.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BOTD: Banana Cinnamon Bread

It happens to everyone. You buy a bunch of bananas, and inevitably a few of them get a little too brown. Banana bread is the easy answer, but sometimes the response is, "Banana bread again?" You could make banana muffins, but who are we fooling? That's just banana bread in a different form.

You could make banana cake, but that's a different column.

Instead, you can bake those bananas into a yeast bread, roll it up with some sugar to sweeten it and some cinnamon to give it a little kick, and you've got a completely different kind of banana bread. Perfect for breakfast or brunch. Or a snack.

If you don't have Greek-style yogurt, you could use regular yogurt. But since regular yogurt has more moisture you might need to add a bit more flour to compensate. The dough should be soft and supple, but not sticky when you're done kneading.

The scent when this bread is baking is amazing, with the banana and the cinnamon mingling with the sweet yeastiness. The only thing better is eating it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Key Lime Pie

The recipe is from Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies, via this post at Serious Eats. I bought a bag of key limes at the grocery store and grabbed some regular limes since I wasn't sure if I'd get the required 1/2 cup of juice from all those little lime. Silly me, I had key limes left over. But no problem, I like lime.

I juiced the limes using my Mexican-style lime squeezer, which worked really well to extract a lot of juice, The only problem was that the seeds are pretty small, so some of them snuck through the holes of the squeezer. No big deal, since I noticed one or two. I strained the juice before it went into the pie and there were a lot more seeds than I noticed. So that's something to consider when you make this.

Also, the finished pie is more yellow than green. While I usually don't add coloring to foods, if you want this to be green, then a drop or two of food coloring is probably the only way you'll get that color.

Taste-wise, though, this was a really nice pie. A lot of lime flavor, good tartness, and enough sweet. I'd suggest a whipped cream garnish to finish it off.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Black Garlic

When I saw Korean aged black garlic at Savory Spice Shop, I had to give it a try.

It's definitely black inside, and it's soft and smooth.The flavor has a hint of garlic, but it's also sweet. It reminded me of dried fruit, with a hint of raspberry..

The garlic starts out like a normal head of garlic, but then it's fermented at high heat, which turns the cloves black. According to wikipedia, it's rich in antioxidants.

Since the flavor was so mild, I decided to keep the first experiment fairly simple, and made a salad dressing. I blended one clove with some mayo and yogurt, then added a bit of salt. Surprisingly, the dressing was a pale pink, with a few flecks of darker bits. It still had a tiny hint of garlic flavor, and the sweet fruitiness also came through.

I'm looking forward to more experiments with the rest of the head.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Quick-Pickled Bell Peppers

Pickling is usually a fall activity, but bell peppers go on sale randomly at all times of the year so you can make these almost any time you want them. I've only made these with green peppers, but there's no reason you couldn't make them with red, yellow, orange or purple peppers.

Since these are a quick pickle, and not sealed and processed, you probably only want to make a jar at a time. But that's fine.

They're easy to make.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What's Cooking?: Your Potatoes are Leeky

This first appeared in the June, 2010, issue of the Left Hand Valley Courier in my What's Cooking? column.

Your Potatoes Are Leeky

I’m a big Alton Brown fan and I was pretty excited to see that he had a cookbook that recreated the recipes from some of his Good Eats shows. Almost as good as the recipes are some of the snippets from the show.

But of course, it’s a cookbook. While these recipes are probably all available on the Food Network website, the great thing is the additional commentary that the book provides. Besides comments about the production, there’s a bit more detail about the recipes themselves.

It’s pretty rare for me to make soup from a recipe, but this had ingredients that I’d never thought of adding to a potato-leek soup, so I decided to follow it from start to finish. The only thing I changed along the way was that I pureed the soup at the end for a smoother finish.

Brown suggested using leftover baked potatoes for the recipe, but I baked them specifically for this recipe and used them warm rather than cooling them.

This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

BOTD: Pepper and Egg Bread (two ways)

I've been puttering around trying to incorporate scrambled eggs and peppers into bread. My first version was pretty good, but not exactly what I was dreaming of. So it was back to the drawing board for two more tries. Actually, the recipe ingredients in these two are the same, but the technique is different.

I'm actually pretty happy with both versions, but neither are the perfect reproduction of the bread that I envisioned when I started this quest. I'll be tweaking this recipe some more, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, both of these were interesting.

The first version has the eggs kneaded into the dough, so the pieces broke up during the kneading, leaving small bits of egg in the finished bread. It also required quite a bit more flour kneaded in at the end since the eggs contributed a bit of moisture to the dough. The finished bread spread out more than up; in retrospect, I probably should have baked it as a focaccia-style bread.

The second bread, with the eggs rolled up jellyroll style, held its shape better, and the big chunks of egg were more visible in the finished loaf.

When I made my first attempt at a pepper-egg bread, I didn't want to knead the peppers into the dough because I was concerned that the finished bread would be a pale green. However, it ended up being a golden yellow instead, which was quite acceptable.

Both breads were really tasty, with a nice kick of heat from the pepperspread.

So, with no further ado, here are the breads:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lime-Pickled Onions


I love onions, and I love lime. Put the two together and something magical happens. I usually pickle red onions, and they turn an interesting pink-purple color, but I didn't have any red onions when I decided to do this, so I went with regular yellow onions.

They taste just as good, but I've got to say I like the pink color better.

Pickling onions this way keeps them crisp, and the acid takes away some of the bite from the onion.

At the same time, the lime adds a great tartness. But not as sour as vinegar. These are just plain yummy, And they couldn't be simpler.

All you need are:
Onions
Lime
Salt

Peel, halve, and slice onions to fill a pint jar. Add a teaspoon of salt. Squeeze as many limes as you need to fill the jar. How many you need will depend on the size of the lime and juicy they are, and how you packed the onions. To fill this pint jar, it took six medium limes.

Store the jar in the fridge. You can eat the onions any time, but they'll be best after at least a 24-hour rest.

Don't they look great on top of this sandwich? The pork is cooked in a sauce made from dried peppers.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

BOTD: Light Rye Buns

When I was growing up, there were a couple local places that served burgers on rye buns. Not dark and hearty rye, like you'd use for a patty melt, but a light and fluffy burger bun with a subtle rye flavor. And when I say subtle, let's just say that it took me quite a while to figure out the the buns had rye in them.

Okay, I was just a kid, but I knew rye bread - the serious seedy rye - and these buns weren't that serious and the rye wasn't that obvious. It was just an extra nuance that made those burgers different from all the other places.

Rye buns must not be popular, given that I've never seen them sold anywhere. But why not? Besides using them for burgers, buns are great for sandwiches of all types. And a little bit of rye makes them a lot more interesting.

This recipe uses a medium rye flour, but you can certainly use any type of rye you have available. And since I wanted these buns to be light and fluffy, I used one of my favorite secret ingredients - mashed potato flakes. If you don't have the flakes, skip them and increase the bread flour a bit to make up the difference. An extra 1/4 cup of flour should be fine, and add more if you need it during kneading.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Russet Potato Salad

We all know that red potatoes are better for potato salad, right? But what happens when you have a craving for potato salad and you've got a whole lot of russets because the last time you bought them, the big bag was on sale? You make potato salad anyway.

The trick is to cut them into bigger chunks than usual, because they'll break apart more when you start mixing. And mix as gently as you can.

This isn't my go-to recipe, but it's got the main points covered. This version was based on what was in my refrigerator and what I was in the mood for. All the measurements are estimates. Use your own judgement, and adjust to your taste

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Local Colorado Products

This week, Serious Eats posted a Cook and Tell challenge that asked for information about locally-made products. So I checked my kitchen and pantry, then took my camera along to Cayenne Kitchen hunt down even more local products. I was surprised how many I found.

And I also found that was difficult to draw the line at who was truly local. In the end, I included all the ones with local connections that I found during my short hunt.

I meant to take my camera to the farmer's market over the weekend, but forgot it, so that's a post for another day. I'll probably put that off until the market has moved beyond spring greens and there are some more vegetables making an appearance.

These are in alphabetical order, and where the product line didn't seem obvious from the photos or company names, I included that as well. I also linked to websites, if the companies had them. In some cases, I have links to my previous posts about these businesses, people, and products.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Subtle Rustic Red Sauce

Yesterday, I posted my interview with Janet Johnston, host of Spice & Easy on Food Network. During the conversation, Janet mentioned this recipe a couple times, so I decided it would be a good one to try.

Before I left the store, Dan warned me not to get carried away with the Italian Sausage spice or the finished dish could be too salty. I see what he meant. With just the two teaspoons called for in the recipe, it had plenty of salt, so the warning was worthwhile. This guy knows his spice mixes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Janet Johnston, host of the Food Network show Spice & Easy

I've often wondered what TV personalites are like when they're off camera. I got my chance to peek into that world when I met Janet Johnston, the host of the Food Network show Spice & Easy and one of the owners of Savory Spice Shop.

On camera, I thought Janet's personality was a nice mix of food passion and quirkiness that made her easy to watch. When she was explaining the spices, she was serious, but she often tossed in oddball comments that were too spontaneous and natural to be scripted.

I couldn't wait to meet her, and I wasn't disappointed when we met at the Boulder location of Savory Spice Shop. In person, Janet was as funny, quirky, and serious - sometimes all in the same sentence - as she was on TV.

Janet said that she came into cooking later in life, through her husband, Mike. "I caught the food bug from him" she said. But that it is now a passion for both of them. "We're spice geeks, foodies...and we love the shop."

When the couple lived in Chicago, Mike had worked for a spice store. They decided that they wanted open their own store, and settled on Denver as the ideal location. The first Savory Spice Shop opened in Denver in 2004, a second store opened in Littleton, Colorado in 2006, and the Boulder store opened in 2008, where Dan Hayward (at left, with Janet) is a partner in the business.

The Food Network first took interest in the Johnstons and their store when the Neeleys were doing the Road Tasted show and were planning a visit to Denver. For that episode, Janet and Mike prepared a little cooking demonstration using some of the store's spice blends.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Simple Pepper Sauce

There's probably a better name for this stuff, but I just call it pepper sauce.

This is the simplest version I make, and it's easy enough that you can make it any time you want it, as long as you have dried peppers on hand.

And since dried peppers store well, there's no reason not to have some stashed away.

I usually use a mix of peppers. Usually that includes anchos and guajillos. But use whatever you like, and whatever is available locally. You can certainly use all the same pepper, but I think a mix is nicer.

Use this recipe as a guideline, but experiment and modify.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

David Lebovitz's Creamy Rice Pudding

Before I get into the recipe, I've got to apologize to David Lebovitz. No, really. I'm sorry.

This is how it all started.

I was paging through Ready for Dessert and thinking that I was really was ready to make something for dessert. But what? My criteria was pretty minimal. The ingredients had to be readily available, so no persimmons or passion fruit or anything else the grocery store was unlikely to stock.

It would be a plus if it didn't require a trip to the store. And it would be a double-plus if it would use up a lot of milk. Because I had a lot of milk on hand, and the next delivery would be here before this was gone. So using up milk was good.

I stopped briefly at the chocolate gelato. Oh yeah, that sounded good. But I've got strawberry ice cream in the freezer, so I don't really need a gelato in there too.

Irish Coffee Cupcakes sounded really good. But I didn't have the booze for them.

Then I found the ideal recipe. Rice Pudding. I love rice pudding, but I haven't had it in a long time. But the downfall? Sigh. Raisins. I absolutely abhor raisins. Now, I'm not a picky eater. Give me liver, beets, broccoli or any of the other myriad things that people often don't like, and I'm perfectly happy. There are only two things I refuse to eat. One of them is raisins. I don't think that's unreasonable for an adult to refuse to eat two things, right?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

BOTD: Peanut Butter Bread with White Whole Wheat

I've made peanut butter bread a number of different ways, but I didn't think about adding whole wheat flour to the recipe until recently. I don't know what took me so long. White whole wheat it the perfect ingredient, adding its own subtle nuttiness to the taste, and more texture as well.

As a bonus, if you're trying to add more whole grains to your diet, this is a pretty unobtrusive way to get them in. Everyone will notice the peanut flavor and no one will notice the grains.

For a change, I decided to make this loaf in the food processor. You can certainly make it in a stand mixer or by hand.

I used creamy peanut butter, but you could substitute chunky, if you prefer. Or use the creamy and toss in some chopped nuts as well.

When I made this, the dough got pretty warm during the processing, so it rose very fast. I decided to punch it down and let it rise a second time before shaping and baking. If yours rises slower or if you don't have time for a second rise, skip that extra step and proceed to shaping right away.

Pin It button on image hover