Carrie's Posts

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Charred Summer Salad

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Q: How do you get more flavor from your vegetables if you’re not allowed to have a grill on your apartment balcony?

A: You char them in a cast iron skillet or fire roast them on the stove top!

I couldn’t decide what I wanted to make for dinner the other day, so I stopped by the grocery store to see what vegetables looked nice or inspired me. I had some romaine lettuce and chicken breasts at home, so I was leaning toward making a salad.  The poblano peppers and red peppers looked beautiful, so I grabbed one of each and a red onion as well.

Roasted peppers have such a wonderful flavor and are easy to prepare.  Plus, by roasting the peppers, you are able to get rid of the bitter skins which are also hard to digest.

How to Roast a Pepper

Place the pepper directly on the grate of a gas stove top and turn the flame on high.  Use tongs to rotate the pepper once the first side is charred until it is black all over.  Then, place the pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or place in a Ziploc bag and seal.  Once the pepper is cool enough to touch, place a paper towel on your cutting board (which helps minimize the mess) and use another paper towel to pull the charred skin off the pepper.  You’ll be tempted to rinse the pepper under running water, but don’t give in.  You’ll actually wash some of the flavor away!  Once the skin is removed, open the pepper to remove the seeds and then slice or dice.

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Shelley also shows you how to do it in this video:

For the red onion, I sliced it into rounds, heated my cast iron skillet over medium heat, added a touch of oil and placed the onion in the skillet.  I didn’t turn the onion until the first side was nice and caramelized.  Flip and repeat.  Rough chop when cool.

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I used the same skillet to sear the chicken breasts while I prepared the rest of the salad.  For added texture and flavor, I threw sliced cucumber, shredded carrot and a handful of walnuts into the salad.

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My new favorite homemade salad dressing is tahini, lemon or lime juice, a touch of water and olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s light and delicious!

Try this at home, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Pop Quiz-Ine

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

One of our favorite mediums to play around with flavor at The Chopping Block is popcorn.  If you’ve ever been to a class, private event or just stopped by to shop, chances are you have sampled one of our creations.

SaltsFirst, I’ll give a brief overview of how to pop popcorn on the stovetop for those of you that rely on the microwave.  No judgment here… before I started teaching classes at The Chopping Block, that’s what I did too.

Here’s What You Need

  • Heavy pot with lid (Le Creuset 7.5qt French Oven works perfectly)
  • High heat oil (Grapeseed or Canola)
  • Large bowl
  • Popcorn

Here’s What You Do

 

  1. Preheat the pot.
  2. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot.
  3. Place one kernel of popcorn in the pot and turn the heat to high. Once it pops, then add approximately 1 cup of kernels.
  4. As the kernels are popping, it’s important to shake the pot so that the unpopped kernels sink to the bottom and the already popped kernels continue to move upward to prevent burning. Burnt popcorn is not a pleasant aroma.
  5. When the interval between pops begins to slow to 3 – 5 seconds between pops, turn the heat off and remove the lid.  This keeps the popcorn from getting tough and chewy from the steam in the pot.
  6. Carefully transfer the popcorn to a large bowl, allowing enough room to be able to toss the popcorn with seasonings.

Three of my Favorite Popcorn Flavors

Frantoia olive oil and truffle salt

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Pizza popcorn = oil from Pomodorracio tomatoes, dried oregano, grated Parmesan

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Tahitian lime olive oil and chipotle lime seasoning

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I recently experimented with a ‘twice baked potato’ flavor combination. After popping the kernels in a combo of bacon fat and grapeseed oil, I melted some butter and whisked in a little sour cream and more bacon fat.  After tossing the popcorn in this super tasty liquid mixture, I sprinkled it with white cheddar powder and minced green onions.  Success!

What is the craziest flavor of popcorn you’ve ever made? Share with me in the comments. 

Cinco de Mayo

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Today isn’t just an excuse for you to go out and have a pitcher of margaritas with your friends. Cinco de Mayo is also a chance for you to celebrate my birthday. Really, it’s my birthday! So, I actually do plan on having a few margaritas with friends.

In seriousness, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War, celebration of Mexican heritage and pride and the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

guacamoleWhen people ask me what my specialty dish is, I usually say guacamole.  I love all the flavors of Mexico (probably because of my birthday) and guacamole is one of my go-to comfort foods. I’m pretty finicky when it comes to guacamole and, of course, mine is the best.  It sounds simple, but it’s all about the balance of salt, acid and heat.

Because it’s my birthday, I’m going to share my secret with you: you need the juice of ½ lime per avocado. That’s it. Of course, not all limes are alike, so you may have to tweak things here and there.

Guacamole

ganze und halbe avocado isoliert auf weiss4 avocadoes, smashed

2 limes, juiced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 shallot, minced

½ cup cilantro, minced

Salt to taste

molcajeteGuacamole is traditionally made using a molcajete.  A molcajete (mol-cah-hay’-tay is a stone tool, the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle.  The matching hand-held grinding tool, known as a tejolote is also made of the same basalt material. Most pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican molcajetes were made of ceramic rather than stone, especially among the Aztecs.  The rough surface of the basalt stone creates a superb grinding surface that maintains itself over time as tiny bubbles in the basalt are ground down, replenishing the textured surface. But as long as you have a good chef’s knife, a bowl and a spoon… you too can make guacamole.

There are so many variations of guacamole. If you like it hot, use more jalapeno or a canned chipotle chili for a nice smoky flavor.  I’m not a fan of tomatoes in my guacamole, but I won’t hold it against you if you add some to yours. After all, Shelley does. Watch her video on How to Make Guacamole.

What’s your favorite ingredient to add to guacamole? Share your ideas in the comments. 

 

 

 

Monster Craving

Monday, March 31st, 2014

I don’t consider myself to be a baker, but I can make a pretty mean cookie.  One of my ‘go to’ recipes is actually gluten free. That doesn’t mean that it’s healthy, but it does mean I can share them with all of my friends. There are many variations of this recipe, so look around and find one that suits you best.

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The recipe is very simple and uses the creaming method. Creaming, in baking, is the technique of blending ingredients, usually granulated sugar, together with a solid fat like shortening or butter. The technique is most often used in making buttercream, cake batter or cookie dough. The dry ingredients are mixed or beaten with the fat until it becomes light and fluffy and increased in volume, due to the incorporation of tiny air bubbles. These air bubbles, locked into the semi-solid fat, remain in the final batter and expand as the item is baked, serving as a form of leavening agent.

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Butter is the traditional fat for creaming, but vegetable shortening is a more effective leavener for a number of reasons. The low melting point of butter means it aerates best at temperatures cooler than most kitchens (18 °C/65 °F), while shortening works best at higher temperatures. Because fat of butter has coarser crystalline structure, it allows larger air bubbles to form than shortening; large bubbles can rise in and escape from thin batters. Also, most shortening is made with preformed nitrogen bubbles and bubble-stabilizing emulsifiers, both of which enhance its leavening ability.

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The only problem I run into when making these Monster Cookies is the size of my KitchenAid mixer.  It’s fine for one recipe, but I typically make a double batch because they freeze very well.  You can use a large or small portion scoop for these, just watch the bake time and adjust accordingly. These come out best when using a Silpat instead of parchment.  I find that when I use parchment paper, they tend to burn a little more quickly.  I do not like the taste of burnt peanut butter.  The Silpat gives a more of a buffer between the pan and the cookie.

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My name is Carrie.  I have a cookie addiction.  This is my third blog about cookies.

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Feeling Pudgy? Salad to the Rescue

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to eat on a cold winter’s day is salad. Unfortunately, my pants seem to be shrinking by the day, so I thought I would share an awesome recipe.

This watercress salad is stunningly beautiful, full of flavor, textures and good for you. What more can you ask for?  The watercress gives the salad body and a nice peppery bite, celery makes it refreshing, chickpeas are soft and full of protein, almonds supply the crunch factor and pomegranate seeds are just amazing!

Watercress Salad with Chickpeas and Pomegranate Seeds

watercressYield 4-6 Servings

Active time: 20 minutes

Start to finish: 20 minutes

3 stalks celery, thinly sliced on the bias

1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate, see note below

Feta Vinaigrette, recipe follows

  1. In large salad bowl, toss together the celery, watercress and chickpeas.
  2. Dress with just enough feta vinaigrette to lightly coat. Place the salad on chilled plates.
  3. Top each serving with a sprinkling of almonds and pomegranate seeds.

pomegranateNote: The best way to remove the seeds from a pomegranate is to cut in half and place it in a bowl of water. Use your fingers to gently loosen the seeds from the pith without bursting them. The seeds will sink to the bottom, making it easy to gather them, and you will not get sprayed with any juice.

Another way to get the seeds out is to cut the pomegranate in half around the equator, hold the flat side in your hand over a bowl, then smack the rounded side with a heavy spoon.  The seeds fall right out into the bowl!

*Disclaimer – Don’t wear white clothing while doing this.

Feta Vinaigrette

Yield: 1 cup

Active time: 15 minutes

Start to finish time: 15 minutes

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 shallot, minced

1/3 to 1/2 extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon fresh dill, rough chopped

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mix together the vinegar and shallot in a medium size bowl.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking quickly to form a temporary emulsion.
  3. Stir in the honey, dill and feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Carrie finally found her culinary niche as a Chef Instructor for The Chopping Block in May 2008, but only after a hilariously traumatic demonstration interview (of which you will have to attend one of her classes to hear about). She gets a thrill of sharing the things she’s learned about food and cooking with others and the memories and experiences around food that have made her who she is today. Her hope is to take away the apprehension people have of cooking by pouring on her southern hospitality and charm and having fun in the kitchen. When she isn’t cooking, you can usually find her at a concert, a neighborhood restaurant or just hanging out with friends and enjoying their company.