Thursday, July 30, 2009

Crispy Homemade Buttermilk Cornmeal Onion Rings - gluten free! or not


Dear Crispy Homemade Buttermilk Cornmeal, gluten free! (or not) Onion Rings,

I love you desperately, madly, truly, deeply. Let's run away to Vegas and get married and live happily ever after for ever and ever and ever. I don't care what people say, I'll still love you even if you drive a motorcycle, wear a leather jacket, or are deep fried in vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids, and my parents and teachers say you are a bad, bad boy. They just don't know you like I know you, because if they did, they would love you like I love you.

True Love forever,

Bleeding Heart Teenage Angst Becks.


I have a confession to make: I'm in love with a bad, bad, but oh, so good, deep fried treat. I am hopelessly smitten. Oh, it hurts so good. In my defense, I would like to point out that before I made these, it had been over 2 years since I had an onion ring, or anything breaded, for that matter. Two years of eating salads while watching my curiously slim husband gobble down burgers and fries and stacks of crispy golden onion rings.


Wait, what's that sound? I think it's a tiny violin.

I like a salad as much as the next Californian (read: A LOT) but sometimes I just start hankering after something a little more forbidden, and little more carbohydrate laden, a little more deep fried. Sometimes, you just want to date a bad boy for the fun of it. Sometimes, you want ONION RINGS, to hell with the consequences.

And hello? Now I know these are ridiculously easy to make. They require approximately zero talent. I don't know what took me so long. Now I want to eat them on burgers and with steaks and dipped into marinara sauce and ranch dressing and blah blah blah.

Please, please make these. Bleeding heart teenage angst Becks wants you to love these onion rings like she loves these onion rings. With a deep, passionate, blind love, which (of course) will last until the end of time, or the end of high school, whichever comes first.


Crispy Homemade Buttermilk Cornmeal Onion Rings - gluten free! or not.
Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home

The only special equipment you really need for this recipe, a piece of equipment you just can't do without, it a good instant-read candy/deep fry thermometer. You just don't know how hot that oil is without one, and it really does need to be 350 degrees. Any lower, and you get soggy onion rings, not crisp light ones. And any higher, and well, you get burned onion rings. So go splurge and spent that $7 for a thermometer. You'll be glad you did.

This recipe also calls for masa, my new favorite flour. Masa is a type of fine Latin American corn flour used to make tortillas, chips, tamales, etc. It tastes wonderful, and it's mega cheap. I love the stuff, and I'm trying find new ways to use it. This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa), who originally called for corn meal. However, we found that to be a bit too gritty and heavy, and we liked the texture and taste of the masa flour much better.

In addition to the masa, I call for some gluten-free flours (sweet rice flour and brown rice flour), but if gluten isn't an issue for you, I'm sure all purpose flour would work admirably, and taste quite yummy.

2 sweet onions (Maui sweet onions or Vidalia onions)
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup masa de harina corn flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour (or all purpose flour)
1/2 cup brown rice flour (or all purpose flour)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 quart vegetable oil

Cut 2 sweet onions crosswise into 1/2 inch rings, and separate layers into individual rings.

In a ziplock bag, combine 2 cups buttermilk with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper. Add onion rings, and let soak for at least 30 minutes (can be made ahead and soaked overnight).

Combine 1 cup masa de harina, 1/2 cup sweet rice flour, and 1/2 cup brown rice flour in a shallow bowl, and mix thoroughly.

Preheat 1 quart vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a heavy bottomed skillet or cast iron pot. Working in batches, coat onion rings in flour mixture, and add to the oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes, until rings are golden. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon, and let drain on a paper towel.

Enjoy your illicit, forbidden, deep fried love affair. Rrrar!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Creamy Cool Mint and Chocolate Grasshopper Pie - gluten free! Or not.


This pie is so lowbrow, and I mean that in the best way possible. It's not a pretentious pie. It doesn't have season tickets to the opera. It doesn't drive a Mercedes. It doesn't wear Prada. This is just a down home, Walmart shopping, Ford driving, baseball playing, summer pie. If we lived in "real America" instead of the liberal hippie commune we call California (oh, I love you, you liberal hippie commune!), I imagine we might eat pie like this every day.

And not that this pie would ever say so itself, seeing as it's so unpretentious, but it is also delicious. It's cool. It's creamy. It's got a refreshing mint flavor and a crisp chocolate crust. It's kind of amazing. Perfect for like, I don't know, a barbecue? A picnic? A beach party? Sunday dinner? A midnight snack? Any time you feel like a little kitschy? Any old excuse?


This weekend we had a coed baby shower barbecue at our house (and by the way, men should always be invited to baby showers. So! Much! Fun!). I made some cupcakes (not gluten-free), and I thought I would just pull this out of the freezer so I could enjoy some dessert too. Dude. This pie was practically inhaled it went so fast. And the cupcakes? I still have a million of them. And why shouldn't this cake be popular? It's practically no-bake, it's perfect on a hot summer day, it pairs well with barbecue, what's not to love?

Wait, I think it's talking to you. It say "make me already!" I think you better listen.


Creamy Cool Mint and Chocolate Grasshopper Pie - Gluten free! Or not.

Okay, okay, this pie has the great white Satan in it. You know what I'm talking about. Yep, that's right. This pie calls for cool whip. On most days, I tend to sit up on my high horse and talk about how horrible processed food is (because it is horrible, actually), but, well, not today. Life is short, it's ok to live it up with some cool whip every now and then. I'm not suggesting you make cool whip part of your daily bread, but there are some worse sins I can think of. And honestly, the cool whip is seriously yummy. It's summer! Let's enjoy it, shall we?

Also, let's talk about crusts. My crust is gluten free, and is made out of my gluten-free Girl Scout thin mint cookies. HOWEVER, any other gluten-free chocolate cookie will work, and if gluten is not an issue, Oreo's are just dandy. Whatever cookie you choose, you want it to be crisp, like a graham cracker, not soft and chewy.

For the crust
25 gluten-free Girl Scout thin mint cookies, undipped in chocolate, just the cookie (or other types of chocolate cookie).
1/2 cup butter (one stick), melted

For the pie filling
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces cool whip, extra creamy, thawed
1 teaspoon peppermint flavoring
1/2 cup sugar
green food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 25 chocolate cookies in a food processor, and process until cookies are broken down into crumbs.

Add 1/2 a cup melted butter, and process until crumbs are moist and begin sticking together. Press into a pie plate, using the bottom of a measuring cup to press in firmly. Cook in preheated oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool (I stuck mine in the freezer to hasten the process. You want it to be cold before you put in the filling, or the filling may melt).

In a stand mixer, combine 8 ounces cream cheese...

... and 1/2 cup sugar. Whip on high until sugar is dissolved into cream cheese, and cream cheese is light and fluffy, 5-10 minutes.

Add 1 teaspoon peppermint extract. Mix to combine.

Add 8 ounces cool whip and mix until incorporated.

Add a few drops of food coloring (I used about 5 drops, but how green you want it is really a matter of preference). Mix thoroughly.

Filling with be firm but soft. Scrape filling into prepared crust, spreading evenly. Refridgerate at least 2 hours so it can firm up. Alternatively, pie can be frozen.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Juicy Tender Oven Roasted Barbecue Baby Back Ribs


(I am so excited that everyone LOVES this recipe so much! If you are looking for more great dinner recipes, make sure to check out my oven roasted chicken, grilled salmon with cucumber mango salsa, or these amazing pulled pork sandwiches!)

When Nate and I first got married, we lived in what was, quite possibly, the smallest apartment ever. Oh sure, the complex was well maintained and the management was nice, but the apartment itself was the size of a wallet, and the kitchen was so small that if Nate tried to wash a dish while I was stirring a pot we'd be rubbing our buns together in a backwards tango the whole time. There was so little space that I had to put a cutting board over the sink to have any prep space, and my crock pot lived permanently on the stove over a back burner. Which is how I accidentally set it on fire, by the way. Useful tip: Don't store anything flammable on top of a gas stove. You will set it on fire eventually. Really. I promise.



Of course there was nowhere in that teeny tiny apartment to put a grill. And although the apartment complex technically had a one, it took a fair stretch of the imagination to call the rusted lump of metal by the pool a "grill." I turned it on once and a sad little lick of flame flickered at the bottom of the grate, like a lone little candle. Hardly enough heat to melt some butter, let alone sear a steak.

All that is to say, some people, people like me, just don't have access to a grill. And the good news is, if you want to make some finger lickin', lip smackin' good ribs, you don't need one! In fact, when I make ribs, I still make them this way, even though I now live in a place with it's own backyard and a grill to boot. And honestly, it's mostly just because I am lazy. This way is SO easy. When I don't feel like fussing with charcoal and lighters and all the hoopla that goes with grilling, I'm glad I can throw this together in about 1.5 minutes, stick it in the oven, and forget about it. It makes for a great weekday barbecue and requires only a fraction of the work necessary to make ribs on a grill. I mean, it doesn't even get any dishes dirty. Also? Pork ribs are so cheap in the summer! Even thought I bought the *most* expensive type of ribs at my ghetto grocery store, this meal still only cost... $5.

So make 'em already!

Juicy Tender Oven Roasted Barbecue Baby Back Ribs
(try saying that 10 times fast!)

This recipe feeds two people, but is easily doubled or tripled or quadrupled or whatever. I always estimate 1 rack of ribs for 2 people - of course, that is because we always serve this with sides like potato salad or slaw. It's easy to double by just adding more racks of ribs to the foil packets.

1 rack baby back pork ribs (or other kinds, but baby back ribs are the most tender)
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
Classic Homemade Barbecue Sauce, or similar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place 1 rack of baby back pork ribs on a large piece of foil.

Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Place fat side up on the foil.

Cover ribs with a second piece of foil and fold each edge tightly so moisture is sealed in. Bake in preheated over for 1 hour.

Remove ribs from oven and unwrap foil.

Brush with Classic Homemade Barbecue Sauce, or similar and place fat side down. Return ribs to oven, foil still open. Cook 20 minutes.

Brush with barbecue sauce again, cut, and serve.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grilled Keta Salmon with Mango Cucumber Salsa


My goodness, this is really turning into the week where we feed Nate a lot of things he doesn't like, isn't it? I just like to show off. I'm so immodest. It's shameful, really. But there's something really satisfying about taking an ingredient that someone professes to hate, and making something out of it that they love. Like salmon! My crazy husband doesn't like salmon. I know. it's ridiculous. What's wrong with him? Who doesn't like salmon for crying out loud?

Nate, that's who.

Until now, of course. Not that he will admit it, but this? He really liked it. He ate it all up. He said I could make it again if I wanted to. I almost died of shock.

I think the secret to getting salmon into my salmon hating man is that this salmon was wild caught. Typically, I buy the farmed stuff because... I don't want to pay $20 a pound for, well, anything. Sorry. We're cheap like that. However, our local ghetto grocery store somehow managed to purchase and distribute wild caught keta salmon for (gasp!) $1.99 a pound! So I had to buy some. Boy was I surprised when I unwrapped my package to find half a fish staring back at me! I have approximately zero experience in filleting fish, but I did my best not to completely mutilate that lovely fish. Which, by the way, I totally failed at. But that is besides the point.


Because oh. my. goodness. I don't think I can ever eat farmed salmon again. Unlike that bright glaringly orange farmed stuff, this fish was a pale delicate pink, and tasted marvelous. It smelled so heavenly, even when raw: briny and crisp, like the sea, not fishy at all. It melted like butter in my mouth and had a delicate buttery flavor. That's it. I'm spoiled now. I can never buy expensive farmed salmon again, not when the wild stuff tastes so much better and is, uh, cheaper. And also, better for you and more nutritious. No brainer!


Grilled Keta Salmon with Mango Salsa

Apparently, there is a salmon season. I feel a little sheepish that I didn't even know this, but I feel more sheepish that after that first fish I didn't go strait back to the grocery store and buy 20 more pounds of it at that fabulous price. Because of course, it was all gone next time I went and all they had left was the farmed stuff. But I digress.

Salmon season comes in the summer when wild salmon are plentiful (apparently. I'm a Californian and we don't know about these things. Ask me about surfing. I will have a much more informed opinion). You may have some good looking, sweet-smelling, fresh, wild-caught salmon at a store near you, so keep an eye out for this seasonal goody.

Hey, this is real food! You can check out more real food at the blog carnival over at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

For the Salmon
2-4 salmon fillets
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

For the Mango Cucumber Salsa
1 medium cucumber, peel and diced
1 large ripe (but not overripe) mango, peeled and diced
1/2 a bunch cilantro (about 1 cup packed), minced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely minced
2-3 scallions, diced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a medium bowl, combine 1 diced mango...

... with 1 cup minced cilantro...

...2-3 diced scallions...

...1 small jalapeño, minced...

... and 1 diced cucumber.

Add 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and some salt and pepper to taste (really just a pinch of both).

Mix it all up. Voila! Done. Set aside Can be made up to 4 hours ahead.

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar. Add 1/2 a teaspoon salt and 1/2 a teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine.

Let marinate for 5-10 minutes. Grill over high heat, flipping once, and removing when salmon is firm and cooked through.

Top with salsa and serve. Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Midsummer Zucchini Latkes, or Zuchini Pancakes (gluten free! or not)


Zucchini isn't exactly the most glamorous of vegetables, is it? And these? Well, these are not the most fancy of foods, but you know what? Darn tootin, they're good! Pretty or not, they taste great and are a good way to use up the bounty of summer squash flooding the markets this time of year. Usually we make latkes (potato cakes) with just potatoes, but these work ridiculously well with zucchini.

True fact: I am married to a man who absolutely HATES zucchini. HATES. And you know what? I don't blame him. If there is one vegetable that is easy to grow at home, it's zucchini. And it's so prolific! A single plant seems to produce more summer squash than you can use in a year! Around this time each summer, you can't even give it away it's so prolific. Can you guess which vegetable was grated into little boy Nate's cookies, and spaghetti, and mac n' cheese, and scrambled eggs, and pancakes, and blah, blah, blah, ad infinitum? I know, it's so tough sneaking nutrition into kids. The unfortunate result being that Nate now hates zucchini on principle. HATES.

I don't claim that this recipe changed the way Nate feels about zucchini. I don't even claim that he likes zucchini now. All I can say about this recipe is that when I make it, Nate will eat it. The man will eat what he considers to be the most loathsome vegetable on earth (in principle). I think that's a pretty powerful argument in favor of this recipe, because if a confirmed zucchini hater find it palatable, can you imagine what a mere mortal like you or me would think of it? That it's totally delicious? To die for? The best way to eat zucchini ever?

Oh, of course you can decide for yourself. But if you've run out of zucchini ideas, if you have a plant intent upon producing enough fruit for a whole village, or if you just want to try something new, this is a winner.


Midsummer Zucchini Latkes
Feeds 2 - 3 adults

Typically, latkes are a type of passover food (I think... me being 100% butter-loving, big boobs having, square-handed, red-headed German and not a drop of Jewish, I could be wrong), and they are made with matzo meal. Obviously, I can't eat that because I can't eat wheat, so we've been fine tuning gluten-free latkes for years now.

This recipe calls for a couple of gluten-free flours, but if gluten is not an issue regular all-purpose flour should work beautifully when substituted cup for cup. I also call for masa, a type of finely ground pre-cooked Mexican corn flour used for tomales. I LOVE this flour! It's so easy to work with and it has a really wonderful, robust flavor. If you can get ahold of some, I totally recommend using it (gluten free or not). Also, it's crazy cheap - I need to figure out more things to do with it. If you can't get ahold of masa, you can use some finely ground corn meal.

Also, I totally can't even imagine grating all this by hand, when it's just so easy to do with a food processor. Oh, ok, you could do it by hand, but it would take like, a whole 10 minutes instead of 5 seconds. I don't know about you, but I find 5 seconds of prep to be irresistible!

4 medium zucchinis
3 small - medium russet potatoes
1 small - medium yellow onion
2 eggs
1/3 cup quinoa flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup sweet rice flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup masa (or corn meal)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

tzatziki sauce or sour cream for topping (essential! Do not skip!)


Cut the tops and bottoms off of 4 zucchinis. Using the grater attachment, run the zucchinis through a food processor (or grate by hand).

Peel and grate 3 russet potatoes...

...and 1 yellow onion.

Remove zucchinis, potatoes, and onion from processor, and squeeze well before placing in a large bowl. You want to get as much water out as you can so your batter isn't soupy.

To the zucchini/potato/onion mixture, add 2 eggs, 1/3 cup quinoa flour, 1/3 cup sweet rice flour, masa, salt, and pepper.

Mix together thoroughly (I use my hands).

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed skillet on medium-high heat (about 1 cup of oil). Take about 1/3 - 1/2 a cup of dough in your hand and shape into a flat disk.

Working in batches, fry latkes on one side until edges begin to turn brown, and cakes are cooked halfway through, 5-10 minutes.

Flip cakes and fry another 3-5 minutes, until bottom is browned. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Repeat until all the dough is used up. While you make the other batches, you can keep already made latkes warm by placing them on a cookie sheet in a warm oven (about 200 degrees).

Top with tzatsiki or sour cream. Enjoy!