Vinegar-based Barbecue Sauce

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for BBQ sauce – a classic, sweet, molasses-y sauce that’s great with beef, especially brisket.  This sauce has a different flavor – it’s a little more of a Tennessee style, vinegar-based sauce.  It isn’t as sweet – a little more tangy.  It’s especially good with pork and chicken.  When you grill and smoke meat as often as the men in my life, there’s room for a bevy of sauces.

This particular recipe comes from none other than Aaron Franklin – of Franklin’s BBQ fame.  I think his has some “secret” ingredients, but this is the recipe he’s willing to share and it’s pretty stellar.  There’s also something to be said for the combination of the smoker smell happening outside and the sauce cooking inside – your mouth basically waters all day.

Vinegar-based Barbecue Sauce

2 sticks of butter

1/2 of a yellow onion

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic powder

half of a lemon

1. In a saucepan over high heat, melt the butter.  Chop the onion finely and add to the butter, cooking until translucent (note that the smell of onions cooking in butter is one of the best in the world!).  Add the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices.  Stir everything together and cook until it comes to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer on the stove for at least 30 minutes, until it has reduced to a thick sauce.

2. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to combine.  This sauce has no emulsifiers, so the butter and vinegar will separate.  I store mine in a jar and shake it up before I use it.

Dessert Essentials: Graham Cracker Crust and Homemade Whipped Cream

Graham cracker crust was one of the first things I learned how to cook myself.  I remember being in elementary school crushing graham crackers with a rolling pin (too little to work a food processor), melting butter in the microwave in what always seemed to be the wrong container (plastic, metal), and stirring in a little sugar to make it all come together with a fork.  Over the years I’ve improved my original recipe, but sometimes I still use the rolling pin just for nostalgia’s sake.  I use salted butter and I typically add a little extra salt because I love salt, but definitely taste before you do – it typically needs none unless you use unsalted butter.

As for homemade whipped cream, it’s one of my most favorite things in the world.  It classes up the simplest of desserts, comes together in about 4 minutes, and is light years ahead of anything you could purchase.

I’m putting these two recipes together because you need both to make my two favorite summer pies: key lime and coconut, both of which I’ll be sharing soon.  You could also make a graham cracker crust, fill with chocolate Jello pudding pie filling (the directions are on the box!), top with whipped cream, and have a pretty excellent chocolate pie in no time.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 sleeve “Nabisco Graham” graham crackers in the red box.  No cinnamon, no honey, just the red nabisco box.  A box comes with 3 sleeves, I think there are 8 long crackers in each.

2-3 Tbsp sugar

5 Tbsp butter (salted or unsalted – add 1/2 tsp of salt if using unsalted butter)

1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)

1. Crush the graham crackers in either a food processor or using a rolling pin.  Add the sugar and melted butter and stir with a fork until well combined.  Fold in the coconut (if using).

2. Preheat the oven to 350.  Press the crust into a pie pan using the bottom of a smooth glass or measuring cup and/or your fingers to cover the bottom and sides.  Bake the pie for 10-15 minutes until brown and fragrant.  Allow to cool before filling.

Note: if you’re making a pie that requires no additional baking, bake for closer to 15 minutes.  If you will be doing additional baking, only bake for about 10.

 

Homemade Whipped Cream

8 oz. whipping cream

3 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1. Combine ingredients in a bowl and beat at high speed using either a hand mixer or stand mixer until soft peaks form.

2. You can easily add coconut or almond extract in lieu of (or in addition to) the vanilla to give the cream a different flavor – it works well!

Note:

Focaccia Bread

There’s an amazing brunch place in Dallas that serves $1 bellinis and mimosas until 2 p.m.  They limit you to six (six!), but the mimosas are basically champagne with a little splash of orange juice, in other words, a perfect mimosa.  That, in itself, is reason enough to drive across town and, inevitably, waste the remainder of your day in a post-brunch coma, but they also have amazing food.  Specifically, their focaccia bread is out of this world.  They bring it before your meal on a big pizza pan and ours is always long gone.  After several trips, I decided to try and replicate the focaccia – I had big dreams of doing it one afternoon following brunch, but after 3 mimosas, 4 slices of bread, and a massive eggs benedict (to think – I used to hate brunch food!), all I did was lie on the couch and watch The Little Mermaid with my kids for the millionth time.

I’ve eaten many focaccias over the years – some with onions, olives, and other craziness.  Typically if there’s a food option that contains additional fancy ingredients such as those, I’m all in, but, in the case of focaccia, it’s truly a less is more situation.  This calls for no toppings except rosemary, salt, and a little parmesan cheese.  It’s shockingly easy to make, and a really great introductory bread if yeast breads intimidate you.  Basically, when making bread, in order to get your dough to the right consistency you either need to add your flour to your water or water to your flour slowly.  So much depends on how sifted your flour is, the humidity in the air, the heat in your kitchen, etc.  Most breads have you mix the wet ingredients and add flour until you reach the desired consistency, but in this recipe you add water, and I think it’s easier to gauge the consistency that way because it’s easier to add until the dough just sticks together.

I grow rosemary in my garden, so I have the ingredients for focaccia on hand all the time and started making it about once a week.  You really only need an hour and a half of rise time and half an hour of baking, so it’s possible to make on a weeknight, which is rare for bread.  I actually use canned parmesan cheese for topping – typically I’m a total cheese snob and use fresh grated, but in this case, the can is pretty ideal.

Focaccia Bread

5 cups AP flour

2 tsp yeast

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 cups warm water

olive oil for drizzling

coarse salt

fresh rosemary

1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

1. Stir the flour, yeast, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer with a bread hook.  Add in the oil and mix until well-combined.  Add the water slowly, a half cup at a time, until the dough comes together in a ball.  Use the mixer to knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic.  Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with a dishcloth, and allow to rise in a warm spot for about an hour when the dough is doubled in bulk.

2. Punch the dough down and spread into a rimmed baking sheet.  Continue to work the dough until it covers the bottom of the pan.  Allow to rise for an additional 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 425.  Dimple the dough all over using your fingertips and drizzle with olive oil, salt, fresh rosemary, and parmesan cheese.

3. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

 

Italian Chopped Salad

I attended a local university for my second two years of college and lived at home.  While a lot of college students would hate living with their parents and teenage brothers, I tend to look back on those days very fondly.  During that time my youngest brother (who was 10-11) had a music lesson every Thursday night across town and my parents, my other brother, and I would ride along (in a minivan, natch), go shopping during his lesson, and then eat at a local Italian place, Joe’s.  The food there was a no-nonsense baked pastas and pizza, but the real standout was their signature salad – The Joe’s Salad.  It was one of those salads so rich in cheese and meat that it could hardly be classified as actual salad, but so delicious that you couldn’t stop eating it.

So, when I found this recipe it went on my menu immediately – and will be repeated often in the coming months.  A dinner salad is one of my favorites in the summer because it requires no cooking – you don’t get a hot kitchen from oven/stove use, and since the meal itself isn’t warm it has a cool, refreshing taste.  I feel like I’ve run about 10 degrees too hot since 2011 since I became pregnant for the first time so anything to avoid heat in the summer is excellent.  Give this salad a try – like all salads, customize it to fit your needs and preferences.  As always, I prefer to serve the dressing on the side so the leftovers don’t become soggy.  Also, I bought a half pound of both the salami and provolone, expecting to use it all, but it was too much.  You could get by with 1/4lb, but I thought 1/3 pound was about perfect.

Italian Chopped Salad

serves 4 to 6 as a complete meal

for the salad:

1 large head of crunchy lettuce (I used romaine, but iceberg, radicchio, or some combination would work)

1/2 of a red onion

1/3 to 1/2 pound of salami

1/3 to 1/2 pound of provolone cheese

1 pint cherry tomatoes

a handful of pepperoncini (or banana pepper) rings

1 can chickpeas

for the dressing:

3 cloves of garlic (or 2tsp garlic powder)

1T dried oregano

2tsp salt

pepper

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1. Chop the lettuce, finely slice the onion, and dice the provolone and salami into bite-sized pieces (I had them sliced thick in the deli, then cut them into small ribbons.  Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange all of the chopped salad ingredients into a large bowl.  Top with the drained and rinsed chickpeas and pepperoncinis.

2. To make the dressing, smash the garlic cloves, oregano, and salt together with either a knife or a mortar and pestle.  Combine with the other dressing ingredients and serve.  I typically put my dressing in a jam jar so I can shake it to combine, but whisking works fine, too.

 

Toasted Coconut Cookies

When it comes to desserts, I have very little discretion.  The only things I truly dislike are flan and creme brulee (a texture issue), I’m not really a cake or cheesecake lover, and chocolate and fruit aren’t so much my jam, but, of course, if there’s a chocolate cake with fruit available I’m not one to exercise any restraint.  I will, however, skip the meal and go straight to dessert whenever there’s coconut involved.  Toasted coconut is one of life’s greatest pleasures – and, in my opinion, makes for a great garnish to any dessert.  A sprinkling of toasted coconut is great on ice cream, cupcakes, in a pie, and especially baked into a cookie.  These cookies go beyond a garnishing of coconut and really put the coconut on display.  The result is a crispy, chewy, buttery coconut cookie.

The original recipe calls for coconut chips, which I had trouble locating.  Usually I use sweetened coconut for toasting purposes because it’s cheap and easy to locate, but this time I bought a bag of unsweetened coconut flakes at Target and it worked really well.  The flakes were really fine and incorporated well into the dough.  You could use sweetened coconut if it’s all you have at the grocery store, but if you do, I would consider really backing off on the sugar (starting with half and tasting) or rinsing the sweetened coconut in a strainer and letting it dry out (apparently this removes most of the sweetness).  Unsweetened coconut is hard to find, but I generally can find it at Target or Trader Joe’s and stock up when I see it.

I also browned the butter, which is easy, but takes some time.  You could just use softened butter and skip step 1, but that sort of goes against my life’s mantra of “anything worth doing is worth overdoing”.  Browned butter is just so darn decadent and delicious that it’s worth the effort.  If you use regular butter, omit the 2T of water.

Toasted Coconut Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 Tbsp water

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp coarse salt

2 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

1. Cook the butter in a small saucepan over high heat, stirring frequently until it begins to foam and brown.  It will burn in no time at all, so once the foaming begins, keep a close eye on it and remove from the heat when it starts to smell nutty and turn brown.  Transfer to a small container (I used a glass pyrex measuring cup) and place it in the refrigerator for a few hours to solidify.

2. Preheat the oven to 350.  Beat the butter, sugars, and 2T of water together until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, beat to combine.  Add the baking soda, flour and salt and mix until well combined.  Fold in the coconut.

3. Scoop the dough into 1T sized balls and bake for about 11 minutes until golden brown.  Allow the cookies to cool and set on the cookie sheet before transferring to a plate.  Store in an airtight container.

Salmon Chopped Salad

Our family has recently rediscovered cabbage, so we’ve been eating cabbage salads every week.  I’m not sure how we ever forgot about cabbage, but the crunch, the color, the healthiness – it’s really a great base for a summery salad.  Last week I shared my chopped chicken salad, this is sort of a variation on that, but it has a little more ginger and a little less peanut.  I made it for my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for a light, summery dinner, but it’d also be a great lunch.

It’s also a good time to point out that I’ve started measuring lime juice in tablespoon and teaspoons recently and not in actual limes.  I much prefer fresh limes, but in the recent lime crisis, I just can’t afford $1.79 per lime, so I bought a big jug of lime juice and I’ve been using that for everything except gin & tonics, which call for true lime wedges.  I typically think a lime yields 2T of juice, but I also don’t really measure things like lime juice with any accuracy anyway.

Salmon Chopped Salad

for the salmon:

1lb. salmon filets (for me, this usually means 2 filets, and I cut each in half to make 4 equal pieces)

1T lime juice (half a lime)

2T soy sauce

2 cloves of garlic

small cube of fresh ginger

1/2 tsp sriracha

salt and pepper

for the salad:

half a head of purple cabbage

6ish cups of spinach (I like there to be about the same amount of cabbage and spinach)

4 green onions

3 carrots

1 mango

handful of cilantro

3T toasted sesame seeds

for the dressing:

2T lime

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tsp sesame oil

1/3 cup soy sauce

2T honey

1T garlic powder

1T ginger (I use granulated)

1 tsp (or more) sriracha

1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Mince the garlic and ginger.  Stir the lime juice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sriracha together to create a glaze.  Brush the salmon on both sides with the glaze and create a packet of foil to bake the fish in.  Bake the fish for 8-10 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

2. Chop the cabbage, carrots, green onions, and spinach.  Peel and dice the mango.  Toss together in a large serving bowl.  Chop the cilantro and sprinkle on top.

3. Combine the dressing ingredients together and whisk until well combined.  Serve the salad with the warm fish on top, drizzled with dressing, topped with sesame seeds.

Nutrition: 539 calories for 1/4 of the salmon, salad, and dressing.  25g fat, 18g sugar, 33g protein.

 

Edited to add:

The lime crisis is over!  Use real limes – they’re cheap again!

 

Basic Salsa

I am truly embarrassed at how much of my life I spent buying salsa instead of making it myself.  Homemade is fun, it tastes better, it’s cheaper, and totally customizable!  I typically double this recipe and fill many jars to store and give away, but even the recipe as-is will give you a good amount.  Start with the base and then taste and add things as needed, especially peppers.

I make mine in the food processor, but I’ve done it in a blender in a pinch – you just have to do smaller amounts and stir together.  I generally start with the big can of the tomatoes and one can of rotel to break it down, then move a good amount to a mixing bowl just to free up some space in the food processor.  If you don’t, some of the garlic and onions tend to get lost and don’t break down, but you won’t find them until you’re pouring it into jars and it will irritate you.

Basic Salsa

28oz can whole tomatoes

2 cans rotel

half of an onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1-2 jalapenos (you’ll start with half of one – they can really vary in heat), stemmed and seeded

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin

handful of cilantro leaves

1-2T lime juice

1. Process the tomatoes and one of the cans of rotel until they reach the desired consistency.  Pour half of the mixture into a large bowl.  Then add the other can of rotel, the onions, and garlic, and process until all of the garlic and onion bits are broken down adequately.  Add half of a jalepeno (the whole jalepeno if you know you want it hot), and the spices.  Blend again.  Add the cilantro leaves and lime juice, blend again.

2. Pour everything else into the big bowl and stir to combine.  Give it a taste – add more jalapeno, salt, garlic or lime to taste.  Store in jars in the refrigerator.  If well sealed, they will last a few months.  If you need it to last longer, I’d recommend freezing.