Charred Coconut Chicken

blackened & crispy

I love a good char. Anything blackened calls to me. I’m forever picking the nearly burned-to-a-crisp bits of vegetables off of baking sheets after they’ve been roasted. Tiny, almost unrecognizable Brussels sprouts leaves? I’m there. Crispy, tiny little florets of roasted cauliflower? I’m your gal. I don’t know why these bits, that most people would probably just throw away, have got me under their spell, but they do. I love the flavor of char, I guess. Is that a flavor? I think it is. I’m pretty sure someone said that once on Mind of a Chef, so it must be true. Either way, blackened, crispy, charred, burned, whatever you want to call it, I’m a fan. So that’s why I made this charred coconut chicken. I marinated the chicken in an old standby: coconut milk + a random assortment of spices, let it sit overnight so maximum deliciousness, then threw everything in the oven at a high temperature and let the chicken get good and blackened. You need skin on your bird for this one, folks. Skinless chicken breast lovers, look elsewhere. You want the skin to lift off of the meat itself, forming a crispy little air pocket of magic. Each crispy bite is my version of heaven, and the char just makes it all the more wonderful. If you have access to a grill, then obviously that’s the way you want to go here, but I don’t, so I am left to recreate that wonderful grilled flavor on my own, in my Brooklyn kitchen, dreaming of summers past when I did have a grill and all was right in the world (aside from the fact that I was not yet living in New York). My not owning a grill is probably why I’ve developed such a taste for all things charred: you always want what you can’t have.

charred coconut chickenThe best things in the world: avocado toast, shakshuka, cookies and porchetta sandwiches.

Aside from pining over charcoal and grilled things, I’ve been busy as always. Work is hectic, but in a good way – I’m happy to be busy and I’m never sitting at work, looking at the clock and counting down the minutes. It’s more like, “Holy shit, it’s already 7?” That does mean that I’ve got less time for other things, but I’m learning to prioritize and manage my time better and while I’m not quite there yet, I think I will be soon. We’ve got big plans this weekend, too, which include Rockaway Beach (my north star) and tacos, so all is right in the world and I’m l-i-v-i-n’ until summer’s over. I hope that everyone has a frozen drink and sunshine filled weekend! And do yourself a favor – eat something charred.

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Chocolate Chess Pie with a Do-Si-Do Crust

peanut butter + milk chocolate

Apparently it’s Milk Chocolate Day today, and while I know that a lot of you, myself included sometimes, get annoyed at the seemingly endless list of nonsensical food holidays, I generally do not mind them for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allows me to dig through my recipe collection and find things that I may have otherwise never remembered that I cooked at one point or another. Secondly, it gives me a reason to post or cook or bake things that I would have not bothered with because I forgot about how awesome something like simple milk chocolate can be. So there. Milk chocolate gets kind of a bad rap, in my opinion. In this era of acai bowls and green juices and the darkest of dark chocolates, with all of its supposed health benefits and yada yada yada, creamy milk chocolate is thrown to the wayside in favor of something bittersweet or 70% cacao. I really like milk chocolate, though, and sorry to burst your bubble, but chocolate is chocolate and I don’t think having a square of dark versus a square of milk is going to improve or deplete your health one way or another. Milk chocolate is so pleasing and reminds me of being a kid and happily eating chalky Hershey’s candy bars without thinking twice about how the European or even Canadian stuff is just so much silkier. So, with that in mind, I present to you this chocolate chess pie, with, yes a Do-Si-Do crust, yet another overlooked pantry item. I think everyone’s favorite Girl Scout cookie is the Samoa, or maybe the Thin Mint, but Do-Si-Dos are the peanut butter sandwich variety and they are just perfect for making a crust with, like a Nutter Butter but more rare and therefore more exciting.

chocolate chess pie with a do-si-do crustThe flamingos out front of our July 4th Airbnb – I need to start going through my photos in a more timely manner.

If you don’t know what a chess pie is, it’s basically just a custard pie, but it’s always got a little bit of cornmeal in the filling for texture, so it’s a custard with some body, if you will. The chocolate variety, of course, has chocolate added in, and as previously mentioned, I went for milk chocolate this time. You are, of course, allowed to use whatever chocolate you prefer, but I promise you’ll love this with milk chocolate, especially if you follow me in adding a teaspoon of espresso powder to the mix – it really pumps up the jam, if you will. This is the perfect pie to make a day ahead of time, then pull out of the fridge or freezer during a barbecue or party and have friends go “oooo” and “ahhh” and “ohmygod a GIRL SCOUT COOKIE CRUST?!” because nothing gets Americans more excited than anything Girl Scout cookie related. This is the chocolate chess pie you want to eat, with a rich, creamy chocolatey filling, a crunchy, peanut buttery crust and hopefully, a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to finish everything off. Enjoy Milk Chocolate Day with unabashed enthusiasm – I give you permission (you were waiting for it, I’m sure).

chocolate chess pie with a do-si-do crust

Oh, and yeah, I’ve included some photos from our July 4th weekend below. We stayed in an awesome house in Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore with a bunch of friends and had a great time. Of course, I’m late in going through the photos, but they’re here now so get off my back! The photos really just serve as a reminder that summer is HALF WAY OVER and I’m only a couple of months away from freezing my face off in yet another New York winter. I’ve really got to get more beach time in before that happens.

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Spiced Cabbage & Carrot Salad

with mint and cilantro

My cold has come back around full circle and I now have a weird sore throat and fever combination, so that’s awesome. We took it pretty easy this weekend, but I suppose it wasn’t easy enough. Friday night we had dinner with our friends Morgan and Robyn who are moving to LA soon. We went to Sputen Duyvil and had some charcuterie and wine, then headed next door to St. Anselm, where we split a 50-ounce axe handle rib eye, burrata and tomatoes, long beans, roasted scallions, and pan fried mashed potatoes. And more wine. Needless to say, we were stuffed. We headed to Good Co for one more drink, then called it a night on account of being too full to move. On Saturday, Kramer and I woke up and did a few chores, I ran a few errands, then we met up with Morgan and Robyn, as well as our friend Matt, for an early sushi dinner at Bozu followed by drinks and skeeball at Full Circle Bar. We parted ways with Matt, then headed to The Knitting Factory to see Andrew Jackson Jihad, which was awesome. They were a local band when we were growing up in Phoenix and now they tour nationally and internationally – we’ve been able to see them play in Brooklyn a few times now and it’s always fun seeing small bands from home actually make it. On Sunday, that’s when I woke up and really started feeling like death. Kramer ended up going out to see some friends, but I stayed home, ate popsicles because my throat hurt and watched The Godfather: Part 2 because that’s how you sick day with the Kramers. This morning, I still have a low grade fever and my throat is still killing me, so I’m working from home and not leaving the couch.

spiced cabbage carrot saladDelivery sushi, heirloom tomatoes, nachos and pie crust making.

All of that aside, let’s talk about this cabbage salad. I had made chicken thighs a few weeks ago and wanted something to go with it. I had all of these ingredients in my fridge so I thought, let’s do some kind of a warm, highly spiced salad. The carrots and cabbage are nice and crunchy, but not too much so, since they were cooked down a bit in the pan with some olive oil, champagne vinegar and lime juice, then everything is tossed together with cumin, chili powder, paprika, ginger and a pinch of cinnamon, as well as fresh herbs like cilantro and mint. This is perfect for a picnic or barbecue, as it’s great warm, room temperature or chilled, depending upon your preference. It’s also good for weekday lunches, as it makes a big batch and keeps well for up to five days. I just liked having something different for lunch other than the usual green, leafy salad, and the aromatics used here were satisfying and almost helped me feel full a little longer than usual. You can use any vegetable in place of the carrots, really – sweet potatoes would probably work well, too, though they’d need to be cooked a bit longer, or maybe zucchini, which would, of course, need less cooking time. Play around with it and customize this salad to fit what you’ve got laying around. It’ll be delicious any way you make it.

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Happy Goth Pops

berries + glitter

It’s Popsicle Week, guys. It’s maybe the most wonderful time of the year, or at the very least, the most wonderful time of the summer. Billy from Wit & Vinegar is the genius behind the whole thing, and we thank Based Billy for this gift he has bestowed upon us. It’s super fun to see what everyone comes up with each year, and this time around I got to make a Pinterest board for work with everyone’s awesome pops on it, so be sure to check that out, too. I wish I had more time to make a second set of pops this year, but I have been S-W-A-M-P-E-D and there are not enough hours in the day. Oh well. You’ll have to survive on the pops from 2014, which were these Almond Butter Popsicles, or the pops from 2013, which were these Vietnamese Coffee Pops, or just these Cherry Cheesecake Paletas that I made for fun. I’ve got to remember to get more use out of my popsicle molds before summer is over again. Thankfully, all the geniuses in the blogosphere have given me tons of ideas and I’ll certainly come up with a few things after perusing the over 65 (!) recipes that were posted this year. Billy, you’ve basically got an army of popsicle warriors now – congrats.

happy goth popsBreakfast, Fette Sau, whiskey and breakfast again i.e. The Circle of [My] Life.

For some reason, I could not shake the idea of ~Happy Goth Pops~ from my head. After the jump, you’ll see what I’m talking about specifically, but I thought it’d be really funny to make popsicles that happy goth ravers would want to eat. I don’t know why. Don’t try to understand it. But here we are, with these moody, dark berry popsicles covered in sparkly, edible glitter and a drizzle of white chocolate. I had a leftover can of cream of coconut from a shoot at work, so I blended that deliciousness up with juicy summer berries to make a popsicle that under-the-bridge raver goths would love. The edible glitter really takes these home, and if you don’t have any, just do yourself a favor and go to any specialty baking shop and get some. It’s so fun. Sure, your apartment may be covered in a fine dusting of sparkles for a few days after you play with it, but that’s no matter. You’re just making your living space more fun and festive. You can really use any berries in this, because cream of coconut is delicious and goes well with just about any fruit, but I hope you’ll get a little dark with me and make some happy goth pops for yourself. Next thing you know, you’ll be waving glow sticks around and wearing bondage pants. You’re welcome.

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Summer Corn Spoon Bread

rich + custardy

It’s the time of year where I get my annual summer cold – blerg. I fully blame Kramer for giving me this aberration and will take my revenge in the coming days, probably by giving it back to him and thus continuing the cycle for what I imagine will be at least a month before we’re both fully functioning members of society again. Until that day, I’ll use feeling under the weather as an excuse to eat bagels every morning and shirk all after-work responsibilities. Ah, yes – being a grown ass adult who can do whatever she wants comes with it privileges. Aside from not being in tip-top shape, Kramer and I had a pretty low-key weekend. We were both not feeling awesome on Friday, so we stayed in, watched Slow West, which I really liked, and ordered in a bunch of wings, which are maybe my favorite food. We were both asleep by 11pm, and I slept straight through until around 9:30 the next morning, so I think I may have needed the rest. On Saturday, we hung around on the couch until the mid-afternoon, then made the trek out to Queens to see the Mets play the Diamondbacks at Citi Field. There, we met our friends Tom and Val, their baby, Victoria, as well as Cindy and John, and proceeded to drink some beers and eat delicious ballpark fare like nachos, crinkle fries and hot dots. After the game, we met up with some friends at El Cortez back in Brooklyn, had a few piña coladas, then grabbed a couple of sandwiches from Roberta’s and went home to watch TV and sleep. I was shockingly not hungover on Sunday morning, despite our many drinks, so I spent the day in the kitchen making a pie, a cake, popsicles and lunches for the week, then, eager to get out of the house, Kramer and I had dinner at Momo followed by drinks at Burnside with our friend Taren and her visiting mother and aunt. Kramer and I got home and stayed up long enough to watch this week’s True Detective (duh) before hitting the hay. A weekend well done, indeed.

summer corn spoon breadAsbury Park, a triple decker club sandwich, the eggplant parm from Roberta’s and Citi Field eats.

I saw this recipe on Food52 a while back and when one of my coworkers gave me a giant bag of corn a few weeks ago, I knew exactly what I would be doing with it. I’ve made spoon bread in the past, but this is honestly a great recipe and I particularly loved it. The insides were just the right amount of gooey – not soupy, but just perfectly custard-like, and then top was nice and crunchy with enough of a cornbread-like texture that made you want to eat this with a side of fried chicken and maybe even a biscuit because who cares about carbs? I added fresh corn, obviously, because I love the little pop of kernels in each bite, but you totally don’t have to do that. The best thing about this spoon bread is that you don’t have to cut it into squares or bars or whatever – just scoop it out and serve. It’s perfect as a warm side dish for brunch or as a room temperature potluck accompaniment. I brought it into my office and left a note suggesting that people microwave it and eat it for breakfast, and it was not surprisingly all gone by lunch. Summer is the season for cornbread, but if you’ve eaten a lot of it already, give spoon bread a try – I think you’ll love it.

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Shrimp & Cucumber Salad

with celery

I trust that everyone had a good long weekend, if you had one, that is. All of my Canadian and American brethren celebrated Canada Day and the 4th of July, respectively, this past week, so now we’re back in the swing of things until the next major holiday. When is that? Whatever it is, it’s too far away. Siiiigh. On the bright side, it’s still summer and I hope that everyone still has a lot of beaching and grilling and frozen margarita-sipping left to do before the cold comes back. Let’s not think about that. Let’s just look forward to more sunny days in jean shorts and sunglasses, shall we? Kramer and I had a great holiday. We rented a beach house with some friends in Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore – the house was fabulous, the company was super fun and we ate and drank ourselves nearly to death. All good things, of course. I’ll have photos to share eventually, but for now let’s just say that I need to reign it in, cut back on the beer and fried foods, and up my vegetable intake because no, tater tots are not an acceptable vegetable, no matter how badly I want them to be. Neither are those jalapeño poppers that I ate last Thursday. Life, she is a cruel mistress, putting all of these delicious fried and frozen foods right under my nose and expecting me to turn them away. I could never.

shrimp cucumber saladJust some 4th of July stuff – you can always find more on Instagram.

In the spirit of lighter eating, check out this Shrimp & Cucumber Salad. I adapted it from Stephanie’s cookbook, Easy Gourmet, by adding shrimp and doubling the sauce, because, well, it’s a delicious sauce. Kramer and I love shrimp, but I generally only buy it when it’s on sale, so it’s usually a treat for us. And what a treat it was to eat it for lunch a few days in a row. Sweet summer shrimp with crunchy cucumbers and celery in a spicy, vinegary sauce? Sign me up. I made this on a Sunday and we both had it for lunch on Monday and Tuesday…and I may have had the last of it on Wednesday. It’s perfect to put on top of a big bed of leafy greens, like peppery arugula, or on its own. If you’re not worried about carbs, throw it onto a bed of sticky rice for what I’m sure would be an insanely delicious meal, but for me, after eating doughnuts and burgers and tacos all weekend, this is the perfect thing to eat all on its own and still feel satisfied despite eating low carb and low fat. Being an adult can suck, with all of the worrying about health and weight and whatever, but it’s not so bad with a little meal prep, ya’ know?

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4th of July Round-Up

the best summer recipes

Hey hey hey! Welcome to my 4th of July Round-Up. Kramer and I are pretty excited for this weekend. We’ve both started new jobs recently and tried to hit the ground running in that regard, to being able to have a long weekend and get away to for a little bit is all too appealing. We rented a beach house with some friends in Asbury Park, so we’re off to Jersey this morning. If you’re in Canada, I hope you had a lovely Canada Day, but us Americans are extra lucky this year because the 4th lands on a Saturday. Sometimes it’ll be on a weekday and we’ll have a day off in the middle of the week, but then have to go back to work the next day, which cuts the fun short. Not this year, though! It’ll be three (or four, if you’re us) days of glorious sun, sand and surf. Theoretically. It’s not supposed to rain, but you know, shit happens. But not today! Not today. Either way, I wanted to gather up some of my favorite summery recipes for you to add to your arsenal for all of the barbecues and outdoor shindigs you’ll more than likely find yourself at all weekend. I’ve got cold salads, lots of veggies, some different grilled meat and fish recipes, a few cocktails and, of course, plenty of pies. Have a great holiday weekend and I’ll see you kids next week.

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Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

with crunchy tops

Our good friends Dave and Valerie have been in town part of last week and this week, so Kramer and I have been having a little too much fun the past few nights. I love having guests in town, though. Even if I stay out too late or have one more drink than I probably should, New York is a great place to have friends visit and there’s always something to do or see. You turn into NYC’s biggest fan when you’ve got company, whereas most days you curse this town and the horse it rode in on. But when friends are here? Oh, man. It’s all, “You’ve gotta see this!” or “You’ve gotta do that!” You want to take them to all of your favorite bars, restaurants and parks. You want them to try this awesome pizza place, or get a drink at this cool spot, or insist that they get breakfast at a very specific place. It’s fun. I wonder if we all get this way because we need to convince ourselves that despite all of the bullshit – despite the subway, despite how much we pay in rent each month, despite the weird weather – that we think New York is the best place in the world. And I mean, I guess I do believe that, even if I was 15 minutes late to work yesterday because my train skipped my stop entirely and went straight into Manhattan. At least I don’t have to go into Manhattan every day. I suppose I really love Brooklyn and I like Manhattan, but that’s mostly because I’m a homebody and I prefer staying on this side of the river. There’s a lot to love overall, though, and you’re never going to be bored. Plus, you don’t have to drive anywhere, so suck on that, LA! A quick aside to all of my friends that are moving to the place which we dare not speak its name: you’ll be back. You’ll all be back. You’ll miss the abuse. I guarantee it.

peanut butter banana muffinsThe first meeting of Fried Chicken Club a couple of weeks ago.

This recipe is an oldie but a goodie. I pulled it from the depths of this blog, from back when I was living in Arizona, believe it or not. The pictures were absolutely awful but the recipe looked solid, so I thought, let’s do this thing. And I’m glad I did. I hadn’t made muffins in a while, mostly because there are two of us in the apartment and muffin recipes generally make a quantity no couple should eat alone, so I sent these into the office with Kramer and I think his coworkers liked them (from what I’ve been told). A simple muffin is always welcomed with open arms. Who doesn’t like peanut butter and banana together? The tops were fluffy and crunchy, the insides were perfectly moist with a dense enough crumb to fill you up for a quick breakfast, and they weren’t so sweet that you feel like you’re eating dessert. That’s what makes an ideal muffin in my eyes – if I want a doughnut, I’ll get one, but a muffin shouldn’t feel like a pastry. If you’ve got a couple of extra bananas laying around, ripening past the point where they should be sitting on the counter, then this is the recipe for you. And if you don’t want to share, hey – these will freeze pretty well and you can pull one out on a morning where you’re short on time, let it thaw out while you drive or ride to work and enjoy your reward when you get to your desk.

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