Charred Broccoli Salad

with radishes & lime

So last week was the 2015 Saveur Blog Awards. And I didn’t win. Womp. But I’m not as sad as I anticipated being, because the events and panels were so much fun, and the people I met made me thrilled to even be in the same room with them. I’m not inherently competitive, but one would assume that a large group of people put together in a room who are all stacked against one another, hoping to win, would make for a somewhat uncomfortable situation. This, perhaps surprisingly, was not at all the case. I was initially dreading the welcome party and cocktail hour on Day One, but I walked in and was immediately greeted by big smiles and hugs. I, not really being the touchy feely type, was sort of taken aback by the way in which I was welcomed so quickly. A lot of the time, you go to these things and people are silent, making awkward chit-chat and having a hard time connecting, especially at online meet-ups, of which I am not too proud to admit that I have been to many (see: many, many, many). But not this time. I think we were all just stoked to be there, drinking and eating together, joking about how insane it is that we are all just a bunch of nerds who like to take pictures but are being honored in a way that makes us so incredibly happy. It sounds like I’m making it into this big, huge thing, but it kind of is! When anyone congratulates you on the hard work that you’ve put into something, it’s both humbling and exciting, and that feeling is only exacerbated when every which way you look, there’s another blogger or photographer whose work you admire. So, yeah, I lost, but I had a phenomenal time and met so many awesome people. Plus, this just means I get to [hopefully] go again next year, and you can look forward to my begging for you to vote for me in 2016. On top of all of the festivities, the week ended with a Breakfast Sandwich + Pie Crawl, hosted by the incomparable Donny Tsang, where bloggers from all over the country got together to eat sandwiches from Defonte’s and Court Street Grocers, pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds and more. All of that good food and drink helped to soften the blow (and my belly), so at least there’s that!

charred broccoli saladMaybe my favorite photo ever [featuring Stephanie, Molly, Hannah & Summer] taken by Phi.

After eating all of that food, it’s time for some vegetables. I love a good broccoli salad, especially when the broccoli is slightly blackened. I discovered charred broccoli not too long ago, but it’s my favorite way to make every child’s least favorite veggie. You won’t find a steamed floret in my apartment. Crank that oven up to 500, rub your broccoli in some oil and seasonings, and burn, baby, burn. I mean, it’s not really burned, but it’s close. Just close enough to be delicious. Even better, you can make this ahead of time and serve it room temperature or chilled for a tasty summer side at a picnic or as a quick workday lunch that you can pair with anything from chicken breast, salmon or even a few hard boiled eggs, if you’re trying to offset a heavy week (like me). Add some chili flakes or maybe some paprika, finish with lemon instead of lime, but whatever you do, keep the radishes – they add a refreshing, peppery bite to compliment the deep flavors of the charred broccoli. Plus, check out those colors! Green and pink were meant to be together on a plate. Kramer and I happily ate this salad, cold and straight from our lunch containers, for three days straight, and if I can get Kramer to actually utter the words, “We should eat more broccoli,” then you know it’s got to be good.

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Graham Cracker Pound Cake

with cinnamon

A few weeks ago, Kramer and I went to Baltimore to see my brothers. I’m the oldest, as you can tell by my extreme maturity in these photos, then Dane is the middle and Wyatt is the youngest. Dane goes to school in Baltimore and studies what I want to say is microbiology but it’s probably much more complicated than that. He works in labs and is always talking about some weird organism he read about or some new disease that is especially scary. I hope that one day he will work for the CDC and let me know when the next plague is about to hit so that I can prepare for the end. This preparation will no doubt involve my buying a lot of junk food and watching a lot of TV and watching New York destroy itself because, let’s face it, I’m not a survivor. But I’d still appreciate a head’s up. Wyatt, on the other hand, is now in China, teaching SAT prep courses and probably eating really delicious food as we speak. What I would give for one more xiao long bao. Wyatt, can you please throw some in an envelope and send them my way? I’m sure they’ll be fine. Anyway, I wanted to see him before he left, so Kramer and I rented a car and drove on down. I had never been to Baltimore before and I really enjoyed being by the water, walking around and seeing the town my brother lives in. There’s obviously a lot going on in the city, but my brother seems to like it and I think there is a lot of potential for it to become something great again – hopefully that will happen. We ate sushi and hot dogs, did some day drinking, took a water taxi and then headed back to Dane’s apartment to watch TV, play games and search for stupid stuff on YouTube. Oh, and then we ordered pizza at midnight. Typical weekend with the bros. Kramer and I could only stay for one day, but I’m glad we saw Wyatt before his adventure in China began, and we’ll see Dane again this summer when we go to Virginia Beach, so that’s not too far away.

graham cracker pound cakeTotally not annoying my brothers in this photo.

I made this pound cake a while back when Kramer was in New Orleans. That’s what you do when you’re home alone and bored, right? Watch Montage of Heck, have a glass of wine and make graham cracker pound cake. I brought the cake into work the next day and it was very well received. Everyone ate it for breakfast, alongside a cup of coffee or tea, and told me how much they liked it. The concept is simple: flour, butter, cinnamon and the added honeyed sweetness of graham crackers. I’ve always got a box of them in my cupboard – I don’t know why – and they lend themselves perfectly to so many things, why not pound cake? You can eat this on its own, but I highly recommend slathering a slice with some creamy peanut butter and maybe a dollop of jam. It would probably also be delicious toasted with a big scoop of ice cream in the middle of two pieces. Just a suggestion.

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Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

with chocolate chips

Another weekend gone by too fast, but we packed a lot in. We saw the band FIDLAR on Wednesday night, to start the weekend off early, I suppose, followed by a game of poker on Friday night (I lost, sadly), then a trip to Governors Island on Saturday. I’ll have photos from all of that soon enough. I wanted to share some pictures from Kramer’s birthday party this past month, though – I’ve been taking my camera with me a lot lately, mostly due to the plentiful sunshine, I’m sure, so I’m a bit behind on photos. We spent Kramer’s birthday at The Drink, among lots of friends, s’mores and bourbon pecan pies from Pies ‘n’ Thighs and pizza and garlic knots from his favorite place, Williamsburg Pizza. We may or may not have also made a pit stop at Noorman’s Kil for bourbons and grilled cheese, but who’s to say? You weren’t there. All in all, it was a great day of day drinking (the best kind), eating and obviously a lot of laughing, as you can see from the pictures. I hope he had a good birthday, but holy hell it’s already June and there are many more birthdays ahead.

peanut butter swirl browniesGot down with some grilled cheese at Noorman’s Kil for Kramer’s birthday earlier this month.

This peanut butter brownie recipe is a combination of my two loves: the brownie recipe from King Arthur Flour and peanut butter. I sometimes just grab a big spoonful of peanut butter for breakfast if I’m running behind in the morning, or it’s a quick snack after work if I need to stop home and then run out again. I even use peanut butter medicinally. If I feel nauseous or tired, my first plan of attack is to have a spoonful of peanut butter. I would say that does the trick about 50% of the time. I know that it’s probably all in my head but it works for me. It’s the most perfect food, and even more perfect when paired with rich, fudgey brownies. This brownie recipe, on the other hand, is my favorite for a number of reasons, but foremost is that it teaches you to melt your butter and sugar together. This helps dissolve more of the sugar, creating the flaky, shiny crust you want on the top of your brownies. I also love how fudgey they are – if I want a cakey brownie, I’ll eat a piece of chocolate cake. When I think brownies, I think rich, dark chocolate with a gooey, wash-me-down-with-a-glass-of-milk texture. These fit the ticket, especially with the peanut butter. I brought them to a party a few months back (I know, I know) and they were very well received, if I don’t say so myself. I know it’s summer and everyone’s trying to look good, but why not make these for your next picnic or barbecue and see how many forgo their summer diet for a bite of peanut buttery goodness.

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Thin Mint Brownie Meringue

with whipped cream

My last post was a hard thing to talk about, but everyone had such nice things to say and I really do appreciate the kind words. We’re still thinking of Beth every day, but trying to keep moving forward and live life and appreciate all of the things she taught us and did for us. We’re staying busy, to say the least. I’ve been in the kitchen a lot more than usual, that’s for sure, cooking for us but also for others. This weekend, for example, we went to two different barbecues, so I made not only this cake, but a curry marinade for grilled chicken sandwiches and over 100 chocolate chip cookies with sprinkles. The usual. This cake, though, was something else. I impulsively purchased 5 boxes of Girl Scout cookies from one of my coworkers, and upon seeing the boxes at my desk, I knew I had to get rid of them immediately or else I would inhale them like some kind of animal. Why are we all so addicted to Girl Scout cookies? Are they as good as we think they are or is it just a supply/demand situation? We can’t have them so we love them? I don’t know. Americone Dream ice cream is pretty good, too, and has about as much texture as a Samoa, so what’s our deal? Now I’m part of the problem, I suppose, because I made this meringue-like brownie for a barbecue on Saturday. I wasn’t super sure what to do with two boxes of Thin Mints, but I figured that making a crust out of them was the most straight forward thing to do, aside from my other idea, which was to just stuff them inside of chocolate chip cookies. I make so many chocolate chip cookies, though, so I went with this. The crust is a crunchy Thin Mint cookie situation, the middle is a fudgey brownie, and the top, thanks to four whipped egg whites, is like a delicate meringue. Then I threw some whipped cream and extra crushed cookies from box #2 on top because, well, it’s pretty. If you’re a person that likes a lot of texture in your dessert, this is for you. My friend Amanda and I are really into textured desserts – crunchy, chewy, creamy – we want it all, and this cake delivers. I promise!

thin mint brownie meringueOutside of Commander’s Palace.

So, cake aside, here are the last of my photos from my trip to New Orleans from what seems like years ago but really was just earlier this month. I want to go back! Three days is definitely not enough time down there. I also am now dying to plan a trip to Nashville to see how it compares. That’ll have to be for next year, though. In NOLA, we hit up Commander’s Palacee for a fancy lunch, where I will admit I was so hungover from the night before that I couldn’t enjoy one of their famous 25 cent martinis, and instead sucked down Coke after Coke, hoping for redemption in the bottom of every glass. I found it. Coke is my mid-twenties hangover cure. Between the sodas and the shrimp and grits I ordered, I was revived. We walked around a bit, tried to get in to see Nic Cage’s crazy pyramid shaped tomb only to find that the cemetery closed at 3 and we arrived at 3:15, and rode the trolly before heading back to the hotel for a much needed nap, followed by cocktails and snacks at Cure and more wandering around Frenchman Street in search of live music. We ate hot dogs, grabbed a few more beignets and frozen coffees at Cafe Du Monde and, running on fumes and sugar, made it back to the hotel to sleep for a few hours before our respective flights the next day. I was lucky enough to have a later flight unlike my travel companions, so I got some extra sleep and landed in New York rested, but wanting at least a few more hours of listening to jazz and eating seafood. I guess I’ll have to find a jazz club in Rockaway.

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Funfetti Cake

for Beth

It’s only been a few days since our Aunt Beth’s passing, so things are still raw. I find myself opening up photos of her on Facebook and just looking through them, unable to decide if that’s a normal thing to do or if I’m just torturing myself. I miss her and my heart breaks for her children and her husband, as well as her mother and her brother (my father-in-law). I feel like I can still hear her laugh, and I keep playing her voice over and over again in my head. She’s not talking about anything in particular, but I find it comforting to think about her voice. I think about her saying things she said to me so many times. “Why are you laughing? Why do you think Tyler is so funny? She laughs at everything he says!” or joking about where the next bottle of white wine was. She was such a dedicated person, not only to her immediate family but to Kramer and me and to his sister, Rachel. Whenever we saw her, she’d go on and on about how beautiful we looked, or how handsome Kramer is. She’d ask about my parents and my brothers and always wanted to know everything that was going on in our lives as well as theirs. She was so funny and the first one to be self-deprecating to push the attention off of herself and onto someone else – classic move, Beth. She was a big fan of this blog and forced people to go online to check it out, even if they didn’t give a damn about cooking and baking. At her funeral, so many people referred to me as “the cook” or “the baker”, even people that I had never met before, and they all told me about how Beth never stopped talking about my blog. I can only imagine how uninteresting someone’s niece’s blog would be to a stranger, but Beth was my champion and only wanted me to succeed. Word of mouth from Beth alone probably accounts for a big chunk of visitors that I get here every day. Thinking about how much she cared and how highly she thought of me is what makes me cry the most, even though I know she would hate that. She was a talented baker in her own right, too. She had her own cake pop business called Behr Pops and each one was more impressive than the last. We’d talk about baking and how it doesn’t matter how many times you make something, you keep eating while you cook or bake and make yourself sick, not wanting to eat the final product. I loved that I wasn’t the only one to hit the frosting a little too hard while decorating, and I especially loved that we could literally have a conversation about the best ways to eat the leftover scraps of cake from whatever project either of us were working on. She just got it. I’m going to miss that so much.

funfetti cakeTogether at Rachel’s wedding this past November.

I wanted to make cake pops or something for Beth, but I am a t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e decorator and don’t have half of the patience that she did. Honestly, I started looking up recipes and different pops that she made and just stopped. There was no way, which is just another way that Beth was amazingly talented. I still needed to get in the kitchen and distract myself, though, so I made this cake. Beth made a lot of cake pops in the shape of birthday cakes. I decided to make something bright and happy and colorful and full of sprinkles. I even used the edible glitter that I dug up in one of my many overfilled, rarely used bags of baking decorations. I think she would have loved that. When I went to the store to grab supplies for this cake, though, I couldn’t find the sprinkles in any of the aisles and I panicked. I’m probably just tired and my brain is fuzzy, but I couldn’t find them and started to have a mild panic attack because I felt like I needed to make this cake. Thankfully, one of the store’s employees helped me find them, and honestly, when he handed me two jars of sprinkles, I almost broke down crying. I’m glad for his sake that I didn’t – I’m not sure he’d know what to do with a girl sobbing over sprinkles. Obviously all went according to plan, so now I’m sitting here, covered in glitter, as I’m sure Beth often was after making countless cake pops, thinking of her and crying again as I write this, but proud of the cake and confident that Beth would be excited that I made it for her. I hope it’s the kind of cake that she would decline to eat initially, like so many moms do, but then maybe she’d sneak a piece later while inevitably cleaning up after everyone. It’s not a cake pop, but it reminds me of her and I think she’d forgive me for not being able to craft cake and white chocolate into animals, balloons or superheroes. Maybe her daughters picked up some of her skills over the years and can teach me some pop tricks some time. Either way, this is my cake for Beth – we love you and we miss you.

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Beth

in memoriam

We lost one of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing this weekend. It doesn’t feel right to post a recipe and try to half-heartedly tie it in with a tragedy, so I won’t. But I’m at a loss for what to do or how to help, and all I can do is use this as an outlet to share some photos and talk a bit about what a wonderful person Beth Behr was.

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Charred Leek & Tomatillo Chili

eat your greens

Part two of my New Orleans trip: the swamp! Kramer and his friends went on a swamp tour when they were visiting a few weeks earlier, so I booked a trip for us on the same tour. It was super fun and not nearly as creepy as I thought it would be. We floated through the water, going fast at times and at other times barely moving as we passed homes or hunting cottages. Some of the houses were beautiful and looked like something you’d see on a decorating websites, other had fallen into disrepair and seemed as if they were minutes away from falling into the river altogether. Our guide explained that since it was so difficult to build these places in the swamp to begin with, when someone died or their family didn’t want to keep up with the property, the place would simply be abandoned, left to decay and sink into the water. It was obviously super cool to see and maybe the only “creepy” part of the tour. The best part was, of course, seeing wild pigs! They were so cute, especially when they were munching on the marshmallows and white bread that our guide threw out to them. There were even little wild piglets with funny ears and wobbly legs. It. Was. Awesome. We could have sat there all day, but we had gators to find. We only saw one, unfortunately, peeking its eyes out through a marsh, but that was enough for me, to be honest. The swamp itself was beautiful and green and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. If you’re ever in New Orleans, I highly recommend Honey Island Swamp Tours – it was a blast.

charred leek and tomatillo chiliI couldn’t tell if this house was abandoned or not.

I figured since this was a green chili and I’d be sharing photos of the green swamp, this recipe would be perfect to post today. I love chili and no matter how many times I make it, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of eating a big bowl. I make it for lunches all the time because it’s generally so easy to make a big pot to eat throughout the week. I had all of these ingredients on hand and had planned to make something completely different with them, but the day got the better of me and I decided to do something easier. I still blackened the leeks and tomatillos, though, because I figured it would add a depth of flavor and make my chili taste like I had spent a lot more time on it than I actually had. So, I charred, peeled, pureed and cooked, and with the help of a little beer, pork, beef and seasoning, I had a deliciously spicy chili on my hands. Top it with cheese, sour cream, scallions or whatever else you prefer – it’s the same green chili you’ve grown to love with what I suppose could be called a farmer’s market twist (I guess I do live in Brooklyn).

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Spring Pea Dip

with mint & lemon

I’m back! It’s hard to get back into the swing of things after vacation, so I’m here, a week or so later, still clinging to NOLA just a bit. I went with two friends for a long weekend and had a phenomenal time. I had never been to New Orleans before, but I’m hoping I’ll get to go back at some point because there’s still so much to do. On the first day alone, we relaxed by the pool, ate insanely good seafood at Peche, wandered into a beautiful old bookstore (where I bought a cookbook, of course), sipped frozen daiquiris, walked up and down Bourbon Street, ate alcoholic gummies at Tiki Tolteca, and watched more than one parade as they made their way across town. Then we finished the night with a Kirin at Latitude 29 because I’m still not over Japan. Not bad, right? Day two meant big ass sandwiches at Cochon Butcher for breakfast, iced coffee and a swamp tour (more on that later). Sigh. And now I’m here, procrastinating getting ready for work. On the couch. In muggy New York with no pool and no frozen drinks to lift my spirits. Life truly is a cruel mistress.

spring pea dipNOLA with Jess & Jeena.

Obviously vacation wouldn’t be vacation if it lasted forever and I suppose I’m fine with that. It’s spring (or is it summer?) so let’s make something fresh, shall we? I still love the Clean Slate cookbook and this spring pea dip is no exception. Use fresh peas when they’re in season, but they weren’t quite there yet when I made this, so I used frozen. Combine them with bright lemon, fresh mint and earthy tahini, then dip your heart out. With crudités or pita chips or something. Parties and picnics always have some kind of dip – French onion, queso, guacamole, etc. This pea dip is a refreshing change of pace (although I still want lots of guac) and friends will definitely want to know more about it, especially your vegetable-averse ones who find themselves going back for a second or third bite to discover that, much to their surprise, vegetables CAN be good.

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