Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Check out this habanero-infused olive oil we threw together after our recent, massive chile harvest. Spicy! I’m hooked!

~2 cups extra virgin olive oil
4-6 fresh habanero chiles, washed

1. Wear latex gloves.

2. Choose a cutting board that is not super-absorbent (such as glass), or, even better, have a dedicated chile-cutting board. You could also line your cutting board with a plastic bag, being careful not to pierce the bag when cutting. Slice habaneros as desired and set cutting board aside.

3. Fill a glass container (Mason jar, recycled and washed olive oil or salad dressing bottle) half full (or so) with olive oil. Add the peppers to the olive oil, leaving some room for air at the top.

4. Wrap a paper towel or cheesecloth around the mouth of the jar and secure with twine (don’t use a rubber band!). Microwave the oil on high for a few seconds, watching closely, or until it comes just to a near-boil—just bubbling. Do not let the olive oil boil, or you will have a huge mess on your hands.

5. If you used a paper towel for the cover, remove it and replace with a fresh one. Turn the bottle or jar upside down and drain the oil into another container (any material will do—I used a Martha Steward plastic fridge containers!). Place in the refrigerator upside-down and allow the oil to cool until it’s solid. Discard chile hulls and seeds; we use ours for compost.

6. Remove the container and pour off any water that has separated. Allow the olive oil to return to liquid form at room temperature. Pour the infused oil back into the glass container and put the lid on. Eccola! Habanero-infused olive oil!

Mmm.

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

I added a couple more slices to this, for extra kick and pretty presentation!

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Guest Post: E’s Rock Candy Bulleit Julep

Bulleit

Guest post from Eric!  With bonus Civil War trivia.

While I wouldn’t normally advise adulterating Bulleit with mint, making mint juleps with Jack Daniels results in a product that is only so-so, although the Jack Daniels honey version is passable. Bulleit is a prudent choice for this kind of thing because it’s a quality Mintbourbon at a reasonable price, so you don’t sacrifice taste and can still feel good about committing the deadliest of all sins (not simply enjoying bourbon for what it is).

This drink is great to make on a summer day in February (can you tell we live in Austin?). The actual work is only about 10 minutes, as most of the process is just letting the syrup cool and congeal in the fridge. If you have to walk to the liquor store, as I did today, that’ll add 20 minutes to the process, but again, it’s Austin so that’s just a bonus.

If you have a non-ironic portrait of Robert E. Lee handy, it’s best to toast it before your first sip. If not, just toast any nearby old people with beards, or walk to the statue on campus and toast the grackles. If you live in Baltimore, walk to the statue of Lee and Jackson on the eve of Chancellorsville and toast the horses. Okay, I’m done.

Ingredients:

3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint
1 small piece of rock candy, left over from Christmas
2 tbsp local honey
1 bottle of delicious Bulleit bourbon

Steps:

1. In a small tea pot, combine ripped up mint leaves and honey.

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2. Throw in the rock candy.

3. Add boiling water.

4. Let steep for at least 20 minutes, to make a mint/sugar tea.

5. Pour out mint tea into separate container, and throw in any additional mint that’s handy.

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6. Close container, put in fridge, let cool for at least an hour.

7. Take out container, strain contents (if loose mint is in there)now you have a simple mint syrup.

8. Combine mint syrup and delicious Bulleit1 part mint syrup to 2-3 parts bourbon, to tasteand one or two ice cubes.

9. Consume gleefully.

10. Discuss to anyone present how the South shall rise again.

11. Tip hat.

Bulleit


/INSUFFERABLE HIPSTER IRONY

Butternut Squash and Stout Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with Stout

This past Friday night, Eric and I were lucky enough to be at Billy’s on Burnet for the Austin Beerworks Sputnik Cacao Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout (whew!) cask tapping, along with our friends Kris and Julie. This stuff was excellent. Smooth, rich, dark, and a tad chocolatey. We regularly buy cans of Austin Beerworks’ wonderful Black Thunder and Peacemaker to drink poolside, so we relished the opportunity to try one of their winter brews, fresh from the cask.

That experience, plus the presence of a giant butternut squash and a few potatoes, inspired this filling, flavorful soup. We’re still getting tons of sage from our allotment garden, and I never tire of frying it in some butter or bacon fat and enjoying it on pasta or as a soup topping. Sage pairs beautifully with this soup, and complements the crunchy bacon perfectly. In fact, I’m having the leftovers for lunch, and I can’t wait!

1 large butternut squash, deseeded, peeled, and roughly cubed
3-4 medium waxy potatoes, washed and/or peeled, and roughly cubed
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
~1 quart chicken (or vegetable) broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pint stout (try Austin Beerworks Sputnik, if you can get it!)
~1/2 cup heavy cream
~1/3 cup bacon, pre-cooked and crumbled
handful fresh sage leaves

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for about five minutes, until fragrant and translucent. Add garlic and stir for another minute or two, then add squash and potatoes. Sauté for another five minutes or so, stirring frequently, then pour in chick broth (enough so that the vegetables are covered), and increase heat to high.

2. Bring broth to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for at least thirty minutes, or until the squash are cooked through, soft, and easy breakable. Add more broth, or water, if the soup is too thick.

3. Once the vegetables are soft, pour the soup into a blender or large food processor and mix to desired texture. For this type of soup, I like to blend about 3/4 of the mixture, leaving the rest in the pot, so that the finished dish contains some nice chunky bits of potato and squash. If you want a smooth soup, just blend all of it; you may need to do it in two batches. After blending, return the soup to the pot, over low heat.

4. Add stout, stir, and cook for a further five minutes or so. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, warm bacon over medium heat. Add sage, stir in the resultant bacon grease, and cook until the herbs are slightly crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Add cream to soup and stir thoroughly. Allow the soup to continue to cook until very warm throughout. If your soup starts to bubble or boil, reduce heat.

6. Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with crumbled bacon and crispy sage. Serve immediately, preferably with additional stout!

soup

Eric enjoyed his bowl with some leftover homemade bread.

soup3

*Reds or Yukonn golds are good. I left the skins on for this batch, for additional heft, texture, and nutritional value. Feel free to peel them if you prefer.

Pan-Fried Salmon and Sage Spaghetti

Pan-Fried Salmon and Sage Spaghetti

This one’s a bit late, but here’s another way to sneak in that weekly fish serving. As always, the beautiful, fresh Atlantic salmon you see above is from Wheatsville Co-op. Fresh sage courtesy the amazing gardener Eric.

I used to make something similar to this in the UK, but it took the form of a casserole and involved a lot more cheese. This is a lighter, tastier version that’s still perfect for cool, late autumn nights (or indeed, weekend brunch—it’s also great with a fried egg, over-easy!). And, of course, my secret ingredient is horseradish.

1/2 lb spaghetti or linguine
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter, halved
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb fresh salmon, filleted and de-boned
~1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
1 tsp horseradish sauce
1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese
extra salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring about four cups salted water to a boil over high heat. Add spaghetti and cook for about eight minutes, or until al dente, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, is a large skillet (I suggest cast iron), melt 2 Tbsp butter and olive oil over medium high heat.

Butter

Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the salmon to the pan, flesh-side down (if skin is present).

Salmon

Fry for about three minutes, until the underside is somewhat browned, and flip over. Don’t worry if the salmon starts to fall apart.

Pan-fried salmon

Cook on the other side for about three minutes, then flip again. Now the skin will probably slide easily off or crumple; discard (or give to your cat as a snack!). Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until salmon is cooked through. Use your spatula (non-metal if using a cast iron skillet) to further break up the salmon into bite-sized chunks.

Salmon frying

Salmon frying

3. As salmon cooks, drain pasta and return to the pot. Add remainder of butter and stir thoroughly to prevent sticking.

Salmon and spaghetti

Stir in salt, pepper, horseradish sauce, and cheese. Cover and set aside.

Spaghetti

4. Using your spatula, create a small, empty area in your pan. Add sage leaves to the buttery salmon juices and fry for about one minute, until just crispy but not blackened.

Salmon and sage

Salmon and sage

Stir sage and salmon; scrape contents into pasta pot and stir thoroughly.

Salmonn and spaghetti

5. Spoon out into pasta bowls, adding additional cheese, salt, and/or pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

Pan-fried Salmon with Sage Spaghetti

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Serves 4.

You can actually reheat this the next day for an amazing brunch or lunch; and it paired well with a cheap moscato (pictured). Heh.

Stella’s Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

Believe it or not, I’m not cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year, even though I’ll be at home the whole holiday weekend!

Last year it was just me and Eric, and our menu was a mixture of homemade and Wheatsville.  This year, we’re hosting my mom, who’s down from Paris, Texas, for the first time in exactly four years (she hates the drive, and I don’t blame her!).  I was originally planning to make my great grandmother Tollie’s cornbread dressing, and my mom even made a phone call to our Aunt Barbara to refresh her memory regarding the recipe, which neither she nor I have made since I came home from the UK for Christmas in 2003 (I think!).

But as the list of ingredients got longer and longer, and I considered the fact that I don’t have a dishwasher, and worried about the allergy attack I was suffering last weekend turning into a full blown illness, I decided the dressing with have to wait till Christmas.  I’ll make it in early December and post in time for your Christmas menu planning.  And when I finally post the recipe, you’re in for a treat!

Meanwhile, if you’re still searching for some fairly unfussy but crowd-satisfying dishes for your holiday table, check out some of my Thanksgiving recipe ideas, below.

We’re buying a garlic chive cheese ball from Wheatsville, but if you want to approximate that addictive, nostalgic flavor with a simpler recipe that keeps well, try Debbie’s Delicious Cheese Spread, one of my favorite family treats.

If you’re like us, and have more pumpkins than you know what to do with, try Stella’s Pumpkin Soup.

Okay, okay.  I lied.  I will actually be making my Southern Sweet Potatoes tomorrow morning while my mom drives down.

This morning on KUT, John Aielli was on a rant about how he hates sweet potatoes, and is tired of people trying to “fool” him into liking them, by making them into things like sweet potato chips (?).  After playing a few Calexico songs, he changed his tune and raved for a full ten minutes about Bettie Winn Reeves Harris’ sweet potato pie recipe.  If you make it, I’d like to hear what you think about it.  Apparently, this is the only way John Aielli can eat sweet potatoes.  Oh, dear.

For an even easier sweet potato solution, try my Perfect Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

If you’re like John Aielli and still hate ’em, try my Pesto-Tossed New Potatoes instead.

And you know you want some Macaroni and Cheese.  This one’s special.

Another of my favorite recipes on this site, that happens to be pretty Thanksgiving-y, is this one for Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash.  This one is a little more involved, but the result is so filling and flavorful that it makes a great alternative main for a vegetarian holiday celebration.  Something about the combination of nuts and sage approximates sausage, and I just can’t get enough of it.

A similar dish for meat eaters is my Bacon-Stuffed Acorn Squash.  I suggest pairing this with some Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Another great main dish for vegetarians: Autumn Vegetable Fritters with Homemade Applesauce.  Or, save these for your Chanukkah party.

Another really easy, budget-friendly recipe that’s sure to please are these Roasted Parsnips and Carrots. Parsnips are a wonderful tuber to which I was first introduced at a typical English Sunday roast dinner. If your local market has them, try them like this first to see if you like their flavor. I love them.

For the opposite end of the diet spectrum, this sweet and low-carb alternative to pumpkin pie is sure to please any primal eaters: Paleo Pumpkin Pudding.

Finally, this is a picture I took this morning, of Eric’s Pumpkin Roll.  We sampled it for breakfast, but there’s enough left to see us through the weekend.  Though he says it’s “more of a pumpkin lasagna,” this sweet dish is both pretty and pretty filling!  He used homegrown pumpkins from our allotment garden again, so it tastes that much better.