The photo above is a shot of our side-yard one afternoon last week, back when we had a dusting and a half of snow. The light seems to be changing just a bit now that December is over, and spring is obviously just around the corner.
I'm going to spend the next ten weeks enveloped in various fleeces and plan to amuse myself with new recipes, including two you'll see below. But first, I wanted to show you a couple of photos of Poof from Christmas at our parents' house.
She was sitting there looking so blissfully content that I had to ask her to freeze while I took a photo.
I like how her senior photo seems to be peeking at her happy future self. What a beauty. I love her so much.
And now, the recipes!
This is a Pinterest recipe I found and made almost immediately. It's from something called "jujugoodnews" and is a black bean salad with corn, red peppers, and avocado-lime vinaigrette, minus the avocado for now. It's shockingly tasty and healthy to boot! I've tweaked it a bit (see italics).
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 ears fresh cooked corn, kernels cut off the cob <-- I used a bag of thawed frozen white and yellow corn, something like 12-16 ounces, so yeah, I went *heavy on the corn.* I've adjusted the lime juice, onion, salt and olive oil amounts below to accommodate the extra corn.
- 2 red bell peppers, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- generous 2 teaspoons salt
- generous 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- generous 2 tablespoons sugar
- 10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lime zest (be sure to zest limes before juicing them) <-- I zested 2 small limes
- 7 or 8 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish <-- I used Italian parsley because I have a problem with cilantro
- 2 Hass avocados, chopped
Combine the corn, beans, and peppers in a large bowl and mix well.
Mince the garlic and mash it into the salt until it becomes a paste. Put it in a small bowl along with the lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, and onion. Whisk and pour over the corn mixture. Mix well.
Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight. Right before serving, add avocados and mix gently, being careful not to mash avocados.
Serve at room temperature.
Jeff and I decided to turn this salad into some tacos. He has a quick guacamole recipe that he likes to throw together (avocado, traces of lime juice--he had a bad experience with too much last month--a grated clove of garlic, a tablespoon of jarred salsa, and salt to taste). So: it's a smear of guac and a little pepper jack cheese on a blistered corn tortilla topped with the above salad.
This made a fun 1:30-ish kinda-lunch! Also there's no meat here, although this made us want to add some carnitas into the mix, but not enough to actually get in the car and drive 10 miles into town to our favorite carnitas provider.
Next up: spicy brittled peanuts from that Smitten Kitchen cookbook I've been talking about lately. Oh man, these are incredible. That amount of cayenne down there is perfect, and it quietly buzzes around in the sweet-salty background. If you're not allergic to peanuts, you will find yourself saying lots of double-negative things like, "Life would not be worth living if I couldn't eat peanuts."
You're going to have to work for these way-better-than-CrackerJack peanuts, but not too much. It's mostly just a lot of stirring over a medium-hot pot, and some of that stirring is very interesting because science.
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups shelled raw or roasted unsalted peanuts, papery skins removed <-- I used blanched peanuts
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat. If you don't have either, coat your baking shee with a thinslick of vegetable oil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda, sea sat, and cayenne, and set aside.
In a large saucepan, the heaviest one you've got, heat the sugar, butter, and water over medium-high heat until it just begins to turn golden, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the peanuts and start stirring, coating them with the sugar mixture.
After a minute or two, the sugar will sieze up a bit, making the peanuts look grainy and crusty, and it will be harder to stir them--you'll be convinced that it's gone irreversibly south, cursing me under your breath [This cookbook is so conversationally awesome and you need to go buy it--K], but fear not, keep stirring, and in about 3 minutes it will melt back into a golden caramel.
That part actually took more like 5 minutes. I'm sure this was because my idea of medium-high heat is a little low, as I am afraid of heat.
Keep stirring, breaking up any clumps with your spoon, until the nuts are evenly coated, then remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the baking-soda-spice mixture as fast and evenly as you can, then spill the caramelized nuts out onto your prepared sheet, spreading them in a single layer and breaking up any clumps that you can before they set. Cool completely.
Once they're cool, break the nut clusters into smaller pieces and put them in a serving dish. The nuts will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, but rarely do because they are habit-forming.
She's not kidding. These were gone in two and a half days.
In other food news, yesterday I tried one of David Leibovitz's recipes for a flourless chocolate cake that was great but, disappointingly, not awesome. I already make a couple of F.C.C.s that beat it handily taste-wise and are a lot prettier to boot. So we're off to a disappointing start on that cookbook, but I'm nowhere near giving up. You should see some of the photos in that thing.
Finally, Jeff and I spent last week watching Mad Men's directors' commentaries for season five, and I was amused to discover this not-at-all-Photoshopped! insert in the packaging. I love how ticked off Betty looks.
PS Jeff thinks that Jon Hamm has an enormous head, especially in the image above, and he asked me to tack on this video.