New Orleans Pralines

Pralines

I will admit that my recipe headline is a bit redundant. When I think of Pralines I only think of New Orleans. I can imagine no other city evoked by these confections. It may, of course, be my own bias, having grown up in New Orleans, and having passed Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop in the French Quarter countless times.

A few weeks ago, Caitlin and some of her fellow bridesmaids hosted a bridal shower.  The bride-to-be was one of Caitlin’s childhood friends and the groom-to-be was another New Orleans boy (we make such good husbands).  With that in mind, the food and drinks for the evening were to have a Maryland (for her) and New Orleans (for him) theme.

Pralines

Among other items, I volunteered to make pralines for our guests.  At first, we had thought about ordering the pralines, but that seemed expensive, not to mention the threat of breakage.  So we transitioned to the plan that had me making several dozen pralines.

And several dozen I made.  My first batch was a complete and total failure.  I Continue reading

Soba Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Tofu

Soba Noodles

Until recently, I had never heard of Soba noodles.  Not once.  When I first heard them mentioned, I ran into the grocery store and emerged with some form of lo mein noodles.  The second time, replete with the knowledge that they were closer to whole wheat spaghetti, than chinese noodles, I came back with, well, whole wheat spaghetti, unable to locate the soba noodles.

Finally, I decided to no longer leave it up to chance.  I walked into the grocery store – our neighborhood Schnucks no less — and asked whether they carried Soba noodles.  Within a few seconds, a store employee had brought me exactly what I wanted – a clear package with Japanese characters adorning the label.  This was it.  I had found the elusive noodle.

In this case, Schnucks carried these Yamaimo Soba Noodles in their Asian aisle.  I had never seen Continue reading

Chicken Tagine with Fennel and Olives

Chicken TagineI enjoy cooking. I don’t find it to be either a chore or an obligation. And because I enjoy cooking, cookbooks and kitchen tools make successful gifts and presents. I’ve gotten carving knives, gourmet olive oils and vinegars, and blog- and New Orleans- themed cookbooks from friends and family. On my 30th birthday, Caitlin made me a doughnut cake, with the additional gift of the doughnut cake pans that helped to bake that cake.

More recently, I received a tagine, Continue reading

Tofu Chorizo Breakfast Tacos

Tofu Chorizo

The Best Cookbook Ever, as the name implies, is a damn good cookbook. I first checked the book out from the library about three months ago. Five or six “mind-blowing” and “deliciously awesome” recipes later, the book has become a kitchen fixture and a faithful auto-renewal. Its recipes may not really make you “cry as you cook from it [and] change your life forever” but it may just leave you constantly cooing over your culinary creations.

From their Soba Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms to Rigatoni Paprikash, each recipe has proved easy to make and delicious. Weekday meals have lost their repetitive dull. The Sussman brothers – living proof that the Hipster movement is alive and well – are also vegetarian friendly, with many of their entrées meat free. Tongue-in-cheek, many recipes suggest possible “Meatifications” for those who may be going “on a meat-eating walkabout” to discovery why they are, after all, vegetarian.

Speaking of meatification, this recipe began meatified. It was my adaptation – the result of finding Continue reading

Homemade Tamales with Black Beans and Spanish Rice

Tamales

For the best tamales, you should use your abuela’s recipe.  In my case, not having an abuela of my own, I borrowed the recipe from Stephanie’s abuela — Marie E. Salazar.

At first, I thought that making tamales would be difficult and agonized over the proper ingredients and procedure. I wondered whether the effort would pay off and whether the tamales would taste like those tamales we once had from a street vendor in Santa Fe. And most of all, I wondered whether I had the energy to embark on a two-day adventure of stewing, cooking, folding, and steaming, all by myself.

In her write-up, Continue reading

Liege Waffles (Gaufres de Liege)

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There are Belgian waffles and then there are Belgian waffles.  The “Belgian” waffles we know and love are, in fact, American — an invention of the late 1950s, which were popularized during the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City.  The Belgian-American waffle, like other hyphenated groups, sits firmly on U.S. soil, but with a firm nod towards his past origin and history.

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Belgium is famous for its waffles.  But in Belgium, the most popular waffle is not the version we know (commonly referred to as the Brussels waffle), with the squared sides, light batter, and deep pockets.  No, the best and most popular waffle is the heralded  Liège waffle, with its caramelized colors, rounded edges, and small, hand-held beauty.  It is absolutely delicious and best eaten piping hot from a street stand, unadulterated by any add-ons.  Unlike the Brussels counterpart, the strawberries, syrup, and whipped cream only detract from its innate flavor.

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Egg Salad Sandwich

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Whenever I see egg salad on the menu, I can’t help but think of the scene from Pee-Wee Herman, where Winnie tells Pee-Wee that she has made him “his favorite.”  The two are seated on a picnic blanket, cooing at one another.  But with each guess — fried chicken!, hamburgers, cheese sandwich, turkey a la king, vegetarian plate, shepherd’s pie — Winnie becomes increasingly upset, just as Pee-Wee becomes increasingly confused, until he confesses that he can’t think of anything else.  At which point, Winnie pulls a carefully wrapped egg salad sandwich from the picnic basket.

Pee-Wee takes the obligatory bite, chews it around, pronounces it “egg salad-y,” and then tosses it, Frisbee-style towards some playground equipment.

Continue reading