Spiced Pickled Grapes

Spiced Pickled Grapes
Spiced Pickled Grapes

Spiced Pickled GrapesAt the risk of sounding like a Portlandia sketch, I am a little obsessed with pickling. You take something yummy, plop it in some vinegar, sugar and spices and it tastes even better. And lasts longer! Win-win, right?

When Matt and I lived in Brooklyn, we used to go to this great place called Buttermilk Channel (I say that like we could just waltz right in, la di da, but there was almost always a line down the block. Damn you, Brooklyn!). Anyway, they have a chicken liver mousse that they top with two perfectly sweet/tart pickled grapes. Divine. Since we don’t live stumbling distance from them anymore, I decided to try to make it myself. I know it sounds weird but pickled grapes are really good.

If you swing that way, do yourself a solid and make this easy and delicious Chicken Liver Pâté with Thyme and Brandy and put a couple of these bad boys on top. You can thank me later (or invite me over and we can giggle maniacally about how good this combo is). You could also just put out a bowl of them and eat them by the handful. They would be great alongside a sharp cheese or even in a cocktail.

Spiced Pickled Grapes

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Vietnamese-Style Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese-Style Dipping SauceI’m not sure what it is about fish sauce but it’s kind of like flavored crack to me. It’s salty and fermented and shouldn’t be addictive but I’d sneak this sauce into rehab and drink it in the bathroom if I had to. What? Stop looking at me like that.

[It’s worth pointing out that we like Squid Brand fish sauce – other sauces may be available, but we like to stand up for the cephalopods in this household. They can’t stand up for themselves, after all – Matt]

It works really well with Thai Shrimp Cakes or anything that needs a salty/sweet/sour kick. Ready in seconds.

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Herbed Lamb Burgers with Feta-Yogurt Sauce

Herbed Lamb Burgers with Feta Yogurt Sauce
Herbed Lamb Burgers with Feta-Yogurt Sauce

For me, lamb is definitely hit or miss. I either really enjoy it or really, really, really don’t. There is very little middle ground. If it’s too gamey, I don’t like it. Overcooked, blech. Undercooked, even worse! Needless to say, I’ve made some expensive lamb mistakes.

What I’ve realized though, is that ground lamb is not only much less expensive than other options, but it’s also a lot easier to handle. Matt loves lamb chops, so I’ll make them once in a while on a special occasion, but lamb burgers are a much more affordable indulgence.

I used to make lamb burgers with more of a North African flavor thing going on (lots of spices like cumin, cinnamon and paprika) but the way I like them best is more Mediterranean. Lots or herbs, like rosemary and mint. Very lemony.

To be honest though, the star is this Feta-Yogurt Sauce that is so simple to make, but so good. I always make extra so we can have it on grilled vegetables (it’s killer with roasted eggplant). We’ve used it as a dip with pita chips or sliced cucumbers. This recipe makes about 2 cups, which is enough to top 4 burgers with maybe a little extra. If you happen to have a tater-tot on hand that accidentally falls into a bit of this sauce, you’re in for a treat.

***WARNING*** This will be your dog’s face as you eat this burger. Do not give her any (because burger is too good and onions and garlic are poisonous to pups!) She MAY have captured a tater-tot though.

Arya Lamb Burger watcher

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Kale and Walnut Pesto

Kale and Walnut Pesto
Ingredients for Kale and Walnut Pesto
 
Today we’re making kale and walnut pesto (inspired by The Hop’s Kale and Almond Pesto), to go with our Sausage with Creamy Polenta and Kale Walnut Pesto. Even if kale is not your favorite thing, this is a good way to try it because it’s so good for you, but also deliciously cheesy/nutty.  It would definitely be great on pasta or on anything that basil pesto is good with.
 
We would claim to have used nuts from our black walnut tree, but as the linked article admits, they’re impossible to harvest efficiently!
 
Oh, and here’s our recipe for creamy polenta.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted caramel sauce
Salted caramel sauce

You’ll never buy jarred Salted Caramel Sauce again once you realize how easy it is to make at home. Plus it tastes so much better without all the additives. It has a million uses, one of which is to be eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon while no one is looking. 

Is salted caramel the best thing ever? “Bah”, you’re thinking. “Best? No way.” Is it better than fluffy kittens in a basket? Is it better than Tyrion Lannister looking at you like this? Is it better than doggie derp face? Who’s to say. Well, I am and the answer is yes. It is better than all those things.

Okay, so now we know that salted caramel sauce is the one true god, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you it’s the easiest thing to make. I mean, it’s simple enough. There’s only 4 ingredients. The thing about caramel though is that there is a very fine line between deliciously dark and acridly burned. You have to be brave when browning the sugar but not foolhardy. The best caramel teeters right on that line between sweet and bitter.

It definitely helps to have the right tools (I found this link to a tumblr that’s just people posing with giant spoons and had to include it here. Thank you for understanding). Seriously though, you’ll need a good, heavy saucepan. It should be larger than you’d think, 2 or 3 quarts is perfect. A rounded bottom is ideal but not required. An instant-read thermometer would also be extremely useful. It will help in that panicky moment between perfect and ruined.

Salted caramel sauce

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