Perfect Popovers

It’s currently 48° F, with the wind south by southwest off the sea, blowing steadily at 20 knots with gusts strong enough to shake the cabin. In other words, it’s a great time for soup or stew. As an accompaniment to that, you’d be hard pressed to beat a nice, hot popover. 

There are plausible claims that popovers are a U.S. dish. The oldest recipe reference to popovers I’m aware of is American, within M. N. Henderson’s Practical Cooking, which dates to the Centennial year of 1876. 

It’s thought that the popover is naught but younger kin to Yorkshire Pudding, which certainly makes sense. Perhaps it’s good old yankee ingenuity that is evident in their making; much smaller, they don’t require the lengthy beat/chill/beat sequence that a Yorkshire does to rise successfully. They can be enjoyed in less than 45 minutes, as opposed to several hours.

While the batter for popovers is simplicity itself, the successful baking thereof is not. The tricks to great popovers are as follows;

1. Have all ingredients at room temperature before you incorporate them; this allows faster heating, which is critical to a good rise.

2. Scalding the milk; heating the milk helps integrate it with the other batter constituents, and promote a faster rise and lighter final product.

3. Very through blending of the batter; as with a quiche or frittata, well blended ingredients, with a wealth of minute air bubbles worked into the batter, make for a lighter popover. An immersion blender does the best job of this, especially one that has a beater head.

4. Heat the tin and the fat, (butter); again, having everything as hot as possible when introduced to baking heat allows that energy to be used for generating steam, the engine behind a well-risen popover, rather than it being needed to simply heat the pan and the batter.

5. Don’t open the oven door while they’re cooking, period.

Here’s our go to version. They’ll take you about 10 minutes to make.

 

1 Cup All Purpose Flour

1 Cup Whole Milk

2 Large Eggs

3 Tablespoons unsalted Butter

1 teaspoon SeaSalt

1 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Have all ingredients at room temperature, (Butter doesn’t matter, since you’ll melt it shortly).

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Pour milk into a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove the milk when it scalds, (small bubbles formed along the edge of the pan), and set aside to cool.

Melt butter, and lightly brush 6 to 8 cups of a muffin tin with same.

Slide the muffin tin into the hot oven for about 5-7 minutes.

Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl; whisk until well blended, about 1-2 minutes.

Add milk, flour, remaining melted butter, and salt; with an immersion blender, whisk briskly until the batter is smooth and even, about 2-3 minutes.

Remove tin from oven and fill each roughly half way with batter.

Bake until fully inflated and golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes

 

Serve immediately, piping hot.

Waffles 101

 

Along with stand mixers and fondue sets, waffle irons are more than likely collecting dust in a corner of many of our pantries. Waffles get a bad rap as ‘food that’s not good for you,’ and ‘a pain to make’; nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, a store bought, frozen waffle is an abomination, along with generic table syrup, and both are to be avoided like the plague. A homemade waffle, on the other hand, topped with delicious things is a delight in every way.

 

Batter or dough has been cooked between two hot plates for hundreds of years. The earliest recipe written in English that I’m aware of appeared in the 1600s, and paid proper homage to the Dutch ‘wafel’, that from the Frankish ‘wafla’, which harken back as far as the 1100s and meant honeycomb or cake. Waffles started out life as derivations of the communion wafer, thin, crisp cakes not unlike the modern pizzelle, still quite popular in Italy. These earliest versions were almost always round and made of grain flour and water, just as communion wafers were and are. As such, they weren’t particularly big on taste, so flavorings like honey or florally infused water were introduced, such as rose and orange blossom. It wasn’t until the 1300s that a recipe included eggs, wine, flour, and salt, but did not contain leavening of any note. Another hundred years would pass before irons notably different in pattern from the communion wafer, or oublie, would appear. These new versions, the French fer à oublie and the Belgian wafelijzer, were square or rectangular, and set with an even grid pattern; the space between these early irons was still rather thin, leading to a finished product likely akin to the modern Brussels waffle. Another couple of centuries would pass before recipes routinely included yeast, sweeteners, and spices added directly to the batter. Leavening was the innovation that allowed waffles to become the thicker, more appealing treat we enjoy to this day.

Waffle makers have advanced leaps and bounds from the versions we had as kids. There are makers that’ll do anywhere from 2 to 8 at a pop; some are deeper and rotate, to specialize in the thicker Belgian version. There are timers and dark-to-light controls as well. I opted for a simple maker with a light to indicate ready status, and no other bells and whistles. If you keep an eye on your maker while it’s working, it’s a safe bet that somewhere around 6 to 8 minutes in, when the steam output has diminished and you’re smelling nice, toasty cereal notes, your waffle will be done. After you’re used to yours for a while, it’ll be second nature that requires little conscious thought. Non stick is nice, and can now be found in non-toxic, environmentally friendly versions; it’s great to have, but does not mean you don’t still need a little something sprayed or wiped on before you cook.

Waffle recipes are pretty straightforward; once you’ve got your ratios down, they lend themselves well to experimentation. A few points, illustrated with the recipes below.

Thicker, lighter styles, like Belgian, want the eggs separated and the whites beaten and folded in to achieve that end.

The same process will help heavier, gluten poor flours generate a lighter, less leaden final product.

Vital wheat gluten is a fantastic tool to help those heavier flours end up as fluffy waffles.

Leavening can usually be achieved adequately with just baking powder, but judicious use of both powder and soda works just fine as well, especially with heavier batters. Yeast raised waffles take longer, but reward with a complex, tangy note that faster leaveners just can’t duplicate.

Here are a few variants to spark your creative juices. Any of these recipes can be made savory if you wish. Thinly sliced green onions, chive, or other herbs can be added to the batter, or incorporated into toppings made with sour cream, cremé fraîche, crema, or Greek yoghurt. Chutney, salsa, mostarda, or sauteéd vegetables are equally delicious, as is a waffle topped with an over easy egg, crumbled bacon, and melted cheese. If you add veggies or fruit directly to a batter, consider sweating them in a sauté pan first, to reduce the amount of moisture and keep your waffles from getting soggy or falling apart.

 

For topping sweet waffles, it’s awfully hard to beat real maple syrup and butter.

You can substitute whole wheat pastry, or whole grain white flour, one to one for any recipe calling for all purpose. Subbing 2% milk for whole works, and almond or soy milks make fine alternatives as well. Coconut oil makes a great sub for butter, as will olive, avocado, or grapeseed oils for savory waffle recipes. Honey, agave nectar, or less refined sugars are also fine alternatives. Fresh fruit is always a delightful topping for any variant.

 

With modern waffle makers, it’s best to pour a ladle or two of batter into the middle of the iron, enough spread to within a couple inches so of the edge; gently closing the lid will finish the job.

Each recipe will make 6-8 waffles. They will store well short term, and are delicious toasted the next day.

Yeast Raised Waffles
2 Cups all purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 Cups whole Milk
2 large Eggs
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 package active dry Yeast, (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
 
In a small pot over medium heat, combine milk and butter; stir until melted and bubbles start to form on the edge of the pan. Add sugar and salt and stir steadily until melted and hot but not simmering. Remove from heat and let stand until lukewarm.
In a warmed mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup warm water and yeast. Let stand until it foams, about 5 minutes.
Add warm milk mixture to yeast and stir.
Whisk in flours, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand until doubled in volume, at least two to three hours at room temp, or overnight in the fridge.
Preheat waffle iron.
Whisk eggs and baking soda into the batter.
Cook according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown.

 

Belgian Waffles

2 Cups all purpose Flour

2 large Eggs

2 Cups Whole Milk

1/2 Cup unsalted Butter

1/2 Cup Sugar

3-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Cup fresh Strawberries

 

Preheat waffle iron.

Rinse and slice strawberries.

Separate eggs into two small dishes.

Melt butter.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder.

In a second mixing bowl, lightly beat egg yolks until frothy. Add milk, melted butter, and vanilla, and whisk thoroughly to incorporate.

Add wet to dry mix and whisk gently until just combined.

Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold gently into the batter.

Cook in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown.

Serve topped with strawberries.

 

 

Buttermilk Waffles

2 cups all purpose Flour

2 Cups Buttermilk

2 large Eggs

1/3 Cup unsalted Butter

2 Tablespoons Sugar

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Pinch Sea Salt

 

Preheat waffle iron.

Melt butter.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to incorporate. In a separate bowl, whisk and combine thoroughly buttermilk and butter; add the eggs and vanilla, and whisk again.

Add wet mix to dry and whisk gently until just combined; batter will be slightly lumpy.

Cook until golden brown, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 

 

Buckwheat Waffles

2 Cups Buckwheat Flour

2 Large Eggs

1 1/2 Cups whole Milk

1/2 Cup Greek Yoghurt

1/2 Cup unsalted Butter

2 Tablespoons Bob’s Vital Wheat Gluten

2 Tablespoons Honey

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Pinch of Cinnamon

Pinch of Sea Salt

 

Preheat waffle iron.

Melt butter.

In a large bowl, add buckwheat flour, vital wheat gluten, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and combine.

Separate eggs into two small dishes.

Add yolks to a second mixing bowl, and whisk until frothy. Add the sugar, butter, milk, and yogurt and combine thoroughly.

Whisk egg whites until they raise to soft peaks.

Add wet mix to dry and whisk gently until just combined.

Add one half of the egg white and fold them gently into the batter; do the same with the second half.

Cook until golden brown, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 

 

Whole Grain Waffles

2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

2 large Eggs

1 1/2 Cups whole Milk

1/2 Cup Sour Cream

1/4 Cup Butter

2 tablespoons Honey or Agave Nectar

2 teaspoons BakingPowder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Pinch Sea Salt

 

Preheat waffle iron.

Melt butter.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisk to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, whisk and combine thoroughly buttermilk and butter; add the eggs and vanilla, and whisk again.

Add wet mix to dry and whisk gently until just combined; batter will be slightly lumpy.

Cook until golden brown, according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 

 

 

Real Deal Alfredo

 

Alert reader Ian asks;

‘What’s the trick to making great Alfredo sauce? It never seems to come out nice and thick and creamy when I try to make it.”

It’s a great question, because as simple as great Alfredo is, making it isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Let’s see why.

First off, let’s agree that the vast majority of the crap sold in restaurants and the grocery store called ‘Alfredo’ isn’t remotely authentic. Heavy sauces, often made with a generous dose of thickeners, have no business being called Alfredo. The real deal was named after the guy who invented it. He passed on decades ago, but his place still exists; it’s Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa, in Roma, where to this day you can dig into the original.

Now, here’s your first shocker; that dish contains no cream or milk. The dairy comes solely from butter and cheese. It’s that simple, and here’s the trick; it’s made with the best ingredients possible. That’s the secret; to make it at home, you need to use the absolutely highest quality, freshest ingredients you can find.

 

Real Deal Alfredo

1/2 Pound Fresh Fettuccini; homemade is best, but locally made is just fine.

1⁄2 Cup fresh, local Unsalted Butter

1/4 Pound genuine Parmegiano Reggiano

 

Preheat oven to warm, and thoroughly heat dinner plates and a large bowl or platter

Bring 4 quarts of well salted water to a boil. Add the Fettucini and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Fine grate the Parmegiano, cut butter into roughly 1/4″ cubes.

Drain pasta, and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

Transfer pasta to the heated bowl, and add the butter, cheese, and 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Using a serving fork and spoon, toss the pasta, carefully incorporating all ingredients.

Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, to achieve a uniform, smooth sauce. Baste any excess butter and cheese back onto the pasta until they’re fully melted and pasta is evenly coated; this will take you about two or three minutes of tossing.

Serve immediately on the warmed plates, with crusty bread and a nice, crisp heart of romaine salad.

 

Now, if you’d like to make a cream based version the right way, we can do that too. And here’s why it so often fails for home chefs; it fails because cooks think of it as a cheese sauce, instead of as a cream sauce thickened with some cheese. Good cream, standing on its own merits, only has so much ability to incorporate additional fats; load too much cheese into it, and you’re bound to suffer separation anxiety. That said, you certainly can apply the most common cheat and add flour, which will allow you to pile on more cheese, but what you end up with is more Mac and cheesy than Alfredo, frankly; you lose the magic. As with the original, cream-based Alfredo is simple, and made with the best local, fresh heavy cream you can get. Milk, in any form, ain’t gonna cut it, and neither will that mass produced, ultra pasteurized crap.

Creamy Alfredo

1/2 Pound fresh Fettuccini

2 Cups fresh heavy Cream

4 ounces fresh, unsalted Butter

1/2 Cup Parmegiano Reggiano

Grating of fresh, whole Nutmeg

Pinch of Sea Salt, couple twists of fresh ground pepper

 

Preheat oven to warm, and thoroughly heat dinner plates.

Fine grate the Parmegiano.

In a large sauté pan over medium low heat, melt the butter; do not let it simmer and separate, you want the milk solids to remain incorporated for this sauce.

Add 1/2 cup of cream and increase the heat to medium, whisking gently but constantly. Once the sauce starts to simmer, continue slowly but steadily adding cream, allowing the sauce to begin to simmer before you add a little more, whisking constantly. The sauce will thicken slightly throughout this process.

Boil 4 quarts of well salted water, add the fettuccini and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the water into a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Remove the sauté pane from heat, then add the Parmegiano to the cream sauce, about a tablespoon at a time, whisking steadily. Stop when you hit the thickness you like.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to incorporate. Add a tablespoon of pasta water, which will help smooth out the sauce.

Grate a pinch of nutmeg, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to incorporate.

Serve immediately on heated plates.

 

 

More than spring cleaning

Welcome to the redesigned UrbanMonique! 

We’ve grown immensely in the last couple of years, and as such, we needed more control over our site, and the ability to expand our activities to better serve you. This new site does all that. We hope you like it as much as we do. In addition to a fresher, less cluttered look, it’s a better platform for mobile devices, has no ads, offers video capability, and provides me with enhanced ability for custom programming.

I’ve been working on this for several weeks before letting it go live, but there’s bound to be stuff I’ve missed, or that just doesn’t float your boat – Feel free to let me know what you think, and if you see something that just doesn’t look or work right.

NGKG Chef Q & A

Well, I have made an effort to encourage questions, ‘cause I really do want them, so I sure am not gonna pass any up!

PLEASE DO ask questions, comments, offer suggestions, etc! At the bottom of each post in the blog, you’ll see a little bar that separates the post from the last one; kinda in the middle of that there’s a little line that reads ‘comments’; just click on that to ask a question, make a point or comment, etc: A new window will pop up and you can enter your question there. It may ask if you want to follow the blog and the answer is, of course you do! Following the blog means you get notified when new posts are up, etc.

You can also email me; ebena at sbcglobal dot net, (Do that up in typical email format; I just spelled it out here to avoid spam mail…) OK, so down the river!

Got an email that reads “I keep seeing you use the term “Non-reactive pan” or bowl. What exactly does that mean and why do I care?”

That’s a great question, (And a great reminder not to throw cook-speak around too much, Eben!)

A non-reactive bowl or pan is simply one made of stuff that food won’t react with chemically: Aluminum, copper, brass, cast iron, and plastic should all be considered potentially reactive. At issue isn’t the pan or bowl itself so much as it is what you’re putting inside of them: When cooking with high acid foods, like citrus, tomatoes, vinegar and the like, those foods can react with pans and bowls and leave an off taste in your mouth. There is also some discussion to the effect that aluminum, non-stick, and plastic containers can in fact present health hazards simply by their use, so let’s take a look at that stuff.

When high acid foods are cooked in aluminum, certain aluminum salts can form, and there is some evidence that these salts can lead to dementia and impaired vision; in any case, we don’t want to be ingesting them if we can avoid it, right?

Likewise, food wrapped in plastic or placed in plastic containers has potential problems. Fatty foods like meat and cheese can promote the leaching of diethylhexyl adipate from such films and containers; you may have gotten an email to that effect from a well meaning friend. While the FDA claims that the amount of this chemical we’re exposed to is within safe parameters, I say unto you again, is this really something we want in our food and bodies?
Long and drawn out answer; no.

Quick and dirty nonstick Q & A; is nonstick OK for the kitchen? Answer; if you’re really getting health and environment conscious, no. The most commonly used non stick coating is PTFE, the exact same stuff you find in plumber’s tape; do we really wanna eat that? No. The stuff is applied as fluorocarbon layers to pans; remember the ozone layer? Heating nonstick pans can breakdown flouropolymers into such wonderful things as:
Triflouroacetate, (Harms plants and takes decades to break down)
Polyflourocarboxylic acids, (Removed from Scotchguard ‘cause it’s bad for us).
CFCs, (Ozone layer again).

‘Nuff said? Yeah, I think so…
Do yourself and your world a favor and stick to stainless steel and cast iron cookware, glass and stainless bowls, and glass storage containers. Your body and the environment will thank you, big time!

OK, next question:
“I love the blog, but I can cook too! Can I submit recipes and suggestions?”

Answer: YES, and please do! Sharing and learning is what this is all about! We ain’t the end all to be all of food, just one resource among many, so bring it on!

Massive Cuke Attack!

Hey, y’all;

Got great feedback from the Storology post, including this one:
“Eben,
This is John from King Gardens. Thanks for storology 101–good info for folks who are used to veggies lasting like Twinkies because of preservative sprays. Now that you’ve established yourself as an authority, any suggestions on what to do with the wheel borrow load of cucumbers I just picked?? Would send you a picture if I could figure out how to attach it. Some of them are destined for our CSA dinner tomorrow night. Our subscribers will get a full array of veggies, plus pesto cheese cake, Christy’s bread, and possible a beverage or two. Will definitely schedule around your availability next year! Thanks much for doing this blog!
John”

Well, shoot, BIG thanks, first and foremost, John; it is my pleasure, believe me! And it would be a gas to do some live stuff next year, count on us bein’ there, for sure!

OK, well, THE number one way to preserve Cukes is… Pickles of course! If you can do pickles, you MUST do ’em, ’cause we all know there’s nothin’ better. In fact, pickin’ my tiny brain, I cannot think of any other long-term preservation scheme other/better than pickles, so… Pickles it IS!! I don’t know about y’all, but we LOVE ’em; our fridge always contains 4 or 5 varieties and often more; garlic dills, sweet, sweet & sour, hot, etc, etc – So I say if you’re blessed with the best rough stock there is, make ’em happen!!

As for fresh stuff for the CSA dinner, consider the following:

Cucumber/Tomato/Basil salad: 1 to 1 to 1/2, w/ balsamic vinaigrette.
Cucumber Salad: Just cukes, onions, a little parsley or cilantro, oil & vinegar.
Fresh Cuke Pico: Add tomatoes, onions, peppers, chiles and…
Cuke-Mango Salsa: 3 to 1 Mango to Cuke, add jalapeno, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper…
Cuke salad: 5 parts cukes, 1 part onion and bell peppers, salt, pepper, olive oil & vinegar to taste.

Bet some or all of those would float yer boats, eh?

CHEERS!!

Urb

Storology 101

It has been brought to the Chef’s attention that some of y’all might like a few words on care and storage of produce and herbs and such; here goes…

Ok, first and foremost, as you should know, your veggies from The Neighborhood and King’s gardens comes to you without pesticides or herbicides on them; that said, all you really need to do upon receiving them is a quick rinse and inspection for bugs and dirt. The best way to wash veggies is The Restaurant Way; fill a sink with cool water and dunk stuff while agitating gently; this allows dirt and such to fall to the bottom, leaving your goodies nice and clean. Lift your bounty out of the water and dry gently on cloth or paper towels.

Most nice, fresh veggies really don’t care for the fridge, truth be told: Hardier stuff and the most delicate will do fine there; carrots, celery, lettuce and such, but onions and tomatoes and potatoes don’t really like it there and will suffer in relatively short order. It is always best policy, when getting beautiful fresh produce like you are, to use as much as possible right away, and properly store or preserve anything left over. With produce, we’re generally talking about drying and canning as best storage process; if you’re gonna get great stuff, why not make it available all year ’round, right? Face it, our not-too-distant ancestors spent a lot of time canning and preserving, and we’d all do well to learn from that. If you’re getting this wonderful stuff, you obviously enjoy great food, so if you don’t have the ability to can and dry properly, get it and use it; you’ll thank yourself profusely come January or so…

Herbs will store best if left dry, so don’t wash those until you’re ready to use them. Most herbs will do well in about 40 to 45 degrees; if you are blessed with a cool cellar or basement, take advantage of that; if not, and your fridge has a decent crisper, then store your herbs in a clean container, (We use glass, to avoid excess plastic and for taste). Herbs stored thus should be fine for about a week or so; any longer than that and taste and appearance are gonna suffer!

At all cost, avoid cold spots in your fridge if you store this way! Some of our fave herbs, such as basil, (And lemon verbena), don’t like cold at all and will turn black below 40 degrees! The hardier varieties, like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, (Hey, there might just be a song there…), will do fine for a couple weeks, but again, the more delicate ones will definitely not do so well.

Herbs kept dry don’t really need to vent, and will do great in airtight conditions; if yours are wet, then the special veggie bags or containers with air valves will do best. I know some folks like the wrap-it-in-wet-paper-towel concept, but truth be told, it will rob flavor and invite spoilage. Since Monica and I are blessed with fresh herbs out back almost year ‘round, we do use the stand ‘em up in a glass container of water method, and you can too, but only if you’re sure you’re gonna use those guys within two or three days; much more than that and things will get funky, even if you change the water.

Of course for long-term, (AKA over winter) storage, nothing beats drying of herbs and even your favorite produce. Home driers are cheap and do a decent job, and will allow you to enjoy your favorites right through the Dark Ages. As a for instance, we use some of our chiles that are coming ripe now, and dry some for later – The drying process makes your house smell great too! Store dried herbs in air tight glass containers for best results and do not chill or freeze; they’ll be happier at room temp in a nice clean jar. Try drying onions, cilantro, and tomatoes as well as peppers and chiles; they’re a real treat later on! All your herbs can be dried easily; field strip your stuff down the to the form you want for use, (i.e., remove Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Cilantro or Mint leaves from stems, check them for bugs and dirt, and then go ahead and dry ‘em up.

Nothing in the world beats fresh herbs for great cooking, but in the dead of winter, believe you me; the difference between herbs you’ve chosen and preserved yourself and the crap that comes on a grocery store shelf is night and day – You’ll be super happy with the results, and you’ll get that nice little flash of memory back to the summer days when you made it all happen, too!

Holy CRUD!

Just made my fave breakfast, a couple eggs with cilantro, onions, tomatoes and chiles on top, and…

HOLY CRUD!!

Got surprised by a chile, because I didn’t check carefully enough prior to cooking with them, like I told y’all to do! Ten minutes later and I am still sweating profusely…

Before cooking with them, I bit the end off of one and tasted it – Not hot, so off I went – NOT a smart game plan; I love heat, but when it’s so hot you can’t taste or eat comfortably, it’s TOO hot!

So, a couple more points about chiles:

Tasting for heat: The very end is gonna have the least amount of heat; it’s farthest from the membrane and seeds, so, duh, Eben, not a good test. Chopping off the top, wiping a finger over the seeds and touching that to your lip will tell you what you got.

Respect the variety: What I used this am was a Serrano; they ARE generally hot, so I should have expected hot, and not been fooled by a bad test.

Field Strip ’em:
Membranes and seeds out, plain and simple!

Sweeten their temper: Soak field stripped chiles in a bath of 2 tblspns sugar dissolved in 2 cups of water; it won’t impact the taste profile much and it does help chill ’em out a tad.

If all else fails: Do what I did, pick the little buggers out, add some sour cream and mild tomato salsa, and let those help cool things off.

Oh, and bring lots of paper towels to the table with ya…

Classic Bruschetta

OK, well tomatoes are coming, and I have seen the variety and tasted the quality, so y’all are up for some wonderful treats! We’ll start into tomato dishes with a classic Bruschetta, perfect for a summer evening.

Classic Tomato Bruschetta

3 or 4 ripe tomatoes of your choice
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tblspns extra virgin olive oil
1 tblspns balsamic vinegar
3 or 4 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade cut
Salt and pepper to taste

To chiffonade:
Stack your leaves so they’re all lined up the same way. Now roll the leaves into a nice, tightly rolled bundle. Start at one end with a sharp parking knife and make cuts clean through the roll, about 1/8″ apart – The tighter the roll, the finer your cut – You can go thinner than an 1/8″ as you see fit!

1 loaf of Focaccia, Ciabatta, or French bread

scald your tomatoes by dropping them in water that you’ve just brought to a boil and then removed from the heat. Let ’em sit for about a minute and then pull ’em out and pat ’em dry. use the edge of a paring knife to peel the skins off the ‘maters.

After you’ve skinned ’em, cut the tomatoes into quarters and remove the centers and seeds. Now cut your bounty into a rough 1/4″ dice.

Combine the minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and basil in a non-reactive bowl, toss to coat everything thoroughly, cover and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Slice your bread into nice, grab-able slices and arrange on a cookie sheet. Brush each slice lightly with extra virgin olive oil and put ’em under your oven broiler until golden brown.

Keep the bread and bruschetta separate, so that folks can spoon up their own, and to keep the bread from gettin’ soggy.

Serve with a nice, cool bottle of white wine and enjoy!