The Nectar of the Gods

Danielle is out of town today, and she's asked me to fill in for her. I plan to revolutionize this blog with my single post! Observe, as I capitalize the title of my post! Cower, as I...

Okay, all I can really think to revolutionize is the capitalization of titles thing. I guess Danielle's blog is already pretty rad.

I want to talk to you about a special passion of mine. I learned a very important lesson at a very young age, one that I still hold as sacred truth today: There is just no substitute for pure maple syrup. If you are still putting some kind of syrup on your pancakes/waffles/french toast/whatever that is not pure maple syrup, you are making a major breakfast error. This is not just an opinion. Pure maple syrup is less processed than most other syrups. It's less processed than most other sweeteners, even. It's also more delicious. Okay, that last part may just be an opinion.

While there is no substitute for pure maple syrup, pure maple syrup can be a fantastic substitute for all sorts of other sweeteners. It brings a unique flavor all its own to anything you might otherwise flavor with sugar, honey, or agave nectar. Try it i
n your tea. Use it in your granola recipe. Put it on Danielle's french fries recipe from last week! Admittedly, my passion for maple syrup might run a little higher than yours.

Here's a favorite of mine, enhanced by the subtle deliciousness of maple syrup:

Peanut Maple Dipping Sauce (Or stir fry sauce)

This is ridiculously easy. We're really just going to take all the ingredients and mix them until the result is spectacular. Taste as you go. Quantities are approximated, and individual tastes should be catered to in terms of the sweetness, spiciness, and garlickyness. All of these are real words.

Mix the following in a bowl:

4 heaping tbsp of peanut butter (Preferably fresh ground, chunky, and unsweetened. You can get this in plastic tubs at most health food stores.)

2 tbsp pure maple syrup (The word pure is very important. If it doesn't say pure, it's probably not as delicious.)

2 tbsp hot sauce (I use Sriracha, but anything similar should be fine. If you've got a favorite, give it a shot.)

2 tbsp soy sauce (I don't really need to add a
note here, but I have for every other ingredient, and I didn't want soy sauce to feel left out. Oh, I've got one! You can read about how soy sauce adds umami to a dish on Alex's bog here!)

2 cloves of garlic (I always just mix fresh garlic right into the sauce. You could cook it some, but that would make it both less delicious and less good for you. Garlic is really a miracle food.)

Now there's really just one more step. Add vegetable stock if you have it, or a little water if you don't, until the consistency is a little thinner. You could add a little sesame oil or something similar, but I usually don't. You want the end result to look something like this:

Now you've got a variety of options! You can dip things in it; I recommend dumplings, kebabs, or anything that typically comes on a stick. You could also make a stir fry with it, which is what I did. I was pretty happy with how this batch turned out, though I probably would have gone spicier. My friends will tell you that this is unsurprising. Some might even express their opinion that I cannot taste the things I make because I make them way too spicy. They are wrong about that.

If you try my dipping sauce and think of any fantastic ways to improve it, please let me know! Recipes should always be viewed as a work in progress.


special photo thursday!

Well, dear readers, I am getting ready to leave on my very first business trip! Which means you all get a special treat on Tuesday...a guest post from none other than Daniel himself!



Have I ever mentioned my deep and abiding love? ...Don't worry, I'm not about to trick you into reading some soppy Valentine's story about true love or anything like that. Not for a person, at least - this deep and abiding love is for the potato. Now, granted, I can trace my roots clear back to Ireland, so a love for potatoes is basically genetically guaranteed, but still.

Let it be said: I am head-over-heels for potatoes.

When I was younger, my favorite way to eat them was either mashed or baked and slathered with butter and ranch dressing. (Though the latter did not come about until I was in high school; potato skins weirded me out before then. I know I've mentioned I was a picky eater. It knew no bounds.) And, of course, French fries.

There was a point in my tenure at high school when my mother would pick me up from school every day, we would go through the drive-thru at McDonald's, and I would get fries. I would empty them into the bag, sprinkle them with more salt, and eat them from the bag. There is something about the specific combination of starch, grease, and salt that is absolutely irresistable. I remember one of the only cravings I got while I was abroad was for fries - though it wound up being sated later at a McDonald's near the train terminal in Rome. (The other was, unsurprisingly, cinnamon rolls.)

I won't get into any of the arguments against McDonald's - you've heard them all before, at this point, I'm sure - but part of the reason they have such wild success is that they hit on that key combination. I've since stopped eating at McDonald's, but even now I will still get wild cravings for French fries that are, for the most part, unable to be filled. Sure, every so often I will get them at a bar, but it's not like I am able (or willing) to go to a bar every time I want French fries.

So it's a good thing they're super-easy to make. I may have eaten about three-potatoes-worth of French fries over the weekend. They're also delicious.

French Fries
adapted from The Naptime Chef

I split up the fries and did three different toppings - cayenne pepper, shredded cheddar, and grated parmesan. They were all super-delicious, though I think I prefer the ones with cheese. I guess I'll have to keep experimenting. Darn.

2 potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
(a couple dashes cayenne pepper)
(cheddar cheese, shredded)
(grated parmesan cheese)

Make sure the potatoes are clean. Slice down the longest side of each potato, about as thick as you want your fries to be. (These are best a little thicker, though, to be honest.) Cut each slice along the longest side again to make the fries.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the strips in a pot full of water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes; they should be tender. While the potatoes are boiling, pour the olive oil and salt into a bowl. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. When the potatoes are done, drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Toss them in with the oil and salt until covered.

Line the fries on the baking sheet. If there's any leftover oil in the bowl, pour that over the potatoes. If you're adding cayenne, go ahead and sprinkle some over the fries.

Bake for 40 minutes. If you're adding cheese, pull out the fries and sprinkle the cheese on them, then bake for another 5 minutes. These are best hot-out-of-the-oven. Enjoy!


photo friday: snowpocalypse 2010

I think this is my favorite so far of my snowpocalypse pictures - to check out more (and I'm steadily adding them), just head on over here. And we're supposed to get more snow on Monday! This is just nuts.


struck low

Well, dear readers, I don't have much of a post for you today - I (and several of my friends) were struck low with food poisoning this weekend and while I am feeling much better than I was, food that is not saltines or yogurt does not seem wildly appealing to me.

It might be that I'll have a recipe for you later this week. We'll see how round 2 of the snowpocalypse goes...


photo friday: snow

Well, DC is going to get slammed with snow this weekend, they're saying. I'm torn between being excited and kind of bummed - two feet of snow is going to make hanging out hard. We'll see. In the meantime, have some of my favorites from the snowstorm last Tuesday.


a little invincible

Last week, I finally picked up The United States of Arugula by David Kamp and reading it, I was struck - as I was reading My Life in France - by Julia Child's otherness. When she was my age, she was in a similar place: working as a career girl, but kind of floundering. And of course, there's the fact that she did not start cooking until she was in her thirties. Her story heartens me, makes me remember that it is okay to not know what I want to do with my life at age 23.

I became aware of this book while searching for a present for my friend Abbi. I don't see nearly enough of her, and I was not only lucky enough to see her this weekend but to also be gifted with a small food processor from her. (Seriously, I have the best friends. Hands down.)

With that in hand, I knew what had to be done. I had to make crackers.

Crackers, you say? But crackers aren't something people make! (As was exclaimed to me yesterday morning upon my excited admission of what I had baked.) I know, I know. Crackers are certainly not something people make on a regular basis, not when you can go to the supermarket and buy any variety of cracker your heart desires. I find myself less and less interested in this, though. If I can make it, why don't I? Obviously this doesn't work for everything. I could probably make my own pasta, but I'm not going to stop buying pre-made noodles.

Now that I have that tiny food processor, though, I feel a little invincible. I mean, hell, I made crackers! There are few things quite like a baking victory. Finishing a story is similar, but that (sadly) occurs much less frequently. I still get excited when I make a tried-and-true recipe, like
focaccia, but that is nothing compared to pulling off something I've never made before.

But enough talking. Go make some crackers.

Spicy Cheddar Crackers
adapted from Orangette

1/3 stick butter (room temp.)
1/2 c. cheddar cheese (4 oz.)
1 egg yolk
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. dried mustard
3/4 tsp. salt
optional: 1 tsp. seasoning - I used cayenne pepper

Makes about 30 crackers.

Combine butter, cheese and eg yolk in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add flour, mustard, salt, and the seasoning of your choice. Again, blend until smooth. Transfer dough to parchment paper and - using the paper to help - roll into a log. Chill for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a baking sheet and slice the log into thin rounds. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool. Enjoy!