Monthly Archives: August 2013

Well That Was Fast.

Episode one of Simple and Complex: The Show is up on youtube. I think I’m finally getting the hang of this editing business. 

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Homemade Sea Salt, Boiled Peanuts and More!

Last week I promised you all updates on my experiments making sea salt at home and boiled peanuts. After hours of fun watching pots of water boil, I’m ready with the results.

Homemade Sea Salt

-1 gallon sea or ocean water

-that’s it

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First of all, the most common question I’ve gotten about harvesting your own sea salt is, “Is it safe?” According to my research, the rule of thumb is: if it’s safe to swim in, it’s safe to make salt from. I don’t normally post recipes which require a disclaimer, but this was too cool a project to pass up.

No matter where your water came from, or how clear it looks, you’re going to want to filter it. A coffee filter will be good enough, I used a double layer of butter muslin. If using cheese cloth, make sure to do four or five layers. Now fill a pot with the filtered water, and boil it for, like, three hours. Check it periodically, but don’t expect much change for the first two and a half hours. Eventually you’ll get down to a sludgey consistency like in the picture.

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At this point I switched it over to a frying pan and turned the heat down to medium-low, just a good simmer to evaporate the last of the water. Remember, while you don’t have to worry about burning salt you don’t want to burn your pan. As far a yield goes, I got 4.5 ounces from one gallon, which is about half a cup. Way more than I expected. Your’s may be different based on the salinity of the local water. Be sure to store the salt in an air-tight container since salt absorbs water from the air. You can also use a salt pig, which I just learned about and totally need to make one of.

Boiled Peanuts

-1 pound raw peanuts, in shell (they can be tricky to find but it’s very important they are raw, in shell)

-1 gallon water to start, you’ll probably need more later on

-2 Tablespoons salt

-2 Tablespoons paprika (or Old Bay)

-2 Tablespoons honey (optional and not traditional, but I like it)

You ready? Pay attention: Put everything in a pot. Stir a little. Boil four to six hours, depending on how soft you like your peanuts. You’ll probably need to add some water periodically as it boils away. Done. Be sure to keep them in the water so they’ll keep soaking up flavor.

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In regards to the, “and More!” promised by my title, I’m officially announcing the start of a youtube show in which I demonstrate scratch-made recipes with only two ingredients. It’s kind of ridiculous how many I have. I’ll let everybody know as soon as the first one is up, which should be by Wednesday.

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The Fabled Lowcountry Boil

I’ve always been a big fan of regional specialities and food culture. New York pizza, New Jersey diners, Midwest cheese curds, California avocados (really all the produce,) and not just America: I’ve had gyros in Greece, perogies in Poland, and gelato in Italy (sadly I can only claim two continents worth of food experience.)  But yes, my expertise does lie mostly in American cuisine and I don’t think there is another place with so many regional specialities as the Carolinas, specifically the South Carolina Lowcountry. This is one of the only areas in the United States where you can find locally grown tea, raw peanuts (they’re almost always roasted before shipping,) and frankly the best shrimp that money can buy.

Luckily, I got to spend last weekend on Edisto Island with some family and I had an opportunity to whip up a proper

Lowcountry Boil (all ingredients are approximate based on preference and hunger)

per person:

-1/2 lb. shrimp, head off, unpeeled

-1/4 lb. smoked sausage (something like a kielbasa)

-1 ear corn, shucked, broken in half

-3 – 4 red potatoes (2 or 3 inch diameter)

-2 teaspoon Old Bay

-you can also through in some quartered onion or halved lemon for flavor

Rinse your potatoes and put them in a great big pot half full of water. Add your Old Bay and heat until boiling.

When the potatoes are about halfway done, 10 or 15 minutes after the water boils, add the corn and sausage and return to boil.

After 5 more minutes add the shrimp to the pot. In 3-5 minutes the shrimp will be cooked and dinner is ready.

If you’re lucky and can eat this outside; the traditional manner is to eschew plates, spread newpaper on a picnic table and dump the contents of the pot in the middle of the table. If you’re eating inside, you’ll probably want a big bowl or platter and a couple pairs of tongs.

I also got a chance to pick up some of the aforementioned raw peanuts and brought home 5 gallons of ocean water. I’m working on harvesting sea salt as I write this. Stay tuned for updates on that and Hot Boiled Peanuts. If you want to learn more about the Lowcountry, click here. You should click there, it’s an amazing place.

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Pasta with Chicken in Cream Sauce

Being that I am someone who loves roast chicken means that you will probably find more than a few leftover chicken recipes here (over the course of the next few years.) Today we have one of my favorite stand-bys, Chicken with Cream Sauce. Although from the look of my stove top this may fall more into the “Complex” category, don’t be daunted. We’ll take this one burner at a time.

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The upper-left burner has one and a half shredded chicken breasts simmering in some water to tenderize and heat up. Simple, right?

Moving clockwise we have the pasta pot, boiling away with 1/2 lb. of angel hair (although a short pasta such as penne or fusilli might work better here, I just like angel hair.) A note on pasta: second to homemade, I like Barilla. It’s easy to find, has a variety of shapes, and is of a very good quality for the price.

Along the front row I have the makings of cream sauce (which is similar to, but not strictly speaking, alfredo.)

Cream Sauce

-1 cup half-and-half

-2 Tablespoons butter

-2 teaspoons black pepper

-1 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

Bring the half-and-half along with the butter and pepper to a simmer, stir frequently until it’s reduced by half. Do not add the cheese. That comes later.

When the pasta is ready and the half-and-half reduced, toss them together with the chicken in a big mixing bowl.

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Use a tongs if you have it, otherwise go with the two forks method. Which I’m assuming doesn’t need an explanation. Once everything is evenly distributed and well covered with the sauce, sprinkle on the  Parm and continue mixing. We do it this way so the cheese doesn’t clump.

Now, that little pan in the bottom-left hand corner has some garnish in it. It’s just 1 Tablespoon of capers which have been patted dry and minced. I then heated up about 2 teaspoons of oil in my little pan and stirred them around in there until they got nice and crispy-looking. Be sure to pat any excess oil off, and sprinkle over the pasta as you plate it. Enjoy.

If you have leftovers from this, you can re-heat with a little more cream (or stock) and serve with a lovely roasted or sauteed vegetable. I think I’m going to go with corn.

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Banana Chocolate Chip Scones

The secret to making the best possibe scones, in my opinion, is to take a page from a vegan cookbook and use bananas instead of eggs. Two notes here: the usual conversion is 1 egg to half a banana, but this ignores the fact that bananas come in different sizes. I always go with 1 egg to 1/4 cup banana. Also, I’ve gotten a few requests to give my flour measurements in volume and weight, so for this recipe I measured out my flour and then weighed it. I also updated Whole Wheat Focaccia with volume measurements.

-1 3/4 cup (9 oz.) all purpose flour

-1/2 teaspoon salt

-2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

-1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, medium dice (or vegetable oil if you’re sticking with the vegan theme)

-1 banana, mashed up real good (should equal 1/2 cup, if shy add milk to make up the difference)

-1/3 cup soymilk or milk (or heavy cream if you’re feeling sassy)

-1 cup additional stuff (here I used some chocolate chips and almonds I had left over, feel free to use dried fruits or nuts)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

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Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the diced up butter. The clumps will stick together so rub them in with your hands to break them up. People tend to freak out about this stage but don’t as long as none of your butter is bigger than a marble, you’re fine. If you’re making this vegan, mix the oil in with the other wet ingredients.

If you’re adding stuff, do this now. Make sure to coat the stuff with flour so it will mix in better.

The best way to mash up a single banana is on a plate, with a fork. No need to dirty up your blender or another mixing bowl. Transfer into a measuring cup, you should have about half a cup. If you have less make it up with milk, if you have more eat it.

Once you’ve got that sorted out, add 1/3 cup of milk to the banana and mix them up together.

Pour over the dry ingredients and mix together very quickly just until everything is combined into a solid mass. I will be best to use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, a whisk will just get all clumpy.

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Transfer to a baking sheet and form into an 8 inch disk. It won’t be perfect, it’s fine, they’re scones.

Dribble 1 Tablespoon of milk over the dough and use your fingers or a pastry brush to even it out. If you like, now would be the time to sprinkle additional sugar over the top although this is not strictly necessary.

Cut the disk into sixths or eighths now, that way when it comes out of the oven it will be much easier to divide.

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Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, immediately re-cut and transfer your little babies to a cooling rack. You can enjoy these right away or over the next 2 to 3 days. Any longer than that and you’ll want to freeze them (be sure to use an airtight bag.) To defrost just pop them in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes.

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