Waisting away again

August 8, 2010

Cross-posted at QWERTY Sanchez

It started with a discussion on Facebook, postulating on the conversion of Lime Bars into Mojito Bars through the addition of finely shredded mint, and some white rum in place of some of the lime juice. Those are still on the to-do list. What blossomed out of the discussion was an interest in creating a Margarita flavored bar cookie, so I set some goals and began scouring the interwebs for a good starting point.

There were two key things that I wanted to capture with the cookies – first, that they taste like actual margaritas, not just citrus bars with some tequila and second that they not devolve into total sweetness, but have a touch of saltiness to hold true to the original inspiration. Browsing various recipes from Google searching, I found several attempts to capture the saltiness by including crushed pretzels in the crust, but I’m a “purist” for shortbread style bases for my citrus bars. I found various recipes which took a basic lime bar, added a tsp or two of tequila, and called themselves a margarita bar. Nothing really totally suited what I was looking for, but I found a good starting point at Mermaid Sweets.

In order to capture a true margarita flavor, I knew I wanted more than just tequila in the mix. I decided on the addition of Triple Sec as well, but had concerns that the mixing with the lime juice and the baking would diminish the impact of the alcohols on the overall flavor of the cookie. I decided to finish the bars with a simple glaze, fortified with salt to get the flavor note I wanted, and providing a sweet/salty finish with a little graininess to match a salt-rimmed glass.

My adaptation of MS’s recipe is as follows:

Margarita bar

Margarita Bars
(adapted from Mermaidsweets.blogspot.com)

Crust

  • 2 c Flour
    1 C butter, frozen, cut into small chunks
    1/2 C Confectioner’s sugar
  • Combine all and blend in a food processor with quick pulses, or mix by hand with a pastry cutter or “two knives” method. Once combined, press firmly into 9 x 13″ pan, and bake at 350° F for 20 minutes

    Filling

  • 4 eggs
    2 C granulated sugar
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/3 C lime juice
    Zest of 4 limes
    Zest of one orange
    1 T tequila
    1 tsp Triple Sec
  • Beat eggs and sugar until light in color. Add remaining ingredients and mix on medium speed until well combined. Remove crust from oven(when done) and pour filling over the crust. Return to oven for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until browned moderately on top.

    Glaze

  • 1 C Confectioner’s sugar
    1 1/2 T Tequila
    1 1/2 tsp Triple sec
    1 T Lime juice (or until desired thinness for glaze)
    1/8 tsp salt
  • Combine all in small bowl and whisk until smooth. Once bars are cooked and slightly cooled, pour glaze over top of surface, and spread evenly.

    I found that the addition of the glaze really helped make these margarita bars instead of citrus bars. The alcohol cooked out of the filling for the most part, leaving a hint of flavor, but the glaze helped pick it right back up again. The slight crack from the glaze gave that “grainy” feel I was going for, though I might have been able to pull off a bit more salt in the glaze. It’s also possible that using a stronger flavored tequila (I used Patron Silver) might also impart a bit more flavor to the filling. The overall verdict was a unanimous “yummy!” from the assembled folks that got to partake, so it’s definitely a hit.

    Margarita bars

    Greens with envy

    July 28, 2010

    Made a simple dinner for the geek squad this evening, chicken marinated in Tomato-Bacon salad dressing and grilled, a loaf of french bread, and a “top of the head” salad. The salad was the big winner for me, although the geeklet in her disdain for all things sharp and vinegary (whose kid is she, anyway?), decided she didn’t care for goat cheese. The salad was an excellent blend of sharp, sweet, savory, crunchy, and a great addition to the meal.

      Dressed Greens with Candied Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Apple

    ~4 C greens, washed and torn
    2 T Olive Oil
    1 T cider vinegar
    1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
    2 pinches kosher salt
    2/3 C candied walnuts*
    1 c crumbled goat cheese
    2 apples – cored, peeled and chopped

    For tonight’s salad I used a half head each of green and red leaf lettuce, but the flavor of this salad is complex enough to support a wide variety of greens, choose your favorite! I removed the leaves from the rib and roughly tore them into pieces from 1-2″ square. Drizzle oil and vinegar over greens, and toss by hand. Add salt and pepper and toss again. Add walnuts, cheese and apples, toss a final time and serve. I was lucky enough to have some home grown apples from my aunt’s orchard, but any crisp, sweet apple will do.

    Oh sweet and vinegary, how your taste combination tempts me.

    *Simple candied walnuts

    1/2 C walnut halves
    1 T butter
    1/4 tsp cinnamon
    2-3 T granulated sugar

    Melt butter in frying pan and lightly toast walnuts. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar, and toss mixture in pan until sugar has melted. Pour walnuts onto waxed/parchment paper and allow to cool. Crush walnut halves with pan bottom, meat tenderizer, etc, until desired size.

    A great, quick salad with a complex blend of flavors and textures that’s an excellent accompaniment to a light summer dinner.

    Renn geekery

    May 3, 2010

    The past two weekends have been spent in the lovely company of friends at the Escondido Renaissance Festival with my guild, the Black Guard Mercenary Company. Faire geek is only one of the many facets of geekdom that makes up the diamond that is your humble blogger. BoardGameGeek, WoWGeek, FoodGeek and many other bit players all help add luster to the whole.

    In truth, faire geek’s pretty low on the geek factor for me, relatively speaking. My dedication to character, costuming, accent, etc is pretty meager, maybe even less than it should be. I avoid being sore-thumb horrible, and enjoy the time I spend with friends. That isn’t to suggest I don’t thoroughly enjoy my time at Faires, because I really do, it’s just not as be-all, end-all for me as some other aspects of my geekiness are.

    One thing that does push my geek button is that at faires, I get to indulge my FoodGeek as cook for our encampment. Breakfast’s are a reasonably standard mix of scrambled eggs, bacon, some form of sausage and either hash browns or pancakes. Or, in the case of this weekend, pancakes mixed with chopped crispy bacon bits, aka ManCakes.

    Cooking for me has become an extension of socialization. Good food can be an incredible experience, and being able to provide that food and the accompanying experience is an amazing feeling. A delicious meal can be “I love you,” “You’re great friends,” or any number of personal, meaningful expressions, without actually saying anything. Those that know me will confirm that my interest and desire in expressing myself verbally, is at best, minimal. Being behind the stove, creating, gives me an outlet not only for creativity but also, love, friendship, respect, desire and so much more. So, I love to cook.

    Cooking at faire is a great challenge because it requires producing large meals, relatively inexpensively, that taste good (at least, if I’m doing my job right). A stand-by that gets rave reviews both from my guildies and our sword vendor is my Chile Verde. Now, I loves me some good chile verde, and I make a pretty mean bowl. Those who’ve made it before know what a relatively intensive process it can be to make the sauce, certainly not suited to camp site cooking. So, I offer my recipe for chile verde here below.

      Pork stew meat
      Green enchilada sauce

    No really. That’s it. I know, I know, I’m cheating. And I really don’t care. The trick to this successful chile verde is all in the preparation of the meat. Your stew meat should be cubed into approximately 1″ squares, and then, cooked in a frying pan with enough fat of choice (lard/rendered pork fat is the best) to brown and crisp the outside of the pork cubes nicely. Don’t crowd the pan, take your time and pay attention to the meat. It’s horribly time consuming, and it really does make all the difference. The time spent here results in pork in the chile verde which holds its shape nicely even when meltingly tender and that savory Malliard goodness on the outside of the chunks of pig. Once all your pork is browned, deglaze the frying pan(s) with a bit of enchilada sauce, add the rest (approximately one large can per 2 pounds of meat) and bring to a boil, then simmer for 3-4 hours, or until the pork can be split easily with a fork. Serve (over rice, if you like) with sour cream, chopped green onions and cilantro to accompany.

    One of my guild mates is not fan of green chile sauce, however, so I did a little on the fly marinade as the pork was being prepped which was a big hit.

      Pork stew meat (approx 1/3 pound)
      Splash of Patron silver tequila
      2-3 T cheap maple syrup
      1 tsp dried minced garlic
      3-4 pinches Kirkland steak rub

    Placed in a plastic bag and allowed to marinate for a couple of hours, the result was a sweet glazed pork that had a nice kick and tasted quite delicious. The high sugar content in the syrup burns easily, so a moderate temperature and high level of attentiveness are required to cook up the finished product.

    Two weekends behind the stove, getting to let a bunch of really great people taste that they mean the world to me. Tough to beat.

    Home again, home again, jiggity jig

    April 13, 2010

    Back from a week and a half of East Coast family, friends and all around hecticness. Totally avoided getting my geek on, other than the occasional Facebook check in. A week and a half without WoW = …no big deal, apparently. Time, weather, season and inclination equated to no fishing, so I had to get the food thing going. Lots of food memories from our time in Lancaster, PA, when we hit Central Market for a ton of goodies on Tuesday AM.

    The food overload began on arrival, however, as we detoured off the Interstate from Philly to Nesquehoning so that we could catch a Gelati at Rita’s. I opted for the Georgia Peach with vanilla custard, while the GeekWife had Black Cherry/Chocolate and the Geeklet had Root Beer/Vanilla. Upon arrival at “Base Camp,” aka the in-law’s, we were greeted by enough meatballs, sausage, pasta and chicken to feed an army. Possibly two armies. Ahhh, the joys of Italian family!

    Easter dinner saw a conglomeration of friends and family gathering for potatoes, yams, ham, meatballs, sausage, chicken cacciatore and a plethora of other goodies to be enjoyed. Sadly, traditional Italian meat pie was deferred in the face of already groaning tables worth of food. We had already sampled from the cornucopia that is Turkey Hill Mini-Mart, grabbing a couple of “half gallons” of ice cream for the week and the “Oh my goddess, this is so sugary I can’t believe I ever drank it (for breakfast)” iced tea.

    A Monday evening dinner at Cafe East in Lancaster was good, if standard, Chinese fare. The surprise of the night was Muay Thai Chicken, a chicken stir-fry with standard veggies, but served up in a gloriously spicy, sweet, and earthy mix of red curry sauce and peanut butter. Incredible flavor combination.

    Tuesday was my foodie glory day, as we fell, like ravening locusts, upon the splendor of Central Market. I had the decided joy and benefit of being able to do most of my main grocery shopping here for several years, and it is sorely missed. We immediately popped over to a local dairy stand for a pint of fresh chocolate milk. We were touring the market jointly with our friend Christina, previously of Nick’s Pizza in Lancaster, and her twin sons. We intermingled among the stalls, reflecting on this smell or that taste, waving hello to vendors long unseen, but not forgotten.

    We finally stopped at the S. Clyde Weaver stand to visit with Anna, an older Mennonite lady who has been working the stand since before our arrival in Lancaster 10+ years ago. Between conversation we managed to round up some sweet bologna roll ups, garlic ring bologna, sweet bologna, farmer’s cheese and fresh ricotta (the ricotta sadly going south before I could do something with it). We visited the Turkey Lady for some Sun-Dried Tomato and basil and Sicilian sausages, and procured a couple of lovely eggplants, destined for Parmaggiana. Wilbur Bud chocolates, whoopie pies, and my personal addiction, red beet eggs, rounded out the shopping trip. I also grabbed up some fresh whipping cream, parsley and button and baby bell mushrooms, in order to make Ali’s Toasted Mushroom Pasta later in the week. A detour to Forry’s Country Market landed us some Pot Pie noodles, dried fruits (including cantaloupe!), shoo fly pie and other bits of yumminess.

    A visit to the GeekWife’s grandmother’s house had a lovely afternoon of catching up and shared time complemented with a tasty lasagna (not bad for a born and bred Dutch-German Pennsylvanian) and her incredible Eclair Cake. An overnight escape to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for the GeekWife and I included a trip to Phillip’s Seafood, where they were kind enough to replace the lobsters in our “Clam Bake for Two” with additional crab, shrimp, clams, and mussels. It was all delicious in it’s big shiny silver pot, and the meal started with some mediocre calamari with two well balanced dipping sauces, a pineapple chili pepper sauce and a green curry sauce.

    We wrapped up the trip with a visit to our friends Jeanine and Sue, who got shanghaied into taking us out to gather mass quantities of Tasty Kakes to “smuggle” home. Sadly, finding small bottles of A-treat clear birch beer in the Philly area proved too difficult, and we returned home birch beer-less.

    Many friends visited, many foods eaten, and many miles traveled. While it’s always sad to leave, it feels right to get home.

    A Plethora of Birthdays

    March 30, 2010

    As scattered as my brothers have become as we grow older, the presence of more than one of us in the folks’ hometown is cause for celebration. The fact that between the three of us we have close to eight birthdays in a two month span is a cause for a party when these two events happen to coincide.

    So it was that I found myself pondering what “some sort of salad” to bring. My standard potato salad, a delicious blend of potatoes, sour cream/mayo dressing, green onion and bacon is always a hit (and fodder for a future post), but I wanted to try something different. Curry powder stuck in my brain for some unknown reason. I poked around the ‘net and filtered through a half dozen or so recipes to pick out the things that looked worthwhile.

    After tossing together some disappointingly mediocre hummus, I got to work on the potato salad:

  • 5 pounds red potatoes, boiled and chunked
  • 6 oz plain yogurt
  • 10 oz mayonnaise
  • 2 T curry powder (or to taste)
  • 1 lime, juiced (~1/4 C)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 C frozen peas
  • 1 bunch green onions, rough chop
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • Wash potatoes, cut loose any scarred/damaged areas, and cut into quarters or halves of approximately the same size. Boil in lightly salted water until just shy of fork tender. In separate bowl mix yogurt, mayonnaise, lime juice and seasonings. Add onions and cilantro to dressing and set in fridge.

    When potatoes are done, drain and cut into fork sized chunks. Add to serving bowl with frozen peas and mix gently. Add dressing, and fold to coat. Let refrigerate for 1-2 hours minimum before serving.

    The finished product

    Having some extra lemon juice floating about from the hummus making, a crate of slightly picked over strawberries from the Farmer’s Market caught my eye.  A quick blend of 5 C of water, 2 C of lemon juice, a couple of dozen muddled strawberries and a cup of 1:1 simple syrup, finished with some mint sprigs made for a tasty afternoon drink.

    Good food, good friends and good times all roll together to make for a memorable evening.

    The man behind the curtain

    March 30, 2010

    Yes, I’m terribly late to the whole blogging bit.  The opposite of prolific when it comes to getting things spewed out to the interwebs.  So if you’re looking for a regular diet of bon mots, gourmet recipes and such, well, this likely isn’t the place for you.  If you don’t mind sorting through the rambling bits of this and that, you may come across a fly pattern that catches you a lunker, a recipe that the family insists on every time, or a bit of technology or geekery that you might have otherwise missed.

    Such is the vision that your humble scribe has in mind for Food.Geek.Fish.  Whether the reality matches, well, that’s what we’re all here to see, isn’t it?


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