Squeaky Peanut

"Dot takes on the Domestic Diva"

Tomato Hand Pies & Grilled Green Maters August 7, 2011

Filed under: Other recipes — squeakypeanut @ 8:50 AM
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Because I am a glutton for punishment, I tried two new Martha Stewart recipes this week: tomato hand pies, and grilled green tomatoes with creamy basil sauce. No photos again this week–my camera appears to be possessed; there is a photo of the hand pie if you click that link, above.

The first I had seen written up on a couple of blogs, where it was reported that they were tasty. No one complained about them being fiddly and taking five hours, so I proceeded naively. The recipe involves making a pâte brisée, which is cut into squares to line muffin cups, and filled with roasted tomatoes and onions, oil-cured olives, feta, and thyme. Sounds delicious and rather simple, right? Well, of course it was not. Oh, it tasted good, if a bit salty, but it was totally a pain in the arse.

The dough came together easy enough in the food processor, and it was to be chilled for an hour in the refrigerator. Naturally, I put it in the freezer by mistake, so after an hour it was hard as a rock and I had to wait for it to soften up. This was not Martha’s fault, but it was her fault that the dough cracked. The Husband just shook his head and asked why I didn’t use Julia Child’s recipe. Indeed. 

While the dough froze, I roasted the tomato and onion slices for 30 minutes. Well, the tomatoes roasted but most of the onions burned to charred crisp. Sigh. I also had to pit the olives, which was tedious, even though I only made a half batch. After the dough softened up enough to roll out and put in the tins, I had to put the tins in the frig for 30 minutes, which only made the dough harder to work with, as the corners were supposed to be folded over top of the tomato/olive/feta filling, but as mentioned above, the dough cracked. Then the “pies” were baked for 50 minutes. The whole thing took forever; I mean, I started these at 6:30 or so, and they weren’t done until 10 pm! They did make a nice little snack the next day, but I would use less salt when roasting the tomatoes since they were salty.

The second recipe was plucked from Everyday Foods. It’s quite simple: slice three green tomatoes, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. They are served with a sauce that consists of 1/4 c mayo, 1/4 basil, 1 garlic clove, and 1 T lemon juice, salt and pepper, all whirled up in the food processor (better to use a mini chopper since there isn’t much to whirl). These were quite tasty, and a bit healthier than a fried green tomato. The Husband used some extra sauce on some roasted salmon the next day.


Happy Birthday, Julia! August 15, 2010

Filed under: Other recipes — squeakypeanut @ 8:48 PM
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This week we tell Martha to suck it!

Actually, today would have been Julia Child’s 98th birthday, so to celebrate her legacy we cooked several of her recipes, along with some other French food, for some friends.

The Husband made two breads: Julia’s pan de mie, which I topped with Boursin cheese and radish slices, and two loaves of fougasse.

We also made Julia’s Amuse -Gueules du Roquefort, some marinated olives, toasted rosemary almonds, and deviled eggs with caper powder. We got that  recipe from DC restaurant Firefly, published by the Washington Post. We had an amazing smoked whitefish brandade there last week, so we also attempted to recreate it.   We rounded things out with some calf’s liver pate and salami, and a ton of French wine of all sorts.

For dessert, I made the first cake Julia ever had in France, a reine da Saba (‘Queen of Sheba cake), which is chocolate and almond. I couldn’t have any lest I get a migraine, but The Husband said it was pretty good if a bit overcooked. He made the chocolate buttercream frosting. I also made a jalousie framboise, which is a puff pastry tart with raspberry jam.

I am busting out of my pants, so I think Julia would be proud.


Chimichurri Showdown: Emeril vs. Martha May 8, 2010

Filed under: Other recipes,Recipe Review — squeakypeanut @ 10:52 PM
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 Sorry, mom.  I had to put some more stuff on steak. I hope this doesn’t ruin Mother’s Day for you. 

Menu No 19: Steak with Chimichurri; Roasted Potato Wedges; Sautéed Spinach with Vidalia Onions; Torrijas 




The recipe calls for 2 lbs of strip steak. I never make steak so I have no idea what cut is what, unless it’s a a T-bone, which, you know, has that T-shaped bone in it. Turns out strip steak is damned expensive; if you want a free-range piece it can go for more than $20 a pound. Since we are not millionaires, I decided to go with 1 lb of rib-eye, which was considerably less expensive. 

I resisted the impulse to grill them, and followed Martha’s simple recipe: dry with a paper towel, salt and pepper both sides, place in cast iron skillet and cook over medium high heat until it has a nice crust, then turn. It rests for 10 minutes, and is sliced against the grain, then topped with chimichurri sauce. 

Chimichurri Sauce(s): 

Evidently I have never had chimichurri sauce–I thought it was a type of Argentinean salsa. but that’s not how it works at all. My grilling cookbook has two recipes for it, as does my Emeril Lagasse grilling cookbook (Emeril at the Grill), so I decided to pit Emeril vs. Martha and make both sauces. I made half of hers, and a quarter of his. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets! 

Martha’s is as follows (adapted from Dinner at Home): 

1/2 c minced red onion 

1/2 c coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley 

1 T coarsely chopped fresh oregano 

1 T minced garlic 

1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil 

3 T red wine vinegar 

1/2 T crushed red pepper flakes 

1 T finely grated lemon zest 

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and season with 2 1/2 t salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. 

Hers is supposed to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature, while Emeril advises to let his rest for 2-6 hours. Here is his.  And the drum roll please! 



We actually liked Martha’s better! 

Did you faint? Yes, us, too. But hers was less acidic, with a better oil to vinegar ratio, and had a better flavor overall. That doesn’t mean I actually enjoyed eating either one on my actual steak. Ew–too vinegar-y.  See, mom? You raised me right after all. 

The Husband enjoyed Martha’s version with the steak, he liked the “oniony whatnot” of it.* He also said it reminded him of A-1, without the molasses flavor. A-1 is an abomination, and I don’t recall what it tastes like, having had it so long ago and never since. To me, the chimichurri reminded me of tabouli without the bulgur. Or like a parsley salad. I don’t know why you would put this on meat, but there you have it.  Sorry Emeril! 

*The Husband’s Helpful Household Hint: the chimichurri would be good to serve with a wine that’s about to go bad. No one would notice the vinegar-y taste of the wine after tasting the sauce.  The tempranillo we opened with it, however, was no match, sadly. 

Roasted Potatoes: 

The “recipe” called for slicing three Russet potatoes into 12 wedges, tossing them with olive oil and minced garlic on the cookie sheet, and roasting them. We clearly have an oven temperature issue, as I checked on them quite a bit earlier than the time she gave, and they were already overcooked on one side.  They tasted pretty much like all of her potato recipes have tasted. 

Spinach with Vidalia Onions: 

I don’t normally think to eat spinach with beef; usually it’s eaten with chicken or fish in the Squeaky Peanut house. We cook it with lots of garlic, and maybe some red pepper flakes, and then add lemon, so this was unusual for us. The Husband was already biased against it after I mentioned the Vidalia onion part, thinking it would be too sweet. 

This “recipe” called for sautéing a sliced Vidalia onion in olive oil, then sautéing baby spinach until it’s wilted. I will say I liked the Vidalia onion with it, as it managed to taste buttery to me. The chimichurri was so acidic, it wouldn’t have worked to cook the spinach as we normally do. 

However, as The Husband pointed out, any idiot could cook this, so why bother with a recipe? 

Torrijas vs. Some Pretty Ok Cookies: 

Dessert was to be torrijas;  a bastardization of a Spanish Lenten treat similar to our French toast. Guess who doesn’t like French toast? Squeaky Peanut. And Mr. Squeaky Peanut! 

In Martha’s version, a loaf of French bread was to be cut into four quadrants, dipped into sweetened condensed milk, and then pressed like a panini in a pan. That seems somewhat geometrically impossible. Also? Sweetened condensed milk is creepy. Milk + sugar. But in a can? Traditional torrija recipes call for milk, honey, sugar, etc. So, I decided not to waste our money, time or calories on the nonsense. 

Instead, I made Martha’s Strawberry Shortcake Cookies, from her website, because we went a bit strawberry crazy at the farmer’s markets last week. I messed them up a bit by forgetting to add the butter until after the cream was added, and I found out too late we don’t have any parchment paper, but they are forgiving little things. 

They turned out pretty nice even though they aren’t much to look at. I also forgot to sprinkle the tops with sugar, which worked out well because they weren’t too sweet.  No one is going to be fooled into thinking this is actually strawberry shortcake, but it’s the kind of thing where you eat one, and think, “Oh, this isn’t bad” and the next thing you know you’ve eaten half the pan. They are good with tea or milk. 


I suppose everything went together ok, if you like that sort of thing. We both thought the idea of torrijas after the chimichurri sauce sounded particularly unfortunate. Other than chopping the herbs, potato and onion, there isn’t much prep work to this meal, so it took about an hour. 

Steak w/Chimichurri: The Husband gives the sauce a B. I am deferring to him because I didn’t like it in a philosophical context, not necessarily the thing itself. 

Potatoes:   C    Tastes fine, nothing special and no recipe needed 

Spinach:  C     Tastes fine, also nothing special, and no recipe needed 

Cookies:   Should I grade things that aren’t in the cookbook? If so, A-


Culinary Indignities & Good Party Food April 26, 2010

Filed under: Other recipes — squeakypeanut @ 9:39 PM
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This time it wasn’t Martha’s fault. We took a road trip up to Cleveland for my dad’s birthday party this last weekend, so no Martha menu yet this week. Along the route, which cost an outrageous $30 in tolls,  there are very few decent food options. I was subjected to wilted lettuce in one salad, stale croutons in another, and undercooked pizza crust.

Thank goodness we ate well at the actual party. My dad is a total meat and potatoes kind of guy; Tex-Mex and BBQ are his favorites, so that’s what we made.  We had guacamole , cheddar thumbprint “cookies” with jalepeno jelly, BBQ brisket, potato salad, Ranch Style beans (which I had to bring with me from VA since they aren’t carried up there), and grilled vegetables marinated in some basil olive oil.

I cheated on Martha, and used a Paula Deen brisket recipe that she got from someone else. I’ve had trouble getting briskets to turn out tender in the past, so I made this in advance so I’d have enough time for a Plan B if needed. It turned out tender, so we hauled it up to Ohio in a cooler. The first day it was really spicy. We couldn’t even use the au jus that cooked off the meat because it has so much chili powder in it. The heat seemed to have tamed down a bit after it sat for a day, or maybe that bite we initially had just had more rub than the rest.

The recipe didn’t call for marinating the meat in the rub, but it seemed like a good idea. If you are short on time it should be fine to skip that step. It also said to cook at 300, but we lowered the temp to ensure tenderness.

Texas Oven-Roasted BBQ Brisket (adapted from Paula Deen via Tom Perini on foodnetwork.com)

2 T chili powder (I used a combo of regular and chipotle)

2 t kosher salt

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

1 T ground black pepper

1 T dark brown sugar

2 t ground mustard

1 bay leaf, crushed

4 lbs beef brisket

1.5 c beef stock

Combine dry spices and rub onto both sides of meat. Wrap in cling wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple-few hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Place brisket in a roasting pan, fat side up, and roast for one hour. Reduce heat to 250, cover pan tightly with foil, and cook for 5 or so more hours, checking after four to gauge tenderness.

I concocted a BBQ sauce to serve with it–not sure what all I ended up putting in it, so I can’t help you there.

Cheddar Goodness:

These were a big hit at the office Christmas party, so I made some for the birthday party. The youngest and oldest guests regarded them with suspicion, so if you are cooking for people between the ages of 18 and 75, it should be ok.

The cheddar thumbprint recipe I used is available here ( I don’t use the pecans, as I think it detracts from the cheddar flavor.) Don’t skimp on the quality of the cheese (I usually use a couple different cheddars), and use hot jalapeno jelly for best results.

This is my favorite guacamole recipe, which I’ve made for other occasions and it’s always popular. My family laughed at me for making a bucket of it, but they damn near ate all of it!