Jun 092014

Salmon gravlax

Of all the culinary vices I have to look out for, I think the most insidious for me is the rut. I am so very much a creature of habit that it is easy all too easy for me to slip into the comfortable and familiar. Lamenting the salmon-related Tasty Rut is no new thing here at Om-nom Sauce (exhibit A, exhibit B), so here I give you one of my more off-the-beaten-path methods of preparing the eminently tasty fish, which makes for a striking presentation and delicious flavor.

The method of salt-curing the fish transforms an already gorgeous hue into an intense jewel for the eyes. It’s like you were viewing the fish on a monitor and then hiked the saturation slider all the way to the right. It looks absolutely nothing like, well, the salmon-colored crayon from your scribbling days (as heat-cooked salmon does). The flavor is concentrated and infused with all the goodness you cured it with — and for bonus points, experiment with different citrus zests to experience a completely different flavor profile.

We made this last year as the sockeye season was waning, the fish having largely finished their runs, so I deemed it too late to post this recipe for anyone to get any benefit of it. This year, however, things are in full swing, but I probably won’t get to partake since something tells me this is verboten in pregnancy. So I hope you get a chance to indulge in this and break out of your own salmon rut!

Salmon gravlax

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Jun 012014

Strawberry cream scones

For the last week, through the wonder of u-pick farms, I have been awash in multiple gallons of fresh strawberries. This is in no way a terrible predicament, though I have been plagued by the question of what do I do with all of them??? I started simple by throwing them in a fruit salad and making strawberry-blueberry shortcake — pretty basic, but I figured that basic (and easy) was a good way to go when they were at peak freshness. Next came a pie (whose filling was delicious but whose crust we shall never speak of again, except to exclaim that, when given flour, butter, lard, salt, sugar, water, and vodka, I can make a kick-ass crust, but when I try to actually use a pre-made crust, utter ruin rules the day) and the decadent grown-up flavors of Jeni’s recipe for roasted strawberry buttermilk ice cream. And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t repeat my strawberry bourbon-barrel freezer jam.

But this morning I finally got to try my hand at baking with the berries. A friend of mine hooked me on scone-baking several months ago, and though I’ve been in remission recently, I decided to succumb to the bug once again. There were plenty of fancy and complicated recipes out there, but I was looking for something that was a marriage of the simple goodness of a basic cream scone with plenty of room for strawberries to shine. Once again, Smitten Kitchen came through and delivered this gem. So if you find yourself in a situation where you might need to swim Scrooge McDuck-style through a glut of strawberries and you would like to vary from the technique that my tot is demonstrating below, may I suggest that you give this marvelous scones a try?

Leah and her strawberry

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May 262013

Banana-pecan oat pancakes with maple syrup

It’s been an interesting week here in Casa de Om-nom Sauce. I had finally gotten the hang of this whole dairy-free thing and we had seen real improvement in The Babe’s symptoms. Things still seemed off though, so I decided, for kicks, to eliminate soy too to see if that helped, since a decent chunk of babies who are allergic to dairy also have issues with the omnipresent legume (and the only advice my kid’s doctor gave me was to wean and try a formula that is like $100 a can). It turns out that while eliminating dairy was not too tricky, soy is a different beast. Soy, it turns out, is in everything (thanks a lot, poorly-targeted far-subsidies). While this is not a big deal at all at home because we make everything from scratch and thus bypass soy additives, dining out is a different matter. I could eat out at restaurants I trust with dairy-elimination, but eating out with soy? Ridiculous and bordering on impossible, unless you have a really good server who is willing to interrogate the kitchen staff. Luckily, I have a fabulous relationship with the people at Olive, an Urban Dive, and I trust them and they’re willing to work with me (to the point that yesterday they joked about making up a special menu just for me) so The Hubs and I can still enjoy our weekly brunch date. But I digress.

So one of the huge bummers of populating elimination-diet-land is that breakfast options are severely limited. I started really missing pancakes, waffles, and crepes, but knew myself well enough to know that if I just tried to make simple substitutions, the recipes wouldn’t work as well and I would feel deprived. (See: vegan cheese. Yes, I miss cheese horribly but I don’t eat the fake stuff because I would be very disappointed in it and would feel even more deprived.) There was only one thing for it: I was going to have to make something up.

Banana-pecan oat pancakes

Going into my kitchen experiments, I knew that without buttermilk, that ethereally light texture would elude me. So I decided to forget everything about traditional pancake recipes and employed a few tricks I’ve used before. A friend of mine who eschewed gluten made pancakes using homemade oat-flour. Intriguing: let’s give that a try. I remembered that I had once made pancakes with mashed-up bananas and loved the result, so I put that into the bag of tricks. I knew I’d be using almond-milk instead of dairy, and in my experience it doesn’t “sour” well when you add lemon juice, so I decided to skip an acidic ingredient and use baking powder instead of baking soda. And I love toasted pecans, so I decided for kicks to add them to the oat-flour. Before I knew it, I was Frankensteining together my first batch, expecting a learning experience (code for disaster), but I ended up with something not only edible, but eminently delicious! Yes, I have tweaked the original formula that I basically made up on that first Saturday morning, but this is very, very similar to my beginning experiment. The results are not only something that I love to eat, but are food that people who can eat normal dairy-laden pancakes also enjoy — and I hope you do too!

Banana-pecan oat pancakes with almond butter

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Dec 192012

Mugsy's gingerbread mini-muffins

There are quite a few food associations of mine that are inexorably linked to the holidays: beef burgundy, Danish pastries, sand-tarts (elsewhere called Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cookies), and rum cake all come to mind. These gingerbread mini-muffins are certainly make the list as well. This recipe comes to me by way of my maternal grandmother. Grandma (or Mugsy, to everyone else) had a way with baking and was damn good at it (her pie crusts remain legendary), but honestly, she was such a force of sheer kindness and goodness in this world, that her prowess with the oven has been eclipsed in my mind by the warm and gooey feelings that I remember when I think of her. The recipes that she left behind are all that serve to jog my memory in the baking-department.

So I love when I come across memories that have been written down on her recipes. It’s plain that my mom has been eating these spiced delights on or around Christmas every year since she can remember — and thus, they’ve woven their way into most of my memories as well. Sadly, it had been several years since I made them myself, but I found myself with an excellent excuse to dust off tradition and make them again this year (as holiday pot-lucks are an ideal venue for mini-muffins). And even though The Bun won’t be eating them this year, it’ll be nice to know that I started baking them again the year she joined our family.

So here’s to passing a family tradition down to the next generation: perhaps these can find your way into your own family annals too!

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Sep 042012

Kentucky bourbon French toast with bourbon-triple-berry coulis and bourbon whipped cream

There’s something I discovered about The Hubs’ family last year: they really love bourbon. And really, they have a point: there is something extremely compelling about the scent alone that evokes all sorts of warm and woodsy mental images.

So, last summer, there was a family reunion out at one of his relative’s houses in Kentucky, just on the outskirts of bourbon country. We took some time to visit the Maker’s Mark distillery, which was the point at which I discovered The Hubs’ and his dad’s mania for good bourbon. I kind of fell in love with the stuff myself: I could pitch a tent in the aging room with all the barrels and live there quite happily for years, methinks. I wouldn’t need food or water or anything else in particular, really: I could just live off that aroma.

So here’s where my dirty little secret about bourbon comes in. I don’t particularly like to drink the stuff. I really, really wish it tasted as good as it smells, but for me it’s just like Scotch in that I’ll happy sniff up that aroma all day but wouldn’t think about, say, drinking it straight. The lone exception is the time my parents and I found ourselves in the midst of a twenty-car pile-up on the freeway between Phoenix and Tucson in the middle of a giant you-can’t-see-six-inches-in-front-of-your-face dust-storm known as a haboob, narrowly escaped death and/or serious injury three separate times, and somehow managed to get out of that version of hell without a scratch. Once we got home, you bet your ass I poured myself a generous helping of Maker’s straight-up. But I digress.

You may be wondering how I am able to enjoy the scent so much when you can burn your nasal passages pretty well when you go in for a sniff. I learned this trick at the Maker’s distillery: put your nose in the glass and then inhale through your mouth, not your nose. This has allowed me to enjoy that amazing aroma to my heart’s content and has been especially helpful during my pregnancy, since it’s not really cool to drink massive quantities of bourbon when one has a bun in the oven.

Cooking with bourbon is ideal for someone like me: it burns off that ouch-burning alcohol but leaves the warm, vanilla-y, woodsy flavor behind in whatever you add it to. So when I discovered at the end of August that September is National Bourbon Heritage Month and that someone had compiled a list of recipes that used bourbon, I got really excited. I wasted no time planning out the first of our forays into a bourbon-soaked menu, and this amazingly delicious breakfast was the result. We’ll see how long we’re able to keep this up, since the end of my pregnancy is going to mean the end of cooking for a while, but hopefully we can get another couple of recipes made before that happy event!

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Jan 152008

Who doesn’t love a good scone for breakfast? It’s like a waffle that way. Most of us have probably had blueberry or chocolate or maybe even cinnamon chip scones, but how common is a savory version?

Scone, edge on: I challenge you to a duel!
Nikon D50

I had run across this recipe about six months ago, and it sounded so unusual and so delicious that I tucked it away, ready to be pulled out in the right occasion. That occasion came around when I planned my Thanksgiving menu. Breakfast has a history of being all too often overlooked on that certain day, so on this Thanksgiving, my first un-adult-supervised one, I decided to start it off right.

These were perfect for the occasion – hearty, but not overly so, they satisfied without stuffing. And the bacon/smoked cheddar/scallion/fresh-ground pepper combo was fantastic and bold. Try them next time you have overnight guests – they’re a very welcome surprise.

No leisurely breakfast is complete without a cappuccino
Nikon D50

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Nov 292007

I’ll tell you a dirty little secret:

Alaskans eat Rudolph.

And he is delicious.

There are lots of things that one can do with reindeer sausage, like serving it as an appetizer, putting it in a soup, or… eating it with breakfast! My favorite way to have this particular bit of Alaskan fare is in an omlet or breakfast scramble. This is a great way to use the stuff you have in your pantry and vegetable drawer and makes a satisfying savory breakfast that will leave you smacking your lips, savoring the deliciousness. In fact, it’s a variation of what I call my pantry scramble because it’s something delicious you can make without having to make a special shopping trip for it. Because it’s so convenient and delicious, I always make this when I have overnight visitors.

If you don’t have reindeer sausage where you live, I suppose you could substitute another ingredient in (after all, this is a pantry scramble, it’s made of whatever you happen to have on hand) like chicken or a different type of breakfast meat. Which brings to mind that one of the joys of this dish is that it will be different every time you make it.

Reindeer scramble

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Aug 042007
Pumpkin waffles

When I woke up this morning i was craving something yummy and delicious and different than my usual oatmeal. Pancakes were sounding pretty delicious, but despite my large collection of health food and whole grain cookbooks, I failed to find a recipe that met my criteria whole ingredients I already had in my pretty well-stocked pantry and fridge (curses on forgetting to buy milk last time I was at the market!) exactly what I was looking for. Then I remembered a recipe that I had discovered around last Thanksgiving.

I’m, well, a pumpkin fiend, and this recipe had some whole grains in it, so it was looking like a strong contender. And luckily, it called for soy milk (something I always keep on hand for oatmeal) instead of the from-cow variety. We have a winner!

Now might be a good time to expound on the flour I used. No, white whole-wheat is not in any way related to the nutritionally devoid all-purpose flour or flour used to make white bread. It is an honest-to-god whole grain flour with all the bran and germ, but made with a different variety of wheat. Most flour comes from red wheat, which is a more strongly wheaty-tasting (and more bitter or sour to some tastebuds) flour when ground in its whole state. White whole-wheat flour is more mild and can be more readily substituted into baked goods. So when I was making these waffles in which I use a fairly heavy hand with the pumpkin pie spices, I wanted the pumpkin and the spice flavors to shine, not the wheat. Since I didn’t want to sacrifice the nutrition, white whole wheat was the clear choice.

White whole wheat flour is a little more difficult to find but it is gaining in popularity since at least a few Americans want to use more healthy grains but aren’t gaga over the way whole-wheat flour tastes. I use King Arthur Flour’s variety, but Hodgson Mill and and Bob’s Red Mill also produce it.

The flavor results of the flour substitution? Undetectable. This recipe definitely hits the spot.

Pumpkin waffles

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Jul 042007

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes

I’m normally a fan of healthy breakfasts — y’know, oatmeal, whole-grain low-fat muffins, or multi-grain pancakes or waffles. Every once in a while though, an indulgence is so much fun.

The first time these pancakes got busted out was a couple of weeks ago when a new bunch of people was assigned to me. I thought a good icebreaker would be a big breakfast feed, so everyone signed up to bring an ingredient. I nominated a couple of trusty helpers and we went down to the kitchens to cook this meal for thirty people.

These pancakes were certainly yummy, but I had a sneaking suspicion I wasn’t doing the recipe justice. See, the recipe has you fold in beaten-into-peaks egg whites and I could tell that by the time the batter met the griddle — hours after everything had been mixed together — the volume was definitely lower. I was pretty sure these pancakes could be even lighter and fluffier.

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes

This morning, I tested that theory. The result has me pretty well convinced I’ll never order pancakes in a restaurant again. Why would I, when I could make these at home??? They’re so sinfully delicious, so light and fluffy. And the aroma as the batter is mixed is indescribable.

The next time you feel like treating yourself — or someone you love — make up a batch of these. I know I’ll be making these for my favorite person when he comes to visit in ten days! (squeeeeeeeeeeee!)

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes

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