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Thirsty Thursday

photo-4Well, spring is here and I fell victim to one of those hydroponic basil plants in Safeway. Didn’t know what to do with it so I followed my gut – to the protestation of my liver. Here, for your enjoyment, is a basil cocktail so delectable, you may even skip the hydroponics and turn your apartment into a grow house (of basil! c’mon)

Basil Syrup: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 10 leaves basil. Boil these three things for about 5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Put it in the freezer to cool.

Other stuff: Ginger beer, Vodka (I like Tito’s, but I sure as shit can’t afford Belvedere), Limes

Fill a glass (red cup) with ice, add about a shot of syrup, fill the glass about halfway with vodka, then splash some ginger beer in there. Squeeze some lime, too.

Treat ‘cho self.

Paella, Paella

paellaPaella is a spanish dish traditionally prepared with saffron (expensive!) and seafood (ugh, such a chore!). But the real secret to paella isn’t either of these two ingredients. It’s what the spanish call a certain… socarrat. That’s español for the crusty bits of rice that are formed when you DON’T i repeat DON’T stir the rice. See bottom right photo. It is glorious. What’s the trick to paella, you ask? DON’T STIR THE GODDAMN RICE.

In keeping with The PepperCorner’s tendency to put out recipes that have variable ingredients, I remind you – use whatcha got. Forget whatcha don’t. The only thing I consider crucial is that you use short-grain rice (arborio, bomba). You should also use something from the onion family (onions, garlic, shallots), some other veggies (mushrooms, carrots, peppers), meat if you’re not a veggie-monster (sausage, chicken), and I’m partial to serving mine with a poached egg. There’s something about a runny yolk and crispy rice that really just completes the texture of this dish.

You need about a half cup of rice per person, and then twice as much liquid as you have rice. The liquid can be broth, wine, or water. All in all, this recipe comes together in about 45 minutes.

PROCESS:

If you’re using meat, cook it in a sauté pan, remove, and save the juices. Otherwise heat up some olive oil.

Add onions, and garlic and veggies and some seasonings. I used paprika and a dash of turmeric because it has that yellow color you would otherwise get from saffron. Also, use salt. Not just because it makes everything taste better (it does), but because it makes everything sweat. Human body odor = Naaasty. Veggie body odor = Deeeeelicious. Cook until soft and fragrant.

Add the rice. Move it around the pan so it gets doesn’t burn. Your burner should be on medium. After a few minutes it will be translucent.

OK now take the glass of wine you were gonna drink and put that in WAAAHHHH! I know, but there’s always another bottle in the fridge.

Stir until this first cup of liquid evaporates. I know, I know, it says don’t stir the rice. Just do it this once, just a little bit, just to see how it feels.

Once it evaporates add another cup (or so) of liquid. This sort of depends on how much rice you decided to use, but you should put about 2/3′s of your total liquid in now. Turn down the heat to medium-low. DO NOT STIR

You should monitor the pan and every 5 mins or so and if it looks dry (as in, there are little air bubbles between the rice and you see no liquid down there) add more broth. I’ll admit I ran out of broth at this stage, but I put some paprika in water and it turned out just fine. When you add the broth, give the pan a little jiggle so the juices get way down in there. DO NOT STIR

At some point, after about 20 minutes, there will be a toasty crust around the pan. This is socarrat. Your paella is complete!!

Unless, like me, you feel like adding a poached egg.

If you don’t know how to poach an egg, you can create little divots in the rice, and crack an egg into each one. Keep the heat on low and put a cover on for about 5 minutes, or until the egg whites aren’t transparent. You’ll still end up with a runny yolk, just no fuss with the poaching business.

Buen Provecho, Amigos! (Don’t forget the vino, a part of this complete breakfast dinner).

Straw & Hay

photo (2)This pasta is the epitome of springtime for me. It’s a great all in one dish – meat, veggie, starch. It comes together in under 30 mins and has only a few ingredients. What else could you ask for in a week day meal? Without further ado; the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 lb dry pasta
1.5 oz prosciutto (check out La Quercia, its Made in Amuricca!)
English Peas (about 4 handfuls in their shells)
¼ cup heavy cream (sub greek yogurt if you want to be healthy today)
Parmesan cheese

Prep: cut prosciutto into bite sized pieces, shell the peas.

1. Boil water for pasta. Salt the damn water it makes everything better, I swear.

2. Heat up a saute pan and throw in the prosciutto.

3. Put the pasta in the water.

4. Put the cream in the saute pan, turn down the heat

5. When cream bubbles, add peas and half your parmesan

6. Grab about a cup of water out of the pasta pot and toss it in the saute pan. This stuff is liquid gold. You should put it in all your pasta sauces. The starch from the pasta actually acts as a thickener even though it seems like you’re watering down your sauce. Trust me.

7. Drain the pasta, add to saute pan, toss to incorporate everything then add the remaining parmesan and crack some pepper (this is The PepperCorner, after all)

Eat up, Pups!

SHAKSHOUKA!!

Shakshouka ShakshoukaIt may sound like an herbal remedy from that creepy psychic down the street or your maybe mother’s most recent yoga class, but it’s really just a fancy term for eggs in purgatory. I make mine with harissa, a spicy tomato sauce from north Africa, so I’m sticking with the name from the same region. In reality, you can find versions of this dish all over the world. Probably because its so easy and so delicious.

Serve with something to sop up all the extra sauce – pita, pasta, or [insert your favorite carb here].  It’s also one of those dishes you can probably throw together with ingredients that are already stocked in the pantry. As for the harissa, it’s always in my refrigerator, but maybe hasn’t found its way into yours yet. Check whole foods, Mediterranean groceries, or online. And beware – it’s totally addicting. Move over Sriracha!!

INGREDIENTS: Eggs, Jar of diced tomatoes (~15oz) , Harissa, Garlic, Chives, Pepper, Olive Oil

  1. Put a small sautee pan over medium heat. A hot pan is a cook’s best friend. Don’t ever start cooking in a cold pan. Stop That!!
  2. Add olive oil and garlic and cook until fragrant. This step is also known as stand at the stove inhaling the addicting fumes of warm garlic.
  3. Add your harissa. About 2 heaping tablespoonsful. Stir until the olive oil and garlic have worked their way into the paste.
  4. Add tomatoes
  5. Turn the heat down and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until sauce is thick.
  6. THE BEST PART! Make four little pockets in the tomato sauce for your eggs. Crack them one by one into their area. Aww aren’t they cute?
  7. Cover the pan and let the eggs cook until almost firm, about 6-8 minutes
  8. Sprinkle Chives and Pepper on top

Serve straight from the pan. (Standing up in the kitchen? I won’t judge)

I’ll Have a Little Bit of Everything, Please

Everything BowlNeed to clean out the fridge? Need to clean out the body? Here’ s a great way to use up all those miscellaneous veggies laying about. Chickpeas sautéed with spices add a starchy kick and bacon crumbles make it look like you’re not eating a salad for dinner. This recipe is fast and loose so throw in whatcha got and forget whatcha don’t.

Key Ingredients : Bacon, Chickpeas, Spices, Tomato Paste, Leafy Greens, Veggies

1. Chop the bacon slices into chunks about an inch wide. Cook until crispy. Remove from the pan.
2. Drain most of the grease out of the pan, leaving about a tablespoon and all the drippin’s behind.
3. Add shallots (or onions) and cook until translucent
4. Add spices – I used garlic, paprika, and chili powder to give it a kick.
5. Turn up the heat! Cook until chickpeas are golden and popping like popcorn.
6. Add 1 tbsp tomato paste and cider vinegar (or wine, or water just get some liquid in there) and stir until mixed
7. Add your chopped leaves and gently toss until they are wilted but still crunchy.
8. Add your accoutrements: Here’s where you clean it all out. I used dried cherries, pine nuts, apples, and carrots. Toss to incorporate
9. Serve in a big bowl with bacon sprinkled on top. Feel good about yourself.

Somethin’ Old Somethin’ New

sangria This being the inaugural post on The PepperCorner, I’d like to start things off with a positive note. And I’m a little nervous. Put those two together and what do you get? Alcohol.

More specifically, Sangria. The timeless and simple ambrosia is as appropriate for the everyday as it is for celebrations.It can be taste old and mellowed with apples and a dark red; it can feel dewy and new with lychee and champagne!

The only rule? There are no rules!
But here are some suggestions:

  •  Go for a sparkling wine.
  •  1 bottle of wine to 2lbs fruit
  •  Let it sit before drinking. 10 minutes. A subway ride. A quickie. A not-so-quickie. Whatever you got.
  •  And to temper the inevitable sweetness of it all: Don’t forget ice!
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