instant iced espresso

June 4, 2010

Have you watched the Discovery Channel lately? I hope you’re sitting down, because I have some startling facts to share with you: 1. There’s a super black hole at the center of our galaxy (“What?! When were they going to tell us this?!”); but that doesn’t really matter because 2. The Earth, as part of the Milky Way, is on a kamikaze tear toward another galaxy at a steady clip of 200,000 miles per hour (“Nooooo! That’s too fast!”); and even if that doesn’t happen 3. The universe is steadily expanding, which means that everything is moving away from everything else. Hope you don’t have abandonment issues, because it’s going to get pretty lonely … and dark … and cold.

It’s horrifying in the same way as Toddlers In Tiaras, Snooki, and the KFC Double Down: It’s real, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

To say that I felt that way about instant espresso powder would be an overstatement; however, I definitely avoided it as long as I could. The name “instant espresso” in itself seems contradictory, and I make it a point not to buy oxymorons. That said, recipe after recipe from respectable titles like Cooking Light and Cook’s Illustrated touted the ingredient’s unique ability to add depth to chocolatey desserts, and I finally caved when making an espresso-clementine semifreddo for Nathan’s birthday. Since then, we can’t stop using the stuff. Our favorite application so far is in this simple Instant Iced Espresso, perfect for the summer.

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hatchedinthekitchen is moving …

May 11, 2010

to Boston! So before I spill the Beantown news, I first must explain the lack of posting. During the past three weeks, I’ve taken not one, but two glorious trips to New Orleans, plus worked fast and furious to get our June issue out the door. (When I’m not posting here, I’m a copy editor at Health magazine.) Or, should I say “was”? Starting in mid-June, I’ll be joining the staff of Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. Just typing that makes my heart go pitter-patter! In case the closest you get to cooking is watching the Food Network, let me offer you a quick education on the illustrious publication that is CI. Actually, I’ll let this recent article from Jezebel do it. I couldn’t have put it better!

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two potato salad with harissa

April 15, 2010

One cold, dreary Saturday afternoon last February, I decided to whip up a batch of harissa. (Isn’t that what you do on the weekend?) Honestly, my motivation was a little less than pure: I was working on some freelance copyediting and, sitting at the dining room table with our empty kitchen out of the corner of my eye, it was impossible to resist the distraction. The recipe I followed was so hands-off that I didn’t get much of a break, but I did gain something much, much more valuable—my very first taste of this spicy Moroccan stable. Now, I know this may be shocking, but the South isn’t known for it’s plethora of North African restaurants, because, believe me, I’m a heat-seeking missile when it comes to trying new foods and I would’ve checked off harissa a long time ago. Yep, call me a regular culinary conquistador.

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Chicken-Orzo Salad with Tangerine Dressing

April 2, 2010

This is bound to come out sooner or later, so I might as well let the cat out of the bag: The very first time I cooked for Nathan I made chicken pot pie and burned scorched cremated charred it beyond recognition. Obviously, I’m not the first girlfriend to utterly fail the partner-who-will-prepare-delicious-meals-til-death-do-us-part test (aka, the Donna Reed blot), but at least we had a safety net: Nathan was finishing up his culinary degree at the prestigious Johnson & Wales University.

But did I let this flub erase my credibility in the kitchen? Silence me from giving my two cents? Heck no. I was constantly at Nathan’s elbow when he was whisking together roux, tressing stuffed pork tenderloin with twine, chopping summer tomatoes and basil for homemade marinara. My advice had a common refrain: “At Macaroni Grill we did it like this.” That’s right. I thought that two summers waiting tables (not cooking) at a national chain restaurant was enough to go toe-to-toe against a graduate from one of the best culinary programs in the nation. (Truth be told, I did pick up some invaluable life skills: I can write my name in crayon upside down and knot my own Looney Tunes tie.) It didn’t take long for Nathan to make fun of me—and yet, it was like a nervous tick I couldn’t stop. It was as if the sub-par Italian eatery was inextricably intertwined with my soul, and even an exorcism by the Pope himself couldn’t cast it out.

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crazy-good deep-dish pizza

March 20, 2010

The instant I saw this deep-dish pizza recipe over at LastNightsDinner, I knew that Nathan and I had to try it. A one-bowl, quick-rise dough baked in a cast-iron skillet? Its potential was mind-blowing, and the more I thought about it, I realized that this is how Michelangelo must’ve felt when he first beheld the Sistine Chapel ceiling; Galileo, the night sky; Liberace, rhinestones and sequins; Glenn Beck, a blank chalkboard.

I understood that what other people perceived as “crazy” was really just an intense restlessness (except for Beck … that guy is just cuckoo). I couldn’t wait to make the dough, press it into the heavy pan, and remove a golden crust from the hot oven—which is why we brazenly disregarded the call for instant yeast and instead used the active packets we had on hand. As you can see in the picture above, the result missed inedible by a mile, instead landing this side of impress your socks off; however, the crust was thin, not dense and chewy like we had imagined. We were determined to try again.

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mexican chocolate-pepita oaties, part II

March 10, 2010

I think the world is divided into two types of people: Those who can saunter up to a Ben & Jerry’s counter and order without hesitation, and those who sample mini-spoon after mini-spoon, weighing the options of Cherry Garcia or Boston Cream Pie as if it were Sophie’s Choice.

I fall into the second camp. At first, it’s a delicious anxiety, tasting each candidate in an effort to discern the perfect swirl-to-chunk ratio, whether to go sorbet or all the way. Strategies are useless: I’ve tried “eenie, meenie, miney, moe,” tried to connect with my inner ice-cream voice—last week, I even told the guy behind the counter to cut me off … after six samples, of course. What’s a girl to do when dozens of flavors stare through the glass like puppies at the pet store?

My problem: I want to have it all. Ice cream may be a lost battle, but I think I just hit the jackpot when it comes to cookies.

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Lessons (so far) from our cookblog

March 3, 2010

My dad taught me how to drive a stick shift in a cemetary. I guess his thought was (albeit a bit morbid) that no one would be harmed by my novice stop-go-screech-stall, changing from first to second and weaving through the gravestone-lined path. (The ghosts of Faulkner and O’Connor reveled in the scene, I’m sure.) It was safe ground, and until I could brake on an incline, ease off the clutch, and slowly accelerate without threatening to roll backward into someone’s eternal resting place, I could make mistakes, feel my way, try again.

The kitchen’s a bit like that, and I’ve never realized it more fully than when we started this blog. Our stop-go-screech-stop is a little more like a stir-guess-cook-eat, taking new ingredients and methods for a test drive and learning from the results. Here are two lessons we’ve picked up so far on our cookblog journey, the first involving a delicious chicken salad sandwich.

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Southern Sunshine

February 24, 2010

Cross the Mason-Dixon line, and you’re treading on spiritual soil. That deep, hollow sound you hear? The South’s heartbeat, a staccato Bible thump. The fervor pervades through everything—there’s even a holy trinity of Southern cooking: fried, grits, and gravy. (Yes, “fried” is a noun in these parts.) They don’t call it soul food for nothing.

Nathan’s from the pocket-size state of Rhode Island, and he’s probably only survived in Alabama this long because he likes loves grits. At first, he’d only eat them in the secrecy of our home, stirring in fat pats of salted butter and fistfuls of cheese. Now, he’s a bit evangelical, presenting the coarse ground corn to his parents during our visits with the zeal of Moses descending from Mt. Sinai, commandments in tow.

OK, I may be exaggerating just a little. But ye of little faith who forsake grits, prepare to be converted. These are wrapped in a crunchy crust and pan-fried, the centers creamy and melty-smooth. Top that with a fried egg and mushroom gravy, and you have a little bit of heaven on a plate. Go ahead, try it … and get ready to spread the good news.

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Creamy Butternut Shells

February 18, 2010

Most of us tiptoe through the produce section of the supermarket as if it were a minefield, filled with enemy rutabagas and beets ready to jump in the cart at every turn. And the display of winter squashes, their hard, bumpy shells and crooked necks protruding at unwieldy angles? You’d need to be a bomb specialist to figure out how to open one of those babies … that is, if you even wanted to.

Fear no more! Even though most of these squashes look like haunted house silhouettes, their names are much more Disney: butternut, acorn, delicata, sugar loaf, and sweet dumpling. Kinda makes you want to pick one up and cuddle it, no?

Nathan and I love winter squashes, and after you try our easy recipe for Creamy Butternut Shells, I’m sure you will, too.

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Mardi Gras Blackberry Queen Cake

February 15, 2010

I had every intention of baking a King Cake for Fat Tuesday … that is, until my friend Lauren tackled one last weekend. Her tale was harrowing: anxiously waiting for the yeast to proof, rolling out the sticky and uncooperative dough into a perfect rectangle, dyeing icing. In the end, she was rewarded with two gooey, sugary cinnamon rings so sinfully decadent that a single bite was a one-way ticket to the dentist—or confession. I knew it would be worth it, but just the thought of being at the mercy of rising dough was enough for me to say “uncle.”

So instead, I racked my brain for easy desserts which featured Mardi Gras’s traditional colors: purple (which symbolizes justice), green (faith), and gold (power). Food coloring is outlawed in our kitchen, so I knew my colorbox was going to have to come from Mother Nature. I settled on blackberries, rosemary, and lemon, and when I stumbled upon this Salt-Kissed Buttermilk Cake recipe on I knew I was on to something.

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