Friday, July 29, 2011

Gretchen Stelter's Wasabi Steak and Rice

Welcome back! This is the perfect way to start off your weekend. I love posting on Fridays, because as my friends know about me, I LOVE Friday. Plus, I’m totally excited to be presenting you with the amazing and very beautiful Gretchen Stelter.

She is a former agent/editorial director for Baker’s Mark Literary Agency (the literary agency behind Boilerplate History’s Mechanical Marvel, Never After, and Comics 101) and current ghost writer and editor at Cogitate Studios. I “met” Gretchen online two…maybe two and a half…years ago when I queried her. Long story short, she didn’t become my agent, but we clicked, became friends, and kept in touch ever since.

Hi Gretchen, welcome to Pots 'N Pens.

Gretchen: *waves to everyone*

Let’s say a couple of your characters are raiding your fridge right now, what are they most likely to eat? Are they disappointed or excited about what they find?
My current solo (non-editing or ghostwriting) project is historical, so my characters would be confused—and probably very excited—to be in my fridge. I currently have quite a few nice cuts of meat and fresh veggies, not to mention cutting board turkey and puddings and honey yogurt, so I imagine it would be a heck of an experience for someone used to crusty bread with cheese as an entire meal.

Is there a food you’d love to learn how to cook or a different genre or type of book you’d love to try to write?
I’d love to know how to cook Sichuan Chinese food. I’m a huge fan of this wonderful restaurant in Portland called Lucky Strike that serves Sichuan with prickly ash and massive amounts of dried red peppers. It’s amazing. I can cook pretty good Americanized Chinese, but I would love to know how to cook something more authentic like Sichuan.

Ghostwriting and editing, as well as writing my own stuff, has given me the opportunity to work in a lot of different genres—at least to some degree—but one I devour and would love to write is thriller. I am completely infatuated with the Pendergast novels right now (by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child), and while I’ve edited mystery, I’ve never attempted to write any, let alone thriller, and I think it would be so much fun. I’ve always loved old-school suspense, such as Ian Fleming and John D. MacDonald, so I suppose it’s no surprise I’ve found a new special agent to love and would want to write those types of books.

What are three must-have foods/seasonings in your kitchen?
Hot sauce—I like to have about ten around to choose from. My favorites are: Nando’s Peri Peri Sauce (they have Nando’s restaurants all over Australia, where I lived for a few years, and I became addicted), Huy Fong Vietnamese Chili Garlic Sauce, and Kruger’s Farm Mean Jean’s 3-Pepper Hot Sauce (a local farm’s homemade hot sauce that I can get locally but cannot get enough of—it’s amazing). I believe each meal deserves a different flavor; I’m irked when people throw Cholula (Mexican hot sauce) on something that should have Sriracha (Chinese hot sauce).

Garlic—both fresh garlic and garlic salt are used a lot in my house.

Milk—I love milk and would drink it most of the time anyway, but it also cleanses the palate, so it’s good to sip while cooking, as it gives you a fresh taste every time you check your flavors.

I didn’t know that about milk. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind. What’s your favorite kitchen accessory or appliance? How about a favorite writing accessory or reference?
I bought my partner, Henry, a professional-grade Santuko (a Japanese chef’s knife) that is the best cooking implement ever; you really don’t realize how much a properly sharpened and weighted knife makes all types of preparation faster and better.

However, as far as writing goes, there’s no way I could live without my laptop. I’m attached to my MacBook Pro in an unhealthy way, and my favorite references are Chicago Manual of Style online, which is immensely helpful when editing, and I’m currently loving What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew for the historical stuff I work on.

That’s awesome. The only kind of knife I have in my kitchen is a steak knife. Yes, I do need to upgrade. Anyway back to you….What is your A+, number 1 writing/editing/query-reading snack?
Cheese curds. I know that sounds weird but I’m obsessed with them. They make a lot of cheese in Oregon, and the Rogue Creamery sells jalapeno cheese curds that are spicy and salty and I can eat an entire package in an hour, easy. Plus, they’re already bite-size, so I just open up a package and they’re ready.

Cheese curds, YUMMO! Girl after my own heart! *Ahem* If you could borrow one person’s zest for writing and/or life, whose and why?
I’ve worked with some really amazing writers whose spirit I truly admire, so to be as diplomatic as possible and not name one of my clients over the others, I would have to say that Kurt Vonnegut had a playful spirit, both in his writing and in life that I will forever be in awe of. I love his irreverence, eccentricity, and orneriness.

I'm still thinking about the cheese curds so will you please share one cheesy “writing is like cooking” thought?
Writing is like cooking because even with the perfect ingredients, execution, and presentation, it’s always more fulfilling when it’s shared, and enjoyed, with others.

What’s your go-to meal when you need to serve something quick and easy?
This may sound counter-intuitive, but bear with me. I tend to be the takeout-girl if I’m feeling dinner needs to be quick and easy, unless I have a bit of warning. My favorite, completely simple meal that takes no time at all is something that still needs planned a day ahead but the prep itself is ridiculously fast. I serve it a lot for guests because I can entertain without being stuck in the kitchen and still serve a great a meal.

Basically, the easiest meal I know is pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions. I’m originally from the Midwest and we know how to use a crock-pot to its utmost advantage. You do have to prepare in advance, but if you have ten minutes the morning you need a super easy meal to be ready whenever you are, you’re set. Throw all those things in a crock-pot with some smashed garlic cloves, a little broth, and some Worcestershire, and that’s all you have to do. It’s awesome with no chance of overcooking.

Sweet! That's my go to meal as well. If your book were a menu item, describe the restaurant that would serve it (e.g., type of food, atmosphere, music).
I think a traditional British pub would serve my book—a place that serves pints, where you seat yourself in wooden chairs and have to go up to the bar for service, where people talk over each other and everyone is having a good time, and where you can order bangers and mash but they don’t have the ingredients for cosmo.

Tell us about your edible specialty, and rate your skill in the kitchen: novice, not bad, or nominate me for a Michelin star.
I make chicken enchiladas that friends request sometimes, so I have to assume that must be one of the better things I make.

I like to consider myself ready for Master Chef but I know I’m not there; I’m more of an apprentice. I know how to make a lot of things pretty well, but there are some things I’d completely flounder when trying to attempt. In general, I can handle cooking when I know what ingredients I can use. My partner is the MacGyver of the kitchen, who can toss things together and make something awesome; I, on the other hand, need a plan. I pretend that this makes me a perfectionist and not a control freak.

Describe the best cook you know and something wonderful he or she has served you.
Oh, that one’s kind of hard, as I have a few friends whose husbands are chefs, and I’ve had some truly amazing meals made by them. If forced to pick, I’d say Henry, as I see him going MacGyver in the kitchen all the time and he’s created some seriously amazing food. He made six different kinds of quesadillas for my parents once with some leftovers and some farmer’s market purchases. It sounds simple, but he used some exotic and absolutely wonderful ingredients that took it to a whole new level; my parents still talk about whenever cooking comes up. It was amazing.

Fill in the blanks: Writing/Editing/Agenting books is like cooking for a group of strangers. You never know if what you’ve done is going to appeal to the masses—they’re both too subjective to accurately predict the results of.

Leftovers can be great, especially when the same ingredients are retasked into another magical meal. Name a book that you wish had a sequel (or another sequel) and what kind of story you think that literary remix would tell.
What comes immediately to mind is Dean Koontz’s Fear Nothing and Seize the Night which have this character Christopher Snow in it that I love (they’re called the Moonlight Bay series). The first book came out in 1998 and I was still in high school and my dad and I both read it and thought the sarcasm of Snow was great. We loved him. I think we were both disappointed to find out that Koontz was only going to do two books in the Moonlight Bay series.

There were a lot of apocalyptic storylines in it that I’d love to see wrapped up or at least fleshed out a bit more, plus I’d love to see Snow more. I love Koontz’s ability to combine the smart aleck observations of main characters with crazy horror and sci-fi elements.

Half-baked ideas: Not every idea is a winner. Written or not, what’s the most ill-conceived story idea you’ve ever had?
Oh dear. That’s why I decided to abandon it. It should never see the light of day.

Too much salt can ruin an exquisite meal, and the perfect dessert tempers earlier mistakes. What ingredients can destroy a book through overuse or salvage a book despite its flaws?
Too much description can slow a book down and feel a bit too much like the author is holding your hand, instead of letting you see, discover, and envision things on your own. In particular, the “and then he went here, and turned right, and went down a hall” becomes a bit too play-by-play and I lose interest. It’s important that a writer can see everything in his/her mind’s eye, but it can get to be way too much and leave the reader asking why it’s necessary to the story.

Tell about a time when food inspired your writing or a book inspired your cooking.
I have a group of grad-school friends who I’m in a book club with, and every time I host, I try and let the book inspire the food. Last time I hosted it, we had read Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje, and because part of it took place in the Gers region of France, I wanted to do a French-inspired meal, so we had baguette with Brie, two kinds of quiches, herbed salad, coq au vin, and macaroons. As much as I want to claim I made it all, the first and last courses were provided by my local market.

If you could retell a book as a meal which book would you choose and how would you tell it?
I just keep thinking of food-oriented books, which makes me want to say The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. The girl in the story can taste the emotions of the person that cooked the meal, which is wonderfully magical and poignant, especially when she figures out what her parents actually feel through their food. I would simply recreate the meals in it, though hopefully not with the sadness.

If you could invite a character to dinner who would it be and what would you serve?
I can only pick one? While I want to say Jay Gatz, that may be depressing, so I think I’d probably pick Thursday Next from Jasper Fforde’s novels. She’s a literary detective who actually goes into novels to regulate what’s going on and to solve literary crises, like when characters go rogue—she also has a pet dodo named Pickwick, which tickles me for some reason.

I’d serve her toast, which totally makes sense if you read the books (otherwise I just sound lazy). Just to spice things up, I’d do Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for mushrooms on toast, instead of just plain toast.

If you could only live with this only one book and only one food, what would it be?
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges......Burritos.

If you were stuck on an island with either bland food and a great library or mouthwatering food and boring books, which would you choose? Why?
The library. There are so many things the human spirit can endure when it has wonderful other worlds to visit in books, and bland food is such a small thing to have to deal with in exchange for having wonderful places to travel to.

What favorite recipe do you have for us today?
Wasabi Steak and Rice

I’m a huge fan of Chinese food, and I love this stir-fry recipe, because it uses a slightly better cut of meat and is just a bit fancier than a regular stir-fry.

Serves 2
2 filet steaks (you can easily do this with different cuts of meat, like pre-cut meat for stewing or sliced steak, both of which I’ve used for a cheaper and quicker version of this meal; full steaks should marinate longer and, as I like my steak medium rare, they are better for flavor, as it’s easier to get a nice medium rare on a full steak than it is on smaller pieces)
1.5 cup rice of choice (I use brown basmati)

For marinade:

2 teaspoons wasabi paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I actually use Liquid Aminos, which is a super healthy replacement for regular soy sauce and I personally like the flavor of better)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chili or garlic oil
(I also threw in a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce and one of Sriracha because, as I mentioned, I love spicy food)
garlic cloves to taste—I do at least two, normally more, and I like to smash some and mince some. I find the smashed help with marinades better, but it’s nice to have some already minced when I used it to cook the vegetables in.
* note: I actually measured for the first time ever for this post, so just know that I taste a lot and probably even adjusted a bit from what I wrote down. It’s more about how you like your Chinese (a little more vinegary, a little spicier, with a more traditional soy flavor, or even with a Hoisin sauce, which I use for other dishes but not this particular one)

For the stir-fry:
1 small yellow onion
green onions (reserve some for serving, as they retain flavor better when not cooked)
whatever other stir-fry veggies you have on hand (mushrooms, canned bamboo or water chestnuts, carrots, bell peppers, etc.)
2 garlic cloves (or more if you prefer a stronger garlic flavor)

Place steaks and marinade ingredients in a plastic freezer bag. Massage a little to be sure wasabi is dissolving nicely in the liquid and put in fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight. Flip steaks every now and then to be sure both sides are well coated.

Pull steaks from the fridge to let them reach room temperature before cooking. I put the rice in about then, but that’s because brown rice takes longer. If you’re using white rice, starting it when you begin cooking is fine.

After getting rice on, chop whatever veggies you want in the rest of the stir-fry—this time I also threw in broccoli with the two different onions (if using green onions, use thicker green parts, where it starts to turn white, and reserve the upper parts to sprinkle on top when serving). While doing this, heat a grill pan over high heat and give steaks 2–4 minutes each side (depending on how cooked you want it; I prefer medium rare so I only give them 2). Remove steaks to foil and wrap fully before placing them on a wooden board or a stack of newspapers to rest (a saw this trick in a Nigella Lawson cookbook I have, where the recipe that inspired this one came from; it keeps the steak heated and even gently cooks it a bit more). In the foil, the juices will also redistribute, keeping them warm and juicy.

Heat a tablespoon of oil, a dash of Worcestershire, and a dash of fish sauce over high heat in a wok or other sauté pan and toss in veggies (honestly, I use the leftover marinade with a tablespoon of black bean garlic sauce as well). You want enough sauce to coat the vegetables, but not make a thick sauce.

After vegetables are cooked (this should only take 4–5 minutes if you like yours crispy), dish up rice and spoon veggies over. Slice steaks right before serving, and place either over veggies and rice or next to them. If you used green onion, sprinkle the remaining pieces over the dish before serving.

Thank you, Gretchen. This sounds to die for and looks so good. I want to lick my computer screen. If you want to catch up with Gretchen, check out Cogitate Studios.

Until next time bloggers. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More Than A Flavor of the Week

I'm a muncher. It's not the healthiest habit to have, but then again, I've heard the saying that 6 small meals is much better than 3 big ones, so maybe it's not all bad.

Except maybe when I'm reading. When it comes to reading, I'm a muncher who is a total sucker for suggestion of food and books alike. So when my sister handed me a little book called FLAVOR OF THE WEEK by Tucker Shaw (Hyperion, 2005), little did I know what I was walking into.

The book's been out for some time now, but with a title like that and a chocolate-covered cover to boot, I figured I didn't have much to lose. Besides, I needed a little vacation reading.

The story follows Cyril Bartholomew who secretly loves to cook and is secretly in love with his lab partner Rose Mulligan. All is well until Cyril's best friend, and the only one who knows of his cooking-love, the uber-cool Chris decides he's interested in Rose as well, and starts masquerading Cyril's cooking as his own in an effort to impress Rose. Clearly it's a love triangle, but it's a love triangle completely built on FOOD!

Through out the book, though, not only is the food discussed, but the pivotal recipe that defines each chapter is given at the end of each chapter. Like the Kitchen Sink Cookies that Cyril made, but Chris gives to Rose when he's first deciding he's interested in her - making her think Chris is the cook. Or the soup that Cyril makes and secretly gives to Rose because he doesn't want to break the cardinal rule of coming between his best friend and the girl.

Honestly, the foods discussed and the recipes given added a whole extra dimension to the story that I don't think would have been there if that wasn't there. Cyril's passion for food and his emotions are expressed through vivid descriptions of scents and spices and the involvement in each recipe he makes.

This is my first day back from vacation, so I've not yet had a chance to try any of these recipes out, but with names like No Chicken Chicken Soup, Whipped Hot Chocolate, Spicy Tomato Soup and Pear Charlotte, you guys can bet I'm stoked to get started!

Pictures of cooking soon to come. I swear! . . . So are there any books you've discovered that are filled with some yummiliciousness that you want or have tried out??

Monday, July 25, 2011

Literary Agent Miriam Kriss's Oatmeal Awesome Cookies

Miriam Kriss is the vice-president of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. With a client list that reads like a Who's Who of urban fantasy and paranormal fiction, Miriam has a reputation as a literary agent who knows the business of books. Her wide appetite for fiction of all flavors gives her a unique appreciation for the market, but what Miriam truly falls in love with is a writer's voice. She knows her clients' work better than anyone and knows precisely how to spice it up and take it from "This is yummy" to "Hot damn, that's awesome! I need another!" I'm fortunate enough to call Miriam my agent, and I'd love to throw down with her in the kitchen 'cause I'm pretty sure the meal would be to die for, though we might have to assign our husbands clean-up duty 'cause you know the scene would have the kitchen warfare of Julia Child meets Attila the Hun. Because she is awesome, Miriam took the time away from her incredibly busy schedule to answer some questions for Pots 'n Pens and share a "killer cookie recipe. It makes like a million cookies, but they don't last long."

POTS 'N PENS: Share your favorite literary feast or treat. What makes this food and/or writing so memorable?
Miriam: The breakfast in CS Lewis’ THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. After Shasta, the titular boy, emerges from the Southern wilderness, lost and alone, to find himself in finally Narnia, friendly dwarves feed him the most amazing breakfast imaginable. Full English doesn’t even cover it. The imagined sausages alone still make my mouth water. I know British food doesn’t have a great reputation but as a result of reading a lot of British Children’s literature when I was younger full English breakfasts and high teas will always hold a very special place in my heart.

What’s your favorite kitchen accessory or appliance? How about a favorite writing accessory or reference?
I have a full set of nice copper bottomed pans but I cook nearly everything on the same cast iron skillet. I love the way cast iron cooks and the way that caring for it has a bit of a ritual to it. I also like the fact that if I ever meet any evil fey it will serve as a good weapon, much as it did for Tiffany Aching in Pratchett’s WEE FREE MEN.

What is your A+, number 1 writing/editing/query-reading snack?
Tea, the beverage, not the meal, with diet coke a near second. If I ate while doing those things I would gain a zillion pounds.

Tell us about your edible specialty, and rate your skill in the kitchen: novice, not bad, or nominate me for a Michelin star.
I’m pretty good. We enjoy entertaining and I like to combine high and low brow cooking, keeping it fun and not too fussy. So I’ll do pizzas but with shitake, fresh corn and shrimp. I’ll do burgers but with three kinds of meat and I’ll throw in some ostrich and bison so it’s leaner but still flavorful. Then instead of making a fancy desert I’ll put out a big bowl of assorted Little Debbies and everyone will be remembering when they used to get Star Crunches in their lunch. If we are going to do a fancier sit down dinner I like to have just one other couple over and make something that can sit in the oven for a while without damage, like a roast with truffle risotto and salad, so that if we’re chatting longer I don’t have to run off to the kitchen. I like to have as much as possible prepared before the guests arrive.

Pots or Pens? If you were stuck on an island with either bland food and a great library or mouthwatering food and boring books, which would you choose? Why?
I’d take the books. I don’t really notice much else when I’m reading a good book so I could happily eat the bland food and not even notice it if the books were good enough.

If you could only live with this only one book and only one food, what would they be?
This is a hard one because in time you can come to hate anything through monotony but I’ll go for the Bible and really good bread. Seems a classic combination. Though a potato, or maybe quinoa, might be more nutritious.

Oatmeal Awesome Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 sticks butter or margarine (softened)
1 1/2 cups sugar (if you want to use Splenda instead make sure it’s granulated)
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned oats (I use Quaker Oats)
2 cups butterscotch chips
2 cups raisins
*If you leave out the chips or the raisins, add in as much of either other chips, other fruit or extra oats, otherwise these will be too runny. If you're using margarine, make sure it's not too soft or the cookies will run and be lacy.

Preheat oven to 375.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl use a fork to combine the flour, salt, baking soda and spices.

Cream the sugar into the butter in a large mixing bowl. Then add the eggs one at a time until combined. Mix in the vanilla.
Gradually incorporate the flour mix.

Using a spoon or your mixer on a “stir” setting gradually add the oats, chips and raisins.

Drop rounded teaspoons of the finished batter on to cookie sheets about three inches apart (the cookies will spread, especially if you use margarine).
Bake 7 or 8 minutes until lightly brown. If they're not quite dry give them a minute more.

Cool 2 minutes on pan than transfer to a baking rack until totally cool. They’re delicious when they come out of the oven but very very crumbly.

If you are interested in querying Miriam, please look to the Irene Goodman Literary Agency's website for her interests and follow the submission requirements.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter: The Series that Made my Stomach Growl

Now that we've introduced ourselves, get ready for a series of exciting interviews as well as blogs exploring the relationship between writing and food.

Take Harry Potter for example. Now only did J.K. Rowling open up the doors to a magical world of witches and wizards, but she also introduced an entire world of culinary delights such as pumpkin pasties, sugar quills, butter beer, and cauldron cakes just to name a few. And, while we as readers have never eaten such things, it isn't hard for us to imagine the way they would taste on our tongue.

Ear wax Bertie Bott's every flavour bean?


Anyway, as a die hard Harry Potter fan girl...



Of course I would try my hand at making some of the foods talked about in the book. So, in honor of the Harry Potter finale now playing in theaters, I bring you my recipe for

Harry Potter Pumpkin Spice Cakes

And the best part is, they're really simple and really low in fat. Yay!

First, you'll need to gather your ingredients:

1 Box of Spice Cake Mix
1 Can of Pureed Pumpkin
1/2 Cup (or one of those individual cups) of Applesauce
1 Bag of Cinnamon Chips (located by the chocolate chips)

To start, preheat your over to 350 degrees. Add the cake mix, pumpkin, and applesauce together in a bowl and stir by hand until blended.

Next, add in the cinnamon chips.

When all the ingredients are combined, grease twenty-four muffin cups (I use the spray on vegetable oil) and fill each muffin cup with you cake mix. You can fill your muffin cups all the way to the top as your cakes will not rise that much.

Finally, put your cakes in the oven and bake for twenty-five minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. When the muffins are done, let them cool for five minutes and enjoy.

Ah, it's a trip to Hogwarts with every bite.

How about you? Are there any iconic books with food you wish you could try?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Meet the Contributor: Margie Gelbwasser

If you read INCONVENIENT, or if you even just opened to the dedication page, you saw that it was dedicated to my amazing little boy. I got my first agent a few weeks before I had him. While he was a newborn, I cradled him with one arm while he slept (the only way he'd nap was on me), and typed my revisions for my agent with the other hand. Eventually, INC sold—with those revisions. I consider him my little good-luck charm. Today, my little good luck charm (aka Noah) turned 4. And since this day is all about him, my first blog post here will be too. :-)

One of Noah's favorite foods is the Egg and Cheese Wake Up Wrap from Dunkin' Donuts. We have it there sometimes, but I wanted to make my own version at home. I tried it out for dinner last night, and was told, “This is so yum, Mama. I want to eat it every day.” Ringing endorsement! Hope you feel the same way.

You will need:

2 eggs

2 mini flour tortillas

1 cooked chicken drumstick (but you can use breast or thigh meat if you prefer)

2 slices American cheese (cut in 4 pieces)

shredded mozzarella (I put in a few pinches but you can sprinkle as much as you want)

Goya Adobo All Purpose Seasoning, to taste (this is what I like to use, but you can use salt and pepper--or any other spice you like--too)

1) First, preheat the over to 400 degrees F.

2) Then, on low heat, warm an oiled pan (non-stick spray ok too).

3) As pan is heating, beat the eggs, as if you were making scrambled eggs.

4) Once pan is heated, pour eggs in and let them cook, omelet style.

5) While eggs are cooking, put pieces of chicken onto each tortilla round.

6) Top the chicken with 1/2 slice of cheese and sprinkle with mozzarella.

7) Once eggs are cooked, cut omelet in half and place half of omelet on each tortilla.

8) Top each half with remaining cheese slices and sprinkle with desired amount of mozzarella.

9) Put tortillas together sandwich style

10) Put in foil lined glass casserole dish and place in oven until all cheese is melted (about 10 min.)

11) Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meet the Contributor: Kate Karyus Quinn

For my introductory post I was gonna make one of my tried and true, in high rotation, stains on the pages favorite recipes. But here's the thing, while I love those types of recipes because they are the types that keep my family well fed, sometimes I want to just experiment and try something new.

And when I'm craving something new, that something usually involves chocolate. And when one is in the middle of a heat wave, if that something chocolate can be cold - even better. So when I saw a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for fudge popsicles - I knew I had a winner.

Of course, I couldn't just make a recipe on a blog and post it on another blog. No, I had to add a secret ingredient.
And I also decided to do some renaming. I mean fudge popsicles sounds fine, but nothing that you're going to get too excited about. Or you could call them fudgsicles like the ones you buy at the store, but again not so much with the excitement factor. Luckily inspiration struck while I was stirring the mixture of chocolate and milk on the stove and realized it looked just like hot chocolate.
I could've poured it into a mug and it would've been perfect for a snowy day curled up with a book. But on a hot day like the ones that I've already mentioned that we've been having, well then it has to go into the freezer and when it comes out there is only one thing that you can call it.

Hot Chocolate On A Stick

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back a bit, and start with gathering the ingredients.
There they are. Don't they look like they're plotting delicious things?

See that bar of Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate in that pretty golden wrapper that looks like it could double as a ticket to tour a chocolate factory? We're gonna start with that.
It's melting...
And now totally melted. Yum.

Next comes more chocolate. This time in the form of cocoa powder. And some cornstarch. A pinch of salt. A few teaspoons of the secret ingredient from above - that was instant espresso for those of you who don't want to scroll back up. Adding the espresso is a little trick the good people at Cook's Illustrated taught me. It doesn't give it a coffee taste (although honestly that would be delicious too) but just helps bring out the rich chocolaty goodness. Oh coffee, is there nothing you can't do? You're my hero.

And of course, we must also add some sugar...
and milk.
And then we let it heat up and thicken up and we stir, stir, stir, until it's time to add the
butter. And also vanilla. But that doesn't look so yummy and melty as a perfect yellow pat of butter melting away in a big pot of chocolate.

Once the butter melts away, it's time to pour.
Or lick the spoon as my helpful assistant/son did. Meanwhile, I poured
And Jamie continued to-
I moved on to the next set of popsicle molds
Until it was done.
And then they went into the freezer (And as my assistant had lost interest by this time, I licked the bowl. No pics of that though, cause the photographer - aka my husband - knows better than that.)

If you want to make some hot chocolate on a stick for yourself or your loved ones or yourself (there's no judgment here) - the full recipe is below.

HOT CHOCOLATE ON A STICK (aka fudgsicles)

Note: Besides adding the instant espresso powder, I also doubled the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It made four larger popsicles and six of smaller ones.

1-1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2-1/2 cups whole milk
pinch of salt
3 rounded teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over very low heat. You could probably also do this in a microwave. Just remember low heat is key. Burnt chocolate is not your friend.

2. Add everything else except the vanilla and butter. Stir. Turn up the heat. Not too high though! Scorched milk is also not your friend.

3. Remember that cornstarch you added in step two? Well after about ten minutes of stirring it should help everything thicken up. Now add the butter and vanilla. And a little more stirring. There. Perfect.

4. Pour it into the molds, pop it in the freezer, and wait.

5. No, they're not frozen yet. Wait a little bit longer.

6. Ahhh, perfect. Now you'll probably need a little hot water to pry them from the molds, and then... njoy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Meet the Contributors: Elisa Ludwig

There are, of course, many parallels between the processes of writing and cooking, which I'm looking forward to exploring along with the other fabulous writers contributing to this blog. But for the moment, I just want to talk about the beauty of not-cooking.

That's right. Going raw.*

Now ordinarily, I'm the type of person (some might say deranged?) who will dive into a four-page recipe, seeking out every last required ingredient however obscure, and doing everything from scratch—even on a weeknight. I just love the challenge of making a new dish and I find the physical work very relaxing after a day of staring into a monitor.

But right now I'm currently working on the first draft of two different novels. (Really not a good idea, by the way.) And the Philly heat is kind of overwhelming. So every evening I'm emerging from the deepest recesses of drafting in a major brain fog. I'm craving foods that are fresh and nourishing but I can't bear to turn on the stove or do anything too complicated. Thus, this watermelon tomato salad.

The main thing here is that the watermelon and tomatoes need to be ripe and delicious. But otherwise, this is pretty simple.

Just cut up your ingredients and stick 'em in a bowl.

Add some oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix it up.

Watermelon Salad

Serves 4-6

6 cups 1-inch cubes of watermelon

2 cups yellow tomatoes, cut into ¼ inch cubes

½ jalapeno, seeded, ribbed and minced (optional)

3 scallions, thinly sliced

½ cup cilantro leaves, pulled from their stems

3 ounces feta or cotija cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil



Combine watermelon, tomatoes, jalapeño, scallions, cilantro, cheese, vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently and serve immediately, using a slotted spoon to lift the salad from its liquid.

* Not in the raw foodist type of way, though. I don't even own a dehydrator. And I like cheese.