December 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The winner (randomly selected out of all the entries) is… Amber Gaddy! Congrats, Amber!
Thank you all for participating. And stay tuned for another giveaway after the New Year! And click here to see the bit of news I have to share!
December 12, 2011 § 27 Comments
‘Tis the season, is it not?
Because I am so very grateful to you, my readers, and because it is oh so fun to give this time of year, I’m giving away a $15 gift card to Whole Foods to one reader! You can have a little fun and pick up a nice bottle of wine, some fancy cheese, or a six pack of craft beer. (Obviously those items would be the first on my shopping list.) Or you can use it toward your holiday meal planning/budget.
You can enter four ways. Each option counts as an entry, so you can have up to four entries altogether.
1. Comment on this post and tell me what special dish or meal is part of your holiday tradition. (Note: Liking this post does not count as an entry.)
2. Subscribe to cactus & kudzu. You can do so by clicking the follow button on the top left (if you’re a WordPress user), or you can click the signup button on the right toolbar under Email Subscription.
3. Tweet the following post to your Twitter followers: I hope I win the holiday giveaway at cactus & kudzu! @brettbralley: http://tinyurl.com/7zp9sdc
(Note: Be sure to include my Twitter handle (@brettbralley) in the Tweet!)
4. Post a link to this entry on your Facebook page. (Leave me an additional comment letting me know you posted it.)
Contest ends Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 12 p.m. central time. Winner will be announced Wednesday, Dec. 21, and the card should be in the mail shortly after!
October 26, 2011 § Leave a Comment
What’s your favorite kind of clam chowder?
Are you a fan of the rich, creamy New England variety? Or do you think the spicy tomato broth of its Manhattan relative is one of the most heartwarming soups you’ve ever tasted?
I really, really love Manhattan clam chowder. Whenever I eat it, I am reminded of my Grandma Arguijo. I was thinking about her while I made this, and it dawned on me that I wasn’t sure why. But I knew it had something to do with Tabasco, as strange as that may sound. So I asked my mom that evening. She jogged my memory:
The first time I tried Manhattan clam chowder was with my Grandma at the Shrimp Boat, a restaurant in Rosemead, California that I don’t think is still around. Grandma taught me a trick—add a few dashes of Tabasco to the soup for some spice. I was hooked. Soon I was adding a few dashes to anything that I felt needed a pick-me-up: eggs, burritos, tomato soup. My little 5- or 6-year-old palate was pretty hard core, if you ask me.
To this day, I still automatically think Tabasco when I think of Manhattan clam chowder. But when I made this batch, I didn’t have any Tabasco in the cupboard, so Louisiana Hot Sauce had to stand in as a substitute. It was good, but lacked that extra zap of spice you find in Tabasco. But this recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder, which delivers plenty of heat. So if you don’t want to push it past that, don’t feel too pressured.
Try this recipe on Sunday afternoon and let it simmer for about an hour, or you can put everything in a Crock-Pot and keep it set on low all day long. But whatever you do, make sure it gets to simmer and really absorb the flavor. Then you get that deep, zesty, comforting warmth that brings me back to spending time with my beautiful Grandma.
Serve this with a crusty French bread.
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 dried bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 (6.5-ounce) cans minced clams
3 to 4 Russet potatoes, rinsed, dried, and chopped
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Cook bacon in Dutch oven over low heat until fat starts to render. Increase heat to medium and cook until crispy, stirring frequently. Remove bacon from Dutch oven and remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat.
Add olive oil to Dutch oven. Add garlic and cook over medium heat until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add onion, carrots, bay leaf, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add potatoes.
Drain clams and reserve liquid in measuring cup. Add water to clam liquid to make 2 cups clam stock. Pour stock over vegetable mixture. Add enough additional water to cover potatoes (about 1/2 cup). Partially cover Dutch oven and let simmer for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
Drain liquid from can of tomatoes into soup. Chop tomatoes and put into soup (include any liquid released from tomatoes while chopping). Add clams, salt, and pepper, stirring to combine. Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 to 35 minutes or up to an hour.
Garnish with chopped bacon and serve, discarding bay leaf.
Related: what I ordered: La Galleria 33
October 24, 2011 § 4 Comments
I used the same recipe (except I glazed them instead of sugar coating) but with a different method that I gathered from Smitten Kitchen. I tried chilling the dough, thinking that would make it firmer to work with. Nope… it was still a very, very wrong texture.
I’ve been thinking that part of the issue here might be the fact that we chose to use a deep fryer (outside in the garage) instead of frying in a pan in the kitchen. Deb (from Smitten) made this sound okay, but I’m wondering if dropping dough balls into oil might not have worked as well as placing little spoonfuls into a pan. Oh well.
Look — this little guy has a crown. Or he spikes his hair.
If you’re going to try this recipe, combine the ingredients, and then just keep adding flour until the dough is what you think you can work with. It takes some experimentation with the fryer. You might make up some great funnel cake at first, but then you’ll start to figure out a good method for getting round balls. Try not to let the dough drip on top of itself when you’re attempting to form a ball. Try to get it all in there in one quick scoop.
But the bottom line here? These taste wonderful. And that is what matters! I mean it is hard to go wrong with fried sugar and flour. While looks and presentation are important, taste tends to trump that in my opinion. So doughnut holes can certainly be a delightful (while rather messy) activity and result in some sweet eating afterwards.
October 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
But they’re too heavy, too bread-y. Part of this is the recipe and technique I used. The other part is my inability to read directions. Also I added too much flour when trying to get the dough just right. To quote one of my friends (who said this yesterday): “Common sense goes out the window when you’re reading a recipe.” Oh how true that can be at times.
Who knew doughnut holes could prove to be so challenging? But I’ve done some reading up, and my second attempt will commence shortly. Hope to have happier results to share!
October 18, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I visited James’ parents for a shrimp boil this weekend, and as a parting gift, they gave me a giant ziplock bag full of shrimp. I had to peel those puppies as soon as I got home (sorry — I couldn’t have little eyes staring at me when I opened the refrigerator).
Once they were peeled, I decided to make shrimp salad. James’ mom and I had been talking about how delicious this would be, and we searched various recipes online. After looking at quite a few, perusing readers’ comments to see what each person added to their version, and thinking about what I would genuinely enjoy in my shrimp salad, I came up with this.
First, chop up all that shrimp.
Then place it in a large bowl with some chopped red onion, some mayonnaise, a generous squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper, celery salt, horseradish (THE best part), and some Creole seasoning (I used Tony’s).
Stir it up, and place it in a pretty plate to enjoy. Or this is wonderful on sandwiches (a baguette or some flatbread would do perfectly), over a bed of lettuce, or you could do what I did my second night with it and put it into a taco. The lemon and horseradish are what really make this dish. The recipe below calls for a teaspoon, but if you tend to shy away from horseradish, I’d suggest starting off with just half a teaspoon. Enjoy!
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Dash of celery salt
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste, if desired, stirring to combine. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Related: Mid-morning Hunger: Lobster