Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mexican Hot Chocolate Fudge

My mom makes the best fudge in the world. She makes it by the bucketload every Christmas and gives it away as the most delicious DIY gift.

But Mom sticks to a recipe, and that recipe yields 4 types of fudge: chocolate, white chocolate, chocolate with nuts and white chocolate with nuts.

A couple years ago I tried to make some fudge of my own. And since I'm such a creative spirit *cough cough* and can't follow a recipe to save my life, I totally ruined it. As the St. Louis Cooking Examiner, I wanted to be different; I added orange zest and cranberries to the white chocolate fudge. My roommate and I resorted to eating the fudge — weirdly soft and gooey — out of the pan with spoons.

Well, I learned my lesson. Except I'm still bending the rules a little. At least this time I'm not even trying to use Mom's recipe … so maybe the food gods turned a blind eye to my wayfaring ways.

This fudge actually turned out great! The hints of cinnamon and cayenne made the chocolate slightly spicy and warm. I caramelized the sweetened condensed milk, giving the fudge a caramel-y background as well.

Even Mom approved.

1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz bag semisweet chocolate
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt


  1. Melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan until they create a luscious-looking sauce. Add in the spices and the vanilla. 
  2. Scrape in the condensed milk and let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. You really have to babysit it, otherwise the sugar will burn (I've learned this the hard way growing up making fudge).
  3. When the mixture has gotten glossy and thick and very light caramel-colored, turn off the heat and add in the chocolate. Stir to melt the chocolate completely.
  4. Pour the fudge into a very well greased, foil-lined baking dish. The size of the baking dish depends on how thick you want your slab of fudge to be: I'd recommend the typical 8x8 baking pan. Let the fudge cool completely before turning it out on a board and cutting into squares.

Sweet, spicy, chocolatey. Heaven.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Mississippi Bahn Mi

Why Mississippi? Because it has catfish. And I just sort of liked the way it sounded.

Justin and I fell in love with bahn mi when we gave it a try a few weeks ago from an STL Food Truck.
Feed Me Bahni Mi food truck has this amazing meatball bahn mi. We wanted to try something really different, and catfish happened to be on sale at Whole Foods this week.

Since bahn mi is already fusion food (French + Viatnamese), this is sort of a fusion-fusion food. Which makes it a lot of fun, in my opinion.

The pickled carrots are the kicker. Tangy, crunchy, and a touch sweet, they really complement the fried fish and homemade french bread.

For the pickled carrots (adapted from David Leibowitz's recipe)
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick strips (or you can just buy shredded carrots)
1 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp salt
1 bay leaf

For the mayo:
1/4 cup mayo
1 tsp Sriracha
5-6 drops fish sauce
Pinch salt

1 loaf French bread
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lb catfish fillets
1.5 cups cornflour
Salt + Pepper
2 eggs, scrambled


  1. Pickle the carrots. Blanch the carrots first, then rinse them in cold water. Return them to the pot and add the pickling ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow it to bubble for a couple minutes. Take the liquid off the heat and add the carrots. Let them steep for an hour.
  2. Fry the fish: season the corn flour and eggs with salt and pepper. Dip the fish in the eggs, then the flour, then fry them in a little olive oil until they're golden and flaky. 
  3. For the mayo: mix all the ingredients.

Split open the French bread and slather the inside with the mayo. Lay down the fish, cover with a layer of cilantro, and sprinkle a few carrots on top.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Grandpa's Beef Noodles

There are only a few dishes in everyone's mind that revive childhood memories so potently that you can just close your eyes and be 7 years old again.

This is one of those.

Kind of like my mom's chicken cacciatore, this recipe was a frequent occurrence when I was a kid and spent time at my mom's parents house. My grandpa was the cook in the family, and when my cousins and I visited, there was always a wealth of old-fashioned foods meant to fatten up us grandkids: chili, buttered potatoes, bologna sandwiches, and beef noodles.
Richard Meier, ~30 years old. Handsome fellow, no?

Grandpa didn't leave behind too many recipes, so I had to go on memory with this. It's very simple, but very rich. I think because my grandpa grew up during the Depression he enjoyed foods high in calories and low in cost.

{Printable Recipe}

3-4 large short ribs
1 box beef broth
1/2 lb elbow macaroni or Pipe Rigate
1 bay leaf
1-2 cloves garlic
Salt & Pepper


1. If you like, you can trim off some of the fat off the short rib. Otherwise, season with salt & pepper and brown the meat on all sides in a heavy-bottomed ceramic pot in some olive oil.
2. Pull the meat out and pour off some of the grease in the skillet. I saw on Pinterest this trick: Line a small ramekin with foil, pour the fat off into the foil, and when the fat hardens, you can just ball up the whole thing and throw it away. Genius!

3. Peel the garlic and throw it in the pan with the bay leaf. Pour in the box of beef broth. Add the short ribs back into the pot.
4. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer for 3-4 hours until the short ribs are fork tender and pull apart easily.
After several hours of braising
5. Take the ribs out, shred them with a fork. If there's any excess fat, you can peel it off and throw it out.
They should pull off the bone easily.
6. Add about 4 cups of water to the beef broth — it will have reduced quite a bit during the braising process. Bring the broth to a boil. Cook your noodles in the broth for 7-8 minutes until they're done.

They'll soak up a lot of the broth so it's more like a sauce rather than a soup by the end of it.

7. Add the beef back into the noodles. Serve with bread, Parmesan cheese, and extra salt + pepper to taste.

This sort of humble, simple food is always the most delicious, probably because of what it means to us when we indulge in it. What's your favorite childhood food?


Thursday, July 19, 2012

In the Bread Basket: Artisan bread

Considering the word is in the title of my blog, I realized I don't have many bread recipes posted. As in, only one.

Hmm. One of life's little mysteries, I guess {or my absentmindedness}.

So I decided to change that. Here's to a new installment … In the Bread Basket.

First is French baguette. These are way easier to make than I thought, and when they're fresh out of the oven, they're indescribably good.

 Kelsey Nixon's Homemade French Baguettes

This no-knead dutch oven bread is also a super easy recipe, it just takes a while to rise. It looks like one of those artisan rolls from Panera that you can get soup served in. Even more impressive: it tastes exactly the same. I can't believe I made this in a ceramic pot.

No Knead Dutch Oven Bread

P.S. Ever wonder what a day of blogging looks like at the Starke household? 

Yep. Darla helps. She's my assistant. And the best part is, she works for peanuts (or puppy crunchies).


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thai Green Curry

I love taking dishes from my favorite restaurants and trying to recreate them at home. When Justin and I went to Fort Lauderdale a few weeks ago, one of our top spots was Thai on the Beach. One night I got the pad thai (pretty good, but a bit sweet for me) and Justin got the thai green curry.

Justin got the curry extra spicy, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake. As it turns out, what is spicy to an American who likes Thai food is NOT the same as what is spicy to a Thai person's palate. Breathing. Fire. 

But, we really liked the basic flavor, once we got past the tongue-melting liquid lava. So the other day I decided to give it a go. I turned down the dial on heat a bit, and the flavor profile was fresh, delicious, and fulfilling.

For green curry paste:
1 1/2-inch knob ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano pepper
1 handful cilantro
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 tsp fish sauce
1 stalk lemongrass
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 lime
1/2 cup coconut milk

For the rice:
2 cups jasmine rice
4 cups chicken broth or water
3 sprigs cilantro
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lime (juice)

For the stir fry:
Thai green curry paste
1 lb cod (substitute: chicken, pork)
1 orange bell pepper
1 head broccoli, florets
1/2 lime
1 serrano chili
Extra cilantro for garnish
1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth


For the paste: 
Thwack the lemongrass to crack the stalk. Remove the tough outer leaves. Chop up the light green portion. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blitz until smooth.

For the rice:
Rinse the rice well. Put it into a pot with the sprigs of cilantro, garlic, and salt. Bring to a boil, 
In a wok, pour in a dab of sunflower or olive oil and fry up the paste so that the lemongrass, ginger and garlic cook slightly. You want to do this just so you don't have that raw flavor.

Add in the bell pepper, broccoli, serrano, chicken broth and coconut milk. Saute for 10 minutes or so until the veggies are cooked through.

Meanwhile, saute the cod in a separate pan for 5-6 minutes per side or until it flakes easily with a fork.

Spoon the curry over the rice, top with fish and sprinkle some fresh cilantro over the top.

We had ours with Thai Iced Tea:

Brew 4 cups water + 3 bags regular black tea with:
1/2 star anise
1 knob lemongrass
1 knob ginger (no need to peel)
Serve with a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk and a lemon wedge.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Crispy Calamari Sushi

I love sushi, but sushi doesn't love me.

Let me rephrase that.

I love sushi, and sushi loves me. But it does not love my wallet.

Justin and I will get sushi as often as our bank account allows. We get it on vacation when we want to treat ourselves, when we go out with parents, or when we get a good deal with Groupon. Sometimes we'll get sushi lunch specials. But typically, my sushi cravings occur more often than my sushi binges.

The budget-busting part of sushi is undoubtedly the high-quality raw fish. Without that grade-A tuna or salmon, you can pretty much forget it.

Unless …

I love fried calamari. I love sushi. When the thought finally struck me to combine the two, I was amazed that I'd never thought of it before. Isn't it obvious? A delicious tempura-fried squid inside the roll. Duh!

I'd say it's just as good as any sushi I've had anywhere, but I guess I'm biased. If cooking squid makes you cringe, use some smoked salmon, smoked trout, or slivers of your favorite cooked fish instead!

For the rolls:
2 cups sushi rice
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
6-8 sheets nori
8-10 stalks asparagus
1 avocado
3/4 lb calamari (tubes only)
1 cup flour
Spicy Mayo (below)

For the spicy mayo
1/2 cup mayo
1 tsp Sriracha 
1/2 lime
Dash fish sauce

For the dipping sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
3 tbsp water
1 clove garlic
1 small knob ginger
handful of basil leaves
1 tsp sesame seeds


Rinse the tubes well. Cut them in half lengthwise, then cut each half into skinny strips. Rinse them again until the water runs clear, then pat dry. Place them in a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl and leave in the fridge for a few hours to dry out a bit.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice: Rinse the rice well by soaking it in a large bowl with cold water for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat this process two or three times until the water is clear. Combine the 2 cups of rice with 2 cups of water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once it's boiling, set it to low, cover, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Then take it off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Mix the vinegar, sugar and salt in a large bowl and microwave for 15 seconds. Tumble the cooked sushi rice into the bowl with the mix and toss together until the rice is nicely coated. Let it cool.

For the mayo, mix all the ingredients together in resealable bag.

For the dipping sauce, toss all the ingredients into a small food processor and blitz until done. This stuff is pretty strong, so add more water to taste if it's too much for you.

Blanch and shock the asparagus. Cut the avocado into skinny slices.

To assemble: Lay a sheet of nori on your cutting board in the "landscape" position (for any MS Word users out there). Dip your fingers into a bit of water to keep the rice from sticking to your hands. A handful at a time, press the rice onto the sheet of nori, allowing for a small strip of bare nori to remain at the top. At the end closest to you, place a couple stalks of asparagus, a few slivers of avocado, and a squirt of the spicy mayo (snip the corner off the bag and pipe out).

Meanwhile, dust the calamari in some flour and fry it in a few inches of oil (we used olive oil, but you can use vegetable oil, sunflower oil, etc.) You only need to fry it for a few minutes until the crust is a light golden brown — don't overcook! Might want to try a couple batches to see how it works for you.

At the stuffed side, start carefully rolling away from you, tucking the edge underneath. When you're almost at the edge, use your finger to dab a little water on the naked edge of the nori to seal the end of the roll. Rock the roll lightly with your hand to make sure the edge sticks.

Cut the roll in half, then cut each half into halves, then those quarters into halves so that you get 8 perfect pieces of sushi.

Top with extra mayo if you like. This dinner might not be the quickest to make, but it definitely satisfies any sushi craving and is great for a crowd. 

No need for compromise ;-)


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Turkey + Broccoli Rabe Pesto

A little while ago I wrote a post on on making homemade gnocchi. I love gnocchi. Something about rolling out little mounds of soft dough, shaping and squishing, is a tactile delight. Justin loves sweet potatoes so I wanted to develop a recipe combining the two.

Sweet potatoes are super good for you, but they also carry a lot more moisture than regular potatoes and are starchier. They create much firmer, denser gnocchi than regular taters, but they also hold up to a heartier sauce and have more flavor.

Broccoli rabe is sort of a mix between broccoli and collard greens. It's super delicious just blanched and sauteed with garlic, oil and anchovies. It has a ton of flavor and is the perfect foil for the sweetness of the potatoes.

I made a broccoli rabe - basil pesto inspired sauce. I threw in some ground turkey just for a little protein and meatiness, though you can leave it out if you want to make this is a vegetarian dish.

Note: The dough for sweet potato gnocchi is super sticky and tacky, seemingly no matter how much flour you put in. No worries. I made the gnocchi by pinching off little pieces of dough and rolling them around with flour.


Don't you just love how anything sort of misshapen and ugly can be called "rustic"?

{Tossed in pesto}

These gnocchi are really filling. No seconds this time.


Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Broccoli Rabe Pesto
For the gnocchi:
2 large sweet potatoes, about 1.75 lbs
1 egg
2 cups flour
Cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper

For the sauce:
1 head broccoli rabe, stems removed
1/2 cup basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb ground turkey thigh
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 whole milk
Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper

  1. First, to make the gnocchi, boil or bake the potatoes until done. Pass them through a food mill or mash with a fork until smooth. Let this cool for a while before adding the egg. Mix in the egg, a pinch of salt, pepper, and cayenne, and flour until a dough forms in the bowl.
  2. Pinch off about half a tablespoon's worth of dough, roll in a bit of flour to keep it from sticking to your hands, and form into little balls. They won't be perfect! That's OK though.
  3. Boil the gnocchi in water for 2-3 minutes or until they float to the top. Toss in the sauce.
  4. For the sauce: Blanch the broccoli rabe in boiling water for 7-8 minutes. Transfer to an ice water bath for 5 minutes. Squeeze out as much of the water in the rabe as you can using a kitchen towel. 
  5. In a food processor, blitz together the broccoli rabe, basil, olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes. 
  6. On medium heat in a saucepan, brown the turkey thigh until cooked. Add the pesto, chicken broth, white wine, and more salt + pepper to taste (if needed). Let this reduce for 10 minutes or so until the sauce has reduced by half. Add the milk and Parmesan. It won't be a really creamy sauce. 
  7. Toss the gnocchi with the sauce for 5 minutes or so until the gnocchi has absorbed some of the liquid. I had to cook the gnocchi in batches, so I just threw the dumplings into the sauce as I went. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sips on Saturday: Tea time

It's 3 o'clock. Here in 'Merica, that means close to nothing. But in England, it's just about time for tea.

I happen to love tea time. Not because I actually observe it every day, but just the thought of taking a moment out to have a little snack and hot cup of tea in the middle of the day seems so charming and refreshing.

For tea time today, I had a soft boiled egg with toast, artichoke pesto {I used store-bought}, and my sister-in-law's homegrown tomatoes. To drink, Earl Grey with sugar and milk.

Soft-boiled eggs are a lot easier to make than I thought. And man are they delicious like whoa. The whites are firm and the yolks are soft and a tad bit runny. They're sort of like poached eggs, only it's harder to screw it up.

Just bring a pot of water to a boil, plop the eggs in for 7 minutes exactly, then transfer them to an ice bath for 10 minutes. Always salt and pepper them.

Yep, I'm a fan.

Also for your consideration for tea time {or coffee time}:

Easy iced caramel mocha frappes:

1 packet Starbucks Iced Coffee mix, cold water, ice, maybe a touch of Kahlua, and whipped cream

Spicy Ginger Soda with Rum:

1 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 stub minced ginger (about 2 inches long), 1.5 tsp red pepper flakes. Simmer for 15 minutes. Kill the heat and let it steep for 30 minutes. Strain.

Combine the syrup with tonic water. Serve with rum.

Tea time isn't just for tea, you know… at least in my book. 

And yes, I realize it's not technically Saturday — 
but every day is Saturday when you're unemployed {one of the perks}!


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