Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spinach & 4-Cheese Quesadillas

Yesterday was the second gathering of the Summer Supper Club, and it was Mexican night. After a long and painful week of bar studying, we needed the comfort of oozing cheese and guac and sour cream to help us unwind. So we blended up some mango margaritas, parked ourselves on my couch, and feasted on spinach & cheese quesadillas, enchiladas, 3-bean dip, homemade salsa, and apple-pie enchiladas (for dessert).

The thing about quesadillas is that they're delicious and easy to make. Dinner was set for 7:30, and I didn't start cooking until nearly 7, but by the time everyone had arrived, I already had a huge pile of fresh quesadillas waiting on the table. Rachel Ray would be so proud!

Not much to say about these quesadillas other than that they were delicious, and we all enjoyed them. The tortilla was just slightly toasty from the hot pan, the cheese was wonderfully melty, and the spinach was a nice foil for the rich cheese. Delicious with salsa and loads of guac and sour cream.

Spinach & 4-Cheese Quesadillas

Ingredients: (1 quesadilla)
- 1 flour tortilla (large)
- 1 cup of shredded 4-cheese Mexican cheese (and a little extra for sprinkling)
- 1/2 cup baby spinach

(1) Toast one side of the tortilla in a hot pan on medium heat. Flip when hot and just slightly toasty.
(2) Sprinkle entire tortilla with 1 cup of cheese. Let cheese melt, about 20 seconds.
(3) Cover one half of the cheese/tortilla with spinach. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the spinach (for adhesive).
(3) Fold tortilla in half. Press down firmly, especially on the edges, to make sure everything sticks.
(4) After 30 seconds, flip quesadilla over to toast the other side.
(5) Remove from pan and onto cutting board. Cut into 4 pieces.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork

Thanks to Southern night with the Summer Supper Club, I'm getting my second guest blog. This post is courtesy of my good friend Karen, who made slow-cooked pulled pork for our feast. I'm writing the post on her behalf, because she is too busy with bar review class to type it all out (technically, I am too, but...whatever!), but all pictures were taken with her camera.

Karen and I met in our first year of law school. In the three years that I've known her, she has repeatedly insisted that she can't cook. She swears up and down that all she is capable of making is chili and jello, and given the choice between chopping some vegetables to make a sandwich at home or trekking to Safeway for one of their pre-made American subs, she'll go to Safeway every time. Yet somehow, when Southern night rolled around, she showed up with a pot of delicious, juicy, home-made, slow cooked pulled pork. Interesting.

Apparently she doesn't consider rubbing meat with spices, wrapping it up for a couple hours, then leaving it in a slow cooker for 8 hours to be cooking. It is, is. 

And when you decide to tweak a recipe by substituting 1/2 cup apple juice + 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar for water, because you remembered that's how your dad always made it back in the day? Definitely cooking. And lets face it: you're good at it. Say it with me, Karen: "I am a good cook."

Karen's pork was, of course, delicious. Juicy, tender, and flavorful. A little sweeter than I'm used to, probably because she cut back on the salt and cooked the meat in apple juice. Still, very tasty and thoroughly enjoyed by the other members of the Summer Supper Club. 

Recipe courtesy of Bridget at the Crumbly Cookie.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oven-Fried Pickles

In lieu of the southern-themed dinner with the Summer Supper Club, I decided to make some fried pickles to snack on throughout the meal. I've only ever had fried pickles once before, but I found them to be absolutely delicious -- crispy, salty, sour -- and totally addictive. Like pistachios, they are impossible to stop eating once you taste one.

The problem with making fried pickles is that I don't have a fryer. I don't even have a deep pot that I can substitute for a fryer. Plus, I'm trying to watch my girlish figure, so eating deep fried food probably isn't a great idea anyway. Fortunately, baking is always an acceptable alternative, and Google presented me with bazillions of different oven-fried pickles recipes to choose from.

The last time I fried something, it was jalapeno poppers. For the breading, I dipped them in milk, then rolled them with bread crumbs. Pretty standard stuff. Fried pickles, on the other hand, aren't breaded quite the same way. They're not dipped in anything, since they're already moist from floating in their own juices, and they're rolled around in a combination of cornmeal, grated cheese, and spices. Interesting.

Lesson learned from this cooking exercise: oven-fried is not the same thing as deep fried. Not even close, in fact. After sticking the tray of breaded pickles into the oven for 12 minutes like the recipe said, I expected them to come out nice and crispy like baked potato chips. Nope. They were still soggy. Soggy! I ended up sticking them back into the oven for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe asked for, and I had to flip every pickle in order to get them to crisp up on both sides. Talk about time-consuming! And they still weren't as crisp as I wanted them to be. Next time I'm just going to buy a fryer.

Even though these suckers weren't as crispy as they should have been, they were still pretty tasty, and every last one of them got eaten. They were salty and sour as pickles should be, but slightly zesty from the breading, and were delicious dipped in ranch dressing. The recipe definitely needs tweaking, but these are a great snack anyway.

Recipe courtesy of

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Shrimp & Grits

In an effort to make post-graduation-bar-exam-studying less painful, my friends and I have decided to start a dinner club and take turns hosting potluck dinners once a week. We call it the "Summer Supper Club," and each dinner will have a different theme. Today's inaugural dinner theme: Southern Comfort. So we feasted on pulled pork (which will be featured in a guest blog post soon), shrimp & grits, fried pickles (which I will blog about tomorrow), green bean casserole, biscuits, salad, and pecan pie. Mmm.

I've never made grits. I've never eaten grits. I've never actually worked with cornmeal. But, all the recipes online looked fairly straightforward, so I wasn't too worried. Just boil some water/stock and stir in cornmeal. Easy-peasy, right? Not exactly! Apparently when the recipe says "gradually add cornmeal to the boiling liquid," it means it. I started out by dumping in half the cornmeal in one go and panicked when it immediately began to form unappealing lumps instead of mixing smoothly into the liquid. Yikes! Fortunately, frantic whisking and less hasty incorporation of the remaining cornmeal solved the problem, and suddenly I had grits in a pot.

Now, grits by itself would be pretty boring right? I mean, it's just cornmeal and water - corn mush, really. So, lets add some cheese to kick it up a notch. Then, lets top the whole thing with shrimp! Shrimp cooked in bacon fat, of course. De-lish!

Overall, the first gathering of The Summer Supper Club was a huge success. Everything was delicious, and even my shit-why-won't-these-lumps-go-away grits turned out really well. Keep your eyes peeled for posts on fried pickles and pulled pork later this week.

Recipe for Shrimp & Grits courtesy of Bobby Flay.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Crepes with Nutella and Strawberries

Crepes and I have kind of a tense relationship. Back in junior year of high school, when I was young and inexperienced, I started "dating" a guy named Mike. I use quotes because I was 15, painfully awkward, and completely out of touch with my girly feelings -- I had no idea how to deal with myself, much less a boyfriend. On my 16th birthday, Mike surprised me with a morning picnic behind the school. He had bought me a dozen red roses, laid out a blanket on the grass, and prepared hand-made crepes with whipped cream and strawberries. I was completely blown away. But rather than gushing my thanks and sharing a happy, hormone-charged first kiss with my very sweet boyfriend, I completely shut down. I mumbled "thanks," shuffled over to the blanket, gulped down a crepe, and said "I'm cold, want to go inside?" -- all the while avoiding eye contact with poor Mike, who I later found out had spent 2 weeks planning the surprise. Ugh. Just typing that out makes me all squirmy and embarrassed. Teenagers suck. 

Needless to say, our love didn't last -- Mike and I stopped talking (literally stopped talking...stopped making eye contact...stopped being within so much as 10 feet of each other...) shortly thereafter, and had a very brief and mutual break up at the beginning of senior year. We eventually became friends again, but from then on every crepe reminded me of my youthful idiocy, and I couldn't eat the damn things for years. It wasn't until college, when I was older and wiser (and time had erased my shame), and happily dating Dan, that I could finally bring myself to try a crepe. Best decision ever. Crepes are delicious!

And, it turns out they're easy to make. The ingredients are simple: flour, butter, salt, eggs, and milk -- not unlike pancake batter. When you get down to it, crepes are just super thin pancakes, after all. Really, the only challenge is getting the batter to spread out evenly in a thin layer in the hot pan 

I've had many delicious savory crepes, but sweet crepes are still my favorite. The combination of fresh fruit, rich nutella, and thin, egg-y pancakes, with just a dash of powdered sugar, make for a perfect breakfast or post-dinner snack. I could eat crepes everyday!

Recipe can be found here, at

Fried Rice

Maybe it's because it was the first thing I ever learned to cook, but fried rice is my ultimate comfort food. It's what my mom made for me instead of chicken noodle soup when I was sick, and it was my go-to dinner in college when the dining hall's food wasn't cutting it. Some people crave hot and melty Kraft mac n' cheese on a rainy day, I go for a big, steaming bowl of fried rice.

Fried rice so easy to make, and it's just chock full of all my favorite things to eat: eggs, rice, vegetables, and meat. It's good by itself as a meal, or as an accompaniment to other yummy side dishes. And, just 2 cups of rice can make enough food for an entire week's worth of lunch/dinner!

Because I like the taste of slightly burnt food, I always let my fried rice cook just a little longer than necessary so that the stuff on the bottom of the pan gets nice and crispy. This way, every bite is a delightful mix of different textures and flavors. Mmm.

Most recipes say that you're supposed to use slightly dry, day-old, cooked rice. I think that's a terrible idea. Comfort food is all about texture, and hard, dry food is not comforting. You wouldn't eat dry mac n' cheese or hard mashed potatoes, right? So I always use fresh rice -- this way, the resulting fried rice is super soft and moist, and it doesn't dry out as much after refridgeration. Win-win.

Fried Rice

- 1-1/2 cups rice
- 2 cups water
- 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed.
- 3 large eggs
- Meat of choice (I like pork or chicken, usually)
- Salt

(1) Combine rice and water in rice cooker. Cook until done. Set aside and let cool.
(2) Scramble eggs, letting them stay slightly runny. Take off heat.
(3) Drain vegetables. Saute in pan with eggs.
(4) If you're using raw meat, chop into small pieces and cook in a separate pan. Cook until outside is just slightly brown.
(5) Combine meat with eggs and vegetables. Mix until well combined.
(6) Add cooked rice. Combine well.
(7) Salt to taste.