Category Archives: sides

rolled baking powder biscuits

After four months of making these biscuits for Food Science lab, this recipe should be firmly embedded in my brain somewhere. Week after week, we made two or three batches of these biscuits and tested and poked them all kinds of ways. We added cinnamon and dried cherries, or onion and chives, or bacon and cheddar. But even with all the variations, nothing dissuaded me from loving the simple deliciousness of the basic, no-frills, rolled baking powder biscuit. The key is to avoid overworking the dough. If it’s done right, you’ll end up with a golden biscuit with fluffy insides and a delicately crunchy exterior.

Plus, they split nicely… these are really great with a pat of butter and some honey drizzled on top. Oh! And a cup of hot tea. Definitely.

Basic Rolled Biscuits
- from my lab book… and nearly identical to the recipe from the Joy of Cooking

2 c all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
5-6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 c milk, plus a little more for brushing on top

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Drop in the butter, and cut in using two knives or a pastry blender. Do not let the butter melt or form a paste with the flour. Pour in the 3/4 c milk and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. With a lightly floured hand, gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently against the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times until it generally forms a single mass. You may need to sprinkle in a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough (or, if you do not have a rolling pin, just flatten the dough out with your hands) to approximately 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut out 3-inch rounds (we like big fluffy biscuits around here, but you can make whatever size floats your boat) with a biscuit cutter. Push the cutter straight down and pull out without twisting. Reroll/reflatten the scraps to cut additional biscuits out of the remaining dough.

Then, brush the tops well with a little extra milk. Or, use your (clean) fingertips, like I did.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Notes:

  • I love that this recipe is easily halved. It makes around 4 large biscuits… the perfect brunch amount for two people on the weekends.
  • Do pay attention when measuring out baking powder. Too much can result in a bitter, soapy tastenot yummy.

la paz salsa

Let me first say that when it comes to hot, fiery, capsaicin-spiked foods… I am a wimp. I can’t even take the “spicy” options at fast food joints. Hot pepper flakes on spaghetti or hot sauce on taquitos makes me tear up and sniffle like crazy. I’m forced to always reach for the “Mild” versions of things. This makes for several two-pot dinners (tacos, chili, stir fry) in our household, as Eric likes adding hot sauce and chili powder to almost everything. (Sniff.)

Fortunately, this salsa can be made as hot (or not) as you like it. For people like me that are interested in the science behind food, here are some fun facts about the “heat” in all kinds of chile peppers. Did you know that the “heat” isn’t so much in the seeds as it is in the white pith and ribs? Take out all that stuff to reduce the heat factor. I did. And, I only used jalapeños for myself. Okay, okay… mine was way more tomato than pepper. But what good would homemade salsa be if I couldn’t eat it?

isn’t food pretty?

You may also notice that I have included a photo of habañeros — these will amp up the heat factor like nobody’s business. I used one in Eric’s jar of salsa, though it actually turned out too hot, even for him. Anyway, look at that gorgeous red! But — if you mess with these bad boys, be very, very careful. Wash your hands with copious amounts of water directly after handling habañeros (or, really, any hot pepper). Eric’s mom even got burns under her rings just from prolonged contact with the capsaicin.

You have been warned.

red means stop! can you handle these?? … i cannot.

This salsa recipe, like many great recipes, has a story. Listen up! (It’s relatively short, I promise.) Eric’s mom grew up in Laguna Beach, CA  when it was a quiet surfer town and artist hub — not the glitzy, snobby MTV-show Laguna that people may think of these days. One of her favorite memories (or I think it is, based on how often/much she talks about it) was La Paz. It was a well-loved Mexican restaurant, often frequented by kids (like Eric’s mom) coming straight up from the beach with wet and sandy toes. To keep their floor clean, La Paz opened up the back door for easy beach access. This was the home of the La Paz “Back Door Special”  — a plate of rice, beans, and cheese studded with tortilla chips. When your order came out, you could scoop some of this salsa on, too.

Doesn’t that sound good? Sadly, La Paz closed years ago and another restaurant now stands in its place, but Eric’s mom just can’t eat there — out of loyalty to La Paz. I have to say, if a restaurant can garner that kind of devotion, it’s really too bad it closed before I could try it. But at least we have the salsa recipe, c/o the Laguna News-Post. Eric’s mom claims you could do a blind taste-test with her old Laguna friends and they would all instantly say “La Paz.”

So, I give you…

Theresa Frias’ La Paz Salsa

~1 lb. little yellow and jalapeño chiles, fresh, with stems removed (or whatever peppers you can handle)
2 cloves fresh garlic
handful chopped white onions
2 large pinches of oregano
#2 can of tomatoes (this website tells me this means 2 1/2 c or 20 oz.)
1 c tarragon vinegar
3-4 Tbsp of salt

Put vinegar, garlic, onions, oregano and salt in a blender and run until ground up and mushy. Then fill blender with jalapeño chiles. Blend on and off to chop them up. Run until blended and put in gallon-size jar. Fill blender with yellow chiles (or habañeros). Add small amount of water and blend. Add to gallon jar. Fill blender with tomatoes. Blend tomatoes slowly (start and turn off several times). Add tomatoes to jar and stir (or shake) together.

Kept in the fridge, this stuff should probably stay good for up to two weeks.

Do note that this makes quite a lot of salsa — feel free to halve the recipe.

pasta salad

After years of following food blogs, I have learned at least this: some people hate cilantro. AKA coriander. AKA Chinese parsley. I love the stuff, but evidently there are those who can’t stand it — not even a decorative sprig atop their plate.

So, if you are one of those people who think that cilantro AKA coriander AKA Chinese parsley tastes like soap/dirt/other-nonfood-item, then please, for goodness’ sake, do not try this recipe. Oh. And also, do not try this recipe if you do not like vinegar.

Now if you are like me and have no qualms about cilantro or vinegar, please DO try this recipe. It is most definitely a yummy. At least it is for me. And maybe for you, too!

There is a teeny tiny story behind this recipe: Apparently, my mom was a very hungry lady during her pregnancy (as are most, I hear) and one day while she was pregnant with me, she threw together this pasta salad. She loved it and ate it all the time … 22 years later, and I still crave it every few months. I would probably have a hankering for it more often, too, if one batch didn’t result in a giant bowl that lasts for nearly a week. Ready-made lunch!

The recipe can be tweaked all kinds of ways to suit your own tastes — these are just approximations of what I happened to toss into the bowl this time.

My Mom’s Pasta Salad

2/3 of a 1-lb. box of macaroni (bowtie works well, too)
1 chicken breast, skinless
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
2 big handfuls of cilantro (again, if you don’t like cilantro, be very afraid)
1/4 onion

shredded Parmesan cheese

For the vinaigrette (make at least 1 cup total)
equal parts vegetable oil (or your favorite salad oil) and white vinegar (I used ~ 1/2 cup each)
1 T tarragon (I used dry and crushed it up)
1 heaping T sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Boil the macaroni in salted water until al dente. When it’s done, drain and rinse with cold water — this will keep the pasta from sticking together.
2. While the macaroni is going, boil the chicken breast in water with some salt and pepper. If you don’t flavor the water a little, the chicken breast will have zero flavor. I am a huge fan of my instant-read thermometer, which keeps me safe from food-borne illness. Chicken should read ~165F. Do it or be sorry.
3. Dice your bell peppers to a small-to-medium dice. While you’re at it, finely dice the onion. For me, this means smaller than however the peppers turned out.
4. Rough chop the cilantro.
5. Once the chicken breast has cooled, dice it into fairly small, bite-sized cubes. Remember, chicken is not the main attraction in this salad.
6. To make the vinaigrette: combine oil, vinegar, tarragon, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir it up! This part is to your own tastes, but then again, it’s difficult to gauge what a vinaigrette will taste like on the salad by how it tastes on a spoon. You could try swishing a piece of pasta in there as a sample, if you like.
7. In a large, large bowl, combine the pasta, chicken, bell peppers, onion, cilantro, and about a cup of vinaigrette. Toss it all together and taste. If you think it needs more sugar or vinegar, mix it up with the extra vinaigrette first, and then add to the bowl.
8. Depending on your love of parmesan, toss in a handful (or more) to the salad. Mix everything together well.
9. Eat! Or, cover it up tightly and leave it in the fridge overnight. It tastes even better the next day (or later) as the flavors all come together.

Recipe notes:

  • If you are an efficient kitchen-maven, then you will have time to chop up all your veggies whilst other things boil! I am not an efficient kitchen-maven. I waited for all the boiling to be done, then started chopping.
  • I’m over-analytical, so I can tell you that my bell peppers were approximately 7.5 mm square. Or just over 1/4 inch square. Scientific precision makes me feel secure — but do whatever makes you happiest. For the sake of my dignity, I will not mention what a 5 mm square onion dice is equal to in inches.
  • The salad shouldn’t be swimming in dressing, but the pasta will soak up some overnight. That said, I would err on too much dressing instead of too little.