precious cargo

On Saturday morning my sister and I were packing up our things to return to school after a lovely Thanksgiving break. As I crammed my no-bigger-than-3oz-of-liquid-abiding belongings into a tiny carry-on suitcase, I jealously watched her fill her car with Costco-sized bags of lentils, giant bottles of honey, containers of cranberry sauce, and a big mug of coffee. But although the constraints of air travel prevented me from toting all the contents our leftover-laden fridge back to Chicago, I did manage to bring a sizable stash of the most important Thanksgiving remnant with me: the turkey.

In our family we do turkey two ways: smoked and fried. My dad has worked on perfecting his techniques for over a decade, and now seemingly effortlessly produces juicy, perfectly seasoned birds that our family devours. The smoked turkey has an apple cider, ginger, and orange brine that my mom brews days in advance. The fried turkey is injected and bathed in mojo, an homage to our Cuban roots. I can never decide which I like more, and luckily I don’t have to.
My dad packed me a bag each of smoked and fried turkey minutes before departing for the airport. I diligently quadruple bagged them in heavy duty ziplocs, fearing that I would permeate the plane with eau de smoked turkey. I didn’t plan to dig into my stash mid-flight, but hunger struck one hour in, and that turkey delectably perched in my backpack pocket was all I could think about. Apologies to the men sitting next to me, but a hungry, turkey-toting girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do… which is awkwardly pull shards of turkey meat out from under my seat and consume it as unassumingly as possible.
Just a few pieces satisfied my airplane craving, which meant that I was still left with a substantial amount of turkey to last me throughout the week. I wanted to turn it into something more than plain meat, and with the wintry weather finally taking its hold here, soup seemed like the perfect route to take. I gathered inspiration from some of my favorite soups—my mom’s chicken soup, mushroom barley soup, and quinoa soup that I ate many bowls of in Peru—to make a turkey, mushroom, and quinoa soup, which made plenty of leftovers that I froze to get me through the thick of finals and the time when I’ll return home once again.
Turkey, Mushroom, and Quinoa Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced into large pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 lb white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme, chopped
3/4 cup white wine
2-3 cups leftover turkey meat, chopped
32 oz. chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup dry quinoa
1 bunch turnip greens (or other leafy green)
Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook about 3 minutes. Add carrots and parsnips and cook for another 5 minutes, until they brown a bit. Add mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Season with a bit of salt and pepper (be careful not to over salt, as leftover turkey and chicken stock will also have salt). Add white wine and allow to cook down for about 3-4 minutes. Add chicken broth and turkey meat. Bring soup to a boil, covered. Allow soup to boil for 10-15 minutes, until carrots and parsnips are soft but still tender. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. Cover and bring to a boil again. Cook for another 10-12 minutes. Add turnip greens and cover again. Boil soup for another 3-5 minutes, until greens wilt and quinoa is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

the corn thing

Disclaimer: The use of canned corn in the following recipe is not endorsed by Kate Adkins nor any of her Iowa brethren.

Have you ever noticed that the first items to go at bake sales always seem to be the things that are the simplest to make? Puppy chow, funfetti cupcakes, brownies from a mix. As much as I love making things from scratch, there’s something to be said for finding convenient ways to appeal to the masses. The corn thing does just that. This concoction of canned corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream, and butter takes less than five minutes and zero cooking ability to put together, yet it has elicited a standing ovation from my family at Thanksgiving dinner (I kid you not) and multiple requests for the recipe post-consumption.

I’ve seen many iterations of this recipe around the internet with names such as “corn casserole” and “baked corn.” While these titles aptly describe the dish, my cousin Jason dubbed it “the corn thing” years ago, I believe when asking how many pans of “the corn thing” would be at Thanksgiving dinner (and staking claim to about half of a pan), and now I can call it by no other name. If you’re looking for a creamy, corny, crowd-pleasing side dish to add to your Thanksgiving spread, look no further than the corn thing.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Thank you for reading our blog and for inspiring me to be a more avid and creative cook!
The Corn Thing
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 (8 oz) box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 (14.75 oz) can creamed corn
1 (15 oz) can whole corn kernels, drained
2 eggs
8 oz. sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients together. Pour into 9×13 pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until slightly golden.

thanks

I’m fairly certain that there’s nothing to say about Thanksgiving food that hasn’t already been said a million times out there in the food blogosphere as we gear up for the most food-centric week of the year. So I will just say a big ole, from-the-bottom-of-my-sugar-cured-heart thank you to all you loyal readers, fans, guest bloggers, and general patrons of this blog. Writing it with Joanna has been an absolute highlight of the often tumultuous and never boring last 6 months of my life.

I’m nothing short of thankful for the wonderfully midwestern meat-and-potatoes holiday feast I’ll have with the Stanley clan on Thursday. I wouldn’t want it any other way, though I do spend a lot of time thinking about what I would serve at my own perfect meatless Turkey Day meal. At the moment this stuffed squash is a frontrunner. It packs way more flavor per square inch than should be allowed for a humble acorn squash. If it doesn’t make it into your Thanksgiving spread, it would be a perfect light-but-delicious meal for a post-gluttony weekend.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Kale

1 small acorn squash, halved and seeds scooped out

1 T olive oil

1/2 c finely chopped red onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t cinnamon

1 c chopped raw kale

a few glugs of balsamic vinegar

a hearty drizzle of honey

1 c cooked quinoa (I used real Peruvian quinoa- thanks Noura and Joanna!)

1/3 c crumbled feta or goat cheese

1/3 c dried cranberries (roughly chopped) or currants

Red pepper flakes, to taste (I used about 1/2 t, decrease if you prefer less of a kick)

1/2 c cilantro, chopped

1/3 c toasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 425. Drizzle squash halves with olive oil, lightly season with salt and pepper, and place on a piece of foil on a baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for 20 minutes, flip them over, and roast another 10-20 minutes until fork-tender and starting to brown.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and cook the onion until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic, cumin, and cinnamon and cook for just a minute, until fragrant. Mix in kale and cooks just until it wilts down- you want it to keep its crunch. Deglaze with some balsamic vinegar and then remove from heat. Mix in all other ingredients, reserving a little cilantro and pumpkin seeds for topping. Scoop the filling into the squash and top with a drizzle of honey or olive oil.

over books

I was in the mood to make resolutions this week. It may be 7 weeks til opening day of resolution season, but the timing feels right as the last few weeks have felt more than a little like the first weeks of the rest of my life. The sugarcured ladies and our compadres started the course that will take use right up to the end of our preclinical years of med school and the exam-that-shall-not-be-named, a course that should rightfully be titled “Learn All of the Diseases, onyourmarksgetssetgooooooo.” It’s actually called CPP&T. For your future reference. I’ll try not to talk about it ad nauseum but it might be tough to find other things to talk about sometimes.

I don’t know if my back or my bookshelf is going to break first under the weight of the textbooks I have to schlep around for CPP&T, and oddly enough, the more I read textbooks, the more I want to spend time reading things that aren’t textbooks so at the top of the resolutions list is “read more things that aren’t textbooks.” Hyde Park is a veritable oasis of bookstores, and I spent a couple of leisurely hours browsing the shelves last weekend in my state of post-finals bliss. I bought and devoured the new biography about one of my favorite authors and now I’m craving fiction and taking recommendations and I’m thinking that this was a very good resolution.

Luckily, since I get to make the rules, reading cookbooks totally fits the resolution bill. I got to visit one of my top 5 favorite bookstores on the planet while in MN a while back – you read right, I managed to do something beside eat while I was there – and I felt it my duty as a loyal customer to purchase the cookbook I’d been ogling on Amazon for weeks- Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. You might remembering me raving about Ottolenghi’s Plenty and this new book might stand a chance to displace the older, adored Plenty from it’s spot of highest honor on my shelf. At least until I get my signed copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook tomorrow…

I don’t really know how you could go wrong with barley and tomatoes and feta, but Ottolenghi and Tamimi, as expected, make these simple ingredients shine. Don’t be fooled by the name risotto- there’s no fussy boiling of broth and constant stirring involved here. Like all good comfort food, the barley and the feta only get better as they sit in the fridge overnight and the leftovers make for the kind of lunch you’ll have to force yourself to wait until lunchtime to eat.

Barley Risotto with Marinated Feta

1 c barley

1 T butter

4 T olive oil

2 stalks celery, cut into small dice

2 small shallots, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 sprigs thyme

1/2 t smoked paprika

4 large strips lemon peel

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

3 c vegetable stock

1 1/4 c crushed tomatoes, liquid drained (note: I used one large can of diced tomatoes and pureed and drained half of them to serve as the crushed component)

1 T caraway seeds

8 oz feta, broken into small pieces

Rinse and drain the barley.

Melt the butter and 1 T olive oil in a very large frying pan. Cook the celery, shallots, and garlic over medium heat until soft but not brown. Add the barley, thyme, paprika, lemon, pepper flakes, tomatoes, and stock plus a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat so the mixture can simmer gently and cook about 45 minutes, until barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Be sure to stir often to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cooking time may vary based on what kind of barley you use.

In the meantime, toast the caraway seeds in a dry pan until they just start to darken. Lightly crush them with the back of a spoon (it’s ok to leave some full seeds). Mix the caraway with the remaining olive oil and feta. Mix to combine and leave to marinate until the risotto is done.

Once the risotto is done cooking, taste and adjust the spices, salt, and/or pepper. Serve topped with marinated feta + oil.

the first ever sugar cured guest post

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To no one’s surprise, we here at sugar cured do our best at all times to surround ourselves with people who love good food. Many of my dearest friendships began over common culinary interest, and as a matter of fact this blog might never have existed if Joanna and I hadn’t bonded when she recognized the recipe for the leftover soba noodles with eggplant and mango that I brought for lunch one day last August.   So it was just a matter of time before we featured the culinary talents of one of those food-loving friends in the form of a guest post.

A couple of weeks ago, the sugar cured girls had the good fortune of sous chef-ing on the creation of these delicious meat/spinach pies with our good friend Rahad Gondoli (who has chosen to write under a pseudonym in order to keep the origins of the top-secret family recipe shrouded in mystery). Mr. Gondoli writes:

This is an old family recipe.  And like almost all old family recipes over the generations it’s been slightly amended and meticulously perfected again and again. The recipe originates from the Levant, and like many dishes from the region different peoples claim its ownership.

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I’ve only known it from my dad, and him from his mom, and so on. One of my earliest food memories is my dad rolling out thawed dough balls next to mounds of flour on our wood block table. He’d juice the lemons with an orange plastic lemon squeezer and stand back from the table to sharpen his knives with a thin steel rod.

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It’s always a special occasion to have meat and spinach pies, and when we make them we make a lot, to share with others. I hope you enjoy them.

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Lebanese Meat and Spinach Pies

For the meat filling:

2 lbs ground round
3 medium white onions, chopped fine
3 tablespoon corn oil
Fry onions in oil. When brown, add meat and salt and pepper to taste. Brown meat. Once meat is done cooking, drain grease and oil and add juice of 3 lemons or to taste.
Let thaw rhode’s frozen dinner rolls. It will take about 1-1.5 hours. Place frozen rolls on wax paper, overlay with wax paper, and put a towel over the rolls and wax paper sheets.
For the spinach filling:
2 10 oz. bags of fresh spinach, chop fine
3 large white onions, chop fine
1/2 cup corn oil
juice of 1 lemon or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Combine above ingredients like a salad and mix.
Make the thawed dinner rolls as flat as you can with your fingers, then add a little flour and flatten with a rolling pin. You want a roughly 5-6 inch diameter flat dough pad. Place either spinach or meat mixture off center, and fold dough up into a triangular pie formation. Leave a little bit of the pie open, do not seal completely.
Spray cooking sheet with Pam or rub butter on it. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and cook pies until they are browned.

carte blondche

I’d like to share something simple and sweet with you tonight. It’s a twist on my favorite blondie recipe, the basic version hailing from Mark Bittman’s bible, How to Cook Everything. This recipe is a snap to put together and with an ingredient list that calls for “one” of everything, it’s easy to commit to memory and whip up on the fly. Best of all, it’s amenable to endless variations. A carte blondche of sorts… sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
I’ve been making these for years and have added a little something different nearly every time. The constant variable has been how delicious they always turn out. These blondies have a strong brown sugar flavor and a gooey texture that pairs well with everything from oats, to nuts, to chocolate chips, to fruit. Today’s version was inspired by a jar of homemade cherry jam from the Adkins family that I’ve been hanging onto for months, waiting for the right opportunity to use this precious good. I added oats and toasted almonds into the batter and then swirled generous dollops of jam into it before putting it into the oven. Twenty minutes later I was met with a pan of warm, soft blondies whose sweetness was offset by the slight tartness of the jam and saltiness of the almonds. This combination was a definite winner, but it’s hard to go wrong when you’ve got Adkins family jam in the mix!
Take this recipe and make it your own. Serve them warm from the oven with a dollop of ice cream as the perfect capstone to a dinner party (or a late night of studying). These also store and travel well, and have always been a welcome addition to a potluck table or picnic spread. I hope this recipe brings you many sweet memories!
Cherry Almond Blondies 
(ideas for more variations below)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup cherry jam
Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter on stovetop or in microwave. Place butter into a medium mixing bowl and allow it to cool slightly. Add brown sugar and stir to combine. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Add flour, salt, oatmeal, and almonds. Place into a greased 8×8 or 9×9 square pan. Spoon the cherry jam evenly on top and use a knife to swirl it through the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (jam will be sticky, but test the batter for doneness). Allow to cook on a rack before cutting into squares.
Note: The base recipe includes the first six ingredients (butter –> vanilla). After that, go wild with mix-ins! I often add oatmeal for a bit of chew and heartiness. Other winning combos I’ve made are chocolate chip + fig butter, white + semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter + chocolate chips (notice a love for chocolate here?), mashed banana…+ chocolate chips, really anything! Whatever toppings you choose, I suggest adding only a total of 1 to 1 1/2 cups of toppings.

seeking comfort

I read this in the Miami Herald this morning:
“Weather alert: Weekend will be cool and breezy
Cool weather will continue Saturday in South Florida with breezy conditions and low temperatures dipping below 70. Highs will be in the mid-70s.”
 
I chuckled to myself. Now that I’ve spent five falls and winters away from my tropical paradise, the concept of “dipping below 70” is quite laughable. But I shouldn’t be so jaded. I know how freeing it is to feel the oppressive Florida humidity that’s stubbornly hung around since April lift from the air, a cool breeze blowing in its wake. Growing up, the first hint of a chill (i.e. in the 60s) was always a cause for celebration: a reason to don a fleece jacket, make a hearty soup, and try to see our breaths fog up in the air (usually to no avail).  

I remember one of these fall-esque nights quite well, naturally because it was tied to food. I was in middle school at the time and watched Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals religiously. I had recently seen her make pumpkin pasta with sausage and sage. At this point in my life, I had never eaten pumpkin outside of my mom’s Thanksgiving pie, but I was intrigued by both the flavor combination and the seeming ability of this dish to bring a bit of autumn into our kitchen. On the first night that a crisp breeze blew through our palm tree laden yard, my dad and I set out to make this pasta dish, and it was divine: creamy, warm, comforting, and totally fall.
 
Since then, I have had a bit of a love affair with pumpkin. My roommates and grocery shopping comrades know that come fall, I stockpile 28-oz cans of Libby’s pumpkin puree as if I’m preparing for the apocalypse. I put it in just about everything, from oatmeal, to yogurt, to soups. But it dawned on me that I hadn’t made pumpkin pasta—my first foray into the pumpkin world—in quite a while. Tonight, at the end of a very long week of school and the beginning of a busy weekend, I was craving some comfort food, and pumpkin pasta was calling my name.
 I used mushrooms instead of sausage, but added fennel, rosemary, and thyme to emulate the sausage spice profile. Although you could add a touch of cream for a bit of richness, I found that just using some white wine and pasta water gave the sauce a great consistency. True to the recipe from which it was inspired, 30 minutes from firing up the stove, I was sitting down to a steaming bowl of pumpkin pasta comfort, comforted by the fact that my return to Miami fall, family, and Thanksgiving are just days away.
 
Pumpkin Pasta with Mushrooms, Fennel, and Sage
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced thin
1 tbsp rosemary, chopped fine
1 tbsp thyme, chopped fine
15 oz. pumpkin puree
1/2 cup white wine
1-2 cups water reserved from cooking pasta
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 cups kale, chopped
2 tbsp sage, sliced thin
1/2 lb short pasta (rotini, penne, gemelli, etc.)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving
Bring water to a boil in a large pot for pasta. Cook pasta for 9-11 minutes, until al dente.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until it starts to become translucent. Add fennel and cook another 5 minutes, until onion and fennel start to brown a bit. Add sliced mushrooms and cook for another 7 minutes, until mushrooms soften and onion and fennel get a little caramelized. Add rosemary, thyme, pumpkin pie spice, and a few dashes of salt and allow to cook for 1 minute. Add pumpkin puree, white wine, and about 1 cup of water from the pasta pot (using this water is better than water straight from the tap because the pasta starch in it will provide a bit more thickness to the sauce). Allow to cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring periodically. Add kale and additional 1/2 cup of pasta water and allow kale to cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add sage and salt and pepper to taste. If you would like to add more pumpkin pie spice at this point, feel free (I’m a big fan of it so I added a couple more dashes!) Add cooked pasta to the pot and mix everything. Turn off heat. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

fall back

Hello out there. Sorry for my radio silence of late. Things have been hectic here since we last talked. There has been an embarrassing incidence peanut-butter-and-pickle-sandwich-for-dinner-kinds-of-nights around here and not enough creations I felt were worthy to share with you. But I just picked the other half of Sugar Cured up from the airport (and she brought me New York bagels, bless her soul) and hearing about all her food adventures in NYC (which you all will undoubtedly hear about soon) made me realize I was long overdue for a post.

As I’ve probably told you before, and as you might have guessed by the peanut butter and pickle ref – don’t knock it til you’ve tried it – most of my food habits are yolked to my (often bizzare) cravings. And the other day I got a crazy craving for stuffing. Now I’m nearly certain that I’ve never even tasted stuffing and I don’t really know what it’s supposed to taste like, so it’s more likely that I was craving the idea of it- salty and sweet and celery and thyme and onions and carbs. And I’m just as certain that the Kate-original-creation that resulted in no way resembles any stuffing that any reasonable person makes. But it satisfied the craving to a T and I can’t wait to make it again. It uses mostly ingredients that I always have on hand but manages to be full of enough unexpected flavors to be uniquely craveable. You might even be tempted to skip the stuffing and put this on the Thanksgiving table in its stead.

If you’re not the type of person that hoards mason jars of strange grains in her pantry (ahem, not that I know anybody like that) you might not be too familiar with bulgur. Think of it like couscous with more substance. For most of my bulgur recipes, I just pour some boiling water over it and let it sit on the countertop until it’s soft, but for this recipe I opted to simmer it in broth and I liked the results.

“Stuffing” Salad with Bulgur

1 c bulgur (substitute couscous or quinoa but seriously you should try bulgur)

1 c water + 1 c broth or 2 c water + 1 square vegetable bullion

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

1/2 c onion, finely chopped

2 large shallots, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 medium sweet potato

2-3 large handfuls of kale, roughly chopped

Several sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 t dried thyme

Balsamic vinegar

1/2 c almonds, roughly chopped or slivered

1/2 c dried cranberries

1/3 crumbled goat cheese

Cook the sweet potato, using whatever method you prefer. My preferred method is by microwave. Stab the potato with a fork, cook on high for 4-5 minutes, flip it over, and cook another 2 minutes or so, continuing in minute intervals until it is soft but not mushy. Allow to cook, then remove the skin and cut into 1/2″ cubes

Meanwhile, put the bulgur and the broth and/or water in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid gone. Set aside with the lid on to allow the grain to continue to steam.

While the bulgur cooks, prepare the vegetables. Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet, then add the onions and shallots and cook until soft and translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook until just soft. Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Then add the kale and cook until it starts to wilt, 2-3 minutes. Deglaze the veggies with several glugs of balsamic vinegar (sorry y’all- I don’t have it in me to measure my vinegar). Cook just a minute longer so all the flavors can combine. Mix together grains, sweet potato, vegetables, cranberries, cheese, and almonds in a large bowl. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.