Chili Vinegar Hot Sauce + Lime-Cured Tilapia Tostadas

I had all these grand plans for the food projects I was going to tackle this summer: limoncello, raspberry jam (round 2 bigger-and-better after my initial trial last summer), canned tomatoes, pickled stuff (dill pickles + pickled hot peppers), brioche, sourdough bread -- but, I did successfully make Sriracha (i.e. what we're calling Chili Vinegar Hot Sauce here because that's what the recipe said), so there's that. This batch was not as spicy as I would've liked, but it was a tasty experiment -- the only hard part was finding the chilies (I ended up using serranos because Fresnos were nowhere to be found). It was also delicious on the tostadas I made for lunch yesterday. I wish I had discovered this lime-curing business earlier in the summer when I would come home starving from work every day, because the whole meal takes like 15 minutes tops. The original recipe was for summer rolls with lime-cured shrimp and peaches (the link is below), but tilapia is like half the price of shrimp around here, and I didn't feel like going all the way across Hyde Park to find rice paper wrappers. Necessity is the mother of invention, friends.

ALSO this will be the last post before I leave for Chile (!!!!!). I might send a picture-filled update sans recipe while I'm there, but you never know how lazy I'm going to be... But you also never know what kinds of awesome food we'll be cooking up that I'll want to share with you (with bacon probably not gonna lie). It's crazy, I feel like I just posted the espinacas con garbanzos recipe with 129 days to go. Well actually it feels like forever ago but also like it just happened, you know? No? I might be losing it, but I'm happy and have a full belly, so it's not so bad.

Chili Vinegar Hot Sauce

1 dried Anaheim chile
1 fresh red Fresno chile, sliced ¼-inch thick
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic
1/4 cup finely diced shallot
1 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roast the Anaheim chile on a sheet tray until lightly toasted, about a minute.

Combine all of the ingredients in a non-reactive mixing bowl (I used plastic) and marinate for an hour.

Transfer the chile mixture to a blender and purée on high speed until smooth. Place the purée in a nonreactive bowl and cover tightly with one layer of cheesecloth. Allow the sauce to sit at room temperature for 3 to 5 days until the sauce takes on a natural fermented aroma. Once finished, transfer the sauce to an airtight container. Keep chilled in the refrigerator. The vinegar will last for a few months.

Lime-Cured Tilapia Tostadas
inspired by Tasting Table

1 tilapia filet
4-ish limes
1 small shallot
1/3 small daikon radish
1/2 big peach
1 baby cucumber
Splash rice wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Handful cilantro
2 tostadas (I may or may not have had more than 2...)

Cut the fish into small, bite-sized cubes and throw them into a bowl. Mince the shallot finely, and add them to the fish. Squeeze the juice of the limes over the fish and shallots, and let everything hang out for 10 minutes. Bring 1/2 c of water to a boil, pour it over the fish and lime mixture, then stash that in the fridge until the fish has cooked, only 5 minutes or so.

In the meantime, julienne the radish, peach, and cucumber (I didn't exactly julienne mine because I was so flippin hungry). Let the radish soak in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes until crisp. After the radish is crisp, toss all your veg together with a pinch of salt, a splash of vinegar, and some chopped cilantro.

Drain the cooked tilapia, then pile your tostadas high with fish + slaw + chili sauce. Devour. 

Strawberry Gelato Sandwiches

I am babysitting the most precious little girl this evening, but she doesn't speak English. She asked me (in Russian) to read her a story that's written in English, and wasn't very happy when I didn't translate it into Russian as I read it aloud. I don't know the vocabulary for the story, but thankfully her mom was still there to translate for us. I remember enough to sort of follow what her mom says to her (I say sort of because I usually double-check to make sure I'm understanding properly), but all I can really say to her is what's this, do you want me to read this, what do you want/like to do, I like to cook/read/play, things like that. Later I tried to read a book to her that was already written in Russian, but it takes me too long to process the Cyrillic characters now, which makes my reading very stilted (and let's not talk about my pronunciation), so she didn't like that very much (although she still wanted to play with me after so she doesn't think I'm totally stupid anyway).

It makes my heart ache a little, because I want to understand, I want to be better at interacting and speaking with her, but I'm not. Even if I knew the word for something at one point, when I took Russian a year and a half ago, I can only think of the Spanish word when I try to recall it. There is so much I need to learn and do, and it's so frustrating that I can't do it all at once. I don't even know Spanish that well. These things take years, years that I'm too impatient for. I'm so tired of waiting. At least when I'm cooking, even with fairly involved and time-intensive projects like this one, I'm rewarded for my work on the order of hours instead of months and years. Anyway, by the time I post this on Wednesday, I'll have been satiated with a gelato sandwich (read: two or three sandwiches), so that's something.

This is not at all my prettiest work slash best presentation, but it tastes pretty good, I dare say.

Strawberry Gelato Sandwiches

Strawberry Gelato
from the Ciao Bella Book of Gelato & Sorbetto, as always

1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced thinly
3/4 c sugar, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch or two smoked Maldon salt (totally optional, but yummy)
2 c whole milk
1 c cream
4 egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan heat cream and milk to 170 degrees F, stirring frequently.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the yolks and 1/2 c sugar until the mixture has thickened and turned pale yellow.  Carefully stream in a 1/2 c or so of the hot cream-milk mixture, whisking constantly, to temper them.  Pour the yolk mixture back into the pot, then heat slowly to 185 degrees F, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.  

Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, to remove any tiny bits of cooked yolk.  Cool completely in the refrigerator for ~4 hours.  Once cooled, stir in the vanilla extract.

Meanwhile, toss the strawberries with 1/4 c sugar and the lemon juice. Let them macerate for 15 minutes before cooking them over medium-low heat until the syrup has begun to reduce and the strawberries are beginning to fall apart, 10 minutes or so. Let them cool to room temperature, sprinkle over the salt, then stow in the fridge until completely chilled.

Once both the custard and the strawberries are cold, take 3/4 of the strawberries and purée them. Add all the strawberries into the custard, stirring completely.  Churn the custard in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions (~20 minutes), then freeze completely for a few hours.

Brownie Cookies

3 c (375 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (225 grams) butter, softened
1 1/2 (300 grams) cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk dry flour, salt and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer.  Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Roll the dough into a log, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least one hour.

Roll the log of dough on the counter to smooth out any bumps, then remove the plastic wrap and slice into medallions.  Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8 to 11 minutes (the former for 1/8-inch thick cookies, the latter for 1/4-inch cookies) until the edges are firm and the centers are slightly soft and puffed.  Cool the cookies completely before proceeding to making the sandwiches.


Let the gelato get soft enough to scoop, but not so soft that it's melty -- trust me, I had to fight mine and it wasn't pretty.  Put a scoop on each of the bottom cookies, freeze completely, then top with the lid cookies and freeze again.

Protip: I should've done this. You can freeze the gelato in a rectangular pan, and then use a cookie cutter to cut out medallions of gelato that will fit perfectly (and non-messily) into the sandwich.

Baked Beans

Hola, amigos. Solamente diez y cinco días hasta voy a Chile. He estado practicando castellano con mi amiga y compañera de piso Julia (ella es de Colombia). No se me permite hablar en inglés en mi apartamento cuando ella está a la casa (la mayor parte del tiempo), que me ha ayudado mucho, pero puede estar muy difícil con mi vocabulario restringido. También yo olvido muchas palabras que Julia ha diciendo a mi durante la conversación, entonces frecuentemente necesito que pedirla para escribirlo en mi cuaderno. Pues estoy aprendiendo, y se hace más fácil cada día. Ahora también estoy tratando recordar como hablar en ruso, porque voy a cuidar la hija de mi compañero esta semana, y ella solamente habla ruso y bosnio. Ella sabe cinco o seis palabras en inglés (ella tiene dos años y medio solamente), pero estará más fácil y probablemente más cómodo para ella si puedo hablar en su lengua materna. Lo siento por todos los errores de gramática que probablemente he habido aquí, pero pensé que sería divertido escribir este en castellano. ¡Que disfruten!

Hello, friends. Only fifteen days until I go to Chile. I've been practicing Spanish with my friend and roommate Julia (she's from Colombia). I'm not allowed to speak English in my apartment when she's home (most of the time), which has helped me a lot, but it can be very difficult with my limited vocabulary. Also I forget a lot of the words that Julia tells me when we're conversing, so I often need her to write them in my notebook. But I'm learning, and it gets easier every day. Now I'm also trying to remember how to speak Russian, because I'm going to babysit my coworker's daughter this week, and she only speaks Russian and Bosnian. She knows five or six words in English (she's only two and a half years old), but it will be easier and probably more comfortable for her if I'm able to speak in her native language. Apologies for all the grammar mistakes that I probably made here, but I thought it would be fun to do this post in Spanish. Enjoy!

Baked Beans
adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1 pound dry navy beans, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 c chopped onion
1 c chopped celery
4-5 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Dash ground clove
1 1/2 c ketchup*
1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Soak the rinsed beans overnight in plenty of water.

Drain and rinse the beans after soaking. In a large pot, boil the beans with 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, bay leaves, and 8 c of water for 45 minutes to an hour, until soft. Reserve 1 1/2 c cooking liquid before draining the beans.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large pot (I just used the same one I cooked the beans in, less cleanup) over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, sautéing for 5 minutes or so until they've begun to soften. Add in 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes, cumin, clove, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2-3 minutes until toasty and fragrant. Add in the reserved cooking liquid, ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard, simmering for 4 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Gently stir in the cooked beans and simmer everything together for 5 minutes.

Bake the beans in the oven, uncovered, for 2 hours. Since I'm not really doing the meat thing right now I ate mine with a grilled cheese, but a hot dog would've been tasty.

*A note on the ketchup: Look. You're using a cup and a half of the stuff -- like most of the sauce is ketchup. I super recommend a) making your own ketchup that won't have weird preservatives and flavorings and whatever or b) buying some that doesn't have all that not-tasty stuff in it (just read the label -- I look for NO corn syrup, nothing that says flavored -- if you're flavoring it with garlic and onion I want those things to be ingredients not flavorings --, and tomatoes as the first ingredient listed).