Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Golden Night

Ok, so as of tonight, the Awards Season has officially begun! Oh, I know, I know. The People's Choice Awards have already been on and the low-rent, painful-to-watch Critic's Choice Awards have, too. But tonight, it's the glittering GOLDEN GLOBES! The Oscars are more auspicious, of course, but the Golden Globes are more fun. Maybe it's because the A-List movie stars are forced to slum it with the poor folks from the small screen. Maybe it's because the dress code seems more relaxed--still formal but with a touch of whimsy and a skosh sexier. And there seems to be more gaiety in the room--same amount of gays, probably, but more frivolity amongst the attendees, is what I meant--which may be due to unbridled imbibing at their tables. It is intriguing to see which of our American royalty is going to get trashed and a little too rowdy, perhaps delivering a slurred and meandering acceptance speech, or even forget to come back from the bathroom before her category is announced. What's not to look forward to?

I am also excited and quite pleased with myself because this is the most ready I have ever been to watch the Globes and soon, the Oscars. I have devoted my winter break to seeing as many of the nominated films as possible. Please recognize my outstanding achievement in cinematic spectatorship to date (keeping in mind that I live in a teeny little town where smaller, independent, artsy, or foreign films rarely play):

Burn After Reading
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Gran Torino
In Bruges
Kung-Fu Panda
Mamma Mia!
Pineapple Express
Slumdog Millionaire
Tropic Thunder
The Wrestler

Remain to be seen:
Cadillac Records
I've Loved You So Long (and the other foreign films which are harder to track down!)
Last Chance Harvey
Rachel Getting Married
The Reader
Revolutionary Road
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I know, right? Not bad for a poor movie-goer in rural, northern New York/southern Quebec! So to celebrate, I will prepare myself a special supper to enjoy while watching the Globes later this evening. I have already made THE BEST pre-function, EVER! I know I'm a little late on this one, but I made this TO-DIE-FOR Texas Caviar, which is not caviar at all, but rather a zesty dip made with black-eyed peas that is simply delicious with tortilla chips (or if you prefer to eat it with a spoon, then call it a marinated bean salad). I have been meaning to make this for New Year's (as eating black-eyed peas is supposed to bring good luck and/or wealth in the new year), but I could never settle on a definitive recipe. I was enticed last year by Homesick Texan's version, and then again this year by the Pioneer Woman's. Not being able to choose between them, I sort of combined the two recipes and then put my own twists on it, as is always my way. Of course, it's the kind of dish that you can add or remove things you like or don't like, and it'll still work. Mine turned out AMAZING! I am not fooling. It is so good that I want to dive into the bowl and live in there! You must, must, must try this! Even if you think you don't like black-eyed peas, this will change your mind.

Gina's (Send W Back to) Texas Caviar
(adapted from Homesick Texan and The Pioneer Woman Cooks!)

1/2 cup olive oil (could cut this back to 1/3 C if you choose)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or vinegar of your choice)
juice of half a lime (about one tablespoon--or go crazy and use the whole lime!)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (Tabasco or I adore Trader Joe's version)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground celery seed (you can use celery salt, but then cut back on the regular salt)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar (less or more, to taste)

3 large or 4 small green onions, sliced
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (I used red chiles that looked like this
for both color and heat)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed well and drained
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together. Add all of the prepared vegetables on top. Gently combine. Let chill for several hours so that the flavors mingle (or do as I did and eat a quarter to a third of it immediately and leave the rest to chill until the next day...tee hee).

*You might also choose to add a couple of stalks of celery (chopped), and/or a red, orange or yellow bell pepper (seeded and chopped), and/or one cucumber (peeled, seeded, and chopped). It’s ALL good with this recipe!

Now for dinner tonight, I will be enjoying some grilled pork steaks that have been soaking in a rockin' Asian-style marinade since yesterday. The marinade is the sort of thing that I just start pulling bottles out of the fridge and cupboards to concoct, but roughly, it is comprised of soy sauce (1/2 cup), rice vinegar (1/4 cup), honey (1/4 cup), chile paste (2 teaspoons), minced garlic (1 tablespoon), onion powder (1 teaspoon), ground ginger (1 teaspoon--though I prefer fresh ginger when I have it on hand), black pepper (1/2 teaspoon), and Worcestershire (1 tablespoon). I'm just guess-timating the amounts, but you get the idea. I shall grill the marinated pork steaks (indoors, I'm afraid, as it's currently one degree above zero--oops, check that, now zero degrees), and serve them with steamed rice, and some green vegetable that I unearth from the freezer (I think I spied some french-cut green beans in there that would be tasty with a little butter and lemon pepper). Of course, none of these dishes are thematically linked to the Golden Globes. Usually, I like to make GOLDEN food for the Golden Globes. Perhaps the beloved hot artichoke dip to start, then pork chops with golden mushroom soup (ok, it's more orange, but it's got GOLDEN in the name!) over golden egg noodles served with Dorie Greenspan's golden brioche loaf? And then I serve my golden foods on my golden dishware (retro, amber-colored glassware from the thrift store) on top of golden chargers from my Christmas collection. Yes, this is the sort of thing that amuses me.

Though my appetizer and entrees will not conform to the theme this year, I did make a golden dessert for the occasion. Yesterday, I was helping my friend find a bakery from which to order a long-distance birthday cake, and I came across this one place whose website said that they always had "smash cakes" on hand. Having never heard of a smash cake, I Googled it and found some recipes that all involved a homey dessert made with a box mix that sounded easy and kind of yummy. But it did not sound like the sort of thing a specialty bakery would keep on hand. So I keep Googling, and finally discovered another definition for
smash cake, which is the tiny sidecar cake that a bakery makes to match a larger cake for a baby's birthday. That way, little Junior can smash the little cake as is the privilege of the infant birthday boy or girl, and the rest of the guests can still have a piece of un-mangled cake. Very cute and quite sensible.

However, I still wanted to make the other smash cake for fun. It was super-easy and tasted pretty good; however, as I took my first bite, I was reminded of something very similar that I made a long time ago,
Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake (which is also known as St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake for its city of origin). I looked up that recipe, and guess what? It was the same recipe, except that Paula's doesn't have nuts, but she does add an extra stick of butter (big surprise). It seemed strange to me that just reading the recipe--and/or the process of making it--didn't jog my memory of the gooey butter cake. But it was the first, overly-sweet bite that brough it all rushing back. Mind you, I had already cut the sugar by HALF out of instinct, but when I make this again (and I will--it's easy and good), I will cut the sugar by at least half again (from almost four cups to two to one at the most!).

Smash Cake (aka Gooey Butter Cake aka St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake)

1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup chopped pecans (I micro-toasted mine for a minute or two)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
few drops of lemon oil, or 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, optional
1 cup powdered sugar (most recipes call for a pound, which is 3 3/4 cups!)

Mix first three ingredients. Press batter into ungreased 9 x 13 pan (I sprayed my pan with nonstick spray). Press pecans into the batter. (Some people do it this way, but if you don't press the pecans into the crust well enough, they will float up and mix into the topping. So I solved this problem by mixing the pecans into the batter and then pressing it all into the bottom of the dish, as many other bakers do. This worked fine.)

Beat cream cheese, eggs, vanila, lemon (if using) and powdered sugar together until creamy. Pour over batter.

Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Do not cut into squares until thoroughly cooled.

Before I sign off and go grill my pork steaks and steam my side dishes, I will leave you with one last photo of the Aerogarden experiment after one week. Actually, this was day eight when the parsley finally made its appearance. I will attempt to post a pic once a week from here on out so that interested viewers and would-be Aerogardeners can track the progress of my little indoor plot.


Anonymous said...

You better put salad on the menu for next week. It looks like you have found a use for old CD's.

Your boys on the west coast.

Anonymous said...

As I was reading this I also immediately thought of Paula's gooey cake - which I have never made but have the page turned down in the recipe book. I thihk I'm gonna love your blog!!!!!!!!!