Greetings from sunny Seattle! That is to say, it’s sunny as I type this. What it will be doing when you read it is anyone’s guess. Seattle is unpredictable exciting like that.
Unlike Seattle, you may have noticed that I am fairly predictable in the kitchen and tend to work in themes. One week I’m all about blueberries, the next I’ve gone gaga on turkey, then I’m crazy over cranberries, and suddenly along comes a large splash of lemon. I am not entirely sure why this is so, but it seems reasonable to suggest that I buy too much of whatever ingredient it is for the first idea, and then have to think up other ideas to use up the rest. I hate to see good food go to waste. Another possible explanation is that once I get an idea about flavor combinations, or a theme, or some new technique for using something, my brain darts off in a myriad different directions about all the possibilities that offers up. I am all for making the most of everything. Strike while the iron’s hot!! As they say.
A week or so ago I went on a bit of a stuffed mushroom fest. It wasn’t intentional when I started out, but after I had so much fun with the Mushroom Tuna Melt, every time I saw a mushroom I wanted to stuff it with something. Those Portobellos with Tuna Salad were really good, and I didn’t even miss the whole bread part of a traditional Tuna Melt.
So at the grocery store a few days ago I was staring at some mushrooms – wondering, as you do, what I could stuff them with – and before I knew it, my brain was being sabotaged by the word ‘P I Z Z A’. Who knows. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to make individual pizzas out of Portobellos; then I thought how much more fun it would be if they were bite-sized pieces of pizza.
Aren’t they fun?
I love eating food with my fingers – not very British of me, I know – but the messier I can get when eating, the better it is as far as I am concerned. These totally fit the messy-to-eat bill. More to the point, they’re scrumptious.
Being single – with kitties that are not the least bit interested in eating mushrooms – I made this like a personal pan pizza and scarfed down the whole thing. You could also serve it as a side – two mushrooms each for 4 people, or 4 pieces each for a couple of you.
I used Trader Joe’s Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausages, but by jove you can use any pre-cooked sausage you darn well choose. I say pre-cooked because you really only heat the meat through under the broiler (grill), so pre-cooked sausages makes these super-easy, and ensure that the meat is cooked properly. Look for sausages that have no added sugar, no starchy fillers, no artificial ingredients, and are high in protein. Like sausages should be.
These are super-fun, super-fast, and super-flavorful – everything that your mouth and brain need to forget there’s no pizza dough involved. All of the upside, none of the downsides. We love that!
You can adapt these by topping your pizza bites with whatever you fancy – as long as it’s SANE of course.
I really should have titled this post “Things I learnt In My Therapist’s Office”, but I am as certain as I can be that 99% of the things I learn in my Therapist’s office are of zero interest to anyone but me; oh, and my long-suffering Therapist. I say long-suffering, but he’ll sure miss me when he’s finished fixing me. I can be highly entertaining when I circle myself into some ridiculously non-sensical argument. He’ll also miss the generous amounts of sass I serve up on a weekly basis. I’ll definitely miss having someone hold my feet to the fire, and forcing me – ahem, I mean encouraging me – to view things in a different way. I’ve learned a lot, in therapy. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my Therapist.
One of the things I learned in my Therapists’s office a few weeks ago, however, is something that apparently a lot of you are very interested in learning too, and that’s how to cook a pork chop. I must have shown up way early that day because I had enough time to read some crazy scientific paper on the science of cooking a pork chop to retain maximum juiciness. Nope, I am not kidding you. It was like 7 pages of graphs and charts and data analysis and other scientific gobbledygook. I suspect that you don’t have the time – or the inclination – to read 7 pages of pork chop geekery, so just like I tend to do with Bailor’s stuff, I am going to boil it all down into just 6 words for you. There’s just 6 sweet little words between you and pork chop perfection.
But before I do, let me just say THANK YOU, Mr. Therapist, for putting up with my BS for over 6 long years, for telling me when I am being ridiculous, for being one of my biggest cheerleaders, for only calling the EMTs on me once, and for teaching me many, many, manyimportant things. Including how to cook a pork chop. Eddie, you’re awesome.
THAT, is a perfect pork chop, people. Perfectly cooked, perfectly juicy, perfectly perfect. So what’s the 6 word secret?
Do not heat the pan first.
Or, put another way:
Start with a stone cold pan.
That’s it. THAT, ladies, gentlemen, and beloved SSoS’ers, is the secret to pork chop nirvana. A cold pan.
I had to try it out because it sounds so absurd, but also because I really want juicy pork chops for the rest of my life. So I got my cold chops, slapped them in a cold, dry pan, put them on the cold stove, and then whacked the heat up.
And then I watched. I seared them with a spatula. I turned them over. I seared them with a spatula.
Then I peered warily into the pan, my forehead wrinkled with worry when I saw that the pan was completely dry. And I do mean COMPLETELY. I became convinced I was going to have the driest pork chops EVER. UGH.
Then I turned them over. Then, when they were golden brown, I slid them onto the waiting plate, because despite not pre-heating the pan or using oil, they did not take any longer to cook than the way I had always cooked them before. Which is both impossible, totally weird, and completely awesome, all at the same time.
Then I ate them.
Want to know why the pan was completely dry while they were cooking? Because all of those divine porky juices were sloshing around inside the chops. True story.
I have no clue why or how this worked. I don’t care. It does; I have done it 7 8 9 10 11 times.
Now, hurry up over to your stove and getting cooking. Chop, chop!
PS. No, these were not fancy schmancy organic, grass-raised pork chops from rainbow-grunting pigs fed on truffles and warm milk, and housed in heated apartments with running water and duck-down mattresses. These were regular pork chops from the grocery store. Actually they were really cheap regular pork chops from the gorcery store. I’m thinking that if this technique makes the beaten-up old Honda of pork chops taste like this, I am not sure I could handle a Rolls Royce pork chop cooked the same way.
My life, lately, appears to be revolving around blueberries. This is quite odd because I never grew up with blueberries. I grew up with raspberries – tons of raspberries – and strawberries, and gooseberries, and with the odd blackberry thrown in for good measure. Not one single blueberry was to be had.
The first time I ate a blueberry was in Canada – pretty soon after I ate my first American pancake; which was a few weeks after I ate my first nachos, and a few weeks before I ate soft-serve ice cream that you could take home in a cardboard box. That soft-serve-at-home moment got me way more twitterpated than it really should have, but when you grew up thinking that soft-serve could only come on a cone from the ice cream van, being able to buy it in a waxed carton to take home and eat at your leisure was THE BOMB. Then there was my first view of a 15″ pizza, my very first ever hotdog, and canned pumpkin. Gosh, Canada was quite the food experience now I look back on it.
I like blueberries, but they’re not my favorite. Raspberries will always be my favorite because my father grew raspberry canes, and every summer I would get to go down to the bottom of the garden and pick bowlfuls of huge, juicy, magnificent red berries. Some of them were so huge and heavy I wondered how the slender stems held them up. We always had far more raspberries than my mother knew what to do with. She made a lot of jam, and I regularly ate Raspberry Flan for breakfast. (Note: Flan in England is completely different to flan in America. An English flan is a light sponge cake with raised sides that you fill with fresh fruit and serve with cream. In America, flan is what we Brits would call crème caramel or caramel custard). Americans pronounce flan with a really long ‘a’ which always makes me want to giggle.
My favorite way to eat raspberries was to pop a frozen berry in my mouth and let it thaw onto my tongue. My mother open-froze them before stashing them in the deep freeze, so in summer there was always at least one tray of raspberries balancing on top of everything else in the freezer, waiting for her to pack them into boxes. Mmmmm, frozen raspberries. Like the best popsicle ever but with none of the time or effort.
While blueberries would never be my first berry pick, I am always happy to eat them if they are there. Blueberries are an American institution, though, so I completely understand that I need to make stuff with blueberries in. My current blueberry-itis started with Vanilla Blueberry Pancakes. Actually, that’s not quite true. It started when Fred Meyers had fresh blueberries on sale for $1.88. To give you context, they normally sell – in Seattle anyway – for $3.99; so it was a given that I was taking some of those squidgy blue berries home to my kitchen. Right away.
I started with SANE Vanilla Blueberry Pancakes. “Not a day too soon!” I heard many of you cry. Then I whipped up some Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream, which went down an absolute storm at the first SANE Ice Cream Taste Test I conducted at the office. Then I had a desperate plea on the Marmalade Facebook page from Deb saying that she had just bypassed the most amazing looking Blueberry Scone at Starbucks, and that I needed to make a SANE version. PLEASE!! So when I peered in my ‘fridge and saw blueberries left over from the ice cream and pancake adventures, I knew exactly what to do with them. Blueberry Scones with a twist – because I was still high from Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream success.
I am not sure what else I really need to say here. These scones are stinkin’ awesome, and you should hurry off to your kitchen right now and make a batch. And that’s coming from a non-blueberry lover.
I deliberately made these thick and rustic looking – a little bit rough and ready around the edges. The cooking temperature and time reflect this, so if you choose to make your scones thinner so that you have more, you will need to tweak the cooking time and temp accordingly.
They are a light, buttery scone studded with juicy blueberries that ‘pop’ when you bite into them. Eat them hot out the oven, naked. (I meant the scones, not you – but hey, who am I to tell you how to dress when you eat your SANE Blueberry Cheesecake Scones?). Eat them slathered with butter. Pile on some SANE jam and whipped coconut cream. Or eat them my favorite way – with SANE Lemon Curd. However you decide to do it, just eat them.
PS. Want other SANE scoones and biscuits? Go here.
I have no idea why my mother never made her own Lemon Curd, but she didn’t. I have a vague recollection of her being scared of cooking anything resembling an egg custard, so maybe that was it, although I don’t know why egg custards would scare her. Really they’re just like making cheese sauce or instant custard, and she made those all the time. The downside to her egg custard fear is that I inherited it. Similarly, I still can’t swim because my father never went near water.
Luckily for me, becoming obsessed with making the best ice cream on earth cured me of my egg custard fear in about 73 minutes; because you just cannot make the most fantastic ice cream ever if it doesn’t involve an egg custard. I just wish it hadn’t taken me as many years as it did to discover that egg custards are easy, beautiful, and making them is downright therapeutic – at least for me. I lost count of how many egg custards I had made by the time I was in my 4th month of ice cream production.
Egg custards taught me – once again – that the fear is always worse than the reality. Me and egg custards are best buds now. Egg custards are the best excuse I know to stand by the stove and do nothing except gaze lovingly into a saucepan and stir the contents. These days, when I need a break from doing, I make something that requires an egg custard; just so I can stand still for 12 minutes. Egg custards rock.
I learned very early on in life that lemon anythingthat came out of a packet, was not even in the same ballpark as that same anythingmade from scratch with real, live lemons. Lemons that used to grow on trees, and that you have to grate and squeeze to get the goodies out of them. If my memory serves me correctly I learned that the day my mother made my father a lemon cheesecake from scratch for his birthday one year. Prior to that she had only ever made cheesecake out of a packet. After that we never had packet cheesecake again. With most things the difference between homemade and packet is palpable; with lemon, the difference is nothing short of profound.
I love lemonanything. LOVE. I’ll be using this SANE Lemon Curd as a base for many other recipes down the road, so if you like lemon stuff, I highly recommend that you get this recipe down pat. We’ll be using it a lot – and not just as a brilliant topping for Blueberry Cheesecake Scones (recipe up next!) – although it IS brilliant for that.
Love lemon? This *SANE Lemon Curd will make your taste buds sing.
Whisk the eggs well with a fork and pour into a small pan.
Add the xylitol, lemon juice, lemon zest, coconut oil, and butter.
Whisk ingredients together well.
Place on the stove over a medium heat and STIR CONSTANTLY as the mixture slowly thickens. It takes 12 - 15 minutes to thicken fully. Embrace it. Be patient.
DO NOT ALLOW THE MIXTURE TO BOIL - it will curdle or you will get scrambled eggs.
When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, quickly remove it from the heat and pour it through a fine mesh sieve into a clean glass lidded container (such as a Pyrex storage bowl). No, you cannot omit this step. It must be sieved!
Stir the mixture in the sieve until you are left with only the zest pulp and a few strands of egg. You can use a second, clean spatula to scrape the underside of the sieve as you go.
Once all the curd has been passed through the sieve, leave uncovered until completely cold, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent a skin from forming.
When cold, put the lid on the container and place in the 'fridge.
Hello! I am writing this on a Saturday. It will be posted on a Sunday. What day of the week is it now that you are reading it? I have no clue. And more to the point, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Food is not day-specific. We love that.
Another thing we love is that Mr. Bailor and I – I swear- share a brain. He has one side and I have the other, and then there’s some connecting bits between the two parts. When I stop to think how insanely (Ha! ha!) we compliment each other on just about every level there is, it about blows my mind. We’re even in sync when we don’t hang out for ages. Like telepathy, or something. Here’s an example – the other day he posted on Facebook asking folks how they liked their Tuna Salad; which was frankly bizarre, since just last weekend I had created this Mushroom Tuna Melt thing for you. Coincidence? Well, yes…but given that I have never made any kind of Tuna Salad before IN MY LIFE, it seems a little bit more than coincidental. Sometimes I wonder if he has my house wired.
Tuna Melt is one of those strange American things that I never really understood until I had been stateside for a while. We don’t have Tuna Melts in England. Well maybe we do now (anyone??), but we certainly didn’t when I was living there. Thinking about it, we’re really not huge tuna (pronounced “chew-na”) eaters in England; we’re way more into salmon. Americans, on the other hand, just loooooooove their tuna (pronounced “too-na”). They get all excited about the difference between the albacore and the chunk light; we Brits didn’t even know there was such a thing as albacore. Alba what?? I remember the first time I saw the dizzying array of canned tuna choices in a US grocery store. Heavens to Betsy! I just want a can of tuna, people.
Another thing that was a mystery to me when I arrived on this side of the pond was Portobello mushrooms. I don’t remember ever having heard of them in England. Portobello is the name of the world’s largest antiques market, and it’s in London. That’s all I know. Once I got to the good ol’ USA, however, I started seeing the word “Portobello” on menus and hearing people talk about it; to be honest I could never quite figure out what they were on about. Then one day I saw some ginormous Portobello mushrooms at the grocery store, and I knew I had to introduce myself.
I decided, in a random moment of “Let’s do something different!”, to marry a Portobello mushroom with a tuna melt, which after some cruising around the internet I discovered is essentially a tuna salad with melted cheese sandwich. Or something very close to that.
I grilled (broiled) a huge old Portobello mushroom, melted some cheese on it, and then, when it came bubbling and sizzling out of the oven, heaped tuna salad on top. It was fun, fast and fabulous. It was also delicious. I’ll be doing it again.
Jonathan will love this one: fish, Greek yogurt and tons of veggies – and really more assembly than cooking. Hurrah! He does love meals that don’t require more than assembly. That’s JB’s perfect kinda dish. Another thing that would make The Bailornator happy is that you can make a large batch of the tuna salad in advance and then just grill (broil) up your Portobello and cheese in 5 minutes when you get home for a super-fast, super-SANE supper. I took the rest of the tuna salad as lunch the next day, along with a Romaine lettuce. Lunch splendidness right there waiting in the ‘fridge as I headed out the door in the morning. Love that.
I love how all the textures work in this – creamy dressing, silky melted cheese and crisp, crunchy veggies; all topping a sturdy, substantial super-‘shroom. I ate mine out on the terrace in the dwindling Spring sunshine. It was quite lovely.
I have now completely embraced both Tuna Salad and Portobello mushrooms. Twelve years late, but I got there eventually.