Corn and Bacon Empanadas with Orange-Infused Honey Drizzle

Big news, imaginary internet people: I’m having the best week ever!

After eight long months of unemployment, as of this morning I have a job.

I’m the newest member of the marketing team at Free Spirit Publishing, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Everyone I’ve met there over the course of the three (count ‘em, three!) interviews feels like a friend already, and they (we!) do really important work – publishing books on positive youth development and resources for kids and teens.

I start in two weeks, so I guess I’d better get used to waking up before Days of Our Lives.

And there’s another reason I’m on cloud nine these days. I made an Argentinian-inspired dinner for Mom and Handsome Greg on Saturday night, and the corn empanadas with orange-infused honey were – gosh, can I even say it? – the best thing I’ve ever made.

I don’t like to play favorites, and that’s a really big thing to say, but these empanadas with their sweet, sticky sauce deserve the accolades.

The combination of flavors and textures – sweet, succulent corn, biting peppers and onions, salty bacon, gooey cheese, bright cilantro, crispy fried dough, and floral, citrusy honey – absolutely warrants my blatant abuse of tired adjectives.

There was much more orange honey than needed for the 12 empanadas, and it’s been a treat finding other things (besides a spoon) off of which to lick it. For starters, Mom’s popovers:

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Sweet Potato Chips with Rosemary Salt

Sweet Potato Chips with Rosemary Salt

Have you seen that Food Network show Barefoot Contessa, hosted by Ina Garten? Ina, an incredibly wealthy, preppy East Coaster, shares recipes and tips for entertaining in a soothing Bob Ross-style voice, punctuated with rhetorical questions and her trademark nervous giggle.

How easy is that?

While I do aspire to emulate the Barefoot Contessa by living a fabulously privileged life in the East Hamptons someday, full of florist friends and elegant soirees, I’ve had a difficult time adhering to one of Ina’s basic rules of entertaining: prepare only three dishes from scratch, and buy the rest of the menu pre-made from the deli counter.

You see, I’m known among my regular dinner guests as the hostess with the mostess ambition in the kitchen. I like to pour hours into making every morsel with my own two hands. I mean, I’ve made my own ketchup. The thought of leaving half the menu in the hands of the deli counter just feels wrong to me. And yet, Ina has a point – making everything myself often means that I spend the party in the kitchen exhausted, rather than enjoying dinner with my guests.

So I took a very important step with this recipe (if you can even call it a recipe). The first time I made sweet potato chips with rosemary salt, I sliced the potatoes, fried them in oil, and tossed them in rosemary and kosher salt. They were delicious – salty-sweet, perfectly crispy, with a fresh, pungent earthiness from the rosemary. And they were a huge pain in the ass to make.

The second time I prepared this delightful snack, I bought a bag of Terra Chips, tossed them in vegetable oil, rosemary, and kosher salt, and popped them in the oven for a couple minutes. They were every bit as good as the homemade version, and a lot less work.

Rosemary

But I have a reputation to uphold. So, if anyone asks, I risked my fingers and knuckles slicing paper-thin sweet potato chips on a mandolin slicer. Then I braved third-degree burns from the hot oil frying the chips to a perfect crisp. And oh! Dealing with the mess afterwards – a greasy splatter-slick covering the stove top and a quart of used oil to dispose of – what an ordeal! Of course, it was totally worth it.

Did that sound sincere?

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Green Rice

Last weekend I made a special dinner for Handsome Greg’s birthday. The meal began with his favorite pepperoni-stuffed chicken, and ended, sadly, with a boxed yellow cake mix and canned chocolate frosting.

I’d planned to make individual Boston cream pies, and in my birthday dinner dream, I would emerge from the kitchen looking like Donna Reed, carrying rounds of moist, airy sponge cake, layered with silky pastry cream and topped with glossy chocolate ganache.

By noon on Saturday, I had to face the fact that my Donna Reed fantasy was not to be realized that day. I was already behind schedule on the cooking and cleaning, when my very first attempt at making pastry cream ended with a gloopy bowl of disaster Play Doh. D’oh!

Dessert was ruined. I called Mom, had a bit of a temper tantrum, and asked her to drop everything and run to the store for a can of chocolate frosting to top the back-up boxed cake mix in the pantry. And because my mom rules, she humored me and my ridiculous meltdown, and she saved dessert.

I really think this time (yes, THIS TIME) I have learned my lesson about trying new recipes on special occasions. The truth is, I hate testing recipes, because I don’t want to have to make the same recipe twice. I’m always eager to try new recipes, so going back to old ones, even to make corrections, seems a terrible bore.

Green Rice

But I can change. And I’m starting with this recipe for spicy herbed green rice. I made it last summer for Mom and Handsome Greg to accompany a pineapple braised pork roast, and it’s so good, and so cheap, and so simple, that I promise to make it, as is, again and again!

Scallions

Or maybe next time I’ll change it up and add roasted poblano peppers…

cilantro

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Zucchini Ribbons

While I’m fully on board with the idea that one can cook with minimal tools, in practice, I adore kitchen gadgets, and I’ve grown dependent on luxury uni-taskers. At this point, I’m pretty sure I really need a garlic press and a cherry pitter and a mango slicer and an egg separator.

Zucchini Ribbons

When it’s two in the morning and I’m watching infomercials, three-glasses-of-wine Suzy is positive that LIFE WILL END without Eggies. At that point, unemployed-for-nearly-six-months Suzy hides the credit cards.

But, but, look at how cute they are! And no shells to peel! And deviled eggs!

Unemployed-for-nearly-six-months Suzy puts her foot down, and reminds three-glasses-of-wine Suzy that I (we?) don’t even really care for eggs.

At this point, three-glasses-of-wine Suzy remembers the $100 gift card to Cooks of Crocus Hill that Handsome Greg gave me for Christmas, and unemployed-for-nearly-six-months Suzy shuts the hell up.

That’s right. I’ve got one hundred smackers to blow on kitchen tools. What gadgets do I want? Is it time to buy a proper tart pan? Should I buy a food mill and stop borrowing Mom’s every time I make mashed potatoes? How about a silpat?

Zucchini Ribbons

 So maybe I don’t need the twirling spaghetti fork and the banana guard, but I simply couldn’t have made my favorite satin zucchini ribbons without the razor-sharp mandolin slicer Mom gave me a year ago Christmas. I don’t use it often, but when I need to julienne vegetables or cut perfectly even slices (like these delicate zucchini ribbons), nothing else will do.

 I sautéed the zucchini planks in garlic-infused olive oil, and seasoned them with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. They were bright and fresh as spring sunshine alongside the prosciutto, leek, and Swiss chard quiche.

Garlic lemon zucchini

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Crab and Artichoke Dip


On a Saturday evening every other month, Mom and Handsome Greg come to my place for a leisurely, candlelit dinner. I spend weeks preparing the menu, and developing and testing recipes. But despite my careful, down-to-the-minute scheduling of the shopping, cleaning, and food prep, when Mom and Greg arrive at Chez Galley Kitchen, I am generally rushing around in a mad panic to get the food done on time. Handsome Greg (who incidentally towers over me at nearly 6’4”) kindly offers to help, and is subsequently banished from my wee kitchen to open the wine and set the table.

One day I will learn my lesson. I will plan menus that aren’t needlessly complicated with too many dishes that require last-minute, pre-dinner devotion. I will have food on the table when my guests arrive, and I will feel like a grown-up or a superhero or Katie Couric. And when that day comes, the meal will begin with an easy, make-ahead appetizer, like a hearty, palette-pleasing spread.

This creamy, crabby, cheesy dip gets the party started with a nostalgic nod to 70s swank. I’d never had canned crab before and wasn’t sure what to expect (foodies talk some serious smack about canned crab), but it was delicious! It didn’t taste “canned” at all. With all the creamy, cheesy, mayo-y ingredients, I was a little nervous the dip would come out of the oven with an oil slick on top, so I used the light versions of the dairy and mayo, and the consistency was plenty decadent without being greasy.

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Corn Muffins

Friends, I have some very important, exciting news: today is my one year blogiversary! A year ago today, I set out to learn more about cooking, writing, and photography. On a beautiful, crisp September day, I posted my very first recipe—Caramel Apple Crisp—and Galley Kitchen was born.

I started with a very simple recipe that was not my own. In the following months, I grew more and more adventurous with ingredients and techniques, and I found that blogging was really changing the way I cook.

Thanks to Galley Kitchen, I conquered my fear of pie crust, addressed my perfectionism, made candies with Cap’n Crunch, entered a baking competition, learned to splurge on myself, and baked an apple pie with bacon on it.

I’ve had a perfectly lovely year sharing my successes and failures, and stories from my kitchen and my life.

My goals for the coming year include learning to cook fabulous dinners on an unemployed lady’s budget; learning to take decent photos after the sun has set; and learning some new adverbs. Someday I’d like to have the money to hire a designer to create a pretty, custom header for the top of my little blog, rather than the boring old WordPress default header. In the meantime, the food photos will have to suffice for decor.

For my blogiversary post, I’m sharing a recipe adaptation from my all-time favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, with thanks to the blogstress, Deb Perelman, for inspiring me to begin writing about food. Deb’s corny corn muffins are light and crumbly, and bejeweled with sweet, chewy bits of corn. The muffins are a perfect accompaniment to the rainbow chard chili I posted last week.

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