Hello friends.
Before we go any further, there is some news that I must give you. It is good news. It is exciting news.
Teh Noms du Jour is moving!!!!!!
About 8 months ago, while talking with my friend Leah, the idea of an All-Girl culinary gang came up. A group of girl food bloggers who were friends, who were talented, who thought each other were hilarious, and who had a serious love for talking about food, writing about food, and making food (AND baking!) A group of badass girls who knew what they're on about, but weren't afraid to laugh at themselves if things flopped, and ask questions so next time the flop maybe didn't happen.
And inspired with a great name, Pretty Girls Use Knives was born!!!
Please check out all the girls, because they are all wonderful and talented, and please come back often, because so many things are going to go on there, and we would love your support!! BUT, so that you can direct-link to my blog or add it to your Google Reader or whatever you do... here is the link to my personal PrettyGirl Blog: www.prettygirlsuseknives.com/johanna
Never fear, dear friends.... any entries you may want to review or reflect upon will still be find-able, since I have imported ALL the Teh Noms du Jour recipes into the new blog.

Now that all the joy and celebration and the big reveal have happened, I can get into something that I need to get off my chest.
I am a fairly competent baker. And I can make one hell of a biscuit. IN fact, I never even blogged about the Proustian flashback I nearly gave Jesse's Oklahoman soul with my most recent batch of biscuits and gravy. Suffice it to say, I am a biscuit maker.
So when I tackled strawberry shortcake a la Deb from SmittenLand, I was feeling pretty confident. After all, hers are beautiful. They're little fluffy biscuits, and they look heavenly.
So I made my best personal attempt. I boiled my eggs and got such beautiful yellow yolks. I didn't cut the butter up until RIGHT when I meant to throw it in.

And yet.....
I was foiled. Foiled by the instructions to process until the flour looked like coarse meal. Foiled by trying to make biscuits with a machine. Foiled by a hot night and not cold enough butter.
Foiled. Look at them - they're....they're...... flat. Pale. They spread. They didn't get tall. They didn't get brown. They didn't really....do.... anything. They weren't dense. They weren't light. They tasted ok, but they did NOT look ok at first glance.
I mean.... once you pile macerated strawberries that you bought at the farmer's market that morning, you can't really see the ugly shortcakes...which leads me to the only corollary I've ever developed:

With enough whipped cream on top, all dessert sins can be forgiven or ignored.
Seeya at PrettyGirls. :)


By Request.

I love a reader request.
Because at heart, in the very core of my nature, I'm a people-pleaser. You have a request? Of course I'll make my every effort to fulfill it! German Chocolate birthday cake? Sure! Seared tuna? Sure! Fried chicken or pumpkin risotto or fried cheese sticks? I'll do my darnedest.
This also extends to blogging. Because sometimes, I forget that there are people on other glowing screens wondering what I'll say next. And I'm very sorry for that.
So, when the talented and entertaining Blue Jean Gourmet requests, nay, demands that I blog about my chimichurri and my blackberry tart, well...... how can I say no?

On Memorial Day, after a lovely afternoon spent lying in the sun reading at Prospect Park, Jesse and I realized we had nothing for dinner. Flank Steak with Chimichurri seemed an excellent idea.
Having never made chimichurri before, I sought the opinion of experts. And let me just say that while Ingrid Hoffman may not necessarily be an expert, at least her recipe didn't involve either cilantro or jalapenos. I like Ingrid.
Into my blender, I put an entire bunch of parsley (stems and all), some dried oregano, 2 garlic cloves, the juice and zest of a lemon, a little hot sauce, a few dashes of white wine vinegar, and some salt. I set it a-blending, and streamed in some oil. I started with olive oil, and switched to vegetable oil after a few seconds. I added more salt and pepper, and a teensy bit more hot sauce, which Ingrid doesn't call for, but I figured she won't be able to find my house in time to tear me apart over it, if it really upsets her.
When the sauce finally came together, it was thick, gloppy, and perfect for marinating. I salted and peppered the flank steak, and then brushed it with the chimichurri sauce and put it in the fridge.
When it was time to go, I grilled the steak, brushing it with more chimi right before it went on the grill, let it rest, sliced it thin, and served it with some chimichurri-dressed grilled potatoes, and a lentil salad. Because honestly chimi is Argentinian pesto, and it can go with whatever you like. Just don't let the Argentinians kill me for saying that.

I had also read a great post over at Adele's blog, about a Brown-Butter Raspberry Tart from Gourmet that she tinkered with, that lead to a Brown-Butter Brown-Sugar Raspberry Tart. And I do love me some tinkering, so the following weekend, to go with some fried chicken, we had a tart.
I got the chance to tinker a little more, because of course my grocery store doesn't carry raspberries right now, so we had a blackberry tart. Mmmm. I made Adele's recommended shortbread crust. I have to say that I'm 100% certain this is the right way to go. However, should we get lucky enough to bike to the Farmer's Market tomorrow (pray for no rain), I will be happy to attempt to replicate the tart, just to be sure. All for science, y'know.

I made the crust while marinating my chicken in buttermilk. Then, once the chicken had gone into the skillet (fried chicken takes a good half-hour), I browned the half-stick of butter, let it cool sort of, and set it aside. Then, of course, I washed out the mixer bowl from the pastry making, and flipped the chicken while the mixer combined 1 egg, 4 tablespoons of white sugar, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (they were heaped. I'm not a good measurer, and I love brown sugar), a quarter-teaspoon (ish) of salt, and a half-teaspoon of vanilla (ish).
I added the quarter-cup of All-Purpose flour, and the browned butter. And then, I set to stacking my blackberries.
Blackberries tip over. They wobble. They have that one big nasty seed in them and they're generally not the easiest things to get to stand up and look pretty. But, they taste delicious. So, I persevered, poured in the custard, and baked the tart while getting the chicken taken care of. As I was putting the first piece of chicken on a baking sheet lined with brown paper bags to cool, the timer went off, and this was what came out of the oven:
I have never had such good luck with timing in my life. Please go thank Adele at once for tinkering with this recipe, and thank the gods of the kitchen for letting me get it all to the table without screwing up my chicken. :)


Would I leave you hanging??

Here it is. The promise made good from the last entry.

Just to recap, here's where we started:
3 peppers (red, yellow, orange) and a container of grape tomatoes. The tomatoes halved, the peppers just the way they are. Drizzle the tomatoes and peppers with a little bit of oil (olive or the type of your choosing). Smear it all over the peppers, and sprinkle everything with some coarse salt and pepper.
Stick them in the oven at 325-350. Do something else.

An hour or two later, take a look. You should see something like this:
Peppers all soggy and deflated, tomatoes getting shrivelly and sweet. If it doesn't look like this, put them back and wait 20 minutes, then check again. When the peppers look like this, pull them out and put them in a bowl cover tightly with plastic wrap, and busy yourself with trying not to eat all the tomatoes.
Once the peppers are cool enough to touch, pour the juice that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl through a strainer into the blender caraffe. Then, peel and seed the peppers. This will hurt. Running them under cold water helps. Once they're all peeled and the seeds are out, dump them in the blender with the aforementioned juices. Spin it all together until it makes a nice puree.
With the blender running, add in the majority of the tomato halves. I left out about 6. Maybe it was 8. Whatever. Don't judge me - slow-roasted tomatoes are the best thing on earth.

Heat a saucepot with a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon(ish) of butter. Throw in a very small onion, chopped. Seriously, if this onion is any bigger than a baseball -- ANY BIGGER -- cut it in half and wrap up the other half. In fact, if it's one of those softball-sized monstrosities Rachael Ray always manages to find, use a quarter. We're going for flavor base, not onion soup.
Let the onion get a little see-through in the butter/oil mix before adding in a pinch of salt, and about a tablespoon of cumin, a teaspoon of garam masala, a teaspoon of tumeric, and half a tablespoon of dried oregano. Ok, I'm making up these measurements. But it's reassuring, isn't it? Basically, you'll be able to smell when it's right. If you can't, then taste it, and re-season. The measurements just make it look all safe and credible.
When you've got a nice base of flavors and your onions are soft, add in the pepper/tomato puree. Then, add about 2 and a half cups of chicken stock. I added almost all of a 26-ounce container, so I'm estimating. Roughly. Stir, and let it come to a bubble. Simmer until the flavors taste nice. I added about a tablespoon of hot sauce because it needed a little something. Go with your senses.
Because if you do, you'll get this:

I topped it with a little of the leftover avocado cream from last night's wonderment. It was pefect. Creamy, cool, nice and basic to the slightly acidic tang of the soup.

You can make this. It's easy. And it doesn't take all that long. Try it on a Saturday. I promise, you can do this.


Tonight, we're having roasted red pepper and tomato soup. And homemade bread. Get excited.


Top Chef?

So I'm watching Top Chef: Masters, and I realized that my delicious din, cooked tonight, was something I could talk about on here. I also feel odd not blogging for 10 days, it feels like it's been a lot longer, since I've been cooking and there was a whole week of actual menus that I didn't share and....
I'm bad. I know, I'm bad.
I've made fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, roast chicken, parmesan crusted chicken, roast pork, carbonara, a blackberry tart, flank steak with chimichurri.....
And tonight.
Tonight, I made....
That's a fried egg with blackbean cakes and avocado cream.
If you make this dish for only one reason, you should make it for the avocado cream. I don't even like sour cream, and yet when you combine avocado, parsley (me +cilantro = bleh) sour cream, lime juice, and salt. Make sure your avocado is very ripe, because you want the smoothest, creamiest sauce possible.
This is fantastic. Make it. For brunch. For dinner. For whatever. Just make this. Please?

And I promise I'll blog better. Now that I'm getting some energy back, and once it stops raining, I'll feel better.

I wouldn't lie to you.