Lime Jalapeno Dressing

I’m making refried beans as the basis of my meal tonight (they’re cooking now; I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen with them), but I wanted a tossed salad to go along with it. I realized I didn’t know of any particularly Mexican salad dressings, so I threw this together. It turned out pretty well so I figured I’d post it.

Lime Jalapeno Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small pickled jalapeno (preferably homemade), minced
2 Tbsp pickled jalapeno brine
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1/2 to 1 small lime
1 tsp agave nectar
salt, to taste

Mix all ingredients together and adjust any of the ingredients to taste.

I served it on a simple tossed salad …

… but now that I’m all into grilling, I’m thinking it might be a good marinade for grilled veggies.

These are the pickled jalapenos I used:

I bought a pint of them – they are yellow – at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago and when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to use all of them, decided to pickle them (basically I’m pickling everything that crosses my path this summer). I think I just stuck them in cider vinegar with some peppercorns and hot pepper flakes (the peppers were fairly mild). The following week I made “real” pickled jalapenos by looking up recipes and seeing how you are “supposed” to do it (this involved cooking the jalapenos). I photographed that one, so when they’re ready (two more weeks), I’ll do a post.

Torticia helped me eat my salad.

Sorry, no pics of Gomez tonight; he was sleeping during salad time. He is, however, helping me type this post, although he’s really hindering more than helping. Now I need to extricate myself from Gomez and this laptop and go check my beans.

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Grilled Heart Attack, and Dill Relish

So, the kittens, Mark, and I all survived the weekend, which was an issue because we hosted a party for a bunch of people we don’t know. Which was especially difficult for us as a group because I’m extremely shy, Mark’s a member of the People Who Hate People Party, and the kittens are just baby kittens who’ve never experienced the turmoil of a bunch of strangers invading their home at one time. See, our friend Matty has graduated from college and is at long last on his way to becoming a sign language interpreter. And Matty needed a place to have a party because he lives in an apartment, and as everyone who sets foot in our house feels at home there (something I take pride in, but it’s as much this house just having some crazy great vibe as it is anything I do), he wanted to have it here. Matty has a lot more friends than I do, however, and knows a lot of people I don’t, meaning I knew maybe 10% of the guest list. It also meant this was not a vegan party. I generally throw one or two smallish parties a year, which are completely vegan, and which I completely cater. But I wasn’t about to tell Matty he had to have a vegan party and I didn’t have time to cater it either. So Matty bought a grill and he and his friends made hamburgers, and each of the guests brought a dish. I did buy a bunch of snack foods, though, and I went to the farmer’s market that morning and got a bunch of veggies that I cut up for dipping in my homemade ranch, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, and onions that I made into salsa, as well as tomatoes and onions for the very non-vegan burgers, and I made nacho dip, baked beans (in the crockpot), hamburger noodle bake, sourdough bread, and five grain levain rolls. Oh, and chocolate mousse ice cream. And iced tea. I didn’t intend to make that much food, I just can’t help myself. I didn’t take any pictures since most of what I didn’t make wasn’t vegan and you’ve already seen most what I made. I think I’m going to have to do a post on those rolls, though, because I got a ton of compliments on them. People seemed rather amazed by them, in fact. So maybe I’ll do that this weekend.

Anyway, everyone was very nice and I didn’t have a nervous breakdown or anything. I really am VERY shy around people I don’t know (although Matty and many other people have expressed surprise at this assertion), but I think having the party at my house actually helped because either I was too busy to be shy, or I figured since it was my house, people were obligated to be nice to me. The heat index was 110 degrees (43 Celsius for you non-Americans) Saturday, which made grilling very pleasant, I’m sure. The kittens were a huge hit, and they behaved exactly as I had hoped: too scared to leave the bedroom (and therefore not running outside or getting underfoot), but not so freaked out they wouldn’t come out to play for small groups of people who came to see them. There was a ton of food left over, all of which Matty packed up and took home with him (he won’t have to make himself dinner for a month), but he left the grill behind. So now I have a grill. Which is cool because I’ve always wondered if I’d like a grill, but never wanted to invest the money in case I didn’t.

In typical Renae fashion, I read the grill instructions front to back Sunday morning, then today came home from work feeling like a grilling master. Although I thought Mark might kill me for playing with fire when I’m home alone and have no idea what I’m doing, I decided I was going to grill dinner while waiting for him to get home from work. Today was a mere 89 degrees (32 Celsius) – seems practically chilly in comparison to this weekend; time to unpack the sweaters! – so it seemed like a good day for it. For my inaugural grilling, I made a recipe from the grill instructional manual, which must have been designed to kill anyone who eats it: Stuffed Hot Dogs. Wrapped in bacon. Seriously. You stuff hot dogs with cheese and relish, then wrap them in bacon and grill them. That’s it. I renamed it Grilled Heart Attack, although I don’t think the vegan version is going to cause any heart attacks. I thought I had relish, but I didn’t, so I made some, and a recipe for that follows.

Grilled Heart Attack, or Stuffed Hot Dogs

vegan hot dogs
vegan cheddar cheese, grated (like Daiya)
dill relish
vegan bacon

Keep in mind I have never worked a grill before in my life and I was doing this alone, so I could have been doing this all wrong…. but here’s what I did:

I made a pyramid of charcoal briquets, doused them in lighter fluid, and set them on fire.

I let them burn, then smolder, for about 15 minutes, until they were mostly covered in white ash.

I made a little pan out of aluminum foil, put it in the center of the charcoal rack, then used tongs to move the hot coals into a tight circle around the pan.

I let that smolder while I prepared the hot dogs. I cut each almost but not quite all the way through, then stuffed with relish and a bit of Daiya cheddar.

Then I wrapped a slice of vegan bacon around each one and placed it in my foil pan.

I also put some water-soaked corn (which I had de-silked) on the grate above them, then closed the grill.

I turned the corn a few times, and let it all cook for about 15 minutes, toasting some hot dog buns during the last couple of minutes.

I dressed the finished hot dogs with mustard …

… and served with left over baked beans.

I was unsure if I would, but I definitely did discern a unique grilled flavor in the veggie dog. Mark agreed. I’m not sure it would be worth going through the trouble just to grill a packaged veggie dog, but overall it was a successful foray into grilling and I’m eager to try more exciting things. I don’t think the corn was well done enough, though.

I was hoping to get some input from my wonderful readers – I’ve always gotten great answers when I asked for advice, so: what do you guys grill? Any tips or pointers? I picked up a pretty nice grill wok for $6 at Wegmans; it seemed like something I should have. Obviously I’ll have to make veggie kabobs, but what else is good? The more exotic, the better!

I told you I’d also show you how I made a quick dill relish when I realized I didn’t have any. I might make a fancier one down the road, but I wanted something super fast, so here’s what I did:

Quick Dill Relish

1 small jar dill pickles, minced
1 shallot, minced
3/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp mustard seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp dried dill weed
salt and freshly ground pepper

Grind the coriander and mustard seeds in a mortar.

Mince the pickles and shallot.

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and mix.

Refrigerate for a while to allow flavors to blend.

This is a horrible picture, but here’s what happened when I tried to eat my dinner:

And here are the kittens on a lazy summer afternoon:

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Sherry Mustard

A trip to Penzeys on Sunday resulted in an abundance of mustard seeds, so it seemed appropriate to make mustard. This was based on a recipe by Emeril, even though I’ve made it before and wasn’t wowed. I thought maybe the sherry would make a difference, but frankly I don’t really taste the sherry over the mustard and I probably wasted what was actually pretty nice sherry. So I think I’ll continue to play around with this recipe – it’s good and it’s mustardy but it’s not amazing – but in the interest of recording what I did this time for myself (and as an excuse to post more kitten pictures), I’ll post it (and also accept suggestions from any veteran mustard makers).

Sherry Mustard

3 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
3 Tbsp brown mustard seeds
1 shallot, minced
2 Tbsp cream sherry
4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) sherry vinegar
6 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
pinch tarragon
1 tsp brown sugar

Place all ingredients in a jar, close, and shake.

Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

Put in a blender, coffee/spice grinder, or food processor.

Blend until as smooth or grainy as you like. Add additional water (or other liquid) by the tablespoon if necessary.

I taste-tested it on some Sheese and crackers.

And stored (some of) it in the adorable mustard pot my mom gave me.

I have a couple of mustard pots (courtesy of Mom), but this is the only one that has a built-in spoon in the top. Cute!

Speaking of cute (I think you know where this is going)…

I had the flash on my camera, pointed to bounce off the kitchen ceiling to take pictures of the mustard, when I noticed the kittens being cute in the living room, which was positively flooded with early evening sunlight. So I turned the flash off and tried to get pictures of them, but instead of looking at me, or toys, or chessmen, or each other, they kept staring intently at the ceiling and walls, emitting tiny Tribble noises of excitement. Turns out the sun was reflecting off the flash and sending dots of light dancing all over the walls of the room, driving them mad. Torticia is so intent…

She and Gomez apparently went crazy with the chess set today; chessmen are all over the place.

It’s not too obvious in this smaller version, but in the full-size version of this photo, you can actually see the chessmen reflected in Gomez’s eye.

When going through this set of photos, I almost deleted this one with all the other blurry ones, but then I decided it amuses me, and anyway this is actually what Torticia looks like most of the time as she’s constantly in motion (unless she’s asleep, and when she’s asleep, she’s dead asleep).

These kittens are way too fascinated with this glass coffee table (which actually belongs to Fortinbras). One of them is always trying to play chess from the wrong side of the glass. And here Gomez is trying to get Torticia’s tail…from the wrong side of the glass.

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