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Joy of Cooking

When someone told me the Joy of Cooking included infused liquors in their recipes I basically dove for my copy and flipped to page 58, only to be somewhat disappointed. Only vodka? Sure, vodka is great to infuse, but so is bourbon, gin, tequila, and (for godsakes) brandy. So, once again, I took it upon myself to create a variation. Jalapeno tequila.

My jalapeno tequila came to be after being told the jalapeno tequila in National Mechanics‘s pineapple jalapeno margarita was house-infused. My best friend and I tried it for the first time about three years ago and decided we must recreate our own. Since then we have expanded our spicy hellfire repertoire to include everything from ghost pepper vodka creations to simply throwing Tabasco in our dirty martinis. But this, my friends. This started it all.

You can use any tequila you want as long as it’s 100% agave. I personally prefer silver, but that’s just personal preference. While you should use quality tequila for this, please don’t spring for a bottle of Patron, it’s really not worth the extra cost when you’re going to be infusing it with something so strongly flavored. Sauza works just fine.

1 bottle of 100% agave tequila

3 jalapeno peppers

1 large, clean pitcher

WEAR GLOVES. You will thank me

Cut the stems off the peppers and slice them lengthwise. scoop out all of the seeds and slice into thick strips.

Open your tequila and drop in the jalapeno strips. You may need to pour a little of the tequila out if the peppers displace more room than the bottle allows. If so, take a shot–you deserve it. No, I’m kidding. No drinking until your capsaicin-infected gloves are in the trash and you wash your hands. Go on now.

Now you wait. However long you want, really. Taste every 24 hours or so until you reach the desired amount of spiciness. After it’s hot to your liking, strain the tequila into the pitcher and funnel it back into the bottle and toss the peppers. This method can also be done with fruits and herbs, and it’ll last just as long as un-infused liquor without any special storage.

Salt a glass, add some pineapple juice and jala-tequila. Ta-da! Delicious fire.

[x-posted on food52]

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No one likes summer quarter, especially when you’re old enough to have a graduate degree. This past week has been borderline intolerable for me. My lease is almost up, finals are approaching, I have freelance projects constantly tapping me on the shoulder and I have to force myself to try a new recipe while if left to my own devices I would just order in.

But, no! Not this time. This time will be different. This time I will forgo Indian takeout and cook a feast. Against my better judgement.

Tomato season has me inspired to stick with Italian. As you may have gathered from my past recipe tests I try not to eat a lot of pasta, not because I don’t love it because I love it far too much, so I’m branching out further than I anticipated.  Which I’m quite excited about! And I would have lovely blog post with gorgeous photos for you today had I had time to run to Reading Terminal this weekend to gather ingredients, but alas, I have not had the time.

So what’ the plan for this week? Two dishes: chicken cacciatore (433) and squash blossoms stuffed with cheese and herbs (309). I’ll make them together but will publish the recipes different weeks in order to free up some more time for writing papers and studying. Please forgive me, I am but a multi-tasking college student.

I’ll head to the Reading Terminal tomorrow and scoop up some squash blossoms from Iovine Bros., herbs from OK Lee, and mushrooms from whoever has them the cheapest. I don’t remember how much the squash blossoms at Iovine are, but if they’re pricey I’ll just cut the recipe in half. I’m only feeding two people anyway. I’m quite excited, though. I’ve always seen the squash blossoms at Iovine and wished I had a use for them, if this recipe works out I’ll have a great appetizer for entertaining.

As for the chicken cacciatore, not only have I never made it but I’ve never eaten it. I’m partial to chicken Marsala which seems to be less intensive. The recipe sounds delicious though and I’m always looking for new ways to serve chicken.

See you all Friday, squash blossoms abound.

Well, dear readers, it would seem that I received some fairly interesting feedback on my last recipe test. Although its legitimacy is still unconfirmed, it appears that John Becker of the Joy of Cooking family commented on my last post suggesting I try roasting up some tomatoes and garlic in place of a sauce for the Italian meatballs. Needless to say, this week’s project has been decided upon.

In other news, I’m now on Twitter! @CBTestKitchen. Tweet me some suggestions for recipe tests.

Our second order of business, bodega groceries. Now, corner stores aren’t exactly renowned for their fantastic produce quality but I am hear to preach the positives of doing at least some of your shopping at your local bodega assuming you live a stone’s throw like I do.

Up at the corner of 12th and Spring Garden is a little Mexican convenience store without a name. It’s about three blocks from my apartment, it’s open pretty late, and the prices are unreal. I love shopping there, but only for specific items. Namely things that I am going to use immediately and/or want to be ripe. For example, I don’t buy avocados anywhere else. $1 a piece and they’re always ready to use. The same goes for bananas, mango, and peaches, and if they go bad before I get to use them I can simply peel them and throw them in the freezer for smoothie ingredients. Seriously, every time I shop there I feel like I just robbed them blind.

Today’s bodega haul

This was $10. A dozen eggs, three avocados, two peaches, five bananas, garlic, a mango and nine tomatoes. True, I need to use most of it in the next few days (save for the eggs, they’re good for a few weeks) lest it start to go bad. But to be honest I find that the things I buy from the bodega going bad less often than when I buy grocery store produce, probably because I tend to stock up more when I go elsewhere.

The selection at the bodega is limited and they’re frequently out, but the prices are so low and the location is so convenient that it’s worth digging through bruised fruits and overripe veggies when my crisper drawer is running low.

Plus, where else can I get last minute guacamole supplies for under $5?

Original recipe

1 lb ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumb
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil

This recipe was no frills, super simple, and totally delicious. Essentially you just slap together all first tier ingredients , form 2 inch balls, dredge in flour, brown in the olive oil, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.

I basically stuck to the recipe, but I made a few changes. First, I split the batch in order to try half all-beef and half beef/pork/veal mix (which was on sale). I also substituted parmigiano reggiano plus a pinch of sugar in place of parmesan because it was half the price.

I was really pleased with how they came out. Super moist but with a nice brown crust and extremely flavorful. I would say I preferred the beef/pork/veal meatballs more, but not by much. They were both delicious and the recipe made enough for five servings.

I served it with a Jersey tomato salad, zucchini “noodles” and more parmigiano reggiano.

I definitely foresee this becoming a staple recipe for me. Next time I’ll finish them in some fresh tomato sauce and serve with homemade pasta. Once I learn how to do that, that is.

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I figured nothing would kick off a cookbook experiment quite like a stand-by Joy of Cooking recipe. I decided to go with a classic and something I’ve always struggled with–meatballs. I’ve only attempted meatballs a handful of times and with little instruction but they always came out dry and, occasionally, inedible.

Being lucky enough to live a 10 minute walk from Philadelphia’s incredible Reading Terminal Market, I opted to shop for ingredients there. I didn’t have to start entirely from scratch, but pretty close. What was meant to be a temporary housing situation for me turned into a one year lease but I still treated my apartment like a hotel for the most part. In other words, I never really stocked my pantry.

The Terminal was surprisingly vacant for 5 p.m. and I made a bee-line for Martin’s Quality Meats. The recipe called for 100% ground beef, but I’ve always enjoyed pork/veal/beef meatballs so I decided to pick up half a pound of each of beef and pre-mixed ground. $3

Next I stopped by OK-Lee produce, the end-all of cheap fruits and veggies, for some fresh parsley. 69 cents

I picked up some peccorino cheese (substituting for parmigiano reggiano) at Downtown Cheese, then stopped by Salumeria for tomato paste. $1.50 + 3.69 = $3.19

On my way out of Reading Terminal I picked up some day-old rolls from Metropolitan Bakery to turn into bread crumbs. $2

Without counting the ingredients I had at home (wine, eggs, and all-purpose flour) my total came to $10.88.

To be continued Friday…