Pearl Sugar & the Liege Waffle: A story of sweet obsession

Liege Waffle w. Fresh Berries

Liege Waffle w. Fresh Berries

I have always been a waffle lover. I remember my mom making them for my friends the morning after slumber parties and as an adult, they remain a favorite of mine.

While nothing beats the beautiful simplicity of a buttermilk waffle with melted butter and real maple syrup, I have branched out quite a bit in the waffle department: gingerbread waffles, corn waffles with pork belly, waffles with berries soaked in vanilla rum. Heck, I even threw a Waffle Party once, a slightly crazy soiree filled with fruit curds, compound butters, whipped cream and lots of sparkling wine.

But, sadly, I didn’t discover the reigning ruler of waffles until a few years ago — the liege waffle, made with Belgian pearl sugar. The specialized pearl sugar is added to the unsweetened batter before cooking and melts in the waffle iron, creating crispy crunchy pockets throughout the waffle.

Belgian Pearl Sugar

Belgian Pearl Sugar

The sugar also caramelizes the entire outside of the waffle, making it sweet enough to eat on its own. In fact, these are a popular street food in Belgium where people often buy a waffle to snack on while they walk. The sweetness of the waffle negates the need to dress it up with messy toppings (though that’s part of the fun!) making it a great thing to eat on the go.

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Homemade pupusas turned me into a greedy food hoarder…

Homemade Pupusas with Pickled Vegetables

Homemade Pupusas with Pickled Vegetables

In the past few years I’ve gotten really into pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish. They have taken over my mind and made me do things like brave a rather shady looking pupuserie that shares its parking lot with an even shadier looking porn store. (Totally worth it, by the way.) I’ve also eaten pupusas from a few food carts around town. Each pupusa journey ended in happiness, but the more I ate, the more determined I became to make them myself.

Finally last Saturday, after spending the morning googling recipes, I decided the time was right.

I picked up a huge bag of masa (I’m envisioning tamales, tortillas and endless pupusas in my future) and some queso fresco. I decided to skip making the typical pupusa accompaniment, curtido (a pickled or fermented cabbage salad), since I had some homemade pickled veggies to use up. I also had some braised beef that needed a good home and so the project was a pretty affordable one — always a good thing when you don’t really know what you’re doing!

But regardless of my inexperience, by following the recipe and instructions from The Kitchn carefully, my pupusa adventure was a delicious success.

Masa!

Masa!

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Pork fried rice finds perfection, Pok Pok style

Khao Phat Muu (Thai fried rice with pork)

Khao Phat Muu (Thai fried rice with pork)

I’ve made a decent amount of fried rice in my life. On this blog alone, I’ve posted it three times — once made with farro, once with potato chips and again with pork and pineapple. And each time it’s delicious, but I’ve always felt like the seasoning wasn’t quite right. Often it would taste a bit flat and so I’d tinker with it — adding more and more things and then it would have too much soy or sesame or lime and yet somehow it would still lack “oomph.”

That all changed when I cooked my second recipe from the Pok Pok cookbook — Khao Phat Muu (fried rice with pork). Next to the fried egg salad, this is probably one of the easiest recipes in the book which brought it to the top of my “must make” list.  More encouragement came from a girl at work who kept telling me it was the best fried rice she had ever eaten.

And once I took a bite, I totally agreed. It was spot-on fried rice perfection and the best part was the amount of ingredients and fiddling is kept to a minimum. Simplicity is key — as is the great unbeatable umami flavor.

While I still think you should buy the book, I’ll give you a rundown on the basics of the recipe.

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The week that I stuffed my face with homemade bread…

Meatball Sandwich on Homemade Bread

Meatball Sandwich on Homemade Bread

A bit of a confession: I can be strangely intimidated by certain culinary projects. Sure, I’ve made pasta by flicking water on semolina flour and I make my own dim sum, but other fairly simple things can make me stop in my tracks — like making bread from scratch.

In fact, it’s been since culinary school (back in 2001) since I’ve made bread on my own — with the exception of last year’s surprisingly successful English muffins. In general though I leave bread making to the professionals, which means I buy a lot of bread.

And while regularly baking bread is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, I tend to chicken out when things like yeast, knead and rise come up in recipes. It just seems like too much potential for failure.

But with my combined resolutions to try new things and to attempt recipes suggested by WordPress friends, I decided it was finally time to get off the pot. I started with a recipe for French bread, posted by my friend Liz of Food For Fun.

Happily the recipe is straightforward and easy to follow, even for someone nervous about baking bread. It does take some forethought though since the dough needs to be started the day before.

After it’s spent the evening in the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature.

Making French Bread

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Farro & Edamame: A new adventure with an ancient grain

Farro Pasta with Edamame, Almond and Mint Pesto

Farro Pasta with Edamame, Almond and Mint Pesto

I am an out-and-proud farro devotee. For the past few years I’ve been borderline obsessed with the ancient grain — utilizing it in as many applications as possible and encouraging other people to give it a try. So I was pretty excited when my husband recently brought me home a pound of farro pasta (which was especially sweet as he is not as enamoured with farro as I am).

Farro Pasta

Farro pasta — love its pretty color!

The pasta had been sitting in my cupboard, patiently waiting, while I investigated online looking for a perfect debut recipe. Finally I decided on a winner, this recipe for Farro Pasta with Edamame Pesto from The Kitchn. Given how well-known this web magazine is, I felt comfortable trusting their opinion and excited to try something new.

And I’m happy I did because this a recipe I’ll be utilizing again and again. I love different forms of pesto — broccoli pesto in particular, yum! — but hadn’t tried this combination before.

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A tropical breakfast to warm up the chilliest of winter mornings

10-grain cereal with pineapple, coconut and cashews

10-grain cereal with pineapple, coconut and cashews

I’m still going strong on the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse and I have to say that the best part has been breaking out of my breakfast rut. For the past year my weekday breakfast has involved the same routine: a whole grain English muffin, toasted, slathered with peanut butter and a bit of honey. And it’s done me well — it’s a nice mix of protein, carbs and sweetness to get my day started.

But over the last 10 days, not being able to indulge in refined flours, I’ve had to mix things up.

My first experience with a breakfast from the cleanse resulted in the awesome discovery of quinoatmeal. After I polished off the last of that, I moved onto a new porridge in the form of Bob’s Red Mill 10-grain cereal. This is a blend of everything from millet and barley to brown rice and oat bran. It all cooks happily together in a matter of ten minutes or so.

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