Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli

Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli image on Stetted

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a plate of fried green tomatoes like we used to have at the cafe. Ooh!

Welcome to the first Progressive Eats virtual dinner! Come on over and grab a bite.

Progressive Eats is inspired by the neighborhood progressive dinners that used to be all the rage. For each course you visit a different participating house, enjoying the hospitality and creativity of your friends at each stop. Now that most Americans don’t live within walking distance of our friends’ homes, progressive dinners are a little trickier to organize — so a group of us decided to take the dinner party online.

Each month, we’ll be bringing you a dishes centered on a theme, chosen by that month’s host. This month our host is Lana from Never Enough Thyme, and she chose Summer in the South.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli photo on Stetted

Now, most Texans will deny that we live in the South and take the opportunity to remind you that we were once our own country, but it’s a big state, and much of our food is quite clearly influenced by Southern traditions. From biscuits to purple hull peas, lard-crust pies and peach cobblers, Southern food is the stuff we often long for when we think of “home”.

For today’s dinner party I decided to make classic Fried Green Tomatoes, and add a bit of local inspiration with the Smoked Tomato and Basil Aioli. I know, I know, tomato-on-tomato? But it works. The smoked tomatoes came from one of the local farms, where they slow-roasted them in big batches. If you can’t get your hands on smoked tomatoes, you can use sun-dried tomatoes or even dry your own tomatoes. Just be sure to use smoked paprika to get that depth of flavor.

Plus, if you have leftover aioli, it is fabulous on a BLT. Possibly life-changing, if you’re a mayo skeptic.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli pic on Stetted

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

    For the tomatoes
  • 1 pound green tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • Oil for frying
  • For the aioli
  • 2 smoked tomato slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-3 basil leaves
  • Pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Cut tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices and discard ends.
  2. Whisk together flour, garlic powder, chile powder, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  3. In a second bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add cornmeal to a third bowl.
  4. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, it's ready to go.
  5. Dip tomato slices in flour mixture, coating evenly and tapping to remove excess. Coat in egg mixture, then dredge in cornmeal. Repeat with remaining slices.
  6. Fry tomatoes for 2-3 minutes per side, then let drain on a paper towel.
  7. To make the aioli, blend all ingredients together until smooth using an immersion blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with the tomatoes.

Notes

You can "smoke" your own tomatoes by slicing plum tomatoes lengthwise and grilling them over high heat until charred. Use one tomato in place of the smoked tomatoes called for.

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Be sure to visit all the Progressive Eats participants to round out your meal!

Main Course
Never Enough Thyme – Creole Style Smothered Chicken
Appetizers
The Heritage Cook – Old Bay Shrimp Boil Skewers
Stetted – Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli
Bread
Savvy Eats – Jalapeno Cornbread + How to Store Cornbread
Salads
Miss in the Kitchen – Creamy Coleslaw
Life’s a Feast – Shrimp, Grilled Peach and Quinoa Salad
Soup
Spiceroots – Maque Choux Soup
Sides
Creative Culinary – Bacon and Caramelized Onion Creamed Corn
Pastry Chef Online – Spicy Succotash
Beverage
Healthy. Delicious. – Watermelon Lemonade
Desserts
Barbara Bakes – Key Lime Pound Cake
That Skinny Chick Can Bake – Banana Cream Cheesecake Pie

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Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay

Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay image on Stetted

One would think that being a food blogger would mean dinner comes easily. Half the time it’s a struggle though, and not just because I am feeding small children.

It’s no wonder there are so many people who don’t cook in the United States. There’s so many steps to getting dinner on the table before you actually get it on the table. Choose a recipe. Check the fridge and pantry. Make a list and head to the store. Inevitably make some swaps because you can’t find the Japanese eggplant or all the fish in the case looks bad. Deal with checking out, getting home, putting everything away, and then you still have to prepare it. And deal with the possible wrinkled noses, because you dared to make something more than pizza or pasta.

It’s a struggle, y’all, and half the time we’re only making it harder for each other.

Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay picture on Stetted

Rather than making things harder, this recipe centers on two American mainstays: beef and peanut butter. Yep. Peanut butter.

I’ve loved satay-style skewers for years, so when I got a jar of spicy peanut butter I immediately knew it would be perfect to pair with meat. I wasn’t quite prepared for how hot The Heat is On would be, but Peanut Butter & Co is certainly telling the truth with that name.

To make the satay, I used skirt steak, which is a really affordable cut that is great for marinades. The marinade features brown rice vinegar — fermented ingredients are great with beef — though you can easily use regular rice wine vinegar, or even apple cider vinegar.

You don’t need to use The Heat is On for this recipe. Use what you have! Swap in your favorite nut butter (OK, maybe not a chocolate variety) and red pepper flakes to taste.

After marinating in the fridge for an hour, you can either thread the meat onto skewers and grill it, or simply cook on a stovetop grill pan without skewers. If you use wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in water first so they don’t char on the grill.

Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay pic on Stetted

I served these up with sticky rice and had lettuce, cucumber, and carrot strips for DIY wraps. You can add cilantro, too, if you don’t think it’s the devil weed.

If you’re looking for a recipe that needs minimal ingredients and cooking time, this Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay is for you. And hey, if you can’t find the perfect little lettuce cups, don’t sweat it — just shove it all into a tortilla. Everything is better as a taco, right?

Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay

Ingredients

  • 1 pound skirt steak
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter, such as The Heat is On
  • 1-2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes (if using regular peanut butter)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • To serve
  • Romaine hearts or Bibb lettuce
  • Cucumber slices
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cilantro
  • Rice

Instructions

  1. Slice steak against the grain and place in a shallow baking dish.
  2. Whisk together remaining ingredients through ginger and pour over steak.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, but no more than 24 hours.
  4. When ready to cook, thread beef onto skewers if desired and heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high.
  5. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side.
  6. Serve with lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, and rice, or other veggies.
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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I received peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co to try and was inspired to create this recipe. My opinions are my own, yo.

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Jalapeno Jelly

When I first started canning, I wanted to try as many different things as possible. This was both a good idea and a bad idea, because while I expanded my experience, my pantry (and my husband) groaned from the excess.

It turns out that transforming fruits and vegetables into beautifully contained preserves doesn’t actually mean you’ll eat more of them. Who knew?

Over the past few years, I’ve continued canning but with an eye on what will really end up in our bellies. One of my favorite things to make (and eat) is jalapeño jelly, thanks to the urging of a friend who grew up eating the stuff.

Jalapeno Jelly image on Stetted

In Wisconsin our condiments are pretty limited to ketchup, mustard, and liquid cheese, so I quickly embraced this spicy-sweet jelly and started putting it on everything. It’s classically served over cream cheese to spread on crackers, but it’s also a good topping for burgers and a surprising way to serve baked chicken. Because of the sugar content, when it’s spread over meat and baked you end with a wonderfully sticky and flavorful dish.

Most versions you’ll see of jalapeño jelly are clear or slightly golden, but my version is wonderfully red. I could say that it was intentional, but it’s really just because I didn’t have enough white wine vinegar and knew red wine vinegar would be a great substitute. I think I might actually prefer this version — it seems just a little bit more tart, and I love the contrast of the jelly on the cheese. I’m already thinking ahead to how festive it will look on the table during the holidays.

This recipe is canned in a water bath, but because the yield is small, you can also just pour it into jars and store in the fridge once cooled. I guarantee you’ll find lots of ways to enjoy it.

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Black Forest Cake

The other day, I decided to make a cake.

I had just purchased a bag of cherries, darkly red and seductive, and as I didn’t want to make a pie, cake seemed like the solution.

Black Forest Cake photo on Stetted

Cake doesn’t happen in our house often, because frankly, I don’t want to eat the cake.

No, that’s wrong. I do want to eat the cake. That’s where the problem lies. Or rather, where the other problems hide themselves. Between layers of frosting. Creamed into the sugar.

I like making layer cakes because it is methodical, more than other forms of cooking. Add, mix, stir, fold, pour, bake. Cool, level, fill, frost. Moving through these tasks, I can think about only the cake if I want. How I envision the final product. Where to take the photos. Or I can lose myself as I watch the mixer whirr.

Before I had a food blog, I had a LiveJournal where I would tip the contents of my brain every day, for better or worse. It was group therapy.

On a food blog one typically doesn’t engage in group therapy. You’re here for the cake (and I don’t blame you if you skip down). The stories that make me who I am, that I find myself sinking into as I whisk together flour and baking powder, are also the stories I can’t tell here. While they are mine, they’re also the stories of the rest of my family, and they didn’t sign up for my public musings.

And so, sometimes I make cakes. I bake them and let the layers cool in their pans, and I slice off the tops to eat while no one else is home. I whip frosting and think about the constant push-and-pull emotions I put out, which shut me in as much as I want to get out. I work out my frustration by smashing cherries as they simmer with sugar.

Black Forest Cake picture on Stetted

Once the layers are placed on top of each other and frosting is smoothed on, I think about being an introvert and pretending not to be. Fake it ‘till ya make it. Always, always smile. Because ladies are supposed to smile, right? We’re bitches if we don’t.

I squat down to get on level with the cake and eye it for finishing touches while thinking about my sons, wondering if I yell too much (maybe) or snipe at my husband too much (yes) or not listen to their concerns enough (probably). Wondering if I didn’t learn from past mistakes.

After the cake is finished, I dig through the remaining cherries for the most photogenic ones, so I can take photos for you. Snap. Snap. Move the tripod, adjust the reflector. Snap. Cut a slice, take more photos.

Black Forest Cake image on Stetted

I eat that piece, thinking about the future. If all I can do sometimes is make cake.

After dinner, I set the cake in front of the shining, happy eyes of my family. They eat it happily, though of course my older son questions the cherries and my younger doesn’t quite understand what he’s eating. To them, I hope it is always just cake. The product of my love, not my fears.

A few notes about this cake:

  • The recipe calls for whole sweet cherries. If you prefer to not use fresh cherries, you can swap in cherry pie filling; you’ll need about 16 ounces/2 cups.
  • I like to use Clear Jel rather than cornstarch for the thickening agent in the cherry sauce as I feel it whisks in better, but use what you have on hand.
  • You can use kirsch rather than amaretto for the filling, or even a dark rum if you like. If you prefer to not use alcohol, just use 1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.
  • Instead of black cocoa mixed with regular cocoa, you can use bittersweet cocoa for the whole thing (such as Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa).
  • Use parchment rounds on the bottom of your cake pans so they release without sticking.
  • After removing from cake pans, wrap them tightly in foil and pop them into the freezer until ready to fill and frost. This will help keep the cake moist, as well as prevent crumbs from getting into the frosting.
  • Whipped cream frosting is the bomb, and I might start doing all my cakes with it.

Black Forest Cake pic on Stetted

Black Forest Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shortening or 8 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla or chocolate extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons black cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • For the cherries
  • 2 cups pitted cherries
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Clear Jel or cornstarch
  • For the frosting
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment rounds, if you have them.
  2. In a large bowl, beat shortening/butter and sugar until fluffy, then mix in eggs and extract.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powders, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  4. Mix dry ingredients into the sugar mixture in batches, alternating with the milk.
  5. Pour into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, until cake pulls away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5 minutes before removing to a rack or wrapping tightly in plastic wrap and freezing.
  6. While the cakes are baking, make the filling. Mix together cherries, amaretto, sugar, and Clear Jel/cornstarch in a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the cherries are breaking down (help them along with your spatula), and it resembles pie filling or jam, about 10 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator.
  7. When ready to assemble the cake, whip the cream and slowly add the powdered sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form.
  8. To assemble, place the bottom layer on a stand/plate and spread on about 3/4 of the cherry filling. Top with enough of the whipped cream frosting to cover, using a spatula to spread it to the edges.
  9. Add the second layer of cake, and spread the remaining frosting over the cake. Pour the remaining cherry filling on the top of the cake, and garnish as desired.
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Weekly Meal Plan, July 21

Last week was a complete disaster in terms of the meal plan, though we did start strong with the enchiladas from the Oh She Glows Cookbook. They were a hit with the whole family, and we had lunches taken care of for a few days too. Other than that, we didn’t really make anything on the list other than the steaks yesterday. Tomorrow’s post might give you more insight as to why my plans sometimes completely dissolve.

The good thing is that every week there’s another chance to do it again. The other good thing is that I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do my grocery shopping multiple times a week as needed, so we’re not completely wasting food as it falls off our meal plan. I absolutely hate wasting food, and I had to put our CSA on hiatus while I work out some stuff in order to allow us to eat everything we would get in a share. Since creating content for my editorial calendar doesn’t always line up with the current produce that is out there, and because we often eat my recipes for dinner, the CSA share was always getting pushed aside. I’ve yet to find the perfect balance of planning ahead and following through, but we’re working on it.

Also, can we just talk for a sec about how the stores are brimming with back-to-school supplies and the big kid is begging to get his list taken care of already? I’m not ready to be signing papers every night and homework time and making sure lunch is healthy but also good and most importantly, eaten. At least he’s excited for it.

Anyway, here’s what we’re eating this week.

Monday: Veggie Chili (I said this was from Vibrant Food last week, but it’s actually from River Cottage Veg.)

Tuesday: Burgers

Wednesday: Vegetable Fried Rice

Thursday: Chicken something

Friday: Homemade pizza

Saturday: Campfire packets and s’mores

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner

What are you making this week?

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Top Tips for Grilling Beef

Grilling beef this summer? Here’s some tips for making the most of your experience.

Grilled Sirloin Steak image on Stetted

I’m not a newbie to grilling, but when I saw that the Texas Beef Council was going to be hosting a grilling class for Austin Food Blogger Alliance members, I snatched up a ticket. I wasn’t sure how much I would learn, but I knew it would be fun to get together with my friends and cook. Happily, I came away with quite a few tips from Chef Tiffany Blackmon to use in the future (and that I could pass on to my husband, who tends the grill most often).

Don’t Waste Charcoal

Many of us learned to start a charcoal fire by making a huge pyramid in the center of the grill. Instead, make a 6-by-6 grid of briquettes, and add a second layer if you need  to keep the fire going longer.

Use the 4-4-4 Rule

Whether you use charcoal or gas, you need to make sure your grill is the correct temperature before cooking: 400°F. While gas grills have built-in thermometers on the lid, they are about as reliable as your oven’s internal thermometer (read: not). Instead, use the 4-4-4 rule to gauge temperature:

The 4-4-4 Grill Rule image on Stetted

Seek Out Cheaper Cuts

We all love filet mignon, but the flat iron steak, which is a relatively new cut, is just as delicious at a fraction of the price. Flat iron steaks come from the top blade roast, a tougher cut from the shoulder, but once the line of connective tissue is removed, there are beautifully tender pieces of meat that are then cut into the large flat iron steaks.

Add an Egg White

Many of us tend to buy the 95% or 97% lean ground beef for our burgers because we’re concerned about eating less fat. However, that leaner beef means there is less to make the burger juicy! Adding an egg white to your ground beef before forming into patties will help your burgers be juicy without the fat.

Season Well

I admit I’m hesitant when it comes to seasoning steaks, but I’ve learned I need a heavier hand. All sorts of flavors hold up well to beef, especially those with fermentation, which is why steak salads and steaks marinated in soy sauce taste so good. While you can just go with salt and pepper, experiment with other spices, herbs, and aromatics, like smoked paprika, minced garlic, coffee, chipotle pepper, and more. If you like to buy commercial rubs, check the label first. Many are “bulked up” with salt because salt is so cheap! Stick with a brand that has salt farther down on the ingredient list, or just make your own rub.

Flip Once

It’s super tempting to flip a lot while grilling so you can check on it, but don’t! Only flip halfway through, when the edges are getting dark, you see juices pooling in the center, and the meat releases easily from the grate. This ensures your meat will be cooked properly on both sides.

Cook to the Right Temperature

Burgers should always be cooked to 160°F to ensure food safety. For steaks, you want to remove the meat from the grill when it is 5-10 degrees from your ideal. While the meat rests, the internal temperature will climb and the juices will be redistributed, resulting in a more tender, flavorful, and juicy steak. We cooked our steaks to 138°F for a final temperature of 145°F, which is medium rare.

…And Check it From the Side

Don’t just jab your thermometer into the top of your steak. To get a proper read, you need to slip the thermometer probe into the side of the steak. Some meat thermometers have a notch about halfway up the probe; you need to make sure that notch is in the meat for an accurate read.

Grilling with Texas Beef pix on StettedAs with any good cooking class, we had plenty to eat, starting with a fantastic appetizer of steak crostini with Boursin cheese and balsamic glaze. After our lesson and hands-on grilling, we sat down to enjoy some of each steak, as well as grilled veggies, salad, and a grilled pound cake dessert. Being able to taste each cut side-by-side was eye-opening, and I definitely came away with a new appreciation for all of the cuts.

We recently purchased a quarter steer, so I’m looking forward to sharing our experiences cooking it with you, especially now that I have more tips in my basket of tricks!

Do you grill? What’s your favorite thing to cook over a fire?

 

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