- Jalapeno Pickle Brined Fried Chicken (with ranch. duh, this is America)
- Blue Cheese Potato Salad w/ Bacon and Scallion
- Beergarita Popsicles with Smoky Chile Salt
- Tomato and Peach salad with Basil and Red Onion
- Strawberry Icebox Cake
There’s a lot of stuff we hope you take away from reading this blog. Little things like making sure you eat (so you don’t turn into a cunt). Jokey stuff about not eating dairy on Valentine’s Day (which is actually very sound advice). Even bigger preachy shit about maaaybe giving yourself a break and NOT viewing weightloss as the pinnacle of being a successful human.
But the biggest thing we hope you remember after reading my dumb little words and looking at Lucy’s photos: food doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious. Nothing tastes better than getting out of the way of tasty ingredients. And, right now, our ingredient of choice is strawberries.
Books were our first boyfriends and, to this day, remain our truest love.
As bored youths surrounded by corn, books were the escape route. They were a free ride from sleepy midwestern towns to places that were big enough hold our personalities and inspire something beyond our freckled, skinned-knee existence. They fed our imagination, giving us dumb ideas like “move to the big city” and “you can do more with your life than be a waitress at Pizza Hut” – and they went oh-so-well with an after-school snack. As grown-ass women, even though food takes up most of our mental space, books are still our favorite form of self-care. Especially when cozied up to a big-ass plate of cookies.
Tomorrow (May 2nd) is Independent Bookstore Day and it might be our new favorite holiday. My (Rachel’s) husband owns Uncharted Books, a used bookstore here in Logan Square. He asked us to make snacks for their day of amazing events– and we immediately knew what we’d make.
In the grand tradition of our favorite midwestern “salads,” Strawberry Pretzel Salad contains no lettuce. This one doesn’t even have vegetables.
Instead, a layer of vanilla-flecked cream is nestled between a thick slab of strawberry-studded gelatain and buttery, salty pretzels. Not too sweet, and not too salty, it has been served at every picnic in rural Illinois since the dawn of time. Unfortunately, the classic ingredient list is predictably dated. Whipped topping and neon-pink, artificially flavored gelatin “product” among them….
The fact that Strawberry and Rhubarb season overlap is almost enough to make us go to church. Kind of like how flour and water alone turn into sourdough bread, or milk plus mold will someday equal cheese; only a higher power could allow such a perfect pair to come together for our gastronomic pleasure.
If dessert were a double act, Rhubarb would be Desi to Strawberry’s Lucy, Keenan to its Kel, Harold to its Kumar, Anne Perkins to its Leslie Knope. Rhubarb, while lovable, isn’t the tastiest or most memorable part of the dish. Instead it is the acerbic foil Strawberries need to taste their best, be their sweetest, and become basically everyone’s favorite fruit….
It’s fucking hot outside. We don’t want to move. We don’t even want to type this. We just want to stop sweating for ten goddamned minutes and lay in front of a fan and eat fudgepops— but the only fudgepops we can ever find at the store are gross sugar-free fat-free chemical monstrosities. So we made our own. And they’re fucking tasty.
To mimic the sort of strange but sort of amazing soft texture of store bought fudgepops, we used coconut milk. Its relatively higher fat content gives it a creamier mouth feel and we were pleasantly surprised with the yummy coconut aftertaste. You can use cow’s milk if you want but we implore you use full fat and stay away from soy. We tried this recipe with 2% milk and with chocolate soy milk. Both came out weird and icy— not fudgy.
The first time we heard about using Balsamic vinegar with strawberries, we gagged. We incorrectly insisted that vinegar is for salad, for pickles, for condiments; it’s not for dessert and it’s certainly not for fruit. Balsamic is cider vinegar’s syrupy, umami cousin that is for swirling in olive oil and eating with warm baguettes. It’s rich and inky and makes cheese taste more like cheese. The second time we heard about using Balsamic vinegar on strawberries, our lovely friend Esther ignored our protests and made us taste it anyway. We are so glad that she did.
Something magical happens when you put vinegar on strawberries. It’s pungent but delicate, and makes sweetness sweeter without tasting sugary. You know the part of berries that just tastes “red?” It makes that taste…redder? Better. Something. Fucking gooooood.
Even though you don’t really need to do anything beyond putting vinegar on strawberries and putting that in your face, we decided to turn the surprising combo into an ice cream topping. Initially we tried it because the milky whiteness of vanilla ice cream with the deep purpley brown of the balsamic and redness of the berries looked super striking. Now we use it because when the ice cream melts and mixes with the balsamic it makes, basically, adult Strawberry Quik. Pistachios were added, because they were on hand, and the salt they contributed did what salt does and made everything taste more like itself.
If you don’t have vanilla beans handy, spare yourself the pathetic, over priced, misery that is the super market vanilla bean. At damn near $10 a bean, the stuff at the Jewel (or even Whole Foods) has probably been sitting on the shelf for a year, suffocating in a plastic bottle. It’s not worth your money, and you’d be better off using a splash of vanilla extract or omitting it all together. However, if you are into getting your hands on some real beans, you can find prize beauties on Amazon for less than $0.25 a bean. Rachel ordered a pack for $27 bucks from JR Mushroom & Specialties, and got well over 100 of the plumpest, juiciest, oiliest vanilla beans that she’d ever seen.