Removing A Dent From Butcher Block Is Easy!

Removing A Dent From Butcher Block Is Easy!

We at Butcher Block Co. take great pleasure in helping our customers, whether it is answering their questions or providing solutions to their problems regarding butcher block. Some questions are about basic daily care for their butcher block or how to remove stains and scratches, and others are more complicated issues like how to repair butcher block. Most recently we had a couple customers call in and ask about removing a dent in their butcher block. One customer dropped a heavy object on their top, and another customer had a dent that occurred during installation. While most dents are minor, they can bug you endlessly when you see them every day! So that was the motivation for our blog this week.

“The Experts In All Things Butcher Block” are happy to share with you how to remove a dent from butcher block, using an iron!

Repairing a Dent for Email and Blog

Removing a dent in wood using an iron is easy, really! This method of removing a dent from wood is well known by woodworkers, but not so much by consumers. It works best with soft woods that are dented – the dent will totally disappear. With hard woods used to make butcher block, like maple, walnut and cherry, the process still works pretty well.

Repairing a Dent for Email and Blog

Removing a dent from butcher block with an iron requires that the bare wood fibers be exposed. Most butcher block has an oil finish, so it is very easy to sand a bit to expose the bare wood fibers. The challenge is if you have a Varnique finish on the butcher block. You must sand through all layers of the Varnique to get to exposed wood. That will allow the water to be absorbed by the wood and the steam to help lift the dent.

Repairing a Dent for Email and Blog

Removing a dent from hardwood butcher block will require repeating the steaming process a few times.

Repairing a Dent for Email and Blog

Removing a dent in butcher block may not work completely, every time, but it can significantly improve the appearance. It is much better than the alternative, which is to see the dent every day and have it bug you.

Do you have questions about caring for or repairing your Butcher Block?  Let us know. We are happy to assist you. If it is not something we have already blogged about, we could cover it in a new blog!

Here is our printer friendly version.

Summer Seafood – Ceviche Tacos

Summer Seafood – Ceviche Tacos

Summer seafood dishes are pretty much the saving grace of this dreadful time of year. Because I am landlocked, I just don’t have the access to fresh fish that I would prefer, but I do have lovely friends on both coasts who are happy to indulge me when I visit. I told you I’ll be heading up to visit Claire soon and I cannot even begin to describe to you how excited I am to let her stuff my face with seafood, particularly the dish she is sharing with us today (also breakfast, becasue holy cow, Claire is a breakfast goddess). Claire lives in a place that allows her to take summer seafood seriously and these ceviche tacos are just what I need to help me make it through to the cooler days ahead. Claire, give our readers a little taste!

Man, it is hot out. It is so hot, I cannot for a second entertain the idea of standing in front of a hot stove, and let’s not even joke about standing outside in the heat and cooking over a grill. The summer issues of all of my favorite food magazines have been making their way to my mailbox, and I’ve been surprised to learn this simple truth: Magazine summer dinner recipes are like the “natural look” makeover; it seems like they’re going to be totally easy to pull off, but it turns out that it takes a lot of work to look so low-maintenance. After one too many nights of throwing my hands up and settling for a salad, I started to ask myself in exasperation, “Can’t I just cook some meat for dinner without working up a sweat?”

Luckily, this is not a new problem. Since the invention of cooking meat over a fire, I assume, people have been trying to figure out how to have meat without cooking it over a fire. Creative methods come from all over the world, but I think it makes the most sense to look to the tropics for a good summer seafood meal. My favorite method to beat the heat comes from Peru, and it’s a double-whammy, for reasons I’ll get into in a minute.

Ceviche is arguably one of the easiest summer seafood dishes to make in the whole world, but done properly, it can also be one of the most impressive things to come out of your kitchen.

Summer Seafood Ceviche

If you’re not familiar, ceviche is slices or pieces of fish cooked by the application of an acidic marinade, usually citrus juices. The citric acid from the juice causes the proteins in the meat to denature, which gives it the opaque look and texture of fish cooked with heat. Because you are not using heat, the fish you use for this dish must be exceedingly fresh. The best way to get really fresh fish is to catch it yourself, of course, but the next best option is a reputable, dedicated fishmonger. You want a clean and busy place where the staff can tell you when and where every fish in their shop was caught and by what method, as well as the name of the boat and fisherman who brought it in. The fish in the shop should be stored on top of ice at temperatures just above freezing. The flesh should be firm, bouncing back from a good poke rather than being left with a dent, and it should have no fishy smell. In most cases, you can tell you’re in the right place if the fishmonger’s shop is removed from the touristy part of town and buried among the fishing boats. I’m lucky enough to live just a 15-minute drive from the Pacific coast, so I can make the side trip into Morro Bay and visit my fishmonger there.

Summer Seafood Ceviche Semi-firm white ocean fish is traditional for ceviche, but virtually any fish will work, and even some shellfish, so your choice should depend more on quality and sustainability, rather than tradition. Your best bet is to head to the fish market with an open mind, and opt for whatever is freshest. A responsible fishmonger will stock only sustainably caught product, but I think it’s a good idea to double check anyway. I like to use The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s free Seafood Watch smartphone app because it’s always up-to-date and it’s a simple and effective guide to making the most informed choices. I chose seabass for my ceviche, and I asked the clerk to skin it and pack it on ice for me for the drive home.

I decided to keep my recipe traditional and simple, which brings me back to that thing I said about ceviche being a beat-the-heat double-whammy. Obviously, the first whammy is the no-heat cooking method, but what is that second whammy? Ironically, it is heat! We want to go hot, not in temperature, but in flavor. There are real, scientific reasons that traditionally spicy foods come from the hottest climates. One of those reasons is that spicy foods raise the body’s internal temperature to match the temperature outside, diminishing the perceived extreme difference in temperatures. As blood circulation increases, it also causes facial perspiration, which in turn produces a cooling effect as it evaporates. Hot weather is also a natural appetite suppressant, and spicy foods naturally stimulate appetite and digestion, so without further ado, let’s get to the grub!

Spicy Ceviche Tacos

  • 1 pound of fresh fish Summer Seafood Ceviche
  • 1 small red onion or half of a large one, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, divided
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño or serrano peppers
  • ½ cup fresh citrus juice
  • 1 avocado
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Small corn or flour tortillas
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Keep your fish on ice while you do the rest of your prep. The colder and fresher you can keep your fish, the better!

Start by juicing your fruit into a non-reactive bowl; I used all limes, but you can also add in sour orange, lemon, or passionfruit juice for a fun variation on tradition. Add your sliced red onions to the bowl. Pick the leaves off of about a third of your cilantro and set those aside to top your tacos. Coarsely chop the rest of the stems and leaves, and add them to the marinade. Mince the peppers and add them to the marinade. Most of their heat resides in the seeds and the ribs, so for less heat, remove them.

Slice your fish on a 45° angle into approximately quarter-inch-thick slices. Add the fish into the bowl with salt and pepper and allow it to marinate for at least 5 minutes, gently folding occasionally to make sure all of the slices are getting equal exposure to the juice. At this point, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your fish. Let it go too long, and the meat will completely break down, leaving you with dry, overcooked fish. For my taste, somewhere around the 10- to 12-minute mark is ideal, but it’s going to depend on how you sliced it. You want it nicely firm on the outside, but tender and translucent on the inside.

Summer Seafood Ceviche

While the fish is marinating, you can prep your taco toppings. Cut up the avocado and tomato, and coarsely chop the cilantro leaves you set aside earlier. When the fish is ready, assemble your tacos, using some of the onions from the marinade to round out your taco toppings, and serve them with your favorite refreshing beverages. Toast to the sea for providing you with the ultimate best summer seafood dinner.

Summer Seafood Ceviche

Meatless Monday – Jalapeño Corn Fritters

Meatless Monday – Jalapeño Corn Fritters

Well didn’t we get lucky? Our Meatless Monday blog just happens to fall on National Corn Fritter Day! I am sitting here drooling thinking of all the Meatless Monday dishes that could benefit from a delicious Jalapeño Corn Fritter – vegetarian chili, a big hearty salad, vegetable stew! I’m super excited about these! Sarah W. was brave enough to fry in her own kitchen, but I think I would break out the electric skillet and do these outside (I have a very real fear of indoor frying. We’ll save that story for another time.). These look easy enough that even I could make them, and Sarah has a bunch of suggestions for customizing them to your personal taste, whether you’re making them for Meatless Monday or just because. Sarah, teach us the way of the Corn Fritter!

Happy Corn Fritter Day! When Candice told me this was a thing that really exists, I knew I had to find a great recipe. I have no personal attachment to corn fritters, but as a Midwest resident, I know and love me some sweet corn. Today’s recipe is simple and doesn’t require any crazy impossible-to-find ingredients.

Meatless Monday meals can be as simple or as gourmet as you like, and these Jalapeño Corn Fritters fit in nicely no matter where you fall on that spectrum.

Summer for me is about simple food that’s easy to prepare (and preferably has a little kick). I added some finely chopped jalapeño to give my corn fritters an additional dimension of flavor. Typically, Midwest summers are hot, sticky, humid, and best spent lounging by the pool, but this year we’ve been given something of a reprieve. It’s very odd to wake up to a crisp mid-July day, but hey – I’ll take it! The fact that the weather eased up made it easier to think about tackling a dish that requires a hot stove.

We all know I love shortcuts. This recipe is fairly straightforward, so there’s not a lot of room for improvement, but I will say a few things. Adding jalapeño was a fantastic idea. If you’re not making these on a Meatless Monday, toss some bacon in there, too. Summer is growing season, and hot peppers are one of the things that have historically grown best for me (they don’t need very much attention).

If you have a hot pepper other than jalapeño, use it! If you have frozen corn instead of fresh corn, use it! If you are using fresh corn and have access to a grill, try grilling your corn before slicing it off the cob. This recipe calls for paprika, but to be honest, I am not very good at being able to taste paprika in things. If you want to spice this up with additional favorite seasonings, do it! Rosemary (my perennial favorite) would be great, as would fresh cilantro, lemon pepper, a little red onion, maybe even garlic (be careful with fresh garlic – it burns easily). My point (as always) is: this recipe says to make this dish a certain way. Fortune favors the bold, so modify, modify, modify, and don’t be afraid to add flavors you like! Also, use a mixer to beat the egg white – don’t try to be a hero like me and whisk it by hand for five straight minutes until your arm cramps up before conceding defeat and digging out the hand mixer. It’s a much better choice, I assure you.

Meatless Monday Corn Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 egg, separated
  • ¾ cup corn (I used one cob)
  • 1 jalapeño

Meatless Monday Corn Fritters

Directions:

  • Remove corn from cob, if using fresh. Chop your jalapeño pretty finely.
  • Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and paprika.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolk, then add your corn and jalapeño bits.
  • Add your dry ingredients to your egg yolk, corn, and jalapeño. This is going to coat it and make what appears to be corn gravel. Go with it.

Meatless monday Corn Fritters

  • Beat the egg white until soft white peaks form. The photo above should give a decent reference of “soft peaks”- if your egg doesn’t hold a little bit of shape when you pull your beaters out, you’re not there yet.
  • Once you’ve beaten your egg into submission, fold into your corn gravel. You should have a super sticky mixture, but the egg white should be enough wetness to incorporate all your flour. If your dough is too dry, add a tiny, tiny, TINY bit of milk. I didn’t need to do this, but thought I would until I mixed and scraped the bowl for a few minutes.
  • Heat oil in a skillet. Drop dough into pan by rounded teaspoons, flattening slightly once they’ve hit the oil.
  • Fry until golden brown on both sides, flipping once.

Pretty easy, right? I have an innate fear of frying things in oil on the stovetop, and these went pretty well. Make sure your oil is heated so your fritters sizzle once they hit the pan. Use a kernel of corn from your dough mixture to test before dropping a whole batch in. Using rounded teaspoons, I came out with 9 palm-sized fritters, so adjust the size or double the recipe as needed. I’d recommend frying 3-4 at once, depending on the size of your pan, and using the back of your spoon to flatten these when you drop them in so they cook evenly. Be warned that corn + hot oil can mean popping or spitting. Corn naturally has some water content, so be cautious.

Meatless Monday Corn Fritters

These are a great treat, crispy on the outside, with the sweet notes of the corn and the spiciness of the hot pepper on the inside. Great with a cold beer on the patio on an unseasonably cool summer evening.

What’s your favorite Meatless Monday recipe?

Have you ever grilled corn before? (It’s delicious)

Are you as deathly terrified of frying things as I am?

Summer No-Cook Meal – Build Your Own Panzanella

Summer No-Cook Meal – Build Your Own Panzanella

No-cook meals are a summer staple, and I happened to recall one of my favorite hot weather dishes while stupidly baking pie for Father’s Day. I told you I was going to make Claire’s fantastic Key Lime Pie for Father’s Day, and I actually followed through! It was delicious and very well received, thank you very much. After preheating the oven, though, I realized I probably shouldn’t have taken this on in the middle of the day – it was sweltering hot in my kitchen. To alleviate the pain caused by all the hot stickiness, I made myself a killer sandwich on a hunk taken from a fresh baguette that had been gifted to me. The combination of tomato, fresh mozzarella, avocado, and tangy vinaigrette (and an ice-cold peach ale) was the perfect way to cool my overheated brain. I thought to myself, “I could eat this every day,” but then I realized my baguette would be stale before I even got hungry again.

And so, the perfect summer no-cook No-cook Meal meal came to be: panzanella (bread salad)! I cut the rest of the baguette into cubes and left it out on the counter to dry out a bit (unsurprisingly, this happens rather quickly in Phoenix). My next bright idea was to use up just about everything I had left in my fridge from my excessive Costco-ing. I had tomatoes, avocados, and bell peppers that needed to be used up, plus a couple logs of fresh mozzarella. I threw together a vinaigrette on the fly using avocado oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, fresh garlic, and an Italian dip mix that seemed like a good combo of herbs (I used this one, but you can play around with whatever spices you have on hand, or use a prepackaged mix from the grocery store blended with oil and vinegar).

I chopped up all my veggies and No-cook Meal cheese into roughly bite-sized pieces, threw it all in with the bread cubes, and poured the vinaigrette over the top. I covered my over-sized bowl with plastic wrap and gently shook it around to make sure everything was evenly coated, then stuck it in the fridge overnight. A couple times during the night, I shook up the bowl again, just to keep things fair (it would be totally rude to not give every piece equal access to that delicious dressing, after all!). The next day I transferred it to a serving bowl and brought it along to our family meal. It made an excellent side dish and the leftovers served as a ready-made no-cook meal for lunch and dinner the next day, especially when I added some of my sister’s leftover grilled chicken.

No-Cook meal

The first few times I made panzanella, I used a recipe, and while it was really good, it was also fairly restrictive (only because I let it be, but I think we do that too often with recipes). I have since realized that this simple no-cook meal is endlessly customizable, and can be suited to anyone’s specific tastes. My impromptu dish described above opened up my curiosity to new flavor combinations. I’m going to share with you the basic steps to making a fantastic panzanella along with some ideas I’ve got kicking around for new flavors.

I hope next time you’ve got a loaf of bread threatening to turn on you, you’ll consider joining me on the no-cook meals bandwagon!

Build your own panzanella!

  • Cubed bread of choice – it’s easier to cut up before it goes stale, so if you know you’re not going to finish the loaf, do this part ahead of time.
  • Veggies/Add-ons of choice – artichoke hearts, nuts, etc. Cut these into bite-sized pieces.
  • Cheese – Since I’m making the rules, this is not optional!
  • Dressing – Whatever you’d like. You can use bottled dressing, but it’s pretty simple to throw together a custom vinaigrette to complement your flavor profile.

Basically, you just throw this all together in a big bowl, make sure everything is evenly coated with dressing, and let it sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight, stirring occasionally to redistribute the dressing.

Tips:

  • Use enough dressing to coat everything, but don’t overdo it; you want the bread to get softly chewy, not soggy. You can always add more dressing after a few hours if your bread is still hard.
  • Hold out the super soft ingredients until you’re just about ready to serve. The last two times I’ve made this, I have put the avocado in with everything else and then remembered how squishy it gets. It’s best to keep the really soft stuff in a separate bowl, marinating in a bit of the vinaigrette, so that you can add it in at the last minute. This way your stirring/shaking won’t mash the soft bits into oblivion.
  • Pick out a bowl that looks too big. Now put that away and grab the next size up. Same principle as when you make a regular salad.
  • If you’ve got the grill going anyway, grill your bread before you cube it. This adds immense flavor!
  • Add a protein to round out your no-cook meal. Rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled flank steak would be fantastic additions.

Flavor ideas I want to try:

  • Jalapeno and cheese bread with red bell peppers, No-Cook Meal shredded rotisserie chicken, pepper jack cheese, and a cilantro lime dressing.
  • Brioche with candied pecans, grapes, strawberries, brie, and a balsamic and coconut oil dressing.
  • Kalamata olive bread with bell peppers, pepperoncini, marinated artichoke hearts, cold grilled steak, cubed feta (as opposed to crumbled), and a Greek dressing.
  • Basically anything you would put on a sandwich or in a regular salad!

What’s your favorite no-cook meal? Do you think panzanella will make it into your rotation? Let me know what combination sounds the best to you!

Summer Fun – Remembering the Good Times

Summer Fun – Remembering the Good Times

Oh, Summer… I know I complain about you a lot, but I’m trying to remember the days when I looked forward to seeing you. See, I used to not notice the heat here; I was a clueless kid with a pool and a bunch of siblings. The lazy summer days of my childhood were filled with swimming, running through sprinklers, neighborhood-wide games of Darkness Hide and Seek (my polls tell me this is not an actual thing, so for those who didn’t grow up with me, this is just Hide and Seek, but outside at night), and playing Super Mario Brothers until our eyes bled. My sister was the only one of us kids who had a domestic streak, so she would bring us out trays of microwaved burritos that we would eat in the pool. The theory was that if you ate it in the pool, you didn’t have to wait 30 minutes to start swimming again. Ah, childhood…

My favorite summer game was called “Popsicle.” In Popsicle, which is a night-time game, everyone was a popsicle and we all hung out in the front yard running around, wrestling, etc. There was a large blanket spread out in the middle of the yard, and if a car drove by, all the popsicles had to run to get under the blanket so the headlights wouldn’t “melt” us. If you got melted, you were out; if you got under the blanket but the car didn’t turn down our street, you were out. I don’t know how often we actually played Popsicle, but it feels like it was every summer night for years and years of my childhood. I perfectly remember the big, itchy yellow blanket we hid under, with its excessive pilling and vague campfire scent. It’s funny the things we hold onto from childhood.

The reason I’ve been trying to recall happy summer memories is that I’ve got my son here with me all summer, and he’s decided he doesn’t want to go to day camp this year, so he really is here with me. What is he going to remember from this summer? He somehow managed to not get that normal kid quality of being able to ignore the heat, so he doesn’t play outside much during the day; it’s like he inherited my adult intolerance of heat without the bonus 13 years of blissful ignorance. He probably won’t ever have to experience the pain of playing Lava Monster and falling into actual lava (aka the asphalt during the Arizona summer), so that’s a bonus. I just don’t want him to think back to his childhood summers and only remember video games and cartoons.

It has occurred to me that I might just be overthinking this; there is Summer a very real possibility that my summers growing up were nowhere near as fun-filled as I remember them. What if we only ever played Popsicle once and it was just SO FUN that I’ve let that memory cover up the boring days? Maybe all my son will carry with him are the memories of staying up late for days on end to finish all eight of the Harry Potter DVDs. Or maybe he’ll store up enough fun memories on our trip to visit Claire (of Key Lime Pie fame) next month that he’ll look back fondly on this summer as one of the best ever; five days of beaches and Redwoods and amazing food will definitely help me forget this awful heat, so I’m hopeful my kid will hang onto the good stuff, too.

What are your favorite summer memories from childhood? Do you remember the boring days or just the fun ones? I want to hear all about the games you made up as a kid!

Key Lime Pie – The Perfect Summer Dessert

Key Lime Pie – The Perfect Summer Dessert

Key lime pie is one of my favorite desserts ever, yet I have never made one! My dear friend and food idol, Claire Hoenke, has been talking lately about how good her key lime pie is, so I decided I needed some and picked one up from the store on my way to a Memorial Day BBQ. Big mistake. Big. Huge. The flavor was just okay, but the pie itself was tiny! Who brings a 7″ pie to a BBQ? (I do, obviously.) I had to wait until everyone else had left so I could split it with my parents. There’s not a whole lot worse than disappointing pie, so I hereby vow to never again get my key lime pie fix from a grocery store. Thankfully Claire was around to send me pictures of her gorgeous practice pies to further solidify my resolve. She also made me cry with this post, and because of that, I will never forsake key lime pie again. Claire has inspired me to make a real key lime pie for Father’s Day. Let’s see if she can inspire you, too! Take it away, Claire!

I grew up in west Michigan. There, the summers are short and intense, and the winters are long, and also intense, and they don’t usually let up until June. Luckily for us, my mother’s family all lived in Miami, so every spring, we would pack up and head down there to defrost early.

For our spring trips down, we would make my Nana’s house our home base, and spend the entire vacation bouncing between there and our various favorite swimming holes. Between the beach and my uncle’s pool, though, we ate. We ate Cuban sandwiches from street vendors, black beans and rice and fried sweet plantains from local restaurants, and the mother of all custardy desserts, key lime pie, from every place we could get our hands on it.

That flavor, the tart sweetness of a key lime pie, has stayed with me, and Nana made a fantastic key lime pie. For me, no other food so perfectly embodies not only my memories of Miami, but also of my Nana in particular.

Nana, my mother’s mother, was the most fabulous C 009 ROXY woman I have ever known. Though she lived the majority of her life in Miami, she hailed from New York, and she always maintained her New York accent and sensibilities. In a home movie my mom found of my Nana showing off their first lawn in upstate New York, she pushes a lawn mower around the yard in a mink coat and high heels, a wide grin across her face. Though she was older when I knew her, she still led an active and busy life. She was always glad to see us, but I suspect that she was just as glad to see us go so she could get back to it. She was sassy, brash, and hip. She was the kind of woman I wish I could be.

Claire and Nana She passed suddenly from heart failure not long after her 80th birthday, and when I remember her, it hits me like that first bite of a slice of key lime pie. I close my eyes against it at first – the sour, biting taste that inevitably brings tears. But then I let the sweetness of her love wash over me, and I revel in my memory of her. She led a rich, complex life, and maybe it seems reductive of me to remember her with dessert, but I find it comforting to put my love for her into a rich, complex pie like this.

My Nana was not exactly known for her culinary prowess, but this dessert is so simple to make, even she was able to master it. I like a sweet Italian meringue topping to balance the tart filling, but you can also top the pie with whipped cream, if that is your preference. Or, you could go whole hog and do both!

Key Lime Pie Key Lime Pie

The Crust

  • 10 or 11 graham crackers
  • 7 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 pinches of salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs, either with a food processor or a plastic freezer bag and rolling pin. Mix the dry ingredients together, and then add the butter and stir until it is evenly distributed. Dump the whole thing into a 9″ pie plate and press it down against the bottom and sides. You can use a measuring cup for this, but I like to finish with my hands because it’s easier to feel where the crust seems uneven that way. Pop the crust into the oven and bake it for about 6 minutes, and then set it on a rack to cool while you make the pie filling.

Key Lime Pie

The Filling

  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • ¾ cup key lime juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Start with your limes. Theoretically, you can use Persian limes for this pie. It’s true that they are an easy shortcut, but they do not produce the same results. For the famously bright, punchy flavor, key lime juice is an absolute must. While bottled key lime juice is available in some places, it’s generally been concentrated and preserved, and it does not taste as good as the fresh stuff. I let my key limes ripen until they start to turn a bit yellow for the best flavor, and I use a Persian lime for a more fragrant zest. My advice is to juice the limes over a fine mesh sieve to avoid going back to pick out the seeds and pulp.

In a medium bowl, gently beat the egg yolks and the lime zest until the yolks are pale and thick. Add in the sweetened condensed milk and beat until the mixture is pale and thick again, about 3 more minutes. Pour the lime juice into the mixture and whisk until it is evenly combined, and then set the bowl aside.

In a separate bowl, and with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they start to foam up, and then add in the cream of tartar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Key Lime Pie

In a small saucepan, stir the sugar and water together over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup starts to bubble. Continue to heat until the syrup reaches soft ball stage, around 236°F, and then immediately remove it from heat. With the beaters going on their slowest speed, carefully add the syrup to the egg whites in a slow, thin stream until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up and beat on high speed until the outside of the bowl is cool and the mixture is glossy and smooth.

Add about a cup of the meringue mixture to the pie filling and gently fold it in. Pour the filling into your crust and bake it in your 350°F oven for 15 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and spread the rest of the meringue over the top. I like to use a spatula to create a design with peaks in the meringue for extra crunchy bits. Return the pie to the oven for another 5 minutes, and then turn on the broiler to brown the meringue for about 30 seconds to a minute. Once it starts to brown, it goes quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on it, or it will burn!

Key Lime Pie

Cool the pie for at least half an hour, and then pop it into the refrigerator for 4 hours before serving. In my experience, this pie tastes best when it’s served on Nana’s fancy plates.

Key Lime Pie

Printer friendly recipe: Key Lime Pie

The Butcher Block Experts Are on the Lookout for Breakout Artisans in the Southwestern U.S.

Butcher Block Co. Looks to Expand Its Supplier Lineup

Online retailer Butcher Block Co., a leading direct-to-consumer distributor of butcher block countertops, kitchen islands, kitchen carts and cutting boards, announced today that it added two new artisanal woodcrafters to its vendor portfolio during this year’s second quarter, and it continues to search for makers of differentiated, handcrafted kitchen furniture and accessories who are based in the southwestern U.S.

Company president, Mark Shook, proclaimed that the E-commerce company “now distributes on the Butcher Block Co. website (https://butcherblockco.com) the full line of distinctive Cotton and Dust cutting boards and butcher blocks handcrafted by Matthew Harper in his West Texas design studio; as well as the innovative Scrapesation wooden grill scraper, designed and handmade by Sean Ung, based in Central Arizona.”

According to Company Vice President, Kathleen Grodsky, “Cotton and Dust artisan cutting boards and blocks are distinguished by Harper’s unusual designs, combinations of woods, and extensive use of tropical tigerwood that’s native to South America. Adding to their distinctiveness, Harper delivers his boards fully-wrapped and ready to gift, and will custom-engrave any boards, making it an even more sentimental and memorable gift.”

Grodsky described Sean Ung’s Scrapesation grill scraper as “100% maple wood and designed to compete head-to-head with steel wire grill brushes, about which the Center for Disease Control has previously issued warnings.” Specifically, in 2012, the CDC warned consumers who grill they should “be aware of the risk for ingestion of wire bristles from grill-cleaning brushes.”

“This is a great opportunity for talented artisans to get their creations in front of tens of thousands of online shoppers each month,” Shook continued. “Visitors to ButcherBlockCo.com tend to be cooking enthusiasts and at-home entertainers who appreciate fine woodworking,” he concluded.

According to Grodsky, who oversees Operations and Marketing for Butcher Block Co., “I invite Southwest-based craftsmen of distinctive kitchenware to contact me for private and confidential discussions.”

About Butcher Block Co: The Butcher Block Experts at Butcher Block Co. are the number one resource for helpful information on kitchen furniture and accessories, and one of the premier sources of butcher block countertops, kitchen islands, kitchen carts and cutting boards. They continue to offer market leading service standards, and are fortunate and thankful to have sharp, dedicated employees who share a passion for all things butcher block and a commitment to superior customer service. For more information please visit: https://butcherblockco.com

Contact:
Kathleen Grodsky
website: https://butcherblockco.com
phone: (877)845-5597

The Art of the Cheese Plate

The Art of the Cheese Plate

Cheese is my soulmate, so when Sarah W. sends me photos of her cheese plates (which she does every week or two), my heart speeds up and I get butterflies in my stomach. Then I remember that Sarah lives in Ohio and we can’t share. It’s the worst kind of long distance relationship. I have been enlightened, however, with the knowledge that I’m not the only one who eats cheese for lunch sometimes, and that it’s actually a socially acceptable thing to do as long as you lay it out prettily on a plate before consuming. If I pick myself up one of these gorgeous boards, I may even convince the world that my midnight raid of the cheese drawer is because I’m fancy, and in no way related to, you know, beer consumption. I think we’ve delved into my issues enough for one day, so I’m going to pass the cheese plate to Sarah now. If she can inspire me to be a little more classy, just think what she can do for you! Spread the cheese, Sarah!

I don’t actually have a lot of meaningful memories associated with cheese or cheese plates (besides my mother telling me to never use low-fat or fat-free options because, “What’s the point?”), but I have to say, there are not a lot of things that rank higher than sitting outside on a beautiful day with a bottle of wine, a plate covered in cheeses, crackers, veggies, and fruit, accompanied by my best friend or husband.

Cheese Plate

Two kinds of olives, pickled carrots, fresh cherries on the left. Gouda, pepperjack, 5 county cheddar, cucumber slices, sharp white cheddar, porter-marbled, and crackers. Perfect with white wine.

So let’s talk composition. There are so many kinds of cheese. Washed rinds, soft cheese, goatsmilk, sheepsmilk, bleu cheeses, sharps, extra sharps, mild, layered, studded, alcohol-marbled. Going to the fancy cheese section of your local grocery store with the idea to lay out a bangin’ platter can be intimidating, let alone setting foot in a fancy cheese shop. And then, what if you don’t like your choices?

Real Simple has a nice article on selecting cheeses and all the niceties that go along with that, but I don’t always like following rules. Off the top of my head (and from copious field research), I would have guessed cheese plates are usually grouped bleus, creamy, sharp, and mild, and I wasn’t far off the mark. But I’m bored already discussing textures and types.

So how do you pick winners for your own cheese plate?

Cheese Plate

My winners from last summer – a 5 county cheddar (five cheddars of varying sharpness and softness layered one atop the other) and a porter-marbled

Answer one is to taste everything. Any cheese shop worth its salt and cream will hand you a sample. Taste, ask questions. It’s a lot like wine-tasting in that you’ll eventually find yourself with a few solid staples that are both unique and undeniably suited to you. Which leads us to answer two: know your tastes. Sample a mango-studded cheese if you spend all summer obsessively squeezing mangoes at the grocery store to see if they’re ripe for smoothies. Try a cheese marbled with dark beer if your favorite part of St. Patrick’s Day is drinking your dinner in form of Guinness or other stouts and porters. Be on the lookout for ingredients that you know and love in other preparations — artisans put a lot of things in cheese now!

To address the cheesy elephant in the room, if you have never liked any bleu cheese you’ve ever eaten (like my cheese-heathen husband), then ask your cheese shop associate what they’d recommend as an alternative. You might find yourself with a tasty gorgonzola or feta instead. Your guests will have a pungent cheese, and you won’t feel like you’re forcing yourself to eat mold.

Cheese Plate

Pepperjack, multi-grain crackers, sharp white cheddar, brie with strawberries, swiss, garlic-stuffed green olives, mango-studded, and honest-to-goodness air-popped popcorn.

Once you’ve settled on your cheeses, start thinking about what else you’d like to put on your plate — crackers, fruits, vegetables, meats. Brie with fresh strawberries is a super yum combination that finds its way onto my platters on many occasions. The beef sticks I’ve known my whole life as “smokies” make a great accompaniment sliced into inch-long pieces, while thick slices of fat smoked sausages and summer salamis are also a great standby. I have a little garden, and fresh cucumbers and green beans make their way onto my plates, as well as pickled carrots from the year before. And if you love the taste of salty, pickled things, grab feta- or garlic-stuffed olives as garnish. Fresh berries and cherries make a sweet statement against mild cheeses like jarlsberg and swiss. Multi-grain crackers, cheese crisps, even the humble saltine all make mini cheesy sandwich bites, and one of the most delightful things I’ve put in a cheese assortment has to be popcorn. Because why not?

Cheese Plate

These Vans gluten-free cheddar crackers are one of my favorite finds for cheese plates. Super thin and crunchy! Soppressata and salami picante are great cheese plate additions, and white cheddar cheese curds are the main attraction.

The only real rule I’ve come across in cheese plating is to keep wet things (olives, freshly-washed berries, pickles) away from anything they will get soggy (crackers, popcorn, chips). Other than that? Go nuts! I, personally, am not one for smears and smudges of jams and chutneys on a cheese plate, but you do you. Heap preserves on top of a small wheel of brie and pop it in the oven for about 8 minutes. Absolute heaven.

To prepare your cheese for plating, let it guide you. Firmer cheeses do well in thin slabs that easily stack on crackers. Softer cheeses can be cut into rough cubes with a very sharp knife, or allowed to crumble as they will. Creamy cheeses and spreads need to be accompanied by a knife. Layered cheeses, like my 5 county cheddar favorite, made a cute presentation cut into little matchsticks, but it wasn’t the most stable, and liked to fall apart. You can make your cheese plates as Alice in Wonderland landscape-ish or as neat as you’d like. Fan out slices or make a pile of cubes — it’s all up to you!

A last few recommendations: Slice your cheese reasonably close to when you plan on serving it. After several hours, it can start to get hard around the edges and get that greasy, unappetizing sheen. If you have leftover cheese, the best thing to do is have a leftover cheese plate for lunch the next day! Check out this guide on the best ways to store cheeses based on type. I’ve had good luck wrapping cheese in parchment, then plastic wrap, although sometimes you still need to trim hard edges, which is fine! Using the same cheeses over and over won’t get repetitive provided you add something new each time. Finally, I didn’t address dried fruit or nuts, but those are both excellent cheese plate accompaniments.

So, what’s your favorite kind of cheese? Does talking about cheese texture bore you to death, too? What’s the most unique cheese you’ve ever tried — and was it good?

Repairing Butcher Block

Repairing Butcher Block

As a natural product, butcher block may occasionally remind you of its wild roots by showing off a small crack, wind shake, or split. Your knowledge of repairing butcher block doesn’t need to be vast in order to take care of the most common issues.

In fact, repairing butcher block is pretty simple as long as you have the right information available. Lucky for you, we’ve got just what you need!

infographic. Splits and Cracks No Worries.

 

Not so bad, right? Repairing butcher block is often a much better alternative to replacing it, saving you time and money. And remember, we’re the experts in all things butcher block, so if you’ve got a problem, we’re here to help!

Memorial Day BBQ – Watermelon Ricotta Starters

Memorial Day BBQ – Watermelon Ricotta Starters

 Since many of us have the day off and the kids are ending their school year, Memorial Day has become the unofficial kickoff to summer, with the scent of back yard BBQ wafting through the air. If BBQ is in the plans for you this Monday, try these refreshing appetizers from Sarah B. Sarah may have gotten a little confused with the west coast lingo, but she knows good BBQ, and she definitely knows good snacks! So, Sarah, give us a little lesson on BBQ and teach us how to make those awesome watermelon bites!

Since moving to California from North Carolina, I’ve come to realize there are tons of cultural differences that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to otherwise, generally when it comes to what things are called.

Here, the big road you drive on is called a freeway, not a highway. If you go to a Mexican restaurant and order a taco, the odds are good it won’t have a hard shell a la Taco Bell. Most importantly, though, is that people here use the word barbeque to refer to a gathering where you grill hot dogs and hamburgers, and not to refer to a meal that involves pulled pork.

In North Carolina, barbeque (or BBQ more often) is something of a religion, and the side of the state you originate from will determine the kind of barbeque you proclaim to be the best. If you’re from Western NC, you’ll likely go for the Lexington Style BBQ, made from pork shoulder and served with a sauce seasoned with ketchup, vinegar, and pepper.

If you’re from Eastern NC, you’ll be more likely to prefer Eastern Style (otherwise known as “the correct choice”). Eastern Style BBQ is vinegar and pepper based and includes no part of a tomato.

It should be noted that it’s next to impossible to find real BBQ around here, so imagine my surprise when I heard a couple of colleagues talking and one mentioned that her Memorial Day plans were to have some people over “for barbeque.”

I got really excited hearing this and jumped into the conversation, thinking at the very least I could procure some leftovers, and at best, I might score an invite.

“You’re having barbeque?” I asked, maybe a smidge too enthusiastically. “I haven’t been able to find barbeque anywhere since I moved here.”

She looked at me oddly for a second, then said, “They don’t have hamburgers near your house?”

After another round or two, we determined that when she said she was having people over “for barbeque,” that meant they were grilling out, having what I would call a barbeque. For me, having people over for barbeque means you’re probably having what they refer to in NC as a “pig pickin’” and would be rewarded with delicious pulled pork.

Needless to say, I’m still on my eternal quest to find some good BBQ west of the Smokies.

So I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend, whether you’re having BBQ sandwiches (yay!) or plain old grilled hamburgers (boo!). If you get invited to a cookout, take along these fun appetizers, made with the quintessential summer fruit: watermelon! They’re super easy and super delicious.

Watermelon Ricotta Starters Memorial Day BBQ

Ingredients

  • 1 watermelon
  • 1 container ricotta cheese
  • Several mint sprigs
  • Olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste

Dice your watermelon into large enough chunks that they won’t fall apart if you take the middle out. Remove the center with a melon baller (or even a small spoon).

Fill the holes with ricotta cheese.

Drizzle olive oil over the cubes and add a dash of salt and pepper (to taste) over the platter.

Garnish each ricotta-filled cube with a mint sprig.