Tag Archives: cooking

Lemon Ricotta Gnudi

28 Jul

 

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This pasta was a joy to make, and really freaking simple. Two of my favorite qualities in a dish. Plus, now that fresh vegetables are so much more readily accessible here in the Northeast (yay summer!), it’s easy to get creative with your pairings.

If you’re curious, gnudi are sort of like gnocchi, and I’m not positive of the true difference (which I feel my Italian ancestors would be deeply disappointed by). My understanding is that gnocchi are traditionally potato-based while gnudi are traditionally ricotta-based. Maybe? Maybe.

These guys are made-up mainly of ricotta, flour, bread crumb and egg. They are delicious, fluffy little pillows of flavor once complete. Just take a look at all these gnudi pics! (Sorry, I couldn’t not put that in this post.)

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This recipe uses fava beans in the supporting role. This legume isn’t one that I use often – or ever – but I’m glad I introduced my kitchen to it for this recipe. If you don’t like the fava bean option, it’s cool. We can still be friends. Peas, edamame, lima beans – whatever you fancy – will work just as well.

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The gnudi dough mixture also contains some lemon zest and basil. They blend in nicely, and compliment the flavors well. You can also, as always, add in some of your favorite herbs from your herb garden. (Check out my Radio Flyer Herb Garden for some ideas!)

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Once the gnudi dough has been shaped and floured, they will need to be chilled for a bit. At least an hour – or if you’re unlike me and plan things ahead, up to 24 hours before you’re ready to indulge.

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Once you drop these into boiling water, let them sit there until they float to the top. When that occurs, let them cook for about two minutes more. Scoop the cooked gnudi out and combine them with the butter/fava bean mixture (in the recipe below…). Eat up, and enjoy!

To make, click to the right to expand ingredients and recipe.  Continue reading

Ginger Cornmeal Biscotti

3 Mar

Cornmeal and ginger biscotti

You’ve got your coffee…but what about a little something to go along with it on this Monday? I’m opting for some of these tasty biscotti that I conjured up a few weeks ago.

ginger biscotti

The main ingredients are candied ginger chunks, cornmeal and chocolate. I show you how to make your own candied ginger here.) There’s also orange zest, almonds and anise seed. It’s a pretty flavorful treat that is super easy to make. Bring some with you for catching up with a friend or to your office to share with coworkers. The mix of flavors within will leave your cohorts in awe of your supreme baking abilities (which you may or may not have…but let’s just let them think you do either way).

For the full recipe and some more photos, head over to my recipe at Eat Boutique.

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Union Square Donuts.

10 Oct

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So I had a REALLY great time shooting and writing this post on Union Square Donuts in Somerville, Mass…

Are donut parties something that people do? They should. And every single one of those parties should be catered by Union Square Donuts in Somerville, Massachusetts. It is guaranteed I would never decline an invite.

donut-6I’ve heard folks around town talking about this donut shop for the better part of a year, so I’m delighted to report that I finally got my hands/mouth on one of these. (Okay, fine, I tried six flavors – if we’re being honest.)

 

donut-7The popular donut making operation started out as the brainchild of Josh Danoff and Heather Schmidt. After a mere two months at their first location, the duo’s creations were in such demand that the business had to relocate to a larger space (its current location at 16 Bow Street).

donut-3donutThe donuts are (does it even need to be said?) made fresh daily. I arrived at 10 AM the morning of my visit, which happened to be the release time of the special Fluffa Nutta donut, a marshmallow Fluff topped donut with peanut butter cream filling.

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I mean, seriously! Fluff was created in Union Square and is a bit of a local celebrity – there is even an annual Fluff festival, at which these will hopefully be making an appearance.

See my full post on Union Square Donuts at Eat Boutique.

Strawberry, Leek & Goat Cheese Quesadilla.

28 Aug

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I sometimes forget how a few simple ingredients can come together to make a dish that truly stands out. This is one of those recipes, and I would like to thank Sara Forte for bringing this to my attention in her cookbook of delights, The Sprouted Kitchen – a tastier take on whole foods.

I try and utilize fresh ingredients which haven’t traveled too far as often as I can. This recipe called for fresh strawberries, and there are plenty of berries around this time of year. Another main component of this unusual (amazing!) take on a quesadilla is goat cheese, which is another locally produced item that is fairly easy to find. Pair those with leeks, mozzarella and brown rice tortillas, and you’ve got the makings of a memorable treat.

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Leeks and strawberries and goat cheese? Yes, they do work together. Each of these ingredients has its own distinct flavor characteristic which manage to meld together in such a way that you are left wondering why you haven’t ever put these together all at once before. (It may also lead to run-on sentences.) I’ve had similar flavor combinations in the past and called on those examples to tell myself that this would be amazing. It was, and much more than I was hoping for. Are you feeling reassured yet?

For more, head over to the rest of my post at EatBoutique.com

Simple Spaghetti Squash

18 Mar

spagsquash-4Since my garden has an aversion to allowing squash plants to thrive, spaghetti squash, luckily, is easy to obtain throughout the fall and winter in the produce section. There are countless ways to use the meat of this squash – bakes, au gratins, pancakes, etc. – however, the purest way to enjoy it is to simply slice it in half and bake.

Once you scoop out the seeds, place in the oven and cook for about an hour. In the meantime, you can chop up some of your favorite herbs, combine them with butter and have them ready and waiting when the squash is out of the oven.

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The presentation is always lovely and is another added perk of this squash variety. Plate it with some fresh baked corn muffins and roasted Brussels sprouts for a healthy and filling meal. If you know other ways to utilize spaghetti squash in a recipe, please share in the comments below.

Click here for the recipe on my post at Eat Boutique!

Anise Sugar & Thyme Cornbread

1 Feb

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Cornbread is always a pleasing and filling addition to any meal it accompanies. This cornbread is no different. It’s filled with fresh thyme and sweet anise sugar – adding a unique element to an already tasty side. 

I came up with this recipe while working on my latest post for Eat Boutique. If you want to make this to warm you up in the middle of winter, head over to read about my Cast Iron Skillet Herbed Cornbread.

Cranberry-Orange Anise Pecan Christmas Cake

24 Dec

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Sometimes you have an idea in your head of what you are going to bake. You have the recipe in front of you. There are pictures. It’s all quite simple to follow, really. And then…your simple change of making a bundt cake instead of two loaves throws a wrench into the ENTIRE recipe…because you’ve poured the batter into the cake pan and it’s already baking. That’s when you (I) realized that the crumble top that gets BAKED on TOP of the cake cannot happen now. Time to reassess.

It’s also the afternoon of Christmas Eve…and this is a dessert for, oh, three hours from now.

So, first thing that pops in to my head is a simple icing for the top. I then took the pecans I had remaining and toasted them with brown sugar and, get this, toasted anise spice sugar! It’s perfect for my Italian family, who are all obsessed with anything anise flavored. Continue reading

Last-minute Christmas to-do list… (Now with added hypens!)

23 Dec

 

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Are you totally waiting until the very last minute to do EVERYTHING? Yeah, me too. That was not the plan though (it never is). Although I was able to knockout the remainder of my Christmas shopping yesterday, I still have to go out and brave society at Christmas time in the stores because I forgot to get a Yankee Swap gift. I also have to…

  • Drink coffee
  • Go to the grocery store for ingredients
  • Figure out what ingredients are needed before going to the grocery store
  • Make food things: antipasto, cheddar & walnut stuffed mushrooms, desserts, etc
  • Figure out what “desserts” and “etc” will be made, then revisit ingredient list
  • Drink Coffee
  • Pick-up 2 pounds of tuna sashimi from Turner’s (a holiday tradition for about 7 years now)
  • Make place cards for the table
  • Finish wrapping gifts (with the help of the pug of course)
  • Make a cup of my favorite new winter cocktail and post it here ASAP!

Okay…so maybe it’s not all THAT much, (maybe it is?!)  but it’s not like I can sit around and watch holiday movies and the 10 episodes of Parking Wars I have DVR’d. Not yet anyway…

Hopefully you’ve got your stuff together a little bit more than I have.

Chestnut Stuffed Mushrooms (and holiday gift ideas!)

11 Dec

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My most recent post for Eat Boutique focuses on using chestnuts as the main ingredient in a filling and seasonally mouth-watering stuffed mushroom. 

Over the past few weeks the air in New England has been changing. It’s a familiar feel that brings an open-arm embrace to sweaters and hooded sweatshirts while at the same time an outstretched grasp hoping to cling to a few more days of warm weather. Fireplaces begin to smoke and the scent of burning wood while working out in the yard brings about a certain hunger. Thoughts of consuming recipes composed of  heartier elements than most that I have eaten over the past few months begin to invade my cravings.

The seasonal changes of fall bring about the recollection of roasting chestnuts in the fireplace while growing up. The uniquely brown nuts marked with an “X” pattern would line the outer tiles of the fireplace hearth, slowly roasting until their aroma filled the room. My family would eat them together as soon as they were cool enough to peel, but we had never used them in a recipe.

Chestnut-5Recently, while consulting with my hunger, I sensed that these hard-shelled delights might work well in a stuffed mushroom. I combined the fresh chestnuts with local leeks and hand-picked apples from a local orchard, then added some Manchego cheese to round out the flavors…

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To read more and to get the recipe, head on over to Eat Boutique! While you’re there, check out the gift boxes and individual items in the shop! I had the chance to sample (and purchase!) many of the items available at the Eat Boutique Holiday Market in Boston this past Sunday. The items and packages you will find easily make perfect gifts for someone on your list (or treat yourself!). 

My favorites include the Mexican Chocolate Almonds from Q’s Nuts (made right in my neighborhood!), Donovan’s Cellar Ginger Spiced Beets and for someone special, the Joy the Baker Gift Box which comes with Sweet Brook Farm Maple Syrup,  Sweet Revolution Caramels and a 14-oz bag of Marge Granola – oh, and a signed copy of Joy Wilson‘s cook book!

A new endeavor…

22 Oct

I am excited to announce that my first post writing and photographing for Eat Boutique, an online magazine and market,  is up! I truly admire the aesthetics and ideas behind what they have accomplished, and I am honored to be a part of it, in whatever small way I am able.  I urge you to go check out eveything they have put together over the past several years.

Below is an excerpt from my first contribution on how to make a delicious and filling veggie taco (Hint: Fried Green Tomatoes).

“Being a carnivore married to a vegetarian can sometimes be a challenging adventure. Over the past ten years I have been enlisted as a vegetarian-by-default at many a meal. During this time, however, I have grown to appreciate plant-based foods in ways that still surprise me. Using vegetables in unexpected places to fill the void in a meatless marriage has become a skill I am still honing, but there are those moments when a vegetable dish leaves me completely satiated.

Vegetarian tacos have been a recurring presence in my kitchen and typically involve a frozen meat substitute defrosted and flavored with a taco seasoning packet – and a lot of cheese. This dish, however, has none of the previously mentioned vegetarian taco curses. Using the leftover green tomatoes gathered from my garden right before the first frost settled in, I refocused the vegetarian taco into an exciting, fresh and multi-layered delight.”

Click here to read the rest of this post and to view images of how beautiful this dish is….

Peanut Sauce Blue Cheese Burger & Friend.

24 Sep

I was craving a bunch of things to eat this evening when I got in from work. I decided to put them all onto burgers and combine the goodness into some seriously flavorful bites. 

I found my favorite peanut sauce at the store the other day and have been dying to put it on something, anything, since I picked it up. I also wanted cheese. I haven’t had any since Saturday. This is a huge deal. 

Instead of dipping the cheese into the peanut sauce and satisfying my desires while at the same time ignoring thousands of years of evolution, I thought it might be nice to be civilized and eat a proper meal. Hence my burger idea. 

I mixed the meat with some garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper and grilled. Then took two routes.

Burger One: Apple (fresh picked at the orchard yesterday!) and Brie.

Burger Two: Blue Cheese (Bleu d’Auvergne), Onion, Peanut Sauce. 

I started out eating the peanut sauce burger first. Then switched to the brie and apple. There was some intense flavor action going on between the two as they fought for dominance over my tastebuds. They kind of complimented each other though. And I am happily satiated because of it.  

Fast And Easy Falafel Lentil Loaf.

9 Jul

Yeah, this recipe does have a lot of letter “L’s” in it. Rest assured, they will all stand for “love” once  you taste this dish. This has been a staple dinner recipe in my home for quite a while, for a few reasons:

  1. It’s simple to make.
  2. It’s inexpensive.
  3. There are always leftovers to enjoy the next day.
  4. It’s healthy.
  5. It’s filling.

The ingredients are most likely things you’ll have around your kitchen anyway. I always check to make sure I have the basic components (canned lentils, jarred roasted red peppers, falafel mix) in the pantry at all times.

It’s really great on those nights when reality hits. Those times you barely got yourself home from work and somehow forgot that you still need food before the evening is through. (It’s also really great on those nights when you plan ahead for it, too.)

Basically, you throw the seven ingredients in a bowl. Form that mixture into a loaf and put it in the oven. Wait a short while and dinner is served! It’s not hard. It’s super easy food for times when life is hard/annoying/too fast. 

How To Make:

(serves up to 4)

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 6 ounces falafel mix
  • 1 can lentils, rinsed
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 cups of chopped baby spinach
  • 1 12-ounce(ish) jar roasted red peppers, cut to 1/2″ pieces. Reserve 2 Tbs. of liquid from jar.
  • 2 eggs
Recipe:
 
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, including the 2 tbs of liquid from pepper jar. Mix well.
 
Form into a loaf on baking sheet with aluminum foil or other non-stick layer.
 
Bake in preheated oven set at 375° for 35-40 minutes. 
 
Eat on its own, or combine with a fresh vegetable or other side dish. This also goes really great with this easy to make peanut sauce recipe!


Avocado, Corn & Asparagus Salad

3 Jul

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to spend the day on Cape Cod with my pal Molly and our beaus. The day consisted of walking to the beach, swimming in the pool, laying in the sun and eating food. Lovely summer food. 

I stole a recipe from that day and you’re about to read about it below. It was a fresh and brightly flavored succotash/salad. Local picked corn, purple asparagus, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, lime and herbs. Simple. And simply delicious. It is a perfect dish to bring to any Fourth of July cookout.

I couldn’t find any purple asparagus when I made this for a family gathering, but I think I was the only one who cared about this. I put the corn, peppers and asparagus on the grill. While those were cooking I picked fresh herbs from the herb garden and cut up the avocado and cherry tomatoes.  Once everything was ready I combined all together to make a filling side dish. Continue reading

Pile It Up.

26 Jun

Here’s a shot I took while cooking the grits for Boston Bacon Takedown. This is about seven pounds of bacon. All of it was delicious.  

Cheesy Bacon Jalapeno Grits, Deviled Egg Style.

25 Jun

This weekend one of my best friends (Shari!) and I took part in the Boston Bacon Takedown. Twenty home cooks creating dishes all using bacon fifteen pounds of free bacon. Last year the two of us were so impressed by all of the entrants, we decided that the following year we would give it a go. And we kept our word.

We decided to go the savory route instead of the sweet route. Last year the sweets just were a little too much, and there was an overload of maple accompaniments which after two or three recipes using the same groundwork became just a bit too much to enjoy. And we were blown away by last year’s winner who made an asian inspired taco that was insane.

Our entry? Cheesy bacon jalapeño grits, served deviled egg style. Topped with bacon, of course. The concept came to me and I thought it was a pretty safe bet. After boiling and peeling FOURTEEN DOZEN eggs, I was having second thoughts. At this point, however, my thumb was barely intact from being impaled by egg shell and it was too late to turn back.

The grits portion was a mad science experiment that actually succeeded. We started with 36 cups of liquid, boiled it, and added 72 ounces of grits. Once that thickened up, we added Gruyere cheese. And then we added some cheddar cheese. And then we added some more cheese. From there on in, it was anyone’s guess how this thing was going to turn out. It took about forty minutes for us to tweek it to perfection.

All totaled, we put in about 6 decent sized jalapeños. Somewhere around 8 tablespoons of Sriracha red chili paste. About a cup of lemon juice. Six pounds of bacon cooked and put through a food processor. A few cloves of garlic. Some dijon mustard. Some melted bacon lard.   And of course salt and pepper to taste.

WHAT!?! It worked. It was delicious.

While we didn’t win (first place went to a caramel bacon candy – sweet won this year, who would’ve guessed?!) My favorites this year included the bacon corn dog and the bacon wrapped blue cheese meat balls.

We also came home with a few parting gifts from Le Creuset, which is never ever a bad thing.

Now, does anyone know how to remove the smell of fifteen pounds of cooked bacon from one’s home?

Recipe:

Okay. Let me be real here. I have no idea what quantity of anything was used. All I can say about this is start out with some grits in a pan. Then, add in cheese until it suits your taste. Add in a decent amount of cooked bacon cut up in a food processor (or chopped…). Then, add in pepper/garlic/dijon mustard puree, salt, pepper and sriracha until it starts to taste awesome. Then, add lemon juice! (This was Shari’s tip and it made a HUGE difference. The Greek in me should have known this. The Greek in Shari did.) Finesse until you are blown away. Eat plain or stuff into a hard boiled egg. 

How To Cook Fiddleheads.

7 May

Years ago while in college, I worked part time at a local Whole Foods. In that time, I learned a surprising amount about produce. I did not know there were so many edible items that grew from the earth. Fiddleheads, I believe, fit into that grouping.

I have to say, upon first glance, they can look as though someone made a mistake and inadvertently stocked the shelf with an imported species of centipede. That is not the case however. Besides, you want them to look all curled up and tight like they are hiding from you. That’s how you know they are safe to eat. (Once they lose the tight curl, they can make you sick.)

Now that I’ve scared you off from ever making these at home by comparing them to bugs and telling you they will make you ill, let me tell you about how I made them (and ate them!) in my kitchen.

Fiddleheads before cleaning

First, like I stated above, be sure the fiddleheads you are cooking with are tightly curled. Next, you will want to cut off the very tips of what is left of the stem. They tend to brown a little while hanging around at the produce section (think of it as a tan!). Chop it off, it makes for better aesthetics.

Once you’ve cut off the ends, wash the fiddleheads in a bowl of cold water. Get rid of any orange-brown leaves and/or dirt. I’d do this about three times, or until the water you’re draining out doesn’t have a lot of pieces floating around in it. After they are rinsed, you should boil them for about 10 minutes in water.

Add the fiddleheads, garlic, salt and butter in a pan and sauté until done to your liking. Plate, add some lemon on top and enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Fiddleheads
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbs. butter
  • salt to taste
  • lemon

To make:

Cut and clean the fiddleheads as mentioned above.

Boil cleaned fiddleheads in a pot of water for about 10 minutes. Next, strain from water and add into pan/skillet with garlic, salt and butter. (I’m sure adding bacon here wouldn’t be a bad idea either…)

Sauté until done. Enjoy with your meal by adding on some fresh squeezed lemon juice!

Shortbread Pop Tarts.

25 Mar

Homemade shortbread pop tarts? Uh-huh.

I had been looking for a way to make pop tarts from scratch. The filling was the easy part, the crust is what was perplexing. Recipes I had seen all call for making the crust with pre-made pie crusts. Meh.

Let’s be honest here, pop tarts don’t taste like pie. That’s why Hostess Fruit Pies exist.  So all of those recipes calling for pie crust use in this case are wrong. (Or, at the very least, terribly misguided.) After much consideration, I decided that the best option for crust would be a homemade shortbread crust.

As my friend Shari would say: Holy cats!

The shortbread is sweet and buttery and delicious. I flattened the dough into small rounds, placed some decent quality mixed berry preserve in the middle and topped it with another flattened dough the same size as the one on the bottom. These would definitely make Lorelai Gilmore go nuts – aside from the make it from scratch part.

Slice off the sides to give the pop tart its shape. Then, put in the oven for 20 minutes. Once they’re done, take them out and let cool. Drizzle the icing onto the top and add sugar. It’s really that simple.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups butter (unsalted)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • jar mixed berry preserves
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • decorative sugar

Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350°F

Mix together the butter and sugar first. Make sure the butter is room temperature so that it mixes well with the sugar. Once they are mixed, add in the salt and gradually add in the flour.

Next, chill the dough for a few minutes until it is easy to form little pancake like shapes. Put a heaping tablespoon of preserve in the middle and spread around. Cover with another pancake shaped round of the shortbread dough. Trim the sides into a pop tart shape/size.

Once they are formed, put on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

While that cooks, mix together the confectioners sugar and milk. (Add in the milk one tablespoon at a time to be sure the icing doesn’t become too runny.)

Take baked tarts out of the over and put on cooling rack to cool. Drizzle on the icing glaze mixture and top that with decorative sugar.

Parsnip & Leek Smash

8 Mar

Parsnips and leeks, you say? Indeed. And with the addition of a little creme fraiche, this turns into a delicious side for any meal.

This is a great substitute for boring mashed potatoes, and though it’s simple to make with just three ingredients, it has a complex flavor that you’ll be craving time and time again. And it’s a pretty healthy dish, too.

Ever since I started adding parsnips into my regular rotation of vegetables, I have not been disappointed. The albino cousin of the carrot doesn’t particularly look like more than just an ordinary root, but it has a nutty flavor that really stands out. I prefer to leave the outer skin of the parsnip on, as it isn’t very thick and adds a nice texture.

These parsnips were given to me at the end of the growing season in late fall and I just now have gotten around to using them. They were grown organically at a local farm and were stored properly for a couple of months, allowing the fresh flavor to last well into winter.

And lest we forget the other main component of this dish, the leek. I find it is another underutilized vegetable with a lot of flavor. It’s related to onion and garlic, and works very well together with the parsnips.

Once the veggies are cut and boiled, put them in a bowl and use a potato masher to smash them all together. Add in the creme fraiche, salt and pepper and plate next to your main dish.

To make:

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium sized leeks, cut into 1/2″ rings
  • 1 pound parsnips, skin on, cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • 1/3 cup creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and add parsnips and leeks. Let cook in boiling water until soft, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from water and place in a medium sized bowl. Smash up the leek and parsnip together until mashed together. Add in creme fraiche, salt and pepper and mash together some more. (You can make this as smooth/chunky as you want, I prefer it somewhere in between.)

Plate and serve. You could garnish with nutmeg or a small dollop of creme fraiche.

Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Cake.

4 Mar

On this particular sunny Sunday, I was supposed to be attending the wedding of my dear friend Meghan in Los Angeles. Two people I could not be happier for are celebrating their marriage outdoors in Elysian Park with a huge party. Instead of spending the day with them and dancing it up with friends and a speckle of celebrity attendees, I am here in New England because things don’t always work according to plan or intention.

However, today is also Molly’s birthday and she will be having a get together later on this evening. So I have that to look forward to. And, since I had the time, I made a cake to bring with me.

I have only made this cake once before for another friend on her birthday years ago. I remember everyone enjoyed it thoroughly, and I felt it was time to get on it again.

It’s not that hard to make and won’t take too long (as long as you aren’t staging photos, finding the right lighting and fighting with the dog because all she wants is to eat everything you are touching.) Oh, and the frosting is made with cheese. Enough said.

Once you have all of your ingredients together, it’s time to get started. Now, for the cake, just get yourself a good quality chocolate cake mix. Unless you want to upstage me and make it from scratch. That’s totally cool.

While the cake is baking, make the crunchy hazelnut caramel toffee. It’s pretty freaking simple. Water and sugar. Boil. Pour. Let set.

Now that the cake is cooling and the toffee is chopped, it’s time to make the frosting. The key to making this correctly is to have the Marscapone cheese at room temperature for mixing. Another thing is to make the whipped cream portion of the frosting first before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.

Once it’s all mixed, spread and even layer on top of the bottom layer of cake and sprinkle that with some of the orange zest/chocolate/sugar mixture.

Next, add the top layer of cake. And more frosting.

Once the chocolate cake is covered with the hazelnut crunch frosting, sprinkle as much of the orange/chocolate/sugar topping as you’d like.

And all of a sudden, you have a cake everyone will LOVE.

To make this cake: Continue reading

Cheesy Mushroom Risotto Fritters with Beet Hummus.

21 Feb

First of all. Can we talk about the color of the beet hummus? These pictures have not been enhanced in a way that has changed the color of the hummus dramatically. It actually looks like this in real life. And you can eat it. And it’s all okay.

Beets have been a favorite of mine for a while now. You can pickle them. Put them in a salad. Slice them and make chips. Put them in chocolate cake. (Yes, you can. My pal Joy the Baker shows you how.) The list goes on.

I put them in hummus this time around. And then paired that with cheesy mushroom risotto fritters.

Although it involves a little more time than some dishes (because you’re making the risotto from scratch) the reward is definitely worth the effort. You could actually make the risotto as a dish on its own for one night, and then use the leftovers to make the fritters the next. You could. I couldn’t, I don’t have that kind of patience.

The risotto and the beet hummus really compliment one another well, and the hummus transforms itself into a dipping sauce of sorts for the fritters.

Once you’ve cooked the risotto, you need to let it cool for about an hour. This is the perfect time to make the beet hummus!

Now that you’ve made that (it is insanely simple to make), set it aside and let’s get back to the fritters!

Take the cooled risotto and shape it into little patties. Throw those into some hot oil (I prefer grapeseed oil for frying) and brown ‘em up!

At this point of the process, I had made myself pretty freaking hungry. Next step is easy, just plate it and indulge.

How to make the risotto fritters: Continue reading

Prosciutto, Mozzarella and Fig Compote on Focaccia.

29 Jan

Today began as one of those relaxing days when you wake up early, have no agenda, and feel like you could lounge around all day or ride your bike or go shopping or, well, pretty much do anything you please. Being winter in New England, options are automatically limited by taking any enjoyment out of outdoor activities.

I started out going for coffee and a bagel at the coffee shop down the street. I’ve been going there since 1999. I love it there. I brought my computer and played around for two hours with logos for a new project I am working on. I headed home around 10 AM, played with the dog and continued to do a lot of nothing. It was great.

Then, hunger started to creep in. Realizing I haven’t done a blog post in a week or two, I decided to combine activities and do something at least mildly productive. For this reason, I bring you today’s sandwich.

Actually, calling it a sandwich is a bit of an undersell. It is a meal compacted into the guise of being a sandwich. It’s my lunch and about half of my dinner. (I plan on eating a lot of cheese & crackers later while watching TV. I have lofty goals.). It is huge. And half of it would have sufficed.

Start with a fresh cut focaccia. Add to it some prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, fig compote and avocado. Eat.

All in all it’s a simple mix of ingredients that pleases the senses pretty easily.

I served it up with a side of bread and butter pickles from Saltbox Farm in Concord, Ma. It was a nice pairing. And I love anything I can eat from that place.

To make the sandwich…

  • 3-4 slices prosciutto
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 4 T fig compote
  • 6-8 small balls of fresh mozzarella, sliced in half
  • fresh cut focaccia
  • salt to taste

Build your sandwich like you would any other. It’s going to be thick when it’s all finished. I like to anchor mine with fig compote on both slices of focaccia. If you wish, you can also put this in a panini press, as it is even more delicious warm.

Blackberry & Kumquat Filled Brandy Tuiles.

13 Jan

Now. Look at these. Look at them closely. You know how you are studying them, imagining how incredible biting into any of them would be? Take that taste in your head. Multiply it by at least 17,000. That’s how good they are.

Let’s talk about the Tuiles, shall we? Crispy little cylindrical brandy wafers filled with Greek yogurt, blackberry jam, clementines, kumquats and black pepper. Oh man.

These little tubes of tastiness really get your tastebuds up on their feet. They are a perfect way to end a meal. Or a perfect snack to eat while watching TV. Or right before bed. If you made them right, you could probably have them for breakfast too…maybe add some apple and cinnamon into the mix?

These tuiles were just one of the desserts Molly Loveday made when she created this dinner. As an aside, we were also invited over for dinner last night. Homemade Gnudi pasta. Oh my.

I’m getting way too used to this having an awesome neighbor thing.

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Tagliatelle and Littleneck Clams in a Gin-Basil Jalapeño Sauce.

12 Jan 120106-_MG_2379

Eating is always better when I don’t have to cook anything  for myself. That is why I love having a close friend who is also an incredible chef.

On Friday night, my pal Molly Loveday invited Joe(y) and I over for dinner. A late dinner. Like, come over at 8:30 and we will start to get the ball rolling kind of late dinner. (By “get the ball rolling”, I mean I’ll watch you get all of this edible amazingness ready while I take pictures and drink Lambrusco.)

Molly makes real food, from scratch. She was trained by and has worked for an impressive list of people.  She knows exactly how to pair this with that. She understands and utilizes local ingredients at their peak. Everything always tastes flavorful and fresh. Molly even makes her own sparkling water and places it on the table with a glass that has your name on it. Now that’s service… I mean, friendship. That’s friendship!

Molly dressed her table with bunched herbs and fresh scallions, which just happen to be ingredients in the meal we will be feasting on.  And the table itself…Well, it’s a black and white enamel topped Hoosier table. The body of which was lovingly and professionally  restored (along with the bench) by her father. We are christening it tonight. It was just carried in about an hour or so before we arrived. The paint may or may not still be a little tacky.

On the menu for the evening:

  • Mackerel Tartine
  • Lentils, cauliflower and herbs topped with pomegranate seeds
  • Tagliatelle with littleneck clams in a gin-basil jalapeño sauce
  • Brandy Tuile with kumquat marmalade
  • Chocolate Caramel Tartlettes
  • Molly’s Blonde Fudge

I know, right?

The tagliatelle dish was completely filling and perfectly balanced. The jalapeño peppers added just enough kick to bring the fresh pasta to a higher level of being, especially when joined with the scallion. And I don’t believe you can ever go wrong with adding in littleneck clams.  (You can find the recipe for this dish at the bottom.)

Dessert pictures and recipes will be forthcoming. But let me just say, handmade blonde fudge and brandy tuiles beg for your attention. Stay tuned…

I’m excited and privileged to have Molly as one of my closest friends. I’m also elated that she has moved only a few blocks away. In any spare time the two of us may have, I know I’ll be heading over to her home any chance I get (for obvious reasons.)

Molly is currently putting her culinary talents to use right in your own kitchen! If you live in the Boston area and would like to have a private cooking lesson in your own home, or think someone you know would enjoy this as a gift, you can contact Molly for more details at ChefMollyLoveday@gmail.com

Expect more collaborations from Molly, myself and Joe(y) in the near future. Until then, give this main dish a try…

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Baked Gouda in a Skillet.

3 Jan

Throughout my twenties I frequented an establishment in Cambridge, Mass. called the B-Side Lounge. It was perfectly balanced, being both a well-stocked bar and an eatery with dishes that could rival any establishment. The crowd was always full of some of the Boston area’s best folks, and the staff were equally as charming and talented. There were so many things about this place that were perfect. The decor, the cocktail list, the menu! The one menu item that was my favorite, as well as a favorite of friends, was the Baked Gouda in a Skillet served with crostinis.

An old photo I took of the airplane fan inside of the B-Side Lounge

Baked Gouda in a Skillet. As a menu item! Perfect for cold winter nights when you just want to sit down, enjoy the company you are with, have a cocktail and share cheese. It’s been four years since the B-Side closed, and four years since I’ve dipped a crunchy crostini into a bubbling pool of gouda, cream, garlic, et al.

Today, I have fixed that. I decided to give a try at recreating this dish from my memory and the memory of my friends. There was a debate, briefly, about whether or not there were potatoes mixed in. My friends and I came to an understanding that while we do remember there being potato stick slices in the dish at one point, originally it was made without potatoes. My recipe has no potatoes. I also used a 6.5 inch skillet. If I remember correctly, the restaurant used either an eight or ten inch skillet.

My recipe does have a lot of cheese. Like, a lot, a lot. It also has garlic, shallots, cream, herbs, and the tiniest amount of butter.

I started by sautéing the garlic and shallots in the skillet. Then added cream. And cheese. And herbs. And some more cream. And then some more cheese. Then once it’s smooth in the pan, I just stuck it into the oven and waited.

The result was pretty similar to what I remember. It may not be the exact same proportions of this to that of its predecessor, but it came so close I can consider this an accomplished feat.

To make the B-Side Lounge Baked Gouda in a Skillet:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Gouda cheese
  • 1/3 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 small shallot, sliced thin
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter

Pre-heat your oven to 375°F.

Put the skillet over medium heat and add butter, garlic and shallots. Once those have sauteéd a few minutes, add about 1/2 of the heavy cream. Next, add in 1/2 of the cheese, bit by bit, allowing it to melt evenly and smoothly into the cream.

Put in the rosemary and thyme. Then add the rest of the cream, and then the remaining cheese. Again, mix while you add the cheese. Once it is smooth and thickened, move the skillet into the over. Don’t forget, the skillet is HOT, so use caution.

Leave in the oven for 12-14 minutes. Once done, secure the skillet and let briefly cool.

For the Crostinis:

Slice whatever kind of bread you’d enjoy having, but a loaf of crunchy crusty bread is ideal. Take each slice and give it a light coat of olive oil on each side. Put on top rack of oven and let brown. When one side is done, flip it over and toast the other side also. After a few minutes, the bread should be browned and crispy and perfect for dipping. (You can do this either before or after making the gouda in a skillet.)

Serves 2-3, depending on how much each of you love cheese.

Update: See the comments section for additional information regarding more ingredients used for the B-Side Lounge Baked Gouda in a Skillet…including fried potato sticks & goat cheese!

Wedding Gift: Customized Wooden Cutting Board.

2 Jan

Right before Christmas I received a package in the mail. To my surprise, it was not a Christmas present at all, but a wedding gift. And it was a pretty freaking great one at that.

My cousin Michael and his lovely wife Denise (I’m guessing it was mainly Denise who did the work here) sent a customized wooden cutting board to us as our wedding present. It has my newly hyphenated name and the year of the wedding etched into the wood.

It is really an incredible gift for someone who loves to be in the kitchen as much as I do. I have gotten over my reluctance to use the board (for fear of damaging it in any way) and baked up a nice treat with it that I’m going to share as my next blog post. I really am kind of in love with this as a gift idea!

Thinking about… Joy the Baker

13 Jul

So if you’ve read anything of mine over the past few months, you may have noticed I have been a bit preoccupied with the likes of Joy the Baker. Yes, Joy is a baker. And yes, she does it incredibly well.

Just ask Saveur, who named her blog the Best Baking and Dessert Blog of 2011. Also, the London Times granted her website the distinction of being one of the Top Fifty Food Blogs in the World (Yes, in the WORLD.)

Also, she has a highly popular and equally enjoyable podcast available on iTunes, where it debuted in May as the #9 most listened to podcast of the week. Go listen after you check her website and finish reading this interview, but before you make dinner.

I got the chance to sit down and chat (via video internet amazingness) with Joy. The resulting text below is what I have strung together into some semblance of an interview after nearly an hour of pretty awesome banter.

Joy doesn’t really like the woods. Or Ke$ha. She does, as one would expect, like to go out for dinner and cocktails. She likes to put Maker’s in her tea. And I am very much okay with all of it.

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