Roasted Beets with Pistachio Beet Green Pesto, Honey Yogurt, and Blood Orange Vinaigrette

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Last weekend was one of my favorite holidays-Passover.  Something about Passover just immediately brings me back to my childhood.  All it takes is the smell of chicken soup simmering away on the stove or the pungent smell of horseradish and I am instantly transported back to my home in Western Massachusetts where I can envision a mini-version of myself, wearing one of my nicest dresses, setting the dinner table before the seder.  Since I graduated from college, I have made it a point to cook a Passover dinner every year that I have been in Boston (except last year when I was interviewing all over the country) and every year I cook almost the same menu: brisket, matzoh ball soup, and chocolate flourless cake from the April 2006 issue of Bon Appetite magazine.  Each year I refine the dishes a little more and try to add something new to the dinner.  A few years ago I invented chocolate covered matzoh ice cream which was such a hit, I have made it again every year since then!  This year I added in a ribbon of the hot fudge from the hot fudge thumbprints I made earlier this month.  Other recipes such as the charoset ice cream with Manischevitz sauce were not as well received.

This year, I wanted to add some color and vegetables to the table so I set out to make my first beet dish ever!  I actually didn’t really like beets until a few years ago which is probably why I never learned to make them.  However, after repeatedly trying them they found their way into my heart and I realized that their earthy taste eventually gave way into a sweetness that paired perfectly with tart and creamy flavors (like goat cheese or yogurt).  I decided to get creative with my roasted beets and created multiple components to add varied textures and flavors to the beets.

In full disclosure, I hadn’t planned on posting the recipe on my blog.  However, after multiple people requested the recipe after seeing the photos that I posted, I racked my brain for the ingredients and proportions and below is what I came up with.  Therefore, if you make it, taste is as you go (as you always should) and adjust as necessary!

Roasted Beets with Pistachio Beet Green Pesto, Honey Yogurt, and Blood Orange Vinaigrette

(serves 6-8 people)

Roasted beets:
8-10 medium sized beets of varying color
olive oil
salt

Pistachio beet green pesto:
1/4 cup pistachios (plus more to top the final dish)
1/2 cup packed chopped beet green leaves
1 small piece of garlic
1/4 cup of oil
salt

Blood orange vinaigrette:
2 blood oranges
1 Tbs honey
1/4 cup olive oil
salt

Honey yogurt:
10 oz (2 small containers) greek yogurt
2 Tbs honey

For the roasted beets: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rub beets with olive oil and salt.  Wrap beets of same color together in foil packets so they are sealed.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 45-60 minutes until they are fork tender.  Cool for 10 minutes and then run under cool water and remove the skins.  Cut into 4-6 wedges depending on the size of the beets.

For the pesto: Place first 3 ingredients in a mini food processor.  Slowly add oil until pesto is of a consistency that can be easily drizzles over the beets.  Season with salt.

For the vinaigrette:  Supreme or slice the blood oranges.  Reserve any juice that accumulated while cutting and then squeeze the remnants of the oranges to get more juice.  Whisk in honey, olive oil and salt.

Honey yogurt: Mix honey and yogurt together.

Assembly.  Spoon yogurt as the first layer on a large plate.  Drizzle with a few spoonfuls of pesto.  Top with the cut beets and blood orange segments/slices.  Top with a few more spoonfuls of drizzled pesto.  Spoon the vinaigrette over the beets.  Top with chopped, toasted pistachios if desired and herbs such as parsley or dill (if desired).

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Heirloom Tomato, Pesto, and Goat Cheese Tart

My birthday was a few weeks ago and for it, the city of Boston gave me the best present ever: the opening the the Boston Public Market!  For those unfamiliar, the Boston Public Market is a year-round, indoor market consisting of 37 local vendors offering coffee, donuts, cheese, meat, flowers, prepared foods, smoked fish, local produce and more.  It is the most local market in the US…just a 1/2 mile walk from my apartment!

I have probably been at least 5 times since it opened and some of the vendors are starting to recognize me (Hi Boston Smoked Fish Company!).  However, given my recent hectic work and travel schedule, I haven’t been able to cook or bake to take advantage of the amazing fresh produce offered.  This Saturday I finally had a free day in Boston and decided to let the market guide me through a lazy afternoon in the kitchen.

The gorgeous display of bright heirloom tomatoes at Siena Farms immediately caught my eye (along with fresh corn and peaches).  I quickly remembered the leftover homemade pesto in my freezer and after stopping at Appleton Farms for some fresh goat cheese, my dinner quickly materialized!

I have long had a love affair with rustic tarts- both for their simplicity and deliciousness- and decided to try my hand at my first savory tart.  I used my favorite pie/tart crust minus the sugar and then spread a layer of homemade pesto on the bottom.  Next, I layered several different varieties and colors of sliced heirloom tomatoes, sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt to bring out their flavor.  Finally, I topped the tart with the fresh goat cheese before baking it in the oven.

This was the perfect savory, summer tart to take advantage of the Boston Public Market.  Steamed sweet corn, peach crisp (a la mode), and a refreshing glass of rosé rounded out the meal!  I can’t wait to have leftovers in my call room today! (No rosé of course…)

Heirloom Tomato, Pesto, and Goat Cheese Tart

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
16 oz (2 stick) cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice cold water
several tablespoons Pesto (homemade or store-bought), enough to cover bottom of tart
4-5 medium-large heirloom tomatoes, cored and slices
olive oil, to taste
sea salt, to taste
4-6 oz goat cheese
1 egg
splash of water

Make the pastry dough by blending the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulsing until it resembles peas. Add 1 Tbs of water at a time while pulsing until the mixture forms into a dough.  Turn out into a disk on plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat over to 425 degrees F.  Lightly flour a large surface and roll out tart dough into a large circle until it is about 1/4 inch thin.  Transfer dough to parchment lined baking sheet (rimmed is preferable in case tart leaks).  Spoon pesto over dough, leaving a 3 inch rim of dough.  Layer the tomatoes in concentric circles.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt to taste.  Top with pieces of goat cheese.

Fold dough over the edges, using the parchment paper to help, and pinch the corners together to seal it.  Make an egg wash my beating the egg with a splash of water.  Brush over the exposed edges of the dough.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, until crust is browned and tomatoes start to bubble.  Remove from oven and let cool for at least an hour.  Serve at room temperature with more pesto if desired.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil

Cauliflower is the new kale! You heard it here first!  Actually, it’s been proclaimed the new kale for about a year now but it’s still really really really good.  My favorite preparation is to simply roast it with olive oil, salt and pepper to bring out the delicious nutty, caramel flavors (and then maybe add some pomegranate seeds, parsley, hazelnuts…).  However, given that winter has finally decided to grace us with its below freezing temperatures and gale force winds, I decided to take the roasted cauliflower one step further by turning it into a soup.

This humble soup of roasted cauliflower, onion, garlic, water and milk is delicious served as is.  But, finishing with sautéed mushrooms and truffle oil really elevates the dish and lends an earthy flavor and aroma.  Serve it as an appetizer or turn it into the main attraction by adding some crusty bread and a small side salad.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil
(serves 4-6)

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
2 cups milk
1/2 Tbs sugar
4 oz wild mushrooms sautéed in 1 Tbs butter
sour cream (or greek yogurt or creme fraiche) (optional)
truffle oil (not optional…)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss cauliflower in 2 Tbs olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 30-40 minutes, until browned.   Set aside.

Heat a large pot or dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat with the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil.  Add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute before adding the roasted cauliflower.

Add the water, milk and sugar and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes (or risk burning yourself while pureeing).  Puree with immersion blender or in batches in a food processor until smooth.  Return soup to dutch oven, reheat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with mushrooms, truffle oil, and a dollop of sour cream (or greek yogurt/creme fraiche) if desired.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone had an amazing dinner surrounded by friends and family like I did.  Thanksgiving (after Passover) is obviously one of my favorite holidays.  This year I cooked dinner for my parents and several co-workers that couldn’t make it home for the holiday.

This was a monumental year because I decided to stray from my traditional stuffed turkey breast and go all in with a 16 lb bird!  I purchased a free range fresh turkey from Misty Knoll Farms via Formaggio Kitchen and changed my turkey recipe about 5 times before I finally settled on my original recipe for roasted turkey by Ina Garten.  Ina has never steered me wrong so far so I figured her recipe would be a safe bet…especially with a stick of herb butter smeared under the skin followed by more brushed over the whole bird.  After 3 1/2 hours, my turkey was a perfect golden brown with crispy skin and tender, juicy turkey meat.

My carving skills may need some work though…

Read below for more Thanksgiving dishes and recipes (some of which you may recognize from last year or other blog posts).

The night started with some light appetizers: deviled eggs and fig and blue cheese savouries

Obviously no Thanksgiving would be complete without biscuits, especially these sage biscuits from Joanne Chang.  I topped mine with honey butter (instead of parsley butter) and served with more warm honey butter on the side (just add a Tbs or so of honey and a pinch of salt to a stick of room temperature butter and mix until combined).

I needed a cold dish for the brussel sprouts since I was tight on oven space so I turned to my favorite farm salad from Sweet Cheeks.

The meal was rounded off with stuffing, sweet corn pudding, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a spicy carrot salad.

And finally…

Dessert!!!  I possibly went a little overboard with 3 desserts: mini apple crisp pies, black bottom peanut butter mousse pie, and pumpkin cheesecake squares (not pictured).

I hope everyone had a great holiday!  Look for my next blog post on a creative way to use some Thanksgiving leftovers!

Shanah Tovah: Rosh Hashanah Dinner

Despite the balmy 80 degree weather this weekend in New England, fall is upon us.  And with it comes apple picking, pumpkin everything, and the Jewish high holidays.  While no one really looks forward to Yom Kippur (although it is fun to stuff your face with bagels and lox after 24 hours of fasting…and I suppose to pray and ask for forgiveness), Rosh Hashanah is always an exciting holiday.  Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year and also the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve.  There are a lot of religious customs but what most people remember and look forward to is the tradition of eating apples dipped in honey to welcome in a “sweet new year”.

While the main event of this holiday is praying and reflecting at synagogue, blowing the shofar, and beginning the first of ten days of repentance, the celebratory meal often takes central focus.  I have been hosting Rosh Hashanah dinner for the past several years for my busy co-workers and friends who often don’t have time to make it to a synagogue or celebrate the New Year.  It’s a way to get my close friends together to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in our own way (with good food!).

Scroll down for pictures from this year’s dinner along with some recipes.  L’shanah tovah!

Rosh Hashanah cocktail from Union Square Cafe in NYC.

Ronda’s Challah

(This recipe is from my childhood best friend’s mom, you won’t find a better challah around!)

1 cup very warm water
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup honey
1 egg
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1 package Fleishman’s rapid rise yeast (important that this be rapid rise and not active)
1 egg
sesame seeds (optional)
2 apples chopped, cinnamon and honey (optional for making apple and honey challah)

Add the first 6 ingredients into a bread machine in order listed. Make a hole in the top of the flour and add the yeast. Set bread machine to dough cycle (approximately 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the machine). Take out dough and place on well floured surface. Punch down the dough several times and then make into 3 ropes. Braid the challah and place on greased baking sheet. If you want to make apple and honey challah then roll challah into one long rope, flatten and stuff with a mixture of apples, honey and cinnamon.  Roll into a bun shape.  Cover challah with towel and let rise for 1-2 hours. Beat egg and paint onto challah. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake in preheated 350˚F oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe for spiced brisket with apricot and leeks.

I have been making this recipe for almost 8 years and it is always a hit!  I’ve found that it is best to start it 2 days ahead of time and cook it the day before- leftover brisket always tastes better!

Now to the desserts…

Peanut swirl brownies

Rich and fudgey brownies with peanut butter, proclaimed by some to be the “best brownies in the world”!  I cut the recipe by half and make it in a 9×13 inch pan.  Be careful not to over bake!

Apple Crunch Galette that I served with lavender goat cheese honey ice cream.  The ice cream is a spin on the honey ice cream I made last year with an added twist:  I infused the milk/cream with dried lavender and substituted the cream cheese for 2 oz of goat cheese.

Apple Crunch Galette

(from the Kosher by Design cookbook)

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 sticks (1 cup, 16 Tbs) unsalted butter, cold, cut into about 8 pieces
4-5 Tbs ice water

Streusel:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (not quick cooking or instant)
6 Tbs melted butter

Apple Filling:
5-6 medium apples
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbs apricot preserves
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tsp water or milk

For the crust:

In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar 2-3 times until mixed.  Add the diced, chilled butter.  Pulse until mixture resembles peas.  Add the ice water 1 Tbs at a time until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Knead briefly to bring together in a ball and flatten slightly into a disc.   Refrigerate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

For the streusel:

In the meantime make the streusel by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing with a fork until it comes together.  Set aside.

For the apples:

Peel, seed and slice the apples.

In a large bowl, combine the apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Toss gently to coat.  Set aside.

To assemble the crostata:

Preheat the oven to 375.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper.  Roll the dough into a 14-15 inch circle.

Leaving a 3 inch border, spread the apricot preserves over the center of the dough.  Sprinkle evenly with 3/4 of streusel topping.  Next, starting at the outer edge and working your way into the center, lay the apple slices in concentric circles, going around and adding layers until the apples are used.  Sprinkle with remaining streusel.  Using the parchment to help, fold the dough border over the apples, turning as needed.  The dough will cover 2-3 inches of filling.  Slide crostata carefully on the parchment paper onto rimless baking sheet.  Brush exposed dough with beaten egg yolk.

Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully cover dough with foil to prevent burning.  Bake for another 20-30 minutes until crust is golden brown and apples are tender.  Let cool for about an hour before cutting and serving.

And finally, what to do with leftovers..

brisket hash…

or…

Challah french toast with apple syrup! 

Cooking Lessons: Curry Risotto with Tandori Chicken

My cooking lessons continued last week with a slightly more complicated dish.  My friend had just gotten back from vacation and had tried an unusual dish while abroad: chicken curry risotto.  I love risotto and I love Indian food so it made perfect sense to combine these two into one dish: Italian-Indian fusion? Might just be the next new thing…

Risotto is classic Italian comfort food.  It is a rice dish from northern Italy that is cooked slowly until it develops a creamy consistency.  For those who like to constantly be doing something while they cook, this is the dish for you.

It starts by sautéing an aromatic element such as onion and garlic- we also used ginger to add an Indian flavor.  You then add the arborio rice (a short grain rice with capacity to absorb a lot of liquid) and wine to deglaze the pan.  Once the wine has reduced the fun begins!  Little by little, you add broth to the pot and stir constantly until all the broth is absorbed.  You repeat this process until the rice is “al dente” and creamy.

We made a curry broth by adding spices to chicken broth but you can use any flavor variation to make a risotto of your choice: vegetable, beef, mushroom, seafood, etc.  Oftentimes the risotto is finished off with lemon juice, cheese (goat cheese, parmesan, blue cheese), fresh herbs, or cream.  Make sure to season as you go and serve immediately or else the risotto will continue to cook and become a mushy mess! (and if you have any leftovers save it to make arancini the next day!)

Curry Risotto with Tandori Chicken

(serves 6)

For the Tandori Chicken (from Fine Cooking):

8 bone-in chicken thighs
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons)
1 Tbs. peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. garam masala
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 lemon, cut in half

For the curry risotto:IMG_1377

6 cups of chicken broth
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
3 Tbs curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs sugar
4 Tbs butter, divided
1 Tbs olive oilIMG_1374
1/2 of a sweet onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs ginger, minced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
cilantro, chopped for garnish (optional)

For the Tandori chicken:

Remove the skin and trim excess fat from the chicken. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut three or four long, diagonal slits on each thigh against the grain, almost to the bone.

In a large, shallow bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, garam masala, kosher salt, and cayenne. Add the chicken, turning to coat and making sure that the marinade gets into all of the slits in the chicken. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Transfer the chicken from the marinade to the baking sheet, spacing the thighs evenly. Discard any remaining marinade. Roast until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced and an instant-read thermometer in a meaty part of a thigh registers 170°F, about 45 minutes

Squeeze the lemon halves over the chicken. Let it cool for about 20-30 min before using for the risotto. (may be refrigerated at this point if making ahead) Once cooled, remove chicken from bones and cut into bite sized pieces.

For the curry risotto:

Make the broth by adding the chicken broth, coconut milk, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, tomato paste, and sugar into a medium pot and whisking until blended.  Heat to a simmer and cover.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs butter and the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and cook for another minute.  Add some salt and pepper to taste (I like to season as I go to add layers of flavor).

Add the rice to “toast” it, and stir for about 1 minute.  Add the white wine and let reduce for about a minute, while stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Ladle about 1 cup of the curry broth into the rice and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently.  Once the liquid is absorbed, continue adding broth, a 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more, stirring frequently the whole time.  Continue this until rice is creamy and tender, and most of the broth (if not all) is used, about 25-30 minutes.

Stir in lemon juice, remaining 2 Tbs butter , salt and pepper to taste and finally the chicken to rewarm it.  Serve immediately and top with cilantro.

Cooking Lessons: Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

I am often approached by friends asking for cooking or baking lessons.  While this sounds like a good idea in theory, I must admit, I’m a little “Type A” in the kitchen which can make relinquishing control to a new “student” a little difficult (especially if I plan on taking beautiful pictures for a future blog post!).  However, I decided to give it a shot for once.  My friend requested learning how to make something relatively simple but “healthy”.  Now those of you who follow my blog (or who have been lucky enough to sample my culinary masterpieces) may laugh at the idea of me making anything healthy, but I promise you it is possible!  This salad was inspired by the seared tuna salad at the Hillstone with some minor variations to suit my picky friend.

Below are some of the basic techniques, definitions, and tips I taught my friend in order to compose this salad:

Chopping– When food, generally vegetables/herbs, are cut into smaller uniform pieces but not as small as if it were minced (see next)

Mincing– Cutting food, such as garlic or ginger, into the tiniest pieces possible

Julienning– This refers to cutting food, generally vegetables such as carrot or zucchini, into long match-stick like pieces.  Often used to cut vegetables for a slaw. You can do this by hand (which is tedious), use a special mandolin grater, or buy a special julienning vegetable peeler.

Searing-This is when food, such as meat or fish (aka tuna) is cooked over really high heat to get a nice sear or caramelization on the outside of the meat.  

Vinaigrette- Generally this refers to a salad dressing but it can also be used as a marinade.  It is typically composed of 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar or acid.  I generally use citrus juice or other vinegars (balsamic, sherry, champagne) for my acid and olive oil for my oil.  In the following Asian inspired vinaigrette I also introduced soy sauce and rice wine vinegar for some acidity and sesame oil.  It is also great to balance out the flavor with some sweetness from honey.  You can use sugar too but the honey also acts as an emulsifier to bring your vinaigrette together (dijon mustard also works as an emulsifier).  Finally, you can add herbs and other flavors such as garlic, shallots, basil, cilantro etc.  Finish with salt and pepper to taste and test the final product by trying on a piece of lettuce dipped into the vinaigrette.

The below vinaigrette would be great on salmon, chicken or shrimp.  You can also add different vegetables (red pepper, snap peas) or fruit (mango, mandarin wedges) to the salad as you please.

While the lesson somewhat deteriorated into more of a demonstration while my friend watched and drank wine, overall I’d call it a success!

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad

(serves 4)

Start by making the vinaigrette to the give the flavors time to marinate together.

Cilantro, Honey, Lime Vinaigrette 

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs rice wine vinegar
3 Tbs honey
1 Tbs freshly minced ginger
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk the first 5 ingredients (lime juice through honey) in a medium bowl.  Mix in the ginger and cilantro.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until thoroughly emulsified.  Taste to see if you need salt- because of the soy sauce you may find you don’t need it.  Allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  You will likely need to re-whisk before serving.

Salad

8 oz of mixed baby lettuces (you can use anything you wish here although I’d recommend using against something with lots of flavor such as arugula, I used a mix of frisee and red lettuce but a pre-washed container of mixed lettuce or spinach would work just fine)
2 avocados, halved and sliced
2 tomatoes, cut into about 8 wedges each (can also use halved cherry tomatoes)
chopped cashews or nut of your choosing to top the salad

Toss the lettuce with about 3/4 of the vinaigrette.  Reserve the remaining to drizzle on the tune.  Divide the salad onto one half of 4 plates.  Top each with 1/4 of the avocado slices, tomato wedges and cashews.

Seared Ahi Tuna

4 5 oz fresh tuna steaks (each about 3/4 to 1 inch thick)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper

Generously salt and pepper each side of the tuna.  Heat both oils in a 12 inch skillet on high heat until a drop of water sizzles.  Add the tuna steaks and cook until browned on each side about 1-2 minutes, so that it is still raw on the inside.

Let it rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes.  Slice AGAINST THE GRAIN (or else it will fall apart) and place next to the salad.  Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette. Bon appetit!

Gnocchi with peas, mushrooms, and truffle oil

Summer is truly here in Massachusetts and with it comes bountiful, fresh, local produce. I am lucky to have close friends who belong to a CSA/farm share and invite me to participate in their weekly “harvest” dinners utilizing this amazing summer produce! (I obviously contribute dessert) An added bonus of their CSA is that they are allowed to go out to the farm in western Massachusetts to pick seasonal fruits and vegetables. I was fortunate enough the other week to be invited along to “pick our own” peas and strawberries!

And by pick peas and strawberries I really mean that I ate at least 2 for every 1 I picked… (strawberry stained hands not pictured below)

Inspired by a recent gnocchi and pea dish at Sportello in Boston, I decided to emulate it with my freshly picked and shelled peas!  I had never made gnocchi before but decided it couldn’t be that hard…turns out it is a littler harder than I expected, especially when you don’t have the right equipment.

I have long scoffed “uni-taskers” aka kitchen gadgets that only serve one purpose, such as a panini press,and similarly was skeptical about purchasing a potato ricer.  Therefore I was excited to find a smitten kitchen recipe for gnocchi that said you could use a box grater instead to grate the potatoes.  However, after making these once, I have now invested in a potato ricer!  Hand grating potatoes for a double batch of gnocchi was quite time and energy consuming.  I actually almost threw the grated potatoes out and purchased already made gnocchi because I feared my gooey hand grated potatoes would never turn into gnocchi.  But I persevered and somehow, with the addition of eggs, a lot of flour, and a lot of elbow grease, made something that resembled and, more importantly, tasted like gnocchi!  (Note: I ended up needing a lot more flour to get dough that was workable and not too sticky)

The gnocchi only take about 2 minutes to cook in boiling water and can be made a few hours ahead of time.  Just lay the cooked gnocchi on a parchment lined baking sheet to stop the cooking process and keep at room temperature until ready to eat.  Then add to your sauce for a few minutes to reheat before serving.

The soft, fluffy gnocchi paired perfectly with a light mushroom cream sauce and the fresh, just cooked peas for a burst of color and texture.  The dish was then finished with a drizzle of truffle oil (optional but really makes the dish) and parmesan cheese.  Strawberry and peach crisp with sweet corn ice cream rounded out the meal for a perfect summer harvest dinner!

 

Gnocchi with peas, mushrooms, and truffle oil

(serves about 4)

For the Gnocchi (from smitten kitchen):

2 pounds (905 grams) Russet potatoes (3 to 4)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (156 to 190 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
10 oz of fresh mushrooms of a variety (crimini, oyster, shitake, etc.)
1/4 cup sherry, port, or medeira wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound pods) or frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid from gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs. Chopped fresh chives
4 oz. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
drizzle of truffle oil

For the gnocchi:

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake potatoes for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size, until a thin knife can easily pierce through them.

Let the potatoes cool for 10 minutes after baking, then peel them with a knife or a peeler (PSA from your friendly burn surgeon: DO NOT BURN YOURSELF). Run the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater (Based on my first experience I would recommend purchasing a potato ricer). Cool them to lukewarm, about another 10 minutes. Add the egg and salt, mixing to combine. Add 1/2 cup flour, and mix to combine. Add the next 1/2 cup flour, mixing again. Add 1/4 cup flour, and see if this is enough to form a dough that does not easily stick to your hands. If not, add the last 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft but only a little sticky, and able to hold its shape enough to be rolled into a rope. Knead the dough together briefly, gently, on a counter, just for a minute. (You may need to add even more flour to get the right consistency as I did)

Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch lengths. At this point, you can use a floured fork or a gnocchi board to give each piece the traditional ridges (this step is just for looks but is definitely not necessary and I skipped it). Place the gnocchi on a a parchment-lined tray.

[Do ahead: If you’d like to freeze gnocchi for later user, do so on this tray. Once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag until needed. No need to defrost before cooking them; it will just take a minute or two longer.]

Place the gnocchi, a quarter-batch at a time, into a pot of boiling well-salted water. Cook the gnocchi until they float — about 2 minutes — then drain but make sure to reserve at least 1/2 cup cooking liquid for the sauce.

For the sauce and final product:

Heat the 2 tbs of oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Saute mushrooms until slightly softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the wine and cook until reduced by half.  Add the heavy cream and stir to combine.

Add the cooked gnocchi, peas, butter, and reserved cooking liquid and stir to combine.  Cook for about 2 minutes until gnocchi is heated through.  Salt and pepper to taste and then add chives, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and truffle oil.

Serve and top with additional parmesan if desired.

Kale Salad with Pistachio Dressing

There’s a rumor that kale is on its way out.  Restaurants have been overwhelmed by kale this past year- kale chips, kale salad, pasta and soups laden with kale- it’s everywhere!    And it’s only a matter of time before everyone tires of this healthy leafy vegetable in favor of another fleeting food trend.

In the meantime, a new amazing restaurant in Cambridge, Alden & Harlow, has ironically created “the ubiquitous kale salad” to feature on its menu.  If you live in the Boston area and haven’t been to Alden & Harlow yet, run (don’t walk) there and immediately order this salad (and beef neck, and grilled clams, and onion dip, and the secret burger…and don’t forget the drinks!).  There is nothing “ubiquitous” about it.  The salient feature of the salad is a creamy pistachio dressing, which dresses crispy kale and is then topped with additional pistachios and thinly sliced fennel.  While it appears quite simple, it is unlike any salad I have ever had.  I’ve had cravings for it so often that I finally had to try to create my own version!  My version strayed a little from the Alden & Harlow salad by adding quickly seared brussel sprout leaves and cranberries (instead of fennel) but feel free to add your own accoutrements. 

 While this pales in comparison to the original “ubiquitous kale salad”, it definitely satsifies my craving when I can’t make the trek for the real thing at Alden & Harlow (or they don’t have any reservations!).

Pistachio Dressing:

1/2 cup raw shelled pistachios
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp honey
1 garlic clove (can add more if you want it to be more garlicky)
salt and pepper to taste

 

Place all of the above in a food processor and blend until thoroughly pureed.  Add extra water if too thick, or extra pisctachios if too thin.  Use to dress chopped kale (or greens of your choice but pick something hearty to stand up to the bold, creamy dressing) and top with additional pistachios and toppings of your choosing.

 

Spicy Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

 

Despite “springing forward” last weekend, winter continued to threaten this past week with snow showers and below freezing temperatures.  The return of the cold weather left me running for my earmuffs and mittens and craving warm, comforting foods like this quick and easy soup.  The beauty of this soup is that it only calls for 5 main ingredients (6 if you add noodles) and can be made in about 20 minutes…and it is actually healthy and contains no butter (I bet you never thought I could do it)! It derives most of it’s flavor from the spicy sausage but you can use a mixture of regular and spicy sausage, if desired, to tone down the spice level.   Enjoy and cross your fingers for warmer weather ahead!

Spicy sausage, white bean, and kale soup

(serves 4)

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 to 1 lb spicy chicken sausage (about 3 links), casings removed
6 cups chicken broth
1 14oz can of white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of kale, chopped
handful of egg noodles (optional)
grated parmesan cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium/high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the sausage and cook until browned.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to bring to a simmer and add white beans.  If using noodles, add these now and cook according to package directions (usually only several minutes).  In the final minute of cooking, mix in the kale until wilted.  Ladle into serving bowls and top, if desired, with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

 

(Very Very Very) Belated Thanksgiving Post

When I started my internship, my residency program decided for the first time (in likely 200 years) to institute a holiday schedule and give each of us several days off over either Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years.  What this means, of course, is that we have to work extra over the other holidays but we take what we can get!  This year I was lucky enough to have Thanksgiving off.  I obviously love this holiday because it’s all about the food (and giving thanks I suppose).  After a 2 year hiatus from cooking Thanksgiving dinner due to work (thanks Mom for cooking instead!), I was excited to get back into the kitchen to host Thanksgiving dinner!  This year I hosted my parents and my second family- aka fellow residents who were not lucky enough to get Thanksgiving off to spend time with their own families.  Below are some of the highlights (links to recipes inlcuded)!

Pictured above: Dried apricot and date stuffed turkey breast, roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and shallots, mashed sweet potatoes with pecans and crispy shallots.

The dried apricot and date stuffed turkey breasts is a tried and true recipe that I have made every Thanksgiving for the past several years.  It is perfect for a smaller Thanksgiving and also avoids the problem of dried out turkey breast.  Plus, who can say no to bacon?

Dessert of course was the highlight of the meal and no Thanksgiving dinner can be complete without some sort of pumpkin dessert.  The above bourbon-caramel pumpkin tart graced the cover of my November Fine Cooking magazine and I had to try it.  It starts with a cornmeal shortbread crust (which I almost ruined) and is filled with a pumpkin custard filling and bourbon caramel before finally being topped by roasted candied pumpkin seeds (pepitas).  A fun twist on a Thanksgiving classic!

The above black-bottom peanut butter mousse pie was the favorite dish of the night.   The recipe is simple but it is hard to go wrong with the combination of peanut butter and chocolate!  I did modify the recipe a bit after reading reviewers’ comments.  I only used 3/4 of the chocolate ganache for the bottom and reserved the rest to pipe on top at the end (and then topped with roasted peanuts).  Many reviewers suggested substituting the peanut butter chips with peanut butter and confectioner’s sugar which I followed for an excellent creamy peanut butter result.  I have a feeling that my friends will be requesting this pie often!

Chilled Spanish White Gazpacho

With my second year of residency coming to a close, and the beginning of my third year rapidly approaching at a heart arrhythmia inducing pace, I have not had much time to delve into the world of Flour, Too (see my last post on the book signing I attended with Joanne Chang).   However, as I was trying to think of a light and easy dinner to make last week, I recalled seeing this recipe and adding it to my mental list of “Things I want to cook/bake soon”.

My love of gazpacho began in Sevilla, Spain when I was studying abroad for a semester my junior year of college.  Gazpacho orginated in the South of Spain (possibly via Arab or Roman influences) and is traditionally thought of as a cold, tomato-based, vegetable soup.  My host mom made a delecious gazpacho and even gave me some cooking lessons on how to make it  (although my attempts to replicate it at home have been slightly dissapointing).

This white gazpacho from Flour, Too is a modern, sweeter take on the classic.   Grapes and cucumbers make up the flavor base in place of tomatoes and instead of the stale bread of the traditional recipe, this soup uses blanched almonds.   The result is a refreshing summer soup that can be whipped up in minutes!  I did add my own touch with a garnish of crispy shallots (from Barefoot Contessa).  While optional, I highly recommend these for a great flavor and texture contrast to the sweet soup.  Buen Provecho!

Chilled Spanish White Gazpacho (from Flour, Too by Joanne Chang)
serves 4-6

2 lb seedless green grapes, stemmed
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
2 garlic cloves
6 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
3 tbsp good-quality sherry vinegar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 English cucumbers, peeled and cut crosswise into 1-to 2- inch pieces
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1-2 tbsp for finishing
crispy shallots (optional)

Working in batches, combine the grapes, almonds, garlic, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice, and salt in the blender or food processor and pulse until the almonds and garlic are chopped but not too finely.  Add the cucumbers and pulse again until the cucumbers are blended.  Do not overblend, you want the soup to have some texture.  Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, stir in the olive oil.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill the soup and allow the flavors to blend.  (Taste and add more salt as needed.)  Ladle into bowls and drizzle each with about 1 tsp olive oil before serving.  You may also garnish with crispy shallots if desired.  The soup will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Mother’s Day Brunch

Nothing says Mother’s Day like brunch (and flowers….and mothers I suppose) and I was lucky enough to have the day off so I invited my mom (and dad) down to Boston for a Mother’s Day brunch. l first started cooking with my mom when I was younger; I remember homemade pizza parties, warm chocolate chip cookies from the oven, and the made-from-scratch tomato sauce that I wrote my college essay about. We’ve had many culinary adventures together: wine tasting in Napa, cooking classes in New Orleans and then at the CIA (the real CIA….the Culinary Institute of America) for my birthday one year.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be able to cook for my mom and this Mother’s Day was no exception. She loves smoked salmon so I decided to make a smoked salmon, dill and cream cheese frittata with a salad on the side. My show stopper was Flour Bakery’s sticky buns- these are rich, indulgent and a little labor intensive but worth it for the best mother in the world! Finally, this was all washed down with a celebratory pomegranate sparkling cocktail.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. I couldn’t ask for a better mom. I love you!

Flour’s Sticky Buns ( copied from Food Network, can also be found in the Flour cookbook) 20130512-234225.jpg

Goo:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Basic Brioche Dough, recipe follows
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

First, make the goo. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine (it may look separated, that’s ok). Remove from the heat and whisk in the honey, cream, water, and salt. Strain to remove any undissolved lumps of brown sugar. Let cool for about 30 minutes, or until cooled to room temperature. You should have about 3 cups. (The mixture can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)Divide the dough in half. Use half for this recipe and reserve the other half for another use. On a floured work surface, roll out the brioche into rectangle about 12 by 16 inches and 1/4-inch thick. It will have the consistency of cold, damp Play-Doh and should be fairly easy to roll. Position the rectangle so a short side is facing you.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and half of the pecans. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Starting from the short side farthest from you and working your way down, roll up the rectangle like a jelly roll. Try to roll tightly, so you have a nice round spiral. Trim off about 1/4- inch from each end of the roll to make them even.

Use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to cut the roll into 8 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2-inches wide. (At this point, the unbaked buns can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. When ready to bake, thaw them, still wrapped, in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, then proceed as directed.)

Pour the goo into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, covering the bottom evenly. Sprinkle the remaining pecans evenly over the surface. Arrange the buns, evenly spaced, in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm spot to proof until the dough is puffy, pillowy, and soft and the buns are touching-almost tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in the dish on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. One at a time, invert the buns onto a serving platter, and spoon any extra goo and pecans from the bottom of the dish over the top. The buns are best served warm or within 4 hours of baking. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day, and then warmed in a 325 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes before serving.

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