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!