Monday, March 28, 2011

Easy, Simple, Delicious

Tomatoes, cheese, bread and some extras. There's many nights when I want something comforting and lasting but I also want it to be light and refreshing. Here's where some good vegetable staples, california olive oil and a new cheese come to the rescue in a bruschetta dinner.

I love to use grape or cherry tomatoes because there are less seeds, they are sweeter and stand up to a good splash of olive oil. Cut the tomatoes to bite size pieces along with any type of onion (again purple are my favorites!) and some garlic. Mix these together in a bowl and add salt, pepper and any fresh herb you may have. At this point add an "S" shape of olive oil, mix and let it sit. Even standing for 10 minutes the flavors meld into one and really allow you to see if you need more olive oil, salt, pepper, etc. This is where your creativity comes in, try different veggies, various herbs and even new olive oils (yes they do all taste different!).

Cut a loaf of crusty Italian bread into slices and grill for 5-10 minutes at 350 (or use the broil setting). I really don't like to put olive oil on the bread because that's taken care of in the bruschetta mix. Once done, set the bruschetta, bread and a yummy spreadable cheese in separate plates - I like the idea of having everyone create their own, get them into the food and really feel the comfort of simplicity.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Who's Got the Best Oysters

If you know me you know I LOVE oysters. I don't just swallow these yummy little suckers but chew their salty ocean deliciousness. As part of my weekend birthday celebration we tried some first comers of the season - Island Creek and Wellfleet. And here are my thoughts.....

The Island Creeks are a little small at this time of year but have a great fresh ocean taste. Their my local favorite and I fully support the way they are "farmed," and the entire organization that supports them. If you take a trip down to the South Shore of Mass you'll get to enjoy these treats as fresh as can be.

The Wellfleets were bigger and meatier but still waiting on their oceany flavor to mature. With a splash of lemon the saltiness of these oysters is delicate yet intense all in the same. These I enjoyed with red wine, yes red - it's just a myth that you can't have fish with red wine.

And on that note, St. Germain cocktails are an amazing compliment to an evening of oysters. I must warn you - take it slowly as this pairing is so tasty it's hard to stop.
My next goal is to take a trip out west and compare the west coast to what we have here on the eastern ocean!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Calling atll Moms & Moms-to-be

I have a lot of pregnant ladies in my life these days, and the best gift for these tired and many times nauseous friends is a little gift of food. This weekend I'll be creating a mailable food gift to let each of these amazing woman take a break and just enjoy. So I ask you, what do you think would make these Moms feel loved, amazing and also taste delicious. I want something comforting yet special - any ideas????

I'll create a recipe, show you how to pack up these goodies and together get the reactions of one very hungry group!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's All in the Experience!

Many times I find that people associate a great meal, an exciting dish with more than the tastes that surround this new eat. And I applaud them for this! A meal, a snack a treat does not stop at the ingredients but includes the presentation, the atmosphere and the people you enjoy it with. It doesn't have to be big or fancy or different but it has to create an overarching experience that feels right. I applaud restaurants and chefs and especially home cooks who naturally know how to compliment a meal and make all these moving parts seem effortless.

So today make lunch a sit down turkey sandwich and add some avocado and sprouts to spruce up this staple. Or serve tonight's mac & cheese in those serving dishes you keep hidden in the top cabinet. Add a glass of wine, friends and some extended conversation and you'll remember that meal forever.

Luckily for me I'm having a weekend of food memories here in Sedona with some long-time girlfriends where we make meal-time an event. We started it off with breakfast of english muffins on the porch and a champagne toast at dusk with the most amazing view I've ever seen at the Enchantment Resort. Heaven.
Ahhh Enchantment!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Herbs are My Yoga

In preparation for my weekend trip to Sedona, AZ I have been dreaming of hikes, the outdoors and calming fresh food. And nothing calms me more than a fresh herb garden where I can take my imaginary herb basket and cut treasures of herbs day after day. That is my yoga.

And so what better way to prepare for spring and summer than by visiting Boston's Flower & Garden Show this weekend. I hope they preview this Italian Garden, which I believe is my heaven.
Who wants to plant herb gardens in the next couple of weeks???

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's All Greek To Me

On long tough days I dream of Greek food (any Greek food) to provide that relaxing bite at the end of the night. And time and time again I get requests from friends to whip up some tzatiki (greek yogurt dip). So now I give you the rights to my recipe:

  • 2 parts Greek yogurt (i.e. 32oz)
  • 1 part sour cream (i.e. 16 oz) special note - i actually do a taste test here and determine how tangy I want it that time, you can even omit if you'd like
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and shredded
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced its amazing how the garlic reacts with the yogurt and intensifies the whole dish, start with one and go from there
  • salt, pepper and a drizzle of GOOD olive oil
  • a smidgen of mint

Take the shredded cucumber and remove all excess liquid. You can do this by placing it in a dishtowel and squeezing - every time it amazes me how much water there is! You can also put it in a little strainer and press on it until you're tired and most of the water is out.

Then mix all the ingredients together - and there you have it - the most refreshing comforting dip sauce you can imagine. It never gets old.
Thank you Eating Etc
Anyone up for a Greek fest soon???

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pick a Color

You always hear, "add fresh greens for color," but what if you start with green and just embrace its green-ness! In honor of St. Patty's Day and my love for all veggies, tonight I started with a bunch of green and created this masterpiece.
And here's how this beautiful green dish came together....
Edamame - a handy frozen treat that can easily be heated up in the microwave
Asparagus - cut off the ends and saute in a pan with the teeny tiniest bit of olive oil
Spinach - throw a handful in right at the end of cooking

Don't forget the cheese - that's some freshly grated parmesan and a chunk of bread. Who said green couldn't be this good???

What's your favorite green...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect (Chicken Pot Pie)

I've been on this year-long journey to create the most perfect chicken pot pie. I'm not a huge fan of the dish, but it's my fiance's favorite and somehow I designed a challenge and am working towards a goal. It started with a handful of recipes and picking apart each piece of the dish to determine how to get the most flavorful end result. And here's the status to date - as well as some great tips I've discovered along the way!
  1. You must use homemade chicken broth and the trick is to add a little white wine to it, which creates this most elegant flavor transporting a comfort food into an dynamic dish.
  2. Use organic free-range chicken - the broth comes out and the chicken tastes fresher. I've tried it both ways and it's one of those ingredients that I now spend more on because the results are far better.
  3. Frozen pearl onions and green petite peas are your friend. There's not need to go through the hassle of peeling all those little onions or blanching peas when someone else has done it for you - relax and have a sip of wine!
  4. Use real carrots (not those baby ones you eat with hummus) and peel them. The baby carrots are a bit watery and don't have a full carrot taste. 
  5. When making the gravy use butter - it's much silkier than olive oil and helps create a richer, thicker sauce. Also, make sure the chicken broth you use is not cold - if it's been in the fridge heat it up. I take this lesson into many recipes. Keep temperatures the same as much as possible (unless otherwsie noted).
  6. Always add a cup of good white wine to your gravy....and a glass for the chef doesn't hurt either.
That's where my recipe discoveries stand to date. I'm still working to perfect an exact recipe so I won't post a full step-by-step until I get there. But I feel like we may have success in the next couple of months - stay tuned!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Take a Break

I do NOT cook every night! I just want to make that clear for everyone because with so many tasty treats to try I have to leave some nights free to do just that. And if you're lucky enough to live in the Boston area there is a great place called New England Soup Factory, which provides the most amazing eats when you need a break. The thing I like most about this 2-location spot is it's focus around one thing - soup. Although they offer other items the focus is around testing the boundaries of chicken noodle and tomato and showcasing the ability of this food item. For instance, tonight I tried sweet potato and barley which was silky (made without dairy) and reminded my why I'm a through and through soup lover.

And how do they create these prized packages - it all begins with a little thing called homemade broth. Stay tuned in the next couple weeks as I'll be demo-ing how this is done and helping a friend make this delicious and versatile base.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More Cheese Please

Tangy, melty, gooey, crumbly. There are so many varieties of cheese and I think I love them all. However, I find that home cooks are very discriminatory with their cheese choices and have segmented certain types for specific uses. We think mozzarella for lasagna and pizza, shredded Monterrey jack for tacos and Parmesan to top all pasta dishes. I have to say this loudly - YOU'RE MISSING OUT! One of the best ways to change up an old staple or even introduce more dimension to a dish is by using something familiar in a new way. Here are some ways I beg you to try - your tastebuds and your dinner buddies will happily thank you.
Feta has a great salty tang that elevates weeknight pasta with tomato sauce. It's also amazing when melted so mix it with a can of diced tomatoes, pop it in your oven at 350 for 15 minutes and you have a new and easy dip for crusty bread.

Parmesan is a great staple but I have some rules. Don't buy it in a can and spend the extra dollars to buy a smaller, good piece and grate it yourself. The taste is immensely stronger meaning you need less for any dish. Try it on tacos, over grilled sweet potatoes and don't throw away the rind. Place it in your freezer and pop it into any pot of simmering soup - this gives your soup amazing background flavor (just don't forget to throw out the rind before you eat!).

Gruyere has a bold stinky flavor that I just adore. Replace even a portion of your traditional cheddar in mac & cheese and it will elevate this kid's meal into an adult treat! I've also found that in the middle of summer when pesto becomes ordinary (I know, how dare I say that!) mixing in a little gruyere gives more punch to a pesto spread or sauce.

And there you have it, your first introduction to my love of cheese. And if you're looking for something quicker, simply pop open that bottle of wine and enjoy it with any of these cheese beauties.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tasty Treats Come in Pretty Packages

As many of you know I'm getting married this spring and a large focus of the wedding plans have focused around, you guessed it, FOOD. We've taken a lot of time mingling not only flavors together but hopefully guests as well. It's this sharing of food that brings about conversation creating new friends and new memories. Which is why I prefer cupcakes. These little packages are not perfect (which I adore!) but they foster conversation and sharing of flavors. I don't want a slice of cake - I want a taste of red velvet, a bite of lemon and a mouthful of chocolate - no food envy here because you can try them all!
Get your cupcake on!

 So I ask you, what flavors should be included on the wedding list?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Finding the Fresh

Last week was Marshfield's annual winter farmer's market, which means I rearranged my schedule, grabbed my reusable bags and was the first one there! In the dead of winter with snow on the ground there were two beauties that caught my eye - bags of small red onions and freshly picked spinach (yes, fresh spinach!) and I bought 2 of each.

So today was a mix of frozen and fresh with one of my go-to easy meals that is great for entertaining, takes no time to cook and feels like a night out on a Monday. Shrimp fra diavolo made with fresh red onions sauteed until sweet and tender combined with frozen (yes frozen) shrimp. Two bits of info: I tend to always go for red onions, they provide a bit more flavor and are much sweeter. And I always buy frozen shrimp, it's a great price and defrosts easily in the fridge or under cold running tap water. It's the mixture of a little freezer staple with a hint of fresh that makes any meal more than just dinner.

Oh and the bottle of Greek wine didn't hurt!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What's for Dinner?

It's one of those days - unseasonably warm, which makes me crave the first outdoor meal of the season. However, it's still a little too early, a little too dark and a little too chilly. So I'm in search for that perfect season changing meal that feels like a Sunday gathering, takes much less time and tastes like the beginning of spring. I landed on this refreshing option, which is shocking since I steer away from quick-cooking chicken on the weekend. But the lemons and capers stole my heart (and my growling tummy!), and the cast iron pan sealed the deal.

Thanks to The Food Channel