Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lucky Girl

I am a very lucky girl. Not only am I about to marry the man of my dreams, I have the most amazing friends and family who threw me a beautiful "bride-to-be tea" this weekend. I was so busy visiting with everyone and enjoying myself that I didn't take 1 picture, but there were lots of other photographers so as soon as I get some pictures I will do a full recap of the lovely party. In the meantime, I just want to say THANK YOU to my fabulous best friend Lucy and all her little helpers for putting on such a perfect event for me, and to all our friends and family who made me feel so special. Seriously - lucky girl.

Before getting myself beautiful for the afternoon tea, I started Saturday morning right with some French toast.

I used challah bread, and topped it with some apples sauteed with butter and sucanat. Sucanat is my new favorite sweetener! No, its not one of those gross, all chemical, no calorie sweeteners. Its non-refined cane sugar, and its much better for you than refined sugar. It has a higher nutritional value and doesn't make your blood sugar spike.

Today I had LOTS of new fabulous kitchen equipment to play with. I should have been spending my afternoon finding space for all of it, but all I wanted to do was cook! I got good use out of our new All Clad mixing bowls, measuring cups, and measuring spoons.

We got some delicious pears in our CSA this week, so I made a batch of ginger pear muffins.

Ginger Pear Muffins
makes 12
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sucanat
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 yogurt
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp grated fresh ginger
4 medium pears, peeled and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350º. Butter a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sucanat, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, olive, oil, yogurt, milk, vanilla, and grated ginger.

Add dry ingredients to wet and whisk until just combined. Gently fold in pears. Scoop batter into prepared muffin pan, filling cups almost to top. Bake for about 20 minutes, then insert tester in center of muffin. If tester does not come out clean, bake 3 - 5 minutes more. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and cool on rack.

Now that it is officially Fall, its squash season! Summer is most certainly the best time of year for food - in my opinion - but the warm, comforting flavors of Autumn are a very nice change of pace. Tonight I turned them into a butternut squash soup.

Butternut Squash Soup
2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls unsalted butter
1 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 dry white wine
2 - 3 cups vegetable broth or water
1 Tbls chopped fresh thyme
salt & pepper
1/4 whole milk

Heat oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven. If you're as lucky as I am and were recently given a Le Creuset by your fabulous mother as a shower gift, use that.

Add shallots and garlic and cook about 30 seconds until slightly softened.

Add vegetables, toss with oil, garlic and shallots, then pour in white wine.

Add thyme and season with salt and pepper. Add broth or water and cover, leaving cover slightly askew so steam can escape. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 - 30 minutes until vegetables are tender.

When vegetables are soft, remove pot from hear and puree soup with an immersion blender, leaving some chunks of vegetable. Or puree in batches in a blender, after its cooled slightly. Return soup to low heat and stir in milk. Heat until just warm and serve with slices of toasted baguette sprinkled with grated cheese.

This Fall is getting off to a nice start. I think its gonna be a good one.

UPDATE:  Lizzy has some cute pictures posted from my shower!

Friday, September 25, 2009

One Pot Wonders

I was very busy at work this week, so simple, one pot dinners became the theme. And all of my recipes came from the October issue of Food and Wine. I started with an interesting take on panzanella, the Italian salad made by tossing ripe tomatoes with slightly stale bread. I started by tossing some halved grape tomatoes with lightly toasted chunks of baguette, olive oil, sliced lemons, basil, and capers.

Then I poured it all in a large roasting pan and popped it in a hot oven.

After cooking this for about 15 minutes I added chunks of salmon.

Then roasted it some more until the salmon was just cooked through, about 8 more minutes

Very tasty. I love that you could get fish, veg, and bread all in one bite! Check out the recipe here.

The next night's dish was Indian inspired, using more of our abundance of eggplant. Peeled chunks of eggplant were tossed with onion wedges, chickpeas, kale and curry powder and roasted. Curried Roasted Eggplant.

I served it with some Greek yogurt and Naan that Derek picked up at a local Indian restaurant.

Tonight I made a quick stew of swiss chard, tomatoes and white beans.

A delicious and comforting meal for a Friday night after a loooong week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rollin, Rollin, Rollin

We've been getting lots of eggplant in our CSA lately - and lots of different varieties. Last week we had a long, dark, skinny one and a paler round that I think is called "Rosa Bianca." Its awfully pretty so this name would suit it.

I roasted them both in a 400º oven for about 30 minutes. The skinny eggplant I halved lengthwise and sliced in 1" pieces. This would be added to ratatouille later in the week. The Rosa Bianca I thinly sliced for...

Eggplant Rollatini
1 medium round eggplant
olive oil
salt & pepper
2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Thinly slice eggplant, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and brush both sides with olive oil. Roast in 400º oven for about 30 minutes, flipping half way through, until cooked and lightly browned. Reduce oven to 350º.

For my sauce, I sauteed garlic and onions and then added some roasted red peppers.

These were simmered with a can of crushed tomatoes.

Mix ricotta, egg, half the parmesan, and basil in a medium bowl.

Spread a little bit of the sauce in the bottom of a glass baking dish, just to coat it.

Then spoon about 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture onto an eggplant slice and roll the eggplant around the cheese.

Place eggplant roll in baking dish.

Continue rolling eggplant with ricotta until dish is full. Top with remaining tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Bake in 350º oven for about 20 minutes until warmed through and bubbly.

I served the eggplant with some of my potato gnocchi that were stored in the freezer and more tomato sauce.

I think I'm seeing red.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Best Meal Ever

This month's Bon Appetit named Portland, ME America's Foodiest Small Town. Portland is just a couple hours away from us, and it really is a great little city with some amazing restaurants. A few years ago, Derek shot a commercial at Smiling Hill Farm Dairy just outside Portland and bought some amazing milk from them. 

And he met some very nice cows. We drove back shortly after to buy more milk, and spent the day exploring Portland and eating lobster. And last year we decided to spend the weekend there for my mother's birthday. We had an amazing dinner at Hugo's, so I was so excited to find a recipe from Hugo's included in the article. The recipe was for Cod with Mussels, Chorizo, Fried Croutons, and Saffron Mayonnaise. I recreated it at home, but of course eliminated the chorizo. I also didn't want to deep fry the croutons, and thought it would work better with some slices of baguette lightly crisped in a little olive oil. They were perfect for sopping up the yummy broth.

Derek thought this was the best meal I've ever made. I wish I could take credit for the recipe! I just loved the saffron mayo on top - I made extra and last night slathered it on some fish and corn and grilled them. I really have a mayonnaise problem. Is it normal to want to eat a bowl of it with a spoon?

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I realize Labor Day was a whole week ago, but it took me this long to recover enough to actually write about it! It was such a fun and silly weekend. And actually, we were in LA all last week and I'm really just getting around to going through all my pictures now. We headed to the Cape on Saturday morning along with 5 of our good friends. Well, 6 if you count Iesha, Colucci's fish.

The weather was gorgeous all weekend, so we spent pretty much the whole time camped out on the deck.

I, of course, spent the majority of the weekend in the kitchen.

You know I love cooking for a crowd. This was a particularly interesting crowd to cook for because my friend De is a vegan. I really enjoy cooking vegan food, so it was fun coming up vegan versions of all the dishes I made - and sneaking some vegan food in on the rest of our friends. I researched a bunch of recipes before the weekend, but so many of them use weird processed products as meat and dairy substitutions. For me, vegan cooking is all about highlighting fresh, delicious produce, so that's what I tired to do.

On Saturday night I made a risotto, an easy thing to do for a crowd. The risotto started with carrots, celery, onions, and garlic cooked in olive oil and white wine, then I added the rice and cooked it with vegetable broth, and then peas and sauteed mushrooms. The risotto was vegan up to this point, so once it was cooked I just put some aside for my vegan dish. Then I added shrimp and seared scallops to the risotto, and topped with a little butter.

Derek helped me by putting together a beet salad with pecans and goat cheese on the side.

For dessert everyone ate vegan! On Friday I had baked a vegan peach pie, using delicious local peaches. For the crust, I used my usual basic pie crust recipe but replaced the butter with organic, non-homogenized vegetable shortening. It turned out pretty good!

I served vanilla ice cream on top for the dairy eating folks, but I also got some pretty good coconut milk ice cream for those who were not lactose inclined.

Our friend Douglas also brought some clown cookies and black and white cookies - apparently called "half moons" in these parts.

Sunday morning I made a big batch of pancakes with blueberries and bananas. I made a vegan version by replacing the milk and eggs with almond milk and smashed bananas.

Lisa cooked up some bacon for the meat eaters.

Charlie the Seagull was of course with us all weekend. Colucci fed him leftover pancakes for breakfast.

Sunday's activities included a few rounds of badminton.

And some serious kite flying. We got this kite so far up in the air we tied on 5 kite strings.

I watched from the kitchen.

They finally brought the kite in when it got dark and we couldn't see it anymore.

For dinner that night I made bouillabaisse, one of my specialties. I started by julienning carrots - it took me half an hour to cut all these! I don't know how they have those relay competitions on Top Chef where they julienne 5 pounds of carrots in like 4 minutes.

Lisa was my sous chef and helped with the chopping.

The dish came out delicious. To the saffron-infused tomatoey base I added mussels, cod, shrimp, and lobster.

And for the vegan version I replaced the seafood with potatoes, and cooked it down a little more so it was more of a thick stew.

On the side I served a French bean salad.

And broccoli crunch.

You'll have to excuse the blurry pictures - my photographer was a little drunk at this point in the evening. After staying up way too late playing De's version of The Match Game and many rounds of Bananagrams, we arose Monday morning to our last delicious meal. Lisa helped out in the kitchen yet again and took charge of breakfast, cooking eggs to order, bacon, and veggie sausage.

I contributed with a fruit salad.

We also tried out my early wedding shower present from Lisa - a juicer! It was so cool. I made some delicious watermelon juice and apple-cantaloupe juice.

I can't wait to try out more flavors! Unfortunately, Derek and I had to leave a little early on Monday to catch a flight to LA. The rest of the crew hung around on the beach for the day and locked up when they left. Or at least that's what they told us...some of them may still be down there....