Braving Boston

IMG_8651Quentin & I spent the past week in snow-deluged Boston, visiting my parents, who just returned from India, thus skipping the lion’s share of this awful winter. Due to a flight delay and massive amounts of snow, my elaborate Vday dinner was spent in the company of just my boyfriend and father sans my mother, kind of a shame, although none of us really care about the holiday. I did, however, have big plans for cooking and baking, and made:

Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin from a recent Bon Appetit which was really delicious although sadly my tarte tatin’s dont always end up turning out as magnificent as the picture (read: they never do) But the herby caramel and roasted veggies were lovely and perfect for eating snug and warm. IMG_8616Ingredients
SERVINGS: 4
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds [INSTEAD OF POTATO I USED BEETS]
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds
2 medium carrots, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds [ I USED MULTI COLORED CARROTS!]
1 medium parsnip, peeled, sliced into ½” rounds
1 small red onion, sliced into ½” rounds
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 disk All-Butter Pie Dough [*I USED PUFF PASTRY INSTEAD. PIE DOUGH UNNECESSARILY STRESSES ME OUT AND THIS WAS ALREADY COMPLICATED ENOUGH!)
All-purpose flour (for surface)

Preparation
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°. Toss potato, sweet potato, carrots, parsnip, and onion with oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper and arrange vegetables in a single layer. Roast until golden around the edges and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile [WHILE VEG ARE COOLING] cook sugar and 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is amber-colored, 5–7 minutes. Remove from heat and add vinegar and a pinch of salt, swirling pan to combine. Quickly pour caramel into a 9”-diameter pie pan; tilt and rotate pan to evenly coat bottom with caramel. Scatter rosemary and sage over top.
Arrange potatoes, carrots, and parsnips snugly in a single layer on top of caramel, using smaller carrot and parsnip pieces to fill in any holes. Scatter onion rings and crumble goat cheese over vegetables.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12” round. Drape over vegetables, tucking edges into pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake until crust looks dry, about 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350° and bake until crust is golden brown, 15–20 minutes.
Let tart cool 5 minutes before inverting carefully onto a large plate.
DO AHEAD: Vegetables can be roasted 4 hours ahead. Keep at room temperature.

IMG_8653A Cioppino-style Fish Stew

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 garlic cloves, divided
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup packed sliced fennel [FORGOT TO GET IT, WHOOPS!]
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound cleaned squid, bodies sliced into 1/2-inch rings, tentacles halved lengthwise if large
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 1 1/2 cups seafood stock or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 baguette, sliced and toasted
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, soaked in water for 1 hour
  • 1/2 pound medium tail-on shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded [I SKIPPED THE MUSSELS AND DID EXTRA HALIBUT]
  • 1/2 pound skinless flaky white fish such as bass, halibut, hake, or cod, cut into 1-inch pieces

IMG_8646Mince 2 of the garlic cloves. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion, fennel, celery, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and red-pepper flakes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes more.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add squid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squid is opaque and tender and the released juices reduce, 15 to 20 minutes. Add tomato paste and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add wine, raise heat to medium-high, and cook until cooking liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, bay leaves, clam juice, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, covered, 30 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the butter, 1 tablespoon parsley, lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together. Cut remaining garlic clove in half and rub the cut sides on the toasts. Spread the flavored butter on the toasts.

When ready to serve, heat the pot to medium and add clams, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and mussels. Arrange the fish on top of the stew, cover, and simmer until shellfish opens and fish and shrimp are firm and opaque, about 5 minutes more. Discard bay leaves and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons parsley.

Serve cioppino immediately in large soup bowls with gremolata toasts alongside.

Sacher Torte
I’d been dying to make this Viennese cake with jam and chocolate. Luckily, I’m not providing a photo, because mine was not the best specimen. It was alright, but let’s leave it at that.

On one of our rare jaunts outdoors, we ate at Catalyst, a nearby restaurant on MIT’s Cambridge campus. Our lunch was very flavorful and beautifully prepared, and I huddled with this hot toddy as I stared at the mounds of snow through the large windows. We had a winter salad and chickpea fritters among other treats:IMG_8626

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We also had some great crawfish hushpuppies, fried chicken, and grits at State Park. Due to a somewhat rowdy night I sadly don’t have any photos, but I highly recommend it!

On Tuesday night, we spent the evening with our friends at Asta and had the insanely imaginative five course tasting menu. From exploding poprocks in a parsnip intermezzo to a dish of apples, horseradish and lardo, our tongues and minds were entranced with every bite. Sadly I didn’t snap a picture of one of my favorite courses: bright, toothsome Brussels sprouts with a Marmite-butter sauce. I’m still thinking about it. I just found out yesterday that Alex, the chef at Asta, was nominated for a James Beard award—Congrats Asta and head over there, Bostonians!

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Celery with black garlic gnocchi and crispy chicken skin

Spaghetti Squash with Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Spaghetti Squash with Brown Butter Vinaigrette

Crazy parsnip poprock cacao nib amazingness

Crazy parsnip poprock cacao nib amazingness

Catalyst
300 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 576-3000
http://www.catalystrestaurant.com

Asta
47 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
(617) 585-9575
http://www.astaboston.com

State Park
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 848-4355
http://www.statepark.is

Health Kickin’

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So, my birthday just happened, and since I’m a youngest child, it’s more of a birth week…fine…birth fortnight. Anyway, needless to say, much self-indulgence occurred in the form of champagne, whiskey, and spaghetti.IMG_8583So, my newly twenty-seven year old self is trying to take it easy for a couple of days before heading to my parents’ in Boston for what I’m sure will be another weekend of Kobayashi-style power-eating and drinking.

When I’m trying to cut back a bit, I know I have to cook for myself. I can delude myself into thinking that the restaurant salads and sashimi are going to make me feel better, but the truth is, you never know what’s in it. Or, it’s straight butter, and that’s why it’s delicious…I digress.

So, after a trip to the grocery store yesterday I decided to make my version of a health bowl–something packed with veggies and protein, but not so light that I’m hungry every two hours.

When I do this, I usually combine things from the following categories, which you can definitely mix and match:
a grain (in this case, I used basmati brown rice, which I cooked according to the directions, and subbed beef broth for water so it was more flavorful)DSC_0474

cooked greens (I just sautéed baby spinach in a hot nonstick pan until it wilted, and then minced one clove of garlic on top and took it out of the pan as soon as the garlic was fragrant)IMG_8574

raw veggies (I’m obsessed with cucumber, so I peeled and de-seeded it–which is totally your choice, it’s fine with seeds and peel–and chopped it up with a sprinkling of this fancy salt. I also used half an avocado)

IMG_8575protein (I bought some pricey but delicious Tonnino tuna filets in olive oil and threw some in so I wasn’t ravenous in an hour)

IMG_8581IMG_8580dressing (The tahini-lemon dressing from this Smitten Kitchen recipe reproduced below, is absolutely delicious–a go-to of mine– and the perfect compliment to everything else in the bowl)

IMG_8582For tahini dressing:
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste
Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. The sauce should have plenty of nutty tahini flavor, but also a little kick of lemon. You will probably need to add more water to thin it out.

Behold, a filling, healthy, veggie-filled tasty meal that can be assembled with a number of other ingredients.

Plum Season

photo (7)So, guys, it’s plum season. And what better way to celebrate this yearly milestone than with an old-school baked favorite?

Using the sweetest little purple beauties, I made the New York Times’ Original Plum Torte which was published every September from 1982 to 1989. Readers were nothing short of furious when the paper stopped printing the recipe, which was recently re-published on the Times’ cooking page. It’s very easy to make, totally delicious, and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand!

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •   Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums
  •   Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon for topping

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
  3. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with (about) 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
  4. Bake one hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream.
  5. To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.

Naptime Swordfish

photo 1

I spent this weekend at my family home in Cambridge, MA, hanging with the parents, seeing friends, and sprawling out in a house that makes my NYC apartment look bathtub-sized. (Pretty much any house will make my apartment look like a bathtub.)

My father had bought some swordfish, but decided to take an early evening nap before dinner time. Ravenous, I prepared it simply, with some olive oil, sliced lemons, and fresh herbs from the garden:

Popped into the oven at 400 degrees, and cooked for 10-15 minutes, it hit the spot squarely. photo 2

Fish Sauce for Days

photo 2When I’m craving Asian food, which is always, it’s often Vietnamese food that I desire the most. Unlike a lot of other cuisines from the region, Vietnamese emphasizes fresh vegetables, aromatic herbs, and lightly cooked meat and fish. Of course, there are the decadent clay pot caramelized dishes, but even those seem delicately flavored, to say nothing of that all around restorative brew (my #1 hangover choice)–pho.

I had long been eyeing this recipe for lemongrass pork patties, and decided to transition my love of Vietnamese cuisine into the kitchen. I paired the patties with a glass noodle salad (with soy-roasted tofu instead of the shrimp listed in the recipe), and used a significant amount of fish sauce in the process-yum.

photo 4photo 5Because it’s summer and I hadn’t made a cobbler yet, my go-to super easy cobbler recipe seemed like a perfect use for fresh peaches and blackberries.photo 1

Why Haven’t You Made Boozy Popsicles This Summer?

photo (1)No, but seriously. After a recipe testing gig landed me with a popsicle mold set, I had my sights set on some boozetastic ice pops–because what’s more mature than imbibing in a traditionally childlike manner? Freudian questions aside, these Grapefruit, Basil & Vodka popsicles were totally fantastic. Recipe here.
[Excuse the sub-par photo–possibly a result of one too many popsicles?]

Gazpacho: The Summery Gift that Keeps on Giving

photo 1I had a deep craving for gazpacho last week. After reverting to a (somewhat pseudo) healthy food regimen after my artery-clogging New Orleans extravaganza, I was jonesing for the refreshing, vegetal, flavors of this summertime soup.

Using my go-to super simple recipe I made gazpacho on Friday, had it with a chicken sausage, and again for dinner with some other light and tasty dishes:

Haricots Verts with Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette (1.5 teaspoons grainy mustard, juice of half a lemon or more, 1/2 teaspoon honey, dash of white balsamic or other white wine vinegar, 2 glugs of olive oil–mix until emulsified) and Hard Boiled Eggsphoto 3 Quinoa with Wilted Spinach (a couple of minutes in a hot nonstick pan with a tiny bit of oil, move around frequently until wilted), Caramelized Shallots, and Seared Chicken Sausage
photo (1) How do you dew, honey?
photo 4 Yum:photo 5