Outdoor Snackin’

Some may think it’s weird for  feeling nostalgic over a piece of cheese but this past weekend when I bit into some havarti with dill all I could think about was picnic sessions in the arboretum and adventures out to singing beach.  Not only am I excited for warm weather coming our way but also to revisit some old spring/summer recipes and hopefully get some new ones under my belt.

Arbo picnic, Spring 2009

I was starving by the time i got back from grocery shopping so I made this quick little sandwich which is a perfect outdoor snackin’ companion.  Three ingredients: Havarti with dill, baguette, sliced pink lady or gala apples.  If you’re feeling fancy throw some greens or mustard in there, I was fine without.

Brookline: New Sandwich Shack

Watching Phantom Gourmet on weekend mornings can be hit or miss, this past weekend it was a total hit because it featured sandwich places.  Since my man crow and I didn’t have any plans that afternoon we made it our mission to try out one of the shops featured on the episode.  The place that offered the biggest drool factor and just so happened to be the closest was called Cutty’s in Brookline Village.  What intrigued us about Cutty’s was the fact that they sold sandwiches with interesting flavor combinations in a very casual setting at a reasonable price.  I didn’t want to use the word “gourmet” or “upscale” because sometimes those terms turn people off but what I mean by interesting flavor combinations are items such as: fennel salami, egg salad with radish, saffron yogurt, aka things you don’t find at your average sandwich shack.

This place is on the small side and has limited seating so in the future I would get my sandwich to go and eat it at Olmsted Park, weather depending of course.  Our first visit we were lucky to snag a seat and also lucky to go on a Saturday because its the only day of the week that they offer their two slow roasted pork sammies.  I chose the one with pork, sauteed broccoli rabe and sharp provolone on a toasted sesame seed roll which surprisingly did not need any condiments.  I think it was because the broccoli rabe was sauteed in garlic and some of those juices carried over as well as the sharpness of the provolone.  My man crow went for the roast beef which he raved about, I would have tried a bite except for the fact that I’m anti 1000 islands dressing.  Here’s a picture of our sandwiches, it didn’t come out that great because we were too anxious to mow down!

Cutty's on Urbanspoon

Refreshing Soda Recipes

c/o Food and Wine

I was scanning over a daily recipe email from Food and Wine Magazine and saw an interesting section on DIY Soda.  I tend to stay away from soda unless its ginger ale when my stomach is upset or a couple guilty pleasure sips of coke when I’m eating a burger and fries.  Being able to control the ingredients of soda makes it much more appealing and opens up  a  new realm of the recipe world.  The soda in this slide show that really caught my attention was the Ginger-Lemongrass but almost all of them look appealing and would also make for a good base to a cocktail!  Check it out:

Soda Recipe Slide Show

Beers Abroad

I knew going in to it that France wasn’t famous for their beers but I did happen to enjoy some tasty brews on my vacation thanks to their neighbors in Belgium.  As I stated last summer, rather than getting a bottle of wine I enjoy going the route of a strong bodied 22oz beer.  It only took me a couple of days to find my brew for the rest of vacation, it’s called La Goudale which made me chuckle because it sounds just like “good ale”.  Not only did it taste delicious but it was great bang for your buck: 7.2% alcohol and only 3.50 euros for a 75 cls bottle (basically $4.75 for a 22oz brew).

Since we were able to buy tasty beers at the store we didn’t hit up too many bars during our stay.  It seemed as though when people really wanted to get their drink on they went to an Irish style pub.  We hit up a couple of these before we stumbled upon my dream bar.  It was in Lyon and called The Beers and specialized in craft beers and charcuterie platters in a rustic two story building just steps away from the Rhone River.  It was fate that we found this hidden gem right when their happy hour started, pints for 3 euro and basic snack platters for 5 euro which included olives, pickles, baguette and sauscisson.  Deal of the century, if you ever find yourself thirsty in Lyon, head here!

Quack!

I can’t decide if I love or hate this, but either way I wanted to share this gem with the crow world. I’m always trying to think of creative ways to have quality loose leaf tea at work- but don’t want to spare either of my Finum tea filters from home.

image c/o the Kitchn

French Inspiration

Bonjour!  I just returned from a much needed vacation in the food mecca known as France.  The purpose of my man crow and I’s trip was to visit our dear friend Tara and be witnesses at her wedding to the charming Alex Paret.  During the week leading up to the main event the four of us cooked dinner most nights at their flat in St. Just Rambert.  It was here where Alex gave us insight in to day to day routine of casual french eating.

I’m used to filling up on bread prior to my meal, then not having enough room left in my stomach to finish my plate.  Alex informed us that in France people eat baguette after their meal using it to wipe up the extra sauce and juices on their plate because the French never leave a morsel behind.  They also use the baguette in the cheese course which follows the main course.  After the baguette and cheese there is a dessert usually consisting of yogurt or fromage blanc.  My initial thought was that this routine was completely backwards but by midweek I began to really enjoy this style of eating, the dinner portions weren’t enormous and if you’re still hungry afterward there is always plenty of baguette and cheese to finish the job.

Even though I’m happy to be back in Boston there is a part of me that misses being in France.  Last night, with my jet lagged conquered, I decided to recreate a couple of dishes I enjoyed over there.  Neither of them are particularly “French” but that fact that I ate them there makes them french in my book.

Culinary treats I brought back, they confiscated my sauscisson at US Customs!

Roasted Chops with Apples & Red Cabbage and Carrot Slaw with Mustard Dressing
Preheat oven to 375.  Slice up an apple and onion, toss with olive oil, salt pepper and herbs (thyme or rosemary work well) and evenly distribute to the bottom of a baking dish.  Season the pork chops with olive oil, salt and pepper, then crush a couple of garlic cloves and run them over the meat.  Leave the garlic cloves and a sprig of herb on top of each chop and before baking add a splash of beer to the baking dish.  Cook for 30-45 mins (depending on the thickness of the cut) and let sit for another 5 minutes before serving with the roasted apples, onions, and drippings.

Pre-roasted chops

The slaw was a recipe that we enjoyed at the wedding dinner Alex’s parents had for he and Tara and I was very anxious to recreate this with the dijon I brought back to states.  This side is so simple and I ate it as a snack most of the work week.  Finely shred red cabbage and carrots and mix together in a bowl.  When you are ready to eat spoon some mustard vinaigrette on your potion and toss together.  For vinaigrette blend together 3 TBS french mustard, 2 TBS white wine vinegar or lemon juice, salt, pepper and enough olive oil until it reaches your desired consistency.

Monster Panini

If you entertain a lot its good to have some tricks up your sleeve to feed the masses.  Paninis are comforting and filling but making individual ones for guests can get cumbersome.  I was ready to take this task on, that’s how bad my hankering for a panini was, but when I went to the corner store to get some bread I saw some focaccia and a lightbulb turned on.  What about a monster panini, one that takes up the entire surface of my cast iron!  This would allow me to spend less time in the kitchen and more time chatting with my guests and listening to tunes, i was sold.

Monster Chicken Sausage Panini
4 links chicken sausage, butterflied and pan crisped on both sides
pesto (homemade our your favorite purchased variety)
combo of mozz and grated parmesan cheese
3-4 artichoke hearts, chopped
olive oil spray (trader joe’s makes a good extra virgin kind)
Focaccia
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Last year I acquired a cast iron pan with grates and a panini press (score!) but prior too that I constructed my own*.  Heat up the pan with the top panini press while you assemble the monster panini.  Cut the foccacia in half, spread a layer of pesto, then a layer of cheese, then the chicken sausage, artichoke hearts, and the final layer of cheese.  Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes if desired.  Spray the bottom of the pan with ev olive oil spray, put the sammy in and spray the top with olive oil before putting the press on.  Keep the heat at low-med for about 10-15 minutes until the cheese is fully melted.  Slice up like a pizza and serve to hungry guests!

You can always swap out the pesto for marinara and the chicken sausage for some veggies such as baby spinach or roasted red pepper.  The possibilities are endless, the thing that counts here is that it’s monster-sized.

*This is how you construct a make shift panini press: heat olive oil in a large skillet, add your sandwich, spray the top of the sandwich with olive oil spray, place a layer of aluminum foil over the panini then top that with a smaller skillet.  To weigh it all down and achieve the “press” put a tea kettle full of water on the top skillet.  The set up is not visually appealing  but it does the job!

Super Bowl Treats

I have been remiss in posting.

“After examining your conscience and telling God of your sorrow, go into the confessional. You may kneel at the screen or sit to talk face-to-face with the priest.

Begin your confession with the sign of the cross, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My last confession was _________ weeks (months, years) ago.”

Any ex-Catholics here? I’m feeling GUILTY!

Let’s just say a little something called  The Boston Marathon has gotten in the way of my cooking, writing, and general life. I’m so stoked to be running, and, of course, eating my way through the intense training. Unfortunately, many of the things I now eat look like this:

Gu...ewww

Luckily, I hosted a Super Bowl fundraiser for the organization I’m running for to give me a break from all of the “fuel”.

Aside from nearly 100 bottles of beer (many donated by Sam Adams, thanks!), on the menu:
*Shrimp Etouffee (which FLEW! I barely tasted it!) from the Fat Man (aka Paul Prudhomme)
*Meatball Sandwiches from the Pioneer Woman (except Steady Gentleman Caller baked the bread for ours from scratch, take that Pioneer Woman and your hot rancher husband!)
*Pulled Pork Sandwiches from my lovely friend Jonah
*A bunch of dips from my lovely friend Cait
*A bunch of stuff I can’t remember
-and-
DRUMROLL PLEASE…

CUPCAKES!

Now, I know cupcakes are totally not cool anymore, but I felt the need to bake, and I’ve had the linked recipe bookmarked for ages. I recently attended a Hot Cocktail Tasting (I think it had a much more sophisticated name) @ L’espalier, and this amazing hot & spicy boozy hot chocolate was served. Now, we all know how I feel about chocolate & booze already from my love of boozeshakes, and this was a boozeshake taken to winter and spiced up like a Mexican hot chocolate. Incredible. Niftily, these Aztec Chocolate Cupcakes have a similar flavor profile, and I only like to bake for a crowd–perfect timing!

I doubled the cinnamon and chili, and didn’t wait for anything to cool, as you’ll see they want you to do in the recipe. People were freaking out, eating these things with spoons, like they were crack. Amazing.

Vbar, give ‘em a try when you have the baking bug! I’ll come eat ‘em!

Crack Cupcakes (aka Aztec Chocolate Cupcakes from Pithy & Cleaver)

Best of the Minimalist

Seeing as I’ve referenced him a few times on this blog, it’s pretty common knowledge that I’m a big fan of the New York Times food writer Mark Bittman and his weekly column, “The Minimalist.”  In honnor of his final NYT column running this week (Bittman is moving on to greener pastures) the Times is running a collection of 25 of his favorite recipies, and boy do some of them look yummy.  I’m going to make spaghetti with fried egg the next time my mancrow is out and I’m cooking for one.  Check it out, and tell us what you’re dying to try!

pork for the week

Thanks to an awesome cookbook bestowed onto me by my mother-crow called “The thousand recipe Chinese cookbook” by Gloria Bley Miller, I’ve committed myself (at least temporarily) to a one-meat-a-week diet. This book teaches cooks how to start the week with one type of meat, cooked __ way, and then use that already cooked meat in the rest of your meals until it is gone.

thousand recipe chinese cookbookMeat
Roasted Pork Shoulder
275 Degrees
6 hours
Dry spice rub of your choosing
–>I used a certain spice rub created by Ms. Maureen S. last xmas

When I started reading through this cookbook I realized that I would need a wok. My first wok was non-stick, and rusted after about 6 months where the Teflon peeled away. (gross!) When I lived in San Francisco there was this awesome store in Chinatown called The Wok Shop. I always went in there, but never bought anything- even though it is freakishly reasonably priced. Once I moved and started looking for woks online, I realized I had missed a great opportunity- this store is considered one of the best wok shops in the country, if not THE wok shop. Luckily for me they have a fairly straight-forward online ordering system.  I ended up with 1 handmade iron wok, a gas oven ring (yay! no more electric stove!), a two tiered bamboo steamer, and a Chinese-style pickling jar for my main squeeze all for under $50, including shipping. What a steal!…I appreciate the big warning on the ordering page “our products do not have lead.” Did they previously?!?

wok-our-hand-hammeredDinner
Roast pork stir fry with kale
and julienne veggies
Place the wok over high heat, drizzle oil into the hot pan
Add julienne veggies, stir fry 1 minute
Add pork and kale, stir fry until warm
add a 1/4 c or so broth, cover and steam- serve with rice

We’ve had a tub of plan greek-ish (thick, but not quite thick enough to count as strained) yogurt in the fridge for about a week. We also had some cucumbers and some dill, along with a few lemons to boot. So, I made a little tzatziki sauce to eat with my Chinese food, and it was delicious.

Lunch/Dinner
Pulled pork sandys
We used Fornax sliced sourdough boule, but just about any hearty bread would do
smear mustard on one side of the bread and BBQ sauce on the other
place pulled pork on sandi, put pickles, or jalapenos, or any other treat on the pork
Slice cheese (we used Moz.) and make sandwich
Toast for 5 minutes until warm through and the bread is crispy

Dinner
Pork Chili
Chop: onions, carrots, potatoes and soften over heat with oil S & P
Deglaze the pan with some red wine, hopefully less crappy than the wine I chose
Add pork, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and full head of garlic, pressed
cook until the liquid is absorbed
deglaze with broth and bring to a boil
add tomatoes- simmer 30 minutes
Add red and white kidney beans- simmer 30 minutes

Who knows what creation will result from the leftover chili!