Friday, January 5, 2018

Apple Pear Cobbler

As the icy winds of winter rage on, my yearly temptation to curl up and hibernate becomes more and more compelling. I am a ‘cozy sweater and wool socks by the fire’ sort of girl, and always have been. Even in the (now long-departed) professional ballet days, you could always find me double-layered in fleecy warm sweats with a soft scarf wrapped around my neck. I would even bring my own cozy blanket to the theater to fight off drafts while waiting between rehearsals. To sum up - I take being comfortable very seriously!

Even now I still layer up in my favorite cashmere sweater and find the perfect spot in front of the fireplace; somewhere between ‘really warm’ and ‘almost too hot’! I know that I am not alone in my quest for coziness: The Danish have a wonderful term for everything pleasant and snug - “Hygge”, which roughly translates to “wellbeing”. Think warm socks, good food & drink, and plush surroundings by a cozy fire. Smart people, those Danes.

This dish is all of that “Hygge” wrapped up in a crunchy, sweet, warm apple & pear hug. Even before you taste the first spoonful, the air is perfumed with cinnamon, and the smell of fruit melting into a buttered pan. This Apple Pear Cobbler is how I keep the snow and cold away!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Spiced Apple Brandy

As a New Englander, I always feel that certain flavors are deeply etched in our collective memory. When I think back to classic food memories, in Boston, the Cape, or in the Berkshires, there are a few that pop (mouthwateringly) into my mind. Things like fried seafood and lobster rolls from a beachside clam shack, a hot fudge sundae on an oppressive summer day, fresh blueberries (by the handful), and the first bite of an orchard apple freshly plucked from a tree.

Since the holiday season is here, and cocktails are being served, I wanted to capture some of the flavors of the land. I combined brandy and fresh lemon juice with a sweet and beautifully caramel-colored locally pressed apple cider. I sweetened the whole mix with a special spiced sugar simple syrup featuring cinnamon, green cardamom pods, and vanilla. Taking it to the next level, a splash Campari rounds out this delicious drink. It tastes like walking through an orchard at the height of the fall; warm flavors, rich scents, and a smooth finish.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Whiskey Pucker Up (Whiskey Lemonade Cocktail)

Whiskey has always been my husband's "thing", more than mine. Sipping it, especially with his friends, and researching the different varieties are almost a hobby for him. He especially likes the kind that he says tastes like diving face first into peat moss.... and he means that in a good way! As I've discovered over the years, having a dram of scotch is a pre-dinner tradition for his family. The refrain through the house at 5pm is like a clock ringing "Scotch? Scotch? Scotch!".

Since my other half is a Canadian, he also has a soft spot for Rye Whiskey. I've always shied away from whisky in the past, thinking it was too "macho" a liquor. An amber colored drink that was for tough guys and Clint Eastwood-esque cowboys. But, I do love a good mixed cocktail. Hmmm..... maybe a hard lemonade? A touch of mint? A nice swig of fiery whiskey, all served over ice? I'm there.

Here comes one of my new go-to summer drinks, the Whiskey Pucker Up!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sous Vide Beef Prime Rib

Hello everyone! I know I've been silent for... well... a long while, if I'm honest! A combination of three young kids, a bad back, and a potent flu season, had me completely out of commission. There is some good news, though: even with the lack of online cooking presence, I have still been working at developing new recipes, and discovering new techniques. I hope this newest post makes up for my absence.

I think (well, I hope!) many of us can relate to the chaos that goes on before a big holiday dinner. A two page grocery list, frantic polishing of silverware, much time slaving over the stove, followed by that last-minute panicked trip back to the market for the ingredient that was NOT marked on the gigantic list. This year's winner was kosher salt; how could I forget SALT?! The frenzy of preparation, combined with herding children, and - eventually - even spending time enjoying your friends & family, can feel like a Sisyphean task. It's always worth it once everyone is gathered around a beautifully laden table, but what a feeling of relief once it's actually done! It's over! We made it! ...Pass the wine!

This year we had a large Passover dinner, and it felt like it would be more of the same kind of frenetic buildup. Add in a bad back, a broken crock-pot, and about four hours before dinnertime - no water (this ended up being a plumbing issue that resulted in a lot of confused repair people, an excavator, and lots of big holes in my yard). Sure. No biggie. Aaaaaggggghhhhhhh!

Did you hear that "Aargh"? My freaked out yell scared birds six blocks away. Still, even with all of the craziness, the one thing that was easy-peasy: Cooking the main dish. No mess. No watching. I could focus (translation: "panic") over other elements, but no concern over the star of the meal. We cooked the most flavorful, tender, and gigantic, rib roast in our fantastic new sous vide machine. It was a life saver, and is literally the easiest method of cooking that I've ever tried.

Sous vide literally translates to "cooking under vacuum". It's so simple, but the results are stunning. You vacuum seal your food, place in a container of water, then use a heated water circulator (sous vide machine) to gently & consistently heat the food at a constant temperature. In our case, the end product was a delicious, unbelievably tender, and evenly cooked rib roast, cooked to the exact temperature I wanted all the way through. This technique is easier than using a crock-pot, and has completely changed my everyday dinners and party preparations.

You. Need. This. Machine. This, along with a proper set of sharp knives, and a Kitchen Aid mixer, should be the essential tools in your kitchen. We've used it to make lots of different proteins, and it is stunning. Sous vide salmon is buttery and delicious, sous vide chicken is soft and juicy, and sous vide steaks are always cooked to a perfect temperature and then you just lightly sear to serve.

It's amazing.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Potato Gnocchi with Late Summer Vegetables

One of the more frequent blog-related questions I get asked is: "how do you feel about shortcuts?". You know what I'm talking about... Cream of mushroom soup as a base, frozen casseroles, boxed cake mixes, or powdered potatoes. As much as I believe there is a time and place for these time savers (you can pry my boxes of Kraft Dinner from my cold, dead hands!), I feel that if you have the patience and just a few minutes, you can make so many convenience foods from scratch. In most cases, the "real" thing takes only a step or two longer than the short cut.

Take, for example, gnocchi; pillowy, bite-sized pasta that is easily found in the frozen foods section of any grocery store. Or, that's at least how I always found them. I wouldn't ever imagine making these impressive little bites fresh at home, that is, until my husband did just that.... And they were delicious! And easy! My husband went from cutting board to plate, in under 20 minutes with this potato gnocchi. To say I was impressed is an understatement!

With a couple of experiments, and a few seasonal ingredients for the sauce, this Potato Gnocchi with Late Summer Vegetables is a perfect dish for the time-constrained, but gourmet minded home cook. Soft potato pasta is smothered with a sauce of blistered tomatoes, shallots, basil and fresh corn. You'll never want to buy frozen gnocchi again after making these!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Red Raspberry Jam

As the summer draws to a close, I find myself grasping for as many warm weather moments as possible. Even though I hear school buses rumbling down the street each morning, and Halloween displays are already out in the markets, I don't want to give up the beautiful golden glow of the late summer days. I don't want to stop enjoying being outside, or run out of fresh sweet raspberries from the berry patch.

Sadly, these are inevitabilities; Autumn is coming - the gold leaves that are slowly scattering across our yard prove it. There is a way to bridge the seasons, though, while the summer raspberries are still abundant.

This year I'm taking a cue from my jam-making mother-in-law, and preserving the best sweet red fruit that the late season can provide. Homemade Raspberry Jam is delicious and simple to make: A big basket of raspberries and a few cups of sugar create the best cure for the end-of-summer blues!

This jam is delicious on toast, as an add in to creamy Greek yogurt, or baked into your favorite cookie.