Tag Archives: Side Dishes

Avocaod-Step-04

A New Way To Eat Avocados!

May 2012

I once went to high tea at a tea plantation in Kenya.  A gentle fog hung over the vivid, green, rolling hills and rows of tea-producing bushes.  Failing to factor in colonization, I was surprised when a very proper British woman greeted me.  However, I was even more surprised when her husband offered a warning before we departed, “take heed of the monkeys throwing avocados from the trees in the yard.”  What a thing to say! I stored that warning in the part of my head devoted to life dreams and aspirations.  I would very much love to offer that parting warning to my house guests one day, implying my home will be some place magical just like that Kenyan tea plantation. In the meantime, I can fiddle with different avocado eating methods in preparation for the abundant supply I might one day have.

For this “recipe,” think of the avocado as a blank slate or canvas.  The possibilities are endless!

For my first attempt, I used a combination of feta, crushed red pepper and fresh ground black peper. If your cheese choice isn’t too salty, I would add a dash of salt as well.

Fill up the void with local, free-range eggs. Next time, I’ll probably scoop out a bit more avocado to allow more egg room.

Bake in a cast iron skillet, at 425 °F for 15-20 minutes, depending on how you want your eggs.

I’m sure I’ll be experimenting with this simple and satisfying avocado method more, so if you’re short on ideas, stay tuned!

Header_kinfolk

Third Time’s A Charm: The Kinfolk Dinner Series

May 2012

Once upon an internet stroll, I happened upon a beautiful, blossoming endeavor entitled Kinfolk.  Beneath a video that admittedly moves my overly sentimental side to watery eyes, was a manifesto that spoke straight to my sensibilities:

Kinfolk is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings. We recognize that there is something about a table shared by friends, not just a wedding or once-a-year holiday extravaganza, that anchors our relationships and energizes us…. Kinfolk is the marriage of our appreciation for art and design and our love for spending time with family and friends.

Thus, I made a habit of regularly visiting the pages of Kinfolk.  What impressed me beyond the refined design and the enviable places and products (and they are enviable!), was the way the site seemed to preserve  meaningful moments in time.  Reading Kinfolk feels like a quiet visit to a memory.  

Beyond the awe inspiring posts and publications, Kinfolk began a dinner series tour! When I noticed Philadelphia on the list of cities in the tour, at Terrain specifically, my mind began whirling. Before I knew it, my finger was clicking the option to enter the lottery for tickets. Fortunately, whimsy and practicality worked in a harmony entitled Memorial Day Weekend!

This harmony almost did not come to beautiful, burlap accented fruition. The lottery for dinner tickets did not favor me, but the Monday before the dinner, I received an uplifting email.  Due to a few cancellations, there was room for me and my guest should I still want to attend. Should I still want to attend?!?  Of course I did!

Beyond the excitement of taking part in a Kinfolk dinner, I was especially thrilled with the choice of location.  This marked my third attempt to eat at Terrain.  Please excuse what will surely sound like the “woe is me” ramblings of first world problems when I say my first attempt to visit Terrain (not just Terrain but a craft beer and local honey festival!!!) was thwarted by the heavy rains of a passing hurricane (on the up side, I prepared this meal for my friends, and they’re still talking about it!).  On the second attempt, I took my good old time meandering through the store then joined my place in line to be seated.  As my turn came, I looked at the hostess hopefully, and she announced my second failure- they were no longer taking names.  Hence, attempt number two was a beautiful fail. As I arrived at Terrain, yet again, the other two fails felt purposeful, as if they had led me to this third time, the beautiful, enchanting charm!

And oh, was it charming!

If you, like me, associated Pennsylvania wines with the taste of communion, then you, like me, will be thrilled to discover a wine that proves us wrong.  From what I gather, what distinguishes Galer wines is the intentional choice of which exceptional grapes are suited for PA soils versus existing PA grape varieties turned into wine. Dr. Galer also sought experts in the field of viticulture when he began his endeavor, which you can read about here.

To Start

Flower Pot Bread:  tarragon honey butter, smoked sea salt

Mixed Field Greens:  sliced radishes, wild strawberries, toasted almonds, micro basil, balsamic vinaigrette

Main

Rosemary Honey Mustard Leg of Lamb

Quinoa:  sugar snap peas, baby carrots, english peas, pea tendrils

Kennett Square Mushroom Skillet:  wild mushrooms, organic eggs

Sauteed Lancaster County Vegetables:  Fiddlehead ferns, garlic scapes, dwarf bok choy

Sweets

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pecan Pie

To see the beautiful menu in its full glory, click here.  The design came all the way from a talented artist in the Netherlands named Anja Mulder.

Even the napkins added a clean and rustic touch, so I adorned my lap very proper like.

Do you spy the brilliant idea in the photo on the right?  I shall soon try my hand at gardening little pots of soft, fluffy and slightly sweet bread.  Beyond the brilliance of the idea, the bread was one of the most delicious breads I have ever sampled (and I have sampled quite an array of breads!).

One benefit of eating with foodies and photo fiends is the patience given to the documentation of beautiful meals.  These weren’t just any foodies either!  I’ve been a fan of Something’s Hiding in Here ever since I saw the tour of Shauna and Stephen’s Philadelphia loft, so meeting the incredibly enthusiastic and humble couple was much like a celebrity encounter for this dorky blog reader.

Sitting directly to my right was Sullivan Owen, who had adorned the Terrain barn with her floral designs.  Aside from being very friendly and talented, Sullivan offered me lots of business inspiration!  I hope to spend more time learning from Sullivan in the future, and if that time is accented by one of her stunning arrangements, all the better!

That wasn’t all!  Across the table were Andrew and Carissa, the lovely couple behind many a Kinfolk video, specifically the Manifesto video that drew me to Kinfolk in the first place!  I can’t wait to see what they culled from this dream dinner.

Quite the plate!  My favorite main was the Kennet Square Mushroom Skillet. The mushrooms were quite meaty!

One might expect the coffee to be prepared with utmost care at a dinner focused on bringing people together, and one would be right.  Two Rachels served coffee prepared specially for each and every coffee partaker.

They even sent us on our merry ways with a creatively packaged single brew sample.

Additionally, Sullivan offered her floral displays as a generous token of her talents, and the very stylish farmers of Happy Cat Farm bestowed organic tomato plants upon us and an extra pack of seeds in the little totes on a big mission from Nest.  The night just continued to impress!

It was a beautiful dream dinner, and I was so grateful to be a part of it!  My third attempt at Terrain was beyond a charm. Kinfolk shared their own account of the night through the multiple lenses of this talented and personable photographer. I love how dark and saturated Parker’s images are, and I was especially excited to see this photo made the cut.  ;)

Here’s hopin’ many of us cross paths again!

My Special One’s Birthday: Roasted Beets & Celery Root w/ Goat Butter

April 2012

A portion of my special one’s heart beats for beets (and puns)!  It wouldn’t have been a complete birthday meal if I didn’t stain my hands, tabletop, towels, cutting board and at least a few spots in between with reddish purple juices.  The addition of goat butter and celery root boosted my beet repertoire with ease.  Full disclosure:  I may have gone a tad overboard with the goat butter.  I may even suggest you do the same.

Here ya be….

Look at the coloration of those beautiful beets!  They are positively lovely bursts of sherbet like swirls (which gets my gears turning for summer beets treats)!  Then there’s the celery root, which must be the old man of the vegetable world.  Can’t you just see a pair of spectacles on that well lived face- a bit like this guy?

Once gussied by the pinks of the roasted beets and a slather of goat butter, the celery root becomes a real tease- all the immense flavor of celery but in a brand new bite delivery. It’s akin to drinking carrot juice for the first time and feeling compelled to chew, but if these kitchen games weren’t new, exciting and maybe just a bit mind boggling, this would all cease to be the learning adventure it is.  Go buy yourself a celery root!  Your cashier will probably inquire as to what you will do with it.

All that color called for a splash of pretty pink salt!

Roasted Beets & Celery Root w/ Goat Butter
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Ingredients

4 medium beets, trimmed and scrubbed
3 Tablespoons goat butter
1 pound celery root, peeled and cut into 2-by-1/2 inch batons (or thereabouts… no one is checking)
Fresh Thyme Sprigs
Himalaya Pink Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 cup vegetable stock

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cover the beets with foil and roast for about 1 hour, until tender when pierced. Let cool slightly. Peel and cut into small wedges.  Note:  This step can be done ahead of time.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of the goat butter.

Add the celery root and some thyme sprigs to taste.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Cook over moderate heat until lightly browned in spots, about 5 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup of the stock, and simmer over moderate heat until nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the remaining stock, 1/4 cup at a time, and cook until the celery root is tender, about 8-10 minutes total. Stir in the beets and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Discard the thyme sprigs.

Swirl in the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with fresh thyme and serve immediately.

Brace your mouth for some confusion and a brand new celery experience!

My Special One’s Birthday: The Appetizer

April 2012

As for this birthday dinner, let’s start at the beginning… a very good place to start!  I recently had a revelation- tomatoes are starting to taste good again!  The mealy, mushy, wintry days are coming to a close, gradually being replaced by bright red bursts of nature’s candy!  Tasting the improvement in the well traveled tomatoes really heightens my excitement for the summer produce that currently is soaking up the soil’s nutrients!

When I saw this tomato rich appetizer with speck and burrata, I began adding its ingredients to my grocery list immediately!  Though there are a few steps involved, the overall simplicity of this appetizer enabled me to focus more on the main course, which was to be quite …. well, I’ll dive into that later!

This Italian Bella had a different purpose in the birthday affairs, but she was just so photogenic…!  However, had tomatoes not begun to boast fresher, sweeter flavors, I may have called upon her contents in the tomato vinaigrette.

Burrata, Pickled Shallots & Speck Appetizer
Adapted from Bon Appétit 

Pickled Shallots

3 large shallots, trimmed, quartered lengthwise
1 cup champagne vinegar
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1 sweet red pimiento pepper (I used Roland’s)

For the Pickled Shallots

Combine all ingredients and 1 cup water in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

You could use prosciutto in this recipe, but why would you?  On the fateful day in life when I went speck, I solidified my path through this cured life!

Basil and Burrata pair well and boost the alliterative properties of this appetizer!  Burrata is a soft, fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  It’s not a cheese I would prioritize in my regular frommage habits, but for recipes like this, it’s a perfect compliment. If you’re a Pittsburgher, I would suggest Pennsylvania Macaroni Company for sourcing most of the ingredients in this appetizer.  The burrata is sold in an extra layer of plastic container protection to maintain its moisture.

Tomato Vinaigrette

1/2 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil, coarsely torn
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Vinaigrette

Combine the tomatoes, basil, vinegar, salt and sugar in a food processor and puree until chunky (or to the best of your old food processor’s abilities).

While the motor is still running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream until vinaigrette is slightly thickened.

Final Touches

Speck
Burrata
French Baguette (from La Gourmandine in my case)
Parsley
Black pepper

For the Final Touch

Slice the baguette, and drizzle a little olive oil on each slice of bread.

Top each slice with a roll of speck, a dollop of burrata, a spoonful of tomato vinaigrette, a slice of shallot, a drizzle of the pickled shallot sauce and parsley.

Season with black pepper. Serve with fresh tomatoes.

A Note On The Leftovers

When I served leftovers of this the next day, I toasted the oiled baguette slices in the oven before garnishing, but the first time around, I hated to toast a fresh, fluffy baguette.  The tomato vinaigrette and pickled shallots also spiced up an organic frozen pizza I lazily made on a weeknight.

Easter Dinner (Part II)

April 2012

The air was crisp, but the sky was brilliant blue!  It was the perfect Sunday afternoon for an Easter meal.

Two handsome gents arrived, and they had put a lot of effort into meticulous matching, right down to their identical socks (yes, you read it correctly- identical socks!).

Fortunately, I had set an Easter table worthy of such fastidiously fashionable fellas.

It was time to eat, but joining my table usually includes a rite of passage.  I’ll give you a hint- it rhymes with “if tile”… (please pardon my laser beam death stare!  Where did that come from?!?!)

The Easter Menu Breakdown…

Easter Ham Glaze

~2 1/2 cups Turkish apricots (all natural)
~ 1/2 cup Rum (Kraken)
1/2 cup organic orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup Bonne Maman peach preserves

Directions

Slice the dried apricots into fourths and soak in rum overnight.

Heat the apricots and rum in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling.

Reduce to a simmer and add orange juice concentrate, maple and peach preserves. Stir until well combined.

Add to black forest ham slices and bake in oven to warm the ham.

Pommes Anna
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Review

Pommes Anna

Ingredients

3lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/16 to ⅛ inch thick
5 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup peanut oil
Salt and pepper
Grated pecorino romano cheese
Fresh thyme

Directions

Toss the potato slices with melted butter in a large bowl until the potatoes are evenly coated.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour the oil into a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Swirl to coat the skillet bottom, and set the skillet over medium-low heat.

Begin timing, and arrange the potato slices in skillet, starting in the center to form the first layer.

Sprinkle evenly with approximately ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the second layer of potatoes, working in the opposite direction of the first layer; sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper as in previous step.

Repeat layering potatoes and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until no slices remain.

Continue to cook over medium-low heat until 30 minutes elapse from the time you began arranging the potatoes in the skillet.

Use a 9-inch cake pan or a metal spatula to press down the potatoes firmly to compact them.

Cover the skillet, and place it in the oven.

Bake until the potatoes begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

Uncover the skillet, and continue to bake until the potatoes are tender when a paring knife is inserted in the center, and the potatoes near the edge of the skillet are browned, about 10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, line a rimless cookie sheet or the back of a baking sheet with foil and coat it very lightly with oil.

Drain off the excess fat from the potatoes by pressing the potatoes into the skillet with the bottom of the cake pan or metal spatula while tilting the skillet to pour off the fat.

Set the foil-lined cookie sheet on top of the skillet. With hands protected by oven mitts or potholders, hold the cookie sheet in place with one hand and carefully invert the skillet and cookie sheet together.

Remove the skillet carefully.

Carefully slide the potatoes onto a platter.

Cut into wedges and serve with pecorino romano cheese and a thyme garnish.

Roasted Champagne Mangoes

Ingredients

1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
3 tablespoons organic agave syrup
4 champagne mangoes, peeled, pitted, cut into long slices

Garnish

1/4 cup crème fraîche or yogurt
1/3 cup natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°.

Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.

Add mango chunks; toss to coat. Let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Place mango in a cast iron skillet; reserve marinade.

Roast mangoes for 15 minutes. Turn, brush with marinade, and roast until tender and caramelized, 10–15 minutes. Drizzle remaining marinade over; let cool slightly.

Eat plain or garnish with greek yogurt and pistachios.

Sauteed Asparagus with Sesame Lime Dressing

Ingredients

juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

You remember that cake!  I already talked about that lovely little layer cake.

Lobster By Night/Lobster By Day

Lobster by Night
March 2012 

It had been a while since the two of us had gathered at my dining room table, so I proposed a date of the domestic sort.  As I began menu scheming, I turned to the stained and tattered pages of my trusted America’s Test Kitchen magazine, through which I have faithfully been working.  When I saw a lobster recipe with the words “lazy man” in the title, I found that weekend’s winner!

Yes, that is frozen lobster.  I love him (↓), and I love a special dinner, but I was in no way prepared to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws! Sorry friends.  Not this time!  My other justification was this- if I am going to teach myself how to thwack a bright red, living thing with grabbers and claws, I’m not going to cut up the meat and bake it in a gratin.

The recipe had me with this opening description…

Lobster is a classic choice for an elegant dinner for two.  Most people boil or steam their crustaceans and serve them whole with a side of drawn butter.  While there’s nothing wrong with this simple, traditional approach, fumbling around with a cooked lobster, hammering down on shells and poking around for meat isn’t exactly a tidy affair.  I wanted a refined lobster dinner for a couple that delivered the sweet, rich flavor of lobster and didn’t require a bib to eat.  – Dan Zuccarello, America’s Test Kitchen Books

Lazy Man’s Lobster for Two (By Night)
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen magazine

Filling

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
Dash of cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup red wine (cabernet sauvignon)
8 oz vegetable broth
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
12 ounces lobster meat (frozen), chopped coarse
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
Yakima smoked salt
Pepper

Topping

1 slice high quality wheat bread
3 Tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon minced sage
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon paprika

For the Filling

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the red wine and simmer until it has nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the thyme and cayenne.

Whisk in the broth and cream and simmer until the liquid has thickened and reduced to ¾ cup, 10-12 minutes.

Off the heat, add the cooked lobster meat and sage. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the mixture evenly between two 2-cup gratin dishes (or similar baking dish).

For the Topping

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses.

Combine the bread crumbs, the pecorino, sage, oil and paprika in a bowl.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the gratins.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Salad

Goose Creek Farms Mizuna
2 champagne mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 avocado, sliced
green peas

Dressing

Juice from 1 honey tangerine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/4c low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1Tbs. black sesame seeds

My own personal mixologist shook up one of my favorites:

Buffalo Trace bourbon
AITA Snap
Peychaud’s bitters
Dried cherries rehydrated with bourbon

Well, he actually shook up TWO of those for me!

Lobster by Day

The recipe said “Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two,” but that “two” would have to refer to two rather large and very hungry New Englanders as far as I can tell.  Accordingly, “two” for us meant two meals, and our leftovers  transformed into a delicious brunch!

Babies’ first ever poached eggs (a team effort in progress)…

Lazy Man’s Lobster For Two (By Day)

(from the bottom up)
Whole wheat bread, toasted
Speck
Cahill Irish Whiskey Cheese
Leftover Lazy Man’s Lobster (see recipe above)
Poached eggs (from local/free-range eggs)
Smoked black pepper

Leftovers are just new opportunities I say, so Happy Leftovers!

ps:  That’s some leftover Post Patty’s Brunch French Toast on the other side of the plate.  It was quite the morning in the dining room!

A Very French Baked French Toast & Roasted Pineapple

March 2012

It was the bright and sunny brunching hour at the special cabin in the woods, but more importantly, it was the last brunching hour of the long weekend, so we treated ourselves to a decadent baked French toast!

This decadence stemmed from the substitution of croissants for bread and a layer of Justin’s chocolate hazelnut nutbutter (more wholesome than nutella!), making for a very French, French toast!  One rather rich thought entered my mind as I was making this… can you even fathom a bite of baked French toast made with almond croissants?!?!  One bite would surely be heaven, and one bite would surely be enough! Perhaps I’ll try that one day!

Baked Croissant French Toast

Inspired by Bon Appétit

Ingredients

5 all butter croissants, cut lengthwise

2 Tablespoons Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter
*1 cup homemade bourbon whipped cream (recipe below)

5 large eggs (local/free-range)
3/4 cup organic buttermilk
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar

extra maple syrup

For the Baked French Toast

Grease an 11×7 glass baking dish with butter.

Create one layer of croissants using four bottom halves.

In a bowl, whip the bourbon whipped cream and chocolate hazelnut butter together until creamy.

Add the 4 croissants tops. Use the remaining croissant to fill in any gaps.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk and maple syrup.

Pour the egg mixture over the croissants, making sure to fully saturate the top layer.

Sprinkle with the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar.

Let sit for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake until golden brown and set in the middle, about 40 minutes.  Serve with maple syrup.

*Bourbon Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream
3 Tablespoons Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar

For the Whipped Cream

In a chilled bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.  Add a dollop to your brunch cup of coffee while you’re at it!

Roasted Pineapple with Pistachios 
Adapted from Bon Appétit 

Ingredients

1/2 cup (packed) organic brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 medium ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into wedges or chunks
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons torn fresh mint leaves

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.

Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.

Add pineapple; toss to coat.

Let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Place pineapple, one flat side down, on a nonstick skillet; reserve marinade.

Roast pineapple for 15 minutes.

Stir/flip, brush with marinade, and roast until tender and caramelized, 10–15 minutes.

Drizzle with remaining marinade; let cool slightly.

Arrange pineapple on a plate.

Spoon Greek yogurt on top of the pineapple. Garnish with pistachios and fresh mint.

The sun was as warm and golden as that roasted pineapple.  When March hands you a warm, sunny day, there is no choice but to spend as much of the afternoon outside as possible, especially when that afternoon takes place at a cabin in the woods.

Oh that big hunk o’ man?!?  He’s my lumberjack boyfriend.  No big deal.

The grasses, trees and mountains began to yawn and stretch, as they gradually awoke from their winter slumbers.  For though the sun was quick to warm us that weekend, the grasses, trees and mountains had been dormant for many a cold, wintry month.  Their warmth was yet to come!

As a newcomer to that special cabin in the woods, part of my privilege is discovering the changes the seasons bring over the mountains, valleys and wooden beams.  I can’t wait to see how the cabin gussies himself with spring flowers and bright green grasses!

(…until the next, greener, sunnier times that is)