Ally

Akemashite omedeto!

2010 was not perfect by any means; it had it's ups and downs but it was a good year overall. I was fortunate enough to spend quality time with my wonderful parents, friends and boyfriend. Additionally, I got to expanded my culinary knowledge- I learned to cook dishes outside of my comfort zone, ate some mind blowing meals and heard some amazing chefs speak in person (Bourdain and Alice Waters).


Hopefully, 2011 will bring as many smiles, laughter and adventures!





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Ally

1-888-98-SAVOR (72867)
www.savorseattletours.com


One thing I love about Mr. S. is that he’s not too cool for school. He’s willing to indulge the food nerd in me and do cheesy things like a food tour while on vacation. Except Savor Seattle’s tour wasn’t cheesy, not one bit. When I picture food tours, what comes to my mind is a muddle of people being shepherded from one tourist trap to another. However, the only cheesiness we came across during SS’s food tour was the cheese we got to nosh on at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.

If you’re in Seattle, I highly recommend signing up for one of SS’s tours. They offer up three tours – the Pike Place Tour, the Gourmet Seattle Tour and the Chocolate Indulgence Tour. I’ve been to Pike Place before and enjoyed it, but it was such a giant CF when I was there that I didn’t really feel like I got to experience all that it had to offer. Since Mr. S. had never been to Pike Place, let alone Seattle before, we opted to go with the Pike Place Tour. There was a morning and an afternoon tour available; I argued for the afternoon one since I am grumpy in the morning but Mr. “Early Bird” S. got his way on this one. He promised to buy me a big cup of Fonté coffee, so I relented and we went on the morning tour.

Our tour guide, Caroline, was amazing. Vibrant, friendly and extremely knowledgeable...within a few minutes of meeting up with her, she felt like an old friend. She kept us organized, interested and our tummies full. We had about a dozen people in our group- some couples, some singles; coming from a myriad of places (I remember one couple coming from Chicago and another from New Zealand).

Our 2-hour tasting tour consisted of hefty samples of:

Daily Dozen Doughnuts – fresh, warm mini doughnuts that melt in your mouth

MarketSpice – a hot cup of their house-blend tea

Pike Place Fish – 2 different kinds of smoked salmon and 1 salmon jerky

Frank’s Quality Produce – fresh seasonal fruit

Pike Place Chowder – pipin’ hot cup of chowder

Chukar Cherries – delicious chocolate covered, dried cherries

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese – homemade mac and cheese

Piroshky-Piroshky – two kinds of piroshkies

Etta’s Seafood Restaurant – a delectable crabcake

At each stop, we got to meet the storekeepers and learn about the history of the shop. (One lucky guy in our group even got to catch a fish at PPF!) As we walked through the open-air market, Caroline pointed out various points of interest like Rachel the Pig and the Japanese-American mural watching over the marketplace, which may have normally gone unnoticed in the throngs of people.

SS even accommodates those who may have food allergies and intolerances. I advised them I was lactarded when I made the online reservations and they made arrangements for me to taste a non-dairy specialty at Pike Place Chowder and at Beecher’s. Of all the samples we tasted, my favorite were the Chukar Cherries. The Cabernet Cherries were fantastic! A tart dried cherry covered by sweet dark chocolate with a hint of cabarnet wine…it was oh so decadent and delicious. We loved the cherry treats so much we bought a few boxes as X-mas gifts for family. I was also quite enamored with the Alderwood smoked salmon. I purchased a pack and brought it home to share with some girlfriends at a get together. Served with goat cheese and water crackers, it was wonderful. Now from the look of contentment on his face, Mr. S., I believe fancied the New England clam chowder at Pike Place Chowder. It was thick and creamy, flavored with bacon and hosted nice, big meaty pieces of clam (no shirking here). I was quite jealous that I couldn’t have any (too much dairy in it) but I did get to have some fab Manhattan clam chowder.

Are you hungry yet? Well, if so and you find yourself in the Emerald City and want to do some exploring, take advantage of one of the tours offered by Savor Seattle. The Pike Place tours are $39, the Gourmet Seattle Tour (3 hour tour of Belltown, downtown Seattle and Pike Place Market) is $69 and the Chocolate Indulgence Tour (2 hours) is $49. They go on rain or shine, so be sure to pack an umbrella! The cost covers the tour, food/beverage samples, the use of the audio equipment and a 10-15% discount card for all of their food partners (this includes shops that are involved with all three of their tours).

Bon Appétit!
Ally

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!

Yes, I'm still in the midst of Lemon-palooza here at the cottage. I spent this morning, zesting and juicing a small mountain of lemons. The juice, I placed in ice cube trays and froze...it's great when you're cooking and need a tablespoon or two. You just pop a cube out and throw it in.  (I do this with leftover broth and wine as well.)

As for the zest, you can use a zester or a paring knife to remove it from the lemon but I like to use my microplane. (If you don't have one, get one! It makes life in the kitchen much easier)

Be sure to only grate the skin (the yellow part) and not the pith (the white part). The pith is quite bitter. Go downward only on the microplane, don't go back and forth, and roll the lemon as you go down so that the zest comes off evenly.

It's best to use the zest immediately afterward as that's when it's most potent, but you can dry it. I use this trick, I learned from Saveur. Take the zest and place it on waxed paper. Let it dry for 24 hours. Once it's dry, fold the paper up and crush the zest into powder. (I like to run a rolling pin or a heavy can over it.) Place it in an airtight container in the fridge, it will keep for a few weeks. Use it to season fish, salads, etc. You can also fancy it up by mixing it with some sea salt or sugar and then use it to rim margarita or lemon drop glasses.
Ally


Look out, Sacramento! It looks like Mother Nature is gifting us with a deluge of rain for the new year. Get your hot tea stocked up, pull your Wellies back out of the closet and make a batch of Martha Stewart's Mac & Cheese. It's the perfect comfort food to eat while curling up on the couch and watching your favorite flicks on a rainy day.

* Note: The original recipe is listed below. When making the Mac & Cheese,  I halved the recipe and made some minor modifications: subbed in sharp (yellow) cheddar for the white, upped the salt and put in a bit more cayenne. Also, I opted to used the Gruyère instead of the Pecorino Romano and mixed in a few smashed Kettle Chips with the bread crumbs to give the top more crunch.

And since it is a Martha's recipe, don't forget to slip a nail file into the Mac & Cheese once it's cooled.  ;)


Martha Stewart's Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

Serves 12

6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish

5 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar

2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano

1 pound elbow macaroni


Instructions
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère or 1 cup Pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyère or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.
Ally
Fourteen dollars for a jar of lemon curd? U-uh, no way, nein! Remember all those Meyer lemons I had taking over my kitchen? Well, some of them got put to good use earlier this week…they were turned into a batch of creamy, tangy lemon curd. Mmm! Have you had it before? It’s wonderful…like a jarful of liquid sunshine. Lemon curd is super easy to make and you can use it in all kinds of dishes- as a filling for a tart, to put on thumbprint cookies or spooned over homemade ice cream just to name a few. My favorite way to eat lemon curd though is to pop a dollop on a fresh blackberry scone. The tartness of the curd complements the sweetness of the berries perfectly.

To make this batch of curd, I used a recipe from (the now defunct) Gourmet Magazine; however, I made a few changes. If you’d like to see the original recipe, you can find it here: Gourmet- Lemon Curd.

Oh, I also had a little help from my lovely assistant:




Isn’t he super adorbs? With a name like Pepper, this cute guy is right at home in the kitchen. I love it when Mr. S. lets me borrow him for the day. Pepper supervised the curd making and afterwards we took a much needed nap. He’s an excellent napper, as you can see.




Lemon Curd

Ingredients

(3 Meyer Lemons for juicing and zesting)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest (I used my handy dandy microplane)

1/2 cup sugar

3 large eggs

3/4 stick unsalted butter, sliced into six pieces


Instructions

- Bring about 3 inches of water to a simmer in a medium-sized pot.

- Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a large non-reactive bowl.

- Place the bowl on top of the pot of water, without the bottom of the bowl actually touching the water (essentially, you’re creating a makeshift double boiler).

- Stir in the butter a piece at a time, allowing each piece to melt and whisking frequently; until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6-8 minutes. Take care not to overcook the curd.

- Remove the bowl of curd from the heat and pour the mixture through a sieve that you’ve placed on top of a new bowl. Gently work the curd through the sieve using a wooden spoon.

- Cover the lemon curd with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface (this prevents a skin from forming on the top). Keep in fridge until completely chilled (about one hour).
Ally

Happy Holidays to you and yours,

~ A Girl & Her Fork
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Ally




Earlier in the week there was a lull in the rain, so I scooted outside quickly and nabbed a bunch of Meyer lemons from the tree. Meyer lemons are the best lemons in my opinion - they're fragrant, sweet and extra-juicy. In fact, they're actually a cross between a Mandarin orange and a regular lemon. They originated in China and were brought over in the early 1900's by Frank Nicholas Meyer...hence the name, "Meyer" lemon.

Anyhow, I've been dying to try some Moroccan recipes for some time now but a lot of them call for "preserved lemons." Turns out, you don't need to spend big bucks at a gourmet store; preserved lemons are super easy to make. All you need are some lemons, Kosher salt and an air-tight jar. Preserved lemons can be used in many other dishes besides Moroccan - you can dice some up and sautée it with veggies, season your fish with it or just use it to add some zest to side dishes like quinoa or couscous. It's pretty versatile!

Preserved Lemons

Ingredients

8-9 Meyer Lemons (use unsprayed "natural" lemons, since you're eating the peel)

1-1.5 cups of Kosher Salt

Clean, Air Tight Glass Jar (the kind with a glass lid & latch works best for this recipe)


Instructions

- Scrub, rinse and dry the lemons well.

- Slice off the tip of the stem end so that you can see the pith (but not the flesh).

- Cut the lemons in quarters or a "X", lengthwise but leave it attached at the base (so that the lemon opens up...it kind of looks like a flower when you do this...see below)





- Pack about a tablespoon of Kosher salt into the inside of each lemon. (Schmear it on all the exposed flesh.)

- Cover the bottom of the jar with Kosher salt.

- Start packing the lemons into the jar firmly, sprinkle salt in between the layers. The lemons will juice some, that's okay-- you want them to. Take the clown car approach and get as many as you can in there.

- Take the leftover lemons and squeeze their juice into the jar. Make sure that the top lemons are covered in juice. We want all the lemons submerged.

- Set the jar aside (at room temperature) and for the next 24 hours, turn it upside down every so often so that the ingredients mix.

- After the 1st day, store the jar in the fridge. Continue to turn the jar every so often so the lemons, juice and salt mix. After 4-5 weeks, the lemons are ready to go. 

- To use: Take the lemon out of the jar and rinse it thoroughly. You want all the juice and salt off.  Scrape out the pulp and use the peel in your recipe (dicing it finely or cutting it into thin strips works best). You can also run the pulp through a sieve and use the juice to season dishes as well.

*  Preserved lemons can be kept in the fridge for about 6 months.
Ally

Go forth readers, complete your Feats of Strength and Air Your Grievances over your Festivus meal; however, don't forget the Festivus Pole Stuffed With Chocolate Salami!

Allen Salkin's Festivus Pole Stuffed With Chocolate Salami
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Ally



The holidays bring out the inner kid in some, the Scrooge in others and in Mr. S.'s case...the Clark Griswald. I've never dated anyone in my life who loves the holidays as much as he does. Whether it's stringing millions of lights across the bushes, cutting down his own Christmas tree or braving the crazed crowds for the perfect stocking stuffers...he's there. If Christmas had a superhero, he'd be sporting a red cape. He even has a remote to turn the outdoor Christmas lights on and off. I kid you not! (Oddly enough, it resembles a detonator.)

Anyhow, it's taking some getting used to on my part but I'm coming around slowly but surely. In fact, I'm starting to find his rabid enthusiasm for the holidays quite cute. So in the spirit of giving (since I was able to score some fresh eggs from my friend Neal's chickens), I decided to whip Mr. S. up some chewy chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips. Now, I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter (I don't hate on it, I just don't go out of my way to eat it) but it's his favorite. So PB & C cookies, it is!






PB &C Cookies
(recipe by Hershey's : Reese's Chewy Chocolate Cookies )

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa  (I subbed in Ghiradelli Chocolate's Unsweetened Cocoa)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) butter, softened

2 cups sugar (I like to use baker's sugar, it's smoother)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract  (use the real stuff, not the imitation...it does make a difference!)

1-2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) REESE'S Peanut Butter Chips


Instructions

1. Heat oven to 350°F.

2. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.


3. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in peanut butter chips. (I was lazy and used my Kitchenaid mixer...man, I love that thing!) Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. 

3. Bake 8 to 9 minutes. (Do not overbake; cookies will be soft. They will puff while baking and flatten while cooling.) Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4-1/2 dozen cookies.
 
* Use a Silpat on your cookie sheet if you have one. It makes your cookies cook more evenly and prevents them from burning or sticking to the pan. With my oven, I found that I had to cook the cookies for 10 minutes. So keep an eye on your cookies and adjust your cooking time accordingly.
Ally

Looking for something that satisfies your sweet tooth, explodes with flavor in your mouth and simultaneously envelopes you with chocolaty goodness? Look no further...the good folks at Chuao Chocolatier have granted your Christmas wish...Firecracker Chocolate. I had the opportunity to try some at a book club meeting a few months back and fell head over heels for the stuff. It's a bit pricey but Whole Foods had it on sale today and I still had some coinage left on a Whole Foods gift card I received awhile back, so I splurged. Omg. I forgot how crazy delicious this stuff was. This chocolate bar will literally throw your tastebuds into a tizzy- it's gourmet dark chocolate mixed with chipotle, salt and pop rocks. You heard me right...pop rocks. Enough said.
Ally

(This is just a wee rack in the shop. Trust me they have LOTS of spices to choose from...like world domination of spices...ok, maybe not quite "world" domination...but LOTS nevertheless)
 

1509 Wester Ave., Seattle, WA, 98101. (206) 682- 7274.
www.worldspice.com


One of my favorite shops to hang out in during our trip to Seattle was World Spice Merchants on Western Avenue (just outside of Pike Place). WSM was discovered during my trip along the West Coast last year, but this time around I wasn't on a time crunch and got to spend ample time persuing and sniffing the jars. Yes, I know-- I'm a total nerd. So what? WSM is a cook's dream...jar upon jar of every spice (and spice blend) imaginable and all the delicious aromas...Mmmm, bliss! I decided I just had to purchase a few spices to take home to experiment with even though there was a lengthy wait in the small shoppe (thank you Mr. S. for being so patient!). I ended up going with a few ounces each of the Harissa, Smoked Paprika, Zahtar (Israeli), Jerk Rub and I also restocked my cache of Herbes De Provence, but goodness if given more time (and a fatter wallet) there was much more I would have loved to buy. Luckily, WSM ships! So treat yourself to a small Xmas gift or order a few spices for the chef in your family.

[All of their spice blends are mixed by hand in small batches and ground to order within 24 hours of shipping. There's a two ounce minimum for purchase and they are packaged/sealed in plastic bags. For $2 more/each, they can be packaged in airtight 1-cup jars (ooh-la-la!). Also, you can order the spices whole instead of ground should you choose.]
Ally
 ( Photo by Jennifer C., Yelp )

4225 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103. (206) 545-7440. www.paseoseattle.com

If you ever find yourself in Seattle with a tummy demanding to be placated, haul yourself down to Paseo. Just drive down Fremont Avenue N. and look for a tiny, unassuming shack (there's no sign) made of corrugated metal nestled amongst some small residential homes, with a looooooong line out front. Ignore the haphazard exterior and just plunk yourself at the end of the line snaking around the building...trust me you won't be sorry. Unless you're a vegan or vegetarian, if so--then run. Paseo is a meat lover's paradise.

If you haven't heard of it, Paseo, is known for it's mouthwatering Cuban sandwiches and has been heralded by many publications as "One of the Best Sandwiches in America." Mr. S. and I fueled by our curiosity, dragged ourselves out during a rainstorm, to check out this so-called sandwich mecca and  I have to agree that is one damn good sandwich. As my Seattleite friend Aaron aptly put it, "...did it make you want to have a second right away, for dessert?"  The best way I could describe the Paseo experience is to compare it to, "When Harry Met Sally." Remember the scene where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm while eating in a deli? Well, Paseo's sandwiches will elicit that exact response from you but you won't be faking it! 

Anyhow, Mr. S. went with the popular Cuban Roast sandwich. Picture slow roasted pork shoulder (so succulent that your eyes will want to roll back) covered in a tangy heavenly sauce with caramelized onions, cilantro, a leaf of lettuce, and fat pickled jalapeno chunks on top--- all on a toasted baguette that's been slapped with aioli. I went with the grilled pork which was prepared the same way but a flame-grilled cubed pork loin was subbed in for the pork shoulder. It was perfectly cooked. I had to pause after the first bite because my mouth was doing cartwheels and backflips...and because a river of sauce was dripping down my chin. The marinade they use to baste the meat with is so delicious that I could probably drink it straight from the bucket. Don't laugh...you would too, given the chance. Also word to the wise, don't go to Paseo thinking you're going to share a sandwich. Get your own. Or let me put it this way, had Mr. S. wanted to even try my sandwich, he would have had to pry it out of my cold, dead hands

Now are you ready to go? Just remember a few things. First, bring cash because Paseo doesn't take plastic (sandwiches run about $8-$9). Second, wear comfortable shoes and bring an umbrella because there's a good chance you'll be standing outside in a long line. And lastly, don't plan on eating there. Paseo has about four small tables but getting a table would involve the swiftness of a cheetah, some mad ninja skills and having Lady Luck on your side. We ended up eating our sandwiches in the car, letting the warm steam from the sandwiches fog up the windows as we munched away happily. Oh and one last bit of advice-- grab some napkins. Lots and lots of napkins, trust me, you'll need them.
Ally
1531 14th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122. (206) 251-7673  www.spinasse.com

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco but I think I may have left mine in Seattle this past weekend.  Mr. S. and I went for an early holiday getaway and the foodie in me just fell head over heels for Seattle’s food scene. We hit up a few well touted casual food places like Salumi and Paseo (which I will review soon, I promise!) but the highlight of the trip was our dinner the first night at Cascina Spinasse. It was truly a magical night.  Although the trattoria was a bit difficult to find (it’s quite inconspicuous) and parking in Capitol Hill was a nightmare; once we stepped out of the rain and through the doorway, we were transported. The restaurant reminded me of a warm hunting lodge or a rustic cottage that you’d find tucked away in a European forest. I fully expected a staff member to greet us wearing jodhpurs and carrying the night’s game in one hand.
What appealed to me most about Spinasse’s ambiance was that although it’s high end, it’s a no muss, no fuss place. Simple plank tables, dark wood shelving and wrought iron serve as the foundation for the décor. Most shelves showcase the various bottles of wine they offer; although, every so often you’ll find the odd quirky knick-knack wedged in. There’s something about the place that makes it feel charming and cozy rather than cluttered. We had made reservations ahead of time and were lucky enough to score seats at the chef’s table where we could have a front-row view into the farmhouse kitchen. It was quite interesting to be able to watch all the hustle and bustle and interworkings…not to mention that I loved how “authentic” the kitchen looked. Hanging cast-iron pans, butcher block islands, a blackened range—all utilized…it was truly a beautiful rustic kitchen. Now, reservations are not required but more than likely you won’t get in without one. We watched several patrons get kindly turned away throughout the course of our night as the dining area was full. Spinasse has quite the reputation in town! Anyhow…Jason Stratton, Spinasse’s chef, was voted Food and Wine’s Best New Chef for 2010 and we were eager to experience everything Spinasse had to offer so we went with the Menu Degustazione ($90/pp), a “family style tasting of every antipasto, primo and secondo” on the night’s menu. Instead of small bite sized portions, you receive one full order of every dish on the menu to split between the two of you. It’s a lot of food, so be prepared to be there for several hours.
So, Mr. S. ordered his customary sparkling water and I went with a nice dry chardonnay that Ana, our server recommended and from there we got comfortable and began our culinary adventure.

Antipasti

For the first course, we were brought:

Insalata di pera (Asian pear with aged pecorino and celery)

‘Pio Tosini’ prosciutto di parma (prosciutto with marinated apple)

Insalata russa (Russian salad “winter variation’ with roasted celeriac and delicate squash with tuna maionesse, caper and pickled carrot)

Insalata de barbabietole e radicchio di Treviso (beet salad with local Treviso, crushed egg, breadcrumbs and parmigiano-reggiano)

Sformatino di porri (roasted leek flan with fonduta)
All of the dishes were wonderful but my favorite was the beet salad. They used these tiny baby beets that were so flavorful that I almost didn’t want to swallow and instead just roll them around in my mouth, savoring the taste. I think the highlight for Mr. S. was the leek flan, it was delicate and luscious and seemed to slide across your tongue. One of those dishes that makes you want to close your eyes in bliss after you take each bite.

Primi

For the next course, we were brought three dishes of handmade-in house pasta:

Tajarin al ragu o burro e salvia (fine cut egg pasta with ragù)

Mezzalune di carote  (carrot mezzalune with cumin and caper butter)

Tagliatelle con maiale all latte (tagliatelle with pork shoulder braised in milk)

All three pastas were superb but the tagliatelle and the tajarin really stood out. The pork shoulder served with the tagliatelle was so tender, it literally melted in my mouth. The tajarin was so wispy and the ragù, oh the ragù! It was so scrumptious that even as my stomach was saying, “No more!” I couldn’t stop twirling another bite onto my fork. All of the pastas were made perfectly. Stratton knows his pasta, there’s no doubt about that!
And just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, out came the…

Secondi

Pulcino con cavolini de Bruxelles (roasted young chicken with shaved Brussels sprouts and toasted pinenut sauce)

Polpette di coniglio (rabbit meatballs wrapped in caul fat, with caramelized turnip puree, pickled horseradish and crisp rosemary

Capriolo al forno (roasted venison with lentils and salt-roasted persimmon)

Good god! All of these dishes were mind-blowing. I’m not sure where we put away all the food but we couldn’t resist the tender rabbit meatballs, crisp young chicken and I’ll be honest I was quite enamored with the Brussels sprouts. Each dish you could tell was made with care and skill. Undoubtedly, each and every dish that came out from Stratton’s kitchen to our table was perfect…every component was in harmony with each other.  They’re such simple dishes made from local, organic ingredients but offer up such complexity in taste.
Now, don’t think I’ve forgot about the service. Ana, our server, was engaging and attentive not to mention knowledgeable and passionate about the food. Our dinner was flawlessly paced and we were never in want. Water was constantly filled and our needs met without a word uttered. She did talk us into dessert and as we were still basking in the afterglow of our meal and not ready to venture back out into the cold, wet evening, we agreed. We chose a Gianduja semifreddo with dark chocolate and feuilletine. The semifreddo was sinfully creamy (thank you Lactaid pills) and the feuilletine added a nice nutty taste. Mr. S. also requested an Italian coffee (which arrived in an adorable mini-Bialetti) and I opted for a glass of Moscato to cleanse my palette. The Moscato was the perfect finishing touch—slightly sweet and effervescent.
Much like a fairytale, every great meal must come to a close. As we donned our coats, Mr. S. smiled and stated that he was pretty sure that this was one of the best meals of his life. I whole-heartedly agreed. We took one last look at the candlelight dancing atop the wax-covered candelabra on our table, clasped hands and made our way back into the rainy, Seattle night.
Spinasse, you surpassed our expectations…thank you for a memorable evening.
Ally
( Photos by BakedIdeas.com )


I saw these gingerbread yogi cookie cutters by Baked Ideas recently on Apartment Therapy and thought how they would make such an unique holiday gift. You could give it as a stocking stuffer or pair it up with a gift card for a few yoga classes at a local studio. What a great way to say, "Namaste," to your favorite yoga lover.

Baked Ideas currently offers two sets: A Lotus Group and a Downward Group. Each set includes 5 tin cutters that measure approx 4 1/4" long and a gingerbread recipe. $32.50


Ally
( print by dazeychic )



Back in April, I moved into the place that I now call home. Next to the multi sky-lighted bungalow in East Sac that I once shared with the ex-husb; this is probably one of my favorite places I’ve ever lived. It’s a cozy, little cottage (yep, a cottage!) that shares a courtyard with seven others like it. Nestled back from the street, it’s easy to overlook unless you pass through the ivy covered front gate. From what I’ve gleaned from local historians, my serene little abode is in an area dubbed “Poverty Ridge" (ironic as there are several mansions in the area) and may have very well been a war bride cottage back in the day. If you look closely, you'll find that there are a few pockets of war bride cottages sprinkled throughout the grid and East Sac. My landlord revamped the cottage I live in by adding modern day amenities like central heat and air and garbage disposals but kept the much-desired “old-world touches” like the gleaming hardwood floors. Anyhow…lucky me, not only do I have a wonderful place to call home, sweet home but I recently discovered two Meyer lemon tree on the far corner of the grounds. So be prepared, you will probably see several posts in the upcoming weeks showcasing this wonderful citrus!


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Ally
 ( http://www.magpiecaterers.com )

1409 R Street, Ste 102, Sacramento, CA 95811. (916) 452-7594

Magpie is one of those places that I really, really want to like but it just seems to fall short in one important area for me…the food. Several friends have raved about Magpie’s offerings since it’s inception and I’ve gone back repeatedly with high hopes. For lunch, I’ve tried their black rice salad and their beet salad…both salads were a flop. The black rice was hard and undercooked; whereas, the beet tasted like someone had doused it with vinegar. On my next visit, I went with the smoked trout sandwich served on an open-faced baguette…one word summed that up—“meh.” It was disappointingly average—flavorless, a bit watery and the tomatoes were missing; I could have been eating a tuna sandwich from Subway as far as I could tell. Then I went back three different times for happy hour with friends. The happy hour pour, a crisp Uvaggio Vermentino, was just $4 a glass and quite delicious; however, the happy hour “bites” selection was paltry (only three choices). The cured meat sampler with olives, red peppers and crostini ($4) that my dining companion ordered was pretty unexciting and the mussels in saffron broth was a scant portion (I think we got a total of 5 mussels and about 4 large sprigs of thyme) and to top it off the broth was quite bland ($4). Yet I was so determined to like Magpie that I even went back for dinner…yes, at times I can be a glutton for punishment. Per the waiter’s recommendation, I ordered the bean soup ($4.25/cup) and the Steelhead trout with potato, bacon, and golden beet hash ($17.50). The hash was perfectly cooked and flavored but the soup was extremely oily and the trout was forgettable (damn you, Magpie trout…you foiled me again!). Though my trout and soup fell short, I would like to note that my dining companion was quite enamored with her creamy polenta and after taking a bite I could see why. It was as smooth as Johnny Depp.

Now that I’ve covered the bad and the ugly, let me focus on the good. When I first started visiting Magpie when it opened, the service was aloof and many of the service staff seemed unfamiliar with the dishes; however, I have to say the last few times I was there the service was perfect. Both floor staff and counter staff were welcoming, eager to make suggestions and friendly overall. On one occasion I was offered a Lactaid pill (from her personal stash) by the cashier when I bemoaned the fact that there was cream in the mussel broth. On another occasion, when Mr. S. and I ducked in there to buy a box of their cookies, the girls at the counter threw in an extra one just so we could try all the flavors. It’s small touches like these that you remember. Not just is the eatery hospitable but it also takes the extra step to serve local, seasonal produce, sustainable fish and hormone-free meats and poultry. Kudos, Magpie!

Magpie also has one of the cutest décors in town. I love their exposed brick walls adorned with artistic scrolls. Minimal but stylish---thumbs up! Also, in addition to the farmhouse tables and natural light; there’s a small front patio where you can relax, soak up some rays and watch people hurry by when the weather’s pleasant.

Lastly, Magpie has killer cookies…possibly the best in town. I’ve been heartbroken by their food too many times now, so as of late I’ll stick to just nibbling on their incredible baked goods. YES, their cookies alone are worth driving over there for. Mr. S. thinks the peanut butter ones are a wee bit on the dry side but the snickerdoodle as well as their oatmeal cookies are amazing. But their piéce de résistance without a doubt are their chocolate chip cookies ($1.75). Soft and chocked full of heavenly chocolate chunks, these baked treats are a must-have. They’re also quite big and perfect for sharing…but trust me you won’t want to. You’ll exclaim, “Look Salma Hayek!” and scarf the cookie down in nanoseconds before your poor, unsuspecting boyfriend has a chance to figure out what’s going on.

So in a nutshell, if you’re near the R Street Corridor, my advice is to pop into Magpie for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and one (two? three?) of their phenomenal cookies but skip the full on meal there. Even though I love their food philosophy and that they’re a small business; I just can’t justify dropping any more dinero on pricey, lackluster food when there’s other seriously delish places to eat in Sac. One of these days I might get up the gumption to give Magpie another whirl and if I do, I hope they prove me wrong and blow my socks off.
Ally


"We kids feared many things in those days - werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School - but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts." ~ Dave Barry


When I was a kid, once in a blue moon my mom would make Brussels sprouts. She steamed the wretched things and they came out tasting like a giant spitball-- wet, mushy and flavorless. Meh! At some point it was either my mom or my dad that thought it would be funny to tell me that Brussels sprouts were really cabbages that had been put in the washer and dryer and had shrunk. Given my mother's propensity to shrink clothes in the dryer I bought into it hook, line and sinker and for quite a many years thought that Brussels sprouts were indeed the innocent victims of laundry gone awry. Then a few years ago, I had some delicious roasted Brussels sprouts served with aioli at Cook's in St. Helena and my eyes were opened. The light bulb went on and I realized- Brussels sprouts didn't have to taste like a damp tennis ball, they could be delicious! So, this Thanksgiving I decided to recreate Orangette's Cream-Braised Brussel Sprouts and OMG, they were heavenly. The dish went over well at the dinner and I even converted a few Brussels sprout haters. Those green rounds came out so good that, Mr. S. and I decided to make them again last night. Mr. S., a life-long Brussels sprout detester, couldn't stop smacking his lips in approval and Kidlet #1 even liked it. Holy moly! An 11 year old who'll eat Brussels sprouts voluntarily? I've accomplished quite the feat! Anyhow, set your hate for Brussels sprouts aside for a night, throw caution to the wind and MAKE THIS RECIPE. You won't be disappointed.

Orangette's Cream-Braised Brussels Sprouts


Ingredients:

1 ¼ lb. Brussels sprouts (medium-size ones, with heads that measure, say, 1 to 1 ¼ inches in diameter)

3 Tbs unsalted butter

¼ tsp coarse sea salt, plus more to taste

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, or more to taste


Instructions

- First, prep the Brussels sprouts. Trim the stem end of each sprout and pull off any ragged or nasty outer leaves.

- Cut the sprouts in half from stem end to tip, and then cut each half in half again. Ultimately, you want little wedges. (This isn't just for aesthetics, it helps the sprout cook more thoroughly.)

- In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are nicely browned in spots, about 5 minutes or so. I like mine to get some good color here, so that they have a sweetly caramelized flavor.

- Pour in the cream, stir to mix, and then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low or medium low: you want to keep the pan at a slow simmer.

- Braise until the sprouts are tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 30-35 minutes. The cream will have reduced some and will have taken on a creamy tan color.

- Remove the lid, and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Let the pan simmer, uncovered, for a minute or two to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the sprouts. Serve immediately.

- Yield: 4 to 6 servings,
Ally
( Buzzkill Coasters available at The Curiosity Shoppe )


I love the concept of these sarcasm-laced coasters but maybe it's the inner penny pincher in me that thinks you could just as easily whip these out on your home laptop/printer and save yourself the $8? That aside, these do crack me up and would definitely spark some conversation at the next family gathering. Afterall, who hasn't wanted to pop Aunt Mabel in the nose for asking you for the 5th year straight, "No babies yet?" as she passes you the gravy at the dinner table?
Ally


I'm sure your home, like most homes across America, is still stuffed to the gills with Thanksgiving turkey leftovers. You've probably had turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey cookies...ok, nix the last one. Well, if you're looking for a fast side to go with all that leftover turkey try making up some of This Week For Dinner's Cranberry Orange Sauce. It's simple to make and only takes one pot (easy clean-up!)...plus it's fun to watch the cranberries explode when they get heated up.


Cranberry Orange Sauce

Ingredients

1/2 lb cranberries

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

zest of 1 orange

4 oranges separated, pith and membranes removed*  (I only used 2 oranges and felt that was more than enough)


Instructions

- Bring 1/2 C water to simmer.

- Add cranberries, sugar, OJ and zest. Simmer & stir until sugar dissolved and berries begin to pop, ~15 mins.

- Remove from heat – add orange segments.


* If you're looking for a hassle-free way to segment and remove the membrane of an orange, check out this handy video on RR: How To Segment an Orange
Ally
( Cinnamon Sticks Print by butterflyfood )


When it's rainy and cold outside, I like for the inside of my cottage to smell warm and cozy. Usually there's the odor of baked goods, bubbling soup or (if it's morning) a percolating pot of coffee wafting through my abode. But sometimes if I'm just home relaxing for the night and feeling slothish, I take a shortcut. (This trick is great also if you're having company over and want to give your home a welcoming air.)

Scent-sational Cinnamon

Instructions

- Take a medium-sized pot of water, place 3-4 cinnamon sticks in it.

- Place on stove and boil uncovered for approximately 30 minutes.

- Turn stove off and allow pot to cool.

(* As the water boils, the cinnamon scent will be emitted and disperse through the air.)
Ally
(shown au naturale & "tweaked")


Looking for something sweet, sour and spicy that you can make in a flash for a party? Then you definitely need to try this crazy-delicious cranberry-jalapeño salsa by allrecipes. I made some for Thanksgiving this year, with a few tweaks (namely mixing it up with a block of Philadelphia cream cheese) and served it up with some sesame water crackers...and voila!  A party in your mouth!  What's nice about this salsa is that you can use the leftovers for a multitude of other dishes. I gave some to a friend to taste test and she came up with the brillant idea of  pairing it with some grilled sausage. Mmmm!

Cranberry-Jalapeno Salsa (adapted from a recipe by allrecipes)

Ingredients

makes roughly 2 cups of salsa

1 (12 ounce) bag cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 bunch green onions, cut into 3 inch lengths

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

2 limes, juiced

3/4 cup white sugar

1 pinch salt

1 block of Philadephia cream cheese (optional)


Instructions

- Combine cranberries, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno pepper, lime juice, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a medium blade. 

- Chop to medium consistency. 

- Refrigerate if not using immediately. Serve at room temperature.

* TIP: For an alternate serving suggestion, original recipe says to just pour 1 cup of salsa over a block of cream cheese and serve it that way but I found mixing the salsa and the cream cheese up in a food processor made a better tasting product.
Ally
Ally

 fresh steamed dumplings

4220 Florin Rd, Sacramento, CA 95823

One of the small things I'm always thankful for is living in California where Asian food is plentiful. I have Oto's Japanese Market on Freeport that I hit up for most of my Japanese cooking needs and the Asian Farmers' Market (kitty corner from the W Street Farmers' Market on Sundays) that I can pick up fresh Asian veggies at; but once in awhile, I need specialty ingredients when I'm attempting a new Thai, Indian, Hmong, etc. recipe. For the most part when the need has come up, I've been able to find what I need at SF Supermarket on 65th Street. But variety is the spice of life and I was pleased to know another large Pan-Asian market had opened in Sacramento (thanks for the heads up Anthony!). Since I had a few hours to kill, I trekked out to So. Sac to check out the new 99 Ranch Market located at Florin and Franklin (just down the road from Luther Burbank High School).  I didn't know much about 99 Ranch but many of my Bay Area friends seemed familiar with the chain. 

yucca root

jujubes and longan

Upon walking in, I was struck by two things: the behemoth size of the store and that it was extremely clean. As you walk in, to the left is the produce area. The area was well organized and the fruits and veggies were colorful and fresh. There was a wide variety of ethnicities represented- I found myself next to rambutans, kholrabi, bitter melons, daikon and indian eggplants to name a few. Toward the back of the store is the live seafood area. The area was non-stop busy. I immediately noticed that the pungent "fishy" smell of other Asian markets and cloudy watered tanks were missing; looks like 99 Ranch is on top of their sanitation issues. The store states that they will "cut and gut" (and even fry) the fish for you if you like, which is a great deal. Amazingly, the entire time I was there (mid-day on a Monday) the area was hopping with people purchasing large prawns, bags of oysters, a plethora of fish and even sea cucumbers! It never stopped! The middle of the store carries spices, treats, sauces, liquor and dry goods like noodles and rice. I came across several sections of interesting looking frozen stuffed buns and dumplings. There's a few aisles of housewares and electronic kitchen gadgets and then you're upon the chaos-- the bakery and "food court" section. Here you can buy fresh breads and made-from-scratch pastries as well as tasty dim sum items, steaming hot bowls of noodles and boxed lunches. Hopefully the food court lines die down a bit once the market's been open for awhile. I'd like to go back and pick up a BBQ'd duck or some crispy pork. During my visit there were so many people elbow to elbow and a confusing criss-cross of lines that you would have thought that they were giving out free Justin Bieber tickets.

fresh fish

rice cooking wines
 
fruit wines

99 Ranch Market's prices seem on par with it's competitors. The fact that it's clean and well-stocked will probably be what draws me back. I also like that the customer base is as diverse as the products they carry there and everyone seems welcomed. The staff that I came across during my visit were all polite and helpful. There was a language barrier issue with one store clerk that was trying his best to help me locate an item but several nearby customers immediately jumped in to help me out. In addition to finding out where the item was located, I got several useful cooking tips! Oh and before I forget, take heed-- much like the other Asian markets in town, this place is rampant with little old Asian ladies speeding along like Andretti and ramming you with their carts. But no pain, no gain right?

moon pie

dried chrysanthemum

pastries
 
Ally


I was really excited about cooking with celery root (aka celeriac). A cross between an albino turnip and an overweight parsnip; it's always been one of those "What the heck is THAT fugly thing?!" vegetables I would pass by time and time again in the grocery store. Everywhere I read said that celery root wouldn't have that sharp green taste that ordinary celery stalks have...well baloney! Celery root has a STRONG celery smell and taste as I found out last night. As someone who abhors the taste, texture and smell of celery; I was not quite pleased with last night's dinner. I had decided to attempt The Kitchen Sink's Celery Root and Apple Soup and the result was a bowl of soup with a VERY celery-centric taste. Maybe throwing in another apple would have helped sweeten it up more; but regardless, this recipe will not be repeated again in our household. Mr. S. who DOES like celery wasn't too jazzed with it either and I found myself munching on a box of Pocky as opposed to finishing my dinner.

[Note: I didn't have chicken broth on hand so I used vegetable broth. I also omitted the chives.]


Celery Root and Apple Soup

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled celery root (from one 1 1/4-pound celery root)

3 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled cored Granny Smith apples (from about 2 medium)

1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)

1/4 cup white wine

4 cups low-salt chicken broth

4 sprigs of thyme

1/4 cup buttermilk

fine-grain sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup snipped chives, for garnish

extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


Instructions

- Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat.

- Add celery root, apples, and onion. Cook until apples and some of celery root are translucent (do not brown), stirring often, about 15 minutes.

- Add wine, broth and thyme. Cover and bring to simmer.

- Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer covered until celery root and apples are soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

- Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth.

- Return soup to pot and stir in the buttermilk. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

- Garnish with snipped chives and a drizzle of olive oil.

("Celery is useless" by NatalieDee.com)
Ally
Just saw this fridge by Amana on Apartment Therapy, it's so cute. I'm totally lemming it! Mr. S. would probably hate on it because it lacks an ice/water dispenser but pish-tosh sometimes style comes before function.  ;)

Ally
I've always been a purist when it comes to coffee...I like my cup of joe black, strong and good. If you see me putting sugar or creamer in it, it usually means that the coffee's less than stellar in taste. However, last week my coffee routine was shook up with the introduction of So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer. I happened across it while buying some soy milk at the grocer's. O-M-G! This stuff is like crack...yes CRACK, not crap. It's seriously addicting. I threw a carton of the French Vanilla flavor (it comes in original, french vanilla and hazelnut) in my cart on a whim and a week later I've already returned to buy another one. According to Turtle Mountain, the company that cranks this stuff out, the coconut milk creamer is dairy/lactose free, soy free, gluten free, cholesterol free, no trans fat and certified vegan...it's basically free in everything but taste (and cost).  I think I might tone down how much of this I'm going through just because I really don't need to be throwing down any extra calories (little or otherwise) during the holidays, but for the occasional indulgence this'll definitely be at the top of my list. Like the carton says, it's "So Delicious."

Ally



It's been a giant rainfest here lately and the last thing I've been feeling like doing is driving. It's been a cold, damp weekend and tonight was the perfect night to relax with girl friends, gab and drink wine (thanks for hosting, Kristen!). I needed a dish I could throw together without having to don galoshes and slosh my way to a grocery store. Since I had a few Granny Smiths and a log of goat cheese in the fridge I decided to bake a batch of A Cozy Kitchen's Goat Cheese & Apple Tarts. I halved the recipe (listed below is the original recipe) and it came out fine. To top it off, when I came home from hanging out; the house smelled all warm and toasty from the thyme, prompting me to brew a cup of hot tea and put on some Nina Simone before settling down at the laptop.

FYI: This recipe makes a great appetizer but I think it'd pair perfectly with a pipin' bowl of soup as well. Check it out for yourself.

Goat Cheese & Apple Tarts


Ingredients

2 sheets frozen puff pastry

10 oz goat cheese

2 granny smith apples (or similar variety)

2 tbl olive oil

1 tbl chopped fresh or dried thyme


Instructions

- Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

- While the puff pastry is still frozen, lay flat and cut into squares.

- Place the puff pastry pieces on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spread goat cheese in the center of each puff pastry square.

- Core and thinly slice the apples. Arrange the apple slices on the pastry, making sure that the cheese is completely covered.

- Drizzle the assembled tarts with olive oil & sprinkle the thyme over them.

- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it's golden brown on the edges. Serve immediately.

(* Keep a close eye on the tarts once they're in the oven. I found they browned very quickly and took them out at 18 minutes; however, each oven is different.)
Ally
...or do we? Well, if they're as cute as these little meat lover buttons from Sweet Meats, I say "Bring 'em on!"

Ally

Last Saturday night, I had the pleasure of attending an art show featuring my talented friend Cate. Her show consisted of a series of delicate, colorful works done in gouache centered around mushrooms. Not only were her mushroom pieces quite beautiful but they also inspired me to don my apron and whip up a porcini and morel risotto for Mr. S.. I couldn't find a recipe that met my needs exactly so I ended up combining a recipe from Cooking Light and one from Cuizoo. The end product was absolutely delicious. The wild mushrooms imparted an earthy taste that wasn't overwhelming and the marscapone added the perfect bit of creaminess to the texture...pure mushroom bliss. The risotto was so good that Mr. S. even took the leftovers to work the next day!

Porcini and Morel Risottto

Ingredients

2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)

1/2 cup dried morels (about 1/2 ounce)

2 T unsalted butter

2 cups beef broth

1 1/2 cups uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice

1 cup chopped shallots

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2-3/4 cup mascarpone cheese (depending on how creamy you want it)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

salt

freshly ground black pepper


Instructions

 - Combine 2 cups boiling water and mushrooms; let stand 20 minutes or until soft. Drain through a colander over a bowl. Reserve soaking liquid; chop mushrooms.

- Bring soaking liquid and broth to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat (cover).

- Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with butter. Add rice, shallots, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).

- Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total).

- Add mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheeses, thyme, salt, and pepper; stir gently just until cheeses melt. Serve warm.



"Blue Mushroom" ( gouache on hot press, 2010 ) by Cate Schmiedt,  
 can be seen at Side Show Studios, 5635 Freeport Blvd. 
up to the first week of December.

Ally


Last week I had some puff pastry left over so I decided to do a little experimenting. I modified a Bon Appétit recipe for Caramel Hazelnut Tartlets and what I ended up with was something that I dubbed "The Jerry Brown". Much like our newly elected governor; it's nutty, flaky, sweet and easy on the wallet...if I had to describe it, I'd say my version of the recipe was more like a mini-sticky bun. Anyhow political humor aside, this treat makes a great accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee or tea on a crisp autumn day.

The Jerry Brown

Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry

1 c. hazelnuts, toasted, husked and chopped

1 1/3 c. (packed) golden brown sugar

7 Tbsp. unsalted butter

6 Tbsp. light corn syrup

2 Tbsp. water

1/2 tsp. salt

6 Tbsp. whipping cream

 
Instructions:
 
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 
- For caramel filling: Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, 2 Tbsp. water, and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to boil, then boil 2 minutes without stirring (mixture will bubble up and thicken slightly). Remove pan from heat. Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously); stir until smooth. Pour caramel into 2-cup measuring cup; cool 10 minutes.
 
- Roll puff pastry sheet out and using a circular cookie cutter, punch out 24 circles.
 
- Prick pastry with a toothpick or fork several times to aerate it.
 
- Place one circle of pastry in each opening of  mini muffin pan. Press down so that the pastry conforms to the shape of the pan.
 
- Place pastry in oven and cook for 7-10 minutes.
 
- Remove from oven. Fill each puff pastry with chopped hazelnuts, push down a bit on the middle so that the hazelnuts settle.
 
- Place pan back in oven and bake for 5 more minutes until pastry is done.
 
- Remove pan from oven. Spoon caramel over hazelnuts in crusts, filling crusts almost to top.(Caramel will absorb into the puff pastry slightly).
 
- Serve warm.
 
 
Ally


I was feeling a bit under the weather the past week; it was like my body couldn't decide if it wanted to succumb to a cold or not. So it vacillated between feeling run down and feeling normal. The problem with that was my energy and enthusiasm ebbed and flowed depending on how I felt; so when I invited my friend Lacy over for dinner this past week, I had the best of intentions to whip up something complex and exciting. However, by the time Thursday rolled around, I was hard pressed to even find the motivation to get my butt up to go grocery shopping. Luckily, I had a recipe that I had bookmarked awhile back that needed relatively little prep but still sounded tasty...roasted garlic and lemon shrimp. I subbed in some medium-sized shrimp and used 4 cloves of garlic instead of 3; but other than that, I followed Circle B Kitchen's recipe exactly. Served up with some saffron rice, I had a complete meal ready to go in less than 30 minutes and Lacy was protected from any marauding bands of vampires on her way home.


Roasted Garlic and Lemon Shrimp

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 lb raw shrimp (peeled, deveined, tail on)

salt and pepper

1 lemon for juicing

1 lemon, cut into wedges or slices



Instructions

- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a roasting pan or sided baking sheet with cooking spray.

- In a large bowl combine the olive oil, garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.

- Spread the shrimp in a single layer in your roasting pan and spread the breadcrumbs over the shrimp, sort of working them around each shrimp so they are fairly covered.

- Drizzle with a little more olive oil and bake for 8 to 10 minutes depending on the size of your shrimp.

- Place the shrimp on a serving platter and drizzle with lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature with additional lemon wedges.