Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rosemary, Parmesan and Cracked Pepper Crackers

I don't know why I do not make crackers all of the time. They are ridiculously cheap and easy to make, taste way better than the store bought kind and are totally fun for a get together, holiday or otherwise. Flour, water, olive oil and salt make up the basic ingredients for crackers. You can use your imagination and create a normal Parmesan cracker or chop up some hot peppers, toss them in spices and cheddar cheese for a fiery Southwestern version. The best part is, they are pretty much foolproof. I made some basic Parmesan, rosemary and cracked pepper crackers this morning in anticipation of Christmas Eve.

To Make Crackers:

1 1/2 cup white flour

1/4 cup rye flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons EVOO

2/3 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 400.

Sift together flours and salt.

Whisk water with olive oil and slowly pour into flour mixture, stirring as you do so.

Stir dough until the mixture is fairly uniform.

Divide dough into 2 lumps.

Grease 2 cookie sheets, then roll out 1 portion dough over each cookie sheet, pulling the ends to cover the entire sheet.

Use a knife or pizza cutter to slice your crackers, mine were a bit haphazard today out of impatience, but those who desire may create beautiful uniform crackers.

Cook for 20-25 minutes...depending on how thin your crackers are, they may be done in 20 minutes...thicker crackers may take up to 30 minutes.

Remove crackers from oven once they become golden, place on platter and let cool before eating.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Carne Mechada

Carne Mechada is a kinder, more easygoing relative of Ropa Vieja. Less ingredients equate less chopping and less active cooking time. I love this dish. Tender, shredded beef, sauteed red bell pepper and smoky paprika make my mouth water before sinking my teeth into the dish. I had some as stew last night with avocado, limes and Cuban black beans with rice but today, it's all about the empanadas. What is it about food that you can pick up that is so appealing?

To Make Carne Mechada:
1 lb flank steak, cut into 4 pieces
3 Vidalia diced onions
Enough beef broth to cover meat pieces
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
4 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste or 2 diced tomatoes
Paprika, to taste

In large stew pot, add meat, beef broth and 1 diced onion (making sur
e broth covers meat). Bring to a simmer and let cook 2 hours at this heat.

Remove pieces of meat from the broth (reserve for use later) and let them cool on a plate. When cool enough to handle, shred the chunks into thin strips using your fingers or a fork (I like doing it with my hands, easier to remove fat, etc).

Heat up olive oil in a clean stew pot. Add bell pepper, onion and
garlic. Let cook 5-7 minutes until translucent. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Add tomato sauce and 1 cup reserved broth, let simmer about 15 minutes.

Add shredded beef and enough reserved broth to ensure the mixture is covered. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and stir every 10 minutes or so to prevent the stew from sticking. The covered pot should just barely be boiling (to avoid drying out the meat). Cook an additional hour at this temperature.

Serve with rice, black beans, and a fried sweet plantain for pabellon crioll
o, Venezuela's national dish, by itself as a hearty stew, or in empanadas! You will love it any of these ways-it's just that delicious.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas Hot Chocolate

My parents bought me an amazing milk frother in Italy this fall (for those who don't have parents in Italy to buy them a frother, see the end of this post). As a result, I have become a highly caffeinated version of myself-and those who know me, know I don't lack in energy! To calm my heart and allow me to fall asleep from time to time, I used my frother to update my favorite Christmas hot chocolate.

To make 4 mugs of hot chocolate:

1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies (or 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract and 1-2 drops of red food coloring)
4 cups whole milk
1 cup skim milk
10 ounces good quality white chocolate (if preferred, dark is perfectly fine-Godiva, Ghiradelli or Lake Champlain are nice choices if you are feeling indulgent!)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Red sprinkles to garnish

Chop up chocolate. In medium saucepan, bring milk to simmer and whisk in chocolate pieces until smooth. Mix in peppermint extract. Remove from heat.
While cocoa is heating, microwave 1 cup skim milk for 2 minutes, until very hot. Pour into milk frother, go nuts, and then fold in crushed peppermint candies.
Pour cocoa into 4 large mugs (a ladle helps here). Spoon milk foam over each mug. Garnish with red and pink sprinkles.

*Add Bailey's, Godiva Liqueur or Peppermint Schnapps for a grown-up version of this cocoa!

Friday, December 4, 2009


Green beans on a sandwich? When my friend Laura first told me about Chacarero, I was a wee bit skeptical that it would taste good-in fact I think I wrinkled my nose and tried not to voice my disbelief. (I am not very good at hiding what I think...I may not always voice my opinions, but, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand worlds and my facial expressions make quite the picture).

Strangely enough, the end result of this sandwich is more than the sum of its parts (or something clever like that). The round bun is a traditional Chilean bread, I actually ate it daily during my visit to Chimbarongo, a small town outside of Santiago.

You can choose steak, chicken or both for your sandwich. Atop the meat is melted Muenster cheese, slices of tomato and green beans. The employees will warn you that their mojo sauce is very spicy, but don't let that scare you away, the cool avocado spread balances its heat.

Chacarero started out as an outside sandwich stand in Downtown Xing, but its immense popularity required a storefront, where lines run out the door and down the block during a busy lunch hour, but you rarely wait over ten minutes to get your food. Chacarero is a well-oiled machine, having perfected a handful of items and turning out a consistent product.

Chacarero is located at 101 Arch Street in Downtown Crossing, Boston.

Sandwiches are 7-8 dollars and enormous.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Marinated Olives

So the holidays are coming...very soon! These olives are simple to make and you can customize them according to your tastes. They make a very nice "thank you" gift for the teacher/employer/person you appreciate, and are the perfect snack to put out for guests. Here, I have a recipe for both citrusy green and herbed black olives.

Lemon-Garlic Green Olives:
1 1/2 cups green Greek olives in brine, liquid drained
Juice of 1 lemon
Lemon rind strips, white bitter pith removed
1/3 cup garlic infused olive oil

Citrus Herbed Olives:
1 1/2 cup good quality black olives, liquid drained
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 strips of orange rind, white pith removed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Combine ingredients for each olive mixture in a mason jar. Seal tightly and wrap a decorative ribbon around lid. Make a fun holiday label for your jar. Refrigerate overnight before enjoying the olives!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: O Ya: Haute Japanese Cuisine

Some people in life simply eat to live. Others live to eat. Diners at O Ya definitely fit the latter category. Nestled into a former fire station, this Japanese gem has shook up the dining scene in Boston. Frank Bruni's reviewed O Ya as the NYTimes's 2008 Best New Restaurant in the United States, quite an accomplishment for a charming, unassuming restaurant in Boston's Leather District. We arrived for our 9pm reservation a few minutes tardy and were promptly shown to our seats at the chefs' counter.

Like any good foodie, I had spent a few hours pouring over O Ya's menu, as well as reviews on Yelp, Citysearch and numerous publications. Ordering your courses is a significant investment; each course costs between $8 and $38-thus, not a decision to be taken lightly.

The menu is divided up into user-friendly categories; nigiri, sashimi, vegetable, pork, wagyu beef, poulet rouge chicken, truffles & eggs, other stuff, something crunchy in it, salad and soup. Although I would have loved to get items from each category, I couldn't bring myself to order soup&salad at such an inventive place.

Tamago Omelet Roll with Dashi Sauce, Burgundy Truffles, Robiola and Chives

Tamago is a sweet egg omelet. Here, chefs at O Ya prepare it with burgundy truffles, a light and delicate truffle. They are typically served raw and shaved over dishes as a finishing garnish. Dashi is a broth made from bonito flakes-a deep cold water fish, usually skip jack tuna. Robiola cheese is soft, creamy and aromatic. The tamago was a sweet, earthy bite with a savory aftertaste left in your mouth from the dashi.

Shrimp Tempura with a Bacon-Truffle Emulsion, Chive Oil

Tempura is deep fried vegetable or seafood, which is commonly eaten in Japan. An emulsion of truffle and bacon is made by mixing two substances that normally would not go together, such as fat and water, and mixed together until they become viscous, forming an emulsion. The tempura were perfectly crunchy upon biting into them, the bacon-truffle emulsion was delicious-I could eat an entire platter of the tempura, sadly, 2 shrimp were all I experienced.

Peruvian-Style Toro Tuna Tataki with an Aji Panca Sauce and Cilantro Pesto

Toro is an incredibly tender cut from the tuna's belly. In tataki, the outside of the fish is seared (in our case, with a creme brulee torch) for just a few seconds. Aji is a hot chili pepper from Peru. The aji panca sauce was smoky but unfortunately overpowered the fish.

Tea-Brined Fried Pork Ribs with
Hot Sesame Oil, Honey, Scallions

The chefs at O YA first brine these ribs in tea, then fry them, resulting in tender, moist and succulent bit of heaven. With a gentle poke of a chopstick the rib meat fell off the bone. Honey enhances the sweetness of the pork fat and spicy sesame oil complements the meat's richness. This was by far my favorite dish of the night. I could have eaten this meat candy all night long. I think my boyfriend caught my longing gazes (at the ribs, not him!) and offered me up some of his...good boyfriend!

Fried Kumamoto Oysters with Yuzu Kosho Aioli and Squid Ink Bubbles

I have gone through most of my life thinking that I didn't like oysters. Big mistake-turns out, I love fried oysters. The Kumamoto oyster tasted mildly fruity, has a rich, buttery texture and a slight mineral finish. A squid ink foam bubble covered the oyster; below was yuzu kosho-a combination of yuzu, a sour Japanese citrus fruit, and red or green chili peppers and salt, all over nori-wrapped sushi rice. It was a playful bite of crunchy, sweet and salty oyster, foamy squid ink and sour-spicy sauce. It was the kind of bite that makes you go, hmmm, afterwards while your brain deconstructs what just happened.

House Smoked Wagyu with Yuzu Soy

Wagyu refers to several breeds of cattle that are genetically predisposed to yummy-ness-that is, to intense marbling and a high percentage of unsaturated fat (some would argue that actually makes it healthier for you than a typical piece o' meat). It has enhanced tenderness, flavor and juiciness. The smoky beef was velvety, it melted in my mouth like a foie gras. The yuzu soy cut through the fattiness with just a hint of sour. I would definitely come back and try the other wagyu offerings-such as their petit loin with potato confit, sea salt and truffle oil, mmm...

Venison Tataki with Porcini Crema and Ponzu Oil

Venison was thinly sliced and briefly torched, then drizzled with ponzu oil, porcini crema and topped off with microgreens. Ponzu is a sour sauce made of Japanese citrus, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin and dashi. The venison's flavor was mild-not gamey at all, which was my fear, and tender. I felt somewhat underwhelmed, having mentally prepared for a strong flavor; I think that a second try would leave me with a more definitive decision about this dish.

Kyoto Style Enoki Mushrooms with Garlic and Soy

Enoki mushrooms have a mild, delightful flavor and a crunchy texture...and they remind me of spaghetti...or possibly a cute little cuttlefish (now picture a cuttlefish swimming through the ocean....adorable, isn't it?)

Wild Bluefin Maguro Tuna with Soy Braised Garlic and Micro Greens

A mature bluefin tuna can outweigh a pony! That, I certainly did not know before some research. At O Ya, micro is huge. I saw on numerous plates the smallest possible version of a salad I can think of atop various nigiri and sashimi dishes. Supposedly they are much more intensely flavored than normal salad greens-plus they fit much better atop sashimi ;)

Shrimp Sashimi with Golden Caviar...I think!

I didn't eat this dish-it appeared as we were waiting for our last dish, but my what a beauty! I was blown away by the intricate presentation of the dishes at O Ya-every morsel deliberated placed for maximum flavor and visual appeal. Golden caviar garnishes what I believe to be shrimp...anyone out there want to venture a guess at to this little fella's origin?

An hour and a half later, as we finished our meal, not a single table had left, nor had they attempted to acquire their checks. They seemed completely won over by O Ya. After some serious thought, I would declare that I too could fall in love with these small bites with big taste...if I could somehow find a sugar daddy or otherwise wealthy benefactor to pay for the bill (O Ya...oh boy, you are pricey!).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Leftover Turkey, Cranberries and Cheese Panini

I hope that your Thanksgivings went smoothly, tasted delicious and were joyous. Mine went fairly well...mole sauce turned out pretty amazing...if I say so myself (which I do), turkey looks really dark but that is just a little mole, desserts were lovely, zucchini cornbread was savory and a delight. Pretty calm on my end...the way I like most holidays. A safe and happy get together...unlike Tiger Woods. Did anyone else find it odd that he run into a fire hydrant. And then a tree...pulling into (out of?) his driveway? And the police say that alcohol was not a factor. Frankly, I'd feel better if it were a factor-if that is how Tiger drives...I'd feel safe with my 90 year old grandmother behind the wheel! But, I do digress...anyways, here is a simple and elegant way to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers.

To Make 4 Sandwiches:
1/2 lb shredded turkey
Cranberry sauce
4 ounces good quality aged cheddar, such as Dubliner
OR: Brie
OR: fresh goat cheese
1/2 cup baby spinach
8 slices bread

This sandwich can be eaten cold, but I prefer to use my George Foreman and create nice panini.

Butter 1 side of each slice of bread (these will be the outsides of the panini).

Place cheddar cheese over bread, with turkey and spinach.

Grill until cheese melts and bread develops golden lines from the grill.

Remove from grill and open sandwich. Spread cranberry sauce over the side of sandwich opposite from melted cheese.

Cut panini diagonally into fourths. Serve with a crisp, dry white and a side salad.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Mousse

For Pumpkin Mousse:

2 cups roasted pumpkin
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 envelope Knox gelatin
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream

Pulse pumpkin flesh in blender with maple syrup, cinnamon and ginger.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon whipping cream and let sit 5 minutes.

Beat whipping cream until peaks form.

Heat up gelatin mixture in pan of water over medium heat until dissolved. Pour into blender and pulse with pumpkin.

Add whipping cream to blender. Pulse until just combined.

Spoon pumpkin-whipped cream mixture into reserved pumpkin shell.

Refrigerate overnight. Serve in ice cream dishes alone or with crumbled gingersnap cookies on top.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cranberry-Applesauce with Candied Ginger

For Cran-Applesauce:
1 12 oz bag cranberries
1 lb apples, cored, peeled and chopped
1 cup sugar (taste, and add more if necessary)
1 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup (about 2 ounces) minced crystallized ginger

Combine apples, cranberries, sugar, apple cider, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest in medium sauce pot.

Cook over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until apples have softened and cranberries burst open, stirring frequently.

Discard the cinnamon stick & add more sugar to taste if too tart. Stir in chopped candied ginger.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

For Mashed Sweet Potatoes:
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1/4 cup evaporated skim milk
1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Pepper to taste

Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water until tender. Let cool slightly; peel. Mash to desired consistency with maple syrup, cinnamon, milk and chicken stock. Add pepper if you like.

Serve with Turkey with Cashew-Mole.
Drizzle some extra mole sauce over potatoes for a sweet and spicy combination.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ginger Panna Cotta with Cranberry-Blood Orange Sauce

Why have cranberries as your dinner side when you can dress them up a little bit for a fun and spicy dessert? Evaporated milk, lite cream and yogurt lighten up this creamy Italian classic while maintaining the rich flavor that makes panna cotta so irresistible.

For Panna Cotta:
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/2 cup lite cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup lowfat Greek vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon grated ginger, juice reserved

Mix milk (minus 1 tablespoon that you need to save) and cream in saucepan. Add grated ginger. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat. Cover; let steep (cover) 30 minutes. Strain to remove ginger.

Sprinkle gelatin over ginger juice/reserved tablespoon milk. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes. Stir sugar and gelatin mixture into milk mixture. Stir over low heat until sugar and gelatin dissolves. Remove immediately from heat. Whisk in vanilla yogurt. Divide among ramekins. Cover; chill until set. It typically needs at least 5 hours to set.

For Cranberry-Blood Orange Sauce:

12 oz fresh or unthawed frozen cranberries
1 cup honey or light brown sugar
Juice from 2 blood oranges, about 1 cup

Use a peeler to remove 2 large strips (about 4 inches long) from 1 orange. In a saucepan of boiling water blanch zest 1 minute and drain in a colander. Chop zest very finely and transfer to a bowl.

In a saucepan bring to a boil juice and sugar/honey, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries, return to a boil. Simmer for 10-25 minutes or until cranberries burst. Taste for sweetness, add extra sweetener if needed.

Remove from heat and stir in chopped zest. Refrigerate until serving.

Run small knife around panna cotta. Place bottoms of ramekins in bowl of hot water briefly to loosen them. Place plate atop ramekin. Hold plate and ramekin together and flip gently to removed panna cotta.

Serve with a generous helping of Cranberry-Blood Orange Sauce

Turkey with Cashew-Mole Sauce

This mole sauce takes a bit of effort, but it can be made a few days ahead, on Monday, if you are making it for Thanksgiving. If you cannot eat nuts or prefer to leave them out, that's okay-mole sauce varies by each cook's personal preferences and by ingredients available regionally.

For Mole:
2 medium dried ancho chiles, seeded and membranes removed
3-4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 chipotles in adobo, seeded and diced
4 heads garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 large ripe (black) plantain, cooked
3/4 cup dry roasted, unsalted cashews
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon roasted peanuts
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3-4 squares dark chocolate
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and toast the dried chiles until they begin to change color, 15 seconds/side. DO NOT burn them, that will make your mole taste bitter. (If nervous about the skillet heat, my advice is to start at a lower temp and go slow, testing with 1 chile and having an extra 0n hand...chances are you would buy a bag of them anyways, and the comfort of knowing one mistake will not doom the dish is worth it, trust me!)

Tranfer toasted chiles to a large pot and add 1 cup broth and bring to a simmer. Cook about 20-25 minutes this way to rehydrate the chiles, stirring occasionally. Strain liquid and reserve. Chop chiles.

Heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in large saute pan. Add onions and garlic, stirring occasionally so that garlic does not burn (if browning, take pan off burner, turn heat to medium and return pan to burner 1 minute later). Cook 5-7 minutes, until onion is tender. Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Let cook 15 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor along with the cooked plantains, cashews, sesame seeds, peanuts, bread, drained chipotles and spices. Add 1 1/2 cups broth and blend until smooth. Stop blending to stir occasionally and add extra chicken broth if needed to make this smooth. Press the mixture through a sieve into a bowl.

In large sauce pot, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Add tomato-chile sauce and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes (you will probably need to turn heat to medium-low at this point). Melt chocolate squares into sauce (use 4 for a stronger chocolate flavor). Simmer for 35-45 minutes, stirring regularly. If sauce thickens too much, add extra chicken broth to thin to desired consistency.

For Turkey:
1 12 lb turkey (defrost in refrigerator 2-3 of days in advance
1 cup mole
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 cups chicken stock

Remove neck/any gizzards or random parts that come with turkey. Rinse turkey and pat dry. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper and transfer to roasting pan. Spread 3/4 cup mole sauce over skin and 1/2 inside turkey cavity. Cover turkey with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (you can do this a few hours before cooking, but who wants to get up that early?).

Arrange oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 450°F. Add stuffing to turkey cavity, if using. Baste turkey with a little butter and tuck wings under breasts and tie together legs if using twine. Place in large baking dish.

Roast turkey 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F, cover turkey loosely with foil, and continue roasting 45 minutes more. Remove foil, add 1/4 cup stock to pan, and continue to roast, basting with pan juices every 30 minutes, 1 1/2 hours more.

Increase oven temperature to 450°F, rotate turkey pan 180° in oven to ensure even cooking, and add 1/4 cup stock to pan.

Roast turkey, basting occasionally until a instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh (do not touch the bone!) registers 170°F, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove turkey from oven and insert instant-read thermometer into middle of stuffing. If temperature does not register 170, remove stuffing from bird, place turkey back in backing dish and put stuffing in cooking dish and continue roasting until both are at the required temperature.

Let turkey rest 20-30 minutes before carving. Heat remaining mole sauce and put in a gravy dish.

Serve slices of turkey alongside mashed sweet potatoes and stuffing. Drizzle plate with mole.

Happy Eating!

Note: a stuffed 12 lb turkey will probably take 3 1/2-4 hours to cook, if not using stuffing, expect a total cooking time closer to 3 hours.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Happy Thanksgiving without Looking Like a Turkey

The Holidays. A time filled with the joy and pain of seeing relatives, spending too much money and buying wonderful, thoughtful presents and eating and drinking way too much. Is there any wonder that a top New Year's Eve resolution is to lose weight? Not really. But it is possible to eat a delicious meal and maintain a healthy eating pattern (I know, it sounds boring and like no fun, but I have faith that you can do it!). Why am I so focused on healthy eating? Maybe it is because during nursing school a block of cheese seems like a reasonable breakfast choice. Or maybe it is going to my school gym and seeing all the perky, pretty young college students (just to be clear, I am not the "all cute and chipper working out student"); either way, I feel compelled to at least try to live a bit healthier.

Last year I actually had a Dominican feast for Thanksgiving. You can read about that (mis)adventure here and here. I realized as I was falling asleep, that for the first time in my life, I hadn't eaten myself to the point of nausea. Carb coma? Nope. Meat sweats? None. Vague chest pain that should concern me more but I helped myself to the wine to help myself deal my family (just kidding, I love you guys)? Not a single palpitation! It occurred to me that maybe I didn't need to eat and eat and eat to enjoy myself on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition to physical exertion (shoveling snow off the walk), emotional strain (arguing with relatives) and exposure to cold (November weather in much of the country), eating a big meal temporarily strains your heart. People have heart attacks on Thanksgiving. The weekend before Thanksgiving, at one hospital there were so many critically ill patients that doctors ran out of a key heart-pumping machine and had to rent two extras

Tomorrow I will post a healthy turkey main course, as well as a homemade cranberry dish that puts the cylindrical cranberry sauce to shame.

From WHfoods:

"Turkey is a very good source of protein, providing 65.1% of the DV in a four ounce portion. Along with protein, turkey is a very good source of selenium. In addition, it is a good source of niacin, vitamin B6 and phosphorus.

Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of dietary fiber, and a good source of manganese and vitamin K."

Sunday I will post healthy and delicious recipes for mashed potatoes and a fun alternative to traditional stuffing.

"Potatoes are a very good source of vitamin C. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber.

Check back Tuesday to find out so-delicious-they-must-be-bad-for-you ideas for your perfect dessert.

What do you think guys, is it possible to enjoy a healthy Thanksgiving? What do you do to make the holidays a bit healthier?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shrimp Milanese with Lemon Cream Sauce

After looking at my credit and debit card history, and the amount of food in my kitchen/fridge I have determined that I spend way too much money on groceries for 1 person! So the idea is I will buy only fresh items like veggies or milk that complete recipes that can be made from ingredients that I already have. Sounds good, right? Of course, the first recipes will definitely be the easiest..let's see how this works 3 weeks from now! My first idea: shrimp that has been in my freezer while, Parmesan , frozen spinach and zucchini I got at Trader Joe' last week. The recipe: Parmesan-crusted shrimp over pasta with a creamy lemon sauce, and some vegetables thrown in for good measure (and better nutrition).

For Lemon Cream Pasta:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced finely
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and drained in colander over sink
2 small zucchini, sliced horizonally into thin slices
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 box cooked pasta-linguine, angel hair, tagliatelle, fettuccine...

For Parmesan-Crusted Shrimp:
1 lb large shrimp, deveined & shells removed
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sprinkle of dried basil and dried parsley
2 tablespoons butter

To Make Lemon Cream Pasta:
Heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, turning heat down to medium after adding, and stirring often to ensure they do not stick to pan and burn.

Add zucchini and saute for a minute on each side. Add in lemon juice, lemon zest and chicken stock. Whisk together and allow it to come to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer about 15 minutes; it should thicken up a bit at this point.

Add the spinach (squeeze beforehand to ensure excess liquid does not enter pasta sauce) and cook in the sauce for a few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream.

Stir in Parmesan cheese and pour sauce over cooked pasta.

To Make Parmesan-Crusted Shrimp:
Mix together cheese, bread crumbs, and spices over large plate. Coat shrimp with mixture.

Melt 1/2 butter in large saute pan over medium high heat. Add 1/2 of shrimp and cook for 2 minutes on each side, they should be golden. Remove from pan and set aside. Melt remaining butter and cook remaining shrimp.

Serve shrimp over lemon cream past~voila!
And I didn't have to buy any ingredients to make it dinner always tastes better!
What ingredients have been hanging around your kitchen for too long? Maybe with a little freezer burn, stale nature or been on the shelf and will expire if you don't use it in the next month of two...let me know your ideas! (I just may use them with my bajillion items chilling in my kitchen-pun intended)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Chorizo and Caramelized Onions

Lately I have been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. I suspect that my methods may be considered a bit, well, unorthodox by some. I have been sneaking produce into my meals...a big bowl of pasta+some frozen spinach or diced cream sundae+a handful of berries, well, you get the idea. Brussels sprouts. I imagine that many of you shudder reading those two words. Parents force their children to eat vegetables and children rebel, it's only natural. But once you try them again, you may discover that brussels sprouts are not the evil green monster you had previously imagine. In fact, they are pretty damn good. In this recipe, I use chorizo (drool) to compliment caramelized onions and brussels sprouts. 2 vegetables, not too least, I think an onion counts as a vegetable, right?

1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little extra-just in case!
6 ounces cured spicy Spanish chorizo, quartered lengthwise & sliced crosswise into 1/3'' long pieces
1 small Vidalia onion, sliced into long, thin pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add brussels sprouts and cook until tender, 6 minutes. Remove brussels sprouts and place in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes (this stops the cooking process). Drain Brussels sprouts and dry with a paper towel.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast-iron pan over medium heat. Add the onion and turn heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally to prevent pieces from burning/sticking. Cook about 20 minutes, until onions caramelize-they should be golden but not brown. Remove onions from pan, reserving them in bowl.

Add chorizo to pan and turn heat to medium-high, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn to medium, adding more olive oil if necessary, and add the garlic, stirring for 2 minutes as it cooks.

Transfer chorizo mixture to a bowl. Increase heat to high and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and brussels sprouts. Cook until the sprouts are brown and tender, about 8 minutes, flipping once or twice to ensure even browning. Add reserved onions and chorizo mixture.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pastelon de Platanos con Camarones

Do you ever get a dish stuck in your head and then you daydream about its smell, texture and taste until you realize that making the dish may be a life or death situation? I'm undergoing one of these urgent matters, all whilst studying for a nursing exam tomorrow morning.

Orinoco is a Venezuelan restaurant that opened its first location at the corner of Shawmut and East Concord, near Boston Medical Center in Boston's South End. Arepas, empanadas, slow-cooked beef (pabellon criollo), sweet plantains, molten chocolate cake...these are just some of my favorite thing to eat at Orinoco. While service varies between locations, the food is simply heavenly.

On my most recent visit to their Brookline Village location, my boyfriend was smart enough to order the appetizer special: fried oysters over a bed of mashed sweet plantains, gooey cheese (Fontina perhaps? I couldn't figure it out) and bitter sauteed spinach. The contrasting sweet/bitter & gooey/crunchy nature of the dish was a-frickin-mazing. I am not a big oyster girl-never cared for them, especially not (god forbid) raw, but did enjoy this fried version. That being said, in my recreation, I am going to use shrimp; cheaper, easier to cook, pleases more people. Case closed.

To Make Plantain Pie (PHOTO up tomorrow evening):

5 large ripe plantains
1 1/2 cups chopped baby spinach (I used frozen spinach and let it defrost, then drain)
1 cup shredded fontina
1/2 lb chipotle shrimp
Canola oil (enough to come up about 1/3 inch in saute pan)

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut ends from plantains and peel. Sllice each plantain lengthwise into 4 pieces. In a 12-inch skillet heat oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking and saute pieces in batches(test 1 pieces of plantain-if oil does not mostly cover plantain, add more and heat before adding the remaining pieces), without crowding, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes on each side (use spatulas to turn slices). With a spatula transfer plantains to a paper towel to drain. Flatten strips with plantain peel.

Place 1/2 of plantain slices alongside each other to cover bottom layer of pie dish, forming an impromptu pie crust.

Cover plantains with baby spinach. Sprinkle fontina cheese over spinach.

Spread shrimp evenly over spinach and cheese. Use remaining plantain slices to cover shrimp and press down.

Cook in oven about 25-30 minutes, until plantain is turning golden.

Let sit 5 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Turkish Zucchini Bread

Turkish Family Restaurant in Brookline Village serves a delicious zucchini fritter known as M├╝cver. While I adore eating these bite-sized delights, making fritters often seems like a lot of work to me. You have to fry them and serve promptly, interfering with socializing, relaxing and preparing the rest of your meal. As a result, I have switched the recipe up a bit, creating a healthier Turkish zucchini bread with a lemony-yogurt dip. It's more nutrient dense than your typical bread-with-butter and shakes up the dinner scene.

To Make Zucchini Bread:

2 cups zucchini (grated, squeezed and drained)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup minced scallions
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced dill
1/2 cup crumbed feta

Preheat oven to 350, placing baking shelf (rack?) in center of oven.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and in a bowl.

Mix the zucchini, scallions, herbs feta, lemon juice, zest, olive oil and eggs in a large bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring gently to combine.

Pour batter into a non-stick loaf pan (eyeballing my pan it looks like 9x5)

Bake about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When it's done, a toothpick inserted into center of bread should come out clean.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Really Gouda Cauliflower Soup

I was the world's pickiest eater as a child (okay maybe until 18). Going out to eat with my parents meant fried mozzarella sticks, which I would inevitably choke on at least once during the night due to eating them too fast. At home, the most reliable way to get me to eat vegetable involved a sauce made from heating milk with American cheese and whisking it together. At that time I loved it, especially over potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower (said quietly while looking at the floor in shame).

While American cheese has not been on my grocery list since, well, I started buying groceries, I have continued my passionate love affair with cheeses of all kinds.
This soup is a dressed up version of my childhood meals-a chunky cauliflower soup with creamy melted Gouda.

To Make Cauliflower Soup:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon parsley
2 cups chicken stock
1 can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons flour
Splash dry white wine (2 tablespoons, more or less)
4 oz Gouda, grated or chopped into tiny pieces
Optional: chopped chives

Melt 2 tablespoons in large stew pot. Add onion and garlic to pot and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so that garlic and onion do not brown. Add cauliflower and parsley and cook 5 minutes to soften.

Add white wine to pot. Let wine come to simmer and cook off, about 3-5 minutes, stirring vegetables. Add chicken stock to pot and bring to simmer.

While soup is cooking, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in sauce pot. Whisk flour into butter. Add milk slowly, stirring so that it becomes incorporated. Stir mixture until it begins to thicken. Add gruyere chunks and whisk as it melts into roux.

Take some broth from soup (about 1/2 cup or so) and whisk into roux/cheese. Pour entire mixture into soup pot. Let soup simmer about 15 minutes.

Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with chives if desired.

By the way...I apologize for the recipe's cheesy name (oops I did it again!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Easy Chicken Marsala

To Make Chicken Marsala:

4 chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each, but not a big deal if they are a different size)
10 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms (I bought mine pre-sliced at TJ's)
1 small diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon parsley
1/2 cup Marsala
1/4 cup Sherry
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 250.

Rinse chicken well and pat dry with paper towels. Cut off any visible fat. Flatten chicken with meat pounder, using wax paper over chicken if available.

Put flour on large plate. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

Melt butter in large saute pan over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts and brown both sides. Remove from pan, set in oven dish and place in oven to keep warm.

Add olive oil to saute pan. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, parsley and thyme. Saute until juice from mushrooms has evaporated, stirring to prevent vegetables from burning.

Add Marsala and sherry to saute pan. Let mixture come to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Add chicken stock and chicken pieces. Cook at low simmer for 15-20 minutes, then remove chicken pieces and place on a plate.

Add milk to mushroom mixture and let simmer 10-15 minutes until thickened. Add chicken pieces to warm them up before serving.

Plate chicken breasts on 4 plates and scoop mushroom and sauce over meat.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prosciutto-Stuffed Gorgonzola Chicken

Once upon a time a girl met a boy. For their second date, she impulsively offered to cook him dinner, then realized what a big, romantic gesture that might appear, and began to do what she did best, which is freak out and over think the whole night. She then proceeded to spend an hour googling "platonic dinner ideas" on her computer. Mature? Perhaps not, but she did gain a simple and succulent chicken recipe, prepared the meal in under an hour and remained mostly normal throughout the evening. A modern day love story, if you will.

To make the girl's chicken:

2 chicken breasts
8 strips of thinly-sliced prosciutto
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola

Rinse chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut off fat/gristle. Pound thin between 2 sheets of wax paper and set in ovenproof glass baking dish.

Dice 2 strips prosciutto. Place 1/2 of prosciutto and 1 tablespoon Gorgonzola on each chicken breast and fold over mixture. Wrap 2 strips of prosciutto around each chicken breast and hold folded with toothpicks.

Sprinkle chicken with rosemary and garlic. Pour white wine over chicken and drizzle olive oil on top of chicken breasts.

Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place uncovered baking dish in middle of oven and cook chicken about 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dulce de Leche Empanadas

I love dulce de leche. I love ice cream. I love apples. I figured they can only be more delicious when combined (sort of a holy triad, if you will). I felt what some might describe as inappropriate joy upon eating these gooey, creamy and sweet creations...*content sigh*.

Maybe these are better described as turnovers, but as I am using frozen empanada wrappers (not as homemade, I know, but it saves SO much time, I highly recommend them in a pinch) to create empanadas de dulce de leche con manzanas y una bola de helado: dulce de leche and apple empandas with good old fashioned vanilla ice cream.

To make 10 empanadas:
1 pack frozen Goya empanada shells
5 small to medium sized apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup dulce de leche
Vanilla ice cream

Defrost empanada shells in fridge until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 400.

Slice apples into 8ths and then once again horizontally. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon over apples and add lemon juice. Stir mixture.

Melt butter in medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add apples and stir until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Use a rolling pin to flatten empanada shells, one by one. Add about 1/2 of an apple to shell and a scoop of dulce de leche (a bit less than a tablespoon).

Fold dough over and pinch shut. Use a fork to create ridges along edge of dough. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon and brown sugar over the empanadas.

Bake empanadas for about 20 minutes or until slightly golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Homemade Dulce de Leche

After a fruitless search for Dulce de Leche around my neighborhood, I had purchased all the ingredients I would need to create my own elixir; milk, sugar and vanilla promised to result in a tempting golden sauce. Also called cateja, leche quemada, doce de leite and manjar, this seductive blend of caramel and vanilla can be found throughout South and Central America.

After slowly simmering milk, vanilla and sugar, the majority of the water in the milk evaporates and the mixture thickens; the resulting dulce de leche is the caramelized product of the Maillard reaction. You can also submerge a can of sweetened condensed milk in water and boil it for several hours, but there is always the slight possibility of a can of molten caramel exploding in your kitchen. Personally, I would prefer to avoid burns, especially when the burning substance sticks to you.

My dulce de leche turned out darker than what I have previously eaten. Perhaps flakes of dark brown from the vanilla bean contributed to the color, or a slightly elevated or lower temperature made it darker, I don't know. I was a little sad at first, thinking it would taste grainy or like burnt sugar, but upon melting it today (1 day after it was finished) and drizzling it over vanilla ice cream, I will stand behind my recipe (well, the food network's recipe, to be exact).

Recipe is from the Food Network's website, thus the italics, to show "it's different from me". I copied their instructions, as mine were more a bit more spastic. Picture me raising the heat, going into the other room to study, the mixture bubbling up with me running back into the kitchen after forgetting about it, swearing as I tried to stir out any foamy parts.
To Make:

4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat.

Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.

Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine.

Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer.

Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture.

Continue to cook for 1 hour.

Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Store covered in the refrigerator. Drizzle over bananas, strawberries, crepes, on ice cream or cake.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Nursing, Weddings & Squash Blossoms

I know, I know...I said that I would write more often, but with life and school I have learned that I need to re-organize my more television or surfing the internet. Err...perhaps a little tv wouldn't hurt? The past two weeks have flown by without a peep from little 'ole me. If I were in a relationship with you, dear readers, I do suspect I would be the guy who never called. It's not you, it's me.

Nursing school is one of the hardest things I have undertaken, and I suspect it will become one of the most rewarding. My classmates seem quite nice, the professors (nurses, both RNs and NPs) interesting and I am learning incredible things-our bodies are quite bad ass, in my opinion. I had my first day of clinical (working alongside a real nurse in the hospital) and managed to not kill anyone, infect myself with something deadly (or asymptomatic to this point!) or involve myself in a steamy affair a la Grey's Anatomy.

Last weekend, I went home to Minnesota for my best friend's wedding to a wonderful man. Congratulations Meaghan and Olivier! I know you will not be reading this post as you are in Santorini-if I didn't love you both so much I'd pretty much hate you out of jealousy. The wedding was in the forest at dusk. The groom is French and it is not certain how much of the ceremony his family actually understood, but they seemed content!

The food was a-frickin-mazing! Meaghan's cousin is married to a chef...we had freshly made peasant bread, cheeses, mushroom pate, roasted beets, heirloom tomatoes, the groom's mother's homemade mayonnaise, the best boef bourgignon of my life, along with butternut squash puree, a Thai walleye coconut curry and a vegetable stew I believe (I prioritized my stomach space and just had the beef!). And that is perhaps half of the reception's menu.

What is on the menu for this weekend? I searched high and low in my barrio but could not locate dulce de leche. Too lazy to travel, I decided to make my own instead-is it sad that I would rather cook tonight than socialize more? Apples upon apples fill the farmer's market, grocery after the dulce de leche is finished it will complement a cinnamon apple filling for Dulce de Leche and Apple Empanadas! (Yes, perhaps they are turnovers by any other name, but c'mon...doesn't this sound better?)

I also happened upon some squash blossoms at the farmer's market and plan to stuff half with herbs and goat cheese and fill the remaining blossoms with minced shrimp, lightly batter them and then fry'em golden. In my mind squash blossoms are one of those things you must love to be a foodie, so let's keep our fingers crossed that they turn out!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Guiso de Ternera a la Asturiana: Asturian Beef Stew

I LOVE my cookbook The New Spanish Table. It groups recipes by category as well as region (i.e. tapas versus paella, Catalan versus Basque) and includes history, photos, cultural information and recipes by some of the most amazing contemporary chefs as well as little hole-in-the-wall bodegas. While tapas remain my favorite Spanish food to cook (be still, my heart), I aim to work my way through most of the cookbook's recipes. Spanish cuisine is still relatively "new" to most of the United States, and The New Spanish Table has many crowd pleasers (tortilla espanyola, patatas bravas, etc) but also offers the home cook opportunities to try more exotic dishes (bunny , rabbit, anyone?).

I purchased grass fed beef (in the form of stew meat) at the Coolidge Corner Farmer's Market and am excited to put it to good use. Asturian Beef Stew is the perfect recipe for a crisp autumn dinner: tender, white wine-braised beef, hearty white beans, turnips and rich collard greens. The following recipe is more or less from my cookbook. I had to alter some ingredients due to availability and not wanting to purchase 3 pounds of expensive (albeit delicious) beef. I'll update this post with photos and a detailed review this weekend!


2 lbs stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

Coast salt

Finely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces smoky bacon or pancetta, diced into small squares

1 medium Vidalia onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 fat carrots (I used about 15 baby carrots and sliced them in half length-wise)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup dry white wine

3 cups chicken stock

2 14 oz cans white Fava beans

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

2 medium-sized turnips, peels and cut into 1 inch chunks (substitute potatoes if you don't like turnips)
4 cups chopped, VERY well rinsed and dried collard greens

Season beef with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large stew pot over medium-high heat. Add half of the beef to the pot and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove beef and set in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pot. Brown remaining half meat, and then transfer it to the bowl too.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to pot and add bacon. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring until bacon begins to render fat, about 2-3 minutes. Remove most of fat to use later. Add onion, garlic and carrots and turn heat back to medium-high and cook about 8 minutes so that vegetables soften and begin to brown. Add flour and stir for a few seconds. Add white wine and stir so that it combines with flour and add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to bottom of pot.

Add beef and tomatoes to stew pot. Bring back to boil and turn down to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook at this temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks to bottom of pot. Add beans, turnips and 1 cup water and cook until turnips are tender, about 35-50 minutes.

Heat up reserved bacon fat in saute pan over medium-high and add collard greens. Saute about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and add to stew pot. Taste stew, and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Remove stew from heat and let sit about 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I spotted this vegetable today at the farmer's market. Never having seen it before, my mind immediately jumped to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (nice imagery there...). While not quite as menacing, the maxixe, or Brazilian cucumber, is an intriguing vegetable sold by Hmong Family Farms. Eager to try a nice vegetable, one whose appearance is quite enticing, I purchased this bunch to for dinner this weekend.

A little background information: the Maxixe, similar in texture and flavor to a cucumber, is thought to have originated in Africa. It can be eaten raw or cooked and has a slight lemony taste. It is common in Brazil where it is used in soups, salads, and cooked with beef dishes.

I plan to make a salad with heirloom tomatoes, bianca (ivory!)and chocolate bell peppers (!) and perhaps some Kalatama olives and feta cheese. I'll let you know how it tastes/turns out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Autumn Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I woke up today with that feeling-you know, when you are tired and kind of achy, and just know that a not fun few days are coming? As swine flu is all the rage these days (so to speak) and all universities are deathly afraid of students spreading the illness I really cannot afford to get sick. In Massachusetts they are not even testing for it anymore, you get a fever, you get a week quarantine, no ifs, ands or buts. So I am fighting back with a vitamin and mineral-rich soup, lots of water and a Law and Order marathon (I cannot really be expected to study under duress, can I ?).

My butternut squash and apple soup recipe could be filed under Soup For Dummies (although one could argue that it's actually smarter to pick a time saving recipe such as this one!). After many instances of dicing onion, peeling apples and slicing my squash into even pieces like a good girl, one day I said &^*$ it and just threw in pre-cut squash, baby carrots, apple chunks and onion cut into quarters into a soup pot. Honestly, it really did not make a noticiable difference in the resulting flavor. So for those who don't have much time or patience, voila! here is the perfect recipe for you!

3 cups butternut squash, cut into chunks (I bought mine at Trader Joe's)
2 apples, cored
1 cup carrots
1 onion, peel removed and onion cut into quarters
2 cups chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter

Melt butter in a medium to large stew pot over medium high heat. Add butternut squash, carrots and onion to pot and let saute 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent from sticking/burning.

Add apples, white pepper, cinnamon and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook 45 minutes.

Remove from heat, puree soup in batches.

Serve with toasted bread (good for dipping in soup!)

Note: you can freeze soup and it reheats perfectly for another meal.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Olivada: Black Olive Spread

All week I had great aspirations for cooking something warm and inviting today, but, as Boston has decided that it is fall - never mind that I have just bought 2 smart shirt dresses in an attempt to look more intellectual for nursing school - it is positively dreary outside! Heavy rain last night and all morning, *sigh*. So my amazing recipe for today must be pushed back until tomorrow evening or possibly Tuesday to accommodate the weather and oodles of pharmacology reading.

However, I do have a quick & easy recipe to share with you, a photo will be uploaded once I get off my butt and walk to the store to purchase some bread, cheese or any other logical accompaniment. (I suspect that I may be a bit melodramatic about walking in the rain as I do have an umbrella and it is about 5 minutes to Trader Joe's).

Las Ventas is a specialty Spanish foods shop in the South End of Boston. One of my (many) favorite items there is a black olive spread. Unlike tapenade, this spread has no capers, herbs or other added flavors. The result is a deep, pure olive taste. It is amazing on a sandwich or just spread over a crusty piece of bread.

I love visiting Las Ventas, but it is a bit of a trek from my apartment, so I have decided to attempt to replicate this savory spread at home.

2 cup high quality Kalamata olives
1/3 cup EVOO
Sea salt, to taste
Garlic, minced (optional)

Remove pits from olives. Pulse in food processor or blender with olive oil until just combined. The mixture should retain a little texture. Add sea salt to taste.

Serve with your favorite combination of crackers, cheese, bread, vegetables and meat.