Friday, August 20, 2010

Restaurant Week!

So, I realize I haven't posted anything in quite some time... but that's because 

IT'S RESTAURANT WEEK!!!!

Oh my absolute favorite time of the year.... I get to eat at super nice restaurants and not break the bank!

So, I brought my camera with me to each restaurant I've been to so far, but I can't seem to bring myself to actually whip it out in the middle of dinner to take pics of my delicious, yummy, well-presented, amazing food.  I'll try to be a little more ballsy in the future.

Dinner #1:



Boyfriend and I had a wonderful time at Union.  The decor reminded me of a Chicago saloon with dark walls and black pleather booths.  Our server, Jesse, was outstanding and the food... oh the food!

I started with a few sliced ripe melon wedges wrapped in prosciutto with fresh mozzarella.  Melon is the epitome of summer and I love the way salty prosciutto really complements its sweetness.  Boyfriend started with the chilled local peach and tomato gazpacho.  I took special notes on this one since my CSA box has been overflowing with peaches and tomatoes the past couple of weeks. 

For our entrees, Boyfriend got the char-grilled marinated hanger steak
with blue cheese stuffed roma tomatoes and grilled smashed potatoes.  The blue cheese stuffed tomatoes were incredible.  I really liked this presentation versus the typical blue-cheese-on-top-of-the-steak thing you normally see at steakhouses.  The steak was cooked to a perfect med-rare.  Yum!  As you can imagine, I only got one tiny bite of Boyfriend's dinner :)  

I got the oven roasted cape bluefish with spicy watermelon pickle charred sweet onions, grilled summer corn and basmati rice pilaf. Bluefish is one of those fishes that I don't get very often so I was excited to see it on the menu. It's hard to find in the stores and most of the time I'm too lazy to haul myself down to the fish pier to get anything fresh. My fish was cooked perfectly and the spicy watermelon relish gave a surprising kick!  The pilaf blew my mind!  It was soooo good.  I'm going to try to re-create it at home... stay tuned!

For dessert, Boyfriend was drooling over the strawberry ice cream soda
with house made syrup, fresh berries and cream
, as he should!  It came out in a big mug and the fresh strawberry flavor and aroma just oozed out. I was quite jealous.  I ordered the raspberry spiked chocolate brownies
with pistachio ice cream
....
but unfortunately, I somehow got the bread & butter pudding with roasted peaches and vanilla ice cream.  I was slightly bummed because pistachio ice cream is a gift from God!  My personal opinion :)  However, the bread pudding was pretty amazing, so no serious complaints here.

To drink, we got a bottle of 2007 Valpolicello, Corte Rugolin (Veneto,Italy).  I picked this because the method used to make Valpolicello is similar to that used to make my favorite wine ever, Amarone.  It was superb!  It had a nice, relatively high acidity and moderate tannins, and I got dark berries and hints of bitter almond on the palate.  I'm sure it paired better with Boyfriend's steak than my fish, but I certainly wasn't complaining.

Looking ahead, we'll be dining at Beacon Hill Bistro, Tremont 647, and EVOO.  Have I mentioned how much I love Restaurant Week?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shells with Arugula, White Beans, and Mushrooms


I got to make myself a quick & healthy dinner the other night because Boyfriend was in New York for work.  Not that I don't make quick & healthy stuff when he's here... its just that trying to pull off a vegetarian dinner usually results in a predictable, "this would be better with chicken" -type of comment.

Ingredients
Pasta (shells, farfalle, orecchiette would all work great)
Arugula
Cremini mushrooms, sliced
Small white beans
Olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste
truffle oil, optional

1) Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Once boiling, add your pasta of choice and cook until al dente (check the box's directions).
2) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet.  Add the mushrooms and let them cook and caramelize for about 5min.  Try to resist the urge to stir constantly, you'll get better "crispy" bits if you just let them cook without messing with them too much.
3) When the mushrooms are almost done, add the white beans, arugula, and ricotta and cook until heated through.
4) Add the al dente pasta to the mushroom-ricotta mixture and mix.  If the sauce seems a little dry, add a little of the starchy pasta water to loosen things up.
5) Season with salt & pepper, drizzle with the optional truffle oil and enjoy.

I drank a nice white blend with my dinner, which was nice because it didn't overpower the delicate flavors in my bowl.  I also think a nice light Pinot Noir would have complemented the mushrooms, truffle oil, and peppery arugula.

Friday, August 13, 2010

a different view of "food"

So on my way into work today, I noticed something a little... oh how do you say... out of the ordinary?  

yay for turkeys

Trust me turkeys... you don't want to work here.  It's really not all its cracked up to be....

turkeys at work

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Fried" Cod Sandwich

"Fried" Cod Sandwich

I'm seriously trying to cook more healthfully this summer.  One way to accomplish that while still enjoying the foods I love is to trick myself.  See, here's the problem:  For me, the summer = the beach.  And the beach = fried seafood.  And fried anything = unhealthy.  Tasty as hell, but unhealthy none-the-less.

But dude, I was really craving a fish sandwich.

So I cheated :)

I toasted some bread crumbs (seasoned with Old Bay) in a skillet and then spread them out on a plate.  I used the same skillet to cook two 4oz cod fillets.  While still hot and juicy, I tossed the fish into the bread crumbs and try to get as many toasted crumbs to stick to my fish as possible.  HA!  Similar texture to fried fish, minus the grease and guilt!  Wheeee!  I win!!

I made a remoulade using homemade mayonnaise, a couple tablespoons of diced cornichons, juice from 1 lemon, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, a couple dashes of Frank's Red Hot Sauce, and a tablespoon of chopped parsley.  To complete the sandwich, I toasted a sesame roll, slathered on some remoulade, added few slices of tomato and lettuce (from my CSA box), and my "fried" fish.

Delicious!  

While I don't usually make the same things over and over... I will definitely be making this again, if for no other reason than to satisfy my "fried food" cravings.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Arugula Pesto Pasta


I'm going to have to keep this one short and sweet (too much to do at work today).

It was a "perfect" Sunday for Boyfriend and I. We sat on the balcony reading, drinking coffee, talking. Very relaxing Sunday. Fortunately, it was also CSA pick-up day, so at some point I had to motivate myself off of the balcony and onto my bike.

This week was full of delicious summer produce: Corn, tomatoes, peaches, arugula, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, and lettuce. When I was brainstorming dinner ideas, I remembered that my basil plant is really flourishing these days. Ah-ha! Pesto. Perfect!

Arugula-Walnut Pesto

2 C washed arugula
1 C washed basil
1/4 C toasted walnuts
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 oz Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil

1) Add the walnuts, garlic and parm to a food processor and mix until finely chopped, almost paste-like.
2) Add the arugula and basil, the lemon juice and salt/pepper to taste. Blend again.
3) With the processor on, slowly add the olive oil until it reaches "pesto-like" consistency (I really wish I had a measurement for you... but I don't, I always just eyeball it).

I cooked up some capellini pasta and tossed it with my pesto and some chopped tomatoes (fresh from the CSA box). A little garnish of toasted walnuts, chiffonade of basil and Parmesan makes it pretty.

I had a nice Sauvignon Blanc with this, and the citrus notes really brightened up the flavors in the pesto. Yummy leftovers too!

Cheers to a relaxing, farm fresh, and delicious Sunday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Best Pork Chops I've Ever Made

I was watching something on television the other day, which is a shocker all by itself since I never watch TV, and someone mentioned something about "loving the pig".  I do love the pig.  We should all love the pig. 

When I was a little girl my family took me to the Iowa State Fair, one of the "oldest and largest agricultural expositions in the country."  This particular Fair has it all.  Rides. The BEST roasted "peaches & cream" corn. Candy Apples. Fried Oreos. Fried Twinkies. Fried Snickers. A "Butter" Cow. Rodeo. The 4H Club.

And Piglets. 

These little guys were the cutest things I've ever seen.  I got to hold one, and it nuzzled into me and slept like a baby.  I was hooked.  They only cost $20!!  Dad!! Can I take it home??? Please!?!?!?

My Dad, being the smart man that he is, then proceeded to show me what they would look like in about 3 months.  400 pounds of pig.  Not so cute or cuddly anymore. 

While I didn't buy a pig that day, my "love" of the pig stayed with my family for years.  They bought me all kinds of pig paraphernalia until I ran away to college.  I still get teased about my "pig" phase to this day.  And, to top it off, I couldn't bring myself to eat pig for approximately 15 years after that day.  What?  That little piglet was sooooooo cute!!  I couldn't eat him....

I'm glad I got over it eventually though, because if I hadn't, I wouldn't be able to share with you the most delicious, and easiest, pork chop you've ever tasted.

Ingredients
2 bone-in pork chops
5 anchovy filets
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp olive oil (I eyeballed this one)
salt and pepper

1) Mash together the anchovy fillets and the garlic to make a paste.  Add the olive oil, salt and pepper, and mix.
2) Coat both sides of your pork chops with the anchovy mixture and let it marinate at room temperature for 30-45min.  If this weirds you out, marinate for a couple hours in the fridge, but make sure you let the chop come back to room temperature before cooking it.
3) Grill the chops for 8-10 minutes, turning twice (to get the pretty grill marks).

DONE.

So easy, so delicious!

I served this with rosemary roasted potatoes and sauteed beet greens (from my CSA box).



And to drink: a 2008 Dom. Brunet Pinot Noir.  This light red paired wonderfully with the pork - it really let all the subtle flavors come through without overpowering them and I liked that the wine was just dry enough to almost "prep" the palate for each bite of the sweet/savory pork.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tequila Chipotle Chicken with Zucchini Fritters

Remember back when I made Southwestern Fritters and said that they'd be great right out of the freezer for a quick weeknight meal?  Well, their time had finally come.  When I looked in my fridge after work the first thing I noticed was a couple ears of corn, a bag of going-bad spinach, and some leftover queso blanco.  I can't believe how much corn I've been getting from my CSA this summer.  Its been the best year for produce.... as if I need more reasons to cook!

This was a very simple dinner to make and only took about 20min.

Ingredients
~serves 2
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 bag of washed spinach
2 ears of corn, husk and silk removed
1 small white onion, diced
3 oz queso blanco (cojita, ricotta salata, even feta might work nicely)
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp chipotle pepper (adjust depending on how hot you like your food)
juice from 1 lime
1/2 C chicken stock
1 tbsp honey
1/4 C tequila
salt and pepper
olive oil
Southwestern Fritters -reheat by placing in a 350F oven (or toaster oven) for 10min, flip, then 5-10min until they're done

1) Place the corn in a pot of boiling water along with a couple tablespoons of sugar.  Cook 5 minutes and test for done-ness.  If done, remove and let cool.  Once cool, cut the ears off of the cob and place aside.  Alternatively, you can use frozen corn kernels.
2) Add the onion to a skillet and cook 2-3 min until softened.  Add the spinach and let it wilt, 2 min.

3) Add the corn kernels to the spinach, season to taste and set aside (but keep warm).
4) In another skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil of med-high heat.  Season the chicken breasts with 1 tsp chipotle pepper, salt and pepper.  Place the chicken in the hot skillet and cook 5-6 min turning once (thinly pounded chicken breasts will cook pretty quickly).
5) Remove the chicken and place on a plate to rest.  Add the stock, lime juice, remaining chipotle pepper, and honey to the skillet.  Scrape up any stuck chicken pieces and let this cook together until it comes to a boil.
6) Carefully (and away from the flames) add the tequila to the skillet.  Here comes the fun!! LIGHT IT ON FIRE

WHEEEEEEEEEEE!! BURNIN' DOWN THE HOUSE!
7) Shake the pan and let it cook down for a bit.  If this makes you nervous, just let it boil until reduced by 1/2.

Serve the chicken over the spinach/corn mixture topped with some pan sauce and queso blanco.  Alongside go the fritters.  Easy, tasty, quick, Flammable :)  Now that's what I call dinner!

Yummy Southwestern Fritters

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Thai Beef Salad


The weather in New England has been just amazing this year.  First, we didn't' get any snow even while the South Eastern states were getting pummeled which meant crappy skiing.  Now, its been record highs all summer and let me tell you, there aren't many people in this part of the country with A/C units.  So again, I was forced to come up with a relatively "no-cook" dinner.  I think I would literally die if I had to stand over the stove for longer than 20min in this heat.

Thai Beef Salad
2 servings; 20min

1/2 lb Shaved Beef (or you can get fancy and use skirt steak, I'm just cheap)
1 orange, sectioned (peel and pith removed)

a large handful of snap peas (from my CSA)
1 carrot, peeled and shaved
1 small cucumber, peeled and julienned (from CSA)
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 C canola oil (or any light oil)
2-3 scallions,cut into 1/4" pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
2 diced Thai chilies (depends on your preferred heat level)
1/2 C large white beans, rinsed
bagged salad mix
1 lime, quartered, for garnish
a handful of cilantro and mint, for garnish
peanuts or cashews, chopped, for garnish

1) Make the dressing by whisking together the fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and oil.
Creepy label, no? Makes me laugh every time I pull it out of the cupboard!
2) Prepare the salad ingredients
3) Cook the shaved beef quickly over high heat in a lightly oiled skillet.  When done, remove and put to the side.
4) Add the snap peas to the hot pan along with the Thai chilies, scallions, and garlic, 2-3 min.  Add the beans, beef, and fish-sauce dressing to heat through, 2 min.  Remove from heat.
5) Toss the salad greens and some torn cilantro and mint.  Gently mix in the remaining ingredients (carrots, cucumber, snap peas, beans, beef, oranges, etc) and plate.  Garnish with lime wedges and peanuts or cashews if you have them.

We enjoyed this with some cold beverages and a fan blowing in our faces.  Hellloooo summer!

Monday, August 2, 2010

4th of July on Martha's Vineyard

Sorry it took so long to post this - I just realized it's been a month since Independence Day!  However, after just returning from a week's vacation on the Vinny I decided to re-live it one more day by finally uploading this post.

Boyfriend and I love the Vineyard and try to go a few times every summer.  Its the perfect combination of idyllic New England and casual preppy-ness.  Boat shoes.  Popped collars.  Khakis.  Tennis Whites.  Surfers.  Day drinking.  I know, crazy right?  Its like California in New England.  I just love it, but let me assure you that neither Boyfriend or I own or wear any of the clothing mentioned above.

We went out to MV for the long holiday weekend and did a lot of grilling and day-drinking.  For starters, on the 4th I made a quick and dirty version of Red & Blue Buttermilk Pancakes using strawberries and blueberries from my CSA.  We spent the rest of the day at Fuller Street Beach, relaxing, listening to the waves, talking about nonsense and catching some sun. 



That night before the fireworks we had a little cookout and Boyfriend made his "special" burgers (sorry, no giving away this recipe!), Israeli couscous salad, and elote, a mexican-style corn on the cob (check my post on esquites for an "off-cob" version).

Boyfriend Burger with Cheese

Israeli Couscous Salad (blurry, oops)

Elote (grilled corn with a mayo/cayenne/cheese/lime topping)































We picked up some flowers for the table and enjoyed some cheap white wine while we waited for sunset and fireworks.

Sun setting on Fuller St Beach - American Flag flying high
MORE FIREWORKS!




















It was such a romantic and wonderful way to spend the holiday weekend.  I wish I was back on the beach now - the cool, salty air, the sand, and a cold beer in my Al's Pal's coozie.
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