In the Kitchen

kitchen
When hosting a dinner party, I try to keep my appetizers fairly simple. A beautiful crudite board with green goddess dressing or a cheese board bursting with bread, grapes and of course cheese {my rule of thumb is three: a hard, a soft and a really smelly one}. In addition, though, I always like to add a wow bite. And for me, those more often than not are Ina Garten’s Gruyère Cheese Puffs. The first time K tried these, she asked “are these homemade?” To which I responded, “Sweetie, I only make homemade.” As you can imagine, this is now a running joke in our home.

Don’t let the above photo scare you. These cheese puffs are super easy to make, I promise.

Ina’s Gruyère Cheese Puffs

  • 1 cup milk {I use whole milk for the flavor but any milk will do}
  • 1/4 lb unsalted butter {I always use unsalted butter when baking}
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 extra-large eggs {make sure your eggs are at room temperature}
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg over medium heat, until scalded. Add the flour all at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. The flour will begin to coat the bottom of the pan.
  3. Pour this mixture into your kitchen aid mixer bowl and immediately add the eggs, Gruyère and parmesan and mix until eggs are incorporated and the dough is smooth and thick.
  4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag {I use a large zip lock bag and cut off one corner}. Pipe onto the lined baking sheet in a round {similar in size to a golf ball}. With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff. Brush the top of each puff lightly with egg wash {made with 1 egg and 1 tsp. of water whisked} and top with a pinch of Gruyère cheese.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Voila! You are done. Give them a try and let me know if you house guests love them as much as mine!

In the Kitchen

IMG_0862

#TacoTuesday has become a tradition at Melrose Place {our city abode}. At least twice a month, on Tuesday of course, I try a new taco recipe. I have about a 95% success rate, with one tragic night taking place a few weeks back with a Jamaican jerk chicken recipe. K’s favorite thus far was a honey-lime sweet potato, corn and black bean recipe.

Sometimes, though, I just crave a basic taco like the ones my mom use to make using the Ortega taco dinner kit. Since my mom doesn’t eat meat, she would use ground turkey. I have realized, though,  that those little seasoning packages just aren’t  a good idea. With a little research, and keeping my spice cabinet full of delicious blends from Ambrosia {an island must}, I developed my own taco seasoning. Mix 2 tablespoons of this with ground turkey, a can of garbanzo beans and some kale, and you have yourself a healthy and delicious taco.

May’s Taco Seasoning

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 Tbs. chili powder

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. sea salt

1 Tbs. ground cumin

In my opinion, the key to a great taco are all the fixings. Soft corn tortillas, avocados, chopped tomato, shredded cabbage, cilanto and cotija cheese are terrific additions. Give this a try. I promise, you’ll be having a #tacotuesday tradition soon enough!

In the Kitchen

photo

Happy Friday, friends! First off, I just want to thank you for your beautiful words regarding yesterday’s post. I am truly humbled and feeling quite blessed for having all of you in my life. Now onto my other love, entertaining.

Today I wanted to share my menu from a recent sips + snacks party we held on the deck. In my 12 years of city living, I’ve never had a deck. And now, K and I have a deck the size of our bedroom, which makes outdoor entertaining a must {especially after the winter we had}!

For cocktail parties, I like to keep the menu simple* with items that can be served at room temperature and are easily replenishable. I have been on a mezze kick as of late and thus decided to do a spread of four different mezze/dips with crudité. Each and every time I am putting together a party menu, my first go-to is my collection of Ina cookbooks. I decided on her Tzatziki and baba ganoush but knew I needed to add one or two more. While perusing Pinterest for inspiration, I found a beet root hummus and Moroccan spiced roasted carrot dip, which both turned out to be my favorite. K said the carrot dip was a pleasant surprise.

Dips always need a “vessel” (a term of endearment from my catering days) and thus I had plenty of pita on hand and a selection of crudité. I blanched the asparagus for 3 minutes in boiling water and then placed them immediately in an ice bath to stop the cooking. The result is a perfectly crisp and bright green asparagus spear. For the carrots, I did a simple peel and chop and then placed them in a plastic container with water. This helps to keep the carrots crisp. I quartered the radishes and did an ever so slight sprinkle of salt on top. And for the green beans and squash, a simple chop was all they needed. Next time around, I might omit the green beans and instead do some cucumber spears.

Another catering trick {which is oh so helpful for your guests}, label your food. I had these Moglea watercolor tags on hand and the colors matched our mezze spread perfectly. A little bakers twine around the jelly jars and voila!

I included my *asterisk above because although this spread of mezze was technically easy, it was a bit time consuming. In the end, though, well worth it. Looking to entertain this summer, I highly recommend this delicious and beautiful mezze spread.

In the Kitchen

In the Kitchen
Yesterday after a long day at the catering kitchen, I decided to do a little something for me. I made my way over to Bartlett’s Farm, purchased a little blue quart container and walked through the strawberry fields. Item #1 on Summer Bucket List… done!

I had originally planned to make strawberry jam but when I read all the fine print about canning sterilization, I thought to myself, not tonight. So instead, I braved the grocery store at 5:30 pm (to my surprise, the parking lot wasn’t complete chaos) and got myself a baguette, some goat cheese and organic baby spinach. My thought was this: a simple spinach salad with fresh strawberries, cottage cheese and a little balsamic vinaigrette for dinner followed by a sweet crostini with goat cheese and balsamic macerated strawberries. So easy, so delicious.

Crostini

Strawberry Crostini
Here is what you will need:
– 4 1/4 inch slices of a baguette
– 2 Tbs. goat cheese (or more if you like)
– 1/2 cup thinly sliced strawberries (about 6 strawberries)
– 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar (I recommend Ariston Balsamic. This stuff is amazing)

*Note: I made a very small batch. These measurements can certainly be doubled/tripled should you want to use the entire baguette.

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with tin foil.
2. Cut 1/4 inch slices of your baguette on an angel, which allows for more surface space.
3. Place bread slices on sheet pan and lightly brush with extra virgin olive oil.
4. Cook in the over for about 10 minutes, until lightly brown and crunchy.
5. While the bread is cooking, thinly slice strawberries and place in bowl with 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar and stir occasionally.
6. Remove the bread from the over, spread on a little goat cheese and arrange strawberries on top.
7. Enjoy!

And the good news, checked #2 off the Summer Bucket List as well. I’m on a roll!

Found

Found
When it comes to kitchen essentials, I don’t have a very lengthy list: a great skillet, a dutch oven, Emile Henry baking dishes, and my kitchen aid. I still remember the Christmas I opened my pistachio mixer. My reaction was almost as good as when I got a Nintendo the Christmas I was 9. I literally freaked out and was on top of the world for days.

One item that I have been on the hunt for as of late is a great pairing knife. I purchased this chef’s knife last summer but it’s just a bit too big for julienning my produce. Last week while perusing the new arrivals over at Provisions at Food52, I came across this beauty. The wood will compliment my chef’s knife and has a lovely story too: the manufacturer uses reclaimed metal from the bandsaw blades of local Georgia lumber mills to forge the blade, and reclaimed walnut wood from Florida to shape the curved handle. Think I will use the tip money from my first catering gig to add this to my kitchen.

In the Kitchen

lunch
Have you all tried baby kale? It is simply delicious. I had it for the first time last year at one of my island favorites, The Boarding House, and have since realized that they not only stock it at my local farm but at Stop & Shop no less. I pulled together a really simple salad the other night for dinner that I thought I would share. Doesn’t take much time at all (except the roasting of the butternut squash). Give it a try and let me know what you think.

May’s Winter Salad
2 cups baby kale
1/2 cup roasted butternut squash (I cut mine up into 1 inch cubes, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes or so at 350 degrees)
1 to 2 Tbs. Dijon vinaigrette (recipe below)

Toss and enjoy. I had plans to add pomegranate seeds but the store was fresh out of them this week. Next time.

Dijon Vinagrette
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. champagne vinegar
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil (Once blended, I always do a taste test and sometimes I add just a little more oil to round out the flavors.)
1 tsp. honey
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper

Whisk together and pour over your favorite greens.

An Island Holiday

IMG_4341
I know I am biased but there is no better place to celebrate Thanksgiving than Nantucket and you know what, the Vice President thinks so too! I have only missed two in my entire life. This year, with my parents being out in California, my sister and I decided to host our very first Thanksgiving dinner at our family home and what a day it was. The prep started Wednesday with Michelle mastering the art of baking a pie. After getting home from the shop, I took to the kitchen to make my Aunt’s delicious cranberry mousse and apple butter for my sister Marie’s Thanksgiving brunch (and checked another two items off the fall bucket list). Check out the recipes below.

While waiting for the apple butter to bake, I turned to our tablescape. I knew I wanted to incorporate the collection of beautiful gourds in yellows and greens I purchased at Bartlett’s Farm so decided on a purple, yellow and celdaon green color palette. I placed my favorite John Robshaw table-cloth on the table with our Simon Pearce belmont dinning plates and my “only for special occasion” Kim Seybert napkins. I have these fantastic yellow bud vases for Bodega that I turned into candle holders for our green tapers. Feeling a bit DIY, I made place cards and the menu from old Rifle Paper pieces I had on hand. We made little wreaths from rosemary and Michelle added a personal touch by writing each of our guests a little note letting them know we were thankful for them. I just loved the way it all came together.

I was a bit hesitant to handle the actual bird… 16 pounds and all. I guess I know why I call myself a selectarian (raw meat totally squimishes me out). Luckily I had some help and got the bird cleaned, filled the cavity with oranges, lemons, garlic, thyme and onions and put her in the oven. I used Ina’s recipe as a guide cause really, the Barefoot Contessa has never failed me.

My absolute favorite sides with my Thanksgiving meal have always been stuffing and butternut squash so I knew I wanted to try something different. I had seen a picture on Pinterest for a butternut squash bread pudding with leeks and prosciutto and I knew that was the winner. Absolutely sinful (2 1/2 cups of half and half) but well worth it. For the stuffing, the verdict was in that sausage is a must so once again I turned to Smitten Kitchen to be my guide. Add in some roasted carrots and brussels sprouts, mashed new potatoes and a kale salad with roasted acorn squash, pomegranate seeds and a Dijon cider vinaigrette and we had ourselves a feast.

IMG_4309

Hope you all enjoyed a lovely day with your friends and family. And now for those recipes!

Auntie Deb’s Cranberry Mousse
– 1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple
– 2 3 oz. packages of raspberry gelatin
– 1 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries (Nantucket has one of the largest bogs on the east coast)
– 1 large navel orange
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 cup sour cream

Directions
1. Open pineapple and drain liquid. Reserve 1 cup of juice.
2. Bring pineapple juice to a boil and stir in gelatin until dissolved.
3. In food processor, chop cranberries, sliced unpeeled orange and sugar to make a relish.
4. Combine relish and pineapple with gelatin in large bowl. Chill 1/2 hour, or until slightly thick.
5. Fold in sour cream and pour into a 2 quart mold. Chill until firm.
6. Unmold onto a serving plate.

* I should note I couldn’t find a mold so just poured into a large serving dish. Not as pretty as my aunt does but let me tell you, this cranberry mousse brings a leftover turkey sandwich to a whole new level.

Apple Butter
– 4 pounds assorted apples, peeled and chopped
– 2 cups apple cider
– 1 cup packed light brown sugar
– pinch of salt
– 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
– 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 1 tsp. vanilla extract
– pinch of ground clove

Directions
1. Preheat over to 250 degrees.
2. Combines the apples, apple cider, brown sugar and salt in a dutch oven (I’m obsessed with my Le Creuset) over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes.
3. Remove apples from the heat and stir in lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla extract and cloves.
4. Puree the mixture in a blender in batches until smooth.
5. Return the mixture to dutch over and bake uncovered, stirring every 30 minutes. The total cook time is about 3 hours. The mixture will become thick and a deep amber color.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Transfer to n airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

* My sister Michelle used the remaining apple butter on Saturday night when she hosted friends for turkey soup. She spread it over brie, wrapped it in her pie crust and baked. Absolutely delicious!

In the Kitchen

IMG_3579
Apples. One of my all-time favorite fall foods. But want to know something a bit weird, I’m not an apple pie kind of gal. Instead, I like me an apple cake. While scouring Pinterest (my addiction) for inspiration for my sister’s 30th birthday dessert bar, I came across the below recipe. And aren’t I glad I did. The simplicity of this recipe coupled with the rave reviews have made this a staple in my fall recipe repertoire. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Apple Cake
– 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1 3/4 sticks of butter (7/8 cups), melted
– 2 large eggs (room temperature)
– 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use 2.5% greek yogurt)
– 2 apples (peeled, cored and thinly sliced) *I prefer Braeburn apples
– zest of 1 lemon
– 1/3 cup granulated sugar for topping

Yield – 1 8-inch cake

Directions
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Butter 8-inch circular cake pan.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle, beat the 1/2 cup of sugar with the melted butter until it has lightened.
4. Add in one egg at a time and combine completely.
5. Reduce the speed and add in flour and yogurt in alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour.
6. Fold in by hand the apples and lemon zest and pour into 8-inch round cake pan.
7. Sprinkle over top the 1/3 cup of sugar.
8. Bake cake for 50-60 minutes, until tester comes out clean.
9. Let cool completely before devouring!

In the Kitchen

IMG_3064
Philadelphia is not only home to the cheese steak, the Liberty Bell and my sweet god-daughter H but also the location of one of my favorite bakeries, Metropolitan. After college, my dear friend C moved to Philly to attend vet school at Penn and lived across the street from Metropolitan in Rittenhouse Square. After nearly ten years, our love affair has stood the test of time.

During a recent overnight to the city of brotherly love, I was introduced to their chocolate stout cake. As soon as I returned to the island, I checked their cookbook that sweet H’s mom gave me as a birthday gift (love you, S) but to my disappointment they decided not to share their secret. Thus began my search for the perfect recipe. Lucky for me, the food enthusiasts at Smitten Kitchen are always willing to share!

Chocolate Stout Cake
– 1 cup stout (Guinness)
– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
– 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 cups sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
– 3/4 tsp. salt
– 2 lg. eggs (room temperature)
– 2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache
– 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
– 6 Tbs. heavy cream
– 3/4 tsp. instant coffee/espresso

Directions
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease bundt pan.
2. Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add in 1 egg at a time.
3. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
4. In a liquid measuring cup, combine 1 cup of stout and sour cream and gently whisk.
5. Slowly combine flour mixture and stout mixture to butter mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture.
6. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, until a cake knife comes out clean.
7. Let cake cool completely.
8. For ganache, use a double broiler and slowly whisk chocolate chips, cream and instant coffee until chocolate has completely melted. The ganache should be smooth and have a beautiful sheen to it. Spoon over cooled cake.

This cake rivals my Mom’s devil food’s chocolate cake, which she has made for the last twenty years; not too sweet, not too dense, an absolute perfect harmony of flavors. If you are craving a little chocolate, please make this cake. It’s perfection in my book!

In the Kitchen

photo-14
You know summer has arrived when you see the Bartlett’s Farm truck parked on the corner of Main and Federal Street. A welcome sight indeed!

This past weekend I stocked up on some baby kale (my newest obsession), cucumbers (gosh those dark under eye circles) and some beautiful yellow and green zucchini. I just love tea breads so Monday afternoon I thought I would experiment with a new zucchini bread recipe. Several recipes call for at least a cup of vegetable oil, which I knew wouldn’t help my get-into-a-bathing-suit cause. I did a little research and to my surprise learned that I could substitute apple sauce for oil. Genius!

Here’s the recipe I settled on.

May’s Healthy Zucchini Bread
– 3 eggs
– 1 cup apple sauce (natural/unsweetened)
– 2 cups grated zucchini
– 2 tsp vanilla
– 3 cups flour
– 3 tsp cinnamon
– 1/8 tsp nutmeg
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp baking power
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 cup yellow raisins/dried cranberries (optional)
– 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees; grease and flour two bread pans.
2. Grate zucchini.
3. Whisk together eggs, applesauce, and sugar. Add in zucchini.
4. In second bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
5. Add flour mixture to egg mixture.
6. In a small bowl, mix together raisins, cranberries and chocolate chips with a 1/2 tsp. of flour*.
7. Evenly divide batter between two pans and bake for 50 minutes.
8. Let cool at least 30 minutes and enjoy!

*The flour helps this mixture from sinking to the bottom of the batter.

The recipe I used for inspiration called for 2 cups of zucchini. Since I substituted out the oil, I think I will use 3 cups next time. Also, I grate my own nutmeg so I think I could increase the amount to about 1/4 tsp. But overall, my house guests were quite pleased. Give it a try too and let me know what you think!