Happy days are here again- it’s just about SUMMER TIME BABY!
What a crazy few weeks I have going on. I just got back on Monday from a quick 48-hour trip to Atlanta to visit my grandmother with Paul- what a relaxing and lovely way to spend the holiday weekend. Atlanta is such an awesome place to visit- people are just nicer there, ya know? Plus, it doesn’t hurt when your Argentine grandmother makes you 4 dozen empanadas to chow down on just because she loves you so much. YUM.
Tomorrow, I’m heading to Chicago for another long weekend, to visit one of my best friends from college. I’ll be back on Monday, but we’ve already planned most of our trip around which amazing restaurants we’re going to eat at. Any recommendations? 🙂
And oh yeah, the weekend after that, I’ll be SPEAKING at the BlogHer Food ’13 conference in Austin, TX! I can’t freakin wait, but I’m also super nervous. If any of you are going to BlogHer Food next week, please say hi (and don’t boo at my workshop!).
But for this very moment, I’m home in Jersey City and couldn’t be happier.
Once again, we’re on our farmer’s market flow- one of the best things about Jersey City is the abundance of farmer’s markets and local produce. I saw these locally grown fat asparagus (asparagi?) and knew I had to have them for my very own! Along with some fresh Jersey tomatoes and a healthy dose of garlic, this makes a perfect side dish for your next barbecue.
Hmm. How to describe the humble red kidney bean? Well, it’s red, and shaped like a kidney. It kind of has a earthy taste, and all in all, is well, just sorta bland on it’s own.
In my mind though, it’s the perfect jumping off point to make a complex, flavorful, and almost butter-like dip perfect for crackers, chips, or even spreading on a sandwich.
This dip might look on the surface like nothing special, but it’s got such a fun array of ingredients and is so simple to make. Not to mention, it’s delicious. Perfect for parties, a picnic, or just some alone time with a box of crackers on the couch, you gotta try this red bean dip 🙂
1 15.5 oz can of red kidney beans, reserving the liquid in the can
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (plus more for garnish if desired)
dash of cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp lime juice
In a pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions start to turn golden. Add the red beans and their liquid, the tomato paste, and the spices (cumin, cilantro, cinnamon, salt and pepper). Stir everything up and allow to cook through. Add the lime juice, stir again, and remove the pan from the heat. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Carefully transfer the bean mixture to a mini-chopper or food processor, and pulse a few times to blend everything up but still leave some texture. Pour into a dip bowl, and serve, garnished with additional cilantro if desired. Enjoy!
You might think that the cinnamon is a weird ingredient for a savory dip- I felt the same way. But it adds a very slightly sweet warmth that really makes this dip special. I definitely recommend adding it!
Mmmmm… pasta. When fall starts rolling in and the temperature starts dropping, one of my favorite comfort foods is a nice big bowl of pasta with red sauce.
This is a classic southern Italian dish, and one of my favorite ways to spice up normal tomato sauce. I love the saltiness of the olives, the heat of the red pepper flakes, and the strong taste of garlic, all mixed into delicious, tangy and slightly sweet crushed tomatoes.
And while the origin of the sauce’s name may have less than savory origins, this is one of my favorite savory dishes, hands down 🙂
I love using big slices of garlic here- but you can mince yours more finely if you prefer it a little smaller. Same goes for the olives- I love biting into them, but if you’d like them more blended into the sauce, you can chop them more finely.
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped coarsely
1 can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1 tbsp capers
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
3-4 cups of water
1 lb spaghetti
In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic slices and chili peppers and cook, stirring to keep the garlic from burning, 3 minutes.
Add the olives and stir again. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the capers. Give everything a big stir to get it all incorporated. Afterwards, in a large pot, boil 3-4 quarts of water over high heat.
Once the water is boiling, add a nice handful of kosher salt, around 2-3 tsps. Add the pasta and cook until al dente- or just very slightly chewy, about 8-9 minutes (depending on the brand you use). Drain the pasta.
Add drained pasta to the saucepan with the puttanesca sauce, and toss to coat. Garnish with fresh parsley, stir again and serve. Enjoy!
What is your favorite comfort food once the cold starts coming to your neighborhood?
Last week, I hit up a local farmer’s market here in Jersey City. Well, OK. I didn’t exactly go on purpose… My original plan was to get tacos nearby and go home. OK, fine, my original original plan was to go to the gym, but who’s judging?
Anyways, I got out of the train station after leaving work, and emerged to find there was a bustling farmer’s market going on right around the plaza where the station lets you out. And yeah, there turned out to be a taco truck there (I indulged, obviously, going through some serious #tacolife right now). But there were so many other yummy things, I had to look around while waiting for my tacos to be made for me. In the 5 minutes I had to scout around, I picked up an eggplant and a nice handful of locally grown Jersey plum tomatoes.
It took me a little while to figure out what to do with the tomatoes (I ended up just frying the eggplant in a bout of weekend hunger) but I finally settled on making a twist on the classic caprese salad, this time in a creamy, decadent risotto. I roasted the tomatoes to get as much flavor from them as possible, used fresh mozzarella, and beautiful fresh basil. I have to say this came out even better than I expected- I never have used fresh mozzarella in risotto before, and it added a nice creamy and melty texture to the whole dish that made it really something special.
I think that’s the magic of a caprese salad any way you make it- it always ends up being a dish that is more than the sum of its parts. Using the best ingredients you can find will definitely improve the quality of the dish, and I’ll be surprised if you can keep yourself from having seconds! 🙂
4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise with cores and seeds removed
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
For the risotto:
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup white wine
3½-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, warmed over low heat
½ cup fresh mozzarella
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
fresh basil for garnish
Make the roasted tomatoes and garlic: Preheat oven to 450° F. Arrange halved, cored tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over each tomato. Rub the garlic cloves in olive oil and place on the pan with the tomatoes. Roast for 30 minutes, rotating the pan once in between. When tomatoes have shrunk and are cooked through, remove them and the garlic cloves from the oven and allow to cool while you make the rest of the risotto.
Make the risotto: In a large pan, heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic, shallot, and thyme, and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until the shallots start to become translucent. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the rice, and stir to coat in the oil. Season with salt, and allow the rice to “toast” for 2 minutes- this is adding a lot of flavor directly into the rice itself. Add the wine, and stir to loosen up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow to cook until wine is almost fully absorbed. Add ½ cup of the warmed broth and stir again. Continue to add broth, ½ cup at a time, once the previous addition is almost fully absorbed. Make sure you are stirring every few minutes or so as well.
While the rice is cooking, carefully chop up your roasted tomatoes into ¼ inch pieces, and peel the roasted garlic and chop that up too.
Once you feel the rice is cooked to the desired consistency (not crunchy, but somewhat creamy with a bite), add the roasted tomatoes and roasted garlic and stir. Add your mozzarella and parmesan, and stir again. The mozzarella will start to get stringy, but just keep stirring until everything is incorporated and it’s a lovely mess.
Garnish with fresh basil, stir once more, and serve!
I know, I know, it’s still summer. Who wants to eat hot potatoes when there’s so much fresh and cool fruit and vegetables to be had? But sometimes, you just need some comfort food. Something that screams cozy, happy, warm nights at home. Something that’s filling, something that’s wholesome. Something with roasted, garlic cheese and bacon in it.
Oh, that’s right. I’m not done with bacon just yet. And to add delight to deliciousness, we’re throwing roasted garlic and yummy sharp cheddar cheese in the mix. These are not your mother’s mashed potatoes. Or, maybe they are. No disrespect to her.
Start out with some delicious, yellow Yukon Golds. Add in some sweet, savory and rich roasted garlic. Shred in some cheeeeeese, and throw in that salty, crispy, and just dang delicious bacon. You got a party going!
And if you’re feeling guilty, add those chives up top! They count as vegetables here. I promise.
4 slices bacon, chopped into ¼ inch bits (optional)
finely chopped chives, for garnish
Preheat your oven to 350. In a small baking dish, add the unpeeled garlic cloves, olive oil, and half the salt. Toss to cover the garlic cloves in salt and oil. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, until delightfully roasted and yummy. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Cut your peeled potatoes into 2-inch chunks. Place potato chunks into a large pot and fill with cold water just until it covers the potato chunks. Add the salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. The potatoes are done when you can easily pierce a chunk with a fork.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat up the milk and butter separately in the microwave or on the stove. You want the milk to be warm, and the butter to be melted. Now’s the time you’ll want to fry up your bacon bits in a frying pan, if you’re using them. I like my bacon crispy, but you can cook to whatever done-ness you prefer.
When potatoes are done, drain into a colander. You want to let the potatoes to drain for a minute or two- boiled potatoes that sit in water can start to jellify and get swollen and weird. Who wants that?
Return the potatoes to the pot, and lower the heat to low or medium low. Using a potato masher or potato ricer, start to mash the potatoes. Add the melted butter and warmed milk and stir it all up. Add the bacon bits, cheese, and roasted garlic (squeeze the cloves out of the peel first!). Give it all one more stir and salt to taste.