Quick Summer Dinner

One of my favorite parts about the warmer months is the presence and plethora of farmer’s markets in the Boston area. There’s certainly something to be said for locally grown, organic produce.   Everything just tastes so much better.

Anyways, I stopped at my neighborhood farmer’s market this past week and picked up a few beautiful heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers and zucchini.  These are all wonderful in late august so you often don’t need to over-do them.  I just did a quick saute in olive oil with salt and pepper.  The tomato juice was a great natural flavor – garlic helped too.

Throw it on top of some pearled couscous and you have yourself a nice little meal.

 

 

Boston Restaurant Week

How did I manage to forget about Summer Restaurant Week in Boston?!
http://www.restaurantweekboston.com/?gclid=CMLnxtak5qoCFc1-5Qod-j-w8w

I just read a little blip about it this morning and was overcome with immediate panic because I hadn’t made any reservations.  I hadn’t even narrowed down my list of restaurant considerations (this is usually the longest part of the process).  Under the gun, I plucked one off my Boston Restaurant Bucket List and made a reservation.

I’ll weigh in on which one I chose and how it went later this week…

Street and Co.

My boyfriend and I traveled up to Portland, Maine this weekend.  I’ll have to start by saying that Portland is a beautiful place in the month of August.  (I don’t imagine that in February I’d feel the same way but that’s a personal issue.)

And for a small city in the middle of nowhere, Portland has a pretty lively dining/nightlife scene.  There were several restaurants that friends and family recommended but one that we heard repeatedly was Street and Co.  The website is emblazoned with the mantra  “Taste is Real. Simple.”  You had me at Hello.

We arrived around 7 pm on a Saturday.  Not a smart move if you have kids or are in the mood for a quick bite.  We were told that the wait is about an hour and a half for an outdoor table, but were welcome to the lounge in the meantime.  Come to find out, the lounge does drinks and appetizers so the hour and a half wait wasn’t looking so bad.

While waiting we’re amazed by the polished concrete raw bar and rustic American deco.  It was dimly lit and romantic in a non-mushy way.  We ordered ourselves a bottle of Prosecco (my favorite) and were well on our way to enjoyment.  20 minutes later the hostess informed us that another couple hadn’t showed up for a reservation and we could be seated an hour early, although the table was inside.  We liked the lounge so much that we forfeited our outdoor table spot in the 78 degree openness of the Maine evening and took our chances on whatever reservation was just gifted to us.

Boy was I glad to have sat inside.  The dining room is warm, crowded and loud – all due to the fact that there is a huge open kitchen no more than 50 feet away from any singe seat in the place.  The clever designers even thought to put large mirrors on the back wall so guests facing away from the kitchen could still delight in the action.  As someone that knows and loves the restaurant industry, I love a good open kitchen because the chefs are sharing the cooking experience with their guests.  As someone that just likes to come along with me for the good food, my boyfriend likes the open kitchen because to him it means they have nothing to hide.

First we sampled some oysters from a few local spots.  I am not an oyster connoisseur so this is the first time I noticed a difference in taste between harvesting locations.  (Casco Bay happened to be our favorite of the night.)

As my main course I ordered the broiled scallops.  It came with some excellent summer squash and red potatoes.  My boyfriend ordered a Hake special, served in an heirloom tomato gazpacho and upon its arrival I immediately regretted not ordering that dish myself.  Quite literally the best seafood either of us have had in quite some time.

Check it out: http://www.streetandcompany.net/menu

Pretzel Rolls

I desperately needed to take a hiatus from the sweets.  No good for my diet or my taste buds…

So pretzel rolls.  I landed on that recipe because I’ve been wanting to make my own bread, but haven’t had the nerve to actually do it yet.  I don’t have a mixer or a breadmaker, so I need to come at it with a patient mind and strong arms.  Unfortunately, I have neither of these things naturally, so I decided to ease myself in with pretzels.

Despite my lack of experience in the dough-making department, these things are actually hard to screw up.  Which was a nice change since I was unexpectedly entertaining that night as well.

Please excuse the crazy plate. *Note to self: Buy my boyfriend new china.

1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
2 ¾ cups flour
1 tablespoon, sugar
1 teaspoon salt (plus coarse sea salt for topping)
Vegetable oil
1/4 cup baking soda

Combine warm water and yeast in the bowl. Wait about 5 minutes until mixture bubbles. Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt and add once yeast and water are ready. mix into dough for about 6 minutes (or as long as my girly arms can stand it).

Form dough into a ball and place in a bowl covered in oil and cover with a clean, damp dishtowel. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Knead dough on a floured surface for about 1 minute. Divide into 8 pieces and form into oblong balls. Place rolls on a baking sheet with oiled parchment paper and cut diagonal slashes across the top of each.

Cover with the damp towel and let dough rise for 20 minutes.  Heat the oven to 425°F and boil a large pot of water and stir in baking soda.  Boil two or three rolls for 2 minutes on each side.

Remove rolls, drain, and place on the baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle well with salt and bake 12-15 minutes until crispy and golden.

even these directions bore me… but the result tastes delicious

Real Good Veggie Burger

I haven’t had a really hamburger in a long long time but I don’t miss it because I make myself yummy veggie burgers with guacamole and fresh tomatoes.

Guacamole made with an avocado, a minced chipotle pepper and some garlic and onion.  I like adding fresh chopped tomatoes to give a little texture.  Great for chips or a sandwich, or, in this case, a veggie burger.

And I can’t have a sandwich (or hardly any lunch) without some pop chips.  I’m mildly obsessed with them in all flavors.

Cinnamon Butter

There’s a place in Malvern, PA called King Street Grill that we used to go to while skipping school for brunch.  They have the best cinnamon butter in the entire world.  I frequently have some serious cravings for the stuff but never have enough motivation to actually make any for myself.  I finally stirred up some gumption and made a little for our breakfast…and now I’m going to make some more to store in my fridge.  My polish roots mean that I looove butter so I probably eat a little more than the average person but this is a necessity for breakfast lovers.

1/2 cup butter, whipped
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Grilled Chicken with Chipotle Peach Sauce

I stole this recipe from Bon Appetit because it’s really easy and we want to get some good use out of our grill before the end of the summer.  The chicken ended up being really moist and delicious and I happen to love spicy stuff so I added a couple of the chipotles to the sauce for a little kick.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1/3 cup peach preserves
  • 1/3 cup peach nectar
  • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro plus sprigs for garnish
  • 3 large peaches, rinsed, fuzz wiped away, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin

Preparation

  • Coat grill rack with nonstick spray. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Stir preserves, next 3 ingredients, 2 teaspoons oil, and chopped cilantro in medium bowl; season dressing with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/4 cup dressing to small bowl.
  • Brush peaches, then chicken with oil and dressing from small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Grill peaches until slightly charred, about 2 minutes per side.
  • Place 1 chicken breast on each of 4 plates. Surround with peaches. Drizzle dressing from medium bowl over chicken and peaches. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.

I had lunch at David Burke Prime yesterday and  I have to recommend the caesar salad.  I’ve eaten my share of salads at restaurants but this is the only thing I’ll order for lunch there – and not just because I don’t eat meat.  They make the salad and dress it tableside.  I’ve watch very carefully and they don’t use any groundbreaking ingredients, but for some reason it just tastes so much better.

I also have a mix of one of Chef’s chocolate cakes in a takeout container waiting for me to have a free hour to make it.  Another post for another time.

The Long Awaited and Affectionately Named Crack Cookies

I know I’ve written about the “Crack Cookies” before so I am finally getting around to sharing the recipe.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup white chocolate chips

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees
– Mix all wet ingredients with sugars and cocoa powder
– Add baking soda, salt and flour
– Add chips

I like rolling them into golf-ball sized treats for when I’m just making them to have around the house, but if I’m taking them to a party or work I’ll use a melon baller to measure bite-sized yummies.  Bake time will vary based on the size cookie you decide to make, but it should take no more than 12 minutes for the larger cookies.  Just keep a close eye – even I can pay attention for 10 minutes.

If you love chocolate peppermint these cookies hit the spot.  You could exchange my white chocolate chips with regular chips if you’re not a fan but I would suggest you try it with the white chocolate first because it’s my absolute favorite.  Or if you’re like me and running low on chips all together you can do half chocolate, half white chocolate.  It is impossible to mess these up.

Made Mussels Fra Diavolo on Friday night.  Sometimes I get weird hankerings and this was one of them.  Don’t have any photos because we were both hungry and I was most concerned with eating.  Next time.

 

Ingredients

    • 2 dozen mussels
    • 2 tablespoons oil
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 medium green pepper, sliced
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 lb boneless white fish
    • 1  can chopped tomatoes
    • 1/3 cup dry white wine
    • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 2 -3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    •  basil
    • oregano
    • linguine

Directions

  1. Scrub the mussels under running cold water
  2. In a large pot over high heat bring to a boil about 1″ of water.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the mussels-cover and cook until the shells open about 5 minutes.
  4. Discard the top shell from each mussel
  5. Let broth stand awhile to let the sand settle in the bottom of the pot. Pour 3/4 cup of the broth into a measuring cup and discard any remaining broth.  (*watch out for sand)
  6. In a large skillet over med. heat, heat the oil and sauté onions, green pepper and garlic until tender but not brown.
  7. Prepare the pasta as directed on the package. Cut the fish into 1″ chunks.
  8. Into the onion mixture, add tomatoes with the liquid from the can, all remaining ingredients, except mussels and mussel broth.
  9.  (If you are adding more seafood add it now). Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil-when this comes to a boil, reduce heat to low-cover and simmer 5-7 minutes or until fish is cooked through.
  10. Add the mussels on the half shell and heated through.
  11. To serve, put the pasta onto plates or a large platter, spoon the fish/mussel mixture over and top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.