Saturday, May 21, 2011

Burrata

When I contemplate becoming a vegetarian, I think I could give up meat without shedding too many tears. But when I consider becoming a vegan, the thought of giving up cheese is almost too much to bare.  I love it all- thin slices of sharp cheddar,  a spread of tangy goat cheese, stinky crumbles of Maytag bleu.... all of it is so delicous.

But no cheese is as dear to me as Burrata. Little white packages of heaven. Burrata looks like mozzeralla at first glance, but it is actually so much more. The silky outer layer of mozzerella holds a creamy, stringy filling that really is a thing of beauty. To me, the taste is addictive- slightly sour, rich, and comforting. Just about perfect.



Very fresh burrata should be soft and supple on the outside. If you get one with a rubbery texture, that signifies that it is older, and of course- the fresher, the better.   I love to serve it with ripe, thick slices of salted heirloom tomatoes or garlicy spears of buttery crostini.

What is the food you can't imagine giving up?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup


While I have been waiting patiently for Spring to arrive, I am not able to break out my wedges and sundresses just yet.

Instead, New York has been hit with day after day of chilly weather and gloomy, gray skies. We even had flurries last week. I wore a hat, gloves and a winter coat and it is almost April! There is even another winter storm warning on the forecast for the end of this week. Unbelievable!!! All of this gloom and doom is enough to drive a girl crazy.

To cheer me up on gray days, there is nothing better than grilled cheese and tomato soup. It worked when I was five, and luckily it still works many (many, many) years later :)

The difference is that now, I make my own soup and it's certainly not Campbell's. Homemade tomato soup is so easy and satisfying. It tastes way better than anything you would get out of a can.

Homemade Tomato Soup
Ingredients:
3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine or grated on a microplane
3 Tbsp of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
10 Roma Tomatoes- peeled, seeded and chopped*
1 Tbsp Sugar
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste
A few stems of fresh parsley, basil, and oregano (do not chop)
2 cups of Water to start, plus more if needed **
1/2 cup of Heavy Cream (optional)

Procedure:
  • Saute garlic in olive oil
  • Add chopped tomatoes
  • Sprinkle with sugar and Season with salt and pepper
  • Cook tomatoes until they start to break down and release their juices, stirring occasionally
  • Add Herbs and Water
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, let water cook out until mixture is reduced by half
  • If too much water cooks out or it looks too thick, just add a little more water
  • Remove herbs
  • Add mixture to food processor and blend until smooth and velvety
  • Place soup back in pot and add cream if desired.
  • Re-season with salt and pepper.
  • Make some grilled cheese to go along with your soup and serve together.
  • Enjoy!
*   = To remove skin from tomatoes easily, carve an "X" into the top and the bottom of the tomato with a paring knife, then drop in rapidly boiling water for about 20 seconds. Pull tomato out of boiling water and put directly in an ice bath. Skins should peel off easily.
** = Can substitute Chicken Stock for a deeper flavor or Vegetable Stock for more sweetness




Friday, March 25, 2011

Easy Strawberry Banana Trifle

Shh- don't tell anyone, but sometimes, after a day of cooking for a living, the last thing I want to do is come home and cook for myself or my friends and family. However, I can't seem to stop myself from inviting people over!

It always seems like such a good idea at the time. And it IS a good idea, it is. I love my friends and family. It's just that because I went to culinary school and all, they expect me to make something..... 

So after a long day,  I often whip up a "rustic" (also known as super simple!) dinner and then go for a no-bake dessert. 

Trifles are a great dessert to make when you just don't feel like turning on the oven. They are versatile, quick, and can be made with whatever you have on hand in the pantry and fridge. Trifles are usually a big hit. For something that takes so little effort, these babies always get a great reaction from my guests!

Just take some pound cake, cube it up, and place it in the bottom of the trifle dish....



Layer in some juicy strawberries and ripe, sweet bananas...



Then add some vanilla pudding or fresh whipped cream.....


And maybe some crushed vanilla wafers for crunch.....


Repeat until dish is full and.....Presto! You have a trifle!

Enjoy!


What's your favorite short-cut in the kitchen after a long day?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bake Sale for Japan

Wondering what you can do to help the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami?

One way to help is to participate in the Bake Sale for Japan.

Bake Sales will be taking place all over the US on April 2nd from 10am-2pm. Professional and amateur bakers, volunteers, and customers that will buy all of the sweet treats are needed.

If you are in the NYC area, the bake sale will be held at the Brooklyn Flea (176 Lafayette Ave) and all proceeds will benefit Peace Winds Japan. You can find out more about participating in this event by checking out this page or e-mailing Lillian from Sweets by Sillianah at NYCBakeSale at gmail dot com.

If you are in another part of the country, click here for more information and to find out how you can participate in your city!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Restaurant Review: The Darby, NYC




I am going to start this post by telling you that I am not cheap. I don't turn my nose up at expensive shoes. I donate to charities whenever I can. I love giving gifts to my friends and family. I shop at Whole Foods.

As a longtime NYC resident, I am also used to the ridiculous prices at restaurants and bars in the city. 

So, all of that said,  when I signed up for a girls night out at The Darby, a new hot spot in Manhattan, I knew what I was getting myself into. I rarely go out anymore, so I figured "what the hell- how expensive could it be?"

You see where this story is going, right?

The $18 cocktails did not shock me. Nor did the $24 Tuna Tartar appetizer that was no bigger than a half-stick of butter. It wasn't even the fact that most of the entrees on the menu were in the $45 to $65 range.

What shocked me was a sentence printed on the bottom of the menu stating that a $25 surcharge PER PERSON would be added to the bill on Friday and Saturday nights for an "entertainment fee".

The "entertainment" provided was by a jazz band that played maybe 4 or 5 songs TOTAL during our dinner. They performed for ten or fifteen minutes at most, and we were there for almost two hours. I know this place is billed as a supper club, but I just found that to be totally ridiculous. If you are going to charge a fee like that, at least have the band play throughout the night!

OK now that I am done with my rant, let's discuss the food.

The executive chef at The Darby is Alex Guarnaschelli. I loooove her show on the Food Network and was very (very, very) excited to try her cooking. I was not disappointed!!!  I sampled the Waldorf Salad (with endive, apples, and candied walnuts), the Tuna Tartar, the Grilled Octopus (with cucumber, dill, and red wine), Grilled Wild Salmon with Sunchokes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and Crispy Red Thumb Potatoes.

And they were all very tasty- no complaints on that end.

While the food was good, I feel that you could get food that was comparable at other NYC restaurants and I could certainly do without the attitude the hostess gave me when I arrived, or the outrageous prices.
I will not be returning to The Darby. At least not without an expense account......

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Looking back on some of my recent blog posts, it seems I am always writing about booze. The good old days holding a Vodka and Cranberry. Making my own Limoncello. My time in Italy drinking  The Spritz. Tailgating at football games with Champagne Jello Shots. And a recap of the many, many cocktails I sampled at The Hurricane Club have all provided inspiration over the past few months....

I assure you, my friends, that I am not a lush, but when Steph, over at Okie Dokie Artichokie, reminded me about Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes on Twitter last week, I couldn't resist.




If you have never had an Irish Car Bomb, I will explain. First, you fill a pint glass about halfway with Guinness beer. Then you take a shot glass of Bailey's Irish Cream and Jameson's Irish Whiskey and drop it in. Then you chug the whole mess all at once, as fast as you can! Fun, right? Well, once upon a time, it was for me. I may have even won a contest or two for my speed at downing these little suckers.  Everyone has a hidden talent, right?

For the cupcakes, I  used this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen. They were a huge hit at the St. Patty's Day dinner party I attended earlier this week.



The Guinness-infused chocolate cake was moist and rich. The Jameson-laced chocolate ganache was truly decadent. And the Bailey's Irish Cream frosting was a nice accompaniment to tie it all together




How are you celebrating St. Patty's Day?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vodka-Spiked Whipped Cream and Cranberry Sauce over Pound Cake


Back in the day (when partying did not cause a three-day-long hangover) I used to strap on my highest heels, make sure my lips were extra glossy, slip into a borderline-inappropriate tanktop, and pile into a NYC cab with my girlfriends for whatever the night held for us.

Over the years, I have had many drinks of choice when I was out on the town. Before the more figure-friendly Vodka and Soda, or the always glamourous Champagne, there was the sweet but tart Vodka and Cranberry Juice.

Nowadays, a night of torturing my poor feet in stillettos in a smelly bar full of strangers does not sound like fun at all. To be honest, I prefer a bottle of wine, my couch, and my favorite people. Even so, I will always hold the "old days" very close to my heart. This dessert pays homage to all the good nights I had with a Vodka and Cranberry in hand.

This recipe is also easy enough that if you are nursing a three-day-long hangover, you will still be able to pull it off without a sweat :)

Vodka Spiked Whipped Cream
Ingredients
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tbsp of confectioner's sugar
1 shot of vanilla vodka

Procedure
Whip cream with electric mixer or hand beater until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add in sugar and vodka and mix until well combined.


Cranberry Sauce
From Martha Stewart
Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 apple, peeled and chopped
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup cranberries
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup sugar

Procedure
In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Cook apple with nutmeg until apple begins to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add cranberries, apple cider, and sugar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until apple is tender and sauce is thick, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 1 tablespoon butter. Puree in a blender until smooth. If too thick to pour, stir in up to 1/2 cup more apple cider.

Dessert Assembly
Use store bought pound cake, or make your own. Layer the whipped cream between slices of cake and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with mint if desired. Enjoy!!!