Saturday, April 11, 2015

Smoked trout toast with pickled onions



This smoked trout toast recipe is the perfect brunch food (I wanted to get this posted before Easter, but people brunch all the time, right?).  It's reminiscent of the whole lox-n-bagels spread, but with some tasty twists & turns (smoked trout is so mild & yummy, you'll love it).  I actually really like it for a simple dinner with a green salad, and it's a great appetizer when you are entertaining (it's really pretty...bound to impress).  

Don't let the idea of making pickled onions intimidate you - it takes 5 minutes and is foolproof.  They're beautiful & great to use in tons of ways - on burgers, in tacos, even in a fancy grilled cheese...yum!

I suggest using a baguette that is on the lighter, airier side vs. something ultra-dense for this recipe, or it can get a little difficult to sink your teeth into.  You could also do all the same toppings on toasted bagels and be very, very happy.

Serves 12

pickled onions:
1 red onion - thinly sliced
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 T. sugar
1 t. kosher salt

1 light & airy French baguette (not a super dense one)
softened butter

8 oz. cream cheese
1 Persian cucumber - thinly sliced
8 oz, smoked trout - torn into approx. 1/2 inch size pieces
2 T. capers
1 hard boiled egg - finely chopped (I use my mini food processor to make it super easy!)
1 T. chopped, fresh dill
zest and juice of 1 lemon
fresh ground pepper

In a small saucepan, combine red onion, apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil and cook one minute, stirring.  Turn off heat and let cool & pickle for one hour, stirring occasionally.  Drain off liquid.

Preheat oven broiler.  Cut baguette in half crosswise into 2 pieces.  Then slice each piece in half lengthwise, so you have 4 long pieces.  Butter each cut side.  Place bread on rimmed baking sheet, buttered side up.  Set the baking sheet on a rack set a third of the way from the top of the oven and broil 3-4 minutes or until lightly toasted (watch carefully!).  Remove from oven.

Spread the toasted baguettes evenly with cream cheese.  Then top with sliced cucumbers, trout, capers, hard boiled egg, chopped dill, lemon zest, lemon juice and a few grinds of fresh ground pepper.  Top with pickled onions (you won’t use them all - save the rest for another use!).  Then slice each baguette quarter into 3 individual size pieces for serving.  Place on a serving tray and voila!




Thursday, April 2, 2015

Strawberry-mint sparkler





The other day my talented, beautiful and amazing fellow blogger friend, Piper Chuthakeio (of the very stylish mommy/fashion/lifestyle blog Coconut & Bean) and I decided that we needed to get together for a little blog love-fest.  And what better way to collaborate than over a tasty, sparkly spring cocktail photo session, shot by our other talented, beautiful & amazing friend, Ashley Forchelli, of Ashley Forchelli Photography (definitely check out her work!).

We all think this super seasonal strawberry-mint simple syrup concoction with some bubbly Prosecco and a bit of extra oomph from  a little ice-cold vodka is the perfect alternative to regular mimosas for your Easter brunch.  It's also a great way to liven up a boring Tuesday morning like we did.

Here are a couple cute behind-the-scenes pics of me and Piper prepping the berries and having fun in the kitchen. Click on Piper's blog, Coconut & Bean for a great step-by-step photo guide of the recipe.

Berry slicing action.

                                
Cheers, my dears!

A stylish way to keep this yumminess chilled...
Quick tip: Make sure to allow enough time for the simple syrup to cool and chill, and Happy Easter!

Strawberry-mint simple syrup:
2 c. quartered strawberries
4 whole sprigs mint
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. water

1/3 c. fresh lime juice
1 c. ice-cold vodka
1 very chilled bottle of dry Prosecco or brut sparkling wine/champagne

Garnish:
fresh mint leaves
thinly sliced limes

Combine the strawberries, mint sprigs, sugar and water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  After 5 minutes, coarsely mash the berries in the pot with a potato masher to release their juices.  Simmer 5 more minutes. 

Turn off heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Strain liquid into a bowl, pressing berries with a spatula against the strainer to get all their strawberry deliciousness out.  Chill syrup in refrigerator (can be made up to a 5 days in advance - store in refrigerator).

When ready to serve, combine the fresh lime juice, cold vodka, Prosecco or sparkling wine and 1 cup of strawberry-mint simple syrup in a pitcher or bottle that you can keep on ice (you may have a little syrup left over - drizzle it on ice cream or pancakes!).

Pour into glasses and garnish with mint leaves and lime slices, if desired.  Keep chilled in the refrigerator or in an ice bucket & enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Triple-layer lemon cheesecake


This is a recipe I've been super excited to share and have been waiting for just the right moment.  Well, the time has finally arrived, as it was my husband's birthday recently.  It is my family's ultimate, hands-down favorite and most-requested birthday/special occasion dessert...the Famous Maggiore Triple Layer Lemon Cheesecake.  I inherited this recipe from my mom.  I'm not sure where she originally found it, but a huge thank you to the initial source, wherever you are!

If you've never made a cheesecake, don't be daunted.  It's really quite easy and straightforward.  Over the years of making this particular recipe and scores of other cheesecakes for food styling jobs, I've amassed a few basic tips that make baking foolproof and prevent cracking:

Cheesecake baking tips:

1 - Always use room temperature ingredients - cream cheese, eggs, and in this case, sour cream.

2 - Mix your ingredients gently, on the lowest mixer setting, until just combined, so as not to whip air into it, which can cause cracking.

3 - Always place a source of moisture in your oven under the cheesecake while baking...I heat up a kettle of boiling water and the pour it into a 9 x 13 baking dish set on the lowest rack of my oven right before I put the cake in.  This keeps it nice and steamy in there!

4 - Do not over bake your cheesecake.  Follow the recommended baking time.  The center of your cheesecake will be quite jiggly & wobbly while still hot, but that is ok as it will firm up as it cools.

5 - When the recommended baking time has expired, turn off the heat and prop open the oven door (I use a couple folded hot pads).  Cool for at least an hour (or completely) this way before removing and cooling the rest of the way.


serves 12-16

crust:
2 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. sugar
6 T. melted butter

cream cheese layer:

3, 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
3 T. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1 t. vanilla

sour cream layer:
1 pint sour cream, room temperature
3 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla
 

glaze:
1/2 c. sugar
1T. + 1 t. cornstarch
1/2 c. water
2 T. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On the lowest rack of oven, place a 9 x 13 baking pan of hot, steaming water - this will keep the oven moist while baking and help prevent cracking.

Combine graham crumbs, sugar & melted butter & stir to combine.  Press crumbs into bottom and up the sides of a 10” spring form pan.  Bake crust for 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix cream cheese and sugar and beat on low with the paddle attachment until just combined and there are no lumps.  Add eggs one at a time, again, using a low setting.  You don’t want to whip air into the mixture so don’t use a high setting on your mixer!  Add zest, lemon juice and vanilla and mix until smooth and combined.  Pour into crust and bake 35 minutes.

Mix sour cream, sugar & vanilla together in a bowl.  Gently pour sour cream later over cream cheese layer and spread evenly.  Bake another 15 minutes.

Turn off oven but do not remove cheesecake.  Prop the oven door open and allow the cake to sit in the slowly cooling oven for at least an hour.  Remove and cool to room temperature.

To make the glaze, add 1/2 c. sugar to a small saucepan.  Mix cornstarch into water and add to the sugar in the pan.  Add lemon juice.  Heat until boiling and cook for 2-3 minutes, until thickened and clear.  Cool.  Spread evenly over room temperature or cooled cheesecake.  Cool in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pork green chili


The thing that makes this pork green chili so darn special is the roasting of your own chilies.  This may sound hard or daunting, but it is not.  It couldn't be easier and the results will make you very, very happy.  (You can use the same method below to roast bell peppers - yum.)

I used Anaheim chilies only because they are mild and I still have spice-sensitive eaters in my house (still?!?!) but they were flavorful and earthy and robust and I loved them.  If you want to spice it up, you can use the Anaheims in any combination with the famed New Mexico "Hatch" green chilies or toss in a couple roasted jalapenos...feel free to play around with it!

Serves 6

3 pounds pork shoulder roast (aka butt roast - it's not from the behind!) - cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
kosher salt & fresh ground pepper
3 t. grapeseed or canola oil, divided
1 medium onion - chopped
4 cloves garlic - chopped
4 c. chicken broth
1 1/2 c. tomatillo salsa
6 Anaheim chilies
3 small potatoes - peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

Garnishes:
Greek yogurt or sour cream
fresh cilantro - chopped

Season pork with a generous amount of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Heat 1 t. of the oil in a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat.   Working in two batches, sear pork until browned on all sides - about 5-7 minutes per batch.  Remove from pot and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and turn heat to medium low.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7-9 minutes.  The browned bits in the pot from the pork should start to loosen as the onion cooks.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.  Return the pork to the pot and add chicken broth and tomatillo salsa.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a vigorous simmer.You will simmer the pork, uncovered, for about one and a half hours, stirring occasionally.


As the pork simmers, prepare your chilies:  Preheat the broiler,  place Anaheim chilies on a rimmed baking sheet and place under the broiler.  Roast chilies, flipping once, until skins are completely charred on both sides - about 10-15 minutes total.  Remove from oven and place in a plastic or paper bag to stream for 10 minutes.  Remove from bag and the skins should just slip right off.  Remove the stems and seeds and chop.  Add them to the pot with the pork.

After the first one and and a half hours add the potato.  Continue to simmer for another 20 minutes, until potatoes are cooked though, the pork is very tender and the liquid has reduced and thickened to a stew-y consistency.

Serve topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt or our cream and fresh, chopped cilantro.



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Smoky lentils with sausage & greens


I love lentils....they have endless delicious possibilities & are a great protein base for tons of different add-in's & spices.  I like 'em cold and mixed in a salad, hot and spicy and mushy with super flavorful Indian flavors, or as in this recipe, more hearty & stewed, mixed with smoky sausage, healthy collard greens and roasted bell peppers.  

For this preparation I like to use black beluga lentils (pictured) or French green lentils.  They really retain their shape and have a firmer texture when cooked than some of the other varieties.

I also recommend sprinkling on some Aleppo pepper when serving.  If you are unfamiliar with this spice, it's high time you picked yourself up some :).  It comes from a Turkish chili that has a moderate amount of spice, but also kind of an underlying raisin-y sweetness with a hint of salty tangy-ness (wow, that's a lot of adjectives!).  I sprinkle it on pretty much everything - eggs, pasta, pizza, any protein...click HERE to order it on Amazon...you will love.

Serves 6

1 t. olive oil
1/2 large onion - chopped
1 large carrot - diced
1 large celery - diced
2 medium cloves garlic - minced
15-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes - drained
2 1/2 c. chicken or veggie broth
1 c. black beluga lentils, or French green lentils
1 t. salt
fresh ground pepper
1 t. smoked mild paprika

1 t. olive oil
12 ounces pre-cooked smoked sausages
1 bunch collard greens
1/2 c. chopped roasted bell peppers

garnishes (optional):
crumbled sheep’s milk Feta
Aleppo pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the onion, carrot & celery and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Add the tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil.  Add the lentils & return to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

While the lentils are simmering, you can prepare your sausage & collard greens.  Pull the collard leaves off of their though stems and roughly chop.

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat.  Add sausages and cook, turning often until plump, warmed through, and slightly charred - about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan.  While pan is still hot, add the collard greens and sauté 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until they appear bright green and wilted.  Season with salt & pepper.

Slice sausages into bite sized pieces. Add sausages, collard greens and roasted bell peppers to the lentils and stir to combine.  Add more salt & pepper if necessary.  Serve in bowls topped with crumbled Feta and finish with a sprinkle with Aleppo pepper.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Blood orange mimosas



One of the best parts of winter is all the amazing citrus that is in season, and this particular beauty cannot, and should not, be ignored...the beautiful blood orange.  In fact, it should be admired, featured and celebrated.  

On the outside it looks only slightly different than a regular orange - it's skin can range from slightly blushed to quite wine-red.  When you cut them open, they can go from a mottled bright red/orange combo to a deep, dark (almost scary) blood-red.  When you squeeze them you get most insanely, intensely gorgeous juice ever.  That's right - ever.

I love to juice a ton of them for cocktails when entertaining because anything you use it in is instantly so darn pretty.  And tasty.  Last night for a friend's birthday, I mixed the juice with St. Germaine, vodka and Q lemon soda & the outcome was quite fantastic. 

Another winning combo is the blood orange mimosa (everything is so lovely with champers, right?).   Just combine a very dry Brut champagne/sparkling wine and the fresh-squeezed blood orange juice in a juice:champagne ratio you like best.  So simple and stunning - it would be an awesome, elegant drink for an Oscar party or Easter brunch.  Of course, you can always omit the booze and just drink it like as you would regular OJ!

I found that juicing 20 blood oranges gave me a about one quart of liquid.  Your results may vary slightly depending on size, juiciness, etc., but it's a general guide for ya'.  Enjoy!




Saturday, February 14, 2015

Roasted romanesco with currants & parmesan


In our last Good Life Organics CSA box (CSA = Community-supported Agriculture, a great way to get local produce delivered to you...check it out in your area!) that we receive at school, there was a beautiful head of romanesco included, and while everyone thought it was pretty amazing to look at, there was some chatter as to what one actually does to prepare this veggie.  Then I also saw big a stack of them at the grocery store and that did it... 
I was officially inspired to share my favorite way to cook this beauty.

Roasting it is so very simple and delicious.  As when you are roasting any vegetable, make sure the veggies are completely dry and are not crowded on the sheet pan before putting them in the oven, otherwise they will steam themselves instead of getting that tasty caramelization on them.  Also make sure your pieces are roughly the same size (in this case 1 1/2 to 2-inches) so they  all finish cooking at the same time.

Romanesco is very similar to cauliflower, so this preparation works equally as well with any variety (white, purple, orange) you may want to try. 

Serves 4, as a side dish

One large head romanesco
2 T. olive oil
1 t. kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

1/4 c. water
2 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. dried zante currants

2 T. fresh grated Parmesan
1 T. balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut romanesco in half through the stem.  Remove core and separate florets.  If you have any larger florets, cut them into approximately 2 inch pieces.

Toss romanesco with olive oil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Place in the oven and roast 15 minutes.

While romanesco is roasting, you can prepare your currants.  Place water, red wine vinegar and currants in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, turn off heat and let them sit & plump up for about 10 minutes.  Drain off the liquid.

After 15 minutes, flip the romanesco pieces and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes of roasting.  The pieces will get quite brown & caramelized, but don’t worry - that’s what makes it so delicious!

Remove from oven and immediately toss with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar.  Top with currants and serve.