Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dinner on the Fly: White Peach and Beet Salad

Sometimes I am not a good cook.  It's true.  Sometimes I don't even want to turn on my stove.  But I will for the mere necessity of eating dinner during the week.  For a few weeks I will spiral downward into a vortex of mediocre dinners.  To make it worse, my kitchen is almost never clean.  Truth is I just don't like takeout food.  But somehow there needs to be a compromise between making a perfect dinner, following recipes and being faithful to my trusted techniques, and having Styrofoam boxes of greasy food delivered to my door.  I am trying to convince myself that certain recipes are so little work that there is no difference betwwen throwing one together and ordering takeout.  Although that isn't always true I am trying to get as close to that statement as a goal as possible.  Maybe even eating something that is sure to keep my kitchen clean.  I want what I want, right?  And who says I can't have everything?

Then sometimes dinner comes together. A new recipe comes from just eyeing a combination of goodies in the fridge. Maybe it's the season.  Call it an accident.  A stroke of luck even.  Whatever.  I barely turned my oven on for this one.  I did but barely.

I had peaches. I had beets.  At some point I new that I had crostini with a smear of goat cheese and a slice of nectarine.  I am not sure where but it was delicious.  Beet and goat cheese salad is one of my classic go to recipes.  See, it was all coming together.

On this day the beets and the peaches were equally sweet, thanks to our biweekly CSA share.  Still, I couldn't help but add a drizzle of sweet balsamic vinegar.  It's like putting sugar on your strawberries in the morning.  You don't need it but it is so good.  The added complexity of a tart contrast is what finishes the salad, in this case a little lemon and a dollop of goat cheese.

White Peach and Beet salad with Goat Cheese
  • one bunch beets red or white with greens attached,
  • 2 to 3 peaches (white or yellow)
  • 10 basil leaves torn
  • approx. 1 1/2  tablespoons of olive oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • approx. 1 tablespoon sweet balsamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • goat cheese (like chevre) for serving
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut your beets into cubes and toss with salt and a drizzle of olive oil.  Roast in a baking dish until tender.  While the beets are in the oven mix your oil, vinegar and lemon, mixing the oil in last ad slowly.  Allow beets to cool for 10 minutes then toss all your ingredients.  Serve with a dollop of goat cheese.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sweet Spot: Affogato with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

I am a girl of simple tastes.  Believe me.  I sound fancy with my duck confit carbonara, mango chili pops and my trips to fancy food markets but at the end of the day, I am all about vanilla.

I think that Nick and I have agreed that this has been our favorite dessert of the summer.  Affogato literally means drowned in Italian and it is what an Italian does to vanilla ice cream once they have poured espresso over it.  Oh how I adore the poetic language Italians have for food!  Really, I could bore you at a dinner party.  But I digress.  To make an affogato you take a scoop of very good, very cold vanilla ice cream and pour a shot freshly made, very good and very hot espresso over it.  The ice cream melts just slightly so some of it pools with the espresso. If you could buy this at a stand you may never order another Starbucks Frappicino again.  In fact, I hope you don't.  (Sorry Starbucks, I respect the health insurance that you give your workers but not your monopolizing and over sweetening our coffee tastes.)

Home Made Vanilla Ice Cream

A wise cook told me recently that if you are preparing something that involves a kitchen gadget you should look at the recipes that come with gadget along with its manuel.  The manufacturer wants you to be satisfied with their product so they are going to give you the proportions of ingredients that will get you the best results.  This rang true for my ice cream maker.  I use a simple Donvier freezer bowl maker (click here to see types of ice cream makers) one that my mom had when we were kids.  This is the ratio that works best for mine but if you have a different ice cream maker it may vary. 

For one pint:
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
In an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar first.  Then add the cream, milk and vanilla.  Then follow the instructions according to your ice cream maker.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Foodie Gifts: Fudge Brownie Recipe in a Jar

This isn't the first time I gave a foodie gift in a jar.  Once when asked of what she'd like for Christmas, an aunt of mine said that she always liked "consumables."  I personally could not agree more but you could chalk that up to our small living space.  Food can make a great gift and it is inarguable a consumable.

The first year I gave gifts of tasty goodies in a jar was Christmas 2008.  Like many others, it was an economically tight year for us and I was re-evaluating our culture of consumerism.  I thought a lot about all that had been bought and wasted in our lives and our society.  I should mention also at this time Nick and I had just been married with yours truly as both bride and wedding planner.  Which means we had a ton of leftover stuff from having bought everything we needed for the wedding a'la`carte.  Things like card stock from home made invitations to silk flowers to alcohol and cocktail swizzle sticks.  Four months later we had more vodka than we reasonable could (or should) consume.  I started giving gifts of flavor infused vodka for the holidays.  Than later pickles from the vegetables from our CSA share.  I would like to think I am getting better at which kind of tasty jar is right for which kind of foodie friend.

On to the present.  After all, there are no cranberry vodkas or pickled green beans in this post.  But this year's news of my becoming an aunt has set my creative gift making gears in motion.  Making things (food or other) has always been a way in which I show affection.  So for my sister-in-law, Stacie's baby shower, I found those old party planning shoes in the back of the closet.  The ones I wore when I decided to make my own invitations, table cards and wedding favors.  The result?  Fudge Brownie mix in a jar as favors for all the guests.  I think most of us there had a fond memory of baking something sweet with a parent or grandparent.  I hoped this helped keep that tradition going.  If you don't want to make thirty they also make a nice gift for one.

Fudge Brownie Mix in a Jar

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cocoa
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Affix these directions to your jar:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour a 9x13inch baking pan.

2.  Empty the jar of brownie mix into a large mixing bowl,
and stir to blend. In a small mixing bowl, combine 3/4 cup
melted and cooled butter with 4 eggs, then add mixture to
brownie mix. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Spread batter
evenly into greased baking pan.

3.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in preheated oven.
Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Inspiration Outing #4: Guido's Burritos in Ocean City MD

Food obsessions run in my family.  Being meticulous about good ingredients and creative with flavor combinations are inclinations that live under our skin.  I have already featured a few family members on this blog and the list will probably keep growing.

Ocean City, Maryland was one of our family vacation spots growing up. My aunt and uncle owned a small hotel on the boardwalk (now a super-sized hotel with two pools and a restaurant, all due to some incredible business intuition, see Tidelands Caribbean Hotel) and we were always welcome for a visit.  My cousins kept up the tradition of family businesses on the boardwalk.  Guidos Burritos is owned by two of my cousins, Rocco Difillipo and Danny Robinson.  Let me share our delicious meal and the fabulous time we had.

Guido's is such a breath of fresh air on this strip.  I love the beach, the sun and open air, strolls on the boardwalk but not the fried food and candy that is sold everywhere.  Really the last thing that is appealing to me under the hot sun  I heavy, greasy fried food and sugary snacks.  I can't tell you how refreshing it is to come of the beach and go to a sit down restaurant with food that uses fresh ingredients and good drinks, the like of which are seen below.

Guido's serves local, craft beers as well as some pretty tasty sangria and margheritas.

Here's the menu breakdown:  Burritos and Not Burritos.  If you are choosing a burrito (which I recommend), your choices are take on themes of traditional flavor combinations and americana favorites.  For example the "Black and Blue Burrito" that features skirt steak and blue cheese.  I had a burrito that featured Maryland crabmeat and sweet corn seasoned with Old Bay.  Dare I admit that I dug my fork into everyone else's plate around the table?  That being said, another favorite was the "Blacken Shrimp Burrito"  that has a refreshing pairing of cilantro and pineapple.  

Shown are the appetizers we ordered.  The "Salsa Trio" consisted of a traditional red salsa, spicy mango salsa and a green tomatillo salsa.   Guacamole was akin to Rosa Mexicano in NY  (which is actually the only thing I would order there.)  

At the head of the table is Danny joining us for lunch.  He is like a proud papa talking about this place.  Owning your own business is something I imagine as an ultimate creation, and here we are happily celebrating it.