Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Fig & Goat Cheese Crostini

Source: Epicurious

Introducing the final Recipe of the Week selection for 2011: fig & goat cheese crostini, an appealing appetizer that would make a great addition to any New Year's Eve menu. These tasty bites are made up of toasted baguette slices topped with savory fig jam and soft, creamy goat cheese. I made them recently for a dinner party and they were a huge success.

Thyme, shallots and port give the jam a rich depth of flavor, which pairs perfectly with the creamy, tangy goat cheese. Topped with fresh fig slices, these crostini make for an attractive, refined presentation, but if you can't get your hands on any fresh figs, simply garnish with a few leaves of fresh thyme, they'll still look great.

The fig jam can be prepared a day in advance as can the toasts (although I don't recommend the latter), which makes this a perfect dish for NYE. For an extra special something, try adding some crispy prosciutto or a few drops of high-quality aged balsamic vinegar on top.

Source: Epicurious

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Cake Pops, Pt. 2

It's the one year anniversary of my original Christmas cake pops post, and guess what... they're back! This year, instead of Christmas trees and reindeer, I went with snowmen. They're so cute, you almost won't want to eat them. Emphasis on the almost.

I know the time for holiday baking is rapidly coming to a close, but good news: these are not Christmas specific, so if you can't squeeze these in before tomorrow is over, no fear, you still have an excuse to make them all winter long. I've posted instructions below, but if you need help with cake pop troubleshooting, see my original post, here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps

It's December, which means cookie season. Around this time of year, the web and blogosphere are overloaded with cookie recipes for the holidays. Naturally, I have racked up quite the list of cookies to try over the past few weeks. But when I found these Martha Stewart chocolate coffee delights a couple of days ago, I knew I had to bump them to the top of the to-do list. Dark, rich, chewy bites with a hint of espresso? Yes, please! (Plus everyone knows Martha is the original domestic goddess.)

I had high hopes for these little gems yet they managed to exceed my expectations. They were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. A delicious blend of coffee and chocolate, these cookies taste like Christmas. I made them for an office holiday party and they were a huge hit. They're tasty and festive- what's not to love? Resist the temptation to cook them beyond the recommended baking time. They may not look done when removed from the oven, but let them sit and they will firm up perfectly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cumin Roasted Cauliflower

During fall and winter, I love making roasted vegetables. They're delicious and super simple— even the world's worst cook could make them. Roasting veggies give them much more flavor than simply steaming or sauteing them. Almost any vegetable can be served roasted, but my favorites are cauliflower, brussel sprouts, peppers, asparagus, and tomatoes. Roasted veggies make for an excellent side dish, but also thrown together or on top of couscous or another grain, they can serve as a vegetarian main course as well.

Generally, the rule of thumb is to throw some olive oil (about 2 tbsp) and salt on the veggies and roast them between 350 °F and 400 °F for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the vegetable. The art of roasting is not an exact science, so if you're not sure about the temperature or time, just keep an eye on the veggies and watch for them to brown significantly without turning black.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Hot Chocolate Cake

Source: Tasting Table

This week's selection for Recipe of the Week comes to us from Clinton Woods of The Arrogant Butcher in Phoenix (via Tasting Table). Ever since I spotted this recipe for hot chocolate cake, I've been counting down the minutes until the weekend when I can give it a shot.

I love the idea of using hot chocolate mix to give the cake a rich and comforting flavor. I imagine biting into a piece and being transported back to the ski trips and snow days of my childhood, when hot chocolate breaks were a cherished treat. The use of olive oil is also unusual and intriguing, although not unheard of.

Also, I love food served in Mason jars, so I'm just as excited about the presentation of the dessert as I am about the recipe.

This dish would make a great finale for a holiday dinner party. Throw a mini candy cane or some red and green M&Ms on the top and you've got a dessert that's warm, comforting and festive to boot.

Source: Clinton Woods via Tasting Table

Monday, November 14, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Turkey & White Bean Soup

Source: My Father's Daughter

I'm really excited to share this week's Recipe of the Week selection with you guys. Not only is it another super tasty soup (I wasn't kidding about my whole soup obsession), it is also my first original Recipe of the Week! If you read D*lish regularly, you know that my Recipes of the Week are always taken from other bloggers, websites or cookbooks, but this week I happened to come up with a stellar recipe that I didn't get around to photographing. I didn't feel like waiting to share it, so here it is!

The basis for this dish comes from Gwyneth Paltrow's white bean soup (pictured above), found in her cookbook, My Father's Daughter. The original recipe is super simple and delicious, but I thought it could benefit from some modifications and additions, so I played around with it. I ended up adding some ground turkey, rosemary, Parmesan and spinach, and substituting chicken stock for vegetable stock.

A small portion of this soup is great for a light workweek lunch, while a larger portion accompanied by some bread and veggies makes for a warm and hearty dinner (I recommend caramelized brussel sprouts). 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Moroccan Lentil Soup

Source: Big Girls Small Kitchen

One of my favorite things about cooking in the fall/winter is soups. When September hits and Chicago transitions from dress to sweater weather, I begin to look forward to that first really cold, windy day when I can finally whip up a big pot of soup.

Soups are great for a lot of different reasons. In general, they are inexpensive, portable and keep well, which means one or two hours of work and you're set for the week. Also, they are usually pretty nutritious, and with a few small modifications you can make them lighter and healthier or heavier and heartier, depending on what you're in the mood for.

During soup season, I try to experiment with a new variety each week. I recently tried this amazing lentil soup recipe from BGSK, and it was love at first bite. I made two batches (each batch feeds 4) in the span of a week, and had to force myself to try something different instead of move on to round 3.

The soup in incredibly flavorful, nutritious, and surprisingly filling for how light it is. Added bonus: the combination of aromatic spices will make your kitchen smell amazing. I made a few small modifications that I think really amped the dish up: I added in about half a package of sliced mushrooms with the onion and carrot, threw in some garam marsala and ground coriander with the other spices, and put about 2 tsps of harissa in with the tomato paste. 

If you're into soups and/or Moroccan flavors, I highly recommend you give this dish a try!

Source: Big Girls Small Kitchen

Pumpkin Pancakes

My pumpkin obsession continues, next up: pumpkin pancakes. With the end of pumpkin season on the horizon, I'm trying to squeeze in as many pumpkin recipes as possible before it's over.

These pancakes came about one Sunday morning when I was craving pumpkin, but had gone a little overboard with my favorite muffin recipe (2 batches in one week was a mistake). I adapted my classic pancake recipe to include pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice, and added some extra cinnamon and nutmeg. And instead of a classic maple syrup, I put together a special pumpkin pecan syrup to go on top. Everything turned out wonderfully and I've made this recipe a couple of times since.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower and Couscous Salad

Since I started my new job, I've been pretty busy and haven't had much time to cook, especially on the weekdays. So, I've been scouting out dishes that I can make on Sundays and take to work the rest of the week for lunch. Luckily, my current favorite cookbook (as you all probably know by now), In the Small Kitchen, has tons of great recipes for workweek lunches that I have made use of.

I adapted one such recipe for roasted cauliflower and quinoa salad to make this dish, adding in one of my current obsessions—Trader Joe's chicken sausage. The sausage I used in this recipe contains an assortment of chopped veggies, mushrooms and Asiago cheese, so it adds three components to the dish with a single ingredient. Also, it gives the dish a little more weight and helps keep you full throughout the day.

The dish has a Middle Eastern flavor to it, thanks to the combination of couscous, olive oil, red wine vinegar, coriander, cumin and flat leaf parsley. The other ingredients work well with this flavor profile and everything comes together to create a really tasty and unique salad. Added bonus— it's a healthy lunch option packed with protein, vitamin C and whole grains. Plus, there are lots of great ways you can adapt the recipe to create different (but equally delicious) variations. Don't be afraid to experiment with the type of roasted vegetable, meat and grain, until you find your ideal combination.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dining Out in Chicago: GT Fish & Oyster

My sister and I recently enjoyed dinner at the hip River North seafood eatery, GT Fish & Oyster. I first heard about the restaurant through Tasting Table, which gave the establishment rave reviews and later invited owner and head chef, Giuseppe Tentori, to New York to participate in the 2011 Lobster Roll Rumble. GT Fish & Oyster sat at the top of my list of restaurants to try for several months, until my sister planned her first solo visit to Chicago, finally giving me an excuse to check it out and get my hands on the scrumptious sandwich I had heard so much about.

"It was a bold man that first ate an oyster." Source: Popsugar

I was a fan from the moment we walked in. The vibe is effortlessly cool and just the right mix of hip and unassuming. The decor is modern with a nautical theme that is tastefully done in a simple palette of blacks, whites and woods of different shades. Walking in, you feel as if you have just boarded the yacht of a well-to-do East Coaster. While at first glance, the interior doesn't seem like much, a closer look reveals the accents that subtly convey the space's maritime feel—the gigantic boomerang-shaped wood table in the front room, the sharks' jaws and oil paintings of sailboats hanging on the walls, and the enormous fish skeleton print adorning the back wall above the quote 'It was a bold man that first ate an oyster.'

The menu is divided into four sections—cold, hot, oysters, and not fish. Plates vary in size, but are generally small and intended for sharing. The drink menu boasts an ample selection of wine and beer, as well as a variety of inventive custom-crafted cocktails, such as the Waitlist (Grey Goose, St. Germain, Lime, Grapefruit, Bitters) and the Dark n' Stormy (Plantation 5 year Rum, Gosling's Ginger Beer, Lime, Cruzan Blackstrap).

The service was excellent. Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable and friendly, but not overly attentive or intrusive, offering his recommendations as needed, but otherwise giving us space to enjoy our dinner. The rest of the staff were equally friendly and professional. Plates were delivered and cleared promptly, and the moment we needed something a staff member seemed to materialize out of nowhere to lend a hand.

And, of course, there was the food...

Our menu consisted of:
Basil gnocchi • mussels • shrimp • sepia • cherry tomatoes
Grilled sea bass • crispy polenta • truffle corn sauce • roasted pepper vinaigrette
Lobster roll • lobster salad • toasted roll • fried onions
Key lime pie • key lime curd • gingersnap crust • toasted marshmallow meringue

Sea bass & crispy polenta paired w/ a roasted pepper vinaigrette & a truffle corn sauce

I can't say our menu had any highlights, because that implies there were lowlights, which is far from the case. All four of our dishes were outstanding and if you asked me to pick a favorite, I don't think I could. The flavors were spot on and the presentation was creative and visually appealing.

We started out with the basil gnocchi dish, which was made up of melt-in-your-mouth potato and basil dumplings served with mussels, shrimp and cherry tomatoes, all in a light seafood broth, finished with coarse breadcrumbs. I had read rave reviews of this dish on Yelp and it still managed to exceed my expectations.

For our next dish, we opted for the grilled sea bass, a recent addition to the menu. It was served with two squares of crispy corn and mushroom polenta atop a duo of sauces and garnished with roasted red peppers and corn. The dish was light and heavenly. The fish was cooked perfectly— its thin crispy crust housing a succulent, flaky interior. The polenta added complexity, enhancing the texture of the dish, and its intriguing mushroom flavor was delicious enough to win over even the most avowed non-believers (including me, since I usually hate polenta). The duo of sauces—a delicious combination of a roasted pepper vinaigrette and a truffle corn sauce— brought everything together beautifully. A truly amazing dish.

Our last savory dish was the restaurant's highly acclaimed lobster roll— the dish that initially drew me to GT Fish & Oyster. It was made up of a hearty portion of lobster salad—succulent Maine lobster chunks tossed with homemade mayo, beer mustard, celery, basil, parsley and chives— sandwiched between two thick slices of deliciously buttery Labriola bread served with a side of crispy onion strings. The lobster was cooked perfectly, the salad was wonderfully seasoned, the bread was fluffy but still had a nice crisp exterior, and to top it all off, the portion size was generous. Amazing. In the words of my sister, "I could eat these all day."

The highly-acclaimed lobster roll- the photo doesn't do it justice. Source: GT Fish & Oyster

For dessert we opted for the key lime pie, because what dessert goes better with seafood than key lime pie? It was the perfect finishing touch to a truly fabulous meal. Both the presentation and the taste of the dish were spot on. It consisted of three layers served in a glass jar. On the bottom was a layer of refreshingly tangy key lime curd, topped with a gingersnap crust for some texture and spice, and finished with a light and airy toasted marshmallow meringue. One bite of those three delicious layers and I was in heaven. The proportions of the ingredients were perfect and allowed the tang of the lime to shine through without overpowering the palette with sourness. A great end to a great meal.

GT Fish & Oyster's take on key lime pie— a stunning and delicious dish

So, what are you waiting for? Get on OpenTable and grab yourself a reservation, before I beat you to it. Seriously...go!

The rundown
Price: $$$ ($31-$60 per person, including one drink, tax and tip)

Final verdict: I'm in love. Can't wait to go back and try more of their stellar dishes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Spinach Pie Quesdilla

Source: In the Small Kitchen

I'm back! It's been a while, I know. This is my first post of September and the month is already ending, but the past four weeks have been nothing if not hectic and full of exciting changes. I moved into a new apartment (goodbye Evanston, hello Chicago!), started a new job, and, to top it all off, I have a birthday coming up this weekend. So, forgive my negligence, I promise to be more consistent from now on.

Let's pick up where we left off—with a recipe of the week. Shall we?

This week's selection comes to us from the lovely ladies over at Big Girls Small Kitchen. I have nothing but great things to say about Cara & Phoebe and their recent cookbook, In the Small Kitchen, (as evidenced by my earlier Recipe of the Week post). To date, I haven't tried a single one of their recipes that I haven't liked...a lot, including my most recent attempt, this spinach pie quesadilla. It's essentially a frittata stuffed into a tortilla. The filling consists of egg whites, scallions, onion, garlic, spinach and feta, along with some herbs and spices (also, Greek yogurt, which I omit). The spinach and feta lend a Greek flavor to the dish, while the onions add a nice crispy crunch. Everything is fried up in a tortilla to make a pocketful of deliciousness. It's a tasty and relatively healthy dish and a perfect weeknight dinner for one.

Source: In the Small Kitchen

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Potato Gnocchi with Pork and Wild Mushroom Ragu

Source: Bon Appetit

This week's selection for Recipe of the Week comes to us from the lovely folks at Bon Appetit. I recently made this dish for my roommate's 22nd birthday and absolutely loved it. I had made gnocchi once before in a cooking class while studying abroad in Florence and it was a blast, so I decided to give these delicious dumplings another try.

My roommate is crazy for tomato-based sauces and mushrooms, so I was psyched when I stumbled on this recipe. I left out the pound of pork ribs, but added in extra sausage and prosciutto to preserve the dish's meaty flavor. The sauce was thick and super flavorful and the gnocchi, when cooked properly (remove them about 10 seconds after they float to the top, for some reason the recipe says to cook them for another 4 minutes after that, which would make them ridiculously overcooked), were soft pillowy pockets of joy. I will be posting the recipe for the gnocchi soon, but sadly, I didn't get any photos of the sauce, so no recipe post for that at the moment. Bonus: the sauce tastes just as delicious reheated a few days later.

Source: Bon Appetit, February 2010

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cumin-Crusted Chicken Thighs with Tomatillo Salsa

The chicken thigh: a truly underappreciated cut of meat. When it comes to chicken, most people go directly for the breast, skipping out on the best meat this bird has to offer. Sure, everyone loves a good piece of white meat, but dark meat is in fact juicier and more flavorful than its lighter cousin. Dark meat gets a bad rap as the 'unhealthy' part of the chicken, but the numbers don't lie— thigh meat is by no means bad for you. One unit of skinless thigh meat removed from a 1-lb ready-to-cook chicken (31 g) contains 65 calories, 3 g of fat and 1 g of saturated fat, where as one unit of skinless breast meat (52 g) contains 86 calories, 2 g of fat, and 1 g of saturated fat. So yes, thigh meat has slightly more calories and fat than breast meat, but you also eat less meat when you eat a thigh versus a breast. And personally, I think the small difference in calories and fat is worth the huge difference in flavor.

I'll admit, I too used to be a sucker for white meat, but my taste in chicken has evolved over time, and I have come to recognize the value of the thigh. It develops a delicious crispy exterior when roasted or grilled, and the skin keeps the meat nice and moist while it's cooking. Even if you prefer to eat it without the skin, the meat is great on its own, and is still juicier and more flavorful than breast meat.

The hidden gem of poultry— chicken thighs

This recipe is one of several I've tried out this summer using chicken thighs (see this Recipe of the Week), and I was impressed with the results. The meat is juicy and tender with a kick from the cumin-salsa verde combo, and the medley of spices creates an aromatic rub that packs a flavorful punch. The recipe makes plenty of seasoning, so save the extra and use it later on chicken breast, pork or shrimp.

I paired the chicken with my grilled corn & tomato salad and a side of grilled asparagus, which made for an attractive and colorful plate. While I did eat the leftovers for a few days afterwards, the chicken definitely tasted best fresh off the grill, so maybe not an ideal dish to leave sitting in the fridge. Whether you're eating it immediately or a couple of days later, make sure and serve the chicken warm and the salsa chilled.

Bon appetit!

Cumin-Crusted Chicken with Tomatillo Salsa
Serves 4
Tomatillo Salsa Verde
1 lb. fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1 fresh jalapeño chile, chopped
1/2 large white onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper

To make the salsa, coarsely puree tomatillos, chile, onion, garlic, water, salt and lime juice in a blender until relatively smooth (mixture will still be a little chunky). Transfer mixture to a small saucepot and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes. This allows the moisture released from the tomatillos to cook down. Transfer mixture to a bowl and cool to room temperature or refrigerate to chill. Stir in cilantro, cumin and lime juice and salt to taste. Note, this recipe makes 2 cups of salsa, so you will have plenty left over. 

I substituted the salsa verde on Epicurious for my personal favorite recipe

While the salsa cools, make the cumin crust rub. In a small, dry frying pan over low heat, toast the cumin, stirring often, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Pour onto a plate and cool.

In a small container with a tight-fitting lid, stir together all the spices with 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper. Cover and shake vigorously to mix. Note, you will have plenty of rub left over. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 1 month.

To make the chicken, combine chicken and oil. Toss to coat. Transfer thighs to a platter or baking dish and sprinkle evenly on all sides with the cumin rub. Set aside at room temperature.

Prepare a grill for indirect grilling over medium heat and brush and oil the grill grate. If you don't have a grill (or yours is out of gas like mine), use a grill pan set over medium heat and spray with PAM or another non-stick cooking spray.

Place chicken thighs, meaty side down, on the grill or grill pan. Cook, turning as little as possible (once is ideal to develop nice grill marks), until chicken is firm to the touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 175° F. Epicurious says 10-15 minutes per side, but it took me closer to 20-25 per side (this may have been because I was using a grill pan). 

Remove chicken to a platter and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve topped with the tomatillo salsa. 

The rub gives the chicken a crispy, brown crust that is visually appealing and tasty

Source: Epicurious, chicken, and salsa courtesy of Justin Keith of Food 101 in Atlanta, GA

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Caramelized Scallops

Source: Annie's Eats

I have been dying to try this recipe since I found it on Annie's Eats about a month ago. Even if I didn't absolutely love scallops, the presentation of the dish is so beautiful that I might make it just to look at it (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little). However, scallops are a little pricy and way too fancy for one of my solo weeknight dinners, so I have been biding my time, waiting for the right occasion.

The perfect occasion presented itself in the form of a weekend trip home and a Saturday night dinner with my dad. I offered to cook our meal and remembered the great scallop dish I had waiting on my list of recipes to try. This served as our main course, accompanied by pan-fried grit cakes with caramelized green onions, garlic and thyme.

Let me say, this recipe did not disappoint. The ingredient list is minimal, which allows the scallops to really shine. The pan sauce is to die for—the white wine, lemon and clarified butter combine to create a light, zesty flavor that complements the scallops perfectly without overpowering them. Plus, the dish lends itself to a beautiful plating that comes with minimal effort, making it the perfect dinner party entree.

A delicious and attractive dish that I will be making again in the future (hopefully with camera handy)!

Source: Annie's Eats

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Source: The Gracious Pantry

I just discovered this blog via Tastespotting and I'm obsessed! Blogger Tiffany has taken on the challenge of trying to come up with 365 different ways to eat oatmeal, an undertaking she has dubbed The Oatmeal Project. Such a cool concept! It's a simple but inspired idea that I can really appreciate, considering I eat oatmeal for breakfast every single morning.

This particular variation of the breakfast staple is entitled Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal and could not look better to me. Three of my favorite foods in one place– oatmeal, pecans and pumpkin. I cannot wait to try this out!

Head on over to The Gracious Pantry to check out The Oatmeal Project and share your favorite way to eat oatmeal!

Source: The Gracious Pantry

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grilled Corn & Tomato Salad

Can you believe this is my very first original recipe post, after almost a year of blogging? Crazy, I know. As much as I hate to admit it, I've always been more of a recipe follower than a recipe creator. It's not something I'm proud of. As someone who is completely enamored with all things food, I feel like I should enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and coming up with new recipes. But no, I'm a huge perfectionist with a crazy eye for detail, which means that creating recipes out of thin air, a task that practically guarantees imperfection, is not something that comes naturally to me.

But, that's something I've been trying to work on recently. While my precision and OCD-like tendencies have allowed me to excel in baking, they have not made me a great cook. I don't think I can improve my cooking beyond a certain point until I learn to let go a little and play around with things in the kitchen, accepting that my creations won't always turn out well. So, here I go...

The colorful components of this dish make a beautiful summer salad

This recipe screams summer. It's fresh, colorful and, most importantly, it involves grilling. I made it to accompany cumin-crusted chicken thighs with tomatillo salsa, so I tried to give it some Mexican flair. The combination of jalapeños, cilantro, cumin and lime juice did just that and provided a perfect balance of spice, tang and earthiness. When combined, the colorful components of this summer salad make a dish that is a treat for the eyes and the palate.

Next time I might try adding some avocado chunks, but otherwise I thought it was perfect.

Bon appetit!

Grilled Corn & Tomato Salad
Serves 4
4 ears corn
1-2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup red onion, chopped
2 small jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
4 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp good quality olive oil
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 tsp cumin
Coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper

Grill corn, husks on. Let cool. Using a sharp knife, cut the corn off the cob by holding the cob vertically on a cutting board or in a large bowl and slicing downwards using a sharp knife.

Combine all ingredients, including the corn, in a medium sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Source: D*lish original

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Peanut Butter & Bacon Cookies

Peanut butter = good. Bacon = good. Peanut butter x bacon = good2.

If you haven't tried this sweet and salty combo, you may be doubting me right now, but have I ever led you astray? Give this unlikely flavor duo a chance, and I promise you will love it. The rich nutty taste of the peanut butter complements the savory saltiness of the bacon perfectly. And of course putting it all in cookie form doesn't hurt.

I made these for my friend who is a major peanut butter junkie and she described them as a "wonderful mix of cookie/granola bar/can of yummy salty nuts." Well said. In addition to being really delicious, these cookies are super simple to make, require very few ingredients, and keep well for about a week after they're made, which makes the recipe a definite keeper.

The only change I would make for next time is to use creamy peanut butter instead of chunky. I think it would make for a better textured cookie. Otherwise, the recipe is perfect.

You want a bite, don't you?

Bon appetit!

Peanut Butter & Bacon Cookies
Makes 25 small cookies
1 cup all-natural peanut butter, chunky or creamy
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling the cookies in
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
7 slices of bacon

In a skillet, cook bacon over medium high heat to desired doneness. Remove to paper towels or newspaper to soak up any extra grease. Cool and dice. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream peanut butter and sugars until well combined, about 2 minutes. Add egg and baking soda and continue to mix for 2 more minutes. Fold in cooked bacon.

Roll dough into equal-sized balls, about one heaping tablespoonful per cookie for small cookies. Place on a cookie sheet equipped with a baking mat or greased with butter. For additional decoration, create a criss-cross pattern on the cookies with a fork (this works better with larger cookies, smaller cookies tend to fall apart).

Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Source: Joy the Baker

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blueberry Crisp

Crisps are my absolute favorite thing to bake during the summer. They are fruit-filled desserts made with a yummy streusel or crumb topping. A crisp is the perfect way to enjoy the season's fresh fruit and only takes about 15 minutes to make. It is the perfect dessert for a summer dinner party– tasty, refreshing and relatively hassle-free. 

My love affair with crisps began one summer with this recipe for peach and raspberry crisp from the Barefoot Contessa. Since then, I have made crisps galore, but I never deviate from Ina's topping recipe. It's just so amazing and addictive that I can't bring myself to try any other variation.

A crisp is covered with a streusel topping while a cobbler has biscuit dough dropped on top

I have ventured to experiment with different types of fruit fillings, and Martha Stewart's blueberry filling tops the list, making this my second favorite crisp recipe behind Ina's. So, during the summer while I wait impatiently for the height of peach season, I stock up on blueberries at the farmers' market and keep this recipe handy at all times.

No one can resist a generous helping of warm blueberry crisp topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's the perfect ending to a summer meal and tastes just as great reheated the next day, which means you get to enjoy all the leftovers. Score!

Bon appetit!

Blueberry Crisp
Serves 8-10
6 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (a little more than 3 pints)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp plus a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp coarse salt

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 lb. cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 375° F. To make the filling, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir. Transfer mixture to a 8 x 11.5-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

To make the topping, combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed until the mixture has come together and is crumbly and the butter chunks are pea-sized. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the blueberry mixture. Note: this recipe makes a lot of topping. That's my favorite part of the dish, but if you're not as crazy about it, freeze the leftovers for later use.

Bake until bubbling in the center and brown on top, about 1 hour. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving (with vanilla ice cream, obviously). To prep ahead of time, let cool and then refrigerate. Reheat at 350° or 375° F for about 20 minutes or until warm.

This crisp tastes just as great after a few days, so reheat some of the leftovers and treat yourself

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart & The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Monday, July 25, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Provençal Baked Chicken

Source: In the Small Kitchen

A couple of my friends came to visit recently, and in honor of their last night I cooked dinner for everyone. For our main dish, I made this provençal baked chicken from In the Small Kitchen, a cookbook by the authors of Big Girls Small Kitchen, an amazing blog for quarter life cooks. Since the dish graces the cover of the book, I figured it must be good. I was dead on– the chicken was stellar. Kalamata olives, dried figs, oregano, tomatoes, garlic and parsley come together to give the dish a great Mediterranean flavor.

The chicken is baked skin on in a bath of white wine, olive oil and red wine vinegar, which not only keeps it moist and tender, but also makes for plenty of amazing sauce to pass around with the chicken. It's an impressive looking dish that isn't overly complicated to make, perfect for a dinner party.

Can't wait to make this dish again and take some pictures for a recipe post!

Source: In the Small Kitchen

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread

This may seem odd, but ever since I began baking, I've been intimidated by bread. Well, at least yeasted bread. Breakfast bread I can do. Give me a recipe for banana bread and I'll whip it right up, but not yeasted bread. With all the kneading and rising and rolling, it has always been incredibly daunting to me, my personal Everest, if you will. But last week, it was finally time for me to face the challenge.

I had run out of excuses– I had a spacious kitchen with an island perfect for kneading and rolling, my mother's old rolling pin (she was an incredible baker and even ground her own wheat, intense!), yeast in the pantry, and, thanks to my lack of AC, a nice warm place to allow my dough to rise.

Initially, I had planned to use a recipe from my KitchenAid cookbook of baking basics, but as I was measuring out my flour, I noticed I only had fresh milk and the recipe called for dried milk. So, I was forced to search online for a whole wheat bread recipe using fresh milk, which was surprisingly tricky to find.

Eventually, I wound up with this recipe from some random website, but I was pleased with how it turned out. Certain directions are vague. For instance, “Stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.” What is a soft dough? How soft is soft? I have absolutely no idea, so I just played around with it a little bit.

The only major problem I encountered was the outside of the bread was very crusty, while the inside was still a little underdone. Not sure how to fix that. I think I’ll try out a different recipe next time. Overall, I really enjoyed my first bread-making experience, especially that whole kneading thing. Glad I finally gave bread baking a chance!

Try a slice of this bread fresh out of the oven with some blueberry preserves

Bon appetit!

Whole Wheat Bread 
Makes 2 loaves
8 cups whole wheat flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 3 1/2 cups flour, undissolved yeast and salt. Heat milk, water, honey and oil until very warm (120-130° F). Gradually, add to dry ingredients. Using the dough hook, beat for 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add 1 cup of flour and beat for another 2 minutes at high speed, continuing to scrape down the bowl. With a spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Continue to mix for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5-6 minutes. 

For a great instructional video on kneading check out this tutorial on Epicurious

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Loosely cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45-60 minutes. Punch dough down. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Roll each into a 12 x 7" rectangle. Beginning at the short end of each rectangle, roll up tightly. Pinch the seams and ends to seal. Place, seam sides down, in two greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" loaf pans. Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 30-60 minutes.

Bake at 375° F for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove and transfer to wire racks to cool.

I like that this bread is nice and crusty on the outside but soft on the inside

Source: cdkitchen

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dining Out in Chicago: Girl & the Goat

After almost a year of waiting, I finally had the pleasure of dining at Girl & the Goat, Top Chef Chicago winner Stephanie Izard's restaurant dedicated to "serving fun foods and craft beers in a rustic and bad ass environment." The West Loop hot spot has generated quite the buzz since it appeared on the scene last July, so I definitely had high expectations going into the night.

GATG did not disappoint. The location, situated along the Randolph Street Restaurant Corridor, is a former industrial building that has been transformed into a stunning space complete with exposed beams, a beautiful French oak bar and a creepy albeit eye-catching painting of a girl and a goat. The decor can be described as clean and simple with a gritty edge. The combination of coffee tones and burnt wood gives the space a warm, homey feel while still maintaining a trendy vibe.

Note the eerie wall decor. Source: Saveur

The menu is broken down into three sections–vegetables, seafood and meat, and is accompanied by a specials menu which features signature breads (baked in house daily), goat dishes and oyster dishes. Dishes are meant to be shared, family-style, and the staff recommend 2 to 3 dishes per diner. The drink menu includes craft beers (occasionally there's even a brew crafted by Izard herself), wines blended in house, and GATG custom cocktails.

The service was excellent. From the hostesses to the bus boys, the staff could not have been more warm or friendly. Our server was extremely knowledgeable and she guided us through the entire menu, making recommendations and reigning us in when we got a little carried away ordering.

But, enough of my chatter. Let's get to the fun stuff...the food

Our meal consisted of:
Bread & Oysters
Chicken little bread • carrots • chicken liver butter • carrot butter
Wood fired tomahawk oysters • horseradish • bacon • preserved lemon
Roasted cauliflower • pickled peppers • pine nuts • mint
Roasted asparagus • rogue river smokey blue • shaved radish • crispy onion
Roasted beets • green beans • white anchovy • avocado creme frâiche 
Seared scallops • brown butter XO • bok choy • shiitakes • white asparagus
Crisp calamari • rabbit ravioli • spring onions • red watercress
Fried soft shell crab • pickled ramps • zucchini • chili lime
Wood fired walter's chicken • yuzu harissa • fried pickles • shaved brussels • grilled naan 
Confit goat belly • bourbon butter • lobster n' crab • fennel
Bittersweet chocolate cake • shiitake gelato • toffee creme frâiche 
Ganache pork fat doughnuts • yuzu blackberries • salted oat streusel • malted vanilla gelato
Rhubarb • lemon gelato • salted graham cracker crumbs • panna cotta

Owner, Stephanie Izard & my favorite dish, the seared scallops. Source: Chicago Magazine

The standouts of the evening were the roasted cauliflower, the scallops, the soft shell crab, the goat belly and the bittersweet chocolate cake.

The roasted cauliflower was stellar. I love any kind of roasted vegetables, but this dish went above and beyond. The pine nuts and mint complemented the cauliflower beautifully. I never would have thought to pair mint with cauliflower, but it was a great combination.

The scallops were by far my favorite dish of the night. Drenched in a rich buttery sauce and accompanied by crisp shiitakes and bites of white asparagus, they were cooked to perfection. This dish could not have been executed more perfectly.

Runner-up for best dish of the night goes to the soft shell crab. It was so delicious that after eating one helping, we replaced one of our other orders with more of the crab. It was served on a bed of slaw and strawberries and topped with a chili lime sauce which gave it a hint of Asian flavor. The crab was succulent and overall the dish had a really fresh feel to it.

GATG is always bustling but still retains a warm, laid-back vibe. Source: Chicago Magazine

With the confit goat belly I had no idea what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The meat was extremely tender and slightly less fatty than pork belly. It was served in a rich, creamy bourbon butter with chunks of lobster and crab. Definitely a winning dish.

And finally, dessert– bittersweet chocolate cake with shiitake gelato and toffee creme frâiche. Of our three desserts, this was my selection, and I could not have been more pleased. The dish was made up of a deep, dark, rich pastry similar to flourless chocolate cake topped with a creamy gelato (I know shiitake seems like an odd gelato flavor, but I promise you, it tasted nothing like mushrooms) and finished with a sweet toffee cream and a pinch of something crunchy.

All in all, a meal to remember. My words don't do it justice.

The rundown
Price: $$$ ($31-$60 per person, including one drink, tax & tip)

Final verdict: two very big thumbs up, I would go back tomorrow if I could

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Sweet Potato, Arugula & Ricotta Flatbread

Source: The Kitchn

This week's selection for Recipe of the Week is a sweet potato and arugula pizza made using ricotta and Parmesan cheeses as well as some fresh thyme. Mmmm! This would be a great vegetarian-friendly appetizer for a dinner party. It's super quick to throw together, which is clutch when you find yourself without an appetizer 30 minutes before your guests are set to arrive or when you're exhausted after a long day at work but don't feel like ordering in.

Definitely putting this at the top of my list of recipes to try!

Source: The Kitchn

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tuna & Ginger Burgers

I'm back! It's been a while since I last posted a recipe, I know. I sincerely apologize. I had my hands full with graduation and the events leading up to it. It's been a crazy few weeks! It hasn't really hit me yet– that I'm a college graduate and what some would consider a 'real person.' I certainly don't feel like a full-fledged adult. Maybe I'm not, considering this recipe is coming to you from my parents' kitchen. Regardless, here it is– my first post-grad blog entry, tuna and ginger burgers courtesy of my girl Gwyneth Paltrow.

Naturally I am following up my last recipe post from Gwyneth's cookbook in which I confessed my love for her with another recipe post from her cookbook. I wasn't kidding around when I said I was obsessed.

I love the color of these tuna steaks

I could not have been more pleased with how this recipe turned out. I'm a big fan of tuna to begin with, but put it in burger form, mix it up with some Asian flair, and top it with crispy shallots, fresh arugula and soy & sesame mayo, and I'm in heaven. The flavors in this recipe complement one another perfectly. Each bite combines salty, sweet and bitter tastes to create a dish that packs a flavorful punch.

The recipe is super simple to put together and requires relatively little hands-on time. The only downside is the price of tuna. At my local Whole Foods, tuna runs about $20/lb. so expect to spend a pretty penny on ingredients for this dish.

The final dish with fresh cut fries

Bon appetit!

Tuna & Ginger Burgers
Makes 4
1 tsp wasabi powder
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tbsp peanut oil, plus more for cooking
1 lb. highest-quality tuna, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
4 hamburger buns
Fresh arugula

Soy & Sesame Mayo
1/2 cup mayo
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Sriracha, to taste

Wasabi powder, mustard and water make up these burgers' spicy base

Combine the wasabi, mustard and water in a small bowl. Mix well and transfer to a food processor. Add the pepper, salt, ginger, garlic and peanut oil and pulse to create a paste. Add the tuna and pulse until just combined– be careful not to overprocess the tuna, you want your burgers to have some texture. Form the mixture into 4 burgers and set in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to combine, at least an hour, up to overnight.

To make your soy & sesame mayo, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use. 

This soy & sesame mayo is tasty and versatile– use any extra to spice up a boring sandwich

When you're ready to cook your burgers, preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Add the shallots and sauté until they are soft and sweet and a little brown, about 10 minutes (watch them carefully, mine started burning after about 6 minutes, crispy shallots= good, burnt shallots= not so much). Set aside.

Rub the burgers with a little peanut oil and grill for about 2-3 minutes a side, to desired doneness. Grill the buns alongside the burgers. Slather the buns with soy & sesame mayo, add some sauteed shallots and fresh arugula and top with the burgers.

Source: My Father's Daughter