Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bites in Montreal

This weekend, my boy and I went to Montreal to celebrate. For dinner last night we went to Peel Pub (Rue Peel), a sports bar where they stock dozens of beers. They have the standard Poutine (fries with cheese curds and gravy), as well as salads, burgers and hot sandwiches. My boy had the BBQ Bacon Burger, and I had their awesome BLT on crusty bread.

Today, before visiting the Biodôme (check out the pic!), we stopped off at
Moe's Bar & Grill (Rue Sherbrooke E) for breakfast. My boy got the No. 1 -- pancakes, eggs, and homefries. I got the standard 2 Egg breakfast with bacon and homefries. Both breakfasts came with toast and jam, and fresh fruit. I was so excited to see the fruit on my plate (slices of orange, cantaloupe, and kiwi)... Hehe. The service was good, the food was quick, and it definitely hit the spot!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tasty Tabouli Bowl

I just came across this picture from the fall, and I remembered just how much I miss tabouli and fresh garden veggies. In this tabouli bowl, I started with a salad of fresh garden greens and parsley, then added lemony tabouli with tomatoes. I also added some chunks of feta and freshly picked radishes (from a friend's garden!). Just looking at this picture makes me hungry! I love tabouli and cold salads because they are so refreshing. I think I'm in a veggie deficit...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Back to Dalí!

My dad and I visited Dalí again in Somerville, MA. We ordered most of the same things we did last time. The food was INCREDIBLE. The only problem with going there for dinner is that you keep comparing it to other restaurants afterwards and nothing measures up....

We started with:
  • Warm homemade bread with a garlicky (and a little olive-y) chickpea spread
  • Cava Sangria (Sangria made with Cava -- Spanish sparkling wine)
For tapas, we ordered:
  • Tortilla Española - warm potato and onion omelette... my favorite Spanish food
  • Pimiento del Piquillo - delicious red peppers with a shrimp stuffing
  • Lomito al Cabrales - thin pieces of pork tenderloin in a light and creamy sauce of Cabrales and mushrooms... my favorite dish of the night!
  • Langostinos a la Plancha - perfectly grilled prawns in their shells
  • Esparragos Blancos - white Spanish asparagus with two sauces
For dessert:
  • I had Flan de Leche de Cabra (flan made from goat milk)
  • My dad had Manchego y Membrillo (classic Spanish sheep cheese with quince paste)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pesto Pizza!!

I was looking for an easy dinner idea after a long day, and came up with this pizza. I started with a storebought pizza dough, stretched it out, and spread it with pesto. I added caramelized onions, roasted artichoke hearts, feta cheese, and drizzled the whole pie with olive oil. Tasty... :)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Biscotti Time!

Every year, my mom and I spend at
least a day baking biscotti, Italian twice-baked cookies. They're perfect for dipping in coffee, hot cocoa or tea. There are some flavors that we make every year, and we usually add a few new ones. This year's flavors are:

Cranberry Almond / Apple, Nut & Spice / Cranberry Walnut
Anise / Citrus Poppyseed / Cherry & Chocolate Chip
Mocha Almond
/ Double Ginger / Cranberry Pistachio
Chocolate & Peanut Chip
/ Tropical Trail Mix
Super Nutty (Almond, Walnut & Hazelnut)

Lemon Rosemary (savory)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Buttermilk Bread

I've been in a baking mood lately, but I've been crunched for time. I had a few hours on my hands, but I'm very type-A so I was doing multiple things at once and needed a quick bread idea. Not really a "quick bread" but more of a "shortcut" yeast bread. I found a recipe for buttermilk loaves-- a blended yeast bread. The beginning of the mixing process is done using a hand mixer. Very interesting process, actually. Before you know it, you have yummy loaves of bread, and your whole house smells like a bakery.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tandoori Night!!!

My man and I had dinner with some great friends (and their very friendly dogs!) last night... Tandoori chicken (delicious!), fried mixed veggies, perfectly-cooked basmati rice, pappadums, salsas and raita. Everything was tasty, to say the least. To drink -- riesling for the girls and beer for the guys. And for the perfect ending -- Indian-style mango ice cream. The atmosphere was complete with Indian music -- Anoushka Shankar. The best part, though, was cooking the meal together. Good food & great friends... The perfect start to the holiday season.

Big thanks to our host & hostess. :)

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Last night, my boy and I enjoyed a delicious meal at Euro (the link is for a history of the restaurant, but the website welcomes donations for Dzemila, part of the family that owns the restaurant, who was injured in a terrible accident). Euro serves up (obviously) European delicacies from numerous countries, including dishes made with veal, lamb, seafood, chicken, and pasta. We started with freshly made garlic rolls and a chopped salad. I had the chicken picatta with pine nuts and my boy had the chicken francese. They offer a selection of sides (mashed potatoes, fries, pasta, or veggies) and the salad and rolls come standard with entrees. We ended our meal with dessert: for him, the baklava (the phyllo dough is handmade!) and for me, a slice of good old apple pie. Delicious. The service is friendly, the food is make quickly, and it's an overall pleasant experience!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A soup to combat the cold weather!!

It's cold out... which usually means that I'm cold. Here's a soup that helps to bring back the warmth!

Chicken Sausage & Vegetable Soup
I begin by sauteeing some onion and garlic in olive oil. When the onion is tran
sparent, I add sliced carrots, diced celery, and chicken sausage bits (I quarter each link, then slice before adding to the pot). I saute until the veggies and sausage begin to caramelize. I add a handful of frozen green beans and stir everything together. I then add salt, pepper, and a few herbs (maybe oregano and thyme, or parsley) before adding chicken stock. I simmer the soup for at least 15 minutes (to let the flavors marry!). A few minutes before serving, I add a bit of orzo pasta. When the orzo is al-dente, serve away!

Soup tips!
  1. For a richer broth, I often add a chunk of parmesan cheese (after I add the stock) to the pot. Or, if you have the real deal, you can add the parmesan rind. Just make sure you fish it out of the pot before serving!
  2. For a flavor booster, add fresh chopped parsley to the pot right before serving.
  3. For soups with Italian or Spanish flavors, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over each bowl of soup.

Monday, November 5, 2007

T-day Menu

This is the first official release of my Thanksgiving menu. As is customary for me when it comes to holidays, this menu has been in the planning stage for weeks already. Here it is:

Turkey, roasted and stuffed with Citrus and Herbs
Sage Gravy
Stuffing with Chestnuts, Apple, Celery & Onion
Roasted Local Winter Squashes
Green Beans, roasted with Shallots and Hazelnuts
Potatoes, mashed with Roasted Garlic and Fresh Herbs
Biscuits or Rolls
Cranberry Orange Relish
Pecan & Squash Pie
Cranberry and Apple Crisp

Little Bites in Boston!

My dad surprised me recently with an invitation to a tapas restaurant... Last week, when I travelled to Boston with my parents, we stopped off in Somerville for tapas at Dali (Restaurant & Tapas Bar). Here is what we enjoyed:

  • Warm homemade bread with a garlicky chickpea spread
  • Plato Mixto - a selection of Spanish cheeses, Serrano ham, salami and roasted peppers
  • Tortilla Española - warm potato and onion omelette... my favorite Spanish food
  • Pimiento del Piquillo - delicious red peppers with a shrimp stuffing
  • Lomito al Cabrales - thin pieces of pork tenderloin in a light and creamy sauce of Cabrales and mushrooms... my favorite dish of the night!
  • Conejo Escabechado - red wine braised rabbit
  • Langostinos a la Plancha - perfectly grilled prawns
We washed everything down with fruity sangria (and for my mom, a cerveza). For dessert, we enjoyed Flan de Leche de Cabra... Flan made with goat's milk. Rich, creamy, sweet and delicious. Served with a berry sauce, it was the perfect ending.

Indian brunch!!

Earlier today, my boy and I enjoyed brunch at a local Indian place. Shalimar of India is a small family-run restaurant that serves delicious Indian dishes. The brunch is all-you-can-eat and happens every Sunday (11.30am-3pm). The buffet includes: both meat and vegetarian dishes (usually 6 dishes in all), pullao (basmati rice), bread, salad, little bites (like samosas or pakoras), all of the necessary sauces and chutneys, and a sweet rice dessert. For drinking, there is coffee (and maybe tea), and the never-ending glass of water. I also suggest the mango lassi, which is a fruity yogurt drink. It's creaminess helps to offset the spicyness of some of the dishes. I basically love this place.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sometimes a chef's salad can save the day...

During junior year of high school, I ventured to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein with a group of fellow students. Of course, we did the necessary tourist-y activities, including a trip to Schloss Neuschwanstein (pronounced "noy-shvon-stine"), a castle in Bavaria. To get to the castle, you have to walk up this long (and sometimes very steep) road. Of course, once you get there, there are no elevators, so one must walk up and down the stairs to get to all of the famous rooms. Since we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the castle, I have scanned a postcard that I purchased in the gift shop.

Anyway, learning about crazy King Ludwig (and of co
urse, all of that walking) really helped me work up an appetite. In fact, I was starving. After finishing our tour of the still-unfinished castle, we retreated to the bottom of the hill for some lunch.

At the closest restaurant, I chose the chef's salad because I couldn't bear to wait any longer for my food. As expected, it came out incredibly fast from the kitchen, and I think it was the best meal that I had in Germany. I know, it's odd to give such credit to a salad, but I hadn't eaten a salad yet that week, and I was feeling a veggie deficit...

The salad was incredible!

Mixed greens, micro-greens, herbs, radicchio, endive, tomato, pepperoncini, hard-boiled eggs, German potato salad, and tuna (the Italian kind that comes canned in oil)... All dressed with oil and vinegar. What more could a girl want?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Holy Manchego!

Earlier this week, I celebrated my birthday with my family... and with some
delicious food!

We enjoyed Pasamontes
Manchego cheese with membrillo and Gerard's bread. Of course, it was paired with a 2005 Monastrell/3 red wine by Diego Fernandez (also from La Mancha... for label, see right). Yummm....

The main dish was a pasta dish with roasted artichoke hearts and sundried
tomatoes. Soooo good. :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Local Prizes - Fall '07

This is the fall edition of my new blog series: Local Prizes. Every quarter, I plan to release a list of my local favorites for the season. Here we go...

Bloomy-rind cheeses from Willow Hill Farm. The cheesemaker cre
ates heaven on a plate with her lovely sheep and cow milk cheeses. Right now, the little sheep bloomy-rinds are not in season, but La Fleurie, a cow's milk bloomy rind is delicious and available. And the hard cheeses are soon to follow. My current favorite (it changes throughout the year, as the availability of cheese changes) is Summertomme, a bloomy sheep round that is coated in herbs. It is creamy, smooth, and delicious. It's great with a crusty baguette and fresh ripe tomatoes. Side note: I may be slightly biased here, but I absolutely love these cheeses. Each cheese is truly unique, and the yogurt is to die for.

Tomme Collins from Green Mountain Blue Cheese. It's a raw-milk tomme-style wheel, full-flavored and nutty with a sharp hint of pepper. It's delicious on its own, served with fresh fruit and crusty, or shaved over pasta. It's quite a find, and would be a great addition to a Vermont cheese plate. In fact, who needs a selection? This cheese stands perfectly on its own. Side note: Green Mountain Blue Cheese offers a selection of blue cheeses and washed rinds in addition to the Tomme Collins.

Feta from Doe's Leap. This is most definitely the best feta I have ever had. And coming from a feta addict, that means a lot. It is made with organic goats' milk and is salty, tangy and wonderful. It perfectly completes a Greek salad or a caramelized onion flatbread. It's great crumbled over roasted artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, and pasta. More commonly, though, it doesn't even make it to the plate. It's just that good.

Produce from the Burlington Farmers' Market. Vermont has a huge number of farmers' markets now, some on weekends and some during the week. Even in October, the selection is outstanding: root vegetables, squashes (winter and summer), melons, greens, beans, peppers. Who needs a grocery store when we have such great local produce?

We thought this was International!!

You may be wondering why I am writing about local foods and foods that I have made myself... Well, right now, I'm not abroad, and so for now, I'm doing the best I can. Haha. I will be headed to Spain in January, but until then, I'll write about what I can find and what I can make. Besides, isn't the USA a part of the International community?

Life of Pi(e)

Ok, it's inevitable -- as soon as I can smell fall in the air, I start to plan my holiday menus. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and for a few years, I have been preparing the meal for my family. Of course, my mom and my grandma help, but I have somewhat (ok, mostly) commandeered the holiday kitchen.

Let's just say that I already have a planned menu for T-day. I'm even testing recipes. I really do spend quite a bit of time thinking these things through...

So the last week has been all about pie. I've actually only produced two pies, but hey, they were both good. The first pie was a "harvest" pie, with apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, and a crumble topping. The second was an old favorite -- revamped. I'd been thinking about this pie that I made for Thanksgiving last year-- a double-layer pumpkin and pecan pie. It was good enough, but I had some minor issues. The pecan layer was pretty sweet, and the pumpkin layer was pretty boring (texture-wise). I felt that the overall concept was a good one, but that the details needed some updating.

My pie makeover:

1. Drop the canned pumpkin. Switch it out for some squash. I chose buttercup and roasted it myself, then mashed it with a fork but didn't puree it. I only added one egg, a little sugar and cinnamon, and then poured it into the crust. I par-baked it before adding the pecan layer.

2. Only use one egg for the pecan layer, and drop some of the corn syrup. I used less syrup, margarine, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for some spice. Overall, the pecan layer came out much thinner than usual, but that was fine with me. I'm not a big fan of custard-y pies anyway.

After baking and tasting the pie, I came to the conclusion that I had made all the right choices. The pie was not too eggy-tasting or heavy. The thinner top layer became a sort of candied nut topping, and the squash still looked (and tasted) like it was squash. Just what I had hoped.

The somewhat-Official Pecan Squash Pie Recipe:

1 pie crust
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 cups roasted squash (mashed with a fork)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp margarine or butter, softened
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup pecan halves or pieces

1. Pre-heat oven t0 350.
2. Drizzle maple syrup over crust and set aside.
3. Whisk together squash, 1 egg, and half of the cinnamon, then pour into crust.
4. Par-bake the pie for 10-15 minutes.
5. Whisk together the other egg, the other half of the cinnamon, the margarine or butter, and the corn syrup.
6. Add pecans to the corn syrup mixture.
7. Add pecan filling to the pie carefully.
8. Bake the pie until the pecan layer is set and top is golden brown.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Never Underestimate the Power of a Great Slaw!

Over the summer, I found myself with an abundance of cabbages (one always seems to get lost in the abyss that is our refridgerator), and I challenged my mother to a "Slaw-Down". She made a southern-style slaw to pair with BBQ, and I made an Asian-inspired slaw with a sesame dressing. While no actual judging occurred, I would say it was a tie (both slaws disappeared quite rapidly). This little cabbage-patch event spurred a small obsession in my culinary brain: I had to learn about slaw, experiment with ingredients and dressings, and of course, I had to eat more slaw.

I find that one can add nearly any vegetable or fruit to a slaw, as long as your final slaw meets one basic expectation: it has to have some CRUNCH to it.

For vegetable slaws, I suggest:

cabbages (red, green, napa...), carrots, peppers (cut into strips), peas in pods, beans, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, jicama, cucumber, radishes, celery, broccoli, fennel, scallions

For fruit slaws, I suggest:

apples, pears, Asian pears, stonefruits, pineapple, citrus fruits

When creating your designer slaw, think about flavor profiles. What will you serve with it? Does your menu have ethnic flavors?

For example:
>When creating a slaw to pair with spicy food, design a dressing that helps to cool your mouth, by using a little yogurt or another dairy product.
>If pairing with a burger or BBQ, add a little mustard to your dressing.
>If pairing it with Asian cuisine, add basic Asian flavors/ingredients: sesame, soy sauce, ginger, etc.

Be creative! If you don't have all the ingredients to make your classic coleslaw, re-invent it! Some of the most interesting slaws I've created are ones that I have come up with on the fly.

If you're a recipe-follower, search online for slaw recipes. The Food Network is a great resource.

Finally, here are a few of my favorite slaws:

> the napa slaw served with Smokejack's seared Yellowfin tuna and a little Tobikko
> curried carrot and pear slaw
> ginger-sesame dressed Asian slaw
> Howie's apple-fennel slaw (from Top Chef)
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