Thursday, April 28, 2011

Winter CSA Cooking: White Bean, Pancetta, and Cheddar Soup

End of Season Soup
"When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."
-Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

If you truly love food, and you haven't read Hemingway's, "A Moveable Feast", please drop what you're doing, and set out to read it. You will not be disappointed. I promise.

False springs are common here in New England. Sometime in March, you'll get a 65 degree day, quickly followed by 6-inches of snow. March and the beginning of April can seem painfully long. Bare, dead trees dotting the landscape; your grass a shade of brown straw. However, as if by magic, and overnight, the rains come. It's cold, it's dreary, but suddenly you start to see green again. It graces the trees, your lawn, and the tulips start actually revealing their party dresses in hues of yellow, red, and white.

It's time to put to bed my Winter CSA experiment. I wandered to Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, New Hampshire for my first pickup way back in October. At that point, my bags were filled with bright fall corn and as many pumpkins as I could handle. As the leaves fell from the trees, kale filled those baskets, along with beautiful sweet onions, garlic, and the random kohlrabi. I learned new ways of preparing new produce. I found exciting ways to cook those dear and dear to my heart. I learned to love kale, a lot. I hope you all learned a bit about how to cook your way locally through the winter as well. You can see all the various recipes by clicking here.

Now, would I do it again? I definitely would. Having a constant supply of local produce all winter long was priceless. I did miss scouring the market for my own things, but it sparked my creativity to do different things with the items I was getting every (or later in the season, every-other week). That being said, I'm very much looking forward to the opening of the Newburyport Farmers' Market this weekend (details later in this post).

Along with the opening of the market, I'm happy to pass on that every Monday I'm going to be trying to help you all ease into local eating. No politics, no stigmas, just happy, local, yummy food. I'm hoping to help you stretch your dollars locally, learn how to prepare what you can find at market, and hopefully preserve some of the bounty for the long winter months. I'm so excited to help you get on this path. It's a fabulous change in your life that will not only enrich your kitchen, but your community as well. I hope you'll join me, ask questions, and join in the discussion along the way!

However, before we say good-bye to the winter, I have one more recipe to help you use up the last of those late winter/early spring vegetables. We'll nickname it "End-of-Season Soup", and you can pretty much change out the produce to whatever you have - greens, carrots, parsnips, whatever. I hope you enjoy.

White Bean, Pancetta, and Cheddar Soup
Serves: 4-6

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup pancetta, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 large parsnips, roughly chopped
1 can white kidney beans (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed well
2 cans low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 cup extra-sharp cheddar (I used Cabot Extra-Sharp), shredded

In a large dutch oven, over medium heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Once heated, add pancetta and cook until crisp. In the drippings, add onion and saute until translucent. Now, add your garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant. At this point, you can add your carrots and parsnips, and cook until tender about 8-9 minutes, stirring here and there so your garlic doesn't burn. Next, pour your beans into the mix and cook for about a minute before adding your chicken broth to the mix. Finally, season with salt, pepper and dijon mustard. Lastly, add your shredded cheddar and stir until it melts into the soup. Simmer for 30 minutes so the flavors can combine.

North Shore Bloggers Consortium Weekend Picks 4/29-5/1

Opening Day of Newburyport Farmers' Market
Sunday, May 1st - 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Tannery Marketplace, 50 Water St. Newburyport, Ma.

Yay! My home market is back and open for business! So many awesome local farms, artisans and vendors will pack the parking lot so you can pick up all that spring has to offer. There will also be live music and plenty of snacks. Please stop by!

The 6th Annual Newburyport Literary Festival
Friday, April 29 & Saturday, April 30
Various locations click here for details

This is an amazing event. It celebrates all kinds of literature from fiction, non-fiction to children's books and poetry. There's a opening ceremony at the Firehouse Center for the Arts on Friday night, and a breakfast and a TON of activities on Saturday. See the website linked above for all the details!

Pettengill Farm Open House
Saturday, April 30th, all-day
45 Ferry Road, Salisbury

Welcome spring with an historic flower farm that has been in their family since 1792. They strive to grow for you the latest and greatest in annuals, perennials, shrubs, and roses. On Saturday, April 30, please join Pettengill Farm for the “It’s Showcase Time” Spring Open House! This all day event will feature free mini classes from 10a – 12p, refreshments, prizes and more.

See what the other North Shore Bloggers have in store for you this weekend!

From Good Morning Gloucester’s Joey C, the usual fantastic round up here.

The wonderful Jane Ward has some great ideas, over at Food and Fiction.

The Two Palaverers have chosen some fine things for you to explore and you’ll find those here.

Check out what Seth of Lynn Happens has found for you here.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Butter Rum Blondies

Baked goods never, ever, go out of style when we're talking about a good welcome home gift. I've been lucky enough to spend the last week with family and friends on a cruise through the southern Caribbean. It was a magical, amazing, wonderful, soul-quenching vacation with the people I love the most on this earth. We've had a tough year. We've lost loved ones, leaving huge holes in our lives and families. In the middle of sadness, however, we've found renewed joy in each other. Life is precious, short, and meant to be spent with the people you love. This week we filled each other with memories, joy, love and happiness. I wish this for all of you, to truly find moments to treasure and embrace them and hold on tight.

So, I'm offering these Butter Rum Blondies as a welcome home gift today. It's reminder that although a week of vacation and fun times has come to a close, the memories stay with you. Trips are always a joy, but coming home is just as beautiful. I have memories to laugh over, and not to mention two adorable wiggle-butt pugs that met my husband and I at the door last night. I'll regale you with stories of our trip another time. I have to create a recipe to go with the sunshine of the islands. Right now, it's about coming home, sleeping in our own bed, snuggling with our puglets, and dreaming of the places I was lucky enough to just see, and the friends and family I got to hug tight.

Butter Rum Blondies
base recipe adapted from Baked Perfection
Yield: 16 blondies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Butterscotch Rum Filling (recipe here)
1/4 cup butterscotch chips

Grease an 8x8 baking pan, set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set the dry ingredients aside. Melt 1/3 cup butter in a separate bowl. Add 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar to butter and blend well. Allow this mixture to cool slightly, and then add egg, vanilla and stir until well combined. At this point, you can add your flour mixture to the butter mixture, a little at a time, mixing well. Finally, take your Butterscotch Rum Filling and your butterscotch chips, and stir them into the batter.

Pour your batter into your greased baking pan and put it into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Pin It

Friday, April 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza: Spicy Bourbon Smoked Pork over Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes

I think the husband who loves bacon probably thinks I'm crazy at this point. Luckily, he tends to put up with my crazy food escapades as long as he gets fed. About a week ago, a box appeared in our breezeway emblazoned with the Amazon logo. Hoping it was a treat for him, I had to inform him that no, it's not anything for him, but a stove-top smoker. Never in my life did I think I'd be purchasing a stove top smoker, but I opened that box like a kid on Christmas, throwing wrapping everywhere.

Inside, a shiny small Cameron stove-top smoker and a package of 5 different kinds of smoking chips. Seriously, there was no reason to buy so many smoking chips, but in general, I go overboard on things I'm excited about. Live to extremes, much? Anyhoo, it was all purchased for this month's Charcutepalooza challenge of smoking.  I'd have to say it comes up as my second favorite challenge so far (I really loved making bacon). I love a good, smoky flavor to pretty much anything - pork, salmon, even cheese.

You know what else I like? I enjoy pairing foods with booze. Isn't that an eloquent way of putting it? I felt a good smoked pork would play very nicely with bourbon. Well heck, what *doesn't* pair nicely with bourbon? I also enjoy a little bit of kick to my food, so I needed something spicy for this. Not too spicy, however, and it also had to be a little sweet. A little sweet chili sauce ended up doing just the trick. So I had the beginnings of some kind of marinade going here. I tossed a few other things in a massive Ziploc bag (fear not, actual recipe to follow), and threw our friend, a small pork loin roast, in there.

This is a recipe best planned ahead for. Ideally, you want to let that piece of porky goodness marinate for 24 hours. In a pinch, 6 would be OK, but you really want that bourbon flavor to come through, especially after smoking. Once it's soaked up all that flavor, you want to pat it dry. It's very important what you smoke is dry, otherwise the smoke won't stick. I did all this, then I got my wood chips out.

Now you could go "double-bourbon" flavor here if you have bourbon soaked wood chips. I did not, so I went classic and chose hickory chips for this endeavor. The smell of those things is seriously intoxicating.

Here's where I diverged from the road more often traveled. Most recipes for smoking a pork loin will tell you to trim the fat off first. I've never done well with a piece of pork that didn't have the fat still on it. It imparts flavor and moistness. No worries about the smoke, it'll stick just fine, and permeate that entire roast. I'll give you the smoking time down below, but you'll have to finish this one off in the oven. Smoking simply won't get it done the entire way. I was, however, crazy impressed with the Cameron stove-top smoker. It smoked perfectly, was a breeze to clean-up afterward and worked just right. I highly suggest it if you think you'll be doing a bit of smoking. Just please remember to take that baby outside to open it up initially. Otherwise, your kitchen will smell like hickory for a good few days.

So what's your reward after all this hard work? Look at that beautiful caramel-colored crust on that pork. It's beautiful, and I promise it tastes WAY better than it looks. It's smoky, sweet and hearty. It ended up being a perfect Sunday dinner in our house. It also ended up convincing the bacon-loving husband that I'm not entirely crazy because the food, well, it usually turns out absolutely fabulous.

Spicy Bourbon Smoked Pork
Serves: 6-8

1 2-pound pork loin roast
1 cup bourbon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (Frank's has a version, there also a ton of Thai versions)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
hickory smoking chips

Combine all bourbon through cayenne pepper in a large Ziploc bag or container (large enough to hold your pork loin) and shake until combined. Place your roast in the bag and marinate in the fridge 24 hours (you can do 6-12 in a pinch), flipping a couple of times so the marinade covers the entire piece of meat.

Once the pork is marinated, take out of bag and pat dry and set aside. Get your stove top-smoker going. (If you don't have either, you can do this with a wok or grill, see an explanation here). Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of hickory smoking chips in the bottom of your smoker. Place your foil-wrapped (easier for clean-up) drip tray on top and then put your oiled up (again easier for clean-up) rack on top of the drip tray. You can now put your pork roast on the rack and close the smoker up (see your manual for specific instructions).

Set your stove-top burner to medium and place the entire smoker on top. Turn exhaust fan to high. You will notice a whisp or two of smoke escape as the chips start to smolder. If you're noticing a lot of smoke escaping, consult your manual as to how to "tweak" the smoker so its seal is a bit tighter. Smoke pork loin for 35 minutes.

While your pork loin is smoking, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Once the pork is done smoking, take your smoker outside (being VERY careful, it's hot) and open the lid to let the smoke escape. Transfer smoker, minus the lid, into the oven (make sure your version is oven safe, otherwise transfer to a roasting pan or dish), and bake until brown, about 25 minutes or until your thermometer registers 165 degrees.

Take out of oven, tent foil over the top and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve over Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes and with Spicy Mustard Cream Sauce (both recipes below)

Mashed Maple Sweet Potatoes
Serves: 6-8

3-pound sweet potatoes (about 3-4 large)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (you can substitute milk if you'd like)

Boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 35 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle, but still warm. Peel sweet potatoes and transfer back into a large dutch oven. Over medium heat, add the rest of the ingredients and mash until you reach your desired consistency. Heat through until warm.

Spicy Mustard Cream Sauce
Serves: 6
Adapted from: Taste of Home

1/4 cup sour cream (I use Cabot's)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Can be made ahead and refrigerated until needed. Pin It

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hickory Smoked Ice: The Smoke Signals Cocktail Experience

Get ready folks, I'm about to give you a recipe for ice. Seriously, ice. When I began this blog, I never thought I'd include an ice recipe, but this, my friends, is special. You see, I've told you in the past about my year-long challenge of meat called Charcutepalooza. Nearly 400 bloggers at this point have taken on the pledge of learning to salt, smoke, brine and tackle meat like they've never tackled it before.

So how does ice fit in to this whole equation. Through Charcutepalooza, I've been lucky enough to meet a community of bloggers that are simply amazing. The information that we share is amazing, but the laughs and nutty ideas we share between us all, well, that's just priceless. Not to mention, this month's Charcutepalooza Challenge is all about smoking meat. Ice was just the logical next step, or not.

The smoked ice idea came from a Twitter conversation between myself, Brook from Learn to Preserve, Charcutepalooza Goddess Cathy Barrows from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen, and Janis from Bite Me New England. Brook found the link to the Smoke Signals Cocktail in April's edition of Bon Appetit. It was created by Evan Zimmerman of Laurelhurst Market in Portland, Oregon. After a few giggles, and a bit of taunting between all these lovely ladies, we elected to take on the challenge. We were going to smoke ice, and darn it, we were going to make this cocktail.

We elected Sunday at 7 p.m. was going to be cocktail hour for this smoky treat. We'd make it, drink it, and share our thoughts in the Twitterverse. Yes, we food bloggers, we do odd things like this and frankly, it's awesome. However, the treat turned out more "trick". The smoky ice, it's interesting, but this cocktail too sweet for any of our tastes. Janis pronounced it a waste of booze. Cathy says she and her dinner guests sipped and discarded it. Brook didn't make it and we applauded her for that and not wasting precious whiskey.

So the Smoke Signal Cocktail, the recipe is below, and you might like it if you like really sweet. The drink wasn't much, but the experience and the funny conversation was fun as hell. This blogger (with agreement from Janis) found the smokey ice to be pretty fabulous in just a couple of fingers of good bourbon.

Want to smoke ice, and I mean ice cubes, read on.

Smoke Signals Cocktail
Source: Bon Appetit, April 2011
Makes: 4 drinks

1/2 cup hickory wood chips (original recipe calls for 2 cups, you don't need that much)
Ice cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
10 tablespoons Jack Daniel's or other whiskey (I used rye, Crown Royal)
6 tablespoons amontillado Sherry
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

First, get out a large pot and line the bottom with heavy-duty foil, sprinkle wood chips over the bottom of pot. Turn your exhaust fan on high. Heat the pot over high heat until smoke starts to form in the pot. Now, take a loaf pan that will fit inside your pot (test this beforehand!), and fill it with ice.

Next, place the loaf pan in the pot and cover tightly as you see above. Smoke the ice until just melted, about 5-7 minutes. Take off the heat, bring that pot outside, and open the lid so the smoke escapes. Remove the loaf pan and cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in your freezer. Allow to freeze for at least 6 hours. When it's frozen completely, take out of the freezer and crack into four pieces using an ice pick, or as I did, dropping it out on the concrete outside. I'm not fancy.

Now, that is an ice chunk. Wrap your pieces up seperately if you'd like, then start on the pecan syrup. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup water and your sugar until the sugar dissolves. Next, add the pecans and reduce heat to minimum and simmer until the syrup tastes like pecans. Pour mixture through a strainer into a cup and chill until cold, about 2 hours.

Finally, after all of this. Pour 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons pecan syrup into a cocktail shaker. Fill with plain ice cubes, cover and shake until cold. Divide the concoction between two old-fashioned glasses. Repeat with remaining ingredients and drop a block of your smoked ice into it. Pin It

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Butter Rum Pop Tarts

Butterscotch is a personal thing. Some people absolutely love it, others abhor it. It's kind of like eggnog in that way. Me, I could pop butterscotch morsels in my mouth all day long and be perfectly happy with the sweet sensation. Here's a secret. Something I love is Butter Rum Lifesavers. That happy little candy has the perfect little flavoring. I thought if I could come up with a filling that mirrored those little hard candy delights, I'd be business.

I'll admit to also having a small fascination with Pop Tarts. I don't think I've had one since I was a kid, but those sugar filled pastry pockets always do tempt me. I don't buy the ones in the store anymore, too much sugar and artificial whatever that I can't pronounce off the label. Not to mention, the ones you buy in the store, well you can't make an, ahem, "adult" version of. These babies needed rum, the real stuff. So, I set out to make my own here at home. It's not a hard process, amazingly, even this sometimes pastry-challenged baker can make it happen.

Speaking of being pastry-challenged, this one did fight back a little bit. You see, I'm silly and I don't have a pastry mat to roll this dough out onto to. I'm constantly fighting pieces of dough tearing and sticking to my "well-floured" surface. I know I'm not alone out there in saying, I'm just not good at rolling dough out. I never can get it to the right size or shape. I'm waving the white flag and saying I need a good teacher for this process. I can't be alone, right?

Luckily this recipe is forgiving and while I didn't get the right amount of pop tarts out of it, I came close. I think I'd make these into mini-versions next time anyway, a few bites is just enough.

Butter Rum Pop Tarts
Makes: 6-9 pop tarts

Source: Smitten Kitchen via King Arthur Flour
2 cups (8.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk

1 additional large egg (for brushing the pastry)

Butterscotch Rum Filling
Adapted from: Diana's Kitchen from Homemade Happiness, St Anne's Parish, Caribou, Maine.
(this will make more than you need. half it if you'd like or find another use for it!)
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk, warmed
2 eggs yolks, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butterscotch morsels
1 1/2 tablespoons dark spiced rum (you can omit or subsitiute a teaspoon of rum extract)

To make the filling
Set up a double-boiler, and in the top, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk. Whisk until it all thickens. Next, add your egg yolks, constantly whisking so they don't cook. It will thicken even further. Once that happens, remove from the heat, stir in butter, vanilla and butterscotch morsels. Finally, add your rum, stirring well and set aside. You can also refrigerate this for several days and use whenever needed.

To Make the Dough
In a large bowl (or a food processor bowl), whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Now, using your fingers, pastry blender or the food processor (as I did), work those pats of butter in. You'll still be able to see lumps of butter and if you pinch the dough, it should hold together. If you used a food processor, like I did, pour the mixture into another large bowl at this point. Whisk together one egg and your milk and then add them to the dough. Mix with a large spoon until everything is well-combined. If you're not getting it to stick together, you can knead the dough a bit on a well-floured surface (I did have to to do this, the dough is fairly crumbly).

Divide your dough ball in half and shape each into a smooth rectangle about 3x5 inches big. You can now roll this out or throw it in the fridge for a couple of days. If you do work with it after being chilled, let it come back up to room temperature before you roll it out.
Assembling the Pop Tarts
If you're rolling it out now, flour up your work surface and roll it into a 9x12" rectangle about 1/8th of an inch thick. I'm not a skilled dough roller, so I couldn't get it to 9x12", no worries, you'll just have smaller pop tarts or less of them.  Repeat this with your second batch of dough. At this point, cut your large rectangles into thirds, getting nine 3x4" rectangles.

In a small bowl, beat your second egg and brush it over each of your rectangles, covering one whole side of each. That's the inside of your tart, the egg will act as glue to hold it all together.

Now place a large scoop of your filling in the middle of half of your rectangle. Make sure you leave a half inch around the filling or it will seep out. Now, place another piece of dough on top of each, sealing around the filling with your fingers. Press a fork around the edges to get that "pop-tart" design on each and make sure you prick each to allow steam to escape while cooking.

Place the tarts carefully on a lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate them on that sheet for about 30 minutes. Now preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Baking the Tarts
Bake your tarts for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on the top. You will probably have some liquid escape in this process. It's ok, your dough actually will not be soggy. Once golden brown, using a spatula, remove pop tart carefully to a wire baking rack to cool a bit, then enjoy!

Note: You can use this pastry dough and fill it with just about anything. It's super versatile and I could see making some mean "hot pockets" with cheese and veggies. Try it, if you do, report back and let me know how it all went. Pin It

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Boston Brunchers: Biltmore Bar and Grille

Brunch, in my book, should begin with a good brunch cocktail. The Biltmore Bar and Grille in Newton did not disappoint with samplings of beautiful mimosas and bloody marys. The Biltmore is the kind of spot you want in your neighborhood. It's homey, down to the mismatched coffee cups and the kind of bar you'd like to belly up to a few times a week. Don't let the comfort level fool you, however, the food is serious.

This neighborhood gem of a restaurant was the location for this month's Boston Brunchers event with a twist. Boston Brunchers is a group of Boston-area food bloggers who basically get together to find great brunch spots and chat about all things food, and not. This month was special. Each blogger chosen got to pick or giveaway another spot to a blogger who had not yet been to such an event. In my case, Amanda from The Wineing Woman was my guest. It was a great chance to chat and meet with bloggers, old and new, for what turned out to be an amazing meal. We were treated to a five-course *tasting* menu that had us all rolling out of there, full and content.

After a round of cocktail samples and coffee, we were on to the food. The epic meal began with a lobster frittata. Boston Brunchers' organizer, Renee, kept noticing how the entire table of happily chatting and twittering bloggers went silent with the presentation of each course.

Don't let this harmless looking poached egg fool you, it was my favorite of the entire tasting menu. The egg, perfectly poached, sat on top of a buttery, flaky, chive biscuit. When you broke into this egg, the yolk was perfectly running, soaking into the biscuit, creating an amazing combination.

The hits didn't stop there, however. We all sat there commenting about how we just wanted to leave room for all the courses, but plates were definitely cleaned. The third course, Biltmore's take on "pigs in a blanket". A perfect maple sausage wrapped in a crepe-like pancake served with their own apple-maple syrup. I heard a few, "I haven't eaten sausage in years, but this is amazing", around the table.

As if all of this so far wasn't enough, course number four was chicken and waffles. Biltmore's general manager served it up, saying this was actually a small portion of this dish. The one on he menu comes with three pieces of chicken. I couldn't even get through one, I can't imagine working my way through three pieces. The chicken was flavorful and crisp. The waffle is the star of this dish, however. It's grilled, crispy with an amazingly rich taste.

The entire meal was rounded out with a granola and berry parfait topped with whipped cream. I didn't think I had any room left at this point, but the subtle sweetness of this final dish won me over and I ended up plowing my way through half of this.

The Biltmore is definitely on my list for a return trip. I haven't seen a restaurant embrace brunch like this in quite a long time. It's serious food, and you're not going to leave hungry. I left full, but mostly happy to have been able to share such great food with table mates like Carolyn, Michelle, Athena, and Katy. It was a blast chatting about running with Marie and Corey. I didn't get enough to time to chat with Justin, Megan and Krista, but there's always next time, right? We just have to brunch more!

A big thank you to everyone at Biltmore Bar & Grille who hosted us for this brunch, free of charge. We were not required to review this meal, but I was happy to, considering I left so very happy!

Biltmore Bar & Grille
1205 Chestnut Street 
Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464
Phone: 617.527.2550
Biltmore Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon Pin It

Friday, April 1, 2011

Southwest Quinoa Bowls and North Shore Picks of the Weekend

You've got to love a grain that can multitask. Quinoa does just that. It takes on whatever flavor you give it. You can make it savory, you can make it sweet, it's a switch hitter. Out of all the grains out there, it also packs quite a protein punch without a lot of calories behind it.

Yes, I'm talking calories. You know why? There was a LOT of baking going on in this house this week, and when there's a lot of baking there has to be some kind of balance elsewhere. I've already got my work cut out for me getting back to the point where I could even think of zipping my wedding dress (I've been married 5 years), I don't need any more help from Mr. Sugar.

So I turn to my friend quinoa. A lot of people are kind of frightened by this grain. First off, it can be expensive. Let me tell you, a little goes a long way, so just buy it. Second, there's some kind of crazy, healthy, "this is going to taste like bark" idea about this humble grain. Get over it. It tastes like couscous and some brown right got frisky and had a baby. It's versatile, it'll taste however you want it to taste. I've been on a spicy, southwest-type kick, so I went in that direction. Try this out, it's filling, satisfying, and it's healthy.

If you're scared by the healthy talk, fear not, there's something involving butterscotch and rum in your future.

Southwest Quinoa Bowls
Serves: 3-4

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
dash of pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (I used Mexican Hot)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
shake of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 avocado, sliced
salsa (for garnish and taste)

In a large saucepan (with a lid, you'll need it later), heat teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add your red onion and saute until tender about 3 minutes or so. Now, stir in salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes until it coats the onion. Stir in quinoa and allow to toast for about a minute. Add 1 cup water to the mix and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and then down to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 9-10 minutes until the quinoa is tender but not mushy.

Fluff quinoa with a spatula or fork, stir in 1/2 cup of black beans. Now, transfer to your serving dishes or plates and top with sliced avocado, black olives and salsa.

North Shore Bloggers Consortium Weekend Picks 4/1-4/3 

Grand Trunk Old World Market Wine Tasting
53 Pleasant Street, Newburyport
Friday 4/1 (4-7 p.m.) and Saturday 4/2 (2-6 p.m.

The folks at Grand Trunk Old World Market in Newburyport will have several Northern Italian wines open and available for tasting ranging from Dolcetto D’Alba from Piedmont, a Malvasia from Lombardy, and a Ripasso from the Veneto. They'll be pairing them with cheeses and their hot and mild coppa.

Authentic El Salvadoran Pupusa Dinner & Craft Sale
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 166 High St, Newburyport, MA
Saturday, 4/2 (5-7 PM) 

Now, let me tell you - church and community dinners are too-often overlooked for great, cheap food. In this case, you get a thick, hand-made tortilla filled with beans, meat and cheeses. Pupusas are good, and this is a deal. Adults: $5.00, 12 and under: $3.00.

First Annual Spring Splashdown
Michael's Harborside, Newburyport, MA
Saturday, 4/2 (8-11 PM)
Sip on summer drinks, try out the raw bar. A party to welcome Spring over at Michael's this weekend. They're giving away concert tickets and there will be live music from Chris Richards. Get in a warmer state of mind.

Swan Lake Performed by the Russian National Ballet
The Music Hall 28 Chestnut St. Portsmouth NH
Sunday 4/3, 4pm
A beautiful rendition of the ballet classic up at The Music Hall this weekend. Tickets range from $20-$50. Check out the website for advance tickets. 

Check out what the other members of the North Shore Bloggers Consortium are suggesting:

Seth at Lynn Happens runs it down for you here.

The wonderful Jane Ward has some great ideas, over at Food and Fiction.

Choices from all over New England at The Two Palaverers.

North Shore Dish spices things up with their weekend picks here North Shore Dish

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