Thursday, June 30, 2011

Creamy Olive & Feta Dip

I love olives. Ever since I was a little kid, I would simply fish them out of whatever container they were in and eat them. To be honest, I still do that now. I can't cook with olives or even have them around unless I just accept that I'm going to be playing, "one for the recipe, one for me". Unfortunately, you can't grow olives in New England, so it's one of the items I buy from various sources across the world. They're little luxuries. However, Lindsay Olives is making a good olive, more widely available these days.

Now, let me be up front here. Lindsay Olives is not sponsoring this post, nor am I getting anything in return from them for this. I'm simply a recipe developer who wanted an entry into their "Love this Recipe" Contest.

Lindsay Olives was a sponsor at Eat, Write, Retreat in D.C. last month. A food blogging conference I was lucky enough to attend. It was there I was introduced me to the new line of Lindsay Naturals. Their olives (black or green, I used green today) that are packed with water and sea salt, and that's it. In general, I'll pick up olives from little local specialty stores in my area, which is great. However, it can get pricey on occasion and if I'm picking up staples at the grocery store, or if you're in a place in the country where the supermarket is your only option, these olives are fantastic, and a good choice.

I use olives in a multitude of ways, but as some kind of snack is, in general, my favorite way of consuming these lovely little things. The husband, however, is a fan of dip. Let's be honest again here, so am I. I'm a dip kind of gal. I tend to go overboard now and again, I have a problem with willpower when it comes to these dishes. So when I heard Lindsay wanted all their consumers to come up with recipes using their olives, I was so game for a dip.

This dip is simple. It uses things you probably have on hand and you can also adapt it to your taste. I served it up with tortilla chips, but I think pita chips, or a good bread would compliment this one perfectly. I do not take any responsibility if you eat this in one serving.

Creamy Olive and Feta Dip
Serves: In my case, 1, but it makes a pie dish's worth or an 8x8 baking dish's worth

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 block (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 6 oz. can green olives (or about 2 cups of olives), sliced
1 teaspoon capers (optional, I like the saltiness they add)
1 teaspoon good-quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan or skillet (even a dutch oven would work), heat olive oil over medium heat. Once warmed, add your onions and cook until softened (about 3 minutes). At this point, add your garlic, stirring to make sure it doesn't brown and turn bitter. Cook for another 30 seconds or so.

Now, put your softened cream cheese into the pan. Using whatever utensil you're stirring with, break it up into chunks so it melts faster. Once it melts down to a stirrable form, add your heavy cream and stir to combine everything well.

Next, you're going to add your olives, capers, balsamic vinegar, and oregano. Stir until everything is coated and well incorporated.

Finally, take a pie dish or 8x8 baking dish, and transfer your cream cheese mixture to it. Sprinkle the top with your feta cheese.

Pop into the oven and bake 30 minutes until golden and bubbly. Serve with your dipping vessel of choice. Pin It

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: Strawberry Fields Forever

There's nothing like a freshly picked strawberry, nothing. The ones you buy in the dead of winter in the supermarket, have nothing on the ones you get from your nearby farm. Local strawberries are sweet, red, they melt in your mouth. So when Foodbuzz asked for ideas for this month's 24x24 dinner extravaganza, I knew June and strawberries, well, they go together like peanut butter and jelly. What's ahead in this post - is a 4-course meal, based entirely on strawberries and their many uses. Even if you're not local to New England, please read on, there's a reason I'm telling you all of this.

Cider Hill Farm, Amesbury, Ma.
The goal was to sit down at chat with Glenn and Karen of Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, Ma., which is one town over from me. However, the FBI caught fugitive Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger this week. What does one have to do with the other? Well, I work in television news, and for us, a story like that, means *very* long days. Unfortunately, I couldn't catch up with the Cooks of Cider Hill Farm, but I can tell you a little about this amazing place where all the strawberries used for this dinner came form.

rows and rows of strawberries
Cider Hill Farm has been in operation since 1978, bought by Glenn Cook's parents at that time. They grow fruits and vegetables on 70 of their 145 acres of land. They have a commitment to the families of this area, always inviting people to come with every crop season to "pick-your-own". Even more impressive, is their commitment to the environment. Cider Hill has three wind turbines in effect, over 300 solar panels, and outdoor wood boilers to heat the greenhouses and the homes on the property.

Picking my own strawberries
When speaking specifically of Cider Hill's strawberries, they're doing some great things. In addition to the two large fields of pick-your-own strawberries, they've been experimenting with vertical strawberry production. They picked a great varietal called Seascape and using this technology they were able to grow the strawberries that would usually take up 1/3rd of an acre in 1/30th of an acre. Pretty impressive use of resources there.

my box of strawberries - 6.5 pounds
Why am I telling you this? If you're one of my readers in another state or even another country, why should you care? You should because you should be seeking out a farm like Cider Hill near you. You may not even know they're there, but they're probably doing amazing things. Your local farm is a resource, plain and simple. It's a chance to pick fresh fruit with your family, support your community, and take home the best and healthiest foods available to you. This falls into this week's "The Lighter Side of Local" series - learn about your local farm. What you find out, may surprise and intrigue you.

The amazing meal I'm about to tell you about wouldn't be possible if not for the folks at Cider Hill Farm and their hard work. Not to mention, they saved me a bundle. I picked 6.5 pounds of strawberries at $2.75 a pound. I'll have enough for this meal, jam, and frozen strawberries that will last me well into the winter. So without further ado, I give you a dinner party I appropriately named after one of my favorite Beatles tunes, "Strawberry Fields Forever".

Course 1: Chilled Strawberry Tequila Soup
Serves: 4

A lot of chilled strawberry soup recipes call for some kind of dairy. I'm not a fan of chilled soups that are creamy, for some reason, I always want them to be heated up. I did my own variation that's dairy-free, but unbelievably refreshing. 

4 cups whole strawberries, washed and hulled
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons sugar
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup good tequila
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 a lime, sliced, for garnish

Place strawberries into a food processor and puree until chunky. Next, add the rest of your ingredients and pulse in food processor until well combined. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour. Serve in bowls, garnish with fresh lime slices.

Course 2: Spinach and Strawberry Salad
Serves: 4

Strawberries are perfect paired with another in-season favorite, spinach. This is versatile. Swap out the feta with gorgonzola or blue cheese. Instead of red wine vinaigrette, whip up some poppyseed dressing. Add candied walnuts or slivered almonds. All are fantastic.

4 cups spinach, chopped (or 4 cups baby spinach)
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 cup feta

Red Wine Vinaigrette
Source: Giada de Laurentiis
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

For the Salad
Toss together all ingredients in a large serving bowl. Set aside while you make the dressing.

Preparing the Dressing
Combine red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Pulse to combine and then while the machine is running, add olive oil until all ingredients come together.

Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat.

Course 3: Strawberry-Balsamic Flank Steak
Serves: 4

This is a savory use for strawberries. They're not only for sweet uses. Macerating the berries in balsamic vinegar or red wine for a few hours turn them into a perfect topping for beef, chicken, or pork. The brown sugar rub included in this recipe is amazing for any kind of beef cut you put on the grill. 

brown sugar dry-rub
Strawberry-Balsamic Topping
2 cups sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Brown Sugar Rub
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon chipolte chile powder
1/8 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika can be used as well)

Flank Steak
1.25 pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat
1/4 cup crumbles gorgonzola cheese

Preparing the Strawberry-Balsamic Topping
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside at room-temperature to macerate, about 2 hours. 

Preparing the Brown Sugar Rub
Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until well-combined. This is enough for 1-1.25 pounds of meat. Feel free to double or triple or even more for larger cuts or to have some on hand at any point. Store in an airtight container if not using right away.

Preparing the flank steak
Trim the flank steak to your liking. Place between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to desired thinness (this will also help tenderize this cut of meat). Take pounded cut and rub your try rub in, using all of it, on both sides so the meat is covered. Now, grill to your desired doneness (we like medium rare in this house). Take off the grill, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes or so. Slice into 4 pieces. Serve topped with balsamic strawberries and crumbled gorgonzola cheese.

Course 4: Lemon & Strawberry-Grand Marnier Ice Cream Sandwiches

Sorry folks, you'll have to tune in next Sunday for how to make this one up. I know, I'm such a tease. This post is already so epic, it's time to take a little break. Next Sunday will be part two of strawberry fun. We'll talk how to make strawberry ice cream and these lovely treats. We'll also talk about ways to stretch your strawberry haul well into the dead of winter.

I hope you enjoyed this trip through the strawberry fields. Our dinner guests definitely did.

What's your favorite way to use strawberries? I'm dying for a perfect strawberry cordial recipe, please comment and share below if you have one of those or any other strawberry recipe. I'd love to feature a collection of your ideas in next Sunday's post! Pin It

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Roasted Beets with Balsamic Vinegar & Freezing Greens 101

There's something about the light in the summer at about seven-thirty in the evening. If I'm working away at a dish near the windows above my sink, I get the most beautiful, moody, light. It's a magical hour. That being said, if I am working on a Sunday night at that hour, I'm probably desperate for one reason or another.

This week, I'm desperate because I have beautiful produce that I picked up this morning at the Newburyport Farmers' Market, and I still have beautiful produce from last week's market in the produce drawer. You've heard me say it before, local produce lasts longer. However, like any fresh vegetable or fruit, it has a shelf life. I hate to waste a thing, but my life has been too busy this week to do much cooking.

So this is where, dear readers, we save face. We go simple. We conquer that produce drawer and we save it all until we can use it. The beauty of local produce, it tastes fantastic even without getting fancy. In fact, most often, simple is best because it's oh-so-fresh. This week's "The Lighter Side of Local" focuses on using it up, even when you're pressed for time.

What I picked up this week for $13:
1 large bag spinach: $3
1 large head boston lettuce: $4
2 pints strawberries (yay!): $6

You may be thinking, heck, that's not a lot. I still have radishes for my salad from last week. The tumbler tomato plant in my backyard is offering up some tomatoes finally. I also still have the beets. I also had rainbow chard and broccoli rabe from last week leftover. Yes, I really hardly cooked this past week. So here's what we're going to do....

Freezing Greens 101

Yes, you can freeze pretty much any kind of green you want. Granted, you're not going to be using them in a salad when you defrost them, but if you're cooking with them, they freeze quite well. This method works great for things like broccoli rabe, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, anything hearty. Lettuces, they just don't freeze well in most cases.

1. Get a large pot of water boiling on the stove. Also prepare an ice bath to put near your pot of boiling water. We're going to blanch these greens, people.

2. Clean your greens well, discard any bad pieces or tough stems. I like to roughly chop my greens before freezing, but you can certainly keep them whole.

3. Take your greens and place them in the boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes or so.

4. Using a slotted spoon or large mesh strainer, transfer the greens from the boiling water to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. You may have to add a few more ice cubes if the water ends up too warm. Allow the greens to sit in the ice water for 3-4 minutes.

5. At this point, drain your greens well. Allow them to dry on a large, clean, kitchen towel for a bit, then transfer to a plastic freezer bag. (Yes, for freezing I use plastic bags. I wash and reuse them after. I've found nothing really protects frozen products better than these).

6. You want to get as much air out of those bags as possible. Close them almost entirely, stick a straw in the corner and suck out as much air as you can. Remove the straw while you quickly seal the bag.

7. Label, date, and put in your freezer. Greens, in general, can probably last in there about a month or a month and a half.  

If you're not in a freezing mood, and you're like me and have something like beets or turnips on hand. Roast those babies. It's simple and it's amazing. Honestly, I know it's not much of a recipe, but sometimes you just need someone to remind you how to do it and that you can.

Roasted Beets with Balsamic Vinegar
Source: A Veggie Venture
Serves: Depends on how many beets you roast, this works for any amount

Any amount of beets (I had 4 large, about a pound)
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Clean your beets well, but leave the skins on. You also want to cut the beet greens off (you can use them in salads or elsewhere, they're edible), but leave about a half inch of the stem.

Place the beets in a large casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You could omit the oil if you're watching calories, but a little bit is good for you, I promise.

Stick in the oven and roast for 60 minutes. Take out of the oven, allow to cool, and then slip the skins off. You can then slice them and serve them or put them in the refrigerator. They're amazing on salads. Pin It

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza June: Spicy Garlic-Ginger Chicken Sausage

I've mentioned this before, I think. I leave things to the last minute. It must be the clarity or firey nature that I know deadlines bring to me. It's why I work in news. I thrive on deadline. However, I must say, making sausages on a deadline and not the oh well, month, I had to do it. Probably not the smartest thing I've done. I will say it was fun, however.

It's the 15th of June, that means it's Charcutepalooza time. This month's challenge was to stuff sausage. I'll have to add I was skeptical here. Frankly, I find the casings disgusting. I hate touching them. I hate looking at them. Heck, there's a fabulous local market I can walk to where they make fantastic handmade sausages. Why in the name of all things good should I stuff my own?

I'll be honest. I rushed this thing. The sausage, a little more emulsified than I wanted. I chilled, I re-chilled, I'm telling you, chicken seemed a lot harder to keep from getting all sinewy than pork is. I probably should have used the pork fatback. I should have had my husband help me. I did it alone, and frankly, I'm pretty proud of it.

All these things aside.... the taste? Out of this world. Would I do it on a regular basis? No, definitely not. It makes a mess. A big, meaty, mess. However, if I were to spend a day making a huge batch and freezing a bunch, sure, I'd do that. Until then, I'm walking down the street and buying from my local market.

Spicy Garlic-Ginger Chicken Sausage
Makes: 6, 6-inch links

3 pounds boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cubed (1-inch pieces and include all fat, I'm not using fatback here)
1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chinese five spice powder
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

4 feet of hog casings, soaked in tepid water, and rinsed.

First, combine cubed chicken, salt, pepper, chinese five spice, garlic, and ginger in a large bowl (if you have a stainless steel one, use that, it'll keep a chill better). Cover with foil or plastic wrap and stick in the fridge overnight. Chill all the pieces to your grinding attachment and sausage stuffer at this point. (I'll be giving instructions here for the kitchen aid grinding and stuffing attachments).

If you don't have time to let the chicken sit overnight, stick it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. I did this anyway. After the chicken sat in the seasoning overnight in the fridge, I put it in the freezer for a half-hour. It's much easier to grind the meat when it's nearly frozen.

While your chicken is in the freezer, set up the rest of your ingredients. Measure out the wine, vinegar, sesame oil and sriracha and place in small containers in your fridge. You want them chilled. Then, set up your station. Mrs. Wheelbarrow of Charcutepalooza fame does the best job of explaining how to do this.

Taking small portions of your chicken mixture, feed it through the grinder, making sure the meat and fat are cleanly passing through the blade and die. Once it's all ground together, place entire stand mixer bowl full of chicken into the freezer. Let's chill it again before we stuff the sausage.

According your sausage stuffer instructions, you will now stuff the sausage. The one thing I can say about this is to have an extra pair of hands around. Someone should be feeding the meat into the grinder, the other forming the sausages as they come out of the stuffer. Store in the fridge for 3-4 days, or freeze and enjoy up to a month or two.

Spicy Sausage and Bok Choy Noodles
Bok Choy/Sauce recipe from: Cooking Light
Serves: 6

Bok choy and sauce:
1 large bok choy (about 1 1/3 pounds), cleaned, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped sweet onions
1 tablespoon shredded or peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup water
3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 package instant rice noodles
6 links Spicy Garlic Ginger Sausage, grilled and sliced (you may sub any chicken sausage you'd like)

In the bottom of a large saucepan that has a steamer insert you can add later on, heat your vegetable oil up over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, add 1/4 cup onions, your ginger, and your garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Put your streamer basket with bok choy in your pan.

Now combine water, chicken broth, soy sauce, sugar, crushed red pepper, and sherry. Pour over your bok choy and the steamer basket. Now, bring that mixture up to a boil, then down to a simmer. Cover and steam for 20 minutes.

While your bok choy is steaming, grill your sausage up to your preference and then slice it. Set aside and keep warm. Also during this time, prepare your rice noodles according to the package directions. Set aside as well and keep warm.

Once the bok choy is done steaming, remove the steamer basket from the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the remaining sauce to thicken it up. Toss the bok choy, sausage, rice noodles, and sauce together in a large bowl. Serve immediately. Pin It

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chorizo and Greens Quiche

 I'm the queen of saving something, saying I'll use it, and never touching it again. I'll cut off lovely beet greens, or radish greens, putting them in a bowl in the fridge, only for the husband to find it days later, wilted and ready for the compost pile. I'm taking a vow here to be better about it. I am (and you are) paying a premium for quality, local foods and I plan to use every bit, right?

So, this week's "The Lighter Side of Local" has to do with using everything you picked up at market this week, even in ways you might not usually consider. If you can't use it (we're talking vegetables here), it can go in your compost pile and feed your soil. It's a hard transition to make. You're used to trimming off the odds and ends of food and only using the parts you really need. Everything has a use.

What I picked up this week for $16:

1 bunch Swiss Chard - $2
1 bunch radishes - $2.50
2 large bok choy - $4
1 bunch beets - $2.50
1 bunch broccoli rabe - $2.50
boston lettuce head - $2.50 

Things to note this week - a lot of things are in abundance, meaning the prices have gone fairly low, which is a huge bonus around this time of year. It means I'll start freezing some of the greens this week most likely, and I'll definitely be buying up more next weekend to put up for the colder months.

This next recipe is one of my "leftover" recipes. I hate cleaning up my beets and radishes and getting rid of those amazing greens that come along with them. They're perfectly edible and actually have a taste and use similar to swiss chard or mustard greens.  They're really fabulous in quiches or scrambles. I also had several pounds of homemade chorizo leftover from last month's Charcutepalooza challenge.

Chorizo and Greens Quiche 
Serves: 6-8

1 unbaked pie crust (homemade, bought, whatever you like)
1/2 pound chorizo (taken out of the casings if that's how you bought it)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 cups roughly chopped greens (beet greens, radish greens, etc)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 large eggs (I used farm eggs that were smaller, so I used 3 eggs)
2 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup shredded cheddar

Preheat your oven 375 degrees.

Place your pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Prick the bottom with a fork. Cover the dough with a sheet of parchment paper. Fill the crust with pie weights or dried beans. Place into your preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until the crust is a touch golden and partially baked. Take out of the oven, set aside to cool on a baking race. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.

In a large skillet oven medium heat, brown your chorizo, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

In that same skillet, over medium heat again, add your onions and cook until tender. Add your teaspoon of minced garlic to the pan and cook until fragrant. You can now add your greens to the mix. Salt and pepper to taste and then add in your crushed red pepper. Cook the mixture until greens are soft and softly wilted. Set aside to cool.

Now, in a large bowl, beat together eggs, egg yolk, milk, heavy cream, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Next, add the chorizo, greens, and cheddar cheese to the egg mixture and stir until combined.

Pour the mixture into your cooled, partially-baked pie crust. Place into the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the quiche is set in the middle. This will take about 30-35 minutes.

Allow to cool five minutes before serving. Pin It

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Boston Brunchers: The Bristol Lounge, Four Seasons Boston

The Lobster Trap
 Let's clear up a few things and assumptions right off the bat, shall we? Brunch at the Four Seasons Boston is not a stuffy affair; it's a comforting, toss all your cares to the side, and be taken care of for a couple of hours, affair. This is what I learned this weekend, when I was lucky enough to win a seat for this month's Boston Brunchers event at the lovely Bristol Lounge.

For those of you not aware of this Boston institution, it's right on Boylston Street, facing the common and the flurry of activity that passes on by its windows at all hours. However, the Bristol Lounge is opposite of the frantic beat outside. It's calm, serene, and comforting. I had prepared myself for a great meal, but the service we received was unmatched by anything I can remember as of late.

Folks, this is not your normal Sunday brunch buffet at a hotel. This is an event. I sat down (after my sadly late arrival, Boston traffic, always fun) to a great cup of coffee, fresh orange juice, and the main event - The Lobster Trap. It's a bloody mary. It's also a signature item at the Bristol Lounge, made with real, fresh tomatoes, a touch of clam juice, vodka (duh), some spicy seasonings, finished off with a lobster claw. It's fresh with a bit of heat, and fantastic. I love the attention they pay to New England traditions here, it's important, and often overlooked at local establishments.

Staring me in the face when I took my seat was also a plate piled with gorgeous strawberry scones. These are buttery, fluffy, pieces of heaven. Here's a little secret about the Bristol Lounge, everything is made in-house. Jams, sauces, toppings, bread - you name it, they make it. I slathered those warm scones with creamy sweet butter and homemade strawberry jam. I could have eaten a plateful. We loved them so much, the kind folks at the Bristol Lounge sent us home with more. I love them.

We haven't even made it to the buffet set-up yet, have we? It's elegant, but extremely homey. The center table is full of appetizers and salads. Homemade granola parfaits (they're to die for), beautiful smoked salmon and charcuterie, fresh fruits and vegetables, all served up with gorgeous mustards, spreads, sauces in lovely little mason jars. Such a beautiful, yet down-home, way to present this amazing food.

In another corner you have the cutest little mini cast-iron pans and dutch ovens full of huevos rancheros (made completely fresh with a beautiful poached egg on top) and oatmeal brulee (what an inventive way to serve up your morning oatmeal). There's gorgeous tray full of cheese blitzes with a lovely fresh blueberry sauce to top it. You cannot forget the baked croissant french toast, you will never forget it once you take a bite.

You also can sashay over to the other corner and have an omlette made to order with the freshest of ingredients. While you wait for it to be made, right next to your is trays of bread, pastries, and sweet little bites to keep you tempted.

Chef Brooke Vosika has been with the Four Seasons for 29 years. We were lucky enough that he took a few minutes with us to talk about what goes on at the Bristol Lounge. He has a major commitment to fresh, local, and in-season foods. As you know, those commitments go far with me. Chef Voiska also takes time out to teach cooking classes, which I think is absolutely wonderful.

The amazing homemade granola yogurt parfaits
Going to the Bristol Lounge for Sunday brunch is like being treated as royalty for a day. Everything is taken care of for you. The service cannot be beat. Our servers not only attentive, but fun. We chatted, joked, and anything we needed was taken care of. I plan on going back in the future. I've already told my mother we're going for some kind of celebration. If you're in Boston or New England, try to make a trip to this brunch. Heck, if you're visiting New England, this is a beautiful way to spend your Sunday morning.

I seriously wanted to sit back in one of those big couches in there and relax the afternoon away with a pretty cocktail. It's that kind of place. I hope you all get to experience it at some point as well.

Note: Brunch at the Bristol Lounge was provided to me free of charge as I won a spot with Boston Brunchers. I was not required to write about the experience.

North Shore Bloggers Consortium Picks of the Weekend - 6/10-6/12

Newburyport Garden Tour
Sunday, June 11th and 12th, 10am - 4pm
For the past 32 years, The Historical Society of Old Newbury’s Annual Garden Tour has showcased the premiere gardens of the Newburyport area to benefit the Cushing House Museum and Gardens. This year promises more spectacular gardens featuring diverse styles and sizes “All Around Town”. The tour offers something for everyone including the unrivaled Plant Sale and a place to relax in the Cushing House Museum’s own garden. TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED at The Cushing House Museum, 98 High Street, Newburyport, MA (978-462-2681) Tickets - $20 before June 1st and $25 after. For additional information, please see our website at

Market Square Day  
Market Square, Portsmouth, NH  
Saturday, June 11th - 9am - 4:30pm 
Come through downtown Portsmouth's center and eat, drink, check out local music, artisans and products. It's a huge day for the area with so much to check out.  Three performance stages feature local and regional musicians. The day 'kicks off' with the Market Square Day 10K Road Race.

Newburyport Farmers' Market 
Tannery Marketplace
Sunday, June 12th - 9am - 1pm
It's getting warmer and that means more of your favorite produce is available at the Newburyport Farmers' Market. Singer and Songwriter Susan Levine is performing this week. It's my home market, I love it, check it out of you're around on Sunday.

Check out what the other members of the consortium are up to this weekend!

Check out what Seth of Lynn Happens has found 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 Pin It

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Market Pasta with Parmesan-Cream Sauce

I actually made this pasta for lunch on Wednesday morning. It was sunny around noontime that day, but it was hot and humid. The air was filled with a humidity rare for New England this early in the season. It felt like wet wool wrapped around you. At lunch, I knew thunderstorms were on the way. It would break the hot and humid spell, bring us back to the cool, ocean breezes I'm lucky enough to enjoy in this seaside town in which we live.

I didn't know those thunderstorms would do the damage they did.

Three massive tornadoes ripped through the western part of Massachusetts. Four people lost their lives, hundreds ended up in the hospital after several hours late that afternoon and evening where people kept screaming to each other, "Another one is coming, get inside." If they were lucky enough to make it out of their homes again, they saw their own houses, their neighbors' homes, leveled.

Many of you know that my day job is in television news. I'm extremely lucky to work with a team of amazingly talented people with huge hearts. They headed for the heart of this devastation and I'm proud to say they found the most inspiring stories out of the disaster that occurred this week. They shared with our viewers stories of the people who now have to pick up the pieces of their lives. They told the tales of neighbors helping neighbors, and complete strangers who just wanted to help. Here's a look at some of the devastation from the newscast I work on, if you haven't seen it.

Since Wednesday, I've spent a lot of time at work, and that's OK. Stories like these need to be told, these people need to be helped to rebuild. If you'd like to help, the American Red Cross is accepting donations, click here for more information. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Western Massachusetts as they try to rebuild.

The Lighter Side of Local, Week 6

My day job took precedent this week with all that was going on. It's at these points, when we're the most busy, that versatility is so important in the meals you're creating at home. If you're trying to eat more locally, this is especially important. I've mentioned before that if you're looking to plan around your trips to the farmers' market or a local farm or shop, you are more likely meal planning *after* the fact, not before. It's early June, and in New England, you're not going to find tomatoes or strawberries bursting out of every bin at market. If fact, you're probably not going to find any quite yet.

What I picked up:
Truth is, I haven't yet. My weekend has been so crazy, I missed my market this morning, so I'm heading to the farm tomorrow. I'll try to update this post with my finds. 

The rough plan for it all:
I have a good amount of roasted chicken leftover from a dish we made last night. I'm feeling some kind of chicken spring quesadilla, a version of chicken salad, and then definitely a frittata this week again. I just can't get enough of farm-fresh eggs with seasonal ingredients right now.

Where last week's haul went:
1 bag baby chard (for salads) - $4 - in the Market Pasta, and plenty of salads and a frittata
1 bunch rhubarb - $5 - Brown Sugar Rhubarb Tart, Lemon-Rhubarb Martinis, muffins I'll share with you this week.
1 bunch radishes - $3  - they went into salads and scrambled eggs
1 bunch hakurei turnips - $3 - the Market Pasta.

This pasta is perfect example of how being versatile and a little creative with your market finds can really pay off. It's dubbed "Market Pasta" in our house because it basically can be adapted with almost anything on hand in any season. There are always greens, onions, and garlic of some variety available for use. Sub in and out whatever kind of vegetables you think would go well in this dish. Have fun with it and report back to me if something you did really works, I'll want to try it.

Market Pasta with Parmesan-Cream Sauce
Serves 4-6

Why is this not Market Pasta Alfredo? The sauce is very similar but doesn't use the copious amounts of butter an alfredo sauce would, it's a tad lighter and not as creamy. 

1 pound penne pasta (any kind would really do)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 sweet onion (like a vidalia), chopped
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup sliced turnips (I used small white hakurei ones, you could sub out radishes as well, or omit)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups roughly chopped baby chard (or spinach, or mustard greens, any kind of hearty greens will do)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid (from the pasta)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (plus extra for serving)
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (plus several full leaves for garnish if you'd like)

Cook pasta to according to directions, drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside, covered with a towel to keep somewhat warm.

Now, in a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the two tablespoons butter, add onions, pinch of salt and 1/4 teaspoon sugar. You're not going to necessarily caramelize the onions, but the sugar will help them to get a little more golden quickly. Cook until the onions are golden, about 7-8 minutes.

Next, add your turnips and cook until tender, about 8-9 minutes. At this point, you can add in your garlic, cooking until fragrant, and finally your baby chard (or greens). Sprinkle a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper over it all. Cook the greens until they wilt slightly, 3-4 minutes.

Next, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the half cup of heavy cream, the 1/4 cup of reserved cooking liquid, and the half cup of freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano. Stir so everything combines well, and then add in your cup and a half of shredded, cooked chicken. Again, stir until everything is well coated in the sauce.

Add the already cooked pasta and basil to your saute pan and toss until everything is coated again and cook for about 4-5 minutes until everything is warmed through. Pour into large bowl, and top with a few basil leaves for appearance if you'd like. Serve with extra Parmesan if desired. Pin It