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Easy Bruschetta

3 Jun

My brother goes to school in Milwaukee so he was only back at my parent’s house for a week between the spring semester and starting his summer internship back in Milwaukee. I took a day out of work to spend some time with him during his quick stay. We spent the afternoon at an awesome coffee shop in Providence, Cafe Zog, before hitting Whole Foods to get some groceries for a dinner we prepared for my parents, sister, nephews, and grandmothers that night.

We debated dinner options while we browsed at Whole Foods and we decided on making pizzas, bruschetta, and salad. We’d never made brushetta before, but we googled a few recipes, combined some of their ingredients and ideas, and came up with something easy. Even better, it turned out to be delicious.

Ingredients:

1 loaf French bread

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/4 red onion, chopped

3 leaves fresh basil

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Chop the cherry tomatoes into small pieces, then add the diced red onion and the chopped basil leaves. In a small bowl combine the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and whisk together. Add the oil and vinegar mixture to the tomato and onion mixture and stir well so the tomatoes are evenly coated with the liquid.

Cut the french bread into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Brush some olive oil on one side of each piece and place the bread oil side own on a baking sheet.

Bake the slices of bread in a 450 degree oven for 5 or 6 minutes, or until it becomes golden brown. When the bread is toasted, dish the tomato mix on top of each piece. Let the bruschetta sit for a bit to soften the hard bread.

The pizzas we made also came out terrific. Take a look at our finished meal. Delicious!

Week 39: Fried Pickles

29 Sep

My friend Audrey and I recently went to Cambridge Common, which is between Porter and Harvard Squares and has really good food. They also have the Lizard Lounge, where I’ve seen some really good bands play.

We sat at the bar, chatted, drank Blue Moons, and decided to try the fried pickles for an appetizer. Neither of us had ever had them, so we thought it’d be fun to try them together. The menu said they were “dill pickle spears fried in a spicy beer batter, served with ranch dressing and a spicy chipotle aioli for dipping.”

They were amazing! Whoever decided to fry the first pickle is clearly a genius. They were a little spicy and the aioli dipping sauce was a great addition. The pickles were crunchy and tasty and the batter was crispy and delicious. Such an amazing treat.

Fried pickles originated in the American south. Beers in the Hen House retells the legend of the fried pickle saying that they were first made popular in 1963 by Avery “Fatman” Lindsey (anyone else find it appropriate that “Fatman” decided to start deep frying stuff?) at his restaurant, Duchess Drive In, in Atkins, Arkansas. He added the unique, original dish to the menu attract customers.  Or, another story tells us they may have been first created in Hollywood, Mississippi at the Hollywood Cafe, when a patron wanted something different and asked asked the fry cook if he could deep fry some dill pickles.

 Whatever the story, we’ll definitely be having fried pickles again.

Just after this photo, that guy behind us randomly started telling us about the baptism differences in Christian religions. Random, but nice.

Week 37: Tuna Tartare

19 Sep

I’ve wanted to try tuna tartare since seeing my first episode of Top Chef. If you haven’t seen it, Top Chef is a pretty entertaining reality show. A bunch of chefs compete every week, making crazy tasty dishes, and then at the end one is named “Top Chef” and gets $100,000 to start his/her own restaurant. It’s got the usual reality TV bitchiness and insanity, but not at Real World levels. And because I DVR, I just skip over those parts anyway.

Ok, back on track, tuna tartare. They are always making tartare on Top Chef. I had no clue what it was, but somebody was making it nearly every week. One of the things I always think of while watching Top Chef is that I could never be a judge (because obviously that was a realistic option) because the dishes are most always  meat. For some reason this actually bugs me, so I was happy that I would be able to eat tuna tartare (because I am pescetarian, not vegetarian).

Jeez, ok, back on track, tuna tartare. According to wikipedia, tartare is a “preparation of finely chopped raw meat or fish optionally with seasonings and sauces. Commonly a tartare is served as a spread for toast. A popular legend is that the dish is named after the nomadic Tatar people of the Central Asian steppes.”

A group of co-workers and I went to Bambara for lunch the other day and tuna tartare was on the appetizer menu. At Bambara, the tartare is prepared with an avocado puree and gaufrette potatoes. I didn’t order it (I wanted the lobster bisque) but my friend Kayla let me taste hers:


It was ok. Tasted a little fishy (obviously) and the potato underneath made it a little crunchy. It was just ok – not something I’d order on my own, but something I’d have if the table ordered it or it was a passed appetizer at an event.

And if you’re interested in making tuna tartare at home, I found this recipe from one of the past Top Chef chefs. Let me know how you like it!

Week 32: Steamers

15 Aug

I grew up in Rhode Island where clam cakes and chowder, fish and chips, and quahogs are popular dishes. My family didn’t eat a lot of fish, though, so aside from fish and chips, chowder, and frozen fish fillets, I didn’t try a lot of local seafood. When I got older I tried lots of different seafood dishes, and although I’ve had clams, I’d never had steamers.

Steamers are soft-shell clams and are also called softshells or longnecks. According to wikipedia, soft-shell clams “live buried in the mud on tidal mudflats. They are well-known as a food item on the coast of New England in the Western Atlantic Ocean, however the range extends much farther north to Canada and south to the Southern states.” Wikipedia describes steamers as “steamed soft-shell clams” and says they are an “integral part of the New England clam bake, where they are served steamed whole in the shell, then pulled from the shell at the table and dipped, first in the clam broth in which they were cooked, to rinse away sand, and then in melted butter.” And that is exactly how I tried them.

They were very similar to mussels, I thought, and just really tasted like the butter they’d been dipped in. The consistency was very much like mussels, a little squishy and chewy.  They were pretty good, but I they aren’t the best seafood dish I’ve ever had. In fact, I think I’d rather have mussels. But, anyway, I was glad to try them even if they didn’t rock my seafood world.

Photo courtesy of ExperienceLA

 

Week 21: Chutney and Cambozola Cheese

25 May

A friend of mine recently made an appetizer that was absolutely amazing – tomato-ginger chutney with roasted garlic and cambozola cheese. She got the recipe from the Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook.

According to wikipedia, chutney is “a loan word incorporated into English from Hindi-Urdu describing a pasty sauce in South Asia and other South Asian cuisines.”  Wikipedia also points out that “there is no limit to the number of chutneys as it can be made from virtually any vegetable/fruit/herb/spices or a combination of them.”

This chutney was made with roma tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, onion, ginger, and garlic. My friend served the chutney with toasted crostini, roasted garlic, and cambozola cheese. I’d never had roasted garlic before and was surprised that the consistency is like butter and it spreads so easily on the bread.

This appetizer was so tasty! We made a little assembly line and piled the crostinis high with chutney and cheese. What a fun night!

Week 7: Cambodian

15 Feb

Andrew and I had both heard great things about Elephant Walk and since we’d never had Cambodian before, Valentine’s Day was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Because Andrew is super on top of his game, he made reservations at the beginning of the month. Last night was warm in Boston, so we walked the mile or so to Elephant Walk in Porter Square for a 7:30pm reservation.

They had a special three course price fix menu, so we were able to try a lot of different things. For my first course, I got vegan Rouleaux, which are Cambodian spring rolls filled with tofu, peanut, noodles, carrot and onion. They are served with greens, sprouts and herbs and tuk trey dipping sauce. Tuk trey sauce is usually flavored with garlic, shallot, fish sauce, and lime juice. These spring rolls were absolutely delicious and I was so glad that the server told us how to eat them – wrap them up in the greens and sprouts and dip them in the tuk trey sauce. For his first course, Andrew got mussels, which were really tasty. A little spicy, because there were jalapenos in the sauce, but really delicious.

For my second course I got Trey Tuk Peng Pah, which was listed as one of the “traditional Cambodian” dishes. It is a crispy Asian grouper filet served in a bowl with a broth of fresh tomatoes, garlic, rice vinegar, fish sauce, fried shallots and cilantro. It was served with white rice that I dipped in the broth. Holy moly this was delicious. The broth was kind of sweet with a bit of spiciness. The menu said “tangy,” which I guess is a pretty good word for it. The crispy fish was covered in the broth, which just added a fantastic flavor to the fish. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while – I just straight up loved it.

For dessert we both ordered the “Le Péché au Chocolat” which was a dense, rich chocolate truffle cake with raspberry sauce and whipped cream. A decadent treat, it was the perfect ending to a fantastic meal. And to a perfect Valentine’s Day 🙂

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