Monday, August 30, 2010

Olivia's Organics: Summer succotash salad

When Olivia's Organics announced their recipe contest on their Facebook page and through twitter, I knew I HAD to enter.  I love using Olivia's organics salad mixes...they're always fresh and delicious....and they have a ton of different mixes, so its tough to get tired of eating healthy salads.

For me, nothing brings out the flavor of summer quite like farm fresh New England produce.  Right now, corn and tomatoes are at their peak and are plentiful at the farmers market and in our neighbor's gardens.  I made this recipe as a play on succotash with corn, lima beans, and diced tomatoes.  Since this was a main course I also added my favorite avocado and shrimp to pump up the volume.  Grilling the corn brings out the sweetness and adds to the depth of the flavor.  The light lemony dressing allows the flavors of the veggies to shine through.



Olivia's Organics
Salad:
3 cups 50/50 Salad Blend Mix (spring mix and baby spinach)
2 Ears Grilled Corn, kernels removed from cob
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 cup of steamed lima beans
1 avocado, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh chives chopped

Shrimp:
10 shrimp
cayenne pepper
cajun seasoning
1 tablespoon of butter

dressing
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
olive oil (about 1/4 cup or more to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)

Combine the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl.  Meanwhile, melt the butter for the shrimp in a cast iron skillet.  Season the shrimp lightly with the cayenne and cajun seasoning.  Add the shrimp to the pan and cook until pink and curled.  Remove from pan, and cool while you assemble the dressing.

To assemble the dressing I like to use an old glass jar.  I add all the ingredients to the jar and just shake until the dressing is combined.  (This way each diner can add as much or as little dressing to their portion, and any leftover can be stored easily in the fridge!)

Add the shrimp to the salad, add the dressing to taste, and enjoy.






Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Sportello!

So, at our dinner at Sportello....you may have noticed something behind Peter....



Look a little bit closer...Sportello carries their own specialty foods such as olive oils, jams, jellies and relishes!

Although I was leaving with an full belly, I knew I needed to get something additional to take home with me.



Can't wait to try this!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blogger Dinner: Sportello

I have to admit that I've had a girl crush on Barbara Lynch since I heard her speak at 'Eat, Drink, and Be Social'.  I thought her philosophy about food, and her understanding of Boston's place in the foodie world were very interesting.  She's well spoken and she's clearly successful with several top restaurants in the Boston area.

So when Jessie of How 2 Heroes and Lara of Good Cook Doris invited me (along with Fiona, Katie, and Peter) to Sportello for a Restaurant week meal, I couldn't say no!  

***For those of you not in Boston, Restaurant week is an event that happens twice a year.  Participating restaurants offer 2 course Prix Fix lunches for $20ish dollars, and 3 course dinners for $30ish dollars to encourage consumers to try their restaurants. ***

Me & Peter

We arrived at Sportello and perused the menu. 


While we perused the menu I sipped some rose.


Jessie had a globe-full of red!! So big!



After we ordered we were presented with whipped ricotta with fig preserves.


Spread all over the dense Italian bread......it was a very nice start.  The combination of the sweet and tangy preserves and the rich ricotta was so yummy.  It was a nice alternative to bread and butter.



And then, one of my favorite things happened: the kitchen sent an amuse bouche!  I love when that happens.  Salmon with chives, horseradish, on a crispbread.  Tasty, light, and totally unexpected.



My first course was the corn soup, and I was absolutely blown away.  It's like Barbara was in that open kitchen with a magic wand, condensing the bright sweetness of summer corn into a fresh, light, and slightly  creamy soup.


It was almost fluffy.  It was garnished with a little scallion, and chanterelle mushrooms that had been hit with a bit of vinegar (almost too much - but there were only two mushrooms so it didn't overpower)....I could have taken a swim in that bowl.



Second course I went with the Raffetta (gnocchi).  I loved the beautiful verdant green of this dish.

The broccoli rabe was perfectly cooked.  It still had a little bite and texture, and the pesto mellowed out some of the natural bitterness of the greens.  The gnocchi were soft and light, and the salty ricotta salata brought it all together.  I loved when I got a whole pine nut in a bite.  The textures were amazing.


Although there was chocolate bread pudding on the menu (yum), I was in the mood for something with fruit. I ordered the cornmeal cake with peaches and blueberries.  It was a very different dessert, but also very rustic and satisfying.  I mentioned to Lara that I could imagine eating the same thing for breakfast with some yogurt and coffee.  Imagine a perfect, moist corn muffin.  Now, put it on the griddle with a little butter and just let it brown ever so slightly, just to make the edges a little crispy.  Top it with juicy wild blueberries and a summer peach....oh man....




We all were members of the Clean Plate Club that night....

Lara and Katie


Fiona


Me

Barbara, you've just secured a place in my top-5 chef list.  
I WILL be back to Sportello.  The food, service, and atmosphere were great.  The food was simple, yet perfectly executed.  The staff was friendly, attentive, and well informed about the menu.  And the casual atmosphere and communal tables makes it a fun place to dine.


Can't wait to go back for the regular menu!!

Sportello on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 19, 2010

French Toast

When Rafe was in Boston a few weekends ago we were foraging in my nearly empty fridge for the makings of a tasty breakfast.  I only had 2 eggs - not nearly enough for a Sunday scramble....no cereal.  No bread for toast, and only half of a trader joe's baguette.

I rarely indulge in sweet breakfasts, but putting on my refrigerator MacGyver hat I decided my option was simple.  Use the french bread to make FRENCH TOAST.  Rafe was skeptical....only having eaten french toast made with Challah or Texas Toast... But, I argued, if it's FRENCH toast you have to imagine that when they started making it, they likely only had FRENCH bread.

I cracked my two eggs into a bowl, added milk, vanilla, cinnamon and a little sugar.  I sliced the french bread into little medallions and dropped them in for a quick soak while my butter melted and got all frothy.

A few minutes on the griddle and we had breakfast, combined with the refreshing fruit salad that Rafe brought for me - he knows how to show a food blogger a good time.
That french toast gave us the strength to attempt the Sunday crossword.  Rafe got over his skepticism and had to admit that it was pretty darn good.  Even though the bread was only a day or so old, the chewy baguette made a great french toast - it soaked up enough of the batter to be custardy in the middle, but retained its shape and a little chew in the crusts.

The weekend is fast approaching, give this french toast a try on Saturday morning!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blogger Dinner at Villa Francesca

For all the time I've lived in Boston (now going on 6 years! Yikes!) I admittedly rarely make it into the North End....which flummoxes me, because I love Italian food. 

On Monday night I was invited to a blogger dinner a Villa Francesca restaurant on Richmond St.  I headed over with Michelle after work.  We started at the bar with a glass of refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.  When Meghan and Katie joined us we headed downstairs.  We were greeted with two of my favorite things, Prosecco .........



And Oysters!  These were delicious local oysters from Duxbury, MA.  There were shucked right in front of us and were so fresh and delicious.


As more bloggers arrived, I realized that Villa Francesca and Kristen Haley  had managed to wrangle many of my favorite people into the same room.  Also in attendance were Megan, Lara, Renee, Melissa, and Daisy...as well as @JustinCanCook - one of my favorite twitter personalities.


After the oysters we all took our seats and were presented with HUGE antipasto platters.  This was right up my alley.  Caprese salad, prosciutto, salami, Parmesan cheese and olives.  So delicious.  I love love love Italian cured meats and cheese.


The service at Villa Francesca was amazing.  The waitstaff made sure that our wine glasses were never empty.  They were very friendly and attentive.

Our next course was pasta.  Fresh fettuccine with shrimp in a light tomato cream sauce.  This was outstanding.  I love a good tomato cream sauce, and am totally irritated when I order it and I get a pink alfredo.  This was much more tomato-ey with just enough cream to cut the acid of the tomato and bring out a sweet richness.  Paired with the perfectly cooked shrimp, I was in heaven.  ***note*** This was a HALF portion....so, if you order the full portion be prepared for leftovers (you won't be disappointed!).  This was also where things went totally wrong for my waistline (but not my taste buds).  I was relishing this dish so much, that I forgot that we had 2 more courses to go!  whoops!

Next up was my entree - Fish with a butter sauce, escarole with white beans, and roasted potatoes.  For anyone related to me, these potatoes tasted JUST like the roast potatoes my late grandmother would make at thanksgiving.  They were SO good.  I really enjoyed the sole; It was light, tender and flaky.



And then, dinner was ended on a perfect North-End note.  The cannoli.  The ricotta was freshly piped into the cannoli shell.  We were told that all that goes into the ricotta is a little sugar and vanilla. It tasted so fresh and clean.  The delicious shells are baked in house (all of their deserts are) and have a hint of citrus zest.  We could have them topped with chocolate chips or nuts.  I went with both.  I figured I might as well guild the lily - since I had made it this far....





Deep in a food coma Katie and I split a cab home.  Maybe we should have walked off that meal instead?  I really enjoyed Villa Francesca.  The food was delicious (and plentiful!) and the service was fantastic...It was not snobby or upscale, it definitely felt we were dining with friends (lots of them) and family.

Thanks Kristen and Villa Francesca, for a wonderful night.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Epicurious Farmers' Market Tour! w/ Chef Ben Knack!

One of the things I really love about blogging is how it connects me with other foodies in Boston and beyond.  Ever since Michelle and I realized that we work in the same neighborhood, we've hit up the Scooper Bowl, the Clover Food Truck and Foumami!!  No better way to spend a workday lunch than with a fellow foodie!

Monday she alerted me to a chef demo at the Government Square farmers market.  I wasn't too busy around lunchtime, so it was the perfect event on a hot day!

The event was hosted by epicurious - they had a cute booth set up at the market as part of a nationwide tour of farmers markets.  Anyone who knows me - or reads this blog for that matter - knows that I LOVE epicurious.  Its a great 1-stop shop for recipes from some of my favorite publications like Bon Apetit and the late, great Gourmet magazine.  It's a great resource for foodies.


The demo was hosted by a local chef, Benjamin Knack.  You may recognize him from his recent stint on Hell's Kitchen, or from his work at Sel de la Terre in the waterfront.

Chef Knack featured a very creative yet simple salad recipe featuring fresh produce that he had acquired that morning at the farmers market.  He combined sweet melon, with refreshing cucumber, heirloom tomato, scallion and spicy arugula into a colorful and beautiful salad.  He dressed it simply with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.


Doesn't that look yummy?  It's making me hungry all over again!

After the presentation Chef Knack stuck around to answer questions and talk to fans.  He was so NICE!  We talked for a bit about how much we love the markets, cooking with fresh, local ingredients....and he let us be super-foodie-nerds and snap a picture for our blogs!


 I sheepishly admitted to the chef that I've never been to his restaurant....Michelle and I have plans for a foodie lunch at Sel de la Terre sometime this fall!

And make sure you get to the farmers markets around Boston - They are at their peak of fresh produce right now!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jambalaya

Although it was a hot, sunny day in Boston yesterday - I was in CT where it was a bit overcast and cloudy.  There was just enough cool in the breeze for me to want to cook something special.  I had been craving jambalaya for a while - so I decided that this would be a great opportunity to make a big pot of it, and split the leftovers between Rafe and I.
I used Rafe's mom's recipe.  She grew up in New Orleans, and this is her recipe - so I can't give it out (family secret and all) but I can provide these pictures for a clue......and tell you that this recipe is close - if you add shrimp.
The dish came out awesome - and I'm very excited to eat some of my leftovers for lunch today.  Jambalaya is definitely one of those dishes that gets better as leftovers (like chili) since it has so many different flavors.  They tend to meld together best after some time in the fridge. 

I think I did a good job....Rafe's mom came home just as it finished cooking and took a bite - I got very anxious - she knows her jambalaya.  She said it tasted authentic, and I was relieved.