Tuesday, June 28, 2011

WARNING: July Bon Appetit Blueberry Pie

If you flipped through your July issue of Bon Appetit, saw this pie, and thought like I did....

"Ohh, blueberry pie!! Blueberries are starting to be on sale in the market - and this is one of my favorite kinds of pie. I definitely want to make this"

Well, listen to me - because I made it for Father's day (blueberry pie is one of my dad's favorites).

On the surface the recipe looks simple and pretty straightforward. If you have a food processor, the crust is easy to make. It's an all butter dough (my favorite) and instead of a top crust it employs a brown sugar streusel topping. The blueberries can be fresh or frozen, and you probably already have most of the ingredients in your cupboard.

 So listen to me when I warn you: DO NOT MAKE THIS PIE.

Don't make this pie unless you're completely comfortable eating the whole thing in a day or two. Thankfully I made this for a party and sent my dad home with a slice...but we were still left with half a pie and I pretty much took care of it within two days

Also, if you make this...do yourself a favor and serve it with vanilla ice cream.
You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chicken with roasted tomatoes

As much as I love my cookbooks and food magazines, there are a lot of occasions when I just cook something on the fly so I can use up leftovers, and extras in the fridge. Since I moved to Hartford I've put myself on a bit of a budget, so it is imperative that I don't overspend on groceries -- it means less fancy ingredients, and more ingenuity.

This meal started with half a pint of grape tomatoes that were just beginning to get a little, um... wrinkled. I decided that since their texture was already going to be compromised, I might take advantage by roasting them. I sliced them in half, tossed them with some oil, salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet to roast at 350.

We had two chicken breasts thawing from the freezer--  I usually buy a ton when there is a sale and freeze it in smaller portions.

I've been obsessed with making something in papillote for a while, but since I was out of parchment paper I figured I could make it work with some foil. I made two pouches for my chicken, then seasoned the breasts with herbs de provence, and sliced leeks.

Rafe had recently made his delicious mashed potatoes, a recipe that ALWAYS yields leftovers. Since I needed to wait for the chicken to cook anyway, I decided to butter up a saute pan and plop the taters in to brown. This made a delicious potatoey pancake that was creamy in the center, and crispy and buttery on the edges.

Once the chicken was just about cooked through I opened the foil packet and gave them 5 more minutes in the oven to brown. Then plated them topped with the roasted tomatoes.

I then drizzled the chicken with just a little syrupy aged balsamic, and finished off the plate with some steamed broccoli.

What I really liked about this recipe in addition to the relatively (compared to some of my favorite cookbook recipes) quick prep time, was the cleanup. The cooking vessel for the chicken was just some tin foil, and the tomatoes roasted on top of a silpat, which is one of the easiest things to clean.

Do you cook mostly from recipes? or do you just throw things together on the fly?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Some Grilling Help

So we pretty much went from spring to summer in about a week, wouldn't you say? We've had a couple days that are too hot to cook indoors, so I decided that it was Rafe's turn to cook the meals.

We have had the exact meal pictured below twice since we started firing up the grill -- and we just can't get enough.

No recipe today - but I did want to share two of my new favorite ingredients that are KEY to the dinner you see before you. On the plus side, both of these products are made in New England.  I purchased both products outright - haven't talked to a soul from either company - the products are just that good!!

 One is the dry rub that I season the chicken breasts with...I haven't tried this stuff on anything else but chicken and veggies, but I'm pretty convinced that it can do no wrong. Spicy, smokey, and salty - it compliments the smoke of the charcoal grill amazingly. And its from stonewall kitchen, one of my favorite lunchtime haunts! (there is a store near my office)

The other is the barbecue sauce that I picked up at Whole Foods. It is made at Butternut Farms in Vermont and is a very sweet and tangy sauce. Normally, I would probably consider it too sweet, but in combination with the spicy Stonewall Kitchen rub, it is the perfect compliment.

I often make my own rubs and barbecue sauce, however, its always nice to find a product to stand in when you're too hot, tired and overworked to do it yourself!

Have you discovered any new products lately? What is your favorite convenience food?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shady Glen

If you're new here and found my blog through a link from another source - Welcome! Glad you're here - please come back all this month since my advertising proceeds for June will be donated to the Western and Central MA Red Cross to help with the Tornado Relief. 
****Thank you for helping****

It all started when I was mentioned in a facebook status update from Leeanne to Emily. I don't recall the specific message, but the important part is that a trip to Shady Glen was mentioned....and if I would be interested in joining the ladies for lunch.

I first heard about Shady Glen via Serious Eats as they covered 'Hamburger America' by George Motz,  And was immediately intrigued by their signature burger 'The Bernice Original'.  The Bernice is a griddled burger that is topped with not 1 but 4 overlapping slices of cheese. The cheese slices hang off of the burger and onto the hot griddle creating crispy cheese 'wings'.

Did you hear that? CRISPY CHEESE?? 
Heck yes, I was interested.

In the days preceeding our date, I had questions....like, do they have milkshakes? Emily replied in the affirmative. In addition she explained that they would change my life.

So when we met up on that Monday afternoon for lunch I ordered myself a Bernice original and a strawberry shake. Strawberry is the flavor that I judge all milkshakes on - and this one did not disappoint....

In flavor or in size. It filled a giant glass, and I got the metal frappe cup too (filled to the brim). Yes, it was good, and yes, I finished every last creamy strawberry sip.

Leeanne said that people generally fall into 2 categories at Shady Glen. Tearers and folders. I followed her lead and folded the four corners of cheese under the bun and enjoyed the dualing cheese textures.

Basically, if you are that kid who liked putting potato chips in your tuna fish sandwich (or Doritos, which is my preference) then this burger will get you on two levels of cheesy goodness: flavor and texture. The melted cheese on top of the patty is gooey and savory, while the wings are crispy and nutty.

Since the star of this burger is the cheese, and the bun was clearly a standard white hamburger bun, I expected a standard fast-foodish patty (I wasn't expecting much). Underneath its cheesy crust the burger was actually pretty satisfying. It still retained a tiny bit of pink and had a bit more flavor than usual fast food or diner burger.

So, if you're wondering the answer is NO. No this is not the best burger I have ever had....but its good, its iconic, and it was a hell of a lot of fun....And I plan to visit Shady Glen again....and again. But only on days when I don't have many plans for the hours following my meal.  After lunching and consuming all that dairy I went home to take a nap!

Thanks Leeanne, Emily and Helder for including me....good food and great fun! Looking forward to more adventures!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer & crockpot

Though slow cookers are traditionally utilized for hearty wintertime fair such as soups and stews, I'm still inspired to use mine as the temperatures begin to climb. In fact, I actually like to use mine in the summer months to avoid heating up my kitchen!!

Maybe I was missing Boston, but I had baked beans on the brain. Turns out that the slow cooker is a suitable way to make them, and since they compliment burgers and dogs so well, I suggest you break out your crockpot for your next cookout.

I didn't love this recipe - so I'm still tweaking....but I loved the ease of leaving the beans in the crockpot while we were outside by the grill.

Remember to check back through the month of June - all my blog proceeds will be going to Western Mass tornado victims. Bloggers, please link back to help build traffic & awareness!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Western Mass: Thoughts, Prayers....Pastry?

Although a lot of you reading my blog associate me with Boston or Hartford, I am actually a child of Western Massachusetts and the little town of Ludlow. On Wednesday June 1st the communities surrounding my hometown were hit by a massive storm, and a rare thing for these parts....A tornado.

I was at work when I learned of the storm, and watched the tornado rip through downtown Springfield via a streaming feed on my coworkers computer. On the right side of the screen, the office building that my father works in, below, Rafe's office.

Immediately hit with the grim reality that someone I love and care about could be hurt or even killed by a storm of this severity, I frantically sent off emails and made phone calls. I got hold of my father first, who was off work for the day and safely inside the clubhouse at the Ludlow Country Club (I have never been so grateful for Dad's golf addiction). I heard from Rafe soon after. He had seen the storm from his office, but was safe.

I feel so blessed that none of my immediate family or friends have been hurt/displaced, but I am so humbled by the power of nature. It could have hurt someone I love so easily....that I feel its my responsibility to do something positive.

I have already made a personal donation to the Pioneer Valley Red Cross, but keep hearing stories of people in need. I want to help more. As you can see in the right sidebar - I am a blogger for Foodbuzz - which means that they pay me based on my visits and page views.

I am pledging my Foodbuzz income for the month of June to the Red Cross of Central and Western Massachusetts for the Tornado Victims....This means that the more people who visit my blog, the more money for the Tornado victims. So click, refresh, come back tomorrow.
Visit from your home, office, or library, because its all for charity this month.

Western Mass is where I grew up, and home to some of the most hard working, real, and kind people I've ever met...They are in my prayers.

In addition, if I can drum up enough interest, I'd like to host a blog bake sale on Monday June 13th with all proceeds going to tornado victims....If you are interested in donating baked goods for the sale please email me at afidalgo12@gmail.com.

You don't need to have a blog to donate baked goods, or to bid on pastry...it is open to everyone!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Asparagus Carbonara

I'm going to start this post out with an apology, because I realize that I do this all the time:

I have a bunch of some ingredient, and I ask for advice, suggestions, recipes....And sometimes I use them. 

But more often, they turn into springboards for my own little creations. Like with this recipe. I was sitting at a stop light on my drive home from work thinking to myself how much I wanted pasta, but I had planned on making a frittata with eggs and bacon and my farmers market leeks and asparagus.

When I get a craving like that for pasta, there is almost nothing I can do. I am powerless.
So I morphed those same frittata ingredients into my own little play on carbonara. The bright green asparagus standing in for the peas, and the leeks for shallots. What resulted was a creamy, salty, delicious dish of pasta - and no trip to the grocery store needed.

Asparagus Carbonara
1 lb pasta - I used shells
1 lb asparagus, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 large leek, white and light green parts sliced and thoroughly washed.
4 strips bacon, diced
4 large eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan, more for serving

*note* This dish is all about timing. I made sure not to put my pasta in the water until most of the other components were ready to go. It is imperative that your pasta is hot in order to cook the egg mixture. So I started the water boiling but waited to toss in my shells.

In a medium saute pan, cook the diced bacon until browned and crispy. Once cooked through use a slotted spoon to remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Saute the leek in the remaining bacon drippings until softened and slightly translucent. Add the cooked leek to the bottom of your serving dish (I used a large bowl).

Now, toss the pasta into the boiling water, cook to package instructions.

In another bowl beat together the 4 eggs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is nearly cooked through, add the asparagus to the water. Cook together for an additional minute or two until the pasta is al dente and the asparagus is bright green in color. Once the pasta is ready, remove about 1 cup of the pasta water using a measuring cup or a ladle and set aside.

Drain the pasta & asparagus, and add it to your serving bowl. Quickly add your egg mixture and use 2 spoons to toss the hot pasta with the egg mixture, adding a splash of hot water to help cook the eggs through. The eggs will thicken with the heat from the pasta and the water. If you think your sauce is too thick, add a little more hot water until it reaches the desired consistency.

Add the crisped bacon and toss once more to incorporate. Serve with Parmesan for topping

Beware!! this makes a ton. Though delicious piping hot, I also liked it cold. Rafe and I served it alongside some grilled chicken as a pasta salad stand-in and it was delicious!