Friendsgiving Cocktail Party

Posted on: Monday, November 23, 2015

One of our all-time favorite holidays is less than a week away! While our Thanksgiving menu of passed-down classics never changes, we thought it would be fun to create a "Friendsgiving" Cocktail Party menu to be enjoyed with friends before the big day.

A signature beverage is a must. We stir Pumpkin Old Fashioneds. 
To nibble alongside, below are a few seasonal, Thanksgiving-inspired appetizers.

Baked Hasselback Apples with Brie and Pecans  
Greek Grilled Mushrooms with Kaseri Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Manchego Stuffed Apricots Wrapped in Prosciutto
 Mission Figs with Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Agave 
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts with Zesty Aioli
Happy Friendsgiving! Now time to prep for Thursday...

Harvard Square Tasting Tour

Posted on: Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Last weekend, we ventured on a twin tasting tour of bustling Harvard Square. The three restaurant stops along the two-hour turn were all part of an almost 20 year mini restaurant empire in the Square, the Grafton Group. We sampled a fun, thoughtful drink and dish pairing at each of the cozy, contemporary settings. In between sampling the spirited interpretations of American fall-themed classics, we popped into some of Harvard Square’s best artisan shops along the way. Below is the itinerary, we hope you’re inspired to do the same!
Grafton Street Pub & Grill
The oldest of the three restaurants, the pub has a laidback, local feel with a New England-centric menu.
An aromatic, fall-themed cocktail of pear vodka sage, cumin, clove, allspice, Vermouth, maple bitters and Prosecco.
Sesame crusted seared tuna slices served over a rice pancake with a pureed carrot swirl and dab of salsa verde.
Salt & Olive
A compact tasting room filled with a wide range of olive oils and balsamic vinegar on tap, as well as a vast collection of artisan products, spices, salts and teas. Mary Taylor guided us through a tasting of a peppery olive oil and sweet, grape balsamic vinegar.
What a sweet spot! We had never been to this underground shop and were instantly obsessed with the whimsical interior and friendly ambiance. 
We sampled a few kinds of honey while learning about the fascinating world of bees.
Russell House Tavern
The most centrally located spot of the three eateries, the chefs focus on bridging the gap between the bar and the kitchen in the chic yet comfy two-floored bustling tavern. 
A spicy green chili vodka, jalapeƱo and green bell pepper martini.
A bright bite of a fried Cape Cod oyster with ginger aioli, julienned radish and miso broth.
Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe
One of Harvard Square’s most iconic markets and oldest delicatessens, we enjoyed perusing the aisles of imported, gourmet fare and extensive wine selection.
PARK Restaurant & Bar
The newest lively yet cozy spot of the three restaurants in a rustic, subterranean space, with vibrant drinks and bites. 
A “Tender’s Whim,” cocktail of bourbon, cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, and an orange peel
A tasting of toasts: a sliced baguette topped with goat cheese, sliced blackberries, and honey; a warm mini biscuit with apple butter and aged cheddar; and a sliced baguette topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese and crispy capers
Thank you Trademark Tours for the wonderful itinerary! It was a lovely way to spend a brisk fall afternoon and explore the walkable, historic square bustling with students and tourists.

Hasselback Apples

Posted on: Thursday, October 29, 2015

With my apple tree continuing to overflow well into October, I’ve been on a mission to create as many recipes as I can with my favorite fruit. Back in early September, I grabbed a bucketful and added half to a rustic tart, and threw the other half into my slow cooker for a cinnamon-spiced applesauce. Last weekend, I made a classic apple crisp with a buttery, toasted almond crumble on top.
While those were all sweet spins, I decided it was time to make something savory. Picking up an apple, I was inspired by the Swedish Hasselback approach to baking a potato. With a sharp knife, you create a fan-like shape on the outer surface that when baked, browns and crisps up a bit while the interior remains tender. With similar texture profiles, I used the same technique on an apple to fancify a simple baked appetizer. Between each crevice, I sandwiched a thin slice of brie and to add a sweet crunch, topped the apple with a brown sugar and pecan crumble streusel. Slathered atop my favorite rosemary and sea salt crackers, this was a winning take on baked brie.
Baked Hasselback Apples with Brie and Pecans

1 Gala or Honeycrisp apple (or any firm, sweet, red one)
1/4 of a wedge of brie cheese, skin removed, cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 T butter, melted
2 T brown sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 T flour
2 T chopped pecans
Your favorite crackers (I used rosemary sea salt)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Core the apple and cut it in half. Beginning at the outermost edge, cut 1/8-inch slits with a pairing knife through the apple, making sure not to cut through. Cut out the wedges of every other interval. In each gap, place a slice of brie. 

In a small bowl stir together 1 T melted butter, 1 T brown sugar, 1/8 t cinnamon and 1/8 t salt. With a brush, brush the entire rounded surface of each half of the brie-filled apple with the melted mixture. 

Spray a baking dish and place the apple halves cut side down. Cover the entire dish with aluminum foil and bake for 12-15 minutes until the apples have softened.

Meanwhile in the same bowl, add the remaining 1 T melted butter, 1 T brown sugar, 1/8 t cinnamon, 1/8 t salt, flour and chopped pecans. Stir to combine. Carefully spread the pecan mixture over the cooked apple halves, allowing it to fill in the crevices. Bake the apples uncovered for about 5-7 more minutes until the topping is browned. Remove from heat and serve with your favorite crackers.

Planning a Halloween gathering this week? I encourage you to serve this sweet and savory appetizer for your costume-clad guests!

Spiked Apple and Toffee Mini Pies

Posted on: Thursday, October 22, 2015

Walking over the Longfellow bridge with the rush of crisp fall air over the Charles, I stopped at the Farmers Market @ Kendall Square to find inspiration for an upcoming fall-themed dessert party. When I think of fall flavors, I think of crisp local apples, buttery caramel, notes of cinnamon, and robust spirits like bourbon and rum. I purchased a dozen assorted apples from Lanni Orchards and continued my way down Main Street. While noshing on a crispy Gala, I was thinking of how to blend the fruit with the bottle of Ryan & Wood’s Folly Cove Rum sitting in my kitchen bar. Folly Cove Rum is a blend of rums, aged in charred oak Jack Daniel’s barrels. After sampling the copper colored rum in the Gloucester distillery a few years ago, I was hooked and instantly inspired to shake up the spirit into my cooking whenever possible.
I love flavor and texture contrasts so with the rich, robust apple and rum combination in mind, I decided to add a caramel-like layer, some crunch, and a cool, creamy topping to my recipe. My inspiration came from Banoffee pie, an irresistibly rich and creamy British dessert with layers of a cookie-like pie crust, gooey, sticky toffee, sliced bananas and a mountain of whipped cream. Instead of a banana layer, I sauteed sliced apples, cinnamon and brown sugar with the Folly Cove Rum. For the toffee-inspired layer, I kept it simple by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk atop the stove for a few hours to transform the liquid into thick, caramelized dulce de leche toffee. (If you don’t have the time or patience to boil the can, by all means, purchase a jar of dulce de leche.) Since any entertaining dish is better bite-sized, I assembled the layers as mini pies in muffin tins. Each poppable tartlet was a burst of flavors and an aesthetically pleasing, fall treat.
Rum Infused Apple, Toffee and Whipped Cream Mini Pies

Toffee Layer
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk, label removed

Crust (British-born, chef April Bloomfield’s recipe)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
8 oz unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 t salt
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

Folly Cove Rum and Apple Layer
2 T unsalted butter
1 Gala apple, cored, thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, thinly sliced
2 T brown sugar
1/2 t cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1/4 t salt
2 T Follow Cove Rum (by all means, use more, if you would like!)

Whipped Cream
1 c heavy cream
1 t vanilla

1 24-cup or 2 12-cup muffin tins

Toffee Layer
The night before, place the unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan, and cover with water. Boil for 3 ½ hours, checking the water level occasionally to ensure the can remain submerged. Add more water, if need be. Remove the can with tongs and let cool for 30 minutes. Carefully open the can with a can opener and pour the thick, caramelized liquid into a container. Cover with a lid and refrigerate overnight.

In a large bowl, add the flour, butter, salt, and sugar. Rub the butter with your fingers into the flour until it resembles fine bread crumbs. This takes about 7-10 minutes. Add the egg yolks, and knead with your hands in the bowl until the egg is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Form the dough into a compact ball and flatten into a thick disc. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

After the dough has chilled preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spray the muffin tins with nonstick spray. Grate the dough on a large-tooth box grater set over a flat surface. Take about 1/4 -cup portions of the grated dough and press it evenly around the base, then the sides of each muffin tin. The dough should be a little less than 1/4 inch thick on the base and sides. Prick the bottoms with a fork, and freeze for 15 minutes. Remove from freezer and bake for 12-15 minutes until the crusts are golden on the bottom and slightly bronzed on the sides. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and then remove the shells with a tiny spatula or knife onto a cooling rack.

Folly Cove Rum and Apple Layer
Meanwhile, add butter to a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the apples and sautee for 1 minute. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt and sautee, stirring occasionally for 3-4 more minutes until the apples are slightly caramelized and tender. Stir in the Folly Cove Rum and swirl the apples around until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool.

Whipped Cream
While the apple filling is cooling, with an electric mixer, whisk together the cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. I didn’t add sugar since the other layers are so sweet, but feel free to add a spoonful or two.

Pie Assembly
When the pie crusts and apple filling are cool, spoon about 1 t of the Toffee Layer into the bottom of each tartlet, spreading evenly across the surface. Top with about 1 Tablespoon of the Folly Cove Rum and Apple Layer, spreading evenly. Spoon heaping spoonfuls of the whipped cream on top of each tartlet. Sprinkle a light dusting of cinnamon on top of each and let chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 22-24 tartlets

Roasted Acorn Squash with Cheesy Farro Stuffing

Posted on: Thursday, October 15, 2015

With such an abundant harvest especially at this time of year, I find myself attracted to local veggies often mixed into grain-centric dishes. While I often enjoy grilled fish, roasted chicken or a juicy burger for dinner, these types of dishes make me go vegetarian. I laugh when people ask if I am a vegetarian, but I guess I can see why.
This past weekend, Lapsley Orchard in Brookline, Connecticut had their annual Fall Harvest celebration. Upon parking into the orchard’s lot, I was greeted by a billowing pumpkin patch, overflowing apple trees, Fabyan Sugar Shack’s maple cotton candy, artisan jams and a long row of different types of gourds. I perused the multi-colored delicata, oblong butternut, and rotund buttercups with live music playing and horse drawn wagons passing by in the distance. I purchased an array of festive sweets and gourds including some gourdgeous (ha!) acorn squash.
I decided to roast my plump acorn squash and fill them with a medley of fall flavors. To add texture and a touch of savory and sweet to the stuffing, I folded in leafy kale, nutty farro, Gouda cheese, dried cranberries and pepitas.
Roasted Acorn Squash with Cheesy Farro Stuffing

2 acorn squashes, cut in half with seeds removed
3 T unsalted butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c farro
2 1/2 c chicken broth
1 bunch kale (about 10 oz), center stems removed, leaves chopped
1 t fresh thyme
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 c pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
salt and pepper throughout
1 1/2 c grated Gouda cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Sprinkle the insides of the squash halves with salt, pepper, a drizzle of EVOO, and place halves cut side down in a baking dish. Add water about 1/4-inch up the sides of the dish. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until squash can be pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and flip interior side up in the baking dish.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T butter and 1 T EVOO in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and sautee for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic and farro, give a stir and let sautee for 30 seconds. Increase heat to high, pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, stir in the kale and let cook for another 10-15 minutes until the farro is tender. 

Remove from heat and add 2 T butter, dried cranberries, pepitas, salt, pepper, thyme, lemon juice and Gouda cheese. Stir together until combined. 

Divide heaping spoonfuls of the farro stuffing evenly among the 4 squash halves. Sprinkle each with remaining Gouda cheese, a drizzle of EVOO, sprinkle of salt and pepper, and place back into the baking dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes until just the cheese is melted and golden. Remove from heat, plate and serve. Serves 4.

If you have extra filling, enjoy it the next day for lunch as a spin on risotto!

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