Busy Brussels Sprout Salad

Posted on: Thursday, January 19, 2017

As we jump into 2017, the new year debuts new recipes inspired by local spots and seasonal ingredients. One of my favorite neighborhood spots is Area Four in Cambridge. Whether stopping in for their A4 Sausage and Pickled Banana Pepper pizza or morning Frittata breakfast sandwich, they make most everything in-house with quality, fresh ingredients throughout the day and evening. While their pizza is my favorite in the Cambridge area, another go-to dish on their menu is the A4 Brussels Sprout Salad. The cascading sea of curly greens is packed with flavor, texture and pairs perfectly with a bubbling pie from the brick oven. 

At a recent family dinner party with my siblings and significant others, I decided to serve my own take on the salad alongside lemon and oregano roasted chicken and potatoes. Our plates popped with citrus, fresh flavors and vibrant colors. The thinly sliced veggies melded wonderfully with the tart apple matchsticks, sharp Manchego cheese and toasted hazelnuts. This busy salad will be a big hit at your next dinner party!
Busy Shaved Brussel Sprouts Salad with Hazelnuts, Manchego and Apple

1/3 c fresh lemon juice
2 T Dijon mustard
1 shallot, finely minced
1 small garlic clove, grated
2/3 c EVOO
1 lb Tuscan kale (about 1 big bunch), stemmed, leaves thinly sliced
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed, very thinly sliced (a food processor works beautifully here)
1 Honeycrisp or Gala apple, cored, cut into matchsticks
6 radishes, halved, very thinly sliced (a food processor works again here)
1 c (about 4 oz) Manchego cheese, grated
3/4 c hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Salt and pepper throughout

To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in the EVOO and allow to emulsify. Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chopped kale and sliced Brussels sprouts. Add about 1/2 of the dressing, and use your hands to massage the dressing into the greens. Taste and add more dressing as needed (you may not need all of it). Let sit in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.

Before serving, add the the apple, radishes, cheese and remaining dressing. Toss together to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a salad bowl, and sprinkle the hazelnuts on top.

Feel free to add grilled chicken, salmon or a skewer of shrimp on top to further amp up this super salad!

Spicy Tortilla Chicken Soup

Posted on: Tuesday, December 20, 2016

With the winter chill setting in, I invited a few friends over for a festive Soup Fiesta lunch. I whipped up a big pot of my Spicy Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup with all of the fix-ins, and let my friends mingle and assemble their bowls of soup...with Margaritas in hand, of course. 
This soup is the ultimate body warming dish with a hot, steamy broth and spicy, zesty accents. The addition of creamy avocado slices, melted cheese, lime, and crispy tortilla strips creates a fun layering of flavors and textures. Seated in the living room with big bowls in our laps, a late afternoon siesta followed for many of us.
Spicy Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup

1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 T tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
jalapeƱos, seeded and chopped
1 T chili powder
6 c chicken broth
4 c shredded roasted chicken
salt and pepper throughout

1 t Canola oil
4 corn tortillas cut into 1/4-inch strips
2 avocados, thinly sliced
grated Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves
2 limes cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat 1 T EVOO over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 3-5 minute, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes (with liquid), 
jalapeƱos, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook until liquid evaporates, about 2-3 minutes. Add broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Let simmer atop the stove for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Meanwhile, toss the tortilla strips with the 1 t Canola oil on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden and toasty.

Evenly divide the shredded chicken among 6 bowls. Ladle the broth on top and evenly distribute the avocado, grated cheese, tortilla strips, and cilantro on top. Add two lime wedges on the side. Serves 6.

Have fun with the toppings - I sometimes add homemade pico de gallo, corn, black beans, or a spoonful of sour cream. This version is pretty spicy, so feel free to reduce or increase the seasoning to taste.

Hungry for Hygge

Posted on: Tuesday, November 15, 2016

After an emotional, politically-charged week, I drove down to Pomfret for a restful, rejuvenating retreat. As Kara, Patrick, Ryan, Shiloh and I lounged in the living room, we started reminiscing about happier times like traveling through Europe - most notably to Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Danish are some of the happiest people in the world. They are seen as incredibly supportive, generous and kind-hearted. It's only suitable that they have a word in their vocabulary, hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) that encapsulates the feeling of cozy, relaxed comfort and well-being. The Danish consciously create hygge in their homes, social situations and everyday life. They prioritize positivity and taking care of yourself and those around you.
While simple in nature, I think we could all benefit from adding a little hygge to our lives. Whether it be with lighting - candles, a warm, pleasing glow; interior design - painted walls, pleasing images, plush throws and pillows; clothing - cozy sweaters and slippers; music - soothing and meditative tunes; or my personal favorite, cuisine. For me, the sharing of homemade dishes and drinks with friends and loved ones provides the highest level of comfort and ease.
Kara and I have many recipes that create a soothing sense of familiarity. Most notable is a Meat Pie recipe we brought home years ago after a visit to Old Sturbridge Village. The rich and savory pie is an aromatic blend of gravy, ground pork, beef potatoes, onions, carrots, and spices all enveloped in a buttery pie crust. We make it every year, and this past weekend was an opportune time.
Cozy Meat Pie

Beef Gravy
3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
2 c beef stock
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t garlic powder
salt and pepper throughout

Pie Filling
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 c diced carrot
1 c diced Russet potatoes
1 c diced carrots
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground clove
1 c breadcrumbs
1 recipe pie dough for a 9-inch double crusted pie
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper throughout

To prepare the Beef Gravy, in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add 3 T butter. Once melted, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Stir until a brown roux has formed, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour in the beef broth, and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the Worcestershire, and garlic powder, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and continue to cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out 1 piece of dough to fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Roll out the other piece of dough and set in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and carrots and blanch until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add the pork, meat and onions and saute until the meat has browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add the cinnamon, clove, salt, pepper and prepared Beef Gravy. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the drained potatoes, carrots, and bread crumbs to the pan. Stir to combine and then pour the filling into the prepared pie crust, leveling the filling at the top. Cover the filling with the reserved pie crust, pinching the edges of the bottom and top layers together. Trim off any excess dough with a knife. Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg, and make a few slits with a fork or knife to allow the steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes. Serves 6-8.

This rich and delicious pie is perfect for winter and holiday entertaining - enjoy it alongside a simple kale salad. It can be prepared a day or two ahead of time too!

Root Veggie Chips

Posted on: Wednesday, October 19, 2016

At a recent October gathering in the countryside, I decided to serve an array of fall-centric bites. The mild weather allowed for guests of all ages to relax on the deck and take in the foliage. Along with some local cider and brews, I arranged an assortment of plates including a pecan and maple topped baked brie with sliced apples, sweet potato and kale flatbread, and of course, a pumpkin-shaped pimento cheese mold.
To add to the vibrant setting, I baked some autumnal-toned root vegetables. Using my mandolin, I sliced an array of potatoes and beets, sprinkled them with sea salt, a drizzle of EVOO, and baked them until crispy. The raw slices transformed into these wonderfully sweet, ruffled chips. 

For a necessary dipping sauce, I decided to whip up a nostalgic blue cheese dressing. Growing up, I always topped salads with blue cheese dressing while Marni covered hers in French. While we fortunately outgrew this phase, I still enjoy blue cheese as a tangy dipping sauce with sweet and salty bites. The light and colorful chips alongside the rich dip were a big hit - best enjoyed warm from the oven!
Baked Root Veggie Chips with Blue Cheese Dip

Blue Cheese Dip
1 c Greek yogurt
1/4 c crumbled blue cheese
2 T chopped chives
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t garlic powder
Salt and pepper

Root Veggie Chips
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and halved crosswise
2 russet potatoes
2 red beets, peeled
Sea salt
Cooking spray

In a small bowl, stir together the Blue Cheese Dip ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the veggies 1/8-inch thick. Arrange the sliced veggies on a paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. Let the veggies set for 10 minutes and then flip over, blotting with the paper towel to dry out.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Place the slices in a single layer on the baking sheets. Spray cooking spray over the top. If you have leftover slices, set them aside until the chips are cooked and repeat the process.

Bake until the veggie slices are crisp, about 25-30 minutes, turning about halfway through. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the chips rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the chips to a bowl and toss with salt. Continue to bake the remaining steps following the step above. Serve with the Blue Cheese Dip. Makes 5-6 cup of chips.

Whether it be a gathering around the fire, or during a football game, these chips are an easy snack, best enjoyed warm and crispy out of the oven. I look forward to incorporating parsnips, rutabaga or another root veggie into the mix next party!

Taste of the Fenway

Posted on: Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On September 28th, I ventured over to Fenway before a Sox game to take part in The Taste of The Fenway. Between the hours of five and seven, Van Ness Street was converted into a booming food festival with a live stage featuring Berklee College of Music tunes, and numerous Fenway eateries and local drink vendors showcasing some of their best bites. The resident restaurant line-up included Saloniki Greek, Sweet Cheeks, Tiger Mama, Citizen, Hojoko, El Pelon, and many more. I bopped around from vendor to vendor with a glass of wine, beer or coffee sample in hand. Although the day was windy, the incredible array of yummy bites set the pleasant mood.

Below are a few of my favorite tastes from the event:

Saloniki Greek’s Mini Honey Garlic Pork Shoulder Gyros
Sweet Cheek’s Mini BBQ Brisket Filled Biscuits
El Pelon Taqueria's Mini Chicken Chimichangas with homemade Tortilla Chips
The event was hosted by the Fenway CDC and developer Samuels & Associates. I can’t wait to skip over the bridge to Fenway again soon! It is such a flourishing neighborhood for food and of course sports fans.

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