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Salty, Sweet Valentine's Treat

Posted on: Friday, February 13, 2015

Looking for a quick and easy homemade gift for your beau, family member or friend on Valentine's Day? Follow a few easy steps below to wow your loved ones!

First, grab your favorite bar of dark or milk chocolate, your favorite potato chips and finishing salt.
Next, cut up the chocolate into medium-sized pieces and place them into a bowl fitted over a pot of simmering water over medium heat on the stove. Make sure the water is simmering, not boiling. Stir the chocolate until just melted and remove from heat. 
Next, dip your chips in the warm pool of chocolate and let dry on a lined baking sheet. For a touch of pink, sprinkle the chips with Himalayan pink sea salt.
Let the chocolate chips set for at least 10 minutes and serve.
Happy Valentine's Day from Twin Tastes!

Rich and Robust Marsala

Posted on: Monday, February 9, 2015

While writing my art history thesis in college, I became fascinated by color's influence on every aspect of life, and today often refer to Pantone Inc. as the leading authority in communicating color. Annually, the Pantone Color Institute announces the “Color of the Year,” a hue selected to represent the year’s global spirit in design. This year, I was thrilled to hear Marsala was selected not only because I adore the wonderful deep hue, but because I also associate it with cooking.

Marsala is a reddish maroon shade that creates a rich and elegant statement. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute explains that “Marsala enriches our mind, body and soul, exuding confidence and stability." Like the robust, earthy Sicilian fortified wine, the hue has an organic warmth and sophistication on its own or when paired with other colors. I cook with Marsala wine frequently in the winter months usually in the form of a velvety sauce alongside earthy mushrooms, chicken and pasta.

Like Kara, I recently added twin mini Staub cocottes to my culinary supply collection, so decided to create a Marsala dish in each one as an ode to the Color of the Year. I added Marsala to a sautee of mushrooms, shallots and thyme with pulled chicken, a duo of creamy cheeses and Gemelli pasta all baked and bubbling in the little pots. With Valentine’s Day next weekend, these rich and cozy baked cocottes would create quite the memorable dinner for your beau. I encourage you to find a Marsala-hued table cloth and some gold accents to set the scene too!
Marsala Mushroom, Chicken and Gemelli Mini Cocottes

4 mini Staub cocotte pots
1/2 lb Gemelli pasta
2 T unsalted butter
1 lb wild mushrooms, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1/3 c Marsala wine
1/3 c chicken broth
1 c cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 t fresh thyme
2 c Fontina cheese, grated
3/4 c Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
3 T fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and pepper throughout

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside

Meanwhile, heat a sautee pan to medium high. Add 1 T EVOO and 1 T butter. Once butter is melted, add the mushrooms and shallot and sautee for 4-5 minutes until the mushrooms are browned a bit. After 1 minute, lower to medium heat and pour in the Marsala. Allow the liquid to boil down for a few seconds while scraping down the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon until almost evaporated. After 1 minute, gradually stir in the broth with a pinch of salt and pepper. After another minute add 1 T butter and allow the sauce to simmer for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the cooked chicken and thyme and turn off the heat. Add the pasta to the pan plus the 1 ½ cups Fontina, ½ cup Parmigiano Reggianoo, 1 T chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Stir all of the ingredients together and evenly spoon into the 4 mini cocottes. Sprinkle the remaining Fontina and Parmigiano Reggiano evenly on top of each pot. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bubbling and slightly golden on top. Sprinkle the remaining parsley on top of each pot and serve. Serves 4.
Find our more about the fascinating Color of the Year selection process here:

Super Bowl Snacks and Sips

Posted on: Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Whipping up some Super Bowl fare this Sunday to cheer on the mighty Patriots and looking for a recipe other than a layered dip? Here are a few favorite unconventional game day dishes for a festive, crowd-pleasing spread:
Halftime Stuffed Mushroom Halves

Our favorite brew pairings? We tend to lean towards citrusy pale ales and belgian whites like Berkshire Brewing Company Pale Ale and Allagash White Ale

Go Pats!!!!

Mini Breakfast Bakes

Posted on: Friday, January 23, 2015

For Christmas, Marni and I were giddy with excitement when we received twin Mini Cocottes from our mom. While my cadmium red duo looks absolutely adorable positioned on my kitchen window sill, I instantly started brainstorming how to use the vessels in cooking as well. Do I go sweet or savory? Hot or cold? Breakfast or dinner? 
Whenever I am perplexed, I think back to my travels for inspiration. While living in Spain for the first time in college, I lived with a host family that introduced me to classic Central Spanish cuisine. One of my favorite dishes was my Señora’s pisto. It’s a Spanish take on ratatouille with a thick, tomato-based sauce mixed with stewed vegetables. Pisto is commonly served either over a bed of white rice or with an egg cracked on top and baked. To mix up my morning routine, I spooned the pisto with some spicy chorizo sausage into my mini cocottes, cracked an egg on top of each one, and covered the bubbling beauties with Manchego cheese.
Baked Eggs over Pisto with Chorizo and Manchego

1 link chorizo, diced
1 medium-sized Spanish onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large zucchini, diced
1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/3 c tomato sauce (I used Newman’s Own) 

1 roasted red pepper, diced (I used canned)
1/4 c water
1 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper throughout
4 large eggs
1 c Manchego cheese, grated
fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

On medium-high, heat the EVOO in a large skillet. Add the chorizo and brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Next add the garlic, onion, zucchini and sautee for an additional 5 minutes until tender. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, roasted red peppers, water and vinegar and stir to combine. Reduce the temperature to low and simmer for 20 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water. Stir in the salt and pepper to taste. While the pisto is stewing, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spoon about 1/4 of the pisto mixture into each mini cocotte. Using the back of a spoon, create a well in the middle of each cocotte. Crack an egg and carefully drop the raw egg into the center of the hole. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and Manchego cheese. Repeat with remaining 3 cocottes. Cook for 15 minutes or until the whites of the eggs are set and opaque. The yolk will remain somewhat runny. Sprinkle with flat leaf parsley and serve. Serves 4.

This recipe can also be prepared in one large skillet and spooned out. I enjoyed the baked eggs for breakfast but they could definitely be served for any meal!

A Fresh Start to 2015

Posted on: Monday, January 5, 2015

In the spirit of healthy living and continued celebrations in 2015, I gathered a few family members for an interactive summer roll-making party. Fresh summer rolls are one of my all time favorite poppable bites and always provide a burst of clean, fresh flavors. The Vietnamese version gỏi cuốn are steamed wraps filled with various ingredients like pork, shrimp, mango, cabbage, and Vermicelli rice noodles and are served alongside simple dipping sauces. I had never attempted to make the rolled wonders on my own, but Kara urged me to give them a try when she had the opportunity to learn how to make them from a neighbor from Southeast Asia.
With shopping list in hand, I hopped across Mass. Ave. to my beloved Asian market, H Mart and grabbed the rice noodles and rice paper rounds. I prepared all of the filling ingredients including an array of vibrant matchstick veggies ahead of time and arranged them on small plates. I also set out soy sauce, Sriracha, hoisin and a spicy peanut sauce for dipping.
Assembling our round rice paper canvases was a blast. The improvement from everyone’s first rolled creation to their last was staggering - even our brother James got the hang of it! While sipping cocktails, we quickly filled a platter with the soft, translucent rolls ready for dipping. They disappeared pretty quickly soon after.
Fresh Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Spicy Peanut Sauce
1/3 c peanut butter (I used Jiffy’s All Natural)
2 T soy sauce
2 T Sriracha (add more if you want more of a kick)
1-3 T hot water
chopped peanuts for garnish

Fresh Summer Rolls
4 oz (1/2 package) Vermicelli rice noodles
1 package rice paper wrappers
2 carrots, peeled, cut into matchsticks
2 cucumbers, seeded, peeled, cut into matchsticks
1 mango cut into matchsticks
2 avocados, sliced thin
1/2 head red cabbage or romaine lettuce, shredded
1 bunch fresh mint or cilantro leaves
1 lb large shrimp, cooked, cut in half

In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter, soy sauce, and Sriracha. By tablespoons, whisk in the hot water to create a smooth sauce. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve. Can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.

Next, prepare the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain, and run under cold water to cool.

Fill a large bowl or deep plate with hot water for softening the rice paper wrappers. Put a rice paper wrapper on a plate in front of each guest. One at a time, dip one of the rice paper wrappers into the hot water. Allow the round to soak for 10-15 seconds until soft and pliable. Remove from the water carefully and set back onto the prep plate.

Place 1 or 2 strips of each vegetable, a couple pieces of shrimp, a few sprigs of mint or cilantro, and a small handful of noodles on the bottom third of the wrapper (be careful not to overfill them as they'll be difficult to roll). Pull the bottom edge of the wrap tightly over the filling, and then fold over the 2 sides. Roll tightly from the bottom to the top until the entire wrapper is a cylinder. Cut in half, place on a platter and enjoy with the Spicy Peanut Sauce and any other favorites.
These fresh appetizers are not only addicting, they are nutritious too. They can be made gluten free, vegetarian or vegan. I think the next time I might try a dessert spin!

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