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It's the Bee's Knees

Posted on: Wednesday, March 25, 2015

After a windy walk home to my Cambridge apartment, I was pleasantly surprised to see a tiny package on my doorstep with a Savannah, GA stamp. When I opened the seal, I found a round of Savannah Bee Company Raw Honeycomb - such a sweet treat from Kara. Savannah Bee Company is one of the iconic honey shops in Savannah and producer of all kinds of honey products. Their wax comb rounds come straight from the source (the hive!) where bees fill the tiny crevices with the golden honey. I opened the seal and broke off a piece right away. The sticky round had a delicate chew and added a nice texture to the smooth, delicate amber liquid oozing out.
Since it was Friday, I had cocktails in mind. I thought of the Prohibition era drink, The Bee’s Knees which is a mix of gin, lemon and honey. The 1920’s name means “an extraordinary thing,” and I think the touch of honeycomb in its purest form made the cocktail even more buzzworthy.
Honeycomb Bee’s Knees

1 T honey (I used Savannah Bee Company’s Tupelo Honey)
1 T water
2 oz gin (I used Beefeater)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
Ice
1 (1/2-inch) piece of raw honeycomb, for garnish (I used Savannah Bee Company’s)

Pour the honey and water into a little cup or bowl and microwave for 15 seconds. Stir to combine to create a honey syrup.

Pour the honey syrup, gin, and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled mason jar or your favorite cocktail glass. Garnish with a piece of honeycomb. Makes 1 cocktail.

I enjoyed my version of a Bee’s Knees with a plate of raw honeycomb, goat cheese, toasted almonds and baguette toasts.

Sprouting Salad inspired by Savannah

Posted on: Thursday, March 19, 2015

To escape the arctic tundra that is New England, I recently visited the oldest city in Georgia, Savannah. While I knew little about the city before the trip, I knew it featured a few of my favorite traits: walkability, warmth, charm, and good food. I spent the majority of the trip strolling down the quaint, cobblestone streets lined with dangling Spanish moss and sprawling oak trees. As I hopped from square to square (22 in all!), I kept my eye out for some foodie finds.


I feasted on many southern staples like shrimp and grits at Alligator Soul Restaurant, pork shank at The Grey and pecan honey-glazed fried chicken at The Pirates' House. Along with the modest, no frills menus at many of the highly regarded restaurants, I also noticed the use of local ingredients and ever-changing, seasonal dishes. Many eateries already had spring-inspired menus with an abundance of bright salads and slaws. Instead of using basic romaine and a simple dressing, many used fresh, in-season greens, herbs and exotic, citrusy touches.
Inspired by the cascading Spanish Moss all over Savannah, I decided to make a salad of swirling greens using one of my favorite vegetables, Brussels sprouts. While Marni and I have made many recipes using the small cabbages, we usually roast or sautee them. This time, I finely cut the raw Brussels sprout into super thin strands and mixed them with a bright, citrus vinaigrette, salty Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, sweet Navel oranges, and toasted walnuts.
Citrusy Brussels Sprouts Salad

Citrus Vinaigrette
1 t Dijon mustard
1 t freshly squeezed orange juice
1 T red wine vinegar
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

12 oz Brussels sprouts, stemmed and finely shredded with a knife or mandolin
1 c walnuts, toasted
2 Navel oranges, segmented
1/2 c fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 c Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved (with a potato peeler)
salt and pepper to taste



Whisk all of the Citrus Vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Throw the Brussels sprouts into a salad bowl, allowing the layers to separate. Add the walnuts, orange segments and flat leaf parsley. Drizzle the dressing over and toss to combine. Top with the shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano, salt and pepper. Serves 4.


A fresh take on salad, just in time for spring! Stay tuned for more Savannah-inspired treats to come. . . .

Taza Chocolate Fix

Posted on: Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kara and I have been eager to visit the Taza Chocolate Factory, so utilized an open Saturday to satisfy a twin chocolate craving. While sampling an assortment of 100% Stone Ground, Mexican-style chocolate (from cinnamon to raspberry to salted almond to guajillo chilli), our charmingly enthusiastic and engaging guide, Josh took us through the funky warehouse. When the 45-minute tour ended, we instantly wanted to book a trip to the ‘Cocoa Belt’ of Central America.
Josh explained how the chocolate-making process begins in Central America where cacao beans are harvested, fermented and dried before being shipped to the US. In Somerville, the cacao beans are roasted in a vintage cacao roaster which allows the shells to loosen from the beans. The roasted beans are then passed through a winnower which separates the shells and germ from the cacao beans and breaks them into cacao nibs. Next, the cacao nibs run through a Mexican stone mill (or 'molino') and are ground into a cocoa liquor. The resultant thick paste is combined with sugar and either reground to be transformed into the Chocolate Mexicano Discs, or further refined to become the Stone Ground Chocolate Bars. From there, the mixture is tempered to allow the crystals to develop and align for the perfect texture and punch. Finally, the chocolate is molded, dried in Taza’s custom drying room, and packaged to enjoy all over the world. We were amazed how all of this was accomplished so carefully by hand.
We left with an abundance of chocolate goodies including my personal favorite, the crunchy, nutty Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs. My mind was mulling over how to incorporate the bits into a sweet treat. I sought inspiration from my time living in the North End with Kara where arancini (Italian fried risotto balls) were popular treats. My sweet version of the ultimate crispy, melty snacks are filled with chocolatey Taza-infused rice pudding. 
Taza Chocolate Covered Cacao Nib Arancini

2 c arborio rice
4 c water
pinch of salt
1 1/2 c almond milk (skim milk will work too) 

3/4 c granulated sugar
3 T unsalted butter
1 T vanilla extract
1 T cinnamon 1/2 

c Taza Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs
4 large eggs
2 T water
4 c breadcrumbs
1 c granulated sugar
3 T ground cinnamon
Canola oil, for deep-frying

In a medium-sized pot, bring the water to a boil on high heat. Add the arborio rice, reduce heat to low, and cook until the water is slightly absorbed, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in another medium-sized pot bring the almond milk, granulated sugar, butter, vanilla and cinnamon to a slow simmer over medium low heat. Once the rice has cooked for 10 minutes, strain the milk mixture into the rice mixture. Allow the combined mixture to thicken over low heat for about 10 more minutes until the rice is al dente. If the mixture is a bit liquidy, spoon off some of the milk from the top. Pour the rice mixture onto a large parchment-lined baking sheet and spread out into a thin layer. Let chill in the refrigerator for 20-25 minutes.

When the rice mixture has cooled, slide it into a large bowl and mix in the cocoa nibs. With a tablespoon, form the rice mixture into small orbs (you may need to use your hands to shape) and line up the balls on a baking sheet. Return the rice balls back to the fridge and let set for an additional 20 minutes.

Once the rice balls are set, heat 3 inches of canola oil in a pan to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Add the beaten eggs with 2 T water into a second dish. One at a time, dredge the rice balls in the eggs and then roll in the breadcrumbs. In batches of 5 or 6, place the balls into the hot oil with a slotted spoon and fry for 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve. Makes at least 2 dozen balls.

Find out more about all that is Taza here: http://www.tazachocolate.com/

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
EVOO
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: http://www.pantone.com/pages/index.aspx?pg=21163

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