Chocolate Truffles with Chili Salt

Posted on: Monday, December 4, 2017

All of a sudden it’s December and holiday season! Admittedly, Kara and I have been a bit distracted with some engagements and baby news in our family. 'Tis the season to get into high gear and brainstorm ways to celebrate your loved ones...for me in the form of indulgent creations in the kitchen.
Last weekend, I spent way too long at one of my favorite local farms, Wilson Farm in Lexington. I was instantly attracted to the holiday gift section, most notably the array of gingerbread houses, chocolates, and confections, as well as the fine foods section, overflowing with assorted spices and and locally made goods.
With gift-giving in mind, I picked up some sea salt and chili powder, a perfect complement to sweet, decadent chocolate truffles. The classic truffle is a delightfully chocolatey pop and a simple, gourmet gift for family, friends and coworkers around the holidays. For the chocolate lover, the bite is the ultimate concentration of rich and creamy goodness. A sprinkle of spicy sea salt takes truffles up to another level.
Chocolate Truffles with Chili Salt
2 T flaky sea salt
1/2 t chili powder

1/2 c heavy cream
2 T unsalted butter
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 t vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine the sea salt and chili powder and set aside.

Pour 8 ounces of the semi-sweet chocolate chips into a heat proof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream and butter on medium heat. When the liquid starts to boil slightly, remove from the heat and pour it over the bowl of chocolate. Let stand for a minute. With a spatula, stir the chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Let cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Remove the ganache mixture from the refrigerator and with a melon baller (or Tablespoon), spoon out balls. With your hands, roll the chocolate into perfect round shapes and place them on a lined baking sheet. After you have formed all of the ganache into spheres, return them back to the refrigerator. While the truffles chill, microwave the extra 4 ounces of chocolate in 20 second intervals. After 20 seconds, stir the chocolate and place the bowl back into the microwave. Repeat this process three times.

Remove the chocolate balls from the refrigerator. With two forks, place the truffles into the melted chocolate. Cover the spheres with the melted chocolate evenly, tapping off the excess with the forks, and place back onto the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle each truffle with a pinch of the reserved chili sea salt blend. Return the truffles back into the refrigerator to completely harden. Makes 20 truffles.

If you have leftover chili salt, it adds a wonderful punch to a Margarita glass rim!

Cinnamon Spice Apple Butter

Posted on: Thursday, October 19, 2017

Surrounded by apple orchards in the Quiet Corner of CT, I love putting fun spins on the abundance of my favorite fruit in the fall. While Honey Crisps are simply incredible as is, and Granny Smith are tasty with a piece of sharp cheddar or touch of peanut butter, I often find myself with a big bushel of apples and not enough time to eat them fresh.
Applesauce is a great go-to, but if you’re looking for something a little more decadent and sugary, I recommend trying apple butter. While the preparation is similar to applesauce, apple butter is cooked longer, with less liquid and more sugar for caramelizing. The finished product is a thicker, glossier spread with a more concentrated flavor and darker color. Forget fall-scented candles, get this going in the morning and your house will be wafting with the sweet, enticing aroma all day.
You can make the apple butter by roasting the apples in the oven or slowly cooking them atop the stove, but I found that the slow cooker method created the richest, most concentrated results. After cooling and jarring the apple butter, I enjoyed it the next morning slathered on toast with a smear of rich ricotta and sprinkle of cinnamon.   
Cinnamon Spice Apple Butter

5 lbs apples (about 15 medium-sized), cored and peeled
2/3 cups brown sugar
2/3 c granulated sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t clove
1/2 t salt
1 T vanilla extract
1 T fresh lemon juice

Chop the apples and place them into your slow cooker. Sprinkle the apples with the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and salt, and stir until incorporated. Cover the slow cooker and bake on low for 8 hours. At hour 8, add the vanilla extract and lemon juice, stir, and cook for 1 more hour. Next, transfer the apple mixture to a blender (or food processor) and blend until smooth. Enjoy warm right away, or store in mason jars in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Apple butter is so versatile - warmed and topped over butter pecan ice cream, chilled and drizzled atop pumpkin pancakes, spooned over rosemary roasted pork, slathered on a ham and brie panini - I’ve been adding it to everything!


Posted on: Monday, September 25, 2017

I recently attended a friend’s wedding at Plimoth Plantation and was transported back in time. During the reception, surrounded by the charming timber-framed houses, curious farm animals and booming 17th century gardens, I couldn’t help but think about the history built into the grounds. During the 1600s, the plantation was home to the Wampanoag People and the Colonial English community. Back then, the Pilgrims created recipes according to the season and often planned ahead for the colder, winter months. They often extended the life of their foods through preservation in the form of salting, drying and my favorite, pickling.
After brunch the next morning on our drive through the South Shore back up to Cambridge, I was inspired to pickle some veggies - something I have always wanted to try. I researched a few basic dill pickled cucumber recipes and decided to try pickling green beans too. I gathered my supplies and delved right in!

Dill Pickled Cucumbers and Green Beans

2 32 ounce mason jars with lids
3-4 kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
20-22 green beans, trimmed
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, halved
8 large dill sprigs
2 c distilled white vinegar
4 cups water
3 T kosher salt
3 t granulated sugar
2 T peppercorns
1 T mustard seeds
1 t coriander seeds
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
Place the kirby cucumbers in one mason jar and the green beans in the other. Distribute the yellow onion, garlic cloves and dill sprigs among the two mason jars.
In a pot, bring the distilled white vinegar, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds and crushed red pepper flakes to a boil over high heat.

After a few minutes, turn off the heat and pour the brine evenly into the two jars. Cover and secure the lids, let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. Allow the pickles to meld in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before enjoying. The pickles can keep for 1 month in the refrigerator.
A quick accompaniment to a charcuterie platter... chopped up on hot dogs... What veggie to pickle next!?

Savory Tomato and Eggplant Galette

Posted on: Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It’s always funny to think how palates evolve. While Marni and I were never picky eaters, there were definitely foods we avoided and loved at an early age. With the start of the school year, I can’t help but think back to our go-to lunch choices in kindergarten. Marni does not like to admit it now, but savored bologna and mustard sandwiches while I opted for roast beef and mayo.
There were also some foods we were rarely exposed to and at first taste, despised. Marni hated tomatoes and Swiss cheese as I stayed far away from eggplant. Years later as our taste buds matured, we acquired a love for now two of our favorite vegetables. At a seasonally appropriate gathering, I decided to feature juicy heirloom tomatoes and subtle eggplant baked atop a creamy Swiss cheese layer in a rich and flaky crust. Topped with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of fresh thyme, this galette is our top lunchtime dish.

End of Summer Heirloom Tomato and Eggplant Galette

Crust: (recipe from Saveur)
1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t sugar
8 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
4-6 T ice water

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/8-inch rounds
2 large Heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch rounds
1 1/2 c Swiss cheese, grated
1/2 c Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
1 t dried oregano
1 egg, beaten
1 t fresh thyme leaves
1/2 t fresh oregano
salt and pepper throughout

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the crust, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the butter and with your hands, incorporate it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Next, drizzle 4 T of water over the flour mixture; stir with a wooden spoon until clumps start to form. If the dough looks dry, slowly add more water, 1 T at a time, as needed. Gather the dough, form it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
On a floured surface, roll out the chilled dough into a 1/8-inch thick circle. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet topped with parchment paper.
Drizzle the dough with EVOO and sprinkle the Swiss cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano on top, leaving a 1-2-inch border all around. Overlap the heirloom tomato and eggplant rounds in a fan on top of the layer of cheese. Sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper. Fold the edges of the dough up over the filling.
Brush the entire surface of the crust with the beaten egg. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the vegetables are tender, about 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with an extra sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Serves 4-6.
While I paired our kid lunches with an apple juice box, I paired our savory galette with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Maine Escape

Posted on: Thursday, August 24, 2017

I recently escaped from the city to explore the coast of Maine. The extended weekend was full of hiking, kayaking, fresh seafood, local brews, and R&R. Each town had its own exquisite charm with dramatic coastlines, vast vistas, and delicious local eateries. Here are some of the highlights:

Portland was a necessary first stop. We veered off the highway and popped into Bissell Brothers for a couple samples of I-Lucky, their ginger IPA, and a couple 4-packs of Substance Ale (their flagship dark ale) for the weekend ahead.
Next, we grabbed a late lunch at Honey Paw - The Eventide team’s sister restaurant with an eccentric menu influenced by regional cuisine with Asian influences. We split the Vietnamese Masa Crepe filled with fried mussels, rhubarb sambal, peanut, maple nuoc cham; Lobster wontons; and Fried Chicken wings with lime, coconut and chili.
For a sweet note, we walked down the street to Two Fat Cats Bakery for Strawberry Rhubarb and Mixed Berry Maine Mini Pies.
On our way up the coast, we meandered our way to Five Island Lobster Company . As we arrived, the mystical, misty fog rolled in over the harbor. While lobster of course is a favorite, I opted for a Grilled Haddock Sandwich and Fries. BYOB Bissell Brothers came in handy.
After catching up with old friends and spending the night nearby, we were on our way north the following morning. When we arrived on Mount Desert Island, we stopped at Mother’s Kitchen a tiny gourmet sandwich shop for a Grand Baker - smoked turkey, brie, pesto mayo on a roll filled with greens, red onion and tomatoes straight from the garden. We rented kayaks at National Park Canoe and Kayak Rental and spent the afternoon on the pristine waters of Great Long Pond. Rain was looming in the forecast, but that didn’t stop us.
Photo by Ryan Boyer
The only dinner we veered away from seafood was for Mainely Meat BBQ at the Atlantic Brewing Company. We stumbled upon the fun outdoor spot filled with families, pets and super friendly service. We tried a Sampler Plate heaping with pulled pork, BBQ ribs, sausage, chicken, baked beans, potato salad and coleslaw and paired it with Bar Harbor Summer Ale and Braggat Honey Ale.
After dinner, it was time to check-in to our Airbnb cabin - a cozy secluded spot in the woods.
We committed to waking up at 4am the next morning to catch the first sunrise in the U.S. at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. What a pristine, vast, absolutely breathtaking experience! Wide eyed at 6:30am, we decided to hike for a few hours. It was a surreal feeling to hike so early in the morning, deep in the wilderness, with only Mother Nature by your side. Highly recommend it.
After our lengthy hike, we rolled into Jordan Pond House, an Acadia institution. It was the perfect respite to rejuvenate and reflect on the morning. I sipped on blueberry tea and nibbled on fluffy popovers slathered in raspberry jam and butter.
Bar Harbor Inn - While beers have been central to the trip, I decided to take a break and opted for a gin cocktail for happy hour with crushed ice, gin, lime and mint. For dinner, we ventured to good ole’ Stewmans Lobster Pound and enjoyed a half ladle of Clam chowder and Fish and Chips paired with Bar Harbor Thunder Hole Ale- a brown, smooth ale.
For dessert, we walked through town to Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Imporium. Iopted against Lobster Ice Cream in favor of Blueberry Fudge. After dinner and taking in the sunset over Bar Harbor, we returned to our cabin in the forest.
Blasting Doobie Brothers and Steve Miller Band, we headed home the next morning, stopping in Oqunquit for lunch. Oqunquit was the quintessential Maine tourist spot with cute shops on the coast. In Perkins Cove, we dined at MC Perkins With our table ideally placed facing the sea, I enjoyed flavor packed Cornmeal Crusted Fish Tacos with red cabbage slaw, cilantro, green chile sauce, jalapeno and cilantro crema.
During our final stroll along the cliff walk, I ended the adventure with the perfect sweet note: Salt water taffy from Goldenrod.

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