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Dulce de Leche Macaroons

Posted on: Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sometimes you just feel like baking cookies. They are such a universal treat. While the all-American chocolate chip cookie always excites, it is fun to think of other favorite cookies and their origins. I love a coiled Greek koulourakia around Easter, Italian biscotti with my morning coffee or an Argentinian alfajor whenever I can find it in the states. I remember my instant attraction to the soft buttery cookies sandwiched around creamy dulce de leche while on a trip to Buenos Aires a few years back. If Kara had to choose her favorite, the coconut lover would most likely think back to her time in Paris where she tried her first coconut macaroon.
Yearning for that freshly-baked cookie smell in my apartment, I decided to create a cookie merging Kara and my favorite kinds. I made a light macaroon base with a decadent spoonful of thick and sticky dulche de leche in the center. Dulce de leche is a delightfully thick caramel spread made from cooking down milk and sugar. Many people make their own dulce de leche by slowly boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk. In this instance, I popped into my favorite artisan grocer, Formaggio Kitchen for a jar of La Salamandra. The super sweet bites with a salty kick sprinkled on top were a lovely balance of flavors and textures and I was excited to see share them with Kara.
Dulce de Leche Macaroons with Sea Salt

Macaroon Base (adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 large egg whites
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1 t vanilla extract
1/ 4 t salt

1 c dulce de leche (I used La Salamandra)
sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites for 2 minutes until frothy. Add the sugar, coconut, vanilla, salt and beat for 2 more minutes until combined. 

Spoon tablespoons of the batter into dampened hands and form into a tight ball. Place the ball on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the mounds about 2-inches apart. 

With the back of a teaspoon, gently press down the mounds to create a thumbprint in the middle. Use your fingers to form perfect rounds, if need be.

Place the pan in the oven and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and transfer the macaroon thumbprints to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spoon the dulce de leche into a plastic freezer bag. With scissors, snip a small hole in the corner of the bag and squeeze the dulce de leche towards it. In a spiral motion, squeeze the dulce de leche into each macaroon’s thumbprint indentation. Wet a knife to smooth tops, if need be. Sprinkle each macaroon with the sea salt and enjoy. Makes 20-22 cookies.

These cookies also keep for over a week if sealed in the fridge!

Lamb Jam

Posted on: Monday, April 13, 2015

What better way to celebrate Greek Easter than at a local celebration of all that is lamb?
This past Sunday, I drove up to Cambridge to join Marni at the New England Lamb Jam, a tasting event/competition which brought together 24 New England chefs to compete for the title of “Best Lamb Dish.” Each chef prepared lamb-focused bites alongside local brewers and winemakers serving sips. The event was part of the larger American Lamb Jam where top chefs in 5 US cities compete. The winner of each competition goes on to compete at the finale for the honor of being named “Lamb Jam Master.”
As we walked through the packed space with beer goblets in hand, we traveled from the Middle East, to Latin America, to Asia, to the Mediterranean by way of lamb dishes. Here are some of our favorites:

Middle Eastern
Lamb Shoulder Confit with Za’atar, Muhummara and Lebne - Gracie’s (Matthew Varga)

Barbacoa de Borrego - La Brasa (Daniel Bojorquez)

Tamarind Braised Lamb Shank Empanada with Plantain, Huitlacoche and Mole Ketchup - Russell House Tavern (Thomas Borgia)


Slow Cooked Shoulder Steamed Bun with Chinese-Style Lamb Sausage and Smoked Vegetables - The Salted Slate (Ben Lloyd)
Banhi Mi Flatbread - Cook & Brown Public House (Nemo Bolin)

Baby Back Lamb Ribs Slow Braised with Coriander-Citrus Honey Glaze with Herb Roasted New Potatoes, Garlic, Capers, Preserved Lemon and Spiced Olives - Emilitsa (Niko Regas)
Jamison Farm Lamb Belly with Flavors of Spring - also Lamb Jerky and Lamb Fudge (lamb fat and white chocolate) - Brasserie 28 (Matt Morello)
Winner?? The lamb ribs from Emilitsa were our favorite and proved to be victorious in the Mediterranean category! Gracie’s won the Middle Eastern Category, Russell House Tavern won the Latin American, and Sweet Cheeks Q won the Asian as well as Best in Show with their spicy Chengdu lamb dumpling dish. Tiffani Faison of Sweet Cheeks Q will go on to compete in the National Lamb Jam in New York.

New Orleans

Posted on: Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New Orleans has always been at the top of my culinary destination list, and a few weeks ago I was fortunate to experience this eclectically charming, sparkling city. NOLA is full of proud, friendly people, a funky music scene, and vibrant Creole and Cajun cuisine. The city steeped in history has an almost cult-like following of devoted visitors and tourists. After a weekend there, I can see why. The Big East is an overload of every flavor, sight, sound, smell, and difficult to describe in words. While my trip was brief, I spent the majority of time bopping to as many food and beverage spots as I could find. 
In the Central Business District, a modern area of the city focusing on design and art, I sipped my first Sazerac (Sazerac rye whiskey, bitters with a rinse of Herbsaint) at the classically modern Cafe Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar.
From there, I walked down the street to the highly acclaimed, Cochon Restaurant. I sampled some modern takes on classic Southern Cajun dishes in the rustic, postindustrial interior. Pork, seafood and spice were in my radar as I ordered Wood-fired Oysters with Chili Garlic Butter, Fried Alligator with Chili Garlic Mayonnaise, The Fish of the Day (Grilled Red Fish), Louisiana Cochon with Turnips, Cabbage & Cracklins. Blissful.
I woke up the next morning and headed for the French Quarter. With the sun behind me, I walked through Jackson Square, passing various artists and vendors on the street, and paused to watch twin trumpeter boys who would give Louis Armstrong a run for his money. My first stop was the Cafe du Monde, a legendary spot for it warm beignets served 24 hours a day. Beignets are French fried dough squares doused in powdered sugar. I bypassed the massive line of to-goers and opted to sit inside with a robust cup of cafe au lait. 

I continued walking down almost every street in the French Quarter. St. Ann’s was my favorite with its pastel painted shuttered homes on every corner, many adorned with flowers and bunnies for Easter.
For an afternoon beverage, I tapped into some history to at a classic New Orleans spot, the Napoleon House, known for its Pimm’s Cup (a blend of Pimm’s #1, Lemonade, a splash of 7-up, and cucumbers). This was so fresh and refreshing and will be my new summer cocktail.
A bit further, it came as no surprised that I would stumble upon the NOLA FoodFest outside of the French Market. When is there not a festival in New Orleans? I tried some fresh grilled oysters covered in Parmesan and butter, and some freshly fried green tomatoes with a spicy aioli. Yum!

Form there, I took a trolley to the Garden District and walked around the beautiful, stunning homes.
At night, I walked over to balmy Poydras Street to wait briefly in the well-worth-it line outside of Mother’s Restaurant. The eatery is a New Orleans gem known for its Po’ boys (a local sandwich that was #1 on my NOLA list). I sampled a Po’ Boy overflowing with fried shrimp and oysters and also had to try three other New Orleans specialties - Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffe, and Gumbo.
Afterward, I grabbed a pecan praline at a local shop and headed to Frenchman Street to spend the night indulging in some New Orleans jazz and blue grass at Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, d.b.a., and The Blue Nile.
What a weekend! I cannot wait to return and sample so many other spots.

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
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. . . .

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