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Sunny Toasts

Posted on: Friday, August 29, 2014

Putting common misconceptions aside, summer is not over just yet. The end of August into September is one of my favorite times with crisp beach days, less humidity, an abundance of leftover tomatoes, and the start to oyster season.

Over Labor Day weekend, I’m looking forward to gathering with friends for a sunny, outdoor breakfast. Inspired by a dish that Kara and I threw together while down on the Hamptons, I’m planning to fan sliced avocado below soft scrambled eggs with a sprinkling of pickled shallots and touch of hot sauce. Fresh tarragon and creamy goat cheese add depth to the scramble and I never thought I would eat pickled shallots for breakfast but after a close friend, Taryn introduced the idea, I have been adding the tangy punch ever since. The simple layering of flavors and textures is a burst of colors on your palette, I mean plate. Served alongside grapefruit Mimosas and sliced peaches drizzled with honey and hazelnuts, the ambitious toasts are a fun and vibrant start to a day of leisure.
Avocado Toasts Topped with Soft Scrambled Eggs and Quick Pickled Shallots

1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 T honey
salt and pepper throughout
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
4 slices whole wheat artisan toast
8 large eggs
2 T milk
1/4 c crumbled goat cheese
2 T chopped fresh tarragon
4 T unsalted butter
Sriracha (or any hot sauce) to taste

Combine the shallots, red wine vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, crack the eggs. Add the milk and whisk until the yolks are broken and almost completely combined. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Melt 2 T butter until it foams, then pour in the eggs. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly stir the eggs with a wooden spoon. Once the eggs begin to set, add the cheese, salt and pepper. After 10 minutes or so when large curds have formed, stir in the fresh tarragon, and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, toast the sliced bread and spread with remaining butter. To assemble the open-faced toasts, layer a few slices of avocado atop the toasts, distribute the scrambled eggs evenly on top of the four slices, distribute a tiny spoonful of the pickled shallots on top, a dash of hot sauce, salt and black pepper. Serves 4.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

Wheat Berry Salad

Posted on: Thursday, August 7, 2014

Last weekend, I drove up through New Hampshire’s winding mountain roadways to a friend’s retreat in Dublin. Since I was arriving around dinner time, I decided to whip up a satisfying salad using my new favorite grain of summer- the wheat berry. While in East Hampton, Marni and I sampled a sweet and savory wheat berry salad at the Amagansett Farmer’s Market, and I was eager for an occasion to recreate the dish. 

Visually, a wheat berry resembles a popcorn kernel, and when cooked, has a chewy texture and nutty, earthy taste. The wheat kernel’s mild flavor can easily be transformed by various add-ins and dressings. Always a fan of Mediterranean flavors, I decided to dress the kernels with a lemon vinaigrette, salty feta, a zip of red onion, and sweet and tart dried cherries. The dish was a wonderful accompaniment for applewood smoked chicken and a simple salad that evening.
The next day, I spooned our leftovers into mason jars, packed them into my trusty, portable cooler, and was ready for a hike in the Wapack Mountain Range. I think the salad tasted better the second day when the flavors further melded together (or maybe I was just famished by the time I cracked open the jar at the summit!).
Wheat Berry Salad with Dried Cherries and Feta

1 1/2 c dried wheat berries
1/2 c dried cherries
4 oz feta cheese crumbled
1/3 c chopped red onion
3 T chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper throughout

Lemon Vinaigrette
2 T lemon juice
2 T red wine vinegar
1/3 cup EVOO
salt and pepper throughout

Soak the wheat berries for at least 1 hour before preparation.

Fill a medium-sized pot with 3 cups salted water and bring to a boil. Add the wheat berries and turn down the heat to simmer. Cook until the wheat berries are chewy, about 50 minutes. Let cool slightly. 

Meanwhile, whisk together the Vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Transfer the wheat berries to a serving dish. Add the dried cherries, feta, red onion, chopped parsley, Vinaigrette and stir to combine. For better flavor, prepare the salad a few hours ahead of time or ideally, the day before to allow flavors to meld. Serves 6

Hello, Hamptons

Posted on: Thursday, July 24, 2014

This past weekend, the two of us joined a few friends for our first excursion to East Hampton, NY. We had never ventured to this coastal destination in the past due to the daunting, traffic-high trek from Boston. Lucky for us, we were fortunate to hop onto a friend’s boat in Stonington, CT and zip across Fishers Island Sound in just over an hour. Puttering through East Hampton Three Mile Harbor lined with classic weathered shingled homes and vacationers beaching and clamming on the shores, we knew a relaxing retreat was in store for us.
We cruised through the winding tree-laden roads passing quaint farmer’s markets, lavish seaside villages and gorgeous dunes and wetlands until we reached out cozy shingled cottage. After a night’s rest in our antique twin beds, we woke up bright eyed and grabbed iced coffees from Jack’s Stir Brew to fuel us for surfing lessons with our wonderful instructors, Luca and Nick in Montauk.
Working up quite the appetite from admittedly being tossed around in the surf and swallowing our fair share of salt water, we headed to Amagansett Farmer’s Market and sampled their selection of fresh fruits- figs, about 5 kinds of cherries, peaches- lush greens, fresh squeezed juices, baked goods, assorted cheeses, and interesting salads. We absolutely loved the wheatberry with roasted vegetables. 

After our lunch, we were fueled for the day and decided to explore our surroundings. With dinner plans in mind, we sought inspiration at Stuarts Seafood for grill fare. We were greeted by pools of live lobsters, whole fish, and freshly prepared takeout dishes like lobster spring rolls. We opted for fresh swordfish and jumbo shrimp.
Back at the cottage, we lazed around our brick-adorned pool before prepping for our bbq ahead. With friends who share our love of cooking, we shook up some muddled Blackberry, Mint, Lime and Gin Cocktails while collaborating in the kitchen.
Big props go to our grill queen, Katie. Our menu included:

Garlic Infused Grilled Baguettes with Avocado and Lemon or Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil, and Chevre
Arugula, Strawberry and Chevre Salad with Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
Grilled Fennel
Grilled Swordfish Steaks
Grilled Peel and Eat Shrimp
Taryn’s Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Content from our local, fresh, tasty meal, we were ready for a night out with live music at Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.

Fried Pickle Frenzy

Posted on: Thursday, July 10, 2014

The pickle is a summer staple. It’s the sidekick to any pressed panini while dining al fresco, any lobster roll while picnicking in a park, and of course in relish form at any barbecue. My friends have often poked fun at my enthusiasm if not obsession with relish but no need to embarrass myself with that explanation. Anyways, while there is nothing better than taking a bite of a cool and crisp dill pickle on a hot day, there are so many other ways to enjoy the tangy All-American veggie. Kara and I have sampled our share of fried pickles in Boston area bars, most notably at Redbones Barbecue with a version fried with jalapeño slices, or at JM Curley’s where the discs are deep fried alongside a mustardy Creole mayo. We are partial to pickle chips but have never turned down a fried spear.
For a party-friendly appetizer, I decided to attempt frying my own tart slices in a cornmeal crust alongside a tangy dip. The resultant lightly battered chips dipped in the smooth, zesty sauce were highly addicting. The pop-able snacks are perfect appetizers for any summer gathering and will rival any onion ring. 
Cornmeal Crusted Fried Pickles with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Spicy Dipping Sauce
1/2 c sour cream
1 T Sriracha sauce
1 t ketchup
Salt and pepper throughout

Fried Pickles
Vegetable oil
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 T milk
1/2 c cornmeal
1/4 c Panko breadcrumbs, slightly ground
1/2 t chili powder
Salt and pepper throughout
1 (16-oz) jar dill pickle chips (Mt. Olive)

In a medium saucepan, heat 2-inches of vegetable oil on medium-high to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, prepare the Spicy Dipping Sauce. In a bowl, stir together the sour cream, Sriracha sauce, ketchup, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Arrange the pickles on paper towels to dry out a bit. In one shallow bowl, pour the flour and a pinch of salt and pepper. In a second shallow bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. In a third shallow bowl, pour the cornmeal, Panko breadcrumbs, chile pepper and a dash of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Dredge the pickles in the flour, then the beaten egg, and then the cornmeal and Panko coating, making sure the coins are fully covered. In batches, carefully place the coated pickles into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. With a slotted spoon, remove the fried chips from the oil to paper towels. Serve warm with Spicy Dipping Sauce. Makes 24-26 fried pickle chips.
Photo by Taryn Talmadge

Game for Grilled Steak Tacos

Posted on: Thursday, June 26, 2014

While the World Cup is an arena for tremendous athleticism, it also offers a reason to serve up some South American-inspired dishes at a rowdy gathering. While I watch USA, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay (to name a few) pass and run with epic speed, agility, and incredible technique, I also look forward to stepping away to make some satiable bites. Breaking in my new molcajete, I whip up my go-to guacamole recipe with some blue corn tortilla chips.  
Alongside, I quickly pickle some red onions to place atop grilled steak tacos. Admittedly not a huge fan of raw red onion, the pickling brings out the sweetness and mellows the pungent bite. I pair the onions with cilantro, queso fresco, sliced steak, and a squeeze of lime. In between cheering and yelling, I arrange the tacos on large platters, so my guests can maintain focus on the game at hand.
Grilled Steak Tacos with Pickled Red Onions and Queso Fresco

Pickled Red Onions
1 medium sized red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 T honey
salt and pepper throughout

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Stir and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Taco Assembly
1 lb flank steak
simple rub- blended 1 t chili powder, 1 t garlic powder 1 t Adobo seasoning
generous salt and pepper
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 c Queso Fresco
1 lime cut into chunks
6-8 small corn tortillas

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Cook the steak, about three-five minutes on each side, depending upon your desired doneness. Once cooked, set aside. While the steak is resting, grill the corn tortillas for thirty seconds on each side. Slice the steak, and arrange a few pieces on each warmed tortilla. Sprinkle with cilantro, queso fresco, pickled red onion, and an added squeeze of lime. Take a bite and enjoy!

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