Baklava-Inspired Cheesecake Tartlets

Posted on: Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In anticipation of Greek Easter this Sunday up in Manchester-by-the-Sea, we put our spin on a traditional Greek dessert. Growing up, we remember waking up on Easter morning to a sea of tasty pastries, ranging from Galaktoboureko (semolina custard in phyllo), to Kourabiedes (walnut sugar cookies), to Koulourakia (butter cookies), to Baklava. Baklava was always a favorite - sweet, sticky, layers of phyllo, chopped walnuts and honey. 

Our recent take on Baklava introduced a completely different flare, cheesecake. We poured a creamy cheese filling into crispy phyllo cups. The mild filling complemented the nutty crunch and mellowed out the sweet, sticky honey. Instead of walnuts, we added pistachios for a pop of savory and color. We look forward to replicating these tasty phyllo nests this weekend for our family.
Baklava-Inspired Cheesecake Tartlets

12-cup cupcake tin or 12 mini tart pans
16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 T flour
1 t vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 T lemon juice
6 T butter, melted
18 sheets phyllo dough (9 x 14-inches), each cut into 4 even squares

Honey Pistachio Topping
2/3 c granulated sugar
2/3 c water
2/3 c honey
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t salt

1 1/2 c pistachios, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, flour, vanilla extract, lemon zest, lemon juice and beat on medium speed until combined. 

Brush the bottoms of 12 small tartlets pans or cupcake tins with melted butter. Lay a square of phyllo dough into each tin. Brush a little butter over the dough and continue the layering of phyllo then brushed butter, 6 times in each tin. 

Fill each tin with a 1/4 cup of the cheesecake mixture. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the phyllo is golden brown and flaky and the filling is set. Cool completely on the counter or on a wire rack and then in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. 

While the tarts are cooling, add the sugar, water, honey, cinnamon and salt to a small saucepan. Turn heat to medium and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the pistachios and remove from the heat. Let cool. When ready to serve, spoon the Honey Pistachio Topping atop the tarts and enjoy. Makes 12 tartlets.

Christos Anesti!

Minty Green Pea Salad with Red Grapes and Chèvre

Posted on: Thursday, April 21, 2016

It must be my turn for a bright salad to add some spring to your step! Lately, I’ve been daydreaming about my family trip to Paris last year. One of my favorite evenings started with a visit to the Centre Pompidou, famous for its crazy post-modern and contemporary art installations. One in particular was a series of golden, illuminating orbs hanging from the ceiling.
After visiting, we indulged in an equally exquisite meal at Frenchie Restaurant, a minimalist and relaxed eatery with a focused, innovative, and ever-changing menu. Among the many courses we sampled, the wonderfully chilled green pea soup served at the beginning of the meal was a highlight.

Back in Cambridge with the flavors of the bright green soup and illuminating orbs spinning in my head, I created a fresh side-salad of green peas, red grapes, shallot, goat cheese, fresh mint, parsley and lemon. The stunning and simple salad was a burst of colors with freshness from the herbs, a pop of sweetness and crunch from the grapes, and a nice soft tang from the chèvre.
Minty Green Pea Salad with Red Grapes and Chèvre

4 c shelled fresh green peas, or thawed frozen
2 c red grapes, halved
1 large shallot (or 2 small), thinly sliced in rounds
8 oz 
chèvre goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 c fresh mint leaves
1/4 c fresh parsley leaves, torn
1/4 c EVOO
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper throughout

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the peas in a colander and run them under cold water to cool completely. Add the peas to a large bowl. Add the red grapes, red onion, goat cheese, fresh mint, and parsley.

In a small bowl, whisk together the EVOO, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad, toss to combine and serve. Serves 4-6.

Chopped Salad

Posted on: Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Easing into spring, I find myself drawn to the bright colors of the budding flowers outside my porch. I move my blacks and grays to the back of my closet, and bring forward my pops of color and florals. It’s also time to amp up dishes with bright, choppy hues.
Chopped salads are one of my favorite go-to dishes for a ladies lunch. The ingredients are chopped into bite-sized pieces and tossed together. You can basically use whatever you have on hand to throw into the salad. I always add an avocado for creaminess and love chopped bacon for salty crunch. Yesterday, I was inspired by Cygnet Restaurant’s (up in Beverly Farms) well-known version featuring avocado, bacon, green beans and corn. With my lady friends, I selected a clear, striped, shallow dish to let the salad’s pretty colors and shapes shine. Each forkful had a wonderful combo of flavor and texture - like a plate of flowering confetti!
Confetti Chopped Salad

8 slices thick-cut bacon
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 c Bibb lettuce, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
2 c sweet corn or thawed frozen corn
2 avocados, chopped

Lemony Dijon Vinaigrette
1 T lemon juice
1 T red wine vinegar
1 t Dijon Mustard
1/2 t honey
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c EVOO
salt and pepper throughout

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the bacon slices on top. Bake until crispy, about 12-15 minutes. With tongs, remove bacon from the baking sheet and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Once cool, chop the bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and set aside.

Meanwhile, Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and run them under cold water to cool completely. Set aside.

In a large salad bowl, combine the green beans, Bibb lettuce, tomatoes, corn and avocado. Sprinkle the bacon on top. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients and drizzle atop the salad. Toss to combine and serve. Serves 4-6.

On a colorful, healthy dish kick, let's see what Marni has next!

Pacific Northwest

Posted on: Monday, April 4, 2016

For our 30th birthday, we celebrated with an epic excursion to the Pacific Northwest. Our first time out there, we were instantly overcome by the vast landscapes, breathtaking coastlines, friendly, interesting people and topnotch foodie finds. Below are just a few of the highlights from our Twin Tastes adventure!
After arriving late in Portland, we were greeted by our best friend, Kimmy, who recently moved out there. Hazy from the flight, we sipped on local ciders and caught up before dozing off for the night. The next morning, we hiked Bridal Veil Falls. We were enchanted by the cascading green moss, towering pine trees and powerful waterfalls. Afterwards, we made our way to Breakside Brewery where we tried some unique beers and bar bites. We sampled the Fortunella (Witbier Kumquat, chamomile, banana, light acidity) and Pilsner (German Pilsner Grass, herbal, spicy, bready, crisp), and nibbled on Bavarian Pretzels with biergarten cheese spread, gherkins, apples, onions, and stout mustard as well as Buffalo Chicken Nachos covered in a variety of cheeses, jalapenos, grilled chicken, Buffalo IPA wing sauce, and assorted veggies.
For an afternoon jolt, Kimmy suggested Coffee Soda Sparklers at Red E Cafe. Minds blown.
For our tri-Pisces birthday dinner that evening, we had a cozy table in the relaxed, slightly nautical and classy farm-to-table spot, Radar. Kara sipped a Mary-Rose (vodka, Lillet, lemon, rosemary, egg white), Kimmy sipped a Writer’s Block (tequila, grapefruit, Vermouth, maple, vanilla, Mezcal), and Marni sipped a Radar Standard (gin, housemade tonic, lime).
We split a mix of lovely small plates: Fried Chickpeas; Pork Shoulder on a Grit Cake with Chili Puree; Brussels sprouts with Bacon, Mustard Seed; Smoked Bluefish Pate with House Pickled Vegetables, Crackers; Cassoulet of Brisket, Pork, Shallot, Thyme, Tomato, Anasazi Beans, Torn Bread; Potato Gnocchi with Chevre; Chioggia and Golden Beets, Hazelnuts, Roasted Fennel, Tarragon Oil.
To end a delightful evening we enjoyed homemade Mole Ice Cream with three spoons and a candle on top.
The next morning with Stumptown Coffees in hand, we drove an hour and a half west to the Pacific coast. We were in awe of Cannon Beach and the mammoth haystacks off shore.
On our drive back through the dense forests, meandering from rain to sun and back to rain, we stopped for lunch at the cute and casual Pacific Pie Company famous for its Australian savory and sweet pies. We each ordered iced teas and split the Roast Lamb Pie (SuDan Farm lamb braised in a Shiraz red wine sauce with roasted potatoes, yams, carrots and onions) and Arugula and Roasted Squash Salad (7 Organic arugula topped with molasses roasted butternut squash, feta, candied walnuts, currants, and balsamic vinaigrette).
At night, we met one of our best college buddies, Thomas at Clyde Common, Ace Hotel. Over Heater Allen Pilsner’s (McMinnville, OR), we split a feast platter of beef short ribs, salsa rojo, radishes, and pupusas.
Saying goodbye to Oregon the next morning, we drove north passing a view of Mount Saint Helens on our way to Snoqualmie, Washington.
We strolled through the quiet and quiet historic town passing by the Northwest Railway Museum, unique shops and restaurants. We popped into The Bindlestick Coffee and Beer House for lunch. We split a Turkey, Swiss, Maple Panini and Smoked Salmon with Pita Triangles, Hummus and Tapenade while listening to Mumford and Sons, surrounded by folk art and small town charm.
Next, we drove up the road to Salish Lodge and Spa, once a historic hikers’ lodge famous for its country breakfasts of pancakes and steel oats, and now a luxury spa overlooking the Snoqualmie Falls. After an incredibly relaxing afternoon spa treatment in the lodge’s mineral baths followed by honey oatmeal scrubs, we enjoyed a glass of wine in front of our fire place.
We enjoyed a casual dinner upstairs in the The Attic where the majority of ingredients were local or onsite. We sipped Pike Hive Five Salish Lodge & Spa Hopped Honey Ale (an unfiltered ale brewed with honey from their own hives, light in body and color, slightly floral and spicy) and a Dale Cooper (Batch 206 Counter Gin, clove and cardamom infused Salish Honey, Salish Lodge & Spa Dry Honey Cider, lemon twist), and shared a Baby Green Salad with Salish Honey Ale Spread, Washington apples, aged cheddar, and Salish Honey Vinaigrette, and a Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza with herbed crème fraîche, parmesan, mozzarella, arugula, and a Balsamic reduction.
The next morning, we drove about thirty minutes to Seattle and arrived at the Edgewater Hotel, located on the water and within walking distance from the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Space Needle and Pike’s Place Market.
We were on an instant high at Chihuly Garden and Glass.
Next at Pike’s Place Market, we bopped around from Pike Place Fish Market to Pike Place Chukar Cherries, to a smoked salmon jerky stand to flower displays.
We enjoyed award winning chowder at the Chowder Company which was perfect on a rainy afternoon.
For Happy Hour, we headed up to vibrant and trendy Capitol Hill to try out Taylor Shellfish Farm. We sipped glasses of Cedergreen Cellars Sauvignon Blanc (WA 2013) and slurped a half dozen west coast oysters: Olympia, Shigoku, Virginica. 
We concluded our birthday trip a few steps away with a fun, eclectic and flavorful dinner at Stateside. We each ordered The Coconut (rum, lime leaf and galangal added to a freshly cracked coconut and shared Crispy Duck Fresh Rolls (duck rolls wrapped in fresh herbs and rice paper), Green Papaya Salad (long beans, tomatoes, lime, chili, dried shrimp and beef jerky), Cha Ca Long Vong (black cod marinated in turmeric and galangal, rice vermicelli, fresh cill, cilantro, mint, and peanuts), and Creme Fraiche Cheesecake on Shortbread Crust with Lychee Snow.
We had such a blast and look forward to making another trip back soon!

State Street Provisions Brunch

Posted on: Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Along with recent recipes, we are back featuring some of our favorite foodie finds in the greater Boston area. . .

A brand new member of the Grafton Group in Boston’s historic Long Wharf, State Street Provisions (255 State Street) is a spacious modern tavern with rustic flare. We visited on a brisk Saturday to sample the popular brunch menu.
The menu focused on local, seasonal ingredients with an extensive raw bar. The majority of items were house-made from the fresh baked breads, to sausages, cured meats, fruit preserves, and brined pickles. We were a bit overzealous with our selections:
Butter Poached Lobster Benny - Tarragon-Lemon Hollandaise, Home Fries, English Muffin
Today’s Farmer Omelette (changes daily, on Saturday goat cheese, onions, tomato, asparagus were folded in) - Fresh Herbs, Home Fries, Biscuit and House-made Preserves 
Apricot Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast - Candied Hazelnuts, Maple Molasses Syrup
Preserved Berry and Yogurt Parfait - House-made Granola, Wild Flower Honey
The drink menu featured some signature cocktails along with a lengthy beer and wine list. Instead of a classic Bloody Mary, we both opted to kick it up a notch with bone broth blended into the cocktail: Caucas Club - Vodka, House-made Bloody Mix, Bone Broth

On a Saturday morning, the setting attracted pre-New England Aquarium families with baby strollers, tourists, and locals from the North End and surrounding neighborhoods. At night we assume the eatery appeals to a younger post-work crowd from the neighboring Financial District.

An 80s mix of The Cure, Devo, Talking Heads

Our server was extremely friendly and charming clad in a crisp orange checkered button down with jeans and a rustic gray apron. He informed us that basically everything is made from scratch, and suggested dishes that met our tastes. He mentioned the Tuna Crudo is incredibly fresh and vibrant. We’ll be sure to order it on our next visit. 

View from the window:
The welcoming, expansive windows allowed us to people watch on the Rose Kennedy Greenway across the street. Around the corner was Boston’s Long Wharf extending across the shoreline. A few steps away was the New England Aquarium and ferries docked for the Boston Harbor Islands.

The overall nautical design had vintage touches and modern notes like a hanging orb chandelier in the main dining room. Wide-paneled wooden floors extended throughout the space with thick, wooden tables surrounded by tan leather booths and Captains-style chairs accented with patterned upholstery. The expansive wrap-around bar with vintage accents had an original mural depicting the Boston harbor during the early 19th century behind it. Each lacquered table was set with rustic white, kitchen napkins, no tablecloths. 

Table setting:
The cocktails were served in mason jars, and water was poured from big old-fashioned milk bottles. Classic silverware was wrapped in white kitchen napkins.. The parfaits and preserves were served in mason jars and positioned atop square wooden slabs. All entrees were served on white plates except the French Toast served on an oval black platter.

We are excited to return to State Street Provisions to sample the dinner menu and look forward to seeing outdoor seating available when the weather is warmer. Can’t come soon enough!

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