LA Inspired

Posted on: Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On a recent trip to Southern Califorina, we were eager to sample the diverse cuisine. While exploring the fun areas of LA, we noticed a common trend marked by an artistic fusion of culinary styles based around fresh and local ingredients. We sampled zesty guacomole and margaritas in Venice Beach, avocado, jalapeño, and Oaxaca cheese omelettes for brunch at M Street Kitchen in Santa Monica, and shopped along boho-chic Abbot Kinney Boulevard with watermelon frozen yogurt in hand. The colorful, festive food, coupled with the laidback, casual atmosphere was addictive and difficult to leave.

With the abundance of freshly picked produce and locally sourced seafood, there’s no question that fish tacos are king. The “Fresh Mex” variations are endless ranging from seared ahi tuna with chipotle aioli, to mahi mahi with pickled jicama and charred tomato salsa. Back in Boston we opted to grill fresh cod filets for a smokey flavor served alongside zesty pico de gallo, a spicy crema, and sliced avocados. 

Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico de Gallo, Spicy Lime Crema and Avocado

Pico de Gallo
1 large beefsteak tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded, and finely diced
1 clove minced garlic
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice
salt and pepper

Stir together all ingredients and refrigerate before serving. Can be made days ahead of time.

Spicy Lime Crema
1 c sour cream
2 T fresh lime juice
1 t chili powder
salt and pepper

Stir together all ingredients and refrigerate before serving.

1 lb firm flaky fish filets, we used cod but haddock, mahi mahi, or tilapia all work well
2 T EVOO
2 T fresh lime juice
1 t chili powder
1 t garlic powder
salt and pepper

8 small corn tortillas
1 ripe avocado thinly sliced
Lime wedges

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place the fish pieces in a medium size dish. Whisk together the EVOO, lime juice, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and pour over the fish, making sure to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 25-30 minutes.

Brush the grill grate with oil. With tongs, remove the fish from the marinade and place atop the hot grill. Grill the fish until just opaque in center, approximately 3-5 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and flake into small pieces with a fork.

Place the tortillas on the grill and heat for 30 seconds per side. Divide the flaked fish among the warm tortillas, drizzle the Spicy Lime Crema and dollop the Pico de Gallo. Fan a few slices of avocado and serve with fresh lime slices. Serves 4 (2 tacos per person).

A salted margarita on the rocks is the perfect sidekick to these bold bites.

Dual Sides: Tortellini and Green Beans

Posted on: Thursday, May 24, 2012

Following the theme of our Panzanella post, we created two more side dishes perfect for any Memorial Day gathering. We each took a different approach. Kara’s Tortellini Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil incorporates deep roasted flavors and cheesy pillows of pasta while Marni’s Haricots Verts Almondine Salad features a crunchy, fresh saute. Both can be served at any temperature which allows you to focus on your bocce or wiffle ball game, boat outing, or any activity celebrating the unofficial start to summer!
Kara’s Tortellini Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil
 

2 T EVOO
1 eggplant cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups cherry tomatoes cut in half
2 cloves minced garlic
16 oz fresh cheese tortellini
1/2 c grated
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper throughout

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic, EVOO and salt and pepper. Spread on a large oiled baking sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and roast for approximately 30-35 minutes, stirring vegetables occasionally. Once the vegetables are softened, remove from the oven and set aside.


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the tortellini in the boiling water according to the package instructions and drain.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked tortellini with the roasted vegetables,
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and fresh basil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve at room temperature or cold. Serves 6-8 sides.
Marni’s Haricots Verts Almondine Salad
 

1 1/2 lbs haricots verts, roots and ends removed
1/3 c slivered almonds
2 T unsalted butter
2 T EVOO
1/2 c minced red onion
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper throughout

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the haricot verts for 2-3 minutes, rinse under cold water and set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, toast the almonds until golden brown, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same saute pan, melt the butter and EVOO. Add the red onions and saute until slightly translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Toss in the haricot verts, almonds, and lemon juice and cook for a couple more minutes.

Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Lightly drizzle with EVOO and serve at room temperature or cold. Serves 6-8 sides

Two stellar sides served alongside a burger hot off the grill!

Carefully Crafted Sandwiches

Posted on: Monday, May 21, 2012

On a Saturday stroll through the North End, we were lucky to stumble upon a jewel on Hanover Street called Volle Nolle. Upon entry, we were greeted by the friendly staff and an elaborate floor-to-ceiling chalkboard detailing the cozy shop’s intriguing pressed sandwiches. While we were tempted to enjoy our lunch inside around the vintage aluminum tables, the sunny weather called us outside to a bench on the Greenway. We split the Smoked Salmon Sandwich and Tuna Sandwich, accompanied by zingy Route 11’s Mama Zuma’s Revenge Habanero Potato Chips and freshly brewed Mint Ginger Iced Tea. Both carefully crafted sandwiches, tightly packed in parchment and topped with fresh pickles made our impromptu picnic easily transportable.
 
Pressed Smoked Salmon Sandwich
smoked salmon, sliced cucumber, red onion, baby spinach and lemon-caper mayonnaise on multigrain bread
The rich smoked salmon melded perfectly with the lemon-caper mayonnaise.
Pressed Tuna Sandwich
tuna, lemon mayonnaise, green beans, and green leaf lettuce on multigrain bread
The green beans added a pleasant crunch to the tuna, resonating a Niçoise salad.
The fresh and unique combination of ingredients tucked in between two toasted slices of multigrain bread made for a delicious lunch. We highly recommend checking out Volle Nolle on your next weekend visit to the North End.

Panzanella

Posted on: Thursday, May 17, 2012

Colorful, vibrant food is instantly appealing. Looking at a wall of penny candy or a heaping bowl of fruit, you are mesmerized by the abundance of color. If it’s appealing to the eye, it must be appealing to your taste buds. We felt this way when we first created this summery, visually enticing side dish. Panzanella salad, a classic Tuscan summer dish, celebrates fresh garden produce. 

Classic panzanella incorporates stale, unsalted Tuscan bread. Since we do not keep stale bread on hand, we decided to char a French baguette. The toasted baguette inside the dish absorbs the vinaigrette while maintaining its crunch alongside the fresh cubed vegetables. The married flavors are a kaleidoscope of color and texture.

Panzanella Salad
 

3 T EVOO
1 baguette cut into 1-inch cubes 

2 large tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 1-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 c basil leaves, julienned
8 oz feta cheese cut into 1/2-inch cubes
salt and pepper throughout

Vinaigrette
1/2 c EVOO
3 T red wine vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
1 t Dijon mustard
salt and pepper throughout

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes, EVOO, salt and pepper and arrange on a baking sheet. Cook in the oven until nicely browned on both sides, approximately 5-7 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together.

In a large salad bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, and basil. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Add the feta and season with salt and pepper. Let the salad sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the bread and vegetables to absorb the vinaigrette before serving. Serves 6-8.


We love to serve this dish as a side at any summer BBQ. It’s also great as a base for an entree salad with grilled shrimp on top. Don’t underestimate the transformative qualities of aged bread!

Limoncello and Blackberry Tiramisu

Posted on: Sunday, May 13, 2012

With two twins running around and a son three years older, we are still amazed how our mother did it all and somehow always put us first. Every Mother’s Day to celebrate the queen of multitasking with poise, we all get together and spend the day with Mom. We show our love and appreciation for this remarkably creative and caring person through (you guessed it) food.

It’s tricky to cook a favorite meal for our mom because she will find something rave-worthy in anything we make. She loves the finest of foods but also the simplest of foods. She could have a glass of Champagne accompanied by a big bowl of homemade popcorn and be perfectly content. For a sweet treat, Mom always loves anything light, citrusy and refreshing. We decided to create a Limoncello and Blackberry Tiramisu individually served in the adorable Mason jars she gave us (of course).

Limoncello and Blackberry Tiramisu

28-30 hard ladyfinger cookies
1 c chopped fresh blackberries
zest of 1 lemon
6 Mason jar glasses or 1 large 9 x 13 trifle dish

Limoncello Syrup
1 c Limoncello liqueur
1/4 c lemon juice
1 c water
1/2 c granulated sugar

In a saucepan, pour the Limoncello, lemon juice, water, and sugar over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let the syrup cool completely.

Limoncello-Mascarpone Cream
1 1/2 c whipping cream
4 T granulated sugar
1 t vanilla extract
15 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
½ c Limoncello

In a large bowl whip the cream with an electric mixer until slightly thickened. Add the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue to whip until the cream holds soft peaks. In another bowl, cream together the remaining sugar , Limoncello and the mascarpone cheese for 30 seconds with an electric mixer. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone.

One at a time, roll the ladyfingers in the Limoncello syrup and place in a single layer on the bottom of each Mason jar. You may need to break the cookies in half in order to fit the jars. Pour 1/3 of the Limoncello-mascarpone cream on top of the ladyfingers. Top with 1/3 of the blackberries. Dip and arrange a second layer of ladyfingers, and cover again with the next 1/3 of the Limoncello-mascarpone cream followed by blackberries. Follow this process one more time. Top the Mason jars with lemon zest, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

The melding layers served in Mason jars create quite the spectacle since we all know presentation is equally as important as taste!

Our Favorite Pie, Key Lime

Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2012

With Mother’s Day approaching, it is only appropriate that we celebrate wonderful and vivacious Linda. A special addition to our family, we credit Linda for why we are so adventurous with our culinary excursions. Visiting Linda in Sarasota, Florida, we always look forward to popping into her favorite specialty shops and farmers’ markets. Linda shares some of the local warm-weather inspired dishes. We feast on conch fritters, fried grouper, peel and eat Gulf shrimp, and end the meal with Southern Florida’s famous Key lime pie. The pie is refreshingly creamy and tart and further enhanced with a cloud of lightly sweetened whipped cream. We follow a basic recipe using real Key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk, and put our own twist with a ginger cookie crust. Since we feel garnishes should always be edible, we candy lime peel to sprinkle on top for a pop of green. 
Longboat Key Lime Pie

Ginger Cookie Base
1 1/2 c crushed gingersnap cookies (about 24-26 cookies)
5 T unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Stir in the gingersnap cookie crumbs. Press into the bottom and sides of a greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Key Lime Filling

3 egg yolks   
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk  
1/2 c fresh Key lime juice (we used Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice
since we’re far from the Keys)

In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with a hand mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add the sweetened condensed milk and beat 3-4 more minutes, until thickened. Add the Key lime juice and mix until smooth. Pour filling into the prepared pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the filling is just set in the middle, 10-12 minutes. Let chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before serving.

Whipped Cream
2 c whipping cream
1 t vanilla extract
4 T granulated sugar

In a medium bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer on high. When the cream starts to thicken after a couple of minutes, add the vanilla extract and sugar. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie.

Candied Lime Peel
1 lime
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 c water
extra sugar to toss

With a paring knife, carefully remove the peel from the lime in long strips. Julienne the peel into thin 2-inch-long strips.

Place the peel in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, cook for 1 minute, then submerge the peel in an ice bath. Repeat this process one more time, using fresh water.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Place the blanched peel in the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peel to a wire rack to cool slightly then toss with the extra sugar. Let chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Sprinkle the candied peels atop the whipped cream covered pie, slice and serve. Serves 8.

The first spoonful of the zesty custard cloud reconfirms why our favorite pie is key lime...every time.

An Unlikely Pairing

Posted on: Saturday, May 5, 2012

With Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby falling on the same day this year, we have twice the reason to celebrate. We associate Cinco de Mayo with sombreros, vibrant colors, margaritas and guacamole, and alternately we associate the Kentucky Derby with elegant hats, bourbon cocktails, and pecan pralines. Appealing to two extreme themes, we thought it would be fun to serve an unlikely hors d'oeuvres and cocktail combination. To snack, a big fiesta bowl of sweet and spicy mango salsa paired with blue corn tortilla chips is only appropriate. To quench our thirst, we say “adios” to tequila and “hola” to Bourbon for the popular Kentucky cocktail, the Mint Julep. 
 Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 c diced red onion
1/2 c red pepper chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 c tomato chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
2 T finely diced jalapeno
juice of 1 lime
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 t cumin 
1/4 t chili powder
salt and pepper
blue corn tortilla chips (We love Trader Joe’s)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve with blue corn tortilla chips. Makes 2-3 cups. Can be made well ahead of time and chilled in the refrigerator before serving. 
Mint Julep

10 fresh mint leaves 
1/4 c sugar 
1/4 c water
6 oz bourbon whiskey

To make the simple syrup, in a small saucepan heat the sugar and water on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

In a mason jar or collins glass, muddle the mint leaves and 2 T simple syrup. If you do not have a muddler, a wooden spoon works just fine. Add the 6 ounces of Bourbon. Fill the glass with shaved or crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig. Makes 1 cocktail.

Ready, set, olé!

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