Kale and Shiitake Mushroom Bread Pudding

I'm not a stuffing fan. I mean, I don't find it offensive or anything, but it's not what I go for first. I'm much more into cranberry sauce and green beans and sweet potato casserole (who can resist those crispy marshmallows on top?). As I make my rounds at the Thanksgiving buffet, I'll load up my plate with every other side, leaving only a small corner for stuffing.  I've just never been blown away.  But bread pudding... that I can get behind.  Something about the addition of heavy cream and eggs and cheese makes it more appealing.  The idea came to me as I sat down to develop a recipe for the McCormick Go4Gourmet campaign, in which I was asked to prepare something that included ground ginger, kale, shiitake mushrooms, and vegetable stock. You'd think coming up with a dish with those ingredients would be easy... but it wasn't. I struggled for weeks.  It wasn't until I brainstormed some ideas with Eric that this popped into my noggin.  And thank goodness... because it's changed my view of what stuffing can be.

If I don't see y'all before then, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving.  We'll be staying in Massachusetts this year, which I'm kind of excited about. It's exhausting traveling during the holidays... I'm looking forward to staying put for a few days.  Of course, I'll miss my parents and sister and my nieces.  But I'm sure I'll make it down there soon.


Kale and Shiitake Mushroom Bread Pudding

Ingredients 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1 large bunch of kale, stems removed, leaves chopped 8 cups, cubed (3/4-inch) day-old baguette or French bread 1 large fennel bulb (or two smaller bulbs), trimmed and white and green parts thinly sliced 2 large shallots, minced 1/4 cup veggie broth 2 cups shredded gruyere 3 large eggs 2 teaspoons ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 cups whole milk 3 tablespoons butter Salt Black pepper


1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.  Once melted, add the shallot and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the shiitake mushrooms and fennel and cook for 5 minutes, or until it begins to brown.  Add the kale and vegetable broth.  Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the kale has wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated.   Stir in the gruyere.  Remove from heat.

2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, ground ginger, and cayenne pepper for 30 seconds.  Add the heavy cream and whole milk and whisk until combined.  Pour the egg mixture over the cubed baguette. Mix to coat all the bread. Let sit for 15 minutes or until the bread has absorbed a lot of the egg mixture.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 2 quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter.

4. In a bowl, combine the bread/egg mixture and the cooked vegetables.  The mixture should be pretty moist.

5. Transfer to the baking dish and, using a spoon, spread the mixture out across the dish.

6. Bake until firm and the top has lightly browned, about 45 minutes.

Disclosure:  McCormick Gourmet provided me with compensation for this post.  All opinions in this post about McCormick’s products and this recipe are my own. 

Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Lemon Ricotta

Eric and I have started the process of looking for a house again after putting things on hold for a bit when I transitioned into freelancing. We’ve lived in the same apartment since we got together.  I moved in after eight months of dating and this place has been good to us.  It has everything we need and is conveniently located within walking distance to Downtown Boston.  But because it’s a rental, we haven’t done much to give it any flare. The walls are white, the furniture a mishmash of things from college and hand me downs from our parents.  Then there’s the furniture we've acquired via Craigslist, which we haven’t replaced because, why would we when we don’t know where we’ll be living?  We’ve been saying that for years.I think we’re both ready to start a home together… one that’s decorated the way we want. One that has a yard for a garden and, ideally, a fireplace.  At least we have a vision, so I hope it won't be an arduous process.


Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Lemon Ricotta

Ingredients 1 lb pasta (the type is your choice, I used orecchiette) 1 lb broccoli rabe, rinsed and cut into 1 inch pieces 4 cloves garlic, minced Extra virgin olive oil Salt Black pepper 1 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese Zest of half a lemon 1 teaspoon fresh thyme


1. Bring two large pots of salted water to a boil.  In one pot, boil the chopped broccoli rabe for 3 minutes and drain as much liquid as you can. In the other pot, cook the pasta as directed, until al dente. Drain in a colander.

2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the broccoli rabe and the garlic.  Toss it around in the oil for about 30 seconds and, if needed, season with more salt. Add the pasta to the pan.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the ricotta and lemon zest until the ricotta becomes smooth.

4. Portion out the pasta into bowls, add a dollop of ricotta  and sprinkle with fresh thyme, some additional salt and coarsely ground black pepper.


Pumpkin Potage with Toasted Farro

It's rare that I cook with pumpkin. Really rare. Like, once a year... maybe. For a while, we kept canned pumpkin puree around and I would use it to make a quick soup or these brownies, but for whatever reason, we stopped purchasing it.  The one time I cooked with fresh pumpkin, it was kind of a process. I roasted the flesh and blended it with vanilla and spices and whipped up what would turn out to be some of the best pancakes I've ever consumed. Did I follow a recipe? No. Do I remember what I did? Nope. And I have yet to attempt recreating it.

So, that was the last time I cooked with pumpkin... that is until a few weeks ago when one came in a box from Blue Apron. For those unfamiliar with the company, Blue Apron is a service where people can have fresh ingredients and recipes delivered to their homes.  Printed on the recipe cards are step-by-step instructions that include color photographs.  I never promote a business without trying out the product first, so I asked to have a box sent to me. Let's just say that I was impressed.

One of my fears was that everything would come pre-chopped and that all I'd have to do is throw it in a pan and I'd have a meal in 15 minutes. What does that teach anyone about cooking?   I was thrilled to find that while ingredients came pre-portioned, there was quite a bit of work that was required. The recipe Blue Apron provided in the shipment, a pumpkin veggie potage, required that I roasted the pumpkin and seeds, toast the farro, chop the onions and garlic, and let it all stew in a pot for a period of time.

The potage is one of many vegetarian recipes Blue Apron has in their database and it's the ideal meal for a cold fall day.  The recipe, which can be found here, includes a "New World Spice Blend" which contains garlic, basil, onion, marjoram, thyme, fennel, turmeric, and cinnamon.  The "veggie base" is Better Than Bouillon brand, but it was suggested that veggie broth would work as a substitute (my recommendation is to not use a low-sodium broth as this is main supply of salt in the dish).

If you're interested in ordering from Blue Apron, they've generously provided a 30% off coupon to A Thought For Food readers.  Just use this link to order.

Other bloggers featuring Blue Apron

Tortilla Soup on Cookie and Kate
Warm Winter Sweet Potato Salad on Naturally Ella
Roasted Vegetable Kebabs with Curried Chickpeas and Yogurt Sauce on Oh My Veggies
Ligurian Chard with Pine Nuts and Feta on Veggie Belly
Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheese on I Heart Vegetables

Disclosure:  Blue Apron provided me with compensation for this post.  All opinions in this post about Blue Apron's products and this recipe are my own. 

Pomegranate "Manhattan" + A Tour of Treaty Oak Distilling Co.

Eric and I aren’t ones to bring back souvenirs from our travels.  We eat our way through a city and return home with memories and a few extra (happy) pounds.  If we do purchase something, it tends to be booze.  From our honeymoon in France, we came back with a couple bottles of wine (oh, yeah, and a container of foie gras) and this is how it usually pans out when we go away.  Like food, drinking local vino or beer or spirits tells you a bit about the culture and it's nice to be able to relive that months (or even years) after a trip.

On our second day in Austin, we stopped at a liquor store to pick up some gin to have in the apartment we were staying at for the week. We scoured the shelves for something produced in the area, and that’s when we came across a bottle with a nifty label proudly proclaiming it as a “Texas-style gin.”  Ok, we’ll give it a try. Another stop for tonic and citrus and we were on our way home to test it out.

The Treaty Oak Distilling Co. is owned and operated by Daniel Barnes (along with his knowledgable and very friendly staff).  Walking in, we weren't quite sure what we'd find, but the guys there beamed when they saw us and were excited to give some out-of-towners a tour of their operations.  The day ended with them lining up bottles on a counter and one of them gestured and said "Ok... help yourselves." If we must, we will!  And we did.

The highlights are their gins… we had already become quite fond of their Waterloo gin, their take on a traditional London dry gin, which is infused with local juniper, lavender, zest from oranges, lemons and grapefruits, rosemary, anise, coriander, licorice root, ginger root and pecans.  The real knockout, however, is their newly released Waterloo Antique barrel-aged gin.  This is a whiskey lovers gin, not just because of its color, but the smooth, caramel notes that it embodies. We’ve been drinking it straight or swapping out for the whiskey in a Manhattan.  I wanted to get a bit playful and thought it might be fun to include a little pomegranate juice into the mix.  Sometimes my experiments are less than stellar. This, however, worked beautifully. Sweet, smooth, boozy. What's not to like?

Pomegranate "Manhattan"

Yield 1 drink

Tools Bar spoon

Ingredients 2 oz barrel aged gin (alternatively, whiskey can be used) 1 oz pomegranate juice 1/2 oz sweet vermouth 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 tablespoon fresh pomegranate seeds


1. In a glass with a few ice cubes, add the barrel aged gin, pomegranate juice, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, and bitters.

2. Stir for 10 seconds and strain into another glass.

3. Add the pomegranate seeds and enjoy!


Chimichurri Shrimp with Lime-Herb Rice + A Pioneer Woman Cookbook Giveaway

It's taken us a few days to get back into our normal routine.  Maki has finally forgiven us for leaving her for ten days.  When we came home Saturday night, she backed away from us.  I did everything I could to win her over... treats, hugs, rubs, kisses. Nope... skeptical.  But now she seems into us again, happily nuzzling her adorable face into our arms.  Gosh, I missed that pup.

A package awaited me when I came home too.  This book. One that I've been anticipating since Ree mentioned it at The Big Traveling Potluck.  And I'm so excited it's finally here.  It was one of the first pieces of mail I opened and I instantly came to the pages of the recipes I knew I'd be making first.  Shrimp. Herbs. Rice. The foods I enjoyed so much while in Austin. I was now going to try them in my own kitchen.  Eric isn't much into cilantro, but he was a sport and not only tried it, but ate the whole thing. If you knew how much he despises it, you'd be impressed.  So, that's an endorsement right there.

Now, onto the giveaway!!!  Three lucky readers will be receiving a SIGNED copy of Ree’s soon to be released book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays. That’s right!  There will be THREE WINNERS!  Of course, if you're anxious to get your hands on a copy, you can purchase it here.

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post (something more than "I want to win!!!" is preferred).

This giveaway will end on Friday, November 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM EST.  I’ll pick 3 winners via random.org and those people will be contacted via e-mail.  One entry per person and entrants must have a US mailing address (sorry international friends) and provide a valid email address.  Best of luck!


Chimichurri Shrimp

Yield 4 servings for dinner

Tools Food processor or blender Skillet

Ingredients 1 large bunch cilantro, stems removed 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems removed 3 garlic cloves, minced Juice of 3 limes 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 cup olive oil

3 pounds raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Lime-herb rice (recipe below)


1. Place the cilantro, parsley and garlic into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until chopped.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in lime juice, cumin, cayenne pepper, and olive oil.

2. Place the shrimp in a separate bowl and pour half of the chimichurri sauce over them.  Stir to coat the shrimp.  Cover bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.

3. Remove shrimp from the fridge. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.  Cut into one to make sure it has cooked all the way through.

4. In a saucepan, combine the remaining chimichurri and heavy cream.  Cook over low-medium heat and stir.  Once the sauce has heated, remove and pour over shrimp. Serve with lime-herb rice

Source: Slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays


Lime-Herb Rice

Yield 8 servings

Tools Sauce pan Food processor or blender

Ingredients 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 teaspoon kosher salt Juice of 2 limes 1/2 cup parsley 1/2 cup cilantro 1/2 cup pine nuts


1. Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 a teaspoon kosher salt to a boil.  Add the rice, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for 18 minutes. Take the lid off and let sit for 5 minutes.

2. While the rice is resting, place the parsley, cilantro, and garlic cloves into the bowl of a food processor. While running the food processor, drizzle in the olive oil and lime juice. Season with the remaining salt.

3. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a pan, making sure not to burn them.

4. Toss the rice with the herb mixture. Stir in the toasted pine nuts.

Source: Inspired by the "Zesty Lime Rice" recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays



Smoked Salmon with Apple Yogurt and Chive

When we were getting ready to leave for our Texas trip, Eric and I joked that we should pack stretchy pants. Looking back, we probably should have. If you've been following any of our travels throughout Austin on Twitter or Instagram or his Tumblr site, you may have seen some pictures of what we've deemed our "foodcation". We're pretty proud of ourselves... we've managed to hit all of the places on our list (and some food trucks along the way). Go us! But, yeah, we're getting back into a serious gym routine when we return.

There's a lot more planned these next four days as we head off to Dallas. There are some distilleries we want to check on our drive up and a few restaurants to stop at along the way. There's talk of going to the State Fair, where you can get just about anything deep fried (hamburgers, Oreos, butter... or so I've heard).  And we might just go to a shooting range on our last day. Seems like the thing to do in Texas.

Before we left, I whipped up this little appetizer, which won raves from the husband.  As we get closer to Thanksgiving, I've been trying out recipes that I'd like to serve. Thinking this one might make it on the menu.


Smoked Salmon with Apple Yogurt and Chive

Yield 4 servings

Tools Small mason jars or bowls

Ingredients 1/2 lb hot smoked salmon fillet, cut into four pieces (alternatively, you can use sliced smoked salmon) 1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced into paste Kosher salt Black pepper, coarsely ground 1 honeycrisp apple, cored and cut into 1/4 inch pieces 1 tablespoon, chopped chives


1. In a bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, dill, and ginger.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. 2. Spoon 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt mixture into each jar or bowl. Sprinkle chopped apple on top. 3. Add the smoked salmon and sprinkle chopped chive over it.  Season with coarsely ground black pepper.


Creamy Tomatillo Dip

It's funny that just a few days ago, as we prepared for our trip to Texas, our CSA sent us a bag of tomatillo just to get us in the mood. I have a lot of love for these little guys. First off, aren't those husks just so cool? And then there's the flavor. Ever since I first cooked with them, I've been struck by their tartness. Where most dishes need acid to give it a boost, tomatillos have enough that additional lemon or lime juice is unnecessary.

The last time I played around with tomatillos, I turned them into a pesto and tossed them with pasta. Of course, my mind went in a similar direction this time, but to spruce things up, I made a creamy (and spicy) dip. Roasting allows them to blister, adding a bit of smokiness to the dip.

I may or may not post next week (who the heck knows?!?!) as we'll be touring (aka eating and drinking) our way through Austin and Dallas.  We're super excited to spend some time with friends and family. I'm ready for a taco and a margarita! That's what they eat there, right?

Creamy Tomatillo Dip

Tools Baking pan Immersion blender (or a regular blender)

Ingredients 8 oz tomatillos, husks removed 2 serrano peppers, seeds removed 3 garlic cloves, peeled 2 tablespoons olive oil Kosher salt 1/4 cup fresh cilantro 4 oz goat cheese

Tortilla chips, crackers or pretzels, for dipping


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.

2. Toss tomatillos, peppers, and garlic cloves in olive oil and 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt.  Transfer tomatillos and peppers to the prepared baking pan. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the skin of the tomatillos and peppers become blistered. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.

3. Transfer these ingredients to a large bowl (or use the large measuring cup that comes with most immersion blenders) and puree with an immersion blender. Alternatively, you can use a regular blender to do this.  Add cilantro and goat cheese and blend to incorporate.

4. Check for seasoning and, if necessary, add additional salt.  Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Silent Sunday: The Food + Chefs of the Boston Seafood Gala + Festival

What: The Boston Seafood Seafood Gala (September 27th, 2013) and Boston Seafood Festival (September 28th, 2013)

Chefs (in order of appearance): Will Gilson (Puritan and Co.), Jose Duarte (Tarranta), Mark Allen (Towne Restaurant), Brian Anderson (Market), Becca Arnold and Louis DiBiccari (Tavern Road), Matthew Gaudet (West Bridge), Awri Odense & Graham Lockwood (Fairmont Battery Wharf Hotel/Aragosta Bar + Bistro), Mark Allen (Towne Restaurant)

Pistachio and Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I don't bake many cakes.  I'm always happy to eat them, but the thought of frosting a triple-tiered cake stresses me out.  It's probably for the best that we don't have these treats around the house, as will power has never been one of my strengths.  There are no calories in a sliver or in a finger swipe of icing, right?
Breakfast breads are the cakes I so fondly remember from my childhood... banana bread or a sour cream coffee cake were made often, prepared for Sunday brunch or a quick afternoon snack.  I don't make them quite as frequently as my mom does, but I do get the urge from time to time.  They don't last long, either.  I'll cut the majority for Eric to take to work, give a few pieces to friends, and save the rest for us to enjoy for a few days.
When asked to create a recipe for the KitchenAid blog, The Kitchenthusiast, I knew a coffee cake was in order. Baking a cake with pistachios has been on my list for a long time (years, in fact), so I used it as an opportunity to play around with what I believed would be the perfect pairing: pistachios and sour cream coffee cake.  And this guy (and his taste-tester husband) were not at all disappointed.
Disclaimer: While I was compensated for this post, all opinions here are my own.

Fig and Balsamic Ice Cream

I've had some unsuccessful attempts at making ice cream. I blame myself for the majority of these failures (if one can refer to them as such... can something that has cream and sugar in it be bad?).  My mistake has always been that I've made ice cream in the middle of summer. Now, that might make perfect sense to you folks, but when you keep your apartment at 76 degrees on a balmy day, well, things aren't likely to freeze very easily. I think my ice cream maker was having issues too. So, between those two things, the stuff wasn't turning out the way I'd hoped.

Anyway, I decided recently that I'm not giving up. Nope. In fact, I want to start making ice cream on a regular basis. Maybe not every week, but once or twice a month (I think it might be time to get back into that gym routine).  I may not post every success on here, but given how good this turned out, I thought it'd be wrong to keep it to myself. Despite my obsession with Jeni's Ice Cream and her beautiful book (which, shockingly, has sat on my book shelf, virtually untouched for two years.  Well, let me tell you, that book has now found a permanent place in our kitchen.


Fig and Balsamic Ice Cream

(ice cream base from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer)


For the Fig-Balsamic Sauce 1 cup figs, stems removed and fruit quartered 1/2 cup granulated sugar 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar

For the Ice Cream 2 cups whole milk 4 teaspoons cornstarch 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1 1/4 cup heavy cream 2/3 cup sugar 2 tablespoons light corn syrup


1. To prepare the fig and balsamic sauce, add all the ingredients to a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Once the figs begin to soften, use a wooden spoon to break up the pieces.  When the sauce begins to thicken, remove from heat and let cool while you make the ice cream base.

2. To make the ice cream, start by stirring together the milk and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Set this slurry aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and salt.

3. Prepare a large bowl of ice and water.

4. Combine the rest of the milk, as well as the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the corn starch slurry.  Bring back to a boil over and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

5. At this point, slowly whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Carefully pour into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath.  Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

6.Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's instructions. Once the base is finished, add the ice cream to a storage container, alternating between the base and the fig and balsamic sauce.  Press a sheet of parchment directly on the surface of the ice cream and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Bully Boy Distillers and The Cedric Street Cocktail

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Will and Dave Willis, brothers and owners of Bully Boy Distillery in Roxbury, at the launch party for their Boston Rum.  We chatted about scheduling a time to do a piece for The Boys Club, but didn't get around to it until the other week.  The Willis Brothers were generous enough to give me a private tour and sat down to chat with me a bit more about the creation of their very successful business.

Click here to check out the interview and my recipe for The Cedric Street Cocktail, made with their Boston Rum.

Spiced Double Chocolate Cookies

I woke up Saturday morning with Eric sleeping soundly next to me and Maki curled up at the end of the bed.  It took me a moment to realize what was so strange about this: it had been 2 months since I'd been home on a weekend.  Maybe all that travel is why this summer has flown by.  I took this as an opportunity to relax a bit, which meant baking cookies, followed by a day of eating and drinking and time spent outdoors with friends (eating and drinking, of course).  It was exactly what I needed.  A chance to decompress a little.

While I sat at the table, dropping heaping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheet, Eric walked into the room and inspected the cookies that were cooling on the wire rack.  Always eager to be my taste-tester, he snatched one up and took a bite.

These are great!  Where did you get the recipe?

I looked up.

What do you mean?  I created it.  

They're really, good. There's some kick there. Cayenne?  

Yup. And some cinnamon too.

I love that.  Gonna post these on the blog?

Of course.



Spiced Double Chocolate Cookies

Servings 2 dozen cookies


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, shaved using a chef's knife


1. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325°F.

2. In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper and cinnamon and set aside.

3. In the bowl of a food processor (or this can be done with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment) add the butter and both sugars and pulse until combined. This may require that you stop the machine periodically and, using a spatula, pull the butter/sugar mixture from the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla to the bowl and pulse to combine.

4. Carefully add half the dry ingredients to the bowl of the food processor and pulse to combine. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients.

5. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and, using a spatula, fold in the chocolate.

6. Scoop heaping spoonfuls of dough into the palms of your hands and roll into two and a half inch balls.  Place dough balls onto a non-stick baking sheet (or one lined with parchment paper) and space them about 2 inches apart.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.

7. Remove from the oven and let sit on the tray for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Let cool completely before serving.

Why I Love Taking Pictures With My Phone (+ Some Tips/Tricks)

The first time I brought a camera into a restaurant was over two years ago.  This was before I'd purchased my first smart phone, and I lugged around my hefty camera and lenses wherever I went.  Despite the challenges of carrying a camera everywhere, this was my creative outlet and I loved capturing my favorite restaurants and landmarks.

Ever since I started working professionally as a food photographer, I do like to take a break from my camera from time to time.  Sometimes you just need a little space.  I rarely bring it along when we go out to eat or are traveling anymore.  On a recent trip to Vegas, I only took my camera out once, opting to use my phone to take all my pictures.

As a photographer, there's something very liberating about shooting with a smart phone.  First off, you can be discrete about taking pictures.  It's easier to capture the environment of a restaurant when you're not whipping out a massive lens.  Both patrons and servers get weird when they see a camera pointed at them (and I don't blame them for that... it's a bit intrusive).  A phone, however, can be used to take a picture without anyone noticing.

I also feel like I've grown tremendously as a photographer because of the amount I shoot with my phone.  I'm constantly finding ways to get creative in an environment when the light may not be ideal.  Or I see a dish and think, "Ok, what are all the ways I can shoot this?" and, to my husband's dismay, I play with every option.   It gets me thinking outside the box and that may be the most important thing for us as artists.

Over the last few months, I've started teaching classes on iPhoneography for folks who are interested in amping up their food photos.  I wanted to share a few points from that class with you today:

1. Remember that taking pictures with your phone is the same as using a DSLR... consider the key elements of photography: subject, composition, and lighting. Some dishes or ingredients aren’t always going to be bright and colorful, but there should be something about what you’re photographing that’s going to be interesting to the viewer.  Use the other elements (composition and lighting) to elevate the subject or create a mood.

2. Action can be the subject.

3. Texture does a lot to make a smart phone image interesting.  This can be as simple as shooting the dish on a rustic table (think aged wood) or textured background.  I've gone as far as to put my food on the sidewalk, using the bricks as my surface.

4. Use natural light... and never use the flash! I see it all the time. I'm at a restaurant and someone takes a picture and they light up the room with their phone's flash.  My suggestion, and this goes for all restaurant photography (even with a DSLR), is to only shoot during the day (or during day light).  It's incredibly difficult to take a shot of food with your phone in a dimly lit room.  Even if the dish is beautiful and the composition of the shot is perfect, the picture is going to come out super grainy.

5. Shoot from above.  Because the iPhone doesn't have the same depth of field capabilities as a DSLR, shooting from the side doesn't always work as well as one would like.  The best way to capture a dish (or a whole table of plates) is to get the shot from above.  If you do shoot from the side, keep your shot simple and with minimal props, because everything in the shot will remain in focus.

6. Taking pictures is fun!  If your friends are joining you at a restaurant, let them in on the experience.  You can even let them be your model.  They'll like that. And then let them eat.  They'll like that more.

To see some more of my iPhone shots, head on over to Instagram.  And to see my husband's pictures of me taking pictures of food, check out his Tumblr page, Waiting For It: Married to a Food Photographer.

The above pictures were taken at the following places (listed in order of appearance):

Whole Foods (Andover, MA) Barbuto (New York, NY) West Bridge (Cambridge, MA) Four Seas Ice Cream (Centerville, MA) Mei Mei Street Kitchen (Boston, MA) Lyric (Yarmouth Port, Cape Cod, MA) Island Creek Oyster Bar (Boston, MA)


Pimm's and Tonic

As Eric and I packed for our weeklong trip to the Cape, we both felt it was necessary to box up some of our liquor cabinet.  What a shame it would be if we wanted to make a drink with vermouth in it, only to find we had none! Our traveling bar was chock-full of bottles of Aperol, St. Germain, Pimm's, and assorted infused syrups and bitters. Over the next seven days, more than a few of those were emptied.  We were very productive.

Unlike the traditional Pimm's Cup, which is a simple concoction of Pimm's topped with lemon-lime soda, I decided to use tonic and add a splash of Aperol to kick things up a notch.  A squeeze of lemon and a cucumber garnish turns this into the perfect late summer beverage.  It almost makes you forget how quickly this summer is flying by.

Pimm's and Tonic

Servings 4 drinks

Ingredients 8 oz Pimm's 2 oz Aperol 1 oz lemon juice 1 English cucumber, peeled lengthwise into thin strips. Tonic


1. Pour 2 ounces of Pimm's, 1/2 ounce of Aperol, and 1/4 oz lemon juice into each Collins glass.

2. Fill three-quarters of the way with ice.

3. Garnish the glass with cucumber.

4. Add tonic.

5. Give a quick stir with a spoon and serve.

Squid with Burst Cherry Tomatoes

"Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels;

only when the clock stops does time come to life." - William Faulkner

When we arrived to open the Cape house a few months ago, we noticed that the kitchen clock had stopped working.  This wasn't terribly surprising, since it had been around for quite some time.  To fill the empty space, a platter in the shape of a fish was propped up against the wall.  Eric and his brother like to joke about it. "Hey, what time is it?" one asks... to which the other replies "I think it's half past a fish."

It never gets old.

I've grown to really appreciate the absence of the clock.  So much of my day is spent scheduling that to be in a place that doesn't have a visible clock is refreshing. Somehow life slows down in the most miraculous way when you aren't always checking to see what time it is.   Eating when you want to.  Drinking when you want to. Napping when you want to.  It's a wonderful thing.

Squid with Burst Cherry Tomatoes

(mildly adapted from Tom Colicchio's recipe in Food and Wine Magazine, August 2013)

Servings 8-10


1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 1/2 pounds mixed cherry tomatoes 2 large garlic cloves, minced 1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 1 1/2 pounds small squid, cleaned, bodies cut into 1/3-inch rings and tentacles halved 1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 1 cup lightly packed small basil leaves


1. Add the oil to a skillet and set over medium heat.  Add tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes blister, approximately 4 minutes.

2. Add the squid and cook on low heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until they become opaque.

3. Stir in the rice wine vinegar and basil and season with salt and pepper.

Blueberry, Beet and Feta Salad

The other week I headed out for the farmer's market at Copley Square, my camera tucked in my backpack.  It was one of those days when merely stepping outside resulted in sweat-drenched clothes, but for some psychotic reason I decided to walk there.  The path from my apartment in South Boston to the market takes you through an array of neighborhoods and scenery.  Every time I do this walk, I see a detail of the city that I'd never noticed before.  It could be a mural on the side of a building or a hidden park down a side street.

The shaded kiosks at the market provided enough protection to make it a pleasant trip.  I strolled around for a while, poking into each tent to marvel at the gorgeous produce.  I couldn't help but touch everything.  This is what carrots are supposed to look like!  And aren't these beets stunning?  My fellow patrons look over at me, laughing and nodding in agreement.   There was no way I was going home without a few ingredients.

Is it weird that the thing I enjoy preparing most are salads?  Even as a teenager, there was nothing that excited me more than chopping veggies and whisking together a vinaigrette.  This is how I started to learn how to cook, and I guess it's why it's stuck with me all these years.

The true pleasure in eating salad is that often the ingredients are left unaltered or cooked in a way that lets their natural flavors shine.  This blueberry, beet, and feta salad wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I got started on developing this dish.  Honestly, I'm not sure what my vision was.  I was hoping for something leafy, but when the bowl developed and I saw how striking the colors were and that the flavors and textures were layered, I knew this was something that needed to be shared.


Blueberry, Beet and Feta Salad


1 bunch (6 or 7) small golden beets 1 pint (2 cups) blueberries 1/2 cup feta 3 basil leaves, chiffonade 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 teaspoons lemon juice 3/4 teaspoon lemon zest Salt and pepper, to taste Honey


1. Put the beets to a pot of water and bring to a boil.  They are finished cooking when a sharp knife goes into one easily. Run cold water over the beets and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Once they have cooled enough, they can be peeled.

2. Quarter the beets (or cut smaller if the beets are larger) and transfer to a bowl.  Add the blueberries and feta to the bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Pour over the salad and toss to combine.

4. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle basil on top. Drizzle a little honey on top and serve.