Being a blogger, there are some things I choose to share, and some things I have kept to myself. One thing that many of you do not know about me is that I actually went to film school and, before moving into a career in the culinary world, had been working in documentary film production.
I like to think of myself as someone who thrives off of creativity. The arts, in all its forms, has always been something that I’ve connected to. So when I switched jobs a few years ago, I struggled to find a creative outlet. This blog has allowed me to combine my love of food, and has given me a forum to present my photographs.
My hope is that in the coming years, I am able to take all of this to another level. So, it is with great excitement that I announce the launch of my photography website: Brian Samuels Photography.
The site is still a work in progress and will develop as I take more pictures. But for now, I hope you all enjoy. And, as always, I thank you for your support.
Have I mentioned how much I adore scones? It’s one of the few breakfast foods that really gets me going. I’ll pass on donuts, danishes, and muffins. But I find scones, especially ones that are homemade, hard to resist.
For me, scones represent relaxation. It’s something you enjoy on a lazy morning with a cup of coffee or tea, clad only in your pajamas (or less). Somehow, any worries that you might have, no matter how stressful your week has been, a simple scone can wipe all of that away.
These maple oatmeal scones, a terrific recipe from Ina Garten, hit the spot. The subtle sweetness, the texture of the oats and the whole wheat flour, create a particularly hearty scone.
I made a batch of these a couple of weeks ago and worked my way through them (with some help, of course) throughout the rest of the week. They were a lovely way to start each day, and made getting up in the morning just a bit easier.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or water, for egg wash
For the Glaze
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add quickly to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough may be sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4 to 1 inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into 3-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are done. To make the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. When the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes and drizzle each scone with 1 tablespoon of the glaze. I like to sprinkle some uncooked oats on the top, for garnish. The warmer the scones are when you glaze them, the thinner the glaze will be.
Like most children, I grew up eating mac-and-cheese on a pretty regular basis. My grandmother would pick me up from school a couple days a week and bring me back to their house, where she would serve me a heaping bowl of bubbling, cheesy goodness. I’d climb up onto the chair with my Sesame Street fork (which, unfortunately, is not pictured here) and dig in. It’s one of those childhood memories that has always lingered and, as a result, every time I eat mac-and-cheese, I feel like a kid again.
I found it interesting to learn that mac-and-cheese actually dates back to medieval times, when it was called Makerouns, which consisted of pasta mixed with butter and cheese. During this time, many believed that cheese aided digestion, so it was consumed frequently (I’m sure many of you would disagree with this). Unfortunately, since that time mac-and-cheese has developed into something entirely different. Sure it’s cheesy and can, after a night at the bar, be quite delicious. But the packaged kind is highly processed and has none of the same characteristics to make it the comfort food I grew up with.
This recipe came to my attention via Smitten Kitchen. Eric and I throw a BBQ in the middle of winter every year and, in need of a little help, we went over to SK for some suggestions while planning last year’s menu. I found not just one, but three recipes from Deb’s catalog that were perfect for the occasion. But the hit of the evening was this “Easiest Baked Mac-and-Cheese.”
But, really, how can you go wrong when you are following a 2:1 cheese-to-pasta ratio (not to mention the addition of cottage cheese, milk, and butter)? This is comfort food to the nth degree… just what you want to make and consume on a brutal, blizzardy day. No doubt about it, THIS will put a big grin on your face.
Our Sunday Routine: Walk the Pup (her name is Maki), Prepare Coffee, Read the Paper
The first time I had crème brûlée, I was on a trip with my parents to visit my sister in Paris, where she was studying at La Sorbonne. As it was December and quite cold, we spent most of our evenings in her apartment. The four of us would go to the store and pick up groceries and we would try to cook in her kitchen, which could fit no more than a single individual. It was a challenge, to say the least… one that resulted in lots of laughter. Thankfully, everyone made it through the whole experience with all of their limbs still attached to their bodies. But we decided that it was probably a good idea to go out the rest of the nights.
The City of Lights was just as beautiful in the darkness as it was during the day, though it was hard to appreciate our surroundings as we walked briskly through the frigid winds. When we arrived at the restaurant, we all unraveled our scarves and threw off our mittens and enjoyed what was, for me, a very memorable meal. That dinner marked the first time I had three very different, but equally satisfying, dishes. The first two came early in the meal when we were presented with a plate of pan fried frogs legs and a bowl of escargot in a pesto sauce. And the last ended our dinner in the form of a gorgeously prepared crème brûlée (silky custard in the middle with a thin, crispy caramel-colored layer of sugar on top).
And from that moment on I was a fan. I’ve had it countless times in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. Chocolaty, fruity, boozy (salty even).
Yet, with the number of crème brûlée that have been consumed, this was the first time I’d made it. And I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been asked by the Chobani Greek Yogurt company to create a recipe for their blog*. It was an easy decision, actually. I knew that I wanted to make a dessert. Cheesecake, my first choice, has been done before and I wanted to do something a little different.
And, to my very pleasant surprise, it works. In terms of consistency, the Chobani Greek Yogurt didn’t need a whole lot to give it the richness this dessert requires. A little sugar, a spoon of vanilla, a dash of cinnamon and a couple of eggs… and you have yourself the crème for crème brûlée !
*For the sake of full disclosure, Chobani was generous enough to send a box of free (and very delicious) yogurt.
15 oz Chobani 2% plain Greek Yogurt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Place the above ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until all the ingredients have mixed together.
Pour the mixture into 4 ramekins and place inside a roasting pan. Fill the pan with water so that it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the mixture looks like Jello when you shake the ramekin (it is key not to overcook them, as they will turn into souffles/mini cheesecakes).
Remove from the pan and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and a half and up to 2 days. When you are ready to eat them, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before browning the sugar on top.
Sprinkle on top with sugar. Using a torch, melt the sugar until it has turned golden brown and becomes crispy on top. Serve immediately.
Over the past couple of years, I have experimented more with making cocktails. Well, experimented may be the wrong word, because in actuality I have been following recipes in order to learn the basics of creating these libations.
As someone who enjoys cooking, I have great admiration for those who can mix up a solid drink. There is an art to making a good cocktail. The proportions of the ingredients, the type of ice that is used, even the glass that it is served in… all of these things can effect the results.
One of my favorite bars in Boston is located at the Omni Parker House Hotel (which, apparently, is where the Boston Cream Pie originated) called The Last Hurrah. I know the Mad Men-style bar has become a bit of a trend lately, but The Last Hurrah is the real deal. Everything, from the decor to the servers to their extensive cocktail list… it all screams 1950s.
And I just love this place. After work, I will bring some friends there and we can just sit and chat and enjoy a well made drink (served with a bowl of their warm nuts).
It has become a bit of a joke that every time I go to The Last Hurrah, I order the same thing. I’ll look at the menu and talk about getting a martini or a gimlet. But at the last second, I change my mind. Their version of a Manhattan is the Harvey Parker, which is Jameson Irish Whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a maraschino cherry. And there is no better cocktail, particularly in the colder months, than one of those.
Traditional Manhattans call for rye whiskey, which is distilled from 51% rye grain. Other variations can include bourbon or blended whiskey. But there is a smoothness that comes from the rye whiskey that I quite enjoy.
So, to take the edge off after a long work day, make yourself one of these classic Manhattans.
serving size: one drink
2 oz rye whiskey
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes bitters
Pour whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add three ice cubes. Stir (don’t shake) for 1 minute and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with cherries.
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