“Atop the Dorchester Heights hill sits a tall monument commemorating the Patriot battery that drove the British out of Boston. A popular site to view the Fourth of July fireworks, the Thomas Park (the oval drive around Dorchester Heights) area is one of the most attractive areas in South Boston.” (from Wikipedia)
If there’s one meal in the day that I’m bored by, it’s breakfast. I’m not talking about the leisurely Sunday brunch that’s filled with sweet and savory delights. I’m talking about the workday breakfast; the one that we scarf down before our commute to the office.
There was just a brief period of time when I was a cold cereal eater. Somewhere during my high school years, however, I began to feel that it was sort of a waste and switched to eating granola or hot oatmeal or yogurt with some honey on top. But even these things I grew tired of.
I understand that many believe breakfast to be the most important meal of the day. And I have to agree with that. When I don’t eat breakfast, I tend to eat a much larger lunch, and an equally hefty dinner.
That still doesn’t take care of the problem of what to eat. What do you eat when all of the traditional options are unappealing to you? A piece of fruit isn’t going to do it for you. It needs to have protein, vitamins… and flavor!
Well, if you feel the same turmoil as me, here’s something a little different: breakfast quinoa. First, you may be wondering what quinoa is (click here for the Wikipedia page on that)… but I’ll just tell you that it’s a seed that is cooked like a grain and is full of protein and has wonderful texture. And it’s very easy to prepare.
This breakfast quinoa is not only pretty healthy for you (compared to packaged oatmeal) but it is incredibly filling. Not a bad way to start the day!
I took a look in the oven to check on the gougères and wondered, for a moment, if I had done something horribly wrong. Of course, this was just five minutes after they had gone in, and the cooking time did say thirty minutes. But I’m an impatient man when it comes to these things. I had expected to see at least some change in the consistency.
Normally, I’d start to flip through cookbooks or rush to my computer to do a Google searches to see if there was something I had screwed up. This time, however, I decided to take a step back and just let it do its thing. And as soon as I took a seat and began sipping my coffee, I was comforted by the soothing scent that began to permeate the house. From there, I knew it’d be ok.
Gougères are a French pastry that consists of pâte à choux (a dough made with butter, water (or, in this case, milk), flour, and eggs) that has been mixed with cheese and baked in the oven to create rich, crispy rolls. The inside, however, remains full of moisture and is quite light.
As I described earlier, I was skeptical about attempting this recipe… fearful that something would get screwed up in the process. But, really, it couldn’t have been easier and they were a huge hit with our dinner guests.
I realize some of you may have looked at the title of this and scratched your head, wondering what the heck a lobster roll was. Until recently, I thought everyone knew what they were, but apparently that’s not the case. However, if you’re from New England, you’re definitely familiar with these wonderfully decadent treats.
Lobster rolls basically take a delicacy and turns it into more casual fare. The cooked lobster meat is removed from the body, chopped into large chunks, tossed with mayonnaise and a little celery, seasoned… and then stuffed into a buttery grilled hot dog bun.
At once it feels both incredibly trashy and ridiculously extravagant.
Lobster rolls can be found at a number of establishments in Boston, but I have to admit, I haven’t found one that has really blown my mind (and, for the price that you can pay, sometimes it’s a bit of a disappointment).
The few good ones that I’ve had I found on the Cape, but even those seemed overpriced ($16) for something you could probably make at home for half that cost.
There’s a long story to go along with this post, but I’ll try to keep it short. You see, Eric and I were given a very generous wedding gift from our friends Jacob and Joely for a class at Stir, Barbara Lynch’s cookbook store and demonstration room. These classes are very difficult to get into. They announce a date when they’ll open up registration and you have to call in immediately to try to reserve a spot.
Eric and I spent weeks figuring out which of their amazing classes we’d want to take and decided to go with one that would fit our (ok, my) pescatarian diet. The class focused on the classic recipes of B+G Oysters, Lynch’s highly acclaimed seafood restaurant located in Boston’s South End.
We went into Stir not knowing what to expect. But as soon as we entered the room, we were made to feel right at home. And for the next few hours, we were wined and dined (and were given a little education as well). The highlight of the night were the lobster rolls, one of B&G’s signature dishes. Eric and I fell in love (with the dish) after our first bite and knew that we had to recreate these at home.
And such an opportunity came when we hosted a winter BBQ at our apartment this past weekend. Eric went out and purchased the lobsters (twelve of them), came home and removed the meat, while I made the lemon aioli and chopped up some celery and grilled the buns.
There are no words to describe how wonderful these lobster rolls are. You can pull out every descriptor in the thesaurus, but it won’t capture the beauty of this dish.
I know it’s hard to find creative ways to prepare vegetables, which is part of the reason that I’ve been featuring a lot of vegetarian recipes recently. And to come up with a dish that can not only act as a delicious side, but that can be presented as an entree as well, is an even greater challenge.
Eric and I picked up these beautiful beets from the Enterprise Farm produce stand a few weeks ago when we attended a breakfast that they were hosting. Despite having a refrigerator full of wonderful fruits and vegetables at home, we just couldn’t help ourselves. We’re both suckers for beets.
My immediate thought was to roast them, but, again, I wanted to do something a little different. Instead, I poked around the Internet and came across this simple preparation for pickled beets.
What I really love about this recipe was how the addition of a few ingredients (the feta and onions) really elevates the dish. In fact, we made this for lunch one weekend afternoon and found it quite substantial.
Pickled Beets with Feta
(from Kitchen Window – NPR)
makes 6 servings
4 large beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into rounds, or 1 (15-ounce) can
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped mint
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
6 cups arugula, watercress or spinach
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
If using raw beets, trim greens from beets, but do not peel or cut into beet itself to minimize bleeding. Cover whole beets with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer beets to an ice bath to stop cooking. For canned beets, simply drain well.
In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, allspice, salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 cup of the mint. Place onion in a bowl, coat with some of the vinaigrette and allow to sit for 15 minutes to soften the onion’s bite.
Just before serving, toss all ingredients together in a bowl.
When you see strawberries in the dead of winter, it’s a striking sight. With all of the beige food that we’ve been eating these last two months, I had almost forgotten that such colors existed. And as soon as I held them in my hands, I was able to forget about the snow that was pummeling our city and think of warmer, happier times.
These strawberries came to us in our CSA box a few weeks ago, which were brought up from Georgia. And while they were stunning to look at, I wasn’t prepared for such luscious fruit. I was thrown for a bit of a loop, so I sent them to the refrigerator until I figured out what to do.
But they just sat there. For almost a week.
By the time I opened the fridge to take them out, they had turned a bit soft. They still looked delicious, but they needed to be treated with a little extra love. And that love came in the form of this wonderfully simple, rustic dessert.
I must admit, I haven’t done much with strawberries in the past. Normally they end up in fruit salad or with some vanilla ice cream.
Searching for an easy dessert recipe that included strawberries was not an easy task. I came across a lot of cheesecakes, a few for strawberry shortcake (no thanks) and a lot of warm-weather fare (granitas, sorbets, ice creams, and gelato).
What I was really looking for was a quick pastry recipe. I grew up on cookies, brownies, and lemon bars. Even now, when I go home to visit my parents I can always expect a plate of freshly baked treats. And, when I was getting prepared to cook up something with these berries, I knew that I wanted something that would comfort me, something that would bring me back to my childhood. This recipe did the trick.
Strawberry Crumb Bars
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
3 cups fresh strawberries, quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.
3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the strawberries. Sprinkle the strawberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 10 to 15 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.