Friday, December 14, 2012

Tartine's Currant Scones and Lemon Cream


The weekend of Thanksgiving, we had 5 family members visiting us in chilly Chicago.  Thus, there was a lot of cooking, eating, and drinking.  I was in a menu-planning flurry the week before the big holiday, not just for the Thanksgiving meal, but also for every other meal that weekend.  And it was that planning week that one of my favorite blogs, Alexandra's Kitchen, posted the recipe for Tartine Bakery's Current Scones and Lemon Cream.  

Upon reading the recipe and looking through the pictures, I was hooked.  I sent it to my husband's sister to get her thoughts, and she immediately responded that we must make them that weekend. 
So Saturday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, she and I made the scones for everyone, and boy were they delicious.  Warm and both soft and crunchy, bright pops of currants, just delicious.

But oh, that lemon cream.


I would like to bathe in that lemon cream.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I could find an excuse to eat that with almost anything.  Posted originally on Food52 (my new obsession), this lemon cream is so bright, so rich, so creamy.  The lemon flavor is so robust, the first bite catches you off guard.  And after that first bite, it's hard to stop.  You'll find yourself wanting to lick the dish, to get every last bit of goodness.

Since I didn't deviate from the recipe at all, I'm going to point you over to Alexandra's Kitchen for the full rundown, paired with her beautiful photography.

Alexandra's Kitchen: Tartine Bakery's Currant Scones with Lemon Cream

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Best Thing I Ever Made

You know that show on The Food Network "The Best Thing I Ever Ate?"  Well, they also have a cooking version, "The Best Thing I Ever Made."  And if I was ever invited to contribute to that show, I would make this pasta.

I'm being completely serious, this is the best thing I've ever made, it is so incredibly, outrageously delicious.

It's blowing my mind just thinking of it.

If there's one thing I can say about this pasta, is do not skip any part of this recipe.  I know you'll be tempted to just omit the breadcrumbs, or maybe you don't have any lemons for zesting lying around.  Then wait to make the pasta.  Wait until you have the time, and the ingredients, and the love, to make this pasta the thing of beauty that it is.

Spaghetti with Soft Eggs and Speck
adapted from Food52
*note: this recipe makes one serving.  Why?  Well, the original recipe author was a military wife who often had to make meals for one while her husband was deployed, and in my case, my husband won't eat eggs or pecorino romano so I made this on a night when he was out of town.  I suggest you increase the recipe accordingly.

Pangritata (a word not in my vocabulary previously, this is the seasoned breadcrumbs part of the recipe)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup fresh or stale coarse breadcrumbs (I pulsed an old part of a baguette in the food processor)
2 teaspoons minced fresh Italian parsley
zest from half a lemon

Heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the breadcrumbs and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the parsley and the lemon zest, and toast for another minute until the mixture is crispy and golden brown.  Set aside.

Spaghetti with Soft Eggs and Speck

4 ounces spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
4 paper-thin slices of speck (speck is a smoked prosciutto)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Lay out the slices of speck on a baking sheet and either toast them in a toaster oven or in a broiler.  Because the slices are so thin, they will cook very, very quickly, so keep an eye on them to make sure they crisp but don't burn.  This will likely take 1 minute, maybe 2 if you're starting from a cool toaster oven.  Remove and set aside to cool.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente according to directions on box.

After adding the pasta to the boiling water, wipe out the skillet from the pangritata, add 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter and melt together over medium heat.  When the oil/butter mixture is hot, add the garlic and immediately break the eggs into the skillet.  If need be, lower the heat a bit. You want the garlic to cook without burning and the egg whites to set, but the yolks to remain runny.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking liquid from the pasta before draining when al dente.

Add pasta back to the pot, pour the eggs and all the fat from the skillet onto the pasta, add the parsley and half the cheese, and toss well, breaking up the eggs as you do. If it is looking a little dry, add some of the reserved cooking liquid (for mine, I ended up adding about 2 T).

Break up the toasted speck (it will be thin and crisp) and toss with the pasta.

Plate the pasta and eggs, season well with freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt, sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and then top with the pangritata.

Eat immediately, with a nice glass of wine.

Final egg pasta

Friday, November 30, 2012

Homemade Ricotta

The concept of making my own cheese always made me uneasy.  Cheese is aged in dark caves in France, not made on my kitchen counter!  However, recently I've seen a few references to "house-made ricotta" on restaurant menus, and even heard a chef reference how she always makes her own ricotta at home.

When I was planning my Thanksgiving weekend food extravaganza, I suddenly seemed inspired to at least look into making my own creamy delicious ricotta, if it was really as easy as it sounded.  And you know what I found?  It's is easier than it sounds.  In fact, I'm still blown away that I made something so creamy and delicious with such little effort.


Rich Homemade Ricotta
recipe from Smitten Kitchen


3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Candy or deep-fry thermometer
Large mesh strainer
(I ended up buying the cheesecloth and strainers online through Amazon as linked to above).

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it frequently to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it once or twice, gently and slowly. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

Line a large mesh strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the mesh strainer and let the curds strain for two hours.  Discard the whey (liquid in the bowl), or, if you’re one of those crafty people who use it for other things, of course, save it.

Eat the ricotta right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.


For my Thanksgiving appetizers, I decided to make two types of crostinis: ricotta with roasted beets and arugula, and ricotta with tomatoes and basil.  In both cases, I toasted some fresh baguette slices, then rubbed them with garlic cloves before spreading the ricotta on top.  With the roasted beet crostinis, I roasted the beets ahead of time, diced and chilled them in the fridge, and then assembled and finished with a sprinkle of black pepper and a light drizzle of olive oil.  For the tomato crositinis, I simply halved some beautiful multi-colored small tomatoes and finished with a pinch of coarse sea salt and of course another drizzle of olive oil.

What I loved about this ricotta recipe, compared with others I looked up, is that it uses lemon juice instead of other acids like vinegar.  You could definitely taste a very, very faint touch of lemon, which I thought really took the flavor to a whole different level.

Give it a try!

Served with Caramelized Onion Dip (and veggies) and Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Homemade Ciabatta Rolls

Last weekend, as Chris and I were thinking of something new to try in the kitchen, an idea came to mind: how about trying our hand at some homemade bread?  We don't have a breadmaker so we've never gone that route, but we love fresh bread (always drop by our local bread shop each week) and we generally have yeast lying around, so hey, why not?

Sifting through ideas for a type of bread to make, we stumbled upon a wonderful ciabatta recipe, with the most amazing pictures, I just knew we had to try it.  It wasn't going to be easy - it was going to be a two-day affair involving making a "biga" on day one and then completing the actual bread on day two.  But I could tell already how it was going to be all worth it.


Homemade Ciabatta Rolls
recipe from

Biga - Day 1
4 ounce (1/2 cup) water
1/2 teaspoon active-dry yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the flour and stir to form a thick, gloppy paste. Give it a good fifty or so brisk stirs to build up the gluten. Cover and let sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.
By the next day, the biga will look soupy with many big bubbles dotting the surface.
Ciabatta - Day 2
17 ounces (2 cups + 2 tablespoons) water
1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Dissolve the yeast in the water in the bowl of a standing mixer. Scrape the biga into the water and break it up with your spatula or squeeze it between your hands. You don't need to completely dissolve the biga; just loosen it up and break it into stringy blobs.
Add all of the flour and the salt. Stir to form a thick, very wet dough. Let this rest for 10-20 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the water.
Fit your standing mixer with a dough hook and knead at medium speed for 15-18 minutes (Level 5 or 6 on a KitchnAid). Keep a close eye on your mixer as it has a tendency to "walk" on the counter at this speed.
The dough will start off sticking to the bottom and sides of the bowl. Around the 7-minute mark, it will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl, collect around the dough hook, and regularly slap the sides of the bowl. If it doesn't, nudge your mixer speed up a notch. Also, if the dough starts climbing the dough hook, stop the mixer and scrape it down again. By the end of kneading, the dough will look smooth and creamy with a glossy shine. It will puddle back into the bowl once you turn off the mixer, and this is fine.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise at 70° - 75° for 2-3 hours, until tripled in bulk.
Dust your work surface heavily with flour. Set two sheets of parchment near your work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the flour, taking care not to deflate it too much. Dust the top of the dough with more flour. Using a pastry scraper or pizza wheel, cut the dough in two pieces for loaves or into 16 pieces for rolls.
Brush your hands with flour. Working gently but swiftly, scoop the the loaves (or the rolls) one at a time from the work surface to the parchment. Press your fingertips about halfway into the dough to dimple the surface and slightly flatten the loaves (or rolls). Let the loaves (or rolls) rise, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes. When ready to bake, they should look pillowy with many big bubbles just beneath the surface.  We decided at this point to sprinkle them with a little flaky sea salt, as the ciabattas made at our local bakery are made this way and the salt crystals on top are absolutely divine.
Preheat the oven to 475°F while the loaves are rising. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven now.
When ready to bake, slide the loaves, still on the parchment, onto a pizza peel or baking sheet. Transfer them to the oven to cook, either on the baking stone or directly on the baking sheet if you don't have a stone. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Slip the parchment out from under the loaves and cool completely before eating.

To be honest, we didn't wait for them to cool completely at all.  It took every ounce of our willpower to avoid steam burns and wait maybe 5 minutes before breaking through the crusty exterior to expose the airy soft center.  Even though we had planned to use the rolls for barbecue pork sandwiches, we couldn't help but eat one right away to just enjoy the delicious fresh hot ciabatta.


04 Finished Pulled Pork Sandwich

Monday, October 1, 2012

Master Bedroom

One thing I've learned since buying a home is that you are never, ever done.  Once you finish one project, you find another one to do.

You may remember that back in February, my wonderful parents flew out for a long weekend to help us paint the all the ceilings, walls, and floorboards, as well as install all new lighting downstairs.  It was an incredible help, and made a huge difference.  But that couldn't possibly be the end of it.  Next came a new rug, a custom piece of art from an awesome Etsy artist, new carpeting for upstairs, and a giant tree vinyl decal that reduced me to a weeping pile of tears.

Yet with all those changes, our bedroom was pretty neglected.  Our inspiration was drained by all the other changes throughout the house, so our bedroom remained plain with light grey walls, light grey carpet, and hideous brown window treatments that covered the beautiful arched windows.

contrary to how this picture looks, we did have bedding...

I know, pretty terrible.

But the past week, all that changed.

Thanks to a few days off from work, I tore down the horrible brown window treatments to make my own plum-colored curtains, and played with stripes on our bedroom wall.

Almost done, but one more finishing touch:

Crown moulding!

We ordered crown moulding and decided that we would first test it in our bedroom, and the outcome is incredible.  It was the perfect finishing touch to our master bedroom makeover!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower, Potato, and Red Bell Pepper Soup

Nice to see you again! It's been a while!

...ok. A long while.

You know how it is, life gets in the way. I've still been cooking, but the past few hectic months, the food hasn't really been inspired, not worth posting. Just not special.

Well, yesterday, that all changed. Looking through my fridge, I had a sudden epiphany: I was going to make roasted cauliflower soup. The weather is starting to turn cool, which means pureed soups are making their reappearance. The problem was that I had only a quarter of a head of cauliflower, which wouldn't make very much soup.

And in a moment of eureka, my roasted cauliflower, potato, and red bell pepper soup was born.

Roasted Cauliflower, Potato, and Red Bell Pepper Soup
with homemade croutons

Recipe below is double what I made, since I was making it for two and we ate ALL of it, easily. Feel free to even double again if you're making for more than 4 people.

1-2 tbs olive oil
1/2 head of cauliflower
2 red bell peppers
10 small red potatoes, peeled
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbs butter
1 yellow onion, diced finely
4 cups of chicken stock
2/3 cup milk
Salt & Pepper
Homemade Croutons (optional)
Chopped Basil (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

To prepare the vegetables, cut the cauliflower into thick slices to get as much flat surface as possible; quarter the potatoes; cut the peppers into large chunks. Toss the three veggies with the peeled garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Soup 1

Spread out the veggies on a baking sheet, turning them with a flat, cut side down. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the veggies, and bake for another 15 minutes. Look for a dark, caramelized color on the veggies. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.

Soup 2

While the veggies cool, warm the butter in a large pot until melted. Add the onion and sautee until the onion starts to brown. Once the onion is slightly brown, add the chicken stock to de-glaze. Bring the onions and stock to a light simmer, then turn off the heat and let cool for 5 min.

Next, put all the veggies into a blender, and add the stock/onion mixture. Because I made such a small batch of soup, I was able to do this all in one step, but if you make the full recipe (or especially a double recipe) you may need to do this in batches.

Soup 3

Puree the mixture completely until smooth. Pour the puree back into the pot used for the stock/onions, and put the heat on low to get warm again. Add the milk and stir to incorporate. If you feel the soup is too thick at this point (it may be depending on the size of your potatoes or cauliflower), add a little more milk or stock.

Serve topped with homemade croutons and chopped basil.

Soup 4

Monday, June 25, 2012

Butterflied Grilled Chicken

Per our usual weekly routine, Chris and I went to Whole Foods this past weekend to find something new and exciting to cook. Having exhausted the "unusual meats" category (bison steak, beef shank, etc.), we decided to make an effort at the one meat that has always eluded us: chicken.

In fact, one of my very first posts talked about our utter lack of skill in cooking a chicken.

So this past weekend, I went up to the meat counter, and asked for a chicken.

"Do you want that butterflied?"

I hadn't thought of that! I told him we were going to be grilling, and he suggested giving it a try. So he did a thorough job of butterflying it, removing the backbone, and removing the kill bone.

Consulting the cooking bible when we got home, we set about making a grilled butterflied chicken.

The result?

Oh. my. goodness.


I will never make a whole chicken any other way, ever again. It was flavorful, tender, and downright incredible.

Grilled Butterflied Chicken

1/4 cup salt
2 tbs italian seasoning
1 tbs garlic pepper

1 small butterflied chicken
Olive oil
Chopped garlic
Italian seasoning
Garlic Pepper

Mix the salt, italian seasoning, and garlic pepper with enough water to cover the chicken in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

When you're ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the brine and discard the liquid. Rub the chicken with olive oil, chopped garlic, Italian seasoning, garlic pepper, and any other combination of flavorful spices you want to use.

Butterflied Chicken 1

Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes to warm up a little.

Place chicken on a hot grill skin/breast side down. Let cook for 10-12 minutes.

Butterflied Chicken 2

Flip over and if using a grill with multiple burners, kill just the burner directly underneath the chicken to keep it from scorching; leave the other burner(s) on. Close the lid and let the chicken cook for another 15-20 minutes, monitoring temperature to keep it between 350 and 400.

Butterflied Chicken 3

Finally, flip the chicken back over again, and turn the burner beneath the chicken on. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175.

Remove from grill and let sit for 5 minutes.

Grab a fork and dig in!

Butterflied Chicken 4

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bobby Flay's Chicken Salad w/ Chile-Peanut Dressing

It's no big secret that Chris and I love Asian flavors. So when Chris stumbled upon this salad recipe with 5 stars and over 150 reviews, we knew we had to give it a shot!

The salad is definitely hearty and an entree-style salad. It makes a pretty impressive meal and is super easy! Below is the full recipe from Food Network, but I also added some notes where we strayed a bit.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Chile-Peanut Dressing
adapted from

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chipotle pepper puree (we used chipotle powder)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil (we used peanut oil since this is a peanut dressing)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
2 carrots, shredded (we also added yellow bell pepper)
1/4 pound snow peas, julienned
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Chili oil, optional (in our book, this is absolutely not optional!)
Fried wonton strips (store-bought or homemade)

Whisk together the vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, chipotle pepper puree, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, chili oil, and canola/peanut oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Combine cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro, and green onion in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with the shredded chicken, chopped peanuts, and fried wonton strips. Sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds.

bobby flays chinese chicken salad

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Condo Makeover

Well, apparently I took the entire month of February off from blogging. Life has just gotten in the way, but I do have something to show for it!

Chris and I bought our condo!

The condo that we've lived in for the past year or so was available to purchase, so we took the leap and became homeowners. But with that, came the immediate desire to change absolutely everything about it.

We were so thankful then that my wonderful parents offered to fly out and help us for a long weekend!

The condo used to be very dark, with dark walls and mediocre lighting. Oh, and we can't possibly ignore the bamboo blinds.

001 Kitchen Before rs

We tackled the whole thing, ceiling to floorboards, with a brighter coat of paint. We then also installed all new lighting and blinds, and the result is incredible! It's like a whole new home!

002 Kitchen After 1rs

003 Kitchen After 2rs

004 Kitchen After 3rs

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Twist on Italian Wedding Soup

The other night, I had a craving for Italian wedding soup, so I decided to make a new version of it using some ingredients I had on hand. The best part is that it had a familiar flavor, but also tasted completely unique! I didn't have parmesan cheese on hand, but what it lacked in cheese it more than made up with the flavorful sausage meatballs. And of course, it was super simple, perfect for a weeknight.

Turkey Sausage Meatball Soup

2 Spicy Turkey Italian Sausages
2 tbs olive oil
1 shallot, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
10-15 crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups fresh spinach
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 cup short grain rice
Pepper to taste

Slice the sausages down the length of the casing. Unpeel the casing and discard it, leaving just the sausage meat.


Knead the meat together and roll it into tiny meatballs.


Drop the meatballs into boiling water to cook through fully, about 5 minutes.


Remove the meatballs and drain the liquid. To keep a little flavor, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid for the soup (optional).

In a pot, heat the olive oil, then add the chopped garlic and diced shallots. Stir until shallots soften. Next add the chicken stock and rice, as well as any reserved cooking liquid from the meatballs. My measurements here are a little vague because I added these ingredients to suit how much I wanted to make, so keep that in mind!

Bring the soup to a light boil for 5 minutes. Then, add the mushrooms and cook together until the rice is tender, about 5 more minutes. At the end, add the spinach and cook until it begins to darken and wilt, about 2 minutes.

Season with a dash of pepper. Serve with crusty toasted Italian bread.


Enjoy a quick, hearty weeknight soup!