Sunday, October 27, 2013

Late Dinner & Lemon Zest 101

My boyfriend Zachary came out to visit this weekend, and we spent Saturday exploring Alexandria, VA.  There was perfect fall weather-crisp and sunny.  We spent the day drinking coffee, exploring boutiques in Old Town, and walking along the harbor.  Zach and I stopped by Virtue Feed & Grain for some nachos, which were delicious, but left me wanting  a lighter, healthier dinner to recover from the delicious queso covered nachos from earlier in the day.

I was drawn to this recipe form Bon Appetit's November issue for a few reasons.  First, the bright flavors of the lemon and parsley sounded delicious when contrasted against a more hearty vegetable like cauliflower.  Secondly, I love any roasted vegetable recipe--they are always straightforward and delicious.

This recipe calls for lemon zest.  Lemon zest is the grated rind of a lemon--the oils in the rind smell and taste delicious, and the zest can add even more lemon flavor than fresh lemon juice can.  I provided some tips on grating a lemon below!

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Parsley Dressing
from November 2013 Bon Appetit

2 lb. cauliflower florets
6 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground black pepper
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place cauliflower on a pan.  Toss with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  
  3. Cook in oven for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Cauliflower should be tender.
  4. When the cauliflower is baking,  pulse parsley, lemon juice, and two tablespoons of olive oil until smooth in a small food processor.  
  5. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
  6. Toss cauliflower with dressing, and then top with lemon zest. 

Lemon zest tips:  Clean your lemon thoroughly--you don't want wax in your lemon zest!  Using a micro plane or zester, grate the outside of the lemon.  Zest should only include the very top layer of the lemon rind, not the white pith.  Rotate the lemon once you see the pith.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Parisian Hot Chocolate

There is no excuse for hot cocoa from a mix.  Absolutely none. Hot chocolate is one of the easiest things to make, and homemade hot chocolate tastes so much better than anything from a box.  

This recipe is for a Parisian hot chocolate.  Using top-notch chocolate is essential to get the thick & rich consistency.  Hot chocolate is also easy to personalize.  Want an even thicker cocoa?  Use whole milk instead of 1%.  My favorite way to personalize this drink is to add a sprinkling of fleur de sel, or salt from Brittany, and whipped cream on top of my hot cocoa.  

Parisian Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup 1% milk
1.25 ounces chopped dark chocolate (I used 70%, but choose whatever type you like)

  1. Heat milk in a small saucepan. 
  2. When the milk is warm, whisk in chopped chocolate.  Whisk every so often until chocolate is dissolved.
  3. Cook on low heat until hot cocoa begins to thicken and is hot.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Promise

Last week, I made Mac & cheese for a friend, with the intention of sharing the recipe with you and telling you about how delicious it was. When I pulled the Mac and cheese out of the oven and took my first bite, I realized that I couldn't share the recipe with you. The recipe, though delicious, wasn't a right fit for this blog.

I started this blog because I love cooking, and I wanted a way to share my love of cooking with chefs of all skill sets. As much as I love reading food blogs, most blog writers target cooks who have a lot of expertise and a lot of time. I wanted to start a food blog for my friends who just graduated college, started a new job, and have never really cooked.

Unfortunately, my Mac and cheese from a few nights ago did not live up to those standards. To be featured on this blog, a recipe needs to be relatively straightforward and delicious. My Mac and cheese recipe had too many complicated steps and the result was lack luster. I'd rather post no recipe at all than post a recipe that is too difficult and disappointing.

And for those of you hoping for a Mac & cheese recipe, don't worry...I'm on the hunt for an easy and tasty recipe!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Crispy Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

I have a love/hate relationship with leftovers. Part of me loves the fact that I can cook a delicious meal once, and then eat it the next day and maybe even the day after that. However, I also want to eat fresh food, particularly fresh produce, with my meals. This means I typically end up putting together some easy side dishes when I am reheating my leftovers. In my opinion, there are few vegetable dishes easier than Steamfresh, but these balsamic Brussels sprouts are. I dump all the ingredients on a pan, use my hands to toss, and put them in the oven for 40 minutes. Even though they take a while to cook, they are so easy, and so delicious, that I don't mind the wait. I love the taste of the syrupy balsamic vinegar on the Brussels sprouts, but feel free to just roast the Brussels sprouts plain.

Crispy Balsamic Brussels Sprouts (makes approximately 2 servings)

1.5 cups Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts. Pull off any yellow leaves.  Cut the Brussels sprouts in half.  Place the sprouts on a baking sheets.

Pour the olive oil, salt, and pepper over the sprouts.  Toss with your hands to evenly coat.

Place Brussels sprouts in the oven for 30 minutes.  Periodically toss to ensure even cooking. 

After 30 minutes, pour balsamic vinegar over the Brussels sprouts.  Toss with a spatula.

Continue cooking for 10 more minutes or until Brussels sprouts are crispy.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Brown Sugar Cookies

I love chocolate chip cookies because of their rich toffee taste and chocolate chunks.  This cookie takes that toffee flavor and makes it the sole focus.  When I saw the recipe in Cook's Illustrated, I knew it would be a winner.

What I love even more about this cookie though is that you are always likely to have the ingredients on hand.  This recipe calls for ordinary ingredients, but the cookies are anything but ordinary.  This is the cookie I'm going to reach for when it is late at night, and I just need a warm cookie and a glass of milk.  

Brown Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups packed brown sugar (the fresher, the better)
2 cups and 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  1. In a skillet, heat 10 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat until melted.  Then, continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the butter is golden brown and has a nutty aroma (about 2-3 minutes).  I recommend using a lighter colored pan so that you can easily see the butter.
  2. Remove skillet from heat and pour the browned butter into a heat-proof bowl.  Stir in remaining four tablespoons of butter until completely melted. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat over to 350 degrees.
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, Silpat, or coat them with butter.  
  5. In a shallow bowl, combine 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar and the granulated sugar.  Toss with your hands until well combined.  
  6. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  
  7. Add remaining brown sugar (1 3/4 of a cup) and salt to the melted butter.  Mix using an electronic mixer (either hand-held or standing) on low speed until no clumps remain.
  8. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Mix on low.
  9. Add flour mixture, and then mix on medium-low speed until the flour is combined into the dough.  To make sure there is no excess flour, use a spatula to stir the dough one last time.
  10. Spoon the dough into balls roughly 1 1/2 inches in diameter (about two tablespoons), and use your hands to shape them into a ball.  
  11. Roll the dough in the sugar mixture.  
  12. You should have roughly 24 cookies, with 12 cookies on each cookie sheet.  
  13. Bake the sheets one at a time for 12-14 minutes.  Rotate the sheet at the 6 minute mark.  
  14. The edges of the cookies should have set, but the centers should still be puffy.  Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to completely cool. 

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