Thursday, September 29, 2011

Olive Oil Ice Cream Hits Boston for a Limited Time Only!

Olive Oil.  It always seems like such a simple ingredient doesn't it?  Something you throw into the bottom of a pan to make sure the other ingredients don't stick.  The healthy alternative to butter. It seems so simple and ordinary on the surface, but let me assure you, Olive Oil is far from simple. 

Have you ever take a taste of plain olive oil?  Perhaps compared them as you would a wine taste test?  If you ever have the opportunity to try out this taste test- do it-you won't be disappointed.  Olive Oil is flavored, again, much like grapes for wine, by the earth where the olive trees are grown.  Soil compensation, rain fall, and rock diversity all contribute to different flavors.  The beauty with olive oil, is the pureness of the flavors that can linger.  Strong tones of grass, sweet lovely summer grass, or deep earthy mushroom like flavors can be present.  It is a fascinating study.

Photo Credit- California Olive Ranch
Of course, for those of you who aren't oddly obsessed with these things the way I am, Emack and Bolio's has a wonderful way to showcase Olive Oil this week!  From now until September 30th (sorry for the late notice all!), Emack and Bolios is showcasing the products of the California Olive Ranch with Olive Oil Ice Cream!  

Tomorrow is supposed to have highs near 80 degrees (summer at the end of September) so definitely head to one of the participating stores and check out Olive Oil Ice Cream- I would be shocked if you were disappointed!

o 290 Newbury Street, Boston, MA

o 100 City Square, Charlestown, MA
o Porter Square Shopping Center, Cambridge, MA

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Abbey, Washington Square, Brookline

Let's discuss, for just a moment, the hamburger.  This iconic dish, in it's basest form, is a sandwich, plain and simple.  A bun, or two pieces of bread baked with a bit more refinement, encase a filling, in this case ground beef, and, perhaps, an assortment of toppings.  It is eaten with ones hands (or it's meant to be); it is the simplest of foods.  However, the hamburger has catapulted far beyond its simplistic form and now stands as the pinnacle of sandwiches. They are craved by the masses like no other, they are the symbol of summer cooking (well along with those devilish hot dogs) and they have been far mimicked the world over.  Variations and versions are offered for seemingly every palate, every cuisine and every diet.  Rare and exotic toppings are paired now with these ground beef discs, truffles to foie gras gracing the plate.  The very core has been manipulated-Turkey to Soy to Veggie to Seafood-all of these have been shaped and prodded until they resemble those meaty patties and sandwiched between that carb heavy holder.  It isn't often I indulge in a real beef burger.  More often than not I mimic the idea with a turkey burger, or a veggie burger, however every so often I break down and sink my teeth into a classic burger.  Let me tell you though, when I do order a burger, on those rare occasions, it had darn better be a fantastic burger!

Last evening I headed out to what has become one of my favorite spots for dinner in the Brookline area- The Abbey.  Since they opened last year I have had countless delicious meals there.  I have covered their menu, from seafood to chicken, pork belly to mussels and have enjoyed, with much excitement, every single bite.  During that time I have watched hamburgers float from the kitchen and then devoured by the waiting recipient.  I would guess that, while I watch these diners enjoy their sandwiches, that I mimic closely a small child, nose pressed against a shop window, longing for a doll set on display.  Last night, I broke down.  I gave up the charade and indulged in the Hamburger at The Abbey.

The burger doesn't get much fan fare at The Abbey.  It isn't listed as anything special-a simple note "8 oz. burger topped with Swiss, bleu or cheddar cheese, hand-cut French fries" completes its menu listing.  There are no touts of rare meats, no fanfare for extreme toppings, no secret handshake needed to order this dish.  Isn't that the way it should be though?  The burger is an American Classic- served in nearly every back yard, isn't the pure integrity of this dish enough?

I ordered my burger medium rare, and requested blue cheese as my topping.  I was served a hot, juicy burger, cooked to a perfect medium rare, on a thick buttery bun, with a smattering of crumbled blue cheese and the traditional accompaniments of pickles, red onion, tomato and lettuce.  The beef was pure, full of natural flavor with a simple hint of salt.  Far too often I find that burgers are loaded down with salt- an experience ruin er for me.  Just enough blue cheese had been sprinkled on top and allowed to melt to lend wonderful pungent flavor without overpowering the rest of the dish, and the pickles, glorious in their vinegar flavor, perfectly offset the dense flavor of the cheese. The onion (red is my personal favorite), tomato and lettuce lent variations of texture to the meal as well as lending that almost intangible idea of "freshness" to the otherwise heavy food.  The fries, though the burger filled me up so that I didn't eat many, were hot, salty, and crispy- exactly the way they should be.   

This was a good burger- it was the kind of burger that I will crave when I simply want a "hamburger".  It embodied everything about the classic dish that I want-a thick patty, cooked with finesse, simply topped, but with enough thought that every flavor was pre thought.  It was elegant in it's nature, and delicious to the palate.

There is, of course, no question if I will return to The Abbey- of course I will.  However now, the question is, will The Abbey be my go to place when a real hamburger is what I need?  I think it might just be.     

Monday, September 26, 2011

Perfect Pancakes

Sorry for the dark photo-it was a one shot deal...
Sunday mornings.  They are a special time.  The errands of Saturday are done, the routine of Monday is still far away, and time seems more precious.  These are the mornings made for a lazy breakfast.  They are made for a breakfast to celebrate the easy nature of the morning, to gather around the table as a family, chow down on something warm and comforting and relish every minute.  They are the mornings for slow percolating coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice and for pancakes. 

There is something so ultimately decadent about warm fluffy pancake, slathered in butter, and drizzled with sweet syrup. When done correctly (and really how often have you had a truly bad pancake?) their edges are slightly crisp, the middle dense and as you swallow each bite you can literally feel them stick to your ribs-sustenance for the day ahead. 

Pancakes can be as easy or as hard to make as you want- a box stored in the cupboard, ready to add wet ingredients to, or a time honored, treasured recipe, that you know will yield perfect cakes.  I prefer recipes to mixes, I find that they often result in lighter, fluffier pancakes, more decadent and much more special than their boxed counterparts.  However- I say- if you're pressed for time on a Sunday morning then you deserve to use the mix.  However, if time allows, and decadence is on your mind- give these pancakes a go.  You won't be disappointed.

"Perfect Pancakes (obnoxiously stolen from The Pioneer Woman)

3 cups Plus 2 Tablespoons Cake Flour

1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 cups Milk
2 whole Large Eggs
3 teaspoons Vanilla
4 Tablespoons Butter
Extra Butter
Maple Or Pancake Syrup

Preparation Instructions
Mix together dry ingredients in large bowl.
Mix together milk, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring very gently until just combined.
Melt butter and add it to the batter, stirring gently to combine.
Cook on a greased skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown. Serve with an obscene amount of butter and warm syrup."

I did change this one slightly- I use a non stick skillet to cook pancakes on so I omit the extra butter.

The batter alone of these pancakes was impressive.  It formed into almost a mousse, with lots of height and airy-ness to it.  The finished product was just as light and airy.  These pancakes were impossibly fluffy and because they used more Vanilla than most I've seen they had a wonderful flavor as well.  These little devils absorbed butter and sopped up maple syrup making every bite a burst of heaven.  Next time you're craving pancakes- make these!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Legal Seafoods, Liberty Wharf, Boston

The Seaport of Boston is, wait for it....BOOMING.  Of course this is no real surprise-the influx of fine dining, water relishing bars and pubs, and over night expansion of high rise apartment buildings has taken over stories all over town.  This area of Southie, the dock district, has quickly become the place to be seen.  Journalists, bloggers and Yelpers alike seem to be camping out in this area, waiting for the next restaurant to open.  I can't blame them honestly- during those summer months the views that so many of the restaurants in this area are capitalizing on are gorgeous, and with a nice summer breeze- the outdoor dining spaces are perfection.  What does this all mean?  Reservations are a must for any place in the neighborhood. 

With that tip under our belts, I had the opportunity to dine at the brand new Legal Harborside yesterday for lunch.  Now Legal's is a bit of an institution here in Boston.  Now a large chain, it began as just a small little fish counter, pulling in fresh catches along the Eastern seaboard and feeding the people of the city.  Over time it grew and expanded and has opened restaurants down the East Coast, offering classic New England seafood dishes, with a smattering of the less classic as well, at higher end prices.  Earlier this year they opened their Harborside location as their brand new flagship location, with three floors of dining possibilities.  The first floor is a more casual space, with an all day menu and picnic table-esque arrangements.  The second floor is their formal space, with price tags to boot, and the top floor is a roof deck serving a full bar, and light bites.  Our luncheon was held on the first floor, and we were seated at a table offering a gorgeous view of Boston Harbor. 

I began my meal with a mug of their clam chowder.  I gotta say, for some reason, Legal's Clam Chowder is where it's at.  There is no discern able "layering of flavors" that I usually look for, there is no bacon flavor, or any specific herbs, there is nothing in this clam chowder that makes it "special" or different, it just thick, rich, creamy and chock full of huge pieces of fresh clams. It is the chowder I grew up on, so my opinion may be skewed, but my mug was incredibly satisfying yesterday.

I selected the grilled swordfish salad for my entree.  The menu stated that this salad was comprised of chickpeas, tomatoes, fennel, basil, cucumber and a lemon vinaigrette-sounding rooted in Italian ingredients- I was thrilled to try this.  I anticipated a big leafy salad to be delivered to the table with all of those great ingredients dispersed throughout.  However my dish arrived without a single shred of lettuce and the rough salad sat next to a nicely sized portion of grilled swordfish.  Large chunks of cucumber, quartered plumb tomatoes, and a smattering of chickpeas were tossed with shaved fennel, heavily dressed and then sprinkled with basil.  Conceptually, I loved this dish.  The salad had great textural contrasts between the crunchy cucumber and the unique chickpeas, and I loved the addition of the fresh basil to the mix.  Unfortunately however, the rest of the flavors fell flat.  The tomatoes were a bit lifeless, the dressing was missing any brightness, and even the fennel, normally so crisp and pungent was lackluster.  It was a salad I felt sorry for- each ingredient a shell of what it could be.  To be perfectly frank- I think the salad was made the day before and the ingredients lost their personalities.  A shame for sure.  

The swordfish, on the other hand, was well prepared, thick and meaty.  Prepared simply with salt and pepper the natural flavor of the dense fish was on display here.

As I have come to expect, albeit sadly, from Legal, I walked away disappointed.  Legal Seafood's appears to be resting on it's laurels, assuming that because they are Legal they are immune to a bad meal.

"Dear Legal's-I remember how great you once were- please recommit yourself to bringing back that level of quality."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: My Japanese Table, by Debra Samuels

"Actions speak louder than words".  I remember learning this saying as a child and at that time, it didn't mean much to me, however as time went on and I grew older- I realized more and more how wonderful this idea was.  In my world, of course, food is the best expression of love.  Making a nourishing meal, or a delicious dessert for someone is a simple way to show that you care about their well being, and their happiness.  We all know that full bellies are happy bellies right? 

The other night I had the opportunity to attend the book launch party for My Japanese Table, written by Debra Samuels.  Samuels has spent extensive time in Japan, living and learning the culture.  One of the most fascinating lessons she learned, was of the Bento Box.  Bento Boxes are, in practice, similar to school lunch boxes, but what differentiates them is what is inside.  While an American lunch box may typically contain a PB&J, some fruit, and maybe a cookie or two, the Japanese Bento Box contains a myriad of foods, each element creating a balance with each other.  The Japanese believe in eating from color groups rather than the Pyramid structure the US is just now rethinking.  The idea is to fill these boxes with foods that are shades of red, green, yellow, black and white- these colors represent the five parts of the body and are hand in hand with the five elements.  

Each Bento is created to maximize nutrition and energy for the school day, so mothers in Japan take their time to ensure that these needs are met- creating a beautiful display in the process.  Samuels stressed the amount of time that does go into making these boxes-these are not quickly thrown together, but rather require time and patience to make each element stand out.  Bento boxes truly are a labor of love.  They are a way that mothers in Japan let their children, and husbands, know how much they care without saying a word. 

More and more we are starting to see these types of ideas filter into US culture.  The USDA did away with the Pyramid structure earlier this year, and have replaced it with a plate method that starts to look at food colors rather than their constitution.  Beyond that, restaurants have begun to truly invest in the idea of smaller portions of several dishes and the tasting of several flavors to create a full meal.  My Japanese Table offers well thought out and extremely well explained data on the ideas behind the Bento Box, and, more importantly, the ways that we, here in America, can incorporate this idea into our own families.

Samuels outlines simple recipes that combine perfectly with each other to provide nourishment for a full day.  These recipes are laid out in outlines for Bento Box ideas, and are even separated into age appropriate boxes as well.  More and more we are seeing the benefits of eating smaller portions, concentrating on strong flavors and fresh ingredients.  The Bento Box is the perfect way to formalize this idea in our own homes and ensure that those lunches eaten away from the home are jam packed with everything we need to get through the day.   

Friday, September 16, 2011

Changes and News!!!

Big day for A Boston Food Diary!!  You may have noticed that things look a little different around here-over the past several months I have been working with an incredibly talented web designer, Krys Mroczkowski.  I might, MIGHT, be a bit type A with the need to control thing, especially things as important as A Boston Food Diary, and I was amazed at how helpful and kind Krys was to work with.  I went in without any idea of what I wanted, and somehow he created the perfect design and I am so thrilled with the result.  Seriously -if anyone needs a GREAT designer- plese let me know- Im happy to refer. 

Second big news- I was offered a table at the New England Dessert Showcase tomorrow!  So I'll be stationed with all of the amazing bakeries, restaurants and caterers tomorrow handing out- Chocolate Bark!  I made Cranberry Almond Rosemary and Orange Cherry bark so please stop by and say hi!  Ill be doing a couple of demos as well- and get there early- I would guarantee that I didn't make enough bark for everyone!  That aside- I'd love to meet you all so seek me out!

Tickets are still available and it promises to be a great time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Toasting the Emmy's- Give Away!

I have been loving my collaborations with the great folks at I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.  It seems they are hosting fun Twitter parties, or producing great giveaways!

Well today-they are doing both!  Tonight, between 8:00 pm EST and 10:00 pm EST they are hosting a Twitter Party to celebrate the Emmy's which will air on Sunday, September 18th, 2011.  So what exactly is a Twitter Party?  Well it's recipe sharing, party tips, chatter about your favorite celebrities and TV's a virtual gathering of pals- and all you need to get involved in it is Tweet under hash tag #Toast2TV.  Rumor has it- there will be some pretty fab prizes given out as well- so you'll definitely want to check in and see if you can win!

I was sent a little goody box full of delicious recipes and other goodies in preparation for this evening -I can attest that there are some great dishes to be made with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!

They aren't stopping there though- oh no- the fine folks at I Can't Believe It's Not Butter have offered to host a give away right here on A Boston Food Diary!  This is a week of big stuff happening here, so I thought this would be a perfect way to kick it off!!!  So what is this give away all about?  I won't lie-it's pretty major!

Prizes are:
Photo courtesy of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter

It is my very firm belief that there is no better toaster out there than a Dualit- so this is a pretty fantastic prize!  And really- combine that with a beautiful spreader from Tiffany & Co., and some delicious I Can't Believe It's Not Butter- phenomenal! Total value of this prize is over $350! 

So how do you enter? 
  • Leave a comment here telling me you'll be "Toasting" on Sunday during the Emmy's (Favorite TV show, actor, actress, etc) (1 entry)
  • Join the Twitter party tonight (#Toast2TV) and say hello to me (@bostonfooddiary) (1 entry)
  • Tell me your favorite party foods either by leaving another comment here or by tweeting at me (@bostonfooddiary) (1 entry)
All entries must be received by 11:59 pm EST on September 18th.  I'll reveal the winner by noon EST on Tuesday, September 20th.

So get those entries in- this is a prize you do NOT want to miss! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Summer Classic- Gazpacho

It's funny- all winter I dream about summer vegetables- and those dreams always include beautiful tomatoes and corn on the cob.  What I tend to forget is that tomatoes and corn don't really peak in their season until August.  The past couple of weeks though, beautiful tomatoes and perfect corn has been available throughout Farmers Markets- and I have been scooping them up!  When faced with what to make for a picnic I was attending over the Labor Day weekend, I looked to my fruit bowl and saw gorgeous, ripe tomatoes.  I checked the rest of my kitchen and sure enough- fresh ears of corn sat waiting to be shucked.  Gazpacho would be made.

I love Gazpacho in general, because it's delicious, but I love it even more for a picnic.  Gazpacho is a classic Spanish soup- created by combining tomatoes, stale bread and other seasonal vegetables, into a chilled, raw soup.  When allowed to sit for a bit, the flavors of the vegetables and spices mingle together, and the result is a super flavorful, hearty soup.

2 fresh tomatoes, medium to large size, cut into chunks
2 slices stale white bread, cut into chunks
1/3 cup onion (red or yellow) diced
1 cup + fresh parsley
1 jalapeno, cut into circles
Kernels only 1 ear of cooked corn
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/4 cup crumbled feta
Olive Oil

In a food processor (blender would also work) combine the tomatoes, bread, onion, parsley and jalapeno.  Drizzle the olive oil into the top until the soup reaches the correct consistency- for me- this is a thick soup so maybe 1/4 of a cup to a 1/3 of a cup.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Transfer the soup from the blending/processing apparatus into a bowl. Add the corn, cucumber and feta. 

Let the soup chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours- over night.  Serve with additional feta and chopped parsley garnish. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pate a Choux with Creme Patissiere (Cream Puffs)

Every once in a while I realize how strange I really am.  I took some time off last week, and what did I decide to do with it?  Go to the beach?  Visit friends?  Take a trip to a land unexplored?  Nope- I knew I'd be happiest in my kitchen so I arranged a "stay cation" for myself to try out some ideas I had (see Caramel Apple Cupcakes) and to challenge myself to make some things I haven't made before.  One of those items- was classic Cream Puffs.

Now I have to be honest here- Cream Puffs were not my first thought.  My mom had thought that peach pie might be delicious with all the beautiful local peaches that are around- I agreed, but having had success already with pie crust recently, I decided instead to make turnovers with puff pastry.  Then I read that puff pastry required a fair amount of counter space....sadly counter space is not something I have to spare in my apartment so I kept looking through recipes.  And then I stumbled upon King Arthur Flour's recipe for cream puffs and I was sold. 

I love cream puffs- I love the subtle yet buttery flavor of the dough, I love how light and airy they are, I love that they are stuffed with cream filling.  Most of all, I love that they feel like little clouds when you bite into them.  A slight crisp on the outside gives way easily, like a bubble being popped, to the sweet whipped cream like filling.  They are just delicious pieces of heaven.  I have always assumed that they are difficult to make- that to achieve the proper puff, the eggy nature of the interior....I thought all of that spelled out hard to make.   However, what I found was quite the opposite- they were easy as pie to make- from the fluffy little shells to the Creme Patisserie I used from the expert on all things French- Julia Child.

Pate a Choux (recipe from King Arthur Flour)

1 cup water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pats
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt; use 1/2 teaspoon if you're using unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

2) Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan, heat until the butter has melted, and bring to a rolling boil.

3) Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously until the mixture smoothes out and follows the spoon around the pan; this should take less than 30 seconds.

4) Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. It'll still feel hot, but you should be able to hold a finger in it for a few seconds.

5) Transfer the dough to a mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time; the mixture will look curdled at first, but when you add the last egg it should become smooth. Beat for 1 minute after adding the last egg. You'll have a stiff, smooth batter.

6) Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared sheets (a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here). Leave about 1 ½" to 2" between them; they're going to expand to about the size of a golf ball.

7) Bake for about 20 minutes, till they've puffed, they're a medium golden-brown, and they look dry.

8) Remove baked puffs from the oven, and use a sharp knife to cut a slit into the side of each puff, for steam to escape; this will help prevent them from becoming soggy. Return the puffs to the oven for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool. While the puffs are cooling, prepare the filling.****

****(I used the recipe from my King Arthur Flour Cook Book- the measurements were all the same- however they stated, at the end, instead to turn off the oven once they were done cooking, and crack the door open for a 1/2 hour.  I'm not sure what the difference would be-but that method worked for me!) 
Creme Patisserie (recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

1 cup granulated sugar

5 egg yolks

1/2 cup flour

2 cups boiling milk

1 tbsp. butter

1 1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract


Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and forms "the ribbon".

Beat in the flour.

Beating the yolk mixture, gradually pour on the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets.

Pour into saucepan and set over moderately high heat. Stir with a wire whip, reaching all over bottom of the pan. As sauce comes to a boil it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as you beat it. When boil is reached, beat over moderately low heat for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour. Be careful custard does not scorch in bottom of pan.

Remove from heat and beat in the butter, then vanilla extract. If the custard is not used immediately, clean it off the sides of the pan, and dot top of custard with softened butter to prevent a skin from forming over the surface. Creme Patisserie will keep for a week under refrigeration, or may be frozen.

I slightly amended the Creme Patisserie recipe by skinning and pureeing a single peach and then combining about a cup of the Creme Patisserie with 1/2 cup of the peach puree.  This gave the Creme Patisserie a more liquid texture but a beautiful peach flavor.

These were rather addictive to be honest.  Each one puffed up and made beautiful towers of pastry, but when sliced into were pleasantly cavernous allowing for maximum amounts of Creme Patisserie to be piped in.  I topped each with fresh raspberries and enjoyed every heavenly bite!  


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jerusalem Pita, Brookline

One of the most fascinating parts of food, to me, is how ingredients work together.  How you can trace the origin of a food based upon where it's ingredients stem from, of course this works in reverse as well- the flavor of a certain ingredient in a cultures food might give you some understanding of the origin of that ingredient.  Recently I ate at Jerusalem Pita in Coolidge Corner and found exactly that.   As I munched on my Jerusalem Kebab Pita sandwich, I tasted the flavors of the meat, the flavors of the tart pickles, and the creamy sauce that covered the lettuce which spilled out from the pita holder, and then I tasted one that stood out from the others- the familiar and warming flavor of cinnamon.  

Cinnamon, I later researched, has it's origins in South East Asia, so it makes sense that we would find its use in the meal at Jerusalem Pita.  However, this authenticity was one of the only shining moments of the meal.

The outside of Jerusalem Pita appears casual, and so we were surprised as we entered the restaurant and found it to be a less casual, sit down establishment.  Our waitress was friendly, and the complimentary salad of pickled vegetables was a nice touch.  As mentioned, I selected the Jerusalem Kebab Pita for my entree.  This was a mix of beef and lamb stuffed into a soft pita with the traditional accompaniments, pickles, lettuce and a spicy sauce to round out the sandwich.  While the components for a delicious pita were there, I found myself disappointed on several levels.  

To start, the pita itself was warm and soft, the perfect encasement for the fillings, however it was difficult to enjoy the sandwich aspect as the "salad", or lettuce and yogurt sauce had been stuffed in with such voracity that it would have been nearly impossible enjoy this meal with my hands.  So I dug in with my fork and knife.  My first several bites were purely salad, and the flavor of the yogurt sauce just fell flat.  Thin and slightly watery, it held no punch of flavor.  I began to dig through the lettuce, pushing it away to find the meats below.  My digging was worthwhile, as I found not only the meat component, but the pickles as well.  The pickles were thickly cut, and lacked the vinegar kick I was hoping for, and sadly the meat, while tender, well seasoned (Cinnamon!) and delicious, was served in a very small portion, especially when compared to the excess of both lettuce and pickles. The highlight however was the spicy sauce which I found to be just hot enough to satisfy my tolerance.  

Also on the disappointing side was the pace of the meal.  Once seated, and ordered it took a very long time to receive our meals, and my pita was served far ahead of my friends Laffe.  For similar menu items, the lag between the two was unexplained, and was not addressed by our server.  Over all the meal wasn't terrible, however in the Coolidge Corner area of Brookline, there are simply better options for Glatt Kosher dining.    

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Caramel Apple Pound Cake Cup Cakes

Whether we like it or not- Fall is quickly approaching.  The time for sweaters, woolen scarves and warming cups of tea is right around the corner.  I say, while it's sad to say goodbye to the wonderful sunny days of Summer, why fight it?  Recently a friend reminded me of the beauty of those wonderful Fall treats, Caramel Apples.  Crisp apples encased in luxurious caramel, warm and melty, chilled only by the brisk air-they are the perfect treat.  

Inspired by this idea this weekend, I turned to my kitchen and looked to see how I could re create this treat, but in typical fashion, put a little twist on it.  I played with the idea of a cupcake for several days, considering a variety of combinations and toppings.  However finally, I settled on the rich sturdiness of Pound Cake, over which I would spoon Caramel Apple sauce.  I loved the dense nature of the Pound Cake which I enhanced with the warming spices of Mace and Nutmeg.  The resulting flavor was a light hint of fall flavors, enhanced with the homemade caramel sauce.   I edited both of the recipes below- I've put my additions in italics under them.

Vanilla Pound Cake (recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour or cake flour
4 large eggs
1 tsp mace
1/2 tsp nutmeg

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugars, salt, vanilla, and baking powder until smooth and fluffy.  Add the flour and mix well; the batter will be almost like paste.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition; the batter will be quite fluffy.  

Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9-10 inch tube pan, 9-10 cup bundt pan, or 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

I spooned the batter into a cupcake pan, and then watched the cupcakes starting at a 1/2 hour.  They came out of the oven around 33-34 minutes.

Deep, Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce [Sauce au Caramel au Beurre Salé] Recipe from the Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) salted butter, the better you can get, the better it will taste---I used unsalted butter and then added 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp of salt
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in a larger pot than you think you’ll need–at least two or three quarts, whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice, dark copper color. Add the butter all at once and stir it in, before turning off the stove and pour in the heavy cream (The sauce will foam up quite a bit when you add it; this is why you want the larger pot.), whisking it until you get a smooth sauce.

You use it right away or pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you take it out, it will likely have thickened a bit but 60 seconds in the microwave brings it right back to pouring consistency.

Caramel Apple Sauce
2 small semi tart apples, cored and chopped.
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 - 3/4 cup caramel sauce (recipe above)

In a saute pan over low heat melt the butter and add the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add the apples, and stir until they are coated with the spice mixture and just slightly tender.  Add the walnut and the caramel sauce and stir until combined. 

Spoon the caramel apple sauce over the cupcakes and serve. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Long time...

no see? no hear? This is a blog so Im not too sure which goes best-see or here, but either way it's been a long time since I've written here with any regularity. I must confess, I don't have the best excuse for. My "real" job, which I don't talk about much here took a (positive) turn for the busier, and I have been trying to learn a new balance. It has been a real learning experience for me, but one that I think I am finally wending my way through. As a final way of getting a handle on my new responsibilities etc- I have taken a little mini vacation for myself. Vacation-you know those glorious days of sleeping in, staying up late, kicking the "norm" of routine to the curb, and really taking care of yourself? Yeah that's what I'm on right now- VACATION! So what does that mean for you my wonderful readers? Well I am spending my time in the kitchen (um and napping), but more in the kitchen creating all sorts of dishes and tasty treats. So far- I spent a glorious afternoon at a Farmers Market, I made a big bowl of fresh Gazpacho, a big plate of thicky, rich brownies, and I am all set to try my hand at a host of different baking experiments with the beautiful ends of Summer Produce. I will have a host of new posts for you all soon, a long with a few items of very exciting news to reveal over the next several weeks. I hope you all have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!!!

Restaurant Reviews: A dead art?

Last December I declared 2023 the year I would return to food writing.  It was a bold statement (even now as I look at my last published dat...