Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thanksgiving Meal Meatballs with a Cranberry Glaze

The temperatures are starting to dip down into chillier and thoughts are starting to turn to the bounty of harvest- root vegetables, squash, sweet tart cranberries and all things paired with sage.  Yes- one might say it's becoming the best time of the year ;-).  Friends and I decided to celebrate this bountious season with a Fall Themed potluck dinner, and I was awarded the appetizer course.  I played with a variety of ideas for weeks - soups and small bites mesmerized my brain and then I finally settled on my offering.  The first would be Thanksgiving Meal Meatballs with a Cranberry Glaze.

Our menu for the night was based around Thanksgiving favorites, but we had opted for a Cuban classic pork entree (a very wise idea) instead of the traditional turkey, so I
thought I wanted to bring in those traditional flavors.  The result had the beauty of sage and turkey meat together with a hint of savory onion, the sweetness of apple and then a little indulgence with sharp cheddar cheese. 

1 lb ground turkey meat
3/4 of a Granny Smith apple, pealed and chopped
2 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese, diced
1 tsp onion powder
1/3 cup chopped fresh sage
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 egg

Pre Heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Combine the ingredients, starting with just a cup of bread crumbs and adding more until the mixture sticks together but isnt wet.  Form small meatballs, about an inch in circumfrance and place on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 20- 30 minutes dending on the size of your meatballs.

Cranberry Glaze

1 cup cranberry sauce (prepare via the instructions on package of cranberries)
2 tbsp fresh orange zest
1 tsp molasses

Combine ingredients, and blend until smooth.  Spoon or pour over the baked meatballs and serve. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chocolate Bar at The Langham Hotel

As kids-did anyone not wish to take a trip to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? To wander through a land comprised of seemingly endless chocolate confections, a place where something achingly delicious is around every corner? Well, fear not, the Chocolate Bar at Boston's Langham Hotel is in full swing again this year to bring us face to face with Wonka-without any of the rather menacing sounding side affects of the Factory.


Each year the Chocolate Bar launches and each year it somehow out does its previous self. Running from September to June this years offering is variable based on chefs whim and encompasses every side of chocolate from the illusion of white to the deepest dark.  Imagine running through aisles of chocolate covered strawberries, dark chocolate filled cannoli, cookies, brownies, a sundae bar, and a chocolate fountain?  What if that was just the start?

On the day that I was invited to attend fresh cotton candy was being spun, there was a crepe station offering made to order creations, and then there were the truly artistic, imaginative offerings.  A Black Forest Chocolate Pyramid full of deep, rich chocolate cut with sweet tart cherries, an Earl Grey and Milk Chocolate Mousse Torte with Toasted Almonds- a perfect combination of the refinement of Earl Grey tea with creamy sweat chocolate and an Orange Marmalade Varrine which combined those favorite flavors of citrusy orange with deep rich chocolate to make a heavenly dessert rounded out my personal favorites.

I had been able to attend a special media tasting of the Chocolate Bar some years ago and I was blown away then, this year though, wandering through the great room filled with tortes, tarts, a hot chocolate bar and even a design your own cupcake bar- it was like being transported into my childhood dreams.

It is beyond worth it to check out the Langham Chocolate Bar for any special occasion, or any craving.  Also- its definitely a needed mention that The Langham just completed an incredible renovation of their common spaces- it is gorgeous in the historic building!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Robinhood Meetinghouse Biscuits- a Local Treasure

One of the things I really adore about "southern food" is their biscuits.  Big, flaky treasures of buttery goodness-biscuits are perfect to enjoy on their own, paired with hearty chili's, or topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream as a delicious dessert.  Several weeks ago I was sent boxes of biscuits from Robinhood Meetinghouse to review.  I was in the midst of packing up my life when they arrived, and in the throws of moving, I neglected to write me thoughts for you to enjoy earlier, but I could not resist indulging in these right away.

They generously sent me three different types of their biscuits- their Triple Ginger, Sweet Potato, and Cream Cheese varieties.   First off, I had to try the original recipe- their Cream Cheese Biscuit.  These had the classic flavor, delightfully rich and decadent.  The tang of cream cheese was offset by the sweet cream butter flavor.  The thing with biscuits really though is are they layered and flaky?  Do they melt in your mouth with every bite?  Are they flavorful enough to enjoy all on their own but perfect to pair with your favorite dish.  Robinhood Meetinghouse's were deliciously flaky and I could picture them topped with any number of gravies or toppings.

Then I ripped into the Triple Ginger first and was greeted with a burst of spicy ginger flavor.  Robinhood Meetinghouse had blended together fresh ginger, ground ginger, and even candied ginger into these little pillows and when combined with their base cream cheese biscuit recipe the sweetness of the biscuit with butter was a delicious twist to the classic. 

Finally, I checked out the Sweet Potato biscuits.  Starting with the same great flaky base, these had a lovely natural sweetness with a hint of cinnamon which I feel could make them a perfect addition to a holiday meal- a little turkey, a little cranberry sauce- these will make those leftovers fly of the table.

No matter which variety you choose, Robinhood Meetinghouse has a great product created which can be found easily in your grocers frozen food section.  These are a great addition to breakfast lunch or dinner, and an incredibly simple way to bring decadence onto your table.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Olive Oil Biscuits with Raspberries and Cream

We have arrived at our final chapter of our delicious Chilean Olive Oil adventure- the dessert course.  Every dish thus far was bursting fourth with bright clean and spicy notes from the beautiful fresh olive oils that sponsored the dinner.  I selected Olive Oil Biscuits with Raspberries and Cream for our final tasting note.  I was excited to see how Olive Oil could replace butter in a sturdy biscuit and was thrilled to milk a little more out of summer with fresh tart raspberries and whipped cream.

The batter, unfortunately, did not turn out as anticipated.  Instead of forming a dough, one to be shaped and molded as the directions stated, I wound up with a loose batter, which I baked off as a cake.  Honestly- it didnt matter either way- the flavor of the olive oil paired with strong, bright citrus notes was fantastic.  A ruby red raspberry and a dollop of fresh whipped cream finished off a lovely piece of cake and dessert was a great showcase of olive oil in baked goods.

Olive Oil Biscuits with Raspberries and Cream


● Ingredients:

○ 7 eggs

○ 2 cups of sugar

○ Zest and juice of 2 lemons

○ ¼ cup of milk

○ 7 ounces of cold butter

○ 1 ¼ cup Smooth CEVOO

○ 2 cups of flour

○ 2 teaspoons of baking powder

○ 3 pints of Raspberries

○ 2 teaspoons Vanilla extract (for cream)

○ 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar (for cream)

○ 2 cups heavy cream (for cream)

● Instructions:

Cookies

○ Preheat oven to 350F and Prepare a cookie sheet and cookie mold so the batter won’t stick.

○ In a medium sized bowl, with an electric mixer, mix eggs and sugar.

○ Add and beat in gradually the lemon zest and juice and the milk.

○ In a larger, second bowl, beat together the butter, CEVOO, flour, and baking powder.

○ Combine all the ingredients into the larger bowl.

○ Pour into the prepared cookie sheet/molds. Bake approximately 10 minutes.

Prepare the cream now.

○ Serve with cream and raspberries.

Cream

● In a large bowl, beat the cream until peaks are about to form.

● Add in alternately the vanilla extract and the sugar until peaks form.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Goat Cheese and Mushroom Ziti

I had thought that picking a main course for my Chilean Olive Oil party would be difficult. I tend to be pretty carnivorous in my day to day eating, but I knew that I have a vegetarian in the house and I didn’t want to make her eat around things. My next move, when I apparently cut out meat, is to add in cheese and cream (why I do that one I have no idea) but I had some dairy allergies as well in the group so I looked through the recipes that the Chilean Olive Oil group sent me a little halfheartedly. What could possibly be in that list that didn’t include any type of meat or fish, or any cow milk or cream? Then, about mid way through the list, illuminated with bright lights from the heaven (no not really) it was there- Portobello Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pasta. The ingredients sounded perfect, and with an attendee running the BAA Half Marathon the following day- well it couldn’t have been more perfect for carbo loading!


I was pretty thrilled with this recipe- it was creamy and cheesy, decadent in all the right ways and then grounded with big chunks of earthy mushrooms. Freshly chopped parsley added a bright freshness to the dish and overall it was entrée deliciousness. Allergies and food preferences aside- I would gladly serve this again.

Goat Cheese and Mushroom Ziti

● Ingredients:

○ 5 tablespoons butter

○ 10 tablespoons CEVOO

○ 7 ½ onions, chopped

○ 2 ½ teaspoons salt

○ 1 ¼ sugar

○ 2 ½ pounds of portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved, and cut

crosswise into ¼ inch slices

○ 10 tablespoons chopped parsley

○ ½ teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

○ 1 ¾ pound ziti

○ 10 oz soft goat cheese

○ 10 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


● Instructions:

○ In a large frying pan, melt half of the butter with half of the CEVOO over

moderate heat.

○ Add the onions, ½ of the salt, and the sugar, and cook, stirring frequently until the

onions are well browned. Remove from the pan.

○ In the same pan, melt the remaining butter and olive oil over moderate heat. Add

the mushrooms and ¼ of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and

brown.

○ Add the remaining onions, parsley, salt, and pepper.

○ Boil the ziti until just done. Put aside 1 ¾ cup of the pasta water, and drain.

○ Toss the ziti and a ½ of the water with the mushroom mixture, the remaining

CEVOO, goat cheese, and parmesan. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the

water.

○ Serve with additional parmesan.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chile Olive Oil Dinner- Fresh Tomato Treat

I was given the opportunity to choose the dishes to be served at my Chilean Olive Oil party and after reading through all of the possible appetizers, I quickly decided on the Fresh Tomato Tart.  Puff Pastry filled with a creamy basil egg mix and then topped with slices of fresh tomato- I couldnt imagine anything better to start off a gathering of friends on the patio.

Turned out- I was right.  The tart was a beautiful combination of creamy mousse, buttery pastry and fresh, acidic ruby red tomatos.  The olive oil was blended into the cream and egg mix giving it a smooth body and a richer feel.  This was an incredibly decadent appetizer, but one that is perfect for an elegant gathering.

Fresh Tomato Tart (recipe by the Chile Oliva)


• Time Estimates

○ Preparation: 20 minutes

○ Cooking: 40 minutes

○ Level of Skill:

○ Medium

○ Ingredients:

○ 1.5 puff pastry sheets (however many necessary)

○ 1.5 cup fresh basil leaves, washed & dried

○ 1.5 cups heavy cream

○ 4 ½ tablespoons of Smooth Chilean Extra Virgin Olive Oli (CEVOO)

○ 4 extra large eggs

○ 3 large ripe tomatoes

○ Coarse sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

○ Instructions:

○ Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 12in tart pan w/ pastry. Put whole square sheet inthe pan, cutting & patching as necessary.

○ Combine the basil, cream, 4 tablespoons of CEVOO, eggs, salt, and pepper into a food processor, process until the basil is very finely chopped.

○ Pour mixture into pastry pan & bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked through,
golden, and fragrant. The tart will puff up in the oven, but will immediately deflate when it starts to cool.

○ While tart is baking, slice the tomatoes thinnly. As soon as the tart is removed from the oven, arrange the tomato slices on top. Drizzle the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil over the tomatoes.

○ Serving Suggestions:

○ Serve slightly warm. After slicing pieces for guests individually, drizzle CEVOO over the top.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chile Olive Oil Party- Tasting the Oils

Olive Oil is one of those truly wonderful ingredients.  A chameleon of shorts, this ingredient can be found on its own as a drizzle over rich ingredients, blended with acidic counterparts to create emulsified dressings, cooked into savory entrees, and even baked with.  A few months ago I was asked to host a dinner party showcasing olive oil from Chile.  You may not be too familiar with Chile as an Olive Oil producer.  Just making it's entrance into US markets, Chilean Olive Oil is full flavored, with all of the same great health benefits as its Italian or Greek counterparts.  Chile's location, between a desert, the Pacific Ocean, the Patagonia and the Andean range gives it the shelter that Olives can thrive in. 

For the party, I was sent both Smooth and Bold Olive Oils, along with a whole host of ingredients and several recipes to try out the oil in.  First up though, my guests and I did a little taste test of the oils.  I will say- if you haven't taken a sip of pure olive oil before- it can be a little daunting.  The folks over at Chile Oliva, the National Association of Manufacturers of Olives and Olive Oil sent along some helpful hints.  Similar to wine, the method includes swirling, taking a deep sniff in, and then a slurp.  Here, acidic green apples are used to cleanse the palate. 

We started with the Bold labeled version and found that the flavors did in fact pack a punch.  As I sniffed to start the flavor was mild and I was a bit disappointed, but then as I sipped the blend of Arbequina, Frantoio and Leccino olives the bright spice and a peppery back drop assured me of its "bold" flavor.  The Smooth variety had a similar scent to the Bold, but its flavor was much rounder and fuller.  Its flavor was full of sweet grass which balanced with the slightly bitter undertone.  It was clear that while the Bold would adjust the flavors of what it was used in, the Smooth would simply enhance those already present. 

We dove into the rest of the recipes incorporating these great oils which included a Fresh Tomato Tart, a decadent Goat Cheese and Portobello Mushroom pasta and a bright and citrusy Olive Oil cake topped with fresh raspberries and whipped cream.  Stay tuned...

Monday, October 8, 2012

2013 Boston Wine Expo Preview

Every February the city emerges from its winter cocoon and welcomes what I've come to regard as one of the first, early signs of spring-the Boston Wine Expo. Joining together almost 200 wineries this annual event serves to educate and expand the horizons of the novice wine drinker to the experienced oenophile. Between the seminars held yearly, the lively discussions created and the ability to taste over 1800 wines, this is the event to attend.


Of course, it's not just October, so why am I discussing an even that doesnt take place for another 5 plus months? Quite unabashedly, I'm pumping you up-do you feel pumped up? This years Boston Wine Expo promises to be the best one yet, with wineries celebrating their anniversaries by pouring from their vintage stock, rumors of a rare Port pouring (my personal favorite), a much improved Mobile App allowing users to find their favorites to purchase before and after the show, and a Social Media lounge keeping those of us Twitter happy for the duration of the event.

I was able to attend a preview event and had the opportunity to taste some amazing wines there-I know that this years event will be one to be sure to attend. Over the next couple of months I'll bring you the news as it transpires, some discount ticket codes (stay tuned) and maybe even a free pass-Get ready folks- 5 months and counting!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Urban Grape, South End Location Open Now!

Wine can be somewhat daunting to a novice chooser. The bottles lined up in an average store can appear somewhat dizzying, as each one touts their genealogy by region, farm, grape, year-but what does all that mean? When you're getting ready to serve that grilled chicken breast in your backyard, how do you know which wine to serve as opposed to when you're sitting down to a steaming bowl of pasta slathered in a spicy red sauce? It's not always easy to figure out, and The Urban Grape which just opened their second location in the bustling South End, has answers for you.

The Urban Grape has developed their own, unique system for presenting wines to their consumers, bunking the "usual" methods of region or grape type. Here they measure their wines, reds and whites separately, by their viscosity. Ah Viscosity-there's one of those "wine" words right? What does that mean for the average consumer. In plain terms, they are dividing their wines by weight- ranging from a light bodied wine to the heaviest. This system is designed to help that novice consumer pair their wine perfectly with the dish they are serving and look like experts to friends and family.

The Urban Grape has a knowledgable staff ready to assist in your purchase and tastes available as well. Don't go thinking though that you have to be looking to refine your palette to enter their stores, they have a great selection of beers and ciders to boot, making it an easy drop in.

While some feel that the UG system is too unique, it's one that I think is great for the novice who is looking to understand more about how to choose wine and how to pair it. Give them a try-I know youll learn something!

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