Strawberry Basil Shortcake

It is June which means it is the start of Strawberry season! In NY we can buy berries all year long, but there is a drastic difference between the berries in the winter and the berries in the early summer.  Strawberries in June are deep red throughout, they are extremely juicy and fragrant and they are as sweet as sugar! This easy recipe really showcases summer fruits, and the best part is you can use whatever you have on hand! Use strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or fresh or grilled peaches! The basic buttermilk biscuit recipe is super flaky and buttery and if you want savory biscuits you can even leave out the sugar and cinnamon and add chives and cheddar or leave them plain! My strawberry filling is brought to a whole new level with the addition of fresh chopped basil...my favorite smell in the world is basil.  I always say if I could walk around with sprigs of basil under my armpits I would ;) My whipped cream filling has a little vanilla and a little almond extract which really compliment the strawberry flavor. This is the perfect 4th of July treat or for any summer night for that matter ;)

 

Shortcake (Sweet Buttermilk Biscuits)- You can leave out the sugar and vanilla for a delicious savory biscuit! Use them for egg sandwiches, biscuits and gravy and more!

Ingredients-

  1. 2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 3 tablespoons sugar
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 7 tablespoons cold butter
  7. 3/4 cup buttermilk
  8. 1/2  teaspoon vanilla
  9. 2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
  10. Sugar in the Raw (white sugar is fine too but large granule is better)- All you need is a few teaspoons
  11. Cinnamon (a sprinkle)

Steps-

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl.
  3. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or using an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  You want the butter to be tiny pea size pieces in the flour mixture. Make sure the butter is super cold because it will only make the biscuits more flaky.
  4. Make a well in the center of butter and flour mixture. Pour in the buttermilk and vanilla extract; stir until just combined.
  5. Turn dough onto a floured work surface, pat together into a rectangle.
  6. Fold the rectangle in thirds. Turn dough a half turn, gather any crumbs, and flatten back into a rectangle. Repeat twice more, folding and pressing dough a total of three times.
  7. Gently roll dough on a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick.
  8. Cut out 10-12 biscuits using a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter.
  9. Transfer biscuits to the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops of biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle a decent amount of sugar in the raw on top as well as some ground cinnamon.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven until browned, about 15 minutes.

Strawberry Basil Filling

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Lb Fresh, Ripe Strawberries sliced in 1/4 inch slices (tops removed)
  2. 2-3 Tablespoons Granulated White Sugar
  3. 4-5 Basil Leaves Chiffonade (cut into thin ribbons)
  4. 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice 

Steps-

  1. Stir together the ingredients and set aside for at least 30-45 mins. You want the juice to slightly extract a little.  If it doesn't have enough juices, add a few drops of water.

Vanilla Almond Chantilly Cream- (You can use store-bought whipped cream as well)

  1. 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  2. 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Steps-

Whip all the ingredients vigorously with a whisk or use hand beaters or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment until it is fluffy and forms peaks.  Do not over whip or it will get grainy or even turn into butter!

To Assemble the Cakes-

Cut each warm biscuit in half, top with a heaping scoop of the strawberry basil mixture, top with the chantilly cream and then place the top of the biscuit on top.  You can even place another dollop of cream on top and then sprinkle some toasted slivered almonds over the top. 

The ULTIMATE Fish Tacos

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!! Growing up in a very Italian family, I was never introduced to Mexican food.  It wasn't until I was in late High School that I experienced it for the first time when my friends took me to a local Mexican joint.  Lets just say I fell in love right away! Now Mexican food is a staple in my diet, and  it is one of the most fun types of cuisine to make especially when you are entertaining.  Last month I spent 2 weeks in sunny California, where Mexican food restaurants are on every corner, and each have something fresh and delicious to offer.  My favorite Mexican dishes have a nice balance of meaty, creamy, spicy, sweet, crunchy and zesty.  I have made many fish tacos over the past few years and I can honestly say that this is my BEST one yet.  This one has a layer of creamy, rich avocado, crunchy and sharp red cabbage and jicama slaw, crunchy, smoky Chipotle Beer Battered Fish, sweet and juicy Grilled Chili Lime Apricots and finally a silky, tangy Lime Crema. If you make these tonight for your Cinco de Mayo fiesta along side a cold margarita, you will have your family and friends salsa dancing through the house.    .

 

Feeds 4 People

Ingredients-

Crispy Beer Battered Fish-

  1. 1.5 Lbs of Fresh White Fish (I use Flounder but Cod is great too) - Make sure there is no skin or bones! Cut the filets in half long ways if they are very large.
  2. 1 Can of Chipotle Pepper in Adobo Sauce
  3. 1/2 Cup Brown Rice Flour (You can use White Rice Flour as well) plus some extra rice flour to dredge the fish in
  4. 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
  5. 3/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  6. 1 Large Egg
  7. 1/2 Teaspoon Salt plus more to sprinkle on the hot fish when it comes out of the oil.
  8. 1/4 Teaspoon Finely Ground Black Pepper
  9. 3/4 Cup of Beer (I use Budweiser) 
  10. Canola Oil for Frying

Red Cabbage & Jicama Slaw-

  1. 1  1/2 Cups Shredded Red Cabbage
  2. 1/2 Cup Peeled Jicama Shredded (Use a Mandoline or a knife to julienne the jicama into thin strips similar in size to the shredded cabbage)
  3. 3 Scallions Chopped
  4. 3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  5. 1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  6. 3 Tablespoons Mayo
  7. 1 Teaspoon Celery Seed
  8. A few drops of Fresh Lemon Juice
  9. Salt and Pepper to Taste 

Chili Lime Grilled Apricots-

  1. 3 Ripe Apricots cut into 1/3 inch slices (you can use peaches as well!)
  2. Mexican Chili Powder
  3. 2 Teaspoons Dark Brown Sugar 
  4. Lime Zest (about 1/3 of the zest of 1 lime) Be sure to only get the green part because the white is bitter
  5. Dash of Paprika
  6. Pinch of Salt 

Lime Crema-

  1. 1 Cup Sour Cream
  2. Juice of 1/2 Lime plus the zest of 1/2 Lime
  3. 1 1/2 Teaspoons Fresh Ginger Root (peeled and grated)
  4. 3 Tablespoons Chopped Cilantro (you can put more if you love cilantro!)
  5. Salt and Pepper to taste

Garnishes- 

  1. Flour Tortillas (Corn Tortillas are great too)- I put mine in the oven for a few minutes to warm/soften them up 
  2. Sliced Ripe Avocados (a must!)
  3. Chopped Cilantro
  4. Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese (optional)
  5. If you like more heat add some hot sauce, Sliced Jalepenos or spicy salsa!

 

Steps-

Marinate the Fish-

  1. Open the can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and pour it into a container.  
  2. Place the fish filets in the container and rub the sauce all over the fish.  Set in the fridge for about 45 mins to an hour while you are making all the other elements of the dish. 

Red Cabbage & Jicama Slaw-

  1. In a small bowl whisk together the Vinegar, Mayo, Dijon, Celery Seed, Lemon Juice, Salt and Pepper.
  2. In a larger bowl toss together the Shredded Red Cabbage, Shredded Jicama and Chopped Scallion. 
  3. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss until evenly coated. Set aside in an air tight container int the fridge.  You can do this a day ahead or a few hours ahead if you'd like so the flavors meld together.

 

Lime Crema-

  1. In a food processor blend all the ingredients until smooth. Adjust the seasoning if need be.
  2. Set in the fridge covered until its time to eat.

Chili Lime Apricots-

  1. Gently toss the sliced Apricots with the brown sugar, lime zest, a few dashes of Mexican Chili Powder and one dash of Paprika and a pinch of salt. Make sure they are evenly coated. 
  2. Heat an indoor grill pan or skillet on medium high heat. When it is nice and hot wipe the pan with a little bit of canola or olive oil so the fruit doesn't stick.
  3. Grill the Apricots on both sides until they are nice and caramelized on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

Beer Battered Fish-

  1. In a shallow, side dish whisk together the 1/2 cup rice flour, AP flour, baking powder, salt and pepper and egg.  Slowly whisk in the beer.
  2. Heat a deep skillet on medium heat and add the canola oil until nice and hot.  To test if the oil is ready, place a drop of batter into the oil and if it starts to brown and float to the top and bubble up around it then the oil is ready.
  3. Take the fish out of the adobo sauce and dredge it in rice flour on all sides until it is covered.  Then gently dip the fish in the batter allowing the entire filet to get coated, then let the excess drip off.  Quickly lay the fish in the hot oil.
  4. Cook the fish on one side until it is nice and crispy and golden brown then using tongs gently flip the fish onto the other side.  Cook until golden and then transfer onto a pan lined with paper towels to get ride of excess grease.  Sprinkle with more salt when it is hot.  Be careful not to crown the fish in the hot oil because the temperature will go down and you will have soggy fish.  Do it in batches or have two pans going at once so you can cook it all at once.

Build your Tacos!-

In a warm tortilla place a few slices of ripe avocado. 

Place a nice scoop of the cabbage jicama slaw on top of the avocado.

Place a piece of the crispy fish on top.

Place a few sliced of the grilled chili lime apricots on top of the fish 

drizzle it all with the Lime Crema and then top it with a little chopped cilantro and any other toppings you'd like, including Mexican shredded cheese, diced jalepenos or salsa.  In my opinion salsa is not needed because the apricots give the taco a nice juiciness and fruitiness that a mango salsa would do!

 

 

 

Matcha Almond Cake

Lets just say that New York is Mad about Matcha! Matcha is a finely ground powder of specially grown green tea. What's great about Matcha is that it is incredibly versatile.  Matcha has many health benefits and will give you an energy boost without the crash and caffeine withdrawal that coffee gives you.  As a caffeine sensitive person, trust me this is a great way to start your day.  The obvious way to enjoy matcha is as a hot beverage, but in recent years it has been popping up in all sorts of recipes, from ice cream to crepes and even in savory dishes like sauces and rubs. Last week I stopped by a new NYC brunch hotspot called Egg Shop, down on Elizabeth Street in Soho.  Normally I opt for the traditional mimosa when I have brunch, but when perusing this menu the Matcha Almond Latte jumped out at me.  The latte consisted of steamed almond milk and matcha powder and had this incredible earthy and mildly sweet flavor.  When you first try Matcha you may think it is a little bit grassy in flavor, but do not give up right away!  Trust me as you continue to drink it or eat it, it will grow on you and you will find it extremely pleasant.  After I had this latte, the chef in me began to ponder ways I could use it in an original recipe for GRFM.  I loved the almond and green tea flavors together, so I decided to make a delicious tea cake that you can eat for breakfast, dessert or an afternoon snack.  I originally wanted to make a very dense poundcake style loaf, but in the end I ended up with a moist but fluffy loaf that will be awesome with a cup of tea or coffee and a great asset to my next brunch spread.  If you love green tea..give this one a go!

Ingredients-

  1. 1 cup all-purpose flour

  2. 1   1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  3. 1/4 teaspoon salt

  4. 1/2 cup butter

  5. 5 oz  cream cheese softened

  6. 2  1/2 Teaspoons Matcha Powder

  7. 3/4 cups white sugar

  8. 2 large eggs

  9. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  10. 3/4 teaspoon almond extract

  11. About 1/3 Cup Slivered Almonds

Glaze-

  1. 1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
  2. Fresh Lemond Juice
  3. Almond Extract
  4. Water

Steps-

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F . Grease (with butter) and flour a loaf pan.
  2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the Matcha Powder, vanilla and almond extract. Beat in the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. DO not over mix! Do it by hand if you want to prevent over beating. 
  4. Spread into prepared pan and sprinkle some slivered almonds evenly over the top.  You can put as much or as little as you want or none at all! I think it adds a wonderful crunch to the top of the cake.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes,then turn out onto a wire rack.  Quickly put together the glaze while the cake is still pretty hot. 
  6. Stir together the confectioners sugar, a few drops of fresh lemon juice, a drop of almond extracts (remember it is very strong and concentrated so a drop is enough) and a few tablespoons of water until it is a loose glaze consistency.  Next drizzle it over the top with a spoon and brush the sides of the cake with the glaze using a pastry brush.  When the cake cools the sugary glaze will leave a nice sugary crust on the outside. 
  7. Enjoy!

Lebanese Brussel Sprouts

One of my favorite things about living in NYC is that you can find any cuisine from any part of the world, no matter how obscure.  One of my top 5 favorite cuisines is Lebanese food.  Of course the hummus, Babaganoush, lamb dishes and Tabbouleh are second to none, but one of my favorite Lebanese restaurants in town, has the best brussel sprouts you will ever taste.  So good that I did everything in my power to figure out the recipe.  After a few trial runs I came pretty darn close to the recipe! These are perfect for your next dinner party or holiday celebration!  They are nutty and sweet and umami and they take you on a flavor journey. This dish consists of Brussel Sprouts, a mint yogurt sauce, fig jam, toasted walnuts and sliced red grapes.  With each bite and each breath you will be introduced to new flavors and textures. A great recipe isn't one dimensional, it makes you experience and array of different flavors as you are eating it. This gorgeous dish is sure to impress!

brussel fig.jpg

 

Ingredients- 

  1. 1/2 Cup Water
  2. 10 Dried Black Mission Figs (cut the stems off)
  3. 1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
  4. 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  5. About 18 oz Brussel Sprouts (I use two round containers you buy in the grocery store)
  6. Olive Oil
  7. 3/4 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt (I like to use Fage brand)
  8. 1  Garlic Clove Minced 
  9. 2 Heaping Teaspoons Tahini Paste (Sesame Paste)
  10. 2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
  11. 1  1/2  Tablespoons Fresh Mint Chopped
  12. 1/2 Cup Red Seedless Grapes Sliced Thin
  13. 1/3 Cup (or more depending on what you like) of Lightly Toasted Walnut Halves
  14. Salt and Pepper to taste

Steps-

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Prepare the Fig Jam by placing the dried figs, the water, sugar and vinegar in a small pot.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook the figs until they rehydrate and almost all of the liquid is evaporated and whatever is left is syrup like.  Allow to cool for a few minutes and then place in a food processor or blender until smooth and jam like.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Prepare the Yogurt Sauce by blending the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, Fresh Mint, Garlic, Tahini, and a dash of Salt and Pepper. 
  4. Wash and dry the Brussel Sprouts and cut the tough core off the bottom.  Slice each sprout in half or in quarters if they are really big.  You just want them bite size.  Lay them on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil and drizzle them with olive oil , the 2 Tablespoons of Sherry Vinegar and salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven until they are golden brown and crispy on the edges and tender inside. 
  5. Place the Brussel Sprouts in a bowl and toss them in a few spoonfuls of the yogurt sauce and a few spoonfuls of the fig jam, and the toasted walnuts.  You do not want them saturated in it, you just want them to pick up some of the flavor.  
  6. Plate them on on a nice serving dish and sprinkle some more of the nuts nicely on top along with a nice sprinkle of the sliced grapes.  Using a spoon drizzle some more of the yogurt sauce on top and then dot some more of the fig jam on top.  Garnish with more fresh mint if you'd like. 

Brussel Sprout Slaw

Spring is coming! We have moved from 15 degree temperatures to 50 degrees within one weeks time and it feels oh so good.  Spring to me means fresh veggies and salads, or anything light and fresh.  Over the course of a few years, Brussel Sprouts have become HUGE!  They are one of the most popular items on restaurant menus and one of the easiest vegetables to pick up at the grocery store. I turned an American favorite, Coleslaw, into a unique slaw equipped with crunchy, shredded brussel sprouts, crisp granny smith apple and bright, green onion and celery seed.  Serve this one beside sandwiches at a luncheon or BBQ or with any dinner entree. Enjoy!


Ingredients-

  1. 1/3 cup mayo (you can use lite mayo or even creme fraiche)
  2. 2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
  3. 2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
  4. 2-3 cups Shredded Brussel Sprouts (I bought them pre shredded but if you cannot find them just cut the tough core off the bottom of the sprouts and then chiffonade the leaves (cut into thin slices)
  5. 1/2 Granny Smith Apple Peeled and Shredded (I use the julienne setting on my mandolin slicer or you can do it by hand or on the large hole of a cheese grater.
  6. 1/2 Teaspoon Celery Seed (a spice you can find in any spice isle!)
  7. 1 Tablespoon of Sugar
  8. 1/2 Cup of Chopped Scallions (green part only)
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. 4 Tablespoons Chopped Flat Leaf Italian Parsley


Steps-

  1. Whisk together the mayo dijon, vinegar, sugar, celery seed and salt and pepper.
  2. In a separate bowl toss together the Brussel Sprouts, Apple, Scallions and Parsley.
  3. Pour the dressing over the sprout mixture little by little until it is dressed to your liking.  
  4. You can eat it right away but it is best to wrap it up and put in in the fridge for a few hours or overnight so the flavors really come together.

 

Three Bean Pasta Fagioli

Nothing is better than a hot bowl of Pasta "Fazool" on a cold winter day! Everyone knows February is award show month, and this is my "Award Show Meal."  I like to make a big pot of this and then cuddle up in sweats on the couch with my boyfriend and friends in front of the television. We sit and watch all of our favorite celebrities in awe, commenting on their wacky outfits and their butchered acceptance speeches...and the good ones too. 

Ingredients-

  1. 4 celery stalks diced small
  2. 1 cup carrot diced small
  3. 1 medium/large onion diced small (an onion about the size of a large orange)
  4. 4 pieces of bacon diced small
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  7. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  8. 2 Ounces Kale -Chiffonade
  9. 3 small garlic cloves minced
  10. 2 Sprigs of fresh rosemary chopped up finely
  11. 2 cups canned diced tomatoes with some of the juice 
  12. 1/3 cup dried brown or green lentils
  13. 14 oz canned Cannellini white beans
  14. 15.5 oz can of Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
  15. 14oz chickpeas 
  16. 6 cups Chicken stock/broth
  17. 1 cup white wine
  18. 1 Cup Small Pasta (I prefer Ditalini or small shells)
  19. Salt and Pepper to Taste
  20. Fresh Parmegiano Reggiano Cheese


Steps-

  1. Heat a large ceramic pot (like a Le Creuset if you have it) on medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat renders, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside (you will add it back in). Add the onion, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
  2. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced slightly. Add the bacon back to the pot along with the broth, beans, lentils, chickpeas, diced tomatoes and rosemary. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are just tender, 15-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 cup of the bean mixture and a little liquid to a blender or food processor. Hold a kitchen towel over the opening to prevent splatters as the liquid is very hot. Purée until smooth and add back into the pot.  This will help to thicken the soup slightly.
  4. Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. The soup will thicken a bit by the time the pasta is cooked. Discard the bay leaves.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and grate a good amount of Parmegiano Reggiano on top.

I love to serve this with some homemade Focaccia bread. Check out Tyler Florence's recipe! I just use his bread recipe without his toppings and add lots of fresh rosemary and sea salt to mine  before baking and it compliments the soup perfectly. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/fabulous-focaccia-recipe.html

Dark Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

A massive blizzard named "Juno" was to hit New York City causing streets to be closed, subways to be suspended and millions of people trapped in their tiny apartments.  For me this is one of my guilty pleasures, mostly because my mother used to make Snow Days super special.  I have so many vivid memories of my sisters and I standing in the kitchen watching the snow pile up outside while we were elbow deep in dough.  Sometimes it was pizza dough, sometimes it was a sweet braided bread we called "Daisy Bread," and other times it was just chocolate chip cookies.  Even though the view out my window is now a brick wall and my mother is an hour away, I still keep these traditions alive.  While stuck inside with my lovely roommate Kristen watching bad reality television, we decided cookies were just what the weather man ordered.  I rummaged through my fridge and pantry to find 3 of my favorite ingredients: Chocolate, Coconut and Oats...and that is how these insanely delicious cookies were born.  They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and the unsweetened coconut gives them this wonderful flavor and interesting texture.  These are a must try! Oh and if you are wondering about the blizzard, we woke up to a measly 6 inches on the ground, so here I am with an excess of eggs, milk, water and cookies but its off to work I go.  Oh well!

 

Ingredients-

  1. 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  2. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  3. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  4. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  6. 1 cup dark brown sugar
  7. 1 cup white granulated sugar
  8. 2 large eggs
  9. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  10. 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  11. 1½ cups Ghiardelli Bittersweet 60% Chocolate Chips (They are larger than normal chocolate chips. You can also use dark chocolate chunks or baking bars and chop into chunks)
  12. 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I use Bob's Red Mill brand)

Steps-

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; adjust oven racks to middle positions. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Cream together the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes using a stand mixer or hand beater. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then mix in the vanilla. 

4.  Slowly stir in the flour mixture, then stir in the oats, chocolate chips and shredded coconut. Do not overheat, just mix until everything is evenly distributed.

5. Using 1  1/2  to 2 heaping tablespoons per cookie, roll the dough into balls and place on the cookie sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart (I use a small ice cream scoop used for cookie dough). Bake until the cookie edges are golden brown, but the middles are still quite pale, about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven. Rotate the sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool for at least 30 minutes. With these cookies they are actually better after they have cooled for an hour or so! They are crisp yet chewy and so flavorful and delicious! You can even sprinkle some large granualted decorative sugar on top of the dough to give it a shimmery effect like below. :)

The Best Banana Bread

Ingredients

 

  1.         ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  2.         ¼ cup vegetable oil
  3.         1 cup white granulated sugar
  4.         ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  5.         2 eggs
  6.         1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (I use 3 medium well-ripened bananas)
  7.         ½ cup sour cream
  8.         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9.         2 cups flour
  10.         1 teaspoon baking soda
  11.         ½ teaspoon salt
  12.         1 heaping cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  13.         Additional brown sugar for the top 

Steps-

  1.         Mix together butter, oil, sugars and eggs.
  2.         Add mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla, stirring together well.
  3.         Mix together the flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl and then add it slowly to the banana mixture.
  4.         Pour into 1 greased large loaf pan or into greased muffin tins or muffin tins lined with paper liners
  5.         Sprinkle additional brown sugar generously over top of batter
  6.         Bake at 325 degrees: large loaf pan for about 1 hour, for muffins around 25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out of the center clean.
  7.         Allow bread to cool in pans for about 20 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges, tap the pan on the counter several times to release the bread from the bottom of the pan, then invert pan over a wire rack and let the bread fall onto the rack to finish cooling completely.

 

Butternut Squash- Two Meals 1 Ingredient

I am a woman with a very demanding full time job and a big appetite.  I love a good home cooked meal as much as the rest of you, but we all know that time is of the essence during the work week. Stressful business meetings, long commutes, squeezing in time at the gym and keeping up with emails seems to be the weekly routine for most of us living in Metropolitan cities, but I can show you how you can prep one simple ingredient at the beginning of the week, maybe Sunday evening, and have several completely different tasting meals all week long. 

1. Roasted Butternut Squash-

  1. 1 Large Butternut Squash (peeled, seeds scooped out and cut into 1 inch cubes) I like to but the pre-cut squash in the produce fridge to save some time!
  2. Olive Oil
  3. Fresh Sage (About 3-4 Leaves)- Chiffonade (finely chopped)
  4. 3 Small Shallots Chopped
  5. Salt & Pepper

Steps-

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. In a roasting pan toss together the squash, sage, salt and pepper to taste and the shallots.  
  3. Drizzle on Olive Oil just to coat each piece of squash with a thin layer of oil.
  4. Roast in the oven for roughly 25-35 minutes tossing them mid way through the cooking process for more even cooking.  They are done when they are slightly golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside.  You want to be able to prick them with a fork easily.
  5. I like to eat the squash in a kale salad with a simple vinaigrette, dried cranberries or cherries, and chopped almonds or walnuts. You can also eat it as a side with any protein you like!

2. Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients-

  1. Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage (see above)
  2. Chicken Stock
  3. Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt (or Creme Fraisce or Sour Cream)
  4. Salt and Pepper to taste

Steps-

  1. Blend the Roasted Squash in a blender until creamy.  Add a heaping dollop or two of the Greek Yogurt and some Chicken Stock until you reach your desired texture.  If you like you soup thick put less stock, if you like it a little thinner keep adding stock a little at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat up in a pot or in the microwave and serve! Also good with toasted shelled pumpkin seeds as a garnish.  

 

 

 

 

French Toast Casserole

French toast makes me laugh because as a child I HATED it, but now I can't get enough of it!  I even won a special "Chopped" cooking competition on the Anderson Cooper Live show for my French Toast dish! For someone with an incredible sweet tooth, it was strange for me to dislike such a sweet, carb filled breakfast treat, but I think it was the way my mom made it for me.  My mom is an exceptional cook and I talk about it all the time in my blog posts and videos, but I was never fond of her french toast method.  She used to make it with plain white bread that was soaked in egg, milk and sugar and then browned in a pan.  Since she only used thin, plain white bread it ended up having this unfavorable texture and  the flavor was often metallic..maybe it was the pan she used, but I just did not like it.  Once I moved to NYC I started going on brunch adventures with friends and working in top NYC restaurants, so I discovered how absolutely incredible French Toast can be!  The 3 key things to remember when making french toast are:

-Use good bread!  The best breads to use are thick, eggy breads like Challah bread (my favorite), French Pullman bread, Brioche, or breads that have yummy flavors like cinnamon swirl bread, or those new sliced white breads that have flavors like Pumpkin Spice and French Vanilla.

-Make sure your egg/custard mixture is flavorful! Make sure you add some sugar, some vanilla extract, or vanilla bean (or almond or orange extract can be nice too!) and a pinch of salt.  This will ensure that you have a flavorful french toast inside and out!

-Soak it for several hours or overnight! My french toast casserole especially and all other thick pieces of bread that are used for French Toast should be soaked in your egg and milk/cream mixture overnight to ensure that the inside gets all the yummy flavors and texture as well.  When you cook it the outside will be nice and crisp and brown and the inside will almost be custard like..rich and heavenly!

The recipe below is a recipe for French Toast Casserole which is fantastic for big groups and families because you can assemble it the night before, set it in the fridge to soak up all the good flavors and then bake it in the morning all at once!  You don't have to hover over the stove for hours flipping each individual piece of French Toast until each person is fed.  This casserole can be stuffed with any fruits, chocolate, nutella, peanut butter, cream cheese your heart desires!  Here are my favorite combos-

-Nutella & Banana

-Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips and Bananas, Strawberries or Raspberries (or all three)

-White Chocolate Chips and Blueberries

-Add Pumpkin Pie Spice, Cinnamon and Nutmeg to the egg mixture to make a nice fall casserole.  You can even whisk some pumpkin puree into the egg batter.

-Cream Cheese and Strawberry or Raspberry Jam

-Or just some Cinnamon and Nutmeg in the batter and on top..a little Dark Brown Sugar is good too! Simple and traditional

 

French Toast Casserole

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Large Loaf of Bread cut into 1 inch thick slices or large 2in x 2in cubes (Challah Bread is preferred or a mixture of breads.  I sometimes will do 3/4 Challah Bread and then 1/4 Pumpkin Spice Bread (you can find it at the grocery store in the bread isle in the Fall)
  2. 8 Eggs Beaten Lightly
  3. 3 Cups Half and Half
  4. 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar plus a little more for the top
  5. 1  1/2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  6. 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  7. 1/8 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  8. 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon plus more for the top
  9. Any Fruits or Topping you may like (see my suggestions above)
  10. 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

Steps-

  1. Butter a 13inch x 9inch Pyrex dish or any Casserole oven-safe dish you have. Arrange bread nicely in the baking dish.  If you want to put fruit or any filling do it now!  Layer your bananas, jam, chocolate chips or whatever you'd like in between the layers of the bread.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, half and half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Pour mixture over the bread in the baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 7-8 hours.  
  4. Remove from the fridge 25-30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
  5. Dot the top of the French Toast with small pieces of the butter.  Sprinkle the top with a little Cinnamon if you'd like and then sprinkle some granulated sugar evenly over the top.  Not too much but just enough to get a nice crystal like appearance when you bake it.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the French Toast puffs up and the center comes out clean.  Let it stand for 5 minutes to cool slightly.  Serve with maple syrup!

This should feed about 10 people but if you have extra just put it in the fridge and eat it all week! Just heat it in the microwave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti Squash Fritters- Vegetarian "Crab Cakes"

I HATED leftovers as a child!  I always felt like they never tasted fresh, and being the foodie that I am, I didn't want to have the same dish multiple times in one week.  Once I started managing restaurants and cooking in professional kitchens, I realized how important it is to take the scraps and leftovers of your vegetables, meats, cheeses etc. and use them to create more dishes!  Ultimately, if you throw good, useable leftovers in the garbage, you are throwing money in the garbage!  This week I had a substantial amount of Spaghetti Squash leftover, so I got a little creative and created a delicious appetizer to bring to my friend's apartment for dinner. These fritters are crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside.  The pleasantly stringy texture of the spaghetti squash and the flavors of the capers, sun dried tomatoes and breadcrumbs oddly make these little patties taste just like crab cakes! My friends kept insisting that I was lying to them and that they were crab cakes and not vegetable fritters!  So if you are a vegetarian or have vegetarian guests, this is the perfect dish to serve!  You can even make a "crab cake" sandwich by making a larger spaghetti squash patty, put it on a nice brioche bun with a cajun style aioli and top it with some mixed greens..now how delicious does that sound!


Ingredients-

1 Medium Spaghetti Squash

Canola Oil

5 Sun Dried Tomatoes chopped fine (you can use more if you'd like)

2 Small Cloves of Garlic Minced

Seasoned Breadcrumbs (about 1 cup sometimes you need a little more)

1/3 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

1  1/2- 2 Tablespoons Capers

2 Eggs beaten

Flour (you just need a few Teaspoons for the mixture to hold together)

About 4-5 Large Fresh Basil Leaves Chiffonade (sliced into thin ribbons)

Salt & Pepper


Steps-

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Cut the spaghetti squash in half vertically using a big chefs knife.  Scoop out and discard the seeds from the middle of the squash and then drizzle the flesh with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place the cut side down onto a foil or parchment line sheet pan and roast in the oven about 35-45 minutes or until a fork can easily poke through the outer skin of the spaghetti squash.  

When the squash is cooked, using a fork scrape the squash flesh into a bowl.  It should fall into the bowl like spaghetti! Let it cool and set aside.

Once the spaghetti squash is cooled place in some paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and try to squeeze out any excess water that the squash naturally has.

Place the squash in a bowl and add the minced garlic, chopped sun dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese an capers.  Add the 2 beaten eggs and a dash of salt and black pepper.  Stir together until combined.

Add the seasoned breadcrumbs, about 1 Cup and stir together.  Add about 2 Tablespoons of Flour and stir together.  This will help to bind the mixture.  If you try to fry them and they are not crisping up and are just falling apart, add a little more breadcrumbs and flour.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with Canola Oil and heat on medium heat.  Test the temperature of the oil by placing a dot of the batter into the oil and if the oil sizzles around the batter, your mixture is ready.  Scoop about 1  1/2 Tablespoons of the mixture into you hands, make a ball, and flatten it out into a pancake shape.  You want them about 1/3 inch thick.  Place them in the pan with the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crusty on the bottom and then flip and brown the other side. Only fry a few at a time so they brown evenly and the oil temperature doesn't drop.

When they are cooked place them on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve with a dollop of the Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crema! See below!


Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Crema-

Ingredients-

Plain Greek Yogurt

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (you can also use regular pesto)

2 Large Basil Leaves Chiffonade

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Steps-

1. Mix together some Sun Dried Tomato Pesto with the Greek Yogurt, a drizzle of Olive Oil and the chopped Basil. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper, and give it a taste!  If you feel the flavor or color is too bland add more of the pesto! That is all there is too it!




Sweet Arancini- Fried Rice Pudding Balls


One year ago I was on the beautiful island of Sicily with my big, loud, Italian family.  There are many dishes that are specific to the Sicilian culture that I grew up eating, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the “real thing.”  Canolis, Eggplant Caponata, Cassata Cake, Fig Cookies and of course Arancini.  Arancini are a popular street food in Sicily, so common that you can even purchase them at a gas station convenience store. Arancini are these dense, creamy, cheesy, fried rice balls that are often stuffed with things like ham, peas, ground beef and tomato sauce.  The Sicilians make these so well, that even when you purchase them from a sketchy “mini-mart” chances are they are still going to be down right delicioso.  I decided to reinvent Arancini and combine them with another classic rice dish, Rice Pudding.  My Sweet Arancini are crunchy, creamy bundles of gooey, rice pudding, coated in a blanket of delicious graham cracker crumbs and fried to perfection.  These bella balls are not complete without their silky, tangy Apricot and Peach dipping sauce.  Make these for your next soiree and I promise you everyone will not be able to take their hands off your rice balls.

 

 Ingredients-

  1. 2 cups water
  2. 1 cup  Arborio rice
  3. 2 1/2 cups whole milk (you can use any milk but whole works the best)
  4. 1/4 cup sugar
  5. 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  6. 1 egg
  7. Dash of Cinnamon
  8. Pinch of Nutmeg
  9. 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  10. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  11. 2-3 eggs beaten
  12. 1 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs- you may use a little less or more (you can buy the crumbs in a box in the baking isle or by the breadcrumbs or just crush plain graham crackers in a food processor)
  13. Canola Oil or Peanut Oil for frying
  14. Confectioners sugar for dusting

 Apricot Peach Dipping sauce-

Ingredients-

  1.  1 Cup Peach Preserves (jam)
  2. 3 Fresh Ripe Apricots (you can use any fruit you like!)
  3. 1 Tablespoon Butter

 Steps-

  1. First make the dipping sauce. Remove the pits from the apricots and chop the flesh into small chunks.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the chopped fruit. Cook down on low heat until some of the juices release from the fruits.
  3. Add the peach preserves and melt down until it thins out and becomes a sauce consistency. You may need to add some water if it is too thick. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use.  If the sauce gets too thick just add a little water and heat it up in a pot or the microwave for a few seconds until it is warm and thins out.

 Rice Balls-

Steps-

  1. In a medium pot, bring the water and rice to a boil. Stir, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Simmer gently, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently until the rice is tender. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cornstarch. Add the egg and vanilla and combine with a whisk. Gradually pour this mixture into the rice pudding and cook for about 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, or until the rice thickens and becomes very sticky like risotto.
  3. Spread the rice in a baking pan or loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 2 hours or until completely chilled.  This is a great thing to make the day before!  You want the texture to be very thick and gelatinous so you can form balls easily.
  4. Next, preheat the canola oil in the deep fryer on high temperature. Set a wire rack and paper towels aside.
  5. Place the flour, eggs, and graham cracker crumbs in three separate bowls. Set aside.
  6. With your hands, shape each ball of the rice pudding.  You want them to be a little bigger than ping-pong balls, but you can make them as big or as small as you like!  A small 1 1/2 inch ice cream/cookie scoop works well too! When doing them by hand flour your hands to prevent the rice from sticking to you. You can also stuff them with any sweet treat you would like if you wanted!
  7. Dredge the balls in flour and shake to remove any excess. Dip them in eggs and drain. Coat with the graham cracker crumbs.
  8. Fry the pudding balls, a few at a time until they are nicely browned and have a nice crunchy outside, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on the baking sheet and paper towels and continue with the remaining balls.
  9. Dust the rice balls with powdered sugar and serve slightly warm with the apricot peach dipping sauce!

 

Veal Rollatini- Veal cutlets stuffed with goat cheese, tomato & eggplant

Rollatini are a fantastic dish to make when you're having guests over for dinner or even on a day when you have limited time but still want a hearty delicious meal.  Rollatini looks very impressive and fancy, but it is very easy to make!  If you don't like veal, you can use thinly pounded chicken cutlets instead!  I often will make Rollatini with fish like flounder too but will stuff it with grilled zucchini, caramelized onion and tomato with no cheese for a lighter meal.  I serve my Veal Rollatini with tomato sauce for some moisture but you can eat it with Basil Pesto instead, a Marsala wine sauce or a Balamic reduction.

Ingredients-

  1. 1 Medium Eggplant  Peeled and Sliced into very thin rounds
  2. 3 ounces Goat Cheese (You can also use shredded mozzarella)
  3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  4. Lemon Juice
  5. 1 Medium Tomato Sliced very Thin
  6. 2 Large Veal Cutlets Pounded Very Thin
  7. Balsamic Vinegar
  8. 1 Egg
  9. Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  10. Fresh Basil Leaves
  11. Salt and Pepper
  12. Canola/Vegetable Oil
  13. Tomato Sauce or Basil Pesto to top the Rollatini

Steps-

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Toss the sliced eggplant with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  On a barbeque grill, grill pan or george forman style grill or panini press, grill the eggplant on both sides until it has nice grill marks and is very soft and tender. Set aside
  3. Next assemble the Rollatini by spreading about 1-1.5 ounces of goat cheese on one side of each veal cutlet.  
  4. Next place slices of eggplant on top of the goat cheese (enough to cover most of the veal cutlet. Then drizzle the eggplant with some Balsamic Vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Next place about two very thin slices of tomato on top of the goat cheese. Squeeze a few drops of lemon on the tomatoes and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.  It is important to season each ingredient so you have flavor throughout.
  6. Place 2 basil leaves on top of the tomatoes. 
  7. Gently and tightly roll up the stuffed veal.  Use some of the goat cheese to glue the seam closed or secure with a tooth pick.  Sprinkle the outside of the rollatini with salt and pepper.
  8. Beat the egg in a bowl and then carefully dip the rollatini in the egg and then the seasoned bread crumbs to coat it.  
  9. Pour enough vegetable oil in a frying pan to coat the bottom in a thin layer.  Heat the oil on medium heat.  Once the oil is hot, place the rollatini in the pan seam side down.  Once the rolaltini is golden brown, flip it onto the other side and brown it on the other side.
  10. Remove the rollatini from the pan with a spatula and place it on a baking sheet seam side down.  Place in the oven for a few minutes or until the meat is fully cooked and the rollatini is hot throughout.  While the rollatini is in the oven, heat the tomato sauce on the stove.
  11. Plate the rollatini and spoon some tomato sauce over the top and sprinkle with some chopped basil.  If you do not want tomato sauce, you can drizzle some basil pesto over the top instead!
  12. ENJOY!

 

Summertime Crostini

In the summertime we tend to have parties and celebrations to go to every weekend, whether they be graduation parties, summer BBQs, 4th of July bashes etc.  Here are three crostini recipes that are full of fresh, bright flavors, colors and textures.  If you bring any of these to your next get-together, your friends and family will think you paid a high-end caterer to make them..they look  and taste that impressive!  The best part is they are pretty darn easy! 

Fava Bean Ricotta Crostini-

Ingredients-

  1. Fresh Ricotta Cheese
  2. Baguette or 7 grain or Ciabatta (whatever you like!!)
  3. 1  1/4 Cups Shelled Fava Beans
  4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  5. 7-8 Fresh Mint Leaves (washed thoroughly)
  6. The Juice of Half a Large Lemon
  7. 2 Small Garlic Cloves (or 1 Large Garlic Clove)
  8. Salt & Pepper
  9. Sugar Snap Peas for Garnish
  10. Parmesan Cheese or Manchego Cheese (Using a vegetable peeler make little shavings of the cheese)

Steps-

  1. Remove and discard the stem and natural "string" from each Sugar Snap Pea Pod. Set aside. 
  2. Fill a large bowl of water with ice and water and set aside. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and then drop the Sugar Snap Peas in the water.  Boil them in the water for 2 minutes only and then using a slotted spoon remove them from the water and place them in the bowl of ice water to shock them.  This helps them retain their color and crunch and cooks them ever so slightly.  Once they are cooled in the ice water remove them and dry them off on paper towels (set aside in fridge for garnish).
  3. Do the same thing with the shucked Fava Beans but for about 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain and shock in the ice water then remove the outer skin gently.  Try not to break up the beans you want them to hold their beautiful shape.
  4. In a food processor, blend together the Fava Beans, Mint Leaves, Lemon Juice, Garlic, about 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a dash of Salt and Pepper.  You want everything to combine and become a soft, creamy, thick spread.  If it is too thick add more OIive Oil and a drop more Lemon Juice.
  5. Put in a small bowl or tupperware and squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, cover tightly and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Tip: If you are gluten free or don't want the carbs you can each this like a dip with sliced raw veggies!
  6. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone.
  7. When you are ready to serve your guests, assemble your crostini by spreading about a teaspoon of ricotta on each slice of bread, then spread a little Fava Bean spread, then a few shavings of parmesan cheese (or manchego) and then top it with the Sugar Snap Pea.  Finish them with a tiny drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a sprinkle of sea salt (or regular salt if you have no sea salt).

 

Tomato Mozzarella Crostini 

Ingredients- 

  1. Fresh Salted Mozzarella
  2. Heirloom Tomatoes Diced Small (I use a mixture of red, orange and yellow but if they are out of season the red will be just fine)
  3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  4. Fresh Tarragon ( f you don't like Tarragon just use Basil but Tarragon has a unique flavor that I find is refreshing and delicious!)
  5. Minced Garlic
  6. Salt and Pepper
  7. Baguette (or any bread you like)
  8. Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

Steps-

  1. Mix the diced tomatoes, some chopped tarragon and a little minced garlic in a bowl.  Drizzle some extra virgin olive soil over the top along with some salt and pepper.  I didn't put amount here because it depends on how much you are making and it depends on taste!  Jus taste and season accordingly.  If you like a lot of garlic then put more, if not then just put a drop.
  2. Let the tomatoes marinate covered in the fridge for at least a half an hour or overnight if you are prepping ahead.
  3. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone.
  4. When you are almost ready to serve, slice the fresh mozzarella into thin slices that fit perfectly onto each slice of toasted bread.  
  5. Place one slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread and then top with a heaping spoonful of the marinated tomatoes. Finish with a drizzle of balsamic or balsamic reduction if you would like (I like to use the fig balsamic that is discussed in the next recipe below).

Balsamic Fig & Havarti Crostini

Ingredients-

  1. Fresh, Ripe Black Mission Figs
  2. Balsamic Vinegar (good quality)
  3. Havarti Cheese
  4. Fresh Sage (chiffonade- chopped in very fine slices)
  5. Salt & Pepper
  6. Baguette (or whatever bread you like)

Steps-

  1. Slice the figs into 1/4 inch slices starting at the top by the stem.  Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the balsamic vinegar over the top so that they are soaking in the vinegar.
  2. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight.  I even like to do this step 2 or 3 days in advance because the figs really marinate in the vinegar and also end up infusing the vinegar which is great for drizzling over your crostini or on your salad.
  3. Slice your baguette thin on a bias, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on a cookie sheet.  Place them in the oven on 400F and toast them up until they are golden.  You want them to get crunchy but not so hard that they turn to stone. Leave the oven on.
  4. When you are almost ready to serve, slice the Havarti cheese into thin slices that fit perfectly onto each slice of toasted bread.  Place a slice of cheese onto each piece of bread and then put them on a sheet pan and place them back in the oven just until the cheese melts.
  5. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle each one with a little of the fresh chopped sage.
  6. Place one slice of marinated fig onto each crostini and drizzle each one with a little more of the fig infused balsamic.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and you are ready to serve!

Summer Lovin Salad- Fava Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Watercress, Mint Vinaigrette & Manchego Cheese

 

We are in the final days of Spring and sailing right into summertime which to me means sunshine, the beach, relaxing in the park and...the BEST fruits and vegetables are in season!  This salad is the perfect addition to your summer BBQ or dinner party menu.  It is light, refreshing, crisp and very unique in flavor and appearance.  It is unique in that it doesn't have your typical ingredients like Romaine, Arugula or Iceberg.  It uses three things that are in season right now and they are Fava Beans, Watercress and Sugar Snap Peas.  Fava beans are not a common ingredient for most households but they should be! They are beautiful to look at and have a creamy, but crisp texture and almost a cheesy, earthy flavor that goes perfect with my mint vinaigrette and the Manchego cheese. 

Ingredients-

1  1/2 Cups Shucked Fava Beans

3/4 Lb Sugar Snap Peas Washed Throughly

1/2 Cup Watercress Leaves (remove the large tough stems)

1/3 Cup Pearl Onions (frozen and thawed)- You can use fresh as well but make sure you cook them through.

White Sugar (just a dash or two)

Manchego Cheese (Using a potato peeler or mandolin shave long thin strips of cheese and set aside)

Dressing-

1/4-1/3 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves

Juice of half a Lemon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Canola Oil

1/2 Teaspoon Honey (you can always add more if the dressing is too bitter)

1 Heaping Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard

1 Small Clove of Garlic

Salt and Pepper to taste

Steps-

First prepare the dressing by blending the Mint, Dijon, Lemon Juice, Garlic, Honey, a dash of salt and pepper and a drizzle of both olive oil and canola oil (using a blend of oils prevents the dressing from being too bitter) in a food processor or blender.   Add more oil a little at a time until it reaches the consistency of a vinaigrette or lite dressing  Add more salt and pepper if needed. Seal in a container and set aside in the fridge to let the flavors meld together.

The Salad-

Remove and discard the stem and natural "string" from each Sugar Snap Pea Pod. Set aside. 

Fill a large bowl of water with ice and water and set aside. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and then drop the Sugar Snap Peas in the water.  Boil them in the water for 2 minutes only and then using a slotted spoon remove them from the water and place them in the bowl of ice water to shock them.  This helps them retain their color and crunch and cooks them ever so slightly.  Once they are cooled in the ice water remove them and dry them off on paper towels (set aside).

Do the same thing with the shucked Fava Beans but for about 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain and shock in the ice water then remove the outer skin gently.  Try not to break up the beans you want them to hold their beautiful shape.

In a small frying pan, place the peeled pearl onions and sprinkle them with a little white sugar.  Cook on medium heat rolling them around and coating them with the sugar until the onions caramelize/brown and they are cooked and heated through.  Set aside.  

Toss the Fava Beans together in a large bowl with the Snap Peas, pearl onions and the cleaned Watercress.

Dress the Salad with a little vinaigrette at a time, making sure you coat each pea and bean evenly but do not over dress.  

Spoon the salad onto a serving dish and then take a few shavings of the Manchego Cheese and lay it on top as shown in my photo.  You can also just shave the cheese and toss it with the salad!  

Enjoy!



"Gagoots & Eggs"- Zucchini & Eggs

Italian Americans have quite a Rolodex of slang terms especially when it comes to foods. Whether it be mootsadell (mozzarella), proschoot (prosciutto), manigot (manicotti) we've got a name for everything! One of my grandmother's famous dishes also happens to have one of the funniest names, and it is called "Gagoots and Eggs" or (Zucchini and Eggs).  "Gagoots" comes from the word "cucuzza" which is a word for squash in the Italian language. This recipes has just a few simple ingredients and is the perfect lunch/dinner time sandwich, or side dish with meat or fish, or just a great afternoon snack. You can ask my grandma, this simple dish is such a crowd pleasure that all 10 of her grandchildren have her hovering over the stove frying up pounds and pounds of zucchini so they can all get a taste. My gagoots brings the kids to the yard and they're like it's betta than yours... 
 

Feeds 2-3 people

Ingredients- 

  1. 4 medium to large zucchini (leave the skin on just cut the ends off)
  2. 4 eggs beaten and set aside
  3. Canola/vegetable oil
  4. Extra virgin olive oil
  5. Salt and pepper
  6. Bread of your choice (I like a baguette or any Italian bread)


Steps-

  1. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice the zucchini in very thin rounds. The mandolin is a great tool because it takes about 1 minute to slice the whole zucchini,  and it slices it paper thin, which is what you want. 
  2. Next, pour equal parts of canola oil and extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan until the oil completely coats the bottom of the pan. You want about 1/8 inch-1/4 inch of oil in the pan. 
  3. Heat the oil on medium heat until it gets hot enough where it sizzles and little when you put in a piece of zucchini. The key to this is you want the zucchini to brown and cook evenly. Once the oil is hot. Place a single layer of zucchini flat around the pan in the oil. Let it cook until it gets golden brown and then flip each piece with tongs or a fork and cook on the other side until it browns. Once It's brown and cooked on both sides, using a slotted spoon or tongs take the zucchini out and place it onto paper towels to drain some oil out. Sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper while they are hot so it sticks. 
  4. Repeat the frying process until all the zucchini is cooked. In between each batch add more oil if you need to or it will burn.
  5. Once all the zucchini is fried wipe out the excess oil and grease felt the pan. Add a little more clean olive oil to the pan just about a tablespoon or so just to cost the pan and place it on medium heat.
  6. Pour all the browned zucchini back into the pan And spread it out evenly. Pour the beaten eggs over the top of the zucchini and let it sit a few seconds. When you see the eggs are starting to cook use a wooden spoon and stir the mixture all around as if you were making scrambled eggs and let the eggs cook and meld with the zucchini.
  7. Once the eggs are cooked and everything is blended together, pour the zucchini and eggs into a bowls and add a little more salt and pepper to taste.
  8. You can now eat it as is or put it on some nice warm, toasty Italian bread. 





Fishy Chow: Peanut Butter & Chocolate Coated Pretzel Goldfish

It has been a while since I posted a scrumptious sweet treat!  Now that summer is almost here, you are going to need some good portable snacks to bring with you to the beach or on long car rides!  Ive said this before, but one of my all time favorite flavor combinations is peanut butter and chocolate..I mean unless you are allergic to peanuts, everyone pretty much loves that combo.  When I was at school at Penn State University, tailgating season was a huge production.  Picture 100,000 people flooding the parking lots surrounding the stadium enjoying some cold brewskis and lots and lots of delicious foods.  A popular tailgating snack was “Puppy Chow” or “Muddy Buddies” which is chocolate and peanut butter coated Chex cereal.  It is so yummy and so addicting, I can eat it by the pounds.  I decided to give Puppy Chow a salty sweet twist and replace the Chex with Goldfish Pretzels.  Goldfish pretzels are just fish shaped pretzels that are the perfect size for snacking! Now take a salty crunch pretzel shaped fish and coat it with peanut butter and chocolate..come on now its the bomb.

Ingredients-

  1. 1 & 1/3 Bags of Goldfish Pretzels
  2. 1/2 Cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
  3. 1/4 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  4. 3 Tablespoons Butter
  5. 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  6. 1 to 1 1/4 cups Confectioners Sugar

Steps-

  1. Pour the Pretzel Goldfish into a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Place the chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter in a microwavable bowl and microwave for a minute.  Stir and microwave again in 15 second increments until the mixture is completely smooth and the butter and chips are melted. Remove from microwave and stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. Pour the chocolate peanut butter mixture over the Pretzel Goldfish.
  4. Using a rubber spatula carefully mix everything together and get all the Goldfish coated in the chocolate mixture. Be careful not to break up the Pretzels.
  5. Pour the coated Goldfish into a large Ziploc bag and pour in the confectioners sugar.  
  6. Zip the bag closed and shake it until everything is well coated and the Goldfish separate from each other.  If they are all too stuck together add a little more confectioners sugar and shake more.  Note: Some with be stuck together..don’t worry that just means you can eat more at one time :)
  7. Spread the fish onto a sheet pan covered with foil or wax paper and let it dry out for about an hour.  You can eat it right away, but I prefer to let it cool a little.
  8. Seal in a container or a plastic bag and you are good to go!!