4.15.2014

Easter Menu

Easter will be at my cousins’ this year, but that hasn’t stopped me from putting together my own little Easter brunch menu. Below, some of my favorite recipes from this blog that make a perfect Easter afternoon.
 

The Menu:
What's on your Easter menu?

4.14.2014

Passover Coconut Macaroons

Today I have a last minute Passover classic for you- coconut macaroons. Perfect for throwing together at the last minute, since they take less than five minutes to put together and only 25 to bake. 


Coconut Macaroons, from Food Network Magazine
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 14oz bag sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted 

Preheat your oven to 325 and line two aluminum baking sheets with parchment paper. (I used a Silpat, which I do not recommend, as the macaroons stuck a bit).

In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, salt, and almond extract until combined. Fold in coconut until evenly coated with egg white mixture.

Using a tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop heaping tablespoons of mixture onto baking sheet. Push together with your hands if necessary to keep it neat. 


Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned.  Let cool fully on baking sheet. 



To decorate, melt chocolate chips in microwave. Once macaroons are completely cooled, use a fork to drizzle melted chocolate over macaroons. Let set until dry and serve. 

4.10.2014

Spring Sides: Green Beans and Favas with Parmesan


This is an example of a dish born on the spur of the moment. My family was coming for dinner and I planned to make a side of roasted broccoli, only I completely forgot to pick up the broccoli at Shoprite. 
 
Not inclined to go back there, I rummaged around the fridge and found some fresh green beans, and frozen favas. I decided to combine the two in the simplest way possible: a simple sauté with garlic, topped with Parmesan. 
 
The result was bright and springy, and the Parmesan was a great touch. I shaved it over the dish with a vegetable peeler, and it melted deliciously into the hot beans.  I think we all fought over the pieces with the most cheese! 
 
One note- I used a bag of frozen shelled favas from Trader Joe’s, but I prefer favas shelled twice, so after blanching I went through the ridiculous step of secondary peeling. I’m a perfectionist, I wanted to see the bright green!
 
This makes a perfect Easter side dish.
 
Green Beans and Favas with Parmesan, by me
Serves 6 as a side dish
 
1 lb skinny green beans
1 cup frozen pre-shelled fava beans
Parmesan cheese, to taste
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 big cloves garlic, smashed
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl filled with cold water and ice. 
 
Drop in your green beans, and boil for 1-2 minutes, until they just lose their vegetal taste but remain crisp. Lift out using a skimmer and immerse immediately into ice water.  Keep water boiling. 
 
Add fava beans to boiling water, and cook about 3 minutes. Remove to ice water and let cool completely.  Peel second shell, if desired. 
 
At this point, beans can be prepared a day ahead. (I like to store them in the skillet I’m going to cook them in, so when my guests are over I can just pull out the whole thing and go).
 
When ready to cook, combine olive oil butter in skillet and melt over medium high heat. Add pepper flakes and garlic, and sauté until garlic is golden brown. Add green beans and sauté 5 minutes, until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
 
Place in a serving bowl, and using a vegetable peeler, shave Parmesan cheese over the beans. (Alternately, use grated cheese). Add as much as you want, and enjoy!

4.09.2014

Passover Recipe Roundup

Passover is around the corner, and though I’m not hosting, I wanted to provide a roundup of some of my favorite Passover recipes. This is a meat menu, so no dairy here.
 
Saveur's tahini dip with crudites is a great healthy, non-dairy appetizer.
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I don’t start a Jewish holiday dinner without making Smitten Kitchen's matzo ball soup. Everyone loves it, and it's super easy.
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I know brisket is traditional (and here’s my favorite brisket recipe), but I love the idea of serving a chicken tagine, like Food52's,'s, instead. Like brisket, it can be prepared in advance and reheated, but chicken is a little lighter for the springtime (and a change of pace from every other Jewish holiday).

Couscous makes a perfect (and easy!) side dish for that, as does a nice springtime roasted asparagus


Potato kugel, like the one here from Food and Wine, is substantial, especially if you have vegetarians attending, and can be made the night before.
 
Round it all out with a salad of your choice and a stack of matzo, and serve some classic and simple coconut macaroons for dessert.
 

 
**Please note I am not Jewish and my husband’s family is not observant of any dietary laws so this menu works for us. If anything is really nonkosher, my apologies!

4.04.2014

Fashion Friday: Caring for Leather Boots

I don’t know about you, but I consider good shoes an investment. I spent close to $300 on my Frye boots, intending to get at least five years’ use out of them.  So far, they’re holding up well, though it takes a little effort on my part. 
When spring arrives, I like to handle all the maintenance on my boots to ensure they’re put away in good shape and ready to go in the fall.  
Here’s my tips on caring for your leather boots:
Remove winter:

I live in an urban area, so road salt has attacked my favorite shoes. 

The good news is, it’s easy to remove these salt lines yourself. Simply mix equal parts white vinegar and water together, dip a clean cloth in them, and rub along the salt lines. Then, dip another clean cloth in water and go over one more time. Let the boots dry, and the salt marks will be gone. 
Condition the leather:  

Invest in leather treatment products and regularly condition your leather. Certain brands, such as Frye, sell products formulated to work best with their materials. 
Take bigger fixes to a pro:
This is a good time to have any non-DIY repairs done: resoling, fixing zippers, touching up ripped seams. Repairs can take your shoes out of commission for up to a week, have them done when you won’t want to wear the shoes.
Find a reputable cobbler (seriously- don’t just go to the cheapest dry cleaner, find an actual cobbler), and bring your shoes over. Depending on what you need done, it could cost you upwards of $50. But if the boots cost $300, and the repair gets you another couple of years, it’s a good investment. 
You can also have your cobbler take care of the conditioning and stain removal above, for an additional cost. 
Storing: 
I like to use boot shapers to help my boots hold their shape, otherwise they wind up tossed and creased at the bottom of my closet. If you still have the original shoebox, keep them in there as well, to avoid dust.  I also toss a little Gold Bond in the shoe to keep them fresh.  Cedar boot shapers would accomplish that too.
Finally, if you’re purchasing any new boots in end of season sales, it’s a good idea to take them to a cobbler before you wear them and have a thin rubber strip added to the sole to protect it and prolong its life.

4.03.2014

Baked Rigatoni with Broccoli, Pancetta, and Olives



My husband is not really that into food. It’s rare that he makes dinner requests, and when he does, it’s always something simple like “chicken. And salad.”  

So I was very surprised the other day when he saw me flipping through the latest Food and Wine, and pointed out a recipe. 

“You should make that” he said, pointing to a recipe for a baked rigatoni with broccoli, tomato, olives, pancetta and ricotta.  

Didn’t seem like Mr. B’s usual eating habits, but I thought it looked delicious, so I jumped on the opportunity and really liked it. It was a nice change of pace from usual red sauce baked pastas, and if you happen to have leftover roasted vegetables, it would be a great way to use them up. 


Baked Rigatoni with Broccoli, Green Olives, and Pancetta, adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 6

2 tbsp unsalted butter, and more for greasing
1 ½ lbs plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise (I used yellow cherry tomatoes, as I had them)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 ½ lbs broccoli, cut into florets
4 oz pancetta, diced
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup pitted green olives (I used kalamatas)
1 lb rigatoni
2 cups fresh ricotta
¾ cup good Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 and butter a 9x13 baking dish. 

On a rimmed baking sheet, combine tomatoes, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Roast for 20 minutes. 

On another sheet, combine broccoli with 1 tbsp olive oil, more salt and pepper, and roast for 15 minutes. 

In a large, deep skillet, combine pancetta and last tbsp olive oil. Cook until crispy, about 5 minutes, then add onion and cook until softened, 5 more minutes. Add olives, then stir in the roasted tomato and garlic mixture, including juices, and add 2 tbsp butter. Keep warm. 

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add rigatoni. Cook until al dente, then drain and reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.  Add pasta to skillet, then add ricotta and broccoli, plus ½ cup Parmesan, and mix well.  Transfer to baking dish, sprinkle with last ¼ cup Parmesan, and bake for 15 minutes, until golden. 

Let stand 5 minutes and serve. Can be made ahead and reheated.

4.02.2014

Lazy Girl's Guide to a Great Brunch


Recently, some friends in town invited a few people over for brunch, and it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.  I loved lazily showing up in comfy clothes, munching on delicious food, and spending time with friends yet still having lots of time left in the day for other things.  
It got me thinking that I should really do brunch with friends at home more- it’s a nice change of pace from typical boozy brunches out. Though I also love those, I get tired of the same places and the no-reservations wait.  Opening your home to friends is a great way to switch it up, and all you really need to do is put out a bagel spread to make people happy.  And that’s no effort, so it will make you happy too.

Below, my recipe for a no-fail, stress-free brunch:

The Must-Haves:
Bagels and Lox Spread: 
 

Run out in the morning to pick up bagels, and set out a few flavored cream cheeses, lox, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. (See this post for tips on arranging).

You can also add whitefish or tuna salad, though I usually skip those. 

Something Sweet:

Some people like sweet breakfast, and some like savory, so you should always provide options in both categories. I pick up muffins wherever I get my bagels, and ask a guest to bring fruit.  My mother-in-law always provides her “berry bowl,” a yummy and color-coordinated mix of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. 

 photo BerryBowl_zpsc485516a.jpg

Drinks:
Coffee, tea, water, and mimosas, of course. 

Not Necessary but Nice:
Something Hot:

 photo PotatoFetaBaconFrittata_zpsc91900bb.jpg

I always do my go-to frittata, which I posted about last week.  But you could make scrambled or baked eggs (like my Shakshuka recipe). Baked French toast or cinnamon buns are nice too, but definitely not a lazy way out. 

Or hey, take it really easy and just heat up the bagels. You can slice them in half, put the halves back together, and put in the oven for a few minutes. They’ll steam inside and have that still-warm-from-the-bagel-shop taste.  The point is to enjoy your company, not spend hours getting ready. 

What are your tips for an easy but fun brunch?