Posts filed under ‘Recipes’
Happy Labor Day Weekend Friends! This weekend traditionally marks the unofficial end of summer or, to anyone who grew up near the beach, the end of shore traffic. This summer has certainly been eventful, though not in ways it has been in the past. While I haven’t taken any vacations or blogged very much, I do feel quite accomplished. I started my intern year, “caught” more than 20 babies, and did not catch the “peds virus.” I have settled into my new roles of wife and doctor, as well as into my new house and city. I have found new friends and a new church, and have explored some of the surrounding area with my loving husband and puppy.
And I have cooked. A lot. I have fully embraced trying to eat as locally and seasonally as possible, and am loving every minute of it. Since no summer meal is complete without tomatoes, zucchini or corn, here is a mini-roundup of some of my summer favorites! Hopefully you can still find some great tomatoes and zucchini in your garden or farmers market before fall is officially upon us!
Everyone has a slightly different meaning of appropriate cook-out foods depending on your cultural and regional backgrounds. Growing up in NJ, a summer BBQ always meant hamburgers and hot dogs, potato salad, and chips. To my husband, who was born in Brazil, no cook-out is complete without linguica (Brazilian sausage) and short ribs. I have also heard that BBQ and cook-out can signal two totally different affairs if you are from the southern US.
No matter what, it is hard to disagree that anything off the grill just screams summer. My husband got a new Weber charcoal grill for his birthday yesterday, so we are excited to have many grilled treats this summer. Here are some of my favorite summer recipes for the grill. These are all perfect for any special graduation celebrations or Memorial Day BBQs coming up!
Have you heard of Shake Shack? In some ways, I would lightly call it the “In-N-Out” of New York City based on its popularity with tourists. My husband is obsessed, and was one of the first in line when they opened their Boston location. In my opinion, the regular burger at Shake Shack is overpriced and nothing to write home about. However, the Shroom Burger or the Shack Stack are worth the hype. If you have never had the privilege of indulging here while in NYC, then allow me to describe it. The Shroom Burger is two Portobello mushroom caps that have been lightly scooped out to accommodate a generous cheese filling. They are pressed together, lightly coated and then deep-fried. The result is a deliciously unhealthy, cheesy and hearty vegetarian mushroom patty. To create the Shack Stack, this monster patty is layered on top of a normal beef burger and served on a grilled potato roll. To say that this is over the top is an understatement, but more than just my husband is obsessed as evidenced by the around-the-block lines that Shake Shack draws daily.
Since we are moving out of Boston, my husband and I wanted to create a homemade version of his favorite burger. We each had our own idea of how to do this. A Shake Shack purist, his mission was to recreate as close to an exact replica as possible – double mushroom patty with a gooey cheese filling over a beef patty. I wanted to come up with a less intense version that is not quite as indulgent so that we can enjoy this treat more often at upcoming summer BBQs. In my opinion, both avenues were a messy success. Our method still needs perfecting and will never quite replicate the real deal, but for a homemade option we are quite happy!
Neither of the following are recipes, more like ingredient lists and bare bones guidelines of what we did (with pictures). If you have or plan to experiment with this chain favorite, let us know what you did that worked (or didn’t!)
Classic “Shack Stack”
Take two medium-sized Portobello mushroom caps and wash well. Gently scrape out the middle of the mushroom (what we call “gills”). Place mushroom caps between two paper towels and two microwave safe dishes. Microwave for 1.5-3 minutes, or until moisture seeps out and the mushroom caps become flat and pancake-like. Allow to cool. Mix together shredded cheese (we used Muenster and Cheddar). Form a palm sized ball of cheese. Place the cheese in the center of the mushroom caps. Surround with plastic wrap and wrap tightly to adhere the two mushroom caps together.
Allow to sit for several minutes. In separate bowls, lay out flour, a beaten egg, and plain panko bread crumbs. Dip the mushroom patty in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, then repeat in egg and breadcrumbs.
Deep fry in canola oil until the outside is golden brown. Meanwhile, cook a burger as desired. Toast a potato roll lightly. Assemble burger with mushroom patty, lettuce, tomato and onion. Serve immediately.
Lightened Up “Shack Stack”
Wash and prepare one mushroom patty as above. Follow instructions to flatten the mushroom cap. Mix together one to two tablespoons of shredded cheese and place in the middle of the mushroom cap. Create a covering for the cheese with either 1/4 lb ground beef mixture or a pre-formed hamburger patty.
Grill beef side down first until meat is cooked as desired, then flip for one minute to melt cheese.
Serve on toasted potato roll with lettuce, onion and tomato.
Question: Anyone hosting a memorial or graduation celebration BBQ this weekend? What is your favorite thing to make on the grill?
My husband and I have a new vacation hobby – browsing antique stores. While we are in no way knowledgeable about what we are looking at, we enjoy looking around at old furniture, imagining what old kitchens looked like, and reading old letters or signs. We like to look for unique old pieces to mix in with our new and more modern furniture to give our home an eclectic and lived in feel. So far, we have only made two purchases from antique stores, mainly due to limited space and a tight budget. Our rule is that the item we select must be usable or repurposed in some way. So far, we have gotten a hand painted planter set for a kitchen herb garden and a cast iron dutch oven – both of which we have already put to use! I was so excited about the dutch oven because it is pre-seasoned from years of use, and came at a far lower price tag than the pretty enameled ones that I have always looked at. I like using dutch ovens over regular pots when meals require long cooking time, since the thick bottom holds the heat evenly and results in less sticking to the bottom. So far, I have used my pot to make Frugal Feeeding’s Greek Lamb with Orzo (I made this for Easter but it would make a lovely Mother’s Day meal!) and Bon Appetit’s Vinegar Braised Chicken.
For my braised chicken, I served it over homemade pasta to recreate a favorite restaurant meal. It was delicious, and would be another great meal to honor the special women in your lives! I used leg quarters and picked the large bones out prior to serving to create an easier to eat pasta dish. The ratios in the dish can be easily reduced if you do not want to make 5 lbs of chicken (I halved it to serve 4 people). The chicken would also taste great over rice, cous cous, or quinoa if pasta is not your mom’s favorite! Either way, I hope you all get to spend a beautiful weekend celebrating mothers, grandmothers, daughters and good friends who have helped to shape and mold you. I am especially thankful for my mom and the time we have gotten to spend together over the past two months!
Question: What are you doing to celebrate Mother’s Day?
Fancy meals do not always have to be rich and heavy, as proven by this fantastic Friday night treat. Pasta and steak dishes always seem to corner the market on romantic meals, but I dislike the heavy “food coma” feeling that they often leave you with. My favorite choice for a date-night at home is seafood, since they often are quick to prepare and do not feel so weighty. This meal was again inspired by an appetizer I enjoyed on our honeymoon, where the chef perfectly seared tiny bay scallops and served them over a spicy and delicious eggplant salad. While this does not perfectly recreate the fantastic eggplant salad I enjoyed, it improves on the scallops with larger sea scallops that seem to melt in your mouth when cooked properly. If you are new to scallops, Alton Brown has a great basic tutorial that I love. Scallops can be a little pricy and turn rubbery very quickly if cooked for too long, but are worth the cost when prepared correctly. For your next stay-at-home date, try out this dinner!
Scallops with Roasted Red Peppers and Spicy Eggplant
6 vegetable servings, scallops vary depending on amount
For the Red Pepper and Eggplant Salad:
3 large red bell peppers
1 large or 2 small (about 1.5 lbs) eggplant
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red chili flakes
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the scallops:
1/3 to 1/2 lb scallops per person
2-4 tbsp butter (depending on lbs of scallops)
Preheat the broiler in the oven. Half the red peppers and remove the stems and seeds. Lay cut-side down in a shallow baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, until peppers are soft and the skin is charred. Transfer immediately to a large plastic zip bag and let cool for 10 minutes. Submerge peppers in cold water one at a time while removing the skins. Peppers can be prepared one to two days ahead of time, if desired.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roughly dice peppers and peeled eggplant into 1-inch pieces. Quarter the mushrooms. Mix all vegetables in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and red pepper flakes, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables, stirring every 15-20 minutes, for 45-55 minutes, or until eggplant is at desired consistency according to your preference.
When the vegetables are roasting, rinse and pat dry scallops. Preheat a cast iron or heavy skillet over medium heat. Add butter and allow to melt. Add scallops, searing for approximately 2 minutes per side. The skillet should be hot enough to create a browned curst in a short time. Squeeze lemon half over scallops and remove to serving tray. Serve with eggplant and pepper mixture with brown rice.
One of the benefits of this little extended vacation before residency starts is the slow mornings. While our days seem to be filled with endless piles of paperwork (marriage license hiccups, name changes, residency paperwork, apartment applications… it never ends!), we have been starting each day slowly with really good coffee. I got Dan a Beehouse pour-over coffee dripper and burr coffee grinder for Christmas, and we have been enjoying getting good use out of it these past few months. We first got hooked on this coffee-brewing method at The Thinking Cup near the Boston Commons. Dan was intrigued by the science behind it – they used kitchen scales, electric kettles with thermometers and long spouts, and timers to brew the perfect cup of coffee. While we don’t get quite that fancy at home, we have found that pour-over coffee is worth the extra few minutes, when you have them.
From some reading I have been doing for this blog post, I have learned that this coffee brewing method is originally from Japan and has taken off in the US because of the low cost of the associated equipment. While espresso is a much more well known international coffee style, there is a high cost of equipment for DIYers. Pour-over kits can be assembled gradually, and the parts are relatively inexpensive. A good coffee dripper will run around $15-30, and you can be as fancy or as simple with the grinders and kettles as you want.
The magic of pour-over coffee comes from the small brew method and slow pour. As a coffee-enthusiast, you can control every step – from the bean (we prefer a light roast with more earthy flavors), the coarseness of the grind (we find that a medium grind works well), the temperature and amount of water, all the way up to the length of brew time. Each cup that you brew is unique, and somewhat maker-dependent, which can be both a good and bad thing depending on who you ask. The most important thing we have learned making this style of coffee is the slow pour, as this is what sets it apart from regular drip coffee. American coffee machines, while noteworthy for their convenience, work by pouring a single batch of boiling water over the coffee grounds and then dripping through the filter. This initial boiling water bath can create bitterness that many dislike about American drip coffee. It also does not fully utilize the flavors from the coffee beans as it creates a thick cake that prevents all of the grounds from soaking. Making pour-over coffee allows you to hand pour the hot (not quite boiling) water over the beans in a pulsatile method. (source) The resulting cup of coffee is free of the bitterness that many people dislike about American-style coffee, and is rich and flavorful with a smooth finish. Even my Dad, a dedicated milk-and-sugar kind-of guy, will happily drink pour-over coffee black.
There are plenty of great informative articles out there, from the history of pour-over coffees to comparisons of different drippers to the basic how-to instructions for how to make the perfect cup of coffee. If you enjoy a good cup of coffee or are looking for alternative ways to brew yourself a single cup of coffee, I would highly recommend making the small equipment investment! We have started with a basic dripper and coffee grinder, and currently use an electric kettle to boil the water and a spouted Pyrex measuring glass for the pour. Eventually, we may expand our gadgets but are more than happy to enjoy our simplified, homemade version for now!
If you are not a coffee fan but are still looking for a slow morning treat, then try out these muffins! I adapted the recipe from my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens magazine to use some dying bananas, and have been greatly enjoying the subtle chocolate flavor and how it compliments my coffee! Do not be intimidated by the name – these muffins are not overly sweet or heavy, and the cocoa comes across more in color than taste. If you are looking for a more decadent treat, try adding chocolate chips or walnuts for a more dessert-like breakfast muffin!
Question: What is the best cup of coffee you have ever had?
Dark Chocolate Banana Muffins
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens (April 2014)
makes 12 large muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tbsp melted butter
2 overripe bananas, mashed
handful walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 12-muffin tray; set aside. In a stand mixer, combine all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine milk, yogurt, eggs and melted butter. Add to dry ingredients in the stand mixer; stir until just moistened. Add the mashed bananas and mix until combined. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, then use butter knife to loosen. Store in air-tight container.
When it comes to meat and fish, my family often falls prey to what seems to plague much of White America. We only eat certain cuts of certain meats, and most definitely avoid anything on the bone. This is especially true of seafood. When my husband asked my mom if she would be willing to try a new way of eating fish, she told us, “Only as long as I don’t have to look my dinner in the eye.” I used to whole-heartedly agree with my mom, and was repulsed at the market where the fish seemed to stare back at me, daring me to eat them. Now, I have learned how delicious (and sometimes fresher and more economical) whole fish can be. I have come a long way from my first whole fish experience in Croatia!
When it comes to this method of cooking fish, it all starts with the quality of the ingredient. I am lucky enough to have found two great local fish markets (Keyport Fishery for anyone in the central NJ region and New Deal Fish Market for anyone in the Boston area). My husband is the expert in our house when it comes to choosing fish, but he has taught me a few basic rules. First, the smell of the fish really does tell you if the fish is fresh. While there will always be a mild fishy aroma, it should not smell unpleasant or so strong you can smell the fish at a distance. You can also tell a lot about a fish (or at least the freshness) through its eyes – they should be clear and in tact. Lastly, we have found it helpful to call the fishery the night before or morning of to ask about what fish they have gotten, or are expecting to get, fresh that day. Getting there early can ensure you get the best selection from what they have.
For fish preparation, I prefer to have the fishery help me out. Most good fisheries should be able to gut, scale, and take the fins off the fish before sending you home with it. This saves a lot of prep and mess, and ensures that you don’t ruin the beautiful fish you just worked so hard to pick! When planning how much fish to buy to feed your guests, remember that a bit of fish weight is made up of the head and bones. A 1.5lb fish will generally feed one hungry person, in our experience, and generally runs $8-$12 per pound, depending on season and type of fish.
Our favorite fish to prepare whole is Bronzino, also known as European sea bass. However, we chose a beautiful Red Snapper for this dinner. We wanted to prepare a special Caribbean-inspired dinner as a thank you to my parents for watching our dog, and Snapper lends well to island flavors. The fishery had just received whole snappers that morning, so we got choice pick. The fish were HUGE, and we walked away with the baby of the bunch – a 5.5lb beauty. First, we scored the fish diagonally to help infuse flavor. We then rubbed the skin and inside of the fish with garlic, allspice, thyme, salt and pepper. While we usually pan-fry whole fish to get a nice crispy skin, there was no skillet big enough for this guy. We created a foil boat and cooked our fish in a bit of canola oil on the grill over high heat for about 25 minutes, requiring a bit more cooking time since it was so thick in the middle. At the end, we spooned a bit of the boiling canola oil over the skin to make it crispier.
The result was spectacular. Not only was the fish beautiful, but it was also tender, moist and delicious. Since we had the whole fish, we got to enjoy the most tender and most underused parts (my favorite are the cheeks). Our dinner was rounded out with coconut rice and Brazilian style Collard greens and finished with grilled pineapple, all complimented by Antiguan style Rum punch.
We combined a few recipes and resources to make this meal happen, listed below if you are interested in trying this out! We have deemed Fridays to be “fresh fish Fridays” to take advantage of shore-living while we can, so hopefully some more great meals are to come!
Question: Are you a whole fish fan? Do you have any tips to share for choosing or preparing the perfect whole fish?