Thursday, December 20, 2012

Friends Don't Let Friends Throw Away Leftover Pie Crust

Deep Ellum - Allston, MA

Duck Confit Hash

     Deep Ellum is one of those places you can never go to once. One of those places I can never just write about once. I had been yearning to test out their brunch menu for almost a year and with weigh-ins out of the picture for quite some time, I conned a couple fellow foodies to dive in with me. Jimmy, Antonia and I embarked on the long walk on a chilly Sunday morning with palette satisfaction on our minds. Greeted immediately by the dark wood, and industrial undertones, I felt my hipster level skyrocket when we walked in the door. I wouldn't say the menu is ultra-extensive, but everything just sounds amazing. Every dish is unique and unlike anything I'd ever seen anywhere else. I finally decided to go with the Duck Confit Hash. After learning that "confit" basically means cooked in fat, I knew there really wasn't another option. The dish came piping hot to the table served in a small cast iron skillet. This was totally one of those dishes that you hope is the same as what that lady two tables over ordered. I was geeked. This dish was a mix of perfectly tender fingerling potatoes, braised swiss chard, red peppers, duck and topped with two fried eggs. Even the egg was cooked perfectly to my liking. Not to mention the whole ensemble was picture perfect. If I could've described this dish in one word, it would be succulent. It had every element of the perfect breakfast that I was looking for that morning.  Meat, potatoes, egg.

     Jimmy ordered the biscuits and gravy (I was debating getting both). After having to send it back once because it wasn't that warm, it came back steaming. I only had a bite or two, but I could tell both the biscuits and gravy was homemade. It was phenomenal. Perhaps I'll have a more involved experience soon.

FoMu - Allston, MA
Maple Bourbon Pecan Ice Cream

     As I know I've mentioned before, immediately after I finish dinner, I'm thinking about dessert. Well… I have evolved. Now after every meal, I'm thinking about dessert. So post breakfast at Deep Ellum, Antonia and I were thinking FoMu. FoMu is practically right next door to Deep Ellum, and they're a vegan ice cream shop. We sampled a few of their flavors at a free ice cream gig downtown back in the summer, but it was time for the real deal. After sampling dozens of flavors, I went with the maple bourbon pecan and the carrot cake. The maple bourbon pecan was so good and really interesting. You were really able to taste the bourbon but it wasn't unpleasant or like you were drinking booze. It just had the flavor of bourbon and went really well with the maple and pecan. The carrot cake was equally as delicious and had decent sized hunks of carrot cake in it. It was pretty sweet, and I was totally ok with it. It still blows my mind how such amazing ice cream can be made without dairy, but props to FoMu. You've mastered it.

Beet Cupcakes - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

Beet Cupcakes
     Antonia and I will always try something once. There are few recipes that we'd steer clear of our of fear. My coworker Caitlin shared a recipe for beet cupcakes with me, and I knew, being the beet connoisseurs that we are, it'd be something we make together. We ended up using both standard red/purple beets as well as these yellow/orange beets that I've never seen before. I'm sure they would've turned out much more purple if we only used the purple beets, but who cares. I will say, however, that if you're looking to keep a clean kitchen, this recipe will put you quite behind. Other changes that we made to the recipe included using about half of the amount of sugar, and replacing half of the oil with applesauce (always trying to justify our baking expeditions by baking it more lightweight friendly). In the end, I couldn't believe just how moist these cupcakes were. They were incredible. And the cream cheese frosting paired perfectly. You could definitely taste the beet flavor, so if you're not a fan of beets, you may not like these. We also made half of the batter into a shallow cake, which was equally as good. I was impressed.

Beet Cupcakes

1 1/2 cup pastry flour
1 cup sugar (we used 1/2 cup)
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple sauce
2 eggs

1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded beets

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare large muffin pans with cupcake liners (approx. 12)

2) Whisk together dry ingredients until well combined.

3) Beat together eggs, oil and salt. Add apple sauce and combine.

4) Fold in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

5) Stir in vanilla and shredded beets, pour into molds, bake for 20 min.

6) Frost when cool.

Cupcake icing:

1) Combine cream cheese, sugar, a dollop of milk, and cinnamon.

Apple Gilette - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

Apple Gilette
     This was my first year away from family for Thanksgiving, and it was really different. I'm not going to say I liked it, but I was really glad and felt really blessed to share it with Alyse, Jimmy, Karl and Dave. Master pie maker Jimmy had some leftover pie crust that he was going to throw away. I appropriately scolded him and took the pie crust home with me. After a little debate, I flattened the dough into a terrible circular shape, sliced up some apples, arranged them on the crust so they looked pretty, and sprinkled on some leftover toffee bits and cinnamon. Dude. I thought I was a genius (Apparently it's actually called an Apple Gilette if you want to look up a real recipe). This masterpiece was… well…. a masterpiece. It was delicious! Tasted like an apple pie without a top. The little toffee pieces melted slightly and browned, giving them a slightly burnt flavor. So good.  I highly suggest you try it whenever you have leftover dough or even if you're just in the mood for apple pie.

Four Burgers - Cambridge, MA

  "I don't actually eat. i just watch people eat and judge them. HPD moment."
My baby burger :]
     So, I'm still unsure of what Friday nights feel like for normal people (thanks rowing), but I kind of got a taste of it a few weeks ago. Jake was leaving town, Joan needed some chill time, and I was hungry so we all went to Four Burgers in Central Square on Friday night. The place looks pretty standard inside. Your typical red, white and black, giving it the classic burger joint feel. In trying to stick to my calorie neutral eating, I ordered this baby burger (3.5 oz) with amazingly oozy Gouda cheese and sweet potato fries. The fries really hit the spot. It feels like it's been eons since I had something fried. It's really rare that you can find a burger that comes close to tasting like your parents make on the grill during the summer, but this baby came close (hahah… "rare" … get it? Jokes all around). I love my burgers still mooing a little and this lil guy was. He was served on a baby bun too. While I really wanted a big, fat loaded mother, I was proud of my control. This just means I'll have to go back sometime to get one like Jake's. That sucker had avocado, bacon, gouda cheese, jesus, onions and who knows what else. Next time, I'm going for the big guns.

Parmesan Gremolata Smashed Potatoes - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

Parmesan Gremolata Smashed Potatoes
     I'm not sure why, but I always feel like I'm accomplishing some outrageous task when I successfully cook something I find on Pinterest. However, this recipe was much more simple than most. I had some leftover fingerling potatoes from Haymarket that I didn't know what to do with… uuuuuntil I found this recipe for Parmesan Gremolata Smashed Potatoes. Basically, they're roasted and smashed potatoes with garlic, lemon, parsley and parmesan cheese all tossed together. Not quite just roasted or just mashed potatoes, but these beautiful (actually very picturesque) golden brown potatoes mixed up with a little heaven. Since I only had a few fingerling potatoes, I had to modify the recipe quite a bit, but I'll post the full recipe for reference. The recipe says to add the garlic, parsley, lemon zest and parmesan cheese mix in with the potatoes after you pull it out of the oven, but I wanted the parmesan to melt a little bit (I had shredded instead of grated cheese) so tossed the mix with the potatoes and stuck the whole thing back in the oven for another 5 minutes. I'd definitely say this is the way to go. Each bite had so much flavor. The browned potatoes, the cheese, the zing of the lemon and the freshness of the parsley made the whole thing complete. Yummerz.

Parmesan Gremolata Smashed Potatoes

2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean
1/2 cup olive oil (or less)
1 tsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced (should be about 1/4 cup when minced)
1 lemon, grated zest of
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1) Preheat oven to 400°F.

2) Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water (about an inch higher than the potatoes). Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through (about 15 minutes for these little potatoes). Drain the potatoes and let dry in a colander or on a kitchen towel.

3) Drizzle a little olive oil on a shallow rimmed baking sheet. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer, making sure to get some oil on the base of each potato, and gently press each potato flat with the flat side of a meat tenderizer or a heavy-bottomed drinking glass to about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. Drizzle the olive oil over the smashed potatoes and then sprinkle salt over the potatoes. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes over at 15 minutes with tongs or a spatula.

4) While the potatoes are roasting, mix the garlic, parsley, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese together in a small bowl. When the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven, and toss them in a large bowl with the Parmesan-gremolata. (This is where I suggest putting them back in the oven for another 5minutes). Serve hot.

Sweet - Cambridge, MA

Merry Schnappsmas!
     This past Saturday was National Cupcake Day, and as a lightweight, there's no way you can't take advantage of those types of holidays. "Sorry Tom, it was National Cupcake Day. I had to eat a cupcake. There was just no other option." Joan and I headed to Sweet in Harvard Square around 8:40pm looking for cupcakes. I didn't really think about the fact that they'd probably be picked through considering they were about 20 minutes away from closing their doors. Either way, no sweat off my back. They had 3 types of cupcakes left, so I got 4 cupcakes… naturally. But it's ok because I bought 3 of them for Jimmy, Dave and Karl for Schnappsmas (let's forget the fact that I still ate nearly 2 of those 3). One cupcake was a chocolate cherry cupcake. It had some fancy name that Jimmy knew but I can't remember. I'm not a huge cherry in sweets fan, but this was pretty good. The chocolate cake part of the cupcake was incredibly moist because part of it was filled with some sort of cherry substance.  There was a course grained but fluffy white frosting on top with a maraschino cherry to make it look pretty. The little guy was pretty delicious, I'll admit, but I can't say I'd purchase it again. Just not my style.

     One of the other cupcakes I got was your standard chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Oh. My. Gosh. That buttercream frosting was out of control. My roommate Andy was telling me about how Sweet sells frosting shots (yes, you heard right), and I thought that was a silly idea. Now I understand why. The cake was perfect too. Perfectly cooked, perfectly moist and perfectly dense.

     The final two cupcakes I purchased were vanilla cake and vanilla frosting with red and green sprinkles. That was Karl's favorite part (of course). Yet again, another incredibly simple cupcake that they've perfected. The frosting was just stupid good. It's like they know what they're doing or something.

Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup - Cambridge, MA

Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup
     I haven't been blogging about my soups recently because, frankly, they've been pretty standard. But I've got to talk this one up because it was so unique. A few Sundays ago I made a curried coconut pumpkin soup from a recipe I found in a cookbook given to me by my Grandpa. This soup is hip because it has a slightly tropical coconut taste mixed with the rustic, autumn pumpkin flavor and brought together with an ethnic curry pizazz. What? I don't know. I don't know who came up with this or if my description just now makes it sound appetizing at all, but let me tell you, it's good. The only modification I made to the recipe was I added some brown rice that was mostly blended when I used my immersion blender. Anyway, here's the recipe. Give 'er a whirl!

Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup

2 tbs butter
1 large onion
1 tbs garlic, minced
2 15 oz cans pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup brown rice
4 cups vegetable/chicken/turkey broth (if it's just after Thanksgiving like it was for me)
2 tbs curry powder

1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground coriander

1) In a large soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions and garlic until tender

2) Add in all spices and sauté another minute

3) Add in the stock, coconut milk, pumpkin, and rice. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

4) Either use an immersion blender or cuisinart to blend soup.

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