Sunday, February 23, 2014

What Do You Think It's Like To Go On Dates?

Root - Allston, MA

Black Bean burger and Herbed Fries
     Allston gets a bad rap sometimes. It's really unfortunate because they have some great restaurants that are often overlooked. Nestled next to Deep Ellum, Lone Star, and FoMu is the most recent addition called Root - Inspired Food and Juicery. It's pretty hipster. Drinks are served in mason jars, and everything is vegan and homemade except for their bread products which they purchase from Iggy's. Rick has been talking about Root since it opened, and I needed to go. The evening after CRASH Bs, I just wanted to go to get a nice quiet dinner at Root. Meagan and I decided we'd split their Root Burger and a side of their Sweet Corn Jalapeño Hushpuppies. The Root Burger is their housemade black bean and quinoa burger with crispy, thin onion rings, lettuce, and tomato. I'm not a huge connoisseur of bean burgers, but this one was good! It was pretty soft, but it was a good contrast with the crispy onions. The onions may have been my favorite part of the whole burger. They were super thing and lightly breaded to the point where the breading was practically falling off, but I loved the herb-y flavor of the breading. They served the burger with their housemade garlic aoli, which was fantastic as well. It added a subtle garlic flavor to the whole burger. My only negative review of the burger was the bun. The bun itself was twice as thick as the entire burger, so with each bite I often felt like I was getting more bread than the delicious insides. The bread was also kind of tough which meant that the soft black bean burger got really squished as you tried to pierce the bun with your teeth. Towards the end I gave up on the bun and just ate the burger insides.
Sweet Corn Jalapeno Hushpuppies
     The burger also came with their herbed fries, which were tossed with "herb-infused" olive oil and parsley.
The fries were amazing! It could've been the fact that I hadn't had anything fried in eons, but Meagan agreed that they were stellar. They were also served with their homemade ketchup. While I can't see myself getting as obsessed about it as I am with organic ketchup, it was pretty tasty. It wasn't as sweet as your standard ketchup and had a slight zip.
Basil Lemonade (left), Beet Carrot Apple
juice (right)
     I'd go back just for the fries and the hush puppies. Oh the hush puppies were possibly my favorite part. I really liked that the cornmeal was a large grit and that they had hunks of jalapenos and corn inside them. The outsides were well done, dark and super crispy, while the insides were piping hot, soft, but cooked all the way through. I'd say hushpuppies are 50% likely to not be cooked all the way through in most cases. These were served with the same garlic aoli that came on the burger. I loved it. It was great to dip the hushpuppies or the fries in.
     Being in an "Inspired Juicery", I had to try one of their juices. I got their Beet Carrot Apple juice. It came in a big wide-mouthed mason jar and was a beautiful purple. It had no pulp and was super refreshing. I absolutely love carrot juice, and I love beets. So the two of them together was delicious.

16 Handles - Brookline, MA

     I cannot believe I have never a) heard of 16 Handles or b) been to 16 Handles. At first, I would've
thought that one self-serve froyo place couldn't really differ much from the next. But I was very wrong. I love Yogurtland... I do... but 16 Handles in Brookline took it to a new level. Their flavor innovation was out of control. When Meagan and I walked in after having dinner at Root, I was overwhelmed by their selection. I'm pretty sure I sampled and entire bucket's worth of froyo before even starting to fill it. They had great flavors such as Cider Doughnut, Toasty Marshmallow, Graham Cracker, Peanut Butter, Greek and Honey, Irish Mint, and Salted Caramel. I think the Cider Doughnut was my favorite. It tasted just like a Cider Doughnut. I also really loved mixing the Irish Mint with their mini Junior Mints. The Peanut Butter was also really impressive. Normally peanut butter froyo has that fake peanut butter flavor, but this tasted entirely different. It really tasted like peanut butter and was just incredible mixed with either of their chocolate flavors. The toppings were great too. A larger variety, and their mini peanut butter cups had a beautiful, moist peanut butter in them as opposed to the powdery nonsense I keep finding in most cups. I cannot wait to go back.

Ricotta Pizza Pinwheels - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA
Ricotta Pizza Pinwheels baking :]

     I found this recipe for Ricotta Chorizo Pinwheels on a French blog that translates to "But Why Am I
Telling You This..." Kind of a strange title, but that's irrelevant. They looked so heavenly, so I decided to make them the day after CRASH Bs. I love Cheese. These pinwheels are basically pepperoni, basil, ricotta cheese, more cheese and arugula all wrapped up in puff pastry. I couldn't find the kind of Chorizo I wanted, so I decided to use pepperoni instead. I was 100% fine with this decision when I took my first bite. This was another one of those moments where I think "Wait a minute... I created this?" It blew my mind. The pepperoni had just a bit of spice to it that flavored my "lite" cheese in an amazing way. And the oils from the pepperoni soaked into the puff pastry and helped it crisp up and brown in the oven. The arugala and the basil added the perfect and essential freshness to the cheesy pinwheel. I was absolutely in awe. These would be such an easy treat to make and take to any sort of dinner or party. Do it!

Ricotta Pizza Pinwheels

1 square puff pastry
Thin pepperoni slices
Ricotta cheese
Grated cheese
Fresh Basil
1 egg yolk

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2) Spread the ricotta over the puff pastry generously and layer on the pepperoni ​​slices, arugula and basil and finished with grated cheese.
3) Roll up the puff pastry and toppings as tight as possible and slice into 3/4 inch thick slices. 
4) Place them on a cookie sheet and brush with egg yolk. 
5) Bake for 15-20 minutes and watch cautiously so they don't burn. Let cool 5 minutes before eating. 

Jacques Torres Infamous Chocolate Chip Cookies - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

     I know I know... everyone has what they think is the "Best Chocolate Chip Cookie" recipe, but this one takes the cake.... er... cookie. I found the recipe on a blog called Crepes of Wrath, and it is relatively complex. There are different flours. There is a long wait time. But I'll tell you right now that it's worth it. These cookies may just be the best fresh-from-the-oven cookies I've ever ever had. Jacques must know a thing or two about cookies ... not to mention they call him Mr. Chocolate! I couldn't believe how thick yet soft and chewy these cookies were. Using the bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips were a great idea; a great way to balance out sweet dough. I absolutely fell in love with these cookies, as I'm sure you will too. Two very important things. Using the correct flours is critical because of the protein ratios in each. No acceptions. Also... a minimum of 24 hours of refrigeration is key. I kept my refrigerated for around 36 hours. Believe me... you want to wait.

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies
Jacques Torres Infamous Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1⅔ cups bread flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons coarse salt
2½ sticks (1¼ cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
1¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1⅓ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips, or at least 60 percent cacao content
sea salt for sprinkling

1) Sift together the cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
2) In the bowl of your mixer, cream together your butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add in the vanilla and mix. 
3) Gradually add in the dry ingredients, until just moistened. Fold in your chocolate until evenly added throughout the dough.
4) Press plastic wrap against the dough, making sure it is completely covered, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or as long as 72 hours. This allows the gluten in the dough to loosen up and helps the cookies to not spread out too much.
5) When you are ready to bake, bring the dough to room temperature so that you can scoop it out, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line and/or grease your baking sheets. Scoop your dough out onto the sheets. Sprinkle the cookies lightly with a bit of fleur de sel or sea salt. Bake 10-12 minutes for smaller cookies or 18-20 minutes for larger cookies.
6) Allow the cookies to cool slightly on your baking sheet, then move them to another surface to cool completely. You can enjoy these warm, room temperature, or cold. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Lemon Poppyseed Ricotta Pancakes - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

     It was a long, hard Saturday workout mid-February, and I was hungry. I had a recipe for lemon ricotta
Too excited. Terrible photo of Lemon Poppyseed
Ricotta Pancakes.
pancakes that I had wanted to try, but decided last minute that I wanted to add poppy seeds and make them lemon poppy seed pancakes. WINNING IDEA! Ohhhh wow. Like I've mentioned before about the lemon poppyseed flavor, it's one of a kind. These were one of a kind pancakes. They had a light lemony taste and a richness from the ricotta. Instead of adding whole eggs all at once, the lemon ricotta pancake recipe I was mildly referencing suggested I add the yolks first and whip the egg whites until they became stiff. I had never whipped egg whites before, so doing this was actually really fun. I had no idea they'd change consistency like that. Anyway... adding these whipped egg whites to the batter made it really fluffy. As I cooked the pancakes and sampled small pieces, I started noticing I wanted a more lemony flavor... but all the cakes had been cooked or were in the pan. So I decided to squeeze some lemon juice onto the pancakes instead. It definitely would've been better if the lemon was more prominent throughout the batter, but this did just fine for my first experiment. Because of this, I think the pancakes were more moist and almost soggy once I added a little butter and syrup to the extra drizzle of lemon juice. Meagan really liked the soggyness of them though, so don't hesitate to add a little extra lemon. The recipe I'm going to post is my recommendation on how to achieve optimal lemon poppyseed flavors using a combination of my lemon ricotta pancakes recipe, some tips from Martha Stewart and my own judgement. Note that I haven't tried this exact recipe yet, because it was basically a shot in the dark making these for the first time. Oooh I bet these would be great if you threw in some blueberries too.

Lemon Poppyseed Ricotta Pancakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese, plus more for serving
3/4 cup milk
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. 
2) In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, milk, egg yolks, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the cheese mixture and mix until batter is just combined. Stir in lemon zest and poppy seeds.
3) Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff. Gently fold egg whites into batter.
4) Heat a griddle over medium-high heat and brush surface with butter. Pour in batter in whatever amount you prefer, leaving space as they will spread. Cook until golden and top begins to bubble, 3 to 4 minutes. Gently turn and continue cooking until bottoms are light brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. Mine seemed to burn a little quickly, so be careful. 

Pepper Sky's - Cambridge, MA

Chinese Ravioli
     I am no Thai food expert, but between Pepper Sky's and Brown Sugar, I'm convinced anything and everything they eat is exceptional. Mary talks about Pepper Sky's all the time, my roommates get it all the time... so naturally,  I was overdue for a visit. For an appetizer, we ordered the Chinese Ravioli. These were delicious steamed pork and shrimp dumplings with a sweet ginger sauce. They were nice and light and fresh and the sauce was the perfect light sweetness.
     For the meal, we split the Cashew Chicken. I thought the menu description was impressive, but I was even more impressed when it was delivered to our table. It had everything under the sun! It had chicken breast sautéed with green bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots mushrooms, onions, pineapple, and pik pow relish (a sweet chili jam), and it was topped with cashews. I was in love. Everything was perfectly tender. The blend of the citrus flavors from the pineapple with the ginger and sweet chili sauce at the bottom of the dish was just incredible. Topped with those cashews? OH man it was just stupid good. Letting the sticky rice soak up the sauce was just icing on the cake. I still can't get over how good the sweet and spicy flavors were together. Highly recommended!
Cashew Chicken

Soft Pudding Monster Cookies - My Kitchen, Cambridge, MA

     Joan was having a party. This is a great opportunity. It is a great opportunity for me to make a full batch of cookies, get to eat some of the dough, have a couple cookies, and take the rest to share with others and not feel bad eating them all myself. I've seen numerous cookie recipes with pudding mix in them. Apparently it makes them chewy. I had to find out myself. I tried out this recipe for Soft Pudding Monster Cookies that I found on a blog called For the Love of Dessert and they were soft and chewy and soft and chewy and oooooh so soft and chewy just like I had hoped and expected!

Soft Pudding Monster Cookies
Soft Pudding Monster Cookies

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 box (3.4oz) vanilla pudding
1 tsp. baking soda
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 c. peanut butter
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. M&Ms
1/2 c. chocolate chips

1) In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, and vanilla pudding and set aside. 
2) Cream together butter, peanut butter, and sugars until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Then add egg and vanilla. 
3) Reduce to low speed and add flour mixture. Combine until just incorporated. Add oats, M&Ms, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips. 
4) Line cookie sheets with parchment and scoop large ball of dough into palms and roll. Space cookies 2 inches apart. Slightly press down on cookie balls to flatten. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling wrack. 

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