Thursday, February 11, 2016

I Thought I Smelled Cabbage

Slumbrew - Somerville, MA
Nachos, tots, pretzel

     Months and months ago, I was part of the crew that moved Slumbrew into their new location right around the corner from Gentle Giant. I'm not going to go into the details about the move, but they gave us beer as a tip and let us hang out for a bit. After a day of moving and minimal eating/drinking, one beer hit hard. Slumbrew has some really unique beers; a lot of which are pretty high on the alcohol content and quite bitter, which is not quite my style. However, after Rolando and I finished a different job a few weeks ago, we decided to head over and grab some foods. Plus, he was aching to get in on one of their sour beers called Gose Revolution, which is a German style ale with hibiscus, sea salt and citrus. It was delicious! I had never even heard of a sour beer before, but this was easily my favorite beer of theirs. It felt a little bit lighter but had a citrus taste. I don't know how to describe beer, so I'll get to the food.
     As David finished up his job that day, he came over and joined our Connect Four game at Slumbrew (Ro and I tied 2-2 but I think I would've beaten him on that 5th game). Everyone was starving, so we ordered a plate of their nachos. Unfortunately, they were out of the pulled pork which was supposed to come on top, but I had seen their little mini kitchen before and the place was packed, so I understood how the kitchen itself probably was having a hard time keeping up. Instead they threw a cup of chili on top, which was a nice, simple meat and bean chili. The chips were the best part though. They were the perfect thickness, didn't get soggy under the toppings and had a great lime flavor. Something was different about these though, and I honestly couldn't figure it out. They had a richer flavor than most tortilla chips. As if they had a brown buttery flavor maybe? Can't be. Seems like way too much work for tortilla chips. I'm not even sure they were homemade or not, but I'd guess so. Either way, I could eat those chips until I die. The nachos also had jack cheese, pico de gallo, and a lime sour cream. While they weren't the best I've had, and I wished for more toppings, those chips made them great. That and the sour cream. The lime sour cream was new to me, and it had double the bite of normal sour cream. Very cool.
     We also got some of the tater tots which were.... tater tots. It's practically impossible to screw those up or make them super crazy awesome. They were served with a chipotle ketchup, which was good, but they were better with Rolando's warm beer cheese that came with his soft pretzel. I love the bite that beer cheese has, especially as it cools. The soft pretzel was fabulous too with the perfect slightly stiff shell and the soft, squishy dough inside. I definitely have to go back and get my own pretzel which should be real tough considering it's a rough 1 minute walk from the warehouse. Bummer.


Amelia's Taqueria - Allston, MA

Tacos al pastor
     Last Sunday I convinced Eric to go do some winter hiking with me in the Fells. After a short hour and a half through the snow and the hills, it was lunch time. We came back to Allston and decided to try out Amelia's Taqueria on Brighton Ave. It seems like there are hundreds of restaurants on Brighton Ave in Allston, and I haven't been to nearly enough. I feel like they are so easily overlooked when comparing to Cambridge and Boston restaurants, but they really shouldn't be. Amelia's was great. For 3.75 I got the largest taco I've ever seen. The woman warmed up two small corn tortillas and loaded on the ingredients. Their selection was incredible. They had maybe 7 kinds of meats to choose from (including cow tongue... which I've had before with my grandpa), tons of different vegetables cut up different ways, cooked different ways and seasoned different ways. For example, I got purple cabbage on my taco. Who does that? Who offers that? I was thrilled to be presented with so many options. Anyway, I got the al pastor, which is apparently pork marinated in a mixture of chilis and other spices. Supposedly they generally cut it into thin strips, put them together and rotate over a fire, but the chunks of meat I had were more like larger, thick chunks. I'm ok with that. 
     I also got pice de gallo, sour cream and Oaxaca cheese which is a semi-soft Mexican stringy cheese. The cheese is known to be a good melting cheese and has a mellow buttery flavor.  Throw in that purple cabbage and some pork, and you've got a recipe for the strangest taco. It was delicious though. I loved all the different flavors and the crunch that the cabbage added to the taco. I was astounded by how much meat they gave me. Totally worth the money. Their chips and guac was spot on too. They stuffed a ton of the salty, lime chips in the bag and the guac was the perfect mix of smooth with some small avocado, onion and tomato chunks inside.
     If you're looking for a burrito or Mexican food in Allston, definitely stop by Amelia's. They have great portions, they're quick and fairly priced. I want to go back and try other things!


Espresso Chocolate Shortbreads - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

Espresso chocolate shortbreads
     You can never go wrong with Smitten Kitchen.... well, unless you're on a time crunch. While most of her recipes are fairly involved and complicated, this one was relatively simple (I don't mean to take away from her recipes because they're complex and intricate for a reason and that's because they're incredible). But, finding a nut free cookie recipe that's safe for David is hard for me because all the best ones I save have nuts in them because they generally trump all others. Luckily, I stumbled upon her collection of cookie recipes and found these espresso shortbreads. I don't know if I've ever even made shortbreads before. 
What I thought was so cool about this recipe was the bag method she introduced. Once the dough was made, you put it in a plastic bag and roll it out inside the bag. Then you chill it, cut open the bag and cut these perfect little adorable squares. It's beautiful. What was also beautiful was the dough. Lord have mercy this cookie dough was delicious... and raw egg free so I felt slightly less guilty about eating half of it. I loved the subtle coffee flavor and the crumbly-ness of the cookie so much. So so much.

Espresso Chocolate Shortbreads

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (or instant coffee)
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse, sea or kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. Dissolve the espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes or until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla, dissolved espresso and salt, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour. Try not to work the dough to much. Just mix it until it's incorporated and fold in the chopped chocolate. 
Dough in a bag

3. Using a spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving it unzipped and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2 inch rectangle that’s 1/4 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies.

6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.


Sweet Potato Gnocchi - My Kitchen, Allston, MA

Sweet potato gnocchi

     Sweet Potato Gnocchi is one of those recipes I was eager to make yet dreading it at the same time. I just pictured them coming out like little gooey dough balls with the consistency of tapioca balls or something. I hoped I wouldn't get them that wrong, but you never know. I finally mustered up the energy to try them and they were fabulous! I take that back. They were decent. What was fabulous was the dish I made with them. 
Sweet potato gnocchi, brussel sprouts, goat cheese, pepitas, and dried cranberries
     So the gnocchi themselves came from Oh My Veggies. They were relatively easy to make, but you just have to prepare your roasted sweet potatoes far enough in advance so you're not dealing with hot sweet potatoes mush when trying to form your dough. If you check out her recipe, it tells you to add brown sugar. I simply neglected to do so because I got distracted, but do as you please. 
     As for the recipe I used for the whole dish, I found it on Empowered Sustenance. It basically tossed the gnocchi together with brussel sprouts, crumbled goat cheese, pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and dried cranberries. I made a few tweaks to it like not adding bacon or therefore frying the gnocchi in the residual bacon fat. I also didn't add any dressing. I didn't want to mask my gnocchi flavors or the brussel sprout and goat cheese flavors. One thing that really kicked this recipe into gear was opting to cook the sprouts in coconut oil. Literally everything coconut oil touches turns to gold. It's magical. After I had boiled the gnocchi like the recipe from Oh My Veggies called for, I crisped up their edges by sautéing them in a little coconut oil alongside my sprouts. When I was assembling the salad, I waited until the end to add the goat cheese and pumpkin seeds so that if I needed to reheat some at a later date, I wouldn't worry about cooking the cheese and seeds. 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi 

1 1/2 c. mashed roasted sweet potato, drained in fine mesh sieve for about 2 hours
6 oz. ricotta cheese, drained in fine mesh sieve for about 2 hours < don't use fat free! My mistake :/
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour + more for rolling and shaping gnocchi

1. Combine sweet potato and ricotta in a large bowl and add parmesan cheese, and salt. 

2. Stir until well-combined. Fold in flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until a dough is formed. Add as little dough as possible. The dough should be slightly sticky but not so sticky that you can't work with it.

3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Divide into 3 pieces. Using your palms, roll and stretch each piece into a 20-inch rope. You may end up dividing the dough even further if your rope gets unruly. Add more flour as needed.

4. Cut each rope into 20 one-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on fork and gently press the center with your thumb, rocking back and forth.
5. Boil finished gnocchi one or two handfuls at a time in a large pot of salted water for 3-5 minutes, until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet to cool.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts

6 cups brussels sprouts, halved
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1 batch sweet potato gnocchi (see above)
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1-2tbs coconut oil. Once hot, add in brussels sprouts and cook until crisp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remove and place in a bowl. 

2. In the same skillet, heat another tbs of coconut oil and add sweet potato gnocchi in batches cooking until crisp on all sides, rotating with tongs.

3. Continue adding additional butter/coconut oil and gnocchi until all has been cooked. Add to brussels sprouts along with dried cranberries. When ready to serve, add pumpkin seeds and goat cheese crumbles. Serve warm. 

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