Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spicy Deviled Eggs

After talking about deviled eggs last week, Z and I decided to make our own.

Our long weekend was spent relaxing, biking, and just enjoying the sunshine with family and friends. We took a trip to deCordova on Saturday, and also had dinner with my parents at The Publick House. We ate well, we drank even better, and I did a lot of sleeping. A lot. It was glorious.

After so much rest and relaxation, Z and I decided to be productive on Memorial Day and make some food for a cookout at his godfather's home. Knowing the main dishes were already taken care of, we decided to make some deviled eggs - with a twist. A spicy twist.

Spicy Deviled Eggs
Adapted from DeviledEgg.org

-12 hard boiled eggs, peeled
-1/2 cup Trader Joe's Wasabi Mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise, for more mild deviled eggs)
-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
-1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-1 tablespoon minced jalapeno peppers (or 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced)
-1 minced green onion stalk
-1 tablespoon dried parsley
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper to sprinkle on top

1. Cut peeled eggs in half length-wise and place yolks in a mixing bowl; set the whites aside. Mash the yolks with the back of a fork and add mayo, mustard, cheddar cheese, jalapeno, green onion, and parsley. Mix well. Add salt and pepper as desired.
2. Spoon or pipe the filling back into egg white. Sprinkle tops with cayenne pepper.
3. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Despite how spicy these deviled eggs sound, they were actually rather mild - but intensely flavorful. Although Z and I like our food on-fire-spicy, it was nice that these ended up more mild, since we were feeding a small crowd - and not everyone likes to eat fire. 

How was your Memorial Day weekend? 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rum and Deviled Eggs at Highland Kitchen

After hearing rave reviews about it from folks at The Chocolate Tarte tasting, Z, my cousins and I decided to have dinner at Highland Kitchen in Somerville this past Wednesday evening.

Highland Kitchen is randomly set in a residential area right outside of Davis Square. On this finally warm, sunny day, Highland had their front restaurant windows open, inspiring people on the sidewalk to come in and join the bustling dining crowd inside.

Despite the amount of full tables when we got there, there was no wait (although you do need your complete party present in order to be seated). Upon sitting down, I was immediately impressed at how creative Highland's cocktail concoctions were. Their beer list is OK, and their wine list is also fairly impressive, for being more of a bar/grill type place.

For our drinks, I ordered the Monsoon ($7), made with Mt. Gay rum, mango and ginger beer.

Z got the Mark N Stormy ($8.50), made with Makers Mark, spicy homemade chili-infused ginger beer. My drink was refreshing and not overwhelmed with the sweet mango (thankfully), while Z's cocktail was spicy and strong. A little too spicy for my liking, but that's only because I'm not a fan of drinking spicy - despite the fact that I adore spicy food. 

For an appetizer, Z and I split the Deviled Eggs ($3.50).

The deviled eggs were good, but they definitely don't compare to Deep Ellum's (they make the best deviled eggs). 

My cousins ordered one of the specials for their appetizer: Fried Green Tomatoes, served with bacon and a blue cheese sauce. I, obviously, didn't try any of this, but my cousins devoured it and loved it. 

Dinner for me was the Black Bean Veggie Burger ($8.95), served with guacamole, pico de gallo, and jack cheese. Side options included house-made fries or mixed greens, and I went with the fries. One of my Twitter peeps told me Highland Kitchen had the best meatless burger in the city, and it was definitely delicious - and the "meatiest" meatless burger I've ever had (it was huge!). The flavor fell a little flat, however, and the burger was a tad dry - but all in all, it was satisfying, and I loved the house-made pickles that came on the side.

Our meal at Highland Kitchen overall was a successful one, and our waiter was fantastic. The prices were also reasonable, especially for the portions you get. I'd definitely go back, especially considering how close it is to The Chocolate Tarte - chocolate rosemary tartes for dessert, anyone?

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day Weekend! Anyone have any fun plans for the long weekend?

Highland Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Feeding Vegetarians and Omnivores for $50

Last weekend, my friend Zack expressed interest in making another affordable meal for The EE. Knowing there were vegetarians and omnivores in the house that evening (Z let us use his kitchen, and we had a couple of friends over), Zack decided to make two separate meals using a lot of the same ingredients – one for the omnivores, one for the vegetarians. The main ingredients throughout included carrots, white wine, shallots, butter, olive oil, and salt and pepper. The two dishes these ingredients created: Cod atop roasted tomatoes and a fennel-carrot puree, as well as zucchini and carrot pasta with a mushroom and white wine sauce.

The best part? We got to drink wine while we (ahem, Zack) cooked - and the wine was on sale.

Single ladies: he's available! ;)

The pasta sauce for the vegetarian dish was made with mushrooms, celery, carrots, shallots, garlic, white wine, and five drops of light cream.

The fish sauce was made with butter, minced shallots, white wine, grapefruit juice and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard.

Peeling the carrots and zucchini for the "pasta" was...interesting. Make sure to have a sharp peeler on hand! The best part about this vegetarian dish is that it's really versatile - I'm sure it would be great made with cucumbers in the summertime for a twist on pasta salad.

Zack prepared the cod simply with salt, pepper and some fresh lemon juice. 

To cook the cod, Zack browned each side of the fish in a frying pan with some olive oil, fresh thyme sprigs, butter, and lemon juice - and "basted" the fish while it cooked, like this: 

The cod was served atop roasted tomatoes (they were cooked for about 40 minutes at 250 degrees), as well as a fennel and carrot puree.

The vegetable pasta was cooked for a few minutes in boiling salted water, and then tossed with the mushroom sauce. 

Who knew vegetables replacing carbs could be so good? I even commented as I was eating this dish that I forgot I wasn't eating actual pasta - the flavorful sauce and slightly al dente veggies made this one satisfying "pasta" dish. I also tried a bit of the cod, which was flaky, slightly buttery, and almost like a sponge for the luxurious sauce poured over it. The fennel and carrot puree also added a nice sweetness to help cut any heaviness from the buttery sauce.

Besides the wine being such a steal, the total cost for both of these meals was just over $50 - and they both fed about 6 people total. That's about $8 per person, for a pretty "formal" Sunday night dinner (more formal than I'd normally cook, anyway). 

Have you ever had to cook a meal for omnivores and vegetarians? If so, what did you prepare? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pomegranate and White Chocolate Whoopie Pies

I know pomegranates are good for me - and that they taste delightful - yet I rarely eat them. I really have no explanation as to why that is, besides the fact that pomegranates can be a little more expensive than, say, bananas, which I buy every single week.

Thankfully, the folks at POM Wonderful care about my health - and kindly sent me a case of their juice.

Their hope was that I would come up with several delicious recipes using their 100% pomegranate juice. Ideas have been bouncing around my head for about a week now, but on Sunday, when the weather was dreary and my oven was eager to be turned on, I decided to make whoopie pies (I blame the episode of "Dessert First" I watched, where Anne Thornton baked traditional whoopie pies). I knew that pomegranate went well with white chocolate, so I did a quick Google search, found a few recipe ideas, and improvised the filling by adding 3 tablespoons of POM Wonderful, about a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest, and a little salt.

Pomegranate and White Chocolate Whoopie Pies 
Yields: 6 large whoopie pies 
-½ cup butter, melted
-1 cup sugar
-½ teaspoon baking soda
-¼ teaspoon salt
-1 egg
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-½ cup buttermilk
-White Chocolate and Pomegranate Filling (see below)

Directions for cookies:
1.)   Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or grease and flour liberally); set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix butter with sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Alternately add flour and buttermilk, beating on low speed after each addition just until mixture is combined. Spoon dough with an ice cream scoop, 1 inch apart onto prepared cookie sheet.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes or until tops are set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Spread the flat side of half of the cookies with the White Chocolate and Pomegranate Filling. Top with the remaining cookies, flat sides down. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

White Chocolate and Pomegranate Filling:
-1/4 cup white chocolate chips
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
-¼ cup melted better
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-4 cups powdered sugar
-3 tbsp. POM Wonderful
-1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
-Pinch of salt

Directions for filling: In a small saucepan, combine the white chocolate chips and heavy cream. Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate nearly melts. Remove from heat; stir until smooth. Cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine mascarpone cheese and butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add 4 cups powdered sugar, beating well. Beat in the cooled white chocolate mixture; then add pomegranate juice, lemon zest and salt. Mix well. Spread on cakes with a knife, once cakes have cooled completely. 

All I can say is wow. The fluffy, vanilla cookies complemented the slight tartness from the pomegranate filling so well - I'm pretty sure my eyes were watering as I was inhaling one of them. The filling is intensely sweet, so next time I'll probably use less powdered sugar - but all in all, these babies were decadent, and the slightly citrus filling would be perfect for a dessert on a hot summer day.

What recipe would you make with POM Wonderful?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Chocolate Tarte in Somerville

Last week, I was invited to a tasting at The Chocolate Tarte in Somerville by owner Linda Hein and Elizabeth at Free Food Boston.

"At the chocolate tarte, we believe in doing a few things very well. We have spent countless hours perfecting each of these custom cakes, truffles and tartes, so that we offer a product that is fresh, all-natural, luscious, and decidedly one-of-a-kind."

The description above could not be closer to the truth - after tasting some of Hein's creations, it was clear that she believes in a high quality, delicious product - that isn't pumped full of sugar, butter and artificial flavors or preservatives.

Among the spread this evening were some of Hein's made-from-scratch cupcakes with Swiss meringue buttercream. The cupcake flavors were vanilla, chocolate and red velvet - I sampled the red velvet, which was perfectly moist, and the buttercream was wonderfully fluffy and not overly sweet (it actually reminded me a little bit of marshmallow, which is a very good thing).

We also tasted some of Hein's dark chocolate truffles, which are right up my alley - intensely chocolatey, but not intensely sweet. These were actually sort of bitter, which proved that real dark chocolate was providing the flavor. 

We also tried some of Hein's rich, moist, decadent brownies...

...As well as a slew of her handmade truffles (which are made with chocolate and cream - and nothing else), including one made with tequila - which I, of course, loved. Booze and chocolate can never go wrong in my book, but this combination was also very subtle, which made tequila somewhat bearable on the palate. Quite a feat, if you ask me. 

My favorite dessert of the evening, though, had to be the chocolate rosemary tarte. This combination of flavors was incredibly unique and surprising on the palate, but had an all-around pleasing flavor. Salt and caramel and/or chocolate seems to be the big savory/sweet combination right now, but after tasting these tartes, I strongly believe rosemary and chocolate will be the next big thing (or, at least should be).

Although I didn't snag a piece, Hein also served us her beautiful red velvet cake. 

The Chocolate Tarte also makes wedding cakes, cookies, and vegan desserts, to name a few, and even has coffee and tea for us caffeine fiends.

They also just started offering SoCo Creamery ice cream, to help wash down all those handmade truffles and cakes. 

It was really wonderful to meet Hein and hear about her passion for what she does everyday. As of right now, The Chocolate Tarte is a one-woman show - Hein even uses a regular kitchen-sized, electric oven for all of her baking, because she feels a large chef's oven never bakes her creations quite right - and if you knock on her door while you're walking your dog at 10 p.m. at night (because she will be there), she'll gladly give you a truffle (or two). To me, that alone makes this bakery and chocolate shoppe a true neighborhood business. 

Have you ever been to The Chocolate Tarte? What's your review?

Chocolate Tarte on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 19, 2011

All-Natural Creations at boYO

On Tuesday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a tasting at boYO in the Charles River Plaza on Cambridge Street. Upon walking inside, I was immediately greeted by owner Lori Peljovich, who offered me a "cocktail" - aka, a Strawberry Banana Smoothie in a small margarita class.

While I sipped the fresh, frozen smoothie, I chatted with Lori and the other bloggers in attendance, which included Forays of a Finance Foodie, Recipe Can, Boston Bakes and Fussy Eater. I also took in the bright, cheery decor - complete with pink balloons, which were in honor of boYO's second birthday, happening the next day.

Before we started sampling some of boYO's frozen treats, Lori explained to us the concept of boYO, driving home the fact that all of her creations are fresh, natural and thus good for you (depending on what toppings you choose - which range from Cocoa Puffs to fresh fruit). Even one blogger asked: "How do you get the blueberry and blackberry flavors in your Black and Blue yogurt? Syrups? Powders?" Lori responded, casually: "We use blackberries and blueberries." What a concept.

Our first sample was boYO's original frozen yogurt, served with a fresh raspberry. The flavor was like no frozen yogurt I had before - it tasted exactly like a cup of plain yogurt, just extra creamy and cold. It was clear there were no added sugars or artificial flavors here. 

Next up was the Black and Blue, which was one of my favorites we tried that evening. The flavor was just so fresh, and being a huge fan of blueberries, I liked how the blueberry flavor was very prominent throughout. 

For the sweeter tooths, Lori then brought us a "twist" creation (where you can combine any two current flavors). Our twist this evening included Birthday Cake and Oreo yogurts, complete with mini chocolate chips. I liked this combination, but I would have enjoyed these two flavors better if they were separate - which might be due to my lack of a sweet tooth. 

Our tasting marathon continued with the Banana yogurt, garnished with peanut butter chips. I adore the combination of banana with peanut butter, so this was a total win for me. The banana flavor was just so real. I usually hate banana-flavored things (although I love bananas), but since actual, real bananas are used in this recipe - and it showed - I really enjoyed this. 

Next up was the boYO Berry, which is a medley of fresh berries, including raspberries. I commented to Lori how I will be craving this on a hot summer day (if a hot summer day ever happens this year). It was very refreshing and light. 

Our last sample was the Iced Coffee flavored yogurt, which I must say was my least favorite of the evening (I write this as I'm guzzling down an iced coffee, mind you). For some reason, the tangy yogurt mixed with one of my favorite flavors in the world just didn't do it for me. I can also be a little sensitive when it comes to the flavor of yogurt, though - so if you're a regular yogurt eater, and you also love coffee - I think this is definitely worth a taste.

In addition to frozen yogurt, boYO also serves gelato (the Bailey's flavor is out-of-this-world), sorbet, Brigham's ice cream, pies, and candy, to name a few. They also make the waffle cones on the premises, which you can smell immediately upon walking into the place. 

After we tasted our samples, Lori let us go behind the counter and create our own dishes. This was a really fun and interactive way to see how the boYO process works. You first simply pick a yogurt/gelato/ice cream/sorbet flavor, then add as many toppings and syrups as you wish. Will power is optional. 

Finance Foodie and Recipe Can making their creations!

Lori and the Fussy Eater.

Boston Bakes filling her cup with some Original boYO.

Some of our toppings choices. 

Syrups galore!
My creation included Oreo yogurt, crushed Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Nutella syrup, a little banana and granola. Not a bad combination, if I do say so myself!

My creation.

Overall, my experience at boYO was an incredibly positive one. Lori is clearly passionate about her product, and I love the fact that these normally-indulgent treats are actually good for you, thanks to the natural ingredients inside of them. There are also endless combinations of toppings, yogurts, etc. - and the menu is ever-changing. Lori's even open to trying out new flavors, per her customer's requests, so if you have a frozen yogurt you wish existed - just ask Lori. She'll probably make it for you.

Thanks, boYO, for a wonderful evening!

boYo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Roasted Asparagus Pesto

Good morning! Any other Bostonians a little sick of this rainy, foggy, dreary weather? Yeah...me too.

We could all use a fresh, spring-time recipe - so I thought today would be a good day to share the Roasted Asparagus Pesto recipe I made for a recent Local in Season article.

Although I eat asparagus year round, it's really meant for the spring season - and we all know in-season produce is always the most delicious.

Let's pretend the puddles outside are drying up and that spring is existing. Having a spoonful of this pesto should help make the weather seem a little less dreary.

What are you looking forward to doing most this spring/summer? I'm looking forward to a possible trip to the Cape - I've never been there!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pepperland Cafe in South Berwick, Maine

On Saturday afternoon, Z and I drove up to South Berwick, Maine to see my sister, her husband, my brother and my niece. My sister's 31st birthday was on Sunday, so we all had plans to go out to dinner and celebrate. My sister and her husband have been raving about Pepperland Cafe (which is right up the street from them) for a while now, so we decided to go there for my sister's birthday celebration.

Pepperland Cafe has a big focus on locally-grown, organic ingredients, and this dedication to quality food was very apparent in every bite. The atmosphere was also very down-to-earth, with warm, welcoming colors on the walls.

To start my meal, I went with the Smuttynose IPA.

We also shared a massive plate of Pepperland's Sweet Onion Rings with Hot Mustard Aioli and Pepperland Ketjap ($7). I honestly ate about 10 of these - they were wonderfully crispy and lightly fried, and were the least greasiest onion rings I've ever had, which is a very good thing, in my book. 

For another appetizer, Z and I split the Asparagus Soup ($4). We both love asparagus, and it was clear only fresh asparagus spears were used in this recipe. The soup was also very well seasoned. 

Since we had also had some appetizers at my sister's house (we're a family that loves our appetizers), Z and I decided to split an entree. We opted for the House-made Porcini Pappardelle with Portobello Mushroom, Swiss Chard and Garlic, all smothered in a mushroom cream sauce ($17). Homemade pasta, cream sauce, and fresh mushrooms? Winner winner pasta dinner.

Like the ever-changing dinner menu, Pepperland's dessert menu also changes daily - what's for dessert is what the chef decided to bake that day. Luckily for us, the chef had made his famous Parsnip Cake on Saturday, and we all split a ginormous slice. 

The cake was wonderfully moist, and reminded me of a lighter version of carrot cake (cream cheese frosting and all).

After dining at Pepperland Cafe, I can see why my sister and her husband are such fans of the place. I'll always support a local restaurant that appreciates local and/or organic food. A menu that changes daily means there's a chef in the kitchen who is innovative, dedicated and passionate, and that always comes out in their food. 

What's your favorite restaurant that uses local and/or organic ingredients?

Pepperland Cafe on Urbanspoon