Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dinner at Rialto

Last week, Z and I braved the freezing cold...and wet, falling snow...for dinner at Rialto Restaurant in Harvard Square. We may or may not have walked from our house in Porter Square, which normally would be fine, but - as I mentioned before - it was freezing and snowing. Thankfully, we made it to Rialto alive.

We had a gift card to Rialto, which gave us a chance to finally try this highly acclaimed restaurant. The prices are a bit high for a "normal" evening out, but with James Beard Award-winning Chef Jody Adams in the kitchen, it's no surprise why.

Z and I sat in the bar area, which was still an elegant and romantic spot to dine in. (Also, the bar menu had a few more vegetarian options for us). 

My meal began with a glass of pinot noir ($12).

Review of Rialto Restaurant in Cambridge, Mass. | The Economical Eater

After we placed our order for dinner, our slightly over attentive yet very knowledgeable waitress brought us some fresh, crusty rolls with dipping oil - made with some of the best olive oil I've ever tasted.

Review of Rialto Restaurant in Cambridge, Mass. | The Economical Eater

For our meal, Z and I decided to split a bunch of small plates so we could try a little bit of everything. First up: the cheese plate ($16), which came with three different types of cheeses and accompanying fruits and handmade, rustic crackers.

Cheese plate from Rialto Restaurant | The Economical Eater

Z and I are tough critics when it comes to our cheese plates, but Rialto's version did not disappoint. There was more than enough cheese for the two of us to split, and the almond-stuffed dates, fresh grapes, and tangy fruit "jelly" (it was more like a grown-up Fruit Roll-Up) were all fantastic complements to the cheeses.

I'm a terrible blogger and didn't write down the name of these chickpea cakes ($5), but trust me when I tell you, they were much more delicious than they look. Somehow, a ton of flavor was infused in these little cakes, and the accompanying herb sauce was a fresh and necessary addition to the dish.

Chickpea cakes from Rialto Restaurant | The Economical Eater

Next up was the arancini ($5), which was chocked full of perfectly cooked risotto and melty, delightfully salty taleggio cheese. The breading on the outside was wonderfully crisp without being greasy, and the sweeter tomato sauce underneath it all made for a divine dipping sauce.

Arancini from Rialto Restaurant | The Economical Eater

We also ended up dipping our arancini (and, well, everything else) in these saffron peppers ($5).

Saffron Peppers from Rialto Restaurant | The Economical Eater

Chocked full of golden raisins and pine nuts, these sweet, saffron-infused peppers were borderline addictive. Honestly, you wouldn't think a bowl of soft peppers would be so good, but they were. Sometimes, the simplest dishes - when done well - can be the best, and this was our favorite dish of the night. 

All in all, we had an incredible meal at Rialto, and we were both so glad we finally got to try this place out. Trying just a few small dishes in the bar area also made the meal somewhat affordable, while still being special.

Have you ever dined at Rialto before? If yes, what's your review?

Rialto on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vegetarian-Friendly Super Bowl Recipes

Despite the Pats not making it to this year's Super Bowl, we still plan to watch the game/commercials. And eat our faces off.

Whether you're hosting the Super Bowl festivities this year, or simply looking to bring a simple (yet tasty) dish to a friend's house, these vegetarian- and vegan-friendly recipes should do the trick. They're indulgent and football-friendly, while also being [mostly] friendly to your waistline (and wallet!).

Vegetarian-Friendly Super Bowl Recipes | The Economical Eater

Appetizers/Lighter Fare:
Spicy Deviled Eggs
Jalapeno Poppers with Chive Cream Cheese
Baked Fontina
Black Bean Sliders
Hippie Joes
Veggie Sausage Subs
Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili
No-Yeast Pizza Dough (with Homemade Pizza Sauce)

Nutella and Banana Turnovers with Sea Salt
Boozy Irish Whoopie Pies
Guinness Dark Chocolate Brownies

Gin and Ginger Cocktail
Cucumber-Dill Gin Fizz
Jalapeno Dirty Martini

Will you be watching the Super Bowl this year?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tomato Rosemary Soup + Easy Homemade Veggie Stock

I've been making a whole lot of soups lately. But it wasn't until I cooked for a new catering client last week - who was allergic to garlic - that I had to make my own homemade stock. And I had to make it quick, considering I didn't realize all store-bought stocks have garlic in them until it was almost too late.

The homemade stock ended up turning out so well - and so flavorful! - that I decided to use the leftovers in a soup for Z and I almost immediately. That's how this here soup was born (it was also inspired by this Food52 recipe). Chocked full of tomato and rosemary flavor, with hearty chunks of potatoes and leafy green kale, this was one satisfying (and healthy!) soup. The buttery garlic bread we dunked into it wasn't so healthy, but life's all about balance, right?

Tomato Rosemary Soup with Kale & Potatoes | The Economical Eater

Tomato Rosemary Soup with Kale & Potatoes
Yields: 6 servings
Inspired by
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 yellow onion, diced
-4 stalks of celery, diced
-3 cloves of garlic, minced
-3 sprigs of rosemary
-4 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
-Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-1/2 cup dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)
-1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
-2 cups homemade vegetable stock (recipe follows) + 1 cup water*
-3 handfuls baby kale

1.) Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat; add onion and celery, and cook until mostly softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary, potatoes, crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper; cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until potatoes begin to become tender.
2.) Add white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove the juices from the onions and celery. Add tomatoes and breakdown with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes.
3.) Add vegetable stock and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and continue letting the soup cook until potatoes are tender and tomatoes are broken down. About 5 minutes before the soup is done/ready to serve, stir in kale until wilted. (Remember to remove rosemary sprigs before serving!)

*More stock/water may be needed after soup boils; add as necessary.

Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock
Yields: About 4 1/2 cups
Adapted from
-4 1/2 cups of water
-1/2 tablespoon of peppercorns
-2 bay leaves
-1/2 small yellow onion cut into 4s (no need to peel if onion is clean)
-Pinch of dried thyme

1.) Add all of ingredients to a large pot over high heat. Cover the pot loosely with a lid, and allow it to come to a boil. When water reaches a boil, reduce heat to simmer and remove lid. Allow stock to simmer for at least 10 minutes.
2.) After 10+ minutes, drain stock and use right away in soup or store in an airtight container in the fridge. (If you're not using the stock for more than a few days, transfer to the freezer for future use).

[Print this recipe]

Tomato Rosemary Soup with Kale & Potatoes | The Economical Eater

It's incredible how flavorful this quick vegetable stock was! And mixed with the celery, onions, wine, rosemary, and tomatoes...just a fantastic combination all around. I will definitely be making this soup again.

Have you made any good soups lately?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Brunch at Beat Hotel

Our friends from New York were in town this past weekend, and we made plans to do brunch (with a few other couples included). I wanted to pick a space that could accommodate a larger party, had great food, drinks, and atmosphere, AND took reservations. That ideal brunch spot ended up being Beat Hotel.

I've been to Beat Hotel several times now for drinks as well as dinner, and I just love the vibe there. The food and cocktails have also been consistently great, and I love how the owner is always walking around, greeting people with a smile. 

Thankfully, Beat Hotel doesn't disappoint on the brunch front, either. 

My meal began with a Bloody Mary ($10), which had a nice kick of spice. I'm a sucker for olives in my Bloodys (which this had), but I also appreciated the peperoncini garnish.

Brunch at Beat Hotel | The Economical Eater

Beat Hotel's brunch menu offers a variety of breakfast and lunch dishes (and plenty of vegetarian options), but I was in the mood for breakfast. I opted for the Vegetarian Omelette ($14), which was chocked full of mushrooms, cheese, and onions. On the side was a delightfully thick slice of multigrain toast, a small side salad, and some crispy frites. 

Brunch at Beat Hotel | The Economical Eater

The side salad was a little too overdressed for my liking, but I still ended up eating the entire thing - I think the tangy dressing ended up complementing the other flavors on the plate well. The frites were a big hit throughout our table, as they were fantastically crisp and well seasoned. 

Many of us at the table also had a cup of coffee, and many of us commented on how good the coffee was. It's the little things, but I always appreciate a good cup of coffee at a restaurant!

During brunch, Beat Hotel also has live jazz, and - like when I went last time for dinner - the live music was exceptional. Not only was the music itself great, but it still somehow ends up being background music (vs. having to scream at the person next to you just to have a conversation).

Finally, the prices at Beat Hotel are a little more than what I'd normally like to pay, but this is one of the few places I'm willing to splurge. You really get what you pay for in terms of the quality of food, service, and atmosphere.

All in all, Beat Hotel ended up being the ideal place for our larger party to grab brunch and catch up.

Beat Hotel on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Kale, Onion, and Sausage Frittata

For Christmas, my parents gave me and Z a cast-iron pan. To say I was excited would be an understatement - I've been wanting one for quite some time now.

When we opened this gift, I knew the first thing I wanted to make in it: a frittata. And that's exactly what I did last weekend.

For this frittata, I used a combination of eggs and egg whites - Z is trying to cut back on his cholesterol intake, so we always have egg whites in the fridge. However, feel free to use just eggs for this recipe.

Frittatas are also a great way to use up leftover veggies and meats/veg-friendly "meats," so feel free to change this recipe up as you see fit. 

Kale, Onion, and Sausage Frittata | The Economical Eater

Kale, Onion, and Sausage Frittata
Yields: 3-4 servings
Adapted from Food Network
-8 large eggs (I used a combination of eggs and egg whites - about 50/50)
-2 tablespoons whole milk 
-Salt and pepper
-1 tablespoon butter
-1/2 yellow onion, diced
-1 to 1 1/2 cups baby kale 
-1 vegetarian Italian sausage, chopped
-Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-Pepper jack cheese (optional)

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.) In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.
3.) Melt butter in a cast-iron pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it begins it brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add kale, sausage, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute. Pour the eggs over the mixture.
4.) Pull the edges away from the sides of the pan with a spatula so the eggs flow to the bottom of the pan. When the frittata is half set, transfer the pan to the heated oven. 
5.) Bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese, and put the pan back in the oven for an additional 3-4 minutes, until cheese is melted and frittata is puffed and golden.

Paired with some toast and hot sauce, this was one incredible (and filling!) brunch.

What else should I make in my cast-iron pan?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stocking My Home Bar with RedEnvelope

We all know I like to drink...but our cozy little house in Somerville doesn't really give us the space to have a home bar. However, we make do with what we have when we entertain.

So, when the folks at RedEnvelope reached out to me and asked if I'd like to ring in the new year with them - by choosing which of their products I'd buy to decorate my home "bar" with - I quickly jumped at the chance. Even though I don't have the space for any of these products right now, my future house just might - and I was really impressed with RedEnvelope's items, as well as the prices.

So, in my dream world, here are some items I'd love to have stocked at my future home bar:

Beer Tasting Flight Set, $29.95

We're big into beer tastings in this house, so this beer flight - complete with four 6 ounce glasses and a wooden paddle - would be perfect for us. If you're giving this as a gift, you can even personalize the paddle with a custom message.

6-pack Wooden Beer Holder, $39.95

Ummm, yes, please! This wooden 6-pack holder would cut down on a lot of waste, as we're almost always bringing beer to any party/dinner party/gathering we go to. The holder is made from Western red cedar, and even has a convenient bottle opener on the side. 

HOOTCH-OWL™ Cocktail Tool Set, $29.99

This cocktail tool set is not only functional - it comes with a strainer, jigger, bottle opener, and knife - but it would also look great on a home bar! It's made from zinc alloy with an antique brass finish and stainless steel.

HOOTCH-OWL™ cocktail picks (set of four), $14.99

Dirty martinis are my weakness, but I'm always using toothpicks for the olives. These cute owl picks would be much more effective, not to mention attractive.

Honorable mention - this is just really cool: Picnic Backpack, $79.95


In a perfect world, I would buy this backpack. Not only does it carry everything you could possibly need for a picnic, but it also features an insulated main compartment to keep food cold. How cool is that?

So, that's how I would stock my hypothetical home bar. Which RedEnvelope products would you buy to stock yours? 

*All photos are from unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Indian-Spiced Chickpea & Vegetable Stew

Turmeric, cumin, garam masala, and coriander are my favorite spices to cook (and bake) with. I just love the intense flavors these spices give certain dishes, especially when used together.

The secret to this soup - and, well, to most recipes using spices - is to first infuse the spices in the oil before you begin cooking everything else. Simply heating the spices for a quick 10 seconds infuses the finished product with smooth, incredible flavor (vs. the almost chalky taste spices can give a dish when added later on).

This was Z and I's favorite soup creation so far this year. So, grab a spoon and dig in!

Indian-Spiced Chickpea & Vegetable Stew | The Economical Eater

*One note: Per usual, I didn't measure the spices - I eyeballed about 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, and 1 teaspoon ground coriander. Additional pinches of spices can be added later, if needed. 

Indian-Spiced Chickpea & Vegetable Stew
Yields: 4 servings
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-Garam masala
-Ground coriander
-Pinch of cayenne
-1/2 yellow onion, diced
-3 medium carrots (or 4 small carrots), chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
-2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
-1 bay leaf
-Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium to low heat. Add spices, stir, and cook only until fragrant (about 10 seconds). Add onions and carrots, and cook until softened (about 8-10 minutes).
2.) Add garlic and stir; cook just until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, vegetable broth, bay leaf, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil.
3.) Lower heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes (can simmer longer if necessary). Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary before serving.

[Print this recipe]

Indian-Spiced Chickpea & Vegetable Stew | The Economical Eater

This recipe is similar to the Spicy Chickpea and Vegetable Soup I made recently, but is packed with a whole bunch of different flavors. I loved the subtle heat from the cayenne mixed with the almost exotic flavors of the garam masala and turmeric. It doesn't hurt that this soup is super healthy, either (turmeric is one healthy spice!).

Indian-Spiced Chickpea & Vegetable Stew | The Economical Eater

The hearty texture from the carrots, tomatoes, and chickpeas also makes this one filling soup. Serve alongside some fresh bread for an extra boost of comfort.

What's your favorite soup or stew recipe to make when it's this freakin' cold outside?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Where to Eat (and Drink) in Hilton Head, South Carolina

A few days after Christmas, Z, myself, and his immediate family flew down to Hilton Head, South Carolina for Z's aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I met a lot of Laheys who couldn't make it to our wedding, and we had a great time hanging with them as well as scoping out the area. We rode bikes on the beach, played miniature golf, and even got to meet up with one of my friends from 8th grade (small world!).

But, as always, the food and drink we consumed were the highlights of the trip for me/us. Z, per usual, wanted to find great beer bars, and I, per usual, was happy to come along for the ride. We even had a few family dinners that weren't centered around beer, but still ended up being pretty fantastic meals.

So, if you ever find yourself in Hilton Head, here's where I recommend eating (and/or drinking):

We went here for a round of drinks twice during our time in Hilton Head. I don't recommend going on a Friday evening (hello, college crowd), but I do highly recommend going on a Monday/more low-key evening. We had a great time sampling a few beers from their lengthy beer list while enjoying the laid-back vibe, but there were also plenty of families eating dinner. Oh, and in the way back there's pool and other fun bar games to play!

This is actually the only place I got photos at (hey...I was on vacation!), but the beer list here is incredible. They have a lot of local brews, including the one Z tried: Orange Bliss Stout from Westbrook Brewing Co. It tasted exactly like those chocolate oranges (you know what I'm talking about?). So good.

We also tried a few appetizers at Bombora's, which were just as good as the beers...if not better. The dishes we tried were the fried green tomatoes with mango salsa and fried pickles.

Fried Green Tomatoes | The Economical Eater

Fried Pickles | The Economical Eater

I loved the fried tomatoes paired with the fresh, light salsa, and the fried pickles were fried in an almost tempura batter - a nice change from the usual heavy, breadcrumb-drenched fried pickles.

This tiny, dimly light restaurant doesn't even have a website, but it really doesn't need one. We came here for a family dinner earlier in our trip, and the menu seriously had something for everyone. We all loved the quirky yet tasteful decor, impressive wine and cocktail list, and the accommodating, knowledgeable staff. I'd definitely recommend coming here for a special occasion dinner, or even for a romantic evening out.

On our last night in Hilton Head, Z wanted to find a nicer restaurant that specialized in seafood for the rest of us pescatarians/omnivores. ELA's came highly recommended via online reviews, so we decided to check it out. Located right on the water, this cozy, intimate space was the perfect setting for our final family meal in Hilton Head. I had never had grouper before, so I decided to try their Pan-Roasted Grouper ($29), which came with lobster butter, truffle potato puree, and local baby vegetables. Every bite was flavorful and well-seasoned - this was the best dish I had on our trip by far.

Did you have any good eats during your holiday travels?

Lodge Beer & Growler Bar on Urbanspoon Bomboras Grille on Urbanspoon Vine on UrbanspoonELA's Blu Water Grille on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 6, 2014

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Growing up, my Irish/Scottish/English family ate a lot of boiled cabbage, especially with pot roast and potatoes at Sunday dinners. But it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I discovered the better, "baby cabbage," as well as the art of roasting vegetables. Now, roasted Brussels sprouts are my winter vegetable addiction. I can't get enough of them!

Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts | The Economical Eater

I recently also discovered the beauty of pairing sweet maple syrup with salty Brussels sprouts. Throw in some dried cranberries and roasted sunflower seeds, and you have yourself one heck of a winter side dish. 

Head on over to Local in Season for the full recipe!

Are you a fan of Brussels sprouts?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christmas 2013

Happy new year!!

It feels like Christmas happened about five weeks ago, but that could be because we've been traveling since Christmas Eve. We spent the Christmas holiday with my immediate family in New Hampshire, followed by a Lahey family trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina. We got home on New Year's Eve and rang in 2014 here in Somerville. It was a busy couple of days, but they were filled with family, friends, great food, and celebrations.

I'll provide some insight into where and what we ate while in South Carolina soon, but, for now, here's a peek into what our Christmas day looked like (complete with my nieces' matching pajamas - too cute!).

The hot toy of this year - a keyboard!

How was your holiday?