Friday, June 28

Berry Pavlova

I come from a meringue-loving family: lemon meringue pie is a holiday favorite, we always had a tub of meringue cookies in the pantry, and the go-to dessert for entertaining was individual meringue cups (often store-bought) filled with whipped cream and berries. Meringue was one of the first things I cooked growing up and I remember being amazed and delighted to see the egg whites puff up and expand in the mixer and getting to lick the leftovers off the beater. The pavlova is the ultimate meringue dessert: crunchy outer/marshmallowy inner meringue cake that's topped with whipped cream, raspberry sauce, and fresh berries. It's a messy, summery dessert that looks super impressive. Add some blueberries and it's the perfect thing to serve on the 4th of July.

Strawberry & Raspberry Pavlova:
  • Whip 4 egg whites* and a pinch of salt with a mixer until frothy, about 2 minutes.
  • Mix together 1 c. sugar and 1/2 tbsp. corn starch and gradually add to egg whites while the mixer is running on high.
  • Continue whipping and add 1 tsp. white vinegar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.
  • Continue mixing until stiff peaks forms, about 5-7 minutes.**
  • Spoon meringue onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread into an even circle. Smooth the top.
  • Bake in a 250F oven for 75 minutes, or until the outside is dry. Turn off the oven, open the oven door a crack, and leave meringue in until cooled.***
  • Meanwhile, combine 8-10 oz. fresh raspberries and 1 tbsp. sugar**** in a blender and puree until smooth.
  • Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and discard the seeds.*****
  • To assemble, top the meringue cake with whipped cream, the raspberry sauce, 1 c. sliced strawberries, and 1 c. raspberries.
  • Cut into wedges and serve.

Serves five-six
*Make sure there are no yolk particles or it won't whip to stiff peaks. Room temperature whites whisk better.
**You can tell that the peaks are stiff when you take out the whisk and the peaks stand straight up without flopping over.
***Meringue can be made a day in advance, cooled completely, and stored in an airtight container.
****You may want more or less sugar depending on how sweet the berries are.
*****Raspberry sauce can be made a day in advance and kept covered in the fridge.

Wednesday, June 26

Grilled Flank Steak with Fresh Horseradish

My husband and I ate some really delicious gourmet food on our honeymoon, but some of our favorite meals were simple dishes. Europeans have the ability to take a few ingredients, cook them perfectly, and transform them into something revolutionary. One dish that stuck out to us was a steak with fresh horseradish that we got from a small plates restaurant, Au Passage, in Paris. Steak and horseradish aren't an unusual pairing (see here and here), but fresh horseradish root has such a different flavor than the jarred stuff. It's sweet and spicy, it looks like Parmesan cheese when you grate it finely, and it melts onto the meat and on your tongue almost immediately. It's a great way to add flavor to a perfectly cooked steak.

Grilled Flank Steak with Fresh Horseradish:

  • Liberally season 1 lb. flank steak with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes while the grill preheats to high.
  • Grill the steak for 4 minutes per side, then remove from grill and cover with foil.
  • Let the steak rest for 15 minutes, then slice across the grain and arrange on a platter.
  • Drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil* and use a microplane to grate fresh horseradish root** on top.

Serves two-three
*Optional, but I like the additional flavor that a sharp, spicy olive oil adds.
**About 1-2 tbsp. of grated horseradish. I was able to find it easily at Whole Foods in the produce section.

Tuesday, June 25

Lobster, Corn, & Bacon Chowder

A rich and decadent chowder filled with chunks of lobster and crispy bacon

We've started an alternating Thursday night dinner date with our friends where one house cooks and the other house brings drinks and dessert. Last week was our first time getting cooked for and we were treated to a fabulous corn chowder with lobster. It was delicious, and reminded me of a similar Barefoot Contessa recipe that I've been hoping to make for a few years. So this weekend I made it (influenced by a huge sale our fish market was having on whole lobsters), incorporating a few tweaks for flavor and ease. It takes some labor, mainly from getting the meat out of the whole lobsters, but it's worth it for a summer chowder that's full of sweet corn and lobster flavor, crispy bacon, and a little spice. It feeds a ton of people, so expect leftovers (never a bad thing when it comes to soup).

Related Recipes:
- Corn, Potato, and Bacon Chowder
- Baked Lobster Tails with Garlic Panko Crust
- Creamy Lobster & Truffle Pasta

*You can browse all my lobster recipes here and all soup recipes here.

Lobster, Corn, & Bacon Chowder:
  • Remove and roughly chop the meat from cooked 2-3 lobsters,* reserving the shells in a separate container.
  • Heat 3/4 stick of butter in a large pot and add in 1 roughly chopped onion.
  • Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until translucent, then add in 1/4 c. Sherry and 1 tsp. paprika.
  • Cook for another minute or two, then add in 5 c. whole milk, 1 c. heavy cream, 1 c. dry white wine, the lobster shells, and 3 corncobs.**
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and cover with a lid.
  • Cook for 30 minutes, then remove the corncobs and large shells from the stock and pour the whole thing through a strainer into a large bowl.***
  • Rinse out the pot and place it back on  the stove over medium-high heat.
  • Add in 3 slices of diced thick-cut bacon and cook until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp.
  • Remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan, and add in 1 minced onion, 1 c. finely diced waxy potatoes,**** and 1 minced jalapeno pepper.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until vegetables have softened.
  • Add in the corn kernels, then pour in the lobster-corn stock and bring to a simmer.
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, then add in the lobster meat, 2 tbsp. minced chives, and 2 tbsp. more Sherry.
  • Check for seasoning, and allow lobster to warm through.
  • Divide into bowls and sprinkle with the cooked bacon.

Serves at least six
*About 4 lbs. total. You can also just buy 1 lb. of cooked lobster meat and omit the shells from the stock, but it won't have quite as much lobster flavor.
**Remove the kernels from the corn beforehand and reserve in a bowl.
***Stock can be made a day in advance, cooled, and kept in the fridge.
****I used small red potatoes, but any variety, such as Yukon Gold, will work.

Friday, June 21

Roasted Chicken & Grapes

Roast Chicken and Grapes

I’m always looking for new recipes for healthy, easy weeknight meals and this one from Food52 was a huge success. Red grapes and budget-friendly chicken thighs roast together in the oven until the chicken is golden and a rich sauce forms in the bottom of the pan. The grapes cook in some of the chicken juices and take on a nice savory-sweet flavor that is incredibly addicting. I cooked it all together in my cast iron skillet so clean-up was a breeze (always a plus on a busy weeknight).

Roasted Chicken & Grapes:
  • Remove stems from 1/2 lb. of red grapes and toss in a heavy, large skillet with 1 tsp. olive oil and a generous pinch of salt.
  • Meanwhile, toss 4-5 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 sprig of rosemary, salt and pepper.
  • Nestle chicken into the grapes, skin-side up, and cook in a 450F oven for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Turn on the broiler for the last 2-4 minutes, or until skin is crispy and golden.
  • Remove the chicken and most of the grapes from the pan, place on a plate, and cover with foil.
  • Meanwhile, spoon any fat off remaining juices in the pan and place over medium heat.
  • Add in 1 minced shallot and 1/4 c. vermouth* and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in 1/4 c. chicken stock and reduce sauce for another minute, then turn off the heat and whisk in 1 tbsp. cold butter and a handful of minced parsley.
  • Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Serves three-four
*Or white wine.

Thursday, June 20

Salmon with Radish Raita Sauce

It's Copper River salmon season - which, for those who don't know, is a short period of time in early summer when this fresh, wild Alaskan salmon can be caught and sold. The fish is pricey, but its flavor is really unmatched by any other salmon out there and a little goes a long way. They had a few different cuts at my fish market and you could tell the difference in quality just by looking at it. I didn't want to add too much seasoning to it, so I just cooked it in a pan with some salt and pepper and served it with a twist on raita (think an Indian version of tzatziki) that uses radishes instead of cucumbers. The rich, flaky fish and cool creamy yogurt are a great pairing on a warm summer night and prove that sometimes simple dishes can be the best.

More Salmon Recipes:
- Salmon Tacos
- Roasted Salmon with Beet Farro
- Salmon Cakes with Yogurt Sauce

Salmon with Radish Raita Sauce:
  • Grate 3-4 radishes on the large holes of a box grater and squeeze out any excess liquid.
  • Combine the grated radishes with 1 c. Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp. minced parsley, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Keep sauce cool in the fridge.*
  • Meanwhile, very lightly coat a heavy skillet with canola oil and place on very high heat til nearly smoking.
  • Season 2 boneless salmon fillets** with salt and pepper and place skin side down in a skillet.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until mostly cooked, then place in a 400F oven for another 3-5 minutes, or until just cooked through.
  • Let fish cool slightly, then top with radish raita and a few thin slices of radish.

Serves two
*Sauce can be made up to a day in advance and kept in the fridge.
**About 3/4 lb. total.

Wednesday, June 19

Spaghetti with Chunky Cherry Tomato Sauce

A simple summer pasta made with sweet and colorful cherry tomatoes

Spaghetti with Chunky Cherry Tomato Sauce

I am in love with the sweet, colorful baby heirloom tomatoes that have been popping up at my farmer's market. They are nearly perfect on their own or tossed into a simple green salad but I also like warming them up with some garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil and tossing with hot spaghetti. By cooking them at a low heat, the tomatoes retain most of their shape, color, and sweetness so that the dish tastes really fresh and light. This is barely a recipe since it's so quick and easy, but it proves that you don't need to do much cooking when you start with really great ingredients.

Spaghetti with Chunky Cherry Tomato Sauce:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Add in 3 smashed, whole garlic cloves and cook in the oil until they start to sizzle.
  • Add in 1 pint of whole grape or cherry tomatoes and a generous pinch of salt.
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes, removing and discarding the garlic with a slotted spoon once it gets golden brown.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1/2 lb. whole wheat spaghetti until al dente.
  • Once the tomatoes are soft, use the back of a wooden spoon to light smash them and release some of their juice.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking liquid.
  • Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and pour in most of the cooking liquid, 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 tbsp. fresh chopped basil leaves.
  • Toss to combine, adding more pasta water as necessary to moisten the sauce.
  • Check for seasoning, then divide onto plates and serve with more Parmesan or basil, if desired.

Serves two-three

Tuesday, June 18

BBQ Ribs

Tender baby back ribs with a homemade BBQ sauce are perfect for summer entertaining

BBQ Ribs & BBQ Sauce Barefoot Contessa

My husband and I are realizing the true meaning of the phrase "the honeymoon is over" and dealing with all the ups and downs of real life. While some things have been difficult, we are lucky enough to enjoy the beginning of a Southern California summer and have been taking advantage of the warm weather with weekends spent in the sun and at the beach. I decided to make ribs to usher in the outdoor eating season with an all-American classic. The recipe, based on a favorite from the Barefoot Contessa, calls for baking the ribs in a delicious homemade BBQ sauce until they nearly fall off the bone and then finishing them on the grill. It's a great dish for your next barbecue with friends and will easily feed a crowd.

Related Recipes:
- BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders
- Chinese-Style Baby Back Ribs
- Classic American Cheeseburgers

BBQ Ribs:
For BBQ Sauce
  • Heat 1/4 c. vegetable oil in a saucepan and add in 1 finely diced onion.
  • Cook onion for 10 minutes, or until soft but not brown, then add in 2 minced garlic cloves and cook for another minute.
  • Add in 6 oz. tomato paste and stir to combine, allow to rust in color for a minute or two.
  • Stir in 1 tbsp. chili powder, 1/2 tbsp. cumin, 1/2 tbsp. mustard powder, and 1 tsp. red chile flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add in 1/2 c. cider vinegar, 1/2 c. honey, 1/2 c. hoisin sauce,* 1/4 c. Dijon mustard, 1/4 c. soy sauce, and 1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce.
  • Bring sauce to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Let sauce cool.**
For Ribs
  • Season 2 racks of baby back ribs*** generously with salt and pepper and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Pour 1/2 of the barbecue sauce over the ribs and cover loosely with foil.
  • Bake ribs in a 350F oven for 2 hours, or until very tender.****
  • Brush ribs with more barbecue sauce and cook on a hot grill for 10 minutes, turning ribs halfway through.
  • Slice ribs and serve with remaining BBQ sauce.
Serves four-six
*Available in the Asian foods aisle of most grocery stores.
**Sauce can be made several days in advance, cooled, and kept in the fridge.
***About 2.5-3 lbs. total.
****Ribs can be cooled and kept in the fridge at this point. Just let stand at room temperature before grilling.

Thursday, June 6

Honeymoon: Paris & Venice

I’ve taken a long break from writing to get married and go on my honeymoon to Paris and Venice. It’s been extremely difficult to adjust to “normal” life post-wedding and I’m just beginning to process the fairy tale three weeks I’ve shared with my husband, family, and friends. Words can’t begin to convey the deep emotions, love, and joy, I felt on our wedding day, May 18th. This is a re-cap of our honeymoon to Europe. These are some of our most memorable meals and moments on our two week trip to the most romantic cities in the world, but they only begin to scratch the surface of our once-in-a-lifetime trip.

We stayed at Le Grand Paris Hotel across from the Opera House in the 9th arrondissement but managed to make it to most areas of the city. My favorite neighborhood was the St. Germain area, which we visited several times during the week.
  • L'Avant Comptoir - Extremely tiny wine bar with outstanding small plates and daily specials. They don't take any reservations and there are no seats so we waited outside for fifteen minutes before they opened to get the best spot at the bar. Everything we had was mind-blowing, but some of our favorites were the ham and cheese croquettes, the whole shrimp, and the pork belly (especially when eaten with their free crusty bread and spicy mustard). This was our favorite meal of the trip and we can't stop talking about it.
  • Verjus Wine Bar - Their sit-down restaurant is one of the hottest reservations in town, but their no-reservations wine bar is also excellent. It's owned by an American couple and the staff is super friendly. We met a friend here for dinner and had some great wine and split a bunch of plates. Our favorite was the fried chicken (we ended up getting three orders).
  • Pascade - This was one of the most unique experiences of the trip. We came here for lunch and split two pascades, which are similar to a dutch baby or light pancake that's stuffed with a bunch of sweet or savory ingredients. We had one filled with duck, foie gras, duck egg, and greens and one with mango, banana mousse, and ice cream.
  • Pramil - We made reservations for this meal well in advance and treated it as one of our fancier meals of the trip. It has a Michelin star but the prices are extremely reasonable for their three-course offering. Everything was very rich and indulgent, including the foie gras with smoked eel, the white asparagus soup with foie gras ice cream, and the scallops with morels and potatoes.
  • La Fontaine de Mars - This is a cute, typical French brasserie that serves classic dishes in a very Parisian setting. It's a great spot for Americans looking for old-school French dishes, which seem to be disappearing off of most menus. Our favorites were the eggs baked with red wine and bacon, the duck confit, and the isle flotant ("floating island") dessert.
  • Rue Mouffetard - I had been dying to go to an authentic Parisian open market and this was a dream come true. The street is lined with farmers selling fresh produce, fish markets, bakeries, and all types of street food. We split a roast chicken and potatoes that we ate of a bag with our hands and it was one of the best food moments of the trip.

We had the best time staying at Hotel Ai Reali, a beautiful new hotel conveniently located between the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark's Square. My husband lived in Venice for five months in college and was able to take me to all of his favorite spots around the city.
  • Pizza Al Volo - This was my husband's favorite pizza place when he lived here and we ate here nearly everyday of our trip. It's nothing fancy, but the pizza is excellent and locals are always stopping by to get a slice to go or to eat in Campo Santa Margherita. I tried a bunch of flavors, but my husband swears by the tuna and onion pizza (sounds odd, but definitely give it a try).
  • Mille Vini - Great wine shop down the street from the Rialto bridge. The owner was extremely knowledgeable and friendly and treated us to some generous glasses of free wine, homemade salami, and olive oil tastings. We took a bunch of products home with us, including a local red wine, limoncello, and a few bottles of olive oil.
  • Al Covo - Beautiful atmosphere, impeccable service, and delicious food made this one of our favorite meals of the trip. We both got the three-course option, which we felt was a great deal considering the quality. All of our dishes were outstanding, but some of our favorites were the clams and white beans, the monkfish, the vanilla panna cotta, and the buffalo ricotta cheesecake.
  • Da Fiore - This is the most elegant restaurant in Venice and the service and atmosphere was truly exceptional. It's a splurge to dine here, but the risotto with shrimp, zucchini, and squash blossoms was the best rice dish I've ever had. The John Dory with grapefruit sauce was also a favorite.
  • Alle Corone - This restaurant is located in our hotel but is turning into one of the best restaurants in the city. Prices were very reasonable, portions were large, and the service was extremely accommodating (they even gave us complimentary glasses of limoncello to end the meal). They offer a good mix of traditional Venetian dishes and classic fine dining. We especially enjoyed the sardines in sweet and sour sauce, the steak, and the rack of lamb.
  • Ostaria Boccadoro - We stopped here on a whim after noticing several locals dining out front and  it turned into one of our favorite meals of the trip. The restaurant is family owned and the food was all spectacular. The linguine and clams were the best we've ever had.