Archive | July, 2013

How Much of a Blowhard am I: Is Ignorance Bliss?

29 Jul

You may remember about a month ago I had a guest post from my Deutsch Freund Oliver, AKA The Winegetter, and he went into detail about the lack of good bread here in the U.S.

Oliver and his lovely wife are currently traveling throughout Southeastern Asia (suck it, man) so in order to keep his blog up to date he has an awesome line up of guest bloggers updating posts while he’s gone. Sidenote: I’ve been watching his travels through what he’s posted online, and I can honestly say I’m IN RAGE with envy. He’s been traversing country after country, and the furthest I have traveled in that time is heading down to Indiana for a weekend. Ahhh….wanderlust….she is a fickle temptress. 

This was from a 2007 trip to Lithuania. Earlier that year we found out my father had surviving family members living there so naturally we had to go check it out. We were on our way to Israel to visit family after, and so we packed for the middle east. This was Eastern Europe, so naturally it was overcast, rainy, and much colder than we thought (think women in head wraps playing the violin around trash cans of fire....not really)

This was from a 2007 trip to Lithuania. Earlier that year we found out my father had surviving family members living there so naturally we had to go check it out. We were on our way to Israel to visit family after, and so we packed for the middle east. This was Eastern Europe, so naturally it was overcast, rainy, and much colder than we thought (think women in head wraps playing the violin around trash cans of fire….not really)

Anyhoo, I had my own opportunity to go on a rant for his blog so I decided to explore the topic of wine and beer “snobs” (read: me sometimes). Without further adu, I present…

Erica Vitkin: Is Ignorance Bliss?.

And while you’re there, take a look around. There are some great guest posts in this series, and all of Oliver’s original content is truly insightful and makes you thirsty for a glass (or bottle) of wine.


Burrata: My New Obsession

25 Jul

You know when there’s something you love, like, really and truly love, and then you find out there’s an even BETTER version of it out there (like meeting your girlfriend’s sister…hi-O). That happened to me this past weekend. My world was rocked. Up was down, left was right, Olive Garden seemed like a good idea…it was madness.

As a fan of cheese, there are few things in the world better than a big ball of fresh mozzarella (amirite). But wait a second, there’s this thing out there called Burrata, an even sexier version of fresh mozzarella. It’s a ball that is a “shell” of fresh mozzarella wrapped around a mixture of mozzarella and fresh cream…meaning it’s a ball of mozzarella with a creamy gooey middle (think not quite set egg whites). It’s almost vulgar. I’m going to land in the poor house with this new obsession. I saw two different recipes in August’s Bon Appetit featuring Burrata, and it occurred to me that I didn’t actually know what it was. I ventured over to Plum Market because they have the BEST cheese counter! Really great, high quality selection, they’ll cut down any cheese to the amount you need, and the people are so knowledgeable (and yet being cheese experts don’t weight 3000 do they do that?). Their beer selection is also pretty dynomite. After learning why I should spend $9.99 on a small ball of Burrata, I was on my way to create this tasty sensation:


{ Pickled Nectarine Salad with Burrata – Bon Appetit }

I’ve been talking about how much I love Summer foods, and this recipe completely embodies that. My mom was in town (to go wedding dress shopping) so I thought this would be the perfect thing to start our day. But first, the cheese


Isn’t that cute? It’s wrapped up like a neat little package. What lies within…?


Ah, pizza dough-looking cheese. Alrighty, off to a good start. Here’s the main part of the salad: cutting up nectarines, and then letting them soak in white wine vinegar, sugar, and red onions. Yep, the rest is just “put on plate”


With my expert helper (Mary Lu) on hand, we chopped up those bad boys, let them rest in the vinegar, and then chugged some water (because it was still like 90 outside)


Lucky for me she has a generous garden, so she brought up some fresh Basil. The recipe calls for mint, but hey, what Summer foods does Basil NOT go with?


Now slice up your pornographic cheese and “put on plate”


Toss some arugula and basil with the drained-marinated nectarines and onion. Add some of the vinegar mixture (enough for a light dressing), and “put on plate”. Drizzle some fresh olive oil over, and top with salt and pepper.


Sweet Jesus, this salad was amazing. I loved every second of inhaling this, and I am honestly shocked that in the 5 days it’s been since I made this I haven’t made another one. Just….bravo. And of course, my Burrata problem has already led me to purchase more (it was $12.99 too, but I had a 20% off coupon, so all’s not lost).


Adapted from { Pickled Nectarine Salad with Burrata – Bon Appetit }

  • 2 nectarines, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups torn arugula
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 8 ounces burrata or fresh mozzarella, cut into big “globs”
  1. Toss nectarines, onion, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Let sit 10 minutes.
  2. Pour off pickling liquid from nectarines and onion, reserving liquid. Add greens, basil, 2 tablespoons oil, and 2–3 tablespoons reserved liquid; toss to combine.
  3. Place burrata on plates, top with salad, and drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper.


Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini Boats and Turkey Meatballs

22 Jul

Wow, does this OPPRESSIVE heat make anyone else 1000% lazy and lethargic?

Go for a run? Too hot to be exerting oneself outside. Cook something? Too hot to run stove, oven, toaster, microwave, or do any manual slicing.   Go swimming? To hot for that 50 second transition time between car and body of water. Read a book? Too hot, fingers will melt into the pages. Sit on a patio and drink a beer? Too hot to sit outside, I’ll see you in the bar. It’s even too hot to watch TV! How is that even possible?! Whatever my excuse is to not do anything, it’s been a struggle to get creative in the kitchen as of late. Lots of cold fruit, and alas…eating out. It’s killing me, but so goes the tale of woe for this non-air conditioning-d gal.

I was able to pull up my bootstraps and get my ass in the kitchen and crank out a handful of tasty treats over the past few days, so get ready for a well-deserved feast after this Flavor Country famine.


We begin with:  { Morel-Stuffed Patty Pan Squash and Honey Chipotle Turkey Meatballs and  – Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool }

Oh Zucchini…how I love thee… The recipe calls for Patty Pan Squash, however these were just screaming at me (and it was a non-market day) so I opted for the emeralds of the vegetable world (sidenote: precious gems have been the talk of our house lately. We all agreed that we just don’t hear about Rubies, Emeralds, and Sapphires anymore, especially as a ransom payment…)


First, we begin with the prep of the Zucchini filling by chopping up the mushrooms


And sautéing them with olive oil, red onion, and garlic


While this is cooking, we’ll prepare the  zucchini in a way I’ve never cooked it before: boil/steaming it in a mixture of chicken stock, pepper corns, and some basil stems (my own addition). Let it come to a boil, then pop the lid on and lower heat to a simmer, and let go until cooked through (you’ll want to turn these bad boys over to ensure uniform cooking, not crunchy raw side vs. mushy overdone side). Be aware: these will get soft, use care when picking up with tongs as they will cut right through them (DO NOT USE YOUR FINGERS TO FLIP UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN WORKING IN THE FOOD/RESTAURANT INDUSTRY AND NO LONGER HAVE FEELING IN YOUR FINGERTIPS)


Now take zucchini out and let cool. Finish the filling by adding breadcurmbs, fresh basil, parmesan, egg, and cream cheese



This would be good stuffed in cardboard…

Now that your zucchini is cooled, cut in half, and scoop out the seeds and whatnot from the inside, creating boats


Now stuff’em


Meanwhile, make your turkey meatballs and sauce that I neglected to photograph, so I won’t get into the specifics here (there’s parsley and carrots involved in the meatballs, and honey and peppers involved in the sauce. It calls for chipotle, but all I could find were pimento…so I made due)


Bake everything. Enjoy. And now…we feast…


I’m personally a big fan of [anything] stuffed with [anything] especially when it involves awesome veggies (and…you know, cheese). And a side of meatballs is never a bad thing. I’m not a big fan of the parsley in the meatballs though, the flavor was a bit overpowering for me. Next time I might sub cilantro and add some chilies and tweak the sauce to give it some more Asian flavors (fish sauce + brown sugar + sambal, *kisses fingers*).

Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini {adapted from Simply Organic}

  • 3 Medium Zucchini
  • 1.5 C Chicken Stock
  • Some whole peppercorns
  • Handful of Basil Stems
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Red Onion, diced
  • 6 oz Mushrooms, diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1/2 C Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1/3 C Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 oz Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 C Parmesan
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Put the zucchini in a wide/shallow pan or skillet, pour the stock over and add the basil stems and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 min (or until zucchini is cooked through). Rotate once during cooking. Take out of liquid and set aside to cool. Reserve liquid.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over med-high, add onion and cook until soft. Add mushrooms, garlic, and basil. Cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid (about 3 minutes).
  4. Transfer mushroom mixture to bowl, and add bread crumbs, egg, cream cheese, parmesan, salt and pepper. Mix. Add reserved cooking liquid if mixture looks too dry.
  5. When Zucchini is cooled, half lengthwise, and scoop out “guts”. Place zucchini boats into a baking pan (with sides) and spoon filling into new cavities. Fill pan with rest of the reserved cooking liquid. Bake for 25 minutes.

Pimento Turkey Meatballs {adapted from Simply Organic}

  • 1/2 C Ketchup
  • 2 Tbs Honey
  • 1 Jar Pimento Peppers
  • 1.5 lb ground turkey
  • 1 med white onion, grated
  • 2 med carrots, grated
  • 1/2 C chopped parsley
  • 3/4 C breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Combine ketchup, honey, and peppers. Blend with immersion blender. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl combine turkey, onion, carrots, parsley, breadcrumbs, egg, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Form into small balls and place on greased baking pan. Spoon some ketchup mixture over each meatball. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until fully cooked.

Out of this world Caprese Salad

11 Jul


Caprese Salad. Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella. What’s not to like?? Nothing, that’s what!

I have been hankering for this fresh Summer salad for quite some time, and I finally remembered while I was grocery shopping the other week, allowing me to purchase the necessary items: a ball of mozzarella. I always have tomatoes on hand because hi, they’re delicious. But I wasn’t going to stop there, I was going to add everything I had in my kitchen that was applicable. Sidenote: John and I will never agree on certain aspects of food, and one of them is my love of multi-ingredient incorporations. For example he likes pizzas with 1-2 toppings, whereas I prefer 5+. He likes a good scrambled egg, I like my eggs scrambled with about 10000 veggies incorporated. Who’s right? Well I’m the one with the critically-acclaimed (not really) food blog, so you decide…

Things I had at my disposal: arugula, red onion, fresh peas, and avocado. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we’ve got ourselves a salad.

First, it’s time to make a homemade balsamic reduction. When I’ve been too lazy I just pour a normal non-reduced balsamic vinaigrette on my caprese salads, but it just doesn’t yield the same savory/sweet/delicious balance. I was not about the make the same mistake.

Take yer balsamic



And put it in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbs(ish) of honey. I usually just start squeezing the honey in, zone out for a few seconds, then stop squeezing. Exact measurements and high integrity, that’s what you’ll find here.



Once this mixture starts to boil, turn down the heat low enough to have a slow simmer. And let it maintain this simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Disclaimer: if trying to smell this, the vinegar fumes will be potent, PREPARE YOUR NASAL CANALS! Once the vinegar has reduced to 1/2-1/4th of it’s original volume, you’re ready.



Se aside and allow to cool, or at least not be stupid hot (another Disclaimer: do not lick the spoon you stirred your HOT thick sticky reduction with for a few minutes, it WILL stick to and burn your tongue. I learned the hard/moron way). 

It’s veggie time. Prep your arugula with some thinly sliced red onions for a resting bed for the real stars: tomato and mozzarella



Arrange these beauties on top of the greens.

For the peas, after I shelled them I popped them in the freezer for about 10 minutes, just to get them nice and chilled. Some people will boil them for a minute or 2 to get the vibrant green out, but I really love the flavor of raw shelled peas, so I went the opposite direction.



Slice up 1/2 an Avocado and fan out on the side, and sprinkle everything with a chiffonade of basil (roll up basil leaves and thinly slice, giving you thin ribbon or julienned Basil)



Drizzle your not-the-temperature-of-the-sun balsamic reduction, a few glugs of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and freshly-ground black pepper  over everything.


Boom. Diggety.


{ Homemade Balsamic Reduction }

  • 1 C Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 Tbs Honey

Heat balsamic vinegar and honey over medium heat until mixture starts to boil. Turn down heat until a slow simmer occurs. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until mixture reduces to 1/4-1/2 volume of it’s original. Allow to cool before use.



Summer Corn Salad with Toasted Grains

1 Jul


CORN! Hello there, you sweet crunchy yellow temptress.

I don’t know about you, but even this rain–which is an understatement to refer to it simply as “rain”--is not enough to get me down…I’m on full Summer  mode. Chilled soups, raw veggies, fruit as dessert, beer drinking as much as possible, weird sports bra tan lines from running, random bug bites that you can’t imagine how they got to that part of your body….mmmm yeah, drink it all in!

So naturally I’m trying to emulate this fresh season in my culinary escapades, so when I came across this recipe I knew it was meant to be

Summer Corn Salad with Toasted Grains – Food52 }

Summer? Good. Corn? Great. Toasted Grains? Where do I sign up! Salad? Well, this probably the least exciting word in the title…

Let’s take our corn


And strip it of it’s dignity by cutting off it’s kernels. Now that your corn is down to it’s skivvies, you’re going to do the unthinkable: milk the cobs. I know, what the hell is that supposed to mean? Picture this: when you eat corn on the cob (with your face) many times when you bite into the cob you get the whole kernel, so the cob looks a little skeletal…however when you cut off the kernels the bottom portion is still on the cob. This “milking” process involves taking the back of your knife and sliding it along the shaft (I’m sorry) and “milking” the last morsels of kernel into a bowl. Think of it like corn pulp. It’s messy (I got corn pieces all over my microwave). I felt dirty the whole time (I’m milking the cob….filthy).


Now add enough milk to this to make up 1.5 cups (I just added 1 C plus a good additional “glug” and hoped for the best). Meanwhile, heat a dutch oven over medium heat and cook up some bacon


(the original recipe involved 2 strips of bacon…pshhht, I made it 5). Cook these up until they’re nice and crispy and remove with a slotted spoon, reserving the sweet sweet bacon grease. Now add some chopped onion, garlic, and jalapeño (seeds and all), and some Maple Syrup


And all that de-cobbed corn (not the milk, we’ll get to the milk)


Cook for about 5 minutes, or enough time for the onion to cook. Remove from dutch oven and set aside. Prepare yourself: the corn mixture at this point is one of the best thing ever. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, it’s crunchy, it’s savory. Just don’t eat it all before you need finish the dish! Now add 1 C quinoa and 3/4 C brown basmati rice (or in my case, hey there’s the last of a big bag of brown rice in the back of my pantry, let’s just use that up) to the dutch oven. Stir for about 5-6 minutes to toast the grains.


Add 1 3/4 C water and the corn/milk mixture, give a nice stir and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook for 30-40 minutes until the liquid is absorbed


Now add back in your bacon and corn mixture. Chop up some cilantro and toss that in too.


Now the original recipe calls for a Mexican cheese called cotija cheese, which is similar to a mild feta. I couldn’t find it, and was told I could substitute a hard aged cheese, so I opted for Parmesan. While it wasn’t “bad” necessarily, it was really overpowering and covered up some of the other wonderful sweet and spicy notes. Next time I’d go cheese free.


Now, never underestimate how much 2ish Cups of dry grains will make. I’ve been eating this for 2 meals a day for about 5 days now (hey, no complaints here, I love it!)


Adapted from { Summer Corn Salad with Toasted Grains – Food52 }

  • 5 strips of bacon, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (with seeds and membranes – you want a little heat)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a large knife
  • 4 ears corn, shucked
  • 2% Milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1.5 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cups basmati rice (or however much is left in your bag in the back of the pantry)
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup snipped cilantro
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cut the kernels from your corn and set aside.
  2. Milk your cobs (tee hee hee) by scraping the cob with the backside of your knife into a large bowl/piepan. Continue on all sides of the cob. Add some milk to make 1.5 Cups all together.
  3. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy and fat has rendered. Remove with slotted spoon and transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Add onion, flattened garlic, corn kernels and jalapeno to bacon drippings in dutch oven. Add a some salt and maple syrup. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring pretty frequently, until onion is cooked. Remove and set aside.
  5. Return Dutch oven to heat and immediately add quinoa and basmati to begin toasting, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Toast until grains are fragrant and golden/golden brown, about 6 minutes.  Add water and corn-milk, and bring mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low to simmer. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until liquid is completely absorbed and grains are tender (quinoa will be more cooked than rice, but this offers a nice toothiness to the texture)
  6. Gently fluff grains with a fork and transfer to a large serving bowl to cool.
  7. Once the grains have cooled a bit, fold in bacon, corn-onion-jalapeno mixture, and chopped cilantro.
  8. Top with additional cilantro, and some fresh black pepper.

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