6.14.2016

Shrimp, Roasted Garlic and Caper Ravioli with Lemon Caper Beurre Blanc (or, DiFiore Ravioli meets Omaha Steaks Seafood Sauce)



You know that not everything we cook is from scratch. Amy has a not-so-secret love for Kraft Macaroni-n-Cheese. Now and then, Chris enjoys a mug of store-bought udon noodles, seasoning packet and all. But that's not how we like to eat. Sometimes, though, we simply don't feel like cooking from scratch. So on a typical evening, you can find us putting our own spin on a store-bought product. Our very own "semi-homemade." 

Recently we were craving ravioli. We have made our own ravioli in the past, but it is certainly not easy. So instead we took advantage of the fact that DiFiore Ravioli Shop practically hand-delivered their ravioli to us. This small, family-owned business has been in Hartford for over 30 years and recently opened a second location in Rocky Hill. But now they've made it even easier for us to buy their products by having a booth at our favorite farmers' market. Now we don't have to make a special stop!



This past weekend, we bought DiFiore's "Shrimp, Roasted Garlic and Caper Ravioli" at the debut of FARE, the new Willimantic Market. Amy asked the person working the booth if he thought that would be good with a plain butter sauce. He nodded, but then, as if he were delivering a state secret, added, "I'd try it with a lemon beurre blanc, maybe adding a few capers." Sounded right up our alley.

Since frozen ravioli are supposed to be an easy weeknight dinner, we didn't bother to come up with our own sauce recipe. We found Omaha Steaks' recipe (here) for "Lemon Caper Beurre Blanc Seafood Sauce" and made a few substitutions - a small spring onion from our garden instead of shallots, 1/2 and 1/2 instead of heavy cream, and 1 1/2 rather than 2 sticks of butter. It was delicious.

We drizzled the rich, lemony sauce over that gorgeous ravioli and our craving was satisfied. Sometimes semi-homemade is even better than from scratch.


6.09.2016

3 Times Thursday - Summer Mussels

Mussel /ˈməsəl/ : noun, any of a number of bivalve mollusks with a brown or purplish-black shell. 

For this week's 3 Times Thursday, we encourage you to try one of our recipes for mussels. A New England staple, mussels can be purchased relatively cheaply at your local seafood market or supermarket in two-pound mesh bags. Summer always means seafood to us, and mussels appear on our menu a few times throughout the season. Here are three flavorful ways to enjoy mussels - try them all with plenty of crusty bread. Don't forget to let us know your fave!


3. Mussels in White Wine Broth

Ingredients:

2 pounds mussels
1 large white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
6 whole garlic cloves
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped parsley
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 stick butter, divided
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 bottle dry white wine (like Pinot Grigio)

Put half of the mussels in the bottom of a large stock-pot. Top with the white onions, garlic cloves, green onions, parsley, tomatoes, 3/4 stick of the butter cut into quarters, some salt and pepper, and then put the other half of the mussels in. Add the white wine and the other 1/4 stick of butter and cover with a lid. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then allow them to steam for about 10 minutes, until they are all open.


2. Cockles and Mussels

Ingredients:

2 pounds mussels
1 pound cockles or small clams
4 lemons, halved
1 bunch green onions, chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 handful fresh parsley
2-3 stems of fresh tarragon
1/2 stick butter
1/2 bottle white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
2 cups water
salt

Put all the ingredients in a large stockpot, cover the pot, set it over high heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, until all shells are open.


1. Curried Mussels with Lemongrass


Ingredients:

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 cup hot water
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
2 pieces dried galangal
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon liquid sugar (simple syrup)
1 can light coconut milk
2 pounds mussels

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the curry paste and stir to fry for about a minute. Stir in the water, then add the lemongrass, galangal, fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the mussels, stir to coat, and put a lid on the pot. Cook, covered, over low heat until the mussels open, about five minutes. 

6.06.2016

Go Local Magazine - June 2016 Issue



Go Local Magazine is a local lifestyle magazine promoting life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. The magazine features local businesses where you can play, shop and eat, and showcases the citizens who make the region great. This June's issue is chock full of things to eat, see, buy and do around the Go Local area. Consider it your summer reading assignment!

On page 34 of the June issue, you can find our recipe for Grilled Pound Cake with Balsamic Berries, along with a list of nearby spots where you can pick your own berries or purchase them by the pint. Amy also wrote the article (page 49) on Stafford Springs wildlife artist Pat Morris. There's a farmers' market guide, an interview with Ellington's own Chef Chris Avtges (who competed on Chopped), a feature on Forest Park Farmers' Market favorite Moe's Donuts, and so much more. So read the current issue online here, or pick up your FREE copy today and Go Local!



6.05.2016

Coventry Farmers' Market Opening Day 2016

Logo

The folks who ran our favorite farmers' market (Coventry Regional Farmers' Market) for 12 years have moved on to other endeavors. We thank them for bringing this great market to the region. We have spent countless Sundays roaming the stalls, sampling food truck fare, buying local ingredients, and meeting many "Friends of the Market." 





Thankfully, the town of Coventry realized such a great opportunity should not be allowed to slip away. They had all the appropriate meetings and did all the necessary organizing, hired a new Market Master and reaffirmed the commitment to keep the market going at the Nathan Hale Homestead (#haleyeah!). 







Opening day was today and while it looked dreary outside, spirits were high and spring produce (leafy greens, spring onions, radishes, asparagus and cut flowers) was plentiful. Food truck alley was hoppin', and we saw most of our favorite vendors (butchers, bakers, cheesemongers and more) return. 







After the market, we headed over to the Bidwell for some wings and brews. Later that night, we enjoyed a salad made with Meadowstone Farm burrata, sungold cherry tomatoes, shredded basil and balsamic glaze with a touch of salt. Delicious! Oh, we do enjoy our summer Sundays in Coventry!






5.19.2016

3 Times Thursday - Recipes for Summer BBQs and Picnics

It's just about time to start planning your Memorial Day menu. For this week's 3 Times Thursday, we give you three ideas for all your summer BBQs and picnics. What makes them great holiday weekend recipes? They're super easy to make, they feed a crowd, and they can be served at room temperature. Happy Almost Summer!




#3. Easy Orzo Salad - A really simple but oh, so tasty pasta salad.

Ingredients:

1 lb. orzo
1/2 lb. crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons fresh basil
1 tablespoon basil oil or plain olive oil

*since it's too early for garden tomatoes, substitute some sun-drieds

Prepare the orzo according to package directions. When it is done, drain it and rinse it well with cold water. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

















#2. Steakhouse Skewers - Only three ingredients, plus a toothpick!

Ingredients:

1/2 pound deli roast beef, sliced
4 ounces crumbled bleu cheese
1 pound green seedless grapes

Fold bleu cheese into a small slice of roast beef, and skewer with a toothpick on top of a grape.


















#1. Fritos Dessert Bars - Crunchy, salty, sweet, and sticky plus everyone's favorite combo - chocolate and peanut butter. Added bonus? No baking involved!

Ingredients:

1 10.5-ounce bag Fritos corn chips
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Spray a 9X13 baking pan with cooking spray. Empty Fritos into a large bowl. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter; stir until smooth. Pour mixture over Fritos and gently stir to coat. Pour into prepared pan and using wax paper, press down to spread evenly into the pan. Put chocolate chips in a small zip-lock bag. Microwave for 30 second spurts to melt. Cut off a corner of the bag and drizzle over the Fritos bars. Allow to set, then cut into squares.

5.12.2016

3 Times Thursday - Dishes for National Egg Month


On Thursdays, we like to give you three recipes that center around a common theme; we call it "3 Times Thursday." Since May is National Egg Month, today we offer you three of our more unique ways to cook eggs. This month, let's celebrate what is possibly the most versatile ingredient there is! Cheers to the humble egg!


























#3. Fried Egg Sandwich Nachos: This yummy dish has all the makings of a fried egg sandwich (eggs, bacon, cheese), but is in nacho form, sort of like an American-style huevos rancheros.

Ingredients:

20-24 nacho chips
3 slices uncooked bacon, chopped
3 eggs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 slices American cheese

Lay out the nacho chips onto an aluminum-foil-covered baking sheet. In a large skillet, cook the bacon pieces until crispy. Drain onto a paper towel, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet, then sprinkle over the chips. Return the skillet and bacon fat to high heat. Crack the eggs into the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook to your liking (we did them sunny-side-up because they will cook more under the broiler). Slide the eggs onto the nachos. Cut the cheese into strips and lay the strips over the nachos. Heat the broiler to high and broil the nachos until cheese is melted and eggs are cooked. Slide the nachos onto a plate and enjoy!


















#2. Baked Eggs with Thyme: Fluffy, flavorful eggs with lots of herby flavor, perfect for dipping your toast points.

Ingredients:

4 large eggs
4 tablespoons half and half
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Place rack approximately six inches below heat and preheat broiler. Take two small bowls and crack two eggs into each bowl, taking care not to break the yolks. Place two oven-safe dishes on a baking sheet. Pour 2 tablespoons of half and half and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in each dish. Place these under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until they are bubbling hot. Remove from the oven and quickly pour the two cracked eggs into each dish. Sprinkle with the thyme, parmesan, salt and pepper, and return to the oven. Broil for 4-5 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are cooked. Allow to set for a minute then serve, either in the baking dish or by carefully taking them out (as we did), with your favorite breakfast side dishes.



















#1. Shakshuka: Israeli eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. Sexy spiciness. Eat with toasted pita!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon CT salemme pepper
garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon hot paprika
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Heat oil in a large skillet (we used our paella pan) over medium-high heat. Add onions and crushed pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for six minutes until soft and slightly browned. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes with liquid, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce to medium-low, stir and make six wells in the thick sauce. Crack eggs over wells, cover the pan, and cook for about five minutes, or until yolks have set to desired consistency. Uncover, and baste the eggs with a light coating of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the feta throughout the pan, turn off the heat, and let sit for 1-2 minutes.  Serve right out of the pan with toasted pita bread and a side of home-fried potatoes.



5.09.2016

Taste of Manchester: Steve's Bagels


As part of the Taste of Manchester 2016 Marketing Committee, Amy has volunteered to write short features on the participating restaurants and share them via our blog here.This year's Taste of Manchester will be held TOMORROW from 5:30 to 9 p.m. See the TOM webpageFacebook page, or Twitter @TastyTownCT (#TOMCT2016) for more information.


New York native Steve DiGiorgio has brought New York style bagels to the City of Village Charm. He opened Steve's Bagels in the former Sugar Shack on Center Street at the end of 2015, and Manchester residents have been talking about it since.



Steve's Bagels are made on site daily, in batches throughout the day, so they are always fresh. It takes 18 hours to complete the process - from making the dough to letting it proof to rolling, kettle-boiling, and finally, baking the bagels. Popular flavors include the everything bagel, cranberry orange bagel, and the French toast bagel (which is a cinnamon-raisin bagel drizzled with molasses and sprinkled with brown sugar). There are seasonal/holiday specials such as rainbow swirl bagels for Easter and green bagels for St. Patrick's Day. And Steve is always trying out new flavors. 



Need a schmear for your bagel? Steve's makes 14 flavors of cream cheese, like cinnamon walnut apple, bacon, and blueberry. The flavor combinations are endless!



Steve's is also a deli, with Boar's Head meats and cheeses which can be made into sandwiches using rolls or bagels for bread. You can design your own sandwich or choose from one of Steve's signature specialties, like the customer fave Queen Leslie (low sodium turkey, bacon, mayo and lettuce on an Asiago pesto bagel). These are served with chips and a pickle. Their sandwich salads (tuna, chicken, egg salad) are made in-house. There's a new pepperoni-stuffed bread that employees say they "can't keep in stock."



A lovely woman named Carol handles the non-bagel baking, so Steve's offers homemade cookies, muffins, banana bread, and other goodies. There are also bags of bagel chips that come in various flavors.



This year is Steve's Bagels first year joining the Taste of Manchester, so those few residents who haven't gotten to taste Steve's NY-style bagels yet will be able to tomorrow night at the 7th Annual Taste of Manchester

Steve's Bagels is located at 150 Center Street. Their phone number is 860.432.2223, and they are open daily. Check their website here for hours and the menu. You can call in or fax orders and pick up orders at the convenient drive-through. Corporate accounts and delivery are available.



5.08.2016

We Like-ah Wewalka!





Have you ever used that not-to-be-named-brand's refrigerated dough-in-a-can? While the popping noise the can makes is fun, and people certainly do some culinarily creative things using that dough, personally we've never entirely loved the resulting pizza crusts, breadsticks, biscuits or croissants. We always found them to have a certain heavy, chewy, tough doughiness rather than the desired crustiness or flakiness we crave. So we hardly ever buy refrigerated dough.


Then a few weeks ago, we received an email asking if we'd like to be visited by the Wewalka Wagon. And we were like, "Sure! Who wouldn't?" Then we wondered exactly what a "Wewalka Wagon" was. So we did what people do now, which is to Google "Wewalka" and we found that Wewalka is a family-run European brand of refrigerated bakery-style dough that was introduced in the US in 2015. They make croissant, puff pastry, bistro-style (thin) pizza, and family style (thicker) pizza doughs. Their doughs are created from traditional European recipes using premium ingredients (no bleached or bromated flours, no hydrogenated oil or high fructose corn syrup) and with clean, renewable energy. We were quite pleased with ourselves for being willing to welcome the Wawalka Wagon (say that three times fast)!

A few afternoons later, this pulled up outside of our house. We can only imagine what the neighbors were thinking.




The driver and his co-pilot came to our porch, smartly dressed in aprons and bakers' hats, and delivered a box and a bag filled with goodies. In the box were these beautiful palmiers swirled with tiny bits of ham and grated parmesan cheese. They were crisp and flaky and flavorful and the two of us came awfully close to finishing them all that same day. In the insulated bag was one of each type of refrigerated dough Wawalka makes (see above). They also gave us some coupons and recipe cards, and invited us to visit the website for more (as if we hadn't already ha ha). We like the Wewalka Wagon! 




When our new friends left, we gave our gifts a closer inspection. The first thing we noticed was the packaging, which is no less than brilliant. The delicate dough is rolled in parchment paper, which alone is amazing, because you don't need to use your own! You unroll the dough, parchment and all, create your recipe, then bake it on a pan. No badly flavored cooking sprays or butter to add extra grease, still no sticking, and clean-up involves wadding up the parchment and throwing it away. Love. It. Even more brilliant is the outer package which has a one-way valve that releases the carbon dioxide created by the yeast. It's the perfect living environment for the dough. The package ensures that the dough stays fresher longer, maintains its ability to rise properly, and (most importantly) tastes better than its canned competitor.  





We decided that the best starting taste test of Wewalka dough would be the croissants, especially since Amy just learned how to make croissants by hand. We also decided our first recipe should be simple so that the dough flavor wouldn't be masked by too many other ingredients. Therefore, one morning shortly after our Wewalka Wagon visit, we unrolled the parchment-lined croissant dough, which consists of six perforated triangles, and placed it on a baking sheet. We spread half with fig jam and the other half with melted butter sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. Then we separated them, rolled them into their horned shape and brushed them with beaten egg. That took about 5 minutes. We baked them at 400F for 15 minutes (as instructed on the package) and voila! We had warm, airy, flaky croissants in about 20 minutes total time. We immediately imagined future concoctions, first chocolate and almond and other sweet, breakfasty croissants. But soon after that, we were dreaming of savory delights like broccoli and cheddar, meatball and ricotta, and crab and avocado. Endless mouth-watering possibilities.



Suffice it to say, we won't be buying canned croissants ever again. Not. Ever. If we're not going to make them from scratch, we're using Wewalka. And we liked those croissants so much that we are already thinking up recipes for the other types of dough. There's a whole lot of inspiration to be found on their website, too. Welcome to the U.S., Wewalka! And thanks for paying us a visit!

Disclaimer: We received free samples and coupons from Wewalka as stated above. However, all thoughts and opinions stated here are our own and we were not paid to publish this or to post only positive comments.


To find Wewalka products, go here: http://wewalka.us/want-wewalka



5.05.2016

3 Times Thursday - Derby Drinks

This Saturday is the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby, and maybe Mint Juleps aren't your thing. That's okay, because for today's 3 Times Thursday, we have three tasty alternatives (one is thisclose to the traditional cocktail) you can sip on while you watch the horses. 





#3. Rummin' Tea - Iced tea and rum. For the porch rocker in you.

Ingredients:

1 part Sailor Jerry rum
2 parts slightly sweetened iced tea

Combine ingredients in a tall glass over ice. Garnish with lemon or mint if desired.







#2. The Berry Patch - Fresh, sweet, and perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon. Makes 2 drinks.

Ingredients:
2-3 fresh strawberries, chopped
2-3 leaves fresh basil, torn
ice
1/3 cup cranberry juice (100% juice, not cranberry cocktail)
1/3 cup lemonade (we like Newman's Own Lightly-Sweetened)
1/4 cup vodka
club soda (optional)
extra berries and/or basil leaves for garnish

Muddle the strawberries and basil together in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, then add cranberry juice, lemonade and vodka. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, then cover and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled martini glasses. Add a splash of club soda on top if you like it bubbly, and garnish as desired.




#1. Blackberry Mint Julep - This one is for those traditionalists who like living on the edge. Recipe makes 2 cocktails.


Ingredients:

1/2 cup blackberries (saving 2 for garnish)
4 tablespoons mint leaves (saving 2 for garnish)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 ounces bourbon

In a large cocktail shaker, muddle together the blackberries, mint and sugar. Fill shaker with ice then add bourbon. Shake well, then strain into two ice-filled cocktail glasses. Serve garnished with a mint leaf and a blackberry.