7.23.2016

Oops We Made Them Again - Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Hey, New Englanders. Now is the time to stop the zucchini madness. We know you don't want to be snacking on zucchini bread all fall, and neither do your neighbors and co-workers. Before those vibrant yellow blossoms can become full-fledged green squash, pick them. Stuff them with cheese. Dip them in egg wash and seasoned flour and fry them up. Yes, they are edible. And they're delicious, an Italian delicacy, even. If you like a more tempura-type batter, follow Sara Moulton's recently published recipe. Ours (below) has a lighter, crisper touch that we believe allows the flower, not the batter, to be the star. Make them both and see which you prefer. And just say no to zucchini bread!



Ingredients:
8 squash blossoms, rinsed well
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin strips about as long as the flowers
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
oil for frying

Fill a frying pan up to about 1/2 inch with oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, stuff the blossoms with the strips of mozzarella. Make an egg wash by beating the egg and water together. Then mix together the flour, salt, paprika, black and red pepper in a shallow dish. When the oil is hot enough for frying, dip each blossom first in the egg wash, then in the flour mixture, and gently place it in the oil. Avoid crowding the blossoms - if the pan isn't large enough, do this is two batches of four. Cook each blossom approximately two minutes on each side, then let rest on a paper towel. Eat the entire thing while it's hot!

7.21.2016

3 Times Thursday - Summer Salads


For this week's 3 Times Thursday, grab some fresh summer produce from your own garden or buy from your local farmer. July in New England has some of the year's best pickings. Get creative with your ingredients and have a satisfying summer salad for lunch. Here are three of our favorite salad recipes to inspire you. 











3. Watermelon Salad with Bleu Cheese, Pancetta and Basil - Nothing says summer quite like watermelon. In this recipe, we use local yellow watermelon, sharp bleu cheese, crispy pancetta and fresh ribbons of basil to make a unique summer salad.





Ingredients:
8 ounces pancetta, diced
1 1/2 cups cubed watermelon
2 tablespoons crumbled bleu cheese
1/8 cup basil, chiffonade
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Cook pancetta until crisp; drain on paper towels. Arrange watermelon on a chilled plate. Top with pancetta, bleu cheese and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic, season to taste with pepper.


2. Roasted Tomato, Fennel and White Bean Salad - Fresh cherry tomatoes burst with sweetness when paired with savory fennel, spicy oregano and starchy beans in this easy salad that is perfect served at room temperature. 





















Ingredients:
1 large bulb of fennel (also called anise)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups grape and/or cherry tomatoes 
2 large fresh oregano sprigs
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 15-ounce can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop the fennel into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet, then add the fennel pieces; sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium heat until the fennel browns and softens, turning occasionally, about ten minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, garlic slices, red pepper, and black pepper. Toss together gently and transfer skillet to heated oven. Bake for 25 minutes, then mix in the beans. Bake five minutes longer to heat through. Serve at room temperature.



1. Burrata Salad with Strawberries, Basil and Marcona Almonds - Burrata is a fresh cheese with an outer layer of mozzarella that envelops an interior of beautiful cream. Try it with any in-season berries and herbs.





















Ingredients:
2 balls burrata cheese
4 strawberries, hulled and slices
4 basil leaves, chiffonade
6 Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Arrange cheese and strawberries in a dish. Sprinkle with basil and almonds, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

7.19.2016

Taste of Hartford at ON20



There may be no such thing as a free lunch. But there is such a thing as a discounted lunch. And that is an incredible thing when it's the prix fixe lunch offered at ON20 during this week's 2016 Taste of Hartford. It consists of three courses (starter, entree, dessert) for $30.16 at what we think is the single best restaurant in the Greater Hartford Area, located on the 20th floor of the Hartford Steam Boiler building. Even with a limited menu, Chef Jeffrey Lizotte has continued exactly where his predecessor/mentor left off - serving dishes that are as delicious as they are gorgeously plated, cooking seasonal ingredients with modern techniques and, always, taking our breath away. Every single time.







The newly renovated space exudes intimate elegance, from the slate blue and gold carpet to the dark grey ceiling tiles. Crystal sconces and chandeliers provide understated lighting which is barely needed as the wall of windows gives plenty of sunlight and a gorgeous view of the Connecticut river, city of Hartford, and the hills beyond. A platinum Greek key design and iridescent blue drapes play up the two-toned blue-gray chairs which possess a quirky detail on the back - a silver handle. Perfect for Michael, the restaurant's maitre d', a consummate gentleman whose bonhomie is part of what brings us back time and time again, to pull out the chair for a lady.





Today we started with the duck confit which was served with a black cherry tomato gastrique and tagaiassca olive shortbread. The confit was well-seasoned and tender, but one can't help but wonder how Chef got so much flavor into that gastrique, which was delightfully dark and rich. The other starter we chose was the agnolotti, perfect pasta pillows served with buttermilk braised sweet corn that seemed to have been roasted first, and a milky garden herb nage (stock). 




For entrees, we chose the broiled porgy, one of the better-eating local fish found in the Sound. This was served with lobster confit, avocado, snap peas and marinated tomato panzanella - or what we thought were perfectly cooked bread-pudding croutons. We could have eaten a whole plate of just those. Our second choice was the honey lavender glazed duck breast with a black mission fig and pickled onion tartine, with a sauce soubise, or bechamel sauce flavored with onion puree. Here was the one misstep in the entire meal, as the fat on the duck was not as fully rendered as it should have been, which made for a few chewy bites. However, the flavor was outstanding.




For dessert, the banana "split" - three scoops of ice cream (Neapolitan, naturally), with caramel, hot fudge, roasted cherry and candied walnuts topped with a dollop of freshly whipped cream - truly hit the summer spot. The chocolate araguani (Valrhona's 72% bittersweet chocolate made from rare Venezuelan cocoa beans) tart was deep and velvety smooth, as well as luxuriously garnished with flakes of gold leaf. That was served in perfect balance with a refreshing lemon verbena sorbet that we are intent upon trying to recreate at home, since we have lemon verbena in the garden. (Chef Lizotte, if you are reading this, feel free to send me that recipe).




The Taste of Hartford offers a lot of choices. In the past we've experienced some ups (incredible steaks at The Capital Grille), and some downs (churned-out chicken at the well-known upscale small local chain that we won't name here). While a typical meal at ON20 can be beyond the reach of many pockets, there is no reason not to splurge this week, when, for the experience as a whole, it must be the best deal in town. 

7.18.2016

Go Local Magazine - July 2016 Issue



Go Local Magazine is a local lifestyle magazine promoting life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. The magazine features nearby businesses where you can play, shop and eat, and showcases the citizens who make the region a great place to live. The July issue is filled with people and places that are invigorating the Go Local area. Consider it required summer reading!

On page 30 you can find our recipe for Dry-Rubbed Ribs, perfect for when the forecast includes a sure chance of barbecue. Amy wrote the article on area resident Nick Glomb and his dream to open "The Family and Friends Roadside Cart" (page 27). There's a list of community concerts and another with seven great ice cream spots. So read the current issue online here, or pick up your FREE copy today and Go Local!

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.