Tuesday, March 27, 2012

April Eats

I don't normally post about upcoming events (because there are plenty of sites that do, and do you really need to hear about them yet again from me?) but some of my favorite Boston food events are coming up, and you really should be there for them.

Taste of the Nation Boston
This is THE greatest food event in the city, hands down. Held at the Hynes Convention Center, it's table after table of little bites from some of the best restaurants in the area, as well as wines and cocktails. In fact, it's easy to get full before you've tried everything, but it's still worth giving it a go. It seems a little perverse to raise money for Share Our Strength, dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America, by eating copious amounts of food, but that takes away the sting of the $95 ticket price (I'd recommend going for the $150 VIP ticket, though - you get in an hour earlier, and you have access to the VIP room with additional treats and comfy seating, plus giving a little more to SOS will help balance out all the eating). This year, the event will be held on April 19th, from 6pm (VIP tickets)/7pm (regular tickets) until 9:30. Now through March 30th, use the code "restweek20" for a 20% discount on the ticket here (so you really have no excuse not to splurge on the VIP ticket). (Want more info? See my 2009 and 2010 recaps!)

Chocolate Madness
A food sampling event that is all about CHOCOLATE! What's not to love? Some of the area's top bakers and chocolatiers try to wow the crowd with their confections. You'll leave wanting a slice of pizza to take the edge off the sugar rush, but man, is that sugar rush worth it. The event is sponsored by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and this year's event will take place on April 24th from 7:30pm to 9pm at the Cyclorama in the South End. Buy your tickets here. (Want more info? See my 2010 recap!)

PAX East
No, I know this isn't a food event. PAX is a huge gamer convention, now in it's third year in Boston (PAX Prime is held in Seattle in the fall). This is the first year, however, that I have joined the Cookie Brigade. The Cookie Brigade is one of the many groups which raise money for Child's Play, an awesome charity that brings toys and games to kids in hospitals. They bake cookies of all kinds and give them to fellow PAXers in exchange for donations (you don't have to donate for a cookie, but most people at least scrounge up some change). Post-PAX, I should have at least one new recipe to post here (and that will give me a reason to bore you with all my PAX stories as well). (I was first introduced to potato chip cookies through the Cookie Brigade. Make them, they're amazing!) (Also, see photos from PAX 2010 here. Apparently I didn't take photos last year?)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pi Day for Ron

Pi Day (or March 14th for the 3.14 in Pi) never meant much to me. In school, I had a number of math teachers who tried to make it fun, but math was never my favorite class.

My brother Ron, however, loved it. At his last job, he had instituted Pi Day festivities, sending out invites months ahead and rallying everyone to join in on a silly mid-week celebration. In fact, he loved anything quirky or odd or just plain stupid like Pi Day. That's just the kind of guy he was.

Ron passed away suddenly last year, and pretty much nothing has been right since. He was one of my best friends, and I think he was finally starting to see me as an adult and not his stupid kid sister. He was the one who was constantly finding things to share with me - YouTube videos, new TV shows, weird catchphrases - and this past year has been awkward trying to find and enjoy these things on my own. I've been left with a lot of sad memories, which I know he would have hated.

Pi Day, though. That's a thing he loved for no real reason other than it was quirky. It's something I can be damned sure I'm going to celebrate for the rest of my life because it made him happy. And if pie can't fix things, even just for a little while, then I don't know what else can.

Because I'd much rather remember Ron on a day like today, for reasons like pie.

Bacon Chocolate Cream Pie
1 1/2 cups crushed Oreos (about 15 cookies broken in a food processor)
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 pint heavy cream
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 package chocolate pudding, prepared as directed
5 pieces candied bacon, chopped

Mix together crushed oreos and butter until all the crumbs are moist. Gently pat into the bottom and sides of a pie dish. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a mixer, whip heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Don't overwhip the cream. Gently fold half the whipped cream into the pudding and pour into the prepared pie dish. Top with the remaining whipped cream and decorate with the chopped bacon. Chill before serving.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Jarlsberg Monkey Bread

Can you believe that there are people out there who haven't yet tried monkey bread?! (Unless, of course, you are one of those people. Then I guess you don't know what you're missing.) When I told my friends that I had been invited to create a dish with Jarlsberg Dip for their 29 Ways to Leap into Jarlsberg Dip promotion and giveaway and that my dish would be monkey bread, I got more than one blank stare in return. 

First, they were confused by Jarlsberg Dip (as was I, before I made this dish). It's a creamy concoction featuring the wonderfully nutty and subtle Jarlsberg cheese. It's just starting to pop up in stores. I used the dip plus regular Jarlsberg cheese in my dish.

And then, more horrifyingly, they were confused by the term "monkey bread." They wanted to know why it was called that, and I couldn't give them a clear answer. (The Internets didn't help me here, either.) Once I put this bad boy in the oven and they started to smell it as it baked, though, they didn't care about the name anymore.

There was pretty much no talking after I pulled this out of the oven (unless you count the mumbles asking for the plate to be passed around the table again). I still don't think I've adequately answered their questions about the term monkey bread...

One note: When I made this, I only sprinkled some of the grated Jarlsberg in the bottom of the pan. When it came time to eat, the extra-cheesy bits were my favorite, and I was sad that I hadn't incorporated more into the final dish. Below I have amended my recipe to include more grated cheese, which would make your monkey bread look a little different than mine.

Jarlsberg Monkey Bread
4 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 lbs pizza dough (I used store-bought)
1 package Jarlsberg Dip
3-4 ounces Jarlsberg cheese, grated

In a small pan, heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add garlic and heat until garlic begins to brown. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Brush interior of a bundt pan with garlic butter and set aside.

Divide dough into even pieces about the size of a golf ball. Flatten each ball and place a small dollop of Jarlsberg Dip in the center. Pinch together the edges of the dough around the dip to seal closed. Brush with melted butter and roll in grated cheese before positioning in the prepared bundt pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Once all the dough has been used, cover the pan and let rest on the counter for 30-60 minutes.

While the monkey bread is resting, preheat the oven to 400°. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the top is nicely golden. The monkey bread will rise a lot in the oven. Cool slightly before inverting onto a plate. Serve hot!

Jarlsberg wants you to Leap into Jarlsberg Dip too by sharing how you would use Jarlsberg Dip. The winner of the giveaway will win a tailgate tote stocked with Jarlsberg Lite Cheese, new Jarlsberg Cheese Dip, Snofrisk (a Norwegian style cream cheese), crispbreads, honey cremes, and honey vinegar. More details are available on their website.

Full Disclosure note: I was compensated for my time and groceries by Jarlsberg, but my opinions are all mine.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fried Olive Salad Toppers

Like I said, olives are delicious and make me happy. I couldn't choose just one January Kitchen PLAY recipe featuring Lindsay Olives, so I tried a second one for kicks. Because what's not to love about CHEESE-STUFFED FRIED OLIVES?! Dear god, they're wonderful.

I followed Fake Ginger's recipe, subbing in feta for roquefort and adding a small oregano leaf with the cheese. I ate a few of these straight out of the fryer and of course loved them, but they needed something. I grabbed some arugula from the fridge and tossed it lightly with a little lemon vinaigrette (basically just 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive oil), then perched a few olives on top. What a perfect match! The bitter greens stood up to the saltiness of the olives, the tender leaves contrasted with the crispiness of the fried bits, and the unctuous of the olive oil and the olives tied everything together. So while these make a very tasty amuse bouche as Fake Ginger intended, I loved them far more as delicious little croutons on my salad.

Cheese-Stuffed Olives
1 can Lindsay black olives, drained and patted dry
2 ounces feta
handful small oregano leaves
1 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
about 2 cups canola or vegetable oil, for frying

Stuff each olive with a piece of feta and an oregano leaf. (If the cheese is very crumbly, just stuff in as much as you can.)

Heat oil in a tall-sided pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, work a few olives at a time: roll in flour, dip in egg, then coat with panko before adding to the hot oil. Cook until golden on one side, then flip and cook until golden. Cool on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the olives. Salt lightly before serving.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Olive and Goat Cheese Pasta Salad

I know what you're thinking - that's not a photo of pasta salad. You're right, because when I started cooking, I wasn't aiming for pasta salad. If you can't have some flexibility in the kitchen, you're in trouble.

While going through January's recipes over at Kitchen PLAY sponsored by Lindsay Olives, I wanted to cook just about all of them. I'm a big olive fan, so they all looked good to me. And since I'm also a fan of anything wrapped in puff pastry, I opted to try the olive and goat cheese turnovers from Chez Us. Don't her photos of the turnovers look amazing?!

And yes, I did make the turnovers. I loved them - pillowy bites of salty olives and tangy goat cheese. I subbed in some red onion for the shallots, because that's what I had. I loved these and the sophistication they would bring to any dinner party. In fact, I might have to bring them to the next family gathering, as I know my family loves cheese wrapped in dough as much as I do.

But I had some filling leftover (I only used one box of puff pastry instead of two), and I wasn't going to let it go to waste. I was going to just spread it on crackers, but I didn't have any. But there was pasta! I boiled up a little bit of whole wheat pasta and tossed it with the cheese mixture and a little bit of the pasta water.

Oh my, what a wonderful pasta sauce this makes! I ate some warm and enjoyed it, but when I ate some cooled, I enjoyed it even more. This would be a perfect picnic dish (I mean, our weather has been so bizarrely warm that us New Englanders could even have a picnic right now), or even great for lunch at work.

Olive and Goat Cheese Pasta Salad inspired by Chez Us

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, minced
1 can Lindsay green olives, drained and minced
1 can Lindsay black olives, drained and minced
zest of 1 lemon
handful of fresh oregano, minced
black pepper
10 ounces goat cheese
1 box small pasta (like rotini)

In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add olives and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add lemon zest, oregano, and black pepper to taste. Let cool slightly, then stir in goat cheese until well combined.

Cook pasta according to box. Mix the pasta and the cheese mixture until well combined. Add a little of the pasta water if the cheese is too clumpy. Refrigerate before serving.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vampire Slayer Dip

I hate yogurt. Like, really hate it. I know that this, along with my dislike of pilaf and paklava, makes me a bad Armenian, but I can't help it. It's just gross.

But sometimes (like after taking antibiotics), yogurt is a must. I can stand the stuff as long as it doesn't taste like yogurt, and usually a strong dose of garlic (like in tzatziki) will do it. I had already made one batch of tzatziki, though, so I needed another way to incorporate garlic and yogurt. How about two heads of garlic and two onions? If that couldn't stop the yogurt flavor, nothing could.

Of course, all that garlic can also stop vampires. So this dip will not only help your stomach feel better, it will also save you from an untimely death due to vampire bites. You can thank me later.

Vampire Slayer Dip
1 large (or 2 small) head of garlic
1 sweet onion
1 yellow onion
olive oil
2 cups Greek yogurt
handful of parsley
juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 400°. Remove loose papery layers from garlic head and cut off the top 1/4 inch. Place garlic in the middle of a sheet of tin foil. Top with a little bit of olive oil, wrap tightly in foil, and bake for 30-45 minutes (until cloves are soft). Let cool, then squeeze garlic cloves out of their papery shells.

Slice onions very thin. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, then add onions. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are a deep amber color. Onions may need a little more olive oil as they cook. Cool before using.

Add cooled garlic and onions to a medium bowl, reserving about 1/4 of the onions for later. Add yogurt, then blend (either in a blender or with an immersion blender) until smooth. Add remaining onions and a handful of parsley leaves and blend lightly so there are still pieces visible. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Make sure everyone eats at least a little bit so you don't knock anyone out with your breath.

Monday, January 9, 2012

From Austin to Boston and Back Again

I love getting gifts in the mail. I mean, who doesn't? So when the Boston Food Bloggers and the Austin Food Blogger Alliance teamed up before the holidays for a little cross-city swapping, you know I was in for the ride.

I went to Austin a few years ago for a conference, and while I didn't get to see an awful lot of the city, I loved what I did see. I ate more barbecue than I thought possible at The Salt Lick, spent a fair amount of time browsing in Austin Books & Comics, somehow managed to go to both Cornucopia (for awesome popcorn) and Walton's Fancy and Bakery (for baked goods) about once a day, and bought some crazy things at the City-Wide Garage Sale that now adorn my rooms. I couldn't help but wonder what magical items I would get from Texas.

But first, I had to package up my goodies! I shopped around for some of my absolute favorite local items, like Sweet Sloops from Harbor Sweets, a few different varieties of Q's Nuts, and Little Lad's Herbal Popcorn (the herbs are dill and nutritional yeast). I also added some local honey (which I bought on tap from Follow the Honey), some olive oil from Central Bottle, some chocolate-covered cranberries, and some homemade chocolate peppermint cookies that I had made for the Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Of course, like just about everyone else in the ATXBOS swap, I included a copy of Edible Boston, and I also threw in a farmers' market shopping list pad. I tried to get the package out the door as early as possible because I knew the Christmas season would be so hectic.

 Not long after, I received a box in the mail from my swap partner, Kristina of Girl Gone Grits. It was a good sign, I think, that she had used a tequila box to send everything to me :) Inside, I found a wealth of Austin goodies: two kinds of meat rubs (Fiesta Brand and Gordon's), Texas Texas Salsa (the first kind Kristina tried after moving to Austin), Pie Society Crimps (tasty little bites of pie with nutella), RoundRock Honey, Texas Pasta in spinach and basil (which I'm saving for a really cold night), pickled blueberreis by Confituras (who knew you could pickle blueberries?!), Fig Honey Habanero jam from A Texas Twist, Pumpkin Ginger jam (made by Kristina herself!), a few copies of Edible Austin and a few other Austin periodicals, and (shhhh, don't tell!) a little nip of Republic tequila and homemade (!) limoncello. So many good things in one place! I'm looking forward to having little tastes of Austin to keep me warm throughout the winter.