Thursday, August 28, 2008

36(ish) hours in the Berkshires

Friday:7:30 PM: Head to Route 7 Grill (999 Main St., Great Barrington, MA) for some of the best farm-to-table BBQ around. Eat pulled pork, baked beans, corn bread, and some that amazing macaroni and cheese with the hardened cheesey top. Buy an "eat meat" shirt on the way out.

9:00 PM: Drive to up route 7 into Dalton. Eat the raspberry filled sugar cookie that your mom has brought to the house. Sleep like you're dead.

12:00 PM: Drive to Lenox. Poke around The Bookshop, grab an ice cream cone at SoCo Creamery, and walk through the craft fair across the street from the library.
6:00 PM: Visit Tanglewood for the last concerts of the season at the Jazz Festival. Put your quilt down and fire-up your tea lights. Climb the tree and wander around in the maze before it gets too dark. Have a glass of wine, eat some olives, talk about teaching and college and golf with your parents.

8:00 PM: Eat Peter's summer chili with homemade fresh salsa. Put your fleece on (it's already chilly), and lie back to watch for shooting stars.
12:30 PM: Head to Saratoga for the last horse races of the season. Read what the experts are picking and place $2 bets on the long-shots for every race. Win big.

5:00 PM: Walk around Saratoga. Wander into the wine store if they're doing a tasting, buy a scarf, check the sale rack at the Gap.

7:30 PM: Eat dinner at Max London's (466 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY). Order the lemony anchovie crostini and the fantastic clam pizza.

8:30 PM: Stop at Eugenio's Cafe (419 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY) for a bambini gelato and a quick coffee before the drive home. Good bye summer, hello New York.

Update on 10/12/12: Fun news, friends! I put together a mini travel guide on the BerkshiresI kept it short so that I was only sharing my absolute favorite things in that area. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So long, summer vacation

Even though I don't get the summer off, I certainly benefit from it in some ways while Peter is on summer vacation. This week, Peter is returning the world of early (very, very early) mornings, lesson planning, and paper grading, and I thought it would be the perfect time to make him a gussied-up version of a weeknight dinner.

I know that ratatouille might not be categorized as fancy food by some, but I'd never made it before, and I'm always a bit leery of recipes with lots of ingredients and steps (even if the ingredients are all from the farm stand and the steps are just a long series of chopping and stirring).

For the main course, I decided to try a version of this stuffed chicken recipe from the kitchn. It felt fancy but still easy -- the perfect combination for this kind of dinner. I made mine with lots of fresh basil and goat cheese, but the idea is the same, and it was a total hit.

And dessert. This little dinner offered the perfect excuse (ahem, opportunity) to make this truly life changing molten chocolate cake with peanut butter filling.  


You will need:
3 medium tomatoes (like these!)
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
2 small eggplants or 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 medium onion
1 bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
Black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Cut an "X" in the bottom of the tomatoes and put them into a pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and cool enough so that you can remove the skin. Chop them up and add to a pot with the basil, garlic, and some olive oil. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, toss your eggplant with a touch of salt and let it sit in a colander in the sink for about 30 minutes. 

In a large pot, cook the onions with a sprinkle of salt and olive oil for about five minutes, and then remove to a bowl. Repeat this process with the pepper, zucchini, and finally the eggplant.  Add all the vegetable back to the pan, and pour the tomato sauce on top. Cover and simmer for at least half an hour, but an hour is better.  Serve with some parmesan cheese on top. 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stark tomatoes

I'm a bit of a worshipper when it comes food celebrities. So when I saw these gorgeous bins of heirloom tomatoes at Union Square from Tim Stark, I knew it would be worth it (even at $7 a bin). 

And oh my, it was.  It would be silly to write a recipe for this little salad since all I did was drizzle the sliced tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on top.  Each color had a different texture to the skin, a different tang to the acidity. 

Here's to hoping you have some beautiful tomatoes of your own to enjoy this week.  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Makes my lips tingle

Last night, a wonderful friend came by for dinner. And she even brought flowers and chocolate! I told you she was wonderful.

We drank frozen margertitas (Have you tried these? They're AMAZING.) and got to catch up on gossip and decorating and books. Peter kept us out of the kitchen while he whipped this up. This is a dish he's made for me before, and I absolutely love it. He used a spicier curry in last night's version, and it made my lips tingle a little (in a good way, of course!). And it happens to use a lot of the wonderful things out in the farmers market this time of year -- fresh corn, peppers, jalepeno, and tomatoes.

Curry chicken with yogurt:
Adapted from Food and Wine

You will need:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 big red bell pepper—cored, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 large tomato, cored and coarsely chopped
2 fresh ears of corn, cut off the core
1/4 cup Greek-style plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup water

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour, tapping off the excess. Cook the chicken over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned and then transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the ginger, garlic, chile, and bell pepper to the skillet and cook over high heat until slightly softened. Stir in the curry powder and then add the tomatoes, corn, yogurt, and water. Season with salt and pepper.

Return the chicken to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over very low heat until the chicken is tender and the juices are slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. We served ours over rice to round out the meal, and have the most delicious left-overs covered in this spicy curry.

P.S. I made a version of this for dessert (substituted amaretto for almond tequila and toasted almonds for candied walnuts, but the same basic idea). A stellar finish to a fantastic visit.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

They have better homes in Australia

We've done a much better job eating at home this week. I know it's boring, but I love the routine of coming into the apartment after being pushed and sholved on the subway. Sitting on the couch, going over the silly and sometimes irritating items of the day with a glass of wine in hand and Rachel Ray chattering in the background. It's delightful.

It's the night before we skip out of town again, and I'm left making dinner with the odd things left in my fridge. I've got an avocado, a single ear of corn, some pretty purple shallots...and that's about it. I did a quick internet search of "avocado and corn" and came across this for inspiration. Pretty good looking, right? And it even uses the shallots!

Fish with avacodo, corn, and rice

You will need:

2 fillets of fish (I used tilapia because it looked good at the fish market)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large shallots, diced
1 clove fresh garlic
1 ear fresh corn
1 ripe avacodo
1 cup rice
splash of white wine vinegar (or white wine!)
1/4 cup water
Juice from half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil to a large frying pan and heat over medium high until the oil is just rippling. Wash and dry the fish. Spinkle with salt and pepper. Add to the pan and sear on each side for a few minutes -- ere on the side of undercooking. Cover fish in foil and place in a low oven to keep warm. Add shallots and corn to the hot pan you cooked the fish in. Cook about two minutes, then add vinegar, water, and avocado. Cook for one more minute, covered. Remove from pan and add lemon juice, butter, and a splash more of vinegar to the pan. Stir.

I served this over rice, so I put a nice scoop of rice in the dish, the avocado, corn, and shallot mixture next, then the fish, and then I drizzled the sauce on top. Light and lemony and creamy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Here we go again

While making $2 bets last weekend at the Saratoga horse races, Peter and I actually made $42! I know -- I was amazed, too.  We decided to use if for a fun date night back in the city.  The only problem with this plan is that it can be quite difficult to have a fun date in New York City for only $42.

We decided to use it one of my favorite spots, Taim, in the West Village. It's very tiny -- just a counter with six stools -- but it's charming in it's own strange way.  There are large glass windows facing the street, and there are usually some odd conversations taking place inside that are well worth over-hearing. 

While we were making our final decisions, we got a tall glass of the ginger mint lemonade, which is so refreshing and crisp tasting, especially this time of year. We decided to order the mixed falafel platter, which comes with green, red, and harissa flavored mini-falafels sitting on top of a giant mound of creamy hummus sprinkled with smokey paprika. There are piles of Isreali salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions chopped up together), green, tangy tabouli, and three other sauces to pour on top. We got the white pitas (they also have wheat), which come out warm and covered with dried herbs and salt. This time we remembered to order an extra couple of pitas to go along with the platter since it only comes with two and there is more than enough on the platter to make four. 

I should also mention that Tiam has the best french fries in the city. Rather, they have the best french fry accompaniment in the city. It's a thick, yellow saffron aioli that is totally and completely wonderful.  It's the dressing that thin, crispy fries everywhere would cry out for if they could. 

All this was only $20.  Leaving us with $22 to spend on movie tickets to Mama Mia!  

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What's too much?

It started with burgers, french fries, and onion rings and P.J. Clarkes. Then it was sausages and a soft, salted pretzel at Shea Stadium. We rounded out the week with pork belly and sweet and sour chicken at Szechuan Gourmet.

Just. Too. Much.

Needless to say, it's salad, rice, and a plain old pork chop for tonight. For the salad, I drew inspiration from the incredible Splendid Table newsletter and added some curry to my dressing.

Simple summer salad

You will need:

1 clove fresh garlic, chopped finely
1 small purple scallion
1 ripe tomato
Nice chunk of cucumber
Small bell pepper (mine was lovely and purple!)
Teaspooon of curry
Splash of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

In the bottom of your salad bowl, whisk together the curry, chopped garlic, chopped shallot, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Chop nice chunks of tomato, cucumber, and the red bell pepper. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer chil(i)

It's sticky in the kitchen tonight, but that's only because I was craving some decidedly un-summery things. We had all the stuff for a great chili (one of Peter's specialities), and cornbread just seemed like the perfect thing to go along with it, but that meant I had to turn on the oven. To four hundred degrees. So it goes when a craving comes along. I rounded out the meal with my favorite summer salad -- sliced cucumbers and tomatoes with basil, oil, salt, and pepper on top.

And then, because it's Peter's favorite and I happened to have a giant peach, I made him some peach ice-cream. I cut the recipe in half, since we only had a small container of sour cream on hand.

Peter's summer chili

You will need:
3 strips of bacon
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 can pink beans
1 ear fresh corn
2 medium tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
ground cumin, cinnamon, and dark chili powder, to taste

Chop your bacon up into bite sized pieces and put at the bottom of your stew pot. Once your bacon has crisped up, take out some of the bacon fat, but not all. Add your chopped onion, red pepper, and jalapeno. After a few minutes, add the ground beef and cook until the meat is brown. Season with chili powder, cumin, and a little shake of cinnamon. Cut your fresh corn off the ear and saute in a dry pan a few minutes. Add your corn, chopped fresh tomatoes, can of drained beans, and your can of crushed tomatoes, with the juice. Fill up the tomato can with water and add it to the pot. Let it cook down about 30 minutes. Serve with corn bread, sour cream, and cheese.

Peach ice cream
Recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop:

You will need:
1 giant peach (or 2 regular sized peaches)
1/4 cup water
Just under 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Handful of mini chocolate chips

Peel and dice your peach, and put over medium heat with water. Cook about 10 minutes, until the peaches are soft and mushy. Stir in the sugar and let cool about 30 minutes. In a blender or food processor, mix together the cooled peaches and any liquid they have along with the sour cream, cream, and vanilla*. I made my mixture quite smooth because I hate fruit chunks in my ice cream, but you are welcome to make this as chunky as you'd like. Chill the mixture in the fridge until cool, and then add to the wondrous ice cream machine. At the very end, I added in a handful of mini-chocolate chips.
*The original recipe calls for some lemon juice added in at this point, which would be delightful, I'm sure, but I didn't have any.
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