Market Abundance – Green Beans

It seems that the theme for my culinary life during the summer is: What to do with all this abundance? I am speaking of farmer’s market abundance, of course. Some items are short-lived in the spring, and we almost cry when they disappear from the market tables: strawberries, tender lettuce, peas, scapes, and asparagus to name a few. We just cannot get enough, and then…they are gone. Soon, the tomatoes make an entrance, mounds of green beans appear, and the peppers are piled high.   I start to get excited about all of those Caprese salads I will be inhaling—fresh mozzarella, homegrown basil, olive oil from Olive Wagon—I feel giddy! What about the green beans and peppers? A girl cannot live on Caprese salad alone. Or could she?

Let’s talk green beans—so plentiful, so green, so basic—they beg to be with the tomatoes. Green beans are somewhat alkaline so they do well with the acidity of a tomato or a little vinaigrette. Green beans are forgiving, too. They can be eaten blanched and sautéed (still crisp) or stewed until they are delicately tender. If you are accustomed to the green beans you pour into a saucepan out of the can, I urge you to put down the can and get some fresh beans at your local farmer’s market.   Try this recipe and see if you ever go back to canned beans again. I doubt it.

Stewed Green Beans and Tomatoes

  • 1 pound green beans – trimmed & cut in half
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes OR 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion – halved and sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic – chopped
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • salt & pepper
  1. Prep your green beans, onion, and garlic. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half (or chop the Roma tomatoes).
  2. In a heavy cast iron pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium heat.
  3. Add the onion and sauté for about 4-5 minutes until translucent and softened.
  4. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, honey, and red pepper. Stir to combine ingredients. Continue to cook for about 1 minute.
  6. Add the green beans and continue to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the wine. Stir to incorporate the ingredients and turn the heat down to Low. Place the lid on the pot and let simmer for about 40-45 minutes.
  8. Stir in the cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

* If you don’t have a heavy cast iron pot, use a sauté pan or stockpot with a lid.

** I serve this as a main dish with roasted garlic cheese breadImageImageImageImage

Roasted Garlic Cheese Bread

  • 8 slices of artisan bread (please get good bread—it makes all of the difference here!)
  • 3 tbs. softened butter
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • Asiago, Parmesan, Fontina, or Havarti cheese
  1. Chop or puree the roasted garlic cloves. Thoroughly combine the garlic, butter and salt.
  2. Grate or slice the cheese of your choice.
  3. Spread the mixture on the bread slices and top with the cheese. Place under a broiler for a few minutes until cheese is bubbly.

Keeping It Simple

I must admit…there are days that I just do not want to cook in the summer.  Shocking? Probably not.  We all have those days when mustering the energy and creativity to fix dinner is simply not there.  We could go out to eat, but it’s so hot out there.  We could eat popcorn or cereal (trust me, this happens at least once a month here), but that isn’t a meal.  We could order in, but we are tired of pizza.

A refrigerator full of food and no inspiration to cook it can be disappointing.  It is in these times that I draw upon my experience living in the high desert of southern California.  During the 118 degree summers there, it was rare for me to turn on the cooktop.  Adding heat to the environment just seemed very wrong.  I mean, it was 118!  So, what to do?  I created a term that I lovingly call the “appetizer dinner.”  What is this appetizer dinner, you say?  It can be anything, really.  It doesn’t have to be just appetizers, but the main idea is that I put things together that don’t have to be cooked to be enjoyed.

I like the simplicity that comes with things like a Caprese salad or goat cheese and crackers or a platter of prosciutto and melon.  Serve these delicious plates together, and presto–you have a delicious dinner.  No cooking involved!  I like to be creative.  Adding some fig preserves to the goat cheese and crackers is my favorite.  Mix ricotta, lemon peel, salt, pepper, and a little thyme together for a lovely spread.  Olives or pickles make a nice accompaniment to any meat or cheese platter.  I confess that I do occasionally add something cooked to this spread.  Kale fritters, crostini, and even the occasional frozen appetizer from Trader Joe’s have graced our appetizer dinner table at times.

The abundant produce at your local farmer’s market in the summer makes it easy to say, “No cooking tonight!” As we journey into tomato and zucchini overload, think raw—think beat the heat with no cooking!

Here is a raw, no-cooking-involved recipe that I sampled at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market recently.  It would make a perfect appetizer dinner accompanied with Vietnamese spring rolls!

Asian Zucchini Noodle Salad

  • 3-4 medium zucchini
  • 3 spring onions (cut in half lengthwise and then chopped)
  • 1 small red bell pepper diced
  • ½ cup snow peas (slice into bit size pieces)
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup Ponzu Sauce
  • 1 tbs. sesame oil
  • 1 tbs. minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbs. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  1. Cut the ends off each zucchini and julienne or use a *spiralizer to make into noodles. Sprinkle salt over the noodles and toss. Place in a bowl lined with paper towels, cover, place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. You want to remove as much water from the zucchini as possible before making the salad.
  2. In a large bowl, combine vegetable ingredients.
  3. Whisk together ingredients for the dressing and pour onto vegetables.
  4. Mix thoroughly to coast all noodles. Serve immediately.

* I use the Gefu Spiralizer I bought at Whisk!

My all time favorite "Appetizer Dinner!"

My all time favorite “Appetizer Dinner!”

Lemon Ricotta Spread w/crostini and kale fritters pair nicely with a salad, procuitto/melon platter, or a Caprese salad!

Lemon Ricotta Spread w/crostini and kale fritters pair nicely with a salad, procuitto/melon platter, or a Caprese salad!

A cheese and charcuterie board is a perfect summer time dinner!

A cheese and charcuterie board is a perfect summer time dinner!

Move Over Sorbet, I Want Sherbet

Do you remember sherbet from your childhood? I do. Lime, pineapple, and orange were always hiding in the back of my Nana’s freezer. My favorite way to enjoy it was with 7-Up. A sherbet float was a special treat during most visits to Nana’s house. A bowl of dry roasted peanuts usually accompanied this foam-laden, fizzy concoction. It was the perfect combination—a little sweet, a little salty.

Traditional sherbet contains less milk fat than ice cream because it is made with milk not cream. Sherbet it is more like sorbet—lighter, refreshing, and with a higher ice crystal content. It’s a perfect summer dessert because it is fruit based. Likewise, it is an excellent use for that bounty of strawberries that appears in your local farmer’s market starting in late April. Add a little rhubarb, and voila! You now have the delicious frozen equivalent of strawberry rhubarb pie a la mode.   In June, try blueberries or blackberries. I have yet to meet a berry that wouldn’t make a great sherbet!

This recipe is a bit more decadent than the sherbet I remember from my Nana’s freezer. Admittedly, my refined adult palate doesn’t mind a bit! Buttermilk is the key to creating a sherbet with a creamier texture and fuller flavor. Have fun with this recipe! Be adventurous! Leave the sorbet in the freezer and grab the sherbet instead!

 

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Strawberry Rhubarb Sherbet

  • 2 cups strawberries – halved
  • 1 cup rhubarb – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbs. water
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  1. Place the rhubarb, 1/2 cup of the sugar and 2 tbs. water into a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 12 minutes or until the rhubarb starts to break down.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Once rhubarb is cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2.  Place the strawberries and the other 1/2 cup of sugar in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Strain mixture to remove seeds.
  3. Combine strawberry puree, rhubarb, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.  Whisk until incorporated.
  4. Add buttermilk and whisk until thoroughly combined.
  5. Place mixture in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours to chill.  Once chilled, pour mixture into an ice cream machine and process as you would ice cream or sorbet.  Place mixture in a plastic, freezer-safe container and place in the freezer.

***Pre-chill your container in the freezer to keep the sherbet from melting!

Vacation Reset

Aaahhhhh, vacation.  There is something exhilarating about traveling and experiencing new sights, sounds, and…food.   For me, vacation is all about the food.  We don’t generally pick a destination without first browsing its restaurant options and delving into its food scene via the Internet.  Our recent trip to the green state of Vermont was definitely no exception to that rule.  In fact, going to Vermont was solely about the food–from sustainable farming to artisan cheese to amazing farm-to-fork restaurants–food was the purpose for our journey.  Oh yes, there was maple syrup, too.  Maple made its way onto my palate many times during our stay, but contrary to popular belief Vermonters do not put it in everything…thankfully.

So, why Vermont, you ask?  For years, friends and strangers alike have told us that we would “just love Vermont!”  This alone was not reason enough to travel there.  Enter the Find Your Spot online quiz.  This quiz was the catalyst we needed to seek time in Vermont.  Mark, my husband, and I took the quiz separately years ago.  We didn’t discuss our answers to make it a more scientific and true predictor of our perfect “spots.”  The results: towns in Vermont showed up in both of our lists.  In fact, over half of our results were places in Vermont.  Interesting, right?  The quiz is quite comprehensive focusing on food, recreational activities, social interests, political views, and much more.  We were eager to visit the place that seemed to be made for us, but when?  So began a long wait for the perfect time to visit Vermont.

This month we spent six days in Vermont.  Burlington was our home base during our stay, but we traveled as much of the state as possible while we were there.  It did not disappoint.  Vermont is beautiful.  It reminded me of the mountains of North Carolina which we love.  There are no high rise buildings in Vermont, very few fast-food restaurants, and a lifestyle that is laid back–almost charming.  The people were kind.  The food was outstanding.  Farming in Vermont is sustainable, thoughtfully practiced, and done all over the state.   They recently voted to label GMOs which shows how important food and health are to Vermonters.

Coming back from vacation is always difficult.  The laundry, the quickened pace of regular life, the return to responsibilities–all of it takes some adjustment.  I find it difficult to get back in the kitchen, too.  I enjoy dining out and cooking again takes more thought than my vacation-dazed brain wants to give.  Have no fear, though…I am ready for my vacation reset.  I am ready to start cooking again and to share those recipes with you.  Our trip to Vermont has strengthened my passion for creating great food, farmer’s markets, sustainable agriculture, and eating local.   I’ll be back on track soon.  Until then, here are some memorable food moments from my trip.

Our first meal in VT.  Asiana Noodle House Tom Yum veggie soup.

Our first meal in VT. Asiana Noodle House Tom Yum veggie soup.

We were so close to Canada that Leunig's Bistro had poutine on the menu.  I have dreamt of this wonderful creation daily since then.

We were so close to Canada that Leunig’s Bistro had poutine on the menu. I have dreamt of this wonderful creation daily since then.

Barrio Bakery was next door to the house we stayed in and was a perfect morning stop. Orange Hazelnut Breakfast Roll? Yes, Please!

Barrio Bakery was next door to the house we stayed in and was a perfect morning stop. Orange Hazelnut Breakfast Roll? Yes, Please!

VT knows beer, too.  Otter Creek Brewing satiated my craving for local beer and had my favorite---Porter!

VT knows beer, too. Otter Creek Brewing satiated my craving for local beer and had my favorite—Porter!

El Cortijo not only had excellent margaritas, they are known for being "farm-to-taco." Mexican goodness with local produce = a win!

El Cortijo not only had excellent margaritas, they are known for being “farm-to-taco.” Mexican goodness with local produce = a win!

A trip to VT would not me complete without a trip to Ben & Jerry's in Waterbury.

A trip to VT would not me complete without a trip to Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury.

The Pho Ga at Pho Hong was delicious.  The packed house told us this was a winning choice.

The Pho Ga at Pho Hong was delicious. The packed house told us this was a winning choice.

Penny Cluse Cafe is a MUST visit in downtown Burlington.  No one does breakfast better.

Penny Cluse Cafe is a MUST visit in downtown Burlington. No one does breakfast better.

Citizen Cider has a piece of my heart.  We did two flights and tried it all.  They create awesome cider using apples, cranberries, and beer yeasts.

Citizen Cider has a piece of my heart. We did two flights and tried it all. They create awesome cider using apples, cranberries, and beer yeasts.

Meet the Montreal style bagel--complete with Montreal Seasoning.  These hand rolled, honey/water boiled, wood fired beauties are dense like a pretzel and oh, so yummy!

Meet the Montreal style bagel–complete with Montreal Seasoning. These hand rolled, honey/water boiled, wood fired beauties are dense like a pretzel and oh, so yummy!

Barrio Bakery also does a few pizza nights each week.  They know how to do a mighty fine pizza!

Barrio Bakery also does a few pizza nights each week. They know how to do a mighty fine pizza!

Chocolate Chip Cookies: My Kryptonite

Nothing evokes the warm feeling of a childhood memory like the smell of chocolate chip cookies.  Nothing.  I recall the electric thrill that would resonate through me when I spied a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in the grocery cart.  I knew that meant mom was going to make cookies.  She likely used the Tollhouse recipe, which was the most popular and convenient recipe of that time.  Now, there are so many variations of the chocolate chip cookie that it is difficult to find the perfect recipe.  

Because it is my favorite cookie, I have tried many of those variations over the years.  I have yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie–homemade or store bought–that I didn’t like.  Still, I felt it was necessary to find a recipe that I would love so much that it would become my “go-to” recipe.  Many emptied bags of chocolate chips and pounds of creamed butter later, I settled on a recipe that I love.  It combines the flavor profiles that I crave in a chocolate chip cookie: a caramel-like sweetness, deep chocolate flavor, and a little saltiness.

There is no wrong time to eat cookies, especially chocolate chip.  Don’t tell anyone, but my favorite breakfast is a strong cup of coffee and a couple of chocolate chip cookies.  I can’t resist the temptation any time of day.  Try this recipe and you, too, will understand why these delectable cookies are my Kryptonite.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie EVER – Recipe by Alice Currah

I have played with this recipe a little.  I found that using all bittersweet chocolate chips and increasing the amount to 2 1/2 cups gives the perfect chocolate profile without being too sweet.  I also found that using all brown sugar provides even more caramel sweetness, which I adore in a baked good!

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Go Meatless, Go Mushroom

As a child, I turned up my nose and made gagging noises when approached with a meal containing mushrooms. A fungus? You want me to eat THAT? My mother always said that I should keep trying things I didn’t originally like because “your taste will change.” How right she was!

I am not a vegetarian. I still eat meat occasionally. I guess that would make me a “flex-a-tarian.” Labeling isn’t important to me, so I just say that I eat meat when I can get pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, local meat. I eat it in moderation. I did not grow up that way. Being from the Midwest—Kansas City, Missouri to be exact—I grew up eating meat at nearly every meal. As a young adult, I finally came to the realization that cooking meat stressed me out. What if I didn’t cook it the right way—should I be grilling, braising, sautéing, roasting? What if it wasn’t done enough? What if it was overcooked? Plus, it was the most expensive thing on my home-cooked menu; so screwing it up could be disastrous for my palate and my wallet!

Eventually, I embraced roasting; let my husband do the grilling; and I occasionally sautéed. Several years ago, we decided as a family that eating more vegetables and grains would probably be best for our long-term health. Enter, the mushroom. It was time to try this little fungus again. I had read that it had some great health benefits and that it was a great meat substitute. I fell in love with the portobello immediately.   Soon, I embraced the shitake, the oyster, and finally…the porcini. Now, I cannot imagine life without mushrooms. They add such a rich, almost meaty, flavor and texture to many of my favorite dishes.

How do you feel about this edible fungus? If you haven’t tried it in a while, you should. Remember what my mother said…and aren’t moms always right? Perhaps having it prepared in a new and exciting way will help. Here are a few recipes that might work…

Stuffed Zucchini

  • 4 large zucchini
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 2 c. finely chopped mushrooms (Shitake/Oyster/Cremini)
  • ½ c. quinoa
  • 1 cup mushroom stock
  • 1 medium shallot – minced
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 carrot – diced
  • ¼ c. dry sherry
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme- chopped (I use lemon thyme)
  • salt & pepper
  • ¼ c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Rinse and drain the quinoa. Place mushroom stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add quinoa and cover. Reduce heat to low, simmer for 12 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
  2. Remove the ends of each zucchini. Slice in half lengthwise. Using a grapefruit spoon, scoop out the seeds and make a trough for the filling. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a skillet and add the olive oil. Over medium-high heat, sauté the shallot and carrot in the olive oil and butter for about 5 minutes.
  4. Turn the temperature down to medium and add the chopped mushrooms. Sauté for an additional 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add minced garlic and sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the dry sherry to deglaze the pan. Stir well.
  6. Turn the heat to low and allow it to reduce. There should be no liquid left.
  7. Remove from heat, add the quinoa and the thyme.
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Fill the zucchini with the quinoa/mushroom mixture. Place in a baking dish. Add ¼ cup of water to the baking dish.
  10. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  11. Uncover, top each zucchini with cheese and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes until zucchini is fork tender and cheese is melted.

Mushroom Tacos

  • 3 large Portobello Mushroom caps – thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red onion – halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper – sliced
  • 3-4 tbs. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. Ancho powder
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. Chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 2-3 cloves garlic – minced
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the mushrooms, the onion, and the red pepper into a bowl. Add the olive oil and stir to coat.
  3. Add the spices, the garlic, and the salt. Stir to combine.
  4. Place mixture on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir mixture and continue to roast for another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve on corn tortillas with cilantro, onion, avocado, and crema sauce.

Crema Sauce:

  • ½ c. sour cream
  • ¼ c. cilantro leaves
  • ¼ tsp. chipotle powder
  • 1 tbs. lime juice
  • pinch salt
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until combined.  I use a plastic squeezable condiment bottle to store this lovely sauce.

Frittata: Create Something Great!

I love a frittata. Add a salad and some bread, and you have a perfect brunch, lunch, or dinner. Frittatas are easy to make and can be personalized to suit your taste. There is an abundance of farm fresh eggs at the local farmers market in the spring when the chickens come out of their winter slump. Grab a dozen eggs and some spring market finds like asparagus, spinach, and parsley. Cheese makes a frittata a bit more luscious, but isn’t necessary if you want to leave it out. There are plenty of amazing goat dairies here in the Triangle, so if you are going to add cheese—make it goat cheese!

A frittata is as Italian as it sounds. It is much like an omelet except that it is intended to by eaten by the slice. The Spanish tortilla is similar to the frittata, but notably it contains only potatoes and is “inverted” using a plate to enable the cooking of both sides in the frying pan. My brother-in-law is from Madrid. He has attempted to teach me this necessary move in tortilla making, but alas…I still have much to learn.

The next time you don’t know what to make for dinner or you decide to invite friends over for Sunday brunch, make a frittata. Here is a recipe to get you started, but don’t stop there; creating your own take on the frittata is what it’s all about!

Caramelized Onion, Spinach, & Goat Cheese Frittata

Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Frittata

  • 10 eggs (pasture-raised, farm-fresh if possible)
  • 2 tbs. water
  • ½ tsp. Italian herb seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2-3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 ½ c. onion – quartered and sliced thin
  • 2 c. chopped spinach
  • ½ c. goat cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. To the eggs, add: water, salt, pepper, and Italian herb seasonings. Whisk to incorporate and set aside.
  3. Sauté the onions in the olive oil over medium heat for 7-10 minutes or until they begin to caramelize.
  4. Add spinach and continue to sauté for about 1 minute until spinach is wilted. Add salt to taste.
  5. Distribute the spinach and onion mixture evenly in the pan. Whisk the eggs to re-incorporate the mixture and pour evenly over the spinach/onion mixture in the pan.
  6. Crumble or dollop the goat cheese evenly throughout the pan. Push the cheese into the mixture slightly.
  7. Place the pan in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 7-10 minutes
  8. Turn oven to broil for 2 minutes until top of frittata is set and golden.
  9. Remove from oven and allow the pan to cool for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large serving platter.

Zucchini, Onion, Tomato, and Goat Cheese Frittata

 

 

Not Your Average Lemon

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. However, when life hands you Meyer lemons, you bake….like your life depends on it.  At least, that is what I do each year when the Meyer lemons show up in the stores.

The Meyer lemon has an interesting past as a decorative houseplant.  It is the hybridization of a mandarin and a lemon—the perfect mix of sour with a hint of sweet. Meyer lemons make great potted plants for those of us who don’t live in Florida, Texas, or California. Place one in a sunny location, and it will produce lovely fruit to be enjoyed throughout the late spring and early summer.  Be sure to place it indoors in a sunny spot for the winter!

The fruit is a deep school bus yellow, and the taste is distinct with a sharp citrus tang and sweet orange-like notes. These qualities make them perfect for baking and juicing.  Meyer lemons are a seasonal citrus, which can be found in stores late winter to early summer.  Pick up a bag and try our my favorite Meyer lemon recipes. You’ll be dreaming of spring and warm weather with every bite!

Just add a cup of tea for the perfect afternoon snack.

Just add a cup of tea for the perfect afternoon snack.

 

Lemon Tea Cakes

  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbs. buttermilk
  • lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and generously grease and flour the wells of the pan. You can use a petit four pan or a mini muffin pan.
  2. Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat till light and fluffy–about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, lemon juice, and zest.
  5. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Ensure it is incorporated before adding the next ingredient and scrape as needed.
  6. Spoon 2 teaspoons of the batter (or use a small cookie scoop) into each well of the prepared pan. Tap pan on counter to eliminate air bubbles.
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes until the cakes are no longer sticky on top. Cool in pan for 1-2 minutes then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.

* I wash and dry my Nordicware Petit Four pan before preparing it for another batch.

  1. For the glaze, whisk ingredients together and drizzle over the cooled cakes.

 

More recipes and info on Meyer lemons:

Lemon Bars 

Lemon Basil Sorbet

The History of the Meyer Lemon 

 

 

 

Not Your Mama’s Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts.  Okay, you read it…now what comes to mind after?  Childhood memories of gagging down this much-hated vegetable?   Images of little cabbages that make you turn up your nose in disgust?  If this was your first thought, you wouldn’t be alone.  Many people wrinkle their noses and give the “Eww” face when Brussels sprouts are mentioned.

This little veggie is making an appearance on many restaurant menus these days.  You might even call Brussels sprouts “trendy”.  Trendy or not—this ingredient has become one of my family’s favorites.  We roast them.  We sauté them.  We shave them into a quinoa salad.  We are always looking for new ideas and recipes that include Brussels sprouts. 

I recently had a Brussels sprouts appetizer that had me reminiscing of my mom’s spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette.  Tazza Kitchen roasts Brussels sprouts then adds egg crumbles, bacon, and maple vinaigrette.  It was actually better than the spinach salads of my youth, but don’t tell my mom.  Roasting these little veggies seems to bring out a depth of flavor that I never knew they had as a kid.  My favorite way to prepare them is a little olive oil, lard, or bacon drippings—add a little onion—and boom!  You will be professing your love of Brussels sprouts in the first bite.

As spring approaches and our farmer’s markets fill with leafy greens and the bounty of spring, I urge you to find some Brussels sprouts and try them again.  You might be surprised at how much you like them.  And…here is a recipe to get you started with your Brussels sprouts love affair:

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  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 2-3 tbs. olive oil
  • ½ c. red grapes
  • ½ c. coarsely chopped toasted pecans
  • 2-3 tsp. aged Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • Salt – to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Cut Brussel sprouts into halves or quarters depending on size.  Place in a bowl with the grapes, drizzle with the olive oil, and add black pepper and thyme.  Stir to coat.
  3. Roast on a sheet pan for 20 minutes until Brussels sprouts are fork tender
  4. While Brussels sprouts are in the oven, toast pecans in a skillet over medium heat.
  5. In a serving bowl, combine roasted Brussels sprouts/grape mixture and the pecans.  Add salt to taste and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. 

            **if grapes are small, roast Brussels sprouts for 10 minutes, then add the grapes and stir to incorporate.  Continue roasting for the remaining time.

 

 

Simple Goodness: Tazza Kitchen

Simple:  Not fussy; the absence of complication; or without unnecessary adornment.  It’s the way I like my food.  The flavors shouldn’t compete. They should mingle together in a collaborative effort to make me say, “Oh, wow…that is really good.”

Every dish placed in front of me at Tazza Kitchen in the Cameron Village area of Raleigh, NC did exactly that.  Nothing fussy.  Nothing complicated—just regional foods prepared creatively and with a focus on flavor. Complementing the amazing food was a staff that worked together like a well-oiled machine.  Their passion for food and knowledge about each dish was welcome and a little surprising considering the restaurant had just opened.  It was a lovely dining experience; one I hope to re-create soon!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with bacon, crumbled egg, and a maple vinaigrette.

Marinara and goat cheese from Prodigal Farm.  The bread had the perfect wood-fired char.

Marinara and goat cheese from Prodigal Farm. The bread had the perfect wood-fired char.

Mixed greens salad with herbs.

Mixed greens salad with herbs.

Garganelli pasta with fennel sausage.  I could eat this DAILY.

Garganelli pasta with fennel sausage. I could eat this DAILY.

White Pizza with béchamel, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, and bacon.  A gift from heaven--I am sure of it.

White Pizza with béchamel, smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, and bacon. A gift from heaven–I am sure of it.

Salted Caramel Gelato with flour less orange and almond cake.  Dessert could not have been more perfect.

Salted Caramel Gelato with flourless orange and almond cake. Dessert could not have been more perfect.

Reduce, reuse, recycle by decorating with wine bottles!

Reduce, reuse, recycle by decorating with wine bottles!

Wonderful, delicious things happen in there.

Wonderful, delicious things happen in there.

The homemade cocktail creations were an excellent start to my meal.

The homemade cocktail creations were an excellent start to my meal.

The spotlights show the way to memorable meal.

The spotlights show the way to a memorable meal.