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Friday, February 20, 2015

Sweet Love - Valentines Recipe Roundup

Brownies! The Ultimate Valentine,  Photo: NK
That much anticipated, angsty day of love safely behind us, I thought it would be fun to give you a recap of our Valentines Day culinary escapades. As you know, I am a firm believer that Valentines day need not be solely about romantic love.  It can be as simple as doing something nice for yourself, which for me, usually means feeding my face with something really good. 

Predictably, that's just what we did last weekend, and I'd love to share what we ate with you. Special thanks to the hubby for choosing a fantastic menu and making almost every dish. 

But first, a cocktail:

This Pomegranate Gin Drink is the color of love. Basil gives it a refreshing, herbal quality... 


Photo: NK
Cocktail hour is not the same without a bite-sized nibble...

Stuffed Peppers Tapa. Photo: NK










so here's our hors d'oeuvre of Spanish Tapas (from Ina Garten's newest book Make It Ahead)












Then we absolutely had to crack
A lovely Bordeaux. 


Chateau Pierrail Bordeaux, 201,  Photo: NK
For dinner, this beautiful Roast Chicken with Creme Fraiche and Herbs (by Mimi Thorisson, also in her new book, A Kitchen In France) was an ideal (and easy!) main.


Juicy Roast Chicken with Creme Fraiche & Herbs, Peas with Pancetta, Photo: NK 

A side of Peas and Pancetta, also by Ina Garten, paired perfectly with our very simple main course. 

Now, I ask you, what's Valentines day without a sweet? For us, it just had to be Brownies. And not just any...
Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies

My husband even made an extra batch to gift to our family. 
Cute heart-shaped cookie cutters from J Crew took these Brownies to the next level. 
(Paper Straws available from Spritz by Target)

Photo: NK

There you have it. Valentines Day 2015. A wonderful reason to cook and an excuse to indulge (as if we needed one). Until next year!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Party 1.2.3. - Make-Ahead Nibbles To Get Festive

Devils on Horseback, Photo: NK
What makes a dinner party memorable? For me, lots of little tastes (and a great cocktail!) followed by one satisfyingly simple main does the trick. In the case of our last little get-together,  we made my mom's really fantastic (and make ahead) recipe for Sausage and Peppers as our entree. We served it alongside a simple and very delicious Vegetarian Pasta Salad from Food and Wine.

When you're devoting your energy to a main course and sides, you've go to keep the hors d'oeuvres simple - and ideally, make-ahead. Today, I'd like to remind you of two of our fave party bites. Both can be prepped ahead of your guests arrival and put into the oven just before you'd like to serve them and both are always, always, crowd pleasers.

1. Devils on Horseback are a classic party snack - they consist of Sweet Dates (sometimes Prunes) stuffed with Bleu Cheese and wrapped in thick-cut Bacon. What could go wrong??? Exactly. Nothing at all. Our favorite recipe for Devils is Martha Stewart's uber simple interperation of the classic. Click HERE for the recipe. Prep the Dates ahead and pop in the oven 25 minutes before you'd like to serve.
Mini Crab Cakes with Mustard Sauce, Photo: NK
2. Next up, one of our other hors d'oeuvre favorites, and a very popular hit here on Neurotic Kitchen, my Mini Crab Cakes in a Muffin Tin. Prepping these little tasty bites in a mini-muffin tin and baking them in the oven eliminates the usual muss and fuss that frying little crab cakes can create. With just a bit of prep, you can turn out 24 hors d'oeuvres in as long as these babies take to bake and transform into their golden brown delicious glory. Make the Mustard Topping and pour all the Crab Cake ingredients into the muffin tin. Start about 35 minutes before you'd like to serve. Click HERE for the recipe.

Curious about that Pasta Salad? Here's how it came out:

Simple and Delicious Pasta Salad, Photo: NK
Now just add your main dish and simple as that, you've got a great menu. You'll never cure me of my love for hors d'oeuvres. I often think I could just eat them and skip the main course. And I have! Add these two easy nibbles to your dinner party repertoire and your guests won't soon forget your effort. The fact that it wasn't all that much effort at all can be our little secret.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Grilled Cheese Gone Wild - Melted Raclette, Bacon & Pepper Jelly Sandwiches

Classic Grilled Cheese is one of those things that's so good in it's simplest form, I am always hesitant to try and improve on it. This is not to say that I didn't get hot and bothered while reading this recipe for Grilled Cheese and Pepper Jelly Sandwiches in Food & Wine Magazine. Because I also happened to have homemade pepper jelly made by our awesome cousin on hand (thanks, Julie!), I decided it was on...   
Thick Cut Bacon, Sweet Pepper Jelly & Crunchy Pecans, so good,
Photo: NK
I opted to use a delicious French Cheese called Raclette (the original uses Epoisses which I didn't find as easily). It's a bit sharp and melts fairly well. The original recipe didn't call for Bacon, but since once I get started, I can't leave well enough alone, I thought what the heck. The result was a sweet, salty, crunchy (thanks to toasted pecans) and cheesy goodness sandwiched between tangy Sourdough. Do it!  
Melted Raclette, Bacon, Pecans & Pepper Jelly Grilled Cheese, Photo: NK 

Grilled Raclette, Bacon & Pepper Jelly Sandwiches

Lightly adapted from Food & Wine / Recipe by Vivian Howard
Makes 2 Sandwiches

Ingredients:

1/4 Cup Pecans, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
2 Strips of Thick Cut Bacon (we like Coleman Organic or D'artagnan)
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter, softened to room temperature
4 Ounces Raclette, grated
4 slices of Sourdough Bread
2 Tablespoons Pepper Jelly

Method:

1. Briefly toast Pecans in toaster oven or baking sheet in the oven.

2. Cook Bacon to your liking in a medium skillet (preferably cast iron). Remove to drain on paper towels. Wipe out the skillet to use for the sandwiches. 


3. Spread Butter on one side of each slice of Sourdough. Spread the inside of two of the slices with Pepper Jelly and top with grated cheese. Top with Pecans.  Cut each slice of Bacon in half and place atop the pecans. Cover each sandwich with a second slice of Bread, butter side facing out, and press down. 

4. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Add the sandwiches and grill for 4 minutes on each side. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Perfectly Paired - Israeli Couscous With Zucchini, Mint & Pomegranate

You know we love Israeli (also known as Pearl) Couscous because we feature a new recipe for it just about once a year (check out the latest HERE and HERE). Today's version of our trusty favorite side dish was inspired by a creation my BFF made during one our girls trips to the Catskills (read about that awesome smorgasbord HERE). 


Israeli Couscous with Zucchini, Mint & Pomegranate


Prepping the ingredients, Photo: NK
Her creation stood out to me because it ingeniously included tart and crunchy Pomegranate Arils - a great pairing with the peppery Arugula she mixed in - so good! Our version brings together some great Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors like Mint, Lemon, and of course, Pomegranate. Raw Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies, so we threw it together with a salty, firm cheese called Kashkaval. Pairing these ingredients rounds out the acidic components of the Couscous.  Feel free to use any kind of salty cheese you like (Feta or Ricotta Salata might be easier to find). Whatever you do, find a reason to make this couscous for yourself to bring a little excitement to even the most basic main. Enjoy! 


Couscous With Zucchini, Mint and Pomegranate
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 Cup Israeli Couscous
2 Cups Water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Shallot, very thinly sliced
3 heaping Tablespoons Fresh Mint Leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
4 Ounces Kashkaval Cheese or other firm, salty cheese, cut into a small dice
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 small Zucchini, thinly sliced, then each round cut into fourths
1/2 Cup Pomegranate Arils (from about half a Pomegranate)
Zucchini, Photo: NK 

Method:
1. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a small sauté pan. Add shallots and cook, stirring until translucent slightly golden, about 6 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, toast the Couscous over medium heat, stirring, until some of pearls have become golden, 2-3 minutes. Add the Water and Salt, and bring to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer. Cook 8-10 minutes until the liquids have dissolved. 

3. Turn off the flame and add Zucchini, Mint, and Lemon Juice. Allow to come to room temperature. 

4. When ready to serve, stir in Pomegranate Arils and Cheese cubes. Serve room temperature or 
chilled.