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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Starter - The Ultimate Cheese Plate

Thanksgiving 2016 is in the books, and it was a great one. We have much to be thankful for, especially in a world where far too many aren't as lucky as we. So for food on the table, a roof over our heads, a warm bed each night, and each other, I give thanks.  

Our Thanksgiving feast was fantastic (thanks to my mom-in-law for hosting), and as usual, my husband and I contributed starters. He made a really delicious Blue Cheese & Walnut Waldorf Dip, and I went with my personal favorite, a cheese plate. But not just any cheese plate, a cheese plate to end all cheese plates. One that would top all my others in variety and abundance. A mega plate, if you will. 

Thanksgiving 2016, Photo: NK

Below I'll share the how-to for today's show-stopping platter, but if you're looking for more ideas, be sure to check out our other themed efforts over the years. 


Spanish Cheese and Meat Plate How To
Spanish Cheese Plate II - Anatomy of a Spanish Cheese Plate 
French Cheese and Charcuterie Plate 
Sunny Italy Cheese Plate How To
Southern Cheese Plate with the works!
Ricotta Crostini Platter

Ultimate Cheese & Salumi Plate
Serves 7-8

Ingredients:

Meats:
Aged imported Prosciutto, thinly sliced (about 1/2 Lb)
1 Small Dried Salami, we chose Spicy Calabrese Style

Cheeses:
Affidelice
Cypress Grove Creamline Midnight Moon 
La Casearia Carpenedo Vento D'Estate
Sbrinz

Castelvetrano Olives

Marcona Almonds

Fruits:
Starfruit (Carambola)

Red Grapes
Blackberries 
Granny Smith Apples
Red Anjou Pears


Fig Preserves

Garnishes:
Treviso Leaves (a type of Radicchio)
Italian Parsley 

Thyme

Enjoy! 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Restaurant Inspired - Scarpetta's Tomato Basil Sauce

So many of my family's favorite at-home meals are inspired by incredible restaurant experiences. In the years where we were footloose and fancy free, we did a really good job of getting out for great meals around town, several that were really special and memorable with amazing dishes like:
Chili Lobster With Texas Toast, Brussels Sprouts With Figs and Mint Yogurt, and this unbelievable Mac & Cheese.   


Scarpetta's Famous Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Sauce at home! Photo: NK

Nowadays, as parents, life may be a bit slower and budgets may be tighter, but the few times we do make it out, we really go and do it up. When date nights are scarce, it's a great excuse to make them count!

The latest wow dish came to us courtesy of NYC's impeccable Scarpetta, an elegant yet bustling high-end Italian joint that is not to be missed. Though everything we ate was excellent, their most famous dish, a humble bowl of Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce, was the stand out. Part of me didn't want to order it because I typically like my out-on-the-town dinners to be a bit more exotic, but I'd read so much hype, I just had to taste for myself. The secret to Scott Conant's brilliant sauce is two-fold as far as I can tell: lots of extra fat (oil, butter, etc. what could go wrong?) but also, Conant infuses Olive Oil with the fresh flavors of Classic Marinara, so that you get all the essence and freshness in an unmuddled, more forward way. The flavored Oil is applied at the end, and the various essences come through to your palate magnified and bright. It's pure genius.

Our interpretation of Scarpetta's famous Spaghetti Tomato Basil Sauce is based heavily off the Serious Eats piece and because we use high quality canned Tomatoes, it's done the fastest possible way possible. Obviously fresh Tomatoes are best, but I would only use themwhen they are at their best and perfectly in season. Though there are multiple steps to Conant's recipe, I've tried to write it up for you in a way that maximizes ease and cuts down prep time. 

I threw this together on a weekday and I was done in just under 40 minutes. SO worth it. While I could tell you my results were as good as the real deal, I'd be lying. Still, I must say, it came pretty darn close to the original and really blew our socks.


Scarpetta's Famous Spaghetti Tomato Basil Sauce (the fastest way)
By Scott Conant
Ingredients:

28 Ounce Can Whole Peeled (or diced) San Marzano Tomatoes
1 Pound Good Quality dry or fresh Spaghetti (Garofalo, De Cecco are good choices)
1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Coarse Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon
Bunch of Basil, 2 large sprigs set aside, 6 large leaves cut into thin ribbons
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes + extra for infusing the Oil
6 Cloves of Garlic, whole  
1 Tablespoon Salted Butter
2-3 Tablespoons Fresh Grated Parmigiana Reggiano


Method:

Set a large Pasta Pot of well salted water to boil.

In another large, high sided pan, warm the 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the can of Tomatoes and a big pinch of Salt and 1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes then mush them well with a potato masher. (Start prepping your Oil infusion below). Allow to cook about 20 minutes or more (if you need to buy time) over medium heat, mashing and stirring from time to time. If the sauce gets too thick, add a Tablespoon or two of water to loosen.

While the Tomato Sauce cooks, infuse your remaining Olive Oil in another small pot. Add 1/4 Cup Oil, 2 large sprigs of Basil, a good pinch of Crushed Red Pepper Flake and 6 Large Garlic Cloves. Turn the flame very low and allow flavors to slowly infuse, ideally for about 20 minutes.

Pasta Water should be boiling now so add your Spaghetti and cook until just under al dente according to package instructions. When Pasta is done, scoop out about a cup of pasta water and reserve. Drain the rest of the Pasta and add it to the pan with the Tomato Sauce. Toss. Add Pasta Water, Tablespoon by Tablespoon and turn up the flame to medium. Continue to toss until Sauce and Pasta moves together in the pan. The Pasta Water will help it to bind thanks to the starch in it. Turn off the flame.

Throw a pat of Butter on top of the Pasta and Sauce and toss. Then stream in the Infused Oil, using a spoon to block the solids as you pour. Discard all but the oil. Toss. Now the add the Parmigiana Reggiano and remaining Basil Ribbons. Toss again. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of Salt if needed.

Serve and ENJOY!!!!!!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sweet & Spooky - 3 Ingredient Candy Cobwebs

Boo! It's Halloween, and we here at Neurotic Kitchen hope you're looking forward lots of fun activities with your friends and loved ones this creepiest of evenings. Even if your trick-or-treating already happened this weekend, there's still time for a spooky, edible craft that will delight big and little diners alike, with none of the commitment of cupcakes or other more involved baked goodies. You don't even have to turn on the oven.

As you can see, these don't have to be perfect to look positively adorable and delicious! Photo: NK 


Grown-ups: are you headed to a party empty-handed? These whimsically sweet spider webs come together in ten minutes (just leave a half hour for them to firm up). With only three ingredients, they can be ready in a flash. 

3-Ingredient Candy Cobwebs
Recipe From: Canadian Family
Yield- about 18 Cobwebs

Ingredients & Equipment: 
Pretzel Sticks
Bag of White Chocolate Chips
Handful of regular Chocolate Chips or other dark-colored candy
Tablespoon of Milk (if needed)
Plastic Ziploc Bag or Pastry bag with small tip 
Wax Paper or Parchment Paper
Double Boiler or two pots that fit one inside the other

Method: 


Pour some water into the bottom of a double boiler or larger pot, and place another smaller pot over it. Bring water to a boil and lower. Pour White Chocolate Chips into the top pot and stir gently as they melt and become smooth. Add an optional Tablespoon Milk to loosen the Chocolate if need be. Once fully melted, allow to cool to the point where it hasn't hardened but you can touch it. Layout the Pretzels while you wait:

Lay out Parchment or Wax Paper on a work surface. Using 5 or 6 Pretzel Sticks, create your spider web as seen below. 

How to assemble cobweb, Photo: NK 
When White Chocolate has cooled enough, spoon it into a Ziploc and cut a tiny bit off one of the bottom corners of the bag. You are ready to pipe your web! Start with the middle where the Pretzels meet and make a large blob of White Chocolate to fuse them together. Press a regular Chocolate Chip in to create your Spider. To finish, create the web by piping White Chocolate around in a circular motion according to your desired design. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes, gentle peel away your Wax or Parchment Paper, serve and enjoy! 



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Vegetarian Heaven - The Easiest Cauliflower Coucous

Today, due to popular demand, I'd like to take a moment to share the easy how-to for Cauliflower Couscous. Never heard of it? Well, in short, it's the latest low carb craze to really take off. Cauliflower Couscous is merely minced Cauliflower Florets, slightly steamed to mimic the consistency of our fave Israeli Couscous or Rice. What I love about it is that it allows you to cut the carbs while your getting your veggies! You won't believe how easy and satisfying it is, and I promise once you try it you'll be adding it to your dinner rotation week after week. 

Cauliflower Coucous with Carrots, Arugula, Red Onion & Red Grapes, Photo: NK 


Easy Cauliflower Couscous
Inspired by The Kitchn
Ingredients:

1 Head of Cauliflower
Microwave Safe Bowl with Lid (or pot with a cover for the stove) 

Method:

Take one head of Cauliflower and either pulse it carefully into small bits in a food processor, or grate it with a hand grater (for small grain) or cut it carefully into small pieces (as above, to mimic Israeli Couscous). 


Once done, place in a covered heat proof bowl and microwave about 5 minutes until tender but not mushy. 


Prepare as you like! We like to use Cauliflower Couscous in stir fry dishes or to create a "Couscous" Salad as we did here. The above was mixed with Chopped Greens, Rainbow Carrots, Red Grapes and Red Onion. I dressed it with a little Olive Oil and Vinegar. It was delish and lasted two days in the fridge. Enjoy!