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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thoughts on Thanks (and our Thanksgiving Hors D'oeuvre)

This time every year, and throughout the holiday season, we are called to be thankful. The truth is, we can never be reminded enough. 

Hogs in a Blanket with Mustard Chutney, Photo: NK 

Now I know as well as anyone how easy it is, amid life's many obligations, to feel sorry for ourselves. When I'm exhausted after a long day at work and facing several hours of household chores, even the littlest annoyance (most recently it's been never being able to find the matching lids to my tupperware, and if you ask my husband, he'll accurately report that it is "ruining my life!") can send me into a pity spiral. 

Though I have momentary lapses, I like to think I've always been a grateful and generous person, someone very tuned in to the world around me, and more keenly, someone aware of the suffering of others. The world has been on my mind more than ever this past year, the year I became a mom. Not a day goes by that my heart doesn't break for families and children that are suffering in our all too troubled world. And whether it is because food is my passion and cooking is my favorite way to pass time, World Hunger is a scourge that I also lament often. 

As I cook today's appetizers for our family Thanksgiving feast, it doesn't escape me that for far too many, ample food is a luxury they will never be afforded. Whether we look across town, across the country, or to the other side of the world, children and adults suffer the pain of hunger. I can think of no greater psychic pain than not being able to nourish my child. And so my heart breaks,

for those enduring hunger, 
malnutrition, and wars and terror in their homeland. 
And for anyone who has lost a loved one because of these horrors. 

And it is in these moments that, almost daily, I am overcome by gratitude, even shame for my trivial complaints. As I think more on human suffering, I inevitably reaffirm a very basic truth I have always held in my heart, that there, but for the grace of God (or if you prefer, the fates), go I.

If you can lend your time, talents, or money to help others, then you too are very lucky and your soul will be full. Whether it be making a meal for an elderly person on your block, volunteering, or making a donation to a worthy charity, let the Thanksgiving gratitude you feel for the good things in your life inspire you to pay it forward. Not just now, but all year long. In this giving spirit, I've included links to three food-related charities that I continually support as they realize their mission of fighting hunger one belly at a time. 

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey - feeding hungry communities locally 

Heifer International - Provides animals and farming supplies and training to needy families across the globe, allowing them a sustainable and renewable means to feed themselves and their communities 

City Harvest - Rescuing huge amounts of food from all over NYC that would otherwise be wasted, and supplying it to shelters and other outreach centers 

And to the brave people who run towards and not away from danger and war to help those in need (I am thinking especially of two other worthy charities, Doctors Without Borders and The International Rescue Committee), you are gift to humanity doing work that few among us, myself included, would be selfless enough to do.  

In closing, I am thankful for my beautiful family, the food on my table, the safety and warmth of my home, a job that I enjoy by day and one that helps me to provide for my loved ones, and finally, that I am fortunate enough to share my passion for cooking with others. Thank you for reading and please enjoy today's creative take on Pigs in a Blanket.

Cook's note: We followed Food & Wine's recipe exactly except that we used Applegate Farm Turkey and Chicken Andouille Sausage. The key to perfectly cooking these little bites is a mini muffin tin (which is a great investment because she has so many great uses, especially for hors d'oeuvres). Trust me, you will not be able to keep these on the plate!!  

Hogs in a Blanket
From Food & Wine, Grace Parisi
Makes 36 Hors D'oeuvres


Monday, November 9, 2015

Pumpkin Improvisation - Brussels Sprouts Braised In Pumpkin Beer

For me, fall cooking is all about Brussels Sprouts and cooking with Beer (just like HERE and HERE), and, of coursepumpkin everything

It's with these ingredient muses in mind that I'd like to tell you about a dish that happened quite by accident last Sunday, thanks in large part to the major craving for Pumpkin Brew that I experienced that night. With a 22 ounce bottle and some time on my hands, it wasn't long before my favorite "weeknight" Brussels Sprouts recipe was transformed into something extra special.  

Some of the best recipes are indeed happy kitchen improvisations. So crack a beer and lose your inhibitions as, together, we whip up this easy fall side that brings together the flavors of Pumpkin, bright, crispy Apples, and of course, Brussels Sprouts:

Brussels Sprouts Braised In Pumpkin Beer, Photo: NK 

Brussels Sprouts Braised In Pumpkin Beer With Apples & Onions

A medium bunch of Brussels Sprouts, bases cut off, then cut in half lengthwise
1 Tablespoon Salted Butter + 1/2 Tablespoon, divided
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1/2 Cup  + 1/8 Cup Pumpkin Beer such as Pumking, divided
1/4 Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 Red Apple Such as Gala or Pink Lady, cored and cut to a large dice
1/2 Medium Yellow or Sweet (Vidalia) Onion, Sliced
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper

Heat Oil and 1 Tablespoon Butter over medium low flame.
Saute until cut sides begin to brown, but not burn, about 4 minutes.

Add Chicken Broth and Pumpkin Beer and cook, covered, over medium heat until Brussels Sprouts are tender but not mushy, and liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes.

Pour off and reserve the pan liquids and discard. Remove Brussels Sprouts to another small plate.
Turn heat to medium and add a 1/2 Tablespoon of Butter to the skillet. Add the Sliced Yellow Onion.

Saute Onion over medium flame until they start to brown in parts. Immediately lower flame as far as it will go and add diced Apples.  Cook, stirring, another two minutes and then add another 1/8 Cup Pumpkin Beer.

Turn flame back to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beer has evaporated fully and caramelized, about 4 minutes. Return flame to lowest setting and add back in the cooked Brussels Sprouts. Heat through another several minutes, stirring, and add one generous pinch of Kosher Salt and a sprinkle of Pepper.

Serve warm!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Friday Night In - Pizza Party With Friends

Strips of prosciutto folded atop a cube of cantaloupe and
skewered with a bamboo pick, Photo: NK 
These days, having our good friends over for a festive night in is one of our favorite things. We've even started a bit of a tradition - making several different types of pizza on our favorite pizza stone.
Throw in some nice wine and a little music, and it's a party. When you're in good company, there's nothing better than a relaxed dinner at home. 

For the menu, I reverted to several Neurotic Kitchen favorites that were a hit last time my friends were over, and added one new kind of pizza that will inevitably join the rotation. As always, I put out some pre-dinner nibbles that I tried to keep easy and elegant.

Pro-tip for pizza happiness: spend some time finding the very best ingredients because pizza truly is the sum of its parts -the best building blocks make all the difference. And please, if you'd really like to make this easy, don't be a hero by making your own dough - that's crazy talk! Just head into your favorite bread bakery or pizza shop and buy theirs. 

The better the dough, the easier time you will have. For sauce, I use very simple jarred pureed tomatoes - as long as you season your pizza appropriately, there's no need to use a real sauce.

Pizza Night With Friends

A simple hors d'oeuvre spread, Photo: NK 


Prosciutto & Melon Skewers (pretty bamboo picks make all the difference)

Brie Plate with Brillat Savarin (a triple creme that could make you die of happiness) + Fig Preserve

Smoked Salmon on Crackers with Onion, Creme Fraiche and Dill (a classic that never gets old)


Lemon Pizza Sorrentina (the classic NK recipe is HERE)

Classic Margherita Pizza - (read about it HERE)

Pizza Piccante
with Hot Cherry Peppers & Soppressata (recipe HERE)

And finally, the experiment of the night - Pizza with White Truffle Cream, Asiago & Arugula 
(the recipe is below).


We can't forget dessert, which was none other than our favorite Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies. Easy, fast and seriously decadent!! 

Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies, Photo: NK 

Before we get to our Truffle Pizza recipe, let's first admire the famous Lemon Pie:

Believe me, you'll like it! Lemon Pizza Sorrentina, Photo: NK 

Too wild? Well I like to believe that there isn't anyone out there who wouldn't love the flavor of truffles, so check our latest successful kitchen experiment, this truffle pizza that I have been imagining in my head ever since my sister-in-law gave me a can of this very delicious White Truffle Cream from Urbani Truffles. 

Pizza With White Truffle Cream, Asiago & Arugula, Photo: NK 

Pizza with White Truffle Cream, Asiago & Arugula
8 small slices 

1 pound ball of pre-made Pizza Dough, at room temp for 1 hour 
Can of Urbani Truffle Thrills, White Truffles and Cream
Wild Arugula Leaves 
Very Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Syrup or Balsamic Reduction (recipe below)
Pizza Stone or well heated Pizza Pan (stone highly recommended)
Parchment Paper, cut large enough for one pizza with extra room at edges 

Pizza Stone Method: 
Place pizza stone in the oven. If not using a stone, prepare pizza as normal in a pizza pan. 

Turn oven on to 525 with the rack placed in the middle, or to highest temp your over can handle. Preheat the stone for 30 minutes. 

Flour a clean counter top and your hands. Place extra flour nearby.
Form Pizza Dough into a ball. Press it down onto the counter and continue pressing until you have a flat round. 

Form dough into your desired pizza shape, making it as thin as possible - ideally an eighth of an inch thick. Pinch the edges of the dough all the way around to form a crust. 
Check out this great video I found on the web for dough-handling pointers HERE.

Once Pizza Crust is formed, carefully transfer it onto parchment paper that is cut to a size just slightly bigger than the dough shape (enough to grab it on each side). If you are using a pan and no pizza stone, you needn't do either of the preceding steps. 

Now you are ready for toppings:
Drizzle a Tablespoon or two of Oil onto the dough. 
Using a paper towel, spread the Oil around the entire surface of the dough.
Using a Tablespoon, slowly spoon on a thin layer of White Truffle Cream and spread it all around. The dough should only be thinly covered. 

Grate some fresh shavings of Asiago generously all over the pizza.

Transfer the parchment paper with the Pizza on it to the pizza stone and allow to bake for 10-13 minutes until crust is golden brown and crispy. 

Remove Pizza and stone from the oven, and allow to cook a few minutes until Asiago Cheese looks stretchable rather than liquified. 

Pile on Wild Arugula Leaves and drizzle very lightly with Olive Oil, then again with Balsamic Syrup. Slice and serve right away!

Balsamic Reduction
Balsamic Reduction, NK 
Yield: about 4 Tablespoons
One cup good quality Balsamic Vinegar 

Bring Vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid is reduced and somewhat syrupy. This should take about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it. I once ended up with completely solidified vinegar! 

Storage – the reduction can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks. It should be brought to room temperature before using.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Big News: is here!

Neurotic Kitchen now has its very own kids' table!!

I am happy to announce that is live and tackling the tastebuds of picky toddlers, one kid at a time! Come check it out and enjoy our easy, fast and wholesome recipes for happy, well-fed babies and kids, plus plenty of tidbits on how to keep a healthy home. 

See you there! Because Parenting is hard. Food should be easy.