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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Feast of The Seven Fishes 2015 - Our Christmas Eve Tradition

As if I haven't thought about food enough this holiday season, here I am, as promised, recapping for you the results of our annual Feast Of The Seven Fishes traditional Italian Christmas Eve meal - our fifth year running. You'll recognize this menu from prior years as many of the best loved dishes on it have become regulars in the rotation (particularly the must-have Baccala Salad you'll see below).  

Thanks for letting me relive what was a really great meal. And even though food is important, good company is what really makes the holidays warm and wonderful. We are incredibly grateful that we could gather our loved ones together to share some Christmas cheer. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Next stop, New Years! 



Fifth Annual Feast of the Seven Fishes 


Smoked Salmon Canapes - Recipe HERE

Salmon Canapes, Photo: NK 

Lump Crab Cocktails - Recipe HERE

Individual Crab Cocktails (served in footed glass bowls), Photo: NK 
Baccala Salad - Recipe HERE 

Baccala Salad, Photo: NK 

Chilled Seafood Salad (Insalata Frutti di Mare) - Recipe HERE


Mixed Seafood Salad, Photo: NK 

Zuppa di Vongole (Clams in Broth) - Recipe HERE 


Zuppa di Vongole (Clams), Photo: NK
Broiled Lemon Sole - Recipe HERE

A platter of Broiled Lemon Sole, Photo: NK
Cocktail - Martinez 
Martinez Cockail, Photo: NK 
Last but not least, our signature cocktail was the classic Martinez. Never heard of it? I hadn't either up until recently, yet it turns out that it is a very vintage cocktail that predates the Gin Martini. Who knew? It consists of Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur, London Dry Gin and Sweet Vermouth. 

If you're a classic cocktail lover (think Negroni, Old Fashioned or Manhattan), this drink should appeal to you. We thought it made a great festive accompaniment to dessert. 

Link to the recipe HERE

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year - Feast of The Seven Fishes

Images courtesy of Paperless Post 
Merry Christmas to you and yours! The holidays are in full swing and my favorite meal to cook all year is nearly upon us - the traditional Italian Christmas Eve seafood extravaganza known as The Feast of the Seven Fishes. Through the years I've shared our various menus with you on Neurotic Kitchen.

It's no secret that I've also spent many hours neurotically thinking through all the planning and timing so that you too can turn out a multi-course, surprisingly simple and always delicious fish feast. For a look back at all of our menus, click through the links here:

Feast of the Seven Fishes for 6 - Year 1

Feast of the Seven Fishes for 6 - Year 2 
Feast of the Seven Fishes for 6 - Year 3

You'll notice that some dishes are repeated several times because they are true favorites. Still, I like to try and add something new each year. This time, it will be this amazing yet simple Scallop Lollipop Hors D'oeuvre that I found in a recent issue of Food & Wine


Scallop Lollipops with Spicy Mayonnaise, recipe HERE, Photo: NK 


Though the recipe calls for Gochujang, a Korean Hot Pepper Paste, but you could sub in Sambal Oelek or even Sriracha. So good, especially thanks to tiny bits of dill pickle in the spicy mayo dipping sauce. Serving the Scallops on my favorite bamboo skewers makes them that much more festive. 

Sure, there's nothing inherently Italian about this spicy-sweet little Scallop Bite, but I like the idea of just a little something different amid our menu of tried and true favorites. As soon as it passed our test, we agreed that we'd be adding it to this year's rotation. Want to see how our meal goes? I hope you'll join us for the post Christmas Eve Round up and that you and your families enjoy a peaceful and delicious holiday season!

For the Scallop Lollipop Recipe, click HERE

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Ladies Who Brunch - Annual Holiday Celebration

This weekend I was lucky enough to spend time with my very best friends as we convened for a well-loved tradition that's coming up on a whole decade in existence (eek!) - our annual holiday get-together. We've had so many great times together, and as we get older, I think we relish them even more. While in past years we'd all head to the bar to exchange Secret Santa gifts while getting merry, we've more recently shifted our holiday party to take place one of our houses. I have to say, this format makes the event a bit more relaxed and very conducive to laughs and plenty of girl talk. And because all of my friends have a passion for food (would you expect anything less?) we eat really well too. 
Annual Holiday Brunch with Lox on a Bagel,
 a delicious Frittata and, of course, Tater Tots!
Photo: NK

This year's brunch menu was, as usual, memorable and delicious, and there was no shortage of cheese, (including a sinful fondue!) wine, and our favorite breakfast fare. 

Here are the highlights:


Bagels, Lox, and all the accoutrements (the best New York Brunch can get, in my opinion), plus a Berry Salad,Tater Tots, and Monkey Bread (so good!). 


One gorgeous Brunch Spread + Mimosas! Photo: NK
Add to all that that a fabulous Frittata that my friend Natalie adapted from Ina Garten. She added Leeks and Mushrooms and it was fluffy and positively delicious. 














The original Frittata recipe is HERE.












As for me, I contributed my favorite, foolproof, Dark Chocolate Brownies. For the recipe, click HERE.

Finally, I ask you, what classy get-together wouldn't be complete without JELLO SHOTS? 


Jello Shots, not just for keg parties. Photo: NK 

That's right. Jello shots get the gourmet treatment when they are made with Champagne and Peach Schnapps. A bit too delicious! Click HERE for the recipe. 

Thanks to my BFFs for yet another amazing party in the books. And this holiday as much as ever, I'm reminded how lucky I am to have you all in my life. 
XOXO,
Sam 


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Southern Hospitality - Fried Green Tomatoes With A Twist

Fried Green Tomatoes, a beloved movie (the Kathy Bates parking lot scene gets more hilarious as I age) and a dish I have always, always wanted to try in my own kitchen. Like so many things on my to-do list, I'd just never gotten around to it, and I not the hugest fan of heavily fried preparations. But all that would change thanks to a fairly recent trip to South Carolina which bought us to a restaurant called Lucky Rooster. There we had some great food plus a really fabulous and creative version of Fried Green Tomatoes (set atop Pimiento Cheese!). The moment they crossed my lips, in all their crispy, fried goodness, I knew that the time for procrastination was through. Upon returning home, my first order of business was to develop my own version of the classic. We served ours with a luxurious topping of Crab Salad (a dish that looms as large here at Neurotic Kitchen as it does in my heart).


Classic Fried Green Tomatoes with our twist of Lump Crab on top, Photo: NK

For the basics of the Fried Green Tomato recipe, I went to Southern Living. I don't pretend to be a Southern cooking expert by any means. It did not disappoint.


Fried Green Tomatoes With Crab
Photo: NK 
Adapted from Southern Living
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour, divided
1/2 Cup Cornmeal
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
3 medium Green Tomatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick
Vegetable Oil

8 Ounces Lump Crab
2 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Sour Cream
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
3 Chives, sliced (optional)
1 Tablespoon minced Italian Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method: 
Frying in our Lodge Skillet. Photo: NK
1. In a medium bowl, mix the Mayonnaise, Sour Cream and Lemon Juice. Add the Chives and minced Parsley. Mix. Gently fold in the Lump Crab, and add Salt and Pepper to taste.

2. Combine the Egg and Buttermilk and set aside.

3. Combine a 1/4 Cup Flour, Cornmeal, 1 teaspoon Salt and 1/2 teaspoon Pepper in a shallow bowl or plate.

4. Place the remaining 1/4 Cup Flour in another plate or shallow bowl.

5. Dredge the Tomatoes in the Flour, and then dip into the Egg mixture, and then into the Cornmeal Mixture.

6. Pour Oil a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep in a cast iron skillet. Heat for two minutes over medium heat (perfect temp is 375 but we took our chances). Cook Tomatoes in the oil in batches, about two minutes per side until golden brown and crispy. Remove to drain on paper towels. Sprinkle Tomatoes with Salt while they are still hot. 

7.  To serve, top with a dollop of the Lump Crab Salad and Garnish with extra Parsley or Chives.

Enjoy!!! 




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




HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!! 

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

Ingredients:
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

Method: 
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 

THE MENU

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 

Ingredients:
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
Ingredients:
One cup good quality Balsamic Vinegar 


Method:
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: Neurotic-Mom.com is here!

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

I am happy to announce that www.neurotic-mom.com 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. 

www.neurotic-mom.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Easy Assembly - Marinated London Broil With Potatoes & Arugula

Don't cook, assemble!


This is the mantra I always return to in attempting to keep my hors d'oeuvres simple and largely make-ahead so that I too can enjoy my own parties instead of being stuck in the kitchen. This smart strategy comes directly from Ina Garten, one of my easy entertaining muses. 

Last weekend, I applied the same concept to a main course that I created thanks to some visual inspiration  -- THIS mouthwatering dish from Barbuto NYC which fortuitously appeared my Instagram feed at just the right time...  


I had to have it. And because I could see that Jonathan Waxman's celebrated restaurant's creation was composed of just a few basic elements, I didn't feel compelled to try and hunt down the recipe. Instead, I thought about the big components (meat+potatoes+greens), and considered the food items I already had on hand (mainly, a very nice and comparatively affordable London Broil we'd grabbed on sale). From there, I created my game plan (London Broil lends itself to marinating) and a short shopping list (Mixed Potatoes, Arugula and Bleu Cheese).  

A few hours later, we had ourselves one delicious weekend dinner. The moral? When you don't get hung up on achieving perfection wonderful things are bound to happen.

Marinated London Broil with Potatoes & Arugula - Inspired by Barbuto, Photo: NK




Am I neurotic? Definitely. Do I often overthink my cooking? Sure. 
I do it so you don't have to.
BUT, you can still turn out a great, easy meal without all that angst. Turning your everyday cooking into something special is simple if you: 

Use delicious ingredients
Keep them in their simplest form
and assemble them beautifully. 


That's what today's meal is all about --- finding food inspiration and running with it. 

The largely visual world of the internet is great for this. From Pinterest, to Instagram to good old cooking mags, there's nothing wrong with using images to assemble your own winning recipes - your way. Do so without fear of failure. Keep things basic and build on what you know. The results will probably surprise you. The below is not really a recipe as much as a roadmap - don't hesitate toT put your own twist on it and have a little fun. 

Marinated London Broil With Rainbow Potatoes & Arugula
Inspired by Barbuto/Jonathan Waxman + Marinade by Epicurious
Serves 6 

You will need: London Broil + Your Desired Marinade Ingredients + Mixed, Small Potatoes + Greens of your choice like Arugula and crumbled Bleu Cheese (+ Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper)

Step One - MARINATE - Prepare the Marinade as below and let London Broil sit for 4 to 24 hours using the Epicurious recipe below. You can also feel free to sub-in any well flavored grilled Steak that suits your taste (Hanger Steak as in Barbuto's original dish, or others such as Flank or Skirt would be great choices). 

Grilled Marinated London Broil - Screen Shot & Recipe Courtesy of Epicurious



Step Two - Start your grill for the Steak (or ready your stovetop grill pan) and Preheat the oven (450 degrees for your Roasted Potatoes). Now prepare your Greens - Spinach, or Arugula would be good choices. Wash them, dry them and place them in a bowl. Sprinkle with a little Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. Set aside. Now roast your Potatoes -- toss 2.5 Lbs of assorted small Potatoes, cut in half if you like, (we used Purple Potatoes, Fingerlings, and Baby Yukon Golds) in Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper and BAKE them until tender - for about 30 minutes at 450. About 25 minutes before they are done, begin grilling the Steak until medium-rare (see timing and directions ABOVE). When it's finished and medium rare let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice Steak against the grain. 

Step Three - Serve - Arrange all ingredients on the plate as pictured and sprinkle with crumbled Bleu Cheese. If plates have gotten cool you can put them in the oven for a minute to rewarm.


Serve and enjoy!  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Say Hello To Soup Season - Kale & Sausage Soup

You know the drill. There's a chill in the air so it's time to psych ourselves up for fall. We'll gloss over how it's the inevitable start of the soon-to-be interminable winter season, and focus on the good - pumpkin beer, great produce, cozy dishes and beautiful foliage. Fall is also the time of year where I get a hankering for soup. Inspired by a loose interpretation of a traditional Portuguese dish called Caldo Verde, today's comforting soup combines Kale and spicy Andouille Sausage. It is SO easy to make and even better, it's super fast. Now, hold the phone...it's got BEER in it. Are you sold? Whip up a batch this weekend and it will feed you for days.
Kale & Sausage Soup, A great comfort dish for fall! Photo: NK
Now, enjoy!

And may your fall be filled with all the best tastes the season has to offer. Enjoy

Kale & Sausage Soup
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Sweet  Yellow Onion such as Vidalia, diced
2 medium Potatoes, peeled and cut into half-inch pieces
3 Garlic Cloves minced 
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
3 Cans (43.5 Oz) Low Sodium Chicken Broth
4 Ounces Fall Seasonal Beer such as Sierra Nevada Octoberfest
1 Bunch Kale (12 ounces), ribs removed and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces

12 Oz Applegate Farms Andouille Sausage or Smoked Chicken Sausage, cut to 1/3 inch half-moons
1/4 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt or Kosher Salt (if needed)
Crusty Bread (optional), for serving

Louisiana Hot Sauce (optional) such as Tabasco,  for serving

Method: 


1. In a large pot heat Oil over medium flame. Add the Onion and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

2. Add the Red Pepper Flakes and Garlic and cook until it starts to be fragrant, approximately 1 minute. Add the Broth, Beer, and Potatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer about 10 minutes until the Potatoes are tender - a few minutes additional if they require it. 

3. Add the Kale and Sausage and cook until Kale is wilted, another 5-7 minutes. You can leave the soup on a very low simmer until you are ready to eat but be sure to cover it.

4. Before serving, taste for seasoning and add the 1/4 teaspoon Coarse salt or more to taste if needed. The salinity of Sausages can vary so use your judgement. Serve with some Louisiana Hot Sauce such as Tabasco and crusty Bread for dunking! 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Vacation Restaurant Recap - Lowcountry Classics

We recently returned from a quick family jaunt to Hilton Head Island. We all had a really great time and, as usual, I made it a priority to sample everything this very pretty locale has to offer (read: eat all the food possible). 

Southern cooking fascinates me, and it is one cuisine that I don't attempt nearly enough or know as much as I would like about. With deeply rooted and diverse influences and an incredibly rich history, the possibilities are endless. One dish I make consistently is arguably one of the most well-loved Lowcountry staples - Collard Greens. In fact, it was our last trip to South Carolina that inspired me to try perfecting them. 


Collards! Photo: NK 
Read about our first South Carolina visit, and check out our favorite recipe for Collard Greens HERE.

In today's roundup, I'd like to tell you about two standout restaurants that you should visit if you are ever in the Hilton Head Island neck of the woods. They'll be on our list for a return trip for sure.   


Lucky Rooster Kitchen & Bar
What a find! This wonderful spot features lovely, slightly higher-end yet still down to earth ambiance (the island is otherwise pleasantly casual on the whole), and a really fantastic and warm staff. 

The cuisine can be described as modern Southern Food, often with subtly creative twists, or perhaps New American Cuisine with a a Southern flair.   

Now I am surely no Shrimp and Grits expert but their modernized version was DELICIOUS and PERFECT.

Shrimp & Grits get an overhaul at the fantastic Lucky Rooster in Hilton Head, so good! Photo: NK

My mom-in-law enjoyed their outrageously good Fried Chicken, and really the other dishes we had at this charming restaurant were standouts, including the Octopus appetizer and Fried Green Tomatoes served atop Pimiento Cheese (check out our favorite recipe for the latter HERE). 

Fried Green Tomatoes & Pimiento Cheese, Photo: NK
I've been known to enjoy a good cocktail here or there, so I especially savored the Martinez Cocktail that was expertly mixed just for me (a great combo of Gin, Maraschino Cherry Liqueur and Vermouth. All in all it was a great restaurant experience we're glad that we could share. 

Next up,

a more casual and cost-effective yet still delicious option, the charming:

A Lowcountry Backyard 
This super cute restaurant with, you guessed it, a very nice backyard where you'll find the bulk of their seating is a great spot to dine al fresco on traditional Southern food with a few twists. I ordered the special Fried Flounder over Cheesy Grit Cakes and it was to die! 


Special Fried Flounder at A Lowcountry Backyard in Hilton Head, Photo: NK

Combine that with a creative Margarita made with Moonshine and I was a happy gal. 

With a similarly warm waitstaff and some laid back and festive live music in the background, A Lowcountry Backyard turned out to be a great place to enjoy our last night of vacation. Thanks for sharing our our latest restaurant finds. We're making a concerted effort to get out of state more so we hope they'll be lots more restaurant tips to share with you. 

Stay tuned for my attempt at Fried Green Tomatoes coming to the blog soon. Our Southern Cooking inspiration is still going strong!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Meatless Monday - Nut Free Sunflower Seed Pesto

It's that time again - Meatless Monday. This week we challenged ourselves to not only prepare a meat-free dinner, but to make a popular vegetarian pasta preparation nut-free too. Pesto is a great way to use leftover Herbs and Lettuces, and part of what makes Pesto amazing is the addition of Nuts in most, if not all, traditional recipes. That's why it's a risky proposition for the allergic, unless, of course, you make it yourself. 


Campanelle with Nut-Free Sunflower Seed Pesto, Photo: NK 
While you'll normally find Pignoli (aka Pine Nuts) in Pesto, other Nuts like Almonds, Walnuts, and even Pistachios are popular choices these days. This is all well and good, unless you have a nut allergy, as many do, sadly, in rapidly increasing numbers. While the reason behind the statistical spike in food allergies noted over the past few decades is the subject of much scientific debate, we can all agree that everyone should be able to safely enjoy such a popular dish. 

Today's clever nut-free Pesto achieves much of the nutty and herbacious deliciousness you find in the original version, without making it inaccessible to those with nut allergies. The secret ingredient is Sunflower Seeds (just be sure you don't have an allergy to seeds before you try it). 

After some experimentation, I came up with an easy version drawing from a recipe for Nut-Free Arugula Pesto I adapted out of Bon Appetit Magazine,  Although the original recipe recommends soaking the Sunflower Seeds overnight, we prepared ours without doing so and the result was still great. If you have the time and forethought, absolutely soak them. The Seeds have a slightly toothier texture when not soaked, but the food processor you use will ensure that the bits of crunch are very small. I happen to like the texture that we achieved. Soaking the Seeds may also help release some additional flavor, but again, we were very happy with the result of our 10 minute version.

Finally, because I simply can't fathom Pesto without a healthy dose of grated Parmigiana Cheese blended in, our version incorporates it to round out the brightness of the Lemon Juice and Zest, while blending with the aromatic Basil and peppery Arugula. 


Campanelle (pictured above) is an awesome pasta shape for Pesto. The name refers to the pasta's "bell" shape, and the wavy edges capture the Pesto perfectly and evenly. Whatever pasta you choose, I am sure you'll enjoy this nut-free favorite whether or not you're on a special diet. Now let's Mangia! 

Nut-Free Sunflower Seed Arugula Pesto
Serves 4, enough for 1 Pound of Pasta
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:  1/4 Cup Raw Shelled Sunflower Seen
1 Cup of Basil, packed (a few sprigs set aside for garnish)
1 Cup of Arugula or Baby Arugula, packed
1 teaspoon freshly grated Lemon Zest
2 teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 small Garlic Clove
1 teaspoon of Honey or Light Agave
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmigiana Cheese
2 large pinches of Kosher Salt

Method:  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a a food processor until smooth. 
2. Toss right away with cooked Pasta that is has been boiled in well-salted water. Taste for seasoning and add a little Salt if needed.
3. Serve with extra Parmigiana and a Basil garnish and enjoy!