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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Cookie Of The Year - Snowballs

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very soon to be Happy New Year! Wow... 2016. I'm not going to go there. Though personally I have much to be grateful for, I am very ready for us all to move along to a fresh new start. One thing is for sure, it's going to be interesting.

As this year draws to a close, I find that as is usual for me, I feel the urge to cook the homestyle dishes and family recipes that bring with them wonderful nostalgia and warm family memories. As I think of the people behind those foods, I'm sorry to say that there are many who can no longer join us around the table at Christmas. That doesn't mean their spirit isn't there. 

Photo: NK 
Enjoying the cookies you see above always makes me think of my Great Aunt Mary. She made these powdery confections every Christmas and referred to them as Snowballs. It's also come to my attention that these crumbly, light cookies packed with ground Pecans and Butter go by many names and enjoy obvious cross-cultural popularity at holiday tables and beyond. Some call them Butterballs,  Rum Balls, and still others, Russian Tea Cakes. Come to think of it, they're also a bit like Mexican Wedding Cookies.  

When I think of Great Aunt Mary, a sweet and gentle soul known for her caution and tidiness, I can't help but also think of the phenomenal Eggplant Rollatini she was also known for. She delighted in its methodical, meticulous preparation, and let me tell you, if you were lucky enough to take home a tray of these leftovers, you knew you were in for some good times.

Though Aunt Mary passed away several years ago, I wanted to honor her this holiday by remaking Snowballs. Without access to her original recipe, I scoured the web for something that looked similar. Truth be told, I can't picture my Aunt Mary adding Rum to these, but what do I know. The winner was a recipe that was featured in Bon Appetit's roundup of Old School Italian Christmas Cookies Sounds about right...

I followed Bon Appetit's Butterballs (aka Snowballs) Recipe exactly and I am happy to say they were fabulous. Light, crumbly, melt in your mouth. The perfect cookie for dessert of even breakfast/brunch with coffee! Even better, these are super easy to make and look beautiful and festive dusted with Confectioner's Sugar. They make great hostess gifts or just any special occasion. Old school though they may be, they have a chic quality to them; I could see serving them at a bridal shower or even chic cocktail party. 

If I had to pick another of my all time favorite Christmas Cookies, I'd definitely go with the Pignoli, but the Snowball is nonetheless a fab addition to any table, any time of year. I hope they bring back good memories for you, and today, I enjoy mine with my Great Aunt Mary in my heart. 

For the recipe, click HERE.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holiday Cheers - Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned

There's no place like home for the holidays, but the season is always a little more merry when toasted with an exceptional cocktail. And that's just what we had thanks to my husband's ingenuity. After only a few tries he came up with the perfect Old Fashioned with a little holiday flair thanks to notes of Cinnamon, Vanilla and a Brown Sugar rimmed glass. It was a wonderful way to kick off our 6th Annual Feast of the Seven Fishes


Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned, Photo: NK

Sugar & Spice Old Fashioned
Makes 1 Drink

Ingredients:
Honey
Light Brown Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Sugar & Spice Simple Syrup (recipe & ingredients below) 
2 Ounces Bulleit Bourbon
3 Dashes of Bitters
Handful of Ice 
1 Wide Strip of Orange Zest
Club Soda 
1 Maraschino Cherry or Luxardo Cherry
1 Cinnamon Stick

Method:
Set out a plate with Light Brown Sugar spread on it. 
Rub the rim of the glass with Orange Zest, twist it in half and set it aside. 
Lightly rim half the glass with Honey and dip in the Sugar to rim.
Place Simple Syrup in the glass.
Add the Bourbon.
Add the Orange Peel. 
Add three dashes of bitters and a Tablespoon or two Club Soda.
Stir.
Taste. If you like it a bit more sweet you can add another 1/2 teaspoon Simple Syrup.
Drop in the Cherry and garnish with a Cinnamon Stick then serve!


Sugar & Spice Simple Syrup
Makes about a Half Cup

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
3 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract or 1 Split Vanilla Bean

Method:
Combine Water and Sugar in small sauce pan. Bring to a boil.  
Add Vanilla and Cinnamon Sticks.
Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Stores in the fridge for several days.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Something For Everyone - Comfort Food Dinner Party

There have been many changes in our lives these past few years, and one such new reality is that our dinner parties now tend to include little people. Lots of little people. 

If you've ever met a toddler, you'll know they really are just like tiny little restaurant critics, except instead of a scathing review, you're more likely to have your food tossed at the wall. Since we don't get out as much, we also call that dinner and a show. 

A classic comfort menu kids and grownups will love, Photo: NK 
So what do you do when you have to please big and little palates all in one fell swoop? Today's simple menu of comfort food will answer that very question. 
Here's what to expect:

The world's best, universally delicious Mac & Cheese from the one and only Martha Stewart (it's nicknamed Crack 'n Cheese for a reason)

A simple Salad (so you feel like you're getting your veggies)

Fabulous Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting


Here's the plan: 

The night before
, make your Cupcakes and Buttercream. Store the Cupcakes in an airtight container and your Buttercream in the fridge. 


The morning of, make your Mac & Cheese up until where you bake it. (Set aside the breadcrumbs and grated cheese to top it before you pop it in the oven).

A few hours before guests arrive, put together your favorite Salad and put the dressing on the side. Store Salad in fridge. Dress and toss just before you're ready to serve.

Let your Buttercream soften a bit and pipe or spread onto cupcakes. 

Now let's get to THE RECIPES:

Perfect Mac & Cheese, by Martha Stewart. Click HERE 
Amy Sedaris' awesome Vanilla Cupcakes, Click HERE, with our very own Vanilla Buttercream, Click HERE
Salad- I will leave this up to you, but keep it light and seasonal! The rest of the meal is filling. 


Easy! 
The most amazing Mac & Cheese on the planet, Photo: NK

Enjoy!

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! 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Season's Bounty - Israeli Couscous With Fig & Arugula

It's that time of year again - when we share our newest version of our absolute favorite starchy side - Israeli Couscous. Check out old recipes HERE, HERE, and HERE. Today's creation came to be thanks to inspiration from especially sweet, in-season Figs. 


Israeli Couscous With Fig & Arugula, Photo: NK
One look at their dark purple hue and strikingly rosy inner flesh and I new they'd need to make it to the dinner table somehow. Israeli Couscous is a great vehicle for an endless number of flavor profiles. Today's also includes crispy, toasted Almonds, Sharp Provolone, and more crunch and color from Red Onions. To finish, we stir in thin ribbons of farm fresh Arugula to add a slight bite to the dish. The results are delicious. 

As with all Couscous, you can boil the grains ahead and incorporate the rest of the ingredients whenever it's convenient. It is a good idea to let the finished product sit at least an hour for the flavors to blend. The longer it sits, the better it gets! 


Seasonal Israeli Couscous With Fig, Arugula & Toasted Almonds
Serves 8 as a small side dish

Ingredients:
2 Cups Dry Israeli Couscous
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 Ounces Sharp Provolone, cut into a small dice
1 small bunch of Arugula, minced
1/2 medium Red Onion finely diced
7 Large Black Figs cut into eighths 
3 Tablespoons Toasted Slivered Almonds
Sea Salt or fine table Salt
Pepper

Dressing Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon Fine Quality Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Balsamic Vineger
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt



Method: 
In a large, deep pan, toast dry Couscous over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until it takes on some color. Remove before any of it burns. Prepare 2 Cups of the Dry, toasted Couscous according to the package directions using water. Do not overcook. Leave it slightly al dente. Put in a large bowl and add 1 Tablespoon good quality Olive Oil. Add a few shakes of Salt. Stir and let cool slightly.

Next, add the Red Onion, Provolone, Toasted Almonds, and Arugula. Stir to combine. 


Prepare the Dressing by combining the three ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the Couscous and toss to distribute. 

Finally, add the Figs by stirring in gently. Taste for seasoning and add Pepper. Add additional Salt as needed. You can let this sit at room temperature up to an hour. If longer, let it sit in the fridge. Allow some times for flavors to blend. Bring to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Italian Grill - Marinated Ribeye Tagliata

We don't eat a lot of red meat in our house but when we do, we go all out. With summer on the way out and our barbecuing days numbered, I decide to use our favorite grill book, Mario Batali's Italian Grill as inspiration for a pair of beautiful Ribeyes I'd spotted at the butcher earlier that day. I was in the market for a T-bone (check out our previous success with Bistecca alla Fiorentina herebut they were out. 

When it came time to think about how to prepare my Ribeyes, I decided to lightly adapt Mario's marinade for Tagliata. As he will tell you, Tagliata refers not to the type of Steak itself but simply that it will be served in slices. We presented ours as the book suggests, cut into thick strips and plated alongside lightly dressed arugula leaves.
Italian Marinated Ribeye - Photo: NK 


This marinade will work well whether you let it sit in the fridge for the recommended 12 hours or just 4 to 6 hours as I did. The sugar in helps create a lovely char on the meat and balances the salty, garlicky flavors nicely. I hope that you enjoy this winner of a meal and that like us, you make the most of the remaining grilling season in the waning days of summer. Buon appetito! 

Italian-Style Marinated Ribeye 
Lightly adapted from Mario Batali's Italian Grill
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

2 1.25 Ounce Ribeyes (About 1.5 to 1 and 3/4 inches thick) 
3 large or 6 Small Cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely minced (or put through a press)
1 teaspoon minced fresh Rosemary 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flake
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
(Arugula for serving) 

Method: 
Mix together all the dry ingredients in a small bowl and then add the Olive Oil. Mix to form a paste (adding more Olive Oil if needed). Slather Steaks all over with marinade, cover in Saran Wrap and let sit in the fridge at least 4 hours, but preferably 6-12 hours or overnight. 

Allow to sit at room temperature up to an hour before grilling. Grill on a charcoal or gas grill according to this grill guide, flipping it midway in between. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving, the cut it against the grain in 1 inch thick slices. Serve on a platter over Arugula or dark, leafy greens of your choice dressed in a bit of Olive Oil and a sprinkle of Salt. Enjoy! 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Return of a Classic - Prosciutto & Melon

"This is sooo good. Remember when prosciutto and melon was the first course at every wedding you went to for 10 years straight? " I hadn't really thought about it this way but my sister-in-law was absolutely right. I'd just served the most unimaginative starter ever. 

Was my cuisine dated? Was I a hack? All these thoughts crossed my mind as I set about putting an even bigger dent in the bottle of rose we'd been draining by the minute.  Thankfully it only took another bite of the paper-thin, velvety prosciutto against the sweetest and most fragrant Sugar Kiss Melon to come back to reality. Nah, I'm not a hack. This is beyond delicious.

Prosciutto & Melon, Photo: NK

And so it goes with the classics, t
hose easy dishes that enjoy great popularity, sometimes to their detriment, they're classic for a reason, but that's not an excuse to phone it in. When you're serving a starter thats simplicity has made it exceedingly popular, it's all about the execution. If you miss the mark there, you'll find yourself in lukewarm wedding banquet territory in the blink of an eye.

I'll give you an example: Pigs in a Blanket are everyone's favorite casual party bite. Even when they're bad, they're good, but how much better and more memorable are they when they're great? My philosophy is simple: if you're going to serve something that's been done to death, make sure it's the best they ever had, or close! To that end, here
 are a few great Pigs in a Blanket Recipes with a twist HERE and HERE.


As for the ubiquitous Prosciutto & Melon itself, it's actually a pretty classic and legit Italian starter, not just popular here in America. While you're feeling go about that, check out my easy tips on how to do this rightfully well-loved dish justice.

Prosciutto & Melon, How To:

Only the best. If you can, spend a little extra on the Imported Prosciutto. Here in America, we only see a few types consistently (San Daniele or di Parma, for example), but there are actually inumerable varieties of Italy's king of the cured meats. Secondly, do not, I repeat, do not attempt this dish if your Melon isn't perfectly ripe and gorgeous. We used Sugar Kiss Melon, which is like a Cantaloupe but smaller, because it's in-season now. If Honeydew is better, use that. And finally, if you can't find ripe Melon or the season is just off, serve something else. This dish only sings when each individual component is at its peak (that principle also happens to be the essence of fresh, simple Italian cuisine). 


Consider your format. Is your dish for a cocktail party, a sit down first course, a passable hors d'oeuvre?? Decide on how your presentation will best fit the needs of your guests. In other words, how will you cut your Melon? When served individually, Prosciutto and Melon will usually be presented as one large wedge of Cantaloupe with a ribbon of Prosciutto draped around it. In today's dish, we opted for a sharable platter of Melon cut quite small as you see above - two or three bites a piece, because our event was a casual Barbecue. For a cocktail party, throw the ingredients right on a stick

Don't forget plating.  So, so important and a key commandment here at Neurotic Kitchen! Good plating can make the difference between lazy and luxurious. Take your time with it, sketch it out even, and, please, don't forget to garnish. I always add something green to my Prosciutto and Melon, such as Mint (my favorite, pictured above), Italian Parsley, or baby Arugula. And I never serve this dish without sprinkling the assembled platter or plates with Lemon Juice and then garnishing with Lemon Wedges. Lemon just brings out the flavors even more. 

There you have it. Easy doesn't have to me uninspired. Buon appetito! 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Simplicity - Grilled, Marinated Calamari Salad

Every season there is at least one dish I make for the first time then repeat over and over again. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit. Once I find something I like, I see no problem with enjoying it multiple times, often in quick succession. My high school and college friends can attest; I ate the same lunch almost every day for a year at a time. This doesn't mean I don't like variety, and that's what's so beautiful about all the fresh Summer Salads you see here today.

Lemon Marinated then Grilled Calamari, Greenleaf and Florida Lettuce, Thin Sliced Radishes, Nectarines, Cucumbers, Grilled Corn,  Vidalia Onion with a Lemon Vinaigrette. Photo: NK 


Marinated & Grilled Flank Steak Over Peaches, Radishes, Greenleaf And Florida Lettuce, Shaved Zucchini,
Fresh Sliced and Fried Shallots and a Parsley Garnish Photo: NK

While the Grilled Calamari Salad Recipe we will share below was the clear winner, we enjoyed several other protein variations (with Shrimp and even Marinated Flank Steak) throughout the course of this summer season. Turns out that almost any well cooked (ideally a little charred) grilled item tastes amazing over fresh, seasonal and, best of all ,colorful summer produce. 


So I know you're with me in declaring 2016 "The Summer of Salad." 

You see, I love vegetables. I love them as much or more than meat and fish, but that doesn't mean I want to have to choose. Creating easy yet elegant lunches and dinners using salad as a base is a great way to lighten up summer fare and highlight the best produce the season has to offer. Plus, if you're into the low carb thing, (no pasta?) this sure does the trick!

Below you'll find plenty of ingredient inspiration for a few of our favorite summer lunch salads plus the recipe for the Simply Grilled, Marinated Calamari that starred in so many fantastic meals. 

Note: All of the salads you see bleow are lightly dressed with a simple Lemon (or Orange) Vinaigrette (below). For the Orange variation just sub out all Lemon ingredients with Orange Juice and Zest in Equal Measure and add a drop or two of Vinegar to taste. 

Simple Lemon Vinaigrette

Recipe By Epicurious




Grilled Calamari (Marinated in Orange & OIive Oil), Oranges, Redleaf and
Greenleaf Lettuce,  Purple Cherokee Heirloom Tomatoes, 

Radicchio, Black Olives, Radishes, Photo: NK 


Prepping the Marinated Flank Steak Salad - Sliced Peaches, Thin Sliced Radishes,
Raw Zucchini Shaved on a Vegetable Peeler
Photo: NK 

Simply Marinated & Grilled Calamari
Serves 2-3 atop a salad of your choice 

Ingredients: 
1 Pound Cleaned Squid (Calamari), tubes and tentacles
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Zest of 1 Lemon 
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
Salt & Pepper to Taste 

Method: 
Preheat a grill or grill pan until very hot. If using an outdoor grill place a grill pan on it to preheat (Squid will fall through the grates otherwise) 
Place Squid in a Ziploc Bag or airtight container. Add marinade ingredients and let sit in the fridge 30 minutes to a half hour.

Place Squid on a hot grill pan and cook until golden in parts, a few minutes per side. Squid will be opaque, firm but not rubbery. Serve over Vinaigrette Dressed salad, plus a little Salt to taste, and enjoy! 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Health Break! - Chocolate Coco-Nut Chia Bites

I eat pretty well at home and really terribly at work. Why? I have zero impulse control. When sweet treats are presented to me, as they seem to be nearly every day at the office, I have an absolutely pitiful chance of resisting. At home, the solution is simply not to buy them, but in my office, well, that's where I really get in trouble. Between so many coworker celebrations and the reality that our office kitchen has become the de facto dumping ground for everyone's no-no foods (leftover cake from a weekend birthday, surplus goods from an at home baking binge, candy that you just want to get out of your house), it's a wonder I ever get out of there without a forbidden food in my hand. Happily though, I have found that I can make it a safer and less tempting place if I only come prepared.  


Chocolate Coco-Nut Chia Bites, Photo: NK 

Having a healthy and satisfying sweet on hand for that post-lunch sugar craving helps me from feeling deprived. And making something no-bake that's super fast is a huge help in all of our busy lifestyles. It's in this spirit of disciplined snacking that I set out to jump on the Energy Bite bandwagon. 

These tempting, chocolatey little energy Bites serve two purposes - they're  naturally satisfying your sweet tooth while also giving you a little boost. They're also Vegan, have no added sugar and are fairly nutritious thanks to Nuts, Chia and Coconut Flake and Coconut Oil. Best of all, you can make them in under ten minutes using a food processor. They can be stored up to two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. 

Enjoy!

Chocolate Coco-Nut Chia Energy Balls 
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Makes about 22 1-inch Energy Bites

Ingredients:
2 Cups of Pitted Medjool Dates (Medjools are nice and soft) loosely packed, about 12 Dates
1 Tablespoon Ground Chia Seed (you could sub in ground Flax Seed as well) 
2 teaspoons Coconut Oil 
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut Flake (we prefer Bob's Red Mill)  
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (Hershey's works fine)
1/4 Cup Hazelnuts, Almonds, Pecans or similar -- I prefer Hazelnuts or Almonds 
1 teaspoon high quality Vanilla Extract 
1 Tablespoon Water 

Method:
Place all ingredients in a Food Processor and process until relatively smooth except for some bits of nuts. The mixture will naturally clump and you may have to carefully scrape down the sides. (Optional Mix-In: you could also bulk this up by adding a tablespoon or two of Rolled Oats moistened with a little Almond Milk or Water)

To form, place a piece of wax or parchment paper on a surface and using a small spoon, scoop out the batter and form into 1-inch balls by rolling in your palm. Place each ball on the paper. Optionally sprinkle with additional Coconut Flake. When done (you should have 20-22), remove to an airtight container and chill in the fridge until ready to eat! 

Bites will stay up to 2 weeks refrigerated in a sealed container! 


Nutrition: Per Bite - 63 Calories, 11g Carbs, 2.5g Fat, 1g Protein, 8.5g Sugar

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Summer & Spice - Grilled Buffalo Calamari

You don't have to eat poultry to enjoy Buffalo flavor. Turns out, Buffalo ANYTHING is pretty darn delicious - even humble Cauliflower becomes the life of the party when paired with America's favorite spicy sauce. 

In today's post, we give Calamari a really fun twist. Buffalo Calamari is a light seafood appetizer that is fun, super shareable and easy to execute in just ten minutes of active time. While I prefer to marinate the squid for about an hour in a bit in Oil, Lemon, Salt and Pepper, it's still good even if you don't have time for that. 

Grilling Calamari outdoors on a grill pan will prevent the tubes from slipping through the cracks. Alternately, you can boil Calamari on the stove just a few minutes until it is fully opaque and firm but not rubbery. Toss it in the sauce and you have a winning starter that guests will love. Enjoy and let's get to it. 


Grilled Buffalo Calamari, Photo: NK
Grilled Buffalo Calamari
Serves 3-4 as a light Appetizer

Ingredients: 
1.25 Pounds Cleaned Calamari, Tubes and Tentacles
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
Salt 
Pepper
2.5 Tablespoons Frank's Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Melted
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce 
Scallions and Cilantro or Celery/Celery Leaves for garnish

Method: 
About an hour before you'd like to grill, add the cleaned Calamari to a large Ziploc Bag with the Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, and a few light shakes of Salt and Pepper. Allow to sit in the fridge for an hour. 

Preheat your grill until very hot with a thin Grill Pan suited for seafood on top of it. Grill Calamari about 3-4 minutes per side until golden in parts and opaque, but not rubbery. Remove Calamari to a cutting board to cool a bit. Once cooled, slice into 1/2 inch rings and leave small tentacles intact. Place in a mixing bowl. 

In a small saucepan, mix the Hot Sauce, 2 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter and 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce. When the butter melts, mix into the Calamari and toss. Serve warm with your desired garnishes and enjoy!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Husband Cooks - Warm Shrimp Salad With Green Beans & Chilies

He's hardworking, funny and smart, and he also knows his way around the kitchen. Or in this case, the grill. For today's feature, I'm sharing my husband's recent showstopper of a meal, his rendition of Mario Batali's Warm Shrimp Salad With Green Beans & Chilies

The only change he made to the recipe was using jalapeno peppers instead of red chilies and slivered almonds instead of hazelnuts. If you're looking for a light, grillable summer meal, this is the one. Serve it with a nice hunk of bread to soak up the delicious flavors. 

Shrimp Salad With Green Beans & Chilies, Photo: NK 


For the recipe, click HERE

TIP: Grilling Shrimp is easy if you have the right equipment. This stainless grill pan from Weber is great for Shrimp, Fish, even Vegetables. Enjoy and thanks to my main squeeze for the great meal. 

Shrimp grills up easily and doesn't stick
 on this seafood friendly tray, Photo: NK