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Monday, June 19, 2017

Ingredient Spotlight - Mint Simple Syrup

The summer heat is on full blast and you are, no doubt, in need of some refreshment. At least that's how I felt when I decided to use the overflowing bounty of my herb garden to jazz up a cold glass of Iced Tea - one of the many simple pleasures of the season, I am sure you'll agree. 

If you've ever included Mint to your garden, you know that it is prolific, growing and spreading like a weed as it takes over everything in its immediate proximity. Looking for a practical way to capitalize on this abundance, I decided to find a Mint Simple Syrup Recipe. The process took just about 15 minutes (including washing and chopping the Mint) and the results were delicious - Simple Syrup can be used in Cocktails (the possibilities are really endless) and Mocktails and as you've probably guessed, it was an awesome way to add extra flavor and sweetness to home-brewed Iced Tea. 

Mint Simple Syrup, Photo: NK 
 RECIPE from Epicurious

Bottom's up and enjoy! 

Monday, May 22, 2017

London Calling - Dinner At Ottolenghi & More

Last week's journey to London was our first trip across the pond in several years, which makes me all the more excited to chronicle some of the highlights as I've done for many of our past travels, domestic or international. For more on some of the highlights (food or otherwise) enjoyed during our previous jaunts, click below.   

London at Dusk, Photo: NK 
Montreal Family Trip for Four



Though the primary purpose of this trip was work, I am so glad that while I headed out to the office, scenically located near the Thames by gorgeous St.Paul's, my family was able to enjoy the sights in lovely London, even if we did have a few rainy days in between. As for myself, it was a pleasure to take in the city through adult eyes, having last experienced it decades ago as a ten year old. 

As far as culinary highlights, the undeniable winner was our trip to Ottolenghi in the Islington section of London. I have a real fascination with this amazing chef. From his gorgeous cookbooks packed with creative recipes built largely on Middle Eastern flavors, to his charming public persona and commitment to activism, there is nothing not to like about Yotam Ottolenghi. You'll find his restaurants in multiple locations across London, but if you make the trip to the Islington Ottolenghi, I can tell you you'll be greeted by a display window overflowing with sweet treats. Upon entering, you cannot help but feast your eyes on the counter offering an array of colorful and appetizing prepared foods. Continue even further and you'll discover the chic yet bustling communal tables in the back. 

The Ottolenghi dining format is small plates driven, allowing you to taste a great variety of creative preparations. I love this sort of meal as I am always wanting to sample more dishes than my stomach or wallet will allow. You'll also find lots of vegetable-centric dishes, so it's a great option for non meat eaters. 

Our dinner was mouthwatering start to finish, with almost all the dishes executed impeccably. Add to that friendly and approachable servers, and the fact that this was the scene of our first taste of orange wine (I cannot believe I've lived my life never discovering this wonder), and it was a memorably dining experience through and through. Luckily, I was able to discretely capture some photos for you. 
Heirloom Tomato Salad, Scallops with Mango, Roasted Beets with Tahini, Spiced Pork Chops and the most amazing Carrot Cake. All from Ottolenghi Islington, Photo: NK 
We surely enjoyed some other very solid meals, with a strong honorable mention going to Cote Brasserie (a reliable chain - we visited the charming Marylebone location) where we dined on quite a lovely bistro meal. Similarly, Osteria Antica Bologna in bustling Clapham (a quick overground rail trip outside London) offered a delicious Italian meal and endearing service. Special thanks to our two sets of lifelong friends for hosting us at both venues, and in their lovely homes.  

As for the rest of our trip, we were able to pack in some of the enumerable sights that London and its surrounding areas offer, from a visit to Greenwich by boat, a trip to the Natural History Museum, to the Temple Church and the absolutely not to be missed Churchill War Rooms (the latter two to the particular delight of my inner history nerd), there was certainly something for everyone. 

Thanks to all our friends and colleagues for an amazing trip and until next time, London! 


The Temple Church, Photo: NK 

Leave lots of time to enjoy the Churchill War Rooms,
Photo: NK

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Italian Pasta Classics - Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint & Pecorino

Mint, lemon and chili together are a very classic Italian flavor combination. They also happen to work deliciously together with seafood. This incredibly easy and company-worthy Pasta dish is an excellent choice if you are looking for an entree that is zesty, light and comforting all at once. At well under 30 minutes to prepare (if you get the Shrimp cleaned in advance) it's also doable on a weeknight. I know Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint and Pecorino is definitely going to be a regular on our summer menu rotation. Try it today and buon appetito! 

Photo: NK






































Spaghetti with Shrimp, Lemon, Mint & Pecorino
Serves 3 as an entree (or 4 lightly)
Lightly Adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:
1/4 lightly toasted Pine Nuts
1/2 Pound Spaghetti 
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
2 Garlic Cloves, halved
1/2 Pound Large Wild Shrimp, shelled, cleaned and cut in thirds (buy them cleaned to save time!) 
Kosher Salt
Pepper
Zest of one Lemon
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Chopped Mint, plus small leaves set aside for garnish
1 Cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon jarred Calabrian Chili (we like Tutto Calabria) or substitute Crushed Red Pepper


Method: 
Prepare Pasta as directed in well-salted water. Reserve 1/2 Cup Pasta water, drain and set the Pasta aside. 

Meanwhile in a large skillet, warm 2 Tablespoons of the Olive Oil over medium low heat and add the Garlic Cloves. Cook, stirring until slightly golden, for about 5 minutes. Discard the Garlic. 

Sprinkle Shrimp with a little Salt and Pepper. Add them to the skillet and cook about 2 minutes until almost totally opaque. 

Add the Pasta, Water, Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, 2/3 of the Pecorino Cheese, and the 2 remaining Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Cook, tossing constantly until the sauce thickens nicely, about 2 minutes. Season with a bit more salt and stir in the Calabrian Chili.

Plate and garnish with remaining Pecorino, toasted Pine Nuts and Mint Leaves. Enjoy! 


Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2017 - Persian Style Herbed Rice

As long as I can remember, Easter has always been my absolute favorite holiday. For me, it's a day already so filled with hope, joy and a sense of renewal. It also coincides with spring, a season of rebirth itself, one signaling that summer is right around the corner. Last but not least, with the exception of delivering some baskets the Easter Bunny may have dropped off for the little ones, Easter isn't saddled with all the pressures gifting that plagued Christmas. No, in my mind, Easter is just perfect - right down to the menu.

This year, we went with the very traditional Lamb main. It was warm enough to grill outside and my husband cooked it perfectly. We adapted a great recipe for full racks (vs. sliced up chops from the rack) and drizzled it with a Greek lemon sauce called Ladolemono before serving. This would be a winner any time of year and it was so easy. Find the recipe HERE


Amazingly easy Lamb that we adapted Michael Psilakis' recipe by upping the grill time for a few full racks vs.
individual chops. Simple Ladolemono (a Greek Lemon Sauce) provides a little extra brightness to this rich dish. 

For a great side, you can't go wrong with our ilili Brussels Sprouts, a sweet, savory and tangy dish inspired by an amazing Lebanese restaurant in NYC by the same name. 

ilili Brussels Sprouts, Our version of the restaurant's recipe featured HERE on the blog

Finally, I adapted a much more technically complex (and phenomenal looking recipe for Sabzi Polo, Persian Herbed Rice served in a slightly molded form with a crispy crust on its outside) by playing off many of its flavors but presenting it more as a traditional (and far faster and easier) Rice dish. One day I will try the real thing but this meal was all about speed and ease despite the significant amount of time it took me to wash, chop and prep the many herbs that went into our meal! 
Persian Style Herbed Rice - A quick version of a much more involved side dish, Sabzi Polo. I adapted ours using many
of the same flavors and folding them simply in a basic rice dish. The recipe follows below.

I hope you enjoy the easy recipe below. And don't wait until next Easter to try it! 

Persian Style Herbed Rice

Recipe Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 8  

Ingredients:


2 Cups Basmati Rice
2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1/2 Cup minced Dill
1/2 Cup minced Italian Parsley
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Water heated with a 1/4 teaspoon Spanish Saffron Threads

Method:

1. Prepare Basmati Rice as directed in Water, cooking until just the tiniest bit underdone.

2. As Rice cooks, heat Salted Butter in a small pan and saute minced Garlic a few minutes until soft and fragrant but not browned. Turn of the heat. 

3. In another small pot, heat the Saffron threads over medium heat in 1/3 Cup water until quite hot and water becomes deeply colored, about 5 minutes. Allow to sit. 

4. Fluff the Rice and carefully fold in all the Herbs, the Butter and Garlic, and toss gently adding the brewed Saffron liquid and distributing it throughout, reserving a small amount for serving. Follow by drizzling in 1/4 Olive Oil. Stir to incorporate. 

5. Finish by adding 1/2 teaspoon Salt and then combine.

6. Taste and adjust Salt as needed. 

7. To serve, remove to a serving bowl and drizzle with remaining brewed Saffron. Garnish with leftover herbs and enjoy! 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Comfort Food Classic - Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf

Every once in a while, I get a craving for Meatloaf. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I go out of my way to make it something special.  Most often, I'll go for our standard (but very awesome) Turkey Meatloaf recipe, complete its own yummy basting and serving sauce, but this particular night, I wanted something different - a slightly faster cooking Meatloaf packed with savory, tender Mushrooms. 

Because this Meatloaf is also relatively small-batch (double the recipe and cook in two pans if you'd like to make more), it stays extra juicy and cooks in just about hour.  You don't have to love Mushrooms to love this recipe, but you will find that they add extra richness, texture and meatiness.  You almost feel like you're eating Beef instead of healthier Turkey Meat. Try this for your next family dinner. You won't regret it. 

Most Delicious Turkey Mushroom Meatloaf (Pictured with extra Mushrooms on top). Photo: NK

Most Delicious Mushroom Meatloaf
Serves 4 
*(If you double the recipe, best to divide into two portions and bake it in two sheet or roasting pans, side by side)

Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, divided
1 large Carrot, minced
1 Leek, white and light green parts, minced (you can sub in 3 minced Scallions as well)
1 Medium Yellow Onion, finely diced
Cup and a half minced mixed Mushrooms (we used Oyster and Cremini)
3 Tablespoons minced Chives

1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 LB Ground Organic Turkey
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1/8 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Coarse Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Grated Parmigiana Reggiano Cheese 

Method:

Turn oven to 350 with rack in the middle. 

Melt 2 Tablespoons of the Butter medium skillet over medium heat. Add minced Carrots and cook until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add Leek, and saute for about 2 minutes. Add Onion and saute another two minutes. Add minced Mushrooms and continue to cook another 3-4 minutes until they have softened but are still springy. Stir in Chives and Parsley and turn off the heat.

Add Panko to a large bowl. Stir in Chicken Broth and blend to moisten the Panko. Add the Mushroom Veggie Mix to the bowl as well as the Turkey, and 1 Egg. Blend. Melt the last Tablespoon of Butter and pour it in. Season with Salt and Pepper. Add Ketchup and Parmigiana Cheese. Blend.

Grease a high sided Baking Pan and mound the Meatloaf down the middle of it. It will seem rather wet and that is ok. It should be about six inches wide to nine inches long and about an inch and a half high. Bake about 1 hour until cooked through (170 in the middle with an instant read thermometer). Rest for 5-10 minutes and serve warm. 


Enjoy! 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cocktail Break - St. Pat's Guinness Bloody Mary

Erin go bragh and happy St. Pats! Today, I'm going to give you a recipe tip you won't soon forget. 

A recipe tip about cocktails...

A genius idea given to me by the barkeep at venerable Irish bar on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the scene of more than a few good times with my best friend before life forced us to become "responsible adults." 

Something tells me we'll be back. And you know why? Because they make a great Bloody Mary, and the best Bloody Marys...



Guinness Bloody Mary, Photo: NK


have Guinness in them! 


YES. Who knew you could improve on a Bloody Mary? The bartender are George Keeley did, that's who. 

They say Guinness is Good, but Guinness Bloody Mary's are definitely better. As a matter of fact, lots of things benefit from a good dose of stout - like this easy Beef Pot Pie


Even if you favor green drinks on St. Pat's be sure to give this recipe a try some time this year. 


Guinness Bloody Mary's Our Way

Yields 1 Cocktail

Tools:

1 short rocks glass
Toothpick or Cocktail Skewers

Ingredients: 


1.5 Ounces of Vodka
4 Ounces of Low Sodium Tomato Juice
1 teaspoon Horseradish 
2 Splashes Worcestershire
1 Lime Wedge for garnish and one for the mix
1 Lemon Round for garnish and lemon for the mix
3 Green Olives stuffed with Pimento
1 Celery Stalk
Seasoned Salt (Celery Salt or other flavored Salt Blend) 
4 Dashes of Tabasco 
1 Ounce of Guinness 
Salt and Pepper to taste 

Method: 


Rim your glass with some Lemon and dip it into Seasoned Salt. 
Fill a short glass 2/3 of the way with Tomato Juice, then add Vodka, Horseradish, Tabasco, Worcestershire and a good squeeze of lemon. Stir.

Thread three Olives onto a cocktail skewer and finish with a small Lime Wedge. Set aside. 

Add Ice and Stir. Pour on the Guinness. Taste and add additional Tabasco, Horseradish and Seasoned Salt or Pepper as you wish. 

Garnish with a Celery Stalk and the Olive skewer. Enjoy!! 



Monday, February 20, 2017

Pasta Party - Ziti Carbonara

Today concluded an especially fun (and food) filled three day weekend that was indisputably action packed. We started at a friend's birthday party and then the family got together Saturday evening for an easy and festive dinner. I was in the mood to cook, even though it was technically my birthday weekend and I was otherwise taking it easy (we officially celebrated on Sunday with a phenomenal dinner at Brooklyn's iconic, Peter Luger). 

Cooking almost never feels like work to me, and when you pick easy recipes and do just a little bit of light prep work, entertaining can be almost effortless. I decided that dinner would consist of a duo of Pasta Courses and a salad. The first dish was a Neurotic Kitchen classic, Aglio Olio e Peperoncino, which is perfect in its simplicity and also incredibly budget friendly. Next I whipped up a sinful batch of Ziti Carbonara

I have to thank my mom for walking me through the Carbonara prep, and without a recipe, no less. It's one of those dishes that you can make almost by instinct. It ended up being the perfect easy dish for our family gathering. Really flavorful, a little rich and indisputably comforting. It's definitely going in the dinner party rotation for years to come. For tips and the recipe, read below!

Special thanks to everyone who made my birthday weekend so special. 

Ziti Carbonara, Photo: NK 

Cook's Notes- Carbonara is a dish you need to make a la minute. That means that you'll benefit greatly from chopping and prepping in advance, which is especially crucial if you're cooking this for guests.

Do Ahead:

Grate the Parmigiana Cheese
Chop the Onions
Chop the Bacon
Chop the Italian Parsley

*****

Ziti Carbonara
Serves 6 modestly or as an appetizer

Ingredients:
1 Pound Ziti
4 Strips (approximately 4 Ounces) Thick Cut Bacon or Pancetta (we prefer Coleman Organic) cut into a medium dice
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Sweet Yellow Onion or White Onion, cut into a 1/2 inch dice
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Cup Grated Parmigiana Romano
3 Large Eggs* (each cracked and beaten in it's own individual mug or ramekin)
1/3 Cup Finely Chopped Italian Parsley
1 teaspoon Black Pepper 
Salt

Method:
1. Make sure all ingredients are chopped and prepped as above.

2. In a saute pan, cook Bacon in about a Tablespoon Olive Oil until golden brown and slightly crisped. Remove the Bacon from the pan and set aside. Wipe out some of the remaining oil and Bacon Fat, leaving about two Tablespoons. Add the Onions to the pan and saute over medium heat until tender and translucent. Add the Wine and scrape the pan. Allow to cook over medium flame until it is reduced, by about half or more leaving a Tablespoon or two remaining.  Turn off the flame.

3. Set a large pot of salted water to boil. When it is ready, add the Ziti, stirring occasionally until cooked to a nice al dente.

4. Drain the Pasta in a colander. Return to the hot Pasta pot. Working quickly, add a handful of Parmigiana Cheese, toss well. Add the Bacon and Onion Mixture, toss. Add one beaten Egg, and toss vigorously and continuously. Add another handful of grated Parmigiana, toss. Add the Black Pepper, toss. Add another egg, and toss again. Add more Parmigiana and the final Egg. Toss until creamy and well incorporated. Sprinkle in all the Parsley and toss. Taste for seasoning and add Salt as needed. Add more Pepper as you wish. It should have a good amount. Serve right away in a communal bowl!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Game Day Gourmet - Superbowl LI

Hosting our friends for the Super Bowl is a tradition in our house, and even though we only invite a few people, we do like to go all out. This year's menu was at its best with Thomas Keller's absolutely delicious New England Clam Chowder (even though we were hoping the Falcons would win!). As a rule, I like to go beyond the chips and dip and serve recipes that are casual, fast to make, but also just a little elegant too. Who says football food can be gourmet? 

Here's a quick look at what we made with links to all the recipes. Until next year! 


Hogs In A Blanket, (Andouille Sausage in Puff Pastry with Chutney & Mustard). Click HERE 



Thomas Keller's Amazing New England Clam Chowder, Click HERE 


Ina Garten's Roasted Brussels Sprouts Tossed with Bacon, Click HERE 

Old Bay Buffalo Wings, Click HERE 
Looking for more ideas? Check out our Super Bowl Menus through the years:

2016
2015
2014
2013
2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

3 Meals In The Life - Weekly Meal Prep

Today I wanted to share a bit of the methodology I use for weekly meal planning. Since one of my many 2017 goals (I don't do resolutions) revolves around limiting food waste, I thought such a post would be particularly relevant, especially if you too are looking to conserve while eating nutritiously and efficiently. 


Alton Brown's Easy Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic and Yotam Ottolenghi's
Cucumber & Poppy Seed Salad, Photo: NK

Now don't misunderstand, I know full well that In the midst of all life's responsibilities, meal planning can seem daunting. 


One easy way to demystify it with an eye towards lessening food waste is to start with one recipe idea and then think about the ingredients you'll have leftover, and then what other meals they complement.  After a while, you'll get in the habit of knowing how to group your meals. For instance, I know whenever it's Taco night (my husband's fave), a grain bowl with scallions and protein won't be far behind. 

For a more regular look into our daily meals, follow us on Instagram.


Salmon Barley Bowl (with Poppy Seeds!), Photo: NK
OTHER TIPS: 

1. On weekdays, choose simpler recipes (most here on Neurotic Kitchen take well under 45 minutes), especially those that can be quickly warmed in the microwave or even served at room temperature. Note: This week, we made an easy version of Chicken With Forty Cloves of Garlic which still takes an hour and a half to cook, but the prep time is very short so you can pop it in the oven as soon as you get home from work. Alternately, it's a great Sunday dinner. 

2. Wash, prep and chop all your veggies early in the week; you'll have them at the ready for even quicker assembly. The end result is much less prep time. If you've planned it so that your veggies are part of several different meals, you'll also have less waste.

3. Make large batches of grains and other staples to add to packed lunches, salads, or bulk up kids' meals


Meals (for 2-3)
Shrimp Tacos (optionally Marinated)
(Click above for the Recipes!)


Shrimp Tacos, Photo: NK 

Shopping List

Veggies & Starch 
1 Bunch Scallions (for Tacos and Salmon Barley Bowl)

5 Persian Cucumbers (or small Cucumbers) (for Salmon Bowl & Chicken + Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad)

2 Avocados (for Salmon Bowl and Tacos) 

Tortillas (for Tacos)

Mild Red Chilies (for Tacos and Cucumber Poppy Seed Salad)

Barley (For Salmon Bowl, to bulk up lunch salads, and as a base for extra kids' meals)

Cilantro (For Tacos, For Cucumber Poppy Seed Salad)

Salsa/Store-bought Pico de Gallo (and optional Tortilla Chips for Salsa & Chip snack)

Poppy Seeds (For Cucumber Poppy Seed Salad and Salmon Bowl) 

Pre-Peeled Garlic (optional, as you could buy whole and peel Garlic) but it will save you time!

Thyme (for the Chicken) Note: Thyme keeps about 7 days, here's another idea for it.

Protein
5 Ounces Smoked Salmon 

Whole Chicken cut up (bone in and skin on)

1 Pound Shrimp 

Optional Extras:

Washed and ready to eat Salad Mix. I use this to make to work lunches - just and add whatever extra Veggies, Grains or Proteins we have leftover from dinner! 
~~

And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed a little look into our weekly recipe planning. Here's to more recipes and easy and elegant meal ideas for 2017. Happy cooking! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Easy Elegance - Spaghettini al Limone

There are several Lemon-driven recipes here on Neurotic Kitchen (find them HERE, HERE and HERE) and the reason for that is simple: I love the stuff. Today's incredibly simple but elegant meal will delight your palate and is a worthy choice for dinner parties, date nights, or any time you want to treat yourself. 

As a bonus, its low-cost ingredients will keep you within your New Year's budget, but the austerity stops there; a sinful amount of Butter makes this not all that diet-friendly, but, incredibly, the finished dish manages to feel so light and refreshing that it is perfect for a first course to get your tastebuds ready for more. Once the Pasta is cooked, this dish comes together in just 5 minutes, so with your mis en place ready to go, you can make it with guests on hand and only be gone from the party very briefly.
Spaghettini al Limone, Photo: NK 

Spaghettini al Limone
Serves 6 as a light appetizer, 4 as a heartier appetizer
Very lightly adapted from Maria Batali

Ingredients:
6 Tablespoons Salted Butter 
Pound Spaghettini or other thin long pasta
2 Tablespoons Salt 
1/4 Cup Lemon Zest (from about 4 lemons)
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese 
3 Tablespoons finely chopped Chives 
Extra Salt and Ground Pepper 

Method: 

Boil a large pot of water with 2 Tablespoons of Salt in it. 

Meanwhile, in a very large saute pan, add the Butter and Lemon Zest and heat over moderate heat, stirring. 

Once water is boiling, add the Pasta and cook until just al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup Pasta Water and drain the pasta. 

Add drained Pasta to the saute pan. Toss Lemon Juice onto it. Toss to coat with Lemon Zest and Butter Mixture and loosen with a tablespoon or two of pasta water, tossing continuously over medium heat for about a minute until thickened. 

Turn off flame and sprinkle on Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. Taste for Salt and add more if needed. Season liberally with Black Pepper. Divide Pasta among plates and sprinkle with chopped Chives. Serve with extra Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese. 

Enjoy!!