Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summertime Sweet Treats: Berry Cobbler

Summertime makes me yearn for fresh fruits and vegetables in all shapes and forms. As we all well know, I'm not much of a baker or dessert maker, but I've been wanting to make a cobbler for quite some time. A couple years ago we went to dinner at a friends house and she threw together a delicious berry cobbler for desert. She assured me that it was really easy and so, only about 3 years later, I finally got around to trying out my own cobbler. I found a recipe on that looked easy enough and the topping (the "baking" part) involved just a few simple steps thus I figured there was no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that I could mess it up! And lucky for us... I did not! It was incredibly easy and incredibly delicious.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

1 cup plus 1 tsp packed brown sugar
 2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 3/4 lb mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together 1 cup brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add berries and toss to coat. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and bake until hot, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea size butter lumps. Add milk and stir just until dough comes together.

Remove baking dish from oven and drop large tablespoons of dough onto hot berry mixture. Stir together remaining teaspoon brown sugar and granulated sugar. Sprinkle sugars over dough and bake cobbler until topping is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool about 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Concert in the Park... at the Farmhouse

Last weekend the hubs and I had the pleasure of hosting a little food and wine tasting party at our house. We weren't really sure what to expect as we had absolutely no part in the planning and really just provided the venue but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised with the turnout. We ended up having a little over 70 guests with lots of different folks from the Princeton area. We got to spend time with family members and got to know some new friends. There was awesome live bluegrass, delicious food prepared with all local ingredients by some amazing local chefs, and lots of wine flowing all night! The event was a huge success and I'm so happy that we got to host it! I was not the chef at this event and thus I don't have any recipes to share but I do have lots of photos. I can't wait for the next dinner on the farm and hope that this will not be the last concert in the park at the farmhouse!

The set up...

 The party...

 The Bluegrass...

 The food...

Grilled Corn, Panzanella Salad, Spicy Slaw, Kale Salad, Truffled Potato Salad

 BBQ Pulled Pork


 Fried Bay Shrimp

 Blackened Catfish

The happy hosts... (Don't mind the hubs. He always looks this excited when he's really happy!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Inspired by a Top Chef: Grilled Octopus salad with Lemon-Pistachio Vinaigrette

A couple weekends ago the hubs and I had the chance to spend a very short 2 days in Chicago. The hubs was headed there for business and his company was kind enough to get us a room starting Friday night so we could spend the weekend in the windy city. Maybe it's because we haven't had a little getaway in quite some time or maybe it's just because Chicago is a fabulous city but either way, we had an amazing time! It reminded me of how much I miss city life. Don't get me wrong, I much prefer to live in the country but in our last home in Cali we had the best of both worlds. We were only 15 minutes outside of San Fran but lived in the quiet suburban town of Mill Valley in a house in the woods on one of the many beautiful hills of Mt. Tamalpais... deemed by some of my friends as a tree house. Since I worked in the city I still experienced city life, more importantly city food, daily but was able to escape as much as we wanted or as little as we wanted every weekend. We still have the luxury of being near a city here in Jersey but since the commute is not quite as easy and it takes a lot longer we don't venture into New York all that often. It's been a couple months since I was last in NYC so our quick trip to Chicago was a much needed dose of city life.

We had very little time, arriving late Friday night and leaving early afternoon on Sunday so on Saturday we tramped all over Chicago. We checked out Lake Michigan, ventured to a street fair on Randolph Street, enjoyed a little baseball action just outside of Wrigley field, had a very creative dinner, and finally ended the night at a speak easy called the Violet Lounge. Chicago is such a cool city. It is really beautiful with the Chicago river running through it and all of the old architecture. It also has a pretty great food scene and as you can imagine, one of our goals for the weekend was to seek out a really great dinner. Initially we had planned to go to an old school steakhouse but after a little more thought I was craving something a little different. After some research I found that Top Chef Season 2 winner, Stephanie Izard, owned a restaurant in Chicago called Girl and the Goat. The menu looked really interesting, really creative, and really good. We decided to go for it even though we didn't have a reservation (apparently it takes months to get a table there but we went early and only waited about 20 minutes) and it was the best decision of the weekend! We had quite a few different dishes: sauteed green beans with a fish sauce vinaigrette, hiramasa crudo with crisp pork belly, crisp calamari with rabbit ravioli, wood oven roasted pig face with sunny side egg, a goat belly dish, and finally the highlight of the meal which was actually a mistake- grilled baby octopus with a pistachio lemon vinaigrette. Lucky for us the kitchen made this dish accidentally for another table and apparently we looked like we would be happy to take it... which we were.

I've had octopus once before in Greece but it was served cold. It was delicious but very different from this dish. We LOVED this dish! The octopus was grilled and had the perfect smoky flavor and every component in the dish complimented each other so perfectly. It included Fava beans, guanciale (a thin, non smoked or cured Italian bacon), red cabbage, wax beans, radishes and the vinaigrette. The flavor was perfect, the texture was perfect, and all in all this may have been the most memorable dish I've ever eaten. Thus, I had to try to re-create it. I've never made octopus before so it was a total shot in the dark. I also couldn't find all of the exact ingredients so my dish is more of an adaptation than a recreation of the dish we had at Girl and the Goat. Luckily for the hubs and I though, our dish wasn't half bad. I will definitely continue to experiment with this dish and try to perfect it and will for sure be serving this at our next dinner party!

Grilled Octopus Salad with Lemon-Pistachio Vinaigrette

1/2 lb octopus
2 slices thin cut bacon
2 radishes, sliced thin
handful of yellow wax beans
1/4 cup fava beans
1/4 cup red cabbage
little less than a 1/4 cup pistachios

In a saucepan add octopus and enough water to cover octopus but about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer about an hour. Remove from boiling water and once cool enough to handle cut into large bite size pieces.

Cook bacon in a fry pan until lightly crisp. Boil wax beans in water about 5-7 minutes until just starting to become tender.

Heat grill. In a bowl toss all salad ingredients in dressing to lightly coat. Transfer to a mesh fry pan (one made for grilling). Cook on grill until salad ingredients are lightly charred, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill and toss with a bit more dressing to lightly coat salad and serve.

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, chopped
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pistachios

In a blender mix lemon juice, shallot, tarragon, red wine vinegar, sugar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth. With blender running, add olive oil in a steady stream until well incorporated. Turn off blender, add pistachios and pulse until finely chopped.

Just a couple tips:

2. You will not use much of the dressing for this recipe, only a couple of tablespoons. It is delicious though and can be stored in your fridge for about a week. It'd be great on a salad but tonight I'm using it as a marinade for some chicken I plan to grill which I'm pretty sure is gonna be goooood!

p.s. the photo above is not actually of my dish, it's of the dish that inspired me. my dish looked a little different, but sorta the same... you get the idea!