20-Minute Stone Fruit & Brown Butter Cake

Posted in Breads & Pastries, Dessert, Easy Weeknight, For Cooking Rookies, Fruit, Recipes by Ingredient, Vegetarian

20 Minute Stone Fruit & Brown Butter Cake

Okay, so maybe this will run you about 30 minutes, including bake time, but I gotta say – after having discovered this recipe late in stone fruit season last year, I’ve made it countless times.  The base for this particular recipes comes from Kitchen Sidecar’s variation, and super easy base recipe.  As noted there – this recipe couldn’t be more flexible.  Don’t like nectarines? Swap them out with bears, strawberries, peaches, apples or pineapple. Don’t have almonds? Substitue pistachios, walnuts or cashews.

Feeling your sweet tooth late on a Tuesday afternoon? Give this recipe a try.

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Ch, cha, cha changes…SFO –> BWI

Posted in Miscellaney

About six months ago, I decided to leave San Francisco and relocate to Baltimore.  After E left the Bay Area to attend graduate school on the East Coast, it was always my intention to move to be closer to him.  It took a year of he and I doing the misery that is a long distance relationshipo before I officially made the move, which definitely feels like the right decision at this point, but wasn’t without its bumps in the road.

And, by bumps in the road, I mean that moving cross-country can whither your spirit, scar you, drain your bank account, and make you swear that after this one move you are never, ever moving again – ever. I have long had distant plans of relocating to Europe for a few years at some point in my life, but – fresh off of this move, the thought of moving not just across a country, but across an ocean feels a little like, oh I don’t know…suicide.

Two months in, my new life in Baltimore has proven a little bit lonely (I kept my job in San Francisco, but now work almost exclusively from home), but also massively productive and a much welcomed change. Sure, Baltimore isn’t the home of any of this year’s most innovative new restaurants, and sure – it largely flies under the radar, but secretly – or, not so secretly – I’m finding myself slowly, but surely falling in love with it.  Underneath its blue collar exterior are some really interesting trends in food, an excellent Sunday Farmer’s Market (conveniently located under the 83), and really, really nice people (they don’t call it Charm City for nothin’).

So, for those of you who inevitably at the start of the post mumbled under your breath: why? or alternately: i hope he’s worth it? when I confessed to leaving San Francisco (the food-lovers paradise) for Baltimore (a lovers-of-the-Wire paradise), stay calm, keep reading and I’m certain that I’ll be able to convince you that Baltimore is a lot more than crab cakes, Natty Boh, crime, and the O’s.

Maryland Style Crab Cakes from a Maryland Native

Posted in Appetizers, Dinner, Seafood, Summer Favorites

As a Maryland native, I consider myself an expert on crab cakes.  And, in my experience there is no such thing as the singular most perfect crab cake.  What is important, however, is that the crab cake is moist, is made up mainly of lump crab meat that you can clearly see, and isn’t bogged down with too many spices. It also shouldn’t resemble a burger patty.  If you ever get served a crabcake that looks like a burger patty, take my advice: send it back and order something else, lest you be disappointed.

It’s taken me about 10 years to perfect my crab cake recipe, which is slightly spicy, but absolutely wonderful – if I do say so myself.

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Obsession: Old Bay Seasoning

Posted in Food Obsessions

Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I’m a Maryland girl, through and through.  I crave hot, swampy summers – my veins bleed red, white and Chesapeake Bay blue crab – and I cook with Old Bay a lot.  The official product description basically wraps up how I feel about it:

There are two things you need to know about OLD BAY® Seasoning: 1) it’s great on seafood and 2) it’s great on everything else. For 60 years it’s ruled the spice rack as The Definitive Seafood Spice, with a world-famous blend of 18 herbs and spices.

In Chesapeake Bay, it’s on every dining room table, nestled between the salt and pepper shakers. But it’s more than that. It’s a time-honored tradition. When somebody whips out the little yellow can, you know you’re in for a good time.

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How To: Make Brown Butter

Posted in For Cooking Rookies, How To

How To: Brown Butter

A quick Google search will return a ton of results detailing instructions for how to make brown butter, but what most of them don’t get into is what chemically happens to the butter when you brown it, the exact science that goes into not burning it (which I’ve done multiple times), and it’s practical applications.

We’ll start with the latter. Brown butter is also commonly referred to as “beurre noisette,” especially if out-dated French cook books have been your flavor of late.Most commonly found as an key ingredient in desserts (like madelines, for example) – brown butter has a ton of other uses, including the base for pasta sauces, inclusion in gravies, or a simple accompaniment for white meat. To the first and second points, the process of browning butter basically separates the butterfat from the milk solids, which brown at the bottom of the pan when cooked long enough.

Brown butter is one of my favorite cooking secret ingredients. It adds an awesome nuttiness to cakes and pastries, is delicious on sweet potatoes during thanksgiving and is a great companion for fresh fish. After you’ve made this (the correct way) a few times, you’ll find that it’s not only easy, but well worth the extra steps.

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Obsession: The Sweet Batard by Acme Bread Company

Posted in Breads & Pastries, Food Obsessions

I have never been one of those people that goes batshit crazy for bread. In the three years that I’ve lived in San Francisco, I have never once waited an hour+ outside of Tartine for a croissant, or whatever it is that they make so well there. In fact, I don’t even really like sandwiches that much – mainly, because of the bread. There are, however, a handful of exceptions to this:

  1. The popovers at Wayfare Tavern (a deliciously recent discovery)
  2. The croissants in Paris (but, only those that I don’t need to wait in line for)
  3. The pumpernickel bread that they have at America’s favorite Australian themed steakhouse, Outback (that’s right, I said it)
  4. The Sweet Batard from the Acme Bread Company

Made from Acme’s Sweetdough, the Sweet Bastard is crusty, crunchy, slightly sweet, slightly salty bliss. I’ve been through two loaves in less than 10 days. This bread makes perfect sandwiches, pairs amazingly well with Petite Basque and Cowgirl Creamery‘s Mount Diablo, and is perfectly tasty all by itself with a touch of olive oil and a couple of glasses of wine.

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Lemon, Rosemary & Garlic Skillet Chicken

Posted in Dinner, Easy Weeknight, For Cooking Rookies, Poultry

Though the culinary world loves to hate on the boneless, skinless chicken breast, and I find myself cooking them a lot.  Sure, this part of the chicken doesn’t naturally have the most flavor, but that’s where good technique and a decent marinade come in.

This chicken dish is a staple in my house, and great base recipe – as it takes well to alterations (thyme instead of rosemary, throwing in some crushed red pepper flakes, etc). My favorite way to prepare this is on the grill, but time was limited when I made this so we went for a skillet preparation.

Made this during an unusually busy week, so kept it simple by serving the chicken with steamed broccoli and leftover mashed potatoes.

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Veal Scaloppine (or, Scallopini for you Americans)

Posted in Dinner, Easy Weeknight

Making this has been one of the highlights in my kitchen so far this year.  All that I have to say is that it’s absolutely-fucking-delicious, and has beat every variation of this that I’ve had in restaurants during the past several years (take that, San Francisco food snobs). Although there are a lot of steps involved with this recipe, the entire dish can be prepared in less than 30 minutes, depending on how good your knife skills are.  If you have a fairly well-stocked kitchen complete with the basics, you should already have at least half of the ingredients called for here. We kept the rest of the meal pretty simple, with rice pilaf (out of a box, but it was a Tuesday) and steamed string beans. I will also add that this a most excellent dinner to prepare for someone that you’re trying to impress.  For whatever reason, baby cow sounds so exotic to people – tag an Italian word on the end and people are immediately convinced that you’re a miracle worker in the kitchen.

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Eating Baltimore: Alewife

Posted in Restaurants

These days, I find myself spending much more time back East than in years past. With every trip back to the greater Washington DC / Baltimore metro area, I’m all the more excited, impressed and surprised at how far the restaurant industry had progressed in the past 6 – 7 years.  Last I recalled, you couldn’t get a decent meal outside of the typical steak, potatoes and crab cakes. And, most of the time, it wasn’t even that good.

About a week ago, on an unexpected, quick trip back east, I had the pleasure of dining at Alewife, in West Baltimore. Stopping in for a quick, and late-ish dinner, we were surprised at how packed the place was, even on a Thursday night.  The decor is somewhere between a traditional Irish sports bar and your casual New American gastropub – the red tones and dark wood are warm and inviting, perfect for a chilly winter evening.

We started dinner with some drinks, as any honest, red-blooded American would.  I warmed up to a nice glass of malbec, my red wine of choice these days; and he selected one of Alewife’s 40 draught beers, many of which are craft or microbrews. After evaluating the appetizer menu, we settled on the Mussels and the Duck Confit Poutine. That’s right, friends: duck fat fries, covered in gravy, duck confit and mozzarella cheese. While studying the menu on my phone en route to Alewife, I was committing to ordering this. Generally, I wasn’t disappointed, but felt that the dish could have used some optimizing. I loved how well the flavors married with each other, even if this dish needed a pretty heavy dusting of salt. Provided that I got a bite that consisted of equal parts french fry, duck confit, gravy and cheese – my tastebuds were in 5,000 calorie Nirvana. But, I also found that the whole dish was just a little too soft – reminding me a little bit of soggy (but, delicious) bread. Maybe those duck fat fries could have done with an extra minute or two in the duck fat fryer.

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Shiitake, Edamame and Somen Noodle Salad

Posted in Lunch, Pasta, Rice & Potatoes, Summer Favorites, Vegetables, Vegetarian

This salad is awesomely light, but 100% satisfying, not to mention really beautiful to look at.  Adding shiitake mushrooms and edamame give the dish a meaty texture, and a feeling of much greater substance than many vegetarian recipes that I’ve prepared of late.  This can be eaten at room temperature, or fresh out of the fridge.

One of the key ingredients for this salad is Nanami Togarashi, a Japanese spice blend featuring several different types of chilies, sesame seeds and orange peel. You may have had it before served as a seasoning agent for that warm bowl of Udon soup that you may or may not have ordered  recently. This is quickly turning into one of my must-have condiments – as it adds just the right amount of umami to even the blandest dishes.. If there’s an Asian grocery store within range, don’t skip this ingredient – it’ll throw of the balance of the whole dish. If you have some patience, you can also order Nanami Togarashi from Amazon.com (and, at the bargain price of $3.20).

This recipe also calls for somen noodles, a think Japanese noodle made from wheat flour. These are my favorite for salads and dishes that can be served cold, however – you could easily substitute these for any other kind of Japanese noodle, like soba or udon noodles, which generally tend to be a little easier to find. If you substitute the noodles, be mindful of the cooking time, as the edamame and noodles are cooked together. If the cooking time exceeds 4 minutes, prepare the noodles and edamame separately.

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