Fresh New Finds

January is about new beginnings and a fresh start. One of our resolutions this year is to introduce brave new exotic flavors in the kitchen.

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As many of you know, we’ve been on a Yottam Ottolenghi high. Once we tried his vibrant and punchy Israeli dishes we were eager for much, much more. We started with Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, which is a UK publication only at this point, so all the measurements are in grams. Using a kitchen scale to measure grams has to be the most sensible way of cooking, ever. We’re hooked.

Etti’s herb salad with warm butter dressing is like a burst of sunshine on a winter’s day. This brilliant cookbook also contains the single best lamb recipe we’ve ever eaten — Yottam’s marinated rack of lamb with coriander and honey. We doubled the marinade so we could use half of it as a sauce rather than boil off the leftover marinade for that purpose. We’ll be making this rack of lamb over and over again.

The buttered prawns with tomato, olives and Arak has become the perfect antidote for a hectic day, taking only minutes to make yet providing a wallop of flavor. Finally, the flour-less chocolate fudge cake is now a staple in our home (and a bonus for gluten-free friends).

Yottam’s newest cookbook is called Jerusalem: A Cookbook. We waited a few months to purchase it and we really shouldn’t have. The saffron rice with Iranian barberries, pistachio and mixed herbs is almost too beautiful to eat (if only aged Indian basmati rice wasn’t so maddening). The roasted chicken with clementines and Arak is simple, yet delicious. The cod cakes in tomato sauce are light, fluffy scrumptious treats. We thought to make them smaller and serve them as an appetizer. Both of these cookbooks are in our “must have” library.

Speaking of fresh new finds, we can’t sing the praises of Aran Goyoaga enough. Her Small Plates, Sweet Treats book is revolutionary. This former pastry chef has cracked the gluten-free puzzle and her cookies and tarts are nothing short of remarkable. There isn’t a gloomy winter’s afternoon which should pass without a cup of tea and her pistachio and vanilla bean shortbread cookies. Plus keeping extra cookie dough in the freezer means sweet indulgence is just around the corner!

Foodie Heaven

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On Saturday afternoon we went to see Aran Goyoaga, author of Small Plates and Sweet Treats as well as the beautiful and inspiring blog Cannelle et Vanille. She was doing a book signing at Tatte Bakery (the folks who supply the wild looking nut tarts to Williams-Sonoma) in Cambridge, along with a talk and demonstration of her food styling and cooking. Aran is sweet, kind and remarkably genuine. We walked away feeling inspired about her journey into gluten free cooking after having been a professional pastry chef. And we’re excited about her beautiful new book!

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A little break, and then we zipped over to Craigie on Main for an eight-course tasting menu. We’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this restaurant for ages and it’s been on our short list for what seems like forever. Chef Tony Maws won the James Beard award for Best Chef of the NorthEast last year. So let’s put it this way. We didn’t have a dinner, we had an experience.

There is no set menu at this restaurant. There are three choices. A three-course fixed price menu, a six-course tasting menu, and an eight-course tasting menu. You can view a list of items available on the fixed price menu, but the tasting menus are a surprise. We couldn’t even get the waiter to slip us a hint because the plates change so frequently.

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Craigie on Main has an open kitchen with a bazillion chefs running around like whirling dervishes. Better than television this place. Oh, did we mention the food is sublime? This rather extended event called a meal was definitely in our top three favorite happenings for the Boston area (along with a La Rioja Alta wine tasting lunch at Ken Oringer’s Clio and a Vega Sicilia dinner in the private library at L’Espalier). Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Have to mention the pastry chef. She deserves every single accolade being hurled at her. Oh, and Tony Maws himself came out to our table to present the final savory dish. Nice marketing!

And just because we know you’ll ask, we had Albarino with the fish courses and a half carafe of Brunello with the meat courses.

Sunday mornings wandering around Boston. Yes, please. Too early for brunch, we went to Ana Sortun’s Sofra bakery in the morning to pick up some treats (preserved lemons, labheh, parsnip skordalia, spicy nuts, etc). BTW – Ana’s labneh is brilliant, like a tangy and savory whipped cream dollop rather than what we think of as cheese. Oleana you are on the short list. We’ve been cooking from Ana’s book Spice and loving it (her chickpea crepes are lovely).

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A quick drive over to Ihsan Gurdal’s Formaggio Kitchen. A few years back we sat in a cheese seminar with Ihsan at BU. We had life envy. He travels the globe looking for delicious treats to import into his stores. Sign me up! While we have ordered cheese and charcuterie from Ihsan’s online, we had yet to visit his stores. It was hard to resist shooting a massive wad. We restrained ourselves and picked out 24-month aged prosciutto, a hunk of house-cured pancetta, Banyuls vinegar in small bottles (both red and white), Piquillo peppers and Piquillo pepper marmalade (welcome to our new addiction). Chickpea crepe + labneh + Piquillo pepper marmalade = joy.

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While we were entertaining the idea of popping over to pay homage to Savenor’s, we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet so we ditched that idea and instead skirted across the Charles to grab brunch at Ken Oringer’s Toro. First of all, where in the world do people park when they go here? No parking garages. Driving around and around. Nearly leaving. Finding a spot in a distinctly questionable neighborhood. Success at the very last minute.

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This hipster hotspot was jammed, but we were granted one of the last two-tops in the place before the chaos really ensued.

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The patatas bravas with aioli and spicy tomato sauce was wonderful. The Maiz Asado con Aioli y Queso Cotija (aka, grilled corn dish) was stupidly delicious. Dates stuffed with almonds and blue cheese, wrapped in Jamon Serrano and served hot — a good and uncomplicated idea for home. And finally the oh-so-tender hanger steak with red onion marmalade and cabrales butter. All lovely.

Time to return home. Happy.

Crispy Olive Oil Infused Crackers

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The thought of making crackers at home always seemed an outrageous and deeply mysterious act destined for culinary daredevils. In fact, I’ve only met one person in my life who has EVER made crackers at home and it just doesn’t count because he’s nothing short of a naturally gifted, flat-out sparkling ball of brilliance in the kitchen (yes, JC, I’m talking about you again).

If I have to be honest, our super stylish (but of course) French rolling pin sits in its drawer, a lonely and often forgotten object. It must have once fantasized about making golden, light-as-air pie crusts wafting heavenly aromas throughout the house, but instead was forced to amuse itself with an occasional trip out of the drawer to bash toasted hazelnuts. On more adventurous days our French rolling pin has been assigned the task of pummelling a stick of butter to within an eighth of an inch of its life in order to bring it to room temperature faster, but any non-pugilistic activities have eluded it until now.

There is only one person in this world capable of inspiring me to give our rolling pin an honest day’s work. If you don’t know him yet, don’t fret. You soon will. I believe the chef in question will soon launch an all-out British invasion into American kitchens. That is, if our home is any indication. Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi is rocking the foundations of our very own Plumb Cottage with his ridiculously delicious, ultra vibrant, passionate cooking. Today’s little flatbread crackers were inspired by one of his masterful recipes.

K&L: Please make sure you have a food scale at home before you make these crispy crackers. Measuring flour by weight is the only way to go when baking.

Crispy Olive Oil Infused Crackers

250 grams organic all purpose flour, plus a bit more for rolling out the dough
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup water
2 tb olive oil
½ tsp Kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp dried rosemary*
¼ tsp dried tarragon*
Maldon salt for sprinkling

Place all of the ingredients except the Maldon salt in a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook. Work the mixture until it forms a firm dough (you may have to take it out and knead it on the counter for a bit as well; the dough is fairly dry). Roll it into a ball and cover it with plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator to rest for one hour.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and have a bowl of flour handy for rolling it out. Cut off one inch chunks of dough (roughly the size of a walnut) and roll each piece out as thinly as humanly possible with your stylish French rolling pin, dusting with plenty of flour as you go. They should be long and practically paper thin when you’re done.

Place the rolled out dough on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat mat (or parchment paper). Brush the top of the crackers with good olive oil and then sprinkle on the Maldon salt. Bake for approximately 6-8 minutes, until crisp and golden. Cool to room temperature and store in a sealed container.

* optional; you can use any herbs or seeds you enjoy.

K&L: We use Isole e Olena olive oil from Tuscany to make these crackers really special.

December Wishes

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December Wishes (12.01.12)

Happy December! Upon the first day of this festive month, it seemed appropriate to gather a list of wishes to inspire us throughout the holiday season. We hope you enjoy them. — K&L

Sweet measuring cups for baking

This ham carved with these

Present the salad on the table using these

This pen to note down ideas

This case to keep organized

These trees to decorate envelopes

The ultimate wine glass

This ice bucket

A toast to the holiday season with this or even better that

The retro can if you please

Garden spires which reminded us of our stay at Hidden Pond Resort in Maine

A pair of these for a romantic evening

More trees for the wall

Our dream stove in yellow or orange

Morning tea would taste great in this

These linen towels

Listening to this music on December 24

This for late night reading

 

Blackberry Bottom Zabaglione with Sweet Sicilian Marsala

We love this dessert in Autumn. It’s so easy to prepare and it never fails to impress company. The blackberries are packed with flavor and taste luscious, while the warm Zabaglione is comforting and soulful. The crunchy topping of hazelnuts and the sweet and syrupy balsamic glaze take it over the top in terms of presentation. This is a real crowd pleaser, while at the same time being simple enough to prepare for two on weeknights.

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Herb-Infused Olive Oil Marinated Feta Cheese with Kalamata Olives

Walking into the local fish shop this morning, we perused the bountiful offerings, deciding the swordfish looked the freshest. Supper tonight will be swordfish marinated in homemade mayonnaise and then tossed on the grill, served with a zesty tapenade of anchovy, capers, Kalamata olives, garlic, good olive oil from Isole e Olena in Tuscany, lemon zest and fresh herbs (rosemary, basil and parsley) with a side of crisp green beans. We need to squeeze every ounce of life from the outdoor grill before it becomes too cold to venture outside, so the swordfish will do quite nicely.


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A Southern Rhône Adaptation of Beef Bourguignon

While classic Beef Bourguignon is made with red Burgundy, our version is quite a bit bolder and more intense. A friend of ours who dines somewhat frequently at our home calls this dish his “last meal wish on death row.” Dramatic imagery aside, it really is that good and it’s perfect for a cool autumn evening.

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