April 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
With all the recent Boston chaos, it’s nice that the city has quieted down a bit, that memorials have gone up and the sun and warm Spring air is finally moving in. People are flowing onto the streets and staying out as long as they can. It was the perfect setting for a quiet breakfast alone on a Saturday morning. Well, not alone, I had a new Vogue with me.
Tatte is a little café with two person tables all pushed together. It feels crowded in the most elegant way, like a little European café. The displays of prepared food are just so beautiful, cakes in glass jars, rows and rows of cookies in tied up cellophane and a little glass fridge gleaming with cream and fruit. It’s the type of food you feel bad about destroying but your mouth can’t get enough of. The smells are so wonderful they flood even the outside sidewalk and waft down the street; smells of sweet cinnamon bread and almond cookies. It’s the perfect spot for a breakfast pastry or dessert and a café au lait.
Once the winter chill is gone, there are white patio tables all set up outside for enjoying the sunshine and people watching. This morning was a bit too cool, so I nestled up inside.
Their menu reminds me of Paris, where for breakfast you can get a whole basket of bread or a whole basket of pastries with little jams and butters to smother each slice. Oh and of course fresh orange juice to go with it. That is one of my fondest food memories, freshly squeezed orange juice from Paris. I got a glass every morning I was there. I haven’t found one at home that comes even close to comparing. But this morning I was in the mood for something sweet and decided to get a hazelnut rose. The hazelnut rose is a sweet roll popping right out of its little golden wrapper, just like two rose stems, oozing with sweet butter and hazelnuts. It was layer after layer of rolled dough with sweet goodness melted between each one.
Mid way through my Vogue reading a young girl and dad skipped into the shop chanting, “Animal Crackers! Animal Crackers!” My first thought was, this shop doesn’t have animal crackers, picturing the iconic red box with string and circus animals. But a silver plate was plucked from the counter, “I have lions, tigers and elephants today.” Of course, little butter cookies in the shapes of animals, adorable. The girl got $4 worth of elephants only. She seemed so pleased with her choice.
I had arrived at the shop right at 8 a.m., just as the doors opened, lucky to get a table right in the front window. And although I was only there for an hour the shop bustled in and out with customers, a lot of whom seemed like regulars. Some stayed for a while and spoke softly or not at all, others took to the streets with their coffees to go. I ate slowly, sipped my latte until it was cold and flipped through my Vogue, perfectly content. It was a lovely, slow morning.
Tatte has a larger shop in Cambridge, which I’m looking forward to trying as well. The selection sounds even more robust on the other side of the river, maybe next time a full Parisian breakfast will be in order.
April 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
You may remember me mentioning a couple weeks ago that I had tabbed a bunch of new recipes in my recent Food and Wine Magazine issue. I’m quite impressed with myself; I’ve made almost all of them. There were a few flops. They had an amazing citrus chicken recipe that I tried to do with tofu. It didn’t work. You just can’t get the same baked chicken crunch on tofu. I also won’t be buying a deep-fryer anytime soon to achieve this, so we might have to give up hope on this idea for a little bit. The citrus flavor had great punch to it though, so I’m sure I will use that combination of flavors elsewhere.
One recipe highlight was the Grilled Eggplant Parmesan. It was a great new interpretation of what Eggplant Parmesan can be. No overpowering marinara sauce, no fried eggplant, just simple flavors. I made it and loved it and am now making it again. This time though I wanted to make it into a sandwich.
Eggplant can be tricky at times. If you under cook it, it can be quite tough and unappealing. In grilling and baking it we’re eliminating the possibility of this issue. I also like that turning a dish into a sandwich automatically makes it feel like a lunch item. I’m not sure why we have these ideas of what we believe to be a “lunch” food versus a “dinner” food, but I think we all do. And a sandwich is the perfect lunch.
Please note this is quite a messy sandwich to eat. It shouldn’t necessarily be eaten in front of guests!
Makes 4 Sandwiches
Inspired by Food and Wine Magazine
1 large eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 roma tomato, sliced
olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper
3/4 cup havarti cheese, sliced
crusty bread, sliced
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Heat up a grill pan. Brush each slice of eggplant with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the grill pan for about 4 minutes, flipping over after 2 minutes. You should get a nice char on both sides.
Sprinkle a little olive oil on a baking sheet. Place the eggplant on the baking sheet, with some overlapping edges but no more than 2 layers deep. Add the sliced red pepper in a single layer, then the sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Add a single layer of cheese.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese becomes golden brown and bubbly.
In the mean time, cut 8 slices of bread about 1/2 inch thick and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on each. Place in the oven for the last 5 minutes of baking to add a nice crunch to the bread.
Once the eggplant bake is ready, cut into 4 pieces. Put the eggplant bake on the bottom slices of bread and add a few basil leaves to each. Top each sandwich and enjoy warm.
April 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
This past weekend of running and café visiting was a bust. I’ve been sick on the couch with a stomach bug for a few days now. I can’t eat anything tasty, let alone run anywhere further than from my bed to the couch. It did pain me a bit to not be able to go out and try a new spot in Boston. But it also made me think of a past café and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to share it.
Last summer, we found a 10k race in Bar Harbor, Maine and decided it was the perfect excuse to get away for the weekend. I would suggest this type of impromptu vacationing to everyone. I always enjoy road traveling; there’s no jet lag, no pressure to see everything and you come home actually feeling refreshed.
We stayed at a cute little bed and breakfast just outside of the main downtown. We woke each morning to communal breakfasts with other vacationers and we spent most of our days outside walking along the rocky shoreline, hiking to sandy beaches and people-watching with some kind of tasty treat.
The restaurant scene was quite lively, we were happy with all the places we ended up visiting. And the vegetarian options were surprisingly robust. I think one of our favorite spots was Side Street Café. It’s locally owned, with a friendly staff and lots of outside deck seating. There was a live band the night we visited, which seemed like a regular occurrence, and the casual atmosphere fit right in with our laid-back trip. We sat at the bar with the Celtics playoff game high on our priority list. The pita wrap that I had inspired a new sandwich that I make at home all the time. Each time I make this sandwich I get to reminisce about the little town and the lovely café that introduced me to it.
Recipe inspired by Side Street Cafe
Makes 4 sandwiches
1/4 cup prepared pesto*
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1 tomato, sliced
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Cut the bread into eight slices, about 1/2 inch thick.
Toaster Oven: Toast bread until just crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside.
Conventional Oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place slices of bread on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, until crisp on the outside.
Spread a thin layer of pesto on both the top and bottom of each bread slice and top with the avocado, tomato and mozzarella. Serve immediately, while the bread is still a little warm.
An excellent addition to this sandwich is broccoli sprouts. I add them whenever I can; unfortunately, it’s just one of those items that my grocery store only carries half the time.
*You can also use any kind of pesto you like. I used a homemade basil-based one, but a store bought jar works just as well.
April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
We are currently in the midst of some major running/training and decided on a whim this past Saturday that we deserved lunch out after a staggering 19.3-mile run. Who can think about anything other than drinking a gallon of water after running that far? I had no energy to pull food out of the fridge and find something to slap together. We did have the energy to trek all the way downtown to have someone else make us food though! We enjoyed it so much that we have decided for the next few weeks that when we have long runs scheduled, we will treat ourselves to a new café or restaurant for a much needed bite. This will also give me an excuse to share some of the wonderful places to eat in Boston. Living here for almost five years now has given me lots of time to explore the restaurants and food markets and I do have some favorites.
First stop, Flour bakery and cafe. It’s a cute spot with quirky menus and wooden country tables. We snagged the last two seats at the bar; the place was still packed at 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday! Aka this place knows what it’s doing. It’s actually a brand new location for the bakery. They have three other spots in Boston, one in the South End, one in Cambridge and one down by the Seaport. I have been to the South End location just once years ago and remember it fondly. Another thing I love about Flour is the Owner/Pastry Chef Joanne Chang. I have had thoughts over the years about stepping into the culinary world myself. She was the only chef in the area who gave me heart-felt and just straight-up great advice. It’s inspiring to have someone of her stature give advice to a complete stranger. And it did not go unnoticed by me either.
Now going out for a café lunch on the weekend doesn’t sounds like an unusual thing, but for us it is. We are probably one of very few couples that can actually say they rarely eat out. There are a few reasons why we don’t eat out as much as maybe we should. One major reason: choices. I find a lot of places offer non-meat eaters pretty much the same thing. While the selection is growing it still takes some hunting around to make sure I’m not going to have to order the same old mozzarella and basil sandwich. I don’t like to eat food out that I can easily make at home. The second reason we eat at home a lot is we cook good food. We’ve set a high standard for when we go out and I find some places come up a little short. It’s such a disappointment when you finally decide to go out and the food is no better than what you made at home the night before. And lastly, I may be a tad bit frugal. Eating out is expensive, so I use the excuse that we will enjoy it that much more if we only do it every once in awhile. So making the decision to go out each weekend for the next few weeks is kind of a big deal.
And pleasantly, we were both very happy with our first weekend spot. The boyfriend plowed through his roast beef sandwich with horseradish mayo and crispy onions. And he helped me finish my salad loaded with white beans, capers, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and fresh focaccia croutons. Flour is actually known for its over the top bakery items. They even have two cookbooks out toting all their fabulous pastries. I don’t know if we were still exhausted from running or the run had somehow made us non-dessert lovers for the day but we passed on an after lunch treat. I was actually happy we did. It gives us an excuse to go back for a latte and something sweet much sooner.
April 5, 2013 § Leave a comment
After unhappy results from my making dough experience I thought, maybe I should just toss the post and the images and write something new. But then I thought, all of the creative thinking, photo taking and baking still took place and I learned a few things that seemed worth sharing, and so begins the “work in progress” section of the blog. When blunders arise I will still post my thought process and where I think the recipe went wrong in the hopes that I can revisit it with new insights at a later date.
The mission this week: can pizza dough become the perfect roll? I was inspired when I discovered this dough recipe in the April issue of Food and Wine Magazine. The issue focused on Italian food and wine and talked about a bunch of recipes that I now have tabbed and am waiting to try. The cover story was on Mario Batali. He’s not my favorite chef, I’m not even sure I have made a recipe of his before. I’m not sure his ingredient choices typically appeal to my tastes. However, his pizza dough recipe for calzones sounded amazing. The dough had honey and wine in it! It was my inspiration for a roll, which I was hoping would be sweet with a salty twist.
I love the idea of making bread; I rarely do it though. I’m usually not thinking about dinner at lunchtime and find that our bakery down the road has some of the tastiest classic bread loaves. But this dough seemed a little more manageable because it only needed to rise for an hour and a half. I could do this! The hardest part of the whole recipe is the kneading, and yes it’s a bit of a workout. But a fresh roll is worth it right?
While the flavor of the bread was there, the consistency of the bread was too dense, which I have found is usually the case when I make dough. I’m still not sure where I went wrong, the dough had a lovely wine smell and it rose very nicely. Can you over roll dough when shaping? I’m thinking maybe I should have pulled the dough apart and left it as a messy square shape. Also, I was working with whole wheat flour which I know is a heavier flour to work with. I might need to abandon whole wheat flour in my dough until I get it right and then try to incorporate it back in. Or maybe I need to head to Paris for some bread making classes and see if that solves this dough issue! I need to do some more research before I attack bread again. Until then, suggestions are always welcome.
Recipe inspired by Food and Wine Magazine
Makes 16 mini rolls
1/4 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon raw honey
1 envelope of active dry yeast (or about 1 tablespoon)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon thyme, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra for bowl and tops of rolls
3 cups whole wheat flour, plus a little extra for sprinkling
freshly ground sea salt
Lightly brush olive oil all along the edges and bottom of a large bowl, set aside.
In another large bowl, combine the wine, water, honey and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast becomes foamy. Then add the pinch of salt, thyme and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in 1 cup of flour until combined and then the remaining 2 cups. At this point you might have to use your hands to combine, as the consistency will be overly dry. Dust some flour on a flat counter and roll the dough around until it’s completely covered. (I like to add a little flour to my hands as well to prevent any sticking). Knead the dough with your palms until the dough becomes smooth, for at least five minutes. (It will begin to look smooth after 3 minutes but hold out, it becomes much smoother after 5.)
Place the dough in the oiled bowl and swirl around a couple times to completely oil up all the sides. Cover with plastic. Place the bowl in a warm place and wait until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Dust a little flour on your counter and split the dough into 16 individual pieces. Lightly roll each ball with the palm of your hand until a perfect circle forms. Place each roll on a greased baking sheet. Take kitchen scissors or a sharp pairing knife and cut an “x” on the top of each roll. Brush each top with a touch more olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of freshly grinded sea salt and a little more thyme.
Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly golden brown on top. (The color won’t be very dark with whole wheat dough).
April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
It may seem a bit early in the year to be pulling out the blender to have a frozen drink. Maybe after spending five days in the Florida sunshine, where you crave a cold drink, I just didn’t want to leave that feeling behind. We had a lovely time getting away from the Boston snow, which is almost all gone, and spending a few days with the rents in The Villages (a 55+ community). It might not sound like the most glamorous vacation, but we enjoyed it just the same. We spent our mornings waking early and running in the cool air, my dad leading the way on his bike. Our afternoons were filled with activities and more activities, zumba class, pickle ball, shuffleboard, bocce, polo matches, oh and two for 1 drinks every afternoon starting at 4. Not a shabby way to live. It’s always a pleasant feeling to not have to do anything or not have to be anywhere at a certain time. You just do what feels right in the moment. And that’s what we did.
Another great feature of this vacation was that I’m spoiled whenever I’m with my parents. They always do those little things to make their guests feel so welcome. And just like when I was a kid, they make me fabulous breakfasts each morning; waffles piled high with syrup and strawberries, sweet banana bread and Florida orange juice from Florida.
So I’m not sure if it was my need to hold on to some of that relaxing, vacation feeling or just sheer laziness that had me turn to this blueberry smoothie, either way I was happy to be sipping it in almost 50 degree weather.
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
juice of 1 orange (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional)*
Juice the orange and combine in a blender with the blueberries and yogurt. Pulse until everything is smooth. Add the chia seeds and pulse until just combined. Pour into a tall glass and serve with a straw.
*I first heard about chia seeds in the book, Born to Run. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s about crazy runners, runners who can go 50 miles one day and then turn around and do another 100 miles the next, insanity. Chia seeds were a big piece of the Tarahumara Indians’ diet, a tribe in Mexico, a tribe of runners. Theses little black seeds are now quite the rage in the U.S., especially with long-distance runners.
Learning a little bit more about the seed, it’s loaded with Omega-3s and antioxidants; you know that stuff that you get from fish, that I’m sure I don’t get enough of. They have been called “one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the market.”
I guess you can add them to almost anything: drinks, breads, baked goods. They didn’t change the flavor of the smoothie so I’m assuming across the board they are just a nutrious add, more research on that to come.