Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Hampshire Culinary Adventures :)

Hey All! I have just recently returned from a trip out to New Hampshire to see my Zachariah! I could go on and on about the beauty of New England, especially in the the Autumn, but for the sake of brevity I'll try and keep my amazement confined to the culinary :)

One of our favorite places in Keene, NH for a slightly upscale/celebratory but still totally relaxed lunch or dinner is Luca's Mediterranean Cafe'. As the name implies, their cuisine is largely inspired by Italy, Greece, Spain, coastal France, etc. The stucco walls, the candlelight, the soft music, and the consistently awesome service make for quite the romantice evening :) I'm sure Luca's would be great for larger group celebrations too. And, side note, they have great bathrooms! In the ladies room (which is immaculate) there are bobby and safety pins, hair spray, lotion, a brush and best of all, a little guest book people are encouraged to sign and leave their impressions of the restaurant :)

On this most recent visit, we had an appetizer of Pumpkin Ravioli with a Brown Butter Sauce and sauteed raisins and pumpkin seeds on top. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of raisins, but they TOTALLY worked here. For entrees, Zach had the Chicken Francaise, and I had the Three Cheese Ravioli with roasted tomatoes and artichoke hearts with a Lemon Arugula Pesto Sauce. For dessert, we shared NUTELLA GELATO! (*long wistful sigh*). I would love to show you the pictures of these beautiful meals, unfortunately, they are on Zach's camera, and he has yet to upload them, so, if you know Zach, get him to post them on FB and then you can see them :) Until then , here is a link to Luca's if you care to peruse :)
One of the other great culinary portions of the trip was an unplanned visit to Burdick's Restaurant in Walpole, NH. We had spent the morning picking Honey Crisp Apples at Alyson's Apple Orchard in Walpole, and Burdick's was the lunch recommendation of one of the locals. Being that Walpole is basically as "quaint New England" as it gets, I was expecting something rustic, charming, salt of the earth, you know, "New-England-ish" I was most certainly not expecting a beautiful French style Bistro/Cafe with a gourment chocolate shop attatched to it! Burdick's won massive brownie points with me when the waitress told us not only that almost everything in the store was locally sourced and organic, she could also tell us which farms the greens/meat/cheese had come from! It was even printed on the menu! The prices were totally reasonable, as were the portions. That is something we need to get the hang of here in the U.S. In a truly European style restaurant, you can go all the way from appetizer to dessert and coffee and still not feel stuffed, just pleasantly satisfied :) Luckily, I did have my camera with me this time :) Our first course was Crostini with local cheese, apples and homemade fig preserves. For the main course, Zach had the beef stew and I had the warm goat cheese salad with walnuts, honey and lemon dressing:) (*swoooooon*) Oh, and as a side note, can someone PLEASE teach me how to upload photos to my blog and have them appear within the text and NOT at the top of the page? How do I make it not do that?!?! GAH!

Lastly, after picking all those yummy apples, some pie baking was certainly in order :) We made four apple crumble pies and there were enough apples for easily eight more, but some, of course, must be eaten raw and fresh :) Enclosed please find pictures and the EASIEST apple crumble topping recipe I have ever found. I love the rich flavor that the brown sugar imparts. This topping could go on pies, crisps, crumbles, heck, mix it in with your granola, top oatmeal with it, sprinkle it on plums or figs and stick them under the broiler with a little goat cheese or creme fraiche or honey, whatever your little heart desires :)

Crumble Topping
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour
-1/4 cup (2 oz.) cold butter, diced

- In medium bowl, mix together sugar and flour. Mix in butter with two forks, pastry blender or stand mixer until crumbly. Sprinkle onto pie/crisp/etc, whatever you are baking.

This recipe makes enough for about one pie/crisp/yummy baked thing, and can easily be doubled, tripled, etc, to meet your needs :) And hey, I'll admit it, I snatched up a few handfuls and ate it raw.....what? *shifty eyes* It's butter and sugar, COME ON! *nom!*
Love to All :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

PLEASE Read This Book!!!

Hey All!

I'm gonna switch it up just a bit here for this post, and instead of a recipe, I'm going to give you a book recommendation. I have just finished reading *French Women Don't Get Fat* by Mireille Guiliano, and honestly, I don't know a single person who wouldn't benefit from reading it, foodie and non-foodie alike, allow me to link you:

Here is the author's personal website:

Here is a website dedicated to the book:

And here is a link if you care to purchase the book for yourself (I'd let you borrow mine, but I'm going to be referencing it too often to share, sorry folks)

Where do I start? Firstly, although there is a great deal of weight loss advice in this book, I would absolutely NOT classify it as a diet book. As you are quick to learn, the concept of dieting is a very American ideal, one that is all but foreign to European women, especially French women. Guiliano is French, born and raised. She neither a doctor nor a nurtitionist, on the contrary, she is the CEO of Veuve Clicquot Champagne , and her credentials are those of a woman who loves life, loves food, and has, after years of living on two continents, taken a hard look at the differences between the American and European relationship to food.

In brief: America is virtually the only culture on earth that associates guilt with food. We ignore hunger signals, have lost touch with what truly satisifies us, and are driven more by a compulsive need to imbibe than actual desire for sustenance. That is not to say that this book is all "gloom and doom". In reality, it is one of the happiest books I have ever read. Her skill at describing food and other sensual pleasures of life is right up there with the food writing styles of Nigella Lawson and Mario Batali, both of whom I adore and idolize. Her message in simple, eat mindfully, enjoy all things in moderation, find sensuality and joy in all you do, never associate guilt with eating, the key to health and happiness is BALANCE. Again, I have to stress the fact that this is not a diet book, it is a book about learning to moderate your pleasures and passions, so that you own them and they do not own you.

And, of course, the book has many recipes that look absolutely LUSCIOUS!!! I can't wait to try them!!! (Reminder, this book was written by a French woman, and last time I checked, the French knew a thing or two about YUMMY). She includes suggestion for soups, snacks, main courses and desserts, as well as tips and recipes for baking your own bread and making yogurt at home.

I honestly don't know what else to say, I loved this look, loved loved loved :) I think it would be especially beneficial for women to read, but men would certainly get a lot out of it too. It is so absolutely refreshing to read a book that's about building a healthy relationship with food as opposed to a book that preaches deprivation and diet plans. I know so many women who have very unhealthy relationships with food, and in certain ways and at certain times of my life I am/have been one of those women too. Please, please read this book, I promise you, if you love life, pleasure, cooking, eating, Europe, food, writing, or just need to read something life affirming, you will not be disappointed :)

Adieu :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm Back!!!! (Pasta Salad Anyone?)

Hello Everyone!

I am SO SORRY about the long delay, you have no idea how I've been longing to write a blog post. But as you may recall from my last posting, I moved recently, and the packing, traveling, unpacking, red tape, and everything else involved with moving has kept me really too busy to cook or photograph anything blog- worthy, not to mention sit down at the computer for long periods of time. However, now I am all settled back in at my Mom's place (I'll be regrouping here until the next adventure life sends me on) and the internet connection is soooo much better here which means I won't be at the mercy of signal strength every time the fancy strikes me to write a blog post :)

As some of you may or may not know, last week was my grandparents 60th Wedding Anniversary! Whee! In addition, yesterday was also my Grandfather's 83rd birthday (yay Poppa John!) So, we had a bunch of family over yesterday for an Anniversary/Birthday/Labor Day BBQ :) The festivites abounded, and it was a ton if fun. The recipe I would like to feature in this particular post is for a Tri-Color Pasta Salad :) Can I just take a moment to say how much I love a good Pasta Salad? Something about the cold or room-temp pasta with whatever ingredients strike your fancy is just so refreshing. Personally, I like my Pasta Salads without mayo, but there are some good mayo-based pasta salads too, no question. I'm not gonna yap too much more about this recipe, as the ingredient list kinda speaks for itself, But other than being DELISH, it's mayo-free, travels well, all the ingredients can be purchased year-round in the regular grocery store, and it's PRETTY! This recipe was adapted from the Pappardelle's Palm Springs Pasta Salad:) To learn more about the RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME Pappardelle's Pasta , go here:
And now, the recipe:
Tri-Colore Pasta Salad:
-1lb Tri-Colore Pasta, any small to medium shape is fine
-1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
-1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped or torn
-1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
-1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, whole or chopped (Green Greek Olives would work well too)
-Extra Virgin Olive Oil OR reserved oil from the sundried tomatoes for drizzling
-3 tablespoons vinegar (my personal choices would be red wine or apple cider, but use the one you like the best)
-Salt and Pepper to taste
-Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al-dente, drain, rinse, drain a second time (normally I'm not a fan of rinsing my pasta, I feel like you lose the good starchy-ness, but in this case, you need to stop the cooking process, other wise you get soggy pasta and no one likes that)
-Add all remaining ingredients and toss lightly. Taste, adjust seasonings until you're happy with it :)
-The salad can be served immediately at room temperature, but really, I think it's better if you let it chill out in the fridge for a few hours, and let the flavors blend :)
It won't be almost a month before my next post, I SWEAR!
Love to All!