Lemon curd bars with fresh raspberries

Greetings! It will be quiet in my little corner for the next couple of weeks as we are off on a trip to Scotland and Ireland, so let me leave you with a sweet treat.

These lemon bars are one of my favorite things to make and I get requests for them often, I should warn you that they are quite tart which is how I like things. If you’re more on the sweet side of things just up the sugar in the lemon curd. Also, the lemon curd is fabulous on it own.

Sorry that I forgot to take more (and better) pictures, but trust me, if you love lemons like I do, these bars are for you.

Lemon Curd Bars with Fresh Raspberries

For the curd:

  • 1/2 cup sugar (more if you’d like it sweeter)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon (optional)
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter cut in to cubes

For the crust (I use a recipe from David Lebobitz):

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For assembly:

  • 1-2 pints of fresh raspberries

Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside

In a separate bowl whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Slowly mix in the lemon juice and zest if using.

Add lemon juice mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring slowly, but constantly until the mixture has thickened to a consistency similar to a custard or pudding, about 5-10 minutes. (You will thing this is never going to happen and then all of a sudden it will thicken).

Once the mixture has thickened pour it through the strainer to get out any bits of cooked egg.

Whisk butter and salt in to lemon mixture  set aside

Preheat oven to 350. Cover an 8×8 square baking dish with foil and lightly butter foil.

In a medium bowl mix all crust ingredients until smooth. Smooth the batter in to the baking dish as evenly as possible.

Bake the crust for 20-25 minutes until it is a deep golden brown.

Remove crust from oven and lower oven temperature to 300.

Pour the curd over the crust, spreading it out evenly, then put the bars back in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the bars from the oven and start decorating with the raspberries. I like to place them in rows, with the closed end up about half an inch apart.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Enjoy!

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Food should be fun!

While I’ve mentioned The Mermaid Inn several times in this blog, I’m not sure that I’ve ever made my obsession with it totally clear. My friend Mary and I are at their Upper West Side location at least twice a month!

What makes The Mermaid Inn so amazing, you ask? Well other than the great food, atmosphere and reasonable prices, they also host the “Happiest Two Hours”  in all of New York!

Every single day of the week, from 5-7pm, Mermaid offers $1 East Coast oysters, $5 beers, $6 wine, $7 cocktails and other snacks like mini fish tacos or shrimp slider for $3-$7. Also… wait for it… wait for it… at the end of every meal, happy hour or not, you get a tiny cup of chocolate pudding for free!

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See why oyster loving gals like Mary and I think of this place as a little slice of heaven?

This summer The Mermaid Inn introduced their Summer Crab Boil. Every Tuesday night in the summer they’d be covering their lovely linen table clothes with paper and for $26 you get a bucket of Maryland Blue Crabs, corn, potatoes and jalapeno cornbread. We’ve been meaning to try it all summer so when we found out that our friend Brian, a fellow Mermaid Inn lover who lives in St. Louis, would be in town it seemed like a perfect time to go.

We started out with our oysters as usual and then ordered 3 crab specials. After our oysters were finished a bus person brought a bucket of “tools” over. The bucket contained mallets, picks, extra napkins, wet naps and these fashionable plastic aprons.

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We were also each left with a piece of jalapeno corn bread. A few minutes later our bucket o’ food arrived.

The buser literally come over with a huge bucket and then emptied it by piling a mound of crabs, corn and potatoes all covered in Old Bay seasoning in the middle of our table. At that point we knew we were in for some fun!

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Eating a whole crab is a lot of work. There is cracking and hammering and picking and sucking involved. Every time we cracked and hammered, bits of crab went flying. We were up to our elbows in Old Bay seasoning and Mary and I both regretted not pulling our hair up before we started eating. It took forever and we were filthy and we had the best time ever! Everything was delicious, we could not stop laughing and getting dirty with abandon reminds you why you loved playing in the mud as a kid.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a crab boil, do it and if you live in or are visiting Manhattan you should definitely stop by The Mermaid Inn. If you visit the Upper West Side location make sure to tell them that Mary and Alli sent you!

Zoodles have changed my life (recipe redo)

Unless you’re living under a rock you’ve probably noticed the “spiralizing” trend in which various vegetables are put through some kind of contraption that shapes them in to long thin strands and then they’re served like noodles or pasta.

I’m not usually one for trendy kitchen gadgets, but this one intrigued me. For years I’ve been shaving off thin layers of zucchini with a vegetable peeler, boiling the shavings and using them in my Summer “Pasta” recipe. Could a spiralizer make that dish, already one of my favorites, even better? I also wondered at the possibility of spiralizing other veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes. So, on a recent trip to Bed Bath & Beyond I plunked down $14.99 and left with this baby.

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A couple of weeks ago I was making a simple light dinner of some grilled ocean trout and needed a side dish. This seemed like the perfect time to try my spiralizer out. I’d just picked up some green and yellow zucchini at the farmers market too, so I’d be starting my spiralizing with zoodles (zucchini noodles + zoodles, get it?).

After a quick internet search I prepared the zoodles as follows. After spiralizing my zucchinis I put the zoodles in to a colander and tossed them with a whole bunch of salt and left the whole thing over a bowl for 30 minutes while the water drained out. After 30 minutes I rinsed the zoodles to get rid of the salt, patted them dry and then threw them in a bowl and into the fridge to dry out some more. A couple of hours later I heated up some olive oil and sauteed my zoodles for 3-4 minutes with some garlic, oregano and mint. The result… Ah-May-Zing.

Draining my zoodles

Draining my zoodles

I love zucchini in all forms, but Chris is usually pretty meh on it. “Delicious!” Chris exclaimed after his first bite and he helped himself to seconds. The zoodles were definitely a success.

Of course that meant that I know had to try out zoodles in my Summer “Pasta” recipe which is exactly what I did last weekend and guess what? The zoodles really did make one of my all time favorite meals even better!

So here’s what to do to make the original recipe even better:

1. Ignore the part about peeling and boiling the zucchini; instead prepare zoodles as above (spiralize, salt, rinse, refrigerate for a couple of hours or over night).

2. Prepare pancetta, onions, tomato, etc as directed.

3. When the non-zoodle veggies are mostly cooked toss in zoodles and cook for 3-4 minutes to desired doneness.

4. Toss the pancetta back in the pan. Remove from heat stir in mascarpone and basil.

5. Enjoy every amazing bite while thinking of all the other great things you’re going to do with your spiralizer.

Even better than the original!

Even better than the original!

New Jersey (meal #1): Farmers Market Salad

 

 

New Jerseyflag

Population: 8,899,339
Capital: Trenton
Admission to the Union: December 18, 1787
Source: Wikipedia

Oh my beloved home state! Obviously it was not hard for me to come up with many many things associated with New Jersey since it’s where I grew up, my boyfriend grew up and a place that I love. Now I could spend some time explaining to you that New Jersey is absolutely nothing like you see on Jersey Shore or the Real Housewives, but if I really need to tell you that, you’re an a**hole and I’d rather you not be reading my blog anyway.

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There were so many foods from my childhood that came to mind when I thought of a culinary homage to New Jersey. There was pizza and other Italian-American foods, diner grub, Jewish delis, sub shops, salt water taffy, fat sandwiches and so much more. And of course, there is our abundance of local produce.

I struggled to come up with one meal, when my brilliant boyfriend suggested I do multiple meals! Yes! (Of course he’s brills, he is from Jersey)

Here is something you might not know about Jersey if you’re not from the Northeast; agriculture is New Jersey’s third largest industry. New Jersey is a top producer of berries (especially blueberries), eggplant, herbs and many other fruits and veggies. Jersey tomatoes are generally considered the best in the country and, this time of year, every New Jersey kid craves Jersey sweet corn.

Though the farmers markets I go to in New York City do have vendors from Connecticut, Upstate New York and occasionally Pennsylvania; but the majority of stands are from New Jersey. So how could I not make a delicious Farmers Market Salad for my first Jersey meal?

Of course tomatoes and sweetcorn would need to be a part of the salad, but I was also delighted to find that baby Fairytale eggplants are in season. If you’ve never tried baby eggplant you must. They are so delicious and don’t have the bitterness or thick skin of mature eggplants. All you need to do is slice off the tops, slice them in half and saute them in olive oil until soft. Add a little salt and you’re in business.

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I also picked up some mint at the market and knew I’d want some cheese to make this salad complete. Unsurprisingly I headed to a stand run by cheese makers from New Jersey. I opted for a piece of crottin which is a firm goat cheese with a similar texture to ricotta salata.

I threw this salad together for lunch on Friday and it was amazing. In fact I loved it so much that I ate the leftovers as my afternoon snack a couple of hours later.

New Jersey Farmers Market Salad

  • Baby fairytale eggplants; sliced in half and sauteed then allowed to cool to room temperature
  • Jersey sweetcorn; cooked, allow to cool to room temperature then remove kernels from cob
  • Heirloom tomato cut in to rough chunks
  • Fresh mint roughly chopped (or basil)
  • Crottin cheese chopped in to rough chunks (or fresh mozzarella or burratta)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red wine vinegar to taste
  • Olive oil to taste

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In a large bowl toss eggplant, tomato and corn with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.

Add cheese and mint and gently toss.

Enjoy the delicious taste of my home state!

Note: I actually liked this salad even more at snack time so I’m thinking that next time I might make this salad a couple of hours ahead if time to let the flavors come together.

Virginia: Jeffersonian Ice Cream

Virginia

flag

Population: 8,260,405
Capital: Richmond
Admission to the Union: June 25, 1788
Source: Wikipedia

Wow Virginia, your unique culinary tradition astounds me! (Note sarcasm)

I’ve visited Virginia many times in my life. Most of those visits have been to Northern Virginia, either on visits to DC when I was younger or, more recently to visit Becky and Ben. I’ve also visited the Richmond area and Virginia Beach more than once, though. Still, I wracked my brain to think of anything that I ate there or saw on a menu that was particularly distinct and I came up blank. I’ve enjoyed plenty of good meals in Virginia, but none that seemed  unique to the state. It was time to call in the experts.

I started by asking Becky, a life long Virginian, who replied; “Honestly I can’t think of anything except ham.”

Hmmm, well heating up a pre-made ham wasn’t going to cut it for the 50 States Project so I decided to ask Chris, who earned his undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech. I asked him to really think about it. I even said that it could be something unique to the Virginia Tech campus, like a favorite dive restaurant where all the students ate some crazy concoction. Unfortunately, he too came up blank.

An internet search was equally unhelpful so it was back to the drawing board and time to dig deep. I decided to think of non-culinary related things that I associated with Virginia and as an American History nerd it didn’t take me long to come up with Thomas Jefferson who among many other accomplishments, was also America’s first foodie.

Full disclosure here: I am not a fan of Thomas Jefferson. While I appreciate his contributions to our nation, I think he was a giant hypocrite and a jerk. This is also partly due to the fact that I have a total fan girl crush on one Mr. John Adams (yes, you read that right and yes, I really am THAT nerdy). In fact Chris will happily tell you all about the time I had a little too much to drink and loudly proclaimed to our friends, “You know who the real architect of Independence was!? John motherf*ucking Admas! That’s who!” What can I say, I’m passionate.

Anyway, back to food. One thing I will give Jefferson is that he was fiercely committed to eating good quality food. He’s often associated with ice cream as he is one of the people that popularized it in this country. Light bulb: I should make ice cream to represent Virginia!… But I don’t have or even want an ice cream maker.

Of course a little Googling returned several methods for making ice cream without a machine. I chose the David Lebovitz method since I’m a big fan of his.

The magical internet also revealed to me Thomas Jefferson’s actual vanilla ice cream recipe! I adapted the recipe very slightly and significantly reduced the quantity as we certainly don’t need 4.5 pints of ice cream, but I stuck pretty close to the original recipe and it was great.

Almost Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups good quality cream (go with the organic non-homogenized stuff if you can)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (ditto)
  • 2 teaspoons good quality pure vanilla extract (I had meant to use half a vanilla bean, but forgot to buy one. However, the extract worked great and is a lot cheaper)

Place a metal bowl in the freezer.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Set aside.

Pour cream and milk in to a medium saucepan then stir the vanilla and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and temper eggs by slowly adding tablespoons one at a time to the egg and sugar mixture, stirring constantly and vigorously. After maybe 5 or 6 tablespoons pour the mixture back in to the pot with the remaining cream. Turn the heat to medium and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.

Prepare an ice bath with a clean mixing bowl in the center. Pour the custard through a strainer in to the bowl and let sit until the mixture feels like it’s about at the temperature it would be if you’d just removed it from the refrigerator.

Once the mixture has cooled, pour it in to the bowl in the freezer and leave it alone for about 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, check on it. Some freezing should be happening just around the edges. Scrape down those edges then grab your hand mixer and give it a good mix for maybe 30 seconds to a minute so you can break up the ice crystals this and keep your ice cream light and creamy.

First look after 45 minutes. Edges just starting to freeze.

First look after 45 minutes. Edges just starting to freeze.

Put the bowl back in to the freezer and leave it for 30 minutes. Again take the bowl out of the freezer, scrape down the frozen edges and beat it up.

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After a couple of hours.

 

Repeat this every 30 minutes until the ice cream has reached soft serve or slightly melty ice cream consistency*.

Cover the ice cream tightly and leave overnight**

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We have ice cream!

Enjoy!

Notes:

*David Lebovitz suggests this process takes about 2-3 hours, but it took me more like 5 hours. Luckily Chris and I had decided to stay in to clean and organize on Saturday.

**David Lebovitz also says nothing about leaving the ice cream overnight. In fact, we first ate the ice cream on Saturday night thinking that ice cream made this way stays at a soft serve consistency which was fine since it was delicious anyway, but when went in for leftovers on Sunday night the ice cream had hardened up and was the same texture as what you’d get when you open a pint of Häagen-Dazs which we liked even better.

All in all this was super delicious and fun!

Yum!

Yum!

Vanilla Smoked Porter French Toast with Warm Chocolate Stout sauce

June 30th was Chris’s birthday. Now you’re probably thinking that because Chris was lucky enough to land a hot, awesome, sexy, smart, funny women who loves to cook, there would all kinds of wonderful dishes made in honor of his big day. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We returned from our vacation on the 23rd of June to a packed social calendar which included concert tickets on his actual birthday so there’s was no time for home cooked meals. Still I wanted to do something, so I promised Chris that the first opportunity I had I would make him a super special breakfast. That opportunity didn’t present itself until July 12th, but I think I made up for it.

I often surprise Chris with something a little special for breakfast on Saturday mornings like breakfast burritos, shakshouka or bacon egg and cheese sandwiches so I really wanted to make this breakfast extra special. I turned to one of my favorite blogs, The Beeroness, and found a recipe for Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter French Toast. I was intrigued. I’m not the biggest french toast fan, but this breakfast was supposed to be all about Chris and this recipe sounded like something he’d enjoy.

The original recipe called for Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla, (which sounds delicious btw) but I think it’s seasonal or was a limited edition and I couldn’t find it anywhere. No worries, I just picked up a bottle of Evil Twin Ashtray Heart smoked porter and figured I could add some vanilla extract. I also decided to pick up some challah rather than the crusty Italian bread the original recipe called for.

Then I was presented with another dilemma; the recipe calls for 2/3 cup of beer, which leaves me with just over half a bottle of beer. Now my normal reaction to leftover beer from cooking is drink it! But drinking a 8.9% abv beer first thing in the morning seemed ill advised so I grabbed some semi-sweet chocolate chips and decided to whip up a chocolate beer sauce too.

I didn’t really pay attention to the proportions when I made the sauce so I can’t give you much of a recipe, but if you possess the most basic cooking knowledge you should be able to handle it. I reduced the beer in a small saucepan until it had thickened and become more syrup-y. Then I took it off the heat and whisked in a whole lot of chocolate chips and a pinch of salt until it looked thick and tasted good. Then I whisked in some cubes of butter (probably about a tablespoon) and that was it.

The dish was hit and Chris was a happy belated birthday boy!

Vanilla Smoked Porter French Toast
(Adapted ever so slightly from The Beeroness)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup smoked porter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons buttes (plus additional as needed for cooking)
  • Challah bread cut in thick slices
  • Warm Chocolate Porter sauce (see above)

In a mixing bowl whisk together milk, beer, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combines.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Dip each slice of bread in the wet mixture until coated but not soggy.

Working in batches, add challah slices to the pan and cook until browned e, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Transfer slices to plate and pour chocolate sauce over them. I also added sliced strawberries for good measure.

Enjoy!
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Colorado: Bison Tacos (with green chilies, obv)

Colorado

flag

Population: 5,268,367
Capital: Denver
Admission to the Union: August 1, 1876
Source: Wikipedia

With my recent trip to Colorado fresh in my mind, is it any wonder that Colorado would be the next dish I made for the 50 States project?

Before I’d ever visited Colorado, this is what I knew about the food there; they, like their neighboring states of New Mexico and Arizona, put green chilies on everything. This is what I learned after visiting Colorado; tacos seem to be a religion there and Bison (aka American Buffalo) is featured on every menu. So it only made sense that my Colorado inspired meal would be Bison Tacos and of course they had to include green chilies which then begged the question, what are “green chilies”?

 I cook with chilies fairly often and can easily find Serranos and Jalapenos, Habeneros and Shishitos; but here in the Northeast I’ve never seen anything labeled just “green chili.” I needed to find out how I could procure the correct “green chili” from someone in the know so I text Dan who suggested I pick up a can of Hatch green chilies. According to Dan I could look for fresh long green chilies and roast them myself, but the canned ones work well in place of that. Luckily it was no problem finding Hatch green chilies at the supermarket.

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Next I needed to grab some ground bison meat, which is really easy to find here. In fact all of the ingredients I needed were easy to find except for one. Every single supermarket I went to was out of Cotija cheese! At Whole Foods I was told that they should have more next week. Chris was nice enough to try at another local supermarket known for their great cheese department and was told that they hadn’t gotten any Mexican cheeses in a month! I made due by using a combination of Feta and Asiago which makes a reasonable substitute for Cotija, but Chris and I have dubbed this incident, The Great Mexican Cheese Shortage of Summer 2014.

If you’ve never cooked with bison before, here’s what you should know; bison is very similar in flavor to beef, but it is a much leaner meat. Because of the lack of fat in bison, you want to make sure to have plenty of liquid when you’re using it in a recipe that requires it to be fully cooked. I decided that the liquid I would use would be a beer and of course it had to be a Colorado beer so I picked up a can of Dale’s Pale Ale. If you want to keep this recipe gluten free though, I think beef broth would work well.

Chris and I loved these and this will officially be my new go to taco recipe. I also think it would be just as good with beef or turkey so don’t worry if bison isn’t readily available near you.

Bison Tacos

For the taco meat:

  • Oil for cooking
  • 1/2 a medium onion finely minced
  • 1lb ground Bison
  • 1/2 cup beer or beef broth (recommended: Dale’s Pale Ale)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground Cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried Oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • large pinch of Cayenne
  • Salt and Pepper

To serve:

  • Corn or wheat tortillas (we used corn)
  • 1 can Hatch green chilies
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped onion
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Shredded Romaine lettuce
  • Sliced avocado
  • Grated Cotija cheese
  • Cilanto
  • lime wedges

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Heat a little oil a sauté pan, add onion and cook until the onion has begun to soften and turn translucent; about 3-54 minutes.

Add the bison, breaking it up as and cook until all the meat has begun to brown then pour most of the accumulated fat off and return the pan to the stove.

Add beer a stir. Allow to cook for about 4-5 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone.

Stir in the tomato paste and all remaining ingredients and cook for one more minute or just long enough for the tomato paste and spices to be incorporated in to the meat.

Assemble and enjoy!

Serves 4-6

I've got to toot my own horn on this one. So good!!

I’ve got to toot my own horn on this one. So good!!