gritfaced

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If there is one thing you should know about me (if you don’t already), it’s that I adore breakfast.  I tend to lean savory–eggs, bacon, toast slathered in butter–but I am also a sucker for the sweets; namely blueberry pancakes and sticky buns.

Another thing to note is that I am a born and bred northerner. Which, among other things, means I was introduced far too late in life to the glory of grits.  Those buttery, creamy, cornmeal dream clouds that I understand folks in the south eat quite regularly.

Despite my instant love for them, I was intimidated at the concept of making them myself.  Admittedly my frame of reference for cooking up grits at home was having minimal. I think I saw Paula Deen make them once on the Food Network with an entire stick of butter and heavy cream.  While I do not shy away from indulgence…even I have limits.

So the internet and I debated on how best to go about making grits that wouldn’t immediately stop my heart.  I consulted Ina Garten (obviously because her word is gospel to me), and a few others and came up with a perfect bowl of morning joy.  And then when I couldn’t finish them (embarrassing though that is for me to admit) I was gifted a second magical meal by baking them off and adding a little spinach.

Conclusion: Grits deserve northern love. They are worth it.

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Grits for 2 (+leftovers)
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup quick cooking grits
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring the water to a boil. Just before it’s rolling, add salt and the grits slowly.  Bring heat down to a low simmer and stir consistently with a wooden spoon until grits thicken (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the butter and milk and stir to combine.  Cover the grits and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes (or until the grits reach your desired thickness…I like mine fairly loose but the longer they cook the more they will firm up).
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese (this also thickens the consistency). Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as desired.

FOR BREAKFAST: with poached egg and crumbled bacon highly recommended…but with chives or scallions to garnish or just straight up won’t disappoint.
FOR DINNER: I put the leftovers in a dish and baked them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then topped them with sauteed spinach and yet another poached egg. I’m an egg monster.

 

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gritfaced

roasted three squash soup (with spiced yogurt)

IMG_6689Few things are as satisfying on a cold October day than a mug of soup.  Something that is equally satisfying is finding a way to use the different varieties of squash that came out of your CSA farmshare that have been serving merely as decorative gourds because you didn’t know how to use them all.IMG_6693Whenever I am at the farmers’ market I find myself staring longingly at all the crates of squash, they are just so festive.  I am particularly drawn to the miniature ones.  Be honest, you are too.  So while you’re digging around in the back of your closet for your thick socks and your sweaters, this is the perfect thing to have bubbling away on the stove.

Butternut squash soup is easy and a standby once fall comes around, but every now and again it needs a reboot to keep things exciting.  The delicata and buttercup squash add other flavor dimensions, roasting them brings out their sweetness, and generally I am a sucker for anything with pumpkin pie spice — and it really just makes this soup that much better.  You can use other squash varieties (like sugar pumpkin which would fit perfectly in this crew), these are just what I had on hand.

IMG_6712I had considered getting ambitious and caramelizing some roasted pumpkin seeds to put on top, but lost steam and got hungry so I ate it with a hunk of baguette instead (a choice I don’t regret).  I encourage you to eat it however you see fit.

IMG_6688roasted three squash soup with spiced yogurt

SOUP
1 medium butternut squash
1 medium delicata squash
1 medium buttercup squash
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbs butter
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice (OR ½ tsp each of cinnamon, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, and ground ginger)
½ tsp each of fresh thyme and fresh sage, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

YOGURT TOPPER
1cup plain greek yogurt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a tiny pinch of each of the spices listed above)

  1. Set oven at 350 degrees. Slice each squash down the middle lengthwise and remove the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet flesh-side-down and bake for 30 minutes or until fork tender.
  2. Let the squash cool and using a spoon scrape out the flesh from the skins and set aside.
  3. In a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat, melt butter and sauté the onions until soft and translucent. Add in the spices, herbs, and squash, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in the cider and stock, cover, turn down the heat to medium low, and let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. If after 20 minutes everything is softened (if not, give it 5 more minutes or so), remove from the heat and blend (either with a hand blender or transfer the mix in batches to a traditional blender). Return to pot and stir in the cream. Test the flavor for seasoning, adding more spice, salt, and pepper if needed.
  5. Stir spices into the yogurt and serve a healthy dollop on top of each cup of soup with an additional dusting of spice.IMG_6709
roasted three squash soup (with spiced yogurt)

thai lettuce wraps

Sometimes it seems like I only eat well on weekends. Weekdays can be draining with the whole working, commuting, waking up thing. It shouldn’t be like this. We should eat well always.

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So it was Tuesday. I was craving take out. Mostly because the idea of being off the couch for long enough to put something vaguely resembling a meal together in the kitchen seemed daunting. But I knew I had gone a little buck wild at Whole Foods and needed to eat some of the lovely produce I had purchased, so the only solution was to turn them into a take-out-esque meal to satisfy the take out cravings.

Behold Thai chicken lettuce wraps. They are sneakily convenient, most of what I needed I had in the house. With more vegetables these could have easily been vegetarian. They would happily take some shrimp in place of chicken, and if I could handle spicy foods I would definitely have added some chili flakes to the sauce. Alas, my taste buds are wimpier than my stomach for those sorts of things.

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And poof, the cry for take out was silenced.

thai lettuce wraps
serves 4

For the wraps
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, diced
1 cup broccoli, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 leeks, diced
1 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
1 head of iceberg or butter lettuce

For the slaw
1 cup pre-shredded slaw mix (or just red or green cabbage)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
½ tsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce
1 ½ tbs creamy peanut butter
2 tbs terryaki sauce
1 tsp seasame seeds
1 tsp brown sugar

  1. Whisk together all the sauce ingredients. Set aside. Combine all slaw ingredients and toss to combine. Set aside.
  2. Trim excess fat off the chicken thighs and dice into small pieces. Cut the vegetables into similar sized pieces.
  3. Heat two tablespoons of canola oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, stirring occasionally to brown on all sides (about 7 minutes).
  4. Turn heat down slightly and add in the vegetables stirring occasionally, cook until softened. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sauce coating everything. Chop peanuts and stir them in as the final touch.
  5. Carefully remove leaves from the head of lettuce to form little cups for the filling. (Some will rip, it’s inevitable. Don’t panic, that’s why they are wraps.) Add filling and slaw to each individual cup for eating.

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thai lettuce wraps

the veggie bowl

IMG_5710Oh January. You saucy minx.

Just as the post-holiday blues hit and we all vow to eat nothing but vegetables until eternity, you swoop in with biting cold temperatures that produce cravings of warm, cheesey, carby things.

This little number is the perfect crossover between what your heart is telling you you want and what your brain is in the background mentioning might be the healthy choice.  Finding the middle ground of these forces is the only way to live.   In my experience, if you fall too far down the treat rabbit hole you will just find as much discomfort as you might in a hunger-induced juice cleanse haze.

Whatever the month, you should always get to eat delicious things.  Start strong in January.  Eat your veggies and keep your cheesy goodness too.

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the veggie bowl
serves 2

This is similar to a previously semi-indulgent farro bowl, with some seasonal changes. You can add more veggies than the ones here (they are just what happened to be available in my fridge). Sub in different greens like kale or chard; broccoli would be a wonderful addition, as would asparagus. If you like things spicy add some red pepper flakes when you cook the vegetables.  You could also throw in some chicken or even steak for extra protein. GO CRAZY.  And I suppose you could exclude the cheese, but I wouldn’t.

1 cup farro
2 tsp chives, chopped
1 tbs seasame seeds
4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheese (of your preference, I recommend a cheddar jack or parmesan)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the farro, mix in the chives, and set aside.
2. In a large skillet cook the vegetables over medium high heat.  Start with the onion (as it takes the longest to get tender), cook for 2 minutes then add mushrooms.  Stir occasionally and season as you go.  When the mushrooms begin to brown and the onion is translucent, add in the spinach and sesame seeds and reduce heat to low. Cook until spinach wilts and remove from heat.
3. While the vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is just at a rolling boil, add the eggs in their shells and let them cook for 6 minutes. Pull them out and run them under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel them and cut them in half.
4. Add the vegetables and cheese to the farro and chives, and stir together.  Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil if desired, and give each bowl an egg.

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the veggie bowl

holidays with Eat Boutique

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Holiday shopping is one of my favorite things; and my second favorite sort of shopping after grocery.  So naturally when an option presents itself that combines my top two shopping passions, dreams come true and I spend too much money on things that are not entirely necessary (but at the same time completely necessary).

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The ever elegant Eat Boutique’s holiday pop-up shop has a full blown residence this year in the Fenway, directly next to Sweet Cheeks (our Boston BBQ situation with epic brisket and biscuits).  Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for three weeks, the online store has been brought to life in a cozy little nook complete with pleasant people, tasty samples, and mini events.

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Maggie Battista, the local brain behind Eat Boutique, was there giving out smiles and information on everything out for sale.  The little shop had a steady flow of traffic and was adorably quaint.  It was just so lovely, and I highly recommend paying them a visit this weekend or next.  Sample some goodies.  Chat with Maggie and some of the makers. Get a present just for yourself that you don’t want to share.

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Can’t make it to the shop? Be not afeard, trendy food shopper. Eat Boutique is primarily an online shop, check it out here.

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holidays with Eat Boutique

the greenest pasta

The week before thanksgiving is a tough one for eating and cooking. You are likely anticipating just how much eating and cooking is in your immediate future, which fuels a desire for quick, easy comforts as you prepare for those ultimate kitchen hours ahead.

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 Also, if you live in a place where the farmers’ markets basically shut down completely as winter arrives (like in say, Massachusetts), you are probably stocking up on what’s left of the fresh produce before it all but disappears.

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 This dish pairs the need for ease with some remaining market treasures. With sliced and sautéed swiss chard, some leeks, and fresh spinach pasta; you get to feel like you’re eating your greens even though you’re also getting the treat of hearty carbs. And naturally there is a healthy topper of parmesan cheese for good measure.

 *If you want to be bold and make your own pasta, check this recipe out. If you are following my pre-thanksgiving laziness guidelines, grab fresh pasta that someone else made, ideally someone local. Don’t be afraid to use ravioli or tortellini either. The more cheese the merrier.

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the greenest pasta
serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 pounds fresh pasta
6 leaves of swiss chard, stems and leaves, chopped
½ cup of leeks, finely diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for serving

  1. Remove the leaves of the swiss chard from their stems. Cut in small strips, and dice the stems in small pieces.
  2. Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the diced leeks and swiss chard stems for 3 minutes or until softened. Add in final tablespoon of butter and the chard leaves and cook additional 3 minutes.
  3. Add stock to the vegetables and turn up heat slightly to reduce into a sauce. If you’re feeling indulgent, throw in a little more butter. Cook until liquid reduced to your preference and remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
  4. 4. Cook pasta (fresh pasta usually only needs to be boiled for a minute or so) and add directly into the sauce pan. Over low heat, stir pasta with chard and leeks until combined. Top with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

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the greenest pasta

a love letter to Gordon Hamersley (in pictures)

Dear Chef,

We’ve never met, but when I heard you were retiring I immediately booked a table at Hamersley’s Bistro to try your long revered food while I still had the chance.  And I can honestly say it was pretty game changing.  As you were greeted by friends and admirers throughout the dining room, and I ate everything the kitchen gave me without coming up for air, it became perfectly clear to me why your restaurant has been an institution in this city for the last 27 years. Thanks for that one meal, I’m only sorry there weren’t hundreds of others.

Cheers to you, sir.

-An adoring fan

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a south end landmark

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crispy duck confit with roasted apple, frisee, walnuts, and dreams.
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spinach and ricotta crêpes with sugar pumpkin, broccoli rabe and creamy parmesan sauce. perfectly perfect in every way.
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seared sea scallops with sweet potatoes, roasted apple, brussels Sprouts and maple-cured bacon … balsamic glaze. Otherwise known as: all my favorite things.
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THE roast chicken. with garlic. lemon. and parsley. and chicken will never be the same.
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warm apple, oat and almond crumble with vanilla ice cream. a perfect fall finish.
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au revoir, mon chéri.


a love letter to Gordon Hamersley (in pictures)