quick pick(le)s

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When I was a kid we would trek from our home in central Massachusetts to my grandparent’s house just beyond the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, and the only thing that made those long rides (that my dad insisted on making in the dead of night) bearable were our pitstops at Rein’s Deli in Vernon, Connecticut.

This small slice of New York City off of highway 84 is packed at any given hour, and serves Jewish deli classics that are at the foundation of both my love of food and the size of my hips.  It is also where I had my first pickle. A mouth puckering, salty, crunchy, half sour gem.
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Half sour pickles are not as ubiquitous as their kosher dill brethren, but they are in my opinion, superior.  Whether on their own as a snack or as a sandwich companion, it doesn’t matter. With a kick from the whole peppercorns, a touch of dill, and a hefty amount of salt, these are impossibly easy to make.  I have a hard time not eating the whole jar in one sitting…but that’s just me.

These may not be exactly like Rein’s, but they can certainly satisfy my cravings in between trips through Connecticut.

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quick pick(le)s

6-8 pickling cucumbers (any of the thin skinned, mostly seedless varietals will do)
4 cups water
1/4 cup kosher sea salt
1/3 cup white distilled vinegar
1/4 tablespoon white peppercorns
1/4 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/4 tablespoon coriander seeds
a fistful of dill (this amount should really be based on your preference)

  1. Combine the water, salt, and vinegar in a pot and bring to a boil until salt is fully dissolved.  Let mixture cool, then stir in the spices and dill.
  2. Slice cucumbers down the middle or into spears, and pack into a mason jar (or an old pickle jar–waste not want not).  When you have packed half the jar, pour in some of the cool pickling liquid.  Fill the rest of the jar with cucumbers, so there is little or no space between them.  Pour the rest of the pickling liquid in leaving about a quarter inch of space at the top of the jar (you may have excess liquid.  If so, fish out the spices and add them to the jar and discard the liquid).
  3. Place in fridge for 24 hours, shaking the jar occasionally. Pickles will last up to 3 weeks.
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quick pick(le)s

snacks! (cheese & zucchini sticks)

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Snacks are a part of life. They get a lot of press around the holidays, the Super Bowl, and Oscars viewing parties, but in reality the time for snacks, is always.

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Behold two variations on one concept: sticks. zucchini and mozzarella.  One baked, one fried, and both tasty.  Everyone loves finger foods.

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The mozzarella recipe is a riff on Giada De Laurentiis’, and the zucchini evolved out of a google search that lead to the YummyHealthyEasy blog‘s recipe. They were both a huge hit dipped in marinara sauce, but I wouldn’t hesitate to try the zucchini in a ranch dip either.

There is something to be said for making your own snacks.  It’s so satisfying to snack on something that has no mystery ingredients and was not pre-packaged in plastic.

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zucchini & mozzarella sticks

2 large zucchini
1 ball fresh mozzarella
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
marinara sauce and/or ranch dip for eating

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1. Cut the zucchini and mozzarella in thin sticks (1/4 inch thickish).
2. In one bowl, beat the eggs and add a dash of salt and pepper.  In another, have the milk. Mix together the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, and then divide evenly between two separate plates.
3. For the mozzarella sticks: Dip sticks in the egg, then the breadcrumb mixture, then repeat the process a second time so each is double breaded.  Place on a baking sheet, cover, and freeze.  (Freeze for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.  I froze them for 6 hours and that worked like a charm.)
4. For the zucchini: dip each stick in the milk, then in the other plate of breadcrumbs.  Be careful to really press the mixture into the zucchini so they are well coated.  Place on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. (These need to get baked immediately, so if you are making both variations you may want to do this prep after the mozzarella sticks have been freezing for a while.)
5. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Spray the tops of the zucchini with cooking spray to help them brown, and cook for 25 minutes.  If they brown too quickly, cover the top with foil. Serve immediately with either aforementioned dip.
6. In a heavy bottom skillet, heat some vegetable or canola oil over medium high heat.  Working in batches, pan fry the frozen mozzarella sticks for about 30 seconds on each side (or until browned), rotating so each side has time in the oil.  Serve immediately with marinara sauce.

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snacks! (cheese & zucchini sticks)

honey whipped goat cheese crositini

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The Jewish New Year has just come and gone, and somehow things feel the same.  Crazy that the switch from September 24 to September 25 didn’t bring fireworks and glittery outfits. But alas, it did come with some semblance to its January 1st counterpart: a (food) hangover and a slice of hope for the next year.

It is customary to eat apples and honey as a symbol of hope for sweetness in the coming year, and so behold my appetizer menu take on this traditional pairing: honey whipped goat cheese crosinti with apples and walnuts.

This recipe appeared in the food section of The Boston Globe this week, so you can find it there, or you can read it here, either way it’s worth making.  And no, you don’t have to eat it only for the Jewish New Year.  Didn’t you just go apple picking? What will you do with all those apples!? Do this. It is very autumnal tasting if I do say so myself.  It takes all of 10 minutes to put together…and as the fairy-god-mother of my dreams Ina Garten says, “how easy is that?”.

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Honey Whipped Goat Cheese Crostini with Apples and Walnuts 

Honey is nature’s sticky golden sweetener, and one of the most versatile ingredients in a cook’s arsenal.  It easily acquaints itself with either sweet or savory preparations; and has a flavor that is distinct yet plays well with others.  The Rosh Hashanah pairing of apples & honey is this dish’s inspiration. The crostini can be served on their own as an appetizer with a glass of sparkling wine, or  as the temperature drops, alongside a warming squash soup.

One baguette, sliced

4 oz goat cheese

1/3 cup honey, extra for drizzling

1 large apple, sliced

3/4 walnuts, toasted and chopped

Salt to taste

Serves 6-8

  1. Cut baguette in ½ inch thick slices. Set oven at 350 degrees and toast slices 8 to 10 minutes or until just browned.
  2. In a food processor combine honey, goat cheese, and salt. Pulse until honey is fully incorporated into the cheese and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Over medium heat, toast walnuts 5 minutes or until just fragrant. Remove from heat, let cool, then coarsely chop.
  4. Spread cheese on toasts and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Slice apples thin and place 1 slice on each toast. Drizzle with honey and serve immediately.
honey whipped goat cheese crositini

les framboises

If you’ve been overlooking raspberries, get your eyes checked, and look again.

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Whether your preference is to the classic red, the intriguing gold, or the elusive black; raspberries are one of the most delicious berries of the bunch.

There is so much produce available all at once in the summertime it becomes difficult to decide what you want.  It’s an embarrassment of riches that those of us that lose our local goodies with the change of the seasons, so we need to remember to appreciate them between our beach trips and lobstah rolls.

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golden raspberries.

Aside from my dad, I rarely hear people profess their love for the raspberry.  This makes no sense to me.  They are sweet AND tart, and are great for eating on their own, thrown in with yogurt and granola, or on top of ice cream at dessert.

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red raspberries.

They may not have their own shortcake like strawberries, or be so beloved in pies as blueberries; but they are not to be ignored.

black raspberries. not just for ice cream. and DIFFERENT than blackberries.
black raspberries. not just for ice cream. and DIFFERENT than blackberries.
les framboises

a new york minute

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New York City has the tendency to be overwhelming and underwhelming at once.  There is just SO much possibility, that it almost limits you, particularly when you have a mere 24 hours to cram it all in…it’s as if no matter how much you do, you leave feeling as if you’ve barely cracked the surface of the city’s potential and offerings.

But every now and then, you manage to have that perfect little slice of city.  You see things, eat something amazing, and generally feel like you’ve experienced New York.  And it’s something to write home about.

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My kid sister had a birthday, so naturally we spent a day eating all over NYC to mark the occasion. We started at Gallow Green for bottomless brunch on a recommendation from Tasting Table, and thanks to them (and cooperative weather) we dined al fresco on the botanical rooftop sipping bloody mary’s and bellinis.  There were soft boiled eggs (appropriately served with crunchy sea salt), drop biscuits that were pure butter, and delicious grilled veggies (among other delights).  Live jazz was wafting through the greenery, and there was no line at the buffet.  As Beyonce would say, it was flawless.

the perfect plate.
the perfect plate.

Then we walked the High Line.  There were People’s Pops and the pleasant ambiance of nature contrasting with concrete, and eventually we found ourselves at Chelsea Market.  with its endless restaurants and food outposts, it is near impossible to leave there empty handed. I bought some treats at Liddabit Sweets. And then pined for everything else in sight.

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The final stop of the day was Joe Allen in the theatre district.  This place is a family tradition.  My Grandfather started going there just as it opened when he worked in the Garment District, loving the straight forward fare and cool as a cucumber atmosphere.  Thanks to him and my Grandmother staying so loyal we can say the words “put it on our tab”…which I thought was an urban restaurant myth.  They have mastered the classics, from meatloaf to burgers, but there is so much more than that.  And somehow there is always dessert.

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chocolate. pudding. pie.

There’s nothing like a New York food minute. Yet no trip on I-84 is complete unless it ends with a stop at exit 65 to hit up Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT (in my opinion the only reason worth traveling through Connecticut at all). Chances are you’ve never been, but it is so worth the pilgrimage. It is better than any deli I’ve had in New York proper (sorry?). Perfect pickles. Matzoh ball soup. Pastrami on rye with spicy mustard. And a Dr. Brown’s cream soda…one might say that all weekends should end that way. I mean, I am saying it.

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a new york minute

cold brewing

As we enter the iced coffee season, it seems that the hottest trend in the world of caffeine is “cold brew”. Though I still feel unsure about how it differs from iced coffee, we decided to try our hand at making some.

After having some deliciously cold brewed coffee at my favorite little South Boston shop, American Provisions, I immediately purchased the brand of bean they were using, asked how they made it, and went on my way to experiment.

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boston roasted, home brewed

Flatblack roasts their coffee beans right in Boston. The Italian roasted variety that we chose has a rich, smoky flavor, ideal for holding up to the unheated brewing and being served over ice.

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The beans get coarsely ground, and are covered with cold filtered water and left to steep at room temperature for 12 hours. They are then strained through a wire sieve fitted with a coffee filter. What you get is a very concentrated liquid that you then cut with cold water (more or less depending on how strong you take your coffee) and then pour it over ice.   And it’s good. real good. It’s not at all bitter, and the flavor stays soft and pleasant because it is never heated.

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all the kinds
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lemon filled. do it you won’t.

If you’re smart, you’ll serve this with donuts. You might have noticed I have a slight addiction to donuts. These are truly my favorites though, from Hole in One in Eastham on Cape Cod. I dream about these donuts. They have my favorite: lemon filled (the most underrated flavor of all time); but their toasted coconut, chocolate coconut, and sugar raised filled with raspberry jam could all ruin other donuts for you forever.

the one and only
the one and only

I am still not confident in my cold brewing, but if you want to give it a go check out these instructions.

cawfee.
cold brewing

cure for the hungrybored.

5 best things to nosh when you’re hungry bored:

cereal. it is shockingly satiating. try the trader joe’s maple frosted wheat square things for a dessert like treat.

cheese. justified when eaten sans carbs or crackers. cheese sticks. blocks of cheese. slices right out of the bag you just brought home from the deli counter. sticking your hand in that bag of shredded cheese and sprinkling it into your mouth. admit it, you’ve done it too.

ice cream. dangerous to keep around the house. fantastic for pretending you’re being good by just having one spoonful, useless when you repeat this several times within a short time span. it always happens that way.

apples and peanut butter. or nutella. or both. AND it’s a fruit, huge win. or forget the apple and go at the peanut butter/nutella jar with a spoon. let’s be real, that’s a strong option.

pistachios. doubles as an activity because you have to crack each one open. or in theory nuts of any kind. salty nuggets of delicious. and kind of healthy? probably not when you eat an entire bag.


is there a cure for being hungry bored? maybe the cure is more cowbell.

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