Archive for the 'Recipe' Category

Autumn Moroccan Stew

For the past two weeks, I’ve been swamped with papers, midterms, and a week out of London to Copenhagen and Berlin. I have a bunch of posts waiting in my queue to be finished, and a few guest posts from other students who travelled to other cities in Europe over the last week! But for right now, I’ll leave you with a great, make-ahead, easy, delicious, and healthy recipe for autumn: Carrot & Squash Moroccan Stew.


With the way my schedule is set up at university, I’m placed in the same position as many adults are in a typical work day: we aren’t home all day, and the last thing we want to do at 8 PM is cook a lengthy homemade dinner – even if we love to cook. There’s always times, though, where I have an hour or two to cook (either the day before or much earlier in the day). Make-ahead meals like stews are always such a great option, but they’re usually ignored due to their traditionally boring flavors. But sometimes, certain recipes can change preconceptions about a dish – like this one from Epicurious. It’s ridiculously healthy, beautifully seasonal, and feels fresh even though it’s been cooked hours or days in advance. And, served over couscous, it makes for a wholesome dish that’s impossible not to enjoy.

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Tomato, Lemon, and Basil Risotto

Well, it took until the third week of August, but I’ve finally made something that just absolutely, unequivocally, and unabashedly screams summer. Maybe it’s because the wet spring forced the tomato harvest so late. Whatever the reason, summer’s “here” now! For me at least. Even though I leave Buffalo until December in just three short days and am so excited to go to London, I’m kind of disappointed that I’ll be missing the rest of the years’ farmers’ markets – especially those Niagara grapes. But after making this dinner – a bright and flavorful summer risotto – I’ll feel more content about leaving. It’s like something important has been accomplished. Closure.

Quite frankly, this is the best risotto I’ve ever made. It’s built upon layers and layers of in-season flavors and is succulent without being heavy or rich-feeling. And, for the first time, I made this risotto using a tip from Cook’s Illustrated; the risotto technique is altered so as to reduce constant stirring but still retain that creamy-yet-separate nature that risotto should embody. The main flavors? Tomato, then basil, then lemon – each complimenting each other perfectly, but the emphasis is truly on these summer-fresh tomatoes. I used a combination of Roma, Sweet Cinderella, and some organic heirloom medley I found at Dash’s (only necessary because too many of the former two were already eaten plain). But really, any combination of tomatoes will work in this dish – as long as they’re flavorful; to make it simple, just go down the local farmers’ market and ask the grower which their favorite tomato is that week.

As for the making of the risotto, it’ s typical, really: sweat some onions with kosher salt, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Throw in some diced and seeded tomatoes (or, if using small cherry-type tomatoes, halve and thrown in), cover, and let steam for about ten minutes. Then, after the rice is added and toasted, things change a bit: instead of adding ridiculously small increments of stock and wine, a whopping three cups of stock are added – enough that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom and thus doesn’t need to be constantly stirred. For all traditionalists (and to ensure proper texture), though, the risotto is finished with the classic “add and stir” method. Lastly, I left a significant amount of sliced tomato and basil chiffonade aside as a raw garnish. When mixed into the plated risotto, it adds a superbly fresh flavor to the dish and looks great as well.

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Frozen Key Lime Pie

Given 30 extra minutes on Sunday, this post would’ve been published by Monday. But, I was busy packing for my trip to NYC (see: future post!) and simply ran out of time. Either way, my mom’s birthday was Sunday and, naturally, I made dinner: it’s the best present I could give. On the menu? Shrimp Fra Diavolo and Frozen Key Lime Pie.

But this post is about the Key Lime Pie. It’s a recipe I’ve been using for years – really. I first saw it on an episode of Barefoot Contessa (recipe: here) and have made it countless times since. It’s a simple recipe: a graham cracker crust filled with a one-bowl no-cook filling. I’d always used regular limes for this, but Tops (yes, Tops) had bags of fresh key limes when I went; without a second of hesitation or realization that I’d have to juice upwards of 50 limes, I bought a couple bags.

But other than the juicing of so many limes (or so few, if you use typical supermarket limes), this recipe is ridiculously easy and impresses every time.

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Cherry Lemon Sorbet

As I strolled around the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market last weekend, I noticed one (very important) thing: cherry season had arrived! I snatched two pints of the best looking sour cherries and knew immediately that I would be making sorbet.

As soon as I returned home, I dug out my cherry pitter and got to work… for the time it took me to pit 10 cherries. With nearly 100 cherries sitting in front of me and merely 10 or so pits sitting in a barren bowl, I knew that this wasn’t going to work. At least not then; my friend was already sitting around waiting for me to play tennis and this was just prolonging things. So, I whipped out the food mill and passed the two pints through in no time!

I was left with an immaculate-looking cherry juice that – in all honesty – I’m surprised lasted long enough to be made into sorbet. It would’ve been incredible to just drink on its own. The color was impossibly deep; my camera couldn’t really capture its depth.

Luckily, though, the cherry nectar lasted long enough to welcome some lemon juice, simple syrup, and vodka. What else could one need? Eight hours and a quick churn later left me with the best – by far – sorbet I’ve ever had. Period. This might be the must-make of the summer. (Don’t have an ice cream machine? Check out these tips from David Lebovitz. You really don’t need one.)

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Guilt-Free Hazelnut Gelato

After I spent time in the City (see: last post), we travelled up to Saratoga Springs for a few days (the town in which I’ll be attending college). Located just north of Albany, the area is beautiful: wooded, historic, yet modern – and with a beautifully concentrated downtown center. Although we had a few unspectacular meals there, we ended the trip (within our last hour there) with a visit to the aptly named Cafe Gelato. There, I had a wonderful hazelnut gelato that I’ve been craving to have again ever since.

So naturally, I planned to make it myself. However, this was tricky; I wanted to make a light ice cream – something fitting for summer. And I didn’t want massive amounts of heavy cream and egg yolks to mask the flavor of the (expensive) hazelnuts. So, I did a lot of research (here and here and here and here and here). I read through forums on molecular gastronomy (in this case, using things like locust bean gum and xanthan gum in ice cream) and found websites that sold the aforementioned gums and stabilizers in mixed quantities – ready to use. But they were upwards of $15, and, more importantly, I would have to wait for the mix to ship before I could make my ice cream; I really wanted it now.

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An Outdoor Dinner

Yesterday, Buffalo got a real taste of summer: temperatures above or around 70º and lots of sun! With the pool open, the backyard and patio somewhat cleaned up, and the grill ready, I decided to throw a small dinner party. The key to cooking in the summer is to keep things light – in both preparation and taste. With the weather this nice (and guests arriving in a few short hours), no one wants to slave away in the kitchen for hours at a time. Outdoor grilling, a fresh side dish, and a no-bake dessert can be just as impressive as a hearty winter meal.

On the menu? Grilled chicken, an Asian noodle salad, and berries & cream. Seems boring, plain, and done before, but it’s really not. First: combating the grilled chicken – something synonymous with chewy, overcooked, tasteless meat. About an hour before I started the grill, I tossed some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a simple marinade: soy sauce, canola oil, sesame oil, and brown sugar. And, when the grill was heated and ready to go, I sprinkled some smoked paprika (from Penzeys) on each side of the chicken. I’m no expert at grilling – at all – but after a 20-30 minute grill on medium-high heat, the chicken breasts were perfectly done: succulent and juicy with a caramelized exterior, all while retaining the flavors of the marinade.

And that was it for the “hands-on” cooking that night! The noodle salad was made well in advance – ready and waiting on the table for when we were ready to sit down and eat. It’s actually desirable to make it ahead of time: the flavors have a chance to blend together and the dish tastes great at room-temperature. I started with the basics of this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. I ended up making a good amount of changes, though; some were due to availability of ingredients, others due to taste. And that’s fine: the whole concept of a pasta salad like this is that it’s easily adaptable – something that fits in right with our summer theme.

I thought – at least for a brief moment – about all of the extravagant desserts that could be made for the party: fruit tarts, a quick ice cream or sorbet, etc. But, what better than strawberries, blueberries, and homemade cream? Light, delicious, and easy to prepare ahead. Before we even sat down to eat, the berries had been washed and dried and the bowl for the whipped cream was sitting patiently in the freezer. Upon taking the dishes from the main course inside, a quick two-minute whip of the cream was all that was left to do.

“Cooking” all of this – with the help of my friend Avery – was easy and enjoyable. Between the warm air and the smells of fresh fruits and vegetables, it feels like summer again.

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White Bean Hummus

I remember the first time that I made hummus; it was sometime during fall 2008 – made on a whim during a football game. I found a recipe online, toasted some pita chips, and set the finished dish on the family room table. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it. It was too dry (probably my fault), too strong (the combination of the beans and the cumin)… The pita chips were gone long before the hummus.

My sophomoric tastes didn’t last long. After all, hummus is delicious, really – and its variants just as good. Whether eating it plain, spiced, with roasted red peppers, or with some other amalgamation of flavors, hummus is healthy, versatile, and convenient.

One of my most common lunches is a hummus wrap; I make mine with a whole-wheat tortilla shell, greens, pickled red onions, and sliced tomatoes. And because all of these ingredients last for a week or so in the fridge, it’s easy to assemble a quick lunch in the morning with no fuss. Or, served with grilled pita chips or crudites, hummus can be a go-to appetizer, made from ingredients on hand.

Ingredients on hand: like the great northern beans I had in my pantry. A quick search on Google confirmed my belief that hummus could be made with any white bean (like cannelloni or the traditional garbanzo); from there, I went by taste. After draining and processing the two cans of white beans, I added leftover roasted red peppers, a squeeze of lemon, various spices, and olive oil. The result was near-perfect; a few quick additions of salt and paprika were all the dip needed.

The finished hummus lasts about a week in the fridge (but probably won’t make it that long). For a nice presentation, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika. Serve with grilled pita, flat bread, in wraps, with crudites, etc., etc.

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