Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fast & Fresh (No-Cook) Nachos & Plenty-o-Tequila—The Best Summer Staycation Staples! xo


While my lovely friend Leah's sipping gorgeous margaritas in Tulum, I'm sharing an easy no-cook recipe on her blog and planning a Mexi-inspired staycation of my own! Care to join me? I think we should all kick back, find a friend with a pool, and veg out with magazines and cocktails for a few days (or at least a few hours)—deal!? 

The recipe I whipped up for Leah is my delicious dream of what one might be served at a scenic beach resort in Tulum—fresh, simple, bold flavors—but I've never been to Mexico so who knows! And who cares? Can't we just zen out with some nachos!!? That's what I'd like to do. So here you go...


NO-COOK SUMMER “NACHOS”
SERVES: 2 to 4

1 large ear corn
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1/4 c. crumbled cotija or low-fat feta cheese, plus more for topping (optional)
Kosher salt
1 avocado, halved and seeded
1 small clove garlic
1 red jalapeño chile pepper or similar, very thinly sliced (optional)
Tortilla chips, for serving

1. Cut the kernels off the cob using a chefs knife; transfer to a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice, the mayonnaise, cotija and a pinch of salt and stir to combine.

2. Scoop the avocado into another small bowl using a spoon. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon lime juice, garlic, and pinch of salt and mash until combined.

3. Divide the avocado mixture, corn mixture, and jalapeño slices among tortilla chips—about 1 teeny scoop each! Top with more cotija, if desired.


Q: What's the most delicious poolside snack you've ever had on vacation!? I LOVE eating pork soulvaki and French fries on the beach when we visit family in Greece xo



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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Biggest, Fluffiest High-Hat S'more Cupcakes Ever—Summer Party Ready & Easy To Make!

Just when you thought summer s'mores couldn't get any better, someone turns 'em into the fluffiest cupcakes ever! He, he. I dreamed up these cupcakes from the top down: Marshmallow Fluff is my favorite ingredient in the whole world—remember these!?—and I love adding it to meringue. It gives the plain egg-white topping a little extra flavor, which (lets be honest), it desperately needs.   
So what goes with fluffy marshmallow frosting? Chocolate and graham crackers, obvs! Each cake has a graham cracker bottom crust, similar to a cheesecake cupcake, with lots of butter and salt. YUM!  
Top that with an easy chocolate cake batter loaded with mini chocolate chips—things are looking real good. I half thought about adding a molten center to really play up the ooey, gooey s'mores effect but I was feeling lazy. Mini chocolate chips melt through out the cake giving you a similar gooey-ness which was good enough for me.

If you're short on time, you can absolutely skip the meringue-making and just top these with marshmallow creme straight from the jar. Keep in mind that it slides and oozes, so don't over do it! You can still pop them under the broiled for a few minutes to get things all toasty. Just an easy shortcut if you need one... 




HIGH-HAT SMORE CUPCAKES
MAKES: 12

FOR THE CRUST
1 sleeve graham crackers

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of salt

FOR THE CAKE
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup canola oil 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips

FOR THE MARSHMALLOW TOPPING
2 large egg whites
1 cup marshmallow cream
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

2. Make the crust: Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until coarsely ground. Add the butter and salt and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. Divide among the prepared muffin cups (about 1 tablespoon each; press into the bottom.

3. Make the cake: Stir together the milk and vinegar in a liquid measuring cup; set aside.  Whisk together the sugar, oil and vanilla in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture, alternating with the milk mixture, in 2 additions, stirring gently with a rubber spatula until combined and almost smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips

4. Divide the batter among the prepared cups and bake until the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed,16 to 18 minutes. Let cool in the pan 2 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool completely.

5. Make the marshmallow topping: Preheat the broiler (or use a kitchen torch). Put the egg whites, marshmallow cream, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat until stiff-peaks form. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip or gallon-size resealable plastic bag (snip one corner). Pipe meringue onto cupcakes. Place under the broiler or use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue until golden brown, about 30 seconds.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Easy Weeknight Crab Cakes: My Chesapeake-Style Crab Cake Sandwiches with Lemony Mayo!


Ever feel burger-ed out? No, me neither. But if you're in the mood for a summer meal that's a little lighter—maybe something that makes you feel like you could be seaside, drinking a cold beer with perfect beachy waves in your hair even though it's a boring Wednesday night—give these easy crab cake sandwiches a try!

The key to perfect, restaurant-quality cakes is all in the ratio. You want plenty of crab, not too much filler. You want 'em loose! You want 'em crabby! This means you'll have to do a good job pressing/molding each patty (since there isn't all of the junk holding things together) but it's worth it, trust me.


Here's the deal: Crab meat isn't inexpensive, especially when you buy good-quality pasteurized crab lump meat (which makes this recipe so incredibly easy and delicious). Life is about balance, though, right? You'll spend a tad more on ingredients for this dinner so offset it with a few super budget-friendly meals, like this Potato Chip Omelet, remember that!?

I served these sandwiches for dinner tonight and boyfriend seemed real pleased. I believe, "you should do this more often" was his exact phrasing. That's a good sign if you ask me! Any-whoo. I hope you enjoy the recipe—let me know what you think! xo
CHESAPEAKE STYLE CRAB CAKESSERVES: 41 pound lump jumbo crab meat, picked over6 potato hamburger buns2 scallions, white and light-green parts, thinly sliced1 large egg, lightly beaten 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning 6 to 7 dashes hot saucePinch of salt2 to 3 tablespoons butter
1. Using your hands, mix the crab, 2 hamburger rolls, torn into small pieces, scallions, egg, mayonnaise, Old Bay, hot sauce and salt until combined and crab breaks up a bit. Firmly press and pack crab mixture into 4 to 6 patties.2. Heat the butter in a large skillet until foaming. Add the patties and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side (carefully flip using a fish spatula or other long metal spatula). 3. Sandwich crab cakes in remaining 4 hamburger buns (brushed with butter and toasted, if desired) with lemony mayo (recipe below) and Bibb lettuce, if desired.
LEMONY MAYO Put a large scoop of mayonnaise in a small bowl. Add the juice of half or 1 whole lemon (depending on your preferred tanginess), a pinch of salt and a little freshly ground pepper and stir until smooth.

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The Creamiest Alfredo Ever Without Heavy Cream!—Your New Trick, Right Here!


I shared one of my absolutely favorite weeknight dinners with Freutcake a few weeks ago but I'd love to tell you about it, too, if you're interested! This Bacon-Corn Alfredo recipe was the result of a fridge clean-out one night. We had corn. We had bacon. We had goat cheese—and we always have linguine. I whipped up this combo and we've been making it every summer since!

The trick to my recipe: There’s no heavy cream! Or butter for that matter. This tangy sauce is made by alternate adding pasta water and soft fresh goat cheese to the hot pasta until everything melts together into cheesy perfection. Don't worry, it's still totally rich and delicious! I think this simple ingredient hack lends a ton of flavor (while also cutting down on your grocery list).

For this batch, I used slab bacon cut into little cubes. If you’d rather just use bacon strips, go for it! Crumble those babies up once they’re crisp and sprinkle ‘em over at the end! Oh, and if you’re willing to splurge on an extra ingredient, teeny basil leaves will really up the freshness factor. This recipe is easy enough for a lazy weeknight dinner, but definitely fancy enough for guests (and super inexpensive). I really hope you enjoy it! xo


BACON-CORN ALFREDO
SERVES: 4 to 6

5 strips bacon or 1 small piece slab bacon, cut into pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 ears corn, kernels cut off
1 pound linguine 
6 to 8 ounces fresh goat cheese

PANTRY STAPLES: Salt and pepper

1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat

2. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain using a slotted spoon; set aside. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the bacon drippings in the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn; turn off the heat.

3. Add the linguine to the boiling water and cook at the label directs. About 2 minutes before the pasta is done cooking, return the corn mixture to medium heat.

4. Reserve 3/4 cup pasta water; drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the corn mixture. Add a splash of reserved pasta water (about 1/4 cup) to the skillet and cook, stirring, until simmering. Add a large spoonful of goat cheese and cook, stirring, until melted. Repeat, stirring in pasta water and goat cheese, until you’ve reached your desired consistency (I usually use about 1/2 cup water and all but a few tablespoons goat cheese, which I use for topping at the end). Stir in salt and pepper to taste

5. Divide pasta among bowls. Sprinkle with bacon and more freshly ground pepper.


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Thursday, July 3, 2014

5-Ingredient Strawberry-Almond Semifreddo—The Fanciest Easy-Dessert You'll Ever Make!


This holiday weekend, I plan to enjoy my share of frozen treats: Ice cream cones, popsicles, maybe even an ice cream sandwich (or three) but definitely NOT ice cream cake! That's one icy treat I could never warm up to. 

We chatted about my aversion over on Freutcake this week. 
Ice cream cake was such a summer-birthday default when I was growing up but I couldn't stand the gravel-like chocolate crunchies nor the drippy mess. You know me, though—I can't go on hating a food without giving it a proper second chance...

I celebrated my birthday this week—woohoo, June babies!—and I decided to make a two-toned semifreddo for the occasion. This Italian “half cold” ice cream cake is a sophisticated twist on the childhood classic, which I thought might change my mind. No crunchies, no weird chocolaty mess and (bonus) it’s completely make-ahead! 

To make a semifreddo, all you need to whip up is mousse-like base. Sounds scary, but don’t panic! It’s much easier to do than you’d think (and it hardly requires any ingredients). I decided to spike mine with the flavors of a Strawberry Shortcake Bar—one of my favorite ice cream truck treats! For the strawberry layer, I folded a quick, no-cook strawberry syrup into the egg mixture (see above). 


For the cream layer, you have a choice: Leave it plain or splurge on an extra ingredient and stir in a little almond extract for added nutty-sweetness. But let's not get ahead of ourselves! 

To create the base, you'll start by whisking up a few egg yolks and sugar. Set that mixture over a saucepan of simmering water and keep whisking! This will cook the yolks so they're safe to eat—you'll know it's ready when the mixture thickens and coats a spatula or spoon (see image 1 below). Dunk the bottom of the custard bowl in some ice water to stop the cooking and let it cool.


Once the custard's cool, you start adding whipped cream to create that fluffy-airy frozen mousse texture. I like to start by stirring in a big dollop of whipped cream to help lighten things up. After that, you can gently fold in the rest of your cream.


Whether you decide to go with the extract or not, toasted slice almonds add a ton of texture and sweet-nutty flavor to this frozen dessert. Layer all of your elements in a plastic wrap–lined loaf pan: Toasted almonds, almond custard, strawberry custard (see above) and then wrap it up and freeze that little baby until your par-tay! Oh and please serve this color-blocked dessert with plenty of bubbly! Thank you xo
















































STRAWBERRY-ALMOND SEMIFREDDO
SERVES: 6 to 8

1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced 
1 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

OPTIONAL: Almond extract, for flavoring

1. Toss the berries and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl; set aside 5 minutes. Meanwhile, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap leaving an overhang on all sides.

2. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain into a liquid measuring cup through a fine-mesh sieve, stirring and pressing down firmly on the solids to release all the liquid. Discard solids. You should have about 1 cup strawberry syrup.

3. Whisk the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in a large heatproof bowl until combined. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and whisk until thick, pale yellow and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Set the bottom of the bowl in ice water to stop the cooking process; let cool

4. Beat the heavy cream and remaining 2 tablespoon sugar with a mixer until soft peaks form. Add a big scoop whipped cream to the egg yolk mixture and stir together to lighten. Add the rest of the whipped cream and fold together until combined using a rubber spatula.

5. Transfer half of the custard to another bowl; add the strawberry syrup and fold to combine (it’ll be a little runny). Stir a drop of almond extract to the plain custard, if desired.

6. Sprinkle the toasted almonds in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with the plain (or almond-flavored) custard; press and spread to the edges of the pan using an offset spatula. Top with the strawberry custard. Cover with the plastic wrap overhang and freeze at least 8 hours or overnight.

7. To serve, unfold plastic and invert onto a serving platter; remove plastic wrap. Slice with a chefs knife (dipped in hot water, if needed). 


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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fresh Summer Strawberries: What Would You Make With Them?


Hope you're all having a fabulous weekend! Just snagged these teeny, tiny strawberries. Any suggestions for what I should make? xo Erin

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Fun! Notes From This Week: Guy Fieri, Squab Claws & Ice-Cold Margaritas.

My weeks are usually uneventful but two recent highlights I thought you might find interesting: Grilling lunch with Guy on an enviable SoHo rooftop and a dinner party—food salon, rather—at Questlove's place where I ate peas with a squab claw like it was a fork (and thought, for a second, that Bjork stole my umbrella). Only in New York xo
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