Wednesday, September 23, 2009

anne's nibbly cookies recipe

I was craving bread from the Danish Pastry House yesterday (see what too many trips to the farmers market will do to ya?!), and luckily my parking angel was with me and I got a metered spot nearby. So after I bought a loaf of their Epine baguette (so yummy!) I walked by the Taza Chocolate booth to see their new chococycle. It's really cool! I decided to pick up a large bag (6 ounces) of their organic chocolate covered nibs to make something.

(I will refrain from saying what the husband said these look like.)

I didn't have any plan in mind so I was happy to find this recipe on the back of the package when I got home. They turned out great! Well, I should say that my husband didn't really love them like he loves regular chocolate chip cookies that I make but everyone at work who tried them loved them! They were super easy to make and they came out so soft. The only thing I didn't do in the recipe was add the nutmeg and that was simply because I didn't have any on hand.

I love using ice cream scoopers for cookie dough. These only took 10 minutes in the oven because they were small and bite-sized.

It was definitely a good idea to use the parchment paper on top of the pan because it made clean up a breeze!

So my friends, if you'd like the recipe you should go out and get a bag of these lovely little nibs!

Oh and by the way, speaking of yummy baked goods. Check out this cardamom cake that my coworker, Stephanie, made (yes, the same one with the amazing basil garden). Our departments hosted today's coffee hour this morning which is why I brought the cookies in to work. I really like the green plate that she brought it on, and the cake was as delicious as it was beautiful!

Happy baking everyone! :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

nebo in boston, ma

This post/review is long overdue! Stephanie and I went to see the Killers at the TD Banknorth Garden the Friday of Labor Day weekend (read all about it here). Since the concert wasn't going to start until 7:30 pm (which is typically still inaccurate, it tends to be 30+ minutes later than that even), we met up beforehand and had dinner at Nebo in the North End in Boston. Neither of us had been there before so it made the experience of trying some place new even more fun.

It's in a kind of weird location (N. Washington Street) because it's right on the edge or out-skirts of what most people know as the North End. What's great is that it really is only about 252 steps away from the Garden (I'm still so used to calling it the Fleet Center) as they boast on their website. If you take the green line T to get there and exit at North Station, you'll see a large painted sign on the back of the restaurant's building, so you can't miss it.

We got there a little after 5:30 pm and it was quite empty (Friday before a holiday weekend ... maybe everyone had left by then?). I wanted to take pictures of the decor and set up inside but there were so many wait staff just standing around so I felt awkward whipping out the camera. It is much larger inside than it seems from the outside as it goes far back into the building. There's a nice bar where people started to congregrate as they trickled in.

We started with their arancini appetizer ($10) which were three porcini mushroom and mozzarella stuffed rice balls. They normally drizzle the chestnut honey over top of them but we asked for it on the side instead. I liked the presentation in the white dishes, and they were delicious! It's funny because as much as Stephanie and I both love to cook, we pondered over why neither of us had ever tried frying risotto balls like this. I think it is probably a lot more difficult than we think (they come out so smooth) so I'll just leave it to the pros and look forward to enjoying them as we dine out. :)

We also shared an order of their bruschetta aglio e olio ($2) which translates to homemade grilled bread with garlic and extra virgin olive oil (evoo). It was very tasty but a tad too crunchy for my tastes. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating my share.

And then we split a pizza con patate ($16) which was made with pancetta, golden potato, gorgonzola, rosemary, evoo, and mozarella. I like how it was a thin crust pizza and how the pancetta gave it a nice salty flavor. Part of why I wanted to try that particular pizza (they have over 20 different kinds to choose from, not to mention the ability to create your own!) was to see how it compared to the potato pizza at Cambridge 1. I have to say that I still favor the one at Cambridge 1, although the pancetta and gorgonzola on this one does make it quite different. It was a good pizza but I think next time I'd like to try the scampi pizza ($17) with shrimp, garlic, parsley, evoo, pecorino romano, and mozzarella.

It's a nice alternative to fighting the tourist crowd in the North End, and especially ideal if you're going to attend a concert or game later that night. I really can't think of other nice, classy restaurants in that particular area (like on Canal Street, etc.) that aren't basically beer or sports bars. They have a great wine menu, too, and the atmosphere is quite lively. The portions were good: we barely finished the pizza after sharing the two apps and did not have room for dessert. Also a good place for a group of people. Definitely worth checking out if you're in the area!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

pesto pasta

What do you do when a coworker surprises you with a bunch of fresh basil from her garden? You make pesto!

Thanks to Stephanie and her husband, Peter, we had a delicious pesto pasta for dinner last night. And thanks to Michael D. for sharing a tip: blanching the garlic before mincing it up to help cut down on the pungency (is that a word?). It worked! Just less than a minute in boiling water before I threw it into the Magic Bullet. Makes kissy-kissy breath a little more bearable afterwards. :)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

the blue room in cambridge, ma

We went to see Uma Thurman's new movie, Motherhood, on Friday night at the Kendall Square Theatre. You can see the photos I managed to snap of her during the Q&A session afterwards here. After the movie, Tony and I had dinner at The Blue Room not too far from the theatre. I had read about it on Boston Chefs before but since we don't normally hang out in Kendall Square I wasn't eve sure where it was located. I really liked the outside of the building and how it is lit at night. It has a nice, warm and cozy feeling on the inside as its filled with lots of tables for two, and has a fully open view of the kitchen.

The place was packed even at 9:45 pm, which is a great sign. We managed to get a table without having reservations. They print their menu each day and at the botom was this phrase about eating raw food; it was the first thing that caught my eye and made us laugh.

The way that the menu is printed is quite clever actually. It's all on one page and it includes the wines by the glasses. They assigned a letter to each of the wines (starting at the top with the sparkling and white wines, then down to the heavier reds) and then they indicate a suggested wine pairing next to each food dish by using the coordinating letter.

We decided to try something different (in hindsight, all of these wines were pretty much new to us which was quite cool) from the wine by the glass menu and we both wanted to try one called Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese, Migliavacca, 2008 (Piedmont) ($8) but I couldn't figure out how to pronounce it and pointed to it instead. Unfortunately, it was a bit loud in the restaurant and we think that he thought I said we wanted the "Gritsch". So when our waiter came to the table with a bottle of white wine and said, "I want you to try this," I totally thought he was giving us a free sample of something. (I'm still laughing at myself for being so naive!) But then after we finished tasting it and said that we liked it, he filled our glasses and then left. We just kind of looked at each other with bewilderment and said, "What just happened here?" Alas, the wine that we ended up with -- Gruner Veltliner, Gritsch, Kalmuck, 2008 (Wachau) ($8) -- was indeed delicious so we decided we'd get red to go with our meals and not complain.

There aren't that many entree options for me on their menu except for the skirt steak dish as long as the chef would be cook with omitting the spinach risotto (yes, spinach is in question for me too). So we did something a little different than usual and ordered a couple of the appetizer plates. Tony had a bowl of their wild boar and barley vegetable soup which is made with Broken Arrow Ranch Italian style sausage, cannelini beans, butternut squash and kale ($8). He also had their pork tamales which are served with fried sweet plantains, chipotle sauce, and pinto beans ($9). (I'm sorry the photo of the soup didn't come through because it looked really nice!)

I had the grilled squid appetizer ($9) and asked the waiter to have the chef leave out the roasted red pepper puttanesca (wanted to avoid a trip the ER ya know ... lol) and that we'd get an order of the roasted fingerling potatoes from the side dish menu. I think the communication was a little mixed up because they ended up substituting the red peppers with the fingerlings instead of making them a whole separate plate. It really was fine in the end because it was extremely delicious and served with semolina fried artichokes. I couldn't get over the flavor of the squid and I think it's now one of my favorite appetizer dishes. The fingerlings went perfectly with them. Mmmmm. I'm craving them as I type this up! I seriously could eat this all day.

During dinner, we both asked for the Grignolino again and this time our waiter brought back to the [small] table four empty glasses and two bottles of red wine. The first one he poured was the Grignolino for us to try, but then he poured us a taste of the Vinhos Ribatejano, Lagoalva, "Espirito", 2005 (Ribatejano) ($7) wine from Portugal. The Grignolino was quite light red in hue and fruity in flavor. Tony stuck with that but I had a glass of the Portuguese wine because I liked how it was a little heavier and bolder.

I thought it was a nice little touch that the waiter made thinking that we might like the Portuguese wine, and if anything, we got to try a different wine even if we didn't end up ordering it. I also liked how they pour your glass of wine for you directly at the table by bringing the bottle over. I don't know why I like that so much but I felt like it was a like one step up in customer service on their part, plus we were able to sample it before he poured the full glass (which was quite generous, just as an fyi).

I definitely want to go back there sometime simply to nosh on grilled squid! I'd recommend The Blue Room to anyone looking for a nice place to take a date and it's also one of the places I'd like to take my parents to some time when they're back here in Boston. A nice dinner and date pairing for sure.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I say lemon, you say squares!

That was the subject line in an email I sent out to some of my coworkers yesterday afternoon. I received this email on Monday afternoon from my husband with his coworker, Trevor's, name in the subject line:

It's a long story but basically, Trevor knows that I a) can bake and b) love a good challenge. We've dueled it out in Bubble Spinner as seen here, here, and here. So perhaps it was time for another challenge? I was totally up for it.

I found this recipe from the Martha Stewart website for creamy lemon squares and decided to give it a try on Tuesday night. It was much easier than I thought it would be and required so few ingredients, so I made two. Tony took one into to work that was cut into 16 pieces, and I took one to work that was cut into 36 small, bite-sized pieces.

I think I can venture to say that it was a huge hit! I was told that Trevor LOVED them (yes, you read that, in all caps!) and that he ate four of them (that detail is a little disturbing, I'll admit). And they disappeared in my office too.

It really helped to line the pan with parchment paper because it made taking them out really easy.

They turned out taller than typical lemon bars, and people said that they had a creamy consistency much like key lime pie. [Side note: no, I can't eat these. At least, we don't know if I'm really allergic to lemons because I haven't tested them yet but I didn't really want to take a chance. I tasted a tiny piece that fell off the knife and it was quite yummy.] The recipe called for sweetened condensed milk and if you ask me, anything with sweetened condensed milk tastes yummy!

I think the biggest compliment I received about them was from one of my coworkers who said he didn't normally like lemon squares. I convinced him to try one (using my, "They're only small squares, it's just one bite ..." plea) and I think he said I've converted him to liking them. That's awesome!

So here's the recipe for those of you that wish to whip up a batch (again, an easy-peasy recipe!). And just as an FYI, it took 4 lemons for me to get 3/4 cup of lemon juice.

Creamy Lemon Squares

Ingredients (makes 16):

- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
- 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
- 4 large egg yolks
[oh crap! see comment below!!]
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.

2. Make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add flour, and mix on low just until combined. Press dough into the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan; prick all over with a fork. Bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Make filling: In a large bowl, whisk together yolks, condensed milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour over hot crust in pan; return to oven, and bake until filling is set, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

4. Refrigerate until filling is firm, about 2 hours or up to 3 days. Using paper overhang, lift cake onto a work surface; cut into 16 squares, and dust with confectioners sugar.

Okay, so um, I just realized that I made a mistake. I do this a lot where I read through a recipe way too quickly (i.e. not enough attention to details!). It calls for 4 egg yolks and I just realized that I used 4 whole eggs. That might explain why one of my coworkers said that "the other lemon bars you see at the grocery store are so yellow ... makes me wonder what else they put in them." Alas, it's probably because mine were so light from too much egg! Oh well. I hope they weren't too eggy!

Oh and one more note: I put the confectioners sugar on in the morning but then by the time I brought them out of the bag in the middle of the day it all had been absorbed into the lemon. So even though the directions don't call for it, I'd suggest storing them in the refrigerator until you need them because the surface gets a little slick at room temperature. (Although now I'm wondering if it was because my filling was too custard/pudding-like with the extra egg whites? Hmmmm ...)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

farmers market, 09.15.09

Back to back posts about the farmers market?! Oh my! I figured that the number of days of beautiful sunny weather where it's not hot and humid are probably dwindling down now that we're getting close to the end of summer, so I took the 12:00 pm shuttle from our off-site location to the Harvard campus to check out farmers market finds and stretch my legs. It was such a gorgeous day outside where the breeze was just gently blowing, people seemed like they were in good spirits (lots of people smiled at me), and the farmers market was buzzing even before the official start time (12:30 pm ... or as I learned today, when the lady in charge rings the bell).

The first thing that caught my eye today was this beautiful display of Concord grapes. They were the darkest shade of purple and looked so nice and plump. I was tempted to buy some but the bag I brought was quite flimsy and I think I would've had grape juice rather than whole grapes by the time I made it back to the office.

Seeing these little pumpkins reminded me of how quickly it seems like the year has gone by. Wow, before you know it, it'll be fall and time for apple picking and pumpkin carving around here.

I thought these bottles of honey were really cute. Too bad I'm allergic to it. :(

I kept eyeing these gorgeous dahlias at one stand, so I bought four stems on my way back to the shuttle. They are huge and just the brightest of colors. I put them on my desk when I got back to the office and I think just about everyone stopped in their tracks to comment on them. Simply stunning.

One of the other reasons why I wanted to check out today's market was because the chef of Garden at the Cellar (a restaurant I've been wanting to try for a while now), Will Gilson, was going to be there doing a cooking demo and giving out samples. Alas, as you can see, the sign made it but he didn't by the time I had to leave the market.

Of course, we had to make the traditional stop at the Danish Pastry House stand. They had this beautiful Epine baguette. I ended up getting us a huge loaf of potato bread that we ate with a salad for dinner tonight. It was delicious and so hearty.

Saw these kind of odd looking gourds at one stand.

Bought the husband some beautiful little tomatoes which he said were quite delicious and full of flavor.

I bought a nice salad mix bunch of greens, some bok choy, and green onions from this woman's stand. She has really big bundles of fresh basil and other herbs available too.

And lastly, a shot of one of the flowers while I waited for the shuttle to depart back to the office.

I must say, quite a nice way to enjoy a lunch break on a nice summer day. :)


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