Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Gorgonzola and Balsamic Syrup

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This is, by far, my new favorite summer salad!  With just four ingredients, it’s a cinch to make – add to that that the presentation is gorgeous and the flavors play incredibly well together and it’s a winner.  The peppery arugula, sweet watermelon, savory blue cheese, and kicky balsamic combine to make the perfect bite.  It’s become a go-to recipe for picnics, dinner parties on the deck, or a quick dinner at home.  The kids love it, too!

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Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Gorgonzola and Balsamic Syrup
Serves 6-8 as a side salad

Ingredients:

5 oz. baby arugula
2 1/2 cups cubed watermelon (1-inch dice)
4 oz. gorgonzola, chunked
balsamic syrup

Preparation:

1.  Spread the arugula out in a large shallow bowl.
2.  Layer the cubed watermelon over the arugula.
3.  Sprinkle gorgonzola over the salad.
4.  Drizzle the balsamic syrup over the salad.
5.  Serve and enjoy!

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Kopanisti

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Last summer, my friend Katie and I were in Seattle for a conference and were trying to eat at as many Tom Douglas restaurants as we could. On one of his menus, we saw an item – Kopanisti – that piqued our curiosity. While we went on to order other things, I didn’t forget about the Kopanisti and did a little research on it as soon as I could. Evidently, Kopanisti is a Greek cheese that is salty and spicy and produced in Mykonos, Greece. While the cheese itself is hard to come by in the States, recipes abound for a dip called Kopanisti, which includes feta and roasted red peppers, whipped into a frenzy.

I thought the combination sounded great, so decided to work on my own version. Instead of roasted red bell peppers, I used a combination of piquillo peppers and peppadew peppers. Why the different peppers? Because I find typical jarred roasted red peppers frequently taste bitter and watery, and piquillo peppers have a lot more flavor. And have you had a peppadew pepper yet? Please do so as soon as possible. Oh, peppadew. How I love you. Peppadews are sweet and spicy and delicious and serve as the perfect counterpoint to the saltiness of the feta. These peppers, combined with feta and some cream cheese to bind it all together, make a truly addictive salty dip with a little sweet-hot kick. Serve the dip as is, with toasted pita chips or crostini, or try it the way I like it best – piped into adorable peppadew peppers for the perfect peppadew pepper popper. (Say that ten times fast!)

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Kopanisti

Ingredients:
8 oz. feta, chunked
4 oz. neufchatel, chunked
4 piquillo peppers
6 peppadew peppers

Preparation:

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
2. Process until the dip is smooth.
3. Serve and enjoy!

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara

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This is the year of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. It has become a weekly must-have in our household – the kids adore it and so do we. Honestly, with bacon, cheese, eggs, and spaghetti, how could one go wrong?!

After having tried a lot of recipes for Spaghetti alls Carbonara, I stumbled across one in “The Gourmet Cookbook” that I think is a real winner. I’ve modified it minimally by using thick cut American smoked bacon in lieu of pancetta or guanciale (and more of it, at that!), and adding a tad more wine. One of my favorite activities these days is watching the initially grainy-looking egg/parmesan mixture become an incredibly smooth, rich sauce when tossed with the spaghetti, bacon, and onion.

This is such a simple dish to make, but it feels special. It has a ton of flavor (thank you, bacon, onions, and wine), and feels like you are eating a noodle perfectly encased by creamy goodness (now thank you, eggs and cheese).

Carbonara ingredients

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Carbonara sequence 2

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Ingredients:
Serves 4 as a main course

8 oz. thick cut bacon, cut into 1/3-inch lardons
1 spanish onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup white wine
1 pound spaghetti
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper

Preparation:
1. Cook the bacon in a large, deep skillet over moderate heat until it has rendered its fat and is just beginning to brown (about 5 minutes).
2. Add the onions to the bacon and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes.
3. Add the wine to the onions and bacon and boil until reduced by half, then reduce heat to low.
4. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.
5. Mix the eggs, cheese, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine.
6. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and add it to the bacon.
7. Pour the egg and cheese mixture over the spaghetti and toss until the spaghetti is coated with the eggs and cheese.
8. Serve immediately.

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Things I like: Fran’s Chocolates

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To be honest, “like” is an understatement.  It would just be a little weird if I were to wax poetic about how much I *love* Fran’s Chocolates.  I was first introduced to Fran’s when my brother-in-law and his wife moved to Seattle almost a decade ago.  Courtney would put together these amazingly packaged and incredibly gorgeous Pacific Northwest food baskets around the holidays, and Fran’s Peppermint Truffles were a mainstay.  Needless to say, the day the food basket arrived on our front porch was always a very happy day in our household.

Everything about a Fran’s chocolate is perfection, and it all starts with the packaging, which is sophisticated and complimented by a gorgeous satin ribbon.  Just getting a box of Fran’s feels like a special occasion!  The chocolates themselves are smooth and delectable and it is very clear that the folks at Fran’s pay attention to every last detail – from gold leaf, to oolong fragment, to chocolate swirl.

Why am I telling you about Fran’s now?  Valentine’s Day is coming and you don’t want to miss your chance to special order your loved ones these chocolates!!  All I can say is move over Godiva, there’s a new chocolate in town!

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Apple Chutney

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So you know that apple chutney recipe I mentioned in my post about perfect pork chops?  Well here it is!  This chutney really celebrates apples.  It’s made with whole apples, apple cider vinegar, and apple cider.  Cinnamon and cloves warm the chutney up, while the onion and minced candied ginger give it some complexity (and a little kick!).  Lemon juice and zest brighten things up a bit, and when all is said and done this is a lovely dressed up chutney to serve with pork or chicken.  I think it would be great in a grilled cheddar cheese sandwich, too.  Or served with an assortment of cheeses for an appetizer.  However you choose to use it, I hope you like it as much as I do!

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Apple Chutney
makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:
6 apples, peeled, cored, and 1/2-inch diced (I used Cortland apples for this Chutney)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup candied ginger, minced
2 cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider
2/3 cup raisins

Preparation:
1.  Combine all ingredients with the exception of the raisins in a large pot.
2.  Bring the apple mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally.
3.  Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
4.  Remove from heat and add raisins.
5.  Set aside to cool.

Foolproof: Perfect Pork Chops

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Do you ever come across a technique that’s just too good not to share?  That’s how I feel about this method of making pork chops.  I know, I know, pork chops can sound terrifically boring and evoke all kinds of memories of eating something dry, tough, and tasteless.  But I promise you, if you follow these instructions, taken out of the Joy of Cooking, you will end up with something tasty, tender, and satisfying.  Pair these chops with whatever you wish – I paired mine with Apple Chutney (recipe coming soon to a blog near you!).

Here’s what you will need:

4 boneless pork chops, 1 inch or so thick
Salt
Pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil

And here is what you do.

Step 1: Season your chops.

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Step 2: Heat the oil over high heat.

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Step 3: Put your chops in and sear them over high heat for exactly 1 minute.

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Step 4: Flip your chops and sear the other side for exactly one minute.

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Step 5: Flip your chops again, cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes.

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Step 6: Flip your chops, cover, and cook other side for 4 minutes.

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Step 7: Let your chops sit on a platter for 5 minutes or so.

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Step 8: Eat and enjoy!

Lemon, Chicken, and Wild Rice Soup

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There are those soups you crave when you want something decadent (mmm…lobster bisque!), those soups you crave when you want something hearty (think lentils and sausage), and those soups you want when you’re feeling under the weather.  This is the soup I want when I’ve come down with a cold, which happened over Christmas.  It was like a game of dominoes: first Liam got sick, then Mairenn, then Shawn and I succumbed at almost the exact same time.  It was definitely time for this soup.

What I like about it is that it has a lot of the elements of a good chicken noodle soup, but feels like it packs an even stronger virus-killing punch with the addition of the lemon, onion, and wild rice.  Eat this, drink plenty of fluids, and get lots of rest and you’ll be feeling better in no time flat!

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Lemon, Chicken, and Wild Rice Soup
6 servings

Ingredients:
2 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 cups chicken broth (lower sodium, if using store-bought)
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 spanish onion, chopped
Juice from 1 lemon
2 cups wild rice, cooked

Preparation:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan, then rub with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
3. Cook the chicken for 35-40 minutes, until cooked through, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool
4.  When chicken is cool and can be handled, remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice.
5.  In a large pot, saute the onions, carrots, and celery in 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil until the onions are translucent.
6.  Add the 8 cups of chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
9.  Let the soup simmer, uncovered, for about 8-10 minutes, or until the carrots and celery are tender.
10.  Add the cooked chicken, wild rice, and lemon juice to the pot and stir.

Things I like: dua Belibis

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Okay, so it’s a little unfair to write about dua Belibis because unless you live in a major metropolitan area, you probably aren’t going to find it at your local Asian grocery store.  That said you can order it on Amazon, and if you are a fan of things sweet and spicy, I strongly recommend that you do!  My good friend, Tita, who is from Indonesia, first introduced me to dua Belibis.  When she moved back to Jakarta, she gave us her stash – and we couldn’t be more grateful.  dua Belibis tastes like a sweeter version of ketchup backed up with a serious kick.  A little goes a long way, which is  a good thing when these little bottles of red gold are so hard to come by if you live in the U.S.  In Indonesia, however, Tita reports dua Belibis is EVERYWHERE – in little packets at fast food joints, in every family’s pantry, and in every market.  Shawn puts it on everything he would have put ketchup on previously: eggs, mashed potatoes, pierogies…you get the idea.  I like it on shrimp crackers best.

Try it – I know you’ll like it!

Eggs Muthig

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When I was in college, I visited  my sister and brother-in-law in Germany (they live in Karlsruhe).  My brother-in-law, Juergen Muthig, made the most amazing soft-boiled egg and mixed it together with some German mustard, salt, and pepper.  It was delicious.  When the mustard mixes with the yolk it creates an incredible silky, flavorful bite.   Yum….

It’s the middle of winter and  hearty breakfasts feel like just the thing for lazy and cold Sunday mornings, so I came up with this dish, which I dubbed Eggs Muthig in honor of the Muthig family who inspired it.  Sautéed greens on top of toasted whole grain bread make the perfect nest for a poached egg, completely covered with a mustard hollandaise.  Yes, there are lots of components; yes, it takes some time; and yes, it is delicious.

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Eggs Muthig

Ingredients:

4 eggs, poached or soft-boiled
Hearty, whole grain bread
1 bunch greens, stems removed (swiss chard would work wonderfully, though I used kale in this recipe)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
Pepper
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 recipe Mustard Hollandaise (recipe below)

Preparation:

1.  Over medium heat, saute the onions in the olive oil until just translucent.
2.  Add the greens, salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the water to the onions.
3.  Cover and raise the heat to medium high.  Cook for 5 minutes.
4.  Remove cover, add the vinegar, and continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated.
5.  Toast bread.

To assemble:

1.  Butter toasted bread.
2.  Place sautéed greens on top of bread.
3.  Place egg on top of greens.
4.  Cover egg and greens with mustard hollandaise.

Mustard Hollandaise

Ingredients:
2 egg yolks
8 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp German mustard
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt

Preparation:
1.  Place all ingredients with the exception of the butter in a blender and pulse to combine.
2.  With the blender running, slowly drizzle the melted butter into the egg mixture until it creates a smooth sauce.
3.  IF your sauce gets too thick, add a tablespoon of warm water and blend briefly to loosen.

Cheddar Corn Bread

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What goes better with chili than corn bread? Since I made the Chipotle Chicken Chili, I *had* to come up with a corn bread to serve it with. To be honest, I’m not sure this Cheddar Corn Bread quite qualifies as corn bread so much as it is a corn cake. In my quest for a light, moist, sweet corn bread, I substituted butter for oil. The result: a crumble that is cake-like in nature, but is decidedly NOT dry.

The cheddar in the corn bread is ample – providing more depth of flavor and some additional salt to balance out the sweet. And all of it complements the heat of the Chipotle Chicken Chili really nicely. This is not the corn bread with which to mop up the remains of your chili, but it is the corn bread to crumble on top, or nibble on the side. The Kenaley taste team gave it a “10” for flavor!

ingredients

whisked dry ingredients

mixed wet and dry ingredients

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Cheddar Corn Bread

Ingredients:
1 cup corn  meal
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preparation:
1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.  In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
3.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until blended.
4.  Fold in grated cheddar cheese.
5.  Pour batter into greased 8×8 pan and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

alexandra's kitchen

mostly simple • sometimes fussy • always seasonal

smitten kitchen

Fearless cooking from a tiny NYC kitchen.