07.19.2017

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I swear we haven’t eaten inside our house in almost a week. I am constantly carting smoothies, bowls of yogurt, sandwiches, and platters of fruit outside to gobble down on the porch or in the yard. We’ve spread blankets, set up beach chairs, and gathered around picnic tables to chow down. Sometimes it’s just us and sometimes we’re surrounded by friends. It’s true that summer food just tastes better out in the fresh air, I’m sure of it. The best type of food to eat outside, in my opinion, is one-pot dishes that are good warm or at room temperature. Things that travel well, don’t need anything more than a serving spoon, and require only one trip from the kitchen to the grass.

Here, I’m sharing my favorite summer picnic crowd please – Tomato & Basil Strata. This dish is perfect for brunch, a picnic lunch (served with a big green salad and fresh berries), or a beach dinner (served with grilled steak and corn on the cob). You can assemble it ahead of time and bake it off whenever you have a free moment or a cool kitchen. The classic combination of tomatoes, basil, and rich Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese (similar to cheddar – nutty and somewhat sweet hard cheese) is a summer entertaining home run.

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Tomato-Basil Strata

Serves 8 to 10

 1 yellow onion cut into thin ribbons

 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

8 cups cubed French or Italian bread cut into 1-inch chunks

 6 ounces coarsely grated Kerrygold® Dubliner Cheese (2 cups)

 3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

 8 large eggs

 2 3/4 cups milk

 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

 1 teaspoon salt

 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

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Cook the onion in the butter over medium-high heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and starting to caramelize. Now build the strata in layers. Butter a 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Start with the bread – spread 1/2 of the cubes in the bottom of the dish, top with 1/2 of the vegetables mixture and 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat the layering with remaining bread, vegetables, cheese, and top with torn basil.

Next, whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl and pour it evenly over the strata. Cover with foil and chill the strata for at least 8 hours or up to a day.

Before baking, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in the middle of the oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, about 35 to 45 minutes. Let it stand 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe is sponsored by Kerrygold® USA and Martha Stewart Living.

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01.10.2017

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Our first big snow fall hit this weekend and all I can think about is cooking and eating soup and biscuits so forgive me for another soup suggestion. This Spicy Tomato Soup is from Barabara Lynch and it is spicy. If you don’t love a serious kick of heat I would cut the red pepper flakes in half. At its core, this recipe is a 5-ingredient vegan soup built from simple pantry items. And where there is soup there is dipping. Biscuits make mean dippers – especially when they’re covered with everything bagel seed mix. If you’d rather use your biscuits to hold fried eggs, red onion, cheese, and spinach then I’m not stopping you. We started our fair share of mornings that way too.

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Barbara Lynch’s Spicy Tomato Soup

serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices

teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste — I used a 1/2 teaspoon and it was almost too spicy for me)

2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Crème fraîche, for garnish (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes. (If you’re in a hurry, you can skip the simmer time — just add a bit less water.) Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, and let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.

3. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam from the hot soup to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off).

4. Pour the blended soup through the strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula or ladle; discard the solids. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

5. Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat on medium low until hot. If you choose, serve topped with a tablespoon of crème fraîche.

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Everything Biscuits from Small Victories

Makes 12 biscuits

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons onion flakes

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon kosher salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-in cubes and chilled

1 ½ cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. (You can skip this if you’d like, since all of the butter in the dough will keep the biscuits from sticking, but I love anything that makes cleaning up easier).

2. In a small bowl, stir together the poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and onion flakes. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk more than you think you should — this isn’t just to combine the ingredients but also to aerate them. Plus, how much easier is it to clean a whisk than a sifter, amiright?? Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture, rubbing it between your fingers until the mixture turns into coarse crumbs. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the buttermilk until the mixture becomes a shaggy dough — no need to overmix here. Stir in half of the poppy seed mixture.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it out so that it’s about 1 in thick. Using a 2½-in round cutter (or a juice glass), stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Pat the dough scraps together (do not overwork the dough), reroll, and cut out more biscuits. You should end up with a dozen biscuits. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator and chill the biscuits for about 1 hour. Baking them from cold will yield flakier biscuits (the butter will be slower to melt and will create more distinct layers); but if you don’t have time, don’t worry—the biscuits will still be very good.

4. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450°F. Right before baking, brush each biscuit lightly with buttermilk and then sprinkle evenly with the remaining poppy seed mixture.

5. Bake the biscuits until they’re risen and golden, 15 to 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through baking. Serve warm

07.19.2016

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On Thursdays and Fridays Nick works from home. He sits perched up in our bedroom in front of the computer, wedged between laundry and old magazines. Smartly, he keeps his headphones on most of the day either listening to a new podcast, Phish, or Grateful Dead show. It being summer, working from home with your wife and two young boys around can be a challenge…for all of us. It’s hard to pretend he’s not here when he is. There are many knocks at the door and frantic requests for help at less than ideal times.

One benefit of these work-from-home days is lunchtime. Once Gray is napping and Dylan occupied, we can sometimes (okay so far it’s only happened twice) sit down together for a grown-up lunch. This Tomato & Crouton Salad is one such meal. Everything on this platter is Island grown – North Tabor Farm greens, Morning Glory Farm Tomatoes and Basil, and Cinnamon Starship Oatmeal Bread. It was delicious.

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Tomato & Crouton Salad

serves 2 starving and tired parents or 4 regular people

2 tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 large ball of fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese, roughly torn

1 big handful fresh basil, roughly torn

2 cups baby greens

1/4 loaf of bread, sliced into 1-inch cubes

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper

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First, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic. Heat the oil then toss in the cubed bread and a sprinkle of salt. Toast bread until golden and crisp, moving it around the pan often. When the bread is crispy, turn off the heat.

Grab a large platter. Arrange the sliced tomatoes, cheese, croutons, greens, and torn basil in small piles. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Eat.

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07.10.2016

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A couple of weeks ago I made a new promise to myself. I vowed to take the chunk of time during our 2-year old’s nap on Sunday afternoons to plan out our dinners for the week. During the school year I have a solid rhythm of planning, shopping, cooking, and packing up leftovers. But then summer starts and with it comes the late night events, stops for pizza and ice cream, and evening beach hours (who needs dinner when you can eat 4 lbs of watermelon!). Our family dinners at the start of this month were fairly pitiful but I am doing my darnedest to get back on track.

So far, the new plan is working. On Sunday afternoons I pick out three to four dinners I want to make that week and head for the market. The other nights we eat really simple stuff like salad/grilled chicken, eggs/bacon/greens, and rice/beans/avocado. This Pasta & Fried Zucchini Salad from Ottolenghi’s Plenty was a huge hit last week. It was delicious for dinner but perhaps even better the next day tossed into a huge bowl of baby lettuce at lunchtime.

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Pasta & Fried Zucchini Salad from Plenty

Serves 4

2/3 cup sunflower oil

3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3/4 cup frozen edamame

2 cups basil leaves, shredded coarsely

1/4 cup parsley leaves

1/3 cup olive oi

Salt and black pepper

9 ounces strozzapreti or penne pasta

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 1/2 tablespoons capers

7 ounces buffalo mozzarella, torn by hand into chunks

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Fry the zucchini slices in a few batches, making sure you don’t crowd them, for 3 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides; turn them over once only. As they are cooked, transfer to a colander to drain. Tip the zucchini slices into a bowl, pour over the vinegar and stir, then set aside.

Blanch the edamame for 3 minutes in boiling water; drain, refresh under running cold water and set aside to dry.

Combine half the basil, all of the parsley and the olive oil in a food processor, adding a bit of salt and pepper. Blitz to a smooth sauce.

Cook the pasta until al dente; drain and rinse under a stream of cold water. Return to the pan in which it was cooked.

Pour the zucchini and their juices over the pasta. Add the edamame, basil sauce, lemon zest, capers and mozzarella. Stir gently together, then taste and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Before serving, stir in the remaining basil.

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01.21.2016

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I just recently (like last week) changed my perception of herbs. Typically I have a few baskets of greens in the fridge whether it be arugula, spinach, or kale which all feel like main ingredients to me and things that I turn to when we need a quick side, omelet filling, or smoothie add in. Until recently, herbs were not in this category. Parsley, cilantro, basil, and chives were always toppings, pesto ingredients, or quick afterthoughts to brighten up a dish. These Herbed Chickpeas (along with another salad that I will share soon) reminded me that herbs are just as good as any other green and are quite delicious in large quantities. As suggested in the original recipe, Herbed Chickpeas can be served many ways – tossed with wilted greens, topped with a fried egg, spooned onto Greek yogurt, or piled high on toast.

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Herbed Chickpeas from Bon Appetit Magazine – makes about 3 cups

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 1/2 cups chopped mixed tender herbs (such as parsley, cilantro, chives, and/or basil)

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Rinse the chickpeas and pat dry. Place the chickpeas in a large skillet and add in the crushed garlic cloves and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are crisped and some have split open (these will be the most delicious ones), 10 – 15 minutes.

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Remove from heat; stir in the herbs. You can eat the chickpeas right out of the warm skillet (I found myself standing at the stove digging in again and again for about 10 minutes), tossed with sauteed vegetables, topped with an egg, spooned over Greek yogurt, or piled on garlic toast.

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