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Archive for March, 2009

 

It's not the prettiest dish, but it smells and tastes fantastic.

It's not the prettiest dish, but it smells and tastes fantastic.

 

I am not a fan of ‘cooking-lite.’ If I’m going to do something, I want to do it right, even if it means carrying around a little extra junk in my admittedly full trunk.

 

Now, this doesn’t mean that I have a total disregard for health or that I’m cramming slices of bacon and hunks of cheese into my mouth all day long. Quite the opposite, it’s just that I would prefer a smaller portion of something that tastes fantastic than a heaping plate of something that tastes so-so.

 

That being said, scrolling through Besotted, I did notice that there were an awful lot of bacon-y, cream-laden, cheesy, and chocolate-y recipes. At the same time, the seasonal winter-weight-gain has had my pants fitting a bit snugly, and I thought it was time to include a completely healthy, but still rock-your-world delicious Weeknight Dinner recipe.

 

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Cookies

Ever since Starbucks introduced their Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, I have been on a frenzied, manic quest for all things salted caramel.

 

I’ve fallen madly in love with Toscanini’s Salted Caramel ice cream (made into an ethereal affogato with espresso), as well as their Burnt Caramel ice cream, so when I came across David Lebovitz’s Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe with Salted Caramel, borrowed from Cindy Mushet’s The Art and Soul of Baking, I immediately cleared my calendar and made a date with a big jar of peanut butter.

 

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A brief guide to getting a great value when dining out.

A brief guide to getting a great value when dining out.

 

 

Bostonians have an odd sense of fiscal responsibility. It’s a schizophrenic sort of frugality, where we ruthlessly seek out bargains for the mundane, but spend lavishly on those items deemed worthy.

 

For example, my dear friend LN will think nothing of topping off a delicious Sunday brunch with a new Milly dress, yet she still tries to use her student ID (from 2004) to get $1 off at her yoga studio, and is indignant if her attempts are thwarted.

 

In other words, as individuals we determine which items are a worthy luxury and spend freely on them, and everything else is subject to relentless bargain-hunting.


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If you're like me, this sight will bring tears to your eyes.

If you're like me, this sight will bring tears to your eyes.

 

Have you ever had the feeling that you had a super-power and then lost it? Maybe you were a superb orator, effortless distance runner, or spectacularly limber, and suddenly – WHAM! – with no warning, what once came naturally has you grimacing in effort and frustration.

 

I am not naturally athletic or gifted in the arts, but, though obscure, my super-power was immensely useful given my passion for cooking. It was the ability to chop onions endlessly and never shed a tear. Odd? Yes. But unusually impressive as a live show. I would be in the kitchen chopping 5 cups of onions with glee while friends were seated in the living room, coughing and rubbing their eyes from the sting. Nobody could understand how I could chop them with such mirth and no aid to reduce the burn.

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It's ironic.... this may be the worst picture I've taken, yet it's of one of the most delicious desserts.

It's ironic.... this may be the worst picture I've taken, yet it's of one of the most delicious desserts.

 

Each culture has its ‘thing’ that it does far better than the rest. Jews? We save money better than most. The Swiss? Nobody dots their i’s and crosses their t’s like the fastidious Swiss. The French? They have an uncanny knack for self-preservation when it comes to international conflicts. The Italians? Nobody does simple, rustic food as spectacularly as the Italians.

 

While I would most likely tip my hat to the French for overall cuisine, Italian food wins the award for turning a handful of plain, every day ingredients into something drool-worthy. The culture that brought us thin-crust pizza, Linguine alla Carbonara & Cannolis must be applauded for its prowess in turning the simple into something sublime.

 

While Italy has many popular culinary claims to fame, one of my favorite Italian dishes is the little-known Affogato.

 

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Budget Brunching

 

Doing this at home is wonderfully simple and costs about $50 less.

Doing this at home is wonderfully simple and costs about $50 less.

 

I am an unapologetic brunch fan, even though it is a near-disaster of a meal to go out for in Boston – in the winter time, you have to leave the luscious cocoon of goose-down warmth to brave the elements, wait 45 minutes to be seated nose-to-elbow with the table next to you, and pay an enormous mark-up for what is essentially fancy eggs or bread.

 

It should be the most reviled of all meals for its expense and aggravation, but it does have its positive attributes, namely that it has made public dining before bathing and pre-noon cocktails not only socially acceptable, but essentially requisite. Not only that, but only at brunch would battered and pan-fried toast slathered with Nutella and dotted with candied pecans be considered a meal and not dessert. It’s brilliant.

 

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Cheesecake

 

It is a little known fact that one of my favorite movies is Gone in Sixty Seconds. I’m about as feminine as they come, but there’s something about Angelina Jolie & Nick Cage driving stick-shift, muscle cars that gets me… well… distracted.

 

Not only is the movie hot to watch, but I completely empathize with Nick Cage’s character, Memphis, when he speaks wistfully of ‘Eleanor’, a 1967 Shelby GT500 that he has never been able to successfully steal. He loves this car, craves this car, all the while it has caused him the most frustration and heartache.

 

This may be a sad excuse for an analogy, but I feel the same way about cheesecake. Making a perfect cheesecake that never cracks is a long-standing and frustrating goal of mine. The problem is the instability and delicacy of the ingredients of a truly noteworthy cheesecake. Most commercial cheesecakes are made with some sort of binder, usually flour, that gives it a bit more stability in the baking process. My cheesecake, and the ones that you probably remember as being the creamiest and dreamiest, are only made with dairy, eggs, vanilla, and sugar.

 

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