Mushroom + Herb Farro Risotto

September 20, 2014

I've been on this new kick lately of trying new grains. This is where farro came in...Farro is an Italian grain that's packed with fiber, magnesium and low in calories and fat. Not to mention it's delicious and can be used in salads, soups and is very versatile. I'm drawn to its nutty flavor and because of this I thought it was a perfect fit for a fall-inspired risotto. Because the farro is a pretty tough grain, it has to be par-cooked before you jump into making the risotto, but the beauty of it is that it'll yield a more firm, al dente texture that you don't necessarily get with Arborio rice. When the nuttiness of the farro is brought together with pungent sage, woody mushrooms and chives, it becomes an essence of fall.

Mushroom + Herb Farro Risotto
Serves 4-6

1 1/3 cup farro
24 ounces chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
1 sm-med yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 Tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 cup Parmesan, finely grated (+ a piece of the rind)
1/2 cup Ricotta Cheese, divided
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter


1. Par cook the farro: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add farro and lower the heat to medium. Cook for  15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Warm the chicken stock in a pot on medium-low heat. 

3. In a medium-large pot, sweat the onions in a few Tablespoons of olive oil , salt and pepper, on medium heat until translucent (about 5-10 minutes).

4. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the farro and cook for an additional 2 minutes (to pearl).

5. Add wine and cook until reduced almost completely. 

6. Start to add the stock, ladle by ladle. Add one ladle, then wait until the liquid reduces almost completely, then add another ladle, and so on until the stock is gone. (**Be patient! The risotto process from here on out will take about 30 minutes!) During this process, be sure to keep and eye on the farro and stir with a wooden spoon after every time stock is added.

7. After 30 minutes, the farro should be tender but not mushy. Pull from the heat and add the butter, 1 Tablespoon of the ricotta, Parmesan, chives and sage. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Ricotta Topping
While the lovely risotto cooks and works it's magic, you can whip up this ricotta mixture (a dollop will go on top of each plate to finish).Combine ricotta cheese (all 1/2 cup besides 1 Tablespoon), 1 Tablespoon of chives and 1/4 tsp salt. Mix together and pop it in the fridge to chill.

Spoon risotto into bowls or onto plates. Garnish with a spoonful of the ricotta mixture and a sprinkle of chives. 

Ta-Dah! I hope you like this risotto variation of mine!

Bon Appetit everyone!

Cast-Iron Lemon Chicken

August 18, 2014

Last year in NYC, when we had just moved, we were stuck to cook with just one cast-iron skillet (before our boxes came). When I was really craving a classic roasted chicken, this is the alternative I conjured-up. Now on my repeated list for quick weeknight dinners, I cook this one-skillet wonder up when I want the classic flavors of chicken, lemon & potatoes,  but don't feel like dealing with the fuss of a whole chicken.

Cast-Iron Lemon Chicken

2.5 lbs. chicken (I used a combination of legs & thighs, though you can opt for whatever cut you'd like)
1 lb baby yukon gold potatoes, roughly cut into medium-small cubes
1 onion, roughly chopped into large cubes
3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 lemons, sliced thin
3 sprigs rosemary, roughly chop the leaves
3 sprigs rosemary, whole
1 handful of thyme, roughly chop the leaves
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. 

In a mixing bowl, combine chopped potatoes, onion, garlic, chopped rosemary & thyme with a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper & toss. Add to cast iron skillet. Layer the sliced lemon on top. Scatter the 3 full rosemary sprigs on top of the lemon.

Wash the chicken and pat-dry with paper towels. Once patted dry, rub olive oil on the chicken (front & back!). Season with salt, freshly-cracked pepper and paprika (both sides again!).

Cook at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes (the high-heat will crisp-up the chicken skin). After 10 minutes, lower the heat to 400 degrees F and continue cooking for another 20 minutes, or until a thermometer register 165 degrees F.

**Note: Depending on the size of your potatoes, you may need to pull the chicken from the skillet when finished and continue cooking potatoes & veg until tender

Bon Appetit!


Baked Brie & Jam Pops

July 25, 2014

I'm baaaaack, everyone! Sorry about the long, unexpected hiatus... Some major computer issues happened that kept me from posting some recipes I've been wanting to share with you guys! Like these ooey-gooey-buttery baked brie pops (yes, they are as delicious as they sound). I wanted to create a fun, twist on a baked brie appetizer to go with wine & other nibbles while boating with friends a few weeks back, and this is what I came up with! Super easy and super tasty, pillows of puff pastry are filled with apricot & strawberry-rhubarb jams topped onto brie slices. The "pop" stick is added as a whimsical little twist, and you can guarantee everyone will be 'ooooh-ing' and 'awww-ing' over the adorable outcome. Hope everyone has a fabulous summer weekend!

Brie Cheese
Jam of choice (just be sure the jam is a more firm jam, that way   it won't leak from the pastry puffs)
Puff Pastry (either puff pastry squares or an entire sheet is fine)
Cake Pop sticks (cut in half // popsicle sticks work as well)
Egg Wash (1 egg beaten with a trickle of water)
Sparkling Sugar for topping

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Cut the cake pop sticks in half using kitchen shears.
2. Cut brie into slices.
3. If using puff pastry squares(like I did, pictured below): cut the squares in fours (each square you used should be somewhere around 2x3 inches. If using puff pastry sheets: you'll need two puff pastry sheets. For each sheet, it should yield 24 rectangles (making 12 pops). On a floured work surface, cut puff pastry into long vertical slices, then cut across horizontally.

1. Lay one pastry square down, insert cake pop (press down so it is indented inside the brie & pastry square, this will keep the stick from falling out). 
2. Add 1 tsp. jam on top of the brie slice. 
3. Brush the other edges of the pastry square with egg wash and top with another pastry square. Press down gently. Then, use a fork to crimp the edges.
4. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the entire pop.
5. Sprinkling sanding sugar over the top.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees F., or until golden brown.

Bon Appetit!

Summer Solstice

June 21, 2014

It's only fitting that the Summer Solstice falls on a Saturday. Celebrate with beach trips, bike rides, lounging by the pool, eating ice-cream & popsicles, making s'mores by the fire, or whatever you see fit. It's gorgeous, so get outside! Happy Summer everyone!

Bourbon Banana Bread

June 18, 2014

There is nothing like noshing on a freshly-baked piece of banana bread wile having your morning coffee. And, who doesn't like bourbon? And while it would have been fun (and entertaining) to watch my family devour heavily booze-laden banana bread at 8am, I opted to add just enough bourbon to intensify the banana and nut flavors. Shredded dark chocolate weaves into the banana bread, giving every bite a subtle cocoa essence. This bread is perfect to make for the weekend (or anytime for that matter), as I can guarantee you it will probably be consumed as a not only breakfast, but as a snack, coffee counterpart, and dessert too.

Bourbon Banana Bread
Makes one 9x5 loaf pan

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large bananas, smashed with a potato masher
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped with a knife
2 ounces dark chocolate, shredded/roughly chopped with a knife

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray, set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a kitchen mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (using a hand-mixer is fine, too), mix the sugar and eggs on medium for about 1 minute. Add the bourbon, vanilla extract, and molasses. 

3. Turn the mixer to a lower speed and add the vegetable oil,  then the smashed bananas.

4. Add the dry ingredients that were set aside in the beginning. Mix until the flour mixture is combined (dont overmix!). Add 3/4 cup of the chopped walnuts and chocolate and fold them in with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to incorporate them. 

5. Pour into the loaf pan that's been coated with nonstick spray. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup walnuts over the top. Bake for 60-70 minutes (when a toothpick comes out clean from the middle, it's done).

Bon Appetit everyone!

Summer Beauty Essentials

June 17, 2014

1. Bumble & Bumble 'Surf' Spray, Sephora, $15 for 1.7oz: This sea salt hair spray gives hair beachy, voluminous waves. Just spray in damp, washed hair and let air dry. You'll have textured, casual, waves. Wrap a few random strands of locks around a curling iron, then comb through with fingers for a more evening-ready beach look.

2. Trader Joe's Coconut Body Butter, Trader Joe's, $5.99: I know what you're thinking, body butter from Trader Joe's?! But this body butter is seriously amazing - rich and conditioning - it's a new favorite of mine. It also smells like a tropical summer, so: win, win.

3. Essie's 'Roarrange' Nail Polish, CVS Pharmacy, $8.50: I love to go with a pretty, vibrant shade of nail polish for summer. Sun-kissed skin looks amazing with punchy shades, and this sherbet orange-ish color does the trick.

4. Olay CC Cream - Total Effects Tone Correcting Moisturizer with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 15, Ulta, $19.54: This CC cream evens skin tone, hydrates, illuminates, and is an SPF - ALL in one. Ah-ma-zing.

5. Nars 'The Multiple' in 'G-Spot,' Sephora, $39.00: This is my go-to beauty product for the summer season. Sweat? No problem. This blush stick highlights and adds a shimmery, bronze color to cheeks, eyes, and lips but doesn't streak because of its' cream base.

6. Pixi 'Shea Butter Lip Balm' in 'Coral Crush,' Target, $8: This lip balm was in my Birchbox las month, and I have fallen in love.  It moisturizes and conditions while adding a perfect coral tint - great for adding extra color to your lips for a beach day or even an evening out.

7. L'oréal Voluminous Carbon Black Waterproof Mascara, CVS Pharmacy, $7.79: Smudge-proof mascara that also gives you big, voluminous lashes? Yes please. No one likes raccoon eyes during a day at the pool or beach (or even in the evening due to humidity!) so this is a definite go-to option of mine.

Creamy Parmesan Polenta & Cod

June 16, 2014

As the nights warm and summer's official arrival date quickly approaches, I find myself craving lighter fare (especially during weeknights). I decided to take polenta - a side dish that's known to play a part in heavier meals (when coupled with something like braised chicken or short ribs)- and make it summer-appropriate. When paired with light, flaky Cod, roasted-thyme vegetables and a glass of rosé, the creamy parmesan polenta instantly transforms from a Winter to Summer dish.

Serves 5

1 cup corn meal or corn grits
4 1/2 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock (I prefer using beef or chicken stock for more flavor)
1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp salt.

Directions: Heat 4 cups of stock to a boil. While whisking,  slowly stream 1 cup of corn meal into the boiling stock. Add the 1 tsp. salt. Whisk to prevent any clumps, then reduce the heat to low and switch to using a wooden spoon to stir. 

About every 5 minutes, check on the polenta and give it a good stir. Make sure to scrape the sides down and the bottom of the pot. Around the 25-30 minute mark it will LOOK done, but keep cooking until around the 40-45 minute mark (I promise it will be that much better!). Have a 1/2 cup of stock reserved handy on the side, this way if at any point the polenta looks too thick, add stock a little at a time to loosen it up and keep it creamy.

Once the polenta is cooked (about 40-45 minutes), turn the heat off and add the Parmesan and butter and stir. Taste and add more salt if needed. 

Serves 5

1 cup cherry tomatoes
8 ounces Crimini mushrooms, cleaned 
Handful of thyme sprigs
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Directions: Toss the tomatoes and mushrooms with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme sprigs. Roast in a 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes. 

Serves 5

5 Cod fillets, aboout 5 ounces each
Olive oil
Smoked salt
Fresh-ground pepper

Directions:Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron pan. Sear the cod on each side. Once seared, place the cod fillets on a sheet pan and finish cooking in a 350 degree F oven for 7 minutes.

FOR ASSEMBLY: Layer the creamy polenta on the bottom of the plate or serving dish, add the thyme-roasted vegetables and then place the Cod on top. Garnish with pea shoots for extra color and freshness. Serve with a crisp, refreshing glass of rosé.

Bon Appetit!