Monday, December 23, 2013

Au Bon Pain Holiday Menu and Tomato Spread Recipe



Still running around Christmas shopping? Stop, relax and enjoy some new and delicious treats at Au Bon Pain! Their coffee got me through my days at Northeastern University way back when (Wayyy back when!). The chain started in Boston 30yrs ago and features new menu items six times a year. I had the opportunity to preview the new holiday menu items at a blogger event on December 17th. I was so blown away by the tomato spread in the chicken sandwich that I recreated it (see recipe and pictures below). Thanks to Roger Bowles, Director of Culinary for sharing the general concept for the recipe!  Enjoy, take a break and treat yourself this Christmas!

 Au Bon Pain is featuring two new sandwiches this holiday. An egg white breakfast sandwich with spinach and mushrooms and a very delicious chicken sandwich with mushrooms, spinach, cheese, and the most delectable tomato spread I have ever had on a sandwich! (See recipe below if you would like to make it at home). Oh, and both sandwiches are made with sprouted grain bread. Not bad for reducing those calories this holiday season!

 Now for the not so caloric cautious, but oh so delicious holiday treats and baked goods! The new menu for the season will feature a delicious pupernickle bagel (my favorite), a gingerbread man, a soft yet chocolatey shortbread cookie with peppermint candy pieces, and last but not least, a cinnamon coffee cake. The cookie is worth just a drop in alone! Watch out Trader Joe-Joes! You have some competition!


Au Bon Pain knows soups. For the holiday menu, you can enjoy a nice, comforting, flavorful Thai coconut shrimp soup. The tiny shrimps were almost in every spoonful. I really liked the broth and the spicy and sweet combination with bamboo shoots, red peppers and ginger.

Not pictured, a parfait will also be featured with vanilla Greek yogurt, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. The yogurt is made locally by Hood. 

Tomato Spread
4-5 tomatoes
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
olive oil
1/2 large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
pecorino romano cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

Note: measurements are not exact. Have fun experimenting and recreating your own version! You can't go wrong with these simple ingredients.

Preheat oven to 300F. Slice tomatoes and add to bowl with some olive oil to coat. Add in garlic, herbs, salt & pepper. Mix thoroughly (you have a nice tomato salad at this point, but please wait and do not eat the tomatoes yet!). Arrange slices on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook for about 1hr (see photo for an idea of what they should look like). Let the slices cool. Add to food processor with fresh mozzarella, Romano to taste. 
I made a breakfast sandwich with my batch, but I think it tastes much better with chicken or tofu or mushrooms if you do not eat meat. Enjoy!!


tomato slices with olive oil, garlic & herbs

tomato slices ready to go in the oven

Roasted tomato slices

                                                    Putting my new food processor to work! 

tomato egg sandwich with tomato spread!

Further reading and info on other bloggers who attended this event, go to Bostontweetup.com.


Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Boston cookie Takedown 2013!


The weekend after Thanksgiving, I participated in the Boston Cookie Takedown at The Middle Eat nightclub hosted by Matt Timms! The event turned out a good number of cookie lovers despite the timing just after a face-stuffing holiday. Having two Food Experiments under my belt and one 3rd place prize for my strawberry cake last year, I was excited and prepared to create one delicious cookie for this event! Once again, my incredible and talented baker friend, Natalie teamed up with me on the day of the event. Our cookie creation was inspired by my chocolate almond cocoa cookie which is gluten free, easy to make and one of the most incredibly delicious cookies I have ever made. I added chocolate chips, a nice dollop of caramel in the center of the cookie and then topped them off with drizzled melted milk chocolate! Our Peanut Butter Chocolate Almond Caramel Lava cookie was the only gluten free cookie at the event and scored us 3rd prize with the judges vote! There were many delicious cookie concoctions at the event. My favorites included a caramel stuffed double chocolate cookie and the overall winner, a walnut spiral cookie. A fun time was had by all, and I look forward to the next cooking competition. Hope to see you there!



The Middle East buzzing with cookie lovers!


chocolate

Natalie and I with our cookie setup

I won a food processor!

Photo with Matt Timms

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Roasted Eggplant Patty with Mashed Roots


Inspired by the Pritikin diet, I created this dish for a recipe competition promoting health and wellness.  As you may notice from my previous blog posts, I am not one to follow a diet. The Pritikin seems to be one that would work for most. The rules for the contest were to create a main dish without using salt, sugar, no added fats (including oils, avocados, and nuts), whole grains only, and no cheese (a tough one for me as I love cheese!). I compromised on the cheese and decided to use yogurt. I made the tzatziki sauce from my previous blog post minus the oil, and used roasted garlic for added flavor. I love roasted eggplant and really wanted to make something with cumin. Garbanzo beans seemed like a natural fit with the eggplant and cumin. I then added the mashed sweet potato with carrot since I love root vegetables. The combination ended up to be a nice blend of sweet and savory with a great deal of flavor. The eggplant patty is very versatile and is a great source of protein. I look forward to trying out some of the other recipes in the competition! Wish me luck!

Ingredients

1 medium eggplant
1 can garbanzo beans
1 bulb of garlic
2 carrots
1 sweet potato
Fresh cilantro
Fresh mint
8 oz Greek yogurt
1 cucumber
Cumin
Pepper
Cinnamon

Roast eggplant in an open fire or in an oven at 400F. I started the eggplant on the stove and finished it in the oven on a silpat. The eggplant will be done when it is oozing. I roasted the garlic in the oven with the eggplant. The garlic takes about 45minutes. It is soft and also will ooze a little when done. Let the eggplant and garlic cool for about 10 minutes. Peel and chop the sweet potato and carrots making the chunks about the same size for even cooking. Boil until the root vegetables are soft. Drain and mash. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Add the beans to a food processor. Remove the pulp from the eggplant and add to food processor with the beans. Next, add in half of the roasted garlic. Mix until well blended. Chop up some fresh cilantro and add to the mixture. I added approximately two tablespoons. Add more or less depending on your own taste. Next add in a tablespoon of cumin to the mixture. Preheat oven to 350F. Drop big spoonfuls of the eggplant mixture onto a silpat and bake until they start to get golden brown. Let cool for about 5 minutes and remove with a metal spatula. They may try to stick,  but the silpat will not allow it!

Make the tzatziki sauce by peeling the cucumber and removing the pulp with a spoon. Chop into chunks. Add into the food processor with the other half of the roasted garlic. Add in yogurt, lemon juice, dash of pepper and about 2 teaspoons of finely chopped mint. Your sauce is done!

Mash the carrots and sweet potato. Add in about a teaspoon of chopped cilantro, a dash of cinnamon and a little pepper. 

Arrange mashed roots on top of some raw kale followed by an eggplant patty and topped off with some  tzatziki sauce. Enjoy!



Oozing eggplant

Eggplant pulp

Roasted eggplant

Roasted eggplant and garlic

Eggplant and garbanzo bean patties!

Mashed sweet potato and carrots


Enjoy! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Grilled Leg of Lamb Gyro


I'm not accustomed to cooking lamb, but I have had some delicious lamb sliders one or more times in my life. I grew to appreciate the meat while traveling in the UK. I tasted what was the best Indian dish I have ever had in my life. It was similar to this slow-cooked lamb korma. I figured I would start simple and grill up a leg of lamb and save the korma recipe for the cooler weather.

Cool bevys, fresh vegetables, Tzatziki sauce (one of my favorite condiments of all time!), and grilled meat seems like a nice option when the temps creep up into the 90's! A chorus of cicadas, delicious BBQ and good company makes for the perfect summer evening!

Another inspiration for cooking up some lamb was that I was recently contacted about a LAMBorghini promotion happening with Mountain States Rosen (A supplier of quality meat) where you can enter to win the chance to drive a real Lamborghini. Click to enter. Not too bad.. I figured that if the lamb did not come out right, at least by spreading the word about the promotion, maybe one lucky person reading this would live out their dream of driving a Lamborghini! So, I went to Roche Bros. and picked up a nice leg of lamb. Mountain States Rosen slogan:


"Family ranchers across the U.S. have joined together under the banner of Mountain State Rosen (MSR), pledging to adhere to the highest animal care and quality meat standards. They produce some of the freshest, best lamb around. Exercise, low-stress, fine breeding and a healthy, nutrient-rich diet all contribute to an incomparably delicious eating experience. " 

The animals are not injected with hormones or antibiotics as well. In addition, I like to support the family concept. Most family ranchers in the US have dropped dramatically in the past years. Read more here.

I kept the meal simple by marinating the meat with some garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and we added rosemary before grilling. I whipped up a nice tzatziki sauce, and grilled up some veggies to have on the side. While the meat was on the grill, my friend Anne and I caught up over some iced tea bourbon cocktails. All together the meal came out great! The lamb was perfectly cooked. We monitored the temperature until it reached 130F which was medium rare cooked in a 300-350F gas grill. 

 Cucumbers, olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, salt and pepper

tzatziki sauce 
Ginger iced tea and Knob Creek bourbon 
Marinade with fresh rosemary from the garden

Wish there was a scratch and sniff option for this photo!

Cooked to perfection!

Grilled veggies

The tzatziki sauce really added a lot of flavor with the garlic. The rosemary seemed to go very nicely with the lamb. The lamb itself was tender and tasted delicious. Not a strong lamb flavor. It was really perfect. Now I am no longer intimated to cook lamb! Onward to lamb korma in the fall!

Be sure to check out the Mountain States Rosen  website for recipe ideas, and good luck if you enter to the LAMBorghini contest! 



Bon Appetit! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lunch with King's Hawaiian at Catalyst



I recently attended a special lunch featuring King's Hawaiian bread at Catalyst in Cambridge. Chef William Kovel cooked up some creative dishes enjoyed by all. With most of the population leaning more toward a low-carb diet, King's Hawaiian has been increasingly successful and growing despite this trend. What sets the company apart is not only a delicious product, delivering sweetness and quality, but for decades, the company has remained true to their core family values. Starting with a small bakery back in the 1950s, Robert Taira and family have expanded to five locations across the United States. Moving from Hilo, Hawaii in the 1970s, the company set up shop in Torrance, CA. You can enjoy some authentic Hawaiian cuisine in their restaurant which pays homage to the original bakery the family started back in the 50s. You can read the rave reviews by loyal customers and get a sample view of the dishes, specifically their Paradise cake, which consists of guava, lime and passion fruit. I know I will be stopping by the next I am in the area! For the luncheon, we sampled some dishes created by the talented chef William Kovel of Catalyst exemplifying the versatility of the bread. You can find recipes and more information about the company on the King's Hawaiian website. There you will learn how the company is dedicated to contributing to various charities such as Make a Wish Foundation, Go for Broke, and Meals on Wheels. Their products can be found in the deli section of most supermarkets.

Courtney Taira, granddaughter of Robert Taira, walked us through the history of King's Hawaiian and demonstrated how to make their legendary bread pudding with Chef Kovel. Courtney went to culinary school and clearly shares the same passion for the King's Hawaiian product. 
video
Chef Kovel served up a flavorful menu ranging from liver mousse on toast triangles, bread salad incorporated into a lamb tenderloin dish, a lobster roll, burger, and finally a sinfully delicious bread pudding. One recommendation was to make the bread pudding, and use the leftovers to make french toast. Time to increase my biking mileage after this 4th of July holiday! I know I will be trying this recipe! 


Catalyst 

Seared ahi tuna with King's Hawaiian Crostini

Lamb Tenderloin with King's Hawaiian bread salad

Catalyst Burger with King's Hawaiian sweet hamburger bun

Lobster roll with King's Hawaiian sweet hotdog bun


cooking demo
King's Hawaiian White Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding


'ohoiho!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Simple, Sumptuous Summer Salad





Summer has arrived in Boston! With sweltering, humid days upon us, light meals and simple yet innovative recipes are constantly needed to utilize the fresh fruits and vegetables of the season. The inspiration for this salad came to mind with some feta cheese and basil I had in my fridge. Refreshing, sweet, savory and light, you really can't go wrong if you stick with the melon/berry combo in this salad. The feta is really a key ingredient. Kiwi, grapes, or blackberries may also work well. I wouldn't overdo it with ingredients, and stay away from mushy fruits like banana. No need to add in any oil, lemon juice, sugar, or balsamic. The flavors all blend together beautifully. My favorite part about eating this salad was the creamy, fruity last bits at the bottom of the bowl. Not to be missed! Nice for a brunch, lunch, side for a dinner or maybe even dessert. Bring this along to a BBQ and you will quickly become the cool cucumber of the party! 


Ingredients

1 pint strawberries, sliced

2 cups or 1/2 medium watermelon cut into chunks

1/4 cup crumbled feta (I used Euphrates)

~10 large basil leaves tightly rolled and chopped

1 pint blueberries


Add strawberries, blueberries and watermelon to a large bowl. Next add in the crumbled feta, followed by basil. Note: Adjust ingredient to your liking. If you love feta, add more! Mix thoroughly, chill and serve, or eat immediately. It is nice to let the flavors mingle a bit if you have time to allow the salad to chill before serving.



Enjoy!





Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Rosemary Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Shortbread Cookies


Every year I make cookies for the holiday. This year, I did not have time to make more than one type, but I think this is my cookie of the year! Not your typical shortbread. The idea was inspired by a decadent chocolate rosemary ice cream flavor I had at The Bent Spoon in Princeton, New Jersey, where you will find unusual flavors of homemade ice cream, delicious cupcakes, and other baked goods. These cookies smell like Christmas while baking with rosemary, pistachio, and cranberries and a slight chocolate flavor. 


Ingredients

1/4C butter (½ stick) 
¼C confectioners sugar
1 C flour
dash salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa
chopped dried cranberries (~ 2 tablespoons)
Chopped Rosemary (~1 ½ tablespoons)
Chopped roasted/unsalted pistachio meats (~1/8C)

Soften butter, blend in sugar, followed by flour, salt, baking powder, and cocoa. Mix in cranberries, nuts and rosemary. It easier to mix by hand at this stage to ensure that all ingredients are well blended.

Roll into log about 5/8 inch in diameter. I flattened the sides to create a square or a rectangle shaped cookie. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, or for at least two hours. Cut into ¼ inch cookies. Bake for about 9-11 minutes until edges look slightly brown. 










Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 

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