Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Post pizza satisfaction.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people categorize pizza alongside sex.

"Even the bad kind is good," I hear them say.

As untrue as this may be, pizza has had an iron-clad grip on my heart for going on 3 decades. Raise your hand if you feel the same.

That's a good show of hands.

Pizza, flatbreads, pies, no matter their form these guys are the easy dinner kings- giving freedom to kitchens everywhere when the weekend is finally here and let's face it: we don't want to cook for real, but we sure as hell can't bring ourselves to deal with take-out.

There's never a bad time to pick up a few new pizza ideas. This Friday the family put together three summer favorites to pair with loads of red wine and a fire out back built in the half-an-oil-drum we buried as a fire pit. It looks a lot prettier than it sounds. I swear.

Yankee ingenuity is a powerful thing, folks. That is also where our evolution of pizza comes from.

I choose wines solely on their labels. A vineyard's smart marketing is truly their gain when it comes to this drinker. 
It helps that I love chickens. ::cluck cluck::

Stoic with Red.

I took the easy route and bought pre-made pizza dough ... the kind you have to knead yourself, not the pre-baked. I've been so busy lately that it's been a while since I made my own dough.

Don't judge me.

Anyways ... the first Friday night pizza I put together was: Eggplant.

We have these fancy Japanese eggplants in the garden this year, all long and thin and funny.

They're coming along faster than their shorter, fatter counterparts. I sauteed them with garlic, olive oil, white wine, some cherry tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. once everything was soft and "saucy", I layered the mixture over tomato sauce and then topped it with shredded mozzarella. It was pretty awesome on a whole wheat crust.

There she is, pre-baking time. Very excited about how it came out. The leftovers were even better! After a day in the fridge, this pie was super flavorful!

Next up was the summer squash white pizza. The base was olive oil and garlic, just smeared all over the top. Then I layered thinly sliced summer and zucchini squash, topped it with thyme, goat cheese, salt and pepper. This one was the overall favorite of the night. Who knew?

And there's dinner. The chip in the plate gives the shot character. We only use the good plates for company.

Melissa threw together a caramelized onion and chicken sausage pizza with mozzarella on a multigrain crust. In the long run, huge pizza success. The moral of the story? Get creative. Pizza is just bread with a bunch of stuff on it. That stuff can be anything. Go the garden, see what's ready to eat, and wing it.

Remember ... even the bad ones are good. Right?

Happy eating! xo

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dinner is served.

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on value.

I'm not talking about money, necessarily. I'm talking about real "value." What is a sunset worth? The sea? Losing an admiral amount of weight? Seeing your favorite band from the front row of a huge auditorium?

How about an easy meal with your closest friends and family?

I have some fantastic clients in this line of work- from as far North as Lebanon to as far South as Hollis. One of my favorite tasks for these splendid folks is giving them the freedom to play host.

For some of us there is nothing more stressful than trying to entertain a room full of people AND trying to make them all dinner at the same time.

Then think of the dishes.

That's an herb and garlic crusted 6LB beef tenderloin to feed 12 people. Do you want to man-handle that kind of meet with a kitchen full of people?

I didn't think so.

I just wanted to drive home the value of having a dinner party surrounded by friends and family. One where you can drink as much wine as you want because if you get drunk, the food won't suffer.

I don't drink while I work. The food is great. Trust me. I cook with a smile and it shows.

So the next time a momentous occasion is on the horizon and all you want to do is celebrate- call me. I can make sure that you actually do just that: celebrate. Forget sweating in that dress/suit you paid a lot for because the apron and the oven don't care how long it took you to get dressed.

Forever Feasting to the rescue. Your holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and foodie-friend meals will never be the same.

And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Here's gluten at you, kid.

We should talk about the should haves ... not about the can't haves. As a nutritionist told my husband and I recently, "We're looking for progress, not perfection."

I thought that was brilliant. It gave me chills.

Then I had ice cream cake.

The truth of the matter is, food is powerful stuff. We take for granted all that it can do for and against us. I find myself shaking a fist at the ice cream that has crept its way into our freezer (I didn't buy it, I swear). I can't help but salivate for loaves of bread with gobs of spread (butter, jam, makes no difference). It takes will power to avoid those things we know are not so good for us. Our brain wants them so badly, but our body's cells cry out in anguish ... I have a feeling that's where eater's remorse comes from. I experience that pretty frequently.

I find this to be a really lovely shot of mussels at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier.
Plus, mussels are gluten free. I'm addicted to them.

And then there are the folks who have been told, either by a doctor, nurse or surgeon, "You have a ___ allergy." Insert whichever one suits your situation.

Then, imagine that after you've been given this diagnosis you realize that everything you've eaten in the past week contained that allergen. It is so embedded into your life that you have no idea how to get rid of all of it at once. What would you eat?!

We don't all go through it, but a lot of us do. I'm here to tell you that there is no end to the pleasure of good food. A lot of our problems arise from processed foods. Put a whole-foods spin on things and you'll feel like a new (wo)man. Do a lot of label reading. If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. Scratch that: if a five-year-old can't pronounce it, don't eat it.

I have lots of clients who have to avoid gluten in particular. I have my own theories on the exploding population of people with gluten sensitivities and ciliac disease ... theories that involve GMO wheat and maniacal corporations viewing our heads like giant wallets ... but I digress.

Living gluten free, dairy free, garlic free (yes, I know people with garlic sensitivities) might not be easy at first, but it is possible. If you feel like you're in over your head, perhaps it's time to call a nutritionist and a personal chef? Talk about a weight off your shoulders (and your middle ... hehe!). Our job is to make sure you stay healthy, but also that you can still find joy in your meals every day.

If you aren't excited about every single meal or snack that comes into your life, you need to make some adjustments.

Maybe the following lines of text could help you find new meals you may not have thought of before?

How about some recipes and pretty pretty pictures?

This here is from a girls weekend with my foodie friends from college. Chicken on the grill with that simple Lemon Anything vinaigrette I wrote about a few posts back. We threw some asparagus on the grill, too. And then the grill lit on fire- like, engulfed in flames. We had to turn the propane off and back away slowly. Thank goodness the chicken was cooked all the way through.

Gluten and dairy free turkey burgers! I used brass fennel, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and an egg. Usually I would recommend adding some bread crumbs to the mixture to add girth, but it really isn't all that necessary. These were dynamite. Turn them into meat balls and douse them with marinara and you have the makings of a great Italian meal. We put these together during a romantic week away. 

Fennel Turkey Burgers:

1 LB ground turkey (93-7 works really well)
2 Tbs fresh chopped fennel fronds
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium egg
S & P ... about a tsp each

Form into four equal sized patties and allow to chill for a few minutes. Grill on high heat until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees or more.

The next night we did Puttanesca Haddock with Green Beans:

1 1/2 LB haddock fillet
2 cans (14 oz) of diced tomatoes in juice
2 minced cloves of garlic
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 or two anchovies, depending on how you like it
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 Tbs capers
2 Tbs fresh chopped basil
1 LB washed and snapped green beans
S & P to taste

Start fish in a 400 degree oven, dressed with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook until opaque in the center. Meanwhile, start one Tbs of oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy and allow to cook until anchovy is liquefied into the mixture. Add tomatoes and allow to heat through. Next add olives and capers. Allow sauce to simmer until slightly reduced and saucy. Toss all that basil in just before serving. Blanch green beans in hot, salted water until bright green, then rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Toss with remaining oil, salt and pepper.

Arrange on plates with beans first, then sauce, then serving of fish, then more sauce. This meal should feed four people, but it fed Mark and I just fine with some left over to give to a friend who lived nearby.

 The following night was baked sweet potatoes with maple sugar and butter, grilled corn, and sirloin steak with a my newly invented and brilliantly dubbed: Up-North Guiness Sauce. BAMF!

Up-North Guiness Sauce
This is powerful stuff flavor wise. It can be devious on its own, but slather it on some Porterhouse and you have heaven on a plate.

1/2 bottle traditional Guiness (a bit more if you enjoy more of a beer taste) 
3 Tbs maple syrup
3 Tbs unsalted butter
S & P to taste

Throw all of that into a pan and allow to simmer on low heat until reduced significantly. Spoon over anything that once had a face.

I put this together and used the ratios strictly by accident and I was beyond thrilled with the results. It will be a repeat offender in my kitchen from here on out.

These are Chocolate Cherry Heirloom Tomatoes. They're producing fruit the fastest in our garden. Very excited to watch them change color!

I've been told I need to stop eating so much cheese. But with a place like Butter's Fine Food and Wine just a stone's throw away, that might not be possible. I'll give up ice cream instead. Maybe.

Now *that* is a healthy looking grill. It all came together for Melissa's next birthday dinner (one that fell on her actual birthday- well done, sister).

So, I had found this recipe on an epicurious app and made it for some clients. I liked it so much it was what I decided to bring to the party. Too bad I wasn't bright enough to take a picture of it with the sauce. Just imagine it's beauty for me.

Grilled Shrimp with Tzatziki Sauce and Greens

1 LB large/jumbo shrimp
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup Greek style yogurt (I used Cabot)
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs chopped dill
2 Tbs minced shallot
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
5 oz mixed greens, or lettuce right out of the garden (my preferred option)
1 Tbs olive oil
S & P (lots of it)

Skewer your shrimp, dress them with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill them for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side- you know ... until they're done.

In a bowl mix the next five ingredients together and season generously with salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to chill for a bit.

Lay your shrimps on a bed of lettuce and sprinkle them with the feta. Serve with LOTS of the sauce. Be sure to make extra sauce because you'll want the leftovers to put on everything. That stuff could make a gym sock taste amazing.

I've been long winded enough for this post. I'm glad you lasted through the whole thing! Thanks for reading!

And remember, no matter what adversity your gut may face there is always a way to appease the gastric gods. Don't hesitate to ask for advice, find an awesome food blog to follow (*ahem!*), and try new things!

Now ... I have a bone to pick with the remaining ice cream in the freezer. I'm going to give it a piece of my mind.