Iceberg Wedge Salad

_MG_5671 _MG_5675Most of the time, my preferred salads are either of the crunchy Asian variety, or some type of arugula-blue cheese-pear mash-up. But every now and then, all I really want is crisp iceberg lettuce, creamy blue cheese dressing, crispy bacon, and of course, avocado – yes, it might be old-fashioned, but sometimes you just can't beat a good iceberg wedge salad. I made these to go along with the wings while we were watching the Super Bowl, and I must say, it was pretty perfect. If you're anywhere on the East Coast, you're probably snowed in, or at least had a pretty bad commute this morning – and I think that this salad is the perfect antidote, hearty but crunchy, doused in a rich dressing and filled with salty delicious bits -- just how it should be for a snow day. _MG_5674

_MG_5686Iceberg Wedge Salad (adapted from Bon Appétit, serves 4)

4 oz. slab bacon (we used turkey bacon instead)

1/2 finely chopped shallot

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup crumbled mild blue cheese

1 small head of iceberg lettuce

1/4 thinly sliced small red onion

1 avocado, thinly sliced

Place a skillet over medium heat. Cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces, and add to pan, cooking until crisp, 7-8 minutes. Place on a paper towel. Whisk shallot, sour cream, buttermilk, chives and vinegar in a small bowl, then slowly stir in blue cheese. Season well with salt and pepper.

Quarter the iceberg lettuce into wedges and place onto four plates. Drizzle with dressing, then sprinkle red onion, bacon, avocado and additional chives. Serve immediately.

The Ultimate BLT

_MG_4067Hi everyone. Terribly sorry for the month-long absence -- I must admit that I don't really have a good excuse, except that between work and going home to Minnesota for the holidays, December simply got away from me. Combine that with very short daylight hours, and it makes it a little difficult to take photos. In any case, I'm back just in time to give you the perfect thing to make for your (hungover) New Year's Day breakfast (or dinner). Minimal prep time + the magic combinations of egg, bacon, tomato, and arugula = happiness. This does also make a lovely meal when you are not hungover, just so you know._MG_4062 In other holiday news, Minnesota was very cold and snowy, but quite lovely for Christmas. My family had our usual meals of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lefse. I know, super Scandanavian. Did you have a good Christmas? Are there any foods that you always eat at Christmas or New Year's? I would love to know! And happy New Year to you all!_MG_4081

The Ultimate BLT (inspired by a recipe in Food & Wine's newest cookbook, America's Greatest New Cooks) (Serves 1)

3 strips bacon

1/4 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons assorted herbs, such as basil, chives, or thyme, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 eggs

1 teaspoon butter

2 large slices good bread, such as  a country loaf or a baguette

1 tomato, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices

1/2 cup arugula

Preheat oven to 350. Place bacon on a baking sheet and cook in oven until crispy, 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and place on several paper towels on a plate to drain.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, herbs, and garlic clove (there will be extra). Toast bread, and spread herb mayo on one side. Add bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it starts to foam, crack eggs into pan. Season with salt and pepper, and let cook until just beginning to set but middle is still runny, 1-2 minutes. Carefully flip eggs over to cook other side and cook for 30 seconds, until whites are just set but yolks are still runny (if you prefer your eggs cooked more, leave in pan for another couple of minutes).  Place one egg on each half of sandwich, top with other slice of bread, and serve immediately._MG_4071

Pete Zaaz

Imagine this: pizza smothered in crème fraîche, thinly sliced potatoes, green onions and, of course, bacon.  Sounds like a dream, I know. But it's real! I promise. And you can find this, and several other types of non-traditional pizzas at Pete Zaaz in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. I am of course always excited about new and good food within walking distance of my apartment, and Pete Zaaz certainly does not disappoint. I have now been there a few times and the baked potato pizza is a clear winner so far, but pretty much everything I have tried has been great. Many of their pies have rather outlandish combinations (like the current "Pretzel Parm" with garlic béchamel, smoked gouda, and fried chicken) but they absolutely work. On our last visit, we also tried the Reuben Stromboli, a smart take on the Reuben sandwich with corned beef, spicy mustard, and sauerkraut stuffed inside a stromboli.

Though they don't have a wood-fired oven, each pizza is made to order and still ends up nicely charred in their convection oven. The other great part about Pete Zaaz is their garden in the back -- since the interior is rather narrow and has limited seating, the back provides a lovely and more open setting to enjoy your pizza. And it's BYOB -- so really, what more do you need? Word is that they are going to start having movie nights during the summer as well, which would really just put it over the top. And I'll let you in on a little secret: instead of grated parmesan or red pepper flakes to add to your pizza, Pete Zaaz has instead created its own spice blend, consisting of a few herbs, spices, and -- crushed Cheeze-its. Genius.

 

On a side note -- I am FLOORED by all of the wonderful comments on my previous post on my grandmother's rhubarb pie recipe. THANK YOU all for your incredibly kind words -- I love sharing recipes with all of you, and it has been so lovely to "meet" new people and discover new blogs.

Saffron & Butternut Squash Risotto

On my old blog, I had a pretty basic recipe for butternut squash risotto, which is still my go-to for a cold winter's night. However, this recipe takes this simple dish over the top with the addition of pancetta (or bacon) and saffron. The smoky bacon and rich and subtle saffron add not only beautiful color, but also a depth of flavor that brings this relatively ordinary meal a very special quality. Saffron & Butternut Squash Risotto (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Family Style)

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

5 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

2 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced

1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes, until the rice has absorbed it. Add 1/2 cup of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve.

Tilia

Though I usually write about restaurants in New York, as that is where I live most of the time, this past weekend I was lucky enough to be home in not-so-snowy Minnesota. The trip was filled with family, food, lovely Christmas traditions, and more food (including, for better or worse, lutefisk). However, aside from the lye-soaked cod, one of the nicest parts of the trip was a lunch yesterday at Tilia with my family.

I had heard rave reviews of this restaurant from Twin City-darling Steven Brown from several sources, and couldn't wait to go as soon as I arrived home. Situated in the lovely Linden Hills neighborhood of Minnapolis, "tilia" is actually Latin for the Linden tree. Though Brown has worked at many of the Twin Cities' best restaurants, this is his first solo venture, and I couldn't wait to see if it lived up to the hype.

Fittingly, as soon as we walked in the door of the restaurant at 1:15, the host told us it would be at least an hour wait for five people. My face fell -- as I needed to leave for the airport in two hours, that would have been impossible. However, with a little flexibility (fitting five people into a booth), we were able to be seated immediately. Our server was engaging and funny, and had many recommendations. We ended up sharing several dishes, including pork belly with lentils and apple chutney (stellar), french fries (salty and marvelous), and the fish taco torta (crunchy and creamy and spicy all at once). However, I would have to say that the two stand-out dishes were on the sweeter side. The first was called, whimsically, "Millionaire's Bacon". This consisted of crispy-succulent bacon drenched in -- wait for it -- salted caramel sauce. More a dessert than a side dish, this was rather remarkable. Though I couldn't eat ore than a few bites, the saltiness of the bacon offset the sweet vanilla of the caramel perfectly.

My other favorite dish was the butterscotch pudding topped with crème fraîche. Wonderfully creamy, with subtle vanilla undertones and lovely butterscotch flavor, the crème fraîche added a nice tart note to the sugary pudding. This was accompanied by a perfectly made macchiato.

Overall, Tilia surpassed all of my expectations. The service was a little slow at times, but understandable given how busy their lunch service is. It feels like a real neighborhood restaurant, an excellent place to meet a friend for a glass of wine (or a beer from their excellent list). Make sure to share everything.