Travel: Bologna & Modena

IMG_2953My love affair with Italy started in high school, when my family traveled there for a week. We stayed in Siena and Vernazza in the Cinque Terre, and I was immediately hooked. After that trip, I vowed to learn Italian and go back for a longer stay--and I did. I studied abroad in Bologna during college, and grew to love the language and the culture even more. Ari studied abroad there as well (we actually met when we were both TA's for an intro Italian class when I came back), so it's a very special place for both of us--and we were really excited to go back together. When I lived there, we lived in pretty basic dorm-style apartments with other Italian students--not exactly the fresco-filled palazzos of your dreams. This time, we decided to stay in an Airbnb on the other side of town to explore a new neighborhood (it was fantastic! Paola was so gracious and lovely, and the place was very comfortable.) Bologna is a very walkable city--you can get from one end to the other in about an hour and a half, and there are electric buses that go all over as well. It's still very much a university town, and you can feel the energy of the students all over the city. It was pretty amazing to be back in the familiar streets, seeing the same restaurants and stores (and bars) that we had been to as students. Of course, now with jobs and a little more spending money, we could also eat out more--though I remember eating very well there on a minimal budget too. Here's where we ate:

Osteria della Lanterna

Just down the street from our Airbnb, this trattoria felt like the quintessential Italian neighborhood spot. We ordered two of the Bolognese specialties: tagliatelle al ragu and tortelloni al brodo, both delicious. I love that you could order ragu from 100 different restaurants in the city, and they would all be slightly different. They also had a great selection of inexpensive, local wines--we had a lovely sangiovese from Emilia-Romagna that went perfectly with the pasta.

Trattoria dal Biassanot 

This place was a recommendation from a former professor, and it didn't disappoint. I had gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and Ari had the tortelloni al brodo (are you seeing a pattern?) and we shared the pork loin. If you're looking for a perfect example of Bolognese cuisine, this is an excellent choice.

IMG_3039Hosteria Giusti

This tiny restaurant is in the neighboring town of Modena (about 20 minutes away by train) and is absolutely worth the trip. Housed in the back of a salumeria, it's only open for lunch and the curated menu is perfectly executed by the Morandi family. Be sure to order the salumi plate with fried gnocchi--the prosciutto, salami and lardo is the best I have ever had, and the light-as-air pillows of dough were incredible. You can also order half portions (as to be able to try more things, of course) which left us feeling pleasantly full but not over-stuffed. Note: you need to make a reservation about a month in advance, so plan ahead.

Don't miss: in addition to the incredible pasta, Bologna is also known for a few other specialties: piadine and aperitivo. I ate a piadina almost every day for lunch while studying abroad--it's a kind of flatbread sandwich, typically filled with prosciutto or coppa and cheese. Aperitivo happens every day before dinner--remember, Italians eat dinner around 9 pm or later, so their "happy hour" is anywhere from 6 pm to 10 pm. Around this time, you'll see restaurants and bars set out little plates of food, ranging from a bowl of potato chips to full plates of pasta. If you buy a drink (an Aperol or Campari spritz if you want to feel very Bolognese), then you can snack on the food as you like.

Kale Caesar Salad Remixed

  IMG_3687Kale salad has become pretty ubiquitous recently (I blame it on Bon Appétit calling it the best restaurant dish of the year a few years ago) but I still love it. My current favorite iteration is a take on the traditional Caesar, with plenty of crunchy greens, a lemony dressing with lots of umami flavor from the anchovies, and (the best part) a runny poached egg instead of mixing the eggs in the dressing.

IMG_3690Since kale can be a little tough to swallow (literally), I love cutting it in ribbons like a slaw to make it easier to grab with a fork and bite. You could also easily add a different protein like chicken or salmon for a heartier meal, but as-is, this makes a pretty lovely lunch.

IMG_3684Also, some news! Ari and I are leaving for Bologna, Italy (where we both studied abroad in college) and Nice, France this afternoon! It's the first time I'm going back to Italy since studying there, and I can't wait. We'll be back on the 26th, and I'll report back on restaurants, gelato, and all of the pizza–and I'm planning on writing a bit more about moving across the country and adjusting to a new city. IMG_3692

Kale Caesar Salad (adapted from Bon Appétit)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
8 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + 3 or 4 tablespoons, divided
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vinegar
4 eggs
1/2 baguette or other crusty bread, torn into bit-size pieces
14 ounces  kale, center stalks removed, thinly sliced crosswise (about 8 cups)

Combine lemon juice, anchovy fillets, garlic and dijon mustard in a blender; purée until smooth. With machine running, slowly add 3/4 cup oil, drop by drop, to make a creamy dressing. Transfer dressing to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. (Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.)

Heat remaining olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add bread and toss to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until bread is golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool.

Bring a small pan of water to boil, then add vinegar. Carefully crack 1 egg directly into pan, then quickly move egg so it stays together with a slotted spoon. Let cook (water may boil over) until egg is just set, 2-3 minutes, then remove egg with spoon. Repeat with remaining eggs.

Toss kale and dressing in a large bowl to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, croutons and poached eggs.

End-of-Summer Peach Galette

IMG_3613Summer is my favorite season. I love the sweltering days leading into still-warm nights, the smell of sunscreen, and of course, all of the incredible produce summer has to offer. And my favorite of all of those wonderful fruits and vegetables are peaches. In New York, peaches had a pretty short growing season (July and August) and I would eat one pretty much every single day. IMG_3605I'm still getting used to the idea that here in California, there aren't really seasons--at least, not in the way that I'm used to them. The idea that it could be around 60 degrees in January boggles my mind (what do people talk about when they can't walk about the weather??) But one thing I will definitely be able to get used to is the amazing produce all year-round--and I can't say that I'll miss only being able to buy apples and root vegetables for six months of the year.

IMG_3614I made this galette last week when Ari's family came over for dinner--I love galettes because you get all of the flavor of pie but without the hassle of making a double crust or worrying about shaping the dough exactly right (plus, I don't have a pie tin.) I'm loving our new kitchen too (and the fact that it's a separate room! And there's a DISHWASHER! If you've ever lived in New York, you know that's not something to be taken lightly.) We're still getting settled into our new little cottage, but it's really starting to feel like home.

Peach Galette (Adapted from Home Made Summer, a truly beautiful cookbook)

For Dough:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon sugar

9 tablespoons butter, very cold and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 (or more) tablespoons ice cold water

For Filling:

3-4 fresh peaches, pitted and sliced

Pinch of salt

4 tablespoons sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

 

For Crust: Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or a large mixing bowl. Add butter and finely pulse or mix by hand until the butter is about pea-size. Slowly mix in apple cider vinegar and drops of water until dough comes together but isn't too sticky. Form a disc and wrap in plastic, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Combine sliced peaches, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl and let sit for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from fridge, then roll out crust on a lightly floured surface until it's about 14 inches in diameter. Place on parchment paper on to pot a baking sheet, then pile fruit in the center and fold up the edges around the fruit. It's ok if it's not perfect! Bake for about 35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Let cool slightly, then serve with crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Sesame Noodles

IMG_3548Oh, hello there. It's been a while. And a lot has happened since my last post–I'm officially a California resident (not used to it yet), we moved into an apartment and bought a car (my first!) All very exciting, but one of the things I was most excited about when we found our place (which was a process, as anyone who's looked for housing in the Bay Area recently knows) was the fact that I could cook again. After staying with very generous family and friends for more than six weeks, you can bet that I was anxious to get back in the kitchen, and the first thing I made when we were moved in were these sesame noodles. IMG_3549

Sesame noodles were my go-to order from our local Chinese takeout in Brooklyn, and I haven't found a place in Oakland (yet) that makes the same kind–so when I found this recipe from the New York Times, it seemed to perfect to pass up.

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These noodles come together in minutes and satisfied my craving for takeout Chinese exactly–now I just have to learn how to make scallion pancakes and I'll be all set.

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Sesame Noodles (modified from The New York Times)

1 pound Chinese egg noodles (1/8-inch-thick), frozen or (preferably) fresh, available in Asian markets

2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash

3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar

tablespoons tahini

tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons chili-garlic paste, or to taste

Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks

¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes; they should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, tahini, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste.

Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts.

News!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset You might have noticed the radio silence around here (and distinct lack of recipe posts.) There are a couple of reasons for that: 1) no one wants to cook in New York in the summer and 2) we're moving! To Oakland!

We're finally out of our place in Brooklyn (which was covered in boxes for weeks) and I'm finishing things up at work in New York this week, then heading west this weekend. Unfortunately I don't anticipate being able to post much until we find a new place in the next month or so, but I'll try to add some new content when I can. In the meantime, hope you're all having a wonderful summer–you know I'm excited for all of the incredible produce and tacos (duh) all year round in California.

Travel: Bay Area Taco Roundup

One of the things that nearly every New Yorker laments (besides the obvious, like the tourists and the un-air conditioned cars in the subway) is the lack of good Mexican food in the city. Of course, that's a generalization, and there are plenty of great places like Dos Toros and Empellon al Pastor (also Rockaway Taco, RIP, is still the best fish taco I've ever had.) But for inexpensive, consistently good tacos, California always wins. Ari and I were in Sonoma and Oakland last week for vacation, and I had tacos a total of four separate times (I know, I think I have a problem.) Here's where we ate (plus a couple of favorites from other trips):

Sonoma

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El Molino Central The standout at this seasonal taqueria was actually the pork tamale–super moist with plenty of meat, and just as good reheated the next day for breakfast with an egg on top. An excellent place to stop for lunch if you're in wine country, plus they have a nice outdoor patio.

Taqueria Los Primos Cheap, delicious, super filling. We got two carnitas tacos, two chorizo tacos and an horchata bigger than my face for a grand total of $12–plus it came with free chips and homemade salsa.

Oakland

Cactus All I'm going to say is go quickly and get the crispy chicken tacos. You'll thank me.

San Francisco

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Sweet Woodruff Not your typical taqueria, this coffee shop nonetheless had delicious breakfast tacos filled with bacon, eggs, queso fresco and pico de gallo. The iced coffee was pretty spot-on as well.

Tacolicious This relative newcomer is already a mini-chain in San Francisco and Palo Alto, and does not disappoint. I had the chorizo and potato, short rib and carnitas tacos and all were equally delicious (plus the avocado salsa made everything better.)

Would love to hear about your favorite Mexican places in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Salmon with Anchovy Butter

IMG_3096I've never been a big fan of anchovies–I think it stems from a childhood aversion to all things "fishy." But like many other things I've grown to love (pickles, brussels sprouts, eggplant), I was intrigued by the salty, complex taste of anchovies after having an amazing Caesar salad at a recent dinner–so when I stumbled across this simple recipe using some of my other favorite ingredients I couldn't wait to try it. IMG_3099

 

IMG_3097I've since made it twice and it's officially a winner–simple with only a few ingredients and hardly any prep time–and any leftover butter is just as delicious soaked up by some crusty bread.

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Salmon with Anchovy Butter (from The New York Times)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened4 anchovy fillets, minced1 fat garlic clove, minced (or 2 small ones)

½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets

2 tablespoons drained capers, patted dry

½ lemon,

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mash together butter, anchovies, garlic, salt and pepper.In a large ovenproof skillet, melt about half the anchovy butter. Add fish, skin side down. Cook for 3 minutes over high heat to brown the skin, spooning some of the pan drippings over the top of the fish as it cooks. Add capers to bottom of pan and transfer to oven. Roast until fish is just cooked through, about 8 minutes.Remove pan from oven and add remaining anchovy butter to pan to melt. Place salmon on plates and spoon buttery pan sauce over the top. Squeeze the lemon half over the salmon and serve immediately.

 

Strawberry Cake

IMG_2453Thank goodness for long weekends. Mine was spent at my college reunion (how has it already been five years?) and picnicking in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Monday, with plenty of ice cream and sunburns and (warmish) beer–overall, a perfect kickoff to summer. How was your holiday?IMG_2446 IMG_2438Strawberries aren't quite in season just yet, but I couldn't resist a giant box of them on sale at the grocery store–you know when you bite into a strawberry that summer can't be too far away. I had been wanting to try out this cake recipe for the past few summers but never got around to it, so this (and an extra day off) seemed like the perfect excuse.IMG_2440

marble plate & knife: katy skelton c/o / napkin: h&m (old) / forks: vintage

Strawberry Cake (adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen)

6 tablespoons  unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon table salt 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 large egg 1/2 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon zest 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into prepared cake pan. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes.  Let cool in pan on a rack.

 

 

Cocktail: Margarita

IMG_2089In case there were any doubts that global warming is happening, it hit 90 degrees in New York this week. 90! After what felt like a week of beautiful spring weather, I guess it's already summer. Which is why you need this margarita in your life.IMG_2096 I made these a few weeks ago when it was still feeling rather wintery and after the first sip, said to Ari, "These should be drank on a beach." (And not in a small first-floor apartment.) While I still agree with that sentiment, margaritas taste equally good after a long day at work when you need something not too sweet that goes down easy–preferably accompanied by some guacamole.

Margarita (Makes 1, very slightly adapted from PUNCH)

1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila

3/4 ounce orange liqueur (preferably Cointreau, but I used triple sec)

3/4 ounce lime juice

Salt (to rim the glass)

Prepare a coupe, cocktail or rocks glass with a salted rim if desired (to do so: rub a lime wedge around edge of glass. Pour coarse salt onto a small plate, then twist glass rim in salt until evenly covered. Tap off excess.) Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into prepared coupe or cocktail glass, or over ice into prepared rocks glass.

Charred Eggplant Dip

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWith temperatures on the rise (finally!) in NYC, I'm looking forward to summery dinners–lots of salads and vegetables, fruit so juicy it doesn't need to be baked into a cake, dreaming of the day when I have a grill...you get the idea. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I made this eggplant dip the other day for my book club and it would make a perfect start to any spring or summer dinner party (whether or not you have a grill) and is an unexpected alternative to the same old hummus and carrot sticks.

Make sure to char the eggplant thoroughly, it gives it this amazing smoky flavor you don't get from just roasting.

IMG_3273platter c/o Katy Skelton / napkin from Birdkage

Charred Eggplant Dip (adapted from Food & Wine)

One 1 1/4-pound eggplant

2 large shallots, halved lengthwise

3 large garlic cloves

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

2 tablespoons minced mint

Preheat the oven to 375°. Roast the eggplant over an open flame until softened and charred, 12 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish. Add the shallots and garlic to the eggplant, drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper; roast for 35 minutes, until very tender. Let cool completely. Scrape the eggplant flesh into a colander to drain for 15 minutes; discard the skin.

Mince the eggplant, garlic and shallots; transfer to a bowl. Stir in the yogurt, lemon juice and herbs. Season the dip with salt and pepper and serve.