Tag Archives: Megan

No-Cook Summer Recipes

Prosciutto and Melon Salad, Heirloom Tomato and Peach Salad, Negronis

Summertime is a time for being outside and hanging out with friends and family.  It is not a time for slaving over a hot stove.  Who needs it to be any hotter than it already is?  Luckily, summer is also a time when gardens and farmers’ markets are exploding with great produce that requires little else than a bit of chopping and a dash of salt for eating.

Brandon and I love August, because it means heirloom tomatoes and sweet stone fruits, and last summer, I shared one of our very favorite recipes using just those two ingredients.  This summer, we’ve happened upon another foolproof dish using one of this season’s best ingredients, and to be honest, not one I’ve ever been fond of:  melon.  I’ve always found melon to be cloyingly sweet and unpleasant to eat, but when it’s drizzled in mint-infused balsamic vinegar and wrapped in prosciutto, its deliciousness cannot be denied.

Another score for no-cook summer salads:  they’re easy to pack for picnics and brown bag lunches.  Like Rosemary mentioned in her recipe for wild rice salad, packed lunches can get monotonous, so why not spice them up with an unexpected salad?

Lastly, these recipes are great for brunching and entertaining.  Guests will be surprised that you can pair peaches with tomatoes and ham with melon.  And to really kick it up a notch, serve your salads with an easy, but refreshing summer cocktail, like a Negroni—our unofficial cocktail of summer 2012.  It’s bright red color and citrusy flavor is a great way to get a party started. Continue reading

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Lemon Curd Marbled Cheesecake

Cheesecake has always been one of my favorite desserts.  Growing up, instead of brightly-colored frosted birthday cakes, I asked my mom for cheesecake.  I typically requested a chocolate marbled one I found beautifully depicted in a tiny Hershey magazine.  Each March, we would eat grilled chicken, artichokes, and cheesecake.  Yes, I was a strange child.

When I got married, I wanted to continue the traditional, so for Brandon’s and my birthdays—they are three days apart—I tried my own hand at the marbled chocolate cheesecake, and while it was delicious, it cracked.  I tried again using a new recipe a few years later, and, again, it cracked.

A cracked cheesecake is still a tasty cheesecake, but for a perfectionist like me, that dang crack drove me crazy.  I tried baking the cake at a lower temperature.  Crack.  I tried leaving the cake in the oven with the door ajar to cool.  Crack.  Every stinking time.

Recently, I had the hankering for cheesecake, but this time, I chose to substitute my dear chocolate with a tangy lemon curd.  The tart lemon somehow made the rich, ultra-creamy cheesecake refreshing, and now, I have a new favorite cheesecake.

And in the end, this cheesecake was beautiful.  White with vibrant streaks of yellow and . . . a deep crack in the middle . . . oh well.  I’ve learned, if this happens, just cover any “flaws” with blueberries.  They become even tastier. Continue reading


Carnitas

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It has been a whirlwind, but I made it.  I just turned in my master’s thesis.  I have a job for next year.  Now, I can just enjoy the rest of this school year and relax.  And cook.

A couple years ago, my husband and I took a road trip through the U.S., and some of our favorite moments were spent in the Southwest.  Not only is the Southwest full of some sort of surreal beauty, it is also home to one of my favorite cuisines:  Tex-Mex.  Brandon was sure I would tire of it after a few meals, but after three weeks of tacos, burritos, rellanos, and enchiladas, I just wanted more.

Today’s post is for one of my all-time favorite things:  carnitas a.k.a. “little meats.”  Carnitas are fried pieces of pork, and they’re delicious.  They’re a yummy topper for nachos.  They’re terrific in a burrito.  But best of all, they’re divine in a tiny taco with little else.

Brandon often makes fun of me for “tooting my own horn,” but I just can’t help it with this recipe.  These carnitas are just the best I’ve ever tasted.  They’re sticky, sweet, salty, and rich all at the same time.  They also only require five ingredients (one being water and another being salt).

This recipe is courtesy of one of my favorite blogs, Homesick Texan.  If you haven’t checked it out, don’t hesitate.  If you love Tex-Mex as much as I do, you’ll just want to work your way through each and every recipe.

These carnitas are best left fairly bare.  I topped mine with some pickled onions and jalapenos.  Plus a dash of cilantro.  I wouldn’t serve them any other way.  The “little meats” are so rich, no cheese or sour cream is necessary—something I thought I’d never say. Continue reading


It’s been awhile . . .

So, I’m really sorry.  Really sorry.  My last post contained Christmas cookies . . . that’s how sorry I am.

I have been busier than I have ever been ever.  I am juggling full-time graduate school, full-time teaching, and what seems to be a full-time job search.  That’s a lot of full-time.  I am also writing my Master’s thesis, so when there are two minutes for me to relax, the last thing I really want to do is more writing.  So sorry.

I had grand aspirations of my first post of 2012 being what I learned in 2011.  Can I still do that?  Am I allowed to discuss what I learned in 2011 when a quarter of 2012 has already passed by?  Well, I’ll keep it to a few points:

  1. I learned that deep-frying doesn’t need to be so scary, but . . . I also learned that it can be a bit tricky.  My first attempt at it occurred over Brandon’s birthday when I deep-fried some of Tom Keller’s delightfully insanely sweet and airy cinnamon-sugar doughnuts.  Later in the year, I tested out his fried chicken recipe and forgot to blog about it . . . sorry, again.  Also, insanely good.  Both recipes were not too hard, but the whole “temperature thing” gets me irritated every time.  Is it just me, or are deep frying thermometers the biggest pain?  I have the hardest time keeping my oil at just the right temperature!
  2. I learned that “healthy” food is not always healthy.  Just because something says “All-Natural” or “Light” it doesn’t always mean that it’s the best option.  Actually, it’s often the contrary.  If something has to say “All Natural,” isn’t that a little strange?  Apples, milk, eggs, and even butter don’t boast “All Natural;” they just are.  “Light” options often have chemicals that make them “lighter.”  Look at the ingredients.  If you see something you don’t recognize, put it down.  Step away from the margarine.  Walk by the whole wheat bread with high-fructose corn syrup.  If a food product contains ingredients you wouldn’t cook with, don’t buy it.  Just don’t.  Your body will thank you.
  3. Iced coffee.  I know this one isn’t very profound, but I discovered cold-brewed iced coffee, and it has changed my summer months.  Every morning, I am giddy to get my hands on my delicious glass of rich, not-bitter icy goodness.  What a difference from my naive days of plunking a few ice cubes into a hot cup of joe.  No longer!

Well, I can’t just babble on forever, and I’m sure you wouldn’t mind a recipe.  To be honest, it is funny I’m choosing today to finally get back to blogging, because today, I started the Blueprint Cleanse . . . and I’m hungry.  Really hungry.  But, I’m leaving Friday for a few days in the sun, so I need a little break from my recent diet of Thai take-out, Italian take-out, Peruvian take-out, Japanese take-out . . . see a pattern here?

Today’s recipe is one we go back to all of the time.  It’s a classic:  Nicoise Salad.  The best part of a Nicoise salad?  No lettuce.  At least, not in mine.  I get tired of lettuce, so this is a terrific alternative:  red potatoes, haricots verts, cherry tomatoes, capers, olives . . . delish.  To top it off, I often just open up a can of good tuna in olive oil, but last weekend, we splurged and seared off some fresh tuna.  If you’re an egg-lover, like my husband, you can also throw in a few of those as well! Continue reading


Christmas Cookies

If you’re like me, you’re having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit.  We put up our Christmas tree over Thanksgiving weekend, and I’ve been listening to carols for weeks.  I’ve been to holiday parties and have enjoyed the Christmas hymns at church.  However, despite the music and shopping and cards, it just doesn’t seem like late December.  Oh wait, maybe it’s this ridiculous weather.  Right now, New York City is gross.  It’s rainy, warm, and muggy.  How can a girl dreaming of a white Christmas get into the holiday spirit with this disgusting weather?  Well, here’s how . . .

Last Friday was my last week of teaching for the year 2011, so this past weekend, I devoted my time to Christmas cookies.  I cleaned my kitchen, I bought my supplies, I blared my holiday tunes, and I baked . . . and baked and baked and baked.  In the end, I made hundreds of cookies . . .

And then, I boxed them all up—carefully, dividing the box into sections and placing the cookies into paper cupcake cups to make everything look fancy—and I sent them all to work with Brandon.  I do this every year.  Brandon receives a little popularity, I get to bake, and I get the calorie-filled, butter-and-sugar-stuffed treats out of my house.

Well, most of them.  I kept a dozen or so, and I’m officially addicted to the mint fudge I made for the first time this year.

Every year, for the most part, I make the same cookies.  I have three recipes that are top-notch—the best:  chocolate ganache thumbprints, cranberry-pistachio cornmeal biscotti, and giant ginger cookies.  The chocolate thumbprints—Brandon’s most favorite—are rich with a slight saltiness that makes them sinfully decadent.  The biscotti are crispy, light, and because they are filled with red cranberries and green pistachios, ultra Christmas-y.  Last, but certainly not least, are my chewy ginger cookies.  They might be the most popular:  soft, spicy, and enormous.

In addition to the favorites, I usually make a candy of some sort.  In years past, I’ve made peppermint bark, but this year, I opted for some peppermint fudge.  Whoa, I had no idea how great this fudge would turn out.  No candy thermometer required.  It’s smooth, rich, and refreshingly minty.

And on top of that, I made sugar cut-outs.  I was dying to do a little decorative frosting, so I made these the day before I made the rest.  The dough was super easy, and the cookies turned out delicious.  To color the dough and frosting, I used food coloring gel—sometimes called paste.  This creates bright, saturated color—no pastel pinks and greens here—and doesn’t change the consistency of the dough or icing.  Mine is from Martha Stewart, but I know Wilton makes it, too.  Cake stores and other “fine kitchen stores” sell it.  It’s definitely worth seeking out, and, because you don’t need to use much, it lasts a long time.

Well, needless to say, all of this cookie baking (and giving) put me right into the Christmas spirit.  I promise, any of the following recipes will get you and your family ready for the holidays, too.  Enjoy, and happy holidays! Continue reading


Beef, Cheddar, and Stout Pie

Last weekend, Rosemary and I must have been on the same wavelength. She made boeuf bourguignon, and I made another stewed beef recipe.  The difference?  I used beer and cheese, and I tucked it into a puff pastry shell. Both recipes are hearty and terrific for a cold night in.  It is the time of year for comfort food.

This dinner was actually requested by my husband, Brandon:  “Why don’t we have some sort of meat pie tonight?”  That was all he needed to say.  I had seen a Jamie At Home episode where the ever-adorable Jamie Oliver made this fantastic looking English beef pie with stout.  And if that—covered in puff pastry and described in his all-too-cute British accent—didn’t sound good enough, he also threw in some sharp English cheddar!  I mean, give me a break.  How could this not be good?

Well, it is good.  Actually, it’s beyond good.  I had no idea that a beef pie could taste as complex and rich as this.  The beef—we used brisket—cooks down with stout and some veggies for two and a half hours.  It goes from a mostly-liquid mess to a dark, thick almost-gravy.  Then, you stir in some cheddar to thicken it further and pour it into a prepared puff pastry pie shell.  After topping it with a puff pastry lid, you bake it for another 45 minutes, until the pie is puffed, golden, and beautiful.  Num.

The craziest part?  When you slice into this pie, it stands right up—no pooling between slices.  The filling is sturdy and oh-so-rich.  I was really hungry before sitting down to dinner, but could only eat one slice. Brandon, however, ate half the pie in one sitting (and, soon after, laid down and fell asleep)—so abilities to withstand richness can differ.  This is why I list the yield at six to eight servings.  If you love rich food, and so do your friends and family, you may only get six (or, perhaps, four) slices out of this delightful pie.  However, if you are like me, you might be able to divvy it up into eight servings.  And, if you’re like Brandon, you might as well just cut the pie in two . . . and make sure you have a pillow close by.

Don’t be afraid of the lengthy cook time.  In all actuality, the cook time is your friend.  This dish takes all but 15 minutes to prepare, and then, you just let it cook.  Cook.  Stir.  Cook.  Stir.  Place filling in pie.  Cook.  Eat.  This pie uses a delicious all-butter, prepared puff pastry crust, so no cutting butter into flour is required.  Just throw it all in a pot, sit down with a glass of wine (or stout), wait, and enjoy! Continue reading


It’s oyster time!

People either love or hate raw oysters; there really seems to be no in-between.  I happen to fall into the former crowd.  Oysters, for me, are a real treat.  They are mouthful of fresh, briny ocean.

If you, too, like spending an evening with a glass of wine and a dozen oysters, now is the time for you.  Once, someone told me that oyster season is easy to remember, because it falls during the months ending with r.  Well, November ends in r, and so does December.  There is only a month and a half of r-ending months left this year, so now is the time to act.  Right now, the oysters are fresh, salty, sweet, and delicious.  I am trying to work in a weekly dozen for the remainder of the year.

The master shucker

The pictures in this post are, of course, not taken in November.  They were taken on a trip to Prince Edward Island that Brandon and I took two summers ago.  There, we would buy a five-pound bag of oysters from a fishery, sit at a picnic table, and shuck them ourselves (meaning Brandon shucked them all).  It really was heaven on Earth.

If you’re not willing to shuck your own, look for a reputable fish

Attempting to shuck

restaurant and order away.  Some places even have mid-week oyster happy hours!  Try to order semi-local (West Coast v. East Coast) and try several kinds to find a favorite.  Ours are Olde Salts from Virginia and Beausoleils from New Brunswick.

Also, if eating oysters raw makes you a bit weary, they are also delicious cooked!  If you would like to incorporate them into your Thanksgiving celebration, there are many mouthwatering recipes for oyster stuffing out there.  If that doesn’t interest you, try frying them or making an oyster pot pie.

Lastly, if eating these bivalves still doesn’t satiate your hunger for oysters, enjoy this article from Serious Eats about oyster farming.


The Omnivore’s Dilemma

As a food lover, it might not be too surprising to find out that I read a lot of books about food.  While I have some favorites (i.e., Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, and Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, by Fuchsia Dunlop), none have caused me to reevaluate the way I look at food and food culture the way The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, has.  And to be honest, this book has done far more than change my view of food, it’s changed the way I eat.

In a time when all we hear about is “America’s obesity epidemic,” it is easy to become desensitized and apathetic.  And if you’re not feeling that way, you might be feeling confused by all of the food jargon out there:  all-natural, organic, free range . . . .  What does any of this mean?

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan takes you on three journeys—from the corn farm to the table, from the pasture to the table, and from the wild to the table—to find out what we are really eating.  He meets interesting farmers and foragers along the way who really care about what they do and who are involved in getting our food onto our tables.

In this fascinating and terribly informative book, Pollan not only clarifies all of the confusing food jargon, but he illuminates what we are really putting into our bodies and the bodies of the ones we love.  It is not a book containing weight-loss techniques, and it is not a book geared toward those with sophisticated palates.  It is a book full of information—information that all of us, as food consumers, need.

Like I said earlier, this book has changed the way I eat.  That doesn’t mean that I have stopped eating meat (or ever will) or that I quit using butter (or have even shied away from it); it just means that I am more selective about what I purchase and what I consume.  With this powerful information, I genuinely think that I will be a healthier person, and my family will be too.



Revamped Thanksgiving Staples

Recently, I’ve had a few people ask me, “Megan, do you have any good Thanksgiving recipes?”  Well, boy do I.  I have lots of terrific, tried, tested, and approved recipes for Thanksgiving, and I would love to share them with you.

Now, years back, when we used to live in DC, we would drive to Ohio for Thanksgiving and spend it with our families.  As guests, we usually didn’t do much cooking, but one year, I asked if I could try my hand at preparing the turkey.  My mother-in-law was kind enough to allow me to do so, and I was able to test Martha Stewart’s recipe for a brined turkey that I had been dying to try.  It was my first time fixing a turkey, and I was nervous—especially since generations of family members were doubting my techniques—but in the end, it was a total success.  The bird was moist and flavorful with a crispy skin.  What more could you ask for?

Once we moved to New York, however, Thanksgiving changed.  Instead of returning to Ohio to be with our families, we fix a feast here and invite friends over.  It has been a lot of fun, and it has allowed me to be as OCD about Thanksgiving dinner as I want to.  You see, I grew up not loving Thanksgiving.  I mean, I loved the family togetherness, but I’m not a mashed-potato-lover, and yams covered in marshmallows don’t get me excited.  In fact, the only food I really looked forward to on Turkey Day was the pie.

But once I got full control of the menu, I was able to revamp it and reinvent the “perfect Thanksgiving dinner.”  I stay true to the basics—turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, etc.—but prepare them in a more modern, if you will, fashion.

Below is a list of links to my favorite recipes.  These are recipes that will, no doubt, be on my Thanksgiving table this year.  I hope they make it on yours as well!

Brandon's lovely "tablescape"

Continue reading


Winter Greens

As the temperature begins to drop (or if you are in NYC, bounces between 65 and 85 degrees), the local produce begins to change.  In place of tomatoes and peppers, we are seeing squash and root vegetables.  Of all of the fall and winter vegetables, my favorite, hands down, are the greens.  From kale to swiss chard to collards, I’m in love.  There are simply no other veggies that I actually crave.

What makes winter greens so great is how simple they are to prepare and how few ingredients are needed to make a tasty side dish (mostly just pantry staples).  The recipe below is a rough one.  I switch things around all of the time.  For the oil, I will use rendered bacon fat (and will top the finished greens with the crisped bacon).  For the red wine vinegar, I’ll sometimes throw in some balsamic.  If I don’t have shallots on hand, I will finely chop a little onion.  This recipe is all about flexibility and ease.

If you haven’t tried these leafy greens before, take a chance.  There are so many out there.  In addition to the aforementioned ones, try escarole and mustard greens.  Each is packed with vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and beta-carotene.  In addition to this easy side dish, they can be tossed into pastas and soups.  They are versatile, and did I mention, they’re delicious? Continue reading


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