Spring is In The Air!!

I can’t say that Spring is my favorite season, but it is certainly the one that stirs the most excitement. I know that may not make a lot of sense but living in Northeast Ohio, there is nothing more hopeful than those first tastes of Spring. The sun on your face, a flower bud, the perfect green grass poking through after months of ice and snow. And all of the fresh flavors! We have spent the winter eating California & Florida produce and can finally enjoy some native wild foods as well as watch the farmer’s markets come to life with our local bounty.

The recipes below are just a handful of favorites. Ways to enjoy some of the very first items to ‘spring’ up first, this season. If you have any questions, please let me know, enjoy!!

Mint Pea Soup

Serving Size:
4
Time:
30
Difficulty:
Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion, Chopped
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 4-5 Cups Green Peas (I used both Fresh English Peas, simmered in the broth, & Defrosted Sweet Peas)
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Mint
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Basil
  • Zest & Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Salt, Pepper, Good Olive Oil, Creme Fraiche & Parmesan for Serving

Directions

  1. Begin by heating up a little olive oil & do a quick sauté on your onion & garlic. Season these with salt & pepper.
  2. Add this & other ingredients, up to the garnishes into your Vitamix, or high-powered blender. Blend for 5 minutes on high, until heated. Taste for seasoning. I tend to add a bit more salt, pepper & lemon at this step.
  3. serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a few dollops of creme fraiche, a few shaves of parmesan and a couple of cracks of pepper, yum!
Ramps (Wild Garlic)

Ramp Butter

Serving Size:
6
Time:
10
Difficulty:
Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 3 Ramp Bulbs, Chopped
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 1/4 Cup of Parsley, Chopped
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

  1. Mix together all ingredients. Place onto plastic wrap in the shape of a log. Roll plastic wrap around the butter and shape into a cylinder.
  2. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or freezer for 1/2 hour. Open and slice into medallions to serve over your food. Can be frozen (double wrap and bag it) for up to a year. Enjoy!

Sous Vide Steak & Asparagus Risotto

Serving Size:
4
Time:
3 Hours total, 1 Hour Active
Difficulty:
Moderate

Ingredients

  • 4 Steaks, 4 T Olive Oil, 4 Cloves of Garlic sliced, 4 Sprigs of Rosemary, Salt & Pepper
  • 2 Cups Arborio Rice
  • 6-8 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth (warming on the stove)
  • 1/2 lb Asparagus, Steamed, Cut into 1 inch Pieces
  • 2 Shallots, Chopped
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • Thyme, from 4 Sprigs
  • 1 Cup Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 T Butter
  • Zest & Juice from 1 Lemon
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Basil, Chopped
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

  1. Begin by setting your sous vide circulator to 130. Next season and vacuum seal your steaks into individual bags with all of your aromatics. Let come to temperature over the course of about 1.5 hours.
  2. For risotto: Heat up a few T of olive oil and sweat your shallots for a few minutes, then add garlic & thyme.
  3. Toss your rice in with an additional 2 T of olive oil. Stire to coat and let your grains toast for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Pour in wine and let reduce by half.
  5. Making sure that you are no higher than medium heat, begin adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time. Stirring continuously, when your broth no longer pools in the center of the pot, add the next scoopful.
  6. Continue to stir, add, stir & add for about 15 minutes. At this point, you can watch/taste for doneness of the rice.
  7. When you are getting close with the rice, it’s the perfect time to remove the steaks and get a quick sear on each side. Set them aside to rest.
  8. Add in the remaining risotto ingredients, tasting as you go, so as to not over season. Serve with steak & ramp butter on top, enjoy!

Pie Crust Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 Stick of Cold Unsalted Butter, Cubed
  • 4-5 T Ice Cold Water
  • Cinnamon Sugar Mixture

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, place the 1st 4 ingredients. Using the pulse feature, pulse the mixture until the butter resembles gravel or is the size of green peas.
  2. 1 T at a time, begin to drizzle the ice cold water through the tube while pulsing. Add only enough to bring it together, you do not want it to be sticky or dry.
  3. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 375. Roll out dough and cut into shapes. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for 6-8 minutes!

Strawberry Rhubarb Sorbet

Recipe from Sur La Table

Serving Size:
6
Time:
2 hours Total
Difficulty:
Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cups Water
  • 1 lb Rhubarb, Cut into 1 inch Pieces
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 lb Fresh Strawberries, Hulled & Sliced
  • 2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, sugar, rhubarb, vanilla & salt. Simmer until rhubarb softens and the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Strain over a fine mesh strainer and churn to sorbet in an ice cream maker. Enjoy!

Italian Dinner Party

Who doesn’t love a home cooked Italian meal? The epitome of warm & comforting. The aromas of a sauce that’s been simmering for hours, fresh basil & grated parmesan cheese have the power to draw anyone in.

I love hosting dinner parties, but I don’t want to be tied up in the kitchen once guests arrive. An Italian meal can be a perfect solution and this menu checks all the boxes:

  • House smells AMAZING
  • Gluten free entree
  • Versatile appetizers
  • Make ahead dessert

A great starter for an Italian themed dinner party is an antipasto platter (or individual platters). No big fuss, just a great assortment is all you need! ours donned some sliced fontina cheese, sharp white cheddar, marinated artichokes and banana peppers. Crackers, olives, cured meats & peppadews. Some fun additions, as in the photo below, are wrapping prosciutto around breadsticks and making your own marinated mozzarella. Having something out and ready to snack on takes a lot of pressure off of you, the host, & makes the timeline on serving the meal more casual.

Individual Antipasto Plates

Another important item to have ready to go when guests arrive is a delicious cocktail! For our Italian night in, we made Limoncello spritzers with homemade limoncello! Although limoncello normally takes 30 days (!) to infuse, our ‘Last Minute Limoncello’ is perfectly done in a whopping 2 hours with the help of one of my favorite kitchen tools, my sous vide wand. (Note that you can ABSOLUTELY purchase a bottle of limoncello at the liquor store as well:)).

Serving Size:
1 Liter
Time:
2 Hours
Difficulty:
Easy

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Vodka
  • 6 Lemons – Peeled
  • 1 1/4 Cups Sugar
  • 2 Cups Water

Directions

  1. Start by setting your sous vide to 135. Alcohol doesn’t cook off until 172, so 135 is a perfect temperature for a lovely infusion
  2. Peel each lemon, taking care to avoid as much of the pith as possible. (The pith is the white part of any citrus fruit & is very bitter.)
  3. Add the lemon peels & vodka to a mason jar & submerge into the sous vide. Let it sit in the water for 2 hours.
  4. While the jar is in the water, make your simple syrup. Place sugar into a large saucepan & add water. simmer on medium low until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside and let it cool.
  5. Once the vodka has been in for 2 hours, strain & mix it with the simple syrup. Allow to cool, and it is ready to use!
  6. For a great limoncello cocktail, pour 1.5 ounces over ice & top with 3 oz of prosecco & 3 oz of sparkling water, enjoy!

Once your guests have enjoyed some appetizers and have a cocktail in hand, you can slip away to put the finishing touches on dinner.

A sauce that can be made ahead and simmering on low until ready to serve. Delicious, creamy polenta that only takes a few minutes to finish off. I suggest, along with having the sauce simmering ahead of time, set your polenta liquid to boil.

Ragu Sauce Over Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Ingredients For Ragu

  • 2 T olive Oil
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 Lb Ground Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 2 Carrots, Small Dice
  • 4 Celery Ribs, Small Dice
  • 1 Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • 2 T Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 Cup Dry Red Wine
  • 1 Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Chicken Stock
  • Red Pepper Flakes & Sea Salt to Taste

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil & add both beef & sausage. Cook them until browned. Strain out fat and reserve meat.
  2. Add onions, carrots & celery and cook for 5-7 minutes, until softened.
  3. Continue to sauté with tomato paste for 2 minutes & add wine. Cook until the wine has reduced by half.
  4. Add crushed tomatoes & stock, season and let simmer.

For Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 1/4 Cup Polenta (or Cornmeal)
  • 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
  • 4 T Unsalted Butter
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • Chopped Parsley and Parmesan Block for Garnish

Directions

  1. Bring the liquid to a boil. Gently sprinkle in the polenta, while whisking. Continue to cook, while stirring occasionally.
  2. After 15 minutes, check to see if the polenta is cooked to your liking. Season to taste (including adding more parmesan, if you would like.)
  3. Serve with Ragu sauce over, and top with shaved parmesan and chopped parsley. Enjoy.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Budino

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Chopped Dark Chocolate
  • 2 T Unsalted Butter
  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 1/3 Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Espresso Powder
  • 2 T Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions

  1. Mix together egg yolks, sugar, espresso powder, cocoa powder, cream, milk, salt & vanilla in a medium saucepan.
  2. Whisk together while cooking over medium heat until thickened.
  3. Strain out any cooked egg bits and stir in chocolate & butter.
  4. Pour into ramekins and chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Whipped Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to mixer with whisk attachment (or do by hand with a whisk – will take about double the time). Whisk together until it reaches the perfect consistency. Add a dollop to the top of your budino and enjoy!

What Makes a Perfect Grilled Cheese?!!

So, this is a question that I have been asked many times before, & with National Grilled Cheese Day rapidly approaching, I thought I better get a good side by side test out there for ya! Ha!

One thing that has popped up more and more over the years is an argument that using mayonnaise instead of butter actually makes the crispiest, crunchiest sandwich!

I myself do not like the flavor or texture (or overall understanding of exactly what it is!) of mayo, so naturally this was not a trend that I was drawn to. However, in the name of science, I am generally willing to take one for the team. So I just finished doing a side my side test of 3 different sandwiches. 1 using all butter, 1 all mayo, and 1 a combination of both.

My results brought me to the conclusion that I think you need to do your own side by side test! HA! Basically I got great crunch and texture with all 3, but none tasted better than the all butter to me. Mmmm. I was not surprised:) So yes, it comes down to personal preference for sure! Here are a few other tips to get you started as well as a video of my experiment below! Let me know what kind you guys like the best, and any other tips and tricks you may have up your sleeve! Enjoy!

Grilled Cheese Tips:

  • Use more than 1 type of cheese – Typically a good flavored cheese + a good melter is perfect. For instance, provolone for melting & cheddar for flavor. Or american for melting and fontina for flavor.
  • If you lovvvve that yummy crunchy burnt cheese that gathers around the edges, try using some shredded cheese as well, so you get extra goodness!
  • Preheat your pan, but keep your heat on low. This prevents burning your bread before melting the cheese. It takes a bit longer, but is worth the wait for that perfect golden brown bread and ooey gooey cheese:)
  • Sprinkle with a little sea salt & pepper right after it comes out of the pan.
  • Whichever fat you choose to use, make sure to spread it to all edges of the bread, and arrange your cheese to do the same.

Fondue Party!

Just seeing the word party after more than a year of avoiding them like the actual plague, makes me excited for what is to come! I am ready to GATHER. And I’m talking less than 6 feet away! Until the time comes that we can safely do that, this will have to remain a party with your family members or whomever you’ve chosen to remain close with…I don’t even want to try to figure out a way to make individual or distanced fondue pots…it’s just not as fun!!

Fondue started out as a meal made in order to use up items that you may only have a bit of. The winters in Switzerland are harsh, and this was a meal to get by. The heel of some stale bread, ends of the cheese, bottom of a bottle of wine, a little fruit, a little veg etc etc. It is a great way to do a fridge & pantry cleanout, or a fun ‘event’ to plan & purchase items specifically for. And it is an event! Anytime you can spread out ingredients across your kitchen table and share in the joys of dipping & trying different combinations is a party to me:)

Some variations that you may want to try:

  • Trying a beer cheese by replacing the wine in the recipe with a good brown ale.
  • Using cheddar cheese & adding 1-2 T. of whiskey at the end.
  • Adding chopped cornichons or caramelized onions.
  • Make it Mexican with chiles in adobo sauce & monterey jack…top with bacon.

Have fun with variations, as well as all the endless possibilities for dippers! Here are some of my favorites, but the world is your fondue pot!!

  • Steamed Vegetables – halved mini potatoes, broccol or cauliflower, green beans.
  • Raw Vegetables – carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, radishes.
  • Pickled Vegetables – the acidity of the pickles with the richness of the swiss cheese & bite of white wine is DIVINE!! With pickles, make sure to blot them dry with a paper towel before placing them on your tray, so the cheese sticks to them better.
  • Fruit – ENDLESS!! A sour grannysmith apple pairs wonderfully, assorted berries, dried fruits such as apricots & figs are delicious, Asian pears, fresh figs etc.
  • Chunks of crust bread – stale or fresh. A good sourdough or a seedy multigrain are my favorites.
  • Pretzels (I love the braided honey wheat sticks!), assorted crackers & breadsticks.

I recommend serving the same, or similar, alcohol as you use in the fondue, it will pair perfectly! And no stress if you do not have a fondue pot & dippers. You can make it in a saucepan and serve it right out of it, for easy reheating, or pour into a bowl & periodically microwave it for consistency! Bamboo skewers work great for dipping. Enjoy!!

Guinness Beef or Lentil Stew

Growing up, in my house, St. Patrick’s Day Dinner was not corned beef & cabbage. My Mom’s Parent’s came from Achill Island, & Tourmakeady in Ireland. When other people were eating corned beef & Reubens, my Mom’s family was eating cottage ham & boiled dinner. The way my Mom put it was that they didn’t have any connection to corned beef, but that the cottage ham & boiled dinner was a treat that they had always enjoyed, so it became the tradition in her home too. And mine. As a kid I remember waking up to those smells on St. Patrick’s Day.

My Mom is an amazing chef and is the angel, for us, that connected the dots of food & family & love & tradition…but for me, the smell of that boiled dinner makes my stomach turn! I am a vegetarian, but that’s not it. I can smell all sorts of crazy meat & seafood dishes and appreciate the savory aromas. But there’s something about the cooked carrots & cabbage boiling for hours. That salty little ham. The caraway seeds & raisins in the Irish soda bread. No thank you. Of all the things you dream about graduating from and never going back to when you grow up and move out – that was on my top 10 list. Imagine my guilt when we came to town with our daughter around St. Patrick’s Day years ago & Mom made me my own boiled dinner in a separate pot from the ham, so I could enjoy it too. Shit.

Between that, and the fact that my husband always gets a shipload of corned beef at all the bar gigs that week, I had to adopt a whole new St. Paddy’s Day meal tradition. Oh man, this was perfect. Irish stew (vegetarian too), brown bread & homemade butter. YUM. And those smells will always make me hungry!! I’ll add the brown bread recipe as well, but for now, enjoy some great stout beef &/or lentil stew!

Ribs in The Steam Oven: From Defrost, to Done!

By now, we are no strangers to the phrase & feeling, ‘The best laid plans…’ And though it shouldn’t surprise us anymore, it doesn’t mean that it can’t really mess up your week. I had a good plan, life got in the way. Where I should have been ahead, I’m behind. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last, but man I’m always looking for a way to butter up the in between! Bridge the gap between falling behind to being back on track, or from shit storm to shit is together. Sometimes, shocker, it can happen with a meal. For me today, that meal was ordered on doordash, ok?! I knew I couldn’t make it happen, but I knew a guy that could! And I was right. It was worth it.

I’m not saying it will fix everything, but I am used to turning to the kitchen for comfort. And as far as bridging a gap – check out how this steam oven can take frozen ribs, and defrost them for you to rub with spices and then cook them till they fall off the bone! It might not completely set you ahead of the game, but you can’t feel like you are falling behind when you put frozen food into your oven for 15 minutes and pull it out perfectly defrosted! Enjoy!

Filmed at Home Appliance Sales & Service