the beautiful things

things i made

{things i made} fresh cavatelli pasta with mozarella tomato sauce

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This is my version of comfort food, a relatively simple dish that has two over-the-top components: an ooey-gooey, cheesy tomato sauce tossed with soft, pillowy pasta made from scratch. When I was a kid, it was as special a meal as my parents could make. I remember standing at the counter helping roll out the pasta, watching as all the mozzarella disappeared into the pot (and trying to sneak a piece of course), and picking the remnants of melted cheese off silverware. If you're looking for a manageable but impressive–and romantic–meal for Valentine's Day, this one will probably do the trick.

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4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups water, boiling

4 cups tomato sauce, cooked and seasoned 
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated or chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Put the flour into a bowl, make a well in the flour, and add the water. Gradually work the mixture together, adding a little more flour or water if necessary, to make a soft but not sticky dough. 
2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is smooth. Let the dough rest at room temperature, covered with a towel, for 15 minutes.
3. 
Form the dough into a round and cut into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time (cover the remaining dough with a towel to keep the dough from drying out), on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rope 1/4 inch in diameter. With a knife, cut the rope into 1/2-inch pieces. With your index finger, gently press down on each piece and drag towards you to cause the pasta to roll over on itself. Lightly flour formed pasta and let dry at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
4. Heat about 4 cups of cooked tomato sauce on stove top. When very hot, add mozzarella, stirring until melted. Add nutmeg. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

5. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil, and add the pasta. Cook about 6 minutes (or until pasta floats to the top when done). Drain and toss with sauce, serving with grated cheese.

 

{things i made} sweet and spicy ribs

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I never liked ribs until I figured out the trick to cooking them: long, slow, and low (heat), with a rub and sauce for seasoning. The Super Bowl menu I put together always has a huge variety of foods to make everyone watching the game happy (yay for the New York venue this year!), but ribs are always a safe bet. If you're used to normal barbeque ribs and looking to spice things up (literally), this recipe is a good place to start: in addition to typical ingredients like brown sugar, ketchup and chili powder, there are interesting flavors like fresh ginger, Chinese five spice, pineapple, and soy sauce.

What do you think? Will you be watching the Super Bowl–and what team are you rooting for?

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2 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 cups pineapple, cut into chunks
1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup fresh pineapple juice
2 cups hoisin or barbecue sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons chile powder
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce 

2 teaspoons ground Chinese five spice 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon ground ginger 

1 tablespoon ground Chinese five spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chile flakes
2 racks St. Louis style pork ribs (about 12 ribs each), membranes removed

1. For the sauce: Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add the garlic, ginger and onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pineapple chunks and habanero and cook for 1 minute. Add the pineapple juice and cook until it caramelizes slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until thickened, about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. For the ribs: Stir together all dry ingredients in a bowl. Cover the ribs with rub, place in heavy pans on racks, cover with foil, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

3. Preheat a grill or oven to 250 degrees. Remove the ribs from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. Add a small amount of water to the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. Put the ribs in pans on the grill or in the oven, covered (if using a grill, heat only one side and place ribs on opposite side). Close grill, and cook until the ribs are tender and juicy, about 2 hours. To finish ribs, place them top-side down on grill, directly over the heat and cook until golden brown and a crust has formed, about 10 minutes (or in oven, cook uncovered for about 20 minutes).

 

{things i made} strawberry shortcake

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Strawberry shortcake is my mother's absolute favorite dessert, and though I'll always choose something with chocolate somewhere on the ingredient list, it's grown on me over the years as we've had it for each of her celebrations. This year was the first time I attempted to make the confection myself (this version, though tasty, is a bit of a shortcut), and everyone was pleased with the results. The cake is dense enough to stand up the heavy toppings, which do a great job seeping into and sweetening the cake.

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2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 + 1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk

2 cups whipping cream
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced thinly
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until smooth. Blend in olive oil. 
3. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, stirring only until batter is just combined. Pour into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
5.  Toss strawberries with 3 tablespoons sugar and refrigerate for 1 hour or until juices form. Beat whipped cream to stiff peaks with 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. 
6. When ready to serve, slice the cake in half. Spread about 2/3 of the cream mixture between the cake layers and generously add strawberries. Top with remaining cake layer and use extra whipped cream and strawberries to top.
 

{things i made} shrimp cocktail

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I never really liked shrimp cocktail. When I was younger, I found the chewy curled-up shapes–with tails no less!–off-putting. When I got older, the cold, boiled taste and texture wasn't worth the effort of the dish for me. However this recipe has changed my mind permanently, and the tweaks are simple. The cooking water for the shrimp is heavily seasoned with bright flavors like lemon, Old Bay seasoning, and chili powder. But the real difference is in the cocktail sauce: homemade (it's easier than you think, as long as you have some form of horseradish) is always better.

 

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2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning 
1 lemon, halved
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
24 extra-large tail-on raw shrimp

1 cup ketchup 
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or 2 tablespoons dried + 2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Mix all the cocktail sauce ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
2 Have a large bowl of ice water ready. To an 8-quart pot of water, add the Old Bay, lemon, granulated garlic, garlic, chili powder, and salt.
3. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp to the pot and when the water returns to a boil, the shrimp should be done (check that they are bright pink). Immediately drain and place the shrimp into the ice bath to cool for 2 minutes. Peel the shrimp (leaving the tail-on.) Drain and serve with the cocktail sauce.

 

{things i made} peanut butter pudding

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Looking back over the holiday season, one thought comes to mind: did I really eat all of that food? It's the same story every year: it's so easy to dig in when almost every tradition involves a specialty dish of some sort (I'm looking at you 'Twelve Cookies of Christmas'). New Year Resolution aside, I like to confine the indulgences of December to that month only. Of course that doesn't mean I choose forgo treats all together–I just prefer to lighten them up when I decide to splurge. This peanut butter pudding is about as guilt-free as desserts come: there's no refined sugar (you can control how much sweetener you'd like to add) and it contains health-ful ingredients like tofu and peanut butter mixed in its luscious form.  

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1 box of firm silken tofu (454 grams) 
3/4-1 cup natural creamy, no-stir peanut butter (or, to taste)
1/4 cup maple syrup
splash of milk, as needed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of salt (to taste)

1. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend till smooth. Splash in milk as needed if mixture is too thick. Taste and adjust peanut butter, syrup, and salt.
2. Pour mixture into small bowls or ramekins, cover, and let set in the fridge for 1-4 hours. Serve, topped with chocolate chips, chocolate shavings, peanuts,
 crushed chocolate cookies, and/or whipped cream if desired.

 

{things i made} party appetizers

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I had a super busy weekend out and about–I hope you're following along via Instagram–but if you're anything like me, you've also been working on your New Year's Eve plans. Since we'll be hosting the party this year, the food's a big responsibility. I love putting together an appetizer-based spread–it's best suited for a night spent enjoying each other's company and keeping an eye on network programming). Looking for some inspiration? Here are some of my favorite applicable recipes that I've featured here over the years. Happy cooking!

[clockwise]
stuffed mushrooms with clams, hummuspigs in a blanketvegetarian stuffed grape leavesfeta and sun-dried tomato dipoven-baked buffalo chicken tendershot spinach and artichoke dipcurry pea fritterspizza with pesto, fresh tomatoes, and mozzarella

 

{things i made} hot cocoa

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For someone who likes cooking (and eating) as much as I do, I don't have a lot of super specific childhood food memories. However one of my sharpest ones involves the winter: every time my siblings and I spent the day pretending to shovel (i.e. actually just messing around) after a snowstorm, we always came in from the cold to steaming mugs of hot chocolate (with marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, and whipped cream, of course) prepared by our mother. Sure there are lots of homemade recipes out there–some involving cream or spices or melted chocolate–but this one replicates the simple, uncomplicated goodness of the packets of hot cocoa from my childhood. 

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3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
marshmallows, for serving

1. Stir together cocoa and sugar in a small bowl. 
2. 
In a medium saucepan, heat milk to scalding, stirring constantly to prevent burning. 
3. Whisk
 about 1/3 cup of the hot milk into the cocoa-sugar mixture, then pour mixture back into the saucepan.  Stir until well-blended. Add vanilla. Serve hot with marshmallows.

 

{things i made} butterhorn cookies

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It's almost time for me to start what's become an annual tradition in my family: marathon Christmas cookie making. Normally we whip up twelve cookies (one for each of the twelve days of Christmas, naturally) over the course of three days (not for any reason, it just takes that long). Though I'm not sure we'll hit that magic number this year, there are some traditional cookies I just can't skip. These butterhorns–with their decades old family recipe–are one of them.  I normally don't touch butter in my kitchen but once a year I'll make the exception, and it's not hard considering how yummy these flaky sweet little rolled treats are.

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2 cups flour 
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter
3/4 cup of sour cream 
1 egg yolk 

3/4 cup of sugar 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

 

1. Prepare a cut piece of waxed paper and sprinkle with flour. Set aside.

2. Blend flour, salt and butter together with fingers. Add egg yolk to the sour cream and blend into mixture (it will be very sticky). Shape into a ball and place on wax paper. Wrap, and chill dough in refrigerator for two hours.

3. Mix all filling ingredients. Let dough stand at room temperature for five minutes then divide ball into three parts. Roll one section at the time to form a circle about 1/8 of an inch thick.

4. Sprinkle divided filling on rolled dough and cut into sixteen wedges. Working from the outside in, roll each triangular strip of dough tightly over the filling, ending with its narrowest point facing downward so it will not unroll while baking. Transfer rolled dough to a cookie sheet and bake at 350° for about 20 minutes. 

5.  Remove from pan and allow cookies to cool before sprinkling with powdered sugar.

 

{things i made} brownie cookies

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I'm always interested in the recipes that make it onto everyone's holiday cookie dishes. I'm usually over-ambitious and attempt to bake twelve separate types (this is a photo of last year's completed set) for each "day" of Christmas. I think it's safe to say most people include a chocolate chip cookie of some variety, but for me it's hard to choose among the many different variations of the classic I've tried (and loved). Though this double-chocolate chip recipe is a holiday favorite in my family, these brownie cookies could easily surpass them. Super rich and moist, they're a chocolate-lover's dream.

 

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1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the olive oil and sugar until well mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until creamy.
2. Add the cocoa powder, flour, and salt. Beat until dough forms. Mix in the dissolved baking soda. Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until edges are set. Let cool on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack. (Note: Can chill cookie batter before baking to thicken and allow the cookies to bake fatter.)

 

{things i made} apple and fig galette

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Normally I don't like fruit that is seed-filled–that popping in your teeth just gets to me–but I'll make an exception for figs. This is the first time I've tried a recipe that uses fresh figs and actually loved it. Mixed with the apples and walnuts and wrapped in a whole-wheat crust, it's a perfectly seasonal way to use the sweet ingredient. I've always loved making galettes, even back when the dough I used was of the store-bought variety. Despite the fact that they're free-form and slightly unfinished, I find them so presentable in a gorgeously rustic way.

 

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2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil 
3/4 cup milk
2 cups apples, cored and sliced
1/2 pound figs,quartered
1 cup walnut pieces, broken
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Mix together flour and salt into a large bowl. Measure milk and oil into the same cup and add to flour mixture. Knead well by hand until dough is firm.
2. Divide dough in half, placing one half on parchment paper. Flatten slightly, and then place another sheet of parchment paper on top. Roll with a rolling pin until dough is about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top sheet of parchment, and roll out any wrinkles left in the dough. Transfer to a cookie sheet. Repeat with second half of dough.
3. In a bowl, combine all other ingredients and stir well to combine. Pour filling into the middle of crust and fold the edges over leaving the center open. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.
4. Bake at 350 F. for about 35-40 minutes, or until the filling's juices bubble. Cool and serve.

 




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