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I took a trip to Charleston and Savannah in March 2013. Everyone I told about my trip asked me, “Are you going to a wedding?” or, “Do you have family down there?” Like it was so hard to believe that two Manhattanites (my boyfriend and I) might just find their way to the Lowcountry of their own volition. The truth was, it was an affordable vacation, and we’d heard tales of the greatness of the food down there. For me, it turned out to be a best case scenario: I went in with no expectations, and I was completely blown away. Cut to me rushing home from the airport upon my return to NYC and logging on to Amazon.com to buy cookbooks that could teach me how to replicate what the hell I had just eaten. I was disappointed that the Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House cookbook was missing a recipe for the Lima Beans that I had eaten while there in Savannah, but Pat Branning’s Shrimp, Collards & Grits has become my new kitchen bible. I am deliberately not posting the recipe. If you buy the book, you’ll thank me!

Two months later, I found myself back below the Mason Dixon line, in the Outer Banks again for what has become our annual seafood eating and beach vacation. Across from our rental apartment in Nags Head was this outrageously amazing seafood shop, Daniel’s Whalebone Seafood Market, which we visited every single day during our week long stay, and after I had satisfied my peel n’ eat shrimp, soft shell crab, and grilled Mahi cravings, I took a stab at Shrimp and Grits, following Ms. Branning’s recipe with the exception of substituting green bell peppers for zesty hot North Carolina  Tinkerbell peppers, and subsequently forgoing the need for hot sauce.

I haven’t been blogging for the past year about my cooking, but I’ve been cooking all this time. The passion that I feel for cooking has shifted from learning how to do it, which was the inspiration for this blog, to the sheer pleasure that it brings me to make every meal a delicious experience. My confidence in my culinary skills have increased to the point of comfort with every new venture.

What has helped me most is fostering a healthy curiosity. I ask myself, “Yum. How can I make that at home?” Then I find a good recipe and I learn how to do it. Like this plate of shrimp and grits, which I now know how to cook damn well, even though I’m a monthly MTA Metrocard-holding, lox and schmear eating, fan of the Brooklyn Nets, Yankee girl from New York.

I recently had the pleasure of spending a week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where I ate  some of the best seafood and barbeque of my life. Case in point:

Freshly caught and steamed peel and eat shrimp at Dockside ‘N Duck.

Also worth mentioning in terms of life-altering dining experiences was my introduction to the High Cotton barbeque restaurant, whose succulent smoked ribs and rapturous baked beans compelled us to purchase no less than ten bottles of their house-made Carolina BBQ sauce to bring back North when we returned home. Unlike the BBQ fair I’ve eaten in NYC, which is mostly stick-to-your-ribs soul food, Eastern Carolina BBQ is dry-rubbed and smoked, and the sauce is vinegar based and tangy, but not sweet or heavy. Which, in my opinion, only makes it easier to eat about 20 ribs in one sitting. But I digress… back to seafood!

Did I mention that soft shell crabs were being sold for $2.99 each? This price is of course unheard of to us Yankees, who are used to paying up to $10.99 for every individual little crab. I found an Emeril recipe online and twisted the flavor profile a little bit to my preference.

We also had eggs in the fridge that we were trying to use before we left OBX, thus the idea for the runny egg on top!

By the way, I actually did not use Old Bay but used the house seasoning from The Great Machipongo Clam Shack in Nassawadox, Virginia, where we stopped on our trip down to North Carolina, and enjoyed what turned out to be the best She-Crab soup I’ve ever had in my life.

She-Crab Soup & Steamed Clams at the clam shack.

Finally, I cannot sign off on this post until I give much deserved props to Duck Donuts, where you can custom-order a donut and they’ll make it fresh for you right before your very eyes…

Duck Donut Processing Station.

Yes, this truly exists in this world, right down in North Carolina.

Soft Shell Crabs
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Serves: 2
 

Ingredients
  • • 4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and patted dry
  • • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • • 1 cup flour
  • • 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • • ½ cup white wine
  • • 1 tablespoon butter
  • • 2 tbs parsley, chopped
  • • Old Bay
  • • 4 eggs (optional)

Instructions
  1. Season crabs with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil and saute the crabs, two at a time depending on the size of your pan, until soft, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the crabs and set aside on- I laid them out on a baking dish and popped it in an unheated oven to keep warm.
  3. Add the garlic to the same pan you sauteed your crabs in and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Then add the white wine, and cook until wine has reduced to about ½. Swirl in the butter and the parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer the crabs to a serving plate, spoon the sauce over the crabs and garnish with Old Bay.
  5. If you’d like to enjoy a runny egg on top of your crab, fry your eggs in a separate pan, place one egg on top of each crab, and then dress your crab with the sauce and Old Bay. Enjoy!

I have recently taken up a new hobby. Up until now, I have killed every plant I’ve ever owned, but it’s no secret that I love cooking with herbs, and I love the idea of growing my own even more. So I’ve been cultivating a little herb garden on my windowsill.

How cute is my little dill plant, which I am raising from tiny seedlings? I’ve also got English thyme, flat leaf parsley and rosemary going at the moment.

You will never want to buy popcorn from a store again once you get the hang of making your own. It’s easy, cheap, and really fun to play around with flavor combinations. Here is my recipe for homemade popcorn with fresh rosemary; if you can get your hands on red popcorn kernels, I would highly recommend trying them!

I get mine from the Union Square Green Market, where the Blew Family of Oak Grove Farm sells both white and red popcorn kernels.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Popcorn
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbs coarse sea salt, divided
  • ½ cup popping corn
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Instructions
  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the oil, 1 tsp salt and popping corn. Give the kernels a toss so that they are completely coated with the oil and salt. Turn the heat to medium, cover the pot with a lid left slightly ajar, and shake once or twice.
  2. The corn kernels will begin to pop within a minute or two. Once the popping slows to an almost stop, remove the pot from the heat.
  3. Transfer the popcorn to a large serving bowl, douse with 1 tbs salt and the rosemary, and toss well to combine.

 

Yes, I picked out the greens and oranges from two bags of M&M’s. Such measures are perfectly applaudable on or around St. Patrick’s day.

These chewy, bite sized peanut butter cookies were exceptionally complimentary to the flavor and shape of classic M&M goodness. Needless to say, they were almost gone from the tray so quickly that I had to hunt down the host of the party that I attended to make sure he got to try one.


I left the very last one for my boyfriend on a notebook on his desk, and shortly thereafter all that was left were the buttery remains:

Over all, these were delicious and easy to pull-off; a classic wet ingredients/dry ingredients cookie recipe that I adapted from TheCurvyCarrot, which they had adapted from someone else, who had adapted it from someone else, who probably adapted it from a recipe that they found right on a bag of M&M’s in the first place. Classics like this don’t need much tweaking, so long as the secret ingredient is love (and a bit of holiday cheer). Erin Go Bragh, from your favorite nice Jewish girl in her East Village kitchen!

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies
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Serves: 24
 

Ingredients
  • 1 and ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1 and ½ cups M&M’s

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda, whisking until combined. Set aside.
  3. With a standing or electric hand mixer fitted with a paddle or dough attachment, cream the butter on medium high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugars and peanut butter, mixing until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Reduce the mixer speed and add the egg, vanilla, and cream, mixing until completely combined. Slowly add the dry flour mixture, until one solid, even ball of dough is formed.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the M&Ms until evenly distributed.
  6. Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and bake the cookies until lightly golden around the edges, 9-10 minutes. Let cool completely.


I am not much of a sports fan, but I love my cousins and was excited to visit with them to watch the Superbowl this year. The nachos usually associated with this annual American event have so much potential to be so delicious, but are often oily, salty and greeeea-zy in execution.  I love cooking with Mexican flavors, so I volunteered to make some homemade nachos for their party.

I left a quarter of the nachos without salsa, because as my cousin will tell you, she is a self-proclaimed “bad Mexican” and does not like spicy food! These nachos were not incredibly spicy, they just delivered a tangy slow burn, and the crunchy texture of the chips with the homemade blanco cheese sauce was outrageous. And the chicken! The shredded chicken on it’s own was some of the best I’ve ever had, no joke. Great for tacos or sandwiches.

Nachos Blanco con Pollo y Salsa Verde
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Ingredients
  • Salt + Pepper (for seasoning)
  • 5 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 Cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 Cup salsa verde
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbs chopped garlic
  • 1 8 oz. (small) can pitted, sliced black olives, drained
  • 1 large pablano pepper, de-seeded and minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large bag of unsalted corn tortilla chips
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces white Cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions
  1. Season chicken thighs liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Place chicken in a slow cooker and top it with the broth/water, salsa verde, cumin, cilantro, garlic, olives, pablano, and bay leaves. Give it a little stir around, make sure all the thighs are nicely coated.
  3. Cover, and cook on low for an optimal 8 hours. If you’re limited for time, you can cook on high for 4 hours and then decrease the heat to low for the rest of the time you have left.
  4. Remove chicken from slow-cooker, leaving sauce behind. Use 2 forks to pull apart the chicken, separating and discarding the skin and bones. Reserve shredded chicken.
  5. Drain sauce from slow cooker pot into a mesh colander, or some other way to retain most of the chunky substance of the sauce, while extracting most of the liquid. This is your salsa!
  6. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan on medium heat, add the butter with a pinch of salt and pepper. When the butter is melted, add the flour and stir until the butter stops foaming, but does not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and stir until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until evenly melted. Keep warm.
  7. To assemble the nachos, layer the chips on a platter and scatter with the shredded chicken, drizzle cheese sauce, and finish by topping with the salsa. Enjoy immediately, or re-toast in a hot oven for a few minutes if they start cooling down.

 

 

I am making homemade granola today and you could be, too, if you try out my simple recipe. I love the flavor combination of herbs and tart, sweet dried fruit. The more fruit and nuts you add, the more beautiful it looks- in a glass mason jar, it makes a lovely present. I gave a jar to my brother’s girlfriend for the holidays, and she loved it so much that she asked me for the recipe.  I love to have this granola in the morning with warm goat’s milk- don’t knock it till you try it! Yum.

Also, if you are super interested in other delicious recipes with rolled oats, check out my previous posts for oatmeal and granola bars.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Homemade Granola with Herbs
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Serves: 4-10
 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ tbs from fruit concentrate (I love pomegranate or cherry)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • ½ tbs dried rosemary (herbs de provence works great too)
  • 18 oz. old fashioned rolled oats
  • Nuts, dried fruit, seeds, etc., to your preference

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup, fruit concentrate, cinnamon and herbs. When well blended, pour in the oats and stir into the oil mixture until every last little oat is coated. Pour onto a large, rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper and spread into a flat layer. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and give the oats a thorough tossing. Return to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes more until evenly brown and crunchy. Let cool for at least 8 minutes, then add whatever kinds and amounts of nuts, dried fruit, etc. that you like.

 

 

 

“YANKEE STADIUM!” The butcher at Fairway pronounced with pride as he displayed the gorgeous 13-rib crown pork roast that I had ordered for this year’s Pan Chance. What is this “Pan Chance,” you ask? A fancy little annual holiday dinner party that my friend Gregory hosts every year- you can read all about it here on his contributing post on Crazytownblog.com.

Our other friend, who is a classically trained professional chef, usually is in charge of the main Pan Chance roast, but he couldn’t get off the hook from work this year. Greg asked me, and I stepped up to the plate with this Anne Burrell recipe, modified slightly with walnuts instead of chestnuts. I also used pre-made breadcrumbs, which I wouldn’t recommend again, although the stuffing did taste very, very good despite it’s mushy-ness.

This roast was a whole new world to me as I don’t cook pork very often, except for the occasional Sunday morning bacon strip. As always, all I had to do was show the roast some love, and it loved me right back (in my belly!). Happy New Year!

 

 

I’m back! Want to know how I survived what will have been my craziest semester of graduate school, without caving in and ordering take-out every night? With recipes like this one, that didn’t take me more than a half hour to cook. Steamed fish and vegetables in parchment paper packets- if you are someone who is usually scared of making fish, you should just try this because all you have to do is assemble this and set a timer. Also, this recipe is a wonderful option for those of us who cook for one most nights of the week. I served mine with a side of brown basmati rice, and a homemade soy-ginger sauce.

Steamed Fish in Parchment
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Serves: 1
 

Ingredients
  • 1 tbs Olive Oil, Divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups thin-sliced vegetables (carrots, fennel, onion)
  • One ½ lb. fillet of fish, de-boned and skinned as per your preference
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 lemon- slice one half of the lemon in thin slices, and reserve the other half for juicing
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • Small bunch of fresh herbs- rosemary, thyme, or dill

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degree.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss the sliced vegetables in ½ tbs olive oil and the minced garlic, and set aside.
  3. Make a paper heart out of parchment paper- big enough so your fillet and vegetables will fit inside.
  4. Brush both sides of the fish fillet with ½ tbs olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the sliced vegetables in a small pile in the center of one side of the heart. Lay the fillet on top of the vegetables, then drizzle with the juice of half a lemon, and the white wine.
  6. Place the lemon slices and herbs on the top of your pile.
  7. Fold the other half of the paper heart over your fish and vegetable pile. Starting with the dip in the top of the paper heart, roll and crimp the edges until the fillets are totally encased, and seal by rolling the tip tightly into a point.
  8. Place the pouch on a cookie sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the pouches are puffed-up and a toasty light brown (15 minutes for a thin, white fish like tilapia or cod, 20 for a thicker fillet like salmon or swordfish)
  9. Remove from the oven and place the pouches on a plate.
  10. Using a pair of scissors, cut open the center of the pouch. Use caution- the steam is hot! When cooled, remove the herbs and lemon slices, and serve immediately.

 

 

What does one do with a $20 Groupon credit at Whole Foods? Purchase some locally sourced, grass-fed, humanely-raised veal shanks of course, perfect for making a big pot of osso bucco. This is generally a special occasion kind of meal; it is rich and decadent, and often culminates in the slurping of marrow straight from the bones. It is best cooked low and slow, so if you’ve got the time try out a non-fussy recipe like this; it’s truly worth it to try this at home and not save it for a restaurant night. I served the osso bucco with farfalle pasta and a side of my roasted green beans with garlic.

I had a ton leftover, so picture me at my internship, which this year is at an elementary school, sitting at a tiny desk on my lunch hour and enjoying an elegant lunch of osso bucco. Re-heated in the microwave, the residual clove essence lit one of the school’s hallways with a lovely and unexpected fragrance.

Please just don’t forget to suck out the marrow- that’s the best part!

Osso Bucco, Perfect for Date Night or School Lunch Leftovers
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Serves: 3-4
 

Ingredients
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 dry bay leaf
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 3 whole veal shanks (about 1 pound per shank), trimmed of fat
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14.5 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 + cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped

Instructions
  1. Preaheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Create a bouquet garni by tying the rosemary and thyme sprigs together with a piece of twine.
  2. Pat the veal shanks dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture, and season each shank with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. In a large Dutch oven pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat until smoking hot. Add the veal shanks to the hot pan and brown for 3 minutes per side. Remove the browned shanks and set aside.
  4. To the same pot, add the onion, carrot and celery, sauteing until soft and translucent for about 8 minutes, then add the garlic and stir for about one minute. Add the tomatoes and give it all a good stir. Return the shanks to the pan, add the white wine and reduce liquid by half for about 8 minutes. Add the bouquet garni, bay leaf, cloves, and 2 cups of chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and transfer to the oven.
  5. Let the osso bucco cook in the oven for about 2½-3 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. Add more chicken stock if necessary- the level of cooking liquid should always be around ¾ of the way up the shank.
  6. Remove and discard the bouquet garni and bay leaf from the pot, and pick out all the little cloves. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve your shanks and sauce on top of your favorite pasta.

Who doesn’t love a big bowl of soup when it starts to get cold out?

This is a ridiculously easy recipe for curried butternut squash soup. Despite the fact that it is a meatless, dairy-free recipe, this soup is creamy and substantial, and it will fill you up on a blustery late-autumn day. I doubled the recipe last week and made a gigantic vat of it; it has a pretty good shelf-life in the fridge because it’s made from 100% vegetables. I would suggest using a hot curry powder, but if you don’t like too much heat, then yellow curry will do just fine.

Do you have an immersion blender? If not, I highly recommend buying one- using one to puree all of the veggies together right in the pot gives this soup a wonderful thick texture, and is a million times cleaner than transferring batches back and forth from a food processor. This is the one that I have in my kitchen; it’s very affordable and works great. It will change your soup-loving world.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup, or, The Best of Autumn in a Bowl
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (canola, safflower, olive, etc.)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • ½ tsp salt, plus more, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbs + parsley, chopped

Instructions
  1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large stockpot. Add onions, garlic, carrots and celery, and saute until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the butternut squash, broth, curry powder, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tbs parsley and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender, 15 minutes. Off the heat and puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Finish with a sprinkle of parsley.