Monday, July 29, 2013

Potato & Spaghetti Frittata

In the true spirit of a peasant kitchen I don't like to waste food.  I always try to use up everything that I buy.  One of my favorite ways to use leftovers is in a Frittata.  Frittata's are great because you can add almost anything to them.  Usually it's leftover vegetables that I don't want to turn into soup in the bottom of my fridge but this morning I had some left over boiled potatoes from last night's dinner and some spaghetti from 2 days ago as well as some cherry tomatoes. When I was younger my father used to make his famous "farmer's breakfast".  It was the only thing he cooked but my brother and I loved it.  Basically it was eggs with potatoes, spaghetti if we had some left over as well as bacon and onion.  It was delicious!  This morning I didn't have bacon but into the pan the potatoes and spaghetti went to heat up. 

The trick is to add the potatoes first and cook them very, very slowly.  You don't actually want them to fry but just heat up slowly until they are very soft.  Almost like velvet in your mouth.  When they are almost ready add the spaghetti and cook on low for a while.  Again you only want to cook it until it's almost crisp but not crunchy.  Add the tomatoes at the last minute.  I also had some basil growing on my patio so I added that. Once the tomatoes are just warm add the egg mixture. About 3 - 4 large eggs beaten with a little milk, salt & pepper is good.

Once the eggs on the bottom of the pan have cooked I add a little grated parmesan and put it under the broiler until the eggs are no longer runny. Once it's ready I let it cool for a few minutes in the pan and then it's ready to serve.  

 The great thing about Frittata's are that they can be eaten hot right away for breakfast but they are also yummy at room temperature for lunch or dinner served with a salad.

What's your favorite way to use up leftovers?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Banana Bread with Toasted Walnuts

If you're anything like me you always have over ripe bananas in your kitchen.  I love bananas but only when they're barely ripe.  Not even. I like them when they are still firm and even just a little green.  To me there is almost nothing as unappetizing as a banana that is fully ripe or starting to become mottled with brown spots.  Because of this I always have bananas in my kitchen that I won't eat as is.  As a result I've tried many, many recipes for Banana Bread and this is the best I've found so far. It has a deep banana flavor, plenty of moisture, and a nice, light texture.  With a cup of coffee it makes the perfect afternoon snack but it's also a great treat for breakfast.

Best Banana Bread Recipe 
12 servings, 1 loaf
      2 cups all-purpose flour
      1/2 cup sugar
      3/4 teaspoon baking soda
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped
      3 ripe, soft, darkly speckled large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2
      1/4 cup plain yogurt (I use Greek)
      2 large eggs, beaten lightly
      6 tablespoons butter, melted then cooled
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
 Grease and flour bottom and sides of nonstick 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.
  Combine dry ingredients together in large bowl and set aside.
  Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with wooden spoon in
  medium bowl.
  Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until
  just combined and batter looks thick and chunky.
  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan; bake until loaf is golden brown and
  toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.
  Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.
  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for 4 days, on the
  counter for 2 days. 

 As I mentioned this is the best recipe I've found so far but if you have one that you think is great I'd love to try it too!  Drop me a line or send me a link.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Classic Bruschetta

There is nothing that tastes like summer to me more than a ripe, flavorful tomato! When they're in season I love to prepare a classic tomato bruschetta.

First make sure you have the freshest, ripest tomatoes you can find. I use the small cherry or grape tomatoes as I find they have the best flavor for the bruschetta and are the easiest to work with. It's important to squeeze out the seeds and juice.  I know a lot of people don't bother with this step but it really does improve the flavor and texture of the bruschetta. It's very easy and doesn't take that much more time.  You just cut the stem end off of the tomato and squeeze the other end gently until the seeds and juice are released from the open end of the tomato.

Then chop the tomatoes.  I prefer fairly small pieces but if you prefer larger pieces that's fine too. This is a rustic dish and there really is no right or wrong way.  I also like to prepare my oil mixture in advance.  I use about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of good E.V. olive oil depending on how much I'm making. I add approximately 2 - 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic to the oil. The authentic Italian way is to rub the garlic over the toasted bread slices but I prefer to let the garlic meld with the oil a little to get a more intense flavor. I've never been afraid of a little garlic! I also add some fresh rosemary and thyme if I have it.

Once the oil mixture has had a chance to sit for a while I then pour it over the chopped tomatoes and add lots of basil and salt & pepper to taste.  Don't be afraid to be generous with the salt as the tomatoes will soak it up.  Generously top toasted slices of a good quality (important!) baguette with the bruschetta mixture.  Add a glass of a nice Pinot Grigio and enjoy the taste of summer!

 What's your favorite taste of summer?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Weekend in Boston & Cape Cod

I apologize for not posting for a few days but I took a 3 day drive down to Boston for the weekend.  We left midday on Friday for what was supposed to be a leisurely 8 1/2 hour drive but turned out to be more like 11 1/2 hours (thanks Google Maps!). The last 2 hours were really tough but we finely pulled into the valet parking spot for the Nine Zero hotel at 11:30pm and headed straight for the nearest bar. We were dead tired but after that drive we were damn sure going to reward ourselves with a glass of wine before bed.  The Nine Zero hotel was recommended by a friend and we loved it! It's a charming little boutique hotel right in downtown Boston.  From the hotel you can walk almost anywhere in Boston. It's right across the street from Boston Common and 1 block away from the nearest T station.

The hotel has lots of wonderful amenities including wireless and yoga mats in every room. But perhaps the best feature is the complimentary wine hour they hold in their lobby lounge each day from 5 - 6pm.  You have to love a hotel that does that!  The staff is wonderful, especially the concierge Thomas, who was relentless in helping us with restaurant reservations, booking our tickets on the fast ferry to Cape Cod and with a special shopping request we had (thanks Thomas).  Sadly the only thing we were disappointed by was when we emailed them a photo of the Peasant dog "H" to have in our room when we arrived (a cute feature they offer to have a photo of a loved one or pet in your room to make your stay more enjoyable) it was not there.  We even asked the person at the front desk next time we went out but it never did arrive (:.

 We spent all the next day seeing the sights of Boston.  It was my first time and I was determined to see (and eat) as much as I could. We started off in Boston Commons, a beautiful park reminiscing Central Park in NY but not as large.  They had a festival going on with a number of musical bands, performing artists and numerous other activities for the whole family. On a whole we really loved Boston. It's a really charming and accessible city.  We loved that we could almost walk anywhere and where we couldn't there was always their great transit system. I really loved the architecture, particularly how they've integrated the old with the new.

For lunch we headed to the North End, otherwise known as the Italian district.  For the best lobster rolls in the city we were told to head to Neptune Oyster on Salem St. Sadly we never did get to try it as there was an incredibly long lineup outside and when we asked some people how long they had been waiting they said around 3 hours!!! Now I've been known to wait for good food but 3 hours was a bit much and we were already hungry.  After walking around a bit we found L'Osteria,  A cute, traditional little Italian restaurant also on Salem St.  The food was very good and the seafood was as  fresh as you would expect from a resto in a city on the water. I had the Shrimp and Scallop Linguine in a white wine sauce while my friend had the Brodetto di Pesce, an array of mussels, scallops, clams, shrimp, calamari and scrod in a light tomato sauce over linguine.  Both were excellent and of typical American portion size ie. huge!  Really we could have both shared the Brodetto and have been more than satisfied!

After lunch we headed over to another famous Bostonian landmark, Mike's Pastry. While we were both still stuffed from lunch, we were determined to try their Cannoli. I do consider myself a Cannoli connoisseur so we waited in the long line up which actually moved quite fast.

Ten minutes later we had our precious prize in hand!

Sadly seeing that we were both still full from lunch the Cannoli went straight into the fridge back at our hotel until breakfast the next morning (don't judge)! I'd like to give you a review of Mike's Pastry's Cannoli but as it sat in the fridge overnight I really don't think it would be fair.  While not like eating freshly made Cannoli it was still very, very good! Yum!

For dinner that night we tried out an Italian seafood restaurant in the North district called Mare Oyster Bar. We both agreed this was our fav resto of the trip! Probably the freshest seafood we've ever had!  I started off with their Trio of Crudo; yellowfin tuna, salmon, and kampachi with seaweed salad and soy ginger sauce which was amazing! My friend started off with the Oysters and said they were the best Oysters she'd ever had.  We then shared the Grilled Whole Mediterranean Seabass for our main which was also amazing! Sadly I did not bring my camera out for dinner so have no pics but I can assure you it was a great meal and I highly recommend this restaurant! And no I do not get any deals for mentioning our recommending anything on this blog!

The next day we caught the fast ferry over to Cape Cod.  A beautiful 90 minute ride that leaves from Boston's Harbour a few times a day. It was our first time there and arriving by boat was a wonderful way to visit!

Such a pretty and scenic place!  There was a photo opportunity every where I looked! I loved the little boats, the colorful buoys and this boat house with photos of women we saw when arriving at the dock!  I would love to know more about it so if you know the history please do email me!

On Cape Cod we had lunch at The Squealing Pig (love that name) where we thoroughly enjoyed the Tuscan Fries (Fries with Parmesan and Truffle Oil)! Sorry again no pics (:. I promise I'll try to get better at taking photos when I'm at restaurants.  We then walked 2 miles of Commercial street (love P-town!) where we checked out the art galleries, shops and even bought some bling!  A Cape Cod bracelet and necklace for me and a ring for my friend!

After a stop at The Harbor Lounge, a great little bar right on the ocean front, for a quick gin & tonic we headed back to get in the long line up to catch the ferry back to Boston where we stood on the stern and waved goodbye to the Cape over the boat's wake and wished for a day when we could return for a longer stay. 

Have you tried any of these Boston Restaurants?  What's your fav restaurant in Boston?  I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Steak & Portobello Mushrooms on the BBQ

It was the perfect Saturday night!  The weather was beautiful so I invited a good friend over for a bbq! Both of us being total carnivores, we decided on big fat rib-eye steaks along with roasted asparagus and my new fav recipe for marinated portobello mushrooms (recipe below).  With the night being so beautiful we decided to eat outside on the patio. In celebration of the occasion we brought out the good white linen tablecloth and linen napkins as well as a good bottle or red, which of course I proceeded to spill on the table cloth. Thank god for "WineAway"!

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms;
6 - 8                 medium size portobello mushrooms
125ml (1/2cup) Balsamic vinegar
45 ml (3 tbsp)   chopped fresh coriander
15ml (1tbsp)     coarsely ground pepper
5ml (1tsp)         finely chopped garlic
5ml (1tsp)         salt
250 ml (1 cup)   Roasted Garlic-Flavored Olive Oil

For the oil; Roast 1 whole head of garlic drizzled in olive oil and wrapped in foil for approx. 30 minutes or until tender.  When done, squeeze garlic into 1 cup of olive oil and let sit for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.

Clean the mushrooms with a soft brush or damp cloth.  Remove the stems and set aside.

Prepare the marinade; Mix together vinegar, coriander, pepper, garlic and salt. Gradually whisk in the garlic flavored oil until mixture is thickened.

Brush Musrooms all over with the marinade and reserve the extra marinade to use as a basting sauce.  Arrange the mushrooms gill-side up in a shallow dish, cover loosely and let marinate in refrigerator for 4 -6 hours.

Place the mushrooms in a grill basket or directly on grill over medium-high heat and cook for 8 - 10 minutes per side or until tender, basting frequently with the reserved marinade. 

If you like you can slice the mushrooms and arrange on a larger platter or serve whole on individual plates.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A not so "peasant" week in Cabo, Mexico

Every now and then I get to step out of my "peasant" lifestyle and enjoy a little luxury! Thanks to a good friend I was recently invited to Cabo, Mexico for a week's stay in a private villa at Esperanza Resort.  The grounds at Esperanza are exquisitely beautiful.The landscaping and views are perfection!

Everything about the resort was perfection! The villa, the views, the food.  It was all perfect and just what this peasant girl needed after going through a trying few months. Every day our housekeeper/cook (that's right I said cook!) made us fresh tortilla chips with guacamole and different salsas to snack on.

 One afternoon we ventured out of our private villa and walked over to one the resort's restaurants overlooking the ocean.

The margarita's were fantastic as were the ceviche and the fish tacos! Once back at our villa we took a dip in our private pool.  This is the view from our pool & hot tub where we did a lot of whale watching! Does it get any better?!

This is one of the pools at the resort (there are a few). 

But who needs the resort pools when your private pool looks like this?!

Yes it was quite a luxurious week!  One that was far more exclusive than this peasant girl usually indulges in but sometimes the extravagant can be comforting too, non?

Thank you J. for a fabulous week!

What was your most luxurious vacation?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Comforting Breakfast!

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day! 5 out of 7 days a week I like to have eggs but for some reason this past week I was not in the mood.  Until this morning that is!  My body had to have eggs so eggs it got!  One of fav things to do is scramble up some eggs with whatever goodies I  find in the fridge left over from last nights dinner. 

  Today it was red peppers & green onions. Add a little cilantro at the last minute and ..... heaven! 

 Add freshly ground & made coffee (did I mention Ms. Peasant is a coffee snob?) and the days horoscopes and it's as near a perfect start to a day as you can get!

What's your most comforting breakfast?