Middle Eastern Vegetable Bake

Middle Eastern Vegetable BakeIt can be difficult to eat healthy this time of year. Especially here in the Northeast where we just made it through one of the coldest February’s on record. Heavier fatty foods like mac and cheese or meatloaf and mashed potatoes are often enticing while really fresh produce is harder and harder to find. We have to remind ourselves to “eat your vegetables” like our mothers always said, because the idea of a salad for lunch when it’s 5 degrees outside, just doesn’t cut it. Enter the Middle Eastern Vegetable Bake. This vegetable mélange is the solution to healthy eating and cold weather cravings – with a touch of warmth.

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Baked Sriracha BBQ Chicken

Sriracha BBQ Chicken

Have you heard of a little hot sauce called Sriracha? This Asian inspired chili sauce phenomenon continues dominate condiment sales across the US and seems to be a never ending trend. I’m a big fan so it was only a matter of time before this tasty spicy sauce made into one of my recipe posts. Combining an old fashioned classic BBQ sauce with hot sriracha seemed like a natural step. The sweet and spicy flavors of this sauce and tender pieces of chicken are like long lost friends. This pairing was meant to be.

Classic BBQ Chicken (the oven baked version with BBQ sauce) has recently been climbing the ranks of my favorite comfort foods list. Although BBQ Chicken is usually associated with summer grilling, there’s something comforting about baking chicken brushed with BBQ sauce and eating it with mash potatoes to suck up the flavorful juices. The only thing missing was a little spice. Sriracha chili sauce adds the spicy warmth this traditional dish was missing.

The base of the BBQ sauce recipe came from “The James Beard Cookbook,” by James beard – friend and mentor of my grandmother, Paula Peck. By omitting a few ingredients and adding sriracha and lime juice, this recipe turned into an addictive sweet and spicy sauce that marries well with not only chicken, but other meats and vegetables alike.

Although both my grandmother and James Beard never had the chance to taste sriracha or experience this nationwide obsession, I think they would have enjoyed it. As reflected in her cookbooks and recipes, my grandmother loved international cooking and ingredients. I imagine that if given the chance, a bottle of sriracha would have been a permament staple at the Peck household. She may have even created a sweet and spicy Sriracha BBQ chicken recipe such as this – garnished with finely chopped cilantro and a cooling side of avocado to balance the spice, of course.

Note: this BBQ chicken is also great on the grill!

Baked Sriracha BBQ Chicken

Baked Sriracha BBQ Chicken

Baked Sriracha BBQ Chicken

Ingredients

Sriracha BBQ Sauce
¼ cup olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 cup tomato puree
½ cup chicken broth
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup honey
½ cup sriracha chili sauce
juice of 1 lime
 
Any combination of skinless chicken:
6 legs and 6 thighs or
6 legs and 3-4 chicken breasts

Instructions

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add dry mustard and sauté for 1 minute. Add tomato puree, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, and honey. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in Sriracha sauce and lime juice. Allow sauce to cool slightly before using on chicken.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place chicken pieces in the dish in one layer. Brush or spoon BBQ sauce over chicken.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes – 1hour or until juices run clear, basting chicken with sauce every 15 minutes.

Serve with avocado and chopped cilantro.

Marbled Almond Cake with Espresso Glaze

Marbled Almond Cake with Espresso Glaze

Chocolate. Almond. Espresso. It’s hard to go wrong with this indulgent trio. Perfect with coffee or tea, this lovely bundt cake is my grandmother’s marbled almond cake recipe from “The Art of Fine Baking,” topped with a simple espresso glaze. I like to think of it as a Sunday morning cake. The espresso in the glaze can count towards your morning coffee (I’ll take any excuse to eat cake for breakfast).

I’ve barely scratched the surface of Paula Peck cake recipes but each one that I make seems to be better than the last. This is yet another example of a fabulous Paula Peck cake creation. The base almond cake recipe is versatile and can be used for many different types of cakes.The texture holds up well to both frosting and glazes, and would make an amazing layer cake with mocha frosting. One of best secrets of this cake recipe is the almond paste. This is what gives the cake its almond flavor but when combined or marbled with chocolate, it’s reminiscent of marzipan. Think chocolate swirled marzipan cake with sweet espresso glaze – are you with me yet?

This cake may look like it deserves a special occasion but it’s not necessary. I could tell you that I made this for a fabulous brunch or a breakfast for someone special but the truth is, I just wanted tasty homemade cake. Don’t be shy, you can do it too. Go ahead and make this fluffy marbled almond cake with addictive espresso glaze just for you and your cup of coffee.

Marbled Almond Cake with Espresso Glaze

Marbled Almond Cake with Espresso Glaze

Marbled Almond Cake with Espresso Glaze

Ingredients

¾ cup unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
½ cup almond paste
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 egg whites
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups sifted all purpose flour
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, melted
3 tablespoons prepared espresso or strong coffee
1 1/3 cups confectioners sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or two 6-inch bundt pans.

Cream butter and ¼ cup sugar. Add almond paste, a little at a time, creaming well after each addition until mixture looks light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time. Add vanilla.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add egg whites and salt. Beat on high speed until egg whites hold soft peaks. Then add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until egg whites are firm and hold stiff peaks.

Stir ¼ of the stiffly beaten egg whites into creamed almond paste mixture. Pour mixture back over remaining egg whites. Fold together, sprinkling flour as you fold.

Add melted chocolate. Marble roughly in batter by drawing through it with a rubber spatula.

Pour in prepared pan(s). Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cakes are golden brown and pull away from the sides of the pan(s).

When cake(s) are completely cooled, sift confectioners sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in coffee or espresso. Drizzle the glaze over the cake, allowing it run down the sides. Let set for 1 hour before serving.

Turkey Chili with All The Fixins

Turkey Chili

Warming one pot meals are a welcome site this time of year. After shoveling multiple inches of snow in the bone-chilling cold, coming home to a hot steaming bowl of chili could not be more comforting. Plus this chili is healthy (bonus!). I used turkey instead of beef for this lowfat version but the spices and an uncommon special ingredient round out the flavors of this dish to make it just as tasty as the beef version. The special ingredient is chocolate. Yes, chocolate. Not the sweet kind but unsweetened and no, you won’t taste it. It simply adds a deep rich flavor to the chili.

This recipe is a combination I created from recipes I’ve made in the past by both my mother and grandmother. I always liked the zing of the canned diced tomatoes and green chile in my mother’s recipe – pantry items are always a plus this time of year. While my grandmother used beef brisket instead of ground turkey in her beef chili recipe in “The Art of Good Cooking,” she also used that magical special ingredient, chocolate. Together with beans, garlic, onion, and of course, chili powder, this is one irresistible easy weeknight meal.

The harshest days of winter may have come late this year but they are here now and it’s probably no surprise that I turn to classic dishes such as this to get me through the worst of it. I can eat this chili all week, it gets better as it sits. Just change up the toppings: avocado and cheese for a few days then tomato and sour cream. Top it off with a sprinkle of cilantro and the freezing snowy days seem just a little more bearable.

Turkey Chili

Turkey Chili with All The Fixins

Turkey Chili with All The Fixins

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb of ground turkey
½ teaspoon salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 ½ tablespoons of chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cumin
¼ oz unsweetened chocolate or ½ tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
4 oz can chopped green chiles
15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups of broth or water
salt and pepper
 
Toppings
diced avocado
grated cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro
diced tomato
sour cream
chopped onion

Instructions

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add ground turkey and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Brown while breaking up meat with a spatula until pink is no longer visible. Remove turkey from pan and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and leftover turkey juices over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Let sauté for a few minutes, until onion is translucent. Add chili and cumin. Add chocolate and allow to melt. Stir in tomato paste, diced tomatoes, green chiles.

Bring to a simmer and add beans. Add broth or water and bring to a simmer. Add cooked ground turkey and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with choice of toppings.

Chocolate Chip Stuffed Marshmallow Mug Toppers

Chocolate Chip Stuffed Marshmallow Mug Toppers

Marshmallow is not just for kids anymore. In the past few years, there’s been a surge of gourmet marshmallows. I frequently see lavender, lemon, and chocolate flavored marshmallows for sale in clear plastic bags with a bow at price that usually exceeds $5. Even the good old Jet Puffed marshmallows from the grocery store have expanded into different sizes and flavors. This may be why I love marshmallows more now than I did as a child. The light fluffy texture is irresistible and when combined with chocolate, it’s easily one of the best confectionary combinations.

Homemade marshmallows take these sweet airy puffs to another level. Not only can you control the texture, you also have some control over the sugar content. This recipe is based on a classic version by David Lebovitz. A process similar to Italian meringue, the use of egg whites makes a super fluffy, almost spongy marshmallow that can easily be eaten on its own. If you’ve never made marshmallows, this is the recipe to try.

So why mug toppers? Well if you haven’t figured it out from the photos, mug toppers are simply marshmallows cut into rounds about the size of the top of a mug. This allows the marshmallow to fully cover the top of your hot cocoa so there are fewer holes or cracks. More surface area of marshmallow means more delicious mouthfuls of melting sweet marshmallow foam and hot chocolate. As if that’s not enough, I also stuffed these marshmallows with a layer of mini chocolate chips. As the marshmallow melts into your mug, bits of melted chocolate add a delightful contrast to each sweet foamy sip. A perfect treat for the family on a cold winter Sunday or cut in the shape of hearts for that special someone on Valentines Day. These chocolate chip stuffed marshmallow mug toppers are sure to satisfy the sweetest of sweet tooths.

Chocolate Chip Stuffed Marshmallow Mug Toppers

Chocolate Chip Stuffed Marshmallow Mug Toppers

Ingredients

2 ½ envelopes gelatin
1/2 cup + 1/2 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup corn starch
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over a 1/2 cup of cold water to dissolve and soften.

In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix the sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup of water. Place over medium high heat.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, pour in the egg whites and pinch salt. Beat on low speed until frothy.

When the syrup reaches about 210 degrees, increase the speed of the mixer to high and beat the whites until they are thick and fluffy.

When the syrup reaches 245 degrees, while the mixer is running on high speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the whites in a steady stream, avoiding the whisk.

Scrape the gelatin and water into the pan that you used for the syrup. Add 2 tablespoons of the water into the pan and swirl it to dissolve. (Place over low heat if necessary but there should still be residual heat left in the pan from making the syrup in it to dissolve it).

Pour the liquified gelatin slowly into the whites as they are whipping. Add the vanilla extract and continue to whip for 5 minutes, until the mixture feels completely cool when you touch the outside of the bowl (if mixture is not cooled all of the way, it will cause the marshmallows to perspire).

Sift together corn starch and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Dust a 9” x 13” baking dish evenly and completely with a layer of this mixture. Make sure there are absolutely no bare spots.

Use a spatula to spread half the marshmallow mixture in one even layer in the dish. Sprinkle chocolate chips in one layer on top. Pour remaining marshmallow mix on chocolate chip layer and carefully spread so that the layer is even. Allow to dry for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, uncovered.

Dust the top of the marshmallows and a large cutting board with some of the remaining cornstarch sugar mixture. Loosen sides of the marshmallow sheet and turn out onto cutting board. Dip a two inch round (or whichever size fits the top of your mugs) cookie cutter and cut rounds of the marshmallow. Toss rounds in the cornstarch sugar mixture. Shake the rounds vigorously in a wire strainer to remove the excess powder.

Place on hot steaming mugs of hot chocolate or cocoa and enjoy!

Storage: The marshmallows can be made up to one week in advance, and stored in an airtight container.

Chocolate Chip Stuffed Marshmallow Mug Toppers

Buffalo Fried Calamari with Ranch Dip

Fried Buffalo Calamari with Homemade Ranch Dip

Beer and fried food – it may be an American cliché but as the superbowl approaches, it’s hard to resist this game-time tradition. Fried calamari has become a favorite restaurant appetizer. It’s often sandwiched between wings and mozzarella sticks on restaurant and pub menus. This buffalo fried calamari recipe combines the best of classic buffalo wings and traditional fried calamari to make one spicy indulgent party appetizer.

Of all the recipes on my site, Fried Calamari with Two Dipping Sauces remains one of the most popular (yes I’m surprised too since I barely knew how to use a camera back then). So when I had buffalo fried calamari at a popular pizza restaurant, I was inspired. I wanted this dish to have a fresh and clean taste so I was determined to make each component from scratch. Somehow this makes me feel healthier when consuming a gazillion calories (the superbowl counts as a special occasion, right?). Of course, making everything from scratch isn’t necessary but I love adding fresh herbs to homemade ranch dressing (you can use blue cheese dip if you prefer) and having the ability to control the heat and spiciness of the buffalo sauce.

Unlike the heavy beer batter I’ve used previously to coat the calamari, I opted for a light flour coating to offset the additional layer the buffalo sauce adds. I simply marinated the cleaned cut squid in buttermilk for extra tenderness and coated it in lightly salted flour. After frying, the squid remains tender with a light crunch and can be easily tossed in the buffalo sauce. Eat while still hot and dip in the cool creamy ranch dip. The fried tender calamari with the heat of the spicy buffalo sauce and refreshing garlicky ranch dip is a dangerously tasty combination that’s sure to distract you from the game.

Fried Buffalo Calamari

Buffalo Fried Calamari with Ranch Dip

Buffalo Fried Calamari with Ranch Dip

Ingredients

Fried Calamari
1 lb cleaned squid
2 cups buttermilk
vegetable oil for frying
1 ½-2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
 
Ranch Dip
1 clove garlic, minced and pressed into a paste
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire
3 scallions, chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped basil (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Dash of hot sauce
 
Buffalo Sauce
1 clove garlic
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup hot sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

Instructions

Make the ranch dip and the buffalo sauce.

To Make the Ranch Dip:

Combine garlic paste, sour cream, and mayo in a medium size mixing bowl. Stir in buttermilk, lemon juice, and Worcestershire. Mix in scallions, parsley, basil (if using), salt and pepper, and hot sauce. Chill and serve cold.

To Make the Buffalo Sauce:

Melt butter with whole garlic clove in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in hot sauce. Bring to a simmer. Whisk in vinegar, Worcestershire, onion, powder, garlic powder, and cayenne powder. Remove garlic clove. Keep warm until ready to use.

For the calamari:

Clean and cut squid in rings. Place in a large bowl. Pour enough buttermilk in the bowl to cover the squid. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Pour flour and salt into a shallow dish or pie plate. Drain calamari and toss in flour to coat.

Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a dutch oven or large heavy pot to 375 degrees.

Carefully add the squid to the oil. Fry until just lightly golden, about 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Place calamari in a clean bowl and lightly toss with buffalo sauce until just barely coated. Transfer to another bowl or plate and serve with ranch dip for dipping.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is an American classic. It’s practically a staple in our diets, or at least the boxed version was while growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. When craving the favorite cheese drenched pasta, how do you decide which one to make? From baked and boxed to fancier truffle and healthier spinach versions – there’s a variation to match any specific craving. I keep it simple: if I’m craving comforting mac and cheese and willing to consume large amounts of this caloric delight for dinner, I want the real deal. Extra cheesy baked macaroni and cheese with a lightly crunchy top – no funny business.

This mac and cheese recipe is not from my grandmother’s books or any of her colleagues, it’s a creation of my own. As I expand this blog to include other classic recipes besides those of my grandmothers, classic baked mac and cheese was a obvious necessity. My grandmother had very few pasta recipes – I’m not sure if this was due to the time period (1960’s), or if it was just a category she was still in the process of mastering. Either way, there are some great classic pasta recipes out there, such as mac and cheese, that I felt should be included here.

Although this is a classic baked version, it is extra cheesy. This recipe includes four different types of cheeses: sharp cheddar, gruyere, parmesan, and mozzarella. Cheddar and gruyere are used in the cheese sauce and the mozzarella and parmesan are used in the gooey yet crunchy bread crumb topping. The combination of cheeses not only provides different textures but also different layers in flavor.

Another minor difference between this recipe and classic mac and cheese, is the pasta. While macaroni can easily be used, I prefer cavatappi pasta. This squiggly pasta is like macaroni with ridges and an extra curl at the end. The result is more pasta and more crevices for the cheesy sauce to hide. Rich with tender noodles and melted sharp cheese, each bite will satisfy that common craving for this American tradition.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 lb cavatappi or elbow macaroni pasta
3 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon mustard
pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
5 ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated gruyere
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Place the parmesan and bread crumbs in a small bowl and stir in the melted butter.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente (just tender). Drain the noodles (do not rinse).

In a small saucepan over moderate heat, warm the milk just until it simmers— careful not to boil. Remove from the heat.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in flour. Cook just until the mixture starts to turn a golden/tan color, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the warm milk, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the dry mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Add 5 cups grated cheddar cheese and gruyere. Stir until it's completely melted. Season to taste.

Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and stir to coat the pasta in the sauce.

Pour the macaroni and cheese into the prepared baking dish and top with mozzarella, remaining ½ cup of cheddar and the bread crumb mixture. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Mac and Cheese

Beef Stew

Beef Stew

As the darkest and coldest part of the winter looms, the next three months or so are the most difficult to get through. There’s little to look forward to (the Super Bowl doesn’t quite do it for me) and spring seems so far away. This is when I remind myself that it’s stew and soup season. These hearty but often healthy dishes can be as comforting as a fire in a fireplace (which most of us don’t have in NYC) on a cold winter day. If this winter becomes anything like last years – and lets hope it doesn’t – stews and soups are like that forgiving friend that’s always there for you. The cook times can work around your schedule and often the longer a soup or stew sits, the better it tastes. An easy one pot meal that can be made in the slow cooker while you’re at work.

Though it may not be the prettiest, this beef stew is a classic recipe that I adapted from my good old friend, “The James Beard Cookbook.” I also referred to a version by my grandmother, Paula Peck, in “The Art of Good Cooking.” Instead of just the standard, beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions – I also added mushrooms, tomatoes, and celery. Feel free to experiment with whichever vegetables you prefer. Since the beef needs to be cooked slowly to break down the fat and make it tender, I added each vegetable throughout the cooking process accordingly to my preferred doneness for each one. However, both the vegetables and beef could all easily be thrown together in a slow cooker. After just a few hours, the house smells of rich beef broth with scents of onion and thyme. Serve alone or over rice – the broth acts like a thick gravy that will be devoured with each steaming beefy bite. It may even make you forget about the long stretch of winter ahead, at least for the moment.

Beef Stew

Ingredients

2 lbs beef round or lean beef chuck, cubed
½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, large dice
1 clove garlic
2 ½-3 cups beef stock or broth
1 bay leaf
4 red potatoes, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tomato, seeded and chopped

Instructions

Place flour in a shallow dish and add salt and pepper. Roll meat cubes in flour mixture.

Melt butter in a large heavy soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and beef cubes. Brown beef cubes on all sides.

Add enough stock to fully cover meat. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add the bay leaf. Simmer, degreasing occasionally, until beef is tender (1 ½-2 hours).

Halfway through cooking (about 45 minutes), add the potatoes, carrots, celery, parsley, and thyme. Add the mushrooms and tomato about 15-20 minutes later.

Serves 6-8

Remove the thyme stems and bay leaf. Serve hot in large bowls or with rice.

Beef Stew copy

Avocado Grapefruit Fennel Salad

Avocado Grapefruit Fennel Salad

With the holidays behind us, we feel guilty about our episodes of gluttony. Though it may not last more than a week or two, we make New Years resolutions to exercise more and eat better. The gyms are packed and there’s that buzz about kale, quinoa, chia, and other healthy super foods. Since grapefruit is said to have properties that help reduce belly fat and we have all heard about the health benefits of avocado, I present you with this light Grapefruit, Avocado, and Fennel salad. A salad reminiscent of summer yet perfect for your post-holiday health kick, no matter how short it is.

You may be thinking that this healthy salad seems too modern to have any connection to my grandmother and the early American foodies. However, I actually found this recipe, in it’s most basic form (no fennel), in “The James Beard Cookbook,” by James Beard. I’m not sure of its history before his cookbook but to me, this qualifies grapefruit and avocado salad as a classic.

I made just a few modifications to the original recipe. I added fennel, which provides a crispy crunch and a licorice flavor gives the salad a light freshness. You can pick whichever vinaigrette you prefer but I opted from a lemon one made with fresh lemon juice and olive oil (which also helps preserve the color of the avocado). Want an extra kick? Try adding a little onion and chili flakes. All of your sweet, savory, and spicy bases are then covered.

Another fun and surprising aspect of this super simple salad is its seasonality. Yes, it’s somewhat seasonal. It may look like a summer salad that’s perfect for a hot day (which it can be), but grapefruit will be at its peak soon – making it cheaper, sweeter, and juicier than it is the rest of the year. So pick your favorite, white or ruby red, and whip up this light refreshing salad for lunch. With the superbowl right around the corner, the return of your favorite greasy appetizers will come sooner than you think.

Avocado Grapefruit Fennel Salad
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 grapefruits
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 2 avocados
  • dried basil (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pour lemon juice into a small mixing bowl and slowly add olive oil in steady stream, while whisking to emulsify. Whisk in dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Peel and segment grapefruit with a sharp knife, ensuring all white pith is removed. Place segments in a medium mixing bowl. Thinly slice fennel and add to the grapefruit. Slice or dice avocado and add to the mixture.
  3. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and lightly toss to combine. Season with additional salt and dried basil (if using). Serve immediately.

Grapefruit Avocado Fennel Salad

The Best Recipes of 2014

It’s been an interesting year. From the disappearance of Malaysia flight 370 to the Ebola outbreak and many other poignant news stories, those compiling this year’s lists of highlights and countdowns have their work cutout for them. Since I’ve never done a list of highlights on this blog before but I always catch myself reading those that I come across,  I thought I would give it try – for my recipe posts, not news events of course (I have no business discussing those). So I went back and reviewed the roughly 30 recipe posts of 2014 and picked my favorite 5 recipes, almost exclusively based on taste. Yes, pretty photos and writing are important but what we really want is a darn tasty recipe, right?

Before we get to the top 5 picks, other notable highlights of 2014 for Megan Peck Cooks include the a few stories I wrote for Edible Magazine:

Striped Bass Plaki on Edible East End  – a story about my grandmother’s amazing whole striped bass dish made with local Eastern Long Island seafood.

Linzer Torte on Edible Manhattan (featured in the Holiday Issue) – holiday memories surrounding my grandmother, Paula Peck’s, festive cocoa scented Linzer Torte Recipe.

I also had the honor of participating in the research for “1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die,” by Mimi Sheraton – just recently released and can be purchased on amazon (available in bookstores January 13th).  It was such a pleasure to work with Mimi Sheraton, a good friend of my grandmother’s.

Now for my top 5 recipe posts of 2014:

Classic Baked Lasagna

A classic lasagna recipe made with béchamel sauce instead of ricotta cheese. This will quickly become your favorite lasagna recipe and replace that tomato sauce-drenched version from the local mediocre Italian restaurant.

Lasagna No Ricotta

Smoked Salmon in Sour Cream-Horseradish Sauce

Horseradish, salmon, and dill add a freshness to this dip-like spread. Add a few slices of cucumbers for a refreshing crunch and this is the perfect light lunch or appetizer.

Smoked Salmon Spread

Salad Nicoise with a Twist

A salad nicoise that doesn’t follow any of the rules. Purple Peruvian potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and garlic scapes are added to make an amazing seasonal salad, exploding with flavor.

Salad Nicoise with a Twist

Stuffed Baked Apples with Homemade Caramel Sauce

Baked apples are taken to a whole new level with this crisp stuffed version. Oats, sugar, butter, and cinnamon are stuffed into a whole apple then baked and topped with homemade caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Excessiveness never tasted so good.

Stuffed Baked Apples with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream

Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

Lemon buttercream fills these spicy ginger almond sandwiches. A Paula Peck cookie favorite turned into irresistible sandwiches that will disappear as fast as you can make them.

Ginger Almond Sandwich Cookies

 

Happy New Year and hope to see you all in 2015.