Saturday, December 6, 2014

A New Pork Dish and A Food Survey

Hello my dear TERP Muffins!  I do hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  I stayed home this year, but didn't cook anything.  Instead of having a house party, everyone headed to Pappardella on Columbus Ave.  We all had a lovely time and for the first time in years, I actually ordered the turkey dinner even though I had other choices.

The turkey was moist and tasty  The sweet potatoes were infused with parmesan, which I found surprising, but delicious.  Otherwise, there wasn't much else about the meal to comment on.  It was all good.

Oh yes, there is something else to comment on.  I started with an excellent, fresh bellini.

I realize I am way overdue for a new recipe.  I could bring up a list of excuses as to why I'm not developing new recipes lately.  I could devote yet another paragraph to my health woes and remind my readers yet again that I had surgery.  That would be dishonest as my surgery was almost a month ago and I'm walking around pretty well and starting physical therapy.

My real excuse is that I've been doing this for seven years, I have trouble keeping my recipe ideas fresh, and when I'm cooking for myself, I have seven years' worth of recipes I can go back to.

Fresh inspiration does strike me from time to time and when that happens, I know I have to blog about it.

Before I start with a new recipe though, I am going to post this little survey from Emily.  I love filling out this kind of stuff.  I love talking about myself.  I'm so narcissistic!

Favorite cereal as a child?
Cocoa Pebble, much to my health-conscious mother's chagrin.
Coffee or Tea? With milk or without?
Meh.  I like the occasional tea and usually take it straight.  I think there is something weird about brewed leaves and milk.  I don't know why.   I think coffee as a straight beverage is kind of vile.  I like the flavor of coffee though.  If I drink coffee, it has to have lots of milk or cream.  Better yet, give me a cappuccino or latte or Irish coffee, or Thai iced coffee.
The one food you eat most often at breakfast.
Eggs and some veggies or a smoothie made from fruit, coconut milk, and almond butter.  Occasionally I make a pot of steel-cut oats.

Sandwiches are usually considered lunch food. If you had to choose from a grilled cheese sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly, which would you pick?
The angel on my shoulder says an almond butter or natural peanut butter with sugar-free jelly on sprouted grain bread.  The devil says grilled cheese. It's all good.
You can only put four ingredients in your salad (not including greens); what do you throw in the mix? Additionally, which greens and dressing do you pick?
I love a salad with arugula, shaved fennel, endive, and pine nuts with an orange-balsamic dressing.
One food you cannot live without at lunch.
I can't stick to one food at lunch.  I get bored too easily.  Water to wash it down is crucial.

It’s the end of the day. You’re tired, hungry, and your fridge is empty. If fast food (from a chain) is your only option, where do you go and what do you order?
I would probably go to Salsa Fresca down the street.  It's fresh and good for me and close by.  Otherwise, there is plenty of pizza in my neighborhood.
TV/Computer on or off while you are eating?
The one food you eat most often at dinner.
Chicken.  It's the one protein my husband and I both agree on.
Choose between two American desserts: cheesecake or apple pie.
I'd rather have something chocolate.  Can I say chocolate cheesecake?  Sometimes cheesecake is too tart for me and my husband is lactose intolerant, so I guess I should just go with apple pie.
Choose between two foreign desserts: tiramisu (Italy) or flan (Spain).
Tiramisu.  I like flan, but the flavor is often not intense enough for me.
Ice cream: cone or cup. I love a good sugar or waffle cone.  If it's a wafer cone, give me a double portion of ice cream in a cup.

Anyway, on to the recipe...

While food shopping this weekend I found this adorable little pork roast.  I have been craving some good pork and I knew I just had to buy this.  It was just a little over two pounds.

Once I bought it, I really had no idea what to do with it.  I tend cook pork with sweet sauces containing liqueurs, honey, molasses, and brown sugar.  I wanted to try something I have never tried with pork before.

I found some marsala in my liquor cabinet.  I have made chicken marsala many times, but I never tried marsala with pork.  I decided to try a marsala marinade.  Marsala is sweet, but I played down the sweetness by adding mustard, garlic, and rosemary and marinating it overnight.

It roasted up nice and browned and juicy.
I boiled the marinade to use as as sauce.  I kept the sides simple with haricots vert and roasted creamer potatoes.

This recipe is a keeper!

Marsala Pork Roast

  • 1 small pork loin roast (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 2 Tbl dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • Salt and pepper
 Whisk together marsala, mustard, rosemary, and garlic.  Place the pork and the marinade in a large plastic bag.  Seal and let marinate overnight.

When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and remove the pork from the marinade.  Reserve marinade.  Sprinkle the pork roast with plenty of salt and pepper.  Place in a roasting pan and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile boil the reserved marinade in a small saucepan until it thickens a bit. 

Remove roast from the oven.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with the sauce.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Time For A Change - Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Change can be good and change can be bad.  Unfortunately, even bad change can be unavoidable.

About a year ago I noticed while working out that I had some pain in my hip crease when I bent forward.  I didn't think much of it.  I was heavily involved with a body coaching program and my workouts were a huge part of my life.  I figured I was bound to strain something now and then.  It didn't hurt so badly that it impeded motion, so I ignored it.  The pain never went away and I decided that I should have someone look at it.  I went to my orthopedist, who had me do an MRI and some physical therapy.  The pain never went away.  I had a second MRI with dye injection.  This finally showed some tears in my labrum (the seal around the hip joint).  I would either have to live with the pain or have surgery.  Since I knew I didn't want to be in pain (however mild that pain was) for the rest of my life, I decided to go ahead and have the surgery. 

Now that the surgery is complete, my life has definitely changed.  Regular intense workouts, as well as dance, and even riding, are a thing of the past.  I may not be doing regular activity for another 6 months.  Right now it's just therapeutic moves as I shuffle around on crutches with a brace on my hip.  I have a long way to go to get my old life back.

Since I'm not crushing it in the weight room, galloping the equines around, or shaking my booty in Zumba or jazz class anymore, I also have to make some serious changes in my eating habits.  Gone are the days of giant hunks of protein for muscle building and big portions.  I have to eat quite a bit more conservatively now.

As I sit at home, bored and in pain, I am designing menus to get me through the next few weeks where physical activity will be very limited.  Many of my meals are plant-based and lower in fat than I previously ate.  I'm trying to bring the calorie counts down and the nutrients up.  I need my vitamins and minerals while I'm convalescing.

Here is my first recipe.  I was inspired for this by the holiday shops in Bryant Park.  You might remember an old post where I visited a vegan food stand called Two Tablespoons where I ate a somewhat disappointing cup of sweet potato and black bean chili.  I felt that it was not spicy or smokey enough.  Now I'm making my own version.  I even soaked and cooked my own beans since I am home more to do this now.   Since the Two Tablespoons version lacked both smoke and spice, I really ramped up the chipotle and added some ancho chili powder as well and even a bit of cinnamon.  I used fire roasted tomatoes for my tomato base.  I also added spinach to it so I can really make this a nutritional powerhouse.

I have an excuse for bad photos today!  I'm in too much pain to get out lights and props and linens and good tableware.  I had to photograph this as I ate it out of the first bowl I could reach without pain.

This is a very hearty chili with plenty of spice.  You don't need much to make a meal.  A little goes a long way.  There is so much heft and flavor in it that even I don't miss the meat.

Pretty good for chili made standing on one leg!

Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 Tbl chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups black beans cooked from dried (or 1 15oz can)
  • 1 28 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 bag spinach leaves
  • Salt to taste
 Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling salted water.  You want them soft enough to run a knife through them, but they shouldn't be falling apart.

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Add onions and cook until soft.  Add in the garlic, ancho, chipotle, and cinnamon.  Stir until onions are coated and mixture is very fragrant.  Add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes and beans.  Stir gently and cook for at least another 30 minutes.  At the end, stir in the spinach leaves until they wilt.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Birthday Dinner with Gordon Ramsay and a New Cake Recipe

I admit I have a weakness for Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.  I suppose part of my interest in the show is simply the "train wreck" aspect, but I also like seeing businesses turn themselves around.  I actually find Ramsay's help with the menu and critiques of the food to be useful for my own cooking.  The changes in decor are also fun.

I have mixed feelings about Ramsay himself.  I think he is genuine the way he throws himself into the fixing of the restaurant, and he does seem to be sincere in his effort to help, but let's face it, his personality leaves much to be desired.  I wouldn't want someone shouting and cursing in my kitchen like that.  I know he is a world-class, Michelin-starred chef, but he comes off as an obnoxious know-it-all.

Then one day a friend posted a YouTube link on Facebook to a cooking series that Ramsay hosted called Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course: 100 Recipes to Stake Your Life On.  As soon as I watched the first show I was hooked. 

Ramsay tones down the tough guy act in the show.  If I hadn't seen him in any other TV shows, I would have thought he was a very nice guy.  He comes across as down to earth and likeable.  The recipes he presented were delicious.  I couldn't wait to try some of them.   Unlike Rachael Ray and other FN personalities, he doesn't just teach how to make a recipe out of 20 random ingredients.  He teaches you how to cook by explaining the techniques behind them.  He even gives specific cooking tips in each show.  

Each show features a few short recipes that take only 10 or 15 minutes to make (take that Rachael Ray!) and one big, show-stopping, dinner-party-type recipe.  When I saw his chicken stuffed with chorizo and white beans, I knew I had to make it at my next dinner party.  (I found a printed version of the recipe online so you don't have to sit through the episode. )  Dad's birthday was this past weekend, so I had my chance.  

The chicken, so simply roasted with olive oil and paprika on the outside was moist and flavorful.  The stuffing was a meal in itself.  I'm sorry that dinner was nearly over before I remembered to take a photo of them.

I started the meal with my own version of Pappa Al Pomodoro - Tomato and bread soup (or literally "mush").  I added some roasted carrots and fennel to my version.  It was my chance to make sure I took advantage of the last tomatoes of the season at the farmers' market.

I ended the meal with a new cake recipe.  I adapted my favorite pound cake to include bourbon, apples, and sour cream.  I served it with caramel cinnamon ice cream.

I think Dad was happy with his birthday dinner.

Pappa Al Pomodoro

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes
  • Olive Oil for brushing and sauteeing
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced.
  • 5 slices good quality bread
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
Heat over to 400 degrees.  Cut the carrots and fennel into roughly equal pieces.  Brush with olive oil and roast 20 minutes, or until you can stick a fork into them.  Set aside.

Score an X into the skin of each tomato with a small sharp knife and drop into boiling water.  When the skins start to pull away, remove and plunge them into cold water.  Remove the skins.  Gently squeeze the seeds out over a strainer into a bowl to catch the juice.  Coarsely crush or chop the tomatoes. 

Blend together all vegetables in a food processor.  Process until smooth. 

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook another minute or two until fragrant.  Add the vegetable puree to the pot.  Crumble in the bread and add the stock.  Cook for another 30 minutes.  Stir in the salt and vinegar and serve.

 Bourbon Apple Pound Cake

  • 1/2 cup bourbon divided
  • 2 Golden delicious apples, chopped
  • 4 Tbl brown sugar, divided
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 sticks of room temperature butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, whisked to combine
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tespoon salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan or spray with baking spray.

Mix together apples, 1/4 cup bourbon, and 1 Tbl  brown sugar.  Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream butter until soft. Stream in the sugar and continue beating on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs just a little (about a tablespoon) at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Mix at medium speed until all eggs are mixed in and mixture is pale and gaining more volume.

Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately, ending with the flour. When it is thoroughly combined, gently stir in vanilla. Then gently fold in the apples.

Pour mixture into pan and bake for 55-65 minutes. Use the toothpick test to test for doneness. When baked cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.
Boil remaining bourbon, brown sugar, and lemon juice until combined and dissolved.  Make slits in the cooled cake with a knife and pour bourbon mixture over it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Still More Farmers' Market Fun

My quest to spend more time at the farmers' markets continues with full force this week.  I challenged myself to buy as few groceries as possible in a bricks-and-mortar store and create as many meals as I could just from farmers' markets finds.  I confess I had a few meals that contained grocery store items, but every meal consisted of something fresh as well.

My crowning achievement this week was the salad I created for my lunches.  Corn and peaches dominate the farm stands these days and I love them both dearly.  I wanted to integrate them both into the same dish.  I decided the best way to do that was with a salad that contained both.  I mixed fresh corn kernels with peach slices and little heirloom tomatoes.  When I first came up with the idea for this salad, I though ham would be the perfect protein to mix in and make it a meal.  Then I came across this cheesemaker at the farm market.

This is a very mild fresh goat cheese that mixes perfectly with fruit.

I had some inspiration for the dressing as well.  I found this grass-fed yogurt over the weekend.

I don't generally enjoy spooning yogurt directly into my face. I don't enjoy the taste that much (and don't dare tell me to stick it in the freezer and tell me that it can even begin to be as good as ice cream).  I do think it can work well in dressings, particularly for those of us who dislike mayonnaise more than we dislike yogurt.  I mixed some of the yogurt with honey (local again), mint, and lime juice.

I added tomatoes to the salad too for some more variety of texture and flavor.  These little heirlooms were just gorgeous.

It was a little monochromatic, but quite tasty and refreshing.  It had a pleasing mix of flavors and textures.

I wasn't sure what to call it since Peach-Corn-Tomato-Goat Cheese Salad seemed a little wordy.  I decided to call it Late Summer Salad, since it uses the ingredients that are always the best in late summer.

Late Summer Salad

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp mild honey
  • 4 peaches, sliced
  • Corn kernels cut from two cooked cobs
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (mixed color heirloom tomatoes look and taste the best)
  • 6 oz mild goat cheese, crumbled

 In a small bowl whisk together first four ingredients.

Place remaining ingredients in a larger bowl.  Gently toss with the dressing.  Allow to sit for about an hour so that the flavors can really blend.

What else have I made from the market?

I grilled these pork chops on my new electric grill.  I served them with blueberry-balsamic dressing.

I made risotto with fresh sorrel and grilled sausages.

I feel so healthy!

What else did I make this week?

Pork chops from Gaia's Breath Farm topped with Blueberry Balsamic Sauce.  That new electric grill is coming in handy.

How about risotto?  I tried a new green this week.  I chopped up lemony sorrel leaves from Lani's Farm into risotto.  I added some grilled sauages, also from Gaia's Breath.

I don't know how much time I'll have for farm markets this week, so we'll see what kinds of wholesome foods I can come up with!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Easing the Summer Produce Guilt with Pasta All Checca/Cruda and Other Delights

I was really feeling guilty.

How many times have I been to a farmer's market this summer?

Why am I not taking advantage of all that wonderful produce - one of the best parts of summer?

I asked myself these questions again and again all summer long.  I really needed some fresh local food.  My vacation to Chincoteague last week really drove that point home.  When driving through the rural parts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, I saw scores of roadside stands selling tomatoes and melons and peaches.  Even on Chincoteague Island itself I saw a half dozen produce stands and markets along with a bi-weekly farmers' market.  I was on vacation and staying in a hotel, so I couldn't really buy any of it then. I had no kitchen to prepare much of anything.   The guilt had me in its grip.  I vowed to make sure I visited markets regularly when I returned home.

I started out on my quest while I was still on the road.  As I drove off Chincoteague and onto Route 13 I made sure to stop at the first roadside stand I saw.  I bought a bounty of tomatoes and peaches.  I wanted some of their string beans too, but you could only buy them by the basket, so I passed as it was likely more than I needed.  

My first local cooking adventure started with pasta.  When the garden tomatoes are ripe, I love to make homemade sauce.  Sometimes I don't feel like going through the motions of boiling, peeling, and running them through the food mill though.  I decided to do it a little differently this time.  I made raw tomato sauce.

I have heard raw tomato sauce referred to as "Salsa Cruda" or "Salsa Alla Checca".  I'm not sure if one is more correct than the other, or if there is a difference between them.  All I know is that if the tomatoes are fresh and ripe, you have a delicious and easy sauce.  The key is to let the tomatoes marinate in the dressing overnight so they get nice and soft and sauce-like.

I doubt my version is different from any of the many others floating out there, but I'm going to give you the recipe anyway.  I like to add a few red pepper flakes to mine, just as I do with my cooked tomato sauce.  Does that make it any different?

I have seen people serve this with spaghetti, but I don't like to eat chunks and strands.  I like hearty pasta so I have chunks and chunks.

I added some steamed shrimp to my husband's portion and some chunks of fresh mozzarella to mine so we could have a bit of protein with our meal. Feel free to add your own proteins.

Pasta With Raw Tomato Sauce

  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, cored seeded* and chopped
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic lightly crushed
  • 2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
  • 1 handful chopped basil leaves
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tsp salt to taste
  • 1 pound hearty pasta such as penne, ziti, or rigatoni
*Squeeze the seeds out of the tomato over a strainer and save the juice to add to your sauce if you wish. It adds a bit more substance and flavor to the sauce and less of the tomato is wasted.

In a large bowl whisk together vinegar,  juice from the tomato seeds, salt, garlic, basil and red pepper flakes.

Whisk in olive oil until well blended.  Gently toss in tomatoes.  Allow to marinate several hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and toss with tomatoes.
My farm market cooking didn't stop there.  Another night during the week when I didn't have much time to cook after Zumba class, I made a nice frittata with farm market eggs, farm market lamb's quarter, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.

Don't worry.  I didn't serve it raw.  I just took this photo while it was still cooking.

No recipe needed here.  Caramelize the onions, cook the mushrooms, wilt the lamb's quarter, add in 6 eggs.  Cook until bottom is set.  Stick in the broiler 2 minutes to brown the top.


I have one more.  This one also doesn't need a recipe.

I have a new kitchen toy.  See my new electric grill?

I still can't grill outdoors, but I can at least try to simulate that grilled flavor.  I had a Foreman grill years ago, but it got pretty worn out from years of use.  I decided I didn't need it anymore because at that point I ended up with a Le Crueset grill pan.  Unfortunately it smoked up the kitchen terribly every time I tried to use it.  A few months ago Cathy at Noble Pig was recommending this Hamilton Beach electric grill.  I decided that an electric grill was the way to go for quickly cooking meats and give me a grill flavor.  I bought myself one for my birthday.

I inaugurated the grill with chicken breasts that I had tossed with rosemary, thyme (from my balcony garden), olive oil, garlic, salt and lemon zest and let sit for an hour.  

Then I made my own version of ratatouille on the side.  I layered Japanese eggplants (creamier texture and less bitter than the giant ones), zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes in a baking dish. All of the vegetables were from the farmers' market.   I made sure there was plenty of basil (from my balcony garden), garlic, olive oil, and salt in each layer.  I roasted the whole thing at 400 degrees for about an hour.

A little grated cheese on top is a nice addition. 

I feel a bit less guilty now.  I also feel lighter after all of the heavy meals I ate in Chincoteague.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cherry Cobbler - Just For Us!

How do you define a cobbler?

I usually think of a cobbler as a fruit dessert topped with a crust, but it isn't a pie because a pie has a bottom crust. 

But what kind of a crust?

If it's a crumb or streusel type of topping, what makes it a cobbler and not a crisp?

If the fruit is cooked in a batter such as this type of cobbler recipe that somewhat negates my definition of a cobbler as a reverse fruit pie, doesn't it?

Wait.  A cobbler isn't always about fruit is it? (Although when I make a similar recipe to a chocolate cobbler, I call it brownie pudding.)

Anyway, a cobbler doesn't have to even be dessert.  I realized that my chicken pot pie isn't really a pot pie since it is just chicken and vegetable filling topped with biscuit dough.  I now call it Chicken Broccoli Cobbler.   Marc agrees with me.

I don't know.  The more I think about it I start to think dessert shouldn't be about asking questions.  Dessert just needs to taste good.

Every summer I try to make cherry pie.  It's my favorite type of fruit pie (well, maybe blueberry is, but life is too short to waste making silly choices like that).  I love making it when cherry season is in full swing. I often like to make an almond-studded version as I love the way the flavor of  cherries and almonds complement each other.

This summer I wanted to try something different.  Maybe the idea was just born of not feeling like rolling out pie crusts.  I won't say.  I just thought it would be fun to swap out the pie for an interesting cobbler.  I decided on a cherry-almond cobbler where a little amaretto would flavor my cherries and almonds would flavor my crust. 

Once I had my idea for my filling, how would I do the crust?  Would the crust be crumbs, biscuits, or something more like a piecrust?

I decided to go with biscuits.  I would make a regular sweet biscuit dough and spread it over the top.  
I made it gluten free by mixing the almond flour with King Arthur gluten-free all-purpose flour.  I learned the hard way that that almond flour and rice flour make very cake-like biscuits, but they still taste good and it would make an interesting crust for my cobbler. 

I just put the butter, flours, sugar, salt and baking powder in the food processor.  I tossed in the almonds and then gently stirred into the milk until I had a thick batter that I could pour over the cherries.

Cherries were macerated (I said MACERATED) with amaretto and sugar for an hour..  Before they went into the pan I stirred in some cornstarch.  I put them in a baking dish and covered them with biscuit dough and baked it until it was golden.

Eat this quickly or the top will become soggy. 

I found that the grainy texture of rice flour is still pretty prevalent in the topping, even with the almond flour mixed in.   I would like to try this with regular flour and see how that changes the consistency of the dough.  I might be able to create more of a crumble texture this way.  I will definitely try a non-gluten-free version in the future.  My recipe has an all-purpose flour option.

I had really wanted to make this for a crowd.  Remember how I said in my last post that I wanted to make it for the 4th of July party?  Since that idea was shot down I worried that I wasn't going to have a chance to make my wonderful cobbler idea.

Dejected I turned to Sir Pickypants and moaned that I we hadn't been invited to any parties where I could take this wonderful cherry cobbler recipe I had in my head.

"You can make it for me," he said.

Funny how rarely I do that anymore.  When was the last time I baked a dessert just for us?  In my efforts to keep my weight down, dessert goes out of the house as soon as it comes in.  Good for my waistline, but not happy for my poor husband who only takes a bite before it's whisked away.

Cherry Almond Cobbler

  • 4 cups cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup amaretto
  • 2 Tbl corn starch
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (gluten-free if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 Tbl baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter cut into pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Place cherries,  1 cup of the sugar, and amaretto in a bowl.  Place in refrigerator for about an hour.  Right before using, stir in the cornstarch.  Pour into the bottom of a baking dish.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.  Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse in the butter until it looks like crumbs.

Place the flour mixture in a bowl and toss in the sliced almonds. and gently stir in the buttermilk.  You want to keep that crumbly texture and not quite incorporate it into a smooth dough.  Scatter this evenly over the cherries in the dish.

Place in oven and bake about 15 minutes or until crust is golden.

Butter Me Up!

I know I say I like bad puns, and that bad puns are a mainstay of TERP, but I think I just brought this blog to a new low.  The pun in this title is painful, which kind of disrespects a good restaurant.

I'm kind of over celebrity chefs.  I am just not starstruck by Food Network personalities anymore. I hardly even watch the Food Network.  I am extremely cautious about eating at restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.  I worry that they get by too much on the chef's name rather than the quality of the food.  If a chef owns multiple restaurants, I wonder what the quality control is like. Once upon a time I would have died to eat at Paula Deen's Lady and Sons.  Now I'm sure I could probably find a dozen better restaurants should I ever make it to Savannah.  I have no interest in ever trying that hot mess Guy Fieri opened in Times Square.   On the other hand, I have eaten at two of Mario Batali's restaurants and enjoyed them. It's not that I think all celebrity chef owned restaurants won't be good.  I am just a bit skeptical.  I think the one point to consider when eating at a celebrity restaurant is whether or not the chef in question is better known for his or her personality rather or for the food he or she prepares.

It was definitely the food and not the chef that has made me want to eat at Butter all of these years.  Although she is rather dismissive and biting when she judges Food Network competition shows, Alex Guarneschelli is my kind of cook.  I first discovered her on her old show The Cooking Loft and then eventually watched of some of her show Alex's Day Off.  I always loved the food she cooked.  She pays close attention not just to taste, but to texture and emotions.  Her cooking isn't just about flavor, but it's also about feeling.  I imagined that the food at her restaurant would be extremely satisfying both emotionally and physically.

For years I never tried to go to Butter because it was just too far downtown.  It's a little out of the way of my job and my husband's job to bother with travel.  Then she opened Butter Midtown just this year.  It's just a short walk from my office and Grand Central Terminal.  I can walk over there for dinner after work and then walk back to the train and go home as soon as dinner is over.  I knew I had to eat there for my recent birthday. 

It is located at the bottom floor of a hotel with a street-level entrance.

Here is a shot of the lounge in the restaurant's entryway.  The decor is very warm and inviting although not really my taste.  The restaurant has no windows, but the ceilings are open and there are murals of forest scenes around the walls at the top.  Everything is paneled in wood.  I'm not a fan of dark wood paneling and this place almost reminded me a bit of a basement rec room or the country cabin of a very wealthy hunter.

Our menu awaited us at our table.

I started with a cocktail.  This had watermelon, vodka, lime, and mint.  I could have drunk three of them.  It wasn't too sweet and the flavors were all perfectly balanced.  I'm wondering if I can replicate it at home.
Bread was very special.  These rolls were like a combination of brioche and croissant.  We had plain butter and herb butter to spread on them.  Not shown is a small dish of course sea salt should one prefer simple salted butter for the bread.

 It was my birthday, so I had to go all out and have as many courses as I could stuff into eager little face.  My appetizer was burrata and tomatoes.  Burrata can be disappointing for me because often I will order it and find that the outside is rubbery and the inside is watery whey.  This was nice and soft on the outside and the inside was very creamy.

Kevin didn't like his appetizer as much.  He ordered chicken liver mousse with schmaltz vinaigrette.  There were also these little onion bits scattered on it.  The whole thing was served on a sheet of matzoh.  I tasted it and found that it was a bit salty.  The pate tasted kind of sausage-like. 

We both did well with our main course.  I had a delicious pork chop with braised collard greens and bits of ham hocks and a mustard glaze.  It was a bit salty, but the flavors they used on the pork chops was perfect. 
Kevin opted for chicken with sauteed lambs quarter.  I thought the greens were very well handled.

They had a special side dish that night of fried zucchini blossoms.  These were amazing.  They were deep fried heaven. The coating was light and crispy.  They were topped with a tartar sauce and served over sauteed leeks.  I want another plate of these after just looking at the photo.
I was so stuffed at this point that I couldn't stomach my own dessert.  We decided to share.  I was very torn between the raspberry beignets with vanilla dipping sauce or the chocolate dobosch torte.  I opted for the latter.  The layers of yellow cake and creamy milk chocolate buttercream were lightly encased in a shell of hard caramel.

The service was perfectly timed and everyone was relentlessly cheery.  It was a pleasant experience overall.

I would definitely come back here for an occasion even if I didn't know who the chef was.  Well done, Butter.