Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Recipes #11 & #12: Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters with Lime Yogurt and Coconut Quinoa Lentil Stew

Before I even kicked off my month of cooking, I had been trying to make dinner party plans with my BFFL Sondra and her boyfriend Tony. Since the two of them work unconventional schedules and live about an hour away in Providence, it’s often difficult to book them for a weekend night so we made sure to plan far in advance. We managed to sync schedules and they came up and joined Dan and I for dinner last Friday night.

Sondra and I grew up across the street from each other and spent so much time together that our childhoods are virtually identical. Not only is she my first friend, but also my oldest—not in age but in years that we’ve been friends, which is a whopping 25. Our 2-decade + friendship has seen it all: knock-down, drag-out fights about Weebles (for the record, I still think I was in the right), our traditional Christmas Eve-Eve sleepovers, trips to Whale’s Tail and Clark’s Trading Post, various really stupid teenage phases, and even living together in good ol’ 14T. Friends like Sondra are hard to come by; the kind who’ve been there through literally every phase of your life, whose family feels like your own (well, probably because our parents are both named John and Donna and we both have Aunt Sue’s who own ice cream stores), and the one’s who you know will have your back no matter what. In other words, I love Sondra and she’s the best.

Since it’s pretty clear that I’m awful fond of Sondra, its no surprise that I’m super-critical of any guy who she brings home to meet me. After years of less-then-awesome prospects, she finally got it right with the wonderful Mr. Tony Pacitti. Tony’s an all-around stand-up guy and a great writer to boot. His book, My Best Friend is a Wookie, is totally awesome and everyone should read it (especially those of you from my generation because the cultural references are a goddamn laugh riot). All the gushing aside, mix two Dan’s with a Sony and a Tony, add in some fritters and Trader Joe’s wine, and you’ve got yourself a pretty awesome Friday night.

I hit up my girls over at Two Blue Lemons for some delicious gluten-free recipes (Tony was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease), and came up with these two gems, both of which were so delicious that there were no leftovers (bummer for me).

Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters with Lime Yogurt

Coconut Quinoa Lentil Stew

Love you guys!

and I love fritters...

Sondra and I in Tortola last year

and of course, Sondra and I when we were 'lil ones

Monday, March 28, 2011

Recipe # 10: Baked Bulgur-Stuffed Tomatoes

If there were one person to credit for my healthy eating habits and my general philosophy on food, it would definitely be my mom—or as the secret Brit in me has always called her, Mum. Although she spent her pre-retirement days as a hairdresser, her true passion has always been food and nutrition (well, that and rearranging the house so often that it’s virtually unrecognizable every time I go home for a visit). She started me off on a healthy eating path at a young age by making all of my baby food herself, and when I was old enough to develop a taste for junk food, by forbidding anything even remotely unhealthy from entering her cabinets (which was especially difficult considering that my dad was a Frito Lay salesman and had a giant truck stuffed with potato chips parked in our driveway).

Because of her, I was that kid eating tofu-veggie spread and rice cakes for lunch while everyone else was scarfing down Lunchables and washing them down with Red #40’s favorite friend, Hawaiian Punch. Although I was a little bitter at the time, now that I’m old enough to understand her motives, I’m thankful that she molded my eating habits when I was young, and grateful that she instilled in me the understanding that you truly are what you eat.

When at the ripe age of 12, I saw a cow get branded and proclaimed that I was never eating meat again, she was nothing but supportive, taking me to see a nutritionist and preparing me veggie-centric meals, always saying that I’d end up healthier and live longer because of my decision. Years later, it’s my turn to be the supportive one, and I’m proud of my mom for making the decision to follow in Bill Clinton's footsteps and adopt a vegan diet. It’s been inspiring to see how dedicated she is to her new lifestyle and to hear about how much better she feels inside and out because of it. Plus, she shares all of her delicious new recipes me with me, including this one for baked bulgur-stuffed tomatoes that we enjoyed together when I was home last weekend.

Here's to you Mum!

Photos again are courtesy of my very talented brother, Sean

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recipe #9: Spinach Pesto with Whole-Wheat Pasta

I found this recipe for Spinach Pesto with Whole-Wheat Pasta on the Whole Living website a ways back and have been excited to try it out. I'm a huge pesto fan so I was curious to see how this spinach variation would compare to the traditional basil version. The outcome? Delicious, and even better than I had thought it would be. It tasted very similar to the pesto that I know and love too, just with a slight spinachy flavor.

Mmmmarch! And more to come this weekend, I have a few culinary adventures planned.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recipe #8: Veggie Pot Pie

Since I hadn’t been down to the Cape to see my family since Christmas, I decided to make the trek (if you can even call it that, it’s only an hour and a half drive) down this past weekend to get in some quality Zeno bonding time. I went down with the intent of cooking dinner for the fam and it’s a good thing that I did, because after a long day of yard work and catching up with each other, I could tell that cooking definitely wasn’t at the top of my parents’ wish list for the evening. Danne’s Kitchen (and the boundless energy of a 27-year-old) to the rescue!

After flipping through a few cookbooks and scouring the internet (and after my dad suggested that we make pizza, surprise!) we decided on this tasty veggie potpie, courtesy of Jess Powers’ blog. It turned out awesome and was surprisingly flavorful for something with no animal products and minimal spices and oil. A+, and something that I will definitely make again. It even got a decent review from my 17-year-old brother (who took these lovely photos btw) who has yet to develop a taste for vegetables.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Recipe # 7: Flour’s Corn Muffins with Raspberry Jam

What’s the best way to start out your Saturday morning? By whipping up a batch of Flour Bakery’s corn muffins with raspberry jam. Seriously, the most delicious thing I’ve ever baked, hands down. Here’s the recipe so all of you can experience these magical little wonder muffins in your own kitchen:

Corn Muffins with Raspberry Jam (makes 12 large muffins)

* 2 3/4 cups (385 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
* 1 cup (200 grams) medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
* 2 tsp. baking powder
* 1 tsp. baking soda
* 1 tsp. salt
* 1/4 cup (1/2 stick/56 grams) unsalted butter, melted
* 3/4 cup (165 grams)packed light brown sugar
* 3 eggs
* 1 cup (240 grams) milk, at room temperature
* 1/3 cup (70 grams) canola oil
* 3/4 cup (180 grams) creme fraiche, at room temperature
* 3/4 cup (255 grams) raspberry jam

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the over to 350F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin, coat with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until it forms a thick slurry. In a second large bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended. One at a time, whisk the milk, then the oil, then the creme fraiche, and finally the butter-sugar slurry into the eggs. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and fold carefully, just until the dry and wet ingredients are well combined. The batter will be thick and pasty.

3. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each prepared muffin cup. Spoon 1 tablespoon jam on top of the batter in each cup, then top off each cup with another 1/4 cup batter, making sure the cups are evenly filled. They should be filled to the rim.

4. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until the edges of each muffin are golden brown and the center springs back when pressed with a fingertip. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan.

5. The muffins taste best the day they are baked, but may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If you keep them longer than 1 day, refresh them in a 300-degree oven for 4-5 minutes. Or, you can freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for up to 1 week; reheat directly from the freezer, in a 300-degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recipe # 6: Curried Tofu Sandwiches with Apple, Avocado and Mixed Greens

Since I started freelancing in Somerville this past January, I’ve been using lunch break as an excuse to explore my new work neighborhood, Union Square. I’ve found a bunch of great little places, but so far my favorite has been this hidden gem, Bloc 11 Café. Not only do I love them because they produce virtually no trash (they recycle and compost like crazy), but their food is DELICIOUS and they have seating in an old bank vault, how cool is that? They make an amazing curried tofu sandwich that I decided to try to recreate (using this recipe) for a little lunch party that I hosted last Saturday with my guests of honor, Amanda Morgan and her little bambina Eleanor.

Amanda and I met at Neoscape a few years back where we worked side by side (no literally, we sat 2 feet apart from each other) as graphic designers. We made fast friends and spent the entirety of 2007-2009 attached at the hip, having more fun than we knew what to do with. Things have changed a bit since the glory days of 2007 though: we were both laid off from Neoscape, I’ve been jumping around from one job to the next, Amanda went back to school to get her masters degree, and most importantly, she had a baby last August, little Eleanor Grace. Needless to say, the all night danceathons have been replaced with afternoon luncheons. Does this mean I’m officially an adult? Aahhhhh…

Last Saturday I scheduled some long-overdue hangout time and invited Amanda, Eleanor, and Justin (Eleanor’s daddy) over to be my curried tofu guinea pigs (well, that’s a funny sentence). We were also joined by Alexandra, my roommate and Amanda’s childhood BFF, the one and only Dan Kaplan, and of course, Fanne, who was about to have her first encounter with a small child (I was a little nervous but apparently she only abhors small animals, small humans are in the clear, phew).

The outcome? The sammies were super easy to make and they came out pretty tasty too. I feel like they were a teeny bit bland so next time I’ll probably up the spices or use a little less tofu. Bloc 11 adds sliced apples and avocado in their version and I highly recommend including both if you decide to use the recipe I posted above.

And don’t think Eleanor went hungry, Amanda taught me the art of pureeing fruits and veggies for babies and lil’ El dined on some tasty bananas and avocado.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Recipe #5: Vegan Pumpkin Ravioli

Can ravioli be vegan? You bet it can! Read on…

Last Thursday night I went over to Joyce’s again for our weekly Jersey Shore dinner party. Since it just so happened to be Spring Break too, we were lucky enough to have my very dear friend Jenny DeArcangelis as our guest of honor.

Jenny and I go way back to 7th grade when we met at a tent sleepover in our friend Maeve’s backyard. We became fast friends and knew it was meant to be when we started noticing odd similarities between us: She’s just Jenny, not short for Jennifer and I’m just Danne, not short for Danielle; we both have long and confusing last names that start with the letter D; we have matching nose moles (sorry, is that taking it too far?); and we seem to always make the same gooney face in photographs (scroll down for proof). With all of these similarities, it’s no surprise that we were often mistaken for each other in high school, so much so that we started telling people we were twins (and sometimes still do).

Jenny and I also share a lot of similarities when it comes to our philosophy on food, but she definitely one-ups my vegetarianism with her veganism. A lot of my friends have gone through a vegan “phase” but Jenny is the only one who’s actually stuck with it—and for almost a decade too. We’ve shared many delicious meals together and last Thursday’s was no different.

Joyce, Jenny and I decided that it would only be fitting to make a nice Italian meal for Jersey Shore night, when in Rome, right? (*If my sarcasm wasn’t evident, let it be known, mainly for the sake of my Italian grandmother, that I do not think that any cast member of the Jersey Shore accurately represents the Italian American community*). That being said, we picked out this delicious recipe for pumpkin ravioli. How is it vegan you ask? Wonton wrappers instead of dough! Vegans beware though, I had to venture to Super 88 to find vegan wonton wrappers because a lot of brands make them with egg.

This recipe wasn’t difficult at all and it made a ton. I even spooned the leftover filling onto some pizza dough, folded it up, and made little pumpkin pierogies. Delish!

We were all slightly embarrassed to admit that the recipe came from…get ready for it…, and even started making up a story about how it was a family recipe passed down from Jenny’s Chinese-Italian grandmother, but I decided to just fess up. Hey, at least is good for something…


hahaha sorry Jenny, it was too funny not to post

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recipe #4: Little Zeno’s Pizza

I may look more like my Polish half, but I definitely get my taste buds from the Italian side (not to mention my taste for wine—or could that be from my Irish blood?). I absolutely love, love, love Italian food and have a special affinity for pizza in particular.

My relationship with pizza goes way back—back to before I was born and my dad, the best pizza chef I know, had dreams of opening up his own pizza shop to be called Zeno’s (you know, since Dzenawagis’ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue). Although he went as far as purchasing the equipment and acquiring the recipes, apparently it wasn’t meant to be because things fell through at the last minute (on two separate occasions) when a term in the purchase and sales agreement wasn’t agreed to. This didn’t stop him from making pizza for the family though, and it certainly didn’t stop me from thinking he was still the best pizza chef in town—Zeno’s or no Zeno’s.

Pizza also served as a sort of special occasion indicator in my family. The arrival of the Papa Gino’s deliveryman signified the start of the weekend, a bunch of Christo’s pizzas at Grammy’s house was a telltale sign that a family party was underway, and a trip to Town Spa in Stoughton meant something even more special than both of the previous two events combined. So for me, pizza has always been a little more than just pizza, it’s a harbinger of happy memories.

So when my family came up last Sunday for a visit, is it any surprise that they suggested pizza as their meal of choice from Danne’s Kitchen? Since one of my clauses this month is that I try all new recipes, I decided to make a few pies with ingredients that I haven’t tried before. In addition to a few staples like pepper and onion and sliced tomato and garlic, here are a few new combos that were added to my pizza library:

Little Zeno’s Pizza 1: Red sauce, mozzarella, and sautéed sweet potato with globs of ricotta
Little Zeno’s Pizza 2: Red sauce, mozzarella, sautéed white potato with garlic, spinach, and onion.

Many pizzas were made and many Zeno’s were fed, and since I again failed to photograph the meal, I’ll leave you with this photo of two pizza loving Zeno’s.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Recipe #3: Rigatoni a la Norma

Although this recipe is pretty basic—it's essentially just rigatoni with sauteed eggplant and ricotta—it's totally delicious and a great way to add a little excitement to pasta night. I found this recipe in last October's issue of Runner's World (oh, marathon running dreams *sigh*).


Pomodoro sauce
1 medium eggplant, peeled, then cut into one-inch cubes Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons flour
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 pound rigatoni
6 tablespoons ricotta cheese


Boil a pot of salted water. Heat pomodoro in a saucepan. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. Place on paper towels to drain for 10 minutes, then dust with flour. In a saute pan on medium, saute one garlic clove in 1 1/2 tablespoons oil until golden. Add half the eggplant; saute until brown on the outside but tender inside. Place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Repeat with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and remaining garlic and eggplant. In the same pan, saute onion in last tablespoon of oil until tender (seven minutes). Add to pomodoro sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to boiling water. Two minutes before pasta is cooked, remove from water and add with the eggplant to the pomodoro sauce (with some pasta water if needed to keep the sauce liquid). Cook until pasta is tender. Divide into six servings. Top each with a tablespoon of ricotta.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Recipe #2: Donna H’s Blueberry Scones

Growing up, I was pretty convinced that I was born in the wrong decade. I took swing dancing lessons, wore wing tips and cardigans with my initials sewn on, knew every episode of I Love Lucy by heart, and spent my Friday nights watching old musicals I rented from the library. And yeah, I had a crush on Taylor Hanson like a lot of other girls, but Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley were the ones who I really swooned over.

When the movie Pleasantville came out my sophomore year of high school, I was obsessed. Could I please get sucked into a 1950’s sitcom where my closet was filled with poodle skirts and my boyfriend gave me his letter jacket? Truth be told though, the neighborhood that I grew up in shared a lot of similarities with the one in the movie. It was the kind of place where there were so many kids your age that you never had to worry about not having anyone to play with. One where the annual 4th of July cookout with cakes made out of strawberry stripes and blueberry stars was the big event of the year. And one where you could expect a crowd gathered around your new car when you drove it home from the lot. In other words—it was awesome.

Our Pleasantville neighborhood was also equipped with our very own domestic goddess, my best friend Sondra’s mom, Donna. Donna is an absolute master at all of her many crafts—cooking, baking, sewing, embroidering, you name it. And the best part is that she’s super generous, always making an extra loaf of English Muffin Bread for you, or mailing you a pair of hand knit mittens just because. So when I wanted a delicious scone recipe, there was really only one person to turn to.

A few days after my written request, I received a card from Donna containing a bunch of different recipes for scones. I’ve been sitting on them for a few weeks now, so I decided to dedicate Saturday morning to trying out the blueberry ones. I was a little nervous that they wouldn’t come out just right—scones have a very particular consistency—but low and behold they turned out great (not as great as Donna's, but I knew that was impossible). Now that I have confidence in my scone making abilities, I’m excited to try the other recipes that she sent and to make the amazing lemon ginger scones from my Flour Bakey cookbook. The recipe that I tried is a little lengthy (like this post turned out, whoops haha) so I didn’t post it, but let me know if you’d like me to pass it along.

Thanks Donna!

p.s. Yes, I know, I should be photographing these delicious things, coming this week!

A photo of Donna and I in Tortola last year

Friday, March 4, 2011

Recipe #1: Mixed Bean and Toasted Corn Tacos with Agave Nectar Margaritas

Last night I kicked off my month of cooking with my very dear friend Jocelyn, or as I like to call her, Joyce. Joyce and I go way back to 2002 when we were suite-mates (we preferred suite-mateys) in the dorms at MassArt. Not only did we live together and take all of the same classes, but we also studied abroad together in Florence, Italy the summer after our junior year.

Not surprisingly, that experience left us with a strong culinary bond (not to mention a deep love for anything involving truffles), and we’ve been making dinners together ever since. She’s one of my besties and one of my favorite dinner party companions, so it only made sense to start out this month’s challenge with her.

Now, on to what we made…

Even though Spring is only a few weeks away, it’s still pretty frigid in Boston so we were in the mood for something warm and crunchy. After looking through dozens of recipes, we decided on the Mixed Bean and Toasted Corn Tacos from my favorite cooking blog, Two Blue Lemons. And since it just so happened to be Thirsty Thursday (she’s my friend from college, I’m allowed to make these references), we decided to mix up these delicious Agave Nectar Margaritas as well. Both recipes were delicious, easy to make, and fulfilled the warm and crunchy requirement (well, not the cocktails, but they weren’t supposed to). While a taco isn’t branching too far from my list of staple meals, the bean mixture and toasted corn is a great addition to my usual fillings that I will definitely try again.

And for dessert? A new episode of the Jersey Shore. I think I’m really going to like this month…

Joyce and I enjoying some Pinot Grigio at our apartment in Florence

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Viva La Dinner Party

I’ll start out by saying that this month is an open invitation to invite yourself over for dinner, seriously.

Because of its insular nature, winter has always been the perfect time of year to hunker down and clock in some serious time in the kitchen. After all, is there anything better than a warm, home-cooked meal on a snowy, winter day? Since I consider myself to be a pretty domestic gal too, you’d think that I would have been cooking up a storm all winter long, but I haven’t. I must have kept too busy sorting through all of my worldly possessions and drawing fruits and vegetables because I can probably count the times I made a home-cooked meal on one hand.

While I don’t have dreams of going to culinary school or working in the food industry again (if you can call putting out a complimentary cheese tray for passengers on a ferry, "the food industry"), I really do like cooking and I can never manage to do enough of it. This month I’m making up for lost time with Danne’s Kitchen, a month where I try out 3 new recipes a week and invite you over to join me, because really, what’s a delicious meal without someone to share it with? Plus, I’m ready to come out of my winter hibernation and hang out. I want March to be filled with good food and good friends.

Viva la dinner party! (and really, invite yourself over)

p.s. This one’s inspired by you Jess Powers. I’ve been salivating all winter long over here reading about all the wonderful food that you’ve been whipping up.