Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pasta Salad

On the same episode of "The Sandwich King" as the veggie sandwich inspiration, Jeff Mauro made an absolutely delicious pasta salad to pair with another sandwich. We made this one pretty much exactly like his recipe. We forgot to add the peas the first time around. We added the peas later and it was even better! We also omitted the shallot and used a fresh yellow pepper in place of the roasted red peppers.

Here's what you need:
1 box fusilli pasta
1 bundle of asparagus
1 box of frozen peas (or about half a bag of frozen peas)
1 yellow pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh dill

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Kosher salt & black pepper to taste

Here's what you do:
Put your water on to boil. Be sure to salt the water well. You're going to first blanch your asparagus in the water for about a minute. It will turn a bright green and still have a nice bite to it.

Pull the asparagus and rinse under cold water (or have an ice bath standing by).

Once the asparagus is done, drop the pasta in the boiling water. Cook according to package directions, then drain and cool with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Slice the tomatoes in half and chop up the yellow pepper. Slice the asparagus on the bias. And finally, chop up the dill. Put everything in a large bowl. (The pasta is underneath, we promise!)

Now, for the dressing, combine the Dijon mustard, honey, minced garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl. You can whisk it, or you can just put a lid on the bowl and shake it up really well.

Pour over the top of the salad.

Give that a good stir to combine everything.

Let the pasta salad sit in the fridge for bit to let all the flavors meld together.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Apple Crisp

We ventured to Michelle's aunt & uncle's house the other day for an afternoon meal. We were in charge of bringing the dessert. They live about 45 minutes from us, so we needed something that would travel alright. We decided on apple crisp. We just popped it in the oven for a few minutes during the meal to heat it back up and voila - dessert was served.

Here's what you need:
8-9 apples (enough to fill an 8" pie plate)
1 Tbsp-ish lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp-ish cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Here's what you do:
Start by peeling, coring and slicing your apples. We also always coat our apples in a bit of lemon juice to prevent them from browning. You don't have to do that if you don't want.

Pile the apples into your pie plate and coat with cinnamon.

Pour the water over the top of the apples.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. 

Slowly add the flour. Mix it all together until it crumbles and the flour is incorporated completely.

Sprinkle the entire mixture over the top of the apples.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until your crisp has hardened and is golden brown.

Top with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Grilled Portabella & Veggie Sandwiches

Have we mentioned how much Zack loves a good sandwich? It's fitting that he enjoys watching Jeff Mauro, or "The Sandwich King" on Food Network. Well, we were particularly inspired by the grilled veggie sandwich that he made. We actually got up, went to the store to buy ingredients, returned home and started making our sandwiches after this show.

We switched it up a little, because we both just discovered we love hummus as a sandwich spread.

Here's what you need:
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
2 banana peppers
2 giant Portabella mushroom caps
1 red onion
1 small bottle of Balsamic Vinaigrette
Hummus to spread
Your bread of choice (we used wheat hoagies)

Here's what you do:
Slice your squash and zucchini so that they're about 1/4" thick. Seed and slice your banana peppers in half and remove the seeds, ribs and stem. Remove the stems from your portabellas and scrape out the gills with a spoon.

Toss all of that into a 9 x 13 baking dish and coat with the balsamic vinaigrette to marinade for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, either fire up your grill, or (if it's raining outside like it was for us) heat up your grill pan to medium-high heat.

We ended up having to grill in stages on the grill pan. You'll know they're done when you can grab the veggies with tongs and they are pliable. Since we had to do this in stages, we put the oven on warm and put our completed veggies on a cookie sheet and popped them in to stay warm while we did the second batch.

Now, all you have to do is build your sandwich. If you want to slice the pieces up some before throwing it all together, feel free. 


Monday, April 23, 2012

Pappardelle with Morel Cream Sauce

One of our favorite things about spring is that morel mushrooms taunt us and force us to tromp through the woods in search of them. The are amazingly good. Normally, we aren't as fortunate as we were this year, and we just get a couple of morels that we bread with cracker crumbs and pan fry. This year, however, we found quite a few our first time out, so we tried our hand at a Morel Cream sauce.

Here's what you need:
About 1/2 lb fresh morel mushrooms (you can use dried too, you just have to re-hydrate them)
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
1 package pappardelle pasta

Here's what you do:
If you found fresh morels, soak them in water when you get home to remove the dirt. It should all float to the bottom. If the base of the stems look dirty still, feel free to slice them off.

Remove the morels from the water and slice.

While you have a knife in your hand, mince up the shallot.

And finally, mince up the garlic.

Put a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter.

Put the shallots and garlic in the pan.

Let those saute for a couple of minutes, then add the morels in. Toss it all together to coat it in the butter.

Let the morels soften for another couple of minutes, then add the white wine.

And add the balsamic vinegar. Also, season with salt and pepper.

Let that reduce until it is almost completely dry.

Pour in 3/4 cup of water. Let that reduce until there is only about 2 tablespoons of liquid left.

Reduce the heat to medium to medium low and add the cream. You don't want your cream to burn. Let this simmer and stir frequently, making sure to get all the way into the corners of the pan. You'll also want to start boiling your water for the pasta at this point.

Let the cream sauce reduce by half and thicken. 

Once the sauce has thickened, add a tablespoon of butter. Taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking.

If your cream sauce reduces before your pasta is ready, drop the heat to low and stir occasionally. Don't let your sauce boil, or it will separate. You don't want that.

Drain the pasta and add it directly into the sauce, and mix it up to coat it.

This meal was rich and delicious and amazingly tasty. Though, anything with morel mushrooms in it is amazingly tasty to us.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pear Cups

We love pears. We also love simple desserts. While, normally Michelle takes over in the dessert category, this one was actually conceptualized by Zack. These are great to throw together if you're entertaining, because you can mix it all up and put them in the fridge, then pop them in the oven during dinner to bake.

Here's what you need:
2-3 pears (we used Bosch)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Vanilla bean ice cream to top

Here's what you do:
Sorry, we (once again) forgot pictures until we were almost finished. 

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Peel and slice your pears. Throw into a large bowl and coat with the lemon juice. This will stop any oxidation and browning of your fruit.

Combine the cinnamon and nutmeg and add to the pears. Stir to make sure everything gets coated evenly. We considered adding sugar to the mix here, but we decided that the natural sugars in the pears would be enough.

Divide the pears into individual ramekins. 

For the topping, combine the brown sugar and butter and mix until it starts to clump together. Spread over the top of the pears.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the brown sugar has dissolved and melted down into the pears.

Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Thursday, April 19, 2012


As you all know, we are home brewers. Every year we attend three events that our friends put together to compete in a little friendly competition and taste everyone's hopped concoctions. A couple of weeks ago, our friends, Tony and Laura, put on the second annual "Bockfest". 

Last year, we were still in our tiny apartment and didn't have room to brew, so we just brought a ton of food. Beer Sausage and Bierrocks, to be exact. This year, however, we did brew a bock, so we brought that, along with just one culinary treat, Würzfleisch, which is basically German Chicken & Gravy.

We brewed a Ryebock, which Zack crafted the recipe for himself. Guess what - he won! We were extremely happy with how the beer turned out. We now have a really cool stein to grace the top of our piano for the next year too.

Alright, on to the food. Bock is a German beer, so everyone is asked to create German food for the event. We cooked with a lot of cabbage last year, so we wanted to switch it up and see what else Germany has to offer. We also needed something that would work nicely in a slow cooker. We didn't cook this in the slow cooker, but transferred it after and re-heated it at the party.

Würzfleisch was the winner. Keep in mind, we're cooking for a large group of people, so we tripled the original recipe.

Here's what you need:
Chicken & Gravy:
3-4 lbs chicken (we used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but any part of the chicken will do)
6 cups chicken stock
6 celery stalks
3-4 carrots
A handful of parsley
3 tsp whole allspice
3 tsp whole peppercorns
3 bay leaves
6 Tbsp butter
9 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup white wine (we used Gewürztraminer)
3 Tbsp lemon juice
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce

3 packages brown & serve rolls
2 1/2 cups Gruyere, grated

Here's what you do:
Chop up the celery and carrots and add to a large stock pot with the allspice, peppercorns and parsley.

Add the chicken stock and chicken.

Bring to a boil. Let simmer for one hour.

Scoop the solids into a large bowl and strain your broth into a smaller sauce pan. We ended up with about 4 cups of stock.

In another stock pot, melt the butter.

Add the flour and whisk to make your roux.

Let your roux cook for a couple minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Don't let it brown too much though.

Slowly add in the stock. We ran it through the strainer again as we poured it in. Whisk constantly to prevent lumps.

Bring to a low boil and then reduce the heat to medium and let it thicken. 

Pour in the wine.

Next add the Worcestershire sauce.

And finally, add in the lemon juice.

Let that simmer for about 10 minutes, to cook out the strong wine flavor. Stir every couple of minutes, making sure you get all the way in the corners of the pot. You want to ensure that your sauce doesn't burn.

While your gravy is cooking, separate your chicken and veggies from the spices and parsley.

When the gravy has thickened so that it clings to the spoon, add in the meat and vegetables.

We let that cook together for another 10 minutes or so over medium heat.

For the rolls, we bought the brown and serve dinner rolls and baked according to the package instructions. We grated a block of Gruyere, sliced the rolls in half and topped with the cheese.

From there, we put them under the broiler to melt the cheese and crisp up the rolls. We also were in a rush to get going and forgot the after picture. 

This meal was very nice and was pretty different than the other German food at the party. The rolls were originally intended to have the chicken and gravy poured over them, but it turned out that people loved the Gruyere and just ate them plain. Whatever works!