Monday, March 28, 2011

persian pilaf

How many of you out there have I fooled, I wonder?

I didn't mean to, I swear. It just happened. I can see how you might have thought that I'm a vegetarian, and flattered that you think I have the discipline to wean myself off of bacon.

Hello, my name is Cristin, and I am, in fact, an omnivore.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guest Post on Boston Food Bloggers!

Hi Everyone,

Click over to Boston Food Bloggers to check out Part I of my guest post on Restaurant Reviewing!

Update: and now Part II is up! Thanks, everyone, for your support and comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cupboard Cleanout: simple chocolate almond cake

This is one of a series of Cupboard Cleanout posts dedicated to using up those odds and ends we all have laying about the pantry. It's a pantry liquidation sale— everything must go!

This is my season for chocolate. Not around Valentine's Day, when chocolate feels so cliché and overdone that I turn to other alternatives. Not in December, when the sight of another sweet makes me cringe and swear to myself that I will definitely, absolutely, hit the gym this week, seriously. And certainly not in summer, when anything chocolately seems impossibly dense and heavy and no way am I turning on my oven to bake in this heat.

Ergo: this cake, in late March.

The beauty of this chocolate almond cake is in it's simplicity. It bakes in 25 minutes. It doesn't leave you with a countertop full of dishes. It allows you to use those cake-baking components that have lived in your pantry for so long, they better start paying rent (I'm talking about you, squares of baking chocolate from 2009).

And my favorite bit of simplicity it's so good, it doesn't even require icing. Eat it with just the faintest dusting of powdered sugar, or plain like a brownie, warm and gooey from the oven.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cupboard Cleanout: chickpea-tahini patties with spicy sesame sauce

People, I have news: we're moving.

I was abroad on the day that we moved into our current apartment, nearly three years ago, which left Merrick doing quite literally all of the heavy lifting. On a third-floor walk-up. On the hottest day of the year. Have I mentioned how much I love this man?

But I will be around to help this time, so I have a serious interest in making these moving boxes as few and as light as possible. I'll be writing a series of 'Cupboard Cleanout' posts, dedicated to using up those odds and ends we all have laying about our pantries―you know, like our mostly-eaten stash of baking chocolate, or the box of quinoa we bought in an effort to eat healthier (and never touched).

Or, in this case, a quarter of a bag of dried chickpeas and a can of tahini.

If you're not familiar with tahini, it's a paste made from ground sesame seeds, used frequently in North African, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines. And it is utterly delicious. Some separation between the paste and the oil is normal, just like natural peanut butter. But if your canned tahini sits around for an embarrassingly long time like mine has, the paste will become hard as a rock and impossible to mix back into the oil. In this case, I found that a quick spin in the food processor will do the trick.

The New England Soup Factory: More Than Just Soups

This review originally published at the Brookline Patch on March 17, 2011

The New England Soup Factory is small and warm, and smells like a Tuscan grandmother’s kitchen. Above the wooden tables and chairs, the still-life shapes of colorful vegetables are hand-painted on the orange walls. Customers pause a moment to savor the earthy smells, wishing they were already home, before proceeding out again, backs hunched against the bracing cold.

Chicken Vegetable

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guinness Floats

I’ve never been a trendsetter. Never. I got to the ugg party two years too late. I had an off-brand tamagotchi (remember those things?). I had no idea what jeggings were until, like, yesterday. I still own clothes I bought in high school.

But, ladies and gentlemen, I am ahead of the curve on this one. When I saw this Leite’s Culinaria page on Guinness and Ice Cream this morning, I had a magical flashback of the Wayne’s World variety.

Back in college, I went to a birthday party where the birthday boy provided an obscene amount of Guinness Stout. I’ve never been a huge beer drinker—just add “beer drinker” up there next to “trendsetter”—and I just had a hard time getting over the bitterness of the stout.

Lucky for me, the birthday boy also provided an obscenely large ice cream birthday cake, and I in my enlightened culinary wisdom combined the two (after scraping the crunchy chocolate bits off of the cake, of course). It worked fine until some bits of blue frosting melted off into the Guinness, and the whole thing started to look like something else entirely. I would provide a picture, but trust me—no one wants to see that.

The author of the Leite's Culinaria recipe gets pretty scientific about methodology when constructing this beverage. My method? Dump, pour, and stir. Watch out for foam. Don't let it sit too long before you finish it. That’s pretty much it. It's a blend of rich and hoppy that'll knock your Irish socks off.

(And as a side note, I think ice cream could also work well with a coffee porter, such as my favorite…)
Happy St. Paddy’s Day.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cupboard Cleanout: curried couscous salad

This is one of a series of Cupboard Cleanout posts dedicated to using up those odds and ends we all have laying about the pantry. It's a pantry liquidation saleeverything must go!

Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Perhaps it's too early to be thinking about picnics, and frisbee, and lazy days spent in the grass.

But it's six thirty in the evening, and it is still! light! outside! And it makes me think that those sun-drenched days of lemonade on the porch are not far off.

This modest little salad, inspired by a couscous dish I ate at work (of all places), would be a perfect side dish for a picnic, paired with some cold chicken or chickpeas with feta. This dish begs to be eaten outdoors— on the grass in your backyard, or at the park, or on your patio, or even, barring any access to greenery, on the stone steps in front of your apartment building.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Regal Beagle: Playful Menu Still Finds Room for Down-to-Earth Dishes

This review originally posted at the Brookline Patch on March 3, 2011
Dates stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in bacon
The Regal Beagle, you think. Where have I heard that name before?

Think back― this is Jeopardy!-worthy trivia. Coolidge Corner’s newest restaurant, which moved in last summer and has already won Best of Boston 2010 for Best Brookline Restaurant, takes its name from the neighborhood pub in 70's sitcom Three's Company. But don't expect any 70's throwbacks here; sure, there's crushed red velvet wallpaper on one wall, but the floors are sleek hardwood instead of shag, and there's not a peace sign in the place― just good food and better drinks in a cozy space.

On the menu are an intriguing list of starters and bar bites, including pumpkin hummus ($6), tuna tartare ($10), and dates stuffed with gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in bacon ($5), which our waitress recommended as a popular signature dish. We weren't thrilled with the crab rangoon empanadas ($7)― your typical crab rangoon, but made with phyllo dough instead of won ton wrappers― which, crammed with vaguely sweet cream cheese and bits of crab, became cloying after a bite or two. If this all sounds too highbrow for your pub food cravings, don't worry; there's more relaxed fare, like fried beer pretzels ($6) and chile roasted pork sliders ($9).