Oven Roasted Branzino with Chimichurri Sauce

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James and I are both very fond of seafood, and growing up in New England meant that we were lucky enough to have easy access to a great variety of fish and shellfish. I have many memories of going fishing with my family and then taking the fish home and promptly eating them whole, simply seasoned and succulent. Every so often we love to seek out whole fresh fish to bring home, and thoroughly enjoy the process of picking out all the delicate bones. This recipe is one that can be used on just about any fish, and is especially great to put together on hot summer days when all you need is a light meal.

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Ingredients (for fish): Two whole branzino with insides cleaned and scales removed, 2 large rosemary sprigs, 1 lemon (sliced in rounds), 4 large sprigs thyme, 2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil.

Instructions: Heat oven to 400F. Season each fish inside and out with salt. Fill each fish cavity with 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 sprigs of thyme and half of the lemon slices. Heat olive oil on a large skillet, and cook each fish on hot oil for 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a baking dish and roast in oven for 12 minutes.

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Ingredients (for chimichurri): 1/2 cup basil leaves, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 1/4 cup fresh oregano, 1/4 cup fresh mint, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.

Instructions: Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Drizzle sauce over cooked fish.

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Paired with simple sides like salad and roasted potatoes, this meal feels plentiful and decadent, and makes for an excellent date night at home.

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Holiday Spiced Babka

I’ve been making this holiday spiced chocolate babka for the past few years around the holiday season. It is a great treat to make during chilly weather when you have a whole day at home to spare. I love adding cinnamon and nutmeg to compliment the dark chocolate, creating an indulgent melt in your mouth flavor that’s excellent for this time of year.

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Ingredients: 3/4 cup milk, 3 tsp active dry yeast, 3/4 cup and 2 tsp sugar, 3 1/4 cups flour, 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 3/4 tsp salt, 15 Tbsp softened butter, 1 Tbsp heavy cream, 8 oz finely chopped dark chocolate (72% cacao), 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg.

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Instructions: warm up the milk in a saucepan until it’s warm but not boiling. Add milk and 2 tsp of sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and stir gently, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until it’s foamy. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and beat with a paddle attachment until combined. Add 2 whole eggs, 1 of the egg yolks, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup more of sugar while beating constantly. Continue beating and add remaining flour in small increments. Gradually add 10 Tbsp butter until everything is completely incorporated. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in turned off oven for 2 hours.

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Once dough has risen for 2 hours, remove from bowl and cut in half. Sprinkle countertop with flour, and roll out the dough with a pin until you have a large rectangle. Beat the remaining egg yolk in a small dish with the heavy cream, and brush along the sides of the dough. Spread 2 1/2 Tbsp butter on the dough, then sprinkle 4 oz of chocolate, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp nutmeg over butter.

Roll the dough towards you, and seal along the edge. Then make a circle out of the log, sealing on the ends. Quickly twist the circle twice, and place the dough in a bread pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Cover dough with a new sheet of plastic that has been lightly buttered and place back in the turned off oven. Repeat with the other half of the dough and leftover ingredients. Let loaves rise for another 2 hours.

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Remove loaves from oven and pre-heat to 350F. Remove plastic and brush tops with remaining egg wash, then lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

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The babka will keep for a couple of days to be enjoyed in the morning with hot coffee, or as a dessert in the evenings.


White Bean and Rib Stew

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Beans were my very first solid food, and to this day have remained one of my very favorite foods. There isn’t a type of bean I don’t like, and going more than a few weeks without having some form of them is rare for my family. When it comes to white beans in particular, this flavorful and hearty stew beats out all other recipes for this legume.

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The stars of this dish are of course the beans themselves, and the dry guaque chiles that give it it’s rich and moderately spicy flavor.

Ingredients: 1 lb white beans, 1 lb pork ribs, 1 1/2 guaque chiles, 3 tomatoes, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 yellow onion, 4 small tomatillos, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 Tbsp dry oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

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Instructions: Slice the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and peppers, and place on a hot griddle along with peeled garlic cloves. Turn over after 2-3 minutes, allowing the undersides to slightly char and soften. Add grilled vegetables to a blender with a cup of water and blend until smooth.

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Add the beans, ribs (cut into smaller pieces), bay leaf, thyme, cumin, blended ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and enough water to just cover everything to a pressure cooker. Cook for about 45 minutes, and slowly allow pressure to release. Add the oregano and stir. If you would like to thicken the stew you can take out some of the beans, blend, and re-add to the stew.

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Serve hot with rice, and garnish with cilantro.

 

 


Autumn Biscotti

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October is nearing its end and we are embracing autumn and all of the treats that go with it. To welcome the new season I made these autumn spiced biscotti with an apple cider glaze that felt just right. They’re not too heavy, but still have a warm and comforting spiced flavor. An Italian biscotti recipe from James’ grandmother’s collection served as my starting point, and I then added some classic autumn spices and mixed nuts to make it my own. The apple cider glaze is the perfect touch to complete the flavor profile, and enjoy with warm apple cider.

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Ingredients:

For the biscotti: 3/12 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 3 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 6 eggs, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup chopped mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)

For the apple cider glaze: 1 cup spiced apple cider, 2 Tbsp butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, pinch of cinnamon

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Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 400F. Mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the eggs and oil in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs and oil to break up the egg yolks, then add to the bowl with dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add nuts to mixture and stir to combine.

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Scoop out the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to form two loaves, then bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Slice thin slices from each loaf and lay each piece flat on the baking sheet. Return to oven to toast for another 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Add apple cider to a small saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes, until it has reduced by half. Add remaining ingredients, and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes until glaze has thickened to a syrup like consistency.

Once the cookies have cooled, lightly drizzle each with the apple cider glaze. Serve with apple cider for a perfect autumnal treat.

 

 


Mocktails

Over the past few months of pregnancy, I have begun to embrace mocktails: delicious non-alcoholic beverages made with a variety of ingredients, much like a regular cocktail. This way, I can still have a drink with nuanced flavor, while feeling like I’m part of the festivities during social gatherings.

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Blackberry and green plum spritz: For this drink I used a Korean green plum extract to give the drink some sweetness and extra flavor. Paired with muddled blackberries for tartness and just a splash of sparkling water, it makes a refreshing drink that isn’t too sweet.

Instructions: Muddle 4 blackberries with 1 oz of green plum extract in a glass. Add ice and top with sparkling water.

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Mocktail Moscow Mule: This drink follows a basic Moscow mule recipe, but without the vodka. I like to add lots of lime juice, which is not only tasty but has also been a great aid with morning sickness the last few months.

Instructions: Juice a small lime and add to a copper mug along with a few sprigs of fresh mint. Add ice and fill mug with ginger beer of choice.

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Coconut and pineapple daiquiri: I love tropical fruits, and tiki cocktails are some of my favorites. Most tiki drinks are made up of fruit juices and syrups with the addition of rums.

Instructions: 1/2 cup frozen pineapple pieces, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1.5 oz orange juice, 1 oz grenadine, 1 oz almond syrup (can be made by making a 1/4 cup of simple syrup with 1tsp of almond extract). Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

 


Coconut Rice

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I remember going through a phase as a child when I didn’t like coconut at all. I don’t quite remember when that changed, but it’s safe to say that I now love all things coconut flavored, sweet and savory. Though savory coconut is not as common, this coconut rice with red beans and a little bit of jalapeño spice is one of my favorite rice side dishes.

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Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups white rice, 1 jalapeño, 5 sprigs of thyme, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 can coconut milk, 1 can red kidney beans, salt and pepper to taste.

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Instructions: Add olive oil to a pot with lid or dutch oven over medium heat. Remove seeds from jalapeño and slice, add to pot along with thyme and lightly sauté. Add rice and mix until rice is lightly coated with olive oil. Sauté rice until just starting to get toasty and aromatic.

Add can of coconut milk, about half the can worth of water, beans, salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine ingredients, cover, and lower heat. Cook for about 35 minutes, until liquid is gone and rice is cooked through.

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You can serve it as a side to any meal, but I especially love pairing it with a hearty meat dish and relaxing on the patio on a summer evening.

 

 


Mushroom Ravioli

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Ever since getting the pasta attachment for my stand mixer, I have been dabbling in making homemade pasta. I especially love preparing fresh pasta for guests, or for a romantic date night in. Ravioli in particular can be a perfect special dinner for two without spending the money on going out to a restaurant. This mushroom ravioli, stuffed with a creamy mushroom filling and covered with an herby mushroom sauce, is one of our absolute favorites.

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For the pasta: 5oz flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 whole egg, 2 egg yolks (reserve one egg white for later).

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook and mix for about 10 minutes. All of the ingredients will come together to form a ball and hook will knead the dough until it is smooth and shiny. Wrap dough in plastic, and let sit for at least one hour. When dough has rested, cut in half and roughly shape each piece into rectangles, flattening with the palm of your hand, and lightly dust with flour. Run each piece of dough through the pasta attachment, starting on setting 1 and gradually making your way to 5. I like to run the dough through each number about 3 times. Once each piece has gone through setting 5 at least twice, cut each strip in half and rest on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour until ready to use.

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For the filling: 1 tsp olive oil, 2 1/2 cups roughly diced mushrooms (any kind and combination you’d like), 1 small diced shallot, 2 diced garlic cloves, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 tbsp butter, 3/4 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

While the dough is resting you can start making the ravioli filling. Heat olive oil in skillet and add shallots and garlic. Sauté shallots and garlic until starting to lightly brown, then add mushrooms and thyme. Lower heat to low and let simmer gently until mushrooms are cooked through. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the thyme sprigs and let the mushrooms cool, then add to a bowl with ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Mix until thoroughly combined.

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To make the ravioli, lay out the sheets of pasta and place about a tablespoon for each ravioli of mushroom filling along the sheet. Brush with egg whites along the edges of the filling. Cover with the second half of the pasta, then gently press around the edges of the filling to seal each ravioli and remove air.

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Using a ravioli stamp press each ravioli along the edges to give them their proper shape. Gently pull each ravioli apart and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook ravioli for about 3 minutes, until they all float to top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on plates.

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For the sauce: 1 tsp olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 cup chicken broth, 2 tbsp minced parsley, 1 tbsp butter

Heat olive oil in skillet and add garlic. Add mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes, until mushrooms start to lightly brown. Add chicken broth and parsley and let simmer until broth has reduced by about half. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste, mix well.

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Drizzle mushroom sauce over freshly made ravioli, and garnish with fresh parsley to complete the dish.

 

 


Apéritif and Digestif

Along with planning the meal itself, planning the drinks for a dinner party can be fun and creative. I love to serve an apéritif as guests arrive, preparing them for a hearty dinner, and to end the evening with a relaxing digestif. Here is one apéritif and one digestif that have become some of our favorites, and would be great for either a dinner party or a date night in.

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Negroni Sbagliato: using classic aperitif ingredients like Campari and Prosecco, this cocktail is just the right amount of bitter while also being very punchy and refreshing.

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1 oz Campari, 1 oz Sweet Vermouth, 4 oz Prosecco

Add ice to glass and layer each ingredient. Serve with a citrus garnish.

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Coffee Spritz: On cold nights an Irish coffee is a great way to end a meal, but if you’re looking for something cooler as the weather warms, or simply looking for an alternative without losing the coffee flavor, this is the perfect cocktail. The Averna digestif liquor in this cocktail gives it a delicate herby taste, while the coffee and vanilla syrup give it body and sweetness. The foamy texture comes from an egg white, which makes this a great brunch cocktail as well.

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1 oz Averna, 1/2 oz dark rum, 1/2 oz vanilla syrup, 2 oz cold brew coffee, 1 egg white, 1 1/2 oz Prosecco

Add all ingredients except for Prosecco to shaker and shake for at least 15 seconds. Add ice and shake until chilled. Pour into glass and let sit for a few seconds before topping with Prosecco.


Baby Shower Cookies

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A few weekends ago, I helped host a friend’s baby shower, and took on the task of making favors. When thinking about favor ideas, I decided on going with something edible. I had never seriously decorated cookies with icing before, so i decided to take a crack at it, using a design for a very dapper little boy.

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The first step was simply making sugar cookies. I used a very basic sugar cookie recipe, and cut out over 50 cookies from three batches of cookie dough. This was a large shower, so I made sure there would be more than enough for guests to take home. The onesie cookie cutter was easy to find online, and I have also seen it at local craft stores.

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For the colors, I took inspiration from the party invitations, and stuck with a classy black and white outfit with a pop of light blue. The piping was certainly more difficult than James and I anticipated; one tricky issue was figuring out the consistency of the icing. We needed some thick icing for outlining, as well as some that was thinner and looser that would pool to fill in shapes.

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After a while, we got the hang of it, and set all cookies out to decorate in an assembly line fashion. James was in charge of doing a lot of the more precise lines, and determined that he couldn’t get the buttons to be neat enough with icing, so we decided instead to use some candy pearls for those.

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The baby blue bow ties added the final touch to these treats, tying the little outfit together. Being a first time effort, they certainly were not perfect, but I was pleased with them overall. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try out cookie decorating, and most importantly to put a smile on the expectant mother’s face.