Saturday, February 22, 2014

Old Vermont Cocktail

After enjoying a lovely getaway in Vermont last weekend I decided to nurse my post-vacation malaise with a drink that reminded me of time spent in the state. A friend of mine, Marisa, had gifted me with some maple bitters over the holidays as well as some adorable recipe cards including a gin-based cocktail she named the "Old Vermont", a darkly sweet, woodsy and citrusy tipple. I shook a double order up for me and the husband, and it was a perfect treat to mingle with warm memories. I'm looking forward to making a non-alcoholic cordial recipe also given to me by Marisa as well as concocting other drinks with the maple bitters!

Old Vermont Cocktail
Makes 2 drinks

Recipe courtesy of Marisa

*3 1/2 oz gin
*1 oz grade B maple syrup
*1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
*1/2 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
*4 dashes maple bitters
*Ice cubes

Shake all ingredients vigorously and strain into a chilled glass.

My only addendum is to run a spent lemon or orange wedge around the rim of the glasses and dip in some maple sugar!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stuffed Acorn Squash

A stuffed squash makes for a beautiful, and economical, dish. As with bread bowls and ice cream cones, it's just plain fun to nibble at the vessel AND its contents. I usually make my stuffed squashes an omnivore's delight, but feel free to saute shiitakes instead of sausage, should you desire a vegetarian main. Bonus is that depending on the size of your squash, you'll have a little extra stuffing to pop into tomorrow's omelet or over some bitter greens. 

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Makes 2 servings 

*1 acorn squash
*1 tablespoon EVOO
*2 teaspoons maple syrup
*1 cup cooked brown rice
*2 tablespoons toasted pepitas

*2 links Italian hot sausage, casings removed
*1 small shallot, sliced thinly
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*2 leaves kale, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
*1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
*Pinch of crumbled dried sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 400. Whisk together the oil and syrup with pinches of salt and pepper. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the guts. Cut a sliver of the rounded bottoms off too, so that they'll stay in place on the baking sheet. Place the halves facing up on a rimmed baking sheet, and brush the syrup-oil mixture all over the squash halves and into the hollows (pro-tip: I drizzle a little of the maple-y oil over the pepitas and toss before toasting them briefly in the oven). Bake the squash for 45-60 minutes, or until perfectly tender.

Meanwhile, cook the rice, if not already on hand. Near the end of the baking time, saute the sausage in a wide skillet, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once it has browned and cooked, remove from the skillet and throw the shallots in for a couple minutes with a little extra oil if needed before adding the garlic. Then, add the kale and continue to saute for a few minutes more until the kale is wilted. Turn off the heat and add the pepitas, sausage, sage, thyme and rice. Mix well and season to taste with S&P. Remove squash from oven. Fill both halves with the stuffing and serve.

Dapper Owl Plate, Rachel Kozlowski for West Elm

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wild Mushroom, Caramelized Shallot & Brie Panini

This is a perfect winter vegetarian sandwich, earthy, warming, flavorful but mellow, and incredibly filling. Out of all the paninis I've pressed in the maker I got for Christmas, I think this is my favorite. Perhaps not the most appealing to take a picture of, but I swear there is one delicious bite after another in that green and brown tangle!

Wild Mushroom, Brie & Caramelized Shallot Panini
Makes 1 sandwich

*2 tablespoons butter, divided
*EVOO (I used a garlic-infused variety)
*2-3 shallots, sliced thinly
*2 cups mixed wild mushrooms, stemmed, wiped & sliced 
*Scant 1/2 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
*Balsamic vinegar
*2 slices hearty bakery bread
*3-4 slices of Brie
*Palmful of baby arugula
*Your favorite fancy mustard (chablis Dijon, for me)

In a wide cast-iron skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter with a drizzle of garlic infused oil and add the shallots. Sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt (and a little pinch of sugar too, to speed things along) and caramelize for a good 30 minutes. If you don't have garlic infused oil and want a hint of the beautiful stinking rose, feel free to mince a clove up and throw it in with the shallots for the last few minutes of caramelizing. Remove the shallots from the pan and add the mushrooms and another drizzle of oil (regular evoo used this time), then saute for 4 minutes before adding the thyme and seasoning with salt & pepper. Cook another minute, splash with a touch of balsamic, and toss well.

Brush one side of each of the bread slices with a bit of the other tablespoon of butter (melted or room temp), then assemble the sandwich by smoothing a thin layer of mustard on one slice, then top with the shallots, mushrooms, arugula and finally, the Brie. Press the sandwich in a preheated panini maker for 4 minutes or so, until the sandwich is toasty. Cut 'n eat!