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5feb/14

Tessa’s Tips: Celebrating Winter Root Vegetables

Oven-roasting vegetables in the dead of winter is one of my most favorite pastimes—prep time is minimal and the aroma of roasting vegetables is amazing as it fills your house….mmmm!

While parsnips, potatoes and carrots are my top go-to vegetables in the winter, you can customize this recipe by using your favorite vegetables (beets, Brussels sprouts and/or cauliflower work beautifully). To make this recipe even easier, you can use baby carrots and fingerling potatoes and leave them whole – just remember to parboil them (partially cook by boiling) separately so as not to over cook the smaller ones or undercook the bigger vegetables.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 lb parsnips
  • 2 lbs of small red potatoes or fingerling potatoes
  • 1/4- 1/2 lb of carrots (more if you have a tendency towards sweet things)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 TB Olive oil
  • 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme (in a pinch you can use dried herbs, just adjust your quantities)

Here’s the how-to:

  1. Turn on the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Scrub the parsnips, potatoes and carrots clean. I like the texture and look of unpeeled vegetables but if you don’t, feel free to remove the skins before moving to the next step
  3. Cut the vegetables into cubes as close to the same size as possible
  4. In a pot of boiling water on the stove, par-cook the vegetables until tender but not falling apart. Remember, they will be roasting in the oven for a good 30-45 minutes so you don’t want to overcook them!
  5. Remove from heat and drain the vegetables
  6. Toss the vegetables with the garlic, oil and seasonings and place into a roasting pan or casserole dish big enough to accommodate the vegetables in one layer. Piling them on top of one another will steam the vegetables instead of caramelizing them which is where so much of the delicious flavor comes from
  7. Put them into the oven and cook until browned, turning 1-2 times to make sure all sides get toasted and crispy
  8. Serve hot right away with dinner and enjoy! If there are any leftovers (which is rare in my house!) chill the vegetables and toss with some baby arugula leaves and a simple shallot vinaigrette for a fantastic winter salad!

17dec/13

Tessa’s Tips: A Winter Classic with a Latin America Twist

Ancho Chili Rubbed Butternut Squash with Cotija cheese
(Serves approximately 4 as a side dish)

Ingredients

  • Butternut squash, 1
  • Garlic, 2 cloves
  • Shallots, 2
  • Ancho chili powder, to taste
  • Cayenne powder, pinch
  • Canola oil
  • Butter, 1-2 TB
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Garnish: Cotija cheese and Spicy Toasted Pumpkin seeds (recipe below)

Directions

  • Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel butternut squash and cut into 1” cubes (reserve the seeds!) Toss with a few tablespoons of canola oil, a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper, ancho chili powder to coat and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  • Spread into a shallow casserole pan and dot the top with pieces of un-melted butter. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a fork pierces easily.
  • At this point, you can serve the butternut squash as is or you can mash and make a creamy squash side dish. Either way, make sure to top with some cotija cheese (not too much—it can be really salty!) and toasted spicy pumpkin seeds to add some crunchy texture.
  • While squash is baking, place seeds in small bowl and cover with a little water–this helps separate the squash pulp from the seeds. Place on cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 10 minutes to dry them out. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in 1-2 TB oil with the seeds along with salt, black pepper, toasted cumin seeds (crushed) and ancho chili powder. Place back in the oven and bake until crunchy.

3oct/13

Tessa’s Tips: Trick out your tailgating party

Sometimes it’s best not to mess with the tried and true. So if I were going to a tailgating party, I’d bring a big ole pot of homemade chili (perfect for a cool, fall day). I might also bring some homemade guacamole, not only because it’s one of my top three favorite foods in the world (along with salsa and corn tortilla chips), but because it’s just not a football game without some kind of dip. Give these recipes a try and let me know what you think!

Homemade Guacamole
I like to keep my guacamole simple like in recipe below so that the taste of the avocado really comes through. What I think really makes for a great guac is to dry toast cumin seeds that you can add to taste. For this recipe, I’d put in about 1 tsp of them and lots of fresh lime juice, maybe 2 TB (but I like it really citrusy). I’d also bump up the cilantro to 1/2 cup or more, though I realize not everybody loves it like I like I do.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, preferably white skinned
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh or pickled jalapeno chile, without seeds (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 2 large or 3 small firm-ripe Hass avocadoes, halved and pitted
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

Directions
Stir together onion, salt, chile and cilantro in a large bowl. Score avocado halves in a cross-hatch pattern and scoop avocado from skins with a spoon. Mash with a fork until ingredients are mixed and avocado coarsely mashed. Stir in tomato.

Make ahead: Guacamole is best eaten when it is freshly made. It will keep several hours chilled, just make sure to cover the guacamole with plastic wrap, pressing gently down on the entire surface. This step will prevent your guacamole from oxidizing and turning brown. While you won’t get sick from eating brown guacamole, it’s a decidedly a negative visual that’s for sure. When I lived in Guatemala years ago, I was told that tossing the avocado seed into the guacamole would also help keep it from turning brown. While I’ve only noticed a tiny difference in the color when doing that, it does make you look awfully fancy.

 

Perfect Fall Chili
I’m going to let you in on two secrets that I think makes for an awesome chili – using smoked meat and a dark beer. Here’s a recipe you can find in pretty much any cookbook – but it’d be one that I’d start with and play around with a little bit to make it all your own. For me, smoked meat can elevate any dish and make it more crave-able. Using your favorite dark beer to make up part of the cooking liquid will make it even more signature.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces ground beef (or smoked meat of choice)
  • 4 ounces ground pork
  • 1 large yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1 small fennel bulb, medium dice (or just use a little bit more onion if you don’t have or like fennel)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped red chile peppers (fresno chilis would work great here)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (dry toasted and ground will make the flavor really pop)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 (22-ounce) bottle dark beer (make sure to buy an extra bottle to enjoy with your chili when you’re done)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dried kidney beans, soaked overnight in water and drained (you can also use canned beans if you’re in a rush)
  • 6 medium scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

Sour cream, cheese and crispy tortilla chips for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tightfitting lid over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the beef and pork and cook, stirring to break up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned and no bits of pink remain, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  2. Stir in onion, chiles, garlic, chili powder, cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, cayenne pepper and tomato paste and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beer and bring to a boil. Simmer until the beer flavor is cooked off, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, tomatoes and kidney beans..
  3. Bring the chili to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Taste and season with salt as needed.
  4. Serve the chili garnished with the scallions, sour cream, cheese and crispy tortilla chips.

 

 

28aug/13

Tessa’s Tips: Best. Gazpacho. Ever.

Here’s a recipe for the best gazpacho I’ve ever had! Courtesy of a Spanish family. It’s best when using ripe tomatoes at the height of the summer season.

  • 4.5 lbs of very ripe summer tomatoes (the big juicy kinds make for the best gazpacho)
  • 1 piece of day old bread (this helps give the soup body and texture)
  • 3 green bell peppers (poblano peppers, while not traditional, can be substituted for a more vibrant color and a slightly different but delicious flavor profile)
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1 splash of a good, fruity olive oil

Soak the bread in a small amount of water to soften, this should only take about 5-10 minutes.

Squeeze out the water, break softened bread up with your hands and put into a blender along with a splash of olive oil (enough to loosen it up).

Add the rest of the gazpacho ingredients and blend until all vegetables have been pureed.

Finish the gazpacho with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a liberal shake or two of salt.

Strain through a fine sieve to remove the skins and seeds from the soup. If you want a thinner soup, add a bit of water until you reach the desired texture.

Enjoy!

17jul/13

Tessa’s Tips: Pull up a patio, grab a beer and kick back with Summer.

As you might have noticed, the presence of craft beer in restaurants is a strong and growing trend that couldn’t make me happier.

Just like with wine, there are a few rules – and I use this term very loosely (you don’t want to take the fun out of it) – that will help guide you to which beer goes best with the food you’re eating.

  • Bitter, hoppy beers and malt-forward beers tend to balance the sweetness and richness of a food…good to remember when you are having Wisconsin Mac & Cheese for example.
  • Wheat beers go great with lighter, more subtle flavors – think summer salads like our Spinach & Fresh Fruit Salad, as well as with spicier dishes like the Spicy Chicken Caesar Sandwich.
  • Stouts and porters? These go great with heartier dishes (Steak Stroganoff anyone?) and even dessert!
  • And for smoky or moderately spicy food, like Bangkok Curry, try an amber ale to see how it complements, not overpowers, the flavors in the food.

All beer however, regardless of the type you choose, will taste doubly delicious when enjoyed while sitting on an outdoor patio on a hot summer day. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you out there, beer in hand!

20jun/13

We Live For This Stuff

Fresh vegetables aren’t something we only care about in our restaurants, we love to take our ‘work’ home. Here are some of freshest things growing in our Noodles staffer’s gardens.  Jen, Holly and Bob from Accounting are making the most out of the early summer sun!

 

 

16may/13

Tessa’s Tips: Strawberry Rose Ice Cream

One of my most vivid and favorite childhood memories is that of eating homemade ice cream during the height of summer from a picnic table in my neighbor’s back yard. What more could a ten-year-old kid ask for than having cold ice cream run down her sun-kissed chin and elbows and into the warm grass beneath her barefoot feet!? Chocolate and vanilla were frequent classics but my all-time favorite was made with the fresh strawberries picked from one of the two plots my family tended every summer.

Using one of those old-fashioned hand-cranked ice cream makers that required a little bit of rock ice and a lot of patience, I could barely stand the wait for the strawberries and the cream to freeze. Today, my recipe for homemade strawberry ice cream has drifted a bit from what my mother used to make (I prefer egg-heavy, custard based ice creams these days) and I’ve resorted to using an electric ice cream maker (faster and a LOT easier). Despite those differences, it’s still as sweet and delicious as I remember it—now all I need is a picnic table with my family and friends gathered ‘round and my neighbor’s back yard.

Did you know that roses and strawberries come from the same botanical family? I came across that little factoid recently and immediately wanted to know how they’d taste together in an ice cream. Below is my recipe created especially for you. Hope you all enjoy…

Strawberry Rose Ice Cream
2 lbs of washed and hulled strawberries
6 oz  of sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla pod
10 egg yolks
1 TB lemon juice
1.5 teaspoons rosewater

How to:
1.)  Hull and roughly chop the strawberries. In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle the sugar on the strawberries and break it up, letting the mixture sit while you pull together the rest of the ingredients in the recipe

2.)  Pour both the milk and cream into a heavy-based saucepan, add the vanilla pod (split down the center lengthwise). Heat up the mixture until nearly boiling then turn off the flame. Add the strawberries to the cream mixture, allowing the ingredients to marry for about 15-20 minutes

3.)  In another medium sized bowl add 10 egg yolks

4.)  Remove the vanilla pod from the cream mixture (you could strain to remove it but then the sweet chunks of strawberries get taken out and that¹s my favorite part. I just use a spoon and dig around in the cream until I find it)

5.)  Whisk the egg yolks until lightly whipped, just a couple of minutes to aerate them

6.)  Gently re-heat the cream and strawberry mixture

7.)  Slowly add about 1/4 cup of the cream mixture to the egg yolks, whisking quickly. Keep adding in 1/4 cup increments, whisking to incorporate each add, until you have added about 1 cup. Add the rest of the cream mixture to the eggs and blend well (you don¹t want to add the eggs to the hot cream or you will end up with runny strawberry scrambled eggs and that just sounds, well, horrible)

8.)  Over a low heat, bring the cream, egg and strawberry mixture up to a light simmer until the custard thickens. You know it is done when you sweep your finger across the back of the spoon and it leaves a visible trail behind

9.)  Remove from heat and cool down in an ice bath.
Once cooled, add 1.5 teaspoons of rosewater and stir. Add mixture to the ice cream maker and wait patiently!

28mar/13

Tessa’s Tips: This is one snack that likes to have a good time.

Homemade Candied Popcorn and Peanuts

Baseball’s opening day is almost here. So why not take some of your own candied popcorn and peanuts out to the ballgame?

  • 8 -cups popped popcorn
  • 1 -cup peanuts
  • ¾-cup brown sugar
  • ¼-cup butter
  • 3-tablespoons corn syrup
  • ¼-teaspoon salt
  • ¼-teaspoon  baking soda
  • ½-teaspoon vanilla

Arrange the popcorn and peanuts on a well-oiled 9 x 13 pan.

In a 2 quart sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, margarine, corn syrup and salt. Cook over low heat.

After the butter melts, cook without stirring for 3 minutes. It should be bubbling gently during the 3 minutes. Stir in the baking soda and vanilla.

Quickly pour this over the pan of popcorn. Mix gently to coat the popcorn evenly. Bake the pan at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Break it up into pieces and serve.

Boiled Peanuts

I grew up in the south where boiled peanuts were pretty much a staple of any household. They get soft when you boil them and have a salty, mild peanut taste. They’re perfect for a party when you want to do something different. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

  • 3 lbs green raw peanuts
  • water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 lb smoked ham hocks

1. Wash peanuts thoroughly.

2. Place peanuts in large saucepan and cover with water.

3. Add 1/2 the salt and bring to a boil for approximately 15-20 minutes.

4. At the end of 20 minutes, drain the peanuts, add the rest of the salt and the smoked meat, and cover with water.

5. Cook until tender, about 2 hours on medium heat.  Drain and serve.

20feb/13

Tessa’s Tips: Cooking Pork with Wine

You don’t traditionally think of cooking pork with wine, but this dish, courtesy of The New York Times, works really well with a nice light-bodied type like a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir. Pair it with some warm, crusty French bread, a nice tossed salad and you’ve got the perfect meal.

Braised Red Wine Pork

  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 cup stock
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons butter (substitute olive oil for a lighter take on this dish)
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish.
  1. Combine pork, salt and pepper, wine, stock, carrots and garlic in a saucepan, Dutch oven or slow cooker. Bring to a boil, then adjust heat to a simmer. (If using a slow cooker, just turn it to “high” and let cook for at least three hours.)
  2. Cook until meat is very tender and falling apart, stirring every half-hour or so (most likely an hour). Use a slotted spoon to remove solid ingredients to a bowl, then turn heat to high. (If using a slow cooker, transfer liquid to a saucepan for this step.) Reduce to about a cup, or even less. Taste and adjust seasoning, then lower heat and stir in butter.
  3. Add vegetables and pork back to the sauce and garnish with parsley. Serve over noodles or with bread.

9jan/13

TESSA’S TIPS – CHEERS TO CHEESE

Now when I say cheese loving antics, I’m not talking about wearing a cheese hat. I’m referring to the simple joy of celebrating cheese. For example, I recently had an aged French Gruyere paired with a wonderful German Riesling from the Dr. Loosen winery in the Mosel River Valley. The interesting thing about aged cheese is that often micro salt crystals form within it a cheese as it ages giving it a rich and complex flavor. I was in heaven!

Now let’s talk Burratta. It’s a creamy, fresh Southern Italian cheese that has an outer mozzarella shell with panna (cream) on the inside. It’s sometimes a little difficult to find, but well worth the hunt and is delicious served with roasted vegetables or prosciutto and a crusty bread. I like to call that dinner.

Last, but certainly not least (there are more than 900 types of cheese for pete’s sake), is Manchego. This is a sheep’s milk cheese that hails from the La Mancha region of Spain. It comes in different varieties depending on its age. Personally, I like the Curado variety for its sweet, nutty flavor – not only to munch on, but to cook with as well. I make an arugula salad with it that I think you’ll really love! Check it out: http://epi.us/bL5FB5

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