blueberry bourbon sour

Blueberries make me think of summer — hot, sticky days spent at my Grandparents’ house in Cape Cod, picking plump berries from the blueberry bushes that lined their walkway. Finding the bluest, sweetest ones before the birds was always a challenge, but the effort was worth it. Even the slightly underripe berries, with the tinge of green that lingered by their stem, were a welcomed, tart treat.

Though blueberries are not in season in the Northeast over the winter months, I find them to be such a festive berry to use over the holidays -- and thankfully they are easy to find in the freezer and fresh from South America all winter long. Their seasonal versatility ensures that they always have a spot at the table — whether in a sauce for a roasted pork loin or folded into buttery pastry dough and baked into a galette. 

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In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, I’m sharing a recipe for a blueberry cocktail — one that’s festive enough to be worthy of a spot at your next party, but also simple enough to enjoy over a cozy night in. It has all the tartness of a traditional sour, with a subtle sweetness from blueberries and warming notes of bourbon and dark brown sugar. I really encourage you to give it a try, even if you aren’t the biggest bourbon fan. 

This post is sponsored by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, but as always, all opinions are my own. You can find my recipe on their website, here. Enjoy!

 

And for another blueberry-inspired cocktail, give this blueberry bellini a try!

summer grain bowl

 
 
 

 

summer grain bowl

I often wonder why comfort food is reserved only for winter. This dish combines all of the comforts of summer -- hearty grains, flavorful vegetables, and fresh herbs -- in one unassuming, yet delicious bowl. The recipe makes enough for 2 and can be enjoyed as a healthful and energizing breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Any leftover vegetables are also delicious the next day. 

 

serves 2

for the walnut pesto:

¼ cup whole walnuts, toasted in a dry pan

2 tablespoons torn fresh mint leaves

½ small clove garlic

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons roasted walnut oil (or olive oil)

juice of ¼ lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil 

 

for the bowls:

6 ounces green beans, ends trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more if needed

1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed and cut lengthwise into 8 spears

8 cherry tomatoes

2 eggs

1 ½ cups cooked quinoa

fresh mint for garnish

flaky sea salt + freshly ground black pepper

 

 

In a mortar and pestle, grind together the walnuts, mint, garlic, and a generous pinch of salt until coarsely ground and fragrant. Add the walnut oil and lemon juice and stir to combine. Set aside. 

Fill a stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Add the green beans and blanch for 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cool, remove the beans from the ice water and set aside.

In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat. Once hot, add the zucchini spears in one layer and cook, undisturbed, until browned on one side, about 2 - 3 minutes. Flip and cook the spears for another 2 - 3 minutes, until tender. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a mixing bowl. Pour half of the walnut pesto over the warm zucchini and toss to coat. Set aside. 

Add the blanched green beans to the hot skillet, adding more olive oil if necessary, and sauté until just starting char in spots, about 3 - 4 minutes. Remove from the skillet, transfer to a bowl, and pour the remaining walnut pesto over and toss to combine. Set aside. 

Add the tomatoes to the hot skillet and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until just blistered and warmed through, about 3 - 4 minutes.  Remove from the skillet and set aside. Remove the skillet from the heat. 

To poach the eggs, fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and heat until bubbles start to form at the bottom of the pan, but don't break the surface. Carefully crack 1 egg into the water and swirl the water gently with a spoon to ensure the egg does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Crack the second egg into the water, gently swirling again. Cook the eggs in the warm water, adjusting the heat as necessary to keep the water just below a simmer, for about 4 - 5 minutes, or until the yolks are cooked to your liking. Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs, tapping them on a paper towel to remove any excess water before setting them aside. 

To assemble the bowls, divide the quinoa between 2 serving dishes. Arrange the zucchini, green beans, and tomatoes alongside. Top each with a poached egg. Garnish each bowl with a sprig of fresh mint and sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to finish.

 
 

cod poached in tomato broth

I've always been in favor of simplicity. To me, cozy nights in, snuggled on the couch with a favorite movie far outweigh a fancy night out on the town.  I will always choose a crinkled linen top and jeans over the latest designer trend. I wrap presents with brown paper and kitchen twine, not because it's the "cool" thing to do, but because I find that the gift on the inside is more important than the part that will be ripped to shreds. Such is my philosophy with food: simple cooking is better cooking. 

To me, an ingredient's integrity lies in its natural form. A carrot is best as a carrot. The less we fuss with that carrot, and the more we allow it to shine as itself, the more we will enjoy it. 

I didn't always feel this way. There was a time when I thought the more complex the recipe, the better it would taste. In an attempt to impress, I would often overcomplicate a dish with redundant ingredients, adding a little of this and a little of that, until the individual components of the dish were lost in a labyrinth of flavor. It wasn't until I starting really exploring my cooking style in culinary school -- the ingredients and cuisines that inspired me -- that I began to realize that the way I approach most of my life is also how I should approach food. That realization marked a turning point in how I cook. 

I'm here today to share a simple, yet flavorful take on poached fish -- buttery cod fillets gently cooked in a light tomato broth, flavored with herbs, shishito peppers, garlic, spring onion, capers, and red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. It's beautiful, summery, and deliciously uncomplicated. 


cod poached in tomato broth

This dish is deliciously comforting, but also light and summery. The tomato broth is flavored by fruity olive oil, herbs, and salty capers and serves as the poaching liquid for the cod, which is gently cooked until buttery soft. Everything is served together in one bowl, along with some oil-cured olives for a briny pop of flavor and some crusty bread to soak up all of the delicious broth. 

serves 4

 

ingredients

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for serving

3 spring onions, white parts only thinly sliced into rings

8 shishito peppers

2 garlic cloves, crushed + peeled

2 teaspoons salt-packed capers, rinsed

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs fresh parsley, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 (14.5 ounce) can high quality whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 (6-ounce) skinless cod fillets

freshly squeezed lemon juice, for serving

oil-cured olives, pitted, for serving

crusty bread, for serving

 

In a medium-sized dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, whole peppers, and garlic cloves and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and starting to brown and the peppers are slightly blistered, about 5 - 7 minutes. Add the capers, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and parsley sprigs and sauté for 1 - 2 minutes more. Add the white wine vinegar and cook until almost completely reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, and their juice and 2 ½ cups of water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the broth is slightly reduced and flavorful. Season generously with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. 

Reduce the heat to low and add the cod fillets in one even layer in the pan. The broth should just cover each fillet. If it doesn't, cover the pan with a lid. Poach the cod, at a very slow simmer until opaque and cooked through, about 6 - 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Make sure to watch the pot very carefully during this stage -- bubbles should be barely breaking the surface. If the liquid gets too hot, the fish will turn rubbery and tough, rather than buttery and soft. Once cooked, remove the fillets and place each in its own shallow serving bowl. Divide the peppers between the bowls and pour over the broth, discarding the bay leaf and parsley. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Scatter the pitted olives and fresh parsley over top. Serve immediately with crusty bread for soaking up the delicious broth. 


roasted carrot + pine nut ravioli

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One of the things I look forward to most this time of year are sweet spring carrots. I welcome their delicate sugary snap after a long season of the bitter, trunk-like carrots of winter, and find myself incorporating them into as many meals as I can. While I enjoy them raw, dipped in a creamy hummus or simple vinaigrette, I especially love roasting them, which concentrates their flavor and sweetness. All spring long, I incorporate roasted carrots into our meals -- whether on their own, or topped with a bright herb pesto or a nut gremolata for some textural contrast. I serve them over creamy risotto, or purée them into warm, comforting soups. Most recently, I decided to incorporate them into a ravioli filling, which turned out so beautifully, I had to share it here with you.

Making homemade ravioli is definitely time-consuming, but if you do have the time, I really encourage you to try it. If you've never made pasta dough before, its simplicity will surprise you. It really is amazing what some flour, egg, and water can so easily become. 

I do hope you give this a try. And as always -- please let me know what you think. Hearing from you is what makes it all worth it. 


roasted carrot + pine nut ravioli

If you have the time, homemade ravioli is really worth the time and effort. In this version, the creamy ricotta, toasted pine nuts, and sweet, caramelized carrots work together in perfect harmony to create a filling that is rich in both flavor and texture. This is a perfect dish to make in the spring, when sweet, baby carrots are at their best.

 

for the pasta dough (makes about 8 ounces of dough):

1 cup flour, plus more if needed

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon water, plus more if needed

pinch of salt

semolina flour, for dusting

 

for the carrots + filling

10-12 small carrots, peeled + greens reserved for garnish

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

1/4 cup high quality ricotta cheese, homemade if possible

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

for garnish:

1/4 cup ricotta cheese or crème fraîche

extra virgin olive oil

coarsely ground black pepper

reserved carrot greens, roughly chopped

 

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First prepare the pasta dough: add the flour to a large work surface and form a mound. Make a well in the center, and carefully pour the egg, olive oil, and water into it (making sure it is completely surrounded by the flour). Add a pinch of salt. Using a fork, slowly incorporate the flour into the wet mixture, starting with the inner edges and working outward, until a shaggy, sticky dough starts to form. At this point, knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes, until completely smooth. Your dough should be dry enough that it does not stick to your work surface, but not so dry that it doesn't form a nice, smooth dough. If you find your dough to be too dry, add more water, a tiny sprinkle at a time. If your dough is too wet, you can also add more flour, again just a sprinkling at a time. Once your dough is completely smooth, wrap it tightly in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. On a sheet pan, toss the carrots with the olive oil, brown sugar, and a generous pinch of salt. Roast, turning once halfway through, until the carrots are tender and just beginning to caramelize on the outside, about 20 - 25 minutes (depending on the size of your carrots). Set aside to cool.

Line a plate with paper towels and spread the ricotta over it. Allow to drain for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a food processor, add the toasted pine nuts and process until finely ground. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add 4 of the cooled, roasted carrots to the food processor and process until completely puréed (you should end up with approximately 1/2 cup of purée). Add to the mixing bowl with the pine nuts, along with the drained ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Unwrap the pasta dough and cut into quarters. Lightly dust a large work surface with semolina flour. Starting with the widest setting on a pasta roller, pass the first piece of dough through the rollers. Decrease the width of the rollers by one notch, and roll the dough through again. Continue in this method, decreasing the width by one notch each time, until you reach the second to thinnest setting (number 8 on the Atlas machine). Lay the rolled sheet of dough on top of the semolina flour-dusted surface. Roll the remaining 3 sheets of dough and arrange them side by side over the semolina flour (do not allow them to overlap, as they will stick to each other). 

To form the ravioli, spoon 2 teaspoon mounds of filling on the first sheet of dough, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Using a pastry brush, or your finger, lightly brush around the filling with water to moisten the dough. Carefully lay another sheet of dough on top of the first sheet, using your fingers to press out any air pockets that form around the mounds of filling. Using a small biscuit cutter (about 2 1/2-inches in diameter), cut around the mounds to form small, circular raviolis. Pinch the edges of each ravioli to make sure they are completely sealed. Place the formed raviolis in one layer on a plate dusted with more semolina flour. Repeat this process with the remaining 2 sheets of dough. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Liberally salt the water and add the ravioli. Cook until just tender, about 2 - 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ravioli from the water. 

To serve, spoon a large dollop of ricotta cheese (or crème fraîche) on each plate. Arrange the ravioli and a few of the reserved roasted carrots over top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper and a few chopped carrot greens.

 

yield: approximately 14 - 15 raviolis; serves 2 - 3