Tasked to Bring

Passover in itself isn’t really an exciting holiday. I mean, sure the soup is great – but its not high on the list of things to look forward to I’m sure.

This year I was asked to bring the hard boiled eggs for the seder, which can be a stressful request. What if I don’t do a good job and they all peel awfully and I’m left with a bowl of hardboiled yolks? There’s no way to know if you did a terrible job until its too late really, so that only makes things worse. At least with cooking I can sort of season as I go, and figure out how to fix most issues ahead of presentation.  But eggs – nope.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I did some hefty research. Yes on how to boil eggs. [Yes, I’ve boiled eggs before that came out fine.]

Hot start. That’s the secret apparently, according to a few blog posts I came across and the eggs that were so incredibly perfect.

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Lets be real, have you ever seen a bowl of entirely perfect hard boiled eggs?

The theory I was led to believe previously, was that the older the egg, the better it would peel. But these eggs were purchased on Thursday, and boiled on Friday. Now I know that supermarket eggs are specifically fresh, but these weren’t lingering in my fridge for a week or so prior to boiling.

My normal go to method, is to put the eggs in a pot of water, bring to a boil and let simmer until my little egg timer says they’re cooked enough.  But its the hot start that might be the trick here. Out of sheer dread, I cooked 18 eggs in total via two different but similar methods.

9 eggs were carefully placed into a pot of already boiling water and allowed to simmer, covered, for 11 minutes.

The other 9 eggs were placed into a steamer insert in a pot of boiling water, covered, for 11 minutes.

There were only two that didn’t peel with ease, and I think they came from the pot of boiling water [not the steamer].

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There was no green line, the middle was almost creamy, and the whites were all fully boiled. I’m only writing this post with so much detail so that I can fully remember how to boil perfect eggs in the future.

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South Carolina [Part 3]

This is the final installment of Heather went to South Carolina.

I’m not a travel writer, I’m hardly even a traveler. I’ll go back to posting cooking misadventures soon enough. So bear with me for now.

Brookgreen Gardens [Murrells Inlet, SC]

I’m already regretting putting this in here, but I can’t only post about the good. This place was definitely 100% not worth the money. If you have free tickets, are over the age of 75, or just love being bored – head on over to Brookgreen Gardens. I couldn’t even tell you much about it, because we sped walk through looking for the Labrynth that was on the map. And guess what? The mazes I used to draw in the driveway with chalk were more serious than this thing.

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There were maybe two flowering bushes in the whole garden, and while the area itself could be pretty, it reminded me of the landscaping you would see if a fancy outdoor mall. Does that make me sound like a jerk? Well if not, the next part will; the sculptures were pretty bad. As in, I’m no expert, but a museum wouldn’t be fighting to get their hands on any of these.

Save your money and walk through a public park, or a housing subdivision. Or an airport terrace.

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This picture was clearly taken before the disappointment set in.

 

Russell’s [Murrells Inlet, SC]

This place is so good it doesn’t have a website. This is the second post in a row where I mention a restaurant in relation to its website having status. When a place is thriving and has no website, it is good. That is a fact when we live in an era where people like to look up menus, food pictures, and hours of business before driving down the street.  Or is that just me? Wow I have been asking that a lot lately. Perhaps I really do live in an odd bubble of obsessive restaurant website research.

Anyway, Russell’s is perfection. My father-in-law treated us to dinner here as a gift of nostalgia to my husband on his birthday. My husband used to come here with his brothers when they were younger, and I could tell it brought back happy memories of summer vacations and seafood dinners. With the wood paneling and walls covered with framed photos, some of that warm fuzzy memory feeling even rubbed off on me.

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 This cozy place is located on the opposite side of the road from the Marshwalk restaurants, and just a little bit further down, but is definitely worth a visit for a seafood dinner. Seeing my husband enjoy his dinner with his parents made me so excited to share this special place with the next generation. It also made me feel so blessed to have in-laws that I can spend a week with and still enjoy. I know not everyone is always so lucky, [and I’m pretty sure they don’t read this so I’m getting no brownie points], but I married in to some pretty great folks.  I mean, they treated me to grits, seafood, and golf cart trips to the beach all in one vacation.

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Boone Hall [Mt. Pleasant, SC]

This was the exact opposite on that spectrum of restoration/preservation I mentioned about Drayton Hall. I wanted to squeeze in a visit to a plantation that would have more atmosphere, and more of a feel for what life was actually like. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite hit the mark but was interesting to visit. The weird thing about this place, is that in addition to being highly commercialized [“the most photographed plantation” insert eye roll], its also currently inhabited. That’s right, a family still lives here.

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Wait. What?

That’s right, you’re not allowed to take any photographs inside, and the second floor is off limits to tours. Well honestly I think that first part has nothing to do with the family’s privacy and everything to do with the fact that there is nothing original on display, and if people photographed the three rooms you’re allowed to tour, then no one would pay for the tour itself. Just blew the lid wide open on that one. You’re welcome.

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Its not the original plantation running family or their descendants that live there; in fact, according to the tour, the home changed owners several times throughout history and foreign families set up camp here in relatively recent history. They do interpret the social and cultural history of slavery here, as well as offer a few other attractions; so the ticket price can be worth it.

 

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But their garden is worth it. It was a gorgeous garden just in font of the house to the left and right of the walkway. Look at those poppies. There were flowers and vegetables mixed together in lush harmony.  This only made me madder about that Brookgreen gardens disaster. I was willing to let them off the hook thinking it was the off season, but if Boone Hall can do it, a place with GARDEN in the name should be able to pull off some flora.

Spice Village [Tuckahoe, NY]

We havn’t had Indian food in months and I was craving hot, spicy, full belly goodness of some takeout.

I found Spice Village via Yelp as the closest place, and it had great reviews – so without much research we ordered from there.

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  • garlic naan
  • chicken tikka masala
  • vegetable samosa
  • chana masala

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The chickpeas were a win for me, but they were too spicy for Mister [who prefers things with no level of spicy – weirdo]

The two giant containers of rice felt like overkill, but then I had that moment of realization that maybe we ordered enough food for more than two people. In my defense, this order lasted us for two dinners and two lunches. But there was still too much rice.

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The chicken was incredible, but sadly there was hardly any actual chicken in the container of saucy sauciness.  It was like the chicken was a topping to the sauce instead of the other way around.

With a quick reheat in the oven, the garlic naan was perfection. The samosas were tolerable, and a definite skip for next time. With a mealy crust, they were way too big. If they had been smaller and crunchier, I would’ve been a fan for sure.

We did have the conversation before, during, and after ordering that we always get confused with Indian menus – it seems to be the same handful of ingredients and dishes with all vaguely similar names. Does everyone feel this way, or do I just need to visit more restaurants until I get the hang of what’s going on?

 

 

Definitely Ready

Per my last post – I’m an incredibly stubborn cook. I’m a pretty stubborn person in general actually, but that’s not the point.

That chicken breast that didn’t turn out so great? Well I’ve since mastered the bone in split chicken breast. [Yes I know that the first time around it was a whole chicken breast, and the split might make it easier – cut a girl some slack]

 

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I picked up a pack of four bone in split chicken breasts for .99 cents per pound. It was just about $5 for the four pack – which is two meals for Mister and I.

I put two in a Ziploc bag with BBQ sauce, and the other two in a Ziploc bag with an Asian dressing from Trader Joe’s – they marinaded for a solid day plus before cooking the first batch. Mister picked BBQ for our second attempt so that’s what happened first.

After some more Googling and cook book browsing – I realized that my pan of choice might’ve been an issue, and that I was over complicating things. I dug out an old two part broiler pan I had from my Grandma, that I don’t think I’ve ever actually used.

The issue here, is that I don’t like cleaning pans. I like to put foil on pans – so I have always shied away from this type of a pan simply because it really relies on getting at least one part of the pan dirty.

Preheat oven to 350, sprayed some non-stick cooking spray [generic – thank’s Sam’s Club] on both parts of the pan, slathered a little more BBQ sauce on both pieces and let it cook for about an hour – ish.

While that was going I checked the fridge for a veggie option – it was a toss up between broccoli and zucchini. I figured broccoli would go better with the asian chicken, so zucchini it was. Don’t ask me where that logic comes from, it just exists in my head and makes sense in my world.

Since the oven was going, I wanted to cook up the veggie in the oven too – and got a creative spark.

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Peeled zucchini, quartered then breaded in italian breadcrumbs. Baked on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet and topped with a little extra salt.

052.JPGThese were baked at 350 for about 30 minutes, and once the chicken was taken out of the oven I cranked it as high as it would go for a few minutes just to crisp them up a little more.

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I mean – it was perfection. Crispy skinned BBQ chicken that nearly fell off the bone, and crunchy, salty bites of zucchini. Mister even went so far as to say he liked them more than when I made frozen fries. We each ate an entire zucchini each, which felt pretty impressive. Even if there was about a cup of breadcrumbs used, there wasn’t any oil – so it still felt like a healthy compromise.

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Sur La Table: Pasta Reinvented

For my birthday, my sister in law gifted me a cooking class at Sur La Table. After a few back and forths, we nailed down a date and class that worked with both of our schedules.

We met up at The Westchester location, which is between where she lives in CT and my house in lower Westchester. We didn’t plan on the class starting at the same time the mall opened, so we had to do a few laps to kill time before we got started.

I had taken cooking class in Albany with Chef Gio while living in Albany [highly recommend for all levels of cooking!!] but hadn’t taken any cooking classes at a more commercial type setting.  The kitchen set up at Sur La Table was impressive, and the chef we had as an instructor was great at keeping things moving while entertaining us on a Saturday morning.

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We definitely started off on the right foot with complimentary cappuccinos and focaccia. Since the class started at 10am, it was the perfect timing for a pick me up.

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One thing about the kitchen that was really well thought out – there was an angled mirror above the chef’s work station so that the whole room could see what was going on without straining to peer around or stand on their tip toes. We were lucky to be part of a small class [ 8 people total], but it still felt very Food Network.

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The title of the class was Pasta Reinvented – meant to be twists on traditional pasta dishes.

Menu: Sweet Potato Gnocchi & Hazelnut Gremolata – Corn Flour Pappardelle & Slow-Cooked Beef Rib Ragu – Caesar Pasta Salad with Anchovy Croutons

Class Description: Bored with boxed noodles? Rethink pasta—put a delicious twist on classic gnocchi and use corn to create a classic pappardelle with an alternative flour. Plus, we’ll show you how to add depth of flavor with easy braising techniques and round out the meal with a jazzed-up Caesar salad.

I learned a great tip for how to hold my knife the right more correct way when chopping – and it was really interesting to go through some basic prep for each dish. It was definitely a hands on class, with lots of time for questions.

The most surprising thing about the class, was what I ended up liking the most; while I started the class really interested in the short rib ragu – it was a tie between the gnocchi and the ceasar for my favorite.

The Chefstructor [yes I made that up] wasn’t shy to explain that he didn’t create the recipes, and he would’ve thickened the ragu up more. That was one of the biggest differences between going to a more commercialized class like this Sur La Table class sponsored by Kitchenaid versus an independent class like Chef Gio. With Chef Gio – they were his recipes that he tweaked, and he was showing you exactly what he recommended and how to duplicate it. This class, however, was more of a direct cookbook demonstration with some expert level instruction.

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The corn pappardelle was a miss for me, but maybe would be popular for someone maintaining a gluten free diet. It was too dense and for some reason reminded me of a soup noodle in a bad, off-brand freeze dried soup mix.  I can’t really pin point that correlation though.

029.JPGI almost don’t want to admit how many serving spoonfuls of this Caesar salad I had. The dressing was made fresh in a blender [so easy, I will actually try this soon], while the oil from the anchovies was used to make the croutons. I said it at least five times while eating, but I want to eat this for lunch every day. Forever. It was so light, and crunchy, and had so much flavor without any salt or pepper being added anywhere.

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Then there was the sweet potato gnocchi with hazelnut gremulata. I don’t even know what gremulata means. But I like saying it over and over again because this dish was everything. Sister and I agreed this would be an epic Thanksgiving sidedish. Sage and sweet potato gnocchi broiled under cheese and topped with a combination of hazelnuts, parsley, and parmesan.  It was savory, melty, not too sweet or salty, crunchy bits.  All that aside, as a bonus its a pretty gorgeous dish.

I’m so excited that I gifted Mom a class for the holidays as well – so I’m excited to see what she picks for us to try. As a little reward for paying to take these classes, Sur La Table offers a 10% discount on anything in the store for a few days after you take the class. We definitely took advantage stocking up on a few gadgets we had used during the class [ hello lemon squeezer!], and I picked up a magnetic timer that I’m already in love with. So win win!

Peanut Noodle Bowls

I have a very clear memory of sitting at the small kids table in the front room [“the piano room” which later became “the computer room”] of my Mom’s house and being served a giant bowl of peanut noodles. I know there were other kids there, otherwise we would’ve been eating at the regular kitchen table. I know it was summer, or at least warm and sunny out. But other than that, my memory is really of the giant serving bowl filled with peanut butter goodness.

For me, as a child, peanut noodles felt like a trick that adults hadn’t quite figured out. Like Nutella, I wanted to point out that peanut butter was too delicious to be allowed for dinner. Especially over spaghetti.

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Even as an adult, peanut noodles feel like getting away with something.

But the other night, I made us heaping bowls of peanut noodles with broccoli, a little chicken for Mister and some leftover tofu for mine.

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I followed the recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything blog and it was exactly what I was looking for; the only change I made was I added more water to thin the recipe out quite a bit.

While the sauce was being made, I diced up a chicken breast for Mister and cooked it in a pan while simultaneously steaming some broccoli in the microwave and boiling pasta water.

I had completely forgotten about this little microwave steamer I picked up from Sears a few years ago.  I’m sure it would be easy to find something similar on Amazon, and it really is helpful for quick cooking as an alternative to buying those frozen Steam Fresh type veggie bags.

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Falafel at Home

I’m in love with the falafel from Tzatziki Grill in New Rochelle – they’re soft on the inside, crispy, spicy. I eat almost an entire order to myself every time we order takeout.

When I saw a box of falafel mix at Stop & Shop this past weekend, it inspired me to try making an at home version.  Falafel mix, tahini, some olives, and some feta for good measure.

It was surprisingly easy – and yes I know its because I didn’t really make the falafel from scratch. I get it.

Falafel mix + water. Set aside.

Scoop into the shape you want – fry in a lot of oil.

Drain. Layer on pita with lots of toppings.

Making the tahini dressing was only slightly more complicated.

Mix tahini paste, water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and salt. I had to keep tasting and adjusting to get it where I wanted it – which seems to be the basis of this recipe.

The flatbreads I also picked up at Stop & Shop; they were really good and the nutritional information was incredible. 15 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbs, and 180 calories per pita.

Flatbread, tahini, shredded romaine, sliced tomatoes, feta, red onion, falafel.

Olives and stuffed grape leaves [canned from Trader Joes] on the side.

I had one, Mister had 1.5 with the other 1.5 packed up for his lunch. I take that level of enthusiasm as the highest compliment.

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Sometimes I impress myself with how well I pack up his lunch.