Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Perfect Burger {Just in Time for Labor Day}

The Perfect Burger

{Courtesy of Chef Bobby Flay- who just opened a restaurant focused exclusively on burgers, and definitely knows a thing or two about making them}

Ingredients: {makes 4 burgers, double the recipe accordingly}

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80 percent lean) or ground turkey (90 percent lean)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon steak seasoning (like McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak-optional)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 slices cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 4 hamburger buns, split; toasted, if desired

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, combine the meat, Worcestershire sauce, and steak sauce, mixing lightly with your hands until just combined, making sure not to over work the meat.
  • Divide the meat into 4 equal portions (about 6 ounces each). Form each portion loosely into a 3/4-inch-thick burger and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper.
  • Get your grill really hot, and brush both sides of your burgers with the canola oil.
  • Sear the burgers on one side and cook for 3 minutes, the flip and cook for another 4 minutes for medium rare (add another minute for medium, and 2 more minutes for medium well)
  • Remove the burgers onto a platter, and tent loosely with foil to rest for 5 minutes.
  • If topping with cheese, put it on top of the burgers before you tent them with the foil, the residual heat will melt it.
  • While the burgers rest, toast the burger buns on the grill, and serve.

Perfect Burger Do’s & Don’ts

  • When you’re mixing your meat and seasonings, don’t work the meat more then you have to. If you squeeze and massage the crap out of it, your burgers will gave a texture more like a ground beef hot dog and less like the meaty, juicy burger you’re shooting for.
  • Make sure the grill is hot enough before you start cooking the burgers, otherwise you won’t get a good sear on the outside.
  • Don’t press down on the burgers as you cook them- this just squeezes out all the juices that make the burger flavorful and juicy.
  • Do buy the best meat you can afford- free range, organic beef raised without antibiotics and hormones tastes better, and is way better for both you and the environment then the hormone-loaded alternative.
  • Do make sure you buy the right percentage of fat to lean beef- too much fat and your burgers will catch flame and smoke up like crazy, too little fat and your burgers will turn out dry and crumbly.

Bonus Burger Toppings & Mix-Ins

  • California Burger: Top with cheddar cheese, sliced avocado, red onion, and salsa
  • Asian Burger: Top with hoisin sauce, sriracha, and chopped scallions
  • BBQ Burger: Top with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and BBQ sauce
  • Tropical Burger: Top with a diced mix of pineapple, jalapenos, fresh lime juice & salt
  • Blue Cheese Burger: When mixing your meat, add ¼ cup good blue cheese to the mix
  • Southern Burger: Serve on a split buttermilk biscuit with BBQ sauce and mayo
  • Italian Burger: Top with grilled eggplant, Parmesan cheese, and marinara sauce
  • Indian Burger: Top with spicy curry mayo and mango slices
  • Breakfast Burger: Top with a fried egg, crispy bacon, and ketchup

For the full article, see my post on Bachelor Kitchen.

Photo Credit: http://www.eumom.ie/blog/

Late-August Heirloom Tomato Salad

In late August, the tomatoes taste so sweet you could eat them like candy. With the weather hot and sticky, keep your cooking simple and let the produce speak for itself.

For this simple tomato salad, just buy the best heirloom, local, super-ripe tomatoes you can get your hands on, and do a quick assembly job on a big platter.

Slice your tomatoes into fairly thin slices, lay them out over the platter, and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Slice some red onion as thinly as you can muster, and lay out the half-moons over the tomatoes. Drizzle the whole plate with some extra virgin olive oil and maybe a bit of balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle over a few basil leaves (I had chives in my garden so I added a bit of that as well).

That’s it! Serve with some crusty warm bread, or a bit of torn up mozzarella if you have some on hand.

For the complete post, view my article on Bachelor Kitchen.

top five BBQ sauces {perfect for labor day grilling}

Bone Suckin’ Sauce: Thicker Style: This is my go-to absolute favorite BBQ sauce. It has a perfectly balanced flavor, with sweetness from molasses and honey, heat from peppers and mustard, and spiked with apple cider vinegar for the perfect tangy taste. It’s amazing tossed with shredded chicken or pork, or worked into a burger mixture for an instant summery kick.

FunniBonz Barbeque Sauce: Spicy: Made locally in West Winsor, NJ, this sauce takes the phrase “stick-to-your ribs” to a new level. It’s ridiculously thick, making it ideal for coating chicken or ribs before throwing them on the grill. You could also rub it on a whole chicken and roast it up in the oven, making your house smell fantastic. This one also boasts a gluten-free label for those in that dietary camp.

Sticky Fingers Smokehouse: Carolina Sweet Barbeque Sauce: This offers a wider flavor profile then any of the other sauces on this list, with a heavy hit of spices and a palatable amount of heat with every bite. Honey balances the spiciness of the sauce, which to me stands out as the most “classic BBQ” of the bunch. Its well applied in all the usual BBQ-sauce places, but also really standout tossed with warm red russet potatoes with a bit of butter and a hit of salt and pepper.

Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce: Though initially drawn to the knowing cowboy on the front proclaiming “Ladies and Gentleman, I’m a Cook,” this sauce really delivers. All natural and gluten-free, this classic Texas BBQ sauce pours on thick, and touts the most distinctively smoky flavor profile of the bunch. Pleasantly tangy from a kick of vinegar, this sauce just begs to be slathered on a big side of ribs.

Sticky Fingers: Carolina Classic Barbeque Sauce: I have to be honest; I actually don’t care for this mustard-based, peppery BBQ sauce. An entirely different style from the others listed above, this pick draws its flavors from mustard, mustard seed, and turmeric, giving it a distinct yellow color. Though interchangeable with all the other sauces depending on your palate, I think it would marry beautifully with seafood and chicken in particular given its mustardy bent.

For the complete article, visit Hot From The Kettle

Green Goddess Dressing {Lightened Up}

 

People can get very particular about their salad dressings. Some crave the creamy, lettuce-swathing ranch or blue cheese, others lean towards the lighter vinaigrettes, and the healthiest among us keep it simple with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. I vacillate somewhere between these three, but lately only one dressing has made it onto my table: Green Goddess Dressing. Its super tangy and full of summer flavors, plus the lurid green color brightens up any plate. I first fell in love with the Annie’s Naturals version, but then decided to make my own given the abundance of herbs in my garden.

This dressing comes together in your blender in a flash, and you can tweak the ingredients and seasonings given your taste and what you’ve got on hand. Don’t let the long list scare you off, you don’t really even have to chop anything, just toss it all into the blender and you’re set. It’s very forgiving, and stays emulsified even after a few days in the fridge. I’d say it safely keeps for about a week, but use your best judgment.  This version lightens up the mayo heavy classic, so you can slather it on with abandon without a hint of guilt.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 heaped tablespoons reduced fat Vegenaise (Vegan mayonnaise; give it a try, or if you can’t bring yourself to, just use low-fat regular mayo)
  • 3 scallions, green and white parts
  • 2 cloves raw garlic
  • 1 Kirby cucumber, or ½ an English cucumber, skin on
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup fresh chives
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon (may add more to taste)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Add all the ingredients to the blender and purée them into a creamy smooth consistency. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed. If the dressing is too thick, add a bit of lemon juice and olive oil to thin it out, or even a bit of water. To add more tang, add more lemon juice or white wine vinegar.
  • Store the dressing in Mason jars in the fridge for up to a week.

*Serve over your favorite salad greens, or tossed with cold shrimp for a creamy salad, or poured over cooked salmon and asparagus for a healthy, green take on the classic hollandaise sauce.

*Photo Credit: www.raisedonaroux.com

Lobster- Summer’s Perfect Dinner Date

Lobsters are a pretty classy dinner. They’re usually only served at the finer restaurants in town (Red Lobster aside, but that’s another topic all together), and usually come with a fairly hefty price tag. If you and your girl are having lobsters for dinner, its safe to say it’s a pretty special night.

But you can have all the fun of a lobster dinner and get all the credit without the fancy restaurant and oversized bill. If your grocery store is anything like mine this time of year, lobster prices are at an all time low. I’ve got absolutely no clue why that is, but I’m not complaining! Lobster epitomizes summer, and serves as the ideal cornerstone for a farmer’s market fresh dinner date. All you have to do is boil some corn and new potatoes, melt some butter, pour the wine, and dinner is done. Don’t let your squeamishness about the whole killing your dinner thing hold you back- you can order your lobsters pre-cooked and ready to eat. No muss, no fuss, and no guilty conscience as you dig into dinner. You can even order them pre-cracked, but I think that kind of spoils the fun of the whole experience. Making a mess and getting covered in butter is half the fun, and makes for an interactive date.

If you take pride in cooking your crustaceans yourself, do it the humane way and place them all in a pot of room temperature water. As you slowly bring the pot up to a boil, the lobsters just drift off into a sleepy haze and don’t notice a thing; or at least that’s what I tell myself anyway. That way you avoid the dreaded “scream” the lobsters make when you drop them into a full on boiling pot (which is really just steam escaping, but I can’t bear it just the same). I’ve also heard that you can rub the lobsters’ “noses” (do they have them?) between their eyes, and it relaxes them, but I have a suspicion that’s another self-soothing fallacy. Either way, your lobsters and your date will thank you for being so considerate.

Read my full article, including how to crack & eat lobster, & what to serve it with, on Bachelor Kitchen 

ginger peach tea vodka infusion

Given that August is National Peach Month (who knew?) I decided to celebrate with a new infusion. Earlier in the summer I made a whole batch of boozy infusions, and the black tea lemon vodka emerged as the front-runner favorite of the bunch. So to give the infusion a new, seasonal twist, I switched up the black tea bags for ginger peach, and threw in some super-ripe, farmer’s market fresh peaches to the mix. The resulting infusion is nothing short of incredible, and its actually pretty absurd how good it tastes with a splash of iced tea and a kick of lemonade. If you want to really make these dangerous, mix the infusion with some peach flavored iced tea- and its game over! The infusion process mitigates the bite of the vodka, mollifying it into a mellow, easy mix-in. Make up a few mason jars this weekend, and enjoy the last two weeks of August with a truly exceptional cocktail in your hand.

Recipe & Directions

  • Wash and cut three ripe peaches into bite-sized pieces, making sure to remove the pits.
  • Take one clean Mason jar and add the chopped peaches, then add three ginger peach tea bags on top.
  • Pour a decent vodka (no Popov please!) over everything, filling the jar almost to the brim.
  • Screw your lid on tightly, and shake everything up to combine. Let the infusion steep in a cool, dark place for at least a week.
  • Strain the liquid, discard the solids, and pour your infusion back into a clean Mason jar.
  • Enjoy mixed with iced tea, lemonade, ginger ale, tonic water, peach Fresca, or any combination of the above. Add a sprig of mint to your glass if you’re feeling fancy!
* You could make this infusion with another liquor (like gin) but I think the herbal notes would compete with the ginger flavor here. Vodka will give the cleanest transmission of flavor for this infusion.

World’s Hottest Curry at Brick Lane {this one’s no joke!}

World’s Hottest Curry at Brick Lane

Watch Melody Kettle of Hot From The Kettle and myself try and eat the world’s hottest curry! I’m all for spicy food, but this curry, made with ghost peppers, veers into pink cheeked, watery eyed, sweaty palmed, bee-stung lip territory. We only made it a few bites! Click the link above for the full video, and click here for Melody’s curry challenge!

let me show you how!

I love company in the kitchen, and I love teaching people how to cook. From the most advanced techniques (filleting a whole fish, whisking up fancy French sauces, or making puff pastry from scratch) to the simplest (roasting a chicken, assembling a fruit crumble, or chopping up veggies for a fresh salsa) I’d be happy to walk you through it step by step, ensuring you create food you’re proud to share.

I’ll bring all the tools, ingredients, and recipes you need, just let me know what you want to learn! Below is an abbreviated list of some themes we can work around, but they sky is the limit! And if you like, we can make it a party and cook with wine (paired to what we’re cooking of course) or a signature cocktail. Like the beloved Julia Child said, “I love cooking with wine- sometimes I even put it in the food!”

Dinner Party to Impress: Learn how to cook for a larger group of friends with simple, manageable dishes that still pack an impressive punch. We can decide on a theme based on the season, a holiday, or special event.

Post-Grad Package: Learn how to cook outside the dorm room (no more ramen noodles!), with a simple repertoire of dishes you can grow from. Learn how to cook for one, or for a group of friends in your new place.

Newlywed Package: Perfect for the new bride & groom. Learn how to cook a delicious dinner for two, together. Put those new wedding gifts to good use, impress your new spouse, and cut back on your take-out bills.

Bachelorette Package: Compliment your naughtier bachelorette party with a more wholesome (and useful!) cooking party. Nibble on appetizers and sip cocktails as you learn some new tricks in the kitchen. Each guest will leave with a book of recipes and something decadent to enjoy at home.

Healthy Kids Package: Switch up your frozen chicken fingers and tater tots routine and learn how to cook wholesome, nourishing food for your kids that they’ll actually want to eat. We can come up with fun ideas based on their/your preferences, and get them involved in the cooking process so they feel involved in the process. You might have a budding chef on your hands!

Cocktail Package: Learn how to shake up some truly delicious cocktails, and break out of your pre-packaged mixer rut. I’ll show you how to make fresh, bespoke cocktails to impress all your friends, and we’ll figure out new signature cocktail for you. Perfect as a housewarming gift or for a recent graduate.

Passport to Italy Package: Learn how to make homemade pasta from scratch (you won’t believe how good it tastes!), homemade tomato sauce (no more jarred stuff), fresh bruschetta, and homemade fresh mozzarella from scratch. Talk about an impressive dinner!

Just Desserts Package: Learn how to make your favorite sweet treats at home. We can keep it simple with brownies, cookies, and cakes, or get a little fancier with homemade meringues, caramels, ice creams, and soufflés.

We can also build a package around any holiday, event, or party you have in mind, and if you’re not in the mood to cook yourself, sit back and let me do the work while you relax! I will cook up whatever you need, and leave everything ready to be served.

the easiest summer appetizer ever {kirby cucumbers with basil & mint}

After work and before dinner, I think its really nice and relaxing to put out a little spread of snacks to have with some wine or prosecco so everyone can unwind and catch up on each other’s days. I usually put out a few cheeses, Marcona almonds, fig spread, some hummus and carrots, and maybe a few grilled shrimp. Lately I’ve been adding these cucumbers to the mix.

I like the kirby cucumbers best- they’re smaller and crunchier, with less seeds.
 Just cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then again through the middle, and arrange seed-side up on a plate. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oilsea salt and black pepper, and a few tablespoons each of fresh basil and mint chopped up together. The mint adds a nice brightness that makes the cucumbers even more refreshing, and the basil adds a hit of flavor that makes this dish really special. This appetizer is super light and refreshing, making it perfect for August’s steamy nights.

See my full post on Bachelor Kitchen

 

summer fruit crumble

All the ripe fruit in the grocery store this time of year just begs to be baked into a big yummy fruit crumble. And what better way to celebrate summer before it draws to a close? You can do any combination of fruits depending on your preference and what looks best in your local store, but my favorite in August are definitely peaches and blueberries. Crumbles are ridiculously easy to throw together, and don’t really even require precise measurements like most baked desserts. Their ease makes them the perfect summer dessert, and as they bake they make your whole home smell heavenly. Feel free to use any combination of fruits here- when I made this last night I threw in a few leftover figs I had hanging around and they melded in perfectly.

 See my full article and get the simple recipe for this crumble on Bachelor Kitchen 

*photo credit: twopeasandtheirpod.com

 

restaurant review: mes reves

Step off of busy Broad Street in Bloomfield and into Mes Reves, and feel immediately transported to an elegant, softly lit restaurant, which would fit seamlessly in both New York City and Paris. Mes Reves means my dream in French, and that’s just what this place embodies. Everything, from the décor to the menu to the food is flawlessly executed, and will leave you wondering how this place has managed to stay relatively under the radar since it’s opening this past February. Quang Tran, the executive chef and co-owner of Mes Reves with his wife, was born in Vietnam but moved to the U.S. at a young age. He then attended the French Culinary Institute in Soho.

As a current student at the French Culinary Institute, I can personally attest to the high standards it upholds. Such a level of precision and perfection has been quite a shock to this formerly cocky home cook! Tran is the perfect testament to this high culinary standard- and his food speaks for itself. Everything is served perfectly cooked, balanced, and sauced, nothing heavy-handed or overly complicated in sight.

Read the full review on Hot From The Kettle 

New Jersey Food & Wine Festival 2012

Decadence and indulgence ruled at this year’s fourth annual New Jersey Food & Wine Festival at the Crystal Springs Resort. Held this past weekend at the Grand Cascades Lodge at Crystal Springs, the festival kicked off with a Dom Perignon reception with Chef Thomas Keller, who headlined the weekend’s events. You may recognize Keller as the owner of NYC restaurant Per Se, or as the star of the new American Express commercials, but he is also a founder of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, a holder of multiple three Michelin Star restaurant ratings, and the author of numerous cookbooks, including The French Laundry, andAd Hoc.

Chef Keller stood in good company, working alongside renowned and venerated chefs from all over the Tri-State area at the weekend’s events. I was lucky enough to attend the Grand Tasting on Saturday night, which as the signature event of the weekend included more food and wine than even the most ambitious foodie could consume. With more than twenty-five top chefs from NJ and NYC cooking alongside forerunning wineries and distilleries from around the world, it was hard to know which way to turn in the two full levels of tables.

For my full account of this over-the-top event, see my article on Hot From The Kettle

VB3 – Jersey City’s latest culinary offering

Located on the bottom floor of a luxury rental building on Washington Boulevard in Jersey City, the newly opened restaurant VB3 offers revamped Italian classics with a decidedly local flair.

The menu, composed of a selection of small plates perfect for mixing and sharing, changes often to highlight the local produce offerings of the seasons. With prices ranging from eight to twenty-five dollars, you can compose a complete meal for a reasonable price. The staff, chefs, and owners were all beyond wonderful, and proud of what they had to offer.

For my full review, see the complete article on Hot From The Kettle 

summit food & wine festival {2011}

This weekend, the third annual Summit Wine and Food Festival took place at the Grand Hotel in Summit, which hosted dozens of impressive chefs, sommeliers, and guest speakers.

On Friday night, the festival kicked off with the Gala Tasting, where restaurants, chefs, and winemakers set up tables to showcase their signature dishes and most celebrated wines. Guests could wander around the Grand Ballroom and sample to their heart’s content, eating and drinking their fill. I myself made it my mission to try something from each table, and ended up doubling back to some of my favorites.

The hallway adjacent to the ballroom housed several cocktail stations where guests could watch drinks like cherry tomato mojitos made to order, and a chocolate table stacked with delicious flavors like pistachio, caramel and sea salt. This event provided the perfect platform to get up close and personal with the chefs and sommeliers of the weekend, and to talk with them about the food and wine they’re passionate about.

 For more details on this event, see my full article on Hot From The Kettle, and be sure to get your tickets to the 2012 festival!

Summertime cocktails at Halcyon

Nothing says springtime quite like a bright fruity cocktail. I sat down at Halcyon’s marble bar with Sharon Eagan and tested out some of the new cocktails they plan on serving to celebrate the sunnier, warmer days of spring.

The cornerstone of these spring cocktails is a collection of in-house infused fruit liquors currently working their magic in big glass jars under the bar. Fruits like pineapple, watermelon, peach, and orange are married with liquors like vodka, rum, and tequila. After a few weeks, the flavors meld and create the perfect foundation for a cocktail.

For my full article, plus two dangerously delicious cocktail recipes, visit Hot From The Kettle 

the “death seat burger” at the old canal inn

Melody Kettle of Hot From The Kettle convinced my to try the infamous Death Seat Burger at the Old Canal Inn. Read below for details, and click the link to see the full video- but be fore warned, its not too pretty!

“The urban legend is true!  The Death Seat Burger does exist! And it takes lives – young, beautiful, food-blogging lives! What are you talking about, Mrs. Kettle?  Well, back in April, John Lee visited Mark Conca co-owner and managing partner at the Old Canal Inn (OCI), and learned all about legend and lure of the Death Seat Burger. I was intrigued by the story and had to see how this behemoth of burger is actually made. So, last week the Hot From The Kettle crew sojourned to the OCI.” -Melody Kettle

Head over to Hot From The Kettle to see the full article and the video– not to be missed!

my bachelor kitchen bio

One of the main websites I contribute to, The Bachelor Kitchen, was kind enough to publish this bio on me:

Contributor for Bachelor Kitchen
Wanna know more about Elizabeth Palmer? She’s the “She” Bachelor Kitchen’s “That’s What She Says!” Providing readers with a female perpspective on wining and dining. Her fresh takes on preperation and quality ingredients deliver quick and easy tips to WOW any guest.
Learn more:
After four years at Hamilton College studying history (among other less studious pursuits), and six months in Sweden traveling and exploring, Elizabeth headed for the French Culinary Institute in New York City to follow her lifelong passion for cooking and avoid the doldrums and inevitability of Corporate America. A recent graduate, she now spends her time cooking, baking, traveling, throwing cocktail parties for friends, trying to fathom the perpetually confusing men in her life, and writing about all of the above.
That's What She Says by Elizabeth Palmer
To see the full page on Bachelor Kitchen, click here! 

how to: avoid that post-grad, over-grown frat boy fridge

Keep these on hand to impress female guests
Nothing says bachelor like a sad, empty fridge. If the contents of yours includes little more than a few crusty condiments and a lone bottle of vodka in the freezer- its time to step up your game. If you really want to impress a girl when you work your magic and get her over to your place, keep some barebones essentials on hand. She’ll feel taken care of, more comfortable, and like she’s in the company of a grown man, rather than an over-grown frat boy.

Every respectable man should keep a few key basics in his fridge. You’ll get points for having beverages other than beer and vodka, and kudos if you have a few bottles of wine for her to choose from. Orange juice, iced tea, lemonade, milk, and maybe a few sodas are all good options- plus they make for great mixers for that vodka you have hanging around your freezer. Also, I know girls who won’t even think about drinking regular soda- so consider having some diet sodas on hand. In terms of wine, shoot for two whites and two reds, and maybe a bottle of Prosecco if you’re really trying to impress her or it’s a special occasion. Try and keep a few decent cheeses (a good cheddar, some goat cheese, maybe a Manchego) and crackers besides Ritz to put out with wine if she comes over before dinner. Add some grapes and a few cut up vegetables to the plate and you’ll really impress her.

Read my full article and more suggestions on Bachelor Kitchen

In case you were wondering, the above photo is of my brother Connor’s college fridge- definitely towards the end of the weekend, as the beer stock is seriously depleted.

classic southern fried chicken

For a girl who does most of her grocery shopping at Whole Foods, the idea of buying the requisite can of Crisco to fry chicken was a little out of my comfort zone.  But once I scooped the frosting-like white fluff out of the can and heated it in my big Le Creuset, it bubbled up and cooked the chicken to golden brown perfection.

This recipe should be prefaced with my first foray into frying chicken. I was fourteen and set out to fry up two big cast-iron pans of chicken, heating the oil on high and not paying attention to the warning smoke swilling up from the oil.  Suddenly both pans burst into flames, chicken and all. Alone in the house, I naively though water would solve my problems (fire should theoretically be extinguished by water, right?).  Any savvy person knows that water on an oil or grease fire is a bad idea, and in my case caused the pans, which I had somehow gotten outside onto our brick patio, to explode flames five feet up into the air.  It’s a miracle I didn’t burn off all my hair and burn the house down in the same stroke. The fire died down, and my mom found me covered in soot, but with two plates of perfectly cooked chicken. That was the second miracle of the day! The patio still has grease stains ten years later, but I’d say the chicken was well worth it.

To avoid a disaster in the making, make sure you have a thermometer set in the oil while it heats slowly over medium low heat. And if anything catches on fire, reach for a pan to cover the fire and cut off its oxygen. But if you proceed slowly, you really shouldn’t have any problems.

For the deliciously worth it recipe, see my full article on Hot From The Kettle 
*photo credit Blue Ribbon Brasserie  Continue reading

Bespoke Cocktails

Nothing announces to the world that you’ve moved past your keg-stand college days quite like a grown up cocktail.  Most guys have a favorite, something simple and easy they can shake up at home, minimal effort and though required. But when you’re trying to impress a girl- a little effort and thought go a long way. Having the ingredients on hand for a bespoke cocktail this summer will score you big points with the women in your life, and give you something pretty damn delicious to sip on yourself when you’re craving something that doesn’t come out of a can.

Infused cocktails populate the drinks menus of upscale restaurants from coast to coast. Get in on the trend and cut out the middleman by making your own infused spirits. While it smacks of Prohibition and Moonshine (in the best way), you won’t need to do any actual distilling. Just buy yourself the largest bottle of vodka, gin, or tequila you can find, the infusing flavors of your choice, and some Mason jars from your local hardware store. Feel free to follow my recipes exactly- they all turn out dangerously good, or go nuts and come up with your own combinations. Use your go-to drink order as a guide, and try to apply a similar flavor profile to your infusion. In terms of the quality of the alcohol you infuse, try to spring for something you’d actually want to drink if it weren’t infused. I’m not saying you have to use top shelf, but leave the bottom shelf plastic bottles with handles to the kids celebrating senior week.

Make sure you wash everything really well before you add them to the jars, as any dirt or sediments will muddle the flavor of your infusion, not to mention just make the whole thing taste kind of gross.  Nobody, girls especially, want to sip on a drink with a film of dirt around the edges.  I’d also like to make my case for organic produce, as any pesticides that have steeped into the produce will inevitable end up in your cocktail glass. But again, use what you like- the alcohol is probably strong enough to kill off most of the nastiness of whatever you steep in it.

Once you’ve given your infusions four or five days in a dark corner, maybe under your bed, giving them a shake whenever you remember, just strain them a couple times with a fine sieve. Then just wash your mason jars in boiling hot water, and pour your newly flavored booze back in. They’ll keep for several weeks on the shelf or in the fridge, though I doubt they’ll last that long.  Infused cocktails are the perfect way to loosen your girl up and get her to relax, with a tone of classiness that booze in any other form just can’t compete with.

For my favorite infusion recipes, see the full article on Bachelor Kitchen

five unexpected uses for my favorite condiment: sriracha

Bloody Mary: Naturally a cocktail had to make this list. If you think you’ve got your Bloody Mary recipe down pat then by all means shake that up with a squirt of Sriracha for some unexpected heat. If you’re looking for some recipe inspiration, give this one a try. http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2009/09/the_best_bloody_mary

Cocktail Sauce: Mix ketchup, horseradish, a squeeze of lemon, and a squirt of Sriracha, and salt and pepper to taste. Use for shrimp cocktail, or in place of mignonette sauce with your oysters on the half shell.

Deviled Eggs: Make like all the hip gastro-pubs in the city and revamp this old grandma’s classic. Remove the yolks of hardboiled eggs and mash them up with some mayo, a bit or mustard, and a squirt of Sriracha, season, then spoon them back into the egg halves. Garnish with chives or celery leaves, and watch them disappear right before your eyes.

Soup: For a summer cold, or just a comforting bowl of something restorative, heat up some beef or chicken broth, add a dab of miso paste, some ramen or soba noodles, chopped scallions, a healthy squirt of Sriracha, and heat everything through. Stir in some fresh herbs (try basil, parsley, mint, or cilantro) at the last minute. It’s like your own Vietnamese Pho without calling for takeout.

Garlic Bread: Mince a few cloves of garlic, season with salt and pepper, then pour in olive oil to make a paste. Add a squirt of Sriracha (depending on your preference) and spread on a halved baguette. Press the halves together, wrap in foil, and grill or bake till warmed through. Sprinkle with a hit of parsley if you have some around.

For the full article, check out my piece on Hot From The Kettle

*photo credit: food and wine

how to: cook for a dinner date

When you’re trying to impress a girl, nothing quite seals the deal like a home cooked dinner. It shows effort, forethought, and a desire to win her over that goes beyond just picking up the bill at the end of an expensive dinner out. And just because your culinary skills leave something to be desired doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least attempt to cook her dinner.

I’m a life long cook and a graduate of culinary school, but I would still swoon if a guy tried to cook dinner for me, even if he burned the entire meal to a crisp. It makes a girl feel special when a guy puts in that much effort, even if the result doesn’t exactly please her palate. And if you think your girl is up for it, bring her into the kitchen and incorporate her in the process. Put on some music, pour some wine, and laugh your way through any missteps that might come along. It’s a great way to loosen up the mood and get her out of her shell, plus you can fill any awkward silences with witty banter about your cooking skills, or lack there of. And if the scallops catch on fire and the blender explodes pea puree all over your kitchen, and you can both laugh it off and order pizza, then you know you have a real catch.
When deciding what to cook for your lady, keep a few things in mind. Stay away from anything too complicated if it’s your first time cooking for her (you don’t want to set the bar too high then stress out when you don’t deliver).  Stay away from anything with potent odors, which will inevitably linger on your breath, clothes, hair, and kitchen. That means go easy on the onions, garlic, and all other members of the alliums family, and anything overly spiced and possibly offensive. Shoot for something with clean flavors for your first go around. Also, its worth cooking something on the lighter side- nothing kills a girl’s mood like a big heavy meal that gives her a food baby to feel self-conscious about.
Bellow is my recipe for Pan-Seared Scallops on a Spring Pea Puree. It’s seasonal, light, and easy to throw together while she sits with you in the kitchen. For something sweet, finish the meal with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Homemade Caramel Bourbon Sauce, which looks really impressive but comes together in a flash. And the addition of bourbon will make you a bit more masculine as you swirl your caramel. Light some candles, shake up some cocktails or pour some wine, and prepare to completely blow her away.
For the full article plus my recipe for yummy seared scallops and spring pea puree, check out Bachelor Kitchen 
* photo credit www.bettypaperatti.blogspot.com

restaurant review: luce

Montclair offers a seemingly endless selection of restaurants, Italian ones in particular; after a while they all sort of blend together into an indistinguishable mélange of marinara sauce and meatballs. But when your palate craves something fresh and different, set your sights on Luce Italian Restaurant in Caldwell for a welcome change of pace.

An established mainstay on the Caldwell dining scene, Luce opened in 2001 by owners Joseph Capasso and Dino Vitagliano, who sought to bring the polished, contemporary dining experience of New York City to Luce.

Featuring an Italian-inspired menu, Luce serves up classic favorites with an eclectic spin. But don’t write them off as a staid bastion out of touch with other culinary inspirations.  In 2011, Luce brought a new chef to their kitchen, searching high and low for the best candidate to revamp and improve their menu and image.  They found the perfect fit in executive chef Steve Sarangese. Formerly of Babbo in New York City, and Vetri in Philadelphia, Sarangese brings an elevated and finely tuned style to the menu at Luce.

For my full review, see my article on Hot From The Kettle 

french restaurant vocabulary {cheat sheet!}

Crash Course: French Restaurant Vocabulary
Taking your girl out for dinner is a mainstay activity in the dating game. It shows you’re willing to shell out some cash to impress her, that you want to talk to her for an extended period of time, and that you’re proud be seen with her in public. If you’re really trying to lay on the romance, take a page out of the romance languages book and bring her to a French restaurant. Dim lighting, candles, and dreamy French food definitely set the mood. And don’t let your lack of French finesse deter you from ordering.  I’ve got your French restaurant cheat sheet right here.
I’ve compiled a list of essential French restaurant vocabulary to bring you through the ordering process with your dignity and masculinity intact.  I’ve also included the phonetic pronunciation so you don’t make a fool of yourself when you place your order.  Let the waiter snicker at the table next to you struggling to order “foy grass,” not at you and your date.
Consider this your crash-course to French restaurant vocabulary. Its like those vocabulary lists you had in middle school- but instead of earning high marks with your stogy old teacher, mastering this vocabulary will impress your charming date.
For my vocabulary cheat sheet, see my full article on Bachelor Kitchen

Top Five Condiments

These five condiments will become a valued part of your culinary repertoire – I promise you’ll find yourself reaching for them again and again this spring and summer.  They all serve multiple functions in your kitchen, giving you the most mileage for your spending and the most flavor for your fridge space.

  1. Sriracha – This has become a bit of an addiction for me, I want to put it on nearly everything. Made from sun-ripened chilies, Sriracha packs quite a punch, and if you over sauce your plate it might make you cry, but a modest amount adds a layer of heat and an earthy spiciness. Whisk it into Asian-inspired sauces and marinades, mix it with mayonnaise and a squeeze of lime juice for a spicy dip, or add a squirt to some broth with soba noodles, scallions, and chicken for a light, bracing soup.
  2. Fig Spread – I go for the organic Adriatic stuff they sell in little jars at Whole Foods.  Fig spread is an unexpected addition to a Panini, with a creamy cheese and some peppery arugula, or spread on a baguette with goat cheese or Manchego for a perfect party crostini.
  3. Sweet Chili Sauce – This sweet, tangy, slightly spicy sauce works amazingly as a quick seafood or beef marinade before grilling. Sweet chili sauce hits all the right flavor notes, and when combined with a little Sriracha, some sesame oil, and a bit of soy sauce, it makes an incredible dipping sauce for grilled seafood and vegetables.
  4. Quince Paste – The perfect addition to your cheese plate, quince paste lends a sweet counterpoint to salty cheese and Marcona almonds, paring especially well with creamy cheeses like Brie and Camembert.
  5. Dijon Mustard – Invest a few more bucks in some quality Dijon mustard, and you’ll really notice a difference. Whether you use it to bind your vinaigrette, slather it on a sandwich, or marinate your chicken with a few tablespoons and some garlic and white wine, Dijon mustard will add a fresh kick of flavor to your cooking.

What’s your favorite condiment? How do you use it? (Keep it clean!) Tell us in comments!

For the complete article, check out Hot From The Kettle 

aozoro restaurant review {disclaimer- its my favorite restaurant in town!}

If you haven’t noticed, Montclair is absolutely fit to burst with sushi restaurants. Diners have their pick of ten or twelve places at any given time, making it difficult for restaurants to distinguish themselves from the pack. Aozora manages to accomplish just that, and sets itself apart with high quality, elegant food served with a European bent. You could describe Aozora as a sort of Asian-European fusion, though they execute traditional Japanese classics with equal flair and precision.

For my dinner there, I started with the spicy miso soup, which was neither overly salty nor overly spicy, and had a clean balance of flavors. The seasonally appropriate pumpkin soup with coconut milk and baby shrimp is Duck Spring Rollanother tempting option as far as soups go.  For salads, I tried the Zen salad; a blend of greens in a crispy sort of wonton bowl topped with delicious ginger dressing. The dressing was a refreshing change from the overly sweet, neon orange dressings in so many places around here. More along the European lines is the Arugula salad, served with warm goat cheese and broth tomato confit and shallot confit- classic ingredients I’ve been seeing quite a lot since I started at the French Culinary Institute.  I also sampled the duck spring rolls, served up crispy but not greasy, stuffed with duck confit and shitake mushrooms, with a yummy plum sauce for dipping.

For my full review and run-down of all the delicious food at Aozoro, view my article on Hot From The Kettle 

boozy palmers {a grown-up arnold palmer}

Everyone loves an Arnold Palmer in the summertime. Its the perfect refreshing drink to keep you cool when the mercury goes up. If you’re looking to give your Arnold Palmer a little extra kick, try making my souped up version: the Boozy Palmer. Simple, easy, super fresh, and perfect for lazy afternoons on the patio (or the golf course!).

For my alarmingly simple recipe, view my post on Bachelor Kitchen. Careful, these will quickly become a house favorite!

unexpected grilling recipes

Smoking Revolver Gin & Tonic – Give this classic cocktail standby a smoky new twist. Just cut your lime into four quarters and grill on each side until slightly charred. This gives the limes a subtle smoky flavor that pervades your cocktail. A word of caution – be sure to throw your limes on a clean grill- you don’t want undertones from your grilled salmon ending up in your Bombay Sapphire. Mix up your drink as usual, and let the accolades wash over you.

Charred Greens in a Tangy Dressing – Chose hearty, robust greens like Romaine and Radicchio, wash and dry them, and toss them with a bit of olive oil. Char briefly over high heat (I’m talking a minute on each side, tops) just until they get some grill marks. Toss the greens immediately with some minced scallions, sea salt, black pepper, and a big squeeze of lemon. Drizzle with more olive oil and some toasted cashews or pine nuts to finish.

Seared Watermelon & Red Onions with Feta – Cut your watermelon into slabs and grill them briefly on each side. The heat lends a more savory sweetness, pairing perfectly with grilled caramelized red onions. Just cut your onion into disks (like you’re making onion rings) and grill until softened and slightly charred on each side. Plate up the watermelon and red onions, and crumble over some feta cheese- the perfect salty counterpoint. Drizzle over some balsamic vinegar and a hit of salt and pepper.

Grilled Corn on the Cob – Okay, so I’m sure you’ve grilled corn before, but try this new twist on the classic – Mexican-style street corn. Coat each cob with olive oil, then shake over chili powder and salt and pepper. Wrap each cob in foil and cook on the grill, rotating, until tender. Remove the cobs from the foil, spread a little mayo over each cob (bear with me) then roll in crumbled cotija cheese (use parmesan if you can’t find cotija). Serve with lime wedges and margaritas.

Grilled Pizzas – Pick up some premade pizza dough at your supermarket (or make your own if you’re feeling ambitious and have time to burn), portion the dough out into individual pies, and lay them right on the grill.  Brush with olive oil and close the lid, cooking for 3-4 minutes. Flip the pies, and layer on your cheese, sauce, and toppings (if you use vegetables, cook them first). Close the lid and cook for another 3-4 minutes until done.

Smoky Oysters on the Half Shell – If the idea of totally raw oysters skeeves you, try throwing them on the grill for a few minutes to warm them through and firm them up a bit. Shuck the oysters but keep them in the bottom shell, and place on the grill with a squeeze of lemon or a spoonful of your favorite mignonette sauce over each. Close the lid, and cook for 2-3 minutes until warmed but not totally cooked. Knock them back just like you would their raw counterpoints, and decide for yourself if they’re still an aphrodisiac.

Grilled Pineapple with Nutella Drizzle – Dessert on the grill? Definitely. Remove the rind and core of the pineapple, then slice it into ½ inch thick rounds. Crumble over a little brown sugar, then grill on each side until you’ve got nice grill marks. Heat some Nutella in a pan on your grill, and drizzle over the warmed, caramelized pineapple.

Grilled Avocado Guacamole – Give your favorite guacamole recipe a new smoky twist by grilling your avocado slices on each side until slightly charred. The grilled avocado becomes smoky, buttery, and over-the-top delicious. Mash up the avocado with diced red onion, garlic, salt, pepper, lime juice, a drizzle of honey or agave, and minced jalapenos for the best guacamole you’ve ever had. The grilled avocado slices also make a perfect burger topping, and add another layer of flavor to California BLT’s with avocado.

For my full article, see Bachelor Kitchen

* photo credit- super simple with terry

summer heirloom tomato bruschetta


Below is my recipe for Heriloom Tomato Bruschetta, one of my favorite summer dinner party starters. Its perfect because you can mix up the tomatos and slice the bread in advance, then just before your guests arrive you can throw it all together and leave it out for everyone to enjoy. Make sure you put out some plates or napkins, these can be very messy (in the best way).

Take two boxes of heirloom tomatoes and slice them all into quarters so they can absorb all the good flavors you’re about to add.

Drizzle the tomatoes with two tablespoons good olive oil, three tablespoons balsalmic vinegar, and one tablespoon honey. Summer tomatoes are sweet- so play up that flavor.

Dice up one or two cloves of garlic– depending on your taste, and add that to the mix. Finely chop two green onions or scallions (the white and the green parts) and add that too.

Gather about a half cup of fresh basil leaves and slice these into nice thin strips and toss them into the bowl. Salt and pepper the whole thing to taste, give it all a big stir, and let the whole thing sit in the fridge for a bit. You can let it sit for a few hours- but try to give it at least twenty minutes to let the flavors amalgamate.

When you’re ready to serve, Slice a baguette into thin diagonal slices and spread them out over a baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper, and put it under the broiler for just a few minutes. Broiling the bread gives it a nice crusty texture that soaks up all the tomato flavor (it also keeps the hot oven sweat-inducing time to a minimum). Watch these closely- the line between golden brown and smokey black is a very thin one.

When the bread is all toasty and golden, plate it up and top with the tomato mixture. If you want to get fancy, drizzle the whole plate with a bit more olive oil and some chopped up basil. Serve these with a bit of chilly white wine and a big bowl of grapes and you will have some very happy guests.

leone’s – a gordon ramsey overhaul

People in Montclair are particular about their Italian food. Everyone has their favorite place, absolutely convinced of its superiority up against countless competitors. Personally, I’m partial to Mr. Dino’s, since that’s what I grew up eating, always hesitant to veer away from my old favorite. Though Giotto and Fascino certainly occupy the upper echelon of Italian restaurants in the area, sometimes a little less pretension is in order for dinner.

Leone’s, a Montclair mainstay, recently underwent an overhaul renovation courtesy of celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey. On Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsey stripped Leone’s down to its bare bones and built it up fresh, including a revamped menu, refurbished decor and design, and a refreshed image overall.

For the full article and review, see my article on Hot From The Kettle 

ten tools no kitchen should be without

While kitchen tools may not be at the top of your list for things to spend your disposable income on, you might want to reconsider. By investing as little as a hundred bucks on ten essential tools, you can outfit yourself for years of quality cooking in your kitchen.  You can go about this spending spree in several ways, depending on what your budget affords. William Sonoma is an obvious choice, though they tend to jack up the prices quite a bit. If you have a bit of cash you want to invest in these tools, I’d suggest Sur La Table (www.surlatable.com). They have a wide selection of every tool for every job or task you might ever need to do in the kitchen. You can invest in some really quality knives at Sur Le Table, and if you can find a store they’ll sharpen them and give you a demo.

To outfit your kitchen on a budget, head to Bed Bath and Beyond (www.bedbathandbeyond.com). You can buy a set of assorted kitchen tools for as little as seven bucks. You can also buy some pretty decent knives there, including sets of two or three knives for as low as nine dollars (shoot for ones in the thirty dollar range for durability). Catch all store Target (www.target.com) also has a well-rounded selection of kitchenware, including sets of pots and pans that will serve you well. That’s a topic for another article, but below find my ten tools to get your kitchen in cooking shape.

For my full list and additional tips, see my post on Bachelor Kitchen

summer gazpacho

Summer Gazpacho Beat the heat with this super-fresh summer meal. With a stifling heat wave sweeping the country, it’s unfathomable to even think of turning on the oven.
When the mercury rises, reach for this super light, fresh gazpacho to bring yourself a little relief. It’s a great way to use up all of the summer produce from your farmer’s market, and it’s also a gratifying way to keep your beach body in check. No lack of flavor here!
This gazpacho hits all the high notes.  Serve it in shooter glasses as a fun appetizer, in smaller bowls as a light starter, or add some grilled shrimp and toasted bread to round out a fully satisfying summer meal.
Just make sure everything is super ripe and juicy- There’s no added liquid in this gazpacho since the produce really speaks for itself.
Ingredients
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 English or Persian cucumber (skin on)
  • 5 scallions, both white and green parts
  • 1 Vidalia onion, both white and green parts
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ watermelon
  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Honey
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 5 ears corn
  • Parsley, basil, chives
  • Avocados and crème fraiche (or sour cream) to serve
  • Grilled shrimp and crusty bread (optional)
To Assemble:
  • Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, Vidalia onion, and watermelon into large dice, and combine in a large bowl.
  • Mince the garlic finely and add to the mix, along with a few tablespoons each of olive oil, white wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Add a tablespoon of honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything together and allow the flavors to meld for an hour or so.
  • In the mean time, strip the kernels off of the corn cobs and heat some olive oil in a large pan; sauté the corn until tender, but don’t let them turn to mush. While still warm, add to the bowl, and mix everything to combine.
  • Mince the herbs and add to the gazpacho, mix it all up, and check the seasoning. Portion into bowls, making sure to include some liquid in each serving, and top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a few slices of avocado to serve. Serve with some grilled shrimp and crusty bread if you’d like to make a whole meal of it.
*This goes great with a crisp, grapefruity white wine, like a Sancerre.
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Trust me, you’re going to want this recipe! View it on Bachelor Kitchen 

most decadent truffle dinner ever- at above

Above restaurant, located almost on top of the South Orange train station, has recently undergone some big changes. In March they hired Mark Sokolofsky as their new head chef, and overhauled their wait staff and menu. I recently attended an amazing truffle dinner hosted at Above, which incorporated truffles in some capacity into each dish, and paired each course with a different type of wine.  Given all the recent hype about truffles in the news, I was eager to try truffles incorporated in fresh and inventive flavor combinations.

The amuse to start the meal was grilled hickory smoked bacon, served alongside jicama cantaloupe slaw and topped with a citrus truffle foam. The crispy bacon paired well with the tangy flavors in the slaw, and the truffle foam added an interesting depth of flavor to the whole dish. The bright and sparkling Freixenet Blanc served to go with the dish balanced the flavors nicely. The snapper consume which followed the amuse was a favorite, and included a vegetable chick pea fritter served with red snapper mousseline and garnished with fresh micro greens and a shaving of truffles. The clean flavors of the consume were enriched by the hearty fritter, and the rich mousseline and truffles brought the whole dish together. The SeaGlass Chardonnay accompaniment also had very clean flavors, complimenting the consume.

View my full review on Hot From The Kettle

summertime blueberry crumble cake

With the grocery stores practically giving blueberries away this time of year, I decided to buy four pints and then figure out what to do with them. Even if baking isn’t really your style, give this recipe a try. It’s basically an assembly job, with some buttery sugar crumbled on top before sliding it into the oven and leaving it alone for forty-five minutes. Eat it hot right out of the oven with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or grab a slice with your morning coffee. With all those healthy blueberries, it’s a totally acceptable breakfast choice. I’ve adapted this from the Barefoot Contessa Blueberry Crumb Cake, with about four times the blueberries she suggests. Trust me, it’s exactly what you want to eat in the sweltering days of late summer.

For the full article and recipe, see my article on Bachelor Kitchen

interview with chef david drake

According to Chef David Drake, there are two kinds of chefs: those who grew up on the apron strings of their mother and grandmother, comfortable in the kitchen from their earliest memories, and those who come from families with terrible cooks.  Drake comes from the latter type.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Drake’s mother cooked up bland mainstays like tuna casserole, turning Drake into a picky eater who couldn’t stand fish (now one of his signature items).Though his mother did not pass down a culinary legacy to Drake, she did instill him with the zeal to pursue a career based on passion rather than drudgery.  Drake comes from a family of people who followed their passions, many attending the Rhode Island School of Design.  His mother worked as a potter, and taught Drake to throw pots at an early age. Passion comprises the key ingredient in a culinary career; necessary to make it through the long hours and demanding tasks required to succeed.

For the full interview, check out my article on Hot From The Kettle 

spiced summer shredded chicken wraps with hummus and tahini

I met all sorts of amazing people at the French Culinary Institute. Eighteen year olds fresh out of high school, former lawyers looking for a career change, even two retired pharmacists. My good friend Omer Ben Horin served in the Israeli army for three years, but always felt drawn to cooking. He grew up cooking at home with his Moroccan mother, and during high school he helped her cooked for her catering company.  After serving in the Army, while attending culinary school in Israel, Omer worked in top restaurants, constantly drawing inspiration from everyone he worked with. Omer then set his sights on New York, and attended The French Culinary Institute.  As if he weren’t enough of an over achiever, he then interned at the Two Michelin star restaurant, Corton.

After graduating from the French Culinary Institute, Omer decided to pursue his own restaurant. The restaurant revolves around a chicken concept, taking on classic American dishes, rotisserie, and Tex-Mex but all with an Israeli twist. With an impeccable knack for combining flavors and inspirations spanning the globe, I’m sure diners will snap up his eclectic plates. With his restaurant opening in late August in Oceanside, New York, Omer shared a preview recipe from his menu that’s perfect for a hot summer afternoon. Its quick, fresh, and super satisfying.
For Omer’s beyond delicious recipe, see my article on Bachelor Kitchen 
In the photo above, that’s Omer on the right on our graduation day from The French Culinary Institute.

summer peach gin fizz

Hot weather for me just lends itself to fizzy, bubbly, fruity cocktails. Mulled, spiced, and non-carbonated drinks have their place with sweaters, boots, and cooler weather. While the weather has cooled down a bit since the Dante’s Inferno style heat wave we had recently, its still definitely summer out there, which merits a refreshing cocktail to cool yourself down. This Peach Mint Fizz does just that- and it comes together in a flash. With the supermarkets currently stocked to the brim with fresh peaches, this peach fizz is easy, refreshing, and appropriately seasonal. There’s no better way to enjoy the last bit of summer produce overflow before we slide slowly into fall.

For the super quick, and oh so gratifying recipe, click here on Bachelor Kitchen

interview with chef david c. felton

David C. Felton stands at the helm of the kitchen and farm at Ninety Acres Culinary Center, the restaurant situated on ninety gorgeous acres in Somerset County, New Jersey. He attended Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, and after graduating with a degree in the Culinary Arts headed across the country, picking up flavors and techniques as he went along. After working his way around the country, and traveling around the world, he set his sights on New York City, working with top-notch chefs before assuming his executive chef position at Ninety Acres.

Read the full interview on Hot From The Kettle

world’s hottest curry- this one’s no joke!

Melody Kettle & Elizabeth Starnes try the hottest curry at Brick Lane Curry House!

World’s Hottest Curry at Brick Lane Curry House in Montclair, NJ: Watch the ever-so-daring Melody Kettle of Hot From The Kettle and myself try to tackle the world’s hottest curry. Its made with Ghost Peppers, and packs a serious punch! I’m all for spicy food, but this dish is absolutely over the top, tears in your eyes, flushed cheeks hot. Watch the video and see for yourself.

P.S. don’t let this one malicious dish deter you from visiting Brick Lane- its hands down my favorite Indian restaurant in the area.

summer date idea: the farmers market

Every now and then, a relationship needs a little shake up. The tried and true dinner and a movie can get a bit stale after a while. Since its summer (for at least another month!) it’s high time to take advantage of a fresh new dating venue: The Farmers Market. Fresh air, sunshine, lots of food to sample and taste, and plenty to see and talk about- the farmers market is the ideal place to take both a new date or a longstanding love. If you do a little research I’m sure you’ll find a farmers market in your town or at least nearby, with most setting up shop on Saturday’s throughout the summer.

Once you’ve found your date and location- why not make a day of it. Pick her up with some canvas bags to hold all your purchases, grab some coffee, and get shopping. Wander around and see what catches your eye. You can go into the day with a preconceived idea of what you want to cook, but its more fun if you just see what looks fresh and what excites you when you’re there. Stock up on a variety of items, and chances are they’ll come together into a delicious cohesive meal once you get cooking at home. That’s the beauty of local, seasonal ingredients- they all kind of lend themselves to one another.
Read the full article, and view some of my quick and easy favorite recipes for your farmers market bounty here on Bachelor Kitchen

Ridiculously Good Summer Corn Salad

The arrival of August means a few things: A break from fast-paced, frenetic schedules, sweltering heat that drives everyone to the beach and the pool, and copious amounts of fresh, sweet summer corn. Our farmers market boasts heaps of summer corn for 50 cents a cob, and I buy it in bulk and use it in everything I can come up with. Corn chowder, corn on pizza, corn fritters, even corn ice cream (surprisingly delicious!) all make appearances, but this corn salad definitely tops my list. Its quick to assemble, tastes delicious warm or cold, and can be made almost entirely from ingredients found at the farmers market.

For the easy recipe, view the full article on Bachelor Kitchen 

Chef David Burke Interview

Does the name David Burke ring a bell? It should. He’s everywhere in the culinary world. .

Burke has competed on both Iron Chef and Top Chef, won countless awards and accolades, and has amassed quite the collection of restaurants that he owns and operates, from Las Vegas to Chicago to NYC to our very own New Jersey. Oh, and he writes cookbooks and dabbles in culinary gastronomy as well, branding GourmetPops (ready to serve cocktail lollipops) and Flavorsprays to enhance your cooking with less fat and more flavor.

I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Burke a few weeks ago about his time as a private chef in Norway, cooking for Prince Charles and Julia Child; his train ride travels around Europe, and his most memorable meal ever.

EPS. Did you grow up cooking with your family?

DB. Growing up my mom cooked simple things, nothing too fancy. My dad ran marathons so we ate really healthy. He even tried to convince me that wheat germ was sugar! I didn’t really cook much growing up, I think I had one thing I would make; peanut butter and banana sandwiches dipped in French toast batter. I didn’t really start cooking until my late teens.

EPS. How did you get into cooking?

DB. I started out as a dishwasher in a restaurant where my friend worked, and just slowly worked my way up from there.

EPS. Did you always know you wanted to attend culinary school?

DB. No not really. My dad signed me up for a cooking course (William Sonoma style) to make sure it was what I really wanted to do, and I got hired there on the first day to do prep work for the class. That’s when I got more serious about cooking professionally. I met Julia Child for the first time there. Years later I cooked for her in one of my restaurants. She was an incredible lady. She was an amazing woman, with so much passion for food and cooking.

EPS. Is she as vivacious in person as she is on TV?

DB. She was 6’5,’’ the woman was huge! I must have given her six courses, I said, you know I don’t want to feed you too much, and she looked me in the eye and said ‘bring it on,’ so I put three more courses out.”

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EPS. What an amazing experience! So you attended culinary school after that culinary cooking center class?

DB. Yeah, so I graduated from high school early by one year, then went to the CIA, and then did my apprenticeships. I interned at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas before graduating from the CIA, there used to be a really impressive restaurant there, I don’t know what its like now. After that I moved to Norway to be a private chef there.

EPS. Norway! That’s so cool, how did you get that job?

DB. Well I was one of the top two students in my class at the CIA, so when this dignitary from Norway called the school looking for a chef, they sent me. I did all the prep in their home in Oslo, making stocks and freezing them in ice cube trays, doing all the prep for them for the summer at their summer house on the Fjords.

EPS. Did you cook traditional Norwegian food for them?

DB. No, they wanted traditional French and American food. I did a lot of cooking for big groups of people there. You know, cooking a whole salmon in the dishwasher because that was the only thing big enough to hold it. I cooked for the owner there; he flew in by helicopter. I didn’t really know who he was at the time but I knew he was someone important. He was really nice, polite to everyone. I do remember though, I roasted a prime rib for his dinner, and I sent out thick cut, American style slices. Prince Charles was alarmed because he’d grown up with smaller European style portions, you know, war time rations. He forgave me once he knew it was a honest mistake.

EPS. Were you able to travel during your time in Norway?

DB. Oh yeah, I took a one-month train pass around Europe. I went to Amsterdam, Brussels, Munich, Strasbourg, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Dublin, Paris, the whole deal.

EPS. Wow! What an eye-opening experience. What was your favorite city you visited?

DB. Munich was amazing, really blew me away, Strasbourg too. And Amsterdam was a pretty cool place for a twenty year old to be. Copenhagen and Paris had the most to offer from a culinary standpoint. I worked in a bunch of restaurants around Europe for a month or so at a time, all over the place really. I went to pastry school in France, before moving back to America. It’s those experiences in Europe that kind of demystified cooking for me. All the techniques I learned made the way I cook now possible.

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EPS. Do you still draw inspiration from your time traveling and working around Europe?

DB. Oh definitely, I’m still inspired by those travels and the traveling I do now. I travel all the time.

EPS. You’ve opened up so many restaurants around the country- is it a challenge balancing them all?

DB. Yeah, it is hard to balance it all; I’m constantly on the move, traveling around from place to place, trying to stay up to date with all the new trends that are always popping up. There’s always someone trying to make a move for your spot, always competition. It’s a lifestyle as much as it is a job, and its 24/7, 365 days a year. Nights, holidays, weekends, you name it. But it’s a lifestyle I’ve gotten used to after thirty years in the business.

EPS. If you could open up a restaurant anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

DB. Paris. London or Paris, but probably Paris. Hong Kong would be amazing, but its half way around the world- not so practical.

EPS. Chef’s don’t have very much free time- but what do you like to do on your day off?

DB. I like to go out to eat for dinner when I have time off, see what other chefs are up to. But other then that I don’t really plan my days off. But when I travel for work, I like to add a few extra days at the beginning or end of the trip as a kind of vacation.  I’m heading to Hawaii and Ireland this summer.

EPS. What would you want your last meal to be?

DB. Really good roast chicken, really good scrambled eggs with caviar, and a big ice cream sundae with all the fixings. A good roast chicken is harder to get than a good steak.

EPS. Where and what was your most memorable meal?

DB. It was in a small restaurant in France when I was traveling. I was eating alone, at a table by the window, and it was pouring rain outside. They served me course after course of incredible food. Those eggs I mentioned with caviar were there, oysters, pigeon made an appearance, seven courses and half a bottle of wine, amazing service. That’s my most memorable meal.

Read the whole article here on Hot From The Kettle

how to: make your own infused spirits

Recipes – These all make two large mason jars worth of infusions, and one mason jar of the strained, finished product.

Lemongrass Blood Orange Vodka: Three blood oranges, zested and juiced, and two stalks of lemon grass, bashed up a bit.  Add to the jars and fill to the brim with vodka. Goes great with Blood orange juice, a squeeze of lime, topped up with tonic.

Cucumber Lime Gin: Three limes, zested and juiced, one Persian organic cucumber, sliced thinly, skin on. Add to the jars and fill to the brim with gin. This is perfect in a gin and tonic; just add a bit more lime on top for extra tang.

Black Tea Lemon Vodka: Six black tea bags, the zest and juice of six lemons.  Add to the jars and fill to the brim with vodka. This lends itself perfectly to a spiked iced tea, or a boozy Arnold Palmer. I like it with black iced tea, a squeeze of lime, and topped up with ginger ale.

Strawberry Rosemary Vodka: One pint strawberries, quartered, and two sprigs rosemary, cut in half. Add to the jars and fill to the brim with vodka. This pairs well with lemonade, or just over ice with a splash or sprite or tonic.

Pineapple Ginger Jalapeno Tequila: One pound pineapple, cubed, one jalapeno, sliced and deseeded, and one inch long chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped. Add all to the jars and fill to the brim with tequila. You can make this spicy by leaving the seeds in the jalapeno, but be careful they’re strong! Use this to make the ultimate margarita, on the rocks with a salted rim and a wedge of lime.

Grapefruit Lime Gin: Four grapefruits, zested and juiced, and four limes, zested and juiced. Add all to the jars and fill to the brim with gin. I tailored this infusion specifically for my favorite summer cocktail, the Salty Dog. Usually made with vodka, a salty dog is a mixture of grapefruit juice, alcohol, and a bit of lime (complex I know!) Made with gin, it’s actually called a Greyhound, but that’s beside the point. I think the gin adds a depth of flavor to the grapefruit. Just combine your grapefruit gin infusion, some grapefruit juice, and a bit of lime, maybe topping it up with tonic if you want some fizz.

Read the full article and directions here on Hot From The Kettle