Sunday, April 25, 2010

Springtime in the southeast suburbs of Cleveland

Typically when I tell people that I am going to the Cleveland area they often get a funny look on their face as if to say, "Why would you go there?" Well, the best reason is because my sister lives there, and another good one is because it's just plain beautiful. Lexy lives in Chagrin Falls Township, which is adjacent to Hunting Valley, and next to that is the village of Gates Mills. Not much has changed in all the years that I've been visiting these small quaint villages of rolling hills and horse farms. This week the flowering trees were in bloom, the grass was green, and the weather was perfect. So here is my homage to the southeast suburbs. For the sake of the food blog, I've included a few restaurant recommendations (actually more like quick shout-outs in the slide show). Cleveland is also home to the well known chef, Michael Symon, and food writer, Michael Ruhlman.

The photos were taken by me, Ally and Chloe. A big thanks to Chloe for letting us use her Nikon camera. Chloe has started her own photography business which you can see here. View the online album (w/ larger pictures) here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lexy's way of Philip

I am just at the end of a week's stay at my sister's in Chagrin Falls, OH.  Lexy grew up in this enchanting little town, moved away for several years, and returned in 1999 with her husband and daughter. While growing up in Chagrin, Lexy learned to make a delicious Carbonara from our step-father, Philip. My visit would not be complete without enjoying this wonderful dish. She has graciously agreed to make it on our final night.

This is where she learned her craft:

Lexy's Carbonara
4-5 peppers (green, red or yellow, 1 inch dice)
1 sweet white onion (1 inch dice)
1 lb of bacon, cooked crispy and then crumbled, set aside
1 pint of cream
1 cup of milk
2 lbs of good Italian pasta (Lexy prefers a shape like twists)
7 ounces of Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Tbsp olive oil

Saute the peppers and onions in the olive oil until the onions are translucent and peppers are just starting to soften. Add the cream and milk to the onions and peppers, sauteing on very low heat for about 5 minutes. At this point you just want to infuse the flavor of the peppers and onions into the cream. Turn off and let sit.

Cook the pasta to al dente. Turn the heat up on the peppers, onions, and cream to bring it up to almost a boil. Allow to simmer while the pasta is cooking. Drain pasta and place back in the pot.

Add the cheese and mix well.

Add the peppers, cream and then the bacon. Mix well.

Place in a pasta bowl. Sprinkle with a little cheese.  Enjoy!

The perfect ending to a lovely week!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Green Beans with Crispy Shallots

A few months ago I did a cooking demonstration at Highfield Hall in Falmouth with my very talented nephew, Nicholas Flowers. He's in his junior year at BU attending their hospitality program, and will be pursuing a career as a professional chef. I have no doubt that he'll be very successful. Nicholas contributed this delicious recipe, which makes a lovely accompaniment to lamb, beef, or a roasted chicken.

Green Beans with Crispy Shallots
1 pound green beans, stems removed
2 tbsp olive oil
3 large shallots
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Boil a large pot of salted water and prep a large bowl of ice water. Blanch the beans in the boiling water for about 2.5 minutes, then immediately transfer them to the ice water to stop the cooking. (This step can be done in advance if necessary, but the beans must be removed from the water as soon as they are cool to prevent them from getting water logged.)

Slice 1 shallot, keeping the rings whole and the slices about 1/16 in thick.


Chop the other 2 shallots into a small dice.

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high until hot but not smoking. Add the sliced shallots and cook until dark and crispy.

Remove these shallots from the pan and set asisde.  Add the butter to the pan and when it's melted and hot add the remaining diced shallots. Cook on medium heat for 5-7 minutes until tender but not crispy. Add the blanched beans, and salt and pepper. Add the lemon zest after one minute and cook until the beans are hot. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and top with sliced shallots. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Update on Nicholas (added 14 Nov 2011): Nicholas graduated from BU's School of Hospitality in 2010 and has landed a job with SAP, the German software company working as a consultant in their retail software division. I guess the restaurant plans are on hold for now. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Homemade Bow-tie Pasta with Asparagus and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

At the suggestion of my dear friend, Jean, we started a tradition that we now call 'Easter eve' dinner. After their first Easter visit, we decided it would be more enjoyable to have our big meal on Saturday night. We would follow that with a nice breakfast/brunch on Easter morning, so they could drive home at a reasonable hour. At our first Easter eve dinner I made homemade bow-tie pasta and that has become a holiday tradition.

Homemade Bow-tie Pasta with Asparagus, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

Homemade Pasta (2 batches of pasta dough will yield enough for 8-10 servings)
(I always use organic vegetable if they're available)
1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed and peeled, and cut into 1 inch pieces (slice diagonally as they look nicer)
1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes
6 leaves of fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Steam the asparagus until just tender. Place in an ice bath to cool, then strain and set aside. Roast the cherry tomatoes in a 400 degree oven with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast until they just start to shrivel. Cut your basil leaves into thin ribbons and set aside. Place a tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter into a saute pan and add the asparagus. Saute for about 3-4 minutes. Add a tbsp of white wine and salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes and the basil and cook for another minute. Set aside. Cook the pasta in boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain, reserving a little bit of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the saute pan with the vegetables. Add a few tbsp of the pasta water, stirring gently to heat through. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in a pasta bowl and garnish with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Homemade Bow-ties

Prepare two batches of pasta dough

Roll out into a sheet about the thickness of thin cardboard:

Slice into 1 1/2 inch strips:

Trim the ends to make them even, reserving the ends and cutting into small pieces to freeze for later use:

Take the strips and cut into pieces so they are about an inch and a half wide by an inch high:

Using a fork dipped in flour, imprint the edges:

Dip your finger in water and place a dot in the center of each piece:

Take a piece, and using your index finger to hold down the center, pull the sides into the middle and then remove your index finger so you can squeeze the pasta into the bow-tie. (Please note: I actually took this picture before I had forked the edges.You should do that first):

Place the bow-ties on a baking sheet with parchment and flash freeze:

Once frozen, place them in plastic bags and back into the freezer:

Pasta pieces are delicious in soups. Just place in plastic bag in the freezer to use later, or you can do what I did:

I decided to cook the pasta ends to reward myself for all my hard work. After cooking them, I just tossed with butter and a little Pecorino Romano cheese:

Enjoy! Homemade pasta is a very special treat and one your guests will greatly appreciate. I'd love to hear about some of your favorite holiday traditions.