Happy Blog Mitzvah -- WE'RE MOVING!

It's our blog mitzvah -- the moment when our blog officially transitions from childhood to adulthood. We're very excited!

As you may know from your own pubescent experiences, transitioning to adulthood means undergoing many changes, and we'd like to share a few of ours with you:

1. We're moving! Our new address is http://www.twofatals.com. Please use this address in your google readers, blog rolls, etc. We'll be using our new site exclusively as of this Friday, June 27th, 2008.

2. Larger photos! We know it's your favorite part of the blog anyway. (This change only applies to new photos, not to those already posted on this site).

3. New subscription options! Not only can you read our posts through RSS, but you can also subscribe via email.

4. New sharing options! Beneath each post, you'll find ways to share on Facebook, Digg, My Space, and other favorite sites. You can also email individual posts.

5. Easier to navigate archives! Search, use categories, or visit our NEW recipes page to see all of the recipes listed by category.

Please visit the site and let us know what you think by posting comments -- we love comments. We really appreciate all of your love and support during this very special time in our blog's life. Meet us in the ballroom for pigs in a blanket and the electric slide.

The brand new TwoFatAls.com


Fresh Strawberry Tartlet

Hello, city.

We're in New York on a recon mission. Just scoping out the neighborhoods (read: the food stores -- we visited about five today), poking around our new apartment buildings, visiting friends.

And, oh yes, hounding farmer's markets. Armed with a map and a schedule, we've hit two already, including the revered Union Square Greenmarket. It was everything we dreamed it would be -- bright and juicy cherries, delicately leafy greens, sleek summer squash, plus produce we'd never encountered before. We were especially enamored with the strawberries, perfectly ripened into beautiful red hearts. We took home a carton, determined to work them into a dessert worthy of their loveliness.

This strawberry tart wasn't particularly sweet, but we didn't mean it to be. We chose a not-to-sweet dough recipe, add only a touch of sugar to the strawberries, and chose to top it with a dark chocolate. It looked fabulous though, and tasted fresh and not overwhelming. This is definitely a recipe to tinker with -- we'll definitely be working different summer fruits into versions throughout the summer.

Ingredients (makes two tartlets):
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1/8 cup ice water

1 pint strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
2 oz. dark chocolate
mint, for garnish

Make the dough by combining flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add butter, and mix thoroughly with fingers until a coarse meal forms. Add water, and stir with a fork, then pull dough together into a ball. Divide dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Roll out dough and press into tartlet pans, then line with foil and add pie weights (dry beans and rice work, too). Bake for 15 minutes with foil and weights, then remove and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Meanwhile, mix strawberries and sugar together. Cool dough completely, then remove from tartlet pan. Fill shell with strawberries, and drizzle with melted chocolate (you can melt it in the microwave by heating for 15 seconds at a time, then stirring). Garnish with mint, and serve.


Radish, Cucumber, Beet Salad

One of the best parts about becoming grown ups (that happened already, right?), is that we love more foods.

When I was younger, I gagged over asparagus, brussel sprouts or beets. Now, I adore all three. And whenever I gravitate toward beets in the grocery store, I imagine my 11-year old self casting me a scornful glare. If she were here, we would NOT be allowed to make this dish. Eye roll.

But grown up me loves beets, and really loves this salad -- in which they play a starring role. Supporting actors include radishes (it's their debut into our cooking repertoire) and cucumbers (type cast as the mild-mannered salad ingredient). We sought inspiration from this salad on Serious Eats.

Pretty as an appetizer or very light main course salad, you can serve this over lettuce as we did, or on its own.

1 bunch beets
1 English cucumber
1 bunch radishes
1/2 red onion
salt to taste
pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil (plus more for roasting beets)
1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (or more or less to taste)
1 head romaine lettuce

(balsamic vinaigrette)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cups olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Wash beets, and place them in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil. Add a little water to the pan to prevent beets from sticking. Roast in the oven at 350 until beets are easily pierced with a knife, about an hour. Let cool, then peel off the skins and slice into quarter-inch slices. Prepare cucumber salad by removing seeds from cucumber, then cutting the cucumber into very thin slices. Place cucumber in a bowl, then thinly slice radishes (you can use a peeler for this) and red onion, and add to the bowl. Add mint, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Make the balsamic vinaigrette by whisking together ingredients. Divide romaine among four plates, top with beets, then cucumber and radish salad. Drizzle balsamic vinaigrette over top, and serve.


Coffee Bean Granita

We are both serious coffee people. I drink an extra-hot soy latte every morning, and Alex drinks a large cup of black coffee. We're grumpy if the coffee is bad, happy when the coffee is good, and we're far too dependent to consider weaning off it.

In our lives, coffee items are divided into two categories: important morning coffee and whatever anytime coffee. The soy lattes and black cups are important morning coffee -- if anyone messes with the flavor, beware. Whatever anytime coffee is more flexible -- sometimes an iced glass in the afternoon, sometimes coffee ice cream in the evenings.

This granita also falls into the category of whatever anytime coffee. It actually has a very strong coffee flavor, and it's pretty healthy as desserts go since it's just coffee, ice and sugar. We added just a touch of whipped cream on top, which worked wonders with the sharp flavor. This makes a perfect hot afternoon snack or warm evening dessert.

The recipe, which is from Epicurious, takes about 7 hours total, though only about an hour of actual work goes into it.

4 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups whole coffee beans (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup coffee liqueur (such as Tia Maria or Kahlúa)

Combine water and sugar in large saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil 3 minutes, then stir in coffee beans and boil an additional 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, then cover and let steep until mixture is cool, about 3 hours. Strain liquid into 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Throw away coffee beans, or reserve some for garnish. Stir coffee liqueur into liquid in dish. Freeze until firm, stirring every 45 minutes, about 5 hours.


Blueberry Focaccia

First fruit cookie pizza then fig pizza, now this. Apparently, we love to eat fruit on dough.

We found this recipe yesterday, on the kitchen counter of a favorite friend and neighbor. She was planning to make it today, but we stole the recipe and made it instead. If she'd answer her phone, we'd love to give her some. And return the recipe (which you can also find online here, courtesy of Oprah)

We weren't sure what meal this dish would fit most appropriately, so we decided to start baking in the morning, and ate it for afternoon snack around 3. It was just sweet enough and the dough was incredible -- the hint of cinnamon makes it unworldly. This would make a delicious breakfast or brunch, but it makes a lot, so we predict that you'll be snacking on it all day. Plus, it looks sophisticated and beautiful.

Given our recent history of successes with fruit/dough dishes, we're thinking of experimenting with this recipe in the coming weeks. If anyone tries it other fruit, let us know how it goes!


1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg
6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
vegetable oil, for greasing
2 pints blueberries

In a small bowl, mix yeast and water; set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir egg into yeast, then pour into flour mixture and mix on low speed. Mix in butter until combined. Knead dough until smooth and pliable but still relatively wet (you can use a dough hook or standing mixer for about 5 minutes). Grease a large bowl and 2 baking sheets with oil; set baking sheets aside. Scrape dough into bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Divide dough in half, and place 1 half on each baking sheet. Stretch out slightly, until dough forms a 1-inch-thick oval; cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise again about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 400. Dimple surface of each loaf with greased fingers, then sprinkle each 1 pint berries and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating once. Slice and serve warm.


Fontina and Fig Pizza

It's so easy to crank out blog posts that are uninteresting.

For example, a few minutes ago I typed up a quick description of the fig and Fontina cheese pizza that we made last week. I was about to click publish, but I decided to scan it one last time, during which time I discovered that the post was awfully drab. I wrote something about serving the pizza with friends, and another something about where we found the recipe, and I won't bore you with the rest because the point of rewriting is to avoid the mundane business, and to instead share something interesting.

Like, for example, pizzerias constitute 17 percent of restaurants in the U.S. Likely relatedly, the average person in the U.S. consumes 23 lbs. of pizza per year. I found those facts here. Interesting, no?

So here's the recipe. You can use pre-made pizza dough if you like, but we chose this recipe from Mark Bittman. Since we're not providing a cheesy (haha) description, you'll just have to trust that it's delicious. It is.

3 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a little more
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (or a little Gorgonzola works, too)
1/2 lb. black mission figs, halved

Combine flour, yeast, 2 tbsp oil and salt in a food processor. Process ingredients, and add 1 cup water through feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, adding a little more water if necessary until mixture forms a slightly sticky ball. Turn dough onto a floured work surface, and knead to form a smooth, round ball. Put dough ball in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until dough doubles in size, 1-2 hours. Divide dough in half and roll it on baking sheets. Rub a little olive oil over the doughs, and divide cheese and figs among them. Bake in the oven at 400 for 8-10 minutes, until golden. Cut into squares and serve.


Fresh Pasta

If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll want a glass of milk.

If we're going to make fresh pasta, everyone will want fresh sauce. And if we're going make a delicious sauce, why not conjure up some tasty sides? Then there's wine and dessert, and before we know it, our lovely fresh pasta is no longer the star -- it's just one of the night's dishes.

Well not this time, Mouse.

We chose the best pasta recipe that we could find, and served it plain -- optional sauce on the side, fresh lemon juice and Parmesan for those so inclined. Alex and his brother rolled out the dough. Simple and beautiful.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):
2 1/4 cups flour
3 eggs

Put flour on your work surface, and make a well into the center. Break eggs into the well, and beat them with a fork, drawing in flour gradually. Continuing beating in flour until a soft dough forms. Lightly flour your hands, and knead dough for 10-12 minutes, until pliable. You can add more flour to your hands if the dough becomes sticky. Insert a finger into the center of the dough, if it is almost dry, the dough is ready for the machines. Cut dough into egg-sized pieces and roll through pasta machine according to pasta machine instructions (likely beginning at widest setting and moving to narrowest). If you aren't going to cook the pasta immediately and don't have a pasta rack, you can use clean clothes hangers. Boil water for pasta, and cook until done, probably about 5 minutes.


Grilled Radicchio and Bean Salad

Mario Batalli and I are practically related. He dated the college roommate of the younger sister of one of my mother's childhood friends. That makes us, what? Best friends? I thought so, and I'll be sure to tell him if we ever meet. Given our close relationship, it's lucky that Alex and I find his recipes so unbelievable. I don't think I could break it to him if we didn't. But somehow, every dish that we've tried from his cookbooks or show (or restaurants) has been amazing -- and this bean and radicchio masterpiece is no exception. It comes from his recent cookbook, Mario Batali Italian Grill, which has some of the most gorgeous food photographs we've ever seen, and some of the yummiest-looking recipes too.

The recipe calls for grilling the radicchio, preparing the beans, and serving both on toasted bread slices, like a bruschetta. Though we served it this way the first time we prepared it, this time we skipped the bread since the rest of our meal was carb heavy. We served the beans and radicchio as a salad, and it was just as perfect like that. This recipe is simple, healthy, and great for low-key summer evenings. If you feel inspired, you might experiment by adding olives or tomatoes, or topping the dish with parmesan cheese. We love it as is (read: with our own minor adjustments).

1 cup cannellini beans (we used canned ones, drained and rinsed)
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp basil leaves, cut into fine strips
1 garlic clove, minced (we left this out)
2 large radicchio heads

Preheat grill or broiler. In a mixing bowl, gently stir together beans with 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, basil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the radicchio in half from top to bottom and place dry onto grill. Cook until wilted, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill and cut each half in half again to form wedges. Cut the core piece out and loosen each leaf from the head. Dress the removed leaves in a mixing bowl with remaining oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Arrange radicchio plates and divide bean
mixture over it. Serve.


Giant Fruit Cookie (Pizza)

My mom's favorite token of culinary wisdom is that a good cook is someone who can identify a good recipe -- she says that technical skills matter less than the ability to forecast how ingredients will taste together before they are actually combined. We try to keep this in mind, and we've tried to train ourselves to imagine how our dishes will taste before we begin creating them. Over time, we've become not entirely awful at guessing which dishes we'll love, and which are probably worth only a weeknight dinner or two.

That said, sometimes recipes really surprise us, and this one blew us away. We first tasted a fruit cookie pizza at a brunch during our Spring Fling, and loved the concept. I found a similar recipe on All Recipes that looked worth adapting, and decided to try it out on some friends last night. Honestly, I was so convinced that the cookie had failed up until the moment we tasted it. There were some breakage issues while transferring the cookie from the baking sheet to the serving plate, so I kept envisioning the cookie separating into pieces the moment we sliced it. The cream cheese "sauce" and toppings must have held it together, however, since it sliced beautifully and tasted amazing.

The sugar cookie base absorbed some of the flavor from the topping, yet each bite was uniquely delicious because of the variety of fruit. The cookie was moist with a great vanilla flavor, and the cream cheese sauce was just sweet enough to compliment the fruit without overpowering it. Everyone went back for seconds, and we scraped the plate clean with our forks. I'll post the fruit that we used, but you can feel free to use any that you like.


1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 carton strawberries, sliced thinly
1 kiwi, sliced thinly
1 carton blackberries, halved
1 mango, sliced thinly

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 3/4 cup sugar until smooth, then add egg. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, then beat into creamed mixture until just blended. Chill dough until it's easier to work with, about an hour, or longer if you want. Preheat oven to 350. Press dough into an ungreased pizza pan, or form into a circle 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick on a large nonstick or greased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the cookie are golden brown. Cool cookie completely, and if the cookie was on a baking sheet, transfer carefully to serving plate (it's okay if it breaks a little, the topping will hold it together!)
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla until light. Spread on cooled crust, and arrange fruit on top of filling. Keep chilled, slice and serve.


Peter's Chocolate Cookies

These cookies are not Peter's. But Alex's dad requested that we call them Peter's Chocolate Cookies so that he could search his name on Google to find this delicious recipe, and we are kindly obliging. The recipe is actually from Epicurious, and it's absolutely the best chocolate cookie recipe we've ever tried. I wouldn't change the recipe a bit, and you can get a batch done in about 20 minutes.

The most amazing thing about these cookies is that they don't contain butter or flour, just chocolate and sugar. You'd think they'd end up like meringues, but they're actually incredibly fudgy and soft. Though we only found the recipe two weeks ago, we've already made them three times, including for Alex's graduation party. I loved when his great-aunt came up to us and said, "Three egg whites? No flour? These is my favorite cookie recipe."

Let's review: fudgy chocolate cookies, no flour or butter, easy to bake, unbelievable reviews. There's no reason not to make these immediately. We recommend preparing them somewhere where it's not excruciatingly hot so that the dough becomes nice and firm, and definitely recommend using Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips. I'll repost the recipe below, but it's close to an exact replica of the one you'll find here.

nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, divided
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400, and spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray. Melt 1 cup chocolate chips in glass bowl by microwaving for 30 seconds, then stirring, for about 2 minutes total. Cool slightly. Using electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl to soft peaks. Gradually beat in 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. On low speed, beat dry ingredients into meringue. Stir in lukewarm chocolate and 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dough will become very stiff). Place 1/2 cup powdered sugar in bowl. Roll tbsps of dough into balls then roll balls in the sugar, coating thickly. Place dough balls on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes. Cool then serve.


Benihana Dressing with Salad

Remember Benihana? You went there for your 11th birthday party with 12 of your best friends for life? You caught a piece of chicken teriyaki in your mouth, or maybe it landed on your new outfit? Now try to remember the salad dressing -- sweet and gingery, subtly tangy, as brightly colorful as it flavorful? It's one of the best salad dressing recipes out there, and somehow my mom found a copy and shared it with us. It goes great on any salad, but we tried to compose one with flavors that we thought would compliment the dressing perfectly.

We served this salad as an appetizer to our first sushi FAIL. Yes, we sadly failed at an attempt to make one of our very favorite foods. I think it's because we did a bit of a rush job, but also because we didn't have all of the proper tools and the soy sauce we used tasted funky. One of these days, we'll get our acts together and post some beautiful rolls, because I know we have it in us. So this salad actually ended up as the highlight of the meal, and the dressing was the highlight of the salad. I think it could actually outshine anything that accompanies it, though, because it's just that good.

Ingredients (serves 2):

1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp chopped, peeled ginger
2 tbsp chopped celery
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp tomato paste
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice

1 head of romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
about 10 cherry tomatoes
1 avocado, sliced
1 orange, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

To make the salad dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Divide salad components between two plates, pour dressing over salads, and serve.


Potato Salad with Rosemary and Thyme

This salad is inspired by our favorite method for roasting potatoes -- rosemary, thyme, a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper, done. We both love potato salads as a summery side dish, but heavily mayonnaised versions are TheVom.com. For our less lingo-savvy readers, that means they make us nauseated.

Our version is tossed in a lemony vinaigrette, so it's refreshing and light. We served it as a side dish to the open-faced vegetable sandwiches that we wrote about earlier, and it came together in almost no time. You can refrigerate the salad before serving so that the flavors really come together, or even serve it warm.

3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup thyme, finely chopped
2 1/4 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled

Whisk oil, lemon juice and zest in small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in scallions, rosemary and scallions. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and cool for 15 minutes, then quarter the potatoes. Add potatoes to bowl with dressing and toss. Let stand 10 minutes. Refrigerate or serve.


Chocolate Covered Rice Crispy Treats

Because we're addicted to Top Chef, we like to think of every cooking event as a Top Chef challenge. Maybe the challenge is something like come up with 3 vegetarian dishes for a picnic dinner and prepare them all in 30 minutes, or maybe it requires more creativity, like invent a cupcake to compliment these beautiful new sprinkles from the Italian Market. This weekend, our challenge was ... (da da da daaa) ... catering wars!

Now if you watch Top Chef, you understand that any challenge with "wars" in the title is not to be taken lightly. On wedding wars this season, the contestants had to stay up all night to cater for a wedding the next day! Our experience wasn't that crazy since we were able to sleep, and we were obviously only one team (go TFA!), but it was intense nonetheless. We accepted the challenge of cooking for Alex's 80-person graduation party in Connecticut, which occurred on Sunday. We spent three days in the kitchen, working diligently on salads, meat marinades, appetizers and desserts. We're proud to announce that we each received our first knife blister.

For dessert alone, we made over 300 cookies (these yummies and some amazing chocolate ones that I'll post later this week), two enormous bowls of vanilla mint fruit salad, and debuted our newest favorite dessert: chocolate covered rice crispy treats. Alex's Colombian grandmother, who makes the best homemade arepas and empanadas ever, reported that these treats were the most delicious things she has tasted in her entire life. They were so simple and fun, and we're already brainstorming about when we can make them again. Feel free to experiment with toppings, and let us know if you come up with any great ones!

1 box rice crispy cereal
3 tbsp butter
1 bag marshmallows (about 40)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag mini m&m's
1 bag heath bits
1 bag sweetened coconut

Make rice crispy treats as directed on the box (melt butter in a large pot, add marshmallows, then cereal and stir). Allow them to cool, then cut them into small rectangles. Melt a bowl chocolate chips in the microwave by heating chips for one minute at a time then stirring until chocolate is fully melted. Dip rice crispy treat sticks into chocolate, and place onto parchment paper. Sprinkle with m&m's, heath bits or coconut. Allow chocolate to harden in a cool place, then serve.


Grilled Asparagus Early Summer Salad

It's summer! Not officially, we know, but secretly it is. Here's are some clues:

1. No school. 2. We saw fresh corn. 3. There's light at 8:30 p.m. and (as if we weren't already suspicious of the season's arrival) 4. The asparagus we cooked yesterday tasted like summer asparagus -- lightly charred and smoky, with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper bits clinging to them.

Luckily, we planned to incorporate the asparagus into a salad, because otherwise I fear we would have been overwhelmed by their pure summer-ness (summerosity? summersion?) It's only May, for goodness sake -- give a girl some time to adjust! So we placed our summer asparagus over greens with tomatoes, goat cheese and a lemon vinaigrette, and found them just right.

For our dressing, we were extremely excited to use special olive oil that a friend brought us from Spain. With our limited knowledge of Spanish, we've discerned that it's from Sierra de Cazorla, where one-third of the municipal land contains olive trees. It's amazing for vinaigrettes and drizzling, less so for cooking hot food. We can't wait to use it for the rest of summer, which we plan to embrace both emotionally and through food in the coming weeks.

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 oz. grape tomatoes
3 oz. goat cheese
6-8 oz. mixed greens

3/4 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together balsamic vinegar, the 1/3 cup olive oil, and the kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour over asparagus in a baking dish, and let sit for about 15 minutes while you preheat the grill. (If you don't have a grill, you can preheat your oven to 375 and roast them for about 20-30 minutes). Grill asparagus for about 5 minutes, until lightly charred. Arrange mixed greens on a plate, and divide asparagus, tomatoes and goat cheese among plates. Whisk together dressing ingredients, pour dressing over the salad plates, and serve.


Open-faced Vegetable Sandwich with Walnut Balsamic Pesto

Here's something that you may not know about Alex: he's a sandwich snob. For him, there are sandwiches -- turkey wraps or quick meals that we throw together for lunch -- and then there are sandwiches. The latter requires careful planning and ingredient selection, and precise execution. If I had a nickel for every time I heard him say, "there's nothing worse than a bad sandwich, and nothing better than a great one," I'd have at least 50 cents by now.

This week we're cooking for a real vegetarian (not the cheese and sometimes fish-eating type that we've been spoiled by), so we decided to try to create the best vegetable sandwich we could possibly imagine. It needed to be filling enough to serve as a main course, yet also beautiful and tasty. We ended up assembling roasted vegetables over a walnut pesto on toasted bread, and topping it with cheese for the non-vegetarians. After a moment under the broiler, they looked so pretty and melty.

If you have a grill on hand, feel free to grill the vegetables. Otherwise, it can take a while to cycle all of the vegetables through the oven. Feel free to use store-bought pesto if you have it on hand, and to throw in any other vegetables that you love.

(serves 6)
1/3 cup balsamic vineagar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
3 bell peppers, sliced
2 medium-sized eggplants, sliced
3 portabello mushrooms, sliced
2 onions, sliced
6 slices thick bread (we used multi-grain)
gruyere cheese (optional)

(walnut balsamic pesto)
1/4 cup walnuts
1 cup chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil (or less)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (or less)
salt and pepper

Salt the both sides of sliced eggplants well. Place them on a pan lined with paper towels, and cover with additional paper towels. Let sit for 20 minutes. Whisk together oil, vinegar and sugar, and add salt and pepper to taste. Preheat oven to 400. Rinse and dry eggplants, then toss all vegetables in vinaigrette. Place vegetables on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. The mushrooms will likely cook in about 20 minutes, so feel free to remove them. To make the pesto, combine walnuts and basil leaves in a food processor with olive oil and vinegar. Process until smooth, salt and pepper to taste. Toast slices of bread if you like, then spread pesto over it. Top with roasted vegetables (there may be extras). If you like, sprinkle cheese on top, or assemble thin strips in a cross-hatch design. Broil for about 2 minutes, until cheese melts.


Apricot Brandy and Almond Baked French Toast

After a few days spent recovering from graduation festivities, we’re finally ready to post the final component of our goodbye brunch – a delicious and mildly alcoholic baked French toast that we’re proud to have come up with ourselves (mostly!). The inspiration comes from Smitten Kitchen’s boozy baked French toast, but since we already doused our sorbet in kahlua (Smitten Kitchen’s booze of choice), we decided to try ours with almonds and apricot brandy.

You may be unfamiliar with apricot brandy, but we know it from such things as the apricot brandy sour, a drink that’s quite popular among friends. Apricot brandy is actually very tasty and light, perfect for fluffy, soft French toast. Since baked French toast soaks overnight and cooks in the oven in the morning, we just added a bit of the brandy to our soaking mixture and let the flavor seep through. We added layers of almond slivers between the layers of toast, and served it with (your choice of) powdered sugar or berry topping.

1 loaf Challah, brioche, or thick Italian bread, cut int0 1-inch slices,
3 cups whole milk
3 eggs
3 tbsp apricot brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup almonds
powdered sugar (optional)

(for berry topping)
2 cups frozen berries of your choice (we chose mixed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or to taste)

Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange one layer of bread tightly in the pan, sprinkle with half of the almonds. Arrange the second layer on top, and sprinkle with remaining almonds.
Whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, salt, brandy and vanilla, and pour over the bread. Wrap the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden. To make berry topping, combine berries and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a soft boil, then simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes. You can mash the berries to your desired consistency. Serve toast with powdered sugar, berry topping, or both.


White Russian Sorbet

We graduate today. I should probably be packing my room right now, but I think I'm trying to evade the reality of leaving Penn by sitting on my couch, playing on my computer. It's my default mode. Of course, I'm excited! It's just that moving and saying goodbye can be so overwhelming! To relax, I've decided to blog the most smoothly calming dish that we made for our brunch (I promised there would be more to come): White Russian Sorbet.

Sorbet (!?) -- you might be thinking. How did they make sorbet without an ice cream machine? Well, we didn't! We got one! Well, Alex got one as a graduation present. And though we haven't fawned over it on the blog, it doesn't mean that we aren't extremely happy -- it's just been a bit busy around here. I'm slightly ashamed to confess that while this is the first ice-cream machine-made dish we are posting, it is not first dish we tried to make with it. On our first day with the machine, we attempted to make a lemon sorbet, but neglected to realize that you have to freeze the machine's container before making ice cream. We ended up with some very sweet and delicious slushies.

Once we figured out how to use it, however, we were pumped to try out this White Russian Sorbet recipe from Epicurious. The recipe called just enough alcohol to give the dessert a great kick, but not enough to be too noticeable. I feel like it may have just been beginner's luck, but it turned out incredibly well -- smooth, creamy, and calming like you'd eat some out of a martini glass on the beach. I'm not sure if you can really call it a sorbet since there's a bit of cream involved, but honestly, I'm not too concerned about technicalities when the taste is this good.

Happy graduation to all of our wonderful friends here! Please come eat our food in New York.

1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 tsp instant coffe
1 tbsp dark corn syrup
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 cup Kahlúa

Stir water and sugar in medium sauce pan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Add coffee powder and stir to dissolve. Pour into medium bowl. Mix in corn syrup, then whipping cream, vodka and Kahlúa. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Transfer sorbet mixture to ice cream maker; process according to machine's instructions. Transfer sorbet to container; cover and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.