Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Of Ina and Mushrooms

Oh no, does anyone else see the resemblance? Anyway... One my favorite Food Network personalities is the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I love that she looks like she enjoys what she cooks (that’s a jab at you, Giada), I love that she uses high quality ingredients to elevate simple recipes, and I adore that the fruits of her labor are usually lovingly produced for a gaggle of gay men who in turn, create her table-scape.

Image Courtesy of House Beautiful

Sometimes I even feel like Ina – always cooking for “Jeffrey,” imminently arriving from a long business trip. Alas, this post is not merely about my affection for Ina. At Thanksgiving, I made her recipe for sausage stuffed mushrooms and my god, they were a hit. The use of panko breadcrumbs and mascarpone cheese was such a great twist on a traditional favorite. Check out the recipe over at the Food Network website (or click link above) and make them for your next party. But again, the stuffed mushrooms themselves are not what this post is about.

A couple of days after Thanksgiving, I still had a large container of excess sausage filling for the mushrooms, so I did what any good "waste not want not" kind of girl would: I baked it into pasta. In fairness, you could bake anything into pasta and it would be pretty good. I often do rely on some sort of baked pasta when I’m in need of comfort food. But this particular dish was spectacularly comforting comfort food. Photos after the jump...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ladies' Holiday Dinner: The Tradition Continues

One of my favorite of all holiday traditions began about 3 years ago, I think at the suggestion of my friend Emily. She suggested that instead of gift giving, a small group of the ladies should take ourselves out for a really nice dinner. Year one, we went to Louis Fuller on the West Side. Year two, it was New Rivers, downtown. This year, the ladies descended upon Gracie's on Washington Street.

One of my favorite parts of the fine dining experience is taking it slow, enjoying the company of the people you're with, and lingering for a while in a comfortable chair in a beautiful setting. Gracie's is expert at providing just this type of service. And even better news, they've updated their menu to include a "$30" prix fix menu, as well as 5 and 7 course tasting menus. I've put quotes around $30 because the number is more of a starting point than a hard and fast cost. The prix fix menu includes 3 courses: a starter, a main course and a dessert. Some of these items have an upcharge that gets added to the $30. I'm not mentioning this to be cheap. Gracie's is exceptional, and worth every penny you spend. I just want you to know that you're going to spend more than you would at, say, your local pub. Anyway, onto the food after the jump.

Monday, December 7, 2009

One Sunday Down

Courtesy of

Yesterday was my first day of class in my adult culinary degree program at Johnson & Wales University. I know you know, I've been talking about it endlessly - about the knives I would receive, the uniform... about taking the tour of the kitchens and being near tears because I just felt so strongly that that was where I was supposed to be.

I arrived on Sunday morning at the ghastly hour of 6:45AM. But I was as excited and chipper as a 4th grader on her first day of school after summer vacation. My uniform was bright white and crisply ironed, my face free of makeup, just as the rulebook specified. I had my orthopedic shoes, my notebook at the ready and my pens tucked neatly in my sleeve pocket. I was greener than I had ever been in my entire life at anything. I had no idea what I was in for. (More after the jump.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Beef Stew Makes a Heart Happy

At the beginning of this week, there's nothing I wanted more than some good old fashioned comfort food. And what fits the bill better than Mom's beef stew? While I did stray a little from my Mom's recipe, the wonderful, hearty, beefy spirit of the thing was still there. In fact, John said it was the best stew I had ever made. Holla!

So what, you want details?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Julia and Kate?

One week from today, I start the adult culinary degree program at Johnson & Wales University. For 2 years, I'll spend every Sunday in the kitchen at JWU, learning techniques, making mistakes and following my passion. I am unspeakably excited.

Here's how I'm told it works. I'll arrive on campus at 7AM and go to lecture for 2 hours. At 9, I'll go to the kitchen, where my class works on lunch. First up for me is Stocks, Soups and Sauces. At noon, all the classes in session go to the student dining room where we are served the lunch that we've all be working on various pieces of. Then back to the kitchen, where we work on dinner. Finally, we end the day in the dining room once again, where we are served dinner, finishing off the day at 6:30.

It's an amazing time commitment. In addition to working full time, 5 days a week, I'll be adding an 11 hour day on what had previously been my "day of rest." But here's the thing: Last month, when I took the tour of JWU, I was actually in tears as I was walking past the kitchen classrooms. Because I knew that that was where I was supposed to be. I couldn't imagine anything I'd rather be doing.

I can scarcely imagine all the things I'll be learing on Sundays over the next 2 years. While I enjoy every second I spend in my kitchen at home, I certainly don't know all there is to know. Some of the things I'm looking forward to learing are...

- Reductions (I can't seem to make them reduce now.)
- What to do with a whole chicken (or fish, or hunk of cow)
- How to improvise
- And so many other things I don't know yet that I don't know.

One week from today it all starts. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sweet & Savory

Last night I had dinner guests, and I was looking for something easy, yet special to make for dessert. I got a great idea from Real Simple that I modified a little bit to take advantage of a great local treat.

Chocolate Nut Bark with Matt's Candied Nuts

First, I set up a double boiler with a pan of shallow water and a bowl to melt 8 ounces of Ghiradelli semi sweet chocolate.

Then, I poured the melted chocolate onto a cookie sheet covered with a piece of parchment paper, and spread it out with a rubber spatula. Here comes the good part.

See the nuts I poked into the chocolate? Those are Matt Jennings' candied nuts from Farmstead. The nuts are covered in beautiful herbs and spices that, when combined with the semi sweet chocolate, made for the perfect salty sweet combo. Refrigerate the bark on the cookie sheet for at least 30 minutes before you try to break the bark. Yum!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Sandwich in Pictures

I picked up a few delicious ingredients from the Winter Farmer's Market yesterday to make sandwiches. I came home with a baguette from Olga's Cup & Saucer, Besto Pesto, Narragansett Creamery mozzerella and a couple of farm fresh tomatoes.
I think I can skip the running dialog on this one!

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go inhale my sandwich!

Miya's Sushi, New Haven

Last Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to visit Miya's Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut during New Haven Restaurant Week. It was a two hour drive, but so worth it.

New Haven's first sushi restaurant, chef Bun Lai's mother opened Miya's in 1982. But when you walk into Miya's today, it's clear you're in Bun's territory. If Miya's were a frat house, Bun Lai would be the president. If it were a rock concert, Bun would be the lead singer. His big personality bubbles over into every facet of the restaurant. Delicious details after the jump.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm Still Full!

So this weekend, J was home from Alabama and I took some time off to be with him. We did lots of fun things, but one thing we did in abundance. The weekend was pretty much a four-day food orgy. What would you call that? A foorgy?
Sadly, I was so buy shoveling yummies into my face that I didn't even once pull out my camera. How about that? It remains true that I am a lover of food first and a photographer 47th. (That's ok, I leave that to the professionals like Stacey Doyle and David Dadekian.) The lack of photos accompanying this post just means I'll have to be extra-special verbose for you... after the jump, that is.

Cookie Porn

The Veterans' Day holiday afforded me the opportunity to stay home in my sweats and spend some time in the kitchen. These little babies are from Smitten Kitchen's recipe. Ready for more cookie porn?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oh Technology, You Slay Me

Well. Isn't that special. Blogger has decided that my photo, bio and other widgets would look better down at the bottom of my main page, underneath my posts. Thanks Blogger, for taking that liberty. Ack! Anyone know how to fix this delightful issue? Help me out and you get...

Homemade Sweet Potato Fries!

And I guess if you can't help me with Blogger, you should be able to make your own sweet potato fries, so here you go...

1. Cut potato into 1/4 inch fry shaped pieces. Put them in a bowl and drizzle enough olive oil so that all of your fries glisten. Eeeexcellent...
Now add your spices. I used cumin, onion powder, coriander and salt. Go ahead and use whatever you like, I don't think you can mess this up.

2. Lay fries on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. Don't let them touch! God help you if they're touching! Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Leave 'em alone and let them do their thing in there... you know, not touching.

3. After 15 minutes, flip them, and then put them back in the oven for another 15 to 20.

4. If you like to dip your fries, a mixture of fat free plain yogurt, mayo, honey, cumin and coriander should do the trick.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You Win Some, You Lose Some

So I tried my luck at hand-made ravioli - pumpkin ravioli - for the very first time. There was much hype. I talked about it at work, I bragged to my friends, and oh, the humanity, I twitted the hell out of it.
Alas, it was not perfect. I knew as I was progressing through the recipe that this dish might not be my greatest success, but I proceeded. Come dinner time, I set the plate in front of my hungry guinnea pig and she dug in. The verdict? "Well, it's not like I won't eat it." In other words, "this probably won't make me gag." Ah, thank heaven for friends.

But this web site is all about the journey, right? If I were perfect, I wouldn't be starting cooking school in December. If everything I did was a smashing success, I would be Smitten Kitchen. So. Let me tell you about what this recipe should have been, and where I think I went wrong. I would love to hear your comments and advice, so help a girl out! (After the jump.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

On Wednesday night, I got together with a couple of pals to carve pumpkins. I arrived armed with sharp knives, some Vosges bacon chocolate and a yummy mixture of sugar and spice to make those pumpkin seeds nice.

As the ladies carved, I put myself in charge of pulling the seeds out of the pumpkin guts. By the way, I brought all of the pumpkin guts home and pureed it for use on Sunday - more on that this weekend!

Sugar and Spice Mix
- 5 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 Teaspoon salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 Teaspoon cayenne pepper

More after the jump...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ode to You, Tiny Delicious Cabbages

Growing up, your favorite vegetable was the brussel sprout, right?
Yeah, me either. In fact, one of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother burning brussel sprouts in the oven, and of me being so disturbed by the smell, I asked for a new family. Well, fortunately, I did not get the new family I asked for, but I certainly never approached a brussel sprout again. That is, until about 2 weeks ago.

I was perusing the lastest issue of Martha Stewart Everyday Food, and happened upon a "recipe" for brussel sprouts. (I use quotes, because it wasn't very complex.) And you know what? They looked GOOD. So I tried it.

Oh. My. God. Suddenly, I cannot get enough brussel sprouts! They were meaty, and smoky and nutty, all in one.
Non-complicated technique, slightly modified from Everyday Food,  after the jump.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Cookie Will Help!

Photo courtesy of Etsy's Scrumptulicious Shop

I'm not usually in the habit of repurposing the blog posts of others, especially given that I just launched my own new blog. But I read about this woman's story on A Great Full Day, a blog I enjoy, and asked Lindsey, the author, for permission to re-blog to help spread the word about this amazing family.

So today is Friday and for many that means pay day. Sadly Kristen doesn't get a regular paycheck anymore. I found Kristen's blog and my heart immediately went out to her. A few years ago her husband was diagnosed with a life threatening kidney disease that left him unable to work. In 2008 she too lost her job. Now her family is struggling to pay for medical bills, prescriptions and day to day expenses. They've given up their cars and other non-essential items (that many of us take for granted) in an attempt to make ends meet but have still come up short...some days they aren't sure they'll be able to pay for their home. 

More after the jump...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tini, Take Two

Photo respectfully borrowed from

Last spring, I visited Tini on Washington Street with my buddy Melina. As she can tell you,
I did not have a good experience for a number of reasons:

1. It was during Lent. And given that Melina observes Lent, and Tini's tappas plates are meant to be shared, we had to avoid the meat. We ended up with some randoms that were not what I would have chosen.

2. In the very small restaurant, at the horseshoe shaped bar, I was at the end of the horseshoe, just before the bathroom door. It felt more like I was in the bathroom. Eww.

But this weekend, Stacey and I were looking for a place for a little dinner, and she had never been to Tini. So I decided to give it another go. I have to say, I'm glad I did. My opinion completely changed. Here's what did it:

1. The Recession Pour: I chose a the very tasty Palo Alto Sauvignon Blanc for an easy-to-swallow $6.

2. Our first dish was the Tini Weenie. The name alone is enough to make anyone smile.

The saurkraut on top was to die for, and the bread was just buttery-crisp enough. Yum!

3. Next up, the special: a seasonal venison stew with perfectly tender meat and flavorful roasted vegetables.

See that fluffy goodness on top? That's fried feta cheese. Let me say it again.
FRIED FETA CHEESE. Need it one more time?

4. Finally, we indulged in the Tini fries.

Now, these fries probably won't set your world on fire. But the mix of hot sauce and another mayonnaise based sauced was the perfect combo. Bonus points if you drag the fries through the venison stew gravy. Heaven.

So. Visit Tini. Go early. Go with just one other person. And make sure to get some meat. You'll be delighted just like I was... this time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Hampshire Fun

Last weekend I escaped the city with my pal Stacey in favor of Center Ossipee, New Hampshire for a little R and R. We borrowed a coworker's house, which turned out to be a rounded treehouse, high above the other homes, overlooking a lake. We brought all of the provisions one could possibly need for a ladies weekend away, and proceeded to relax - Coquettish Cook style.

On Friday night, we took it easy, relaxing with some wine and cheese. My new favorite combo: blue cheese, figs and honey... mmm...

Saturday, we woke up refreshed and ready to check out our surroundings. First we checked out some scenery. (Photos after the jump.)

Welcome to the Coquettish Cook!

Hey, nice to see you here! Thank you for visiting my brand new blog! I'm leaving Lowther, Rinse, Repeat behind for now. It was a terrific outlet for me to get my random thoughts down. But then I started to really develop my ideas for The Coquettish Cook and here we are!

So this is where you can find me from now on. As usual, I'll be sharing with you my best successes in the kitchen (and the occasional mishap,) and bringing you along on some yummy journeys around the city and beyond. But there are some new features I want to bring to The Coquettish Cook that I hope you'll love:

1. The Top Five
2. Reader Contributions
3. From JWU, With Love

That's right. This December, I'm starting the continuing education culinary diploma program at Johnson & Wales. You have no idea how excited I am! Cooking has been my passion for such a long time. But I never thought of it being anything more than a hobby until J recently encouraged me to pursue it. My first class, Soups, Stocks & Sauces, starts on December 6th. JWU encourages its culinary students to photograph their dishes as they go - how convenient! So you'll hear plenty about my misadventures in cooking school. PS... You should see the knife set that students get. Yippee!

So again, welcome. I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride!