Summer Cocktail: Aperol Spritz

By Katherine

My friend Amanda recently spent two weeks in Italy on her honeymoon, and she came back with a new favorite drink:  the Aperol Spritz.  Lucky for me, Amanda is a delightful and generous hostess, and after enjoying a Spritz at her house, I am fully on the bandwagon.  Aperol is an Italian aperitif, bitterwseet with citrus and herbal flavors.  It is similar to Campari (and comes from the same parent company), but at 11% ABV, it has less than half the alcohol content of Campari. That's one of the reasons it makes such a refreshing summer cocktail - it's light enough that you can drink it all day long (not that I would suggest such a thing).  The Aperol Spritz is a simple cocktail - you just need Aperol, Prosecco, and club soda. 

I didn't have any Prosecco in the house, so I substituted Trader Joe's finest dry German sparkling wine. 

I didn't have any Prosecco in the house, so I substituted Trader Joe's finest dry German sparkling wine. 

Aperol Spritz

3 parts Prosecco or other sparkling wine

2 parts Aperol

Splash of club soda

Orange slices for garnish

Ice

Fill your glass with ice, then pour over the Prosecco and aperol. Stir gently, then finish with a splash of soda and garnish with orange.   (Amanda reports that in Italy, it is often served with a green olive, but I like the orange and that's what's recommended on the Aperol bottle.)

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In poking around the internet to learn more around Aperol, I stumbled across a Spritz variation that recommends adding about an ounce of gin ("You know.  For the older drinker.")  In the name of science, I tried this version as well, and I'm pleased to report that it is also delicious, though it does somewhat undermine my earlier remarks about this being such a light, lower-alcohol summer cocktail.  Finally, if you've invested in a bottle of Aperol and want to branch out beyond the Spritz, Serious Eats has a bunch of ideas for you.  Cheers!

Boston Food Highlights

By Katherine

This past weekend, Sean and I headed to Boston to meet up with Elissa and her family, as well as my parents, to celebrate Elissa's induction into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame.  It is an amazing honor, and I am so proud of Elissa! 

It was a pretty quick trip, but we managed to squeeze in some good eating.  As we boarded our flight to Boston, the one thing that was on my mind was getting a really good lobster roll.  I did some research on Chowhound and Yelp, and I learned that Neptune Oyster Bar is highly rated.   I also learned that Neptune is tiny and often has a long wait, so Sean and I headed over there at what we thought would be an off time, around 2:45 on Friday afternoon.  When we got there, we were told the wait would be an hour, but we ended up being seated at the bar after only about 20 minutes. We each knew we would be ordering lobster rolls, but we had to decide between the two options Neptune offers:  hot with drawn butter, or cold with mayonnaise.  We contemplated ordering both and sharing, but we both really wanted the hot/butter combo, so we got two of those to preserve our pre-marital harmony. 

This was an epic lobster roll.  Neptune's cold/mayo lobster roll may be fantastic, but I will never know because I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to order anything but the hot lobster roll if I make it back there.  I think there was a whole lobster's worth of warm, buttery lobster on the classic toasted bun.  The fries were good, too, but who has room for those when you have so much lobster meat to take care of? 

Neptune is in the North End, Boston's Italian neighborhood, so while we were there, we decided to sample some cannoli.  When  I was in college, our go-to cannoli place in the North End was Mike's Pastry.   This trip, I decided to branch out and try some new places.  Besides, the line at Mike's is always too long. 

Maria's Pastry Shop

Modern Pastry

We tried to make this comparison as scientific as possible, choosing chocolate dipped shells filled with ricotta at both Maria's and Modern, but our system broke down when we realized Modern did not offer pistachios, and we had to substitute almonds. Although I had never heard of Maria's before this trip, it ended up having the winning cannoli!  The crunchy shells are filled to order, the ricotta is rich and just a little tangy, and the pistachios are the perfect topping. 

Finally, it wouldn't be a trip to Boston without a stop at Dunkin' Donuts.  I didn't get a donut myself, but I know a couple of donut fiends who were pretty happy with theirs.  

Chocolate-covered Lane

A soon-to-be very sticky Elenor

Spaghetti and Meatballs

by Laura

Adapted from Ina Garten

The main difference in my adaptation from Ina's version is that I just used beef instead of ground veal, pork and beef and I increased the ratio of sauce to meat. And I have to say the best part of this meal was leftover spaghetti and meatball subs.

Ingredients

For meatballs:

1 1/4 pound ground beef
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

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For Sauce:

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For Serving:

3/4 lb spaghetti

Parmesan

Toast (not really optional in my opinion)

First batch of meatballs in the works

First batch of meatballs in the works

Place the ground beef, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, egg, and 1/2 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

For the leftover subs

Toast any bread (I used french rolls) and butter. While bread is toasting, heat up the leftover spaghetti and meatballs. Place warm spaghetti and meatballs on toast and top with provolone cheese while it is all still warm. 

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Farm to Fork

By Katherine

Laura has previously mentioned her love for her Farm Fresh box.  I don't have a similar subscription, but my mother-in-law-to-be, DiAnne, does, and we are lucky enough that she likes to share.  She recently gave us a huge bag of vegetables and fruit. Look at this beautiful bounty!

I feel healthier just looking at this. 

I feel healthier just looking at this. 

Those are artichokes, blood oranges, lemons, radishes, avocados, carrots, and romanesco cauliflower (Wikipedia tells me it also goes by romanesco broccoli, but I'm going with cauliflower).  Getting this grab bag of produce is a great exercise in creativity in the kitchen.  It's like a puzzle: how can I put these pieces together into a yummy and satisfying meal?  

That beautiful romanesco was really calling out to me this night, and I remembered a recipe that's a favorite of one of my go-to food bloggers, the Amateur Gourmet.  He calls it Heaven and Hell Cauliflower Pasta.  I made the recipe basically as he writes it, except that I substituted whole wheat penne for the ziti to try to makes things a little healthier.  Here's what you'll need to get started:

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I used two heads of romanesco, since that's what I had, and they seemed to be a little on the small side.  First step is chopping them into florets. I think the two heads yielded about 2 cups of florets.  

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Next up: chop the garlic and anchovies, and add them to a bowl with fennel seeds and hot pepper flakes.  This is basically a bowl of dragon breath. 

Tell roommates, loved ones, and co-workers to stand back. 

Tell roommates, loved ones, and co-workers to stand back. 

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta and heat some olive oil in a skillet to brown the romanesco. Depending on how much cauliflower you have and how big your pan is, you may need to do this in batches -- you really want just a single layer of cauliflower so it all has a chance to get nice and caramelized. I have a really big saute pan, so I was able to get it all in there at once.  

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Meanwhile, you cook your pasta to al dente and add most of your dragon breath mix to the romanesco.   After you've sauteed the cauliflower and the spice mixture a bit, add some of the pasta cooking water a ladleful at a time to make a sauce. You'll have to eyeball this, depending on how much water is absorbed by the vegetables. You don't want it to be liquid-y, just a bit saucy.  Then you add the pasta to the pan to finish cooking and top it all off with a bit of the raw spice mixture (for extra stinky breath) and grated cheese.  Here is the finished product:

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Even though this dish has vegetables in it, I felt like we needed a salad to round this meal out.  Luckily, we still had plenty of beautiful options left from DiAnne, the veggie fairy.  I decided to make a spinach salad with blood oranges, avocado, and radishes.  I don't mean to brag, but we get amazing local avocados here in San Diego. 

I love California! I also love my giant, 10-inch Wusthof chef's knife. Don't mess with me!

I love California! I also love my giant, 10-inch Wusthof chef's knife. Don't mess with me!

That avocado got tossed together with the orange segments, thinly sliced radishes, baby spinach, and a simple vinaigrette.  

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Although this meal came together on the fly, it really turned out well.  The pasta recipe can be made mostly with pantry staples (if you're the kind of person who keeps anchovies around, which I now am), but it packs a lot of flavor. The combination of sour (orange), creamy (avocado), and spicy (radish) worked well in the salad, and made me feel slightly more virtuous after eating a big bowl of pasta. I probably would not have thought to put these things together if I hadn't been presented with that bag of goodies, but I'm very glad I did!