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mini dessert party

In challenge on August 17, 2015 at 12:29 am

who doesn’t love mini desserts? here are a few i made recently for a celebration at work.

tiny lemon curd and blueberry tartlets.

minipartylemontarts

this is a low-effort, high-impact one. the tart shells can be bought at your local speciality grocer or super-large grocery store (my whole paycheck does not carry them, however). they are about the size of a quarter. i keep a box around at all times because they are perfect for whipping up a last-minute dessert or app that is sure to impress.

lemon curd is easy and can be made way in advance. washing blueberries is also easy. the only trick to this is that the shells soften pretty quickly, so fill them right before you serve and remind your guests you just can’t have leftovers!

mini buttermilk cupcakes with vanilla frosting.

minipartycupcakes

the secret to mini cupcakes is having a large mini cupcake pan. i used to make mine in a pan that had only six cups and it was brutal – all that filling and waiting and cooling over and over. so i recently invested in a professional-grade mini cupcake pan and it’s a godsend. makes 24 in a batch, which is about a full recipe of batter that would yield a dozen regular ones. it makes all the difference. (and when i say “invest” i mean $36. hardly a bank-breaker)

i had a bit of batter left over and used it to make a baby birthday cake for my upstairs neighbor. it was a two-layer cake and there was a candle (not pictured).

tinycake

yes, i have a mini cake stand.

little chocolate “bundts.”

minipartychocolatecakes

ok, they aren’t really bundts because they don’t have that hole in the center, but they kind of look like it, right? make any chocolate cake or brownie recipe in a mini cupcake pan. cool them upside down and then dip them halfway in melted chocolate and top with sprinkles. i like variety on my dessert table and this is an easy way to basically serve chocolate cupcakes but have them not look repetitive of the vanilla. (this is how my mind works.)

i also made one-bite chocolate chip cookies. they had mini chocolate chips in them! but i scooped too much batter for each and they turned out almost “regular” size. oh well. they were still eaten!

best pesto pasta salad

In link on August 10, 2015 at 1:28 am

ottolenghippasta

if you like pesto pasta salad, you’ve got to try yotam ottolenghi’s version in the nytimes. like all of his recipes and dishes i’ve tried, it is fresh, surprising and delicious.

in addition to basil-parsley pesto, there is fried zucchini, edamame, lemon zest and capers.

i served it on a bed of lettuce with torn fresh mozzarella on top.

ottolenghipastaserved

really spectacular. and unlike some of his recipes which often require a lot of unusual ingredients, this one is fairly straightforward. this will be your ottolenghi gateway drug.

 

eggplant ragu

In dinner on August 2, 2015 at 9:17 pm

it’s been quite a bit too hot for pasta recently, but we had a cool evening last week and fortunately, i was prepared. both of my local farmers markets (mondays in central, tuesdays in harvard) carry fresh pasta by valicenti pasta farm. so amazingly delicious. we loved the ravioli a couple weeks ago, so this time i grabbed super-wide flat noodles that were flavored and colored with wine. i also grabbed a big, beautiful eggplant.

eppastaep

eggplant doesn’t have a ton of flavor on its own, so i knew i needed to build this pasta sauce with attention to detail from the ground up. i started by cubing my e.p., salting it very well, and letting it drain in a colander for an hour or so.

then i used a clean dishtowel to pat it dry. in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, i browned it very well in small batches. too much in the pan and it steams – i wanted browning.

eppastaepbrowning

in another pot i sauteed garlic and a small chopped up onion, as well as five or six small yellow carrots i had left over (that had seen better days. they were a little on the soft side, but that doesn’t matter in a sauce). once the veggies were softened, i splashed in half a cup or so of white wine and let it cook a little.

eppastaepinsauce

then as the e.p. browned in batches, i put it in the pot, along with a box of chopped pomi tomatoes, some oregano, salt, pepper, a little sugar, crushed red pepper and some garlic powder.

eppastasaucechunky

once everything was together, i took several big ladles-full, probably almost 80 percent of the mixture, and pulsed it 10 or so times in my food processor. i wanted chunky and combined, not totally pureed into mush.

eppastasaucedone

back into the pot to stew a little longer, when he came along for a taste test. as much as it sounds like i salt everything to death, he always adds a little more and it’s perfect. so, more salt and capers!

after cooking the pasta, i also added about a cup of pasta-cooking water and stirred it into the sauce.

eppastaserved

sorry it’s so dark! but the sauce really turned out well. the flavor was great – you definitely got bites you could tell were eggplant – and i really liked the texture. it coated the noodles nicely.

plus i saved the rest of the sauce we didn’t use and made pizza a couple nights later.

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