Fresh

Balsamic Pear & Fennel Salad

For the new year I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to shop more locally for my groceries, especially since I am less than 5 minutes from one of the best markets in Florence. During my holiday break, I was lucky enough to travel throughout Northern Italy with my parents, and eat many seasonal and locally sourced dishes that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford on my college student, study-abroad budget. Through this I was able to taste a lot of salads composed of ingredients that the Westerner in me wouldn’t recognize as components of your typical salad. There was a lot of cured meats, or salumi, wafer thing slices, not chunks, of pecorino and gruyere, and fresh, vibrant seasonal fruits. Oddly enough there were very minimal greens or other “salad staples” in these salads. Nonetheless, they were all so delicious and bursting with flavor that I was inspired to create an artisanal salad of my own!

I perused the San Lorenzo food market for a couple of days, and researched the winter produce of Northern Italy. Finally, I settled on a salad of balsamic glazed pears, sautéed fennel, and soft pecorino. Although you may read this and think “What a wimpy salad!” These 3 ingredients are so packed with flavor and pair oh so well together. In fact, this dish is the perfect example of decadent simplicity. IMG_4735 Ingredients

  • 1 medium sized pear
  • 1 fennel, sliced
  • 100-200 grams soft pecorino
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to season

If you’re making this salad as the main course, these ingredients yield about 2 servings. However, if you’re making it as a starter, you should be able to get about 3-5 servings.

Before you begin crafting this beautifully tasty dish, I suggest prepping all of your ingredients. This means thinly slicing the pears, and breaking down the fennel. Now, I have never cooked with fennel before, so preparing this foreign root vegetable took a bit of research and evaluation. I’m going to save you my butchered description of how to prep fennel, and provide you with this handy, dandy link that helped me! Feel free to shave off some pecorino now, or while the other ingredients are cooking. It’s really never a bad thing to be prepared, and be able to focus on whats in the pan!

Start by warming a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, and add about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Add your fennel, salt and pepper to taste, and lightly sauté for no more than 3 minutes, tops. Then, in a medium-sized sauté pan add the pears, spreading them out so there is little over lapping, and cover with 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Let this cook on medium-low heat, until the pears start to become translucent, and all the balsamic has reduced. You may need to add more balsamic during the cooking process if it cooks off too quickly, or hasn’t glazed the pears to your liking.

The cooking is done. Now it’s time to plate! There are so few ingredients in this dish, so I really wanted to put forth the extra effort in presentation. I placed the sautéed fennel on a bed on spinach, evenly dispersed the shavings of pecorino, and topped it off with the warm, balsamic pears and a dash of salt. I also added a little aesthetic touch with some fennels sprigs. Then, let it sit for a moment to allow the cheese to melt in between the warm layers of fennel and pear. IMG_4738 Pause for a second, step back, and appreciate this gorgeous dish you just created. This salad deserves to be eaten slowly, to truly appreciate the sweetness of the balsamic marrying with the bitterness of the fennel , and the juxtaposition of crunchy vegetables and soft, gooey cheese. Savor and enjoy!

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Fig & Lemon Gin Fizz

I know I am not alone when I say I tried my share of cocktails this holiday season. Thanks to the recent boom in cocktail culture, and rising popularity of artisanal recipes and ingredients, there seemed to be much more variety this year than the pas sangria, eggnog, and poinsettias. This one in particular stood out to me, due to my blinding love affair with figs, naturally.

The original recipe refers to this drink as a “Sexy Fig and Lemon Fizz“, and is made with vodka. Since vodka and I aren’t on good terms, and never really have been for that matter, I decided to replace it with another favorite of mine, gin. This drink has all the components of a great winter-time cocktail; a little sweetness, some zing, earthy tones, and substance. The meat and seeds of the fresh figs, and please, please always use fresh figs when you can, adds an unexpected but very enjoyable texture. There is also a great undertone of rosemary. Now, before I show you the recipe for this luscious, juicy, perfect, life companion of a drink, I want you to see the completed product in all its glory. Please excuse the plastic cup and table cloth. I am a college student after all! Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset In the hopes that I have peaked your curiosity to what actually goes into this amazing concoction, here it is! There are 2 main components to this drink that do take a little prep, a rosemary infused simple syrup, and a fig puree.

Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary

**Keeps for 5-7 days when refrigerated**

Fig Puree

  • 1 cup fresh figs
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Blend to preferred consistency

The Basics

  • 2 oz. Gin
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Club soda

The ideal way to combine these fresh and delectable ingredients is in a cocktail shaker. However, if you are like me and are living on a college budget (abroad or stateside), and do not have one of those handy little devices, it works just as well to to put together a makeshift shaker, or just mix the ingredients in a separate glass. Then comes the final, and most rewarding step: pour over ice, top with club soda, and enjoy!

Not having a shaker adds a little more meat and texture to the drink, since there is no strainer to catch the bigger pieces of figs. But, true fig lovers should appreciate figs in all forms, I say. If you’re feeling extra fancy and want to impress your guests, or even just yourself, garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a few pieces of lemon rind. It really elevates their flavors! Now you have a simple, go-to artisanal cocktail recipe to keep in your back pocket for the new year.

To all my friends in Italy, and my family and friends back home Salute! Chin-chin! Cheers! Drink up!

Eggplant Flan

I am so thankful that one of the many cooking class I’ve taken in Florence was hosted by Mama Florence cooking school because they opened my eyes to the thriving gastronomic scene here! Chefs are taking inspiration from classical Tuscan cooking and creating modern, conceptual dishes. I feel so inspired and exhilarated by the food culture here, from the classic cooking traditions that are centuries old, to the new innovative dishes.

The most recent class I took was called ” Italian Savory Baked Goods“. It was a very intimate class of 4 people and 2 chefs, and was as far from your average “baking” class as you could possibly imagine. We made such a wide variety of baked goods, utilizing the freshest seasonal produce. Our dishes consisted of traditional Tuscan bread, a pumpkin loaf, eggplant flan, escarole salt pie, and a rustic apple cake. However, the star of the class was, without a doubt, the eggplant flan. However, I hesitate to call this a flan because it’s the farthest things from the sweet, sticky dessert we’re familiar with in the states.I had never seen anything like it before and was amazed at how simple it was to prepare, and the amazing flavor profile we were able to coax out of the eggplant. The recipe also utilizes all parts of the eggplant so there is no waste!

Ingredients

3 tsps extra virgin olive oil

2 large eggplants

1 red onion, diced finely

2 tomatoes

2 bunches either mint or basil

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2.25 ounces grated parmesan cheese

bread crumbs

1 1/4 tsps fine grain salt

butter and flour (to prepare baking dishes)

Add half of the olive oil into a sauté pan and add diced onion. Allow to cook until softened, approximately 10 minutes. Peel the eggplant, conserving the peels in order to line the baking container for your flan. Cut eggplant into cubes about 1/4″ in size, and add to the softened onion. Raise the heat slightly, add the bunches of either mint or basil. Add salt and let cook for approximately 25 minutes, adding water if necessary to avoid sticking to the pan (keep in mind that at the end of cooking, the eggplant should be dry without any excess liquid in your pan).

While the eggplant is cooking, boil water in a large sauce pan. Add salt and lower the heat. Add the eggplant peels and let cook between 2-3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peels from the boiling water and lay out on a dish to allow to cool. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour each muffin form in a standard 12-muffin tray. Gently place eggplant peels on the bottom of each muffin form in the shape of an “x.” Press each peel to the bottom of the form, and let excess drape outside of form. Fill with eggplant flan and use the extra peel from outside the form to sit on top of the flan, as if you’re closing a lid over the flan.

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Greased breadpan lined with blanched eggplant skins

Once the eggplant and onion mixture is cooked, allow to cool. Once at room temperature, blend well in either a blender or using an immersion blender. Combine lightly beaten eggs with parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt, then add to the eggplant mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon. The eggplant mixture will look fairly soft, so you will need to add enough breadcrumbs to the mixture to give it a slightly denser, more robust consistency. Add salt to taste, and now you’re ready for baking!

Hot out of the oven!

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove flans from oven, and allow to cool for a few minutes. Flip onto plate, and slice each flan either horizontally or vertically in  3/4″ thick pieces, plate and enjoy!

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Eggplant Flan

You and your guests, because you should share this great recipe with as many people as you can, will fall in love with the light and airy, but still oh so creamy consistency of this unique dish. It’s not too filling so it would make a nice side dish. It would also work great as a main dish on a bed of greens topped with fresh pomegranate seeds, balsamic reduction, and a nice grated parmesan.

Never be afraid to push your culinary boundaries! This dish may look complex and intimidating but it was one of the easiest dishes I have made thus far. Embrace the Tuscan gastronomic chef within!

**Recipe and instruction courtesy of Mama Florence Cooking School**

Fresh Pasta, and Why There is No Need for Boxed

I don’t think I would have fulfilled my role as a food blogger studying in Italy if I didn’t post about how to make fresh pastas. Quite honestly, that would be sacrilege! Last week I took a cooking class with the amazing Andrea and Julio, chefs of Florencetown, where myself and 20 other lucky participants got a tour of Il Mercato Centrale through a local’s eyes, and a hands on lesson in fresh pasta, Bolognese sauce, and tiramisu.

Prior to this class I had been to Il Mercato Centrale many times to buy my fresh, local produce, but was always so overwhelmed with the variety of butchers, fishmongers, and cheese counters to know which ones were the most authentic, a rip-off, or a diamond in the rough. Although, exploring it on my own has definitely helped improved my Italian. Thankfully, Julio was kind enough to introduce us to all of his favorite vendors, such as the butcher who sells the best Florentine steak, the bakery with the best olive and truffle oils, and tastiest cantucci, known to others as biscotti, but they are not the same! Throughout the tour Chef Julio was picking up the ingredients for our meal, and once we were ready we headed around the corner to the kitchen to get started.

The one thing I didn’t expect was how easy it is to make pasta from scratch! All you need is 2 simple ingredients!

That’s right, just eggs and flour.

  • 3 cups of “00” flour
  • 3 eggs

Now it’s time to get handsy. Pour your flour onto a cool, smooth surface and make a small well in the center for the egg. Crack the eggs into the well, and working from the center, begin to incorporate the flour with a fork until a thicker consistency begins to form and sticks to the fork. Then get in there with your hands and begin to knead. Be very liberal with the flour here folks and continue to add until dough is smooth and doesn’t stick to your hands.Lastly, wrap it up real tight in plastic wrap and let sit for 15-30 minutes. During this time you can start prepping your sauce or ravioli filling.


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Once the pasta is ready to be cut, roll it out so you can barely see through to the table underneath (about 3 mm thickness). Then fold the dough over itself using at 3-finger width and cut it length wise. The size of your pasta is up to you! Are you in the making a thinner, creamier sauce? Then go for linguine (0.5cm thick) or are you making a hearty Bolognese that needs a pasta strong enough to carry all that meat? If so, pappardelle (2cm thick) is what you’re looking for. You can also cut off the ends and make one wide panel to fill, and make ravioli. During this class our ravioli was a simple Tuscan ricotta and parmesan mixture, but the ingredients you can use are endless. Ravioli are receptive to pretty much anything you can squeeze into them! Just make sure you seal of each ravioli properly, free of air pockets, so they don’t burst. Make them extra secure by pressing down the edges with the prongs of a fork!

The final step, before you get to enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor, is to boil the pasta in salted water for 2 minutes, until al dente. Al dente here in Italy is slightly different from in the states. Italians would consider the way we eat our pasta overcooked. Upon tasting it, the texture should seem slightly more underdone than your used to. But, don’t second guess because it’s actually perfect!

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Ravioli w/ Tuscan ricotta & parmesan in sage butter sauce

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Pappardelle w/ Bolognese sauce

Serve with the sauce of your choice. In class, the chefs prepared a butter and sage sauce to accompany the cheese ravioli, and added the Bolognese sauce to our fresh pappardelle.

I had never imagined making fresh pasta would be this easy, and now I can’t wait to add my own innovative touches! Chef Andrea suggested adding chopped herbs such as sage and rosemary, or even pumpkin puree to the dough to create a more earthy flavor profile. I plan on experimenting with coffee grinds and cocoa powder as well!

It is really as easy as it looks. Also, notice we didn’t use a pasta roller. Everything was done by hand with a little flour, a rolling-pin, and some elbow grease. No, it’s not as quick as 10 minute, boxed pasta, but it isn’t that much longer. Plus, c’mon you gotta know that the texture and flavor is 10 times better, and you get this warm fuzzy feeling from enjoying something you prepared from start to finish!

Eggplant, Fig, & Ricotta Stack

Fig season is in full swing here in Florence, and I must admit I am LOVING it. I had never tried fresh figs until earlier this summer back in the states, and they were okay. However, the figs here in Italy seem to be a whole other fruit! They are sweet, succulent morsels full of a unique pulp and sticky sap. They come in both black and white varieties and are about the size of an oblong golf ball. White figs are on the sweeter and a little tarter side, while black figs have a more subtle and decadent flavor. I am truly infatuated with them both! In fact, earlier today I picked some up at the local market and couldn’t stop myself from snacking on one as I strolled past the other vendors.

But I digress. Since these figs are just such a prime produce item of the moment I wanted to incorporate them into an actual meal, not just an all day snack. So again I dove into the depths of the internet and found a variety of pairings with cheeses such as ricotta and goat. I am in Italy after all, so I went with something that hit close to home, the ricotta. Along with more pondering and considering the other seasonal produce I decided on a take on eggplant lasagna consisting of layers of sautéed eggplant, ricotta, and sliced figs atop a bed of spinach. In my opinion, it looks like the leaning tower of Pisa, but that may be too cheesy of an Italian comparison (oops, there I go again!). My humor is usually much more along the lines of sarcasm than puns, I promise!

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Ingredients

1/2 of a medium-sized eggplant

4-6 fresh figs

Ricotta

Spinach

Rosemary

Salt & pepper

Oil & Balsamic vinegar

Instructions

1. Slice the eggplant into medallions, about 1/2″ thick

2. Roughly chop the rosemary

3. Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and vinegar and season both sides with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Let marinate for about 5 minutes

4. While eggplant is marinating heat sauté or grill pan over medium heat. Place the eggplant in the pan so none of the pieces overlap.

5. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes, checking on them once or twice, and flipping them after 5 minutes.

6. While eggplant is cooking, quarter fresh figs to be layered between the eggplant. I also like to take the ricotta out of the fridge while the eggplant is cooking so it gets closer to room temp, as to not cool down the dish.

7. The eggplant will be done once it’s tender and the skin is slightly shriveling. Make a nice bed of spinach leaves on a plate or bowl and begin building your tower! I went with a pattern of eggplant, ricotta, fig. And in regards to the amount of ricotta per layer, that really depends on how much you like ricotta 😉 But I spread about a tablespoon of ricotta between each layer and could fit about 4 pieces of fig.

8. Top with a dollop of ricotta and any extra fig and enjoy!

All of these measurements should make enough for 1 dish, but could also be enough for 2 smaller stacks or even multiple mini stacks if you wanted to make this for an appetizer (may be a little messy, but who cares when it tastes this good?!).

I really enjoyed making this dish because it seemed more like an arts and crafts project to me cooking. And I must say folks, this dish is as good as it looks. It’s sweet, savory, and oh so creamy. The perfect transition dish from summer into fall when we all wouldn’t mind something warm and cozy in our stomachs.  Embrace your inner child and really play around with the construction (or deconstruction) of this loose take on no-bake eggplant lasagna.

As always I love to hear feedback, so let me know how this dish worked for you! Did you add some more savory? Bake it like a more traditional lasagna? Make it into a pizza perhaps?! My favorite thing about cooking is seeing all the different interpretations of a dish!

 

Two Bean Salad

Are you ever craving a filling dinner with flavor that packs a punch but without the lethargic, button popping feeling that usually follows? Yea, me too. And its especially difficult being in Italy with every type of bread, pasta, and pastry at your disposal. So, the past few days I have been having a real hankering for something green but with more flavor profile than a traditional salad. Enter my brain child (with the help of Yummly), my two-bean warm salad. It was not only super filling and healthy but I got to highlight some of the Italian flavors I have been experiencing in the local restaurants!

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Ingredients

1 handful of green beans, rinsed and dried

1/2 can of cannelloni beans

1 large handful of spinach (consider wilting)

6-10 pitted kalamata olives (alter depending on love of olives)

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

1/4 of a medium-sized white onion, chopped

1 handful of parsley

2 lemon wedges

Olive oil, salt, and pepper

Instructions

1. Heat oil in a medium/large skillet over medium heat.

2. Add chopped onion and green beans and cook for 8-10 minutes. Check back every couple of minutes to move stuff around so nothing burns or gets stuck to the pan.

3. Once onions become translucent and beans begin to shrivel add the garlic and olives. Let sit for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4. Add 1/2 the chopped parsley and squeeze one lemon wedge. Stir ingredients as needed.

5. Add the cannelloni beans. Let ingredients cook until beans begin to mush, giving them a good toss once or twice.

6. Remove from heat and fold in the spinach.

Once all ingredients are combined top with remaining parsley and squeeze the second lemon wedge

**Salt and pepper throughout as needed**


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This recipe makes enough to serve as a single meal for one person or a side dish for 2-3 people.The lemon, parsley, and garlic balance each other perfectly, and there is a refreshing contrast between the crunch of the al dente green beans and the smooth, creaminess of the cannelloni.

I am anxious to make this again with a possible addition of some local pancetta, or topped with a fresh fillet of white fish! I’m still quite a novice cook so suggestions are always welcome!!

 

All’ Antico Vinaio

Here begins my food blogging journey of my year abroad, in Florence, Italy! I am so happy I found All’ Antico Vinaio early on, because it is a gold mind of cured meats and cheeses. Tucked away on Via de Neri, a few streets up from the Arno river, this sandwich & charcuterie shop is anything but unknown. It has been rated by all the top food and travel websites as one of the places to get a phenomenal sandwich in Florence, which also means there is always a line. But, trust me when I say that not matter how long the line, it is worth the wait one hundred times over. All’ Antico Vinaio offers two types of dining; One were you can sit indoors in there intimate dining room with a antipasto platter of meats, cheeses, spreads, veggies, and jams while enjoying one of their many bottles of wine ( This is Italy after all, so I emphasize bottles).

…and this is the small!

Or you can venture a few meters across the street to their original claim to fame, and host of the infamous line, their sandwich shop. Here there are 2-3 men at any given time preparing the freshest, meatiest, cheesiest, most mouthwatering sandwiches with a sense of style and grace I never thought I’d use to describe sandwich construction. For starters, their menu consists of white writing on tall, thin chalk boards at the entrance to the shop. They make one thing, and one thing only which is Foccacia Misto, and rings in at 5 euro (7 if you splurge for the specialty meats). Listed below are all your cheese, spread, and vegetable options (which you can add as many as will fit in your sandwich for still 5 euro). Then listed on a separate board is the shining glory of your sandwich, the meats. It is stated very clearly at the bottom of the list that mixing meats is not allowed nor will it be tolerated. I believe they called it Blasphemy! There are at least 7 different meat options, 8 or so different cheeses to choose from, 6 types of spreads, and a variety of vegetable toppings. It may seem a little overwhelming at first but you will have plenty of time in line to decide, and even if you can’t, the guys behind the counter are super friendly and will even offer to build you their ideal sandwich. Also, while waiting in line be mindful and cautious of the men running back and forth between the restaurants with fresh stacks of their homemade foccacia.

For my first order, and I say first because I know for a fact I will be returning countless times, I went with proscuitto (freshly sliced as I wiped the drool from my face), pecorino toscano fresco, truffle crema, spicy eggplant, zucchini, arugula salad, olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the man handed it to me over the counter the only words I could muster in my state of pure awe and excitement were “It’s so beautiful!”

Now to put this in perspective for you guys, this sandwich felt like I was cradling a small, soccer ball sized baby in my hands. It was wrapped up just so, making  it impossible for any of those delectable ingredients to fall out of the bottom, but leaving every other part of the sandwich exposed for me to dig right in. I did just that, and never looked back.

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The flavors were amazing. The meat was perfectly salty, the cheese had just the right bite, and let me tell you, you know nothing of paradise until you have had this truffle crema. I couldn’t have been more satisfied with this sandwich.

Since I plan to become a regular at this place I will be updating this post every time I try a new combination of love…I mean ingredients…which in this sandwich’s case could very well substitute for love. So be ready, and try your hardest to re-create these back in the states!

Central Provisions

Central Provisions is a 2-floor, craft beer & cocktail gastropub. The first floor boasts a small and minimalist dining area with a kitchen bar where diners can sit and observe the chefs at work. Downstairs is the restaurants initial claim to fame, the bar, which offers a wide variety of  local craft beers and cocktails. I grabbed lunch with some family there last week so we sat upstairs in the dining room, but if you’re looking to grab some drinks or a little snackity-snack I would definitely suggest sitting downstairs in the bar! There were plenty of open stools (although it was 2:30pm on a Tuesday).

Central Provisions is also very unique in the manner of which they serve their food. Almost every dish comes out on minimalistic wood, slate, or ceramic platters, as to not distract diners from anything but the delicious and complex flavors that have been coaxed out of the seasonal ingredients. Each item that is order also comes out as soon as it is ready, to assure that the diner enjoys their meal at its absolute freshness! Just keep that in mind when ordering because the longer something takes to cook and be prepared, the more you can bank on getting your dish last (but that just gives you more time to try their delicious beers and cocktails right? I see what you’re doing there CP!)

Let’s start off with the libations. I like to consider myself as somewhat of a novice beer enthusiast so I went for 2 Portland-brewed beers from Foundation and Allagash Brewing Companies

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Wanderlust Pilsner from Foundation Brewing Company

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Victoria Ale from Allagash Brewing Company

The Wanderlust was light and refreshing with slight floral notes, but a little sweeter than what I was hoping for. However, it was my first beer from Foundation and made me want to try more from them! This was definitely a beer I could slowly sip sitting out on a dock somewhere in the sunshine. The Victoria on the other hand, had a lot more kick to it thanks to the prevalent bitterness of the hops. Since I do enjoy a more pronounced beer I favored this one, and as a fan of Allagash I was excited to try one of their newer brews! Central Provisions also offers some unique, made in-house sodas such as Pomegranate and Raspberry Herb which were equally as satisfying and delicious with their unique flavor combos.

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Raspberry Herb Soda


By the time we had knocked back our first round the food had begun to arrive!

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Lobster Toast

This is probably the most decadent and flavor-packed take on a lobster sandwich I have ever laid my eyes, or taste buds on. The lobster (fresh Maine of course) is chopped up and whipped into a mousse with green coconut curry, cilantro and ginger, and grilled between 2 delicious pieces of thinly sliced bread. The sandwich was surprisingly light and the lobster flavor was still prevalent enough to balance with the green curry. My best friend was actually the one who ordered this yummy dish, and she said she was pleasantly satisfied and not overstuffed, which is not the norm when it comes to other buttery, grilled sandwiches so bravo!

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Yellowfin Tuna Crudo

Next came the yellowfin tuna crudo. Six slices of fresh, raw yellowfin came plated on a wooden board, dressed with mustard fried onions and a seaweed garnish. The acidity of the onions paired very well with the clean flavors of the fish. I’m also a sucker for a good piece of raw tuna, and on a hot day this dish really hit the spot!

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Beet Salad

I was surprised that out of all the dishes we ordered the beet salad was 3rd to arrive because, well, I assume since it was a salad it required minimal prep compared to the cooked dishes, but a lot more went into this than the average salad! This colorful and refreshing summer salad consisted of both red and chioggia beets (marinated or pickled, I wasn’t quite sure) and an avocado aioli delicately, constructed atop fresh summer greens, all dressed with a lemon olive oil dressing. It was light but packed with SO much flavor. This little salad could have almost sufficed as my whole meal, but of course I proceeded to try everyone else’s food because, well, just look at it!

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Baja Fish Sandwich

The last 2 dishes to come out simultaneously were the sandwiches. Both the Baja fish sandwich and the confit duck panini were served on grilled, thick-cut bread, which was definitely necessary to hold in all the deliciousness. The fish sandwich was pretty straightforward, which I think is the best way to serve fish so you can truly appreciate the flavor. Nestled between some sliced avocado, tomatoes, red onions, lettuce, and an avocado aioli, the thick cuts of meaty fish took center stage. There was a great seasoning on the fish as well. I didn’t get a chance to ask exactly what it was but I picked up on some Cajun for sure!

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Confit Duck Panini

And last but the farthest thing from least that could possibly exist in sandwich form, the confit duck panini. It was such a simple sandwich with minimal ingredients but boy was it kick ass! This pan-grilled sandwich was stuff with deliciously decadent confit duck, kim chee, and hoisin aioli. It would have been a little too much if it wasn’t for the acidity of the kim chee that duck the fattiness of the duck just right. This dish was definitely on the saltier side, compared to the others I tried. But that’s nothing another cold beer couldn’t fix 😉


All in all, my family and I had a very satisfying and delightful experience at Central Provisions, and I most definitely wouldn’t mind going back, if only to try more of their extensive craft beer selection downstairs at the bar!

**Food pictured in order which it arrived. Just something to keep in mind when you are thinking about your ordering strategy!**

Sriracha Lime Kale Chips

I have been pretty skeptical of all the pre-packaged and mass produced kale chips I have seen on the market lately, and I was totally aware of how easy they are to make from scratch, but like Pinterest Fails have proven to be true, it’s not always as easy as it looks. However, I was proved wrong when I tried out a simple spicy kale chip recipe myself a couple of weeks ago. My goal was to keep the kale pretty pure, to not lose its healthiness, but I still wanted some flavors to distract from the its bitter nature. I landed on using Sriracha and some kind of citrus as my focal flavors, and found an awesome recipe online that combined those things and more!

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Oven: Bake & pre-heat to 350 degrees

This recipe is very simple and takes about 30 minutes max, from start to finish. I recommend getting the fluffiest and leafiest kale you can find because the chips do shrink up quite a bit in the oven, and if you put multiple trays in at a time, keep an eye on the bottom one because it tends to cook at least 2 minutes quicker than the top! Now, down to the dressing. This delicious concoction is made up of Sriracha sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, and olive oil (measurements below)

1 Tbl Sriracha

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1 Tsp soy sauce

1 Tsp fish sauce

2 Tbl olive oil
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Pour the dressing over a bowl of  chip-sized kale leaves, and with clean hands (or not, totally up to you!) massage the dressing all up and into the nooks and crannies of the kale. Give it a good rub down! Then, once the leaves are fully coated lay them out on greased cookie sheets. Make sure the leaves don’t overlap and that they’re laying as flat as possible, so the chips can really crisp up.

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes, but keep an eye on ’em because they can burn pretty fast!
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Once the chips are all nice and crispy take the trays out of the oven and put them directly onto a paper towel covered plate or metal rack to 1) stop them from cooking anymore and 2) to soak up any extra oils, although the majority should be cooked off. The chips will be very delicate, but that’s part of their natural charm and aesthetic, so if you feel so inclined to pat them dry just be careful not to break them. Within 5 minutes they should be all set to toss into a bowl for snacking!

I like to sprinkle mine with some  garlic salt for a little extra kick, but regular salt and even as is, is just as delicious! Fair warning, these babies do have a little kick, so if you’re not a huge fan of the spicy spice I’d recommend cutting the Sriracha down to 1/2 Tbl because it still does provide some yummy flavor along with the spice!

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Portland, ME for Foodies

Since moving back to New Hampshire for the summer I’ve been itching to get back to that urban atmosphere, so when I saw the kickass forecast for the past few days I knew it was the perfect opportunity to give that itch a good ol’ scratch. Said itch was scratched by the amazing city of Portland, Maine. Now, most people outside of the New England area hear Maine and think moose, snow, and “that’s pretty much Canada isn’t it?”. Well, to those people I say you are doing yourself a huge injustice by missing out on all this great state has to offer, but I also say more for the people who recognize its awesomeness. Portland is about a 45 minutes drive from the ME/NH border and is nestled onto a peninsula along Casco Bay. Portland has always been a popular summertime tourist attraction due to its great ocean views and activities, however in the last 10 years or so the city has really come into its own and become a budding cultural epicenter (and possibly home of the original hipster, but don’t tell Brooklyn or Portland, OR). Unique shops and restaurants began popping up on every corner and started to fill up every block. They even have their very own Urban Outfitters (the true stamp of a trendy city, HA HA HA). But let me get onto what I know you all came here for, THE FOOD!

First off there is such a variety offered from your staple seafood joints, to Indian, to organic/ Farm to Table, and American fusion style cafés. I had the pleasure of spending 2 whole days wondering the city while visiting some friends, and I can honestly say almost every little neighbor has its own handful of exciting edibles. I unintentionally ended up eating my way through Portland tasting a plethora of iced coffees, soup (Kamasouptra), freshly made smoothies (Maine Squeeze), pizza, cakes, doughnuts, gelato, and a pretty impressive breakfast sandwich (Mister Bagel). Portland is also the perfect size in which you can walk practically anywhere, but as a result of my constant walking (and Portland’s variety of elevation) I didn’t get the chance to photograph everything I ate! Peep what I was able to capture on camera before I so gracefully stuffed it into my face, below.

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Honey Baby Latte- Local Sprouts Co-Op

The Honey Baby Latte from Local Sprouts Co-Op on Congress St, is the perfect marriage of aromatic, nutty coffee and cinnamon, nutmeg, and local/organic honey. For someone with a killer sweet tooth ,like myself, this drink was the perfect balance of sweet and bitter. I got it iced because, well it’s Portland in the summertime, and it was amazingly refreshing!

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Vena’s Fizz House

This is actually the one spot I regret not ordering from before I left, but let me tell you I WILL be back! Vena’s Fizz House on Fore Street, is a super-innovative mixology shop & soda fountain that pumps out both alcoholic and non, uniquely flavored beverages. The retail section also has probably one of the widest varieties of cocktail fixings, paraphernalia, and mixes outside of a kitchen supply store. My favorite item is stored in the back inside a large, opened up china/buffet cabinet. These beauties are called Infusion Kits, and are mason jars filled with dried fruits, herbs, and spices that come with a recipe simply recommending what liquor to pair the contents with. There was such a wide variety of flavors that I couldn’t choose just one, but I assure you I’ll be picking some up to try in the very near future!

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Apple, Bacon, and Red Onion- OTTO Pizza

I also had to stop and grab lunch from OTTO Pizza because what’s a trip to Portland without it, right? I am  going to spare you the details on my one slice, which was a sweet and savory, perfectly crunchy slice, and tell you to just get your ass there and try any of their amazing and constantly changing flavor combos for yourself (in fact, if you’re staying in town for a few days I would suggest getting a whole pie or 2!). OTTO makes such a killer pizza with simple and fresh ingredients, it’s comparable to NYC pies that have won over my heart the past 2 years. There are tons of locations throughout Portland and Boston, so just get there already!

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Sweet Potato Donut w/ Ginger Glaze- The Holy Donut

Since Portland is no stranger to the innovative food scene, of course they have an eclectic doughnut shop cutely named, The Holy Donut. What makes their doughnuts extra-special and unique is their potato base which gives the doughnuts a more fluffily, cake-like consistency (which I prefer). They had so many unique flavors to choose from, from dark chocolate sea salt to Allen’s coffee brandy. I went with the Ginger Glazed Sweet Potato. It had a clean, almost carrot cake like flavor, was not super fried or greasy, and had a refreshing finish with the ginger glaze. Definitely recommend this spot on Exchange Street for when you’re craving that little extra somethin’!

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Iced Coffee & Nectarine Coffee Cake- Katie Made Bakery

I picked up my last little snack before laying out at the Eastern Promenade from Katie Made Bakery on Munjoy Hill. It was later in the day but this little bakery was still pumping out fresh baked goods and pastries. I landed on a piece of nectarine coffee cake and an iced coffee. I had never seen a coffee cake quite like this one. The top of the cake was more crust-like than crumbly, and I was nervous the cake would be dry as a result, but I was pleasantly surprised! This little cake was flavorful, moist, and chocked full of sliced nectarines. I could definitely see Katie Made being up there on my go-to list of places off Portland’s beaten path.

Upon this last trip I have truly fallen in love with the city of Portland, Maine. It has so much to offer and seems to just be built for exploring! I’m looking forward to spending my last summer in New England discovering this beautiful city and all of its food and adventure.

 

***If you absolutely cannot make it up to Portland (which I find rather hard to believe because this place is totally worth the trip) many of these bangin’ eats are available to be shipped practically nationwide! You can also find Vena’s Fizz Shop Infusion Kits on Etsy!**