I like food.
I think that’s pretty obvious, right? That’s what I thought. And while there is a very warm and fuzzy and often-hungry place in my heart (and stomach) for dessert, by no means does that lessen my love for all those parts of a meal that come before the sweet stuff.
Without further ado, Chip Chip Hooray ventures into the realm of the savory.
This past weekend, I went and visited Charlie at his summer house “down the Shore.” (Since I am not a native New Jersey-an, I get ruthlessly mocked by my college-roommate-turned-doctor [who is a Jersey girl born and bred] for using the phrase “down the Shore.” Apparently it just confirms my status as a “benny,” aka an intruder from New York who comes down for the weekend, traipses her obnoxious self all over their boardwalk, and leaves again. Alas. I have no defense.)
It was a wonderful weekend all around–a trip to the family-owned ice cream place in town, delicious seafood dinner, and, of course, time relaxing by the waves. (The one hiccup: I fell prey to the “Oh, it’s cloudy! I don’t need sunscreen!” trap. Silly, silly Tara. The vicious sunburn currently making it uncomfortable to be clothed begs to differ. Lesson: Wear your sunscreen, kids; cloud cover don’t mean nothin’.)
For me, though, the highlight of the weekend was definitely Sunday evening. Charlie and I decided to cook a tandem dinner of sorts: he’d put together an entree dish, and I’d take care of the appetizer, side dish, and dessert. Exciting! After an epic trip to Acme to pick up all of the ingredients the two of us would need, we were ready to dive in.
First on the menu? French baguette crostini: tomato and fresh mozzarella on a bed of baby arugula, drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and kosher salt.
Chances are, if you’ve ever been out to dinner with me, you know that my favorite appetizer is caprese salad. Beefsteak tomato, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil…mm, any time of day is a good time for that. I had already been toying with the idea of turning this into a bruschetta or crostini of some sort, and when Charlie and I decided to cook, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out!
Main course: Sauteed chicken breast in a marsala cream sauce cooked with shallots, mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes.
I’m not the biggest red meat person, so Charlie concocted this delicious chicken dish. The flavors blended together amazingly–since he cooked the sauce in the same pan that he’d sauteed the chicken, the sauce thickened up beautifully with just a little bit of cream. The mushrooms plumped up with the flavors they absorbed from the chicken and the marsala wine, and the sundried tomatoes just added this fantastic tang to the whole thing that made the dish really summery. The fresh chives and parsley on top made it even more colorful.
And on the side: Spicy roasted red potatoes.
I joked with Charlie that I was going to call these “brave potatoes,” because they almost have the same sort of flavor as patatas bravas, one of the most popular tapas you can find in Spain. If you’ve ever had them, think a taste along those lines. In making these, I was trying to imitate this packaged herb and spice rub my mom used to buy for red potatoes. Whenever I’d make them in college using the mix, my roommates would go nuts–I couldn’t leave my leftovers in the fridge because they’d always get stolen!
And for dessert, these fabulous chewy chocolate peanut butter bars from Kristan at Confessions of a Cupcake Queen (which we made the night before so they’d be all set in the fridge when we were finished cooking and stuffing ourselves silly).
|I know, I know. Saccharine overload.|
After our homemade dinner for two, the perfect end to the night was curling up on the couch with some pinot grigio and the Tony awards. Seriously, could a Sunday evening be any better? Happy cooking!
Tomato and Mozzarella Crostini
1 loaf French baguette (you won’t use the whole thing, obviously, unless you’re planning on feeding your entire extended family. But I trust your ingenuity–I’m sure you can find plenty of other uses for the remaining baguette.)
1 clove fresh garlic, peeled
1 large tomato (think the beefsteak variety–you want something that’ll hold its shape when you dice it up)
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese
1-2 cups baby arugula
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Slice the baguette into pieces about 1 inch thick. Arrange the crostini (as many as you’d like–we did 10 for the two of us because we reaaaally like crostini, haha) on a baking sheet lined with nonstick foil.
3. Brush the top face of each crostini with some of the olive oil, just enough to moisten it.
4. Rub the peeled garlic clove on the top of each crostini to infuse it with garlic flavor (hard enough that the nub of garlic wears down and you’ll have used up the whole clove by the time you finish).
5. Put the tray of crostini in the oven for about 12 minutes, just enough so that they toast and will still have enough crunch to them when you add the moister ingredients.
6. When the crostini are toasted, let them cool for a few minutes while you dice the tomato and mozzarella into tiny cubes. (If you’re only cooking for two like I was, you probably won’t need the entire tomato or the entire ball of mozzarella, either. Lunch leftovers!) Place together in a bowl on the side.
7. Transfer cooled crostini to a serving plate or dish. Layer a few leaves of arugula on each crostini, so that it covers the face of the bread and makes a little bed.
8. Distribute your tomato and mozzarella mix on top of each arugula-d crostini. Go nuts! I never mind when my crostini are spilling over the side–better too generous than too stingy, is my philosophy.
9. Drizzle the tops of your crostini with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
10. Sprinkle some kosher salt over the top of your crostini.
Spicy Roasted Red Potatoes (“Brave Potatoes”)
6 red potatoes (more if you’re feeding a bigger crowd)
4 tbsp virgin olive oil
1/2 – 1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp cayenne**
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp rosemary, plus more for dusting
Pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Wash your potatoes well (since you’re not peeling them) and chop them into bite-sized pieces–not as small as if you were dicing, maybe about 2 inches long by 1 inch thick (you shouldn’t have to cut one to eat it when you spear it with your fork). Place potatoes in a large bowl.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, paprika, cayenne, Italian seasoning, and rosemary. Stir well with a fork to combine. Add in pepper to taste–I would recommend about half a teaspoon.
4. Pour mixture over potatoes and toss until they are fully coated. Repeat step 2 to make more oil rub if needed.
5. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil and lay potatoes out on the baking sheet in a single layer. Do your best to make sure none are piled on top of each other, as this will prevent them from getting nice and crispy in the oven.
6. Sprinkle additional rosemary on top of the potato layer, as well as a generous few pinches of kosher salt.
7. Place potatoes in oven and roast for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from oven and use tongs to turn potato chunks so non-roasted sides are now facing up. Continue to roast for another 15-20 minutes.
8. Check potatoes at this point–are the edges starting to brown and crisp up? If not, leave them in for another 10 minutes or so. The nice thing about these potatoes is that it’s pretty hard to burn them–I like mine on the crispier side as it is!
9. When potatoes are roasted to your liking, remove tray from the oven. Transfer potatoes to bowl and serve!
**I think it’s worth noting that the next time I make these, I’m going to scale back a little on the cayenne. The potatoes definitely had a nice heat to them, but I want to see if I can get the rosemary to be more of the dominant flavor. However, if you love spice (or if you have a boyfriend like mine who could not stop extolling the glorious kick these potatoes had [keep in mind we’ve yet to find a cuisine of any ethnicity too hot for this boy]), you might think they’re just fine the way they are.