pear & pecorino pasta

so it’s been awhile.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

how’ve you been?

when i wrote my last post, i truly had no idea that it would be almost six months before i posted another one. and wouldn’t you know it – my last recipe was for veggie pasta, and this one is for fresh pasta with fruit.

a lot has happened in the last six months. i took a trip to wine country with my husband, and had more wine and cheese in a week than ever before – and that’s really saying something.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

i photographed some really beautiful restaurants for eater

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

central wharf company

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

row 34

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

steel & rye

ward 8

ward 8

…and also got the chance to take some chef portraits.

steve peljovich

steve peljovich

garrett harker, skip bennett, & jeremy sewall

garrett harker, skip bennett, & jeremy sewall

steve "nookie" postal

steve “nookie” postal

i spent thanksgiving up in maine, and enjoyed a leisurely christmas at home for the first time.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

the cookbook that i styled is finally getting shipped.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

lobster mac & cheese bites from “stuffed” by dan whalen

and i landed a very exciting new position with oyster.com, taking photographs and writing reviews of hotels all around new england. i should start traveling for them in a few weeks.

and in the in-betweens, i really have been cooking. and taking photographs. and writing. i participated in national novel writing month for the first time in ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pastanovember,and successfully wrote 50,000 words of a new, original novel in 30 days. and maybe eventually, i’ll even finish it and try to get the thing published.

but i’ve also been a bit low. trying to find paid, full-time work in a creative field is exhausting, and discouraging, and draining. you put so much into your work, and it’s so easy to get taken advantage of. people want you to work for free, to give your photographs or writing or editing away like it’s not worth anything. they can’t do it themselves, but they don’t think it’s valuable enough to pay you to do it.

i’m not crazy. i know that most people aren’t 100% happy with their jobs, that most aren’t following their dreams or doing something they love every day. but i’ve worked the random jobs, the unappreciated jobs, the minimum wage jobs. i’ve bussed tables and made coffee and worked at malls on black friday and christmas eve. i’ve been an intern. i’ve worked for nothing – sometimes i’ve even ended up losing money after my jobs. i went to college and when that didn’t get me what i wanted, i went to graduate school. and when that didn’t get me what i wanted, i started taking photography classes. and it was tough. and it seemed like the job i wanted might not really exist. but somehow i have continued to dream that i could do something wonderful, something that sparked my passion, something that let me express myself and make beautiful things and inspire people.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

i don’t know if i’m ever truly going to do that. i’m not even sure that i know what that looks like, for me. but in a few weeks i’ll be getting paid to not only take photographs of beautiful restaurants and talented chefs, but also photograph new hotels and landscapes. and for the first time, i’ll get paid to write. and i think that that’s pretty wonderful.

but food is also wonderful. and this blog has always reminded me, even when i don’t write as regularly as i’d like, that a well-crafted, addictive, can’t-wait-to-cook-that recipe can soothe and calm and lift spirits. and while the posts might not go up every day (or even every month), i don’t want to stop blogging. i don’t want to stop cooking. i don’t want to stop loving food for the delicious pleasure that it can bring.

and in my opinion, this recipe does that.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

i received a pasta machine for my birthday, and after i swallowed my pride and gave it a shot, i realized that it really isn’t at all hard to make homemade, hand-crafted pasta. i haven’t made it into the big leagues and tried making tortellini or anything too fancy yet, but there’s something about making fresh pasta at home that’s really inspiring. ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pastathere’s so much you can do with it, and it gives you such a sense of pride, of accomplishment. it’s pretty cool to serve handmade pasta, with handmade sauce, and know that your effort went into everything on the plate.

if you want to take the plunge, you don’t need a machine to do it – but it definitely makes the process less intimidating (especially if, like me, you don’t have an experienced italian grandmother to teach you how to do it). i love the book making artisan pasta for recipes and techniques, and this recipe for basic egg pasta is a no-brainer.

but if you don’t feel like making fresh pasta (it does make a bit of a mess, and don’t wear black like i did or you will walk around with flour on your tummy until someone points it out to you), just use whatever you like. i won’t tell.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

this recipe was inspired by the pears that kept showing up in my winter fruit share, week after week, from the fantastic crew at SomethingGud. i like the flavor of pears but rarely enjoy eating them raw, and i wanted a savory dish that would bring out their sweety, spicy flavor.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

pear & pecorino pasta

2 ripe pears ( i used bosc, use what you love)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
a pinch each of salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ounce pecorino romano cheese, in a single piece, plus shavings for garnish
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 cup arugula, roughly chopped
enough pasta for two people (i refuse to tell you how much pasta to eat. that’s your journey and i won’t interfere…but i made about two cups of fresh pasta for two people.)

preheat your oven to 425 degrees. quarter and core your pears, and place on a baking ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pastasheet or ovensafe dish. in an small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and rosemary. brush over the pears, and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until soft and golden brown. allow to cool.

in a saucepan, combine wine, butter, salt and pepper. bring to a simmer and allow to reduce, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. add cheese, rosemary, and red pepper flakes, continuing to stir until cheese is melting and sauce is beginning to thicken. if the cheese has melted completely you can leave it in – otherwise, remove it and discard.

once the pears are cool enough to touch, carefully remove the peels. dice the pears and add them to your sauce. (if you’d prefer a smooth sauce, you can puree the pears before adding them.) turn heat to low, cooking for five more minutes. at this point, taste and adjust accordingly with salt and pepper. you can add more wine (or your favorite stock) if you find the sauce too thick, or more butter if you’d like it to be thicker.

cook your pasta according to recipe or package instructions. fresh pasta only takes a few minutes to cook – i cook mine for about 2 minutes – so don’t start the pasta until you’re ready to eat. strain the pasta and toss with the sauce, adding the arugula. separate into serving dishes or individual bowls and garnish with shaved pecorino.

ginger-snapped.com | pear & pecorino pasta

fresh veggie pasta

pasta is yummy.

fresh veggie pasta | ginger-snapped.comthere’s no getting around it. and why would you even try? it’s filling, homey, comforting, and so versatile it’s ridiculous. you could eat pasta every day for a year and not repeat a recipe (and probably get huge and never want to leave the house, but that’s beside the point).

i usually eat pasta few times a week, either at home or out. this is not exactly intentional – as much as i love it, i should choose healthier alternatives. i prefer fresh pasta, naturally, but we always have boxes of dried pasta around for emergency situations. and sometimes, mac & cheese is really the only thing that will do when it’s 2am and you desperately need something to eat.

(and lately, i’ve had mac & cheese on the brain. i was the food stylist for a boston food blogger’s cookbook last week, dan whalen of the food in my beard, and he’s not shy about using mac & cheese in absolutely debaucherous ways. example:

IMG_1755

you see what i’m saying. when presented with deep fried mac & cheese balls – complete with lobster – one must eat. but i digress.)

in my endless pursuit of delicious meals that won’t make me gain 20 pounds, i’ve been intrigued by this veggie pasta trend. not just for spaghetti squash anymore, chefs and home cooks alike are using zucchini, squash, carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, and tons of other vegetables to mimic the shape and texture of traditional pasta noodles – but with much more nutritional value, and far less calories. i’m sure you’ve heard of this. of course, not only did i want healthier noodles, i wanted those lovely, thin,  fettuccini-like noodles – and to get those, one generally has to use the dreaded mandoline.

fresh veggie pasta | ginger-snapped.com

i’ll be honest – i’m terrified of mandolines. i don’t even own one. i watch cooking shows religiously and it seems like every time a chef pulls one of these out, it’s only a matter of time before they cut themselves in dramatic, horrifying fashion. it’s always fast, it’s always deep, and it always puts them out of the competition for at least twenty minutes.

fresh veggie pasta | ginger-snapped.comain’t nobody got time for that. and i like my fingers attached to my hands and injury-free, thank you very much. so i gave up the dream and settled for ordering veggie-made pasta in restaurants.

my lovely friend nicole brought these noodles up again over dinner the other night, during a lively discussion on reducing meat in our diet, reminding me of my abandoned pasta idea. there had to be a way to cut these lovely little noodles that wouldn’t put my hands in danger.

naturally, the internet provided a number of ideas. the spiralizer. the box grater. the vegetable peeler. the julienne peeler, which i need to get my hands on immediately. and if you’re not irrationally afraid of particular kitchen tools, the mandoline.

fresh veggie pasta | ginger-snapped.com

like most of my recipes, this one is infinitely adaptable. there are a million ways to make these noodles, and in the same way, there are a million ways to prepare them. play with sauces, add other veggies to the mix, top it off with cheese…or, you could always add meat. but i’m trying to lose weight over here, so i used a few different vegetables, added some regular fresh pasta, and added a light, simple sauce. i ate this with a light lentil salad on the side and was a happy (healthy!) camper.

fresh veggie pasta

find me on instagram @megjoneswall

find me on instagram @megjoneswall

3 large carrots
1 zucchini
roughly 4 ounces fresh fettucini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

peel carrots and zucchini, and trim ends. use your favorite method to cut vegetables into pasta noodles – i used a vegetable peeler. peel long strips, turning vegetables around so that all strips are evenly sized. save the cores for a salad or sauce.

in a large pot, boil several cups of water, salted to taste. cook fresh pasta noodles according to package instructions. i like to do half veggie pasta and half regular pasta, but adjust according to your preferences.

heat olive oil in a medium saucepan, then add white wine and butter. when sauce starts to thicken,  add carrot and zucchini noodles. saute for a minute. stir until mixed, then add cooked fresh pasta noodles. add parsley, dried red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. cook until sauce is thickened, another minute or two, then remove from heat and put into a serving bowl. top with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

fresh veggie pasta | ginger-snapped.com

summer recipe roundup

it’s finally here.

summer recipe roundup | ginger-snapped.com

that most delicious, wonderful, exquisite time of year when the recipes come out, grilling parties and beach festivals go wild, and the eating is amazing.

summer recipe roundup | ginger-snapped.com

summer recipe roundup | ginger-snapped.com

 

summer recipe roundup | ginger-snapped.com

yes, dear readers. it’s tomato season.

summer recipe roundup | ginger-snapped.com

and in honor of this most delightful fruit, i’ve gathered together some of my most popular summer recipes, many of which feature the tomato. there’s nothing quite like a fresh, just-picked heirloom tomato, straight from the farmer’s market, with just a little salt – just cut that sucker up and eat it whole. if you’re in the mood for something more elaborate, check out a few of the following:

summer recipe roundup | ginger-snapped.com tomato, cheddar & basil summer pie

lentil & veggie salad

summer gazpacho

orzo salad

super fresh ceviche

fish tacos

and, from the back of the vault… the ultimate blt

what’s your favorite tomato recipe?

craft cocktails & a SNAP giveaway

there’s something positively exquisite about a well-crafted cocktail.

ginger-snapped.com | SNAP cocktails & a giveaway

fortunately, boston – and somerville, the neighboring town i live in – has a number of talented bartenders and watering holes that specialize in craft cocktails. i never do it in a crowded bar, but i always love when i get the chance to actually chat with a bartender who really knows their stuff and will talk to me about what i might like to drink. i’m a gin girl, but it usually gets me in trouble. i also love a spicy rye, and of course, a scotch that’s old enough to drink itself. my parents instilled an appreciation of fine wine in me from an early age, and you really can’t live in this area (or be a diehard football fan) without drinking good beer.

ginger-snapped.com | SNAP cocktails & a giveaway

i love a good cocktail, but when it comes to drinks that i mix at home, i tend to go simple. gin & tonic, dark & stormy, mimosas – i lean towards cocktails with two or three ingredients, maximum. i typically leave the fancy mixology up to the experts, and stick to wine, beer, and simple cocktails when i’m hanging out at my house. but one of my favorite things to find are specialty liquors. local brews, specialty bitters, and unique syrups that jazz up a classic cocktail and make it something new and exciting.  there’s something delightful about trying an unexpected combination of flavors, and then getting to share that with other like-minded, boozehound-type people. it helps that most of my friends share my affinity for delicious, well-blended cocktails, and we’re always on the lookout for something we haven’t tried before. i’d really like to start posting more cocktail recipes, since the simple ones that i make at home aren’t that difficult to recreate.

shake it up! follow me on instagram @ megjoneswall

shake it up! follow me on instagram @ megjoneswall

and seriously, guys. have you tried these craft organic spirits by art in the age of mechanical reproduction? because they’re too cool for words. literally, you have to try them to understand why they’re so fascinating and delicious and absolutely alluring, whether you sip them straight up or try them in one of many delicious custom cocktail recipes.

i’ve long been a fan of ROOT, a delicious, dark and spicy spirit that harkens back to the original 1700’s herbal remedy called “root tea,” which we call (in its non-alcoholic form), “root beer.” i was lucky enough ginger-snapped.com | SNAP cocktails & a giveawayto attend a launch party for the company’s newest offering, RHUBARB TEA, just a few weeks ago. and this new spirit is a lot of fun – sweet with hint of crispness, sour and tart but with a touch of spice. they even teamed up with union square donuts to create a scrumptious limited-edition donut using the spirit. but when i realized that they had an offering named SNAP, i knew we had to get together. i mean, come on. ginger-snapped and SNAP organic spirit. is there a more perfect combination? i think not.

and truly, this spirit is worth dropping everything for – seriously, stop reading and go find yourself a bottle. i was a little worried that it would be cloyingly sweet, or that the ginger’s spiciness would overpower everything else. i was wrong. rather than using artificial flavors to recreate the peppery sweetness of a gingersnap cookie, instead real ingredients like ginger, allspice, molasses, and nutmeg are distilled to create a beautifully balanced, buttery and warm spirit that hits all the right notes.

ginger-snapped.com | SNAP cocktails & a giveaway

beyond just getting the word out on this beyond scrumptious beverage, we’ve teamed up to host a fantastic giveaway! one lucky winner will receive a generous SNAP prize pack, which includes a SNAP mug, a sample pack of hella bitters, an art in the age t-shirt, whiskey disks, and a package of field notes for all of your tasting adventures!

entering is simple. all you have to do is comment on this post with your favorite cocktail (or cocktails-with-an-S, if you’re like me and hate choosing favorites). you can even get an extra entry for each of the following:

-like ginger-snapped on facebook
-like art in the age on facebook
-follow @ginger__snapped on twitter
-follow @artintheage on twitter
-tweet about the giveaway and include a link to this post (ex. i just entered to win a SNAP spirit prize pack from @artintheage & @ginger__snapped – you can too! http://wp.me/p1qaTw-ys)

for each additional entry, please post a separate comment on this post – combined posts with all entries will only count as one extra entry. the contest ends friday, july 5th at 11:30pm. the winner will be selected using random.org, and will be notified via email. see rules and regulations at the end of the post for more info.

ginger-snapped.com | SNAP cocktails & a giveaway

and of course, no cocktail giveaway post would be complete without a yummy homemade cocktail featuring SNAP! this is a twist on the classic whiskey smash, which my husband and i are both mildly obsessed with. after playing around with a few combinations, we both loved this refreshing, sweet and spicy cocktail – and it’s really easy to make at home. feel free to substitute regular simple syrup if that’s what you have, but it’s ridiculously easy to make ginger-infused simple syrup at home, and is definitely worth the extra few minutes.

ginger-snapped.com | SNAP cocktails & a giveaway

gingerSNAP smash

7 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon ginger simple syrup
1/4 cup SNAP liqueur

in a cocktail shaker or large glass, use a muddler or end of a wooden spoon to gently muddle mint, lemon, and ginger simple syrup. add several cubes of ice and the SNAP. give a few solid shakes, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. garnish with fresh mint.

ginger-snapped.com | SNAP cocktails & a giveaway

contest ends friday, july 5th, 2013 at 11:30pm. all entries will be verified, and any entry that does not follow rules will be removed and disqualified (i.e. extra entries by participants that have not followed on social media or tweeted appropriately). winner will be notified and prize will be sent directly from art in the age. open to legal residents of the united states, 18 years of age and older. please note that ginger-snapped is not responsible for sponsors that do not ship their prize. if you win and do not hear from ginger-snapped or the sponsor within 30 days, please contact me by email. after 30 days, i may no longer be able to assist you. by providing information on this blog post, you are providing information to me and me alone. your information will not be sold or shared and will be used for the sole purpose of contacting the winner.

this contest is now ended. congratulations to the winner, #6 – kate hamman knapp! thank you to everyone who participated, and stay on the lookout for more cocktail recipes & contests, coming soon!

summer orzo salad

it’s june.

flowers

did you just do a happy dance? because i did.

drink stand

church window

i’ve spent most of my life living in new england, but i can’t help it – i really am a california girl, through and through. i’ve been to some amazingly beautiful places, but my favorites always have the same things: sunshine, salt water, and palm trees.

hancock?

but living in boston really makes you appreciate these warm summer months. they slip by so quickly, you have to take advantage of every warm, sunny day – because before you know it, we’ll be buried under twenty feet of snow and will be digging your car out, chipping ice off the windows, and longing for those hot, humid days of august.

gate

hat

alley

and boston is really gorgeous this time of year. greenery everywhere, happy dogs, bright flowers, cold beer, farmer’s markets, and all the best food festivals. fresh fruits and veggies, refreshing cocktails, and mouth-watering seafood. what could be better?

salad plate

i’d like to submit an often-overlooked lovely thing about summer. it’s easy, fresh, energizing, and completely delicious – yes, i’m talking about cold summer salads. i feel like dishes like potato salads, pasta salads, and grain salads sometimes get a bad rap – people think they’re so simple that they aren’t worth eating. they’re a grocery store cop-out. they’re generic and boring. but i think good salads can be absolutely fantastic. perfect as a side dish for a grilled dinner, easy to add protein to for a complete meal in a bowl, and fun to bring to a picnic or barbecue -what more do you need? i’ve already written about my favorite lentil salad, as well as a delicious pasta salad with tofu, but i want to submit a new one for the collection: mediterranean orzo salad.

orzo

this salad, like most others, is about as simple and easy to customize as can be. take orzo, add a bunch of stuff you like, stir it up, and eat it. i have a tendency to go a little overboard with fresh veggies and other goodies, so my recipe includes red onion, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, basil, and garlic, along with feta cheese, olives, and capers. you don’t have to use that much stuff if you don’t want – use what’s in your house, or what you find at the farmer’s market. use what makes you happy. 

garlic

 

clearly, garlic makes me happy.

salad closeup

mediterranean orzo salad

12 ounces orzo, cooked according to package directions
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed or diced
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 large handfuls of baby spinach, roughly chopped
10 olives, roughly chopped (i used a mix of stuffed green and kalamata)
5 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 small red onion, finely sliced
2 tsp capers
salt and pepper to taste

in a large sauce pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. add garlic and allow to saute for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. add cooked orzo and stir, coating in garlic oil. put everything into a large bowl, and top with lemon juice and zest. add spinach, olives, feta cheese, tomato, pepper, onion, and capers. get liberal with your salting and peppering, and stir well. top with extra olive oil or lemon juice if you like.

this dish is great warm, and is also really yummy to make the day before and serve chilled. or you can do what i do and have some right after you make it, then put it in the refrigerator and eat some more later.

salad bowl

 

happy june! and get excited – i have another amazing giveaway coming up in the next few weeks!

scones & a giveaway

in my house growing up, maple syrup was something of a necessity. bacon was mandatory. pancakes were always made from scratch. and breakfast was an extremely big deal.

square plate | ginger-snapped.com

but it took my family a little while to figure out that real maple syrup is a completely different thing than the super sweet syrup that comes in plastic bottles shaped like a lady. my immediate family is from the west coast, and i always grew up eating the fake stuff, not realizing that there was something vastly superior being consumed on the other side of the country. we didn’t know hardly anything about it, but my parents wanted us kids to be comfortable in our new homes and to try foods that were more specific to our new home of new england. after moving from southern california to northern vermont, my parents bundled my brother and i into the car, drove us out to the woods, and tried to take us maple sugaring…in september.

cinnamon | ginger-snapped.com

obviously, we were all a little disappointed to learn that sugaring happens in the spring. and to be honest, when my family first tasted pure, made-from-tree-sap syrup, none of us were that crazy about it. but it seemed ridiculous at our weekly sunday brunch to take my father’s incredible, fluffy, chock-full-of-love homemade pancakes and smother them with fake syrup, so we gave the real stuff a shot. and the more we tried it, the more we fell in love with the pure, delicious flavor of authentic maple syrup. it’s impossible to imagine going back now.

syrup | ginger-snapped.comthis is all a little embarrassing to admit, since i now do my best to consume as many local foods as possible and put real emphasis on eating natural, whole, healthy foods – but i try to just remind myself that we’re all a little foolish when we’re younger. after all, i used to hate tomatoes. clearly i had a lot to learn.

and while i’ve tasted some truly delicious maple syrup over the years, the syrup crafted at sweet brook farm, right here in massachusetts, is one of the best i’ve ever had. rich, sweet, with complex, beautiful flavors. i use it for all kinds of things, from pancakes to oatmeal to chicken to bacon, but i really love it in scones – it adds so much flavor and moisture and makes these perfect breakfast pastries light and sweet and positively lovely.

of course, any good quality maple syrup will work in the following recipe, but i’m giving you a chance to score your very own bottle of sweet brook farm syrup, along with some other yummy local treats! but first…

napkin | ginger-snapped.com

maple syrup & toffee scones

1/4 cup really good maple syrup
1/3 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled or steel-cut oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1/4 cup toffee bits, plus extra for topping
2 tablespoons brown sugar

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

in a small bowl, mix together maple syrup and milk.

in a large bowl, or the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, toffee | ginger-snapped.comand sea salt. add cubed butter – you can either mix this with your fingers, or lightly pulse in a food processor until mixture is crumbly. slowly add syrup and milk mixture until dough is just holding together, but isn’t sticky – you may not need the entire mixture. add the toffee bits and stir gently.

dump dough out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times, just enough so that the dough stays together. press dough into a square or a circle, and cut into 12 even pieces. i like squares, but you can also do triangles, or split it into 12 little round balls – whatever makes you happy. place the scones onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, with at least half an inch between them. mix brown sugar with a bit more toffee, and sprinkle mixture onto the top of each scone.

bake scones for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. eat these warm, preferably with hot coffee and a few friends. you can add butter, honey, jam, or more maple syrup, but they’re delicious all on their own.

crumbs | ginger-snapped.com

in honor of my 100th post, i’m delighted to announce that i’ve partnered with eat boutique to give away one of their exquisite and delicious local artisan food gift boxes! if you don’t know about this beautiful blog and shop, get your butt to their site right now. maggie batista and her talented team find the best of local syrups, spices, cookies, and other goodies and package them all up into these beautiful gift boxes that you can send off to your friends and family. i’ve both given new-england-gift-box-2_1024x1024and received these as gifts, and they’re an absolutely wonderful thing for any food lover in your life.

the winner of this giveaway will receive a special new england gift box, made just for ginger-snapped, containing taza chocolateQ’s nutssalt traders saltsweet brook farm maple syrup, and new harvest coffee beans. all items are produced right here in new england, and the chocolate and nuts are both actually from somerville, where i live – i can personally vouch for their deliciousness.

to enter, click the link below to enter through rafflecopter – the form is also available on the ginger-snapped facebook page. you can earn extra entries by following on facebook and twitter, or by tweeting about the contest. these boxes can only be shipped within the US, so the contest is only open to US residents. the winner will be selected with rafflecopter. the giveaway ends friday, may 24th, and the winner will be announced right here, as well as on facebook and twittergood luck!

this contest is now closed. the lucky winner is emily olson – congratulations! i’ve emailed you, so let me know where we can send your lovely prize. thanks to everyone who entered, and keep your eye on the blog because i have another giveaway coming up in june!

maple syrup & toffee scones | ginger-snapped.com

citrus & chicken

it’s been an overwhelming few months.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

getting through the end of winter and welcoming spring with open arms. beginning a photography class and trying to boost my resume, fantasizing about working with food and drinks and words and photographs and social media and all those lovely things all day, every day. trying to come to terms with ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta saladthe death of my long-ill grandmother and a bombing in my city, all in the same week. running a half marathon in dc a week and a half after the marathon bombers were apprehended, and being overwhelmed by support and love and refusing to give in to fear.

i haven’t known what to say here. too much has happened, and it feels like i’ve been struggling to keep my head above water. but as well as not writing, i haven’t been cooking either. and i miss both. these things keep me grounded, keep me together. they remind me of who i really am, what i want. and these things that i often take for granted, getting lost in a beautiful novel or letting my words spill out into the universe or playing with old ingredients to create something new – i need them. even if my dream job doesn’t exist, even if i end up doing something completely unrelated to food or visual media or writing – i need to keep doing this.

this blog is a selfish thing, really. sometimes it keeps me sane. it reminds me to take joy in small victories, to continue writing and taking pictures and staying in touch with other food-loving people in my life. it makes me happy, even when it’s not easy.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

so does this recipe, actually. except that unlike my blog entries, this recipe takes about twenty minutes to prepare.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

the story of this dish is a little strange. i’m taking a photography class at the new england school of photography with a delightful photographer named keitaro yoshioka, and it’s absolutely wonderful. and after classes on the basics, on light, portraits, sports, families, and landscapes, we finally got to my bread and butter (pun only partially intended) – still life photography.

naturally, after playing with some other objects, i just had to start shooting food. wanting to play more withginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad natural light, as well as use studio lighting and some other techniques we’d learned in class, i chose several vivid citrus fruits, cut them into various shapes, and spent a delightful afternoon playing around with my camera.

of course, i was left with some images that i really loved…and a large tupperware bursting with fresh-cut citrus, just waiting to be used in some bright, tart, addictive dish.

what else could i do but start cooking?

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

the great thing about cold pasta salads like this is that you can adapt them to whatever you have on hand. try adding capers, or bell peppers, or a little red onion. leave out the feta or switch it up for another cheese that you like. use greek yogurt with lemon juice instead of the vinaigrette if you’re pressed for time or want it to be creamier or simply aren’t in the mood to dice up a shallot. and if you don’t happen to have a refrigerator full of cut-up fruit, you can use whatever you like. try all lemon, add some more lime, or focus more on the grapefruit. it’s completely up to you – think of this recipe as more of a rough guideline.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta saladcitrus chicken & pasta salad with honey-citrus vinaigrette

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast or chicken tenders, shredded
12 ounces pasta, cooked al dente
1 large tomato, diced
6-8 basil leaves, finely diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, as needed to taste

vinaigrette
(this recipe makes more than you’ll need for the pasta salad – use the rest on greens, veggies, or as a marinade for fish or poultry!)

1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

in a large bowl, combine shredded chicken (this is my preferred method of preparing the shredded chicken), cooled pasta, tomato, basil, feta cheese, and red pepper flakes. in a mason jar or reusable container, combine shallot, honey, olive oil, white wine vinegar, orange juice, grapefruit juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. toss as much dressing as you like in with the chicken and pasta mixture, then add extra salt and pepper as needed. you can serve this warm and eat it immediately, or chill it until you’re ready – it’s yummy either way.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

a french onion soup day.

some days are soup days. no explanations necessary.

ginger-snapped - french onion soup

and soup is a delightful thing. on a soup day, there are no possible substitutions. nothing else can warm a soul that is chilled to the bone, a body that is weary, or a heart that needs comforting. and many soups can do this job quite well. some days require simple, beautiful tomato soup (grilled cheese optional but encouraged). other days i want to feel like a real boston girl and enjoy some fresh new england clam chowder. and my vegetable minestrone is a favorite in our house for a hearty meal that still fills the soup criteria.

ginger-snapped - french onion soup

but yesterday was a french onion soup kind of day. the dogs were cranky, my husband has been traveling far too much, and spring keeps teasing us by poking its head out, looking around, and then ducking when boston gets nailed with another half a foot of snow.
ginger-snapped - french onion soupi’m craving greenery. i’m so tired of white and gray, of big, ugly snow boots and too many layers. i can’t
wait to see buds on the trees
, to spot flowers slowly unfurling from the earth, and to savor that delicious, indescribably gorgeous scent that always lingers when spring is approaching. you know what i’m talking about. winter smells pretty too, but i’m ready for a new fragrance.

but until spring actually arrives, we must content ourselves with the comforting flavors of almost-spring… i.e. warm, boozy, sweet, salty and fragrant french onion soup. with bread and cheese on top. and a glass of wine on the side.

ginger-snapped - french onion soup

i’m a simple girl. bread, cheese, onions, and wine – that’s pretty much all that i need to keep me happy.

this recipe is essentially julia’s, with a few modifications. i used homemade turkey stock, but you’re free to substitute chicken stock or more beef stock (or use a hearty vegetable or mushroom stock if you don’t eat meat). also, this soup is so good on its own that you don’t technically need to top it with the crouton and cheese…but i’m never one to turn down bread and cheese.

ginger-snapped - french onion soup

(let’s not pretend this is a healthy meal. soup days are not days that we count calories.)

classic french onion soup

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oilginger-snapped - french onion soup
6 tbsp butter
5 cups sliced onions
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp flour
1 cup white wine (i like to use chardonnay but do what you want)
2 cups beef stock
4 cups turkey or chicken stock 
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp brandy or cognac
salt and pepper, to taste (if necessary)

a few thick slices of crusty bread
2 tbsp butter
8 oz gruyère cheese, grated

in a large saucepan or stockpot, heat oil and butter until melted. add the onions and cook covered, on low heat, for 10-15 minutes. uncover and add sugar and salt. turn heat up to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until caramelized a deep, even brown, about 40 minutes. (this is a good time to put on fun music or reruns of your favorite television show, because while your house is going to smell amazing, it’s a little boring stirring onions and waiting for them to brown*.)

ginger-snapped - french onion souponce onions are browned, add flour and stir, allowing to cook for another 3 minutes. add minced garlic and worcestershire sauce, and cook for another minute before adding wine, beef stock, and turkey stock. cover partially and simmer for another 30-40 minutes. add brandy, salt and pepper to taste if needed, and you’re done.

at this point, if you’re making the soup ahead (which i highly recommend but rarely have the strength to accomplish), let it cool and put it away. the flavor will just continue to deepen and develop until you’re ready to eat. if you’re like me and can’t resist the fragrance that will be filling your home, move on to the next step.

spread thick slices of crusty bread with butter and toast until crunchy. spoon soup into oven-safe bowls and top with bread and a generous amount of gruyère. place on a baking sheet and pop these under the broiler until cheese is bubbling and golden brown. eat immediately.

*cook’s illustrated has developed a method of caramelizing onions in the oven, which appears to work very well. my dutch oven isn’t large enough, but if you try it, please report back!

ginger-snapped - french onion soup

just meatloaf

this post is a long time coming.

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not because i don’t like meatloaf, because i absolutely love meatloaf. not because i don’t make it often, because my husband loves it and it’s often our “we only have dinner together once a week so let’s make it special by eating something fattening” meal. not even because it’s not the most photogenic dish in the world.

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(it’s really not.)

to be completely honest, i just haven’t known what to say about this dish. my mother never made it. i didn’t grow up eating it. it wasn’t one of those dishes i always wanted to be good at preparing, like tomato sauce or souffle or coq au vin. it wasn’t even a dish that i frequently ordered in restaurants. i’ve wanted to write this post for months (months!) but simply haven’t known how to write about meatloaf.

but these days, boston is a bit of a bummer. there’s obscene amounts of snow everywhere, the roads are crazy, everyone in the state is cranky, and just doing everyday tasks is exhausting and frustrating.

i opened my door saturday morning, and this is what i found...

i opened my door saturday morning, and this is what i found…

meatloaf always seemed to me like a kitchen sink sort of dish, something you made when you didn’t know what else to do and wanted to get rid of leftover veggies. not that those kinds of dishes are bad – they’ve saved me on more than one occasion – but it didn’t seem like a dish that one would master the art of, a dish that one painstakingly prepared.

dear readers, i was wrong. meatloaf may not be complicated to make. it may not be incredibly sophisticated or win you points with “high food” people. it’s probably not the dish to win over your pickier family members or friends. and honestly, it has kind of an icky-sounding name. but it is so, so good. comforting, warm, like a big hug from your oven. and when there’s this much snow, and simply going to the grocery store and then finding a parking spot is a serious undertaking (because, inevitably, your cranky neighbors will have stolen the spot you spent hours shoveling out the day before, and now you have to carry your groceries half a mile back to your house because the only available spot is on the other side of the neighborhood), the only thing that will help is something simple and delicious. and meatloaf is so easy to put together, and so completely worth the minimal effort that it takes, that there’s really no excuse not to make it. 

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there are so many variations that it’s overwhelming – suffice to say, this recipe is infinitely changeable. don’t like celery? leave it out. prefer ground lamb instead of pork? go for it. wish it had more cheese? i would never, ever stop you from adding more cheese. and if you want this to be even more decadent, pull a ree drummond and wrap the whole thing in bacon.

not-quite-kitchen-sink meatloaf

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced or pressed
2 stalks celery, diced
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp chopped parsley
2 tsp chopped basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

for the sauce:
1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

preheat oven to 350 degrees.

in a large bowl, combine ground chuck, ground pork, yogurt, cheese, bread crumbs, eggs, worcestershire sauce, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper.

in a large saucepan, warm olive oil on medium heat. add onion, and saute until translucent, about five minutes. add garlic and celery, and saute for another three minutes. add to meat mixture. wash your hands thoroughly and use them to combine everything. it will look like a hot mess in a bowl, but once it’s baked, it will be delicious.

press mixture into a large loaf pan. (there’s no need to grease this, but i like to line mine with a few layers of aluminum foil so that i can lift the entire loaf out after it’s baked and slice it on a cutting board. you don’t have to do this if you’d prefer to slice it in the loaf pan, but a lot of fat tends to accumulate in the bottom of the pan and i find removing the meatloaf from the pan makes it easier to deal with.)

in a small bowl, combine ketchup, mustard, and worcestershire sauce. use a spoon to spread the sauce over the top of the loaf. put the meatloaf into the oven and bake for an hour. serve immediately, preferably over mashed potatoes.

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**you may have noticed that the blog got a facelift over the weekend. i’ll still be tweaking the design over the next few weeks, but i’d love to get your feedback – rants, raves, snarky comments are all accepted. i’m also working on a new photography portfolio that will also be growing over the coming weeks, and i’d love feedback on that as well, if you check it out. thanks again for reading!