Bacon, Leek & Crème Fraîche Frittata

Bacon, Leek, and Créme Fraîche FrittataMy Sunday got off to such a promising start.  I rolled out of bed at a leisurely hour, made coffee, and whipped up this frittata.  Matt and I made plans to spend the day playing tourists in our own town and checking out a museum.  Little did I know we’d get a ride home from our fun little date in a tow truck and our “cheap” outing would end with a 4 figure bill.  Oh well, at least the day started on the right foot.

This frittata isn’t anything earth-shatteringly original, just a few ingredients that, when treated with care, come together to make a very good brunch.  The eggs are blended with crème fraîche which yields a frittata that is light and tender with a subtle creamy tang.  The delicate eggs are accented by salty bits of bacon and sautéed leeks.  Hopefully, a month from now, it’ll be the piece of this past Sunday that sticks out in my mind.

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Chicken & Mushroom Pâté

Chicken & Mushroom PateWhen I was 20, I spent a semester in Florence, Italy.  I arrived a fairly committed vegetarian but within a week or 2, there I was, debating the merits of Prosciutto di Parma versus Prosciutto di San Daniele at the market, working up the nerve to try a tripe sandwich, and being schooled on  how to chop chicken livers with a mezzaluna to make the ubiquitous crostini toscani.  Needless to say, it was an exciting time in my life.

I will admit, it took me a couple of tries to warm to the rustic chicken liver pâté smeared crostini toscani, but they are literally everywhere in Florence and throughout Tuscany.  You go to a restaurant, they’re on the menu.  Stopping in at a wine bar?  Yup, they’re going to be offered.  Dinner at a house in the countryside?  You can bet on starting with them.  They’re unavoidable and even if their rather dull looking appearance doesn’t win your heart at first glance, after a few polite nibbles they start to grow on you.  Polite nibbles will turn into voracious bites which will eventually turn into tucking a few in your purse for a midnight snack.  

And then you’ll return home and realize how much you miss the ugly brown crostini you’d just taken for granted.  But thankfully, the pâté is ridiculously easy to make.  You can make a batch, toast up a pile of crostini, pop a bottle of Chianti, and whisk yourself away to Italy whenever the mood strikes.  I find myself doing this quite often.  Usually it’s just a tiny batch made from just 1 liver, enough for a couple of toasts to munch on while a chicken roasts, but occasionally I’ll make a bigger batch.  

This particular version isn’t exactly the traditional way of making Tuscan chicken pâté, as mushrooms also play a large role.  I had over-bought mushrooms and wanted to use them up, so I made a pâté that was half mushrooms, half liver.  The mushrooms and chicken livers play nicely off each other to make a spread that is rich and earthy and traditional or not, just eyeing it up, I immediately return to my 20 year old self, off exploring a new place in the world and a new world of food.

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Lamb Stew with Artichokes, Olives & Mint

Spring Lamb Stew with ArtichokesOne of the joys of writing a blog is having an online record of how often I contradict myself.  Last week, I stood up here on my soapbox and declared myself officially stewed out.  And then, naturally, 2 days later, I hauled out the old Dutch oven and made a lamb stew.

What can I say–coming up with dinner this time of year can be tricky.  Your heart aches for spring produce, but your chilled bones still crave heartier dishes.   Even though emotionally you might be ready to trade beets and squash for peas and asparagus, hefty meat-based mains for light fish dishes and salads, physically you’re still battling cold weather and want to eat something warm and satisfying.  

Thankfully, this stew gives you the best of both worlds.  It’s a hearty, but not heavy, celebration of in-between seasons eating.  Chunks of lamb shoulder are braised until fork-tender in a bath of white wine and tomatoes.  Artichoke halves and green olives share the spotlight with the lamb, keeping it from being nap-inducingly heavy and a handful of mint scattered over the top keeps it fresh and lively.

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Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Oatmeal-Raisin CookiesJust writing the title of this post, I feel like a maniac.  How on earth do you even punctuate such a cookie concoction?

See, I was having the kind of day where I just needed a cookie–a good old classic, dunk-it-in-a-glass-of-milk kind of cookie.  It also happened to be the kind of day that I couldn’t make a decision to save my life.  Can I get away with wearing the brown boots with a black sweater, should I vacuum the house or do my taxes, do I feel like oatmeal-raisin cookies or chocolate chip or peanut butter…

…you can probably see where this is going.  My indecision led to continuing not to care if black matches brown, not vacuuming or working on my taxes (by far the easiest choice of the day), and jamming everything that’s good in the world in 1 crazy cookie.  It turns out, indecision can occasionally be a good thing and sometimes not showing an ounce of restraint actually works out.  These cookies are majorly satisfying and just the thing to bake when you’re having a just-need-a-cookie sort of day.

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