We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Program...

Phew! It’s been a busy month and we apologize for not posting sooner. We started the Culinary Square Cookbook Book Club in October and due to its popularity we hosted three separate events!! It was so much fun and we learned a lot…at least I did. Our first cookbook selection was the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Between the three nights there were barely any recipes in the book that Sam and I didn’t get to try, and they were all delicious.  Here are a few tips that I learned along the way; when dredging chicken in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs – if you put them back in the fridge to chill for at least an hour the coating sets up much better, if you soak raw onions in buttermilk it mellows the flavor for a great broccoli slaw, that if you are looking for hard to find spices, Nora’s Grocery in Latham on Troy-Schenectady Road as you are coming out of Watervliet is the place to go (and they are extremely helpful), a trick for making a perfect crust for a galette is to put the flour and salt in one bowl, the butter in another and place them both in the freezer for an hour prior to preparation,  I could go on and on. I loved Deb Perelman’s cookbook so much that I ran out to Market Block Books and bought her new one, Smitten Kitchen Everyday when it came out last week! We had such a great time sitting down, sharing these meals, getting to know each other and talking cooking! For the November selection we chose Hattie’s Restaurant Cookbook by Jasper Alexander…you know from Hattie’s Kitchen in Saratoga…and the most wonderful part is that he will be attending our meeting on November 14th at 6PM!

 

Which leads me to our other newest development. Jasper Alexander’s availability limited him to visiting the store once in November. We wanted to be able to have as many people from the cookbook club, who were interested, able to attend.  So, in order to accommodate everyone, we took down the final wall in the back of the store! If you haven’t seen it, stop in and check it out. It opens up the back so nicely, we have a beautiful view of the river and we are working on creating a permanent space for the meetings.  Well that’s all for now. Next up Sam and I are coming up with a list of our favorite cooking equipment items for the Thanksgiving feast!

Saturday Night IN!

Girls night! Sometimes don’t you all just need a night in with friends? Drinking good wine & having a good meal? I know I do. Not too long ago my friends and I decided to do just that! We pulled together items from our fridges, picked up some wine and made a time to meet up at my apartment on a Saturday evening. The dinner: Skinnytaste’s Eggplant Rollatini with Spinach. The wine: Tempranillo from our neighbors at 22 Second Street.

For the Eggplant Rollatini I used the Oxo V-Blade Mandoline. I really liked this mandoline because it has a straight blade and a wavy blade, which allows for crinkle cuts.  You can also adjust the mandoline to four different thicknesses by turning the knob on the side to 1.5 mm, 3 mm, 4.5 mm and 6 mm. Once you’ve chosen your blade and thickness settings you can lock the mandoline into place and you’re good to go.

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This mandoline felt sturdy while using it and I really liked the food gripper that allows you to securely slice while protecting your fingers from the blade. I never felt like the mandoline was going to collapse in on itself and cutting through the eggplant was relatively easy. In the future, I’d really like to compare this mandoline to the Oxo Chef’s Mandoline Slicer, which has a steel base. After using the mandoline cleanup was easy – the mandoline’s body is dishwasher safe and since the blades are interchangeable you can easily take the blade off the mandoline to hand wash it.

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On top of a great meal, we also enjoyed some great wine that we decanted using the Fortessa Pure Decanter. We at Culinary Square enjoy a nice bottle of wine and love the way a decanter looks on the dinner table when entertaining, but what are the benefits of decanting wine? For those answers we turn to our neighborhood wine shop: 22 Second Street. According to Corey over at 22 Second Street, decanting wine serves two purposes- aeration, and separation from sediment. Natural wines are often bottled unfiltered, so sediment can be found in the bottle. While completely safe for consumption, the sediment in a wine bottle can spoil a sip with a gritty/sandy texture that most find unpleasant.

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In regards to aeration, allowing oxygen to come in contact with the wine can enhance aromas and flavors (which is why wine drinkers can be seen swirling wine in a glass, mixing oxygen into the wine, allowing the wine to breath and become more expressive). Pouring wine into a decanter not only allows for the wine to mix with air, but creates a larger surface area of the wine to be in direct contact with oxygen.

Too much oxygen can spoil a wine, so tread lightly. The best way to judge if a wine needs decanting is to take a couple sips from a small pour when you first open the wine. If the first couple sips seem dull, tight, waxy, or restrained, pour the wine into a decanter and revisit it every 15-20 minutes until it feels like it is starting to open up and hit a peak.

With all this information on a fun night in with friends with good food and good wine we feel we’ve equipped you with all the necessary information for a great night in. What meals do you like to make with friends? Let us know in the comments!

Welcome to the Cookbook Book Club!

You may not know this, but Samantha and I both have MLS degrees in Library Science, Sam from Simmons College and myself from Syracuse University. So when we were brainstorming ideas for fun events at the store, we naturally latched onto the idea of a cookbook book club!

            A cookbook book club, you say with puzzlement. Let me explain what we have in mind. Very similar to a book club, we will be meeting to discuss a particular cookbook. But the fun part is that each member will bring a dish from the cookbook in question to share with the members creating a potluck dinner so to speak. Members don’t have to be serious cooks, just an interest and enthusiasm for cooking will do.

            The logistics. We will choose the cookbooks as a group, which we can discuss at our organizational/information meeting on Tuesday, September 26th at 6PM. The cookbook chosen for the upcoming book club meeting will be on-hand at Culinary Square, you can stop in, peruse the book and choose your recipe. Just be sure to let us know which one so we can mark it and avoid duplications. The night of the book club meeting we will gather at the store for a potluck dinner and discussion of the recipes. Our hope is to find a few local authors of cookbooks as well and on occasion have the authors join us! We will meet on a monthly basis. You don’t have to come every month, but you will have to register for the months you want to attend, as space will be limited for each event. If we have lots of interest, we will host events on more than one evening.

            So come to the organizational meeting on Tuesday, September 26th at 6PM at Culinary Square, 251 River Street. We will be discussing which books we should start with, what dates we should meet and answer any questions you may have. Can’t make the meeting, send us an email or stop by the store to put your name on a mailing list and we will update you with all the details after the meeting. See you on September 26th at 6PM, and bring a friend and bring your ideas for cookbooks you would like to see us use! As an added bonus we will be offering members a 10% discount on any items then purchase the night of the book club meetings!

No Camp Food, No Glory

When you think of camping what typically comes to mind? Fires, making s’mores, spending quality (unplugged) time with family and friends are a few things that I think of. But what about delicious meals made over a fire? Camping doesn’t mean living off burgers and hot dogs! Recently I went camping with some friends as we do every summer. My friend, Stephanie, regularly throws down in the kitchen and I knew camping would be no exception. In this blog post I’m going to highlight my most favorite meal Steph made during our camping trip including items used to recreate it at home or on your campsite!

On the menu: spaghetti sandwiches and grilled hearts of romaine with blistered tomatoes. For this recipe you’re going to want to use a Lodge or FINEX cast iron pan. Being the ever prepared cook that she is, Steph made the spaghetti and tossed it with marinara sauce before we left for our camping trip so it was ready to go once dinnertime came. She then put the spaghetti between two pieces of frozen Texas toast, wrapped it in foil and threw it on our cast iron pan! Grill for 5-10 minutes, depending on how crispy you want your sandwich.

Onto the grilled romaine! The spaghetti sandwiches were obviously amazing, but I’ve been making grilled romaine at home ALL THE TIME. I can’t stop. It’s becoming an issue. While camping we simply lined the grate for the grill with aluminum foil, sprayed the grilled romaine with olive oil using an olive oil sprayer and let it grill. For the blistered tomatoes, we tossed them with olive oil on our cast iron pan. Use whichever dressing you prefer & you’ve got yourself some grilled romaine! To recreate this at home since I live in an apartment and don’t have access to a grill, I use my Staub grill pan. It’s just as easy and makes great grilled romaine! I’ve had it at least 3 times this week. Whoops!

As with ANY camping trip, it’s fun to have a few cocktails or mocktails by the fire. We used the Corkcicle Arctican and the Corkcicle Tumbler to keep our drinks from heating up by the fire and to keep our coffee warm in the cool mornings.

To Fry or to Air Fry, That is the Question!

When we lived in Brunswick we had extensive gardens that included one of my favorite things…blueberry bushes. Every year when they finally ripened we would have more than we could possibly eat, so in addition to freezing them I always looked for some fun recipes to try out. One year I stumbled upon Emeril Lagasse’s Fried Fresh Blueberry Pie recipe and it quickly became an annual tradition.