Monday, December 29, 2008

Cheap Eats: Bad Dawgs

Hot dogs are a great food because they can easily be a snack OR a meal. At Bad Dawgs on Massachusetts Avenue near Symphony Hall, hot dogs come alone or in pairs and with a wide array of toppings to fill all of your hot dog needs.

The hot dogs themselves are very good, all-beef with a snappy casing and a good mix of spices. The toppings are almost extraneous, but it's easy to pick out a combination that works for you. Choose from the named dogs, such as the Bloodhound Dawg (barbeque sauce, bacon bits, and shredded cheddar) or the German Shepherd Dawg (sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard), or pick your own toppings to get it just right. If you're not a fan of beef hot dogs, choose from turkey or vegetarian dogs.

If you're not feeling the hot dogs, Bad Dawgs also offers chicken wings, soup, sandwiches, nachos, baked potatoes, and sliders. Or order a combo with fries and a soda for a full meal for well under $10.

Bawd Dawgs is located at 334 Massachusetts Avenue, at Huntington Avenue. They are open from 11am to midnight (or later on the weekends).

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Bad Dawgs on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 27, 2008

True Comfort Food Mac and Cheese

There's nothing better than something hot and cheesy when you're not feeling well. My friend Ann had surgery last week, and since her husband is proficient in the kitchen but not great, I've volunteered to help with the cooking when I can. As I was headed to her house the other night, I asked what she wanted for dinner. She immediately said mac and cheese.

I've told her about my Squash Mac and Cheese a few times, and she seemed interested in it, but when I brought it up while we were on the phone, she vetoed it for a more standard recipe. Which was a bit of a problem, as I had never successfully made a more typical mac and cheese before - something gooey and creamy. I've tried all kinds of recipes, including plenty of custardy ones, but those always just end up too eggy. When I'm feeling especially lazy, I just toss pasta with shredded cheddar and bake to brown a bit.

So naturally, when Ann asked for regular mac and cheese, I was a little worried. I knew I didn't want any eggs, and I knew that I wanted a roux to act as thickener. With a little research and recipe comparison online, I cobbled together a few ideas and prayed for the best. I'm very happy with how this turned out (and that I was able to find a recipe that replicated the "real" thing). But really, how can you go wrong with so much cheese?

Simple Mac and Cheese
16 oz small pasta in your favorite shape (I used mezza penne)
3 cups whole milk
6 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
6 cups shredded cheese, divided (I used 2 parts sharp cheddar, 1 part mild cheddar/jack mix)
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook pasta according to package, drain well, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine milk, flour, and garlic salt, and whisk until well combined. Add in the pasta and 4 cups of cheese and stir to combine. Pour mixture into a lightly greased baking dish (13x9 would be best). Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and the breadcrumbs over the top of the pasta, then drizzle with the melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, and happy eating! I hope your gingerbread houses are more edible than this one!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Presents

This year, more than past years, I tried to make a lot of my gifts for friends and family. Somehow, though, the month passed by without my getting that much done, so I only ended up making a few things. Recipes will follow in the coming days, once all the family events are done.

Tourshi - Armenian pickled vegetables - for my parents and brothers (and myself, of course)

Quince jam for my mother

Buddhacello (from my Buddha's hand) for my parents, my brother, and a friend

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cheap Eats: Galleria Umberto

If the snow this weekend proved anything, it's that it's definitely the season for comfort food. And pizza and fried foods are on many people's comfort food lists. Galleria Umberto, a no-frills cafeteria-style restaurant in the North End, is one of the most perfect places in the city to find hot and filling treats to make your stomach happy.

Galleria Umberto specializes in Sicilian-style fast food at amazingly cheap prices. Square slices of pizza ($1.35) are better than anything you ate at school as a kid, with a springy and yeasty dough, sweet tomato sauce, and cheese that is just this side of the golden/burnt divide (despite the poor lighting in the picture above). The arancini ($2.50), fried rice balls stuffed with ground meat, cheese, and peas, are the size of a fist and have a crispy exterior and a creamy interior. The panzarotti ($1.25) are giant potato croquettes, studded with flavorful parsley and with a little bit of cheese at the center. Galleria Umberto also offers a variety of personal-sized calzones, with both meat and vegetarian filling options. Beer and wine are available, which always make lunchtime a little more fun.

Galleria Umberto is located at 289 Hanover Street in the North End. They are open Monday through Saturday, 11am until food runs out (usually sometime after 1pm). And don't forget to bring some patience - it can take a little while to get to the head of the line.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Galleria Umberto on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 19, 2008

Gingerbread Always Makes It Feel Like Christmas

As the other half of my Operation Baking GALS package, I opted for gingerbread men. I love how the mixture of molasses and spices can evoke the holiday season at any time of the year. I didn't decorate these like I did last year (I didn't think they would stand up as well to the shipping), but I still think they turned out well.

I especially enjoy this recipe because the cookies don't end up very hard (well, at least if you don't overbake them). They puff up in the oven, rounding out any mistakes you might have made (although, that means you don't want to use any cookie cutters with highly intricate details, as they tend to get a little lost during baking).

Easy Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in molasses, water and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth and well-combined. Divide dough into three pieces, wrap in plastic wrap, and flatten into disks. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters of choice and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes, and move to a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peppermint Sugar Cookies for Operation Baking GALS

The great Lily Von Schtoop from Calamity Shazaam in the Kitchen told me about Operation Baking GALS a few months ago, and I instantly thought it would be a great way for me to use my skills (baking!) to do a little something. Each round, bakers send care packages to members of the armed forces (full details can be found here). I joined Team Calamity Shazaam for this round, and finally managed to get my package out yesterday. I included these peppermint sugar cookies, as well as lots of gingerbread men and a little bit of candy. Hopefully these will help make the holidays feel a little more like home for our soldier and his friends, stationed in Afghanistan.

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 sticks (14 Tbsp) butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
10-12 candy canes

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and eggs and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mixing at low speed, add in baking powder, salt, and flour, until well combined.

In a small food processor or in a heavy plastic bag, pulverize the candy canes until no large chunks remain. Pour the candy into a shallow bowl.

Working with wet hands, roll dough into walnut-size balls. Roll balls in powdered candy, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Wet the bottom of a drinking glass and use to flatten each ball into 1/2-inch thick disks. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown; do not over-bake, or the candy will get too hard to eat easily. Move cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cheap Eats: Gaslight

Is it just us, or is this time of year exhausting? With all the shopping and parties, you need the right kind of fuel to get you through the day. Luckily, Gaslight, a French brasserie in the South End, is offering a filling and cheap brunch every Saturday and Sunday throughout this month.

For only $10, Gaslight's Prix Fixe brunch includes a glass of fresh-squeezed juice (orange or grapefruit), coffee or tea, a delicious pastry, and your choice of french toast, omelette, or soft baked eggs. Bostonist tried the omelette Lyonnaise - fluffy eggs surrounding sweet caramelized onions, savory cheese, and perfectly cooked potatoes. Served with crispy fries, the omelette was delicious and filling and definitely good shopping fuel. The pastry, Julia Child's spiced shortbread with raspberry jam, was a great ending to the meal - a buttery crust topped with gooey jam. You really can't beat this much well-crafted food for so little money.

Gaslight is offering this deal Saturdays (10am-3pm) and Sundays (10-11am) for the rest of December. If you have to deal with the malls or family, make sure to feed yourself well beforehand.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Gaslight on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I know, I know, I've been a bad blogger lately. Two posts in two weeks makes Pam something something ("Go crazy?" "Don't mind if I do!"). But luckily, school is now done for the semester, and I'll have plenty of time to play around in my kitchen.

Earlier in the week, I saw this tortilla soup recipe, and I've been craving it ever since. Of course, did I manage to check out the recipe before I headed to the store to pick up ingredients? Of course not! So, as I stood in the produce section, trying to figure out what should go in the soup, I cobbled together my own make-shift version of the recipe. It turned out better than I expected it to, and because it was so easy to throw together, I'll definitely be making it again soon.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 chicken breasts
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
10 oz Ro-tel tomatoes with green chilies
5 cups chicken broth
1 bunch cilanto, 5 sprigs reserved, the rest chopped
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
kosher salt
1 lime, juice and zest
1 cup frozen corn
1 avocado, cut into bite-size pieces
4 radishes, cut into thin slices
8 oz cheddar cheese, crumbled
tortilla chips, crumbled

In a large pot, boil chicken breasts until cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from water and let cool; shred with two forks and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat oil, then add onions and saute until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, Ro-tel tomatoes, chicken broth, 5 cilantro sprigs, sugar, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Remove cilantro sprigs, and add in chopped cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and corn, and stir to combine.

To serve, add soup to bowl and top with avocado, radish slices, cheese, and tortilla chips. Or set all the toppings out on the table and let everyone serve themselves.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

French Toast Muffins

Ah, the first snow of the season. The French Toast Alert System over at Universal Hub is only at Guarded, but I wanted to inaugurate the season with something French toast-like. Sadly, I have no bread in the house (I clearly didn't pay any attention to the FTAS), so I opted for French toast muffins instead. A little maple, a little cinnamon and nutmeg, a sprinkle of sugar - almost better than the real thing.

French Toast Muffins
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 Tbsp), melted

1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and mix to combine. Add milk, egg, maple syrup, vanilla, and butter and whisk together until well combined. Pour into a greased muffin tin, filling each cup until 3/4 full. In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping. Evenly sprinkle the topping over each muffin. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cheap Eats: Boloco

Sure, there are plenty of places in this town to get a burrito, but their options are often fairly limited. Enter Boloco, which features a menu of "inspired burritos" that stray from the classic bean-and-rice. With 11 (soon to be 13) stores in Massachusetts (plus branches in New Hampshire and Vermont), Boloco is a great option for cheap, fast, filling, and nutritous meal.

For a fast food restaurant, the options at Boloco are vast. You can go traditional with the Classic (cheese, pinto beans, salsa, cilantro, and rice) or the brand-new and very tasty Yucatan (lime rice, black beans, pickled onions, habanero salsa, and sour cream), or you try something a little un-burrito-like, such as the Mediterranean (black bean hummus, salsa, olives, feta, cucumber, balsamic vinaigrette, and rice) or this Bostonist's favorite, the Bangkok (peanut sauce, slaw, cucumbers, and brown rice). Each wrap or bowl comes with your choice of chicken, steak, carnitas, tofu, or peppers and onions. Regulars are under $6, and larges are under $7.

When you go, make sure to ask for a Boloco card. Part gift card, part rewards system, the card can be loaded with cash and used to rack up points for free meals (including a free burrito just for registering). During the holiday season, you get a free burrito for each $25 you put on a card. Or you can always just get an empty card and use it for the rewards!

With so many locations in Boston, there's bound to be a Boloco near you. The newest of the bunch will be opening right next to the Common, at the corner of Boylston and Charles, in about two weeks. Hours vary by location, but many are open as late as 11pm, and some even offer online ordering.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Boloco on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 28, 2008

Buddhacello Beginnings

Just like my craft store problem, I have a problem with going to Russo's in Watertown. There are so many new and exciting fruits and veggies (not to mention cheeses, breads, dried fruits, etc) there that I have trouble not buying EVERYTHING I see. Case in point - the Buddha's hand.

The Buddha's hand is native to central Asia and is believed to be the first citrus to be brought into Europe. They're large and heavy and delightfully citrusy. Imagine what is so great about lemon peel - but all the way through the fruit. There's no juicy pulp, and the white flesh beneath the peel is not remotely bitter. In fact, the Buddha's hand is a bit sweeter than a lemon. It can be used wherever you would use lemon zest, and it can be eaten raw or cooked.

When I bought mine, the cashier asked if I knew what it was, and I said yes, a Buddha's hand. She asked if I knew how to use it, and I admitted that I wasn't entirely sure, but I knew you could make liqueur with it or candy the peel. She gave me a look like I was crazy to be buying an $8 fruit with no plan for use.

When it came to actually using the Buddha's hand, I decided on the liqueur route. I've been wanting to make my own flavored vodkas for a while, so this was a good kick in the pants for me to actually give the process a try. I diced up the citron, added it to canning jars, and poured about 750 ml of 100 proof vodka over the top of each jar. In the photo above, the jar on the left has had the vodka added while the jar on the right is waiting to get boozy. These will sit in my (cold and dark) closet for the next two weeks, getting a shake every now and then, until I'm ready to sweeten it up with some simple syrup.

This stuff should definitely make the holidays more fun ;)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Addictive Roasted Parsnips

I fell in love with parsnips last fall and haven't been able to get enough of them since. A relative of the carrot, parsnips are sweet like their cousins but are not quite as enjoyable raw. They're perfect roasted or in soups and were probably introduced to many people (myself included) via Terra Chips.

So as much as I love chopping parsnips into cubes and roasting, I wanted something a little more crunchy this time. Something a little more sweet and starchy, like what you find in that Terra Chips bag, but - you know - a little less fried.

Due to crowding on my roasting pan, some slices ended up very crispy while others were cooked through but not crunchy at all. I actually ended up liking this better than if they had been uniformly crispy. This would serve better as a side dish than a snack, especially alongside the turkey this Thursday.

Addictive Roasted Parsnips
1 pound parsnips (the fatter the better)
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp Penzey's Tsardust Memories (or a blend of salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and marjoram)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Using a carrot peeler, peel off skin of parsnips and discard. Peel the rest of the parsnips into strips using the peeler (you will be left with a small stub that is too hard to peel). In a large bowl, toss parsnip strips with the rest of the ingredients until coated. Arrange strips on a foil-lined baking sheet in a thin and even layer. Roast for about 30 minutes, tossing the parsnips occasionally to ensure uniform browning. Remove from oven when most of the strips are at least golden on the edges and they are all cooked all the way through.

Cheap Eats: The Paramount

Unless you have a hankering for IHOP, there are few places in this city where you can get quality breakfast throughout the day. Luckily, the Paramount on Charles Street serves breakfast all day long, for just those times when you need to feed those cravings.

Open since 1937, the Paramount has been serving up tasty food for over 70 years. The restaurant is set up cafeteria-style, and you have to wait in line to order and pay for your food before you find a table. They cover all the breakfast highlights - pancakes, waffles, omelettes, and full breakfast plates. The pancakes are fluffy and huge, and the banana pancakes get rave reviews. The malted belgian waffle with fresh fruit is literally covered in a thick mix of different fruits and is a quite a substantial meal. With the wait in line before you place your order, you get plenty of chance to look at what other diners are enjoying before picking out your own delicious meal.

The Paramount is located at 44 Charles Street in Beacon Hill. The day menu is served Monday-Friday, 7am-4:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 8am-4:30pm. The restaurant serves dinner from 4:30-10pm. Avoid the Paramount for weekend brunch if you don't like long lines (and really, who does?).

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Paramount on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why I Will Be Thinking About Hot Pockets for the Next Three Days...

Last night, I had one of the geekiest nights in a long time. It started out with seeing Jim Gaffigan live at the Berklee Performance Center with the roommate (with tickets that we bought back in March!). Then I met up with some friends to see Jonathan Coulton at the Paradise (if you haven't heard his "Re: Your Brains", give it a listen right now) with what may have been the highest concentration of geeks in one place that I've ever seen. Then I met back up with the roommate to see a midnight showing of the influential Metropolis, complete with a live band, at the Coolidge Theatre.

But throughout the concert and the movie, all I could think of was Hot Pockets. If you're already a fan of Jim Gaffigan, you know why. If you've never heard of him though, watch the clips below and you'll understand why he's such a great comic. The Hot Pockets bit is one of his most famous (along with an amazing set about bacon... "God, how can he have so many jokes about bacon?!"). In fact, many of his best bits are about food, so what's not to love?

Oh, and representatives from Hot Pockets were actually there, handing out coupons and pens outside the venue. The best part? The pens play the Hot Pockets jingle when you press a button! The roommate and I both got them and have left them around the apartment to play with whenever the spirit takes us...

More good Jim Gaffigan food-related clips...

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Big Thank You

Thank you to everyone who voted for me for the's Blogging Scholarship. It's always exciting to be recognized for something you do, and maybe even more so for something you do as a hobby in your free time. I didn't end up winning, obviously, but it was still great to have so many new people visit my site in the past few weeks.

If you're a new reader who found me because of the Blogging Scholarship competition, I'd love it if you could leave a comment. I'm curious to see how many new readers I got out of this...

Thanks again!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bacon Cheddar Scallion Scones

I've been playing with a cream scone recipe for a while, but I've gotten tired of sweet scones. So after a little research online, I've put together a few recipes to form one damn good savory scone. Using the near-perfect triumvirate of bacon-cheddar-scallions, these are a nice alternative to biscuits. I'm planning on making mini versions of these to take with me to Thanksgiving next week.

Bacon Cheddar Scallion Scones

3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces
about 5 ounces of cheddar, grated
4 green onions
10 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine dry ingredients (flour through cayenne). Add in butter and work with your hands to combine - press butter between your fingers to form thin sheets. Add cheese, green onions, and buttermilk, and mix together. Add bacon and egg and mix until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a flat surface and knead a few times to smooth out the dough. Form dough into a ball, then flatten into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Cut the disk into wedges. Spread wedges across a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a little room around them. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the bottom of the scones start to brown and the cheese in the scone begins to turn golden. Best served warm.

*And don't forget to vote for me (Pam Aghababian) for the Blogging Scholarship! I'm the only food blogger on the list. Voting ends Thursday (11/20) at 11:59pm!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cheap Eats: Tremont 647

Tacos are traditionally a low-cost food, but gourmet tacos in a sit-down restaurant can be hard to find. Tremont 647 in the South End has recently instituted $2 Taco Tuesdays, and their offerings definitely fill this gap.

The taco menu is offered all night on Tuesdays and consists of more than just tacos. Taco varieties rotate, with a mix of meats, fish, and veggies, and are served with salsa roja and salsa verde. Tacos offered when this Bostonist visited were (from left to right): fried catfish with pickled purple cabbage, grilled steak with onion and corn salsa, grilled vegetable with refried beans and lime-cumin vinaigrette, and carnitas with pico de gallo. Each taco is about 4 bites, and 4 tacos (for a total of $8!) makes a great meal.

Don't like tacos? Taco Tuesdays offers more cheap plates as well. The fried plaintains ($4) were perfectly cooked, with an excellent crunchy exterior and a creamy interior, and served with a very unique banana-guava "ketchup." The black bean, cheddar, and goat cheese quesadilla ($3), chipotle mashed potatoes ($3), and basket of warmed tortilla chips ($2) rounded out the meal.

Tremont 647 is open on Tuesday nights from 5:30 to 10pm and is located, surprisingly, at 647 Tremont Street.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Tremont 647 on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cashew Fudge

Mel and I have been friends forever - since kindergarten, I guess. And in that roughly twenty years, there have been few people that have been able to tell us apart. People we meet when we're out automatically accept that we're sisters. Her mother's coworker (my dentist when I was a kid) had no idea we were two different people (based on the fact that he ALWAYS called me Mel). Teachers would figure it out eventually. Of course, it doesn't help that we perpetuate the myth that we're twins.

You see, we don't actually look all that similar. It's just that we're vaguely "ethnic" in the Middle Eastern sense of the word, have long, curly, black/brown hair, wear glasses, and have long names that are hard to pronounce and begin with the letter A.

So when it comes to throwing birthday parties, for the past couple of years, we've thrown a joint party (since we're only a month apart anyway). Our party was back in September, but I just found this picture and thought I'd post the recipe. For this year's party, we went with an all-desserts theme. We had all kinds of cookies and treats, and I even made the most amazing chocolate cake ever. I also needed something for my gluten-free friend (GFF!), so I made this delicious cashew fudge, based on a recipe from Dozen Flours.

This fudge is so easy to make, and the unctiousness of the cashew butter lends a flavor that is fantastic but hard to pinpoint.

Cashew Fudge

2 cups sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cashew butter, well mixed and at room temperature
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 stick of butter, at room temperature and cut into 8 small pieces

Line a 8x8 baking dish or cake pan with parchment paper so it comes up and over the sides of the pan.

Combine the sugar, cream, milk, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Once the mixture begins to bubble, stir frequently until it reaches 235° on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and cashew butter and continue to stire until the cashew butter is completely absorbed and the candy is smooth and thick. Transfer to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Set the dish aside for about 1 hour for the fudge to cool and harden.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter together. Mix until well blended. Pour the chocolate over the top of the fudge, smoothing and shaking the pan. Let sit at least 20 minutes in the fridge until solid.

Lift the fudge out of the pan using the overhanging parchment paper. Cut it into 1-inch squares. Store the fudge in an airtight container with layers of wax paper.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Carrot Parsnip Ginger Soup

Mmm, root veggies. One thing I love about fall is the abundance of sweet, earthy vegetables that are awesome just about any way you prepare them. I don't really have a story about this soup - it's just quick and easy, hearty and delicious. If you're not a huge fan of ginger, you might want to bring it down to a 1-inch piece instead of 2-inch.

Carrot Parsnip Ginger Soup
4 cups chicken stock
1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
1 pound parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced finely across the grain
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 tsp sugar
white pepper

Bring the chicken stock to a boil over medium high heat. Add carrots, parsnips and ginger and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until the veggies are tender (about half an hour - the carrots are the hardest, so check them for doneness). Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender (you can also blend in small batches in the blender). Blend in milk, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Yep, that's it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cheap Eats: The Battery

For a city known for its seafood, you would think that really good fish and chips would be easy to find in Boston. Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case. At least, until The Battery opened in Brighton Center three weeks ago.

Run by transplants from Cork, Ireland, this is the closest Boston has to the chip shops that are so easy to find across the pond. The menu is pretty basic - fries and battered things like fish and sausages. You can order a la carte or put together a supper with a main, fries, and a choice of peas, coleslaw, curry, or gravy. The fish (pollack) supper, shown above, is gigantic for only $8.95 - you really need to be starving to be able to put all this food away. The fish is flaky and steaming inside the crisp crust, and the hand cut chips are superbly crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside. They're best enjoyed piping hot, though, as they lose some of their integrity as they cool. The Battery also offers Irish drinks, like Club Orange and Club Lemon, Lilt, Lucozade, and Ribena, if you want a truly authentic meal.

The Battery is located at 379 Washington Street in Brighton. They are open Sunday through Tuesday, 11am to 11pm, and Wednesday through Saturday, 11am to 1am.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

The Battery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Vote for Me for the Blogging Scholarship

A couple of weeks ago, I submitted an entry for's Blogging Scholarship, mostly on a whim. I figured it was a good idea because the creation of my blog is so intrinsically linked to my master's program.

After college, I had been living with my parents to save up some money while I worked. When I got into my master's program in library science, I was also working downtown full time, so I figured it was time to get rid of my commute and be closer to both work and school. I started Cave Cibum as a way to explore the kitchen of my first apartment since my undergrad years and to force myself away from taking the easy route when it came to eating (like ordering pizza all the time, although some people think that's healthy). That job is now long gone and school is now full time, but I've managed to keep this thing running throughout all of it.

I was very happy to get an email yesterday saying that I had been named a finalist for the Blogging Scholarship. A full list of finalists can be found here. So please take a second (that's really all it takes) and vote for me here - for those of you who only know me through the internets, my full name is Pam Aghababian. Voting closes on November 20th at 11:59pm. And I'm also the only food blogger on the list, so fellow foodies, spread the word!

And for those of you who are just finding my site, I wanted to show off a few of my favorite posts. I hope you like them!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blogging By Mail: Halloween Edition

Yes, it's that time of year again! Time for another round of Blogging By Mail. The ever-wonderful Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness managed to corral 116 mostly-food bloggers and set up a complicated network of who's-mailing-to-whom. By now, Brilynn at Jumbo Empanadas has received a very Boston-y package from me.

I received my mystery package (no name, just a return address in California) last week. It was a great mix of Halloween goodies - cookie cutters (bat, cat, ghost, and pumpkin), caramel Kisses, Maple Nut Goodies, and Caramel Apple Sugar Babies. The Sugar Babies are the only ones I've eaten so far - I love the combo of the slightly sour apple coating over the caramel, very different than regular Sugar Babies. I'm taking my time, though, with the box, as I want to keep all the fillings in my teeth ;) Sadly, the package arrived a little too late for this Halloween, but I'm an avid collector of cookie cutters, so I'll have no problem putting them to good use next year. Thanks to my mystery BBM benefactor!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cheap Eats: Finale

Everyone knows that Finale, with four locations in the metro Boston area, is a great place for fancy desserts (albeit slightly pricy). But did you know they also serve up tasty lunches at a reasonable price?

Sandwiches at Finale in Harvard Square, Coolidge Corner, and downtown Boston run from $5.50 to $6.95 and are pretty hefty. They have traditionally offerings, such as egg salad, BLT, and tuna, as well as some more original compositions, such as the Apple Mango (sliced apples, mango chutney, goat cheese, caramelized onions, arugula, and walnuts on multigrain bread) and the Roasted Chicken (roasted chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, arugula, and sweet red onions on focaccia). The Chicken Pesto (pictured above) is stuffed with a whole chicken breast, sliced thin. The sweetness from the caramelized onions is a nice pair with the salty cheese and unctious pesto. Add chips and one of Finale's fresh cookies for The Finale Lunch, which runs from $8.50 to $9.95. Or go with half a sandwich and soup or salad for $7.95.

And don't forget to sign up for Finale's Sweet Rewards card while you're at it. You can rack up the points for every dollar spent, and you'll get $5 back for every $50 spent (plus free dessert on your birthday!).

Hours vary by location.

Originally posted on Bostonist.

Finale on Urbanspoon - Downtown Boston
Finale on Urbanspoon - Harvard Square
Finale Coolidge Corner on Urbanspoon - Coolidge Corner

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has a fun (and tasty) Halloween! If you're still looking for recipes, there are great things up on Tastespotting, or try these delicious Vampire Cookies from Baking Bites. They're easy to make but look very impressive (although Baking Bite's look much more impressive than mine).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Chocolates

I've decided that I shouldn't be allowed in craft stores. I walk in and instantly want everything I see. Only problem is that I never have enough time to actually make the crafts that I buy. When they're food-related, though, my chances are a little higher. When I walked into A.C.Moore a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't help but pick up materials for making Halloween chocolates. I mean, who doesn't want chocolate tombstones?!?

Or spiderweb lollipops?

It's been years since I've made chocolates, probably in middle school when my mother and I would use those horrible "chocolate" buttons in an assortment of colors to make candies for her favorite holiday, Valentine's Day. I had forgotten how much fun (and how easy) these are to make, and the results are always impressive. I opted for good dark chocolate this time (and yes, some crappy white chocolate for contrast). And there's something so satisfying about whacking those little plastic trays on the counter to get out all the air bubbles...

But my real achievement with my Halloween candies were the pumpkin cups I created. I wanted to create chocolate pumpkin truffles, but I just couldn't get the consistency right, so I opted for pumpkin cups instead (in mini black and orange paper cups, of course). They ended up working really well, like a little shot of pumpkin pie enrobed in chocolate. The filling was still a little loose, so they're best eaten in one bite to avoid a mess. And yes, the spices may seem strong when you're mixing them in, but the chocolate can be overpowering, so you need that much for the flavor to come out. (I also eyeballed the cream and chocolate, so while I provided measurements, they're not exact.)

Chocolate Pumpkin Cups

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup heavy cream
about 1/3 lb white chocolate
about 1 lb dark chocolate
mini paper cups

In a pan over medium heat, mix together pumpkin and spices. Cook pumpkin for 3-5 minutes or until it begins to condense and look dry. Whisk in cream and heat through, then remove from heat and whisk in white chocolate until melted. Transfer to a bowl and freeze for at least an hour.

Arrange paper cups on a tray that will fit in your freezer. In a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate. Add about a tablespoon of chocolate to each cup, and use a small kitchen brush (or a small, new painting brush) to bring the chocolate up along the sides of the cup. Freeze until chocolate is hardened. Add another layer of chocolate to the sides (not the bottom) of the cup with the brush to build stronger walls, then freeze until hardened. Add a small amount of the pumpkin filling (about a teaspoon), then cover with more chocolate. Freeze until hardened, then try not to eat them all at once.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ye Olde Boston Food Toure

Last night, the wonderful Lily von Schtoop from Calamity Shazaam in the Kitchen and I embarked on a tour of our shared Yankee heritage, which we quickly dubbed the Ye Olde Boston Food Toure. (See Lily's report here.) It was like playing tourist in our own city (especially since most of our stops were pretty touristy). And despite having lived in Boston my whole life, I had only visited one of these restaurants before. For fun, we had Phyllis Meras' The Historic Shops & Restaurants of Boston along for reference, which we used to amuse ourselves (and our waitstaff).

Our first stop was Durgin Park in Quincy Market. A mainstay of Yankee cooking, Durgin Park is known for surly waitresses and huge meals catered to tourists. Since this was just our first stop, we didn't go for a whole meal (although I have heard good things about the Prime Rib). Instead, we started with clam chowder, baked beans, and cornbread. The chowder was a lot like what I grew up with, with a thinner broth and extremely tender clams. The beans were surprisingly tasty (especially since I don't even like baked beans) - I doubt I could eat a whole bowl of them, but it was still good. The cornbread was a definite no - bland and uninteresting.

For dessert, we went for the Indian pudding and the coffee jello. The pudding was served piping hot with melty vanilla ice cream on top, and it was delicious. With all that molasses, it tasted like New England in the fall. And the coffee jello - we ordered this pretty much because it sounded so odd, and the serving we received definitely didn't disappoint. I dubbed it "astronaut coffee" because it was like a good ol' cup of coffee, only in solid form. The gelatin was very stiff with a strong, unsweetened coffee flavor, and it was topped with overly sweet, overly whipped cream. It was very odd, and yet, I couldn't stop myself from eating it. Gross and delicious at the same time.

Overall, Durgin Park offers better food than I thought it would, especially with the desserts. I doubt I'll be eating there regularly, but I wouldn't hesitate to take visitors there.

Next up was the Union Oyster House, where we sat at the semi-circular oyster bar for oysters and more chowder. My companion enjoyed her bivalves quite a bit (I'm not a fan, so I passed), but the chowder was delicious. It was quite different than that of Durgin Park - thicker and creamier, with more chunks of clams and potatoes. But while the chowder was very good, the atmosphere, with flies buzzing around, piles of oysters sitting around in slushy ice, and a bar that's not quite level, was... unique, to say the least. It was a little slice of Boston, with locals and tourists crammed in side-by-side, and we even caught a glimpse of Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi on his way in for dinner.

After all that chowder, we were ready for a little break. We wandered over to Cafe Marliave, the only restaurant of the bunch that I had been to before. The Marliave closed a few years ago after over 100 years of business, and it was just reopened about a month and a half ago by new owner, Scott Herrit (of Grotto, which I love). We sat at the bar and enjoyed a few cocktails. Keeping with our Ye Olde Theme, I opted for the Molasses Flood 1919 (Sailor Jerry's Rum, molasses, lime, and bitters) and the Boston Tea Party (tequila, Earl Grey tea, house-made ginger beer, and lemon). They were both very well mixed by Robbie, our great bartender, although I liked the Molasses Flood more (the Tea Party was sweeter than I was in the mood for). We also had a little sample of pumpkin apple soup, a delicious blend of fall in a cup. I'm eager to head back to try more of their food, which smelled amazing.

Our final stop for the night was at the Omni Parker House for their famous Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie (recipes for both can be found on the hotel's website). And while sitting in the bar, overlooking the old city hall across the street, on a cold evening was enjoyable, the food was less than spectacular. The rolls seemed like an imitation of what they should be - buttery with a hint of sweet, and soft with a slightly crispy crust. These specimens were, however, oily and dense and just not right. The Boston Cream Pie was another disappointment - the sponge cake and the pastry cream were both very good, but it was all ruined with a coating of limp, slivered almonds, an almost solid chocolate topping, and fake whipped cream. I know, I know, both of these items were invented at the Parker House, but they are so beloved in our fair city (especially the Boston Cream Pie, which is the official dessert of Massachusetts) that they pale in comparison to what can be had at other spots.

Our Ye Olde Boston Food Toure ended up being a fun adventure through (mostly) tourist-land. Durgin Park, the Union Oyster House, and the Parker House all have their places among the culinary history of Boston, and while they are often overlooked by us locals, they are sometimes the only places visitors stop to get a taste of local food. The Marliave only hints at its past, especially since it has been refigured for a more contemporary crowd, with gourmet comfort foods and terrific cocktails.

Any thoughts on where Lily and I should visit for our next Ye Olde Toure?

Durgin-Park on Urbanspoon Durgin Park
Union Oyster House on Urbanspoon Union Oyster House
Cafe Marliave on Urbanspoon Cafe Marliave
Parker's Restaurant on Urbanspoon Omni Parker House