Salt Bake

Five years ago, I was sick in bed watching re-runs of Top Chef. It was a reunion episode, where they bring back a few chefs from each season, and they all cooked and made a beautiful dinner. Marcel’s (anyone remember him?) contribution was a whole fish baked in a salt crust, then cracked open and served with a squeeze of fresh lemon. It was super simple, but it was so unique. I had never seen anything like it before. I grabbed my journal, wrote “SALT BAKE” in big, black letters, and didn’t get around to trying one until yesterday afternoon.

As I mentioned, a salt bake is incredibly easy. Six egg whites, three cups of salt and a hot oven will give you the best fish of your life.

branzini

I chose Branzini for my fish, but you can use any firm white fish you love. I asked the guy behind the fish counter to clean and gut the fish for me, so all I had to do when I got home was stuff the cavity with fresh thyme, and get it into the oven.

tail

egg whites

Egg whites/salt pre-bake.

done

The aftermath.

 

SALT BAKE:

1 whole Branzini – cleaned, gutted, scales and fins removed

1 bunch of fresh thyme

1 lemon, cut into wedges

3 cups kosher salt

6 egg whites

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stuff the cavity of the fish with the fresh thyme sprigs. Refrigerate until you have finished the egg white mixture and the oven is preheated.

In a a medium sized mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold in the salt, a little at a time, until it’s all combined.

Spread a small amount of the egg white mixture onto the bottom of a shallow baking pan, nestling the fish on top. Gently scoop the egg whites on top of the fish, covering it completely.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the egg whites are hard and golden brown.

Let the fish sit for 10 minutes, then gently crack the crust with a wooden spoon, discarding the salt crust. Remove the fish, and serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

**Cooking a whole fish means there will be bones. Branzini bones are relatively big, so they’re easy to pick out. Just be careful!**

 

Chicago: A Food Tour

Over the weekend I went to Chicago with my friend Jessica to embark on a mini food tour. We both love to eat, and wanted to enjoy all the food/drinks we could within 72 hours. Did we succeed? Hell yes. My bank account is doubled over in pain, but my belly is full, and it was the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.

We went to Girl and the Goat Friday night,followed by Little Goat Diner Saturday morning, then Green Street Smoked Meats for dinner, with a final brunch at Grange Hall Burger Bar Sunday mid-morning.

 

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I have to be honest. I was really psyched about this picture when I took it, and my OCD brain is now going crazy looking at it on here, noticing the blurry thyme.

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Cutest lil’ mimosa.

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Smoked fries.

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Braised beef, havarti, picked peppers & onions and spicy mayo. Dear god.

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Strawberry basil chilled soup.

tacos

Fish tacos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Salad

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The easiest salad ever.

Throw a bunch of mixed greens in a bowl – add cucumber, chow mein noodles, slices of heirloom tomato, avocado, shredded chicken and honey goat cheese. Top with your favorite dressing.

Simple Dressing:

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tbsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

juice + zest of half a lemon

sea salt and pepper, to taste

olive oil

Pulse all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until the dressing is emulsified, and a smooth, pourable consistency. Store in a jar up to 2 weeks.

Lately

bk

Brooklyn. A quick weekend trip with my aunt Lori, who is the sweetest peach in the orchard. We are kindred spirits and I just love her. She took me with her to New York a few weeks ago to be her baby shower date. Her step son’s wife, Ashley, is due with her first baby in a few months, so we hopped on a plane early Friday morning, and landed in New York a few hours later to soak in as much of the city as we could.

dog bk

Slowly crept up behind a stranger to get this shot. The dogs in Brooklyn melt my heart. Especially the ones who wait outside while their owners run inside the deli to get a bagel.

bar

Spritzenhaus.

belly

<3

macarons

laduree

champ

Fancy ass baby shower gifts..

 

On our last night, we went to the restaurant in our hotel, The Elm.

menu

lights

amuse

GOOD GOD, this place was unbelievable. Every dish was so well thought out and special. Pictured above is the amuse bouche, which our server brought out almost instantly.

salad

The most beautiful raw salad. Spring peas, asparagus, radish and red watercress

lobster

Lobster cassoulet. Ugh, perfect. Lobster, toasted breadcrumbs, white beans. One of the most memorable dishes of my life.

 

On a closing note, I hate neglecting this blog, but I will be posting more frequently now that school is out for the summer. I have lots of recipes (seriously) that I want to post, and now that I have time, I will!

I hope you are all having a lovely summer so far! <3

 

 

Mexico

Two weeks ago, I was in Mexico. I was practicing my maid of honor speech, taking my wedding heels for a million practice runs, drinking icebergs (beer with a pile of frozen margarita on top), reading We Need to Talk About Kevin (so fucking good), and just generally basking in happiness.

We raced each other in the pool, snorkeled, slept in hammocks, had chicken fights, got wicked sunburns, ate ridiculous amounts of food, swam in the ocean, and on Saturday, April 5th, we all watched my brother marry the best girl ever. I cried harder than I would have liked, but it was truly perfect. The ceremony was held on the beach, and it was the easiest, most beautiful wedding I’ve ever been to.

We spent the morning floating in the pool then Casey and I left to get our makeup done around noon. After we were ready, we ran down to the beach at 3:30 and that was that. It was simple, and so them. They exchanged their vows, said their  I do’s, and off we went to eat, dance, and have Don Julio poured down our throats.

Our week in photos:

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On our last day, a few of us went on a life-changing snorkeling trip. It was so beautiful and such a crazy experience.

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jumps

dad and eric

water

tik

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Our tour guide, Alex. He was hilarious and listened to “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” on full blast.

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Pre-reception cocktails.

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jc

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joel teq

limes

“Fuck limes.”

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Wheat Penny

A few weeks ago, I was determined to find a restaurant in Dayton that I had never been to before. I wanted to go somewhere that made me feel like I was on vacation. You know those restaurants? The ones where you forget where you are until you walk back out to your car? I love those.

Sean and I went to Wheat Penny on a whim back in March. My parents had talked about it, and so had a few of my co-workers. We made a late reservation on a Saturday night, and brought our nice camera just in case it turned out to be as great as everyone said it was. Honestly? It was amazing. Not only was the food delicious, but the people were so lovely. It was one of the best restaurant experiences I’d had in a long time.

A few days later, I reached out to Chef/Owner Elizabeth Wiley to tell her how much I enjoyed her restaurant. I wasn’t sure if I would hear back from her or if she would read my email, but she did almost immediately and was so, so kind. We got to talking and I asked if she would let me come in and take pictures for my blog and she instantly agreed. One of the best parts about Wheat Penny (in my opinion) is their bar and drink selection, so I knew I wanted to meet with one of the bartenders. Wiley told me to stop in between 11AM and 1PM the following Saturday, ask for a guy named Brock and learn more about their signature cocktails.

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Brock – the epitome of a good bartender. Quick, knowledgeable and patient. He walked me through two of their most famous drinks: the Wheat Penny Manhattan, and homemade ginger lemon soda.

I have to be honest and admit that I’m not the biggest fan of whiskey. It reminds me of high school and not in a good way. However, I told Brock to make me their most popular drinks and he delivered. Their version of a Manhattan is a mix or aromatic bitters, orange bitters, Bulleit rye whiskey and a “beer jam” that I wasn’t able to get the recipe for because duh, it’s a secret, but this jam adds magic to the final drink. It’s topped with a cherry and served on the rocks. I didn’t think I liked whiskey before, but I fell in love after this drink.

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The second drink Brock made was a ginger lemon soda. It included a ginger syrup that they make in house, aromatic bitters, lemon juice, lemon zest and a bit of soda water. I could have chugged 10 of these in a row. Super refreshing and totally different than your typical soda.

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If you’re ever in the Dayton area, I highly recommend Wheat Penny Oven & Bar. I fell in love with the food and drinks the first time I went, and fell in love with the spirit and attitudes of the people who work there on my second visit.

When I emailed Wiley to thank her for letting me come in, take photos and meet her staff, this was her response: “The restaurant really comes alive through the personalities of the people who staff it, and they keep me going too.”

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Here I am

So, Mexico.

I just got back from a week in Riviera Maya, celebrating my brother’s wedding with 30 of our closest friends and family. It was the best week of my life and my heart is throbbing just thinking about where we all were a week ago. I have close to 700 photos I want to share, so I’m going to hole up this weekend and get them all together.

Also, before I left, I took some pictures for a local restaurant called Wheat Penny, and I cannot wait to share those either. It was a great experience, and I’m psyched to put those up as well.

It’s been a crazy few weeks, but in the best way. I can’t wait to fill all of you in!

<3 <3

Ohio Nights: A Market Date

When Lisa and I were discussing what we wanted to do for our next date, we both instantly agreed that we wanted it to be outside, and during the day. I feel like whenever I think about me and Sean going on a date, I immediately think of dinner, movies, bowling, etc. The usual shit. I wanted us to do something that was cheap, fun, and definitely something that wasn’t on our normal date activity list.

We decided to go to 2nd Street Market, which surprisingly, I’ve never been to. My friends and family have raved about it for years, but I’ve somehow never made the time to visit. Until our date, that is.

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The only downside to the market? CLOWNS. :(

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This beautiful ring belonged to a man who sold sea salt, grains, pasta and essential oils at the market. He was so kind, and I asked if I could take a picture of his ring. He told me that it was older than I was, and he bought it 40 years ago when he was working at Yellowstone National Park.

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The best baklava I’ve had in forever.

My spoils:

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Still dying over getting all this gorgeous sea salt for $1.50.

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My sweet date.

 

Next up: Fresh Ravioli with Egg yolk and Ricotta.

 

 

 

Basic Bread

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So I have ten classes left in culinary school. About half of those classes are baking/pastry. I’m not a strong baker by any means. I honestly avoid baking because I know it’s not something I excel in, so I just never do it. Lately I’ve been wanting to try out some bread recipes because I’m sick of buying bread every week at the grocery. We always have the ingredients on hand to make fresh bread, so why not get some extra baking practice and free bread?! Win, win, win.

I found a really simple bread recipe in my book from school, and ended up altering a few ingredients. I made 3 batches, and the third one was by far the best.

Basic Bread

makes enough dough for 6 1 lb loaves

6.5 cups of AP (all purpose) flour

1 tbsp of active yeast

3 cups lukewarm water

1.5 tbsp kosher salt

Mix water, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand up mixer. Add all the flour at once, put the bowl on the mixer and mix on medium with the dough hook until a sticky dough forms.

Transfer the dough into a food container. I just used a tall, plastic Rubbermaid container. Place the lid on top of the container, but don’t snap it shut. Let the dough rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours. The dough should almost fill the container after 2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, flour your hands and grab a piece of dough from the container. Weigh the piece of the dough on a kitchen scale, making sure each loaf weighs about 1 lb. If you’re just making one loaf and have leftover dough, snap the lip on and refrigerate up to two weeks. The dough will deflate a little when it’s refrigerated, so don’t panic. It’s still good.

Shape your loaf (flouring your hands as needed), and let it rest at room temperature on a piece of parchment paper for 50 minutes.

After 50 minutes, score the top of the loaf about 1/4 of an inch deep, then place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Once the oven is preheated, place the dough + parchment paper on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove parchment paper and let the bread bake directly on the pan for the last 10 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack, then slice and enjoy!

Ricotta Hotcakes with Lemon Curd

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Ricotta hotcakes. I had never tried them before last night, and wooooeeee, are they good. They’re rich, cake-y, and actually pretty different from typical pancakes. I wasn’t sure how the ricotta would affect the taste, and while it didn’t change the flavor, it definitely changed the texture. These cakes are moist from the ricotta, and the egg whites really made them puff up.

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I spread some lemon curd on top because lemon + ricotta = a dream, so it only made sense. The hotcakes and lemon curd together taste just like lemon bars. Ever had those?

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I happened to have this lemon curd on hand, but any kind will work. Actually, don’t be like me and make your own! It’s really easy. Here’s a great recipe if you’ve never made it before.

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Ricotta Hotcakes with Lemon Curd

makes 8-10 hotcakes

3/4 c. whole milk ricotta

1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 c. flour

1 tbsp lemon zest

1 1/2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

pinch of sea salt

3 egg yolks, 3 egg whites, in separate bowls

3/4 c. milk

Strain the ricotta over a bowl for at least an hour. This will get rid of all the excess liquid.

Once the ricotta is strained, mix flour, salt, baking powder and sugar and set aside. Then mix egg yolks, vanilla, milk, ricotta and lemon zest in another bowl. Set aside.

Take the 3 egg whites and beat on high with an electric mixer until whites are stiff. Set aside.

Combine flour mixture with the wet ingredients and stir until everything is thoroughly mixed. Next, add the egg whites a little at a time, gently folding them into the batter. Add slowly until the egg whites are all mixed in, making sure you aren’t stirring too hard, or else you’ll deflate the egg whites.

Heat a skillet over medium- low heat and add a knob of butter. Once the butter is melted and the pan is warm, add 1/4 cup of batter at a time, flipping the cakes when bubbles form on the surface.

Finish the hotcakes with lemon curd and sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Serve immediately.