Barley and Me

This Friday I’m flying home to Bryn Mawr for a couple of weeks. There are so many amazing memories I associate with my home, particularly surrounding weekend meals. It begins at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning to prepare for the upcoming 36 hours of culinary bliss. Depending on the time of year, dinner could be a rich bowl of boeuf bourguignon, a divine plate of chicken parmesan, or a simple swordfish steak with risotto on the side. The risotto has always been my absolute favorite – the absolute crème de la crème. Swordfish and risotto season is the best. It is the time of year when a crisp glass of white wine hits the spot. It is the time of year when I can sit on my back patio, reading, while my dog lovingly lays by my side in the summer breeze.

Like the naughty but lovable title character of John Grogan’s Marley and Me, a dog can provide such comfort. Though they do require a heaping amount of tender loving care, like the delicate grains of a perfect risotto, the reward is worth it. At times a bit temperamental, riled up pups and heat sensitive risottos can be alleviated with some gentle affection.

I can’t wait for four days from now; there is nothing like the comfort of a bowl of my father’s risotto and my dog lying at my feet.

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Lemon Parmesan Risotto:

1 cup pearl barley

1 onion

1/2 cup white wine

~3 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup Parmesan cheese

Juice of 2 lemons

Parsley to garnish

1 tbsp olive oil

6 strips bacon (optional)

 Instruction:

1. Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Sweat onions until soft and translucent. Add barley and sauté until it turns translucent. (Another trick for sautéing the barley is to listen until you hear it “crying.”) Add white wine and stir, allowing barley to absorb the moisture.

2. About 1/2 cup at a time, incorporate chicken stock. After each addition, allow the barley to absorb the liquid on a gentle simmer. After 3 cups of stock have been added, try a barley grain. If still relatively crunchy, continue to add liquid. If al dente but bouncy, barley is ready.

3. When barley is ready, squeeze lemon juice into saucepan; stir. Turn off heat and add Parmesan, stirring to let the residual heat melt the cheese.

4. Optional: form bacon strips into disks using muffin tin and slightly smaller (oven safe) cookie cutter. Cook bacon at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes; until crispy. Fill bacon disks with barley; garnish with parsley and Parmesan shavings.

Enjoy barley risotto with John Grogan’s Marley and Me, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

The Porks of Being a Wallflower

When I met Sam last year, I was shocked to learn that she was a teenager (though has moved up to the next decade of life since then). Immediately I was amazed by how creative, talented, mature and – well – together she is. In our Marketing and Food Product Design class, we were asked to come up with a new product for the market. The only limitation was that the product had to contain blueberries. Sam’s brilliant idea to combine the two best components of breakfast time – bacon and blueberries – is absolutely inspired (and perhaps somewhat influenced by her summers spent in the good ol’ USA).

As the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower find ways to cope with teenage years, these small muffins can carry pretty heavy flavors and still turn out beautifully. Everyone handles adolescence in different ways, and sometimes seemingly random and (let’s face it) super weird qualities can produce a magnificent result. I could barely tie my shoes when I was nineteen; meanwhile, Sam is now running a pub in Berkshire.

And so, this post celebrates both a head chef at the age of twenty and brilliant friend, who possesses an appreciation of the finer, American things in life: bacon and carbohydrates.

IMG_9865Bacon Blueberry Muffins

110 g flour

110g butter

65 g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

100 g blueberries

300 g bacon

Brown sugar

Instruction:

1. Melt butter in a pan with bacon. Turn off heat and let the bacon infuse into the melted butter for about 5 minutes.

2. To candy bacon: generously coat strips of bacon with brown sugar. Sandwich between parchment paper and two baking sheets, and bake for 10-12 minutes. When bacon has cooled, slice into small pieces.

3. Whisk sugar and eggs in a medium bowl. Add melted butter, then sift in flour and baking powder. Fold in blueberries and bacon. Transfer batter into greased or lined muffin tin.

4. Bake muffins in 350 degree oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Enjoy bacon blueberry muffins with Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Much Ado About Stuffing

My actual boyfriend was the one who broke the news to me about my make-believe boyfriend’s engagement. When Benedict Cumberbatch made his grand announcement in the Times last week, Sherlock devotees all over the world took the news quite hard. But he’s not the only Benedict causing trouble. In William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Benedick toys with Beatrice in a variety of ways and surprises everyone (players and audience alike) with a sudden shift of his views on marriage.

All of Shakespeare’s comedies make for very pleasant reading (or viewing) material. Like a proper Thanksgiving stuffing, something that has gone stale (seemingly past the point of being salvaged) can indeed be the foundation for all of the other components. In this dish, different textures keep each bite interesting, and the playful combination of smooth honey and punchy ginger teases the consumer’s palate.

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Ginger Honey Stuffing

6 pork sausage links, casings removed

10 strips of bacon

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

1 onion, finely diced

2 loaves of stale bread, crusts removed

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 small egg (or half of a larger egg), beaten

1/4 cup honey

3 tbsps ground ginger

3 tbsps unsalted butter

1. Cube bread and lay out in baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the ground ginger. Bake in 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, then remove and let cool.

2. In the meantime, cook sausages (casings removed) over medium heat in olive oil, breaking up with a wooden spoon into small bits. Remove and let cool on paper towel (to soak up extra fat). Dice bacon and cook in same pan until crispy. Remove and let cool on paper towel (to soak up extra fat).

3. In excess bacon fat, cook diced onions until translucent and soft. Let cool, then combine with sausage, bacon, diced raw apples, and cooled bread cubes.

4. Beat egg with warm (but not hot) chicken stock. Toss dry ingredients in the liquid, then spread entire mixture evenly in baking dish. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle the rest of the ginger. Dot the stuffing all over with bits of cold, cubed butter.

5. Bake stuffing in a 350-degree oven until liquid is absorbed and top is golden brown.

Enjoy ginger honey stuffing with William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Mushroom With a View

I have called Philadelphia home for my entire life. We’re known for our cheesesteaks and frightening sports fans, but the city has both historical and cultural charm, and the surrounding towns add to the richness of the area. The Main Line is studded with sweeping estates, renowned universities, and my beloved high school (where my love for literature flourished). Nearby is Kennett Square, the mushroom capital of the world. I wanted to take advantage of this incredible local commodity during my brief time at home this summer, so this dish is truly a celebration of where I’ve grown up and learned so much about classical literature.

I first read E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View during my final year of high school. I was in my seventh and final year at the Academy of Notre Dame, but it was the first time I truly felt the Main Line history surrounding me. English class was held in the mansion, the main and most beautiful building. Our campus had once been the grounds of a country estate, and the stone mansion’s wraparound terrace and sweeping great hall made class feel much more glamorous. After reading certain books, our universally adored teacher, Dr. Califf, would host movie nights in the old library. He’d project onto a large screen whichever film adaptation coincided with our curriculum. A Room With a View is one of the few works that I find equally enjoyable on screen and in print. Being able to discuss the text and watch the film inside the walls of a glorious Main Line estate only heightened the experience further. The film and book adaptations appeal to all the senses, transporting the consumer to both the bustling streets of Florence to the pleasant lawns of the English countryside. These stuffed mushrooms similarly engage the nose, eyes, and tongue. The stars of the show – the mushrooms – are only enhanced by surprising lemon and smokey bacon.

I can look back on home as the place that shaped my interests and education, and it is somewhere I can continue to return to enjoy the world’s most sought after mushroom (and the occasional cheesesteak).

SONY DSCStuffed Mushrooms:

20 or so button mushrooms

1/2 small onion, minced

3 strips bacon, diced

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup white wine

4 tbsps melted butter

Instruction:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash mushrooms and remove stems. Dice half the amount of mushrooms and set aside. In each whole mushroom, make a small well using a melon baller.

2. In sautee pan, cook diced bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to drain on paper towel but save about two tbsps of fat in pan.

3. Sweat onion in bacon fat. Add diced mushrooms and cook on medium-high heat until moisture has evaporated. Add lemon juice and white wine to pan, scraping up bits that have stuck to bottom. Cook until moisture has evaporated again, then add bacon back to pan and combine all ingredients.

4. Assembly: spoon about a teaspoon of mixture from the pan into the remaining mushrooms. Place stuffed mushrooms in baking pan with melted butter. Bake in oven for about twelve minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.

Enjoy stuffed mushrooms with E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!