Tuesday, April 15, 2014

French Onion Soup

Perfect Pairing:  Epicurean cutting board


Today you are getting a soup recipe.  Why?  Because it snowed in Chicago yesterday.  It was quite a bit of snow actually.  I am NOT happy about it.  I am so disgusted with winter.  That has to be the last snow.  Right?  RIGHT?!

I have always loved French onion soup.  Why not?  It is salty, cheesy, and topped with crusty bread.  It even eliminates the extra step of me dunking my bread in the soup, which I love to do.  For some reason I avoided making this at home because I assumed it would be very time consuming and perhaps difficult.  I guess I just always assume French recipes are time consuming and difficult. 

While we are on the topic of France.... I am going to France next month!  I am over the moon excited.  I am going for work but extending for fun.  The first half of the trip will be in Paris and then it is off to sunny Nice for a few days.  I can barely stand it! I studied for a semester in Nice, so I am pretty pumped to see it again as a grown-up and a foodie. 


Anyway, like I said above, I always thought French recipes were difficult.  Good news!  French onion soup is easy!  Really, really easy.  This version tastes just like the restaurant classic.  It does take some time to get the onions cooked down but overall it is very low maintenance.  It would be great as a first course or served alongside a hearty salad. **My original draft of this said a heart salad, not hearty.  Gross.   When I made the soup I served it with this Kale Salad with Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Sesame Dressing.  It was a great cold weather meal.


The most time consuming part of the prep is slicing the onions.  It is important to have a really sharp knife.  Invest in a great knife and you won’t be sorry.  I love my Shun knives. 

I have always used the flexible plastic cutting boards.  They are great in the beginning, but after a few runs through the dishwasher they start to fold up around the edges and cause extreme annoyance in the chef.  My mom had an Epicurean cutting board that she received after attending a Wolf oven demonstration.  I coveted it.  I assumed this was a specialty board that would be hard to find, but apparently they are all over the place.  It was at the top of my Christmas list this year.  I love this board.  It is dishwasher safe, lightweight, and comes in various sizes.  This might sound crazy but I truly enjoy cutting and chopping more on this board than any other.  Weird? 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pecan Pie Bars

Perfect Pairing:  Room temperature


Growing up I was convinced I did not like pecan pie.  It was served at every Thanksgiving, but I only had eyes for the pumpkin.  I actually thought I didn’t like nuts in general.  I think I was just trying to be cool like my big brother.  All of the adults raved about pecan pie so I decided to give it a shot one year.  Whoa.  Revelation.  It is amazing!


I was intrigued when I came across this Pecan Pie Bar recipe.  I liked the idea of a shortbread crust and making them in a 9x13 so they would serve a crowd.  I followed this recipe with no changes, except I did not top them with whipped cream.  These were incredible.  I think they are better than traditional pecan pie.  My parents agreed, and that is saying something since pecan pie is their favorite dessert of all time.

I kept them fresh in the refrigerator, but they were definitely best served at room temperature.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sweet and Tangy Bean Dip

Perfect Pairing:  Scoop chips


This dip is going to be a regular on my summer menu.  It is my new favorite recipe!  It is so easy and delicious.  It is downright addictive.  I served it as a dip, but it would be pretty great as a side dish.

I made this for a party at my brother’s office.  He is a dentist and bought his own practice two years ago.  His awesome staff threw him a surprise two year anniversary party. 


He was SO surprised!  It was great.  By the way, if you are in the north shore and need a dentist you must go see Jay!  He is the best!  I promise there will be no cheesy elevator music in his office, and his staff is fabulous.


When I thought about what to bring to the party I knew I needed something that did not need to be cooked/warmed up, and more importantly, I needed to make it a few days in advance because of a busy schedule.  This dip was perfect because it just gets better with time. 


I suggest serving it with scoop chips for obvious reasons!  You don’t want any of this good stuff falling off the chip.

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing:  Trail Mix Wheat Berry Salad with Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Orange Vinaigrette

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Deviled Eggs with Goat Cheese and Herbs

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Whipped Ricotta Appetizer

Perfect Pairing:  Flavored balsamic vinegar


People ask me all the time how I come up with recipes or ideas for the blog.  I am all over the board.  Many of the recipes featured here are family favorites that we have been making for years, recipes that have been passed down, inspired by a restaurant dish I devoured, or simply a product of my noggin.  This particular appetizer was inspired by a restaurant dish, but one that I have never tried. 


I was reading a review for a local restaurant and the writer was raving about a simple appetizer of whipped ricotta, grilled bread and honeycomb.  After reading that I was just looking for a reason to make it myself.  I have since made it four or five times.  It is so simple, rustic, and delicious. 


Ricotta is whirred in the food processor until completely smooth and then simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  I serve it on a tray loaded with grilled bread, honey, and balsamic vinegar.  I let guests make up their own bites based on their personal preference.


This appetizer is the perfect opportunity to show off that fancy vinegar gathering dust in your pantry.  I personally love vanilla fig balsamic.  I have raved about that stuff before.  It is scrumptious. 

On Thanksgiving I was feeling fancy and also included prosciutto and sliced figs.  Why not?


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Salted Roasted Pecans

Perfect Pairing:  Chocolate Sauce

These little guys are a good thing. 

They are great to have on hand in the freezer.   I would suggest buying the pecan halves at Costco or Sam’s.  They are much cheaper in bulk.

Salted Roasted Pecans are great on their own, would be fabulous on a cheese plate, or wrapped up as a hostess gift.  I paired them here with chocolate sauce and ice cream, which is a no brainer!  I have also used them on top of a yogurt parfait, and tossed in a spinach salad with pomegranate aerils, dried cranberries, and this dressing.  Delicious!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oatmeal Shortbread Cookies

Perfect Pairing:  St. Patrick’s Day

Despite having ANOTHER snow storm in Chicago, the standard St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will go on as planned this weekend.  That includes dying the river green and filling every Irish pub to the brim starting around 8:00 AM.  Chicagoans are pretty crazy about this holiday.  Two years ago it was 80+ degrees on the big day, so it gives me hope that the foot of snow and ice in my front yard could be gone soon!

Last year I featured Brown Butter Rice Krispy Treats that were tinted green for the holiday.


Two years ago I provided a recipe for Edamame Hummus, which was a lovely shade of green as well.


This year’s recipe is one my favorite cookies, Oatmeal Shortbread.  This cookie has been a staple on our Christmas cookie plate for as long as I can remember.  At Christmas we keep the circle shape and use red and green sugar.


These cookies are deliciously crisp and light.  You will love them any time of the year.  The dough is easy to whip up, then you form into rolls.


Coat the rolls in colored sugar.


Slice (shape into shamrocks, if you so desire) and bake!




Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Slow Cooker Calico Bean Bake

Perfect Pairing:  Thorough rinsing

So it turns out Slow Cooker Calico Bean Bake is not an easy thing to photograph.  It must have something to do with it being all one color, not holding any shape, and let’s face it, it is just not very beautiful.  My cousin took these pictures for me because she is awesome at photography, and I was baffled on how to take a good picture of it.  Fortunately, it tastes about 100x better than it photographs! 

Part of my job requires me to spend long days in production studios.  I assure you, I am not doing anything too exciting in said studios.  My absolute favorite studio is here in Chicago.  They have an amazing facility with multiple stages and sets.  One of those sets is a gorgeous, fully functional, kitchen. 
kitchen set-001

Next to the gourmet kitchen is a prop room.  An entire room dedicated to kitchen props!  I pretty much lose my mind over that room.  Each time I am at that studio I daydream about how awesome it would be to photograph my recipes there.  The backdrops!  The lighting!  The utensils!  The plates!  The trays!  Nerd alert.

Perhaps I could even make Slow Cooker Calico Bean Bake looks gorg in that environment.  This is definitely a family favorite.  It is so good!  Even my little cousin Callie loved it!  I mean…. She REALLY loved it.  We lost track of how many bowls she polished off. 

Now this dish will forever be known as Callie Bean Bake instead of Calico Bean Bake!  This recipe is so flipping easy.  After browning the meat and cooking the bacon you just throw everything in the slow cooker and let the flavors develop.  It is fantastic served alongside anything you take off of the grill.  I recommend thoroughly draining and rinsing the beans.  This removes a good amount of sodium and can make it easier to digest. 
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