Cooking with friends

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I had a plan that I was going write this post more than two weeks ago, and I was going to start by telling you that ‘Everything is on the brink of change, here in the Orange Kitchen’. But then life got in the way, and I didn’t write the post, and now here we are, no longer on the brink, but rather right in the midst, of change.

The boys at work!

The boys at work!

And change it most certainly is – I have left behind both my new home in Boston and my life as a lady of leisure, for a little while at least. I have been given the chance to spend the summer at Tanglewood music festival, as part of the team which organises the festival. It’s an amazing chance for me to see how another major classical music festival is run, and I am so excited to be part of it.

Laura cooking with her sister Becca

Laura cooking with her sister Becca

The festival is based in Western Mass, so I’ve moved out to the beautiful town of Lenox for the next nine weeks or so – leaving Noel to fend for himself in the meantime! I was totally unfamiliar with the Berkshires, as the area around Lenox is known, and it is really a joy to get to know it. It is beautiful like you wouldn’t believe – and, while sleepier than Boston, it has plenty to keep me occupied.

The boys preparing Kale chips

The boys preparing Kale chips

This post was also not going to be about cooking with friends. It was going to be a recipe for Spaghetti with Avocado Pesto, which is delicious, and perfect for the warm weather we’re having these days (ahem, and the rain…). But, truth be told, I haven’t had a lot of cooking time recently – I’m working full time, and I’m living on my own, so I’ve been resorting to old faithful standbys.

Dave making his awesome burgers

Dave making his awesome burgers

This weekend, I went down to Connecticut, to my ‘American family’s’ house – the same people we spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and Boxing Day with, and who have very kindly adopted us poor ‘orphans’! We were celebrating my friends Laura & Dave’s wedding in May with a lovely weekend in the garden. We tie-dyed shirts, we drank, we lounged, we played with the dogs, we flew kites – and we cooked together. It was such fun – we made a selection of salads and things for the grill, but really it was all about being in the kitchen together.

Becca & Noel hard at work

Becca & Noel hard at work

I love to cook any which way that comes along – but there is something truly wonderful about doing so with the people most important to you.

A few of the weekend's other activities - kite-flying

A few of the weekend’s other activities – kite-flying

Tie-dying

Tie-dying

Chilling with the dogs!

Chilling with the dogs!

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Chipotle & Black Bean Hash, and Griddled Corn with Lime Aioli

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Well, well – it’s been a while, and I’m sorry! I’m finally back in Boston, and it’s been mad – since I’ve been back, we’ve had a friend and then my sister visiting, and been away to New York for a few days. Hectic.

So, to make it up to you, here’s not one, but two recipes – both based in different ways on dishes from two restaurants I love in Boston.

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While our friend Ben was visiting, we went for dinner at Redbones BBQ in Davis Square, which is a great restaurant with both great food and a really fun atmosphere. For the uninitiated among you, BBQ here is not what you do in your garden (in the rain) in England, but rather a way of preparing and cooking meat – more as in BBQ sauce/seasoning. What you do in your garden is grilling – and what you do under the grill is broiling… Keeping up?

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We had a great meal, and left with a pile of leftover smoked brisket and baby back ribs – so I decided to make hash with the leftovers. Hash is something I’ve only really discovered since moving to the States – in the UK, it is really associated with corned beef from a tin, and not particularly appetising. It was popular during and after WWII because fresh meat was not always readily available, and corned beef hash became an economical way to feed a family.

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Economical certainly – but not especially inspiring. So, imagine my delight to discover that over here, it is often on the menu with meat that has never been near a tin – either freshly made corned beef, or, even better in my opinion, leftover barbecue, pulled pork, brisket etc etc. What hasn’t changed from WWII days is that hash is still a very economical option – it is really best made with leftovers, and is a great way to use up leftover meat, especially if you have bits of different leftover meats from say a BBQ/grill. It’s also very versatile – the basic components are meat, potatoes and usually onions, but you can add lots of other things to it, as you wish. It’s great for any time of the day, and is often served for brunch with a fried egg on top (or for dinner with an egg on top…). For mine, I added some black beans, and some dried chipotle, which I thought went well with the leftover BBQ meat.

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To go alongside this, I recreated a dish from a fantastic tapas restaurant in Boston – Toro. It’s somewhere we love to eat, and in fact we first went on my very first trip to Boston – and have been back several times since. The food is amazing – encompassing all the old favourites, alongside more unusual offerings such as crispy pork belly with roasted pumpkin, crispy brussel sprouts, chantenay carrots and kimchi vegetables, or, our favourite last time, Kabayaki glazed beef short ribs with chilled farro, cucumbers, radish and hazelnuts.

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The food is immaculate – perfectly balanced and incredibly delicious; we have never had a bad plate there. However, as we were finishing our first visit, the table to one side of us were getting very excited over their soon-to-arrive order of grilled corn with alioli, lime, espelette pepper and aged cheese. Dubbed ‘La Especialidad de la Casa’ on the menu, we had somehow missed this and asked what the fuss was about. The table next to us waxed lyrical, and we knew that on our next visit, we had to try the corn!

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We duly did – and it was fantastic. So, so simple, but incredibly delicious, and I have wanted to try to recreate it for a while at home. Mine wasn’t as good as Toro’s, of course, but I was pleased and it brought back great memories for us both!

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Chipotle & Black Bean Hash 
Serves 2

  • 2 large/3 medium potatoes, either raw or pre-cooked
  • Leftover meat – I used smoked brisket, baby back ribs, and roast pork
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 dried chipotle peppers, to taste, chopped
  • 1/2 tin black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup beef stock (you may not need all of this)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • Fresh coriander, chopped, to garnish

If using raw potatoes, cut into halves and place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water and add a little salt, then bring to the boil and simmer until fairly soft but not falling apart – 5-10 minutes. Drain the potatoes, and allow to cool until they’re cool enough to be handled. If using leftover potatoes, skip this step.

Cut the potatoes into small cubes. Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and fry the potatoes until they begin to brown. Add the meat, onions, beans, chipotles and beef stock, and cook until the stock has reduced and the onions are soft. The potatoes should still be slightly crisp. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Just before the hash is finished, fry two eggs. Serve the hash, topped with a fried egg, and garnished with coriander.

Griddled Corn with Lime Aioli
Inspired by Toro’s Maíz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija
Serves 2

For the aioli:

  • 1 large/2 small egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used a mix of olive oil and canola oil)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (use more or less to taste)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime, to taste
  • Salt and pepper

For the corn:

  • 2 corns on the cob, with husks
  • Grated cotija (or other South American hard cheese) to serve

Heat a griddle pan over a high heat until very hot. Place the corn in its husks on the griddle, and cook for around 15 minutes. Once the husks start to blacken, peel them back and put the corn back on the griddle until the kernels are slightly charred.

In the meantime, make the aioli. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and beat well with a whisk. Stir in the garlic. Gradually add the oil to the yolks in a thin stream, beating constantly. The mix should thicken and become creamy – you may not need all of the oil. Season with salt, pepper and lime juice to taste.

Serve the corn topped with aioli, grated cheese, and freshly ground black pepper.