For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram you would have noticed I am obsessed with making focaccia bread. Not to mention, it’s that time of year when you just want to stay indoors and stuff your face with carbohydrates.
In regards to this recipe, I blame a lot of my mishaps on my oven, but the truth is, when it comes to baking, I’m just not very good. When I cook, I don’t measure. I go my feel, taste and eye. So believe it or not, the hardest part about writing a cookbook (www.daretotaste.com) is writing down the measurements.
I have made this bread literally 15 times in the past month, and I firmly believe I finally got it right. Jumping ahead, I only like tomatoes and shallots on my focaccia. Whereas my mother, however, loves black olives and artichokes. So feel free to add your own spin on this recipe. I’m just a simple girl who likes simple flavors.
2 CUPS WATER, WARM – ABOUT 110°
2 TEASPOONS YEAST, DRY
41/2 CUPS ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
3 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL
2 TEASPOONS SALT
2 SHALLOTS, CHOPPED
3 TOMATOES, SLICED OR CHOPPED
1 TABLESPOON FRESH ROSEMARY
1 TABLESPOON FRESH THYME
In a large bowl (or mixer), combine the yeast with the warm water. Let rest for about 15 minutes before stirring. Add the flour, salt and flour. If you dot have a mixer, kneed for 10 minutes until the dough reaches a soft consistency.
Form the dough into a tight ball, coat with olive oil and return to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let double in size… about an hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size, deflate and let rise again for another hour. Once it’s risen, place the dough on a baking sheet lined with olive oil. With your fingers, massage the dough creating small indentations. These will become little pockets of flavor once the bread is seasoned.
In a small skillet, sauté the two shallots in olive oil until soft.
Once the dough is fully massaged, make sure the top is covered with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, rosemary and thyme. Follow with the shallots and tomatoes or any other toppings of your choice.
Cover the dough in the pan and let rest for at least another 30-45 minutes until it’s risen once again.
Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes until the top and bottom are lightly browned.
Roasted Tomato, Ginger & Basil Soup
Nothing screams fall or winter like a hearty tomato soup, especially on a chilly day. Lucky for me, New England brings lots of days that call for this recipe. And if you love carbohydrates and starches as much as I do, to make it even heartier, add rice or orzo pasta. Serve with a classic grilled cheese sandwich and you have a perfect meal.
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Red Lantern – Owned and operated by Empire’s Big Night Entertainment group, the ambiance at Red Lantern is spectacular; Asian décor of course. It’s not too loud to have a conversation with your date or even neighbor. In fact, I had one of the worst dates of my life here, but always seem to make friends with those eating at the table next to me. Had a little too much to drink? You won’t even get in trouble for pushing your friend under the table when she leans over to pick up her chopsticks. Trust me. I’ve tried it.
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I’m assuming if you live in Boston you have been to Empire, one of the most delicious Asian and sushi places in the city.
I would go into length about the menu, but it would take me forever to list all the things I love. At Empire there is something for everyone. Don’t like sushi? Not a problem. Order up some pot stickers, lo mein and/or fried rice and you’ll think you’re in Chinatown, minus the disgusting decor and drunk college kids at 3 a.m. The great thing about Empire is it may very well be the only place I can go to eat and drink at the same time, if that makes any sense.(Translation-I can eat and drink just enough to still have the desire to stay and check out the eye candy hanging out at the bar area.) The service is never less than impeccable on any given night at any given time, and to me, that is one of the greatest achievements of this restaurant. The waitresses and bartenders are easy on the eyes but quick and efficient at the same time. In my opinion, it’s hard to hire a full staff of gorgeous human beings who also perform their job well. AND when it comes to cocktails, Empire is not lacking in tasty beverages. I’m in love with the Emperor’s Mule (I’m on a Moscow Mule kick lately) or the Asian Pear, all vodka-based drinks.
The food? Sky’s the limit. The sushi is fresh and beyond creative, but not complicated and confusing. My favorite roll at Empire is the Hamachi Tartar Roll, a citrus (lime) yellow tail tartar with cucumber and avocado and more, and the Red Dragon Roll, which is blue fin tuna with a bit of spice. If you have $24 to spare, order the lobster cupcakes, a deep-fried morsel of goodness you’ll dream about for the rest of your life.
This is legit my go-to spot for “girls night out” because you really can’t go wrong. It can be a singles spot, a place for groups to meet after work, and even a birthday party destination. In fact, I think I’ve been to Empire for all of the above, including New Years Eve two years ago. Yes, with my posse of girls. Some guy at the bar told me my arms were fat. Actually, I think his exact words were, “get your fat arms out of my face.” He was really sweet. Needless to say we did not go home together that night.
The Boston Bruins have been known to drop in at Empire as well, especially when Shawn Thornton was a member of the B’s. I’ve never seen a fight at Empire, my friend made out with a hot guy in the hallway last summer, and I lost my $375 car keys and leather jacket there last fall. I mean…so much can happen at this place.
My only gripe with Empire is it can be somewhat loud past 9pm and the music is funky. If I want to hear loud music past 11pm, there better be some Michael Jackson on the playlist. Unfortunately, you won’t find that at Empire. So if you’re headed for some conversation, pick another spot. One more thing: The cab situation can be tricky as well. With Strega right next door, it can be a nightmare/free-for-all getting home and that is nothing less than a pain in the ass. And frankly, I’m too old to worry about that crap.
Check out styleboston at the Empire opening
Aria Trattoria, North End — One of my absolute favorite spots for dinner, drinks, more drinks and snacks… everything! And yes, this is my second and last North End restaurant on the top five list. I would add more, but I don’t want you all to think I’m afraid to leave my neighborhood.
Massimo Tiberi has hit it out of the park with Aria. Named after his daughter, the best part of the menu is Tiberi’s love for having pasta fit into every meal. I agree with Mass, you must squeeze the pasta in somewhere. In fact, a small bowl of homemade bolognese is what makes your night at Aria complete. And the fact that you can order a small bowl of pasta in between your starter and main dish is, in my opinion, righteous. Yeah, I said righteous.
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Thank you for joining me on my first food-related blog post. I am thrilled to dip my pen, or keyboard, into the culinary arts – and what better way to start my new career than a witty blog post about my second favorite thing in life (next to sports of course)…food.
As many of you already know, I am an avid home cook. To foster this, I am attending culinary school in January (Cambridge School of Culinary Arts) and I recently finished a food-related project in Los Angeles. I also wrote my first cookbook over the summer, “Bullied Into Cooking,” which helps support an anti-bullying campaign in all 134 Boston Public schools. I’m in the process of writing my second book that will be out in early December.
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