No Room for MiSteaks

Steak2019Winter is here again – on the heels of what has been an insanely busy few months. One constant however has been the thrill of finding new recipes, and using my sous vide whenever possible. Phil has a weak spot for a good steak, and (since it was a particularly cold evening) pairing with potatoes felt like the right move. Fresh herbs and a solid Malbec made for a memorable meal with these Sous Video Steaks and Salt-Crusted Potatoes.

Sous Vide PhotoI’ve written about the magic of a sous vide prior to this, but steak is the appliance’s true pièce de résistance. A grill cooks quickly with dry heat, which creates a piece of meat with a wonderful crust and a perfectly-cooked center. It is difficult to achieve the same effect with pan-frying – and broiling just sets off the smoke alarm (at least in small NYC apartments). Sous vide maintains the perfect temperature throughout the process, and then you finish the steak right at the end over medium/high heat pan with some butter and oil for a beautiful seared crust: avoiding smoke alarms and overcooked meat with one simple fix. Click HERE to see the recipe for these easy-to-do steaks. 

SaltedPotatoes1There’s a restaurant near my apartment that makes these perfect little salted potatoes that Phil and I have come to love – they are simple and incredibly delicious. Yes they are covered in salt, which is probably why they are so amazing. They take just under an hour, but the result is a side dish you will be addicted to in no time. Any dipping sauce works, so choose your favorite (aioli, ranch dressing, or our favorite: the jalapeño sauce from Trader Joe’s). Click HERE to the see recipe for this simple but delicious side. 

SteakDinnerSteak begs for a pairing that is both lush and to the point – which brought me to one of my favorite composers (if not overall favorite): Tchaikovsky. There’s nothing better than taking a bite out of his artistry, which can be both heart-wrenchingly passionate as well as colorful and honeyed. His range of styles affords for a variety of pairings, and – since steak doesn’t require lots of bells and whistles to make it great – Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48 felt like the perfect choice.

Completed in the Fall of 1880, Tchaikovsky crafted the Serenade from (in his own words) “from inner conviction…It is a heartfelt piece and so, I dare to think, is not lacking in real qualities.” When Tchaikovsky claims a piece is heartfelt, you better believe it’s going to tug on some heart strings. The music mirrors the depth and color of his much larger symphonic orientations, while also taking the listener through a variety of narratives. Below is a performance of the piece with the Concertgebouw Kamerorkest – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48”, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Hash It Out

Egg+Hash2Brunch is awesome. I would eat breakfast at every meal if I could. I credit eggs being such a versatile and easy protein. I also love cooking breakfast for people I care about. So when one of my favorite humans made a trip to New York – my best friend Megan – we scoured Pinterest for some culinary inspiration. What we found was not only simple, but super tasty: Bacon & Mushroom Hash with a Fried Egg.

PurplePotatoesBrooklyn has some fantastic open-air markets – where everything in season is Insta-worthy, plentiful and downright delicious. My favorite produce stand had these dark purple potatoes and violet scallions, so we grabbed a handful of each. I spoke a bit about anthocyanins in my last post – so clearly I’m on a theme with ruby-tinged produce. In the event you can’t find these ingredients, or you are enjoying a lazy day indoors, you can use just about any vegetable in a hash: sweet potatoes, corn, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, kale. Go wild!

SmokedBaconThere was one stand I had never visited (until now) called Raven & Boar. They were sampling one of the most delicious bacon jams. We were hooked, so we bought a full pound and a half of their bacon…naturally. A good two-thirds of it is currently sitting in my freezer as our eyes were clearly bigger than our stomachs. We used this smoked variety that reaalllly put the dish over the top. Thicker bacon is key since you will be chopping it into the hash, but any variety will do. We also decided to cook the eggs over easy, because I could not resist the photo op that you saw at the opening of this post. We also drowned our plates in Frank’s hot sauce – highly recommended, if you’re a spicy fan. Click HERE to see the recipe for this hearty breakfast.

Egg+Hash1For the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on new beginnings. Starting a new chapter can be scary (really scary) and yet the future holds nothing but adventure for those brave enough to try something completely different. Megan’s trip to New York was to mark such an occasion. Opening yourself to new experiences can be breathtaking, but remembering who you are – and where you come from – is what gives you the strength and excitement to start anew. This is why I chose one of the first pieces I had ever prepared for an audition: Francis Poulenc’s Sonate pour flûte et pianowritten in 1957.

Poulenc was a French composer who studied with the renowned Erik Satie. His success, fueled by his talent and Satie’s musical connections, led to his inclusion in the acclaimed Les Six: a group of 6 young composers – all French – whose music openly countered the traditional styles of the time; most notably Wagner and Debussy. Speaking of new beginnings, this Sonata was the first Poulenc ever wrote for the flute – much to the delight of colleague and flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, who would perform the première (with Poulenc on piano). Like the dish, the piece is simple yet rich. The music traverses a spectrum of expressive colors: from a verdant allegretto to a lavender cantilena and finally closing with a red-hot presto. The following recording features my favorite flutist – Emmanuel Pahud. Enjoy!

“Flute Sonata (Poulenc),”
“Francis Poulenc,”

Simple Gifts for Snowy Drifts

AsparagusProsciutto_1A bomb cyclone just passed through New York…for the third time this year. And it was just as unpleasant as the last two. When the weather gets this bad, I go for simple recipes – because #ComfortFood makes everything better. It also helps if you don’t have to leave your house/apartment/comfy Ikea couch…so fortunately for me I had a pantry that could produce Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus as well as a Classic Grilled Cheese; both of which are a perfect match for a day when dense, heavy sheets of what appear to be wet flour are cascading from the sky. Gross. 
Asparagus_1Because I’m a nut for history, I thought, “If this dish is so easy, how easy is it to make Prosciutto?” Turns out…it’s not easy at all. BUT (good news!) it is easy to find prosciutto at almost any grocer. Italian in origin, Prosciutto – like Champagne and Gorgonzola – is a “protected designation of origin” product, in that its name can only be assigned to meats created under specific conditions and within certain territories. I had purple asparagus for this dish as well, which was also first produced in Italy (called Violetto d’ Albenga…great name for an opera character, FYI).
Asparagus Prosciutto 2The recipe for this dish is quite simple: you wrap each spear with a slice of prosciutto, arrange them on a roasting pan, drizzle some olive oil, pepper and salt over the spears, and roast. You want to cook the dish at a high heat, so that the asparagus and prosciutto crisp but don’t overcook. Since there are only two ingredients, you should aim for quality asparagus and prosciutto. For those of you wondering if bacon is a substitute, it will definitely work – albeit with a very different flavor profile (though still delicious). Click HERE to see how to make this delectably simple side. 
GrilledCheese_1This next recipe is a great way to use up any leftover cheeses you have in your fridge – I had some sharp cheddar, and shredded about a cup for this recipe. While most recipes swear by American cheese – given its melt factor – I personally think any cheese will do the trick. I also love to use a good quality butter for grilled cheese. My mantra: if you have to use fatty ingredients, go for the best. I actually used Kerrygold butter and cheddar…mere coincidence. For the bread, I highly recommend using a good sourdough. Pictured is a whole wheat variety from Trader Joe’s that is my latest obsession.
DSC_0793A cast iron is the quintessential tool for a grilled cheese, but a nonstick pan will do in a pinch (what I used). To ensure the cheese melts fully, I put the lid on after I flip the sandwich – but allowed it cook for a few seconds after flipping sans lid to prevent steam being captured underneath (no one likes a soggy sandwich). Of course, there is no right or wrong way to make this classic: at the end of the day it’s toasted bread and melted cheese. Though I recommend skipping the Benny & Joon method…where Johnny Depp used a clothes iron. Click HERE to see my method for this American classic. 
I actually thought of the musical pairing before the food – as I’d been considering the piece for some time. It’s the “Variation on a Shaker Melody: ‘Simple Gifts'” from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Originally a ballet, today the larger work is performed as an orchestral suite. The ballet premiered in 1944, and the Suite just one year later with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Serge Koussevitsky. The work embodies the spirit of the American pioneer, against the backdrop of early 19th century Appalachia. The shaker melody is one of the more famous moments of the piece, and perhaps the most recognizable. The tune “Simple Gifts”, 170 years old this year, was in relative obscurity until Copland’s Appalachian Spring – and as you will hear in the clip below, it was a great addition to the classical canon. The recording features the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein. Enjoy!

“Appalachian Spring,”

South of the Orient: Part IX

Noodles_2August was HOT. The temps in Seattle were much higher, on average, than usual. As a consequence of these norms, the city doesn’t believe in air conditioning…so Tom and I were on the lookout for any solution to cool down. In many parts of the world, heat is met with more heat. Whether it is an Indian drinking hot chai or a Jamaican enjoying jerk chicken (seasoned with must-have Scotch bonnets), a variety of cultures turn to hot and spicy foods in the sweltering heat. The reason? It makes you sweat, and sweat cools you down. I’m no scientist, but we were desperate and willing to try anything. So we decided to indulge in our own spicy experiment with Pad Kee Mao.

ThailandThis recipe did not come out of a cookbook. Tom learned how to make the dish while living in Southeast Asia; in Laos, Thailand and Malaysia, primarily. He spent about a year in the region, split between a pre-college getaway and a post-college return.  The above photo was taken by Tom in Tham Kong Lo: a cave that extends for 7 miles. He shares more about the adventure:

Our small gang of backpackers had convened at a grass hut guest house the night before, the entire village having lost power at 7PM (daily occurrence) we’d bonded over candlelit noodles and communist beer (Beerlao), and planned the following day’s excursion. Tham Kong Lo is a stalactite-riddled mega cave that stretches deep underneath miles of limestone karst, home to a singular, somewhat terrifying ecosystem and traversable only by canoe. There’s darkness in familiar settings and then there’s pics, oily darkness pregnant with bats, giant spiders and dripping with humidity. Everyone should experience the latter at some point, if only for the experience of emerging renewed and soaking wet into a lush jungle valley at the other side, sunshine streaming through the banyan trees.

Noodles_3When Tom shared this story with me, I was inspired to recreate an image of those “stalactites” using our noodles…it was one of those things that sounded way cooler in my head. But the photo also illustrates perfectly al dente rice noodles, so I kept it. Moving on, many of us know Pad Kee Mao by it’s English title: Drunken Noodles. Khi mao is Thai for “drunkard”…yet the source of this appellation is a bit of a mystery. Some believe the first-ever recipe included rice wine, while others attribute the recipe to a drunken chef who concocted the dish with whatever was available in his home after a long night out. Regardless, it is now one of the cuisine’s most famous celebrities, and for good reason.

DSC_0171The dish is spicy, but can be moderated to your taste by de-seeding the peppers or omitting them entirely. It brings together a variety of rich flavors in a fairly quick preparation: oyster sauce, chili paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, and loads of veggies. Tom cooks the dish so that there is very little liquid left in the pan before serving – so there is some patience involved. But the end result is absolutely worth the wait. You can include one or a medley of proteins (we used both chicken and tofu in our recipe). One key ingredient, flavor-wise and aesthetically, is basil: you can use Thai or regular, just be sure to have a whole heap of it. Click HERE to see the recipe for this spicy dish.  

NoodlesWhen you eat something spicy, not only do you sweat – your heart rate also increases…much like my own whenever I think of playing the opening lines of Jacques Ibert’s Flute Concerto. Written in the doldrums of the Great Depression, the work was commissioned by the renowned flutist and pedagogue Marcel Moyse. It is surprisingly lighthearted for the era yet far from frivolous. Even with a reduced orchestra, the work is both both elegant and rich with thematic color…and, for the soloist, very difficult to perform. The opening stanza is an audition ace, as flutists across the world harness the dramatic statement to impress panels. The piece as a whole sustains an exhilarating pace, with two poignant respites that allow our soloist to catch her breath…just before hurling the audience into an electric finale. The following recording features Emmanuel Pahud (my flute hero) and the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich performing the first movement of the concerto. Enjoy!



Sources Cited:
“Drunken Noodles,”
“Flute Concerto: Jacques Ibert,” LA Phil


Easy Food for a Freezing Day

Falafel1 (1)New Yorkers are having an insanely cold weekend…which is a great excuse to stay inside, wear thick socks, and have Netflix/Hulu to keep you company. But this forced captivity means limited access to food – and considering I would feel like a terrible human in ordering Seamless (thus forcing a poor delivery guy to brave the cold himself) I had to get creative. I somehow convinced my carnivorous boyfriend Tom to go vegetarian for a day (cold weather does funny things to people) and pantry staples came to our rescue for this Easy Baked Falafel with Tahini Dressing recipe!
Falafel4There are a ton of falafel recipes floating around on the internet (shameless plug for a recipe on this blog: Sweet Potato Falafel) each with it’s own “secret ingredient” that makes it THE falafel for your recipe repertoire. Given our complete lack of desire to venture outdoors, our falafel was flavored with the classics: lemon, garlic, parsley and tahini (not pictured). We use a LOT of lemon for this, which you are welcome to scale up or down depending on your relationship with citrus.
Falafel8What’s great about this recipe is that it comes together fairly quickly. The “batter” rests in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, making it easier to roll the falafel balls…but you can skip this step if you have a cookie scooper or like the idea of “rustic” falafel. And if you’re really hungry and can’t bear the thought of going another second without food, the batter is basically hummus! No matter how you enjoy it, it’s a great quick meal – click HERE to see the recipe for this vegetarian fix! 
Falafel9 (3)In considering a musical pairing for this recipe, I looked for a piece that could complement both the simplicity of the recipe and its wintry context. My choice of Faure’s Pavane was almost immediate – you can say I’m biased (it features the flute quite prominently), but it’s a classic. The melody is both pure and haunting: painting a scene like the chilled, solitary streets of New York. And yet beauty lies within this solitude, as it is not a fearful scene but a rather peaceful one. The title of the work pays homage to the 16th-century European dance of the same name, which is both slow and processional in character. Ultimately, the piece evokes in its listener a desire to calm and be calmed – something every New Yorker can truly appreciate.  The following video is an excerpt of the full piece, which I chose because A) it’s the Berlin Philharmonic and B) the flute solo is played by my idol, Emmanuel Pahud 🙂 Enjoy!!

Sources Cited:

Rise and Shine: Part IV

Banana Pancakes 1I’ve always been a morning person, which explains my love affair with breakfast. The alarm clock is my “hallelujah” chorus as I dash into the kitchen and welcome the day with a bowl of delicious food. I love breakfast so much that I would eat it for every meal. It is (as they say) they “most important meal” since it fuels your entire day. Tom and I have started a mini tradition of cooking unique breakfasts for one another, featured as the “Rise and Shine” series on this blog. A few weeks ago, we were huddled in his apartment during a rainstorm and I had a serious craving for pancakes…and not just any pancakes: banana pancakes. So we braved the crappy weather, grabbed ingredients from a local market, and went to work on these Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes with Honey.
Banana PancakesPancakes are so beloved and simple that their equivalent can be found in practically any culture: injera in Ethiopia, blintzes in Russia, bánh xèo in Vietnam, crêpes in France…at its simplest, a pancake is a flat, round cake cooked on a griddle or frying pan. It is typically made from a starch-based batter that is either leavened or unleavened. Pancakes as we know them are typically leavened (using baking soda and/or powder), but most cultures prefer unleavened. In an effort to make our pancakes “healthy”, we used whole wheat flour and all-organic ingredients.
honeyThese pancakes have a perfect balance of sweetness and texture. They’re moist and fluffy, thanks to the addition of puréed bananas, but not as dense as banana bread. The only other sweetening agent is one tablespoon of honey. I love honey, and will often use it in lieu of maple syrup by drizzling it over pancakes or French toast. These banana pancakes were a hit, and both Tom and I had to go for seconds. They will definitely become a go-to treat for rainy days. Click HERE to add this dish to your morning routine!
Banana Pancakes 2Pancakes are a playful dish, and can brighten practically any day (especially the rainy ones). This inspired my musical pairing of Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 No. 4. An impromptu is defined as something that is “done without being planned, organized, or rehearsed.” This piece isn’t necessarily spontaneous, but the playful energy and sudden shifts are perhaps more in line with the “unplanned” feeling. It’s overall merriment is very much akin to a childish energy, which can certainly be compared to an impromptu (and pancakes!). The piece opens with a series of cascading progressions, followed by gentle and grounded chords – the juxtaposition of playful with calm sets the opening tone of joyfulness. The middle section suddenly descends into a place of deep brooding and apprehension, as the music unfolds in a minor setting. Both the melody and harmony are immersed into a restless dialogue of self doubt – the pall is suddenly lifted as the opening material resumes and brightens the mood. The pieces end as it began, with a joyful air and light heart. The below recording is with pianist Krystian Zimerman – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Impromptus (Schubert),”

A Simple Beauty

Mediterranean Salmon 4“Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” What I love most about this quote (Einstein) is it encourages the belief that beauty can be born from simplicity. We often pressure ourselves to go to extremes to write the perfect narrative, create a superb presentation, or cook an amazing meal. If there is one thing that life has taught me, it’s the joy you get from achieving something wonderful without stress or hardship. Cooking is the perfect example – we often forget that food is food, and mother nature knows what she’s doing when it comes to flavoring natural ingredients. So you can imagine how I excited I was to share this Mediterranean Baked Salmon: it is the definition of simple, but is far from being “simple” in taste.
Mediterranean Salmon 1This is one of my favorite methods for preparing fish – the culinary term is en papillote, but it’s basically a foil or parchment “pocket” into which you can pack any number of vegetables or aromatics. It’s a popular method for cooking fish since the pocket locks in moisture along with all of those great flavors. As a result, the process is more akin to steaming than baking. I wanted a dish with Mediterranean flair, and so I included kalamata olives, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and lemon with the salmon.
Mediterranean Salmon 2The result was a to-die-for combination of flavors, and yet it came together in less than 30 minutes! Right towards the end, I opened the foil packet to allow some of the liquids to cook down. This also gave the toppings a crisper finish, while still maintaining the beautiful texture of the overall dish. You can cook individual packets for each guest, but we ended up cooking the entire portion of salmon in a single pan. It was fantastic, and is the perfect recipe for a weekday meal or fancier occasion – click HERE to see the recipe!
Sweet Potato Quinoa 2As a side dish, I roasted some sweet potatoes with thyme and garlic, and then tossed them with quinoa, arugula and blue cheese. Tom has called me out on this…I think I might have a minor addiction to sweet potatoes. He’ll ask me about a vegetable or carb, and I always say sweet potatoes. I know they don’t qualify as a vegetable…but why not?? They are orange and versatile and highly addictive and OH MY GOD you see what I mean?? Anyways, this was a quick side that could easily make for an amazing lunch or vegetarian main. I will be making it again, mostly for the sweet potatoes. Click HERE to see the recipe!
Sweet Potato Quinoa 1Beauty is by and large defined by its evocative and provocative outcomes – whether it be a person, an item, a piece of music…we see beauty as something that has the ability to move us. Sometimes, it is the simple things that are truly beautiful, where the weight of added embellishment would seem folly. In music, a great example of a simple masterpiece is Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante dèfunte (“Pavane for a dead princess”). Written in 1899, the solo piano work is based on the pavane: a slow traditional dance that was popular during the European Renaissance. Though the title alludes to such, the work is not an homage to any one person or “princess”, but rather “an evocation of a pavane that a little princess might, in former times, have danced at the Spanish court” (Ravel’s own description). Its beauty lies in the juxtaposition of pure innocence and emotional depth. It is quite unlike the Ravel many of us know and love, as confirmed by concert critic Samuel Langford

“The piece is hardly representative of the composer, with whom elusive harmonies woven in rapid figuration are the usual medium of expression. In the Pavane we get normal, almost archaic harmonies, subdued expression, and a somewhat remote beauty of melody.”

Of course, this piece has since become ridiculously famous and overplayed. I scoured YouTube for a recording of solo piano (you can only imagine how many interpretations there are…) I finally found the below video, with Laura Mikkola. Her interpretation is one of patience, giving full attention to the delicate melody and unique coloration of each harmony.

In 1910, Ravel published an orchestrated edition of the piece – the opening melody is played by solo horn, which I believe is one of the most beautiful artistic choices in a piano-to-orchestra transcription. The piece’s gentle charm is by no means overwhelmed in the reproduction – rather, its subtle harmonies are given a richer and more vibrant coloring.

Sources Cited:
“Pavane pour une infante défunte,”

Achieving Rustic Elegance

Stuffed Bell Peppers 1Whenever I cook for friends, I see it as the perfect excuse for making a meal that is both creative and gourmand. Good food, hearty wine, and breezy conversation are all that’s needed for a perfect evening. Just the other day I invited my dear friends Paige and Mel over for a much-needed girl’s night-in. Considering it was a weeknight, I sought out a recipe that was both healthy and convenient. These rustic Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers were the result of my queries, and they were absolutely delicious.
DSC_0187Bell peppers are a vegetable that almost anyone can love – they are colorful, naturally sweet, and remarkably versatile as a food item. Essentially any cooking method applies: roasting, sliced, sauteed, grilled, broiled, baked, smothered, used as dippers, pureed. Red, orange, and yellow bell peppers are typically the “riper” varietals of the bell pepper cultivar. They are (of course) more expensive than the not-as-tasty green bell peppers. Though this may tempt you to opt for cheaper variety, the extra $ has its benefits: colorful bell peppers have nearly twice as many nutrients and vitamins as their green cousins.
Stuffed Bell Peppers 2I mentioned the need for this meal to be convenient – the night before, I prepped the chicken & quinoa filling, and made the tomato sauce. This cut my time in half for day-of prep, allowing the three of us to sit down and enjoy each other’s company (rather than being tied to the kitchen the entire time). You can go so far as to stuff the bell peppers a day in advance – just make sure to cover the pan before refrigerating! I’m fairly busy most days, and this kind of meal is perfect for anyone who prefers the social aspect of dinner parties over the operative side.
Stuffed Bell Peppers 4My calling these “Italian” is a nod to the filling’s iconic staples – tomato sauce, fresh basil, and Parmesan Reggiano. Each brings a unique layer to the dish: the sauce a creamy depth to an otherwise unconventional protein/grain filling (chicken and quinoa), the basil a burst of freshness that veils the make-ahead component, and the cheese…well, cheese is just about the best thing ever. The resulting dish was colorful, flavorful, and made for a beautiful presentation at serving. Click HERE to see the recipe for this nutritiously vibrant meal!
Stuffed Bell Peppers 5Though it might seem appropriate to have chosen an Italian composer for the musical pairing, I wanted to capture this dish’s rustic depth. Granted…this is a fairly common characteristic of many classical compositions. So I decided to start out with a composer, and chose none other than Antonín Dvorák – a composer who mastered the art of translating folk ideals into elegant masterpieces. He was very much inspired by traditional songs and melodies from a variety of cultures (Bohemian, Austrian, Native American, German – to name a few). Influenced by these styles, Dvorák seamlessly wove the themes into his own compositions. His chamber music was especially illustrative of this attribute – worth noting he composed over 40 works for string ensembles alone. Among his most famous is the Trio in E minor for piano, violin, and cello, Op. 90, “Dumky”. This piece was written shortly before his three-year residence in America. The word “Dumka” is Ukranian, and roughly translates to “melancholic composition.” Daniel Felsenfeld (a music critic and composer himself) provides an apt description of the piece:

“The form of the piece is structurally simple but emotionally complicated, being an uninhibited Bohemian lament. Considered essentially formless, at least by classical standards, it is more like a six movement dark fantasia—completely original and successful, a benchmark piece for the composer. Being completely free of the rigors of sonata form gave Dvořák license to take the movements to some dizzying, heavy, places, able to be both brooding and yet somehow, through it all, a little lighthearted.”

As aforementioned, Dvořák had a unique talent for fusing ideas and emotions into beautiful creations that performers and audiences similarly adore – this piece beautifully demonstrates said talent. The recording below is with the Beaux Arts Trio, performing the first movement Lento Maestoso. The entire piece is on YouTube, segmented by movement (numbered in the right sidebar). I highly encourage you to listen to all 6, if you have the time – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Antonín Dvořák,”
“Piano Trio No. 4 (Dvořák),”

Flavorful Interpretations

Pesto and Chicken 2One thing I love about Italian food is the bang you get for your buck. It’s one of the more versatile cuisines, and fits beautifully within any budget or schedule. This past weekend, my boyfriend Tom and I traveled to Boston’s North End (for lunch at Saus, my new favorite restaurants in town) and visited the Open Market shortly after. Aside from the standard deluge of veggies and fruits, we came across these huge bouquets of BASIL. Without thinking twice we bought two bundles, along with some tomatoes, asparagus, and red bell peppers. Our basil overload led to a platter of Roasted Vegetable Bruschetta and a to-die for Basil-Walnut Pesto that we tossed with pan-roasted chicken thighs and asparagus…it was so freakin good that I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
Pesto 2Pesto is originally from Genoa (a region located in Northern Italy), and comes from the Genoese term pestâ – “to crush or pound.” A traditional pesto contains pine nuts, garlic, basil, Parmesan, and olive oil that is “crushed” to a paste in a mortar and pestle (a word whose derivative is the Latin equivalent of pestâ). We opted for walnuts in ours, along with shaved Parmesan Reggiano. It honestly doesn’t really matter what ingredients you choose for a pesto, so long as they are complementary of one another and not totally wacky (but hey, no one’s gonna judge if you decide to make a pesto out of chocolate chips and parsley…but they probably won’t eat it). This pesto, on the other hand, will definitely be a winner at your next dinner party – click HERE to see the recipe!
PestoBruschetta is one of my favorite appetizers – it’s simple, elegant, and (like pesto) fairly customizable. We roasted a bell pepper over an open flame (do this with caution, of course) and topped each slice of bread with a healthy dollop of basil, veggies, and mozzarella. The metal pan gave each piece a toasty finish, and every bite was packed with flavor. This can be a hit for vegans (great with pine nuts) or carnivores (chicken would be killer!) Whatever your speed, this is a great appetizer or side, and basil is hands-down the herb to go with: click HERE to see the recipe!
BruschettaBoth of these dishes, as aforementioned, can easily be tailored to the preferences and vision of the chef. Room for creativity is a beautiful thing in cooking – as you gain experience, a recipe becomes more of a suggestive tool that can applied to your own ideas. There is definite symmetry between this concept and performance. When a musician first encounters a piece, they go through the motions of learning the notes and becoming comfortable with the overall work. Once it’s “under their fingers”, interpretation steps in – the moment for the musician’s voice to really shine. Perhaps one of the greatest voices in the history of classical music is that of Fritz Kreisler. Fritz_Kreisler_1Both a violinist and a composer, he was an extension of an era where virtuosic musicians were putting their voice into performance AND writing. The art of musical interpretation is thus beautifully ensured through each of his compositions’ intimate understanding of the instrument. Today, violinists are able to quite literally pour their soul into writing that fits the violin “like a glove”. I find Kreisler’s Recitative and Scherzo for solo violin to be especially apropos – written in 1910, Kreisler dedicated this short work to his colleague violinist Eugene Ysaÿe (yet another performer who also composed). The below recording is with Jascha Heifetz – at the age of 11, Heifetz performed before Kreisler for the first time. Kreisler turned to the others in the room and exclaimed “We might as well take our fid­dles and smash them across our knees.” After listening to the video below, you’ll understand what he meant – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
Maltese, John Anthony. “Jascha Heifetz: Violinist Nonpareil,” Jascha Heifetz: The Official Website
Strauss, Axel. “Violin Music: Fritz Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo, Op. 6,” All Things Strings
“PHOTO: Fritz Kreisler,”