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Easy Entertaining: Quince Paste

I recently read about quince paste (or membrillo as it is called in Spain where it is originally from) and was very curious to try some for myself. Turns out- while very time consuming, it is quite easy to make! The hardest part is tracking down quince- they are only available for a short window of time. So this past weekend when I had a few hours, and I was able to find some knobbly green quince at whole foods, I decided to give it a shot.

Most of the recipes I share on this blog are called “easy entertaining” because they are so quick and easy to make. But sometimes, it is also just as easy to have a pantry full of ingredients that you can plate and serve up at the drop of a hat. (frozen cookie dough in the freezer, an emergency container of hummus, an arsenal of crackers, etc) At the holidays, it is especially important to have a few of these back up snacks because you never know who is going to drop by or when you will be stopping by someone else’s (can’t show up empty handed!!) Quince paste is another great pantry item that you can make in bulk and is good in the fridge forever. Serve it up with a little manchego cheese, a few crackers, glass of wine and you have yourself quite the Spanish themed evening!

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Quince Paste (Membrillo)

What you need:

  • Quince
  • Sugar
  • Lemon- peel and juice separated
  • Whole Vanilla Bean

Start by peeling, coring and cutting the quince into 3 inch (ish) cubes. Put in your biggest pot on the stove and cover the fruit completely with water. Split the vanilla bean and add it with the lemon peel to the water. Bring to a boil and keep heat up until the quince is cooked completely through. You should be able to start cutting it easily with a fork. Drain all of the water and remove the vanilla and lemon.

Next, return quince to the pot over low heat and add the lemon juice. Begin pureeing with an immersion blender (my favorite kitchen gadget!!). It will become the most incredibly smooth texture. Now, judging by a rough guess, add an amount of sugar about equal in weight to the amount of puree you have. This is a LOT of sugar. Yes, you really do need that much- quince are not sweet at all. It is helpful to think about how many pounds quince you bought at the grocery store- I added about 2/3 of that in sugar.

Now is the fun part. For the next hour and a half you must continually stir your quince over low heat so it does not burn, and watch it magically transformed from a very loose yellowish liquid to a dark rosy thick paste. Its hard to say when it is “done”. For me, this was when I could barely stir anymore and the consistency was similar to the thickest brownie batter you can imagine- it started to pull away from the sides of the pan and I could almost ball it up- but it was still pourable and spreadable.

Line an airtight container with buttered parchment paper and pour in the quince paste to about a 1-2″ thickness. Use a spatula smooth the surface and let rest until cool. That is it! Cover and put in the fridge- it will keep forever but I cannot promise how long it will last šŸ˜‰

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Easy Entertaining: Roasted Radicchio and Carrots

It always makes me so happy when someone tries one of the recipes I share here. While the recipes themselves are easy, I put a lot of effort into coming up with the ideas, testing, arranging the plate, photographing, and of course, writing about it. Which is why I was so pleased to find out that the #1 pinned photo from this blog is one of my favorite “easy entertaining” recipes for Baked Green Beans.

This week I decided to experiment with the recipe, swapping out summery green beans for radicchio and carrots. The results were a little different than I expected. Neither vegetable crisped up the way I would have hoped, so it would be difficult to serve them as an appetizer. HOWEVER, they were still delicious and would make for a perfect side dish! The colors are perfect for any fall dinner party.

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Roasted Radicchio and Carrots

What you need:

  • 1 package small carrots
  • 2 medium heads of radicchio
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese

Set the oven to 425. Cut the carrots and radicchio in quarters. Next, line a baking sheet with tinfoil and lightly coat the entire surface with olive oil (you can also use a mister or cooking spray). Arrange the vegetables by side and sprinkle with salt and pepper and the grated Parmesan. Put the sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Times may vary, but take them out when they are just starting to crisp. (note: the carrots probably need longer than the radicchio) Sprinkle with extra sea salt while they are still warm and serve.

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Given that this recipe is EXACTLY the same as it was for the Green Beans, I think I’ve proven to myself how versatile it is and I’m guessing I could probably repeat for even more vegetables! Which ones will you try????


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Easy Entertaining: Catalan Tomato Bread

One of the amazing things we did on our trip to Spain was take a cooking class. We made a full authentic menu including Romesco Sauce, Paella, and Catalan Crema- but by far the easiest thing we learned to make was Tomato Bread. This bread was served in EVERY restaurant around Barcelona- from the most casual tapas bar to the famed Tickets. Our chef told us that this tomato bread is served with dinner, but is often a causal meal all on its own (paired with a bottle of wine of course). Its pretty difficult to mess up, the only variable here would be over toasting your bread (which as you can see, I did- keep an eye on the toast!)

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Catalan Tomato Bread

What you need:

  • 4 thick slices of good quality rustic bread
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Medium sized Tomato
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Toast your bread to your liking. While it is toasting, slice the tomatoes in quarters and the garlic cloves in half. When the toast is ready, immediately take the garlic clove and rub it into the slice of bread. Don’t go crazy, you are just infusing some flavor. Next rub the tomato pulp all over one side of the bread- discard the tomato skin. Finally, drizzle the bread with a little olive oil and salt.

EASY!

Its not the most beautiful to photograph- but trust me. It tastes AMAZING.


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Easter Recap

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend! I am exhausted today after hosting my first real dinner party in my apartment yesterday! It was really fun to pull out the fancy tablecloth and set a proper table, and of course to spend the day cooking! And then eating!

Easter is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because it signifies the true start of Spring. So I really wanted to celebrate that! I tried to keep things fairly simple, but of course ended up going a little overboard. The table was a theme of blues, pinks and greens. I folded the napkins into cute rabbit ears and used hard-boiled eggs as placecards- then used napkin rings to prevent them from rolling off the plate. The result was whimsical but elegant:

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For the food, I probably bit off a little too much to try to cook AND serve in my tiny kitchen. I went with a nontraditional choice of Brisket over an Easter Ham- but it ended up being a huge success. And everyone LOVED the chocolate Mouse- with freshly made whipped cream and raspberries.

The Menu

White Lillet Cocktails

Frisee, Radicchio and Fennel Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Braised Brisket with Bourbon Peach Glaze

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Mustard Mashed Potatoes

Chocolate Mousse

As you can imagine we were STUFFED by the end but it was all so worth it and the festivities lasted late into the night. Once everyone had gone I had a little time to unwind- finishing up the wine and tidying up the kitchen. I’m not gonna lie that the triumphant feeling at the end of the night is very addictive- I can’t wait until my next excuse to plan a party.

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Easy Entertaining: Yogurt Cucumber Dip

OMG Friday. This has been a looooooooooooooooooong week for me- but I’m excited for the weekend and especially the Oscars! Will you be watching?? I’ve been thinking about inviting a few friends over to watch so I tested out a few quick snacks to make. This yogurt cucumber dip is AMAZING if I do say so myself!Ā  A little bit tangy a little bit sweet, crunchy and creamy all at the same time. Start to finish it took about 10 minutes to whip up- it is so easy!

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Yogurt Cucumber Dip

What you need:

  • 14oz Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2T chopped parsley
  • 2T chopped mint
  • Medium cucumber
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • salt and pepper

Put the yogurt in a bowl. Add lemon, parsley and mint. Peel the cucumber and scrape out the seeds using a spoon- chop to small cubes and add it to the dip. Stir everything all around and add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serve with pita chips.

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend. What movies do you think will be the big winners? My money is on Silver Linings Playbook šŸ˜‰