Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Forum, Boston - Dinner Club Review

This fall, I started a dinner club amongst my ladies friends.  Inspired by my boyfriend and his dinner club, I corralled a group of my favorites together for what will become our opportunity to unite semi monthly over being foodies.  This post isn't about my ladies (though that would be a vastly entertaining post) or how we're going to run our dinner club, but instead about the fabulous restaurant we ate at this fall.

Enter Forum.

Forum occupies that former Vox Populi space on Boylston.  Other than a similar layout, the space has been completed revamped - and revamped well I might add.  It's dark and sleek, with bursts of contemporary accents.  It's inviting, not at all cold and unfeeling and it doesn't act as though it's too cool.  We gathered in the downstairs bar area prior to our reservation to indulge in a little cocktailing.  That's right, cocktailing.  It's the new verb.

Once it was time for dinner, we were transported upstairs to a relatively empty dining room.  We were seated at one of the best tables I have ever sat at.  It was rectangular shaped, with four on either side and two on the ends.  It was lengthy and yet, I didn't feel as though I was yelled down the table to the other side.  It was impeccably set - I felt we were having a very intimate party at one of my very stylish friend's homes.  The chairs were squishy and incredibly comfortable for a night of eating.

I chose a BLT Soup for my starter... and I loved it.  It was served chilled.  You expect soup to be warm, so when that is not the case, it can be a very odd experience.  I love that sort of WHOA.... and the bacon in this was amazing.  The flavor stood out amongst the tomato puree and the croutons.

Salmon apps, posed as flowers?  It would be cheesy, except it's not just the presentation of the dish that's impressive, the execution of the food itself is amazing.

For my main meal, I ordered a pasta carbonara.  The serving sizes of the pasta are HUGE - I could have definitely split this.  I thought it was done well, but it wasn't my favorite of the dishes that were passed around.

That honor goes to the scallops... for a mere $25, these babies are a-ma-zing.  I didn't get a picture of them, but there was definitely group consensus.

I did however, get an embarrassingly bad photo of a deconstructed beef wellington, which was drool worthy.

While I loved the food and ambiance, I have to say the service is top notch.  Maybe because we're six pretty ladies... but our servers took great care of us.  They gave us time to obsess over the menus and played along with our teasing and light flirting (okay, MY flirting).  They answered all of our questions about portion sizes, ingredients and were very helpful and transparent in making suggestions.  I love servers that you could actually see yourself liking in real life.  But the best part was, they suggested we not miss out on dessert.  But our bellies said otherwise.  So we passed.

But, imagine our surprise, when they ignored us and brought two desserts anyways.  Below is an strawberry dessert I would never have given a second glance at, but seriously, I might have thrown elbows to get a few more spoonfuls of it.    Oh and did I mention that the chef himself came out to talk with us?  How awesome is that?

Chocolate.... the crumbs = to die for.

Forum changes their menu seasonally (alas no more strawberry dessert), which I think it an awesome excuse to come back frequently. I can't think of one complaint I have.... except maybe that we don't repeat restaurants for dinner club.   I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking for great ambiance, meals that impress and service that inspires.

See?  So great they even posed for photos!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pork Scallion Pot Stickers

It's been a while hasn't it!?!?!?  My kitchen and I haven't been spending much time together lately... Mostly because I spend my time shuttling back and forth between the bf's house and social engagements with my girlfriends.  I might have time to cook one night a week at my house... and that seems like a lot of work to get groceries and cook myself a meal.  I've been eating a lot of lean cuisines lately to bridge that gap.

I am over the moon with these pot stickers.  The recipe makes a lot of dumplings, so it's good to freeze for leftovers.

Pork-Scallion Pot Stickers (as adapted from Food & Wine)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 cups finely chopped green cabbage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 5 large)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more for dipping
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 package round gyoza wrappers
  • 1 cup water
In a bowl, mix all the ingredients, except for wrappers and vegetable oil. 

Mush it all together.  Though you might want to... No taste testing... this is raw pork people.  

Fill each wrapper with about 1 tablespoon of filling.  Don't overfill.  Then use water/vegetable oil to draw a circle around the outer edges of the wrapper.  Fold over to make half circles and press closed.

Like so.

These can either be steamed or fried.  In the name of science, I tried both.  However, I liked the fried ones way better.  I steamed in a steamer for about 4 minutes each side.  Make sure you flip after four so that the dumplings don't stick to the bottom of the steamer.

Or you can fried them up in a few tablespoons of EVOO.  About three minutes on either side.  Just make sure the pork is cooked all the way through.

I think this recipe made about 60 dumplings for me.  I froze them on a cookie sheet, separately, and then put into a tupperware.  This was to ensure the didn't all freeze up together in a giant dumpling mess.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dip Baby Dips

And... we're back.  Sort of.  Amy and I have been severely MIA lately.  It's summer.  Who wouldn't rather be out in the fresh summer air sipping wine on patios and enjoying dinner on decks?  In fact, dinner what?  The summer heat has me craving things like fresh vegetables and fruits... snacking items really.  In fact, I have lost about five pounds since summer started. 
YAHOO!  for swim suit season!
I also started a new job about four weeks ago, which has me working 50+ hours a week.  I landed a Chief of Staff to the CEO type role at a small start up and couldn't be happier.  It's exactly what I was looking for and the role has turned into so much more than I expected.  Career Kelley has arrived!  Which between my new job, my workout schedule, my girlfriends and my man candy, there isn't much time to be had in the kitchen.
I made these delish dips for a Memorial Day BBQ at my beau's.  They are amazing.  If you have to make one, make the corn salsa and eat it for lunch and dinner.  It's awesome. 



First up:  Chickpea and red pepper salsa: (from Real Simple)
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 cup arugula, chopped
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • salt and pepper to taste

mix all ingredients together.  Serve with pita chips


Homemade Hummus, created by me:
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/8 cup of fresh lemon juice

puree all ingredients in a food processor, blend until mostly smooth


Roasted Red Pepper Salsa (as adapted from Tasty Kitchen)
  • 1-½ whole Large Red Bell Peppers

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

  • 12 whole Green Onions

  • 1 can (about 3 Oz. Can) Chopped Black Olives

  • ⅓ cups Parmesan Cheese

  • 4-½ Tablespoons Lime Juice

  • 3 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, Chopped

  • ½ teaspoons Salt

  • ¼ teaspoons Ground Black Pepper

  • Mix all ingredients together. 



    Corn and Red Pepper Relish (as adapted from Tasty Kitchen):
  • 2 ears Corn, Kernels Removed (or frozen corn, defrosted)

  • 1 whole Red Pepper, Very Finely Diced

  • ¼ cups Red Onion, Finely Diced

  • 1 Tablespoon Minced Cilantro

  • 2 Tablespoons Cider Vinegar

  • 2 Tablespoons Turbinado Sugar

  • 2 dashes Hot Pepper Sauce

  • Salt To Taste

    mix ingredients together and enjoy. 


    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Peanut Butter Cheesecakes

    Baking and I are back on good terms.  At least temporarily.  I came across this recipe for "healthier" cheesecakes on a blog (that for the life of me, I cannot remember.)  They were so cute and so easy and I thought, Why Not?  And boy, am I glad I did.  While there are substitutions to make them less "bad" for you - at the end of the day, we're still talking about cream cheese and peanut butter.  At the end of my count, I guesstimate about 200 calories each for these little loves.

    • 18 sandwich cookies (I used golden Oreos)
    • 16 oz neufchatel (1/3-less-fat) cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
    pinch of salt

    Heat the oven to 275. 
    Line a cupcake tin with liners.
    One cookie goes in the bottom of each liner.
    In a bowl mix the cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. 
    Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  You'll need to do this frequently. 
    Add in sugar and vanilla- mix until smooth.
    Scrape, scrape.
    Add in eggs - one at a time, mixing between each addition.
    More scraping.
    Add in greek yogurt and salt.

    Taste test again. 
    Delish.  Give thumbs up approval to yourself for a tasty job well done.
    Fill each liner nearly full - maybe 3/4, smoothing with spoon.  This should make enough for 18 mini cheesecakes.
    Place into the oven for 22 to 24 minutes, until filling has set.  Cool.

    These are best chilled.  If you set them overnight, the cookies soften a bit and make a softer crust.  If you get into these shortly after they come out of the oven, the Oreos will still be crunchy.  Which is really nice as well. 

    Basically, you can't lose.   This is win, win for all.

    Yum, Yum, gimme some!!

    Golden Oreo crust!


    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Kelley's New Love

    My momma is the best.  In college, she would buy me things like car tires because she knew I needed them, but was too cheap to buy my own.  (Or that my money would be spent elsewhere, like on beers at Patricks and on subs at Erbs & Gerbs - I was responsible like that)  She's always been thoughtful and yet practical like that - but this year, she really hit a homerun:

    Cookware.  And bakeware.

    Lots of it.

    Golden Oreos?  guilty.

    After hearing me complain about my $10 set of IKEA cookware for the last year, she went out and bought me new kitchen stuff for my birthday slash graduation present.  A gorgeous, brand spanking new 14 pc Cuisinart Non Stick Hard Anodized set of pots and pans showed up to my office and I finally got them home last week.  Last night, I finally put them into use, and my god, I have very few words for it, other than simply, amazing.

    Now, I must give some credit where credit is due.  That IKEA set did the job.  They weren't the flashiest or best made, but for almost an entire year, they cranked out decent meals.  Did they heat evenly? No.  Did all the food constantly stick to them?  Yes.  But at their core, they did their job.  I was poor, I needed to stock my new home and I needed to do it on the cheap.  Purpose served.

    Now that I am a proper woman, all MBA graduated, with a big girl job and grown up responsibilities, I need proper cookware to impress very handsome men in my life so that I can continue to make amazing meals in my kitchen.  The Cuisinarts will serve that purpose.  Tonight's inaugural run was a complete 180 - non stick, easy to clean, even heat, no fire alarms... Swoon, I am in love.

    Thanks Mom!  I love you!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Tomato and Olive Stuffed Portobellos

    Portobello mushrooms are an obsession of mine.  In fact, ANY sort of mushroom is an obsession of mine.  While in NYC two weeks ago, I ordered an appetizer of polenta, stuffed with Gorgonzola, topped with roasted mushrooms and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  It was amazing.  Drool worthy.  I have been thinking about making it at home ever since, but to be honest, it's amazing how quickly time moves.  I haven't had much time to whip up any masterpieces in the kitchen lately.  I feel as though most of the things I have been cheffing up have been easy, on the fly, weekday meals.  I'm really craving a night in the kitchen, followed by a dinner I am proud of, served to a deserving soul.  But honestly, when the weather is awesome, wouldn't you rather be out dining al fresco?  Or enjoying a glass of wine on the water?

    As usual, I digress.  Back to the homemade portobello mushrooms.

    Tomato and Olive Stuffed Portobella Mushrooms (as adapted from Eating Well.)
    •2/3 cup chopped plum tomatoes
    •1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (or mozzeralla)
    •1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
    •1 teaspoon minced garlic
    •2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    •1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/8 teaspoon dried
    •1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    •4 portobello mushroom caps, 5 inches wide
    •2 tablespoons lemon juice
    •2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

    You can grill or broil these - so pick your method and fire it up. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cheese, olives, garlic, 1 tsp of the olive oil, pepper and rosemary into a bowl. 

    In another bowl, combine 1 tsp of the olive oil, lemon juice and soy sauce.  Remove the stems from the caps and wash well.  You can spoon out the gills if you want, but I like these, so I just wash them well.  Pat dry.  Cover in marinade, brushing both sides and toss onto the grill or into your broiler.  Grill until soft, about five minutes. 

    Drain any liquids from the caps and then stuff with your tomato/olive mixture.  Back into the broiler or grill they go.  Cook long enough for cheese to melt.

    And dinner is served!!  I love arugala, so I served mine with a messy side salad.  I love this vegetarian option.  It's filling and tasty and best of all, very low in calories.  The kalamatas add a nice salty touch and surprisingly, the soy marinade holds up well through the cooking process. 

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Roasted Vegetable Tomato Pasta

    I think I crossed a line in making this dish.

    This dish calls for vegetables to be roasted at extremely high heat for long periods of time.  Which might not be that big of an issue for most people.  But I chose to make this dish on one of the only hot, humid summer days we've seen in Boston so far. 

    And I live in 300 square feet. 

    Bad idea on paper.  Even worse idea in reality.

    Making this dish filled my tummy with a delicious meal and my fridge with lunch leftovers, but it also made for a very uncomfortable night of sleeping.  Why do I torture myself?  Can't I order takeout like normal Beacon Hillers?

    Pasta with Roasted Vegetables:
    • 2 zucchinis, chopped in chunks
    • 1 onion, quartered
    • 1 eggplant, chopped
    • 1 or 2 tbsp EVOO
    • 4 roma tomatoes, quartered
    • 1 tsp basil
    • 1 box of pasta - a sauce catching noodle
    • Salt/Pepper
    The chopping is the most tedious part of this recipe.  Preheat your oven to 400 and start chopping up all your vegetables.  Tomatoes go into a baking dish to roast and the zucchinis, eggplants and onion (tossed with EVOO) go on a rimmed baking sheet. Salt the tomatoes a bit and sprinkle with basil or oregano.



    It doesn't really matter which one you roast first.  I did the tomatoes first and then tossed in the vegetables.  Flip a couple times.  You want to roast them for about 35 minutes, giving them a bit of carmelization.  While you're roasting, fire up a salted pot of water and start cooking your pasta.
    Confession: I ate a lot of these straight off the pan. I love roasted vegetables. Or any vegetable for that matter...

    When the tomatoes are done roasting, they go into a food processor for a few quick pulses until they are pureed.  Life just got easier for me, as my mom and her fiance got me a pretty red food processor for my birthday.  Woo!  It has a much bigger capacity than my mini one and doesn't take up all that much room in my cabinets.


    Now comes the easy part - in a bowl, add your vegetables and tomato puree.  Add in pasta one cup at a time until you reach the desired mix.  I had extra pasta, as I didn't want pasta that didn't feel as though it was covered in sauce.  Sauce is the most important part - pasta is just a vessel in which to shovel lots of sauce into your mouth.  Yep, I said it.
    Best part of this - low calorie, great caramelized flavor from the vegetables and a very control amount of sodium.  YUM!
    Lazy, lazy picture taking these days.

    But delicious!

    Roasted Bell Pepper Soup

    This was really tasty. I modified a recipe from the complementary Lunds & Byerly's Real Food magazine. This recipe is perfect for meatless Mondays! The acidity reminded me a lot of my favorite Tomato-Basil soup.

    1 T olive oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    3 cups roasted red peppers (from jars)
    1 cup vegetable broth
    1 T honey
    1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche (plus more for garnish)
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    dash of salt
    1/2 cup fresh basil (roughly chopped or julienned)

    Saute the onion with heated oil in a Dutch oven for five minutes. Toss in the peppers (drained) and vegetable broth. Cook for 10 minutes in a covered Dutch oven on medium low heat.

    Next, blend in a food processor or blender. Once pureed, put the mixture back in the Dutch oven on low heat. Add in the honey and sour cream (or crème fraiche). Mix well with a spoon or whisk.

    Serve warm with the fresh basil and a dollop of sour cream (or crème fraiche) in each bowl. The basil was really delicious in this soup.