Friday, October 28, 2011


I'm not usually one to visit restaurants right when they open, but a chance to dine at Catalyst with some fellow bloggers made me think twice.  Why?  Chef/owner William Kovel was aiming to create a modern space where simple, delicious food is made from the best ingredients from local farms and food producers.  Sign me up!

Located in Kendall Square, Catalyst occupies a huge space with a dining room, bar, outdoor patio, fireplace, and even areas for private parties.  A fan of simple, modern design, I thought the space was beautiful.

photo courtesy of Daisy

Elizabeth, Emily, Megan, Bianca, Daisy and Bridget were welcomed by Chef William and treated to a sampling of the menu.  Appetizers and entrees were brought out to share, and then once we were full, individual dessert platters came out to make sure we left sufficiently stuffed!

The rosemary potato foccacia was deliciously salty and I couldn't keep myself from a piece.  Ok, two.  And then the appetizers started coming out...

(L) grilled scallions (R) hiramasa  (courtesy of Daisy & Megan)
The grilled scallions were dressed in a walnut pesto, and were a favorite of the table.  The seared spice crusted hiramasa was served with a cucumber radish salad and an orange-yuzu syrup.  The citrus was a good pairing to the fatty, mild fish.

(L) veggie salad (R) quail  (courtesy of Daisy)

I was a little underwhelmed by the farmer's market vegetable salad with peppercress and crispy onion.  The vegetables were solid, it was just described as pickled vegetables to us and I was left wanting more bite (barely detected vinegar).  I've never tried quail before (at least that I recall), but I did get a small, tasty bite of crispy quail, served with black mission fig, gastique, mizuna and autumn berry jam.

(L) sunchoke soup (R) chicken liver mousse (courtesy of Daisy)
The Jerusalem "Sunchoke" Artichoke Soup we tried was served without the lobster that normally accompanies it, but it was still delicious and creamy.  Not a huge fan of liver, the grainy mustard served with the chicken liver mousse seemed like a great accompaniment to cut the richness of the liver.

(L) garganelli w/chicken oysters (R) mushroom ravioli

We started our pasta tasting with garganelli (a ridged egg pasta) that was served with chicken oysters, bacon and finished with black truffle butter.  The pasta was cooked perfectly and chicken oysters tender and tasty.  The mushroom ravioli were another winner, served with hen of the woods mushrooms and a rich sauce.

While all of the pasta dishes were good, the Georgia candy roaster squash tortellini were my personal favorite.  The only thing I didn't like on the plate was the braised escarole, as it was drowning in butter.  A lighter hand with the butter would've been appreciated so one could actually taste the greens.

Secretly wishing we were done, I quietly let out a sigh as the entrees made their way out to the table.  First up was the chilled pork.  I can't recall all the components here, but there was the smoothest of apple purees underneath some room temperature pork that was perfectly cooked.  On top was an apple cilantro slaw of sorts.  Very well executed, I was happy to take home leftovers!

For the last savory dish of the evening, we tried the lemon sole, served with roasted baby fennel, creamed leeks and lobster vermouth butter.  At this point I mustered a small bite of the sole, which was cooked well and had notes of lemon, but I had to save room for dessert, right?

(clockwise from top L) pear cake, creamsicle ice cream bar, butterscotch pudding, cantaloupe sorbet
(courtesy of Daisy and Megan)

So glad I did  :)  I don't even know where to start...  The cantaloupe sorbet (served with hazelnut butter) was delicious and light, a great palate cleanser.  The one dessert I thought fell short was the ice cream sundae...  the creamsicle ice cream was so mildly flavor it couldn't stand up to the chocolate "magic shell".  I really enjoyed the Bosc pear tart, simple and unassuming.  And then there was the butterscotch pudding.  Rather, butterscotch and passion fruit pudding with a warm pound cake crouton.  Holy heck.  I didnt' think I liked butterscotch pudding, but I cleaned out this little cup!!  Absolutely amazing.

(courtesy of Daisy)

And with that our night at Catalyst ended.  I can envision another visit, perhaps sitting by the fireplace with a bowl of caramelized onion soup!  And pudding, definitely won't be leaving that out :)

Thanks to Elizabeth for organizing, Daisy and Megan for letting me use some of their photos, and for Chef William for the meal!  To see what everyone else thought, be sure to check out their reviews (linked above)!

Disclaimer:  While the meal was complimentary, the opinions are all mine.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beet Crostini

When I read about Jen's Power of Pink Challenge to promote breast cancer awareness, I knew I'd have to participate.  It's amazing how much this movement has evolved-- I can't say I ever expected to see NFL players sporting pink apparel!

Whether you walk, run, or support those who do, it is certainly important to be well-fueled :)  These beet crostini provide a great way to do that- chock full of antioxidants, folates, vitamins, minerals and calcium.  Plus the beet puree came out a gorgeous magenta color that you can't help but love!

Beet Crostini
Recipe by Shannon
Serves a crowd

The beets can be roasted ahead of time and refrigerated until you're ready to prepare the crostini.  Alternatively, the puree can be prepared ahead of time and kept cold until you're ready to serve.

1.5lb beets
5.5oz ricotta
1.5oz goat cheese, plus more for topping if desired
1T fresh thyme leaves
1 clove garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper
clover honey
chopped walnuts
1 lg baguette

Preheat oven to 400deg.

Cut off beet greens and scrub beets.  Wrap in a piece of aluminum foil and place in the oven.  Roast for ~45min (will depend on the size of your beets), until the beets are tender and easily pierced with a knife.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and roughly chop.  Add beets, ricotta, goat cheese, thyme and garlic to the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Process until pretty smooth and all ingredients are well incorporated.

Cut the baguette into thin slices (~1/2" thick) and set on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Place in oven until the edges start to brown.  Flip the slices over and return to the oven until toasted and crispy.

Transfer toasts to serving dish and top with 1-2T of beet puree.  Drizzle with honey and top with a little more goat cheese (if desired) and chopped walnuts.  Serve!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spinach Basil Pesto

Just when I thought summer produce was pretty much done, I came home with a bag full of basil, spinach, eggplant and a tomato from my CSA!  To celebrate I whipped up a batch of spinach basil pesto.

Short on nuts, I used some ground almonds, but you should feel free to use whatever you have on hand (pinenuts, walnuts, hazelnuts...).  While it would have gone well with pasta, my spinach basil pesto found different fates.  Quite a few grilled cheeses were made with pesto and tomato jam- a heavenly combination if you ask me :)

Grilled cheese with spinach basil pesto and tomato jam, roasted green beans on the side

Another tasty use was in a side dish of some roasted eggplant and fresh tomato slices.  Layered with spinach basil pesto and topped with some Parmesan, an elegant side dish was thrown together easily!  Layer in some mozzarella, and you've got a more substantial appetizer/side.

Spinach Basil Pesto
Recipe by Shannon
Yield ~1c

1c packed basil
2c packed baby spinach
1-2 garlic cloves
juice of 1 lemon
2-3T almond meal
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Add all ingredients (basil through almond meal) to a blender or food processor and with the motor running, drizzle in olive oil until it's well combined  (you'll probably use 1/4-1/2c).  Scrape down the sides as needed, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

What's your favorite use for pesto??

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chile Chocolate Tart

I recently received a random package from Marx Foods.  The package itself wasn't unexpected, but the contents surely was!

Dried chilies, dried black trumpet mushrooms, dried marrow beans and coconut sugar filled my box...  two of which I needed to use to create a recipe for the Random Recipe Challenge!  My first thoughts involved mushrooms and beans, but then I recalled a treat I've made at least four times in the past month and still haven't shared with you ;)

I morphed the chocolate avocado pudding I've been making into this mexican chocolate tart, incorporating both types of dried chilies as well as coconut sugar.  I'd highly recommend giving this chocolate pudding a try if you haven't already, with or without the crust, and with or without the chilies!

Chile Chocolate Tart

For a completely no-bake version, you could make a nut & date-based crust!  The choice is yours on how spicy to make this-  1 or 2 New Mexico chilies add more flavor than heat, while 1 Japones chile will kick things up a bit ;)

For the crust:
1/4c Trader Joe's ginger cats crumbs (or any other gingersnaps)
1/2c pecan halves
3/4c rolled oats
1/2c white whole wheat flour
pinch salt
1/4c canola oil
3T maple syrup

For the filling:
2 ripe avocadoes
1/2c nut butter
1/4c coconut sugar
1/4c agave nectar (or more coconut sugar)
4-6T cocoa powder (depends on how intense you want it, I used 5)
1/8t sea salt
2T vanilla extract (or the seeds from one vanilla bean)
1-2 dried chilies (I used 1 New Mexico chile & 1 Japones chile)
1t ground cinnamon
1/4c strong brewed coffee or water

Preheat oven to 375deg.

To make the crust add dry ingredients to a food processor and pulse until the nuts and oats are pulverized, the mixture resembling coarse sand.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil and maple syrup.  Add dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until well combined.  Transfer crust to a tart pan or pie plate and press into dish.  Bake for 20min, then set aside to cool.

Grind the chilies in a spice/coffee grinder and pick out any large pieces left behind, you want as close to a powder consistency as you can get.  Add all ingredients for the filling to a blender or food processor and blend until well combined.  Add a little extra water if you need to thin it out any more, you're looking for a thick, but spreadable consistency.  Add filling to the cooled crust and   Refrigerate 1-2hrs or overnight before serving (this will help it firm up and make it easier to cut).

Disclaimer:  The coconut sugar and dried chilies used in the creation of this recipe were free samples provided by Marx Foods.

I'm also submitting this to Ricki's Wellness Weekend and Go Ahead Honey's October Event!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Savory Cheesecake!

By now you've had some time to make tomato jam, right?  Or is that this weekends' plan?  :)  Perhaps you're going to a gathering and need something to bring?   Perfect!  You'll be making a savory cheesecake with tomato jam.  I made it for a get together at Elina's and couldn't get enough, it's such a great vehicle for tomato jam!

Savory Cheesecake with Tomato Jam
Recipe by Shannon

I'm sure you could halve the recipe and bake it in a smaller 4" springform, but I didn't have one so I scaled up!

8oz 1/3rd less cream cheese, RT
8oz ricotta, RT
7oz goat cheese, RT
6T chopped fresh basil
2T chopped fresh parsley
1/3t sea salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 eggs, RT
tomato jam

Preheat oven to 330deg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the three cheeses.  Add herbs, salt and pepper and mix until well combined.  Add eggs, one at a time and mix well after each addition.  Pour batter into a 9" springform pan sprayed with nonstick spray.

Bake at 330deg for 15min, then lower temperature to 300deg and bake for 30min.  Turn oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1hr.  Then remove and cool.  If making ahead of time, cover and refrigerate.  Remove from fridge an hour or two before serving.

To serve, top with tomato jam and provide crackers, pita chips, or your favorite dipper!

Have I sold you on tomato jam yet?  It's sweet and spicy, and has some texture...  more complex than ketchup (since Ricki asked).  I'll be making my third batch this weekend, and giving canning a shot...  wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Duxbury Beach Tri 2011

Location:  Duxbury, MA
Distance: Sprint (.5mi s, 13mi b, 3.1mi r)
Time:  9am start
Weather:  mid-70s(?) and  humid
Participants:  535

A couple of Saturdays ago I headed to Duxbury for my last tri of the year.  Only two weeks after my first Oly (instead of the planned month), I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  Recovery from Lobsterman was a little rough and I hadn't exactly been sleeping so well with the move/unpacking/adjusting to a new sleep schedule.  No time expectations here, just the goal to have fun and push based on how I was feeling.

View across the bay

I got there pretty early, so I had plenty of time to figure out where to go, set up my stuff, then trek back to the car for my inhaler, find my parents and some friends, get in the water and acclimate...  and gosh knows what else.  Luckily the weather cleared and we had a dry (albeit humid) race!

We had to walk the 1/2mi across the bay to the swim start (it was a point-to-point), and then run a fair bit to/through transition... not ideal for someone who has been dealing with alignment issues and normally wears orthotics.  The water in Duxbury Bay wasn't bad, my guess would be close to 68, comfortable in a wetsuit.  There were definitely some swells (I could feel myself bobbing a bit), but there was plenty of room to swim (no turns!).  I came out of the water in 11:46 and headed to transition.

Coming out of the water, I'm in the middle, front 

The bike starts and ends on Powder Point Bridge, where no passing is allowed.  Starting in the third wave, in the midst of plenty of people, both slower and faster, this can be a little frustrating.  In fact, the woman behind me was complaining about losing the lead she had out of the water.  But we're all in the same boat, and there's not much you can do except loosen up your legs and get ready to work!

Heading out on the bike (towards the right)
Winding through historic Duxbury, the bike course has some rolling hills, but no major climbs.  My legs weren't complaining and it was a nice ride.  Towards the end I started playing a game of cat and mouse with three other women in my AG, and while I may have come in behind them at 41:18 (18.9mph), I kept them in my sights as we came back into transition!

The run was pretty flat and I felt good throughout, keeping a decent pace (from what I could tell) and picking people off!  I was smiling to myself as I debated whether I like passing men or women in my AG more :)  Those three women from the bike?  Caught them and never looked back!  Ended up with a 25:04 run (8:05min/mi).

Off and running!

Overall time:  1hr 24min 15sec  (6/21 in my AG)

Final Thoughts:  Although it wasn't my fastest sprint tri, I enjoyed the race and was reminded of how much I love triathlon.  I could stand to work on my transitions (a couple more races in a wetsuit and a second pair of orthotics should help), but I was definitely happy at the end of the day.  Duxbury was definitely a great end to the season as well, and maybe next year men and women can get the same color tee ;)

What will next year bring??  That's a good question!
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