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Chez Michele

The Spring Mill Cafe in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania is one of my favorite restaurants. I always try to go there with my mom and a bottle of champagne for brunch when I’m home for the weekend. The old house-turned-restaurant on the side of the road oozes french countryside dining. When I was there for brunch back in September with my mom and Dana, I read about the Julia Child Series Cooking Demonstration that was going to be happening over the course of the next few weeks. Though Christina’s birthday was rapidly approaching, I had yet to find the perfect Saucy gift…until then. I immediately reserved a spot for two on the evening of November 11th. On the menu? A vegetable tart, sole meuniere, and chocolate mousse.

It seemed like a long time, but November 11th definitely crept up on me and before I knew it I was on an Ardmore-bound Amtrak. Christina picked me up with a bottle of wine in tow and we headed for the Cafe. We grabbed two seats up front and popped the wine open as the small dining room quickly filled up. Michele soon emerged from the kitchen and after a brief introduction she began her demonstration on quiche dough. After running through the steps, she asked for a volunteer…she got two. Saucy threw butter and flour into the food processor like such pros, adding just enough water and oil, but not too much, and we soon had a perfectly formed ball of dough that was passed around and ooh-ed and ahh-ed at. Michele then briefly explained the recipe for her “winter-touille” tart that was being brought out from the kitchen to soothe our grumbling tummies. It was the simple quiche dough we had just made, with a thin later of parsley and almond pesto along the bottom topped with some favorite winter vegetables.

Once our plates were cleared and the Winter-touille murmur died down, Michele began the demonstration of Sole Meuniere. She lightly floured the fish fillet while butter heated up on a hot plate. The fish was placed on the pan just as the butter began to brown and cooked for a quick 2-3 minutes on each side. After the fish was removed, lemon juice was added to the pan, combining with the excess butter to form a steaming sauce that was poured over the fish. A sprinkle of parsley topped the dish and a few sauteed green beans added color to the plates. According to her writings, sole meuniere is the first dish that Julia Child had upon her arrival in France, causing her to fall in love with food and France simultaneously. After our first bite it isn’t hard to believe!

Despite the fact that the departure time for my New York-bound train was rapidly approaching, Saucy was not about to leave without our fair share of chocolate mousse. It was brought out in wine glasses and topped with fresh whipped cream just in time. We scooped our glasses clean, gave bisous to Michele and rushed out the door. Four days later, still on a natural high from our Wednesday night meal, we returned to Spring Mill for brunch with Kimmy and momma V. Chez Michele did it again.

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My Oh My, Mimi’s Hummus

I had read a New York Magazine article in early august about a small restaurant that had recently opened in Ditmas Park. The authors claimed that “you couldn’t go wrong” with Mimi’s ever-changing menu of Israeli and Moroccan-inspired dishes. Not long after reading the article, I found out that Natalie (of red velvet birthday cake fame) not only lived in Mimi’s neighborhood but knew Mimi — WOW! Visiting Nat’s hood, meeting Pita (her pup, and what an appropriate name), and dining at Mimi’s was immediately pushed towards the top of my to-do list and things finally fell into place last Saturday around brunch time. I made the trek to Ditmas Park on the Q train and was greeted by a bicycle-riding Natalie. Pita was living it up in the bike’s basket, letting the wind blow through her wispy ear hair. We were soon sitting in the front window seat at Mimi’s, with Pita looking longing at us from the other side of the glass, menus and wine in hand (it’s BYO for free!)

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The specials were read to us and literally everything was over-the-top mouth watering. We ended up ordering two entrees off of the brunch specials, the names of which I unfortunately can’t remember. The first dish was a flat, pancake-like omelette with potatoes and onions, topped with a spreadable spoonful of labneh and served with small dish of Tabouleh. The second dish consisted of a small, cast-iron skillet filled with sauteed swiss chard and onions, topped with two sunny-side-up eggs, a generous sprinkling of parsley, sheep’s cheese (I think it they were Austrian sheep? Or Hungarian?) and served with a little cucumber salad. Add two warm whole wheat pitas to the situation and you’ve got yourself a feast, not to mention a food coma.

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Ron met us at Mimi’s, helped us finish up some last bites, and Natalie ordered a plate of three paczkis (pronounced punch-keys, they are apparently Polish?): chilled chocolate cake batter-esque balls rolled in coconut. Words cannot begin to describe how delicious these were; they were unreal.

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The incredible meal was followed up by Oktoberfest beers at Sycamore, a bar with a backyard a few blocks away, where the three of us caught up on work and life gossip (specifically men with beards gossip) and hung with Pita, an adorably sassy little girl named Vivian, and two of Nat’s friends. All in all, a perfect fall day in Brooklyn, and one that made me realize good food and good company is always worth the trek.

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Saucy Embraces Fall

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Last weekend in the country was a Cuddlegan Kick-Off to Fall and Saucy kept the momentum going this weekend with a trip to way-out-there-Pennsylvania for some autumnal activities. Momma D acted as both chauffeur (we both sat in the back and paged through a vintage Martha Weddings book…) and soup connoisseur (three types of soup in tow — mushroom, onion, and butternut squash!) We arrived at Christina’s aunt and uncle’s house and sat down to a lunch of warm soup and chilled apple cider before heading out for a walk around the farm to gather some hydrangeas.

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With a full basket of flowers in hand, we piled back into the car to drive around town. First stop was a small antique shop. Although very cute, the miniature ponies down the road caught our attention and we opted for befriending the little guys rather than browsing.

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We stopped for ice cream (mint chocolate chip of course) and then hit up a few farmer’s markets in search of a slew of white pumpkins and gourds for sister Dittmann’s engagement (!!) party. So while Mrs. Dittmann hunted, we posed for photo opps with pumpkins and gourd necklaces. We browsed the final farmer’s market for some goodies for ourselves–I ended up with the most perfect mini pumpkin I’ve ever seen, intertwined gourds, a small bouquet of dried flowers, and an acorn squash that was lucky enough to be eaten for dinner that night…

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I had seen a recipe on 101 Cookbooks last week for roasted corn pudding baked inside an acorn squash — genius! Corn was one of Saucy’s summer loves and squash is our go-to fall and winter veggie so what better way to transition from summer to fall than with a combination of our favorites? And since a meal is not a meal without a carb (aka we just love carbs) we put together a quick onion and parmesan flatbread. The pudding had a great light texture and the excess (which we baked in a large ceramic dish) was a good addition to Monday night’s dinner in the Veraldi house.

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Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

1 acorn squash, halved and seeded (*there will be excess corn pudding, so use another squash if desired*)
1 1/2 cup corn kernels (4 ears of corn)
2 eggs plus 2 egg whites
1 cup milk
a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
6 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375F. Rub the inside of the squash with butter or olive oil, place on a baking sheet and cover with foil. The squash needs to sit flat on the baking sheet so that the pudding does not spill out, this may require you to shave off some of the squash’s underside to make a flat surface. Roast squash for about 40-50 minutes, or until slightly tender. Meanwhile, combine corn, eggs, milk, nutmeg, half of the scallions, and salt and pepper. Pour mixture into cared out squash and fill about 3/4 of the way. The excess can be poured into buttered ramekins or a larger baking dish. Carefully slide the baking sheet back into the oven and bake for another 40-50 minutes, or until pudding is set. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cheese and remaining scallions. Place back in the oven just until the cheese has melted and begun to brown.

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Twilight Again

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This past weekend, Saucy was lucky enough to make another trip up to the Catskills to celebrate Christina’s birthday and have an end-of-the-summer roomie snuggle fest. It was another great weekend spent sitting by the fire wrapped in blankets, exploring nearby towns, and cooking (duh!) Without much else to occupy ourselves with (which was a good thing!) we decided to take a risk and attempt homemade gnocchi. To loosen up and gain some confidence, we opened up a double bottle of wine and settled our rumbling tummies with fresh bread, brie, and apple slices.

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As the potatoes boiled, we conquered the beginning steps of an epic chocolate birthday cake and prepared some veggies for the usual roasting. After about thirty minutes, we drained the potatoes and peeled the skin off. We quickly pushed them through a potato ricer and formed them into a riced-potato volcano, with a nice little crater for the incoming egg yolks. We incorporated egg yolks and flour into the potatoes and then began rolling out gnocchi ropes and slicing away! Our first tester gnocchi came out a little too watery potato-y. Slightly discouraged, but with eyes on the prize, we incorporated more flour into the mixture and set up an assembly line to cook the little guys: Jona dropped them into boiling water, Kim scooped them out as the bobbed to the surface and placed them in a sauce pan, I sauteed them for about a minute, and Linnae uncovered and covered the serving bowl so we could retain the heat! Christina….watched?

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Gnocchi

8-10 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes
3 egg yolks
3/4-1 cup of flour

Seems simple, right? HA! Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil then decrease heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and skin is beginning to free itself. Drain water from the pot and let potatoes cool, until they are just cool enough to handle. Peel away the skin (this should be fairly easy) and put the potatoes through a potato ricer. Form a potato volcano and put the three egg yolks in the crater, along with some flour. Integrate the eggs and flour into the potatoes until it forms a consistent, sticky dough. Separate the dough into eights and roll into ropes, each about 15 inches long. Use a knife to cut the rope into one inch segments — these are your gnocchi! If you want to be fancy, use a fork to make ridges on them. If you’re hungry, skip that. Place gnocchi into a pot of boiling water about 10-15 at a time. Once they bob to the surface, scoop out and transfer to a frying pan with a bit of hot oil and butter and saute until cooked through a bit more, about 1-2 minutes. Toss with (homemade<–duh) sauce and top with fresh basil.

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We sat down to dinner feeling accomplished and ate til our tummies were full and another double bottle was empty. Though our cake had managed to be baked throughout the gnocchi process, we needed some downtime before tackling frosting and eating dessert. So to the fireplace we went!

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After some digesting, we all had chocolate on our minds. We all piled back into the kitchen to melt chocolate and whip up some frosting. Linnae and Kim took charge of the decorating and we sang happy birthday and happily ate our cake by the fire. Within a few moments of finishing up the cake, Saucy was passed out — Amanda 6 inches from the fire, and Christina nearby, wrapped in a blanket like a burrito. Tired from three straight hours of cooking related activity, we called it a night, sang our own interpretation of Miley’s “The Climb” and headed to dreamland.

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Chocolate Cake

Recipe coming!!

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Today marks the 25th anniversary of my sister’s entrance into the world. Wow! Though she is having a mini fête to celebrate tonight, I am currently en route to Philadelphia to attend some celebrations of my own and to spend some QT with mommy. But my favorite sister’s birthday is still my favorite sister’s birthday so I invited her over last night for dinner. I wanted to use up the left over squash, zucchini, and tomatoes from Saucy creations earlier this week and so I sauteed those three with shallots and garlic then tossed with orecchiette. The result was yummy but simple, perhaps a bit too plain for those who aren’t straight-up-veggie lovers like I am. Next time I’ll try to make it a little more…saucy! For dessert I made a raspberry buttermilk cake that I had seen on Smitten Kitchen. The pasta might have been plain but the cake was perfect and really hit the spot. Dinner and dessert were followed by coffee, some people watching, and a birthday kiss on the cheek before Dana hopped on a subway back downtown. Happy birthday sister! I love you!!

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Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 oz)

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy then blend in vanilla, lemon zest, and egg. Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Pour into a greased and floured cake pan. Place raspberries evenly on top then sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy!

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To our loyal Saucy readers, we are SO sorry about our absence. Although we don’t have a full post for you today, we do have some very exciting news. As you know, we are seniors at Columbia University and to celebrate our upcoming graduation, Columbia threw us a big bash. At last night’s Senior Dinner we not only had a great time socializing with our classmates, but we also got to spend some QT with the Dean of Columbia College, Austin Quigley. Amanda has had a bit of a past with Quigley (most notably a photo taken in the lobby of Hamilton Hall on Halloween…Amanda was dressed as a cowgirl, naturally.) but this was Christina’s first encounter. After some intelligent conversation, a few fits of giggles, and general bonding, we slipped in a plug for Saucy. Quigley not only suggested that we make Trifle in honor of him but also gave us some words of widsom: “Now that you have a blog together, you’ll be friends forever.” Right he is! Stay tuned, Saucy will be back in action shortly. KITN.

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Let’s rewind to a chilly morning back in March. Christina and Amanda, along with roomie Emily and pledge Kim, dragged themselves out of bed at what seemed like the crack of dawn. We buttoned our colorful cardigans, bundled up with coats and scarves and grabbed starbucks before piling into a cab. The occasion? Tickets to the Martha Stewart show! As we waiting outside the studio in a line filled with 30-something women, our spirits were high and our energy climbing. After a brief tutorial inside on applauding, ooh-ing, ahh-ing, and aww-ing we were ushered into Martha’s mecca. We were seated second row center and classily bopped along to the raging rap music that was playing (to make guest Kenan Thompson feel comfortable) during the moments leading up to the show. During the ensuing seven segments, we laughed, we cried, and we learned how to make fish-print tshirts. Post-show Martha was kind enough to answer some audience questions and Christina stepped up to the plate. After gushing to Martha that we love to bake, Christina asked her what her favorite dessert is. Without hesitation, Martha confessed her love for pies…and then promoted her new book. As if we didn’t already have it, sheesh.
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Now let’s rewind back further…to the February issue of Martha Stewart Living. As if the strawberry cupcakes weren’t fantastic enough, Martha also featured a raspberry and pear pie that Amanda just could not get off of her mind. Brilliant, Martha, brilliant.

Finally, let’s rewind back even further. To the movie The Waitress. Pies everywhere!! More specifically, pies as therapy!! Great movie.

Okay. Fastforward (but actually rewind) to last Saturday. Apparently the pear and raspberry pie coupled with hearing of Martha’s love of pies in person just was not enough to motivate Amanda to make said pie. But throw in some waitress-esque drama with the male species and Amanda was peeling pears in no time. The pie was a success, and served warm to hungry roomies late on Saturday night. Finally! An homage to Martha the magazine, an homage to Martha the person, and a pie with the power to heal!

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Pear-Raspberry Heart (Healing!) Pie

2 pie crusts
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch (I didn’t have this so I substituted flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6-ish pears, peeled and thinly sliced
6 ounces raspberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

Fit one of the pie crusts into a pie pan. In a large bowl toss together pears, raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cinnamon. On a lightly floured surface roll out the second pie crust and cut out hearts using a cookie cutter. Fill the pie pan with the pear and raspberry mixture, heaping it towards the center. Line the hearts around the pan, alternating their direction and using water to help them adhere together. Once completed, brush the entire surface with egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes then reduce heat to 375F and bake until juices begin to bubble, about an hour.

As if the pie weren’t enough, audience members were handed the current issue of Everyday Food upon our exit. The last page held a recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies that had kitteh written all over them. So in the Martha spirit, Amanda made those on Monday. And they were pretty much gone by Tuesday. Silly roomies!!!

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet chocolate CHUNKS

Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Slowly add flour and baking soda and and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks. Drop by the heaping tablespoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 13 to 15 minutes, or until edges begin to brown.

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