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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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Galette and Other Goodies

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I have been intrigued by the simplicity of galettes for a while now — throw what you want (really! anything!) on top of a pie crust, fold the edges over, and voila! When I was home last weekend some snacks were needed for the Notre Dame game on Saturday afternoon. I picked up some party dogs for momma from the farmer’s market and decided to dive into the world of galettes to make a veg-friendly munchie. I chopped a medium sized white onion and a clove of garlic and sauteed them in a bit of olive oil for about ten minutes. Once translucent, I piled the onions in the middle of a circular pie crust, threw on some leftover chopped tomatoes from breakfast and shredded gruyere cheese on top. I folded the sides in, popped it in the oven for about 25 minutes, sliced like a pizza, and enjoyed!

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Other weekend goodies included three loaves of pumpkin bread, a quadrupled batch of granola, spicy spiked oatmeal cranberry cookies, and, my favorite, brunch at Spring Mill Cafe with mom and Dana.

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Barefoot Contessas

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Saucy had spent Saturday morning lounging around before convincing each other that an outing was in order. So we hopped on a downtown C train, Columbus Circle bound. Our plan? J.Crew to try on some outerwear, William & Sonoma to fantasize about our future kitchen (singular), and Whole Foods to grab something for dinner. J.Crew was pretty uneventful; we pined over the “downtown field jacket” for a bit in our shared dressing room then lazily headed down to W&S. Christina picked up the Barefoot Contessa on display and began to flip through while Amanda wandered off to the baking section. Of course Ina came through: within a few minutes, Christina came across two recipes that screamed “Saucy!” and we suddenly had plans for an Ina Garten dinner and dessert.

For dinner we made Goat Cheese and Tomato Tarts. The flaky puff pastry topped with slowly sauteed onions, shredded parmesean, crumbled goat cheese, a slice of tomato, and a sprinkle of fresh basil was simple enough but so delicious. The dish was so Saucy (how could a goat cheese and tomato combo not be Saucy?) and was basically perfection after being paired with a glass (or two…) or dry white wine.

Ina Garten’s Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts

1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, sliced into thin slivers
3 tablespoons dry white wine (plus more for drinking…)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
6 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
4 ounces goat cheese
2 medium tomatoes, cut into slices
3 tablespoons julienned fresh basil

Unfold the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Using a circular shaped object (we used a bowl and a wine glass), cut the pastry into circles and place the discs onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 425F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onions and sautee for 15 to 20 minutes, until almost no moisture remains in the pan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine and the thyme and continue to cook for 10 minutes, until the onions have browned slightly.

Using a sharp knife, score a 1/4-inch wide border around each pastry circle. Prick inside each circle with a fork. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese inside the circle and top with the onions and garlic. Crumble goat cheese on top and then place a slice of tomato in the center. Top with more parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh basil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is slightly brown.

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Despite hitting the spot, after any savory dish Saucy usually craves something sweet. And Ina delivered yet again with her Brownie Pudding. With just six ingredients, dessert was easy to throw together (especially when aided by a KitchenAid) and since its baking time was an hour our tummies had enough time to digest our tarts and make sufficient room for dessert. The end result was every batter-lover’s dream: a crisp top layer covering ooey gooey battery brownie goodness underneath. We refrigerated what we didn’t eat and in the morning found ourselves sneaking bits of what was now equally delicious creamy custardy fudge brownie goodness. Thank you Ina!!

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Ina Garten’s Brownie Pudding

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Blend eggs and sugar for 5-10 minutes until very thick and light yellow. Reduce mixer speed to low and add vanilla extract, flour, and cocoa powder. Pour in cooled butter and mix until just combined. We also added some mini chocolate chips.

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked.

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Birthday Cakes!

For those of you who don’t know, August is the best month to have a birthday…preferably end of August. Some really great people are born during this Leo to Virgo transitional period. For example, yours truly (20th!), cheetah sister Allison (30th!), and co-worker Natalie (31st!).

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I was lucky enough to have four birthday cakes (plus one chipwich with a Hanukkah candle in it and a cupcake with a ballerina on top) throughout my birthday celebrations (that may seem like a lot but are you surprised? no, you’re not.) My first: a two layer chocolate cake with light and fluffy frosting made by Gram and decorated by Dana (see above). My second: a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake, chocolate fudge brownie on the bottom and cookie dough on the top. My third: a vanilla layer cake with chocolate pudding in between the layers, chosen by my dad. And lastly, a truly amazing crepe cake from Lady M picked out by my favorite sister, Dana; it was comprised of about thirty crepes with a thin layer of custard between each, I can’t even begin to describe how yummy it was.

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After happily receiving my plethora of birthday sweets, I knew it was time to give back to fellow birthday girls. I made Allison Shipley’s Secret Garden chocolate bundt cake (a classic among my high school friends) and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. And I put together a three layer red velvet cake for Natalie, generously frosted with red velvet’s partner in crime, cream cheese frosting.

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Speaking of birthdays…there is another Saucy birthday coming up in about three weeks…let the birthday cake brainstorming begin!

Unfortunately my camera battery is dead and the charger is MIA so photos taken on my blackberry will have to do. I know they’re not up to Saucy standards but forgive me. Sigh.

Falalalalalafel

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Last week Dan and I were finally able to cross something off our to-do list: make falafel. We had attempted this over two years ago and it was a complete disaster – the batter fell apart immediately upon hitting the oil, leaving us with chickpea mush that, while still tasty, was just not what we were going for. With that experience in mind, we took a step back and made falafel patties-some baked, some lightly fried. They weren’t the deep-fried crispy falafel balls that we’re use to but were yummy nonetheless. We’ll leave the deep frying to the experts.

Falafel

1 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans, drained and dried as much as possible
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small white onion, diced
1-2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoons flour

Combine everything but the garbanzo beans in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the chickpeas and pulse until incorporated but batter is still slightly chunky–this will help the balls/patties retain their shape. Form the mixture into patties that are about 2 inches in diameter and half an inch thick. Lightly fry in heated oil, flipping once the bottom begins to brown or bake on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at 400F for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.