Now that Iâ€™ve been working from home more these past few months, I missed picking up an occasional espresso drink on my way into the office. I have a 15+ year old Krups coffee maker that does a decent job making drip coffee, but itâ€™s nothing compared to a really good latte. I used to have a countertop espresso maker, but I gave it to a friend because I hated dealing with dragging it out and cleaning it. This holiday season, my sister brought espresso back into my home life by bequeathing me her Bialetti Musa stovetop espresso maker. I will admit, I was intimidated to use it, but after my first try, Iâ€™m sold! Hereâ€™s how I did it:
1. Fill the lower chamber of the espresso maker with water. Be sure not to cover the brass colored safety release valve.
2. Insert the metal filter basket into the lower boiler chamber.
3. Scoop coffee ground for espresso into the filter basket and lightly push down the grounds with the back of a spoon. (Iâ€™ve read several opinions about tamping the grounds â€“ some say that tamping can clog the filter, other say itâ€™s the only way to go. I decided to shoot for the middle.)
4. Place the rubber gasket on top of the filter basket, then the filter plate on top of the gasket.
5. Tightly crew the upper chamber onto the lower chamber.
6. Place the entire espresso maker onto a burner. Heat to boiling.
7. Once the water begins to boil, and youâ€™ll hear it, let the upper chamber fill with brewed espresso (about a 45 seconds) and take it off the burner.
8. Finally, pour the brewed espresso into a cup and add milk and sugar, if you like.
Enjoy! â€“ Rebecca F.
Photo credit: Rebecca Firlik
Pancakes these aren’t. I’m talking about British flapjacks : oaty, buttery, sweet bars of delight that are the perfect packable snack or breakfast on the go. Reminiscent of a granola bar, flapjacks are a traditional UK breakfast treat made with butter, oats, sugar and golden syrup, a jar of which I just received as a gift from an English-born co-worker. Making them is terribly simple, but keeping them around is difficult — which is why this is my second batch in less than a week! I have a feeling that jar of syrup will be gone quick… — Megan B.
click for the recipe after the jump!
I love to have people over for dinner, and I try to make it happen as often as I can. One of my constant dinner party invitees recently asked me for a list of my favorite host gifts I’ve received that aren’t wine, because she wasn’t comfortable picking a wine for someone else’s taste. The following is my list of favorite not-wine gifts that I shared with her. For the most part, they’re something easy and inexpensive to keep on hand for last minute dinner invitations.
- Cheese paper
Proper storage of cheese helps to preserve the purity of its flavor, and helps prevent bad molds from forming.
- Fancy peppercorns
I didn’t really understand peppercorn differences until someone introduced me to green peppercorns, with their clean, mild flavors. Delicious!
- Quality olive oil
I love a delicious olive oil that I can enjoy with crusty bread or drizzled on arugula salad.
- Pink salt block
Amazing to cook on, and at less than $30, a really fun surprise gift!
- Organic Honey
Sweet and earthy, and very versatile!
- Quality Black Tea
I love using black tea in baked goods, to smoke chicken, or in a fruit glaze. The better the tea, the more special the flavor turns out!
I don’t think i need to explain â€¦
- Local Coffee (like Chicagoâ€™s own Intelligentsia)
Even if a host is not a coffee drinker, having coffee on hand for guests is a must.
- A hunk of good Parmesan
Parmesan will add life to any salad, grilled pizza or a simple pasta.
These two aren’t edible, and probably appropriate for a more special occasion.
– Guest book
During dessert, having guests sign a guest book is a special way to end the night.
- Cook’s Illustrated magazine
One part cooking geek, one part culinary school, this publication helps demystify basic and more complicated cooking techniques.
Enjoy! â€” Rebecca F.
Photo credit: Intelligentsia Coffee
Ahh, the humble sunchoke. So homely, knobby, and difficult to peel that people often miss out on the delicate beauty lying beneath it’s rough exterior. Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, aren’t really a type of artichoke at all, but the root of a sunflower, called girasole in Italian. Versatility is their game: they are crunchy and sweet in a salad, but when cooked transform into something magical. Silky, creamy, sweet and nutty — throw these tubers in soups, puree them like potatoes, or roast them… you can’t go wrong. I like their gentle flavor best when paired with carrots and simmered until tender in apple cider that reduces to a golden glaze, making a quick and comforting side dish to just about anything! –Megan B.
click for the recipe after the jump!
Weâ€™re at that point of winter break where Iâ€™m starting to feel like a cross between Julie the cruise ship director and a prison warden. Add in figuring out three regular meals a day plus holiday meals, and Iâ€™m ready for something quick and easy. This one-bowl treat was just the thing. All you need is one box gingerbread cake mix (I used Trader Joeâ€™s) made to directions, a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a tub of Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice cream cheese. Serve while still warm, then sit back and relax. â€” Sarah L.