Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Salad

burrata1

Summer might be coming to a close, but there’s no way I’m letting go of this recipe. My roommate and I first stumbled across this Caprese salad-cousin in what is quickly becoming one of our favorite restaurants in Madison, Pig in a Fur Coat (if you live in or visit the area, you must go – get the burrata and the poutine…and everything). This salad, a combination of burrata cheese, heirloom tomatos, and ground cherries, is simple but oh so delicious. The secret is in the flavorful twist on the typical ingredients.

burrata2

Madison happens to be the home of the largest producers-only (as in no resale) farmers’ market in the United States, which is an amazing source of fresh produce (and my personal guilty pleasure – cheese). That being said, you can pick up many of these ingredients in other farmers’ markets and even chain supermarkets like Trader Joe’s! The ground cherries, something I had never even heard of before ordering this salad, are sold all over the farmers’ market and are probably my new favorite vegetable. Tiny and covered by a light husk, these tomatoes are shockingly sweet and decidedly delicious.

burrata3

For this salad to be at its best, the ingredients should be really fresh – nice firm tomatoes, freshly cut basil. While I enjoy Caprese salad, I often find the mozzarella a little too rubbery for my taste, which is why burrata is the absolute best – a thin mozzarella outer layer containing rich, moist cream on the inside.

Ingredients

  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Burrata cheese
  • Ground cherries
  • Basil
  • Balsamic vinegar (reduced or glaze)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt/pepper to taste

I haven’t included measurements because this salad is all about shaping it to taste. For my roommate’s and my salads, I chopped up one (very large) heirloom tomato and gave us each a burrata ball.

burrata4

To prepare this salad, just chop up the tomato(es) and spread them around in a bowl or on a plate with the burrata. Sprinkle plenty of ground cherries around, and make sure to garnish with your favorite combination of basil, balsamic, olive oil, salt or pepper.

burrata5

I hope you like it!

Ginny

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Cake Batter Popcorn

cake batter popcorn

I made this popcorn a couple of times last summer whenever Lucas and I went to outdoor movies together (we both have major sweet-tooths). It’s pretty simple, the one real issue is making sure that the white chocolate doesn’t clump or burn, and very delicious (as long as you like white chocolate). That being said, my roommate would disagree, mostly because she hates color, sugar, fun, and happiness.

birthday cake popcorn

Ingredients (so simple!)

  • Popcorn
  • White chocolate or almond bark squares
  • Rainbow sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Pop your popcorn and separate out unpopped kernels. I stupidly bought microwave popcorn, momentarily forgetting that we don’t actually have a microwave in our new apartment. If you’re also handicapped, don’t worry, you can pop popcorn in a room pot on the stove top, just add a little oil and make sure to shake the corn and watch it carefully.
  2. Melt the white chocolate. You can either melt in the microwave (although you have to be very watchful) or create a double boiler on your stove top. To make a double boiler, heat up a pot of water and place a bowl (metal or glass works fine) on top of the pot. As the water heats up and begins to gently boil, place the chopped up chocolate in the bowls.
  3. Toss the popcorn in the white chocolate. Once the chocolate is fully melted, toss the popcorn and chocolate together in a bowl, and spread over waxed paper. Before the chocolate dries, sprinkle the popcorn liberally with sprinkles.
  4. Break and serve the popcorn. To speed up drying time, put your popcorn in the fridge or freezer. Once it’s hardened, break apart the popcorn and put it either in bowls to serve or bags to store. Enjoy!

birthday cake popcorn
I made this batch to serve at my housewarming party as a cute, sweet snack and took the leftovers to see Wall-E as an outdoor movie on Monday night. I love how sweet it is – and how happy the rainbow sprinkles make me feel.

birthday cake popcorn

Cheers,

Ginny


A Trip to the Beach

Artisan Donuts at Dough Hut

This past week my family, Lucas, and I went to the beach for mini-vacation at my uncle’s beach house in Long Beach, Long Island. As Charles Dickens’ once wrote, “It was the best of [weeks], it was the worst of [weeks]”. My uncle’s house doesn’t have air conditioning, which, in conjunction with the recent heat wave, was unbearable. Luckily, we also had the ocean. It’s a toss up.

While there, Lucas and I tried a new doughnut shop, Dough Hut, and sampled every single one of their flavors. My personal favorites included Maple Bacon and Vanilla Crumb, while Lucas liked Pistachio and Jelly.

DIY Bottle Cap Mural

Long Beach was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy, so it’s nice seeing it get back on its feet. There’s more art around, including this cute (and resourceful) mural on a low dividing wall. It’s made of thousands of bright bottle caps.

Essie Bikini So Teeny

I also got my traditional beach mani/pedi while there in Essie’s Bikini So Teeny. (Pictured with my own personal almost-matching teeny bikini).

Rockaway Taco

We also made a stop at family-favorite Rockaway Taco to get their delicious fish tacos. They are simply divine. I highly recommend visiting (except not while I’m there, because that place is crowded enough as it is, thanksverymuch).

Rockaway Taco Fish Taco

How are you beating the heat?

Cheers,

Ginny


I’m Feeling 22: Tea Party Edition

summertime tea party

This past weekend I celebrated my 22nd birthday with what has now become a birthday tradition – an excessively long and filling tea party. After what must have been my fourth or fifth party (I’ve kind of lost track of when it started), the routine’s settled. The guests change a little, the sandwiches, tea, and desserts vary, but the base of it remains the same: four delicious and individually filling courses stretched across three hours or more of laughs, gossip, and good times.

I got the inspiration from a high tea I attended years ago at the Chateau Frontenac, a beautiful hotel at the heart of Old Quebec City. I was about 11 at the time, and, as my dad likes to point out, completely floored by the experience (I didn’t speak above a low whisper for the duration of the meal out of fear that my vocal vibrations would break something beautiful). My backyard tea party has become a far more casual meal (especially since I usually rely on the guests to help me create it), but infinitely more satisfying.

summertime tea party

If you’re looking for a template for a tea party, I find that mine works very well. In my opinion, the best tea parties are smaller, intimate affairs (I don’t like to have more than six people at mine) set in nice locations (we lounge on my parent’s back porch for hours staring at the summer blooms). Aesthetically, I prefer the hodge-podge of mismatching teacups and teapots, tableclothes and napkins, but that’s up to your taste (it’s also a lot easier if you happen to be like me and my mother and collect random pretty elements that don’t necessarily make up a whole set).

For me, the first course consists of three types of tea sandwiches. This year, I did cucumbers, cream cheese, scallions, and red onion, apples and brie, and ham, cheddar, and mayonnaise, but in the past I’ve also done pear and blue cheese and lox and cream cheese. I like to use white bread – it’s both aesthetically nicer and more reminiscent of childhood – with the crusts cut off. After preparing the sandwiches normally, cut them along the diagonals so that each sandwich is a cute obtuse triangle.

summertime tea party

The second course is always scones. I’ve used store-bought scones in the past, but this year my friend William (who also happens to be a tea fanatic and provided delicious tea for the party) made some homemade scones for us in the shape of teapots. Scones are incomplete without delicious spreads, and if you choose sweet (not savory) scones, I would recommend buying some good jam (I like Bonne Maman’s raspberry preserves) and some clotted cream. If you’ve never had clotted cream before (I believe it’s far more popular in the British Isle than in the U.S.), you need to buy a jar right away. Eat all of it, and then don’t buy another jar for the rest of the year because don’t be crazy, that stuff will kill you. Lather your scones liberally with it.

After two carb-heavy courses and lots of tea (no lie – we usually go through about two teapots per course so we’re getting pretty jittery at this point), you need to take a break. That’s where the berry course comes in. If you’re doing this in the winter I would substitute more seasonal fruits, but for a summer tea party, a sweet and tart berry medley is a perfect palate cleansing course. My mother has these adorable glass pear dishes, so I pile a carton each of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries into the five or six pears. If you feel like you haven’t consumed enough fat yet (and that would probably mean you haven’t eaten any clotted cream, so, shame on you), you could make some homemade whipped cream to top the berries. I decided it wasn’t really necessary.

summertime tea party

The final course is dessert. In the past, I’ve bought pre-made petit-four cakes and made coconut macaroons. This year, I bought Linzer tart cookies and almond macaroons from a local bakery. Other great cookie choices include the ever-popular macarons, palmiers, or, as Lucas suggested, Argentine alfajores (you really can’t go wrong with dulce de leche). You probably won’t need many desserts, since everyone’s stomachs should be busting at the seams at this point, but why would you say no to leftovers? That’s right, you wouldn’t.

Tea parties often come down to the details, so I love to round out the party with cute elements like sugar cubes instead of loose sugar and cake stands (both real and improvised). Ultimately, you don’t want to stress out about any one thing. Just enjoy the tea, the food, the company, and the chance to just kick back and relax for a few hours. Also, remember to wear a hat. A tea party is nothing without hats.

summertime tea party

Do you have any recommendations for further tweaks on tea parties or backyard parties in general? I’m always looking to improve mine.

Cheers,

Ginny


Happiness is…

hydrangeas spring flowers

It’s been a relaxing few weeks for me, and I’m loving soaking in all of the goodness that summer has to offer. Hydrangeas are blooming all over my neighborhood and putting me in such a good mood. I think they’re such gorgeous flowers.

grilled vegetables

We’ve been having a couple cookouts, and while I love burgers and ribs, I can’t get enough of grilled veggies (these ones were prepared by Lucas’ mom) – they’re so bright and delicious.

orange creamsicle cocktail

With my birthday approaching, I’ve been test driving some potential cocktails to serve. This one is super simple and tastes exactly like an orange creamsicle. Just mix one part whipped vodka (or vanilla – but I love exotic flavors) with two parts San Pellegrino aranciata. It’s light, sweet, and nostalgically delicious.

What’re you excited for this summer?

Cheers,

Ginny


Earl Grey Sea Salt Macarons

sea salt earl grey macarons

In preparation for my annual birthday tea party, my friend Will and I have been practicing making macarons. After two questionable attempts, we finally got a winning batch after borrowing my neighbor’s stand mixer.

sea salt earl grey macarons

For the cookies themselves we used a traditional Italian meringue recipe, and for the filling we made an earl grey sea salt we got from Food, J’Taime. When William first suggested the caramel filling, I was mildly skeptical (although I love earl grey flavoring, especially in sorbet). Earl grey and salted caramel? Seemed a little strange. Needless to say, I was wrong. The caramel was amazing. I want to make more so I can have a pot on hand to drizzle on everything that I eat.

sea salt earl grey macarons

We dusted the top of the macarons with edible pearl glitter dust. I’ve had a couple bottles of the edible glitter hidden away in my baking cabinet for awhile now, but I haven’t really figured out how to use them until now. I looked up several methods of applying it, and settled on vodka (?!?). Several sources called for mixing the glitter with a little bit of vodka and then brushing it on the surface (the vodka should evaporate with time). I was again a little skeptical, especially since we were about to bring over a couple sample cookies to my neighbors to thank them for the use of their mixer. I did not want to serve them delicate French cookies with a faint aftertaste of Svedka. Luckily, the vodka was tasteless and we got a lovely gold sheen on the cookies.

sea salt earl grey macarons

After all our crazed efforts, the cookies turned out deliciously, and I’m so excited to make more for my birthday.

Cheers,

Ginny