All Posts By Alex Guarnaschelli

Every week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

‘Tis the Season for Béarnaise Sauce — Alex Eats

by in Recipes, October 3rd, 2012

bernaise sauceI feel we always discuss the seasons relative to what fruits, vegetables, fish and meat we are buying and eating. But to me, the seasons are just as much about how I feel. I want that blueberry pie in July at the beach and a lentil soup while wearing a fisherman’s sweater in February. One other thing I want this time of year, with pretty much everything and anything, is some béarnaise sauce. It’s a classic with poached eggs, but equally great with French fries, steamed fish, a simple steak or even some raw fennel for dipping. Have you ever tried it with wedges of oven-dried tomatoes? Or a bowl of steamed clams? Tackling a classic, iconic sauce like this at home can be daunting, but it’s really pretty simple and the taste is uniquely delicious. I make it close to when I intend to eat it and keep it by the stove, warm, until ready to serve.

I always learned to make it with clarified butter, but here I make it with gently melted regular butter. This is also a good place to splurge on some nice butter or even a type of butter you have never had before. Something about the eggs with the vinegar and herbs meandering through makes the butter flavors come to life. It almost tastes more like butter than butter by itself!

Get the recipe

The Power of School Lunch

by in Family, September 18th, 2012

school lunch box
My daughter played “What food am I?” in preschool the other day. When I came to pick her up, her teacher gave me an odd look. “What happened?” I asked. “All of the kids had to describe what kind of food they were today,” she began. “Most kids said apples, celery, oranges, hamburgers, tomatoes, etc., but your daughter told us she was a mix of quinoa and gooseberries…”

Good or bad? I wondered to myself. Probably some of both.

In my mind, that definitely tells me I’m going to be “that mom,” the one whose kid constantly feels embarrassed about. And “that mom” was originally my mom: the mom who dares to be different when, among other things, it comes to packing a school lunch.

My mother lovingly packed soggy, lopsided and sometimes grease-stained paper bags carrying oddball sandwiches or various leftovers from dinner.

Delicious? Totally. Awkward to eat? Totally. Not like any of the other kids’ lunches at a time when you did not dare to be different? Totally.

What was a classic lunch for me?

Keep reading

In Summer Denial

by in In Season, August 28th, 2012

blueberries
As far as I’m concerned, summer continues until the squash varieties on the tables at the greenmarket outweigh the piles of tomatoes and corn. In an effort to prolong summer, I revert to the classics — the recipes that make me close my eyes and feel it can’t be any day other than the Fourth of July. This recipe for Blueberry Coffee Cake does that more than any other. It tastes even better as leftovers or warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can substitute with other fruits like plums, nectarines and peaches, but it’s best with good ol’ blueberries.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

My mother is a New England gal and I always marveled at the way she ate this dish. While my father and I have been known to eat this as-is or pile on whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, she would put a slice of this cake into a bowl and pour some heavy cream (like a moat around a castle) on it. The unsweetened cream, in its purest state, really highlights the spices and blueberries themselves — try it!

Get Alex’s recipe

Alex Makes: Grilled Tomato Soup

by in Food Network Chef, Recipes, June 12th, 2012

roma tomatoesThis is a good recipe when you feel like having a few late spring-early summer tomatoes when they are not yet at the height of the season. I find this is a simple and tasty way to extract the maximum flavor from them. I like to take my time with this recipe and work with the grill when it’s not so hot. I really like grilling something and blending that charred flavor into others. That’s why I dig this soup.

Get the recipe

Asparagus All the Time

by in How-to, In Season, May 30th, 2012

asparagus bundle
When shopping for asparagus, look for firm, clean and straight stalks. Wobbly stalks and discolored ends are telltale signs not to buy. Use a sharp knife to trim only the very bottom from the stalk; breaking it off causes more of the bottom to go to waste. With “pencil” asparagus, I find the stalks too thin to peel. For larger asparagus, I peel them (because the outer skin can be tough once cooked) and leave the top two inches intact. Not planning to use them right away? Fresh asparagus should be kept refrigerated. Placing the stalks upright in a little bit of water (as you would a bouquet of flowers, for example) can extend its shelf life.

I like asparagus al dente, a.k.a slightly crunchy. A six-ounce serving of asparagus will cook al dente in boiling water in about 2-3 minutes; add enough salt after the water begins to boil until it tastes like mild seawater. Once cooked, transfer the stalks to a bowl of cold water with ice to stop them from cooking further, dry them off and serve them whole drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. When I serve them chilled, I let them sit in the fridge in the dressing for a few minutes before serving. For something even richer, try a dressing with two parts hazelnut oil, a handful of chopped, toasted hazelnuts and one part lemon juice. Drain the asparagus, dry stalks of excess water and toss them, warm, into the bowl with the dressing. When I serve them warm, I have the dressing ready; I toss and eat right away.

Read more

Derby Day for the Kiddies: Virgin Mint Juleps

by in Drinks, Holidays, May 4th, 2012

derby daySince Derby Day traditionally happens in the beginning of May, I always associate it with the beginning of summer. Is it because the horse race is affectionately referred to as “the most exciting two minutes in sports?” No, it’s because I love so many of the traditions that come with it. I love that the winner is presented with a “blanket” of 554 roses. I love fiddling with a version of “burgoo,” a beef and pork stew traditionally served on this day. Burgoo is one of those recipes that can be left open to interpretation. It is traditionally made with whatever meats (beef or pork) and vegetables (lima beans, corn or okra) are available. My best results came from braising some cubed-up brisket and stirring in some corn, fava beans and peas to give it that touch of spring. With all this cooking, a cooling drink seems only fitting. The mint julep happens to be one of my favorites. It reminds me of a snow cone, the fruity, icy cone I used to get from ice cream trucks as a kid. This provides a fun drink for kids instead of a more traditional Shirley Temple.

Get the recipe

Alex’s Easter Leg of Lamb

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, April 4th, 2012

leg of lambOddly, my most vivid memory of a leg of lamb comes from my years of living in France and not my childhood kitchen. I was strolling in an open-air market and stopped in fascination in front of a rotisserie. There, in the midst of tables of fresh vegetables, I stood, transfixed. An enormous leg of lamb was slowly turning and was the deepest golden brown. At the bottom were various fingerling potatoes and onions that clearly had been cooked in the drippings. I honestly wasn’t sure what looked better, the meat or the vegetables.

I have been imitating that experience ever since. I save the rosemary to be mixed in with the vegetables and the cooking juices once the meat is cooked. I find that when rosemary is cooked too long, it tastes medicinal instead of herbaceous and fresh.

Get Alex’s recipe

How to Shop: Buying Honey

by in How-to, March 27th, 2012

types of honeyI am always seduced by the honey stand at my local green market. The beeswax candles, the pollen and the different flavors of honey — how can so much good stuff come from such small creatures?

Here are some of my guidelines for buying honey:

— When I get the chance, I buy the single variety, usually yielded from only one type of flower, from a local producer that I trust. I find color speaks louder than words. Darker honeys, like chestnut and fir varieties, are rarer and have a stronger flavor. I use those on top of pancakes or add to braised carrots or roasted squash. Lighter-colored varieties, like acacia and clover, are mellower and great in tea. They add their honey “note,” but don’t obscure the tea.

Read more of Alex’s tips

Gnocchi With Potato Skins — Alex Eats

by in Food Network Chef, Recipes, March 22nd, 2012

gnocchi
I have always been a fan of other people’s gnocchi. Somewhat dense and coated with layers of grated Parmesan cheese. My favorites are the ones that taste so intensely (and purely) of potato and provide the perfect companion to many of the spring vegetables I look forward to devouring in the coming weeks. From Swiss chard to the first little parsnips to fava beans to baby spinach, gnocchi makes them all taste even better than they do on their own. After many bad batches, I settled on this recipe as my absolute favorite. Like pancakes, your first batch may not be your best.

It takes time to try your hand at this. This recipe, to me, is worth that culinary leap of faith.

Get the recipe

Add Fruits and Veggies to Your Super Bowl Menu

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, February 1st, 2012

fruits and vegetables
The Super Bowl is such a great athletic event. It’s also a day that honors another great sport: cooking. People get out their smokers and their spicy chicken wing recipes. Others grab their salsa recipes and tortilla presses. It’s definitely a day to bust out some of your favorite all-American recipes. What I find people struggle with is something to put out on the table that’s relatively light, something with vegetables or fruit. Are we looking for something to replace those wings or hot dogs? Absolutely not. Just something else that can complement it.

Here are some suggestions and tips for that “light” (albeit out of place) touch for your Super Bowl spread:

  • Fruit can be a great guest at your party. Skewer some tomatoes and grapes and serve them with bowl of yogurt flavored with a few spoonfuls of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of ground cinnamon. Or just serve them plain.
  • Make a vegetable platter. What are my favorite vegetables? Raw carrots, cucumbers, celery, red bell peppers and cauliflower. Veggie platters allow people to nibble.

More tips for a lighter Super Bowl spread »

123...