All posts by Leah Klein

As far back as I can remember, I would wake up from my nap time to the smell and sounds of something cooking in the kitchen. I would stumble out of my bed and slowly make my way to the kitchen. My mom would be there chopping, stirring, mixing, or washing. I would rub my eyes take a deep breath and eventually be awake enough to either taste something she was chopping or ask to help out.
Spring Vegetable Panzanella at Alden & Harlow.

A Brunch to Love Wholeheartedly: Alden & Harlow

You know that moment when a new house crosses over and becomes a home.  It is when the memory of the rooms, as anything other than what they are today, has completely faded except perhaps if you catch a glimpse of a little hook left in a closet from a former resident or a scrap of wall paper wedged behind some molding.  Casablanca was a true Harvard Square, or to be fair Boston, institution, yet when you walk into Alden & Harlow you step inside Chef Michael Scelfo’s “home” and once you take your first taste you never want to leave.

Warning: You may want to move in here.  The season's gems preserved.
Warning: You may want to move in here. The season’s gems preserved.

Victor Lazio in Casablanca said, “You know how you sound…? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart.”

When it comes to brunch, or any other meal at Alden and Harlow for that matter,  you will need no convincing.  You will know in your heart, your belly, your nose, your soul that you have just experienced food prepared with skill, creativity and the best ingredients available of the season.  You will taste food that Chef Scelfo and his team believe in from their hearts to their palates.  I was a guest recently invited to try the brunch menu.  I have been to Alden and Harlow for dinner and am always counting the days until I can go back for brunch with the family or dinner with friends, or a drink and bite at the bar.

Here is a peek at what can be found on the brunch menu.

Root Vegetable Latkes with homemade sour cream and Rey's apple sauce.  I am a purist when it comes to latkes but I'm making an exception for these.  I can eat these from now to Chanukah!
Root Vegetable Latkes with homemade sour cream and Rey’s apple sauce. I am a purist when it comes to latkes but I’m making an exception for these. I can eat these from now to Chanukah!
Root Vegetable Latkes at Alden & Harlow.
Root Vegetable Latkes at Alden & Harlow.
This is a side dish of smoked fish pâté and toast.  The arugula is perfect on top.  You might think you don't like fish pâté but try it, it's so good.
This is a side dish of smoked fish pâté and toast. The arugula is perfect on top. You might think you don’t like fish pâté but try it, it’s so good.
This is another dish I could eat for lunch every day.
This is another dish I could eat for lunch every day.
I love crumpets.  I have made crumpets before.  I grew up eating crumpets.  And yet, I have never quite had crumpets like this before.  These are the perfect texture and size. Top with cream and jam and your weekend is made.
I love crumpets. I have made crumpets from scratch at home. I grew up eating crumpets. And yet, I have never quite had crumpets like this before. These are the perfect texture and size. Top with cream and jam and your weekend is made.
Don't judge me for this, and I loved everything I tasted on the brunch menu, but this one was my favourite.  The smell of the herbs as this gorgeous mound of panzanella was placed on the table hooked me in.  This panzanella is made with picked ramps, grilled halloumi and an oregano chimichurri. Perhaps one of the more simple sounding dishes on the menu, but with lots of hidden treasures and surprises.
Don’t judge me for this, and I loved everything I tasted on the brunch menu, but this one was my favourite. The smell of the herbs as this gorgeous mound of panzanella was placed on the table hooked me in. This panzanella is made with picked ramps, grilled halloumi and an oregano chimichurri. Perhaps one of the more simple sounding dishes on the menu, but with lots of hidden treasures and surprises.
Spring Vegetable Panzanella at Alden & Harlow.
Spring Vegetable Panzanella at Alden & Harlow.
This shakshouka is topped with pea greens, spiced with harissa and has nice, briny anchovy croutons rounding out the flavours.
This shakshouka is topped with pea greens, spiced with harissa and has nice, briny anchovy croutons rounding out the flavours.

Alden & Harlow's  Farm Egg Shakshouka

The Convert is a beautiful sunrise-coloured cocktail with carrot, lemon, ginger beer, Montenegro and Genever.
The Convert is a beautiful sunrise-coloured cocktail with carrot, lemon, ginger beer, Montenegro and Genever.
Maple glazed pig tails with a poached egg and cheese crisps on grits.
Maple glazed pig tails with a poached egg and cheese crisps on grits.
Pig Tails and grits at Alden & Harlow.
Pig Tails and grits at Alden & Harlow.
Pig blood scrapple and eggs at Alden & Harlow.
Pig blood scrapple and eggs at Alden & Harlow.
Braised Oxtail Melt from Alden and Harlow with fig jam, Taleggio cheese, and pumpernickel.
Braised Oxtail Melt from Alden and Harlow with fig jam, Taleggio cheese, and pumpernickel.
Kale Toasts with anchovy aioli and Benton's bacon for brunch at Alden & Harlow.
Kale Toasts with anchovy aioli and Benton’s bacon for brunch at Alden & Harlow.
Ellen's Berry Buckle cooked in a cast iron pan creates the perfect ratio of caramelized crust and rich soft middle.  Topped with cream you
Ellen’s Berry Buckle cooked in a cast iron pan creates the perfect ratio of caramelized crust and rich soft middle. Topped with cream you
Ellen's Berry Buckle...so good you just need to take one more look.
Ellen’s Berry Buckle…so good you just need to take one more look.
I don't know who Dave is, but he's my new best friend.  This skillet has an incredible sausage over potatoes that are the perfect vehicle to swipe through the salty, cheese Cabot Clothbound Cheddar sauce. There you have it, but Dave's all mine.
I don’t know who Dave is, but he’s my new best friend. This skillet, Dave’s Sausage and Potato Skillet, has an incredible almost crumbly sausage over potatoes that are the perfect vehicle to swipe through the salty, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar sauce. There you have it, go and try it, but Dave’s all mine as soon as I figure out who he is.
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Ginger Oatmeal with Blueberries and Lemon Zest (Recipe)

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The perfect late summer/early fall breakfast for a cold weekday morning.

Simply grate fresh ginger into your oatmeal and top with blueberries and lemon zest.

This is how I made mine.

Put a pot of 4 cups of water on to boil right when you wake up. While you are making the kids lunches or breakfast, stir in a cup of steel cut oats. Add a pinch of salt and grate a knob of ginger (1 inch) into the pot. Cook on high stirring occasionally then lower to a summer for 30 minutes.

When it’s the consistency you like, top with blueberries, grate lemon zest over it all and pour on some nice dark maple syrup.

An Improvised 8th Birthday Party

When you don’t exactly have a birthday party planned other than the sleepover part – you improvise.
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We thought about Laser Tag, Trampoline Parks, and other outings but the best part about a sleepover is hanging out with friends and all the outings required a bunch of driving. Instead we took a few local spots and wrote up some clues to create a Birthday adventure quest around town including a few of the birthday boys favorite things- Ping Pong (at daddy’s office), video games (at lanes and games), French Fries (at Celebrity Pizza – but hijacked by birthday boy and redirected to McDonalds), Movie (at home) and homemade pizza (by the big sisters) follower by a cake filled with fresh raspberry cream(by Party Favors)

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Lyndell’s Love: A Somerville Bakery With ‘Old School’ Charm

The thing about becoming a teacher or parent of a school aged child in the area is that you learn about all the important things.  Important things such as which playground has the best shade on a sunny morning or sun on a cool fall afternoon.  Important things such as which lunch box is sturdy but doesn’t weight a ton.  Important things such as which bakery has the best cupcakes in town.

The Red Velvet cupcake from Lyndell's Bakery in Somerville.  A Somerville institution since 1887.
The Red Velvet cupcake from Lyndell’s Bakery in Somerville. A Somerville institution since 1887.

As a first grade teacher I quickly learned that there were two and only two places to get cupcakes for a momentous occasion.  Party Favors in Brookline and Lyndell’s in Somerville.  I have been a regular customer at Lyndell’s ever since.  Last Thanksgiving I even explored the bakery beyond the cupcakes.  We brought in doughnuts for breakfast and served their perfectly miniature rolls with the soup.

Lyndell’s recently invited me to explore a little more and here is a sampling of what I discovered.  I have been a long time customer at Lyndell’s, however in this case, the pastries were provided for review and photography, as always, all opinions are my own.  One of my favourite new discoveries was this surf-board shaped waffle cookie filled with raspberry jelly.  It is a summer treat at Lyndell’s so you may have missed them this year but there are plenty of other treats to tempt you.  My all time favorite cupcake is the one frosted with fresh strawberry frosting.  There is nothing like biting into little pieces of strawberry as you work your way down to the fluffy, light cupcake.

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Lyndell’s Bakery is located at 720 Broadway in Somerville, MA.

Fall Lunch in Seconds Flat: Toaster Required

Ideally this is done in a toaster oven but a regular toaster and microwave combined will do in a pinch.

Ingredients:
2 slices of good white or multi-grain bread.
2 slices of fresh tomatoes
A little fresh or dried oregano
Any good cheese you sampled at your local cheese shop, Whole Foods Market or farmer’s market. Try something soft and creamy that will ooze or a hard cheese that will caramelized and brown.

Optional add ins
Mustard
Pesto
Hot jelly
Apple slices – swap for tomato slices
A sprinkle of good olive oil

Toast the bread.
Top with cheese.
Add slices of tomatoes.
Drizzle olive oil and crumble herbs on top
Broil or microwave until melted.
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Weekend Guide: September 6th & 7th

Saturday, September 6th

Whole Foods Somerville is celebrating their 1st year. There will be chef demonstrations from 12 to 4 p.m., face painting, a photo booth and more.  Be sure to catch Chef Tony Maws from 2-4 as he will be cooking up his award winning hot dog from Kirkland Tap & Trotter. From 12 to 2 Chef Jessica Roy of Shiso Kitchen will be doing her demonstration. Throughout the day local vendors will also be doing tastings.  Whole Foods Somerville is located at 45 Beacon St.

Farm Day at Verrill Farm

From 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. head to Verrill Farm in Concord for farm animals. live music, BBQ and an apple pie contest.W

Sunday, September 7th

Kids Day Off at Nashoba Valley Winery

Head to Nashoba Valley Winery for a day of family fun.  There is a concert from 12 – 4 p.m. with John Fitzsimmons and the Folk Tradition, Lolly the Clown,  Sno-Cones,  Face Painting, and a barbecue at the pavilion.  Visit the pavilion for hot dogs, fresh local cider, warm delicious cider donuts, caramel cider donuts and mouth watering caramel apples.  The BBQ is CASH ONLY.  Then head out to the orchards for apple picking, pop into the winery for wine tours and tastings & microbrews for the adults!Admission is free and leashed dogs are welcome.  Nashoba Valley Winery is located at: 100 Wattaquadock Hill Road in Bolton, MA.

Harvard Museum of Natural History is free to MA residents (with proof of residency) on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m..

Strike Up the Bands at SomerStreets

From 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. streets will be closed to cars and open for music, dancing, and entertainment.  There will be music and entertainment on the Johnny D’s and Teele Square Stages, outside dining, a rock climbing wall, family friendly activites from Knucklebones at Hodgkin’s Park, Street Hockey, a craft fair and flea market and more. Here is a full map of locations and events.

Cambridge Carnival International

The Cambridge Carnival has a parade from 12:30 to 3:00 p.m..  There is a KidsFest from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. with arts and crafts, music, soccer, and more.  The International Stage has musical guests from around the world performing all day. The festival will be located next to MIT and includes ethnic foods, four live music areas, and Health Fete which promoting healthy lifestyles.

Prize Winning Hood Sour Cream Noodle Kugel (Recipe) -Sponsored

I recently had the opportunity to create a recipe using Hood Sour Cream.  Even though I cook a lot, I am usually a recipe cook.  I occasionally do a little kitchen improv but I never write it down.  So in fact this was my first ever experience developing a recipe and I had a blast doing it. I was compensated for my time and ingredients to create this recipe and participate in the cook-off.  What I care most about when I choose a sour cream is that there are no unnecessary ingredients. Hood Sour cream is made with cream and milk.

Ingredient shot.  I just want to dip my finger into the sour cream bowl!
Ingredient shot. I just want to dip my finger into the sour cream bowl!

I developed the recipe while on vacation in Canada and then a week later found myself at a blogger cook-off in Boston at the Boston Center for Adult Education in the South End (such a fab place I highly recommend that you stop by for a class or at least to see Brian Samuels’ The Mood of Food photography exhibit.). The goal was to create a dish with sour cream as an ingredient.  There were so many tasty dishes I was up against, but to my great surprise and joy, the kugel won.

Classic comfort food.  Noodle Kugel is the Jewish version of a bread pudding. A dish for all seasons.
Classic comfort food. Noodle Kugel is the Jewish version of a bread pudding. A dish for all seasons.

Leah S. K..’s Noodle Kugel

My middle initial is ‘s’ and it might as well be ‘s’ for sour cream.  I have vivid memories of standing next to my mother as she cooked and waiting wide eyed for the chance to lick the spoon after she scooped out sour cream.  I don’t have childhood memories of noodle kugel, but in college I started making it for break fast at Yom Kippur and it’s an early fall comfort food.  I prepare it with two sauces here, but it can work for any season.  I love the blueberry sauce because it has the flavours of a blueberry blintz without all the hard work of making them.  The cinnamon sugar sour cream dollop is heavenly for fall.  It can be served with baked apples or sautéed apple slices too.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of an 8 oz bag of wide egg noodles, about 4 1/2 cups of cooked noodles
  • 1/4 stick ( 2 TBSP) of salted butter
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar PLUS 1 TBSP for topping
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon PLUS an addition 1/2 tsp for topping
  • 1 cup of Hood Sour Cream
  • 1 1/2 cups of Hood Country Style Cottage Cheese

Choose which sauce you would like to prepare or make both and allow people to dollop whichever one they prefer.

Cinnamon Sugar Sour Cream Sauce

  • 1/4 cup of Hood Sour Cream
  • 1 TBSP of granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon (less or more to taste)

Blueberry Sauce
Did you know that wild blueberries are low bush and cultivated blueberries are called high bush?

  • 1/2 cup of wild blueberries (you can use fresh, frozen, wild or cultivated)
  • 1/8 cup of maple syrup
  • 1 TBSP of Hood Sour Cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 350℉
Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Throw in 3 tsp. of salt.
Butter an 8×8 glass baking dish.

Once water has boiled, throw in pasta and cook as directed (usually 5-7 minutes).  The pasta should be al dente. Drain noodles and set aside to cool.

In the empty pasta pot or a saucepan melt the 1/4 stick of salted butter and let it brown slightly.  Pour the butter into a bowl to cool slightly.

While the butter cools, separate your eggs: yolks in a small bowl and whites in a medium sized bowls.  Make sure no egg yolk or fat of any kind touch the bowl because otherwise the whites will not whip correctly.

To the butter add, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of buttermilk, and the two yolks from the eggs.  Whisk or mix together with a fork. Then, add in 1 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, 1 cup of sour cream, and 1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese.  Mix until combined and uniform.

In the medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff.

Combine the cooled pasta with the sour cream, egg, buttermilk mixture.  Then carefully fold in the egg whites.  (If you want to make the recipe without separating the eggs, go for it.  It will still be delicious, just a bit more dense.)

Pour the pasta, sour cream, buttermilk, egg, etc. mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Do not flatten it all down.  Just let the mixture settle in.

Add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to the 1 TBSP of sugar.

Sprinkle sugar lightly over the dish.  A dusting is plenty but if you have a sweet tooth you may use the whole mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  The kugel will have a little jiggle in the middle when done and will be golden and just slightly crispy on top.

Serve warm or room temperature with a sauce or two.

Sour Cream Cinnamon Sauce:  Mix all ingredients and chill before serving.  You can do this while the kugel bakes.

Blueberry Sauce:  Add blueberries and maple syrup to a saucepan over low heat.  Cook for 15 – 20 minutes until blueberries are blistered and soft.  Mash with a fork.  Pour into a bowl and swirl in the sour cream.

 

 

 

 

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Vegan Late Summer Strata

Last night’s dinner was a bit thrown together but because of a CSA pick up from Lindentree and a lucky Davis Square farmers market coincidence we had a delicious, local, farm to table meal. My picky diner had spinach fettuccini from Valicenti and edamame from our organic Lindentree CSA. The rest of us enjoyed a London broil from River Rock Farm out of Brimfield. The real piece de (no) resistance though was this layered improv dish.

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Ingredients
-3 smallish leeks or 2 large leeks
-1 TBSP of olive oil, this can be plain, regular, olive oil
-A little extra good olive oil to drizzle
-1 bunch of rainbow chard about 6-8 stems
-3 small potatoes (I used red potatoes.)
-kernels from 4-6 ears of fresh or leftover cooked corn on the cob
-3-4 large tomatoes
-Fresh or dried herbs. (I used thyme.)
-salt
-pepper
– Optional non-vegan ingredient: cheese. A hard or semi soft cheese that will melt nicely like a Raclette, Cheddar, young Gruyère or Gouda.

Prep
1- Cut the kernels off the corn with a knife or corn zipper.
2- Wash but do not dry the chard and pull the leaves off the stem by gently grabbing the leaf at the spot where the stalk ends and the leaf begins and then gently sliding up to the top pulling the leaf off as you go.
3- Chop the stalk into 1/2 inch slices. Then, chop the leaves by stacking them. Cut once down the middle of the leaves and then slice the leaves across into 1 inch strips (No precision needed here.)
4- Wash and thinly slice the potato no more than 1/8th inch thick.
5- Slice the tomatoes at least 1/4 inch thick but thicker works well too.
6- Take the outer layer off the trimmed leeks. Slice down the leeks lengthwise in half. Then, slice leeks into 1/4 inch half moons. If leeks are sandy, soak them in a large bowl of water. After a few minutes gently lift leeks out of the water and dry on a towel.

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Cook
1- On the stove top, in a large pan that is oven-safe and can go under a broiler (I used a 10 inch cast iron skillet.) heat the olive oil.
2- Toss in the leeks and sauté for 3 minutes.
3- Add the chard stalks to the leeks and sauté for 2 more minutes.
4- Add the potato slices and try to get the potatoes spread out along the bottom of the pan.
5-Carefully create a carpet of chard leaves over the potatoes, chard and leeks. This will help the potatoes steam. Let it all cook for 3 more minutes.
6- Pour the corn kernels over the chard leaves to create another layer. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the corn. Let it cook for about 2-3 minutes until the corn is heated through.
7- Add slices of tomato over the corn to cover. Drizzle the tomatoes with a good olive oil (I used Aria olive oil from Formaggio Kitchen after seeing it here in Boston Magazine in Leah Mennies’ story celebrating Jody Adams’ Rialto).
8- Sprinkle the tomatoes with chopped fresh or dried herbs (I used oregano.) and a little more salt. This is a great time to use a Maldon sea salt or nice finishing salt. A smoked salt or truffled salt could be delicious here too.
9- If using cheese grate or thinly slice with a cheese slicer or vegetable peeler. Cover all or some of the tomatoes with the cheese.
10- Put the cast iron pan under the broiler until the cheese is golden and the tomatoes blister a little.
11- Eat and enjoy.

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School: Let it Go

For the amount of yoga gear, yoga talk, yoga instagram quotes, yoga lifestyle sites, blogs, shops, philosophies, and classes that exist in our world today, we are lacking in dhyana (or zen).  In terms of the first days of school.  I have a few pearls of wisdom to share with you.

Let it Go - First Days of SchoolLet it go

According to a quick search online (and what I really should do is get in touch with my dad’s cousin, Irving Finkel, who actually speaks and reads Sanskrit but he’s a very busy man.) Zen is a word derived from the Chinese word chán and the Sanskrit word ध्यान dhyana.  The root meaning of the word is : to see, too observe, to look.

I’m not sure if it’s our age, our culture or somehow just our nature, but we often enter into new things ready to question, react, investigate.  As your child starts a new school, press the pause button and just let the first few days of school be.

Do the bare necessities. Send them to school with their belongings, some healthy food, and a layer of sunscreen.  Pick them up with a little snack and the time and space to talk or not about their day.

Let the first days of school be.  Don’t assume anything about the class or the classmates, the teacher or the classroom, the assignments or the lack thereof.  Just let those first days be.

You’ll have the whole rest of the year to ask questions, be concerned, get excited, be unsure, or to step in.

For now though, for this first week or two, let the days wash over you like the waves lapping over your toes at the beach.  This is their moment.  It’s a time for the teachers and the students.  You get to be standing on the shore as your child paddles out to surf the waves.

 

Shake Your Way Back to School: Chai Latté Milkshake (Recipe)

Earlier this summer I attended Blogger Bash in NYC and Johnny Rockets challenged attendees to “Shake it Up” and come up with a Milkshake recipe of our own to help kick of National Shake Month.  Fall is in the air, and the flavours of chai just seemed to make sense to me.  As I was testing recipes even the kids got bitten by the shake snake and they developed recipes of their own.  There is a little caffeine in this shake, but the flavours are still very kid friendly

Shake It Up with Johnny' Rockets.  What is your favourite kind of milkshake?
Shake It Up with Johnny’ Rockets. What is your favourite kind of milkshake?

Chai Latté Shake
2 large shakes or 4 small tea time shakes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of boiling hot water
1 cinnamon stuck
3 cardamom pods
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 TBSP of granulated sugar
2 tsp of loose black tea in an infuser or 1 tea bag (I used Assam)
1 pint of vanilla ice cream

Chai Mix
In a bowl or large teacup add the following:  sliced ginger,cardamom pods gently crushed with your fingers or the back of a spoon, and the black tea.  Pour in 1 1/2 cups of boiling hot water.  Let it steep for 5 minutes.  Remove the teabag and let the mixture cool preferably over night.  Once the mixture is cool you can make your milkshake.

Shake it Up

In a blender or milkshake mixer add the cooled chai mix and one pint of ice cream.  Blend. Pour and enjoy!

Shake it Up a Notch

Add 1 oz of Bourbon for a grown up nightcap/dessert.

As for the kids my daughter and her friend came up with these two shake recipes:  Cookies and Milkshake / Mochi Masterpiece.

Happy Back to School week and National Shake Month.

Fragrant Chai mix ingredients awaiting boiling water.
Fragrant Chai mix ingredients awaiting boiling water.