There’s something about roasting.  Last week I roasted a chicken and the aroma had such an impact on my mood, you’d think I’d just returned from a week long spa retreat.  I felt so calm.  A few days later I roasted a head of garlic and the same thing happened.  I entered a roasting induced state of bliss.

So if you find yourself at a low point this week and don’t have time to roast a chicken,  I recommend the following steps:

1.  Find yourself a nice head of garlic.  One that’s really fresh and has big cloves.  Then preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Take the garlic and slice the top off.  This should expose most of the cloves, but not all.

3.  Place the headless garlic on a small piece of foil and cover with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

4.  Wrap up your garlic to form a little garlic package.

5. Place the package in the oven, let it hang out in there for 40 minutes.  Perhaps catch up on this show.

6. When done, remove from oven, unwrap, and let cool.  Once cooled, pull apart the cloves, gently squeezing out the cooked garlic.

7.  Mash the cloves with a fork to make a paste.  Roasted garlic is mildly sweet, buttery, and nutty in nature.  Spread it on toast, put it in dip, put it in salad dressing.

The Easter holiday always serves as a strong reminder of how much I favor brunch celebrations. Brunch provides the perfect balance between sweet and savory dishes, as well as an excuse to sip champagne at 11 am.  Throw in brightly colored eggs, my favorite flowers (tulips), and children so excited over Easter eggs you’d think there was gold in them, and you have the perfect spring holiday.

I love when a group of people just click; when conversation flows so easily that three hours after dinner has been served folks are still chatting away, sipping their wine, and nibbling on the odds and ends left on the table.  I’m lucky to have such a group a friends very close by.  By close by I mean literally across the street.  One is my former roommate, the second is my old roommate’s former roommate, and the third is the second’s current roommate (who were roommates in college).  A lot of roommate connections.

Our  group is full of skilled cooks, so we always dine in.  These evenings are extremely laid back, to the point where my outfits often closely mirror pajamas. After gorging myself at the apartment of two of the girls last week, I only felt it right that I host the next dinner.  I’m on a perpetual hunt for dinner party appropriate dishes- things you can make ahead that aren’t too fussy, but still provide something special for your guests.  Despite the fact that this orzo recipe has been sitting in a cookbook on my shelf for years, I only recently discovered it.  Given the results, it will definitely be a summer staple. Coincidentally, I also think it would make for an excellent Easter brunch dish.

I’m headed to Boston to celebrate the holiday with my family and some long time family friends.  I don’t know what it is about Easter candy, but I seem to favor it the most out of all the holidays (perhaps it’s the pastel colors?).  As I shared with my mother earlier this week, just because I’m 25 doesn’t mean I still don’t require a box of Peeps to myself.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

Serves 6 dinner size portions

1 lb orzo

1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)

1/2 cup olive oil

3/4 cup chopped fresh dill

3/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1/2 chopped red onion

1/2 chopped scallions

1 English cucumber, unpeeled and diced

1 1/4 cup good feta cheese, small dice/ crumbled


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set a large pot of water, 1 tsp salt, and splash of oil to boil.

Once boiling drop in orzo and cook til al dente (8-9 minutes).  Meanwhile  whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and several grinds fresh black pepper.  Once pasta is cooked drain, pour into serving bowl, and toss well with dressing. Set aside.

Lay shrimp on a baking sheet, drizzles with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roasted for 5-6 minutes. Shrimp will be light pink when done cooking.

Add the shrimp, chopped herbs, scallions, onions, cucumber, 1/2 tsp salt, and several grinds black pepper to the orzo. Toss gently to combine.  Next add the feta and fold carefully into the orzo.  Set aside at room temperature for an hour to allow the flavors to blend or store covered in the fridge until ready to serve.  Dish can be made one day ahead.  Remove from fridge 1 hour before serving and taste to adjust seasonings.  You likely will need to add a bit more lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

After writing Monday’s post, it got me thinking about chocolate chip cookies. Truth be told, I don’t love them.  If faced with a plate of cookies, I’ll go for a peanut butter or sugar cookie over a chocolate chip.  Beyond that, ever since I started making Compost Cookies, I’ve had little desire to make any other kind of cookie. You see, I am completely and utterly addicted to any confection that has the salty sweet component.  Kettle corn, chocolate covered pretzels, fleur de sel caramels- yes please.

The thing is,  I like my salt.  I detest when food is under-salted, and I tend to be pretty strong minded when it comes to determining how much salt something needs ( you’ve been warned).  Therefore, it’s no coincidence that one of my favorite food bloggers is Ashley of  Not Without Salt. If there ever were a kitchen mantra for me, that would be it.  Given Ashley’s attention to this crucial ingredient, I am very trusting of her recipes- including this one.   A simple cookie recipe at its core, it’s the cooking process, sugar combination, and sea salt (of course), that makes these chocolate chip cookies extraordinary.  To access the recipe, see the link to Dana Treat’s post* at the bottom of Ashley’s post.  Read Dana’s description and you’ll be even more convinced to cease all searches for the best chocolate chip cookie.

*Like Dana, I rolled my dough into logs, wrapped each one in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the fridge for a bit before slicing and baking.  By the 3rd roll I had more than enough cookies, so I decided to freeze the 4th.  It’s homemade slice and bake!  Lastly, watch your cooking time.  I found mine reached a chewy perfection by baking them for 9-10 minutes, letting them rest on the hot baking sheet for 2 minutes, and then placing them on a cooling rack.
I think it comes down to two- chocolate chip cookies, and Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread.  These two food items likely represent the most blogged about topics by food bloggers.  Every food blogger has the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever, and someone- yet again- produced amazing results using Jim Lahey’s bread baking technique.  I am guilty of the former (I’m still working on the cookies).
I’ve made Lahey’s bread exactly three times, and each time I’ve used a different flour combination.  This third time around, using a combination of bread flour and whole wheat flour, produced my best loaf to date.  Lahey’s recipe was made famous by its simplicity.  Despite its simplicity, there are few things as gratifying as baking a really phenomenal loaf of bread.  Cleaning out your closet is neck and neck (that also went down in our apartment this weekend).  The smell of freshly baked bread emanating from this beautiful boule sitting in our kitchen, and four shopping bags stuffed full of items leaving our apartment just equates to sheer bliss.  Sheer bliss, I tell you.For instructions on making this bread, see the original NY Times article.  Instead of using 3 cups all purpose flour, I used 2 cups bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour.  I’ve made it before using only all purpose flour and produced beautiful results.  Use what you have on hand, it seems you can’t go wrong!