Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pesto Chicken Pizza

Ever have one of those nights where you just don't know what you want to have for dinner? That's how I was feeling last night. I threw around the idea of making hamburgers, then I just wanted a salad. When I got home from work, I opened up the fridge and freezer simultaneously and started looking around for some inspiration. I've had a half a ball of whole wheat pizza dough in my freezer for a few weeks and decided it was time to finish it up. So that came out first. I wasn't really in the mood for red sauce, and that's when I found a jar of Whole Foods pesto in the fridge door. Okay, now we're getting somewhere. Took out a piece of chicken and saw I had shredded mozzarella cheese. There we had it. Four ingredients for a simply delicious dinner!

I preheated the oven to 550 while cutting up the chicken. I let the chicken cook on medium heat on the stove while I rolled out the pizza dough (still not very good at this - but maybe the pizza making class I'm schedule for, will help!). I spread some of the pesto onto the pizza as a base and also put some in the pan once the chicken was cooked to marinate it a little. I spread the chicken over the pizza, sprinkled on the cheese, and of course added some red pepper flakes! Baked in the oven for about 12 minutes and then moved to the top rack under the broiler for another 3 or 4. TADA! Totally random, but fast and delicious week night meal :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cafe Matisse - Rutherford, NJ

We've had a gift certificate for Cafe Matisse since Christmas and finally had the opportunity to use it this weekend! What a treat! I HIGHLY recommend dining at Cafe Matisse, but I do think it's best fit for a special occasion.

I had been told that the eating outside in the garden was a 'must' during the summer, so I made sure to secure an outdoor reservation. Reservations book up very quickly... I called 7 days ahead and could only get a table at 9pm. Plan ahead!

Before we were seated, the staff encouraged us to check out their wine shop in the front of the restaurant. Although it's a BYOB, you can buy wine right when you walk in. We had brought our own, but we were still invited to a quick tasting before dinner.

We were seated at the most perfect corner table in the garden and felt like we were in another world. We both couldn't believe that we were nestled in Rutherford, NJ. There were adorable lights, fountains and chachki's all around us and it couldn't have been a more perfect night - the weather was superb.

The menu at Cafe Matisse is meant to be a pre-fix menu, so if you're looking for a light dinner, this is not the place to go. You have the option of a 3 course menu (2 entrees, 1 dessert) or 4 course (3 entrees, 1 dessert) and we opted for the 3 course option. As much as I loved the pre-fix menu, I think this is the one small drawback for Matisse customers. It's a dinner investment if you go there. You have to be willing to eat and spend. It's not a fit for light eaters and not a good fit if you don't want to spend $66 a person.

With that being said, our dinner was phenomenal. It was the most inventive menu I've ever had the pleasure of dining from. Our menu consisted of:

  1. Tart of Chestnut Goat Cheese, Thinly Sliced Duck, Date Raisin Candied Shallots with Wedge of Grilled Balsamic Glazed Radicchio, Dollop of Pear Jam, Drizzled with Rosemary Pumpkin Seed Pesto
  2. Pan Seared Veal Medallion with Julienne of Shiitake and Morel Mushrooms Tossed with Egg Noodles, Asparagus Tips, Drizzled with Morel Mushroom Demi Crème, Spring Pea Mint Jus, Topped with Dollop of Spring Pea Jam and Curried Walnuts
  3. Cubed Sushi Tuna Over Caramelized Onion and White Bean Hummus with Brunoise of Lemon Scented Peppered Zucchini Topped with Crostini and Olive Tapenade Drizzled with Harrisa Foam and Sesame Chili Oil
  4. Pan Seared Scallop, Lobster Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes, Peppered Beef Short Ribs, Morel Mushroom Crème Jus, Minted Pea Syrup, Cashew Vanilla Jus Topped with Ginger Pea Jam, Fingerling Chips and Curried Cashew

The dishes might have been slightly different, as the menu is constantly changing. For dessert we had:

  1. Grand Marnier Brulee, Vanilla Orange Tart with Vanilla Orange Anglaise and Orange Marmalade Drizzled with Chocolate Caramel
  2. Coconut Macaroon Cake with Raspberry Ginger Jam, Coconut White Chocolate Mousse and Toasted Coconut Topped with Fresh Raspberries, Julienned Candied Ginger and Drizzled with Raspberry Caramel and Coconut Vanilla Jus
Everything was delicious! My personal favorite was the sushi tuna dish... I've never had sushia grade tuna with hummus and it was perfection.

Besides the amazing food, the service was also an A+. Our waiter, Steven, couldn't have been any more personable and helpful. It was a pleasure to spend the evening with him.

All in all, DEFINITELY go to Cafe Matisse. If you're looking for a special dinner in Northern NJ, this is 100% the place.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bivio - Little Falls, NJ

A new brick-oven pizza restaurant opened up in Little Falls this month... I've been dying to try it! While they were 'Under Construction,' I kept peeking in hoping to see the oven, and praying that this new restaurant (within walking distance) was a gem.

GOOD NEWS! It's AWESOME! The owners had a vision of opening this pizzeria after many trips to Italy. They wanted to build a brick-oven, use all ingredients from Italy, and serve classic Neapolitan style pizza. They've definitely succeeded.

The restaurant is small - probably about 8-10 tables, as is the menu - not much to choose from outside of pizza and a few salads. It's a BYOB, my favorite.

We ordered two pizzas - Margherita & Porcini. The menu can be found here: The pizza was delicious! We were able to watch the owner/chef make the pizza right in front of us. Then he popped it into the brick oven and 2 minutes later - deliciousness. Although I love thin-crust pizza, my heart may be leading in another direction now. The brick-oven allows for the pizza to get very crispy on the bottom but still fluffy on the inside. It was still thin but not the cracker-like style I'm used to.

The staff was super friendly also, which is always a bonus. I can't wait to go back to Bivio and HIGHLY recommend it to everyone!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Dip

Just a quick post to recommend this dip to ANYONE and EVERYONE who loves spinach and artichoke dip as much as I do! The good news here is that this dip is yogurt based instead of sour cream and/or mayo - so it's so much healthier and you don't have to feel guilty about eating it! Kudos to Sabra for this, loving it :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dessert Pizza

Happy (belated) 4th of July everyone! I made an amazing dessert last night for our annual family BBQ and wanted to share it with everyone. Over the weekend I was visiting some old friends in Iowa and my friends mom made this. Instantly, I knew I wanted to recreate it :) It's simple and delicious and definitely a crowd pleaser!

What you'll need:
1 8 oz. package of Crescent rolls
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of Vanilla
Assorted fruits, cut up in pieces

What to do:
Unwrap the crescent rolls and spread on a non stick baking sheet. Pinch together the perforated edges (where you would cut if you were making actual rolls). Bake this in the oven on 350 degrees for about 11-12 minutes or until golden brown.

While the "crust" is cooking, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Chop up your choice of summer fruits into bit size pieces to go on the pizza. I used strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, and peaches because that is conveniently what my mom had in the house.

After the crust is done cooking, let it cool before spreading the cheese mixture and then topping with the chopped up fruit. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dinner at Marea

For Pete's birthday, I decided to take him out for a culinary experience, rather than just a "great dinner." With the help of my foodie friend Jenny, I chose Marea. Over the past few months, I've heard great things about Marea and knew it was a must-visit.

I kept the restaurant choice a secret and Pete was thrilled when I showed him the menu before we left the apartment. We both knew that we were going to be very full.

When we arrived at Marea, we were seated in the lounge area. We actually liked it more than the main dining room because it had a "hipper" vibe and we were able to people watch (It's near the bar). Since we knew this was going to be an intense meal, we opted for the recommended four-course pre-fix menu. We also agreed to not get the same dishes... We wanted to taste as many things as possible!


ASTICE nova scotia lobster, burrata, eggplant al funghetto, basil
*Pete had the Astice, which was to-die for. I had serious food envy. Not that mine wasn't good, but his was out of this world.

UOVO poached egg, spring garlic, bone marrow, baby eel, passatelli, barley brodo
*I went a little out of my comfort zone and tried the Uovo. It was definitely a "cool"dish and had great flavors, although the consistencies threw me off a bit. I didn't realize there was eel in the dish and slightly regretted choosing it afterwards.

Pasta Course:

The pasta course was incredible, hands down the stand-out course. It was a really difficult decision to choose our dishes, but ultimately we took the waitresses advice and went with the two most popular and well-known options...

FUSILLI red wine braised octopus, bone marrow
*Pete ordered the fusilli, which The New York Times recently called "a revelation." They were so right. I don't even like octopus and this dish was rockin'.

SPAGHETTI crab, santa barbara sea urchin, basil
*The winner of the night for me! The spaghetti was so delicious. I never thought I'd say this, but it was better than the spaghetti at Scarpetta. I had never tried sea urchin, but Pete ensured me that I'd like it. He was spot on! The hint of sea urchin mixed into the sauce was perfect. I could have had an entree portion!


All of the entrees sounded great, so choosing dinner was tough. We knew that Marea is known for their seafood, so we both chose from the fish menu.

CAPESANTE roasted sea scallops, marinated beets, frisee, grilled wax beans, yellow tomato, hazelnuts
*Pete had the roasted sea scallops and they were phenomenal. We both thought that there were little mushrooms on the plate as well, but looking back, they were definitely hazelnuts. Oops! The scallops were cooked perfectly, seared hard on the outside, but fluffy on the inside.

IPPOGLOSSO herb crusted alaskan halibut, broccoli rabe, soppressata, porcini mushroom, cipollini
*Another great dish. Once again, perfectly cooked halibut! And the fish was so light and fluffy... It was just delicious. Luckily, it was light because the pasta had filled me up a bit!


Picking our desserts was basically torture. EVERYTHING sounded great. Our waitress was really helpful and picked out two winners for us.

BOMBOLONI - fried doughnut holes, lemon cream, prickly pear sorbet, cassis
*These doughnut holes were so good! They were sugared on the outside and so light and airy on the inside! Paired with the sorbet and lemon cream... Amazing!

AFFOGATO - zabaglione gelato, espresso and amaro
*The affogato was similar to a grown up milkshake! As full as I was, I could not put this down.

Overall, our experience at Marea was incredible. Our waitress was superb... We even made sure to tell one of the managers on our way out. For a special culinary experience, definitely try Marea!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rooftop dinner

Last night I had some friends over for dinner on the roof of my apartment building. I didn't get to take any pics but I do want to share the recipes. Both very easy but absolutely delicious. I found this recipe for chicken nuggets a few weeks ago and finally got around to making them last night. Follow the recipe and instructions exactly and you just can't go wrong. The only thing I did differently was that I didn't add Parmesan cheese in the bread crumb mixture - just not a huge fan of it.

The other dish I made was something I just found recently but knew instantly that it was going to be a big hit - arugula, walnut and gorgonzola pasta. Again, the recipe and instructions are perfect and I can't wait to make this again :)

That's all for now - ENJOY!