Roasted Cipollini Onions with Thyme

If you’re not familiar with them, Cipollini onions (pronounced chip-oh-lee-knee) are a thin-skinned, mild onion about the side of a golf ball. They’re pretty easy to recognize because they have a flattened, almost UFO-ish shape that’s very distinctive. The name literally means “little onion” in Italian. Go figure.

Duck-Fat Roasted Cipollini Onions with ThymeThese little guys are my all-time favorite onion to roast because they caramelize beautifully and become incredibly soft and sweet.

Like all little onions, they are kind of annoying to peel but if you boil them for 30 seconds and then run ice-cold water over them, it’s really not too bad. My advice is to make more than you think you’ll need because they will disappear quickly.

Duck-Fat Roasted Cipollini Onions with Thyme

Trim off the little root end and peel back the brown skin.

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Crispy Duck Breasts with Sherry and Figs

In today’s episode of Nerds with Knives (aka Goons with Spoons, aka Dorks with Forks), we explore the many ways you can trick people into thinking you are a much fancier person than you actually are. Sure, you can buy a classic open-top Bentley, like a real-life Mr Toad, and have your chauffeur drive you around town making parping noises … but wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper just to pretend? Tell people the Bentley is in the shop getting its … grommets waxed … or something, and then you can sit at home making parping noises. If you wish. Just one example.

Here’s another: The Great Gatsby. Remember when Gatsby makes that delicious ten-course meal, and only when his dinner guests have eaten their fill and complimented him on his fine culinary ability does he reveal it was in fact entirely fashioned out of old hats and a dead squirrel? [Note: I have not read The Great Gatsby.] Here are some things you can do in the comfort of your own home to add a little Gatsby to your dishes.

Trick #1: Good lighting.

We all know that everything looks better lit by candlelight (hello, it’s basically nature’s soft-focus camera which, as a lady-of-a-certain-age, I very much appreciate). But candles also produce deep, dark shadows where things can be hidden, like the wrinkly napkins you never had time to iron, or that fancy bottle of wine that mysteriously became emptier while you were alone in the kitchen.

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Three Layer Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel ButtercreamGuys.

Guuuuuuuuuuys.

I just can’t with this cake.

LOOK AT IT!

Is this not the most delightfully bonkers looking cake you’ve ever seen? Hello? Are you listening to me? You’re hypnotized, aren’t you? It’s okay, I get it.

*SNAP*

Welcome back. You can put your shoes back on now and I’ll just hand you back your wallet. Ahem.

Three Layer Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Last week, when my oldest and dearest friend Heather decided to come up and hang out with us for her birthday, Matt and I knew we wanted to make something really special for her. Her birthday also happens to fall on Valentines Day so instead of going out to an overpriced restaurant, we decided to Nerd it up at home and go ALL OUT.

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Caramelized Green Beans with Soy and Lemon

…with a little extra chili sauce on top for spice.

We all have our little quirks and one of mine is that I am… let’s just say ambivalent about green beans unless they are cooked one, very specific way. (But when they are cooked this way, I’m adore them and want them all the time). In fact, prepared this way, I find them colossally addictive. I’m odd, I know. I’ve accepted it (and more importantly, so has Matt, who I’m sure would enjoy green beans prepared any number of ways but somehow never complains when they show up tasting exactly the same, time after time).

Caramelized Green Beans with Soy and Lemon

It’s not like green beans are evil and must be destroyed. I mean, they’re not celery. It’s just that they’re often rather…meh. A bit bland and, even worse, rubbery. And they make a little squeaky sound against your teeth when you chew them (I already admitted to being weird so stop making that face).

Yes, I know those little haricots vert you can sometimes find are tender and perfect (especially steamed and coated with a sharp, mustardy dressing) but, at least around these parts, they are often diabolically expensive. And I like to save my dollars for important things like hats for boiled eggs and gifs of Benedict Cumberbatch being licked by kittens.  Like I said, important.

Benedict Cumberbatch being licked by a kitten is what the internet was made for,

Benedict Cumberbatch being licked by a kitten is what the internet was made for,

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PASTA WITH SAUSAGE, BROCCOLI RABE AND WHITE BEANS

Neither one of us grew up in an Italian family. We didn’t have childhoods where there was always a lasagne baking away in the kitchen, twenty people crammed into a dining room, cheerfully shouting at one another to pass the meatballs, Dad sitting at the head of the table with his slicked-back hair, pencil moustache, eating slices of orange, two bodyguards at the door … you know what, I’m thinking of “The Godfather” there, that’s what that is.

Of course, it’s easy to get inspiration from Italian cuisine – there are are a handful of classic pasta dishes that we fall back on for dinner parties or quick weeknight meals, and I think this might be one of our favorites – it’s cheap, easy and phenomenally delicious. We make it all the time.

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Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

Brined with spices and served with broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and chili flakes.

One of the things I love about living in Beacon is that it really feels like a community that is growing and changing in an interesting way. For a long time I felt this way about Brooklyn, (where I had lived since the early 90’s) but as wonderful as Brooklyn is, it’s just too damn expensive now for artists and creative people to do anything but hustle to make rent.

I know I’m the bazillionth person to complain about how amazing Brooklyn used to be, but I was incredibly lucky to be one of the crazy, hearty few who lived in East Williamsburg back when it was practically deserted. It was a startling, magical, bizarre, occasionally terrifying place back then, and my roommates and I had absolutely no idea what it would become.

In 1995, if you would have told me that one of the hippest restaurants in NYC was going to open two blocks away from my house, I would have laughed loudly enough to startle the poodle-sized rats that lived in the burned-out minivan abandoned outside my front door. All we knew at the time was that you could rent a 3,000 square foot loft for a few hundred dollars, but you had to install your own toilet and either evict or adopt any animals you found on the premises (I love you Special Ed).

So Beacon may not be able to boast quite the same level of grittiness (thankfully), but it does have a bit of that creatively experimental spirit. Case in point, on a rough-looking corner lot, quite a ways off Main Street, has opened one of the coolest new businesses in town, Barb’s Butchery. Run by a former math professor named Barbara Fisher, it’s exactly the kind of butcher shop you dream would open up in your neighborhood. She sources as much as possible directly from local farms and so far, everything we’ve cooked from there has been fantastic.

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Lobster Mac and CheeseAre there people in the world (who are neither lactose or gluten intolerant) who don’t like mac and cheese? If there are, I certainly haven’t met them. Not liking mac and cheese is basically like not liking trees, or kittens. You may not be obsessed with trees or kittens but if someone showed you a few nice ones, you wouldn’t go, “Blech. Ew. No thanks. I despise trees. And that kitten is hideous.”*

I think I may have gotten slightly off-topic. What I’m saying is, for most people, good quality, home-made mac and cheese is a real treat so adding a bit of luxury to it just makes it even better. There’s something irresistibly compelling about a highbrow/lowbrow combination, right? The cozy thing becomes elevated, and the fancy thing becomes accessible.

*Nerd alert: This is completely off topic but I have recently discovered The Worst Cat Tumblr page and, I’m not even exaggerating, Matt and I laughed so hard for about 10 minutes straight, to the point that I thought I might need medical intervention. This is probably my favorite.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

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Blood Orange Margaritas

This drink is my vacation.

I know it’s a teeny bit late to say this but… Happy New Year’s Nerds! (Insert obligatory “I can’t believe it’s 2015 already and where the hell’s my hovercraft!”)

I think I’ve mentioned before that Matt and I have our New Year’s Eve ritual down to a science. Or an art. An art sounds better, doesn’t it? We make a fancy appetizer, steam lobsters, buy the crispiest french fries we can find and eat it all on a messy table lined with newspapers and butter drips. Heaven.

But this year we wanted to mix it up a little (imagine a middle-aged person doing jazz-hands when I say “mix it up” so you won’t be disappointed by what I mean). We still made lobsters and fries, of course (why mess with perfection?), but we went totally off-script with our beverage (that’s one of Matt’s hated words so I must use it as often as possible).

Blood Orange Margaritas

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Buckwheat Blinis with Salmon Roe and Crème Fraîche

I’m sorry, did you not know that we Nerds (with Knives) are not only skilled in the art of playing video games and discussing whether the 10th doctor was the best doctor (answer; yes. Yes, he was). We are also fancy mother-effers.

Yup. We enjoy the finer things (she says whilst dipping a burnt tater-tot into ice cold ketchup. Organic ketchup.)

It’s true. Every once in a while we like to make something that feels extra special. Usually on New Year’s Eve, we buy a little jar of salmon caviar and make our own home-made blinis. Now, I love caviar. It’s salty and briny and tastes like a mermaid’s dinner so one would think that the roe would be the star here. Wrong. It’s the blinis. They are so good. They have a lovely earthy flavor from the buckwheat flour but are also just a little buttery and rich. Honestly, I want to make them as pancakes for breakfast.

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