Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Crispy Pancetta


Whenever I start to feel a little slow from a creative perspective, I often think back to a photography workshop that I attended in 2014 in Seattle. It was hosted by Aran Goyoaga and it was taught by Luisa Brimble. Two things really stood out to me from these incredibly talented women. One was how smoothly their workshop flowed because they teamed up together. The second was when Luisa said, "Don't be afraid to create your own opportunities." I think about this advice all the time and it recently inspired me to try something a little different.

I'm very excited to say that this is my first post where I teamed up with a very talented recipe developer on a photo shoot specifically for Up Close & Tasty. Her name is Elena Maglio Baroni and she's my sister-n-law. For years I have seen her work magic in the kitchen and I'm always in awe of the creativity that she expresses through food. Everything is always beautiful and everything is always delicious. She truly loves to cook and create and I decided to talk with her about combining forces for a few blog posts to start. Our excitement was instant. 

For this shoot, I went to her house. When I showed up, she had all the ingredients laid out and prepped and was ready to start cooking. This moment was big for me because I knew it would have taken me a lot longer to do by myself. It's not that I don't enjoy this part of the process, because I know that cooking has made me a better food photographer. But, having the help was eye opening. We both learned from each other that morning and the best part was we got to eat the Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Crispy Pancetta for lunch. Will we team up again? Definitely. 

The recipe is full of classic fall flavors that are so good, I can't stop thinking about them. The savory, creamy risotto melds so well with the butternut squash and sage. The salty bites of crispy pancetta might be my favorite part. It's genius. If you don't have pancetta, Elena says bacon works just as well.

I can't think of a better way to start off the weekend than with one of Elena's recipes and I'll be excited to share more with you soon. Tonight, I'm going to devour this risotto while I add new photography to my Etsy Shop. Then, Mike and I are heading to an annual chili cook off at our friend's house on Saturday. Maybe I should bring this risotto instead... Hmmm, could risotto be the new chili? 

Enjoy and have a great weekend! 

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Posted on October 21, 2016 and filed under Recipes, Savory.

Peach Pie with Lemon and Thyme


I decided to start another week on the right foot... with dessert. During a recent trip to our local farmers market, I was drawn to all of these gorgeous peaches. I read somewhere that you shouldn't even look at a peach before July and that their season typically ends in September. So, although people may consider peaches to be more of a summer thing, I can confidently say that they are also a fall thing.

After buying several peaches, I immediately knew that I wanted to make a pie. I haven't made one yet this year and one of my favorite things about fall is pie. I really love combining fresh fruits with fall herbs and pies or galettes are a good opportunity to do that. For this recipe, I wanted to combine the peaches with lemon and thyme. The flavors are magical together and because it tastes so good, it's hard to believe that it's so easy to make.  

If peaches aren't your thing, last year I made my very first galette with pears, blackberries and rosemary and over the summer I made a country apple galette with lemon and honey. All very delicious flavor combinations.

My favorite part about this pie recipe (besides how it tastes) is the anticipation of it. Since you can sit back and let the oven and flavors do most of the work, you get to really enjoy the smells as they fill the room. The aromas of pies baking always bring me so much happiness... even a Monday can't take that from me.

I hope you have a great week! 

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Posted on October 17, 2016 and filed under Recipes, Sweets.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Prosciutto

'Tis the season for soups, pies and delicious pasta recipes. I think fall comfort foods are a necessity to help ease us into the colder weather ahead. They make the anticipation of staying inside feel a little less restricting and the sight of the first snowfall feel a little less chilly.

After Mike and I returned from the much anticipated Saveur Food Blog Awards in NYC, I was happily exhausted, but exhausted nonetheless. We had been traveling for two weeks straight at that point and I was ready to be at home so I could sleep in our own bed and recharge. When it came time to get back to shooting recipes for the blog, I needed a boost of inspiration in the kitchen and behind the camera. I felt like I had all these new ideas and thoughts and I didn't know where to start. I needed something to ground me so I could get back into my groove with things. Luckily, the cover of Bon Appétit's October issue helped almost immediately. It doesn't usually happen that fast for me, but I felt focused again and was ready to cook, style and shoot Pasta with Mushrooms and Prosciutto.

During my time in New York, Saveur treated us to a pasta making class at Covina with Chef Tim Cushman. I'm still practicing my pasta-making technique, but the sight of this recipe reminded me of the class. 

One of the dishes we got to try was their Cavatelli with wild mushrooms, summer squash, lemon zest, basil and parmesan & pecorino. My favorite part wasn't just the delicious flavors of fresh handmade pasta, but also the smooth flavor of the wild mushrooms. 

Can I let you in on a little secret? I only recently got into liking mushrooms and using them in my cooking. (gasp!) Whenever a recipe called for mushrooms, I would avoid them. One time Mike made us a Mushroom soup and it was so smooth and so good, I actually licked the bowl. It was then that I realized I love the flavor of mushrooms but struggle with the consistency. And, ever since, I have appreciated the importance of the flavor that mushrooms bring. Do you have any foods that you avoided and now realize you can't live without? 

This recipe comes together really nicely and would be a nice break from your usual weeknight dinners. Mike and I have our routine-recipes too, but it's fun to switch it up during the week from time to time. The flavors of the pasta, thyme and mushroom sauce are wonderful together and the salty prosciutto is a really nice surprise. 

Enjoy and have a great week! 

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Posted on October 11, 2016 and filed under Recipes, Savory.

Minestrone Soup

I'm sharing a couple of restaurant-inspired recipes this week. On Monday, I shared a Lemon Garlic Wings recipe inspired from the menu at Canal Park Brewery in Duluth, MN. Today, I want to share this hearty and comforting Minestrone Soup that was inspired from another brewery visit in Calumet, MI. 

The drive from Chicago to Copper Harbor, Michigan was about 7 hours and although I love road trips, I also love taking breaks from the car and checking out spots that we would miss if we were flying on a plane. We decided to stop into Michigan House Cafe and Red Jacket Brewing Co. in Calumet for a quick bite before finishing the last hour of the drive. It was a dreary day with gentle, but steady rain. It kind of made me wish I was on my couch with a cozy blanket. As we bellied-up to the long and rustic wood bar, I saw the bartender carrying a big bowl of soup to another customer. I could smell the vegetables as he passed by and I immediately ordered a bowl. 

My favorite things about this soup are the chucks of veggies and the red pepper flakes for a touch of heat. I've had several versions of Minestrone before, but this one had everything going for it from the comforting flavors to the aesthetic of a rainy, fall day. The recipe makes a lot, smells really good as it's simmering and is delicious right off the stove. The leftovers are even better the next day and the day after that... 

I hope you have an enjoyable weekend and give this recipe a try. I think it's a perfect soup to lead you into a laid-back, fall weekend. I'm planning to relax and continue planning my holiday shopping list. If I can pull off getting all of it done online, I am going to be very happy. I'm sharing some exclusive Columbus Day Sales from Sur la Table (direct links below) in case it helps inspire some ideas for you. 

Cheers and Happy Friday! 

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Posted on October 7, 2016 and filed under Recipes, Soups.

Lemon Garlic Wings with Cucumber Ranch

Mike and I recently took a road trip up to Copper Harbor, Michigan. Then we drove back through Minnesota with stops in Duluth, Minneapolis and Rochester before heading back to Chicago. We had two days at home before we left for NYC the following week. It was a whirlwind, it was exhausting and it was incredibly inspiring. 

One of the many things I love about traveling is that it opens my mind to new flavors. There's something inspiring about walking into a new restaurant in a different city and trying something on the menu that is so good, it makes you say, "I need to make this at home." 

This type of "recipe research" happened a lot during our recent travels and there are a couple restaurant-inspired recipes that I am excited to share with you this week. The first one is this recipe for Lemon Garlic Chicken Wings with Cucumber Ranch that we were introduced to at Canal Park Brewery in Duluth, MN. 

The best wings are addictive wings. Normally, I'm used to eating them with a smoky dry-rub or a spicy-sweet bbq sauce. When I saw this unique flavor combination on the menu at Canal Park, I was immediately interested. And, when I saw a server walk by with an order of them, I started getting antsy. They looked incredibly good. The slightly spicy lemon and garlic flavor combination dipped into a Cucumber Ranch sauce is surprisingly refreshing and definitely addictive... just as wings should be.

After we got home, I started researching the recipes. I found what appeared to be a similar version of the wings by Adam and Joanne on the Inspired Taste blog. The only changes I made were that I added honey to the sauce to tame the citrus from the lemon. I also made two batches of the sauce. One for marinating the wings and the other to baste over the wings after pulling them from the grill.  

When I started researching recipes for the Cucumber Ranch, I was finding a lot of versions that included sour cream, buttermilk and mayonnaise. Dairy and I aren't always the best of friends and although I normally love the flavor of a good ranch dressing, I decided to look for a dairy-free version. Thanks to Anjali from the Vegetarian Gastronomy blog, I found an excellent vegan version that tastes like the real deal. I was skeptical at first, but pleasantly surprised when I tasted it. You can use this as a dip, salad dressing or even a sandwich spread. It's versatile and super delicious... and I think it's the first truly Vegan recipe I've ever made. 

I'll be sharing more travel and restaurant-inspired home recipes for you over the next couple of weeks while I also try to get a head start on brainstorming my holiday shopping list. Have you started yet? I'm typically a procrastinator when it comes to holiday shopping, but I'm making a point to get it done early this year. I'm keeping an eye out for sales that I can share with you and there are a couple of exclusive sales from Sur la Table below. 

As always, thank you for sticking around and supporting Up Close & Tasty!
It's so good to be home! 


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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.