After graduating from Wesleyan University, Alexis began her career in food at Mas (farmhouse). She then moved on to Alice Waters’ Rome Sustainable Food Project at the American Academy in Rome, where she developed a deeper love and respect for Italian cooking, history, and culture. After nearly a year, she returned to New York to help open Mas (la grillade). She eventually moved on to franny's, where she worked as a sous chef for several years. During that time she began working and consulting for Villa Lena Agriturismo and artist-in-residency, in Tuscany. Now, in addition to working with private clients, she shares her passion at Haven's Kitchen, where she is a cooking instructor and Director of Culinary Events.
Alexis' style of cooking brings the natural beauty and flavor of the ingredients to the forefront. Her focus is on using the best seasonal and local products, from small, sustainable farms, to create dishes that appeal to all the senses. To Alexis, food presents a great opportunity to bring people together, slow down, and enjoy the best things in life: family, friends, and deliciousness.
Alexis was born and raised in Manhattan. She was lucky enough to grow up with an amazing cook for a mother and has many happy memories trailing her around the kitchen. When she isn't traveling to Italy or elsewhere, Alexis lives in Brooklyn with her husband Ben. They enjoy being active and exploring the world around them. They also enjoy being lazy and lying on the couch. One day soon, they hope to adopt a rescue dog.
Sample Menus from festive cocktail parties to intimate dinners
A bridal shower cocktail party, NYC, 2016
Spring vegetable basket with ramp green goddess dressing, chickpea and preserved lemon puree, and walnut bagna cauda
Seeded crackers with smoked trout rillettes, horseradish and wild violets
Spring Onion tarts with arugula salad
Braised chicken banh mi sandwiches with radishes, carrots and chiles
A Midsummer Feast, Villa Lena, 2015
Elderflower and prosecco
Antipasti misti: rabbit liver pate with pickled green strawberries, marinated peppers with anchovies, boiled wild greens, pecorino and grilled bread
Rabbit with wild fennel
Chickpeas with breadcrumbs and fried herbs
Fig leaf panna cotta with wild blackberries
Hors d'oeuvres and communal dinner for a private art installation party, NYC, 2015
Shrimp on buckwheat polenta with peanut romesco
Baby peppers stuffed with pork sausage
Chicken liver torchon with peach and pepper salsa
Potatoes baked with ratatouille
Salmon slow-roasted in a fig leaf with saffron aioli
Wild rice with zucchini and hazelnuts
Shell beans with roasted red peppers
Escarole salad with anchovy vinaigrette
Peaches baked in rose with whipped mascarpone
Weeknight dinner for private client, NYC, 2016
Grilled celery root with celery, pickled turnip and hazelnut salad
Mushroom potpies with thyme crust
Green salad mustard shallot vinaigrette
Butterscotch pudding with whipped cream and chocolate shavings
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Walnut and Olive Oil Granola
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Chicken Liver Crostino
with Pickled Green Strawberries
Chicken Liver Pate:
500 g chicken livers (with any connective tissue removed)
300 g butter (slightly colder than room temperature)
125 g small dice red onion
1 T chopped garlic
1 T chopped rosemary
1/2 c white wine (sweet and fruity)
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 T olive oil
Salt to taste
Season chicken livers lightly with sea salt. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan until nearly smoking. Add an even layer of chicken livers into the pan. Depending on the size of your pan you may have to do two batches. Sear the chicken livers, on high heat, for one minute on each side, so that they are lightly browned but still nice and rosy on the inside. Do not overcook them as they will become grainy. Remove the livers from the pan to a bowl. If you need to do another batch, add a bit more olive oil and then the remaining livers. After all the livers are cooked and set aside, reduce the heat to low, add 1/3 of the butter (100 g.) and the diced onion. Gently sauté the onions with a pinch of salt until they are translucent. This will take about 10 minutes. You don't want the onions to take on any color at all. Create a well in the center of the pan and add first the garlic and then the rosemary. When the garlic has sizzled for thirty seconds add the white wine and the balsamic vinegar. Turn the flame up and reduce the liquid by 3/4.
Place the contents of the pan, the cooked chicken liver and the remaining butter into a food processor. Puree until smooth, wiping down the sides of the food processor for any chunks half way through. Check for seasoning and stir in some additional salt, or perhaps a drop more vinegar if needed. Place in a container with plastic wrap on the top of the pate to keep it from oxidizing.
Pickled Green Strawberries:
200 g (around 1 cup) green strawberries cut into 1/4 slices
250 ml water
200 ml white wine vinegar
100 ml apple cider vinegar
100 g sugar
75 g salt
Pinch black peppercorns, 1 whole dried hot pepper
Bring water, vinegars, sugar, salt and spices to a boil. Immediately pour over sliced green strawberries. Allow to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate over night. Thy are ready for use the next day.
To assemble the crostino:
Toast a piece of bread and slather with as much of the pate as you would like. Dot the top with pickled strawberries and perhaps a bit of crunchy sea salt, some black pepper and a drizzle of Villa Lena's own spicy olive oil.
Pair with a small glass of prosecco, pinot grigio or dolcetto as an hors d'ouvre at your next dinner party. These crostini are also perfect served with a lightly dressed salad for an al fresco spring lunch. Alternately pack a basket with the pate in a small covered dish and a loaf of good bread for the perfect picnic!
with Homemade Stracciatella and Anchovy Breadcrumb Salsa
This is a dish from 'The Great Tomato Un-Cookoff' of 2012, where I won the peoples' choice award for best dish. We used beautiful raw tomatoes as the centerpiece of our dishes.
Purchase a package of cheese curds, preferably Caputos, from a cheese store such as Murray's or Saxelby Cheese Mongers. Defrost curds and place in a large bowl.
Break up curds (they will be in one large block) into small dime sized pieces with your fingers. Season them with 2 tsp salt. Heat water to 180 ̊ F and pour over curds. Using a wooden spoon, lift the curds and let them fall back into the water. After a few minutes, the curds will become smooth and supple and are ready to be shaped. Lift the curds in one hand and let them fall into a long rope. Use the other hand to pull the cheese apart into thin strands and drop into a bowl of good, low-temperature pasteurized cream. Allow the mixture to sit for thirty minutes before enjoying.
Stracciatella is best at room temperature.
Anchovy and breadcrumb salsa:
Preheat oven to 375 ̊ F.
Take a few pieces of good, crusty, day old bread and break apart into 1/2" pieces. Place bread in a Cuisinart and pulse until you have course crumbs. Dress the bread with 2 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt. Lay crumbs out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for ten minutes, or until golden brown, taking care to stir them several times, as the ones on the edges will brown first. Remove from oven and let cool.
Pound one filet of anchovy and half a clove of garlic in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt. Alternately, chop very fine until you have created a paste. Place in a bowl and add 2 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp red wine vinegar. Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil.
For the finished dish:
Slice beautiful tomatoes to desired thickness. Season with good salt such as fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper. Top with spoonfuls of stracciatella. Add breadcrumbs into the anchovy dressing and spoon over the dish.