Straight to the Hips, Baby

Friday, August 14, 2015

In the blue-hued highlands of western Massachusetts known as The Berkshires, you'll find the homes of Edith Wharton and Herman Melville keeping company with historic inns, charming farmers' markets and prestigious galleries. This is also where you'll find the home of Jessie Ross, a former professional ballet dancer and teacher who now writes and cooks for her blog, Straight to the Hips, Baby. Where art and nature intertwine in the serenity of this panoramic countryside, you will find Jessie in her kitchen, hands grasping a rolling pin as she rolls out the dough for challah, or holding a camera as she intently focuses on the beautiful glass of raspberry gin she has prepared for an aperitif.  Meanwhile, her two young sons play at her feet oblivious to the beauty their mom creates for so many aspiring cooks who benefit from her step-by-step instructions for cooking anything from spinach meatballs to colorful gazpacho to peach shortcake with honeyed whipped cream.
Jessie-Sierra Ross: blogger, foodie, home cook and "wrangler of small children."
Jessie grew up in Boston and returned there after college graduation to pursue her dancing and teaching career.  One blustery night at the cinema, as she was waiting in line for a movie, she glanced across the street just as the crowds of college students parted, and making his way towards her was a "tall, dark and handsome stranger" in a windswept black trench coat who was giving her a dazzling smile. He asked her out on the spot, and one movie and dinner later they began dating and were married within two years. Now they make their home in the Berkshires with two "beautiful and inquisitive boys" whose arrival solidified her love of cooking and feeding people.

A slice of warm challah bread served with apple slices.
Jessie started cooking with her mother as a young child but didn't take it seriously until years later when she had children of her own and wanted to create healthy meals for them. She loved trying new recipes but realized, through success and failure, that a lot of her failures were due to a lack of clear instructions or an assumption of skill.  She says, "I decided to break down recipes, or create my own dishes entirely, but always including photographs and clear instructions on each step. It was so helpful for me, I figured there had to be others having the same issues with recipes."

A mom finds clever ways to get greens into her kids. Here, spinach is hidden in fancy meatballs.
After a particularly successful Thanksgiving dinner, friends requested the recipes for that night's dishes, and she decided "on a whim" to start a blog.  Thus, Straight to the Hips, Baby was born.

Eggs Benedict - a weekend at home with breakfast in bed.
Tomato and Ricotta Bruschetta - a tasty summer treat.
Who wouldn't want  the secret of making a perfect burger like this one?
Challah, perfect for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's French toast.


Peach Shortcake with Honeyed Whipped Cream

(For step-by-step instructions and photos on how to make this recipe, click here.)

For the Peaches

4-5 large fresh peaches
1-2 tablespoons sugar (depending on the ripeness/sweetness of the fruit)

For the Shortcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salted butter, cold & cubed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk

For glaze

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon half & half

For the Honey Whipped Cream

1 pint heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons local honey + more for garnish
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Garnish with warm honey and toasted slivered almonds (optional)*

Classic Gazpacho
Classic Gazpacho

(For step-by-step instructions and photos on how to prepare this recipe, click here.)

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes
1 medium cucumber, peeled
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil + more for garnish
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 slices hearty bread, crusts removed
salt & pepper to taste
scallion for garnish
Wash and dry all of your produce.

Peel the cucumber and chop into thirds. Reserve 1/3 for garnish and place the other portions in a large bowl. Stem the tomatoes and reserve 1 tomato for garnish. Cut the remaining tomatoes into quarters and place into a large bowl with the cucumbers. Stem and seed the 1/2 yellow pepper and cut into thirds. Reserve 1/3 for garnish while placing the remaining portions with the tomatoes & cucumbers.

Place the cut vegetables into the bowl of a large food processor (you may have to do this in stages if you have a smaller food processor or blender) with the cup of water, bread, garlic clove, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Add a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

Pulse the food processor to start and then blend full tilt until smooth. If working in stages, try to achieve an even consistency with each batch.

Once the mixture is smooth, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a large bowl to serve immediately, or cover and chill. I let mine sit for 45 minutes in the fridge and it was perfect!

To Plate...

Dice the reserved veggies & scallion into 1/2 inch pieces and place into a small bowl. Gently toss to mix.

Pour the chilled soup into several serving bowls and garnish with the chopped vegetables and a swirl of olive oil. 

Warm Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese
Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese

(For step by step directions on how to make this recipe, click here)

3 large red tomatoes
4 cups mixed greens, packed
6 ounces fresh goat cheese (not feta, but soft goat cheese)
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
1 crusty baguette

Cut the baguette on a bias into thin slices. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place into the oven and broil until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Then flip and broil for 2 minutes. Take out of the oven and reserve.

Cut the tomatoes in half and slice into wedges. Place into a medium sized microwave safe bowl. Heat the tomatoes in the microwave, on high, for 1 minute. Carefully remove and place the warmed tomatoes into a fine sieve. Gently press on the tomatoes to remove some of the tomato water. After squeezing, place into a large serving bowl.

Add the mixed greens and 4 ounces of the goat cheese (crumbled/broken) to the bowl.

In a separate small mixing bowl, add the oil, balsamic, pinch of salt, and 2 ounces of goat cheese. Quickly whisk until blended.

Add the dressing to the serving bowl and toss to coat. Arrange the toasts around the bowl, or plate individually.

Raspberry Gin Fizz
Raspberry Gin Fizz

4 ounces Hendrick's Gin
1 tablespoon Chambord
1 teaspoon super fine sugar*
3 teaspoons fresh lime juice
tonic water
raspberries for garnish

Fill a shaker (yes, I retired my jam jar!) with ice. Pour the gin and Chambord over the ice. Add the super fine sugar and fresh lime juice. Close the shaker up and give it a vigorous couple of shakes. Strain over a chilled martini glass and fill the remaining with tonic water to the brim. Garnish with fresh raspberries. 

* If super fine sugar isn't readily available, pull out your handy mortar & pestle and grind down regular table sugar. 

Photos courtesy of Jessie Ross. Used with permission.


  1. Lovely story, beautiful pictures and I just love the name of her blog! How wonderful that Jessie has carved her own way with cooking, I particularly enjoyed how you wrote about her breaking down her own recipes and understanding that if she was struggling with a particular area of cooking, others probably were too. I love stories like this, where people turn a weakness into a strength and don't let it hold them back. My hips are in a LOT of trouble with people like you and Jessie around! xx

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