Wednesday, December 29, 2010

weekend dinner party: new years

I've got the dress. Ohh, do I have the dress. The jewelry has been carefully selected. The shoes? The shoes are currently up in the air. I'm fairly certain I know how I'll wear my hair, though. And I've finally nailed the perfect shade of demure red lipstick. Yup. I'm-a be lookin' fine this New Years Eve.

Did I mention I have no intention on leaving my apartment?

C'mon, what's the point? Besides I just made the decision, just this very moment, on the shoes and they will, in fact, be suede. And you'd have to be living under a rock to not know about the current state of the New York City streets right now. Three foot snow banks and slush, slush, slush plus suede? A recipe for absolute disaster.

So, I'm staying indoors. Dressed to the nines. With good--no, great--friends, a steady supply of effervescent bubbles, and a menu that will just bring you to tears. Or your knees. Okay, so you'll be on your knees, tears streaming down your face.

In a good way, of course.

Now, I cannot take all the credit for the culmination of this menu (hats off to my uber-talented and master of all things delicious, Aunt Kari) as I served only as a sound board contributor. But as Kari rattled off what she served for Christmas, I was, more or less, freaking out. Really freaking out. Antsy foot-tapping, mouth agape, sitting on the edge of my seat, ready to just absolutely burst. "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" was the only way I knew how to respond.

Kari wasn't kidding.

sliced baguette with sweet butter, smoked mackerel, and watercress

blood orange, mint, and torn mozzarella salad
amarone osso bucco with cranberry gremolata
pappardelle with truffle butter
Amarone or Brunello di Montalcino

bubbles (this is dessert)
Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé NV

Now bust out those champagne flutes. Happy, Happy New Year to you all!


For the smoked mackerel hors d'oeuvres, slice a crusty baguette on the bias into rounds. Spread each piece with softened sweet butter then top with flaked smoked mackerel (you can find it at Whole Foods) and some watercress. Done. Divine.

Amarone Osso Bucco (Serve with torn pappardelle tossed with truffle butter, salt, and pepper)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

edible christmas traditions

It's Christmas Eve! Christmas EVE. Can you believe it? I certainly cannot. But quietly wrapping up gifts last night, glass of wine in hand and lights turned down low, admittedly did wonders for my holiday spirit. I smiled with every fold of paper and tying of silky bow.

I am a living, breathing, walking cliche. Of this, I am aware.

But now, as I sit in the kitchen, watching my mom gently roll out cardamom-scented Mandelskorpor while curiously glancing back and fourth between several versions of hand written recipes (spread out in varying shades of cream to white, showing their age), I'm reminded of how this holiday, more than any other, is deeply rooted in its traditions. And that charming little fact, is what makes this time of year especially joyful, particularly cozy, and deliciously (albeit gluttonously) comforting.

In honor of Christmas Eve, I thought it'd be nice to share some of your Christmas traditions. Enough about me! Because there's comfort in the fact that even though traditions vary from home to home and table to table, the sentiment is one and the same.

Here's a recipe from new reader, Mary Lu Herron, who has graciously shared a recipe (and story) for a beautiful Swedish Tea Ring. And after being mesmerized by the delectable-looking final product and fantasizing about taking a bite, fresh from the oven, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this cake made its way into your Christmas traditions, too.

"Tradition plays a big part in this dessert in our family. My mother used to make it on every Christmas holiday. When I was young, I seldom thought about the work that went into it, just how good it tasted after Christmas dinner.

My mother died on December 1, 1976, and I decided to make it myself for our family Christmas that year because it would be a comforting, familiar thing in the house. Kneading the dough also turned out to be an unexpected therapy.

It sounds daunting, but it's really easy to make. I continued to make it for years, until I lost the recipe when we moved. We had always called it Mom's Coffee Cake, so I didn't know what it was really called and had no idea where to look for it anywhere else. I found the recipe by accident a few years ago in an old "Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook" from 1950, and decided to make it again, I know my brother and sisters and father (he's almost 94) will be happy to see it this Christmas."

Swedish Tea Ring
Makes 2
Recipe Courtesy of Mary Lu Herron

Dissolve 2 packages dry yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and 2 tsp. sugar
Scald and cool 2 cups milk
Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 cup butter
Add two beaten eggs

Mix the above with the yeast and flour (7 to 7-1/2 cups). Be sure to keep the dough on the sticky side. Keep in a warm place and let it rise until its doubled in size.

Punch down, knead, and let it rise a second time.

Divide dough into two parts. Place one part on a floured surface and roll out to 9" x 18". Spread entire surface of dough with softened butter. Mix 1/2 cup brown sugar with 2 Tbsp. flour, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts. Spread this mixture over the buttered side until it's entirely covered.

Roll up tightly, beginning at wide side (as you might for cinnamon rolls). Place sealed-edge down on a lightly greased baking sheet and form into a ring by joining the two ends and sealing them together. With scissors or a pairing knife, makes cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1-inch intervals. Twist and turn each cut section on its side. Allow to rise a third time.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, or until golden-brown and baked through. Frost (recipe below) while slightly warm.

For the Frosting:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. or more, warm milk

Mix all ingredients together and drizzle over warm cake.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

weekend dinner party: christmas in limbo

While I wouldn't go so far as to call myself Scrooge, I'd be remiss to not own up to my lack of "holiday cheer" this year. This has been the result of not sitting still for the past month. Thanksgiving came and went with the blink of and eye and nary acknowledgment and then I flew the coop to the tropics which, needless to say, did not help with my concept of time and seasonality but did, however, thoroughly improve my complexion and mental health by means of Vitamin D and Red Stripe.

I've also come to the realization that Christmas doesn't feel entirely Christmas-y when you're in adulthood limbo. You know, the "I'm no longer a kid but don't yet have kids" kind of limbo. And during this time of my life, I've noticed a significant loss of Christmas libido. Which is why, moving forward, I'm skipping town for the Holidays (while I still can) and jetting off to somewhere with cloudless skies, temperatures in the low 80's, and a light breeze that rolls in and thoughtfully tickles my sun-kissed skin. What a merry, merry, merry Christmas that would be.

But Christmas is in Connecticut this year. And Christmas in Connecticut means one thing and one thing only: Ina Garten. Girlfriend knows how to put together an elegant comfort food spread; the epitome of a Holiday meal. And that mixed with the subtle scent of pine, the sweet yet spicy smell of Glogg gently simmering on the stove, candles flickering, James Taylor crooning "Winter Wonderland" and suddenly there's no where else I'd rather be. On Christmas.

gravlax with mustard-dill sauce
chaource cheese
Hiedsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top Brut

fillet of beef with gorgonzola sauce
potato and fennel gratin
sauteed string beans with mushrooms
baby greens with parsley-red onion vinaigrette
2008 Man O' War Syrah

swedish apple-cardamom cake with vanilla sauce

Wishing you and yours the happiest, healthiest, and yummiest of holidays.
Swedish Apple Cake (replace the cinnamon with cardamom)
Painting above by Carl Larsson courtesy of Blog of an Art Admirer and History Lover

Monday, December 20, 2010

butternut squash and taleggio pizza

While throwing miscellaneous articles of clothing and magazines into my weekender this past Friday, I glanced at my camera and made the conscious decision that I would not be needing it. I had no plans for cooking anything and this weather is far from picturesque. Nope, I wouldn't come across anything photo-worthy while I was in Connecticut for the weekend (hence the photo fail above courtesy of my Macbook "camera").

Then inspiration struck early on Saturday morning via Twitter when someone wanted a suggestion for something new to do with winter squash. Given my vast and equally diverse wealth of knowledge on all things epicurean, I immediately knew what to recommend.

Turn it into a pizza topping, of course.

I mean, if nothing else, I make myself laugh. Out loud. Often. Because, you see, I am hilarious. And not the least bit modest about it.

Every time I suggest making pizza, I laugh (a maniacal little snicker). I laugh because I'm fairly confident a lot of you are thinking I'm a one-trick pony. All I make are pizzas. But that's just fine with me. Because until you've had a taste of this pony's well rehearsed trick (I'm sorry for how that comes out), all the eye-rolling and pigeon-holing will come to an end. And I'll be laughing all the way to the...

Well, see, now there's nothing funny about the fact that I can't finish that sentence.

Butternut Squash and Taleggio Pizza

1 medium-large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. maple syrup
4-5 cloves of garlic, whole and not peeled
1-2 tsp. fresh sage, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 shallots, thinly sliced
fresh pizza dough

Preheat the oven to 400F. On a baking sheet, toss the butternut squash with the garlic cloves, sage, olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes and allow to cool.

While the butternut squash cools, raise the oven temperature to 450F (make sure pizza stone is in oven). Stretch out the pizza dough to desired thinness. Brush the dough with a little garlic oil and then top with a scattering of the butternut squash followed by a sprinkling of shallots. Bake the pizza on a pizza stone for about 10 minutes (the crust should be just starting to brown). Top with evenly distributed pieces of taleggio and allow to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese has completely melted and the crust is nicely browned and cooked through.

To serve, top the pizza with some lightly dressed baby arugula. Devour.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

christmas gift idea [for foodies]

I glanced over at the calendar this morning and noticed it's the 15th of December. Which initially, yielded no reaction other than the uttering of "hmph" and followed up by a yawn.

About five minutes later, the chemical synapses in my brain started to function at a snail's pace and I finally came to: I really need a haircut.

Ten minutes later: Christmas is ten days away.

And as I sit here racking my brain for gift ideas for the lucky [wink] recipients in my life, I thought I'd fork over [pun so intended] my two cents on what to give the foodie in your life this Christmas.

A Boos Block (shown above, upside down, as a serving platter for my chipotle meatloaf sliders).

Handsome and practical, these substantial butcher blocks will improve your life in the kitchen by tenfold. There's nothing worse than attempting to do prep work on a small cutting board that's constantly shimmy-ing around on the counter (and not to mention, incredibly dangerous). It's simple: When you have the room to chop, cooking becomes easier. Much, much easier.

Wait. Did you not know that?

Maybe your synapses have caught the same bug as my synapses. It seems holiday denial causes temporary loss of common sense.

But the real kicker here? Giving this as a gift will undoubtedly result in a dinner invitation. Or three. Making the Boos Block the gift that keeps on giving. I mean, I'm just sayin'.

Ho, ho, ho.

Purchase Boos Blocks* here and here and here. I assure you, they are worth every penny.

*I suggest gifting a bottle of mineral oil alongside for longevity and care.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

holiday parties

No matter what the season or time of the year, I'm often faced with the following question: "What should I make for_________?" From potlucks to romantic dinners for two, I find some sort of thrill in putting together what I consider to be, the most ideal recipes given the circumstances and taste buds of my faithful inquirers. But the second the Holidays have made their presence known (I find CVS and the like to be among the first to jump that gun), is when the questions really start trickling in. Consistently.

"What should I make to bring to a holiday cocktail party?"

More often than not, I want to respond with, "Well, there's always pizza..." to which I think most of you want to laugh while simultaneously socking me in the face. I love my readers!! No worries, though. I get it. You're over it. I killed it for you.

And yet, they always go over so well whenever I serve them.

But for the sake of not suggesting the "P" word and saving myself from a shiner, here are a couple of ideas that would go over smashingly at any of your holiday cocktail parties this year. Just one question: Where's my invite? 'Cause this girl's got far too many festive cocktail dresses that are waiting, somewhat patiently, to celebrate the season.

crostini with goat cheese, orange, red onion, and mint
(Spread goat cheese onto crostini. Top with a salad of orange segments, chopped fresh mint, finely diced red onion, salt and pepper.)
(Omit the tomato but add chopped avocado to the salad. Make the bammy in 2" rounds.)

And since the Holidays just maniacally scream cocktails (c'mon, something's gotta save us from awkward encounters and occasional--err, inevitable--family bickering) I suggest whipping up a large pitcher of my Pomegranate-Lime-Basil Martinis. And keep 'em coming.

Happy Holidays! xo.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

weekend dinner party

I just recently purchased my very first lottery ticket. Why, you ask? I've long since passed my 18th Birthday and I'm not particularly "lucky" when it comes to winning things, regardless of how great the odds (my younger sister was the one blessed with the luck gene). But if there's one life lesson I've come to realize and in turn, highly respect, it's if not now, when? Carpe Diem, man. Or should I say mon? Because once I've won the lottery, I'm going back to Jamaica. Booking an ocean-front, cliff-hanging villa at The Rockhouse and staying put for a few weeks. And when I've exhausted the life of leisure (hilariously impossible), I'll up and jet off somewhere else. Anywhere else I please.

I'm going to win the lottery and travel my pants off.

In the meantime, I'm bringing Jamaica to me this weekend with a menu straight from the beaches of Negril. So invite a couple of your favorite people over and stock up the fridge with Red Stripes. We're straight up stickin' it to the winter weather with this tropical spread.

smoked marlin dip with sweet potato chips
Spanish Sparkling Rosé (see image below)

steamed snapper with ginger, lime, and cilantro
coconut rice
sauteed callaloo
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

jamaican banana cake


sauteed callaloo (substitute a combination of kale and spinach for the callaloo)

Coconut Rice
Recipe Courtesy of Yours Truly
Serves 4, generously

4 cups unsweetened coconut milk (about 2 cans, supplement any shortcomings with water)
1 3-inch nub of peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon salted butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of white rice
cilantro for garnishing

In a medium-sized pot, add the coconut milk, ginger, and butter, and bring to a boil. Add in the rice, stir, put the lid on and turn down the heat to low. Set the timer for 18 minutes and allow to cook, untouched. After 18 minutes, stir any excess liquid sitting at the top into the rice (it should be very creamy) and taste for seasoning. Place in a large bowl and top with plenty of fresh cilantro.

Image above of The Rockhouse courtesy of Wonderfelle

Monday, December 6, 2010

from jamaica, with love

I went, I saw, I ate, I drank and I fell in love.

With Jamaica, that is.

I'm still fumbling with my words; unable to give justice to all that I encountered. A total departure--a much-needed escape to pure relaxation. Away from the cold, away from the stress, away from the mundane routines. It was the kind of trip that will stay with me for a long time and thus, inevitably, the kind of a trip that was particularly painful to say goodbye to. So difficult in fact, that I extended my stay; incapable of turning my back on my life of leisure in paradise.

So as I longingly stare off into space (while snow dramatically flurries outside my window), dreaming about being back on the beaches of Jamaica, I'll leave you with a few keywords and snapshots.

Red Snapper, Coconuts, Spiny Lobster Tails, Cava, Lemongrass, New Friends, Herb Gardens, Cilantro, Jamaican Basil, Pineapple, Star Fruit, Red Stripe, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Fresh Ginger, Coco Bread, Curried Goat, Smoked Marlin, Callaloo, Green Plantains, Blue Mountain Coffee, Rum, Craw Fish, Sweet Potatoes, The Rockhouse, Cliffs,Vodka and Soda Water with Lime and a splash of Pineapple Juice, Jerk Chicken, Saltwater, Sand like Silk, Love, and Sunshine. A whole lotta Love and Sunshine.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

pomegranate-lime-basil cocktail

I'm typically not one for cocktails. Sure, there's the occasional mojito when I'm on vacation or margarita on the rocks when it's been a hideously bad day, but beyond that, wine or light beer are typically my poisons of choice (used responsibly, of course). But if/when I am in the mood for something with a bit more of a backbone, I figure I might as well take it as an opportunity to balance out the bad with a healthy dose of good. Confused? Alright, I'm taking about pomegranate juice. Pomegranate juice and vodka, that is.

The pomegranate is a super-food. It's totally jacked up with all sorts of vitamins and antioxidants and immunity-boosters and, to top it all off, is incidentally delicious. Slightly pucker-y but balanced by a welcomed punch of sweetness, it's almost thick with silkiness. I like to treat my POM juice like a concentrate of sorts. Take, for example, my non-alcoholic pomegranate spritzers (dash of Pom juice with some seltzer and a squeeze of lime). Or, in this case, my pomegranate-lime-basil martini. It only takes a little bit of Pom juice in order for it to subtly yet strongly (I realize we're facing a slight oxymoron here, but bear with me) make its presence known. And I don't think you need me to remind you that it's all about the subtleties.

Oh, it is so all about the subtleties.

And to carry along with that ever-important life lesson, the rest of this "recipe" comes together quite effortlessly. And I mean that. This is the cocktail for the cocktail-phobic. No cocktail shaker? Yeah, me neither. No problem. Make these individually. Fill a tumbler-sized glass with some ice* and add in a jigger (shot glass portion) of vodka and a jigger of Pom juice. Squeeze in a wedge or two of lime, one or two basil leaves, loosely torn, and then top off the glass with some seltzer water. Give it a quick stir, sneak a test sip for balance and then smile. You can feel good it about this drink. It's got antioxidants and...y'know...good stuff.

Cheers, darlin'.

*If you really want to go all out, make lime-flavored ice cubes by squeezing plenty of limes into some water then pouring the lime water into an ice cube tray. Before freezing, add a little slice of lime to each cube. Freeze until solid and there isn't a sad soul on this earth who wouldn't be impressed and equally charmed by this crafty gesture.

brunch (yeah, i know) at petite abeille

In my defense, this was not intended to be a Sunday Brunch. It was just three gals who found themselves with a hankering for some warm food and a good glass of wine to cozy up to after spending a good chunk of time lounging on the couch and away from the biting frigidness outside. Let's be honest. It stings outside. Literally. Stings.

So after a fairly painful stroll over to Petite Abeille (must find hat with insulation) we were faced with brunch menu options only. And so I did what any rational human being would do. I ordered Eggs Benedict.

I mean, look at it. Take that in for a moment. Get all up in that.

And now you know how I inadvertently ended up doing Sunday Brunch. Just don't tell anyone I liked it. Would likely cause an uproar.


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