Wednesday, January 26, 2011

weekend dinner party

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

One of the many things I love most about wine is its natural affinity with food. So much so, that wine in and of itself, can be the inspiration behind a dish. Simply because wine almost always begs to be enjoyed with food. As I sipped on a glass of zippy Sauvignon Blanc last night, I was immediately hit with an intense craving for Vietnamese food. The bright, juicy tropical fruits that were wafting from my glass were exotic and lush then quickly cut by sharp and intense lime-like acidity. Visions of chilies, cilantro, mint and basil flooded my head. And then, while sifting through tear sheets and Matisse prints, I noticed a recipe out of the corner of my eye for Halibut Vermicelli with Fresh Dill and Pineapple Sauce. I gasped. The transformation of my facial expression was extreme. From ho-hum-blah straight to pure elation. As if I'd stumbled upon a hidden treasure, like a crumpled $20 bill in the pocket of an old coat. Big win! Look. What I'm trying to say is, had someone been secretly filming me, it would've gone viral. Like that. Or at the very least, would have made for one hell of a flip book.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have normal reactions in situations like that. You know, ones that aren't quite so...dramatic. But then I remind myself that that'd be boring. And by boring I mean less certifiable. Then my mind wanders elsewhere.

Let's eat, shall we?

spring rolls with vietnamese dipping sauce
2009 Loimer Riesling Kamptal

halibut vermicelli with fresh dill and pineapple sauce
2010 De Martino Organic Sauvignon Blanc

tofu dessert in ginger-clementine syrup

For the spring rolls, I recommend buying frozen. Any reliable Asian Market should have a couple of different varieties for you to choose from. Also, Trader Joe's carries Lemongrass-Chicken spring rolls that have brought in countless rave reviews. Paired with a simple homemade Vietnamese dipping sauce, and no one will know the difference.
Halibut Vermicelli with Fresh Dill and Pineapple Sauce

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

after + before

Playing around with the Instagram App on some pictures I snapped of dinner this past weekend and I can't decide which I prefer. The unadulterated versions (seen below) or the ones put through a filter. They certainly do a good job of masking the imperfections (of which there are many) in the steak plate shot. In fact, it's masking so much it's almost hard to tell what it is you're looking at.

But hey, if anything, that's what I'm here for.

An impromptu dinner party was whipped up in a matter of minutes on Saturday night. Really, because that's just how I do. Remember that coconut braised beef I was flipping out over? Well, this was my quick-fix version. And I'm afraid to say that it just might have been better than the real deal. Instead of braising beef chuck for hours in the fantastically fragrant coconut sauce, I made the sauce on its own and allowed it to simmer for a half hour or so. Then I seared off a flank steak which had quickly marinated in garlic, ginger and soy. Sushi rice went into the rice maker, a splash of orange juice was reduced with fresh ginger then whisked with oil and a few red pepper flakes for salad dressing. At the sound of the buzzer, vodka was poured over ice and quickly followed by a splash of pineapple juice and topped off with seltzer and a squeeze of fresh lime. Cheers. Clink. Sip. And as soon as our hunger started to kick in (shortly thereafter, I assure you), the steak was thinly sliced and fanned out over a spoonful of rice, generously covered in the decadently rich and racy coconut sauce and topped with roughly chopped cilantro. Bibb lettuce gently tossed in the orange-chili-ginger dressing, snuggled up seductively alongside.

After dinner, I briefly left the room to take a phone call. When I returned, the table was empty and there were two people (who shall remain nameless) in the kitchen, hovering over the stove, spoons in hand, just absolutely going to town on the remains of the coconut sauce.

So, again, the recipe is here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

french onion soup

I had nothing to do with this. Last night, Berit knocked on my door and presented me with the greatest gift imaginable. A little ramekin of homemade French Onion Soup topped with a slice of baguette and bubbling Gruyère. Deep, dark, and decadently fragrant with layer upon delicious layer of flavor. I mean, are you kidding me? I burnt my tongue thanks to obvious impatience. Hands down the best version I've ever encountered. Seasoned to perfection (the girl adds salt with gumption) and unarguably the best thing to cozy up to on a night when temperatures drop to sickening record lows.

I'm heading South. Permanently.

Here's the recipe Berit used. I can't urge you enough to give it a shot. Believe me, your roommate will love you for it.

bar stools for a bar nook

I'm lucky enough to have a little nook in my kitchen for a high bar table. And while I may not use it as such as often as I should, I love having it there as an option. It's more like the dinner-for-one-nook or the coffee-and-laptop-nook on Saturday mornings. Regardless of the hat it's wearing on any given day, this area is clearly functional. But practicality can sometimes only go so far. And given my appreciation for Scandinavian design of style meets functionality, I think it's time to entertain the idea of seeking out some new, modern bar stools.

And also because after an hour of sitting in the ones pictured above, your behind is not exactly pleased to be a part of you. Therefore new style = better function. I've totally legitimized the expense! Phew. That's a relief.

Of course I've lusted over the Kartell Ghost Stool for quite some time now. Their "invisibility" factor is ideal in a small space.

But there's something to be said about a stool with some back support. There's also something to be said about winning the lottery. Which is what I'll need to be doing in order to support this exciting endeavor. Because this Knoll Bertoia Stool is making my heart race. And my bank account panic.

Emeco Icon Stacking Barstool

Blu Dot Barstool

Artek Chair by Alvar Aalto

So what do we think?

This is a sponsored post on behalf CSN Stores. All opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, January 14, 2011

a divine (and soon to be delectable) delivery

There's something to be said about the element of surprise. That precious moment of pure amazement (or horror, to some) brought on by something entirely unanticipated. More often than not, those kinds of moments are few and far between. But last night, I was pleasantly surprised and equally bewildered by a large box from CB2. Had the sender's identity not been leaked due to a UPS mishap (shame on you, UPS...), my first wildly irrational thought would have been: Did I order something in my sleep? (God knows I have a nearly full online shopping cart on their website.) Alas, no. It was an incredibly thoughtful gift from an awfully thoughtful someone who figured this cheese-lover (read: addict) and entertaining fanatic could use a handsome new wooden cheese board and industrial-looking cast iron cheese cutters. You know, just 'cause.

Absolute perfection. And a total surprise to boot. I must be putting out some seriously good karma.


Now: To the cheese store so I can christen this board to the likes no one's ever seen. Or thought possible. Or dared.

Surprise someone with one here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

weekend dinner party

Images Courtesy of Michael Turek for Food & Wine

Okay so I'm kinda cheating. And perhaps I should consider removing the word "cheating" from the previous sentence, er, fragment. But it's only cheating so far as I didn't put together this menu on my own. Or the wine pairings. So there's no two ways about it. I've cheated on my weekend dinner party post.

But here's the thing: this menu is perfect. Gorgeous. Ridiculously fine-tuned. With undeniable Scandinavian nuances. Lingonberries, smoked trout, fennel salad, buttered egg noodles. I mean, it had my name written all over it (only not literally). I'd be an idiot not to pass it along to you.

And I'm not cool with looking like an idiot. Even if it means I have to cheat every now and then.

Hold up. How'd I get myself here? Enough yappin'. Feast your eyes on this Winter White spread courtesy of Tory Miller for Food & Wine.

smoked trout and caper cream cheese toasts
2006 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée

roast pork loin with fennel salad
buttered noodles with toasted sage
2009 Doña Rosa Albarino

ricotta blintzes with lingonberry syrup

Click here for all the recipes from this spread.

Smoked Trout and Caper Cream Cheese Toasts
Recipe Courtesy of Tory Miller for Food & Wine
10 Servings

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbsp. chopped chives, plus 1-inch lengths, for garnish
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 english muffins--split, toasted and buttered
1/2 lbs. skinless smoked trout fillet, coarsely chopped

1. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, shallot, chopped chives, capers and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Spread the English muffins with the caper cream cheese. Top with the smoked trout, garnish with the chive pieces and serve.

Roast Pork Loin with Fennel Salad
Recipe Courtesy of Tory Miller for Food & Wine
10 Servings

1 tbsp. each of whole fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, black peppercorns, star anise pods, allspice berries and juniper berries
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 bay leaves
One 10-rib, bone-in pork loin roast (about 7 pounds)

1 large red grapefruit
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. honey
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large fennel bulbs, cored and very thinly sliced on a mandolin
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. PREPARE THE PORK: In a large pot, toast all of the spices over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water, salt, brown sugar and bay leaves and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the brine into a large roasting pan and let cool to room temperature. Put the pork roast in the brine, meaty side down. Cover the roasting pan and refrigerate overnight. Bring the pork roast to room temperature in the brine before roasting.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Set the pork roast on a large rimmed baking sheet, meaty side up. Roast the pork in the upper third of the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 145F. Transfer the roast to a carving board; let rest for 15 minutes.
3. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE SALAD: Using a small, sharp knife, peel the red grapefruit, removing all of the bitter white pith. Working over a large bowl, cut in between the membranes, releasing the grapefruit sections into the bowl.
4. In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil and honey; season the dressing with salt and pepper. Add the sliced fennel and red onion to the grapefruit sections in the large bowl.
5. Carve the pork roast into chops and transfer to plates. Toss the fennel salad with the dressing, mound the salad alongside the chops and serve.
WINE: The first impulse might be to pair this roast pork with a red wine, but Michael Kwas, wine director at L'Etoile, prefers to serve it with a vibrant white wine like the 2009 Doña Rosa Albarino. That wine has enough acidity to cut through the richness of the meat and also goes nicely with the citrusy fennel salad.

Buttered Egg Noodles with Toasted Sage
Recipe Courtesy of Tory Miller for Food & Wine
10 Servings

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
1/2 cup thinly sliced sage leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
2-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 pound wide egg noodles (pappardelle would work beautifully)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. In a skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the sage and cook over medium heat until crisp; with a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl. Add 1 more tablespoon of the butter to the skillet. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the stock and boil until reduced to 1 cup, 8 minutes. Cover the skillet and remove from the heat.
2. Cook the noodles until al dente; drain. Return the noodles to the pot. Add the reduced stock and the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and toss well. Stir in the 1/2 cup of grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl, top with the toasted sage and remaining 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. Serve right away.

Ricotta Blintzes with Lingonberry Syrup
Recipe Courtesy of Tory Miller for Food & Wine
10 Servings

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 cups fresh ricotta (24 oz.)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
one 10-ounce jar lingonberry jam
1 cup pure maple syrup
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

1. MAKE THE BATTER: In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, and sugar. Whisk the flour and eggs together; whisk in the butter. Cover and let stand for 1 hour.
2. MAKE THE FILLING: In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, sugar and cinnamon.
3. PREPARE THE SYRUP: In a saucepan, simmer the jam and maple syrup over moderate heat until slightly reduced, 5 minutes.
4. Heat two 8-inch nonstick skillets. Spray with vegetable oil spray and add 2 tablespoons of batter to each. Swirl the skillets to distribute the batter and cook over moderate heat until golden brown on the bottom, 1 minute. Flip the crepes and cook until brown spots appear on the bottom. Transfer the crepes to a cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter to make 20 crepes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line another cookie sheet with parchment. On a work surface, spread 2 rounded tablespoons of the filling in the center of each crepe. Fold each crepe to form a rectangular packet. Arrange the blintzes on the cookie sheet, seams down. Bake until hot.
6. Rewarm the syrup. Place 2 blintzes on each plate. Dust with confectioners; sugar, pour the warm syrup over the blintzes and serve.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

egg noodles with beef and chinese broccoli

I'm a huge fan of Chinese Broccoli. But sadly, it's difficult to come by in a regular grocery store (I have to head to Chinatown to pick up a bunch whenever a craving hits). If you can't find Chinese Broccoli readily available in your neck of the woods, most cookbooks and websites suggest to substitute any of its relatives (regular broccoli, broccoli rabe, etc.). But I'm going to beg to differ. While broccoli is certainly permissible, I'm more likely to gravitate towards bok choy or kale as a more fitting substitute. Since Chinese Broccoli is primarily a leafy green, plain old broccoli just wouldn't serve it justice, texture-wise. I'd also urge you to ask your produce market if they would consider getting some in. You never know until you ask, my friends. Whichever route you end up taking, enjoy this quick-cooking crowd pleaser. And given my experience with the take-out lo meins of my past, I can say with confidence, there's no way a better version is ever going to be delivered to your door.

Egg Noodles with Beef and Chinese Broccoli
Serves 4

3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
3 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1/2-lb. top sirloin steak, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 lb. Chinese broccoli, trimmed, leaves and steams thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup unsalted chicken stock
1 Tbsp. dark soy sauce
1 lb. dan mian (fresh thick egg noodles)
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine 1 tbsp. light soy sauce, 1 tbsp. oyster sauce, and sugar in a bowl. Add beef and marinate for 20 minutes.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add beef and stir-fry until it begins to brown. Add broccoli and stir-fry until tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3. Bring stock, remaining 2 tbsp. light soy sauce, remaining2 tbsp. oyster sauce, and dark soy sauce to a boil in work over high heat. Add noodles, stir, and cook until most of liquid has been absorbed, 5-10 minutes. Stir in sesame oil, beef, and broccoli. Season with pepper and serve.

Photo above courtesy of Christopher Hirsheimer for Saveur

Monday, January 10, 2011

coconut-braised beef, also known as fate

I suppose it's "normal" to get stuck in a cooking rut. Hey, I'll admit it. It's all too easy for us to fall into a comfortable routine which involves making the same thing week in and week out with little to no variation. It requires so much less thinking, less decision-making. You're cruising along on autopilot and for the moment, autopilot feels good.

That is, until you hit a wall going 50. Must. Try. Something. New.

So straight to my recipe binder I went, sifting through the pages, waiting for something to catch my tired, jaded eye. And then, in a way that could only be described as fate, I glanced into my future and smiled. Coconut-braised beef.

I excitedly shuffled over to the market for the beef, a dried chili, and a can of coconut milk and then hurriedly ran back home to get things under way. And as soon as I blitzed the ginger, garlic, chili, lime zest and juice into a paste and then into the hot pan it went to bloom, I felt shivers. Honest to God shivers. If anything, I urge you to make this recipe just for that moment. That one moment when your kitchen is totally enveloped in scents so exotic and alluring and pleasantly potent that you almost don't know what to do with yourself. It's practically paralyzing.

But I'll tell you what you'll do three hours later. You will come to. And you will eat. Oh, will you eat. And in between bites, you will laugh. You will laugh at the outrageousness of this dish. Bold flavors and nuances and textures and heat. It just tastes special. Really, really, really special.

Change is good.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

weekend dinner party

You may have noticed by now that I'm not big on posting chicken recipes. Bravo if you have. Listen up if you haven't. It's not that I have this weird aversion to chicken. In fact, my favorite dish my mother makes is her chicken with prunes--and funnily enough, I've never even attempted to recreate it on my own. I think it has something to do with not wanting to remember it any other way than when it's made by her, at home, and I'm eight again.

I digress.

It's not that I don't like chicken. It's just that I rarely think about making it. I hardly ever buy it at the grocery store (a crime, I know) and I've never really considered it as an option for serving to company.

You see, this is problematic for many reasons. But allow me to [finally] cut to the chase. For someone who lives to entertain (and entertain on a budget), chicken needs to be part of the regular repertoire. It's a crowd-pleasing, incredibly versatile, tender, juicy, and economical protein that I have foolishly turned the other cheek to for years. Years! Years.

Really, I thought I was brighter than that.

balsamic roasted radicchio with taleggio
Austrian St. Laurent

chicken with roasted grapes and shallots
buttered egg noodles with parsley and chives
2008 Joel Gott Chardonnay (unoaked)

blood orange panna cotta with cardamom

roasted balsamic radicchio - allow to cool then top with torn pieces of taleggio cheese. serve with crusty baguette.

Image above courtesy of Lisa Hubbard for Bon Appetit

Monday, January 3, 2011

cavatelli with mussels, lillet and dill

This dish looked so refreshingly perfect on the pages of Food & Wine this month that I couldn't help but share it with you. The cavatelli (which look suspiciously like cannellini beans) and mussels are tossed with a touch of crème fraîche just before serving and then topped with a few thoughtful dill fronds. It suggests thoughts of warmer weather while appropriately maintaining a comfort dish status. And with grapefruit zest making an optional appearance, you can guarantee this will be an awfully impressive but conveniently easy dish to present to the table. For one or four. Oh, and mussels? They're the hottest deal of 2011.

Cavatelli with Mussels, Lillet and Dill
Recipe Courtesy of Kerry Heffernan for Food & Wine
Serves 4

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 dill sprigs, plus 1 tablespoon chopped dill
1/4 cup Lillet or dry vermouth
3/4 cup crème fraîche
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon finely grated grapefruit zest (optional)
12 ounces fresh cavatelli
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a large saucepan, combine the mussels, wine, dill sprigs and 2 tablespoons of the Lillet and bring to a boil. Cover and steam until the mussels open, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mussels to a bowl and strain the juices into a medium bowl. Remove the mussels from their shells; discard any mussels that don't open. Rinse out the saucepan.

2. Return the juices to the saucepan and simmer until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in the crème fraîche, shallot and the lemon and grapefruit zests.

3. Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until nearly al dente; drain. Add the pasta to the saucepan along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Lillet. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 4 minutes. Stir in the mussels and chopped dill and season the pasta with pepper. Serve right away.

Wine Pairing: Briny, crisp Muscadet (2008 Michel Delhommeau Cuvée St. Vincent Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

an impromptu chinese new years

This is what happens when you're ambivalent about making New Years plans. The tricky yet beautiful little concept of spontaneity. Allowing yourself to be open to an infinite number of possibilities at any given moment can yield pretty phenomenal results.

And last night, it resulted in an impromptu Grand Sichuan feast. All delivered right to our door in thirty minutes flat and enjoyed with copious amounts of deliciously lively and frisky bubbles to wash it all down. How's that for spontaneity?!

What'd you think I was going to say? We decided to go sky diving? Please. Who in their right mind would ever willingly want to do that? And why on Earth would I ever be open to doing such a thing? Psh. You crazy.

Wanna talk about thrill-seeking? Try eating Dan Dan Noodles with Chili Sauce and not muttering an expletive. It's packing heat in ways I didn't know were possible.

Bring it, 2011. I'm feelin' good about you. Real good.

steamed pork-chive dumplings, white rice, dan dan noodles with chili sauce, lo mein, chicken with ginger-scallion sauce, spicy lamb with fresh ginger, beef and broccoli with garlic sauce

scallion pancakes and steamed dumplings


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