List Love

  • I wish I could click my heels and go here this weekend…
  • Come back fall weather so I can make these two dreamy pumpkin treats and inaugurate my pumpkin colored Mr. Rogers sweater.
  • This was SPOT. ON. “I love your outfit by the way, where did you get that?” 

                                                       “A fire.”

The craziest thing is, I actually caught the facade of our apartment in this spoof! Too funny and very appropriate, considering Girls is shot about 200 feet away from where I used to live, on Diamond and Messerole).

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This time. Last year.

Some people have spirit animals. I have a spirit city. It’s NYC and I’m missing it hardcore right now. Every year, without fail, I get very contemplative and nostalgic once fall arrives; it stirs something within me. It’s my favorite season by far. I love the crisp air and the way it smells differently. I love falling asleep with the window open and my socks on, and I prefer sweaters, boots and scarves to t-shirts and sandals.

It’s so hard to believe that this time last year I was living in Greenpoint— my little Polish neighborhood, situated in a little nook on the tip top of Brooklyn. I was settling into feeling like a New Yorker. I was interning at Time Out—feeling like a little fish in a big sea, calling restaurants and PR firms galore, gearing up for fall preview, researching beer tastings, cooking classes, festivals and markets, and actually getting to write some. I was afraid of my boss, who was gorgeous but mean and impossible to please. But I can say the woman was fierce. She got shit done.

I had learned how to walk from the West Village to SoHo, to the East Village and to Tribeca. I had a favorite bodega, two favorite neighborhood coffee shops (Grumpy’s and Charlotte Patisserie), favorite walks, and a favorite view (the East River and Manhattan skyline from the pier by Transmitter Park. I worked. I worked on weekends. I learned to carry a lot of heavy things without a hand truck and how to set up a tent by myself. I babysat spoiled upper west (and east) side monster children who behaved so atrociously I thought they only existed as a cliche, in films. I met friends. I made friends. I laughed. I cried. I yelled at cars that almost ran me over (on a regular basis)—”I’m walkin’ here!” I felt empowered. I felt insufficient. I felt inspired. I felt uncomfortable. I felt energized. I felt intimidated. The city knocked me down some days and lifted me up others. It always surprised me.

I don’t miss having to right walk by suffering homeless people on a regular basis, I don’t miss urine in the subways or sharing a teeny tiny bathroom with three other people. I don’t miss waiting for the G train. I don’t miss missing my boyfriend, sleeping alone, and waaaaaaaiting.

But I do miss and miss dearly breakfasts with people I love at Five Leaves, subway music at the Metropolitan/Lorimer stop, strangely and comically running into people I know all. the time. I miss the Blue Stove, the Flea, walking everywhere, the smell of Polish Rye bread baking in the New Warsaw Bakery and wafting out into the night air. I miss that first night where my three roommates and I stayed out all night drinking frozen harrisons and dancing at Enid’s. I miss Commerce Street, brownstone stoops, Cobble Hill, the walk home from the Bedford stop, through McCarren Park, seeing the old man in my neighborhood making pizza all day and then falling asleep on a chair outside late at night, the Union Square Green Market, doughnuts  the size of your head, from Dough, Peter Pan Bakery, walking through Washington Square Park at golden hour, the people, the culture, the food, the transience that can make you feel alone and not alone at the same time. This city will always tug at my heartstrings.

So there you have it. I’m pretty much always missing New York, but especially this fall. So I drink my coffee out of my Brooklyn Flea mug every Saturday or Sunday morning and let myself get nostalgic, and longingly look ahead to my next visit. I look around me and am grateful for the journey I’ve taken so far, the opportunities I’ve been given, the people I’ve met and the memories I have. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

 

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List Love

  • This late summer trifle looks so incredible, I’m determined to find an occasion to make it, ASAP. I think the fact that it’s late summer and that I’ve never made a trifle before classify as suitable occasions.
  • I’m kind of really in love with this blog and with Rebekka’s paintings.
  • Last week we made Alice Waters’s ratatouille and it was seriously life changing. I can’t stop thinking about it.
  • I have some gorgeous Italian prune plums that are begging to be made into Molly Wizenberg’s plum crumble
  • I’ve been living vicariously through the dreamy recaps of this Kinfolk workshop
  • It’s just about time for pears, and I intend to make this
  • I’m incredibly excited for the brand new series debut of A Chef’s Life, airing on PBS (nationally!) this Thursday evening (check your local listings here). It’s a unique hybrid of cooking-reality show, and each episode explores a particular ingredient and how chef Vivian Howard translates that ingredient on the plate. I’m honored to have been able to assist with some of the show’s website and blog content, and some social media, and through the process, have gotten to meet some incredibly talented people. I’ve known the show’s creator, director, and filmmaker, Cynthia Hill (from Durham) for a few years now and this woman is  talented and driven. She’s always got at least a couple projects in the works, is raising two adorable daughters, and runs Markay Media and The Southern Documentary Fund. Her partner Rex is also quite the talent. He too is a documentary filmmaker and has worked alongside Cynthia on this series. I can’t say enough about the wonderful work they do in the documentary field. And Vivian is the real deal. She’s got a true Mida’s touch, where everything that comes into her hands—be it a humble ingredient or a fancy one—turns to gold. She beholds a raw, unbridled talent for conceiving unique spins on simple southern dishes, and invested interest in exploring her southern roots and upholding those rich culinary traditions. She works with some amazing local farmers and food purveyors and has a mighty, tenacious crew at her and her husband Ben’s restaurant, Chef and the Farmer. It’s well worth driving to Kinston for the mere sake of eating there. If you’re even remotely interested in the south, NC, and/or food, you need to tune in Thursday night and watch this show.

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The next best thing

One of the most thrilling aspects of wedding planning is honeymoon research. I’ve spent countless hours, scouring Airbnb, Tripadvisor, and my new favorite, Fathomaway. I daydream about lounging in a hammock on a pristine beach in Tulum, armed with a good book and a Michelada, eating fish tacos to my heart’s content, or gazing out at the Mediterranean from an infinity pool, on the top of a cliff in Santorini. I can almost feel the coarse back of the elephant I long to ride through the rice paddies of Ubud. Who knows where we will go yet, but we’re sure having  a time just shopping around.

Lately I’ve been enamored with the possibility of Tulum, but for the longest time I was set on Greece and it’s still big on the radar. Naturally, all of these idyllic images of Greece have left me craving Greek food. We found a Middle-Eastern chicken kebab recipe from Once Upon a Chef, which employs a stellar marinade that delivers a cacophony of flavors. I think the Greek Yogurt is what really makes it. The recipe calls for marinating the chicken for eight hours-overnight, but we just marinated it for two hours and it was unbelievably full of flavor. The night we were cooking, I called Jay from the grocery, asking him if he could take the lead on cooking the bulguhur (which neither of us had ever made before). I failed to mention we’d be using it for tabouli and he ended up making the bulghur pilaf recipe on the back of the box. When I got home and saw him toasting the grain in a skillet with butter and onion, and was like, “What are you doooooing?! This is for tabouli!” Luckily, it was a happy accident because I thought it was just divine, especially with some greek salad  and a glass of rosé.

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Chicken, Zucchini and Onion Kebabs with Bulghur Pilaf and Greek Salad

Serves 2 hungry people.

  • Chicken, zucchini and onion kebabs (recipe below)
  • about 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of crumbled feta
  • *olives and pepperoncini peppers optional
  • Greek vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Bulghur Pilaf (recipe below)

Greek Vinaigrette

  • 1 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • about 8 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, split

Combine all of the ingredients except for the olive oil and whisk to combine. While whisking, gradually add the olive oil. Leave the garlic clove in the vinaigrette for about 10-15 minutes, just long enough to infuse the vinaigrette. (Depending on how big your salad is, you may or may not use all of the vinaigrette at once). Toss with the romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, feta (and olives and/or pepperoncini if you like).

Bulghur Pilaf (slightly adapted from the back of the Hodgson Mill box)

  • 1 cup bulghur
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade, it makes a HUGE difference)!

Melt the butter in a skillet, over medium heat and add the onions. Sauté until the onions have browned. Add the bulgur and toast until golden, for about 5-10 min. Add the chicken stock, cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 min.

Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Makes 2 servings

  • 1/2 cup plain, Greek yogurt (we used Fage, which is my favorite, in 0% but 2% would work just fine if not better)
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cumin (it calls for 1/4 tsp but we’re not big on cumin, so we scaled way back)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • zest from half a lemon
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  •  1/2 tsp + a heaping 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thighs), trimmed of any extra fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 zucchini, cut into wedges
  • 1 yellow or sweet onion, cut into wedges

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, olive oil, spices, zest, juice, and garlic and whisk until everything is incorporated. Thread the chicken onto metal skewers, alternating with the onion and zucchini. Don’t cram the skewers (about 4 of them will do). Put the kebabs on a baking sheet lined with foil and spoon/brush the marinade over the skewers, thoroughly, so that all of the chunks are covered. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to overnight if desired.

Prepare your grill (we use charcoal). If using gas, preheat the grill to medium-high heat and be sure to grease the grates with vegetable oil. Turn the skewers occasionally, to ensure even cooking. Depending on what kind of grill you have and the heat, this should take anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes or so. We like a little char on everything. Transfer the skewers to a platter and serve with Greek Salad and tabouli or bulghur pilaf.

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‘Round Here

Oh my, I’ve been MIA again. I’ve been blogging (just not for myself). I’ve been writing about other people’s weddings, corn and succotash, and lavender peach tarts. I’ve been browsing mid-century Finnish enamelware on Etsy (can I just win the lottery so I can buy everything Kaj Franck ever designed??), binge-watching seasons 2 and 3 of Sex and the City (for probably the 15th time), listening to Andrew Bird’s “Wait” a lot on repeat, eating lots of fig & walnut toast with goat cheese and lavender honey, and shamelessly Instagraming my dog left and right. We bought an orchid, so I’ve been focusing on trying to not kill that. I’ve been courting photographers, pondering DIY photo booths, admiring hobnail milk glass vases and wedding planning (!). There’s quite a lot going on around here.

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I’m sad to report I haven’t been baking as much as I’d like to lately and I don’t have any new recipes to share, other than this Peaches ‘n Cream Tart with Lavender and Honey I devised for Durham Magazine’s Blog. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still dreaming of peach and basil shortcake, bourbon blondies with chocolate and walnuts, and sweet corn ice cream…

I made this fig & brandy clafoutis for breakfast on a Sunday morning…(it’s a keeper)

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So far, so good, eh?

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List Love

 

  • Forever and always, my first favorite food writer. And thank goodness she’s on Instagram, because I can’t get enough of her wide-eyed, curly mopped, cherub-cheeked baby June.
  • I’ve really been wanting to make a tomato pie lately (I’ve never made one). I’m really intrigued by Deb’s recipe for corn and tomato pie, and also this one, which I think is breathtaking, with all the multicolored heirlooms. Reminds me I have a luscious big ole Purple Cherokee waiting for me in the kitchen, just dying to be sliced up for a BLT…hold tight buddy, I’m comin’ for ya.
  • I locked myself up with Orange is the New Black and you should too. In case you haven’t been convinced you need to watch it yet…read this.

I know I said it last time but I’ll be darned if I don’t say it again. I’m still obsessed with this show, which I devoured like I would a bag of Peanut M&M’s, after a juice fast. For the record, I’ve never done a juice fast, but I imagine I’d want to devour a bag of Peanut M&M’s immediately after…if I even made it through…which I probably wouldn’t. Coincidentally I finished the last episode today—the same day they wrapped the first episode of season two. I find that very appropriate.

I can’t stress enough the admiration, fondness, even affection I have for these women and how they look out for one another. Being an avid fan of picking “favorites,” I struggled to determine which of them was my favorite. 13 episodes and much deliberation later, I still can’t decide. I realized that’s because I love them all (well, with the exception of Pennsatucky because she’s so real and awful, she just terrifies me). I don’t just love these characters; I love these actresses. I love their bravery, their humility, their gusto. I want to be friends with these women and I’m not sure if I mean the actresses or their characters. Maybe both. The LA Times was right on the money when they said, “This is the most impressive group of female characters ever assembled in a series.” Best of all, when they said “Each woman has a story, and that story will be told.” And you should listen.

Needless to say this and all its adorableness made me very happy.

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Drunken Turtles

The sweet & salty trend swept across the U.S some time ago but it’s still alive and well and I am perfectly okay with that obsession which I’ve fallen victim to. It seemed to have started with the illustrious sweet & salty brownie from Baked. And if you haven’t gotten on board with that brownie yet, get on it. It’s insane. Now there’s salted caramel everything and I’m surprised whenever I don’t see at least one dessert with bacon and caramel on a menu somewhere.

A few years ago during the holidays, I made these awesome smoked almond turtles—a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. With their crunchy texture and smokiness from the almonds, they (in my opinion) far surpass your standard turtle. Then, I was exposed to the “Slurtle,” an endearingly clever treat concocted by the darling Brooklyn candy-maker duo, Liddabit Sweets. I decided to come up with some fun, sweet and salty snacks to make and sell for my soon to be brother-in law’s Chapel Hill Bar, The Dead Mule Club. This is a new business endeavor so I decided to start off simple, by making some spicy cheese straws or “Mule Tails,” and hybrid of the smoked almond turtles and the slurtles, which I call “Drunken Turtles.” They’re the perfect accompaniment to a glass of bourbon or a foamy glass of porter or stout. They’re also perfect eaten entirely on their own, while you’re hunched over your kitchen counter, trying to just eat half of one and get other things done. *Disclaimer: It’s almost impossible to just eat half of one.

drunken turtles

Similar to Giada’s recipe, I grease a muffin tin, but instead of putting the almonds at the bottom like she does, I pour about a half an inch of beer caramel into each one, then cover the caramel in chopped smoked almonds, cover the almonds with more caramel (so the bottom is smooth and covered). I then finish with a pool of melted bittersweet chocolate and top with a salted pretzel. I love the saltiness from both the almonds and the pretzel and the beer in the caramel provides a nice bitterness that offshoots the sweetness from the caramel and chocolate. I recommend using a stout or porter for the beer and my beer of choice for this is their People’s Porter (a Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter). And although it’s trickier to find, their seasonal Sexual Chocolate Stout would probably be even more amazing.

There’s also a great layering of crunchiness with the almonds at the bottom and the pretzel at the top. They’re very simple to make but do take some time. It’s really important to give the muffin tin a good thorough greasing so these suckers don’t require much prying to un-mold. The other crucial component is the caramel. Make sure you use a thermometer because if the caramel doesn’t reach 240 degrees (or very close to it), it won’t solidify or harden the way it needs to and it will become goopy. You also want to shake (not stir) the pan periodically to prevent the caramel from burning. This step takes a good 20 minutes or so but be patient and don’t leave the caramel unwatched!

Drunken Turtles adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Liddabit Sweets and the Beeroness

makes 12 (in a standard muffin tin)

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 22 oz bottle of beer (use a Porter or Stout)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp beer syrup
  • generous pinch of fleur de sel (or sea salt)
  • 1 cup chopped smoked almonds
  • 1 heaping cup bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghiradelli bittersweet chips)
  • Salted Pretzels (bow shaped)
  • Cooking spray & a candy thermometer

To make the Beer Syrup:

Reserve 1 cup of the beer (for the caramel) and set aside. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the remaining amount of beer to a boil (stirring periodically). Cook until it has reduced to 2 tsp of a thick syrup. Set aside.

To make the Beer Caramel:

In a large saucepan, combine the heavy cream, butter, brown sugar and cup of beer. Place a candy thermometer in the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent burning. Keep a good eye on this especially early on, so it doesn’t boil over. Once the thermometer climbs up to 240 degrees, remove from heat. Stir in the beer syrup and the salt.

To assemble the turtles:

Pour about 1/2 inch of caramel into each vessel of the greased muffin tin. Cover with chopped smoked almonds. Cover with the remainder of the caramel. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Pour the chocolate over each of the turtles. Place a pretzel on top. Cool in the refrigerator for about an hour before you un-mold the turtles. To un-mold, take a sharp, small knife and run it alongside the turtle, to pull it away from the tin. Use the knife to gently coax the turtle out. These are best at room temperature but if you’re house is pretty warm, it’s best to store them in the refrigerator and take them out about 30 minutes before eating.

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