Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - a year in review.

It seems when something monumental happens (i.e. saying I do), you suddenly forget everything else that happened in the span of 365 days.   It's not to say the whole year is a blank, but the year condenses into this one event and the things that would normally stand out are suddenly just a blip on the radar.   This year, it feels exceptionally important to put together this re-cap.  As life-altering as getting married was, it wasn't the only thing (thought it was THE thing) - so here we go.  Consuming one too many homemade Oreos from Flour Bakery in Boston (and several of the their chicken, brie, roasted red pepper and caramelized onion sandwiches which will continue to reign sandwich champion in my mind).  Finally watching The Wire (RIP Omar)! An epic trip to Mexico (where I got an epic bout of food poisoning) that was spent climbing ancient Mayan ruins and watching one of my best get married.  Tackling homemade bagels and tortellini and finishing (just barely) a juice cleanse. A summer trip to Brimfield with the boy for antiques (and plans to make this a yearly trip). Consuming massive amounts of rhubarb (jam, pie, crumb bars) and reading the Third Plate by Dan Barber which forced me to re-think everything I thought I knew about food. Eating half a dozen potato doughnuts from the Holy Donut in Portland, Maine and a banana chocolate almond croissant from B. Patisserie in San Francisco. Spray painting just about everything I can get my hands on gold and devouring cherry brown butter bars which are the definition of life-changing.  The fried chicken sandwich from Palace Diner which I still dream about and meeting the world's most adorable puppy. A bridal shower complete with dinosaur pinatas and my best friends. Beyonce XO (which I will never be able to listen to again without thinking of my beautiful bridesmaids as they walked down the aisle) and Cat Power Sea of Love on repeat.  A Brooklyn day trip that involved the best burger and the search for the perfect wedding cake. A Memorial Day Weekend trip to Pok Pok with the only other couple as food obsessed as me. Perfecting the flour tortilla and learning the importance of fake lashes.  2 trips (!) to the apple orchard and finally making apple pie bars. A return trip to Tartine and basically consuming 2 loaves of their addicting bread.  Hiking Big Sur. Spending the hours before the wedding with the people who know me better than I know myself and reading  out loud the vows I spent 8 months writing Tyler.  Marrying him was the best thing I've ever done and 2014 will go down as one of the best years because of it.  

2015  - I hope you bring me the opportunity to travel more (Austin, New Orleans, Nashville are high on the list oh and ITALY).  To eat scrambled eggs at least once a week. To FINALLY make a homemade croissant.  To read more. To wear more color (or maybe just white/cream with out getting it dirty).  To learn to rely less on material things and more on experiences.  To be able to do 20 pushups (and maybe get a flatt-er stomach though my love of cookies may prevent this).  To fall in love all over again.  To fully embrace the last few months of my twenties and the first of my thirties.  

Let's do this thing.  

(I realize I've shown this picture before but I love it to much to not have it be the photo that represents our year in review.  We looked pretty super on our wedding day but this picture represents how we look those other 364 days.)

Monday, December 29, 2014

caramelized onion dip with feta, spinach, and walnuts.

New Year's eve can be oysters and champagne but if we are being honest (and I hope we can be honest) I'm pretty happy with pigs-in-a-blanket and a couple of beers. (Sometimes low-brow is best.)  

And dip!  Or at least this dip which I am so obsessed with that I may have gone to the farmer's market again today to purchase the ingredients so I can make it for a second time. (Ain't no shame in being a repeat offender.)  

I have a kind of love hate relationship with dips because most are composed of canned/jarred/bottled ingredients and while those dips can taste great they don't really involve much cooking and they aren't really special.   

But this dip is so life-changingly good that I may never need another dip recipe again.   I realize it may not be low-brow but it is a riff on onion dip which some may consider a less then classy dip.  Onion dip is traditionally composed of sour cream and mayo and pretty much everything that is bad for you but tastes good.  This version is greek yogurt and feta and all things I love which ensures you produce a dip nearly impossible to resist.  The addition of spinach and toasted walnuts is practically genius and it provides the perfect textural contrast to an otherwise smooth dip.  I'm not suggesting you have to serve this at your New Year's Eve celebration but it would be wise if you did (and this holds true even if your New Year's celebration is just you and your significant other.)  

Caramelized Onion Dip with Feta, Spinach and Walnuts
Recipe adapted from Tasting Table

Yield: About 2 ½ cups

¼ cup canola oil
1½ cups finely diced onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups packed baby or regular spinach
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 ½  cups whole-fat Greek yogurt
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano, divided (or 1 ½ teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup walnuts, toasted and crushed
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Crackers, for serving

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm ¼ cup of the canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Season them with salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are light golden brown and very soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the garlic and spinach and cook until the spinach has wilted and all of the liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the yogurt and feta and pulse until a little chunky.   Add spinach and onions to the food processor and pulse a few more times.  Transfer to a medium bowl.   Add 2 tablespoons of the oregano  or 1 teaspoon of the dried oregano) and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. If the dip looks too thick, stir in a tablespoon of water (as needed).

To serve, put the dip in a bowl and top it with the remaining oregano and walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with crackers.

Monday, December 22, 2014

chocolate fudge with bourbon sugar.

By this point in December I am usually on a cookie baking binger.  I will have gone through 4 pounds of sugar, 3 dozen eggs, and a bottle of vanilla extract but this year has been different.  I think I tuckered myself out after baking 100 chocolate chip cookies, a batch of World Peace Cookies, some Austrian Shortbread, and almond cookies for the wedding.  My Cusinart and I still need a little break from each other.  

When I stumbled across this fudge recipe in the latest issue of Bon Appetit and realized it incorporated both chocolate and bourbon (!!!) and it was a recipe from one of the best pastry chefs (William Werner of Craftsman and Wolves out in San Francisco) I felt as if it was time to get back to baking (or in this case candy-making).  

This fudge is about as fudgy as fudge can get.  It is rich.  It is chocolaty.  It is the kind of treat that is decadent and completely appropriate from December through February.  It's all around delicious but it's the sprinkle of bourbon sugar and sea salt on the top that really makes me swoon hard for it.   

Chocolate Fudge With Bourbon Sugar
Recipe from Bon Appetit

I don't typically love the texture of fudge, I find it to be grainy but this stuff is a whole other beast.  I don't know if fudge purists would call if fudge but I call it delicious and isn't that all that matters?  I will say that this is rich (and this is coming from a chocoholic).  The original recipe called cutting this it into 32 pieces and I think at that size it would be too much 48 pieces is much better.  

The bourbon isn't as strong as I imagined it to be.  You do get a faint hint of it but it's not overpowering in the slightest (you can easily feed this to kids).  I will admit that my favorite part of this recipe is the bourbon sugar which I have plans for sprinkling on grapefruit cookies to make a cookie version of my favorite cocktail The Brown Derby - mind blown!  I only made half the amount of brown sugar and I regret that decision now.  Learn from my mistakes.   

Makes 48 Pieces

Bourbon Sugar

1cup demerara sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 72%), coarsely chopped
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

To Make The Bourbon Sugar: Preheat oven to 150° or as low as yours will go. Scrape vanilla seeds into a small bowl; stir in demerara sugar and bourbon. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let dry out in oven overnight, leaving door slightly ajar. Mixture should feel like demerara sugar again in the morning.

Do Ahead: Store bourbon sugar airtight at room temperature up to 2 months.

To Make The Fudge: Line an 8x8” baking dish with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on 2 sides; lightly coat with nonstick spray. Heat chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water), stirring occasionally, until almost completely melted. Set aside.

Combine condensed milk, butter, bourbon, corn syrup, and kosher salt in a small saucepan; scrape in vanilla seeds and add pod. Heat over medium until barely hot (same as the chocolate).

Gently stir one quarter of milk mixture into chocolate with a rubber spatula. Add another quarter of milk mixture, stirring to incorporate (it might look broken and greasy; don’t worry, it will come back together). Continue with remaining milk mixture in 2 additions, stirring vigorously until fudge is very shiny and almost elastic, about 5 minutes. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with bourbon sugar and sea salt. Let cool, then cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Turn out fudge onto a cutting board and slice into 48 pieces.  

Do Ahead: Fudge can be made 1 week ahead. Wrap tightly and chill.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

thoughts on seating.

I'm making it one of my goals to bring back the dinner party.  Now that we are in possession of more alcohol then we would ever purchase for college parties (and we aren't throwing any college parties) we need to have people over to drink it.  I have visions in my head of a cocktails and cheese party but I am also thinking about hosting smaller more intimate dinner parties where I get to cook whole fishes, pork shoulder, and fresh pasta for another couple (or 2).  I realize that in order to do this we may need a couple more chairs and for that reason I've started exploring ottomans and poufs.  Below are a few that I have my eye on...

Blake Ottoman, Ochre
Moroccan Pouf, White
Peter 23" X-Bench, Cream/Black Dots

1 - Blake Ottoman  (Green)

2 - Morrocan Pouf (White)
3 - Peter Bench (Grey and Gold)
4 - Tufted Bench (Grey and Gold)

Threshold™ Tufted Bench - Buff Beige and Gold

Thursday, December 18, 2014

upside-down cranberry-caramel cake.

After a hiatus from the kitchen that lasted far longer then I ever thought possible, I have finally returned to the routines of my former life.  And what a return it has been - epic lasagna, pumpkin bread, slow-cooked chickpeas, and now this cake which may be the best thing I've eaten (out of my own kitchen) in a long time.

I realize cranberries are usually consumed in the dried form and while there is nothing wrong with that (tossed in kale salads with sliced almonds and creamy blue cheese they are excellent), I've begun to think it's time we show fresh cranberries a little respect.  I find that in the depths of winter their bright tart flavor is a welcome change of pace form the massive amounts of chocolate desserts people seem to favor.  (Not that there is anything wrong with massive amounts of chocolate but a little variety never hurt anyone right?)

Tart cranberries are nestled in pockets of caramel and layered over a dense and buttery cake that is so obscenely perfect that I have begun to wonder why all cakes can't be this good.  It's rich (even with the addition of cranberries, no one can call this health food), but it doesn't feel heavy.  It's festive and just right for this time of year.  I am not suggesting you eliminate your holiday cookie plate but I will say that no one would be disappointed if you brought this to your next party.

Upside-Down Cranberry-Caramel Cake
Recipe tweaked slightly from Smitten Kitchen

Unsalted butter or cooking spray for the baking pan
2/3 cup (5 ounces or 142 grams) packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks, 6 ounces or 171 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses or maple syrup
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces or 198 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (9 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (8 1/2 ounces or 242 grams) sour cream
2 ½ cups (10 ounces or 288 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
Zest of 1 orange
¼ - ½ teaspoon ground ginger (I love ginger with oranges and cranberries so I happily added a generous amount.  Dial it back if you don’t love ginger quite as much)
Few gratings of fresh nutmeg (optional) 

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the melted butter, molasses and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Stir well and pour into prepared cake pan. Set pan aside.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together into a bowl or onto a sheet of waxed paper and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the whisk attachment (eh, I just used a handmixer with standard beaters) beat the eggs and sour cream together at medium speed until well blended. Add orange zest, ground ginger, and nutmeg (if using). Scrape down the bowl and add remaining melted butter (1/2 cup) and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and beat until smooth.

Add the cranberries to the prepared baking pan and gently press the fruit into an even layer. Dollop the batter on top and use an offset spatula to gently nudge it into place without disturbing the cranberries underneath. Bake on the center rack until golden and a tester inserted into just the cake comes out clean, which took 30 to 35 minutes. Please,please check yours on the early side. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the inside of the pan then insert over a flat platter that is larger than your cake pan, to catch any puddling or jumping cranberries.

This cake keeps well for 3 days at room temperature.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

dear santa..

All I want for Christmas is an actual table to eat at (with mis-matched chairs) and a light filled kitchen.   (So really what I am asking for is to win the lottery.)  Love, Me.  

Image from here.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

slow cooked chickpeas on toast with poached egg.

"If you want to make it dinner put an egg on it.  If you want to make a dinner put an egg on it.  Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh."

-Lyrics written by me but sung to the tune of Beyonce "Single Ladies".  

I've mentioned it before and I'll mention it again, throwing an egg on just about anything makes it a meal. It's my cooking motto, my life motto, my "I don't know what to eat but we are hungry so an egg it is" motto. The fact that I now have a song to go along with it just further reinforces the fact that this is a completely valid maxim.  

Most throw an egg on recipes come about out of necessity and the need to use up what we have languishing in the fridge.  On occasion I stumble across one that drives me to make it out of sheer desire for the end product. That is is why this particular recipe got made.  

Yotam Ottolenghi knows his way around vegetable and grains and beans so when he tells you to make to make a chickpea dish that takes 5 hours to cook, you may think that sounds absurd, but you do it because he always seems to know best.  And boy does the man does know best.  This recipe is brilliant. Chickpeas are bathed in an amp-ed up tomato sauce that leaves them as tender as can be.  They are piled high on sour dough toast and topped with that requisite egg and a sprinkling of za'atar.  It's warm and comforting and impossibly addicting especially with a the mix of runny yolk and tomato sauce.  Eggs and winter just belong together.  

Slow Cooked Chickpeas on Toast with Poached Egg 
Recipe from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi  

I wont lie that a little bit of goat chesse spread on the grilled sourdough is a mighty fine (and delicious) addition.  
Rounded 1 cup/220 g dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight with 2 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus 1 tbsp. to finish
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup/140 g)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons tomato paste
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. smoked paprika
2 medium red peppers, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice (about 1 1/4 cups/180 g) (Can also use canned roasted tomatoes) 
1 2/3 cups/300 grams crushed or diced canned tomatoes
½ tsp. superfine sugar
4 slices sourdough bread, brushed with olive oil and grilled on both sides
4 eggs, freshly poached (or over easy)
2 tsp. za'atar
Salt and black pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place them in a large saucepan with plenty of water. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, skim the surface, and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Place the oil, onion, garlic, tomato paste, cayenne, paprika, red peppers, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper in a food processor and blitz to form a paste.

Wipe out the chickpea saucepan, return it to the stove over medium heat, and add the paste. Fry for 5 minutes (there’s enough oil there to allow for this), stirring occasionally, before adding the tomato, sugar, chickpeas, and a scant 1 cup/200 ml water. Bring to a low simmer, cover the pan, and cook over very low heat for 4 hours, stirring from time to time and adding more water when needed to retain a sauce-like consistency. Remove the lid and cook for a final hour: The sauce needs to thicken without the chickpeas becoming dry.

Place a piece of warm grilled bread on each plate and spoon the chickpeas over the bread. Lay a poached egg on top, followed by a sprinkle of za’atar and a drizzle of oil. Serve at once.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

cheese dome.

I've been on the search for a cheese dome for a couple of years now.  I love them because they double as a beautiful vessel for plants or other objects when you aren't serving cheese.  Nothing like a multi-purpose item.

This one is particularly beautiful and would look incredible on our coffee table...

Cheese dome can be found here.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

yeasted pumpkin bread.

It wasn't until college that I was introduced to the gloriousness that is monkey bread.  For those of you unfamiliar with this epic treat (I feel sorry for you), it is essentially small balls of yeasted bread dipped in cinnamon sugar and baked in a bundt pan.  What emerges from the oven is a tower of sugar and spiced deliciousness that is best eaten warm. I promise you it is impossible to eat anything less then half.  Once you consume this, you will spend the rest of your life looking for pull-apart bread recipes that involve cinnamon and sugar.  

While in California, I had a pretty super yeasted pumpkin roll from Acme Bread.  It was so good that one of the first things I did upon returning to the East Coast was Google "Yeasted Pumpkin Rolls" to see if anyone had a recipe.  The search for rolls proved less then fruitful  but I did uncover a recipe for yeasted pumpkin bread which is basically the money bread cousin I never knew existed.  I practically wept with happiness and proceeded to make it as fast as possible.

So yeah...I think the pictures speak for themselves but if you wanted some verbal feedback it would be something along the lines of "pumpkin spiced sugar awesomeness".  Layers of pumpkin bread envelope sugar and cinnamon.  It's epic, it's amazing, it's best eaten on lazy Sunday mornings though I think it would be a mighty fine addition to your Christmas brunch spread.  

Yeasted Pumpkin Bread
Recipe from Sprouted Kitchen

Note - You have 2 options with this bread.  You can use the full 1 ¼ cup of sugar (white and brown) and omit the glaze (just drizzle on a little maple syrup instead) or you can dial the sugar back to 1 cup and include the glaze.  Up to you and your preference!

If you are using your own homemade pumpkin/squash puree, just be mindful of how watery it is.  Mine was for some reason more wet than normal and I required additional flour. 

Note this is not a slicing bread, it breaks in chunks for a free form breakfast treat. 

For the Bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ cup milk
2 ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
¾ cup white sugar, divided (see note above)
½ cup dark brown, maple, or muscavado sugar
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon. sea salt
1 1/3 cup unbleached bread flour or all-purpose
1 cup spelt flour (can replace with all all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon. olive oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook 2 tablespoons of the butter, without stirring, until brown bits form, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the milk and get the mixture to 110' (too hot and it'll kill the yeast). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, stir in the yeast and 1/4 cup of the white sugar. Let it stand for 10 minutes.

Stir in the pumpkin puree, salt and 1 cup of the bread/all-purpose flour. When combined, add the rest of the flour in several additions, kneading between additions. Knead the dough until it is elastic and slightly sticky, 6-8 minutes.  (This can also be done in a mixer with the bread hook.) 

Brush a large bowl with olive oil, place the dough ball inside and turn it over several times until it is well greased. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1 cup (¾ if making the glaze) sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and remaining 2 tablespoons butter (chop the butter into small pieces before adding) and stir well. After the dough has doubled in size, knead it for two minutes. Roll it out into a 12x9 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top, gently pressing it into the dough. Slice the dough lengthwise into six strips, and stack them on top of the other. Cut the strips into 6 squares and stack them into a 9x5 inch loaf pan lined with parchment. Cover with a clean dishtowel and allow it to rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until it doubles in size again.

Preheat the oven to 350'. Bake the loaf on the middle rack for 30 minutes until edges are golden. Set the pan on a rack to cool.

Optional Glaze 

If omitting the glaze, just a drizzle of maple syrup is pretty perfect.  

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 ½ tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1-2 tablespoons. milk
3/4 cup roasted and salted pecans, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners sugar, syrup, butter and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Whisk in more milk for a thinner consistency if desired. Drizzle the glaze over the bread and sprinkle with pecans. Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

next steps.

Now that the wedding planning is done, I can focus my attention on my next project (because if there is anything you should know about me it's that I always have a project on my plate) and that is stalking the real estate listings.  

The boy and I aren't quite ready to take the plunge (we did just spend a nice chunk on a party so our bank accounts need a bit of a breather) but we've started talks and discussions and thinking about what we want. It feels weird to realize we are a family.   It's even weirder to realize that at some point we want to have a home of our own together, something we fix up and re-do.  A place where Tyler can finally put to use some of the skills he's picked up while watching HGTV. 

While I dream of winning the lottery and purchasing the 5 bedroom 4 bath townhouse on Grove St., I will lust over kitchens.  Because you know the only way we will ever purchase a home is if the kitchen is really freaking good (or has the potential to be really freaking good).  Something like the below would do just nicely.  

Eclectic kitchen

Image via Pinterest.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

white lasagna with kale.

Lasagna and I have a somewhat complicated relationship.  It's not that I don't love it (I mean it's cheese and pasta what's not to love), it's just that most lasagna's are all wrong. There is too much pasta for sauce or too much sauce for pasta or the pasta is just too thick.   Some are watery and others are so overly heavy it feels as if you've consumed a brick. Some are just god awful.

But good lasagna with thin and delicate layers of pasta sandwiching the perfect amount of sauce and cheese is a thing of beauty.  It stands tall on your plate for you to admire before you dive-in.  

I planned on waiting longer before tackling this particular lasagna recipe.  We are only one week into the month of December and perhaps it's too soon to give into the comfort food my body seems to crave this time of year.  But it was calling me and with the weather as abysmal as it was on Saturday, who was I to argue with such a perfect storm.  

I realize this is not the traditional lasagna recipe but perhaps because it veers from the standard iteration, I love it so much.  It's light (or as light as lasagna can be) and its incredibly creamy and cheesy with the perfect amount of sauteed greens that you can almost convince yourself you are eating something (somewhat) healthy.  It isn't healthy in the slightest (even I can admit that) but my god is it good and it's the kind of perfect deep-winter hibernation food that I love.  

White Lasagna with Kale
Recipe adapted just a bit from Serious Eats

Notes:  So I fiddled just a bit, streamlining in places (to help the dish load) and adding just a touch of crushed red pepper (I love a hit of heat).  The biggest change I made was swapping kale for spinach since the kale looked better at the market.  The plus side of making such a swap is that I now know any greens would work.  Feel free to use what you have and what you love. 

The original recipe says this yields 8 – 10 servings.  Unless you are serving a group of football players after a big game, I think you can easily get 12 servings out of this and closer to 14 if serving it with other things (like a salad!).  This recipe also halves brilliantly if you aren't feeding a crowd. 

I don't need to tell you this is a bit of a project.  Not a particularly difficult one mind you, but it does take a little bit of time.  I say throw on some Christmas music and enjoy the process.  The effort is worth it.   

Yield 12 generous servings

For the Spinach

2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds fresh lacitano kales(or flat or curly spinach leaves or swiss chard) , washed and dried
½ - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (based on your heat preference) 

For the Ricotta

1.75 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
2 eggs
4 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or pecorino)
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

For the White Sauce

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
12 ounces grated low moisture mozzarella cheese
10 ounces grated Comté, Gruyère, or Emmenthaler cheese (Fontina would also be nice though I used Gruyere and it was amazing)

For Assembly

1 1/2 pounds (enough sheets to make 8 - 12 layers) fresh lasagna noodles

Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (you will use the same pot for the spinach and white sauce). Add pasta sheets a few at a time and cook until barely tender, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer and run under cool water until well chilled. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel in a single layer. Continue until all pasta is par-cooked and dried.  Set aside. 

For the Spinach: Heat olive oil and butter in the large pot (same pot you cooked the pasta in) over medium heat until melted. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add a few large handfuls of kale (or spinach/swiss chard) and cook, stirring, until wilted. Continue adding kale a handful at a time until it is all in the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until kale expels its moisture and most of that moisture evaporates, leaving a dry bottom as you stir. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Transfer greens to a fine mesh strainer set over the sink and press out excess moisture with a rubber spatula. Let greens continue to drain as you prepare the ricotta mixture.

For the Ricotta: Transfer half of the ricotta, both eggs, the Parmesan, and the nutmeg to the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Process until completely smooth, about 1 minute.  Add spinach to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped, 10 to 12 short pulses.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl and gently fold in the remaining ricotta to combine.

For the White Sauce: Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add flour and increase heat to medium high. Cook, stirring butter and flour with a whisk until paled golden blond, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in milk. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat and add 3/4 of mozzarella and Comté cheese. Whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To Assemble: Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.

Drizzle a small amount of white sauce over the bottom of a lasagna pan or large casserole. Add a layer of noodles. Top with 1/8th (or 1/12th if you have more sheets) of spinach mixture and 1/8th (or 1/12th if you have more sheets) of remaining white sauce. Continue layering pasta, spinach, and white sauce until you lay down the top sheet of pasta.

Spread remaining spinach mixture evenly over the top. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Comté cheese and drizzle with remaining white sauce. Spread into an even layer with a rubber spatula.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until bubble and lightly browned, about 20 minutes longer. Let rest at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Friday, December 5, 2014

holiday wish list - 2014 edition.

I feel rather silly creating a 2014 Holiday wish list.  This year has been rather amazing and it has left me feeling so incredibly lucky. I got the best gift ever this year - an awesome wedding (that fulfilled every single one of my wedding fantasies) and an equally awesome husband.  What more could a girl need?

But if you know me, you know there are always things my little heart desires, so here is my 2014 wishlist.  It is filled with some practical items, some impractical items, and a whole slew of beautiful items.  

1 - Le Labo Fig 15 Candle - Candles are something I rarely buy myself mostly because it seems like a silly purchase.  But lately I have been super into them.  I love the subtle scent they give off, I love how they add the perfect amount of Parisan-chicness to your home.  I love how lounging in bed reading a book instantly feels more sophisticated with a candle lit.  This one is in no means cheap, but with a fantastic scent, and a 65 hour burn time, it's totally worth it.  (This fig one we currently have and it is equally awesome.  

2 - Hand Painted Dinner Plate - I don't need to tell you that we just got a slew of dinner plates (we did just get married after all).  But these plates are so damm beautiful.  I love the idea of having just a couple of them interspersed with some plain plates on a dinner table.  Mis-matched has never looked so beautiful.  (Now I just need an actual dinning room and dinner table...)  

3 - Heart Tea Towel - Completely unusual, an awesome conversation starter, and surprisingly practical. Pretty much my dream present.  And if hearts aren't your thing there is a whole slew of other prints in the shop.  

4- Dark Milk with Flor de Sal Chocolate - I've tried a lot of chocolate bars in my life but this one is the one that consistently makes me weak in the knees. It's smooth and creamy, with a small hint of fruit and a touch of salt.  Best eaten slowly in sweat pants.  I'll take 4 bars please.  

5- Marled Socks - Handmade in Vermont, these are my go to socks for lazy weekends spent at home. Thick and warm without making your feet sweat.  I can't get enough of them.  

6 - The Homesick Texan's Family Table - My list wouldn't be complete without one cookbook.  The original Homesick Texan Cookbook is my go-to for tex-mex comfort food and her new book has gotten equally awesome reviews which means it deserves a place on my shelf.  Expect this to be the winter of tex-mex.  

7 - The White Mustache Yogurt - A year's supply of this yogurt in Sour Cherry.  I am addicted.  Can be found at Murray's Cheese and when you go to buy it you will probably find me purchasing all of the ones they have available.  BEST YOGURT EVER.  

8 - Raccoon Ornament - Every year we add a new ornament to our tree, this year's pick is this raccoon which is utterly comical and totally us (and equally reminiscent of our wedding cake topper).    

9 - Thermometer - There is a Roll-Royce of thermometers in this world and while I wouldn't mind having that one, I will hapilly take it's cheaper cousin.  This one has gotten really incredible reviews and at a fraction of the price, it's pretty much the perfect stocking stuffer.  But if you do want to buy me the fancy version (and I would love that too), you can get it here

10 - Prosecco Glasses - These are beautiful, unique, and utterly special.  I prefer stemless glasses (less likely to tip!) and have yet to see some that really seem celebration-worthy.  The fact that these are hand-blown so no two are alike makes them even more irresistible.  And while we are at it, feel free to throw in a bottle of sparkling rose so we can toast to a New Year.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

taim: a review.

While I do cook a lot, ethnic food is not something I make as often as I would like.  The sad truth is venturing into the world of Thai, Indian, and Middle-Eastern cooking usually requires a whole slew of ingredients that my teeny-tiny kitchen can't hold.  This isn't too say I haven't dabbled in it, but considering my love affair with the cuisines of the world, I haven't had the opportunity to really deep-dive into them.  Someday..

The plus side of all of this is that I don't feel bad about eating out at ethnic restaurants.  They are making me things I can't make as easily for myself so OF COURSE I can validate us getting take-out from the Indian restaurant in our neighborhood (even though I am 90% sure they hate me there). As of late, I've been on a falafel kick and while I've made them at home (and blogged about them here), there is something incredibly awesome about not having to deal with deep frying.  Plus at a falafel place you can get a whole slew of accouterments that you would never have available to you at home (Israeli salad! Roasted beets!) and while I have many go-to spots in the city, the one that consistently kills it is Taim.

Taim was started by the woman also manages Balaboosta (home of some of the greatest hummus I have ever eaten) and Bar Bolonat (currently on my long list of places to visit) but it's their teeny-tiny falafel store-fronts (SoHo and the West Village) that I constantly return too.  There is an ever rotating variety of falafel flavors and a selection of salads that leaves me overwhelmed (how can I pick just one?!) and absurdly happy (I love all the choices).  The falafel is always fried to order which makes them incredibly crispy and perfect for nestling in a pita with hummus (some of the best), salads galore, tahini, and hot sauce (lots of hot sauce).  Probably the best sandwich in the city for $6.50.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

roasted cauliflower, grape, and cheddar salad.

After being on a hiatus from everything I am slowly returning to the routines of my life pre-wedding. This includes reading books (I missed you Kindle as much as you missed me), tackling the stack of magazines that always appears to be on the verge of toppling over, completing the Wire (and figuring out which show to binge-watch next), and returning to the kitchen to cook us comfort food (and lots of vegetables).  

In the last couple of weeks I've eaten my share of cookies, bread, and burritos, but now I am trying to ween myself off such things (mostly because I don't want to look like a burrito in a couple of months time). The only way to do such a thing is to turn the healthy foods into the kinds of things I crave which means cheese has to be involved.  

I've had this recipe from the Plenty More cookbook earmarked for some time now (because it pretty much includes all of my favorite things) but only this past weekend did I finally have the chance to make it.  Why I waited so long remains to be seen since this couldn't be easier.  A whole head of cauliflower is broken down and roasted  and then tossed with nuts, cheddar, and grapes.  A tangy dressing composed of dijon mustard and honey (my favorite kind of dressing) brings the whole thing together.  The resulting salad is both bright and utterly fall appropriate and while it is virtuous, it doesn't taste that way (this is why I ate almost all of it).  

Roasted Cauliflower, Grape and Cheddar Salad 
Recipe from Plenty More

I don't think some farro or bulger tossed into this salad would be a bad thing.  That is if you are looking to turn the salad into a meal. 

1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds/900 grams), broken into florets
5 tablespoons grapseed or olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon honey
About 1/4 cup or 30 grams raisins
About 1/3 cup or 40 grams toasted hazelnuts or almonds, roughly crushed 
2/3 cup/100 grams red grapes, halved and, if necessary, deseeded 
3 ounces/80 grams creamy cheddar, crumbled 
1/4 cup/10 grams roughly shredded parsley

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the cauliflower with 3 tablespoons of the oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Spread on an oven tray and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until nicely browned. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl whisk the remaining oil with the vinegar, mustard, honey and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Add the raisins and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes. Just before serving, transfer the cauliflower to a bowl with all the other ingredients. Pour over the dressing, toss gently, adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.