Friday, May 29, 2015

homemade ice cream cake.

One of the most notable birthday cakes I ever had was the BEHEMOTH of an ice cream cake my Mom made me for one of my teenage birthdays.  This cake was a triple layer monstrosity that I dream about almost every year (it was also so big that I am pretty sure we ate it for about a year).  There was ice cream, and actual cake and I vaguely remember some kind of almond toffee deliciousness between each of the layers.   It was the kind of birthday cake that begs to be the centerpiece at a party.   

As I find myself creeping towards 30 at an even quicker pace than I ever imagined possible, I've started to think about what a birthday celebration means to me and how I wish to celebrate my own milestone.  I told Tyler I didn't want a present - that I wanted him to plan something - to take me away for a weekend or a night.  I realize now, on the cusp of 30, that having the person I love plan something for me and having an adventure with him is more important than any physical object he could ever give to me (this sentiment may not hold true forever...).   It takes being almost 30 to finally realize that.  This isn't to say I'm not buying myself something to celebrate - I couldn't imagine celebrating such a milestone and not commemorating it with something I've wanted for a while. But I'm happy to be buying it for myself - I feel like it says I've made it even if I don't always feel as if I've made it.

So my birthday will be a leisurely walk with the boy, a couple of beers, a really good burger, and of course a cake.  Preferably multiple cakes because if there is anything I love in this world its cake. Ideally ice cream cake and regular cake and while I would love the original ice cream cake made by the mama, I will happily take this substitute because this is an ode to the Carvel ice cream cake that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) loves. But, this one is better - oh so much better.  A brownie base is topped with homemade fudge and an extra generous layer of cookie crumbs. There are two types of ice cream and more fudge and cookie crumbs.  It's a cake made for celebrating and sharing with friends and feeling like a little kid again.   

Homemade Ice Cream Cake

So many notes!

-The length of this recipe makes it look absurdly difficult.  Do not be deterred, this is WAY easier than it looks.  I promise.

-I made a 6 inch cake because a 9 inch cake would be WAY too much for to have in the freezer when it's     usually just the 2 of us around (and I have yet to figure out how to transport ice cream cake on a subway and a mile long walk to work without melting).  You can halve the below to make a 6 inch cake.  

-Splurge on good ice cream.  If you are making everything else homemade the ice cream should be the good stuff (or make your own if you are fortunate enough to own an ice cream maker).  I got ours from Ample Hills in Brooklyn - there ice cream is absurdly good.  I went with a vanilla and a peppermint ice cream since I liked the idea of mint with the fudge and brownie.  An excellent choice I might add.   

-You will have extra fudge and cookie crumbs.  This is not a bad thing.  If you think this is a bad thing, I'm not sure we can be friends.

-This cake is epic.  Enough said.     

Makes one 9-inch cake

For the Cake

4 pints of ice cream (2 pints of each flavor)
Brownie Base (recipe below)
Fudge (recipe below)
Cookie Crumbs (recipe below)

Remove the 2 pints (or 1 quart) of ice cream for layer one of the cake and the brownie (in the cake pan) from the freezer about 15 minutes before you are ready to assemble.  Remove the fudge from the fridge (if it was being stored there).   

Cover the brownie with a thin layer of fudge (microwave the fudge for a few seconds if you need to get it to spreadable consistency) and spread with an offset spatula to ensure all edges are covered with fudge.  Sprinkle a generous layer of cookie crumbs over the fudge and ever so slightly press the crumbs into the fudge with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Return the cake pan to the freezer until the ice cream is softened and ready for spreading.

When the ice cream is at a softened state, remove the cake pan from the freezer and dump the ice cream over the brownie/fudge/crumb base.  Carefully spread the ice cream over the brownie layer.  Don't spread too firmly or the cookie crumbs can shift under the ice cream.  Return the cake pan to the freezer until the ice cream layer is firm, about an hour.   

When ice cream layer one is firm, remove the other 2 pints of ice cream from the freezer and set aside.   Pour some fudge over the ice cream and spread to create an even layer of fudge.  Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread the fudge to the edges of the cake.  Sprinkle a generous layer of cookie crumbs over the fudge and once again, ever so slightly press the crumbs into the fudge with the offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Return the cake to the freezer until you are ready to create the second ice cream layer.  

When the pints of ice cream are properly softened, remove the cake pan from the freezer and dump the ice cream over the fudge/crumb base.  Carefully spread the ice cream evenly over the fudge/cookie crumbs.  Don't spread too firmly or else the cookie crumbs can shift under the ice cream.  Cover the top of the cake with another generous layer of cookie crumbs and gently press the crumbs into the ice cream with the back of a spoon.  Place the cake pan back into the freezer until the ice cream layer is firm, about an hour.   

Remove the cake from the freezer about 10 - 15 minutes before serving (this will make it easier to cut). Slice and serve the cake with additional fudge and extra cookie crumbs.   

Brownie Cake Base
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

1.5 ounces (43 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup (43 grams) all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter one 9 inch spring-form cake pan with 2 3/4 - 3 inch tall sides or spray them with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, heat chocolate and butter together until about 3/4 of the way melted. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Stir in sugar until fully combined, then the egg, and vanilla. Stir in salt until combined, then flour, until it just disappears.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once top to bottom and front to back, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each pan comes out batter-free. Transfer hot pans directly to freezer (you can put down dish towels or a cooling rack to protect shelves). Chill until cold and firm, about 15 to 20 minutes (but can be left in the freezer for longer).

Hot Fudge Sauce
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 2 cups

2/3 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup or golden syrup (honey should work as well, but I didn’t test it this time)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, ideally Dutch-processed
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or level 1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or, about 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips), divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a 1 1/2 to 2-quart heavy saucepan, bring cream, syrup, sugar, cocoa, salt (if you’d like the salt to remain slightly textured, add it with the butter and extract at the end) and half the chocolate to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate, butter and extract and stir until smooth. Cool the sauce to lukewarm (or place in the fridge) before assembling it so that it can thicken up.

Chocolate Cookies for Cookie Crumbs
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks), cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 large egg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Blend flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add butter chunks and blend until the mixture is powdery. Add egg and run machine until dough starts to clump and ball, about 30 seconds. Scoop cookies out onto baking sheets, giving them space as they will spread a lot (not that merged cookies will matter once you grind them up). Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Cookies will absolutely look underbaked, but don’t fret. Transfer baking sheets onto cooling racks and within two minutes, they will be firm enough to transfer to cooling racks. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

Grind about half of your cookies in a food processor or blender until they’re just crumbs. You will want a total of 2 3/4 cups of them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

kitchen dreams.

Leave me here until the day I die because this is everything.   

Image via Pinterest.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

vietnamese steak.

While Tyler and I continue to stare longingly at our neighbors backyard (which he never ever uses except to sit on his door step and smoke cigarettes), I continue to dream up ways that make us feel as if we are eating al-fresco even if all we are really doing is sitting in our kitchen. This means relying heavily on my cast-iron skillet which is the closest thing I have to a grill.

A good well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is the work-horse of the kitchen.  I cook hamburgers and asparagus in it and have made many cakes and cornbreads it as well.  It works brilliantly in many applications but when it comes to searing steaks, that's where it really shines.   It gives the steak a perfectly crusty exterior and that crusty exterior is what makes a steak worth eating.  

This Vietnamese version is absurdly perfect as we head into summer. It's tart and a little spicy and it manages to work with just about any vegetable you pair it with - lettuce (for hand-held wraps) radishes, shaved asparagus, the list goes on. It's also just as happy with rice as it is with noodles which means you can make it and then choose your own dinner adventure which is my favorite kind of dinner.  

Vietnamese Steak with Cucumber Salad
Recipe from the NYTimes

My reading skills are apparently lacking as I dumped all of the marinade over the steak.  Only after re-reading the instructions did I realize my mistake.  I couldn't bring myself to let the marinade go to waste, so when the steak was done marinating I dumped the marinade in a pot and boiled it for about 60 seconds.  I actually think the mistake was to my benefit as the marinade thickened up ever so slightly which helped to coat the steak and the rice.   The choice is yours.  

Serves 4 -6

½ cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon packed lime zest
⅓ cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced
1 large jalapeño, seeds and veins removed if desired, minced (or 1 tablespoon of Sriracha)
1 flank steak, about 1 1/2 pounds
1 small seedless English cucumber, thinly sliced (or other vegetable of your choice)
1 large bunch of radishes, thinly sliced (or other vegetable of your choice)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vegetable, peanut or olive oil (optional)
Cooked rice noodles or rice, for serving (optional)
Sesame seeds or crushed roasted peanuts, for serving (optional)
Fresh mint leaves or cilantro, for serving (optional)

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime zest, lime juice, brown sugar, garlic and jalapeño. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the flank steak and let marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or refrigerate for up to 24 hours). Let meat come to room temperature before cooking if necessary. 

Combine the cucumber, radishes and scallions. Pour in just enough of the marinade sauce to coat.
Light the grill or heat the broiler to high. Pat steak dry with paper towels.

If grilling, cook until done to taste, about 3 minutes per side for rare. If broiling, heat a 10-inch skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Add oil to pan and sear the meat for 2 minutes. Flip meat and immediately transfer pan directly to top shelf of oven and broil for 2 to 3 minutes for rare, or longer for more well-done meat. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes covered in foil.

Thinly slice steak and serve over cooked rice noodles or rice if desired, and top with the cucumber salad. Garnish with sesame seeds and peanuts and plenty of herbs if using and serve with remaining marinade as a sauce.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

hummus with white miso.

This past weekend, in between the hours of driving Tyler and I did through New Jersey, Upstate New York, and Pennsylvania, we stopped for dinner in Philadelphia at High Street on Market (home of the greatest potato bread that has ever existed).   While I did not get to bring home a new loaf of potato bread (let's not talk about it), I did get to stuff my face with an incredible spring hummus that reminded me of how much I love hummus and variations of hummus and basically any and all chickpea dips.   

I wasn't seeking to unearth a new favorite hummus dip, but with Memorial Day right around the corner, I've had mezze on the brain. Summer eating means less meals and more of an "assortment of things that are in season and easy to make".  Extra points if they are portable, can be consumed via chips, bread, or pita, and pair well with an ice-cold white wine or a grapefruit beer.  

And this dip does all that and more.  The inclusion of miso is rather genius - it provides that salty-rich-umami bomb that I seem to crave all of the time (who knew miso and tahini were a match made in food heaven?).  It also pairs brilliantly with any kind of spring/summer salad (current version involves asparagus, beans, feta, and lemon) you can dream up which means it will be on heavy rotation all summer long.  

Hummus with White Miso
Recipe from the Seven Spoons Cookbook

Makes about 2 ½ cups (600 g)

1/4 cup (60 g) blanched almonds
2 cups (450 g) cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce/425 g) can
1/4 cup (60 g) well-stirred tahini
1/4 cup (60 g) white (shiro) miso
2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Juice from 1/2 lemon, approximately 2 tablespoons, plus more as needed
About 1/2 cup (120 ml) ice water
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted sesame oil (optional)

Optional Toppings

Extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Coriander seeds or cumin seeds, roasted and cracked
Ground sumac or za’atar
Toasted sesame seeds, white or black, or pine nuts
Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley and chives
Assorted sprouts (such as mung bean, broccoli, alfalfa)
Fried shallots

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the almonds into a fine meal. Add the chickpeas and run the machine again, stopping and scraping down the sides occasionally, until the beans are crumbly and light. Pour in the tahini, miso, garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice. Blend again for 2 minutes or so, then scrape down the sides of the machine. Switch on the motor and start drizzling in enough water so that the hummus billows up, aerated and fluffy. Depending on the beans, you may not use all the water, or you might need more. Let the machine go for 2 to 3 minutes after the consistency seems right. Taste and check for seasoning. For a roasted accent, drip in some toasted sesame oil.

Let the hummus sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving, or refrigerate in a covered container for up to 3 days. Serve with the garnishes of your choosing.

Friday, May 15, 2015

our wedding.

When I hear Beyonce's "XO" I am at our wedding.  I am standing arm in arm with my father.  I am nervous (heart beating out of my chest kind of nervous) and I am watching my best friends get ready to walk down the aisle.  As they get ready to walk out they smile, they give me a thumb's up, they remind me to breathe, and they tell me I've got this.

That feeling of happiness, of being surrounded by a blanket of comfort and security, of being loved, will sit with me for the rest of my life. There is nothing I remember more vividly then the 2 minutes before I walked down the aisle.   I wouldn't trade anything for that.

After what felt in some ways like an eternity - in other ways like the blink of an eye - we got back our wedding pictures.  When I saw them for the first time I wept like a baby, seeing those once in a lifetime moments before me again is incredibly beautiful. Needless to say, I feel protective over the pictures - the visual reminders of that day. They show a glace, and a look, and the fact that I've never looked happier than I did on our wedding day. When word spread to the extended family that the pictures were in I found myself not willing to reveal the whole album. I liked the idea of having some remain a secret between Tyler and I - there were some moments that I couldn't imagine sharing with the world.

But there were plenty of moments that are beautiful and worth sharing.  Moments that remind me that hard work is worth it.  That the blood, sweat, money (hard earned money), and (many) tears that I/we invested in that day weren't for nothing, that baking 100 cookies the morning before your wedding isn't entirely crazy (just a little crazy) - so here is a glimpse at all of that on our 6 month anniversary.

I was (and still am in someways) apprehensive of sharing these images.  People judge, they critique, they can be mean, and I don't want people thinking mean things about something that is so deeply personal to me, to us. But Tyler and I worked hard to turn our big day into something people would remember and feel happy they were part of and I couldn't be more proud of the work that we did (and our awesome team of people did) - it was beautiful and romantic and very us.

So enjoy! And our wedding advice - Do your own thing whatever that thing may be.  Serve Fireball.  And dance. Dance a lot.  

The Team of Awesome who helped make this all possible...

-Photos by the incredibly talented (and fun!) Sarah and Daniel at Chellise Michael.  
-Flowers, overall look, and incredible day of coordinator was Paige at Gilded Lily Events.  
-The dress (which is really a bustier and 2 skirts because I had a dream I wore I tea-length tulle skirt at my wedding) is curtosey of the incredibly talented team at Carol Hannah Bridal.
-The venue is actually a photo/video studio called Parlay Studios in Downtown Jersey City.
-Catering was done by the team at Orange and Olive.    
-Napkins were designed by the Mama Bear. 
-Cake is Momofuku and One Girl Cookies.  
-Doughnuts are by Dough (the best).  
-Cookies were made with love by me and the Mama.  
-Cake topper by AdoraWools.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

naan bread

It's safe to say that even with the number of paleo, gluten-free, and all around bread-a-phobics in this world, that I am doing my part to ensure that bread consumption remains at an all time high. Because bread is good. Really freaking good. I don't need some fad diet to encourage me otherwise.  

The reason why I think so many people adopt a gluten free diet is because a lot of the bread in this world is bad (I will go as far as to say awful).  It lacks flavor and texture and all of the things that I deem necessary to make a slice worth eating.  The problem lies with the fact that people buy all of their bread at the supermarkets and such loaves are filled with things that do nothing for their taste but everything for their shelf life.  Even I would go gluten free if I was forced to eat only bread that came plastic wrapped from the supermarket.   

Homemade bread on the other hand, warm from the oven, is an incredibly beautiful thing. Homemade naan is even more beautiful with its charred outside and tender flaky inside.  I like naan for a number of reasons - it's excellent vehicle for wiping your plate clean (Clean Plate Club woo!) and it's incredibly adaptable.  Sure it's an awesome accouterments to saag paneer but it also makes for one incredibly flatbread base (with ground lamb, a dollop of yogurt and a shmear of harissa).  Bread that tastes good and is adaptable to any number of food situations is a good thing to have in your repertoire (especially because grilling season is upon us and grilled naan is insane).   

Naan Bread
Recipe via the NYTimes

1 envelope (2 ½ teaspoons) dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
4 ½ to 5 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting and rolling
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons milk (or buttermilk)
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, more for the bowl
3 tablespoons ghee (Indian-style clarified butter) or melted unsalted butter

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees). Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

Place 4 1/2 cups flour, the salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough blade or in mixer with a dough hook. Mix to blend. Add yeast mixture, milk, yogurt, egg, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 3/4 cup warm water. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, 2 to 3 minutes in a processor, 5 to 8 minutes in a mixer, 8 to 10 minutes by hand. Dough should be soft but not too sticky. Add flour as needed.

Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll them into balls, place them on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes.

If using a tandoor, heat it to about 450 degrees. If using the oven, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack and heat oven to 450 degrees. If using a barbecue grill, set it up for direct grilling and heat to medium-high.

Roll out a dough ball on a lightly floured work surface into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. Roll and stretch one end to make a teardrop shape. Brush off any excess flour. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using a tandoor, drape one piece of dough over the round cloth pillow called a gadhi. Press the bread onto the hot clay wall. Cook the naan until the top is puffed, blistered and browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a skewer, gently pry the bread off the tandoor wall, taking care not to scratch the clay. Brush the top of the bread with ghee or melted butter, then place in a cloth-lined basket for serving. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using an oven, turn on the broiler. Lay 1 or 2 pieces of dough on the pizza stone. Cook until the bottoms are browned and the tops blister, puff and are lightly toasted, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven, brush tops with ghee or melted butter, and place in a cloth-lined basket for serving. Repeat with remaining dough.

If using the grill, brush and oil the grate. Lightly brush top of dough with butter and place butter-side down on grate a few at a time (do not crowd the grate). Grill until the bottoms are browned and the tops start to puff and blister, 1 to 2 minutes. Lightly brush the tops with a little butter. Invert bread, and grill the other side until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a cloth-lined basket, brushing tops of each with any remaining butter.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

latest obsessions.

The latest obsessions.  

Pretty much anything and everything on HBO including -
          -Going Clear the documentary about Scientology is an incredibly fascinating look at a cult that disguises              itself as a religion.                            
          -John Oliver "Last Week Tonight" which is genius in the way it presents news.
          -Silicon Valley for a hilarious look at the tech industry.

Soludos espadrilles.  I am obsessed.  They are beyond comfy, utterly chic, and positively timeless. I just bought these but I am pretty sure this is just the beginning of my collection.

The quinoa bread from Arcade Bakery.  Actually pretty much anything from Arcade Bakery.  I swear I haven't shut up about this place since it opened, but I can't help it, it's that good.  And if they have chocolate almond croissants GET ONE.  See above picture if you need extra encouragement.  

This side table which makes me want to reconfigure our living room solely so I can own it.

I just finished All the Light We Cannot See and it is (thus far) the best book I've read this year.  There is a reason it won the Pulitzer. Don't let the subject discourage you (I will be the first to admit I usually shy away from WWII novels) - it is incredible.  Go and devour it this weekend.  

Gold hoops.  I've been looking to upgrade by 6 year old Forever 21 ones for about 6 years now.  I think these may be it.  Perhaps a birthday present to myself?  

AMPLE HILLS ICE CREAM.  The butter cake one is insane.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

saag paneer.

As I near the last days of my twenties, I've begun to realize that I've grown old.  9 years ago when I was a 21 year old baby, I was a hell of a lot more spontaneous.  I drank beers on Wednesday nights just because the weather was nice.  I lived a little (or maybe a lot).  But now - I've become diligent.   I make sure I get my required 10,000 steps a day.  I eat my vegetables and drink my green juice and I run because it's good for me (my shopping habits on the other hand have not become quite as responsible) .

I worry I am starting to sound boring.
I worry I've become set in my ways.

While I don't see myself spending my Tuesdays evenings at the bar, I do plan on trying to push myself out of my comfort zone.  30 does not mean old.  Your thirties are supposed to be the best years of your life - you're a little more sure of yourself and still young enough to go out and try new things.  Changes will happen via baby-steps, but what better way to start then via my cooking?

While my love of ethnic foods knows no bounds, I usually shy away from making it at home because I am convinced someone else can always make it better.  But in an effort to challenge myself, I figured it was time to finally tackle something new i.e. Indian food.

Indian recipes are usually filled with so many spices that I become slightly nauseous at the idea of filling my cabinets with a plethora of things I will never use again - but it wasn't until I fell into the rabbit hole of saag paneer recipes that I discovered only a handful of spices were required.  This is why I found myself turning 1 1/2 pounds of spinach into one delicious dish.  Comforting, spicy, absurdly flavorful, and frighteningly easy.  A new staple has been discovered.  

Saag Paneer 
Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks

I don't know if what I made is traditional in the slightest but the bones of the traditional version lie here. And even if this isn't traditional, I don't care.  It's too good.

Serves 4 (as a main) to 6 (if serving with other things)

1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, well washed and dried (if you aren't using baby spinach, make sure you remove the thick stems)
2 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter, or unsalted butter
8 oz paneer cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt plus more to taste
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4]2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (depending on your heat level - I would start with 1/4, taste, and add more as necessary)
Pinch of cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper 
1 cup buttermilk
Generous splash of cream

Chop the spinach and set aside in a large bowl.

While you're chopping spinach, cook the paneer in one tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure the paneer is in a single layer and use a spatula to flip it regularly so all sides get deeply brown. This typically takes 7 minutes or so. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the other tablespoon of butter in your largest soup pot. Add the onions and salt, and sauté until the onions soften up, five minutes or so. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and nicely combined - a minute or two.  Add the tomato paste and a splash of water and stir everything together.  

Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the spinach to the pan all at once, if possible. Cook, stirring all the while, until the spinach is collapsed and wilted, a couple of minutes. If you need to add the spinach in batches (adding more spinach as it collapses), that is fine too, just do it as quickly as possible.

Stir in the buttermilk and cream and heat gently while stirring. If the mixture seems dry, add more buttermilk a splash at a time . Taste and add more salt and also some freshly ground black pepper if necessary.  Add more cayenne if you prefer it spicy.  

Spoon the spinach mixture into a Vitamix or a food processor.  Pulse the mixture until it forms a chunky paste (kind of like pesto).  Return the spinach to the pan and stir in the paneer and another splash of buttermilk or cream if it looks dry.  Serve immediately with naan or rice.   

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Tyler and I have been discussing our big trip of the year and I have visions of us road-tripping through the Southwest.  From Vegas to the Hoover Dam and then over to the Grand Canyon and finally into New Mexico.  I've never seen the Southwest but it seems like a magical place that glows with a yellow-tinted light.  I want to wear aviator sunglasses and worn in jeans and eat chiles and hike through red-rock mountains.  

If there was ever a kitchen that exuded everything I imagine the Southwest to represent it's this one. And it's utterly gorgeous (that brass pedant lamp is killing me).

Industrial brass lamp above dining table with flowers and orange art

Image via Pinterest.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

rhubarb buckle.

In this day in age, with the world at our fingertips courtesy of the internet, it is easy to forget to leverage things like books for information (such a novel (pun intended) concept).  Despite my incredible wall of cookbooks, I don't use them nearly as often as I should.  Not because I don't want to, but it is so much easier to just ask Google for the best rhubarb cake recipes rather than flipping through a dozen cookbooks.  

The problem with Google is that the top results are almost always the same handful of recipes just made by different people.  It's hard to unearth something that hasn't been tried by thousands.  It's hard to find a unique point of view and a recipe that offers something just slightly different then all the others. 

This is why we have cookbooks. 

Cookbooks allow chefs and people passionate about food to tell a story through recipes – it’s why I find them so invaluable – I love that they have a very specific point of view.   Sean Brock’s Heritage is one such book.  Sure some of the recipes are so insanely specific that I want to scream at the impracticality of them but together they tell the story of Southern cooking – or the kind of Southern cooking he wants the South to be known for.  I can appreciate his desire to tell that story.   And! For every insane thousand step recipe lies a seemingly easy one.   (I love that this cookbook is filled with such juxtapositions.)  This rhubarb buckle is one of the easy ones.  It’s one of the ones I imagine I will eventually memorize and come to rely on because it is dreamy.  It’s not over-the-top or stuffy instead it’s reliable, comforting, and I will go so far as to say perfect.  

Rhubarb Buckle
Recipe adapted from Heritage by Sean Brock 

I have quite the love affair with fruit filled streusel topped cakes and have made MANY such cakes in the past.  This may be one of my favorites yet.  The streusel is killer, the cake bakes up like a dream, and I imagine this could be made with any number of fruit varieties – apples could be phenomenal and blueberries equally addicting.   I couldn’t help tinkering just a bit by adding some ground ginger to the mix – my love affair with spices knows no bounds.  Feel free to change the spices depending on which fruit you use (but I strongly suggest you try making it with rhubarb at least once).     

Makes one 9-inch cake

For the Buckle

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups, ¼ inch thick slices rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour (though you can sub ½ cup for whole wheat and rye if you choose)
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup whole milk or buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (you can also do ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon almond extract as I did)
1 large egg

For the Streusel

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup rolled oats
½ cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

For the rhubarb: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray.  

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the rhubarb and cook, stirring frequently until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add ¼ cup of the sugar and stir to dissolve it.  Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the rhubarb to cool completely. 

Meanwhile, make the streusel: Using your hands or a fork, mix the butter, sugar, oats, nuts, flour, salt, and ginger in a medium bowl until clumps form.  Set aside.  

For the Buckle: Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and ginger in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Put the milk, vanilla (or vanilla and almond) extract, and egg in another small bowl and whisk to combine.  

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the remaining  8 tablespoons butter and ¾ cup sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.   Alternately add the flour mixture and milk, starting and ending with the flour.  Fold in the rhubarb.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  

Sprinkle the streusel over the top.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the buckle is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Serve the buckle warm with ice cream.  

The buckle is best the day it’s made, but it will keep, covered, for up to 3 days at room temperature.  Reheat in a 325 degree oven for 7-10 minutes.  

Monday, May 4, 2015

asparagus with miso butter.

This past weekend was one of those weekends where it felt as if New York had finally awoken from the deep slumber that was known as the epic-ly cold and awful winter of 2015.  Our neighborhood farmers market returned! Windows were opended! Rhubarb was procured!  And the first asparagus of 2015 were purchased and eaten with such abandon that you would have thought I had never eaten them before.   

Asparagus are a beautiful thing and while my preferred way of eating them will always and forever be shredded atop a white pizza - my close second preference involves roasting them until impossibly crisp with a sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper.  I am capable of consuming almost an entire pound like that in under 5 minutes.  

But for the first of the season, I felt it was only necessary that I step-up my game.  And so these asparagus were not simply roasted, they were also coated in miso-butter which may be the greatest condiment that has ever existed.   Miso-butter makes everything it touches impossibly addicting, so it's safe to say these asparagus were gone quickly.  Thankfully asparagus season has only just begun.

Asparagus with Miso Butter
Recipe adapted from NYTimes

The original recipe suggests cooking these in a pan over high heat rather then roasting them.  I am going to try that method next, but I always find roasting easier - it is so hand's off!  I am including both sets of instructions here.  Also - your miso butter will look a little "smoother" then mine does in the picture - I waited a little long to toss them with the asparagus.  Still utterly delicious.   

Oh and if you want to make this a meal?  Put an egg on it.   

Serves 2 as a main for 4 as a starter 

3 tablespoons oil or rendered pork or bacon fat
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and peeled if necessary
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons not-too-salty miso, preferably white (if you use yellow take this down to 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Mike’s Hot Honey
2 poached (or warm-bath-cooked) eggs (if you choose) 

If roasting the asparagus: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the asparagus on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with pepper (and a very very small amount of salt since the miso is salty).  Roast for about 20 minutes or until the asparagus are shriveled and blackened in spots. 

If cooking the asparagus via stove-top: Put oil or fat in skillet and turn heat to medium-high. Add as much asparagus as will fit in a layer, add salt (small amount of salt!) and pepper to taste, and toss and stir until browned and shriveled, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, over low heat in a small saucepan, warm and whisk together miso and butter, so they combine, and butter softens but does not melt. Whisk in vinegar and keep warm. Warm a serving plate.

When asparagus is done, put some miso butter on bottom of serving plate. Blot excess fat from asparagus if you like, put on top of the miso butter (or you can be lazy like me and just pour the miso butter over the asparagus), and top with poached eggs (if you choose). Serve immediately.