Wednesday, August 24, 2016

basil vinaigrette.

Despite the fact that we are undergoing a major home renovation that is making my life incredibly stressful, I can't stop myself from cooking.  Or, as has been the case in the last couple of weeks, "assembling" food so it resembles a meal and can be labeled "Dinner".  I've gotten really good at throwing odd bits of things plus whatever is fresh at the farmers market (Tomatoes!  Corn!) onto a plate and describing it as a composed salad.  So far no one is complaining.   

The key to this whole thrown it together meal thing is adding something special to the dish. Sometimes it's fancy cheese (I'm looking at you burrata) but lately its been this basil vinaigrette.  It's the easiest thing in the world and it is so good.  Seriously, we've been putting it on anything and everything including but not limited to - heirloom tomato and feta salads, tri-tip steak, roasted red peppers, roasted eggplant, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  It just always works and I'm thankful for that.   

Basil Vinaigrette 
Recipe from David Lebovitz 

1/2 cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 small shallot (25g) peeled and sliced or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
2 cups loosely packed (25g) fresh basil leaves

Put the olive oil, vinegar, water, shallot, mustard, and salt in a blender. Coarsely chop the basil leaves and immediately put them in the blender.

Cover the blender and mix on high-speed for 15 to 30 seconds until the vinaigrette is smooth. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a little more water or olive oil to thin it out.

Serving and storage: The basil vinaigrette can be used right away or will keep for a week in the refrigerator. It’s best served at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

andalusian gazpacho.

It's f-ing hot.   Not just hot but humid, muggy, and all around awful.  I just want to sit in a pool with an icy cocktail and a good book.    

In this weather, food just isn't appealing which is why I've found myself consuming gazpacho with abandon. Gazpacho is one of those things you either love or hate.  I personally love it.  It's refreshing yet satisfying, the way watermelon and ice cream is when the temperature are nearing 100 degrees.   

This particular gazpacho recipe is my go-to and has been for the last couple of years (it's a good way to use up any tomatoes that are nearing the end of their life).  The addition of smoked paprika, sherry vinegar, and olive oil results in an incredibly flavorful and well-rounded soup that I can't get enough of.   It makes for a perfect summer starter but I have no problem consuming a bowl of it as my meal.  

Andalusian Gazpacho
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats 

The original recipe is a little finiky since it has you freeze the vegetables so thee soup, after being blended, is already chilled and ready to eat.  I omit those steps and just place the soup in the fridge for an hour to chill it (a lazy person's approach and I'm ok with that).   I omit the onion because I loathe the flavor of raw red onion - if you aren't opposed to it, feel free to add it in.  Also I added in a little smoked Spanish paprika because I love that flavor with sherry vinegar and tomatoes.  

3 pounds (about 4 large) very ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1/2 pound (about 1 small) cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1/3 pound (about 1 small) small red onion, peeled and cut into rough 1-inch chunks (optional)
1/3 pound (about 1 medium) green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
4 ounces (about 2 slices) white sandwich, French, or Italian bread, crusts removed, torn into rough 1-inch pieces (see note)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (spicy or sweet)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons finely minced chives
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion (if using), pepper, garlic, salt, and bread in a large bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Let sit at room temperature for 30 - 45 minutes.

Working in two batches as necessary, blend vegetables, juices, and bread at high speed, slowly drizzling olive oil and sherry vinegar into blender as it blends. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and add the smoked paprika. Place the soup in the fridge until cool.  Serve, drizzling each bowl with olive oil, a few sprinkles of sherry vinegar, extra cracked black pepper, and chives. Gazpacho can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

excellent white bread (no seriously).

Tyler and I have been eating a boat load of BLT's the past couple of weeks.  One perk (and we are looking for perks pretty much everywhere) of doing a home renovation during mid-Summer is that produce is at it's peak and peak-level produce doesn't require much work.   Thus why we've been consuming BLT's with abandon - the main ingredient is tomatoes and tomatoes my friend are at their height of deliciousness right now.  

But good tomatoes are only as good as the bread and bacon they are paired with which is why I've been searching endlessly for the best white bread recipe.  This one had been a top contender for a while but the problem I have with it is that I don't always have buttermilk on hand.  I wanted a recipe that could be thrown together quickly using pantry staples.  Which is why this is the one.  It's simple, lacks pretentiousness and bakes up like a dream.  It's the bread that toasts up brilliantly and pairs exceptionally well with juicy heirloom tomatoes.  It's the bread I'll be baking weekly until tomato season is over.         

Excellent White Bread
Recipe adapted (slightly) from the NYTimes 

2 ¼ teaspoons/7 grams active dry yeast (1 package)
1 ½ cups/355 milliliters lukewarm milk
1/4 cup/50grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon/15 grams kosher salt
3 tablespoons/43 grams butter, melted, more for greasing bowl and pans and for brushing the tops of the loaves
2 eggs
5 to 6 cups/625 grams to 750 grams all-purpose flour

In a large electric mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm milk. Add the remaining warm milk, the sugar, the salt, the butter and the eggs. Add 5 cups flour and mix with paddle attachment until smooth, about 2 minutes. Switch to hook attachment and knead on low speed, adding more flour if necessary until dough is stiff and slightly tacky, about 10 minutes.

Grease a large bowl with butter and turn dough out into the bowl. Flip over dough so greased side is up, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Generously butter two 9-x-5 loaf pans.

When dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto floured surface and knead for 3 minutes. Return to greased bowl, cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Press down dough with your hand to expel the air. Divide dough in half and place each half into a loaf pan. Brush tops of loaves with remaining melted butter.

Cover and let rise until dough is just above the tops of pans, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake bread for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped, the tops are brown and the internal temperatures are 200 degrees. Remove loaves from pans and let cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

c+t buy an apartment - part 1 - demo.


We bought an apartment.  

We also bought a dining room table immediately after buying the apartment because I found the one I've wanted forever for a steal on Craigslist.  So we closed, we rented a U-Haul and we bought a table.  

It's been a big couple of weeks.  

Other big things that have happened?  We've ripped out the wood floors and smashed the kitchen tile into a million pieces.  I ripped the sheetrock off one of the walls in the kitchen to expose the brick and researched a lot of different ways to paint the brick wall (white wash!  lime!).  We picked out kitchen counters! We also hired a big truck to take away all of the demo stuff which was essentially a free crossfit workout.   

To say this has been a learning experience would be a bit of an understatement.   I feel like I've deep-dived into a world where everything is a new and there are so many things to keep track of.   My head is constantly spinning, my lists grow longer by the day, the options are endless. 

But now that demo is done, we can focus on putting everything back together.  This whole thing feels a little like Humpty-Dumpty and it has me questioning our sanity.  But, I keep visualizing the finished product (and chanting “Kitchen of my Dreams, Kitchen of my Dreams”) and that helps a lot.  

I think the hardest part for both Tyler and I is that it feels as if this will never end and that there isn't a break at all.  The past two-weeks have been go-go-go - it's all we talk about, it's all we think about, we allocate almost all our free time to working on it.  I know at some point things will slow down and that this is temporary, but it's hard because it essentially feels like a second job.  But for all the work, there are moments of fun and there are moments when I realize we are building a home that is us.  And that's a pretty exciting thing.