Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Super Fans

OK peeps. I now have a bunch of buttermilk lurking in my fridge. That raspberry cake didn't use enough of the carton. It should really be sold in smaller sizes like heavy cream.

I also still have a packet of rapid rise yeast hanging around. Yes, I could throw it away and feel no guilt. It's not like it's a meal. But since I am trying to educate myself, I decided to find a recipe that uses both buttermilk AND yeast. It's like the next step in bread making. The pull-aparts were first grade and this new recipe is like 7th grade. I'm in junior high, yo! So that apparently means I'll be using a bunch of annoying phrases...Know what I mean?

It's still not a complicated recipe but it does take quite a bit more time, extra concentration, and a few more steps, so you'll need to have a bit of spare time on your hands. Fortunately for you, I have documented the exact steps in the event that you actually try to make the rolls and need a point of reference. Just do it!

Buttermilk Fantails
(From Gourmet)

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
1/4 cup warm water (105–115°F)
1 tablespoon mild honey or sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

1. Butter the muffin cups with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.

2. Stir together the yeast, warm water, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

3. Mix the flour, salt, buttermilk, and 6 tablespoons melted butter into the yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting the surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, until the dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.

4. Put the dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a draft- free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (see photo below).

5. Punch down the dough (do not knead - see photo below), then halve. Roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch square (about 1/8 inch thick; keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap). Brush the dough with 1/2 tablespoon butter and cut into 6 equal strips (see photo below). Stack the strips, buttered sides up, and cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces (see photo below). Turn each piece on a side and put into a muffin cup (see photo below). Make more rolls with the remaining dough in the same manner. Separate the outer layers of each roll to fan outward. Cover the rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and the dough fills the cups, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

6. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle. Bake the rolls until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Brush the tops with remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then transfer the rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes.

Note: The rolls are best the day they're made but can be frozen (cool completely, then wrap well) 1 month. Thaw, then reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cake for Breakfast?

My short term memory continues to fail me. I bought a container of buttermilk and have no idea why. Pancakes? Biscuits? I dunno. But since I am on this baking kick, I did a little research to figure out what to do with it. I found a simple 2-bowl recipe for a cake that is delicate yet satisfying. I think it could be equally delicious with a cup of tea for breakfast or with some fresh whipped cream for dessert. I know that I made it for some reason...

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake
(adapted from Gourmet)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries (about 5 ounces)

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in the vanilla. Add the egg and beat well.

4. At low speed, mix in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, and mixing until just combined.

5. Spoon the batter into the cake pan, smoothing the top. Scatter the raspberries evenly over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

6. Bake until the cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate to serve. Serves 6 - 8.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Just Pull!

I am officially on vacation (!) so I was thinking about having this be the "week of breakfasts." You know, I could sleep in, make decadent breakfasts, and then post the photos and recipes. But since I do have (alot of) spare time, I've decided to work on my baking skills. I still have a couple of packets of yeast leftover from those "simple, everyday" waffles, so I figured I might as well use them up and practice making doughs.

I found a straightforward recipe for pull-apart rolls and figured it was a good place to start. There are no rolling pins involved, no tricky shaping, and no overnight rising. You do have to allow them to rise twice, so take that into account in your planning, but you could actually make them in time for dinner...on a Saturday. The key is having a stand mixer. I don't think I'd try it without one.

I have to be honest. I never bake with yeast because of a disaster I once had. I think the yeast packet must have been expired because my dough didn't rise properly and the baked end product was tough. It went straight into the trash and I never tried it again. Until now. I'm newly inspired and think I can actually do this! Again! These rolls are freakin' good, especially straight from the oven. (Right, Chad?) They would be great for Thanksgiving (I'm thinking about reprising them - maybe with a little chopped fresh rosemary topped with flaked salt) or for your next dinner party. Everyone will be so impressed!

Parmesan Pull-Apart Rolls
(Adapted from Gourmet)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-ounce package)
1 teaspoon mild honey or sugar
2/3 cup warm milk (105–115°F), divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoon for sprinkling
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan (1 1/3 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 tablespoon water

1. Stir together the yeast, honey, and 1/3 cup warm milk in mixer bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) Whisk together flour (2 1/2 cups), cheese, and salt, then mix into yeast mixture along with remaining 1/3 cup warm milk at low speed. Increase speed to medium and beat in 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, until a very soft dough forms, about 3 minutes. Beat in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is elastic, about 2 minutes. (Dough will be very sticky.)

2. Scrape dough into the center of the bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

3. Punch down the dough (do not knead) and turn out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Arrange the rolls about 1-inch apart in a buttered 9- by 2-inch round cake pan and cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth). Let the dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and dough fills pan, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle. Whisk together the remaining egg with water and brush on tops of rolls. (You will have leftover egg wash.) Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Loosen the edges of the rolls from the pan with a sharp knife and invert the rolls onto a rack (or not - I just let them cool in the pan), then reinvert and cool at least 20 minutes. Makes 12 rolls.

Note: Rolls are best the day they're made but can be frozen (cool completely, then wrap well) 1 month. Thaw, then reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes. Refresh day-old rolls the same way..

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coffee Crumble

We didn't always have dessert after dinner when I was growing up, but occasionally my mom would whip up some apple crisp or a quick cinnamon coffee cake. The cake was a kind of inverted coffee cake in that the sugary-cinnamony yumminess was on the bottom of the cake rather than on the top. Most of the time I would eat that part and throw the rest of my piece away (like the people who throw out their pizza crust).

I still prefer the crumble topping to the cake part of any coffee cake, so I tried to make up a recipe with an ample amount of crumble topping. I'm beginning to think that I should have doubled my crumble topping. Seriously! I think I was way too conservative when this recipe was originally published in The Ski House Cookbook. I thought I was really making SO MUCH topping. I mean, I think the ratio is still good in general, but it could be great. I find myself cutting a piece in half horizontally and then throwing away the bottom half of the piece, just so that I have MORE crumble topping than actual cake. Is that so wrong? Well, see for yourself.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter an 8 x 8 inch pan and set aside.

2. To prepare the topping: In a small bowl stir together the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add the butter and, using a pastry blender or fork, mix the ingredients until crumbly.

3. To make the cake: In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the batter.

4. Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 9 servings.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lentil Love

I just realized something. I haven't paid a visit to my favorite Recipes for Health column in a while. Maybe because I haven't really been cooking in a while. Must be the recent discovery of the Yakitori place down the block from me or the box of chocolates from Norman Love that I recently received. Or both. Oh, I'm eating. Just not cooking.

One RFH recipe that I have made a few times is a simple lentil concoction that is as great as a side dish served warm as it is as a leftover cold salad, served alone or on greens sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. I love all beans but since dried lentils cook up so much faster than other beans and don't require soaking, that means more food in my belly fast! And they're good for you. Or so I've been told.

Warm Lentils With Goat Cheese

1 pound green or beluga lentils (about 2 1/4 cups), washed and picked over
1 medium onion, cut in half and peeled
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut in rounds
1/4 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cooking liquid from the lentils
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Place the lentils in a large saucepan or soup pot with the halved onion, the garlic cloves, and the bay leaf. Add enough water to cover by 1 1/2 inches. Bring to a simmer, add 1 teaspoon salt, cover and simmer 25 - 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender all the way through but intact. Set a strainer over a bowl and drain the lentils. Remove the onion halves, bay leaf, and garlic and discard. Return the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to 1/2 cup.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the vinegar, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and cooking liquid from the lentils. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with the lentils. Stir in the parsley, place in a baking dish and top with the rounds of goat cheese. Heat through for 15 minutes, until the goat cheese has softened, and serve. Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish salad or 8 as a side dish.

Advance preparation: The lentils can be made and tossed with the dressing up to 3 days ahead. Do not add the parsley until just before warming the salad.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Side of Football

I am LOVING the weather in NYC the past few days. Crisp 56˚mornings, followed by 72˚ afternoons, all under bright blue skies...you can't beat it with a stick! The perfect temperatures coupled with the amazing late summer light, instantly transport me back to the football Saturdays of my college days.

What can I say? I'm an enigma. I watch Big Ten football, The Rachel Zoe Project, True Blood, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta. I listen to Soundgarden, Pet Shop Boys, Tool, and Radiohead. I drink frozen hot chocolate. (Not really...but it works, right?) With all that to say...the crisp fall afternoons make me think of football, which makes me think of snacks. I get that most people are more likely to order in pizza and hot wings, but in the off chance you are trying to impress your friends (or need an idea for your next Cinco de Mayo party), try these empanadas. Granted, they may take a little bit of time to prepare, but you can always make them ahead of time and freeze them. And they are delicious. Especially with a Wrinkly Slut, with or without a side of football.

Potato, Pepper, and Chorizo Empanadas
(Adapted from Gourmet)

3/4 cup finely chopped Spanish chorizo (about 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 pound yellow-fleshed potato such as Yukon Gold (1 large)
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Empanada dough*
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Make the filling:
1. Cook the chorizo in the oil in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, 2 minutes, then transfer to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Add the onions to the saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and very soft, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper, bay leaf, salt, and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until the pepper is very soft, about 15 minutes.

3. Peel the potato and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, then stir into the onion mixture and cook over moderately low heat, covered, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are just barely tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

4. Add the potato mixture to the chorizo and stir to combine. Cool the filling to room temperature, discard the bay leaf, and then stir in the cheese.

Form and bake the empanadas:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Divide the dough (see recipe below) into 12 equal pieces and form each into a disk. Keeping the remaining pieces covered, roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).

2. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center and fold the dough in half, enclosing filling. Press the edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or the tines of a fork. Transfer the empanada to a baking sheet. Make 11 more empanadas in same manner, arranging on 2 baking sheets.

3. Lightly brush the empanadas with some of egg wash and bake, switching the position of the sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer the empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Empanada Dough*

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

1. Sift the flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

2. Beat together the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to the flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)

3. Turn out the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together. Form the dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Two things are lacking on this blog: bacon and chocolate. Yes, perhaps I gave you a tantalizing visual strip of salty pork luster yesterday, but I haven't really addressed it as a (beloved) ingredient in recipes. I have my reasons...which will be revealed in posts to come. But chocolate! No day is complete without at least a small piece of dark chocolate. If I am home and have time to do more than unwrap a chocolate bar, I will make brownies.

There is no need to ever use a boxed brownie mix. Ever. Seriously. You still have to add wet ingredients to dry, so how much harder is it to just open separate containers of flour/sugar/cocoa instead of a prepackaged box of it? I do have some friends who get nostalgic for the taste and texture of boxed brownies from their youth, and I get it. As much as I love a decadent truffle accented macaroni and cheese, I also love Lawry's Seasoned Salt sprinkled on my Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. (So what!) But they're not the same thing. Just try making real brownies. Once.

Photo by David Prince

My recipe is just a simple cocoa brownie recipe that has evolved over the years, from initially using Choco Bake when I would make them with my sister, Erin, back in the day (What up Suki?!?), to a more straightforward recipe using regular cocoa. Some people swear by using actual chocolate bars over cocoa, and I love those brownies too, because I think they are more densely chocolate (and I prefer fudgey over cakey brownies), but I am less apt to have enough chocolate on hand. I almost always have multiple containers of cocoa, however. (Let's face it. It's much more challenging to successfully snack on unsweetened cocoa when you get a chocolate craving.) Once you make the brownies once (or thrice), you will realize how quickly you can throw them together. And warm brownies straight from the oven? Enough said.

Cocoa Brownies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a small saucepan over low heat, gently melt the butter. Add the cocoa, stirring until thoroughly combined. Set aside to cool.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla, stirring until the mixture is well blended and pale yellow in color. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Add the flour and salt and stir just to combine.

3. Pour the batter into a non-stick 8-inch square baking pan and bake for 22 - 25 minutes. (A toothpick inserted into the center should have a few crumbs clinging to it, but not be completely covered in batter.) Makes sixteen 2-inch squares.

For a variation, stir in any of the following at the end of step two:
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 cup chocolate chunks
1 cup chopped toasted nuts (such as walnuts or pecans)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Just a little something to get you through hump day. You're welcome.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Magical Mussel Elixir

This post may be too little too late, but that's only if when you originally read about my steamed mussels, you rushed right out to make them. Since the majority (all!) of you probably did not make them in the last few days, you can safely file this post away for when you actually do make the mussels. The point is to not let the broth go to waste!

I think the mussel broth is the magical elixir that exists as the sole reason to eat an entire loaf of bread while sopping up its deliciousness. And, if like me you still have some broth left after your bread inhalation, save it! I knew it would eventually come in handy after I made those mussels. A day later when I was rummaging through my cupboards for something to eat, I came up with it's perfect use in a pasta dish. And I didn't have to purchase anything in addition to what I already had, though it might have been nice if I had checked my fridge before starting. Some heavy cream would have been a nice touch (but think of those calories I saved!).

Even though I didn't actually try making this pasta with the heavy cream, I am positive that it would be delish. So just throw caution to the wind and add some heavy cream! And don't worry about the Italian cheese-on-seafood-pasta police. I'm pretty sure that since there is no actual seafood protein in this particular pasta, they'll give you a free pass. At least that's my policy...

Pasta With Mussel Infused Tomato Sauce

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 cup mussel broth, including onions (left from steamed mussel recipe)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces capellini
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and drain the extra bacon fat from the skillet, leaving behind just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

2. Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and cook for one minute more. Add the mussel broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly. Stir in the heavy cream, if using, and cook for one minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the capellini until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the pan of sauce and toss thoroughly over low heat for about 1 minute, until some of the sauce has been absorbed by the pasta. Serve immediately with Parmesan. Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Waffling Around

I don't know about you, but I have multiple email accounts. One is for actual email correspondence. Another is for junk mail and internet shopping. Yet another is for newsletters and updates. (Plus a few more...) I subscribe to a few different recipe/food newsletters, one of which is "The Dish" from Food & Wine. Typically the content is repurposed from the most recent issue, but it might also consist of party ideas, seasonal cooking topics, or holiday meal planning.

One of the most recent emails was titled, "New Ideas for Back to School Basics: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner." Makes sense. It's September after all. But once I looked at the recipes I realized that Food & Wine is on another planet when it comes to back to school basics. One of their back to school breakfast recipes was Classic Belgian Waffles with Belgian Chocolate Fudge Sauce. Umm...who exactly is making waffles for breakfast before school? That don't go straight from freezer to toaster? Back in the day I could barely get out of the house on time after making instant oatmeal. That couple of minutes waiting for the water to heat up in the tea kettle was tenuous. (That's where Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch saved the day.)

I HAD to try the F&W waffle recipe just to see for myself if it was possible to make efficiently. I love waffles but it's something I'll see on brunch menus and never order because they seem too decadent, and typically I'll need a nap after. (Apparently not too much for a weekday breakfast I guess!) I strangely do have a waffle maker, though I don't think I've used it in about 5 years.

Here's what I discovered. The waffle recipe is delicious. But I also spent the better part of the morning on it. In between making the batter and waiting for it to activate (like a mini-proof), I managed to also fold laundry, pay bills, watch tennis, and make coffee. So sure, you could make it on a weekday morning if you also need some extra time to finish homework, change sheets, and flat iron your hair. But I would suggest that you wait until you have a leisurely Saturday morning filled with cartoons and mimosas to indulge in this waffle recipe. Unless Alice lives with you. Then make her do it. Every day.


Classic Belgian Waffles
(by Thomas DeGeest for Food & Wine)

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pure maple syrup
Confectioners’ sugar

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. In a large bowl, stir the flour with the salt. Whisk in the yeast mixture, milk, butter, egg yolks and vanilla until smooth.
2. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them into the batter and let stand for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 225°F. Heat and grease a waffle iron. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the batter into the iron and cook until the waffles are golden, 6 minutes. Transfer the waffles to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter. Drizzle the waffles with maple syrup and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, and serve. Makes 4 - 6 waffles.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mussel Milk

So last night I had the distinct pleasure (!) of accompanying my good friend Nora to Kleinfeld's to help her select a non-wedding wedding gown. Our good friend Wess also came along to offer some actual bridal experience. What? Was that a groan? Let me tell you why I was so excited. Some of you may know of my TV obsession, and as such, I have seen my fair share of reality shows, some of which happen to be wedding related. Well, on reality TV there is high drama, people! Brides are crying, mothers are screaming, bridesmaids are fighting...but I saw none of that! Not a single tear or snarky remark. It was sooo disappointing! (From other shoppers, not my cool friends. Obvs!) Is reality TV not actually real? Hmmm.

I guess our first mistake (in fulfilling my fantasy) was arriving late on a Monday night. Our gown consultant let it slip that Saturday afternoons are primetime for (any) high drama. Alas, I had to be contented with my levelheaded friends and their unique sense of humor. Fabulously, Nora scored a sample dress at an amazing price, so we went to celebrate with some mussels at Markt. (For some reason I had mussels on the brain and Markt was a fortunate block away.) We got a table right away with and extra seat for the dress. The host was very accommodating.

Since I still can't seem to get mussels off my mind, I decided to make my own tonight. It is so easy. It's just a matter of coming up with your favorite concoction. Curry? Garlic cream? Hoegaarden? I generally prefer the classic white wine version, so went with that. It's also an excellent base to start with and can be tweaked a hundred different ways. The only problem is that I don't own a Fry Daddy. Remember those? Mussels without fries is a shame. But just make sure that you at least have some good crusty bread on hand to use to sop up the broth, and you might not miss them. Repeat: Might not. Oh, and buy a good dry white wine so that you have wine to cook with and wine to drink. (I suggest a Sauvignon Blanc. I didn't even notice that the wine I bought was called "Frenzy" until I brought it home because I was just looking for the grape variety and the price. But it turned out to be apropos since I was racing against the sunset.)

White Wine Steamed Mussels

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, thinly sliced (or 2 medium shallots)
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds mussels, washed and scrubbed, beards removed (discard any open or broken shells)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Rustic crusty bread

1. Place a large pot over medium heat. Add the oil, garlic, and onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the mussels, cover, and cook for 6 - 8 minutes, until the mussels have opened. (Discard any unopened mussels.)

2. Remove the mussels to a serving bowl, leaving the broth in the pot. Add the butter to the broth and stir over low heat to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the broth over the mussels, allowing any sediment to remain in the bottom of the pot. Serve with crusty bread if desired. Serves two.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009



The reality of my day. Between watching tennis and going to see Extract, this was the highlight.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Giant Killers

Happy Labor Day (what's left of it)! I hope you enjoyed a weekend of grillin' and chillin'. It was gorgeous in NYC! Although I didn't make it to a beach or a grill fest, I did have a nice long weekend, including a wedding extravaganza (congrats Liane and Larry!) which left me a little less than energized today. My solution? I spent a few hours couch-side (not court side) watching tennis (yes, the little voices in my head were screaming at me to just go outside already!).

Watching other people exercise almost makes me feel like I did too, but I don't have to get all sweaty and stuff. I love the US Open, and even when I don't have tickets to go, Dick Enberg, Mary Carillo, and John McEnroe provide more than enough entertainment with their color commentary. I almost forget that I'm sitting inside on a beautifully sunny day. Take today for instance. I watched the Oudin/Petrova match and they were loving the "scrappy 17-year old" phenom. Johnny Mac usually comes through with all of the obtuse remarks, but today, Dick Enberg was on fuego!

About Oudin:
"That's the kind of kid you wished lived next door."
"If you were playing tackle football, you'd want Oudin on your team."
 About Petrova:
"She just went into a clubhouse meeting with herself."

But my favorite exchange was between Enberg and Carillo (for some reason John stayed out of it). In repeatedly talking about how many formidable opponents Oudin had encountered and defeated on her way to the quarterfinals, they called her a "Giant Killer" and "Russian Slayer" (referring to the stature of the other girls -- Sharapova is 6'2", Oudin 5'6" -- and obviously their nationality). Um...ok. Then it got even more strange. At a turning point in the match, Enberg said, "The tall Russians have been the menu for Oudin, and she's gobbled them all up so far." To which Mary replied, "Is she full yet?" (What?!?) I guess we won't know until after the quarters, but in the meantime, Oudin can carbo-load with my fresh tomato laden pasta while the late summer tomatoes are still available.

Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce 
(Adapted from Gourmet)

3 medium tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 - 6 ounces capellini
Fresh basil leaves

1. Core two of the tomatoes and roughly chop. Cut the remaining tomato in half crosswise and grate the cut side against the large holes of a box grater over a large bowl. Discard the skin. Toss the tomato pulp with the chopped tomato, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

2. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes, until al dente but not soft. (It's ok to slightly undercook the pasta.) Drain thoroughly and return to the pot along with the tomato mixture and toss to coat. Briefly cook over medium heat, for about 1 minute, just until some of the excess tomato juice has been absorbed. Garnish with torn basil leaves if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 2 appetizer portions or one giant-killer sized entree.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Big Reveal

I've been meaning to reveal my mystery beverage all summer (well, since I posted about it a month ago), but I couldn't come up with anything clever to call it. And now that summer is almost (un)officially over, the time is now (with or without a witty name)!

I thought at first that I should name it after the fabulous blogger who first introduced me to the inspirational beverage at Emporio. (You can read about it here.) I considered The QueenB, as WendyB, amazing jewelry designer and blogger extraordinaire, often designs with historical queens in mind (here's one of my favorite WendyB pieces), but she actually thought I should name it after myself...along the lines of The Tinagria. Wait. Did I just give it away? Yes...drumroll please...it's sangria! A white version with peaches and nectarines!

Ooooo...Ahhhhh...Was that thud someone fainting with shock and surprise? Oh, nevermind. It's just my annoying upstairs neighbor.

Below is my interpretation of the white sangria at Emporio. I actually have no idea what they put in their sangria, but this is a pretty good version if I do say so myself. I definitely recommend making it the day before you plan to drink it. The flavor is much more pronounced the longer you can allow the fruit to macerate in the wine. However, if you can't wait, or if your fruit is just shy of ripe and not particularly juicy, just add a touch more peach nectar to the mixture. There are only a few more days (weeks?) of fresh peaches, so get cracking! And if you have any clever suggestions for the official drink name, please don't hesitate to let me know!

The QueenB Peachy Picnic Punch Tinagria

1 (750-ml) bottle dry white wine (something that you are happy to drink without added fruit)
1/3 cup Triple Sec (or Cointreau)
1/4 - 1/2 cup Peach nectar
2 fresh ripe peaches, pitted and chopped
2 fresh rip nectarines, pitted and chopped

1. Add the wine, Triple Sec, 1/4 cup peach nectar, and the chopped fruit to a large pitcher and stir. Chill, covered, for up to 24 hours. Taste and add more peach nectar if desired. Serve over ice.

*Note: For a lighter, spritzier sangria, top with club soda and stir.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Wedge

No. Not the wedgie. The Wedge. Like, The Gap. Except iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing and bacon, not khakis. A nutritional zero but a low carb devotee's dream. What a great salad!

No need to wait until the next trip to the local steakhouse for your next wedge of goodness. Just please make your own blue cheese dressing. It only takes a few minutes and will make a huge difference. That, and cooking plenty of extra bacon to snack on before sacrificing it to your salad.

The Wedge With Bacon aka The Snowplow Salad
(from The Ski House Cookbook)

For the dressing:
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons white or red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
1 head of Iceberg lettuce, outer leaves and core removed
4 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a medium bowl whisk the sour cream, mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of the milk, vinegar, and garlic powder to thoroughly combine. Stir in the blue cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. (If you prefer a thinner dressing, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of milk and stir.) Set aside.

2. Slice the lettuce head into quarters. Serve the wedges cold with the blue cheese dressing, crumbled bacon, and freshly ground black pepper. Makes about 2 cups dressing and 4 appetizer wedge salads.

*Note: The dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.