Monday, May 31, 2010

So Cosmopolitan

I might not have seen Sex and The City 2 had it not been for one very special guest star: Wendy Brandes Cleopatra earrings! (Kim Cattrall is really just the vessel.)

Kim looking hawt (not hot) in the middle of the desert thanks to THE earrings!

Cleopatra in gold and diamonds

I thought the first SATC movie I had zero expectations for the follow up and planned to skip it all together until it was revealed that Wendy's Cleopatra earrings had made it big! Wendy immediately organized a viewing/wearing party on opening night, so a group of us descended upon the Ziegfeld (also a minor character in the movie) actually wearing(!) the Cleopatra earrings to see their debut in person. (You can read Wendy's fabulously detailed blog post here.) We all cheered when we saw them on screen, so proud of our friend!

The Cleopatra Crew

Cleopatra in silver

Although we stopped for drinks before AND after the movie, I still had a yearning for a good old fashioned Cosmopolitan (and by old fashioned I mean circa 1998). Although the drink has been around since the 70s (or 80s depending on who claims to have invented it) it became super trendy once Carrie and the girls started ordering it on the show. Of course then every bar had to start serving them up to be on trend with the ladies. The problem was, no one really knew how to make one properly. That red colored, Hawaiian Punch looking concoction you've seen in most places? Wrong! It shouldn't be red, but blush colored. You're not ordering a vodka cranberry-no ice, you're ordering a properly made cocktail like a Sidecar or a Margarita.

The only place I ever went where they served a properly made Cosmopolitan (other than my own kitchen) was Il Bagatto. You wouldn't necessarily think of going to an Italian restaurant for the best Cosmo in town, but the best bartender in town, Marco, made it perfectly and I spent nearly seven years going there to enjoy it (and the grilled calamari). Sadly, Marco moved back to Rome and Cosmos went out of style.

Some people have complained that SATC2 was desperate, too camp, and there just wasn't enough CITY. Perhaps. But I thought camp was really the only way to go at this point and the movie opened and closed in NYC so I was satisfied, the girls just went on vacation in between. If you're looking for high art or potential Oscar contention, go to the MoMA or see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. No one is making you see this movie (except that Wendy's earrings ARE exceptional at 2 stories high!!!). Just like I wouldn't be caught dead ordering a Cosmo now (because I have a cocktail rep to protect obvs!) and the SATC franchise may be over, you can still enjoy both. In or out of style.

Carrie's Cosmopolitan

2 ounces vodka (preferably citron flavored)
1 ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 ounce fresh lemon (or lime) juice
Cranberry juice cocktail

1. Pour the vodka, Cointreau, and lemon juice into a martini shaker filled with ice cubes. Add a very small splash of cranberry juice just to color the drink. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon peel. Makes 1 drink.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More Cheese and Bacon Please

Although I might have a soft spot for the blue box in certain situations, real homemade mac and cheese is like ordering the top shelf drink instead of the well option. Even though there may be a time and place for the cheaper alternative, the top shelf choice is just that much better.

My mac and cheese is not really anything special or unpredictable, but I think it's a hit among friends simply because they will never actually bother to make it themselves. (Am I right people?) I don't always add bacon but because I had ripped open a package this past weekend, it seemed an appropriate addition. I've also discovered that it's better to stud the top of the mac and cheese with the bacon pieces so that they stay crispy, otherwise when stirred into the sauce and pasta they can get soggy, but it's totally your choice. Some peeps like bacon crispy (like me!) and others like it a bit...limp. Again. Your choice.

Below please find my miniature version of the full scale macaroni and cheese recipe originally found in The Ski House Cookbook. :) You don't have to make it for a can actually eat the whole thing yourself. If you want. And it's not bathing suit season. I'm just saying...

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about
4 ounces)
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about
2 ounces)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if desired
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces dried pasta (such as penne or cavatappi)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 slices cooked bacon, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and
bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly until smooth and no lumps remain. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 3 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

3. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and add the cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, stirring until melted. Add the mustard, cayenne (if using), and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook until al dente, according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce and stir until combined. Spread the cheese and pasta mixture in a 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese and chopped bacon evenly over the pasta mixture and bake for 20-30 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Makes 2 servings.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

I wasn't kidding about having bacon and brownies this past weekend. The sugary snack kept me going while the salty meat got me going. One of my guilty pleasures is the breakfast burrito from Guy & Gallard which I only order occasionally while working at a location that happens to be in the right delivery area. There is just something about their tightly wrapped little burrito filled with bacon, eggs, and cheese that just works! I haven't even been able to replicate it at home, though I tried this weekend and got close. I think the real key, I'm afraid to say, is their use of...(gasp) American Cheese! This is the only occasion that I can think of where it might actually be a preferable cheese choice because of its sodium content coupled with crazy melt-ability. I personally refuse to purchase it so opted for a sharp cheddar instead. It was delicious, but just not the same. Perhaps a little too upscale? If you want to attempt your own homemade breakfast burrito chock full of your diner favorites, just don't over fill or it will be difficult to roll up and the tortilla will tear. Be sure to then wrap the burrito in aluminum foil and throw into a 350˚F oven for 5 - 10 minutes to heat through. Just try to be satisfied by a plain bowl of cereal again.

P.S. With all of my recent preoccupation, I missed the one year anniversary of this blog which occurred last week. I am astonished to think that I got it to last longer than one day let alone an entire year. I realize that I am a baby in the blog world but hey, YAY ME!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And Now...

...back to our regularly scheduled program. My blog. The wine test is over so I will no longer have to talk about/complain about/stress about/obsess Even though I won't know the results for, like, a year (it will probably be closer to 3 months) I am ready to move on. So, instead of blathering on about random tests, I will focus on how much I need to slim down before my trip to...ITALY! No more weekends of brownies and bacon for me. (Hey! I was studying and needed energy!)

But before I get all healthy on you, here's a bread recipe that I made while taking a study break. It's not much of a time suck because most of the time spent on it is completely inactive (just start it the day before you actually want to eat it). It spends the first rise chillin' in the fridge overnight, then two more hours rising at room temp. There's really not that much to you'll have two loaves when you're through. (No more rhyming now, I mean it! Anybody want a peanut?) So throw some dough together, bake it up, and impress your friends. When you find that you still have a loaf leftover a few days later (freeze it!) you can always turn it into french toast...or bread pudding...or a door stop.

Cranberry, Pecan, and Walnut Bread
(Adapted from Bon Appétit)

2 cups warm water (105-115˚F)
3 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
5 1/2 cups bread flour
2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup chopped pecans & walnuts (or either or neither)

1. Stir the water and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand for 10 minutes, until the yeast dissolves. With the paddle attachment, mix in the oil, sugar, and salt. Add the flour and mix on low until the dough is just starting to come together, then switch to the dough hook and knead for about 8 minutes on low, adding additional flour one tablespoon at a time if needed, until the dough is soft but not sticky.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, add the cranberries and nuts and knead in to incorporate. (Pieces may roll around and fall on the floor until completely blended in.)

3. Brush a large bowl (at least twice the volume of the dough) lightly with oil, add the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

4. Line two baking sheets with parchment (or Silpats). Divide the dough in half and then form each into a (6-inch) round. Place on the prepared baking sheets, cover, and let rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in size, about two hours.

5. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and bake the bread (rotating the pans and alternating position once halfway through baking) until golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap on it, about 45 minutes. Cool before slicing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cheap and Easy

Dude. I haven't purchased groceries or cooked a proper meal (at home) in a month! Seriously. I just looked at my past posts. That's a long time for me! The last meal I made in NYC was on Easter and the last meal I made elsewhere was while on my hut trip, and I was so high from the lack of oxygen I don't even remember it. Aside from going out here and there, all I've been eating for dinner are eggs, eggs, and more eggs. And the occasional bowl of cereal. Yes, I've baked, because that's how I procrastinate but I haven't done anything more interesting that that. In a week this insanity will all be over and I'll finally cook again. Hopefully. I'm sure the season premiere of True Blood will be a good excuse to make something interesting...

I did actually make lentils for dinner 2 nights in a row. For real. (That's what you do when you're me and there's nothing else to eat and you refuse to order in.) I realize that a normal person wouldn't eat a pile of lentils for dinner, but I'm not normal. This recipe would have actually been a great side dish alongside some roasted salmon, but, oh yeah, I didn't (don't) have any! As lame as they may seem, if you've ever been to Otto, they start to approximate the super delicious olive oil-y saturated version found there and this recipe is from Mario Batali's Simple Italian Food. All I think it really needs is MORE olive oil and a day to marinate in the fridge after cooking. Cheap and easy!

Simple Lentils
(Adapted from Mario Batali)

1 cup lentils
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Boil the lentils in 3 cups of water until tender (20 - 25 minutes).

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, celery, and carrot and stir for 1 minute. Drain the cooked lentils and add to the skillet along with the vinegar and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cool to room temperature and serve. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

It's Cinco de Mayo and time to celebrate the mysterious holiday in a Mexican restaurant. Mystery revealed! In a nutshell, on the morning of May 5, 1862, 5000 Mexican soldiers defeated a French army of 8000 (who were seeking debt repayment) in Puebla, Mexico. Although the victory was ultimately short lived, it came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. Ah ha! So that's why so many people (typically Americans and residents of Puebla) find a reason to consume copious amounts of margaritas and shots of tequila every May 5th! Ordinarily I would be hosting my own fiesta, but due to self imposed home imprisonment, I will have to pass this year. In the meantime I offer you my favorite guacamole recipe as well as the original Wrinkly Slut.

Tina's Cinco de Mayo Guacamole

2 avocados
Fresh lime juice from 1/2 lime (about 2 teaspoons)
1/2 garlic clove, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon), optional
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small jalapeño (or serrano) pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, optional

1. Halve one avocado, discard the pit, scoop out the flesh, and place in a medium bowl. Mash until no chunks remain. Add the lime juice, garlic (if using), and salt and stir thoroughly.

2. Mix in the jalapeño, onion, and cilantro (if using).

3. Halve the second avocado, discard the pit, and with a knife, cut a diamond pattern into the flesh without cutting through the skin. Scoop out the cubed avocado and add to the bowl. Carefully fold into the seasoned mixture until incorporated. Serve immediately!
Makes about 2 cups.

Wrinkly Slut

2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ounces tequila (preferrably Don Julio Blanco)
1 ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1 jalapeño pepper, sliced crosswise
1 Thai chili pepper

1. Combine the salt, chili powder, and cayenne on a small plate. Rim the edge of a martini glass with the spiced salt mixture by dipping the rim of the glass into lime juice and then into the plate of salt. Set aside.

2. Pour the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and grapefruit juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake briskly and strain into the prepared martini glass. Garnish with the sliced jalapeño and Thai chili pepper. Makes one drink.

OPTIONAL: Soak the sliced jalapeño in tequila for an hour before serving. Use the infused tequila to make your drink extra slutty.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I don't know why I decided to bake a tart on one of the hottest days of the year so far. Humidity reared it's ugly head and instead of going to the beach or enjoying an air conditioned movie theater, I stayed inside with my oven set to 400˚F. Nice.

Actually, it's called procrastination. I was supposed to be studying for a test (and I was!) but when I'm home I always find other things to do like recycling my stacks of magazines, cleaning the bathroom, reorganizing my spice collection...
instead of what I'm really supposed to be doing. (The berry tart was just breakfast!) This tart would be great for your summer BBQs, especially with vanilla ice cream, but don't forget the air conditioning.

Rustic Berry Tart

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Tart Filling:
2 1/2 cups raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries (or any combination)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Make the crust: Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and stir just until the dough holds together. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Assemble the filling: Add the berries to a large bowl. Gently stir in the 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 10-inch circle, then transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Place the berry mixture in the center of the dough leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Fold the 1-inch border over the berries to form an 8-inch tart.

3. Bake the tart: Lightly brush the tart dough edge with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until the crust is light brown and the filling is bubbling, rotating once halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve immediately or at room temperature. Serves 6.