Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Haunted Table & Some French Inspiration

Hope everyone had a haunting Halloween weekend!  Putting the piles of bite-sized candy aside, here are a few decidedly "deadly" dishes for your next black-out dinner party from Jewels of New York.  
grilled radicchio with blackberries

And to start your week off with a bit of Monday morning day-dreaming, a few photos from the Parisian kitchen of Charles and Julie Carmignac - tucked in their cozy lower Left Bank 19th century apartment.  Makes you just want to whisk yourself away on a French sojourn doesn't it?

Just this weekend, the New York Times noted Paris as the hottest culinary spot in Europe at the moment and highlighted Rino, an uber-hip bistro that opened last February near the Bastille with Roman-transplant chef Giovanni Passerini at the helm.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

In the Kitchen: Sweet Start to the Weekend

To follow up yesterday's post on confidence and food - and knowing when and where to indulge, here's a bit of sweetness to start your weekend off right.  One of the baked goods I featured in my baking & brunching post, this coffee cake recipe is perfect for a chilly Sunday morning (with a bit of yogurt and fruit to balance out your breakfast) or as a little afternoon treat.  It's my grandmother's infamous recipe and thus, I hand it down with love and care.  I used my new, no fuss Breville stand mixer to whip it up in light-speed time before brunch-goers arrived.  
Here's to a warm and cozy weekend! 

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
12-14 slices

nut mixture
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1 tbsp. white sugar
1.5 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs 
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350.  In the bowl of a stand mixer or a regular mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in vanilla and lemon juice. Whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add flour mixture to egg-sugar mixture and blend in sour cream. Pour half of the batter into a buttered loaf pan and sprinkle the brown sugar-nut mixture over top.  Add the remaining half of the batter.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
the Breville stand mixer...clean and simple baking

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Charge for Eating with Confidence

Tomorrow morning I'll have the pleasure of speaking with a crowd of young girls attending the kickoff breakfast for Dove's Self-Esteem weekend - three days of events for women across the nation, all in the name of confidence and developing a positive sense of beauty no matter what your body type may be.
You might recall Dove's Real Beauty campaign a few years back where they featured real women with real curves.  Needless to say, it was massively successful.  
In planning for tomorrow, I started thinking about one of the greatest gifts of confidence we can give ourselves: eating well, loving how good food makes us feel, and loving being in our own skin.  There's a beauty in that and there's certainly a large dose of confidence.  A quick glimpse of Precious's Gabourey Sidibe and Mad Men's Kristina Hendricks just ran through my head.  Both are curvy but beyond confident in their bodies - pretty inspiring.  Gabourey, fyi, was just on the cover of Elle Magazine this month.

People often admit to me that they fear particular foods (bananas, carrots, potatoes come to mind let alone cheese, pasta and chocolate!) or the feeling that if they succumb to a cheeseburger or a brownie on occasion, all hell will break loose.  Not exactly an enjoyable or sound way to approach food, unfortunately.  And not surprisingly, I've found that we tend to have the most success and happiness with food and eating when we're confident in whatever situation we're faced with.  Confidence in knowing how to balance good food with indulgences, how to listen to your body's cravings and hunger cues and how to thoughtfully consider what you're eating and where it's coming from...that's great eating and that's also unstoppable self-esteem.

So with that, I'm putting out a charge to head into the weekend with confident, delicious eating - and everything else that comes with it.  3 things to consider while you're charging away...

1. don't fear food - If it's a real food you don't have much to worry about!  the fewer the ingredients the better...
2. where's your food coming from? - Yes, I'm a big proponent of eating local whenever possible/feasible, but it's really true.  you're supporting smaller, sustainable farmers and in turn, they're supporting you with fresh, wholesome food - which means you can kiss diets and stressing too much about calories, fat, carbs etc.  Real food fills us up fast and keeps portions in check automatically.
3.  try something new and savor indulgences - I promise, a well-portioned bowl of pasta accompanied by fresh vegetables or salad won't cause you to bust out of your favorite jeans.  Do something a little naughty a few times a week, and relish it.  My own vices this past week?...sharing a phenomenal pizza from Franny's in Brooklyn - with house-made sausage on it!  I'm a sucker for sausage, but I balanced it out with a delicious pear-arugula-parmesan salad.  Next up, dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Marc Forgione.  Marc's infamous BBQ baked oysters with bechamel sauce.  Not exactly "light," but they're to die for.  Thankfully, I planned ahead and made sure the rest of my day's eating was on track with my general routine.

Cheers to a confident, tasty weekend ahead!
the pizza at Franny's...good stuff and perfect for sharing

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In the Kitchen: Weekend Baking & Brunching

I'll never pass up the opportunity to host and entertain - even if it means comfortably cramming 12 lovely ladies into my small studio apartment for an all-afternoon brunch this past weekend.  Baked, brunched and conquered - with a solid balance of health, indulgence, seasonal ingredients (and a few pear-peach mimosas) in mind.  From the mushroom-caramelized onion quiche to coffee cake & apple butter to spinach salad with roasted butternut squash, dried cherries and goat cheese, there's nothing better than a long, leisurely, boozy brunch and great conversation.  Wondering how I pulled it off in my pint-sized apartment?  Pre-planning and prepping and strategic placement of nearly every inch of my studio.  Here's how...

dahlias & cockscomb for color, marcona almonds for nibbling, pellegrino 
& a pitcher of mimosas set on the coffee table

a simple standby - cheese, crackers & concord grapes 

 sweet treats displayed on my desk: sour cream coffee cake, pecan cookies with spiced-caramel 
& a bowl of pastel-hued macaroons
 glasses & extra fresh-squeezed juices arranged atop an antique wooden armoire

quiche for the cutting - mushroom, thyme & caramelized onion 
and Swiss chard with fresh ricotta and parmesan

For a quick bonus, here's the recipe for the Swiss chard, ricotta & parmesan frittata above. 

Swiss Chard, Ricotta & Parmesan Frittata
serves 8 to 10

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot minced

1 bunch rainbow Swiss chard, stems cut and set aside
6 eggs
3/4 cup fresh ricotta
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese divided *I had pecorino romano cheese on hand and used that instead
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large saute pan, cook Swiss chard stems with 1 tablespoon of water for about 2 minutes.  Set aside in a small bowl.  Heat olive oil in pan and saute shallots for 1 minutes on medium-high heat.  Add in Swiss chard leaves and stems and saute for 3 to 4 minutes until soft and wilted.  
In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, ricotta, and half of the parmesan, cayenne pepper and nutmeg.  Add in Swiss chard and shallots and mix well. 
In a tart or pie pan, pour in egg-Swiss chard mixture and sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese over top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Monday, October 11, 2010

An apple a day...and then some rain

After a picture-perfect fall weekend, I'm sitting here listening to the pouring rain and bellowing thunder.  I'll take back my sunny Saturday thanks.  A fun day-trip upstate with old friends and some productive apple-picking at Mead Orchards in Tivoli, NY.  Now just to think what to do with almost 2 pecks of apples sitting in my kitchen, any suggestions?!
Pictures from the trip and an apple recipe to start simmering on...a simple apple compote, one of my stand-by favorites.

 my good friend Lisa knows a good apple when she sees it

 so that's how they gather all those apples...
 easy, light and delicious -- apple compote with bourbon & vanilla ice cream

Apple Compote
Makes 2 to 3 cups

3 granny Smith apples (or other tart apples like Crispin), peeled, cored and cut into 2” chunks
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon candied ginger, minced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup bourbon

In a large saucepan or heavy-bottomed pot, combine all ingredients except bourbon and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add bourbon and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.  Compote should be slightly chunky.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.   

Images: Nourish 1-6, David Malosh 7

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A New Cookbook & Some Peacefulness on Your Plate

I must admit, it's been quite an odd, dreary week and when I happened to stumble on some photos of the landmark Copenhagen restaurant, Noma, yesterday, they brought a little solace and inspiration.  There's something about gathering around the table with good friends in a warm, rustic environment that just makes you smile and appreciate what's on your plate (and who's in your life) a bit more.  
Noma was named "best restaurant in the world" earlier this year in the S. Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant awards.  Though I have yet to travel to Denmark to qualify that statement, the photos featured in Noma's new cookbook (Phaidon) by famed photographed are pretty spectacular. A collaboration between chef Rene Redzepi and photographer Ditte Isager The restaurant and the book exudes the essence of everything Scandinavian - the design, the food and that feeling of calm that goes along with it.  Take a good, long gaze for yourself...

Here's to a very relaxing, peaceful weekend!  On tap for picking upstate and a few events at this weekend's NYC Wine & Food Festival.  Stay tuned for resulting recipes and recaps, including an overview of the incredibly-stacked panel I attended yesterday: Dan Barber of Blue Hill, Tom Colicchio of Craft and Top Chef, Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter, Daniel Humm of 11 Madison Park and Patrick Martins of Heritage Foods - all discussing the meaning of "local" and where the direction of eating and thinking more sustainably is heading.  

Images via: NordicDesign, Phaidon, Ditte IsagerLa Tartine Gourmande 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Table Inspiration :: Purple Haze

The hue of the moment on the runway and on tabletops is definitively a luxe, deep purple - one of my absolute favorites.  Dress up your fall table with these beauties...
the new ceramic Provence collection from Crate & Barrel
 a piece that every kitchen should have, Le Creuset's dutch oven in cassis
 purple reigns on the fall 2010 runway...looks from Oscar de la Renta & Isabel Marant
 regal hand-engraved glasses from German designer Sieger by Theresienthal
Paul Smith's haute take on a coffee press
 more gorgeously grape-hued looks from Oscar de la Renta
soup's on: priceless French porcelain from Hermes
 a mix & match of locavore style from the New York Times
(top to bottom: Sous Bois; Hermes; Crate & Barrel)
one last look, shades of purple at Brian Reyes

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In the Kitchen :: Pear, Ginger & Cardamom Muffins

Taking some time off to relax by mode of baking always brings back fond memories on a cozy autumn afternoon.  Peering over the countertop as I teeter on my tippy-toes in my mother's kitchen, helping to stir the batter and of course taking a good lick or two of the spatula.  A mix of sugar and spice that fills a room with love and certainly takes you back to childhood and makes you appreciate the little things in life.  And thus, the "little" mini muffins above came to be late last week when I was in need of a little comfort and some down time.  One base batter recipe, two variations bursting with fall fruit and lots flavor.  And I will happily report that these muffins are a) made entirely with whole wheat flour - and are still light and moist (a notable feat in baking), b) are lower in sugar with a swap of agave nectar and c) are the perfect portion, mini but satisfying -- one or two and you'll be just fine.  Serve 'em warm with a dab of maple butter or cooled with plain yogurt for a great breakfast and you'll be whisked away to your own blissful autumn moment. 

Whole Wheat Muffins with Pear, Ginger & Cardamom
makes 22 - 24 muffins

6 ounces plain yogurt
1 egg 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour *I use King Arthur brand
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 pears, peeled, cored and diced
2 tablespoons candied ginger, minced
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly grease a mini-muffin pan.  
Whisk yogurt, egg, melted butter, agave nectar and vanilla together in a mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cardamom and brown sugar 
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Mix in the pears and ginger.  
Spoon batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle with turbinado.  Bake for 28 to 30 minutes.  To ensure doneness, stick a toothpick in the center of a muffin, it should come out clean.

Whole Wheat Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

makes 22 - 24 muffins

6 ounces plain yogurt
1 egg 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour *I use King Arthur brand
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly grease a mini-muffin pan.  
Whisk yogurt, egg, melted butter and agave nectar together in a mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk flours, baking powder and soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar. 
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Mix in the apples.  
Spoon batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for 28 to 30 minutes.  To ensure doneness, stick a toothpick in the center of a muffin, it should come out clean.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Weekend Guide :: More Events Around Town

Even more events and things to do (and eat) this weekend.  For a recap of food-lover events posted earlier in the week, click here.  

Epicurious Entertains - Expansive cooking website is hosting a weekend full cooking demos, book signings, tastings and chef-driven dinners.  Among the list of events to choose from: 

  • Cooking with Kids - {Saturday, Oct. 2nd}  Locanda Verde's talented pastry chef, Karen DeMasco demos be kid-friendly cooking and tasty bites. 
  • Red Rooster Preview - {Saturday, Oct. 2nd, 7-10pm} chef and Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelsson teams up with Epicurious for a preview dinner at his soon-to-open Harlem restaurant Red Rooster, which celebrates the diverse roots of American cuisine. 
  • Football Fest at Hill Country BBQ - {Sunday, Oct. 3rd, 12:45pm} Sunday football + incredible BBQ...a perfect pairing.  Head to Hill Country for a tasting lunch with executive chef Elizabeth Karmel.
Abe & Arthur's - is on my personal dining calendar this weekend.  The chic Meatpacking restaurant, Abe & Arthur's is celebrating its one-year anniversary so I figured it's the ideal time to head back for another well-executed meal (which can be a very rare find in that area of town).  Skimming the menu designed by executive chef Franklin Becker, I'm already eyeing the Tuna Tartare Tacos to start (they were unbelievable my first visit last fall and are definitely a must-order), Roasted Beets & Westfield Farm's Goat Cheese Salad (because I always get my veggies in somehow) and Filet Mignon (I'm normally not a big steak gal, but Franklin's filet is pretty phenomenal from what I recall, though it's certainly large enough at 10 ounces to share).   If you're more inclined for fish or seafood, the Wood-Fired Branzino and the Pan Roasted Scallops with Foie Gras and Cauliflower-Almond Puree and Chanterelles sound amazing.  As for the foie gras, it makes a surprisingly delicious pairing with scallops -- a little light seafood + a touch of indulgence, you can't really go wrong.  To celebrate their anniversary, Abe & Arthur's will be providing all guests this evening (Oct. 1st) only with a complimentary glass of Marquis de la Tour champagne upon arrival as well as a slice of sweetness to bring the meal to a close. 

Edible Schoolyard Brunch @ Franny's - {Sunday, Oct. 3rd} Head to brunch at Franny's and help support Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard organization which helps teach kids about food, health and the environment. Franny's (295 Flatbush Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn).  Tickets are pricey at $250, but it's certainly for a worthy cause (

Help for the Highline - If you're really looking to spend some dough this weekend and eat for an excellent cause, join acclaimed chefs with restaurants near to the High Line as they convene at Colicchio & Sons (10th Ave & 15th St) to cook up dinner to benefit Friends of the High Line.  Tickets are $500 at