Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I've spent this last day of 2011 relaxing, reflecting, and doing some of the things I love most. After waking up at my boyfriend's apartment, I went for a long run, hung out with my pup Suz Monster, and cooked a special lunch, finally trying out the recipe for Marlow & Sons' famous brick chicken. I hope you all got to indulge in some of your favorite things today to celebrate a very good year.

For me, the party continues tonight with a dinner at Lucky Strike with some of my nearest and dearest, followed by a masquerade at the Soho Grand Hotel, and possibly a late-night pit stop at Westway. I love New Year's Eve, when everyone gets to come together and let loose a little before a big fresh start in the form of a whole new year. Here's to making 2012 even more fantastic than 2011 was. Thanks for reading, and for all of your support, always. xo

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pimento Cheese

I had my first taste of pimento cheese when I went to a friend's birthday party in Hell's Kitchen. His girlfriend had surprised him by having his favorite restaurant in Atlanta, where they were both from, ship some of his favorite dishes right to NYC just for the party. Among the ribs and the slaw and the pulled pork sandwiches, were bowls of a sharp, creamy cheese spread peppered with bright red pimentos. The bowls were surrounded by little triangles of white sandwich bread to accompany the cheese, and I must've consumed a whole loaf's worth by the time I was done marveling over the deliciousness of it all. Pimento cheese is practically it's own food group down South and it's so good, that I couldn't help feeling that I'd somehow been cheated out of years of pimento cheese pleasures. Well, I made up for lost time last weekend.

This recipe uses piquante peppers because I like a little heat in my cheese, some mayo, a bit of cream cheese, and the best hunk of extra sharp cheddar I could find, grated down finely into tissue-thin shreds. It was so good that I ate the entire serving on my own (enough to feed an intimate party, I imagine) in a matter of three days, spreading it on slices of a crusty baguette from Amy's Bread. Heaven. Bring this stuff to your New Year's Eve party, or any other social gathering, for that matter, and you'll be the most popular person in the room, I promise. xo

Pimento Cheese
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, finely grated
One 4 ounce jar pimentos, roasted red peppers, or piquante peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of ground cayenne

Put the Cheddar, pimentos, mayonnaise, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and cayenne into a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with a spoon until it is well blended and the Cheddar becomes creamy. Refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fried Zucchini Sticks

Fried zucchini is one of my favorite things to eat in the world. At Italian restaurants, I'm that person who always tries to convince the table to go for the plate full of fried zucchini slices instead of the more obvious choice--fried calamari. I love rounds of it topping my spaghetti, I like it broiled with a bit of Parmesan, but most of all, I love it like this--searingly hot with a crisp, puffy coating and sprinkled with parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

If you happen to be entertaining for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day and you're looking for something easy that will be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, I highly suggest whipping up a few batches of these as people filter in. I haven't met a person yet who's been able to resist them. xo

Fried Zucchini
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-2 cups white wine
4-6 medium zucchini
Canola oil
1 lemon, halved
Small handful parsley leaves, chopped 

For the batter, whisk 1 cup of the flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl. Gradually add 1 cup of the wine, whisking until the batter is smooth. The batter should be a little thicker than heavy cream; thin it with a bit more wine if it's too thick. Set aside.

Put the remaining 1/2 cup flour into another medium bowl and season it with a couple pinches of salt. Cut the zucchini in half crosswise, then lengthwise into fat sticks.

Add enough oil to a heavy pan (I use cast-iron for all my frying) to reach a depth of 1 inch. Heat the oil over medium heat until it registers 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Working in small batches, dredge the zucchini in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Give the reserved batter a quick stir, then dip the lightly floured zucchini into the batter, shaking off excess. Carefully add the zucchini to the hot oil one piece at a time to prevent them from clumping together. Fry the zucchini in small batches, turning them as they brown, until puffed and golden all over, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to lift the zucchini out of the oil, then drain on paper towels. Season with salt while still hot.

Serve the zucchini in small batches as you fry so the pieces stay hot and crisp. Drizzle with a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish with a scattering of the chopped parsley. Yum.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Decor Voyeur

Just a little inspiration for a midweek pick-me-up. These are some of my favorite interiors that I've come across lately, including ones found on The Moment and Peek of Perfection. xo

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dry-Aged Rib Eye Steak with Parsley Butter

Ever since I can remember, Christmas Day meant treating ourselves to the absolute best steaks on the butcher block. I'm not a frequent red meat eater, but a few times a year, I go through intense cravings when all I want is to bite into a perfectly medium-rare, slightly bloody steak, cooked in lots of coarse salt and butter. Christmas Day, via tradition, is always one of those times. This year, due to a lack of qualified babysitters for Suz Monster and a sudden onslaught of new business for CA Creative, I stayed in NYC instead of making the 3,000 mile journey home to Hawaii (I'll be spending a couple of weeks there in January to make it up to my mother). However, there was no way I was going to let this slight inconvenience disrupt an ages-old food tradition. I simply took myself to Whole Foods, picked up a beautiful 2 lb bone-in, dry-aged rib eye, and stuck it in the fridge to wait it's turn in my trusty cast iron pan.

When the time came, I laid it on the counter in all it's well-marbled glory and let it come to room temperature while the oven heated. The tricks to a good steak are lots of good salt, careful browning, a few minutes in a hot oven, followed by a low-heat butter bath. I learned this method of steak-making from David Chang's Momofuku cookbook, and it unfailingly produces the absolute best steaks I've tasted, save for maybe the Porterhouse at Peter Luger's. And it even gives that legend some competition. This year, I decided to fancy things up a bit more and add a tasty little mix of parsley butter I whipped up quickly to serve on the side (that counts as a green, right?). After all, tradition can always be improved on.

Hope everyone had a fantastic holiday. Recipe down below. xo

Pan-Roasted Dry-Aged Rib Eye Steak with Parsley Butter
For the steak:
One 2- to 2 1/2 lb bone-in rib-eye steak, preferably dry-aged
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
A few sprigs of thyme
3 garlic cloves
2 small shallots
Maldon salt 

For the parsley butter:
8 tablespoons softened butter, preferably salted Irish like Kerrygold
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
Half a bunch of parsley, leaves chopped
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a 10- to 12-inch cast-iron pan over high heat. While the pan is heating, season the steak liberally with salt--like you'd salt a sidewalk in New York in the winter--and then with pepper.

When the pan is good and hot--the steak should sizzle aggressively when it touches the pan--brown the steak. Put the steak in the pan and don't touch it or press it. After 2 minutes, take a peek: the steak should release easily from the pan and the seared side should be on the golden side of browned. Flip it. Sear the second side for another 2 minutes. Sear the steak up with the fatty side opposite the bone against the pan for 30 seconds, then turn the steak back over so the side that was seared first is against the pan. Put the steak in the oven and leave it untouched for 8 minutes.

Return the pan to the stovetop over low heat. Add the butter, thyme, garlic, and shallots to the pan. As soon as the butter melts, start basting: Use one hand to tilt the pan up at a 45-degree angle and, with the other hand, use a very large spoon to scoop up butter from the pool in the pan and spoon it over the steak. Repeat this motion constantly, cloaking the steak in an eddy of aromatic melted butter. After about 2 minutes of basting, give the steak a poke--it should be squishy soft, or somewhere close to that. If it's there, and if you like your steak rare, pull the steak from the pan and put it on a plate to rest. If you like your steak medium-rare, baste it for another minute or two. Do not cook this steak beyond medium-rare. It'll ruin it. And save the pan juice for the table! It's delicious.

Let the steak rest for at least 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, cut the steak off the bone, then slice it against the grain (cutting in the direction that was perpendicular to the bone) into 1/2-inch-thick slabs. Put on plates and pour any juices from where it rested and the cutting board into the pan drippings. Scatter the steak with Maldon salt.

While the steak is resting, make your parsley butter. Beat the butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon to make it smooth and a bit creamy. Add the garlic, shallots, and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Stir until well-combined. The butter can be used right away or covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Serve alongside the steak.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Roasted Chicken Wings

If you're trying to feed a crowd without breaking a sweat, chicken wings are one of the hands-down, easiest ways to do so. You can go to the supermarket, buy them by the bagful for a pittance, marinate them in a simple combination of Dijon, lemon juice, oil, and tarragon for as long as it takes to heat your oven, throw them in and forget about them (albeit with a timer on). And your reward for such ease? A serving platter full of meaty, sticky wings with papery crisp skin and just the right amount of spicy, lemony kick. It's a slightly more sophisticated take on Buffalo wings, and one that everyone will love. Talk about a holiday crowd pleaser. xo

Roasted Chicken Wings
From Canal House Cooking, Volume No. 6, by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer
4 pounds (about 20) chicken wings, tips trimmed
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons tarragon leaves, dried or fresh
Salt and pepper 

Put the chicken wings, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste into a large bowl and rub the wings all over with the marinade. The wings can marinate at room temperature while the oven preheats, but if you want to marinate them longer (overnight is fine), cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the wings out on a roasting pan in a single layer, skin side up, drizzling any of the remaining marinade over them. Roast the wings until they are well browned and the skin papery crisp, about 1 hour. The pan juices and marinade will have caramelized and some of the wings will need to be pried off the pan. Eat wings hot or at room temperature with your fingers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Only Hiding Place

As the weeks winds down and my work emails slow down a bit, I'm getting more and more into the holiday spirit, and that, for me, means injecting a little sparkle into my wardrobe. Although I usually tend to err on the side of cautious when it comes to wearing full-out sequins, this light, knit sweater strikes a good balance between festive and refined for me. I love the dark midnight color and the random stripes of green going through it. What are you wearing for all of your holiday festivities?

I'm wearing an Isabel Marant sweater, Robert Rodriguez skirt, Ash shoes, Chanel bag. Photos by Mark Iantosca. xo

Monday, December 19, 2011

Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Garlic Chips

With all the madness surrounding the holiday season, I've barely had time to cook, much less blog. Apologies for the extended absence--now that I've gotten most of my holiday shopping done, the planning of my company holiday party out of the way (it was a raging success, according to my morning-after hangover), and nothing more than a few straggler dinners to attend to in the coming weeks, I can finally sit down to breathe again. And I found time to hit the kitchen. Hopefully this gem of a recipe makes it up to you. The feta and the olives makes this pasta feel downright Mediterranean, and the gently sauteed Swiss chard adds a hit of healthfulness that we all need around these times of overindulgence. xo

Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Garlic Chips
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, November 2008
Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 pounds green Swiss chard, stems and center ribs finely chopped and leaves coarsely chopped separately
1/2 cup water
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, cut into slivers
6 ounces feta, crumbled (1 1/2 cups)

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook garlic, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer garlic with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Cook onion in oil remaining in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir chard stems into onion mixture with water and 3/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook, covered, over medium-high heat until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in chard leaves and cook, covered, until stems and leaves are tender, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water and drain spaghetti.

Toss spaghetti with chard, olives, and 1/2 cup cooking water, adding more cooking water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with feta and garlic chips.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Happy Home: Pic with a Tip

When you're entertaining at home, as so many of us are doing around this time, one of the most important aspects of a good party is a well-stocked bar. In fact, I'm a firm believer that a bar should be well-stocked year round, with your favorite wines and liquors displayed prettily and within easy reach, along with a few handy, beautiful tools. So many people keep these things hidden away in cabinets or on shelves, but if you invest in the right pieces, they can do double duty as decoration. And don't forget a good selection of nuts and chocolates! Tip: Cultivate a good bar, and put it out there for all to see (and drink!).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gathering the Setting Sun

It's officially Holiday Party Week. Meaning, I've got one every single night, including one I'm throwing with CA Creative's partner agency, King & Partners, on Friday. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Good thing I got in plenty of relaxation time this weekend in the form of cooking (Swiss chard and lemon soup, Scott Peacock's chicken and rice, and red-wine-braised short ribs), movie-watching (Edward Scissorhands), and Christmas tree decorating. What did you guys do (or cook) this weekend?

I'm wearing a Zara sweater, a Necessary Objects skirt that I procured about 10 years ago while I was in college (no joke), Ash shoes, and Chanel bag. See? Sometimes, it's all about the high-low. Well, in this case, it's about the low-low-low-high. Sigh. All photographs by Mark Iantosca. xo

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gift Guide 2011: In the Kitchen

My favorite gifts for the resident home cook or food lover in your life. This is a carefully researched collection of really good things that will be well-used and appreciated for years to come, from one of the best cookbooks of the year to a beautiful gravy boat with some seriously graceful lines, to a delicious custom spice blend that will make everything from fish to steaks taste better. Also included: a beautifully-crafted Schmidt Brothers knife set, made affordable via a collaboration with West Elm, an Astier de Villatte mug with playful red and blue striping (atypical for the venerable French brand), a good bottle of red with some awesome bottle art, and some of the most delicious goat's milk caramel around. xo

1. The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria, by Ferran Adria, $17.32, at
2. Fat Toad Farm Original caramel, $8.95, at 
3. Howell at the Moon 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, $75 for 750 mL bottle, at 
4. Schmidt Brothers basic knife set, $49.95, at 
5. Match pewter gravy boat, $172, at 
6. Alessi Todo cheese grater, $92.99, at
7. Gold wishbone, $48, at
8. La Boite a Epice Ana spice blend, $19, at 
9. C. Wonder Ikat nesting bowls set, $58, at 
10. Astier de Villatte tricolor cup, price upon request, see for more info
11. Williams-Sonoma striped towels, set of 4, $19.95, at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Library Lunch: What I'm Reading Now

This edition of Library Lunch is dedicated to one of my very favorite food writers and recipe developers, Amanda Hesser. Formerly of the New York Times, she is now running the uber-successful food site, Food52. She's got a knack for writing about food in a very distinct, earthy, approachable voice that manages to be both entertaining and informative. I own all of her books, and as you can see in the photo above, they're all well-worn and loved, especially the gargantuan New York Times cookbook, which is a constant source of authority in my kitchen. xo

From top to bottom:
1. Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser, $11.92, at
2. The Cook & the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside, by Amanda Hesser, $23.02, at
3. The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser, $20.82, at

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Weekend Bits: Art Basel Photo Diary

My long weekend in Basel was filled with amazing art eye candy (the pics above include a couple of Warhols, a Ruscha, and a Picasso), lots of Kanon Organic Vodka cocktails, some beautiful sunsets, lots of pool time, and some fun dinners, including one that handily combined the Grand Life Hotels team, the Kanon Vodka team, Kate from Opening Ceremony, and my boyfriend. Fun multi-tasking at its best. Photos are shot with the amazing Leica V-Lux 30 with a couple of iPhone snaps mixed in. xo

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stay Away from the Hooks

I'm back from Art Basel in one piece, just a little worse for wear. I've got a nifty little photo diary coming to you composed of pics snapped with my Leica V-Lux 30 and my iPhone, but until then, here's an outfit I put together using a pair of coated, super skinny J Brand jeans that the brand was kind enough to send me. I liked the contrast of pairing the cool, leather-like coating with a preppy, piped Rag & Bone blazer and a cashmere cableknit, but I imagine they'd look just as good with, say, a silk button-down Equipment top for a night out. You can see exclusive pictures on the J Brand blog HERE.

I'm wearing a Rag & Bone blazer, Rugby Ralph Lauren sweater, J Brand jeans, Ash shoes, Chanel bag. All photos by Mark Iantosca. xo

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pan-Fried Smashed Potatoes

When you're in the mood for a potato dish (and really, I'm never NOT in the mood for potatoes), this is a good, easy alternative to mashed potatoes, or fussier options like Potatoes Anna or Scalloped Potatoes or a French-style potato and garlic cake, however delicious those options may be. There's no slicing involved here, no need to get out your mandolin--in fact, these potatoes don't even need to be peeled. All that's required is the ability to boil and some good, old-fashioned elbow grease, and you've got a batch of potatoes with a deliciously crisp crust, coated in a salty shower of good Parmesan. Yum. Recipe down below. Photos by Mark Iantosca. xo

Pan-Fried Smashed Potatoes
From Gourmet magazine, March 2009
8 medium red potatoes 
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly grated black pepper

Generously cover potatoes with cold water in a 3- to 4-qt pot and add 1 Tbsp salt. Boil until almost tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain potatoes. Transfer to a baking sheet and lightly crush to about 3/4 inch thick with a potato masher, keeping potatoes intact as much as possible.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Transfer potatoes with a spatula to skillet, then lower heat to medium-low and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 20 minutes total. Serve sprinkled with cheese. Season generously with pepper.