Monday, October 31, 2011

Chaos is What Killed the Dinosaurs, Darling

Happy Halloween! I've got to admit I'm a little costumed and Halloween'ed out by now after a weekend full of celebrating and recovering. On Saturday, a bunch of us went out and managed to make it to three parties in a row (pretty impressive, no?). We dressed up as the bitchy/murderous group of girls from Heathers (I was Shannen Doherty's iteration), complete with croquet sticks, and headed to the Boom Boom Room and Le Bain for The Standard Hotel's annual Heaven & Hell party, where there was an array of seriously fantastic costumes, along with some equally fantastic Kanon Vodka cocktails (one of our clients at CA Creative). We then went a few blocks south to Westway where Opening Ceremony was having their shindig, and where we happened to get nominated for best costume! Very flattering. A last nightcap was had at The Tribeca Grand Hotel's party before we headed home, exhausted, missing bits of our costumes (my croquet stick only lasted a few hours), and ready for a full 24 hours of Sunday recovery. Above pic by Zac Sebastian. xo

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grocery List: Real Vermont Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is a totally underused ingredient, if you ask me. Most of you probably have a bottle of it laying around in your fridge that you pull out on the odd Sunday every few months when you've managed to pull together a batch of pancakes to enjoy over the weekend papers. And while this is a perfectly delicious way to utilize the stuff, there's so much more that can be done with it. A lot of people love it because, much like agave, it's a natural, healthier option (as opposed to sugar) when you need to sweeten something. And while I completely agree on that point, I love it because it just makes certain things taste amazing.

Par exemple: It can be a gentler alternative to sugar when baking, it can be used to make homemade turkey sausage patties for breakfast a la Gwyneth Paltrow/GOOP, and--my personal favorite--it can be included as part of a killer salad dressing. Recipe below.

P.S. Please excuse the exploding mess that is my kitchen cabinet. xo

Fave Salad Dressing:
1 small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons real Vermont maple syrup
2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, mustard, maple syrup and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season the dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle over your choice of greens and serve.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Home: Pic with a Tip

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to make a space more visually interesting is to put some books in it. Beautiful, colorful coffee table books can be ordered on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble for a significantly lowered price, and once you have a little collection going, it's easy to arrange them prettily on a bookshelf or stack them on a coffee table for an instant shot of color and an easy conversation starter when you have guests over.

So Tip #1: Invest in coffee table books. Arrange at will. And Tip #2: Bright flowers can do wonders for a space and they don't have to be expensive. Grab a few bundles of daisies from your corner bodega or Whole Foods, snip off the stems so that they're all the same height, and arrange in a few short vases around the room. xo

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Haricots Verts

The last time I was in Paris, I consumed bowls and bowls of haricots verts, the skinny little green beans that the French do so well. In real life (a.k.a. America), I hate green beans. They're too bulky, have little flavor, and feel weird in my mouth when I'm chewing them. In France, however, they're thinner, more delicate, and have a decidedly sweeter taste. Plus, they're always prepared simply--just boiled in hot water for a few minutes, then dressed with good olive oil and sea salt. Delicious. When I saw a basket full of haricots verts at Eataly over the weekend, I immediately scooped up a few handfuls to eat at home. Makes for a good afternoon snack or a simple, healthy side for dinner.

P.S. I sprinkled mine with some tiny edible flowers for some color, but that's obviously not necessary. xo

Haricots Verts
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Kosher salt
Haricots verts, ends trimmed

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in an 8-inch saute pan over low heat. After a minute, add the garlic and cook it slowly for 8 to 10 minutes, until it has gone a pale gold and is sweetly aromatic, maybe starting to brown a bit around the edges. Pull pan from the heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well. When the pot is boiling furiously, drop in the beans and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes, just until they're past that raw, crunchy stage. You can test doneness by simply grabbing one out of the pot and biting into it.

Transfer the beans to a platter or large bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss them with the oil and garlic. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Silver Armor Shining

If the weather could stay like this indefinitely for the next, oh, six months or so, with maybe just one day of pretty white snow (exactly on Christmas), I would be a seriously happy New Yorker. I love the layering of light scarves, chic little jackets, and the option of wearing boots while still remaining sans tights. Alas, this sort of thing tends to last about five days total around these parts, so I'm basking in it while I can. One of my favorite new pieces (that happens to suit this weather perfectly) is the borderline weirdly fuzzy Isabel Marant jacket I'm wearing in the pics above. It's soft and cozy and provides just the right level of warmth for temperatures that hover right around 60 degrees.

I'm wearing an Isabel Marant jacket, StyleMint tee, Maje shorts, Lulu Frost necklace, Chanel bag, and Ash booties. All photos by Mark Iantosca. xo

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fettucine with Sausage and Kale

When faced with a menu filled with delicious pasta options, I'll almost always go for the simplest options. I love spaghetti coated with nothing but cheese, pepper, and butter. I prescribe to the belief that there's almost nothing better than a perfect tomato sauce. And I love that classic Italian dish that involves some sort of al dente pasta mixed with a hearty combination of savory sausage and bitter green broccoli rabe. It's a true "bloke's" meal (at least, according to Jamie Oliver), and being the voracious eater that I am, I end up having it more often than I probably should.

When I tried to make it for my boyfriend and I one Sunday night, however, I found that the bitterness of the broccoli rabe overtook the flavor of the dish, and distracted from the delicious heat of the Eataly-made spicy sausage. The fact that the pasta was perfectly cooked with just the tiniest hint of bite left in the center, was also tragically overshadowed. (I happen to have a sixth sense for the exact second a batch of pasta should be dumped out quickly and dramatically into the waiting colander.) The recipe I used came from Cook's Illustrated, which usually doles out flawless recipes, which the writer has tested upwards of 60 times. And yet....overly bitter broccoli rabe. Thoroughly discouraged, I decided I would take a break from attempting to make that particular pasta dish and come back to it a few months later, perhaps when another recipe popped out at me and inspired me enough to weigh out another bunch of broccoli rabe.

Sometimes, though, fate intervenes in the form of another dark, leafy green that I had somehow forgotten all about. Kale, in all it's very slightly bitter glory is just as healthy and makes for a decidedly more mellow taste, allowing the fettucine and the sausage to really shine through. Perfect solution, at least until I can figure out how to tame my broccoli rabe into submission. xo

Fettucine with Sausage and Kale
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings discarded and sausage crumbled (you can use turkey sausage here if you prefer)
1/2 lb kale, tough stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 lb dried egg fettuccine
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook sausage, breaking up any lumps with a spoon, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, blanch kale in a 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, 5 minutes. Remove kale with a large sieve and drain. Return cooking water in pot to a boil, then cook pasta in boiling water, uncovered, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander. 

While pasta cooks, add kale to sausage in skillet and sauté, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add broth, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then add pasta and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water to skillet, tossing until combined. Stir in cheese and thin with additional cooking water if desired. 

Serve immediately, with additional cheese on the side.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Beauty Shop: Clinique Sun SPF 30 Body Cream

Here in NYC, it's truly chilly today in a way that reminds me that big coats and scarves and knit hats aren't so far away, and I love it. With weather like this, though, it seems like even the most responsible sunscreen-wearers tend to forget that temperature has no influence on the negative effects of the sun. In other words, just because you're not frolicking on a beach in 90 degree weather, doesn't mean you can lay off the sunscreen--on both the face and the body.

Having grown up in Hawaii (and thus, perpetually on the beach) in the days before skin cancer was such a buzzword, I always cringe inwardly when I think about all those hours I spent tanning myself to a crisp in the water or on the sand, blissfully unaware of the dangers, not to mention the premature aging I was probably subjecting myself to. Because of this, I am now especially careful when it comes to sun exposure, applying sunscreen religiously every single day, even when it's cloudy outside. I've been using Clinique's SPF 30 for the last few years, and love it--it's oil-free, super gentle, and it's got a great texture. Add in the fact that the technology developed by Clinique's dermatologists boasts anti-aging benefits and antioxidants, and I'm pretty much sold. You can buy it HERE. xo

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sausages with Apples and Onions

This is one of my absolute favorite quick, one-skillet meals that I start craving every time it gets a bit chilly out. The tiny, sweet apples that crop up at the farmers' market in October just beg to be fried with some meaty, flavorful sausages to balance them out. To me, this dish is the epitome of comfort food, and it's so quick that I actually made it for breakfast not once, but twice this week. In case that means nothing to you, my mornings are usually a frenzied whirlwind of trying to get to the gym, feed Suz Monster, shower, wash my hair, answer urgent emails on my Blackberry whilst simultaneously brushing my teeth, etc. In other words, if I have time to make a recipe on a workweek morning, trust me, it's ridiculously fast and easy. And in this case, it's also more than substantial enough to eat for dinner, if you're so inclined. I love a recipe that multitasks, don't you? Recipe below serves four, but feel free to cut it in half and save some for leftovers if you're only cooking for one. xo

Sausages with Apples and Onions
From the Canal House Cookbook, Volume 5
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 small yellow onions, halved lengthwise
8 fresh sausages, pricked (use your fave!)
4 small apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
Salt and pepper
Fresh sage, optional


Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions cut side down, cover, and cook until just tender and browned on the bottom, about 15 minutes.

Tuck the sausages and apples around the onions in the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Use two skillets if everything is too crowded together. Cook over medium heat, turning the sausages and apples as they begin to brown, but leaving the onions in place. Take care to leave the onion halves whole. Continue cooking until everything is nicely browned, then reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cover the skillet and cook until the sausages are cooked through and the apples and onions are tender, 5–10 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with fresh sage, if you like.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happy Home: Pic with a Tip

Besides fashion and food, I have a pretty strong love for good design. By no means am I even close to being a professional in this category, but I have picked up some good tips over the years from various friends in the industry. Designing a room can be daunting, and that old adage that if you just fill it with things you love, it will be beautiful....well, it's just not true. If you don't pay any attention to cohesiveness, you'll just end up with a room full of discordant stuff.

Anyway, again, I'm no professional at this, but I do have a few good tricks up my sleeve. So here we go, courtesy of the Deborah Needleman. Tip #1: Get an interesting chair, even if it's a bit strange. You've got room to get quirky and creative with a statement chair, and a cool one will add tons of personality to your space. Tip #2: Get an animal (a fake one). I don't know why this warms up a room so well, but it does. Maybe it's simply because animals are cute and proffer fuzzy feelings. Look at that big shaggy sheep in the pic! Don't you just want to pet it? I sure do. I once went to an open house for a beautiful, flawlessly decorated apartment on Park Avenue and the thing that stood out the most to me was a medium-sized bronze rabbit hanging out on the chic shagreen bar. Go figure.

Let me know in the comments below if you liked this design-focused post--I'll continue doing them if so. After all, it's all about you, my readers. xo

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Striped Bass Poached in Spicy Soy Sauce

I've been looking for a good, easy way to make an Asian-inspired fish dish for awhile but haven't been very successful. Sometimes, the soy sauce that is practically a requirement in such recipes sticks to the pan, leaving you with a sticky, unappetizing mess. And I always read longingly through recipes inspired by Nobu's famous miso black cod, but I can never find black cod, nor do I ever feel like waiting 24 hours for my fish to marinate. I'll get around to it one day, I suppose, but it seems a bit much for a fish dinner. Fish is supposed to be quick and easy! Which is precisely why I love this recipe of Mark Bittman's.

In the recipe, the fish is simmered in a mouthwatering mixture of soy sauce, water, sugar, scallions, and a chili for 10 minutes flat, then served. It requires no chopping or mincing, save for a 30 second job with the scallions, and it's virtually foolproof. And most importantly of all, it's absolutely delicious--a perfect weeknight meal. Serves four. xo

Striped Bass Poached in Spicy Soy Sauce
From the New York Times
1/3 to 1/2 cup good soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 dried or fresh chili, optional
About 15 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths, or 2 or 3 spring onions or 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
About 1 1/2 pounds striped bass fillet, about 1 inch thick

Combine the soy sauce, 1/2 cup water, sugar and chili in a skillet just large enough to hold the fish. Turn the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

Add the fish, flesh side down. If necessary, add more water, so that the liquid comes almost all the way up the sides of the fish. Add the scallions and adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles but not furiously. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning as the liquid thickens, to coat the fish with a brown glaze. Serve with white rice, spooning the sauce over all and garnishing with the scallions.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wish List: Celine Winter 2011

I always say that my next big purchase is going to be a bag, but I never quite make good on that statement. I have a bunch of old, timeless Chanel bags that make it easy to put off buying a new one. But these Celine winter 2011 babies just might put an end to that streak of procrastination. They're my absolute favorite of any that Phoebe Philo has dreamed up for the brand, namely because of the rich color combinations. I love the deep oxblood paired with black leather and gold hardware on the top, and the fresh, new shape is also a plus. And the navy with chocolate brown leather on the classic luggage bag on the bottom is just beautiful. Much more interesting than the typical black on black, wouldn't you say? Might be time to start saving up. xo

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beauty Shop: Aquaphor

I'm not sure how much of an insider's thing this is anymore, but since this little tube is never far from my reach, it seemed wrong not to mention it, especially now as we head into the colder months. For me, November (which is in two weeks--yikes!) always means the dreaded advent of chapped lips and skin. And let me tell you, there's nothing that works better for fixing that than this super inexpensive skin protectant that you can find in just about every drugstore across the country. Aquaphor works miracles on dry skin, and I find myself using it on my lips, elbows, as well as any scrapes I happen to get. You can buy it for yourself HERE. P.S. Happy Friday! Have a great weekend, everyone. xo

Thursday, October 13, 2011

French Chicken in a Pot (or Poulet au Pot)

Anyone who's been reading this blog for awhile knows about my roast chicken obsession. There are few things more satisfying to me than buying a whole (organic) bird, rubbing it in oil or butter or whatever the mood calls for, and sliding it into the oven to roast. Is there anything cozier or more comforting than a quiet night at home with the mouthwatering smells of a good roast wafting out of the oven? I love the tender meat, the delicious pan juices that make for an excellent gravy with no more effort than giving it a good whisk, and most of all, I love that nutty brown, perfectly crisp skin you get when you do it right.

That's why I was a bit skeptical of this recipe when I first read through it on my handy Cook's Illustrated iPhone app. They claimed generous rewards of intensely juicy meat (yes, even on the breast), but also warned that in exchange, I would have to forgo that glorious shattering crispness of the skin that I get with my traditional roasts. But who can resist a recipe with a name as charming as "French Chicken in a Pot?" Also, I've seen Poulet au Pot on French menus for years now on every trip I take to Paris, and having never ordered it, I was curious. And they were right--the meat was undeniably tender and juicy, and the pan juices were so robust in flavor that all they needed was a squeeze of lemon in the end. I don't think anything will ever replace my beloved roasts, but this is definitely a dish worth making. xo

French Chicken in a Pot
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
1 (4 1/2-5 lb) whole organic chicken, giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under back 
2 teaspoons kosher salt  
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
1 small onion, chopped medium (about 1/2 cup) 
1 small celery rib, chopped medium (about 1/4 cup) 
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed, and sliced in half 
1 bay leaf  
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in large (5- to 8-quart) Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, celery, garlic, and bay leaf around chicken. Cook until breast is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird, flip chicken breast-side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove Dutch oven from heat; place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven and cook until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 80 to 110 minutes.

Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from pot through fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about 3/4 cup juices). Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low heat.

Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan. Stir lemon juice into jus to taste. Serve chicken, passing jus at table.

*The cooking times in the recipe are for a 4 1/2- 5 lb bird. A 3 1/2 - 4 lb chicken will take about an hour to cook, and a 5- 6 lb bird will take close to 2 hours.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let Me Tell You My Last Thought

I have an unbreakable love for all pieces of clothing that are really sweatshirts in disguise. This Isabel Marant dress was my very first fall purchase (made all the way back in July at Barneys), and I've stared at it in my closet ever since then, just biding my time until the day I could take it for a test run on the first cool day of the season. Here we are in mid-October, and it's already become a constant in my weekly rotation. I love workhorse pieces like that, don't you?

Hope everyone's weeks are going well. I'm wearing an Isabel Marant dress, Wolford tights, Christian Louboutin shoes, Elizabeth & James sunglasses, and an Alexander Wang bag. All pictures by Mark Iantosca. xo

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pasta with Cauliflower

When you're in the mood for pasta (which happens daily for me), but don't want anything that's going to weigh you down and make you feel (for lack of a better word) fat, this penne with cauliflower is an excellent, healthy option. The original recipe is an old one of Marcella Hazan's that was tweaked by Mark Bittman of the New York Times, and then tweaked again by moi. Of course, my tweak was to add about 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese in at the end to give the whole thing a little bump of flavor. I realize that move may negate the pure healthfulness of the dish but I just couldn't resist. Feel free to be a stronger person than I and leave it out. It's delicious either way. xo

Pasta with Cauliflower
1 head cauliflower, about 1 pound
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound penne, fusilli or other cut pasta
1 cup coarse bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the cauliflower, and divide it into florets. Add about a tablespoon of salt to the water, and boil the cauliflower in it until it is tender but not mushy. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the cauliflower and set it aside. When it is cool enough to handle, chop it roughly into small pieces.

Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet over medium-low heat, saute garlic in olive oil, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden. Start cooking pasta in same pot and same water as was used for the cauliflower.

When the garlic is ready, add the cauliflower to skillet, and turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally. When pasta is just about done — it should be two or three minutes short of the way you like it — drain it, reserving about a cup of cooking liquid.

Add pasta to skillet containing the cauliflower, and toss with a large spoon until they are well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with just enough pasta water to keep the mixture moist but not soupy. Toss in the Parmesan cheese and mix well. When the mixture is hot and the pasta is tender and nicely glazed, mix in the bread crumbs.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Naked Tomato Sauce

Looking for the perfect tomato sauce recipe is like the quest for the Holy Grail. It takes time, extraordinary effort, lots of missteps, and in the end, you're not even totally sure it really exists. Well, that's what the search has been like for me, at least. There are lots of great basic recipes out there. Marcella Hazan's (deservedly) famous Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, Gwyneth Paltrow's simple tomato sauce that she always makes and keeps in her freezer, Mario Batali's basic tomato sauce, the list goes on. And although I've made many of these renditions, I've yet to find one that truly spoke to me--spoke to me and said "I am perfect. Your search can come to an end." And then, this beauty of a recipe waltzed into my life.

Having been sick this week, all I wanted was simple, homey food that I could make in a pinch, so I opted for the easy homemade chicken soup from Wednesday's post and this Naked Tomato Sauce I stumbled upon over on Smitten Kitchen. It's based on a recipe from Scarpetta, an excellent Italian restaurant in Chelsea, here in NYC. Although the restaurant's menu is filled with delicious dishes like braised short ribs over farro and duck and foie gras ravioli (must try that immediately), the most famed item on it is the spaghetti with tomato and basil. In fact, the web is filled with people trying to imitate the recipe, and apparently they've come pretty close (a how-to video with the chef at Scarpetta, Scott Conant, from the Serious Eats team helped). The secret ingredient? Butter. A tablespoon (or more!) of it added in at the very end. No wonder it's the best tomato sauce I've ever had. So good, in fact, that I honestly probably won't try another recipe again. Seriously. Make this for dinner tonight. xo

Naked Tomato Sauce
3 pounds plum tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Small handful basil leaves, most left whole, a few slivered for garnish
1/4 cup olive oil
12 ounces (3/4 pound) dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, or maybe two if nobody is looking

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds, then either rinse under cold water or shock in an ice water bath. Peeling the tomatoes should now be a cinch. Discard the skins. Keep the pot full of hot water — you can use it to cook your spaghetti in a bit.

Cut each of your tomatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with your fingertips into a small strainer set over a bowl. Ditch the seeds, reserve the juices.

Add tomatoes and salt to a large saucepan (you’ll be adding the pasta to this later, so err on the big side) and turn the heat to medium-high. There are several ways to break the tomatoes down (with your hands, chopping, with a fork) but I loved Conant’s suggestion of a potato masher, as it gives you the maximum control over how chunky, smooth you want your sauce.

Once the sauce has begun to boil, turn your heat down to medium-low and gently simmer your tomatoes for 35 to 45 minutes, mashing them more if needed. If they begin to look a little dry, add your strained and reserved tomato juices.

While the tomato sauce cooks, combine garlic, a few whole basil leaves, a pinch of red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan. Heat them slowly, over the lowest heat so that they take a long time to come to a simmer. Once it does, immediately remove it from the heat and strain the oil into a small dish. You’ll need it shortly.

When the tomato sauce has been simmering for about 25 minutes, bring your tomato-blanching pot of water back to a boil with a healthy helping of salt. Once boiling rapidly, cook your spaghetti until it is al dente, i.e. it could use another minute of cooking time. Reserve a half-cup of pasta cooking water and drain the rest.

Once your sauce is cooked to the consistency you like, stir in the reserved olive oil and adjust seasonings to taste. Add drained spaghetti and half the reserved pasta water to the simmering tomato sauce and cook them together for another minute or two. Add remaining pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce. Stir in the butter, if using, and serve immediately with slivered basil for garnish. We found that sauce this good, this simple and rich, needs no grated cheese.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Grocery List: Anchovies

Somewhere along the line, anchovies got a bad rap. Maybe people got them confused with sardines. Or maybe they just didn't like the cheap, super salty ones that would come on the local Pizza Hut delivery if you were so inclined. But the truth is, anchovies are completely and totally indispensable to any kitchen. They are a super ingredient that makes almost anything taste better. I always keep a little jar of good Spanish anchovies in the fridge, and end up reaching for it constantly to deepen the flavor of pastas, salads, sauces, and so on.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy them is with this recipe for Pasta with Anchovies and Arugula, but really, they can be melted into just about any pasta sauce for an extra kick of umami. Another favorite is this hearty recipe for Pork Chops with Tomatoes, Anchovies, and Rosemary. And for something really simple, I love toasting a thick slice of baguette in the oven and layering it with a slab of cold, creamy butter and a single anchovy. Heaven. When you're picking out your jar, make sure you buy the absolute best you can afford. Quality really counts here. xo

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chicken Soup with Rice

If there's one thing I hate, it's getting sick. Being sick feels like being benched--like you're missing out on everything, losing precious days of your life to feeling weak and gross and all-around shitty. But if there's one positive thing about it, it's all the homemade chicken soup and tea you get to slurp down all day long. My mom used to make the best chicken soup from scratch whenever I came down with a cold, but now that we live about 3,000 miles apart, I've had to make do with my own (still very delicious) abbreviated version. Because really, who has the energy to stand at a stove for hours when they're sick? Not I.

I made this chicken soup with rice at the beginning of the week when I could tell I was coming down with the same cold almost everyone in my office had been suffering from. It takes just about an hour and a half and requires almost no elbow grease--just chop up a few veggies, throw them into a big pot with an organic chicken and some water, and let it simmer. All that's left to do in the end is shred the chicken and put it back in the broth. Simple, easy, perfect for a sick day. It was so easy, in fact, that I decided to add a little bit of fun to the soup by frying up bits of the reserved chicken skins for a garnish (inspiration from the amazing matzo ball soup at Prune). I mean, let's face it, chicken soup, as nourishing as it is, can get a little boring by the third or fourth bowl, and when you've been stuck in your apartment watching My So-Called Life on Netflix for the 100th time, you've got to get your kicks in somehow. xo

Chicken Soup with Rice
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 large celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) chicken
1 cup long-grain brown rice
1/3 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus a few more for garnish
3 teaspoons salt
3 quarts water
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine onion, celery, carrots, chicken, rice, parsley, and salt in a 6-quart pot. Add water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer, skimming off fat as needed, for 1 hour.

Transfer chicken to a colander. When cool enough to handle, remove meat; reserve skin and discard bones. Coarsely shred chicken and return to soup. Add 2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste and reheat if necessary. 

Optional: Chop the reserved chicken skin into small pieces. Heat a few tablespoons of canola oil in a small nonstick pan until shimmering. Drop a small handful of chicken skins into the hot oil and fry for a few minutes until crisp and golden brown. Garnish each bowl of soup with a few pieces. Yum. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fried Chickpeas

With the holidays coming up and the culmination of major sporting events (i.e. World Series), the next few months are some of the best for those of you who love entertaining as much as I do. One of my favorite nighttime activities is cooking up special little dinners for two or three with a little starter, a main course, and (if I still have the energy) dessert. But there's something so fun about making a big feast for a crowd composed of delicious, little hors d'oeuvres that make up one big meal.

These fried chickpeas are very good for that exact purpose. You can have a batch ready to go in less than five minutes, set them on your counter or bar so that people can snack at will, and feel assured that you've offered your guests something way more impressive than your average potato chips and popcorn bowls. Also (and more to the point), these little guys are addictively good. They're briefly fried so that the skins are crisp, winged, and lightly browned, and the insides are warm and creamy. The final touch is a finishing sprinkle of Pimenton and Maldon sea salt--yum. I could eat a bowl of them to myself. Try them out and let me know how it goes. All photos by Mark Iantosca. Recipe down below. xo

Fried Chickpeas
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser
Canola oil for deep frying
One 16-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
Maldon sea salt
Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton) 

Pour 1 inch of canola oil into a deep saucepan and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to toast a bread crumb in 30 seconds, it's ready. Carefully add the chickpeas to the oil and fry until the outer skins form crisp shells but the peas are still creamy inside, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels, and season with Maldon salt and smoked paprika.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

There's something about the changing of the seasons--especially the strangely poignant transition from summer to fall--that makes me very nostalgic and brings me right back to how I was feeling in years past around this time. This morning, when I launched myself out of bed to discover that it was cold(!) in my apartment, a flood of memories from last fall and winter came rushing back, and it struck me how different life is now than it was just a year ago....all in good ways. Last year, CA Creative was very much in it's infancy (about 6 months old) and we were working hard to build it, not entirely sure where it was headed. I was focused mainly on that, and spent the holidays here in NYC working, and not doing much else. It was an exciting time, but a slightly lonely one as well. This year, things are a little more settled, and life is a bit fuller. CA has grown up into a healthy, thriving business, I've scaled back on unnecessary parties and industry events that were taking up a huge amount of my time and energy, devoted more nights to quality time (i.e. laid back dinners) with important people in my life, and followed through on my goal to spend time doing things I love, like learning French and playing the piano. It's always a good feeling to look back, reflect, and suddenly realize that life has changed, progressed, and turned into something great.

This weekend, my boyfriend and I headed up to the Hudson Valley to go to a college football game with some old friends of his, and scored a rare, last-minute reservation at Blue Hill at Stone Barns--dinner was pretty darn close to perfect and it was a lovely, special way to spend the first truly chilly weekend of fall. Whenever the weather turns like this, the resulting nostalgia makes me want to get into the kitchen to make classic favorites, like this homey chocolate "dump-it" cake. Also coming up this week: chicken soup for all of you who are suffering from those all-too-common early fall colds, and the simplest, most delicious spaghetti with tomato sauce in the world. xo

Chocolate Dump-It Cake
From Cooking for Mr. Latte, by Amanda Hesser
2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon semi-coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.)

When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. "Dump" the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky, so if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.) Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it's ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/ 4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It's good.

When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have two layers (when I do this, I use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). You can sprinkle the cake lightly with colorful sprinkles if you like.