Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pork Loin Braised in Milk

Well, the yearly "office cold" has officially reared it's ugly head, leaving me quarantined in my apartment for the past few days. There are lots of annoying things about getting colds: the fact that (unbelievably) there is still no cure except for time and patience (ugh), the aforementioned quarantine from all human contact, the inability to get to yoga (much less get off my couch), and the ridiculous amount of orange juice I've consumed in the past 48 hours.

However, there's a silver lining to every cloud, and this pork loin happens to fit the bill nicely here. With all of the above mentioned inconveniences comes the sudden opportunity to do things like make a luxurious, juicy pork loin in the middle of a Tuesday. So that's exactly what I did. The recipe comes from this month's Bon Appetit, and it's a good one. xo

Pork Loin Braised in Milk
Serves 4
1 2-pound boneless pork loin, preferably with a 1/4" layer of fat
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Season pork with 2 tsp. salt and pepper. In a small heavy pot just wide enough to fit pork loin, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat until butter is melted. Add pork and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Pour off fat in pot; wipe out pot and let pot cool slightly. Add milk and nutmeg. Return pork to pot.

Bring milk mixture just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer gently, turning meat every 30 minutes, until meat is tender but not falling apart, about 2 hours. Transfer meat to a cutting board. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Simmer liquid in pot, uncovered, until reduced by two-thirds and small golden-brown curds form throughout sauce, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut pork into 1/3" slices. Arrange on a serving platter. Spoon sauce over and around pork.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekend Bits

A beautiful eggshell silk tank from The Row

Hope everyone had a fun, restful weekend. Mine consisted of lots of reading, relaxing, cooking, a bit of shopping, and a Friday night screening of Perks of Being a Wallflower, a movie I've been dying to see for what seems like forever. Here are some of my favorite finds and moments from the last few days. xo

Making my windowsill a mini greenhouse

Gold crest buttons on my J. Crew schoolboy blazer--available HERE

Suz waking up from her daily nap in the sun

A thoughtful present that made my week--given to me right before we went to see the movie

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cowboy Cookies

I've always been a little fascinated by the White House kitchen--how it's run, who crafts the menus and how, Presidential favorites, et al. It especially strikes my interest when I hear about specific recipes that past (and present) First Ladies have in their personal arsenals. Such was the case with this delicious recipe, charmingly titled Cowboy Cookies. It's a favorite of former First Lady Laura Bush, and in it, she combines flakes of coconut, pecans, oats, and chocolate chips, making it somewhat of a compost cookie (everything but the kitchen sink, in other words). I don't know where exactly it originated from before Mrs. Bush, but it's definitely earned a frequent spot in my cookie rotation. xo

Cowboy Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
3⁄4 cup flour
3⁄4 tsp. baking powder
3⁄4 tsp. baking soda
3⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
6 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 egg
3⁄4 tsp. vanilla extract
3⁄4 cup rolled oats
3⁄4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1⁄2 cup chopped pecans
1⁄2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Heat oven to 350°. In a bowl, whisk first 5 ingredients; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with a handheld mixer until smooth. Add sugars; beat until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until smooth. Add flour mixture; beat to form a dough. Stir in oats, chocolate, pecans, and coconut. Form dough into 24 balls; divide between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cooked through, 16–18 minutes. Let cool.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Buttermilk Biscuits

Everybody knows that any good Southern woman worth her salt has the ability to turn out a perfectly crisp, light as air, buttery biscuit with no measuring cups to speak of and a steady smile. This is not me. Not yet, at least. I am neither Southern nor an expert biscuit maker. But I do love a good buttermilk biscuit in any way, shape, or form. Drowned in gravy and ham, eaten with fluffy scrambled eggs and spears of asparagus, or topped with strawberries and cream in an impromptu strawberry shortcake--they're the basic foundation of so many good things. Reason enough to get this thing down to a science, no?

Well, my friends, it turns out that buttermilk biscuits are one of the easiest breads to make. All those horror stories you've heard about White Lily being the only acceptable flour to use: false--all-purpose is just fine. The myth of anyone other than a true Southerner being unable to produce a decent biscuit: false--my biscuits were pretty darn perfect, thankyouverymuch. The key here, ironically enough, is to do the least amount of work possible. Once you add the buttermilk in, don't overwork your dough. Mix it in until it is just combined--nothing more, nothing less, and you'll be golden. And, for that matter, so will your biscuits. I got the recipe from Martha Stewart's American Food, and as is usually the case with her recipes, this one is foolproof. Happy biscuit making, y'all. xo

Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes 1 dozen
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Work in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in buttermilk with your hands until just combined.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7-inch disk about 1-inch thick. Cut out 12 rounds with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter, gathering and patting out scraps as necessary.

Arrange rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until cooked through and golden brown, rotating sheet halfway through, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella

After a last few sticky, humid days when summer made her (hopefully) final, assertive push into September, it finally feels a bit like fall around here. Very exciting times. Among other things, the beginning of fall means breaking my cozy cashmere sweaters out of storage, plotting my annual viewing of Love Story, and perhaps most exciting of all, heading back into the kitchen to turn on my stove and get down to the business of cooking. And I'm not talking the light summer version of cooking I do when all I can muster are a few salads tossed together and some lightly roasted veggies. I'm talking slowly braised short ribs, lasagna bolognese bubbling over with melted cheese, and my favorite boeuf bourgignon recipe. In short, I can't wait to break out my Dutch ovens and my casserole dishes, crank my oven to 450 degrees, and curl up with a book while the stove does it's alchemy, filling my apartment with good smells.

To make the transition a smooth one, I started out with a lighter, veggie-based casserole dish, found on Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Ottolenghi's book, Plenty. It makes the most out of the early fall greenmarket, when loads of perfect eggplants and tomatoes are still overflowing from the bins, combining them with delicate orzo and warm pulls of fresh mozzarella. Yum. xo

Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella
Serves 6
1 large or 2 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch dice
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 celery stalk, cut into a 1/4-inch dice
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, rinsed
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, firmer is better here, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 1/2 cups parmesan, grated
3 medium tomatoes, diced

Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Use this time to get the rest of your ingredients ready. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and once the oil is shimmering, add the eggplant. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer them to paper towels to drain. Add celery and carrots to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more. Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, fried eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.

Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) ovenproof baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You can increase the ration of foil-on to foil-off time if you don’t like a crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ralph Lauren Spring 2013

Ralph Lauren--always such a great way to finish off New York Fashion Week, today being no exception. The show was absolutely lovely, start to finish. xo

Monday, September 10, 2012

US Open with Ralph Lauren

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a match at the US Open with one of my all-time favorite brands, Ralph Lauren. It was a pretty incredible experience--our seats were practically on the court, so watching Djokovic and Del Potro battle it out on the court was especially thrilling. Favorite parts: carrying my new US Open tote courtesy of Ralph Lauren's US Open Tennis collection (pictured above), and seeing Djokovic yell "Come on!" and throw a towel over his head after a particularly intense rally.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tofu, Tomato, and Basil Scramble

In honor of what is probably the busiest week of the year for myself and a lot of my peers (New York Fashion Week, if anyone was wondering), here is a super quick, healthy, easy breakfast to whip up. When your system is overloaded with various stresses, it's important to get your morning started on the right foot and feed your body the good energy it needs to power through the day. This recipe, found in Sophie Dahl's beautiful new cookbook, utilizes the bounty of September heirloom tomatoes that can be found at the markets right now and combines them with tofu and torn basil in a simple scramble. Eat with whole wheat toast topped with a generous dab of good butter. Yum. xo

Tofu, Tomato, and Basil Scramble
Serves 2
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 medium heirloom tomatoes, chopped
A handful of fresh, coarsely torn basil
1 tablespoon tomato puree
About 1/2 block firm or extra firm tofu
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
A splash of vegetable stock (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, stirring for a minute. Add the tomatoes and the basil, and cook on low for two minutes. Add the tomato puree. Crumble in the tofu and the feta and mix it all through, adding a little vegetable stock if the mixture starts to look dry. Taste and season accordingly.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Weekend Bits

Welcome back to reality, everyone. I spent a pretty blissful 5 days and 4 nights out in Montauk for Labor Day weekend soaking in the last rays of sun and moments of peace before the madness of fashion week (which starts right This time of year always feels like such a transition for me--as the nights get cooler and the days shift into shorter, more clipped versions of their summer selves, I'm reminded that nothing ever stays the same and--to bring in a tired, old cliche--the only constant is change.

When the seasons change, there's always a shot of nostalgia for past years, and then a twinge of anxiety about what's to come, but it's important to not be afraid to shift. Our thoughts, our moods, our goals, and our relationships are all designed to be changeable because they're meant to grow. And that's not something to be afraid of, it's something to be excited for. Stay inside yourself (to quote my favorite man of all time, Coach Taylor), stay centered, and stand up tall and well. Move forward with grace. Happy (unofficial) fall. xo