When the weather starts to warm up, some of my favorite things to eat can be found right in any corner deli, chilling behind the glass counter. Specifically, I love classic, comforting deli salads, preferably of the sort that can be eaten alone or spread between two good slices of bread to make an all-American sandwich. Can't really beat an excellent sandwich for a spring picnic--at least in my opinion. But here's the thing: like so many other things in life, if you want a classic deli salad done right, you've really got to make that classic deli salad yourself. In your own kitchen. With your own fresh ingredients. Mixed down and dirty with your own two hands. They're just better that way. I'll even go out on a limb and say that that's pretty much an indisputable fact. Trust me on this one.
This classic creamy chicken salad tops my list of "best deli salads of all time." It's the perfect thing to whip up, stuff into a bell jar, and take with you anywhere you want to eat, whether that be a beach, a picnic blanket in a park, or just in front of your computer at work. It's so good (and so easy), that I'd be surprised if it didn't become your signature salad recipe after trying it out. So go ahead and make it--then let me know if I'm wrong in the comments. Seeing that reader comments are some of my favorite things in the entire world, this little experiment will be a win/win for both of us. All photos by Mark Iantosca. xo
Classic Creamy Chicken Salad Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Ingredients:
2 large, whole, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium celery ribs, cut into small dice
2 medium scallions, white and green parts diced
3/4 to 1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons juice from 1 small lemon
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Set breasts on small, foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Brush with oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Roast until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Remove the skin and bones and discard. Shred the meat into bite-size pieces.
Place shredded chicken pieces into a large bowl. Mix the rest of the salad ingredients into the bowl and combine thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. This salad can also be covered and refrigerated overnight.
It was my birthday last weekend, and even though I tend to say this every year, I think it was the best one ever. My very gracious boyfriend hosted all of our friends at his apartment for a pizza party complete with my favorite Rubirosa pies, a gorgeous vanilla birthday cake, and my favorite snacks including (but not limited to) salt and vinegar chips, pretzel M&Ms, lots of pastel-foil wrapped Easter candy, and homemade stove-top popcorn with lots of butter. And then a couple of days later, we took a road trip to the North Fork for some wine tasting and a delicious lunch at Love Lane Kitchen. AND finally, we went out to a decadent dinner at the Carlyle Hotel accompanied with a jazz performance by Woody Allen (possibly my favorite famous person of all time) and his band. I'm a lucky girl. xo
Birthday flowers from the flower district! Anemones are my favorites.
I was incredibly excited when one of the coolest sites, MYHABIT, asked me to be a contributor to their fantastic new blog, The Fix. Jenny Feldman, an old friend of mine from my ELLE days, is running things over there, which is basically an iron-clad guarantee of great content. Check out my first post on stripes and white denim by clicking HERE. All pics by Mark Iantosca. xo
Happy spring! The weather in New York is doing a pretty good job of lifting my spirits these days--the first few weeks of being able to leave the house sans coat always feels like a blessing. Over the weekend, as I was flipping through my new copy of The Pioneer Woman's latest cookbook, I stumbled across this recipe for a pasta with tomato cream sauce. It felt just right for the day--simple, a little luxurious, and bright with the acid-laced taste of tomatoes. Beautiful.
When I was in college, I went through a serious cream sauce phase. I'm talking vodka sauce, fettucine alfredo, and the like. And lots of it. I'd order the stuff at restaurants unflinchingly, and then slurp it all up with an extra scattering of cheese on top. But as the years have gone by and my metabolism has gone down, these indulgences are fewer and farther between, which (on a positive note) just serve to make them that much more special. If you're a fan of cream sauces, which I most certainly am, this one will definitely do right by you. xo
Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce Serves 4 Ingredients: 1/2 pound dried fettuccine 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1tablespoon unsalted butter 1 small onion, finely diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce or marinara sauce Salt And Pepper, to taste Dash of sugar 1/2 cup heavy cream Grated Parmigiano Reggiano, to taste Fresh basil, chopped
Directions: Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for a minute or so, until fragrant. Be careful not to let the garlic burn. Pour in tomato sauce and add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Stir and cook over low heat for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in cream. Add cheese to taste, then check seasonings. Stir in pasta and chopped basil and serve immediately. (Thin with pasta water before adding basil if needed.)
Happy weekend, everyone! This weekend, I'll be making some traditional corned beef and cabbage (link to recipe below) and avoiding anything resembling a bar at all cost (St. Patrick's Day in NYC can be...overwhelming. To say the least.). Hope you all have fun--try not to overload on green beer and such, yes? Talk Monday. xo
Today's post is dedicated to what is possibly the quickest, easiest weekday dinner I've ever whipped up (in about 35 minutes, tops). I love pan-fried chicken thighs (which, in my humble opinion, are the absolute best part of the bird), and this super simple way of cooking them makes it tempting to make these every single day. All there is to it is a quick seasoning, and about 15 minutes skin side down in a hot cast-iron pan to get the skin nice and golden and crisp. Then you flip 'em and do the same on the other side, mixing in bits of preserved lemon rind with the juice and fat in the pan, and then you serve them up to your hungry (and undoubtedly grateful) guests with big, tart wedges of fresh lemon so they can douse them in lemon juice as much or as little as they wish. It's a good way to make a friend for life. I like to eat mine with fragrant basmati rice, but if you're watching your starches, these would be great on their own with a simple green salad too. xo
Lemon Chicken Thighs Serves 4 Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
Rind from 1 preserved lemon, finely chopped,
Put olive oil into a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet skin side down. Cook them like this, without moving them, until the fat has rendered out and the skin is deep golden brown and crisp, 15-20 minutes. If the skin is burning or darkening too quickly, you can adjust the heat to medium-low so the chicken browns slowly and evenly.
Turn the thighs over and stir the chopped preserved lemon rind into the fat in the skillet. Continue cooking the thighs until the meat closest to the bone is cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Serve the thighs and lemony pan drippings with fat lemon wedges.
I can't quite believe that this is the first real beef stew recipe I'm posting here. Beef stew is one of my all-time favorite childhood dishes, it's what I turn to when I'm in need of some serious comfort, it's the first thing I think of when I think of Julia Child (boeuf bourguignon, anyone?). Beef stew is just my thing. I make it as frequently as a food blogger's rotation will allow, and it always, always pops into my head when I'm thinking about what to make for dinner. Maybe I haven't written about it because it's so darn hard to photograph. The falling apart pieces of chuck roast, the creamy potatoes, sweet carrots, and luscious stock--it's all so delicious. And so....brown. A.K.A. incredibly difficult to take a good picture of. Brown foods are not a food photographer's friend. Just fyi. However, give a girl the right circumstances--time of day, light, stew recipe--and she'll give you a halfway decent picture. That's what happened this morning.
Anticipating the official end of freezing winter days, I fixed up a pot of old-fashioned beef stew on Sunday, dreaming of all the reheated bowls of the stuff I could enjoy over the week (everyone knows that stew gets better with a couple of days in the fridge, right?). As soon as I lifted the heavy, cast-iron pot out of the oven, apartment filling with good smells, I whipped out my trusty little camera and snapped. And snapped. And snapped. No dice. There was something about the light at 2:30 PM yesterday that made for shiny-looking stew. And shiny-looking stew does not look appetizing. Trust me. And so I decided to call it a night. I fixed my boyfriend and I heaping plates full of stew, poured some glasses of red wine, and we settled in with our rented movie of the night, Hugo (which, incidentally, was awesome). This morning, however, it was a whole different ballgame. The 8 AM morning light was perfect for making stew look just as good as it does in real life (hence, the photo you see above). And all was well in the world. I did, however, end up eating stew for breakfast. The perils of food blogging. xo
Old-Fashioned Beef Stew Serves about 6 Ingredients:
1 (3-lb) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped coarsely
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound small red potatoes, peeled and halved
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Season beef with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper; toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in Dutch oven or cast-iron pot. Brown meat on all sides in 2 batches, about 5 minutes per batch, adding remaining 1 tablespoon oil if necessary. Remove meat and set aside. Add onions to now-empty pot and cook until almost softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour; cook until lightly colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine, scraping up browned bits of bottom of pot. Add broth, bay leaves, and thyme and bring to simmer. Add meat and return to simmer. Cover and place in oven and simmer 1 hour.
Remove pot from oven, add potatoes and carrots, cover, and return to oven. Simmer until meat is just tender, about 1 hour. Remove stew from oven. (At this point, stew can be cooled to room temperature , then refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to simmer, then remove from heat before proceeding).
Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. (Stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
Italian food is my personal zenith when it comes to cooking. It's a crowd pleaser (who doesn't like Italian food?), it's varied, filling, soothing, delicious, and it's easy more often than not. More than any other type of cuisine, I turn to it in a pinch, when I want to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes with minimal effort. When I've had one of those days, there's almost nothing better than digging into a big plate of spaghetti coated with a homemade batch of luscious tomato sauce with butter. It's food for the soul, a balm for the weary, and any number of other cliched platitudes that happen to be absolutely true when it comes to cucina italiana. Can you tell I love Italian food yet? Yes? Good. Now let's talk exceptions.
Don't get me wrong, I love risotto. I order it at restaurants. I get ridiculously excited if someone offers to make it for me (this has only happened once, now that I think about it). I eat it with a kind of zeal that may or may not be mistaken for gluttony. I love the stuff. But in the kitchen, risotto has always eluded me. Let's face it: risotto is a scary prospect when you're faced with making it yourself. All that constant stirring and monitoring and god forbid it turns out overcooked (which, apparently, can happen in the space between mere seconds)! It's exhausting just thinking about it. I'd rather boil some water, throw a fistful of pasta in, set the timer, and call it a day. Which is why, perhaps, I made my first ever risotto just a couple of weeks ago. That's right. First ever risotto. And you know what? It wasn't that bad. I'll give it to you straight--it was a lot of stirring. As in, my right arm was just about falling off by the time those little arborio suckers were toothsome and right. But it wasn't as delicate or easy to mess up as I'd thought. And it was really, really good. I won't be making this every day, or even every month, but for a special night, it's perfect. And more importantly, my fear of risotto is a long gone memory. xo
Risotto Alla Certosina Adapted from Canal House Cooking, Volume No. 7, by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer Ingredients:
1 lb shrimp
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Handful of parsley stems, chopped
Salt and pepper
One 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2/3 cup dry vermouth
Peel of 1 lemon
1 cup arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano rice
Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells for the broth, and set aside. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp shells, half of the onions, the celery, carrots, garlic, and parsley stems. Season with salt and pepper, and saute until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 1/3 cup of the vermouth, and the lemon peel, and cook for 5 minutes. Add 5 cups of water and cook for 15 minutes. Strain the broth, then return it to the pot. Add the shrimp and place the pot on the stove, off the heat.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy, deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining onions and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice, stirring until it is coated with butter. Add the remaining 1/3 cup vermouth.
Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth, stirring constantly to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Push any rice that crawls up the sides of the pan back down into the liquid. When the rice has absorbed all the broth, add another 1/2 cup of simmering broth. Keep adding broth and stirring. Taste the rice, it is done when it is tender with a firm center. This should take about 30 minutes. If you run out of broth, just add hot water in it's place until the rice is done. Add the shrimp in when you have about 5 minutes of cooking time left. When the rice is done, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and stir until it has melted into the rice.
Precious heart plate at Astier de Villatte on Rue St-Honore--one of my fave stores
Part deux of my Paris pictures. I already miss it--one day my dream of spending a solid two months there, wandering around, taking immersion French, and learning to cook from a Parisian grandmother will come true. xo
All the statues in Paris are beautiful
Paul and I at a fashion week party--can't remember which one, they're all running together by now
Carousel in the Tuileries
When you go to Paris, you must go to Le Stella in the 16th. One of the last-standing family-owned traditional French brasseries with outstanding food.
The Petit Palais--there was really nothing "petite" about it
Alex and I having dinner at Liza, an excellent Lebanese restaurant. After days of eating nothing but butter and bread and red meat, it was a refreshing palate cleanser.
A little Parisian deli in St Germain--so much prettier than American delis!
We caught the tail end of Paris fashion week while we were in the city of lights last weekend and, as always, it was a great time. Paris has always been my favorite city (besides NYC, which has an unfair advantage since it's home), so I always take every chance I get to spend time there, to the exclusion of every other destination, I've realized (my passport is filled with CDG stamps). Not such a bad problem. I took so many pictures, I have to split it up into two posts so as not to overwhelm you guys. Here's part one. The skies were overcast every single day while we were there, which made for some deliciously foreboding pictures. xo
May and I at dinner at Hotel Amour
Cute little pig sign
The flower shops in Paris are so good
Love this statue in the Jardin des Tuileries
One of the most majestic hotels in Paris--and they've got a killer cheeseburger
Glasses of wine at La Maison Champs Elysee, the beautiful hotel that Maison Margiela designed
A gorgeous, slightly creepy building we passed on my way to the Marais
Rice Krispie Treats are the first things I remember ever making. As a kid, they're practically all I ever wanted to eat, and I can still recall with startling clarity that first time I stood dwarfed at my mother's huge stove, standing on a step stool, stirring the sticky pot of cereal, marshmallow, and butter, to miraculously make a sum that was so much bigger than it's parts. It seemed like magic to me at the time, like a mysterious alchemy that ended in the most delicious treat, perfect parts chewy and crunchy. My tastes have now grown up a bit, but I still can't resist the occasional Rice Krispie Treat splurge, whether I make my own batch at home, or pick up a post-lunch brown butter version at Peels.
When I stumbled across a healthier recipe for the treats that was vegan, gluten-free and incorporated peanut butter, I was sold. Peanut butter? No fatty butter? Sounded too good to be true. Thankfully I was proven wrong once I took a bite of the quick batch I made one weekday night and tasted the results. They were even better than my childhood favorites, and probably had half the calories. I can now safely say that I will never make the regular kind again. My one caveat? Unless you wrap them in plastic, they don't stay as chewy as the originals given 24 hours or so, so they're best eaten the day they're made. But that's kind of a good problem, wouldn't you say? xo
Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats From Food & Wine, March 2012 Ingredients: 3 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for greasing One 10-ounce bag marshmallows 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter 7 ounces Rice Krispies Gluten Free with Brown Rice (6 cups)
Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with coconut oil. In a large pot, melt the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. Add the marshmallows and cook thoroughly over low heat, stirring constantly, until they are melted, about 5 minutes. Add the creamy peanut butter and stir until incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat and immediately add the Rice Krispies. Using a wooden spoon or firm spatula, stir to coat them completely. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking pan and, using a sheet of wax paper, press evenly on the mixture to compact it. Let the Rice Krispie treats cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.