Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last weekend, instead of heading out to the beach, I hunkered down in the city for the first time in a few weeks to take care of various less-than-thrilling things like a frighteningly large pile of laundry, restocking my fridge, organizing my closets, and trying to bring my poor, beleaguered fern back to life. In the midst of all that maintenance, though, I did manage to bake my doormen an end-of-summer batch of chocolate chip cookies that made them very happy, and I even had an extra handful to bring to my Sunday brunch date before we ventured up to the MoMA to take in some culture.

This latest favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe of mine turns out a cookie that is perfectly chewy, but still maintains those slightly crispy edges that are so very important in any cookie that strives to be halfway decent. I tweaked Emily from Cupcake & Cashmere's formula just slightly, using the printed version found in her fantastic new book. The trick to perfect cookies, according to her, is really taking the time to let your butter and your egg come to room temperature. This means no cheating with a quick blast in the microwave for your butter. And, of course, use the absolute best ingredients you can find--the quality of the chocolate really matters here. Give it a go and let me know what you think. xo

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla at medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until just combined.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture in several batches and beat until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips, using a large spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour, or overnight (this will help all the flavors really meld).

Drop mounds of cookie dough about 1 inch apart. The mounds should be a little larger than one tablespoon. Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheet once about halfway through, until the edges are just slightly browned. Remove the sheet from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Favorite Things: 08.24.12

So sad that we only have one week of summer left. But at least we have a cozy, preppy fall to look forward to in the form of fuzzy fair isle sweaters, men's-inspired brogues, some real literature (to take the place of all the beach reads I've succumbed to this month), and long Bloody Mary-filled weekend brunches with friends who have stopped fleeing the city every Friday. xo

Favorite things:
1. My fave bloody mary mix

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale

I'm finding that the older I get, the more my tastes evolve towards the healthy end of the food spectrum. When I was in college, I pretty much lived on nothing but carbs--bagels, pasta, and pizza slices were my constant companions. And then when I graduated and moved to NYC, my all-consuming job as a fashion assistant at ELLE magazine left me with little to no time to think about what I was eating, and so Thai takeaway became my go-to meal way more often than I'd like to admit.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I felt settled enough to start focusing on cooking meals from scratch, paying careful attention to every ingredient that went into them. And along with that consciousness, a funny thing happened--the more I ate good foods, the more I craved them. Suddenly, I wanted egg white omelettes with spinach instead of sausage, egg, and cheese sandwiches. I picked simple grilled fishes over fried chicken. I ate fresh strawberries in place of chocolate bars. Don't get me wrong, I'm no saint and I've never been on an actual diet in my life; I eat what I want when I want. It's just that the things I want are the things that make me feel good and strong and healthy for the most part (although, fried chicken/french fry/cheeseburger binges definitely happen on occasion and I have small pieces of chocolate pretty much every day).

Despite my tentative foray into healthy eating, whole wheat pasta was just not something I've ever been down with--I love pasta in all it's myriad shapes and forms and I was always reluctant to mess with it. I caved a couple of weeks ago for this recipe from Lidia Bastianich's impressive archive, and now, here I stand on the other side telling you that it's all good. Seriously. You can't even tell the difference. If anything, it's slightly nuttier, which makes it (dare I say) even more delicious. Also, it has less calories and it's way more nutritious. Give it a go. xo

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Kale
Serves 4
1 1/2 pounds kale
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
Large pinch of dried red chili flakes
4 garlic cloves, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the kale. Remove tough stems from kale and discard. Coarsely chop the kale leaves. Rinse thoroughly and drain.

When the water comes to a boil, add a good handful of salt and the spaghetti. Cook until it is al dente.

While the pasta cooks, heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add about half the oil, the onion, chili flakes and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and lightly colored, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to prevent onion from scorching. Add kale and cook, tossing and stirring, until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Add water if dry or cover to create steam if necessary. Add garlic, season with salt, and cook 2 minutes more being careful not to brown the garlic.

Reserve a cup of pasta water and then drain pasta when done. Add pasta to saute pan and toss to combine, loosen with a splash of the pasta water if necessary and taste for salt, adjusting as needed. Transfer to warm bowls. Drizzle thin stream of olive oil on top. Garnish with shavings of parmesan.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Apricot Mustard Baked Chicken

I know it must seem like I have a slight obsession with chicken, considering the obscene number of poultry-based recipes I manage to post on this blog. And I know I frequently write enthusiastic missives to go along with them along the lines of "This is my new favorite chicken recipe!" which I can imagine must get annoying. I can't help it. I love chicken--roasted, baked, stewed, and in every other cooking method under the sun. There's just something so cozy about roasting a whole chicken, making a good coq au vin, grilling some drumsticks slathered in a sticky BBQ sauce, or in this case, baking up a batch of thighs and drumsticks covered in a delicious, easy mixture of apricot jam and grainy mustard.

This is quite possibly, one of the easiest recipes I've ever had the pleasure of trying (thanks to Jenny Rosentrach's brilliant book Dinner: A Love Story for that)--you can do all of the prep work while your oven heats, making this a clean, 30-minute execution. Also? It's good. Really good. Give it a go and let me know what you think. xo

Apricot-Mustard Baked Chicken
Serves 4
6-8 skin-on chicken pieces (thighs or drumsticks), rinsed and patted dry
Salt and pepper
¾ cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
¼ cup water
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish with parchment paper. Place chicken on sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 10 minutes.

While chicken bakes, in a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together jam, mustard, water, thyme, and a little salt and pepper for about 3 minutes. It should be slightly syrupy.

Pull chicken out of the oven and pour sauce on top. Continue baking for another 15 minutes. For the last 3 minutes, place chicken under broiler on top rack, so it gets golden and crispy looking.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Weekend Bits

Strung lights at the Crow's Nest

Just got back from a cozy, rainy weekend in Montauk filled with lots of lazy, delicious meals at Bryon at Surf Lodge, Navy Beach, and the Crow's Nest, soaked sprints in the rain, poolside rounds of Uno, and snuggling up in bed and watching movies and bad TV while the rain did it's work outside. The days were mostly wet, but the evenings managed to work themselves out into states of warm, sunny gorgeousness by the time dinner rolled around, which was more than fine by me. Here are some iPhone snaps from the weekend. xo

Paul and I about to head out for dinner

Suz Monster letting us know she had no intention of leaving Sole East's comfy beds. Ever.

The ceiling on the outdoor deck at Surf Lodge

My favorite ice cream: mint and Oreo cookie from John's.
Cutest colorful bowls and table runners from Gansett Lane Home
Gorgeous coffee table book at Gansett Lane
Bevy, Alex, me, and Paul
Magical sunset dinner

Friday, August 10, 2012

At the Market

Just a little market eye candy to encourage you to spend some time in the kitchen this weekend. Peaches, heirloom tomatoes, and little fairytale eggplants are all really good right now. I'll be out in Montauk getting in some beach time, trying not to think about the fact that there are only three weeks of summer left--unbelievable. xo

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Roasted Whole Fish

Over the weekend, I somehow got it into my head that I should know how to buy and roast a whole fish. I've always been one of those people who have an unreasonable fear of fish faces. I love ordering whole branzino at restaurants but blanch as soon as the waiter brings out the plate, head still firmly attached. At that point, despite all attempts to put on a brave face, I usually shudder and ask that the kitchen debone it for me, resolutely avoiding eye contact with my dinner the whole time. Pretty lame. 

And so, I decided to put a definitive end to the matter and face my fear head on (literally and figuratively). I walked over to the New Amsterdam market at the South Street Seaport and scooped up a gleaming medium-sized porgy from Gabe the Fish Babe (an awesome fishmonger who provides super fresh fish for restaurants like Roberta’s, Allswell, Buttermilk Channel, Roman’s, and Rucola) for all of $4, carried it home packed in ice, and set about reading up on Gwyneth Paltrow's tips on roasting whole fish. To my surprise, once I got over the initial paranoia that the fish was somehow still alive and would immediately bite my arm off as soon as I touched it, preparing it was incredibly easy and the finished product was so tasty that every last bite was polished off within minutes. Although, I probably apologized to the fish upwards of 27 times while I was stuffing it. Out loud.

Baby steps. xo

Whole Roasted Fish
Serves 4
1 very fresh whole fish, whatever is good, fresh, and preferably local (at least 2 pounds), scaled and gutted
1 tablespoon each fresh tarragon, basil, chives, and parsley
1 lemon, cut into thin slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut 4 or 5 slits on each side of the fish, about 1/2 inch into the flesh. Combine the herbs and roughly chop them. Stuff each opening with a slice of lemon and a little bit of the herb mixture. Put any remaining herbs and lemon slices into the cavity of the fish. Lay the fish in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper and salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the fish is firm but still moist.

To serve, gently spoon the top fillet off the bone. You can then easily peel the spine off in one piece from the bottom half. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Refinery29 Features Milk and Mode!

So psyched that one of my favorite sites, Refinery29, included me in a feature about "fashion's biggest foodies," along with Sous Style, Cupcakes and Cashmere, Lookbook Cookbook, Sugarlaws, and The Food Life. You can read the story HERE. xo

Monday, August 6, 2012

Favorite Thing

For some reason, I've been much more into the Olympics this time around than I can remember being in the past. I think it may have something to do with the fact that Twitter now exists and my feed has basically turned into a constant stream of exclamatory updates on the games. Also, Ralph Lauren (the official outfitter for USA) had this polo customized and sent over to me, which probably significantly boosted my team spirit. I've known this since my brief stint in college cheerleading, but there's just something about a uniform that brings it home. You can get your own customized polo HERE. xo

Friday, August 3, 2012

Favorite Things: 8.03.12

I've realized this blog has become really food-focused as of late, so I wanted to switch things up and bring back a Favorite Things post in time for the weekend. I've had my mind on fall clothes this week, mainly because every time I see a great spring/summer piece drastically marked down, I have to aggressively remind myself that cooler temps are just around the corner and I don't really need another nude sandal or floaty white dress. These are some of the things that I'll be snapping up for back-to-school season (and for me, that term happens to be very literal--my Henry James course at Columbia starts in September!). Have a great first weekend of August, everyone. xo

Stuff I like (click on links):

+ more favorite things (click on links):

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Playdate Cookies

There's not much that can make a classic chocolate chip cookie better, but a scattering of colorful M&M's does the trick every time. This recipe is from Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach (which is quickly becoming one of the most-reached-for books in my cookbook collection), and it takes a fantastic chocolate chip cookie recipe (perfectly chewy, great texture, tastes just as good the next day, not too sweet) and makes it kid-friendly and even more fun to eat.

I brought small batches of these to a Sunday night dinner and then to the office the next day, and they were met with lots of enthusiasm and affection both times, proving that a good cookie recipe comes in handy when it comes to winning hearts and friends. P.S. I used an all-natural version of M&M candy from Sunspire, and they were delicious. xo

Playdate Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup good quality chocolate chips
2 1.69-ounce bags M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl and using a wooden spoon or electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and mix until well combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Using a handheld mixer, add the dry mixture to the wet mixture gradually until all the dry mixture has been worked into the batter. Fold in the chocolate chips. Using your hands or two spoons, scoop small rounds of dough onto the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart from each other. Pour the M&Ms into a bowl and stick the candies into the dough rounds until they are all gone (if you have kids, this is a fun activity for them to do). Bake for 9-12 minutes, until they are golden.