DIY Gifts for Dad, or Anyone Else That Loves All Things Spicy or Bacony

I’m giving throwing you guys two posts today, since I was such a flake last week. I know that the gift-giving frenzy is pretty much over for this season, but these work as excellent presents for any occasion, so no matter.

If you were ever to ask my mom which one of parents I take after the most, she’d probably tell you that I’m my father through and through, that she can barely see any of herself in me. Whether or not that’s true, my Dad and I are certainly kindred spirits in several senses, one of those being our taste in food. We like all things greasy, cheesy, heart-attacky, and above all spicy enough to render a Neti pot useless. Was that gross? Oh well, you got the point. We like it hot. For a long time I got him an assortment of hot sauces for every holiday, be it Christmas, father’s day, his birthday, you name it. But once I started to cook, it seemed way more fun to do it on my own. This year I made pickled carrots, jalapeño-habanero hot sauce, and bacon jam.  Continue reading

A Cozy Meal for those Pre-Holiday Days!

I’ve been a bad blogger of late. I’m sorry for blowing you guys off last week, but I had some really important things to do like try on Monique Lhuillier wedding dresses (!!), play dress up in The Boy’s mother’s awesome vintage closet, and set fire to steel wool (more on that later). But today I’m back! And I’ve got a hearty winter meal that involves two of my all time favorite things: cheese and beer. Both of these things are incredibly easy to make, don’t be daunted by the list of ingredients! I pulled the whole thing together in under and hour, and I’m an exceptionally slow cook. The soup is loosely adapted from Epicurious, and my darling roommate Paul taught me how to make the kale chips. Enjoy!

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A Perfect Autumnal Meal

Good gosh it’s getting cold outside! The only solution I can think of for the nippy weather is some delicious, stick-to-your-ribs hibernation fare, hot cider, and a rich, dark winter lager. I came up with this recipe all on my own, and its still a little rough around the edges but the results are magnificent: warm, seasonal flavors and chicken so moist it’s almost obscene. The best part is it will seem impressive to your dining companions, but it’s incredibly easy on the budget. In fact, this would make an excellent substitute for turkey if you’re planning to host a low-key Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

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Ramen: Hacked

We all love good food, even better if we can make it ourselves. I love to cook, but not because I find it soothing, or because it connects me to some part of my heritage, or any of those reasons that people usually use to explain why they love cooking. But I do think the reasons for my love are fairly universal. Its simple, really: I love the self-sufficiency, being able to say “I made that,” of completing a task to great result. Humans enjoy working, being capable, a job well done. And cooking is really the height of that because the results are so personal, they literally sustain you.

Of course, one of the biggest obstacles for most people when it comes to cooking is the money. Budgeting for food, figuring out what’s truly essential and learning to make something delicious from the bare necessities, that stuff is really difficult. Right now I’m cooking every day, but without a job I’ve had to learn how to make do without all the fancy ingredients that I used to be able to afford. Basically what I’ve learned thus far is that budget cooking basically means cooking without recipes or, rather, learning to pull necessary techniques and ideas from recipes, without following verbatim their absurdly long and pricey ingredient lists.

Which I think has actually made me a better, more creative cook. I eat a lot of pasta these days, and believe me, it gets difficult to come up with ever new and creative ways to serve spaghetti. So I’m always looking for fresh ideas to appropriate the things we have lying around the house, which leads me to a stroke of genius I had two days ago.

I love Ramen. Really, I do. I think it’s underrated. And I live with two college boys, so we have a ton of it in the house. But once it becomes a daily lunch and not the guilty pleasure you eat in bed with the TV on (who me?), it loses some of its powers of titillation.

But then I thought of this recipe I’ve been wanting to try for at least a year, and I had an idea. The results were awesome, I have to say. The soup was the most perfect, creamy texture, and it tasted not at all like ramen, but like real soup! For the cost of about a dollar! Next time I’m going to play around with a few more ingredients, maybe throw some potatoes or a little lemon zest in there. The beautiful thing about it is you’re cooking literally the easiest thing in the world, ramen, so that leaves lots of room to add on, get creative, mix things around, and it still doesn’t add up to very much work.

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Weekend Adventures: Metaphorical Tricycles, Futhur, and Duck Fat in Portland, Maine

I know. I know. I said last week that I’d be back to regular posting, and then that turned out to be a blatant lie. You see, The Boy and I took a trip up to Maine where we had no internet and so much fun that I couldn’t worry about the blog. But I took photos! Well, a few.

The purpose of the trip was twofold. First and foremost, we were visiting my best friend, Lorenza, the perpetual third wheel in my relationship with The Boy. Lorenza has such an effortless eye for knick knacks, curiosities, and small wonderments. Here are a few shots that The Boy took of her new apartment.

That was our guest bed! Please pardon the giant mess of my clothing. Lorenza made us a little headboard out of a spare piece of wood she had lying around, she’s such a crafty lady. She told me she likes that chair because it’s “so Morticia Addams.” And really, who couldn’t use more gothic glamour in their life? And these are some of the photos that I took. I wish I could explain what’s going on in this first photo, but I’ve been forbidden from doing so for various reasons. Nevertheless, it looks so eery and beautiful that I couldn’t resist sharing.

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Cozy Tomatoes

I copied this recipe more or less exactly from Smitten Kitchen, so I won’t bother reprinting it here. Doesn’t it look so cozy and delicious though? Believe me, it was. The Boy and I made it last weekend in the rain, it was a perfect meal for a cozy, stormy evening at home, and a great way to use the last of the summer tomatoes (a sad thought). Plus, how bomb is my mom’s flatware? She has such good taste. She has all kinds of plates, mugs, place mats, butter dishes and other fun things like that in a similar design. They’re all different colors, with different animals, and made by Vietri. I’m so in love with the way my parents have decorated the house, and I’m actually planning to do a little photo shoot with all of her tchotchkes this weekend. Friday post coming up, see you then!

Stone Barns, OR, Kylie Dies of Satisfaction

I spent a good THREE MONTHS trying to make a reservation at Stone Barns. THREE MONTHS. This place is in high demand, people. So plan in advance, especially if you want to dine on a weekend (which you should so you can check out the farm).

So you drive out to this idyllic Westchester farm, and you go inside, and sit down, and man this is a pretty restaurant. All quiet and elegant and cow horn candle votives (!) and a huge, beautiful wooden farm-housey table in the middle of the room with fresh flower center pieces that look like they were just picked outside and assorted legumes (!!). Each table has a whole service team that’s comprised of several waiters/servers and a team leader. The team leader is there to answer any questions you might have and basically liaise between the diners and the kitchen. They also come around to the table occasionally with fun props (jars of grains, a glass nest with three eggs, a charred lobster head, ie: things that only I would call “fun”) to provide educational information about the way the farm is run and where the food you’re eating is sourced. I got along really well with our table’s team leader, she could tell I was super enthusiastic about the whole experience (read: embarrassing The Boy) , so she was really forthcoming with all kinds of extra details about the food, etc.

We decided to do twelve courses because, I mean really, why fuck around? After you choose  your number of courses the team leader will ask if you have any dietary restrictions, allergies, or things you just don’t like. I told her to bring it on. Bear in mind: There are lots of things I don’t particularly enjoy eating, like raw fish or really just fish in general, but this just didn’t seem like the right place to be a picky eater. I wanted to go into this experience with a totally open mind, willing to try anything. It paid off. Ok, I’ll quit blabbing and cut to the food.

Course 1: Small bites

Fennel, radish, cherry tomato, husk cherry, some kind of bean I didn’t recognize, and a tomato water gazpacho shot.

Radish with brown butter.

Kale chip, potato chip

Mini tomato burgers

String bean fries

String bean wrapped in sesame-covered pancetta (exceptionally blurry, I know!)
Charcuterie meats

Summer melon with cracked black pepper and watermelon vinaigrette.

Course 2: Raw fish whose name I can’t remember (eep!), with summer corn and melon.

Course 3: Herb salad with heirloom tomatoes, summer melon, and plain yogurt. Easily the most delicious yogurt ever on the face of the earth. Less like yogurt and more like cheese. This photo is so gray, but in person this dish was very vibrant and colorful!

Course 4: Whole grain brioche toast with cracked black pepper, fresh ricotta cheese, and kale marmalade

Course 5: Roasted onion with selected condiments (pickled pepper jam, chicken liver mouse, olive tapenade, and… uh oh… um, some kind of aioli?)

Course 6: Wild brook trout with corn and black trumpet mushrooms

Course 7: Linguine with fried egg yolk a la carbonara with zucchini ribbons and bacon

Course 8: Ostrich egg pasta with tomato confit sauce

Course 9: Salt roasted turkey breast with spinach and beans. Plus, how sweet is that plate?

Course 10 (hmmm, that’s not right… this should be course 9. That must mean one of the earlier plates wasn’t supposed to be a “real” course… the brioche, perhaps?): Assorted cuts of pork (loin, jowl, snout, boudin noir, and… the rest are failing me), and various vegetables from around the farm including fairytale eggplant, fennel, squash, zucchini, sweet carmen pepper, broccoli, kale, chard, black trumpet mushrooms and… some more.

So that concludes the dinner portion of the meal. At this point my eyes are drooping and I’m fantasizing about unzipping my dress on the drive home so my belly can breathe a little. And then our table leader comes over and offers us the option of adding on ANOTHER course. For cheese. Now, I know this is going to sound crazy but… who the hell can say no to cheese? Bring it, lady! So we ate the cheese. I don’t have a picture of that, because I scarfed it down before The Boy could even unzip the camera bag. That was actually a running theme throughout the night, the food was just so delicious and beautiful looking it was hard to think of posterity before taking a bite. Anyway, so a lovely cheese plate (something blue and something softer and mild with apricot marmalade and pickled okra), and then on to dessert and coffee (thank god! I was more worried about The Boy driving home after this dinner than if he’d drank an entire bottle of wine!).

Course 10 (who can really count at this point?): Raspberry sorbet with grape concord sauce, elderflower jelly, and honey

Course 11: Peach melba with raspberries, vanilla ice cream, and crème fraiche panacotta.

Course 12 (finally!): Hazelnut chocolate praline with hazelnut mousse.

And The Boy rolled me home. Not really, but you get the idea. So that’s 12ish courses or 13ish, rather. So decadent. Halfway through the meal The Boy and I were already scheming about how we could go back and have someone else pay for it. I seriously wish I could eat like this every day. Well, perhaps not in quantity, but certainly in quality. I was also really surprised by how much I enjoyed certain things I typically “don’t like.” Like the raw fish. Of course there were other things that I still didn’t like, fennel, for example, is one of my least favorite foods. But at least now I can say I definitely don’t like it, because I’ve tasted it in its finest incarnation. Too often I feel like I walk around with these preconceived notions of food, judging it by the way it looks, or what I thought of it as a kid, rather than how it actually tastes. I think it’s good for the soul to every once in awhile revisit ideas that you’ve had for a long time and check in, make sure they’re still relevant and you’re not just operating on autopilot.

One of the coolest aspects of this whole experience came at the end of the meal, when our  table leader offered us the chance to see inside the kitchen. They were mostly in clean-up mode at that point (it was 12:30 am), but it was still really neat. She also explained how the whole dining process works, which was kind of unexpected. I knew that the menu changed every day, but what I didn’t realize is that actually each table has a totally custom menu, hand-written by chef Dan Barber based on the dietary needs and preferences you voice at the beginning of the night. WOW. That’s so incredibly… I don’t even know. Just wow.

Thank you Stone Barns. It was a meal that changed my life… Whoa… that’s pretty weighty.

The Most Decadent Salad You Will Ever Eat.

Sorry for my absence yesterday! The Boy is moving back to school today, so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind week for me. I know I told you I was making VENISON this weekend, but then I remembered this recipe I’ve been hoarding for well over a year. It’s the perfect goodbye kiss for summer and all its wonderful yummy things, like peaches and tomatoes. Now, let me just say, I don’t particularly like salad. But it’s almost unfair to other salads to call this recipe a salad. It’s so rich, and brightly colored, and it has bacon. It’s definitely a special occasion dish, because it requires a little bit of effort and a fair amount of ingredients. But it was my last totally unburdened weekend with The Boy before he trotted off to Super Talented People School. While I assembled the salad inside, The Boy dug a little fire pit out back. We munched on our appetizer and grilled a massive porterhouse over the open flames. After dinner, we sat out under the stars and roasted ‘shmellows. It was one of the quintessential August evenings, with a clear sky and just the right amount of chill in the air to make me grateful for the fire. I hope you all enjoy! Continue reading