Sunday, July 26, 2009

Roasted Carrot Soup



In the spirit of seeing so many soup recipes on the food blogs lately, I decided to whip one up from the carrots I found at the farmer's market yesterday. Usually I make carrot soup a little lighter, but since this was the main course last night, I decided to make it a little more hearty with some potatoes. It turned out a little more autumnal than fresh and summery, but it was still delicious. I'm working on cutting down on sodium, so I made the stock from the carrot tops instead of using boxed veggie stock. It was so easy! (Besides stirring the tops too vigorously and almost getting splashed with boiling water). I also tossed a salad of the fresh picked lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers with home-made honey-mustard dressing and toasted walnuts.
ROASTED CARROT SOUP
(approx. 4 servings)

1 Bunch carrots with tops attached (about 10 carrots, approx. 1 lb)
1 small red onion cut into chunks
1 large clove garlic sliced
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½” pieces
Water
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut tops off carrots with scissors. Rinse the tops thoroughly and place in a stock pot. Cut the ends from the onion and remove the outer layers & skin. Add to stock pot. Add water to just cover the contents (about 5 cups depending on the size of the tops). Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile scrub carrots with a brush and place them, whole, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes until a fork goes in easily. Remove and let cool.

While boiling and roasting chop the onion, garlic and potato. Sauté the onion in a tiny bit of olive oil over medium heat, adding the garlic after a few minutes. Cook until tender but don’t let them get too brown.

Remove the tops and onion parts from the stock pot with tongs. Reserve the liquid in a separate container. Cut the cooled carrots (discard the end with the top) into the the stock pot, into large chunks. Add potatoes and sautéed garlic and onions. Add the reserved stock to the pot just until it covers the contents (about 3 cups). Add a little salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and then transfer in batches into a blender, and puree (place a towel over the blender and hold the center of the top on loosely, letting the steam release). Add back to a pot and season to taste with salt and pepper, heating through. Serve with a side of toasted whole grain flatbread and a garnish of fresh herbs like cilantro, oregano or thyme.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Downtown Brooklyn Greenmarket

fresh vegetables from the farmer's market

fresh flowers and plants from the farmer's market

I debated taking the granny cart over to the greenmarket today. Once I got there I wished I had. There were only a few tents, as usual, but today they had a huge selection of fresh vegetables, stone fruit and summer flowers. I bought 4 different packs of cut flowers and fresh lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. I also picked up a few houseplants - a purple shamrock, some coleus and another leafy one I'm not sure of. Tomorrow I'll replace the dead orchid in the bedroom with the mystery leaf and coleus, and re-pot the shamrock. Hopefully these will fare better than my other plants. I bought way too many cut flowers, and spent the afternoon trimming and grouping them into vases. I ended up with 3 vases and 3 mini-arrangements. I used herbs from my window-garden to fill in the minis with oregano, sage and mint. Now I'm working on dinner... more on that later.

Dahlias & Zinnias

Dahlias

Dahlias & Zinnias



Mini flowers with sage and oregano in a small candle-holder


mini arrangement in a little sugar bowl

mini arrangement in a creamer

Friday, July 24, 2009

FREE Build-Your-Own-Workout Tool


Even though I spend 2 hours with the trainer every week, I still have a hard time thinking of things to do in the gym. Especially if I go at home, where there are not as many machines or tools. I was just psyching myself up to go home and work out, when I came across this cool feature on Fitness Magazine's site. Apparently you can construct a series of workout videos from their library. This has been on my mind all week. I've been thinking I need to make some mix-n-match flash cards (like FitDeck... for Dummies) to bring to the gym. They would be funny because I can't seem to remember the names of exercises, even after a year of training. The trainer tells me "ok, get in prone position", and my mind goes "prone for what? like lay down?". And then finally I'm like "OH, you mean Frog?". There's another one that he has a name for, where you lay on the floor, hands behind head, ankles crossed in the air, and move your body side to side. I still don't know what he calls it, twist someting.... I call it "Dying Bug". I guess I'm more of the yoga mindset, where the sanskrit names for the poses resemble something tangible like dog, moon, or cow. So much easier. I dont' like to have to think too much when I work out, that's why I need flash cards or a video to follow. That's one benefit of working out - that for just a little while it gets quiet in my head, and my only concern is to just keep breathing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mango Vinaigrette

Tonight I made a delicious soup with a zucchini and basil. Since I had the blender going, I decided to experiment with dressing for my grilled chicken salad. The salad itself was pretty blah, but the dressing was good enough to eat with a spoon.

Mango Vinaigrette
approximate measurements:
1/2 mango cut into chunks
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Sprinkle of dried cilantro (would have used fresh if I had it)

Puree, adding oil or wine vinegar to a little at a time to taste and for consistency.

Dish Shopping

Lenox "Batik" pattern

It all started with the wedding registry and decorating a 1200 square foot apartment from scratch. Leading up to the wedding we received boxes week after week. Opening boxes became a new hobby. We moved into our new apartment a few months later, and opened more boxes. Then we set to purchasing furniture and essentials. We don't NEED anything else, although the walls are pretty bare. But I feel so lost without constant newness. I need new things. All the time. I'm always searching for something to personalize our space. I've been hunting "fun" dishes for months now. We have an old chipped set, and a basic set for every day. Somehow inviting dinner guests to eat from the every day set feels less exciting to me. I like people to have a dinner experience, not just eat good food. Plus, pretty things taste better and are generally more satisfying. I was almost ready to throw some Macy's credit toward a few plates when I noticed they wouldn't ship for 71 business days, and with shipping nearly $20. Not available in-store - and I work by the flagship Herald Square store, so if they don't have it there, they don't have it anywhere! So I found the manufacturer's site, and their prices were much lower than Macy's, and shipping tops out at $17. I'm still hesitant to purchase anything big right now, as I think the shopping Gods are mad at me. I'm on a cycle of buying and returning that is totally crazy. So maybe I'll research a little more... but I'm bookmarking the Lenox site nonetheless.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Pillow Project: Part 1

Fabrics for pillow covers from Mood

Muslin squares sewn together

Finished pillow inserts

Guest bedroom studio

After several failed attempts, I've finally started the pillow project. Months ago, in April, we had the apartment painted. I spent months before that trying to decide what color to paint the master bedroom. I finally went to Mood Fabrics to see if I could find something inspirational. I came home with two fabrics, several trims from M&J, and delusions of hand-sewing matte gold sequins. The fabric became the deciding factor in the room's color, but once they were put away to do the actual painting, they were forgotten. I am notorious for unfinished sewing projects. I have boxes full of fabric that once had a purpose in mind, only to be hidden under beds. I set out to start this project on a rare day-off, but couldn't remember where I put the fabric. I ripped the whole apartment apart looking for it. Of course it was the last place I looked, in the very back of my closet, on top, in the middle of blankets and beach towels inside a zipper case. Of course I had forgotten the clear thread to sew the sequins, and I was determined to start the project, so I began calling stores trying to find clear thread. Every store was out of it. I did finally find it that day at Brooklyn Mercantile, but by then it was evening. My materials have been laid out in the guest bedroom ever since. Finally today I turned the guest bedroom from home-office to studio - moved the bed to the side and put a table in front of the window, closed the desk and put an ironing board in place. I assembled my cutting mat, muslin, sewing supplies and machine. I think this will help the motivation, as I quickly finished the 3 pillow inserts which I filled with the guts of an old lumpy body pillow. That's it for today, since now I am dreaming of dinner. How long will it take me to make the pillow covers? If I have it done by Labor Day, I'll be most impressed with myself.

Afternoon Snack: Ham Sushi!


I love when Fresh Direct arrives a little earlier than expected. Especially today, as there is not much around to snack on, and I am STARVING. I opened the box, and low and behold I had ordered deli ham and cheddar. I love coldcuts. I love cheese. Ham Sushi! Ok, so it's not sushi at all, but it's assembled the same so my friends and I refer to it as Ham Sushi. Very popular party food among our crowd. I prefer to make this with thin Alpine Lace deli sliced cheese, but all I have on hand is a block of cheddar today. I actually made, ate, and blogged about it before I put the rest of the groceries away, that's how excited I was for this snack.

Ham Sushi!
Sliced cooked ham
Sliced cheddar or swiss cheese
Layer ham slice and cheese slice. Roll up tightly and slice into bite-size chunks. Serve alongside cherry tomatoes or green apple slices.

Abandoned Nectarines

Nectarine Sorbet

Naked Nectarines waiting to be pureed

Today was the day to clean out the fridge. Somehow the awful polenta was still there, because I felt bad trashing it the day I made it. The sauces went too, although I did re-use the pesto as a topping for salmon one night. Bye-bye moldy cheese, sorry the husband isn't here to cut off your mold and eat your middles. Adios rock-like guava paste. What's that in the back? When did I buy nectarines? I thought they would have gone bad, but they were just a little squishy. Hmm squishy... I should mash them up. It's 80 degrees out. Sorbet?

Nectarine Ginger Ale Sorbet
2 mushy nectarines, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 Can ginger ale
splash of lemon juice
Puree nectarines in blender or food processor. Put in plastic container and add 1/2 can of gingerale and lemon juice. Stir together gently until bubbles settle. Freeze, stirring with a fork to break up the ice after 1 hour and then every 30 minutes until the consistency becomes like sorbet - about 3 hours.

*The result: refreshing but not quite sweet enough. If I were to make this for guests I would stick to the traditional simple syrup method instead of shortcutting with the ginger ale.



Rustico Cooking Party

Molten Chocolate Cake

Rustico Cooking Loft
(photos from Rustico website)

Yesterday was my close friend's 30th birthday, and so we converged on midtown to honor him with food and wine, as usual. However, this dinner was different. All 8 of us cooked it together at Rustico Cooking. My friend enjoys cooking as much as I do, and we usually take turns making our other friends salivate in anticipation of our dinners. Last night some of us were old friends, and we met some new ones as well. We all participated with the direction of Rustico owner Micol to prepare the birthday dinner. We arrived and were greeted with wine and appetizers. Then Micol showed us how to assemble each part of the dinner, so that everyone was busy doing part of the cooking, prep or assembly. She had everything timed and organized so that we would be eating within an hour. It was impressive how with so many hands in the kitchen things come together like magic. It's been years since I had any cooking instruction outside Food Network, so I learned a few things. Apparently I pour on the olive oil a little heavily and I don't need to use so much. I'm a heavy oiler! I may never buy frozen gnocci again, either. There are so many variations you can create with a few simple ingredients. We made a chive-ricotta gnocci with caraway and sage. I thought all gnocci was made from potatoes, but Micol told us that using potatoes is relatively new, since potatoes only arrived in Italy in the 1700's. She said you could make gnocci out of lots of things, including butternut squash... I'll be trying that one this fall! We also made 3-cheese asparagus strudels with arugula, cauliflower bacon au gratin, chicken with mushroom marsala cream sauce and molten chocolate cakes. It was the most intimate and relaxing birthday party ever. Rustico Cooking was awesome, I can't wait for an excuse to go back and learn more!
Rustico Cooking's website also has lots of great recipes to try.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pineapple Onion Pizza


I didn't cook or do much worth noting this week. Mostly we got home late, ate in a hurry and went to bed. Finally the week ended and I was able to make some delicious pizza on Friday night. I thawed some pizza dough from Fresh Direct, since I am horrible at making dough. This time I got it to stretch out really thin, pre-baked it with a little olive oil and garlic powder, and then covered it with some fresh sauce I made last week sometime. The topping was pineapples, red onions, mozzarella and parmesan.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bluebarb Muffins












Finally having some cooking luck again. Maybe it's because I started off the day with something else I'm really good at: breaking stuff in the kitchen. It must have marked the change in where my bad luck was located. It's been inhabiting my cooking. Now it has taken up residency in my dexterity. If I can just get through drinking the coffee without dropping mugs, sugar-bowls or glasses out of the cupboard with my pudgy, swollen, morning fingers, then everything is safe. But today, not so much. I love stopping to clean up broken porcelain before having caffeine. LOVE it. But, it's what I do, so on with the day.
I've been trying to come up with a use for this fresh rhubarb we picked in Vermont last weekend. This morning I came up with the idea of muffins. Especially since blueberries were 2-for-1 this week, so we have a bunch. Here's the concoction:
Bluebarb Muffins:
Dry:
¾ C whole wheat flour
¾ C all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Wet:
1 egg slightly beaten (for vegetarian sub with ¼ c applesauce)
1/3 C vegetable oil
½ tsp lemon juice
½ C 1% milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ C dark brown sugar

Filling:
1 C diced rhubarb
½ C blueberries
½ C Walnuts

Topping:
½ C dark brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ - 1/4C finely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Prepare buttermilk using ½ tsp lemon juice in measuring cup and adding milk to the ½ C line. Let set 5 minutes. Chop ¾ - 1 C walnuts in chopper and set aside. Measure out the fillings. Mix topping. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in small bowl. Add dry mix to wet, stir until just combined. Add fillings and fold in. Fill muffin tins almost full and top with topping, pressing down a little to secure it. Bake 25 minutes.

Beautiful Polenta Disaster

Beautiful Polenta Disaster
A week of bad luck in cooking has ended. I don't remember the first thing I messed up cooking this week, but the last was polenta. It started with a recipe from the Wholefoods Cookbook, which I've never really used before. So I read 3/4 through and decided how this Polenta thing would be. It said "this looks like a lot of work, but it's not, it's really just assembly". So I didn't finish reading the recipe, I just started. Oops, all out of 3-minute polenta, a staple in my kitchen. Oops, no sundried tomatoes in the fridge. Where'd those go? Fine, I'd just make roasted red pepper sauce instead. But all I had was a fresh bell pepper. I set to roasting it under the broiler, and finding my bag of corn meal. So I assumed this was a regular old 'cool the polenta, cut it into squares and cook again' kind of recipe. But the recipe called for cream cheese, so I added it. It didn't occur to me that it would cause the polenta to remain creamy. So after 30 minutes I had my cooled tray of polenta, roasted red pepper sauce and fresh basil pesto. I thought it would be time to re-cook the polenta squares and create a layercake of sauce and squares. Not the case. I started to read the "assembly" instructions only to find out that it takes hours or days to "assemble". Much like a layered jello dessert, this dish required a layer spread in a springform pan, freezing, layering, freezing, layering and freezing OVERNIGHT. WTF!! So I thought, no problem - I'll just make it the way I thought before. But the polenta was still creamy. Even after 10 minutes under the broiler it turned into a crispy skin topped mush. I made it nice and pretty on the plate, but ultimately it was mush topped with mush, mush, and sauce. Lesson 1: Always read the whole recipe. Lesson 2: Cream cheese in polenta = creamy. Lesson 3: Stick to recipes with pictures.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

MexItalian Scallops

Seared Scallops over Basil Peas with Avocado Caprese

My dinner had an identity crisis today. I'm not really sure if it was a balanced mix of cultures or just utterly confused. I haven't cooked sea scallops for a while - they are best eaten within a day or so of buying them, and I have a very hard time planning ahead. But the vegetarian is out tonight, so I got to play in the kitchen. I have a nice little herb garden growing on the window-sill, so I'm always looking for a way to use them. I did a little searching and got inspired by Bobby Flay's scallop-avocado-tortilla chip creation, the Hip Hostess's basil-pea puree, and a Mario Batali scallops alla caprese recipe on Serious Eats. My creative mind is kind of a blender for these things, much like fashion. I try to figure out what's good about something and what goes together well. I ended up with seared scallops over pea-basil-garlic puree with tomato-avocado caprese salad, all topped with a balsamic reduction. It's about 85% ready for unveiling... it still needs a little work. Buttery avocado doesn't match well with firm shaved parmesan. Yet it worked with basil and balsamic vinegar. All-in-all it was yummy enough to make me forget to eat the sourdough roll I baked - not needed with this low-carb spread! This may end up splitting into 2 dishes - a classic Caprese salad with mozzarella and tomatoes with the scallop-pea pile, and a latin version with cilantro-avocado salad and a chili spiced scallop over some kind of corn or corn-cake. We'll see what happens.

Cool Cut-Outs

This 80's flashback in fashion has been going strong for a while now. It seems there are endless fads to revive (check out Nasty Gal for styled vintage looks). This summer there are so many versions of slashed and cut-up tees. Although this look can easily be turned into a recession-friendly DIY project (check out Cut Out + Keep), I don't think it's going to help anyone land that job. This fall things are taking a more luxurious turn, with cuts evolving into cut-outs. I would take the runway ideas of using luxurious fabrics and filling in the holes, and mix them with the more wearable cut-out jerseys by adding sequins here and there and layering over a stretch lace top.

Religion @ asos.com


Hartmann Nordenholz @ shopstyle.com

H&M @ 34th & 7th Ave NYC

Marc Jacobs Fall 09

Cynthia Rowley

Cynthia Rowley

Balmain Fall 2009

Alexander Wang Fall 2009

Herve Leger @ shopstyle.com

Anevino and Florence @ 80's Purple

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Eggplant Parm


Welcome home Eggplant Parm! This was a long weekend of over-eating. And it's not over yet!

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