October 06, 2014

Zadie Smith / Find Your Beach

"To find your beach you have to be ruthless. Manhattan is for the hard-bodied, the hard-minded, the multitasker, the alpha mamas and papas. A perfect place for self-empowerment—as long as you’re pretty empowered to begin with. As long as you’re one of these people who simply do not allow anything—not even reality—to impinge upon that clear field of blue. There is a kind of individualism so stark that it seems to dovetail with an existentialist creed: Manhattan is right at that crossroads." - Zadie Smith, "Find Your Beach"

October 05, 2014

Brunch idea: Maman serves up southern French home-cooking in New York City

Brunch is such a thing in New York that some Sundays, the pressure to have firm plans and beat the crowds makes me just want to crawl back under the covers and stay tucked in 'til Monday. Not today. This morning, I rallied down to Nolita to meet up with Rachel, who'd invited me to check out Maman NYC (which officially opens tomorrow, Monday), opened by Michelin-star Chef Armand Arnal, restaurateur Benjamin Sormonte, and event designer Elisa Marshall. The cozy, homey space serves up traditional southern French cooking and sells specially imported packaged goods and bakery items. Fair to say, I'm smitten

My favorite dish at brunch? The red rice salad with sweet and sour eggplant ratatouille. The red rice is imported direct from the organic farm at Chef Arnal's restaurant in Camargue.

Maman NYC is at 239 Centre Street, between Grand and Broome in New York City.

Dinner party idea: Szechuan hot pot and banoffee pie. Is that weird?

One of my favorite things about living in the same apartment building as my brother is that he and his wife have a much bigger apartment than I do—and they love to throw dinner parties. I bring the dessert. It's win-win.

One of Di's signature dinner party menus is Szechuan hotpot—she imports the spices straight from China and lays out a super-elaborate spread of traditional Chinese vegetables, thin-sliced meats, marinated fish, and her signature peanut-butter-infused spicy sha cha sauce. 

I'm usually in charge of bringing something sweet to the party—and while the easy answer to a big, spicy, savory meal is cooling ice cream, I wanted to get a bit more creative, so I put together a sweet banoffee pie. It was super-easy, and super-quick!

All you need is a stick-and-a-bit of melted butter, 250 grams of crushed digestive biscuits (roll those two ingredients into a crust and pat it firmly into the bottom of a pie dish—I used my Le Creuset casserole). Top with a layer of dulce de leche (or caramel), evenly arranged slices of banana, and a good dollop of freshly whipped heavy cream and dark chocolate shavings. Set in the fridge for an hour or so—and snarf.

October 04, 2014

Rainy Saturday morning breakfast

Warm, toasted ciabatta with cold butter. And one slice topped with one of my favorite things in the world: Frank Cooper's Vintage Coarse-Cut Oxford Marmalade. Pretty much my favorite way to kick off a weekend.

Semi Homemade Dinner Idea: A 4-Ingredient 30-Minute Meal

I'm usually not one for cooking with pre-packaged sauces, but I'm sort of in love with how easy it is to get dinner on the table using Campbell's new Soups for Easy Cooking—sort of the modern version of using condensed soup in stews and soups (I grew up in the '80s and have the fondest early memories of steamed broccoli with cream of mushroom). 

Earlier this week, I popped by Rustico Cooking for a quick demo of the brand-new product—and got to try it out, hands-on. To make quick chicken enchiladas, I rolled diced chicken, grated cheese, and some of the Mexican tomato soup into a tortilla, laid them in a casserole, poured some more tomato soup and cheese on top, and baked it in the oven for 30 minutes. Easy and delicious!

My takeaway? The Campbell's product made things easy and delicious, but you'd just as easily be able to replicate this recipe without Campbell's—if you prefer to season your own tomato puree, that is. I'd go with a simple basil-oregano-garlic trifecta. 

Kenny Rogers / The Gambler

I would say that Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" has contributed significantly to the formation of the foundation of my worldview-slash-MO.

October 03, 2014

Cookbook obsession of the day: Homemade Decadence by Joy The Baker

I've seen a lot of cookbooks in my time—and not just because I spend waaay too much time in the food section at Barnes & Noble. For months, when I worked as the editor of a major food website, books would land on my desk in heaping boxes. I love cookbooks, so I'd examine them all. And while some of them were gorgeously shot, elaborately written, expensively and beautifully produced, there were only a handful I'd ever get truly excited about cooking from, myself. 

See, while I'm sure there are lots of home cooks who love learning complex new techniques and sourcing rare ingredients, I'm 100 percent on the opposite side of the spectrum: My preference is for delicious, familiar, and simple recipes that yield great well-made meals. Confronted with teeny-tiny fonts and prose that reads like an organic chemistry textbook? My eyes (and brain) glaze over.

This week, Joy The Baker's new book Homemade Decadence landed on my desk—and it's perfect. For me, that is. 

I love that the ingredients lists are manageable and familiar, I love that the preparation instructions don't go on for more than (at most) a couple of pages, and most of all, I love that there are big, beautiful, colorful photos (it drives me bananas when cookbooks have no photos, what's up with that?). 

The recipes I'm most excited about trying from Joy's new book? Her cinnamon-sugar pull-apart cake, vanilla bean confetti cookies, her breakfast cobbler with oatmeal drop biscuits (so easy), and the three-layer mint chocolate chip cake. 

Pick up a copy of Joy's book Homemade Decadence right now at Amazon.com and get cooking!