Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Thought

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
 over and over 
announcing your place

in the family of things.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quick and Easy Dinner: Seared Paillards with Cherry Sauce

When you only have 20 minutes to spare and three hungry mouths to feed, more often than not a parent will pull something not-so-nutritious out of the freezer — or opt for takeout. But it doesn't have to take tons of time or money to serve your family a nutritious and delicious dinner.

Inspired by a dish I had in Austria, where tender veal cutlets were seared and then doused in a rich, berry pan sauce, this healthy dinner takes only minutes to prepare and is full of delightful flavors that won't have you reaching into the freezer for ice cream later. In an effort to save money, I've opted for chicken cutlets here. But if you're willing to lay down some extra bucks, opt for thin paillards of veal, and then add an extra oomph of flavor to the sauce with a tablespoon of dark berry jam, balsamic vinegar, and a couple of tablespoons of dark dried fruits. Oh, and you'll need a lovely loaf of pain de campagne to mop up all the juices, believe me.

 Total cost: $9.26

Seared Paillards with Cherry Sauce and Broccoli

2 heads broccoli, cut into spears ($1.99)
Olive oil 3/4 pound chicken cutlets ($4.28)
Salt, to taste
One 10-ounce bag frozen cherries or blueberries, defrosted ($2.99)

 Fill a saucepan with water until it comes up just under a steamer basket. Add the broccoli and top with the lid. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for about 5 minutes, or until a knife cuts through stems smoothly.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. Season cutlets on both sides with salt and cook over medium-high heat, until golden, about 4 minutes per side.

Remove the chicken and add the frozen berries. Bring the fruit to a boil and stir well to mash the fruit. Reduce until thickened. Plate the chicken and broccoli and top with the fruit sauce. Serve immediately.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekends, Vacations, and What I'm Reading: September 23, 2011

It's going to be a quiet weekend this weekend. Well, not for me, really. But here, at least. I'm taking two days off to escape work, the world, and the pace of everyday life to hopefully kick this cold I've been flirting with for the past month, catch up on some must-needed sleep, and to spend some quality time with five of my dear girlfriends in one of my favorite places on earth - with two four-legged friends, too.

While there just might be some experimenting in the kitchen (drumroll, my first real attempt at gluten-free baking, as pancakes don't count....!!!), you will have to certainly wait until Sunday for some mouthwatering photographs.

In the meantime, I'll be sharing some of the favorite posts and news I've been reading this week. From vodka-infused cherry tomatoes, straight from the garden, to a hearty and healthy alternative to Caesar Salad, to my favorite news: Providence, R.I. is one of the top three cities in the U.S. for dining out (if you haven't already been, run, don't walk to PVD. Check out New Rivers, La Laiterie, Olga's, Seven Stars Bakery, and pick up cheese for a picnic at Farmstead and pasta from Venda Ravioli. Oh, and don't forget ANYTHING on the menu at Al Forno). Yay Lil Rhody!!!!

Without further ado - read the below, or check out what's inspiring me here at Pinterest.

One of my favorite foods - and it's an aphrodisiac! A bit of history - and inspiration on how to use figs in cooking. Here are some more ideas (my blog).

OW OW!! Providence topped NYC and came in third to San Fran (and New Orleans, well, eh). YIPPEEE!!! It's the best small city on the East Coast for good food.

Warning Middlebury grads in the New York Tri-State area: American Flatbread!! And Sarabeth's in Tribeca

One of my favorite home decor and design shops in NYC has started their own blog. Check it out!

I am, but I'm not... Dining out when you have food allergies.

What to do with the beginning of the winter greens. Dinner tonight for KO and I? Topped with a poached egg or two... and some gluten-free croutons - or Flaxers

Such a cute party idea. But the key takeaway here? CHOCOLATE-COVERED BACON.

I'm going to have to make one of these to wear to an upcoming wedding, along with my chic DVF dress, and my patent Louboutins, of course!

I'm not a vegan by any means (this girl loves a good steak), but this site is cute and witty with fun illustrations. 

Just when you thought that vodka and tomatoes were only for Bloody Marys. Nope, not anymore.
Lisa is a doll, and when served with a variety of dipping salts, these are addictive and delicious. Oh, and gluten-free! 

Yumminess. While I can't do bulgur wheat, this hearty and healthy salad would be delicious with quinoa, brown rice, or millet

If you love Spinach and Artichoke Dip, you haven't lived until you've had a slice of this. Preferably straight from the oven at the Chelsea shop, taken up to the High Line and eaten sitting amongst the greenery. But when not in NYC, this will do. 

HOLY MOLY YUMMINESS. Just when I thought I was going to have to get over my cravings for onion rings. Brown rice flour works, but it's not the same. Enter potato chips and no hot oil.

AG, you know who you are. When can we go? A hot new wine bar in Stamford, CT.

I love Heidi's blog, and nothing is more delicious and seasonally satisfying than maple syrup or brown sugar, toasted nuts, and rosemary when the weather turns chilly? I'll try making these as a pre-cocktail hour snack this weekend, perhaps?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Perfect Fall Salad: Spinach with Roasted Grapes and Spiced Almonds

For me, nothing says fall more than a hearty salad filled with gently roasted sweet onions and deep red fruits like grapes or apples, garnished with a light dressing of oil and vinegar, and a scattering of spicy-sweet roasted almonds. It's something I've turned to year-round, opting for roasted figs or apples when grapes aren't widely available. 

I find that the best way to finish this dish is with a drizzle of syrupy balsamic vinegar, which is hard to find in the U.S. I swear by this product sold at O & Co., but an apple cider reduction works well, too. Simply bring 3 cups of cider to a boil, then reduce it over medium-low heat until it coats the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes.

Fall Spinach Salad with Spiced Nuts

3 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, for the onions
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon sugar
3/4 cup roasted unsalted almonds
3 cups organic red grapes, rinsed and drained
One 4-ounce box baby spinach
Good-quality balsamic vinegar (see above)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Toss the onions, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1 teaspoon vinegar together on a lined cookie sheet. Roast for about 35 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the onions are tender. Set aside.

While the onions roast, combine the spices together in a large bowl (one that will be able to fit the spinach). Add the nuts and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss well and pour into a small baking dish. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes.

In another medium-sized baking dish, toss together grapes with a small drizzle of oil. Roast until the skins just burst, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

In the same bowl you tossed the nuts in, add in the spinach. Toss together with grapes. Toss well, add a drizzle of olive oil, and season to taste. Plate salad onto 4 plates. Garnish with onions and divide nuts equally amongst all 4 plates. Garnish with a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar. Serve.

What I've Been Reading: September 17, 2011

I'm obsessed with Kinfolk Magazine, and last week I mentioned Styled. But have you checked out Fathom Away (a travel diary-blog) and Matchbook Magazine yet? Simple, elegant style, and delightfully interesting reads!

One of my favorite authors describes Irene's devastation in my hometown. It wasn't the water or the wind. It was the spray. Spraying salt. Spraying sand. Bringing autumn all too soon.

A dear friend and college classmate's sister has opened up a bakery in VT. Oh, makes me miss the Green Mountain State!

If you love to bake, this is essential. Read: ESSENTIAL (along with Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible). It'll change your life!

Blue Bottle, baby! A little bit of the Bay Area to keep me company in the big concrete jungle. 

Simple yet easy, and delightfully delicious. It reminds me of summer camp at Waveny House, so many years ago. I want to try it with fresh cream from a cow.

Do this while it's still warm! 

Classie is a force to be reckoned with in upper Manhattan - she's a go-to teacher and resource in one of NYRP's beloved community gardens, and makes one mean salsa! 

A laugh a day will keep the doctor away - and keep you from reaching for the aspirin? 

Oh, the picture of Italy here sent me back to two summers ago. And this recipe for an almond tart got me hooked. Read this inspirational and well-done blog! Oh, and she's a girl after my own heart, minimizing grains, and eliminating dairy and gluten. Wee!!! 

Just another reason to visit my darling friend TMT in California! Inspiring and stylish.

My latest gluten-free recipe site obsession. How delicious does that cake look? K, M, M, N, and L, get ready. Who's baking next weekend?!! 

Brilliant. Because when you cook burgers or curry in a small apartment, it does leave a lasting odor! 

The art of stacking dishes on a hostess' tray. Yes, there is an art to it!

From bruises to bumps, sore muscles to general aches, I've been swearing by this stuff for YEARS!!! 

Oh, that chimichurri looks soooo good. Reminds me of Barcelona Stamford's steak. Hmmm... I wonder what's for dinner next weekend.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What I've Been Reading: September 10, 2011

It's been a week of catching up with family, cleaning my apartment, and catching up on all that I've bookmarked over the past two months.

1. A Glass of Wine a Day Keeps the Doc Away
I shouldn't feel guilty when I come home, open that bottle of Marquis-Phillips on the counter, and pour myself a lovely glass of red wine - especially as it's now thought to keep the doctor away (OK, I'm no middle age woman, but still...) 

2. A Smart Secret for Roasting Chicken
I'm a fan of starting the bird breast-side down at first, but assuming you've got a decent oven-safe fry pan or skillet (and a good oven mitt), do as Mark Bittman does and start the bird in a blazing hot frypan.

3. Vegetable Gardening is on the Rise
It's not only good for your purse, but it's spending a couple of hours getting lost in the dirt, I think, is good for our over-programmed minds, too.

4. Save Summer - In a Jar
My raspberry jam-making traditions were cancelled this year by Irene. Argh! But I may just make this in two weeks to go with some gluten-free muffins when entertaining weekend guests. What do you think?

5. Pomegranate Molasses
Yep, you heard me right. I agree with Melissa Clark on this one - they're one of my favorite condiments. I'm a fan of it in muhammara (I tested this recipe), but here it's used to glaze chicken. Try it tonight!

6. Barcelona Wine Bar's Latest Addition
I may no longer be a CT resident, but you can't take my love for Barcelona away from the girl. Now, I wonder if Bartaco is serving up some gluten-free goodies to tempt me...

7. A Colorful Way to Get Your Five-a-Day
Stir fries are not just healthy, they're easy to make, delicious, and nutritious, too.

8. Rescue Cat
A lovely, 9/11 tale of how once-homeless (?) cat not only found a home that sunny Tuesday morning.

9. A Nutty Way to End the Day
Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free - and with a handful of chocolate chips, these are the best way to reward yourself at the end of the day (though I'm thinking they'd be delish pre-am run!)

10. Just What Sundays Should be For
Ohhhh... This is may be the only (OK, no there are two - pizza!) reason why I miss gluten. Sweet, sticky, yeasted sticky buns.

11. What to Do with Elderberries
They're not just used for making my favorite liqueur (St-Germain) or the best cold remedy ever (Roots Remedies). Why not make a deep berry jam with them, too?

12. A Gluten-Free Alternative
Robert Steinberg's rich chocolaty brownies are one of my favorites. He adapted a recipe from Maida Heatter, and he's published a recipe with the one and only John Scharffenberger (yeah, of chocolate fame - they were co-founders). Even Alice Medrich has adapted his supernaturally amazing treats to suit her needs. So no wonder I got all excited when I spotted this recipe over at David Leibovitz's blog. Now, I just need a non-corn alternative to cornstarch. 

13. Stylish and Oh So Cool
Click through this to check it out. 

14. Roasted Grapes on Toast
Now, I might have to swap out the ricotta for quark or Buffalo mozzarella, and my handy-dandy gluten-free almond-rice bread instead, but don't those grapes look delish?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Quick and Easy Quinoa Salad (Perfect for Tailgates)

When packing up a meal for a picnic, tailgate, or even a potluck at a friend's house, nothing beats hearty grain-based salads that can be made in advance — and this quinoa salad is a new favorite.

Inspired by a dish a family friend made where she covered the quinoa with a layer of kale and salted pumpkin seeds, I decided to stir the greens into the quinoa so each bite was full of flavors. Mango adds a sweet and tropical bite, and I garnished the dish with roasted almonds for a buttery, salty finish.

Mango-Kale Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 cup mango nectar
1 1/4 cups water
Salt, to taste
1 bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves finely chopped
1 mango, peeled and flesh finely diced
2 cups roasted salted almonds, chopped if desired

In a large saucepan, combine the quinoa, nectar, and water. Season with a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook until nearly all the liquid has evaporated and quinoa is cooked, stirring every 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the kale and mango. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork then add it to the bowl. Season with salt and stir well. Let the salad sit for about 5-10 minutes to allow the kale to wilt a bit. Check for seasoning and add a bit more nectar, if desired.

Add the almonds to the salad as a garnish or stir them in, whichever you prefer. 

The Last of Summer Raspberries

When the weather gets too hot to cook, a refreshing and light fruit salad is just the thing to serve. I love wedges of Crenshaw melon with prosciutto and mint, maybe a drizzle of balsamico or feta. Fresh figs alone, maybe with some Swiss or goat cheese. Any fresh strawberries with ricotta and basil? Yum. And don't forget everyone's favorite: Raspberries. Served with leftover grilled chicken, atop Greek yogurt for breakfast — or as I did, served simply alone with shaved Parmigiano and a slice of toasted bread, this salad below is just the thing to serve for summer.

Yet, sadly, my raspberry dreams were thwarted by Irene this year. After a weekend of wind and more wind, my favorite local raspberry patch, Four Town Farm, lost it's bumper raspberry harvest. I guess I'll have to wait til next year for more raspberry jam. And in the mean time, store-bought and frozen will have to do.

Hearty Raspberry Fruit Salad

I used to eat this over yogurt or ricotta - now that I'm dairy-free, simply plain or over cooked rice will do.

5 ounces raspberries
2 large sprigs of mint, leaves removed and cut into a fine chiffonade
¼ cup chopped roasted almonds
Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (optional)
Toasted bread (optional)

Place raspberries in a bowl and gently combine with mint and almonds. Divide between 2 plates and garnish with optional Parmigiano. Serve with toasted bread, if desired.

Serves 2 

What to Do with Fresh Summer Corn: Add Basil!

For me, nothing says summer more than a fresh ear of corn, picked that morning out of a field in Rhode Island, simply steamed and smeared with a pat of butter. But sometimes that age-old favorite gets dull — or maybe your corn isn't as sweet as you'd like it to be. When that happens, I often turn to flavorful compound butters to add a bit more pizzazz to my cob. OK, well used to. I can’t eat corn anymore. But that’s a story for another time.

The beauty of this recipe is that it can work for both steamed corn and also sautéed corn. Maybe you've got a kid who has braces, or can't stand the little pieces of corn eating the kernels off the cob results in, or (like me) you're lacking a big stockpot or sauté pan for steaming. Whatever method you choose, your dish will be delicious — just as long as your corn is fresh.

Not a fan of pesto? No worries! Here are some more flavorful additions that you can play around with. My one piece of advice is to taste, taste, taste. Everyone’s flavor preferences are different and depending on whether your corn is warm or cold, how much added flavor and seasoning you find necessary will vary with the temperature of your foundational ingredient.

- Lime, salt, chili powder
- Lemon, mint chiffonade
- Honey and butter (and a bit of truffle if you have it)
- Chopped red onion and diced pimento or roasted red pepper

Fresh Corn Salad with Pesto Butter
2 ears fresh sweet corn, husked
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons fresh basil pesto
Salt, to taste
Fresh basil leaves, cut in a chiffonade, for garnish

Add about 1 inch of water to a stockpot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the corn and cook until the kernels are tender and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.*
Meanwhile, mix together the butter and pesto to combine. Place in a small bowl and chill.
At the table, slather your corn with the pesto butter (you can use a knife; I like to serve small 1 ½-inch squares of bread as a vehicle for applying the butter) and enjoy with a sprinkle of salt and fresh basil chiffonade.

Serves 2

*Note: If you can't eat the corn on the cob, you can steam it then cut it off with a knife. Simply place the cob on its side and slice off kernels in strips. Alternatively, you can sauté the raw kernels sliced off the cob in a sauté pan with a little plain butter, tossing the kernels with pesto butter, salt, and fresh basil just before serving.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity

It’s been all too long since I really posted. For some, summer is a slower time, with opportunities to enjoy cocktails at sunset with friends, and opportunities where you can escape on weekends – I mean really escape – and be transported to another time and place where the only thing that matters is when the sun sets and when high tide is. Then I got a link to this talk by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert where all of a sudden, I had this moment of clarity.

Gilbert talks about creativity and its source in this video. She describes how one can't make creativity. You can't force it and you can't muster it up from inside. No, creativity is like a house elf. Like Dobby, from Harry Potter. When the timing is right, s/he will come and visit (and hopefully stay a while). To say this hit home for me is an understatement; I had to share it with you!!

This summer really hasn't been a time to disconnect; to lose myself in nature, for a myriad of reasons. Sure, I’ve gotten away, but with a jam-packed agenda and save for one weekend (pictured) no real chance to just sit there and just be. The most recent adrenaline-fueler was Hurricane Irene, which oddly for me had me waking in fits and starts at all hours of the night and kept my heart racing for the better part of the day. No real need for caffeine when you’ve got a hurricane bearing down on you!

But amidst those mere two days without power (and I can say that, since I have a couple of dear friends who still don’t have power now nearly 6 days later), I was reminded of maybe why Irene happened to come and share her presence just then – to remind me to disconnect.

So for a short time, that’s what I did in an effort to recharge my batteries. I spent the day of the storm frolicking about in roaring winds and capturing the house-sized waves on the camera. I went on a long bike ride, checking out all the surf spots in town (pre-Irene) to see who was out on their longboards and the curve of the rollers. I even awoke bright an early Monday morning, to a cloudless sky and a crisp 60 degrees to survey the storm damage on my morning run. Even though I was dog-tired, something inside me brought lightness to my step.

So my words for you this weekend? Do the same. Disconnect. Leave work and worries behind. Sit and watch the clouds float by; look at the way the wind ruffles blades of grass. Watch the raindrops fall. Live moment to moment and do what you only really want to do in your core. You just might find yourself moving to a place where there is room for creativity and inspiration to come, visit, and perhaps, stay a while.