28 June 2011

cherry challange / tuesday tidbits

The other day, I got an email from Lizzie B that went a little something like this -

           "so I don't forget I'm emailing you this.  thinking of a dessert 
           using cherries.  both golden and red. thinking I could soak the
           cherries in some sort of syrup. either simple syrup or an 
           amaretto.  let them sit for a few days. pour on top of vanilla 
           ice cream and crumple almond biscotti on top and maybe
           bottom of glass. clear glass to make it prettier."

Hmmm, this sounds a bit like a challenge.  I love cherries, one of my favorite summertime fruits.  In the fridge right now are some sour cherries, big fat red cherries, and Queen Anne cherries.  Now, to use them in a recipe like my mom described but make it my own?  Let the brain wheels start spinning with some new recipe ideas... challenge accepted!

and now for some tuesday tidbits...

As fellow food lovers, I'm sure you already receive the daily recipes from Martha Stewart.  If you don't you definitely should because every day I get another great idea.  Occasionally I actually make and follow the recipes she sends my way, but more often than not I just use them as a springboard, a little culinary inspiration to tweak and make my own.  And sometimes, the planets align, all the spoons fit together, and I'm sent a recipe using only things that I already have in the house that turns into a delicious meal.  I think tonight might be one of those nights since just this morning I took some salmon out of the freezer to defrost with no ideas of how I would prepare it when, whammie!  Martha's Salmon with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze pops up in my inbox.  Kismet, serendipity, luck?  Call it what you will but I think I'll call it supper.  Don't worry, I'll keep you informed of the results and the final recipe.

I'm loving this guide to eggs.  Every week at the green market it seems that there are new eggs that I've either never seen before or would never in a million years know what to do with other than scramble.  Now that I have this handy cheat sheet, I know that goose eggs are great for baking and quail eggs are perfect for salads!  Expect a future post.

A happy day after your birthday to my Uncle Rich who, by the looks of it, might be as big a fan of picnics as I am!  I plan on making some Philly Beer Pretzel Caramels for you... and for Lady Baty because she's actually the one who gave me the idea.

sweet mustache uncle rich!

Check out the awesome little ad my sister made for me -

You can see it all July long on desirous of everything as I sponsor my pal Sarah O's blog.  And stay tuned for my guest post.  I promised excitement!

Also, I made Lou Reed giggle at a book event for his new sorta kinda graphic novel (it's more like art inspired by poems inspired by other poems) at the Strand last night.  It was awesome!  He likes my tattoos.  Now if only I could get him and Anthony Bourdain to hang out with me... what a trio we'd be.

22 June 2011

dessert and a movie - Bridesmaids

Now that I'm on summer vacation, I have a whole lot more time on my hands.  Time to catch up on things and relax.  What better way to relax than by going to a matinee movie on a sticky, humid day?  I love going to the movies by myself.  This isn't to say that I don't love a good movie date every once in a while but, there's just something about sitting in the cool, dark theater that gives me pleasure... maybe it's as simple as being able to have my popcorn exactly how I want it instead of covered in fake butter like the hubby eats it.  I love being able to totally dive into the story and the images, the world around me falling away.  And since the past few weeks have been pretty rough going for me, I wanted to lose myself in laughter.  

i hope me & the gals look this fab for tricia's i dos

So, I went and saw Kristen Wiig make a riotous ass out of herself.  Gosh I love that girl; the way she allows her entire body to become part of her comedy is something beautiful.  The entire cast of Bridesmaids was freaking hilarious, causing me to laugh so much (really loudly) that I got to skip my belly exercises last night!  And whadayaknow, my gal Kristen plays a baker in the movie!  Funny and cake makes for a great movie.  All those sweets and the core story of wedding planning brought me back to my own wedding (exactly eight months ago tomorrow, wow how time flies!)  So in honor of a wedding themed funny gal flick, my anniversary, and cake, here's a look at the slew of sweets we enjoyed on our big day... or didn't enjoy since the guests went nuts and ate everything leaving the hubby and I with only a couple measly bites of wedding carrot cake.  I'm not bitter, there's still cake in the freezer.  Enjoy -

riverdale's own - best carrot cake in the world.
well, second best. mine's better.

best baklava in nyc

our dessert table consisted of:

wedding cake from lloyd's carrot cake up in the bronx
bride's fave - donuts from the donut plant
groom's sweets - baklava from poseidon bakery
oatmeal raisin & chocolate chip cookies from Steph B
ice cream

or was it panna cotta? i don't even remember seeing this.

i love cake so much.  i think it made my new hubby a little jealous.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, run to the theater and catch it before it goes away.  Trust me, you do not want to wait six months for the dvd because you deserve to have this much fun at the movies right now!  My tip for today: laugh hard and always leave room for dessert. xo

Correction - Thanks to my MOH for pointing out that Steph B was the master baker of wedding cookies.   The sweet disposition gals did indeed make my super yummy shower cupcakes.

21 June 2011

hot child in the city

Happy First Day of Summer!!!  Though it was a perfectly lovely day today, as it wraps up there's no doubt in my mind that it's going to get hot this season.  In the city, where the burning sun radiates and reflects off of glassy, mirrored high rises, breezes from the surrounding rivers are blocked by buildings, hot steam pours from every subway grate, and the concrete jungle turns into a crowded desert, summertime can be tough.  Especially when living in a railroad apartment in Brooklyn with one window unit circulating the stagnant warmth.  I've mentioned before how nice the cross breeze in my narrow space is, but when the heat and humidity reach their seasonal peak, the cool breeze becomes hot and sticky leading me to take drastic measures to beat the heat.  Here, my top ten tips (in no particular order) for keeping cool (and staying on a budget) over the next couple of brutal months -

1. A quick fix to help when the heat is so close and sticky that sleep seems unattainable and you just end up tossing and turning, a sweaty mess all night - keep your sheets in the freezer.  I'm not even joking.  If it's unbearably hot and I know it will stay that way through the night, I put my sheets in a bag and toss them in the freezer for a few hours before bed.  As soon as you're ready to hit the sack, unfurl the frozen fabric, lay it out on the bed, and jump in quick.  It only lasts for a little while, but boy is it refreshing.  Other bedtime tips: keep some scented water in the fridge (lavender, rose, soothing scents) and spritz your pillow before your head hits it for some cool comfort.  Or camp in; we all know hot air rises, so set up a bed on the floor or blow up that air mattress and have a low to the ground indoor camp out.

2. Fill your freezer with ice pops.  Whether they're popsicles, Italian ices, fla-vor-ice, or Otter pops, they come in infinite flavors and are perfect when it's too hot to even think about eating a full meal.  Me and my honey probably go through at least fifty boxes of pops each season.  They're cheap and refreshing... perfect!

3. Head someplace with glorious central air.  True, you get bursts and blasts of the chilly goodness as shop doors open and close while you walk down the street, but that's just a tease.  Head somewhere that permits extended stays and is cheap/free and comfortable.  Try the public library and catch up on your summer reading list.  A bookstore works too, but I'd be a bad librarian if I didn't send you off to support your local branch.  Or how about catching a matinee at the theater, movie or Broadway.  Tickets are cheaper in the middle of the day and that gets you at least 2-3 hours of ac so cold you may even need a sweater.  While your brain is hot and spongy, fill it with beauty at any of the billion museums and galleries around town - you can sit and thoughtfully stare at a painting for hours and no one will question you (this is especially awesome if you are skilled at sleeping with your eyes open; ah the summer siesta.)  How about one of my favorite places - the grocery store!  Totally free and super cold and you can take your time wandering up and down the aisles without having to buy anything.  There's also the added bonus of getting some great ideas for new recipes or meal creations.  Just mind the age-old adage and don't go in hungry or your free chillout could get pricey!

4. Not my favorite, but I'll toss it out there for my honey's sake - ice baths and cold showers.  Lay in a tub full of chilly water or let the frozen beads fall down your back and you will be instantly awoken from the humid weather slump.  Put on a bathing suit and splash around in your bathtub... this is NYC, make your own pool!

5. Are water parks more your thing?  Try the fountain at Washington Square Park.  You can wade in it and it's all splashy.   It's like a little oasis in the middle of the bustling Village.  The liveliness of the park alone is enough with it's abundance of musicians and performers alongside squealing children and somber students, but the coolness of the fountain, the ultimate urban pool, truly makes this park a perfect destination on a hot summer day.

6. $1 paper fans from Pearl River.  A blessing on the subway platform, at outdoor markets, or while just sitting on your stoop.  These fans cost a dollar.  Need I say more?

7. Use fresh mint in everything!  I've mentioned before that I love to crush it up and put it ice cubes, but try putting fresh leaves in iced tea, water, lemonade, anything.  For the grownups, mojitos, minty white wine, caipirinhas... a few of these might make you forget the heat completely.  Try tearing up a few leaves and tossing them into a green salad, fruit salad or yogurt.  Mix it with your favorite sorbet or ice cream to crush that sweet tooth.  How about a minty pesto over cold pasta?  The refreshing coolness of fresh mint is so versatile and really does chill you from the inside out and leaves you with a freshness that could otherwise get lost pretty easily in the heat.  Even just gnawing on a few leaves will give you chills, just be sure to check your teeth before flashing too many smiles.

8. Freeze your fruit.  Frozen fruit tastes like candy.  Growing up, one of my favorite things to snack on was frozen grapes.  As I've gotten older, my tastes have grown and every summer I enjoy frozen melons, berries, and cherries.  And with all of these frozen treats in your freezer, sorbets and smoothies are a snap.  Add a bit of yogurt, honey and fresh herbs in a blender and breakfast is served.  Or dessert!

9. Go down the shore.  This isn't the Caribbean so the ocean is always chilly and there's rarely a still day at the beach so even if you don't take a dip, you can enjoy the breezy sea mist.  I like to ride to the beach, getting super hot and sweaty and then running into the water.  It's instantly refreshing and cooling.  And there are tons of free beaches all over NYC and the surrounding areas.  Take a retro trip to Coney Island and eat hotdogs and ride the Wonder Wheel.  Head out to desolate Rockaway to watch the surfers and the low-flying planes from nearby JFK.  If you want to feel like you're on vacation, you could head down to the Jersey Shore (there's a lot of it and not all of it is as bad as MTV makes it out to be,) or out to Long Island for a classy, Gatsby-esque affair.  If you're not up for the long and strenuous bike ride out to the beach, take the train.  It's air conditioned and cheap and takes at least an hour.

10. When bumping into sweaty tourists on the street gets to be way too much, get the heck out of town!  When a trip to the beach isn't enough, Club Matos is my destination oasis.  This remote little spot in Central New Jersey is just a 45 minute train ride away on the Northeast Corridor.  Your all-inclusive stay includes central air, premium cable tv, an in-ground pool, commercial-free radio, nature walks, laundry service, free car rentals, and a hammock.  Enjoy a bike ride along the canal or a trip to one of the many shopping destinations before sunbathing or taking a dip in the pool (but no diving allowed!)  Grill master Dave will keep your belly full of burgers and dogs while expert mixologist Lizzie B never lets your glass hit half-empty.  And be prepared for loads of free entertainment from the likes of Peanut and the Gang, the Burchnall Club, Random Neighborhood Kids, and everyone's favorite wacky duo, Alex&Kevin!  This summer, I definitely plan on trading in the sirens and super-loud radios for the soothing sounds of crickets and, well that's really all you hear out there in my little slice of Paradise.

Have a happy Summer and stay cool, kids!

what the h-elk!?

I have an uncle Vinny.  He raises horses, has taxidermy around the house, and is a hunter.  I don't really know anything about hunting as I myself, am not a hunter and have never been hunting.  Uncle Vinny on the other hand, is a pretty avid hunter.  I remember growing up and coming back from a visit to their house with venison - sausage, steaks, jerky but always some form of a deer.  I recall eating venison meat when I was a young child (always the adventurous eater) and not really being phased by it.  It wasn't something I would eat everyday, but I ate it without complaint.

As I grew older, my curious palette grew even more curious and there was nearly nothing that I wouldn't try at least once.  On my quest for new cuisines, and the boom of locavores and farm-to-table menus, I found game meats coming into play and onto my plate more and more.  I love the taste of lamb and duck, a wild boar raggout or rabbit stew.  So earthy and classic, these meats add so much richness to my favorite homey, hearty meals.  But other than my St. Patty's Guinness Lamb Stew, I've never cooked with any of these woodsy proteins.  They're usually a little more expensive than your basic chicken or beef and I wouldn't really know where to begin with a recipe.  But then Uncle Vinny came along with two hefty elk steaks.  That's right, I said elk.  Yup, I meant this kind of elk -

What the hell h-elk was I supposed to do with these?!  They were absolutely beautiful bone-in steaks that would probably be amazing on the grill but, alas, I have no grill and anyways, no one in my home is really a big steak eater.  We like meat but even more so, we love meat slathered in gravy, so I started working my brain on a stew.  Since I've been craving my amazing mashed potatoes (seriously, my potatoes are out of this world; just ask Jenessa,) lately, a variation of the traditional shepherd's pie came to mind.  I know what you're thinking, 'Jillian, why would you make such a wintry, hot, comforting meal in the middle of June?'  Because I have a great crisp, cooling cross breeze in the apartment and I love comfort food; that's why, dammit!  

I started by slicing the steaks off the bone, cubing the meat and pounding it into tender, woodsy goodness.  I gave them a little coat of flour, herbs de provence, fresh ground salt & pepper before they were tossed in a lightly oiled, super hot crock to brown.  I added some fresh garlic, chopped onions, and a mix of sliced baby portobello, shitake, and oyster mushrooms.  Once everything had a nice roasted look to it, I added a few cups of water mixed with a little mushroom and onion soup mix and let it all simmer.  Between the adding of a few sprigs of fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary filling the air with a rustic and delicious scent, and the summer breeziness that forced me to put on a sweater, I was transported back to Autumn a few months early.  

While the pot bubbled and thickened, I cut up some celery, yellow and orange carrots, and yukon gold potatoes.  The potatoes got tossed in a pot of salted boiling water until they were tender.  As soon as the were ready, I drained them and tossed them back in the pot with some milk, butter, salt, pepper, fresh chives and sour cream and mashed it all together.  My mashed potato taste test turned into a mashed potato binge-fest and I realized that I had eaten half the pot.  Thankfully, they were just a topping and I didn't need as much as I had originally made.  

After about two hours of simmering, the carrots and celery got tossed in and, once cooked to tender perfection, I turned off the heat.  I let it set and thicken a little before transporting the stew into a casserole dish and then topped it all off with the mashed potatoes and put it into the preheated oven to brown and set.  The crisp, golden brown mashed topping was perfect and I was ready to dig in.  It was hearty, rustic, warm, and just what a comfort craving gal like me was in the mood for.  Paired with some simple salad greens and a glass of wine and my cool night was set.  

So thanks Uncle Vinny, for forcing me to experiment with my carnivorous culinary creations instead of just ordering the wackiest thing on the menu.  The elk steaks added just the right amount of gaminess and originality to a classic meal.  Year round yumminess!

*a stew recipe has a lot to do with the taste you want to achieve and the amount of meat and veggies that you decide to use.  same goes for the mashed potatoes - they're all about personal taste and proportions.  i've listed all the ingredients within this post for you to follow as you'd like.  if any of you dear readers would like a proper recipe, let me know... i'd be more than happy to send my secrets your way! 

20 June 2011

guest post: sunday adventures in brooklyn from Lauren of pepper&poppy

Hello dear readers of Delirious Kitchen! Lauren, here, from pepper&poppy. I was really excited and super flattered when Jillian asked me to write a guest post for her lovely blog. It took me some time to put something together because when I write a guest post, I write a guest post.  Last weekend, Jillian took Tricia Gail, her little sister, and me, her number one fan, on a deliriously fun jaunt through some of her favorite food and thrift-related spots in Brooklyn. While I could impress you with more puns and "tell" you all about the delicious treats we ate and the hand-made treasures we purchased from the ever-talented Renegade Crafters, I'd rather "show" you with a photo story. Enjoy:

Brunch, yum.

Egg's glorified take on Munchkins.

Jillian: Scrapple scares me but this did look good.

Lauren: Anything on a biscuit is great, pair it with grits = heaven.

Tricia: 2 words, candied bacon. Dayum.

Peanut butter puck? Duck? Whatever, it was really good.

I still don't know how this didn't get stuck in Jillian's hair forever or how she made this look so darn cute.

He asked me if I wanted him to move, of course I didn't.

Shara Porter made my new bicycle wallet.

Science pillows for The Princess and the T

Shouldn't you be writing a little more eastbound?

chez sucre chez

If my culinary repertoire is limited to baked goods, can I still fill one of these out?

Vintage Pyrex for sale!

I may have needed a moment alone after seeing these.

Our Sunday adventure concluded with full stomachs, empty wallets, and big smiles. A BIG thank you to Jillian for showing Tricia Gail and me the delicious and thrifty side of Brooklyn. I had so much fun and I can't wait to see more!

<3 L

14 June 2011

the problem with panko

I keep buying the Japanese style Panko breadcrumbs because I feel like they're lighter than regular breadcrumbs which, in my twisted mind, makes them healthier.  Unfortunately, I can never seem to cook well with them.  No matter what I use to coat fish or chicken, eggs, oil, nothing, the breadcrumbs stick until they hit the pan.  As soon as the heat hits, the crunchy crumbly coating is shed from the protein and ends up like ice cream cake crunchies at the bottom of the skillet.

Sometimes that's okay, like tonight when I was just whipping up some chicken cutlets to top off a cobb salad and the crunchy breadcrumbs added a crouton-like quality to the salad.  But most of the time cooking with Panko just seems like a waste.  Anyone have any tips to cooking with Panko?  Or some recipes I should try out?  Keep me posted and until I figure it out, I'll just keep ending up with a crunchy coated pan and plain old chicken.  At least the cobb salad was perfectly wonderful!  How could it not be with ingredients like spring greens, avocado, bleu cheese, hard boiled eggs, peppery chicken, fresh chives, baby beefsteak tomatoes, and everyone's favorite, bacon!

Also... Cookie Congratulations to the Class of 2011!  Your antics will be sorely missed in the library.  Seriously, you were one of the most brilliant and fun group of kids I've ever had the pleasure of working with and I wish you all nothing but the very best as you move on to the rest of your lives.  And I'll be sure to keep a stash of cookies around for when you come back and visit - because y'all better stop in and say hi when you're home on your breaks!

to the class of 2011. congratulations gang!