27 October 2012

when the train isn't running

And you have an hour to kill and you haven't had breakfast yet, what do you do? Take a walk over to Smorgasburg. Yum!

25 October 2012

black cats and pumpkins

It must be Halloween, my favorite time of year full of costumes, spookiness and fall flavors!  However, one quintessential Halloween flavor has always escaped me.  That's right, I'm talking about pumpkin.  Sure I get pumped for the return of warm apple cider, but pumpkin spice?  No, thank you.  Honestly, I don't know that I've ever had a slice of pumpkin pie (stay away, angry mob!)  I love the flavors of ginger and cinnamon and cloves but something about pumpkin has just never done it for me.  Sure I always have a can of Libby's in my baking cupboard and I'll occasionally add it to pancakes or muffins, but the whole pumpkin spice craze of lattes and scones and cookies has never really appealed to me.  But I love squash.  Especially the big beautiful gourds that come out this time of year.  I love the sweet starchiness, the bright yellows and oranges, and all their versatility, from soups to fritters to casseroles... oh my, the possibilities seem endless!  So what's the difference?  I can't hold the Starbucks stigma against this simple vegetable.  So when my CSA had what seemed like an entire patch full of beautiful pumpkins, I decided to grab one for a little kitchen adventure.

The past few days have been pretty chilly so I thought a soup would be the best, and simplest way to cook up this great pumpkin that sat on my counter - something simple with a little veggie stock, some onion, maybe cumin and smokey paprika, I wanted the flavors to be warming.  But as I was dicing it up to steam, honey did what he always does and snuck a piece.  Despite my protestations (I was afraid that raw winter squash was like raw potatoes and could be poisonous; it isn't,) he nibbled on it and noticed something curious.  After I took my own tiny taste, we both realized that this autumn veggie tasted oddly like a summer fruit.  It had a distinct melon flavor to it.  How strange!  And how tragic that my bellywarming flavors would no longer work!  But with great team effort and much collaboration (and lots of hours and many glasses of wine,) my honey and I crafted a big ole pot of warm, delicious soup that filled the apartment with sweet and savory smells and filled our bellies with a goodness that worked some magic on me as I am now a lover of pumpkin.

We tweaked and adjusted throughout the cooking process, working mostly with what I had in the fridge and a couple of items from a quick dash to the grocery store.  Though our final product was delicious, we've decided to make a few adjustments, so you can consider this a recipe rough draft.  Once we get it right I'll post a revision, but I couldn't not share this tasty creation with you, dearies.  Try it out and don't be afraid to add an ingredient or two in to make it your own... but make sure you share it with me because I want this to be the best soup ever, and that might just take some help from my friends.

rough draft pumpkin soup
I forgot to measure so all of these measurements are "about"
4c sweet pumpkin, cubed
3c veggie stock
2 red peppers, cubed
1/2 c ricotta cheese
1/4 c bacon and prosciutto, sliced 
a few tbsp queso freso, grated
fresh parsley, chopped
salt & pepper
1. Steam the pumpkin in about 1c veggie stock until soft.  Add the red pepper and continue steaming until that gets soft, too.  Add to simmering veggie stock and let bubble up together until it gets even softer.  Using an immersion blender, blend it all together to a soup-like consistency and stir in the parsley.
2. With a tiny bit of warm veggie stock and some fresh garlic, crisp up the bacon and prosciutto. Once it has reached a satisfactory level of crispness, dump it all in the soup pot.  Stir together and let those flavors meld.
3. One heaping spoonful at a time, slowly stir in the ricotta cheese.  This will cut the slight acidity and make the soup creamy and thick.  Sprinkle in the queso fresco.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Easy enough, right?  I topped my bowl with a little extra ricotta and a chunk of grainy bread for good measure.  Very tasty.  So what we're thinking for next time is this -

  • A little more pumpkin! I want it to be really thick and hearty.
  • A little less pepper.  Sometimes red pepper just wants to take over the whole party and that is not okay.  We want the pumpkin to be the star of this show.
  • Cream instead of ricotta.  Yes, the soup is best as a cream soup, but the ricotta might be best saved as a topping.  And the queso fresco, though delicious, is maybe a little too off the flavor palette that we were going for.  Maybe a parmesan or ricotta insalata?
  • Pancetta instead of bacon or prosciutto.  It's heartier and holds a crisp better so it won't get lost in the soup.
  • Since we'll be getting all fancy and garnishing this soup with a dollop of fresh ricotta, let's throw a couple more decorative tidbits on top.  I'm thinking crushed, toasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of honey! This also pulls from our original melon inspiration (you know, melon wrapped in smoky meats with honey as a summer tapas?)

I'm hoping that we get to try this recipe out again soon because I have a feeling that as we tweak it, it will just get better and better until it truly becomes one of our signature dishes.  And how fun is it to create something like that with your honey?  Teamwork and kitchen fun, huzzah!  But wait... Honey and I couldn't be the only ones to indulge in and enjoy the harvest flavors of pumpkin soup.  What about our little buddy, Macaroni?  Honey hardly ever gives him fancy food, so I get to spoil him every once in awhile with the good stuff (that's how I make sure I'm always his favorite!)  Lucky for the little guy, I stumbled upon a pouch of Pumpkin Soup and Shredded Chicken cat food so we all got to have pretty much the same supper, like a big happy family!  Macaroni was so excited that he started lapping up the juicy morsels before I could even get them in his bowl.  Delicious pumpkin soup for everyone!  Happy almost Halloween!

23 October 2012

comfort comes with cinnamon on top

On a kind of dreary, sentimental day there's nothing that can drag you out of the doldrums more than comfort food.  Except maybe comfort food in the form of dessert.  A quiet moment in the park and a few spoonfuls of Rice to Riches almond rice pudding topped with cinnamon was just what I needed this morning.  Feeling slightly revived, I'm off in search of a new perfect fall sip.

19 October 2012

a feast for the feet

While perusing the internerd during a brief moment of quiet the other day, I thought I'd start looking for this year's perfectly perfect Thanksgiving dress (gotta love a theme!) I found a few dresses that may make it to the next round but then I stumbled upon these socks from ModCloth -

How adorable are they? Since I usually skip fancy footwear for this busy holiday, I usually don my boots and end up sliding around in colorful tights. Wouldn't these be absolutely ideal to slip on over a pair of tights to keep my toes toasty? I think I'll be adding these to my holiday shopping list... and I'll have one more thing to be thankful for this year!

04 October 2012

i am 16 going on 29...

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I am celebrating this magnificent occasion by taking a fabulous (and much needed, long overdue, well deserved,) vacation with my honey.  But since it's not right to celebrate unless the people that brought you into this world get to celebrate with you, last night we spent an absolutely lovely and perfect evening with Lizzie B and daddy-o.  Unfortunately, since I'm not entirely used to being able to take and post pictures and blog wherever, whenever I want with my fancy new phone, I forgot to capture any images of the festivities.  I'll try to describe it...

We headed West to the Tipsy Parson, a quaint and crowded little spot in Chelsea that was hip and hot enough to require a reservation.  Thankfully I have a honey who can be very convincing and after a perfectly timed wait that involved cocktails and birthday presents, we had ourselves a table.  Like so many restaurants of late, this spot had that homey, rustic, comfort kind of vibe that I absolutely love.  It's like being in someone's kitchen if that someone decorates like Martha Stewart and cooks like her, too.  We started off with some unexpected apps - fried green tomatoes and fried oysters.  Of course I'm a fan of anything that's fried, especially if it's buttery and briney or a vegetable so that I can pretend there's some semblance of healthiness to it.  Next came our entrees.  Normally, I choose the best dish on the menu and everyone at the table is envious of me; it must be a trait that I got from my father because last night, his was the tastiest selection, though no one else chose badly.  He had the pork belly with butternut squash puree and cavatelli and cheese, I chose the sliced duck breast with a sweet cherry sauce, corn spoon bread and candied brussel sprouts that were so itty bitty baby that they almost made me forget about the pear.  Lizzie B went with flank steak on top of spinach puree with a mushroom medley while honey had the papardelle with venison ragu.  Mmmm just like they claim, it was belly filling goodness.  So much so that we weren't able to squeeze in dessert.  Not that I needed it with vacation right around the corner; I want as much space available in my stomach so that I can fill it with beignets!

But wait... the gifts!  How could I have forgotten the gifts?  For my Sweet 16 I received two very special, very memorable gifts.  I got my first pair of Frye boots just like the ones my mom had when she was younger.  They were very of the times with a zipper up the side and a clunky heel but I loved them and seriously wore the heck out of them.  The other gift was a little but of razzle dazzle for my ears.  Classy, chic and simple, my earrings made me feel like a glamor queen.  Like my boots, I wore them nearly every single day.  But then, tragedy struck - I was burgled!  They stole nearly everything of value, including family heirlooms and my razzle dazzle.  They even went so far as to go through my board games in search of real money and not Monopoly money.  Soon after, on a snowy evening, I slipped on some ice coming of the M train and slid all the way down the steps, bruising my tailbone and cracking the wooden sole of my boots.  It was a very sad day but it was even sadder when the shoemaker told me that it would cost more to repair them than to buy a new pair.  I was heartbroken.  But for my birthday the next year, I got a brand new pair, even more classic than the last ones and I wear the heck out of them all year round.  So much so that I need to have them resoled each year, right around my birthday.  And then they're like brand new but even better because they're all worn in!  And this year, my folks surprised me with some new razzle dazzle for my lonely lobes!  It's like I'm 16 all over again, except instead of a busy colorguard schedule, I have a busy work schedule, and I'm a little less insecure and I've done a lot more cool stuff.  But I'm still a teenage girl at heart (working with a gaggle of kids certainly helps me feel young,) and these birthday gifts just reminded me that just because I'm adding another candle to my cake, it doesn't mean I can't have Sweet 16 shenanigans anymore!  And they will be had - tomorrow honey and I are off to NOLA for some birthday frolicking and fun times.  I can't wait!  Bon voyage and happy birthday to me!

03 October 2012

pear-ly there

I've never been the biggest fan of pears.  I've always found them to be a little too mealy and the skin is always so thick and they're either sickeningly sweet or boring and bland and, worst of all, they look like a lady with a fat butt which reminds me too much of myself!  Sure, when you cover them with caramel and brown sugar and nuts they can be delicious, but in a masked sort of way.  I think what bugs me most about pears is that they aren't apples.  That's right, I said it - pears are kind of like the lame cousins of apples, and frankly, I'm not too fond of them.  Or at least I thought I wasn't.  Then, I saw this itty bitty, teeny tiny pear.  I'm a sucker for all things adorable and this may be one of the cutest pieces of fruit I have ever seen!  It's like a teacup pig in pear form... and it doesn't even make me feel bad about my giant ass!

I ate the tiny pear for breakfast this morning and guess what - it was still thick-skinned and mealy.  But it was also sweet and juicy and crisp and tart, like an apple but not an apple.  Truth is, I'm still not convinced that I could love pears, but because of its cuteness and tastiness this baby one has weaseled its way into my heart and belly; enough to make me believe that I could learn to enjoy all pears as something other than an ingredient.  But it might take some time.  So until then, help me out and tell me your favorite ways to enjoy this other orchard fruit, darlings.

01 October 2012

happy october!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is finally here... my favorite month!  I woke up this morning all giddy and excited because after treading through the past nine months I had finally made it to October.  Honey asked me 'why is October your favorite month?  Is it because it's your birthday month?'  To which I staunchly replied 'absolutely not!' and then changed that to 'well, maybe a little, but for lots of other reasons, too.'  I suppose it doesn't hurt that my favorite month is practically kicked off with a celebration of me, and that my overly-celebratory family believes that a birthday is not nearly festive enough; I get at least a week or, more frequently, a month.  To start this festive time of year off on the right foot, I was finally allowed to open up this -

Yes, those are glittery purple balloons.  Lizzie B is just too awesome for words.  But really, October is certainly about way more than my birthday.  It's about color and flavor and change and growth.  It's the first full month of Autumn.  Let's face it, September is still half Summer here in the Northeast.  I sent most of my warm weather clothes into storage but still haven't felt the need to start bundling up quite yet.  Maybe a day here or an evening there has called for a sweater or a scarf, but nothing too bad.  October is another story altogether.  I walked out the door mid-afternoon today and was glad to have a light jacket on.  It's also the best time of year for sleeping.  I love to leave all the windows open until snow and frost starts coming through them (and even then the bedroom window stays open just a crack.)  In October this makes the room crisp and cool enough to warrant pulling out an extra blanket or two but not so cold that you need to bundle up with heavy comforters.  It's also a good excuse to snuggle up extra close to sleeping buddies!

October is about flavor and seasonal ingredients!  True, I try to use fresh, seasonal ingredients all year long but harvest time really is the best for that.  Last year, if you can recall, I made the world's best apple pie and put it in a jam jar!  This year, though the amount of free time I have has been drastically cut back, I plan on making at least a couple of variants on the original delicious treat.  Maybe I can even sneak out of work one day and go apple picking.  It's been far too long since I've done that and apple choosing at the Union Square market doesn't quite have the same feeling, though that warm cider is pretty darn delicious.  I love squash and the seasonal varieties that start showing up at the market this time of year are so good and lend themselves well to so many tasty dishes.  It's time to bust out the dutch ovens again and slow cook the heck out of some soups and stews and chilis, oh my!  October is the best on all calendars, especially the culinary calendar.

Besides my birthday, there are some other pretty awesome holidays this month - well there's Halloween and that's just the best darn holiday ever so it's all we really need.  And, since it happens to fall on my birthday weekend this year, I plan on celebrating the heck out of Columbus Day.  In fact, Honey and I are taking advantage of the long weekend and jetting off to the Big Easy for a Birthday Extravaganza!  So, I hope you can all understand why I love October so much and I hope yours starts off as happy as mine did.  And of all my birthday wishes this year, the one I'm really hoping comes true, is that I can find more time in my ever hectic schedule to spend with you, darling readers.  Maybe I'll unwrap some extra hours this Friday.