Archive for the ‘in the kitchen’ Category

2010, From Scratch

January 7, 2010

So wow, the entire holiday season has come and gone already! Cannot believe it’s been so long since my last post, and sincere apologies to all, as both the writing and cooking have taken a literal back burner to that stretch of madness spanning three epic food-for-all calendar dates. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year – all of which, now a blur of belly-blessed treats that cannot begin to be recalled except in creeping scale increments. Kinda like a trip to Whole Foods: somehow you’ve blown $75 and yet have no idea what you’re eating for dinner upon reaching the parking lot. But oh, was it worth it. After all, there’s only so many winter-wonderful recipes and gift basket engineering a girl can withstand before trading the pie tin for pinot and joining the holiday merriment beneath flurries of twinkling lights.

Though, I do think that befitting the occasion, there should be some sort of countdown involved – a wrap-up of the foodie best-in-shows, Holiday Edition 2009. Get those crackers and noisemakers ready…we’re off:

'yule' want to cozy up with a batch asap!

5. Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies – Easily my new favorite and the coveted prize of any cookie exchange. Hershey’s dark chocolate and peppermint-white kisses make these as festive as they are delicious. Also solves the dilemma of leftover candy canes – crush and sprinkle on top for added crunch. Using store-bought sugar cookie dough, it just doesn’t get any easier. Special thanks to The Recipe Girl for this gem.

4. Peet’s Coffee – The warm cranberry-walnut scones, pillowy milk froth, dark kenyan roast and a slow-down-&-sip soundtrack is a California morning staple. And what little tree could be properly trimmed without a Peet’s Coffee & Tea Christmas ornament? Love and latte for all.

Flickr photo courtesy of David Lebovitz (daveleb)

3. Christmas Stollen –  Our lovely friend Inge is kind enough to bake up and share her delicious traditional German stollen each year, and it’s quickly become a personal favorite. Forget the doorstop-double fruitcake jokes; this treat is light and crumbly, with sugary icing and an addictive balance of fruit and spice. Orange and green citron add holiday zest. Toasted with a smidge of butter, stollen will disappear faster than you can say “Dankeschön.”

2. Dundee Marmalade – Once confined to a permanent shelf life, my newest flavorite would not have been discovered without the former entry, perfectly paired as they are. I never cared for the orange jelly stuff, but the bits of real candied orange peel make James Keiller & Sons marmalade perfectly sweet while still a bit tart – not overpowering or gummy in the least. It seems the UK company knows they’re doing something right, too, since the spread has been around since 1797. Bonus points for the elegant, white porcelain jar that makes tea time that much more refined.

1.  A New Year’s Eve dinner affair to remember – What better way to ring in 2010 than with good friends, good food and a very good rose from Moet & Chardon? On the menu: shrimp arrabiata pasta, warm spinach salad with gorgonzola, bruschetta trio, vino and a little (okay, make that a lot of) bubbly. 2010, you’re looking good so far… (pictures to come soon!)

So cheers, everyone, to a bright New Year chock-full of tasties ahead!

~ Cin Cin from the grego girl

Easiest. Pasta. Ever.

October 30, 2009

Ahhh Friday, how I’ve missed you. You’re so mellow and easygoing; not at all like high-maintenance Monday or party-lush Thursday. And after a week like this, you won’t hold it against me if I just can’t bring myself to dress up for dinner. It’s nights like this that remind me why I love you.

Among the Mediterranean magic conjured from my aunt’s kitchen, Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Capers is a stand-out solution to an uninspired Friday fix. It’s just as hassle-free and quick to prepare as it sounds – little more than 15 minutes total is all the quality time you’ll be missing out on. But don’t let the simplicity of the ingredients fool you: the sweetly-singed bite of the tomatoes and red pepper flakes combined with the capers’ bright tang is anything but blasé, and packs enough perk-up to get the weekend rolling.

Note: this isn’t an exacting recipe, either – just taste your way through it. If the pan is a little dry, add more oil or hot pasta water. Need more salt? Go for it. Spice it up with more heat from the pepper flakes. Friday won’t mind one bit – promise.

You need:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 carton cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
  • 1/2 tsp oregano (fresh is great, dried is fine)
  • spaghetti
  • capers (as desired)
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Cook:  Set water to boil over high heat. In separate non-stick pan, add olive oil to coat and heat over medium low.  Slice garlic cloves in half and add to pan, sautéing until fragrant but careful not to burn, about 2-3 mins; remove. Add cherry tomatoes, red pepper, oregano and salt to pan, raising heat to medium; allow tomato sauce to simmer until tomatoes begin to break down, adding oil or hot pasta water as needed to thin sauce, about 7 mins total. While sauce is cooking, boil spaghetti as instructed on packaging until al dente; it should be soft but still somewhat firm. Reserve 1 cup pasta water before straining, then add spaghetti straight into the saucepan with tomatoes. Add capers as desired (I love these little flower buds, so about 2-3 tbs is great, but feel free to use less). Mix sauce and pasta well, thinning with reserved water if needed. Mangia!

PASTA

Simple? Sure - but trust me when I say the flavors are anything but.

Kitchen Couture

August 21, 2009

I suppose it’s inevitable that any girl of a certain age will gradually acquire one vice or another, regardless of meager paychecks and creeping credit balances. Whether a product of nature or nurture can only be of so much relevance here, because really, the only question that matters when handing over the visa is simple: exactly how much Ramen will I be eating over the course of the next billing cycle?

Perpetuating every storyline are the standard love affairs – stilettos! makeup! handbags! – stirring visions of labyrinthine closets and bottomless drawers of lipgloss. Varying degrees of borderline obsession follow: Tiffany, Jimmy, Louis, Chanel, Manolo, Fendi, Dior (leaving off here with the admission that I have to actually google the terms ‘haute’ and ‘fashion,’ or delve into research volumes like InStyle or Devil Wears Prada in order to name drop any further).

No, my designer labels go something like this: Mauviel, Le Crueset, Wusthoff, OXO, Calphalon, Krups, Riedel, Shun, Jura-Capresso, Cuisinart… And as any girl can attest to the bubbly feeling of retail aesthetic, mine just happens to peak among brushed stainless steel, gleaming enamel and eggshell porcelain adorning shelf upon shelf of Williams-Sonoma. Fortunately for my bank account, the impermanence of singledom (and conversely, a reliable lack of personal kitchen space) goes a long way in curbing impulse purchases. Sure, I could put that $500 kitchen mixer on our countertop, next to the leftover pizza box and half-eaten package of graham crackers … or, not. Instead, I’ll just pass a few wistful moments in the pick-up-put-down maneuver, flawlessly executed under the hopeful smiles of sales associates.

Which brings me to that most embarrassing emblem of my twentysix-and-still-the-single-girl stage to date. Really, it all started with a tablecloth – a lime-colored French linen tablecloth, marked down from $120 to $30 on a Saturday sale. So completely stunning, and so totally unfit for a girl without a single coaster and a natural talent for spilling wine. I couldn’t possibly keep it. But my natural reflex failed as I clutched the package tightly, frantically dialing number after number. Someone must have this tablecloth. Someone NEEDS this tablecloth.

It was after three unsuccessful attempts that my mother uttered the phrase dreaded by all unmarried girls who believe themselves to be completely self-fulfilled at that very moment: Oh, honey, why don’t you keep it for yourself, you know, for your hope chest?

Oh. Dear. God.

Domestic as I may be, I draw the line at keeping a collection of items in the hopes of my happily ever after – let alone a quantity that might necessitate an entire chest.

The tablecloth was an unfortunate casualty.

Toys of Summer

August 14, 2009

It’s amazing how quickly we seem to jump from the lazy bliss of early summertime straight into fall harvest. I can’t help but be slightly dumbfounded at the idea that, as if overnight, some seasonal kaleidoscope has rotated its dial without even the slightest dialogue – or at least a courtesy heads-up. Storefronts are now molting into shades like persimmon, merlot, nutmeg. And though the temperature here in Florida won’t dip below 80 degrees for another two months, clearance racks overloaded with strappy sundresses and cutoffs already signal the inevitable: sweaters. Lots and lots of sweaters.

Growing up in Southern California, August and September meant grass stains and sandy bare feet, watermelon seed-spitting and barbecued chicken, a garden abundant with juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and green beans. We caught grasshoppers in jam jars and splashed in the ocean until the daylight waned to a thin, velvety coolness and ate ice cream bars past bedtime.

In defense of these simple kicks, I’m officially boycotting Autumn’s premature arrival. There’s still plenty of summer left to be had. And lucky for us, a full range of kitchen gadgets and cooking tools keep this season fresh and fun. Here are my current Top 5 favorites. More to come, but feel free to add your own!

1. The Cuisinart Brushed Stainless-Steel Ice Cream Maker churns out two quarts of frozen, creamy goodness in just 25 minutes, as well as sorbet and fro-yo – all in pretty much any flavor concoction you can dream up.  And it’s just so pretty. Of course, frozen pops are just as much a of a treat for a fraction of the price tag, especially when they come in fun shapes like stars and rocket ships. Check out popsicle molds by Tovolo and Orka.

frozen pops with a twist by Orka

frozen pops with a twist by Orka

2. Behold, the KitchenAid

KitchenAid Stand Mixer - Artisan Series

KitchenAid Stand Mixer - Artisan Series

3. When it’s hot outside, cold drinks are a must. Love this artsy pitcher from Crate & Barrel for everything from sparkling water to mojitos or sangria. With its sweet-tart and slightly menthol afterbreath, a little limoncello goes a long way; tote this Italian liqueur to the picnic in one of World Market’s glass bottles and you’re instantly in a seaside trattoria on the Amalfi coast.

Picture 4

4. These aprons from Anthropologie are just too cute. How can you not feel summer sunshine all over?

Apron

5. With scents like fig & savory flower and lime zest & cypress, Cucina soaps and lotions bring the Mediterranean right into my kitchen. Gotta love that all are made with natural olive oil and herb extracts. Put the olive & coriander body butter at the top of your wish list.

Cucina