Thursday, October 27, 2011

Going to California


By the time you read this I'll be up in the air on my way to California. Weston and I are headed west to celebrate our marriage with the family members who couldn't make it out to the east coast for the wedding. In addition to a party at my parents' house on Saturday, we'll be making a day trip to Napa on Sunday and stopping for lunch at Mustards Grill. It should be fun! I'll be back to posting next week.

The Best Cake Ever


My little sister asked me and I were chatting about making cake the other day, and I was reminded of the best cake I'd ever made, it was a recipe from the A16: Food + Wine cookbook, and it was hands-down the best cake I have ever made. Yes, I have eaten more divine confections from bakeries or restaurants or other more able bakers, but this is the tastiest cake I ever managed to whip up myself. It's flavor is sophisticated and not-to-sweet, and it is criminal that I didn't blog about it when I made it!

A word about the recipe: Both times I made it the cake needed to cook longer than the allotted time in the recipe, so be sure to check with a toothpick to make sure the center is fully cooked before pulling this one out of the oven. 

Pistachio and Almond Cake with Orange Salad
From A16: Food + Wine

Cake:
1 1/3 cups unsalted shelled pistachio nuts
1 1/3 cups blanched whole almonds
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3 lemons
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon "00" flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Citrus Salad:
3 blood oranges
2 Valencia, navel, or blood oranges
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Unsalted shelled pistachio nuts

1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 300°F. Butter a 4-by-8-inch loaf pan. Then, using a sifter or a fine-mesh strainer, dust it with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. In a food process, combine the pistachios and almonds and pulse until finely ground. Set aside.
3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Grate the zest from the lemons directly into the bowl. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Mix in the vanilla just until incorporated. On low speed, gradually add the nuts and mix just until incorporated. Then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stir in the flour and salt and mix just until incorporated.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, run a paring knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake sides, invert the cake onto a plate, and lift off the pan. At this point, the cake can be served warm or allowed to cool completely before being sliced and reheated.
5. To make the orange salad, cut a slice off the top and bottom of 1 orange, stand the orange upright, and cut downward to remove the rind and pith in thick strips. Cut the orange crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, capturing any juice. Repeat with all of the remaining oranges. Set the oranges slices aside until needed.
6. Gently heat the marmalade in a pot over low heat for about 3 minutes, or until syrupy. Add any captured orange juice along with the lemon juice to the marmalade. Remove the pot from the heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to think the marmalade to the consistency of a vinaigrette. Let cool.
7. To serve, preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the cake into generous slices and place on a baking sheet. Bake the slices, turning them over once, for about 5 minutes, or until warm and slightly toasted on both sides.
8. Place 4 or 5 orange slices on each plate and drizzle generously with the marmalade syrup. Place the warm pieces of cake next to the orange slices and top with a dollop of yogurt and a few pistachios. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mary Kate's Emerald Studio


I was delighted to discover my sweet friend Mary Kate's apartment in the most recent home design issue of Time Out New York. I love Mary Kate's style and I am in awe of how much of it she managed to pack into such a small space. (When I lived in a studio of similarly diminutive proportions, I wimped out with a white-on-white-on-white scheme.)

Perhaps she was able to be so bold because she had a little help with the design from designer Nick Olsen. I've often wondered what it would be like to work with a decorator, and the results of Nick and Mary Kate's collaboration seems to be the perfect testament to working with a pro. Don't you agree?


Photograph: Jessica Sokolowski for Time Out New York



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Black And White (And A Bit In Between)


A while back I had the privilege to interview Celerie Kemble about her new book Black and White (and a Bit in Between) for Family Circle magazine (see below). First, let me say that both times I have interviewed her Celerie Kemble is the nicest, most pleasant designer to interview--and highly quotable too!

There was one piece of advice that didn't make it into the story that I loved. She suggested photographing colorful rooms in black and white to get a sense of the various gradations at play. Kemble noted that it it’s an excellent way to assess whether the colors are too middle-tone or too stark/high-contrast -- taking away the distraction of color helps the eye make a quicker judgment about other elements.

After speaking with Kemble, I was even more interested in Black and White (and a Bit in Between). This is not a book of Kemble's work, rather it's a collection of the work of other designers that she admires. Included are many rooms I had seen before and loved (hello, Thomas O'Brien, I'm talking to you!) and others that were new to me. Kemble said that she wanted to explore the limited palette of black and white because it is such a far cry from the color-on-color interiors for which she is best known. Kemble wrote the book to learn and explore, and it make the book all the more interesting.  If like me, you love a simple palette and timeless interiors, you'll enjoy this book* and likely find a lot of inspiration within its pages.

(*Confession, I haven't seen the book itself, but rather a pdf of its pages.)


My Sister Has A Blog!


My little sister has started a blog! Anne is writing about all things food-related on her new blog Eat What You Believe. I am very excited to read her thoughts about food -- whether it's the politics of eating meat or a particularly good cookie recipe. Pay her a visit and add her to your list of blogs to follow.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Good Find: Everything-Free Crackers

Like any good hostess, I always try to accommodate my guests' food preferences and allergies. Lately it seems like everyone is allergic to something, which can make planning a dinner party tricky to say the least. Recently, we picked up these Ener-G crackers, which are gluten-free, wheat-free, milk-free, lactose-free, egg-free, cholesterol-free (that's a lot of frees, no?). While I wouldn't say they are delicious, these crackers are certainly acceptable, and they meet almost every food requirement I know of. (However, they do have yeast in them, do strict vegans eat yeast?) If you're like us and you find you've got a lot of allergies to plan for when you entertain, I'd recommend keeping a box of these in your pantry.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Philip Johnson Glass House


The weekend before our wedding we visited Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, CT. (We'd bought the tickets in the winter before we'd even gotten engaged, which is why we ended up visiting at such a hectic time for us!) Seeing the Glass House and the other structures on the property was certainly very interesting, but I wasn't sure what to take away from what we saw.

It was amazing to see this architectural icon in person, and I was surprised by how humble it felt. The heroic photos of the house and its Barcelona loungers always seemed like a luxurious, mid-century setting. However, the house itself has brick floors, plain wood cabinetry and the furnishings all have the patina of age that comes from having been used and loved. The kitchen is remarkable ordinary with the simplest of faucets on the plain stainless sink and a four-burner electric range that may be original to the house (it is clear that Johnson was not cooking here).



I was also struck by how silly it is to think of the Glass House as a real house. There are dozens of other structures on the property, including a house for Johnson's staff, a structure for his office/studio, not one but two large structures devoted to housing his art collection. You can only live in the Glass House if you are wealthy enough to have several other houses for your belongings and to do many of the things you'd do in a regular home (like oh say, cooking or laundry). It is stunning nonetheless, and it made me want to go home and clear away the clutter in our apartment. However, I love my books, photographs, dishes and cookware -- I couldn't live without them.

If you have a chance, the Glass House is definitely worth a visit. If you've already been to see it, I'd love to hear what you thought of Johnson's masterpiece.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cook This Now


Recently my sister, my husband and I ventured over to the Greenlight Bookstore to hear food writer Melissa Clark talk about her new book Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make. I've long been a fan of her column in the New York Times, and it was great to get to see and meet her in person. My sister and I both left with a copy of the book and I've already tried a few recipes. From the few I have tried so far, I feel confident in saying that this one's a keeper.

I like the book so well because these are simple, everyday recipes, but Clark suggests flavor combinations and methods I never would have thought of myself. For example, on Friday we made her Raw Kale Salad With Anchovy-Date Dressing and the Butternut Squash Risotto With Pistachios and Lemon. An unusual combination, the anchovy-date-citrus-peel dressing was a great dressing for hearty kale (and thanks to the kale's tough leaves it was even good the next day, which salad almost never is). Clark suggests grating the butternut squash and cooking it right along with the rice, which results in the squash almost melting into the risotto -- anchovies and lemon added zing to the otherwise mellow flavor of squash.


Raw Kale Salad with Anchovy-Date Dressing (serves 6)

From Cook This Now

6 to 8 large medjool dates, pitted, smashed, and finely chopped
6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp red wine vinegar, more to taste
2 large or 3 small bunches Tuscan kale, ribs removed
Coarse sea salt, if needed

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the dates (use more dates if you like a sweeter salad and fewer if you prefer a less sweet salad), anchovies, garlic, orange zest, and lemon zest. Stir in the olive oil and vinegar.
2. Wash and dry the kale leaves; stack the leaves and slice them thinly cross-wise. Transfer the greens to a large salad bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Add salt and more vinegar if needed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Made The Police Blotter


Not every bride can say that her wedding made the local police blotter, but I was tickled to learn that mine had! A dear family friend gifted us a full-blown fireworks display at the reception (more about that later). I'd been fearful that the police would come when we were setting the firecrackers off, but they did not. We thought our display had escaped unnoticed by the authorities, but apparently not:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

8mm Vintage Camera App


Videography was not in the budget for our wedding, and frankly, I didn't think we needed it. However, our good friend photographer Tony Stamolis, shot a bunch of short videos with his phone on our wedding day and they are so wonderful. I am so, so, so thrilled that we have these mini-videos -- they make me smile and capture the day in real time in a way that no photograph ever could. The footage of our first dance will be something I treasure forever. So, thank you Tony!

Tony shot the video with his iPhone using an app called 8mm Vintage Camera, which gives the video a faux vintage quality. 8mm describes the effect as "old-fashioned 8mm movies." My iPhone is on its last legs due to one too many incidents in which it was dropped, but as soon as I get a new one, I'll be downloading the 8mm app, and I'll definitely be shooting videos at special events from now on. Have you tried the 8mm Vintage Camera app? If so, what do you think of it?


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It Takes A Village

A word about DIY weddings: They're a lot of work! I was tempted to title this post "This Is What A DIY Wedding Looks Like...," but decided that "It Takes A Village" better described the post I was about to write. Because, trust me, it takes a village.

While we were fully committed to DIY-ing much of our wedding, I definitely underestimated how much manpower would be needed to get the whole thing off the ground. I'll share some of the wedding photos in a future post, but first I thought I'd give you a behind the scenes look at how our wedding came together. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my friends and family who helped make it happen (and to my cousin Judy, who snapped all these shots).


Two days before the wedding: Here I am sweaty as can be moving boxes around in the garage. Our host and floral designer Susan Armstrong is busy creating arrangements and my father and uncle are in the background screwing lightbulbs into the string lights we ordered.


Here my dear friend Elizabeth and I are trying to sort out the table arrangements and the menu place cards.


In this shot my father and uncle are assembling our matchbook and sparkler favors. Across the table out of the shot you'd find my dad's cousin and my husband's brother's girlfriend assembling place cards and rehearsal dinner favors.


My then-fiancé (now husband) and his brother hung the string lights in the tent -- thankfully, his brother was tall enough to reach without a ladder.


My little sister is hard at work folding napkins around the menu place cards and flatware (and my friend Elizabeth is working on another stack in the next room).


The day of the wedding: We hung the Mexican paper flags, assembled tables and chairs, linen-ed and set the tables -- my father, mother, sister, aunt, and my mom's best friend from high school are among the helpers with tent set-up

In the kitchen, limes are being squeezed for margaritas (by my sis, her boyfriend and family friend Sacha) and fresh avocado is being mashed into the store-bought guacamole. Yes, that's a bucket they are filling with lime juice.

These shots don't capture half of the work that went into the pre-wedding prep, which also included tree stump removal, patio furniture moving, outdoor lighting design, many trips to Costco, an epic liquor store run, hours and hours of printing programs, place cards and the like, and a whole lot more. It was a little stressful, but I was also glad to have my family there helping me make it happen.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mr. and Mrs.

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