Like Mother, Like Daughter

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This winter, my parents have been busy renovating my grandmother's home after a fire at the house last summer. My father sent me photos of the finished house yesterday, and I was very amused to see that my mother and I managed to pick out the exact same kitchen cabinet hardware at Home Depot. I guess it goes to show that our aesthetic taste is (at least in part) something our parents teach each us. See my mother's pick above and mine below -- it looks like we chose different finishes at least.

Plenty by Diana Henry

Monday, March 26, 2012

I picked up a copy of Plenty: Good Uncomplicated Food for the Sustainable Kitchen this weekend, and I am very excited to start cooking from it. The book is by Diana Henry, who is a food columnist the Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine; I was not familiar with her work, but so far, I like everything I see. The photographs are by a photographer name of Jonathan Lovekin, but I can't find a website for him or his agent online -- I'd love to see more of his work. I'll keep you posted on any recipes I try.

The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Last week, I made some lemon bars for my sister's boyfriend's charity event. I didn't have a lemon bar recipe handy in any of my cookbooks, so I searched When presented with an option named The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar, I figured that must be the way to go. The resulting bars were quite tasty, but the ultimate? I don't know about that. Good enough to share? Certainly.

I doubled the recipe to fill a 9" x 13" glass baking pan. I also skipped the straining of the curd after reading in the comments section that many other testers skipped this step. I'd say the texture did not suffer as a result of the lack of straining. I general, I liked how the shortbread maintained some dryness without being too dry. Do note that they need some time in the fridge to cool -- more than an hour would be ideal.

The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar
From from Rose's Christmas Cookies

Shortbread Base:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar 
1 1/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour

Lemon Curd Topping:
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar 
3 fluid ounces (use a liquid measuring cup) lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 1/2 large lemons) 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened) 
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest (finely grated) 
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting

8-inch by 8-inch by 2-inch baking pan, preferably metal (if using a glass pan, lower the oven temperature 25°F.), bottom and two sides lined with an 8-inch by 16-inch strip of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

1. Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes, wrap it, and refrigerate.
2. In a food processor with the metal blade, process the sugars for 1 minute or so, until the sugar is very fine. Add the butter and pulse in until the sugar disappears. Add the flour and pulse in until there are a lot of little moist crumbly pieces and no dry flour particles remain.
3. Dump the mixture into a plastic bag and press it together. Remove the dough from the plastic bag and knead it lightly, until it holds together.
4. Place oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325°F.
5. Pat the dough into the prepared pan. Use a fork to prick the dough all over.
6.  Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and the top is pale golden (do not brown).

While the shortbread is baking, prepare the Lemon Curd Topping.
1. Have a strainer, suspended over a bowl, ready near the range.
2. In a heavy non-corrodible saucepan, beat the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon until well blended. Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, until thickened and resembling hollandaise sauce, which thickly coats a wooden spoon but is still liquid enough to pour. (A candy thermometer will read 196°F.) The mixture will change from translucent to opaque and begin to take on a yellow color on the back of a wooden spoon. It must not be allowed to boil or it will curdle. (It will steam above 140°F. Whenever steaming occurs, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly to prevent boiling.)
3. When the curd has thickened, pour it at once into the strainer. Press it with the back of a spoon until only the coarse residue remains. Discard the residue. Stir in the lemon zest.
4. When the shortbread is baked, remove it from the oven, lower the temperature to 300°F., pour the lemon curd on top of the shortbread, and return it to the oven for 10 minutes.
5. Cool the lemon curd–topped shortbread completely in the pan on a wire rack. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes to set the lemon curd completely before cutting into bars. Place the powdered sugar in a strainer and tap the strainer with a spoon to sprinkle a thick, even coating, entirely covering the lemon.
6. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the pastry on the two sides without the aluminum foil. Use the foil to lift out the lemon curd–covered shortbread onto a cutting surface. Use a long, sharp knife to cut the shortbread first in thirds, then in half the other way, and then each half in thirds. Wipe the blade after each cut.

Carmine's Caesar Salad Dressing

Monday, March 12, 2012

Back in January I bookmarked a recipe for Caesar salad dressing on the blog, Little Brown Pen. The description of the flavor sounded great, and the provenance of the recipe (Carmine's) was trustworthy. One of the reasons that a Caesar dressing caught my eye is because one of our favorite local restaurants, Dino, serves an excellent Caesar salad, which they make with a combo of romaine lettuce and raw lacinato kale. It's a simple, but surprising twist on a classic. The kale adds some complexity (and nutrients!) to your average Caesar, and it's a good strong leaf to hold up to a thick, garlic-y dressing like this.

My husband made this dressing and our own kale-romaine salad, and it was delicious. Note that the recipe makes a lot of dressing: I think we dressed at least four salads with it over the course of a week. Also, it really does thicken up and get better, so make it in advance, if you can.

Carmine’s Caesar Dressing

6 anchovy fillets
3 cloves of garlic (I used five because I loooove garlic)
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
juice of one small lemon
1 cup of olive oil
8 tablespoons of romano cheese (I’ve used parmesan a few times)
1 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender or food processor, puree the 6 anchovy fillets. Add the garlic and blend until well mixed. Add the egg yolks and blend for about 2 minutes. Turn off the motor, add the vinegar and lemon juice, and pulse the mixture for 20 seconds. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until incorporated. Add the cheese, parsley and oregano, and pulse the mixture for ten seconds. Season with salt and pepper and chill for at least four hours. Chilling the dressing thickens it and helps it adhere to the lettuce.

Cork Mouse Pads

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Perusing Anthropologie's website's new arrivals section, I noticed this handsome Bulletin Mouse Pad, and it reminded me an awful lot of my own mousepad! When testing out cork DIY ideas a few years back, I made myself a cork pad by layering two layers of Con-Tact's adhesive cork draw-liner together and cutting out a mouse pad shape from the two-layered piece of cork (I traced one I already had on-hand). Here's mine in the photo below; it's not as nice as the Anthro one, but it was certainly much cheaper.

And What It Looked Like Before...

I couldn't help posting this 'before' photo collage of the bathroom. These are a few shots of the bathroom from when I first moved in to my apartment (that hideous gold shower curtain is not my doing). We've gotten used to the shiny, new bathroom so quickly, that it is nice to remember that it really was pretty bad pre-renovation. It's a dramatic change, no?

The Bathroom Revealed

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post photos of the bathroom! It's not 100% done yet, but this is pretty darn close. We opted for affordable tile: Standard white subway tile, black bullnose tile and a vintage-ish hexagon pattern for the floor. For both the walls and the floor we opted for easy-to-maintain charcoal-colored grout. I wanted the darker grout to create the outlined effect around the tiles. 

The medicine cabinet is pretty standard issue: It bothers me that it's not centered over the sink, but we would have lost a lot of storage space if we limited ourselves to the 24" wide models for the sake of symmetry. To the left hangs a vintage mirror I've had for a while.

The toilet and sink cabinet match well (note the tiered bevelled edge on the sink and the toilet tank top), but they weren't sold as a set. The cabinet was a very affordable model from Lowe's. We sprang for a pretty fancy toilet, which my husband rationalized the cost of by saying, "Well, we'll use it every day." True enough!

We gave the Lowe's sink cabinet a little jolt of vintage style with these cute black-and-white knobs from Anthropologie (the ones that came on the cabinet were pretty cheese-y).

Here's a shot of the inside of the shower. Not pretty, I know, but I wanted to show you how the window is framed with the black bullnose tile. The stone on the window sill is a big improvement from the previous tiling.

This is the other end of the shower: Our awkward nook. I store our drying rack and washtub there. The stone was cut to fit the space and installed on a slight tilt so the water runs off of it. You can sort of see that the subway tile goes all the way to the ceiling.

And this is just a gratuitous flower shot! Whenever I buy a bouquet, I cut of some flowers to cheer up the bathroom. If it's roses it's usually a single bloom, but with these daisies, I went for a few heads to make a mini arrangement.

the little house in the city © All rights reserved · Theme by Blog Milk · Blogger