Things have been quiet here, but I’m traveling the world without leaving my kitchen for Yes and Yes, a fabulous lifestyle blog. I’ll be back on Apartment Dining with new recipes for banana tarts and risotto next week. Until then, read about my adventure making Jollof rice from Ghana.
Whoa, Spring. Just four weeks ago, Brooklyn was mired in clouds, cold rain, and the dirge of winter that is March in the Northeast. Now the streets are bursting with life. Cherry blossoms and tulips are in bloom, and every patch of sad grass in this city is dotted with crocuses and snowdrops. I’m so thrilled that I’ve started buying fresh cut flowers every two weeks to bring some Spring inside my apartment, like these red ranunculus that have taken up residence in a mason jar.
Spring also marks the beginning of prime farmer’s market season. We push aside root vegetables to make way for asparagus, ramps, and of course, rhubarb. It’s a star player in one of my favorite pies (strawberry rhubarb) and it can be deadly (well, only the leaves). It’s like the fugu of vegetables, but much safer.
Instead of using it in a pie this past weekend, I put rhubarb in my most successful galette to date. The crust was crisp, but not too crisp. The filling was sweet, but not too sweet. And it all went well with a pint of strawberry ice cream. Continue Reading →
The last two weeks have been crazed. I haven’t had time to cook, so my refrigerator became a wasteland of half-empty takeout containers. Pad thai, oversized salads, and halves of halves of sandwiches littered the shelves, each one a sign that I needed to stay away from my computer and email and everything else this weekend. It was time to escape to a glass conservatory full of flowers in the Bronx.
I woke up early on Saturday morning for a solo journey to the New York Botanical Gardens. It was the second-to-last weekend of their annual Orchid Show, known for its towering displays and hundreds of varieties of flowers. Prime example:
Every orchid that’s crossed the threshold of my apartment has died, so I’m fascinated by anyone that can keep these flowers alive, let alone get them to bloom. Continue Reading →
On warm spring afternoons, my ideal spot isn’t a park or a brownstone stoop in the sun. It’s walking through musty old houses with a motley crew of tourists, bored children, and random history buffs. Historical house tours are a chance to travel back in time and see how people lived decades or centuries ago, guided by charming elderly volunteers or park rangers.
All of my previous house tours have been of estates in the countryside, like Theodore Roosevelt’s House in Oyster Bay and Thomas Edison’s house and factory in New Jersey, but this past Saturday, Ramsey and I went to the Merchant House Museum on East 4th Street in Manhattan. I must have walked by it dozens of times while I was working in SoHo, but never realized the building was a perfectly preserved example of 1850s life. It stands in stark contrast to the neighborhood around it, now dominated by huge billboards, street art, shopping tourists, and perfectly coiffed models in tall heels.
Every room was well preserved, but every window looked out onto a world that was completely changed. Gertrude Tredwell, the inhabitant of the house, was born and died there. She must have watched the neighborhood change completely around her during her 93 years there. Continue Reading →
I slipped up last Friday, pausing my month-long gluten-free diet for slices of soda bread at my office. We held a bake-off, and as one of three participants, it would have been rude for me not to try my competitors’ bread. Right? That’s how I rationalized it. I was just getting in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, but I haven’t had gluten since.
When St. Patrick’s Day arrived on Sunday, I couldn’t celebrate with green beer or whiskey, so I chose red wine, beef stew, and colcannon instead. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made with mashed potatoes, milk or cream, kale or cabbage, salt, and pepper. I love the flavor and vibrant green of kale leaves, so I used them instead of cabbage, along with thinly sliced leeks.
And did I mention butter? There’s a lot of butter in this dish. If you look at the photo at the top of this post, that’s a whole tablespoon melted in the middle just for serving. It’s all part of the tradition and immortalized in this Irish folk song: Continue Reading →
I had brunch with friends this past weekend. It was the first time we’d been together in ages, so we went to our favorite spot by the park and ordered plates of French toast and omelets. Over the last few years, some of us have moved far away, some not so far. Careers have begun to solidify. One friend brought their young son who sat at the head of the table in a highchair, teething on coffee creamers and smiling between bites of his pancakes. We were newer versions of ourselves in the same old context, and yet, it felt just as comforting as our lazy Saturday brunches years ago.
Seeing them sent me on a nostalgia bender for most of Sunday, drawing on sources of comfort from years before—indie music circa 2005, old novels, and of course, food. Maybe I was looking for remedies to stress and the dreary end of March, when the Brooklyn sky alternates between gray with clouds and gray with clouds and freezing rain. Maybe I was trying to recapture what I’ve been lacking in recent months: moments when I’m completely at ease.
That’s all to say that I have a pudding recipe for you. It’s a dessert to make on a Sunday afternoon when all you want is to feel content, with a spoon in one hand and a cup of decadent chocolate and fresh whipped cream in the other.
I call it Ultra Chocolate Pudding because I increased the amount of chocolate by a third from the recipe I adapted. The result is a thick pudding with a near-custard consistency. Continue Reading →
I’m going on day fourteen of my gluten-free experiment. I wish I could say that I don’t feel any different, that cutting cookies and bread and pasta out of my diet has done nothing for my body, but alas. I feel better and lost two pounds. The weight loss is probably tied to just eating less, but my body isn’t as fatigued and my ongoing battle with acid reflux has reached a truce. It could all be psychosomatic, but we’ll see how the rest of the month goes…if I can make it that long without a cookie.
I’m turning to different kinds of snacks in place of sweets that call for wheat flour. Popcorn is my new favorite with different toppings like dried herbs, cheese, cinnamon and sugar, or a handful of peanuts. Tonight I popped a bag of plain, unsalted, unbuttered popcorn and tossed it with Parmesan cheese, thyme, salt, and melted butter.
I used a bag of Newman’s Own, but did you know you can pop any amount you want in a plain brown lunch bag? Just pour a few tablespoons of popcorn kernels into the bag, fold the top over a few times, and cook it in the microwave for about two minutes. At 50 cents per pound vs. $3.53 for the pre-bagged and buttered kernels, it’s cheaper and healthier. Continue Reading →
Katie Fisher baked cookies for her brother Matt every single week he was away at college. She was killed in a car accident in 2010, and to honor her memory, Matt declared March 12 “Katie Fisher Day.” The goal? Get “everyone in the world to follow Katie’s example and send some cookies to someone they love.”
I hope you’ll take part, and if you do, share what you make over at katiefisherday.org.
In honor of Katie Fisher Day, I made cookies for Ramsey. It seems like an easy choice, and there’s no mailing involved, but this man deserves some cookies. He makes me laugh more than anyone and helped pull me out of some stressful times over the past year. He’s also dedicated to his work, exhibiting laser-like focus at his home office desk late into the night while I refresh my Facebook feed for the millionth time.
One of my favorite memories from our trip to France last summer was eating macarons on the steps of the Pantheon, so I made him vanilla macarons with bittersweet chocolate ganache filling. It wasn’t easy, but the results were worth it. And did I mention they’re gluten-free? Recipe and more photos after the jump. Continue Reading →
I promised I wouldn’t look for food substitutes during Gluten-Free March, but I couldn’t resist cupcakes from BabyCakes NYC. This gluten-free, vegan bakery opened on the Lower East Side in 2005 and brought delight to the city’s growing population of eaters with special diets. Last weekend, BabyCakes brought delight to me and the hosts of the comedy podcast Wonderful, Thanks, fresh from recording this week’s episode with Julie Klausner. Here they are with cupcakes in hand. Ramsey and I got banana chocolate and Adam got mint chocolate chip.
In addition to cupcakes, BabyCakes has a full line of donuts, cookies, scones, and other treats that avoid the pitfalls of so many gluten-free foods: upping sugar and fat to improve the flavor. Continue Reading →
Gluten-free March is off to a good start, but I’m already craving wheat. I went to a bar with friends on Saturday, and while everyone ordered grilled cheese sandwiches or burgers with beer, I got an arugula salad and hard cider. Now, I love a salad and cider, but when you’re craving a burger on a brioche bun with a cold, hoppy beer, they just don’t satisfy. I hope the wheat cravings diminish as the month goes on.
To help quash my craving for something warm and wheat-like, I made polenta squares for lunch the next day. It was my first time trying them at home, and I was amazed at how easy they are to make: boil, whisk, pour, cool, cut, broil. And good goodness are they cheap at just $1.75 for a two pound bag of cornmeal. Throw in a can of diced tomatoes, garlic, spices, and a handful of spinach, and you have a meal.
Cornmeal has the color and consistency of a fine sand when it’s dry. Once you add it to boiling liquid and start whisking, it plumps and thickens. Continue Reading →