Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Joshua Tree: Cholla Cactus Garden



It's National Parks Week, and I'm excited to finally post some pictures from Laura and I's trip to Joshua Tree! This beautiful park has so much to explore, but without question the top of my to-do list was the Cholla Cactus Garden. I knew the light would be perfect just before sunset, and Laura kindly obliged my desire to take a lot of pics. I barely even edited the photos because they came out so beautifully.

I accidentally learned why they call these cacti "jumping chollas", as a cute little ball of pain jumped from a nearby plant to my forearm. I'm smiling in the photo, not knowing I'd be picking the little pricks out of my skin for over a month. That aside, I highly recommend checking this place out, and spending some time wandering amongst these unique and beautiful cacti.









Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sous Vide Rack of Lamb with Orange-Ginger Carrot Puree & Pistachio-Cilantro Gremolata



Ignore the funky iPhone photos on this one... it was dark, and I was hungry. Look at that lamb! It was way too tender and perfect to wait for photos. This recipe seems labor-intensive, which in a way it is, but the lamb can be cooked a day ahead and seared the day of serving. The puree comes together pretty quickly, and the gremolata can be made while the carrots are roasting. If you don't have the equipment to sous vide (which most people don't), you can brown and roast the lamb according to these directions.

I have pretty high standards for my meals, judging them by whether I'd be happy if served this dish at a restaurant, which was the first thing Adam said when he tasted this dinner. The New Zealand lamb from Trader Joe's was great; actually it was even better than the expensive racks I bought for Easter from Central Market (which were way too fatty). I had planned to get a plain yogurt for the carrot puree, but when I saw this siggi's orange and ginger flavor, I thought it would be such a great combination. I can't imagine it any other way now.

Make this meal sometime when you really want to impress someone, because it will!



Sous Vide Rack of Lamb with Orange-Ginger Carrot Puree & Pistachio-Cilantro Gremolata

Ingredients 

For the Lamb

Rack of lamb, mine was New Zealand lamb from Trader Joe's (~1.5 lbs)
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
3-4 T. olive oil

For the Carrot Puree

10 oz bag shredded carrots
Drizzle of olive oil
5 oz container siggi's orange & ginger yogurt
1 t. cumin
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. sea salt

For the Gremolata

4 T. chopped shelled pistachios
2 T. chopped cilantro
Drizzle of olive oil

Directions
  1. Sous vide the racks of lamb according to the master, J. Kenji López-Alt. This can be done a day ahead of time, so that day-of prep is a breeze. I cooked mine at 132 degrees F for 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400. Toss the shredded carrots with a drizzle of olive oil and roast on a baking sheet for 20-30 minutes, stopping before they turn brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Blend the carrots with remaining puree ingredients until smooth. 
  4. Mix the pistachios and cilantro for the gremolata, and add just enough olive oil to wet the ingredients.
  5. Remove the lamb from the vacuum bag and dry the surface completely. Salt and pepper the surface.
  6. Heat the 3-4 T. olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until nearly smoking. Sear all sides of the lamb until browned, about 1 minute per surface. 
  7. Slice the lamb and serve over the puree. Top with the gremolata.










Friday, April 21, 2017

Cinnamon Sugar Buttermilk Waffle Donuts



Waffles. Donuts. Cinnamon. Sugar.  Living together in harmony.  I made these waffle-donut hybrids as a late breakfast on a sleepy, rainy Saturday, and they were so warm, fluffy, and satisfying. The batter could be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge, so that Saturday's task is simply heating up the iron and waiting about 4 minutes. These are best eaten rightttttt after the sprinkling step, while still hot.



Cinnamon Sugar Buttermilk Waffle Donuts

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/3 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 T. melted unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 t. cinnamon and 1 t. granulated sugar, mixed together
Directions
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, buttermilk, egg, and 1 t. of the vanilla extract. Add the melted butter.
  3. Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients just until combined.
  4. Grease a waffle iron with a small amount of butter. Pour batter into mold and cook to waffle iron's timing, each is different.
  5. Immediately after removing the waffle, sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Smoked Salmon Rillettes



This spread was the happiest surprise of our entire Easter menu this year. I'm not the world's biggest smoked salmon fan, but when it's right, it's right. This recipe can be whipped up in about 15 minutes, and made an entire day ahead of time, making it a perfect party appetizer. It's also pretty adaptable, as you could add whatever herbs you have on hand, a little more of this or less of that, and everything would be just fine. I'll definitely be making it again and spreading it on some everything crackers (or bagels) ASAP.



Smoked Salmon Rillettes 
(adapted from Salt & Wind)

1 T. unsalted butter
1/4 c. minced shallots
1/3 cup diced fennel
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t. grated lemon zest
1 T. finely chopped chives
1 T. finely chopped fennel leaves
2 T. creme fraiche
Crackers for serving

Directions
  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small pan. Add the shallots and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Sauté until the shallots are translucent and soft. 
  2. Add the diced fennel to the pan and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. In a small bowl, add shallot mixture, lemon juice and zest, herbs, chives, fennel leaves, and creme fraiche. 
  4. Break the salmon into bite-sized pieces and fold into the mixture until just combined. Salt to taste.
  5. Store covered in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.




Happy Easter! {A Simple Holiday Tablescape}



After nearly six months of an unusable kitchen, we are finally back in action for cooking and holiday hosting. The kitchen is still not finished, mind you, but that's a story too frustrating to tell. I wanted to keep Easter as simple as possible from a decor standpoint, using only what I had around the house for the table, and I think it turned out great! 

My favorite new Tania da Cruz Wig Vase was a perfect centerpiece, decked out with her own festive bunny ears made out of some jumbo pipe cleaners. I kept everything else simple with a burlap table runner, my favorite striped napkins, gold flatware, and some vintage dessert plates from our wedding. You can also catch a glimpse of our gorgeous new faucet and sink drain - yes, I'm gushing over a sink drain. Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!

Vase // Napkins (West Elm) // Flatware // Dinner Plates // Salad Plates




Thursday, December 8, 2016

Fez, Morocco



As I mentioned in my post about the Riad Idrissy, the city of Fez first entered my travel radar following a Conde Nast Traveler article about "living like royalty" in Morocco. While I was far from naive enough to believe that all of Fez would be cushy and luxurious, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. As it turns out, visiting this city was one of the most intense, stimulating, and memorable travel experience of my life.

Fes el Bali Medina, the maze-like walled Arabic city center, is not only a UNESCO world heritage site, but also the largest car-free urban area in the world. The scene in the medina was an assault on all five senses: teeming with people, filled with gut-checking smells, and completely enclosed from the open air. Intense, but incredible. I have never felt like more of an outsider, but have also never learned so much from a new place.

Aside from the time in our beautiful riad, there were plenty of other opportunities to escape the pandemonium. Touring the peaceful Al-Attarine Madrasa, an Islamic school built in 1323, was an amazing educational interlude. Sipping wine on the rooftop of Riad Fes with its panoramic views, taking a quiet moment in the courtyard of Riad Laaroussa, slipping into tourist-friendly Cafe Clock for a snack and a beer provided respite from the busy streets.

Fez was crazy and beautiful and scary and wonderful and beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Though cliché, it's a place I'll truly never forget.

EAT // 7-hour lamb at The Ruined GardenMaison Moi Anon (Thai)
DRINK // Riad Fes, Cafe Clock
STAY // Riad Idrissy 
SEE // Al-Attarine Madrasa
DO // Shop the Fes el Bali Medina

Views from the rooftop of Riad Fes with a bottle of Domain de Sahari Gris (our wine of choice for the trip)

The courtyard of Riad Laaroussa
Shops in the supremely chaotic medina
Al-Attarine Madrasa
Maison Moi Anon Thai Restaurant
Only a little ashamed to be taking selfies in an ancient holy school...







Friday, December 2, 2016

30.30.60 Party



As hard as it is for me to come to terms with, I turned 30 this summer. I'm not sure how that happened, since I'm pretty sure I was 23 just a few months ago, but it did. Because this milestone fell right after Adam's 30th, and right before my mother-in-law Jan's 60th, we decided this trifecta was occasion for a seriously big-time party.

With the help of our sweet planner, Beth from 36th Street Events, we selected the very cool and impeccably decorated South Congress Hotel for the venue. The hotel's vibe is in line with my style, and the event space itself was a totally blank indoor/outdoor slate. Every guest I spoke with was blown away by the in-house catering; from the selection of passed appetizers to the taco bar, raw bar, and the underdog favorite selection of salads, every bit of food was truly fine-dining quality. Along with the must-have open bar, we each had a signature cocktail, each of which was incredibly made by the bar team.

We worked with Loot Vintage Rentals to design custom soft seating areas throughout the space, complete with midcentury modern furniture, mixed pattern textiles, and vintage rugs (swoon!). I wanted to take literally everything home for my house. They also provided a gorgeous wood bar, beautiful hanging pieces like the picture below, and plenty of accessories. Most guests were shocked when I told them the furniture setups weren't a permanent part of the space.

The entertainment was a blast as the band, Blind Date, was absolutely perfect, covering a huge range of crowd-pleasing music from classic throwbacks to Beyonce. And of course, a Smilebooth never hurts, either. Having a joint party ended up being hugely fun, as it mixed all kinds of people together for one big celebration, and it was definitely one for the ages.


Dress: For Love & Lemons