Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chefchaouen, Morocco



There is just no logical place to start this post other than simply with color. The small city of Chefchaouen, also known as The Blue Pearl of Morocco, is a photographer's dream, with supersaturated shades of blue covering nearly every surface. The countless colors of blue are so intense that it looks like your actual life has been filtered. Can a place possibly be as brilliant and colorful as the Instagram and Pinterest pictures? Yes.

Located in northwest Morocco, Chefchaouen is a magical town nestled in the beautiful Rif mountains. Some reports say the town is painted blue to ward off mosquitos, others say that Jewish refugees fleeing Europe introduced the color as a symbol of their faith. So, yeah, two very different explanations. Although tourism to the city is increasing, the town still feels very traditional and relatively untouched by visitors. Of the three major cities we visited (more on Marrakech and Fes later), Chefchaouen felt the most "local" or authentic.


To be honest, there isn't much to do in the city; there are no major sites to see, the central shopping area is small and easily covered, and alcohol is extremely hidden. However, just walking around the shops, and people watching at cafes is enough. I think I took truly over 1000 photos of every possible nook and cranny. We stayed for two nights, at the highly recommended Lina Ryad and Spa, and it was the perfect length of time. Riads are traditional Moroccan homes with an interior courtyard, many of which have been beautifully transformed into incredible small hotels. Ours was the highest rated in Chefchaouen, and was perfectly located, beautifully designed, had a quiet spa swimming pool, and beautiful views. The service was also beyond impressive.

After a day of just walking around, snacking at three different places, drinking mint tea, and exploring, we decided to settle in for a drink and some dinner. Most places did not serve alcohol (shocking that we still powered through to find it), but both the Hotel Atlas and Hotel Parador serve wine and beer alongside beautiful views. We watched the sun set over the city from the balcony of Hotel Parador before heading to dinner. Our favorite of the restaurants we visited, Beldi Bab Ssour, was recommended by a staff member at the riad as "like being welcomed into a Moroccan home" and did feel quite authentic. We had lamb koftas and chicken pastilla; it was all insanely flavorful and delicious.

This experience is one that will stay with me forever, through amazing memories and some of my favorite photos of all time. My insistence on seeing Chefchaouen changed the entire route of our trip, adding hours of driving time, but I wouldn't have changed it for anything.


STAY // Lina Ryad & Spa
EAT // Beldi Bab Ssour
DRINK // Hotel AtlasHotel Parador
SEE // Colors! Doors! No major can't-miss sites.
WEAR // Respectful clothing, covering legs and shoulders

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Fried Green Tomato Stacks with Goat Cheese, Brown Sugar Bacon, Avocado, and Sriracha Crema



I drove down to the Texas beaches this weekend with some girl friends, and of course Oliver. After our visit to Surfside last year, I've been dying to take him back. I've never seen any animal or human come alive the way that he does at the ocean. This normally calm, gentle giant suddenly dives through waves, gets barrel rolled but comes back for more, and swims circles around the group, all with the biggest smile on his face. It makes my heart so happy to see him that way. (pic below)

After the somewhat long drive home, I almost bailed on the dinner I was planning to make, but I'm so glad I didn't! In my head it seemed complicated and arduous as I drove, but it really was quite easy to pull together, and tasted deeee-lish-ussss. The tomatoes are in season right now at Whole Foods and Central Market, so they're readily available. The mix of flavors and textures is so freaking good. You need to try it for yourself.



Fried Green Tomatoes with Goat Cheese, Brown Sugar Bacon, Avocado, and Sriracha Crema
Serves 2

Ingredients

4 slices bacon
Heavy pinch of brown sugar (approximation)
1 green tomato, sliced into even rounds
1 egg
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/4 t. garlic powder
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, for frying
2 oz goat cheese
1 avocado, sliced or even mashed
Watercress
1/4 cup creme fraiche, sour cream, greek yogurt or mayo (any would do!)
Sriracha, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.
Place 4 bacon slices on a cooking sheet and rub the bacon with brown sugar to loosely coat.
Bake until bacon is desired doneness, around 20 minutes, checking on it often.

While the bacon cooks, crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk together a bit. In a second bowl, make the breading mix. Combine 1/2 cup each of cornmeal and panko bread crumbs. Add the paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Pour a thin layer of olive oil in the bottom of a sauté pan, and place over medium-high heat. Dip each tomato slice first in the egg, letting the extra run off, then dip in and cover in the breadcrumb mixture.
Keeping space in the pan, add a few slices at a time and fry on each side until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side but check often. With a slotted spatula, remove tomatoes and place on paper towels to collect oil.

Mix the Sriracha Crema in a small bowl. Optional, transfer to ziploc bag or pastry bag for piping.

Remove the bacon when ready and break pieces in half. Assemble stacks using 3 tomato slices each, layering ingredients between them. Top with a little watercress and drizzle with the Sriracha Crema, and eat!

Mine from the top down was:
Crema
Watercress
Avocado slices
Bacon
Tomato
Avocado
Goat Cheese
Tomato
Bacon
Goat Cheese
Tomato




Friday, September 16, 2016

Iced Horchata Latte



Because I lack self control with any kind of spending, I've been trying to set rules for myself.  One of these rules is to stop spending money on coffee outside of the house. I'm in love with my Nespresso, and for my birthday Adam got me a great milk frother to go with it, so I can make as he calls it "frothy coffees" at home. This Iced Horchata Latte is to die for, and doesn't make me miss Starbucks in the slightest.


Iced Horchata Latte 

1 cup rice milk
1/3 cup almonds
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t vanilla extract
Sugar or sweetener, optional
1 shot espresso

Directions

To make the horchata milk, blend first four ingredients in a blender and strain. Since you're going to the effort, you can easily double the recipe to make more and store in the fridge.

Pour over ice and espresso.

Optional: blend the milk on the cold setting with the latte frother before pouring over the ice.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Triple Chocolate Cookies with Salted Caramel Mascarpone Glaze and Butter Roasted Almonds



These cookies. Seriously what is not to love about these cookies? Triple Chocolate? Yes, please! Salted caramel? Mascarpone? Salty, sweet buttery almonds? Yes, yes, yes. Honestly, cookies typically don't excite me very much, but these are the perfect combination of sweet and salty, just the right amount of chocolate, soft throughout, and almost cake-like in texture. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but it's totally worth it, and makes quite a lot of cookies for sharing. The cookies alone would be good, but the glaze is really what takes it over the top.


Ingredients 
Makes about 20-24 cookies

Triple Chocolate Cookies
1 2/3 cup White Lily or other all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
2 T. caramel sauce
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla extract
3 oz. chocolate bar, chopped in large chunks (I used one with almonds and sea salt)
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Mascarpone Glaze
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened (cream cheese would also work just fine)
3 T. prepared caramel sauce, or homemade caramel
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sea salt, to taste

Almond Topping
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 T. butter
1/2 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. sea salt

Directions
  1. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add butter, brown sugar, and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 3 minutes. Or, add to a large mixing bowl and use a hand mixer.
  3. Add cream cheese, caramel sauce, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
  4. Incrementally add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients in the bowl of the mixture. Mix until combined between additions until all dry ingredients are incorporated. 
  5. Stir in chocolate chunks and miniature chocolate chips.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  7. The dough will be very sticky, and difficult to roll, so refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  8. While the dough is cooling, combine all glaze ingredients and add to a Ziploc bag, and trim the corner of the bag for piping. If the glaze is too runny, add some powdered sugar. If too thick, add a teaspoon of milk.
  9. To make the almonds: heat 1 T. butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat until just melted. Add almonds, brown sugar, and salt. Toss to combine and cook until just toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat.
  10. Form 1.5" cookie dough balls (they may not roll perfectly, but they will even a bit during baking) and place on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes.
  11. Allow cookies to cool completely, pipe with glaze, and sprinkle with almonds.