Sunday, December 21, 2014

Turning Thirty

I turned 30 last month. I wanted to do something different from the usual gathering at bar, so I organized an open mic slash party. It was a very merry night in a bar squeezed full of friends and music. The Fifth Estate definitely lived up to its recommendation on FiPS as one of the best bars for party hosting in Park Slope. It was pretty ideal since we basically had the bar to ourselves without having to pay to reserve it, there is a music stage, and they let us play our own iPod music and set up tables with snacks. Everyone was surprised that I made my own birthday cake, but I didn't want to pass up an opportunity to bake pumpkin and chocolate beet cupcakes.

Frank made a hilarious song for my birthday - you should all take a listen.


We ended the evening with a family band - my husband, my sister and I covered Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane over the Sea" - same as the last song at our wedding.

Earlier that day, Evan treated us to brunch at home cooked by a private chef. Mirijana of Wild Feast on Kitchensurfing served us a delicious multi-course meal. She specializes in curing and smoking her own meats, so brunch started out with a charcuterie spread involving wild boar, duck and lamb, and went on from there to scones and pancakes and more. If you're looking to try out Kitchensurfing, I definitely recommend Mirijana for a splurgy, special meal.

Evan's gift to me was this leather clutch from Flux Productions, who sells on Etsy and at the Brooklyn Flea. Thanks husband, for knowing how much I appreciate quality goods that are handmade with care.

As for how it feels to be makes me realize that ten years of my adult life have already gone by doing the typical Brooklyn twenty-something lifestyle. Working and stressing about work, indulging in bars and restaurants, reading on the subway, going to the farmers market religiously. Always wishing I had more time to devote to writing and exercising. Around twenty five, I changed things up and pursued more things I was meant to be doing - moving to the environmental sector, playing in a band, bike commuting. But the general rhythms have remained constant. I'm thinking a lot about what the next changes will be and what the next ten years might hold.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Let's see if I can write about Thanksgiving before Christmas arrives. We had a white Thanksgiving this year, especially at my parents' house atop a mountain, which was laden with a foot of snow. As usual, I spent all of Wednesday cooking. I like to get things done early so I can sleep in and just reheat dishes on Thanksgiving. My mom made the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cake. I made the rest of the sides, and other relatives brought more desserts.

Green bean, chickpea and carrot salad

Every year it's a challenge to find a way to prepare the green beans stored in the freezer from my mother's garden. They always tend to defrost mushier than expected. This salad worked, but next year I think I'll try a more traditional green bean casserole, which I've never done before.

Thinly slice half a red onion and sauté it on low heat until caramelized. Chop a few large carrots into small cubes and roast until lightly browned and tender. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Chop a few handfuls of green beans into small 1-2 inch pieces. In batches, blanch the green beans by briefly steaming, placing in cold water and then draining. Whisk a dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper.  Gently combine all ingredients and stir in the dressing to lightly coat.

Roasted brussels sprouts

Such a family favorite that my grandfather mentioned them in his speech at my wedding!

Same salad salad as last year. This continues to be my favorite kale salad to make.

Roasted sweet potatoes with honey and sage

I tried to double the honey from last year's method for sage leaf sweet potatoes. What a mistake - the sugars quickly burned the pan and the bottoms of the sweet potatoes, while the potatoes were nowhere near cooked through. I was able to salvage them by slicing off the burned edges and coating in olive oil and a sprinkling of dried sage and then continuing to bake for a while. I want to find a new sweet potato recipe for next year. I like Rachel's idea of baking them whole first and then chopping and fancying them up with additional ingredients.

Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits

I usually make rolls but have always wanted to try my hand at biscuits. Through my research, I learned that biscuit dough should be made immediately before baking for maximum rise. And said biscuits should then be served immediately while warm and fresh, since they will turn somewhat stale by the next day. To avoid making a floury mess in the last hour before Thanksgiving dinner, when the kitchen is a flurry of people arriving, turkey carving and foods reheating, I chose to make them ahead and freeze them.

Working with the Kitchn's recipe, I grated a stick of frozen butter, soured milk with vinegar in place of buttermilk, and included 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour. Even though they were only frozen a day, it felt worth it to be able to easily pop the frozen biscuits on a pan to bake right before dinner. This method is not supposed to affect rise. However, my biscuits weren't as fluffy as ideal - but I don't know if that was because I used whole wheat flour, because I rolled them too thin, or from the freezing method.

My new joint Thanksgiving tradition with my husband tends to be a three day affair of food and fun, involving Thanksgiving with my parents, then a hunt and game bird feast on Friday (it was our first time back at the farm since our wedding in June), followed by birthday celebrations on Saturday. My mother-in-law and I happen to share our birthday at the end of Novemebr. 2014 is a milestone birthday for both of us, so this year we also had a big party for her over Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Non-Traditional Non-Diamond Engagement Ring Roundup

A year ago, I was going to friends' fall weddings, discussing upcoming nuptials of other recently affianced friends, and feeling anxious to move forward with our own engagement, and thus looking at rings. This fall wedding season is reminding me of that time, and so now, I'm finally getting around to sharing a round-up of my favorite non-traditional, non-diamond engagement rings.

I scoured the internet looking for non-diamond rings with small stones and a setting that wouldn't stick up much (aka bezel, rosecut, flush or inset), made by an independent designer, ideally with reclaimed and ethical metals and stones. It is remarkably hard to find non-diamond rings, so even though there are some diamonds below, they all accept custom orders and could presumably substitute another gem. I learned that sapphires and rubies are the hardest gems after diamonds and thus the best alternatives for an engagement ring that will get a lot of wear - although rubies seem to be much less common than sapphires. I also learned that sapphires and other stones like topaz actually come in a variety of colors. I had a really hard time deciding among all the pretty rings, and so did Evan, so in the end, we picked it out together, which helped us agree on something we both liked.

A note about shopping for rings: I'm lucky to live in Brooklyn where there are a lot of independent jewelers. Two great Brooklyn jewelry shops are Catbird in Williamsburg and the Clay Pot in Park Slope. We ended up getting my ring from the Clay Pot, because they will help you order a custom ring from a designer, which Catbird won't. But all of these designers can be contacted directly for custom work, and if you can't get to Brooklyn, they also sell online.

Claire Kinder is based in Brooklyn and Vermont and sells some of her work at Catbird. Her etruscan diamond ring comes in various sizes, and her samples of custom work and include a version of this with a sapphire.

Just last fall, Satomi Kawakita started making her famous hexagonal ring with a dark blue sapphire, in a variety of sizes to suit your desires.

Carla Caruso 's three stone and leaf ring comes with diamonds or white sapphires. I really like the leaf motif, but decided against a white sapphire because anyone looking at it would assume it was a diamond, and I didn't want to help perpetuate the assumption that engagement rings should be diamonds. She's based in Boston, but sells at the Clay Pot.

Mociun has a shop in Williamsburg. Her website has several pages of custom work filled with crazy beautiful asymmetrical combinations of mixed colored stones. If I was into prong settings and a bigger ring, this would be the ticket. I didn't even know that green sapphires existed until last year, but they have such lovely seafoam hues. I would have loved one in my own ring, but my designer (Marian Maurer) didn't have access to green sapphires small enough for my ring, so I went with all blue.

Ariko is another Brooklyn designer featured at the Clay Pot who accepts custom work. I like the slightly textured natural look of her bands. She sells this almost purplish sapphire ring, but my favorite of her designs is her silver diamond ring.

Digby & Iona is based in Greenpoint and sells some pieces at Catbird. I love the patterns they use on their bands - vintage-y waves, arrows and triangles. They have always offered a range of colored diamonds, but they are now offering unique watermelon tourmaline stones, and accept custom requests.

Sarah Perlis has a showroom in the Lower East Side and offers a whole ton of sapphire and semi-precious rosecut rings.

Philly-based Bario Neal creates awesomely unique rings with reclaimed or fair-mined metals, ethically sourced stones and environmentally friendly practices. Their textured rosecut ring comes in colored diamonds, and they accept custom work, though they have a longer lead time than some other designers.

If you do want a traditional setting, the website Brilliant Earth is a good resource for ethical sapphires and vintage rings, along with conflict free diamonds.

Etsy is another great place to find non-tradiational engagement rings online. One Garnet Girl is one of my favorite Etsy wedding jewelers, offering a variety of stones and colors. 

And of course, there's the Brooklyn designer who made my ring, Marian Maurer, who uses recycled gold, which isn't that common. My ring was essentially a smaller version of her Kima ring, made with three blue sapphires.

To see even more non-traditional engagement and wedding rings I found, check out my pinterest. Does anyone have a unique ring they want to show off or any favorites I missed? I'm happy to feature it here on my blog. And stay tuned for the next ring roundup, with highlights from my search for a wedding band...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Vegetarian Meals

Evan is on a month-long challenge to eat vegetarian Sundays through Thursdays, and I'm along for the ride. It's forcing us to be a little more experimental with our meals. Here are some of our recent dinners:
Bean and summer vegetable tacos with cilantro-lime dressing

Bean and summer vegetable tacos with cilantro-lime dressing
To make the filling: Sautee thinly sliced peppers and onions until browned and softened. Meanwhile, cook corn on the cob in boiling water for a few minutes. Let cool and cut the corn off the cob. Combine the vegetables with cooked pinto (or black) beans.
To make the dressing: blend together two cups of fresh cilantro, two garlic cloves, the juice of a lime, a cup of yogurt, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.
To assemble: Warm corn tortillas on a hot pan for a minute on each side. Spread the dressing on the tortilla, then add the bean and vegetable mixture and top with radish slices and mixed greens and pour more cilantro dressing over top.

The next night, we fried up tempeh cubes and served them over salad greens with the cilantro-lime dressing.

Barley-scallion fritters
I made a ton of barley in my crockpot that was intended for grain salads, but overcooked it into mush, and needed to come up other uses for it. Here's one - fritters. They tasted like a scallion pancake just begging to be dipped in soy sauce, but the barley gives it more whole grain goodness. Some other ideas for my mushy barley that I stashed in tubs in the freezer: baking it into bread, adding them to veggie burgers. Do you have any other ideas?

Combine a couple cups of barley, one bunch of diced scallions, a half cup of flour, two eggs, salt and pepper. Heat a pan with a shallow coating of sunflower or peanut oil and let the oil heat up. Fry large spoonfuls of the batter in batches, scraping the dregs and adding more oil between batches. Cook fritter for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden browned. Remove to a napkin-lined plate to absorb excess oil.

Eggs poached in kale and tomato sauce.
This is a riff on shakshuka that I invented to use up leftovers, since I only had 1 1/2 tomatoes, but also had some ricotta that needed to be eaten.

Sautee 2 cloves garlic, diced small onion, a couple tomatoes and a few cups of chopped kale in olive oil. Let it simmer for a while to break down the tomatoes. Once the tomatoes are more saucy, about 15-20 minutes, add a half cup of ricotta. Use an immersion blender to puree it into a sauce. Make indentations in the sauce and poach four eggs in it. Cover the pan and check every couple minutes until the whites are cooked. Serve with toast.

Evan's on an Indian kick and is determined to perfect dal. He's made this recipe for khatti dal from the New York Times twice in the past two weeks. Make sure to watch the video for technique - which strangely strays from the ingredients called for in the recipe.

A summery tomato salad of cubed fresh mozzerella and tomatoes, a handful of farro, and a handful of chickpeas over arugula with a dressing of olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar.