Monthly Archives: January 2012

UNDERWATER LIVING

After weeks of waiting, my glorious A.P.C. quilt has finally arrived!! My bedding situation is a little chaotic (mismatched pillows, mismatched sheets, two thin airplane blankets, one duvet, one blanket purchased in Bali, and my quilt) (and no, I don’t turn on the heat in my bedroom), but the quilt pulls everything together. The quilt is super thick and warm and heavy, really amazing quality. Very substantial. Since I am missing the craftsy gene, I hope that this adopted heirloom will keep me company throughout my entire life.

The “curtain” is actually a beautiful piece of fabric my mom gave me for Christmas. She wanted me to make a top or dress with the material (she actually suggested I give the fabric to Jennifer — my mom is a huge fan!), but as a curtain I get to enjoy its beauty every single day. It’s slightly sheer, really heavyweight silk, so it filters sunlight as this gorgeous aquamarine color. It makes me feel like I live in the ocean. I’ll try to get better pics of it soon.

But really: thanks to Joyce for the original heads up.

MOLDINGS + NOT-SO-SUBTLE HINTS

Wouldn’t these be perfect for molded marzipan? They remind me of the shortbread molds my mother used when I was growing up, which featured elaborate engravings of old botanical drawings. They were beautiful.

I know my boyfriend reads this here blog, so I’m just gonna leave these images here and hope for the best. Not subtle, I know, but Valentine’s Day is only two weeks away, people!

[via House on the Hill]

CAKE BREAK

Being the Dep’s baker, I’m the go-to person for birthday cakes and other celebratory sweets. Not that I mind, of course. For a recent quadruple birthday party, I decided on a dark chocolate-stout triple-layer cake with dark chocolate ganache and hot chocolate-flavored whipped cream. Super, super rich and super, super good.

ANOTHER MARIAH

Up until 2010, there was only one Mariah in my life, and I loved her deeply.

Then Spencer posted this exquisite album on the Root Strata blog, and in the six months since it’s become one of the most-played records on my computer. Please, please, please do yourself a favor and check out this weirdo-new-wave Armenian-Japanese global-pop masterpiece.

[via Root Blog]

YEAR OF THE WATER DRAGON

Chinese New Year has always been my favorite holiday. (Thanksgiving is a close second). When I was growing up, my parents would throw epic annual parties at our house that usually ended in drunken Chinese opera singing and gifts of money in tiny red envelopes. (How I treasured those envelopes!) Sometimes my mom would make dumplings from scratch, and everyone would rave at how delicious they were. She always kept it simple — just pork and minced chives. Our galas became so infamous that when I was in high school, my friends, begging for an invitation, would crash our house in droves of 5 and 10.

Last year, with the help of my friend Yung Chang, I hosted an unbelievable party where we made thousands of dumplings and did karaoke. Okay, the night was really, really, really epic. But this year, for the year of the water dragon, I almost didn’t throw a party. Yung was away on set for his latest film, and Adam was gone on another assignment. No celebration this year, I thought.

Unexpectedly, at the eleventh hour, I got inspired. I emailed a small but solid gang of friends, and bought a few bags of frozen (sorry, Mom) dumplings, some vegetables, and a gorgeous striped sea bass from Marche Oriental, and began to cook. The dinner was slightly more elaborate than defrosted dumplings and cold beer, but still simple, simple, simple. There was Chinese broccoli coated in black vinegar, dan dan noodles provided by Bartek, crispy fried noodles (all those noodles are excellent for longevity), a beautiful cabbage salad made by Katherine, and that tender sea bass, poached for four minutes in salted water and then coated in a luscious, aromatic sauce.

I’m a fan of the impromptu gathering, of the lower expectations and relaxed vibes. As a Libra, I will always love a big, out of control party, but I secretly prefer the chill zone of a small group and simple offerings. You know when you have a really good feeling about a year? I have a great feeling about 2012.

K, my favorite recipe for dumpling dunking sauce:

3 T smooth peanut butter

4-6 T reduced sodium soy sauce, to taste (add a few more shakes if your peanut butter is on the sweet side)

2-4 T rice vinegar (I also like the more intense black vinegar)

2-3 T finely minced ginger

2-3 T finely minced garlic

2-4 t sriracha or red chili paste (or even more if you’re feeling gutsy)

2 t sesame oil

2 t oyster sauce

big handful cilantro, finely chopped another big handful parsley, finely chopped

few stems scallions, chopped

the juice of a lime or lemon

salt and black pepper, to taste

Add all ingredients and stir until smooth. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Let the flavors get to know one another. Use for dumpling dipping and serve with extra dishes of black vinegar and hot sauce.

Happy New Year!!!!!!

CHALLENGING FOODS

Have you ever had natto?

The stuff must be pictured under the dictionary entry for “acquired taste.” It is probably also pictured under the dictionary entry for “slimy.”

If you eat it, how do you make it taste good? And can you convince me to like it? Help!

FERMENTING MAGIC

Last week, the Montreal Gazette ran a story I wrote about the pleasures of home fermentation. The piece was really fun to research, because I got to interview my talented, amazing friends who ferment delicious and sometimes strange things. (My friend Haley gave me a jar of mindblowing lacto-fermented leeks!)

If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Leyla Majeri, then you know how enchanting she is. Her delicious wine and meads somehow channel her vibe, which is mellow, sweet, and vibrant. (Her partner also brews delicious-tasting horseradish beer!) I love learning about these kind of different worlds. It might not be the exact kind of lifestyle I could ever sustain for myself — I definitely won’t be making my own miso from scratch, though I’m glad that I learned how to do it — but knowing these people makes my life infinitely richer and more beautiful.

Read the full story here — plus a bonus recipe for Bubbie Bronia’s half-sour Kosher dill pickles, courtesy of my friend Ithamar!

EGG MYTH

Ashley fretting about her two poached eggs a day habit got me wondering about my own egg consumption levels. An ideal breakfast for me includes two fried eggs, dark greens, some toast, and tea. (On this particular morning, Adam fried our eggs in a little puddle of red wine!) On the occasion that I’m not eating with Adam, I usually make peace with a slice or two of peanut butter toast. But it got me thinking — is two eggs a day too many eggs? Then I remembered Sasha’s fervent words of wisdom (lifted from Ashley’s comments):

“they don’t make you have high cholesterol ashley!!! i could go on about this for a longggg time (and have to natasha!). i’ve read a lot about it, it’s a myth/ misunderstanding of cholesterol + the role of cholesterol in the body. you can + should eat eggs everyday. whole eggs, never take away the yolk and just eat whites (yuck, unless it’s for baking or something). egg white omelette orders always make me so upset at the restaurant where i work, i want to go into a long explanation but have to stop myself + just save it for a few people. like you:))) eat eggseggseggs!”

Phew. Noted. Thanks Sasha!!

PS. I NEVER just eat the whites, if anything that’s the part I wish I didn’t have to eat. One of our cooks recently made me an all-yolk omelette at work, just for fun. It was intense, and insanely good. Even if yolks aren’t that bad for you, it still felt so naughty.

WINTER COPING

Everyone knows how fiercely, bitterly cold the Montreal winters are, but most people are surprised to learn that day-to-day life here often consists of clear azure skies and bright, crystalline sunlight. It has been this aspect of Quebec weather that has made life more bearable here in the depressing winter months. The sun may get up late, but when it appears in our skies, it burns with a fierce purity that I have really come to appreciate. I like preparing breakfast or lunch in my sunny, cheerful kitchen, which gets drenched with sunbeams and warm light in the middle of the day. I’ve been making a lot of punchy, fresh tomato sauces, drinking lots of orange juice, and sitting in the sun like a cat. Definitely beats the winter blues.

LATEST READING MATERIAL

Is anyone else obsessed with the used book dealers on Amazon? With the exception of Patricia Curtan’s “Menus for Chez Panisse” and Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” (both 2011 releases), I managed to score every single one of these books for $2.99 or less, and all arrived in impeccable condition.

Most people assume I have a huge collection of cookbooks, but the reality is that I stick to a few eternal favorites and cook almost exclusively from those. I’m excited to expand my repertoire (the only Chez Panisse book I had owned up until this point was Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts!), and I’m especially stoked to learn more about Marcella Hazan’s old-school nonna-style of cooking.

Also, there’s been a lot of hype surrounding the Ottolenghi “Plenty” volume, and while it is a beautiful, inspiring book, I don’t have much need for completely vegetarian volumes. I would recommend any of the Moro cookbooks instead, in a heartbeat. Similar aesthetic, but better and more sophisticated flavors. Just my 0.02, don’t hate me, vegetarians!