11.12.2017

We Don't Need Another Hero


As of late, we are utterly besotted with yoghurt. We don't gorge on it in copious amounts but for this and that, I do not procure the ever popular, no fat. Sweet or savory, it is a game changer and can give life to really any old dish. Back during my days living in Germany, full fat was the way of the world. While there, I always wondered why my Milchkaffee (latte) tasted better. Full fat milk. Honestly, it must have been umpteen percent. In fact, two summers ago when Matthew and I had a layover in Munich en route to Scandinavia, I insisted he order one. He agreed, the business. There was no such thing as skim (or at least I did not know how to ask for it in German), so when in Rome. With my first job, we had a busy cafeteria (Germans call them cantines) and every morning I enjoyed crunchy muesli with plump grapes, nuts, seeds and the richest, creamiest of yoghurts. Now that I am a wiser in the kitchen, I know the reasons behind its glorious flavor, spellbinding texture and incredible creaminess could be attributed to one simple thing: Fat. 

Now let the record show, when I cook I do try keep a careful, healthy eye out. I am mindful of the amount of olive oil I use. In fact, when I see the bottle running out, I quickly calculate in my mind when I bought said bottle. This usually triggers a mind race of "oh my stars, how quickly did we consume this." Then I begin to calibrate the thousands of hidden calories and immediately I have the reason why I cannot lose these last 5 pounds. These days, it lasts longer than it used to, so we will consider this a win. We are regularly playing around with spices, and I am always picking up new ones. In fact, this very morning, I ordered some Sichuan pepper, black sesame seeds and preserved lemons. We make a concerted attempt to "go vegetarian" at least once a week. This requires some creativity as I cannot consume beans, and Matthew is not wild about grain only meals. We consume pounds and pounds of kale. Really, the two of us have cornered the market. I try to keep it in check in the food department during the week because it seems Friday to Saturday our eating habits are the picture of bedlam. 

Back to the yoghurt. Some evenings, if I have a sweet tooth, I dish out a spoonful of the full fat stuff. I tizzy it up with raw almonds or hazelnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds and a drizzle of good quality honey. I enjoy this with a small spoon and it is pure delight. The most decadent of treats. In preparing vegetables, I am always looking to make them more interesting. For this, you can very simply transform your yoghurt into a show stopper. Throw a cup it in your food processor with a bunch of fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro are magical), chopped garlic, the zest of a lemon and a pinch of kosher salt. Blitz and hoorah, you have your very own green goddess dressing. How easy is that? With yoghurt you can make this or this or this.

Thick and creamy, it is magical spooned over roasted acorn or butternut squash, cumin toasted carrots, sautéed greens, chili con carne. The list goes on. Matthew likes a dollop over brown basmati rice with pickled vegetables and some red pepper flakes. And why stop there? Roast some garbanzo beans in a pan with olive oil and turmeric, drain, and put a plop of yoghurt and some fresh herbs on top. A drizzle of olive oil and you have an elegant side dish. You can even smear it on warm biscuits or scones. When a recipe calls for sour cream, I always substitute full fat Greek yoghurt. In my book only, the many applications of yoghurt are not as delightful, satisfying or delicious when using its lower fat sister. In short, buy a tub of the 2%, and keep it on hand in the fridge. A little goes a very long way. 

Back to Germany. One of my favorite foods was a Turkish sandwich (ninth wonder of the world in my book) called a "doener kebab". You would go to a doener shop, and salivate as a person shaved beef and lamb off a spit into an oversized pita. Next came a medley of whatever. I typically opted for shredded cabbage, diced cucumbers and tomatoes, a garlicky yoghurt sauce known as tzatziki and red pepper flakes. Wrapped in foil, and best enjoyed with lots of napkins. The very best was in the town in which my folks lived, Wiesbaden. My brother can attest this sandwich is the premiere hangover doctor. The place near me in Dusseldorf served theirs with homemade feta. Whenever I took a bite, the cool yoghurt sauce would drip down my free hand. I think I am starting to hallucinate. Once in a blue moon I crave this and so last night, minus the meat on the spit, we made our own. 

Now, we have prepared this a pair of times for dinner parties. In addition to its ridiculous deliciousness and the novelty of "doing it yourself", all the dishes on the counter or table make for pretty presentation. While I got to work on the chicken and garbanzo beans, Matthew took charge of the yoghurt (and also the dicing of cucumbers and tomatoes). All you need is one cup of 2% yoghurt, 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic, the juice of 1.5 lemons, a pinch of kosher salt and as little or much zest you like. Stir like crazy, put in the fridge, let sit for an hour and voila. Game changer. And again, it goes with and on everything. The next time you come to ours for dinner, there is an outstanding chance you will enjoy the below. I am about to enjoy leftovers for breakfast. We don't need another hero. We just need a gyro. 

Gyros At Home

We Need

2 lbs organic skinless, boneless chicken thighs - cut into chunks
2 cloves of garlic - chopped
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp paprika
Pinch of red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper
Bunch of chopped parsley
Olive oil

The Making of a Hero

In a large bowl, gently mix all of the above with your hands. Spread out on a baking tray (that you first drizzle with olive oil). You want to roast this at 425 for 35 minutes. The meat should be nice and crispy. Once it is out, another pinch of Maldon salt on top. If you are not familiar with Maldon, you should be. It is used for finishing dishes only. A pinch here and there. Brilliant. 

Serve on a platter alongside smaller dishes of chopped, tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded cabbage, fresh mint, crumbled feta cheese, crispy chickpeas and of course, the piece de resistance, your garlicky yoghurt. 







11.08.2017

Padres


I am most fortunate in that in addition to my incredible father - who you by know affectionately know as Big Teddy - I have two additional dads, Nathan and Keith. Upon moving to Charlotte in 2009, I was a single gal living uptown and had established a comforting ritual of venturing to my local Starbucks every Sunday morning. I was encouraged by many to 'put myself out there' so Sunday coffee seemed quite innocuous. On one such morning, I bumped into Nathan while waiting in line. I commented on his bracelets, which looked like Hermes, and perhaps awkwardly regaled him of a colorful narrative of my amazing cousin Annabel, married to my South African cousin Graham, who lives in London and wears near identical bracelets on her arm to match her Hermes watch. 

Generously, he asked where I hailed from and I responded I had just moved to the Queen City from New York City. A very favorite place of theirs he told me, and thus, a spectacular connection was made. Nathan invited me to grab my coffee to join he and his husband, Keith, to continue our conversation. This most fortuitous coffee encounter quickly became a tradition and each week, I counted down days to dates on Tryon Street or wherever else to drink coffee or whatever and amuse about life with two wonderful gentlemen who would become my second dads. There was plenty of verve and livery in between. We learned more about and met each other's families. I spent my first Charlotte Halloween with them people watching (which is a grand understatement) at the Epicenter following a night on the town. We took trips to the farmers market. Dinners and cocktails followed. We attended street festivals and traveled on the Lynx enjoying libations in Starbucks cups. 

I quickly learned of Keith's incredible acumen in the kitchen. A CIA trained chef and multiple former restauranteur, Keith quickly became my go-to for all things gastronomy and cooking. This includes but is not limited to recipes, spices, dishes, critiques, how to clean a cast iron skillet, how to deseed a cucumber, what to do and not to do, and everything in between. When I have a dinner party, I run the menu by him. More often than not, he has a sly recommendation or tweak that catapults my food to the next level. And then some; I respect and value his opinions on all matters really. 

Did you know you should never cook lamb unless you know people love it? Restaurant grade sheet pans should always be used for broiling. Well-seasoned pans shouldn't have food stick to them. Salad spinners are a must as water is the enemy of greens and dressings alike. And yoghurt should always be tizzied up with garlic, seeded and finely diced cucumber and fresh dill. I have him on speed dial and check in - most usually daily - to inquire about this addition, that substitution, his thoughts on everything from emotional well being to the ridiculous notion of mini-kegs of ranch dressing made for one's fridge, to sneakers and wedding dresses, politics and the likes. Nathan and Keith have been by my side for new apartments, new job opportunities, haircuts (good and bad), travels, the journey with my Matthew, and honestly, everything in between.

Nathan is the maestro of relationship management and orchestrator of the grandest of events. Everyone knows Nathan. When Matthew and I were engaged two Novembers ago and needed a venue on the quick (we planned our wedding in some 34 days only thanks to his expert guidance, direction and of course, patience). I called on a Tuesday, and he told us to come to his establishment after work that very same Friday to pick a space in which to get hitched. Together, the three of us selected the quintessential Matthew and Elizabeth room, and quickly checked big ticket items off the list including the magnificent florist, the ever-talented photographer, who so perfectly captured our wishes for urban pictures, the sublime restaurant where we would host our post-nuptials celebratory dinner. I think Nathan was even behind the chef asking his French pal to create us a sweet wedding cake for the night's celebrations. The day before our grand event, Nathan casually called to say he had taken the liberties of hiring an acoustic guitarist to play Tina Turner's Simply the Best as my father walked me down the aisle. None of this could have been executed so elegantly, and in such a time dash, without the prowess of Nathan.

Fast forward three months later, and they joined the Breyer family (because according to Big Teddy, they are family) in New York City for the newlyweds soiree my folks hosted at their Chelsea apartment. The night before, we enjoyed a splendiferous dinner of duck carnitas and the respective accoutrement at the ever-chic Cosme in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. The day after our shindig, we cruised lower Manhattan in the rain and ended up enjoying an early supper at a favorite of the four of ours, Otto. Over Negronis, Italian red, chopped salad, pasta puttanesca and pizzas, we shared tales of the night before. The following month, Nathan brought to life our "Celebration of Marriage" event, once again. My only wishes were a DJ (well this was Matthew's wish really), spectacular flowers, romantic lighting and donuts in addition to our cake. After an incredible tasting, and promises of a magnificent patisserie spread, the day of I entered a small library to see towers upon towers of donuts prepared with affection and care by their talented pastry chef.

Now that Matthew and I are "an old married couple", Nathan and Keith are still very much involved in our lives. We are neighbors living uptown and it is not infrequent that we bump into Nathan crossing the street to work, or Keith walking the dog. Sometimes, when I am doing my occasional solo walking uptown, I receive text messages from Keith asking how in the world can I safely be crossing the street while staring at my phone. I can only assume he has spotted me from a window? Every once in a while, for a good chortle, we stand on the balcony and wave. If I have the pleasure of bumping into Keith in a grocery store - a most fortuitous occasion - he patiently takes me down each aisle showing me what I must buy. Jarred bell peppers for muhammara dip or cambozola anyone? When new restaurants open, we venture there together. Over champagne and other libations, we naughtily giggle about our acumen for critiquing dishes and spaces asking one another, are we the only ones who do this? Just last week, we enjoyed cocktails and multiple courses at uptown's new, Angelines. We shall return, and together. Next Thursday evening, in advance of Thanksgiving, we are doing a pizza and movie night at ours.

Words cannot do justice our wonderful relationship with my two dads. Recently, my mother chimed, "Nathan and Keith really are the best thing that ever happened to you in moving to Charlotte." (Matthew, my dear, I had already met you.) They are our family. They know us intimately. I think Keith coined it best when just one morning this week, following a dynamic conversation the night before, he chimed via text, "Every Hindenburg needs a readjustment in the mooring, occasionally." He was referring to me, of course.

With this, the below is a recipe ala Keith. I texted him last night asking what to do with chicken thighs. He asked if I had garam masala. Yes, I responded. And what follows was not exactly what it should have been (I did not use my food processor to create a paste, which is much better than a marinade as it sticks) but splendiferous all in the same. This tastes great when served along brown rice with sultanas, cumin and pumpkin seeds. You can also add raisins, currants, dried cranberries, dried cherries or Turkish apricots. If you're needing inspiration in the kitchen, just holler and I will put you in touch with Keith. And if you want to host the party of the century, then Nathan is your man.

Curry with Yellow Mustard (For Chicken Thighs)

Make a paste in your food processor or stick blender with:

Ginger 
Garlic
Garam masala
Lime juice
Touch of white vinegar
Yellow mustard
Fresh black pepper
Kosher salt
A little corn or olive oil
As much hot sauce as you like

To Do

Mix everything together (do stop and marvel at the beautiful color) and massage into your chicken thighs. Do be sure to rub it everywhere so each piece is totally coated. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a cast iron skillet, and brown the chicken on all sides. This should take around 7-9 minutes per side. Then transfer to an oven at 425 for 15 minutes until no longer pink.

We served ours alongside cauliflower mash dusted with sumac. Bon appetit!












10.01.2017

Hace Calor


Where does the time go? To me, it always seems there is never enough of it. During the work day. On the weekends. Especially, when on holiday. A girlfriend sent a text message this morning alerting me to a new month. Impossible I responded but she was correct. Like clockwork, nanoseconds later an alert came through on social media that Christmas is only 85 days a way. Geepers cats, life, I command you, please slow down. 

Time falling like sand between my fingers aside, I love Octobers. My birthday. The anniversary of our engagement. Changing seasons, the need for a cardigan in the evenings, brilliant sunsets and a stunning array of foliage. Since leaving Germany, I have made a tradition of visiting New York City in October. Once upon a time, during my single days (well, years really) I always celebrated my birthday in the Big Apple. From 28 through 30, at least. My 30th was epic, but that's another story for another day. Beginning with 31 years of age, Matthew came along to partake in #howtobreyer. Folks have returned home from summer weekends in the Hamptons, the days close earlier inviting the sparkling lights and the city is deliciously alive. And so, the established custom continues; we depart on Thursday. On this first day of October, let the record show, I am typing this with all the windows open, and it is most glorious indeed. 

Nevermind the introduction of a new season, our summer simply flew by and it was certainly not without a solid dose of action. Nearing towards the end of May, we decided - after much thought, deliberation and a fair dose of heartache - to put our beloved house on the market. I told Matthew packing up, moving and onto greener pastures would be a romantic exercise. A very first for us as a married couple. How very misguided I was. The journey to market entailed a fiery, furiously fast handful of weeks comprising creating lists, organizing, bubble wrapping, selling, ripping out bushes, planting new ones, pruning, hedging, sanding, pressure washing, watering, painting, shouting, making boxes, taping boxes, wrapping endless pieces of crystal, purging, muttering under breaths, sweating, cursing, a bit of crying, smiling, laughing, reminiscing, remembering, embracing, hand holding, popping bottles (yes, a move of this size and at this speed required multiple bottles) and then some. 

We hosted a yard sale one Saturday morning. Circa 6.00 a.m., a gentlemen pulled up as we were clearing out the house and neatly organizing our piles across the driveway. The sale didn't begin for another three hours. I politely told him we were not yet ready for business. He inquired if I had any clothes to sell. I informed him the day before I had dropped four bags off of Good Will. A shame, he said, and went on to outline that he buys women's clothes for top dollar. I asked him to demonstrate how he calibrates his numbers and he pulled up an app. I saw a scarf identical to the one ripe for the pile, ran into the house and emerged with three, and two very tired albeit "gave me many years of happiness" handbags. He paid top dollar for all five. Not even 7.00 a.m. and the sale was off to an outstanding start. Over the course of the day, we cautiously welcomed an excited motley crew of sorts. Come 2.00 p.m., we ordered a pizza not to be shared on the front porch and at the strike of 4.00, we were utterly spent. Great success, but a first and a last. In short, never again.

Two days after we decided to list the house, we befriended a local gardener who promised to transform the front and back of Reynolds Ranch. He uprooted bushes that made friends with the earth below some 50 some odd years before. This exercise required a pair of attempts - including a borrowed industrial tool from a friend - to unearth the stubborn vines. Once removed, the house looked entirely different. In their places, he planted a Breyer favorite, boxwoods. I love walking with my father who always stops to smell boxwoods and speak to his fondness for them. With new bushes in place, it was recommended that some major pruning be next on the docket. And so, he used foreign tools to remodel all our landscaping in the front. Did we like it? 

Absolutely we responded. Did we want a splash of color? But of course, we said. Let's just get this show on the road we thought. How about red, he asked? Yes, and so he planted 80 impatiens. Upon seeing the back, he spoke to it being a destination of it's own, but did we mind were he to do as he saw fit. You're the guru we sang in unison. We returned home to our once emerald jungle, which was now an expertly manicured paradise. Our roses had shape, we could see the outlines of trees. A true marvel. We were so enchanted that for the first time - we moved chairs out to the backyard, and asked each other, are we doing the right thing in selling, and more importantly - I suppose a question many who are readying their house for sale ask - why in the world didn't we do this sooner?

Next up was the back deck. Another sanctuary in need of some serious TLC. We found a seasoned fellow who arrived in an old, rusted maroon truck and between Marlboro reds as well as sordid tales of his past lives, brought our back deck back from the near dead. He replaced wood, brought out the sander, followed by the pressure washer, hammered in new nails, glossed paint and the likes. Again we asked marveling at the beauty of it, are we doing the right thing? We were. 

The little ranch style home sold quickly. And so, on the eve before closing, we returned to Reynolds Ranch, and took a seat on the new wooden stairs. The back porch, where our relationship took shape over many Friday afternoons post-work. A place where Matthew, after three weeks of dating, invited his friends over for a cookout to meet me. A place where we hosted a 'stay until 3.00 a.m. and eat late night cake' engagement party for my sister, Michelle, and her husband, Mike, and some three years later held our nephew Trey for the first time. A place where we hosted our South African family to a cookout on the eve of our wedding weekend. A place that served as host to countless summer gatherings, birthday parties, holiday soirees with the roaring fire pit, comprising our very best friends. And that very back deck, which saw many a cookouts, al fresco dinners and spaces for naps, conversations, big decisions, celebrations and the likes for just the two of us. In short, our favorite place in our home.

These long planks of wood were host to the first of manys for my Matthew and me. And so, circa 8.00 p.m., we opened a bottle of champagne saved from our wedding, poured two glasses, toasted a very happy home of more than 9 years, thanked it for the memories, and before we could grow too weepy, turned off the porch lights, locked the front door for the very last time, and walked away with the most wonderful of memories behind us. It is our hope that this very happy little home, the place where so many halcyon memories were made, gives its next owner as much love, enjoyment, delight and special memories as it did for the two of us.

Now that a new season is upon us, many of us are comforted by food that nourishes the soul and warms us from within. And so, nothing fits the bill better than soups, chilis and stews. The below is a favorite of my husband, Matthew. Quick to pull together, and with the chilies, most warming indeed. This is also a lovely meal for an easy, mid-week dinner party. Serve with corn bread, tortilla chips, guacamole, pinto beans and set up a garnish bar. Happy October, and happy cooking.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

You Need

The soup:

2 organic chicken breasts
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder 
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Kosher salt
1 white onion - chopped
4 cloves of garlic - chopped
1 green bell pepper - chopped
1 red bell pepper - chopped
2 cups kale - chopped
2 cups butternut squash - cubed
1/2 cup of frozen corn 
Bunch of cilantro - chopped
10 oz can rotel tomatoes / green chilies
2 quarts organic low sodium chicken stock
3 TBS tomato paste
*Optional - 1 can of black beans

To garnish:

Chopped avocado
Chopped cilantro
Sour cream or my favorite substitute, full fat Greek yoghurt
Diced red onions
Quartered limes
Grated cheese 
Tortilla chips

Let's Boogy

Mix your spices in a small bowl and sprinkle half on your chicken. Bake for 30 minutes. Once cooled, shred the chicken.

Heat some olive oil in a large vessel on medium high heat (I use my big birtha Le Creuset). Add your onions, garlic, bell peppers. Cook for around 5 minutes or until the goodies soften. Now, add the remainder of your spices from the small bowl, along with your shredded chicken. Mix nicely. Now is the time to add some generous pinches of kosher salt.

Pour in the can of tomatoes, squeeze in your tomato paste, empty both containers of stock, add the kale, squash and cilantro. Mix until uniform. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. I let this ride for around an hour. Taste, add more salt if necessary, and voila. Ladle up, add your toppings and go to town. 


4.26.2017

I Came to Bury Caesar


This past week, I had the great privilege and absolute pleasure of being included in a birthday extravaganza for an incredibly special woman. Our paths first collided when I moved to Charlotte back in 2009. We were both on the steering committee for a grand gala that was to take place at the Bechtler Museum featuring Eli Wiesel. Back in high school, I was one of the students selected to ask Eli Wiesel a question when he visited my school, so it only seemed fitting that I get involved in the spectacular event inviting him back to the Queen City.

I heard my friend speak and quite simply, she captivated me. At the close of the meeting, the then shy Elizabeth walked up to her slowly pulling the confidence to say, "I think you are luminous, and I would like to be your friend." Soon after, she asked if I was single. At the time, I said yes and she enthusiastically clapped her hands together and said triumphantly "a project". And in that morning, something more than a great friendship was born. 

Fast forward eight years later and this woman holds the rank of my second mother. I regale her of my triumphs, my foibles, when things are grand, and when they aren't. I complain to her, gripe to her, and laugh with her. I ask her questions, value her opinions and cherish every single word she lends my ears. We share recipes, she always gives her expertise, guidance and wise vantage point. Patience and mindfulness are two virtues about which we speak with frequency. Next to my very own parents, she is my go-to for pretty much everything in life. And after my parents (on occasion before) she is the next call I make. She is one of those magnificent people you hope to be like one day. I have inherited my love of big necklaces from her. She helped select my wedding ring. And as my second mom, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Over a lovely lunch, peers spoke to her kindness, her tremendous loyalty, her ability to connect and quickly gather people. Her closest friends spoke of her commitment to family, her husband, her children, the community and those she serves. As each woman rose to speak, my friend listened intently. When it was her turn to raise a glass, she toasted her loved ones thanking them for being beautiful women who have had a profound impact on her life. She also wished that every individual in the room could know everyone just like she does. Tears to my eyes. What a celebration. 70 years young. Mazel tov to my very dear and most luminous friend.

The "Real Deal" Caesar Salad Dressing

You Need

1 garlic clove
2 anchovies (I buy them in a jar in oil and keep them in the fridge)
1 egg yolk
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper

So Easy

In your blender or Cuisinart, pulse 1 garlic clove with 2 anchovies until a sort of paste forms. Stuff will be all over the sides of your vessel but you get the picture. Add 1 egg yolk, the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 2 lemons. Blitz again. Drizzle in 1/3 cup of olive oil. Blitz again. Now comes the generous pinching of salt and fresh cracked pepper.

I recommend serving this over freshly washed, crisp Romaine lettuce. A seven minute egg on top if you like. Fresh grate of Parmesan. You can even make croutons by seasoning and putting garbanzo beans in the oven. Tastes best the day of so I would not recommend letting this chill in the fridge. Kryptonite.

4.19.2017

Egg On Your Face


Each month, I eagerly await the arrival of my beloved Bon Appetit magazine. It is one of the few publications that I still make the time to devour cover to cover. Once upon a time it was The New York Times, but those were my single days and frankly, I just can no longer do it. I remember being a young lady, and elated when the Newsweek publication arrived. Please don't mutter "nerd" quite so quickly. My wonderful mother would leave the publication outside of my bedroom. A gift! And after school, sports or whatever, I would sit at our dining room table as my mother cooked, and pour over the pages that captivated me.

Fast forward to now. I admire that young lady because I no longer have the attention span let alone the time to attack a dense publication covering world affairs in this day and age of news. I even find myself getting antsy reading a magazine at a salon. Like most, I rely on my iPhone, and quick, easy news platforms because who has time to read a full article anymore. Lots do but it's shameful how truncated my attention span has become. For certain things. Digital is king and in this day and age, I am not entirely sure who still reads magazines. I go to Barnes and Noble (what's that some may ask) and see folks enjoying said publications with their coffees. Unsure if anyone is actually buying. My father still reads them. He is a bona fide beach lover, and part of his daily artillery includes a stack of magazines that he has been collecting for who knows how long. I will say however, that his trend is slowly shifting as he relies more and more on his iPad. I feel so badly for not making slash having more time to read them. I digress. 

This month's edition of Bon Appetit lent a very necessary and most inspiring overview of what to do with eggs. Poach them, boil them, fry them or scramble them. We always have eggs in the house but we have taken to picking up an extra dozen and incorporating them accordingly. Whether enjoying this protein dense item for breakfast, lunch or dinner (get thee a Lodge brand cast iron skillet - the 10 inch is more than suffice - and learn the art of the frittata), the sky is the limit. I have learned the art of the 6.5 minute egg (liquid gold interior) or the gummy egg similar to that of which rests atop your ramen dish. We love to fry them in olive oil, spooning the hot oil onto the whites to encourage them to set without disrupting the sunny yolks. Fresh herbs, farm butter and voila, scrambled. Best eaten on toast, alongside a serving of gravalax with dill or on their own. Basically prepare your egg whichever way wets your whistle. Now comes the magic: a squeeze of citrus, drizzle of good quality olive oil, pinch of salt, some pepper, maybe red pepper flakes, sriracha - you get the picture. You're now in business.

My Matthew has asked that I please prepare more vegetarian focused meals. So while eggs aren't exactly vegetarian, some consider them to be. And so, a few nights ago, we ate this atop of roasted asparagus. It also matches beautifully with boiled potatoes (a new type of salad), grilled fish, roasted chicken, beef or even on its own with a dollop of yoghurt. It was so smashing that I served it at Easter Sunday lunch and what was left of the gribiche, I spooned over cold steak (that I had seared the night before in some garlic and butter on the pan.) So what are you waiting for? Get thee a dozen, or more, and start with breakfast, throw caution to the wind and skip to dinner, or something like that.

Gribiche Dressing
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

6 cornichons, chopped (you can also use mini gherkins or small dill pickles – very Bridget Jones!)
Handful of chopped herbs (I opted for flat leaf parsley, taragon and thyme)
⅓ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons chopped drained capers
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 hard boiled eggs - coarsely chopped

To Do

Add everything to a mason jar, pop the lid and shake aggressively.

1.07.2017

Great Balls A Fire


This past holiday season was one for the books. Actually, I think whenever one has an extended period of time to fill as they please, it is by definition, destined to be nothing short of spectacular. My first holiday night eve, I sat down with pen and paper to prepare my plan of attack. What resulted was a two page, near psychotic, to-do list that would have my chariot navigating the city from spot to place. I am elated to report that save for exchanging one holiday gift (that of my husband's), my mission was exaggeratedly successful. Never mind that I was utterly exhausted upon completion, I greatly languished in the thrill of furiously checking items off my list. How good does making a list and checking it twice feel?
Following quality time with family, Christmas Day we hopped a plane headed for our second home, the Big Apple. In Jewish tradition, we planned for a Chinese dinner in where other than China Town. We had a list of five spots from which to choose in the event that numbers were an issue, and they were. Before the spread, we stopped at the Ace Hotel for a beverage at the delightful Jon Dory Oyster Bar followed by a romantic, quiet walk through Madison Square Park. It is on this leg of our evening that I dropped my purse, whose absence we alarmingly discovered some six blocks later and touch wood Matthew retraced our steps and reclaimed my prized possession, untouched. Thank my stars, someone was looking out for us both Christmas Day. Had I lost the keys to my family's apartment somewhere in Manhattan, my father - rightfully so - would have gone asymptotic. Insert big sigh of relief here. Matthew found the small purse near to a bench that he identified as the one where he thought he might propose the August before last. Alas, this bench was intended for other things. Instead, he made me sweat a bit longer and waited for the most perfect moment the evening of Monday, October 5, 2015. Anyway, the bench and he met again. Small world for sure.
In which stratosphere we were revolving, I haven't a clue, but we thought a visit to Rockefeller would be a delightedly quintessential Christmas experience. Very far removed, it was not. And let me underscore this: we will never travel north of 29th street on Christmas night ever again. Somewhere around thirty-eighth street, the throngs of people grew denser and before we came to our senses, a diplomatic retreat was impossible. We contemplated dividing and conquering but quickly realized that this would result in losing one another entirely. In turn, we grabbed arms, stuffed my purse into a zipped pocket and forged shoulders first ahead. The streets were lined with merchants selling knock-off or perhaps repurposed versions of the coveted quilted Chanel bags and other such labels. Swarms of people were stopping to ogle unannounced. We arrived at the tree, had to duck in between parents shouting at children to stand still and the clinging metal of the dreaded and ever-awful selfie sticks. If you have one, don't even give it away, destroy it. Within all of three minutes, we concluded that our exercise screamed, "came, saw, conquered!" and together, we hightailed it slowly out of there. Our one redeeming reprieve was an excited "Kevin" moment at the Plaza Hotel. Immediately thereafter, we ventured to an off-the-beaten-path subway stop and hopped a train due south.
The two of us attacked an American Chinese feast at Big Wong on Mott Street. Afterwards, we enjoyed a surprisingly quiet and leisurely walk home. We stopped at Cherche Midi for a midnight beer, and sometime around 1.00 a.m., crawled into bed eagerly looking forward to the week ahead. The following five days were a glorious mishmash of the usual 12 miles by foot interrupted by a handful of subway trips, a visit to the Museum of Modern Art for a dose of culture, multiple glorious meals including but not limited to Salvation Burger, Cookshop, Houseman, Atoboy, Leuca, Frankie's 570 Sputtino, Vic's and a random hole in the wall for burritos, a day trip to Williamsburg to peruse a myriad of haunts, some visits to watering holes such as The Modern at MOMA, Markt for Belgian meads, Fraunces Tavern, Dead Rabbit, Genuine Liquorette, Tijuana Picnic, Skinny Dennis, La Superior, Whitehorse Tavern, Corner Bistro, Momoya, and most importantly, we enjoyed priceless, valuable time with our adorably delicious and equally darling nephew Trey (who can now walk), my sister Michelle and brother-in-law Mike.
Matthew and I arrived in NYC refreshed and departed utterly exhausted, which according to my father, is the telltale sign of an outstanding holiday. Namely, when one requires a vacation from their vacation. We inched towards the end of December with a nasty cold (Matthew) and a newly created laundry list (Elizabeth). We toasted the New Year over a dinner with dear friends, an amazing Avett Brothers concert and a skip to a local pub for nachos and another round of cold Belgian beers. When the clock struck midnight, sometime around Mariah Carey's debacle, my husband asked me for a dance and together we excitedly welcome 2017, an exciting new chapter for Mr. Johnson and me. Happy New Year friends!

The below recipe comes from a cookbook with which I am absolutely besotted. Every recipe lends three to five variations. Perfect for when you have this at hand but don't have that. Not to mention, the book itself is a real bang for your buck. We have begun incorporating many of Julia Turshen's delectable wonders into our weekly repertoire and without sounding cheesy, our appetites are thanking us. Do yourself a favor and add this to your collection. I promise it will soon move to the front of the line. 

The below recipe is simple to prepare and yields enough meatballs for two helpings per person and leftovers for both parties lunch the day following. It would also be perfect for a cozy dinner party at home. Serve alongside a crunchy salad, a pot of noodles, a loaf or two from your local bakery and lots of red wine! Remember to wet your hands when forming the balls. We served ours atop zucchini noodles. We are back on the bandwagon doing the whole no carb thing during the week. It's party time at the weekend; this one included. Oy vey.

Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs
Adapted from Julia Turshen's Small Victories

The Goods

Two 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes (check out your local Food Lion, best prices)
Extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves - minced
Kosher salt
1 TBS fennel seeds
1 TBS sugar
1 small packet of basil (the basil in our garden perished when the weather turned cold) - chopped
1 cup of flat parsley leaves - chopped
1.5 cups of fresh full fat whole milk ricotta cheese (did you know you can add sugar and vanilla for a lovely pudding)
1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 lb ground turkey meat

To Do

1. In a large bowl, add the canned tomatoes and crush with your hands. I recommend putting an apron on before this exercise! With a quarter of a cup of water, rinse both cans and add to the bowl.

2. In a large pot, heat 3 TBS olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook for approximately one minute. Now add the tomatoes, a generous pinch of kosher salt, the sugar and fennel seeds and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for approximately 45 minutes. No need for a lid on top. Voila, you have tomato sauce. Easy peasy!

3. Pre-heat your oven to 425, and line whatever you are going to bake your meatballs on with aluminum foil.

4. In another large bowl, add the remaining minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, Parmesan, turkey and 1 TBS salt. Combine everything with your hands (this will get sticky) until well mixed. Now, prepare golf ball sized meatballs. I recommend doing this next to the sink. Wetting your hands will greatly simplify this process.

5. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes. Once finished, add them to your simmering pot of tomato sauce. Once they're all in, put the lid on and let them ride for approximately 30 minutes. You can serve over pasta, zucchini noodles or on their own with a crusty loaf of bread for sopping up that delicious sauce. And, don't forget to dust them with more Parmesan. Why? Because cheese makes everything better. Bon appetit!