Wednesday, February 27, 2013



Yes this is an #octopus

For my dad's birthday my mom really wanted to make a dinner he would love, and hopefully remember :-)

So she scoured through her Italian cookbooks to find a great recipe for insalata di polpo - octopus salad. 
She settled on a recipe from Jamie's Italy, and sent me to Popular fish market in Newark's Ironbound district to retrieve the octopus.

Preparing the salad was much easier than we thought (well, all but the cleaning of the octopus). First we sauteed a bit of garlic, crushed red pepper, and lemon peel in extra virgin olive oil in a large deep skillet. We added a generous cup of dry white wine and once it boiled, added the octopus and reduced to simmer for 15 minutes. We threw in some mussels at the end of the steaming process as well. The rest of the recipe is even simpler - just chop up some veggies! 

For one 3 pound octopus we diced one head of fennel (fronds reserved for garnish), 3 medium carrots and 3 celery stalks. The salad got a quick toss with an herb infused white vinegar and some chopped fresh parsley and was set aside to marinate. Once the octopus was cool enough we had to begin cleaning it, as in removing all the suckers and the purple rubbery outer layer. This was the hard part and luckily my mom tackled it!! Once tossed all together, we added a bit of the steaming liquid and seasoned it a bit more to taste with sea salt

This is what became of the #octopus - salad #recipe from #JamiesItaly

My mother chose another Jamie recipe for the pasta dish with - you guessed it - more seafood. Crushed chili flakes added a nice kick to the sun-dried tomato pesto that we thinned out a bit with some of the pasta water.

#spicy #shrimp #birthdaydinner for dad

Fresh arugula and some grated pecorino romano cheese tossed in at the very end added a nice touch and some color contrast. 

For the main course I made stuffed pork tenderloins. After butterflying the tenderloins I started with a layer of prosciutto and added a mixture of chopped spinach, parsley, garlic, and grated pecorino romano cheese. With the help of my mom, we tied them up nicely and browned the pork in a skillet before tossing it on the grill. A makeshift brush of rosemary and sage did double duty by adding extra flavor while applying an olive oil/salt + pepper mixture before grilling. 

Stuffed #porktenderloin with #herb rub

- Here's a look at all my February birthday boys -
Dad on the left, Poppy on the right, and Uncle Michael in the back

All three #birthday boys :-)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pizza for sale, and good music too!

The New Music Bake Sale is coming up next weekend and to support boyfriend's percussion quartet [ensemble, et al.] I'm making pizza. Not just any pizza. My mom's pizza. Actually, I should probably give my nonna credit, but my mom is the one that kicked it up a notch.

#homemade #pizza from mom :-)

home made crust
whole plum tomatoes (preserved from last august)
caramelized onions
lots of extra virgin olive oil
and a sprinkling of pecorino romano cheese

I love leisurely weekend meals with the family when my mom bakes bread and we snack on cheese and home cured olives. We spend hours on end in the kitchen just chatting and drinking wine and eventually the antipasti bowl needs a refill. 

#freshbakedbread at mom’s house

In the cold winter months she's been making a lot of soups. This lentil soup below is one of my more delicious memories of the recent past. And of course the pizza with fennel and goat cheese wasn't bad either!

Lentil #soup and #fennel pizza

Anyway, I'll be baking away next week preparing for the bake sale - it's at Roulette in Brooklyn. Come support local musicians!!! And eat tasty baked goods!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

After A Long Weekend

Man I'm tired.

The kind of tired that feels like comfy blanket, and you're so drained because you spent every last drop of energy having a reeeeealy good time.
And it's good :-)

Boyfriend and I, along with a motley crew of friends, drove up to Mattapoisett, MA (an hour outside of Boston) last weekend. Our good friend Mandy grew up surrounded by trees and llamas and the beach!

Mandy’s house!!
Blowing in the wind

After arriving late Friday night, we all went quickly to bed so we'd be ready for Nashoba Valley on Saturday morning. Once we were set with our lift tickets and activity of choice, we hit the slopes - bunny hill first. 

Snowboarding at Nashoba with the gang #longweekend

Saturday night we spend back at Mandy's house for a home cooked meal where we all played a part. Mandy made the pasta while people took turns managing the playlist, a few others set the table, and Matt and I prepared the salad. Oh yeah, and someone was also in charge of keeping the wine glasses full. 

I couldn't help but notice all of the lovely trinkets in Mandy's kitchen. It really was a lovely home!
Mandy’s awesome #kitchen #roadtrip #longweekend

Sunday morning we woke to a blizzard!!! The snow was coming down hard and we definitely procrastinated a bit after breakfast but it didn't stop us from getting to Boston for the afternoon. We had a leisurely lunch on Newbury Street and then we spent some time at Trident Books. (We had hoped to explore a bit more but it really was just too cold to go very far) Eventually our exhaustion from skiing set in so we all needed an extra boost of caffeine. I took mine in the form of a pot of tea. Russian Caravan black tea. 

We paused for a cuppa at #TridentBooksCafe in #Boston MA

We did eventually take the T over to Faneuil Hall but it was closed for the evening. 
Still, it looked awfully pretty in the snow. 

#Boston !!! #roadtrip #longweekend

Monday meant the impending drive back to New York, but before we packed our bags we took a stroll through Mandy's backyard to enjoy the landscape one last time. We ran around in the snow and marveled at how beautiful the beach was covered in ice. I'd say it was a very successful trip :-)

Strong like bull!

Mandy’s backyard is #art

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Lovely Meal

Chocolate and Flowers from my love :-) #HappyVDay

This is what i came home to yesterday :-)

Boyfriend left work early to surprise me with beautiful flowers, a clean apartment, and one of my current favorites - tea chocolate!! If you've been keeping up with my posts lately you might remember my Mate Dark Chocolate bar. I spotted these bars at the Sweet Life - a candy store on Hester street in New York's LES. They are infused with tea (awesome) and they are delicious!!

(photo from sweet life website)

Our plans last night were very simple. Valentines Day has always revolved around food for us. Our first year together, boyfriend cooked. Last year, I cooked. This year I wanted to explore our neighborhood a little bit so I picked a tiny french restaurant just a brisk walk from our apartment. It was cozy and casual and perfect. I tasted beef tartare for the first time and had pork tenderloin with brussels sprouts that were loaded with flavor. At the end of the meal we were given lollipops - also tasty - and we couldn't help but feel nostalgic and childish as we walked home.

Souvenir from dinner last night - Lollipops!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

lucky in love

Valentines Day is shrouded in myth and legend from martyrs to Roman lore. It's all intriguing and definitely fun to read about, but for me the day is about family - in all forms. Everybody's got someone to love if they really think about it.

Have a lovely evening and please - Love the one you're with!!

#HappyValentinesDay #ObjectsOfAffection

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blast from the Past (part 1)

My mother and I are die-hard thrifters. We've been volunteers at the bi-annual rummage sale in Far Hills, NJ since a friend of mine tipped us off eight years ago. This past fall we sort of hit the jackpot when a collection of antique slipper chairs were dropped off. Of course we had to have them so we put our names in the volunteer lottery and got to buy them before the sale even began :-)

I spent the day with my mother on Sunday and we decided it was a good a day as any to tackle one of our million projects. We've been wanting to try our hand at reupholstering lately so we decided to take apart one of our slipper chairs from the rummage sale.

The frame was in pretty great condition - just a few nicks and scratches - nothing a new varnish won't fix. The cushion was quite lumpy and falling apart but I couldn't help pausing once in awhile to admiring the fabric. I knew we needed to strip it, I'm just always fond of florals.

So we stripped...

and stripped...

and stripped...

and this is what was left!

Now the hard part  :-)

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Leisurely Friday

As we all well know, Nemo hit Friday afternoon and blanketed the city rather quickly in some heavy snowfall. Since I was lucky enough to leave work early, I stopped at the grocery store and took advantage of the not yet faded sunshine by walking the two subway stops home. Yes, I had a bag of groceries to carry. Yes, it was still snowing. Yes, it was cold. But it was bright and refreshing and the snow was still so clean - I just wanted to enjoy a little bit of New York at it's prettiest. 

Walkin in a winter wonderland :-D


I wanted a quick yet hearty dinner so I opted for roasted potatoes, pork chops and an easy kale salad

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

First the dry rub:
- 1 TBSP brown sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Massage the rub into the pork chops and let them marinate while preparing the potatoes. 

Pork chops with brown sugar, hot pepper and clove dry rub #recipe

Scrub and slice about one pound of fingerling potatoes and tossed them with the following:
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1 scant tsp sea salt
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
(feel free to mess with the measurements as you please)

Lay them out in a single layer in a glass baking dish and put in the lower third of the oven. 

Meanwhile, heat about 2 TBSP olive oil in a cast iron skillet over med-hi heat until shimmering. Add your pork chops to the pan and brown, approximately 1-2 minutes on each side. Once browned evenly, transfer skillet to the upper third of the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. 

Roasted fingerling #potato #recipe

While the pork and potatoes are baking, wash your kale. Make sure to slice off and discard the tough spines and chop the remaining pieces until very fine. Toss about 1 tsp of sea salt into the shredded kale and massage with your hands until the kale begins to wilt, then set aside. 

- 1 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- fresh ground black pepper to taste 
- 1 egg yolk 
- 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Whisk all ingredients except olive oil in a small glass bowl until fully combined. In a slow steady stream pour in olive oil while constantly whisking until the dressing is light and creamy. The salt already on the kale should be enough to season the dressing but feel free to add a bit more if you'd like. 

prepping for a #kalesalad

At this point your pork and potatoes should be just about finished. The pork is well done when the internal temperature hits 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and the potatoes are done when a fork slides in and out easily. 
Toss your kale with the dressing, tweak the seasoning if you want to, and serve! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Would you come out tonight?

So. Blizzard Nemo is setting in.
The bridge and tunnel crowd is running for the hills.
Supposedly the snow is piling up... somewhere.

Here in midtown there is a seemingly endless supply of wind and slush. The watery mixture falling from the sky is putting a damper on my snow day. I'd much rather a pretty white dusting than all this mess. Albeit I am stuck at work, but no one else seems to be so it's as if I've got the place to myself - stress free. 

I brought some snacks with me to work today because I had a funny feeling that my lunch coverage would be staying home. I've been picking away at this chocolate bar for awhile, savoring a little bit every night. I figured I might as well enjoy the rest of it today. I found this dark chocolate bar infused with yerba mate (an herbal tea) and bits of raw cacao at The Sweet Life - a small boutique candy shop by my apartment in the LES. It went really well with the sherry I had as a night cap yesterday. 

Boyfriend and I bought a bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream (a spanish sherry that's imported to and bottled in Bristol, England) and we cracked it open last night after dinner. We had first tried it over ice at a wedding last summer and loved it but then soon forgot about it. It wasn't until Food and Wine Mag's recent article exclusively on the growing popularity of Sherry that I recalled Harveys and immediately craved a glass. 

Since tonight will be a slushy mess I'll probably wind up staying in. Drinking sherry :-)

Will you be brave enough to step out in the storm?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cure All

While everyone was out watching the Super Bowl on Sunday night and having a grand ole time - I was lying on my couch, half delirious, sneezing and couching my way through You've Got Mail (my go-to sick movie).

It has not been a fun past few days.

The irony of having a cold that I probably contracted at the doctor's office while in for a physical that I had been skillfully avoiding for months is unbearable. I've been sitting at work with the tissues glued to my hand. If I'm not sneezing I'm basically crying and getting mascara everywhere. It's a mess.

Last night I decided to try a Hot Toddy.

My mom swears by them - she even makes them with tea sometimes instead of just hot water - but something about drinking bourbon while I'm already dehydrated seemed off.

I gave it a try anyway.

Boy was she right.

Hot water + honey + a shot of bourbon + a squeeze of lemon = HEAVEN!!

Not that it cured me or anything (because I'm still not quite 100% cold-free), but it sure did make me feel good last night. I will definitely be making more this evening!

I'm officially a believer in the Hot Toddy.

My Nonna's Birthday Cake

This weekend was a blur because I spent it back and forth on NJ Transit. I was severely overdue for things like a hair cut and my yearly physical and a dentist appointment, so I figured I would just schedule them all at once to get them over with. Hence the trains. 

I took a half day on Friday and met my mother in Summit, NJ where we had a quick lunch and then went strait to my first appointment. When I visit my parents I like to also visit all my old haunts as well, but my all time favorite has to be Time to Eat Diner at the Somerville Circle. I had a hefty brunch there with my grandparents in between the dentist and the salon. Soooooo gooooood!!! :-)

The only meals I didn't eat on the go this weekend happened to be dinner. Friday night my mother and I tried out a Thai style sauce similar to Pad See Ew with chicken, mushrooms and peppers. Dad approved - and he doesn't like Thai - so I'll call that a success. 

Saturday was sort of an impromptu early birthday dinner for my Nonna. We had her and my grandfather over for dinner and my uncle and his girlfriend joined us. My mother made a simple chunky tomato sauce with penne and Chicken Marsala for dinner but the real conversation starter of the night was my tiramisu. 

I've been making tiramisu for a few years now. I've worked hard to perfect my recipe. I'm proud of my recipe. What did my Nonna think of my recipe?!     


She saw me putting the finishing touches on it as she arrived and had a list of reasons ready to tell me why it wouldn't come out right. I probably didn't beat the eggs properly, and did I use the right cheese? Just the fact that I didn't prepare it a day ahead was apparently a no no. 

Well. We served it as her birthday cake - what was I to do, it's the only thing we had prepared - and what do you know!? She actually liked it. She was impressed and actually told me that maybe she had been wrong to judge so quickly. 

I can appreciate that she has decades of experience on my few years preparing Italian food, but it was still nice to hear that she liked what I had made her. :-)