it's been a great year here at cup and table and i want to thank each and every one of you for dropping by and for your insightful comments and your warm praise, it makes me blush. i am so excited about everything that's happened in 2009, it goes down as a really good year. not everything went perfectly and there were certainly the usual bumps and bruises, plenty of them to be sure, but i find there always are and it's really the way you manage those, one's resilience, that is a big part of making things great. that, and knowing what you like, and having the perseverance to go after it. so, my wish for you, yes YOU, is a great 2010 with more of what YOU like and less of all the other stuff. cheers! xo, g
Dec 31, 2009
Dec 23, 2009
yipee, cookie baking has begun around here. (finally, sigh). we start with either oatmeal chocolate chip cookies or russian teacakes. tonight we decided on russian teacakes. i've been making these since i was a little girl. i always found them irresistible, and they look like snowballs, that helps. now, my kids do a lot of the work. they add in the ingredients, measuring carefully, and then roll the dough into balls, and then finally, into the powdered sugar. very pleasing the way you can just pop a whole cookie easily into your mouth. yum.
i created this recipe for someone who was allergic to nuts. traditionally they contain pecans or walnuts. turns out the nuts are not crucial. i amped up the 'nuttiness' flavor with whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour. it totally worked, you can really hardly tell there are no nuts in there. sometimes we do put in 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans or pistachios, which is nice too, adding some protein to the butter sugar index. which decreases the guilt index. all good. this is a forgiving recipe and can be altered and fiddled around with good results.
Russian Teacakes (not necessarily with any nuts)
makes plenty of cookies (about 75)
recipe can easily be halved
preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit
4 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 TBSP vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or cake flour
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
optional 2/3 cup finely chopped pecans or pistachios (add in with the flours)
1 additional cup confectioner's sugar (give or take) for rolling
using electric mixer with dough paddle, beat butter and sugar until super light and fluffy. this takes a while, about 10 minutes. add in the vanilla and the salt to the butter mixture. beat until just combined. mix flours together. remove bowl from mixer and mix the flours into the butter mixture by hand with a wooden spoon until just combined. it will look quite lumpy and crumbly but will hold together nicely when given a little squeeze.
roll into ball shapes about 1 and a half inches in diameter. place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees farenheit for 12 minutes or so until the bottoms are lightly browned.
allow to cool for 10 minutes. when cookies are cool enough to handle, roll in confectioner's sugar and coat on all sides. as the cookies continue to cool, roll a second time in the sugar. stored in an airtight cookie tin these will keep for about a week.
Dec 22, 2009
busy with the snow, shopping, last minute details. nibbling on this as i drink my green tea and rush around the house. cooking crispy roast duck this year, chinese style with pancakes, cucumbers, scallions. so easy. more soon. xo, g
Dec 20, 2009
Dec 18, 2009
collecting the mail this time of year sure is fun. like yesterday, when we received a box from a friend in california marked "urgent" "open immediately" "perishable." wasting no time, we tore open the package and inside were the freshest, most gorgeous persimmons we've ever seen and a cute note "picked with permission from a neighbor's tree." persimmon windfall. really yummy, peeled and sliced raw, as a snack with maybe some japanese rice crackers and a cup of green tea, or in salads, (like this one here), or with yogurt and honey for breakfast, baked in bread, stewed into compote. thank you wonderful friend from california.
Dec 15, 2009
made it into the city yesterday to get a bit of shopping done. new york was pretty crazy, like it always is this time of year, but you could still walk in the street around the rockefeller center tree. remember last year? oh i do. i was busy showing off all the holiday trees i had shot in tokyo on our 10 day trip in late november/early december. that was a blast. i am so in love with japan. but anyway i got what i needed yesterday. i did not get trampled or pickpocketed. i came home happy and energized. i can't believe i am saying this but i heart metro north. fast nyc trains so close to my house. today i am wrapping. listening to music, wrapping and more wrapping.
which of course reminds me, when i first moved to nyc so many years ago, right after university, i worked as a personal assistant (one of 4 personal assistants, and the lowest on the totem pole i might add) to a famous and successful fashion designer who ran a rather large fortune 500 company. we were busy as elves this time of year, buying gifts and wrapping them for all her work and business associates. being a fashion designer, she liked to wrap (or rather, have us wrap) all the gifts in fabric. i had to learn how to wrap gifts in fabric quickly. of course she had special fabric for this. it was really cool, great looking. made quite an impression. except i can't even remember how to do it now, it involved elaborate twists and a knot of fabric, you see. ever since, at this time of year, i always remember being sent all over new york city in a town car for days on end picking up gifts that were already being held for me to buy on her behalf. quite a production. it was dizzying. but good fun. oh yes, here we are, the holiday crush. always different and yet the same. i love it.
Dec 11, 2009
i love a good winter squash as much as the next person, and maybe even a bit more. preferring butternut and kabocha squashes, i was never a big fan of acorn squash. i know i know, everyone loves them stuffed with all sorts of things. truthfully, i wanted to love them but found them a bit watery, less dense and flavorful than the others, sort of steamed tasting. well i finally figured out the secret. greater roasting surface area. these are fast and easy, once you get past the dissection stage where you cut them and scoop out the insides. and with the adorable ridges down the sides as a guide, it is as if the acorn squash is telling you how to slice it and cook it. the kids and the husband adored these, "they are like candy" and gobbled them up, even though i am usually the only one nibbling away at the roasted squash at dinner. really they are something between a french fry and candy: salty, crispy, rich and sweet. i served them with zucchini risotto and garden salad. another satisfyingly quick, hearty winter weeknight meal during a busy week. and hooray its friday. 3 concerts down, 1 to go, and a very exciting social event tomorrow. whatever your plans, have a great weekend! xo, g
roasted acorn squash
2 nice firm unblemished acorn squash
yes only 3 ingredients. the essence of simplicity. preheat oven to 375 degrees farenheit. wash, dry and then halve the squash. scoop out the flesh and seeds in the hollow cavity. slice into wedges lengthwise. to season vegetables before roasting, i find it works best if you put them in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, swirl around in the bowl then salt with some nicely textured sea salt and swirl around again. place in appropriately sized roasting pan. again i love the ceramic ones, here i used a french gratin pan. place in the oven for 35-45 minutes or so. if i am in a hurry i set the oven to 400 degrees but they must be checked at 20 minutes depending on your oven. if they are browning too much, simply turn it down to 350 or 325. my current oven has a roast setting and really does a great job, my last oven did not and roasting vegetables cooked about 10 minutes slower with more burning.
Dec 8, 2009
taking time for dinner even with busy schedules this month is especially nice. loved the piece in NYT yesterday about the joys of a pot of water boiling on the stove. you can read it here. good things come from a pot of water boiling on the stove. you can make a whole dinner out of one pot of boiling water. like this breathtakingly simple spinach garlic pasta recipe. so ridiculously easy, light, tasty, unfussy. here are the ingredients: pasta, spinach, parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil, water. molly's latest recipe on orangette reminded me to make this, hers has a similar rustic, simplistic spirit, but with prosciutto and butter, not spinach and olive oil. either way, cozy weeknight family dinner. grazie mille.
spinach garlic pasta
1 lb dried or fresh pasta
12-16 oz fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 glugs (TBSPs) extra virgin olive oil
a bit of salt for the pasta water
set the giant pot of water to boil. meanwhile smash a peel the cloves of garlic. salt the water. once the water is boiling furiously, place the fresh spinach in the pot. just for a second. scoop it out with a strainer. continue to drain spinach. add one glug of olive oil and then the pasta to the same pot of water, as long as it is boiling furiously again. it will of course be slightly green this water, perhaps if we are lucky, infusing your pasta with extra vitamins and minerals or perhaps a certain complexity of taste only spinach water can bring to the noodles. i notice no difference in taste, only a difference in the amount of pots i must clean and amount of water i must boil. i find it agreeable this dual pot use. while the pasta is cooking, chop the drained spinach. reserve. when the pasta is done, but still quite al dente, maybe even a little more al dente than usual, drain the pasta into a colander, reserve one to two cups of the twice used water, and and discard the rest. set the same pan on high heat, add the smashed garlic. let it roll around and sizzle in the pan for a minute or two, turn down the heat a bit so it doesn't burn. add in the spinach now. a bit of salt to taste. cook another minute. now add the drained pasta and the reserved water. cook for one minute. add in the cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese. serve immediately.
Dec 2, 2009
our oldest decorated the chalkboard for us in the family room. the tree is up in the living room. some of the wreaths are up. but not the front door, not yet. the cards we designed arrived from moo.com yesterday. christmas shopping is 30% complete. not bad so far.
but this is the part where things begin to get a little crazy and pretty soon it is like a roller coaster ride that is going a bit too fast. the concerts and school and social events start this weekend. then it seems like all we do is get ready for concerts in fancy dress. get dressed. and get dressed again. it takes up a lot of time. lovely. charming. thrilling. touching. amazingly wonderful. children performing. seeing friends. and yet somehow those hot stuffy auditoriums. well you know i always dread it just a little bit and then it is always a happy experience. it is good fun getting dressed up and then getting caught up in the moment, the artistry, the beauty at these exciting, mostly beautiful but sometimes boring, artistic rituals. but maybe it is just that i have two musical children, one child turning 15 in a month. and another child that plays in two orchestras. perhaps it is the sheer number of these things we have been to in the last 12 years.
its all in the timing though isn't it? and that is how life seems to work: long stretches of NOT MUCH AT ALL going on and brief spurts of A MILLION THINGS all happening at the same time. whoosh, holiday 2009, here we go. good luck everybody. may everything work according to plan.
Nov 30, 2009
i am so done with thanksgiving. it was great, nicest one yet we all concurred. but that heavy holiday food. oh my. happily, one light spot on our menu is our traditional thanksgiving persimmon pomegranate mixed greens salad. crunchy, tart, leafy, tasty, acidic counterpoint to the rest of the meal. i invented this salad about 8 years ago and we've been eating it by popular request ever since. at the time, we were living in tiburon, california, with our lovely panoramic views of the golden gate bridge and the bay from our kitchen/living room windows (my that was nice) and locally grown persimmons as well as pomegranates from southern california were abundant in the markets.
luckily, due to the magic of modern food distribution and transport, something i am thankful for every day (and especially at the holidays), i can still get these ingredients, high quality and quite fresh here in connecticut. if i was going to be a locavore, which i never will be, i would have to live in central california i think, or some other equally fertile growing region in the world. i am sure someone from new england did not come up with that locavore concept, had to have been a californian, although i'm just guessing here. i would have to build a greenhouse system to get local food and apparently that has a higher carbon load than shipping food (according to BBC news) from its traditional growing region. i just cant live without grapefruit and avocados and artichokes, chocolate, coffee and tea. or wouldn't want to. anyway, other than the pumpkin pie, (which i have professed my profound love for here on cup and table many many times), this is one of my favorite items on our yearly thanksgiving menu:
pomegranate persimmon salad
serves 6 - 8
12 ounces mixed baby greens, rinsed and dried
1/3 pomegranate, seeds only (about 1/3 cup)
1 large or 2 small fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
2TBSP pomegranate cherry juice
3TBSP seasoned rice vinegar
3TBSP extra virgin olive oil
(a touch of dijon mustard or some minced shallots is nice here but i usually skip it because i am overwhelmed in the kitchen at this point) assemble ingredients. whisk up the dressing. pour. toss. serve. bon appetit.
Nov 21, 2009
a local gang came by last week looking for trouble (love to dig up my yard with their rather large feet). but they did let me take a few pictures. i caught one looking in my back door window staring into the house for a long time. they seem to think they own the property, and begrudgingly tolerate our presence. sorry turkeys, but for now our name is on the deed.
i hear the first thanksgiving, the real one, included geese and fish as the main course. only later was turkey on the menu. turkeys were abundant at the first one, but were not eaten as they were considered sacred. maybe that means too strange looking to eat. they look rather reptilian i think. but somehow majestic at the same time, with all that elaborate plumage. however you celebrate it, happy thanksgiving everyone. i am grateful for all my friends old and new and my wonderful family. cheers, xo, g
Nov 18, 2009
there are many versions of pho. the most famous is made with beef stock and thinly sliced raw beef. we prefer chicken around here. either way it is hot, tart, salty, spicy (to taste) fresh delicious noodly pho. this is one of my all time favorite foods to make or to eat. i have never been to vietnam (but i tend to frequent a fair number of vietnamese restaurants, too many to count). i don't let that stop me from making pho. i have been improving this recipe for taste over the years while at the same time reducing the number of steps so it is less trouble. yes it is possible to improve the taste while reducing the number of steps. not easy, first you must strip away a recipe to its purest essence. anyway, if it is less trouble, i will make it more often and that is a nice bonus for one of my favorite foods. recipes are rigorously tested around here based on the time honored "too much trouble index." some recipes are worth a bit of trouble. some are not. in any case, one day i hope to go to vietnam and cambodia and taste the food in it's original environment. oh the flavors and colors of the authentic, i can only imagine. until then i will busy myself slurping up this inauthentic soup in blissful ignorance.
step number one, and the key to the success of this dish is the secret ingredient: crispy shallots. do not underestimate the complexity and nuance from this single ingredient. i begin here.
thinly slice 3 or 4 shallots. chop lightly. saute in 4 BSP olive oil over high to medium high heat until they begin to brown. use plenty of oil here, they will soften rather than crisp if you dont use enough or the heat isnt high enough. when they are beginning to brown nicely turn off the heat. watch them as they cool, sometimes the pan is so hot they continue to cook for a while. when cooled, set aside in a bowl lined with a paper towel to drain the oil. scallions can be added to this mixture with great result. you can saute them togther.
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup minced cilantro stems
1 medium onion, sliced
4 TBSP good quality fish sauce
2 TBSP brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
bring stock, onion, garlic, stems, to boil. add fish sauce, brown sugar lime to taste. simmer until ready to use.
place in boiled water until soft, drain and rinse thoroughly in cold water to keep them soft and not stuck together until you are ready to use them. (save the hot water).
shredded chicken breast
i buy a rotisserie chicken from whole foods and remove the skin and gently shred the breast into large strips. set aside. (easy).
bean sprouts and napa cabbage
use the hot water from the rice noodles. add a little salt. bring to a boil and blanch the bean sprouts and napa cabbage seperately for a minute or so each. drain.
use the stems to perfume the broth they are wonderful and do not wilt like the leaves do. i can't believe most people discard the stems. tragedy. i have read that vietnamese cooks use them also. i really must go and find this out for myself. maybe a cooking/eating tour of southeast asia is in order.
thai chilli sauce
everyone gets to assemble their own soup in our house. one child likes only the cabbage. another strongly prefers the bean sprouts. one only like the soy sauce and vinegar, one loves the chili sauce. these asian noodle soups are generally served up individually at stalls, everyone ordering just what they want. so sensible. place the noodles in the bowls. have everyone add in their meat and veg, pour the hot broth over all. add condiments. slurp slurp enjoy.
Nov 16, 2009
currently reading. i must say it is a really great read. first few times i started reading it i had to put it down because it made me too hungry. the descriptions of food, taste, memory, longing, art, intellectualism, france, japan. i loved that hedgehog book too. brilliant.
postcard by lotta jansdotter.
Nov 12, 2009
we are all crazy for ramen around here (ramen in particular and asian noodle dishes in general). and since the fabulous mr. kato, our local ramen proprietor, closes up his shack from november to may, we were left to go without or make it at home. well, actually we usually head into the city and stop for lunch at momofuku, which is a really incredibly delicious experience, but we didn't have time and we don't want to have to rely only on david chang for our ramen enjoyment all winter no matter how outrageously talented he is. sometimes home is best. anyway, previously we have tackled recipes for soba and udon and chicken pho with some success. see here and here. it follows naturally that we would try to replicate ramen at home. plus, i have been wanting to find a good use for some yuba (magical dried tofu skin rolled into sticks) that i love and needed a good recipe. since it is hard to find homemade ramen soup recipes, everyone seems to use the mixes and packets at home, it required both creativity and strategy. it was delicious and i would eat it again right now if there was any left.
1 lb fresh ramen noodles (i used nasoy brand, but some asian markets sell locally made egg noodles)
1 cup chopped scallions or other green onions
2 hard boiled eggs (use david tanis' recipe from his book "a platter of figs..." really great)
1 cup sliced fresh shitake mushrooms
8 sticks yuba (dried tofu skin)
6 cups chicken stock
4 TBSP soy sauce
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
like most asian noodle soups, you assemble the parts just before serving. everything is cooked or prepared separately. this keeps the noodles from over cooking and the vegetables from ever becoming soggy. a great market noodle stall tradition that is worth honoring.
first, make the hard boiled eggs. then, get the broth going. heat to boiling. check for flavor. should have just the right hot salty quality. keep on simmer. next, set the water to boil for the fresh noodles. also, soak the yuba in quite hot or just boiled water until tender (10 - 30 minutes depending on brand). chop the yuba. chop the vegetables. reserve scallions for garnish. peel and halve hard boiled eggs. now, saute veg on high heat. first add the mushrooms, saute in a bit of olive oil on high heat for a few minutes. add chopped napa cabbage or bean sprouts or asian greens. stir until just softened (maybe 2 minutes) add in yuba and 2 TBSP soy sauce. now cook the noodles for a few minutes according to package directions (takes only 2-3 minutes).
okay. everything is ready. assembly time. place noodles in bowls. add egg and veg on sides. add scallions in center. ladle broth over the whole thing. serve immediately with chopsticks and soup spoons.
note: some people in our house strongly prefer pork ramen. this is really a veggie ramen with a chicken broth. soon we will make homemade pork ramen with pork broth. i am looking forward to this day already. stay tuned.
Nov 9, 2009
by George Romney, of Emma Hart as Miranda, in the Tempest, late 1700s, public domain
for me, today is about trying to keep it simple. i can feel the impending maelstrom of holiday requirements approaching. or is it just the cool autumn chill in the air? elaborate events, events requiring new formalwear for growing children, black tie! gifts to buy and give. lots of gifts! cards to design and distribute. entertaining. decorating! cooking special meals, meals that take all day, meals to remember! so today. green tea and blueberries for breakfast. yoga practice. some time spent with my trusty notepad and sharpened pencil. strategizing. simplifying. organizing. focusing. prioritizing. i've got big plans to stay on top of things this year. for maybe the first time, ever. i will not get carried or swept away. (is it me or is that sounding like a desperate cry into the wind?) i will keep it simple. simplicity. simplicity. simplicity. make it manageable. my new mantra.
Nov 5, 2009
whenever i am missing japan i go here. a special place in nyc, rather near grand central on the east side, in an area filled with wonderful japanese restaurants, stores and places of cultural interest. there are noodle shops, tonkatsu shops, onigiri shops, japanese groceries, and the japanese culinary center.
aburiya kinnosuke. a wonderful restaurant where i enjoyed a great lunch today. it is just like walking into tokyo as you step through the doors. outside there is no sign, it is unmarked. only a multicolor striped facade. inside is incredible food in a kind of dark, homey, casual environment. (the opposite of most midtown restaurants). i have been here before. but every time their offerings make me swoon. the food is just what i want. it is like a happy dream. their black sesame pudding is incredible. their fish dishes. sushi dishes. grilled dishes, fried dishes. all great. i am not the only one who loves this place. it is always crowded, michelin and zagat praise it as well.
Nov 3, 2009
cup and table is 1 year old this week. wow. it has flown by. i wasn't so sure when i started if it would be kind of fun to post or if it would become kind of a drag. i also wasn't sure whether i could maintain my enthusiasm over time. but i do enjoy it enormously it turns out. i plan to keep this going for a good little while. i have lots more to share and some new ideas up my sleeves, some excitement.
my favorite thing about blogging @ cup and table is that i've inadvertently created a place to go that has my recipes and travel photos published so i can remember what i cooked or did, or what i saw and enjoyed. its my new electronic recipe file and travelogue. pure and simple, c&t is a place that starts a dialog about food, travel, art, tea and design. but mostly food. healthy, maybe delicious, maybe mundane, and sometimes beautiful food. my least favorite thing about blogging is that people often roll their eyes and look at their toes or make disparaging remarks about bloggers and change the subject quickly as though you've just revealed something so embarrassing that they don't want to talk about it. and sometimes they simplistically assume you have some sort of outsize ego or something and that's why you are blogging. but what i think is there are always naysayers and you really shouldn't listen to them. and i think the fabulous john hodgeman has it right when he says "bloggers are nerds." yes. i am a blogging nerd. people focused on a topic and learning far too much about that topic so that the content spills out of them and they have to find some outlet, somewhere to put all this content, this collected information. blogging is inherently a creative endeavor and the tools are so available and accessible and easy to use that i wish everyone had a blog. that's right. everyone. i think everyone has valuable content locked up inside them waiting to come out. a view of the world worth noting. i want to know what all of you are cooking for dinner. what is on your minds. what you know too much about. where you are planning to go on your next vacation. i like sharing ideas, recipes, thoughts, creativity, with a wonderful community of individuals all over the world. it's awesome and new and endlessly interesting.
anyway, my dear readers and all of you lovely people who stop by once in a while. thanks for noticing. thanks for your wonderful, smart, kind, comments. thanks for your interest. i am so glad you're here.
(photo is of moules frites, well just the moules in the picture actually, from our first dinner in brussels in august. i would like to eat that all over again). another year, sign me up. let's go.
Oct 30, 2009
i love treats. and when i am very lucky, as i was rather recently, r brings home a distinctive, charming, quite small, brown bag with something wonderful inside. truffles from la maison du chocolat. one my favorite treats in the world. have a great weekend. with maybe some of your favorite treats. xo, g.
Oct 29, 2009
the humble cabbage. i am rather enamored of cabbage. always have been. mon petit chou, the french term of endearment (translates to "my little cabbage"), has always made perfect sense to me. this love affair with the cabbage, well it seems to run in families, as my youngest has always displayed a strong predilection for cabbage slaw or cole slaw. have you ever seen a 9 month baby, or a somewhat small child ravenously grabbing at everyone's tiny side of cole slaw in a restaurant? that was probably him. he's bigger now, but we still have to order extra sides of cole slaw with our lobster rolls. this recipe works equally well with green cabbage, or a mix of the two, but the color is so appealing i usually choose red which of course is actually a deep purple. makes an interesting companion to pork, sausage, duck or goose. and the kids love it because it is sweet and sour and purple.
1 lovely head of cabbage, sliced and chopped (not super thin here, a bit more rustic works best)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup of apple cider
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
sautee onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil (butter here is dreamy, but i've switched for health reasons and the taste is close enough that i won't go back). add in your cabbage and saute on high heat for a few minutes. add your cider and cider vinegar. then salt. cover and simmer on med to med-low for 40 minutes or so. add in apple, chopped quite fine or grated. correct seasoning, adding more salt and/or vinegar. i usually add a bit more salt and vinegar, the vinegar taste seems to fade a bit as time goes on. simmer another 10 minutes to incorporate the flavors. then serve.
the pork tenderloin medallions are so simple, gorgeous and take so little time, it's a wonder you don't see them more often. i buy two small pork tenderloins and slice them up. salt while on cutting board. heat up the copper skillet (best for browning meats) and sautee them for 2-3 minutes per side. lovely.
i usually serve this with a mixed green salad that includes fresh apples, leeks and shallot mustard vinaigrette, as pictured above, and rather similar to this one. add in some mixed roasted potatoes to round things out. mon petit chou.