Dec 31, 2009

thank you and happy new year!

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 23, 2009

russian teacakes

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

winter breakfast

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

fruit bowl

guavas, mandarinquats, pink lady apples, granny smith apples, haas avocados. all christmasy in red and green.

Dec 18, 2009

packages in the mail

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

holiday crush

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

roasted acorn squash

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
serves 4-6
2 nice firm unblemished acorn squash
olive oil

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

spinach garlic pasta

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
serves 4
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

Happy Holidays

holiday planning update. it is starting to look like christmas around here.

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 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.