Jan 27, 2010

portuguese sweet bread

this is the closest thing i know to heaven. portuguese sweet bread. another recipe based on one from my husband's mother's portuguese family. this bread is light, fluffy, delicate, chewy and tender with a fine crumb. mmmmm.

in my husband's family it was sometimes made with lemon peel. meyer lemon peel from their tree at the family house on the central coast of california. i like it best unadorned, warm from the oven with a slab of butter melting in the center. brilliant with tea.

i must warn you, the aroma while this bakes is heavenly. also it is gloriously fun to knead, and very easy to handle once you get past the gloppy stage. but the rising can take some time. it pretty much always comes out well, now matter what i've done or haven't done.

portuguese sweet bread
2 loaves, traditionally rolled into a round pan, but i also make one in a loaf pan to slice up the next day for toast.

2 packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm water

combine yeast with sugar and warm water in a small bowl and allow to proof for 10 minutes.

1 stick butter, sliced
2/3 cup warm milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 to 5 cups of flour
1 more beaten egg (for brushing on top of the dough just before baking)

warm the milk in the microwave in a large glass measuring cup (if you've got one) until nice and warm but not boiled (usually about a minute, but microwave ovens are highly variable)

add in the sliced stick of butter to the warmed milk, add the sugar and stir thoroughly.

in a large bowl combine the milk/butter/sugar mixture with the yeast mixture and blend well. add in 3 lightly beaten eggs and the salt. stir to combine. now add in the flour, 1 cup at a time with your trusty dough whisk or with your hands or a wooden spoon, failing all else. you probably won't need all 5 cups flour i usually use 4 and a half, depending on the humidity level of the flour, etc. the dough should be really sticky and gooey. this is the gloppy stage. transfer the giant mound of sticky dough onto a floured surface. knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. shape into a ball and place in a buttered bowl. cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise again, preferably in a warm draft-free place, until doubled in bulk. (in cold winter days i sometimes turn my oven on to 150, then shut it off, then open the door for 2 minutes and place the dough to rise in there. an elaborate, but effective, dough rising ritual).

once it is doubled, punch it down (the funnest part of making any dough) and shape into balls or a loaf and place in buttered dishes/pans. allow to rise again in that same warm, draft-free place, loosely covered.

when nearly ready. preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit. beat that last egg. brush it gingerly on top the loaves. and then place them in the well-heated oven for about 30 minutes for the round rolls and about 35 minutes for the log shaped loaves. they will have a nice rich shiny surface when done, and will have a wonderful hollow sound when rapped with your hand.

allow to cool, then enjoy with some butter and a nice cup of tea. a real crowd pleaser.

Jan 25, 2010


lovely leafy, green, sturdy, unctuous, kale.

i love to make this soup with kale because it always makes me happy. it is a portuguese soup and i should probably mention that my husband's mother's family is from the azores, a portuguese archipelago in the middle of the atlantic. a reminder of portugal's dominance of the oceans in the Not So Distant Past.

this soup contains onions, garlic, kale, potatoes, stock, and if you are so lucky and inclined, crispy seared slices of chorizo floating around in there. my mother-in-law's family always referred to this much-adored soup as "ugly soup" but i think of it as "happy soup." this soup, a roaring fire, some crusty bread, a bit of olive oil. nom nom nom. rustic, hearty, peasant food. my favorite kind.

ugly (happy) soup
1 large bunch kale (tough stems removed, leaves finely slivered)
1 large onion, chopped
2 lb russet potatoes peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly smashed
2 quarts chicken stock
1 leek, sliced
chorizo sausage, sliced and grilled or seared

saute onions and garlic for a few minutes in a few glugs of olive oil. add stock and potatoes. bring to a boil. turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. add the kale. simmer for 5 minutes more. add in the leeks. if you like, remove 1/3 to half the soup from the pot briefly and puree in a blender, being careful not to burn yourself with the hot soup, then return to the pot. meanwhile saute the chorizo. ready your soup bowls and place the chorizo in each bowl as you serve. an extra drizzle of olive oil is nice on top of the soup and some wonderful crusty, natural bread is all you need. perfect food for weathering a good storm, like the one we are having today. a deluge more like it.

note: to sliver the kale leaves and slice them fine, it is best to roll up the kale leaves, once the stems have been removed, like a rather large cigar, then they are easy to slice.

Jan 20, 2010


how are you? time is really speeding by for me. is it for you? winter 30% complete. teen birthday done. high school exams/massive studying in progress (shhhh). a couple of sunny days above freezing, hooray.

so i wanted to share with you. do you remember last week? i went in and bought these lovely black and cream striped napkins from this place. to go in this old pewter tray on this table in this dining room of ours. new curtains arriving later this week. (charcoal grey with white cotton lining). i am wild about stripes. now, i am aware that these are not the first colors you think of when you hear something like fabrics of the sun. but when you think about it, uncanny shadows and blinding highlights are what the sun is all about. i am going to buy more fabric to make some throw pillows and cushions, but i can't decide which will look just right. i am not the type of person who has mad sewing skills, that is definitely not me. i suffer through it. but even i can sew a rectangle and stuff it with fluff. i must let these vivid stripes float awhile in my mind while i think i think it all through. hope your january is skating along too. xo, g

Jan 15, 2010

teen birthday

hi everyone. i am busy. really busy. with lots of shopping, wrapping, grocery shopping and cooking. crepes with caramelized apples are required for breakfast (before 7 am i might add, that's the tricky part), chinese chicken salad with homemade asian pickles and japanese rice for dinner, and chocolate souffle for dessert. all part of a special teenage birthday. good fun. enjoying the thaw today. thinking of spring (already). more color for you next week. happy weekend to you. xo, g

Jan 13, 2010

fabrics of the sun

i am still in need of more color. yet i have no regrets. tomorrow i am going here. i have been a big fan of these wonderful french espadrille fabrics (still made on original looms in france) for years. this store opened in the last year in nyc. lovely. so many possibilities. life depends upon possibility, n'est-ce pas?

Jan 12, 2010

coloring my world

this arrived by post yesterday. more wild, saturated color. i ordered this striped lucite bracelet as well as the tea towel and apron for myself last thursday at the tate modern museum gift shop. it arrived monday. how great is that? this modern world with its super fast cross atlantic mail service still astounds me. i didn't choose express service either. normal. i also ordered some birthday gifts for my oldest whose middle name is tate and who, unbelievably, is turning 15 this week. (how that adorable baby turned into this giant person i cannot fathom. let me assure you i am far too youthful to have a 15-year-old child, or am i? what year is it?). oh yes 2010. hrumph. but anyway. color. wild. riotous color. warms me. energizes me. (secretly keeps me young.)

Jan 11, 2010

color on my mind

in january, i always start to crave color. wild, uninhibited, gorgeous, saturated color.

this french bag i picked up in tokyo that was made in china, is just what i want to look it. it is so brilliant, the hand-painted design, the adorable nature, bird, insect scenes, the two different plaid patterns on the inside, the great little coin purse that snaps in. it seems to go with everything, although you would naturally think just the opposite.

it is from a great kid focused design shop in france. la marelle editions. this bag was designed by the fabulous nathalie l'ete. check out the online store here. polypropylene. so simple, such a great shape.

Jan 8, 2010

wonderful wintery day

2 inches of fresh snow to cover up the muck. and bunny tracks i think. happy weekend xo, g

Jan 6, 2010

crispy roast duck with steamed buns

well. we did it. winter indoor project number 1. we received david chang's momofuku cookbook (a marvelous christmas gift, thank you!)and we made his authentic recipe for steamed buns. then, we used nigella lawson's incredibly simple and tasty recipe for crispy roast duck from nigella express. the result was more than pleasing, in fact, a marriage of heavenly proportions was born. without a doubt this was the number one tastiest dish i prepared all year. with homemade quick pickles as an accompaniment. we ate all this in front of the fire one cold cold night, in our cozy dining room, as snow fell outside. atmospherically delicious, i'm telling you.

unfortunately, due to publishing copyright laws, i cannot share these fabulous recipes and reprint them here. but, if you want a taste of heaven, do try it. go out and buy these books if you haven't already. or borrow them from your local library. added bonus, because this is so easy and all the bun making takes place in advance, this makes an excellent crowd pleasing dish for your very fortunate guests. simply serve with slivered cucumbers and scallions and hoisin sauce. we also made quick pickles, carrot, eggplant, cucumber and lotus root, from david chang's momofuku cookbook. really fun and also very easy. one caveat, the buns do take several hours due to multiple rests and risings, but they freeze with no decline in quality so make them as far in advance as you like. just steam them for a minute or two just before serving. well worth the trouble. and i don't see why i don't always just keep a stack of these in my freezer from now on, until forever. and nigella's roast duck recipe couldn't be simpler, you merely roast for 5 and a half hours in your oven at moderate heat and then shred. couldn't be simpler. really. put it in the oven and forget about it while you make all those steamed buns. this concludes winter project number one. 100% effective as a distraction from the arctic weather pattern currently reeking havoc in our northern hemisphere. epically satisfying.

Jan 4, 2010

hello january

here we are. a whole new decade. very exciting. i am thrilled about this. lots to look forward to. new directions, all that. 

meanwhile, this winter photograph was taken as i was looking out my window this afternoon around 3. and, while looking out at the frozen, unforgiving, granite hills of connecticut, i suddenly realized, it is really cold out there. as in COLD with capital letters. brrr. we all have our coping mechanisms for these minor hardships like winter.

my first year back here in real winter, (after 9 worry-free years of winterless california weather) i kept ordering warmer and warmer clothing from the likes of online shops like patagonia and ugg. effective, but expensive. r recalls new boxes arrived weekly. (because, of course, we could never be warm enough). the next winter, i desperately planned elaborate vacations to sunny beachy places like the caribbean. idyllic, white sand beaches, lavish, forget all your troubles resorts, but we got food poisoning, bad food poisoning. and we aren't super beachy anyway. also outrageously expensive. new boots, sweaters and outerwear are far more frugal it turns out. last year we suffered, but survived. this year is different. i am accepting. i have a "system" in place. here is my system: 1. have air-o-swiss humidifiers going all over the place. literally. everywhere. must keep it moist inside. moisture is the key to life after all. i cannot keep it as moist in here as i would like, say as moist as the rainforest exhibit at the central park zoo,  or the tropical greenhouses at kew, but it is suitable. 2. exercise like it is going out of style: yoga, weights, running, skiing, etc. 3. eat lots and lots of hearty, soothing, fresh, vibrant, delicious, foods. 4. have lots of exciting projects to work on indoors. 5. go shopping and to museums, look for visual inspiration everywhere, buy lots of shelter magazines, etc. maybe one day per week devoted to this 6. when all else fails and you want to climb the walls from being inside so much, clean and organize. 7. also, permission to nap if you want to, winters were made for napping.

meanwhile, here we are and i've actually been following this plan and cooking and drawing up a storm. so many great things to show you. here we are january 4: 74 days until spring. lots to do lots o do. a whole winter to enjoy. winter dread, on the other hand, banished.