A passion for food + fashion

Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Elf Help: La Dolce Vita Edition

In Food on November 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Yup, the Christmas lights are up at our house and I can’t believe that Hannukah starts on Wednesday! Herman Miller asked me to share a holiday gift guide on its LIFEWORK blog, which you can check out by clicking HERE. But that’s just scratching the surface, so in the coming weeks I hope to share some of my favorite ideas for giving—and receiving! Starting with this:

Oh yes, a gift box from Olio & Olive! Talk about la dolce vita. My friend Gaia brought over this gorgeous handmade wooden basket of Italian indulgence and I nearly died. Though Olio & Olive offers gift baskets in all price points, this particular splurgy basket retails for $189.90, so that special someone on your list had better have been exceptionally nice this year. I don’t even know where to start—it’s loaded with classics like aged balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, red sauce, penne, parm, olives, polenta, salami—all of it the stuff the pros use. And I loved experimenting with the jar of Tartuflanghe Parmigiano Reggiano and Truffle Cream ($24.90) tucked in there, which by itself would make a great hostess gift or stocking stuffer.

Gaia added that it’s best to save some of the starchy pasta water to mix with the sauce and pasta, which we tried. She was right. It totally helps the sauce coat the pasta better.

We enjoyed the sauce both with a bowl of bucatini and some farro pizzichi from Rustichella d’Abruzzo (you want a fairly toothy pasta to stand up to the richness of the sauce):

But what I loved best about the rich and aromatic sauce—and in fact this basket—is that it has the true hallmark of a perfect gift. That is, something that makes someone’s day just that much better while reminding them that friendship is the most nourishing gift of all.

Intricate Ink Drawings

In Design, Media on November 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm

We interrupt this Thanksgiving Week broadcast to bring you something altogether more delicious—these intricate ink drawings by London artist Rory Dobner. The above photo is from the Dobner’s website, showing his work in situ at Liberty of London. Each drawing is original and mounted in a vintage frame. I commissioned one of these chimerical and totally charming drawings as a “surprise” for Mr. Foodinista’s upcoming birthday, but the real surprise turned out to be explaining an overseas wire transfer, however modest it might have been. So the cat is out of the proverbial bag. In the meantime, I learned that Dobner will be visiting LA next year for the opening of the new Agent Provacateur boutique in Beverly Hills, which will feature his art. But not before our very own “Time for a Tea Party” drawing goes up on our walls!

I am hoping that it will be just thing above our bed, in close proximity to our vintage Liberty curtains that I scored years ago on eBay for a song.

But speaking of birds, a leftover turkey-and-stuffing sandwich is calling. Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

Turkey Trials 2010

In Drink, Food on November 26, 2010 at 9:44 am

Two thousand ten will go down in the books as one of the most memorable Thanksgivings—for the good, the bad and the unbelievable. On this beautiful sunny Los Angeles morning, surrounded by my family, the turkey trauma of three days ago seems like another lifetime. And so I will answer a few questions. Yes, the turkey turned out okay. In fact, it was fantastic! So here’s what I learned. You can safely defrost even a 16-pounder in a matter of hours (click here for info). And even one day of salting will produce superior results. This turkey was so juicy and flavorful. Look at it coming out of the oven!

And then my husband, who is the greatest in the whole wide world, took to the bird with the precision that only a Japanese knife can offer.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. My dad surprised us with a magnum of 2004 Stony Hill Chardonnay.

And so, it was quite late and we were quite drunk by the time we tucked into my sister’s pumpkin and pecan pies made with the buttery best crust imaginable. Oh, and the pies were pretty spectacular for breakfast, too, though this coffee doesn’t hold a candle to the Stony Hill.

Pilgrim’s Progress

In Food on November 24, 2010 at 7:07 pm

My sister has arrived and is making beautiful flaky crusts for the sour cream-pumpkin and pecan pies as we speak. My husband is scoring red pearl onions, which I will simmer in port just as soon as I hit “post.” After the turkey trauma of the past 24 hours, I am finally feeling relaxed and good about dinner tomorrow (and I haven’t even started drinking yet!). Thanks in no small part to my TURKEY SAVIORS, who talked me off the ledge and taught me how to defrost a bird at the 11th hour. About an hour ago, I salted our 16-pound turkey with a heaping three tablespoons of kosher salt and a generous pinch of dried sage.

It is now peacefully resting in a bag in the fridge, where it will dry brine until it’s ready to roast tomorrow afternoon. What follows next is why this holiday is my favorite of the year. The mixing, the baking, the brining, the boiling, the simmering, the sautéing, staying up late and getting up early to cook. And now if you’ll pardon me, I’m off to do just that!

Thanksgiving Wines

In Drink on November 24, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Q: How do you please a Champagne addict, White Burgundy loyalist, Pinot Noir enthusiast, Riesling devotee and vodka drinker who are breaking bread together at the Thanksgiving table?

A: You don’t.

I’ve given up trying to please everyone with just one bottle because it’s futile. Plus, I don’t know about your Thanksgiving table, but at mine the wine disappears pretty quickly so it’s a safe bet that if a few different bottles are open someone will polish them off. And, after reading my friend Patrick Comiskey’s article on dividing and conquering with Thanksgiving wines over on Zesterdaily.com, I’m feeling emboldened. So this year, I’m uncorking a cornucopia, if you will, of wines and people can have at it as they will. The line-up will look something like this.

2007 Schramsberg Brut Rose ($35). This Napa Valley sparkling pink is one that everyone at the table agrees on. I love the bright cherry notes and it is a beautiful wine with turkey. And given that my family lives in the Napa Valley, it’s a little nod to home.

2008 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Riesling, $19. This is a great wine for the meal—crisp acidity to cut through all the richness of the food, and gorgeous mineral and peach flavors. And it won’t break the bank if you need a couple bottles.

Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault ($ You don’t want to know). Typically there is a bottle of White Burgundy designated for my father’s use and nobody is allowed to touch it. That’s okay, I’m usually hoarding my Riesling.

2008 Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir ($60). This one is my sister’s favorite, and I have to say I wouldn’t kick it out of my glass either. At all.

A Tale of Two Turkeys

In Food on November 24, 2010 at 10:50 am

Yesterday afternoon I blew my stack. I’m not proud of this and I’m sorry, Dan at Heritage Foods USA, that you were on the receiving end. But here’s the thing. After pacing like a jungle cat all afternoon in anticipation of the arrival of my 12-14 lb heritage bird (which I’d ordered on August 3), the box arrived. And it was surprisingly light. Upon opening the box I wondered if my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me because the turkey was only slightly larger than the two pork chops that were also tucked inside the box.

More surprisingly, Ashton Kutcher did not jump out from behind a door wearing a trilby to inform me that I’d just been punk’d.

And so, in a panic, I called Dan at Heritage Foods USA in Brooklyn, NY, who was able to get a bird on a truck to catch a redeye to Los Angeles for arrival this morning. The new bird is indeed here and, well, he’s a beaut. A 16 pounder. But I’m super bummed out because the bird is frozen and will have just one night of dry brining before 10 people gather at our table tomorrow night. (Thank god we are eating late.) So what do you do with a frozen 16-pound bird in order to get it on the table in 24 hours? I frantically texted the pros and here’s their sage advice:

Janet Taylor McCracken, associate food editor at Bon AppétitIf it’s still frozen, keep it in an airtight bag and place it in a cooler filled with cold water. It should defrost pretty quickly, as in a couple of hours. If the water gets too warm (above 45°F), put some ice in it.

Russ Parsons, author and Food Editor of the Los Angeles Times: You can even roast it if it’s still partially frozen. It’ll take more time. And it may be slightly mushy (defrosting too fast), but this is about survival, right?

Kristine Kidd, Bon Appétit‘s former Food Editor (for 20 years!!!) and author: To thaw quickly, put in a large bowl or sink with cold water to cover (if possible). I would do this wrapped in an airtight plastic bag. Change water often, and it will thaw surprisingly quickly. Another idea, Gelson’s carries Diestal Heritage birds. I pre-ordered, but you could call around and see if they have extras. These are not pure heritage as from Heritage foods, but a cross breed. I am grilling one right now, à la Russ. Mine got only a 24 hr salting, followed by 8 hour drying in fridge. I started the process  yesterday morning at 10 AM. I’ll tell you how it comes out. A third idea—cook your small heritage turkey, plus another small turkey from Gelson’s or Whole Foods, and let everyone have a taste of each.

Amelia Saltsman, TV host and author of The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook: I wouldn’t worry about brining turkey. Rub with butter or olive oil and kosher salt. Roast on a “rack” of whole carrots, celery, quartered onions, etc. After about 30 minutes add some water to pan, which will start some steam going to keep breast moist, not to mention augment juices later for basting and gravy. Hope this helps!! Happy turkey day!

So the moral of the story is to BE THANKFUL FOR YOUR FRIENDS, especially those who are far better at making lemonade from lemons than you could ever be. And it helps if these friends are some of the best cooks in the whole wide world! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and check back for progress on our bird, which is currently frozen rock solid and cooling its wings in our kitchen sink:

The Onion Eater

In Food on November 22, 2010 at 10:08 pm

My father, who is the cook in our family, does not like onions. AT ALL. And so my sister and I grew up with nary an allium in sight. Which of course made onions all the more beguiling, the forbidden fruit—or plant—whose name we dare not speak. And so it will be quietly that I introduce a gorgeous bowl of Glazed Pearl Onions in Port with Bay Leaves at our Thanksgiving table this year. The recipe ran in Bon Appétit a couple years ago and has been cunningly tempting me ever since. I made a test-run for dinner tonight, served alongside a pan-fried pork chop, and let me tell you the fall from grace is worth every bite. The port-balsamic glaze is nothing short of heavenly and will add a bright note to all the earthy and comforting flavors at Thursday’s table. It was also quite, quite good drizzled on a pork chop.

The comments on the recipe all say that the flavors continue to develop over a day or two, so I’ll be making another batch tomorrow for Thursday’s feast. You do have to carve out a bit of time. First the onions soak in hot water for an hour before you peel them.

Oh, and I used red pearl onions instead of white simply because they have a slightly milder flavor plus I thought they were prettier. After they’ve soaked and the skins have been peeled, the onions simmer in port and broth with bay leaves for half an hour.

And then the onions rest while the sauce is reduced to a glaze. Total time commitment is a little over two hours from start to finish (including soaking and peeling, which is something of a pain), but if the payoff is worth the effort.

Thanksgiving Hors d’Oeuvres

In Food, Media, Recipes on November 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

On Thursday, I’ll be cooking the lion’s share of the big meal, which means I need to serve an appetizer that is low maintenance but festive enough to be invited to the party. My go-to Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvres are Smoked Salmon Chips with Crème Fraîche and Chives. Not only are these chic and easy to prepare, but they are superb with Champagne. You can check out my recipe for these little devils over on Herman Miller’s LIFEWORK blog.

Hey Good Looking, Whatcha Got Cooking?

In Food, Media on November 20, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Does it seem fair that a woman who looks like this is also a killer cook? My friend and Le Cordon Bleu graduate Jessica Collins has launched an eponymous new cooking website, complete with recipes and video. If you can take your eyes off the cook for just one minute, you’ll find awesome and approachable Thanksgiving recipes for Braised Brussels Sprouts, Bourbon Apple Crisp, Wild Mushroom and Spinach Bread Stuffing plus techniques for roasting the bird. Congrats, Jess! Can’t wait to read more!

Ask the Foodinista: Holiday Shopping

In Design, Food on November 20, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Dear Foodinista,

Please bestow upon us your great wisdom…what the hell are you buying for all those little holiday gifts this season seems to suddenly require? The babysitter who only comes five times a year and the housekeeper and the twelve teachers at preschool? Gift cards always seem so crass, and I am stumped for something I can actually afford, that they will actually enjoy.

Signed, Venice Beach

Dear Venice Beach,

Your email arrived at a perfect time. I’ve been putting together some gift ideas for the holidays, which I will start to roll out this Monday. But let’s start today with a few ideas that won’t break the bank. If you run in foodie crowds, and I know you do, look no further for the perfect holiday gift: Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans. The packaging is gorgeous—just wrap with a little rafia bow—and these heirloom beans are sure to make any cook simply giddy. And at $5 a bag, the price is right.

If you need to step it up a little, I’d hightail it over to Heath Ceramics on Beverly today or tomorrow as everything in the ENTIRE store is 20% off. Like these beautiful bud vases, $25 (less 20%). They come in any number of gorgeous Heath glazes. There were also charming tea towels, wooden servers and Weck jars (below). I stocked up on a bunch this morning, because it’s always important to remember yourself when shopping for others.

For the babysitters, teachers and others who make daily life all the more sweet, I’ll be heading to Valerie Confections. Valerie’s four-piece chocolate box ($13) is every bit as delicious as it is pretty. Or if chocolate isn’t their thing, check out this sweet little box of four petits fours. If Valerie or Stan is behind the counter, be sure to tell them the Foodinista said hello. And that she is cooking up her next excuse for ordering one of Valerie’s ludicrously divine rose petal cakes.