A passion for food + fashion

Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Homemade Soft Pretzels

In Baby Love, Food on March 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Tomorrow is my turn to bring a snack for my preschooler’s spring camp—we’re on spring break, hence the dearth of posting—and we’re bringing homemade pretzels. My friend Susan makes these with her two sons, who are old enough to help roll out the dough and shape the pretzels. The technique is a bit beyond Tiny G’s abilities at the ripe old age of 2 1/2, but I thought he could handle sprinkling on the sesame seeds. Made with love, these pretzels were a huge hit here tonight. Let’s see how they play out at camp tomorrow.

Soft Pretzels

Based on a recipe from Cooks Illustrated

Makes 12 pretzels [Foodinista Note: I made 16 smaller pretzels since they were destined for tiny hands.]

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface

1 cup warm water (110 degrees)

3 tablespoons baking soda

2 tablespoons coarse salt or sesame seeds

Mix together the yeast, honey, salt, flour and water in the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the dough hook, knead at low speed until a smooth, elastic ball forms (the dough will be quite stiff), about 5 to 7 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and turn the dough to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. Punch the dough to deflate, cover again and let rise again until double its size, another 30-40 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F with the rack at the middle position. Pour 6 cups of water into a 12-inch skillet, adding the baking soda, and bring to a boil. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray generously with vegetable cooking spray.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (about 2 ounces each). Roll each piece into a 20-inch long, 1/2-inch-wide rope. Shape each rope into a pretzel and place on prepared baking sheet.
Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, gently place the shaped pretzels into the boiling water (you should be able to fit 3 or 4), top side down, and boil for 30 seconds. Use tongs to turn the pretzels over and boil for another 30 seconds.
Using slotted spoon, remove from water draining well and then place them onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzels. The pretzels will not rise very much in the oven so you should be able to fit them all on one large baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt or sesame seeds.
Bake for 12-16 minutes, until the pretzels are well-browned.
Transfer to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. These are best on the day they are baked, but can be stored for two days in an airtight container.

Chicken Pot Pie with Kale

In Food, Recipes on March 20, 2011 at 11:16 am

Few things comfort like chicken pot pie, and we were definitely in need of comfort food around here last week. Monday night’s supper came together rather brilliantly—one of those magical meals where you already have everything in the fridge (crème fraîche, carrots, mushrooms and kale) as well as a lone sheet of butter puff pastry from the freezer. I like to keep some puff pastry on hand—you can make a last-minute onion tart in a pinch, or, in this case a pot pie with remainders from an enormous roast chicken from the previous night’s dinner. My favorite butter puff pastry is Dufour, which you can find at Surfas here in LA, but even Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets will work just fine in a pinch.

But back to this pot pie. I’ve mentioned my love affair with our local CSA—each Wednesday we pick up a bagful of farm fresh produce and then cook our way through it the rest of the week. That’s how some cavolo nero—aka lacinto or dinosaur kale—found its way into the pot pie. But really, you could use just about any veggies. Get creative!

Individual Chicken Pot Pies with Cavolo Nero

Serves 4

I love using sherry with mushrooms, but you can certainly substitute vermouth or white wine or even more chicken broth to suit your tastes.

4 slices bacon

small yellow onion, chopped

2 1/2 cups chopped and peeled carrots

small bunch kale, washed, deveined and chopped

4-5 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup dry sherry

2/3 cup crème fraîche (plus 1 additional tablespoon for brushing on pastry)

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

3 cups chopped roast chicken (if you don’t have leftovers on hand, buy a pre-roasted chicken from the supermarket and voila!)

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted

Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Chop bacon. Add onion to drippings in skillet; sauté until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add onion, carrot, kale and mushrooms, cook for several minutes.

Add broth and sherry; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and boil until veggies are almost tender and some liquid is reduced, about 8 minutes. Stir in 2/3 cup crème fraîche, chicken, thyme and bacon. Bring to simmer. Salt and pepper, to taste. Divide among four large ramekins.

Unfold puff pastry onto work surface; roll out to 12-inch square. Cut into 4 squares. Top filling in dishes with pastry; fold edges down onto rims of dish. Brush top of crusts with 1 tablespoon crème fraîche. Cut small X in center of crusts; pierce all over with fork.

Bake in a 450-degree oven until crusts are golden brown and filling is heated through, about 22 minutes.

Bootie Call

In Fashion on March 12, 2011 at 8:29 am

You can burn my house,

Steal my car,

Drink my liquor from an old fruitjar,

Do anything you want to but, honey,

Don’t step on my new suede boots!

Super excited about my new Chloe ankle boots—a Valentine’s present from Mr. Foodinista. But if theses don’t do it for you, here’s a little something to get your toes tapping this morning.



Soup + Wine = Sublime

In Drink, Food on March 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm

On Friday night while we waited for the grill to heat up for our main course, my husband and I sat down to start with a bowl of Moroccan Carrot Soup scented with toasted cumin and a spicy and fragrant glass of 2008 Breggo Gewurztraminer. I’m just in love with this wine, and love how well it plays with spice and the slight sweetness of the carrots and allspice. You would think it might be hard to get worked up over soup, especially one that is this simple to make. And really, when it comes to wine pairing, is soup the first thing that comes to mind? This duo makes the case. Convincingly.

Havana Nights

In Fashion on March 7, 2011 at 10:48 am

My son’s preschool gala is somewhat legendary. People go all out—and I mean ALL OUT. Last year’s theme was Mad Men, complete with lipstick-smudged water glasses on tables, champagne cocktails, a tranny Marilyn auctioneer and unbelievable vintage frocks. This year the edict is Havana Nights. I’m a believer in wearing something you’ll wear again (which is why I’m having a devil of a time getting Mr. Foodinista into theme), and so for my getup I hunted down via ebay this sold-out (internationally) Lanvin H&M red silk ruffle dress in Sofia, Bulgaria. It is winging its way stateside as we speak. Perhaps it’s not quite Cuban, but I thought the color, ruffles and fleur fit the bill.

For Mr. Foodinista, I’m feeling like any Guantanemo Bay riffs are too…political. (For the same reason, I walked away from a Junya Watanbe Comme des Garçons camouflage frock.) So, ruling out berets and fatigues, it looks like my best shot at getting him in theme is a simple black suit à la Michael Corleone in the “I know it was you Fredo” NYE scene in Godfather II (my all-time favorite flick). He won’t wear white, I’m afraid.

Some simple styling will surely bring our ensembles together, and so I turned to three of my fashion muses for inspiration.

Dana Dickey, writer, editor, mother and all-around it girl.

“YOU MUST WEAR RED LIPPY AND A BIG TRASHY FLOWER IN YOUR SLICKED BACK HAIR IN A CHIGNON. And little gelee-ed spit curls, si? A Cuban theme means go big or stay home. And big black patent heels or something.

I guess you can’t get Mr. Foodinista to put on a pair of short short gym shorts with piping and a muscle shirt and go as a gay prossie? Well maybe a funny string tie with the suit you have in mind for him, or am I thinking of Rango? Oh, dear.”

Monica Corcoran Harel, author of The Fashion File: Advice, Tips and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men, and wearer of the best dress in the room, always.

“Finally, an excuse to rent Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights with Diego Luna, Sela Ward and John Slattery! It’s set in the 50s, so you can glean retro inspiration there.

The red ruffled dress sounds perfect—high heels are a must. Maybe a faux mole on la cheeko? Come on! I second the red lips and super high heels—a T-strap.

I guess Mr. Foodinista won’t go as Tony Montana, but I think a stingy or snap brim straw would be cool if he opts for casual. (Go to Hollywood Hatters on Melrose.) Maybe you could go as Tony?”

Vincent Boucher, celebrity stylist and red carpet maestro

“Yes, a huge black flower either in your hair or at the waist. Center part and spit curls absolutely. If you don’t wear a flower then one of those big jeweled combs through your chignon.

Speaking of Fredo, can’t you get Mr. Foodinista to wear a white dinner jacket and the rest black? Alternatively, how about some kind of fancy bandleader jacket a la Ricky Babaloo Ricardo?”

Pizza with Beet Greens and Pancetta

In Food, Recipes on March 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm

We’ve been loving our CSA farm bag each week, and I’m loving the challenge of using everything in there right down to the greens. In fact, that’s the only part of the beet my husband will eat. And so I’m always on the search for new ways to deploy these flavorful greens.

Last week my sister and I were planning a tip of the cap to my mother’s Buffalo, NY, roots—an evening of pizza and Buffalo wings. Of course there’s no beating Bocce Club Pizza, but I didn’t have time to have one shipped cross-country (they deliver NATIONWIDE – best news ever). So, I thought parsimoniously, why not sauté up those beet greens with a little olive oil and garlic to throw on a pie?

My husband has mastered the art of pizza on the grill, so why I sautéed he grilled a round of Whole Foods pizza dough over medium high for two minutes on one side, then flipped and grilled for another 30 seconds or so. (There is also some technique involving the rotisserie burner that he’s being cagey about sharing—but do experiment, I promise it’s worth it!) Then he brings the dough inside and we put toppings on the less done side. For this version, I used spinach pesto for sauce topped with the sautéed beet greens, some grated leftover Appenzeller cheese from our Valentine’s Day fondue, and a few slices of pancetta. When Mr. Foodinista puts the pizza back on he uses indirect (or low) heat. Cook with the toppings until cheese is bubbling, another 5-10 minutes depending on heat of grill. My husband says it’s his favorite homemade pizza to date. So no, it’s no Bocce, but here’s what homemade pizza, blue cheese dressing and home-cooked wings can look like in LA.

Show a Little Love

In Drink on March 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm

By no means do I have the perfect marriage (mostly because I am one half of that equation). But I am married to the perfect partner, one who reminds me that it’s the little things that matter most. A couple Sundays ago before I had woken up—and after a particularly stressful week—my husband brewed a pot of Intelligentsia Tanzania Edewlweiss coffee and brought me a copy of the New York Times in bed. He then offered to take our two-year-old son to the Santa Monica Airport observation deck for a couple hours to watch the planes take off and land so I could have a quiet morning to myself. If I think about it, it has probably been, well, over two and a half years since I’ve enjoyed a Sunday morning that way. It was a wildly grand gesture—one that cost nothing and one that reminded me how lucky I am.