Saturday, July 25, 2009


There are few things that make me as excited and happy as our annual trip to Cape Cod. One thing that does is the highly involved, detailed prep for this trip. I took over coordination a couple years ago, and each year am able to get what some might call the soothe factor down to even more of a science. I obsess and streamline and focus... and then once we arrive, I get to totally unwind and enjoy the trip even more than the year before. Pure obsessive happiness!

This year, with the more than a little help of several friends (including Piera) the wine and food element is being taken to new heights. Here is a rundown of the 6 night menu:

Night 1, Bahn Mi Grill:
Pork and shrimp Vietnamese sandwiches, green salad, ice cold Bia Saigon beer

Night 2, Peace in the Middle East Feast:
Lamb kebab, cous cous salad, grilled vegetables, Middle Eastern rice, Mediterranean salad

Night 3, Italian Family Style:
Homemade orecchiette pasta with fresh tomato sauce, green salad, followed by lemon squares

Night 4, A Taste of Mexico:
Fish tacos with Mexican crema and pickled onions, salad with avo
cado dressing, guacamole and chips, Tecate bloody marys

Night 5, Garden Bounty:
Warm shrimp salad, grilled steak and sausages, grilled vegetables and corn followed by blueberry and raspberry pie

Night 6, French Picnic:
French potato salad, spinach salad with peas and mint, chicken salad followed by peach cobbler

And the wine list for the week:
Albarino Martin Codax 2008, Spain
Arregi Txakoli 2008, Spain (a type of wine I have never tried but selected on a tip from the taste makers over at ARL)
Cotes du Rhone Rose Dom de la Bastide 2008, France
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2007, France
Rose de Loire La Pree Vinette 2008, France
Gruner Veltliner Falkensteiner Rieden 2009, Austria
Chateau de Fesles Cabernet Franc 2006, France (we'll be enjoying it chilled!)
Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2008, Italy
Scu Do Prosecco Brut, Italy

Then there is breakfast and lunch! Lots of pictures and recipes to come upon return!

Friday, July 24, 2009


I journeyed to the Pitchfork festival in Chicago this weekend. I was very excited because I had never been to the windy city, and as a student of design, an urban studies hobbyist, and an architecture history enthusiast, I was psyched. We didn't have a ton of time, but we made the most of it (I dragged my man all over town: up the Sears Tower, to Millennium Park and the new addition to the Art Institute, along the lakefront, etc.). We saw a great exhibit at the MOCA, had some good food, and saw the sights. The festival was good fun too... and of course, we made a pilgrimage to the de facto seat of global power.

Mies van der Rohe is very big in Chi-town. It's an architectural high modernist mecca.
One thing I found interesting was, despite the metropolitan aura of the city, with its great collection of 19th and 20th century architectural masterpieces, fantastic museums, and strong history of urban planning... Chicago is still, underneath, a very gritty, very American town. Here, just below Renzo Piano's glorious new addition to the Museum of the Art Institute, run the freight tracks.

On the other hand, Chicago is perhaps the greenest large city in America. All new construction over a certain size must incorporate green roof as part of an effort to control runoff and urban heat island effect.

We went to the newest attraction at the Sears Tower, which is totally unnatural and terrifying and awesome. Read more here if you like.

Oz/ power nexus of the universe

Thursday, July 16, 2009


As I mentioned, we cooked a lot in Maine. My good friend Piera is one of the best cooks I know (she also happens to be style director of Refinery 29-- a fabulous web site without which I would be totally lost when it comes to navigating the tricky waters of finding one's own personal style). While I merely make "good tasting dishes" by closely following all of the cook book's directions, Piera cooks with intuition. I really admire this. I have aspirations to become like this. Here is her family recipe for grilled pizza. More recipes from the treasure vault that is Piera's mind coming soon, I hope!

Fresh Grilled Pizza Pie

Let pizza dough rise in a bowl with clean dishcloth covering it till it's 3x original size.
[we purchased ready made dough at the market... frozen or fresh works]

olive oil in cast iron pan, add 3-4 crushed garlic cloves, when golden add 1 can crushed tomatoes, splash of red wine, pinch oregano...simmer until sauce is done (don't know how to describe when it's done)...add salt & pepper to taste.

When dough has risen, pick it up and stretch while turning dough (let gravity help to achieve a thin round shape). Put it down and knead with heels of hand until it's thin and even (sides will be thicker). Coat with thin layer of olive oil, sprinkle bottom with cornmeal.

Place on grill cornmeal side up. Cook for 2-3 minutes moving occasionally on grill to avoid sticking. It will start to bubble. Flip pizza and cook cornmeal side 1-2 minutes.

Remove from grill. Spread with thin layer of sauce, thin slices fresh mozzerella, thin slices fresh tomatoes, thin slices garlic, and torn fresh basil (optional, sprinkle with parmesan), and salt & pepper.

Place pizza back on grill and close top...cook another few minutes until toppings are warmed and bottom is a little charred


You can experiment with toppings but they need to be pre cooked since they only get warmed in final step.

Monday, July 13, 2009


There is something truly special about coastal New England in summer. Hot sun meets cool ocean air, sailboats, seafood, weather beaten farmhouses, vegetables in season... I love it! I remember the first time I came from California to the northeast (in the summer, of course-- winter remained an abstract concept until I was 18). My family visited Boston and New Hampshire and it all seemed totally cinematic-- almost too charming to be real. Now that I have been on the east coast for so long, it doesn't consistently hold the same powerful allure it did then... except perhaps in Maine. In Maine (and some other select areas of the New English coast) you can sometimes feel like you've stepped into the way life ought to be.

See? Charming!

Driftwood encampments

Chihuahua predator

And a final word on lobster rolls. We ate several of them, at a couple different places. We realized we are used to a fancier lobster roll than the more authentico rolls up in Maine. Here at Five Islands Lobster Co., it was literally just lobster plus a roll with (maybe?) a tiny touch of mayo and a bit of lettuce. It was delicious, but I am ashamed to say, I think the roll at Mary's Fish Camp is better (I know, I know... sorry!)


Maine is fantastic. It is also part of the reason so much time has passed since the last post. With perfect June weather finally arriving in July, we headed up to Portland INTERNATIONAL JETPORT (?) which was a ghost town-- strange for summertime, I thought. The flight was so brief I wasn't even able to finish this touching special on Animal Planet before we landed (I highly recommend flying over the 6+ hour drive from NY). After a little car trip north from the jetport, we were sipping wine with friends on a big, beautiful deck under pine trees and the sky. A brief rundown: lobster rolls, windswept beaches, icy ocean toe dips, driftwood encampments, sunbathing on the deck, corralling the dog to prevent him from being snatched by an Osprey, naps and best of all lots and lots of cooking... but more on that later.

Friday, July 3, 2009


My visits to the green market have become more common with advanced planning and effort. I try to plan a menu of sorts for half the week, finding recipes for what I know is in season and available at the market (and finding the occasional surprise that can shift my plans in a really wonderful way). Sometimes, however, a dinner invitation or party or something will come up, leaving beautiful vegetables to wilt or fresh baked bread to get hard. When this happens, I discovered a great recipe that uses less than fresh items and turns them into a delicious Italian "peasant" soup: Ribollita.

(adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home)

1/2 pound dried white beans, like cannellini
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 pound smoked bacon
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
4 tablespoons minced garlic
1 28oz can plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
4 cups coarsely chopped kale
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
6 cups chicken stock
4 cups stale bread cubes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

In a large bowl cover beans with water, with 1" of extra water, soak in fridge overnight. Drain beans, then place in a large pot with 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes. Add a bit of salt and simmer for 15 more minutes. Take off heat and set aside (don't drain the beans yet).

In a large stockpot, cook bacon (I was lucky enough to get mine at Loveless Cafe in Nashville- super smokey!) and onions over low heat for 10 minutes. Add carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and puree, kale, and basil and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain the beans, but save the cooking liquid. Puree half the beans with a little of their liquid in the food processor. Add to the stockpot along with remaining whole beans. Pour two cups of the bean cooking liquid and six cups of chicken broth into the stockpot. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

Add bread cubes to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve in large bowls, grate lots of Parmesan on top and drizzle with olive oil. Serves 6-8 and is even better as a left over the next day. Add some more stock or water if it gets too thick after being stored.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


While we are able to grow some vegtables on our little roof garden, the majority of the space is taken up with flowers. This is because my man likes pretty flowers, and I like to keep my man happy... domestic god that I am.

Anyway, I was able to grow carrots and peas this year, and I hope to really get Michelle Obama about the whole thing next year and do a real vegetable garden. Our friend Gigi takes classes on urban rooftop gardening and composting (more about that later) so I will be getting tips from her.

Then there is this. Another hopeful and interesting developement that, while
not great because it is still suburban sprawl and a bit of a marketing ploy, is better than buying food from Associated trucked 1000 miles and genetically engineered not to spoil on the way, or even from Whole Foods. I am amazed how much of their produce is flown in from Peru or Mexico or New Zealand (!).

Here are some more shots from the garden.

Flowers, for those who like them.