Sunday, February 23, 2014

Brown Butter Bourbon Banana Bread

Ever since Alex bought me a stand mixer, I've been doing a lot of baking.  I've developed a patience for it and definitely an appetite for homemade baked goods.  I'm getting much better at not sitting on the floor in front of the oven waiting for cookies, cakes, and muffins to rise.  One thing hasn't changed though; the fewer the ingredients, the more likely it is that I'll make it. Let's just say, that mixer has gotten us into a lot of snacking trouble lately and I've gotten a lot better at finding baked goods recipes I'm willing to try. I've also fallen in love with browned butter--in all types of cookies and now in banana bread/ muffins.

Last weekend, I got out of bed early, walked into the kitchen and saw three spotty, sad looking bananas sitting at the top of the fruit bowl.  Sad looking bananas = b-a-n-a-n-a bread.  I'm a huge fan of banana bread because it's an easy, delicious breakfast and there's no better way to start the morning than with a warm, freshly baked banana muffin with a pat of Vermont Creamery Sea Salt butter.

I wish we still had more muffins...

I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen's Jacked-Up Banana Bread and used a splash of Grand Marnier instead of bourbon and I added the zest of one orange to add more of that fresh, citrus flavor.  

3 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup browned, salted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups flour

zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and Grand Marnier, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into your muffin tin. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and serve with a smack of butter, jam, or Grand Marnier and orange zest creme fraiche. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Thanks for standing by.  I know it's been a while and my writing is a little horribly rusty so please bare with me as I clumsily make my way through this post.  2013 was full of incredible surprises, meeting new people, and taking great trips--including a three week vacation through Italy (ITALY!).  Don't worry, I will indulge in the details and share a few photos later but I figured I'd ease my way back into this place with a short but sweet post about Monday night's dinner which was inspired by scrolling through photos from our trip to Italia.   

Alex and I have just started watching Break Bad.  And by "just started" I mean we've just started Season 4. I don't think I've ever been more captivated by a television show in my life.  I have a very short attention span and usually get antsy after sitting still for just an hour but there have been a handful of days when Alex and I binge watched 5 episodes.  You'd be proud.  

Needless to say, every night that we're home for dinner we plop our bottoms down on the rug in the living room and eat at the coffee table front row to the television.  

Monday night was no different.  I made a big pot of spaghetti with butternut squash, pancetta, fresh English peas, and a Malbec tomato sauce and when Alex got home, we twirled ourselves a heaping pile of pasta, pulled up some rug and plopped ourselves down in front of the television.  No time for pleasantries and romance when there's blue meth to attend to.

Though the pasta was inspired by my flipping through photos of our trip to Italy, what I really want to talk about is the brown sugar pear clafoutis I made for dessert.  I had come across the recipe while reading the Orangette a few days back and dogeared it for another day.  Monday was the day. I had a comice pear who's time was running out and I remembered this clafoutis recipe I had bookmarked the week before. This recipe is going to become a staple in our home starting now.  It's insanely easy and o so good.

I had never heard of a clafoutis before let alone make it!  I had no idea what to expect.  What came  out of the oven was a fluffy, golden souffle that perfumed of sweet vanilla and pear. We let it cool on a wire rack as and once it cooled, Alex and I dove right in.

The clafoutis was smooth, custard-like, and it tasted of caramel.  I have to agree with Molly though, it is much better the next day once the custard has really set.

Brown Sugar Pear Clafoutis
Butter, for greasing the pan
About 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, for dusting the pan
1 large ripe pear
4 large eggs
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9 ½-inch pie plate and dust it lightly with granulated sugar. Shake out any excess.

Peel and core the pear, and slice it into roughly 1/4in.  Arrange them on the bottom of the prepared pan.

In the jar of a blender, combine the milk through flour. Blend on high speed for 1 minute (stopping once, if needed, to scrape down any flour that may stick to the sides of the jar). Pour the batter over the pears.

Bake until the custard is puffed and golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. The custard will deflate quite a bit as it cools.

Serve at room temperature or chilled. 

Yield: 6 servings

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Change of Heart

Hello world!  Boy, has time just flown by.  I'm a little embarrassed to say that I've been gone for SO long that navigating the new blogger dashboard took a good five minutes.  I've missed writing.  That seems to be the thing that always brings me back.  Jotting down my thoughts and sharing my experiences is such a great getaway.  No matter how crazy the world around me gets, I will always find serenity in simply sitting down and writing.

All the way back in April, a girl friend and I visited New York--her first trip and my third.  She has this fascination with the Big Apple; a fascination that I did not share.  Ever since my very first trip in middle school, I've always said that I could not see myself living there.  I got to stand in Times Square, navigate my way through the TRL crowd  (wow, TRL, do you remember that?) and I still wasn't impressed.  Even after my second trip shopping in Soho, visiting the very first Dean & Deluca (a VERY big deal to me at the time), eating at Michelin star rated restaurants, and hitting all the New York classic food spots; I was not convinced that the chichi uptown life was for me.  The people were not as friendly as those in San Francisco, the streets were crowded, and it was just one huge, stuffy concrete jungle--where was the allure in that?

First Breakfast in NYC

I know you see where I'm headed.  This past April, I fell in love.  You got me, New York.  You got me pretty damn good.  I loved taking the subway.  I loved walking everywhere until my feet were sore and my legs were tired.  I loved the food, the people, the culture, the lack of sleep, the shopping, the Mets vs. Giants game, the pastrami fries at the game, the speakeasys...OH THE SPEAKEASYS.  Even as it poured rain for 8 hours straight while I was in a sleeveless shirt without an umbrella, I loved New York.  I feel like such a sucker, but I miss New York everyday.  Perhaps it's because Sarah and I lived like locals instead of tourists.  No plans other than to eat and shop.  No sightseeing.  No schedule.  Just two young women armed with a cell phone subway app and a desire to explore every burrow of New York.  By the way, if you're planning on visiting New York and have no clue of what the subway system is like, download NYC Mate.  It became my best friend on this trip.  

We stayed in Queens with Sarah's cousin and took the subway to the City every morning and navigated our way around the subway with our poor sense of direction. And when I say "poor" it's a complete and total understatement. Although, I have to admit, in hindsight half the fun was getting lost.  I can't tell you how many times we waited for a subway going in the wrong direction and then turned around to find that across the way was the platform for the correct subway.  We must have looked like such idiots sprinting/staggering our way back up the stairs, across the street and back down to the correct platform.  Like I said, hilarious in hindsight.

Central Park

On my first trip to New York with my family, we came during summer vacation.  Huge mistake.  It was humid and all I wanted to do was tuck away in a cafe or restaurant to avoid the heat.  The second time I was in New York, was for my birthday in early March.  It was cold, but nice.  The idea of strolling around Central Park in a huge peacoat, scarf, and boots while the snow melted was great...that is until the wind blew and I could no longer feel my face.  But this time was perfect!  It was warm (when it didn't rain), the trees were lush and every sign of Spring was present.  

Katz Deli

Sometimes I have dreams about their pastrami and pickles.  Thick cuts of juicy, perfectly seasoned pastrami, on soft rye bread with mustard...lots of mustard! I have yet to find a Jewish Delicatessen on the west coast that does it as well as Katz.

A Random Cupcake Find

Strolling the Upper East Side

I could live in one of these brownstones.  How many times have you heard a young woman say that? If I had the money, of course.  


A suggestion by Paul Ferrari.  He said that the pizza here is extremely close in style to the ones in Naples.  So, naturally, I dragged Sarah with me to see for ourselves.  Paul told me that they used to make a certain amount of dough per day from a special, imported Type 00 flour from Italy which gave the cracker thin crust a nutty and sweet flavor and when they ran out of dough, they closed for the rest of the day. People used to line up for hours in the snow to have a taste of the pie.  I don't think they operate the same way anymore but the pizza was still delightful. 


I was reminded by a friend of mine, a west coast transplant, that it's one word...not two. Good looking out, Ryan!  The Meatpacking district is probably one of my favorite parts of town.  I absolutely love the stone paths and as I wander the streets, I like to imagine what it must have been like back in the day when it was heavily industrial and rugged.  

The High

What a great idea!  The High is an old subway line turned outdoor park overlooking the streets of the Meatpacking District.  Gorgeous!  I can see myself bringing a book up there just to lounge and read all day.  If only I lived in New York...

Amazing Aussie Style Pies in St. Mark's Square

After dinner at Kenka with our friend Jason, we put ourselves on the waitlist for Please Don't Tell and sat down on an outdoor bench at the little shop next door.  We were reading the a-frame chalkboard which highlighted the homemade sodas of the day and I was intrigued but way too full to try one.  Then out comes a half drunk guy with an Australian accent raving about the pies, "The pies in here are so good!  Every time I visit from Australia I have to come.  AND I order some to ship home."  Wait. What? You're from Australia and you ship Australian-American pies from New York back to Australia?  Ok, I'm sold. 

Fresh Guinness Steak pie & elderberry soda

Shh...Please Don't Tell.  

My first New York Speakeasy.  I think this is really what made me fall in love--the whole "drinking during the Prohibition" illusion was so much fun.

Pardon the blurry picture.  It was dark and this was probably two (or four) slammin' drinks in...

A cute breakfast place the next morning 

This place had the most amazing complementary carrot cake, pineapple chutney, and pumpkin seed butter.  I can't remember the name of this cafe for the life of me so I have to apologize for that. But it was well worth the hour wait and when I do find out what it's called, I will surely update this post!


What a ridiculously long wait.  We put our names down at 11am and one candy shop, 8 blocks of shopping,  2 art gallery browsings, a dozen and a half Crate & Barrel living room furniture testings later we returned back to Serendipity for a 15 minute wait.  Originally, we had decided to share the frozen hot chocolate, but after all that, we agreed that we earned our own.  The verdict: Was the massive glass goblet of frozen hot chocolate worth the wait?  Yep. 


I hadn't heard a thing about this place until Sarah told me her sister recommended it.  Really, ramen in New York?  I can eat ramen anywhere...
Just smack me now.  Ippudo was probably one of the best meals we had in New York--for the food and the company.  The most memorable were the pork buns which were served on fluffy Peking duck style steamed buns and are to die for.  Savory and fatty pork belly with a nice bite from the green onions; I could have devoured an order of these on my own!  


If heaven were a place on earth, it would be Eataly.  Thank you wealthy, foodie, fancy Italians for helping make America a little bit better.  Imported torrone, honey, jams, chocolates, coffee, every cut of pasta known to name it they've got it!  If A.G. Ferrari Foods were half the size of Eataly, I would be there everyday simply because I would not be able to take in all the products and experiences in one day.  

Rubin Museum of Art

Sarah and I stumbled upon this while thrift shopping in the pouring rain (again, sans umbrella).  Talk about a gem!  This was probably one of the greatest highlights of the trip. 


On my second trip to New York, I tried a sausage and mushroom pizza at Lombardi's.  Looking back I think we should have tried the Magherita since that is the holy grail, right?  
Grimaldi's has moved to a larger building on the street corner of the same block.  I don't know if it's affected the quality of the pizza and truth be told, I don't care.  It was SO damn good.  Sweet tomato sauce, perfectly melted fresh mozzarella, crisp, thin, nutty-sweet crust. Mind-blown.  Thank you Grimaldi's for rocking my world. 

The Diner

I loved Booklyn.  The artisan cheese shops, the little clothing stores with tons of clothing pieces which I could not afford, and of course what topped off the 2nd subway ride in one day to Brooklyn was The Diner.  Sarah's cousin, David said there was a great restaurant in Brooklyn that Anthony Bourdain...AH! say no more, David.  We're going. 
This was the fanciest meal we had in New York and it was surprisingly affordable. Like I said, we lived more like the locals.  The restaurant is extremely discreet and looks, well, like an old school diner.  The menu changes everyday based on what's available at the market.  No menus.  After ordering a round of incredibly stiff drinks, the waitress scooted in the booth right next to David and began scribbling the night's menu on the butcher paper tablecloth.  How cool is that? I highly suggest you go if you find yourself in Brooklyn.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

I haven't found much time for cooking lately, let alone blogging, which is why I've been away for so long.  But I have something that's very news worthy! Well, two things, one of which I will share immediately (because it just can't wait!) and the other...possibly tomorrow? 

Here it is. I did it.  I finally did it.  I made jam!  Now this may not be a big deal for those of you who 1) Are avid jam makers and really don't see the big deal about boiling down fruit and sugar & 2) Are not as obsessed with fruit preserves and jam as I am.  I know I've been yammering on and on for almost a year  about how much I wanted to try canning but was holding out until summer when there is an abundance of fruit.  So here it is: Summer.  I still had my reservations, the fear of jam not setting and the jar sterilization process was almost enough to make me run sprint the other way.  But the moment I walked into the grocery store and saw a sale on ruby red strawberries, I really didn't have a choice but to buck up and just do it.   

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about jam and I confessed something that I had never really realized about myself.  I am a fruit preserve, conserve, jam, jelly, you-name-it hoarder.  I am.  Whenever I'm at the farmer's market or at a specialty food store and I find jars of what is essentially fruit spread I MUST have it.  Now that's not really where the problem is.  It's that when I bring the jars home, I don't have the heart to open them and this is especially true if it's an uncommon or interesting flavor of jam.  Meyer lemon?  Two, please.  Lavender Peach? Absolutely.  Nectarine Plum? YES. 
See the problem? 

Though, I can't possibly be the only one with this addiction. 

Anyways, I won't know for sure if my rookie jam excursion was a success or not until morning when it has fully cooled and (hopefully) set, but my fingers are crossed.  

I've had my sights set on making jam every since I came across Food In Jars--it's a really good read if you're interested in canning and preserving.  I followed one of her recipes for an "Urban Preserving" portion of strawberry and vanilla jam.  I didn't have the heart to use vanilla bean on my first go around so I decided to make the classic combination of strawberry and rhubarb while still following the general guidelines for her recipe. 

Here it is:

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam

3/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Wash, hull, and chop the strawberries.  Toss them in 1 cup of sugar and allow them to macerate for at least 3 hours.  

While you prepare/ sterilize the jars, pour the macerated strawberries into a pot and add the remaining cup of sugar and bring to boil (about 5 minutes).  Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the jam reaches 220 degrees (this is if you're at sea level).  During the last five minutes of cooking, add the lemon zest and the juice.

Once the jars have been prepared, remove from heat and pour the jam into your jars.  Wipe the rim, top with the rings and the lid and place in your canner for 10 minutes.

Let them cool on a towel lined counter top. Once cooled, remove the rings and check the seal.
Store the sealed jars in a cool, dark place.

Makes about two cups of jam.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


This past Sunday I did what I haven't done in a while: walk to the grocery store and stock up on foods for the day.

I bought radishes and assembled a little morning snack of radishes, butter, and sea salt on wheat.  Normally, I like the combination on a fresh French baguette, but it just seemed like a waste of a one mile walk to and from the grocery store if I immediately loaded up on a loaf of bread...although, I guess globs of Frentel butter isn't an ideal after walk ingredient either...


The main reason I dragged myself out of bed early Sunday morning was to grocery shop for ingredients for a dish that I've been longing to make for a while now.

A few months back I watched a re-run of Avec Eric with Eric Ripert where he created his version of ratatouille.  I'm a huge fan of ratatouille (both the movie and the dish...though I've only made the dish once in college) and it's simplicity--I like to think of it as the ideal Autumn lunch.

What really intrigued me about Ripert's ratatouille was that after the vegetables were prepared, he loaded ladle-fulls into coquettes, made a little nest in the center, and cracked two eggs into the crater.  Genius. 

This is my variation on Ripert's recipe.  Although there's absolutely nothing wrong with his, I made my ratatouille based on what was available at the store.  In case you're interested, here is his recipe.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into ½-inch dice
2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 tablespoon tomato paste
5 roma tomatoes, cut into ½-inch dice
2 small zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice
1 yellow squash, cut into  ½-inch dice
2 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
8 eggs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
¼ cup julienned fresh basil
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, red pepper, and garlic to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, adding water as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This dish is fantastic the next day so don't be afraid to make it ahead of time.  It's definitely one of those dishes that gets better overnight when all the flavors marry.

Preheat oven to broil.

If the ratatouille was done ahead and kept cold, gently re-warm over medium heat. Spoon about ½ cup of the ratatouille into a cocotte, crack 2 eggs on top of the ratatouille and place the cocottes in the broiler and cook until the egg whites are just barely set, about 5 minutes; serve hot with Parmesan and basil on top.  Serve with crusty bread.

Makes 4 servings.

For the bread:
Cut a fresh baguette into 1 inch slices.  Line them up on a shallow rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and broil on high for a minute or until the bread becomes golden.  (You really have to be careful with this part.  From experience, your toasts can go from golden brown to burnt in 0.05 seconds) Remove the toasts from the broiler.  Peel a clove of garlic and cut off one end.  Rub the garlic on the toasts for the perfect garlic bread.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I've been in blog hibernation for the last few months.  Not reading blogs, not updating my own blog...all not intentional.  Today, I stumbled across Food in Jars again which led me to pull up Orangette and reading back on posts that I've missed, I realize exactly how long I've been away.

I kicked of 2011 obsessed with blogs and blogging, don't get me wrong, I'm still in love with them, but something changed.  I've been picking up books from my bookshelf--works that I purchased over my college years, perused, but never really read--and now I'm beginning to appreciate them.  More and more I find myself flirting with the idea of writing a book, although I don't know if I'm disciplined enough to do so, nor do I think I have the time. But, it's always fun to think about.  And I have to admit that as I type, I'm realizing how much I have missed writing.

This past weekend my family and I took a mini road trip to Carmel--God was it gorgeous.  After four years of engagement, my cousin and her fiance got married on a beautiful Carmel beach (Congrats Jamie & Joe!!).  I have to admit, it makes me want to plan a wedding...but what girl doesn't go through spastic moments of wanting to plan her dream wedding?  

It was nice to finally catch up with family that I haven't seen in years.  It's kind of awesome how even with the distance and the lost time we still talk, get along, and act out (parents and cousins alike) like we've never been apart--we're all just older now.  Watching all the parents dance to Ryan Tedder & Pit Bull was just a riot!  I loved every moment of it and I can't hardly wait to get a copy of the wedding DVD to relive the dance floor.


Corn and Crab Chowder

I got the Halibut, my mom got the Lamb, and my dad got the Filet Mignon.  Just like any family of food lovers, we then swapped a bite of each.

Wedding Cake!

To say the least, it was a fantastic weekend.  The food at the wedding was amazing, my cousin looked gorgeous and so happy, and it was so much fun spending the weekend wining and dining with family.  Not to mention, Carmel is one of the cutest little towns that I've ever been to.

I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Green Tomato Jam

I've come to the sad realization that my curiosities have missed canning season and my hopes of stocking up on jars upon jars of colorful jam to have through fall and winter have been smushed.

But, the good news is that I've finally got the kahunas to open up that jar of green tomato jam that I've been saving for who-knows-what.  I just really love the story behind this particular jam and all the confettura that come from this monastery just outside of Rome.  Made by Trappist nuns, their jams are sweet and capture the essence of the starring fruit--in this case, green tomatoes.

I've been using this sweet, sweet jam on everything from buttered toast, to dolloped on top of cheese, to grilled poultry--it's fantastic on all the previously stated and I'm in the process of discovering more tasty vehicles for this crazy colored jam.

If you ever come across this gem, I suggest you snatch up a jar.  In fact, I have just the place for you to get your hands on this GREEN TOMATO JAM.  With Thanksgiving coming up, I'm thinking of using this a replacement for cranberry sauce.  Doesn't sound to shabby, huh?

Rain Coast Crisps, Asiago, Speck, bruschetta toasts, and green tomato jam.