Hey hey hey! Welcome to my 4th of July Round-Up. Kramer and I are pretty excited for this weekend. We’ve both started new jobs recently and tried to hit the ground running in that regard, to being able to have a long weekend and get away to for a little bit is all too appealing. We rented a beach house with some friends in Asbury Park, so we’re off to Jersey this morning. If you’re in Canada, I hope you had a lovely Canada Day, but us Americans are extra lucky this year because the 4th lands on a Saturday. Sometimes it’ll be on a weekday and we’ll have a day off in the middle of the week, but then have to go back to work the next day, which cuts the fun short. Not this year, though! It’ll be three (or four, if you’re us) days of glorious sun, sand and surf. Theoretically. It’s not supposed to rain, but you know, shit happens. But not today! Not today. Either way, I wanted to gather up some of my favorite summery recipes for you to add to your arsenal for all of the barbecues and outdoor shindigs you’ll more than likely find yourself at all weekend. I’ve got cold salads, lots of veggies, some different grilled meat and fish recipes, a few cocktails and, of course, plenty of pies. Have a great holiday weekend and I’ll see you kids next week.
with crunchy tops
Our good friends Dave and Valerie have been in town part of last week and this week, so Kramer and I have been having a little too much fun the past few nights. I love having guests in town, though. Even if I stay out too late or have one more drink than I probably should, New York is a great place to have friends visit and there’s always something to do or see. You turn into NYC’s biggest fan when you’ve got company, whereas most days you curse this town and the horse it rode in on. But when friends are here? Oh, man. It’s all, “You’ve gotta see this!” or “You’ve gotta do that!” You want to take them to all of your favorite bars, restaurants and parks. You want them to try this awesome pizza place, or get a drink at this cool spot, or insist that they get breakfast at a very specific place. It’s fun. I wonder if we all get this way because we need to convince ourselves that despite all of the bullshit – despite the subway, despite how much we pay in rent each month, despite the weird weather – that we think New York is the best place in the world. And I mean, I guess I do believe that, even if I was 15 minutes late to work yesterday because my train skipped my stop entirely and went straight into Manhattan. At least I don’t have to go into Manhattan every day. I suppose I really love Brooklyn and I like Manhattan, but that’s mostly because I’m a homebody and I prefer staying on this side of the river. There’s a lot to love overall, though, and you’re never going to be bored. Plus, you don’t have to drive anywhere, so suck on that, LA! A quick aside to all of my friends that are moving to the place which we dare not speak its name: you’ll be back. You’ll all be back. You’ll miss the abuse. I guarantee it.
The first meeting of Fried Chicken Club a couple of weeks ago.
This recipe is an oldie but a goodie. I pulled it from the depths of this blog, from back when I was living in Arizona, believe it or not. The pictures were absolutely awful but the recipe looked solid, so I thought, let’s do this thing. And I’m glad I did. I hadn’t made muffins in a while, mostly because there are two of us in the apartment and muffin recipes generally make a quantity no couple should eat alone, so I sent these into the office with Kramer and I think his coworkers liked them (from what I’ve been told). A simple muffin is always welcomed with open arms. Who doesn’t like peanut butter and banana together? The tops were fluffy and crunchy, the insides were perfectly moist with a dense enough crumb to fill you up for a quick breakfast, and they weren’t so sweet that you feel like you’re eating dessert. That’s what makes an ideal muffin in my eyes – if I want a doughnut, I’ll get one, but a muffin shouldn’t feel like a pastry. If you’ve got a couple of extra bananas laying around, ripening past the point where they should be sitting on the counter, then this is the recipe for you. And if you don’t want to share, hey – these will freeze pretty well and you can pull one out on a morning where you’re short on time, let it thaw out while you drive or ride to work and enjoy your reward when you get to your desk.
with maple syrup
Berry season is maybe the time of year I’m most excited for. You can get apples, bananas, oranges and whatever else all year long, even sometimes strawberries, but blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are special and really only taste delicious in the summer time. You don’t bite into a strawberry in December and have to run to the sink to avoid having the juice that’s running down your arm drop onto the floor. You don’t pick through a basket of raspberries in February, looking for the one that’s a little orange and a little red because you like how it looks a little tie-dye and is therefore that much more fun to eat. And you barely even see blackberries or blueberries in the colder months – maybe in warmer states you’ll find them, but in New York, you will usually only see them start to peek out in April and by September, they’re gone until next year. The one thing I will miss about working in Manhattan is walking through the farmer’s market in the mornings and knowing what’s in season because you can smell it, and there’s nothing as fragrant and wonderful as the smell of summer berries. It almost makes up for the putrid subway smell. It’s almost like the berries were my reward for wading through the stank of the subway, and man, it does not get more polar opposite than summer time NYC subways and summer time berries. But let’s not focus on that, shall we? It’s berry season and I want them on my yogurt, spooned over fresh whipped cream and, more importantly, on top of a big stack of pancakes. Banana pancakes, if possible.
When ALOHA contacted me recently about partnering up for a recipe, at first I wasn’t sure. I don’t consider myself to be a super healthy blogger. I would never use the hashtag #fitness or #workbitch or whatever it is that people who live in Lululemon like to tag their photos. But, hey, I figured, why not try something new? They sent me some of their ALOHA smoothie packets and some of their coconut oil based chocolate. First of all, as someone who generally tries to watch her carbohydrate intake (see: starts crash dieting like an idiot a week before she knows she has to go to the beach), the chocolate was freaking awesome. It was low in sugar and low in carbs, but I still felt like I got to enjoy some rich, dark chocolate. Once I tried that, I was like, okay, maybe these ALOHA guys aren’t so bad after all. Then I got to the Berry Blend packet – I threw some in a cup of plain yogurt to see what it was all about. And I was sold. It was really good and it’s packed with lots of vitamins and nutrients and all that good stuff. I didn’t want to make a regular ol’ smoothie or anything with it, though, so I figured I’d meet the health and fitness world halfway and throw this good-for-you powder into my favorite breakfast food: pancakes. As previously stated, banana pancakes are my pancake of choice (surprisingly – nay, wrongly – Kramer prefers regular pancakes), so in some sliced bananas went. I of course had to use some fresh berries as garnish, because not only are they juicy and beautiful, but there’s nothing quite like juicy berries drenched in sweet maple syrup. It’s heavenly.
chewy + nutty
In true Sydney form, I’m sharing some photos that are a few weeks old. I don’t know where my time goes, but it definitely doesn’t go into editing photos as often as I’d like to. Besides, I screwed up something in my back and being on the couch in front of the computer for too long is really painful right now. I have appointment number two with the chiropractor this morning, and as much as I don’t really believe in that kind of thing, I hurt my back in a similar fashion a few years ago and the only thing that helped was having someone twist and crack my back in ways that would normally make me think someone was trying to kill me. Anyway, I really hope that today’s appointment sets things straight, as it were, because god dammit my back hurts. So, yeah, I haven’t been sitting in the fetal position with my laptop close to my face as much as I’d like to, and that’s why these photos from our breakfast sandwich crawl earlier this month are only going up now. Donny, once again, led a group of all-too-eager food bloggers on a breakfast sandwich tour of Brooklyn. This group included Stephanie, Summer, Phi, Molly, Talia, Hannah, Stella, Alana and a few others who popped in and out. We had a few breakfast sandwiches from Defonte’s and Court Street Grocers, pies from Four & Twenty Blackbirds and finished everything up with beers at a local bar. The more determined of our group continued on to Mile End Deli, but I left to go meet up with Kramer for a cocktail party followed by more drinks with friends. I definitely did not feel like eating the next day, though somehow I found the strength to grab some barbecue at Arrogant Swine. Life is hard, guys, but I do this for you. It’s all for you.
This month’s issue of Saveur magazine had a recipe for flaxseed caramels that I was totally intrigued by. I usually try to avoid making caramel at all costs, as I had an incident a few years back where I burned an entire pot of caramel, like all the sugar and cream turned totally black and I had to throw the actual pot away, so I think of that day every time I go to make caramel and it sends shivers down my spine. The key to making caramel, I guess, is to do this little thing called “watching the bubbling sugar and stirring it every so often”. Who knew? Either way, I set aside my caramel PTSD and got going on these caramels. They really are amazing. The crunchy, nutty flaxseeds add a depth that you wouldn’t normally get with just regular ol’ caramels, and it’s surprisingly delicious. Flaxseeds have a ton of other good stuff in them too, like fiber and vitamins and all that, so I guess you can lie to yourself and say that these are almost-healthy caramels (though we know that isn’t true). Wrap these bad boys up in a little wax paper and bring them to work – your coworkers will be as surprised by their amazingness as you were. Trust me here – I wouldn’t steer you wrong!
an easy summer marinade
A couple of weeks ago, our friend Lily texted us about something so awesome I don’t know if words can do it justice. She said that her parents would be in town soon, and that they were going to make authentic phở at The Ramen Lab in conjunction with Ichicoro Ramen. Then she asked if I wanted to come eat with a few close friends and family. Uh, duh. I’d had phở before, but I knew that this was going to be the real deal, especially after all the stories I’ve heard from Lily about all the time and effort that goes into her mom’s phở. I brought Donny along, of course, because I thought he’d appreciate it just as much. After standing around, waiting, watching her parents put the finishing touches on everything, smelling the broth simmering away and gazing at the fresh herbs laid out on the table, it was finally time to eat. I stood eagerly as Lily’s dad poured broth into each bowl, watching the bright red beef cook as soon as the liquid hit it. Lily’s dad served each of us, then taught us how to put different herbs and condiments into the soup, along with her mom’s amazing pickled vegetables. I can’t quite explain how good this phở is, so I’m sorry. It was incredible. The depth of flavor, the richness and the downright deliciousness is unmatched. I’m ruined for phở for the rest of my life, even in New York. Our friends, Alex and Anh, who also came with us, were equally blown away, and Anh is also Vietnamese. Lily’s mom even gave me a giant beef bone, filled with fatty marrow, which Kramer and I happily split and ate until our stomaches were more full than I can remember them being. I’m always going to remember this meal as one of the best in my life, and I’m so thankful to Lily and her parents for sharing it with us. This bowl of phở, more than anything, really showed me what it means to take food seriously, to cook with love and to be proud of what you’ve made. Lily’s mom knows her phở is the best, and that confidence comes across as soon as you take a bite.
In a total 180, I figured I’d share a recipe with you that, unlike Lily’s mom’s phở, takes almost no time at all to make. I try to pack lunch for Kramer and myself each day, mostly because I am cheap and hate spending $12 on a sandwich, but also because I try to be somewhat healthy in my day-to-day eating so I can go to town on a big plate of fried chicken or a sloppy egg sandwich on the weekends. I got a surprise box from my friends at Sir Kensington’s a month or so ago, filled with a few new products, but the one that stuck out to me was this dijonnaise. I love mayonnaise and I’m not afraid to share that fact about myself – mayo is delicious and if you don’t think so, you must have had some kind of bad mayo-related experience as a child to turn you away from one of my favorite condiments. And I feel bad for you. Dijonnaise is just dijon mustard and mayonnaise combined, and you can make it yourself at home by doing just that. I marinated chicken thighs in this mixture, along with some olive oil and lemon juice, then threw them under the broiler until they were just slightly charred in parts. If I had a grill, I’d prefer to cook them on that, but alas, I live in Williamsburg with no access to a (legal) outdoor space to do so. These thighs go perfectly on top of or alongside an arugula salad or maybe with some equally charred broccoli. Throw this into your recipe rotation and let go of any mayo hangups. It’s good to try new things!
with chocolate & sprinkles
So – it has arrived. Today is the first day of my new job. I’m starting as the social media producer for MUNCHIES at VICE. Obviously I’m really excited – the first day of anything is always a fun day. I’m a little nervous, as anyone would be when they start somewhere brand new, but my experience with everyone there so far has been awesome and I know today won’t be any different. Plus, I finally get to focus on food all day, every day. I don’t think it gets much better than that. I figured that these cookies would be a good way to transition into the next phase. I make some version of these same chocolate chip cookies more often than I probably should, but they are perfect and the easiest thing to make when I don’t have a ton of time on my hands but still want to present something impressive. But how do you improve on what I consider to be a nearly perfect cookie? With extra chocolate, sprinkles and M&Ms of course. When you’re celebrating, you should be allowed to get a little whimsical. Break out the colors and the funfetti and whatever else you have on hand. I do, in fact, have edible glitter in my cupboard, but I decided to show a little bit of restraint, so consider yourselves lucky. I brought these cookies to Business Insider on my last day of work to say goodbye, and they were gone in a heartbeat. I added just a little bit of corn syrup for texture, and I really think it went a long way, so if you’re not one of those people who’s afraid of living dangerously (oh corn syrup, you’re so misunderstood), go ahead and squeeze a few tablespoons in for an extra chewy texture – you’re already using candy and sprinkles, so why not? Even if you opt out of using corn syrup, though, these are still some seriously wonderful cookies. Chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, with tons of texture from the chocolate, M&Ms, sea salt and sprinkles – there’s no way you’ll be able to resist.
Brigitta and Kim enjoying blue skies on the ferry to Governors Island.
This past weekend, we went to Rockaway Beach, but a few weekends ago, we got a group of friends together to go to Governors Island. The island is like a giant Central Park in the middle of the water, but with more to do. There are food trucks, free history and art museums, and even hammocks. We try to get out there a few times every summer to have a picnic, hang out and do a lot of nothing. It’s great. My favorite part is that you get to take a ferry there, so it feels like this big trek but in reality it’s not far away at all. We lucked out the day we went – it wasn’t too hot, the sun was shining and the sky was crazy blue, as you can see from the photos. Kramer and I brought some cheese, meat and bread from The Bedford Cheese Shop, and everyone else brought along a little something, too. These cookies probably would have been an excellent addition to an already outstanding spread, but I guess they’ll have to wait until next time.
with almond streusel
Today is my last day at Business Insider. It’s super weird! I started working here two and a half years ago, fresh from being a research assistant at a mutual fund (previously an admin at a hedge fund) and not really sure what my next move should be. I just knew I had to get out of finance. It was a soul crushing place to be, where I didn’t feel respected or appreciated. I had reached out to a recruiter and I went on a few interviews, none of which worked out and I was feeling really depressed. Then my recruiter called me and said she’d like for me to go an interview at Business Insider. Initially I said no, believe it or not. I was so crushed from being rejected that I didn’t think I had the energy to do it all over again. I remember being in a cab with Kramer on our way back from dinner and sighing and just saying no, I can’t. She was persistent, though, so I ending up going. Twice. And miraculously, I got the job. I was thrilled, and rightfully so. It’s true that every job has it stressful aspects and there are always things that I wish I were better at, but overall my time as Business Insider has been fantastic. I’ve made countless new friends that I know will actually last outside of work, I’ve grown into my role and I think I’ve accomplished a lot. The company has nearly doubled since I’ve started, we’ve moved offices and announced some pretty great things, and I’ve gotten the chance to be there for all of that. I’ve even gotten to do a few food videos and run some Crepes of Wrath content on the site. I’m generally not an overly emotional person, and don’t think I’m going to start now, ya dummies, but I will say that I definitely feel at home at BI and I hope that they continue to do awesome things in the future. Please enjoy the few sentimental photos I’ve posted below and imagine some Wonder Years-type music playing in the background. I start my new gig on Monday and I couldn’t be more excited.
Friends at the company holiday party last year.
I bought about a bajillion berries two weekends ago, with grand plans to do something amazing with them, but of course, I ran out of time and then started stressing out about how they might go bad. In hindsight, I guess I could have just frozen them to use at a later date, but of course my pea brain didn’t think of that and instead, I decided to make this tequila-lime-berry crisp around 8pm on a Monday night while Kramer and I watched reruns of The Office. I got this recipe out of Andrew Carmellini’s book, which I think will now be a running theme as Kramer and I got a new bookshelf and my cookbooks are all now much more accessible than they were before. As you may or may not know, I love tequila, so I was pumped when I flipped to this page. I don’t think that the crisp is overwhelmingly tequila-y (that’s a word..), but the lime zest and juice helps give it a margarita-y (yep) vibe. It’s summer, and all I want are fresh, juicy berries, sunshine and margaritas, so I recommend eating this crisp at a picnic or barbecue, preferably with some whipped cream or ice cream if you can swing it. The sweet, seasonal fruit is tossed together with just the right amount of sugar to make it lip-smackingly good, then paired with a crunchy, cinnamon scented topping. It really is the perfect way to quickly and easily use up any berries in your fridge, and keep you from worrying that your beautiful berries will go bad.
with radishes & lime
So last week was the 2015 Saveur Blog Awards. And I didn’t win. Womp. But I’m not as sad as I anticipated being, because the events and panels were so much fun, and the people I met made me thrilled to even be in the same room with them. I’m not inherently competitive, but one would assume that a large group of people put together in a room who are all stacked against one another, hoping to win, would make for a somewhat uncomfortable situation. This, perhaps surprisingly, was not at all the case. I was initially dreading the welcome party and cocktail hour on Day One, but I walked in and was immediately greeted by big smiles and hugs. I, not really being the touchy feely type, was sort of taken aback by the way in which I was welcomed so quickly. A lot of the time, you go to these things and people are silent, making awkward chit-chat and having a hard time connecting, especially at online meet-ups, of which I am not too proud to admit that I have been to many (see: many, many, many). But not this time. I think we were all just stoked to be there, drinking and eating together, joking about how insane it is that we are all just a bunch of nerds who like to take pictures but are being honored in a way that makes us so incredibly happy. It sounds like I’m making it into this big, huge thing, but it kind of is! When anyone congratulates you on the hard work that you’ve put into something, it’s both humbling and exciting, and that feeling is only exacerbated when every which way you look, there’s another blogger or photographer whose work you admire. So, yeah, I lost, but I had a phenomenal time and met so many awesome people. Plus, this just means I get to [hopefully] go again next year, and you can look forward to my begging for you to vote for me in 2016. On top of all of the festivities, the week ended with a Breakfast Sandwich + Pie Crawl, hosted by the incomparable Donny Tsang, where bloggers from all over the country got together to eat sandwiches from Defonte’s and Court Street Grocers, pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds and more. All of that good food and drink helped to soften the blow (and my belly), so at least there’s that!
After eating all of that food, it’s time for some vegetables. I love a good broccoli salad, especially when the broccoli is slightly blackened. I discovered charred broccoli not too long ago, but it’s my favorite way to make every child’s least favorite veggie. You won’t find a steamed floret in my apartment. Crank that oven up to 500, rub your broccoli in some oil and seasonings, and burn, baby, burn. I mean, it’s not really burned, but it’s close. Just close enough to be delicious. Even better, you can make this ahead of time and serve it room temperature or chilled for a tasty summer side at a picnic or as a quick workday lunch that you can pair with anything from chicken breast, salmon or even a few hard boiled eggs, if you’re trying to offset a heavy week (like me). Add some chili flakes or maybe some paprika, finish with lemon instead of lime, but whatever you do, keep the radishes – they add a refreshing, peppery bite to compliment the deep flavors of the charred broccoli. Plus, check out those colors! Green and pink were meant to be together on a plate. Kramer and I happily ate this salad, cold and straight from our lunch containers, for three days straight, and if I can get Kramer to actually utter the words, “We should eat more broccoli,” then you know it’s got to be good.