Spiced Molasses Cookies

cinnamon, ginger & cloves

I usually make these cookies once a year, but I think I got distracted last year. It’s already the end of October, if you can believe it. It will be November on Saturday. It’s madness. I figured that I’d get these cookies made straight away before the holidays tear me apart and leave me for dead. It’s always good to be prepared. I love these cookies. I have a soft, doughy spot in my heart for molasses. I know that some people find it to be too strong, but I don’t believe in such a thing. I love how robust it is, and how it will immediately put you into the spirit of the season. Even though I generally hate anything involving being forced into feeling cheerful and whatnot, these cookies will do the trick and I don’t hate them for it. After biting into one of these, chewy on the inside, crunchy on the outside from being rolled in sugar, I’m just going to sink into a deep pool of molasses and the holiday season take me over. It’s not all so bad – Thanksgiving is next, which is my favorite holiday of all, so there’s that to look forward to! I just hate all of the ruckus and running around and buying, buying, buying that comes with the season. I need to make a truce with all of the people that I love that we don’t need to get each other gifts. I live in a 650 square foot apartment and I have no more room for “stuff”. I already have a lightsaber, a True Detective painting and a KitchenAid mixer. What else could a girl ask for? Holiday anxiety aside, these cookies are awesome and you should make them.

spiced molasses cookies

I took these photos a few weeks ago when our friends Adrian and Kelly were visiting from Phoenix. We decided to visit Prospect Park on day, as Kramer and I love it and think it’s much more fun for wandering around than Central Park. It seems more peaceful to me. We started at Grand Army Plaza, grabbed a coffee from one of the food trucks, and just walked around for a few hours. The day couldn’t have been more beautiful – perfectly sunny, cool but not cold – so I was happy we got to show our friends the best that Brooklyn had to offer. We always seem to take guests to Prospect Park, from friends to parents, because it’s an amazing place to spend an afternoon. I’d like to take at least one more trip back before winter rears its ugly head. There’s nothing more beautiful than a park full of changing leaves, don’t you think? Especially if you get to the park in time to find a cozy, quiet spot to enjoy yourself without frisbees flying over your head or junior soccer leagues lobbing soccer balls all over the place. I’ll allow dogs, though. I’m always happy to dog watch in the park. Maybe with some of these cookies?

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Cauliflower Fried Rice

bacon optional

Kramer and I had a fantastic weekend. We were busy, but not too busy, so I feel like we did get out of the house and whatnot but I’m not exhausted this morning, which is sometimes a feeling I know all too well. On Friday night, we had dinner with our friends Emily and Wesley at Meadowsweet in Williamsburg – it was beyond good. We had scallops with mushrooms, a poached egg with more buttery, wild mushrooms, charred octopus, swordfish with cauliflower, a perfectly cooked pork chop with beans and bacon, and just the right amount of bloody steak with some kind of potato puree. Everything, from cocktails to bread and butter, was superb. After dinner, Kramer and I met up with our friend Danny and Justin, who plans to move to the city before the year’s end, for a night cap before heading home. Kramer and I finished off a bottle of wine and binged on The Mindy Project before calling it a night. We’ve been re-watching Mindy and it is just so unbelievably funny.

Cauliflower Fried RiceThe Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade [follow me on Instagram!].

On Saturday, I salt brined a turkey for a future Thanksgiving post, then we made our way into the city to meet with a group of friends at the annual Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade. It was basically the best day of my life. There were dogs everywhere, and not only were they adorable, but they were dressed in costumes. You know, like they thought they were people. It was amazing and I could hardly contain my excitement. I turned into a 5 year old, essentially, squealing and freaking out at every puppy-filled turn. We stopped for a quick drink afterward, then headed to TriBeCa to see our friend Morgan screen his new web series, followed by, of course, celebratory drinks and pizza. On Sunday, Kramer and I stayed in, but I had a ton to do. I always forget how exhausting making and carving a turkey can be, but I’ve got a lovely post to share with you soon, plus lunch for the week! I also made a giant pan of cornbread stuffing which I will also share soon. It’s time to get ready for the big event, people! Thanksgiving is close at hand.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Since the year’s big eating season is upon us, if you’re like me, you try to go easy on the rich foods during the week so you can save your calories for the indulgent gatherings to come. I had read that cauliflower has the magical ability to turn into a rice-like substitute when pulsed in a food processor, but I am apparently an idiot because it took me this long to try it out. The result is insane. You really will not miss the actual rice in this fried rice dish. Kramer and I loved it. I hadn’t had fried rice in forever, because while I do love it, I’d rather save the carbs for a big hunk of bread with butter or a slice of pie. Now that I know it’s possible to pulse cauliflower into “rice”, I can’t wait to try out all of the other wonderful possibilities. I’ve read that you can use it in almost anything that you’d use rice in, from a raw tabbouleh salad to simple buttered cous-cous to rice to eat with stir-fried veggies or proteins. This fried rice is no different and is ready in under an hour, plus it keeps well all week, so you’ve got lunch ready to go! I dare you to make this, even if you’re a skeptic – it’ll change your outlook on what low-carb food can be.

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Mushroom Ragout

with fresh herbs

Kramer and I love mushrooms. We will order just about anything when we’re out at restaurant if mushrooms are in the dish. We get excited when we see new and interesting mushrooms at the store, and we’ll even take the time on the occasional morning to make mushrooms to eat with eggs for breakfast. There’s nothing quite like buttery, slowly sautéed mushrooms with just a pinch of fresh herbs and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. I can honestly taste them as I’m writing this. So, last weekend, when I was trying to find inspiration for something to cook, a recipe for mushroom ragout caught my eye. The original recipe suggests using a combination of dried porcinis and wild mushrooms, which sounds insanely delicious, but if you aren’t planning on spending $50 on this dish (which, hey, if you feel like it, go nuts), then you can go my route and make a rich, earthy mushroom ragout with shitakes and button mushrooms. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Mushroom RagoutMy week in Instagram: The Commodore, coffee and pork rinds.

The original author for this recipe suggests serving this as gravy at Thanksgiving, which sounds genius to me when you take into account how much I adore mushrooms, but there are a variety of uses for this ragout. This recipe makes a decent sized batch, so you could add some red sauce and serve it over pasta, you could simply serve it as a side dish, or use it as a topping for burgers, which I did. I also used it to put together a quick weeknight dinner by halving a delicata squash and stuffing it with this ragout. It was excellent and I highly recommend doing the same. I might even toss it with some cous-cous or add some roasted potatoes for a meal all on its own. Whatever you do with it, a mushroom ragout is a hearty, satisfying alternative or compliment to any meat variation. I’m absolutely going to making this all season long.

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Maple Apple Upside-Down Cake

with maple drizzle

Do you remember the day when you learned that you were no longer in college and alcohol was no longer your friend? I was very rudely reminded of this fact over the weekend. I went out with some new friends on Saturday night and, well, we may have had a couple of extra drinks. Pair that with the fact that I had two glasses of white wine in the afternoon because it was such a lovely day…and yeah. My brain wanted to jump out of my body and pair up with someone else on Sunday morning. I was in such bad shape that I ordered pancakes for breakfast, which I’ve never done before. I spent the remainder of the day on the couch, watching old episodes of The Mindy Project in an effort to sooth my soul. I remember in college we would go drink for drink all evening, wake up in the morning and be ready to do it again. I think around 23, though, all of that changed, and I was welcomed into the world one morning with this strange new feeling called a “hangover”. It’s your body’s way of telling you that no, you are not invincible, and yes, you are getting old. The price of a good time, I suppose, is severe pain the next day. I feel like I need a green juice and coconut water and another evening snuggling up on the couch until I’m fully recovered. I never want to see alcohol again! It is now my sworn enemy. Until Friday night, I’m sure.

Maple Apple Upside Down CakeThe baby Doc Martens I got for my good friend’s baby, the reason I felt like death on Sunday morning, lunch at Bar Primi the afternoon before and my attempt at a hangover cure (I’ve heard Marmite helps)!

A couple of weeks ago, I received a copy of Joy the Baker’s new cookbook, Homemade Decadence, and I was super excited to flip through it, pick out a recipe and start baking. The photos are beautiful and the recipes are an inspiration, so I highly recommend picking up a copy if you haven’t already. There eggselent (do you see what I did there) brunch recipes, boozy cocktail recipes (please, not right now), classics like lemon bars and new twists on the classics, like buttered popcorn rice crispy treats (say what). There are also loads of big, beautiful cake recipes that I can’t wait to dive into, like the cover’s chocolate-peanut butter pretzel layer cake – can someone please make this for my birthday next month? I decided to start with something decidedly simple, though, as I had house guests at the time but still wanted to whip something up.

Maple Apple Upside Down Cake

This maple apple upside-down cake is the best thing you could possibly make to put you in the mood for fall. Fresh autumn apples paired with a rich maple syrup drizzled over the cake is irresistible, especially if you throw in a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. My guests and I enjoyed the cake at home, then I brought the rest into the office to share – everyone seemed to remark on how tasty it was. I love that this cake doesn’t require too much work or any fussing with making a batch of frosting. It’s made in one pan, and the carmely, mapley drizzle is almost better than frosting, anyway. Joy always says that caramel is the best addition to any dessert and I agree. This upside-down cake will stay moist and delicious for a few days after it’s baked, so it’s perfect for a weekend brunch dish, made a day or two before, or for days after alongside a cup of good, strong coffee. It’s finally chilly outside, so get in the spirit of the season with this cake!

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Spicy Green Chili

with hatch chiles

Around this time last year, one of my friends had an early “Friends-giving” at his apartment. If you’ve never been to one of these, it’s basically an excuse to have two (or more) Thanksgiving dinners – one with your friends and one with your family on the actual day…unless you’re me, who hosts an Orphan Thanksgiving each year with all of the people who don’t actually go back home on the proper holiday. Anyway, Kramer and I, true to form, got there right on time, which nobody ever seems to do and it always makes us the first ones at the party, i.e. the early people. Even when I TRY to be fashionably late, I’m still the first guest to arrive. It’s my curse. Since we were free, our friend Adam put us to work doing some prep while he and his roommates cooked. He put me on hatch chile duty. I had never cooked with hatch chiles before, but all I had to do was clean them, skin them and remove the stems and as many seeds as possible. Adam had already roasted the peppers, so it was just cleaning and chopping, but you could smell the spicy peppers even in their straight from the freezer state. I was super excited to eat them, and as I had anticipated, they were, in fact, delicious. They are the right amount of spicy combined with plenty of fresh pepper flavor – something that is honestly quite rare in the pepper world, I’ve found. There aren’t many varieties that are both flavorful and spicy enough to pack a punch. I convinced Adam to hand over some of his treasured peppers (that he had brought to New York straight from his home state of New Mexico, mind you), and I was able to use my bounty in a macaroni and cheese dish on Thanksgiving. Needless to say, it garnered rave reviews.

spicy green chiliDrinks with a view, the Italian from The Meat Hook Sandwich Shop, peanut butter and chocolate cupcakes from Two Little Red Hens and meeting Danny Tamberelli!

It’s hatch chile season again, so when I saw them for sale, I got really excited to roast and cook with them. This isn’t a traditional chile verde, which is made with pork shoulder, but rather a quicker, more weeknight friendly version that you can make while you put away groceries or prep lunches for the rest of the week. I doubled the batch of roasted hatch chiles, because I wanted to do what Adam did and freeze them for another use, and my apartment definitely smelled spicy, to say the least. I was worried that Kramer was going to jump out of his chair when the aroma his his eyes and nose, but we both like a little kick, so it wasn’t that bad. Some hatch chiles are spicier than others, mind you, and this batch was particularly hot. After the chiles are roasted, I pureed them with some fresh tomatillos, garlic and shallot, then added that mixture to ground beef and ground pork. Add a healthy dose of cumin and oregano, along with some lime juice, and 30 minutes later, you’ve got a chili that is simply irresistible. Kramer and I ate this for lunch for a few days with a dollop of sour cream and one more squeeze of lime juice. If you don’t want to have to watch this or stir it as it cooks, go ahead and make the green sauce, then mix everything together in your crock pot and let it simmer away all day while you’re at work or working on other things – it will be just as delicious with half of the effort.

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How To: Build a Cheese Plate

with charcuterie

Our friends Adrian and Kelly were here for 10 days, so today I need to get myself together and start working on eating like a normal human being again. You know how it is when you have guests visiting – you go to all of your favorite restaurants, bars and sandwich shops. Then, if you live in New York City, multiply that by a thousand. There aren’t enough days in the year, let alone in 10 days, to visit all of my “favorite” spots. In the last couple of days alone, we went to Arrogant Swine to attempt to get some BBQ, but since it was their first day open and the lines were long, we acquiesced and went to the still delicious Mabel’s Smokehouse for ribs, brisket, mac and cheese, collard greens and pulled pork, followed by a drink at the Wythe Hotel for the beautiful view. The next day, it being their last day and town and all, we got sushi at Bozu, then drinks at Larry Lawrence, Duck Duck and Featherweight, because why not? Featherweight is the best place to say goodbye to friends over fancy cocktails, a bowl spiced bacon mixed nuts and an intimate ambiance. The next day, when I got to work, I made sure Adrian knew to walk over to The Meat Hook Sandwich Shop for an Italian sandwich and a roast beef sandwich – thankfully, he picked one up for Kramer and I to split when we got home, too. That’s the best gift a house guest could possibly leave for us, and Kramer and I happily chowed down on our sandwich when we got home from work.

How To Build a Cheese PlateAn epic bacon, egg and cheese on pumpernickel, me eating at French Louie, El Barto graffiti in the neighborhood and drinks at Featherweight.

I love a good cheese board. I’ve always got a random assortment of cheeses and meats at home, because whenever I see them at the store I can’t help but throw one or two items in my basket. Sometimes I’ll even assemble a little charcuterie plate for Kramer and myself to eat for dinner. I love having a little of this, a little of that, and experimenting with different flavor and texture combinations. Recently, Sargento released a line of Tastings cheeses, which are perfect for the kind of everyday snacking I’m talking about here, or a great way to buy the perfect portion of cheese for a dinner party charcuterie and cheese platter. If you’re new to picking out cheeses for these sorts of things, the packaging on Sargento Tastings gives you a clear description of what you can expect from each cheese, and they’re not going to leave with you a ton of leftovers – the sizes are exactly right for the average cheese board. I’ve definitely been faced with a leftover cheese problem after a party or even on my own after buying too much cheese, but if you don’t have the time to use up those tasty leftovers in something like macaroni and cheese or some grilled cheese sandwiches, the Sargento Tastings options are the way to go. I’m a big fan of buying local cheeses from around New York, so to be honest, I was a bit wary of Sargento branching out into the artisanal cheese game, but I was really surprised with the quality of these offerings. The havarti was rich and creamy, the asiago was sharp with a nice bite, and the pepper jack was perfectly spicy. If you’re not quite ready to venture out to your farmer’s market and wander into the wide world of all the different kinds of cheese options available there, your local supermarket is sure to have these Sargento Tastings right in the dairy aisle, ready to start you off on your cheese tasting adventures.

How To Build A Cheese Plate

As previously stated, a cheese board isn’t something that you have to make only when you’re hosting a party. Sure, it’s always an impressive thing to display when you’ve got people over, but after a long day of work and I don’t feel like breaking out cutting boards, pot and pants, or whatever else, I like to just throw some olives, cheeses and meats on a plate, alongside some crusty bread and maybe a dip like honey or apple butter, throw something on TV, and snack. To be truthful, this is my favorite kind of dinner, and I’ve done it with just about anything. Kramer and I have gone all out before, going to a speciality deli for nice meats and cheeses, or we’ve gone the other way and made a big plate of sliced pepperoni, a little deli turkey and string cheese. I’m not above anything when it comes to snacking, and a glass of red wine or a nice beer alongside it all certainly doesn’t hurt. If you want to go out all out, though, I’ve put together a brief outline of what I like to see when I’m going to town on a charcuterie board. You want to have all the essential textures: creamy, crunchy, crispy, chewy – the works. You need some basic flavor profiles, too: smoky, buttery, spicy, earthy…the list goes on. Surprising your palate in this way makes you go back for seconds, thirds and fourths – believe me. There’s no right or wrong way to put these elements together, but as long as you’ve got some nice colors, flavors and textures on display, you will be in cheese board heaven. I always have a charcuterie plate or cheese board out as an appetizer for my Thanksgiving dinner, by the way – it’s a great way to whet everyone’s appetite without filling up before the main event.

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The Best Romaine Salad Ever

with candied walnuts & pecorino

It’s been quite the weekend. Our friend Adrian and his girlfriend Kelly are here visiting after working in Alaska for the summer. It’s always fun to have guests because it gets Kramer and myself out of the house and exploring more than we would normally do when we have nobody to show around. They got in this past Wednesday, so we had to hit up Roberta’s to show them our favorite restaurant. Thursday was Mile End Deli, and Friday was Williamsburg Pizza, followed by a friend’s birthday party on a roof with an awesome view of the city. On Saturday, I did a little baking and Kramer worked on homework while Kelly and Adrian brunched with friends, then we went with Adrian and our friend Danny to Han Dynasty for some Szechuan deliciousness. Wontons in chili oil, dry pot lamb, double cooked pork belly, sausage fried rice and cold noodles in chili oil, alongside a few Tsing Taos was just what we needed before doing a little Saturday night bar hopping – first Forrest Point, then Alaska Bar, then Tutu’s for a DJ set by out friends Lily and Joel. Needless to say, we slept in on Sunday. Like, really slept in, enough so that pizza joints were open when we were ready to eat so we ordered in a pie from Best Pizza for a little comparing and contrasting. We had to get a side of garlic knots, too. You know, for variety.

the best romaine salad everPizza, cauliflower, matzoh ball soup, DJ Lily Vanilli, Prospect Park and Chinese food.

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful fall day in New York, so we headed out to Prospect Park to wander around. Adrian and Kramer started to get jealous of all the people having a seemingly even better time than us due to having the foresight to bring a frisbee, so Adrian randomly asked a guy if he had an extra frisbee. Believe it or not, the guy gave Adrian the frisbee he was using, saying it was really cheap and hard to throw. Undeterred, Adrian and Kramer made quick work of testing out the man’s review. He was right, but they carried on anyway because once you have frisbee fever, you have to toss one around for a minimum of 10 minutes before moving on. We made out way out of the park, then to Zombie Hut for a drink or two, followed by one of my other favorite spots in the city, Pok Pok NY. Our friend Matt joined us, and obviously we ate well – smokey eggplant with shrimp, plenty of fish sauce wings, spicy boar collar, spare ribs, curry noodles with mustard greens, and crispy broken crepe with mussels. After a nightcap at Harefield Road, we went home to watch Saturday’s episode of SNL and have a piece of maple apple cake that I made from Joy the Baker’s new cookbook before calling it an early night, as we all needed a good night’s rest. Tonight I need to hit the gym and sweat out all of the amazing food I ate this weekend, and I definitely need to have a salad for lunch. Sigh – back to reality.

the best romaine salad ever

As previously stated many times before, including in this very post, I adore Roberta’s. Kramer and I even splurged on eating at their sister restaurant, Blanca, last month. It’s not just that I think they make great pizza, but they are always serving absolutely incredible vegetable dishes. From the charred, crispy eggplant with breadcrumbs and roasted, creamy cauliflower that we had this past week, to the delicate carrots with a little marscapone or ricotta that I think of whenever I suggest that someone eat at Roberta’s, their vegetables make me incredibly happy and I try to order as many of these dishes as possible when I visit. Oh, and their ribs – their ribs are a revelation. Roberta’s is able to take really simple ingredients and do a great job at elevating them beyond what anyone would think they were capable of, and I promise that’s not overselling it. If you’re ever in Brooklyn, or New York in general, you have to eat at Roberta’s at least once, order as many vegetables as you can, and you’ll see what I mean. Another example of them taking something simple or commonplace and turning it into something completely new is this romaine salad. It’s got the basics of a Caesar salad – crisp romaine, creamy dressing and a crunchy “crouton”, although it’s unlike any salad you’ve had. First of all, they use candied walnuts instead of croutons, and a roasted garlic dressing with real, whole anchovies. The salad takes a little bit of effort to put together, but I promise you that it’s worth it. Do a little prep on a Sunday to have lunch or dinner ready for the rest of the week, and you’ll thank me later. The dressing itself is worth making, for this or any other salad. I’ve made it a few times since, and it’s never failed to make any salad better. Thank you Roberta’s for making me and my husband love Caesar salad all over again!

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Concord Grape Muffins

with crunchy tops

I don’t think I really understood the difference between concord grapes and any other grape until I tried one last year. Yes, it was only one year ago that I discovered that concord grape wasn’t just what they called fancy grape jelly. These are the best grapes that you’ll ever eat. It’s weird to think so highly of a piece of fruit, but you really have to splurge on some of these babies. They’ll probably be a little pricier than your average black seedless variety, but believe me, it’s sooooo worth it. Concord grapes are incredibly sweet, but at the same time, they seem to have a complexity of flavor that is almost unbelievable. They literally taste like candy. I kept these in my fridge for a little while, trying to decide what would showcase their amazingness the best…but I got busy and therefore sort of lazy when it came time to incorporate my beloved concord grapes into something tasty. So I chose muffins, because everyone loves muffins and honestly, I hadn’t made muffins in a while. These were the real deal. Kramer suggested that I overfill the muffin cups, which I did (nervously), and all worked out well. The muffins were huge, the tops were perfectly crunchy, and each bite was bursting with juicy, delicious concord grapes. I think it ended up being the best way to showcase them after all. Kramer and I split one, or two, who’s counting? Then I gave them away to some friends and Kramer’s co-workers, otherwise I would have certainly devoured them all myself.

Concord Grape MuffinsMe, the man himself and my friend Tony.

This past Tuesday night, I was invited to attend the 2015 New York Michelin Star Gala. Does that sound exciting or what? I was thrilled. Kramer had class that night, so I took my friend Tony, who is also into nerding out about celebrity chefs and food. We saw the handsome Eric Ripert in the flesh and listened to him speak French as he stood in front of us, I got to actually talk to Carlo Mirarchi, of Blanca fame, and we drank Macallan 18 like real classy broads. It was amazing. I felt so sheepish ordering a glass of 18 year, but the bar was pouring so I was there. We ate, too – sea urchin with seaweed puree and crispy quinoa from Jungsik, buttery potatoes with caviar from Jean Georges, chicken and shrimp dumplings in an insane broth with black truffle from Atera, hamachi with marinated kombu, beets and wasabi from NoMad, smoked eel and foie gras terrine with brown bread and apricot mostarda from Lincoln, BBQ pork belly with creamed corn from Telepan, roasted sunchoke tortellini with oxtail and truffle from River Cafe, and shelling beans with mushrooms and smoked ham hock on miche bread from The Spotted Pig and The Breslin, which I will be able to speak more on later when I have photos to share. It goes without saying that we were spoiled beyond belief, and I relished every single second of it. I’m already going through the 2015 Michelin guide to decide what spots Kramer and I have to hit up this year, especially the bib gourmand restaurants, where you can get an excellent meal for under $40 – quite the steal in NYC!

Concord Grape Muffins

So aside from stuffing myself silly, which I am really good at, by the way, Kramer and I have friends in town this week and I’m really looking forward to doing fun touristy stuff with them. Obviously most of the “stuff” includes eating good food and having some cocktails – my specialty. Last night, we all went to Roberta’s for a ~welcome to Brooklyn~ meal and of course, enjoyed ourselves quite a bit. Kramer and I had the best eggplant that I’ve ever tasted in my entire life (par for the course), deliciously charred cauliflower and my favorite, their famous sticky, smoked ribs. We also stole a slice of pizza and pieces of crusty bread with salted butter. A few glasses of wine later, we watched South Park and went to bed. I am proud of myself for showing some restraint last night and actually getting a solid 6+ hours of sleep, so let’s see if I can do the same tonight despite whatever late night alcohol and food temptations may await.

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