Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Go Belgium! Go USA! Go Beer!

IMG_2279This photo of my mom (a born and raised Belgian lady) and Conor (a fanatic soccer fan and player) pretty much sums up our household today. Good luck to both teams—no matter who wins, I’ll be celebrating with a cold Stella.

And HERE is a good article from today’s NY Times that sums up the inter-country rivalry (except they got it all wrong about the waffles…no real Belgian waffle is served with whipped cream and fruit on top, on the streets of Brussels they sell them with a caramelized sugar crust and you eat them in-hand).

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Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Things I Like (actually LOVE): Ice Cream!

IceCreamery_coverThere are not many things I love to eat more than ice cream. I come from a long line of passionate ice cream consumers, specifically my two grandmothers. On my Belgian side was Mamy, who would treat me to a sundae called une Dame Blanche on pretty much a daily basis when I spent childhood summers with her in Brussels. Every cafe has them on the menu and it consists of several scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with melted chocolate, fresh whipped cream, and a flaky cookie in the shape of a hollow tube speared through the top. Mamy also made her own fresh fruit sorbet all summer long, using berries from my uncle’s farm. She made frais de bois (wild strawberries) and framboise (raspberries), but by far my favorite flavor was when she made cassis (black currants), a dark red-purple confection that was both intensely sweet and tart at the same time.

My American grandmother always had a freezer stocked with a tub of Breyer’s ice cream in the trifecta of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. She had eight children and about three times as many grandchildren, but there was always a bowl of ice cream ready if you asked, and she would always have a bowl with you at the kitchen table.

So it’s in this tradition that I love to keep my own freezer stocked with ice cream treats, particularly in the summer (although I’m of the school that ice cream could and should be enjoyed all year round). Our family has a bit of a thing for Klondike bars (crunchy and dark chocolate variety), lime popsicles, and Haagen-Dazs coffee bars; but when I’m feeling ambitious I also love to make my own. Which is why I was thrilled to receive this new wonderful book: The Ice Creamery Cookbook by Shelly Kaldunski. Even if you think you have nothing left to learn in the ice cream department, this gorgeous guide will prove you wrong. There are not only recipes for flavors and concoctions I want to make immediately—pomegranate granita, mango-ginger sorbet, salted peanut butter & jelly ice cream—but even better are confections and toppings, like how to make your own sprinkles! To tell you the truth, I had never even thought to think “what exactly is a sprinkle?”, let alone how you can make them from scratch, but you can and this book shows you how…see how pretty?

HomemadeSprinkles_ICThe publisher, Welden Owen, has been kind enough to let me share the recipe for scratch-sprinkles with you here on Devil & Egg, so that you can make them at home. Perhaps it will be the perfect rainy summer-day kid project or something to wow you 4th of July guests? And the book is also on-sale now if you want more wonderful recipes for frozen treats, toppings, mix-ins & more. Enjoy!

HOMEMADE SPRINKLES

To make sprinkles, all you need to do is to whip up a batch of old-fashioned royal icing (commonly used for decorating cookies), pipe it into thin strands, and then let them set. Use gel paste, rather than liquid food coloring, if possible, as the colors will be more vibrant and you will not thin the icing as much.

MAKES ABOUT 1⁄2 CUP (1 OUNCE), ENOUGH TO TOP ABOUT 12 SUNDAES

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
11⁄2 tablespoons meringue powder
1⁄4 teaspoon extract such as vanilla or almond (optional)
Food coloring, preferably gel paste type, in color(s) of choice (optional)

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper.
In a bowl, combine the sugar, meringue powder, 3 tablespoons warm water, and the extract, if using. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until the mixture is fluffy yet dense, 7–8 minutes.
If you are making sprinkles of different colors, divide the icing into as many small bowls as colors you will be using. If using gel-type coloring, twirl a toothpick into the gel and then twirl the toothpick into the icing until the color is evenly mixed. If a deeper shade is desired, add more gel, a tiny bit at a time. If using liquid-type coloring, add 1 or 2 drops to the icing and mix well, then add additional drops as needed to achieve the desired shade.
To test if the icing is a good consistency for piping, scoop up a spoonful and drizzle it back into the bowl. It should remain in a ribbon on the surface. To thin the icing, using a rubber spatula, stir in warm water, 1⁄4 teaspoon at a time.
Spoon the icing into a pastry bag fitted with a 1⁄8-inch plain tip. Pipe the icing in straight lines onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the icing dry at room temperature until crisp, about 24 hours. Using a knife, cut strands into desired-size pieces. Use right away, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

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Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

1 Pot of Water = Meals Aplenty

P1300266Although summer is always billed as the grilling season, I think I spend just as much time (if not more) preparing food with a big pot of boiling water during the warm weather months, than I do stoking the coals. You may have visions of some hapless retro-housewife who makes dinner by boiling everything from the chicken to the canned corn; but done gently and quickly, boiling is a great way to cook lots of ingredients all at one time, while maintaining their seasonal freshness. For the task, I use my trusty aluminum pot, a tried-and-true hand-me-down that is thin enough so that water boils in a snap (this will not be the case if you try and boil water in a thicker pot like Calphalon). It’s amazing how many things you can make using just one big pot of water; in sequence, here are some of the dishes I can get in one boiling pot session:

P1300368First up, potatoes (because they need to start cooking in cold water that is brought to a simmer). I scrub new or fingerling potatoes, place them immediately in salted cold water, and bring the pot to an active simmer. After 4-6 minutes or so, I test one potato by putting the tip of a sharp knife or steak knife into it: If it enters easily and the potato is tender, I remove them to a bowl with a spider or serrated spoon, and immediately sprinkle them all over with white wine or apple cider vinegar so they can absorb the flavors. I then use them for warm potato salad or to add to any summer salads like a nicoise.

P1300270Next into the pot goes in a bunch of broccoli rabe, which I simmer quickly until just tender…

P1300288Once you can pierce the rabe stems with the tip of a knife (you don’t want it to be mushy, just tender), remove the bunch with a spider or tongs, and put aside for sauteing in olive oil with a combination of garlic, red pepper flakes, and smashed anchovies and adding to pasta.

P1300276Next up, a package of soba noodles. After cooking for about 4 minutes, remove the noodles with a spider or tongs, rinse them in cold water, and then add them to a stir-fry instead of rice or, on a hot night when you want something cool and not-heavy, make this…

P1300290An Asian noodle salad tossed with a vinaigrette of 2 parts rice wine vinegar, 1 part grapeseed oil, a drizzle of sesame oil, a bit of honey, and some grated ginger, garnished with torn sheets of nori,  and topped with medium-boiled eggs that I also cooked in that same pot of boil after I took out the noodles…

IMG_1053For medium cooked eggs,  simmer them in the pot for about 9 minutes (the one caveat with using an aluminum pot is that they will bounce around a bit so you may get cracked eggs, which is only a problem if you want to dye them for Easter). I keep the eggs for the aforementioned noodle dishes, adding protein to a green salad, chopping and blending them with mayo, salt, freshly ground pepper, tarragon, parsley, chives or any handy herbs for egg salad, or smashed on toast for breakfast.

P1300296Above are just some of the dishes from my most recent boiled water session: Potato salad with a mustard-thyme vinaigrette; blanched asparagus for a puff pastry tart; boiled egg for breakfast; rabe for dinner and noodles for lunch.

There are so many more possibilities…so let me know what you throw in the pot!

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Friday, June 13th, 2014

Things I Like: Mrs Sizzle!

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william wegman hat dogs 2013

I want to give a shout-out today to my friend Suzanne Donaldson’s gorgeous new blog Mrs. Sizzle. I worked with Suzanne when we were both editors at Glamour Magazine, and she recently left her post as the illustrious longtime photo director to start a site dedicated to her first love: Dogs. Mrs. Sizzle will combine a love of animals with art and photography, and because of Suzanne’s connections, she’s already featured contributions from amazing art and fashion world figures, including Cindy Sherman and William Wegman.

I love that Suzanne is also dedicated to helping rescue animals (my Morkie and his litter were rescued right before the holidays two years ago and he is the best dog ever). Each week, my friend Julie Stone (another photo editor from Glamour and a rabid-dog lover herself), will be profiling a rescue-dog-of-the-week. There’s also a feature for sending in your own gorgeous pet portraits called Snap Paws, so you (or rather your favorite fur ball) can rub shoulders with the artsy glitterati. Here’s one of my favorite photos of Seamus that I sent in…yes, he’s sitting in a bowl.
seamus
So animal lovers, check out Mrs. Sizzle! And have a dreamy weekend.

XO

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Monday, June 9th, 2014

Hip to be Square

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I’ve always been a fan of composed salads: The kind where you display your ingredients separately and in a single-layer, rather than combined and tossed in a bowl. Certain classic salads lend themselves well to this—like a Cobb or chef’s salad—because it just looks prettier to display their many ingredients in a tableau rather than in a jumble (in my opinion). But I also think it’s a better way to serve salad to guests, say on a sultry summer day when you’re having a few friends over for lunch on the patio/deck/porch (aka, I-have-no-air conditioning-so-we-might-as-well-eat-outdoors). Sliced tomatoes with burrata and basil, cold poached shrimp with avocado and butter leaf lettuce, or a grilled tuna nicoise are some of my favorite composed summer salads.
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For a luncheon salad, I always use a long rectangular platter; but lately, when I’m making a lunch salad for just myself, I like to serve it this way as well, using a smaller rectangular version of the platter. THIS plate from Heath Ceramics is my go-to piece for this kind of salad serving because it’s rather flat, with shallow edges, and its simple design shows of the ingredients beautifully.

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Because the ingredients are so summer and so fresh, you want them to stand alone, rather than buried in the depths of a bowl. Also, when you have hefty or denser ingredients—like potatoes or eggs–you don’t want them to bully and bruise the more delicate items like lettuce and herbs. Above is my regular warm weather lunch salad, which consists of romaine tossed with vinaigrette, sliced avocado, medium-boiled egg, grape tomatoes, steamed potatoes, feta, and leftover grilled asparagus. To assemble I do the following:

Summer Salad for Squares

  • Toss 2 big handfuls of romaine lettuce (or whichever lettuce you prefer, I like romaine because it is sturdy enough to be a bed for the rest of the ingredients) and toss with your favorite vinaigrette (one of my favorites is to combine the following in a jar:  l part lemon juice or white wine vinegar with 2 parts olive oil, a sprinkle of dried oregano, a spoonful of plain Dijon mustard, a little honey, salt and pepper) and then place the dressed lettuce in a single layer on the bottom of your rectangular plate, reserving some dressing for spooning on top of the finished salad.
  • On top of the lettuce layer the following in rows: 1/2 sliced avocado; small handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half; 1 medium-boiled egg (cooked in simmering water for 8-9 minutes), cut in quarters; steamed Yukon or fingerling potatoes (you can also use leftover roasted potatoes), cut in halves; crumbled feta; grilled asparagus (if you have any other leftover greens this is a good place to use them up).
  • Sprinkle the top of the salad with salt (flaky salt or fleur de sel would be perfect here if you have it) and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with some of the remaining salad dressing.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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