Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Very Strict Rule

My apartment was awash in purple and green this weekend. The trend started innocently enough, with a plush bouquet from my favorite flower wholesaler, James Durr. In general, I feel that each bunch of flowers I pick up before my beloved peonies come into season is simply a placeholder, a facsimile of the real thing.

But this spray of lilac and green transcended the normal clutch of blooms that often sits on my kitchen table. It had charisma.

I suspect that it was through its sheer force of personality that a distinct purple and green theme began to spread throughout my apartment.

First it was the purple and green hued ramps that I sauteed with vinegar and capers to accompany my baked skate for a fresh from the greenmarket lunch.

It got progressively more intense with the purple pickled ramps that I made after lunch.

And then, at the highest end of the spectrum, my electric green ramp pesto (ramp tops, garlic, salt, olive oil, parmesan and almonds) that I whipped up (or rather the Cuisinart did) in the early evening.

There were of course a few very vocal deviants...

But then I always welcome rebels, particularly ones as enchanting as these.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I find very little joy in eating most of the produce that is available during the winter. Much of it is limp and tasteless, having spent far too long on a plane coming from whatever distant locale is lending us northeasterners its warmth for the season.

I spend much of those dark cold months eating like an eastern European serf...lots of potatoes with the odd carrot thrown in. I treat myself here and there with some butter lettuce and a piquant vinaigrette. You can imagine that come springtime my body is screaming for some serious green.

But unfortunately, while my body is screaming the greenmarket is not yet providing much relief. So I was forced to pick up something quite unfamiliar the other day to sate my craving.

Unfamiliar to you as well? Chickweed my darlings, chickweed. As I stood a the Paffenroth booth mulling over the purchase a woman came up next me to and whispered "It reduces you". Done. I could use some reducing as swimsuit season starts to creep up on me.

Inspired by Jen's fabulously healthy (and admirably green flecked) breakfasts over at Simply Breakfast, I began by mixing my new leafy green into an omelette on Sunday. Tasted just like a fresh, grassy version of spinach. I adored it.

As the week began I integrated it, sauteed, into my daily poached egg.

By 7:30 a.m. I had already fulfilled at least one of my veggie servings for the day. Then it is onto the braised collard greens I've been eating at lunch. Delicious. And oh so green.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Skinny Books

Yesterday I received the most wonderful surprise in the mail.

Cakes and Ale by the fabulous Somerset Maugham. A juicy satire about literary London in the 1930s, such a fun well told story was exactly what I was in the mood for.

But as it turned out...

...I would have to visit a bookstore to enjoy the novel itself (but could enjoy the lovely note at home)! I immediately began the hunt for these fabulous postcards and how appropriate that I should come across them on Amazon. A box of 100 cards, each representing a Penguin classic, I simply could not resist. Can you possibly blame me?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Peas and Cockles

Work took Paul to the west coast recently (to an RV in Palm Springs more specifically) so I was on my own for dinner for a night last week. I believe that it is incredibly important to indulge myself when I'm on my own...after all, who else will? And as you may have deduced, food is often involved when I do so.

As Judith Jones' new book dedicated to recipes for one has not yet come in for me at the library, in planning my solitary home cooked meal I opted for my favorite standby: shellfish. As you may recall, I often rely on mussels for an elegant, solitary weekday meal. They take no more than five minutes to prepare, most preparations include booze of some sort, and Paul's not the hugest fan so it makes perfect sense to eat them while he's away.

But spring is upon us...the scenery around me is changing by the day at this point so I was in the mood for something new and different. When I saw the New Zealand cockles at the fish counter I simply couldn't resist. And the pea shoots in the produce section were just too green and seasonally appropriate to ignore, so I picked them up as well.

Now Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers At Lucques is one of my absolute favorite cookbooks, but not the one I would normally turn to for anything quick and easy. I tend to reserve her gorgeous dishes for company (how absurd of me now that I think about it...why should I feed company better than I feed myself?), but when I came across this recipe how could I possibly resist?

And after laying eyes on this image of the cute little striped cockles laced with green, any doubt I may have been harboring about the undertaking was erased immediately.
Obviously a few tweaks were made...I ignored calls for green garlic champ and brown scones, threw in frozen petite pois rather than freshly shelled garden peas and as I only had lamb stock in the freezer substituted that for chicken, but the result was just as delicious as all of her other recipes are (and considerably easier).

I officially love the idea of greens with shellfish reduces my need for bread (I have been known to go through the better part of a baguette with a bowl of mussels), obviates the need for a salad and, perhaps more importantly, makes me feel as though I'm eating a true, well thought out meal. A luxury, solitary or not, we all deserve.

Buttered Cockles With Peas and Pea Shoots
Adapted from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques

Note: I found 1 pound of cockles was enough for one serving, so adjust the quantities (although frankly there's no need to be particularly precise with this recipe) depending on how many mouths you're feeding.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced spring onions plus 1 cup thinly sliced spring onion tops
1 tablespoons thyme leaves
3 pounds cockles, or small Manila clams, well scrubbed
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 3/4 cups peas (2 pounds in the pod)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 ounces pea shoots

Heat a large wide-bottomed saute pan or Dutch oven over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in the olive oil and wait 1 minute. Add the spring onions, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook about two minutes, stirring often until the onions are just wilted. Add the cockles to the pan and stir well to coat them with the onions and oil. Cook 2 minutes, add the white wine and cover the pan.

Steam the cockles for 3 to 4 minutes, until they open. Remove the lid and pour in the stock. When the stock comes to a boil, add the peas. Cook 1 minute (I do less if using petite frozen peas) and then add the butter, stirring to incorporate. Season with a squeeze of lemon juice and taste for seasoning. Discard any unopened cockles.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Different Direction

With the warmer weather Paul and I have been entertaining at home quite a bit lately. The odd friend or two over for dinner, boisterous groups over for cocktails and nibbles on the roof deck and houseguests who deserve (and receive) a good breakfast on a Sunday morning. Handing out all of this food on our very boring dishes has me once again focusing on new table settings.

My adoration for Royal Copenhagen has in no way diminished over time. I still swoon over those sugar bowls whenever I see them and linger over the display cases when I'm shopping in a store that carries the blue fluted pattern. So you can I'm sure imagine the joy that this new derivation of the old favorite pattern brought me:

Aptly named Elements, I spent quite some time in Barney's the other day absolutely overcome by the sweetly creeping branches of the fluted pattern in the loveliest tints...even orange made an appearance! But for everyday dinnerware they are perhaps a bit precious.

I could go the faux route with this pattern:

At a fraction of the price of the real thing I could use it with impunity, whether it be bleary eyed in the early morning or after one too many glasses of wine in the evening. But I've never been one for fakes...they tend to make me want the real thing even more.

So perhaps the answer is to go a bit tongue in cheek.

The pattern is blue after all, and there is the requisite crown...but the top and bottom of the plate are flipped which I find quite cute. Crown on the top rather than the bottom, and giant octopus engulfing the plate on the bottom rather than the top! I love a china pattern that makes me smile.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Flowers on Sunday

With the bulk of my social engagements for the weekend complete by very early Saturday morning, I was looking at a deliciously lazy weekend ahead of me.

With the apartment full of early springtime flowers

(Crocuses on the kitchen table)

(Lilacs in my favorite mint julep cup)

I felt absolutely sure that I was setting myself up for some indulgent downtime.

As an aside, have you ever noticed that everyone in creation talks to you when you are carrying a large bouquet of flowers (particularly lilacs) down the street? For those finding it hard to meet someone in New York, I highly recommend wandering the streets on a sunny weekend day with armfuls of these fragrant purple blossoms.

Saturday was largely consumed with errands but Sunday, oh Sunday! After an early night on Saturday I arose early, relishing the peace and quiet that occurs at this time of day, with the sun just beginning to glow behind the buildings opposite my apartment. I nursed a mug of PG Tips while perusing the Sunday New York Times, interrupted only by the periodic need to tend to my hot cross buns (only a week late!).

Presently, perhaps roused by the aroma of said hot cross buns, Paul awoke and we devoured these tasty little treats in tandem. Clotilde, on whose website I found the recipe, once again outdid herself. I would encourage any white chocolate-phobes not to be put off by the ingredient list for this recipe. Perhaps white chocolate is the tacky cousin to milk chocolate, which is in turn the tacky sibling to dark chocolate, but somehow in this context, accompanied by dates and pistachios, it just works. It happily becomes a bit like caramel.

Fully sated, Paul and I headed up to Soho House for a noontime screening of the Hurt Locker. I had expected it to be so depressing so as to ruin my day, but oddly I didn't find it to be so. I carried on with the rest of my day with various bits of the film popping up in my thoughts, but not in any particularly disturbing way.

Eventually I made it back downtown with the intention of starting in on some spring cleaning, my closet being target one. But this beautifully written book (and the sunny roof deck) were calling out to me...

...and the closet would have to wait.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter Redux

Paul and I didn't do too much to mark the passing of Easter 2010. Which frankly, after watching all of the TV chefs make gorgeous hunks of ham and spring-inspired side dishes to commemorate the day, I regretted. The lovely Tamsin had brought us Cadbury's Mini Eggs over from London the day before so we at least had some sort of holiday-appropriate food, but it was a bit of a poor showing.

So we hosted sort of a gothic version of easter the following day to make up for it.

In place of a bouquet of pastels, I could not resist these deeply funereal purple tulips.

In place of a spring ham and peas, I made just about the hottest Thai curry I've ever had out of one of my favorite cookbooks Hot Sour Salty Sweet. I nearly blew our poor friend Laurie's head off with it, but Paul and our friend John were in heaven. Who knew that extreme spice would be so popular with the men?

And for dessert, Paul brought home quite the spectacle. An eighteen inch tall chocolate rabbit dressed in hip hop gear. We ate part of the head off and laid it to rest in peace in our refrigerator.

Four days later, only his feet remain.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Lower Common Denominator

I suppose because the sun is now more permanently out and as a result everything just seems lighter, I seem to be entering an anti-intellectual (or at least an a-intellectual) phase.

For instance, since I finished reading Game Change last week (a compelling, juicy book but not particularly cerebral...I loved it) I haven't felt the need to pick up another book, which is atypical for me. Instead, I'm making my way through my backlog of magazines (Vogue, Afar, W, National Geographic, you get the idea) and am feeling quite virtuous about it. Does this make me like one of those fictitious models on Sex and the City who lamented "People don't always realize this about me, but I'm very literary. I mean, I'll sit down and read a magazine all the way through!"?

And I'm becoming far more involved with reality TV than any self respecting recipient of higher education should be. Of course I've always watched it, but I have to say I found myself inordinately upset when I found out that last week's Kell on Earth was the season finale.

I already miss her straight talk, her wry assistant Andrew's witticisms and I'll miss new entries on this blog which worships the show as much as I do.

Now I'll have to get my Cutrone fix through a different medium...I am absolutely dying to read her book. So much in fact that, as much as I adore the New York City Library, I'm not sure I can wait for them to get a copy. I may actually have to purchase it. This is highly unusual for me...which can only mean that the depth of my obsession with this woman I have never met is verging on the unhealthy.

I can console myself over the end of Kell on Earth with the lovely t-shirts and sweatshirts that the show introduced me to at Alternative Apparel. I realize that more likely than not the frequent mention of this company on the show was a product placement. But I don't care. Find me something more perfect than their burnout tee (particularly the v neck) and then we can talk about the evils of surreptitious advertising.

Speaking of fashion-y reality TV offshoots, apparently the exquisitely grumpy and platinum Taylor from The Rachel Zoe Project has struck out on her own, and in addition to doing her own stylish styling thing, she's also blogging, introducing edginess to the masses.

Thanks to her I've got a new jewelry obsession over at Alkemie...

I think the whole line is exciting but this textured stingray cuff is just calling out to me.

And she's given me a new Alexander McQueen scarf to lust over, and happily reminded me of an old unrequited love.

So despite the great loss of an excellent Monday night TV option, I'm moving onwards, taking comfort in these new obsessions the original one engendered. I have things to do, magazines to page through, after all.
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