epic eats: smorgasburg: williamsburg, brooklyn

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Nothing brings me greater joy than food. Nothing widens my eyes, quickens my breath and puts my heart on pause more than the sound of slippery noodles, of coffee being brewed on a waterfront, of a knife cleaving through paper-thin beef to then smack a board with precision. Would you believe that the sounds of chewing and sighing are my symphony? So imagine my delight, my GODDAMN glee, when I finally made the trek to Williamsburg to check out the much-revered foodie’s paradise, Smorgasburg.

Can we cue the angels, the bright white lights and the doves, please?

An open-air market on the Williamsburg waterfront, you’ll find the frontier of great food: dozens of bakers, purveyors, butchers, BBQ’ers, and those who are passionate about unique eats. From the juicy, char-grilled Dumont Burgers to The Meat Hook’s savory homemade sausages, burgers, chickens and beef dogs (utter perfection!) to Anarchy in a Jar — a line of fresh preserves (the wild blueberry STOLE MY HEART) with the smartest of monikers (e.g. “Easy Like Sunday Morning”), I’ve only just begun my siren song to the perfection that is this food-lover’s mecca. I spent a few hours sampling kale chips, sipping on rhubarb syrup, getting my tongue burnt on hot tempeh, marveling over a gussied-up version of pigs in a blanket (think flaky pastry dough meets tender sausage link), washing down said burn with watermelon lemonade, wondering if I’d ever try an oyster because the ones served up by Brooklyn Oysters looked pretty damn good, slurping on slippery noodles that tasted of soy sauce and peanuts, getting lost in a heady haze of fragrant Colombian food, having a fan-girl moment when I met the proprietor of Salty Road (The Cooking Channel featured her exquisite taffy hand-rolling skills), realizing that bakers are the sweetest lot going, and Krumville Bakeshop is quickly shifting my opinion of gluten-free baked goods with its unctuous and chewy chocolate chip walnut cookies — and writing, well, gushing, well, rhapsodizing in a run-on sentence.

Perhaps this is what love is. The thing that makes your heart race and your hands go wild. But I’ll let the pictures tell the story of my love affair, and how it’s growing with the passage of each day.

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new york eats

savor this sip: toby’s estate coffee: williamsburg, brooklyn

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I’ve got a secret to confess. On the weekends I’ll watch hours of The Cooking Channel, comforted by those who I call The Romantics. These are a series of shows where you watch artisans at work — bakers kneading dough and filling it with strawberries and balsamic vinegar, home cooks dicing up rhubarb and serving it in a tender, crumbling coffee cake. And there’s always the requisite patron sipping coffee, a newspaper splayed across a wooden table. Flakes of almond croissant caught in one’s hair. They spend lazy Saturdays in a local coffee shop while I try to navigate the cleaners, the gym, the post office, the market, and the one million errands I’ve compressed into a few short hours because come Sunday it’s back to work all over again.

There was a time when I was part of this leisurely lot — a whole year I spent trying to find what was next. Wholly uninspired, burnt out by the publishing industry, and a career spent bumping from one digital marketing job to another, I hadn’t found a place I could call home, albeit for a little while. I knew that this time was a tremendous luxury, a gift I gave to myself — in part due to an advance I’d received due to some film interest for my memoir (remember that thing? AGES ago, it seems) — but I knew that this gift of time was one I would likely not see again.

That year was a strange, wonderful, quiet, tumultuous, awakening.

Back then I remembered an evening I’d spent partying in a bar downtown and how I slept through my stop on the Long Island Rail Road. In the dark recesses of night, I found myself in a sleepy town, groggy, wallet gone. I raced out of the train and into a taxi, and after an hour of winding roads I woke my dad and begged him for cash for the cab. The next day I woke, hungover, having to negotiate a temporary card because I was due to fly out to Aruba that evening. I remember my father shaking his head, sad, and said the car smelled of drink, you and your damn wine lips, and when would I ever get my life together? Dial down the drama? Stop being a hot, organized, highly-functioning mess?

Sometimes I was frightened of all the nights I couldn’t remember. There were evenings in Prague, gone. Time lost. Blacked out. Erased. Locked in a box.

During the year I took off I recalled too many of this scenes, which made me wince, but also made me proud of the person I had become, and although I was sober I still found myself asking what’s next? I was that girl in the coffee shop, back in a c-curve over a laptop, hatching plans.

Today, looking back on all of this, I’m grateful for that year and all of the anxiety and gifts (and credit card debt) it brought me. Although I adore my job, yet know it won’t be the career I’ll have for the remainder of my days, I’ve decided to focus on RIGHT NOW rather than what’s NEXT.

And today that meant a newspaper and artisanal coffee at Toby’s Estate Coffee in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I don’t normally go to Williamsburg, as it takes a YEAR and a trip back to Manhattan to get home again, but my curiosity for the killer eats and serious coffee sent me running for the L train. My foodie bud, @mike_white, directed me toward this fantastic Aussie café and roastery. Toby’s is home to the city’s first pressure-controlling Strada machine by La Mazorca, which churns out rich, enveloping espresso. What I love about this open, airy, curious space is the open bar where you can see your Brazilian or Ethiopian coffee being freshly brewed, drip by drip. After getting my coffee, some Australian sponge cake (think a chocolate exterior covered with coconut with a fruit filling on the inside) and a freshly baked almond croissant, I decamped on a long wooden bench, sharing my lunch and newspaper with the other patrons practicing leisure.

Who cared that I needed to pack for a flight to Dallas? Who cared that I needed to shop for the week? All that mattered was the here and the now and a cover story on Fiona Apple.

Even if your life is frenetic (and I know frenzy all too well), I invite you to be one of The Romantics, even if it’s for an hour in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.

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new york eats

bake this now: the virtuous multigrain loaf

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There’s nothing more gratifying than having a friend slathering a hot slice of bread — bread you made with your own two hands — with blueberry preserves. I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face, but I love baking because in a world that is so digital, so virtual, this is one of the few tactile hobbies left. Baking forces discipline, and the best loaves of bread are usually made with a few ounces of strength and sweat while you knead on a sweltering May day.

Yesterday I was determine to make a slew of recipes that mixed the virtuous and the comforting. From my truffle kale macaroni and cheese (so soothing!) to this hearty grain loaf, my oven operated in overdrive. You will love this loaf not only because it’s healthy, but the bread is chewy, yielding, perfect for warm almond butter, creamy Irish butter or chilled blueberry preserves. My friend and I stood in my kitchen slicing bread and eating, eating, eating, and it was wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Pastry Affair, with slight modifications. Happy Blogging Anniversary!
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons blueberry flax seed
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoons salt
12 ounces barely warm water
Sunflower seeds, flax seed, and oats, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), whisk together the flours, oats, seeds, yeast, and salt. Gradually add the water and mix until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry and will not come together, add small amounts of water until it does. Conversely, if the dough is too sticky, add flour until it becomes workable. Knead the dough for ten minutes, or until elastic. If you have a stand mixer with a dough attachment, you only need to knead this in the mixer for 5-6 minutes, until the dough becomes springy and elastic.

Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 2-3 hours. Punch down the dough and allow it to set for another 10 minutes before turning out the dough onto a clean surface. Shape the dough into a log or cylinder, trying to keep the dough an even thickness. Place the dough into a 9×5-inch loaf pan sprinkle with sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and oats. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow it to rise for another 30-40 minutes, or until it doubles in volume.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and allow to cool down before slicing.

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bread recipes

love. life. eat.: stovetop truffle kale macaroni + cheese!

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When I first spied this recipe on Fuss Free Cooking‘s site, I screamed. When I devoured a bowl of truffle-infused cheesy elbow pasta at a dinner party last week, I howled. So believe me when I say that I’ve been counting the days, hours, minutes until I could fix the most comforting of dishes. Until I could find yet another way to sneak kale into a dish.

There are so many things right with this dish — where does one begin? First off, I went simple with the cheese because I wanted the star of the macaroni and cheese to be the truffle oil. An oil that coats the kale leaves, rendering them slick and glossy. An aromatic that gives the pasta an intense flavor and delightful aroma. You’ll love the biting bitter of the kale juxtaposed with the creamy noodles. And since I love, love, love texture plays I truly felt that the panko makes this dish SING.

So forget the boxed mac and cheese — you can make this yummy version in under a 1/2 hour. AND THERE’S KALE!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from my newfound foodie obsession, Fuss Free Cooking, with modifications.
8 ounces (1/2 pound) of shell macaroni
1/4 (4 tbsp) cup butter
1/4 cup unbleached flour (about 60g/2 ounces)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tbsp black truffle oil
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (8oz)
About 8 stalks of kale, finely shredded
1/2 cup toasted Panko/normal breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS
Chop kale until it’s in bite-sized pieces and set aside. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a bowl. As Nigella Lawson once said, your pasta water should be as briny as the Mediterranean, and this recipe is no exception. Cook the pasta until it’s slightly al dente, drain, and set aside in a large bowl.

In the pot you used to cook the pasta, heat the truffle oil and cook the kale until slightly wilted. Make sure all of the leaves are coated. Toss the hot kale with the pasta in the large bowl. In the same pot (AREN’T YOU DYING OVER THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT WASHING 1.5 MILLION POTS??!), you are now ready to make your rue. Melt butter over medium heat and stir in the flour, salt and pepper for 1 minute, ensuring that all of the ingredients are incorporated and no flour remains in the pot. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you go. It’s important that you whisk like a madwoman as to prevent the dreaded LUMP SITUATION. Once the sauce slightly thickens, add the cheese and whisk vigorously until all of the cheese is cooked and you’re left with an unctuous sauce.

Now for the moment of truth. Add the pasta and kale to the sauce and stir until all of the leaves and noodles are completely coated. Toss in the panko and serve pipping hot!

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pasta recipes savory recipes

bake this now: blueberry bars

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Years ago I remember standing in the middle of a park, voice all choked up, asking a friend about pain containers. I have so much pain I don’t know where to put it. Where does one put pain? Where does one tuck it away?. And my friend sighed and said that I was a woman who was impenetrable; I held the world and everyone in it at a safe remove. It was easy to live this way, surrounding myself with people who rarely challenged me, people to whom I refused trespass to the in of me. The ticking is the bomb. The ticking is the bomb. That day, years ago, I remembered scrolling through dozens of numbers programmed into my cellular phone and feeling crippled that I could dial none of them.

Back then I was a woman on the verge. I was a landmine; I could blow at any minute. My friend told me this: you have to let people in. All the way in.

For some reason I remembered this today as I was baking blueberry bars. Strange to recall a former version of myself while a friend is over taking measurements of my apartment while I busied myself with measuring cups and a stand mixer. Strange to flash back to an older apartment, a bubbling blueberry crumble cooling by the window and the friend I had let in, all the way in, seated at my kitchen table.

It was a virtuous crumble, made with toasted oats and greek yoghurt — tart and sweet and tangy all at once. We dove our forks in and feasted and giggled like children. I imagined this is what having a sister must be like. We created a world around us, we had our own vernacular and inside jokes. We were high drama. We traded books like playing cards and pontificated on pandas, clowns and Smurfs.

We lived in this carefully created fiction for seven years and then suddenly we had fallen to blight. Our sentences were stilted and we clung desperately to old memories, frightened to admit that we had outgrown one another. Who would say it first? Who would admit that we no longer needed one another? Who would cleave through the awkward silences with the truth. The here and the now. We had become ill-fitting clothing. We had shed one another and couldn’t confess it. The ticking is the bomb.

That was two years ago.

And although I’ve had closure with losing her, our friendship — the largeness and beauty of it — comes back in waves.

Inspired by Sugarcrafter’s Blueberry Bar recipe, I decided to create something entirely new. Instead of white flour, I combined almond and whole wheat flours, which yielded a more complex, nuttier bar. The infusion of coconut and flaxseed is unexpected, and while these bars aren’t one note and devilishly sweet, they offer a juxtaposition of texture and flavor. If you’re seeking a deviation from the unexpected and are craving blueberry treats, I urge you to sample these yummy treats.

INGREDIENTS: Inspired by Sugarcrafter’s Blueberry Bar recipe with modifications.
For the filling:
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/3 cup cane sugar
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp cornstarch
Juice of 1/2 lime

For the dough:
1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
2 cups flour: 1 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour; 1/2 cup almond flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp flaxseed
1 tsp Kosher salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×9″ baking dish. Crush the blueberries and then pour them into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix together the sugars, cornstarch, and ginger. Stir the sugar mixture and lemon juice into the blueberries.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and coconut. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients half at a time until crumbly. Press 2/3 of the dough into the pan, reserving the remaining third. Bake the crust about 10 minutes or until very lightly browned.

Pour the blueberry filling on to the hot crust, and then sprinkle the remaining dough over the top. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the crumb topping turns golden brown. Cool before serving.

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sweet recipes

bake this now: brown butter chocolate chip cookies!

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Every year I find a cookbook that warms my heart. The recipes are imperfectly perfect, the prose written with such care that you could feel their affection rise above the page. Years ago I collected Martha Stewart cookbooks like trading cards — I was obsessed with precision and technique. And while Martha’s books are the gold standard for any baker, they read cold, restrained, dispassionate. You don’t feel connected to the baker whose chocolate accidently splatters the walls. You don’t feel empathetic to incidents of flour covering your entire frame.

My first adult attempt at baking was a cheesecake sweetened with confectioner’s sugar instead of cane sugar because sugar is sugar, right? ABSOLUTELY NOT. My tasteless mistake was a colossal flop when it hit the office. I’ve since learned that when it comes to baking, chemistry is important.

This year I’ve discovered my newfound crush — Joy the Baker’s Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes. A celebration of butter and sugar, the recipes practically COMMAND one to make them. Joy is tender and kind and her book is imbued with very personal memories that carry over into the kitchen, and you can’t help but be swept into her delicious, confectionary world. When I initially purchased this book, the cashier at Barnes and Nobles tapped the cover and said, I’m a trained pastry chef and her apple crisp WORKS. You won’t be disappointed. And I wasn’t. From black pepper and bacon waffles to avocado and cream cheese loaves to unctuous rivers of chocolate, the recipes are earthy, unexpected and a cinch to make.

Take these brown butter chocolate chip cookies. Not only is this cookie chewy, there’s something smoky about it, rich and enveloping — all as a result of the caramelized butter and molasses. The simple cookie gets the volume turned up, and I had to nearly toss these in the freezer to prevent me from gorging on the lot.

Bake, enjoy! Love, live, eat!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker’s Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes
2 sticks of butter (1 cup), softened
1 scant cup of cane sugar
1 tsp of molasses
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 1/4 cups of flour
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)

DIRECTIONS
In a silver bottomed medium skillet, brown 1 stick of butter on medium heat. Basically, you melt the butter and swirl it around. You’ll hear some crackling–that’s the water leaving. When this stops and the butter starts to turn a chestnut-y brownish color, turn off the heat and remove the butter from the pan or else you’ll burn it! Let it cool.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the other stick of butter and white sugar together until light and fluffy, 3-5 min. Then add in the vanilla and molasses until fully incorporated.
Then added in the cooled brown butter and the brown sugar. Cream together until fluffy (2 min).

Add in the egg +egg yolk and mix for another minute or so.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, baking soda, and flour. Then add this into the stand mixer with the rest of the ingredients and mix on low until just combined (don’t over do it!).

With a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Cover and let it rest in the fridge for 30 min while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven at 375 degrees, with the rack in the middle of the oven.

Form small tablespoon sized balls of dough and bake them for 10-12 minutes. Mine started to brown at the top after 10 minutes so I took them out. They were perfectly chewy!

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cookie recipes sweet recipes

love. life. eat.: coconut challah french toast nutella sandwiches!

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Today is one of those days worth photographing. From surviving my first cycling class and discovering that I love spin (where have you been all my life?!), to toasting a recently-engaged friend on the hunt for a wedding dress, to indulging in delicious eats in Prospect Park to readying myself for a decadent floor picnic, I couldn’t help but crave something sweet and perfect.

Amidst the litany of yoga studios and real estate agent offices, I found an old-world shop that serves up exotic spices, wrapped cheeses and loaves of challah bread. It was then that I conceived of a French toast recipe with the volume turned up. Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with coconut oil — I’ve been using it as a moisturizer and deep conditioning treatment for my hair — so I’ve been thinking of new and interesting ways I can incorporate coconut into my repertoire. Married with a tub of nutella hidden in the back of my larder, I knew this French toast just HAD TO HAPPEN.

And OH MY SWEET LORD was it GOOD. Divine, actually. Breakfast worth preaching to. The sweet flakes literally melt into the challah and the nutella is pretty over the top, but it’s worth the indulgence.

INGREDIENTS
4-6 slices of challah bread
1/4 cup skim milk
1 large egg
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Nutella for spreading

DIRECTIONS
How simple can this get? Mix all of your ingredients in wide bowl. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large, non-stick skillet. Lightly dip (don’t drench, or you’ll get eggy, soggy French toast) the challah into the batter and fry on the pan for approximately one minute. Switch sides and cook until golden.

Remove two slices of the French toast and slather one side with nutella to make a sticky, delectable sandwich. Continue until you can’t help but dive your fork into the yielding, soft toast. Add maple syrup, honey or confectioner’s sugar to top it all off.

Serve hot.

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sweet recipes