Wednesday
Apr092014

skillet banana bread pudding

My husband was on a business trip to Seattle recently and I told him that if given the opportunity, he must visit Delancey. I’ve been following the brilliant unfolding of this restaunrant since inception and I very seriously contemplated tagging along for this reason alone. And to see my childhood BFF Dawn of course who is only two short  hours away. Actually, had we arranged it better, she could have met me there and we would have been dashing off to Delancey every night for homemade pizza and hand-crafted cocktails. Dawn, why are we such poor planners? Why?

Anyway, I told my children they could sleep in our bed while he was away and as we all snuggled in one night, I could hear the faint sound of their sweet exhales as they drifted off to sleep. And I felt a rush of earnest gratitude. There were so many nights that I fell asleep with heartache and despair, not knowing if I’d ever have a child to love and hold and now, these two little beauties were asleep next to me.

I remembered the first time we brought Raphaelia home from the hospital. She was fast asleep in our bed one morning and Spiro picked up the camera and snapped photos of us. I was wearing a striped grey and white shirt and Raphaelia was in her finest onesie and our heads sort of peaked and met in a V. One of her little arms was reaching out and a teeny tiny finger touched my face as if to say: Hey there. We're a team now FYI.

The sheets were crumpled and my hair was pulled back and I looked ridiculously exhausted- even for someone already sleeping if you can imagine. That sort of zonked out slumber that only really happens when you are bone tired and your mouth hangs open slightly. 

That was me.

I remember looking at that photo and thinking how awful it was but now, it’s one of my favorites. It’s just so raw and honest and it’s a real representation of those early days of motherhood when you find yourself nursing endlessly and feeling utterly shattered with fatigue. I was so very fortunate though because I had an entire village of loving friends looking after me. And I am so grateful for their mid afternoon visits with baskets of homemade baked goods and decaffeinated hazelnut lattes. Oh I don't know, I suppose I also really enjoyed all the pampering too, I mean, who wouldn’t?

My friend Sarah, who had a baby only 5 weeks before me, came to visit one day and brought over the best orange cranberry muffins I'd ever had. The secret she said, was using the entire orange, rind and all. The recipe is genius because all of the ingredients are tossed into the food processor and left to mingle while you sip tea or tend to your newborn who you've realized, rather likes the sound of the buzzing food processor. So you do what any sane person in that situation would do and just keep the darn thing running for just a wee bit longer than required. 

The things we do. Honestly.
 
Ellina always came to visit with a loaf of her mom's famous banana bread, which incidentally, is the only banana bread I ever make. Period. If there was ever any left, which wasn't very often, I used to cube the loaf, leave it out over night to dry up a little, and then make a super scrumptious banana bread pudding with homemade chocolate drizzle.

It got to be that more often than not, I'd make banana bread with the sole intention of not eating it and using it instead as a base for this bread pudding. I used to make a small batch in a cast-iron skillet and then finish it off in the oven. The part that really makes it special I think, is the caramelizing of butter and brown sugar before the cubed pieces of banana bread are added. It creates this thick, beautiful syrup that is really the showstopper in this recipe. The entire pudding gets crispy and gooey and pretty fabulous but I must warn you, you’ll most definitely find yourself eating it by the spoonful directly out of the pan, which is to say, it’s a dangerous thing to have lying around.  

 My children like it with extra bananas on top!

Thursday
Apr032014

Painting on wood

At our last Table Twenty-Five event the art project for the evening was painting silhouettes onto wood. Each person was given a 12x12" piece of pine and I walked them through how to get their image onto it (after a few glasses of wine). It was a success. Nic and I did a practice run at my place a week before just to see how it would turn out with a little instruction. You can learn how-to here.

Here's Nic working on her son's silhouette.

Here are a few people the night of, working on their pieces. Aprons on and wine glasses nearby.

I spend a fair bit of time in Brooklyn and love going to the Brooklyn Flea market. The last time I was there, I ran into an artist I'd met in Soho a few years back. He was selling his art on the corner of Mott and Prince. I bought a bird screen-printed on linen. Turns out he's painting on wood now and I absolutely feel in love with this piece below. His name is Philip Sachs.


Another thing I love to do is find paintable surfaces in the trash. I found this piece of wood in the trash in Brooklyn. Excited to paint on it! Stay-tuned. PS - If you're interested in attending our next Table Twenty-Five event, you can purchase tickets by clicking the link above on the right...or you can click here.




Tuesday
Apr012014

Roasted mushroom soup

I honestly feel like I am in a never- ending vortex of snow and ice storms. My spirit is completely crushed and it seems like decades, eons since the sun last made an appearance and to be perfectly frank, I'm just not convinced spring is ever going to arrive. It's a glass half empty kind of day I guess but I am done guys. Done done done. 

When I woke up to more rain, more wind, more fallen branches, more grouchy neighbors, I seriously contemplated booking a last minute vacation. Somewhere sunny and warm. No rain or wind or broken tree limbs or neighbors who don't smile.

The other day, I found myself dashing to my car only to get stuck in the most vicious lashing of wind and hail. The kind that stipples your face like tiny little thumbtacks. And when I finally made it to the car, breathless and irritated and feeling quite ready for these last six months of winter to finally come to an end, I thought about the beach and my children and homemade ice cream and I sort of wondered if that was even happening this year.

I'm done venting. Thank you for listening. You're such gems.

On another note, this soup!

I guess the one teeny tiny good thing about this weather is that soup is still on the menu which is great I suppose since I love it. This week, I managed to make three different kinds of soup along with a loaf of banana bread and cookies with dark chocolate chunks and pecans. What can I say? Hibernation mode I guess.

Sadly though, my children don’t really like mushrooms and refused to even try this soup which is quite disappointing really because I know they would have loved it. Especially Nikolas who I'm pretty sure is going to be on Chopped someday. I suppose I could have called it a pureed vegetable soup which wouldn't have been a complete lie. An omission of sorts but certainly not a lie lie. 

And while we're on the subject, I think it's perfectly acceptable for parents to add in healthy little bits of vegetables to sauces and meatballs and not tell their children. My mom used to give us 'special milk' every morning for breakfast which I later found out, contained a whole raw egg. She added cinnamon and a touch of cocoa and it was delicious yes, but still. I mean, I get it. We wouldn’t have touched it had we known the truth but that was a real honest to goodness lie versus the kind I’m advocating here.

Not cool mom.

All this to say that, my husband and I have been enjoying this soup all week long and it's pretty fabulous. The thyme and roasted mushrooms give off a 'meaty' flavor and the white wine balances everything perfectly with just a touch of sweetness. It’s hearty and savory and exactly what this sort of weather calls for. And maybe if we just keep cooking batches of soup we can fool Mother Nature into thinking we don’t really care if spring ever gets here. Maybe we should all take the ‘meh’ approach and perhaps she’ll get fed up and stop the cruel hoax.

Whatever. It. Takes.

 

Thursday
Mar272014

spaghetti with browned butter + cheese

For the past few months, my mother, sister and I have been on a never-ending quest to find my grandmother’s recipe book. My mom had some painting done a while back and things got shuffled. Boxes got moved. Items were misplaced. And even though they were very optimistic about finding it, my hopes started dwindling. You can imagine my heartfelt relief when my sister called last week with a pronounced, WE FOUND IT!

It was as though they had given me, that they had hand-delivered, a tiny piece of my heart, all wrapped up in an old, coiled, black notebook.

When I skimmed through it and saw her beautiful handwriting once again, I was moved. I remembered all of the birthday cards she had given me in the past- always with the same wish for health and love and happiness. Her handwriting is striking and meticulous and precise and as I read page after page, I couldn’t help but hold the book close to my heart with only one thought.

Her pen once graced these pages.

These recipes represent little moments in time that sort of stand still and I can’t help but wonder what she was wearing or what she was thinking about or who sat at her table that day to enjoy the homemade goodness of her cooking.

I can say with absolutely certainty that on many occasions, it was I who sat there. Elbows perched at the end of the table, slathering butter on homemade bread. Enjoying her braised beef and tomato with hand rolled pasta. Having more than my share of her buttery Greek cookies, dunked in warm milk with just a touch of coffee. Sometimes, she would make them with orange peel and other times with almonds and cognac. Whatever her method or choice of ingredients, they were always delicious.

Sometimes, I’d take her face in my two little hands and ask what her secret was. How was her food always so wonderful? And she’d just smile and shrug and say, I guess it must be my trusty old simmering pot.

Some pages of the book are wrinkled and others have pronounced spills of oil making them appear transparent, almost like parchment paper. On those particular spots, the ink has bled a little and the words are stretched and blurred but I can still make them out. And when I blow up one of the recipes and frame it, I want to keep it exactly as it is. With all of these amazing little imperfections. Because it’s these little details that tell the story you know.

I've always loved typography. I've always been drawn to scrolled letters or big chunky notes or the design associated with words strung together on a page. They conjure up the same feelings that photographs do. They are poems and hand-written cards and unfiltered emotions. 

It's art. All of it.

And having this large-scale framed recipe hanging in my kitchen will make my home feel complete. This recipe book, this framed art, is a page of her life. Of her journey. A true acount of who she was at the core.

A scrupulous home cook. An amazing storyteller. A really beautiful person.

It’s hard to choose a favorite recipe to be honest but perhaps one of her most requested, was a humble dish of spaghetti with browned butter and cheese. It’s such a simple thing really that I hesitate to even call it a recipe. She used Greek Kefalogaviera cheese but Parmesan will work just fine. It takes mere minutes to throw together. The cheese crisps up and gets brown and coarse and salty and your lips are left with this glossy buttery sheen.  It’s filling and decadent and completely delicious.

And every time I have it, every single time, I am that little girl sitting at my grandmother’s table. Elbow’s perched, napkin tucked into my collar, impatiently reaching over the table for the little bowl of freshly grated cheese.

I'm so thankful we found this little cookbook. This beautiful book of dreams. 

When I look inside, I know without a doubt that her spirit is with me everywhere I go.

xo

 

Tuesday
Mar182014

Another Table Twenty-Five event

My gorgeously talented friend Sarah sent me the proofs and video for our Table Twenty-Five event that took place a few weeks ago and I teared up when I saw them. I’ve only been dabbling in photography for a few years, largely as a result of Sarah’s influence, and at times I find it quite challenging to capture the spirit. The real essence of the places and the things and the people. But Sarah. She was able to bring me back to that magical night with such candor and realism that when I looked at the photos, I remembered exactly the way I felt just moments before our guests arrived. Or the relief I felt when I realized I had not in fact, forgotten to bring the water glasses. Or the complete and all encompassing liberation of realizing that the first course had been served and people, thankfully, seemed to be enjoying it. This isn't even her full-time gig. By day, she's the talented orthodontist who is transforming my smile and on the side, she helps her fabulous mom with her photography business. Only a true artist can capture those emotions and allow you to relive them over and over and I’ll be eternally grateful to her for enabling me to be connected to that moment forever. This project has been filled with so much excitement but also a little fear. 

Those feelings are completely normal. So I'm told.

Hearing the heartfelt laughter and beautiful conversations and thoughtful sentiments, it all confirmed that this entire endeavor was good and real and true. It’s an amazing feeling when passion and labor collide in the most brilliant way imaginable. When the planning and the executing connect in this really perfect way. Magical might be the only word to accurately describe something like that I think. That sort of euphoric feeling of relief and happiness and gratitude all jumbled into one knotted ball of emotion.

Our wonderful family and friends volunteered wholeheartedly to be a part of the experience and I have such deep-routed gratitude for all of them. For toiling and facilitating and being a part of every single moment. They made Panini's in the back room and added the finishing garnish of thyme just before the soup went out. They stirred the risotto and poured prosecco and made sure everyone had minted citrus water. And when our stovetop stopped working momentarily, they didn’t let on until after the entire meal had been served and our guests were happily immersed in art with a full belly in tow. 

Now that's true love.

It made me realize what an incredible team I am a part of. This team of people that I am proud to call husband and mother and friend and brother and sister.

We wanted a simple and minimal appeal and we hope we captured that spirit with our food and art and company. So thank you. For participating and celebrating and being a part of something meaningful. 

The really fabulous news is that we've picked the date for our next Table Twenty-Five event. It's going to take place on Friday, April 11th at the gorgeous Parentheses Gallery and just like last time, we only have a limited number of seats so if you're interested in attending, just click below to book a ticket.

Eventbrite - Table Twenty-Five

Thank you again dear friends. For enabling us to do something we really really love and walking with us every step of the way. 

P.S I'm sharing the recipe for the pinapple-coconut cheesecake parfait we served that night. The taste reminds me of old fashioned pinapple squares so if that's your thing, you will love this dessert. 

 xo

The Dessert