I wanted to share the second video I shot with Sunset—this time, using leftover rice to make arancini! What's not to love about fried cheese and rice—and these are definitely worth the effort. See the full recipe and video here.
I started cooking professionally 10 years ago, and over the past decade there are a few tools that I've come to appreciate that make meal preparation a little easier. The truth is, you don't need a ton of fancy appliances to create delicious food—though there are some that are nice to have around. Here are a few of my essential kitchen tools (and a few things I dream of owning some day):
Wusthof 8-Inch Chef's Knife: Hands down, this is the tool that gets the most use in my kitchen. I never understood how important it is to have a sharp knife until I started working in restaurants, and for me, the 8-inch knife has the perfect heft while not being unwieldily. You really don't need a whole set of 10 knives—the only ones I use are my chef's knife, a serrated knife, and a small paring knife.
Kitchen Tongs: I think these maybe cost $5 at a kitchen store in New York, but I use them for everything from tossing salads to stir-frying to serving pasta. These were another find from my restaurant days, and show that sometimes, the most utilitarian tool can be the most effective. I prefer 7-inch metal ones because they're easier to control and can be used on very hot pans or grills, but there are lots of silicone and metal options out there as well.
Pan Rack: This is a new addition to my arsenal and happened to be already installed in our place when we moved in—lucky for me! In my old kitchens where storage was tight, pans were stored on the bottom shelves of cupboards, where they were hard to get at and awkward to remove. This rack ensures that they're always within easy reach, and I plan to have something similar in any future kitchens I have.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer: Classic for a reason, this workhorse of a mixer makes whipping up cakes, bread, and even meringues effortless. My handheld mixer works fine for now, but I'd love to have one of these some day.
BlueStar Range or La Cornue Range: As a renter, I've never gotten much choice when it came to appliances. Luckily our current place has a gas stove, but one day when I have my dream kitchen, it would be amazing to cook on a range like this one. BlueStar and La Cornue both hand-craft professional-grade stoves, and BlueStar in particular is a favorite of chefs and serious home cooks alike—plus you can choose custom colors!
Vitamix: As someone who's had smoothie fall out of the bottom of an improperly screwed in blender multiple times, I appreciate a good one. Vitamix is always at the top of its category, and is said to be able to liquify whole vegetables with ease (which, incidentally, makes for healthier juice than a juicer because you get to have all of the vitamins in the pulp.) My friend Ariel swears by her Vitamix, and even pre-packages smoothie ingredients in her freezer to make mornings a little easier.
Hi! Trying to get back into the regular rhythm of posting over here, but in the meantime I wanted to share a bit of what I've been up to. In addition to my full-time job at a small food start-up, I've been doing some video recipe development and styling work at Sunset magazine! I've been a big fan of Sunset for a long time, so it's been amazing to work with them (and see their beautiful new offices and test kitchens in Oakland.) You can find the video and full recipe on their site.
I definitely meant to post this back in December, but clearly, that didn't happen. Between Christmas trips to Minnesota, parents visiting (their first time in Oakland!) and wedding planning, this blog has unfortunately fallen a bit by the wayside–but hopefully I can remedy that over the next few weeks. I've always been kind of into flower arranging, mostly using what I could find in the gardens at my parents' home. So as we were figuring out ways to cut costs on our wedding this summer, I immediately volunteered to do the flowers myself (and am very open to advice if anyone has any!) This garland was my first attempt at making anything like it, and I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was. After picking up several bunches of seeded eucalyptus and some other greens at the wholesale flower market, I followed this DIY to bind them together into an 8-foot garland. I didn't make mine quite as full and skipped adding fresh flowers and air plants, but was still very pleased with the results.
Garlands are of course classic holiday decor, but when made with eucalyptus or other leafy greens, they also make for a beautiful (and affordable) statement piece. As a bonus, ours still looked lovely when it dried out, so I was able to keep it on our mantlepiece for weeks.
In a recent effort to eat healthier (which may or may not have something to do with having to wear a wedding dress in approximately nine months) I've been looking for alternatives to my beloved butter-filled cakes and pastries. I've always had a bit of a sweet tooth, but love the idea of being able to have a piece of cake that's healthy enough for breakfast too. This cake swaps most of the usual butter for olive oil and has a healthy dose of whole wheat flour to boot. You could also use turbinado or demerara sugar instead of regular sugar--I didn't have any, but it would give the cake a lovely caramelized taste. If you can find decent plums (we're lucky to still have a few in California) then use that--but I would bet that this cake would be just as delicious with sliced pears or apples (though let's not neglect my favorite apple cake--which is pretty much the ideal thing to bring to a holiday party. I promise.)
Olive Oil Plum Cake (Adapted from The New York Times)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 pound firm plums or pluots, sliced (3-4 medium)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-inch springform pan or cake pan. Line with parchment and lightly butter the parchment. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
Place the butter in a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the olive oil and beat at medium speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is smooth. Scrape down the bowl and beater. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed for 1 minute. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and beaters between each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extract and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed, until the mixture is very light.
Turn the speed to low and slowly add the flour. Beat just until incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread it out evenly using an offset spatula. Arrange the plums on top in concentric circles, pressing them down into the batter, then sprinkle with additional 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, until the edges of the plums are beginning to color and a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake. Remove from oven and let the cake cool for 10 minutes on a rack before releasing the sides of the springform or cake pan. Then let it cool completely before slicing.
I'm going to be honest with you guys. I really wanted to like matcha, a super refined green tea powder that's supposed to have great health benefits (and has become pretty trendy recently). It has so many anti-oxidants! It's so much less acidic than coffee! It's such a pretty color green! I made these lattes one afternoon looking for a caffeine fix, and I just...didn't like it at all. Maybe I needed to add more sweetener? Maybe I need to try a different brand of tea?
In any case, I still wanted to post this recipe for a couple of reasons: one, to show that even food bloggers fail at recipes. And two, to see if there are any matcha aficionados out there who have suggestions (also, I'm kind of obsessed with those handle-less mugs.) I'll be sticking to cappuccinos to get my caffeine fix for now, but I'm always on the lookout for new things to try.
Matcha Lattes (adapted very slightly from Bon Appetit, serves 2)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 teaspoons matcha powder
2-4 tablespoons agave syrup
My first time in the south of France was when I was 16, on a trip to Arles with my family. I was immediately taken in by the pastel-colored buildings, the warm air (even in March) and the warm, friendly people (not to mention the delicious seafood.) We stayed with a delightful family in a small bed and breakfast, and spent the few days we were there exploring the Roman ruins, traveling around the region and eating (a lot.) This trip was a bit different. Ari and I didn't quite know what to expect, neither of us having been to Nice or the French Riviera before. (I was basically envisioning Casino Royale with more croissants.) We were immediately charmed by the gorgeous architecture and the incredible views of the Mediterranean, and one of my favorite moments was when we decided to walk up to the city Chateau and stumbled across a waterfall. We also had some incredible food--though we didn't get to go to Le Canon because I forgot to make a reservation, we still were able to eat at a number of wonderful restaurants.
Le Franchin Situated on a little side street, this traditional bistro served the best seafood bisque I've ever had. We actually went here after we learned that Le Canon was booked on a recommendation from the owner, and it didn't disappoint. A great spot for affordable wine and delicious fish--and the staff speaks English, so it's easy to communicate.
Restaurant Aphrodite The menu at this molecular gastronomy restaurant looks pretty crazy at first glance, but don't be afraid. Ari and I had two different tasting menus, and everything was wonderful--but we especially loved the asparagus dish with an egg and caviar, and the incredible edible forest, complete with tiny souffle "snails" and mushrooms. Chef David Faure and his wife were incredibly nice and friendly, and the staff explained everything about the menu in great detail.
Parcours Live Situated just outside Nice in the hilltop village of Falicon, Parcours Live is a Michelin-starred restaurant in an unassuming old farmhouse that just happens to have world-class views of the Riviera. When we got there it was already dark, but food more than made up for it. Chef Frederic Galland is clearly super talented, and the spacious dining room was very comfortable and quiet. I particularly loved the rabbit terrine and the red snapper with zucchini flowers.
Other notes: we stayed in two different hotels, Hotel La Perouse and the Hyatt Palais Mediteranee. Both quite different and equally lovely, but I loved the old world charm of Hotel La Perouse. Though they're both on the Promenade des Anglais, La Perouse is a bit more off the beaten track, and their roof deck has some of the best views of Nice.
We also enjoyed a delightful lunch at a sidewalk cafe in the Place Durandy, and we loved walking through the Promenade du Paillon, which was probably one of the best city parks I've ever seen. We didn't make it to any museums, but I've heard wonderful things about the Chagall museum and the modern art museum, should you be so inclined. As it was, we were very happy walking around the old city and having an aperitif or an ice cream cone when it suited us.
My love affair with Italy started in high school, when my family traveled there for a week. We stayed in Siena and Vernazza in the Cinque Terre, and I was immediately hooked. After that trip, I vowed to learn Italian and go back for a longer stay--and I did. I studied abroad in Bologna during college, and grew to love the language and the culture even more. Ari studied abroad there as well (we actually met when we were both TA's for an intro Italian class when I came back), so it's a very special place for both of us--and we were really excited to go back together. When I lived there, we lived in pretty basic dorm-style apartments with other Italian students--not exactly the fresco-filled palazzos of your dreams. This time, we decided to stay in an Airbnb on the other side of town to explore a new neighborhood (it was fantastic! Paola was so gracious and lovely, and the place was very comfortable.) Bologna is a very walkable city--you can get from one end to the other in about an hour and a half, and there are electric buses that go all over as well. It's still very much a university town, and you can feel the energy of the students all over the city. It was pretty amazing to be back in the familiar streets, seeing the same restaurants and stores (and bars) that we had been to as students. Of course, now with jobs and a little more spending money, we could also eat out more--though I remember eating very well there on a minimal budget too. Here's where we ate:
Just down the street from our Airbnb, this trattoria felt like the quintessential Italian neighborhood spot. We ordered two of the Bolognese specialties: tagliatelle al ragu and tortelloni al brodo, both delicious. I love that you could order ragu from 100 different restaurants in the city, and they would all be slightly different. They also had a great selection of inexpensive, local wines--we had a lovely sangiovese from Emilia-Romagna that went perfectly with the pasta.
This place was a recommendation from a former professor, and it didn't disappoint. I had gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and Ari had the tortelloni al brodo (are you seeing a pattern?) and we shared the pork loin. If you're looking for a perfect example of Bolognese cuisine, this is an excellent choice.
This tiny restaurant is in the neighboring town of Modena (about 20 minutes away by train) and is absolutely worth the trip. Housed in the back of a salumeria, it's only open for lunch and the curated menu is perfectly executed by the Morandi family. Be sure to order the salumi plate with fried gnocchi--the prosciutto, salami and lardo is the best I have ever had, and the light-as-air pillows of dough were incredible. You can also order half portions (as to be able to try more things, of course) which left us feeling pleasantly full but not over-stuffed. Note: you need to make a reservation about a month in advance, so plan ahead.
Don't miss: in addition to the incredible pasta, Bologna is also known for a few other specialties: piadine and aperitivo. I ate a piadina almost every day for lunch while studying abroad--it's a kind of flatbread sandwich, typically filled with prosciutto or coppa and cheese. Aperitivo happens every day before dinner--remember, Italians eat dinner around 9 pm or later, so their "happy hour" is anywhere from 6 pm to 10 pm. Around this time, you'll see restaurants and bars set out little plates of food, ranging from a bowl of potato chips to full plates of pasta. If you buy a drink (an Aperol or Campari spritz if you want to feel very Bolognese), then you can snack on the food as you like.
Kale salad has become pretty ubiquitous recently (I blame it on Bon Appétit calling it the best restaurant dish of the year a few years ago) but I still love it. My current favorite iteration is a take on the traditional Caesar, with plenty of crunchy greens, a lemony dressing with lots of umami flavor from the anchovies, and (the best part) a runny poached egg instead of mixing the eggs in the dressing.
Since kale can be a little tough to swallow (literally), I love cutting it in ribbons like a slaw to make it easier to grab with a fork and bite. You could also easily add a different protein like chicken or salmon for a heartier meal, but as-is, this makes a pretty lovely lunch.
Also, some news! Ari and I are leaving for Bologna, Italy (where we both studied abroad in college) and Nice, France this afternoon! It's the first time I'm going back to Italy since studying there, and I can't wait. We'll be back on the 26th, and I'll report back on restaurants, gelato, and all of the pizza–and I'm planning on writing a bit more about moving across the country and adjusting to a new city.
Kale Caesar Salad (adapted from Bon Appétit)
Heat remaining olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add bread and toss to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until bread is golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool.
Bring a small pan of water to boil, then add vinegar. Carefully crack 1 egg directly into pan, then quickly move egg so it stays together with a slotted spoon. Let cook (water may boil over) until egg is just set, 2-3 minutes, then remove egg with spoon. Repeat with remaining eggs.
Toss kale and dressing in a large bowl to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, croutons and poached eggs.
Summer is my favorite season. I love the sweltering days leading into still-warm nights, the smell of sunscreen, and of course, all of the incredible produce summer has to offer. And my favorite of all of those wonderful fruits and vegetables are peaches. In New York, peaches had a pretty short growing season (July and August) and I would eat one pretty much every single day. I'm still getting used to the idea that here in California, there aren't really seasons--at least, not in the way that I'm used to them. The idea that it could be around 60 degrees in January boggles my mind (what do people talk about when they can't walk about the weather??) But one thing I will definitely be able to get used to is the amazing produce all year-round--and I can't say that I'll miss only being able to buy apples and root vegetables for six months of the year.
I made this galette last week when Ari's family came over for dinner--I love galettes because you get all of the flavor of pie but without the hassle of making a double crust or worrying about shaping the dough exactly right (plus, I don't have a pie tin.) I'm loving our new kitchen too (and the fact that it's a separate room! And there's a DISHWASHER! If you've ever lived in New York, you know that's not something to be taken lightly.) We're still getting settled into our new little cottage, but it's really starting to feel like home.
Peach Galette (Adapted from Home Made Summer, a truly beautiful cookbook)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
9 tablespoons butter, very cold and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 (or more) tablespoons ice cold water
3-4 fresh peaches, pitted and sliced
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
For Crust: Combine flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or a large mixing bowl. Add butter and finely pulse or mix by hand until the butter is about pea-size. Slowly mix in apple cider vinegar and drops of water until dough comes together but isn't too sticky. Form a disc and wrap in plastic, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Combine sliced peaches, sugar, salt and lemon zest in a large bowl and let sit for half an hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from fridge, then roll out crust on a lightly floured surface until it's about 14 inches in diameter. Place on parchment paper on to pot a baking sheet, then pile fruit in the center and fold up the edges around the fruit. It's ok if it's not perfect! Bake for about 35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Let cool slightly, then serve with crème fraîche or whipped cream.