22/10/2014

On Nesting

I've been in dedicated nesting mode these last couple of weeks: never straying too far from home and keeping house in little ways, prep for the long winter. Can you blame me? Something about this time of year. We've had more more grey, dark days than light and sunny ones and there's something quite spooky about the way the world turns black and orange all at once (that's about as excited for halloween as you'll ever find me). It calls for turning on the heat for the first time, the air all scratchy with burnt dust, and pulling out our thickest sweaters. I've spent a lot of time on chilly walks but they always lead me to the same place: that mountainous blanket heap I don't seem able to resist, a good book or album thrown in the mix to keep me company, and a warming mugful of this or that. Cozy at its best.
How do you like to nest? Do you dream up hearty menus for the months to come? Or write a to-watch list for all those evenings you know you'll spend inside, the world too inky-black to venture out? I aim to strike a chord that is part productive and part not in my nesting. I'll freeze soups or clean out my closet, but only in between watching films and flipping through magazines. It feels decadent but also very, very right. I think I was born to nest.

One thing I've noticed? "I'm nesting" isn't a valid excuse for skipping out on anything. Shocker, I know. You can't cancel plans to don pyjamas at eight o'clock (but oh, how I wish you could) and you can't reschedule a meeting just because you had hoped to make hot toddies (you even the bought the brandy, too bad for you).
When you do get a night to yourself though, you should make this Warm Roots Salad. Nesting food, in its essence, sticks to your ribs, fills up your torso, warms you, actually, from the inside out. That doesn't mean it has to be heavy though. Forget braised short ribs and chicken pot pie (at least for today). Sometimes the most comforting foods are also the most nourishing.

On blustery nights, when ingredient seeking is out of the question, I like to gather whatever root vegetables I have on hand and roast them up good in a hot oven. They become a warm, bistro-inspired salad when served with green lentils and roasted kale and tossed with a satisfying vinaigrette that's tangy, salty and sweet all at once. Second helpings are inevitable. Don't fight it.

Warm Roots Salad
Serves four as a main course or more as a starter

for the salad...
3 large beets, peeled and cut into half-inch wedges
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into half-inch coins
2 parsnips, peeling and sliced into quarter-inch coins
1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced
4 cups of kale, chopped into bite sized pieces
de puy lentils enough for four (1 1/2 cups should do it)
olive oil
salt and pepper

for the vinaigrette...
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
more salt, more pepper (to taste)

Preheat oven to 425.

Divide beets between two sheets of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and wrap up tightly. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Combine carrots, parsnips and onion on a second baking sheet (unwrapped). Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer both trays of vegetables to preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes, stirring the carrots/parsnips/onion half way through. After 30 minutes, add the kale to the carrot pan and roast for 5 more minutes. Remove all veg from oven and open up the beet packets to allow to cool slightly.

While vegetables are roasting, prepare lentils according to package instructions. For me, I usually work from a ratio of 1:3 for lentils and water. Combine in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain any water that's left in the pot.

While vegetables are cooling, make vinaigrette: combine all ingredients and whisk to emulsify.

Serve the vegetables atop the lentils and drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss to combine.
In this issue...
Heard: Burn Your Fire for No Witness by Angel Olsen
Read: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Worn: Ann Taylor sweater, Zara skirt, H&M hat (now only available in black), knee-high socks (similar), suede oxfords (similar), Calvin Klein bag

11/10/2014

AS EASY AS PUMPKIN PIE

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays, perhaps because it's the only one that's all about the food. No one worries about gifts or fictional holiday mascots at Thanksgiving; instead, we concentrate on the one thing that's most important, Thanksgiving dinner. This leaves a whole weekend to cook and eat as much as you please, plus plenty of time to simply enjoy a few days off during a beautiful season. Now that's a holiday I can get behind!

For me, Thanksgiving has always been about the harvest. Now is the time when the fields and forests are ablaze with colour and the markets are bursting with the best produce the year has to offer. I've always found it quite beautiful to think that in the face of winter's imminent quiet, nature makes a whole lot of noise and throws quite the party. Soon all will wrinkle and die, but that doesn't stop the natural world from enjoying one last spectacular hurrah. At Thanksgiving, this is I'm most grateful for.
{ Ann Taylor Loft shirtdress & necklace, Lucky Brand boots, Kangol hat }

This year, my Thanksgiving will be a quiet one. I'm staying in the city and making dinner just for the two of us. This dress, which I bought last weekend on my quick trip to New York, feels appropriately autumnal for the holiday, don't you think? Instead of cooking a whole turkey, I've gone the route of a breast and drumsticks. Not conventional at all, I know, but it solves the problem of infinite leftovers and allows us a taste of tradition.

One custom I can't bear to sacrifice in the face of our intimate party for two? Pumpkin pie. When I'm home with my family for Thanksgiving, it's the one dish I always, always make. I like it silky smooth and extra spicy with plenty of whipped cream. I know homemade pie can be intimidating, especially if you're making the crust yourself, but I've detailed below some of my most trusted tips for a perfect pie. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
1. Keep it cold!
Pie dough is infamously finicky but you'll have a much easier time if you make sure to keep everything very, very cold. This includes your ingredients (make sure the butter, flour and water are all chilled in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before using) and the dough itself once it's formed (chill dough overnight before rolling out and chill again, for at least an hour, once it's in the pie plate).
2. Always blind bake!
In my opinion, a golden, flaky pie crust is often better than the filling it holds. But flaky and golden are only possible if your crust is evenly cooked and therefore blind-baked. Blind baking is the process in which you bake the crust before adding the filling. In my mind, it's an essential step. The one thing to keep in mind? You'll need to line your pie dough with parchment paper and weigh it down with pie weights or some old, dried beans (save the beans for future pies) before baking. This will ensure your crust doesn't bubble and bend when met with heat.
3. Let it cool!
Also known as: Allow yourself plenty of time to make this pie. After your crust is blind-baked, allow it to cool completely before adding the filling. And once the pie itself comes out of the oven, allow it to cool completely and then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. These steps will ensure your pie has a luscious, smooth consistency: don't skip them!
Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie with Brandied-Ginger Cream
adapted from Fine Cooking

for the crust, you will need...
one-half teaspoon table salt
ten tablespoons of unsalted butter cut into 1-inch pieces (cut butter and then chill)
one and one-half cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour
one-third cup of cold water

for the pie filling, you will need...
one fifteen-ounce can of pure pumpkin
two large eggs
one large egg yolk
one cup heavy cream
one and one-half tablespoons of brandy
three-quarters cup of dark brown sugar
one teaspoon ground ginger
one and one-half teaspoons ground cinnamon
one-half teaspoon table salt
one-eighth teaspoon ground nutmeg
one-eighth teaspoon freshly ground pepper
pinch of ground cloves

for the cream, you will need...
one cup heavy cream
one tablespoon maple syrup
one teaspoon ground ginger
one teaspoon brandy

special equipment: pastry blender, 9-inch pie plate, parchment paper, plastic wrap

to make the crust...
Add flour to a large mixing bowl. Tumble in pieces of butter. Using the pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until the butter is left in large crumbs. Add cold water. Using the pastry blender, work the water into the mixture, breaking down the butter even more. Continue cutting the butter into the flour until it is pea-sized. At this point, the mixture will not be a solid ball of dough as you might imagine, but if you pinch the dough with your fingers, it should stay together. If not, add a little more water and mix again.

Dump dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Use the sides of the wrap to press down on the dough and form it into a disk. Wrap and chill for at least two hours but preferably overnight in the fridge. I tend to also put my dough in the freezer for 15 minutes just before working with it.

Once dough is chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin until it is 16 inches in diameter (1/8 inch thick). Transfer to pie plate, pressing lightly to fit. Trim the overhanging dough to 1/2 inch from the edge of the pie plate. Fold the edge under. Crimp the edge as desired. Chill for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400.

Line chilled dough with parchment and weigh down with pie weights. Bake for 18 minutes. Remove parchment and pie weights and bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

to make the pie...
Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, eggs, egg yolk, cream and brandy. Whisk to blend. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, pepper and cloves. Whisk to blend. Add brown sugar-spice mixture to pumpkin and, once again, whisk to blend.

Pour filling into cooled pie crust. Bake until the sides of the pie are set and the center is still a bit bouncy (the pie will continue to cook as it cools), about one hour. Allow to cool completely and chill for at least two hours.

to make the cream and serve...
Just before serving, whip cream with maple syrup and brandy. Serve each slice of pie with a spoonful of cream.

23/09/2014

Women in Clothes Making Soup

I approached this post in a different way than I have any other. I was inspired by a talk I attended last week, promoting the new book Women in Clothes, a compilation of interviews, conversations and thoughts about how women relate to clothes, dressing and style. This is not your typical fashion book. In fact, fashion seems to have little to do with what the editors of Women in Clothes are trying to accomplish. It's a book about the why instead of the what of dressing; the general premise is that what you wear isn't as important as why you wear it.

At the heart of the book is a survey of 83 questions, which you can check out and fill out on the Women in Clothes website. I decided to answer a few of these questions and share some of my more interesting replies. The outfit and recipe in this post are inspired by my answers.
1. WHEN DO YOU FEEL AT YOUR MOST ATTRACTIVE?

WHEN I CONNECT WITH ANOTHER PERSON. HONEST CONVERSATION between two people SUGGESTs MUTUAL ATTRACTION AND INTEREST. 

2. DO YOU NOTICE WOMEN ON THE STREET? IF SO, WHAT SORT OF WOMEN DO YOU TEND TO NOTICE OR ADMIRE?

Most often, I notice women who look Polished but at ease. These individuals look like they put thought and care into dressing, but don't really think or care about they look Once they are dressed. Dressing for these women is not an effortless process but it has a care-free conclusion.

3. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU ADMIRE ABOUT HOW OTHER WOMEN PRESENT THEMSELVES?

I always admire when other women can pull off looks that I cannot.

4. ARE THERE ANY CLOTHING (OR RELATED) ITEMS THAT YOU HAVE IN MULTIPLE? WHY DO YOU THINK YOU KEEP BUYING THIS THING?

Coats and blazers. I have far too many (closets full) and I've realized, in a given year, I barely have time to wear them all. So why do I keep buying them? I think I like what they represent: structure.

5. WHAT ARE SOME RULES ABOUT DRESSING YOU FOLLOW, BUT YOU WOULDN'T NECESSARILY RECOMMEND TO OTHERS?

For some reason, I tend to abide by the rule "Don't wear more than one piece of jewelry at a time." I've never been a jewelry person (i rarely buy jewelry and when i do it's only because I really, really love something) and the idea of wearing more than one piece seems too busy to me. Of course, tons of women pull off wearing multiple pieces and it looks great; it's just not for me. Also, i've never pierced my ears and don't plan to. "No earrings" is another one.

6. WHAT IS AN ARCHETYPAL OUTFIT FOR YOU; ONE THAT YOU COULD HAVE HAPPILY WORN AT ANY POINT IN YOUR LIFE? WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?

Jeans, t shirt, blazer, flats. I like this outfit because it feels timeless, not only in terms of fashion history, but also in terms of my own historical relation to fashion. I hated sneakers and hoodies as a child; I would have much preferred to have worn flats and a blazer, though they were hard to find in my size at the time.

7. WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS GETTING DRESSED IN THE MORNING? WHAT ARE YOU CONSIDERING?

In order of most to least importAnt, i consider: the weather, what I'll be doing on a particular day (who I'll be meeting, where I'll be going), my mood, what I've neglected to wear recently.

8. DO YOU HAVE STYLE IN ANY AREAS OF YOUR LIFE ASIDE FROM FASHION?

I definitely have a Cooking Style. My instincts in the kitchen are to make hearty dishes reminiscent of comfort or peasant food, but always with the freshest ingredients I can find. I like to make food that's best tackled on a Sunday, when there's time for it to simmer on the stovetop and nothing is too rushed. When I cook food that isn't of this style, I feel slightly uncomfortable/out of my element, as if I was wearing someone else's clothes.

wearing: limited edition "I See You" t shirt by Judith Henderson, 
Theory blazer, Guess JeansBCBG flats (similar)

There are 75 more questions in the survey and I encourage you to take a look at them. This was quite a revealing process for me and I think it would be for any woman. Though I put a lot of thought into what I wear and how I dress, I had never really considered why I make the style choices I do. I was especially interested by my response to the question of multiples in my closet. I've always known I have a penchant for blazers and coats but I had never deliberated why. It's interesting that the blazer also features in my archetypal outfit. Clearly, I've always craved structure.

The last question is a fun one because I most definitely do have a style of cooking. I like to think that my blog's recipe index is indicative of what this style is, but I also wanted to share with you a recipe that is the perfect expression of how I like to cook. It could only be one thing: French Onion Soup. Does it get any more hearty and comforting? I love the process: slow-cook the onions, develop the flavour of the broth, top with bread and cheese and broil until brown. It's the type of food that demands a glass of wine but could also cure a cold, indulgent and nourishing all at once. I like my soup spicy so I add a big spoonful of dijon mustard to the onions just after they caramelize. Think of it as my personal take on a classic style.
French Onion Soup
makes enough for four generous helpings (plus a little extra)

you will need...
2 pounds of yellow onions, sliced thinly
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
plenty of fresh thyme (6-8 full sprigs)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons flour
1 cup of dry white wine (preferably French)
4 cups of beef stock
2 cups water
salt and pepper

baguette, sliced to fit into oven-proof bowls
gruyere, grated (plan to use up to 1/3 cup of grated cheese per bowl)

In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, thyme and bay leaves and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat as necessary, for 30-35 minutes, or until onions are caramelized and deep amber in colour. Add mustard and stir to combine. Add flour and stir, cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add wine; allow to bubble away for 2-3 minutes. Add stock and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. I usually make this soup ahead of time so it can have at least an hour or so to sit off the heat, allowing the flavour to deepen (overnight is even better!).

Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaves; discard. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat broiler. Toast sliced baguette on baking sheet until browned. Divide soup between heat-proof bowls on the baking sheet. Top with bread and cheese (use as much as you like). Melt cheese in the oven until brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.