Learning about food, photography, and writing. Sharing what I find.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tiffany, History and Sushi, All Good Things

Today was a good day to be me.

First, Sushi.

After more than a year of torture, I've had my first positive sushi experience since moving to the UK. Taro on Brewer St. was one of those places where you really enjoy your food (and the incredibly generous portions, btw), but you still look over at everyone else's tables and wish you order that, too. We did bento this time around and will definitely go back for one of their steaming, massive bowls of ramen soon.

Photo courtesy of Route79.

Second, Tiffany.

My reward for surviving Selfridges on the Saturday before Christmas appeared under my nose in the form of a mini cupcake on a silver tray as we muscled our way toward the exit.

That's a cupcake. In Tiffany colors. With fresh lemon zest in the icing.

Finally, History.

For those of you who read about our Thanksgiving Feast for Two, you got a bit of my culinary back-story. When I wrote about the origins of my family's Pumpkin Pie recipe, I didn't have any pictures to-hand of my fabulous grandparents gallivanting up and down the East Coast during their newly-wedded years. But NOW, since I begged my father to scan pictures so that I could submit them to the New York Times in honor of my grandfather, I now have a hi-res, digital copy of their 1940s fabulosity. Here they are in the snow on Bromley Mountain in Vermont (where they worked winters preparing and serving food to the rich and famous vacationers), posing for a newspaper in borrowed ski gear. I just couldn't love them more.

Margaret 'Sis' Wells Menzies and John 'Jack' Cameron Menzies

And, just because it's THE CUTEST thing in the world, here's my grandfather as a little boy holding a chicken.

Now for popcorn and Love Actually.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blogger Bonding

It was an exciting night to be a London blogger.

My lovely friend, Lauren, AKA Aspiring Kennedy, and London's own Helena, of A Diary of Lovely, hosted us all at the much-talked-about Flat Planet (we alllll know how much I love flatbread pizza. Or any pizza, really). The 'Free Range People' at Flat Planet did not disappoint.

I inhaled the Mediterranean Chicken Flatbread (I held-off the sun-dried tomatoes because they can be quite pushy).

And Ele, of The Kitchenist, generously allowed me to steal her Moroccan (?) Flatbread for a picture.

Looking pretty fresh, Flat Planet. I approve.

I forgot to take pictures of people while we were there, so here's last month's picture of Lauren and me meeting the Queen.

She wrote about our run-in with royalty here.

An what's better than a favor to take home that will fuel me in the morning after partying-it-up on a Monday night? One for me (perpetually dieting) and one for the man (perpetually needing fattening up).

Thanks for a great night and here's to many more!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tuscan Kale Inspiration

Sometimes you come across an ingredient that is just so beautiful it demands to have its picture taken. This Tuscan Kale was just like that. A wrinkly, green supermodel pouting up at me.

"You can't ignore my charm."

Well, when I was only beginning dinner at 8:15pm last night, I really WANTED to ignore its charm, but, alas, I couldn't.

Gorgeous, right?

The organic produce guy at the Swiss Cottage Farmer's Market never fails me, though I sometimes get overwhelmed by the wall of greens he's got going on this Autumn.

Kale (see Tuscan, above)
Rainbow Chard
Pak Choi
Red Lettuce
Green Lettuce

I've been dabbling in a bunch of them, but this kale really stood out last week and, well, I miss Tuscany.

That's me in Arezzo on a day trip from our home in Orvieto during '09. Open wine bottles in public are classy. But seriously, the vendor who sold it to me at the market opened it for me!

Lots of people don't like kale at all, including the woman from whom I adapted the recipe below, but when it's swimming in piping hot broth and cooked juuuuust right, I don't see how it's possible to hate on kale if you like any other green and leafy, hearty plant.

So, you get a bonus recipe this week because this kale was too pretty to leave unrecorded.

Tuscan Kale and Chick Pea Stew with 
Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper Pita Chips

Majorly adapted from here
*I was ready to make toast for dinner because I felt like I had an 'empty fridge,' but this type of soup is always make-able if you've got a relatively stocked pantry. I love surprise deliciousness from a depressingly vacant fridge.*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thanksgiving for Two: Two Traditions, One Meal, Right Taste, Wrong Continent

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And it's only 85% to do with its food-centered-ness.

No but seriously, Thanksgiving has always been something really and truly special in my family. Maybe it's because it was the one holiday during the year that brought both sides of my family together, completely, for the whole day; Maybe it's because, for 25 years, I never celebrated it in a house built less than 200 years ago; Maybe it's because on Thanksgiving day, however chaotic, my parents (and later we daughters) steadfastly put out platters of food that smelled, tasted and looked exactly right, a yearly reminder of the comfort and reassurance of tradition. Okay, okay, so my Turkey Day love is 50/50: Family and Food.

In my family, to be honest, those two things have always been inextricable.

So, when there was no way in God's Green Earth that Penn and I could get home for Thanksgiving this year (from our now-home in London), I went slightly insane to the supermarket (and the farmer's market and back to the supermarket and to the corner store twice and— well, you know how it goes). In only four days, I would gather and prepare us a proper Thanksgiving Feast for Two . . . in the UK . . . while working full-time. This meant gathering recipes along with ingredients and taking my first whack at roasting a bird weighing more than three pounds. I knew I could handle all the dinner stuff.

Cornbread Stuffing with Leeks, Sage, Celery and Wild Boar & Apple Sausage

Anything that calls for 'dotting the top with remaining butter' is fine by me. This recipe is an adaptation of the one found here.

Green Bean Casserole with Deep Fried Leek Rings

It took all my strength not to eat all these before topping the casserole. Someday I'll share the recipe for this gorgeous fried exterior. It's good on everything.

Baked Sweet Potato and Apple with a Sherry, Brown Sugar, Sage and Butter Glaze

Dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg, of course.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Very Little Frills

Only a wee bit of lemon rind and sugar in the pot with the cranberries.

Oh, and The Turkey, of course.

The packaging read: "Feeds 8 minimum." Hahahhaahaaaaa Joke's on you because I just ate the last turkey sandwich from this sucker.**

Believe it or not, in the middle of it all, it was the Pumpkin Pie that scared me. All I know is that our family's famous recipe is critically-acclaimed and wildly temperamental (kinda like me!). But, it's not Thanksgiving without Pumpkin Pie. "I shall do my family proud!" I decreed.

To prepare you for the big recipe reveal to follow, you'll need a bit of history on this food-family of mine. I often forget it, but my crazy passion for food comes from a loooong line of other crazies. :) The story most relevant to my Thanksgiving endeavor is that of my grandparents' history in the food business.

Mamen and Pop-Pop weren't always called that. Margaret 'Sis' Mendillo and John 'Jack' Menzies met as toddlers. They grew up as neighbors, fought like siblings, fell in love, parted ways, endured wars, reunited, got married, and never stopped adventuring. If I really think about it, their newly-wedded years were pretty awesome. They spent years (pre-Southwest-Airlines years, mind you!) going up and down the East Coast working 'seasons' in Florida, Vermont and The Cape. My Grandfather was a cook and my Grandmother was a hostess (though she cooked up a storm in her own kitchen for sure). They served and rubbed elbows with the rich and famous of their time at some of the top destinations for people of that status.

The place we all heard about the most growing up was 'Lathams', one of the finest restaurants and inns ever on Cape Cod. (If this old postcard is to be believed, the place was subtitled, An Inn of Distinction.) My newly-wedded grandparents worked several seasons there and there's a story for almost every day. Many of those stories involve the owner of Latham's, Pa Latham, as he was called. He was the mastermind behind this '40s-era hot-spot and the culinary genius who kept big-wigs coming back year after year. I'd bet it was Pa Latham who taught my grandfather to carve a roast like a pro, and my grandmother to host dinners fit for royalty (though I know Pop-Pop's upper-class upbringing taught them both a thing or two about polished silver and cloth napkins). One thing we can confirm as a "Pa Latham Legacy" to my grandparents is his Pumpkin Pie recipe.

Pa Latham taught Pop-Pop, Pop-Pop taught my dad, and the extended family has enjoyed it on the last Thursday in November for decades. No one else in history has ever tried to replicate it until THIS YEAR. No pressure. (The pressure was slightly abated by the fact that my co-UK sister was also trying it for the first time up in Scotland. Phew.)

With 70 years of legacy on my shoulders, and a very hungry husband, I embarked on the great adventure to replicate Pa Latham's Pumpkin Pie.

And I did. Wanna know how to achieve the magic? Read on...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mango Lassi, Mango Lad

BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED A TOTALLY UNSEASONAL TREAT (*all my foodie friends turn up their noses*).

And sometimes Sainsbury's has a buy-one-get-one-free on mangoes.

I know, I know. London is a far cry from India and anywhere tropical. And, sometimes, these fleshy, juicy fruits can be downright unpalatable out of season and region (I never liked mangoes until I had them in season in the middle of the Caribbean. It was the nectar of the Gods). But, when you're broke and looking for something to diversify your produce pile, a buy-one-get-one sale can make you do crazy things. I guess I trusted that the large Indian population in our neighborhood and London's general love and appreciation of Indian fare would mean that they get pretty good mangoes, year round. So, into my cart they went.

I let them sit for a few days until they were just a bit tender-er and let off a sweet aroma. The little drip of syrup that came from the stem bit was a good sign of peak-sweetness, too. :)

Then it was Mango Lassi time. Fruit and sugar and cream and Autumn spices? Ummm yup.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy 11.11.11!!

I'm baaaaaaaaack!

It WOULD take a nerdy event like 11.11.11 to bring me back to blogging. But really, if you know me, you know that self-motivation is a tricky business in my brain. I need to have a 'reason' – no matter how unrelated, random or feeble – to initiate action. So, because I didn't want 11.11.11 to go by uncelebrated, I'm choosing this date to start a new blogging resolution and to inaugurate my new kitchen (Yes, we've moved! To London!) into the blogosphere. The plan is to post once a week, sharing one of that week's adventures in my kitchen-the-size-of-a-middle-school-locker. But seriously, I do love my cramped haven:

I mean, look at that chopping block.

For today, a special date numerically and historically, enjoy the beauty that is a morning sugar high.

Yay! More elevens!

I couldn't fit these 11 silver-dollar pancakes in the shape of an 11 onto a normal plate, so I used my massive tray. :)

The recipe is just the simple version from the Joy of Cooking 1970-whatever edition.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
(I also do a smidge of baking soda . . . not really sure why)
3 Tbs sugar
1 or 2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbs butter, melted
1 cup milk (or more if it's too thick)

Whisk the dry ingredients together, then add wet ingredients and stir gently until just combined. They go on a lightly greased frying pan (I used butter today, but often use a light oil instead) over medium-low heat.

I drizzled these with acacia honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar, then a dollop of Nutella, just for good measure.

In all honesty, I felt like a bit of a fool actually EATING off that massive tray, so I turned the horizontal eleven into a vertical eleven and had at it. 

The coffee was a very important part of this morning's feast. I'm off to do some freelancing on my couch in my PJs!

PS: THANK YOU and God Bless to all the veterans today, living and gone. Especially to my recently-passed Pop-Pop (aka Major John C. Menzies) and to my dear friend, CPT Andrew Michaelson, who just became a daddy 2 days ago.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Empanadas!! (deserve two exclamation points)

Grace: Penn, what do you want me to make with this ground beef?

Penn: The only good thing to make with ground beef is a burger.

Grace: The only good burger is on a grill.

Penn: (googlegoogleepicurioussmittenkitchen) Let's make these.

Grace: (the night before a 15,000 word report is due) Okay!

Dipped in creamy cilantro sauce. Best use of frozen shortcrust EVER.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Italian Overload

I just got back to England from Italy. Needless to say, I'm a bit culinarily depressed. To abate this, I've been filling the kitchen with a LOT of Italian scents since I got home. Tonight it was this:

Zucchini Rice Gratin.

The recipe was taken directly from here, and I made virtually no change to it (little extra cheese here, some generous drizzles of olive oil there). Unfortunately, I was running around the kitchen too dramatically to take pictures of the process. I can almost guarantee, however, that you will have all the ingredients in your fridge on most average days of the week.

So, Penn and I had a vegetarian dinner that felt like nothing of the sort! The wedges of gratin were accompanied by a massive plate of Caprese scattered with olives of various kinds. And this American girl couldn't live without a bit of garlic bread to add some carbs to this delightfully Mediterranean meal.

A long, drool-worthy blog about Bologna food coming up soon!

Friday, March 25, 2011

No-Fry Zucchini Fries

Here in England, fries (aka chips) are sold under the category 'Frozen Vegetables' in the grocery store. I know this because I buy my groceries online for delivery to our flat (free delivery is great) and, in that case, one shops by clickable category instead of walkable aisle. This is all to say, as much as I love me some deep fried potatoes, their nutritional value isn't up to snuff.

So, I asked myself, "Self? What is it you like about french-fried potatoes?" The answer was simple:


When I looked a bit deeper, I also realized that I like the crunchy texture they add alongside my burger. I like dipping them in sauces. I just like.

Tonight's goal, then, was to get a zucchini:

to accomplish the task of a tater. A real veg for a fake one. If we're aiming for nutrition, I also had to give up the grease. No potato, no grease, but I can keep the rest. The result was very pleasing.

Homemade No-Fry Zucchini Fries take more time to assemble than tossing some frozen Ore-Idas onto a baking sheet, but they do not disappoint.

To get started you'll need:

3 medium zucchini (courgettes in the UK)
1 cup plain bread crumbs (I made my own for the first time! Really easy and embarrassing to admit)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs (you may get away with one, so you can start with that)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

British Food Fails & Wins

I've been meaning to start a list about my culinary realizations here in England. My fellow expats and I have been comparing notes on what they do well and what they do, um, notsowell here. All of these observations come from a severe American bias, but they are the daily frustrations of An American in Oxford.

Here are a few fails and wins for today. Please contribute your joys and frustrations! I hope that, by the end of our time here (who knows when that will be) this list may be the complete reference for those considering life in the UK (what should they stock up on at Costco before coming over? What treasures must not be missed during a stay on this island?).

British Food Fails:

Crackers (aka Savoury Biscuits). Tastelessly prepared and perpetually impractically packaged. Some American and European imports, but still no concept of how to keep them from turning to crumbs or going stale.

Half-and-Half. Well, it just doesn't exist here. We go straight from whole milk to single cream, which is like our heavy cream and goes sour very quickly . . . don't get me started on the 'tops' for dairy products (and then from there to double cream, which gets poured on desserts). It's not that these cream varieties are bad, it's that my coffee is very lonely.

Mayo. I only recently bought mayo here at all following a craving for chicken salad. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's just too much of this random buttery flavo(u)r that overtakes anything it coats (One of the favo(u)rites here is a baked potato stuffed with tuna, sweetcorn, and a blop of this mayo). Maybe American mayo is vinegar-ier?

British Food Wins:

Water. Specifically, the boiling of it. I will be bringing an electric kettle back to the US and it will have a permanent place on my countertop.

Tea. Particularly the black varieties. Full of flavo(u)r and still delicious in decaf (a very hard feat).

Candy bars. There may not be a single candy bar I don't like in this country. They do the chewy/crunchy/salty/sweet combination juuuuuust right.

That'll do for today. I have so many more stewing around in my head. What about you?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Woohoo Roo-barb!

My culinary creations lately have been dictated by the contents of this organic mini-market I mentioned in my last post. It's amazing how minimal choices produce a disproportionate level of excitement for otherwise undramatic produce. First brussel sprouts, now rhubarb. Don't get me wrong, I love them both.

For using up this tart stalk, I went simple (big surprise) but also new (to me). I've done the rhubarb compote, the rhubarb pie, the strawberry-rhubarb pie, and the raw rhubarb handed to me by a shoeless hippie who insisted it was delicious (he was right, but I only conceded after he took many bites proving it wouldn't poison me on the spot. Isn't there something about rhubarb leaves . . . ?).

Anyway, today's recipe is light and citrusy and buttery and tart all at the same time. Mmmhmm!

For this Orange Rhubarb Pastry you will need:

3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 4 oranges)
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 pound rhubarb stalks
1 sheet puff pastry (God bless you if you can make your own. I bought mine this time.)
1/2 tsp. orange zest

Friday, March 4, 2011

Really? Brussel Sprouts? This is what you give me?

Don't hate. Me or the sprouts.

I live in England now and the pickin's are often slim in terms of vegetables. The adorable organic market in Oxford has more sausage, potatoes, and meat pies than anything during this season, so I picked the only green thing I could find (if you don't count the kale). That just happened to be brussel sprouts, which I just happen to love. Do I sound defensive? Well, I dare you to try this recipe and not love it. If you've ever eaten cole slaw, you'll never go back to fully grown cabbage.

Process: Simple.
Ingredients: Simple.
Helping me feel a bit of summer in March: Successful.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Plum Tart

Hello. It's your favorite slacker blogger here.

I won't try to excuse my laziness, I will simply tempt you to forgive me with gooey, glisteny baked fruit.

Of course, to get in on some of this freshly made Winter Plum Tart, you'll have to come all the way to No. 1 Thames St, Oxford, UK (a plane ride for some, merely a bike for others). Or just make your own version, you moocher. Just kidding (I'm not so good at this groveling for forgiveness thing).

Anyway, I finally discovered the joys of the Wednesday market at Gloucester Green this morning and just couldn't resist the mound of plums on sale for £1.00 (I may also have to make an avocado tart, a green chili galette and a coriander pie to get through all the goodies I snatched up -- all for only £5.00)! Fruit like this deserves to be baked and glazed and served with fresh cream. Plus, we still have a dozen left over after this whole darn tart.

It was a relatively simple process, actually. A bit annoying with the plum-slicing, but isn't just so pretty?