cobbler-ing with the ‘rents

Summer is for fresh fruits and cobblers. This Southern girl will never feel like a Northern zip code means changing anything about that. This weekend, thankfully I was able to get my fill.

My parents went this past week and picked some fresh peaches at a spot in New Jersey. Peaches from the local store – or, better yet, local market – works as well.

The best thing about cobbler is it is incredibly easy. You don’t need to spend a ton of time perfectly rolling out or chilling your crust layer. Nope. Skip that silliness. Cobbler has you covered. And the end result is equally tasty.

My mom found this easy recipe from Southern Living. The longest part of this prep time was peeling and slicing up the peaches (you want to make sure to cut out any bad spots and, of course, the tougher spots leading up to and including the pit). Once that was ready to go, the rest went quickly.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 cups fresh peach slices
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

First, melt the butter in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish.

Separately, mix up the batter by combining the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt and then adding the milk. You will want to stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Then pour batter over butter, but do not stir.

peachesonstove

Finally, bring the remaining 1 cup sugar, peach slices, and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Then pour over the batter (again, do not stir). You can then sprinkle with cinnamon if you want (or, as we chose to do, put a lot on top!).

CobblerTogether

Bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve cobbler warm or cool.

CobblerDone

 

(If this post had its own soundtrack, it would be this, since I couldn’t stop singing it on Sunday while we baked this.)

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fried pizza at don antonio

Before Lady Gaga’s final show at Roseland Ballroom – the final show ever at the venue – my sister and I met at Don Antonio for dinner. To be honest, I don’t even know what the back part of the restaurant looks like. It was cold and rainy and we were in a bit of a hurry, so we sat instead at the bar (coincidentally, much closer to the door). I opted to start with their Trasteverino – cynar, limoncello, and carpano in a pistachio-rimmed glass. Delicious.

We started with some fried bites – their arancini (Neapolitan rice ball with baked Italian ham) and fritattine (traditional spaghetti cake with baked Italian ham and mozzarella). The arancini was great, but oh the fritattine is where it is at. It’s like a fried mac ‘n cheese ball at it’s finest with only a $3 pricetag.

For the main dish, we had to try their signature dish – a fried pizza, or “Montanara Starita”. This is Antonio Starita’s specialty and is a lightly fried pizza dough topped by their signature Starita tomato sauce and imported smoked buffalo mozzarella. Now I’ve had fried pizza once before and thought it was tasty but, more or less, that it was just pizza.

This though? Was something entirely different. The crust was light and fluffy, but with that interesting slightly oily crispness you get when something is fried. So good. So worth the hype. If you’re in the area looking for a bite (or meeting friends somewhere where the food is … less than desirable), this should be the spot you try.

This is an area which I often have difficulty finding something good for dinner. I think I’ve found a new go to!

And although the weather might have left a bit to be desired, the concert definitely did not. Another fun and fabulous night. Only sad that there are no more to be had at Roseland… Xo.

Don Antonio – 309 W 50th St (@ 8th Avenue) – 646.719.1043
Reservations Suggested

family traditions: homemade cinnamon rolls

Typically I get to go home to Alabama once a year for Christmas. That means I naturally think of home now in the context of Christmas foods, holiday themed decor, and colder temps, all capped off with a soundtrack of carols and the like. When I took T to Alabama for his first visit, cinnamon rolls had to be part of the experience, Christmas or not (served along with homemade chili, naturally).

The biggest “ingredient” this recipe requires? Time. All of your time. Special thanks to mom for spending so much time year after year putting these together. It did not go unappreciated.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115°)
  • 2 cups lukewarm milk (scalded then cooled)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or shortening
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5-6 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, baking powder, salt, egg, and 2-3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth – ideally using a Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix in enough flour for it to start to stick to the hook (or stick to the spoon, if you are mixing by hand), likely somewhere between 3-4 of the 5-6 cups of flour.

If you have mixed by hand, turn dough onto a a well-floured surface (can cover your counter with wax paper). Knead until smooth and elastic. If you mixed with a Kitchenaid, you can spoon the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is ready if you see an indentation after you touch it.

Grease two oblong pans, 13×9 inches. Punch down the dough and divide in half. Roll one half into a rectangle, measuring dimensions of 12×10 inches. Spread with half of the butter. Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the rectangle.

Roll up, starting with the wider side. Pinch the edge of the dough into the roll to seal. Stretch the roll to make it even.

Slice into 12 slices. Place them a bit apart in one pan. Repeat with the second rectangle of dough.

You can cover with aluminum foil for and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours (to no longer than 48 hours) and then bake. If you want to bake the same day, place the pans in a warm place until the dough rises to double, around 30 minutes. Pro-tip courtesy of Mama Ruth: cover with towels and put a kettle of hot water on. It’ll make the yeast plump up perfectly.

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove foil from pans (if you’ve refrigerated overnight). Bake until golden for 20-22 minutes (longer if refrigerated).

Frost prior to serving. A simple recipe for frosting is mixing 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. I personally am a bit more generous with icing, so the above does not make enough for the two pans of 24 rolls. I recommend adding a small bit of milk to each spoonful of powdered sugar to make as much as you need to ice. Vanilla extract is a nice addition – another great option is almond extract.

Hope you enjoy them as much as my family has over the years.

hasta la vista, 2013

I have to admit, I was tempted to skip my annual year in review blog post. Instagram, Facebook (via Statigram), even Google+ wrapped the year up in their video photo montages, so I thought about playing hooky. At the last minute though, I caved. There’s something fun about clicking back through the calendar and seeing just what it was that made this city seem so electric for the last 365 days. There were so many things I almost forgot about that it made all the time it took to pull this together more than worth it!

There were countless fabulous meals. There were restaurant week outings to LureSpice Market, and Benchmark. None were as out of the ordinary (and as least likely to be repeated) as trying live octopus at Sik Gaek in Queens. So. Chewy. And T and I celebrated 2 years with a fabulous dinner at Marea, a long-standing member of my “to try” restaurant list.

I attended a special McDonald’s Chef Event linked to their announcement of their new menu. The event featured an entire meal of upscale food created out of ingredients from the McDonald’s pantry. It was a fun opportunity to join an assortment of people from the New York City food scene for an evening unlikely to be repeated in the fabulous Three Sixty° event space. I had the chance to attend the closing day of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, which was a fun chance to take a peek into a whole different industry.

As always, 2013 was a year full of music. The absence of Tori Amos shows didn’t mean fewer concerts, that’s for sure. There was Passion Pit at Madison Square Garden during Winter Storm Nemo. We managed to enjoy both a show and another restaurant week meal as everyone was scurrying home in the midst of the snowfall. Chilly, but fun! I hiked out to Nassau Coliseum to see Pink with JB and took L as well to see her when she recently came back through to Brooklyn. I went with T to see John Mayer on Live on Letterman and was totally surprised when we had the chance to meet him and sit to the side of the stage for the final show on his tour. T and I went up to Yankee Stadium in crazy high temps (just shy of 100 degrees) to see Justin Timberlake and JayZ. What a show. L and I went to see Fiona Apple at the Beacon Theatre, and she proved that even small people can have a large stage presence. Mesmerizing. We also went to see “Fair Play” at 54 Below, which featured members of the original cast of Once.

When it comes to the arts, there were a number of shows of all sorts. T and I went to see the one man show of Macbeth with Alan Cumming. It was amazing to see one person be able to carry an entire Shakespeare play in such a unique way. I thought he was an amazing performer before, but wow. This was so much more than I ever expected. We went out to Citi Field to see Totem, which turned out to be likely my most favorite thus far of the various Cirque shows I’ve seen. We saw the sold-out Ballets de Faile, a unique series by the NYC Ballet based on the works of the street artist Faile. Since we really loved the times we went to Sleep No More, T and I tried two other immersive experiences – Then She Fell and Speakeasy Dollhouse. I enjoyed Then She Fell, though it was a much slower and not as detailed of an experience as SNM. Speakeasy Dollhouse was a fabulous concept, though the space where it was performed (the usual Back Room speakesasy in the Lower East Side) made for a complicated space to follow the action during the performance. And T and I were lucky enough to get to attend the special Citi ThankYou Sleep No More event hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. No personal photos were permitted, but NPH was a great host. We had the opportunity to speak with him and he was as personable and chatty as you would think.

It was a year of trips ranging from day trips to international (too little, as always, of the latter).  There was the Poconos for Memorial Day weekend, with a group of friends. There were 2 culinary retreat weekends in Vermont, where I fell in love with the incomparable Good Commons. For the 4th of July, T and I took a super long weekend trip to Ireland, where I don’t think we met anything less than a smiling face and we tried tons of amazing local food. I escaped from the city for a bit in September for my birthday for a trip to Destin with my family, confirming it is in fact still my favorite beach. There were several trips to Long Island for fun weekends including wine tasting and apple picking.

There were sporting events spread out through the year. There were Mets games – Mets/Dodgers, Mets/Nats, and finally Mets/Yankees! I was surprised to learn one of our agencies was taking us to the All Star Game, which more than lived up to the hype. I also went with a group to root for the home team and see the Nets. And after countless unsuccessful attempts, I caught my layout towards the end of the year.

Of course, the year had its challenges, many I would have never seen coming. But overall, it was a great year. Here’s to hoping for more wonderful adventures, smiles, and amazing people in the year ahead!

Happy 2014!

the good, the bad, & the funny

Time for a little catch up. It’s been a busy November which, to be honest, is usually the case. I’m slowly catching up on restaurant reviews. I still have so many photos that haven’t been worked into a posted review here, and I’ll continue putting those up. I’m on a bit of a roll that I hope continues.

 

The good

Painting Sunflowers with Mom

Painting Sunflowers with Mom

My family was just here for the whole week of Thanksgiving, which was great. When they’re here, I’m able to experience the city in a different way. It’s more relaxing. My hurried pace to dart from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible slacks and I’m able to enjoy NYC from a different angle. We brunched at Jane and Cafe Lalo. We did Thanksgiving dinner out as I mentioned below at Pylos, giving my mom a stress-free Thanksgiving Day for once. No Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade though – maybe next year I’ll mark that off of my list. My parents helped me with Dixie’s annual Christmas Card photo shoot (she doesn’t mind much – especially when bacon and cheese flavored treats are involved). My mom and I, along with my friend Jenn, went and even did a painting class at Paint Along. I just love sunflowers. It’s always hard when my parents eventually leave since I only get to see them a few times out of the year and they are so far away (especially this round since they take Dixie back between holidays), but I’ll be heading down South myself soon enough. Continue reading

la bonne soupe: a name that doesn’t lie

Wine Cork Vase - La Bonne Soupe

Wine Cork Vase - La Bonne Soupe

Last week, I ended up over by Rockefeller Center (a mistake I won’t be intentionally replicating again this holiday season) with my family, unsure where to go for an early dinner. We contemplated heading to Bryant Park Grill, but realized we’d hit them instead during their pre-dinner window where they’re closed. Thankfully a friend recommended La Bonne Soupe. After a peek at the menu, I decided it was perfect.

I can’t say if reservations are usually a requirement since we came so early. We didn’t have a reservation though and were seated immediately. There were several things which jumped out at me. There was their savory crepe section – each priced at $13.95 and paired with a salad. The options ranged from La Forestière (ham, mushrooms, béchamel, and Swiss cheese) to La Canadienne (smoked salmon, cream cheese and scallions). Then there were sandwiches. The croque monsieur (white bread toasted with ham, cheese and béchamel sauce, served with salad) and the Quiche Lorraine sounded enticing. Continue reading

giving thanks at pylos

Every year since I moved to New York, my parents drive up from Alabama for the week of Thanksgiving. One year, we tried to do the whole thing in my little place (that would be the year of the Jive Turkey fiasco – and yes, I just Google’d and somehow, they seem to still be in business) and last year, we ended up doing it out at my sister’s place. Usually my mom ends up having to do way too much work and doesn’t even get to really relax and enjoy the day, and so this year, we decided just to be all modern and go out to eat instead. We noticed last year at this time that our favorite Greek restaurant in the city, Pylos, served a prix fixe meal for Thanksgiving. At only $40 per person (not including drinks), it ended up being actually less than what we’d spent on our turkey from Hill Country plus the cost of all the sides my mom had baked that year.

Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup - Pylos

Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup - Pylos

They had several seatings – 4:30PM and 6:30PM (they were planning on having a 2:30PM seating only if the 4:30 filled, so not sure if that came to pass – I can say there were people in the restaurant wrapping up, so I presume they had this as well). All which was required was a credit card, on which $8 per person would be charged if you were to no-show. To start, everyone received soup – which was an acorn and butternut squash soup with honey, nutmeg, and Greek yogurt (kolokythosoupa me meli, moscocarido kai strangisto yiaourti). Anytime I’ve had butternut squash soup, I found it to be too salty and sometimes bland. The honey and nutmeg helped to balance out any saltiness, which I loved – and the yogurt made it very creamy. I’m forever spoiled now and fear I can’t have this soup elsewhere because I liked this version so much better. If you are here and they happen to serve it again, don’t pass it up. It’s worth it. Continue reading