October 28, 2010

Mid Century Elegance - A Modern Kitchen

I'm in the kitchen all day long, not cooking but designing!  I'm a designer with Studio Snaidero in CT and participate in the planning and design of some amazing homes throughout New England.  There are quite a few projects from the past two years that need to be photographed so hopefully I'll have some more beautiful projects to share in the next few months! Last week, I was lucky enough to catch this stunning kitchen on a beautiful fall afternoon.  
As much as I like the design stages of working on a project, I think I like walking into the finished room almost more.  Every project is a collaboration between us the designers and a variety of people.  Some projects have more parts than others.  This project involved the home owners, architects and builders which ends up being a fair amount of people who each have their own requirements.  Needless to say I was thrilled when I walked in the space and saw how all of the parts came together in such a natural and organic way that fit with the home!
There was a lot that needed to fit in this narrow (yet long) space.  The list is pretty standard for one of our kitchens: 30" double ovens, 36" gas cook top, 48" refrigerator, microwave, wine refrigerator, ice maker, a large double bowl sink & lots of storage.

There ended up being a lot of useful storage in the kitchen.  The island offers a key amount!  There are two drawers on the ends that are 4 feet long and one in the center that is 3 feet long.  Above the ovens behind closed doors is vertical try storage.  Below the microwave are internal drawers that sit cleanly behind 1 solid door.  At the end of the tall units sits a narrow pantry that holds necessary cleaning supplies.  
Glass sliders open up to allow a flow outside.  Keeping with an organic feel the cabinets are oak and the counters are slate. This particular style has an integrated handle that contributes to the clean feel of the room.  The handless style also works well since we were working in a narrow space and hardware would just get in the way.  A glass backsplash gently reflects the outside as well as makes for easy clean-up!

I hope you enjoyed this little tour!  Studio Snaidero is located at 18 South Main Street in South Norwalk, CT.  If you're in the area and thinking about taking on a kitchen project stop by and take a look!

October 21, 2010

Urban Elegance - Souterrain Part Deux

A couple of weeks ago, le Farm's second Souterrain dinner sold out within a few hours (I didn't even know it went on sale!).  It's definitely got buzz - and followers!  Lucky for you (and me), I got to go behind the scenes to check out this feast!  The dinner was held at a small abandoned space in the Wall Street part of Norwalk - part of the space I didn't even know existed.  Days before the dinner, Chef Bill Taibe's crew began transforming the hidden rooms into an intimate urban foodie oasis.  The contrast of the space (complete with graffiti & lots of candles) along with the elegance of the food fit the model for this "underground" event.  To set the mood, spiced pear and bourbon cocktails were muddled and poured for guests as they arrived.  The entire menu consisted of lush fall flavors that fit right in with the cozy surroundings.
When the food was served guests were armed not with forks but with cameras and phones.
A quiet prep moment...
Piping hot butternut soup was served up right in front of guests from a cauldron.
I got to sample some of the blood sausage that topped this fall salad.  I've always been a bit squeamish around this but decided to give it another try.  Totally worth it!  The outside was crunchy and the inside was amazingly light not to mention all of the other complimentary flavors and textures in the salad. 
Everything about the dinner was unexpected!  I loved watching this total urban space transform into a chic backdrop for a terrific evening.  When the sun set there was a wonderful glow within.  If you're interested in attending one of these underground dinners email is the way to go: ffoodllc@optonline.net.  Send an email expressing your interest and they'll let you know when tickets will go on sale!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about le Farm's Souterrain!  Please vote to keep me in the FoodBuzz Food Blogger Competition & also feel free to comment (I loooove comments)!

October 19, 2010

Parmesan and Herb Focaccia

Truth be told, I've eaten pizza just about every day for almost a week.  For the FoodBuzz Pizza Challenge I really wanted to make my own dough which I had never done before.  Last week was filled with experiments focusing on rising.  Today, I had the last of the dough in my fridge and I didn't want to just throw it away so I decided to make a straight focaccia to go along with the pasta dinner we had!  ** WARNING ** This bread is addictive, before we knew it, the whole thing was gone!!
I'm so happy I didn't just scrap the remaining dough!  It turned out a beautiful round of bread just in time for dinner!  This time, when I put the dough in my pan, I pressed rosemary, thyme, pepper and salt into the dimples instead of pizza sauce.  I let the dough cook almost all the way before I put some parmesan shavings on top.  Ten minutes before the focaccia was finished, I topped it with the cheese and place it back in the oven.  When it was finished I sprinkled a bit more for good measure.
You can find the basic focaccia recipe here, it also made for an awesome pizza.  After conquering this I want to try some other breads, I'm thinking a great raisin bread for the fall.  On the cooler mornings, I love a piece of toasted raisin bread with melted butter and a cup of coffee!
Perhaps in the past I haven't had great focaccia.  The ones that I have had tend to be a little on the dense side.  This is anything but dense.  The crust is delicate yet crunchy and the interior is fluffy.  Although I was tempted, I didn't even spread butter on the warm bread when it came out of the oven!  It has a beautiful butter flavor all on its own - I guess from the olive oil.
I hope you've enjoyed reading about focaccia!  I'm having a ton of fun putting together these posts! If you like my FoodBuzz Blogger Challenge posts please vote to keep me in the competition & also feel free to comment! I love reading your thoughts and suggestions.

October 17, 2010

Pizza - Focaccia Style

I've advanced again and I'm on to FoodBuzz Challenge #5! Thank you for all of the votes and wonderful comments, I enjoy reading each one! So on to Challenge #5 which is to put my spin on one of my favorite foods - PIZZA!
I have to admit upfront that I am a total pizza snob.  Growing up in New Haven is why I have a passion for pizza!  As any good foodie knows, New Haven is home to some of this country's best pizza. Some of my first food memories are waiting in line 30 to 60 minutes for a booth at the famous Pepe’s or Modern Apizza. To this day, in rain, sleet or snow, unbearable hot or unbearable cold people wait outside of these institutions for their classic pizzas. From a young age, all I knew was good pizza.  When I moved to Providence for college I was still able to get my pizza fix at the Italian shops on Atwells Ave and Al Forno.  Today, I live 30 minutes south of New Haven and still drive up there (and wait in line) regularly for a pizza dinner.  I'll also travel for a good pie.  Last year on our trip to Italy we went out of our way to Naples, the birthplace of Neapolitan pizza!  Needless to say, these pizza experiences have spoiled me.

For this challenge my standard pizza made with store bought dough just won’t do.  I normally make a thin crust pizza at home on a pizza stone in my electric oven (cranked up as high as it will go).  It’s pretty decent but not blog worthy.  So looking for ideas this past week, I stopped by a bakery in my neighborhood and saw the most amazing looking focaccia.  It was topped with sauce, spices, a little cheese and immediately inspired me!!  I read through American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza by Peter Reinhart, (which is excellent for anyone wanting to make a homemade pizza) and grabbed a recipe which I’ll include below. 
I'm experimenting with the dough but want to otherwise keep the traditional flavors for this challenge.  I'm staying true to my roots on this one so you won’t be seeing any exotic flavors (eh hem, pineapple & ham – for instance).  I chose the focaccia pizza because it’s a different spin on what I'm use to and and the dough can bake in my humble oven.  It has a wonderful flavor and can be eaten on its own or piled with toppings.  The recipe is easy to make but it does take a bit of time for rising and resting of the dough (2 days).  I added my own twist by letting the dough rise with the sauce on it so the tomato and herb flavor really gets into each bite!  Chris (who also LOVES pizza) and I are trying to eat a more vegan diet with less dairy.  This works for us because a small amount of Parmesan goes a long way (instead of a pizza dripping with mozzarella).  The Parmesan can also be totally omitted for a completely vegan version! 

Here's the basic recipe, though I highly recommend using the book:
The recipe will make a 12" x 17" sheet or four 9" round thinner focaccia.
5 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups ice cold water
1/4 cup oil
desired toppings

With a large metal spoon, stir together everything but olive oil until combined - about 2 minutes.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes; add the olive oil and resume mixing for 4 more minutes.  At this point I switch from using a spoon to mix dough to using my hand.  I use my hand like a dough hook since I don't have a large mixer.  

The dough should now have formed into a sticky ball.  Again, let the dough rest for another 5 minutes.  Mix dough for another 4 - 5 minutes.  The dough should be sticky yet able to hold the shape of a ball.  If it doesn't add more flour.  Place dough in a bowl with olive oil and turn to coat.  Immediately cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Dough will roughly double in size.
The dough has to reach room temperature before you can work with it so take it out of the refrigerator 5 hours before baking.  Once dough has reached room temperature (it takes about 2 hours) divide into quarters taking care not to mash the air bubbles.  Line a 9" cake pan with parchment and pour enough olive oil into tin to coat paper.  Place a quarter of dough on paper.  With your finger tips, press over the dough to create dimples and to push dough toward pan edges.  If the dough springs back let rest for 5 minutes and try again.  At this point, spread a thin layer of sauce on dough.  Let the dough sit for 2 -3 hours.  Preheat oven to 500.  Place pan in oven for 15 minutes.  Once the dough top feels cooked to the touch, remove the pan from the oven.
Now top your pizza!  I topped my pizza with:  red onions that were lightly sauteed in olive oil, a few fire roasted tomatoes, sliced artichokes, kalamata olives, salted browned garlic chips and a bit of Parmesan.  Bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes.  When you remove the pizza, top with fresh basil, thyme and a light drizzle of olive oil.  Let cool for a few minutes and serve!!

While I was taking photos I had to stop and put the camera down to have a slice!  Chris took the opportunity to turn the camera my way since my hands were full and there wasn't much I could do.  I have to say that although my heart and taste buds will always prefer a thin crust style, this pizza hit the spot.  It's definitely a recipe I will add to my repertoire.  Also, if you haven't made dough at home, it's really no big deal - the dough is quite easy to make and fun to work with.  I can't tell you how thrilling it was the first time I sliced into this pizza and saw how light and airy it was!

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my focaccia pizza!  I'm having a ton of fun putting together these posts! If you like my FoodBuzz Blogger Challenge posts please vote to keep me in the competition & also feel free to comment! I love reading your thoughts and suggestions.

October 15, 2010

Reflections From This Week

Today is chat since there's nothing to chew on.  Nothing I've made for dinner has been photo worthy & we've been out to eat because I've been too busy to cook.  I've also been practicing making pizza from scratch this week in anticipation for the next FoodBuzz challenge.  I'm totally excited since I LOVE pizza and I don't  normally make my dough from scratch.  Dough-making this week has been a total learning curve and I've loved every minute of it.  Not to mention the thrill of eating your own bread!!

One thing I love to do is take photos out my window multiple times a week., usually first thing in the morning or around sunset.  I have hundreds at this point.  The light is never the same and the clouds are always changing.  The photo above was taken a few days ago when the morning was hazy.  I love watching the rowers go out, there's something so peaceful about watching them go out toward the sound.  Someday I think I'll take all of the photos and do a massive grid install on a wall.  The colors vary from vibrant blue, to pinks and purples to almost black and white during the winter.  It's just one more project I'll have to get to at some point...

I hope you enjoy your weekend and my fingers are crossed that I've made it to round 5 of the challenge.  Either way, I'll have some homemade pizza to share Monday and I can't wait for you to see what I've been cooking!!


October 13, 2010

Living Local

For those of you that don't know, I live in CT.  I grew up in CT went to college in RI and came back.  I chose a town that is easy to commute from (I used to do the NYC commute by train and it's not all that bad) and has a lot to offer.  We have tons of local parks and beaches all within walking distance.  The other offering of my small little town is GREAT food!  One of the places that happens to be diagonally across the street from me is SoNo Baking Co. which is totally a local place.  The head baker and owner John Barricelli (of Martha Stewart fame) is a long time CT resident.  I often overlook this (quite sizeable) bakery simply because I'm used to it!  This morning I was craving one of their currant scones & a coffee so I took myself on a little stroll before work (hence the iphone photos instead of my normal dslr).
One thing that many of the resturaunts in SoNo (South Norwalk) highlight is the cooking of the food.  Many of the places have bars and windows that look into the busy cooking world.  SoNo Baking is no different.  They have huge glass windows with stools and counters so you can peer in and watch treats being made as you wait & eat your food.  It's quite charming.
This morning one of the guys was making the scones right as I walked it!  I love the balance of buttery dough, to currant to lemony flavor.  It's really perfect - If I do say so!
SoNo Baking supplies bread to TONS of restaurants in the area so they are a huge producer of all sorts of loaves and rolls.  These look like some sorts of whole wheat bread.
I might take some inspiration from this amazing Focaccia.  How good does it look?!
Of course along with all of the baking are countless types of tarts and sugary confections.  I love that each has its own personality and is done a bit different from the next!  This morning was a great reminder to myself to put down the Starbucks coffee & pumpkin loaf and go live local.  Also another friendly reminder the Project FoodBuzz is still going on so please don't forget to cast your votes!

October 10, 2010

Chicken Soup - For the Soul and My Cold

This weeks post comes out of necessity!  The FoodBuzz Challenge #4 is to use photography to create a step-by-step, instructional tutorial.  I was all set to make a gorgeous fruit tart when luck would have it, I got a cold (I never get sick)!  So I did what my mom would do and made a healthy chicken soup.  She always says chicken soup makes you feel better.  Whether or not this is scientifically true, it always seems to do the trick.  In addition, it's so easy to make and tastes wonderful.  It also gave me an opportunity to use some gorgeous carrots and herbs from my garden.  By the time I made this post live, the soup had done its trick and got me back to feeling great!

The following Chicken Soup recipe will make roughly 8 hearty bowls.  Leftovers freeze great and taste better the next day!

Roughly Chop: 2 Carrots, 1 onion, 1 shallot,
2 stalks celery and 3 pieces of ginger

Rinse 3-4 pounds of chicken parts (I used breasts)
Leave the skin on and bones in – these add flavor!
We will skim the fat later

Place chicken in a large pot, add chopped veggies as well as:
1 handful fresh parsley, ½ a lemon, 6 cloves peeled garlic,
2 bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste
Add enough cool water to cover chicken
Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 3 hours
Remove solids – discard everything but the chicken breasts
Allow broth to cool and place in refrigerator overnight
Your beautiful chicken stock is finished and ready for soup!

When chicken has cooled, gently pull apart with fingers
Discard bones
Save reserved chicken in a separate bowl until needed

Dice: 2 Carrots, 1 onion, 1 shallot,
2 stalks celery and 4 red potatoes

In a soup pot over medium heat:
Add onions and cook until wilted
Add shallots and garlic and cook until golden
Add carrots, celery, potatoes and a generous sprinkling of salt & pepper
Cook for 5 minutes

Remove stock from refrigerator
With a spoon, skim fat from surface
Pour into soup pot through a strainer
Bring soup to a boil
Add chicken back to soup along with torn up pieces of escarole
Cook soup for 2 more minutes

Serve soup over your choice of noodles or rice (I used egg noodles).   Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and  serve with a hearty bread!!  I know not everyone adds potatoes to their chicken soup, but I was craving something a little more hearty.  The lemon and ginger make the broth beautifully fragrant.  Also, the soup can be served the same day the stock is made.  I like making the stock a day before making the soup because it makes the soup much more flavorful. 
I hope you've enjoyed reading about my therapeutic chicken soup!  If you like my FoodBuzz Blogger Challenge posts please vote to keep me in the competition & also feel free to comment! I love reading your thoughts and suggestions.

October 7, 2010

Free Yoga Classes!!

If you're in the Westport / Fairfield area and interested in taking some yoga, pilates or zumba classes you're in luck!  Fit For Movement a new fitness and wellness center opens for classes next week.  For it's opening celebration they are offering free classes for the week!  Space is limited so reservations are recommended.  The location is perfect (next to Whole Foods in Westport). 
 A bit about their philosophy:

The result of focus, tenacity and like-minded support. A fitness goal, career advancement or the path to a philosophical comfort zone – The process of getting there is what we are all about.

fit for movement is a collective dedicated to fitness, wellness, education and practice.

Within the disciplines of yoga, mat pilates, zumba, and nutrition… our mission is to unite those that are driven to move. Those inspired to teach with those that aspire learn.  We do this via our online forum and state of the art, but intimate facility located in Westport, CT.
Our model is based on the ability to be flexible with class, event and related offerings so we can put forth programs driven by the fit for movement community.  We invite you to join our online forums, participate in classes on our current calendar, and share your voice so we can help you organize your movement.
Get motivated. Get dedicated. Get fit for movement.

Wellness classes are also approached with our holistic methodology.  All offerings are centered around practices proven beneficial for mind and body. Our instructors welcome the opportunity to integrate the complexities of modern day life to ensure students always get the most out of each experience. Members are welcome to bring their personal aspirations and expectations to the community as we practice and evolve together.

Hope to see you at some of the classes!  I will be going before work...
fit for movement, LLC

345 Post Rd. West
Westport, CT 06880

Gorgeous Sunsets

I'm taking a bit of a break today from food.  Because we've had so much rain over the past week or so the sunsets have been really spectacular!  I just wanted to share a couple photos though they hardly do justice to the real deal...

p.s please don't forget to vote for me in the FoodBuzz Blogger Competition!!

October 6, 2010

Fantastic Fall Beet Salad

Beets are at the farmers market right now!  I personally love golden and lighter colored beets, partially because they aren't as messy!  Roasting them is a very easy way to cook beets.  You can buy them with or without the greens.  If you buy them with the greens still on, trim them and wash well then saute with some garlic and olive oil.  To roast them: wash well, coat with olive oil and salt.  I like to wrap each one in parchment paper tying off the tops with cooking twine.  Place in a dish and cook at 400 for 40 minutes.  They should be fork tender, if not cook longer checking every 10 minutes.  When they are cool to the touch peel back the skin.  The beets can then either be tossed with some vinegar or olive oil with salt and pepper!

For this beet salad, I thinly sliced each beet right before serving.  I layered them on a plate with some radicchio, endive and crumbles of Gorgonzola.  I think mason jars make great salad shakers.  Every time I use a salad shaker I feel like I get oil and vinegar EVERYWHERE!  Once you close the lid on the mason jar, you KNOW it's closed and wont leek.  Then you can shake the Holy heck out of it (cleanly)!!  In my mason jar I put 1/2 cup buttermilk, a splash of white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper - that's it!

The beets are natures candy, they can handle the tart dressing.  I also like the crispness of the greens.  This is a salad that's easy enough for a Wednesday evening and gorgeous enough to serve at a dinner party (I LOVE the colors)!

If you have been enjoying my FoodBuzz Blogger Challenge posts please vote to keep me in the competition & also feel free to comment! I love reading what you think or may do different. Enjoy!!

October 4, 2010

Salmon Puff Tarts

Over the weekend I hosted a dinner party for the FoodBuzz Blogger Challenge #3.  I needed an appetizer that was a bit different from what I normally make and would be easy to put together for a crowd.  After a lot of recipe searching I came up with this creation.  Classic flavors that go together in an individual tart!  Puff pastry tarts filled with dill cream, smoked salmon and butter fried shallots!

For the tart shells I used Pepperidge Farm Frozen Puff Pastry.  Don't try and find a fancy version at Whole Food's, they didn't have anything.  The old stand-by is perfect!

I let the dough defrost for about 30 minutes on a flour lined surface.  I cut the dough along the folds, and then I cut those pieces in thirds.  I cut about 1/4" strips off of the edges.  These are for the borders on the tarts!  Just press the strips (lightly) around the edges of the squares.

For the filling:
1 cup sour cream (you can even use low or fat free)
1 heaping tablespoon horseraddish
1 heaping tablespoon capers
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper
lemon zest (optional)
3 shallots finely sliced and pan fried in butter till crispy
1 package smoked sliced salmon

Mix all ingredients except salmon & shallots
Bake the tart shells per package instructions
When cool,  spread a spoonful of cream mixture over pastry.  Top with a piece of salmon, shallots and garnish with fresh dill and capers.

Assemble these right before serving because the tart will get soggy if you try to make the night or morning before.  They were delicious with champagne!  You just can't go wrong with champagne, a buttery pastry and smoked salmon!