Friday, March 30, 2012



It's supposed to be Springtime but we have been greeted lately with 30 degree weather and strong winds.  The sun is deceptively shiny, which leads to me choosing the wrong coat and basically freezing.  Roman wants to be closed into his stroller with the plastic covering, like a mobile pod to keep the heat in.  I'm ready for the temperatures to rise so I can finally regain feeling in my fingers and relax my shoulder and back muscles which tense against the whipping winds.

While I'm dreaming of turning off the central heating in the apartment, I've been kicking it up in the kitchen.  I've been through a bottle of hot sauce every week for the last three, made my own pickled peppers (the tiny green ones I bought in Chinatown were great) and made this beautiful Piri-Piri sauce which was gone in two days.


All I've been craving is spicy foods.  I suppose once you start eating them, the endorphins make you crave more and more.  For the duration of my pregnancy I've given up all caffeine, alcohol, and most sweets.   If hot peppers are my only vice, at least they're filled with iron, niacin, riboflavin, folate, potassium, vitamins A and C.  It seems there is a logic to some crazy cravings after all.

I've been a bit disappointed because nothing I've tried has felt hot enough.  The commercial hot sauces tasted like they could be served to babies.  Even this fragrant piri-piri made from red fresno peppers wasn't hot enough, but it did add an amazing amount of bright flavor to everything, including my breakfast omelet.  I guess now I'll be turning to habaneros.

Piri-Piri Sauce
Fresh Red Jalapeño Relish
From Marlena Spieler's Hot & Spicy Cookbook

Piri-Piri is a Portuguese condiment also eaten in Brazil and Mozambique.  I remember it being much spicier in Portugal- perhaps different chilis were used.  I halved Marlena's recipe since this was the first time I was making it.  I made no substitutions and it was wonderful as-is.  I would recommend it on pasta dishes, vegetable or meat curries, as a spread for sandwiches, anything dish that needs a little livening up.

10 fresh red jalapeños (or red fresno peppers)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves, crushed
Juice of one lemon or lime
Salt to taste

Chop jalapeños (keep seeds in)  in food processor.
Combine all ingredients.
May be kept, covered in refrigerator, 3 to 5 days.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lemony Mustard Dill Egg Salad

Dying eggs for Easter

I'm not the most traditional of gals when it comes to holidays, but something told me that Roman would appreciate decorating Easter eggs and it was time to get in the spirit of things. So I bought some eco-dyes to use on our free-range eggs (it's important, you see!) and introduced Roman to the concept of colored eggs. I told him that in a few days a bunny will bring a basket with surprises. Then I remembered the hand written cards left for me on Easter morning singed "the easter bunny" (in my dad's obviously disguised handwriting) with bunny ears and some treats to go with it.   For a time I had actually believed all of this.  Now I can't wait to see Roman's face a week from this Sunday when he finds his very own basket.

Eco-dyed eggs

Colored eggs aside, the best part about hard boiled eggs is egg salad. I lay sleepless the other night dreaming up this egg salad, and waited two whole days to pull it together. It was a wholly satisfying lunch, especially for my pregnant palate. These days, everything gets doused in something tangy, spicy, marinated- basically I've been pumping up the flavor in all my food like mad. Since egg salad can be bland, (I always wonder who buys that boring looking egg salad in the delis in NY) I wanted to do everything in my power to avoid that.  And there you have it.  One lemony, mustardy, dilly egg salad with extra cornichons, comin' up.

Lemon Mustard Dill Egg Salad

Lemon Mustard Dill Egg Salad
Makes one sandwich

2 hard boiled eggs (boiled for 10 minutes and cooled)
2 scant tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon English mustard powder
2 or 3 generous squeezes of lemon juice
fresh dill, about a tablespoon (snipped with scissors)
one stalk of celery, finely diced
4 cornichons, finely diced
freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard powder, lemon juice, fresh dill and stir with a fork.  Chop your hard boiled eggs, and add them to the dressing with the chopped celery and cornichons.  Pile this on top of your favorite bread or roll with some bright red tomato, top with ground pepper.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sour Cream Breakfast Buns & News


About six months before we left Italy, we shared a meal with my friend Gaia, who was newly pregnant at the time.  I remember asking her if the expression "bun in the oven" existed in Italian.  The same expression in fact exists in many languages.  This stayed in my mind for a long time as an idea for a blog post if I were ever to have a second child.


That time is now!  Our second child is due three years to the exact day that Roman was born (September 18). We are humbled by the enormity of this gift.  I can't write this post nonchalantly because the journey to motherhood was a long and windy road for me, one with hidden ravines and pot holes.  I suppose I will never understand why things go the way they do, but two babies have now been conceived naturally, in their own time.  I can just thank the forces that be.

Breakfast has been a major moment in my day, and there is usually a second breakfast about two hours after the first.  I usually make a burrito with two scrambled eggs, cheddar, avocado, sour cream and salsa- all swaddled comfortably in a whole wheat tortilla.  I inhale vegetables, anything wickedly spicy, pickled or cured.  I have the privilege of experiencing this amazing transformation for a second time and I love every minute of it.

Sour Cream Breakfast Buns
The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
Makes 18 buns

In true Magnolia Bakery fashion, these buns are worth every ounce of butter, sour cream and sugar.  Keep this recipe around for a special occasion.

Note: I ended up using only half the topping because it really seemed like too much.  Next time, I will use more, especially more pecans because once the buns puff up, the topping seems like less.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 1/3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 18 large muffin cups.

To make the buns: In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, the baking powder and the baking soda.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the low speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Mix in the sour cream. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.

To make the topping: In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, the pecans and the cinnamon.  Sprinkle the topping evenly (and generously) over the buns.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of bun comes out clean.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Morning Sunshine


Two and a half is in full swing in our household, leaving me feeling silly about this post where I went on about how wonderful the two's were.  It's good that I was so positive.  But now, "things" have gotten more complicated.  Instead of waking up joyful and ready to play, lately my sunny boy has been cranky and irritated.

All week long the first hour of our day has included yelling (him, not me), demanding one thing after the next in rapid succession and threats of the dreaded "time out."  He says "no" to everything, even to things he actually wants!

Thank goodness for waffles and distraction tactics.  He really likes to watch the red button on the waffle machine and tell me when it turns green.  It seems to hold the same excitement as waiting for the train.  He likes that waffles are versatile and he gets to choose between plain, spread with sun butter, jam or drizzled with syrup.

photo taken during happy moment 
It's hard to describe the semi-insanity of parenting a toddler full-time.  I've had some pretty tough days where I catch myself staring in the mirror wondering if I'm qualified for this job.  Roman bounces back quickly, but I'm the one who can't quite shake the after effects of one of his full blown temper tantrums in the streets of NYC.  It's quite clear that Roman is not about to put out a classified ad for a new mom, and maybe it's my cooking skills that save me.


These waffles have a combination of white and wheat flours, coarse bran, hazelnut flour, pear- all of the things I tend to put in most muffins or pancakes that we eat around here.  Perhaps because Roman has never had conventional white flour waffles, he doesn't know the difference and he loves these.  Or maybe it's just that they're that much more delicious.  Whatever it is, it's nice to have one thing I can count on in the morning to spread a little sunshine.  I know, I know, 3 is going to be even harder. 


Hazelnut Pear Wholegrain Waffles
Based on this recipe on
Makes about 4 large, depending on the size of your waffle maker

2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup wholewheat flour
1/4 cup wheatgerm or coarse bran
1/4 cup ground hazelnut or almond flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
one pear, peeled and grated

In a small bowl combine the first four wet ingredients.  In a larger bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Combine the wet and the dry, fold in the grated pear and make the waffles according to your machine's instructions.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

All things bright


Every year around this time, I crave foods that go crunch, foods alive with freshness, color and texture.  Last year I was eating this radish and fennel salad.  This year, my mind wandered far back in its archives - taking me back about 14 years.  You'll never guess what I was doing back then.  I was 23 years old, living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and every couple of days I'd get all suited up in my polyester blue dress with a plastic belt, stockings, high heels.  I'd pin my hair up in a french twist, attach my translator pin at the lapel of my blue blazer and drag my roll-aboard clunking along on the sidewalk behind me.  I'd make my way down the stairs of the subway, take two trains and a bus out to Newark airport, and from there board an international flight -- have you guessed it?  I was a flight attendant.

I became a flight attendant with three things in my head.  I loved to travel, I loved people and I had a burning urge to go to Brazil.  Well, I made it.  And when I was taking in the sun at the hotel in Copacabana, watching those volleyball players on the beach with their sculpted physiques, sipping fresh coconut juice, it was all worth it.  I've never lost my love for the Brazilian language, music, food, or spirit.  To me, a girl from Massachusetts, Brazilians were so alive, their zest for life so tangible and sensual.  In the end, the career was short-lived.  A few emergency landings later and I had definitely lost my naiveté and "love" of the general public.  But those days in Rio will never leave me.


For some reason one of my favorite ingredients came back to me the other night.  Heart of palm.  Palmito in Portuguese.  There I was again, sitting by the beach (while it was winter in NY), eating a salad with big chunks of palmito, fresh tomatoes, drenched in olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkled with salt.  Those few ingredients together were so divine.  So here I am 14 years later, worlds away from those days of high altitudes, just coming into another season.  Here's a salad I created to celebrate Spring, and all things bright and beautiful. I hope you've enjoyed the flight. 


Salad of heart of palm, blood orange, avocado and endive
4 servings

2 avocados
2 blood oranges (or 1 grapefruit)
1 endive
1 can or jar of heart of palm
juice of 1/2 lemon
olive oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
coarse salt and pepper

Cut the avocados into chunks.  Remove the rind and white pith from the blood oranges, then cut those into chunks.  Slice the endive and the hearts of palm and combine all the vegetables in a bowl.  Mix a dressing of about equal parts lemon juice and olive oil, mix in some mustard powder if you have it, and dress the salad.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...