Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cheater's Spring Polenta

In the last couple of weeks, I've made this twice for dinner. Reason enough to share it, right?

This is sort of a cheater's version of a very springy polenta, since it relies on frozen peas and canned artichoke hearts. If you have the inclination to go the natural route with these, I'm sure it would be amazing! It's pretty great as is, though.

Cheater's Spring Polenta

You will need:

Easy oven baked polenta (seriously, this is FAR superior to that stir-stir-stir method!)
1/2 inch slice of pancetta, cut into a small dice
1 small yellow onion, cut into a small dice
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8-10 leaves fresh mint, chopped

About 20 minutes after you put the polenta in the oven, you can start making the rest.

In a cast iron skillet, cook the pancetta over medium low heat to slowly render the fat, about 10 minutes.  Add a splash of olive oil if the pan looks dry. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse the artichokes. Add artichokes and peas to the skillet. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to low and stir in the Dijon, cream and Parmesan.

Spoon over soft polenta and top with chopped fresh mint.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest blogging at Meet Me in Philadelphia

My friend Ashley has put together a really fun group of bloggers to guest post on Meet Me in Philadelphia while she's away on her honeymoon. Today I'm so excited to be there chatting about some of my favorite summer goodies! Here it is, if you'd like to take a peak!

Wishing you all a wonderful long weekend. I hope it includes a good book, a fruity cocktail and a giant sun hat!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Don't think I won't

My brain feels like pudding -- I seem to have gotten a late Spring cold. You all know how well I do when I'm sick! I will sneak into the vending machine room later this afternoon and perform Martha's detoxifying stretches. Don't think I won't!

Instead of a legit post, let's just admire the Lilly-fied caps my sister and her friend wore last Saturday at their graduation ceremony. Pretty awesome, right?! I need to graduate from something so I can copy this.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Greasy spoons

We've been travelling so much, the NYC to-do list is suffering! I wanted to share two fun spots we've come across on recent trips, though.

A few weeks ago, while apartment hunting in Boston, we stopped for a quick lunch at Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burger. It's the kind of place where the tables are slightly greasy, all the chairs are plastic and there's enough Elvis kitsch on the walls to keep you entertained for, I don't know, about the time it takes you to eat a massive burger. I had the Newt Gingrich, but wish I had been tempted by the Oprah or Michelle Obama. Next time, Oprah, you and me. You will not regret an order of sweet potato fries and a glass of Mr. Bartley's signature root beer.

Last Sunday, after that lovely wedding, Peter convinced me to go Paesano's in Philadelphia (it didn't actually take that much convincing). There's a tiny counter, a few stools, and an itty bitty open kitchen where you can watch them make all those glorious sandwiches. The people working there were just the nicest. Go early if you want a seat (like, 11:00 AM early). They told us the line goes out the door once it's gets to be real lunch time!

Monday, May 23, 2011

It is worth it

I woke up in the middle of the night on Saturday in a strange hotel room. The air conditioning was humming along, and we were on the 27th floor. All felt quiet.

But my mind couldn't stop spinning around all the wonderful moments the day had held. Hugging dear old friends. Watching a lovely-in-every-way couple marry each other in a gorgeous garden. Listening to them say their vows, nearly all the guests were moved to tears. Happiness bubbled up all around.

 *     *     *

Weddings, at there very best, show us that it is worth it. Not marriage exactly, but love, in all the different forms it can take. It is worth it to make promises and work incredibly hard to keep them. To push through when things get tough. To nurture all the different kinds of relationships we're so lucky to have and the many layers they each contain.

Because sometimes, on a sunny Spring afternoon outside of Philadelphia, you will get the opportunity to celebrate it all. Everyone will smile and cry and hug and dance. It is worth it, a million times over, to say yes and agree that you will go deeper and open your heart wider. It is worth it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Celebrations galore!

(My pretty sister helping remove my wedding veil last summer!)

Big weekend around these parts! My little sister is graduating from college tomorrow and, as my Mom would say, "About to go live!" Sal, I am super-duper proud of you and am so excited for all the fun adventures you're going to have in grown-up life. It's really fun, I promise. And! Don't worry, your present is in the mail :)

Sadly, we are going to miss the big event, but it's for an excellent reason. One of my oldest and dearest friends is getting married tomorrow!

Ashley moved to the town where we grew up in at the beginning of fourth grade, and we met on the very first day of school. Many years later, on my very first night in New York City, I met up with Ashley and got to meet her new boyfriend, the charming Adam. It's so fun when your friends end up with people you adore (and is sadly sort of rare, right?!) That definitely happened in this case. I can't wait to celebrate with them tomorrow!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend, all!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Oh yes it could

(Lilacs stolen from my mom's house in Connecticut!)

To chip away at our NYC to-do list a bit, Peter and I went on a fun mid-week date to Caracas Arepas. We've put off going here because everyone seems to complain about the super long waits, but ours was only 25 minutes. Here's a tip that works for lots of popular NYC restaurants: go when the weather is terrible! It's worked for us at a bunch of hard to get into spots.

In addition to the long waits, I was afraid that Caracas was perhaps a bit over-hyped. Could a little corn cake really be that good?

Oh yes it could! I stuffed myself with a La del Gato (guayan├ęs cheese, fried sweet plantains and avocado slices) and a De Pollo (grilled chicken breast with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese). So yummy, and such a fun, festive atmosphere. I'm sad we waiting so long to visit!

Since we were practically next door, I insisted that we walk down to Butter Lane for a frosting shot. I got this amazing idea from Kate, the stylish lady behind Embarrassment of Riches. For only $1, you get a little cup filled with a scoop of Butter Lane's amazing frosting! I settled on sea salt chocolate after lots of internal debate (tiramisu? caramel? grapefruit ginger?!). Big decision.

The evening ended at a bar with my lovely book club friends to toast one member on her shiny new grad school degree. Yay for arepas and frosting and achieving fun milestones!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pretend shopping: Living room

All the shopping posts on Fresh Basil may lead you to believe I have some sort of skill in this department. In reality, I'm terrible at deciding on something to purchase, and then I wage a long internal battle to convince myself to part with the cash necessary to complete said purchase. Plane tickets and restaurants are easy, but a couch?! Oh my.

That said, I would really like to make a few grown-up furniture purchases for the new apartment. I tend to lean heavily on neutrals, but I'm trying to branch out a little more. I made the top collage first, and was having so much fun, I made an alternative, lighted-up version, too!

Do you have a favorite? I think I like the top one, but I go back and forth!

P.S. Thank you all so much for your good luck vibes -- I think they worked! I'll share more soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On the hunt

(Via LIFE)

At the very last minute, we decided to head up to Boston this weekend to see an apartment that seems too good to be true. It's a great deal, in a super cute neighborhood, available when we need it, and cute as a button. It can't possibly be that perfect, right? We must be gluttons for apartment shopping punishment. Still, maybe you could cross a finger or two for us?

Since we decided to go late last night, I acted like a crazy lady and crammed all my weekend chores into a forty-five minute time slot this morning before I left for work. Changed the sheets, took care of trash and recycling, swiffered the floors and even scrubbed the bathtub. Somebody bring this lady a mimosa (Or arrange for a pronto appointment with the O.C.D. police? Hmm.).

Wishing you all a very happy Friday the 13th!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Woefully behind

This is a project I completed in the mad dash run-up to our wedding last year and never got around to showing you.

Instead of a traditional guest book, we put these little booklets on each table at the reception. I bought the blank books at the Mount's gift shop during a pre-wedding visit. Taking inspiration from this Martha Stewart craft, I created the question templates in Illustrator and used my sticker maker to attach them to the books.

I think (hope?!) that guests had fun with them. I've looked at them a few times throughout the year and really treasure the sweet things people wrote. The booklet on the table many old family friends were seated at asked, "What is the best marriage advice you've ever gotten?" The responses were so touching and funny ("Never correct your wife's golf swing!").

One of my favorites came from Eliza, our darling flower girl, in the book asking what we should do in our first year of marriage:
You should have a baby and another baby. You should go to the movies and play card games like uno or tricks with cards and you could play spit.
I've been practicing my card tricks (of course!), but I must admit that we are woefully behind in regards to her other suggestions.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vegetable tart

I am a huge fan of quiche and savory tarts, but basically stopped eating it while I was getting my food allergies under control. Now that I've mostly figured them out, I'm so happy to welcome this favorite back into my cooking rotation.

This recipe is based on one from Dorie Greenspan (who else?). I loved that it was so heavy on the vegetables and very light on the eggs and cream. I further cut down on the amounts from the original version by omitting an extra egg yolk and using only a 1/2 cup of cream (she calls for 2/3 of a cup). You'll get a richer dish if you decide to add those back in, but I don't think you'll miss them.

Spring-time Sunday lunch: 

Vegetable tart, based on Dorie's

You will need:
1 9-inch partially baked tart shell (I used a Pamela's mix)
1 tablespoon butter
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into a small dice
1 small onion or 2 slender leeks, cut into a small dice
1 medium yellow squash, cut into a small dice
1/2 bulb of fennel, cut into a small dice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1/3 cup grated cheddar or Gruyere

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Over medium heat, melt butter in a skillet and add the diced vegetables. Cook about 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper and set aside. Place your tart pan onto of a baking sheet to prevent spills in the oven. Spoon all the cooked vegetables into the tart shell. Whisk the egg and cream together in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Carefully pour the custard mixture over the vegetables, making sure you cover everything.  Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and return to the oven for 10 more minutes. Allow to cook 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Red Hook Redux

Peter ate tacos with roasted goat meat and pulled pork so spicy that his lips temporarily went numb! Also consumed at the Red Hook Ball Fields: fried plantains with fresh queso and one of those famous pupusas filled with loroco flower. The truck had a sign declaring them to be a potent aphrodisiac -- ooh la la!

Did you have a nice weekend?!  Wishing you a very happy Monday!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Not complaining about anything

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I realize this is sort of a faux holiday, but I'm not complaining about anything that involves chips and salty margaritas.

On the agenda tonight:


P.S. Another festive cocktail found on Janet's new site! She always posts the best looking drinks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Goodbye to all that

Peter and I have been thinking about moving away from New York for some time, and all of a sudden, the idea of it became a reality. In July, we'll be moving to the Boston-area!

It feels a bit bittersweet, even though we're very excited about our upcoming move. We have a lovely life here. Jobs we adore, a darling little apartment, a group of very dear friends, and an endless list of restaurants to try. But living in New York long-term requires deep reserves of love for the city. It can be an incredibly fun place to live, but also incredibly challenging.

In the next couple of months we're going to do our best to take advantage of all the fantastic things this city has to offer. We've even made a big official list of things we'd like to do (and eat!) in that time. In all likelihood, we won't be able to do it all, but we decided to go for an inclusive rather than exclusive approach. The cream shall rise to the top! I'll be crossing things off and blabbity blogging along the way.

Tell me, what would be on your list? Any can't miss stuff in NYC I should add?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gift guide: the graduate

My sister and Peter's sister are both graduating from college this month. So grown up!

When I left home and went to college, my sister was in eighth grade. Sometimes I still feel like she should be this little! Of course, this isn't a negative reflection of her in any way. She is brilliant and creative -- just an all around lovely lady and friend. I think that's just an unfortunate side effect of being the oldest - you always see your siblings as younger than they are.

This little round-up of grown-up graduation gifts ranges from the practical to the frivolous. That's really what being an adult is all about, right? Finding a way for your cast iron skillet and Kate Spade bracelets to peacefully co-exist.

1. Bodum Eileen French Press, $39.99
2. Well-being print, $20
3. Lodge logic 12 inch pre-seasoned skillet, $18.59
4. Earn your stripes idiom bracelet, $33
5. Feather in your cap idiom bracelet, $58
6. Let's do lunch, $28
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