Tuesday, April 29, 2014

merida (in pictures) and notes.

Merida (and the surrounding area) in pictures.

Merida itself, while beautiful in a nostalgic kind of way, is not the kind of place you would seek out as a destination.  Instead it makes for a wonderful central base for traveling to different destinations in the Yucatan. The Yucatan is chock full of beautiful things.  Ancient Mayan temples, cenotes, beach towns, and haciendas that remind you of the riches and wealth that once lived in Mexico.  Here are some of my favorite things and places I suggest you seek out.  

-Casa Lecanda is the kind of  hotel that manages to transport you to a different more magical place.  It's breathtakingly beautiful with the pool that am still dreaming about.  The service is impeccable and the rooms are gorgeous.  Why can't all hotels be this great?

-I didn't eat much (or as much as I planned on eating) in Merida since I got absurdly sick on day 2 so I rather shockingly can't discuss much of the food.  But!  We did eat at Olivia which is an Italian restaurant (since Merida has a strong European influence) and it was amazing (so good we ate their twice).  In New York they could charge 3 times the price!  The pastas were all homemade, the bread was all freshly baked, and there was a roasted red pepper sauce on the goat chesse ravioli that I am still dreaming about and plan on recreating once peppers are in season.  (There was also a brocolli pesto that has me rethinking everything I ever thought about pesto.)

-The Hacienda Yaxcopoil is a breathtaking place that shows you how the wealthy once lived.  

-Chichen Itza is the main draw when people visit the Yucatan.  We decided to forgo it since most things we read described as a tourist trap chock full of people selling you things.  The Mayapan Ruins are a much better destination, are far less crowded, and just as fascinating.  

-Sotuta De Peon is a an amazing hacienda turned hotel turned tour site where you can learn about the former rope business that turned Merida into one of the wealthiest cities.  It's also home to a cenote which as I've said before is like swimming in a magical underwater dream.  A must visit 

Monday, April 28, 2014

avocado toast.

If you were to ask me what I eat more often then not, the answer would be avocado toast.  Avocado toast is the food I dream about.  It's my default snack, my lunch when I don't know what to make.  It's my dinner when I am home alone and watch Real Housewives of New York Marathons.  It's the most perfect food.  Ever.  

After discussing English Muffin Bread last week which makes for an epic base for avocado toast (as evident by these pictures), I figured it was finally time to discuss my version.  This is one step up from the bare bones original of smashed avocado and sea salt because in my world a little extra spice (and cheese!) never hurts anything.

Avocado Toast

This recipe is a jumping off point.  I have used all sorts of cheeses and spices (havarti can be really wonderful as is crushed chipotle pepper).  Experiment.  The key is good bread and a really ripe avocado.  

Makes 2 Pieces

2 slices of bread, any kind, though I am partial to nutty 5 grains or the previously posted english muffin bread
1/4 - 1/2 an avocado (the amount will depend on the size of the bread or how generous you are with the avocado)
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/2 teaspoon Mike's Hot Honey or regular honey
1 tablespoon crumbled feta, ricotta salata, or cotija 
Flaky sea salt and black pepper

Toast your bread well.  Spread equal amounts of avocado on each slice.  Sprinkle the Aleppo pepper and cheese evenly over the two slices.  Drizzle the honey.  Season with salt and pepper.   Devour.  Immediately.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

merida, mexico.

It's only once I leave New York, the land of black overcoats and black jeans that I remember how much I love color.  

Mexico is so full of color and patterns and light.  The vibrancy kills me.  Tyler and I keep contemplating about which of the 517 dilapidated casa's and hacienda's that we pass on every walk should we buy.  We would fix it up and make it our winter retreat.  We would hide out during the month of February eating avocado, papaya, and limes.  We would drink tequilla on the rocks.  We would gorge on tacos and pizza (because apparently Merida has a big Italian influence. All my favorite foods in one place.  This is paradise.) 

This place is so beautiful it hurts.  It's also serves as a reminder of the wealth and riches that used to reside here. Now it's nothing more then the bones of it's former glory.  If I had millions and billions I would return this city to it's former state.  I would make it a place people seek out.  A place people see people pictures of feel a sense of awe and wonderment.  

So. Much. Color. So much to love.

Monday, April 21, 2014

english muffin bread.

This my friends is English muffin bread/toast which if you ask me is the greatest thing since well, regular toast. I didn't know such a thing existed until recently and now I can't imagine breakfast without it.

The name describes this loaf fairly accurately. When sliced and cooked it looks just like ordinary toast but after one bite it reveals it's true identity and that is toast with the flavor profile of an English muffin (without the hassle of making individual English muffins). The nooks and crannies make for an excellent vessel for hiding salted butter and jam which is my preferred way of eating it. Especially when served with a cappuccino and the Sunday New York Times.

English Muffin Bread 
Recipe from Lootie and Doof

Makes 2 Loaves

5 cups (27 1/2 ounces) bread flour
4 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt (fine/table salt)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups whole milk, heated to 120°F

Grease two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans and dust with the cornmeal. Combine the bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in the hot milk until thoroughly combined. Cover dough with greased plastic wrap (so it doesn't stick to top of dough) and let rise in warm place for 30 minutes, or until dough is bubbly and has doubled in size.

Stir dough to deflate and divide between prepared loaf pans, pushing into corners with greased rubber spatula. (Pans should be about two-thirds full.) Cover pans with greased plastic and let dough rise in warm place until it reaches edge of pans, about 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375°F.

Discard plastic and transfer pans to oven. Bake until bread is well browned and registers 200°F, about 30 minutes, rotating and switching pans halfway through baking. Turn bread out onto wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Slice, toast, and serve.

Note: You can, of course, cut the recipe in half if you only want one loaf. It is worth stressing that this bread must be toasted. It is not worth eating if it is not toasted, much like an English muffin.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

coconut macaroons. (for passover!)

While I do not celebrate Passover, I can get behind the Passover related foods.  I have a slight obsession with matzo slathered in peanut butter.  I also adore a good Tex-Mex matzo brei scramble (don't knock it 'till you try it) and let's not forget chocolate-toffee matzo bark! But what I really love is macaroons.  Coconut macaroons dipped in deep dark chocolate (without a trace of flour!).  They are divine.  

I already had a coconut macaroon recipe and while I love it I find it to be a little well, finicky (stirring for 10 minutes straight starts to verge into arm work-out territory).  This one!  This one is so easy-peasy you could give the recipe to a small child and they would be able to give back to you a tray of perfect cookies.  While these are perfect for Passover, I think they would also be a pretty great addition to your upcoming Easter celebration.  Or really any random Tuesday that you deem a celebration.  

(Sorry for the lack of pictures.  Everyone ate them and all I was able to save was one!  I think that means they were good.)  

Coconut Macaroons
Recipe adapted from Leite's Culinaria

The only change I made to the recipe was the sugar.  The original recipe call for 2 CUPS which seemed ungodly high to me.  I cut it in half and the results are awesome.  Sweet but not cloyingly so.  

Makes about 48 cookies

8 lightly packed cups sweetened flaked coconut (two 14-ounce bags)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large whites)
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups dark chocolate (chopped if a bar or chips)

Position an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350˚F (176˚C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the coconut and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the egg whites and almond extract and mix by hand until the coconut is completely moistened.

Use a small ice cream scoop or a spoon to form the macaroons, about 1 rounded tablespoon each, and place them on the prepared sheets, leaving about 1 inch between the macaroons to allow for spreading. Slightly flatten each macaroon with the palm of your hand.

Bake the macaroons, 1 sheet at a time, for about 15 minutes, until lightly golden. (If you prefer your macaroons with an exceptionally crisp, browned outside in contrast to the moist, pale inside, bake for up to 18 minutes.) Cool the macaroons completely on wire racks.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water), put the chocolate in the bowl, and let it melt, stirring occasionally. The end result ought to be exceptionally smooth.  (You can also do this in the microwave.  Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 15 second intervals.  Stir every 15 seconds.  Repeat until melted and smooth.)

Dip the cooled macaroons into the chocolate, coating each halfway, and place the dipped macaroons back on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Let the chocolate set. Store the macaroons in an airtight container for up to 1 week at room temperature. (Hah! As if they’ll last….)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Between the onslaught of spring, wedding planning, and our impending trip to Mexico, I've got bold colorful flowers on the brain.  

beautiful cake!ombre it up!
Mexican centre piecegold dippedFlowers by Sachi Roseblack, gold, and pink.

All images via Pinterest.

Monday, April 14, 2014

pizza (roberta's version).

Based on the fact that I have spent the better part of the last week debating the merits of serving pizza in some form at our impending nuptials, it's safe to safe I am a pizzaholic.  There is no food more perfect then a slice of pizza.  If you beg to differ with me then I doubt we are friends.  

Last week when the NYTimes ran an article about making pizza at home along with a recipe for Roberta's pizza, I knew it was time for me to test a new dough recipe.  Pizza dough recipes are kind of like chocolate chip cookies or jeans or even white tee-shirts, there are a million different versions and you will spend your entire life looking for the perfect one.  At least that's how I see myself spending my life. Searching for the perfect pizza recipe, one that tastes like a cross between Paulie Gee's and my Mom's.  The only way I will find such a recipe is if I sell my soul to the devil. 

The Roberta's pizza dough is pretty darn awesome and pretty absurdly easy so no complaining you can't make homemade pizza.  It's chewy with a good flavorful bite and the perfect base for a multitude of toppings.  But before you get crazy with ramps, mushrooms, and asparagus, try your hand at a simple Pizza Margherita because sometimes simple is best.  

Roberta’s Pizza Dough
Recipe via the NYTimes

Makes 2 12-inch Pizzas
Time: 20 minutes plus at least 3 hours' rising

153 grams 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)
8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)
4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together 200 grams (about 1 cup) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil, then pour it into flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, approximately 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.

Knead rested dough for 3 minutes. Cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 36 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)

To make pizza, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into rounds or squares. Top and bake (See below for topping the pizza).

NOTE: Measurements for dry ingredients are given by weight for greater accuracy. The equivalent measurements by volume are approximate.

Pizza Margherita
Recipe adapted from NYTimes

2 12-inch rounds of pizza dough, stretched (see above dough recipe)
½ cup tomato sauce, divided in half
6 ounces fresh mozzarella
8 basil leaves, roughly torn (optional)
Red pepper flakes and grated parmesan for serving (optional)

Place a pizza stone or tiles on the middle rack of your oven and turn heat to its highest setting. Let it heat for at least an hour.

Put half the sauce in the center of the stretched dough and use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly across the surface, stopping approximately 1/2 inch from the edges.

Break half the cheese into large pieces (or thinly slice it) and place gently on the sauce. Scatter basil leaves over the top (if using).

Using a pizza peel, pick up the pie and slide it onto the heated stone or tiles in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, approximately 4 to 8 minutes.  (NOTE: If you do not have a pizza peel you can stretch the dough to the size ahead of time.  Then when ready to bake, quickly remove the pizza stone from the oven and place the stretched dough on top.  Working quickly, top with sauces and cheese then put the pizza back in the oven.) 

When the pizza is cooked, remove from the oven and top with crushed red pepper and parmesan.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014


There is something wonderful about the unexpected and the juxtaposition of old and new.  

Keeping things interesting is a very good thing.  


Image via Pinterest.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

hamburger buns.

In my ever growing quest to conquer making homemade versions of all things people only think they can purchase in bodegas, supermarkets, and Target, I figured in preparation for summer it was time to tackle the hamburger bun.  While I have a soft spot for Martin's Potato Buns (be still my heart), I find it hard to stomach all of the extra stuff, weird ingredients, unpronounceable named items that those buns are filled with.  A burger of grass-fed freshly ground beef and local raw-milk cheddar deserves a bun equally special and homemade because as a I mentioned in my previous post, a burger can only be as good as the sum of its parts.  

These hamburger buns are pretty close to perfect.  Somewhere between a brioche and a regular hamburger bun, these are soft and chewy but with enough of a bite that you aren't left feeling as if you're eating air.  They can squish a burger easily without breaking apart yet they are substantial enough to hold together the most delicate of fillings.  

Summer is looking pretty sweet already.  

Hamburger Buns

Makes 12 Buns but this can be halved to make 6

5 cups of bread or all-purpose flour (can replace some of the regular flour with 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat)
2 packages of active dry yeast 
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups hot water
½ cup of milk, for brushing the tops
¼ cup poppy or sesame seeds

In the mixer bowl add 2 cups of flour, the yeast and the salt. Stir to combine with the flat beater. Cut the softened butter into pieces and drop into the bowl with the mixer on low. Add the hot water. When the dough is a smooth batter, add ½ cup of flour at a time. Mix each addition well, until the dough has become a shaggy mass.

Switch to the dough hook. If you are going the by hand route, get ready to turn the dough out and knead, knead, knead.

With the dough hook, knead for about 6 to 8 minutes, add flour if dough is sticking to the bowl. By hand- knead until the dough becomes soft, smooth and elastic, add flour if it gets sticky.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm area until it doubles in size. About 30-40 minutes.

Once risen, turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 12 pieces.  Shape into balls and let relax for about 5 minutes under wax paper.

Shape buns by flattening each ball under your hand, until it is about 1” thick and 4” in diameter.
Place the buns on prepared baking sheets. Cover with waxed paper or a tea towel. Let them rise until they are soft and puffy, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400. Brush buns with milk and sprinkle with seeds of choice.

Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and perfect looking. Let cool before slicing and assembling your burgers.  


Monday, April 7, 2014

black bean burgers.

Well we are back.  Discussing food!  Real food and not liquid food.  I've never been so excited.  Especially since we are discussing black bean burgers which are my new favorite thing after having a most epic one a couple of weeks back when Tyler and I had date night at the new burger joint in Jersey City.  It was so epic that I spent the better part of the last 2 weeks researching recipes and trying to come up with a homemade version that would make me dance in my seat the way that one did. 

There burgers will satisfy carnivores and vegetarians alike.  They are meaty, filling, and beyond flavorful due to a combination of peppers, onions, and spices galore. Sure you could omit the spices so they don't feel so Southwestern but my thought is it's better to embrace this characteristic and let the burger be it's awesome Tex-Mex/South-West self.  I like to serve them on (homemade) hamburger buns (recipe coming later this week!) with pepper jack cheese, sliced avocado, pickled jalapenos, ketchup, and mayo because a burger can really be enhanced by the sum of it's parts (that and the fact that I have a love affair with toppings and condiments).

Oh! And don't forget the chips.  

Black Bean Burgers
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

Makes 6 – 8 Patties

2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 small to medium sized yellow onion, finely chopped 
1 large poblano pepper, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 1 teaspoon sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish Paprika (Hot)
1/3 cup finely crumbled feta or cotija cheese
1 whole egg
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cheese as desired, such as pepper jack, cheddar, muenster, or Swiss (optional)
6 to 8 hearty hamburger buns, toasted
Condiments as desired, such as chipotle mayo (or regular mayo), ketchup, mustard, or mayonnaise (optional)
Toppings as desired, such as shredded lettuce, sliced onions, avocado, and pickled jalapenos (optional)

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 350°F. Spread black beans in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and roast until beans are mostly split open and outer skins are beginning to get crunchy, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

While beans roast, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and poblano and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chipotle chili and sauce, cumin, chili powder, and paprika, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Place mixture in food processor and pulse about 5 times until the mixture is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

When beans are slightly cooled, transfer to food processor. Add cheese. Pulse until beans are roughly chopped (the largest pieces should be about 1/3 of a full bean in size). Transfer to bowl with onion/pepper mixture.  Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Add egg and bread crumbs.. Fold together gently but thoroughly with hands. Patty mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days at this stage.

Form bean mixture into 6 to 8 patties as wide as your burger buns. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add 4 patties and cook, swirling pan occasionally, until well browned and crisp on first side, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until second side is browned, about 5 minutes longer, adding cheese if desired. If cooking more than 4 burgers, cook in batches, keeping cooked burgers on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet in a 200°F oven while second batch cooks.

Spread top and bottom buns with chipotle mayonnaise or other condiments as desired. Add toppings to top or bottom bun as desired. Place patties on bottom buns, close burgers, and serve immediately.

Friday, April 4, 2014

juice cleanse - day 3.

The Juice Cleanse - by Judith newman New York Times6:55AM - My stomach is growling and despite sleeping 8 hours I feel exhausted.  I am not a happy camper.
7:49AM - Walking up stairs required a lot more effort then they should.  My body is pissed at me.
10:34AM  - There are bagels on the other side of the floor and I wondering how bad it would be to eat a piece.  A small piece. A single bite?  I for once exhibit restraint.  Who am I?
12:06PM - I am counting down the minutes until this torture is over.
1:47PM - Feeling a lot better after the last drink and my handful of almonds.  I still miss food.  A lot.
4:31PM - I've been told by multiple people that I look skinny (people that don't know I am doing a cleanse), while this was not the point of doing one (actually I still don't see the point in doing one), I am at least happy that something positive came out of this. That statement sounds vain but I think I am allowed to be vain if I am hungry.
4:56PM - I am salivating at the thought of tomorrow's breakfast.  Eggs and avocado.  Oh my.
5:38PM - I almost give the middle finger to the wall of juices at Whole Foods.  
6:30PM - Despite being exhausted, my body is craving exercise and movement.  I am taking myself for a walk on the treadmill.  I feel like some weird new version of myself.  
7:52PM - Juice cleanse.  We are done.  

So now that I've completed something I never thought I could or would complete the big question is how do I feel? I feel at this moment better then I ever thought I would.  I'm also surprised that the foods my body is craving is not cookies or cake or even cheese (I'm as shocked as you are) but rather salmon, avocado, and beans.  It feels as if I've been reset and I like the fact that I am looking forward to wholesome, healthy foods. I also think I may be so hungry that I am having delusional thoughts.  10 bucks says I cave in to my weekly chocolate almond croissant because who doesn't deserve a reward for cleansing?

But the thing that bothered me during this whole process is the fact that you really can't exercise or move or do anything beyond sitting in a chair thinking about food (which I did a lot of) and because of that, I really can't see this as being all too healthy.  Being on a juice cleanse is similar to having the flu when the only things you can consume is liquids.  Who wants to feel as if they have the flu?!  I don't. Would I do this again? Maybe? Right now the answer is hell's no but in 6 months I could feel differently (but let's be honest I doubt it).  

So that's it.  Tomorrow I return to cooking (black bean burgers and salmon tacos!) and I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am.  I also kind of feel a little accomplished.  

Also! This article from the NYTimes basically summarizes how I felt during the whole process.  

Day 1 - I need food. Day 2 - Hey, this isn't bad!  Day 3 - Kill me now.  

Image via the NYTimes