The Cool House: cooking
Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Orient the (micro) Wave

The kitchen isn't even finished yet I'm almost certain there will be a minor remodel to the renovation in the future. The microwave is sitting on the counter like the ugly big box it is, reminding me daily that my first wish for the kitchen was a dedicated small appliance area and my second was to stop the breaker tripping every time we used the toaster, coffee maker and microwave simultaneously.
I looked at built-in microwaves and microwaves in a drawer but they were so expensive that when it came time to do the budget I nixed the idea. We decided we could live with the microwave on the counter and had the electrician run four outlets on the wall behind the small appliance area. It transpires that he didn't run a separate 20 amp breaker for the microwave though, so we still can't heat oatmeal, make toast and warm coffee at the same time - a fact we discovered when we had a bunch of people staying all trying to get breakfast together.
So something has to be done. When I ordered the other appliances I talked to the sales guy who told me that built-in microwaves were not worth the money and it would be much cheaper (and fairly easy) to convert a 24" or 30" cabinet to hold the microwave and buy a trim kit that allows steam to vent out the front. It's certainly an option and I do have a few placement possibilities.

I could build an appliance garage on the small appliance wall under the staircase but this would cut into valuable counterspace - and make that wall look cramped - it would also be a pain to run a dedicated line to the microwave here. I could also modify one of the 30" cabinet drawers underneath but it would ruin the look of that cabinet run.

Or I could place it in the island - there is a dedicated 20 amp line here that will only be used occasionally and it would be handy for heating plates etc. but the induction cooktop is so super fast that I wouldn't use the microwave for heating stock or any other cooking process and it's far from the site of primary use - heating oatmeal, boiling water and reheating coffee.

The final place probably has the fewest disadvantages. The cupboard next to the dishwasher houses appliances we use occasionally: coffee bean grinder, ice cream maker, food processor. It would be easy to relocate these to the tall pantry, which, at the moment, is completely empty. We would replace the two tall doors with two 15" doors on the bottom of the cabinet and place the microwave on the shelf up top, then trim it out with the kit. The microwave would be opposite the coffee maker and it would be a cinch to run a new 20 amp line here with no visible holes in the wall. The only problem? I really like the way that run of cabinets looks now. I don't want to mess it up with an ugly microwave. What to do?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

In Vino Veritas: Verace

photo courtesy Nadine Bouler

We were very excited to meet the stylish Nadine Bouler and her husband, leading Long Island "green" architect James of Bouler Architecture, at Verace in Islip New York, the latest addition to the Bohlsen Family restaurant group. We had read such great things about it and knew that the design - by Bouler Architecture - was going to be stellar but we had no idea how exceptional it was going to be on both fronts.

the Architect looking over the second-floor balcony

The restaurant has a mix of traditional architectural details - lots of reclaimed wood, brick exterior, mahogany window frames - with cutting-edge elements: oxidized steel wall surrounds, a concrete patio water feature and a swirling, abstract vaulted ceiling. Retro orange tiles in the open kitchen and mushroom pendant lamps in the bar give it a groovy vibe while the softer elements, an upholstered wall on the second floor dining room and long drapes in the main room reduce the noise level and add a warm, cozy ambience. It's a knock-out. We were lucky enough to get a guided tour of the place by the architect himself. For the project history and all the before-and-after photographs - a de-facto virtual tour - visit Nadine Bouler's site.

photo courtesy Nadine Bouler

As for the food, Italian chef Francesco Torre is in the kitchen and here, too, there is a mix of rustic and modern. My Crab Ravioli on a Green Chard puree not only matched my shirt but had the right balance between the sweetness of the crab and the tart tang of the chard. Both The Guy and I opted or the Roasted Pork with Sweet Italian Fruit and Mustard Sauce as our "Secondi", which was deliciously moist with a real pork flavor. Props too for the authentic bolognese sauce and the better than traditional crunchy tiramisu! The wine, from both Italian and New York vineyards is custom-blended and stored in eco-kegs, then pushed with nitrogen to deliver a pure, unspoilt glass or carafe per order; no danger of corked wine here. Verace is also committed to delivering the best tasting, most environmentally-sound table water. To this end they offer only their own state of the art filtered water - flat or carbonated - served form reusable bottles.

Artist & Author Nadine Bouler, Manager Joe, The Architect, The Guy

Verace is a fabulous restaurant and I'm planning a return visit for one of the regular Monday Wine Dinner Events. And if they ever start a Facebook Fan Page, I'll be the first to join!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Notes on a Television

Lots of off-blog comments on the size of our bedroom TV - and a posted one. Apparently a 27" screen doesn't cut it; we must miss all the fine details of the programmes and we are surely harming our eyes squinting at the teeny-tiny screen. I must thank everyone who expressed concern for our well-being and inform you all that this TV is ... shock, horror.... the one we used as our sitting room set from 2000-2008.
Until summer 2004, when we moved into this house, we didn't even have a TV in the bedroom, a fact commented upon by every realtor that walked into the master suite - I know, it's a wonder we ever sold our last house - but what we didn't have we didn't miss. Then we came to The Cool House and I thought how nice it would be to lie in bed and watch movies so I lobbied hard to put in our second set, a 23" CRT TV that was, I'll admit, a little challenging to view, in the bedroom.
Over the course of the past five years I got used to having the black box in the room, watching food porn early on Saturday morning or house porn late at night. Then last weekend these Scripps channels were pulled off our local cable provider, which coincided with our temporary move to the guest bedroom that (shock again) has no cable outlet. I was staring down a black hole of six weeks or so without a TV to snuggle up to. I almost balked at the thought but eventually agreed to a television-free period. Well interwebs, I have to tell you that it's been a week and I haven't missed the TV for one second. We read magazines, books both in print and on Kindle and listen to NPR. It's just like the good old days - except now we know what we had.
The question is: When we finally move back to our bedroom should we replace the teeny teevee with a big LED/LCD flat screen or should we just not bother with a television in the master at all?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

By Land or By Sea*... with the help of a glass of Pinot Noir

A couple of creative bloggers and their significant others joined The Guy and me on an international voyage with an American twist at CREW Kitchen* in Huntington Harbor (Halesite) last night. An evening of hilarity and great food with a glass or two of wine (and beer) ensued, followed by a quick trip to Holland and the Scottish Isles back at The Cool House. I didn't take my camera with me (bad, bad blogger) so you'll have to rely on the photo essays of the Fabulous Graphic Designer and the Amazing Artist and Author for the fully illustrated version. Did we have a good time? Today I'm making restorative Chicken Soup while my liver has a chance to recover, so yes I think it was simply splendid evening...
*Five course tasting menu - choice of all meat or all fish, or do what the renegades do and mix and match; there's also a wine flight pairing. As always, the staff are super-accommodating - and the crab balls come highly recommended!
*Decor at CREW by the Awesome Designer, Julie Napoleon Brown

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My House Smells like a French (or Belgian) Restaurant

Since I got back from our challenging European vacation I have been (unsurprisingly) obsessed with comfort food. The very first night, despite jet lag, I made Fusilli with ground Buffalo and Three Cheese Sauce. Okay, I cheated by using a jar of Trader Joe's sauce but I added a parmesan rind I had left over in the fridge to the sauce that I mixed with the browned buffalo - unctuous, soothing and exactly what was needed after a plane ride of almost eight hours.
The next evening I was restored enough after 10 hours sleep to cook Pork Tenderloin with a Mustard Sauce and serve it with Stoemp, the Belgian speciality of mashed potatoes with vegetables. The standards are carrots or spinach but I finely chopped green onions to add the perfect bite to an otherwise typically Franco-Belgian dish.
A disappointing but not bad bottle of Pinot Noir became the basis for Boeuf Bourguignon, the classic French stew and an embarrassment of onions prompted me to make Soupe à l'Oignon in the proper fashion with cognac and real bouquet garni.
The only dish I haven't tackled is Lapin Chasseur although the cats did present me with a laid out bunny on the doorstep - a welcome home present.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Market Sunday

Huntington Farmers' Market on Sunday morning - a gathering place for good food, chatty neighbors and friendly dogs

Lots of samples and a few unexpected items

Cheesecake Souffles - a sweet treat for breakfast

and red wine starter bread - yeast-free but without the sourness of sourdough.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Peter Piper Picked...

a peck of pickled peppers

and a pint of Maine blueberries

and made spicy peppers, ice cream.... and picalilli

The part of Peter Piper was played by modernemama

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Almost as addictive as twitter

It's summer and in spite of the thunderstorms and pouring rain I have been making a batch of ice cream every week. Last week it was a refreshing blueberry that turned out the most amazing shade of purple. Today's gelato recipe is a sweet vanilla ice cream with cream cheese for stabilization and texture. It's rescued from boring blahness by

the addition of a handful of roughly chopped Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds from Trader Joe's. These are the most addictive bonbons ever to land on the supermarket shelves. I decided to make this gelato just to limit the number of times we pass by the kitchen cupboard and sneak a couple. Buy 'em, try 'em but be warned, you may have to give them away to save yourself!

The Recipe
2 1/2 cups of cream and whole milk (or half and half)
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4oz cream cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
Handful of chopped chocolate almonds. (If you can't get the salty ones you could add a 1/4 tsp gray sea salt)

Heat the cream, milk and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Cook stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Add vanilla and cream cheese. Whisk gently until the cream cheese has melted into the cream mixture. Take a bowl and fill with ice cubes, place the pan in the bowl and allow to cool. Whisk in the sour cream. Meanwhile chop a handful of the almonds. When the cream mixture is cool to the touch pour into an ice cream maker and add the nuts.
There you have it, almost every tastebud is tickled: Creamy, Crunchy, Sweet, Sour and Salty Gelato. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Bastille Day 10

In honour of Bastille Day and a few hours spent looking at photos culled (mostly) from old albums - very 20th Century. Here are 10 places I miss in France:

La Trinité sur Mer near Carnac in Brittany. The fishing boats

and the beaches.

St Malo
, a walled city in Normandy.

The sense of desolation at Aigues-Mortes in the Camargue. And the wild horses, pink flamingos and black bulls of the surrounding delta.

photo: wikicommons

, for its Roman Arena and links to Vincent van Gogh.

photo: wikicommons

Colmar, for all the pretty flowers and all the vins d'Alsace.

photo: wikicommons

The Catalan area of France, Languedoc-Roussillon, for its climate, food, people and the ancient towns of Perpignan, Sète, Béziers, Nîmes and Carcassone.

photo: wikicommons

. The river valley cuts through limestone cliffs making it one of the most scenic areas of France with superb kayaking.

Dijon, heart of Burgundy... and the Burgundian way of life.

The Loire Valley,

its chateaux and its wines.

and of course, Paris.

Monday, July 06, 2009

If You liked KC You're Gonna Love Kansas

So by now you have realised that I was in Kansas City for a couple of days. The raison d'etre for the midwest excursion was a little business and a visit to the renowned Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art but I grabbed the chance to take a side trip into Kansas to meet with home builder and food blogger Marilyn of Simmer Till Done in the "coolest college town in the US".
I've been following Marilyn since her house blogger days, admiring her design aesthetic and vicariously enjoying the thrill of the chase as she tracked down plumbing fittings, vintage hardware and decorative items on ebay. What kept me reading was her writing; her turn of phrase and wry humor that permeated every post. Towards the end of construction she began to post the recipes and mouth-watering photographs of food that eventually became Simmer Till Done.
Let me tell you that in real life she doesn't disappoint. Meeting Marilyn was like catching up with an old friend; so many stories to share, experiences to expand upon, blogs we love and bloggers we know. We talked as we toured the town, I learned the history and fun facts (the town grid is made up of numbered streets crossed with states in the order they joined the union); we chatted as I explored her beautiful house and met her lovely family including the famous Cleo and wandered back into town for coffee. Five hours later we were still talking. Here's just a taste:

Perfect bites of happiness: She baked Rugelach and sent me home with a doggy bag full.

She's a bit of an alchemist, turning simple ingredients into homemade Limoncello and other flavored liqueurs - smooth and sweet with an unexpected kick at the finish

She showed me this breadboard in real life

and took me to a bank to eat artisanal antipasti and salad. A side note: Do you know how difficult it is to eat when you just can't stop talking?
Another fun fact to finish? Her town has some 90,000 residents. Marilyn seems to know each and everyone personally - either that or it is also the friendliest town in the midwest!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Guess Where I Was: Part II

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art


Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Louise Bourgeois Spider

Kansas City kicked my butt, culturally and culinary-wise.

Martini with olive and a twist

Jack Stack Barbecue smokey BBQ ribs

Pulled Pork and Hominy Pizzole with Carrot and Cauliflower Salad and a Sandwich at Café Sebastienne at the Kemper Museum

Inside-Out Burger at Blanc Burgers and Bottles

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Panna Cotta with Caramel Sauce

It's been a while since I posted anything food-related on the blog. A combination of laziness, greed (do you realise we have to wait to eat while I take shots?) and twitter. Blame twitter. It's so much quicker to post 140 characters online than mess around with html.
Anyway, I am actually inspired by this lack of summer to make some dishes rather than the usual "Go to store, pick up salads, cheese and pate, open wine and call it a picnic" meals we eat this time of year. Yesterday I used up leftover polpo, peppers, rice and tomatilla salsa with frozen prawns, sauteed garlic and 1/3 bottle of white wine for a simple, summery lunch and made a Panna Cotta with fresh berries for today's dessert. I had planned to serve it with red berry coulis and fresh cherries but then I saw something that made me think why not drizzle it with a little Caramel Sauce? Heaven.
Panna Cotta is one of the easiest desserts to make. Really! It's just cream jelly (Jello). I'm not even going to bother to write out a recipe, there are hundreds around, each as simple as the last. Try David Lebovitz's below. And if you have any doubts about making your own caramel sauce go and see Marilyn at Simmer Till Done. She will hold your hand, mop your fevered brow and guide you through the process for perfecting sweet, buttery and slightly salty caramel. You'll never go back to a jar again!

Panna Cotta
David Lebovitz has a perfect recipe with tips
(If you oil the molds as he suggests you won't have to do what I did and ease them out with a knife, see photo. Do as I say, not as I do!)

Caramel Sauce
I told you: Go see Simmer

Friday, June 12, 2009

Uninteresting? Happy? Moi?

I've been tagged by the stylish From the Right Bank to the Left Coast to come up with six uninteresting things that make me happy - all those who think they already know too much about me and none of it could be called interesting, can just be quiet and those who say I'm rarely happy can move along. I'm in no mood for sarcasm today, I'm going to be positively full of joy!

In no particular order:

The water - coastline, lakes, bays, the ocean - it doesn't matter, to see the water every day makes me calm and happy

Snow - the first fat flakes falling out of the night sky and the crisp crunch of the icy crystals the following day.

Expressive flowers: blooms that beckon and sensual blossoms

The smell of old books: cloth covered or leather-bound and the age-stained pages of old encyclopedias

Seasonal food: A plate of fresh red cherries... or heirloom tomatoes ripened in the sun... or a simple salad

The clink of glasses, that happy sound that signals the start of a celebration, or a simple meal shared with friends. Cheers!

Now I'm tagging six inspiring people to do the same:
Nadine at Bouler Design Group
Another New Yorker Just Off the Taconic
Heidi at faboolosity
Jenni at ThirteenEleven
Kathleen from House Things I Like
and The House on Red Hill
All you have to do (but only if it makes you happy) is to find uninteresting things that make you happy, choose 6 people to tag and link your post back to me...