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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gingerbread Blueprints

Remember this? Did it inspire you to make your own, knowing no matter how it turned out it could never be as bad as that one. Perhaps you yearn to build your own home? Why not give it a trial run in relatively cheap gingerbread dough first? Would you choose a modern house, a Cape Cod Cottage or Bungalow style perhaps? There are 12 designs to make your Gingerbread House more personal in The Gingerbread Architect by Susan Matheson & Lauren Chattman, and maybe inspire your home renovations, too. Have fun.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Double Celebration

In February I posted a photo of fireworks with the news that The Cool House had a big birthday to celebrate. I promised a fortieth birthday party, to be held in June because the blueprints for the house date from that month. In the usual way of things here that date got pushed and shoved back until a couple of weeks ago when I realized that Halloween had passed and nothing has been done. At this time of year we are usually planning to celebrate the winter solstice with a few friends, so I thought as we're already planning special food and decorating the home why not ratchet up the festivities and toast the anniversary of Beach House's 40 years as well?

Of course an event this important requires a certain amount of preparation. Before we decorate for the holidays we clean the house thoroughly. This will be the last thorough dusting and scrubbing that some spots will see until the holiday ornaments are put away and the greenery is burnt on January 5th, so I want it to be as good as it can be. We wash the windows so they sparkle to reflect the candlelight at night and let as much natural light in as possible during the day. Once all the housework is done and the guest rooms are ready for partygoers who want to stay over we can start making the house warm and welcoming.

For the solstice, we have a yule log that, at nightfall, becomes a roaring fire and we gather lots of greenery from the conifers in the yard to make wreaths for the front door and exterior lights and a saddle for the mailbox. I place branches of holly and fir into tall vases, and lay juniper branches and more holly on the fireplace surround and credenzas. To make the greenery stand out I add citrus fruits, lemons, limes, satsumas and tangerines, or naartjies, as The Guy calls them, and votive candles. I push cloves into oranges and pile them up throughout the house, and heap more cloves and lightly crushed cinnamon sticks under candles in votives, which makes the house smell great.

And what's a holiday party without scrumptious rich cakes and puddings made with dried fruit and brandy; cookies with butter, spiced with ginger cinnamon and nutmeg, and Stollen? Not only do they taste great but the enticing smell permeates the whole house. We'll toast the winter, and the house, with champagne, dark Trappist ales from Belgium and gluhwein. If all goes well we may even sing a few wassailing songs, too.

This year the party will be more important than ever; we will celebrate not only midwinter but the serendipity that brought us to Beach House, this wonderful creation that has been a home for forty years and provides us endless delight in its uniquely modern design.

Double Celebration: Winter Solstice/40th Anniversary has been entered in the "Home for the Holidays Contest", run in conjunction with Right@Home. This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by SC Johnson’s Right@Home.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Simmering gently today

I'm absolutely exhausted from the emotional tsunami of Tuesday, and the mojito, beer and overloaded nacho party we had while waiting for the results. Anyway, I will be returning to Cool House stories soon. Till then, pop over to the delightfully welcoming Marilyn at Simmer Till Done who bribed me with chocolate-tinis to tell her (and the internets) some fascinating facts about my food philosophy. OK done with the alliteration now.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Nature's Bounty

We have visitors over from Belgium who looked at the above plate of apples and walnuts and wanted to know a) why the apples were so shiny and b) what those nuts were. The shiny apples I could understand because apples over there never shine unless you polish them on your sweater. Even though these are organic they look fake. But the walnut thing had me confused for a second, after all they have have walnuts in Belgium, we used to have a walnut tree in our garden. Then I got it. These walnuts have been washed and dried, whereas back in Europe we used to gather them when they had fallen while they are black and softish. Then we were reminded that it is mushroom gathering season in the woods and the Foret de Soignes is full of Portobello mushrooms. Sob. And it is wild game season, too. Grouse anyone?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday night special: The staying in version

Friday night is cocktail night but as it's also Hallow'een and I really don't want to think of a theme and go sit in a bar dressed up, I thought I'd throw my cocktail on some beef and make Martini Brisket instead. Yes really, brisket and onions in a beefy tomato sauce, finished with vodka, vermouth and olives. What could be better? The ice cold shaken martini that will go in my chilled glass, obviously.
And while I'm happily assembling the ingredients maybe you'd like a little Friday afternoon hiphop with MC Yogi?

Remember Vote for Hope

Thursday, October 30, 2008


A thought struck me the other day. We've now lived at The Cool House longer than we lived in our previous house on Long Island. The first four years in the States seemed to go by slowly, we learned coping strategies for the huge portions in restaurants but not before we'd each gained five hundred pounds, one of us learned to say watuh so we could get a drink with our meals, and we allowed people to bring coffee and other beverages into our car. In short we adapted. The past four years in this house have simply flown by but in all this time there was one thing that still irked The Guy, there was one image of America he'd gleaned from the movies that had never become reality. He, bless, had thought that anytime a new person moved into the area, neighbors dropped round with pie. Or at least left one on the porch. (I know. He's thinking of 1950s America. Bless again). He'd talked to Americans about this and some had mentioned being given zucchini bread many years ago, but this was in real America not Long Island.

Then on Sunday something happened that renewed The Guy's faith in his dream, his ideal America. A knock at the door, a neighbor bearing a baking dish. Pie? No. Even better, the Awesome Designer sent the Loyal Blog Reader over with Mac 'n' Cheese. Not just any mac 'n' cheese, mind you, but Mac 'n' Cheese with White Truffles. A truly magnificent dish and a gesture that meant so much to The Guy. I swear there were tears in his eyes as he ate it. It might have taken eight years but the spirit of America was embodied in that casserole. Thank you, neighbors.

Now, America, if you'd just get out and vote for Obama on November 4th, you would make my dreams come true, too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fall Flavors

OK, it may be autumn but I just got a new paddle for my ice cream maker and I'm in the mood for ice cream. Kind of nuts really - the weather turns chilly and I turn the ice cream maker on but I guess you could always serve it with a steaming slice of pie, right?
Anyway, I have been experimenting with mixes that don't need eggs because no eggs means no cooking and cooling so the whole pocess goes much quicker and, based on the couple of recipes I've made so far, I prefer the taste and the texture.
I was intrigued by this recipe from Jenni Britton of Jenni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus Ohio. It uses cornstarch and a little cream cheese but she does boil the milk. I couldn't quite see why it was necessary so I did some more research and found another recipe that didn't. However, it did call for a whole lot of cream cheese - an entire 8oz package! That's a little too much Philly for my taste. So I amalgamated the two and came up with this Maple Syrup and Ginger Ice Cream to celebrate the fall season.

Maple Syrup and Ginger Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tbls cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped

Blend cream, milk, cream cheese, sugar, maple syrup and salt until smooth. Churn in ice cream maker and add chopped candied ginger. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze.

Then at the weekend I got in the holiday season with another kind of eggless recipe: Whiskey and Cranberry Sour Cream Ice. This one is based on this recipe from Desert Candy. It turned out to be The Guy's favorite, I slightly preferred the other but I will make them both again and vary the flavorings.

Whiskey and Cranberry Sour Cream Ice
2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup cup sugar
2 tbls maple syrup
3 tbl whisky
I/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Soak the cranberries in the whisky for an hour or so.
2. Blend all other ingredients until smooth. Place in the refrigerator and chill while the cranberries are soaking. Pour cream mix into ice cream maker and add cranberries.
If I were making this again I might add some finely chopped candied orange peel to the churning ice cream to make it even prettier.
There are no photos of the ice cream because it was eaten so quickly so you'll have to be content with the tree that I snapped while waiting for a train on Monday. Pretty, no?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spam and serendipity

I was checking my gmail and decided to look at what spam they had collected for me when I noticed the link in the corner. Look at what I got, a genuine spam recipe for Gingered Spam Salad. At once delightful and truly repulsive. And unsurprisingly, it serves just one person. After all would you share this with anyone else?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pulverise It

When we were at the MoMA recently I professed interest in one of these and instantly I had two people fighting to buy it for me. Isn't that nice?
I'm usually a "smack a couple of cloves with the blade of a knife, then finely chop" girl but I loved the shape of this Garlic Crusher from Dutch designer Ineke Hans, and the weight, too. Seriously, this thing is heavy. Were you to drop it on your bare toe or bring it down upon the head of your loved one during the course of a disagreement over, for example, the best way boil pasta, you could inflict some major damage. Use with caution, that's all I'm saying.
Anyway, I've been cooking with garlic a lot this week, Spanish food, pasta with garlic and olive oil and Thai Prawn and Noodle Soup, and I've found this crusher much easier on the hands than the back of knife when dealing with 6-8 cloves of garlic at a time. Bash, peel, roll and voila pulverised garlic. And the handles, when rinsed, really do absorb the smell.
I hesitate to call something this simple and good-looking a gadget but it's proving very useful and I'm glad I made room in the kitchen drawer for it. $25 from The MoMA Store.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's Cocktail Time (again)

The quintessential British summer drink: Pimm's. There should be Borage but I can't find any on the Island so I'm making do with cucumbers. And they're not even proper English cucumbers but something called a Mediterranean cucumber. Looks like a pickle to me. This is some bastardized version of a beloved summer drink.

Why is Polly gazing down the garden path, you ask? She can see the road from there and she's hoping someone will come along to share the cocktail. I hope they're bringing food, too.

One non-authentic but nevertheless perfect* Pimm's
1 part Pimm's No.1
3 parts 7UP or Sprite
sliced cucumbers
sliced lemons
pared lemon peel to dangle over the rim of the glass in a fancy way (optional)

*I actually don't feel this is strong enough to qualify as a real cocktail so I add a measure of my new favourite gin, Miller's, which tastes more of cucumbers than even Hendricks, to each glass. Drink responsibly!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

But is it lobster-proof?

The new MoMa Store catalog arrived and this Wooden Clutch from the MoMA Store caught my eye immediately. Made from curved hickory, it has a unique sculptural quality that makes me want to rush out and touch it, stroke it and make it it MINE. Unfortunately, it's currently on backorder, even worse it would cost $295 plus tax, and even with my member discount that's still more than I want to part with.
But the real question is: Can I go out dinner with it and not do it some terrible damage?
Last night we went to the south shore of Long Island to eat the lobster I was denied some weeks ago. It was a beautiful evening; the storms that had threatened never materialized so we were able to sit on the water and watch the sun set. This is a hands-on place - no bibs or water dishes - you just grab the seafood and tear it apart. We started with BYO wine, some shrimp and seaweed salad and then moved on to the main event - the much anticipated lobsters. I reached for mine, a 1 lb female, cracked the shell with both hands and showered myself in a delicious red spray of coral or lobster roe.
This was upsetting on two fronts. First, the coral is my favorite part and I didn't want to waste any and second, this stuff stains anything it touches bright orange. The sun was setting, so I figured it wouldn't be too noticeable, and I'd only shot myself, not my fellow diners, so I wiped up what I could, licked my fingers and continued eating.
After dinner we walked the boardwalk at Long Beach and went back to the Music Guy and Opera Diva's place for coffee and dessert. Under their kitchen lights the full glory of the damage I had wrought was revealed: shirt, shorts, skin - everything was orange tinged. Front and back. Don't ask how that was possible. But it was only when we got home that I saw the roe had made its way to my beloved lilac linen Birkin-style bag. Front, back, sides and even underneath, it was everywhere. A huge mess that proved beyond the capabilities of even Tide-To-Go. I've scrubbed it as well as I can and it may yet survive, but I think I will have to cover it in saran-wrap and don a rain slicker and a sou'wester myself before I tackle another lobster dinner.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

E is for Excellence

I was very touched to be awarded an E for Excellent award from Ethan and Fred at One Project Closer. They kindly wrote I had challenged their artistic sides. It's funny that what started as a pure diary of the renovations on The Cool House has morphed into something much broader: a desire to share all that I find weird and wonderful, beautiful and unique, whether it's in my house or the neighborhood, across the globe or in cyberspace. I'm just pleased others find some of it interesting too.

This award requires that we show our appreciation by giving it to other EXCELLENT blogs, which is a challenge for me. I don't like to play favorites; it's like saying which of the kitties do you like best, it can't be done, coughCassiscough. All the blogs I read are excellent, I wouldn't bother otherwise, would I? Certainly all those to the left of this post are excellent and there are many more I read that are genius too, but in the interests of plying along here's a sample that you might like:

Simmer Till Done - the food, the recipes, the photos - culinary Nirvana.
House and Hound - dogs and decor, it's design with a canine twist
Charlie's Design Diary -the best Finland has to offer, art, design, textiles and architecture - not forgetting the landscape
Austin ModHouse - how to build a really cool mid-century modern inspired house. Just be awed right now. And did I mention it's near Austin? The music, the food, the margaritas, oh and reasonable weather; I want to relocate....
Renovation Therapy an obsession with Grey Gardens, chandeliers, chesterfields and cats
Scented Glossy Magazines - feeding my Bravo reality show obsession
Stupid and Contagious - music, stupidity, culture, sarcasm - this is the blog I'd write if The Cool House didn't take up all my free time

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cervaiole Marble - modern or traditional

Suddenly it's everywhere

I first saw mega amounts of it used in this 2006 Phillipe Starck bathroom. De trop, perhaps?

In this newly built Hampton Shingle Style house in the Incorporated Village it's paired with traditional cream cabinets. There's a lot of it and it's not really working for me. Too dark, maybe?

In Boston, this 2008 Watermark Awards winner contrasts the marble with simple teak cabinetry for a really successful sleek but warm kitchen.
Perhaps most successful use of Cervaiole marble is this backsplash and countertop in a modern home that's actually in the Hamptons. It's a multimedia guide so click on the top photo icon in the dining room to see the kitchen. Bright white, spare flat-fronted cabinets and white oak floors are light and airy while the veined marble gives a richness to the whole space. Lovely.

By the way, I'm awed by the New York Times new interactive guides. There's also a great one on Chinese food in Flushing, Queens for all you New York food freaks.

Lobster Day

"Is it lobster day, today?" was the first thing I asked when The Guy brought me coffee in bed. (Yes, he brings me coffee every morning. I know what you are thinking: spoilt cool house owner! Not really, I suffer in other ways.)

The reason I sounded like an excited six year old? Well, Saturday evening should have seen us eating lobster on the south shore of Long Island with friends but Music Guy hurt his back and didn't feel he could sit on a hard bench at the Shack, let alone wrestle a hard carapace to get to the delicious sweet flesh within. So I was denied, at least for the weekend. We made plans to go here today instead.

I haven't been to the Lobster Roll this summer but it's not for the want of trying. Back in early May on the return leg of my trip to Boston I dropped in for lunch but an absence of vehicles in the car park revealed that it was only open weekends until Memorial Day. Then there was a frustrating trip out to Riverhead in the season where I learnt that the are NOT OPEN ON TUESDAY. But today is Thursday, I have double-checked the opening times and I can see only one possible problem: Puffers are on the menu.

So should it be lobster, lobster roll or puffers? Decisions, decisions. It's really too hot for all this brain work.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Where there's life there's....

... a Belgian takeover of one of the icons of American popular culture. Allez les belges!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tequila, citrus and spice, or maybe not...

Tequila, citrus and spice in the form of Spicy Grapefruit Margaritas, that's what food critic, Top Chef judge and soon to be host of his own show on Food Network TV, Ted Allen, is proposing for a refreshing summer cocktail. Sounds just my kind of thing except Tequila and I don't get along together so I'm replacing the Mexican alcohol with Finnish Vodka. And because I don't have a sweet tooth I'm also junking the sweetened grapefruit in favor of freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice. This should give me the perfect combination of fresh fruit and heat with enough of the hard stuff to get a little buzz. (Not everyone has a palate like mine so you may want to use the sweetened juice or an ounce of simple syrup with the freshly-squeezed juice to take the edge off the tartness). Then of course it was announced today that peppers can cause a deadly bout of salmonella so I've decided to do without them as well. Ha!
Never mind, I'm calling my cocktail Citrus Vodka and the recipe follows. I'm still going to stick with a slightly Spanish theme in the form of some of my favorite tapas: Spanish Cocktail nuts (Marcona almonds, corn, pistachio nuts, roast chickpeas), fava beans; grilled queso, chopped chorizo and Tortilla chips and home-made guacamole. That's my perfect summer supper anyway.
If you want to try Ted Allen's Spicy Grapefruit Margarita the recipe is over here

Citrus Vodka Cocktail:
1 cup vodka
2 cups fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
1 cup of fresh orange juice
1 lime cut into wedges
Ruby red grapefruit, cut into small wedges, then into half-wedges

Pour infused vodka, orange and grapefruit juices over ice cubes in a shaker; shake and strain into a chilled martini glass, or just pour over rocks in a highball. Garnish with a grapefruit and a lime wedge.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jo Co @ The Highline

Fantastic start to summmer. Jonathan Coulton at The Highline Ballroom with Paul & Storm. Geeks and nerds abounded. We got to play pirates and zombies, laugh at Mandelbrot jokes

and sing along to Code Monkey

Monkey phone home

For some reason the Monkey got to hang out at our table. Maybe because there was plenty of beer. Or maybe he just liked girls from Huntington.

Bonus: The food at The Highline is unbelievably good. So are the Chelsea Martinis. That sure kicks the butt of Madison Square Gardens where overpriced nachos and warm beer are the culinary high points and tickets cost a whole bunch more! The Highline is my new favourite NY concert venue. I wonder if I can persuade The Guy to go to Tragedy! the tri-state area's #1 metal tribute to the Bee Gees?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cilantro: Harmless Herb or Instrument of Death?*

I had no idea that so many people disliked the fragrant green herb Coriandrum sativum until I stumbled upon I Hate Cilantro, a website dedicated to supporting the fight against the "most offensive food known to man": Cilantro.
Now, I love coriander, as it is known in Europe; I use it to flavour curries and Thai soups, and once I discovered it was known as cilantro in America, in ceviche and salsas. Hell, I've been known to sprinkle it over Boston (Bibb) lettuce before now.
To some people, though, it tastes like metal, soap, or rotting corpses (I hope that last person is imagining what a putrefying carcass tastes like and isn't writing from experience). I thought the two people I know who dislike it were just being dramatic when they told me it makes them vomit but I may have judged them too harshly. It may be strange, but I react the same way to tea!
Two thousand people are anti-cilantro enough to have joined the fight and several share their stories with the internets. They hate it so much they put it on a T-shirt and proclaim it proudly to the world. I feel only pity for them, cilantro is almost impossible to avoid and to them I say: Look away.
For those who love it as much as I do a quick salsa recipe:

Fresh Cilantro Salsa
1 bunch cilantro
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, more to taste, very thinly sliced, seeded if desired
2 limes, freshly squeezed
Salt, Freshly ground black pepper and a little sugar to taste

Finely chop cilantro and mix in a bowl with tomato, onion, garlic, jalapeno and lime juice. Stir to combine. Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Serve with fish, chicken, tacos, or alongside guacamole.

*For John in NJ and Fliss in BXL and cilantro/coriander haters everywhere.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cupcakes and family secrets

You know you're part of the family when...

Someone offers you the chance to feel the difference between saline and silicone breasts - saline today, silicone sometime later this summer

They trust you enough to tell you things secure in the knowledge it will not reach the internets the following day

Someone confesses that when they were small they liked to eat the paper that cupcakes are baked in. Bonus points if you admitted you preferred the casings to the cupcakes. Double bonus points if, while telling this story, you are actually chewing on the paper.

They eat all of your Strawberry-Thyme cupcakes but want to know why they are so tiny. That's because these are English fairy cakes (insert inappropriate joke here) adapted from the super-sized American version here. If you are a US reader, make the American version. If you're European and have access to the smaller paper cases the recipe is as follows:

Strawberry-Thyme Fairy Cakes

Take 3 sprigs of thyme and infuse in 5 tablespoons of milk. Set aside for 15 minutes. Discard the thyme. Cream together 100g butter and sugar. Add two eggs, one at a time, with a little self-raising flour, beating between each addition. Carefully fold in 100g sifted SR flour and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, mash a couple of strawberries, grate in the zest of half a lemon. Carefully stir this into cake batter with one or two tablespoons of the thyme-infused milk. Divide between 12 paper cases and bake in 180c oven for 12-15 minutes. Cool.
For the Glacé Icing
Mash another couple of strawberries with the rest of the milk and another teaspoon of lemon zest. Sift in enough icing sugar to make icing that coats the back of a spoon and pour it over those fairy cakes.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I invented a new cocktail in the time between the wedding and the reception yesterday.
The Guy named it M'aider or Mayday as it contains Lillet, an apertif from South-west France, and I was pretty much underwater half-way through sipping it. I'll share it with you but be warned, it could leave you (ship)wrecked.

To a cocktail shaker a third filled with ice add 3 measures gin, two of Lillet, one of Noilly Prat. Shake.

Take a martini glass. Fill with ice and water so it's really cold, empty. Rub a slice of lemon around the rim.

Pour the contents of the shaker into the glass. Top up with tonic water. Garnish with the slice of lemon and a cherry.
It tastes like summer but packs a wallop so enjoy in moderation!