Category Archives: kitchen

Gift Guide: The Gourmet

gourmet gift guide, food gift guide, foodie gift guide, edible gift ideas, best gift baskets

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They’re your go-to for the inside scoop on the hottest new restaurants, they always have something delicious bubbling away on their stove and everyone clears their calendars when they decide to throw a dinner party. Here are a few gifts that any gourmet would love to receive for the holidays.

Read on

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friday finds

Happy Friday, friends! I’m feeling kind of thoughtfully, intentionally slow this spring morning, so I hope you’ll forgive a little brain wandering in today’s FF.

First things first: let’s talk deals. I happen to know that Kate SpadeVince and Cole Haan are all having their Friends & Family promos this weekend, and they’re doozies. I have all the details up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds…so much easier to keep you updated on all the best steals in real time. Read on

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falling for: a cup of tea

Here’s a little something you don’t know about me: I’m a mug-a-holic. While some girls binge on lipstick or chocolate during times of strife, it’s a hot cup of tea in a brand new mug I adore that makes me feel whole again. And so, as you might imagine, I have quite a few.

To be clear, there’s very little to recommend my mug collection on appearances. It’s not stylish or hip, or fancy in any way…it’s quirky at best, sometimes even downright odd, with mismatched specimens from favorite diners, weekend art festivals, and even, in one case, pilfered from an airport coffee shop. But it’s also a pretty perfect reflection of my personality. My current favorite was a holiday gift from the hubs last year, and I get excited every time I open our kitchen cabinet and see it perched there, waiting for me.

There’s something so comforting and tactile about the right mug – if the shape and heft are just so, and if it’s a design that makes you smile, all you need is the radiating warmth from that hot tea (peppermint from Smith Tea is my brew of choice), and you have something that will cure just about whatever ails you.

When fall drifts in, I always seem to be more in the mood for tea. Also, when I’m stressed. Since I’m both this season, I’ve found myself obsessively hunting for a new addition to the mug collection, and so I was thinking: maybe we should all make it a fall tradition to treat ourselves to a little something to make us excited about the fall weather. Sure, if a new lipstick is more your thing, godspeed. But if you’re a cozy-phile like me, whether you’re after something to make you feel comforted or just to make you laugh, I have a feeling you’ll fall (pun only intended after the fact) for one of these picks, any of which would be warmly welcomed into my collection.

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What do you say…are you in the mood for a spot of tea?

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must read: michael ruhlman’s twenty

{Editor’s Note: I’ve been saving this one. I’m pretty obsessed with Michael Ruhlman’s latest cookbook, Ruhlman’s Twenty, but knew I’d never attempt most of his fantastic ideas. So, I recruited a serious foodie – my dear friend, A – to do my dirty work. She also happens to be an amazing photographer, and uses words like “penultimate” in everyday conversation. You’re going to love her.}

Hi all! I’m here to talk about Michael Ruhlman’s Twenty…also known as “How To Impress Your Friends By Making Your Own Cured Salmon”.

I am a longtime fan of author Michael Ruhlman. What’s not to like? He’s friends with Anthony Bourdain, advocates roasting chicken at home as a way to share some, uh, special time with your paramour, and even has his own apps to help you learn how to bake bread. Using your smartphone. Of course.

Ruhlman also collaborated with Thomas Keller on several of Keller’s cookbooks, in addition to numerous other books Ruhlman has authored on cooking and the art of cooking.

Given the detailed and complex recipes for which Thomas Keller is known, it might surprise you to learn that Ruhlman is not actually a fan of recipes as a rule. Indeed, Ruhlman’s penultimate book, Ratio, focuses on easy-to-remember basic ratios for some of the most popular items in American kitchens. For example, cookie dough? If you’re like me and you ripped open the Toll House chocolate chip bag right across the recipe, you needn’t fret if you simply remember Ruhlman’s ratio of 1 part sugar to 2 parts fat to 3 parts flour. Thus, when Ruhlman released his latest tome, Ruhlman’s Twenty, I was interested to see what he would teach me next in his quest to convince America to learn how to cook without a recipe.

Twenty is organized by twenty techniques and ingredients that range from Onion to Egg to Braise to Fry. Initially, I didn’t think I’d learn much, but I was surprised. In the Salt section, Ruhlman points out that when making vinaigrette (ratio: three parts oil to one part acid, like vinegar or lemon juice), salt doesn’t dissolve in fat, so it’s best to mix the salt with the acid so that you don’t have grainy salad dressing. Brilliant! Similarly, Ruhlman’s technique for roasting chicken (um, in the Roast section) means that this once intimidating meal is now a weeknight staple at home that even my husband is willing to make. It’s as easy as:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Place 4lb whole chicken in appropriately-sized roasting vessel, which could be as simple as a ovensafe skillet (no nonstick, please). Rub chicken generously with salt.
  3. Use a knife to quarter a lemon or lime or onion. Place in the cavity of the chicken.
  4. Put chicken in the oven for an hour. After an hour, poke the leg with a knife. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done. If the juices aren’t clear, let the chicken roast for another 15 minutes.
  5. Remove chicken from oven and let rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.
  6. Eat delicious roast chicken.

And it works, every time.

After poring over Ruhlman’s Twenty, I was especially curious to try his technique for citrus-cured salmon because it sounded fancy, not too hard, and had helpful step-by-step photos to show what to do. First, I zested a couple of lemons, a lime, an orange, and a grapefruit:

Then, I combined 1 cup of kosher salt with 1/2 cup of sugar, and spread about a third of the mixture on a piece of foil. I placed my 1.75lb piece of salmon on the foil, skin-side down, and covered it with all four types of zest. Next, I dumped on the rest of the salt-sugar mixture:

I folded up the foil to contain the salt and sugar, and then placed a second piece of foil on top and wrapped the pieces together snugly to prevent leaking. I put the salmon into a dish, and placed a weighted baking dish on top of the salmon to encourage everything to get happy together. It stayed in the fridge for 24 hours.

(Why, yes, that is some of my zested fruit weighing down the dish. You may also use any canned goods you have lying around).

After a day passed, I pulled the salmon from the fridge and rinsed off the salt and sugar. I lined my baking dish with paper towels, put the salmon back in, and covered it all with foil to sit overnight to further dry.

The next morning, I pulled the salmon back out and sliced some thin pieces to create this delicious breakfast for myself:

I had friends over later in the day, so I followed Ruhlman’s suggestion and diced some shallot, mixed it with some creme fraiche and a pinch of salt, put a dab of the mixture on sliced cucumber rounds, and topped it off with a small piece of salmon:

Not only does the salmon look pretty, but I also earned some major foodie cred when I revealed that I actually cured the salmon myself, instead of relying on my usual sous chef, Trader Joe. And the kicker is that it takes hardly any effort at all: salmon is available almost everywhere, and citrus is in season right now.

Next time, I am going to track down some fresh pork belly and try Ruhlman’s take on DIY bacon. Wish me luck! — A.

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friday finds

Ha! As if I could “find” anything in this mess of a house. Moving is so not conducive to my hyper-organized style. My living room is like something out of Hoarders, my kitchen looks like a bomb hit at my local Williams-Sonoma, and don’t get me started on the state of my closet. I can’t even get to my shoes!

But, I’m making progress. And if nothing else, I’m back to blogging. Which really, is not nothing at all. So, shall we talk Friday Finds?

First up is the highly-talented Nichole Robertson’s much, much-anticipated new book, Paris in Color (from Chronicle, of course). I am obsessed…and much too tempted to take an X-acto knife to the thing and frame half its pages. There are oodles of photos of this gorgeous tome floating around the www this week, but none as cute as mine:


I am almost sorry to tell you about this find, because it’s biggest problem is just that: it’s really hard to find. Also, not cheap. But Philip Kingsley’s styling products are a serious obsession at my place these days. I use the Smooth Cream for frizz-free curly hair days, and the Preen Cream (this site has a killer price, and free shipping) for blowouts that last at least an extra day, sometimes two. Totally worth the hunt.

Spotted this J.Crew linen tee via the lovely blue moss girls, and am now obsessed. Slouchy, bright, and just the thing to throw on when you’re feeling style-less. Since I have at least another two months of long sleeves before summer arrives in Portland, I think I’m entitled to a little treat, don’t you?

To say that the very last thing I need right now is something else for the kitchen would be a massive understatement. That said, I am in love with this measuring cup from Terrain (via creature comforts), and it needs to be mine.

And last but not least, my weekly Pinterest pick. Truth be told, I haven’t been anywhere near prepared to Pin this week, but I hope to remedy that by catching up on my 800+ unread blog posts over the weekend. For now, I am borrowing a pin from Nina Garcia, a seriously awesome pinner. In the midst of moving chaos, nothing looks better to me right now than a room that’s utterly blank and serene.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!


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must reads: something for everyone

It’s been a little too long since I updated you on the books that are keeping me up at night. Since I’ve had a bit more time than usual to reflect, I thought I’d offer up a little something for every part of your day.

You’ll want to start with Stylists, a beautiful new title edited by Katie Baron. It chronicles some of the best work being done by modern stylists, who are now more trendsetters than trend followers. You’ll get a voyeuristic look into the minds of people like Nicola Formichetti (Lady Gaga’s stylist), Tabitha Simmons, and my personal favorite, Anna Dello Russo. It’s high fashion at its finest, and while you may not be able to emulate the looks, they’re nothing if not inspiring. One peek is all you’ll need to counter that debate you have with your closet every morning.

I often explain to friends that, in my house, I’m the cook, but my husband is the chef. He convinced me to marry him by plying me with pork tenderloin en croute; in return, he gets meatloaf and chicken fajitas. Even so, most of the cookbooks I lust over are recipes destined for the chef side of things. So, I was pretty thrilled when The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever made its way into my kitchen, mostly because it’s packed with recipes I know I’ll actually make. They’re creative, but easy enough for a weeknight (with the added bonus of using lots of pantry staples). Plus, this time of year, who doesn’t love a cozy casserole?

I’m not much of a food blog expert, so I’d never heard of Joy Wilson when Joy the Baker Cookbook showed up at my door. But once I cracked it open, it was a matter of mere moments before I was smitten. Joy is a happily single girl, baking up a storm in her kitchen with the relaxed ease of a helpful big sister. If you take the time to read each recipe’s intro notes, you’ll want to make everything she suggests. I recommend starting with the cinnamon rice pudding.

Or, in my case, to keep you up past your bedtime. Lauren Groff’s latest, Arcadia, isn’t technically due out for a couple of weeks, but it’s worth putting on your Amazon wishlist now so that you’ll remember to buy it when the time comes. One of the best books I’ve read in months, it tells the story of life on a hippie compound-slash-cult, from the point of view of a boy born into the society. It’s the perfect unexpected perspective on a life I’m already secretly fascinated by. Maybe it’s the latent Mormon in me, but I love a good cult story.

So, tell me…what are you reading these days?

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cooking up a storm

I have some sort of problem with inverse laws. I fall for trends just as they’re going out of style. I crave Christmas in August, but eschew it in December. And, while most normal people hole up in their kitchens and start to cook when the weather is cold and they’re seeking comfort, I wait until the dead of summer to start brewing up soups, casseroles and – most recently – pies. It’s inexplicable, really.

But, it also means I’ve been enjoying a few really exceptional cookbooks lately….and I had to share.

Italian Home Cooking, by Julia Della Croce, is one of my new favorites. It’s packed with recipes that are comforting, delicious, inventive and easy (often not even requiring a trip to the store). Right now, I’m particularly obsessed with her Oven-Fried Chicken and Winter Squash Stew (involving fresh pumpkin, an ingredient that’s not exactly easy to find in August). The chicken, at least, isn’t entirely unseasonal. It would make for an amazing summer picnic, if I can ever drag the hubs out into a park for 20 consecutive minutes.

Everyone and their monkey is talking about Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, My Father’s Daughter, and being pleasantly surprised by its non-pretentiousness (and its excellent recipes). I’m going to add to the chorus, though I can’t say it’s entirely lacking in pretension. The way I see it, that’s all part of Gwyneth’s charm. Again, easy recipes, most of which have vegetarian versions – which matters not a lick to me, though I like that she gives you the option to make a traditional dish veg-friendly without insisting upon it. I also love that she has both regular and “healthy” versions of a few baked treats…again, no arm-twisting, it’s just an option. If you’re after a method for eating just a smidge healthier, with only a mild amount of preaching, it’s a great choice. No, I won’t be making any homemade sriracha, but I love the hefty chapter on soups, and I’m looking forward to trying her dad’s pancake recipe. I may even try the Perfect Roasted Chinese Duck, which Mario Batali says is amazing.

Now that I gave you my token “healthy” cookbook, let’s follow that up with some utter decadence, shall we? Did you know that Ladurée has a cookbook? Did you know it comes in a box just like the one they use for their famous macarons? Packed in lavender tissue paper and with a pale green suede on the cover, no less. The recipes in Ladurée Sucré are probably more for admiration than execution – even a simple recipe for gingerbread cake allegedly takes 3 days to make. But if you’re a bakery nut like I am, you’ll spend hours poring over the photos and deciding what you’d make, in a fictional world in which you had a commercial kitchen and a sous chef.

What have you been cooking up this summer?

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