Out in the Open in SoHo

Wood framed art and a few cutting boards arranged on a thin ledge, ingredients ready for use on open shelves, a poem draped over the door of an old hutch with antique flowered plates stacked behind the glass: the details tell the story of a couple, an artist-in-residence/ art professor and her dashing husband.  There's nothing hidden or stashed away in their SoHo loft kitchen.  Loft living and cooking is a life in plain view that offers the senses an intimate connection to those in the space.   

The art here goes beyond the large oil paintings hung high on the walls and the sculptures tucked about; the art is in the habits and fine details that weave the fabric of each day.  Cooking in the loft is a daily affair.  Yes, the allure of the ever so quaint cafe Aroma calls from across the street, just twenty steps away.  But Aroma is reserved for select occasions like freshly baked whole grain croissants for loft guests on a Saturday morning.  

For a greater allure than SoHo's Aroma is that of this loft kitchen, its focal point being the striking long white counter underneath of which is a bank of extra wide honey colored cabinets, the only cabinets in the loft.   In the far corner appliances cluster together with the sink, suspended pot rack, open shelves; everything within reach for cooking.  How quickly an Italian dinner comes together - tender spring asparagus, fresh ravioli made by an elderly neighborhood woman and green salad - all effortlessly served at the island on neat black and white dishes from New York's Fishs Eddy on soft woven mats  in a cluster of flickering votives.  Beautiful.  

This everything out in plain view style is like a still life come to life.  Taking it all in, I wonder why  most of us are compelled to hide our kitchenware behind cabinet doors and are compulsive about putting ingredients "away."  What's more, here in the loft, what's out in the kitchen is seen from all corners of the living space.  Yet,  no dirty dishes hang about nor clutter amasses.  Everything has its place and when that place is efficient and clever, the put-away job is more like creating art than an act of the mundane.  Whipping things back in order becomes a moment to refresh the art schematic.   And with such attitude and flair, everyday cooking becomes itself an art.  


Shopping Day

Today is shopping day at our house.  And, it's Thursday so our weekly delivery from Shiloh Hills Hens arrived too.  It was a pleasure to take produce out of plastic bags, wash it well and place it in bowls and platters.  On the counter I keep everything that does not absolutely require refrigeration.   By having ingredients out, in plain view, looking so pretty and fresh, it urges me on to cook and consume them, to honor them some how.  My refrigerator is small by modern standards, which I like, because any larger and it would be filled with un-necessaries.  The kitchen stays cool with a heavy fan blowing a good breeze constantly. Seldom does something go bad on the counter.  More often something goes bad in the fridge because it was forgotten.

I keep one refrigerated drawer just for greens and ingredients I set aside specifically for juicing.

An English trifle bowl is perfect for holding oranges or apples.  How often to I make trifle?  Not very, but I love the shape of the bowl.  It's large and fruit looks lovely in it.

 Fresh ground cashew butter takes a place inside  the pantry.  My husband spreads it on sprouted grain toast every single morning,  And for a hurried lunch I will occasionally make a cashew butter and honey sandwich - a step up indeed from PBJ.  There are many ways to use cashew butter including in some amazing raw desserts.  And when the container is down to nothing, Callie, our Lab eagerly takes the empty to the yard and licks it spit spot clean.

 What ingredient is always plentiful in the SimplyCooking® kitchen?  Lemons.  

Besides being useful, a big bowlful also makes an elegant centerpiece, especially in a silver bowl.  Do you have a silver bowl, maybe handed down from the family, you are not quite sure what to do with?

I just re stained the top of my farm table.  I didn't realize how much prettier the produce would look.

As always, I used the

SimplyCooking® Pantry Checklist

as my guide for shopping and restocking.  

Here is the list

, if you would like to use it too.

Ginger and Lime Lemonade

A Ginger and Lime Lemonade :: Gatsby Style

"Make us a cold drink,"  cried Daisy.  :: The Great Gatsby

It's not likely Daisy was sending off Tom to whip up a round of ginger and lime lemonades, but rather a boozy, fizzy, icy, limey gin rickey.  The Great Gatsby movie,  dripping in sweat and alcohol, makes even tea totalers crave a cocktail clicking with ice.

"Gatsby took up his drink.  'They certainly look cool', he said with visible tension.  We drank in long greedy swallows. " 

If it doesn't officially feel like summer to you yet, see The Great Gatsby;  read the book; better yet, do both and enjoy a modern-day ginger and lime lemonade on the lawn.  

ginger and lime lemonade

1 lime
1 lemon
1/2 " piece of fresh ginger root
1/4 cup agave nectar
6 cups water
stevia, to taste

Run the lime, lemon and ginger through the juicer.  Stir in agave nectar until well combined.  Add water and sweeten additionally, if desired, with a little stevia.  Pour into a glass or ceramic pitcher and chill for several hours, up to several days.  Stir, again, before pouring over ice.

Cucumber Crush

Cucumber Crush in a sugar-rimmed wine glass.  

A perfect 85° F and sunny day in April means a requisite summery something to sip while clearing out the flower beds and baring pale arms in the sunshine.  This Cucumber Crush is just the drink.  It's basically water infused with cucumber and apple and sweetened delicately with agave nectar.

Cucumber Crush makes a non-alcohol drink for guests.  
Since I bought a Breville Fountain Juicer over a year ago, I've been juicing the small remnants of fruits and vegetables and infusing water with these concentrated liquids.  If you use your juicer regularly, as I do, juicing a half an apple that someone left behind, or a small bit of unused cucumber is such a simple thing to do.  I try different combinations, some sweetened creating a twist on lemonade.   I place a small amount of juice in a pitcher, fill with water and chill.

Cucumber Crush is actually a cocktail with cucumber, vodka and lime.  But I love cucumber in water and much prefer my own version of Cucumber Crush to its alcohol-laced sister.  I served a pitcher of Cucumber Crush the other evening for a wine and dessert pairing event as a festive offering for those not drinking alcohol.

cucumber crush

1/2 cucumber, juiced
1/2 apple, juiced
2 Tbsp. agave nectar
6 - 8 cups water

In a large pitcher, stir together the juices and agave nectar.  Add water and chill.

If you do not own a juicer, slice the cucumber and apple thinly and infuse in a pitcher of water.  Sweeten with agave nectar and chill.

For a sugar rimmed cup, as pictured above, rub a thin slice of cucumber around the rim and dip the rim in  a small amount of sugar; it doesn't take much and adds an extra touch.

Asian noodle bowl

Can't live without my julienne peeler.  In just a few strokes it made these long tube-shaped ribbons of carrots and zucchini which I tossed with spaghetti for a simple asian noodle bowl.  A well-designed julienne peeler is an essential tool in the SimplyCooking® kitchen.  The Kinpira  fits compactly in a drawer, rinses clean easily, has a sturdy handle and with years of daily use, the blade is sharp as new.   This is an easy way to make raw "spaghetti" out of zucchini or squash, a picnic carrot salad, slaws or a veggie noodle bowl, like this, where julienned vegetables create a tri-color spaghetti look - so pretty, equally good.

Kinpira Julienne Peeler ; $20 from Sur la table
This veggie laden "bowl" is based on a recipe from Ana Zaharia, a health coach with delicious but still approachable raw recipes on her website, anazarahia.com.  Even if you're not on the raw foods track, her site is inspiring and worth a visit.   I modified a few ingredients per the SimplyCooking® pantry; most people don't keep kelp noodles on hand but most everyone has some form of favorite noodle somewhere in the pantry.  I indicate spaghetti which is broadly kid friendly.   I replaced the cremini mushrooms with a can of water chestnuts.  Add what you like; add what you have for a super easy asian noodle bowl.

asian noodle bowl (adapted from "raw asian noodle bowl" , anazaharia.com)

Put water on to boil for the spaghetti.  As the spaghetti cooks prepare the sauce and vegetables.

2 Tbsp. cashew butter
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. cumin
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. minced ginger

Place sauce ingredients in a deep bowl and combine with an immersion blender.  (A regular blender can also be used.)

1 package spaghetti noodles
2 carrots, julienned
1 zucchini, julienned
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

Cook the noodles, drain.  Place warm spaghetti in a serving bowl.  Add sliced vegetables and toss with sauce. Serve.

Almond Sauce

Spaghetti with Almond Sauce

In Spain, ground almonds are used to thicken and flavor sauces.  This per Penelope Casas in her book Tapas:  The Little Dishes of Spain.  Years ago I took a class on tapas in which several of her expert recipes were used for reference.  A favorite dish from the class was  tiny meatballs in a Saffron Almond Sauce.  Tiny meatballs aside, the sauce was pure genius and fun to make.  The recipe's creator, Ann Clark, used paprika and saffron threads for flavoring.  A blog post on spices by Serious Eats puts the cost for saffron between $2,000 and $10,000 per pound; definitely not for the SimplyCooking® pantry.

But the saffron's not the story here, it's the almonds and how Spain's almond sauce is a such clever twist on a simple everyday recipe.    Use a mortar and pestle to grind a clove of garlic, a little parsley, ground almonds and a little salt to a paste.  The paste is then stirred into a pot of simmering broth and sautéed  onions rounding it out to a sauce with character.  The SimplyCooking® recipe for Almond Sauce, which I adapted from the one taught by Ann Clark, can be used on steamed vegetables or plain pasta, Chicken Parmesan, grilled pork and, of course,  tiny meatballs.  With no cream or butter, it's a vegan delight.  No matter how you use it or who you serve it to, it's sure to be enjoyed.

almond sauce

2 Tbsp. grape seed oil
2 Tbsp. minced onion
1 tsp. AP flour
1/4 tsp. tumeric (or paprika)
1/4 cup brandy (or white wine)
1 cup vegetable broth (or homemade chicken stock)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1/3 cup ground almonds or almond meal
pinch of salt, Celtic Sea Salt preferred

Warm the oil in a saucepan.  Add the onion and sauté 3 minutes, until soft.  Add the flour and tumeric and stir one minute.  Stir in the brandy and broth, bring to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes.

Using a mortar and pestle, or a fork on a cutting board to mash the garlic, minced parsley, ground almonds and salt to a smooth paste. A food processor can also be used (If grinding whole almonds first, this would be easier anyway.)  Stir the paste into the simmered broth.  Serve over vegetables, pasta or with meat.

Related SimplyCooking® recipes:

chicken parmesan
meatless meatballs

Vegetable Terrine

I love the simplicity and rustic nature of this dish.  A layered tower of tender vegetables slide into a colorful mound on the plate.  Tear off a chunk of crusty bread and soak up the juices.  This is the perfect simple meal for early spring when you want an easy dish to prepare with a few pantry basics.  I often make this recipe on a day of cleaning out the gardens.  It's a nice afternoon break to make the dish.  It then bakes for almost two hours while I head back out.   Upon my return - dirty, tired and cold - a warm dinner welcomes me, and so good it smells.

When I say the dish has a rustic simplicity, this is actually quite the opposite of what anything 'terrine' typically conjures. A terrine, part of classical French cooking, refers to an oblong baking dish with deep sides in which ground or finely chopped and seasoned meats, or sometimes vegetables, are layered.  It's  either baked in a bain-marie (water bath) or molded by refrigerating.  When the loaf is unmolded and sliced, the pretty layering is revealed.  Often an intricate sauce is part of the recipe.  I have great admiration for French cuisine, the Art of French Baking on my counter as I write.  One its authors is Cloutide Dusoulier.  She writes a wonderful French food blog, Chocolate and Zucchini. and has several charming and authentic French recipes for terrines, including one with zucchini, carrots, herbs, eggs and goat cheese.  Soon I will make her recipe.  For now,  I'm absorbed by the rose garden my husband and I are adding to our yard and myriad other projects.  My cooking this Spring is efficient and healthful, to the point and meant to please all of us.  

This SimplyCooking® recipe breaks the rules for terrines.   The process is far simpler, the ingredients basic; it's a broader interpretation that turns 'terrine' into a simple everyday recipe.

vegetable terrine

1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 cloves peeled garlic
2 medium potatoes, Yukon Gold can be unpeeled
1 medium onion, peeled
1 zucchini
1/2 bell pepper
3 carrots, peeled
spinach leaves, about 1 cup
Salt, Celtic Sea Salt preferable
1 tsp. dried oregano (or thyme, or rosemary)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 generous tsp. honey
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
Parmesan or goat cheese, grated (optional)

Measure out the oil and place peeled garlic cloves in the cup.  Set aside while you prepare the dish.

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Slice the vegetables (except spinach) very thinly, as thin as you can.  Brush he sides and bottom of a loaf pan with some of the garlic oil, reserving the remainder for later.  Layer half of the vegetables in the pan, starting with the potatoes and ending with the spinach.  Arrange them neatly, pressing down as you go.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Repeat the layering.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and 1 tsp. dried oregano.  Empty the canned tomatoes into a bowl and stir in a generous spoonful of honey.  Drizzle the liquid over the vegetables and arrange the tomatoes over the top.  The pan will be mounded.  Cover tightly with heavy duty foil.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  Bake for 1 hour.

Remove the foil and sprinkle  with breadcrumbs and the reserved garlic infused oil.  Bake an additional 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes before serving.  Slice and top with a little grated Parmesan or goat cheese.

Note:  The leftovers are even better, I think.  Let the baking dish cool, cover with wrap and refrigerate, storing the leftovers in the original baking dish.