Egg Salad Tartine

COMMENTS: 4

food drink  Egg Salad Tartine

by Jessica at SEE Salt

I love Spring. Absolutely, everything, about, it. I love the daffodil sprigs at Trader Joe’s, the little girls’ spring dresses and, of course, the food!

We love to dye our Easter eggs together as a family, and of course we always dye more than we can fathom to eat. So we wanted to come up with a fresh twist on the classic egg salad that would make us fall back in love with all of those hard-boiled eggs.

food drink  Egg Salad Tartine

In other words, this is not your grandmother’s egg salad: a little fresh lemon zest, dill, and some crunchy fresh radish revamped this classic in no time.

food drink  Egg Salad Tartine
food drink  Egg Salad Tartine

We also ended up topping ours with icy cold fresh shrimp—a flavor combination inspired by travels in Norway.

food drink  Egg Salad Tartine

This is our new post-Easter snack or lunch. I think these would also be so lovely for entertaining. I would probably suggest toasting your bread and having everything prepared in advance such that you can top the tartines right before guests arrive (thus ensuring the bread stays crusty and your toppings stay chilled).

A crusty tartine we hope you enjoy—here’s how to make them…

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Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

COMMENTS: 9

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company
food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

On the list of things I’ve been excited to do since moving back to California, driving out to Tomales Bay—a long, narrow inlet on the fringe of Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin—for fresh oysters has been high for a while. I’d heard, however, that weekends at the oyster farms can be mobbed so we waited until a day when we could drive out midweek.

Aron was tasked with researching where to go. Ever since he read Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster, a history of New York as revealed through the lens of the bivalve, he’s been our resident expert—or at least aficionado. I enjoy them tremendously, but as much for the romance and the experience of eating them as for the flavor.

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

He chose the Tomales Bay Oyster company—partly based on location and partly because they only have a shuck-them-yourself set-up (as opposed to a restaurant). But there are a few Oyster farms in the area; Hog Island is perhaps the best known and offers both pre-shucked and do-it-yourself service.

We were able to snag a waterside picnic table without issue on a Thursday in mid-March, but I recommend you look into the option of reserving a table if you’re headed out on a (busy) weekend. Here are the official details on picnicking at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company (and Yelp is a good resource for recent tips).

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

They grow Pacifics here, in a variety of sizes—I find the larger ones better for grilling and we wanted to eat these fresh, so we went with smalls.

Briny and fresh: we got a quick tutorial in shucking.

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

Smaller yet were a second (east coast) variety, the Kumamotos. food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

I hear the picnic scene can get elaborate, but we simply brought a bottle of wine from Scribe and stopped by Cowgirl Creamery on the way through Point Reyes Station and picked up some great cheeses and a baguette. You can’t go wrong with Cowgirl Creamery (the Red Hawk is probably our favorite, but Aron picked out a fresh cheese and I chose their new-ish Inverness to try).

food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company
food drink  Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

It was about as perfect a lunch as I could have asked for: the cheese and wine would have been enough. As would have been the view of the sun bouncing off the water. But then throw in a few dozen oysters, grown within eyeshot, and it would be hard to beat. And so if you ever do a chance to go midweek, when the place is relatively quiet, I recommend you take it.

P.S. Oyster beds off Cape Cod. And off Korçula Island in Croatia.

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Munchery: Dinner’s at the door

COMMENTS: 9

food drink  Munchery: Dinners at the door
food drink  Munchery: Dinners at the door

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but many of the recipes I’ve shared on here fall into the category of breakfast or dessert. Dinner? Not so much. It’s not usually my favorite meal to make.

Perhaps it has something to do with being unprepared. There’s a last-minute scramble to see what’s around—what can be thrown together—during which one or both kids realize they’re starving (for food, if not attention). Snacking ensues while the oven preheats and soon I realize that we won’t be sitting down for at least another 30 minutes—roughly 25 minutes more than seems ideal at that moment.

I once received the brilliant advice (Here, in fact!): “Start dinner in your early afternoon lull. If it’s 5pm and happy hour has kicked in, abandon ship. Opt for cheese and crackers or cereal. Dinner never seems to be worth it in the end.” And it’s my favorite sentiment. I think of it all the time—especially on nights when I unwrap three cheeses and slice up some coppa: ‘Go easy on yourself. Choose the path of least resistance,’ it seems to read. Prepare dinner if you can. And if you can’t, relax

So I confess: I’m not a stickler about dinner.

And I’m always looking for the path of ease—which I believe is called “delivery.” In this case, it was specifically called Munchery.

food drink  Munchery: Dinners at the door

I’d been reading a lot about Munchery—a delivery service whose promise is “nourishing, affordable, chef-cooked meals” at your door. Rave reviews abounded online. They got in touch to see if I’d like to try it out, and so I looked for an opening in my busy meal-planning schedule (wink, nudge) with one condition being that they include a discount for readers in their delivery range to try it, too (see below).

Basically, if you’re in one of their delivery zones (currently New York, San Francisco, and Seattle), you can schedule for delivery tonight or order up to a week in advance online—mains for adults and kids, sides, salads, desserts, and even drinks—and menus change daily. They sent over a selection for us to try.

food drink  Munchery: Dinners at the door

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Simple Spring Cocktails (Greened for St. Patrick’s)

COMMENTS: 8

food drink  Simple Spring Cocktails (Greened for St. Patricks)
food drink  Simple Spring Cocktails (Greened for St. Patricks)

I’m afraid I can’t say I’ll be making any St. Patrick’s day crafts next week—do most people? It’s news to me! When we were living in New York, I’d always make a point of following the sound of bagpipes to see the St. Paddy’s day parade; and when I was younger I’d of course be sure to wear green so as to avoid being pinched. But come this Tuesday you’re more likely to find me baking a cake that calls for a chocolatey stout (so that I can sip it while the oven’s warm), or drinking a cocktail and revisiting photos of Ireland to celebrate.

It got me thinking: what does a good St. Patrick’s Day cocktail look like if you prefer to steer clear of Crème de Menthe, and Midori Sour?

Here are five cocktails that would be equally suited to St. Patrick’s as to a spring fling.
I looked to limes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs for a hint of green instead.
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Homemade Granola Bars

COMMENTS: 5

food drink  Homemade Granola Bars
food drink  Homemade Granola Bars
by Jessica at SEE Salt

Chewy, salty, sweet, hearty granola bars. Are we the only ones who stand in the breakfast-bar aisle looking for the perfect one—only to bring home ten different kinds that all turn out to be too sweet, processed, and just unsatisfying? The solution: make your own!

We chose to load ours with pistachios, dried apricots, and chia seeds. They are so yummy and packed full of nutrition. Here’s how to do it yourself…

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Shake Shack Las Vegas

COMMENTS: 15

travel food drink  Shake Shack Las Vegas
travel food drink  Shake Shack Las Vegas
travel food drink  Shake Shack Las Vegas

You might recall that open letter I posted to Shake Shack a while back, pretty-pleasing them to come out west with us? I’m pleased to say that Danny Meyer’s wonderful little hot-dog-cart-turned-burger-joint has finally opened its doors west of the Mississippi—at, fittingly, New York, New York on the Las Vegas Strip. And now that they’ve gone public on the Stock Exchange, I have high hopes that they’ll be in California before too long.

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Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche

COMMENTS: 5

food drink  Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche
food drink  Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche
food drink  Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche
food drink  Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche

Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche
by Jessica at SEE Salt

Ok, so what is all this talk about galettes? We wanted to find out, so we started to play! Galettes are simply a rustic (non-perfect) style tart or pastry. Which we love here at SEE Salt because we are unfortunately not skilled bakers. And by un-skilled I mean virtually inept. Hey, we all have our thing right? But this was so easy and fun and since we have been obsessed.

food drink  Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche

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Courtesan au Chocolat

COMMENTS: 11

food drink  Courtesan au Chocolat

Yesterday, while watching the Oscars, I realized that just about the only nominee I’d seen is director Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

food drink  Courtesan au Chocolat

food drink  Courtesan au Chocolat  food drink  Courtesan au Chocolat

I’d like to pretend that had I realized it in time, I would have shown up to the annual Oscar watching party with one of the movie’s iconic pastel pastries, beloved by Ralph Fiennes’ character, M. Gustave—a Courtesan au Chocolat.

If you’d like to try it, Wes Anderson filmed a short film featuring the recipe.

food drink  Courtesan au Chocolat

Did you watch the Oscars? Favorite dress or moment?

Flat design of Courtesan au Chocolat by Lorena G; Blu-Ray cover image; Mendls; Pastry with box by Sprinkle Bakes; Video still.

P.S. A way to replicate the Mendl’s box. And the inside of Mendl’s reminds me a bit of this experience in Paris.

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Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios

COMMENTS: 5

food drink  Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios

food drink  Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios

Jessica Helgeson and I started talking last February, after I shared one of her recipes here—and have been trying to work together since. So I’m thrilled finally introduce you! In addition to creating gorgeous recipe videos for her own site, SEE Salt, Jessica will be contributing recipes to Hither & Thither on a regular basis.

Today, she worked with photographer Melissa Jill to contribute a delicious salad to our winter citrus menu.

Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios
by Jessica at SEE Salt
We are so thrilled to share this AMAZING citrus salad with you! This salad doesn’t mean to be vain but it truly has it all. Beauty, simplicity and delicious-ness! We chose kale because of its nutrition packed profile and its gorgeous deep green color. It holds up excellent for parties and the late-comers to the dinner table! We dressed the greens with an outstanding dressing using fresh orange juice concentrate. This is a very fun ingredient to play with! … But, little goes a long way, so be careful—and probably stick to the the recipe for your first time around.

Salad Ingredients
Kale
Citrus: Blood Orange, Cara Cara Orange & Navel Orange
Radish
Farmer’s Cheese
Candied Pistachios: pistachios, butter & brown sugar

Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp white balsamic
1/2 tbsp honey
2 pinches fresh orange zest
pinch of red pepper flakes
sea salt and pepper to taste

food drink  Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios

We peeled and sliced our Blood Oranges, Cara Caras, and Navels. The blood oranges tend to be slightly drier and may not slice like this every time depending on the crop. Don’t be bummed. They are gorgeous however “the cookie crumbles” !

food drink  Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios

For our candied pistachios, we melted butter and brown sugar, and tossed them together in a skillet, before throwing them in the oven on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees and baking until crispy. When cooled, roughly chop  and add this candied goodness to the top of your salad alongside the Farmer’s Cheese.

Have you ever tried Farmer’s Cheese? It’s wonderful. Very mild, slightly salty and crumbles well. You should be able to find it at most of the nicer grocery stores.

food drink  Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios
Whisk your dressing ingredients together, drizzle, and toss!

food drink  Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios
We love this salad so much, we hope you do also!
food drink  Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios

Thank you so much, Jessica!

SEE Salt is created by Jessica with her Mom Terri who has always taught her the confidence to create. Together they love to play in the kitchen and hug n’ kiss on Jessica‘s two little babes; Caroline and Benjamin. 

P.S. Candied Citrus inspiration.

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A Valentine dinner for friends (Winter-Citrus themed)

COMMENTS: 31

food drink  A Valentine dinner for friends (Winter Citrus themed)
food drink  A Valentine dinner for friends (Winter Citrus themed)
food drink  A Valentine dinner for friends (Winter Citrus themed)
I didn’t want Valentine’s day to pass this year without getting a chance to let some of the friends in my life know how special they are—the holiday is really just a good excuse to tell people you love them, romantically or otherwise. So when Camille Styles reached out to ask if I’d like to be featured in her “Entertaining With” series, I took it as the prompting I needed to start planning.

The feature ran on her site yesterday, and I loved seeing how Michelle Drewes captured the preparations for the Winter Citrus-themed dinner. Head over to Camille Styles to read the interview and to find the recipe for the main dish, a one-pot Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken with Olives that my friend Emarie introduced to me.

Above are a few photos from the shoot that Michelle was kind enough to share.  And of course I couldn’t help but snap some more of my own while she was working, below…

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Food, a symbol of love (a Valentine’s Gift Guide)

COMMENTS: 3

food drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)

food drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)

I read somewhere that food tends to be the symbol of love when words are inadequate.

Perhaps that’s the reason why so many of us scramble for restaurant reservations come Valentine’s day. (Actually, studies reveal that our dopamine system kicks in when we look at someone we love or at a favorite food so our brains really do connect food to love and a sense of well-being.*)

A friend of mine recently shared that she and her husband have a tradition for the holiday: every year, for eight years now, they’ve spent the Valentine’s evening cooking together. They make the same thing every year. It was something that sounded delicious, involving avocado and perhaps crab, but they only make it on that night. It’s something special. It’s romantic, but also very smart! (The pressure is off! The planning is done!) I tried to think of what my one dish would be, should I have the chance to choose a single item. My first thought would be something involving truffles and pasta (see above)… or stinky cheese… but I wouldn’t want those items to be off the table, so to speak, for the rest of the year. Mario Batali’s Mint Love Letters could be appropriate, but it’s tricky, really, when you think about it, to come up with that single dish.

So here’s a take on the tradition I thought might be nice. For every Valentine’s day, a new cookbook. And a new dish to be made together. Here are the cookbooks from 2014 that I’d be most inspired to wrap up (or to find wrapped up). Bonus: many of these are affiliated with a restaurant, for another night.

food drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)

food drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)

Bar Tartine // Flour + Waterfood drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)  // The Fat Radish Kitchen Diariesfood drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)  // A Kitchen in Francefood drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)  // The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone // food drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)
Food52 Genius Recipes // Plenty More // The Slanted Door // Huckleberryfood drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)  // Sunday Suppers
& Not pictured: Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationshipfood drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)

food drink  Food, a symbol of love (a Valentines Gift Guide)

And don’t forget: breakfast counts, too. This Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday after all. Pictured: The secret to perfect soft-cooked eggs and to the best buttermilk waffles.

Any traditions you keep for this holiday? 

P.S. If you do prefer to go another route, try one of these gift guides. More thoughts on Valentine’s Day.

*As pointed out by John Allen, and discussed on All Things Considered

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Game-Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

COMMENTS: 4

food drink  Game Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

food drink  Game Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

Do you like beer? With Superbowl Sunday around the corner, it seems like an appropriate time to talk a bit about it. After all, Americans will consume something like 50 million cases of beer on Sunday (17 times more than average)—you’re likely to be offered one, whether you like it or not.

I felt like it wasn’t until I found myself in a beer garden in Germany with beers served in glasses (and not in plastic red Solo cups) that I started to see the appeal. Like so many things, I find it’s just a matter of trying lots of new things and figuring out what suits you best.

food drink  Game Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

food drink  Game Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

When we first moved to Davis, Aron’s parents had us over for lunch with UC Davis’s brewmaster, Charlie Bamforth—or as the professor of malting and brewing sciences is sometimes known, “The Pope of Foam.” (Davis’s is the top brewing program in the country.) The completely charming Brit brought over a sampling of beers (and a dry wit) and took us on a far-reaching tour of barley and rye and hops.

(I’ve mentioned before that I’m a complete sucker for taste tests and such, so this was such a pleasure. Recall our pseudo-scientific port-tasting party? And wine school?)

If you’re interested in hearing a bit about the science of brewing—some applicable inspiration to help you appreciate the stuff (or at least some trivia to share) before game day—there’s a wonderful mini-documentary featuring Dr. Bamforth called “The Art and Science of Beer.” The whole thing is only five minutes, but here’s a shorter clip just about foam:

I’ve collected some of my favorite Bamforth wisdom from these clips, and elsewhere:

Go for the Popular One. In a bar with a lot of choices on tap, there are likely a few that have sat for a long time—long enough for oxygen to sneak in and make the beer stale.

Don’t Overlook the Can. Light is the enemy of beer. Brown glass—or better yet, a can—will keep the light out. Green, clear, or blue glass tends to allow too much in.

But Serve Beer in a Glass. All the better for your nose to “dangle” in it, and your nose is what really determines taste.

Pour with vigor! Release the foam! Beside being a “hedonically fantastic vision of beauty,” beers with the better foam are always thought to taste better. Don’t dump the beer to the point you have a volcanic mess, but avoid the slow pour against the side of the glass that give you something akin to “cold tea.”

Beer goes with everything. In fact it can be a better match to cheese than wine, Bamforth has said: It doesn’t overpower it; it complements it. But the selection of foods that pair well is, “almost unlimited.” … “From white sausage and pretzel with hefeweissen for breakfast to chocolate cake and barley wine for dessert after supper … Think Singha with Thai Red Curry. Think Bass Ale with roast beef. Think Bock with hot wings.”

It’s a matter of taste. 1 in 3 people will actually choose the (technically improperly) skunky beer. All that matters is what you like.

But if you’re still hoping for more direct advice, Epicurious has produced a list of five easily sourced beers that pair well with typical game day fare.

P.S. Expecting, driving, or just abstaining? My picks for the best non-alcoholic beers.

[Photos from top: a beer garden in Germany; screenshot of Charlie Bamforth via YouTube; Davis’s annual Bike & Brew Fest, held each August with local breweries like Davis’s Sudwerk and West Sacramento’s Bike Dog in attendance.]

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Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

COMMENTS: 11

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

Pizza really is one of life’s perfect foods. It can be anything you want it to be.

I spent quite a while trying to perfect the at-home version of a Naples-style Margherita Pizza—which is still my absolute favorite. But I have to admit that, while it is incredibly easy to do (and here’s the dough recipe to prove it), I rarely have the advance foresight to make my own dough. More likely I pick up a pre-risen dough at Trader Joe’s or our local grocer. If you’re in the same boat and your store has an in-house baker, ask if they prep pizza dough. Because once you have the dough, you’re really just minutes away from great pizza.

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

Here’s my go-to of late…

Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula pizza

Start by preheating your oven to 500 degrees. Make sure that whatever baking sheet or stone (we have a pizza steel) is preheated as well.

Sweat 2 or so cups of mushrooms over the stove: Place all of your mushrooms into a sauté pan with a dash of water and a liberal sprinkling of salt. Also add any thyme or seasonings you like. Leave them on the stove until they release most of their liquid.

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

Gather the rest of your ingredients. Once you start the baking process, things happen quickly.

You’ll also need: At least 3-4 eggs (the exact number is up to you), whole milk ricotta, salt, pepper, arugula, and olive oil.

Stretch your dough until it’s as thin throughout as it can be without getting any holes. I hold it by its edges and let gravity help, quickly moving my hands along the perimeter. If it’s springing back too quickly, let it rest a bit.

Place directly onto the baking sheet or pizza stone and pre-cook until they dough bubbles up and the bottom starts to color.

Pull out your baking rack a bit to help you access the top of the pizza. Carefully reach in and tamp down any bubbles with a fork. Add your drained mushrooms.

Next, crack your eggs directly on top. Bake until the whites are opaque and are beginning to set. This isn’t an exact science (for me), but I’d estimate about five minutes should do it. You have to decide how runny (or not) you like your yolk.

Just before they look done, I open the oven once more to add some dollops of ricotta.

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

Remove and finish with arugula, salt & pepper, and a liberal drizzling of olive oil. Serve immediately!

food drink  Pizza at Home: Mushroom, Egg, Ricotta & Arugula

What do you like best on your pizza? 

P.S. Perfect soft-cooked eggs. (Every time.)

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Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

COMMENTS: 43

travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither! travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

travel style new york food drink family design california  Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

Funny thing. I wished Hither & Thither a happy sixth birthday last year, but I got ahead of myself somehow—a few years back, in fact! Someone finally corrected me. This year marks six years. The first post was a picture-less entry written by Aron, on January 19, 2009.

What I didn’t get wrong is that every year on here is worth celebrating. And it never ceases to surprise me—even as its demands ebb and flow—how much of a role Hither & Thither plays in my life now. I’m so grateful for all of the readers whom it engages—those who have come along since the start (when Aron and I were writing it together in New York) and those who just recently started reading. For me, it’s so rewarding to have such a supportive space in which to grow as a writer and a photographer, and to build a career of my own vision. But of course it’s often the conversations, the friendships made, the back & forth, that’s best of all.

Thank you, as ever, for reading. With a trademark lack of brevity, I’ve compiled a look back at this year’s highlights. I so enjoyed looking back through some of my favorite posts again; I hope you will enjoy this, too:

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Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

COMMENTS: 12

food drink  Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

food drink  Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

It’s surprisingly easy to make your own marshmallows. I had conjured up images of sugary, sticky fingers that leave their mark for days. But the mess was actually minimal.

We had decided to invite some friends over after dinner one Monday night to roast S’mores and—inspired by the homemade raspberry ones we had in Tahoe last year—wanted to include some fresh peppermint ones. While I think Hudson preferred the standard Jet-Puffed, I definitely thought the homemade ones were the best. Most recipes call for corn syrup, but Aron found us a recipe that uses evaporated milk instead. We then added peppermint extract and swirled in just a touch of red dye (which you could skip—or do more heavily).

Here’s how to make your own…

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Building the perfect cheese board

COMMENTS: 22

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

Holiday party-season is upon us. And as creative and inventive as one might want to be—eggnog-flavored donuts, let’s say—a good cheese board is always a safe bet.

A few tips for making a good one:

1. Get suggestions. Visit a cheesemonger in a cheese shop or a grocery store that stocks a dedicated cheese counter (Whole Foods, for example) and have some fun sampling. Don’t be shy. Just spell out the plan. For example, you might try:  “I’m hosting a party with twenty friends. It’s a casual, but festive get together with beer and wine. Hoping to get three or four cheeses and keep the cost under $25. Any recommendations?”  Most are eager to help—and will offer tastes. If they’re at all snooty, they’re no good at customer service; it’s not you, it’s them.

2. Mix it up. Whether you get help or make selections from the cold bin at Trader Joe’s (fine, too!), aim for a mix of textures and, possibly, milk sources. Goat’s, sheep’s, or cow’s milk cheeses (or blends) are usually described as hard/aged, soft, firm, or blue. (If you aren’t having a large gathering, less is more: two good cheeses, one hard and one soft, is enough. Three ounces per person is a good rule of thumb.)

3. Take it out. Unwrap your cheese and bring it to room temperature before serving. You can arrange everything on one large, pretty board—or, for a bigger group, you might spread it out to prevent a back-up. I was eager to use this large piece of olive wood we brought home from a trip.

4. Pre-cut or slice it. (At least some.) Bon Appétit magazine cautions again cubing the cheese (too “after-school snack”) or slicing too-thin strips (which can “‘sweat’ and become translucent-looking,” a sign that the cheese is losing flavor). Don’t worry if you don’t have the exact right selection of cheese knives. Cheese planes and wires and spoons (for a wonderfully runny Époisses) are lovely to use, but just be sure to at least offer a distinct knife for each cheese if you don’t have those things.

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

5. Pair it. Consider some options beyond the baguette (water crackers, crostinis, flatbreads, for example). And set the cheese beside things like jam-style fruit spreads, olives, nuts, cornichons, apples, honey or even chocolate for additional flavor. (But, in general, avoid flavored cheese. Truffles and specially prepared rinds—ash, pine, and like—being the major exception.)

food drink  Building the perfect cheese board

Finally, have some fun.  Disregard everything I said and try the peppermint-rind cheddar or the caramel-like goat cheese, or use your family’s recipe for brie baked in crescent-roll dough from the pop-tin.  Your friends will appreciate that, too.

Pictured cheeses: Drunken Goat, Cinco Lanzas, Saint Agur (bleu), Old Amsterdam (aged Gouda), and Marin French. The bottom two are Gjetost from Norway, and a peppermint-rind BellaVitano by the Sartori Company of Wisconsin.

P.S. Baked vegetable chips, my favorite Blood-Orange salad, and recipes for Kumquats (and new-year prosperity).

Update: Our cheese board is Olive Wood from Tuscany. Here are some similar products

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Happy Thanksgiving!

COMMENTS: 5

food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
Hope your holiday is filled with things that make you happy—perhaps some good friends, good food, and some good downtime. We have so much to be thankful for, and I’m grateful for a holiday to celebrate it. And it’s a pleasure sharing so many of those things with such kind readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Next week is a full one! Looking forward to sharing some gift guides in the afternoons.

In the meantime, some favorite Thanksgiving posts:
The best cooking resources for making Thanksgiving dinner
5 Ways to keep your food safe this holiday
Thanksgiving for Two
Reimagining Holiday Leftovers

[Photos from an autumn trip to the Catskills]

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