Archive | April, 2011

Our Favorite Royal Wedding Photo

29 Apr

It’s certainly not the one you would expect — no wedding gown, no kiss between William and Catherine, no pomp and circumstance of any kind, really — but we are utterly enamored with this photo of Prince Charles holding one of the tiny bridesmaids (who, as it turns out, is his wife’s granddaughter). We’ve always pegged Prince Charles as somewhat of a cold fish, which made this photo all the more surprising and endearing. Look at how protective he is, how comfortable he looks clutching her, how easy their closeness feels — who knew Prince Charles was such a dear? Certainly not us, and this is one instance in which we are delighted to have been wrong.

At long last, the hus-b found some bathroom porn I am totally into…

28 Apr

our bathroom! Our tile setter, Fred, has been hard at work on the shower enclosure all week and it looks wonderful. Tile setting truly is an art (one best performed to blaring classic rock tunes, as it turns out) and Fred is killing it right now. Here’s a sneak peek at the progress so far:

Yeah, we went a little crazy with the carrara marble, but it’s always been the one consistent thread between my vision of a clean, traditional, grey-and-white bathroom and the hus-b’s “bathroom at a private men’s club” inspiration.

Isn’t the combination of the Walker Zanger greek key border and marble chair rail gorgeous? Not to go all Rachel Zoe on you, but it really is kind of bananas. The hus-b and our decorator, Lindsay, were the masterminds behind this detail and I am so, so thankful they came up with it. Such a handsome way to break up all of that grey and white!

I am madly in love with the Ann Sacks herringbone tile we used in the niche (another of Lindsay’s brilliant ideas). It almost feels too precious a place for storing such mundane products as soap and shampoo.

The bordered basketweave tile pattern in the base of the shower also turned out beautifully, which is an excellent portent of what is to come because we will be using this exact tile pattern on the floor throughout the rest of the bathroom.

Slowly but surely, we are getting there. We’d love to hear what you think of the work so far!

Jamming (The fruit kind. Not the Bob Marley kind.)

27 Apr

While my childhood may have involved countless ninja-level baking lessons, one skill decidedly absent from my family’s home kitchen curriculum was canning. Chalk it up to the hazardous nature of the process — the possibility of exploding glass jars and bacteria contamination, the gallons of simmering water — that doesn’t exactly scream “child-friendly activity”.  Now that I am (presumably) mature enough to handle the dangers inherent to canning, I have become sort of enamored with the notion of becoming the kind of girl who cans her own homemade fruit jams and summer tomato purees (precious as that may sound).

Canning is not, however, a task to be undertaken lightly, so I prepared as any sensible girl would: by arming myself with thorough research and a capable, wisecracking sidekick. The research was a cinch once I discovered the easy-as-pie, step-by-step directions over at The Pioneer Woman, a wildly popular blog written by a talented (and often hilarious) rancher’s wife. As for the sidekick, there was no better choice than the closest thing in my life to a real pioneer woman, my dear friend, Erika, whose outdoorsy Pacific Northwestern upbringing means she can cook dinner by burying a dutch oven underground and capably handle a firearm if necessary, all with a swish of her gorgeous blonde hair. (She also fulfills the wisecracking part of the job description in spades. Our ongoing text dialogue on the subject of reality television is epic.)

Armed with my shiny new canning pot and several pounds of strawberries, I headed over to Erika and her husband’s lovely home in Potrero Hill to get to work. As per the Pioneer Woman’s instructions, we placed the strawberries on a rimmed baking sheet and smashed the hell out of them with a potato masher.

Erika and I quickly learned that beating up ripe strawberries is a messy affair, so we highly recommend tying on an apron and performing the smashing in a deep pot or bowl. The resulting mash, however, smells like strawberry heaven and gave me a serious hankering for a blended daiquiri. Sigh.

Cooking the jam was a little nerve-wracking at the beginning because the quantity seemed to paltry compared to the 64 ounces of product our recipe claimed to produce, especially once we skimmed the pale pink foam off of the top (which was totally reminiscent of the much-beloved-but-long-gone Jell-O 1-2-3). Mere minutes later the boiling jam nearly overtook the edges of the pot (the sugar and pectin having worked their magic), so be sure to use a GIANT pot even though it may seem overly large at the outset.

Once skimmed, we ladled the hot jam into jars that had been simmering on the stove (to prevent explosions caused by placing hot product into a cold glass receptacle). Erika did the honors!

We then placed the sealed jars back into the now-boiling water to sterilize them, which was the perfect time to tour Erika’s gorgeous yard (did I mention she is a gardening genius?). Her red chard has been ridiculously prolific this spring (and is perhaps destined to end up pickled now that we’ve caught the canning bug).

Erika’s summer lettuces are ready for planting. Aren’t they so tiny and dear at this stage?

Following a quick sterilizing simmer and an even quicker rest in a hot water bath, the jam was done. Seriously, that’s it. Lots of steps, to be sure, but none that are especially complicated and the results are a million times more delicious (and inexpensive) than anything you could purchase at the market. Erika and I were pretty much hooked once we heard the first metallic “pop” from a properly sealed lid (we might have high-fived over it) and we will certainly be jamming again soon. We can’t wait for raspberry season (and blackberry season…and apricot season…) to begin!

Special Delivery (no, not THAT one!)

26 Apr

…but close in a roundabout sort of way. The little lady’s first monogrammed items are starting to arrive and we are just tickled with how they turned out. Her initials make for a striking monogram, no? We can’t wait to be toting around her teeny-tiny *everything* in this precious Lands’ End bag!

Easter Menu Planning, Part 2: A Spring Supper to Please Traditionalists and Hostesses Alike

21 Apr

While we adore experimenting with new recipes, it is important when assembling a holiday menu to be mindful of tradition. Guests inevitably arrive with expectations of what a holiday meal will include, and for every family that may mean something different. In our home, tradition means a whole roasted turkey at Thanksgiving (we wish we had a photo of the look on the hus-b’s face when we suggested a turkey roulade), crab cocktail and prime rib (cooked rare lest you be subjected to my uncles’ heckling) at Christmas and barbecued everything on the 4th of July. For many families, it simply wouldn’t feel like Easter without the celebratory meal including a leg of lamb, honey baked ham or some preparation of eggs (much to our dismay, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs do not qualify).

We believe that the ideal holiday menu seamlessly blends tradition (to please the guests), seasonal produce (to make the most of spring’s bounty) and a touch of novelty (to challenge the adventurous home chef). With that in mind, we’ve created a menu for Easter supper that we hope will satisfy everyone seated around your holiday table.

Priss & Vinegar’s Easter Supper

  • Mixed Crostini with Green Garlic & Fromage Blanc and Arugula & Fava Beans. If you’ve been to a farmers’ market recently, it would be impossible for green garlic, arugula or fava beans to have escaped your notice. They are positively ubiquitous during this time of year! Rather than putting out a predictable cheese and charcuterie platter, we suggest serving these super-versatile crostini with toppings inspired by these gorgeous spring vegetables: green garlic & fromage blanc and fava beans & arugula. If you feel like adding a little something extra to please your carnivorous guests, we think the fava bean & arugula crostini would be even more delicious topped with a paper-thin slice of Prosciutto di San Daniele. (PS, the crostini spreads can be made in advance *and* the leftovers would be insanely delicious on sandwiches. Advantage hostess.)

  • Chévre Deviled Eggs with Asparagus. We’ll admit it: eggs have been one of our weird pregnancy cravings. From regularly requesting soft scrambled eggs for dinner to obsessing about the warm egg salad sandwich at Il Cane Rosso (which is divine, btw), we haven’t been able to get enough of this versatile protein. Lucky for us, eggs are a traditional Easter staple, and we think this lovely preparation featuring goat cheese (one of our other pregnancy cravings!) and asparagus would be elegant enough to serve as a pre-supper bite (as opposed to the more-rustic preparations of deviled eggs commonly found at picnics). Save us some leftovers, will you?

  • Marmalade-Glazed Ham. Our father would likely start a family-wide mutiny were we not to serve ham on Easter Sunday. It’s simply come to be what he expects and looks forward to, and to fight such a strong guest expectation as a hostess would be folly indeed. Truth be told, we are not especially fond of ham ourselves (and smoked meats are somewhat of a pregnancy no-no), but leave it to Martha to come up with a dazzlingly simple recipe that even we have to admit looks kind of amazing. While we haven’t yet had the opportunity to test this recipe personally, we have to believe that good quality marmalade is the secret to this dish, so be sure to select something special (P&V is partial to Frog Hollow Farm) or make some yourself if you’re feeling agro.

  • Scalloped Potatoes. To serve ham without scalloped potatoes would also be considered blasphemous at our holiday table, and when making this homey classic I always turn to another elegantly simple Martha Stewart recipe. We have cooked this dish a zillion times, and save the one Easter when we forgot to add the cream (we blame chef juice), it has turned out beautifully. Every. Single. Time. The genius of this recipe is in blanching the wafer-thin potato slices in milk which is later poured over the casserole — the starchy potato milk really imparts a lovely creaminess. Our modifications to the base recipe? Including a bay leaf in the blanching milk (which we discard before baking) and doubling the cheese. Yes, doubling. Also, do not under any circumstances attempt this dish without a mandoline, as you simply won’t be able to hand-slice the potatoes thinly enough (and even if you could, it would take FOREVER).

  • Roasted Baby Carrotswith Herb Mustard Butter. Carrots just seem right on an Easter menu and are especially appealing considering all of the beautiful baby carrots available at the market right now. It can, however, be easy as a hostess to mail it in when it comes to such side dish items. We prefer to look at these dishes as an opportunity to try something new, as guests rarely get sentimental about a vegetable side. Roasted carrots can be accomplished so many ways, but we rather like what the clever folks over at Chowhound came up with by using fresh herbs and whole grain mustard. Doesn’t the tangy bite of mustard sound like a perfect accompaniment to ham and rich potato gratin?

  • Strawberry Tiramisu. Giada De Laurentiis created an Italian Easter menu for Bon Appetit a number of years ago and this lovely, make-ahead dessert was our absolute favorite of the bunch. In a charming springtime twist on traditional tiramisu, Giada swaps out chocolate and coffee in favor of fresh strawberries and orange liqueur. We rather like this recipe as-is, but we did monkey with the presentation a bit by topping the entire dessert with a chevron pattern of sliced strawberries. This took some extra time and effort (as well as additional berries) but it really elevated the dish’s appearance beyond that of a strawberry shortcake on steroids. To note, the recipe claims to only serve 8 people (giants?) but we found it more than sufficient to serve a party of 12.

Happy Easter, everyone!


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