Month: September 2013

Gourmet Mac and Cheese

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A few cold days and I’m reaching for the warm throw blankets by the sofa and craving comfort food hot out of the oven. The same oven, I might add, that a few weeks ago the weather was so hot that I wouldn’t have turned on to cook with if it was the only thing standing between me and starvation. However, this week is a different story. How quickly things change…

Every restaurant and its mom has put out a mac and cheese dish within the last few years. Comfort food has been officially converted to high end dining and is EVERYWHERE. While delicious everywhere I try it, mac and cheese is one of those things that I can make just as delicious and gourmet at home. There are PLENTY of dishes that I can’t do this with, so those are the dishes I choose when I’m out. For instance, I’m too scared to cook lobster, so I order it at a great restaurant and have an awesome dining experience that I can’t create in my own kitchen.

This gourmet mac and cheese recipe tastes just like it came from your favorite southern foodie restaurant and comes right out of your own oven. Which means you can eat it on your own sofa, in front of your own movie, just like comfort food should be eaten 🙂 My favorite kind of dinner and a movie.

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(milk is simmered with onions and spices and then strained for a smooth creamy base in which to melt the cheese)

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(Gruyere and soft fontina shredded up and melted in warm milk make up the cheesy sauce)

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(I use a generous amount of bread crumb topping to create a even more complex flavor, you’ll see why when you read what goes into the topping in the recipe)

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(pop this under the broiler, wait 2 minutes, then enjoy!)

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Jojo’s Coffee Roasters and Tea Merchants – New Haven, CT

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(Harkness Tower, where bells toll out over the city twice a day)

New Haven, Connecticut itself is a study in extreme contrasts. It’s home to Yale, that venerable and important institution, but also hosts a rough urban population. On the wrong side of town, its not uncommon to find entire blocks of vacant business space. These would be otherwise charming and historical buildings, but they are completely empty due to an unusually slow recovery from the 2008 real estate market crash.

This brings me to Jojo’s. It is located just one block from the historical and architecturally beautiful Yale (architecture critics have called its soaring Gothic campus, laden with detailed embellishments on almost every square inch, one of the most beautiful campuses in America). True to the complicated climate in New Haven at the moment, Jojo’s is also a study in contrasts. It does not hit you over the head with saccharine coffee shop charm the moment you walk in the door. Rather, you step in through the narrow arched stone door with wrought iron gates thrown open during business hours, you observe the mismatched tables and beaten looking pillows on ordinary bench seats, and feel an anonymous welcoming feeling. This is a place you can stay for hours.

You step up to the counter where a women is yelling out coffee and tea orders like she’s slinging meals at the local soup kitchen. Somehow this doesn’t mar the atmosphere, it serves as a reminder that this is a shop where things are normal and not so polished and corporate. There are plenty of unplanned moments in this place.

Only after you grab a seat, do you hear the music playing not too softly in the background. It’s a blend of musical genres that you might listen to in the car by yourself, but probably wouldn’t admit to friends that you like the big band sound of the 30s and 40s, or the occasional heart wrenchingly tragic classical piece.

The people who sit around you are Yale students frowning deeply into their laptops and business people, silently congratulating themselves for slipping past the boss unnoticed to take a few minutes’ break to chat with a coworker over a richly brewed cup of coffee.

I sit here, driven inside by the rain, enjoying a cup of perfectly brewed earl grey while leaning back against a thick and frankly outdated tasseled brocade drape, and listening to Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend. The effect is of being inside a warm, eclectic, paint peeling, cocoon.

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(arched stone doorway and the inviting depths within)

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(brocade drape complete with gold rope tie back)

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(an intricate gate leading to a lush green on Yale’s campus)

Sautéed Seasonal Tomatoes and Zucchini

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Now that we’re in the tail end of the summer vegetable season, I’m rushing to make as many of my favorite seasonal dishes as possible. I think we can all agree that a zucchini that has tumbled it’s way in a crate all the way from around the world doesn’t taste nearly as good as a zucchini that bumped along in the back of a farmer’s truck for a couple of miles.

This recipe is a superfast one, and super healthy. Grab a couple of firm, green zucchinis and a few fresh tomatoes, chop it all up, and sauté with just a few spices. The key here is to let the fresh veggies shine. I add a little heat and complexity to mine with a dash of ground cayenne pepper, it really draws out the flavor of the tomatoes and zucchini.

This can stand alone as a vegetarian dish, but can be modified a million different ways. I like to add a little tuna right at the end of the sauté if I feel like a more substantial meal. Grilled fish or chicken sliced and laid on top is also an awesome combination and makes for great presentation as well.

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Trend Report: Monochromatic Decorating

80a3ef5b6b0f41381657cb4967cacc9a(the only thing this room needs is me sitting in it, sipping a dirty martini with extra olives. monochromatic olive green room complete.)

The concept is simple: pick one color and decorate a room with only it and shades of it. This is actually not oversimplified and results in a gorgeous, unified looking space, evidenced by the images above and below. Here are a few guidelines to follow that will help you to achieve a room with an elegant cohesiveness and modern feel. The short version is make sure to vary textures; this is key when decorating with one color. An example is the leaf green foyer below that uses glass, wood, and fabric, all in varying shades of green.

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(LOVE the green glass. note that the shades used are more note-in-a-bottle and less Heineken)

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(notice the mismatched chairs still look formal because there are only 2 different sets mixed together and they are arranged symmetrically)

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(I have a well documented love of the color gray in decorating, I am now dying to add silver/mirrors to my gray space.)

 

Photo References (in order of appearance):

 http://splenderosa.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2011-10-10T17%3A03%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=1

(photos 2 + 3) http://www.porterhousedesigns.com/colorsizzle/

http://picsdecor.com/home-decorating-ideas/dark-silver-luxury-livingroom-decor-494