Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bowls

For a while there, I forgot how to eat. 

Two weeks ago, Jay and I experienced our first real tragedy as a couple. For days, our usually hectic life together came to an abrupt halt. Our home reverberated with what felt like infinite periods of silence and endless long, anxious breaths, the floor beside our bed and our couch perpetually littered with crumpled tissues and crusted over bowls. Despite an in-depth agenda of paperwork that needed attention in preparation for a meeting we'd anxiously anticipated for weeks -- a meeting that could very likely help to change the shape of our business and our entire brand in the coming calendar year -- all shop-talk was put on hold. Everything was put on hold. Together, we needed that silent period together to begin to heal.  

For a solid week, my spirit felt entirely broken, cracked and shattered into a million pieces that I feared I'd never find a way to mend. I knew I was in bad shape. I refused to leave the sofa. I refused to wear real clothes. I avoided phone calls and visits from people I love.

However, I knew things were real bad when I gave up on food. Real food, that is. I felt so deep in my sadness, I couldn't bear the thought of worrying about whether or not I consumed enough dark leafy greens for the day. I needed to rebel. But I don't smoke. I rarely drink. Food is kind of my thing. So rather than care for myself by way of the steaming pot of lemony chicken and vegetable soup Jay specially prepared for me, I insisted that we stock our house with all the processed, GMO, sugary, artificially-colored crap that I never, ever allow through the front door. And then I dove in.

For the next week, I filled myself with store-bought cookies and sodium-filled chips and canned soda and all the bad-for-me-things I never crave, let alone actually eat, while fresh bunches of broccoli rabe and tuscan kale yellowed and wilted in our fridge. By the end of the week, not only did I feel completely unhealthy, but strangely, completely unlike myself. 

On Monday, we both finally pulled ourselves off the couch, forced ourselves to get dressed (like real people, not sweatpant-clad college kids) and took our first steps back into our normal life. We showered (big step). We went to work (bigger step). And then, very slowly, over the course of the next several days, we meandered our way back into our kitchen, still littered with boxes of store-bought brownie mix and bags of greasy potato chips. 

Our home kitchen is a humble little space. It consists of outdated laminate countertops, faux wood cabinets and multiple cracked floor tiles. It is not what you might expect. I complain about it a lot, to be honest, but little by little, as I found myself back in our kitchen, finally strong enough to toss the Oreos and tortilla chips that had accumulated on our island, I found myself feeling infinitely grateful for the space.

About midway through the week, I was the first to arrive home, at that faded late afternoon hour when the light outside is not quite sure if it wants to be night or day. I knew Jay wouldn't be home for a few hours, and already my stomach was growling. As I set down my things and entered our kitchen to hang up my coat and my keys, I felt immediately tempted by the box of stale donut holes before me. It'd be so easy to grab the whole box, curl back up on the couch and indulge in a solid cry. But I knew I couldn't go on that way forever. I knew that, at some point, I'd need to admit to myself that, despite our tragedy, we still had a life to live, a life that likely required nutrients not found in a box of processed frosting. 

I forced myself to throw the box away.

Then, slowly, I opened our refrigerator and our cabinets for the first time in days. At random, I began to pull out whatever items remained -- a half-decent looking apple, a mason jar filled with oats from a previous baking project -- and, without thinking, got back to work.

Though the feelings of our tragedy still lingered inside me, I soon found myself becoming lost in the familiar sounds and movements of preparing a meal -- the smooth slicing of the apples, the gentle bubbling of the oats. 

I sat on our couch with this Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bowl propped on my lap just as the sky began to lose the last sliver of daylight. There, in the solitude and silence of our home, I forced myself to eat something real. I could feel my whole body begin to warm again, each of my senses slowly awakening. Food does that sometimes. While I knew at that moment that we still had a long road ahead of us, with each warm bite, I found my whole being began to feel more nourished, my mind drifting toward the belief that with just a few more simple, whole, home cooked meals, I might begin to feel whole again. 

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bowls

- 1/4 teaspoon olive oil

- 1 apple, cored, peeled and cubed 

- 1/4 teaspoon brown sugar

- 1 cup old-fashioned oats

- pinch of coarse salt

- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

- 1 tablespoon maple syrup

- 1 teaspoon cinnamon 

Drizzle the olive oil into a small sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the apple and the brown sugar and sauté until the apple pieces are almost tender, about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, prepare the oats according to the package instructions. Once fully cooked, turn off the heat and add the salt and the almond milk to the oats and stir until the almond milk is well incorporated. Pour the oat mixture into a bowl and add the maple syrup, the cinnamon and the still warm apples. Serve immediately. 

Cinnamon Apple Hand Pies

As I write this sentence, Jay hovers overtop of our coffee table, pouring almonds into tiny ceramic pinch bowls. Every few seconds, his face contorts into a serious expression before he pours the almonds out onto the table and assembles them into messy little piles. "This pile," he informs me, "contains 54 almonds. And this pile contains 84." He pauses and looks to me for guidance -- "so which pile is right?" -- before he disappears into our kitchen, where I hear him wildly rummage through our wooden cabinets.

In other words, we are back in menu planning mode. And it seems, based on the dirty dishes and the torn candy wrappers on the floor beside me, our only comfort comes in the form of mini homemade apple pies and leftover crunch bars from a quiet Halloween. 

It's been a little more than six months since we started to talk about our desire to expand the shop. There were a number of possibilities on the table. We could open a second shop in another NYC neighborhood. We could stay put and renovate our current kitchen to create additional space for new equipment. These ideas, of course, were rooted somewhere between reality and a daydream. We didn't actually expect for them to see the light of day, at least not for another year (or maybe two). 

But the gods, it seems, overheard our brainstorming. A few weeks ago, out of absolutely nowhere, we received an email, which led to a meeting, which led to walk-throughs and contracts and proposals and excitement and minor freak-outs. All of which will ultimately lead to our next big project -- a project we were not truly looking for (not in actual reality anyway), but one that magically found its way to us and gave us that extra push we needed to become courageous enough to stop daydreaming and to actually take our next step. 

Although it will be a few more weeks before we can make any formal announcements, in the meantime, our living room as of late is a mess of cookbooks and journals and laptops as we begin to formulate new menu ideas, some of which include figuring out the appropriate amount of almonds needed to made a suitable sized bar snack (which will later be spiced and roasted and mixed with some other unexpected goodies). 

During the years that we've owned our business, I've learned that during times like this, times that are framed by crazy schedules and meetings and constant talk about money and the future and branding and new decor design and a million other uncertainties, we rely on the comforts of home. Which is why, during times like this, you can almost always find a bowl or a basket filled with something freshly baked patiently resting on the corner of our kitchen island and the scent of dough or syrup or vanilla wafting through our hallways. It's the only remedy, other than straight bourbon, that I know of to alleviate our stress after multiple work/business/financial conversations. It's a sneaky, sugary way to ensure that, by the end of the conversation, we both feel better/sane/normal again.   

Jay thinks these Cinnamon Apple Hand Pies are good enough to replace the usual singular, absurdly huge apple pie I typically make for our family on Thanksgiving, which I think is saying something (he is a baked goods snob, to say the least). So long as you have fresh apples at the ready, the rest of this recipe requires pretty basic pantry staples, meaning it is the type of thing you can whip up without too much thought, even though the look of fancy little individualized pies makes it look like you logged days' worth of kitchen work.

When it comes to pie dough, there are many wonderful pate brisee recipes out there. However, I've become a bit of a snob myself and have relied on the same recipe for a good ten years or so now (the trick, I think, is to freeze only half of your butter before pulsing the dough), which bakes up into such a perfectly golden crust that is marbled with buttery swirls and kissed with just the right amount of salt. The filling is a simple, classic combination: tart apples, plenty of lemon zest to help highlight that tartness, and a good amount of cinnamon. Easy. Peasy. If you're like me, you'll eat them two at a time, which is okay since you can easily roll out some extra dough you have wrapped up in your fridge and simply double or triple the recipe for the apple filling if needed. Enjoy them, and these last few weeks of apple season. More news on our new project coming soon...

Cinnamon Apple Hand Pies

adapted from Martha Stewart

For the dough:

- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

- 1 teaspoon coarse salt

- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

- 1 stick chilled, unsalted butter, cut in pieces

- 1 stick frozen, unsalted butter, cut in pieces

- 1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:

- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

- 6 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

- 1/4 cup granulated sugar

- zest of 1 lemon

- juice of 1/2 lemon

- 3/4 tablespoon cinnamon

- 1 egg, beaten

- turbinado sugar


For the dough: 

Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the food processor running, slowly add the ice water until the dough holds together, about 10-15 seconds at most.

Empty the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into two. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten and form two discs. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour and up to 24 hours before using.  

For the pies: 

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into two 1/8 inch-thick circles. Using a lightly floured pastry circle (I used a 4-inch circle), cut out about 16 circles. Arrange 8 of the circles on the parchment and set the rest aside in a single layer on the floured work surface. 

In a large bowl, combine the apples, granulated sugar, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon and flour and toss well to combine. Spoon a small amount of the apples (about 4 apple slices per 4-inch round) onto the dough rounds that rest on the parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with the remaining pastry circles. Cut small steam vents across the top of each hand pie. Seal by carefully crimping the edges of each pie. Brush the top and edges of each pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle with a generous amount of turbinado sugar. Bake until the tops and edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack before serving. 

Pumpkin Lemonade // A Taste of the Season (weeks 57-60)

In August, Jay and I took a weekend trip to Charleston (which you might remember me mentioning here). We had the most fabulous time. Our first night there, we found ourselves in the French Quarter, strolling down cobblestone alleys and past candy-colored row homes accented by ornate metal fixtures and unique wooden doors. It was incredibly colorful and charming (and humid…so, so humid). 

In August, Jay and I took a weekend trip to Charleston (which you might remember me mentioning here). We had the most fabulous time. Our first night there, we found ourselves in the French Quarter, strolling down cobblestone alleys and past candy-colored row homes accented by ornate metal fixtures and unique wooden doors. It was incredibly colorful and charming (and humid…so, so humid). 

As is tradition with most of our travels, the entire trip revolved, not surprisingly, around food. On Friday night, we ate a decadent serving of local beef tartar covered in a delicate veil of gouda that was magically melted without being burnt or puddle-like; we indulged in our first serving of real Carolina rice and properly cooked Hoppin’ John; we ate the sweetest shrimp that floated in a jeweled broth of fresh fennel and heirloom tomato liquid; we finished our meal with delicate glasses of bitter chartreuse; we rang in my birthday (32! Eek!) with an unlikely combination of bubbly cava and Moscow Mules, and finished the night drinking Miller Lite pounders while we waited in line for some late night Banh Mi. 

As is tradition with most of our travels, the entire trip revolved, not surprisingly, around food. On Friday night, we ate a decadent serving of local beef tartar covered in a delicate veil of gouda that was magically melted without being burnt or puddle-like; we indulged in our first serving of real Carolina rice and properly cooked Hoppin’ John; we ate the sweetest shrimp that floated in a jeweled broth of fresh fennel and heirloom tomato liquid; we finished our meal with delicate glasses of bitter chartreuse; we rang in my birthday (32! Eek!) with an unlikely combination of bubbly cava and Moscow Mules, and finished the night drinking Miller Lite pounders while we waited in line for some late night Banh Mi. 

Saturday morning, we woke up with pounding heads and slowly wandered through town in search of a hangover cure. While stumbling around, we happened upon the city’s weekend farmers’ market downtown. Naturally, we took time to wander through and support some local vendors, one of which was an incredibly simple but smart operation that sold giant plastic quart containers filled with freshly squeezed lemonades. Hangover. Cure.    While I selected a classic lemonade, Jay choose a version blended with thinly sliced cucumbers and muddled mint. The taste was clean and fresh and one hundred percent summer.

Saturday morning, we woke up with pounding heads and slowly wandered through town in search of a hangover cure. While stumbling around, we happened upon the city’s weekend farmers’ market downtown. Naturally, we took time to wander through and support some local vendors, one of which was an incredibly simple but smart operation that sold giant plastic quart containers filled with freshly squeezed lemonades. Hangover. Cure. 


While I selected a classic lemonade, Jay choose a version blended with thinly sliced cucumbers and muddled mint. The taste was clean and fresh and one hundred percent summer.

As we made our way back to King Street, and wandered past the city’s many bars, restaurants and storefronts, we began to discuss some recipe plans for the fall.  We talked about some new sauces, and a few ideas for new sandwich combos to debut. And then we turned our attention to our drinks.  Just like his cucumber lemonade that tasted like the essence of a hot summer morning, Jay wondered if it was possible to create a version that tasted just like a cool autumn day. While we walked, we brainstormed different flavor possibilities. Nutmeg? Cider? Cinnamon stick? Roasted apple?  

As we made our way back to King Street, and wandered past the city’s many bars, restaurants and storefronts, we began to discuss some recipe plans for the fall.  We talked about some new sauces, and a few ideas for new sandwich combos to debut. And then we turned our attention to our drinks. 

Just like his cucumber lemonade that tasted like the essence of a hot summer morning, Jay wondered if it was possible to create a version that tasted just like a cool autumn day. While we walked, we brainstormed different flavor possibilities. Nutmeg? Cider? Cinnamon stick? Roasted apple?  

This unexpected rust-colored Pumpkin Lemonade is an unusual way to use up those few extra tablespoons of canned pumpkin puree leftover from your weekend baking projects. The recipe, if you can even call it that, simply requires that you blend some of the puree into either freshly made or store-bought lemonade. It is sweet and refreshing and a fun way to reinvent a sometimes overdone fall flavor. Don't be intimidated by it: I swear it is surprisingly good. Enjoy.  

This unexpected rust-colored Pumpkin Lemonade is an unusual way to use up those few extra tablespoons of canned pumpkin puree leftover from your weekend baking projects. The recipe, if you can even call it that, simply requires that you blend some of the puree into either freshly made or store-bought lemonade. It is sweet and refreshing and a fun way to reinvent a sometimes overdone fall flavor. Don't be intimidated by it: I swear it is surprisingly good. Enjoy.  

Pumpkin Lemonade - store-bought or freshly made lemonade  - canned pumpkin puree - cinnamon or nutmeg   Fill a drinking glass or pitcher with the lemonade. Add the pumpkin puree, one tablespoon at a time, to taste (for a typical 8-ounce drinking glass, I like about 2 tablespoons of puree). Be sure to gently stir the lemonade after each addition so the puree becomes fully incorporated into the drink. Garnish with cinnamon or nutmeg to taste. Serve cold.

Pumpkin Lemonade

- store-bought or freshly made lemonade 

- canned pumpkin puree

- cinnamon or nutmeg


Fill a drinking glass or pitcher with the lemonade. Add the pumpkin puree, one tablespoon at a time, to taste (for a typical 8-ounce drinking glass, I like about 2 tablespoons of puree). Be sure to gently stir the lemonade after each addition so the puree becomes fully incorporated into the drink. Garnish with cinnamon or nutmeg to taste. Serve cold.

Simple Tomato Sauce // When Life Hands You Tomatoes (weeks 54 & 55)

Our final pop-up event of the summer was a failure. To be more precise, it was a giant, epic, “this isn’t even over yet and I already know I’m going to cry about this for days” no-good, terrible disaster. Our booth was placed in a god-awful location. At the last minute, management decided to call the whole thing a “cash-free event.” For three days, hordes of cashless concert goers dug deep in their high-waist denim shorts for credit cards (no food, it turned out, for those unfortunate few who stuffed a mere twenty dollar bill in their bra straps), and then sauntered over to the food area, a destination that consisted of a good dozen or so food vendors that, by some unfortunate chance, we were not in. Rather, our designated location left us up on a hill, both out of potential customers’ way and also out of their minds. Cricket. Cricket. Then, when we thought things could not get any worse, early Sunday afternoon the sky tore apart, bursts of lightening illuminated the swirls of black clouds and, just like that, the whole thing was cancelled.

Which, of course, is how we ended up with a spare twenty-five pound box of tomatoes hanging out in our home kitchen early last week.

On Monday, Labor Day, Jay and I spent a solid half hour hovering above our kitchen island, just staring at the bloated box, wondering what in the hell we were supposed to do with twenty-five pounds of tomatoes anyway. Since we already had dozens of trays of unsold meat taking up space in the store’s fridges, we didn’t have space for them at the shop. Plus, although he never directly said so, I think Jay felt like they were unlucky in some way and didn’t want them anywhere near his cash register or his knives.

The obvious answer, of course, was to spend an afternoon canning them all up and storing them away for winter. But, in our defeated state, neither of us had the spirit to start sterilizing mason jars. Rather, Jay reached in the fridge, pulled out the last of the summer shandies, and together we moved to the couch for the remainder of the day. 

For the next few days, I began to think of the tomatoes as an enemy of sorts. Every time I meandered into our kitchen to whip up my morning smoothie or to sneak in a late night snack, there it was: a box literally overflowing with jewel-colored reminders of our failures. Neat.

By Tuesday night, I moved the box from our island to a long white bench on the far end of our kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind. But they still caught my eye. By Wednesday, I moved the box again, this time to a spot beneath our kitchen table that I almost never stop to consider (evident, by the way, by the pile of crumbs I discovered there; apparently, our vacuum also never pauses to consider this spot). On Thursday, I was completely annoyed and moved them into the laundry room, figuring that at least they could hide out behind a closed door until I had the heart to do something with them. But on Monday (four whole days after their last move), while attempting to casually toss a load of bath towels in the wash, there they were, like sad little seeded children, completely neglected by moi. And then -- because, you know, fruits and vegetables have human emotions -- I finally began to feel badly about ignoring them.

Without putting much thought into my next steps, I found myself filling a large pot with water and, once it reached a rolling boil, dropping the neglected tomatoes into the steaming bath. I figured, at the very least, I could offer them a sort of cleansing, if you will, to make up for my lack of attention. The house was silent as I removed each tomato and gently dropped it into an ice bath, where its thin, translucent skin began to shrivel and crack away. Then, I grabbed our very stained, very splattered copy of the Silver Spoon, by far one of my top five favorite cookbooks ever, and by far the one I reach for the most when we cook at home, and turned to my most cherished page.

This is indeed an incredibly easy, back-to-the-basics kind of recipe that I so admire for its blatant simplicity and its admiration and celebration of ripe, seasonal produce (perhaps almost too ripe in my case, which is what you get when you smuggle produce into your laundry room, I guess). The recipe, if you can call it that, requires just a few ingredients: plump tomatoes (good quality canned tomatoes also work well during the winter months), a bit of sugar to help bring out the fruits' natural sweetness, a few garlic cloves, a pinch of coarse salt and a small handful of torn basil leaves as well as a good glug of olive oil right at the end. The final product is a simple, flavorful everyday tomato sauce that tastes, well, exactly like tomatoes are meant to taste (which, I think, in our world of prepackaged, preservative packed everything, is sort of saying a lot). Typically, I find the recipe goes pretty quick in our house (figure one night of pasta, followed by another night of pizza and the sauce is gone); however, should you find yourself with an excessive amount of tomatoes, the recipe can easily be doubled (or tripled…or quadrupled) and then frozen for several months.

Simple Tomato Sauce
from the Silver Spoon

- about 1 dozen fresh tomatoes, peeled
- pinch of sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Place the tomatoes into a pan and add the sugar, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a very low heat for about 30 minutes. Do not touch or stir the tomatoes during this time. Mash the cooked tomatoes with the backside of a wooden spoon and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool slightly. Stir in the olive oil and the basil. When kept refrigerated, the sauce will keep well for about a week. 

Blueberry, Nectarine & Bourbon Crisp // End of Summer (weeks 52 & 53)

It is the last weekend of summer and I just got around to making my first crisp. Terrible form on my part, all around. The summer here was mild, accented by warm, sun-drenched afternoons and cool, often breezy nights. As a result, our local fruit was near perfect. The wild blackberries and raspberries were bursting with sugar and packed a satisfying tart-punch. The peaches have been swollen with sweet juice, hidden behind a perfect veil of yellow and red ombre skin. I've been stockpiling fruit every week during my farmers' market trips, and assembling proud, colorful displays of overflowing wooden bowls on our kitchen island, which we dipped into throughout each day. It's been a little bit of a food lover's version of heaven over here.

With fruit so perfect, crisps seem like the obvious choice. Crisps are champions of ripe fruit, supporters of all seed-bearing rounds that fall from trees. Plus, as every half-decent baker knows, they are impossibly simple to make, mimicking the easy going nature of the season. And yet, here we are. But how? 

Maybe the reason is because we've done next to zilch in the entertaining department this summer. Usually, even when we're impossibly busy, summer is a time when we open our door (and our kitchen) to many friends and family to host what feels like an endless revolving door of barbecues, low-key summer dinner parties, and late night booze-fests accented by cured meats and bubbling, fresh-from-the-oven summery sweets.

This summer was a decidedly lazy one. I can't remember a single time that we hosted dinner, instead opting to check into some neighborhood haunts for indulgent, on-the-fly lunch dates, and passing up opportunities to invite friends to our place to enjoy our outdoor space for quiet nights home alone together with a stack of food and travel magazines and a cold bottle of rosé (which I now aptly refer to exclusively as "summer water," in case you were wondering).

A few nights ago, close friends opened their door to us for an end-of-the-season crab boil. Since Jay and I just recently returned from Charleston (more on that trip and the magic that is Pappy Van Winkle bourbon in another post), our fridge is looking a little sad. Luckily, hidden at the back of the bottom shelf were a few leftover nectarines from our road trip cooler, a pint of blueberries that somehow miraculously survived our absence and a depressing, singular stick of butter tucked beside a shriveled  nub of forgotten ginger root.

I modeled this crisp after a recipe post on Food52, which offered a sort of guide for making the perfect crisp. This time around, I added a generous splash of booze and some brown sugar to the fruit before baking, and then allowed it to macerate for a bit, which produced a final crisp made from incredibly soft, bourbon-kissed fruit. When it came time to make the actual crumble, Jay hovered beside me to "encourage" me to properly incorporate the butter and the dry ingredients in such a way to create a perfect, airy, crumbly topper. Although it physically pains me to admit when he is right, he had a few good pointers. In the past, I've often worked the butter into the dry ingredients so much that it has turned almost grainy, kind of like the consistency of clumpy sand. However, it turns out that it is much better to squeeze the ingredients in your palm (as opposed to sort of breaking up the butter into tiny, pea-sized balls) and then breaking the mixture into larger clumps. Also, although crisps are typically celebrated as the lazy man's dessert, it seems I've been too lazy with mine, often breaking apart the butter, giving those pea-sized rounds a good mix in the dry ingredients and calling it a day. This time, I spent a good five or six full minutes squeezing those ingredients, which ultimately (once again, this part pains me) means Jay wins this round: his advice did in fact lead to a much better dessert.

I'll be back in a few days with a recap on our end-of-summer pop-ups, life at the shop, and a boatload of early autumn recipes (as well as those weekly roundups I promised a while back…don't judge). Until then…

Blueberry, Nectarine & Bourbon Crisp

- 1 pint fresh blueberries
- 2-3 ripe, large nectarines (or other stone fruit) sliced into wedges
- 1/4 cup good bourbon
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the fruit, the bourbon and the brown sugar until the fruit is well-coated. Set aside and allow to macerate for at least ten minutes.

In another medium-sized bowl, add the butter, flour, sugar, oats and cinnamon. Squeeze all ingredients through your palms until the mixture is well-incorporated and breaks apart into large pieces (see details in the above post).

Add the fruit and any liquid to the bottom of a cake pan. Add the crumble mixture to the top of the fruit. Do not press the crumble down; instead, generously pile it on top of the fruit until all the fruit is totally covered. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crumble mixture is a nice, golden brown. Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Sweet Little Zucchini Cakes w/ Chocolate Frosting // One Year!!! (weeks 51 & 52)

Did you hear that? That was the sound of all the champagne bottles I’m popping. Okay, maybe not, though it certainly feels like I should.

It’s been one year. One year! One year of stress and sleepless nights, of small celebrations and set backs. One year of new friends, new employees and new worries. In the past year, we’ve been a part of one dozen new pop-up markets around New York, been robbed once, had a (now past) employee try to rip off our recipes twice, have added two entirely new sections to our menu (braised meat mac & cheese or brown rice bowls anyone?), have partnered with one of our favorite dessert companies, have received a handful of bad reviews that helped us to do things better and have been shocked to receive a handful of glowing reviews that have made us realize we are capable of doing things way better than we ever thought we could. We’ve survived the dog days of summer, the doldrums of winter, and all the ups-and-downs in-between. Maybe I really should go open that bottle of champagne after all.

Right now, I feel riddled by clichés; however, they all feel true. Time flies. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. I really don’t know how our first 365 days of operation have unfolded so quickly. In some ways it feels like Jay and I both still have paint and caulking beneath our fingernails from last summer’s renovation. In other ways, it feels impossible to imagine our life together just one year back. What did our life look like before our brick and mortar shop existed? What did we do with our days? What did we possibly talk about other than our shop?

Back in 2011 when we sold our first sandwich at a small, weekends-only pop-up in downtown Brooklyn, we never thought we’d last through the first month. Then, when we spent the next fifteen months operating at pop-ups year-round, we felt we might never have the chance to do more than that. When we signed the lease on our first storefront on NYC’s Second Avenue last spring, we were terrified that we’d never be able to pull ourselves together enough to make the whole thing work out. And then, on August 16th of last year, the day of my 31st birthday, when we opened our doors for real, we were both plagued with anxiety about surviving our first full year.

Last year, the night before my birthday was probably the most unglamorous event of my life. Just short of twelve hours before we were scheduled to open, our dining area was littered with custom tables that still were not assembled; rented tools were spread all across our service bar which, as a result, needed a fresh coat of black paint; our menu sign still rest in the trunk of my mother’s car in New Jersey. I rang in the first few minutes of my 31st year by running a shop vac across our kitchen floor and eating the remains from a bag of gummy candy I left out the day before. Very fancy, I know.

This year, life looks pretty different. For the first time since our shop opened, Jay and I are heading out of town for a few nights (I think some people call this sort of getaway a va-ca-tion. Did I pronounce that right? I can’t be sure). It’s our first big road trip – a thirteen-hour drive south to Charleston – and, naturally, it revolves around food. We’ll be hitting up both of Sean Brock’s restaurants for dinner, and will basically spend the rest of our time searching for the perfect bourbon and taste-testing skillets of cornbread. We both plan to come back at least five pounds heavier.

I’m packing our cooler with all the basic road trip essentials. PB&Js. Stone fruit from a nearby farm. Raw nuts. Granola. And for a taste of something sweet, these little zucchini cakes with chocolate frosting. I know, I know. Chocolate frosting for a road trip? It’s like I’m just asking for a messy t-shirt and sticky hands. However, I figure it’ll be worth the risk to be able to pull over at some scenic southern rest stop, many hours from home, to stretch our legs and enjoy a few sweet bites of these mini end-of-summer cakes to celebrate the fact that together, just one year later, we’ve made it this far. 

Good tidings for now friends. I’ll be back soon.

Sweet Little Zucchini Cakes w/ Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from I Am Baker

For the cake:
-       1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
-       2/3 cup sugar
-       ½ teaspoon vanilla
-       3 egg whites
-       2 cups all-purpose flour
-       2 tablespoons cornstarch
-       3 teaspoons baking powder
-       ¼ teaspoon coarse salt
-       2/3 cup almond milk
-       1 cup shredded zucchini, patted dry

For the frosting:
-       1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
-       ¼ cup cocoa powder
-       2 cups powdered sugar
-       1 teaspoon vanilla
-       2-4 tablespoons almond milk
-       a pinch of coarse salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg whites. Beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds, and then on high for about 2 minutes until the mixture becomes very light and fluffy.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add some of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture. Then add some of the almond milk to the sugar mixture. Continue to alternate until all ingredients are mixed. Mix on low until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the zucchini.

Pour the batter into the muffin tins until they are 2/3 full and bake for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, to make the frosting, add the butter to a clean bowl of an electric mixture and mix for 1 minute until the butter is creamed. Add in the cocoa, sugar, vanilla and salt and mix on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to a low speed and add in the milk, one tablespoon at a time.

Remove the muffin tin from the oven and allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Peach & Raspberry Muffins w/ Cinnamon Honey Crumble // Sticky Fingers (Weeks 49 & 50)

Last week, for the first time in our three years as business owners, we were robbed. When Jay called to tell me that someone -- likely a current or former employee based on our current investigation -- snuck into the shop overnight, stripped our cash register and stole whatever was left behind in the petty cash drawer, I was furious, insulted and hurt. During our tenure at our shop, we've always done our best to make it not only a comfortable space for our customers, but also a comfortable space for our staff. We pay livable wages. We offer free food during shifts. We allow our employees to express their individual personalities by wearing whatever street clothes make them feel best. When our company takes part in big events, such as summer concerts and festivals, we hand out hundreds of dollars worth of free tickets so that our crew can enjoy a few fun nights out with their friends. We permit cell phone use and smoke breaks and rarely get pissed if someone shows up to a shift fifteen minutes late or needs a last minute day off. We dole out advances when our employees are faced with difficult times. We provide cash bonuses at the close of crazy pop-up markets or seasons as a thank you for a job well-done. We use mistakes as teachable moments and allow our crew's input about cool new menu ideas. We usually just laugh when our twenty-two year old counter workers show up still reeking of last night's booze. Overall, I think our philosophy is and always has been this: We get it. We've been there. We might own this place, but we're still humans too (albeit mildly dysfunctional ones from time to time). 

So when I learned that someone who recently was or still is a part of our team violated us, it felt like the ultimate slap in the face. Was this person that desperate for some extra cash, and if so, why didn't he just ask us for a little something to help float him until the next pay date? Was this person in trouble and at a horrible low point and, if so, were we that blind as bosses to identify such a problem? Was this person out to prove something -- to himself or to his friends maybe -- or out to stick it to us (i.e.: did we, as shop owners, somehow become "the man" and, therefore, someone worth "sticking it" to)? Although my brain kept reminding me to be angry about the missing money, I found myself growing more and more pissed about the fact that 1) someone we trusted and believed in turned his back on us and violated our sense of trust, 2) someone felt we sucked that much as bosses that he didn't feel comfortable coming to us and simply asking for whatever he needed so desperately, and 3) some current or former employee thought we were dumb enough not to notice our shop's cash flow, which infuriated me most of all.

Immediately following this unfortunate "sticky fingers" incident, Jay made phone calls to several of our friends who also own small NYC restaurants, pop-ups, food wholesale businesses and the like. It turned out we weren't the only ones who ever dealt with a greedy employee. In fact, the majority of people we spoke with admitted that they discovered employees skimming a bit of extra cash off the top of the stack within their first year of operation. Sad news, though I think it made us feel slightly better that we weren't the only foolish shop owners who have ever been "had."

Now that we are just a week shy of our shop's one year anniversary, we've learned a lot. For one, we've learned how hard it really is to be the boss. As our business grows, we can't be physically present in the shop nearly as much as we were present at the start of things. If our business is going to grow, then as owners we need to step away from the shop to take part in meetings, to spend time scouting out new markets and new spots for additional locations and doing a whole lot of not-fun business stuff that far exceeds whipping up new condiments in our kitchen. In our absence, we need to trust that the staff we've trained will prepare our recipes just so, that they will show up when they're supposed to show up and that they will complete all their daily tasks before they leave. We also need to trust that they won't rob us during the times when we need to step away.

In addition to stepping away from the shop for meetings and all that fancy business stuff, we've also periodically stepped away from the shop this summer to have, well, a life. Trust me, it's been a pretty hard thing to do. I imagine it is what a young mother feels like the first time she leaves her child in the hands of another caretaker. Terrifying, yet necessary for one's own mental health.

At the start of this summer, when our employee roster grew to fifteen, we knew we needed to begin to occasionally step away. Although during most of the year, weekends at the shop can be kind of insane, New York City tends to clear out on summer weekends, and so we figured we'd take baby steps and use these quiet periods as times for us to begin to step away. For the past month, we've been heading to the shop on Saturday mornings to drop off food and make sure things are running smoothly, then scooting down to the Lower East Side for lunch (I really ought to tell you more about our recent lunch at Momofuku, but more on that in another post), briefly popping our heads back into the shop to take care of any minor disasters (they always -- ALWAYS -- pop up) and then leaving to enjoy the rest of our weekend, our full confidence left in our staff.

On Sundays, we've been waking up early and spending a good hour or so foraging for wild berries near our home. Once we collect one or two quart containers filled with wild blackberries, raspberries and wineberries, we head to our favorite farmers' market and buy all our produce and bread for the week. Then we come home, lounge around on the couches, bake a little treat using the fresh berries, prepare a proper Sunday supper and then sit outside to eat and drink in the warm night breeze. It's been kind of a dream...

Although I've enjoyed all our Sundays spent together, I'm wondering if perhaps some of our temporary seasonal staff members (i.e.: those staff members who, in reality, we've only known a few weeks and who therefore do not know us or our business practices very well) misinterpreted our time away. Maybe they thought we were crappy business owners for not sweating it out in our kitchen twenty-four hours a day. Maybe they thought we were stupid and didn't pay attention to our sales. If only they knew that, even on those days spent outside of the shop, we are never really away. In between all those peaceful moments, we're constantly touching base with our managers, calling different purveyors, our fingers constantly tapping our cell phone screens so we can access the many apps that keep us up-to-date with shop sales, deliveries, catering concerns, payroll, schedules, invoices and spreadsheets.

These Peach & Raspberry muffins are one such treat I've made on a recent quiet weekend. The recipe calls for a generous amount of fruit, meaning that every bite of these muffins includes a taste of sweet, ripe peaches and tart berries, as well as a satisfying cinnamon and honey crumble. Plus, instead of oil, this recipe relies on Greek yogurt, which turns out an incredibly moist muffin that seems completely acceptable for breakfast. Likewise, I've also discovered that is it one hundred percent acceptable to face a half dozen of them while testing out infrared security cameras (say "cheese"!).

Although it is already August, a few weeks worth of summer Sundays still remain, as do several weeks worth of high summer produce. I hope you get to enjoy it all.

Peach & Raspberry Muffins w/ Cinnamon Honey Crumble

For the muffins:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 2-3 large ripe peaches (or any stone fruit), diced
- 1 cup ripe raspberries (or any berries)

For the crumble:
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
- 2 tablespoons golden honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tins. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and set aside to cool. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg. Add the sugar and the vanilla and continue to whisk until thick and creamy. Add the almond milk, butter and yogurt and stir to combine. Combine the egg mixture and the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Fold in the fruit and set aside. To make the crumble, add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix by hand until a crumble begins to form. 

Pour the batter into the muffin tins until they are about 3/4 full. Top each muffin with a generous amount of the crumble. Bake the muffins for 35-40 minutes, or until the muffin and the crumble are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of each muffin comes out clean.  

Pickled Blueberries w/ Rosemary Sprigs // Phish at Randall's Island (Weeks 47 & 48)

Our farmers' market is pretty much giving away blueberries. Last week, I popped by to pick up some greens for dinner and happened upon the deal of the summer: six pints of locally grown berries for three bucks. Naturally, I bought twelve. The problem, however, was not that I bought a dozen pints of fresh berries. The problem was that I foolishly did so just one day before we headed out of town.

Okay, so we weren't exactly out of town. Rather, we headed out early Friday morning to pack up all our food and equipment at the shop and then zipped it over to Randall's Island, where we were scheduled to serve as food vendors at Phish's three-day show.

I've fallen in love a bit with both Governor's and Randall's Islands this summer -- two tiny specks of land that float just off the coast of Manhattan. Although they're both just a five-minute ferry ride from the city (and are still technically a part of the city), they feel like a reprieve. There is a ton of green space (almost all green space, come to think of it), sweeping views of the East River and the city's skyline just across the water, and perhaps the best part: with the exception of food vendors and emergency vehicles, cars are not permitted on either island. Umm…bliss.

The concert itself felt like such a treat. In college, I was a pretty serious Phish fan. Throughout the school year I'd save all my money from my work study gig so that in the summer I could pack up my Jeep with friends and tents and cases of beer and hit the road to go watch them play up and down the East coast. It was such a carefree time. None of us were worried yet about careers or paying bills or starting families or any of that grown-up stuff that bogs us all down today. The only thing we cared about was getting drunk and listening to music and falling asleep under the stars next to cute tie-dye clad boys. 

On Friday morning, after our crew set up our pop-up booth, I had an opportunity to hang out in front of the stage and listen to Phish warm up during their soundcheck. It felt like a private show. As a stood alone, listening to all the familiar chords, it brought back so many memories and made me feel (just for an instant) like I was that free and easy twenty-one year old girl again for a brief sliver of time. 

When I returned to our booth, all smiles and nostalgia, Jay just kind of shook his head and then reminded me that I was no longer "on tour" with the band. There was work to be done, he reminded me, and then handed me a box of bread and a knife. 

Each night of the weekend, as Phish took the stage and our line of customers slowed down until after the show, Jay and I lingered just outside of our booth to listen to the band play and to engage in a little harmless people watching. There was a lot of inebriated dancing, to say the least. It was funny to watch all those college kids in their teensy belly shirts and their flower crowns moving and shaking and smiling and drinking like it was the very best night of their lives. Who knows? Maybe for some of them, it was. 

For us, it was just another night of work (but with a much better musical backdrop). On Friday and Saturday, we were all sort of revved up by the energy of the band and the crowd. But after three days of waking up early and heading back to the shop to clean up until very late at night, by Sunday I felt completely wiped. During Phish's second set, I was sort of over my own nostalgia and was instead starting to get annoyed by the humidity and the constant smell of cigarettes and the gross port-a-potty situation and the slew of drunk kids who kept returning to our booth to beg for free food. While Jay and our staff started to clean up, I snuck off to a quiet, secure spot behind the booth, situated myself on a large rock at the water's edge and cracked open a beer. Nearby, a few other food vendors huddled on the rocks to sneak a joint, but I didn't mind. I had a clear view of the illuminated NYC skyline and the gentle currents of the East River that lapped against the shore. It was my own private space to sit and sip my beer and quietly listen while Phish performed their final song. While I still love Phish's music, I'm no longer that carefree girl I was way back when. After all, we still had a long night of work ahead of us back at the shop after the show. 

Monday morning, I returned home to discover a dozen pints of on-the-way out blueberries. Pretty poor planning on my part, but I had only myself to blame. Some of the berries were whipped into muffin batter. Some made their way into a summery crisp. About a pints-worth was eaten fresh while I mopped the kitchen floor. As for the rest of them? Well, they found their final fate inside a Mason jar. 

The rosemary-infused brine for these quick-pickled blueberries is as easy as, well (wait for it), pie. You should note that the recipe calls for a fair amount of sugar. However, if your berries are particularly sweet, you can certainly scale the sugar back to your liking. The final result is a jar full of very sweet, pleasantly tart, plump little berries, which you can enjoy on salads, serve alongside cheese spreads, scoop onto some seasonal crostini or use as a substitute for fresh berries in your favorite summer desserts. Enjoy, friends. 

Pickled Blueberries w/ Rosemary

- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3-4 springs fresh rosemary
- 1 pint fresh blueberries

Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns and rosemary to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse the blueberries and add them to a clean glass jar. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to slightly cool, about five minutes. Pour the brine over the blueberries, being sure to cover the fruit entirely. Allow to cool to room temperature. When kept covered and stored in the refrigerator, the blueberries will keep will for about 1 week. 

Herby French Potato Salad w/ Thai Basil & Garlic Scapes // The Art of Doing Nothing (Week 45 & 46)

Last summer, our lives were preoccupied with goals and to-do lists. Exactly one year ago this week, we were one month away from opening our sandwich shop, and we were surviving on too many iced coffees and take-out salads from a bad chain restaurant up the street. No matter how much of our renovation to-do list we tackled every day, by the time we finally made it to our bed we both felt like we'd accomplished nothing at all. There was so much to do -- ALWAYS -- and no time to slow down and enjoy the simple things that you are supposed to enjoy throughout the summer season.

My goal for this season was to do the exact opposite of what I did last summer. That is to say, my goal has been to avoid having a to-do list or annoying reminder messages constantly popping-up on my phone. I just want to enjoy the simplicity of the season: the beauty of a long, quiet morning spent outside reading a book, the pleasure of a guilt-free afternoon at the beach, an afternoon browsing the farmers' market and then stockpiling the freezer with homemade sorbets and popsicles just because…

So I've been doing a lot of that recently, which you already know if you follow me on Instagram (I can't help it…there is no end to my beach pics!). I think that in business, as in all areas of life, it is really important to allow yourself permission to step away now and again. Back in the spring, during a particularly stressful period, Jay and I spent some time talking about just this. We were out to dinner at our favorite Afghan restaurant, and despite the amazing rose-scented rice, candied orange peels and pistachio encrusted meats in front of us, we found ourselves going on and on (and on) about the shop. One of us, I don't remember which, put an end to the conversation and basically said, "This is insane. We're out for a nice dinner, the shop is okay, and we're still here droning on about it and worrying about it when it is totally fine. We need to mentally step away."

That week, we picked up a new meditation CD to listen to in our bedroom in the evenings and we made a rule: from that point forward, unless something catastrophic was about to go down, we were no longer allowed to talk about the shop when out to eat. Or out for drinks. Or out with friends. Or out generally doing something together that qualifies as "enjoying life." It's a good rule, one we admittedly break from time to time. However, I think the most important thing comes from the general root of the rule: the idea that we've granted ourselves permission to periodically step away, to mentally check out and to just enjoy life like a normal, non business-owning couple.

I've permitted myself a similar sense of "mental check out" for this summer. Originally, I had big plans to pump out a ton of freelance work, to get a head start on a bunch of new projects for the shop, and to do about a million and a half things around our apartment. However, instead, I've decided to put it all on hold until after Labor Day. I've given myself permission to spend the fleeting summer season reading books and drinking wine in the daytime and spending as many days as possible in the sun without allowing myself to feel an ounce of guilt. And I have to say, it's been pretty great.

Last week, I woke up on a Saturday morning and realized I had nothing -- glorious NOTHING -- to do. Ahh. Ma. Zing. Rather than call up friends or family and lock myself into time slots and plans, I decided to spend the day alone. I walked downtown to pick up a coffee and sat on a bench to leisurely drink it beneath the morning sun (such a rare treat). I popped by the farmers' market, had a long talk with the woman working at my favorite stand, and then filled my tote bag with an absurd amount of new potatoes and garlic scapes. And then I headed home to an empty house to do whatever I wanted for the rest of the afternoon.

Potato salad is not the type of thing one makes for oneself. That is, typically, one makes potato salad for an event, a gathering, perhaps a summer picnic or a casual dinner with friends. And yet, my tote full of new potatoes looked so lovely that I simply could not resist. I'm not a fan of mayo-based potato salads (or really, mayo-based anything); however, I love the tangy flavor of a mustard-based salad. If you maintain a summer herb garden, this is a great recipe to help you clear out some of your overgrown stash, since you can toss nearly any combination of fresh herbs into the mix -- it's pretty hard to go wrong in fact. This time around, I mixed in a heaping handful of Thai basil leaves, which added a sweet, mildly licorice flavor that worked wonderfully with the subtle garlic notes from the sautéed scapes. You can absolutely make this recipe sans lentils; however, the added protein made me feel a bit more like I was eating a proper lunch and less like I was a girl…alone…eating a giant bowl of potato salad for one.  

Herby French Potato Salad w/ Thai Basil & Garlic Scapes

- 1/2 pound new potatoes
- 1/2 pound red potatoes
- 2/3 cup olive oil, plus one tablespoon
- 1 bunch garlic scapes, roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup Thai basil, roughly chopped
- 4-5 thyme stems, leaves removed and lightly chopped
- 1/2 cup cooked brown lentils
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Add the potatoes to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic scapes and sauté for about 5-8 minutes, or until the scapes are tender and gently charred. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool to the point where they are still very warm but you can comfortably handle them. Slice the potatoes into quarters and add to a medium-sized bowl. Pour the stock into the bowl and gently toss.

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt and the remaining oil in order to make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes and gently toss. Add the onion, basil, Thai basil, thyme and lentils. Add the cooled garlic scapes and any remaining oil from the pan. Add the freshly cracked black pepper. Gently mix all ingredients to incorporate.

Simple Iced Mint & Green Tea // Planting Our Roots (Week 44)

I spent this morning pruning our garden, something I should have done two weeks ago but just got around to today. Even though I've neglected it, miraculously, it has continued to thrive. Our arugula has transformed into a wild bush accented by delicate pastel flowers. Our basil plants are a gorgeous, healthy green -- a true accomplishment since most years mine tend to yellow by mid-summer. Our Thai basil plants are nearly a foot high, and are total garden show-offs, what with all those deep, high-reaching plum-colored flowers and tie-dyed looking leaves.

For most of my adult life, I've created a home garden that consists entirely of fleeting annuals. However, the summer we were married I made a deal with myself to experiment with the perennial game. At the end of that summer (and at the end of each summer since) I've planted at least one edible perennial in the hopes that our harsh winters would not kill them and that they'd return with vigor the following season.

At the time that I began this tradition, I was still high on wedding bliss, so the idea felt very poetic: I would literally plant some roots all along the perimeter of our home, which I would then tend to over the years and which would physically nourish us each summer season.

Though I haven't had luck with everything, both my peppermint and my lemon balm plants have found the beauty in my original gesture, and have returned each season as bigger, bushier versions of their former selves. Because of this, I force way too much mint onto our plates throughout the season. It makes a guest appearance in everything, from salads and spring rolls to creative pestos and galettes and once (in a brutally failed attempt) into a simmering pot of otherwise perfectly decent tomato sauce (I've made up for that minor disaster by becoming a bit of a self-proclaimed master of homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream).

Luckily, we (and our cholesterol) have been saved by a collection of pretty green Spanish glass pitchers. Anyone who comes to our home regularly knows that one of these pitchers pretty much always hangs out on the corner of our butcher block island, tempting guests with something refreshing to drink. Some days, it is an easy, fruit-infused water. Other days, it is a fresh-squeezed juice or lemonade. This summer, the drink-of-choice has been a foolishly simple Iced Mint and Green Tea. Though you can certainly add more green tea to suit your tastes, I prefer to keep it subtle so that the fresh mint takes center stage (side note: though I regularly make this recipe with peppermint leaves, any minty leaves work fine, as do lemon balm leaves). Though this feels too easy to really serve as a suitable recipe (simply bruise the leaves, add some piping hot water, dip in some green tea bags and finish her off with a spoonful of honey), it is the perfect cool drink to stir up on warm summer days.

P.S.: if you're so inclined, please feel free to drop by Eat Boutique -- I recently wrote a two-part series for them about owning a small food business titled "Owning a NYC Food Business is Grand, and Other Lies Pinterest Told Me."

Simple Iced Mint & Green Tea

- 1 cup fresh mint leaves, thoroughly rinsed
- 6 cups near boiling water
- 2 green tea bags
- 2 tablespoons honey

In a small bowl, muddle the mint leaves to release their oils. In a medium-sized pot, add the muddled leaves and the near boiling water. When the leaves are submerged in the water, carefully muddle them for another minute or so, being careful not to splash the hot water. Steep for 8 minutes. Add the tea bags to the mixture and steep for an additional 2 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a medium-sized pitcher with ice cubes and set aside. At the end of the 2 minutes, promptly remove the tea bags to avoid a bitter flavor. Using a fine mesh sieve to ensure that no leaves end up in the tea, pour the liquid into the pitcher. Add the honey and stir. Allow the tea to cool to room temperature before serving. When kept covered and refrigerated, the tea will keep well for about 3-4 days.

Tomato & Peach Salad // Summer Nights (Week 43)

Every now and again, the shop allows us to do some really amazing things. Because of the shop, we’ve been invited to seriously cool events around the city that we otherwise would have zero access to. We’ve been afforded the chance to meet a whole slew of talented chefs, artists, editors and other individuals who otherwise likely never would have crossed our paths. A few weekends back, we were granted access to another of these opportunities, right at the start of the summer. Though exhausting, it proved to be the perfect way to begin the season.

If you’ve ever watched a (bad) chick flick about Manhattan, then you’re familiar with the scene: two young, very attractive lovers set sail on a picturesque ferry ride, the scenic New York City skyline standing tall just behind them as they travel to, well, who knows where? Likely, they’re onboard a ferry heading toward one of the small islands that speckle the waters just beyond Manhattan’s shoreline.

In early June, Jay and I and our crew headed to one such island – Randall’s Island – to serve as food vendors for a popular three-day music festival known as the Governor’s Ball.

Going into the event, we anticipated that it would be one of our two most hectic weekends of the summer season. In addition to the festival, we would also have to make sure things were set and ready to go at our shop, as well as at several other pop-up markets we’d have in operation around the city. If we were still twenty-one, I have no doubt that Jay and I would have spent all our hard earned dollars to attend the festival. However, at thirty-two, it just seemed like it was going to be loooong: in total, the festival would ultimately require our team’s attention for more than eighteen-hours per day for three days straight. In short, Jay and I would need to be up at 3:30 a.m. on Friday, work until 2:00 a.m., be up again at 6:00 a.m. and then repeat the whole schedule for the next two days.

But despite this knowledge, at the time of our (very early) wake up call on Friday, we were in great spirits. Sure, we would need to work at the festival, but our booth would also be situated in between two stages, meaning we could comfortably perch beneath our shaded awning, surrounded by food and coolers filled with cold water, while we listened to the bands. It would be busy, but it would also be fun, right?

However, it was on Saturday morning, while I lugged a wobbly hand truck stacked with cases of those soon-to-be-ice-cold bottles of water and ten-pound bags of ice up a muddy hill, weaving it between scantily-clad college kids and balancing my phone on my shoulder while Jay freaked out about a missing menu sign that the whole thing sort of lost its appeal. I was hot. I was sweaty. I was sleep deprived. Jay already had a giant bruise on his face after a mishap unloading our van, and neither of us had yet to have a bite to eat. I just knew that hidden somewhere in the crowds of young concertgoers some manifestation of my twenty-one year old self was surely six beers deep, dancing on one of the vast lawns and shaking her head in disappointment. Sigh…

After three super intense days, by about seven o’clock on Sunday night, things slowly began to wind down. When I finally sat down to catch my breath for a moment, it occurred to me that, during the last three days, I’d had hardly anything to eat save for a few bottles of water, a piece of fruit, and one bowl of very good sticky rice.

While I’m known for always having a pretty serious appetite, after three days of working in the hot sun, despite my hunger, all I wanted was a few bites of something cool and fresh. This Tomato and Peach Salad, which we served at the festival in addition to our slow braised meat sandwiches, completely revived me. I’m from the school of thought that a ripe tomato can pretty much serve as a meal (I have a tendency to consume them like apples after plucking them fresh from the vine in the summer), and after a long, hot weekend, a bowl of meaty tomatoes paired with oh-so-familiar fresh basil leaves felt like the perfect source of nourishment. However, the unexpected addition of super sweet, sugary slices of stone fruit cooled my whole body down and gave me the energy to muster up a short-lived second wind. After eating a giant bowl of this crazy easy-to-make summer salad and downing about a half dozen bottles of water, Jay and I decided to ditch our booth for a bit so we could go enjoy a few beers together and check out one of our favorite bands, Vampire Weekend. While we were both exhausted, our bodies sore from being on our feet, as we stood on the outskirts of the crowd down near the front of the stage, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied. Before us, swarms of college kids guzzled beers and twirled one another in the warm early summer night air, a sprawling view of the illuminated New York City skyline just above their heads. Though the weekend was long and we both craved the comfort of our bed, for a fleeting moment, as I finished my beer and listened as the band sang their familiar lyrics, my husband standing beside me, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate we were to be there.

Tomato & Peach Salad 

- 4-5 large, ripe tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3-4 large, ripe peaches
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Throughly rinse the tomatoes, peaches and basil. Dice tomatoes and add to a large bowl. Pour the salt onto the diced tomatoes and give them a good mix. Allow the tomatoes to sit, uncovered, for about ten minutes, or until their juices begin to fill the bottom of the bowl. Next, dice the peaches and add them to the bowl. Thinly slice or chiffonade the basil leaves, add them to the fruit mixture, and throughly mix the salad. Add more salt to taste. The salad can be eaten immediately, though when covered and stored in the fridge, it tastes even better the next day. 

Strawberry Preserves Sorbet & Oat Ginger Crisps // A Birthday Treat (Weeks 41 & 42)

Tomorrow is Jay's birthday. He'll be thirty two. Thirty feels like a big deal in the birthday department, as does thirty five, though thirty two just sort of comfortably hovers between these two milestones. Thirty two feels like an age when we're still close enough to our twenties to occasionally make ill decisions, yet close enough to mid-life that we know we need to keep them far and few between.

Although Jay and I are both suckers for traditions and holidays and the like, neither of us are big birthday people. You know the type. Those people who spend multiple weekends celebrating their birthdays with a million groups of friends, the type who purchase special outfits to wear on their special day and who expect a million gifts in celebration of the fact that they've made it another year. Around here, birthdays usually begin with a card and a thoughtfully written note. At some point during the day, we'll share a special meal and a few rounds of drinks. Some years there will be gifts; others there will not (there is really no rhyme or reason to this decision to tell you the truth…). The only real constant is that, every year, each of our birthdays always includes a special dessert.

Although I might not be able to tell you every gift Jay has ever purchased me for my birthday (or vice versa), I feel strongly that I could tell you every dessert we've shared on one another's special days. We still reminisce about Jay's twenty fifth birthday -- the first we spent together -- when we walked through Times Square late one humid June night after attending a comedy show and rushed the first Mister Softee truck we could find, vanilla and chocolate swirls dripping down our hands as we stood on a curb and devoured them. I guess the tradition started there and hasn't really stopped since.

Last year, we opened the shop on my thirty first birthday. Although Jay and I keep birthdays simple, we always do something to recognize them so that the day does not simply pass us by. But last year, it was the very first time in my life when I honestly forgot my own birthday. For the days leading up to it, we were so painfully overwhelmed with last minute tasks and to-do lists to get our doors open on time that the thought of a birthday was quite literally the furthest thing from either of our minds.

The night before we opened was one of the longest nights of my life. At 11:30 p.m., we realized we did not have the right hardware to install one of our dining counters, none of the custom made table tops were connected to their bases, boxes of trash were still all over the dining area, our electricity was inexplicably not working on one whole side of the shop and our large menu sign was still in the back of my mother's car in New Jersey. At exactly 12:01 a.m., the first official minute of my birthday, I was in the back of the kitchen running a shop-vac across every surface and periodically pausing to rub a copper scrubber across the tile floor. It was very glamourous.

I don't know what made Jay look at the clock at that precise moment, but for whatever reason he did. Before I even realized he left the shop, he was back inside of it and standing at our recently painted service counter, a defeated look spread across his face. "I'm so sorry," he said. "With everything going on, I just completely forgot. This was the best I could do on such short notice." In front of him rest a double chocolate muffin and a pint of Haagen Dazs ice cream purchased from the bodega next door, each dessert adorned with a thin pastel birthday candle. I turned off the shop-vac and moved toward the service counter in silence. "It's my birthday, isn't it?" I asked, stunned that I had completely forgotten the date. We both had a lot to wish for at that moment, though when I blew out the two candles I was so physically tired I think I simply wished for sleep. When the candles were extinguished, we devoured the ice cream and the muffin, which ended up being the only things we ate until nearly twenty-four hours later, after we closed the doors to the shop at the end of her very first day.

This year, we both have a bit more clarity. Though we don't have anything special planned for tomorrow -- likely just work, a quiet dinner and then maybe a few drinks with family or friends -- what we do have, as always, is dessert. Jay's favorite summer dessert is fruity sorbet. We've experimented making sorbets a lot together over the years, though we rarely follow a recipe. Usually, we just blend some fruit, a bit of citrus, and a splash of whatever alcohol we happen to have on hand. However, this Strawberry Preserves Sorbet has completely made me rethink the way we make sorbet at home. The recipe is simple -- blend berries, ginger, and water, then freeze -- though the addition of fruit preserves (as opposed to sugar) creates a smooth and creamy sorbet packed with serious berry flavor. To accompany it, I've also made a small batch of super thin, incredibly crispy ginger and oat cookies, which are surprisingly easy to make (and no mixer required!). While I plan to nestle them into giant scoops of sorbet, they'd also serve as perfect vehicles for simple, strawberry sorbet sandwiches. I hope you'll like them, and I hope the birthday boy will too. Here's to another year!

Strawberry Preserves Sorbet & Oat Ginger Crisps
from Food 52 and Green Kitchen Stories, respectively

Strawberry Preserves Sorbet

- 4 cups strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
- 1/4 cup apricot preserves
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 heaping teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 cup ice cubes

Add the berries, the salt and the preserves to a blender or a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add the lemon juice, the lemon zest, the ginger and the water and blend until all ingredients are incorporated. Add the ice cubes and blend until the ice is broken up and no large pieces remain in the puree. Add the puree to an ice cream maker and mix for 2-3 hours, or until the sorbet becomes thick and creamy.

Oat Ginger Crisps

- 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons almond milk
- 2/3 cup rolled oats
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together all ingredients in a medium sized bowl (you can use an electric mixer, though I prefer to use a wooden spoon for this recipe). When mixed, it will look like you have very little dough -- do not worry. This is right.

Shape the dough into small rounds (you should end up with 10-12 rounds total) and drop onto a baking sheet. Using your fingers, flatten out the rounds until they become very thin. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are a nice, golden brown (the centers will still be soft, though this is okay, as they will continue to crisp up as they cool down). Store in an airtight container for 1-2 days.

Everything Baguettes // Creative Thinking (Weeks 39 & 40)

I don't know what it is about the creative process, but from my experience fresh and imaginative ideas seem to arise from one of two situations: moments when one is deeply relaxed and removed from her usual surroundings (like an afternoon spent drifting down the stone streets of a small Provencal village while eating a lavender gelato, which is exactly when the idea for this little blog first came to me); or moments when one is so rushed and wild that she hardly has a second to grab a cup of coffee let alone come up with some new innovative measure. When placed in either of these situations, for me at least, I don't need to think too much or too hard. Somehow, my subconscious mind just sort of takes over and, before I know it, creative ideas are ripe for the picking. 

While we are certainly a long way from the quiet French countryside, we are about a month into our pop-up season which makes up for what it lacks in fresh herbal gelato with, well, anxiety. Despite that, our wheels have been turning in a way that they haven't proverbially turned in a very long time. Each of us has come home recently with pockets filled with stray paper scraps containing half thought up recipes or seemingly unconnected words or phrases that hint toward new directions to take our brand. It's exciting in a way, and sort of crazy to think that, during a period when we have no real time to think, these ideas just sort of slip slide their way into our thoughts.


In the midst of all this creativity, the chef and I, without really realizing it, sort of weirdly dreamed up the idea for these Everything Baguettes in tandem. I haven't baked up a good bread in a while now, and so I've been daydreaming about all things yeast. Then, last week, I finally had the opportunity to stop and have breakfast at the new Black Seed bagel shop -- a warm, rustic little place with some of the most delicious Everything Bagels I've had in a very long time (I highly recommend a visit if you are in New York). Following this trip, the chef, kind of out of nowhere, announced that he'd been fantasizing about creating a few small batch breads -- something like an "everything loaf" -- that we can use for sandwiches at the shop. And hence, our wheels began turning, our oven began warming, and our kitchen island very quickly became covered in a veil of flour, yeast and poppy seeds. It seems we were meant to be married after all. 

These Everything Baguettes are, in a word, awesome. Thanks to a slow and very fancy steaming process (i.e.: tossing a few handfuls of ice cubes in your very hot apartment-sized oven) the loafs maintain a perfect, crisp golden exterior and a light, airy interior. But if we're being real, they're pretty much just a vehicle for consuming a generous crust of everything seasoning, which is perfectly fine by me. Enjoy. 

Everything Baguettes
adapted from Saveur

- 1 1/2 cups tap water, heated to 115 degrees
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3 1/4 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt, plus 1 1/2 teaspoon
- canola oil (for greasing bowl)
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons dried garlic flakes
- 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
- 1 egg
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup ice cubes
Whisk together the water and the yeast in a large bowl. Allow to sit until the yeast is foamy and begins to smell like yeast/bread, about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons salt, the poppy seeds, the sesame seeds, the dried garlic flakes and the dried onion flakes. Set aside. 

Add flour to the yeast and stir with a fork until all flour is absorbed and a dough forms. Allow dough to sit, about 20 minutes. Add the remaining salt to the dough, gently pressing it into the dough. Add about half of the "everything" seasoning to the dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until elastic, about 10 minutes. The dough will be quite sticky; when needed, add more flour to the work surface and to your hands in order to knead more efficiently. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a cold oven in order to allow the dough to double in size, about 45 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Shape the dough into an 8"x6" rectangle. Fold the 8" side toward the middle of the rectangle, then fold the shorter sides toward the center. Return the dough, seam side down, to the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and return to oven until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Remove the bowl from the oven. Place a clean cast iron skillet on the bottom rack of the oven. Position another rack above the skillet and place a baking stone on it. Heat oven to 475 degrees.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and cut into three equal pieces. Shape each piece into a 14" rope. Flour a sheet of parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. Place the dough ropes, evenly spaced, onto the floured paper. Lift and gently crease the paper in between each rope in order to form pleats. Place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under the long edges of the paper in order to create support for the loaves. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to sit until the dough doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap and the towels and flatten the creases on the parchment paper in order to space out the loaves. Using a sharp paring knife, slash the top of each baguette at 30-degree angles in four spots, being cautious to slash (and not tear) the dough. Add a light egg wash to the top of each baguette and generously sprinkle the remaining "everything" seasoning on the top of each loaf. Slide the parchment paper (with the dough still evenly spaced on top of it) onto the baking stone. Place the ice cubes in the skillet and close the oven door in order to allow steam to immediately form. Very carefully (to avoid steam burns) open the oven door approximately every 10 minutes in order to add more ice cubes (there should always be steam in the oven to avoid the loaves burning). Bake for a total of 30 minutes.

Pickled Radishes w/ Black Peppercorns // You're In It (Weeks 37 & 38)

Back in college, an old friend had a habit of saying "oh, you're in it" whenever she encountered someone deep in thought. In those days, she usually dropped the line in reference to a term paper crunch period or a late night cry session over a failed date. In other words: very deep stuff.  Since then, I've occasionally borrowed her line and claimed it as my own (even though I'm fairly certain she stole it from a Zach Braff movie). As I sit here typing this, nearly two weeks into our summer pop-up market season, somewhat absentmindedly plucking pickled radishes from a mason jar and thinking of something brilliant to write, all I can say is this. We. Are. In. It. We're in it. And here's the kicker: it all feels kind of awesome, and comfortably old and familiar, like meeting back up with an old friend. 

Back before we opened our brick and mortar shop, the summer season was basically the season. It was our busiest period of the year, a period when we could take part in as many pop-up markets as humanly possible in order to get our name and our food out there, even when it meant doing ridiculous things in order to magically make ourselves appear in multiple locations at once. (This was back before we could afford payroll and employees, and so, in our best grassroots efforts somehow managed to do everything ourselves.) As a result, summer has often left us feeling a bit like vagabonds as we wander from pop-up event to pop-up event, essentially touring the city with boxes of bread in tow.  

If you've read any recent posts here, then you'll know that in the last month or so I've talked a lot about our fears and apprehensions about this summer season: the first season when we will operate not only a full roster of pop-up markets, but also our brick and mortar shop (and the many side projects that have spawned from that little venture). We've been terrified about having enough staff, and making sure we foster a sense of balance so that neither the shop nor the pop-ups suffer this season in order for the other to succeed. We've been equally terrified about weather, which can make or break an outdoor market (luckily, the gods have blessed us with plenty of sunshine and even a few 80+ degree days). But now that we're here -- now that we're in it -- many of those worries have already begun to slip away. 

When you're really in it, you sort of lose the ability to worry. Your brain switches into a form of auto pilot and you just kind of go. You fall into a certain rhythm and find the cadence that makes it all work. Poof. Just like that. I don't know how else to explain it really. And for the most part, it's all been running smoothly. With the exception of one back injury (which now seems about healed) and one epic argument over a new fruit-based mustard recipe, we've been sleeping well at night, and have been coherent enough to remember to exchange a kiss in the morning. And although to outsiders we likely still resemble gypsies, for us, we're right back where we belong: smack dab in the craziness of what has become our new normal these last few years.

Part of our new normal is embracing time together whenever our business allows, which is usually very early in the mornings or very late in the evenings. So last weekend, as the market traffic began to die down and we began to close up shop for the night, the chef suggested a late night meal. We headed next door to Eataly, which, lucky for us sits directly beside one of our markets and, as a result, tends to serve as our go-to place for a quick espresso or beer this time of year. We navigated our way through the crowded corridors framed by glass cases filled with perfectly glazed desserts and a vast monochrome display of various cheeses. As usual, I quickly stopped off in the produce wing to peruse the offerings. Thickly woven baskets overflowed with globes of bright peridot kohlrabi, tiny dried strawberries speckled with earth-colored seeds, and mushroom caps the size of my palm twisted into organically-shaped curves and deep waves. But what caught my attention on this particular visit were the many varieties of radishes: thick white daikons, unassuming watermelon radishes, their secret neon interiors hidden beneath their deceptive green skin, slender earth-colored radishes no bigger than my fingers. 

Before I had the opportunity to fill my bag with fava beans and fiddleheads, we found ourselves seated on the rooftop. Soon, our table was filled with platters of salty salumi, thick links of house made probusto, bowls of perfectly fried shiitakes and several empty glasses that contained only a few remaining drops of rosé. After our meal, we walked back past the market on our way home. Compared to just a few hours earlier, it was a different scene. All of the vendor booths were closed, their nylon sidewalls rolled down for the night. The walkways, normally crowded with customers, were empty and quiet. All the strings of white globe lights that hung overhead were clicked off for the night. As the market faded from our view, I couldn't help but think that, for now at least, another day was behind us. And soon, another season will be too.  

Pickled Radishes w/ Black Peppercorns

- 1 large bunch of radishes
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Thoroughly rinse the radishes and their leaves. Remove the leaves and store them for later use. Trim the ends from the radishes and set aside.

Add all remaining ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, tightly pack the trimmed radishes into a glass jar and set aside (depending on the size of the radishes, you may need to use two glass jars). Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the brine to cool slightly, about one to two minutes. Pour the brine into the glass jar, being sure to cover the radishes completely. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Seal the jar with a tight fitting lid. When kept covered and chilled, the pickled radishes will keep well for 1-2 weeks.

Roasted Beet and Horseradish Creme // In the Thick of It (Weeks 35 & 36)

This week marks both the beginning and the end. For one thing, it is the end of quiet mornings, impromptu mid-week dinner dates and casual evenings spent with friends. It is also the beginning of a season that is bound to be so hectic we're still busy trying to wrap our minds around the thought of it. It's a strange little limbo period, really. Today, as I type this sentence, life still feels relatively calm, even though we've both admitted to the fact that, for weeks now, our brains have been running at full speed. But here we are, just hours away from being right in the thick of it. And although neither of us knows for sure how this whole summer of insanity will actually pan out, I can say one thing with certainty: neither of us would want our life together any other way.  

As we prepare to take on both a handful of new pop-up markets this season and a handful of new creative projects later this year, the chef and I have been talking a lot lately about the past. From where we currently sit, our hands dipped into so many different pots (literally and figuratively, I suppose), it feels hard to believe that this whole business started by way of a single conversation shared over a round of beers. Is that even possible? How did we manage to turn that conversation into all of this? That defining conversation feels like it happened so recently, and yet at the same time feels like it unfolded a lifetime ago (technically, it has been three years). 

Last week, we invited close friends over for dinner. Somewhere between filling them in on a few of our new projects and a few bottles of light, lemony wheat beers, we engaged in a fair share of reminiscing about the shop. We talked about that fated first morning -- an absolutely frigid Saturday in late November -- when the chef and I assembled ourselves inside a rented shipping container in Brooklyn, our opening day menu sloppily written on a dry erase board that incessantly blew over from the strong winter wind (I'd say a good 95% of our opening day customers were our friends). We thought back on all those months when our business was growing but we did not yet have a permanent space, and so our home kitchen became an absolute clutter, a storage space of sorts, where spare refrigerators and messy piles of restaurant equipment were piled against every open wall and inch of free tile. We fondly looked back on the period when we were without a commercial kitchen and, as a result, no matter what time you entered our small apartment kitchen it wafted with the heady scent of braising liquid and someone was always hunched over our kitchen island slicing onions or wrapping foil around hotel pans or making sure that our tiny electric oven (which, on many days, ran for twenty-four hours straight) wasn't on fire. 

Back then, when we (and our home…and kind of our entire lives) were a total makeshift disaster, there wasn't really any indication that what we were doing would all be worth it. There was no sign from the universe prompting us to believe that it would all pan out in the end. But despite our hemorrhaging bank account or the fact that our bed sheets were beginning to smell like slow cooked meats or that every article of our clothing was stained with a mixture of red wine and braising juices, we kept pushing forward…

It wasn't until the end of dinner, as we dipped thick cuts of roasted brisket and slow roasted buttery potatoes into this vibrant Roasted Beet and Horseradish Creme, that it occurred to me that it was one of the first condiments we ever sold. After surviving our first brutal winter as part-time business owners, that spring, the chef officially quit his job so we could get involved in the city's pop-up food scene full time. In some ways, we owe a lot to this creamy, jewel-toned beet spread, which has a hidden kick thanks to a generous spoonful of horseradish. That season, when we kicked things into gear full time, our sandwiches began to receive press from different food outlets throughout the city and, perhaps not surprisingly, many of those press photos featured our steaming sandwiches slathered with this nearly neon pink creme. I guess after a long gray winter, people can't help but crave a strong dose of color in their lives and on their plates. Since then, this recipe has become a springtime staple in our house. In addition to sandwiches, I often serve it as a cold dip to accompany an assortment of raw springtime vegetables or as a colorful way to dress up poached eggs. Looking back, maybe this springtime spread and the few pieces of press it helped garner was the sign we were looking for: an indication that someone out there other than our friends actually thought that what we were serving was worth a shot. Or maybe it just photographed well. Regardless, I hope that however you choose to serve this spread, it brightens up your day just a bit. Until next time…

Roasted Beet and Horseradish Crème

- 1 large beet, stalks and leaves removed
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/3 cup prepared horseradish
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the bottom of a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the beet in the center of the foil and coat it with olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt, being sure to cover all sides. Wrap the foil around the beet, creating a loose pouch that covers it entirely.

Bake for 45 minutes -1 hour, or until a knife easily slides through the beet. Carefully unwrap the foil in order to let steam escape, but do not remove the beet or any liquid from the foil. Allow the beet to cool completely.

Carefully peel the skin from the cooled beet (it should easily slide right off with a paring knife). Cut the beet into one-inch cubes. Add the cubes and any remaining liquid into the bowl of a food processor and puree, about 1-2 minutes total, being sure to periodically scrape the sides of the bowl (note: if the beet does not easily puree, add 1-2 tablespoons of the sour cream into the food processor and continue to blend).

Add the beet puree, the horseradish, the mayonnaise and the sour cream into a mixing bowl and gently fold until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Add the remaining salt and the freshly cracked black pepper. When stored in an airtight container and kept refrigerated, the crème will keep well for about one week.

Scallion Kimchi // Life in Bloom (Weeks 33 & 34)

Lately, I've been overwhelmed by color. Everywhere I look, life is in bloom again. The trees are budding with tiny pastel bursts. The early evening sky has been an ombre display of muted ambers, grays and blues. Once more, the aisles at our local market are verdant and brimming with piles of spring's early produce. The whole world seems to be coming back to life in a way. 

At the start of this season of renewed life, the chef and I have been desperate to enjoy our life together as much as possible this month. While the days grow longer and the air grows warmer, we are constantly reminded that we are moving closer to the start of our busiest season yet. In fact, as I sit at my desk typing this sentence, we are exactly three weeks away from opening day at our first summer pop-up. And while the markets have not officially started up just yet, long days and nights back at the shop have slowly begun to seep their way back into our lives. 

And so we've been making a conscious effort to live as fully as possible before our lives once again become a blur, and the bulk of our conversations shifts back to talk of employee schedules and menu concerns. We’ve been spending a lot of time with family. We’ve been visiting friends with a sense of relentless determination. We’ve been engaging in some mindless day drinking. But mostly, we’ve been spending a great deal of time in the center of our lives – our home – to cook and to converse and to enjoy as many quiet moments together as time will allow.

Full disclosure: I’m in love with the idea of this Scallion Kimchi. This time of year, when the aisles of our local market turn green once more, I have a habit of purchasing at least a half dozen bunches of scallions every week (they’re marked 6 for $2…how can I resist?). I love the bite of fresh scallions sprinkled across poached eggs or a bowl filled with an otherwise bland grain. I love to slow roast multiple bunches of scallions to release their hidden sweetness, and then twirl them on a fork and eat them whole. But mostly, I love having them on hand to add something a little fresh to all our meals, making each plate look a little bit more like spring and a little bit more alive. 

Scallion Kimchi
from Not Without salt

- 2 large bunches scallions
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar

Wash and trim the scallions and cut into thirds. Add the sliced scallions to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Give the scallions a gentle mix and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the garlic, the sugar, the ginger, the red pepper flakes, the sesame oil, the sesame seeds, the fish sauce, and the vinegar. Pour the mixture over the scallions and toss well to coat.

At this point, you have two options. If you'd like, you can eat the mixture right away. Think of this more like a "quick pickle" as opposed to a true kimchi (though the taste is still very good!). If you'd like to ferment, lay a plate over the bowl of scallions and leave it covered in a warm, but not hot, place (about 70 degrees) for 24 hours. Regardless of which method you prefer, the mixture will keep well for 3-4 weeks when stored in an airtight jar and kept refrigerated.

Smokey Carrot Hummus // Welcome Spring (Weeks 31 & 32)

Last week marked the first official day of spring, and I have to be honest: I couldn't be more thrilled if I tried. I've had my eye on the calendar a lot this year, and for good reason. For starters, this has been the longest, coldest winter I think any of us have experienced in many years. But more importantly, the approaching spring season has great meaning to the chef and I this year. Although it is staggering to think about, this spring places us on the right side of the halfway mark to our one year anniversary on 2nd Avenue. As the winter wind begins to die down, the warmer breeze that has ever so slowly begun to blow through the air feels like a constant reminder that another season is behind us, and that we are one step closer to making this little shop of ours really work.

Last spring was such a god-awful, confusing time for us. We were knee deep in negotiations for our new brick and mortar space, we were still months away from the mere prospect of opening our doors, we were in-between pop-up market seasons, our coffee table was constantly covered with miscellaneous stacks of paperwork (for what, who even knows?), our home kitchen was a perpetual disaster as we tested and retested about a million and a half recipes, and we suddenly found ourselves plummeting into a world of attorneys, accountants and long, sleepless nights. Full disclosure: I think the chef and I were both starting to get to that terrible point you hear past business owners talk about. We were seriously beginning to wonder if we'd ever be able to make the whole thing really pan out.

This week, I had a total flashback. As I hovered over our kitchen island while testing out some new spring recipes, I caught a glimpse of the chef seated on our sofa, a mess of paperwork scattered before him, a look of concern spread across his face. The scene felt so familiar that it was difficult to dismiss that old anxious feeling in my chest. Only this time around, the root of all that paper clutter and all our stress could not be more different than it was this same time last spring.

The truth is, our business is growing in ways that we never, ever would have been able to imagine just one year back. In a few weeks, our pop-up market season begins all over again. Only this year will be the first year that we are operating both the shop and the markets in tandem. Plus, this season we are adding a handful of new markets to our roster, several more than we've ever taken on in the past. It's both daunting, and yet so unbelievably thrilling. I really cannot wait to tell you about all these new upcoming projects, which I promise to do within the coming weeks. Truly, I am a terrible secret keeper, so we will see if I can actually make it that long...

Since starting this site, I've received emails from multiple readers essentially asking me this: how have you guys actually made this work? Like I said, I'm horrible at keeping secrets, and if I had an answer, I swear I would let you know. But the truth is, I really just don't. I wish that I had a perfect formula to share, something tangible to help you along your way. But I'm really not sure such a thing exists (and if it does, I certainly have not seen it just yet!). But here is what I can tell you. In business, as in life, there will be hard times. There will be days when you do not want to leave your bed, and days when you will be convinced that everyone around you thinks you are a fool for taking such risks. But no matter how many mistakes you make along the way, if you believe in your vision -- like, really seriously in your heart of hearts live and breath that vision -- then you must keep pushing forward and reminding yourself that you are one day closer to making it work. Like the seasons, not even the worst of times can last forever; eventually, the cold days will disappear, the landscape will once again begin to bloom, and the world will suddenly seem more beautiful and more inviting than you ever thought it could.

This Smokey Carrot Hummus embodies my personal principles of a perfect spring recipe: it relies on fresh produce, it is the most striking and vibrant color, and it takes all of a few minutes to make. This way, you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time reading a good book on your front stoop. By definition, this is really less of a hummus and more of a crafty dip. However, regardless of what you call it, it is an ideal antidote to a long, gray winter. The carrots, which will sweeten just a touch when cooked, generously absorb the mildly smokey flavor of ground coriander, which makes this hummus fresh enough to serve on any spring afternoon but special enough to serve beside a crisp platter of fresh crudités at your first soiree of the season. I hope spring finds you well friends...

Smokey Carrot Hummus
inspired by Real Simple

1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup water
kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped scallion
2 tablespoons fresh crumbled goat cheese

In a large saucepan, heat the coriander and the oil over medium heat, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and the water. Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, being sure to stir frequently. Add the carrots and any remaining oil to a food processor and puree until the carrots reach a smooth, hummus-like texture. Transfer to a small serving bowl and garnish with the cilantro, the scallion and the goat cheese.

Homemade Bagels // The Institutions (Weeks 29 & 30)

New York's food scene, I think, can be neatly divided into three major categories: the dives, the "of-the-moment" locales, and the institutions. While I'm a sucker for a good hole in the wall, and I can pretty easily be convinced to follow all things shiny ("Oh! A foil wrapper! A shiny, albeit overpriced, accessory! A restaurant with impressive, trendy decor!"), my real favorites in New York and beyond are the institutions. These are the venues that simply swell with history, the places where the staff has served the same tables and prepared the same dishes not just for years, but for generations. They are the types of establishments that refuse to change with the times, where a substitution request will get you kicked to the curb, and where the family who originally signed the lease still has their name on the door. Lucky for me, New York is ripe with these institutions. And even better, recently, I had the opportunity to visit yet another of them. 

A few weekends back, while driving over to the shop to load up for the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, the chef and I realized we were (for once) a bit ahead of schedule. We decided to make a quick pit stop to grab food for the road, considering our only nourishment for the day came in a pile of empty coffee cups on the floor of our car. Since in the days leading up, I'd been complaining about a recent brunch I'd attended that consisted of ill textured lox, the chef suggested we head someplace to remedy my breakfast misfortunes.  

Russ & Daughters, the classic appetizing shop on the Lower East Side, is undoubtedly an institution. And while most of my New York readers will likely be aghast to learn that, despite my deep affection for bagels, smoked fish and all their accoutrements, I've never been, I must admit that until a few weeks back, it was true. I know what you're thinking. What!?! I know. I know. I'm super lame. It's a total travesty. But now the problem has been resolved, so we can all happily carry on…

My plan was for the chef to circle the block and for me to jump out and grab some food. The chef's plan was to offer me a list of tips and directions for when I arrived inside the shop. "Seriously," I responded, somewhat taken aback. "I've flown to foreign countries by myself. I'm pretty sure I can handle ordering a few bagels."

Oh. My. God. Despite the fact that the shop closed in less than a half hour, a true mass of people flooded the narrow entryway. The vast history of the place, which has been in operation for over a hundred years, was evident from the moment I stepped beneath the facade's glowing neon sign and onto the small white vintage tiles that lined the floor. Behind a long glass deli counter stood a line of employees who wore crisp white lab coats with the sort of confidence that suggested their ensembles were meant more for function then for the sort of nostalgic irony you find in some newer establishments. Behind them, a series of shelves were neatly stacked with a metallic rainbow of small tins filled with caviares and cured fish. And though it pains me to admit it, this time around, the 'ol husband was indeed right. I did need directions, as I found myself completely (and happily) overwhelmed -- enamored, really -- from the moment I grabbed my paper number and joined the mass that was meant to resemble some form of a line. When my number was called, I was too busy staring through the glass case as the staff artfully hand sliced the smoked fish with a slender knife, gently folding each nearly transparent piece onto a delicate smear of cream cheese. Luckily, an anxious customer nudged my shoulder. "You'd better get up there," he said, eyeing his own number, which was the next to be called. In a bit of a daze, I approached the counter, repeating the chef's words by way of instinct, and then continued to watch as paper thin slices of salmon were artfully arranged atop a smooth layer of cream cheese, a sprinkling of capers, and a perfectly palm-sized bagel that dutifully served the purpose of allowing all the smoked goodness piled on top of it to really shine.

It's tempting, I think, in a city as big as New York, to become easily influenced by those around you. Whether in business or in life, there is always someone around the corner who is doing something better, something more innovative, and something more impressive. However, when it comes to preparing great food, some things simply cannot be duplicated, nor can they be taught. They must be learned, usually over a great length of time. That is the path to perfecting the sort of sophistication that arrives with true simplicity, and truly memorable food -- the sort of food, that is, that can stand up to a few generations worth of opinions.

This was the first of two major lessons I learned on my recent trip: the art of doing something simple and learning how to do it really, really well. While Russ & Daughters is void of the sort of shock value and contemporary glamour that is typical of some more contemporary food establishments, this void is masterfully filled by a handful of individuals who take their jobs and their craft incredibly seriously. As I walked around the block and back to our car, my bag of bagel sandwiches dangling from my wrist, I couldn't help but to feel incredibly inspired having witnessed such dedication and such passion. It really does make all the difference.

The second lesson I learned was that I've been doing bagels all wrong. For years, I've turned my nose up at puny bagels, certain that they would never fill the great void that is my appetite. However, I now consider myself a convert to a smaller class.

It turns out that making homemade bagels is impossibly easy and, well, fairly difficult to screw up. The dough, which is kissed with just a bit of honey, will need one evening to rise, though the in-between steps are perfectly simple (mix ingredients, knead for a few minutes, form bagels, and that's about it). Though you can certainly twist up bagels that are any size you like, I was happy with mine, which (pre-baking) were about the size of my palm. Plus, unlike most larger bagels that, when piled high with cream cheese, leave me feeling fairly meh the rest of the day, these proved to be the perfect vehicle for assembling sandwiches that didn't force me to clock out for the remainder of the afternoon. After poaching the bagels in a simmering bath, you can decorate them by sprinkling on nearly any topping you can dream up (though going topping-free still makes for a pretty legitimate bagel as well). When you remove the baked bagels from the oven, you'll find a golden exterior that is firm enough to inform you that, yes, this is a bagel that you're eating for crying out loud and not a loaf of bread, but an interior that is chewy enough for you to easily bite right through. While many recipes in our house tend to come and go, it became pretty evident pretty quickly that these bagels will be an institution of sorts in our home kitchen, a recipe that, despite the new cookbooks, the new influences and the new trends, will likely be sticking around for at least a handful of years.

Until next time...

Homemade Bagels
adapted from Food 52

For the dough:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons warm water (about 112 degrees)
extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg

For the toppings:
Pretty much anything goes here. This time around I used salt, dried & crushed rosemary, cinnamon sugar and poppy seeds. Rather than measure out the topping ingredients, I recommend just sprinkling them on until you feel satisfied.

Mix the flour, 2 teaspoons of the salt, the yeast, the honey and the water in a large bowl until the mixture forms into a sticky dough (it is best to do this by hand). Allow the dough to rest, uncovered, for about 8-10 minutes. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 5-6 minutes and then shape into a ball. Place the dough into a well-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the bowl in a cool oven for about 1 hour. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper and set aside.

Remove the dough from the oven. Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and then roll each ball into an 8-10-inch log. Form each dough log into a circular shape. Be sure to tightly squeeze the dough ends together (they should overlap by about an inch). Repeat for all of the bagels. Lightly oil the bagels on all sides, place them on the greased parchment paper, and tightly cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap. Store the baking sheet in the fridge overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

The next day, remove the baking sheet from the fridge. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Fill a large pot about halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the baking soda to the water. Lower the heat to a simmer. Drop the bagels, a few at a time, into the simmering water (just be sure they have enough room to bob around). Allow the bagels to poach for two minutes and then gently flip the bagels and allow them to poach for an additional two minutes on the other side. Remove the bagels from the water and place them back on the greased parchment paper on the baking sheet. Repeat for all bagels.

Once all the bagels have been poached, apply a light egg wash to the top of each bagel and then generously sprinkle each bagel with whatever toppings you like. Place the baking sheet into the hot oven. Drop the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until the bagels are a nice golden color. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the bagels to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Orange & Lemon Marmalade Cake // Thank You (Weeks 27 & 28)

This week, all I want to do is say thanks. And eat cake. That's right: I want to say thanks and eat cake and bask in the moment. No profound narratives about life beneath our shop's awning. No reflections about mistakes made or upcoming markets. No bits about new menus or new employees. Instead, I simply want to offer a big round of thank yous accompanied by fat slices of this warm and buttery marmalade-glazed cake. It's sort of my new favorite thing. So there.

Last week, by way of some ingenious stroke of luck (I really should have picked up some lotto tickets), this here little corner of the web was featured in Saveur's "Sites We Love" column. Whaaaaat! I know. I pretty much had the identical reaction. Which is to say I was completely overwhelmed by an initial round of shock, followed by a spell of speechlessness for several days. 

When you and your husband are both avid readers, and one of you just happens to be a chef, it is not uncommon to suffer a bit of an addiction to food magazines. For years, we saved every issue of every food magazine that was ever carried into our home. Against one wall in our kitchen rest more than a half dozen towering stacks of dusty back issues of Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Lucky Peach, and, of course, Saveur. I don't know why we saved them, really, seeing as most of the content is now available online. Nostalgia, I guess. That, and they proved to be the perfect height to serve as makeshift end tables, where guests could casually rest their drinks. Only recently did we finally make the decision to become converts and purchase a fancy new app that allows us to read all our magazines on our iPad, thus allowing us to save both on paper and on cash. After a great deal of hemming and hawing, we turned the hundreds of old paper issues over to the recycling bin (it got so bad that you literally could not pull the chairs out far enough to sit on one side of our kitchen table as a result of them). Put simply, food magazines like those I've listed above have long held a very treasured place in our daily lives. Hence why last week's Saveur bit felt so very special to us and like such a valid reason to engage in brief celebration. 

Since the Saveur piece went live, I've been thrilled to see so many new readers from all over the place stopping by to visit me here (hello new friends!). I'm so thrilled that you're here and, as a way of welcoming you, I'd like to offer you this pretty amazing loaf cake. I'm proclaiming it as my new favorite "everyday" cake (yes, there is such a thing). While this cake is likely not fancy enough for, say, a birthday, it is just right for the sort of casual, everyday entertaining that I just adore. You know, the type of afternoon when you have zero plans, and then suddenly you do have plans in the form of three friends who will stop by in an hour. Or when a family member (or three) pops over for a casual, mid-week meal. This cake's simple batter, which you will be able to prepare in all of ten minutes, is made with a good serving of butter, two types of citrus zest and a generous scoop of lemon marmalade, which helps the final golden cake to retain a good deal of moistness and adds just the right amount of bitterness to each bite. While you could certainly stop there, serving the warm, buttery cake just as is, the real show stopper comes in the form of the glistening marmalade-based glaze, which you will pour across the cake and watch, with a deep sense of joy and hunger, as some is instantly absorbed into the hot cake and the rest slowly trickles down its sides. A word of caution: eventually, the marmalade glaze will harden into a sort of sugary casement. For that reason, I recommend preparing the cake shortly before serving, as opposed to the day before.

So there you have it my new friends. A great big welcome. A great big thanks. And a great big serving of cake. Thank you for visiting. Feel free to leave a note in the comments section below. I hope our paths will cross again soon!

Orange & Lemon Marmalade Cake
adapted from the New York Times

2/3 cup lemon marmalade, divided
13 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
3 eggs
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Roughly chop any large chunks of lemon peel in the marmalade. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 12 tablespoons of the butter, the sugar, the lemon zest and the orange zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Beat in 1/3 cup marmalade and the orange juice.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the mixed dry ingredients to the wet mixture until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the greased pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and set it right-side up on a drying rack. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the remaining 1/3 cup marmalade over low heat. When the marmalade is melted (but not burning) whisk in the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Pour the  glaze over the top of the cake, allowing some of it to drizzle down the sides. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Lemon Marmalade // A Winter Valentine (Weeks 25 & 26)

As a shop owner, the thought of a snow day just doesn’t have the same appeal it does when you are a kid. I guess that, with age, thoughts of delivery drivers dangerously skidding their bicycles down 2nd Avenue and liability horror stories begin to trump your daydreams of snow angels and round plastic sleds. However, as snowstorms continue to slam the northeast, one after the next (after the next…), you begin to learn you have two options: you either embrace mother nature’s fury or you embrace the fact that you have become the crazy lady who inexplicitly curses at puddles while wearing too many mismatched layers and rubber rain boots. This week, we opted for the first option. After much deliberation, Mayhem & Stout embraced its first (and hopefully only…ever…) snow day.

When you own a business, and every waking day has an imaginary dollar sign hovering above it, the thought of closing down your shop is not exactly a thrill. However, it was out of our hands. The snow and ice just kept coming, an inch or more per hour, covering the roadways, delaying deliveries, messing with power and creating terrifyingly large icicles that I’m certain will be the death of one of us. It was the worst snowstorm either of us had seen since we were kids. The entire city was an utter mess. Against our best defenses, closing up shop was a no-brainer.

So we made the best of it. The truth is that, with so much of our attention on our business, the days of dates and wild nights out together have faded in the shadow of our shop awning. (Unless we are counting a late night recently spent working a pop-up event at a makeshift roller skating rink where twenty-two year olds in belly shirts chugged beers and we sipped watered down coffees in between customers and tried desperately not to fall asleep.) Lately, our love for each other has come by way of small gestures. A cup of espresso waiting on the counter in the morning. A fresh set of sheets on the bed. The truth is that, when you’ve got a business on the brain, it is not that you no longer desire the types of spontaneous dates and all night dinners that you enjoyed in your late twenties; it is simply that you no longer have the time for them.

And yet the snow opened up our calendar and offered us a full, uninterrupted day together filled with just that: time. In the morning, we sat on our sofa, talking and sipping coffees. We cooked runny eggs and then took forever to eat them. We read silently beside one another. We napped. We watched bad TV. We peered through our window and watched our neighbor’s child build a snowman and then spritz him with blue food coloring. In the evening, we opened a bottle of half decent red wine. It wasn’t until after midnight, when the bottle was empty and we were back to the task of setting alarm clocks for the next day, that it occurred to me: it was the early hours of Valentine’s Day.

Despite the lingering gray clouds, life inside our apartment was decidedly radiant (in the most literal way). It seemed the little bit of sun shining through that dark winter sky created the most intense reflection off the accumulating snow, making everything look just a little bit more alive. The few on-their-way-out flowers I had scattered around our living room suddenly seemed fresh and vibrant, their jewel tones much brighter than they seemed the night before. The jars of marmalade I had just sealed earlier in the week cast a beautiful amber reflection across our countertops. It was a simple thing, but on a bitter winter day, it turns out that just a bit of color has the ability to go a long way.

Although a simple pleasure, this Lemon Marmalade requires some attention (three days worth, to be exact). However, don’t let that deter you. Each daily step is very easy to manage, and really only requires a few minutes per day. The final marmalade is a bright golden color and is packed with a bold citrus flavor that is the ideal antidote for a cold, gray winter day. Like most good things in life, all this citrusy marmalade requires is a bit of time.  

p.s. -- this week was our six month anniversary on 2nd Avenue. 

Lemon Marmalade

- 4 pounds lemons
- 8 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Day 1: Thoroughly wash the lemons and slice them into 8 wedges each, being sure to remove any seeds. Store half the lemon wedges in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator until Day 2. In a large, nonreactive saucepan, cover the other half of the lemon wedges with 8 cups of water; let stand at room temperature overnight.

Day 2:  Bring the lemon wedges to a boil. Simmer them over medium heat, stirring every 30 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 and 1/2 hours. Pour the lemon wedges into a fine mesh sieve set over a large heatproof bowl. Let cool completely. Wrap both the sieve and the bowl in plastic wrap and let drain overnight at room temperature. Also on day 2, slice the remaining half of lemon wedges very thin crosswise. In a large nonreactive saucepan, cover the lemon slices with about 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the lemon slices in a fine strainer; discard the cooking liquid. Return the lemon slices to the saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is slightly reduced and the lemon slices are tender, about 45 minutes. Let stand at room temperature overnight.

Day 3: Add the strained lemon-wedge liquid to the slices in the saucepan. Stir in the sugar and the fresh lemon juice and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the marmalade darkens (do not stir), about 30 minutes. Skim off any foam as needed. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the marmalade onto a chilled plate and refrigerate until room temperature, about 3 minutes. The marmalade is ready when it thickens like jelly and a spoon leaves a trail when dragged through it. If the marmalade is not yet complete, continue simmering and testing every 10 minutes until it passes the test. Spoon the marmalade into sterilized canning jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top of each jar. Tightly screw on the lids. Using canning tongs, lower the jars into a large pot of boiling water and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the jars using the tongs and let stand until the lids seal. Store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.