Sunday, March 31, 2013

Watermelon Feta And Crispy Pork Belly Salad

Unexpected ingredients sometimes yield the most amazing flavors. Case in point, crispy nuggets of succulent pork belly with sweet refreshing watermelon cubes. Don't turn your noses up quite yet, give it a try and I promise you, you won't be sorry.

The fleshy watermelon cuts through the richness of the pork, the feta cheese adds that much needed element of creaminess and a few splashes of champagne vinaigrette (find the link below for the recipe) just takes this dish to new heights of deliciousness. This is just my kind of salad -- Indulgent yet refreshing!

By the way, it's quite important to let the pork belly rest overnight because it insures an even crispier skin. Thanks for the tip, Jenny and Terri (from Spoon Fork Bacon.)
Watermelon Feta and Crispy Pork Belly Salad

Ingredients:
crispy pork belly:
1 lb pork belly
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon dry ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
vegetable oil for frying
3 cups watermelon, cubed
2/3 cup feta, crumbled
1/3 cup pickled watermelon rind, diced (optional)
black pepper to taste

champagne vinaigrette


garnish:
mint leaves
micro greens

Instructions
1. Place pork belly in a large pot and fill with water. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 45 minutes.
2. Drain and rinse pork belly and pat dry with a paper towel.
3. Place the remaining pork belly ingredients into a small bowl and mix together. Rub spice mix over the flash of the pork belly, leaving the skin bare.
4. Place pork belly in a small container and place in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours, uncovered.
5. Fill a wok or Dutch oven with oil about 1 ½ inches high (a lid or splatter pan will be very helpful). Once the oil has reached 350°F carefully add pork belly, skin-side down.
6. Fry pork for about 5 to 7 minutes or until browned and crispy. Turn the pork belly over and fry for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
7. Place onto a cooling rack lined baking sheet and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
8. Cut pork belly into ½- 1 inch cubes and set aside.
9. To assemble: Place watermelon, pork belly, feta, and watermelon rind (if using) in a large bowl. Top with vinaigrette and gently toss together. Season with black pepper. Top with mint leaves and micro greens and serve.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter!

Hello my darlings, what are you doing this Easter Sunday? I'm starting the day off with Easter mass  along with a lovely brunch with the family. Alex is excited to have the gang around because lately, it seems like everyone has been preoccupied with their own dealings.

Whatever you're doing, I hope you're in the company of your loved ones on this holy holiday. And if you're a Christian, appreciate Jesus' ultimate sacrifice (dying to save our souls from eternal damnation).

By the way, I watched "Passion of the Christ" the other day and boohooed like an infant -- that gruesome whipping scene gets me every single time.

Wishing you a very happy Easter :)

(Photographs via The Pretty Blog)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

From San Francisco: Hangtown Fry

The Hangtown Fry is an amalgamation of plump succulent oysters fried in a thin coating of  breading with strips of chewy bacon which is then coddled into a velvety omelet.

Outspoken chef Anthony Bourdain once referred to this dish as an "abomination" on his travel food show "No Reservations," which aired its last episode on the Travel Channel in November 2012, but I think it sounds pretty heavenly, don't you?

The Hangtown Fry was concocted during the Gold Rush in the 1800s in Placerville, California, (formerly Hangtown) when a prospector walked into the El Dorado hotel after he unearthed enough gold nuggets to set him up for life and asked the cook to serve him the most expensive meal on the menu.

The cook recited the priciest, most indulgent ingredients on the menu to the nouveau rich gentlemen -- eggs, bacon and oysters. The ingredients were near impossible to retrieve because they had to be shipped from far away. The prospector then said with glee, "Scramble me up a whole mess of eggs and oysters, throw in some bacon and serve'em up. I'm starving. I've lived on nothing much more than canned beans since I got to California, and at last I can afford a real meal."

There you have it, the birth of the Hangtown Fry. Don't you love it when a dish comes with it's own legend?
Hangtown Fry

Ingredients
12 oysters, such as Bluepoint or Fanny Bay, shucked
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
¼ cup flour
7 eggs
½ cup bread crumbs
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Hot sauce, for serving

Instructions
Pat oysters dry, and season with salt and pepper; set aside. Put flour, 1 beaten egg, and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. Dip each oyster in flour, then egg, then crumbs; place on a floured plate. Heat butter in a 12" nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oysters; fry, flipping once, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Whisk remaining eggs in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add eggs to pan with half the bacon and scallions. Cook until eggs are just set, about 3 minutes. Smooth over top; cover, and cook until top is set, about 5 minutes. Transfer omelette to a plate, and garnish with remaining bacon and scallions
 

(Photograph and recipe via Saveur)
(Also, read the entire story about the origin of the Hangtown Fry, here)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hair, Hair, Hair

It's not just a pile of weighty dead fibers used to adorn our crowns. The word hair is as loaded as a rifle due to its many cultural significance. Whether you wear it long or short, up or down, hair has proven to be a significant indicator of "self." The appearance of a person's hair has been used to denote health, attitude, rank, virility and even sexual orientation.
 Ladies, it's a powerful tool we weave.
I can only speak for myself when I say, in the words of India Arie, "I' am not my hair." Whether my hair is coiled in tight dreadlocks, braided, straight, curly or completely shorn, I will always be the same ol' Stapha - a chocolate addicted book worm who loves her family, loves to write and is always a little shy in new situations.
However, I do get an extra boost of confidence and a little more pep in my step when my strands are properly groomed. I know I'm not alone in this. Don't you feel like the best version of yourself after a trip to the salon (barbershop)?
(Pictures via Pinterest)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Iconic Dresses In History

Marilyn Monroe's White Pleated Dress

The image of the buxom Marilyn Monroe standing above the subway grate in the "Seven Year Itch" while her white pleated halter dress flutters in the wind is forever ingrained in most of our minds.
 Princess Diana's Wedding Dress


Talk about a princess moment. The People's Princess wore this multi-layered tulle frock for her wedding to Prince Charles, in 1981. While I find the material too overwhelming, I still gasp when I see it because its such a historic moment. Plus, it was the 80s, the era of, a little too much.
 Jacqueline Kennedy's Pink Chanel Suit

This pink Chanel suit is so powerful that it stood out amidst JFK's assassination. Kennedy refused to remove the blood splattered suit following the murder, stating "I want the bastards to see what they've done to Jack."
Audrey Hepburn's LBD From Breakfast at Tiffany's

Audrey Hepburn (Holly Golightly) singlehandedly propelled the classic LBD into the fashion archives and also carved her place in fashion history.
Dorothy's Gingham Dress

Who could forget Dorothy's (Judy Garland) blue dress from the 1939 adaptation of the "Wizard Of Oz." I think it's charm lies in its sweet, almost virginal disposition. The pigtails, the ribbons in her hair and the ankle socks only add to its appeal.
(Pictures via WeHeartVintage)

Hello, Spring

Today is the very first day of spring, hooray! However, you wouldn't know it if you stepped outside, It's still abnormally chilly here in New York City. But, I'm so looking forward to the warmer days ahead.

Here are a few things I love about spring in NYC:

People on bikes
A leisurely stroll at the park
People watching
A picnic beneath a large tree

What do you plan to do to commemorate the first day of spring?
(Picture from here )

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"After Ever After" Parody

Do you ever wonder what happened to your favorite Disney princesses? Well Jon Cozart, AKA "Paint," knows. According to this Broadway whiz, life has been less than a fairytale for Ariel, Jasmine, Belle and Pocahontas. His parody of these much-admired Disney darlings is dark, poignant and just plain brilliant. Cozart is going places, he is tremendously talented and has the voice of an angel. Bravo, mister. 
You must check him out.
(Picture via Pinterest)

From Vietnam: Pho (Noodle Soup)


What the pho? Pho (pronounced FUH) is a rich Vietnamese soup with mounds of nefarious rice noodles, thin slices of succulent beef, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, lime and chillies floating around in a heady broth.

With roots in the mid 1880s, the traditional pho was often made with lesser cuts of meats such as beef bones, knee bones and even tripe (stomach lining), which made for an even tastier and more complex broth. But, since it's introduction to the United States in 1975, has been altered to appeal to the modern palette.

The dish is believed to have derived from pot-au-feu (pot on the fire), a rustic french soup typically made with beef and oxtail.
(Picture from here and recipe from here)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tea Sandwiches

Let's face it, tea sandwiches have gotten a bum rap over the years. Every time I see someone take a bite of these dainty little morsels on television they spit it out as if they had mistakenly taken a mouthful of the pretty decor. But, I think tea sandwiches are the perfect canvases to pack on the flavor. The key is to use bold ingredients to make them really standout from the horde of hors d'oeuvres.

Next time you throw a little get-together with the girls, try this little spread layered with cream cheese, poached salmon and spears of asparagus, from whole living.
(Pictures via Honestly WTF)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

For What Ails You: The Penicillin

This is a man's drink. When I picture this drink, I think of tycoons huddled in masses at a seedy bar with thick clouds of fumes from their Cuban cigars escaping their lips after a hard day of negotiations. So, guys this is for what ails you. Bottoms up.
The Penicillin
Yield: 1 cocktail
Glassware: Rock glass
Tools: Juicer or Grater, cheesecloth, cocktail shaker
Ingredients
2 oz (60 ml) Blended Scotch Whisky
3/4 oz (25 ml) fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz (25 ml) honey-ginger syrup*
1 dash Islay single malt
Instructions
1. Pour all the ingredients except the Islay into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a rock glass filled with ice. Gently pour the Islay over top.
 
Honey-Ginger Syrup
Tools: Juicer (optional) or grater
Ingredients
1 1/2 oz (45 ml) honey
1/2 0z (15 ml) water
1 large piece of fresh ginger
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
Instructions
1. Stir together the honey and water together in a bowl until combined. Keep aside. Run the ginger through the juicer, or finely grate the ginger into a piece of cheesecloth and squeeze to separate the juice. Stir the sugar into the ginger juice and add to the honey syrup. Stir until the sugar and honey dissolve.
 (Photographs and recipe via The Boy's Club)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mirror, Mirror

Do you recall that scene from the very first Harry Potter series when Harry stumbled upon the magic mirror that revealed not his own reflection but his heart's innermost desire? If only life were that telling. Unfortunately, we inhabit the Muggle world and our mirrors only reveal how many shots we may have downed the previous night at the club and its resulting dark circles beneath our eyes.

We Muggles don't need a wand and spells of enchantment to unveil the turmoils churning underneath. This enigmatic thing called life is laced with ambiguities that sometimes seem to tether on the brink of reality and the supernatural. Life's magic lies in it's inevitability to shock us when we least expect it, good or bad. One minute, we're staring into our mirror and the next it transforms into Alice's looking glass, broadcasting our own insecurities, and unrealized goals back at us, in HD. But, is it me or does the bad always seem to outweigh the good? Perhaps it's why we tend to appreciate the good so much more.

So my question to you my darlings is this: when you step in front of your mirror what do you see? yourself, just as you are or your past, present and future failures to come? If the latter, it's completely normal, you are after all human.What matters most is how you deal with those undesirable images. Your tackling tactics, which from my point-of-view is to either cave-in or overcome what ails you is a true character builder.
(Pictures via Roost)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chocolate Chip, Bacon And Orange Kissed Pancakes

In my humble opinion, this dish exemplifies the term heaven on a plate. There's nothing more comforting than a pile of airy, fluffy pancakes. Add delicious morsels of sweet chocolate chips, crispy crumbles of bacon and a hint of orange zest to balance out the rich porky flavor and you have yourself a recipe for the perfect weekend breakfast. Go ahead, have seconds and thirds...
Chocolate Chip, Bacon and Orange Kissed Pancakes

Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3 to 5 tablespoons buttermilk
1 egg
2 egg whites, optional
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (granulated is fine), optional
6 to 8 rashers bacon, cooked and crumbled
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1 large orange, zested
softened butter, for serving
maple syrup, for serving

1. Preheat a griddle over medium to medium-high heat.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk together and set aside.
3. In a small mixing bowl combine butter, buttermilk and egg, whisk together and set aside.
4. Optional Step: Place egg whites in a mixing bowl and using a hand mixer, beat egg whites until frothy. With mixer still running, add sugar and continue to beat until medium peaks form. Set aside.
5. Stir the flour mixture with the butter mixture until mixed together (don’t overmix). Fold in the bacon, chocolate chips and orange zest. Fold in the whipped egg whites (if using), until just combined.
6. Grease the griddle with butter or vegetable oil and drop 1/3 cup scoops onto the hot surface. Cook until large bubbles form on the surface of the pancake, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip pancakes and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Place onto a baking sheet and store in a warm oven while cooking remaining pancakes.
7. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.
(Pictures and recipe via Spoon Fork Bacon)


Monday, March 4, 2013

Pastel Spring Reverie

Ruche, the brainchild of real life couple Mai and Josh Olivo offers its customers beautiful vintage-inspired fashion but from the looks of it their loyal followers visit their charming website just as much for a glimpse of their fantastical catalogues. Photographed by Stephanie Williams, their newest lookbook "Tea For Two" is a vision of dreamy pastel playfulness with teacups, rabbits and croquet -- reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.

After gazing at these stunning photographs, I'm seething with excitement for the arrival of spring, aren't you? I do love those flirty little spring dresses and strappy sandals.
 (Photographs via 79 Ideas)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

From Canada: Poutine (French Fries With Gravy And Cheese Curds)

The national dish of Canada is undoubtedly Poutine. Invented in Warwick, Quebec, in 1957, by restaurateur Fernand Lachance -- Poutine is a sinful amalgamation of blistering hot fries, submerged with flavorful brown gravy and stippled with a flurry of cheese curds.

Off course the American version of Poutine is even more dizzying as it is often topped with a variety of meats and other caloric dense and heart attack inducing deliciousness.
For the food snobs out there, this is probably not the original recipe for an authentic Canadian Poutine -- don't hate me.

POUTINE

INGREDIENTS
4 lb. russet potatoes, skin-on, washed and dried
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups beef stock
2 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. whole green peppercorns
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil, for frying
2 cups cheddar cheese curds

INSTRUCTIONS
1. Cut potatoes into lengths of about ¼" x ¼" x 4". Place in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, heat butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour, and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add shallot and garlic, and cook, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add stock, ketchup, vinegar, peppercorns, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper, and bring to a boil; cook, stirring, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat, and keep gravy warm.

3. Pour oil to a depth of 3" in a 6-qt. Dutch oven, and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 325°. Drain potatoes, and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Working in small batches, add potatoes and fry, tossing occasionally, until tender and slightly crisp, about 4 minutes.

4. Drain on paper towels, and let cool for 20 minutes. Increase temperature to medium-high, and heat oil until it reads 375°. Working in small batches, return potatoes to oil, and fry, tossing occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer fries to paper towels to drain briefly, and then divide among serving bowls. Pour gravy over each serving of fries, and top with cheese curds; serve immediately.
(Picture from Sweet Salty Things and recipe via Saveur)

Beer Scented Soaps

Do you love beer so much that you'd bathe with it if you had the chance? Here's your chance beer lovers. Soap Dreams, a charming little business based in Medford, Oregon, has been distributing unique beer scented soaps to its customers since 2008. Partners Jamie and Nathan only use vegan and raw ingredients in all of their products. They even make a bacon beer scented soap for you hog aficionados. Happy sudsing (Is that even a word?) my darlings!
 (Pictures via Etsy)

Bottega Veneta Fall-Winter 2013

I'm in absolute awe over Tomas Maier's sophisticated, structured tailoring for the Bottega Veneta Fall/Winter 2013 collection. The amalgamation of the sculptural shoulders, intricate pleats, three-dimensional peplums and rainbow-hued prints would normally be too distracting but worked in uniformed splendor against his monochromatic color scheme. Also, the juxtaposition of Maier's architectural textiles and feminine 1940s inspired cloud of voluminous hair is simply stunning. Loving the muted lips.
 (Photographs via Vogue.com)
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