{Holiday Gift Guide 2014!} presents for foodies & travelers

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Welcome to s&h’s first holiday gift guide!

I’m so excited to share some of my favorite things & ideas for lovely presents for the chic foodie travelers in your lives.

1. The girls of Flower Girl NYC are not only great gals, but also make the most wonderful and creative floral arrangements around. Take your best friend to a class, if you are in New York, or just indulge your mom with a handmade soap. For Friend/Mom

2. I love Kusmi tea, though it can be hard to find here in the US. The Paris rose green tea and the fruity Anastasia black tea are favorites, and the tins are gorgeous. For Friend/Host

3. This is my new favorite thing – the Mighty Purse is a great travel companion and charges your phone on the go. For Mom

4. I met Dina and Wendy at the Basilica Farm+Flea where I purchased their absolutely stunning Foraging&Feasting book – part cookbook, part illustrated reference volume. I’m so happy that they recently won the Independent Publishers’ Gold Medal. For Friend/Cook

5. For an avid traveller, here is a travel guide set for those eager to explore Europe on a bike (useful for those traveling along on foot too!). London, Barcelona, Copenhagen… I’m getting itchy travel feet. For Dad

6. Virginia Ruth handcrafts these handkerchiefs – which also double as chic cloth napkins! – in Tennessee. For Dad/Host

7. This L’Occitane advent calendar is full of bubbly Provençal and Paris-themed treats. For Friend/Daughter/Niece

8. Virginia Sin’s plates (seen here) are impeccable and a food stylist favorite. This oyster plate is definitely on my wish list! For Cook

9. Crown Maple in Dover Plains, NY makes amazing syrups, but also maple sugar pearls for holiday baking and sweet treats like these maple-glazed nuts. They can package it all up for you into a ready gift set too. For Host/Cook/Everyone

10. And a splurge for yourself: Subscription service OuiPlease will deliver a box of hand-picked French goodies to your door six times a year. Volume 1 is themed “Paris, I Miss You,” which is true, bien sur. 

Simple pleasures: watermelon radish and apple slaw

IMG_1873It’s funny how the holidays are supposed to remind us of the simpler things in life since those are the things we should really be thankful for each season, but festive occasions can still tend to the overcomplicated and unnecessarily stressful.

That’s why I think that the week after a holiday weekend is a particularly good time to go back to simpler pleasures, taking a moment to enjoy them all.

And to use the last bits of that cranberry sauce too.

Watermelon radishes are such a gorgeous treat, plus they remind me of watermelon and, thus, summer, which can’t be so terribly far away…

Watermelon radish and apple slaw

You’ll need:

  • 1 large watermelon radish
  • 2 lady apples
  • 2 T cranberry sauce {I used some leftover pomegranate-cranberry sauce from Thankgiving}
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • fresh thyme (optional)

1. Use a mandolin – very carefully – or a sharpened chef’s knife – to slice the watermelon radishes and lady apples very thinly. Cut into quarters.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, cranberry sauce, and enough olive oil to form a light emulsion. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

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3. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and top with a little bit of fresh thyme for seasonal flavor, if desired.

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{postcard from Hudson..} Basilica Farm + Flea

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This past weekend, our bellies full of good food and drink, we headed up to Hudson, New York for the second annual Basilica Farm + Flea.

The Flea is a gathering of local artisans, craftsmen, cooks, and farmers, as well as a celebration of the wonderful community of all of the above that exists here in the Hudson Valley.

The event was full of old friends and so much inspiration for Christmas projects, gifting, and beyond.

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Post-Thanksgiving post

IMG_1842I am having a kale smoothie as I write this, but make no mistake, I will be tucking into that leftover pie come teatime.

Thanksgiving was lovely – from snowy walks with my favorite borrowed puppy (not mine!) to football excitement and neighborhood cheer, it all came together beautifully.

The hustle and bustle of the kitchen is much more familiar to me than having a full house, and I did not feel rushed at all this year having spread out the cooking over two days.

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It also helped that we kept the menu fairly traditional this year: Stone Barns turkey, Dad’s mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts with roasted garlic and pistachios, a farm fresh spinach and pomegranate salad (which was a great refreshing starter), cranberry-pomegranate sauce (this may have been my favorite)… and pumpkin-carrot bread (adapted from this muffin recipe), a bigger and better version of the goat cheese & quince tart (this time with a goat cheese & quark filling), and a deep dish cinnamon apple pie made with five layers of fresh Pippins, my favorite baking apple.

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All in all, every year, I grow more appreciative of having the opportunity to travel home (or having people come visit you) to enjoy a cozy weekend full of exactly the things we are all most grateful for having.

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And sharing our homes and our tables with others on this day is really what this great holiday is all about, to me.

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I hope you enjoy your weekend  – and your leftovers {ps. these mini turkey shepherd’s pies are still my favorite thing to make} – and lets hold on to those holiday moods throughout December.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating! I am so grateful and thankful for my family, friends, and the wonderful meal we are about to enjoy together.

Our tradition is to have a late holiday brunch first, then enjoy a walk or a game of football together before the turkey heads into the oven, and everyone gathers up for dinner.

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This year, in addition to the menu and place cards, I have also included a little card for people to note what they are particularly thankful for this year, whether big or small. We will gather those up and re-visit them next year.

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And now, last pies into the oven!

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Thanksgiving prep

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This year has really flown by and although it was full of many exciting things, I can’t believe that it is nearly gone  –  swish! – and the Christmas lights are coming on all around the neighborhood.

Still, I am all about being thankful for everything that has come to pass and what is still being planned, for another four seasons of health, friends, and family.

And there is no better way to celebrate that than with food and drink around a big table. Everyone has their favorite dishes to contribute  and while I would advise against cooking anything that you’ve never really made before, if you are well-prepared and have done all of your planning in advance, you’ll enjoy a stress-free meal.

(as you can see, I’ve been busy planning the table settings!)

Here are some ideas:

To start:

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Winter citrus salad

Cauliflower tabbouleh

Fennel, halloumi and pear salad

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Pink apple and yellow carrot slaw

Pumpkin-carrot muffins (or bread)

In the middle:

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Mushroom and ricotta almond galette

Dad’s mashed potatoes

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Roast chicken with lemon and endive

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Quince and butternut squash farro risotto

Whole roasted duck

To finish:

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Salted caramel tarte tatin

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Quince and apple goat cheese tart

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Apricot almond tart (* you can substitute plums this season, which also bake into soft and pillowy filling)

I am still making my shopping list and triple-checking it before I head to Stone Barns on Tuesday to pick up our turkey!

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Salted caramel tarte tatin

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Yes. All I can tell you is – yes, this is the simplest and tastiest thing you will bake this month.

And yes, that’s salted caramel. And why yes, you can flip it out of a cast iron pan quite perfectly.

This is the perfect warm dessert for this inevitable cold snap – hello, first snow! – that is upon us and another contender for the holidays.

Anyway, my point is that if you love tarte tatin but you thought you could never make one , think again. All you need is a cast iron skillet or pan (or even a dutch oven) and some simple, good ingredients.

The most important thing to remember is to use more apples than you think you will need – I like to form two layers – as they will shrink as they cook.

Salted caramel tarte tatin 

You’ll need:

  • fresh filo pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 stick of butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 t fleur de sel
  • 4 large apples (I used a mix of varieties)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4 inch slices – they don’t have to all be uniform.

2. In a cast iron pan on the stovetop, melt the sugar and almost all of the butter (reserving about 1.5 T for brushing the filo dough later). Caramelize until thickened and golden-brown. Stir in the salt.

3. On lower heat, right on top of the caramel, layer the apple slices snugly – form the first layer with the pieces standing up, then the second layer with them laying flat. This makes for a sturdier and prettier tart all at the same time. Remember: more apples than you would think because they will shrink as they cook and bake.

4. Cook apples in caramel for about 7-8 minutes – don’t move them around though.

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5. Melt the remaining butter, reduce heat under the caramel & apples and start layering the pastry in thin, individual layers, brushing each with melted butter.

Filo is great for this because you can tuck in it around the apples, so proceed to do that with most of the pastry until you reach the top. End on the last few layers being more flat as your cake “base” once you flip it over when it is done.

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4. Transfer to oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then with one decisive and sharp movement, invert onto your serving platter.

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Best served warm, of course.

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Pain d’épices {getting ready for the holidays!}

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Intense, dark, and a little dangerous – I love pain d’épices, a French honey spice cake that can be seamlessly paired with savory or sweet flavors.

It’s also a modern holiday favorite, often served with foie gras, salted butter, jam, or just on its own  – a thick slice with a strong cup of tea.

The spice cake keeps well and actually tastes even better after a few days. But if you want to make it even more festive (all of that powdered sugar, notwithstanding), and completely nontraditional, this would also be delightful soaked through with something boozy and fresh.

I’m testing a handful of holiday dessert recipes so, hold on, there is a lot of temptation coming up.

Pain d’épices

(adapted from David Lebovitz)

You’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  •  1 2/3 cups AP flour
  • 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t allspice
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 1/2 t ground cloves
  • butter

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter a bundt pan (or a regular cake or bread tin – that I would also line with parchment paper).

2. On the stove, heat honey, brown sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan just until boiling. Lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and briskly stir in 1 cup of flour, set aside to cool to room temperature.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining flours, baking powder, baking soda, and all the spices. Add spices aggressively for this cake!

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the two eggs and set aside.

Once the honey mixture has cooled, mix it in gradually into the flour mixture, add the eggs, and stir together with a wooden spoon or a spatula just until smooth.

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5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing. IMG_1753

Decorate top with powdered sugar – sifted through a stencil here, for example – for extra festive cheer.

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Charred squash and pickled radish soba salad

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Lest you think that it’s all French all the time here, I also happen to be addicted to the textures and flavors of modern Asian cuisine.

In large part, it’s the freshness that I find so appealing. But it is also because dishes like this soba salad are perfect for an indecisive eater like me: do I want something crunchy, something salty, something sweet, or something spicy?

This salad gives you a little bit of everything, mixed into a perfect plate with the home-y, wholesome flavor of buckwheat and the seasonal abundance of squash.

{p.s. In preparation for my epic and long-awaited trip to Japan this spring, I am always looking to be reading and learning more about the region’s culture, history, and food. If you have any suggestions, drop them in the comments below!}

Charred squash and pickled radish soba salad

You’ll need:

  • 1 package buckwheat soba noodles
  • 3 small yellow squash, cut into long strips
  • 2 small cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
  • 4-5 radishes, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  •  1 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup fresh chives
  • 2 t soy sauce
  • 4 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 2 T sesame seeds + pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds (optional)
  • salt, pepper

1. Make the pickles first: in a deep bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, oil, sugar and a heaping teaspoon of salt. Taste, add a few springs of fresh cilantro, and then add in half of the cut radishes. Set aside for a few hours.

2. Heat a griddle pan and cook the squash in batches, about 3 minutes on each side, until charred and fragrant. Take off heat and set aside.

In the same pan, while it is still hot but with the heat off, toast the sesame seeds, pumpkin/sunflower seeds, and chopped garlic.

3. In the meantime, cook the soba according to package instructions, be careful not to overcook. Drain and rinse well under cold water.

4. For each serving, toss together the noodles and squash with plenty of roughly chopped cilantro and chives, fresh and pickled radishes, and cucumbers.

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Dress with the pickling liquid, adding a little bit extra sesame oil, if desired.

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Quince and apple goat cheese tart

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Oh, I had thought about saving this for Thanksgiving – ever so briefly – but as soon as I saw this recipe in Huckleberry, I wanted to make it now, now, now.

And I had plenty of quince (or quinces, I am not really sure…!) although I also added in an apple to bring in a bit of natural sweetness since I reduced the sugar in the recipe a lot, as I tend to do.

This is not a difficult recipe to execute though it requires a bit of patience between the cooking, cooling, chilling, slicing, more chilling etc., but the end result is so worth it.

Tips: Use a soft, mild goat cheese that you will be able to spread more easily and evenly. Personally, I like the bit of tartness that it gives to the filling but, if you prefer, you could also sweeten the goat cheese mixture with a few teaspoons of honey.

Quince and apple goat cheese tart

(adapted from Huckleberry)

You’ll need:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 6 cups water
  • 1.5 cups raw sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large quince, peeled
  • 1 large apple, peeled
  • 1 cup (about 220 g) of mild goat cheese
  • 2 T creme fraiche
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • vanilla sugar (optional)

1. Bring the water, sugar, vanilla, and salt to a boil in a pot over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat, add quince, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes before adding the apple and cooking for 15-20 more minutes until fork tender.

Refrigerate the fruit and the syrup until completely cooled.

2. In a small bowl, mix together goat cheese (at room temp) and creme fraiche and set aside. You can add a few teaspoons of honey for sweetness here if you want.

3. Allow the pastry to come to room temperature before rolling it out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle shape. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick. Trim and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

4. Core and slice the quince and apples (I still think that using a melon baller is the easiest way to do this!) somewhat thinly. Keep the poaching liquid!

5. Spread the goat cheese mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a 3 inch border all around to fold the pastry later.

6. Gently dry the fruit with a paper towel before placing the quince and apples in alternating rows on top of the goat cheese mixture.

Brush the exposed dough with egg wash and fold over the filling along the edges.

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Brush with more egg wash and sprinkle with vanilla or regular sugar. Dot the exposed filling with butter. Wrap well and freeze for 30 minutes to an hour before baking.

7. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake from frozen for about an hour until golden-brown. Right after taking out of the oven, brush both the dough and the filling generously with the poaching liquid/syrup.

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Allow to cool and serve at room temperature.

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