Category Archives: City Life

Sofra delights

A couple weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of meeting up with fellow Boston-area blogger Katy Elliott, who is chronicling her unbelievable house restoration/renovation along with many, many pretty things on her blog. We had been wanting to try Sofra, the bakery/cafe from Oleana‘s Ana Sortun.

I was basically speechless as I considered my many options. Everything sounded so amazing! I finally settled on a sesame, walnut, kale and fresh mozzarella flatbread, which was cooking on a traditional middle eastern domed oven.


Katy ordered a spinach falafel with some sort of fancy beet spread:


After lunch, Katy treated me to dessert, and I jumped on the chance to try a rhubarb pastry I’d had my eye on. It was so simple—perfectly cooked rhubarb in puff pastry, with crunchy sugar on top—and I am dying to replicate it when we’re back. I hope I haven’t missed the rhubarb season!

We also each loaded up on things to take home. For dinner that night, Ben and I had an indoor picnic of sorts, with the fluffy pitas, muhammara spread (Wiki says it’s traditionally peppers, ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, and olive oil), a little chickpea and goat cheese pizza, and a turnover filled with, supposedly, bacon and brussels sprouts. Only I’m 99.99% sure they were peas.




We still have lots of the spread left, and a few nights later when Ben wasn’t home for dinner I fried eggs and ate them as little sandwiches on the pita, with some of the muhammara. Tangy and delicious!


It’s the rhubarb pastry that I can’t stop thinking about, though. If only I’d taken a photo! Ah well. I’m currently in Clafouti Land in the midst of cherry season; let’s see if I can’t come up with something worth sharing!

I am on vacation, so this post appeared today through the magic of pre-scheduling. Comment away and I’ll reply when I get home!

That pre schedule thing is a lie. Had to post manually from worst computer in France because wordpress bites. xoxo

Rooftop grilling and Spontaneous Sabayon

Our friends Megan and Dave live in an unbelievable (if slightly crumbling) townhouse, and a couple Saturdays ago they suggested bagging on restaurant plans in favor of an impromptu dinner party to take advantage of a nice night on the deck.

A mere hour or two later, we showed up to find that they’d prepared a feast of fresh fish, salad, asparagus, potatoes… After staying on the roof until the sun set and we got too cold, we dug in downstairs.

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

(I am so in love with this table/dining area)

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

There was an incident with a cork that crumbled while we were trying to open it, eventually requiring two corkscrews, a knife and scissors to extract enough that the rest could be pushed down into the bottle. Producing a geyser effect. It started so prettily:

Dinner at Megan & Dave's


Dinner at Megan & Dave's
(Note Dave’s grilling headlamp in back of the wreckage.)

The wine was apparently delicious, though. So at least it was worth the mess!

Once we had recovered a bit (and eaten our way through most of the leftover mango salsa), it was dessert time. I’d brought over blackberries, whipping cream, and a Whole Foods angel food cake, since I didn’t have enough warning to make dessert at home. The berries macerated in sugar and lemon juice while we ate, but Dave took a look at the options and decided he’d whip up a nice sabayon sauce to top things off. Impressive, right? Here’s his mom’s recipe:

Cold Sabayon Sauce
From Dave’s mom

5 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
¾ cup sweet white wine (or add extra sugar to dry white wine)
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to hold a soft shape

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl (metal is good) that fits over a pot of simmering water. Whisk yolks and sugar until combined. Add white wine. Set over simmering water and whisk constantly until mixture thickens and coats a spoon and is too hot to leave your finger in. Remove from heat, add lemon zest and vanilla. Allow to cool or, to cool quickly, set bowl in a bowl of ice water and whisk. When mixture is cool, fold in whipped cream. Cover and chill until serving time.

And the action shots:

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

How gorgeous is this double boiler?

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

And the heavenly, heavenly result:

Dinner at Megan & Dave's

I have to admit, I’d never made sabayon. It was so simple! And SO GOOD. A huge step up from plain old sweetened whipped cream, and a welcome addition to an only-mediocre cake. The berries were helped a lot by the maceration, and were great with the bit of tang in the sauce.

I am on vacation, so this post appeared today through the magic of pre-scheduling. Comment away and I’ll reply when I get home!

Beauty from discards

Every spring the maple trees on our block pop out neon green pompoms, then a few days later push forward tiny new leaves. Within another couple days the little accordion folds have turned into full-on leaves a few inches wide, but I love the in-between stage when the buds are so bright and delicate. To my delight, the neighbors responsible for one of the trees did some pruning during that exact stage this year, and I was able to swipe branches from the yard waste bags on the curb.

Maple branches, spring

Is there an unexpectedly beautiful sign of spring in your neighborhood? I love all the flowering trees, of course, but it’s a shame to overlook things like these maple buds.

Office before & after

Who doesn’t love a before and after? Mine isn’t the most dramatic, unless you’re a big fan of, say, Hoarders or Clean Sweep or some other program about people who have piles of crap everywhere. But I spent last weekend, while Ben was off gallivanting on a ski slope (ok, fine, he was volunteering–on a ski slope), staining and assembling my new desk. Since then I’ve been gradually completing a total long-overdue office clean-up.

Seriously? Things were bad. I would clean and two days later the piles would return. And after Christmas I seemed to accumulate even more piles of stuff that needed new homes–everything on the chair in the photo either came out of my suitcase or was moved from my desk, agh.

The shame!

Office update

The anguish!

Office update

(The gorgeous new laptop standing tall above the mess!)

I picked out a Vika Furusund tabletop with two metal legs and a drawer unit (Vika Alex) on the other side, all from Ikea (obviously). The top is shallower than my old desk, which I’m hoping will force me to keep things tidied away in all my lovely new drawers. It was unfinished pine, so I hit it with some white stain to take away the yellow and make it blend better with the drawers.

Office update

Office update

The drawers weighed a ton (Ben lugged them upstairs for me before he left) and were made up of 900,000 pieces. I’m good at assembly tasks (and jigsaw puzzles) but it still took me a while to put it all together. As soon as I had the new desk in place I realized that because of the shallower depth, the hideous combo of black metal filing cabinet and giant printer/scanner/fax machine is now even more exposed. I will eventually come up with a better solution than this, but for now I covered the side of the filing cabinet with silver woodgrain wrapping paper. I know the cord situation is less than ideal, but you actually don’t see it when the chair is pushed in. Once I get rid of my old laptop there will be a lot less cord to wrangle.

Office update

And now the office is complete! I still should completely clean out the storage closet (not pictured), but that lives behind a curtain, so I’ll survive for now!

Office update

Wider view, to prove that I did clean the chair and floor, as well:

Office update

And my new work surface:

Office update

Nice and fresh, right? We also rearranged the living room after taking the tree down. (*cough* Weeks ago! Yeah! Or last night. *cough*) I like how open it feels but we’re left with an awkward situation involving what used to act as a sofa table and now floats unhappily near the window. We’ll get there, though!

Happy long weekend, people! Be safe and have fun.

(BTW, I’m selling the old desk. It’s sturdy and a good size, I just think I need a smaller surface in my tiny, tiny office. Pictures here without the clutter: $25 OBO.)

Fun with Puff Pastry: Last-minute party snacks

Happy New Year! I sincerely doubt that anyone who is hosting a party tonight still needs menu ideas, but just in case I thought I’d share some of the puff pastry tidbits I made for our holiday cocktail party a couple weeks ago. I am of the opinion that pretty much anything involving puff pastry is automatically tasty, so at our first cocktail party back in Hanover, I made piles of savory “palmier”-style nibbles. What I hadn’t taken into account was the fact that children were attending that party. Small children. Children who took palmiers in each hand, squeezed, and then released the torrent of crumbs onto the floor by the table. Rinse and repeat. By night’s end, the carpet was white with crumbs.

This year no kids were coming! I gave the puff pastry another shot, making three different options using good store-bought all-butter frozen sheets from Whole Foods. Missing from all photographic evidence except the table-views are the leek and sausage squares, which were dead simple. I made the topping the night before and then put bits of it on square of puff pastry and baked them. Savory, easy, and people loved them.

Item two: A vegetarian option, using olivada (black olive spread) and roasted tomatoes. I bought both toppings from the antipasto bar at Whole Foods, because I didn’t want to make myself crazy. Here’s how I assembled them: (Please excuse the grainy photos; something went weird with my camera that day.)

Unroll the thawed puff pastry (follow package instructions), figure out how big you want your hors d’oeuvres, and cut the sheet into strips that make sense.


Spread the olivada (or any other dryish spread of your choice) down the center of each strip, leaving the edges plain, and top with tomato or roasted red pepper bits spaced according to the size of the finished pieces.



Cut between the tomato pieces and place individual bites on a baking sheet (I covered everything in foil for easy clean-up.)


Top with grated cheese (I used parmesan) if you’re into that sort of thing.


Bake according to package directions until golden brown.

Holiday party prep

I would guess that it took me about 20 minutes to assemble 60+ of these.

The final puff pastry delight, the simplest, the one you’ve made before, and my favorite: Cheese straws. Who doesn’t love a cheese straw? Come on. They are a perfect food. Here’s how you make them, in case you never read a Martha Stewart Entertaining book when you were in middle school. (Ahem. Not that I know anyone who was obsessed with all those little tiny sandwiches and miniature deviled quail eggs and endive straws stuffed with salad.)

Unroll the thawed puff pastry, blah blah blah. Roll it out a bit thinner. Cut it in half. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle grated cheese (I used cheddar and parmesan) on one half, top with the other half, roll them together.


Cut the sheet into straws and figure out if you want long or short ones. I went for short to maximize the number from the sheet.


Holiday party prep

Arrange on baking sheet, twisting each straw as you put it down. Brush with butter and top with black pepper if you want.

Holiday party prep

Bake until golden and delicious and hoard for yourself.

Holiday party prep

Oh fine, let your guests have them. You nice, sharing person.

Here’s most of the food before people arrived:

Holiday party prep

Holiday party prep

(Missing are the bacon-wrapped, parmesan-stuffed dates that I cooked off during the party so they’d be hot. I hated these; too sticky and sweet, but a lot of people gobbled them up. I’ll post the crazy-simple how-to next week. (Impatient? Put parmesan in a date, wrap it in bacon, and bake/broil it until the bacon it cooked.))

Your happy, blurry hostess in a festive apron:

Holiday party prep

And the glowy living room:

I know the last few months have been a bit sparse here at the Girl Reporter. I’ll try to pull myself together in the new year. I hope you all had a safe, happy and delicious holiday season–here’s to 2010! I’m excited about this one.

Things I like today: October

As we slip into Autumn, I’ve bought a few new things and am dreaming of a few others. It’s funny how universal that Back to School urge is; this is the one time of year when it’s incredibly hard to resist freshening up my wardrobe and the house. So far I’ve remained pretty restrained, but I thought I’d share a couple things.

1. An older acquisition: Bridge gave me this awesome hand-printed towel as a birthday present, with a quote from Pride & Prejudice. (Oh, Mr. Darcy.) I couldn’t bear to use it as a towel so I tacked it up above the sink and I love the result. (It’s from the shop Brookish on Etsy, though I don’t see any more towels at the moment. Lots of other P&P stuff though!)

2. I had a lingering credit at Simon Pearce, up in Vermont, and while we were in NH last weekend we made the trip over to the main store. I totally scored! I got a salt pig on sale, and found fantastic Dwell placemats on clearance.

Even the little sheep likes the salt cellar:

3. I checked out Laurie Colwin’s “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking” from the library ages ago and I can’t bear to return them until my copies arrive from Amazon. Must make gingerbread. Adore Laurie Colwin.

4. Oh god, a couple years ago I became fixated on dark brown shearling-lined Bean Boots, but I resisted because they seemed like they’d get quite a bit of snow in around the laces. The L.L. Bean gods heard my excuse and now they taunt me with these beauties:

I have perfectly good snow boots. I will love them from afar. (And I do still really love the laced-up ones, too.) But they also have nice-looking Hunter-style wellies, complete with fleece liners! I want those. My rain boots leak a little.

5. In honor of fall, I washed out an old spice jar and filled it with cinnamon-sugar. Happy breakfast days for me.

(BTW, I found a roll of 100 of those round blue labels on clearance at Papersource a month or two ago, and I recently labeled the tops of all my spice jars. They are in a container, so I used to have to lift them out one at a time to find a specific jar. I should have labeled them ages ago, duh!)

6. I found a ring at Forever 21 and fell in love with it, but of course it’s, like, gilded plastic and is already starting to peel. I need to find a real-metal version of it, but somehow hollow (light) and sturdy (non-denting). Love love love.

This summer I gave in and bought American cheese to use on burgers. Because, I’m sorry, cheddar goes greasy and I don’t like blue cheese much and American melts best. Anyway, the other place American cheese sort of takes the prize is when you want a plain, non-fancy grilled cheese. And burger season is over so guess what I had for lunch yesterday?

You know you’re jealous.

Finally, in crafty news, I found these earrings marked down to $4 at Kohl’s (don’t ask) and thought they’d be pretty cool without all the extra loops. So I took them apart and put them back together.

Things I must do this month:
-Cook something amazing with the mound of shallots I scored from the farm.
-Re-do my desk chair, which is in sad shape with old foam crumbling out of the bottom and onto the floor. (Ew.) My solution has been a plastic bag taped to the bottom of the chair but that’s stopped working.
-Make gingerbread.
-Walk Lola, the darling dog who now lives downstairs!

Heavenly Bellinis

I am still sorting and uploading Italy photos, but on the off chance that anyone is going to be in Venice in the next 24 hours I thought I’d better post a quick and urgent message: Go to the Gritti Palace Hotel, sit on the veranda outside, overlooking the Grand Canal, and feel smug and superior as you sip an outrageously expensive and yet worth it bellini.


This bellini is made with what they call peach juice (obviously), but what I believe to be actual peaches, thrown in a blender with prosecco. They could almost be eaten with a spoon. They were ridiculous.

If you want to justify it, watch all the people roasting in gondolas a few feet away from your cool, well-shaded table, and think to yourself, “For the cost of a gondola ride, I will be able to drink many, many of these heavenly bellinis.” And take further comfort in the fact that for a mere Euro you can take a gondola across the Canal after your bellini, on the traghetto that ferries people from side to side in areas where the bridges aren’t close by. There is a traghetto stop outside the Gritti’s door–very handy.

PS: They also bring you snacks.

PPS: We loved our bellinis so much we immediately had to go try the ones at Harry’s Bar, where they were famously invented. No contest. Those were normal bellinis, not glasses of heaven.

PPPS: Ben had never had a bellini. He asked if he was allowed to order them in bars from now on, and I said no. Besides, he’d only be disappointed, as the Harry’s Bar experience soon showed.

Ushering in summer: Bulgogi on the porch

(I’m in Italy right now, but I thought I’d leave you with an entry or two while I’m gone!)

We eat on our narrow but lovely little porch almost every night during the summer, so we were delighted when the weather first warmed up enough for us to dig out the cushions and dust off the table and chairs. To celebrate, I made bulgogi, the unbelievably tasty Korean barbecued beef that you can cook on your own tabletop griddle at Korean BBQ restaurants.

After grocery shopping in the afternoon, I started by making a batch of daikon radish pickles, which were fine but a bit bland.


The daikon I got from th CSA was less carrot-shaped and much fatter. Different varieties, I guess! Aren’t the patterns in the slices pretty?

daikon slices

I used a basic marinade recipe from AllRecipes, spiked with plenty of sesame (seeds and oil) and soy. The real trick to recipes like this is to freeze your meat for about an hour before slicing it. That makes it to easy to slice nice thin pieces without the meat mushing all over the place. Remember to cut against the grain. (I used sirloin tips, I think.)

sliced steak

I marinated the meat for a couple hours, and when dinner time rolled around I cooked some sushi rice and dished out kimchi and the daikon pickles:

I also washed a bunch of lettuce leaves for wrapping.

The meat was a snap to cook because it was sliced so thin. From this:

to this:

took about two minutes for each batch, on a hot grill. I piled up the meat on a plate, squeezed all the various dishes onto our porch table, and we got to the messy business of wrapping our little rolls, starting with a base of rice, then meat, then the pickles and kimchi:

I’m hungry as I write this, so let’s take another look at that luscious, flavorful meat:

It was a perfect kickoff to summer, lit by the pale glimmer of our new Ikea solar string lights and washed down with gin and lemonade! I’m dying to go do some research at Koreana and make note of more of the little bowls of pickles that they bring over–there are usually about 20 and they are my favorite part. Great, now I’m starving.

Chili, cornbread, and leftovers

It was months ago that I saw a chili recipe on Oh Happy Day and thought “must make.” And, actually, it was months ago that I made it–oops! Jordan called this “Pepper’s Famous Chili,” and I think it’s a great starting point to play with. I’ve made it a couple times and it is a bountiful and delicious recipe, extremely filling.

Pepper’s Famous Chili
As seen on Oh Happy Day!

1lb. ground beef
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans with liquid
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans with liquid
1/2 c. diced onion
1/4 c. diced celery
2 med. tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
1 T. chili powder (2 T. if you like it hot)
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 c. water

Brown beef and drain liquid. Crumble beef and put into a large pot mix in all other ingredients. Cook over low heat stirring every 15 to 20 mins. for 2 to 3 hours. (You could also use a slow cooker.)”

I bought everything at Trader Joe’s, so the sizes of the cans of beans were a bit varied, but I don’t think it matters. And one time I made it with stew beef instead of ground beef, with moderate success–you need more meat, it turns out, and Tom was visiting and we ran into a bit of a problem while browning the meat (too much liquid, too small a pan), so it wasn’t as flavorful as it could be. Both times, I made cornbread muffins to accompany the chili, first using an Epicurious recipe, then ceding control to Tom for his favorite recipe.


The fresh stuff livens up all those cans of beans and sauce:

tomatoes onions celery

Honestly the cooking process doesn’t present many opportunities for photos. You brown the beef, then throw everything in together for a couple hours. (Incidentally, I didn’t have chili powder and cumin but I thought I did. I ended up using a taco seasoning mix from the awesome spice shop in Inman Sq., which worked just fine.)

Here’s the result with ground beef:
chili cornbread

Good stuff, easy to make. Not bad! I must say, we were eating leftovers for what felt like a year. I think next time (and it took me two batches to think of it; I am so braindead lately!) I’ll freeze half.

Oh man, while Tom was visiting we hit the slightly pathetic array of thrift stores in the neighborhood, as per tradition, and the one good find was a  sweet white-enamel 8-inch Copco cast iron frying pan for a couple bucks. It was *filthy* but we soaked it in soapy water and scrubbed it with barkeeper’s friend and fine steel wool, and now it’s in really great shape. Love.



Fantastic shape—I love the little pour spout.
copco frying pan

Note: Why yes, I’m posting things I cooked in March, why do you ask? The good news is that I’m hoping to pull together a couple posts to publish while I’m away next week. In Italy. HURRAY! (Also? Panic. I get so freaked out before trips because I loathe packing, never feel like I have the right clothes, and actually never do have the right shoes. I’ve got a fresh sketchbook and some maps, we should be fine!)

And: 1 more month until CSA time! Thank god.

Things I’ve been doing instead of blogging

-Painting pictures for the newest baby of our acquaintance (welcome to the world, Charles Morrison Herbert!)

-Making a new friend
-Finishing up every scrap of freelance work I had
-Pounding the pavement for more work
-Feeling proud of my friend Jia Lynn’s cover story WITH BYLINE ON THE COVER
-Going for an accidentally really long bike ride

-Staring at another rainy day
-Reading 8 trillion library books
-Gearing up for lap swimming lessons/possibly getting hurt getting into my new swimsuit
-Listening to Berlitz Italian cds
-Not planning our spontaneous trip to Italy in May
-Avoiding cleaning my office
-Obsessively checking the trees outside for leaves
-Dreaming of chucking it all and moving to France

I definitely feel like life is on hold right now. I need a burst of energy and inspiration! Maybe I’ll start with the much-needed office organization. I do have loads of photos uploaded, dating back to late February, I just can’t seem to bother writing about anything! Merp.

Wishing french tulips were all over the house: