Monday, April 29, 2013

baby peech shower

this year seems to be all about babies. everyone is either expecting or popping them out o.O i'm lucky enough to be waiting for the arrival of my niece in june--all the fun and love without the physical discomfort (sorry, jade). to celebrate baby peech and her awesome parents, i helped organize a little baby shower this saturday. baby peech, we can't wait to meet you! :)

the invite design definitely drove the theme of the party--woodland dream / forest friends--along with touches of purple. i really focused on the favors, which i'm pretty proud of. i can't take credit for the ideas, but i think the recreation of them turned out great:
  * cake pop babies with little purple bonnets (faces hand drawn by me and sean)
  * owl treat boxes filled with personalized m&m's (printed with 'baby peech 2013' / 'it's a [peach image]!', and hand-drawn owls)
  * toadstool vanilla cupcakes with ladybug toppers (made from puffy stickers)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

peruvian green sauce (aji amarillo sauce)

...or as sean lovingly calls it: crack.

the first time i tried this sauce was at fiesta in stamford. they bring it out in a little dish alongside some pieces of warmed baguette. presumably this little dish will also be used to accompany your meal, but in reality you'll need LOTS of extra, at least one dish per person. it's just that good. 

a few years ago i came across this article and recipe on seriouseats. you can imagine how thrilled i was, so of course the first thing i did was search for aji amarillo paste. surprisingly i found a jar at tjmaxx, then i figured out the tiny latin american market across the street from my apartment had it in stock too. armed with all the necessary ingredients, i made batches and batches of this stuff. sean and i would eat this with sliced up baguette, trader joe's organic corn tortilla chips, steamed broccoli...basically anything. 

i've since made slight variations to the sauce, omitting and adding ingredients as necessary. a few things to note:
* do not be tempted to thicken the sauce by adding a lot more cheese. the sauce may look too liquid-y at first, but it'll set up after you refrigerate it. 
* instead of the aji amarillo paste, i've also used jarred whole aji amarillo peppers. it's all blended anyway, so might as well save some money and buy the whole peppers. plus, i think they might be easier to find~
* i like to add more jalapeños for an extra kick, and i've noticed cilantro's pretty key in bringing some brightness to the sauce.

overall, the recipe is pretty flexible and always results in an amazingly addictive sauce. you'll probably want to make at least a double batch. be warned.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

:: peruvian green sauce ::
(recipe from seriouseats)
makes about 1 cup.

2 fresh jalapeños, including seeds and ribs, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste
1 cup freshly picked cilantro leaves and small stems
2 tablespoons grated cotija cheese or parmesan cheese
1 medium clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup mayonnaise
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

combine jalapeños, aji amarillo, cilantro, cotjia, garlic, oil, vinegar, and lime juice in a blender. blend on high speed until smooth paste forms. add mayonnaise and blend until homogenous. transfer to a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. serve with grilled chicken. unused sauce can be stored in a covered container for up to one week.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

gum paste and small plates

this past weekend i made my first ever sugar flowers (and peonies at that)! i signed up for a two-hour class from sugar flower cake shop (thank you, living social) and was pretty excited. i love flowers and have always wanted to learn how to work with gum paste--watching all those cake shows has definitely gotten to me--so what better way to combine both those into a sugar flower class. 

i originally wanted to do the parrot tulip course (tulips being my favorite flower), but the dates just didn't work out. BUT the peony course was available, and from what i heard from some one at the peony class, the parrot tulips were super difficult because they were so fragile, which meant a few broken flowers :( i guess it's a good thing i did the peonies instead; i would have been so bummed leaving with broken flowers.

the class was a little unorganized at the beginning, but once things picked up it was fine. it's a small space with 4 large tables set up in the middle (each fit about 6 people) and displays of cakes and tools around the room. lea was our instructor for the day, and there were a number of assistants nearby to help (i didn't think they were that engaging or helpful but maybe because i was too focused. hah.) since working with gum paste requires a lot of drying time, the shop worked some "tv magic" and had fully-dried components for each step so we could experience a week's worth of work in 2 hours. (you could tell that the stuff we were making would be used for the next class. resourceful, right?) the whole process of sugar flowers is pretty repetitive it turns out and oddly calming. we'd roll gum paste, cut out petal shapes, smoosh the cut outs, ball-roll the edges, and glue to the centers. repeat. we were able to do four layers and a couple buds. 

then we got to dry-paint a fully dried peony using powdered paints. some people went a bit over the top with all the colors, but i kept it simple and stuck with purple and a hint of pink. 
at the end of the class, we left with a fully painted peony (made by the shop), an unpainted peony (two layers made by us), and two buds (also made by us). 
i am totally inspired to make some more flowers on my own--i just need all the supplies. that's an investment i'd be willing to support ;)

after making some pretty sugar flowers, i treated myself to a hair cut and ice cream. the hair cut was nothing special--just a trim (i can't believe how fast hair grows in 5 weeks!)--but the styling was a little goofy so I was feeling a bit self-conscious the rest of the day :T ice cream helped though >> chinatown ice cream factory. i really wanted to try the pandan, but they were all out--bummer. so instead of my default black sesame, i went with taro. oh so creamy~ and i can't remember if they usually do this (i'll pretend they don't), but the dude gave me an extra mini scoop on top. score! did i mention this was my lunch? :P 

good thing i was meeting sean for dinner at craftbar. i made my way up to union square and wandered a bit; the weather was pretty nice, so there were a bunch of people out and about. there was even a guy playing an old upright piano near the fountain. people watching was fun for passing the time, but i was ready for dinner. we started off with a glass of wine (sean) and a cocktail (me). i've been starting to try random cocktails to see what i like…and it makes me feel grown-up and fancy :D this one was called theory and practice, but i completely forget what was in it. i just remember it was kind of sweet with a sort of cherry finish and felt more like a warm drink. it was alright, but i would have preferred something a little crisper/brighter. 

for food we decided to go with a (big) selection of small plates: 
* spanish octopus, chorizo fritter, pimento aioli 
* smoked pig's head terrine, shiitake, chiles (brined & smoked pig head, picked mustard seed) 
* duck hears & dumplings, fried egg, pearl onions, smoked bacon, black garlic 
* marinated montauk squid, piquillo pepper-fennel puree, cucumber, nicoise olive 
* lamb merguez sausage, curried black chickpea stew, paneer 
* white anchovy bruschetta, soft-cooked egg salad, lemon aioli, confit leek 
* baby kale florets, anchovy vinaigrette, parmesan 
* dessert: ricotta cheesecake, hazelnut crust, huckleberry jam

a delicious ending to a super nice day in the city~