Thursday, August 14, 2014

big news and bbq

sorry for the lack of updates, but july was a total whirlwind of events: bling, brides, babies, and bareilles.

after a fairly mellow 4th of july, i went up to montreal with sean for what i thought was some low-key hang time. little did i know i was in for a BIG surprise. after a couple days of chilling in the apartment, we planned a day trip to mont-tremblant (during the summer the ski slopes give way to some pretty good hiking trails). we couldn't have asked for a nicer day, sun shining and puffy white clouds in the blue, blue sky. we took the gondola up to the summit and chose an easy trail for our hike. i, of course, stopped way too many times along the way to take pictures of nature. i mean, how can i resist all those wildflowers? AND mini wild strawberries, butterflies, mossy trees, and amazing views! (i also couldn't help making mini bouquets out of the wildflowers--foreshadowing?)

we took a couple small breaks for snacks and water, and on our last one sean completely surprised me by PROPOSING! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!! the whole thing is still kind of a blur but in the best way~ seriously, best. hike. ever. :)
that evening we celebrated with a nice dinner at le grain de sel:
* a glass of rosé for me, a glass of red for sean
* assorted spreads and toppings for bread
* amuse of onion confit crostini
* watercress salad with radishes and baby turnips
* mushroom ravioli
* beef tartare with housemade slaw and chips
* dessert: paris brest

we didn't have much time to keep the celebrating to ourselves since the next three weekends were booked solid with two weddings, a baby shower, and the sara bareilles concert.

[12 july] first up was tim and stacey's mountaintop, fancy farm-style wedding in massachusetts: major happy tears during the ceremony AND speeches, panorama photo fun, bbq, and bonfires. th116 + llc = <3
[19 july] the following saturday was vida's baby shower in white plains. it was a beautifully planned party with adorable decorations that showcased the pastel circus theme. and let's not forget all the cute babies in attendance; i finally got to meet little dylan!
[20 july] that sunday started with boozy brunch with the ladies of book club (minus the book) at macondo in the lower east side: unlimited mimosas, guacamole, huevos rancheros, and crema de panela. later that evening jade and i went to the sara bareilles concert. this was part of her little black dress tour, and WOW can she put on a show! i had no idea what a great live performer she is. totally worth riding a super slow F train back to brooklyn at midnight.

[27 july] the last weekend of this jam-packed july was dean and rachel's wedding in maine: an outdoor ceremony overlooking a lake, brunch cocktails, huge rainstorm just as we went inside for the reception (talk about good timing!), and lots of parental boogying.

heading into august and the final weeks of summer, we still had/have a few opportunities to celebrate our engagement. sean made a quick visit the first weekend, and we planned a dinner with both our families...a peecharelli dinner, if you will. since we'd all be coming from different locations, we decided to do dinner in the city and picked crispo in the west village. they set us up with our own dining alcove which kept things more intimate and let abby have her own corner to play--totally great. bottles of wine, apps to share (pass the arancini, please!), pastas, veal, seafood, desserts...YUM! not to mention wonderful company. a good time had by all (i hope :P)
the next weekend was my mom's annual bbq! as with every year, she takes care of the meats (chicken satay and korean short ribs) while i focus on side dishes and desserts. this year i chose to do:
* israeli couscous with scallions, sugar snaps, persian cucumbers, and feta
* chopped spinach and strawberry salad with romaine, celery, sugar snaps, bacon (just a little), toasted pecans, and goat cheese
* balsamic marinated grilled zucchini
* ricotta crostini
  - grilled corn and zucchini ribbons
  - basil pesto and baby heirloom tomatoes
* sweet and spicy pork and pineapple kebabs (a total hit!)

i knew leslie would be bringing a cake, so i kept the desserts basic:
* lemon bars (two batches)
* peanut butter rice krispies
* "brookies" (brownie + chocolate chip cookie mash up inspired by baked's brookster)
even though sean wasn't able to join us, there were lots of congratulations and wedding talk all around and even a cake shout out!
the whole day was wonderful. the weather was ideal for barbecuing--sunny but cool--kavin manned the grill and i the kitchen, both with the help of our aunt.
there was an abundance of delicious food: betty brought a thousand bags of assorted chips; aurora brought the hot dogs; auntie nid brought some authentic pad thai; ellen carved her intricate fruit bowl. all this food meant all day eating...and what we couldn't finish were leftovers for the rest of the week, hah. i think we made a pretty sizable dent and only had a light selection of leftovers. two things that weren't left, though, were the pork and pineapple kebabs and the brookies. both were new recipes from serious eats (clearly my favorite recipe source) and did not disappoint. the kebabs were incredibly flavorful, seasoned with an excellent spice rub and slathered with a sweet and spicy glaze, and the pairing of grilled pineapple brought out a caramel, smokey flavor. mmm mmm. as for the brookies, how could you go wrong with baking a chocolate chip cookie into a brownie? come on! double whammy of baked goodness. you better believe i'm making these again; same goes for the kebabs, but those might have to wait 'til the next barbecue seeing as i'd need a grill... so for now i'll just focus on the sweets ;)
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:: sweet and spicy pork and pineapple kebabs ::
(recipe from serious eats)
serves 4-6

NOTE: i doubled this for the bbq but probably could have at least tripled. kavin did the grilling, and he mentioned the first few were in too much direct heat which caused them to char, so keep an eye out on the grill heat.

for the brined pork chops:
2 quarts ice cold water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 pounds (1 1/2-inch thick) center-cut pork chops

for the rub:
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (*i subbed fresh minced garlic)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (*i didn't have any but seemed fine without)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

for the glaze:
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle chiles in adobo

1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to use

for the brined pork chops: in a large bowl, whisk together water, salt, and sugar until solids are dissolved. place pork chops in brine and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

for the rub: in a small bowl, mix together paprika, salt, black pepper, sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin. set aside.

to make the glaze: in a small saucepan, whisk together apricot preserves, honey, mustard, soy sauce, vinegar, and chipotle chiles. bring to a boil over medium-high heat. reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, 5-10 minutes. remove from heat and set aside.

remove pork chops from brine and pat dry with paper towels. cut pork into 1 1/2-inch cubes, trimming any large pieces of excess fat. coat pork cubes liberally with spice rub.

thread pork onto skewers, alternating with pineapple cubes. (*i would suggest having the tip of the skewer be pork since it'll be closer to the heat.)

grill skewers over direct heat until pork is well seared on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. move skewers to cool side of grill and brush with glaze all over. cover grill and continue to cook until center of pork registers 140-145°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes longer. transfer skewers to a serving tray and let rest for 5 minutes. serve immediately.

:: brookies ::
(recipe from serious eats)
makes about 2 dozen mini muffin sized cookies

for chocolate chip cookies
1 cup plus two tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup chocolate chips

for brownies
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350F. butter and flour muffin tin.

make cookie dough: in a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. set aside.

in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy, about 4 minutes. beat in vanilla and egg. beat in dry ingredients until just combined. stir in chocolate chips. cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge while you make the brownie batter.

make brownie batter: melt butter and chocolate and let cool slightly.

in a medium bowl, combine melted butter mixture and sugar and whisk to combine. whisk in egg, followed by flour and salt.

to assemble: drop brownie batter by the about 1/2 teaspoon into the mini muffin tin.

top each with a teaspoon of chocolate chip dough (you might have some left over).

place tin in oven and bake at 350F until cookies are golden, about 15 minutes. let cool and remove from tin.

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