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Posts Tagged ‘Elana Iaciofano’

As you know, John and I like our pizza. We make it ourselves. We go on long journeys involving buses and tour guides to the far reaches of the world (Coney Island!) for a slice.

I even did a pizza internship for a day at my favorite Hoboken spot, Dozzino. They let me work the oven! So what happens when New York Wine Salon asks you (by which I mean me and John) to JUDGE pizza?

YOU (by which I mean me and John) SAY YES. And then you say yes again just to make sure they heard you properly.

So here’s the deal:

The Event: Wine’s Best Friend: NY Pizza

When: Thursday, April 28th 7pm – 9pm

Where: Alger House, Grennwich Village: 45 Downing Street, NYC 914-837-4853

What is Going on Anyway:
A parade of pies delivered piping-hot-fresh from favorite Greenwich Village pizzerias will be paired with bright reds and versatile whites, from Italy and beyond!

Find out which wines to pair with that mushroom pie…maybe Pinot? Pepperoni? Zin or Chianti sounds good. What about fresh basil, tomato and buffalo mozzarella… and your white pizza with fig compote, blue cheese and pancetta. Sauv Blanc anyone? Don’t count out Riesling….There are dozens of possible combinations. Come taste away and find out which you like best.

As an added bonus, John and I will be two of the judges blind taste-testing the pizzas to determine the best of the bunch! John’s vote doesn’t count – but don’t tell him that! Yes, you heard me correctly, John and I are judging pizza. It’s crazy. But true. Come watch it happen.

Check out the full invite here and sign up!

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This past weekend, I attended a food photography workshop run by House of Brinson. If you haven’t checked out their blog yet, you really should. It’s brimming with beautiful photography and recipes. Naturally, when they announced their workshop, I signed up immediately.

This was, hands down, the most helpful and informative food photography class I’ve taken yet. There being only three of us in the class, the small student-teacher ratio really allowed us to get in all our questions, and get as much information and assistance out of the class as we could.

We each set up a total of three shots. William, the photographer was on hand to give us advice on topics such as lighting, exposure and white balance, while Susan the art director would supply styling tips – as well as cooking up a storm (for both eating and photography purposes).

Here are the photos I took, with some notes scribbled in for helpful hints.

My first shot was of a bunch of golden beets (pictured above). I kept the styling simple so I could concentrate on the veggies. That being said, we did get to pull from the Brinson’s vast supply of cool vintage props. Like the soap stone that the beets are seated on.

You may remember from my previous food photography post that white and black cards can be used to reflect light and create shadow. I used two black cards in this shot to make the beets a little more moody. Who doesn’t like moody beets?

In fact, roasting beets is a great way to make them both moody and tasty. Here’s how to make Roasted Golden Beets:

What You Need:
1 bunch golden beets (about 4), rinsed with the stems cut off
tin foil to wrap them each individually
sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

What To Do:
Heat up your oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap each beet loosely in tin foil.

Place in the oven, wrapped and on a cookie sheet and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife and soft on the inside.

Remove them from the oven and peel off the skin (be careful – they will be HOT).

Slice them up into chunks and place in a bowl.

Season with sea salt and the olive oil. Rosemary is nice too if you have some fresh on hand. Serve alone as a side, or throw them in a salad.

My second shot was of a Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella and Zucchini Savory Pie that Susan baked from Martha Stewart’s Pies Cookbook (we also ate a duplicate of this guy for lunch).

A filling of zucchini, tomatoes, and cheese was enveloped in a buttery crust like an enormous pocket. Check out Martha’s book for the recipe.

Two challenges faced me when photographing this pie:

1. It was a little lopsided – too much crust on the lower right hand side.

2. It smelled really good. Even after eating it for lunch, I wanted another piece.

I cropped out the lopsided portion of the crust (you really don’t need to see the whole pie anyway), and tried my best to ignore the smell of the cooked veggies and cheese. As an added trick, we used gray cards for white balance/color temperature control.

My final shot was of four leek and puff pastry squares fresh out of Susan’s oven. They looked so nice on their parchment paper that I scooped them up in the pan and started clicking away. Eventually, we decided that the pan wasn’t working in the shot, so we removed it, keeping the parchment paper.

We didn’t use any artificial lighting – all of it was natural light coming in through the windows. It happened to be a VERY cloudy day this past Saturday. If you were in the NYC area that day you might recall it being downright unpleasant: horizontal rain and whatnot. However, we were still able to achieve nice lighting by slowing the shutter speed waaaaay down.

And speaking of puff pastry, it’s something that’s ridiculously easy to make. I even recommend getting the store bought variety and then topping it with any number of things. Take for example this recipe from Bon Appetit for a Honey Roasted Onion Puff Pastry Tart. You could also use many of our suggested pizza toppings, like the Fig Prosciutto and Ricotta topping.

Hopefully, in the coming weeks I will have much improved food photography for you. Although, I will still be inserting many a wonky iPhone shot just to balance things out.

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It’s John’s Birthday today, and while he might kill me for doing this (if he can catch me), he is 30 today!

I thought I would take this time to tell you a few things about John and why he is an awesome brother: 

1. He fields my various witty remarks (anxiety attacks, pleas for more blog content, harassment about his weekend plans) that I shoot at him via gchat with apparent ease and only occasionally ignores me.

2. John has two general reactions:

Positive reaction: “Great.” Sometimes things can be “glorious,” and then you know it’s really great.
Negative reaction: “S*&T!” The delivery of this remark is always the same regardless of the magnitude of his disapproval. 

3. I can only sometimes detect the fear in his eyes when I tell him my latest crazy scheme.

4. He gives dating advice! My personal favorites are these:
a. Do as I say, not as I do.
b. Do not laugh excessively at a dude’s jokes.
c. Stop dancing like that.
d. No fear, naw mean?
Side note: I literally have no idea what he means. Especially about the dancing.

5. Regardless of what is going on, what we had been talking about previously, John will divert my attention to Vespas. I receive links to them all day long accompanied by his Vespa negotiating tactics:

“Let’s low ball these people and take no prisoners: We’re willing to pay $2400 over 6 months.  Throw in the helmets and the automatic, in-dashboard cannoli dispenser or there is no deal.” 

6. He will practice his golf swing, (sans clubs) anywhere. In public, out in a bar, on the sidewalk, etc.


7. My dog, Toby hates him. But John will walk him for me anyway.
8. When I moved back from California, he let me sleep on his couch on weekends for a whole year and hang out with his friends. I got very good at beer pong.
9. He likes to sing “Shout” in public. To rave reviews.
10. John used to eat some weird stuff when he was younger. One of his favorites was, “grilled cheese dunked in yogurt.” this was a classic American cheese sandwich which he dunked in Dannon vanilla yogurt as he ate it.
Gross.
However! I have updated this gastronomic disaster and created something truly delicious. So in honor of John and his birthday, I give you Comte and Scallion Grilled Cheese on Focaccia Bread with Honey Mustard Yogurt Dipping Sauce.

What You Need:
For the sandwich
4 slices Focaccia bread, sliced about 1″ thick
Comte cheese, sliced thinly: enough to cover the top of two of the Focaccia slices. I used a “Tewksbury” cheese from Valley Shepherd Creamery that I bought at the Union Square Greenmarket.
1 bunch scallions: chop the white and light green parts only, discard the dark green leaves.
2 tablespoons butter
For the honey mustard yogurt dipping sauce
See this recipe from a previous post about a sangwich.
What To Do:
Heat the 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the chopped scallions and sauté until they are soft, about 7 minutes.
Take your bread slices and one by one, dunk them in the pan of butter and scallions, pressing both sides into the mixture.
In the meantime, heat up the broiler of your oven.
Once you have coated both sides of all four pieces of bread, place the sliced cheese on top of two of the slices. Top these cheesed-up ones with the remaining two pieces of Focaccia and let simmer in the pan for about 2 minutes. Flip and simmer another 2 minutes for the flip side.
By this time, your broiler should be nice and hot. Transfer the sandwiches to a cookie sheet and pop them in the broiler so they get nice and toasty. But watch out for that broiler – don’t let your cheesy masterpieces burn!
Remove from the oven and serve immediately with the honey mustard yogurt dipping sauce on the side.
Finally, in honor of John’s birthday, we are giving away a prize. All you have to do is wish John a happy 30th in the comments of this post and you will be entered to win a prize.
What is this prize, you ask? John was recently in Italy and brought back another jar of this fabulous herbed sea salt.
We will randomly choose one commenter and award him/her the prize!
Happy birthday, little bro!

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A few months ago, I published an exposé on Marmo’s fridge. It detailed the questionable contents within, offered suggested methods for handling said items (HAZMAT suit), and cried out to the CDC for help.

I figured it was only fair to follow up with a detailed description of what’s in my fridge. My refrigerator is not as populated as Marmo’s (or as terrifying), but it is pretty random. Here’s a numerated explanation based on the pinpointed photo above:

1. Leftover French Toast Bread Pudding from two weeks ago: This item falls under “Stuff in the fridge you thought wasn’t good anymore but still is.” More on this later…

2. Mascarpone Cheese and Creme Freche: Shouldn’t everyone have a supply?

3. Pomi tomatoes (1/2 consumed): I cook for one so I don’t always use the whole box.

4. The Herb Garden: Currently growing basil, rosemary and sage – three of my four favorites. The fourth is cilantro. I had some cilantro in the bottom drawer, but on giving it a check up I discovered that it was not ready for it’s closeup. It was ready for the garbage.

5. Nutella and Mascarpone Mix: From this post.

6. Leftover Valentine Heart Cookies: Yup, still eating them.

7. Cheese Drawer: See photo #2.

8. My Cookie Alphabet: Made with the Chocolate Valentine Cookie recipe. I’m not going to ever eat these, but I might want to spell something with them, so I’m hanging on to them for now.

9. Ricotta Cheese: This is the honey and sea salt variety from this post. It’s awesome.

10. Leftover Red Velvet Pancakes: From my trip to the Original Pancake House in West Caldwell, NJ last week. I am working out a recipe for these.

11. Bud Light: I don’t drink this. I swear. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It was brought to my apartment by John for my holiday party. It’s still half full and just hanging out in there.

12. Ground Flax Seeds: I stir these in my morning oatmeal.

13. Milk: I use 2%.

14. Buttermilk: For the ricotta cheese.

15. Wayward Cranberry!

The above is a photo of the cheese drawer. As you can see, there are no hard-and-fast rules in my fridge.

16: Pecorino Romano: From Murray’s Cheese

17. Ronnybrook Cinnamon Toast Butter: Dang this stuff is good.

18. Cranberries: These guys have been in here for a while. I think they might be indestructible. We are going to find out…

19. Half a Lemon: Not indestructible.

20. Camembert Cheese: I dunno. I think I stole it from a gift basket that arrived at my office.

And on the door:

21. Bailey’s Irish Cream: I should probably throw this out, it’s pretty old.

22. McClure’s Spicy Pickles: In case I want to get into a pickle…

23. Espresso: Fancy stuff I got at Eataly for an upcoming post.

24. More Beer: Yuengling and Hoegaarden this time. I don’t drink these either.

25. Wellness Doggie Treats: I swear that even in my hungriest hour, I don’t eat these. They’re for Toby. He liked them very much, though.

And finally: the moment you’ve been waiting for: Stuff In the Fridge that You Thought Wasn’t Good Anymore But Still Is:

And the winner is the French Toast Bread Pudding! The leftovers of this dish have been hanging out on the top shelf of my fridge since I made it two weeks ago. Saturday morning I woke up and there was no breakfast to be had. OK, I’m lying. I had already eaten some oatmeal. But I was still hungry, as often happens these days with triathlon training I have been doing. So I broke into these leftovers.

I was skeptical. But I was more hungry than apprehensive.

I was also, for some reason, not really into the cranberries.

It stayed surprisingly moist (at the bottom), and was still good.

I ate the rest of it.

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John here.  And while those aren’t my hands you see above (they’re Elana’s.  And yes, those are actually cookies she baked), I did select the tune to accompany it.  A power ballad of love if you ask me.  It was the only way I could simultaneously compliment and combat Elana’s seemingly endless string of mushy Valentine’s Day posts; with a little sprinkle of 80’s power glory.

And on this unique holiday, let Robert Palmer’s “addictive” message – you can’t sleep, you can’t eat, there’s no doubt, you’re in deep – apply to not just the obvious, but whatever the heck it is you want it to; your significant other, a certain food or top 40 tune, reality tv, etc.

Just go nuts and enjoy yourself today.  And keep reading our blog.

Love,

John and Elana

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The Story of How the Box Became THE BOX:
One day, a few years back I received a text message from John. At this time, John was using a cell phone that required him to push the number buttons several times to register the proper letter equivalent while texting. You all remember these phones…some of you may still have one, yes? Hopefully not. ANYWAY, John texted me about our dad. THE BOX. But he was not yet called The Box.

He WAS called “Fat Boy,” a name I have called him since I was in the fourth grade. Cute, don’t you think? Anyway, John did not push the “XYZ” button on his phone the appropriate number of times, so instead of texting “Fat Boy” in reference to our dad, he texted, “Fat Box.”

It has become, in my opinion, the most advantageous typographical error in cell phone history. Fat Boy ever after became Fat Box, and then “The Box,” which is a great name for our dad. So, in honor of him, We present this pasta recipe: Pasta for The Box, But Not From a Box. Wearing Sox.


What You Need:
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes with juice or crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces pancetta or 6 slices bacon, finely chopped
1/2 pound ground beef chuck (not lean)
1/2 pound ground veal
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 carrot, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound small pasta

Garnish: Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

What To Do:
If using whole tomatoes, in blender or food processor, purée tomatoes with juice. Set aside.

In large, heavy pot over moderate heat, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add pancetta and sauté until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add beef, pork, and veal and sauté, breaking up meat with back of spoon, until browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Add onion and carrot and sauté until vegetables are tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

Stir in red wine and simmer, scraping up browned bits stuck to bottom of pan, until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, cream, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and brick-red in color, approximately 30 minutes.

In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until almost tender. Drain well and toss with sauce. Serve with grated cheese.

For Homemade Pasta:

As a general rule of thumb, use 1 cup of flour/egg per person.  Create a “well” in your pile of flour and crack the egg(s) into the well.

Break up the egg yolk with your fingers first, then slowly gather in your flour until it is gone.  Add sprinkles of flour or drops of water to combat a wet or dry mixture.

Knead dough until it has achieved a proper “bounce back” feel to it.  Once it is ready, feed the dough into your pasta machine between the rollers at its widest setting.  Crank that bad boy through and, gradually, narrow the setting on the rollers so until the dough gets very thin.  Once thin, feed the sheet of dough through the setting for shredding.

Place the noodles on a floured pan to negate any sticking.  Then, add to a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Viola.

This recipe was inspired by one found here on Epicurious.com.

Feel free to view our other videos, seen here, here, and here.

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My Aunt Emily sends me a birthday card every year. But it’s my responsibility to IMMEDIATELY call her upon receipt of this card. Or else. I’m done. Seriously.

On my last birthday, I received my card as usual. So I called.

“Thank you for the card, Aunt Emily,” I shouted (you may recall that she can’t hear very well), “How are you?” Demerits are also given for not immediately asking how she is doing.

“Oh I don’t want to talk about that. I want to hear about someone special.” Translation: She wants to know about my love life.

Really?

“There’s no one special right now, Aunt Emily,” I responded, still loudly, and through gritted teeth.

“Well you’re just getting fussy,” she decides.

Fussy? I have two things to say about this:

1. The last time she asked me this question, I happened to be dating someone. When I told her this, she took me aside and whispered in my ear, “Play the field.” Huh.

2. Yes, indeed, I am fussy. Here’s why:

I will demonstrate with the use of pie charts (this is a food blog, after all).

As demonstrated above, I have a perfect right to be fussy. There aren’t many guys that fit into that narrowest pie piece. And I feel the same way about food. Do you have a favorite food? Just one? Would you eat it, if you could, every day?

Why would I eat sub-par pasta? What’s the point? I’m not looking to fill a void (although my stomach is frequently empty). I want those calories to count! As the above chart suggests, I do have a few foods that I would eat every day.

Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Cranberries

I actually do eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Add that to the list of things you really didn’t need to know. Usually, my cabinet is stacked with this brand, but recently I decided to give baked oatmeal a try. What resulted was the equivalent of a giant, chewy oatmeal cookie that filled my apartment with the aroma of cinnamon and warm blueberries. Here’s the recipe, which was inspired by this one at Fresh and Foodie.

What you need:
2 large eggs
1/2 cups sugar (you can use brown sugar)
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons ground flax seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
3 cups rolled oats
As many blueberries and cranberries as you want to throw in there. Or none – your call.

Top with: Nuts, and warm milk

What To Do:
Lightly grease an 8″x8″ baking dish (I actually used a round one).

Mix eggs and sugar in the bottom of the dish, whisking to remove lumps. Add melted butter and carefully whisk to combine. Add baking powder, vanilla, ground flax seed, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt directly to the dish and whisk well. Add the milk and stir to combine.

Stir in the toasted coconut and oats, folding into the mixture, making sure everything is combined well. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the oatmeal for approximately 45 minutes, or until the edges are brown. (I actually woke up, popped it in the oven, set my alarm for 45 minutes and went back to sleep. When I woke up breakfast was served!)

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then cut yourself a piece, top it with milk and whatever else you want. Make sure you get some of the crispy edges in your slice.

Lunch: Sweet Potato Fries with Arugula Salad (AKA Working French Fries into Your Daily Diet)

I get a little overwhelmed when I try to express my love for french fries. Where to start? The salty, crispy outer shell or the inner mushy, slightly sweet center? I like all varieties: original, sweet potato, truffle flavored, those Old Bay seasoned ones you get at the Frying Pan…A perfect food. Except for all that business about the health detriments of fried food. What’s a fussy girl to do? Make my own roasted sweet potato fries, that’s what! Then stick ’em in a salad for some leafy-green balance. Here’s how:

What You Need:
(serves 1)
1 sweet potato
Handful of arugula (enough to cover the bottom of a pasta/salad bowl
Sun-dried tomatoes
Roasted brussels sprouts (recipe here)
Sprinkling of goat cheese

Dressing: Balsamic vinegar mixed with extra virgin olive oil and a touch of sea salt.

What To Do:
Heat up your oven to 400 degrees. Peel your sweet potato, then either cut into wedges or use a mandolin to make waffle fries! Place your cut, raw potatoes in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Space evenly on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven. After about 15 minutes (for wedges – less time for thinner cuts), flip them over so the other side can get nice and brown). Use a spatula, please. I don’t want any martyrs or burn victims. Roast for another 10 minutes or so, keeping a sharp eye the whole time. Take them out, let them cool slightly.

Prepare your salad by starting with a layer of sun dried tomatoes on the bottom of the plate. Then pile on some arugula, a layer of your sweet potato “fries,” and brussels sprouts. You should now have a nice tower of vegetables. Top with crumbled goat cheese and if there is some white wine wandering around your place, pour yourself a glass of that too. OK, not for lunch. Well, maybe.

Dinner: Pasta Cacio e Pepe

When I was in Rome this past October with Marmo, I had my favorite meal at Roma Sparita: their Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe which was served in a bowl of fried cheese. Fried cheese bowl! What’s not to love? You can see the original here.

I decided I needed to make this for myself. It’s such a simple dish and a very traditional Roman one too. The main ingredients are just Peccorino Romano cheese, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. However, it feels luxurious. A little swirl of reserved pasta water added to the cooked spaghetti gives the dish a creamy texture. Swirling this pasta around my fork, I pretend I’m sitting at Roma Sparita’s blue-checked outdoor tables with the sunshine gleaming through my decanter of wine.

I purchased the cheese at Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker where the helpful cheesemongers picked out a nice sharp variety with a dark rind. The cheesemonger BEGGED me to eat the rind (please, PLEASE eat the rind, he said). So I did. When I grated it on my pasta, I made sure to grate the rind as well. It added pretty flecks of brown and gray to the the dish, as well as a bit of texture.

Here is the recipe I used, which is based on this one from Smitten Kitchen:

What You Need:
Serves 1-2 (depending on how much you eat)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 pound dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (don’t forget the rind!)
1 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt (optional)
Reserved pasta water (about a cup)

What To Do:
Cook spaghetti in well-salted boiling water in a large, wide-bottomed pot. Drain spaghetti, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Dry out your pot, then heat the olive oil over high heat. Add drained spaghetti and 3/4 cup of reserved pasta water and watch out as the pot is very hot and will make the water splatter around a bit.

Add butter, cheese, ground pepper and cayenne and toss together with tongs. Taste, adding more pasta water, cheese, pepper or salt to taste. Be careful adding salt as Peccorino is a salty cheese.

Serve immediately, sprinkling with reserved cheese and an extra grind or two of black pepper.

I’m still working on the fried cheese bowl…

Got a food you would eat every day? Tell us about it in the comments section. The fussier, the better.

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