Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday

My Idea of a Super Bowl

 & Fava Bean Dip!

Between "deflate gate" and under-reported tragic football concussions, I am beginning to agree with Bill Maher who said that watching Super Bowl XLIX is as off putting as watching Cosby reruns. It seems that hummus isn't the only dip being brought out this Sunday. How often do we have to hear "I am only here so I won't get fined?" Let's forgo the "chips and dips" and look at some super bowls that make everything look appetizing.

Handsome bowls can be multi-purpose -- they can hold a delectable bowl of pasta or can be used by the door as a place for your keys! Most of my favorite super bowls (below) followed me from Europe, and often found their way into my cabinets after being packed tightly and precariously in large suitcases. 

My absolute fave!  I bought this hand-painted bowl in Ravello. I think of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea every time I use it. 

Italian ceramic artisans still incorporate the same craftsmanship and designs that have been used for centuries. Can you tell which dish (below) I bought recently in Italy and which is hundreds of years old (and is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art)?

I adore this bowl from the 1930s. While I use it mostly for salads, I believe it was originally intended for pasta. 
Moorish bowls that I picked up in the south of Spain
Burnt gold and cobalt blue never go out of style!  We bought this in Ravello at the same time that a well-know designer of American polo shirts bought the entire collection of this pattern.  I wonder when we will see something similar in his home collection?
The English country scene bowls, I use them almost every day.

In the super bowl "commercial" category, it is hard to beat Pyrex. A 20 piece set can be as little as $20 and can last for generations. And "to boot" they are American made, and can assuage some fears of reheating and storing food in plastic.

Some years ago, I had an entire set of this rustic Amalfi pattern and even planned a trip back to that region just to re-plenish broken pieces; only to arrive to find that the artist had died and the collection is no longer produced! So, logically, I came home with these instead:

No kitchen is complete without a wooden bowl; and when mixing a salad, no wooden bowl is too large!


Most store-bought dips, especially Salsa, taste a bit metallic and processed to me.  If you are hosting a party, it is best to make your own.

Here is an incredibly easy dip that will be a huge crowd-pleaser:

Here is what you will need - 

Fava Beans, jarred or canned.
(You can also sometimes find packaged, uncooked Fava beans in your produce section.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 lemon

After draining most of the liquid, warm the jarred or canned fava beans on the stove.  If using uncooked beans, be sure to heat until the beans are tender.   In a blender combine the warm beans, with the olive oil, cumin, garlic, lemon and salt/pepper.  Blend and serve warm.  A bit of sautéd onion work well in this dip, too.

So easy and sooo good!!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Romance of Fabrics

Take design cues from the masters, and be inspired! An entire room could be themed around that cobalt blue bow...

...or, maybe just a bedroom table!

I could spend an entire day in a fabric store.  Wandering past bolts of beautiful textiles is a bit like spending a fanciful afternoon at a museum admiring genius art -- perusing the bold, or muted, or variegated colors, the flora or fauna, the detailed patterns -- it's just beautiful.  Many of my friends find these shops overwhelming, but I find them great fun. Perhaps too much fun -- I have been known to buy bolts of fabric without having an exact use in mind.

I just had to buy this Italian fabric!  The hand painted, Florentine texture is stunning. But, I haven't found a use for it yet!

Layering various fabrics is so stylish.  On my bed, I am constantly shuffling fabrics around (above and below)

Classically modern sheets by Frette that I used in a guest room
18th Century inspired embroidered fabric from India. Again, I just had to have it! Much of the fabric from Indian has a cheerful sense of authenticity and has influenced countless fabric designs, including many of the bold country French collections. 

For some years now, home decor seems to have forgotten about the beautiful language that colorful fabrics, wall coverings and rugs speak.  Lately, style has been somewhat refined, somewhat hotel-like and hence, a little dry and a little limited.   Luckily, this seems to be passing. The exuberance of color is coming back, and we should enthusiastically welcome its return!

A cerulean embroidered silk throw livens up an earthy brushed wool chaise in my bedroom.

We have no problem taking a beautiful paisley printed Indian fabric to the beach to use as a tent. 

Now, of course, there are the legendary fabric houses -- Schumacher (above), or Brunswick and Fils, or Kravet...

...but here in Brooklyn, there are other vibrant options. Flavor Paper is a modern, inspiring source for wall coverings. Customers can custom design their paper, via hand-made screen printing, or use exisitng patters. Gorgeous!

Remember -- your house is your home.  Make sure it feels like it!

Happy Designing!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Slow Cooked Comfort Foods

Perfect Pot Roast (now more commonly called Braised Beef)

While growing up in the picturesque Adirondack region of upstate New York, complete with rolling hills, apple orchards and ski resorts, my parents would prudently take advantage of the many local farms and purchase half a steer every year-- literally all the pieces of half a cow would be delivered to our house!  I vividly remember when it would arrive --  my mother would spend a long afternoon sealing and labeling each cut before placing in our enormous deep freezer.  Luckily for us, and to the amazement of our friends when they joined us for dinner, my sisters and I grew up eating steak whenever we pleased.

While the memory of eating copious amounts of steak is now hazy, I fondly remember devouring other cuts, specifically -- the chuck roast, which  my mother would succulently prepare into her most famous winter comfort meal -- slow cooked pot roast. She cooked it to perfection, it crumbled off the knife and melted in the mouth.  Some years ago, long after my parents moved to Florida and my mother stopped preparing these heavier meat dishes, I asked her for the recipe. Her reply:

"Oh, I don't remember, dear!"


So I was on my own!  After numerous attempts to resurrect my mother's pot roast, some rather unfortunate outcomes, much research, and various ingredient combinations, I finally achieved the incredible taste that I nostalgically remember from childhood.  Strangely, the trick (recalling our deep freezer) is to use frozen meat! When chuck is frozen it seems to initiate the break down of fats and proteins, creating a more tender pot roast.

If it's a chilly day, roasting meat in the oven is heavenly! And here is what you will need:

5 lb Boneless marbled Chuck Roast (preferably frozen)
2 turnips
3 parsnips
1-2 potatoes
6 celery stalks
2 onions
3 shallots
5 cloves minced garlic
1 leak
6 carrots
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Thyme
3 Dried Bay Leaves
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
Egg Noddles
olive oil
optional -- mushrooms, tomato paste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Cube the parsnips, turnips, celery, potato, carrots, shallots, mushrooms and leaks.  Separate cubed vegetables into two bowls (half will be cooked now, the other half later).  Dice the onions and sauté them in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. For a deeper flavor, add in a tablespoon of tomato paste (optional). After a minute combine the the first bowl of cubed vegetables with the onions. Continue to sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and the wine. 

Salt both sides of the meat and place it in the center of the pot. Add in the beef broth, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. 

As the name suggests, pot roast can stew on the stove; but I prefer to use the oven.  Cook the covered roast for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then reduce heat to 300 degrees.  Cook for a least 4 hours. 

One hour before serving, remove the vegetables from the pot as well as enough of the liquid to prepare a gravy.  Add in the second uncooked bowl of vegetables and cook with the roast for 1 hour. 

While the vegetables are cooking, slowly wisk a tablespoon of flour with the liquid until desired gravy consistency is achieved. If it becomes too thick, add in some beef stock and/or wine.  If it's too thin, add in more flour. 

Once the vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness, remove the pot from the oven and carve away!

On this occasion, I served the pot roast with gravy egg noddles (mashed potatoes work well too!), pureed acorn squash seasoned with cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg, and the delicious cubed vegetables that were cooked in the meat juices.  Adding a side of cheddar cheese popovers is always a hit, too!

Bon Appetite!

If you are lucky enough to have leftovers --

1.  Use it for beef barley soup.  

2.  Or, make hot, open-faced meat sandwiches. Fork the meat apart, cook it in gravy, and serve over fresh toast.  The kid's will love it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Timeless Detail

Older Home Eye Candy!

Aside from my unstoppable love of anything Fleur-de-Lis, it is hard to pinpoint why I am so captivated by this image (above). Perhaps I appreciate it because it demonstrates a bygone time when details mattered, and represents the many reasons people like me passionately treasure homes build a hundred years ago. The photo was taken in my dining room, it is a corner of my impressively bold, unusually heavy, masculine, hexagonal chandelier. The amount of time and artistry that was put into creating it, along with the rest of the fine plasterwork, ornamental details, and millwork of houses, like mine, built here in New York at the beginning of the gilded age, is unimaginable by today's standards. Ah yes, this is why I like it so much!

Typical doorway in Historic Limestone section of Brooklyn
It's true, I am growing tired of brushed nickel everywhere, but sometimes it just works!

Decorating older, timeless homes can be quite challenging. Having lived in many old homes, I understand the difficulty of adding modern energy while trying to preserve a home's original detail and grandeur. It's a fine line, adding flair and keeping integrity, balancing between too new and too old fashioned. A well-build interior, however, whether done in 1995 or 1795, will last if the bones are beautiful.
Almost 20 years, and it still looks great!

New tiles, with a nod to the past!

When we first moved into our house, it was filled with unbecoming contemporary furniture, which was poorly punctuated by bright, unflattering wall colors.  It didn't work.  Luckily, we were able to see through the unsuitable choices, and saw instead a place that could be easily resurrected.

We weren't about to get rid of this amazing fireplace adornment, so we brightened it up a bit with some architectural silver boxes. 

It is imperative that the design of older homes take its pointers from the home's existing architecture and details. Capturing and holding onto some of the past creates charm. Simultaneously, older homes need touches of freshness, liveliness, flair and unexpectedness.

Our high-back dark mohair sofa is wonderfully comfy, especially on cold winter nights. But it needed to be lighted up a bit, so I added a cashmere pillow and placed a woven basket shaped like a bag alongside. It adds some spice and is perfect for storage. 

Silver boxes help finish our bathroom counter.

Mixing a traditional print with a modern bed frame works well in new and old spaces. Sheets are by Anichini, an American-made company based in Vermont. 
Picture groupings never go out of style!

My dining room walls are dark mahogany. To brighten them up, I added an earthy sofa, pillow and blanket.  It worked, and  it's lovely to have a sofa in our well used dining room!

Home Design Recommendations:

If you are working on a house, or just appreciate well designed places, then pick up copies of the following magazines:

Thank goodness my daughter enjoys shopping with me!