A Weekend Farm Visit

November 13, 2015

This past Sunday, I took a trip to a gorgeous farm that was an hour train ride outside the city. It reminded me that fresh air doesn’t have to mean smog, and that there are animals that are totally worth interacting with (unlike the rats that scurry down the New York streets). 
I went with my two hilarious friends Lala and Amelia because they are the only one’s who shared the same excitement for seeing animals and eating the most delicious snacks from the Blue Hill Cafe at Stone Barns. If you haven’t heard of this place, then you need to watch the AMAZING Netflix docuseries Chef’s Table (episode two). The whole place is run by Dan Barber the leader of the farm-to-table food revolution.
The three of us had a fantastic time running around, taking pictures, and feeding animals (like this baby pig who is giving some serious side-eye). Lala and Amelia are defiantly my biggest foodie friends, and they for sure are the only ones who were willing to wake up at 7 in the morning and catch the train that would drop us off near by the farm. 

Despite how tired we were at the end of the day— none of us are early risers— it was totally worth it. For the most part people are pretty far removed from the process of how their food ends up in their fridge. Seeing the farm first hand solidified my appreciation for people that want animals to have a good life. It was a gorgeous day, and the farm looked like the perfect background for the most basic of basic fall photoshoots (Don’t worry, we all resisted taking pictures of ourselves jumping/throwing/frolicking through fallen leaves). 

Homemade Garlic Naan Bread

November 03, 2015

Naan naan naan naan hey hey hey goodbye! That’s how the lyrics go, right? I can assure you that minutes after serving these to friends (or eating them all by yourself) they will be gone. This was my first time making it, and I have quickly discovered that nothing is better than scorching hot naan straight from the pan (not even the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s). 

As long as your yeast is good and foams when added to sugar water (as pictured above), then this recipe is basically foolproof. Also, it will make your home smell so damn delicious that you won’t be able to stop yourself from tearing into them as they come off the stove. 

The dough is super easy to work with and goes well with just about any flavorings you add to it. I kept it simple by melting butter over a few cloves of minced garlic and spreading it over the dough right before putting it in the hot pan. The sound and smell of the popping garlic butter every time a new piece was placed in the skillet was absolutely my favorite part of making this recipe. 

Since I made each piece of naan pretty small, I used my fingers to press the dough balls flat. But you could also use a rolling pin dusted with flour if you prefer (I just like keeping dishes to a minimum). 
You can make each piece as big as your pan will allow, but since I like mini things, and because I have a tiny little 6-inch cast iron skillet, I chose to make these smaller than what you’d normally get in a restaurant. 

RECIPE (lightly adapted from Gimme Some Oven)
makes 8 regular sized pieces or 16 mini pieces
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups white whole wheat flour + 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine the honey and water, then pour yeast on top of the water. Allow the yeast to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Add flour, yogurt, salt, baking powder, and egg. Mix at medium speed until dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl. 
  3. Take dough out of mixing bowl, then spray the bowl with cooking spray. Make the dough into a ball shape then place it back into the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour in a warm place. The dough should double in size.
  4. As the dough is rising, place butter and garlic into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute (or until butter is bubbling and thoroughly melted).
  5. When the dough has finished rising, dust your work surface, and remove the dough from the bowl.
  6. Shape your dough into a nice round ball and cut it into 16 (or 8) pieces. Start by cutting the ball of dough in half, then halving each of those halves until you have the desired number of pieces (this helps make sure each dough ball is relatively even). 
  7. Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten out each piece. I like to make them on the thin side (less than 1/4-inch) so they bubble more and aren’t too doughy on the inside.
  8.  Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Before transferring a rolled out piece of dough onto the skillet, drizzle a spoon-full of the garlic butter over the dough and spread evenly with the back of the spoon.
  9. Place buttered side of the dough down in the pan to cook for about a minute. When large bubbles are formed spread another spoonful of the garlic butter over the uncooked side, then flip. The cooked side should have even golden brown patches. 
  10. Lower the heat to a low setting and cook the other side for another minute (depending on how hot your pan is it may need less time). You’ll know the other side is done when the bubbled areas are a deep golden brown color. 
  11. Place cooked naan on a plate and cover with foil or a kitchen towel. 
  12. (Optional) Before serving lightly brush garlic butter over naan and top with any fresh herbs you may have on hand.

Salmon Veggie Bowl with Rice

September 12, 2015

I’ve always struggled with eating enough vegetables. It’s gotten to the point where my mom calls me to check in, and she’ll ask if I’m getting enough sleep and eating my veggies, and my response is always something like, “Does the lettuce on my sandwich count?”
Earlier this week I went to Community, a restaurant by the Columbia campus, and enjoyed their rice bowl. It’s your choice of tofu, salmon, or chicken on a bed of thinly sliced vegetables with brown rice on the bottom. It was so good I knew I had to recreate it at home.
First I brined the salmon for 30 minutes so it would be super flavorful, then cooked it over medium heat. 

The cucumber noodles are my favorite part of the dish (I made them using this handy tool). It’s basically scientific fact that whenever a vegetable resembles pasta, it’s going to be ten times more delicious. 
Once everything is prepped, layer a half cup of brown rice at the bottom, then top with your veggies and salmon, and add your favorite dressing. I used Sesame Soy & Ginger dressing because it’s really light and has a great sweet and tangy flavor. 
If this is something you’d want to eat multiple times a week (like I do) then I highly reccomend doubling the recipe.
serves 2
Ingredients for salmon
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup ice cold water
  • 6 oz salmon fillet
Directions for salmon
  1. Stir salt and sugar into warm water until dissolved.
  2. Add cold water to mixture and stir. 
  3. Submerge salmon into brine for 35 minutes
  4. Cook over medium heat on both sides until salmon is opaque in the center or until the internal temperature is 145°F
Ingredients for bowl
  • 1 cup cooked and cooled brown rice
  • 1 cup chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup spiral cucumbers
  • 2/3 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons dressing of choice
Directions for bowl
  1. Layer each bowl with half of rice, veggies, and salmon.
  2. Drizzle preferred dressing over the top and serve.

Pasta in a White Wine Cheese Sauce

August 23, 2015

Remember that time I made fresh pasta? Well, I also had to learn to make a sauce to go with it. As impressive as from scratch pasta is, no one cares if you serve it to them with nothing on it. Using what I already had in my fridge, I was able to come up with this super yummy sauce. I do have to admit that I made it in a rush so my measurements weren’t exact, but don’t let that stop you from making it because it’s pretty hard to ruin.

This sauce smells so amazing! The next day while I was waiting for the elevator my neighbor mentioned that he could smell it and that he was tempted to knock on my door for samples. And I live in New York where it is perfectly acceptable to never interact with your neighbors, so that says something!

Ingredients for white wine cheese sauce
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 basil leaves ripped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • Zest of half a medium lemon
  • Juice of half a medium lemon
  • Black pepper to taste
Directions for white wine cheese sauce
  1. Pour cream in a saucepan and place over medium-low heat, then whisk in cheese.
  2. Add wine, garlic, basil, oregano, zest, and lemon juice into cream and cheese mixture.
  3. Allow simmering on medium heat until it reduces, thickens, and bubbles (about 5-7 minutes). While simmering, make sure to stir frequently and scrape the bottom of the pot to avoid burning. 
  4. Add pepper to taste
*I served it with fresh pasta and topped it with breadcrumbs, but it’s definitely not necessary in order to enjoy the dish.

The Better Way To Wash Your Bras

August 17, 2015

So you can say there has been a lot of bra talk around my office lately. How to put them on and how often you should wash them have been the main points of focus. When I found out I was supposed to be washing them every couple wears I laughed at the impracticality of that. The washing machines in my apartment building don’t have many settings that make it easy to care for delicate clothes, so hand washing is the only way to go for me. And that takes so. damn. long. But I found a solution that doesn’t require me to buy any special laundry bags or devices.
All you need is a large pillowcase and a hair tie! Put your bras in the pillowcasemaking sure there is plenty of room so they will get cleaned properly in the washing machine. Then tie the tippy top of the pillowcase with a hair tie. Place it in a mostly empty washing machine on the most delicate setting and you’re good to go. And you can air dry them or keep them in the pillowcase and put them in the dryer. See? Easy!

The Better Brussels Sprouts

August 13, 2015

On numerous occasions I have been caught saying things like “I’ll eat it as long as it’s not green and leafy,” or “I would eat vegetables, but they just taste like dirt.” No joke. However, a few days ago I stumbled across this Food52 recipe for brussels sprouts. The picture convinced me that if I made it, I would not be left with with the deep regret that usually floods over me after taking a bite of a kale. And boy oh boy was I right. 
Technically, I can’t behave like this is some big shocker. Cardboard would probably be a pretty decent side dish if tossed with oil, ham, cheese, and croutons… but that isn’t the point. The point is I ate something ~healthy~ and didn’t want to scrape my tongue off afterward.
Recipe Adapted from Food52
Ingredients for Brussels Sprouts 
  • pound brussels sprouts
  • slices rustic country bread
  • ounces pancetta, chopped
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 fat clove garlic, smashed
  • sprigs thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan 

Directions for Brussels Sprouts
  1. Heat the oven to 425° F. Trim and quarter the brussels sprouts (halve them if they’re small). Tear the bread into rough crumbs about 1/3 inch in diameter; you’ll need about 1/2 cup.
  2. In an ovenproof pan that will work for serving, fry the pancetta over low heat until crisp. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and over medium low heat soften the shallot, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and whole thyme sprigs and cook for another minute. Turn the heat up to medium and add the croutons, stirring to coat them in the oil. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the croutons start to brown.
  3. Push everything to the sides of the pan and turn up the heat to medium-high. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the center of the pan, along with the sprouts. Cook for a minute or so, until they sizzle and start to brown. Stir everything together, adding salt and pepper to taste, then transfer the pan to the oven. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the sprouts are just tender, about 15 minutes, and everything is crisp and burnished.
  4. Remove the thyme sprigs, shower the sprouts with the Parmesan (if using) and serve.

My Photography Gear

July 25, 2015

There’s a lot of info in this post so I want to say the really important things up front: you can spend a lot of money equipment and still have shitty pictures. I say this because
1) I would hate for anyone to think they can’t have beautiful images because they can’t afford the slew of things I listed below
2) and because my biggest pet peeve is when people attribute a good photo solely to what I’m shooting with.  People do this all the time: “Monique’s photos are so beautiful. She has a really good camera.” And each time it’s like they are breaking off a little of my soul and stomping all over it.  
Lastly, it’s also important to remember that I have been acquiring all this stuff since I was 16 (I’m now 21) by buying second hand and waiting for good deals. And while my camera body was purchased for as a gift for my 21st birthday, everything else I had to save up for.
1. Canon 6D – Canon’s smallest full frame body. I had the 5D MIII for a hot second but decided I didn’t need all the features. With the money, I got back from downgrading I was able to buy a new lens.
2. GoPro Hero4 Silver – I just got this and haven’t used it too much, but I’m so excited to take it with me when I go to Thailand in January. I’m constantly daydreaming about all the underwater footage I’ll get.

3. Sony point and shoot – I always want to have a good camera on me, but it’s just so impractical to haul a DSLR around all day every day.
4. 35mm lens – I took a risk buying it on eBay for a price that was too good to be true. I don’t use it often but when I do I’m in LOOOOVE with the wide angle images it produces.
5. 85mm lens – I only ever use this when I’m shooting food. It takes some really sexy close-ups.
6. 24-70mm lens – My newest lens which I use when I’m out and about and need as much versatility as I can get.
7. 50mm lens – My first lens that will always have a special place in my heart. I really attribute my rapid progression in photography to my 50; it’s so versatile and gave me a lot of room to play around. Also, the fact that it’s a prime lens (it doesn’t zoom) meant that it made me think a lot more about the way I composed my shots. He’s an oldy but a goody.
8. Memory card holder – So I can (try to) keep my cards in one place.
9. Memory cards – I have a million of these all over the place. I always find them in the most random places –pockets, sofa, drawers, handbags, etc.
10. External hard drive – After I take photos I always immediately store them on my external hard drive. I’m terrible about not misplacing memory cards, so this is the only way I don’t lose my photos altogether.
14. Reflectors – I mainly use the white one to help get light into dark areas of food photography, and the translucent one to help diffuse light from my windows.
15. Mono lights – I’m in loooove with my lights. My photography style is bright and slightly overexposed with natural light. This is impossible to achieve when the sun has set before I’ve even reached for my camera. Because of this investment, I’m able to get shots like this and this at 11PM.

 16. Camera crossbody – When I’m out and about in town and don’t want a big CANON bag announcing to the world that I’m carrying equipment worth stealing.
17. Crumpler – For the times when my camera bags just won’t go with my outfit, I can turn any handbag into a camera bag.
18. Camera backpack – This is used mainly when I’m traveling and have to carry more than my camera, cell phone, and credit card. I’m not one to carry more than one bag at a time, so this gives my camera plenty of protection while allowing me room for other things.
19. Camera sling – Rapid R seems to be the only company that recognizes that women are photographers. They know how tragic looking most camera slings are when worn across the chest. This strap is curved at the shoulder so it’s as flattering as a camera sling can be…basically it doesn’t cut across your boob in the most awkward fashion.
20. Bose headphones – When I edit my photos late at night I listen to music or podcasts with these headphones so I don’t disturb my sister.
21. Posterboards – These things are lifesavers for hiding an ugly background or a kitchen that needs to be cleaned. I have them in white, black, and pink.
22. Wacom tablet – For adding handwritten text to images. 
23. UV filters – I’ve invested so much money in my lenses that spending a little more to help keep them protected is worth it. Always having them on my lenses means I have to be too concerned with making sure that my lens cap is on.
24. Camera remote – For when I’m cooking and don’t want my dirty hands all over my camera.  
25. Photoshop CS6 – What I use to edit my photos
 *This is not a sponsored post.