Heather JohnFood, wine, and design writer
Heather John writes about wine, food, design and fashion for a number of publications, including Bon Appétit where she is Contributing Editor/Wine & Spirits. She is the editor/creator of TheFoodinista.com
February 15, 2011
Dear Nelson Swag Leg Work Table,
We’ve been together now for the past six months, and yet I still get butterflies when I see you standing there each morning. Sure, you’ve got great legs, but behind that walnut veneer lies a solid foundation—one upon which we shall surely write history together. Happy Valentine’s Day.
January 3, 2011
I’m trying to clean up my act—at least for this week anyway—and so instead of grazing on cookies and peppermint bark as I’ve been doing the past month, I made a batch of chef David Chang’s vinegar pickles for snacking or dolling up a midweek sandwich. You won’t believe how easy these are. You can try this method with any vegetable you want to pickle, like sliced fennel or cauliflower florets. And ideally you want to really pack the jar with vegetables. But what you really, really want to do is to buy Chang’s Momofuku cookbook for more inspired recipes like this one.
Momofuku Vinegar Pickles, Master Recipe
1 cup water, piping hot from tap
1/2 rice wine vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced
Combine water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Pack the cucumbers into a quart container. Pour brine over vegetables, cover and refrigerate. Allow to sit 3-4 days at a minimum, a week for optimum flavor. Pickles will keep for at least a month.
December 13, 2010
You’ll be the toast of the town with this gorgeous Pomegranate Champagne Punch, which friend and frequent New York Times contributor Melissa Clark developed for us at Bon Appétit several years ago. I’ve served it every year since at our annual holiday party and it is hands down the most requested recipe in my arsenal. You can play around with the proportions—I like to scale back on the simple syrup by about half—and add more or less white rum and pomegranate juice to taste. The recipe calls for Champagne, but I use Cristalino Brut Cava, a perfect dry sparkler with bright citrus notes that complement the lemon slices in the punch. It’s a bargain at around $7 a bottle. I also like to make a rather splashy ice block by filling a Bundt pan with water and sprinkling in pomegranate seeds, and then freezing overnight. It looks beautiful in the bowl—and as it melts, it disperses more pomegranate seeds into the punch. You could add whatever you want though—lemon slices, fresh mint leaves, etc. Cheers!
Melissa Clark’s Pomegranate-Champagne Punch
Adapted from a recipe from Bon Appétit, December 2007
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 750-ml bottles chilled brut Champagne or cava
1 1/2 cups white rum
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
Fresh mint leaves
1 ice block
Bring 1/2 cup water and sugar to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool syrup completely. Combine Champagne, rum, and pomegranate juice in punch bowl. Add enough syrup to sweeten to taste. (I like to add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup simple syrup.) Mix in lemon slices, pomegranate seeds, and mint leaves. Add ice block to bowl.
To make ice block: Fill a Bundt pan with water. Sprinkle in pomegranate seeds and mint leaves. Freeze overnight. Let defrost just long enough to loosen the ice from its mold.
December 6, 2010
During the week we try to keep it healthy—and given that tonight, I’m told, is a particularly riveting match-up on Monday Night Football, my husband is not necessarily on board. So here’s a compromise we can both live with: kale chips. They are loaded with antioxidants and other goodness, but are every bit as satisfying as a potato chip.
My favorite method is inspired by Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill Farm in New York. First, you’ll want to use Tuscan kale, which you’ll find under a myriad of names including cavolo nero, dinosaur kale, Lacinato kale, black kale, but is basically the one with long bumpy leaves. Rinse the leaves, dry and cut in half to remove the center stalk. Then toss them in a bowl with a tablespoon of good olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Then arrange leaves in a single layer on two baking sheets, and bake at 250 for 30 minutes or so. They are so nutty, crispy, slightly briny, and betcha can’t eat just one.
November 29, 2010
With Thanksgiving safely behind us we begin to looking forward to the rest of the holidays. This year Hannukah starts early – December 1 to be exact. So we’re going to start our gift guide early too! I asked five Lifework contributors to put together their wish lists for the holidays. Here is Heather’s and as you’d expect it has a particularly foodie bent. Look out tomorrow for Brian Greene’s list. If you’re shopping for Christmas this will certainly give you lots of time to get inspired before the rush sets in.
(PS – don’t forget the Herman Miller holiday event runs until December 13. We are offering 15% off selected items and a fast ship service.)
The very best gifts to give are the ones you’d like to receive. And so I hope my husband is reading about all the lovely generous gifts I want to give, hint hint. But seriously, my gifty picks center around what is in fact my very, very favorite part of the holiday season: parties! So whether you’re the cooking in the kitchen or decking the halls, here are a few must-haves for making the seasonal scene.
1. WMF Profi-Plus Stainless Steel Ball Whisk, $30 at MoMa Unlike many kitchen utensils that rate high in looks, this one actually works. It has become my absolute favorite whisk, particularly when it comes to cleanup as there are no crevices for food to get stuck in. Also, the design means that the ball rods can generate more whipping action using less effort. It’s in heavy rotation in my kitchen and on my gift list.
2. Muji Water-Repellent Apron, $22.95 Can we talk about how totally chic this Japanese apron is? I love all things Muji for simplicity of design, and this apron is no exception. Perfect for the hostess on your list—you know, the one who actually cooks and looks good doing it.
3. Vange’s Desile Folding Chair, $335 It seems like I’ve been on the hunt for good folding chairs for a very long time. This bamboo eco-friendly version is the holy grail of folding chairs. Cut from a single 20mm slice of board, when closed, the chair is pancake flat (100 chairs = 2 linear meters).
4. Lanvin Crystal-Embedded Suede Ballerina Flats, $770 Good taste starts with shoes, and I love Lanvin’s update on the classic ballerina with this flirty little Swarovski crystal bow. To stay on your toes for the month of merrymaking ahead, forgo the heels and slip into something more comfortable.
5. Eames Hang It All, $179 I’ve been wanting this Eames Hang It All FOREVER! And this year I’ve found a way to give AND receive. I’m wrapping it up and putting it under the tree for my toddler who will love the colorful hooks. As parents, we make sacrifices…
6. Heath Ceramics Winter Scarlet Dip Bud Vase Set, $110 A friend once said she was suspect of those who seasonally decorate—and while I think she was talking gourds on mantles and lawn ornaments, I have to believe she would make exception for Heath’s seasonal bud vase set in seductive suede red, ruby red and linen white.
November 22, 2010
I thought the time was right to share my very favorite Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvre—one that does double duty as a chic little snack year round. You are going to pinch yourself they’re so easy: Salmon Chips with Crème Fraiche & Chives. I love these for Thanksgiving because they take two seconds to assemble and salmon isn’t likely to be repeated at the holiday table but does go very well with a glass of lemony Prosecco to kick off the meal.
Salmon Chips with Crème Fraiche & Chives
6 slices smoked salmon
12 ruffled potato chips
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
In a bowl, mix crème fraiche with lemon zest, to taste (personally I am pretty liberal with the lemon zest to balance the richness of the salmon). Cut smoked salmon slices in half. Top each potato chip with a piece of smoked salmon, a dollop of crème fraîche mixture and sprinkle with chopped chives.
November 8, 2010
This recipe comes from one of my favorite chefs, Suzanne Goin, at whose restaurant Lucques in West Hollywood my husband proposed to me almost four years ago. But this salad isn’t just sentimental, it’s spectacular. I love how the saltiness of the cured black olives and ricotta salata (a firm, dried and salted version of traditional whey ricotta) balance with the fresh mint, orange segments and citrusy dressing. The original recipe calls for 4 large oranges (to serve six) but I’m not wild about too much fruit in a savory salad, so I scale back to two. When blood oranges are in season, all the better. I make this salad when I want to wow at a dinner party, or I’ll throw together an individual-sized portion for lunch. I feel virtuous saying “I’m having a salad for lunch,” but also a little bit smug when I take a bite.
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon orange-flower water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 medium)
2 large oranges
1 5-ounce package arugula (about 10 cups packed)
1 cup fresh mint leaves (from about 2 bunches)
1/2 cup thinly sliced pitted oil-cured black olives
1 5-ounce piece ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta cheese), cut into 1 1/2-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick slices
To make the dressing whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature and rewhisk before using.
To prepare the salad place onion in large bowl. Add 1/3 of dressing; toss. Let marinate 20 minutes.
Cut off peel and pith from oranges. Cut each orange crosswise into 8 slices.
Add arugula, mint, and olives to bowl with onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Add remaining dressing; toss. Divide salad among 6 plates. Tuck orange slices and ricotta salata slices into salads.
October 29, 2010
It’s Friday—and if your work week went anything like mine, you are ready for a little reward. Here is a favorite recipe adapted from Gourmet that is every bit as delicious in its nonalcoholic form for an afternoon treat as it is with a splash of vodka for a more grown-up version at the end of the day. The herbal note from the rosemary makes this an excellent drink to serve with food—whether snacking on Marcona almonds drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt or sipping alongside a slow-roasted pork shoulder with herbs.
Rosemary Lemon Fizz
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 large rosemary sprig, plus additional for garnish
2 tablespoons vodka (optional)
Chilled soda water
In a small saucepan, bring lemon juice, sugar and large rosemary sprig to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Simmer an additional two minutes and allow to cool completely, about an hour. Fill two glasses halfway with ice. Divide lemon-rosemary syrup among two glasses. Add vodka if using. Top off with club soda and garnish with rosemary sprig.
October 22, 2010
What’s the best part of working from home? On a day that involves a fried egg sandwich, the answer has to be “lunch.” I consider myself something of a connoisseur of the genre, and have arrived at the following recipe that gets a kick from Sriracha aioli. If you haven’t tried Sriracha, it’s a Thai hot sauce made from chilies and garlic and is a Southern California staple. I like to add it to mayonnaise to make this super-quick spicy aioli (it is also killer on a cheese burger). When choosing a cheese for the fried egg sandwich, look for something nutty and salty like Gruyere and make sure it’s sliced super-thin so it will melt on contact with fried egg hot off the griddle. The nuttiness also plays well with the multigrain bread. A peppery leafy green like arugula or mustard greens adds a bright note. Or make the sandwich your own and get creative by adding bacon or avocado—or both!
The Foodinista’s Fried Egg Sandwich with Sriracha Aioli
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon or more, to taste, Sriracha chile paste
2 slices lightly toasted whole grain bread
1 fried egg
2-3 thin slices of Gruyere
Handful of mixed greens
Freshly cracked salt and pepper, to taste
Mix mayo and Sriracha to make aioli. Spread the aioli over lightly toasted whole grain bread, and place a fried egg on one slice. Then, cover egg with cheese like Gruyere. And finally, sprinkle with some greens and freshly cracked salt and black pepper. Top with second slice of toast.
October 15, 2010
The second most requested recipe—after the lethal Pomegranate Champagne Punch—at our annual holiday party is for these salty spicy sweet roasted almonds. I find they also make a dandy midweek snack, and are even better the following day. The original recipe calls for dried rosemary, which works superbly, but when fresh is on offer I love the piney sweetness it adds to the mix. And don’t be afraid to up the cayenne a dash if that’s how you roll.
Roasted Almonds with Rosemary and Fleur de Sel
Adapted from a Bon Appétit recipe, December 2003
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups whole blanched almonds (if not available, substitute whole raw almonds with skins on)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray. Whisk egg white in medium bowl until foamy. Add sugar; whisk until frothy. Whisk in rosemary, fleur de sel, and cayenne. Add nuts; stir. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading nuts in single layer. Bake until golden, stirring every 8-10 minutes, about 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheet.
Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; store at room temperature.