01 May 2010


i must first begin with the facts that a) my birthday was a month ago and b) my celebration began on friday when my boss took myslef and my co-worker out to lunch and then called it a day!  we got to the restaurant (the standard grill) and ordered pimms...i had never had a pimm anything before and lemme tell you...this drink was delicious! we had H.M.S. PIMM’S, which consisted of pimm's cup no. 1, cointreau, lime juice, prosecco, winter berries, cucumber and mint. yum. and simple...you can probably make them at home. who am i kidding, probably? you can. period.
so good! i had mussels for lunch, with fries? bien sur. then for dessert we had a pecan pie that we all split and the waitress brought us all a glass of champagne...it was a really kickin' friday afternoon.
i'm 29!
whats nice (and not nice) about having a birthday so close to easter is you get to celebrate with family. the downside of that is going to an easter egg hunt with at least 50 children who range from 2 - 11 and having conversations about basement flooding and what company you should use for the repairs. it was all sorts of hilarious. it was nice because i love my sister and brother-in-law and i really enjoy spending time with my niece and nephew, but it was also very suburban.

i even got to make my own birthday cake with macy (my niece)! we used a basic white cake recipe from epicurious. [my birthday was now a long time ago...but the food and post are worth sharing] i will share the recipe but i gotta admit...not sure i am a fan of white cake. its sort of dry - or at least thats how ours ended up and the description said it would be moist...was not. it might be because there's no yolk, how do you have a cake without yolk?  you dont. you have white cake. 
i wanted to make something really simple and maybe a little messy (at least looking) for my cake. i didnt want a lot of sweet stuff, so i just whipped up some heavy cream and tossed some berries with a pinch of sugar then layered.

Classic White Cake
adapted from here

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg whites

3/4 cup milk
1. make sure you have 2 9-inch round cake pans, buttered (really well)
2. set your oven to 350 degrees and make sure your rack is in the middle of the oven
3. combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, mix well.
4. place butter and sugar in a bowl, beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until very soft and light. beat in the vanilla. 
5. whisk together the egg whites and milk by hand in another bowl until just combined.
6. reduce mixer speed to low and beat in 1/4 flour mix, then 1/3 milk mixture, stopping and scraping down the bowl and beater after each addition. (this may have been where macy and i messed up the cake) do this in this ratio until all combined.

7.scrape bowl well w. a rubber spatula, pour batter into the prepared pans and smooth tops. (i always tap my pans on the counter top, i think i say someone on the food network do this once to "get rid of air bubbles." its now part of my baking regime.)
8. bake layers for about 30 - 35 minutes, until they are well risen and firm and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean (also, where we may have messed up - i didnt check both, make sure you check both...also, our cake didnt really rise). cool the layers in the pan on racks for 5 min (seriously - no more, i think also may be where we messed up!), then unmold onto racks to finish cooling right side up.
see! she was happy with the final outcome, but cooking with a child under 10 is tough, she got bored very quickly. maybe there's a way to make baking/mixing/stirring into a game and that way she'd be all about it?

on to dinner. yes, i got to choose and make dinner on my birthday. you may laugh/gawk/shock, but hey, i love cooking, remember? (not to mention the salmon was cooked by my bro-in-law and my sister and i kept swapping positions) so, i chose mushroom risotto, asparagus and salmon. my big sister is sort of hilarious. we keep switching back and forth with the risotto...she got sooo bored of stirring. like mother like daughter? nah, my sister has a better attention span than a 7 year old. for the most part. all we did with the asparagus was boil them a little with salt water and then with the salmon, we baked it with olive oil and salt and pepper.

mushroom risotto
adapted from here

1 oz dried porcini (1 cup)
3 3/4 cup hot water

5 1/4 cup reduced(low) sodium chicken broth (42 fl oz)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lb Arborio rice (2 1/3 cup)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup finely grated parm-reggiano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. soak the porcini in 1/2 cup hot water in a bowl until softened, about 20 minutes. lift them out, squeezing liquid back into the bowl. rinse off any grit that may remain and coarsely chop. pour soaking liquid through a sieve line with a coffee filter or a dampened paper towel into a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, then add broth, soy sauce, and remaining water and bring to a simmer.
2. meanwhile, heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a 4 to 5 quart heavy potover moderately high head until foam subsides, then saute onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. add garlic and fresh mushrooms and saute, stirring, until mushrooms are browned and any liquid they give off is evaporated, about 8 minutes. stir in porcini and cook, stirring, 1 minute, then add rice and cook, stirring,, 1 minute. add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute. (MAN...that is a lot of stirring.)
3. stir 1 cup simmering broth into rice and cook, stirring constantly (serious?) and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. continue cooking and adding broth, about a cup at a time, stirring frequently (come on!) and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until ice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes. thin with some of the remaining broth if necessary. 
4. remove from heat. stir in cheese, salt, pepper, and remianing 5 tablespoons of butter until butter is melted.
5. if reserving some risotto to make risotto cake tomorrow, set aside 3 cups and cool to room temp, then chill covered with plastic wrap.
6. stir parsley into remaining risotto and serve immediately.
all in all. it was really lovely. just my sister, brother-in-law and me having dinner and drinking nice wine. we of course had cake, but the first pieces went to my niece and nephew, duh...you can't go to bed without dessert people, we all know this! too cute. 
i know its way way way past my birthday, but thanks for bearing with me. 



  1. Happy Birthday! I love pims! It's the gateway drink to a whole fabulous world of Amaro based drinks.

  2. Aron! Thanks for the advice - I searched the cocktail list at Bar Dupont this weekend in DC, to no avail.... Typically, I'm not a cocktail drinker, but with something so light and fresh like Pims, I may make it a summer go-to. And I love you're blog! You and your wife post great stuff. Thanks for finding me.

  3. Love Standard Grill!!