Hillary Reeves

A blog about living and eating in New York City.

Goodbye, Summer!

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It was a great, family-filled summer for me. Shout-outs to my mom for making 60 look fabulous, my friends for meeting up with me to eat lots and lots of food, my sisters for being fun, Danny for taking me out for ice cream cones, Beej for being the cutest, and sunscreen for always being there.


Salmon Nicoise Salad

2 Salmon Salad Nicoise - Hill Reeves

Salmon Salad Nicoise - Hill Reeves

I got a big bag of beautiful, organic string beans in my CSA share last week. As with many of the things I get in my CSA, at first I’m like “ooh! String beans! I never make string beans, what an adventure!” But then I realize that I don’t like string beans. No matter what, they taste like the traumatizing string beans we’d get served in the school cafeteria. You know; the kind that are canned, grey and salty, with phlegmy water refusing to uncling from each bean.

Stuck with the vegetables, I asked myself the same phrase I ask myself during most cooking conundrums, what would a French person do? Usually, the answer will involve lots of butter or, if you’re lucky, mayonnaise. Sometimes you can even pretend your mayonnaise-covered vegetables are virtuous and call it a “salad.” Zut alors! Incroyable! In my case, this weekend, the salad was of the Nicoise variety. Salmon Nicoise salad (or salade Niçoise if you’re convinced that your high school French teacher Madame Clérismé is out there, somewhere, reading this) is a really fun weekend undertaking because it requires a lot of pieces, but together tastes effortless.

I might be over thinking things, but preparing this salad feels like an exercise in design. I like to assemble my salad specifically so that all of the items are incorporated, but there is also the traditional way of assembling a Nicoise salad in a very organized, compartmentalized manner. Either way, something about these ingredients makes you think a little bit harder about the choices you make. Each element has got a shape to it, sometimes echoed by other pieces of the dish (all of the spheres, cut in half! Eggs, tomatoes, potatoes…), and then you lay them all so deliberately alongside each other, only to eventually destroy the elegance of it all as you dig in and mix it all together. It’s quite an existential way to spend a Sunday afternoon if you’re dorky about anchovies and aoilis, like I am.

The particular recipe I followed was based off Gordon Ramsay’s tutorial in his Ultimate Christmas series, which can be found in three parts on YouTube. His version involves coddled eggs and, overall, a bit more finesse, so I simplified mine a bit! See below.

Nicoise Salad with Poached Salmon

1 lb poached salmon fillet (more below)
1 head of lettuce (I used Bibb lettuce, traditionally it’s romaine hearts, watercress also works nicely)
6 small, boiled creamer potatoes, cut into quarters
1/2 lb of par-boiled string beans
4 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half
1 pint of marinated cherry tomatoes (more below)
8 canned/jarred anchovy fillets
aoili dressing (more below)

As you can see, there are a lot of pieces of this salad that need to be prepared before assembling. Luckily, most of this can be done ahead of time! For items like the string beans, potatoes or eggs, get these ready ahead of time, and set aside to cool. Next, I’ll break down the other elements:

For the salmon:

Put together a court bouillon (that’s a fancy way of saying a simple, quick poaching liquid). Here’s a recipe for a more robust version, but I tend to use what I have on-hand, often in unspecific pours, sprinkles and handfuls. If you’re a less experience cook, find a court bouillon recipe online; if you’re more experienced, use your judgement! For mine, I tossed the following into a dutch oven:

- 4ish cups of water
- Center stalks of one celery heart, including leaves
- 1/2 a roughly chopped large carrot
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- Half of a lemon
- Generous pour of white wine… probably about 3/4 of a cup
- Less generous pour of white wine vinegar, about 1/2 cup
- A few pinches of salt
- A pinch or two of white pepper
- 3 star anise pods

Bring all of these ingredients to a boil, then simmer and gently lay in your salmon fillet, skin side down. Let simmer for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let cool. Once cool enough to touch, lift out your salmon, pull away and discard the skin. Using just your hands, gently flake apart the salmon and set aside.

For the tomatoes:

Cut your cherry tomatoes in half and place in medium-sized bowl. I use a paring knife to cut them one-by-one; that method using Tupperware caps is lazy and preposterous if you ask me. Drizzle the tomatoes thoroughly with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Let marinate for at least ten minutes.

As you assemble the salad later on, you probably won’t use the entire pint of tomatoes, unless you really like tomatoes. The next morning, put the remaining marinated tomatoes on a slice of ricotta-slathered sourdough toast.

For the ailoi:

Making an “aoili” (or, mayonnaise) requires nothing more than an egg yolk, some oil, some vinegar/lemon and a whisk. However, if you’re not up for the task, the aoili dressing can also just be made as follows:

- 1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise (Hellmann’s!!!)
- 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
- 2-4 teaspoons of water
- pinch of black pepper

Whisk ingredients together. You want the dressing to be loose enough that it could pour onto the salad like a traditional dressing. Think the consistency of a good chicken gravy.

Assembling the salad:

A good Nicoise salad should be built on a large platter. Some twenty-somethings with tiny apartments don’t have the luxury of lots of lovely servingware, so if a large salad bowl is what you got, make it work!

1. Lay a single layer of separated lettuce leaves along the bottom of your bowl or dish. Using one leaf, dip into your dressing and, using it like a paint brush, paint the dressing onto each of the leaves in the bowl. Lay another single layer of leaves and repeat until all of your leaves are in the bowl/on the platter.

2. Next, because I like a warm element, quickly sautee the potatoes and string beans together in a skillet with a pad of butter and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside to let cool slightly while you continue to assemble salad.

3. Top the lettuce with as many tomatoes as you’d like in your salad. By no means should you be dumping in tomatoes (or other ingredients)– instead, place them strategically around the salad, as if you picked up a serving from that exact spot, you’d get each and every salad element without any tossing! Traditionally, there would also be olives– add those now if you’d like. I didn’t use any!

4. Hopefully the beans and potatoes are no longer too hot. Gently place them in… again, strategically around the salad to cover all spots! Drizzle on more dressing. I liked to use a fork to splash it on, almost like I’m splatter-painting.

5. Next, place in the eggs. I like to specifically cover each egg half with an anchovy fillet; the flavor combo is divine, but this certainly isn’t a rule you can’t break!

6. Finally, place the salmon in and around the salad. Et voila!

7. Serve with extra dressing on the side, but I like to save that for the end since the salad looks so pretty with the pink salmon riding on top, unmarked by aioli!

Little Nonna’s

Little Nonna's Meatballs Philly

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Little Nonna's Sunday Gravy - Hill Reeves

It appears that stuffed meatballs are becoming a little mini trend. I’ve seen them pop up on my Twitter feed a few times in the past month, whether filled with oozy mozzarella cheese, basil pesto or meatloaf-sized and stuffed with cooked spaghetti. That last iteration is a little overboard, even for me, but I am very interested in the cheese-stuffed variety, especially since I tasted them at Little Nonna’s in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. It also helps that I’m pretty sure Little Nonna’s incredible meatballs are not only stuffed with melted cheese, but also tasted– and I could be wrong– like they were maybe deep-fried. Incredible…like meaty arancini.

The “Sunday Gravy,” stuffed squash blossoms, negroni, and calamarata were all incredible too; the kind of food that you crave after a long day spent exhausting yourself while exploring a new (to you) city. It didn’t hurt, either, that I was a handful of my oldest friends. It’s weird to think how so many of my dearest friends, I’ve only really known in adulthood, whether I met them at college or in the workplace. But this night at dinner, I was surrounded by people who’ve known me since at least my teens, which makes for some impassioned and honest conversation (as you can see by James’s lawerly expression in photo #2, ha!).

We were lucky enough to get a last-minute reservation at the red sauce joint. We sat in their back patio, which, strung with simple lights and garden accents,  felt more like a backyard get together at Taylor Swift’s house than an uptight dining experience, in all of the best ways. At moments, the service got slow and the water was a bit too warm for the likewise hot space, but the cheesy meatballs and overall charm of the restaurant left me with a happy, glowing memory of the evening!

Federal Donuts in Philly

Federal Donuts Philly - Hill Reeves

Federal Donuts - Hill Reeves

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This past weekend, me, Dan, Can and Rich headed down to Philly for a no-reason adventure. I’d never been to the City of Brotherly Love before, but it’s definitely one of my new favorite places. Not only is it a clean, friendly, nicely-sized town with lots to do and the feeling of historical significance wafting through the cobblestone streets, but we also ate A LOT of excellent food. Possibly the most notable was Federal Donuts… certainly it was the most notable donut shop/fried chicken joint (is that not the dream!?).

Candice and Rich are expert donut-eaters. The first time I met Rich, it was over donuts from Paula’s up in Buffalo (also VERY MUCH worth visiting), and the two of them are known to spend their weekend on donut benders, starting at Nostrand Donut Shop, making their way to Dough, Peter Pan and Doughnut Plant. I’ve literally seen them buy 3 dozen donuts at once– first dozen to eat now, second dozen to share with friends, third dozen for tomorrow. So, when we were thinking about what to do in Philly, the question was not “should we go to Federal Donuts?” but was “how many times will we go to Federal Donuts during those 36 hours?” (I could actually screenshot that exact email convo if you want proof.)

It was well worth it… blackberry walnut (cinnamon cake donut dipped in walnuts and doused in blackberry frosting), blueberry mascarpone (sweet, simple and summery), chocolate sea salt, s’mores, even the plain was perfect. The cold brew coffee was also pretty noteworthy, and the Korean-style fried chicken (which they serve at 11), is a great chaser to the sugar rush.

IF YOU GO: While we only visited the Rittenhouse Square location, I definitely think there is some strategy involved with visiting Federal Donuts. We got there at about 10:30. It wasn’t too busy, but one of the special flavors of the day had already sold out. We could sit with some breathing room and hang out with our amazing donuts and awesome coffee.

Once 11AM rolled around, the place got standing-room-only packed; it’s chicken time. I kind of expected a bell to ring or an announcement, but that never happened, so I recommend just hanging out and keeping an eye out for the first batch crispy legs coming out of the fryer. We tried one wet rub flavor and one dry rub flavor which were both great. Know that the chicken order comes with one plain donut, but they say that their “fancy flavors” usually sell out around the time chicken rolls around. The chicken sells out too pretty quickly, so balancing this 10AM – 11AM time slot seems to be the trick!

August Essentials

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1. Above are three books I devoured in the past month. I don’t claim to have great taste in books… In fact I’m horrified that, when I think about it, I realize that most all of my favorite books have to do with rich white people and their first world problems (Brideshead Revisited, Persuasion, Franny and Zooey, Tender is the Night). Happily, I’m adding some diversity to that list with Americanah. It’s an incredible, thoughtful novel that I know I’ve come around to kind of slowly, but I’m a better person having read it! As for the others,  Bernadette is a fun, quirky read that would be perfect to take along on a weekend trip. And One More Thing is a collection of absurd short stories by B.J. Novak that I’ve really enjoyed.

2. Knitting. My mom likes to tell a story about the first time I learned how to knit. A grandma at my church taught me one evening when I’d arrived a few hours too early for choir practice (dork alert!) and had time to kill. She invited me into a knitting club of 10 old ladies, all working on their knitting together — they were going to sell their creations at the church fundraiser in a few weeks. I became obsessed with finishing a hat and contributing to the sale, so I sat all weekend, cross-legged on my bed and watching Barefoot Contessa (even as a twelve-year-old, I acted as retired as I do today) and knitted away. When I emerged on Sunday evening for dinner, I complained of sore, creaky knees, which my mom still laughs about and refers to as my “knitting injury.” Anyway, this weekend I started a new knitting project after a very long hiatus, but the effects of obsessing over my messy purling were the same, all these years later– ooh my knees! Check out this great little shop that I visited to buy my new yarn.

3. Temples. My cool uncle introduced me to this band last week. They released their debut album early this year. Temples is currently touring and doing the late night show circuit. Definitely have a listen, especially if you like British psychedelic pop and are growing weary of listening to Billy Joel’s greatest hits on repeat… I may have said too much.

4. The Dick Van Dyke Show. Gosh, I love this show. It’s on Netflix. Let it become your “I just want to have a happy TV show on in the background while I do other things” go-to (you’ve already seen every episode of Friends fifty times anyway). Sure, it’s a bit dated in its representation of gender roles and things like that, but it’s too sweet, kind-hearted and hilarious to get under my skin. Also, unlike sitcoms of today, there are occasional musical numbers built into the story, and there’s always just ONE story line, which just adds to the  ease of watching it.

5. Canada. Last week, I admitted to my book club that I’ve become obsessed with Canada. I then told them all to look at my Pinterest board for evidence of how naturally breathtaking the country is. And then I hated myself for telling people in real life to look at my Pinterest board. (But if you do look and become convinced of how incredible Canada is, let me know and we can plan a trip to Alberta!)

6. Ringly. My boss introduced me to Ringly. It’s a piece of jewelry that you can hook up to an app on your phone and all of the notifications you have set up. So, when you’re on a date or in a meeting at work and don’t want to have your phone out, but still want to receive important notifications (maybe your kids’ school is calling, or you want to make sure you don’t miss a message from a family member about her flight arriving, but you don’t want to see every Foursquare update), it’ll buzz! They’re really pretty too.

7. Taylor Swift giving this girl $90 for birthday burritos at Chipotle. Self-explanatory.

8. VincenzaDiMaggio.comMy girl Vinnie started her blog today and I’m blown away by how pretty she makes things sound with words. (Meanwhile, I’m over here doing the math on how many burritos I could buy with Taylor Swift’s $90.) Give it a read and a bookmark because if I know Vin, there will be a bunch of posts to come with impeccable design advice and outfit inspiration that feels lifted right out of an Anthropologie catalog.

Happy August!

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