Hillary Reeves

A blog about living and eating in New York City.

Russ & Daughters Cafe

Matzo Ball Soup Russ and Daughters

Sometimes I daydream about what it would be like to live somewhere else. The West Coast could be nice. I love the idea of foggy, sixty degree days year-round in a city like Seattle or San Francisco. Or what if I lived abroad? Sweden, perhaps, where the schools are great and everywhere looks like a cross between a fairy tale and an Ikea. (OK, might need to fact check that one, but I’m pretty confident I’m not that far-off.)

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Herring Toast Russ and Daughters

I want to be this kind of wandering, worldly person who can unpack themselves in a new place and feel invigorated by a new culture. Maybe to some extent I am, who knows. But deep, deep inside of me, probably in my colon, I imagine a bubbling pit that looks like the Earth’s core. In this place, the image I have of myself as a jet-setting Gwyneth Paltrow type gets incinerated by the volcanic magma of my true essence. My true essence is an irritated, demanding person who wonders, constantly, out-loud about why you can’t find a good bagel outside of New York. Also this person will put anybody who responds to this rhetorical question with, “it’s the water, hyuk-hyuk!” on her never-talk-to-again list.

Russ and Daughters Cafe Interior

This is all a weird, existential way of saying that my brunch at Russ & Daughters Cafe this weekend was life-affirming. I said that to Dan and he laughed at me. He knows that generally, I don’t like thinking too hard about things like brunch. But sometimes it happens. It presses up on me like a stranger on the 1 train, and it reminds me why, even if I find a couple of adventures to keep me busy, I’ll probably end up back in New York. Yes, you heard me; because of the bagels.

Blintzes at Russ and Daughters

We tried a bunch of things, all of which were the bomb.  The menu was perfect. Usually, I can rule out something because it’s got peas and I hate peas, or because I know won’t be great (like how you always only order a burger at a crappy diner; it’s the only safe option). Here, though, I wanted it all. We settled on matzo ball soup, latkes with applesauce, the “super heebster” (a bagel topped with whitefish and baked salmon salad), blintzes, and the pickled herring trio. You know that episode of Arrested Development when George Sr. is like, “I’m having a love affair with this ice cream sandwich”? That was me, eating this meal.

Latkes at Russ and Daughters

Blintzes at Russ and Daughters 2

Anyway, I hope you all go. The wait for brunch was close to an hour, but completely worth it. More restaurants should strive to find the nostalgia and reverence for old-school classics that you feel at Russ & Daughters Cafe. Waiters in white coats, a menu featuring caviar you can’t afford alongside an every man’s smoked fish sandwich, free coffee refills, and a candy with your check– it was perfect and captured exactly the New Yorkiness I’d miss if I was ever gone for long.

Beet Chips

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My dream is to one day be interviewed, in depth, on a podcast. It’s a simple and maybe a little pathetic aspiration, but I’m gleeful at the idea of someone asking me questions and then having to be interested in my answers because I’m some sort of successful genius. And if my dream ever comes true, and the host asks me, “Hillary, how do you do it? what is your secret?”

I promise you, my answer will be, “Well Sammy, you know what I always say– Just chip it!”

What I mean by that is that when I don’t feel like eating a vegetable that I know is good for me, I just make it crispy and salty and it’s always way more palatable. And I think that is sort of my motto for real life too. The haters will say it’s a childish way to live. My fans will delight in how optimistic and carefree and real I am.

Now, I’m not a baby who can’t stomach cauliflower, but I am an adult who is very turned off by beets. And I got a bunch of beets in my recent CSA, which was almost a nightmare, but then I sliced them real thin with my mandoline, roasted them in the oven and salted those puppies. They turned into warm, crispy and earthy delights that have a way more depth of flavor than your average Ruffle.

If the vegetable you hate is less spherical (great for slicing), and is more broccoli or Brussels sprouts-shaped, just remove the slicing part of the recipe and roast a little bit longer. I love this method for Brussels sprouts, but it takes about 30 minutes rather than a chippy 10. Pay attention and take your veggies out of the oven when the edges are brown with the promise of a crunch. Sprinkle liberally with salt while still warm and enjoy!

Beet Chips

3 – 4 beets (or golden beets, or turnips)
Olive oil
Salt

1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Slice your beets 1/4 of an inch think using a mandoline. Spread out your chips in a single layer on a cookie sheet (have a 1/4 sheet pan for your tiny oven like I do? You might need to bake these in a few batches!).

3. Sprinkle with olive oil and bake for ten minutes, or until edges are golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Act quickly: sweet beets can quickly turn from browned to burned because of the high sugar content.

4. Remove from oven, place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let cool slightly before eating– cooling will add more crunch!

Note: it took me a while to get these right without burning a few chips here and there. A safer, but less healthy route, if you’re having trouble, would be to do a simple stovetop deep fry, which is easier to keep an eye on!

October Essentials: Kitchen Tools

There are a lot of kitchen items that you know you need when you move into a new home. You buy yourself pots, pans, a spice rack, drinking glasses… but then there are also the items you put off; the items you see in other peoples’ kitchens, but you never buy for yourself because they seem frivolous, specific, or not necessary right now. For my mom, this item was (and is) nice dish towels. She loves good, absorbent, pretty dish towels, but she rarely buys them for herself. So, if me and my sisters are ever stumped for Mother’s Day gift ideas, we can always fall back on a set of dish towels, and they never disappoint.

In the past few years, I’ve acquired a few kitchen tools, all gifts, that I probably would have never bought for myself, but now that I have them, I use them constantly. If you see these items on sale at T.J. Maxx, snatch them up and watch your kitchen game instantly upgrade.

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My Le Creuset Dutch Oven
I received this item as a gift when I attended a press event a while back. Some gift, huh? Everyone knows Le Creuset Dutch Ovens are great, so it may seem a little more obvious than the others I’ll talk about, but I needed to include it simply because of the extent to which it transformed my cooking. If you have considered getting one, but keep putting it off because of the price point, I can relate. But I will say that since I’ve had mine, I use it to cook more meals than I don’t. It lives on my stove top, always ready for the next soup, stew, braise or sauce. Sturdy and reliable, it far out-performs its stainless steel stockpot counterpart.

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My Oxo Potato Ricer
About a year ago, on this very blog, I mentioned that I didn’t have a potato ricer. A few weeks later, my dear and considerate pal brought me one as a birthday gift and I’ve used it countless times since. I had no idea how often I was mashing potatoes, making gnocchi, smashing pie filling and pureeing other roasted veggies (cauliflower, yams). I’m not sure it’s the right fit for every home, but if you love a buttery mash like me, I can’t recommend it enough.

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My Swissmar Mandoline
Dan would always tell me about how his mom used a mandoline to thinly slice veggies and julienne carrots (a must for kimchi!). We didn’t have one in my house growing up, so it seemed extraneous to me. Then, he surprised me with one earlier this summer and I’ve been using it constantly! All season, I used it to thinly slice tomatoes for BLTs and shave summer squash for pan frying. Now that it’s oven weather again, I can’t wait to make beet chips and potato galettes.

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My Glass Salt Cellar
This one was a gift to myself, sort of. I had a bunch of rewards points at Crate and Barrel and used them to buy a bunch of little home items I never wanted to spend my money on. This glass salt cellar (sadly, this specific one is no longer available) was one of those things and I love it with all of my heart. I can’t tell you how convenient it is to have your salt always by your side and ready to go. Plus, the glass is easy to clean when kitchen stickiness and grime builds up!

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My Fish’s Eddy Glass Storage Bowls
My sister bought these for me last Christmas and I think they’re just delightful. These nostalgic bowls come with plastic lids that fit snugly (curbing Tupperware cabinet chaos), plus they’re the perfect size for packing up a portion of leftovers to bring to work for lunch. Also, they’re glass, so marinara sauce doesn’t stain them and greasy residue isn’t so impossible to remove like with plastic storage containers!

Are there any items in your kitchen that you can’t live without? Or, that your surprised you use as often as you do?

Photos via FoodLush, Amazon, Beauty and Her Feast, Fish’s Eddy

Home Update!

While I have definitely been cooking a lot lately (hooray for the return of oven weather!), my mind has been elsewhere when it comes to internet time. Usually, most of what I do online is browse recipes, pin delicious-looking things, and read new restaurant reviews, but recently I’ve come down with the home improvement bug! My family is finalizing our holiday plans, and it looks like Christmas will be in NYC, which means I have a reason and a deadline for sprucing up my tiny apartment. We’d gotten by for the past few years with the bare minimum, furniture-wise (I’d convinced myself for a little while there that a mattress on the floor was minimalist and chic), but I’m suddenly feeling the compulsion to make my space look a little more grown-up. On a budget.

So, I put together a little plan of attack. I hope to blog about each of my DIY projects and shopping adventures, but I sometimes have a tough time keeping up with those promises. At the very minimum, though, I hope to share a few before-and-after photos because, without them, does a makeover even exist? Here are a few of my home goals and inspirations, to be completed by Christmas time. Wish me luck!

Follow Hillary’s board Home Deco on Pinterest.

1. Make things look more Scandinavian. You already know about my obsession with Canada. Add Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to the list. I suppose it’s more of a “places with cold weather and moose” obsession. Like lots of people, I love the white walls and modern lines of a Swedish home and you can bet that this project will involve lots of trips to Ikea.

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2. Reuse what I can. I have a dinky old Ikea coffee table that I hate and I purchased for $19.99 when I was broke (lol, “was”). I was prepared to leave it on the curb, but I found this simple DIY to make it feel a little more modern and a little less college dorm. I’ll let you know it turns out. Yes, I’ll be spending more on new legs than the table cost me in the first place, but cutting down on waste makes it worth it for me!

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3. Make a reading nook! No matter how small, I want a cozy chair that I can curl up in. I think I have the perfect spot, and I know I’ll be buying a fluffy wool throw. Now, all I need is the right chair!

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4. Style some shelves. The whole idea of “home styling” is relatively new to me, but the more I think about it, the more I realize my mom was doing it all the time when I was little. Buying seasonal flowers, stacking books just-so… something about it feels very adult and I can’t wait to get started. I might even doctor-up my existing Expedit shelves with some wheels and wood paneling for the above, lodge-y look.

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5. GET A DESK. All of the aforementioned internet time has happened with me sitting cross-legged on my bed. It’s a horrible set-up that can’t be great for my posture, but my tiny home means finding a work space is tough. I’m determined to make it happen, though.

Photo via Ikea HackersMy Scandinavian Home, Apartment Therapy

Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi Fried Rice (2)

Kimchi Fried Rice (1)

I don’t like getting too lovey-dovey about things. Sentimentality freaks me out. I would much rather have people show their affection by picking on me or doing something around me that’s normally reserved for alone-time; folding laundry or taking off their shoes, maybe. Even when it comes to TV shows and movies, I gravitate towards cringey comedies or those weird shows that never let themselves resolve. I love an ending like in What About Bob or The Jerk: the characters just continue on doing the dumb stuff like you’ve observed throughout the film. That’s how it is in the real world, after all.

I’m laying down this disclaimer, because when I thought about sharing  a kimchi bokkeumbap recipe, part of me figured I should tell some sweet story about the things I learn from Dan. How, growing up with different cultures and backgrounds allows us to teach each other so many things. And that’s true. But, at least in our case (which I’m sure is not the same for countless others), the whole interracial relationship thing rarely comes up, except for in good-natured moments when we tease each other about our cultural differences. Often, Dan points out that things I’d assumed were universal rules (packing sandwiches for a bagged lunch, or using a terrycloth washcloth in the shower) are actually very specific to my upbringing. Korean-Americans are likely to pack kimbap, for example, and they often use these exfoliating mitts to wash themselves. Over the years, our habits have merged. We, collectively, eat a lot of sandwiches, and we kvetch together when we forget to pack our “scrubber” for an overnight trip someplace.

Unsurprisingly, cuisine is a huge theme of these lessons. I certainly never had a rice cooker growing up and my mom never would have known what to do with a ton of sesame oil in the cupboard. Eating buttery Carolina rice cooked on the stove top would have been completely bizarre for little Dan and I remember the look of wonder on his face when we ate Belgian waffles with ice cream on top for the first time together. Again, nowadays, there’s always a little of both of us represented in our home, meals and outings. And that means we always have tons of kimchi in the fridge; often more than I know what to do with. In many Korean homes, there’s actually a separate mini fridge for kimchi and other panchan, so it doesn’t take up space or make the rest of your groceries smell like tasty, but distinctively fermenting cabbage. To be honest, I think we’re probably just a few years away from taking that step.

When you have so much kimchi, and the inevitable stale rice always left in the cooker, the only thing to do is fry it all up! Kimchi fried rice (or, kimchi bokkeumbap – 볶음밥 means “fried rice”) has started to taste just as homey and comforting to me as a bowl of buttery mashed potatoes. Spicy, warm, and even better with a fried egg on top, it’s simple, quick, and kind of impossible to screw up! Here’s how you do it:

Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe/Kimchi Bokkeumbap Recipe 

3 cups leftover cooked rice
Olive oil to grease pan
1 cup chopped up kimchi (I use a pair of kitchen shears to get bite-sized pieces)
1/4 cup kimchi juice (squeeeeze it out of your container and into a smaller cup!)*
3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1-2 chopped scallions
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 egg, for frying, per person (optional, but awesome)

1. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in 1-2 tsp olive oil. Add in kimchi and warm for 1-2 minutes. Try not to brown, just soften.

2. Add rice, sesame oil and kimchi juice and stir to combine with the warmed-up kimchi. Gently press into a “cake” and let fry for 5-10 minutes. This will produce some delicious, crispy bits, but if you smell anything more intense than a delightful toasty aroma, stir and reshape. The rice should never, ever burn, but should develop a bit of a crust on the bottom of the pan. Conversely, don’t be overly cautious! A crust won’t form if you’re constantly stirring!

3. Once the rice is heated through, remove from heat and give a gentle stir with a wooden spoon. (A wooden spoon or plastic paddle prevents you from breaking or crushing the rice grains too much.) Add in sesame seeds and scallions and again give a gentle stir. Place fried rice into large bowl.

4. Reheat the same pan and, again, add olive oil when ready. Crack in eggs and fry for a few minutes until yolks are just set.

5. Serve in individual bowls, each with a fried egg on top! I, personally, like an additional drizzle of sesame oil, and sometimes a drizzle of soy sauce. Experiment with tasty toppings of your own (additional scallion or sesame seeds, sliced seasoned seaweed, bean sprouts). Also, once you get the recipe down, you’ll know how to play with the proportions to use up whatever amount of leftover rice you might have.

*This intensifies the kimchi flavor, but you can replace with soy sauce for a less spicy, or less kimchi-fied version.

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