Thursday, February 25, 2010

The morning after

Never show up to someone's home empty-handed...that's my rule. An invitation to a party or dinner usually prompts a trip to our local liquor store for a bottle of wine - something your host or hostess can open on a separate occasion but which they may feel (unofficially) required to open upon your arrival.

To think outside the box, a truly thoughtful "thank you" can come in a simple, unique form. I love the idea of a basket filled with breakfast for the next morning! You can bake them something delicious or give them all the ingredients they'll need for one of your favorite recipes.

For the basket above, I bought fresh eggs and milk from the farmers' market (the glass bottle makes it extra special) and put the dry ingredients for pancakes in a mason jar with my recipe attached. I found a great container for orange juice at Fishs Eddy, and bought a bottle of Veuve Cliquot so they could make mimosas! You're still offering a bottle of alcohol, but you're saying "save this...enjoy it tomorrow". A thank you from the heart (and a bottle of champagne) will surely show your hosts how grateful you are for their hospitality!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Baked Eggs

Baked eggs...this is a brilliant meal. I can't even begin to express my devotion to eggs and bread. This dish is honestly one of the simplest things in the universe to make and it gives you an excuse to go out and buy some gratin dishes (come to me - I can help you justify any china-related purchase). As a matter of fact...I love this one and this one.

Preheat your broiler whilst you chop some parsley and garlic (1 T of each). 1 t of rosemary and thyme are optional touches, but the 1 T of parmesan is non-negotiable. Toss together in a small bowl and set aside.

Set your new gratin dishes on a baking sheet. 1 T of butter and a tiny splash of cream in each dish. Put under the broiler for about 3 minutes, or until the butter is melted and bubbly.

3 eggs cracked into each gratin (it's helpful to pre-crack your eggs into a bowl so you can just slip them into the hot dishes when they come out of the oven). Sprinkle with your herb mixture and season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Back under the broiler for 5-6 minutes, which really depends on your oven...I've tried 5 and the egg whites weren't quite set...tried 7 and the yolks were cooked. Let's just say 6 minutes (and you'll continue to eat baked eggs until you figure it out - worse things have happened).

It's simple enough for a quick meal and elegant enough for guests. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Plenty of fresh bread to dip into those runny yolks...beyond words.

Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

To be a good host

One of the greatest joys of my career has been teaching teachers. It's truly an honor to help channel and foster the curiosity of those looking to share their passion for yoga with others. I'm often asked how I manage my busy schedule ("it's a constant work-in-progress", I say) or how they, as new teachers, can be effective vehicles of this profound practice. Teaching offers a teacher the platform to inspire change but also carries with it tremendous responsibility and an innate willingness to do our own personal work - our own yoga, first.

You open yourself up the way you would open up your home to a guest. There is thoughtful preparation necessary in order to make your guests feel as comfortable and cared for as possible...fresh sheets, flowers by the bed and treats for their stay that they might not otherwise enjoy at home. As teachers we are eternal students, dripping with curiosity and a humble beginners' mind. We must investigate the needs of the student - their bodies, injuries, struggles and aspirations, the way we ask our guests what kind of milk they prefer in their coffee or determining their likes and dislikes in order to better prepare the menu for their stay. I adore having house guests and revel in the process of preparing my home for their arrival but it used to be a much bigger undertaking as my apartment was usually in various states of disarray - a poignant reflection of how difficult I found it to manage my life (again, "it's a constant work-in-progress"). I dreamed of the day when people could just stop by and my home would be clean and orderly and ready to entertain. It has been a slow but satisfying experience to try, instead, to do my work on a continual clean and enjoy my home for me, rather than for the sole benefit of my guests. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali discusses the idea of practice and its ability (when paired with non-attachment) to help still the mind - Patanjali insists that practice requires our attention over a long period of time, without break and in all earnestness. Vacuuming the night before my friends arrive (and only the night before my friends arrive) does not a practice make! Doing my own work, first, is what sustains me as a teacher, and it is only from this place that I can be an authentic and honest tour guide for others as they venture into the brilliant and terrifying depths of who they really are.

Some hosts prepare complicated meals, served on their best china as a way to show off, using the presence of their guests as a platform to satisfy themselves. Choosing simple ingredients and making a loving meal on my beloved china is in service of my guests. I want them to have the best of me and the best of what I have to offer. Teaching yoga has to come from a place of utter devotion to the process of teaching yoga and in total dedication to the students who've walked into your class. Motivation from fame and desires to "get ahead" will prevent you from finding your authentic voice as a teacher.

Maybe one of the hardest things about being a teacher is the inevitable truth that you have to let your students go - their practice belongs to them, not you. Your guests will come, enjoy everything you have to will prepare, invest, and share the deepest parts of yourself knowing that you will wave goodbye to them at the door when they leave. We can only hope that they feel a little better, a little closer to themselves and inspired to recreate the experience on their own.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Be Mine

My perfect Valentine's Day? Billy, chocolate and roses...I'm unbelievably predictable! We visited our friend Jacques today for some chocolate inspiration. The Tribeca store is so festive, his factory bustling with Willy Wonka-like efficiency. Life is simply incomplete without champagne truffles or your personal pick of dark chocolate morsels. A snowy weekend stroll to one of his New York stores is a romantic treat (or shop for Jacques Torres chocolate from home).

Next stop - the flower market on 28th Street to browse the beautiful roses at Fischer & Page. It's a flower lovers heaven with classics like hydrangea, ranunculus, and peonies as well as creative branches like rosemary and eucalyptus berries. I could stand in there for hours dreaming up gorgeous arrangements for my home. Today we bought a huge bouquet of pink roses which are now sitting on our farm table. Love, love, love them! Romance is in the air!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day cards

Nothing says "I love you" more than a homemade card. I made a trip to Paper Presentation and found these great heart-shaped cards and just loved the colors. Then I walked across the street to Adorama and bought glassine envelopes used for photographs...there's something special about an envelope inside an envelope and I love that you can see through and get a peak at what's inside. A calligraphy marker creates a whimsical feel (you don't have to have the world's best handwriting to pull it off) and a love-inspired stamp ties it all together.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Novice Chef

You don't need a pantry full of ingredients to be a true chef. Stock your kitchen with these six staples and you'll be able to whip up simple, delicious meals in the midst of your busy life.

Parmesan Cheese
Parmesan adds richness to anything. I love it shaved over salads or simply on its own as the perfect nibble before dinner.

Add parmesan to a basic white sauce for a "slaved over the stove for hours and put a lot of thought into this meal" taste. Perfect over pasta or poultry, the equation is simple...1 T flour, 1 T butter, 1 cup milk. Combine flour and butter in a saucepan until heated through, then add milk. Bring to a boil and stir until sauce thickens....add parmesan and stir until well combined.

Lemon zest livens up everything from chicken and fish to baking! The juice is the final touch that adds depth of flavor before serving your meal. You'll have instant garnish for your plates and water glasses. I use half a lemon covered in kosher salt to scrub my cutting boards.

Besides its obvious use with olive oil in a saute pan, you can add crushed garlic to stews, soups and roasted vegetables. Cut an entire head of garlic in half and place inside a chicken before roasting (don't even bother peeling). Rub garlic over slices of baguette, drizzle with olive oil and cook under the broiler for simple garlic bread.

Chopped flat leaf parsley is the perfect garnish for any meal. I love the color, taste and thoughtfulness it adds to your efforts!

European Butter
I don't use salted butter anymore, mainly because it's a hassle to constantly buy salted and unsalted butter at the grocery store. With sweet european butter, I have what I need for sweet and savory recipes. It's a little more expensive, but worth every penny. Just to taste it melted over a piece of toast is enough to satisfy my appetite (and my soul) for the entire day! I use butter in all of my food metaphors when teaching yoga ("spread across your collar bones like a pat of melted european butter smeared over a roll"). Room temperature butter can be mixed with fresh herbs (parsley, dill, thyme) for a fresh take on buttering your bread.

Fleur de Sel
Of all the ingredients above, this is my absolute favorite! There is nothing better. Sprinkle over anything from roasted vegetables to shortbread cookies. Reserve this special salt for the final touches before serving your meal.