winter

grapefruit curd tart + how to plan your perfect birthday

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I had a birthday over the holidays. In honor of which I made myself this grapefruit curd tart. Because grapefruit is one of my favorite flavors. And because grapefruit goes really well with champagne. And because I love champagne.

Some people might think a person shouldn’t have to bake her own birthday dessert. I have to disagree.

We live in an age of endless to-do lists. Tsunamis of work obligations. The creeping suspicion (developed after too many hours on Instagram) that our ass is too big. Or too small. Or not clad in the right brand of aggressively tight workout gear. Or too often glued to our couch as we binge-watch Netflix.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Which is why we need a day set aside to remember that everything about us is OK. Beautiful even. Regardless of how few items we’ve checked off our productivity app. Or how our boss feels about our TPS reports. Or the size of our backside.

And what better occasion to proclaim “fuck it” to all the obligations of adulthood and spend the day doing exactly what you want than your birthday?

Yes, it is impractical. Yes, you might feel like you don’t deserve it. Yes, it might even feel a little sinful. And yes, it will be 100% WORTH IT.

To help you fully celebrate yourself, I’ve put together a list of the 10 Birthday Commandments. As someone with a Christmas birthday who still manages to make the day her own, I consider myself something of an expert. Consider this your modern self-care manifesto.

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The 10 Birthday Commandments

  1. Sleep in. Ask your partner to get the kids ready for school. Tell your roommates to wake you under absolutely no circumstances. Because you need plenty of delicious sleep to wake up feeling like the goddess that you are.

  2. Skip work. Yes, I mean it. Take a personal day. Call in sick. Bribe your boss with cronuts for a month. I don’t care. Do whatever it takes to get the whole day to yourself. Remember: work is highly detrimental to the art of celebrating yourself.

  3. Start the day out by eating your favorite things. Chicken and waffles? Pancakes? Leftover pizza? Birthday cake? Yup. Kick that diet mindset to the curb. Nothing is verboten on your b-day. To make your birthday morning extra delightful, make sure you have what you need for said breakfast on hand. Hangry is no way to start the day.

  4. Wear your favorite outfit. Feel like zipping into a skin-tight dress and super high heels that make you feel sexy AF? Do it. Prefer to spend the day in your softest tights and hoodie? It’s all good. Today is a day for living your best life.

  5. Proclaim yourself queen for the day. Seriously. This is a thing we do in my family. When it’s your birthday, you get to choose the food, the music, the pace, the movie. Make sure your friends and fam are on board beforehand though or things could get a little heated.

  6. As Your Royal Highness, you now have permission to fill your day with things you love to do. Get a massage. Take in an art exhibit solo. Hit a spin class to get yourself energized. Have lunch with your best friends at your favorite restaurant. Make it happen!

  7. Buy yourself a present. As nice as it is to receive presents from others, your friends and family are not mind-readers. Only you can buy yourself exactly what you want. Right color. Right size. Right details. Buy yourself something that brings you joy, and feel no guilt.

  8. Let your squad celebrate you. Even if you aren’t used to being the center of attention. Letting your friends and family shower you with love is one of the best parts of having friends and family.

  9. But don’t expect anyone to make your day unforgettable. Don’t get me wrong--a perfectly executed surprise party or a bottle of champagne for two by firelight are pretty special. But unless you are supremely lucky, they aren’t going to happen every single year. Which is why I’m a big fan of taking matters into your own hands. Communication is key. Let those around you know what you want and need on your special day. Then plan some (or all) of the festivities yourself. It’s your day; you get to live it however you like.

  10. Disregard any (or all) of these commandments if they don’t fit your personality. Add your own birthday commandments if you want. The most important thing is that you fill your day with all the things and people you love most. And that you create a moment to celebrate your beautiful, amazing, perfect self.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Grapefruit Curd Tart

  • 1/2 recipe pâte sucrée (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 160g (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 160mL (2/3 cup) freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated grapefruit zest
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt
  • A few drops red food coloring (optional)
  • 70g (5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces
  • 240mL (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)
  • Few thin slices grapefruit to decorate the tart (optional)

Pâte Sucrée

  • 320g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
  • 220g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 60mL (1/4 cup) ice water, plus more if needed

*Notes: The pâte sucrée can be frozen up to 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.

- The tart shell can be baked a day in advance. Cool it completely in the pan then wrap tightly in plastic wrap until you’re ready to fill it.

- I prefer to top the tart with the whipped cream just before serving. But it can be assembled and topped with the whipped cream up to a day in advance without losing much in terms of texture. If you go this route, be sure to use powdered sugar in the whipped cream as it helps stabilize it. Place the tart on a large plate and invert a large bowl over the top to protect the whipped cream before putting it in the fridge. (This is also how I stored the leftovers.)

- Remove the tart from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

For the crust: Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Add the yolks and pulse to just combine. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube until the dough just holds together (no longer than 20 seconds). Check the dough by stopping the machine then pinching some of the dough together in your hand. It should come together into a ball when you squeeze it. Don’t wait for the dough to come together in the machine.

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Gather it together into a ball then divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour (and up to 2 days).

Roll out one disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer the dough to an 8-inch shallow, removable-bottom tart pan. Lift and press it into the edges of the pan. Do not stretch the dough into the edges as this will make your crust shrink as it bakes. Trim the edges of the crust. One trick I use is to press the sides down into the flutes of the tart pan to make them a little thicker then the bottom. I use a rolling pin to roll over the top of the tart, trimming off any excess dough. Then I use my fingers to push the sides up just slightly past the top edge of the pan. Use a fork to prick holes evenly over the bottom of the tart (this is called docking). Place the tart pan in the freezer until the dough is frozen solid (15-20 minutes).

When you are ready to bake the tart shell, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 400°F (205°C). Line the frozen shell with parchment paper and then fill it with pie weights (I use beans. You can also use rice.)

Bake the shell until the edges are starting to brown, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and pie weights (they will be very hot), reduce the oven to 375°F (190°C) and continue to bake until the center is golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes more. (Cover the edges with aluminum foil if they are darkening too quickly.) Transfer the tart shell to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan. When you’re ready to fill the cooled tart shell, carefully remove it from the tart pan and place it on a serving plate.

For the curd: Whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl, and set aside to let the gelatin absorb the water. Set a fine mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar, eggs, juices, zest and salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk well to combine. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until just warm to the touch. Add 1 piece of the butter and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula to prevent scorching, until the butter is almost melted. Repeat with the remaining pieces of butter. If using, add food coloring 1 drop at a time, stirring well after each addition, until you reach your desired color.

Cook the mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. If you want to use a candy thermometer, cook the curd until it reaches 175° F (79°C).

Once the curd thickens, remove the pan from the heat and pour the curd through the fine mesh strainer into the bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg. Microwave the small bowl of gelatin for 10 seconds, until it is liquid. Add the liquefied gelatin to the bowl of grapefruit curd and whisk well.

Pour the curd into the baked and cooled tart shell and transfer it to the refrigerator. Chill until the curd is set, at least an hour.

To serve: Place the cream and powdered sugar (if using) in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat at medium-high speed until firm peaks form. Take care not to overwhip the cream. Mound the whipped cream in the middle of the chilled tart and spread with the back of a spoon to make decorative swoops. Arrange the grapefruit slices over the whipped cream and serve.

Makes 1 8-inch tart

Pâte Sucrée recipe from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School. Curd recipe adapted from SugarHero!

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

tahini shortbreads with apricots, pistachios and dark chocolate

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

People. I’m going to level with you—I don’t have much to say today. I’ve been traveling like a crazy person this month to see friends and family (and for mental-health-preserving sun breaks to the desert of course). Beau left his corporate job to work with me full time. We just launched our first retreat of 2019. Plus, you know, THE HOLIDAYS.

It’s been a big month and we’re not even halfway through.

Though my brain is a bit on the fried side, I didn’t want to leave you without a holiday cookie this year! I’ve cut back on a lot of holiday hoopla and obligations, but baking holiday cookies is a tradition I cherish. It means time to be alone in the kitchen with a podcast or a favorite album spinning on the record player. It’s a few hours of chopping and measuring and mixing and standing in front of a warm oven that always restores a little of my sanity during this overfull time of year.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I got the idea for these shortbreads after making this Red Rice with Coriander, Apricots and Herbs. I had half a bag of my favorite dried apricots sitting in the pantry next to my favorite bar of dark chocolate. Which meant that every time I opened the pantry door, I broke off a piece of chocolate, fished a couple pieces of apricot out of the bag and made myself a tiny “sandwich”. As one does.

The sweet-tart apricots were absolutely perfect against the dark chocolate and the flavor combination got stuck in my head (like a Justin Bieber song, but better). When I sat down to brainstorm what sort of cookies I wanted to bake this year, I already knew it was going to involve apricots and chocolate. I remembered I had a bag of Iranian pistachios in my freezer from my last trip to Paris. Then I asked myself what flavor goes with chocolate, apricots and pistachios? And voilà—these tahini shortbreads were born.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

We leave town again in two days. I have a mountain of laundry to do. Suitcases to pack. A grumpy old cat to transport to the neighbors’ house. But somehow I don’t mind at all. I’ve given in to the chaos of the month and I’m feeling like everything will turn out how it’s supposed to. We’ll see family and friends and listen to cheesy Christmas music and spend way too much time in line at the post office and probably drink too much holiday punch before it’s all said and done.

So I guess I do have something to say after all: This month, try not to worry if things feel a little hectic and out of hand. If you’ve got presents to wrap and dinners to attend and you maybe hit the eggnog a little harder than you’d intended at your office Christmas party. It’s all par for the course. The perfectly imperfect chaos that makes the season bright. Just remember to breathe. (And maybe bake yourself some cookies.)

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

P.S. If you're looking to for an extra-special gift for that extra-special someone in your life (or even your own extra-special self), registration just opened for our May 2019 retreat in Alentejo, Portugal!


Tahini Shortbreads with Apricots, Pistachios and Dark Chocolate

  • 1 1/4 sticks (140g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (95g) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (240 mL) well-stirred tahini
  • 1 3/4 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or flaky sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (90g) roughly chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup (50g) roughly chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup (75g) roughly chopped dried apricots

*Notes: Blenheim apricots from Trader Joe’s are my absolute favorites and the only one’s I use for baking. They have beautiful color and the perfect balance of sweet and tartness. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, it looks like you can buy them on Amazon.

- This is my favorite baking chocolate. But any dark chocolate will work. I recommend chopping your own chocolate over using chips since chips are formulated to hold their shape when baked and are harder to slice.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Combine the butter, powdered sugar and tahini in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Add the chocolate, pistachios and apricots and mix by hand until just incorporated.

Divide the dough in half. Using a piece of parchment paper, roll each piece of dough into a log approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Once the dough is firm, you can also tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap, seal it in a freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. Thaw the dough slightly before slicing.

When you're ready to bake off your cookies, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice the logs into coins just under 1/2-inch thick and place them on a sheet pan or large plate. (These can be a bit tricky to slice due to the chocolate. If you hit a chunk of chocolate, just saw back and forth until you get through it. If that slice falls apart a bit, just press it back into shape before freezing. This dough is very forgiving.) Place the sliced cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes while the oven preheats (this ensures they don't slump or spread in the oven).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the frozen cookies on it, leaving at least an inch between cookies. Bake until firm around the edges and light golden brown on the bottom, 16-20 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Adapted from Soframiz by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

red rice with coriander, apricot and herbs

Image/styling: Olaiya Land

Once upon a time, before Beau and I got married, I had a boyfriend who was a vegetarian. Please know that I love and cherish the vegetarians in my life. But this boyfriend was the worst sort of non-meateater. The sort of judgy vegetarian who, when we were in the early stages of our relationship, had no problem with me cooking and eating meat, then would randomly get angry about my “disgusting meat addiction”. The sort of vegetarian who, when we were out, would finish my hamburgers and slices of pepperoni pizza because it was “better than wasting”. A vegetarian who was actually more of a carb-atarian and who occasionally cooked horrible hippie food with whatever strange dregs were rolling around in the fridge (sauerkraut burritos, anyone?).

I’m embarrassed to admit that my relationship with this particular ex contaminated my feelings about vegetarians in general. For several years after we broke up, I projected his condescending sense of superiority onto all the vegetarians and vegans I met. (After we broke up, I started dating a meat-eating, Southern, ex-republican who’s job in the Special Forces saw him jumping out of helicopters on a regular basis. Needless to say, he did not complain about my “meat addiction”. Oh, what a painfully obvious rebound.)

I’m happy to report that my anti-vegetarian sentiment disappeared along with the presence of this ex in my life. Unexpectedly, my time with him left me with a deeper empathy for people who don’t eat meat. In our five years together, I saw first-hand how thoroughly vegans and vegetarians are treated as a fussy nuisance or an afterthought at holiday gatherings.

Image/styling: Olaiya Land

Turkey! Ham! Rack of lamb! Gravy and stuffing--made with pan juices, of course! These are the traditional stars of the holiday table. Vegetarians and vegans are left to cobble together a meal of cranberry sauce, gloppy green bean casserole, dinner rolls and perhaps a Brussels sprout or two. (Let’s not even discuss the inedible Field Roast, which is an approximation of no roast I’ve ever tasted.)

If you’re not a vegan or vegetarian yourself, you’re likely to have one or more at your holiday table. Which is why we need more holiday dishes that can accompany meat (if you go that route) and are sexy enough to keep our non-meateating friends and fam from feeling shafted.

Enter this Red Rice with Coriander, Apricot and Herbs.

Image/styling: Olaiya Land
Image/styling: Olaiya Land

I found this amazing red rice on my last trip to Paris. It’s hearty, nutty and subtly sweet, with a beautifully firm texture. (Wild rice is a great substitute if you don’t feel like tracking this down.) Whole coriander seeds and fresh lemon zest add zing. The jewel-toned dried apricots lend sweet-tart balance and keep this rice dish from looking blah. And fresh herbs because, fresh herbs on everything. Always and forever.

Because we all have shit to do at the holidays, this is super easy to make. You cook the rice using the pasta method (boil and drain) and prep everything else while it cooks. The whole thing comes together in about 30 minutes. I’m going to go ahead and say this vegan, gluten-free dish will please pretty much everyone at your holiday feast.

Which is what the holidays are all about--making everyone who gathers around your table feel welcome.


Red Rice with Coriander, Apricot and Herbs

Red Rice with Coriander, Apricot and Herbs

  • 1 ¼ cup Camargue Red Rice (or wild rice)
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds (the smaller, the better)
  • ½ cup roughly chopped dried apricots
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 small lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro

*Notes: I used red rice grown in the wetlands of southern France. You can buy the same sort of Camargue red rice here. Wild rice would also be great in this dish.

- My very favorite dried apricots are the Blenheim variety. They are more tart than Turkish Apricots. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s, but you can also get them here.

- If you want to kick the heartiness up a notch, a handful of chopped pistachios or toasted walnuts would be a great addition.

- This dish can be served warm or at room temperature. It’s good on the first day, but maybe even better the day after. (I just ate some cold, straight out of the fridge and it was pretty delicious.) If you make it in advance, I recommend reheating it, covered, in a low oven before serving.

Image/styling: Olaiya Land

Place the rice in a large saucepan along with a generous pinch of salt. Cover with water by 3 inches and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the rice is done but still firm. Mine took about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While the rice is cooking, heat a large sauté pan over high heat for about 1 minute. Add the oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion, black pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the onion is very tender. If it browns a bit, that’s ok, but the goal is not to get it brown and crispy. You want meltingly soft onions, so keep the heat low and stir often. When the onions are soft, add the coriander seed and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped apricot and lemon zest and cook for a minute or two more. If the rice is still cooking, turn off the heat on the onion mixture and set aside.

When the rice has been cooked and drained, add it to the pan with the onion mixture and cook over medium heat until everything is warm and the flavors have come together, 2-3 minutes. Season with the lemon juice and stir in the parsley and cilantro. Taste and add more salt, pepper, lemon or olive oil as desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4-6 side-dish servings

Image/styling: Olaiya Land