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The Elements Of Style

My apartment in New York had two beautiful windows, a bathroom, and as much living space as you might give, say, a pet turtle.

I didn’t mind.  So what if the kitchen was only big enough for a mini-fridge and a hot plate?  So what if the ceiling in the closet was flaking off in large, damp slabs?

This was the West Village, I reminded myself.  I was living the dream.

The dream came with very little storage space, so I had to be creative in arranging my things.  I stacked books in the fireplace. I wedged extra toilet paper rolls in between the pipes in the bathroom, and I used the microwave as a cabinet for granola bars and cereal.

Figuring out where to store my clothes was a challenge. The closet was small and a little black moldy for my taste, but I used it.  I tried hanging my dry cleaning from a pipe in the kitchen for a while, but it turned out to be a hot water pipe and the plastic dry cleaning bags melted into a hot mess.

At that point I made the highly original decision to store my clothes in heaps on the floor.

From that moment on, I foraged for clothes every morning the way our ancestors hunted for nuts and berries–half digging, half sniffing for anything that might work.  The piles weren’t separated by season, so it wasn’t unusual to come across a tank top and red heels while searching for a warm winter sweater.

This is how I developed a sense of style that is both timeless and not work-appropriate.

I’m telling you this because the Academy Awards are on Sunday, and there’s gong to be a lot of style going on–style very different from yours (forgive me; I’m guessing) and mine (to be sure).  Apparently we can expect a lot of cutouts, fishtails, and metallics this year.

It will be awesome, but it will be over by morning.  The gowns will be sent back or put away, the rented jewels couriered over to the safes from whence they came.  And I’ll tell you what I’m going to do then.  I’m going to re-read the end of the poem “Style,” by Charles Bukowski.  Because homeboy knows what personal style is really about.  It goes:

I have met men in jail with style.
I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail.
Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water,
or you, naked, walking out of the bathroom without seeing me.

artichoke soup 2How great is that?

As for weekend eats, I made you this beautiful artichoke soup in Saveur magazine but then I decided it wasn’t worthy of you.

So I made you a Caesar salad with homemade croutons and dressing instead.

croutons done smallThese croutons are phenomenal–very savory and a tiny bit mustardy. They’re best the day they are made–either tossed on a salad or dunked into a creamy soup.

Now, I don’t want to offend anyone but I have a thing with mayonnaise. It gives me the heebie jeebies.  So I make my Caesar dressing with Greek yogurt.  Scott is a lover of all things mayonnaisey and he doesn’t even notice.

To really beef up this salad, you can serve with generous shavings of Pecorino Romano, or with a fried egg or some bacon on top, or with sundried tomatoes that have been revived in hot water for 20 minutes and then chopped.

dressing small

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons and Greek Yogurt Dressing {Download & Print Recipe}
Caesar dressing by me; croutons adapted from a recipe on 101 Cookbooks.


For the salad:

romaine lettuce or leafy green of your choice

For the croutons:

4-5 large, thick slices crusty bread, cut into 1″ or 1 1/2″ cubes (about 6 cups)

1/3 c. melted butter and olive oil (I melt 3 Tbsp. butter and then fill the rest of a 1/3 measuring cup up with olive oil)

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

scant 1/4 tsp. salt

For the dressing:

2 sardine fillets

1 large clove garlic (or two small cloves), put through a garlic press or finely diced

1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt (0% fat is fine)

4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. sugar

4-5 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


For the croutons: 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chunks of bread in a medium-sized bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients together with a fork.  Drizzle evenly over the bread, tossing as you go to coat the bread thoroughly.  Spread the bread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crunchy, 10-15 minutes, turning them over once or twice during baking so that they crisp up evenly.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the dressing:

Combine the sardines and the garlic in a food processor and process for 5-10 seconds.  Add the yogurt, Parmesan, lemon juice and sugar and process for another 10 seconds until smooth.  Add the olive oil slowly–if you can drizzle it in through a hole in the top of the lid while the processor is on, do that; if not, add it 1 Tbsp. at a time, processing for a few seconds after each addition.  Taste the dressing and add salt and pepper to your liking.  Adjust flavors as you wish (e.g. more lemon, more sardines, more garlic).

To compose the salad:

Toss your greens with as many of the croutons and as much of the dressing as you see fit.  Serve.  You could also serve with generous shavings of Pecorino Romano, or with a fried egg or some bacon on top, or with sundried tomatoes that have been revived in hot water for 20 minutes and then chopped.


thunder Feb smallShe’s got style coming out of her ears.  Perhaps literally, since they are so big?

48 Comments Post a comment
  1. Amy #

    Ah, the pros and cons of an *affordable village apt. That is why I live on the upper east side. While not much larger, I can at least say that my kitchen is only a kitchen and each appliance has only one purpose (its intended one). That’s so funny about your dry cleaner bags!

    I’m with you on lacking all sense of style. It’s a good thing Nate doesn’t mind. I think Thunder is judging you in that pic, for sure.

    I love a good Caesar Salad.I though that authentic dressing doesn’t use actually makes a fresh one by making an egg/oil emulsion. You’d probably be ok with that i think? Regardless, this version sounds amazing.

    February 22, 2013
    • Let it be noted that on occasion, i’m envious of both you and Kat for living/having lived in NYC. I never got to do it, always wanted to.

      February 22, 2013
      • Amy #

        I’m certainly thankful of my experience in nyc, but I’m jealous of both of you- Shannon for already living my dream life of being married with an adorable child and Katherine for getting to experience small town living 🙂

        February 22, 2013
        • The clear answer to all of our problems is to start a commune in a LARGE Manhattan apartment where we eat caesar salads with a variety of dressings.

          February 22, 2013
          • krisanngentry #

            Where do we sign up?

            February 22, 2013
          • I’m in! I’m also jealous of southern small-town living, so i guess maybe every so often the commune rotates to a different (and equally large) locale? Stella said she was in, just before she went down for her nap. 🙂 she likes people who say she’s adorable.

            February 22, 2013
  2. All things are made better with the addition of a Thunder photo. I think most of us have been there with a small abode and black toxic mold. Or perhaps it is indeed just we too. Anyhoo, great salad and soup!

    February 22, 2013
    • The meal is clearly missing cookies! Passion fruit cookies to be exact. Who cares about a little black mold when there are cookies like that to be made.

      February 22, 2013
      • All things are better with cookies too. It’s true.

        February 23, 2013
  3. AMY GET TO WORK!! 🙂
    Katherine, your take on NYC living is identical to what i assume my take on it would have been: hey, sure there’s toxic fumes sometimes and i can touch all the walls in my apartment by standing in the middle, but you were in the center of the universe living the dream. 🙂
    I love the idea of adding a smattering of dijon mustard to croutons! What an excellent, non-herbal way to flavor them; it never dawned on me to try that (and dijon makes the most excellent salad dressings, so i have zero excuses here.)
    secondly, i’m trying this caesar dressing; the one i always make/love has zero “creamy” added (no mayo, no yogurt) and is just a classic caesar, so i’d be interested to try this as an alternative. BTW, if you ever want to give mine a whirl, let me know; it’s creamy due to the oil emulsification and egg yolks, so if you’re not scared of those, you may really dig it.

    February 22, 2013
    • Amy #

      Now that you know about my work ethic/attention span, I guess you won’t be hiring me as Table sous chef anytime soon 😦

      February 22, 2013
      • INCORRECT: it’s EXACTLY why i would hire you as Table sous chef. You let nothing – not even your actual employment – keep you away from food or the random stuff i do. you’d be perfect. 🙂

        February 22, 2013
    • I will definitely try you caesar, Shannon. Amy makes a good point–mayo is just egg yolks and olive oil and vinegar/citrus if you make it at home, right? I don’t have a big problem with that, as long as I don’t stare at the egg yolk for too long.

      They are so weird.

      February 22, 2013
      • i find egg yolks fascinating. I think it’s the orb-iness of them, or that they’re just hanging onto their shape by the thinnest of shells; it’s like a challenge. I’ll email you my recipe for caesar; you won’t have to stare at the yolks for too long…just a simple crack and whiz in the food processor.
        Homemade mayo is just worlds apart from the jarred, in texture and in flavor, for sure. Jarred = creamy jello (did that make you shiver? it did me) and house-made = semi-saucy.

        February 22, 2013
  4. What a blast from the past. I lived my dream in a space not much bigger than yours. My family was appalled. But I adored every minute. Caesar salad was so very “in” way back then. You know i hadn’t eaten a Caesar Salad in almost a decade and made one just the other day. Perhaps Its on the comeback trail.Whats’s old is new – you have style!

    February 22, 2013
    • Oh your caesar looks delicious–I just clicked over. I love poached chicken on salads, as a matter of fact.

      So tell me–in what city did you live out your dream in a small space? I’m curious. My family was appalled, too. They came to visit and said a lot of nice things about it but I know they were probably thinking “but the bathroom door slams against the front door, and you practically have to turn sideways to go down the hall, and there are MICE!”

      February 22, 2013
      • Across the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia. I can’t recall seeing any mice but there definitely were cockroaches. Ugh. I’d go back and do it all again in a heartbeat. Poached chicken is so versatile. A no brainer to cook. And makes the yummiest sandwiches. Now I’m craving a BLT with chicken.

        February 22, 2013
  5. Love that face – so loving and intelligent at the same time:) Happy Friday – Happy Stylin!

    February 22, 2013
    • So true. Loving and intelligent, with a side of “why aren’t you playing with me RIGHT NOW, dammit.”

      February 22, 2013
  6. the real question is – of course – what will Thunder be wearing for the Oscars?

    February 22, 2013
  7. My brother has a “thing” about mayonnaise, too. Probably the same “thing” as you have.
    Me? Anything is better with mayonnaise and lots of it!

    February 22, 2013
    • The gentleman of the household over here is with you on loving mayo. He even got something called “baconnaise” in his stocking a few Christmases ago!

      February 22, 2013
  8. I am terrified of mayo. My mother used to wash my hair with it. It is definitely something to be afraid of.

    I applaud your use of greek yogurt to replace the disgusting mayonnaise. I am going to give it a try! Also, I am totally making that artichoke soup.

    February 22, 2013
    • Ok, my dear. Can I tell you something about the artichoke soup?

      I didn’t put this in the main post because, well, I didn’t want to be uncouth. But now you say you’re making it, I feel a duty to warn you.

      Warn you about farts.

      Shall I explain? I have NEVER, IN MY LIFE, experienced an. . . episode of such duration. I figured maybe it was due to something else, so I made the delicious soup again the next day. And it happened again.

      At 11 p.m. (I had the soup for lunch) Scott threatened to kick me out of the house.

      That is all.

      I feel like you and I are closer now, don’t you?
      Your BFF,

      February 22, 2013
      • Oh my! Well if its tasty I guess I can open a window or two, right? Thanks for the friendly advice! I will keep you updated!

        Your BFF,

        February 22, 2013
      • It’s the artichokes! While we were living in Egypt and the fresh artichokes were so cheap that they were practically PAYING me to take them home, we made the delicious mistake of eating three or four in a row, each. Simon and I were both alarmed by the consequences that no one had EVER mentioned. Perhaps because no one could usually afford more than one fresh artichoke each in the past. Man, oh, man, did we learn our lesson. You do a public service by sharing this here.

        February 23, 2013
  9. The problem is not lack of storage space, it´s that the more space I have the more things to store seem to appear. I found your blogs few weeks ago via Stacy (food lust people love) and I´m so glad I did! I like your style I like mustardy croutons, must try them!

    February 22, 2013
    • Didn’t I tell ya! 🙂

      February 23, 2013
  10. Greek yogurt dressing– instead of whatever stuff is usually slathered on Caesar salad– sounds awesome! I love putting Greek yogurt in everything, and the idea of blending it up with parmesan, lemon juice, and olive oil is making my mouth water. (But also consider this: are you possibly only grossed out by store-bought mayonnaise? Your thing with mayo might be better with a homemade version…)

    February 22, 2013
    • Allison, yes, I think I’m better with homemade mayo. But still. . . something about the egg yolks.

      I am a Greek yogurt fan, too. Have you had this caramelized onion dip from 101 cookbooks? I has sour cream and Greek yogurt in it and it’s awesome.

      February 26, 2013
      • Oo, that does sound awesome. Unfortunately Paula doesn’t like onions (or sour cream), so I can never make anything like that when I’m cooking for two… (Cooking for one is rare lately, and usually = guacamole.)

        February 26, 2013
  11. OK I was just about to comment that the artichoke soup looks totally worthy of me, and then I wisely read the above reply to purplesunscreen. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. I’ll stick with the Caesar salad!

    February 22, 2013
    • Sue, Scott and I applaud your decision.

      February 26, 2013
  12. oh I just love you and you have such good food, but i must tell you.. when I was younger, i only every wore black, all kinds of clothing from all kinds of dubious places but all black, and i lived in a dark bedroom with my clothes hanging from a broom handle suspended on two chains, caught by two hooks in the roof, .. anyway, I left for work early, and I needed to dress appropriately, but my clothes were all black in a dimly lit room, so i chose my clothes by touch!! laughter, you can just imagine what i would end up wearing.. i think I invented grunge-chic!! Oh you have never heard of it, oh dear, maybe I was the only one, but it was a fabulous though risque look based on fabric weights and layers.. all chosen by touch.. c

    February 22, 2013
  13. Love this line: From that moment on, I foraged for clothes every morning the way our ancestors hunted for nuts and berries–half digging, half sniffing for anything that might work.

    That’s me every day!!

    February 22, 2013
  14. Lately, yoga pants and hoodies are my sole elements of style. I wear them to school before changing into my whites, I wear them home after sweating all day in the kitchen, I don’t bother changing before going to work, and then I peel the disgusting layers off before bed. The cats then sniff the entire outfit aggressively as it lays in a pile on the floor. Take that Hollywood!

    I want to eat a bowl of those croutons for breakfast.

    February 23, 2013
  15. I’ll be rocking the Academy Awards wearing a stunning pair of black yoga pants, loose gray T-shirt and a soft gray sweater, all accessorized with a chic black cast. Perhaps I’ll accessorize with some jewels from Harry Winstons; just waiting for them to be delivered. For my Oscars dinner, I think I’ll have that Caesar salad accompanied by a glass or two of champagne. Living large like the beautiful people!

    February 23, 2013
  16. Thunder’s got attitude. She don’t need no stinking style!
    And can I just eat a pan of those croutons and forget about the salad?

    February 23, 2013
  17. Bukowski is right about style. And, as several others have noted, Caesar salad is dressed with the yolk of a coddled egg and with oil and Parmesan and chopped anchovies and lots of garlic. There is no mayo in sight — if there were, I would not eat Caesar salad. I envy you a stint in the West Village — I went there practically everyday the one time I was in New York.

    February 23, 2013
  18. Love your reflections on small town life! And glad to know you’re happy!

    February 25, 2013
  19. rhema3one7 #

    Loved your story 🙂

    February 26, 2013
  20. love the pictures and the NY feeling you share!

    February 26, 2013
    • Very kind of you to say! Thanks.

      February 26, 2013

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