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sunday dinner: ahi tuna poke.

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As Hawaii week comes to a close (although it will never really be over, will it), we must talk about the food. Oh, the food. It’s secretly/not so secretly the main reason I travel. I don’t feel I’m alone in this. My friends and family might give me the crazy eyes when I tell them I’m flying half way across the world to spend six days in Hawaii on a whim, but whatever, I’ll be the one drinking mai tais and eating fish caught fresh that day while watching a technicolor Hawaiian sunset, so who’s winning at life now?

The food we had in Hawaii was a fantastic mix of Asian cultures and local island favorites; we ate our way through China and Japan and Korea for days (all in one strip mall, in fact — yes, the BEST food in Hawaii is always found in a strip mall), and that’s not even covering the more traditional Hawaiian dishes like poi and kalua pork and lomi lomi salmon. I somehow escaped the islands without trying spam (which I really wanted to do!), but I made up for it by eating as many manapua I could get my hands on.

But. If we’re talking about the true hero of the trip, my absolutely favorite thing I consumed in my time in Hawaii, something I ate at nearly every meal, it’s poke. I could write an entire album of songs (probably even a multi-disc collection) about my love of poke. No, not the annoying, seemingly useless Facebook feature. I’m talkin’ Hawaiian poke (pronounced po-kay), and if you haven’t experienced this little Hawaiian gem, you’re not living life to the fullest, my friend.

A few things about poke for you to know. You must enjoy raw fish to enjoy poke. What is essentially the Hawaiian version of ceviche, poke’s main ingredients are typically raw fish (most popular is ahi tuna), soy sauce, some form of onion (spring, sweet, Maui or otherwise), and finely chopped macadamia or kukui nuts. Poke is usually served as an appetizer, or pu pu in Hawaiian, and it is deliciously addictive. Our first night in Hawaii I was invited to the house of my friend’s family for dinner. Pu pus came to the table and I casually swiped a piece of poke with my chopsticks and was so enticed by the salty, buttery, slightly sweet flavor I almost fell out of my chair. Picture me trying to be polite and gracious and charming while also trying to covertly shove as much poke in my mouth as possible. I’m sure I was the picture of manners; just call me charm school over here.

When I left Hawaii, I knew the first thing I wanted to attempt to make at home was poke, and tonight I have done just that. While searching out the ingredients will take a bit of effort (and unfortunately, there are a few things you just can’t get outside of Hawaii), actually putting it together is a breeze. The soy sauce does all the work for you, so all that’s required is a little chopping and you’re done. I’ve made some slight alterations based on my preferences (believe me, I tried about 500 different kinds of poke on your behalf, so consider me an expert in this field), but this is a pretty straightforward, ‘basic’ recipe. The flavors, however, are faaaaaar from basic.

OK, you ready? Let’s do this.

Hawaiian Ahi Poke (adapted from Hawai’i Magazine)

1 lb fresh ahi steaks, cut into cubed, bite-size pieces
¼ cup soy sauce (shoyu)
¼ cup chopped green onions (tops included)
¼ cup chopped sweet yellow onion (if you can get Maui onion, otherwise a nice Vidalia will do)
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded and diced (optional but highly recommended)
sea salt, to taste (if you use full sodium soy sauce, you won’t need this)
2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

There’s really not much to say in terms of prep other than chop everything up according to the above, place in a large container (I used a large tupperware, but you can just as easily use a big mixing bowl) and refrigerate for at least two hours. I’d recommend serving this as an appetizer, or you could eat as a main course alongside an asian-inspired salad and some rice. No matter how you enjoy it, it will, for if only a fleeting moment, give you a feeling of island breezes and a slower way of life. I will long for it dearly, I will dream of it often and I will one day return.

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A few other foods I enjoyed greatly while bopping around Oahu are the following:

Malasadas (Portuguese donuts) from Leonard’s Bakery: pillowy soft, some rolled in cinnamon sugar, some filled with coconut cream or chocolate, some just a plain old delicious donut…no holes necessary. YUM.

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Korean food from Kim Chee II Restaurant (heck yeah, strip mall feast): sometimes after a long day in the sun, you just want an explosion of flavor in your mouth, and Korean delivers strongly in that category. From short ribs to mandu to bi bimbap, it’s all delicious, all the time over here.

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Kona coffee, literally anywhere: not much to say here other than it’s so good it’s made for ROYALTY.

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Hawaiian Plate Lunch and Slush Float at Rainbow Drive-in: think of it as a Hawaiian ‘meat and three’ (for those of you who have never been to the South, I don’t really know how to describe this to you other than it’s some good down home cookin’). You choose your meat — usually fried chicken, BBQ steak, fried fish, what have you — and it comes with a side of ‘mac salad’ and rice. You can reserve your gravy for your meat (as I did), or you can go crazy and put it on everything. Accompanying this is a magical concoction called a slush float, which is basically a 7-11 strawberry slushie that’s had a love child with an ice cream float. It’s sugary and sweet and oh so good, and it’s a perfect balance to the saltiness of the plate lunch. Listen, I never said eating in Hawaii was healthy. I did, however, say it was delicious.

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rock your friday: songs of summer.

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When one goes to the islands, one must have a soundtrack. Something easy and light — this is not the time for melancholy tunes; this is the time for pop-filled melodies with a beat that go well with a breeze and fruity cocktails. These are the songs that scream summer; they might be overplayed, yes, but would I be jazzed if they came on in the bar where I was enjoying a mai tai and watching another mind-blowing Hawaiian sunset? Definitely.

I speak from experience when I say that this little ditty is also suitable for rooftop pools and backyard BBQs and the morning subway commute. So grab that coconut rum, throw on a caftan and shake that tail feather. It’s summa summa summa-time.

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All cocktails should come with pineapple. Like, as a rule.

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low/mid/high: swim cover ups.

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I have a confession. I am obsessed with caftans. I love the word, I love the concept, I love the lifestyle they represent. When I packed for my Hawaii trip, I brought five caftans for a six day trip. FIVE CAFTANS. Unhealthy? Probably. Fabulous? Definitely. If I had my druthers, I’d spend my days lazing about in my big straw hat and my breezy caftan, drinking an aperol spritz on my veranda overlooking the ocean blue. Sigh. A girl can dream.

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Bring me all the caftans.

As I build my caftan wardrobe (there will one day be a closet just for caftans in my house, I promise you), I’ve picked out some of my faves to share with you. One of the greatest things about cover ups is that they are available at every price point, in every print or fabrication, and for every body type. Caftans for everyone. Weeeeeee!

The following are a few that caught my eye…and a few that may or may not already be in my closet (my closet of caftans…I can’t stop saying caftan). A must for any beach vacation, these beauties will keep you protected from the sun, effortlessly stylish, and livin’ that life of leisure all the day long.

 

 

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makeup monday: beauty must-haves for your next vacation.

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Hey guys! It’s been a long time and I missed your faces. Summer is in full swing and that means I’ve been prioritizing outside time over inside time, and usually inside time is where the blog magic happens. But. I’m back! And it’s gonna be a good week.

Why, you ask? Because I just returned from a glorious visit to the islands, and by the islands, I mean Hawaii, and by glorious I mean it was the best. THE BEST. #thebest. And I want to talk about it forever and ever because it was pure magic. And I want to keep it fresh in my mind so I don’t forget the deliciousness that is the island life. So this week is Hawaii week over here on the old blog. From now until next Sunday, it’ll be all Aloha, all the time. Get ready. It’s gonna be great.

And to kick off this island extravaganza, we’re talkin’ travel beauty. Truth be told, my travel beauty routine isn’t much different than my summer beauty routine, in that I seek out products that are easy to use, good for the skin, and able to withstand the heat and humidity like champs. I do find, however, that travel beauty can be even a bit lazier than summer beauty (which is great!) because you don’t need to master that perfectly made up look; it’s more about blurring the edges and giving yourself that beachy glow (while also protecting your skin from the summer elements).

I also tend to seek out products that have multiple uses so 1) I don’t have to check a bag, and 2) I’m not that crazy lady at airport security who has like fifteen clear plastic bags full of toiletries instead of the allotted one bag (I’m still usually that crazy lady).

The following are the twenty things you’ll find in my travel beauty bag (I know twenty seems like a lot but that’s covering skin, hair and makeup…and yes, I count sunglasses as a beauty product…gotta protect those peepers!), all of which I’m able to fit (snugly) into one larger-sized cosmetic bag. These were lifesavers in Hawaii and kept me looking fresh, beachy but not too beachy (if you know what I mean), and kept my skin happy and protected in the strong island sun.

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From top left: 1) hair bands, goody ouchless hair elastics. 2) bronzer/blush/highlighter, urban decay naked flushed palette. 3) lip balm, this works turbo balm. 4) fragrance, elizabeth & james nirvana black rollerball. 5) sunglasses, tory burch t-print aviators. 6) argan oil, josie maran argan oil. 7) sea spray for hair, bumble & bumble surf spray. 8) eyeshadow, urban decay eyeshadow in toasted. 9) hair brush, conair travel hair brush. 10) waterproof mascara, maybelline big eyes waterproof mascara. 11) hairspray, nexxus travel size comb thru hairspray. 12) brow pencil, anastasia brow wiz in caramel. 13) eyeshadow primer, urban decay primer potion. 14) lipstick, nars lipstick in schiap. 15) clear nail polish, dior nail glow. 16) cc cream, clinique moisture surge cc cream spf 30. 17) cream blush, nars the multiple in portofino. 18) individual false eyelashes, ardell. 19) waterproof eyeliner, chanel stylo yeux waterproof. 20) bobby pins, goody.

1) hair bands: I get scolded regularly by my fashionista friends for perma-wearing a hair band around my wrist, but it is literally my worst nightmare to be caught without one just when I need one, and that goes doubly for when I travel. My travel hair style tends to be of the ‘pile it on top of my head variety’, especially in warmer climates, so hair bands at an arm’s reach (or wrist’s reach in my case) are mandatory.

2) bronzer/blush/highlighter: this might be on some people’s ‘maybe’ list for travel beauty, but I find a combo palette that includes bronzer, blush and a highlighter one of the easiest, low maintenance ways to add a little pretty to your travel beauty routine. During the day, a sweep of bronzer over the face (after a liberal application of sunscreen, of course) keeps you fresh; adding a little blush to the apples of the cheeks and a little highlighter to the tops of your cheek bones sets you up for an easy, breezy evening look. I love the Urban Decay palette pictured, but Nars and Neutrogena both have great options as well.

3) lip balm: whatever your preferred method of moisturizing your lips, please don’t forget it when you travel. And please don’t forget the importance of SPF if you’re headed to a sunny locale.

4) fragrance: this one might be a ‘nice to have’ but I always love a little spritz of something when I’m on vacation.

5) sunglasses: does this one really need explaining? Fashion accessory + protecting your eyes from the damaging effects of the sun = win.

6) argan and/or coconut oil: use it as a moisturizer, use it as a makeup remover, use it as a sunburn soother. It’s the multi-faceted-iest of the multi-faceted beauty products.

7) sea spray: when it comes to styling my curly mop while on vacay, this stuff is my jam. Spritz it all over and not only does it give me a perfect beachy wave, it helps to control frizz, which is a must in humid climates. Combine with a little hairspray for hold and you’re set to go.

8) eyeshadow: choose a neutral shade you love and you only need to bring one. When I’m on vacation, I’m not doing any fancy eye makeup, I’m probably not even applying it with a brush (fingers for the win). I wear one shade to give my eyes a little oomph and leave the rest at home.

9) hair brush: um, this one’s self explanatory. I hope.

10) waterproof mascara: I don’t wear anything else during the summer and the same goes for summer travel. It’s quick and easy to apply, it adds just the right amount of ‘look’, and the waterproof formula ensures I can take a dip in the ocean or pool and keep on truckin’ with my eye makeup intact.

11) hairspray: the best combatant of my mortal enemy, humidity. I spray it all over before I head out for the day, and by using a lighter hold formula, it keeps frizz at bay while not feeling super ‘crunchy’.

12) brow pencil: this is one of those prissy girly things I just can’t give up. No matter whether I’m going to work, to the club, or across the street to get coffee in my PJs, I still have to do my brows before I leave the house. The Anastasia Brow Wiz makes that a quick and easy task and keeps me looking groomed but natural all the day long.

13) eyeshadow primer: just because I’m only using one shade of eyeshadow while on vacation, doesn’t mean I want it melting off my face. Primer is the only way to ensure even the laziest of looks stay in it for the long haul.

14) lipstick: this is my second girly add to my travel bag. I don’t need to go into my serious, long term relationship with lipstick AGAIN. Suffice to say, no matter where I am in the world, there will be several lipstick options nearby at all times. For most people, a nice neutral or pretty pink shade will do the trick; for me, vacation is the perfect opportunity to rock a bold lip (and maybe for you too?).

15) clear nail polish: I usually try to work in a mani before I head out on vacation, but if I don’t have time, I’ll throw a bottle of clear polish in my bag to get me through. This way my nails are still shiny and pretty but I don’t have to worry about chips or smudges that you might get with brighter colors.

16) cc cream: for me this is the dream face product for vacation. It’s easy to apply, usually high in SPF, and it’s everything you need in one product so it cuts down the number of bottles you’re throwing in your cosmetic bag. I love the way Clinique’s CC cream mattifies my skin, gives me a hint of color, and doesn’t look too ‘made up’. The SPF 30 doesn’t hurt either.

17) cream blush: the easiest of the easy beauty products. Add a little pop of color to your cheeks and a touch of mascara and you’re ready to face the day. Add another layer and set with powder or a powder blush and you’re ready for a night out on the town.

18) individual false eyelashes: these are just FUN. If you have a special occasion dinner or activity during your trip, false lashes add a bit more definition to your look while still looking completely natural (vs a full strip of lashes which can sometimes look too overdone). If you’re not going to try new things while on vacation, when are you going to?

19) waterproof eyeliner: this probably also falls on the ‘nice to have’ list, but I think it’s a great option for a day-to-night transition. Add a little definition to the base of your eyelashes or go a little smokier and blend with your finger; either way the waterproof formula will ensure that your look stays in place (and it comes off easily with a little argan oil!).

20) bobby pins: for when you want to attempt a slightly fancier hairstyle than messy ponytail and/or topknot.

 

 

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makeup monday: add a little color to your summer beauty routine.

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I don’t know about you but I enjoyed the heck out of my first true summer weekend. It was that perfect, no cloud in the sky, 78 degrees and breezy from Friday afternoon straight through to Sunday night, and I relished every second of it. Lazy days picnicking in the park, drinking rosé and staring at the sky. Dinner in the garden of this little gem. A two hour mani-pedi and an impromptu afternoon cat nap. It was THE LIFE. And it was over entirely too soon (I really need to get moving on that life plan to become a lady of leisure).

I was also able to squeeze in a small Sephora run (relatively speaking, Sephora trips for me are never actually small) and picked up some fun, colorful products that are just right for sunshiny weather. In fact, summer is the best time to inject some color into your beauty routine. There’s so much bright and happy this time of year, and even something as simple as a bold lip or a pink cheek brings such a fresh take to your overall look – it’s guaranteed to put a skip in your step!

If you’re looking for a little somethin’ somethin’ to add some oomph to your beauty routine, pick up any of the below and go to town. They’re sure to bring a little life to your (pretty, pretty) face – and to your (pretty, pretty) summer.

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Eyes – Nars Soft Touch Shadow PencilNars shadow pencils are the ultimate simple way to add some color to your look. They come in a variety of colors and are the easiest things in the world to apply given its stick format – applicator and product all in one! Layer these over a bit of eye shadow primer or a crème eye shadow base, and they’re set for the long haul, even lasting well in hot and humid weather.

Cheeks – Le Blush Crème de ChanelThis blush is right up there in my list of favorite cheek products – second only to my beloved Nars the Multiple, and it’s a perfect pop of color for the summer (and winter and spring and fall) season. The cream blush glides on easily and requires minimal blending given its soft and creamy texture. It’s a relatively small collection, so the color range is limited, but the shades they chose are so versatile, you shouldn’t have any issue finding one that suits you perfectly.

Lips – Dior Addict Fluid StickMy new obsession! And a perfect product for summer. It’s basically the lovechild of a bold, highly pigmented lipstick and a non-sticky lip gloss, so you get staying power and shine all in one. I put mine on for the first time last week just to try it out, then promptly fell asleep for a delicious afternoon nap (no judgment), and when I woke up, my lips still looked incredible. I’m officially on board.

Face – Tom Ford Bronzing PowderOh, Tom Ford. Your beauty line is the most beautiful…and unfortunately, one of the most expensive. I have to choose selectively when it comes to purchases from this brand, knowing that it has a significant impact on my bank balance. That being said, the $95 price tag on their bronzing powder is absolutely worth it. I have never found a bronzer this good – natural, blendable, lightly scented – it’s seriously gorgeous. I use it every day, both as a contour and a bronzer, and my cheekbones have never looked better. If you can stomach the investment, you’ll be paid back in spades with this one.

What about you? What are your summer beauty go-tos?

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quick tip: exfoliate your lips with two simple ingredients.

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Y’all know I love lipstick. Like LOVE love it. If I had the space and the disposable income, I’d have an entire closet just dedicated to lipstick that contained every shade ever and a lipstick tracking system that paired the perfect shade with my outfit, Cher Horowitz-style. Sigh. A girl can dream.

But. If there’s one thing that kills a great lippy look, it’s lips that are…unkempt, shall we say. Dryness and flakiness are things that can happen to any lady about town and they can be brought on by a variety of things — the seasons changing or your bodily chemistry or by lipstick itself. And while I love the lip scrubs on the market that are meant to rid you of these woes, like this one or this one, I have a really hard time paying $20 for something that is essentially sugar in a jar.

As it turns out, you don’t need any of those fancy, highfalutin products — you just need two things you probably already have around the house — cane sugar and coconut oil. Mix the two using a 1:1 ratio and you have all you need to scrub away any unsightly flakies. You can make it in small batches to use in the moment, or make a larger batch and store in an airtight container for later use. Heck, make a bunch of it, make it cute, add a ribbon and gift it to all your friends. You do you, girlfriend.

And using it is just as easy peasy as making it. Apply a small amount to your lips, scrub in a circular motion with your finger until appropriately exfoliated, and remove with a damp washcloth. Moisturize your lips after exfoliating, either with your favorite lip balm or a touch of coconut oil. Let your lips absorb the balm or oil, and after just a few minutes, you’ll be all set with the perfect foundation for any lip look you choose. I try to exfoliate approximately once a week, but you can really use this whenever or how often you need it.

So go out there and conquer the world with your perfect pink (or red or orange or coral or crimson or plum or whatever color you love) pout, assured that your kisser is also flake-free. Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: harissa lamb burgers with feta and spice-roasted carrot fries.

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Oh hey, summerrrrrrrr. OK. While it’s technically not summer yet, it certainly feels like it here in old Brooklyn, with the sun shining down and the breezes blowing and the neighborhood buzzing with sounds of laughter and BBQs.

We’ve got another week or so until the official day, but in the meantime, I’m acting like it’s the real deal because why not. The most enjoyable part of a New York summer is when it’s not actually summer yet. Once you flip the switch on the official season it’s all hot days and still air and humidity that suffocates. I’ll take my 80-degree, cloudless, breezy days and I’ll use ‘em good.

And today being one of those days, I’m cooking burgers. Fancy burgers. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good classic American burger with American cheese and American bacon and American LTPO. But sometimes, I want something spicier and just a little bit different, and for me, these lamb burgers are just the ticket. The meat is tender and delicious with flavors of red onion and mint, and the addition of fresh pickles, feta and harissa as toppings bring them to a whole other level. Add a side of spice roasted carrot fries and you’re in for a treat. The inspiration for these burgers came from my first delivery of Blue Apron, which is quickly becoming one of my new favorite things. Similar to Plated, which I’ve talked about on the old blog before, but so far the recipes from BA have been much more successful than their competitor. Time will tell who wins the ‘meals delivered to your door ready to cook’ race, but for now, I’m sticking with Blue Apron.

I had the luxury of having all the below ingredients delivered to me in the correct quantities, so you may have to play with the portions a bit when making this on your own, but no matter how you work it, it will lead to a delicious pre-summer feast.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Harissa Lamb Burgers with Feta and Roasted Carrot Fries (adapted from Blue Apron, serves 2)

10 ounces ground lamb (you can substitute ground beef or a mixture of beef and lamb if you’re not a serious lamb fan)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red onion, ½ cut into rings, ½ finely chopped
1 small bunch mint, roughly chopped
¼ cup breadcrumbs

olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces feta cheese, either sliced or crumbled
2 tablespoons harissa paste (you can substitute sriracha or spicy mustard if you can’t find harissa)
fresh sliced pickles (you can make these or buy your favorite kind and slice them)
small handful of arugula
2 whole wheat burger buns

Spice-Roasted Carrot Fries

1 pound carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin

First things first, preheat the oven to 475 degrees so we can get our carrot fries on. Cut the carrots into matchstick-like pieces (you can do this by trimming the ends off the carrots, cut them in half width-wise, then cut each half into quarters length-wise). Spread them out on a baking sheet and season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cumin. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and mix to fully coat them in the spice mixture.

Take the onion rings that you cut from one half of your red onion and place them along side the carrots on the baking sheet. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place the sheet on the middle rack of your oven once fully pre-heated, and cook for approximately 18-20 minutes, stirring the carrots once half way, until browned and sizzling. Turn off oven once cooked and leave them inside so they stay warm.

Now to the lamb. Place your ground lamb in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic, the chopped red onion and the chopped mint and mix to combine (this is best done with your hands, so get in there). Then, pour about half of the breadcrumbs over the meat mixture and mix to incorporate. You may not need all of the breadcrumbs; if the meat doesn’t look wet after adding in the first half, you should be fine. If you need more, add them in tablespoon increments until the meat no longer sticks to the bowl. Once fully mixed, take your meat and form two patties of equal size. Place the patties on a plate and set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the burger patties and cook, occasionally pressing down on the patties with a spatula, approximately 4-5 minutes per side. Try not to move ‘em around too much; once they’re nice and brown on one side, flip them over and leave them be.

When the burgers are fully cooked, remove from the pan back to the plate and set aside. Add the buns to the pan, cut side down, and toast for 2 minutes until golden and crisp.

Now to prep the deliciousness. Take the harissa paste and spread it on each of the bottom halves of the burger buns and top with the fresh pickle slices. Place a burger patty on top, then add the sliced/crumbled feta. Top the feta with the roasted onion rings, then add a bit of arugula. Top with the other burger bun and you’re set to go. Take the carrot fries out of the oven and divide equally between the two plates. Demolish immediately.

This meal is best served with a crisp, cold beer sitting barefoot on your patio watching the light of day fade behind the hills (or skyscrapers, in my case). It’ll feel like summer, but just a bit different. And we all know different is good.

Yum. Enjoy!