Sunday, December 25, 2005

'twas the week before christmas...

...and all through the strike.....

wait, that's not how it goes.

some highlights from strike week include: a ride from two strangers all the way to work, getting me there on time, which seemed impossible. also, 6-7 miles home that evening, on foot, concluding with sunset as i crossed over the bridge into brooklyn. a december sunset on a clear night over the lights of the waterfront is a beautiful sight.

the next day connie and i bundled up, and headed over the bridge together to the east village, where we shared wine and wassail (what's 'wassail' i wonder?) with brian and z. after finding the line too long at supper, we languished over a decadent meal at lucien. it was so satisfying that i began to wonder why THAT hadn't been my neighborhood spot all those years. we had raw oysters, lamb, salmon, creme brulee, an exquisite tarte tatin.....and due to the strike, barely even had to wait for a table.

i finished up the week before christmas with dinner last night at raoul's, which has somehow managed to maintain its old soho charm. despite the crushing corporate shopping invasion, raoul's still feels warm and cool and real. i had an excellent dish of cappellini with little neck clams and chorizo; it was dominated by the full-bodied richness of the chorizo and a touch of cream in the sauce, and i couldn't help but eat every last bite. all this while drinking wine and listening to stories of old soho, told my my dining companions who had staked out soho lofts in the 70s and paid $200/mo. we were, all of us, new yorkers born and raised, ranging in age from 30 to 60, having shared a downtown NYC life that exists no more.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

having the usual?

it's very important to have a neighborhood spot. it is also important to have the staff there get to know you, and say things like "having the usual?" i have experience with forging a neighborhood spot, but have never gotten as far as having them know me. my addiction to to the anonymity of nyc has somehow prevented it, i suppose.

in my old neighborhood, my spot was supper. and i really did eat the same darn thing every time i went. in lieu of the waiter doing so, i would sit down and turn to my dining companion and say "having the usual?" which meant panzanella and grilled vegetables and cacio e pepe.

only two and a half months into my brooklyn life, i have declared my neighborhood spot to be cafe luluc on smith street. have had several brunches there, and will say those are the best french fries i can remember in a while. last night i added dinner to the repertoire. our table had beet salad, mussels, pork chop, steak frite, moroccan lamb, creme brulee, chocolate cake, and hot damn! every single thing was delicious. and not very expensive. and did i mention they made me a really good vodka martini?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

knife skills

"chop," i just found out, is a bad word. better words are "slice," "dice," "carve." as a writing teacher, i know this, that specificity is key. last saturday e and a and i attended a beginning level knife skills class at ICE. three hours long, and taught with dynamic old-school efficiency by norman weinstein, the class teaches its students, first and foremost, not to chop. the loud crash of a knife to a cutting board does not occur when the knife is handled properly. nor does the chef get a sore arm or shoulder. the blade glides effortlessly.

we learned to hold our knives properly, how to dice onions, slice carrots, core tomatoes, slice bagels (not fingers), mince herbs, chiffonade basil, and "use the steel." i learned that i've been doing pretty much everything wrong, and i am excited and determined to get better through practice. there's still knife skills 2 and 3 to take (in 3 you learn how to make cool garnishes), and i am definitely tempted.

$85 for a jam-packed 3 hours. institute for culinary education, formerly peter kump's cooking school.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

leftovers sandwich

one of the first dinner parties i ever hosted was with mara, in the june of 1996. we had graduated from college only days before, and were still high on the fumes of celebration, accomplishment, and comraderie (just around the corner were reality, confusion and, well, ohio, but that's another story). we hosted a small dinner at her parents' comfortable and lovely house in massachusetts and carefully planned a menu of north african carrot soup and lamb salad with cornichons. knowing mara, she also made an elaborate and delicious dessert but i cannot remember it now. we shopped at a local market, picking only the finest ingredients and purchasing a container of the at-the-time-unknown-to-me creme fraiche. it felt very adult. and yet i imagine we used our parents' credit cards.

the dinner party was a success--we set a formal table, and we topped off the meal with a moonlit walk, all 8 or so of us getting lost a few miles away and accepting a hilariously overpacked ride home from a neighbor. the next day, for lunch, we ate leftover lamb salad wrapped in flour tortillas and i discovered the beauty of a "leftovers sandwich."
1) the flavors have had time to marinate and deepen.
2) almost anything, put on a sandwich, is a good idea.
3) with that sandwich come the memories of the first eating, so that the day after our successful and exhilarating party, we got to experience the evening all over again.

the traditional leftovers sandwich, of course, is the day-after-thanksgiving sandwich. my favorite was last year's: a crusty ciabatta roll, a whole-grain mustard, turkey slices, cranberry sauce, and mashed sweet potatoes, eaten perched on a high stool near a roaring fire. if you haven't already done so, make yourself one, before your leftovers go bad--or run out.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

good gravy

the organic turkey was delicious. there was a humorus episode in which i unwrapped it and decided it smelled funky, mom ran to the the neighbor, who speaks very little english, neighbor thought we were asking her to prepare the turkey for us, and gamely began rinsing it, poking it, etc. we finally conveyed our concerns about smell at which point she nodded, patted the turkey, and exclaimed brightly: "it's natural!" which indeed it was.

my guide that day was a stack of "cook's illustrated" magazines. i had a subscription for about two years and only used it once or twice. decided i would go through every single one and find some gems. i made a cook's illustrated gravy, from scratch, which was certainly the most professional gravy i have ever made (samuel and i gleefully swapped gravy stories the next day; only once you've done it do you know this feeling of pride). i made smashed potatoes , for which the secret ingredient was cream cheese. i made baked acorn squash with brown sugar glaze, for which the secret ingredient was the microwave. cornbread mushroom stuffing came courtesy of martha stewart, my favorite jailbird/celebrity homemaker.

wendy carved the turkey for me, like she always does. mom made her always good cranberry sauce and excellent mushroom barley soup, joan made terrific walnut string beans, and we had more pies than we knew what to do with.

i am still having issues with how to get everything the right temperature at these shindigs, but if i am lucky, i'll have a lifetime to get it right.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

giving thanks

thanksgiving has come at just the right time. see, i have not been feeling very thankful. in truth, the phrase: "how come everything i touch turns to shit?" actually went through my brain the other day. i realized, even in the moment, that this was a nadir.

so, in an effort to remind myself of all the things i have to be thankful for, a list. 26 items, one for each letter of the alphabet.

A is for apples from the farmers market.

B is for buddy, my dog-cat.

C is for cobble hill. quiet and beautiful, my new lovely home.

D is for "the dying gaul," a movie that amazed me. deeply beautiful and deeply flawed.

E is for ethan, my brother.

F is for my friends, who are top-notch.

G is for gastronomy, which brings me joy (see "J").

H is for hot chocolate.

I is for the island of manhattan, which though i have left it, i still love.

J is for joy, when and where i find it, which is more often than i realize or acknowledge.

K is for klemperer, jerusha. will try to be thankful that i am me.

L is for laurie, for her life advice and listening (that's several L's)

M is for the middle eastern market, sahadis, my neighborhood market.

N is for new technology, such as my new ipod, new ibook, new silicon baking tins.

O is for opportunity, which even though i am having trouble seeing it, i know is out there (kinda like the tooth fairy...).

P is for pretzel croissants from city bakery.

Q is for quiche, which i love to make, and love to eat.

R is for running, which i can do now, despite my belief a few years ago that my knee would never heal well enough for it.

S is for seymour, my lap cat.

T is for the organic free-range turkey that we will enjoy on thursday. this is me putting my money where my mouth is.

U is for upheaval, in a good way.

V is for deborah madison's "vegetarian cooking for everyone," a terrific staple of my cookbook library.

W is for wine. wit. words.

X is for expression, the gift of which i do possess and must remember to use.

Y is for yoga, and what it does for my body.

Z is for sleep, which is easy, quiet and plentiful in my new home.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

home cooking

in one short day, i loved someone and lost her. my old boss and I were chatting by our desks one day a few years ago, when the conversation came around to food (this happens a lot with me).

"you know who you'd love?" she asked, "laurie colwin."

she lent me her copy of a slim paperback called "home cooking." colwin's writing reminded me of emails from mara, of short stories by lorrie moore, of the musings of a good friend i never knew i had. she does not write about restaurants or caviar or filet mignon. as the title suggests, every meal takes place in the small kitchen of her first, starter, NYC apartment. she argues against fancy kitchen gadgets and for dishes that remind one of childhood. she is witty, humble and knowledgeable.

i google searched my new best friend, excited to learn about her other books and her life today. perhaps some part of me hoped i'd end up in her kitchen making bread with her, cracking silly jokes and getting flour in our hair. i was devastated to discover that she had died young, several years earlier, leaving behind a husband and a small child. mourning my loss, i devoured "more home cooking," a collection which was published after her death.

two nights ago i made a supper for myself that included "squash tian," a colwin "recipe" that actually just reads like a paragraph. it has become an old favorite of mine and is perfect in the fall when the butternut squash is at its best. it is absolutely simple and terrifically delicious. vintage colwin, you might say.

squash tian

for squash tian, proportions aren't the issue, method is; but for 4 people you probably need about 2 big butternuts, or 4 of the sweeter medium-sized delicatas. peel, seed, and cut the squash into 1-inch chunks. shake the chunks in a bag of flour, shaking off the excess flour, and put them into an oiled or buttered shallow baking dish. scatter the squash with about 1/4 cup good parmesan; 1 large garlic clove, minced; and pepper to taste. drizzle the tian with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup best olive oil and put into a preheated 400 degree oven. the oven must be really hot, or instead of a crispy topped, melting dish, you will end up with a sodden mess-- trust me, i have had this happen. bake the tian for 30-40 minutes. i myself would be very happy to eat this with salad, but as we do not necessarily live by vegetables alone, something else must be provided...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

what's up with organics?

i try to buy organic dairy. it's widely available, and therefore requires no extra effort, only slightly more money. organic veggies are harder to come by, and organic meat, unless you're cooking for yourself, is pretty hard to procure. i feel strongly about eating organic, and yet my daily practice is less than stellar. it's similar to the distance between my attitude and my practice on the issue of vegetarianism. i have been known not to practice what i preach (along those lines: while waiting for my indian takeout tonight, i picked up a tatterred old issue of "real simple," april 2005 and read a great piece by jonathan safran foer about his ever-changing relationship to food, vegetarianism, and identity. it reminded me of my own feelings, and was beautifully written).

the usda recently passed some new guidelines on the definitions of what is technically to be considered organic, only to have it overturned immediately by the organic trade association. there's been lots of resulting buzz about organic food in the media lately, and i have felt the need to become more informed.

last weekend i attended a baum forum event called "what's up with organics?" i attended an earlier symposium of theirs, last winter, on susatinable agriculture. hilary baum routinely gathers those people who are at the heart of these issues and creates panels that, in their diversity, look at issue from many sides. she includes scientists, farmers, administrators, educators, and business people.

i learned an incredible amount this past weekend. rather than boring you with details i will give you a few highlights:

1. the pesticides found in conventional foods present "unknown health risks." whereas this is slightly more heartening than hearing that they are directly connected to cancer, the word "unknown" is scary to me. and just because something has not ben proven yet, does not mean that the results found someday will not be terrifyingly huge and profound.

2. if given the choice, buy organic valley instead of horizon. horizon, like many other organic brands, is owned by giant agribusiness company dean foods. organic valley is an independently owned farmers' coop.

3. along the same vein: boca is owned by kraft, odwalla is owned by coca cola, stonyfield by danone, kashi by morningstar, etc etc etc. this was a real eye-opener for me.

4. many farmers are angered by the usda's regualtion of organics, and are repelled by the notion that you could call something "organic" and still have 5% synthetics in it. as a result, some farmers have rejected the term organic entirely.

i could go on and on. and i plan to. not go on ranting to you, but go on educating myself, and furthering my commitments, and lessening the gap between what i believe and say, and what i do.

p.s. i bought a mac. and now the settings on here are all screwy. hence the cessation of uniform type, color, style etc.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

je suis so french

picking a place on the globe and fashioning an entire dinner as though eating there, is a favorite planning technique of mine. i am not proficient enough at any particular kind of cuisine to stick with one geographical locale. and so was born: mexican night. greek night. you get the picture.

yesterday, monday night was brasserie night, pour ma maman et mon frere. on le menu were lentil salad with lardons and fried egg, onion soup, brie/sausage and bread, and steamed asparagus. the lentil salad is from gourmet magazine apparently, though i found it on epicurious,

3/4 cup lentils (the small green kind, called "french lentils")
6 oz. thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
(i used regular thin cut bacon and it was perfectly good, but lacked that vrai lardon quality)
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon
1 tbsp olive oile
eggs
(if your dinner is like mine, some people will want eggs, some will not. make one egg per person, for those who want)

cover lentils with cold water by 2 inches in a sauce pan. simmer, uncovered until just tender, about 20 minutes.

blanch asparagus in boiling water for about three minutes, until bright green, then shock with an ice bath

while lentils are simmering, cook the bacon in a skillet, and try not to burn yourself with flying bacon grease. once bacon is crisp, fish it out and drain on paper towels, leaving the grease in the pan.

add the leeks, carrots and celery and cook until just tender. add the red wine vinegar and cook until most of it evaporates. remove from skillet and add tarragon, half of the bacon, salt and pepper to taste. transfer to a bowl and keep warm and covered. don't clean the skillet; there is still bacon-y goodness there to exploit.

drain lentils and mix with veggies.

add a drop of oil to the skillet and fry up however many eggs you'll need, over easy.

put a blob of lentil salad, covered with an egg, with asparagus spears on the side.

put on a beret, pop in the "best of edith piaf," giggle to yourself over the brilliance of monsieur jerry lewis, and dig in!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

indecision

when plagued by indecision, even picking what to eat can be paralyzing. my advice is to choose something simple. and add butter.

a long time ago i wrote down a julia child recipe on a scrap of paper. it's for a dish called "potage parmentier," and the other night i made it for julie (along with roasted brussel sprouts and a gigantic steak). i added turnips to julia's recipe, but it was similar in outcome, i am sure. it's just that the farmer's market had turnips and it felt right to buy them. when else?

now i have a giant bowl and every night when i come home and fret about small meaningless decisions (about computer purchase and travel plans), i can just pop some potage parmentier into the microwave, and no choice need be made.

potage parmentier

2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
3 turnips, peeled and diced
3 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into chunks
2 quarts water (in truth i myself have no way of measuring a quart)
1 tsp salt
several knobs butter

put the potatoes, turnips, leeks, salt and water in a pot on the stove
cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes
about 25 minutes into this process, remove the cover
once finished, mash with a fork and stir in the butter
add more salt and pepper to taste

this makes a whole lot, certainly enough for 5 or 6 people.

Monday, October 17, 2005

liking it the first time

things i didn't like the very first time i tried them:

coffee
sushi
tofu
spicy mustard
gefilte fish
olives

if i hadn't tried these things again, i would have missed out. now i love the warm comfort of a cup of joe, crave the tangy zip of mustard on almost anything, and unabashedly look forward to the seder every year so i can wolf down a processed whitefish ball slathered in red horseradish.

what about people? i have dear friends in my life i didn't like the whole first year i knew them! but what about a fella on a date? if i don't like him the first time, is that a good indication, or do i need to keep trying? could he become my mustard? my bowl of assorted french cocktail olives?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

cranachan or: first supper

i chose my new apartment for its kitchen, so it was my great delight to host my first supper. in looking for recipes to use for this meal, i encountered one for the aforementioned "cranachan." this seemed like a perfect choice, both because i had tasted it recently on its home turf, and because the folks coming over were all recent visitors to edinburgh. it turns out it's a mess of cream, sugar, rum, and granola. i would have thought it was whisky, but i guess, occasionally, the scots veer away from beer and whisky and hit the rum.

we had ravioli with a butter/sage/walnut sauce, a salad with roasted pears, blue cheese and cranberry vinaigrette, several bottles of argentinian red, cookies, and the ol' scottish classic: cranachan. it is incredibly rich. chris declared that "it tastes like breakfast--in switzerland!"

my apartment is large enough for guests. the counter space is ample; cooking was a cinch. my cats are social butterflies. i used my grandmother's vintage tablecoth. we drank adam's grandfather's whisky. the DISHWASHER made cleanup easy. so, about the new apartment, i'd have to say: so far so good.

cranachan

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup granola
pinch salt
2 tbsp melted butter
2 peaches, diced
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup blueberries
2 tbsp rum
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

mix granola, nuts and salt
pour onto a rimmed cookie sheet
cover with melted butter and bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes
whip the cream until soft peaks form
fold in sugar
fold in rum
fold in cooled granola mixture
fold in all fruit
cover with saran and chill for 1 hour or more

Saturday, October 08, 2005

scotland, in a nutshell

what i love about food in nyc is that you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a great meal. the $2 pakistani food at the punjabi grocery on houston is decidedly good, as are the $5 arepas at caracas on 7th street. if you mention to people the bad food in scotland, they will likely give you a response that mentions how much british food has improved, and also that there is a michelin 4 star restaurant (martin wishart). but to eat at this place, one must be a millionaire. scotland has not yet had a food revoultion for the people.

i myself was in edinburgh on a very tight budget (thanks to the poorly-performing US dollar, you rat bastard), and i had a hard time eating well. i ate a lot of potatoes. and a lot of cheese. there were however, some highlights. though be aware that some things on this list are not here for the culinary excellence.

1) snug scottish bistro. here i spent my 31st birthday. a wee dram of a place, snuggled in the basement floor of a stockbridge townhouse. the proprietor is a delight--friendly and kind and totally invested in his restaurant. it is BYO and quite casual. if the dollar weren't so bad, it would be very reasonably priced. i dined with emily, my new friend. i had venison, she had chicken stuffed with haggis (surprisingly--YUM!). both were expertly prepared and we also really liked our oddball scottish dessert called "cranachan." we finished up, tipsy and sated, and headed off to see david o'doherty, a charming and understated irish comic.

2) piemaker. a fast food joint of sorts, selling basically single serving chicken pot pies. but with many different options for filling (chicken tikka anyone?). at one pound fifty a pop, hard to resist. not to mention that flaky crust.

3) cheese. the brits know their cheddar. the cheese aisle at the supermarket practically consists of nothing but. not to be missed: an extra sharp white cheddar sandwich with onion pickle (basically chutney). I found a pickle at crombie's of edinburgh, a gourmet sausage place on broughton road, that i'm very fond of. of which i'm fond. crap.

4) valvonna and crolla. i found the gourmet food shop! this small italian specialty food store would be nothing special in food-obsessed nyc, but in edinburgh it is a rare treasure. sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, fresh pasta, prosciutto, and a gourmet cheese counter. i bought a "sourdough" bread, which was certainly the best and crustiest bread i had all month, but ch-rist people! you should be able to break your teeth on the crust of a good sourdough. i also bought a scone--the best one i had in scotland; i could taste the cream. and an english cheese called "cairphilly," which i thought to be a ridiculously fun name. i made open faced sandwiches of this cheese, on the sourdough bread, with caramelized onion pickle. yesssssss.



5) clarinda's tea room. the first friday we arrived, eric led us at sunrise for a crisp morning hike up arthur's seat. it was virtually empty and there were clear views of edinburgh for miles. delirious with lack of sleep, it was an oddly grounding experience, a great way to start off the month. after our descent, we hit this small grandma-style tea room, replete with doily tablecloths, and antique china on the walls. at the time i had no way of knowing that this place is indeed special, that the food is notable, etc. after trying other places over the course of the month and returning to clarinda's several times, i understood. the tea is delicious, the scones are great, the scottish breakfast is a greasy delight. the service is gruff and perfunctory, at odds with the gentle sweet decor. this, too, i came to love.



6) fried fried fried. they have these shops where there is a glass case at the front, with heat lamps, and piles of every food known to man--all of it DEEP FRIED. fish, sure, but also hamburger patties, haggis, sausages, mars bars. late at night, drunken folks crowd these places and order up heaping portions of all things fried. it is one of the most astonishingly gross things i have ever seen. miraculously, americans continue to be the fattest creatures on earth.

it was interesting for me, though, to be in a place in which there were few culinary marvels for me to behold. it helped me ease off of my obsession, and freed up my extra dough for unceasing theater attendance.

Monday, July 18, 2005

perfect saturday

wake up at 9:30 am -- just late enough to feel like you're being decadent, but early enough to have the whole day ahead of you. head to alon's on north highland. nab a paking spot out front. enjoy one of the few sunny mornings in weeks -- a slice of southern sun in between tropical storms. buy a decaf latte and a loaf of 7 grain bread, sliced for weekday lunches. ogle the scones, the pastries, the cheeses. make a mental note to return for a sandwich someday.

head across the street to the small, charming farmers' market. select a gorgeous yellow heirloom tomato, several red plum tomatoes, and a bag of collards. enjoy the morning, live under the strange but pleasant illusion that you live here (yet hurry home to read the paper....the ny times!).

Sunday, July 10, 2005

up on the watershed

ever read the NYTimes food section and they mention something tasty that is not in NYC (so unfair), and you think to yourself--they don't call this the "decatur times," why are you telling me about great fried chicken on west ponce de leon in georgia? that would have happened to me this past wednesday had i been in nyc. HOWEVER, i was instead in decatur, georgia, just a few short blocks from "watershed," the restaurant featured in last weeks dining section. genius!

the story is an amazing one; it includes emily saliers of the indigo girls, and the long strong friendship between a young gay white male chef and his elderly female african-american mentor. amy, adam and i checked it out for lunch this past saturday and found some worthy treats.

my pork sandwich had all the right ingredients, but was badly constructed. sandwich making, as we know, is an art (one that, say, melampo in soho has perfected). this sandwich was made with delicious crusty bread, excellent roast pork pieces, some delicious dried figs, spicy arugula, a sharp dijon and an herbed spread cheese. somehow, though, it tasted better all pulled apart. adam's collards were excellent, amy says her sour cream bacon potato salad hit the spot, and we all agreed that the onion rings were the best we had ever tasted. they were thin, crispy and extremely salty; i didn't even use any ketchup. to finish up, we shared a piece of georgia peach pecan pie, which was excellent.

mom and i will head back with adam on a tuesday night for dinner so we can experience fried chicken night. i'll report back on that later. in the meantime, folks back in nyc can be jealous that i got to try a lauded place in georgia, instead of the other way around!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

music break

sometimes i do stuff for fun besides eat. i opened the local paper "creative loafing" and the face of an old high school classmate jumped out at me. i had walked by the living room, in nyc, and seen her poster up a few times, but had never made it to see one of her shows. here in atanta, i don't really have the jampacked schedule i have at home, so i can do things like finally see someone perform.

i gathered the troops and we headed out to eddie's attic, just a few blocks from our house in decatur. we were there to see sam shaber, but other were playing before her, and she was playing with her pal edie carey. i was feeling the pressure; it's hard to be the person who drags 5 people to to hear music that hasn't been pre-screened.

turns out, sam shaber rocks. literally. she has a sassy, electric stage presence, a true performer. her voice was obviously strained from 200 days on the road, but she still sounded great, and still gave 100%. her partner on the bill, edie carey, was also terrific. she sounds like a cross between jewel, sarah maclachlan, and dar wiliams. they complemented each other beautifully--edie laconic and witty, sam chatty and hilarious.

do me a favor: check out their respective websites: www.samshaber.com and www.ediecarey.com

go see one of their shows, or take a risk and order a CD.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

home of the braves

an atlanta round-up:

1. july 4th at turner stadium was a total blast. amy caught a fly ball, the braves creamed the cubs, and i learned how to do "the tomahawk." topped off by navy seal paratroopers with sparklers on their feet, descending onto the field post-game, and a huge fireworks display.

2. dekalb international farmers market is not really a farmer's market. it's a huge supermarket, like fairway --minus any pretension. the produce alone can boggle the mind, with three types of bananas from three different countries, 4 kinds of basil, 14 kinds of squash, etc. my favorite was the aisle of molasses. only in the south could you make three shelves of molasses. we bought fish, sausage, fava beans, brussel sprouts, fresh bread, pickles, cheese, honey, coffee...but wear a jacket. they keep it DAMN cold in there.

3. caramel cake from "piece of cake" bakery in roswell. the koplans served this at their bbq for us on sunday night and presented it as a "southern specialty." whoooowhee. three layers of white cake, with sugary caramel between every layer and a thick top coat as well. insanely sweet, quintessentially southern.

a side note: i haven't been able to kick the diet coke habit. tried briefly to replace it with sweet tea and was up all night long from the caffeine.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

buttered crumpet

here in the south, people like to eat fried stuff. also, stuff made with lard. i'd like to report that, like the french, they are miraculously and mysteriously thin, however my small amount of reasearch shows that this is not the case. a trip to atlanta's stone mountain last weekend revealed a population of rather large folks.

dinner at the mountain's "mountain view restaurant" helped connect the effect to the cause: all you can eat buffet, with fried fried fried everything. it was scrumptious and nauseating all at once. i ate:

fried chicken
ribs
mashed potaters
brunswick stew (think: pork)
salad
ice cream

this was followed by the stone mountain laser and fireworks show which featured a medley of patriotic tunes and country ballads. truly bizarre.

the best part of a georgian meal, but something not featured at the mountain view buffet, is a good ol' fashioned biscuit. the one from ria's bluebird was divine, and certainly made with shortening or animal fat or something disastrous like that. i have had a few biscuits now from the legendary flying biscuit cafe. whereas the place is unimpressive overall (despite my fond memories from 10 years ago), the biscuits are excellent. not terribly traditional, but i love them. and i just happen to have the recipe (vicked from the flying biscuit cookbook on the shelf of the house i am staying at. back in NYC i make the recipe from the new basics cookbook):

3 cups all purpose flour (pref. white lily brand--so southern!)
1 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temp
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup half and half
2 tbsp half and half for brushing the tops
sugar for sprinkling on top

preheat oven to 375
mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar
cut butter into it, using two forks, a pastry cutter or your fingers, you know the deal
make a well in the center and pour in cream and half and half
mix with wooden spoon until it forms a dough ball
turn ball onto lightly floured surface and knead 2-3 times to form a cohesive mass, don't overwork
use a rolling pin to roll to 1 inch thickness
use a biscuit cutter dipped in flour and cut circles

place on a pan lined with parchment paper
brush tops with half and half and sprinkle with sugar
bake for 20 minutes
makes 8-12 biscuits which in the south may well be 1-2 servings. ha.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

hot-lanta

here i am in atlanta, trying to keep the culinary flame alive. i have a few restraints (budget/time/geographical cluelessness) but also several nice liberties, including a car.
having a car means that when i tried for the second time to hit papi's, the cuban joint, i had a quick getaway to check out ria's bluebird instead.

amy and i are pretty sure we were in atlanta's red hook (and you know how i feel about red hook), across from oakland cemetary on memorial drive. ria's bluebird is hip in a very lowkey way and is housed in what appears to be a vintage diner. we had huevos and a breakfast burrito but are eager to return for the pancakes and a sit in the sunny back garden. i know we'll be back there--my huevos were tasty enough to trust this place, and they make a good cup of joe.

a second culinary success came in the form of tonight's dinner. i am so lucky to have amy to be my food-obsessed buddy and housemate. we ate a grocery bought roast chicken, and oh lordy! please tell me why i spent the past five years being a vegetarian, because surely i couldn't remember as i ripped skin from bone. sweet jesus. this was accompanied by a beet salad i made the other day:

(wrap scrubbed red and yellow beets in tin foil packets and roast at 400 degrees for about an hour or more until beets are tender. allow to cool a bit then slide skins off with your hands. this gets messy. slice the beets any way you like. hit with a glug or two of olive oil, some red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and some crumbled feta. save beet greens for later--sautee and eat over pasta--that's what i did. it makes you feel thrifty.)

and also by amy's fantastic fava beans a la boyce:

(don't bother parboiling these suckers. just slice them crosswise with a small paring knife and slip off the inner skins. then sautee with butter, garlic. salt and pepper, a little lemon juice, some grated aged provolone and voila!)

almost enough to help us forget our doggone crappy day.

Friday, May 27, 2005

onward, ho!

yeah, that's me, callin' you a ho.

no, seriously. this coming tuesday is my last day at my job. it will be 5 years to the day since i started. 5 years since dad died, 5 years since MFA finished, 5 years at this job. as i said, onward, ho. no more job means no more (free) high speed internet access. i am not really sure how much i'll be able to blog from atlanta, let alone scotland. in truth i am not really sure if anyone reads this anyway, but it's fun to imagine there are scads of you. you imaginary crowds of people...check in from time to time as i plan to have all manner of madcap food adventures in atlanta and edinburgh. i am thinking i'll have some time to bake bread, or learn to make sausages by hand or something. do you have a restaurant in atlanta to recommend? are you one of the people who writes in comments and i don't know who you are? post a comment! i especially welcome advice, of the starting over/new frontiers/isn't life a kicker variety.

if you send me your home address, i will send you a postcard, or a letter. i think i am going to make it my mission these next three months to bring back the epistolary arts.

greek salad

yesterday i played hooky. went out to bergen county to visit my old work buddy, and see her new house. she is a great cook and an avid and conscious eater (by the way, not a bad way to be about most things: avid and conscious, an odd but good match). she brought me to a small, unimpressive looking greek spot called "greek village," inhabited by male servers in polyester black vests and bowties. this in a snack joint with linoleum floors--so odd.

we ordered a platter of fried eggplant, and two greek salads with grilled chicken. this seemed like a good plan since a) i like eggplant. i like it fried, i like it roasted, i like it pureed, i like it in pasta, i like it in stirfries, i like it any old way. even though i think my topographic tongue is sometimes made crazy by its acidity. b) i like greek salad. i like a greek salad even when it's a bad greek salad.

i'll give away the ending and let you know that this was a great greek salad. maybe the best ever.

the eggplant was terrific: thin half moons lightly battered and fried, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and served with a mound of garlic dip. totally addictive.

the "small" greek salads were totally traditional, no surprises, except that in this crap-ass looking joint, every single ingredient was fresh and perfectly prepared.

not iceberg, thank goodness, but some kind of green leaf lettuce
fresh plum tomatoes, in half moons
small slices of crisp cucumber
paper think slices of red onion
thin sliced, small pieces of green bell pepper
terrific (pit in) kalamata olives
mild crumbled feta
dried oregano
a red wine vinegar dressing
a few stuffed grape leaves
a few of those pickled hot peppers that i pick off and leave on the side
and some honest-to-goodness chicken breast strips that had been grilled ON A GRILL
(with charred corners and all of the good things that come from true grilling)

put me in the mood to make greek salads all summer long. and a reminder that jersey has some surprises. and if anyone knows how to find the good food there, it's my buddy c.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

highlights

it's about time for a round-up.

1. balthazar bakery: it's not like i've found a hidden gem here, or anything, but it was my first time inside. it feels so authentically french, it's kind of a shock when the distinctly american staff offers to help you. i know from experience that the pain au chocolat and baguette are excellent, the real deal. everything else i spied (inluding the granola) looked very inviting. per a tip from chowhound, i asked for an oat scone (they're hard to spot), and a decaf latte. i sat on the bench outside and watched saturday morning soho pick up speed. the scone is perfect, barely sweet at all except for some sugar on the raisins, and a light sprinkle on top.

2. supper: saturday night i dined at supper, with s., p., and t. supper is my neighborhood joint, and has been for the three years it has been there on 2nd street. when i think about leaving the neighborhood this fall, i know that it is supper i will miss. i love their panzanella (tomato bread salad), their platter of grilled vegetables, and their spaghetti al limone or spaghetti cacio e pepe. when june rolls around, they'll have a fava bean salad with grape tomatoes and shaved parmesan, and i am sad at the thought i'll miss it. s., p., and t. let me order the appetizers, and as a result, all of my favorite supper dishes were on the table. hopefully that won't be my last time there as a regular.

3. chinese: i don't eat chinese so often anymore, mosty because i haven't really figured out which places to frequent. my family goes at least once a year for peking duck at the peking duck house on mott street, but otherwise, i am a bit at sea. last night i hit the chelsea grand sichuan with j. and r. i was unimpressed by the appetizers but we had excellent eggplant with garlic sauce--meaty(although meatless) and delicious, and a braised whole fish with scallions. The fish was truly succulent, and easy to eat because the waitress deboned it for us. the head, per our request, stayed on the platter, but only so we could make fun of it. no one was brave enough to eat it.

Monday, May 23, 2005

holy crepe!

sometimes it's fun, when creating the titles for my entries, to imagine myself as a NY Post headline writer. obviously, today was such a day.

on friday night, i made crepes--both sweet and savory--for the girls. i have many friends who are girls, but j., c., z., and (in absentia) a., are"the girls." or "my girls." we started with wine, cheese, grapes, olives, and slices of grilled chicken sausage until j. arrived.

in advance i had made crepe batter (easy: one cup flour, two eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 tbsp. oil, 1 pinch salt), grated a heap of gruyere, and sauteed up some spinach with garlic, salt and pepper. making crepes in my new non-stick crepe pan was truly simple:

a ladleful of batter, swirl it around the lightly buttered pan
dump the excess back in the bowl
cook until bottom side is brown, flip
wait a minute, turn onto an ovenproof platter.

once all the crepes were made, i rolled them with filling, and popped them into a 400 degree oven to melt the cheese and heat up the spinach. i served the crepes with a simple tomato salad and the asparagus from the farmer's market. by dessert, we were stuffed (and tipsy), but managed to toss back crepes filled with blackberry verbena jam, fig plum conserve and nutella, all dusted with powdered sugar. these were jams i had ordered off the internet from june taylor jams in berkeley california, and they were delicious.

i hope i don't forget to make crepes again; heck i bought the darn pan.

Friday, May 20, 2005

not about food (or: seven-card stud)

last night i saw the broadway revival of "streetcar named desire." i can't write about the crappy piece of over-cheesed pizza i ate across the street beforehand, or the truly awful and overpriced salad i ate at eatery afterwards. instead i write about the play, because williams' script is a perfect meal of words.

everything was conspiring to ruin this performance. three cellphones went off in the first act alone. three people in the row behind us got up midway through the act, and in the process of leaving, tromped on the paper shopping bags of the woman directly behind us. sirens blared outside studio 54. subways rattled underneath. at the climax of act one, as blanche recounted to mitch her emotional and horrible past marriage, the sound technician accidentally cranked up the mike "to eleven" for a few seconds. to close the act, natasha richardson as blanche, said one of my alltime favorite lines: "sometimes there's god... so quickly." before she even hit the last syllable, before the lights had even begun to fade, a loud weird "BRAVA!!!" was heard. let the woman say her line for cryin' out loud!

i was, apparently, in the middle of a three-ring circus. but it mattered not one bit. and the odd casting choices? who cares. and the awkward sound design? whatever. this play is a thoroughbred horse, that cannot be stopped (by the way, this play has now been a meal, and also a horse. let's see what else i can come up with). i could read it/act it/study it/watch it again and again and again.

tonight i am making crepes for the first time--savory and sweet--in a new crepe pan, with artisinal jam i bought online from june taylor preserves. on monday, a full report.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

produce

the noun, not the verb.

i remember, age 15, sitting at my friend k.'s kitchen table. she asked if i was hungry for a snack. when i told her i was, she produced a huge gorgeous summer tomato, cut it into thick slices, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar (not such a staple in 1990 as it is now), and put it on the table. this was for me a revelation. that tomato was my madeleine of sorts, for it triggered in me a realization that there was simple exquisite joy to be found in food, that each meal (even a casual kitchen snack) could be special.

that summer, during a week at my parents' house upstate, i focused on produce. this was probably much to the delight of my father i imagine, who himself was obsessed with produce. because he was dad though, he didn't obsess, didn't talk about it, didn't write about it--just purchased it in large quantities, and sliced it up for his kids and wife to eat.

today i hit the small farmer's market across from my office and practically wept at the sight of bundles of asparagus. there are now two at my feet under my desk, begging to be steamed/roasted/whatever. they are thick stalks, which is not the "desirable" thing--thinner is fancier. i myself love the thick stalk: white, pale green, darker green, flecks of purple, as you travel up the stalk. if i were an artist, i'd paint them. since i'm me, i'll eat them.

Monday, May 16, 2005

leave it to the experts

last night i had terrific chinese food, prepared by my new chinese relative h. i had heard tales of her (and her non-chinese husband's) terrific meals, and was really pleased to be included and taste the goods. i sat at the kitchen island and watched the experts at work. when i asked "what kind of oil is that?" and got "chinese oil" as the answer, i had an epiphany.

don't treat this like a cooking lesson in hopes of recreating it later--leave chinese cooking to the chinese. drink your belgian beer, and breathe in the chili smell in the air, and behave nicely so you can get invited back again. but don't try to learn what to do. you will never do it right.

this worked out well, and i very much enjoyed my incredibly spicy meal. i mean one dish was literally potatoes and chopped jalapenos. i cried, i sweated, i shook, and i loved it. there was also cabbage/bacon/chilis, celery and spicy red pepper, pork and eggplant, and a delicious hot and sour soup. and port for dessert.

all plates went in the middle of the table, and everyone had his/her own bowl of white rice. we helped ourselves in small portions, moving the food from the table plate to our personal bowls. anything that involves bowls, chopsticks, and communal eating really appeals to me, so this made me happy.

in closing: does anyone know what you call your sister-in-law's brother and your sister-in-law's sister-in-law? this isn't the set-up to a joke, i really am wondering if there is a name for such a thing.

Friday, May 13, 2005

highlights

time for a round-up.

1. my new breakfast obsession.

i go through cycles where all i want for breakfast is one particular thing. i am someone who wakes up hungry and often have a spoon in my mouth before my eyes are fully opened. some people i know find this humorous. for long stretches the obsession has been bumpers (see earlier post). sometimes it's marshmallow maties (also, see earlier post). for some various stretches it has been whole grain toast with boca sausage patties. for a while it was whole grain toast with peanut butter and jelly. this week it has been oatmeal. really incredibly good oatmeal. on a whim at the east village cheese shop, i bought a box of mccann's quick cook oats. i have been making them, per the box instructions (but adding a pinch of salt as well) with milk, drizzling with maple syrup, topping with crushed walnut pieces and raisins, and lordy if it isn't delicious and filling.

2. una pizza napoletana.

a few months back, after reading all the hype about this 13th street pizza joint, i tried to go on a monday. i found it shuttered. i went back on a tuesday. i found it shuttered. i was on my way there on a wednesday when i discovered it would be shuttered again, that they are only open thursdays through sundays. from 5 pm until "the dough runs out." i worried it would be a trendy mob scene. instead i found an incredibly low-key place, that smelled fantastic. my friend k. and i were able to sit and relax over wine and beer, and individual pizzas. this pizza is truly wonderful, and comes in only four varieties. we went basic and had the margherita and the bianca. the crust is perfectly crisp yet chewy, with very noticeable bites of sea salt. the fresh basil leaves (which give the place its aroma) were a great touch. sauce: great and sparingly used. cheese: excellent, also sparingly used. this is kind of a delicate pizza. i ate the entire thing. this was a mistake; it was too much food, but only by a little. my only complaint was that the place is full of four-tops, which means that when a duo is sitting, they are using up 4 seats, and that's kind of a waste of space. but this is a very small complaint.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

shortcuts

because i am a dilletante, i am always looking for and appreciating mental shortcuts, especially when it comes to cooking. black beans...cumin. peas...mint. gorgonzola...pear. bacon...anything. lime/cilantro/peanut...asian. tomato/basil/oregano...italian. you catch my drift.

a few weeks ago, i tried a curry dish for which i'd found the recipe on chez pim (see sidebar). it involved making a rice/leek dish (i used sticky though she recommended jasmine), searing some scallops, then spooning over it this delicious coconut curry. it's a perfect dish. i made it three nights in a row. then i started using the sauce in a tilapia papillote dish. which i ate for three nights running (cooking for one can create odd circumstances sometimes, especially when it comes to using fish while it's still fresh).

it involves mixing a quarter teaspoon or so of red curry paste with about a tablespoon of coconut milk over a low heat in a saucepan. once those are well blended, add quite a bit more coconut milk (4 or 5 more tbsp i think), and a teaspoon or so of fish sauce. and a pinch of sugar.

i really can't think of anything this wouldn't taste good over, except maybe ice cream. and, it's a great new shortcut for me to keep in mind.

Monday, May 09, 2005

bk, usa

i spent the greater part of this past weekend exploring brooklyn, by way of my stomach. it was such fun.

first stop was baked, a new bakery on van brunt. the F train to smith/9th street, then the B77 bus to van brunt. a super cool space with a brown and orange theme, and a spectacular carved stag mirror behind the counter. a. and i proceeded to eat a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, and an oatmeal cookie that she proclaimed "the best one she had ever eaten" (it had flecks of coconut). accompanied by two cafe con leches. and good times.

i had only ever been to red hook once, at night, at the liberty heights tap room. during the day, it is so appealing...crumbling brick facades with traces of old painted lettering, stray cats and tumbleweeds, rusted out car parts, and then a hidden gem of an antique shop, and the waterfront in view, and some cobblestone streets. also, in the air: grilled meats. seriously. i was really disappointed that i had not brought my camera; there were so many good things to see.

the next stop, via a rambling exploratory walk, were the soccer fields in red hook, to partake of the mexican and dominican food stands that line two sides of the park. you'll find these stands at clinton and bay. so much like mexico, the ad hoc stands were grilling up meats, slicing up fresh fruit, and frying up arepas. i grinned with the realization that, unlike in oaxaca, i could here eat everything including the produce without a worry of bacterial infection. probably.

we were full from the cookies, but managed to pack away fried sweet plantains, fried yuca, a chicken and cheese arepa with pickled cabbage, and a sweet corn tamale with sour cream. for dessert, a bag of incredibly fresh sliced mango, eaten with a plastic fork, as we walked up clinton street all the way to brooklyn heights. clinton street is an architectural marvel, and seen with blossoming trees, a cool breeze, sunshine, sliced mango, and a good friend: priceless.

i then headed back to red hook, hoping to meet up with a new friend at le'nell's spirit shop for a bourbon tasting. i did not find my friend there. instead i found a hipster bluegrass band outside and a calico kitty. red hook is SO LOVEABLE.

dinner with h. and k. at beast, the new tapas bar in prospect heights, where we had fried manchego bites, olives, bread, wine, salad, ribs, burgers and brownies. i loved this place.

sunday i cheated on brooklyn and had lattes from mud, and then brunch at 9th street market. always delicious. headed out to the brooklyn design show with c. and saw many incredible things, including the poeple who designed the stag mirror i had loved so much at baked the day before. brooklyn is small like that, in a good way. i will not break down the design show because there are many other blogs better suited for that (see design sponge).

mother's day dinner in brooklyn heights at e. and a.'s was excellent, as dinners at their house always are. lamb, flageolets, cabbage salad and roasted asparagus. a cornucopia of simple, delicious dishes. low on the carbs, high on the flavor. plus a chance to get all the families together and every one had a good time.

by this time, my heart and stomach were swelling with love for brooklyn and all it has to offer: coffee, cookies, tapas, architecture, design, stray cats, and the home of my brother and sister-in-law. not bad.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

your slightest look easily will unclose me

Monday night I had Thai food on Montague street with some dear folks. S. mentioned my blog, specifially that while he appreciates the content, he does not appreciate the lack of capital letters. Out of deference to S., I am using capital letters today, grudgingly.

My love of lowercase letters comes from an obvious place. I have loved ee cummings since the very first poem. My memory tells me that "somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond" was that first poem, but I will concede, it might just be that this one's my favorite, not my first.

An example of what I love:

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.

This particular poem makes me me feel sad and hopeful all at once--there is love and loss, worship and adoration. Part of why I don't cook more (and hence why I don't blog more), is that cooking for one is difficult, and not that joyful. But reading a poem like this one reminds me the kind of love I can look forward to the possibility of (how's that for a badly constructed sentence?).

So thank you, S. for reminding me to look again at one of my favorite poems, for giving me the opportunity to read the words "your slightest look easily will unclose me," and get a chill up my spine.

Monday, May 02, 2005

pizza pizza

making a pizza at home is fun. as a child, english muffin pizzas were a staple of my diet: thomas' english muffin, aunt millie's jarred sauce and polly-o mozzarella. those are three products i wouldn't really eat these days, but updating that easy-to-make classic is a cinch.

this past year i made a lot of pizzas, and it is easy to realize what a tabula rasa that dough can be. i'd like to say i made my own dough but when you live near a good pizzeria (sal's on avenue A and 7th street) and they sell the dough for $3, it's hard to get motivated to go to the trouble of making your own.

this weekend i made one based on a recipe in a new cookbook my friend gave me (an impromptu gift--the best kind!). i think the book is called "entertaining for a veggie planet," and it is really great. she calls this "henry's pizza" because her cat henry likes to eat it. this is weird to me, not because her cat eats pizza but because this pizza is so good, i simply would not share it with my cat. all for me.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH ONION PIZZA

preheat oven to 350 degrees
peel, seed and small dice a butternut squash
toss with olive oil, minced garlic clove, salt and pepper and place in a baking dish
roast for 20 minutes or so, or until soft and brownish

bump oven temp up to 490 degrees
slice one or two large yellow onions
saute in a pan with olive oil for 15-20 minutes until caramelized
finely chop about ten sage leaves

take pre-bought pizza dough and stretch to fit your pizza tin, poke some holes
cover with butternut squash, then onions, then sage, then some crumbled goat cheese
sprinkle with the grey sea salt you keep by your stove
bake for 20 minutes (ish--just keep an eye on it)

this pizza rocks.
even the next day.
and the next.
i know from experience.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

bigger than food

my dear friend's mom passed away on monday and it has left me a little speechless. on the one hand, at times like this, food is the only thing that makes sense. when my dad died, our home was filled to the rim with rugelach, bagels, and roast chickens. making and buying food gave our friends a way to feel useful, and eating it gave us three events around which to structure our miserable days. i went to ess-a-bagel at lunchtime and grabbed a bagful for my friend's family, because what the hell else do i know how to do?

on the other hand, who gives a shit about recipes? i never thinkof food as only sustenance, or i wouldn't go to such lengths to prepare a meal. or wait on lines for brunch. or take the 7 train out to who-knows-where for a taco. but in the face of death, food can feel small, and the thought of fancifying/glorifying it feels trite and silly.

so, in a few days i'll tell you all about the quick coconut curry i learned how to make. until then...

Monday, April 25, 2005

worship

two things of note to write about.

arbus
i saw the diane arbus show on friday at the met. sometimes i am ashamed when my tastes are so mainstream. i mean, to be in love with the work of someone who has a show at the met, for chrissakes. i am/was so moved by the collection. now i have the book on my coffee table so when i feel the urge i can look at "loser of the diaper derby" or "jewish giant at home with his parents" whenever i please. she was a master of titles--what the title says/doesn't say...pure genius. something for a blogger to study. or a poet. or a writer-type person. or whatever i am.

passover
2 back-to back dinners this weekend, and i didn't have to prepare either one. for the first time in five years, and it was liberating. culinarily speaking, i'd like to take a moment to reflect on the "hillel sandwich," which is a symbolic but also tasty construction of matzah, horseradish and maror (apples, walnuts, manishewitz). it is one of those sublime combinations of contrasting textures and tastes, improbable but delicious (like peking duck pancakes). i ate way too many of them, and mused on why i don't make them as sandwiches during the rest of the year. perhaps they would lose their magic that way. maybe eaten more than twice a year they become as ordinary as jam on toast or something.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

mise en place

mise en place is the essential foundation they teach to professional cooks and chefs. it's how to have a clean and organized kitchen, how to time your cooking properly, etc. it means literally "put in place," and refers to pre-chopping/washing/slicing/soaking all of your ingredients, and then setting them aside in one of those nice little glass bowls. it is the esssence of "BE PREPARED."

there is a part of me that needs/craves/thrives off of mise en place, in the kitchen and in my life in general. i make lists of things to be done, and enjoy checking things off when they're accomplished--that sort of thing. but then there is the part of me that tries to subscribe to an entirely other philosophy. a teacher of mine in grad school, anne bogart, used to tell us to "go before you're ready," in essence to leap before we looked. which is wonderful advice when it comes to acting. follow impulses, be brave, don't wait for readiness or you will never go.

(it was this that helped me decide to adopt my cats. i was unsure, had reservations, felt "maybe later," but then remembered anne's advice, leapt before i looked and am now the owner of the two most scrumptious lil' things, who bring me endless joy).

but what about now? i quit my job on monday and now, come september, i am unemployed!
no mise en place here, ladies and gentlemen; i have leapt before i looked, and rather than scrambling for my little glass bowls, i am trying to feel the wind in my hair, and enjoy the view on the way down.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

guilty pleasure

i just wanted to give a shout out to my dearly loved marshmallow maties. for those of you who don't live near a semi-ghetto supermarket (read: key food), you might not know about these. they are a cheap version of lucky charms, and are oddly more healthy, i think. at least that is what i have decided from reading the nutritional info. they are whole grain, low carb and low fat. with vanilla soy milk, they are practically good for you!

in honor of quitting the job, and in honor of the beautiful weather, and my general good cheer, i bought myself a bag (resealable!) and have been loving it up.

Monday, April 18, 2005

ganesh

this morning i went to yoga, knowing i needed to stretch my body and mind before i came to work to do the dirty business of quitting my job.

at the top of class the teacher said we would be chanting to ganesh, "remover of obstacles and god of new beginnings." i smiled slowly to myself, knowing everything would go well today.

Friday, April 15, 2005

lunchbox

for the past two days i have packed the most glorious picnic lunch. it contained: roasted eggplant, and brussel sprout antipasto (i mentioned both of these way back in my post called "sopranos"). it also included a small portion of leftover chickpea/sundried tomato pasta (minus the ricotta), some firm red grape tomatoes, and then on top...a slice of...my new obsession...all thanks to my bro for introducing it to me...CAMBAZOLA.

this stuff is sublime. i've seen it at whole foods, and i got mine from fresh direct. it's camembert i think.

a slice of heaven.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

how the other half lives

last night, i lived like a normal person. my tutoring clients were on a class trip to washington d.c., and i was free as a bird. i did things normal people do:

stayed late at work (!)
ran errands
talked on the phone
got a fresh direct delivery
made dinner
watched a movie

it was bizarre, but kind of nice and relaxing. for dinner, i scavenged my cupboard and fridge and created a pretty tasty meal. it's a fun game, by the way.

SPAGHETTI WITH CHICKPEAS, SUNDRIED TOMATOES AND RICOTTA

1 pckg. whole wheat spaghetti
one small yellow onion, diced small
two cloves garlic, minced
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 tbsp. sun dried tomato pesto
5 sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
grated parmesan cheese
ricotta cheese
salt
pepper
red chili pepper flakes

as the pasta is cooking, you saute up the onions, garlic, chili flakes, until soft and translucent
make sure to salt and pepper it as you go
add chickpeas and sundried tomatoes, cut into strips
cook for a few minutes
when pasta is done, drain it and add to pan
add: a few tbsp pasta water, some oil from the sundried tomatoes, and the pesto
use your tongs to stir
once it's all nicely mixed up, put some in a bowl
add two hefty dollops of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with parmesan
salt and pepper as necessary

as i wolfed this down (why? why must i eat as if i am in a hurry even when i'm not?) i watched "network." what an amazing, prescient, wonderful, weird, at times terrible movie. i was charmed and baffled all at once. it is both an old movie and a modern one, caught in the middle. all the women talk with that old movie star affected accent. william holden speaks out of the side of his mouth. faye dunaway is ravishing--dynamic and ludicrous all at once.

the story must have been crazily radical at the time--chronicling a newscaster who goes mad and has his unpredictable madness used by his network to garner good ratings. it's a story of the old generation (holden) battling the new (dunaway) while also sleeping with each other. watching holden and dunaway have sex was terrifying. there is this really strange scene where she babbles about work all through sex. and the sex ends up lasting literally 45 seconds. i think we were supposed to think it was hot. it was not. anyway, it's certainly worth watching. it has many charms, including that it is beautifully shot and there is a scene between holden and his wife that is beautiful in its honesty and clarity.

all in all, my evening as a normal person went pretty well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

orange you glad i didn't say banana?

they say it's blood orange season, although i'll be damned if i've eaten any. it is my quest to eat food when it's in season, so i'm a little bummed when i miss the boat (speaking of foods in season, i am already breathlessly awaiting the arrival of the oh-so-brief fava bean season, and the fava bean salad i will devour at supper).

but back to oranges.

a. recently went to morocco and came home with a recipe for an unusual and delicious dessert which i had the great pleasure of eating on sunday night. i cannot describe the taste of orange blossom water. it is maybe a little like something you would dab on your pulse points or something you would spray your egyptian cotton sheets with as you ironed them. elegant and perfumey, but somehow delicious.

MOROCCAN ORANGES

slice an orange ( hell, a blood orange if you can!) into disks, peel the rind
sprinkle with orange blossom water, which a. says you can get at a middle eastern market
sprinkle with white sugar
sprinkle with cinnamon

it is light and delicious, and makes me want to go to morocco ASAP.

also, a good theatre company i like, called the edge theatre is doing a supposedly excellent production right now called "orange blossom water." it's at theatre for the new city, right near my house. i'll try to go--you should too. or maybe we should go together.

Friday, April 08, 2005

highlights

it's been a short week since home from vacation, so just a few highlights to report.

1. orrechiette with broccoli rabe and sausauge-- for those of you wondering how my vegetarianism is going of late, i believe the mention of this dish will answer your questions. i have been eyeballing this dish for years now, not to mention its cousin, the broccoli rabe sausage pizza at lil' frankie's. had it last night at a cafe called brio, on 61st and lex. it was exceedingly good, with lots of garlic, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top.

2. world's best tuna-- my work buddy and i have been obsessed with the tuna salad at columbus bakery for years now. they say it's lowfat, but that's not why i like it. it's chock full of dried cranberries, tart green apple and crisp scallions. i think it must be made with yogurt instead of mayo--it's nice and tangy. had it for lunch today with one of their fresh excellent rolls. worth mentioning that just about everything at both outposts of this place is DARN GOOD.

3. pumpkin, radicchio, feta salad--about two years ago the nyt food section ran this recipe for thanksgiving. i made it then, and not again until this week, even though i so love it. pumpkins are hard to cut, so better to use a kabocha squash (chiara gave me this idea). even a kabocha is hard to cut, but with the right knife, it can be done.


2 pounds peeled pumpkin (or kabocha), cut into 2 1/2-inch cubes
1 tblsp vegetable oil
1/2 large red onion, peeled and finely sliced end to end into half-moons
juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 1/4 tablespoons olive oil
7 to 8 oz. feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) radicchio cut into bite-size pieces


1. heat oven to 400 degrees. rub pumpkin with vegetable
oil, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. bake
until just tender all the way through, about 45 minutes.
remove, cool, cover, and refrigerate until needed.


2. in a small bowl, combine onion with lime juice, and
steep for 15 to 30 minutes. meanwhile, toss pine nuts in a
small dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned;
remove from heat, and set aside.


3. add olive oil to onion mixture, and mix well. in a large bowl,
combine pumpkin, feta, radicchio, onion mixture and half the
pine nuts. mix everything gently by hand, and turn out onto a large
plateor wide shallow bowl. garnish with remaining pine nuts, and serve.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

bumpers

there were signs--some overt, some subtle—that this would be a bad evening. first there was an initial phone call, when you mentioned NPR and he said “what’s that?” then, on the way to the upper east side lounge (oh wait, that’s the second sign right there. UES???), you passed a sort of sad-looking 50 ish nebbishy guy, holding a wrinkled newspaper close to his chest, saliva gathered at the corners of his mouth. as you breezed past him at the curb, he turned slowly and sputtered out “ would you like to have coffee and talk?” you apologized, cruised on, then outside the lounge, saw your p.t., an old flame of sorts, whom you haven’t seen in three years. this too, somehow a bad sign.

you look towards the bar and see him, and he does not look at all like colin firth or clive owen , although in a few minutes he will ask you if he does. it’s a treacherous hour and a half, saved only by the bombay sapphire and tonic. as he waxes rhapsodic about the merits of tailgating, you spy a replay of the yankee/red sox game on the tv behind his head. mariano is pitching, it is a close finish. you picture j. at home, watching with baited breath, the stakes so impossibly and ridiculously high for him. he has his signature bowl of cereal in hand, curled up on the pricey sofa, in green velour pants.

in a moment like this, sitting with an unappealing stranger, who thinks swarthmore is skidmore, who has never heard of the SDS (students for a democratic society), it is hard not to think of j. j., who knows what you know and likes what you like, and more importantly knows you. you are on the verge of tears in the lounge. you get yourself home, and want nothing more than a bowl of cereal.

BUMPERS


mother’s brand peanut butter bumpers
a large dash of grape nuts
vanilla soy milk
a big spoon

a riff on j’s favorite.

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