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


two things of note to write about.

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.

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


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


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 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.


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
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.


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


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


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.


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

a riff on j’s favorite.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


sometimes it’s good for me to be derailed from my quest. often, especially when traveling, my quest is food. i headed off to LA with the names of a fish taco place in east LA, a thai place in los feliz and a korean bbq place in koreatown. i am here to report that i went to none of these places.

instead i saw two plays, including justine’s one woman show which moved me to tears, made me laugh til my belly ached, and taught me the history of her hometown, and consequently the history of her—things i had never even known i didn’t know.

i stayed up for 28 hours straight, and when was the last time—if ever—i have done that? i read my book (thanks amy) in the sun and bought myself a cool leather belt. i caught up with billy, soaked up the sun, drank iced latte after iced latte after iced latte. i saw c-list celebrities, slept head-to-toe with purva for three nights running. i ate carne asada tacos and a pina jarrito at an amazing dive on washington blvd near culver city. el pueblo viejo, or something like that.

i walked on the beach in santa monica, helped purva try to save a butterfly, then watched the sunset as the lil fella died. i pet puppies and hiked runyon canyon. i watched purva talk on the phone with her b.f., watched her smile with her whole self. i went to the korean baths with diane and purva, and got to be in the place that makes diane feel whole. i walked around naked and sweated and steamed and soaked, and had a strange woman loofah me for 30 minutes until my skin was soft soft soft. i ate tapas with greg, diane, justine and her man, and a gaggle of other cool and interesting people. i saw diane and greg’s new home, a beauty and a labor of love.

i ate avocado in the sunlight. man, that sentence alone is enough to make me smile.