Sunday, January 31, 2010
Wise words. Spoken by the ever-knowing Carrie Bradshaw.
Can we have a moment of silence for SATC?
Now I have been on a fair number of blind dates in my life.
A friend of a friend of a friend's second cousin once removed.
A guy randomly encountered at a Starbucks/Au Bon Pain/non-descript coffee shop that you (I) frequent on a daily (hourly) basis.
That homeless guy on the corner of 68th and 1st who you pass on your way to work every day. (Dear Mom, please don't have a heart attack while reading this. I haven't stooped quite that low. Yet.)
And they have basically all ended as Carrie described above. In flames. Obviously. Otherwise this post would be titled How I Met the Love of My Life: Why Going Blind Isn't Always A Bad Thing. And instead of post, it would actually be a self-help book that you pick up at Borders when no one else is looking and page through fervently, hoping to find the key to all of your relationship problems (NOTE - thirty-year-olds who have never been in serious relationships probably have commitment issues...THAT little tidbit of information would have revolutionized my life. Or at least my junior year of college. This is a lesson to live by. Write. It. Down.)
With all this in mind. It was in trepidation that I braved the freezing cold yesterday. To embark on my first blind date in, oh, two months.
I needn't have worried, though. Because it was only semi-blind. And it ended up being the best. Blind. Date. Ever.
Possibly because rather than being an actual blind date. It was a BLOGGER MEET-UP.
Last night, I had dinner at Five Burro Cafe, this fabulous Mexican restaurant in Queens, with Mari of Namaste, Jen of Pieces of Me, Julie of Julie Golean, Mo of Food Snob, Dawn of Dawn Dishes It Out, Sarah of Mom On The Run, and Missy of Missy Maintains. Which we then followed up with FREE frozen yogurt from The Lite Choice.
The food was great.
But the company was even better. I look forward to hanging out with all of these lovely ladies again (I'm thinking we need to make this a regular event. Seriously.).
Moral - If you're going to go out on a blind date. Make sure it's with a fellow food blogger. You might still go home broke and alone. But at least you'll have had a good meal. And the beginning of a lasting relationship.
Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 2, adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks
2 red bell peppers
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cups half and half
1/2 lb pasta
1. Roast the red peppers. Either by putting them on a grill. Broiling them. Or doing it the ghetto Manhattan-style way. By placing them on top of your burner.
2. When they are black on all sides, place them in a closed container for 10 minutes to sweat off the skin. Remove the skin and the seeds from the peppers. Set aside.
3. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a skillet. Set aside.
4. Puree the peppers with the pine nuts.
5. Cook the pasta until al dente.
6. In a skillet, cook the onion and garlic until soft. Pour in the pepper puree and stir together. Add plenty of salt.
7. Pour in the half and half and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt. Mix with the cooked pasta.
8. Serve, in bowls, and top with parsley and/or parmesan cheese.
This is my submission for Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman! And Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast!
Friday, January 29, 2010
And by "it" I mean this whole Adam-and-Eve thing.
Why they gave up immortality and nudity and bliss. For an apple.
Let's backtrack. Start from the beginning.
Once upon a time there was a God. 7 days. Plus 7 nights. Creationism. Intelligent Design. Evolution. Whatever else is being taught at the local elementary school these days (I'm almost afraid to ask. Sometimes all of this controversy cracks me up. Most American children are illiterate. They can't read. And we are worried about which creation story to tell them about. Somehow. I think we've got bigger fish to fry.).
You get the picture.
So we're in this garden. Eden.
We have an Adam. And an Eve.
Who are living together in this garden in what is essentially wedded bliss. (They are still in the honeymoon phase. Give them a few years. They'll be fighting about how Adam spends all his time ruminating and communing with God and never once asks Eve whether or not she needs help trimming the really high branches on the banana tree. You'll see.)
Enter a snake. And an apple tree.
Now. It would be all well and good to go with convention and say they did it because the snake told them to. He planted the idea in their head. Lured them with the promise of eternal knowledge. And all that jazz.
However. In case you didn't know. I am a scientist. And as such I have been taught many many times that you should never just accept anything. (I.e. someone says, "The sky is blue." You say, "Prove it.") What you need to do is to make hypotheses. And then spend all of your time weighing pros and cons. Until you finally rule out all of them except one. This is what is commonly known as the "best answer". It may be wrong. It may be right. But given all the evidence, it is what comes closest.
So let me describe to you what went through my head such that I now "get it". And how I reached my final conclusion.
Hypothesis #1. The Bible is correct and Adam and Eve did it because they are weak and human and couldn't resist the temptation of eternal knowledge.
This, I disregarded because it is the obvious answer. If med school (and House) has taught me anything it is that it is never the obvious answer (lupus). It is always some obscure thing that you would never think of and to which the evidence does not point at all.
Hypothesis #2. Brought to us by the author Chuck Palahniuk. Who said, "Did perpetual happiness in the Garden of Eden maybe get so boring that eating the apple was justified?" In short, our protagonists wanted to spice things up.
Unfortunately, there are a few holes in this argument. Namely that being perpetually happy and bored are mutually exclusive. It's really an either/or situation. And thus, out went hypothesis #2.
Last but not least.
Hypothesis #3. The whole story is wrong. They didn't actually eat the apple as is. What really went down. Was that Adam and Even found out about this apple strudel bread. And knew that they really could not go the rest of eternity without eating it. (Neither can you, by the way. Unless you want to live a depraved existence.)
So they got some yeast. Spent five minutes (a day) mixing up all the ingredients for the dough. Let it rise for two hours. Picked the apple. Chopped it up. Mixed it with some raisins and sugar and cinnamon (left out the walnuts). Rolled out the dough. Spread the filling on top. Shaped the loaf. Let it rise for 40 minutes. Preheated the oven to 350. Then baked for 50 minutes.
Cut off a slice.
And bit into it.
Realizing, as they chewed, that God may have gotten it wrong. Eden was nice. But this bread? This bread was basically eternal bliss. In a bite. Especially when covered in peanut butter.
Moral of the story? Go out. Buy Healthy Bread In Five Minutes a Day. And make this bread. You won't be sorry.
Check out Michelle's blog on the first to see how everyone else's turned out!
This has been yeastspotted!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
"An apple a day keeps the doc-"
Ha. Not this doctor. (To be. You are not a doctor yet, missy. Doctor. To. Be. Speaking of which, the test was fine. I definitely know I made a few stupid mistakes but it would be impossible not to on any three hour long test. Rather than obsess about the ones I may have gotten wrong, however, I've decided to take the glass half full approach. And think about the myriad of times I could have put down the wrong answer. But didn't. That's what I plan to do in the OR. Congratulate myself every time I don't mistakenly cut out someone's liver. And just selectively forget about the times I do.)
Sounds cliche, really. But I do in fact eat an apple a day. Approximately.
Of course, there are some days when I don't eat any. Note - these days are commonly referred to as bad days.
But then again, there are also some days when I eat two. Even three apples. (Best. Days. Ever.)
Yes, I let my happiness and mental well-being hinge upon the availability of a piece of fruit. But apples happen to be the second most popular fruit in the US (oranges are first). So just fess up. You do it too.
We have bad days. And best days ever.
And there are also the days when, not only do I get to eat my apple raw. Straight up. As is.
But I also get to have them in dessert form. Apple pie. Apple crisp. Apple streusel. Apple crumb cake. Caramel apples. Apple blondies with brown sugar frosting.
These days? Transcend words. No superlative exists yet in the English language to accurately describe them.
Have no fear though. I have a conference call later today with Webster and Oxford. We're working on it.
I made these apple blondies for my friend Ari's birthday. He is as much of an apple fiend as I am. Possibly more so. You can't even mention the word apple around him without his eyes glazing over. And then more often than not he'll begin to wax poetic about all of the different varieties of apples out there and how there is really no such thing as a bad apple. Apparently, they are all unique. And delicious. In their own way.
I, on the other hand, beg to differ. I'm not such a fan of McIntoshes. Or Cortlands.
I like my apples super crisp.
Golden delicious. Fuji. Granny Smith. And Ambrosia. Those are where it's at.
My intense love of apples aside, these blondies were really delicious. Even if you're not an apple fanatic. (Sophie had three. In one day. A fact that she happily bragged to me as we were brushing our teeth the night that I made them.)
And the brown sugar frosting? Perfect. Really and truly perfect.
Apple Blondies with Brown Sugar Frosting
Makes 24, adapted from Cooking the Books
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup peeled chopped apples
4 oz butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup milk
2 cups icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
Lina a 13 x 9 inch baking tin with baking parchment. Set oven to 350 degree.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture on low speed, mixing until blended. Stir in apples, mixing well. Spread evenly in the prepared tin and bake until set and golden, 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on rack.
Brown Sugar Frosting:
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Bring mixture just to a boil then remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. Sift in the confectioner's sugar, mixing until smooth. Spread evenly over bar. Let stand until frosting is firm enough to cut. Cut into bars or squares.
Now for the announcement.
As many of you know, I have been an avid participant in an event called Regional Recipes, formerly hosted over at Blazing Hot Wok. The premise is that we pick a different country or geographical region every month and cook a recipe indigent to that area. A round-up is then posted of all the entries and a new country is picked for the next month. Ever and anon.
The beauty of this - we get to take a culinary tour of the world. All from the comfort of our own homes. Talk about saving money on airfare!
However, all good things must come to an end. Or, if they don't end, at least change. Darlene feels as if she doesn't have enough time to host the event anymore. And so she has passed on the torch. To yours truly.
That is right! From here on out, Eats Well With Others will be the home to Regional Recipes!! Our first stop is going to be the Middle East, so if you want to participate, please send your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a picture, your name, blog URL, and the URL of the post by February 28th.
I will eventually create my own page for the event but until I do, please check here for all the rules and regulations. Or email me if you have any questions. I can't wait to see all of your entries!
Monday, January 25, 2010
I used to be one of those 22 year olds.
I don't want to sound chauvinistic or arrogant or anything. But I've got better things to do. Such as frequent the VIP room in one of the city's most exclusive night clubs.
It's a small place. Up-and-coming, if you will. You probably haven't heard of it. But lucky for me, it's only just across the street. So while everyone else is spending hours getting ready, primping, doing their make-up, pregaming, and then bundling up to brave the New York City winter. I get to just throw on my scrubs and head out the door.
Wait a minute.
Oh yes. You read correctly.
Because this "night club" is none other than the Weill Cornell Medical School Anatomy lab. No one would have ever guessed it, but with our first test being Monday (today), anatomy lab was apparently the place to be on Friday and Saturday night.
If you could have seen us all trekking over in one huge mass of sea green. You would have been absolutely certain that something fantastic was going down. A free concert, maybe. With free food. (There is nothing that medical students love more than free food. Unless it's pizza from La Famiglia's, which is possibly the worst pizza chain in this city. I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. Even if you paid me.)
But no. There was no incentive. Other than self motivation. And peer pressure. All the cool kids were doing it.
And so even though it is really entirely uncharacteristic of me. I spent my weekend studying.
If you need to know which nerve innervates which muscle in your back, axilla, arm, forearm, or hand? I can tell you.
Or if you have any desire to find out where these muscles attach or insert? Done. And done.
Plus I also know a little bit about placenta and limb bud formation. How that fits in with all this anatomy business, I'm not quite sure. But my professors thought they would throw it on the test. For kicks.
Even really dedicated medical students, such as myself (okay you can all laugh now), however, need to take study breaks. They're good for the soul. And your sanity.
We also need to eat. Which is where this meal came in. This recipe for keftedes was the second recipe that the Symon Sundays group was scheduled to make this week. I was particularly excited about it because it has you mix cinnamon. Into the meat. Along with nutmeg. Intriguing? Yes. Delicious? Yes.
This Michael Symon dude really knows what he's doing.
He may be my new best friend.
And then because keftedes are essentially meatballs? I had to make some pasta to go along with them. Stay true to my Italian roots. I wouldn't want to be excommunicated or anything like that.
Plus when I came across this recipe for cinnamon-scented tomato sauce. It kind of sealed the deal. And let me tell you. You haven't had tomato sauce. Until you've had this tomato sauce. It was absolutely amazing. A sensory revelation.
Try it. Now.
Serves 4, adapted from Symon's Live To Cook
1/2 cup onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup day-old bread, cubed
1/2 cup milk
1 lb ground lamb or beef (I chose lamb)
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. (Okay, so Symon says to fry these. But I baked them. I knew he would be angry. But I did it anyway.)
2. Heat 2 tsp canola oil. And the onion and a three-finger pinch of salt and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Toss in garlic and cook 2 or three minutes. Scrape into a bowl and let cool.
3. Put the bread in a small bowl and pour in the milk.
4. Combine the onion and garlic mixture with the meat. Add the egg. Squeeze out the bread. Discard the milk. Add the bread, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the mixture along with a 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper. Mix. With your hands. It's the real reason why I make meatballs.
5. Form the meat into 16-20 little balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, turning once.
Greek Cinnamon-Scented Tomato Sauce with Pasta
Serves 4 as a side, adapted from Belly of the Beest who got it from The Splendid Table
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 can tomato paste
6 cloves garlic
3/4 tsp oregano
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 lb pasta
1. Set up the water for the pasta.
2. Spray a pan with cooking spray. Saute the onion and parsley, along with some salt and pepper, until the onion is golden brown. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add in the white wine. Cook 1 minute.
3. Pour the tomatoes into the pan. Cook on high for 8 minutes or until thick. Taste for seasoning.
4. Cook the pasta.
5. Mix the two together. Top with keftedes and parsley.
This is my submission to this week's Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted by Chaya of Sweet and Savory!
Saturday, January 23, 2010
As a blogger. How often do you find yourself deciding to make dishes that use ingredients that you don't even like.
I'm serious. You make your menu for the week (apparently without thinking. At all. Whatsoever.). You go to the grocery store. Navigate the aisles with reckless abandon. Get on line to pay. Which, in the Union Square Whole Foods, wraps around the entire store. And sometimes out the door, if it's lunchtime or the day before Thanksgiving. So you have ample time to really stare at your prospective purchases. Analyze them. Think about what it means that you are buying these exact things at this exact time in this exact Whole Foods. Ponder the meaning of life. You know how it goes.
And suddenly you think to yourself. I hate everything that is in this cart. Why in god's name am I making this dish?
I know you've done it. I've read the posts.
Case in point.
I don't like beets.
They are the only vegetable, besides celery (which I hate with a passion) that I do not like.
Needless to say I blame my aversion on my mother. Since she is the one who convinced me it would be a good idea for her, my aunt, and I to go on one of those fad diets when I was nine/ten-ish that promised to help you lose ten pounds in three days (a godsend to a self-conscious, overweight adolescent). It was so easy. All you had to do was eat.
And that was how I found myself at the kitchen table, gagging down a can of beets, swearing to myself that I would never ingest this disgusting purple vegetable ever again.
That was also when I quit the diet. No amount of weight loss seemed worth this kind of pain. (Although perhaps it should be noted by the folks down at Guantanamo that forced beet-eating might be a useful torture device. And one that is much more ethical than water boarding, to boot.) Plus the next night's dinner was supposed to consist of a hot dog. And as much as I hate beets. I hate hot dogs that much more.
All this is well and good. Until, of course, I found myself in Whole Foods yesterday with not one. Not two. But six beets in my cart.
How did this happen? You may ask.
It all goes back to a few weeks ago when Ashlee of A Year In The Kitchen proposed a new blog event in which we cook our way through Michael Symon's new cookbook, Live To Cook. I, never being one to say no to anything food related. Ever. (i.e. "Joanne, try these pig intestines." Me: "Okay!") Immediately jumped on board. (Am I a masochist? Possibly. How many blog events am I participating in now...? Let's not count. No. Really. Let's not.)
Anyway the premise is that every two weeks, we all cook the same two recipes from the book. One of the first of which was this beet salad.
Now I'm sure I could have substituted something for the beets and Ashlee would have been fine with it. Sweet potatoes, maybe. Or our old orange favorite, butternut squash.
And I would have. Until I read Symon's blurb about the recipe. In which he promises. Absolutely swears on some dead relative's grave. That even if you are a beet-hater. This is the recipe that will change your mind.
And so it was with great trepidation that I forged ahead.
I was a pioneer. Making my way into the great beyond. Going where no man has ever gone before. Exploring the unexplored.
It was rough. There were times when I wished I could turn back. Return to my comfort zone. First, when my fingers turned an indelible shade of purple. And then again about forty-five minutes into putting the beets in the oven. Which was really the point of no return. Since I was already over halfway there. And hungry.
Thankfully, though, Symon was right. This is the recipe that will convert beet-haters everywhere. And so I did not end up having to go to anatomy lab with an empty stomach. And I have now added another vegetable to my repertoire. A success on all accounts? I think so.
Slow-Roasted Beets with Buttermilk Blue Cheese, Arugula, and Toasted Pecans
Serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as a lunch or light dinner
1/2 cup roasted pecans (Symon calls for walnuts but I already had pecans on hand)
3 medium gold beets
3 medium red beets
1 head of garlic, halved through its equator
4 sprigs thyme
1 shallot, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
4 oz Roth Kase buttermilk blue cheese
arugula lettuce mix (Symon originally called for watercress, which was nowhere to be found in either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. So I went with arugula since it is also a peppery green.)
1. Preheat the oven to 325. In a shallow baking dish large enough to hold all the beets, place the golden and red beets, head of garlic and thyme. Add enough water to reach 1/4 inch up the sides of the pan. Season the beets with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with foil and roast until the beats are knife-tender - about 1 hour. Remove the foil and allow the beets to cool (or just go for it and burn your fingers. If you are me.) Trim the beets and peel them. Cut into wedges.
2. In a large bowl, combine the shallot, minced garlic, salt, orange zest, orange juice, honey, and vinegar. Whisk to incorporate. Check for seasoning. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the beets. Toss gently to coat. Taste again for seasoning.
3. Divide the beets among four plates. Top each portion with pecans, blue cheese, and arugula.
Check A Year in the Kitchen on January 31st to see how everyone else's dishes came out!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Otherwise known as "How Anatomy Permeates Every Aspect of Your Life...From Food to Flexors and Everything In-Between."
Last week, we talked about the brachial plexus. And how it resembled the most ill-planned traffic network in all of New York's five boroughs. If you've ever driven in New York, you know that this is quite a bold accusation. We have a lot of sub-optimal roads here. To be the worst. Is no easy task.
The thing about the brachial plexus, though, is that there is an order to it. A method to the madness. You can draw it on a piece of paper. In two dimensions.
Never underestimate the power of two dimensional space. Ever.
Because then you wake up one day and you find yourself dissecting the muscles of the forearm. Which, shockingly, are arranged in not one. Not two. But three dimensions.
From anterior to posterior. I.e. palm side to back-of-the-hand side. You have a layer of superficial flexor muscles. Next up are the deep flexors. Followed by the deep extensors. Ending on the back of your arm with the superficial extensors.
About twenty muscles. All with very similar sounding names. And trying to determine which one is which, is like trying to navigate your way through lower Manhattan. Where the streets have names instead of numbers and this whole grid system bites the dust. (You know you've heard of Elizabeth Street before. You've stood on it in fact. And you know it's near some other streets that you've been to as well. But whether it's on the east or west side or above or below Canal Street or even whether it runs north-south or east-west? That's anybody's guess.)
So yeah. As it turns out, I was pretty good at the brachial plexus. All those years of reading and memorizing subway maps. Come in handy. Sometimes.
But these flexors and extensors?
Let's just say there's a reason why I avoid venturing south of Houston. At least without a few body guards and several GPS machines.
So. How to tackle the anatomical beast that is the forearm?
They say you should keep your friends close. And your enemies closer.
That was how this pulled pork met my digestive tract. The way I see it. Is that meat is made up of muscle. Flexors and extensors are muscle. So when you mix anatomy with a little creative license. You come up with the theory that by eating meat. Lots and lots of meat. You are in fact taking one delicious bite for yourself. And a meal's worth for medical-student-kind.
It's a tough job, fighting the good fight against the body's many and varied anatomical structures. But someone's gotta do it.
In all seriousness, when I saw that one of the recipes for the next HBinFive bread braid (hosted by the lovely Michelle over at Big Black Dog) was for hamburger buns, I instantly knew that I wanted to make a pulled pork sandwich. You just actually can't get any better than pulled pork. In my opinion. It is my meat of choice. All day. All the time. For the rest of my life.
I used the crockpot method but this time instead of using storebought barbecue sauce, I decided to make my own. No high fructose corn syrup crap for me. Instead, I made this Texas Barbecue Sauce Recipe from Bon Appetit. The only thing I changed was to use tomato sauce instead of ketchup (The smell of ketchup makes me gag. So there is no way it is allowed in my kitchen. Ever.) And it was fantastic. Just the right amount of sweet and spicy to make me swoon.
Take that anatomy lab. Take. That.
Texas Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1 1/3 cup, adapted from Bon Appetit (via epicurious)
1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup tomato sauce (or ketchup)
1/3 cup worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup golden brown sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds. Stir in ketchup and all remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until reduced to 1 1/3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. do ahead Can be made 1 week ahead. Cool slightly, cover, and chill.
I am submitting this to Souper Sundays! And it has been yeastspotted!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
11 cases of beer.
1 house in Jamaica, Vermont.
No. Running. Water.
Sometimes I read over these posts and I think. Wow. It is amazing that anyone believes anything I say. Ever.
And most of the time, you are probably right in harboring some disbelief. (Hint. I exaggerate. Sometimes. Slightly.)
But this time. I am a hundred percent telling the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth. So help me God.
We drove up to Vermont on Friday night. Didn't get in until around midnight. Had a few beers. Some Everclear-spiked hot chocolate to calm our nerves after almost getting lost (Dear Vermont city planners. If you could make your street signs bigger. That would be nice. If you could actually have street signs on every street. That would be even nicer.) And went to bed, preparing ourselves for a big day of skiing ahead of us.
Saturday. Up at eight. Most people were out by 8:30. I wasn't actually skiing due to this injury that I've been harboring for, oh the past decade or so, and so I waited around to drive the stragglers over. We eventually headed out around 11:30, had a day of skiing/drinking cappuccinos (ahem yes that was me), and all ended up back at the house around 5.
Three showers, one bath, and one dishwasher load later.
There is no hot water. Fine, we kind of expected that to happen. No problem, we'll just wait for the boiler to get its act together.
There is no cold water. Odd considering it is approximately 20 degrees outside.
And then it dawned on us. No hot. Plus no cold. Equals none. At. All.
Interject mass chaos here.
Now we all have our own coping mechanisms.
Some of us sneak into the kitchen and immediately start doing shots. (Yes, it was only about 6PM at this point. I believe the line of thinking was, "If I'm going to have to pee outside, I had better be drunk while I'm doing it.")
Some of us spend a half hour in the boiler room trying to analyze which of the three filters (if any) could be the source of the problem. And then attempt to turn each of them off in sequence in the hopes of bypassing the one that is stopping up the system. To no avail.
Some of us experience what is commonly referred to as denial. Keep chugging that beer. In fact, finish a whole case. But remember that what goes in. Must come out. Laws of physics. (I didn't graduate from MIT for nothing.)
Some of us drive the quarter of a mile to the 7-11 down the road and buy ten gallons of water. Not going to name any names. But that may or may not have been me.
Yes, we all react differently. Sometimes. Very differently.
One thing we all have in common? When presented with a situation in which there is no running water. We all eat cookies.
So while Saturday night will forever be remembered as The Night We Found Out What Living in a Third World Country Must Be Like. It will also be referred to as The Night We Ate 64 Rugelach.
It's a good thing the water was fixed by noon the next day. Otherwise there would have been another trip to the 7-11. Followed by a lot of baking.
Chocolate, Cranberry and Pecan Rugelach
Makes 64, highly adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook
1 cup butter, room temp
8 oz neufchatel, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup half and half
1. Beat together butter and cheese in large bowl. then beat in the sugar until light. Gradually mix in flour and salt and when the dough comes together into a smooth ball (you might need to help the mixer with your hands), divide into 2 equal discs and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Divide each of the discs into four pieces (for a total of before rolling out.
2. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Split each dough disc into four equal pieces. Roll out into piece into an 8-inch round. Spread 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves over each, leaving 1-inch border. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, then 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar and 2 tablespoons pecans. Press filling firmly to adhere to dough. Cut dough round into 8 equal wedges. Starting at wide end of each wedge, roll up tightly. Arrange cookies, tip side down, on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart and bending slightly to form crescents. Repeat 3 more times with remaining dough disks, preserves, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, cinnamon sugar and pecans.
3. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Brush cookies lightly with half and half. Bake cookies until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.
This is my submission to Have the Cake!
Friday, January 15, 2010
A.k.a. the Boulevard of Death.
Okay but you are probably not from New York. So I will tell you about Queens Boulevard.
Picture the busiest street you can think of in your town or city or wherever it is that you call home. Then multiple it by 12 lanes. All of which are being utilized. At all times. By New York City drivers. (Yes, yes I know. It's a scary thought. But it's only going to get worse. So grab your teddy bear or whatever it is that helps you sleep at night. And bear with me.)
Then place this thoroughfare in some of the most heavily utilized areas of your town or city. The metro areas, so to speak. And think about the fact that, coincidentally, these "metro areas" are for some reason inhabited by many little old ladies. Who happen to think that they can make it across this 12 lane should-be highway even after the don't walk sign has started blinking. (Keep in mind that I can't make it across after the don't walk sign has started blinking. Even while running.)
Let's recap, shall we?
You have these little old ladies in the middle of the street, all the time. You have cars driving well above the speed limit as if it were actually a highway in the middle of nowhere. (What, you mean it's not okay to go 90 in a 45 mph zone in a residential area?) And then there are the left-hand turning lanes that seem to pop up every five seconds. So added into the mix are cars that are trying to turn INTO the other cars that are going 90. And none of the traffic lights are actually coordinated in any way. So more often than not, you start to walk across the street thinking that you have the walk sign and you find yourself in the middle of oncoming traffic.
Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?
That, in a nutshell, is how I've been feeling the past few days while trying to learn the anatomy of the brachial plexus. Which, for those of you non-medical people, is a network of nerves that is located right about your pectoral (i.e. breast) region. That I am from here on out going to refer to as the Queens Boulevard of the nervous system.
Basically, you start out with five roots that come right off of the spinal cord. These roots merge to form three trunks. (Warning - this lane ends in 500 feet. Please. For God's sake. Yield.) Each trunk then splits into two. To form six divisions. (Proceed with caution.) These six divisions regroup to form three cords. Each of which then branches into a seemingly random number of nerve fibers.
And so you get something like this:
Meanwhile I just made myself tachycardic while writing that. Read - anxiety attack impending.
Give me a minute to get my heart rate back down.
My only solace throughout all of this. Has been the mini vacation that I get to take every night. Around 7PM.
Brazil and back.
A bowl of salmon fish stew along the way.
(Yes, I am eating my emotions. Do you have a problem with that?)
It's just what the doctor ordered.
Salmon Fish Stew, Brazilian Style
Serves 4, adapted from Simply Recipes
The cloves from 1/2 head of garlic, peeled, crushed, minced
2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoon of coarse salt
1 Tablespoon of sweet paprika
2 1/2 teaspoons of dry cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lb salmon, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium onions, sliced
2 large bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, and sliced
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, 1-2 cups
1. Mix together the marinade ingredients. Let the salmon marinate in this paste for at least 2 hours. The longer, the better.
2. In a large pan (large covered skillet or Dutch oven), coat the bottom of the pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add a layer of sliced onions, and then a layer of sliced bell peppers, and a layer of sliced tomatoes. Place the fish pieces, with the marinade, on top of everything, and start layering again - onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add about half of your fresh cilantro to the top. Pour coconut milk over the top. Drizzle generously with olive oil over the top (several tablespoons)
3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are cooked through.
Serve with rice; garnish with remaining cilantro.
This is my submission to Regional Recipes which is being hosted this month over at Blazing Hot Wok!
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
An idea I stole from Meg Ryan as I watched her fall in love for the second time this week. On an elliptical. At the gym.
Both times with Tom Hanks. (You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.)
And by the second time, I thought. Really, how lucky can one girl get. Tom Hanks once, and I could suspend my disbelief. Alter my sense of reality. No big deal.
But Tom Hanks twice? In one week? Not to mention that both times her relationship starts out without her even having met the guy. She seduces him with her writing.
(Newsflash. Any single men out there. You see what I am doing here. Writing. So what I need you to do is go. Watch the movies. Take notes. Learn a few lessons from Tom Hanks. Come back. And be seduced.)
In the meantime. Because that may take a while.
Where were we?
Oh right. Magic.
Sometimes magic is falling in love with the big shot bookstore owner who is about to drive your little shot store out of business. Sometimes it is falling in love with a somewhat emotionally unavailable grief-stricken man who lives 3,000 miles away. And then flying across the country to declare your undying emotion for a man you have never met. (Note - this is also known as stalking. Do not try this at home.)
And sometimes it has nothing to do with falling.
But everything to do with love.
Love of pasta.
Love of dinner that can be prepared with five ingredients in the amount of time that it takes to boil water.
Love that, sure, you may complain about being single. But it means that when you make something really good for dinner. You get to keep all the leftovers for yourself.
Now that. That is magic.
Olive and Mozzarella Spaghetti
Serves 3, adapted from The Essential Pasta Cookbook
8 oz spaghetti
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil (I used roasted garlic olive oil that I bought at the Ferry St. Market in SF!)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black olives, halved
3 oz cute little mozzarella balls
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil water and cook spaghetti.
2. While that is happening, cut your ingredients. When the water boils, just as you put the spaghetti in, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Saute the garlic on low until the pasta is done.
3. Mix all of the ingredients and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted by Gay of Scientist in the Kitchen!
Monday, January 11, 2010
My mantra, if you will, for how I want to live my life.
I remember because Tiffany and I would repeat to each other whenever we went out to eat, which was pretty frequently, especially considering our limited college student budgets. But we would scrimp and save and eat peanut butter sandwiches all week long so that when Friday came around, the culinary adventures could begin.
Eat the world. That was, and still is, our goal.
She was in New York for the summer and, being a west coast girl at heart, we knew that this was probably the most concentrated time she would ever spend here. So we had to take advantage of it while we could. Every weekend was a new restaurant, a new type of food. Arepas (Venezuelan), barbecue, Thai, Cuban, Korean, Italian, to name a few. We ate so much, and yet for every restaurant we went to it seemed like there were fifty more yet to try. But that is the beauty of New York, I guess. No matter how much time you spend here, there is always something new to discover.
When I started reading A Taste For Adventure by Anik See, I soon realized that she was doing, literally, what Tiffany and I had originally set out to do. She was eating the world. Traveling to some of the world's most under-frequented countries - Malaysia, Patagonia, Armenia, Iran - alone, on foot and/or bicycle, mind you (this girl has guts), and immersing herself in their culture. By essentially walking into a small village or town and sharing food with its inhabitants. And this is not the commercialized five-star restaurant Americanized stuff that you or I would eat should we visit any of these countries. No, this is the food of the people. Street food that is sold at the local marketplace, weeknight dinners served up around the kitchen table, meals that are prepared on the side of the road around makeshift fire.
The most miraculous thing, though, at least in my opinion is that Anik is welcomed into all of these places with open arms. Complete strangers offer to let her stay with them, practically throwing themselves at her in their desire to share just a little bit of their lives with her and, through the book, with the world. Their cordiality and generosity is surely a testament to the power that food holds over us. We live to eat together. And there is not much more to it.
Needless to say, I really loved this book. It is extremely descriptive and beautifully written. Each chapter features Anik's adventures in a different country and ends with a series of recipes for food that she has described eating. Some of the highlights, I imagine. Each of which is seemingly more delicious than the next.
For my Cook the Books entry, I could have made one of these. But how could I possibly choose? So instead, I decided to further Anik's travelogue by "visiting" a country from the one continent (besides Australia) that went unfrequented.
But what do I, an American-Italian girl born and raised in New York City, know about African cuisine? Aside from a visit to an Ethiopian restaurant a year ago. Nothing.
So I consulted a cookbook that I bought this past year called Medina Kitchen. Filled with beautiful pictures and bursting with color, the book provides recipes for food that is produced by home cooks in Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya. Food that you will not find at a restaurant in America, but one that you would definitely find at a dinner table in any of these countries. In short, exactly the kind of thing that Anik would have eaten along her travels.
The recipe that I chose to make - Lamb with Pumpkin and Apricots - is a stew from La Goulette, the capital of Tunisia. It combines the tartness of dried apricots with the sweetness of butternut squash to produce an exquisitely flavored dish. The best part, though, was imagining that while I was eating it, that there were potentially people halfway around the world who were doing the exact same thing.
Talk about bringing people together.
Lamb with Pumpkin and Apricots
Serves 4, adapted from Medina Kitchen
1 lb lamb, stew meat
1 onion, diced
4 tsp sugar
1 butternut squash, diced (mine was around 2 lb)
50 g raisins
2 cups broth
100 g dried prunes, soaked
100 g dried apricots, soaked
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt, to taste
NOTE - I made this in the crockpot because I felt that it would be easier and make for some really delicious meat, but you can certainly do it on the stove (as directed in the book).
1. Heat a large skillet and spray with cooking oil. Brown the lamb on all sides. Deglaze the pan with the broth. Add in the spices. Heat until warmed through.
2. Put the onion, butternut squash, dried fruit, sugar, and lamb/broth mixture into the crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.
This is my submission for Cook the Books and to Deb's Souper Sundays.
It is also my last entry into my 12 Weeks of Winter Squash!
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes - Chocolate Whiskey and Guinness Cupcakes (with a Bailey's Buttercream Frosting)
"Hey girls, what can I get ya," Pete says in his sprawling Irish accent (still as endearing as it was the first day I met him, mind you), leaning across the bar to kiss us on the cheek. We've known him for a little over six months now. And I still get butterflies in my stomach every time he does this. (Can you really help but be slightly in love with the guy who provides you with beer and karaoke on Thursday nights? Never mind that he is mid-thirties. Married. With a child. Whose picture he enthusiastically shows you upon request. The answer is no. You can't.)
The bar is small, but homey. An Irish version of Cheers where the regulars are a mix of Pete's friends from back home (Ireland, not Queens. Don't look at me like that. If there was a bar located across the street from your apartment building, you would know the bartender's name, age, social security number, and street address as well. I am not a psychopathic stalker, I swear.) and us. The students who make up the Tri-Instutional medical and graduate schools. An unlikely mix, but it works somehow.
It was 7pm on a Monday night, however, and (though I wouldn't put it past us to start drinking that early on a weekday) debauchery was not on the menu for the evening. No. We had come on business.
The game plan: sweet talk Pete into letting me hold a happy hour at For Pete's Sake to raise money for my marathon.
As it turned out, it didn't take much coercion. The conversation went something like this.
Sophie: So Joanne is running a marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and we were wondering if she could have a happy hour here on Thursday (karaoke night!) to raise money?
Pete: Anything for you ladies. Whenever you want, however long you want it be. We can make it work. Now let's have a drink to celebrate.
How can you not be totally enamored with someone like that?
**The fundraiser of which I speak took place this summer when I was raising $4,000 to run the Nike Women's San Francisco Marathon with Team in Training (October 18, 2009).
And that was how I had my first Irish car bomb.
While the name is vaguely politically incorrect (I take no credit or responsibility for it. Don't kill the messenger.) the drink is not. At all. In any way.
Basically how it works is that a shot glass is filled with a mix of Bailey's Irish Cream and Jameson's whiskey. Which the drinker then drops into a glass that is three quarters full of Guinness. And chugs as quickly as possible before the Bailey's begins to curdle.
Speaking from the point of view of someone who does not much like beer and certainly does not much like Guinness. This drink was a revelation.
However, one cannot be a hedonist every day of one's life. And certainly not when one is supposed to be committing to memory the fact that the spinalis, longissimus, and iliocostalis muscles are located below the latissumus dorsi in the back. Or when one is responsible for wielding a scalpel at 8AM the next morning.
So I was quite thankful when I stumbled upon this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen (as, I'm sure, were my anatomy partners).
Chocolate Guiness cupcake. With a chocolate whiskey ganache filling. And topped with Bailey's buttercream frosting.
Perhaps the most complicated cupcake I have ever made (and my first buttercream!). But also, according to all of my taste testers. The best.
We are talking bakery worthy here.
So while I know we are all supposed to be eating healthier for the new year. I am going to have to tempt you with these. You can save them for St. Patrick's day if you wish, when all thoughts of New Years Resolutions are but distant and hazy memories. But I wouldn't recommend waiting that long. They are just too damn good.
Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes
Makes 24, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
8 ounces 72% dark chocolate (although Deb used bittersweet)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tbsp whiskey
Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.
Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Cut the centers out of the cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. I just used a knife to cut the outline of the holes and then scooped the little pieces out with a spoon. They were about an inch in diameter. Deb says you can use an apple corer or a 1-inch cookie cutter. But I had neither. It worked out fine. Either pipe the ganache into the holes or plop it in with spoon. Guess which one I did.
3 to 4 cups confections sugar (I think I used somewhere between 2 and 3 cups)
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
4 tablespoons Baileys
Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
[This is a fantastic trick I picked up while working on the cupcakes article for Martha Stewart Living; the test kitchen chefs had found that when they added the sugar slowly, quick buttercream frostings got less grainy, and tended to require less sugar to thicken them up.]
When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.Ice and decorate the cupcakes.