December 21, 2012 § 17 Comments
I imagine, if you are like me, what you need right now is not another cookie or another cup of punch. What you need is the world’s quickest and easiest tasty dinner, so you can be well fed between the events, between all the time commitments demanded by crafting the elegant meals and trays of cookies required for the days that are the events, between the traditions that can’t be monkeyed with.
And on some days, you may want that meal to be something other than spaghetti. Nothing against spaghetti. I love spaghetti. I went through a phase of hating it because I thought we ate if far too often during my childhood, but now I understand why we ate it so often. I 110% understand why because now that I’m the one making dinner, we eat it just about as often, though usually with spaghetti squash these days rather than actual pasta. But, even with that understanding, there are only so many days in a row one can stomach spaghetti.
Which is why these burgers are such a great find. I’m pretty sure the idea came from Food & Wine, or else Bon Appetit. It was one of the various food magazines that I was reading on one of my several recent work trips at any rate, and the idea stuck with me.
October 3, 2012 § 18 Comments
I’m convinced that if food knows you’re afraid of it, it will, most of the time, rise (or is it sink?) to meet your expectations, and give you plenty of trouble. This is why, for example, you must be firm while rolling out a pie crust, even as you use a delicate touch, and why souffles are best made after 10 pm, with a generous glass of wine by your side.
I’ve feared a wide variety of foods in my time, but one by one, I have try-tried again, building up my nerve and feel for things, and I’ve eventually conquered most of them. Fried foods, though, have definitely still got my number. I feel a vague internal cowering even now as I think about searing bolts of grease splattering everywhere, and me screaming and running like a peasant in front of a hord of visigoths, trying to get away from the oily conflagration that could, in my mind, easily start out of nowhere in a split second, as soon as there’s more than about 2 Tbs. of hot oil involved.
I’ve never actually had any mishap remotely resembling that (I’m much more liable to shave off my fingertip or set a cake ablaze), but it still scares me. Suffice it to say, I don’t do all that much serious frying.
Even less so because I’ve never had much cause to. I love the results enough to slave away over improving my bread, even my radicchio experience I’m willing to work at, but on the whole I don’t like fried food. I don’t like the taste, so why bother?
I know I’m kind of weird, with this. I know that my general dislike of fried chicken, fried fish, pakoras, tempura, even French fries puts me at odds with most of humanity. It’s not a problem with the fat content or anything, cream being pretty much my favorite food group. I just don’t care much for the flavor. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 9, 2012 § 14 Comments
Ok, I’m going to come out and say it. There’s a certain point every summer at which I start to get a little annoyed by the sheer bounteousness of summer produce. I mean, I love it, I really do, but it’s just so freaking beautiful and abundant. It’s kind of like that person you know who is really smart and talented and beautiful and then they’re nice on top of it, and and eventually you’re like, “come on! Can’t you at least be neurotic?!” I get a little bit that way about summer vegetables. (Please tell me this doesn’t make me a horrible person, though, clearly, I have issues.)
We put summer produce on sun-soaked a pedestal, cooing over it and the way it needs only a little sprinkling of salt, maybe a drizzle of good olive oil. We rhapsodize perfect garden tomatoes or fresh sweet corn like we do our first love. And it’s all true, and completely deserved. Fresh summer produce is miraculous. It really would be a shame to do much more than serve it in a minimalist state, an ode to the garden. And the essays that have been written on the subject, well, I have nothing to add to them that hasn’t been said. « Read the rest of this entry »
July 17, 2012 § 38 Comments
“They say it’s your birthday, dadadadada, and you’re gonna have a good time da-da daaadada…”
Yup, it’s my birthday. Which means I get to eat and drink and do and say whatever I please, right? As long as it is lunch with a friend, lots of iced coffee, going to meetings, and hopefully nice things, I guess.
Birthdays somehow don’t have the same extreme importance or conjure the same desperate hope that they once did. I remember when I was young being quite unable to sleep the night before my birthday. My little body simply couldn’t contain the intensity of the excitement for the coming big day. Of course, my birthdays no longer include pouncing on my parents at 6am to get my presents, crazy themed parties (ranging from “makeovers” to “5,000 things to do with stamps” to “the Wild West”) with friends, or secret hopes of having a Barbie Cake even though I knew we would be be having Norwegian birthday cake, no other option (and I was secretly glad for that as well).
After childhood ebullience, I also went through a phase of bemoaning my birthday. Not in the “woe is me, I’m getting older” sense, but rather moaning produced by a teenage angst-filled haze of mopiness. “I’m not special, nobody’s special. Everybody has a birthday, it happens every year. Thousands of other people have their birthday on this day too. This is stupid, leave me alone…But can I have some cake?” That sort of thing.
Now I’d say I neither eagerly anticipate nor dread my birthday. I enjoy it. It’s my birthday. But, I’m inclined toward keeping it simple. Low key cookouts with friends, baking my own cake, and no presents please. Well, unless you really want to. 🙂 But, on the whole I selfishly prefer giving presents to receiving them. It’s selfish, because I am always so thrilled and grateful to receive a gift I never quite know how to respond, and then I get embarrassed, and I don’t like being embarrassed (who does, really?). « Read the rest of this entry »
May 24, 2012 § 28 Comments
What do you call a large group of guests about to arrive? A gaggle? A bevy? A pod? A platoon?
How about a gift of guests? I suppose one does not without fail feel this way about one’s guests. But, it’s how I think of our guests who are coming for this weekend, so let’s go with it.
We have a gift of guests on their way, trickling in throughout today and tomorrow. And, although it truly does feel like a gift that folks are coming to visit, let me tell you, I could be a circus act with my frenzy of activity today.
With my hands I’m juggling meal planning, cooking, and last minute cleaning (of course the dog would choose to shed her winter coat right now). With the right foot I’m fending off the lions of hostess anxiety, and with the left I’m stomping out a couple of little work/research fires. And on my head is teetering the rest of the to-do list. (Call the vet, water the garden, write that memo…) All I need is a flower that squirts water and a big red nose!
April 24, 2012 § 8 Comments
I have a problem with, no, let me rephrase that, it’s not really a problem, but I have a predisposition toward collecting little scenes that I see during the day and immediately turning them into images or metaphors for something else. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, of course. In fact, it’s quite handy at times.
But, today I want to share three vignettes with you that I like so much, I’m refusing to let my brain get all allegorical with them, even though it would be easy enough to do so. I’m simply going to share them with you. And if you’d like to turn them into your own metaphors, by all means, go for it.
The first, I saw when I was running in the arboretum near our house this weekend. It was swarming with birders, like bees pacing busily about their hive. A group of them was standing a little ways back from a tall pine. Each person in the group had binoculars plastered to their eyes. They all peered upward, craning their necks, searching for something in the empty tree. Meanwhile, a giant, chestnut colored red tailed hawk swooped down from the tree right behind them. It stood on the ground, unnoticed, for a while, cocking its head at the birders curiously. Then it took off, still unseen. I chose not to say anything.
April 7, 2012 § 14 Comments
My childhood was filled with snowy Easters, the ground washed out with dirty grey snow banks punctuated by brown splotches as taupe as a suburban housing development. We would collect barren branches at the start of Lent and put them in a vase, and by Easter tiny leaves would be peeping out from the buds. This was the only green to be seen. The only flowers were those in the colorful plastic wrapped pots we brought home from the grocery store.
This is my way of asking forgiveness if I prattle on and on about spring for the next couple of weeks. It’s a bit hard to think about much else right now. Spring in these parts can be a little in your face.
If appearances are anything to go by, the trees have hired the same decorator that did Barbie’s Dreamhouse. The cherries’ branches are waterfalls of tiny pink blossoms. The magnolias are bedecked with large drooping flowers as soft and swishy as ballerina skirts. I always find the pastel palate that industry breaks out for spring to be terribly cheesy, until spring actually rolls around. Then I remember that it’s just honest. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 13, 2012 § 9 Comments
Hi! Hi guys! I’m still here. I’ve just been AWOL for a week because of some major project deadlines that required working evenings and weekends (and listening to this song too many times – it gets so stuck in your head! Thanks SNL.), and that have left me with about the mental fortitude of a barnacle. I thought the project was going to be done yesterday. Wrong. We now have a couple NEW deadlines! Yippee!
But, those will just have to wait for a moment because I have a sandwich to share with you, and it is a smashing one.
A bánh mì is a Vietnamese sandwich with any variety of fillings. Given that my office is in Chinatown, I learned about bánh mì some time ago. On every corner there is a shop selling dirigible-sized baguette rolls filled with meats and pickles for $2. But, though I salivated every time I saw someone else gnawing their way through one, I could never bring myself to buy my own. Call me a street food wimp, but I was a wee bit sketched out by the meat and my thoughts of where it might come from.
I averted my eyes, and hustled past all the signs advertising massive, cheap sandwiches. But then, then fate intervened and brought the world Bon Me, the grand solution to my sandwich qualms.
February 21, 2012 § 15 Comments
Last Friday night we went out to dinner with some friends at a postage stamp sized little pop-up restaurant called Whisk, just around the corner from our house. We had an absolute blast, which was mostly due to being in the best of company, but the seven course tasting menu offered at the restaurant, aka the dining experience, was quite fun too. The food was legitimately good, fancy and conceptual, though it was not flawless.
Usually I sneer a little at deconstructed this, foamed that, or anything made into a gel version of itself. It can seem so pretentious. So if it is going to be done, it either needs to be executed near perfectly or be done tongue in cheek. At Whisk, it was neither, but they were so incredibly endearing and effusive about their project, so adorably bumbling as they mispronounced Camembert and granita in their excitement, that any apparent pretention was immediately forgiven. It felt like we were all playing house together, and we got to eat a very delicious meal during the course of it.
And I must say, their plating was truly beautiful and creative. I love carefully, stunningly plated food. It has some of the interesting aesthetic elements of abstract art and sculpture, except then you get to devour it! It is not something I have ever given a try myself though, except for carefully placed mounds and dollops (I do have this idea for a crazy project loitering in the back of my mind that, if enacted, could thoroughly change this, but that is something for the future). And, when I looked at the meal I created for us the very next day, it provided a pretty amusing contrast to Friday’s edible art. On Saturday, we ate piles.
January 27, 2012 § 16 Comments
I love to look at the work of various chefs, always trolling for ideas to pocket and have turn up sometime later, perhaps a little jumbled looking from having gone through the brain equivalent of a wash cycle, in meals I cook. I think there must always be a little ticker tape running in my mind storing up a restaurant meal here, a recipe there. Not that they ever seem to come back to me when I most want them to. But, they’re influential.
The food ideas from some quadrants are delectably comfortable, vindicating in a sense. I see them and I think, ‘oh that’s exactly how I would have done that!’ Or, ‘ha! I’ve made almost exactly that before! I should make it again sometime.’
Some food ideas shake you up a little, splash some cold water in your face to wake you up from the food ruts we all settle into, at times more frequently than not. These are the dishes that inspire you with an ‘I would never have thought of that!’ nudge. Sometimes that ‘I would never have thought of that’ is followed by an ‘and I’m intimidated by the very idea, and don’t think I actually want to try making something like that at all.’ Other times it’s followed by an ‘and I will make it the next chance I get!’