December 12, 2012 § 14 Comments
I have a major breakfast thing people. It’s pretty weird.
I mean, I knew I had a breakfast thing before – I’ve brought it up more than a few times, for example every time I mention breakfast – but I don’t think I knew knew. If you know what I mean. You know?
But now I know. When I commandeered the whole breakfast-making procedure at my best friend in Boston’s house – where I was the guest, mind you – and started turning out frittatas with arugula and over easy eggs with a brown butter vinegar sizzle, that’s when I really knew.
It may be Monday or Thursday, I may have a meeting at 8 am, but still I find myself compulsively fixing breakfast for myself and whomever else I can shake out of bed. Plates of migas, fried eggs with kimchi and orange aioli, potato cakes with smoked salmon, honey-avocado lassis, fresh baked corn bread with homemade ricotta. I may not be able to plan out my lunch, potentially not even dinner, but breakfast is likely to be a minor masterpiece.
I’d say it was a problem, if it weren’t so delicious! « Read the rest of this entry »
April 3, 2012 § 20 Comments
Were I a poet, I would write odes in celebration of cardamom.
Actually, now that I give my bold statement a little thought, were I a poet, I would probably have much more profound and brooding things to write about. For example, what a sparrow isn’t.
(This is an actual discussion that Joel and I once had, after hearing a pair of essays by a husband and wife one of whom is a poet and the other a novelist. What a sparrow isn’t comes up as a poetic theme. Later on a walk, I asked Joel what he thought of when he imagined what a sparrow isn’t, and he launched into a long musing exploration of the fluttering energy each little life on this earth has and the vacuum that could be left were it not there and how this might change the overall universe. Then he asked what came to my mind when I thought of what a sparrow isn’t. “An elephant and a beach ball,” I replied. Joel writes poetry. I don’t.)
March 6, 2012 § 19 Comments
My father, who is both a wonderful person and a wonderful eater, and one of the most truly consciously healthy people I know, has been having to make some dietary changes lately to try to figure out some minor allergies. That’s putting it mildly. By “some” changes, I mean he’s doing sort of the mother of all elimination diets. Even things like rice and potatoes, which are usually allowed in elimination diets are o-u-t, out.
If you’re exceptionally noble and self-possessed, I suppose you could see the good in such limitation. The strict form of the sonnet can give rise to even more beauty and creativity than free verse, and all that la dee da. But, overall, it has got to pretty much suck. Perhaps even with a capital S. That’s how I would feel about it, I know.
February 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
My maternal grandfather was an antiquarian, supposedly one of Europe’s best. By many accounts he was also a dead ringer for Roger Moore, and on business trips to England would get stopped and asked for his autograph. You know, I’ve never actually asked whether, in response, he tried to explain, or forged Mr. Moore’s signature, or just signed Asbjørn and left people to puzzle over it…Anyway, my mother grew up in a house full of gorgeously bound old and rare books. And because we inherited many of the books after my grandparents died, my brothers and I grew up surrounded by them as well.
There’s something about old books that insinuates itself into your psyche so that you become more at home and at ease when surrounded by walls of red leather bindings, gold embossing, marbled end pages, than almost anywhere else. Old books have a soul. And perhaps it’s actually genetic, but all of us in my family have a deeply rooted love of them. Their looks, feel, contents.
August 30, 2010 § Leave a comment
Raviolis + pierogies = raviogis. Get it?!!
Because, you see, even now, a couple days later after this splendid eating experience, I’m still not sure exactly which I made. Being a good grad student, I’ve done some inordinately in depth searching on the difference between pierogies and raviolis (translation: poll my dinner guests and look at about 2 sites on the inter-webs), and I still haven’t come to anything particularly conclusive. My favorite explanation went like this: ”well, one is Italian, and the other is from Eastern Europe. There you go… Oh, and I think pierogies involve more potatoes.” Except that I’ve definitely had raviolis (delicious ones, as a matter of fact) that had a filling of sweet potatoes. So, the boundaries are quite blurry (and I’m afraid they only become more and more so as dinner progresses and you share a nice bottle of wine from a friend in Australia.)
What I do know is this, the other evening I found myself with a really large pile of cheesy mashed sweet and regular potatoes. I don’t quite know what had possessed me to cook so many potatoes. As best as I can figure it out in retrospect, I think I must have been preparing to be under siege for a month or two. But, then instead of pulling up the draw bridge and retreating to the high tower, I got a call from a dear friend asking for a car favor…that involved fancy cheese. As soon as I hear the words “fancy cheese,” I will put down whatever project I am in the middle of and will scramble to grant whatever favor was asked of me or leap into any activity proposed to me. No questions asked. Hmmmm, I kind of wonder if I was hypnotized at some point and that is my trigger phrase. Could be.
But, I digress. A couple days later, I found that I still had cheesy mashed potatoes inconsiderately taking up about 2/3rds of my fridge, and dinner guests coming. Thus was born the Raviogie plan. I had planned to make pierogies a couple of weeks ago for the Daring Cooks challenge, but I found myself separated from my kitchen and unable to do so. However, the idea was still simmering on the back burner of my mind, and I decided to go for it now. With one little hitch. You see, I couldn’t summon the fortitude to make and roll my own pierogie dough. A little late-summer laziness is still clinging to me. So, I switched the plan to ravioli. Not that this meant I was suddenly going to put in the effort to make and roll out that dough either (if I had turned around to discover suddenly that I had a large, beautiful, cool marble countertop and a Nona to help me out, that would have been a different story. Then I would have become a professional pasta maker, right then and there.) But, I had wonton wrappers, and even though they’re cheating if you want to get all technical about it, and they’re not as good as delicious, hearty homemade pasta, they still make for pretty darn good ravioli wrappers.
March 9, 2010 § 2 Comments
I’ve been working from home a lot lately. I find that an office has this amazing superpower of zapping my ability to think and melting away all my motivation into a goopy puddle on the floor. I know it’s not for everybody, but I’m much more able to concentrate when sitting at my dining room table – with the occasional foray to a coffee shop for a little jolt of energy, noise, and company. Obviously with the amazing internet-ization, webification, and telecommunication of modern working, more and more people are able to work from home. In the not so distant future, many offices may become obsolete. Even Daniel Schorr (the super old and brilliant dude on NPR) has noticed. And if he comments on it, then it is a serious cultural phenomenon. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’ve been making a lot of mashed things lately. I’m beginning to wonder if I have some unconscious aggression seething inside me that’s coming out in my cooking, or something. After all, there are few things more cathartic than really pounding the heck out of some root vegetables. I learned in a Belgian restaurant that the Flemmish word for mash, apparently, is stoemp, which I really like the sound of. I think it’s a very accurate sound to convey the process of smashing your boiled food to a pulp. Well, until you get out the handheld mixer and decide to whip it up, to make it less stoemped and a little more light airy (the question is, does this then mean the suppressed aggression has reached scary levels?).
Anyways, I’ve been mashing just about every root vegetable known to man, except the classic potato. I made some very lovely mashed sweet potatoes (they were the light orange color I’m currently fancying painting my bathroom!), lightly sweetened with maple syrup but with a dash of salt for contrast. I was at a friend’s for dinner a couple of nights ago where we had cheesy beer waffles for supper (which, by the way may possibly be the absolute best use of a waffle iron EVER! They were amazing. I definitely will find the recipe). But, when we looked, the main other foodstuffs we could turn up was a large rutabaga. So, I iron chefed it with the other things I could find, those being: a lime, cream cheese, butter, cilantro, garlic, onion, and a small green bell pepper. Rutabagas aren’t particularly flavorful, so we figured we could add whatever we wanted to it, as long as the rest of the ingredients went together. I minced the onion and bell pepper and sautéed them. Meanwhile I peeled, chopped, and boiled the rutabaga until it was soft, and drained the water off. Then I smashed together the rutabaga with a couple of Tablespoons of the cream cheese and a plop of butter for creaminess, and the onion and pepper for some extra flavor. Inspired by the quasi-Latin-Americaness of the onions and pepper we also made a sort of chimichurri by mincing a clove of garlic, and a couple Tablespoons of cilantro, mixing these with a tsp. of lime zest, a squeeze of the lime, and finally a drizzle of olive oil to hold it all together. We sprinkled this on top of the mashed rutabaga, and it was actually quite delicious. (It didn’t go with the waffles at all though, oh well, that’s when you pretend you’ve made the food to be eaten in mini courses.) « Read the rest of this entry »
November 21, 2009 § 3 Comments
You’d think at this point in my life, having gone through a number of years, I’d be used to the way the seasons change. But somehow it surprises and delights me every year to see the leaves change and watch the first snow fall. I’m also shocked every single autumn by how short the days suddenly become. It gets dark so early now! Holy-moly! Nowadays, even though it’s easy to buy any food you want at any time of the year, I think it’s important and pleasurable to mark the shift in the seasons by changing cooking styles and ingredients. As the nights get darker and colder, I feel like it becomes imperative to make heartier, creamier dishes (I justify this (as if it needs justification) because I still bike commute everywhere in the cold and sleet!), which you don’t really feel like eating on warm summer evenings. In chatting about the quintessentially fall foods we eat on Thanksgiving, a friend told me that his mother had recently started making a gratin of mixed sweet and regular potatoes that was amazing. Now, I don’t think I’m going to add this to my Thanksgiving meal this year because I’m just too fond of having my sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes separately. But, I thought, it sounded too good not to try at least something of the sort for a regular supper.
I had never actually made a gratin before. But, having eaten them, I felt I had a pretty good guess as to what the necessary components are. That being: vegetables, a white sauce, and cheese. And given how the dish turned out, I’m inclined to believe that my guess was correct. Anyone who thinks it requires anything more is making it more complicated than necessary (sure this may take it to the next level, but I was quite happy with the level I achieved). So, the key to making a gratin is knowing how to make a white sauce. Once you can do that you can au gratin-ate just about anything you please (as long as you also know how to grate cheese, which doesn’t usually take any advanced training, unless you want to be able to grate without scraping your knuckles, which I think might be virtually impossible). « Read the rest of this entry »
October 29, 2009 § 4 Comments
I have the good luck of being one of the 3 or so people in the world who does not like French fries (though the time I had them smothered in a gorgonzola mayonnaise was a whole different story of unabashed gooey-greasy deliciousness). A bizarre recessive genetic quirk perhaps. A couple of years ago, though, I was serendipitously introduced to a fry of a different color that totally revolutionized my world. That day I was playing in an ultimate Frisbee game, but during a critical moment I was on the sideline, cheering for my teammates and yelling out perceptive bits of advice about what they should be doing instead of what they were doing. Suddenly I heard a ruckus behind me, and before I could turn to see what was happening BLAM! a guy playing in a game on the field next to ours dove directly into the back of my head. I was on the ground instantly. When the fireworks and darkness cleared away from my eyes, I popped back up onto my feet to show everyone that I was okay…whereupon I toppled over again.
I had a concussion. But after a bit I started to feel better, even to the extent that I still joined everyone for dinner at the pub next to the fields where we had been playing. While at dinner, suddenly a plate of sweet potato fries materialized in front of me. The guy who had knocked me over had them sent over to apologize for the head trauma and minor memory loss he had caused (I don’t think they were important memories anyway). I had never had, or even heard of, sweet potato fries before, but the moment I took one bite I was a convert. I have been unable to resist them ever since. « Read the rest of this entry »