Monday, December 29, 2008

simple pleasures, to infinity

When your best friend's mom specially prepares food for him to take back home to you. In this case, Brian's mum made some killer stuffed cabbage (and then some) and Brian brought it over to my apartment for us to share. We ate 'til fit to burst and I've never been more pleased.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

merry christmas

wishing you all the best in the new year

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

pumpkin seeds

For the first eight days of this December my entire apartment was filled with old friends. Every morning I would wake up to a living-room battlefield of sleepy bodies and cast-off clothes, their garments and limbs draped lazily across every extraneous surface: couch, table, floor, and chair. The perilous daily crossing to the bathroom was a careful negotiation of careless leg arrangements and upturned wrists flung across pale faces; over soft hair spillings across gold couch cushions and clenched-fist pullings of blankets beneath neatly tucked chins. It was a perfect and entirely consuming practice. I seemed to have no time to do anything but work and return home to these faces, work and return home to them.

It wasn't until I stole home for a weekend that I had a chance to really cook again, and by then all I had it in my heart to do was somehow try and recapture that sense of complete comfort so briefly enjoyed in the presence of my true loves. Much to the ongoing anguish of lonely people everywhere, though, it turns out that almost nothing will serve as a substitute for the earnest and wholesome solace of being with close friends. Almost nothing EXCEPT for the combined scents of cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin. So, having already been thoroughly stuffed with as much pie as one could possibly want in any season, I decided to take pumpkin down a slightly different path and turn it into some butter. Pumpkin butter! It is so delicious to even say it.

This recipe was simple...adapted straight off of I was overwhelmingly pleased with the results, but if you have any recommendations for substitutions or changes please, please feel free to share!

This piece from the NY Times Holiday Food section is also a very worthwhile read if you have the chance. It'll make you smile, I promise.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Out Of This Strata

Great things come from small beginnings, big things come in small packages, etc. I'm sure you're all familiar with the standard-issue anecdotes about how it is the littlest things in life that matter the most, but a reminder now and then has never hurt. Especially when we're all still in the lovely rose-colored flush of Thanksgiving consumption after-glow. This dish is the definition of great big things being cultivated from very tiny beginnings, i.e. a mouth-watering Recipe shared via Google Reader as almost an afterthought one afternoon at work. Next thing I knew, Ben Duchac had turned my cast iron fantasy into one hundred percent reality. He is now my personal hero and shall remain so for eternity.

Running a very close second in my ranking of life-time heroes, though, would be the delightful lady behind the always-amazing Our Kitchen Sink for providing me with endless hours of salivary-gland-activating photography and food ideas. Haha. No, I cannot really believe that I just said that, either. Aren't you just amped to eat yourself some strata now?

Care of the Kitchen Sink:

"You Will Need:

4 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
One 16-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ounces whole wheat peasant bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
2 ounces feta cheese, crumble

To Make:

Preheat the oven to 450°. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the yogurt and parsley.

In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, sage and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Stir in the bread and sprinkle with the feta. Pour the egg mixture on top and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly, then serve."


Prep stage, bread cubes

Almost there!!

Ready to be devoured!

An ultra-rare-never-before-seen-behind-the-scenes glimpse at me photographing my food! Kidding, kidding.
care (once again) of Ben D.The man can do no wrong!

Friday, November 28, 2008

post-Thanksgiving; stuffed

I like going home again. As few and far between as these visits have become, they are always fairly necessary in maintaining stasis on my sanity. Food isn't the only reason, of course, but it's up there as one of the best. For as many years as I've made the southward trek to have Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin Nick's home, I've been known to indulge in three or four portions too many of our family's patented chestnut stuffing. When I was very much younger, my theakoula would sit around the kitchen table with a few other family members and steam, prick, and peel all the chestnuts by hand on Thanksgiving morning. I remember very well their whispering, their rustling and the scent of nuts, still warm and cracking--their voices as palpable and sticky sweet as the odor, just as rich and full of promise. I'd find myself wandering over on purpose, seeking aimless errands that would take me into the kitchen, just so that I could be around them while they worked.

For some reason it had never occurred to me to ask for the recipe before. I had a reliable resource of it on a yearly basis, plus enough take-home leftovers to kill an ox. Recently, though, I have begun to realize that chestnut stuffing is a dish I'd like to eventually be able to bring to my own table. And I'd like to have spent enough time with it to get it absolutely right, maybe even add a few of my own twists and turns to the mix. So between glazing pears, mashing potatoes, sweating feverishly, and slicing carrots--I leaned over and sneakily asked my cousin Maria if she would be so kind as to relay the recipe to me.

These are exactly, word-for-word, the instructions that she passed down to me. The original recipe calls for both beef and liver, but Maria and Nick have long been making their version vegetarian. (Necessary in order to accommodate the variety in diets bound to be encountered in any gathering numbering above twenty.) Remember: this is a recipe intended for many, you might want to cut it down a bit if you're cooking for less than forty.

You Will Need:

white onions
1 lb. black raisins
1 lb. pine nuts
5 stalks celery
2 sticks butter
3 lbs. chestnuts (to prepare-boil for ten minutes, prick shell with knife, and peel)
1 bunch parsley
40-45 oz. vegetable broth
2 cups cooked rice

To Make:

1. Saute onions in butter. Add celery, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
2. Add pine nuts, chestnuts, raisins, and rice.
3. Add broth.
4. Bake in oven at 375 degrees covered with foil for 30-35 minutes.

And don't forget dessert:

Monday, November 24, 2008

fall is my favorite season

I am a simple girl.

You Will Need:

1 bag of cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
(that's it--seriously)

To Make:

Bring all the ingredients to a boil together in a large pot. Turn heat down to low and let bubble/simmer for about ten minutes--I don't let mine go for that long because I like my sauce pretty chunky and still loaded with lots of whole berries. Remove from the heat and let cool for a time, then transfer contents to a container and refrigerate until thoroughly "gelled". Serve cold and delicious.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

simple pleasures #3

Alex Naidus bringing you pumpkin cheesecake from Veniero's when he comes over to your apartment late on a Thursday evening.

left-hand luke and the beggar boys

I think it has been--and mind you that this is only a rough approximation--a century and a half straight since I have gotten any sleep. Move the tea bag from the cup to the plate, pour the wine, lean back, have a smoke, think a little. Resurrect a meal from the dead.

No, but seriously. I had chicken soup at the Thai wholesale market in Chelsea the other afternoon in a rare lunchtime hour interlude, and was (not surprisingly) unable to finish the straight-up trough of broth and noodle-y deliciousness that they plunked down in front of me. Luckily, it took only fifteen minutes and a few key ingredients to bring the remainders right back to life again in the form of a fragrant, salty, slurp-worthy soup.

You Will Need:
1 bunch scallions
1 bunch bean sprouts
1 large carrot
1 head broccoli
left over, pre-cooked rice noodles from Thai place
3 cups chicken broth
cardamom to taste
garlic powder to taste
salt and pepper to taste

To Make:
Bring the chicken broth to a slow simmer. Slice and dice the carrots and broccoli up into whatever size you feel like eventually fitting into your mouth. Drop them into the broth (pop one of two into your mouth as you's your right as the cook!). Shake in a bit of cardamom, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Don't worry about precision, to be exact is to be a fool! Cover the dish; let simmer. Dice the scallions, wash and strain the bean sprouts. Add them to the concoction, which should be smelling pretty delicious about now. Cover everything and let it simmer until the carrots and broccoli are soft (this will happen faster than you expect). Once the broth and vegetables are cooked, dump in the left-over noodles. Cover and let simmer until the mixture is completely warmed through. Stir, serve, and enjoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

why do fools fall in love?

I always find myself with a great sense of purpose in this city in the fall. The sentiment is completely unwarranted yet it never fails to surface year after year after year. When I am walking I cease to wander. I always know exactly where I am going. The future is bright and clear and close. Then I stray into the menagerie that is Whole Foods at 730pm on a Sunday and am immediately deflated of all concept of higher direction or intention.

Nevertheless, I still get a pretty good soup out of it.

You Will Need:

3-4 sweet potatoes (hell...the more the better i say)
1 Apple (any variety, but a sturdy cooking apple works best)
1 med. sized onion
1 tbs. olive oil

To Make:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slide the sweet potatoes in on a baking tray and let them cook until they are nice and tender...about forty five minutes (but a few fork pricks should let you know if they're ready or not). In the meantime, core and thinly slice your apple. Dice the onion up into good sized chunks. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over med-high heat and dump in the apples and onion. As it cooks down, add cinnamon and nutmeg. Be hearty. This party will both smell AND taste good (if you're smart, you'll steal a few slices of the apple before adding it to the rest of the soup. yum).

Let the apple and onion mixture cook through until the apples are soft. Cover and set aside. When the sweet potatoes are cooked all the way through, slice them in half and scoop their innards into a big pot. Add the apples and onions. Add a tsp. each of salt and pepper. Combine with six cups of water and turn on the heat--let this warm all the way through for about ten minutes, so everything is nice and mixed and pulpy.

Next you'll have to puree the mixture down. I did this part in small batches because I only have a tiny Cuisinart, but it still worked beautifully. Once the entire batch was done, I transferred everything back into the original pot and turned the heat on low so that I could spice it to taste. That meant loads more cinnamon and nutmeg (I can't get enough) and a dash or so more of salt.

Turn off heat and serve with some slices of cool cucumber as adornment. Ta-da!

Monday, October 20, 2008

que linda, brazil!

Brazil, Brazil, Brazil! Let me get it all out there right from the get-go so there's no confusion about what's on my mind, in my heart, and tattooed on my left rib-cage (just kidding).

Not just the sun, the rain, the salt, the sweat, and the lack of necessity for formal clothing...but the people, the apartment rooms, the chatter, the streets, the midnight-caterwauling and packed-car-careening around sharp turns... and the food. Of course, the food!

The dominant theme of the trip was definitely the ol' clutter&share, i.e. fill the table as much as humanly possible with as many heaping, steaming plates of delicious food as can be fit and then drop everything (even silverware) and dig in. By the time the smoke clears, not a soul at the table will have retained any sort of recognizable human shape. Instead, each will have gleefully succumbed to the vast, gelatinous influence of laughter, over-indulgence, and pão de queijo galore. Fat, happy, and (as always) BRAZIL!

"You're a ghost, la la la la la la la..." -John Cale, Paris 1919

Friday, October 10, 2008

some things never change

My aunt just sent me a care package. Tucked inside of an old cookbook from Athens was this collection of small photographs, all of which she took in a Paris bakery over twenty years ago. Some things really don't ever change!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

breakfast with alisha

One of the things I love most about having a silly, sort of harmlessly-self-indulgent kind of blog is when other people in my life feel moved to be just as silly and sort of self-indulgent as me by sharing the various things that they make and eat. It justifies my ridiculous culinary pursuits AND makes me into a happy person.

My friend Alisha, who created a veritable piece of artwork out of her banana-layered-peanut-butter-toast this morning, was kind enough to forward along a photo to me so that I might visually partake in/absolutely salivate over her breakfast. PB+B--so simple! So pleasing! Ah, sigh.

I always love a little food-picture-pick-me-up.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Irrelevant Grandeur

Do you ever have that feeling like you just want to plunge both hands deep into your chest cavity and fall backwards off a high cliff as the only possible means of successfully counteracting the catastrophic forward momentum in your life?! Me either. Summer is over; it's fall. Among the things winding down aside from seasons and friendships are my first year in New York City and the Roaring Camp song on my computer from the original AGCS Summer Mixtape. Perfectly Appropriate.

I made this dish weeks ago, when summer corn was still all the rage at the Farmer's Market and a large batch of garden-fresh tomatoes had just been brought to me by a co-worker from his parents home in Virginia. It was a spectacular conclusion to the sweetness of summertime, so fresh that I didn't even cook the corn all the way down before rolling it out of the pan and onto the plate. If you're looking for an easy way to clean out the vegetables in your pantry (in order to make room for things like spice jars full of cinnamon, canned pumpkin and fleshy halves of acorn squash, of course) I really think you should go for this recipe!

You Will Need:
Fresh Basil
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

To Make:
As usual, so easy it's painful. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over low heat, add a few sliced mushrooms. Let them cook down for about three minutes. Dice up your tomatoes (as many as you please!) and drop them in with the mushrooms. Add your spices and let them meditate over the warmth for awhile, soaking up the flavors. Everything should be awfully juicy and smelling pretty nicely at this point. Then toss in some handfuls of freshly shucked corn. Stir everything together, cover, and let simmer down for five to seven minutes. At the end-point, the corn should be cooked down but still have retained a little bit of its crunch. Serve immediately! Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

uh oh!

I'm sorry for my lack of posts lately! Quite unfortunately, my computer went spontaneously ka-put a few weeks ago...pretty effectively stemming the flow of photos/words from my dinner table to my desktop. Now that everything is all better, though, things should be back on track (and possibly delicious?) quite shortly! Huzzah!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

simple pleasures #2

caramel apples, anything and everything about them!

Also, anything and everything about this girl.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Summertime Soul, Volume 2

Otherwise known as: a further attempt at justifying my eggplant-avocado sandwich "recipe".

This morning, making lunch before work.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summertime Soul, Volume 1

I don't know what I am going to do when summer is over. Frequent, easy, and rewarding access to my neighborhood Greenmarket has completely spoiled me. No longer do I discuss foods in combination with each other("meals" if you will), but rather as entirely independent beings with no need nor desire to maneuver around one another within a single dish.

Whole, fresh heirloom tomatoes straight from the vine. Hunks of unblemished, ripe, yellow mango. Avocado scraped directly from the shell. Peaches, apples, and plums. Eggplants! Does this all sound familiar? It should! If not creative, it is certainly satisfying.

In an effort to recapture the spirit of cooking ambitions past, I recently took all of these things fresh from the Farmer's Market, slapped them together between two pieces of bread, and called it a 'sandwich'. I know that it's borderline ridiculous to post this as a "recipe", but the gooey, toothy mess of delicious that it produced was too good not to share. So, without further ado, let me infringe on your conscious with the Eggplant-Avocado Sandwich.

Eggplant-Avocado Sandwich

You Will Need:
1/2 avocado
1 tbs. olive oil
Salt+Pepper to taste

(That's IT!)

To Make:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice the eggplant, brush it with olive oil, and arrange it in a baking dish. Pop it in the oven. Smear your bread with hearty portions of hummus and mustard. Add wedges of avocado and tomato to that, contributing a dash of salt and pepper just for fun. After the eggplant has been baked soft, remove it from the oven and let it cool for a second. Then layer it on top of the avocado and tomato, and smash everything together immediately. With any luck, the eggplant will still be warm when you start to eat.

(If applicable, lay in sunny park during consumption.)

Spoiled rotten, I tells ya!