Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Morning After and other regrets

I woke up this morning hungover. Surprised? Me either. Noelani's asleep still. Breakfast is the most important decision you'll make during the first, unbelieveably painful three or four hours of consciousness after an all-night-can't-remember-a-thing bender. You have to tread carefully so as not to tip your personal balance in the direction of physical illness, but you also have to regenerate some of your seriously depleted stores of nutrients. So you should eat a healthy, well-balanced meal. Except if you had a French potluck the night before and the only thing left in the house aside from 12 empty bottles of wine is half of a plantain. Then you eat the plantain and you like it.

You Will Need:

1 Plantain
Olive Oil

To Make:

Peel the plantain. Slice it in six or seven thick wedges; you want to leave a lot of flesh in each slice so that the final product is chewy on the inside/crunchy on the outside. (The same blueprint applies to the perfect french fry.) Thoroughly heat the oil in the frying pan, then toss in the slices. If you've done it right, you'll hear a lot of sizzling at this point. Let the plantains fry until they are nice and golden brown on each edge. They'll turn a healthy, Simpsons yellow right before they deepen into the perfect brown crisp. Let them cool a little, but make sure to eat them still warm.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

(...) or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Sprout

The other afternoon, in the supermarket, I performed an unmitigated act of bravery. Out of nowhere, just like that, without any sort of provocation...I bought an entire pound bag of brussel sprouts. What the hell, right? We're all adults here, there's no need to continue to subscribe to these childish fears about health food, or to put any more stock in that old playtime-preventing adage of "not until your plate is clean". I strutted home with my bag of brussel sprouts cast jauntily over one shoulder, prepared to face my demons. I felt a courageous warrior! Once back in my apartment, it only took a few minutes of fast research to find that there are endless methods of sprout preparation aside from the notoriously odorous classic called "steaming". I started off tentatively, using a recipe found at 101 Cookbooks. (I'm not ashamed to admit that I cooked this recipe simply because of the enticing titular use of the phrase "golden-crusted".) The results were a rousing success! My sprouts were transformed into the most tender and satisfying of treats; they were even a little crunchy where they were brownest. Encouraged, I tried again...this time upgrading them from side-dish to front-and-center superstars. The result: Cider Sprouts! They can be made as follows:

You Will Need:

Brussel Sprouts
1 Cup Apple Cider
Salt/Pepper to taste
1 Med. Onion
1 Golden Delicious Apple
2 tbs. Olive Oil

To make:
Prep the brussel sprouts beforehand by washing them, removing the stems, and slicing each one down the middle. This is also a good time to dice the onion and the apple. Once your food is prepped, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over med heat. When it's nice and crackling, throw in the onion and the apple and let them sautee for about five minutes. Once they've had a chance to cook down a bit, add the brussel sprouts. Sautee the whole mess for at least 3-4 minutes. Make sure the sprouts are fully coated in oil before tossing in the apple cider. Cover the pan and let the whole bonanza stew for about twenty minutes, or until the brussel sprouts are soft enough to be pierced easily by a fork. Use a slotted spoon to remove the goodies from the juice, and serve warm.

PS: The beauty of this little beast of a French recipe is that the leftovers taste almost better than the original dish. Just save the juices and let the sprouts marinate in them while they wait to be rediscovered. (You know how I feel about left-overs...)

PS Part Two: I also tackled this dish with my Mom, which is partially (entirely?!) responsible for why I enjoyed it so much. Nothing's better than Mom!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

a peanut butter wolf (that's me)

I won’t keep peanut butter in my house for a reason...a reason which is completely explained by both my unnerving fascination with these three photos and the fact that I’ve been able to stay entertained at work for the last three hours with just the words “peanut butter” and a Google search engine as company.

from the top: peanut butter&banana sandwich (our friend Elvis could tell you a thing or two...), a peanut butter&raisin tarlet, peanut butter & nutella cookie sandwich (via the ever-delightful

Saturday, January 5, 2008

In Defense of Eggs & Hummus

In a casual lunchtime conversation the other day, I haphazardly related to a friend that I had indulged in a poached egg and hummus breakfast that morning. I foolishly assumed that meandering on to some other topic (the weather? haircuts? 30 Rock? the potential is limitless...) would be simple, but found myself stopped dead by a dropped jaw and a wail of disbelief. "You had WHAT?!" For a second I thought I had accidentally given away who shot JFK or something; I couldn't believe the sheer force of the reaction. I stuttered: "Huh?" "Eggs and HUMMUS?" he replied, as if placing the very words in proximity to each other was enough to make his skin decay. "Yeah..." I said. Duh. Right? Or am I wrong...?

Of course, I'm not talking about just any old hummus here. I'm talking about the good stuff! The homemade, fresh-out-of-the-food-processor, from-just-roasted-vegetables stuff. How could you resist that under any circumstances? To be honest, there's very little in the way of food that can interest even me in the bleary morning before work. I'll usually settle for whatever sustenance can be mustered from around five or six cups of coffee before I run off (late) to the office. A good hummus&egg meal, though, can easily rouse me to a level of unadulterated exhilaration heretofore unknown prior to noon on any weekday. At this juncture in my embarrassing confession, it's important for me to take note that the quality of the hummus is essential to my enthusiasm for the combination. A batch of freshly whirled hummus is so good I could eat it with a spoon while still maintaining a marginal amount of dignity, so I certainly don't see why I can't eat it with eggs. This is how I make my version of "good hummus".

You Will Need:
1 Medium Sized Red Pepper
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Medium Sized Yellow Onion
1 Can (or so) Garbanzo Beans
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Parsley
Salt+Pepper to taste

To Make:
Warm one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan while thinly slicing the pepper. Sautee the pepper for 3-4 minutes in the oil, making sure it is fully coated, until it is lightly cooked. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and chop the parsley. By this time the pepper should be cool enough to hew with a few, rough chops. Now the fun part! Dump the garbanzo beans, pepper, onion, garlic, and parsley into a food processor with another tablespoon of olive oil and give it a whirl. Based on the consistency you prefer, you can add more garbanzo beans (thicker) or a tablespoon or two of water (thinner). I prefer a good, solid garbanzo bean or two left in my hummus when I'm done. I also like my peanut butter chunky.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Empty Promises And More Sweet Potatoes

I don't know my limits and I have absolutely no will power. If you don't understand why those two character traits necesitate another recipe involving sweet potatoes, than you need more help than I could possibly ever provide. After about twenty or so fruitless attempts at making sweet potato fries, I gave up and went out to get them (see below). While some might have seen this as a declaration of defeat, the more optimistic among us will have realized (as I eventually did) that it takes only the slightest bit of imagination to turn the homely little fry into something spectacular: the wedge! And so was born my Roast Sweet Potato Wedge recipe, from the same dark land as any other brilliant invention--the brink of total failure.

You Will Need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon finely ground mustard
3-4 sweet potatoes, medium sized
Salt and pepper to taste
Honey, as much as you can handle

To Make:

Peheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the sweet potatoes into wedges of decent size, approximately sixths. Drop them into a large bowl so they can be thoroughly coated with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and finely ground mustard. Arrange the wedges on a pan with a 1/2 inch of breathing room between each one and pop them into the oven. They need to be baked for 45-60 minutes, but the maintenance that occurs during this hour is crucial to the final product. After twenty or so minutes, turn the wedges so that they are able to bake evenly on all sides. Approximately fifteen minutes before they are finished, pull out the pan and squeeze a generous line of honey along the top-most peak of each wedge. Put the potatoes back in the oven, and let them finish baking. (The honey will ooze down the side of the potato as it finishes...think about it.)

Now here comes the empty promise part: I swear that I will post no more recipes related to sweet potatoes or any of their many culinary derivatives. At least for a week. Which means the sweet potato gnocchi recipe is going to have to wait.