Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Baked Eggs are for Lovers

They say the way to man's heart is through his stomach. The way to my man's heart, in the most specific terms possible, is by way of baked eggs. I first made these for dinner one night with some chicken sausage and some biscuits and Paul proclaimed it the "best dinner ever." This made me like him even more so than I already did because not only is he complimentary (the way to a girl's heart is through compliments) his tastes, without even intending to be so, are budget conscious. Perfect for the New Depression Wife. The variation on baked eggs I made on Monday was even better than the original recipe.

baked eggs 1

The first go round I made these with some garlic, chives a bit of half and half and some goat cheese. This time 'round, I used what I had in the fridge in an attempt to clear it out before we go on vacation (tomorrow!!!). What I had was some blistered balsalmic cherry tomatoes, some left over store bought pesto and eggs. The pesto was so rich and gave off a bit of oil, so they really didn't need any cheese. The end result was really something tasty to behold:



I used some blistered, super sweet balsalmic cherry tomatoes, but any good ripe summer tomatoes will do.

Preheat oven to 375
Coat oven-safe skillet with a spray of olive oil and heat over med-low heat
Melt 1 tsp. butter and swirl skillet to coat the bottom
Add handful of tomatoes and generous tablespoon of pesto (probably more like 2 tbs.)
Carefully break four large eggs into skillet, you want the yolks in tact
Add another teaspoon of pesto, salt and a few turns fresh pepper
Top with a small splash half and half

Bake for about 9-10 minutes and then start to keep an eye on it. My fear for salmonella and my love for runny yolks go head to head here in a battle of wits. In the past, salmonella fear has won out and I ended up with fully cooked yolks; however, on this day I was ready to take my chances so that I could have some nice dippin' yolks. At approximately 10 minutes, I took the skillet off the middle rack and placed it on the bottom rack. I then turned the oven to broil so I could make toast. Some of you may have an invention known as a "toaster" which oyu turn to in times like this. For those of you with a toaster, this juggling and burning of fingers in the name of both carbs and protein being simultaneously served will not be necessary. Long story long the toast took about three minutes to toast on both sides, under my close and watchful eye. Just as the toast was finishing I took the eggs out of the oven. Voila! Runny yolks and solid whites. Upon closer examination, there was a lil looseness in my whites but I ate it all nonetheless and have lived to tell the tale. I am open to suggestions on cooking temperature and time. Varied recipes for baked eggs have suggested 350 to 400, so I figured 375 was a nice neutral temp. For those that don't crave a runny yolk so much, you could prolly bake em for 15 without a look; but personally, I really feel like the thing that makes baked eggs so dreamy is the nice solid white with the runny yolks, paired with the (for lack of better word) toppings. It's the best thing about omelettes (i.e. the addition of other tasty things) meets the best part of poached. If an Italian omelette and a poached egg had a baby it's name would be Baked Eggs with Pesto and Tomatoes (although that sounds like a celebrity baby name and lawd knows, I hate that). Make these for your lover asap.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer snuck up on me yesterday. Kind of like my vacation which is only like, four days away! And thanks to the glory of a long weekend only ONE work day away!!! Last night I made a delicious summer meal just for me. Cooking for yourself is totally underrated. Stay away from the frozen entrees and take the time to prepare a whole meal of food just for you. It feels fancy and nice, and then you have leftovers for lunch. So in honor of the first real frost free night of the year here, I made a chilled pasta salad with pesto. It was one part what I had in the fridge and pantry, one part a quick, cheap stop at the grocery store (I'm on a serious budget so I can enjoy my vacay to the max) and it was 100% satifying, delicious dinner.


My photos kind of stink because (a) it was getting a wee bit too dark in my kitchen for nice looking pictures and (b) I was awkwardly holding my camera with messy cooking hands in an attempt not to get balsalmic and oil on it (judging by the crusted smear of something I just now wiped off the screen, I obviously did not do the hottest job of this). Hence the pics are wicked blurry. Let's just pretend that it's an artistic choice, shall we?


You could do a million variations on this pasta salad. I sort of hate the words "pasta salad", 'cause I always picture something assaulted with way too mas mayo that has been sadly sitting in the deli case for a few too many days. But I mean, it is what it is. I used brown rice rotini, which can get a little gluey, so next time I might just go for wheat rotini. First, I put on my pasta water to boil and while that got cooking I tossed a bunch of cherry tomatoes in a baking dish with a splash of balsalmic and olive oil. I baked those on 350 for about 35 minutes, until they had all burst. This is hands down my absolute fave way to use up the remainder of a container of cherry tomatoes. They get so, so sweet and taste terrific. I like to keep 'em on hand in the fridge to add to salads, or eat with some crusty bread and hummus/pesto/goat cheese, whatevs. Once the pasta and tomatoes were done, I tossed the still warm pasta with some store bought pesto (not as good as the real deal, but I'm budgeting and 5.99 pine nuts were not in the cards for me) so yeah, store bought pesto, the tomatoes and some of their cooking juices, one half of a yellow pepper (in a small dice) a handfull of feta, a handfull of baby arugula. I drizzled the whole shebang with another glug of olive oil, salted, peppered and then let it chill out while I grilled some chicken breasts. Then, I ate it lying down on the couch, I felt like King Tut or something. Don't ask why I laid down, blame it on the heat, blame it on the beer I had while cooking or blame it on the fact that lying on your side while daintily eating a nice summer dinner, ceiling fan spinning over head, watching True Life on MTV feels damn good. Try it.

About an hour later I ate a small bowl of whipped cream and Hershey's syrup. I'm sharing this because I'm not afraid of who I am and I invite you to save your judgments until you have tried the same.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Case of the....

Monday is the hardest day. If you, like me, work in an environment where you a) wear what can best be described as “slacks” on a daily basis; b) stare at a computer all day and; c) lunch is the highlight of your day, you know where I am coming from. Most days, but especially Mondays, I find myself starving at 11:30 a.m. and I have an inner monologue with myself in which I urge me to hold off on snarfing down lunch just yet, because if I eat too early the part of the day that creeps from noon time towards 5 seems agonizingly longer than ever. Monday is the hardest day whether or not you roll into the office on hangover fumes wearing the same clothes from Friday night, or whether or not you have had a seemingly mellow weekend which may or may not have included: three long walks, one side of baked mac and cheese, and at least one argument over the calorie content of frozen yogurt. Someone tell me why, I don’t like Mondays? The best part of Mondays is the fact that I have dinner with my mom. A weekly occasion that involves me getting mentally comatose with the latest People magazine on her couch, a couple Parliaments and dash of the latest family gossip and a “light” dinner in which every vegetable involved is drowned to within an inch of its life in olive oil. The other best part of Mondays is the feeling of accomplishment that comes with getting my laundry done and putting clean sheets on my bed (fist pump). Everything else about Mondays is the absolute pits. The good news is I only have an hour left til dinner with the Piz.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

minuses, bonuses and gnocchi

I tend to end up being long winded sometimes when I write. I think maybe because I am locked away in my office for most of the day with little to no social interaction. Ask my friends how fast I respond to emails, it’s thoroughly embarrassing. I decided I will (try and) be brief right now and tell you what I did yesterday, rating each activity with a Bonus or Minus, respectively. This is kind of like the cheers/jeers section of TV Guide only with factoids from my life. I’m sure you care a ton. In my head I imagine the “boooo” of a crowd when it’s a minus and the “aaaahhhh” roar of a crowd when its bonus time.

(in mostly chronological order)

1. Worked 8:30-5:00 (minus)

2. Had a chat with my dad and his girlfriend on the front steps as I left the building. Ate two handfuls of Planters roasted, salted peanuts (bonus)

3. Went to get a (desperately needed) pedicure (bonus!) they were closed, inexplicably (minus)

4. Got home (neutral)

5. Decided what to make for dinner (bonus)

6. Took a walk with Erica (bonus)

7. Talked to my boyfriend (bonus)

8. Made and ate a delicious dinner (bonus)

9. Watched American Idol (minus- the results show is so lame due exclusively to the inclusion of the cheesier than life itself Ford commercials they make those poor kids do and I just can’t handle Seacrest sometimes)

10. Ate the remainder of the chocolate my mama bought for me (bonus)*

11. Watched the you tube video of Heart’s “Alone” with Erica (bonus)

12. Lifted weights to get buff (bonus)

So it’s nice to see. Broken down like that. Yesterday was a meh, Wednesday, but when I

break it down like that, my life is mostly bonuses and that’s an important fact to keep in mind. Plus the biggest bonus of all was dinner (meals almost always are where I’m concerned). I kind of made up a “primavera” of sorts with gnocchi. I had to work with what I had in the fridge and pantry because this week my getting a pedicure budget trumps my grocery buying budget out of sheer necessity. I made up the whole recipe after reviewing a couple gnocchi and pasta primavera recipes online. Many of them called for cream in the sauce and the cheese of choice used to garnish was parmesan. I had neither so I figured stirring in some goat cheese at the end would add the tang of cheese and a creaminess as well. The gnocchi was really good and I felt enormously successful that it was tasty since I was kind of driving blind. Is that an expression? It is now.


One package gnocchi

¾ cup chicken broth or stock

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ white onion, diced

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon butter

1 cup cherry tomatoes

Kernels from 2 earns of corn

½ cup to ¾ frozen baby peas

2-3 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled

Pinch oregano

Pinch parsley

S n’ P

Set a pot of salted water to boil for the gnocchi. It will take longer for the water to boil then it will for you to prepare your “sauce,” at least, it will if you are making this at my house. When my pasta water was simmering, I heated my skillet to medium high heat and coated the pan with olive oil. Once the oil is heated through, sauté the garlic and onion for a few minutes and once they are translucent, add your oregano and parsley (ideally, I would suggest fresh herbs, added at the end here, but I used dry and it was just fine), add the frozen peas and cherry tomatoes. Pour in the chicken stock and crank the heat up to reduce the stock and cook the veggies. At this point in time, I added my gnocchi to the pot, since gnocchi only takes about three minutes to make. Once the stock is reduced by about hmm, I dunno two-thirds (down to very little liquid in the pan) I added the corn, teaspoon of butter and salt and peps. Drain the gnocchi and dump into your serving bowl, dump the veggie mixture on top once the butter is fully melted and toss it all together, crumble in the goat cheese and mix it up once more. Serve immediately. Serves approx. 3. We had enough for two generous portions and some leftovers.

This was a perfect spring dinner. It was light but really satisfying. I served it with a Caesar and some (stale) foccacia. The whole shebang took less than 20 minutes to make. I will definitely be adding this to my weeknight dinner repertoire.

* woo hoo! First time including a link. I know this is child's play for some, but I'm sort of technologically retarded so it's like, a huge accomplishment for me (my god, I hope it works).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Just a quick note. In my haste to post my blog before my computer melted into oblivion on Saturday afternoon (she is five years old and needs a new battery) I realize that I included an asterisk which had no information to follow it. What an amateur! No twin asterisk with what I meant to put down at the bottom of the page. The fact that I realized I never followed up my * made me want to string together a couple asterisks and ampersands and hit myself on the forehead "whatta f*$#&ng dummy!" Anyways, since everybody who reads this is waiting with baited breath the intention of my original asterisk was regarding horseradish. If I was not a complete and total failure of a blogger I would have done this:

*Did you ever notice that horseradish is the single most difficult thing to locate in any given grocery store, even the one you go to all the time? Anyone who has ever made Bloody Marys and/or horseradish sauce can feel me on this one, right? Is it in with the mustards and mayos, next to bottles labeled "Horseradish Sauce"? No, there will be horseradish spiked mustard, but no regular horseradish. Is it by the deli meats? Again, here we will find a horseradish themed sauce product, but not the real deal. Paul and I spent more than half of our trip to Whole Foods trying to locate this most elusive condiment. When I finally found it (in the case with the cheese, go figger) I emerged jogging past the salad bar with the jar raised above my head "Paul! Look!!" Victory!! Paul suggested that a good game show would be to make any consumer enter a grocery store and find a bottle of horseradish. The show could be called Horseradish Hunt and it would be a Supermarket Sweep for the new generation. I mean, finding a 15 lb. ham or a gigantic novelty size BabyBel cheese is easy pickens. Find me a jar of horseradish in record time and you my friend, are a true grocery store guru.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

on masochism and crumb cake

I am a masochist. I must be, because not many others would do this to themselves. On a perfectly decent Saturday when I could probably be doing something outside, here I am in my apartment baking not one but two coffee cakes.

Confession time here: I have come the conclusion lately that I may be among the world’s shittiest bakers. This is devastating to me since I really do long to become a total domestic hot shot someday. Mother’s Day brunch is on for tomorrow at my brother and sister-in-law’s place. A day to celebrate mom is totally something I can get behind, plus I heart brunch and any good excuse for day drinking. My sister-in-law Renee is not so much a chef. But she has the sack to admit this and be perfectly fine with it. Ergo, whenever we have a family function at her and Jason’s house it’s always a pot luck kind of gig, which is what my extended family does best anyways. Renee usually buys a Grandma’s™ coffee cake or in this case a ham, rather than trying to be some sort of a hero; and, I am realizing in the wake of what just went on in my kitchen that the lady is truly on to something. So my assignment for the day was Bloody Marys. A mix for which I am famous for because apparently, instead of being good at baking cookies, god gave me cocktail mixing skills and that’s just fine. I just wish I could come to terms with the fact that I certainly did not get both. Fair enough. I will bring bloodies, but naturally I volunteered to bring something else. Because I like to over do it like that. Scones perhaps? Scones are quickly naysayed by my SIL and in the family email chain my assignment is cast out instead as “bloodies and pastry”. Oh, pastry, good. I was hoping to teach myself something this weekend. It’s fulfillment at its best.

So I find a recipe for Big Crumb Coffee Cake with Rhubarb. It’s springtime, I enjoy the idea of rhubarb, I enjoy coffee cake, I dig the recipe I found and I’m ready to get down with it. I found this recipe on the website of one of my largest girl crushes to date, Deb Perelman who writes smitten kitchen. Deb is funny and direct in her explanations and her photography makes everything she makes totally swoon worthy. I adore her. But she is a baker. Sweets outnumber savory recipes on her site like, 20 to 1. A baker I am not I am savory, I am salted meats and cheese plates, not Madelines and bundt pans. But I’m trying! I’m expanding my repertoire and, if today’s performance is any indication, it might be time for me to hang up the old college try and just bring a salad or dip and chips from here on out. These are things I can whip up with ease and not legitimately break out into a sweat over. I either need to get a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer and things will change or I need to resolve myself to the fact that baking, is something I can accomplish with a lot of effort, and is not, for me, a leisure activity. You think I would have learned this lesson when I attempted to make lemon ginger scones to impress my boyfriend’s parents for Easter. The day before Easter, three hours away from throwing my apartment warming party, a party for which I had already been cooking for since 7:00 a.m. that morning, I decide it’s time for scones. Sure, why not? I can do it! I can cook scones, something I have never ever, ever made before in the middle of an already busy afternoon why not. Needless to say while deep in downtown Scone City I realized I had forgotten my homemade pita chips at my mom’s house. Anywho…I’m getting lost and I need to let go of the past. Long story long I ran to the store to get pita chips while the scones were in the oven and my roommate in the shower. Realized as I got half way to the store that the scones were in the oven still! Turning around (calmly and without so much as an f-bomb passing my lips, natch) I beat feet back to my house to take the scones out of the oven. They were over cooked by a mile and thoroughly horrible. I mean you know when lemon frosting cant fix you, you done fucked it up.

So this brings me back to my baking induced masochism of this afternoon. I decided I would bake not one but two Big Crumb Coffee Cakes with Rhubarb. I would do this in two batches because I was too chicken to just double the recipe in round one since I had never made it before. I got the stuff I needed this morning at Whole Foods where I got kicked square in the teeth with a $6.99 price tag on a 2 oz. bottle of vanilla extract. Which, to be fair, the kick was just a grazing, because the bigger bottle that was there was $16.99. Sixteen motherloving ninety nine dollars!!! I mean…does it also cure cancer and reduce the fat content of chocolate chip cookies if you bake with it? How do they sleep at night! So I get home triumphant with all my goods. Ready for an adorable afternoon of solo time, baking and making Mary mix, listening to Johnny Cash. I was so excited. And then chaos descended on my kitchen as I tried to make this Big Crumb Coffee Cake. First I macerated (love that word) the rhubarb in a combination of ground ginger, sugar and cornstarch. Snap, this is SA easy. Then to prepare the crumb, mix dark brown sugar, DARK BROWN SUGAR!!! For the love of god, I am one step in and I have already forgotten something at the store. I think back to Paul’s words at the checkout, “That doesn’t look like much stuff. You sure you got everything?” and my smug reply “I do. I checked. I read the recipe twice yesterday (self-assured, squinty smile).” My oven was already preheating! My rhubarb marinating in a spicy broth of sweetness and ginger! My god I am a total failure. I go to the corner store, the voice inside my head saying “I bet they only have light brown sugar, if any.” Bingo. Fuck it, I think. Its cake makin’ time and really I don’t have time to be fussy. I get home and start on the crumb topping. Which calls for melted butter [insert mental picture of me hurredly getting pot to melt butter here]. Why I was running time trials on myself this whole time, I don’t know, maybe I’m just doing it all to justify inevitably jamming this crumb coffee cake down my gullet later on this afternoon or maybe like my thirteen year old self, I picture myself on a competition based TV show of sorts. So I make the crumb, which involves (not) dark brown sugar, regular sugar, lil bit of ground ginger again and melted butter. This is to be combined until smooth. I think this means not lumpy, so I roll with it and begin adding the flour. Deb says, “the crumb should reassemble a solid dough” Mines a little, eh, crumblier than all that, not to mention a little whiter, but I did skip the DBS for LBS, so you know…but using the heat from my now-sweating hands I jam it together into a dough-like mass and set it aside to make way for the cake batter. The cake batter, like most things in this crazy baking world I don’t understand, involves a wet part and a dry part, both of which come together in harmony and buy each other cokes and make delicious cake babies eventually. That is if you (a) know what you’re doing; (b) have a sweet kitchen equipped with counter space (okay I cant blame that, people work with less) or, the kicker, (c) have a stand mixer. This device enables you to combine things while still maintaining full use of your TWO hands. A trick which is totally indispensable in order to: (a) do things at the speed and pace the directions indicate; and (b) make you not feel like a total coconut smearing buttery floury hands all over every surface area, including but not limited to your very own face. I do not have one of these devices. I have a real nice electric hand mixed given to me by Paul’s parents last Christmas. The first time I used this thing to whip up some No Pudge brownies I felt like a total hero. Today it’s making me feel like a zero (groan- for the rhyme- I know!) because instead of having a “paddle attachment” and “medium speed” it has like, beaters and like, high, high, and spatter-the-ceiling-high settings. I choose “high” and begin to beat the softened (crap! Thanks microwave, you’re the bessst!) butter into the flour, baking soda, etc. mixture. Then I add the wet sour cream mixture. Oh btw, as I made the initial sour cream mixture, which called for one egg and one egg yolk, I was moving too quickly (again, with the time trials, I have no idea why) and I lost my yolk down the drain. This would have been fine if I hadn’t only had four eggs left and another coffee cake to make. The store was not going to happen so I improvised. I saved the egg white from the divided egg and determine I will use it in the second cake and figure the rest out later. Deb’s instructions call for adding the softened butter and one spoonful of the wet mixture at medium speed until the flour is moistened. Wait, why do I have golf ball sized chucks of butter just flying through my yet-to-be-moistened flour mixture here Deb? Why did you say this would only take 30 seconds? Why all the lies? I thought we were friends! I add half the wet mixture beat the crud out the whole mess on ceiling-splatter speed and it starts to reassemble a batter-like substance. Deb said I would only have to do each of the two batches of wet into the dry mixture for twenty seconds. She doesn’t know it yet, but now we are in a full blown fight. Still, I put aside my hostility and I persevere. The batter looks okay. It tastes good! I dump most of it into a pan add one half of my rhubarb mixture (the only part of the recipe I felt comfortable enough to double the first time ‘round) and then dot the rest with the remaining batter. Then I break the crumb mixture into well, crumbs. Deb says that this should be broken up into ½ to ¼ inch crumbs. Contrary to popular belief I am not a mathematician so I break them up into crumbs the size of crumbs that I think I would like to eat and then for good measure, I dot the top of the crumbs with a little softened butter because well, the crumbs look too crumby to me and I dare you to find me something a couple dots of butter can’t improve upon. Finally, at last, I slide the cake into the oven. And then I make another one. I might as well just start whipping myself with reeds in my backyard, because it might be more fun. I will spare you the play-by-play details of Cake Numero Dos because it essentially went a bit smoother. I know you are all waiting with bated breath to find out what I did about the lost egg yolk. I will tell you this, I used an egg white instead of yolk and then I used my noggin to determine that yolk=fat, so I compensated the loss of that fat with a tid bit more sour cream and a tiny splash o’ canola oil. We’ll see if the cake turns out like total garbage but the batter tasted ‘aight. I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it since Erica and I determined that this second cake would be solely for us to keep and eat, since number one would be going to Mother’s Day brunch with me.

Witness the batter:

batter tidal wave

Anyways…this is pretty much the end of the road for the great Crumb Cake Caper of 2009 but I will tell you this so as not to discourage you in your quest for delicious crumb coffee cake: (1) I still love Deb and won’t stop trying to be like her, even though I will probably try and make things more my speed like roasted red pepper dip and pita chips; (2) as I type this Cake Dos is in the oven, Cake Uno is resting on the stove and my whole apartment smells like absolutel cinnamon heaven; (3) just because I’m not a good baker, doesn’t mean I can’t try. Dream Big and stay in school.

Witness the aftermath:

kitchen disaster

Without further ado, a recipe. No, I am not going to pass on the Crumb Coffee Cake (I cant stop capitalizing this even though I realize it may or may not be a grammatical abomination I just think with all things delicious Arbitrary Capitalization is in order) because first of all, I like you guys and second of all, it’s already available online here. So I’m going to be nice and give you a delicious, easy, crowd pleasing, booze-involved(!) recipe for my famous Bloodies.

(Pilfered from the bar and grill were I was once a breakfast slanger/bar wench. I consider this recipe my severance package since the only other thing I took from that job was low self esteem, 25 lbs. in chowder-related weight gain and the ability to carry a lot of things at once)

[Note: this recipe makes a whole gallon of mix. Which is dandy if you, like my friends, like to have it on hand in the fridge. Simply half every thing if you are making it for a less lush-like crowd]

Tomato Juice (2 46 fl. oz bottles)
1 lemon
1 lime
1 small sized bottle Tabasco sauce
A1 steak sauce (a bunch of generous shakes-approximately ¼ cup, or less to your taste)
Worcestershire sauce (a bunch of generous shakes-approximately ¼ cup, or less to your taste)
Heaping tablespoon (or two- I like mine chunky) horseradish*
Slightly less heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
Upwards of a teaspoon of celery salt and garlic salt
Few pinches regular salt (apparently this recipe is not for the high bloodpressured)
Generous amount freshly ground black pepper

The easiest way to make and transport this is to use the bottles you got from the store. Unless you have one of those beverage jar’s from Crate and Barrel. But I would be hesitant to recommend one of those because this stuff is pretty chunky and would clog the spigot (that sounds like a good band name. Clog the Spigot). I usually mix this in a large bowl and then transfer it back into the bottles. If you come up with a method to do this that doesn’t involve spilling some, call me and I will nominate you for something special. It’s a bit messy, do it above the sink. Cut your lemons and limes and juice them into the tomato juice and then add the remainder of the ingredients. Give it all a good stir or shake (if you have a large gallon jar with a cover), chill and serve with 1 ½ ounces vodka.

You want your end result to be a substantial, almost chunky mix. When the mix is combined with a bit (or a lot) of vodka and shaken with ice, it will break down the thickness of the mix. I don’t know about you but I like a Bloody that’s intense, spicy and chunky. That is what this recipe is. Any Bloody is great with Absolut Peppar for extra spice. Personally, I really truly dislike Absolut and I prefer Ketel One or Stoli (original flavor). If you do not like-a the spice, I suggest using Ketel One Citroen or any citrus vodka to temper off the heat of the mix.

You can, as a time saver, pre-mix your Bloody mix with vodka, but honestly I really prefer to let people make their own. Some like a heavy hand with their vodka (hello Michelle!) and some like the mix with just a bit of vodka.

Garnish with a slice of lime or lemon and a big cocktail olive.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bertha Stewart

I am by no means a domestic goddess. I’m trying (sort of) hard to get there, but sometimes these things don’t come so naturally to me. I overcompensate on one end and then completely scrap it on another. Like for instance, when I moved and contributed probably two to three hours of my life considering the where’s and who’s of where Erica and I’s respective bathroom accessories (including like, 6 blow-dryers) but then I go and do something like not even bother to sweep or mop the organized bathroom in the three(!) months since we’ve moved in. My friend Michelle would never let this happen. This is a girl that despite climbing (leaping, hurdling) up the corporate ladder (read: working insane hours that I would whine about to anyone and everyone that even looked my way), devoted at least four to five hours last Saturday to switching out her summer clothes for her winter clothes and aggressively cleaning her whole entire apartment. She also had time that night to have me and Erica over for a dinner that included some fancy cheeses course and a fig spread that I have since been fantasizing about. She has homemade gimlets in her fridge at all times during the summer months. She has been, since college and most likely before, our crew’s Martha Stewart. Me, I’m more like Bertha Stewart, Martha’s sloppier, slightly less together cousin. Martha trims topiaries and makes pate brise in her sleep, Bertha can barely keep alive her overweight aloe plant and makes mostly no pudge brownies with yogurt that is suspiciously close to its expiration date, in the fricken microwave no less.

Anywho, Bertha is giving it a try and trying to get better. I mean, I wiped down the sink with a piece of toilet paper this morning as I brushed my buckers, so it’s progress. But anyways…I ramble on and I present to you, the salad which I made last weekend for said dinner at Martha’s. I made it from things in my fridge that needed to be used and that being said, it came out pretty tasty. I was a little nervous, because sometimes when I play this game of Oh-I’m-Such-an-Experienced-Cook-Now-That-I-Can-Just-Throw-Anything-Together-and-It-Will-Make-Eaters-Squeal-with-Delight-and-Beg-Me-for-the-Recipe I end up with straight crap and more embarrassed than one should be in front of her bestest pals.


(with Brown Buttered Corn from the NYT, by way of Orangette)

Salad Fixins:

1 bunch asparagus

A few pieces day old 7 grain bread (I used one whole and one half sandwich rolls- any bread should work but I pref. 7 grain because it has more texture and flavor)

2 ears of corn

½ purple onion, thinly sliced

½ head butter lettuce (I only used a half of a head because I wanted the lettuce to be a supporting player here, with the emphasis on the croutons and the asparagus)

2-3 teaspoons unsalted butter

For the dressing:

Juice of half a lemon

½ tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon walnut oil

1 ½ teaspoons honey

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

S n’ P

[sidebar: this is wicked hard, I should have written it all down as I did it, now almost a week later, my tiny brain is maxed out trying to recall measurements and steps. I vow to get better at this. Plus, I don’t tend to make salads with exact measurements, so please taste this (esp. the vinaigrette) before serving it to anyone judgmental.]

Preheat oven to 375. Chop the bread into large cubes (whatever size you like your croutons I like mine on the hefty side) and toss on a sheet pan with some olive oil. I usually try to be oil conscious so I find that a palm full of olive oil coats them just fine. Salt and pepper and a little dried parsley for pizzazz. Toast the croutons in the oven and meanwhile…get to the veggies. Check on the croutons after about 15 minutes. You want them to be crunchy so if they’re not ready yet, give them another 5-7. Mine took longer then expected (like, 25 minutes I think) but my oven is horrible.

MMkay, so first I needed to get rid of some corn. I saw a great recipe for Brown Buttered Corn that looked pretty dreamy on orangette. Since my corn is early season, and most likely from a distance that is not politically correct, I decided jazzing up the corn with some brown butter might make it a little tastier. Turns out I was correct as usual. First, hack the kernels off of your corn. I balanced my ears in a wide, low bowl and hacked down the ears with my giant kitchen knife. Melt two to three teaspoons butter in a small saucepan over med-high heat until the buttered has browned to a nice amber and smells nutty. Gather up any rogue kernels that have run across the counter and dump all of the kernels into your browned butter. Add some S n’ P and give it a nice stir. I then lowered the heat and placed a lid on my pot. My goal here was to warm the corn through and give it a little flavor, no more no less. Too much cooking would make the corn too starchy and gummy, and truth be told ‘twas a tid bit too starchy anyways but we all made it through.

Once the corn was all set I heated up my grill pan (for those without the luxury of a backyard grill these grill pans from Target are ideal for borrowing from your roomie and doing a budget grill job inside) over med-high heat. I snapped off the woody ends of my asparagus and gave them a light drizzle of the oil, working in batches, I grilled the asparagus for a few minutes per side, giving them time to get some grill marks but not so long that they would be mush. Since we’re talking salad here, I wanted them to still have a bit of crunch. Once the asparagus were grilled and cooled a bit I sliced them in half, about two inch spears was what I ended up with.

To make the dressing my preferred method is to use my immersion blender, which was my first kitchen gadget ever back at the tender at of 20 and I still love it so today. It fits in a regulation size coffee mug, emulsifies dressings to perfection and also can blend soups and on days when calories don’t exist, read: Sundays it can also blend milkshakes. Another tried and true method I always use when not in my own kitchen and traveling on the go is to combine the ingredients of my dressing in a jar. Make sure the lid is on good and tight and give it a good violent shake. The oil and vinegar (or in this case lemon juice) will come together right nice. I had never made this dressing so I blended at home, taste tested, added more honey and a touch more walnut oil because I over did it with the Dijon in round one and it was overpowering. When I served the salad I just gave my traveling jar a few hard shakes and it re-emulsified just right.

Toss the dressing with the entirety of the salad fixings just before serving or else the croutons will mop it all up and get soggy. This salad was great, brown buttering the corn and grilling the asparagus gave the veggies depth. The purple onion added some punch, both visually and flavor wise and the dressing was a great compliment to it: bright and lemony but with some richness courtesy of the walnut oil and a little pepper from the Dijon. We served it with prosciutto wrapped cod and roasted potatoes, and like four bottles of wine for (don’t judge us) three girls and then we finished off the meal with some sticky buns that were a supreme level of deliciousness but may or may not have given me diabetiss.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Giddy Up!

I like the idea of accountability. This is because I am the type of girl that without a deadline or a purpose might end up wandering lost out here on the internet, ending up in a bad place (not porno bad but clearance section of Anthropologie bad, or “vintage jewelry” “mid-century modern sideboard” eBay search bad, scanning endlessly on etsy bad) I mean a gal has to be careful out here. Chances are I may not end up with nude photos circulating the internet but I might accidentally end up with (another) lot of vintage cocktail rings 14 out of 15 of which go unused and unloved, another chip off the old paypal account. I need a purpose. I need a deadline. If you give me a task, I will diligently search, research and execute same, bringing you the results in an organized manner. I like direction. I like school work I need a due date or else I flounder. While most of us normal adults are relieved that the days of assignments hanging over our heads are done with and school is over, I miss the crap out of it. If someone anonymously emailed me and gave me a paper to research and write I would just straight up dig it. It’s sickening, I realize. I crave lists with dates. Making a to-do list is one of my all time favorite things to do in the whole entire world. In fact, I secretly add items to my to-do list that I have already finished with just to get that satisfying jolt of accomplishment as my fine point marker x’s it off the list.

All this brings me to writing. I used to write for me; or, rather, I used to write things that I was interested in and proud of at the very least. These days, besides the aforementioned to-do list the only things I write are for lawyers and judges and clerk’s office employees, office memos with strongly worded instructions to the rest of the staff on how to properly recycle paper. I used to write about TV shows and public radio and Public Enemy. It was pretty cool or at least by comparison a heck of a lot cooler than writing breach of contract lawsuits. I’m not gonna lie here; I have never been much of a creative writer. Early attempts at journaling always ended in later sessions of ripping out the pages mortified at the idea of my awkward adolescent musings being saved for posterity. I always hated the way I tried when I wrote to sound smarter and more intuitive then I really was…writing in journals was for people that took themselves too seriously and I didn’t want to fall into that category. Writing for school purposes suited me because not only was I getting tangible results, in my own words, I also didn’t have to look back and cringe at my writing. It wasn’t personal. I took the facts, I analyzed, I put my spin on it and I was quite often, pretty interested in what I would come up with.

Lately, I haven’t been happy writing. I mean, I can not actually even call what I do day to day writing. It’s typing really. The kind of old fashioned typing that makes me wish I had more sweater sets and high wasted skirts. Lately, the only time I have felt truly satisfied has been when I have been cooking something. Following directions, measuring, stirring, chopping, all of it has become my obsession. Food. Reading about it, talking about it, planning and plotting around it. I have always been a food lover and dabbled in cooking but lately it’s been all-consuming. So, having been a faithful reader of some truly inspiring (food related) blogs as of late, I figured why shouldn’t I try it. The idea of writing my own blog strikes me as more than a little self-indulgent so I am hesitant and shy and I will be totally forthcoming in that I don’t think I’m the best writer around or even in the top half…but I need a purpose and a deadline and some accountability. I figured I could start here. If I just went ahead and signed up to create my own blog it would in the very least accomplish two things for me (1) get me to get my butt in the kitchen and make some food and (2) write something that interests me and that (hopefully) down the line won’t make me cringe. So here I am. Giddy up!

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