Thursday, February 25, 2010

living legend

Have I ever told you guys that my father may be the most popular former teacher in the history of Weymouth, Massachusetts? Growing up we always had his ex-students in and out of our house. Joining us for dinner, showing us country kids what it was like to be from a big, bad town like Weymouth, what with their mullets and camaros and ripped jeans. You cannot travel to any public place within a 10 mile radius of the Town of Weymouth without my dad being detained by at least one former student. I personally, cannot spell out my last name for anyone in this town without them looking up in astonished recognition “you’re not related to the art teacher are you?” although around these parts with the language difference, he taught “aaht” and was a “wicked cool teachah.” Once, I was in the emergency room with an impacted sinus infection. I had been sobbing in pain on Erica’s shoulder for about 4 hours when they finally called me into urgent care. I handed over my insurance card so blind with pain I could barely talk. The receptionist asked me my birth date and full name, as they so often do. “Jessica Pithie, P-I-T-H-I-E” I eeked out. “Hey! Was your fathah the aaht teachah?” “Yes. Yes that’s him.” “He was the coolest teachah!” “Thanks.” (subtext: so does my cool fathah get me into see a doctor around this place?).

Fast forward to last Saturday night. I came out of volunteering at a two hour yoga workshop into the dark parking lot behind the building. As I sauntered up to my car in a dreamy cloud of namastayed bliss, I saw all this crap on the ground. “Say, what is all that crap on the ground” (internal flash of me setting my big fat, stuffed with my whole life purse right on the seat of my car before locking it and heading into the workshop). “SHHHIIT” I had been burglarized. The VICTIM of CRIME. I felt violated, I wept a little, I called the cops. My yoga buddies gathered round me and offered support. We checked the dumpster hoping that maybe my purse had been rifled through and then ditched. The Weymouth Police arrived on the scene. “So you left your purse in the car” (what he really means: “so you actually ASKED out loud to be the victim of this crime, idiot?”).

Weymouth PD: “And what is your name?”
Me: “Jessica Pithie P-I-T-H-I-E”
Weymouth PD: (eyes light up) “Any relation to the art teacher?”

Totally classic. I had to laugh at times like this it’s still pretty nice to know that your dad’s a living legend. I like to find the humor in otherwise completely and totally irritating situations. I also like to focus on the small victories, like the fact that the thieves may have made off with my purse, filled with my whole wallet, unused Christmas gift certificates and my (sob!) camera but they neglected to steal the brand new, unopened bottle of Sauvignon Blanc on the passenger’s seat. I might have had to drive home with a broken window in the middle of February and I might have had to brave lines and customer service representatives from the DMV to Bank of America but at least I still had my wine and at least I was the daughter of the coolest aaht teacher in Massachusetts history.

So the moral of this story is this: no Porky Dickens post this week due to varying technical difficulties. First, I’m moving on Saturday so my house is in a shambles and I can’t even think about preparing a meal right now. Second, the Porky Dickens house camera has been stolen. So even if I made the most beautiful soufflé in culinary history I wouldn’t even have the means to prove it to you. Have a great weekend and here’s hoping I’ll be back up and running from my NEW kitchen next week. Until then, here's a farewell to the kitchen at 59 Beaumont, where Porky D was born. Aw! I'm getting verclempt!


Friday, February 19, 2010

a special place


There is a special place deep within my heart for this particular recipe. The first time I ate this, it was prepared on a hot plate, in a dorm room in the Bronx. The pasta water was boiled in one of those plug in tea kettles made for ramen and drained in the bathroom sink. The room was in Martyrs Court, on the Rose Hill Campus of Fordham University, and I was a sophomore in college and more likely than not, probably wearing cargo pants. The meal was lovingly prepared for me by my future roommates, eternal best friends and my pseudo parents, Michelle and Val. Michelle and Val were always good at talking me through difficult things like the housing lottery and registering for classes. They listened to my sob stories when I was bullied out of the financial aid office for the millionth time and they laughed at me when I fell down (both of which happened more often than I would care to remember). They always threw the keys out the window when I buzzed up; they never seemed bothered by the fact that I basically lived in their room. They excelled at dorm living and were unyielding in their efforts to make even the crustiest dorm room feel like home. Only Mish would have ingredients such as goat cheese and artichoke hearts on hand where other college students store crates of Cup O Noodles and granola bars purchased with flex dollars at the Ramskellar. Only Val would have enough appliances and gadgets to make a full blown meal in a suite without a kitchen. I was just glad they were willing to share.


At the time, this meal was a bright spot in a culinary landscape that otherwise consisted of pizza, chicken rolls, bagel sandwiches and malt liquor (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Today, this meal still remains a gold standard in my stable of weeknight suppers. This is the kind of dish every person should know how to make. In the time it takes to boil the pasta, the sauce can be completed. It’s creamy and tangy with a little kick of spice. It’s a satisfying and deceptively hearty meal that is both healthy and vegetarian. It might make people think you are a culinary mastermind when alls you really did was combine a few things in a sauté pan and boiled some pasta. I have subsequently prepared this meal for every new roommate I have ever had, usually in an effort to both satiate their hunger and dazzle them with my ingenuity. It usually works. I think.


Last night Michelle and I made this dish for dinner and as we sat down to eat, we couldn’t stop talking about how good it was and how it always makes us a little bit nostalgic. Every time I set about to make this for dinner I think “ah yes, this old thing” and then I take a bite and I think “damn. Why am I not eating this more often?” It’s that easy and it’s that good. We recommend pairing it with a simple salad and an episode of The Michael Vick Project on BET. Which for some reason outside of our control, is our new must-watch Thursday night show.

big love 07

tomato and artichoke pasta with creamy goat cheese

olive oil

2-3 cloves minced garlic

1 small onion, diced

1 can whole, peeled tomatoes in sauce

1 jar marinated artichokes, drained

½ tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley

2-3 ounces goat cheese

Bring pasta water to boil. Meanwhile mince garlic and dice onion, open your tomatoes and drain the artichokes. Heat a few drizzles of olive oil in a skillet. Sauté onion and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes, until onion is translucent. Coarsely chop drained artichokes and add to pan, along with tomatoes in their juices. Once in the pan, mash the tomatoes into bite sized chunks, either with a potato masher or (carefully) with your big knife. Add salt, pepper and spices. If using fresh herbs in place of dried (which is a nice option when it’s not February and I actually have fresh herbs) simply up the portion to a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon. Truth be told here, I probably use a good deal more than a teaspoon, but add them to your degree. I add a few aggressive shakes of crushed red pepper and a palmful of the basil, just because I like them both here. Let your sauce simmer over medium to medium-low heat while the pasta cooks. This dish is best with a whole wheat spaghetti or rotini. I also really like to cook it with brown rice fusili, but the rice pasta can be a little mushy so avoid that if you’re not down with mushy pasta. Me personally, I am. When pasta is cooked, drain and dump into a large bowl. Add sauce, crumble half of goat cheese over and stir together, add other half of goat cheese and serve. Serve with additional goat cheese, if desired, or some sprinkled parmesan.

Another option with this dish is to add some diced sundried tomatoes. We did this last night and it was great. Just be sure to sauté the sundrieds with the onion and garlic so they have lots of time to soften.


Friday, February 12, 2010

black bean chili with cornbread croutons

chili wili

One of the easiest things ever. Perfect for over hyped snow storms that do not produce early releases or delayed start times. Takes about 25 minutes, with 15 of it “unattended.” By unattended in my case, I mean, in the bathroom putting your makeup on.

for the chili:

Olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can crushed tomatoes

2 tbs. cumin

1 tbs. chipotle puree*

1 tbs. vinegar (the original version I saw rec. rice vinegar, I used sherry)

salt, to taste

Sauté chopped onion over medium high heat in olive oil. When onion is translucent, add garlic and sauté about two minutes more. While onion is cooking, drain and rinse black beans. Add black beans and crushed tomatoes, along with the cumin and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the flavors meld for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make chipotle puree but tossing a can of chipotle chilies in adobo in your food processor or blender. Measure out one generous tablespoon (I like-a the spice), store remaining chili puree in a container and freeze for future use (I’m thinking enchiladas). Stir chipotle puree and vinegar into chili. Salt to taste.

for the croutons:

Cut leftover cornbread, or mini cornbread loaves into crouton-sized rectangles. Lightly spray cookie sheet with olive oil. Place croutons on sheet and lightly spray their tops with olive oil. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. Turning over halfway through, so the edges are nice and golden brown.


Garnish chili with shredded cheddar, a dollop of sour cream and couple of these little nuggets of heaven. Add more hot sauce if you dare.

Sidebar: wow, I just misspelled “chipotle” about 4000 times. TGI spellcheck.

chili wili

Friday, February 5, 2010

how we roll, or in this case, scone

baby shicky 6

Over the course of my life I have now been to oh, over 20 showers of all different sorts. Most were of the bridal variety but as I lean my elderly bones closer towards the 30 year mark, more and more of these showers are of the wee bitty baby variety. A fact of life is this: if you were invited to the wedding, you’re probably going to be invited to the baby shower and if the people you know are like the people I know, they’re all going to be squirting out babies in short order pretty soon after the I do’s and the mortgage ink is dried. You might get one year of relief in between, but depending on their age when they married, no guarantees.

scones 4

Baby showers, by definition, are lame. Yeah I said it. My apologies to anyone that feels differently but you need to be careful if you’re spearheading an event such as this. Even the most baby-liking among us get a little tired of ooing and aahin over onesies unless they are being fed good food. Almost every single one of my buds that have had one (a baby and a shower, that is) have been like “ugh, I know baby showers are lame, but seriously, I swear, I’m going to have mac and cheese/chicken parm/open bar, so you’ll like it.”

baby shicky 5

One cool thing about kicking it with pregnant ladies is this: they are way into meal planning. They can’t get excited about a frosty martini, so they transfer all of their cocktail passion and enthusiasm into planning their next meal. I prefer food to booze anyways (by an ever so slight margin) so this kind of constant state of meal plotting is just the kind of lifestyle I can fall into quite easily. You know, to be a supportive sister. I mean, when in Rome, right? Riiiight.


Me, I plan everything around food and with food in mind, so, as you can imagine, my central focus in planning a baby brunch for Heather was this: light on the baby, heavy on the brunch. No pacifier bedecked favors, no bows stapled to paper plates and for the love of God, no baby bingo. We just don’t really roll like that in my fam. We roll like this: enough food to feed an army and more mimosas per head than party guests. Upon your arrival to said baby brunch, you will be immediately greeted by an alcoholic beverage and an assortment of snacks. The main course comes shortly thereafter, a brief gift opening sequence is then followed by coffee and cake and then you are freed back into your weekend, to do as you please. Most of you will stay to drink more mimosas, go in for seconds on the scones and catch up and have a cackle. A select few will stick around into the evening when we order enough Chinese food to kill weaker people. Eating like a pregnant lady, I could get used to this.

baby shicky 2

our menu:

homemade granola (of the porky d variety), fruit and yogurt
sour cream coffee cake (made by my mom)
blueberry scones* (made by me)
spinach and cheese strata with gruyere (made by me courtesy of Gourmet/smitten kitchen)
peanut butter and jelly triangles (for all the kids)
crispy rosemary roasted potatoes (mom)
baked ham (mom)
rubber ducky cake (made by Aunt Sally G., our own family Ace of Cakes)


cocktails y mocktails:

traditional mimosas (by traditional I mean, my way and by my way I mean essentially clear champagne with a whisper of orange juice)
sparkling blueberry lemonade (equal parts lemonade and pure blueberry juice, topped with sparkling seltzer like Poland Springs or Polar)

baby shicky 1

*these scones were incredible. Yet another stellar recipe from Molly Wizenburg’s book. Forget everything you thought you knew about scones, cast aside your memories of crumbs stuck to the back of your throat and dry, crumbly, stumpy scones. These are rich and creamy and moist. I made these a few nights ahead of time, flash froze them, chucked them in a freezer bag and then baked them the morning of the shower. They were still warm when the guest of honor arrived. Let me tell you, you get nothing but love in return when you hand a hungry pregnant lady a freshly baked, still steaming blueberry scone.

baby shicky 3
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