Friday, June 26, 2009

Long live the King

On our third date, Paul and I were having beers at a bar and Human Nature came on the radio. We started talking about Thriller, its enormity and how old we were when we first heard the music and saw the video. Paul told me the little neighbor girl he was friends with would come over and they would sit together in an easy chair, their little five year old butts so tiny they both fit comfortably, listening to Thriller on repeat. For me it was the video first. I was four, my parents' friends' kids had a VHS tape of Thriller, with the behind the scenes makeup and choreography sessions. I can still smell their house and I can picture their dim living room and being alternately thrilled and terrified at the images of Thriller. Our conversation that night at the bar was the kind of mainstay of the early dating stage. Where we didn't know each other all that well, and it just felt like the MOST exciting thing in the whole that we both felt the same way about the music. With the shared experience of Michael, THE Michael, 1980s Michael, Thriller Michael, we were able to connect together the parts of our lives that would never meet, because they had already happened. That kind of shared experience is what the very best of pop culture is all about. Michael Jackson was the ultimate expression of pop culture at its very best. Michael Jackson's music made not just us two suburban Massachusetts kids feel that way, just electrified about his music, he made the whole entire world feel that way. And he did it, I dunno, about a million times. When I listen to the Jackson Five (something I used to do on heavy, heavy rotation when I was 13) young Michael's voice literally makes me weep. I can not for the life of me get through I'll Be There without choking up. For pretty much my whole life, as long as I have been aware enough to pay attention to music that is, I have loved and consistently listened to Michael Jackson. I can't much say that for many other artists. Personal scandals and weirdness aside, Michael's celebrity for me, as a kid born in 1980 is absolutely untouched by anyone else. No disrespect to older generations, but for mine, there is only and will only be one King. No other artist meets those legendary proportions quite like Mike.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009




As I learned this weekend, this dish will not be the standout star on the Sunday dinner buffet. I brought a generous bowl of this Pearl Cous Cous-based salad to my brother's house on Sunday, to celebrate Father's Day. Almost the whole bowl (minus my portion) came back home with me. I wasn't offended though. The crowd at Father's Day was also offered roasted chickens with gravy, stuffing and twice baked potatoes. The weather was dismally rainy bordering on monsoon outside. The kind of weather which makes you want to cozy up with something warm and a chilled side salad wasn't what this particular crowd was looking for. I would be lying if I didn't tell you my plate had a very small portion of this harvest grains business when compared with the amount of items smothered with gravy. It was Sunday, who cares?


I tossed this "salad" type option together out of solely what I had around the kitchen and I was convinced pretty much the whole time I was cooking it that the end result was going to be a disaster. I had just made/ ruined my breakfast and was feeling convinced that I was having a bad cooking day. Then the cous cous stuck to the bottom of the pan, yet was still chewy, and I kept alternately burning/chilling my onions, because my idiotic old stove has no med/low setting. Basically on my stove top there are two options: high and off. Only those with quick reflexes can properly caramelize onions. I persevered though and figured I would, at the very least, see the dish through to its completion. If I had to dump it in the trash eventually I would but I just didn't need to quit so soon. And then it started shaping up...


And I relaxed a little. But it didn't taste spectacular to me. This wasn't a stunning side right out of the gate. It's like the soup of salads, it has improved with age. It was okay on Sunday, very good with lunch on Monday and today I practically licked my bowl. It's healthy, filling and super cheap and I feel like it's a dish I could have on hand at all times because it's very versatile.

1/2 pckg. Trader Joe's Harvest Grains, or Pearl Cous Cous
(prepared according to package instructions- I use chicken broth)
1/2 white or yellow onion, finely diced
1 small glove garlic, minced
1/2 package, or about 1-2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 can canellini beans
1/2 block feta cheese, crumbled
olive oil
balsalmic vinegar
1 tsp. butter
S n' P


Preheat oven to 350. Toss the cherry tomatoes in a roasting dish with a drizzle of olive oil and balsalmic vinegar and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes until the tomatoes have burst. Give them a shake every now and then.

While the tomatoes are roasting, prepare the Harvest Grains blend according to package instructions. I love the Trader Joe's blend of pearl cous cous, baby chickpeas, red quinoa and some other whole grain. It's a great alternative to rice and really easy to jazz up with whatever you want.

While the cous cous is cooking heat a skillet over med to med-low heat. Add enough oil to pan to coat and teaspoon of butter. Once butter is melted add onions and cook until caramelized (about 10-15 minutes). Leave the heat on low and add the white beans, just stir around a bit in order to coat the beans in the flavor of the caramelized onions. Remove from heat. Once the cous cous blend has absorbed all of its liquid and the grains are cooked through, remove from heat, combine with the onion and white bean mixture followed by the roasted tomatoes, including any drippings in the roasting pan. Crumble feta cheese on top and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and balsalmic vinegar and toss everything together to coat. I served mine with a little fresh chopped basil on top. Serve warm or cold. I prefer cold.

Friday, June 19, 2009

guilty conscience

I feel like I'm sitting here wrought with guilt because I haven't really cooked anything this week and, as a result, I have been a neglectful blogger. Well, I'm lying I did make a few things, but it was granola, and gnocchi and salad (haw shoo). All of which I have written about before. This boring predictable-ness of my diet might be good at keeping me svelte for swimsuit season (where the heck even ARE you, swimsuit season?) but it's also making for a wicked boring food blog.

So, it's Friday, and in the interest of assuaging my guilty conscience I wanted to post something before the weekend. So I'm going to unload a real crowd pleaser, albeit, not a very complex culinary adventure: guacamole.

I don't mean for one hot second to downplay how much I cherish guacamole. Avocados are an obsession. They are like the butter of the fruit world. They make any sandwich swoon-worthy, a salad stand up and demand to be noticed and they are very good for you as well. Guacamole is one of those sure fire hits that everybody adores you for bringing to the party. There is almost never enough of it to go around even if you make a ton. It's just that good.

(adapted from my cousin, Jenny, and every guacamole I've ever eaten)

3-4 ripe avocados
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced OR a cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 red onion, diced
1 lemon, halved
Generous sloshes of hot sauce (I prefer Cholula)
1/2 package crumbled feta cheese (optional)
Small drizzle olive oil (optional)
S n' P

Slice your avocados in half with a large kitchen knife. Being ever so careful, attempt to remove the pit from the fruit. My method (and I am not particularly known for my kitchen safety) is once the avocado is halved, I hack the knife into the pit (with a brisk hi-ya! chopping movement) and twist, loosening the pit, which will come out of the meat of the avocado, yet stick to the knife. I then fling the pit from the edge of my knife into the garbage. Using care, I slice the avocado within its skin lengthwise and across into squares, then I use a spoon to scoop my now completely diced up avocado pieces into the bowl. This may not be the safest method out there, but I fancy myself kind of a dare devil when it comes to dip and appetizer preparation. Into the bowl with your diced avocado, add the onion and tomato, generously salt and grind fresh pepper over your bowl, juice one half of your lemon into the mix, top with the feta, a small drizzle of the olive oil and some generous shakes of hot sauce. How much hot sauce you use depends on how spicy you like it. I like mine hot, I probably use more than 1/4 a cup of Cholula when all is said and done.


Use your spoon or fork to combine. This particular kind of guacamole is very chunky, so it doesn't need much mashing up. However, the last time I made this, I diced the vegetables a bit smaller, skipped the feta and stirred aggressively, resulting in a smoother, more traditionally textured guacamole. Before wrapping up (if traveling with the dip) squeeze the juice from 1/4 of your remaining lemon over the top to keep the mashed avocado from browning. At this point, I also like to add another drizzle of hot sauce, because it tastes amazing and looks pretty too.


And now I want to eat some. Devour immediately with chips. Or, if you are my boyfriend use as a condiment on anything and everything you eat for the remainder of the night.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I have learned many things from my mom when it comes to life but the most precious of these lessons are probably the ones about what to eat. Her philosophies on the subject dictate such pearls of wisdom as it is perfectly fine to eat a homemade BLT for breakfast. That it would be criminal not to enjoy a meatball sub during a long day at the beach. Making a full turkey dinner on a Sunday morning for the simple goal of eating sandwiches for dinner is totally okay. And that there are few things in this life more enjoyable then an early evening cocktail and a fine spread of cheese and crackers.


The lesson I learned this weekend from her was this: purchasing lobsters for the sole purpose of making homemade lobster rolls for lunch is not only acceptable but should be regular practice for a Saturday in early summer. Spending the day by the pool reading a magazine, retreating from the sun in the early afternoon to steam and shuck (do we use shuck with lobsters?) four whole lobsters for the sole decadent purpose of sandwiches was hands down the greatest lunch I have had in recent memory.

My mom does not mess around when it comes to lunch. She bought not two but four whole lobsters in order to make lobster rolls for three of us. My brother ended up sleeping on the couch for most of the afternoon so it ended up just me and her and she steamed not two but four ears of corn for us. For some reason Piz lives under the premise that at any given moment six other hungry people may come in the door demanding double portions of whatever she is serving up. This is the reason why when I go over her house for dinner every Monday night I often open the door to three pounds of chicken stirfry and 8 cups of rice, or perhaps, if we are feeling peckish a whole roast beef, baked potatoes, roasted onions, steamed spinach and a loaf of grilled foccacia bread. So we didn’t just have lobster rolls for lunch, we had one pound lobster bombs and every bite was straight ridiculous. I wish everyone to have a mom like mines, just make sure you go to the gym to compensate for her liberal use of all things saturated fat and her Cheesecake Factory-like portion sizes.



The one mistake we made with these lobster rolls was the choice of bread. A perfect lobster roll should strictly be served on a buttered, grilled hot dog roll. I think the reason for this is lobster plays second fiddle to none, so attempting to have some sort of fancy pants artisan bread or anything within a whiff of the whole grain family is pretty much a bad idea. I think my mom, in her misguided attempt to fool me this was going to be a “light” lunch purchased whole wheat Kaiser rolls for our sadwiches. The bread was too well, wheat, and it’s dense, almost molasses hinted flavor felt clunky and inappropriate next to our lobster salad. Plain hotdog rolls work because they are unchallenign to the taste buds, and therefore let the sandwich filling take center stage. That being said, I still adored these lobster bombs, we just made a mental note on the bread and had another glass of wine. Lesson learned.



4 small lobsters, boiled and shelled. Meat broken up into large chunks
Juice of half a lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Two celery stalks, diced finely (optional)
Generous sprinkling of salt and pepper

Lobsters cook in about seven minutes. Once we had ours boiled and cooled we set to work removing them from the shells. The rich tail meat we cut into slightly more manageable chunks, the claw meat, we tried to keep as is, because nothing looks more appealing then when the lobster meat in your sandwich still holds the shape of the beast from whence it came.

Place the lobster meat in a bowl and juice your lemon over it with your free hand cupped below to catch any seeds. Add celery and just enough mayonnaise to combine. Salt and pepper liberally. Place on griddled, buttered rolls. Devour.

You could easily substitute melted butter for the mayonnaise and skip the celery. Some people think celery in lobster salad is an abomination, but I say personal preference reigns. Since my mom had shelled out the dough for the lobsters and she wanted celery, I rolled with it, but if I were making this again by myself, I might simply combine the lobster meat with butter and lemon and call it a day.

We served these with a simple salad and corn on the cob.


Thursday, June 11, 2009


So I'm kind of in a self-imposed vacation diet detox. I got back from my vacation on a Wednesday, which meant merely two days of regular working until the weekend, which meant out to dinner and BBQs, which meant I never really went grocery shopping or fixed myself any healthy-ish meals for the better part of two weeks. My pants noticed. Of course they did. SO, needless to say this week I was on a one-way trip to Salad City with a layover in Granola Town then on to my final destination: Skinnyville, USA.

So, with regard to the granola. I made this recipe over four weeks ago and I wasn't even really planning on posting it; however, at least twice this week I have mentioned to one of my buds how great it is so I figured, why not? It's not like doling out the recipe for my lunchtime salad would be that exciting anyways and these are pretty much the only things I have eaten this week. I should also mention that this batch of granola has stayed fresh and crunchy for four weeks! If I were to break it down for you, i.e. the cost of the ingredients for this divided by the sheer number of breakfast meals (not to mention snacktime fistfuls) I have eaten, it would illustrate just how impressively inexpensive and satisfying homemade granola can be, but I don't feel like doing math. When I set out on my quest to make this I found two great recipes from Mark Bittman and Molly Wizenburg (here and here, respectively). I adapted my own recipe based on a) their general suggestions and b) what I was actually able to remember from the ingredients list when I found myself in the grocery store without the actual recipes in my hand. I ate the finished product with sliced strawberries and a scoop of Greek yogurt (2% Fage is nice). However, when I ran out of strawberries I started eating it with yogurt, applesauce and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. YUM:


It's like a chilled deconstructed bowl of oatmeal. And I don't even like oatmeal! It's the kind of breakfast that makes me feel certain I'm doing something right, which is a nice feeling. The applesauce/yogurt/granola combo is merely my serving suggestion but you could eat this granola any old way you please. Soy milk might be nice.


Adapted from a combination of Bittman and orangette.

the dry:

One canister Trader Joe's hot cereal blend (about 5 cups)*
1 c. sunflower seeds, unsalted, hulled
1 c. chopped pecan pieces, unsalted
3/4 c. light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt

the wet:

3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c. honey

Preheat oven to 325. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir well. Combine the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl and stir. Once the applesauce and honey are mixed well, pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir the whole mess together really well. Dump the granola mixture onto two rimmed cookie sheets and place in the middle rack of your oven. Bake approximately 40-45 minutes rotating and shaking the pans every once in a while to make sure it doesn't stick or brown up too much in any spots. Taste test. I found my granola may have taken even more than 45 minutes, perhaps 50. But I also trusted both recipes in that the granola may still be a bit soft after 45 minutes and trusted that it would get crunchier as it cooled. It did.

In making this recipe on my own, I partook in some generous switcheroos as far as the ingredients go, but I did my best to marry both Bittman and Molly's recipes together. Basically I used her measurements on the spices and sugar and his measurements on the wet ingredients. Her recipe called for a 300 degree oven, his a 350. I opted for 325. The cool thing about granola is you can make it with whatever ingredients you prefer- switching up the nuts or seeds, maybe including sesame seeds, coconut or dried fruit if that's your thing. I kept mine relatively simple mostly because I didn't want to spend 50 bucks on nuts at the store. The basic tenets of granola, in my extremely limited experience with same, I have found to be: combine dry, combine wet, combine wet and dry bake for about 40 minutes, giving the pan a shake every five to ten minutes to make sure it browns evenly.

This batch yields a tremendous amount of servings (I eat about a half cup serving at a time). Store in an air tight Tupperware or a Ziploc bag and it should stay fresh for quite awhile.

*this is a combination of steel cut oats, rolled oats and some other sort of whole grain-oat-type-thing. It's exact name may very well not be "cereal blend" I can't remember what exactly it was called and I did not write it down. I was staring blankly at the selection of oats, etc. in Trader Joes pondering the strict recommendations of my two granola gurus thinking "omg, are these quick cooking? It doesn't say, but Bittman specifically said NO quick cooking" and this nice lady said "oh, that cereal blend is really, really good. You should try it." Since I not only talk to strangers, but yield to their grocery purchasing advice, I decided to get it. I wanted a combo of textures and this stuff ended up being just perfect. I did not do the gourmand thing and purchase my steel cut, non quick cooking oats and other variety of whole grains directly from some oat wholesaler, sue me.

Monday, June 8, 2009


You'll have to excuse me. I'm still readjusting from my vacation. Even though I've been back in the saddle for almost a week, I haven't been to the grocery store. My pantry and fridge contents are pitiful and the only thing I have "cooked" has been some guacamole for a BBQ we went to Saturday night. I also "cooked" some coffee this morning, but I realize that a post about that would be rude to you. So instead I will tide over my teeming masses of blog fans with a coupla vacation photos.

We rode a plane:

From Seattle and Vancouver

We rode a monorail:

From Seattle and Vancouver

Saw big tall things:

From Seattle and Vancouver

...and pretty things:

From Seattle and Vancouver

Hung out at parks:

From Seattle and Vancouver

And under bridges:

From Seattle and Vancouver

Drank some delicious brews:

From Seattle and Vancouver

Enjoyed the sunshine:

From Seattle and Vancouver

Ate sandwiches:

From Seattle and Vancouver

Went to Canada:

From Seattle and Vancouver

cooled our toes after walking and walking and walking.

From Seattle and Vancouver

And basically just enjoyed every minute.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.