Thursday, January 28, 2010

soup as sauce and the definition of "hangry"

squash pasta

...sometimes everything converges in one week, right? And most of those things happening are, well, completely your fault, right? So I'm owning up to it right here, right now. I will admit that sometimes I get annoyed when like, everyone you run into that you haven't seen in forever are like, "oh, well I've just been so busy" but seriously, sometimes you are so busy. Why do we jam pack our every moment? I'll contemplate this next week, since this week, I'm just "too busy." I apologize for not hacking out a proper post this week but between my sister visiting, throwing her a baby shower, looking for apartments (yes, we're going to co-hab!) and not one but two sessions this week of yoga teacher training, I'm flat out. Did I also mention it's my dad's birthday? So anyways. Sue me. Herewith I bequeath you with a meal best dashed together on a week night, when you return home half-starved and hangry. For those that don't know "hangry" is it's when you get so hungry you're angry. Hangry. Yesterday morning we spent 2.5 hours with a broker looking at apartments. The search was unsuccessful and needless to say after a fruitless morning of testing water pressure and peeking in strangers closets with nothing to eat come 11 a.m., I put the "ang" in hangry.


1/2 cup or so butternut squash soup (hopefully yours is extra thick, like mine)
brown rice pasta
salt, pepper and parmesan cheese

bring pasta water to a boil, salt generously and add rotini. I really love brown rice pasta, but some people don't. You can use any old kind of pasta here, I just like the way these curly Qs allow for a larger surface area and hence up the sauce to pasta ratio. Meanwhile dump a little leftover soup in your serving bowl. Maybe nuke it for just a few seconds, to take the chill off. When pasta is cooked drain and immediately dump in serving bowl. Toss to coat with soup/sauce, generously sprinkle with salt, cracked black pepper and parmesan. Eat without breathing in front of American Idol auditions. Find that you actually don't miss Paula as much as you thought you might.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

it's complicated

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A word about bananas and me. We have a tempestuous history. It’s not that I don’t like bananas it’s just that well with me and bananas, it’s complicated. It’s like bananas are an ex boyfriend that I remain tied to like maybe we have a kid together; or, at the very least a shared cat or a Netflix account that was never properly closed out. I do not like bananas but I love banana flavor. Banana pudding? yes. Banana cream pie? yes. Banana oatmeal cookies? yes. Banana ice cream with hot fudge sauce? good god, yes. But when it comes down to the real deal, I simply can’t. Paul assures me that this makes me a completely weird person. “What kid doesn’t like bananas?” but I simply don’t. And it’s not for lack of trying. Every few years I’ll grab a banana convinced this aversion will have mysteriously disappeared into the ether. I will focus my intention as I peel the yellow skin (and I do love peeling them) “mmmm, I like bananas. I do” And then I take two bites and gag on the second. And…adios, banana. Lying to yourself never works.

So what does a gal do when she hateth bananas but loveth banana flavored goods? She buys a bunch of bananas for the sole purpose of letting them brown on her countertop and eagerly waits until Sunday afternoon when she can make a honking loaf of banana bread with chocolate chips. Yeah, that’s right. Chocolate chips. You can thank me later.


I already loved Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life by the time I got to her recipe for banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger (and it's like, the third recipe). When I read her brief history of her own childhood aversion to bananas I thought “just like me!” Although, hers was more of a phobia, mine was, as with all past bouts of picky eating, a textural thing. The irony is not lost on me that the very thing that makes me not want to eat a banana plain- i.e., their mushy texture- is the exact quality that makes banana themed baked goods so damn good.

This bread for me is not without regret. I regret to inform you that even at two separate grocery stores, I could not locate crystallized ginger. So instead of driving myself crazy with another errand I decided to skip the ginger altogether. I added a few shakes of dried ginger into the dry ingredients, but truthfully, I don’t think it did a damn thing, but I do think the crystallized ginger would have made this bread transcendentally delicious. I suggest you make this bread as Molly directs. Because when it comes to baked goods, this chick knows what she’s talking about. She baked her own wedding cakes for Christ’s sake. Someday, maybe I will have the skill to be a baking powerhouse of this level, but for now, I’ll settle for the banana bread.

(from A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg)

6 tbs. unsalted butter
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups mashed banana (about 3)
¼ cup well stirred plain yogurt (whole fat)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a standard loaf pan with butter. Melt the butter, either in the microwave, on medium heat, in intervals, or, as I did: in a heat proof bowl placed in the preheated oven. It melted while a mashed the bananas and I didn’t have to worry about the inside of my microwave looking like some sort of butter coated murder scene.

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In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate and ginger and stir to combine. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs, add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla and stir to mix well. Combine both the wet and dry ingredients in the larger of your two bowls and stir to combine. Do not overmix. The batter is thick and lumpy, but all of the flour should be incorporated.

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Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour. I checked mine at 50 minutes and it needed another full 10 minutes. Do the toothpick test. When it comes out clean your loaf is cooked. Eat a slice of this while it’s still warm, fresh out of the oven. Or, alternatively, choke down another slice a few nights later as you watch a republican senator win Teddy Kennedy’s senate seat and try not to have a panic attack at the fact that our state, the one state with health insurance reform in effect at the state level may have just screwed the pooch for everybody else in the country because the democratic candidate didn’t know who Curt Schilling was. Sweet, delicious banana bread: mandatory, bitter political aftertaste: optional.

bananas 04

Thursday, January 14, 2010

excuse me Flo, what's the soup du jour?


This soup is like a big hug for your belly. It’s filling, soothing and comforting yet totally January appropriate, because it’s very low calorie. I saw a few recipes for “detoxifying” soups online over the past few weeks. Apparently, I’m not the only one that feels like Chunk from the Goonies following all of the holiday excess. A contributor on the Kitchn made a potato and roasted garlic soup. David Lebovitz made a version with potatoes and leeks. They both sounded delicious, cheap and easy and since I like soup but I love complex carbohydrates I decided to try a variation of my own.


I wasn’t interested in a roasted garlic soup because well, I was making roasted garlic white bean dip this same night to take to a dinner party the next evening; and, roasting and consuming over four heads of garlic in a 48 hour period would be rude not only to my boyfriend, but pretty much anybody within a five mile radius of me during yoga class. So I sat there, befuddled, in an extremely crowded and annoying Trader Joes produce zone and grabbed for the scallions. Why not? Right? Leeks are awesome, but truth be told, they are a lot of work to clean and I feel like whenever I set out to cook with them, the store never has the suckers. Scallions are small and tidy and they are essentially onion-ish, like leeks, and more importantly in this case they were immediately available. Sold.

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This soup was so easy to put together I have to admit I had my doubts about it. I thought surely something with this much potato would end up a little bland. I thought it would necessitate a heavy dose of salt when served. I thought these five piddly ingredients surely can’t make something bowl-scraping good. I love it when I am wrong about things like this. The scallions rounded out the flavor and making the end product really full bodied and savory. It’s exactly what I hoped it would be. Low on calories, but high on satisfaction. I really love the flavor the scallions added. Sometimes a poorly stocked produce department can be a blessing in disguise.

soup 03


One bunch scallions, fuzzy ends discarded, chopped
Two large potatoes (I prefer russet), peeled and diced
3 small cloves garlic, minced
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. I used a couple good glugs, since the oil is the only fat in this soup and I didn’t want my scallions to burn or stick to the pot. Add scallions and sauté until fragrant, a few minutes; add garlic and sauté, stirring constantly for a minute or two. Add potatoes and stir everything together to coat potatoes with oil. Add another drizzle of oil, if necessary. Pour in your stock. I used a bit more than 3 cups, as long as your potatoes are covered, you’re all good. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Turn heat up to high and let boil until potatoes are cooked through, about 10 minutes, depending on how small you diced them.


Check a chunk of potato for tenderness. When potatoes are nice a soft remove from heat and blend soup with an immersion blender.

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Alternately, you can puree this in batches in your blender, just be very careful, because it’s super hot and hot liquids expand when pureed. Return soup to pot and off heat stir in a few tablespoons of half and half.

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This is totally optional, but I liked how it turned my soup a nice pale moss green. Serve immediately garnished however you like. I used chives and a dollop of Greek yogurt, but I found the yogurt totally unnecessary. Crème fraiche might be nice though or some parmesan croutons or nothing at all. Yields about 6 servings.

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I fixed this soup for myself with a big arugula salad topped with prosciutto, goat cheese, sherry vinaigrette and a poached egg. Every time I took a bite I did a small dance of victory. Best dinner I’ve had in a long time.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

it's been fun calories, but I think we should see other people

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So I think it’s safe to reveal at this point in time that my sister is expecting (!!!) which means she “gets to eat like a dude” a/k/a consuming things that she might otherwise feel guilty about without worry or eyelash batting. Like a dude. As girls, we know that even on our most secure thinnest days there is nary a French fried potato or frosted brownie that goes down the hatch without at least a little tinge of “yikes. I really shouldn’t.” So Heather was telling me a story last night about what she has eaten over the past couple days. Including but not limited to a half pound of pastrami Reuben, a black and blue burger and Hot Dog on a Stick followed in short order by a slice of Sbarro. Needless to say I was impressed. But not bested. I quickly rattled off the fact that my New Year’s Day began with an individual sporkie pizza at Bertuccis and rounded out the food groups that night with a vegetable bean chimichonga. “That’s not THAT bad” she chided me. “It’s a DEEP FRIED BURRITO, essentially.” I reminded her. “…and I’m not pregnant I’m just being a greatbigfatperson.” We laughed and basked in the glory of our calories. But seriously. It’s quittin’ time for me. The Madness. Needs. To stop. I have eaten with reckless abandon (and enjoyed the everloving life out of it) for the entirety of the holiday season. Handful of peanut m&ms before breakfast. Don’t mind if I do. Nothing in the fridge? Better order a pizza, we wouldn’t want to starve! Wine and beer were no longer relegated to special occasions, for during The Holidays, every night is a special occasion. The food and the drink were everywhere and needless to say, I’ve been wearing a lot of stretch pants lately. I’m not proud of this, but I feel like I can be honest here.

So begins my intentions. Intention, I will remind you does not necessarily mean I will take the right action. But I’m going to do my best to whittle my portions back down to normal people size and I’m going to eat more vegetables and less deep fried things (at least on Mondays).


So I am writing this post not as a recipe suggestion (although you can do what you want. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life) but as a farewell. A Dear John breakup letter to the cookies that started the Great Holiday Binge of 2009. See I made these cookies the first week of December, to bring down to my girlfriend’s house for our college gals holiday get-together. Then I made them again on Christmas Eve. And I inhaled them like they were oxygen. You probably don’t want these in your house. I know that I can’t handle the responsibility of these being in my presence, so I’m not going to make them for quite some time. But if you are (and maybe you should) bring them someplace where there are other people to help you eat them. Whatever you do don’t leave them in your very own kitchen, where you have unfettered access to gobble them up every time you walk by the Tupperware. I know this shame, and I own it but now I’m finished (for now). Farewell sweet cookies. I’m setting you free. If you come back to me, I’ll know we’re meant to be; but for right now, mama needs some mixed greens in her life.


I originally was hankering to make traditional Hershey’s Kiss thumbprint cookies, but every recipe I found on the web involved shortening. Shortening scares me. My memory is flooded with images of the crusty tin of Crisco which could always be found on the lowest shelf of our pantry; also, I’m not baking saavy enough to figure out the substitutions so I sought out something else. I knew Deb would help. I found these on smitten kitchen (where else?!). They are originally from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. SO the original recipe is right here (I know I’m being kind of lazy just sending a link, but I didn’t really change much so I would feel a bit fraudulent typing up the recipe as though I had anything to do with its total awesomeness). I skipped the part about peanut butter chips. It must be something about me but I have beef with peanut butter chips. I’m just not interested in them. Just chocolate chips served me well. Oh and chunky peanut butter is a must. That way you end up with some teensy chunks of actual real nuts and I like that. Additionally, I would strongly suggest that you heed the advice to NOT overcook these. I overdid my second batch by ONE minute and they were not as good as the first go-round. I believe undercooked cookies are, with very few exceptions, much much better than fully cooked ones. I use this rule for almost every batch of cookies I make, just personal preference.


I also made these cookies and they were wonderful as well. I strongly recommend them! But these oversized chocolate peanut butter hockey pucks you see right here? They’re the stuff that dreams are made of.

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