December 23, 2008

Xmas Cookies

I haven't quite gotten into the holiday spirit this year. Instead, I've been feeling stressed and overwhelmed by holiday preparations and life in general. Maybe it's seasonal affective disorder. Who knows.

Anyway, every year I dream of mammoth cookie baking sessions, like the ones I remember with my mom when little, involving several kinds of cookies, sprinkles and decorations, cookie cutters, and Christmas music in the background. I dream of tins filled with a variety of cookies to give to all my near and dear ones. But as with most years, I instead wimp out and cheap out by just making a couple kinds of treats for just a few people.


Last year, I made truffles, but rolling out 60 some truffles was too time intensive and daunting for my jam packed schedule this year. What I chose to do instead was to make a batch of biscotti for my dad again, swapping in almond extract and out the chocolate chips for a pure unadulterated almond biscotti.

In addition, I made two batches of oatmeal cranberry cookies for Jesse's family. Interestingly enough, I thought I used the same recipe, below, for both batches, but that came out oh-so-different. It's because the local Ronnybrook butter I typically use comes in tubs, not sticks, making it hard to measure out in tablespoons. I try to scoop out a tablespoon of butter at a time, but the butter typically isn't soft and pliable enough straight out of the tub and I guess I usually end up with a low approximation. My first batch of oatmeal cranberry cookies (sadly no picture), probably had just 1/4 or 1/3 cup of butter instead of 1/2, and came out tall and caky, like a dense mini muffin, but the sugary taste was amazing.

For the second batch, I used an actual stick (1/2 cup) of vegan Earth Balance to accommodate Jesse's dad who is lactose intolerant, and what a difference it made. These cookies came out thin and crisp with an overwhelming taste of butter (er...vegan butter). I've never had cookies spread so much on the baking sheet, probably because I always skimp on butter. Clearly, I have much to learn in the science of cookie baking. Because I thought the buttery taste was overwhelming this time, I've lowered the butter in the recipe from 8 tbsp (1/2 cup or 1/ stick) to 7 tbsp.

My favorite part of these cookies, whether thick or thin, is the cranberries, which taste like bright jewel tones. Yes, I know jewel tones are colors, but yet I can't stop thinking of that word every time I bite into some oatmeal cranberry goodness. I also recommend trying to find raw sugar if you can, which adds an extra sugary spark to each mouthful. The spices make the cookies more seasonal. And with the goodness of some whole wheat flour, oats, and dried fruit, you can pretend these are good for you!


Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
adapted from my friend Luke's recipe

7 tbsp butter (or Earth Balance)
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose or white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/s tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 cup oats
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Whisk in one egg and then vanilla. Dump flour, baking soda, and spices over top, and mix dry ingredients into wet. Stir in oats and cranberries. Scoop out teaspoon sized mounds and place on greased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Makes approximately 36 cookies.

December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Recap

I got my chance to take the lead in cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family this year. I spread the cooking out over a few days and it was surprisingly unstressful. Thank you to Lisa, my sous chef and my Mom for supervising. Here's the run down:

The turkey
My mom always gets a free turkey from Shoprite and I wasn't about to rain on her parade. I also wasn't about to bring a Greenmarket turkey on a 3 hour public transportation ride along with the rest of the food I needed to bring. Better luck going heritage and free range next year. Mom supervised the turkey, I just did what she told me to do.

Roasted butternut squash with parmesan and thyme
Replaced the traditional baked sweet potatoes that I never liked. These were devoured. Although I thought there was too much thyme and too mushy from too much cooking time.
Lisa's single-rise yeast biscuits with lemon, rosemary, and sage (before baking)
Replaced the traditional Shoprite from-a-can-slice-and-bake rolls. Couldn't taste the lemon. Didn't rise as well as in her test run. Surprisingly similar to the usual rolls = I still liked them.
My parents' remodeled wet bar
Replaced the old wet bar where alcohol was unwelcome and looked like a stereo closet crammed with science fiction paperbacks
Appetizers, including homemade rustic wheat crackers, roasted garlic and herb white bean dip, and hummus
Balsamic marinated roasted beets
My family is afraid of beets so these were not a hit, but at least Jesse ate up the leftovers.
Mashed potatoes
I tried to infuse roasted garlic flavor, but didn't use enough garlic
Steamed broccoli with balsamic-mustard sauce
To replace the plain traditional steamed broccoli. Could have used a little more tang.

Roasted green beans with lemon juice, dill, toasted almonds, and caramelized onions
I finally figured out why my mom serves green beans on Thanksgiving even though it's out of season - because she has a ton in the freezer from her garden and wants to use them. Defrosted green beans don't roast well. The dish also could have used more than one onion for a better green bean-to-onion ratio.
Pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies (before baking)
Not pictured: Stuffing with baguette, celery, apples, and onions (replacing the traditional Pepperidge Farm/Stouffers/whatever it is stuffing from a bag); two gravy dishes, one made with real turkey drippings and one made from a Shoprite gravy packet; Mom's cranberry-cider sauce (replacing the traditional canned cranberry); and most of the desserts: Mom's apple pie, Mom's pumpkin pie, Lisa's real pumpkin pie with whole wheat crust, storebought sweet potato pie, tiramasu, truffles, blueberry muffins, and banana bread

The best part about Thanksgiving: The leftovers

The worst part: My fat belly from sitting around eating and headaches from playing Minesweeper all week.

November 26, 2008

The Jackpot: Underground Meat! plus Muffins!

And now, while I slave away toward the Thanksgiving feast, a not very explanatory guest post from my sister Lisa


Out of a refrigerator in a nondescript office space downtown, flowed forth local beef, pork, raw cheese, raw milk, local pickles, salsa, bread...

Plus some butternut squash, turnips, onions, turnip greens, and raw cheddar.


From that came the meal of burgers and mashed turnips above[ed note: at least that's what it looks like]


And for desert!!: butternut squash maple muffins with homemade oat flour

2 cups oat flour [rolled oats ground in a food processor until fine]
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 banana
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup mashed butternut squash [roasted, cooled, and mashed]
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine ingredients, spoon into greased muffin tins, and crumble brown sugar on top. [I'm guessing you can bake these at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.]

hott!!

thanks Lisa, that was very interesting...

November 25, 2008

The Usual


This is how most weeknight dinners in my home end up. I cook a big one-pot dish that includes some form of protein, vegetable, and grain, and then we each eat a bowl or two of it for dinner, and the rest goes into tupperware stored in the fridge and freezer for future lunches/dinners/Jesse's midnight drunk ransacking of the kitchen.

Pictured above is my naive attempt at making Indian food at home: a variation on aloo gobi, with the addition of chickpeas for protein. I simmered dried chickpeas until soft, while cooking brown rice, and while boiling cauliflower and potatoes until tender and while defrosting blanched summer tomatoes from the freezer. Then I sauteed onions in a big pot until translucent, added in the potatoes, cauliflower, chickpeas, and rice with a whole heck of curry powder (probably 2 tbps), tumeric, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and simmered it all together a few more minutes. Not as good as what you'd get at an Indian restaurant. But good enough for a healthy, everyday kind of meal.

November 24, 2008

An Indulgent Weekend


I wanted to have a nice romantic dinner on Saturday, so I went to the Union Square Greenmarket to get the goods, and here's what I cooked up with Jesse's help. A flat-iron grass-fed bison steak from Elk Trails, seasoned with salt and pepper, and cooked in butter in a cast iron pan on medium heat for about 8 minutes on each side. At least I think that's how long it was - it seemed to take a long time. The bison farmer recommended cooking it slowly over relatively low heat, as searing it too hot can overcook the bison quickly. It turned out well, but slightly tough. I usually marinate these cheaper cuts like flat-iron and flank steak, but wanted to see if it could stand on its own. Next time I'll go back to marinating.


On the side we enjoyed brussel sprouts steamed with garlic (nice, but I think roasting would give it more oomph) and our usual fries: potatoes sliced, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted in the oven until crispy and tender, dipped into green garlic and vinegar spiked mayonnaise. As well as a bottle of nonlocal Malbec from Argentina via Trader Joe's because I was feeling cheap. And the cocoa applesauce muffins before and after dinner.

On Sunday I planned to make chili in the crockpot and let it cook all day while we hung out. Jesse implored "I want to go out for dinner." I responded, "That would put me over my food budget for this month, but we can go get drinks before dinner instead." Which made a nice compromise for both of us, or so we thought.


So we hopped on the G and went to Cherry Tree, which has an excellent draft beer selection, which turned into more beers across the street at Fourth Avenue Pub in Park Slope. By late afternoon, we started to get hungry but knew the chili wouldn't be done yet. So instead of heading straight home, we extended our outing even further with a stop at Flatbush Farm for appetizers.


Their oysters are amazing every time; never bland/hit or miss like at other restaurants. We also shared the Ploughman's Plate of cheddar cheese, salami, and bresaola (I think that's what it all was), but at $12 I felt it was a bit lacking in the meat for the price. Then finally went on home and ate chili and cornbread (baked in the cast iron skillet, again lacking in other baking apparatus). Total money spent in eating and drinking that day: more than if we had just gone out to dinner. Whoops!

Cocoa Applesauce Muffins


I wanted to make a sweet treat to go with our romantic dinner on Saturday (more on that to come). In thinking about what I had on hand - no chocolate chips but some cocoa powder, as well as lots of old apples going brown and waiting for me to get off my lazy butt and make applesauce - I concocted what I thought was a recipe for fudgy brownies with applesauce.

To make applesauce, I diced the apples, put them in a saucepan covered with a little water, honey, and cinnamon, and simmered for about 30 minutes until tender. Then I mashed the apples with a fork, until they had the consistency of chunky applesauce, and set it aside to cool.

I'm lacking in the baking apparatus (the roommate who recently moved out took her useful bread and cake pans with her), so I poured the batter into muffin tins, thinking they would come out like rich brownie cupcakes. However, I must have used too much flour and baking powder because they rose up instead as moist, hearty muffins, with just a touch of cocoa and spice. The chocolate flavor was very subtle, better serving as a morning treat or afternoon snack than a decadent dessert. For a heightened chocolate flavor, I think you'd have to double the cocoa powder and/or melt in some chocolate. Despite that, these muffins were addictive enough in their own right, and only one was left by the weekend's end.

Cocoa Applesauce Muffins

6 tbsp of butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder

Bring 1/3 cup water to simmer in a saucepan. Melt butter in a large bowl over saucepan. Set bowl aside to cool.

Then pour 1/4 of the hot water into a small bowl of cocoa powder, and whisk to combine. Set aside to cool.

While ingredients cool, preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two muffin tins.

Once cooled, whisk sugar, honey, eggs, applesauce, and cocoa mixture into the melted butter until smooth. Pour flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking powder into the bowl and stir to combine.

Scoop batter into muffin tins and bake for approximately 20 minutes until knife inserted comes out clean. Makes 24 small muffins - or 15 regular muffins (make sure to grease any muffin tins you leave empty).

November 20, 2008

A Night at the Opera


I went with friends to see Doctor Atomic at the Metropolitan Opera a couple weeks ago and I really, really didn't like it. My problem was that neither the story/libretto nor the music captivated my attention. So it was three and a half hours of zoning out.

I've liked other music by John Adams, of the lush, repepetitive, tonal, minimal style, and so I blindly went in expecting more of the same, but this was actually an atonal opera. It sounded boring to me, as if they just needed to come up with another note to sing the next word on, without there being any rhyme or reason. I recognize that all music does not have to be purely tonal, but this music just didn't captivate me in any kind of way.

I saw an atonal opera at the Met a couple years ago, American Tragedy by Tobias Picker, and likewise wasn't a big fan of the music, but at least that story kept me plugged in and enjoying the experience.

In theory, the story of Doctor Atomic had great potential. It's about the creators of the atomic bomb in the 1940s, during the month leading up to the first test of the bomb in New Mexico. They both feared and hotly anticipated the test, not knowing if it would fail with a whimper, erroneously destroy the whole planet, or work successfully. What a weighty subject.

However, the libretto didn't bring it all together in the amazing way that it could have. Instead, we had a bunch of people onstage arguing with each other about testing the bomb, interjected with seemingly unrelated painfully long monologues by the male and female counterparts of a couple waxing rhapsodically about love. So then I started to think maybe there was a love story in there too, though I could not for the life of me tell the point of all their rhapsodizing or how it related to the rest of the plot. But no, the Playbill explained those songs are just a married couple "pondering love, life, war, and peace" in the most boring way possible, furthering the plot not one bit. No character development. Nothing.

There were lots of other things about the story that were unclear to me until I read the Playbill at intermission. Maybe it was a mistake to not read the Playbill before watching the opera. Maybe this is just a problem with most opera. But come on - I'm reading the text line by line from a little screen in front of my seat. I shouldn't have to also read a plot summary to know what the fuck is going on. You don't have to read a plot summary while watching a movie or a play - the whole point of the theater is that the action should explain itself to you as it goes along. Am I right?

I only liked one part, the massive Bhagavad Gita choir towards the end. The text "Oh shape stupendous" seems particularly relevant as they wait for the giant bomb to drop, as does the power of the music.

Then when the bomb detonated at the opera's finale, a giant sound emanated out of the speaker behind me that was so loud and went on so long that I felt queasily claustrophobic as if the low reverberating sound was smothering me there in our steep, cramped seats, as if the sound might cause the walls to crack and the building to collapse and tilt and me to go tumbling all the way down. And I'm only 23! How must all of the old people (the majority of opera goers) have felt!? Isn't that a health hazard? Yes, it was making a point about the terror and immense power of the atom bomb, and maybe I'm a wimp, but still.....it could have been 20 seconds shorter.

So the point of the story is - while I will accept atonal music, I don't particularly like it. And just because it's an opera doesn't give you an excuse to not tell a story well.

November 15, 2008

Cornmeal Berry Pancakes


Now that our storebought buckwheat pancake mix is finally long used up and gone, I get the fun task of making up homemade pancake recipes. Last weekend I made use of cornmeal and berries in my freezer to whip up these babies. I used raspberries because that's what I had in my freezer, which gave the pancakes a surprisingly floral note, but I think blueberries would be better. I did the mixing of the batter and then, as household pancake master, Jesse did the pouring and flipping.

He loved them, and I liked the crispiness of the cornmeal (but maybe maple syrup will make almost any pancake taste good), but I thought he cooked them a little too dark. He said it was because they took too long to cook through the middle. So some kind of recipe tweaking will have to happen on my next batch to prevent that problem.


Cornmeal Berry Pancakes

1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tbsp sugar or honey
1 tbsp baking powder
4 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
1 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
1 cup berries
syrup

If using frozen berries, rinse them quickly in water to thaw and let dry on paper towels. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well and stir in wet ingredients. If batter is too thick, add more milk, one tbsp at a time. Gently stir in berries. Heat a spoonful of butter in a skillet until foamy. Pour pancakes out in pan to desired size, flip after a few minutes, and remove when browned. Serve with real maple syrup.

November 13, 2008

Chicken and Hot Pepper Pizza


I made pizza again and look at how beautiful it is! I'm always surprised at how it comes out looking and tasting like real pizza, minus the whole charred crust blackened by an 800 degree brick oven of course. This one was topped with tomato sauce, diced chicken, hot pickled peppers, and parmesan.

I know everyone loves Peter Reinhardt's whole wheat pizza dough as featured on 101 Cookboks, but whenever I make it, the crust is just too thin for my liking. It works great for the grill, but now that I've got my oven back, I'm sticking with my other go-to pizza dough recipe, which is what I used here.

Mmm pizza. I guess it's a good thing it's so time intensive with all that rising, or I'd be making and eating pizza to much for my own good.

Roasted Root Vegetable and Bean Casserole


While the pumpkin was roasting on Sunday night, I also roasted up this squash casserole for dinner. This is one of our favorite go-to fall/winter dishes, so I thought I'd bring it back from the archives for you.

I like making it best with butternut squash, potatoes, onions, and a couple different kind of beans, but you can throw in whatever you have on hand. Other kinds of squash, carrots, parsnips, celery root, and leeks also work well. If you only have a squash and a can of beans, you can make a small batch like that, or you can make a huge casserole with all the vegetables in your fridge, but the fuller your casserole dish, the longer it will take to roast. Either way, at the end you will have a dish of tender roasted vegetables and beans that are slightly softly falling apart on your fork, enhanced by creamy melted parmesan.

Roasted Root Vegetable and Bean Casserole

1 butternut squash
2 small or 1 large potato
2 small or 1 large carrot
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 can white beans
1 can black beans
extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper
dried rosemary and/or sage
parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the squash (but not the other vegetables) and chop vegetables into 1 inch pieces. Dice the garlic. Rinse the beans. Coat the bottom of a casserole dish with olive oil. Throw all the ingredients in, add the spices and another glug of olive oil, and lightly stir to create an even mixture. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for 20-45 minutes until tender. Remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft and browning slightly. Grate and stir in parmesan cheese.

November 12, 2008

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies


Now that fall has finally come to Brooklyn for real, with leaves turned yellow and fallen on the ground, it's time to start cooking all that hardy squash lying around. I picked up a sugar pie pumpkin from the farmers market and roasted it this weekend so that I'd have real, fresh pumpkin puree instead of canned glop to bake with. Sugar pie pumpkins are a little smaller and darker orange in color, and also better for baking, than regular pumpkins.

Roasting the pumpkin was easy. First I sliced the whole pumpkin in half and scooped out the seeds and stringy bits. Then I laid it in a baking dish with about a half inch of water so it wouldn't burn, and roasted it in the oven at 425-450 degrees for about an hour. Check on it every now and then to make sure you don't overcook it. The pumpkin is done when you can mush down the flesh with a fork. Next, let it cool for a while so you don't burn yourself. Finally, peel off and discard the skin, and mash up the flesh with a fork so you're left with creamy pumpkin puree. Store in an airtight container for future use within about a week.

At first I couldn't decide what type of pumpkin-flavored baked good to make, but I ultimately decided on cookies because that way there's lots to go around when I bring them into work. Lacking chocolate chips and nuts, I decided I needed something else to amp up the cookies, so I decided on a cinnamon-sugar coating, inspired by the yummy snickerdoodles that Jesse's mom always makes so well. But since these are pumpkin cookies, I took things even further and added extra spices like nutmeg and ginger to both the batter and cinnamon-sugar mixture to bring out the autumn cheer.

The cookies came out a little cakier than I'd hoped, as often happens when cooking with moist pumpkin puree, but nevertheless delicious. They're like mini muffins of heaven and spice and crackly sugar. If they stay just as good tomorrow, these will be in the running for Thanksgiving day dessert (because, yes, I'm getting to cook Thanksgiving this year!)

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp baking soda

Cinnamon-sugar-spice coating
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream softened butter and sugar until fluffy. Whisk in egg, pumpkin, and vanilla one at a time. Dump remaining dry ingredients in the bowl and stir until all combined. It might seem dry at first, but keep stirring until it comes together as a dough.

In a shallow dish, combine sugar, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. Take a teaspoon of dough, roll it around in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until coated and then flatten between the palm of your hands, coat with cinnamon-sugar again, and place on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Makes about 36 cookies.

November 8, 2008

Wedding Inspiration Board: Pink and Blue Birds

Don't worry, I'm not the one getting married. One of my oldest friends, Elaine, just got engaged, and I thought it would be fun to try to put together an inspiration board for her, inspired by all the pretty pictures over at Snippet & Ink. I felt a theme of pale pinks and blues with sweet lovebirds would be fitting for Elaine, my petite, kind,and funny friend. I wanted to show that even though she's probably going to have a fall wedding, the decor doesn't have to be the staid orange and red and brown route that so many fall flower arrangements and events seem to go.

Click the photo for a full size image



1. Birds Nest decor, via Once Wed
2. Hairpiece, by the Tijusai Etsy shop
3. Ring pillow, designed by Debbie Notis, photo by Corbin Gurkin via Once Wed
4. Invitation, by The Paper Door Etsy shop
5. Pink champagne, photo by Joel Flory via Snippet & Ink
6. Cupcakes with bird toppers, from Maple Sugar via Snippet and Ink
7. Designate the bride and groom's seats with pretty ribbon, photo by Billy Winters via Snippet & Ink
8. Mason jars with big pink flowers, photo by Heather Forsythe via Snippet & Ink
9. Blue shirts for the men, photo by Jose Villa via Snippet & Ink
10. Fall foliage, via Once Wed
11. Necklace, by Lisa Leonard
12. Guests can drop kind notes into this birdcage, photo by Allison Garrett via Snippet & Ink
13. Seating cards photo by Still Weddings, via Snippet & Ink
14. Ribbon wands for guests to wave during the ceremony, from Blogger Brides
15. Flowers arranged in rustic pitchers (though the peonies would have to be replaced by another pink flower more in season for the fall), from Peonies and Polaroids
16. Pink bridesmaid dresses, by Ann Taylor Loft, photo by Sandra Coan via The Knot
17. Table number cards by eeBoo
18. Flowy feminine wedding dress, by Kim Grayz via Snippet & Ink
19. Cake by Rebecca Thuss
20. Simple table settings with pink and blue ribbon wrapped around napkins, from Peonies and Polaroids
21. Vintage blue vases with single buds, styled by Molly FitzSimons via Snippet & Ink
22. A bouquet of white, pink, and blue wildflowers, from Martha Stewart Weddings

November 6, 2008

Rhode Island Style Calamari


I'm a big fan of fried calamari, and almost always order it when I see it on a menu. On our way back from Maine this summer, Jesse and I stopped in at Portsmouth Brewery for dinner and drinks on a very rainy night. We blindly ordered "Rhode Island style calamari" from their menu, not realizing what that meant until it arrived, fried calamari mixed in with hot peppers - so hot, in fact, that we struggled to finish the dish.

Recently, when I tasted my second batch of pickled peppers this weekend (and whoo boy are they hotter than the first batch - throwing in a couple jalapenos really worked) it immediately called to mind a chance to make Rhode Island style calamari at home. I've been jonesing to make fried calamari for ages, and I figured I would go milder with the spicy peppers by throwing in just in enough for some kick.

This was also my first attempt at deep frying, and I now don't know what I was always so scared of. It takes a lot of oil, but other than that, it's no problem. I heated two inches of olive oil in a big pot over medium heat, and I don't have a cooking thermometer, so I just winged it and figured that the oil was probably hot enough after five minutes or so.

Meanwhile, I removed the squid (pre-cleaned, from the farmers market of course) from from its soak in a bowl of milk, salt, and pepper, drained it, and dredged it in a mixture of half flour-half cornmeal and more salt and pepper. Into the pot they went, about five at a time for about 2 minutes at a time, and then I removed them with a slotted spatula and let them drain on paper towels. Use a LOT of paper towels - the massive oil coming off the calamari soaked right through my paper towels. To finish it off, I warmed up a heaping half cup of tomato sauce with the pickled peppers, and tossed it all together.

As you can also see, the calamari looks rather long and tubular. I stupidly forgot to slice the squid into little rings before dredging and frying them. Don't make that mistake - you'll get more crunchy fried surface area and a more tender bite if you cook them in small pieces. For some reason, a lot of the flour-cornmeal mixture fell off in the cooking process, so it didn't have that restaurant-quality all-around crunchy coating, but it was good enough for us. The peppers, on the other hand, got pushed to the side for being too hot again. Next time I'll leave out the peppers and make a fun mayo dipping sauce.

November 5, 2008

We Did It!

via mindseyecards on etsy

A little after 11 last night I was fiddling around in my kitchen to make a grilled cheese sandwich for election-viewing-snacking, when I heard an eruption of screams from the bar next door, and I knew the good news before I even had a chance to turn on the TV and see it for myself. I almost didn't think it would happen, after the last two elections ended in disappointment, but we did it, we beat the greedy Republicans! Standing in line for over an hour to vote was all worth it.

EDIT: I thought I heard a helicopter or plane just circling and circling loudly last night! Chrysanthe has the scoop - apparently police were in riot gear on Bedford too trying to control the crowds.

October 30, 2008

Kids in Our Hearts

Lisa is really picking up the slack for my lazy posting. Here's another post from her, reflecting on her past, and future, living with goats.


My two sisters and I grew up on a small hobby goat farm in upstate NY, drinking the milk, eating my mom's simple homeade goat cheese, and milking, birthing, and playing with a bunch of does and kids (mothers and babies). Each was named by my mother or one of us from a list of our favorite flowers: there was Petunia, Iris, Daisy, Edelweiss, Magnolia, Lilac, and then Sparky when I got to name one. As we all got older, the goats somehow phased out of our lives. Pictured above is the lone remaining goat, Aurora, who is just a pet who looks pretty by the barn, and isn't milked.


Yesterday, while searching webrings for local cow and goat farms, sentimentality hit me hard, and I realized how much I missed that life and how jealous I felt every time I'd arrive at the next website of a cute, small goat farm somewhere in Florida.

For some ineffable reason, I've been feeling incredibly driven to this sort of farming - I've thought about working at produce farms and worked at a cow dairy farm, but never really felt any strong feelings for them. So this is the plan for my life: that I will someday in the future have a goat farm (although definitely not in Florida), give them all flower names (unless it's my mischeivous daughter's turn) and (probably illegally) sell the small amount of milk and cheese just to my friends and family and to Julia if she owns a bar in Brooklyn or upstate somewhere someday. Working towards this today, I hope to spend get back to Brazil (where I studied abroad in college) for some time WWOOFing on a goat dairy in Brazil during my upcoming grad school years.


Additional commentary from Julia
Hmm, I'm not sure I can sell "illegal" goat cheese at a bar. I think that might violate health codes somehow. And yes, one of my dreams to open a bar. More on that another day.

Triumph in the Quest for Local Meat

And another guest post from my sister Lisa in Florida, where finding locally sourced food is much more difficult than the Greenmarket-haven that is New York City.


After asking around at the Sarasota farmer's market about local beef, and only hearing of one farm (that sells only wholesale and incidentally, the restaurant I manage is strictly vegetarian), I asked the guys behind the meat counter at Whole Foods if they knew of any farms in the area. The older, wiser-looking fellow told me sort of discreetly about a buffalo farm in Bradenton. After much google searching, I found the phone number and gave them (Gap Creek Buffalo) an inquiring call.

Yesterday I undertook the trafficy 25 minute drive north to their house where they sell just from two small coolers. The variety was impressive for the size of the operation. 4 or 5 different cuts of steak, ground, burger patties, ground sausage, link sausage, and of course - a cooler full of hearts, lungs, tongues and other delicacies. After buying almost $50 of meat (wanted to stock up because I hate driving in Florida!), I asked them if they knew of any other farms that sell small-scale like they do, and they just told me plain and simple - Nope. There really aren't any. Unless they're only selling by word of mouth and to very few people.


All this was disconcerting, but my mood was quickly elevated back to a state of meaty bliss after grilling the buffalo burgers with some beer and friends over a charcoal grill. I only seasoned them with a little salt, pepper and garlic and found the flavor slightly milder than beef but distinctive and delicious. The extremely low fat content makes them cook faster than beef burgers so there was less waiting, which I appreciated after preparing the patties and the grill and getting my house ready for guests.

Overall, I (and we) loved it... so even though there may not be any local beef, chicken or eggs on the local horizon, at least we can still cook buffalo over the fire any time we want. Next time I'll remember marshmallows.

October 29, 2008

The Best News Ever


Sixpoint is going to start making bottled beer! It says so in this fascinating article in the New York Times today about a resurgence in beer brewing in Brooklyn, which once produced one fifth of the nation's beer and is now home to only three breweries. Most importantly it announces that Sixpoint Craft Ales is going to open a new facility in Williamsburg that will allow them to produce bottled beer!

Jesse and I are so excited. We looove Sixpoint, and have been eagerly awaiting the day we could enjoy bottles of it in our home, instead of having to trek to a bar or all the way to Bierkraft in Park Slope for a pricey growler. Their beers, which are all characterized by the same fast-acting yeast that lends a distinctive hoppy flavor, have been growing ever more popular over the past couple years, and it's about time. I'll be sure to let you know when the bottles hit stores so y'all can go out and try it too. In the meantime, you can use Beer Menus to find the bar nearest you with Sixpoint on tap.

October 28, 2008

The Richardson

via yelp


Now that we're both feeling well enough to do more than just plop into bed after work, Jesse suggested last night that we go get a drink at Pete's Candy Store, the bar next door to our apartment. But I had a better idea. I wanted to go somewhere different, so we went to check out a new bar in the hood, The Richardson. It's known for being a classy speakeasy joint with excellent specialty cocktails, but we didn't know if they much of a beer selection. Well, we were pleasantly surprised that they have several great beers on tap, all from Northeast microwbreweries (except for Guinness and Old Speckled Hen from across the pond). Jesse enjoyed Southern Tier's excellent IPA, which I'd never seen on draft before, and I had Sixpoint's Righteous Rye for a hearty winter beer. Beer prices aren't bad either, mostly $5 a beer, with a few $6 glasses. I'm so glad I convinced Jesse we should go, since we ended up having better beer than we would have at Pete's.

The Richardson's cocktails looked good, especially the Old Fashioned, which intrigued me with its mix of bitters, sugar cube, and bourbon, but at $9 a pop and a month of spending that's left me feeling poor, I decided to try it another time. Oh and they also serve small plates - olives, nuts, toasts, and sandwiches - but sadly, nothing looked particularly appealing to me.

Since The Richardson is only three blocks from my apartment, this might be another new standby for a nice romantic drink. I think I might even have my birthday there, since the interior is spacious, with a few nooks. They did a great job with the simple and sophisticated decor, which features beautiful wallpaper, a long bar, and smooth dark wood tables, chairs, and stools.

The Richardson
451 Graham Ave at Richardson Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn - Graham Ave stop

Guest post: Finding local meat in Florida


Another guest post from my sister Lisa, who's currently living in Sarasota, Florida, and managing a college campus cafe. The other night she made this delicious looking whole wheat pasta with chicken sausage, and local garlic, onion and arugula. Here's her story:



Celebrating the first week of Worden Farm (the only local, organic farm that sells at the Sarasota farmer's market), I had a Saturday night feast of sauteed garlic, onions and arugula that had the perfect balanced peppery, but mild, taste. Add some non-local chicken sausage from Whole Foods (the quest for local meat in the Sarasota area is still ongoing) and the result was spicy garlic and sausage, sweet vidalia onions and tomato sauce, and filling whole wheat al dente pasta. This was miles better than the pasta dishes I grew up on, which were usually bland and unsatisfying.

Today I will be going to pick up some buffalo meat from a small local farmer, so there may be a new, even more delicous Floridian post awaiting on the horizon.

October 23, 2008

Save Your Parmesan Rinds!

The good news is that I got the internet working on my computer again. The bad news is that I'm sick. I stayed home from work today, lounging on my bed with my napping dog to keep me company. Somehow, earlier in the week before I came down with this cold, I had the foresight to make a big batch of soup, which is interesting because I'm usually not much of a soup person. Must be the chilly fall weather.


Well I'm glad I had this tasy lentil vegetable soup to warm my aching bones for lunch this week. Paired with hearty whole wheat toast, it was just what I needed. That, plus hot toddies and lots of sleep and bundling up in warm clothes and episodes of Mad Men and a leisurely walk in the autumn air, have me feeling a lot better this evening.

I had a couple rinds of old parmesan in the freezer, because I'd heard that throwing a parmesan rind in soup is a great way to add flavor. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was true - the rind melted and added much needed salt and richness to what would otherwise be a somewhat bland soup. I will definitely continue to freeze parmesan rinds once they're too stale to grate, and use them in future soups and stocks. It's the thrify way to go!

Lentil soup doesn't require an exact recipe. Here are some guidelines:
Soak a cup of lentils in water for an hour. Meanwhile, dice and sautee vegetables in a big pot until softened - I used 3 carrots, 3 leeks, and a bag full of banana peppers, becase that's what I had in the fridge from the farmers market. Add lentils and parmesan rind to the pot, along with enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover it all by an inch or two, add desired spices such as salt, pepper, oregano, sage, crushed red pepper, and then simmer for about an hour until lentils have softened. Remove parmesan rind, and ta da!


As for the bread I paired this with, it was a whole wheat loaf from the farmers market, because the bread I made myself last weekend was inedible. A sad waste of flour. I had no idea what went wrong, since the two loaves of dough felt perfect in my hands until they headed into the oven. As you can see, the crust puffed up , while the bottom layer of dough remained gummy, with a huge pocket of air in between. I had never seen anything like it, and I thought I did something wrong, but it turns out that our oven is broken! This also explains the undercooked eggplant in the eggplant parmesan I made last week, and our inability to bake potatoes into fries in the oven this week. We're getting a new oven this weekend, and I cannot wait to bake some cookies or pumpkin bread or some other tasty fall treat. It's fall, it's cold, and our landlord doesn't like to turn on the heat, so I'm dying to do some baking to warm/cozy up the apartment!

October 16, 2008

Pickled Peppers

As we move deeper into fall and away from the bounty of summer's harvest, I've made some efforts to preserve some summery foods recently, knowing full well what long months of potatoes, kale, and root vegetables lie ahead after last winter. But it's been a kind of half-hearted effort because there's not much you can fit into this freezer. I could have tried to can stuff, but that scares me and I was too lazy to do enough research to figure out how to get over my fear of botulism.


You can't see it all very well because it's hidden by more usual freezer goods such as tupperwared lunches and various flours and coffee, but my freezer now contains: five ears of corn; six quarts of raspberries; two quarts of oven-dried grape tomatoes,; about 8 oven-dried red pepper strips; and three small bags of quartered tomatoes. I can't imagine that will last me very long this coming winter, but it will at least be good for some casseroles, flavored dips and breads, soups and pastas. I let the berries freeze spread out on a flat tray at first, before combining them in a tupperware, so that I'll be able to scoop them out for smoothies, baked goods, and pancakes as needed.

My mom grew an overabundance of cubanelle and banana peppers in her vegetable garden this year, so I've happily taken a bunch off her hands to make pickled peppers. Jesse loves jars of hot peperoncinis, which is what inspired me to try making something similar at home. The recipe is based loosely off Jen's recipe for pickling cucumbers, adapted for making just one pint jar at a time and based on what I have on hand. My first batch didn't have enough heat for the mister, so I also added some jalapenos from the Greenmarket into my most recent batch, and hopefully they'll turn out hotter and spicier. I also must say that I think I like pickled peppers better than my homemade pickled cucumbers (that's why you never even heard about them on here). And I think these peppers would be great on a turkey and cheese sandwich...in fact I might just make that for a picnic this weekend.


Pickled Banana Peppers

3/4 cup hot tap water
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic
1 tsbp pickling spice
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
Several (about a quart) of banana or cubanelle peppers
A few jalapeno or other hot peppers

Combine brine ingredients in a large liquid measuring cup (this will make it easier to pour into the jar later than if you were using a bowl) and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Chop peppers into desired size - strips, chunks, or (my favorite) round crossections.

Place one third of the peppers into a clean glass pint jar, and pour a third of the brine over the peppers. Repeat until jar is full, compressing peppers as needed (a lot more will fit in one jar than you might expect!), and make sure to scoop any straggler spices out of the measuring cup and into the jar.

Refrigerate for a week before eating; pickles will stay good in the fridge for up to a month.

October 7, 2008

Operation Homestyle: Sneak Peak

I've been away for too long. This week my excuse is that the internet's been spotty. Last week it was because I was busy with "operation homestyle," which involved multiple trips to ikea and a lot of making lists of future improvements while Jesse assembled the ikea furniture like a good handyman.


So there's a sneak peak, for now, at the kitchen. The microwave and toaster have been relegated to the living room (so New York City-cramped-apartment-style of us!) and now, look at that pretty shiny new dish drying rack, and glorious counter space with a wondeful big wooden cutting board that allows me to chop and knead bread right there in the actual kitchen next to the stove, instead of ferrying ingredients back and forth from the living room (I never use that darn microwave anyway).


Also in this little nook of a kitchen is this red sweetheart chair, which doubles as a stool for hard-to-reach cabinets, and is one of a set made by Jesse's grandfather that have "sweetened" with age as layers of multicolored paint have chipped away.


I'm really happy with this cute red tray I picked up at a garage sale in Brooklyn. It's a nice decorative item that enhances the red accents in the room, but it's also handy for serving up one of my greatest loves that is also my greatest downfall - aka whiskey, along with other drinks. Yes, that measuring cup is what suffices for measuring out shots until I find a new shot glass. Like I said, more improvements to come.

September 30, 2008

No-Sew Napkins

Here's a great idea I came across yesterday on a backyard wedding. She made napkins for her wedding by finding sheets from thrift stores and cutting them into size with pinking shears. I love the use of pinking shears, which hide the lack of stitched seams with fun angles. Not only does this DIY method save money, but it's also eco-friendly to repurpose old cloth instead of buying new, and it adds a nice personal touch to an event, whether it's a wedding or a dinner party. Or in my case, I keep meaning to make cloth napkins for my slobby boyfriend so he'll stop destroying the planet with his bazillion crumpled paper napkins.


from a backyard wedding

September 28, 2008

Staycation's All I Ever Wanted

With my parents away on a real vacation in Europe, I thought it would be a nice time to take a staycation at their place, to get out of the city, kind of like going to a B&B except it's free. And unlike a B&B, I had to feed the ornery goat that resides in our backyard barn. Interestingly, I'm so used to living in 550 square feet in the city, that my former home in the country felt too large, with its dark, empty, creaky, dusty open spaces.

I had envisioned a gorgeous fall weekend of colorful foliage, hiking, apple picking, and so on. Instead it was dreary gray and miserably drizzly all weekend. We still managed to fit in a visit to Applewood Orchards & Winery - I think it was the only winery left in the Hudson Valley that we hadn't yet visited.
I couldn't tell the difference, but Jesse thought Applewood's wines bested them all, so we actually bought a whole case, when normally we'd politely buy just one or two bottles.

Applewood also features orchards for picking, but we weren't in the mood, so we just walked around, saw their pretty gardens, and headed back home.


The chilly gray day called for a warm, hearty dinner. I made chili, using the wealth of banana peppers and tomatoes from my mom's vegetable garden, along with some local onions, half a bottle of beer, and ground turkey (nonlocal and nonorganic because there wasn't much selection at the Warwick Shoprite). The chili wasn't very spicy because of the dearth of spices available in my mom's kitchen, but it was simple, fresh, colorful, and yummy. I put Jesse in charge of making cornbread, using the recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill course-ground cornmeal package, and it actually turned out great. He's a good sous chef. We paired it with Applewood's hard cider, a perfect accompaniment.

Now I'm back at the grind, back in the city. I finally managed to get a shot of the view from the deck of the apartment I don't really live in. The huge monolith of a building on the right is some kind of Verizon station, and the tall buildings straight ahead are the Bushwick projects.