Archive

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Image

i think i’ve mentioned here before that growing up, i wasn’t a huge breakfast fan. i mean, hello, someone pass me the beefaroni or the leftover chicken and rice pilaf, please. i think when i really fell in love with breakfast was, sadly, when i started drinking. you know, because when you’re hungover in college, all you want to do is run to the dining hall and stuff your face with an oversized omelette and greasy homefries. you all know i love homefries. can’t live without ’em. lord, don’t ever send me to a place where homefries are not a breakfast standard. anywho, as i’ve gotten older, and hence, matured into the wise lady i am today, i’ve come to realize that there’s really lots to love about breakfast – from eggs benedict (i really need to master hollandaise) to fluffy pancakes like the ones you see above.

in my mind, there’s little that screams sunday morning like a pile o’ fluffy white pancakes. and ladies and gents, when i say pancakes, i don’t mean ihop, and i most certainly don’t mean bisquick. i can eat a bisquick pancake faster than you can say “from a box” – but with a recipe like the one below, there’s really no need for a box mix. pancakes are S-I-M-P-L-E, folks. as in, you barely need a recipe, and unless you’re the kind of person who stuffs their sweaters into their oven and owns only one pan (new yorkers, i’m looking at you), you likely have everything you need for these babies in your kitchen already.

this recipe (which i modified slightly) yields fluffy, light, melt in your mouth pancakes. i ate mine with melted butter and nothing else, but they’d be great with chocolate chips or berries mixed in, and even better with some spiked maple syrup. 

The Recipe

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

the key to this recipe is that you don’t do the mixing with a plain old spoon or fork – you use a whisk. this releases a ton of air into your batter, making for the fluffy pancakes sunday morning dreams are made of. 

to make, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. in a smaller bowl, beat the egg, then mix in the melted butter, vanilla and milk. make sure you give the butter a bit of time to cool after you melt it – you don’t want to cook the egg! make a well in the center of your dry ingredients, and pour in your wet ones. mix slightly with a wooden spoon, and then whip with a whisk to beat fully. 

your batter might be a bit thicker than the usual bisquick shiz, but don’t fret. this is to be expected. 

heat a lightly oiled griddle (i use canola oil spray from trader joe’s) over medium to high heat. scoop your batter onto the griddle, about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. cook a few minutes on each side, and serve hot.

breakfast is served. 

Image

foodie confession: i hate seafood with a pretty intense passion. i make a small exception for shrimp (but i am very picky about the size and texture of a given shrimp) and in the past few years, for salmon, but other than that, i don’t go under the sea, ever. no lobster. no clams. oysters? gross. i’ll take my dinner without slurping down a slimy shell-filler, thank you very much. i have no interest in figuring out flounder, or appreciating escargot. it’s just not my thing. i hate the smell of fish; i gag when i walk down the street in chinatown. but in an effort to be more adventurous (remember my strawberry disaster in paris?), i’ve recently introduced salmon into my eating arsenal. i like it extremely well done (again, i don’t like slimy foods), and pretty much smothered in flavor so i can’t taste the fishiness.

Image

“Color me happy, there’s a sofa in here for two!”

lucky for me, this recipe checks all of those boxes. by wrapping the salmon in parchment paper, you ensure that, while it doesn’t dry out, it cooks out all the slime. plus, it seals in the flavor. by topping it with the orgasmic combination that is sesame oil, soy sauce and grated ginger, you ensure that all the fishiness goes out the window, and by laying it on a bed of mushrooms, you get, well…shrooms. but who doesn’t love shrooms? especially when they’ve cooked down and are also smothered in sesame soy? color me happy, there’s a sofa in here for two!

this dinner was super easy to make, and it comes courtesy of miss martha stewart (duh). the queen has cometh down from her throne to share with us a salmon dish that makes even fish-haters salivate in excitement. martha’s recipe uses pea shoots and shiitake mushrooms, but i’m a cheapskate and had neither on hand, so i swapped arugula in place of the pea shoots and regular brown button and sliced portobello mushrooms in place of the shiitakes. i also may have added extra soy sauce and oil, but that’s because, as i said, i like my salmon positively drenched in flavor.

note: i generally cook for one or two – one serving for dinner, one for leftovers. someday, i hope i have a boyfriend or a husband and a cat and a family and a big kitchen with a giant island. then i can use the actual measurements and cook for a family of four. but right now, it’s just me and penny, and penny doesn’t like salmon (a gal after my own non-seafood heart, that feline is!). i also, as i said, like extra sauce – so my measurements are different than martha’s. but this is the sort of recipe where you can totally improvise, so just keep adding till your sauce tastes good. got too much sauce? girl, that’s what tupperware is for!

The Recipe

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (my fave brand is kikkoman)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (i used brown button and portobello)
  • 1 large or 2 small boneless, skinless salmon fillets, preferably wild sockeye
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons toasted-sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 cup arugula, loosely packed

to make, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. prepare your parchment paper by cutting a piece large enough to hold your salmon and then some, and folding it down the middle to create a crease. open it back up. essentially, what you’re doing is creating a little envelope/pocket sort of thing to keep your salmon in while it cooks.

next, mix the soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, and just a splash of sesame oil in a medium sized bowl, and toss with the sliced mushrooms. lay the mushrooms out on the parchment – you’re making a little bed for the salmon to lay on. now, place your salmon atop the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. drizzle with your remaining sesame oil (and feel free to add more if you feel so inclined).

tuck or gather the parchment paper so that your salmon fillet(s) are wrapped up. you want to keep the heat and flavors in that baby, so wrap it up tight.

bake for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of your salmon fillets). remove, and season immediately with sesame seeds and top with arugula. i served mine with white rice and steamed broccoli, and it was DELISH.

Image

when i first started this blog, i thought i’d mostly write about cookies, because they’re the thing i make more than anything. but since it’s been hot as balls outside, i’ve been experimenting (i’ve got some great  easy popsicle recipes coming up!), and since i’ve been working long hours, i’ve been procrastinating on food gawker, finding some cool non-cookie recipes. but with this recipe, i’m going back to my roots. you know, my cookie roots.

if you ask me, there’s really nothing better than a freshly baked cookie. slightly crisp on the outside, perfectly chewy on the inside. a good cookie isn’t halfway to heaven – it’s all the way there, propelling you past the stars into some outer space like region where everything sparkles and is drenched in natural sunlight and filled with the most adorable kittens you’ve ever seen. what? that’s not your vision of heaven?

anywho, there’s not much to say about these cookies, except that they involve peanut butter. and oats. and when you put those two things together, magic happens. i know everyone hates on oatmeal raisin cookies. they’re like the bastard stepchild of chocolate chip, the one that always has to sit way at the end of the dinner table and gets served last at breakfast. but i LOVE oatmeal cookies, because they’re thick and chewy and substantial (sometimes, a chocolate chip cookie just ain’t enough). now, that’s not to say i don’t love a good chocolate chip recipe. you know i do. i’m just saying, sometimes you need a lil more somethin’ somethin’….you know what i mean?

of course you do. and you’re going to make these guys and REALLY know what i mean. i stumbled across this recipe on my favorite time-wasting website, pinterest, and bookmarked them immediately. i mean, hello, can you say “peanut butter oatmeal sandwich cookie” three times fast? i can. this recipe yields the sort of homey, straight to the top of your “comfort food” list, stuff your face while you’re watching bad TV cookies that sweet dreams are made of.

let’s make ’em, shall we?

*recipe adapted from broma bakery.

The Recipe

For the cookies:

1 1/2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
 2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey roasted peanut butter (you can find it freshly ground at Whole Foods)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
for the filling:
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2-4 tbsp milk (for extra creaminess)
1 tsp vanilla
to make, preheat your oven to 350. in a medium sized bowl, mix the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. set aside. in a stand mixer (or a large bowl, if you don’t have a stand mixer), whip the butter and sugars until creamy. mix in the egg and beat until incorporated then do the same with the peanut butter and vanilla. note: i added more vanilla than broma’s original recipe. i add more vanilla to everything i bake. in fact, i don’t even measure it. i just pour it in. and it always tastes better.
now, beat in your dry ingredients until just incorporated (don’t overbeat!). now, place rounded teaspoon-sized balls of batter onto an ungreased baking sheet. note: i use silicon baking mats on all my baking sheets. they help your cookies bake more evenly and prevent burning and sticking. get one. bake your cookies for 8-10 minutes, until golden on the sides. let cool for a few minutes on your baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.
while your cookies are cooling, clean your stand mixer bowl and get to work on the filling. beat the confectioner’s sugar and peanut butter until light and airy. i needed to add some milk to mine to thin it out, and i also added a few squirts of vanilla. what? i can’t help it. i’m a vanillaholic.
to make, line up your cookies and match them up sizewise. then, spread about a teaspoon of filling onto one cookie and top with another. smush together to spread out the filling. et voila! sandwich cookies that are WAY better than any regular sandwich could ever be.

Image

a friend sent me a link to this article this morning, which was posted on gawker over the weekend, about loving new york and leaving it behind. the author, cord jefferson, is an amazing writer – there’s no denying it. and he’s got a good point. new york, if you let it (and sometimes even if you don’t), can really take the wind out of you. it beats you up when you get up in the morning and when you get home at night. it creeps up on you during your morning walk to the subway, and kicks you in the face after you’ve had a long day at work. but here’s the thing: so does everywhere else. if you let it.

i’ve had many a moment where i’ve despised this city. sometimes, when i’m shoved into someone’s armpit on the L train (thank you, williamsburg, for collectively eschewing deodorant), i think to myself, “why am i not in a car right now, singing along to alanis morrissette on the radio?” sometimes, when a tourist unknowingly steps into my path when i’m already running late, pausing to stare at the sky and marvel at how TALL everything is, i swear to myself and count to ten so i don’t punch them. new york makes me aggressive. it makes me impatient. and yes, as the article criticizes, it makes me tough.

but i don’t think that’s really such a bad thing. if there’s one gift new york has given me, it’s that the city has taught me how to be alone. people think you can’t be alone in a city swarming with millions of people, all acrid sweat and rotting garbage and fresh bodega lilies. but you can – you can be more alone here, with strangers and friends alike buzzing around you, than you can be anywhere else. and you know what? there’s something magical about that. something powerful about it. because learning to be alone – and to be okay with being alone – is a wonderful thing. and it’s something i most certainly wouldn’t have learned without new york.

there was a time, not so many years ago, where i was terrified to pick up the phone and place an order for chinese delivery. i was that afraid of my own voice. i couldn’t bear the idea of going grocery shopping by myself when i could just as easily go with a friend to help me select a ripe cantaloupe; didn’t understand why a person would dare to do something as humiliating as dine on their own. new york has taught me that there’s little more freeing than thinking to yourself, self, i’d like to see a movie today. it’s hot outside and i’d like to sit in a cozy, reclining seat in an empty theater with a large portion of overly-buttered popcorn and a king-sized bottle of water. nothing more empowering than strolling down west 9th street between 5th and 6th avenues and saying, self, someday you just might live in one of these brownstones.

so yes, new york takes a lot out of you. on a daily basis. but it also gives back to you in spades, if you know how to look for it. like when you’re stepping out of your local bodega and notice a tiny baby bird fluttering in pain on the sidewalk, and see that a group of teenagers, however rowdy and self-concerned as teenagers tend to be, will kneel down and discard the slice of pizza they just paid for to scoop up the bird and take it home to nurse it back to health. sometimes, it’ll give back to you with a crisp fall day so perfect that you think the world might just end tomorrow – but you won’t care, because you’ll be walking through central park with a forest above and sunburnt leaves crunching beneath your feet. it’ll give back to you when you walk behind kirsten dunst in soho, her sundress swinging softly behind her, when you take in a reading of your favorite book by your favorite author and he looks you straight in the eye. it’ll give back to you when the flower guy on the corner gives you two bunches of lilies for $10 instead of $12, when you sample fresh goat’s cheese at the farmer’s market and eat the best tikka masala you’ve ever had on 6th street. it’ll give back to you when you find a worn leathered armchair on the side of the street, when your cabbie compliments your nose ring and tells you you’re beautiful, when the chef brings you an extra round of appetizers or offers you a drink on the house. it’ll give back to you when you want to order sushi at 2AM, bagels at 6AM, and a freshly baked pizza at 1 in the afternoon.

what it comes down to is this: you can have a good day anywhere. you can have a bad day anywhere. i can have a terrible day in the most beautiful, picturesque place in the world just as easily as i can have a great day. so to go blaming new york for all life’s failures simply isn’t fair. yes, this city can knock you down. but just as easily, it can prop you back up, taller and stronger than ever. and if not, i’ll give you the guts to stand back up on your own two legs, proud and pretty and poised.

i don’t think i’ll live in new york forever. but i’ll be damned if it isn’t a good place to be young. because if there’s one thing you will undoubtedly find here in this smelly, overcrowded, overpriced city, it’s yourself.

Kale Parsley Pesto Pastaa few weeks ago, my parents came to visit me here in NYC, and brought with them a bevy of fresh fruits and veggies – some from fairway, and others that had been hand delivered to my mother by her farm worker patients at the government-funded health center where she works.

let’s back up a bit. the town where i grew up is nothing short of idyllic, all rolling hills and freshly cut lawns and old victorians, with highly-rated public schools and well-paved sidewalks. it’s the sort of town where pedestrians have the right of way, where cars are required to stop for anyone on foot. the sort of town where, for the most part, everybody knows everybody. it’s the sort of town that allows lesbians on the bima at the synagogue (though my two mothers were the first at our shul to do so), the sort of town that then goes on to elect a lesbian mayor. it might not be pleasantville (our life is definitely lived in color…in the rainbow, really), but it’s pretty damn close.

which is why it’s surprising to hear that there are poorly-treated farm workers pulling sixteen hour days shelling soybeans not twenty minutes away from our picturesque new england main street. growing up in the pioneer valley, one thinks such atrocities wouldn’t occur. not in our house! not on our watch! we are a town of politically-minded left wing hippies who believe in equal rights for all. certainly, we wouldn’t allow such abuse to go on behind closed (or, heaven forbid, open!) doors. but since my mom took her job at the health center, i’ve heard quite a few horror stories, many of which come at the hands of people that are pillars of the local community. 

i’ll leave you to infer what’s gone on by reading the article above – but trust me when i say that the people my mother cares for are, for all intents and purposes, people that have been left behind by this country. their rights, if they have any, have been violated, time and time again. and yet, many of them insist that the money they make here, the treatment they receive here – it’s worth it because it enables them to support their families, many of whom are back in their home country. they tell my mother things that breaks her heart. every single day. and somehow she still gets up each morning and does it again, like a brave, proud soldier, ensuring that anyone that steps over the threshold of her waiting room door gets the care they deserve. to say i have the utmost respect for the work she does would be the understatement of a lifetime. while i sit here and type up a dinky blog post, she’s out changing the world and making it a better place for everyone, not just for those who have been deemed by society and the law to deserve it.

it’s no surprise, then, that with all she does to care for these people (and she truly goes above and beyond, every day), they like to give back to her, oftentimes by bringing her a bit of their bounty. as part of their employment as farm workers, they’re allowed to take some of what they pick, and often, they bring it to her, and she, in turn, brings it to me. this visit, i was gifted with farm fresh kale, italian parsley, and the ugliest but tastiest tomatoes i’ve ever seen.

what does one do with kale and parsley? lots of things. parsley is a great garnish, and kale can be cooked, steamed, blanched, put into a salad, a pasta dish, a soup. but for some reason, i looked at my kale and immediately thought, what about pesto? so make pesto i did, with parsley and parmesan and sliced almonds and a whole lot of garlic. and i was worried that it’d be a bit weird, but to my surprise, it was totally delicious. and i made enough to have plenty to store in my freezer for later on.

so, let’s make some pesto with a side of politics, shall we?

note: pesto is one of those things that’s really all about taste-testing. so my “measurements” are more recommendations, because you might want more or less garlic, more or less cheese, or more parsley than kale. just stick your finger into the food processor (when it’s not running, obviously) and do a little taste test now and then.

The Recipe

About 6 cups of kale, slightly chopped (i used raw, but you could blanch yours slightly if you were so inclined)

1 1/2 cups parsley (don’t throw the stems in)

1 cup parmesan cheese (i used pre-shredded, but if you buy the real thing it’ll be way better)

1/2 cup sliced almonds (or walnuts, or any nut you choose – pine nuts would be great too)

2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped

olive oil

to make, dole out all your ingredients and throw them into your food processor. i laid my kale in there first, then my parsley, then spread my almonds and my cheese on top, as you’ll see in the picture. then in went the garlic. then i poured enough olive oil into swirl the perimeter a few times. i’d estimate it was a few tablespoons, but again, pesto is a fluid recipe. you can add more or less depending on the texture you’re looking to achieve. 

throw the top on and pulse to blend. if your pesto looks chunky, throw in a bit more olive oil and pulse some more. now, stop the motor and stick your finger (or a spoon, if you’re fancy and a germaphobe) in and have a taste. at this point, add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. mine didn’t, because parm and garlic are pretty darn salty already. once it’s reached a creamy consistency, remove and either mix immediately into pasta (which i did but forgot to photograph because i was too busy stuffing my face with deliciousness), or divy up into plastic bags to freeze.

note: you can see my bags above. what i do is scoop about two heaping tablespoons into a plastic foldover baggie. then i twist the tops so they make a little hershey’s kiss shape and tie the tops off. then snip off the extra with scissors. then i throw all the little baggies into one big freezer-safe baggie, and voila – pesto, whenever i want it. this is a trick i picked up from my parents, who’ve been making their own pesto for as long as i can remember thanks to the hords of basil that they grow in their garden. god bless suburbia, huh?

Imageon days when it’s ninety million degrees out, there’s little that can possess me to turn on my oven and start cooking. which is why yesterday, when it was at least 90 but the humidity made it feel more like 100, i whipped up an easy version of a salad i learned from my mom, and threw it into a taco. it’s basically some black beans, some corn, some salsa, and some cilantro. and that’s it! can you say EASY? i can.

i’m generally a bit wary of taking recipes from my mom, mostly because she’s kind of a health freak and i’m kind of, well, not. i prefer baking s’mores brownies over eating weight watchers “brownies” (let’s face it, they’re not the real thing). growing up, my house was full of things like rice puffs (cereal) and fruit leathers (snacks) and carrot sticks and apple slices and maybe a slice or two of cheese. we didn’t buy frosted flakes, or captain crunch, or fruit roll ups or shark bites (all things i desperately wanted). here’s the thing: when you’re in elementary school and everyone else is either buying lunch or taking out a PB&J at the table, and you’ve got a series of stacking tupperware containers filled with leftover chicken breast and maybe some brown rice, all you want is to fit in. when everyone else is eating shock tarts at snack time and you’ve got a fruit leather, all you want is to fit in. to the point where you’ll sneak away after piano lessons to the local convenience store and spend the entirety of your $20 allowance on junk food so you can eat it alongside your fellow students in school, and also in your bed at night when you’re feeling bad about yourself and you know a king size package of reese’s cups will make all your problems go away.

i don’t assert that my parents stringent healthiness (which, by the way, eased up as i got older) was what made me turn to junk food – on the contrary, i think most of it was that i was unhappy, and i ate to feed my sadness – but i do think i wanted junk food more simply because i was deprived of it. everyone else got oreos, i got fig newtons (which, to this day, i still believe are disgusting and should be banned from the cookie aisle), and at a time in my life when i desperately wanted to be thin and pretty and cool and popular and instead was chubby and mousy and un-athletic and unpopular, having health food next to all my friend’s “cool” snacks just made things worse. 

that being said, as i’ve gotten older and my self-esteem has developed a bit more (god, you could not pay me to go back to middle school – or elementary school for that matter), my relationship with food has gotten much healthier, and in turn, i’ve come to really enjoy healthy food. which, in my opinion, this recipe is. so long as you don’t eat ten tacos. everything in moderation, folks. 

The Recipe

1 can black beans 

1 cup frozen corn (though fresh corn would be even better)

1 cup chunky salsa (i get mine at trader joe’s)

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

corn tortillas (i get mine at trader joe’s)

shredded mexican cheese

to make, combine corn, beans, salsa and cilantro in a bowl. put a scoop of corn mixture on each tortilla, top with shredded cheese and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. for extra oomph, add some sauteed taco meat.