Friday, December 30, 2011

mango chutney

If you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can't beat home sweet home. Patti is setting herself up on Millionaire Matchmaker! I knit a pair of socks! Museums and bourbon! Sharing DNA and a sense of humor! So many laughs. So many snacks.

Being a pauper, food gifts rule the day. This year, I canned chutney. My dad swears I could go into business, but he is still telling people that I am going to be a supreme court justice or replace Rachel Ray, so I sense some bias. Anyway, this recipe involves canning, which I guess is kind of scary because you could end up on the botch watch ( It was a long time before I started making jams and pickles for that reason, but you gotta figure that people have been doing this since the ancient times and so long as you follow the rules and don't eat out of weird bulging or molding jars, it works out. You can get a cheap canning kit that has a funnel and lifters, or just be bootleg and carefully use tongs... which works, mostly. There are plenty of online resources if you get hooked. Start here.

(from Simply Recipes)

4-5 cups of chopped mango (1/2 - 1 inch pieces). If you hadn't noticed, mangoes are freaking expensive. But a case from Costco isn't! And makes about double this recipe.
1 cup (5-6 percent acidity, double check!) apple cider vinegar
2 cups of sugar
a medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1  Tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon (fresh grated) ginger or a few pieces of crystallized ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
Salt and black pepper

In a thick-bottomed pot, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. Don't breathe the fumes! Or breathe the fumes: refreshing! Phew. Throw in all the ingredients and let it simmer for an hour or an hour and a half until it is thick and gloppy. Like chutney! Miraculous! Seriously, when fruit turns jammy it is such happy magic.Making jam to the tunes of Peter, Paul and Mary Christmas? I could make this an annual thing.

OK, then sterilize your canning jars. You can get them at the grocery store or a hardware store. This recipe makes about 6 half pints, or three pints (math wizard!). So boil your jars and lids for a 10 minutes, or  keep them in a 250 degree oven while you are making the jam (twenty minutes should do it). Then dry them and get them ready on a non-stressful, flat surface.

When your jam is jammy, fill your jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (between your jam and the rim). "Bubble your jars," which means running a chopstick around the circumference of the jar so there are fewer bubbles to mess up the vacuum seal. Clean the rim of the jar really well so there is no crap that will mess up your seal. This is where having a funnel would probably be awesome. Oh well.

pee funnel camp

Is that too gross? Am I in total little-brother mode? MOVING ON! Boil a pot of water that is pretty big (enough to cover your jars plus a couple inches, a benefit of using the half pint). Place the lid on the jar and tighten the ring until "fingertip tight"-- I basically tighten it fiercely, then unwind a little. Air needs to be able to escape to make the vacuum, so gorilla grip is not your friend here.

Use tongs to place the jars in the water... I think you are supposed to use a rack so that the bottom of the glass jars is safer, but so far I haven't had a jar break, so. If you have some kind of steaming rack to rest the jars on top of, bravo. Process (boil) for 15 minutes, making sure there is always a couple inches of water over the tops of the jars. Then let the water cool for 5 minutes and take out the jars (using tongs, carefully). Let the jars rest for 24 hours undisturbed. If the seal goes down (pop!) you are set. If it makes that clicking noise (like the unscrewed top of a snapple that you use for dog training?!) stick that one in the fridge and eat it as you would normal, perishable chutney. Another test for the botulism-wary: unscrew the ring and pick up the jar from the lid-part with your fingertips. Should keep on the shelf for like six months and in the fridge for however long condiments last in the fridge (forever? a month?)

Have you totally bought into the hipster homemaking canning thing?  Is canning totally frivilous if you are buying the produce instead of growing it? Do you make your own condiments? Let me know. Also Teddy I hope this blog looks awesome on your new iPad. There is no rivalry like sibling rivalry and no sibling rivalry than Apple Product rivalry, AM I RIGHT FIRST-WORLD?! Anyway, happy holidays my friends. Chances are good that I am thinking of you and thinking warm and happy thoughts. Lots of love. Drop a line.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Talking Stalk: A GUEST POST!!!!

 OH MY GOODNESS it makes me so happy to announce a GUEST POST. My love for brussels sprouts nearly rivals my love of my friend Adam, so this is just perfect. I do love to roast them at impossibly high temperatures and then eat the leaves that fall off like potato chips-- but now I am totally going to make brussels sprout-ham bites. Adam, you are my hero.

An Exploration of a Snack Pariah: Brussel Sprouts

Today in true Make Your Own Pudding fashion, I decided to audaciously expound on a foodstuff that has been wrinkling noses for centuries: brussel sprouts.  And like my dear friend Lily, I am prone to make even the oddest item into an easy-to-snarf snack.

The wonderful qualities of brussel sprouts can elude even the most open-minded vegetable lover.  Not only a little tough and bitter, badly done ‘sprouts have tinny quality which is all their own.  However, cooked just right this signature flavor can blossom into a delectable backdrop for the well rounded meal. 

Usually I will just half or quarter the little cabbages, cover with olive oil, coarse salt, pepper and garlic and roast at 400F until they are brown and crispy on the edges and sweet smelling (and tasting! yum!).  This is the tasty side dish I had in mind when I saw the bold display of brussel sprouts still on the stalk at my local Trader Joes. 

I am sure I am not the first to be beguiled by the site of a whole brussel sprout stalks.  Exotic and robust (and 2+ feet long!), the stalks can seduce us into forgetting experiences of the banefully bitter bits that show up on dinner plates.  Trader Joes had a bushel of them begging me to undertake a food adventure, leave it them to make food fun.  So, I grabbed a stalk and headed home, not knowing what this bludgeon de brussels had in store for me.

Little did I know that these ‘sprouts would be meant to grace the crudite table at my family’s upcoming holiday party, not surreptitiously eaten at a private dinner affair.  My mother, the consummate hostess, has been obsessing about foody things to hold cheese, wrap in bacon or squirt in filo shells for weeks.  Considering the snackable size of brussel sprouts, I realized that these little monsters might fit the bill.  How, though, to cook them? 

Patting each other on the back for being true America’s Test Kitchen candidates, Mama Holt and I decided to cover our bases and steam them, roast them, and (my first thought) deep fry them.  First, to make them snack sized we cut the top quarter inch off laterally and then hollowed them out.  The result is a dimpled bite that holds together remarkably well.  You can cut the bottom so they stand upright, too.  With that tough core exposed, they cook a little through a little faster I imagine. 

To steam, just a quarter inch of water was needed in a sauce pan.  They cooked covered for about 7 minutes and were done.  The result was pretty good.  They had a little bite, but the core was soft and meaty and the leaves a fresh shell.  I figure they would be good with a bit of sweetness like hunk of honey ham inside, or a walnut, maple syrup goat cheese mixture.

The roasting took some more thought.  I poured quarter inch of oil in a glass pan and rolled the sprouts around in it, making sure some of the oil got into the dimple.  We heated the oven to 450F for 10 minutes.  I found that they roasted best when placed upside down.  That way the leafy part got crispy, sizzling in the oil, resulting in a sweet crisp crunch on top and a soft delicious center.  We tried it with a cream cheese spread that had chives and red peppers in it and it was quite good.  I could even imagine it with chicken salad, tapenade or roasted red pepper spread.   

“Deep” frying was the most fun, of course, and it cooked the fastest.  Deep in quotes because it only takes about an inch of oil to cover the sprouts.  We put a stray leaf in and waited for it to start bubbling to make sure the oil was hot before we put the brussels in.  After about five minutes, we grabbed them with tongs and placed on some paper towels.  The result was a golden brown blossom that was sweet, crunchy and wonderfully textured—not too heavy, but just  oily enough to qualify as a sometimes food.  These guys would be good with the above toppings, but I got a little carried away and grabbed a bag of mini semi-sweet chocolate morsels we had sitting around from a holiday baking project.  I sprinkled them in one of the sprouts, watched as they melted slightly and popped it in my mouth—not bad at all.  Try it, I dare you!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Iceberg wedge salad

Have I mentioned lately how much I love blue cheese? A lot.
It's a newish thing, born out of my brother's love of buffalo chicken more than anything else. Increased buffalo chicken calzone consumption leads to increased blue cheese dressing consumption leads to picking over the cheese aisle for a D.O.P. gorgonzola at Whole Foods. Buffalo chicken is a gateway drug, you guys.

Anyway, a head of iceberg lettuce arrived in the CSA this week, which made this salad basically non-negotiable.

1) Fry up some bacon. And then crumble it up.
2) Make your dressing (serves one, so multiply if you are feeding the masses at your "Mad Men steakhouse dinner" themed dinner party. No? It is just you in your house but damn if these papers aren't going to get written without salads with bacon? Yep, that sounds about right.)
+A heaping spoonful or two of mayo or sour cream, or mayo AND sour cream
+A spoonful or two of buttermilk to thin (or milk with acid)
+A couple ounces of crumbled blue cheese (this is dinner, after all)
+Another teaspoon or so of wine vinegar, to taste
+Lots of salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix it up!

Now drizzle that over your wedge of lettuce with the bacon and some diced tomatoes, if you must have something with some kind of nutritious value. Oh man, it's good.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

cooking jamz

Enjoy the "redesign" aka futzing around with blogger's new settings. I was going for pre-school-chic, as always. But mostly, this. I have been listening to this song over and over since I stumbled upon The Recipe Project.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

persimmon chips

Dudes, I have had this blog for four thanksgivings. That's crazy right? That's like 100 in internet years.

Montreal was lovely-- I love that feeling when your legs get cold under your pants, I love the creative energy that crackles in the air of brickbuildinged cities, I love being alone in a crowd of people that isn't speaking a language that I know. It's exhilarating to walk for miles and stop at museums and bookstores and coffeeshops but by the end of the week, I was ready to get back to San Diego.

Driving my commute this morning, I was wearing a T shirt and the wind whipped through the car and the stereo loud and the palm trees against the sky and all of the cinematic cliches about living in Southern California are true true true. WE'RE THE KIDS IN AMERICA.

I am so thankful to be here. I'm still able to see the vision of the future I had when I started this blog, the vision where I would stay cold-nosed and in-love and on the Upper West Side forever. But, you know, I am starting to believe that you end up where you are supposed to end up. I love that my life is quiet and stable enough to buy a farm share. There have been lots of persimmons lately. I usually turn them into bread, but instead I've been amassing a hoard for the past few weeks in the fridge. Today I made persimmon chips-- they could just as easily be apple-- and man are they good. Happy thanksgiving, everyone!

Oven to 200 degrees.

Slice a cross-section of yer crisp fuyu persimmon or apple. If you have a mandoline, use it! If not, knife skills! I found that the ones that only went halfway across and slipped got stuck to the sheet and were wasted, so I would err thicker-but-all-the-way-through with a long cooking time. Place on a baking sheet or silpat, if you are fancy.

Cook until the slices are dehydrated... the edges will curl and each chip will taste carmelly and mysterious and, unsurprisingly, like fruit leather. If the thicker slices just tastes like chewy hot fruit, leave them for a bit longer. Took me about two hours.

Monday, November 14, 2011

lazy fall soup

This soup is for slackers.

+ Butcher your Halloween pumpkin that is embarrassing you in front of your neighbors. Well, except those sketchy neighbors with the pit bulls and pile of shoes on their stoop. While your unholy, uneven pumpkin chunks get toasty, google all your insecurities about food safety ("pumpkin ok to eat" "san diego night temperature" "food safety danger zone"). Forge ahead. When your pumpkin is soft, puree it. Maybe with some stock so you don't break your blender. Not that I have ever caused a blender to make that "sad robot wheezing" sound.

+Or maybe you actually had time to carve a jack-o-lantern this year, or you are more responsible in your gourd-disposal than I am, in which case used canned pumpkin, in which case this soup is reallllly for slackers. Two or maybe even three cans should approximate my black-bean to pumpkin ratio, which I thought was pretty on-point.

+OK: Chop and saute a medium onion in some olive oil and toss in some cumin and oregano and maybe coriander. Or garam masala. Spices that are warm but not too warm, you know what I mean? Probably a tablespoon of spices total. This is weeknight soup. Don't dirty your teaspoons.

+Now toss in the pumpkin and a can of black beans (rinsed!) and stock until it is a happy consistency. Heat. Boom boom pow, enjoy yer mad seasonal slacker dinner. If you crumble cotija cheese on top and maybe some green onions, you will totally not even feel like your dinner came from the pantry. Fortasse haec olim meminisse juvabit, y'all.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

cream of broccoli soup

I have this in my head as a Silver Palate recipe, but now that I actually own the cookbooks (!) I don't think it is. It fits that bill though-- there is something I find really charming about the early days of American gourmandise, those crazy 80s where it was both about good fresh produce and butter.

One of my qualifying papers is about Southern food, and I am having so much fun with it. Paula Deen! The Lee Bros.! I think what's so interesting about a lot of contemporary Southern cookbooks is exactly that mix: of things that just taste good (cream, bacon fat) with things that are fresh and maybe a little complicated to procure (vegetable pickles, wild rice). Which, ironically, brings me back to how I imagine the Upper West Side in the mid-80s, when people went out and bought "Bistro Cooking" but also had eaten more than one veggie loaf in their college days. I actually spend a lot of time imagining about decadent 1980s NYC, because I wonder how baby Lily fared. I probably snuck a bowl or two of this broccoli soup at dinner parties. It's delicious.

+ 2 or 3 bunches of broccoli, or a 16 oz bag of frozen (what was I saying abut local produce? attention attention blah blah blah. Veggies in any form are better than Lunabars, so quit that ego-trippin and lay in a bag for the next time your feet are cold and you want a real meal, Lily!)
+ A medium yellow onion
+ Stock to cover
+ Mustard seeds! A lot of them! Try with a quarter cup.
+ However much cream you have-- a quarter cup? Like that? I guess you could use sour cream or yogurt.

Sautee the onion and mustard seeds in a soup pot, then add the broccoli and stock and simmer until the broccoli is tender.

Let cool, add cream, puree. It's even better once it's been in the fridge for a few days. YES!

Also, without further ado... this.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I tried to write a song about the fact that things are good and consensus says it made me sound depressed. Then a friend mentioned that this blog made me sound like maybe I wasn't doing so hot. I guess the irony is that as soon as you say "I'm OK!" it sounds like you are overcompensating and totally repressed and sad. And then wondering whether I am secretly sad makes me confused and angry and I need to get out of the house and journal that shit out. At which point I realize.....things are good.

So that's October, I suppose. I blame the fact that there's a serious lack of creative output about when things are good-- if you want totally over-the-moon or heartbroken or pissed or nostalgic, there's a power ballad for that. But if things are going well and mostly you remember to be grateful and sometimes you are annoyed and want moremoremore from life-- where is my novel for that? What poem? (no, seriously, tell me). Maybe it's why I love Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine. Or TV shows about workplaces. Still searching for a "I'm alive! It's not all great but rarely really bad!" windows-down-freeway-jam.

Anyway, here is a recipe from the summer, although horchata time is all the time in San Diego, even when it is a rainy week and you light fires in your fireplace and drink soup. I love this because a) I feel like it unalienates me from one of my favorite fastfoods (action-labor-work. Hello, obligatorily Marxist food studies qualifying papers!) and b) it means you have a pitcher of something homemade in your fridge.

Having (finally!) discovered the fuss over Mad Men (and all I wanna do is watch Mad Men), it strikes me as very kitchycool to have pitcher-drinks. This makes about a lazy week's worth of "let's swing by the fridge for a glass of something cold and sweet to make this [morning's/afternoon's/evening's] reading go by a little faster"-- you could easily halve the recipe for a few glasses.



Soak 4 cups of rice (I used brown) in 6 cups of water with a cinnamon stick (or a bunch of cinnamon, who's counting, but try to dissolve it so it doesn't clump up on the top and then do that weird spicy-choking-y thing that ground cinnamon does when you breathe it in). Some people use about a cup of almonds too, obviously not this lady. Soak overnight, if you think ahead, or just "for awhile." Whiz this mix and about 1/3 cup of agave around in a blender in batches, until it is as blended as possible.

Strain through pantyhose or paper towels or--geez! you high roller-- cheesecloth. Authentically speaking, that's it-- pour about half horchatamix and half water into a tall glass with ice. Adjust the sweetener if you want, obviously. I find, though, that if you do 1/2 a glass of the horchata and then the rest with milk, well... yes. It's like drinking rice pudding, but not at all gross.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

oatmeal muffins

Let's recap. I wake up on Saturday morning. I have an oral exam-- to prove that I actually have a dissertation field to begin writing in-- in three hours. I've been preparing for something like three months. I have slept for three hours. Half of a chorizo burrito is somewhere between my stomach and my throat. It doesn't feel good. I check my email. I have negative three hundred dollars in my bank account. Somehow, I guess, for the first time in ten years of automated finances and cash only, I LOST TRACK. Another hundred dollars in overdraft fees. I cry and cry and cry and sit on the floor and cry again.

Getting a Ph.D. is hard, you guys.

Some coffee, a wire transfer, a drive up the coast and a few hours later-- I passed. And while I am still all nerves and, nervously, broker than broke, good things are happening. Good cheap things: swinging on swings, walking around the block, picking apples, watching Mad Men, finally getting a good night's sleep, looking forward.

Because I couldn't go to the store to get bagels for the faculty-- apparently, this is some kind of tradition/bribe-- I made muffins. Because I was pressed for time, I did something I rarely do-- I followed a recipe. And these muffins were really good. They are "supposedly" "healthy" (food studies scare quotes!) but most importantly, not too sweet and not too whole-wheaty either. And with a well-stocked pantry, they are FREE.

(from Bon Appetit, from Epicurious)

* 2 1/3 cups quick-cooking oats
* 1 cup whole wheat flour
* 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 tablespoons oat or wheat bran (I had wheat bran. You can get it at stores with bulk sections. It's cheap. And delicious in yogurt.)
* 2 tablespoons wheat germ if you have it, I didn't.
* Half a cup of chopped nuts, if that's your thing. Obviously, this did not feature in my muffins.
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup buttermilk (milk with a T of vingar in it, you know the drill)
* 1/2 cup canola oil
* 1 large egg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/3 cup boiling water
* 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries. I had blackberries.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Plop those cute little liners in your muffin tin. If you have a normal sized muffin tin, this makes 18 muffins, which is to say, a second-day SIX MUFFIN BONUS. The batter keeps fine overnight and eating freshly baked muffins two mornings in a row will ease almost any pain, if this weekend is any indication.

Mix oats and all the dry stuff in large bowl. Blend in the buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and let stand 5 minutes. Fold in blueberries. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.

Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for standard muffins. Cool for about ten minutes, serve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

provencal scrambled eggs

Back to school!

While I had a great summer with some culinary high points (see below) there were some low points as well. Even though I didn't have to pay rent for a month or so, I literally spent all the money I saved on takeout. Not even burritos wolfed down with joyful abandon: we are talking JACK IN THE BOX DRIVETHROUGH, fistfuls of french fries without bothering to put on ketchup, more than two ice cream sandwiches a day. I guess I started sometime last year when I was busy and it snowballed. So.

Back to school not only has that meet-the-new-kids newness and new-house-commuter-schedule-weirdness but also a relationship with my body I haven't had in awhile.... I am training for a half marathon. It's nuts!

So not only do I have to figure out how I fed myself before The Kummerspeck, but excessive culinary delights (kettlecorn dinner) suddenly make me feel like crap instead of awesome. I don't like the discursive baggage that comes with exercise-- in a lot of ways, I feel like I am too self-aware, cynical, or invested in my academic project to join the ranks of moms with shortshorts and strollers doing jumping jacks in Mission Bay. But maybe feeling awesome is awesome no matter how you get there.

Anyway, here is what I have taken to eating after running. In actual-runner-terms, I am still doing tiny distances, but it still feels good to eat a ton of protein as soon as I get home.


Crack three eggs in a pan and keep the heat low low low while you beat them up with a fork.

Throw in a tablespoon or two of milk if you have some that isn't skim because that will just make them kind of spongy and weird.

When curds start to form, stir in about a teaspoon of herbes de provence (or just a bunch of thyme) and the juice of about half a lemon.

Keep stirring.

When the eggs look creamy, toss in some creamy cheese or creme fraiche (or not, but i have been working my way through a block of feta the size of my head that i got at the Middle Eastern market because it was so cheap and i was so psyched to be in the land of bulk-bins and brined cheese.)

Enjoy my cheesy late 90s asphalt-slappin jam:

Friday, September 9, 2011

hello, internet!

i kind of forgot i had a cooking blog until blogging came up in conversation and a deadline came down. and, frankly, i haven't been cooking at all. maybe its a feeling of rootlessness. maybe i have actually just been rootless. i have whipped up some sandwiches or grain salads and even a batch of gift pickles, but nothing really felt successful. i've been off my game. here are some superlative food memories from six weeks of nomadism, procrastination, and takeout:

-- teatime at mohonk mountain house for the first time since i was a child, when i felt like a queen holding a small ceramic cup and saucer filled, mostly, with milk

-- a filet o fish consumed in three bites in sparks, nv
-- smoked salmon at a fake oasis for the second year running, what are the odds?

-- vanilla malteds, to excess
-- lavender honey ice cream eaten preemptively in a blackout, with a cold beer
-- pici. so much pici. the fresh-pasta-feeling on your teeth. c.f. boar fat, duck fat, pig fat.
-- vin santo, like liquid amber in the afternoon light: sweet and cold

-- sheepishly dunking a second shot of grappa into an espresso and talking to canadian strangers about their children
-- new york city, the old haunts
-- san francisco, an ice cream sundae written on the back of a napkin (toasted coconut, salted caramel, and "that one with the snickerdoodles") and eaten in the sun on a very steep hill in the mission

-- a mexican chocolate popsicle in the new neighborhood, so spicy it made my mouth hurt
-- a pitcher of homemade horchata, crushed ice from someone more settled's fridge, two percent milk
-- bratwurst, sauerkraut, campfire, skinnydipping

that's all folks. see you when the literal and metaphorical dust has settled. drop a line. please!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

egg salad

Just when I think I might not be turning into my dad-- boom! Another bizarro food craving from the 1940s. As if my newfound love of mashed turnips, vanilla malts, or blue cheese was not frightening enough, my return to San Diego was marked by a fierce craving for egg salad. Let's be real about this. I mostly hate eggs. I wouldn't eat them at all until a few years ago and only then scrambled with cheese. Last year Huevos Rancheros eased me into the fried-egg-fan-club (unlike the Lisa Frank Fan Club, it does not come with stickers, only higher cholesterol.) But I still haven't ever eaten a hardboiled egg without gagging. When I see them in salad bars I feel sorry for the poor nerds who eat them while I help myself to more samosas across the way (this scenario takes place in Whole Foods, I guess).

So WHAT?! I return back a few weeks ago, I move out, I feel all turmoilish, and boom! I find myself in a coffeeshop eating a curried egg salad sandwich. It was delicious, and I ate it and read Giving An Account of Oneself and basically swooned. Fast forward to the Fourth of July. I am contemplating bringing deviled eggs, since that seems like a Martha Stewarty thing to do when you go to the hills to celebrate America. Instead our contribution was grilled peaces with honey and goat cheese FROM A GOAT THAT I MILKED-- but more on that later. Geez I love farms.

The take home message of today: what do our lovely hosts bring out but a bowl of egg salad. And then another. And another! Three types of egg salad with homemade mayo with eggs from their chickens!

My creepily religious but ultimately effective art therapy book (thanks Julie!) says that as soon as you tell the universe what you want it provides it. The examples in the book are like: Molly decided she wanted to be a painter then realized her next door neighbor gives painting lessons. Mine is "I never knew I liked egg salad and as soon as I realized that I loved it, someone made three different kinds of transcendent egg salad." I am either easy to please or have really low expectations.

Anyway, here is how to make some delicious egg salad.

3 hardboiled eggs (the key, according to Alton, is to start with the eggs in cold water, boil, then turn off the stove AT THE BOIL. Then wait ten minutes. Then run cool water over your eggs. I can attest: pretty perfect.)
2 tbs mayo
a little mustard
lots of salt and pepper
a T or so of chives or dill, fresh or dried. Don't skimp.

Mash it all together. Oh yeah. On a sandwich with refrigerator pickles? I want to take a bowl of this out behind the middle school and get it PREGNANT. I am not usually one for citational humor, but I can think of no better way to describe how I feel about this egg fucking salad. Tracy Jordan knows what it means to love a foodstuff, let me tell you that.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

chocolate bread

This from an article about the closing of El Bulli. I mean, it's not really-- it's about Mark Bittman cooking staff meals with Ferran Adria. Which I found kind of charming, since I am almost entirely inclined to marvel at roasted root vegetables over avant-garde cooking. Although, let's be real, I have no idea what I am actually talking about having never eaten at any of these places, and probably all that molecular gastronomy can be just as "honest" (eee) as a roasted beet. Anyway, totally intrigued by the planned "center for culinary innovation" on the Costa Brava in Spain. I wonder if they need a resident food-philosopher? My rates are cheap.

Oh, right. Staff meals. Yes-- Mark Bittman shares as a quick aside the snack he shared with Ferran Adria-- chocolate bread. Someone else-- Ruth Reichl? Molly Wizenberg?-- describes tucking a small piece of chocolate into a baguette as a sublime experience. I mean, maybe, but this slightly more involved version is so good. Made it as a midnight snack last night and breakfast this morning. Happiness.

Toast a piece of bread. I used some healthy-ass sprouted grain nonsense from Trader Joes, but I imagine that it would be improved by some classy/homemade/non-sandwich bread.

While the toast is still hot, grate over top or rub on the surface a small piece of chocolate until the surface is coated with chocolate. Now drizzle on some good olive oil, the really pungent Fairway-taster-aisle kind. Sprinkle sea salt on top.

And there you have it. Also for the "tasty things on bread" files (aka this entire blog): Elvis movies and fried sunflowerseed butter & banana sandwiches, yes please! Enjoy this image of hipster Elvis. Weird right? Fashion: it's circular.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

grilled cheese sandwich heaven

y'alls, i love grilled cheese sandwiches. i would say they are probably my all time number one favorite food. number two i guess. i know when you were a kid is the cool thing to say was that your favorite food is pizza but i would always be like, well, my favorite food is french bread with gravy but my second favorite food is grilled cheese. recipe for poulet farci al' ail may be forthcoming at some point, the dish that creates the gravy that creates the french bread with gravy that owns my heart. but for now: the best grilled cheese.

usually i make toasted cheese, which is kind of cheating, but it makes me feel like it might be "healthy" or at least healthy enough to count as one of those quick lunches or late night dinners that you stand over the stove eating. my toaster oven, though, is back at the ranch so i have been forced to conquer my fears of pan-fried grilled cheese: these sandwiches usually end up burnt or flabby with butter or half cold.

no more. the answer is mayonnaise. do you know this trick? i don't know how it entered my brain but i am glad it did.

spread a thin layer of mayo on the outside of the bread so you don't need to put butter in the pan which can separate or burn or whatever. medium heat until the bread browns and the cheese melts. when the cheese melts, flip it. boom. perfect crispy crust, no burning, doesn't really taste like mayo (especially if you spread mustard or chutney on the inside of your sandwich. yummm.)

the past two sandwiches, mozzarella on potato bread, have been simply perfect. in a succulent garden in the shade with a cat making happy sounds: you better believe it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

orange lassi

oh! summer. hello. i mean, there are some finals to grade but.

no more coolio, no more down home with the neelys, no more aristophanes, no more! free to move on to yoga memberships and other people's backyards. and finding a place of my very own. and travel! philly and europe and the shore and then back to the leftcoast, which is increasingly feeling like the bestcoast (every time i drive up the coast to encinitas and the road dips and the cliffs bend into the sea, i feel a thrill. punk rock independence! laid back community!). summer will be short, but if the past few days are any indication, just as lovely as the last.

so while it was hard to get here, and i regret the two pints of ice cream i ate in 24 hours, i am moving on to opener days. when the ice cream was gone i transitioned to lassis. they are awesome-- if i could just get to be the kind of person who considers yogurt or a handful of dates dessert i would be all set for encinitas living. but it hardly matters. i keep a thing of frozen oj concentrate in the freezer for just such an occasion, but even without you could make some awesome sweet lassis.


1 cup yogurt (vanilla or plain)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup water (whatever viscosity you favor)

(2 T OJ concentrate or to taste. Or mango pulp if you have it, like half a cup? Or just another few T of sugar and some cardamom)

Blend. Grad school breakfast of champions! Go to the beach, read a book, say thank you.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

tenacious bread

Lisssn: I have been rocking the grain salads: some kind of whole grain, olives, sundried tomatoes. Whole Foods bulk aisle and I are buddies. Even SPELT and I are buddies. Grain salads make me feel like some kind of Mediterranean goddess, all swarthy and feta cheese. From quinoa to spelt to wheat berries... to buckwheat groats. The other day I got up and put on a pot of grains and didn't measure, just threw in some kasha and spelt and, apparently, too much water. And it got crazy overcooked and sloppy gloppy. I made gruel. And my sanctimonious bulk-items-in-glass-containers grin fell. I tried to bake this glop into a kind of crisp bottom layer for crostini. I tried to fry it into fake arancini (but with neither breadcrumbs or egg: failure). And, finally, I baked it into bread. And it's delicious. So while this won't allow you to feel awesome about yourself for not eating refined carbohydrates, it is a great way to use up leftover grains. It still has that kasha funkiness, but this time in a good way.

(via James Beard's oatmeal bread)

2 cups or so of leftover grains
4 cups flour
2 1/2 t yeast (2 packets, if you aren't a baller who buys bulk yeast)
1 T salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk

Proof the yeast with the warm water (just hotter than body temp) and a tablespoon of sugar for about five minutes.

Add your grains, the milk, salt sugar, mix it up. Knead in the flour. The dough will be really sticky, add flour and knead for like 10 minutes until it is shiny and elastic. Then let it rise for about 2 hours, until doubled in size and not rising any more.

Punch it down, shape it into 2 loaves, plop into greased loaf pans, and let rise again until they fit in the bread pans, about an hour.

Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes, until golden brown and hollow-sounding when you knock on it. Then take the loaves out of the pans and let the sides crisp up for another 5 or 10 minutes.

Right now I am totally obsessed with Marmite, so this bread basically exists as a plate for the mouth-stinging, umami goodness that is Marmite. Every 15 minutes or so I sneak into the kitchen and spread myself another slice. But the bread has a nice crumb and is suitable for all kinds of sandwiches: of the ludicrously British variety or no.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


"Last year, Mr. Zuckerberg committed himself to learning Chinese"
-- Every single thing about this article makes me laugh out loud.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What makes the Engine of Creation Run? Not Physics but Ecstatics Makes the Engine Run:

Let Deep Roots Grow:
If you do not MINGLE you will Cease to Progress:
Seek Not to Fathom the World and its Delicate Particle Logic:
You cannot Understand, You can only Destroy,
You do not Advance, You only Trample.
Poor blind children, abandoned on the earth,
Groping terrified, misguided over
Fields of Slaughter, over bodies of the Slain:
There is No Zion Save Where You Are!

--Angel, Angels in America: Perestroika, Tony Kushner

It was so beautiful to spend the weekend of the Rapture writing a lecture about Angels in America. That whole scene about how God left after the 1909 earthquake: it's just perfect. The Great Work Begins, my dears. It's such a treat to read aloud to yourself on a Saturday afternoon, to have a play fold you under its wing like that.

It's funny because in posting about the simple things that really do it for me-- literature, butter-- I forget that sometimes I do cook things with steps and that this is a cooking blog and maybe I should give you all some recipes to try. Do you want to make some pretty good cookies? These are nice cookies: what they lack in my ecstacy over sunflower seed butter or olive oil (hot&heavy baking loves), they have in old fashioned chewy goodness. There is nothing particularly sexy or interesting about these cookies, but I will say that sometimes old school kind-of-boring buttery cookies are just a very good idea. John Barricelli-- Martha's right hand man and Norwalk local (holla!)-- notes that these cookies are a good addition to a lunchbox, which I think sums up their friendly-but-not-wholesome-but-not-decadent-either appeal.

"Nice" cookies
from the Sono Bakery Cookbook

+2 cups flour
+1 t baking soda
+2 sticks butter at room temp
+1 1/2 cups sugar (1 cup granulated and 1/2 cup brown, although I ran out of brown sugar so whatever)
+1 t salt (or a little more. Mine weren't salty enough. Did I forget the salt? I might have forgotten the salt)
+2 eggs at room temp
+1 1/2 T vanilla
+12 oz chocolate chips, I chopped a bar into small chunks (er, Sonia chopped a bar into small chunks, thanks) and I liked the mixture of big & little pieces of chocolate. Maybe do that.
+1 cup shredded coconut
+1 cup rolled oats

--Preheat the oven to 350.
--Beat the butter and sugar and salt for a few minutes and "make sure it tastes ok"-- ahhh this is my favorite part of making cookies for real. Also the oats in this dough are awesome for making sure you don't just sit and eat the whole thing of dough, do uncooked oats give other people a stomach ache? Is that a thing?
--Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Now the dry ingredients, make sure the flour is kind of fake-sifty and the baking soda doesn't hide in gnarly clumps. Now fold in the chocolate and coconut and oats all gentlelike.
--Make these cookies big-- like a full quarter cup each. Bake 15-18 minutes, they will still be soft in the center and that's a good thing. As Martha would say. Or the guy that developed her recipes would say. Or I would say as I bring not one but five of these cookies in my lunchbox.......based on a true story.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

bread and butter

Thinking a lot about this time last year. Apparently, I was all about simple food combinations: strawberries and whipped cream, artichokes and mayo, pairs that are so good together that they just sing. And so while there are some Big Deals around these parts-- planning a move, convalescing from this viral weirdness, kicking this scifi design project into high gear, submitting a grant and all the other school work and life chores, the Biggest Deal around here is bread and butter.

A recipe for the first free Saturday in recent memory:

Slice a nice loaf of country bread (hello, Bread and Cie! are we going to be neighbors soon? only time will tell!)
Spread with salted butter, salted butter, salted butter. Thickly!

It is, as James Beard says, one of the perfect matches in gastronomy. I think that all the salted-sweets hype lately, with big chunks of sea salt on everything from brownies to bacon cookies, is kind of gilding the lily. Don't get me wrong-- I love a compost cookie more than the next girl. I am a cheerleader for team salty-sweet. But let's be real about origins here. Salted caramel, the French godfather of this whole craze is made with, not a crapload of table salt but-- what?-- SALTED BUTTER. Oh, it's so good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

the power of salad

My salad days: when I was green in judgment, cold in blood...
--Antony & Cleopatra 1.V

It is beautiful. We moved the table out to the patio and even grant writing is improved by a tall glass of water in the shade (wish me luck!). Here is the salad that I make for myself always: never bothered to put it on here, because I figure that salad is just one of those things that people figure out for themselves, you know?

But once I was crazy about this girl who put sunflower seeds and raisins in her salads. It seemed so exotic and impossible and kind of gross at the time, so its kind of amusing that this is now one of my go-to ways to feed myself.
I am not that unhappy and unattainable young woman who would eat a big plastic bowl of salad for lunch-- more of an afternoon porch snack, really-- the sun is shining and I am getting freckles and I am a long way from institutional cutlery and fall in New England. But I started putting sunflower seeds and raisins in my salad and then one day it all came back to me-- the wood moulding of the dining hall, the crunch of chow mein noodles in a bowl of soft serve, the rebellion and pride at cobbling together your own dinner from the salad bar. So. I'm making a borrowed salad and wearing the same house outfit that I wore in high school and writing about blackness again and it's kind of nice to think that there's nothing new under the sun. Literally. The sun!

My favorite salad

+Salad greens
+Goat or feta cheese
+a handful of raisins
+a handful of sunflower seeds
+Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little maple syrup mixed together
+Fresh pepper


Saturday, April 23, 2011

books about feelings and shaksuka pizza

"The other women discovered not only that she was from Barnard... summa cum laude, parbleu!... but that she had the most adorable little cracked voice, like a boy's. It was perfect with her hair, so short and boyish too, and by the end of the second week three of the teachers were writing passionate notes to her."
-MFK Fisher

Ah, is there anything like picking up a book that you had previously discarded as inert and finding, well, yourself? I am loving The Measure of Her Powers. All of the stories are about somebody paying too much attention to their senses, which is how I feel basically all the time, so it's both a intimate window into someone's beautiful life and a private validation of feeling and noticing (too) many things.

Reminds me of a production of In the Next Room that has been haunting me since I saw it a few weeks ago-- something about two-thirds-finished women and a race of poets. A therapist once told me that I have "a certain capacity for emotionally intense states" and I think that's right. I think Sarah Ruhl's characters do too-- not in a stylized manic pixie dreamgirl kind of way but the kind of way that feels genuinely radical. Which is all to say that I was rereading some old entries and I am a little sick of my refrain that I am some kind of failure at adulthood. Unfinished paintings, Ruhl's painter says, are truer to life and nearer to God.

I think in the age we live in, raw emotional intimacy is far more radical than physical intimacy or selling sex, which we see on every block. We see radical emotional intimacy far less frequently.
-- Sarah Ruhl

Anyway, I have no good segue, except that I invented a really good pizza. It's based on the Israeli egg dish shakshuka, which are eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce. Ideally, of course, you make your own tomato sauce. I've even said on here that there's no reason not too. But listen, even a jarred-tomato-sauce hater like me sometimes has some in the house and wants to make a pizza and doesn't know what to put on it. Eggs. The answer is eggs.


--Pizza dough
--Tomato sauce (homemade or otherwise)
--Garlic, one or two cloves minced
--Red pepper flakes or chopped hot peppers. You could also use jalepeno or anaheim chiles (I used about 2 T worth of dried Japan peppers, chopped)
--Olive oil

+ Preheat the oven as hot as it will go.
+ Heat a little bit of oil with the garlic and pepper. If you do this in a cast iron skillet you can use that as your pizza stone: bingo. You don't need too much oil, just enough to give the spicy stuff a medium. You could probably skip this step and just use some hot sauce for some legit semihomade style Sandra Lee action. But it is really fast to make your own "hot sauce" so. yeah.
+ Then stretch you dough, spread LIBERALLY with tomato sauce and the spicy garlic oil. The eggs will get less rubbery if they are nestled in the tomato sauce, so use way more than you would for a normal cheese pizza. Bake for 4 or 5 minutes.
+ Then crack 2 eggs on top. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, until the whites are set.

Friday, April 22, 2011

overnight pizza dough

Well my dears, the dust has settled. All projects (except, you know, the long term phd-y ones) are done and I have gone back to buying root vegetables and whole grains after a month or two or three of 4 dollar kombucha and bagels from the coop. In some ways its good-- more food out of the house means more time out of the house might mean making meaningful theatre-things happen or at least interacting with other human beings not through a screen (BOWLING TOGETHER). But it also means I look at my bank account and am like-- 30 dollars at Rock Bottom? TWICE IN A WEEK?

None of this, though, is news to the army of thoughtful diligent people who get home at 5 every day or live in a major city where takeout is a thing. Such folks, I imagine, have have already figured out how to calibrate the line between spending a whole day making a cake and hoping that there will be snacks at an art opening to eat for dinner. But some of us are still figuring out the sweet spot between extreme homebodydom and eating fake Mexican food at sad chains, ok?

If necessity is the mother of invention, then I am glad that my navel-gazing post-adolescent search for both a homemade life and a performance-person's schedule led me to this pizza dough. It is really wonderful and keeps for a few days so that you can bake off a quick pizza whenever.

Pinapple feta, cheddar&peas&hotsauce. This recipe makes enough pizzas that you can figure out new and cool and weird toppings your own damn self. Do try a simple pineapple/feta pizza though, especially if you are a fruit on pizza naysayer-- this combo recently converted me.

Overnight Pizza Dough
(makes enough for 6 big personal pizzas, but you can freeze some)
(adapted a little from Peter Reinhardt via 101 cookbooks)

+ 4 1/2 cups flour
+ 1 3/4 t salt
+ 1 t instant yeast
+ 1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil
+ 2 c water

-- Combine ingredients and stir/flop your hand around in the bowl until the dough comes together.

-- Knead for as long as you can stand it. 7 minutes? The dough should be tacky and almost sticky and have that awesome elasticity and sheen that dough gets when you knead it right. Yes! If not add more water. If it is too wet and sticks to the bottom of the bowl add a little more flour.

-- Cut the dough into 6 blobs and coat them well with olive oil. Let them hang out on a baking sheet in the fridge overnight covered with plastic wrap. They will keep in the fridge for like 3 days. If you aren't going to eat 6 pizzas in 3 days (uhhh) you can freeze the blobs in plastic wrap after a day, no bigs.

-- OK crash for the evening and get up and run errands that you have been putting off for months and tell embarrassingly personal anecdotes in class because you are sleep deprived and daydream about the future. Is it dinnertime? Go home and take a pizza blob out of the fridge. Make sure it is still greased-up and not all dry and cracky. If its dried out a little that's fine, but not the Platonic Pizza Ideal. Flatten it into a disc and let it hang out for up to 2 hours. If you are hungry NOW and can only wait until the oven preheats, well, that's between you and yer stomach. I for one couldn't taste a difference.

-- Crank the oven up to 500 and stick your cast iron pan or pizza stone inside. Stretch the dough over your fists and toss it around until it is the thinness that you want it. I find that stretching a blob to fit a 12 inch iron skillet is usually right on.

-- Once the oven is hot, lay down some cornmeal on your baking surface (the pan or the back of a baking sheet or a peel that you will transfer to your pizza stone, you bougie jerk who owns a pizza peel). Stretch out that dough one last time and dress your pizza up right. Into the oven for 8 minutes, until the crust is brown and cheese is bubbly.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sein & Zeit

You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."

-Charles Baudelaire

Sunday, April 3, 2011


For some reason, this is the actual color of the camera on my computer right now. In the spirit of this beautiful post.

What I am avoiding:
Washing the kitchen floor. Organizing my pantry and all the groceries I bought yesterday so that they aren't balanced precariously. Making dinner for next week. Laundry (antislob campaign). Buying new shirts or perhaps shorts (anti schlub campaign). Translating Aristophanes and reading about blackface. Finishing up a paper to submit, editing all the fiddly Greek fonts and making sure my argument still makes sense. Making sure that my car still works after my tire exploded yesterday, which I suppose entails buying a new spare and getting my alignment checked.

How I am doing it:
Made risotto for a little potluck tonight. Honestly, real stock is an absolute joy and it was definitely time to spend an afternoon stirring and zoning out. The internet, where I read an interview by John McPhee, a very funny McSweeneys piece, and a review of The Scottsboro Boys. I did the dishes which was fairly epic because everything was covered in chocolate after baking a cake yesterday. I tried to read Love and Theft but I fell asleep in the sun for about half an hour. I made a mixtape to translate to of songs I have become fond of over the past few months. I listened to an album in its entirety. Yes indeed, there is something to be said for a day in which you neither work nor socialize. Self-indulgence without self-improvement. Nothing extreme or remarkable. Letting the lazy contours of the day fold themselves around my stretched-out legs and quiet smile.

Monday, March 28, 2011

cabbage gratin

I feel like side dishes are for a different demographic. Like for people with a spouse. Or for people with regular potlucks. Or for professional chefs. People who use menu planning apps. Mothers. I don't know: somebody that is not me. These last few months I have amassed a hat collection so that I can stop showering, for chrissakes.

Is this just a function of grad school? A function of grad school-cum-secret-life-as-an-artist? Am I going into slob remission? Being on top of things is hard.

(hat tip to Hyperbole and a Half for nailing this phenomenon so hilariously)

So it's not really fair that I fault this technique for braised cabbage/bokchoy/fennel for being a side dish: I've started eating it over pasta for lunch and it's delicious, even if it doesn't have that gold star casserole-y "take this to school every night to eat at rehearsal" goodness. Every time I don't know what to do with a green thing and I braise it I surprise myself with my culinary savvy. Especially given that cabbage is mega-cheap, this tastes surprisingly sophisticated.

+Chop a head of cabbage (or bok choy or fennel or a combo) thin and saute it in some butter with some chopped scallions or leeks, something oniony without the hassle and time of onions. For maybe 10 minutes, until the cabbage is wilty and maybe a little brown.

+Add a cup or two of good stock-- you know, that you made from the peels in your freezer.

OPTION 1: Simmer until the cabbage is soft and the liquid is mostly gone. 15-20 minutes?

OPTION 2 (via Orangette): Simmer for just a minute, then cover the pan with tin foil and bake in the oven at 350 for about half an hour. When it seems like the cabbage is soft and the liquid is mostly gone, take off the tinfoil and sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and a soft cheese. Increase the temp to 375 and bake until the crust is toasty.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

date shake

Back from Death Valley and I don't even know what to do with myself. San Diego is a far cry from Gotham, as you, uh, might have heard me say every day sometime over the past two years, but even little San Diego is a far cry from big sky and dusty highway. And even though I know that I am a rhinestone cowboy, something about the planet Earth just makes my heart sing. Also dates. I had one when I was little-- on a playdate, I think, at the bougiest-market-in-the-world Hay Day-- and my mouth got all hivey and that was that for dates for about 15 years. Everyone always told me my allergies would start to disappear, or at least, they insinuated that it somestimes happens, that there is always the off chance... which is when I would butt in feeling mighty defensive about how MY allergies are really really bad and they aren't going away any time soon. Except-- I have never been so happy to be wrong-- they are. I have started eating figs again and even bananas and DATES. Oh, dates, you are the desert in food form. Ice cream in the middle of nowhere is nothing short of a miracle (see Burning Man post) and if that ice cream happens to be blended with dates in milkshake form... well. I guess you could say that I am actually pretty happy to be living in Southern California. Full disclosure: I have never made these in my own kitchen, but have driven far and wide through the desert to sample date shakes... the recipe itself is kind of incidental to the baked mud and fresh air.

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(via the Sunset Magazine Cookbook)

4 dates, coarsely chopped. The dates that inspired my date-bender were Honey Dates from China Ranch, but most recipes call for Medjool.

1/4 c milk

1 1/4 c vanilla ice cream.

In a blender, blend dates and milk until smooth & frothy. Add ice cream and pulse a few times, until just blended.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

popcorn heaven

Guys I always freak out when I think there is nothing in the house, but because I am who I am, there is never nothing in the house. For example. there is always popcorn. It took several people teaching me how to pop corn longhand, the stovetop way, to trust the process. And I'm not going to lie, this method has absolutely led to a scorched pot melted onto a polyester carpet in a room billowing with smoke. Maybe even more than once. But it isn't too too complicated, and it certainly is healthier and cheaper to just buy the kernels and pop them on the stove yourself. Plus then you can make this popcorn, which is pretty amazing.

POPCORN (from here)

--popping corn (or plain popped popcorn from the fancy-store)
--cayenne pepper (1/2 t?)
--rosemary (1 t?)
--sugar (2t?)
--salt (1 t?)
--2 T melted butter

Melt the butter. Then pop the corn on the stove. Do you know how to do it? Get a friend to show you. It's not that hard. Coat the bottom of a pan with a thin layer of oil and let two kernels sit in wait over medium heat until...bam!... it's time. Toss in a handful of kernels and put a lid on it. Shake the pot. This is important. Don't check your email or go pee (seems obvious, but...). Sometimes when it seems to lag I lift the lid a little, releasing steam and inciting a new volley of popping kernels. When it is a few seconds between pops, take the popcorn off the stove and dump it into a bowl. Drizzle the butter on top and shake on the spices, shaking the bowl around to coat evenly. Oh yeah. If the bottom of the pot is kind of gunky and hard to clean, try soaking it in vinegar (thanks, Heloise).

I am pretty sure that this popcorn is on the starting lineup of my snack-fantasy-league, and that is coming from someone who has easy access to Trader Joes Lentil Curls and any manner of bougie pita chips. This popcorn, man. It's a contendah. And there is nothing wrong with eating nothing but snacks, especially when you are in rehearsals! for! three! shows! Or when you aren't. Somebody with free time, watch a crappy movie and make this popcorn and raise a fistful southwest in my honor.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Coffee is a more powerful fluid than people think. A man in good health may drink two bottles of wine a day for a long time, and sustain his strength. If he drank that quantity of coffee he would become an imbecile and die of consumption.

thanks folks, i'll be here all week! studying for orals has never been so much fun!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

matzo ball soup

Kind of conflicted about this because, well, my grandmother never made me this soup. This fall I took a class that had a seminar on food and was utterly blown away when another student related basically the same anecdote that I love to tell: she thought that she was learning her family's latke recipe, but actually it had come with the food processor. I really want to believe that much of the foodways I've inherited had love as their basis, but the only thing I really remember my grandmother baking was bran muffins and, well, a bran muffin is a far cry from a cherry pie or even, uh, a babka. And so it was pretty reassuring that it wasn't only me and my classmate feeling let down by our lack of old worldliness-- c.f The Invention of Tradition and Imagined Communities.

So this soup comes from college. Shira taught me to first boil the matzo balls in the soup mix and then plunk them into homemade stock, so that's what I do. A borrowed tradition, if not an invented one.

What this entry really is, though, is an invitation to make stock. Chicken soup makes no sense without homemade stock. Making stock is not only fun and feisty but free. Holy alliteration, Batman! But seriously. The key is keeping vegetable scraps in the freezer in a ziploc bag until you are ready to dump them in a pot and use them. Crazy? Yes. But hopefully you live with chill roommates or at the very least someone who also feels guilty about chucking so many food scraps. Anyway. Keep scraps of onion or celery or potatoes or whatever. Seriously. Whatever. Then cover that mess with water and add salt, pepper, thyme, a bouquet garni, a few cloves of garlic. Simmer for an hour or two. If you happen to have a rotisserie chicken carcass on hand because you happen to be making a dance piece which happens to star 2 rotisserie chickens (I am either a genius or a clown) so much the better. Then just add less veggies but the principle is the same. OK.

Yeah. You made stock. Right? Awesome. I freeze mine in muffin tins to add to all kinds of random stuff. Apparently that's actually one of the major differences between restaurant and home cooking. Actually I think what Bourdain/Ruhlman/whoever said was actually VEAL STOCK, but we have this awesome thing called guilt and veggie stock it is. Oy! Back to work.

Buy a box of matzo ball mix. Or matzo meal + salt + pepper + dried parsley. Ain't no thing. Mix according to directions, which is basically 2T oil (or schmaltz, if you are in the old country or made that stock recently) beaten with 2 eggs plus all that dry stuff. Plus 2 T stock if you aren't using the mix-- in which case you'll plop these guys straight into your good delicious stock and, well, it might get cloudy or lack that MSG pop on the finish or something less good. I don't know. I'm sticking the college method.

Let the dough rest in the fridge for 15 minutes while you boil the crappy soup mix (at half strength) and heat up the real stock. Shape the dough into golfball-ish balls and polop in the boiling soupmixywater. Simmer for 20 minutes WITH THE LID ON NO PEEKING. Then transfer them to bowls and ladle the real deal stock on top. Oh yeah. You will be feeling better in no time, MayoClinic says so and everything.

hot rum toddy

Dear Hot Rum Toddy,

Listen. I know we didn't meet under the best of circumstances. I never get sick: I honestly thought that the sore throat was from singing along too enthusiastically to Ke$ha in the car but a few days went by and I started to suspect that maybe this was more than windows-down-freeway-belting-hoarseness. And even after I realized I too might be included in the ranks of the winter sniffly, I have to admit you weren't my first thought. I hate rum and those meyer lemons were destined for better things, like a (second? yes) olive oil cake. The last time I had a hot rum toddy I think it was actually a whisky toddy and it was too lukewarm and too strong and I secretly held my nose as I drank it to be cordial at a party. Such smiling-on-the-outside wincing-on-the-inside treatment has been historically reserved for things like homemade grappa. That's right, rum toddy, I had lumped you in with "things that someone's grandpa made so you better drink it to be polite." What I mean to say is I'm sorry, because right now you are making the difference between sleeping and not sleeping and are delicious besides. You are the perfect winter drink and bewitchingly Dickensian and maybe even restorative besides. Be mine?


1 shot spiced rum
1/2 a regular lemon or 1 meyer lemon, squeezed
a spoonful of honey or maple syrup
hot water to fill mug

Monday, February 7, 2011

avocado fries

I love the superbowl because it is a whole holiday devoted to snacks. I actually watched the game yesterday, but that was kind of incidental to my love of beer and dips. Ha! And after several aforementioned beers found myself EXPLAINING THE RULES to someone who didn't understand field goals. Not sure if that proves that I am a hilarious con artist or was secretly listening all those times I was on the receiving end of the same conversation.

I have to say, the classy-trashy-snack-quotient was a little low at this party. So these avocado fries, while no taquitos and totally coals to Newcastle in the "fats" department, fit the bill. Also because I joined a CSA and-- while I feel downright beatific, if sick of doing dishes-- don't have a say over what veggies cross my path. Like avocados, which are slightly chancey in the mouth-hives department as guacamole.

A little googling later, fried avocados from just down the road at La Jolla Shores. I would say "small world", but really it's like "small world in which avocados are foisted on you and you need to come up with recipes for them" which is basically a statement bougie enough for only La Jolla.

from Sunset Magazine from George's at the Cove

+2 avocados, pitted and peeled and sliced into fry shapes
+ a handful of flour
+ salt
+ pepper
+ oil for frying
(classy edition: 1 beaten egg, panko flakes)

-- Dredge your avocados in flour, salt, pepper. Maybe some garlic powder or chili powder? I never really eat avocado so the plain taste is exciting enough in my world. If you are going to be all "ew, fried avocados are sooo bland" like all the commenters on maybe you should spice them up a little.
-- If you want to really do it up right, then dip them in egg and coat in breadcrumbs. I don't usually have panko/breadcrumbs/such things in my house, plus my "getting fry coatings to stick" skills are pretty limited, so I just skipped it.
-- Heat up about an inch of oil in a frying pan. If you have a fry thermometer, you want about 375. If you don't, you want it "really hot."
--Fry slices for about a minute until golden brown and crispy-on-the-outside-looking.
--Serve while hot

Saturday, January 29, 2011

white bean dip

I don't know which I am more excited about: a new influx of music thanks to the daytrotter sessions, a rush of phone calls from near and far, feeling an awesome sense of CA-community, working on creative projects full time, reading Greek and having it feel energizing and not laborious, a pending vacation to death valley, or this white bean dip. Seriously. I figured out my very own anti-hummus and now I am basically living the dream.


Throw 2 cups or so of white beans (if you cooked them yourself this will be better) into a food processor with plenty of salt and pepper, about a clove of garlic, and a glug of olive oil. Let it whizz around while you toast up some pita or make tortilla chips in the oven (400 for 15 minutes or so).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce

Just learned that Mark Bittman's NYT column, the Minimalist, has been cancelled. He'll be moving on to write about food policy... he was already moving in that direction. Frankly, I should probably move in that direction, too. Food is Serious Business and Agrobusiness is a Big Problem and we should all Inform Ourselves. But I just want to maintain that there is something PLAYFUL about food, something that is fun and easy and sincere. I think about authenticity a lot-- both in terms of our sarcastic generation & queer performance-- and as much as I sneer when idiots start talking about how much they love HONEST food, I get it. Mark Bittman cooked "real" food and taught me how to cook it and love it. From crackers to cake, something about the Minimalist just said: "you can do it. just cook it from scratch." And "from scratch", my friends, has been the most meaningful activity in my life for the past five or so years. So goodbye, the Minimalist, and thanks for everything.

If I haven't made you watch this yet, please do.

Anyway. Speaking of "from scratch", there is no reason to buy jarred pasta sauce when you can make one that is this amazing! AMAZING. And easy. And honest. Don't feel bad about using canned tomatoes, even NPR says its ok.

+ An onion, peeled and cut in half BUT NOT DICED.
+ 1 28 oz can of nice tomatoes (Trader Joe's, San Marzanos, whatever). I cut mine up a little first but you could crush them with a spoon while they're cooking so whatever. Just don't lose the seeds because they are MAD UMAMI.
+ Half a stick of butter (Yeah, I mean, duh. I said AMAZING right? Well. There you go.)

--Put the ingredients in a pan and let it simmer for as long as you can stand it. 45 minutes?

Discard the onion. Toss it in a blender, if you are like, only interested in foods that bear no resemblance to things that grow in the ground. Proud, Bittman? See? I am "politically engaged." True confession though, one time I pureed this sauce because I missed the corporate consistancy of fake pasta sauce. So. Anyway, that's it! You're done! Turns out all it takes to make "honest food" is butter and patience.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spicy Eggs

I was never a fan of hot sauce. Never saw the point. I always felt like those who liked hot sauce had some kind of cultural cache: I guess one time at some point I visited some grown-up in an office and was amazed, amused at a bottle of hot sauce stashed in the corner of a cubicle. Then when facebook was just a toddler and groups were introduced, one of the first to go viral at Columbia, "Hot Sauce Fixes Damn Near Any Food", made me feel the whole internet was at some party and I was in the corner.

No more. Something about replacing white pizza with burritos, the economy-sized tub of Franks Red Hot in the fridge, going out to the desert or cooking in a cast iron pan. Or maybe it was drinking less coffee. Maybe I am just feistier. But I can't get enough. Hat tip to Adam for inventing these and for feeding me so many breakfasts.


+ Heat up oil in a sturdy pan (or leftover sausage fat over a fire pit, if it is dawn and you are in the desert and life is as good as it gets)
+ Fry a lot of cayenne, or cayenne-lime mix. Add red pepper flakes. Add paprika. Add chili/e powder. Sizzle sizzle.
+ Turn the heat lower and scramble some eggs (you know, that you already beat with a fork in a bowl).
+ Avert your eyes while someone else adds a liberal amount of cheese.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

happy new year, tomato bread

"Recipes!" Rachel said. "Recipes!"

My life the last few months has been all ideas, all the time. Not even concrete ideas, dreamer-schemer ideas ("a talking doormat", someone at Burning Man replied. I guess "what's your big idea?" is kind of a trick question, especially when someone is on drugs). Nebulous ideas. International Klein Blue ideas.

Yesterday I sat with an old woman in her study and she was burning cedar wood and it was hot and dark and fragrant and she said: "here is what I have noticed about your work. You have a brilliant mind but you need to focus." I was struck by two things: she has read fifteen pages of my writing. I have heard this before... always from people that don't know me that well. What is it about my carriage or gestures or hair or teeth that says "nutty professor"? I guess I have been playing this part, in which genuine excitement and curiosity get acted out as fake spaciness, for so long that I have become genuinely scattered. Enter: recipes. It is good to cling to something simple and real like food without thinking too hard about it.

Anyway, Rachel, here is a recipe that is unexpected, delicious, and impossible to overthink.

(adios, Barcelona, it was great)

--Classy European bread, sliced (horizontally, if you have a baguette) and toasted almost to the point of charring
--A clove of garlic
--Olive oil
--A tomato

+ Rub the cut clove of garlic over the rough toasted bread (which is why you need a sturdy toast, and also a bread with a not-too-open crumb) until it gets worn down.

+ Cut the tomato in half and rub that over the bread too.

+ Drizzle some olive oil on top and salt, if you want.

+ Resolve to drink better coffee and eat better cheese (not really, but this bread + manchego cheese are the tapas of champions). Also to rewatch The Passenger.