Saturday, September 17

Naked Tomato Sauce

One of my favorite Italian restaurants in New York City offers a spaghetti al pomodoro that whisks you off to Rome with a single pasta-twirled forkful.  So I jumped at the opportunity to create my own space-time impossibility when I saw this post on the Smitten Kitchen blog (which I think was inspired by Scarpetta's Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil).  Understandably, my attempt fell a little short of the truly great spaghetti sauces.

In the year that I have officially been feeding myself without the aid of a meal plan or familial relation, I have found it incredibly useful to use recipes as a way to expose myself to a new type of cooking.  Then I can learn the basic principles of, say, pasta sauces and eventually branch off to my own variations.  And we know how much I love really simple, delicious things.

As for making your own tomato sauce from scratch, don't.  Well, don't unless the sauce is meant to exploit the flavor of the tomatoes.  Fresh tomatoes in this recipe works because it is a "naked tomato sauce".  I would stick with cans of crushed tomatoes or canned tomato sauce is you are going to add the whole shebang: meat, peppers, onions, mushrooms.

That's my plug for this recipe.  That, and it was flavorful and tasty enough to not need freshly grated parmesan.  Which I would have grated with the grater that cost almost half of what I paid for for 3 pots, 3 pans, 3 kitchen utensils, and a set of 5 mixing bowls.  But hey, it's an investment...?

Naked Tomato Sauce
from Smitten Kitchen

3 lbs plum tomatoes
3/4 tsp course salt
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
small handful of basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 lb dried spaghetti
1 tbs unsalted butter

Peel the tomatoes.  The best way to do this is by cutting a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato, submerging them in water for about 30 seconds, and then shocking the fruit under cold water or with an ice bath.  Peeling off the skins should be pretty easy then.
Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the innards (the seeds and juices).  Strain everything and keep the juice.  You can discard the seeds.  Crush the tomato slices in a saucepan that can hold the sauce and the pasta.  Crush them using a potato masher, a slotted spoon, an immersion blender.... OR your hands!
Turn the heat onto medium-high until the tomatoes start to boil and then turn it to medium-low and let simmer for 35-45 minutes.

hand-crushed, baby

Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, garlic, red pepper, and basil in a tiny saucepan and bring to a boil as slowly as possible.  Infuse the olive oil.  When it boils, remove immediately from the heat and strain into a small ball.  Set aside for later.

After about 25 minutes of tomato-simmering, make the pasta but cook until it is very al dente because it will cook a bit more with the sauce.  Save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to bring the sauce and pasta together.
Combine the pasta and infused oil in the tomato pot and add a little bit of the pasta water to bring everything together.  Consume.

This past week I was unbelievably able to attend the final match of the US OPEN!  Aanndd, Paul Simon was there!  So here's Paul Simon's "Cecilia":

Perelman, Deb. "Naked Tomato Sauce." Smitten Kitchen. 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 16 Sept. 2001. <>.

Friday, September 9

Carrot Cake Muffins

Trader Joe's sells these really fantastic carrot cake sandwich things (think a carrot cake whoopee pie).  These are not that type of muffin.  This particular recipe is from the Recipes for Health section of the New York Times.

As Martha Rose Shulman (the woman who developed and published this recipe) writes, "These spicy whole-grain muffins are just sweet enough, unlike most cloying carrot cakes."  Troublesome as it is, I have no problem with sweetness, cloying or otherwise.  The more the better, general health and well-being be damned.

ah, the healing powers of California's
natural light

Over the years, many people have argued that muffins cannot in fact be limited to one meal, but these carrot cake muffins are definitely of the breakfast variety.  Packed with fiber and protein, they are a healthy but delicious way to start your day.  Plus, they make the whole house/apartment/dorm smell like Christmas.

what a delicious, welcome mess

Carrot Cake Muffins
by Martha Rose Shulman

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup golden raisins tossed with 1 tsp flour
1 1/2 cups grated carrots (this is maybe 4 large carrots)

eggs straight from my sister's farm... that's right folks,
straight from chicken rump to counter top

wet ingredients

I peeled way too many carrots

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, making sure the racks occupy the top 1/3 of the oven space.  Grease the muffin tins.
Sift together the whole-wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.
Separately, beat together the eggs, sugars, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Use a whisk or spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until well-combined.  Make sure not to beat as a few lumps are fine, but there should not be any flour at the bottom of the bowl.  Fold in the raisins and carrots.
Spoon into muffin tops, filling them so they are just below 4/5 full.  Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and well risen.

just into the oven

Because I am a poor, starving college student, I do not have the luxury of blowing many many dollars on music.  Yes, I could download music illegally, Youtube it, open myself to Pandora's incessant ads, and now Spotify it.  Moral issues aside, I am in all honesty just too lazy.  Not only do you have to find your preferred fountain of tunes, but you have to screen it for obnoxious promos, URL's to God-knows-what stored in all sorts of places, not to mention the issues with downloading something you do not want to download.

However, the upside is that I get to rediscover music in my library.  For example, this song, "Let's Live For Today" by the Grass Roots, is on a CD of anthems that my sister let me steal/borrow:

Shulman, Martha R. "Recipes for Health: Carrot Cake Muffins." The New York Times. 1 Mar. 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2011.

Friday, September 2

Whole Lemon Bars

It took me a little while to warm up to lemon bars.  Most of my exposure to them came through the various bake sales of my childhood, and who would have lemon bars when there are brownies, cupcakes, and cookies, oh my?  Fortunately my taste matured.  Still, lemon bars can frequently be something of a wild-card.  Sometimes they are too sweet, sometimes the crust is just lacking, sometimes the lemon offers only a hint of flavor.

this would be an occasion to splurge
for the sifter

On the same day that Elizabeth and I made the Coconut Red Lentil Soup, we made these Whole Lemon Bars.  Oh, they were perfect.  The bars had the zing of the citrus and a shortbread-like crust.  Not to mention they are just plain ol' purdy to look at.

now that's what I'm talking about

This recipe uses an actual whole lemon that is pulverized by a blender or food processor.  For that lemon, Mr. Lebovitz (the man who developed this recipe) recommends using an organic lemon because everything (pith, pulp, peel, and all) goes in the lemon bars.  One organic lemon is not very expensive either.  As for the lemon juice, I think two lemons should be more than enough to produce 3 tablespoons of juice.

Whole Lemon Bars
by David Lebovitz

1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tablespoon salt
8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Lemon Topping
1 lemon, organic or unsprayed
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Optional: powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Overturn an 8-inch square pan on the counter and cover the inside of the pan with foil, shiny side up.  A good way to do this is by first wrapping it around the outside of the pan to get the shape.
Mix the crust ingredients together and stir until just smooth.  Pour the batter into the pan, making sure to spread and smooth it so it is level.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until it's golden brown.
While the crust is cooking, cut the lemon (this would be the organic one) in half, remove the seeds, and cut it into chunks.  Blend the lemon chunks, sugar, and lemon juice until the lemon is no longer chunky.  Add the rest of the lemon topping ingredients and continue blending until almost smooth.
When the crust is out of the oven, reduce the heat to 300 degrees, pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake for 25 minutes or just until the filling stops jiggling and is barely set.
Take it out of the oven and let it cool completely.  Then carefully remove the golden wonder by lifting the foil.  Cut into the desired shape and sift powdered sugar over the top before serving.  VoilĂ !

At the moment, I am in Delaware with my aunt and uncle and cousins.  My first-cousin-once-removed (although who knows if that is right) is now 3 years old and loves The Who.  To the point that he wants to be called Roger (the lead singer's name).  Currently, his favorite song is "Baba O'Riley" and, man, has this kid got the rhythm down.  So in honor of him, here is "Baba O'Riley" by The Who:

Lebovitz, David. "Whole Lemon Bars." David Lebovitz: Living the Sweet Life in Paris. 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 14 June 2011. <>.

Thursday, September 1

Basil and Parmesan Cheese Flakey Biscuits

The first part of my summer was full of hiking and cooking and life-maintenancey bits (dentist, anyone?), while the second part was all work and class and no play.  Fortunately, a trip to Oregon to visit my older sister, Ingrid, and Heart Wheel Farm divided the two parts.

finished product

It was an amazing trip.  I was so glad to get the chance to spend time with both my sisters, especially because it has been about a year since I had seen Ingrid and it will probably be another year before we see each other again.  The night before we left, I made these flakey biscuits with basil and parmesan.  They are savory biscuits and probably taste best with soup or lentils or something.  We ate them as a side to dinner with a little bit of drizzled pesto sauce (which I also made using this recipe).

Basil and Parmesan Cheese Flakey Biscuits
from The Tassajara Bread Book

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves


and after!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the flours, baking powder, and salt.  Cut the butter into dry ingredients (this can be done with two knives or by rubbing the butter between your hands until pea-sized pieces of butter are formed).  Add the parmesan and minced basil leaves.

Make a well in the center and add the eggs and milk.  Beat the liquid with a fork until smooth, then continue stirring and slowly incorporate the dry ingredients, until all is moistened.
On a floured board, knead the dough just enough to bring it together.
Roll the dough until a rectangle 1/2 inch thick.  Fold in thirds.  Rotate the dough a quarter turn, and repeat rolling and folding.  Repeat once more.  This maximizes the flakey layers of the biscuits
To make the biscuits, roll out the dough again to a 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut into rounds with a floured cutter or glass.
Place on an ungreased sheet, and bake for about 8-10 minutes until the bottoms are browned lightly and the tops are slightly golden.  Make sure not to bake them too long because they will dry out.
Serve piping hot!  Or cart them on an eight hour drive and have them that night.

This is a version of the old John Denver classic "Take Me Home, Country Roads" that Ingrid put on a CD for me.  I love folksy songs, and the percussion just adds a whole new dimension to it:

Brown, Edward Espe. "Basil and Parmesan Cheese Flakey Biscuits." The Tassajara Bread Book. Boston: Shambhala, 2009. 94. Print.

Tuesday, August 30

Governor's Island

I realize it is a little late in the summer, but go to Governor's Island!

on the western shore of Governor's Island

This particular island is just south of Manhattan.  There is a free ferry Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and free bike rentals on Fridays.  Governor's Island is lovely and flat, so it is the perfect way to enjoy those last few days of pleasantly warm weather before the chill creeps in.

More importantly, there many different events on the island throughout the summertime.  (Here is a list of this summer's activities, free and otherwise.)  My favorite by far is the Jazz Age Dance Party.  I accidentally stumbled upon this 20s jazz festival when I first visited Governor's Island.  Dozens of people dressed up as flappers and philosophers swarmed the island and danced on the grass to fantastic music.  The whole affair is presented by Michael Arenella and the Dreamland Orchestra.

Some things to look forward to as summer slips away: Rock the Bells Concert, the NYC Unicycle Festival, Rite of Summer Classical Music Festival, and Vendy Awards (for foodies!  foodies everywhere!).  If you cannot make any of these, mentally note Governor's Island for next summer!

view of Manhattan and Brooklyn

Sweetbox Cupcakes

Sweetbox Cupcakes, Guapos Tacos' roaming companion, also usually resides in the LOVE/JFK Park in Philadelphia.  Clearly the goods go fast; by the time Margaret and I talked each other into checking out the menu, many of the favorite cupcakes were gone.  This was probably a good thing because the two cupcakes we did sample were to die for and the decision process would have been that much more harrowing if we had had more options.

We bought a strawberries and cream cupcake and the other was chocolate hazelnut.  Each cost $3 (only $.25 more than a Magnolia cupcake!), but some of the other options were $2.50.  Either way, it was three dollars with which I easily parted.

Each cupcake was artfully baked and decorated.  Nevertheless, I experienced the slightest moment of skepticism when I saw the undeniable pinkness of the cake.  Oh, I of little faith!

The strawberry cake was clearly made with real strawberries because it somehow managed to convey the freshness of the fruit.  The chocolate hazelnut cupcake was just as good, if not as unusual.  Topped with chopped hazelnuts, the cake was chocolate and drizzled with a rich ganache.  It was the perfect combination of nuttiness and that deep chocolaty taste of which we always approve.

As we enjoyed our well-deserved treats, we listened to some incredible singers in the park.  For future reference, check this website for cultural events, performances, and exhibits hosted by Fairmont Park.

Monday, August 29

Guapos Tacos

I am beginning to think that food carts are going to take over the world.  From Portland (the land of food carts selling fried pie) to New York (the island of Wafels & Dinges and A-Pou's Taste Cart) and, as I recently discovered, Philadelphia.

Guapos Tacos, from what I can tell from their twitterings, generally plonks down in the LOVE Park (offically JFK Park) alongside Sweetbox Cupcakes (more on them later).  Margaret and I split an order of the Green Chili Chicken Tacos.  Unlike many other tacos, these were lighter although it is hard to explain exactly how.  The shells were not as fried-to-crispness and maybe that was it.  Or maybe it was the radish on top that completely threw me a loop.  Regardless, the meal was delicious and worth the wait in the line under the radiating sun.

green chile chicken tacos

The order of tacos cost $6, which we were only too happy to give to the food cart covered in a geometric pattern of beer bottle caps.

if the wait is a little long, try identifying all the beer caps

The High Line: Revisted

Remember this post?  Well thanks to the strategic Jack (who was actually the original person to tell me about the High Line), I read an article in the New York Times called "Walking On Air" about the High Line and the culture there now.

As it so happens, I had my own experience with the High Line and her artists.  During my first spring in New York, my mother visited me and we toured the city together between those pesky midterms.  We strolled through Union Square one day and spotted a man selling tiny photographs of the city.  It turned out that he made his own pinhole cameras (aka camera obscura) with little tins and old film canisters and then sold his work.  An amateur photographer who once developed her own film, my mother eyed the photographs and, probably remembering our string of extravagancies and acting with her usual consumer's hesitation, moved on.  I mentally noted the man and his wares and resolved to come back at a later date.

For the better part of a year, I made sure to glance at the artwork in Union Square on my way to dumplings or Italian pastries or the occasional performance.  Then, my roommate and I hauled our weary feet up the two flights of stairs to the High Line and slowly meandered above the street.

He was there!  I gushed and jabbered and told him of my search.  It would seem that Union Square had become too commercial for him (unsurprising, especially after six years of vending in the same location) and the High Line is now is regular spot.

The photograph I ultimately bought for my mother is black and white and was probably taken in Brooklyn.  Two adjacent apartment windows form dark frames, capturing the Brooklyn Bridge in one and the Manhattan skyline in the other.

mom with soon-to-be cousin Andrea

Sunday, August 28

Tommy DiNic's

The powers that be have decided that pork is forgotten more often than not, and that is a tragic situation that we here aim to rectify through lots o' pork.

Tommy DiNic's is in the Reading Terminal Market on Arch St and 11th St N in Philly.  They sell the best pulled pork in all of Philadelphia as demonstrated by the many framed and laminated reviews within sight of the register (one review proclaimed capitally, "PIG OUT!") and I cannot say that I disagree.

While I do not totally understand how pulling and shredding the pork alters the flavor, I think that the pork can be pulled is in fact a symptom of a slow-cooking process that tenderizes the meat in that succulent way.  If that is the case, the good ol' boys at Tommy Dinic's have mastered the slow-cooking process.

This was one of my first meals in Philadelphia, and it did not disappoint.  Each sandwich is huge and costs $7-$8.  Order from the man at the register who is a savant for orders and receipts and faces and proudly march to the bar, a table of your choosing, or out into the street.  Margaret and I preferred to stay inside to avoid the heat and listen to the pianist nearby.  We may or may not have scoured the surroundings from our vantage point for the next target (dessert) despite the ever increasing strain on our belts.

the italian sausage - just as good, not as famous
pulled pork with grilled peppers

Places I Wanted to Eat: Philadelphia & DC & Baltimore

Thanks mostly to my grandmother's wanderlust and tendency to settle in remote villages and my parents own traveling aspirations, I am fortunate enough to be twenty years old and fairly well travelled.  However, this is the first trip that I have planned, paid for, and embarked on by myself.

Notice the "paid for" part.  As a direct result, I managed to survive eight days on $32.04 worth of food.  In other words, I passed up on eating out.  It was not that difficult...  My meals were perhaps not balanced, but I was always satisfied (rice goes a looong way).  Still, here is a list of places to eat that I have yet to sample, although their reputations DO precede them:

(There may be a few cultural events or bookstores thrown in here as well because I cannot resist..)

so many books! so many books
that I am now carting across the coast!

Washington, DC
  • Ben's Chili Bowl (apparently they ship to all 50 states as well)
  • Julia's Empanadas
  • On the Fly (a fleet of eco-friendly SmartKarts)
  • Johnny's Half Shell
  • Chinatown Express
  • Dukem Ethiopian
  • Sundays 3-9pm in Meridian Hill Park for a drum circle and African dancing
  • The MLK Dedication.  I was heartbroken that Irene ripped this experience from me.
I actually did eat at Dukem Ethiopian

the good men of Tommy Dinic's
  • Tommy Dinic's
  • The Book Corner
Mercifully, Mary and Margaret were there in Philly to impart their wisdom and experience, so I will have to go again to expand my bucket list!  If that makes sense.

  • Red Emma's (a cafe and bookstore)
  • Faidley's crab cakes in Lexington Market
  • Free music IN Lexington Market
  • Batimore Farmers' Market
  • Zeke's Coffee (it truly is unbelievable what $14/lb coffee grounds can do)
motto? read, revolt
If you are ever in a position to do any of these things, do not hesitate!  These are recommendations from international travelers, hostel (hostile? hah!  No, everyone was really nice!) staff, and the local city-dwellers.

Tuesday, August 23

Coconut Red Lentil Soup

For my birthday this year, my mother gave me a stock pot (SCORE) because most of my pots at school are of the cooking-for-a-single-person size and one of the best, easiest ways to feed yourself is through massive, whatever-is-in-the-kitchen soups.  My grandmother has perfected this method of cooking and inspired me to learn.  One giant hurdle in this process has been lentil soups.

Lentils are apparently a type of edible pulse (a leguminous crop) that are incredibly healthy, but people also tend to be a little picky about flavoring and such.  Earlier in the summer, I spent one glorious day cooking with my friend Elizabeth, and we attempted this recipe.  Lordy, was it good.

Elizabeth took the photos, which
is why they are so good!

Coconut Red Lentil Soup
from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red split lentils (masoor dal)
7 cups water
1 medium carrot, diced
2 tbs fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tbs curry powder
2 tbs butter or ghee
8 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup tomato paste (this is one of those little cans)
14 oz canned coconut milk
2 tsp sea salt
one small handful of cilantro, chopped

Rinse the split peas and lentils and put them in a large soup pot with 7 cups of water.  Bring it to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Add the carrot and a quarter of the ginger.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.
In a small dry pan, toast the curry powder over low heat.  (This will open up the flavoring in the curry powder - just don't let it burn.  It is going to smell delicious.)  Set the curry powder aside.
Melt the butter in a pan (let's be honest... you should just use the same pan as the curry powder - without the curry powder) over medium heat, add half of the green onions, the rest of the ginger, and the raisins.  Stir constantly and let it cook for two minutes.  Next, add the tomato paste and cook for another one to two minutes.

green onions

Add the curry powder to the tomato paste, mix, and add it all to the simmering lentils with the coconut milk and the salt.  Uncover and simmer for another 20 minutes.

final product with the chapati that I love so much

Sadly, I don't remember what music was playing at the time, but we're going to go with some Red Hot Chili Peppers today.  This is the classic "Zephyr Song":

Swanson, Heidi. "Coconut Red Lentil Soup Recipe - 101 Cookbooks." 101 Cookbooks - Healthy Recipe Journal. 15 Mar. 2010. Web. 14 June 2011. <>.

Monday, August 22

Vik's Chaat Corner

Somehow the entire summer passed by me while I went from cooking daily to not cooking at all and eating chickpeas out of a can (that wasn't actually me, but it conveys my point).  Much to my culinary consternation and gastronomical aggravation, I had no time to cook for eight weeks.  My time was ever so delicately sucked up by three bridge-crossings a day because of a class at UC Berkeley four days a week and work at UCSF five days a week.

my house is in this valley, SF is the little bubble of buildings
on the horizon, and Berkeley is on the far left of the horizon

The class (Data Structures and Programming Methodology, for those of you that care) was made entertaining by my more than delightful lab partner, and I was grateful for the chance to make some money this summer.  However, the endless cycle of driving, working, driving, programming, driving, homeworking, and sleeping was a little tedious and I started to lose a bit of my sanity.  I subjected my lab partner to sporadic bursts of maniacal laughter and, as a considerable portion of my job entailed removing staples, I started to hoard my mangled staples in a small box in a drawer.  I turned into a strange human hybrid, alternating between Cruella de Vil and Milton from Office Space, depending on my location in the Bay Area.

Point is, I survived those eight weeks.  (Was it that short?)  I am now on a weird, unintentional tour of the eastern part of the Mason-Dixon Line before I return to New York City and all that entails.  At the moment, the charming Mary and Margaret are letting me crash in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Wednesday I continue my way to Washington DC, Baltimore, Delaware, and finally New York.

But wait!  Before I left, I made sure to indulge in a couple of my favorites: Sol Food, Good Luck Dim Sum, Puentez Taqueria, and, for the first time this summer, Vik's Chaat Corner.

gotta love the hard-core, spandexed biker dudes

Vik's started out in the warehouse district of Berkeley.  When I was younger, I was always shocked by the bustling restaurant after driving through the empty streets.  Since then, they have changed locations to the corner of 4th St and Channing Way and added a market that sells all the ingredients needed for delicious Indian food.

it still has this warehousey feel

Their menu is a little intimidating at first, but everything is more than worth a chance-ordering.  (Apparently "chaat" literally means "to lick," as in, "I will now proceed to lick my plate.")  I recommend the Cholle Bhature (that big puffy thing), the Samosa Cholle (lamb samosas), the plate of Mixed Veg Pakaros (spicy nests of vegetables), Lamb Baida Roti (...lamb roti), Chicken Biryani, and their Mango lassi.  Never, ever forget the mango lassi.

I did not forget the mango lassi

As for the desserts, Gulab Jamun (Indian donut-like things soaked in a sugar syrup... I would compare them to the Greek loukoumades) is always a popular choice.  If you're in the mood for something a little more unusual, I would recommend Kulfi Falooda.  As a disclaimer, it took me the better part of six months AFTER eating this dessert to decide that I liked it and to start to crave it.  That said, kulfi falooda is composed of saffron ice cream that is topped with vermicelli, basil seeds, and a rose syrup.

the kulfi falooda in its elegant to-go container

Everything is decently priced (I bought a meal for 5 for about $25) and the Berkeley-ites that stream in are entertaining as only Berkeley-ites can be.  As an added bonus, Vik's offers vegan and gluten-free options and makes a solid contribution to greenery with compost bins and compostable utensils as well as environment-friendly plumbing and architecture.

Friday, June 17


My dad occasionally talks about the various things that my mother taught him when they met.  They met when he was well into his adult life, and yet he still did not know how to open a bottle of wine, appreciate a meal NOT made from a can or some sort of frozen dinner, or eat an artichoke.  I guess the artichoke thing is kind of acceptable, but I have grown up on these weird vegetables (turns out they are vegetables) so I think it is a little strange.

Artichokes are actually flower buds that have not yet bloomed and are technically thistles.  They are really low in calories but have something like 16 essential vitamins and minerals.  Now we know that artichokes (carciofo in Italian... isn't that a great word??) are full of antioxidants, but historically people have used them for everything from aphrodisiacs to deodorant.  Yay..


however many artichokes
splash of vinegar

Pour a decent amount of water into a pot that will hold all the carciofi.  The artichokes will float, so there should be enough water that they are comfortably chilling.  Splash a bit of vinegar into the pot as well (this will prevent the artichokes from browning unpleasantly).  
Bring the water to a boil, cover, and let it simmer for 20 minutes or until they are done.  You'll know that the artichokes are done when you can slide a knife through the center and the artichoke meat is tender.
Remove them from the water and eat hot or cold, possibly with something in which to dip such as mayonnaise or melted butter.  
(You eat an artichoke by scraping the meat off the leaves with your teeth.  When you get towards the center, you can remove all the remaining leaves at once and eat the ends.  Then scrape all the chokey bits off with a knife and enjoy the artichoke heart - the BEST PART.)

it is actually kind of frustrating that they float

I will forever associate this song with San Francisco because of some movie that the deeply impressionable me watched when I was younger.  There was a giant shot of the city's skyline as the opening riff to Glenn Miller's "In the Mood":

Thursday, June 16

Vegetarian Pad Thai

I think it is really interesting how different people having different cooking styles - if that is the way to describe it.  For example, my mom is all about the stir-fries, with a side of meat, and some sort of starch like rice or potatoes.  There are tons of vegetables and everything is seared to perfection.  My grandmother, on the other hand, does not have a microwave and lived in France for 25 years.  She makes quiches and all sorts of other things that - instead of getting reheated in the microwave - inevitably end up in a stew that she just "threw together."

vegetarian pad thai

I think that part of learning how to feed yourself means mastering a few really simple things and learning how to manipulate those dishes to suite your needs.  As for me, I've spent the better part of the last year imitating my mother and my grandmother's cooking by learning how to make the things they usually feed me.  Only since coming home have I started to branch out, such as with this version of pad thai.

we love peppers...

A couple notes though: I think the ratios of pasta to vegetables to sauce/dressing, as presented here, is a little off.  I would suggest a lot more vegetables and more sauce/dressing, or less pasta.  All in all, it is a really great starter recipe for pad thai.  From here it is easy to branch out and get creative.  Also, I used a wok here, but a decently sized frying pan would also do the trick.


Vegetarian Pad Thai
from The Complete Asian Cookbook

13 oz flat rice-stick noodles
2 tbs peanut oil or canola oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 onion, cut into thin wedges
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
3.5 oz fried tofu, cut into thin strips
6 spring onions (green onions), thinly sliced
1/8 cup chopped dried coriander leaves
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs soft brown sugar
2 tsp sambal oelek
1 cup bean sprouts
3 tbs chopped roasted unsalted peanuts

Cook the noodles (the packaging should say how).  Drain and set aside
Heat a wok (or a large frying pan) over high heat and add enough peanut or canola oil to coat the pan.  When it starts to smoke, add the eggs and swirl to form a thin omelet.  When it sets, roll it up and thinly slice it.
Heat the rest of the oil in the wok, add the onion (not the spring/green onions), garlic, and pepper and cook over high heat until the onion is soft (about 3 minutes).  Add the noodles and toss everything well to mix.  Then add the omelet, tofu, spring/green onion, and the coriander.
Combine the soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, and sambal oelek.  Toss to coat the noodles and then add the bean sprouts and crushed peanuts.

Here is Wayne Newton's "Danke Schoen," which a lot of people probably recognize from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:

The Complete Asian Cookbook. Sydney, N.S.W.: Murdoch, 2002. Print.

Wednesday, June 15

Coconut Macaroons

I wouldn't call this particular effort a failure in any way, but it did get a little messy towards the end - I think mostly because we didn't completely follow the recipe.  (My ridiculous and time-consuming fastidiousness occasionally pays off...?)

I've been hearing all these things about gluten-free baking lately and when a friend of mine suggested we make coconut macaroons, I got really excited.  Someone suggested we try dipping half of each cookie in melted chocolate, which did not really work because the cookies hadn't cooled completely and therefore had not set.  So we ended up having bits of the macaroons floating in a giant bowl of melted chocolate.  We managed to deal with that though.

coconut macaroons with an
enormous dollop of melted chocolate

Coconut Macaroons
adapted 500 Cookies

2 cups shredded or flaked coconut
4 egg whites
3/4 cup superfine sugar
2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine all the ingredients except the cherries in a heat-proof bowl.  Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir constantly for about 6 minutes or until the egg whites start to thicken (and the batter holds its form and the consistency is the same throughout).
Remove the bowl from the pan, add the cherries, and crop large spoonfuls on the baking sheets.  Bake for 15 minutes or until the macaroons are golden.
Slide the parchment papers onto a wire wrack and allow to cool completely.

coconut globules

this was our problem...
the egg whites were not thick enough so they seeped out

Timo working hard at scraping those cookies

The Tony awards took place the other night.  It was strange and exciting to watch this award ceremony that included all these amazing shows and performers that I saw a month ago.  On the other hand, I was incredibly frustrated because there are still so many shows that I did not have time to see during finals.  So here's a song from Jersey Boys, my first Broadway show even if it was not part of the Tony Awards. It is a song by Frankie Valli and The Four Season called "Beggin'":

Vanstone, Philippa.  500 Cookies: the Only Cookie Compendium You'll Ever Need.  Portland, Me.: Ronnie Sellers Productions, 2005.  Print.