January 4, 2012

5. Expanding my cookery horizons. (…in some vague, yet-to-be-determined kind of way. Suggestions?)

4. Commence home decluttering.

3. Re-commence photo-taking.  (= discontinue laziness?)

2. Greetings, side project (more to come …).

1. So long, Amazon (dot com; not the river, I hope).

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good fight!



December 31, 2011

This time of year sweeps us away on many adventures …

… exploring the wilderness …

… discovering mystical creatures …

… and taming ancient dragons.

(My niece is so fun.)

home sickness

December 4, 2011

It may still be sunny out despite the calendar date, but it’s winter in my brain. Maybe it’s that the kitchen shelves are feeling too full—or the cold I woke up with this morning—but the urge to make foodstuffs took over this weekend.

On the menu? Friday it was biscotti (in a box), made pretty quickly and easily between getting home from work, having some dinner and heading back out to the city to see Baths (which, by the way, wow). Saturday I attempted some delicious sounding spinach-cheese puffs, which turned out more like spinach-cheese cookies, as the dough was a bit too thin to take shape without the aid of the muffin tin I don’t own. Shapelessness aside, they were pretty tasty.

Today, which I have dubbed sick-day sunday, I sat around doing next to nothing beyond feebly fighting off the onset of the aforementioned cold. Trapped at home with a full pantry, I came to a toss-up between pumpkin spice bread (in a box) or from-scratch granola, which was inspired by the recent NYT re-posting of this recipe. With hope that working from scratch would make the lost day seem more fulfilling, the latter won out.

I followed the recipe more or less, but used only almonds in place of pumpkin seeds and pistachios, added dried cranberries, and cut the maple syrup suggestion in half (which was still way more than enough, lest ye be seeking a diabetic coma).

Add a splash of milk or a dollop of yogurt: love. This recipe is a keeper.

Here’s hoping my senses return to normal tomorrow so I can fully appreciate my homemade breakfast. And here’s to spending a full day at home cooking and eating, guilt-free. More to come? (Please, no.)

the baking timer

November 29, 2011

Around this time of year, for the past few autumn-winter seasons, this mechanism in my brain toggles on telling me to bake. So I bake. And when the last of the winter snow has melted is when it shuts off again. But in the few months between, recipes for sweets that cross my path and tickle my fancy very quickly take shape in the many respective kitchens I’ve inhabited.

Last year, cookies were the favored dessert. This year the focus seems to be on pie. The slightly burnt and ill-proportionally latticed darling above is an apple pie made during a rained/snowed-in Halloween, which is when the bug first bit.

Next came the quince pie, because my CSA gave me quince, and all I knew is that they’re weren’t good raw and that I had some spare pie dough in the freezer. Lattice methods improved significantly.

Then these Drunken Molasses Cookies. The making of these was daunting: mind you, I don’t have any electric mixing tool, let alone a fancy stand mixer, so my arm endurance is usually put to the test with recipes involving batter or dough of any sort. This being my first Thanksgiving away from home in many years, I decided to ship them off to my parents for a pleasant surprise. (They were, indeed, pleasantly surprised.)

Now, because I have a pretty fantastic job, I got to indulge in a little pie-making at the office too. This caramel pecan apple pie came in a tidy all-inclusive kit that made the prospect of a fancy top crust and scalloped edge (slightly) less menacing. Not half bad, might I say?

Okay, this somewhat lacks the glory of its fuller form, but sorry, more and more of this French Apple Cake disappeared each time I attempted to photograph it, wherein I promptly forgot what I was doing and found myself a bit famished. I made this one for the fella’s birthday last week. Highly recommended. This will be made again. Though that might mean I should pick up my own springform pan instead of borrowing coworkers’. Growing my collection of baking tools could be a risky move. Or just the formal designation of a yummy annual tradition.


November 5, 2011

After two weekends of travel and continuous activity, I took much delight in this lazy Saturday afternoon. Channeled the kitty’s mantra: 30% lying around (preferably in a warm patch of sunlight), 10% productivity (e.g., hunting pests, baking a quince pie), 60% staring at things (e.g., internet, ??).

Also, after downloading it maybe 6 months ago, I finally decided to try out Instagram. Results above. Does that boost my productivity to 12%?

Time for date night! Classic ol’ dinner + movie. What a day.

dessert deception

October 28, 2011

All this time, I’ve been blinded by the apparent sophistication of the “galette” and its “free-form” figure. But now I see what you really are. You, my delectable discovery, are the lazy cook’s pie. No pan, no sauteeing, no shaping, no fluting—just a slipshod mess of delicious. Fruit (pear and cranberry, above) + sugar + rolled crust + egg wash, bake and devour. Which we did, rather quickly, and lacking any semblance of dignity. What a charming piece of pastry.

when home tugs in competing directions

October 26, 2011

The other Home beckons, as it does when I return to visit the place I grew up calling home (granted, in a fancy new house, though thankfully at least on the same street). Most conniving of that which beckons me is this darling critter I have the pleasure of calling my niece.

Maybe it’s her avant-garde artistry.

Or her impeccable sense of fashion.

Or perhaps the face she makes when doing her very best sea lion impression.

Whatever the reason, it’s a strong summons that’s hard to resist.

Edward Sharpe sweetly reminds us that “home is wherever I’m with you.” But what if there are several yous and you’re all in different places? Muddies the sentiment up a bit. Although it’s rather nice, having more than one feeling of home, whether in people or places. For me at least, better being tugged in many directions than none at all.

kitchen confidence

October 19, 2011

The kitchen is no longer all mine. The fella has graciously been getting braver with cooking, acknowledging “If I have a recipe, it’s easy!” He’s made several delectable meals, the large casserole format being his favorite for the copious leftovers available for subsequent lunches and dinners. (Why such logic has escaped me to this point I cannot begin to explain.) Spinach lasagna, noodle kugel, and most recently this orzo with caramelized fall vegetables are among his consistent successes.

one of the aforementioned successes

The other night as I walked in announcing his choice of the farmers market veggies I’d just picked up (broccoli or green beans), I could smell the chicken thighs he’d already begun cooking. When I asked what recipe he found, he stated in proud nonchalance, “Oh, I’m just winging it.”

Thirty minutes later, we eagerly dove into our dinner of baked chicken thighs and a green beans and charred onion salad (a Mario Batali number I’d found in this Food Day booklet) I prepared just in time. The chicken was perfectly moist, and I commended B’s work. Then we saw red.

Figuring the chicken needed a few more minutes, we popped it back in the oven to no avail. We ended up eating around the red—bloody?—parts, laughing that we’d know the next day if it was indeed undercooked. A quick search the next day brought me to this report, which basically attributes this phenomenon to the still-porous bones of younger-than-ever chickens at harvest. Despite its appearance, the report notes, “the meat is not harmed when this happens.” Hm.

My brief research only reinforced an agreement we ended up coming to that night: eating less meat. Considering he seems to have had no issue with taking up my meat diet of poultry and seafood only (excluding restaurants and takeout), I shouldn’t have been surprised when he conceded to eat more vegetarian meals so we could afford better meat (eaten less frequently). In fact, I only just realized the notably meat-absent entrees he tends toward when wearing the apron.

This will be good for both of us. It’s unintuitive, but having less of one food expands the culinary horizon rather than limiting it: we’ll play around more with protein-rich (and nutrient-rich) grains and legumes, and we’ll probably even save some money while doing so. I’ve already gotten him to stop saying he doesn’t like lentils—by making him actually try them.

And though the kitchen is no longer my private playground, I think I’m perfectly pleased with the company.

occupy their conscience

October 16, 2011

Yesterday I visited the now-famous Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street protest that began over a month ago and now has gone global, with some 82 countries demonstrating in solidarity.

Coverage of the ongoing activity has generally skewed toward coverage of the violent incidents and clashes between police and protestors. The image in my head was of tension and fear and aggression, mostly from—well, that depends on what news station you watch or papers and blogs you read. I wanted to visit, to see for myself what was in the air at this effort. I was, to say the least, caught off-guard.

The signs that have been captured and shared a dozen times over (the clever ones in greater rotation) are there. Participants venting frustrations over a plethora of problems are there, holding their ground. The sleeping bags, mats, and tarps piled high (in the daytime anyway) are there. Cops are there, in inexplicable droves (though most were standing around, chatting amongst themselves).

But what stood out above all that the media has chosen to capture over the past 4 weeks was the overwhelming feeling of calm and tranquility. Protestors were singing. They were dancing. Painting. Discussing. Sharing. This isn’t a gathering. It’s a microcosm of the peaceful, functioning community they’re asking for.

I was startled especially by just how many children are running, exploring, and playing in the occupied park. It’s not by any means reminiscent of a war zone—rather, it’s impressively clean and remarkably organized. The media station sits at one end. The line for food is orderly and its patrons patient. A cleaning station contains an assortment of brooms, mops and dust pans. A sign-making station is cluttered with paints, brushes, posterboard and cardboard to design messages.

All this came to be without a clear leader. Without manipulation. Without monetary incentive. Because at the end of the day, this fight isn’t about money. It’s about fostering a community of good, compassionate, altruistic people. Looking out for your neighbor as much as yourself. And if a few thousand strangers can build a functioning society in less than a month, I relish the thought of what’s possible if their voices and beliefs truly are heard.

“The people have an obligation to revolt when their government fails.”—John Locke

the dying art of the photo album

October 14, 2011

I miss the photo album. I don’t count the jazzed-up, bound and glossy masterpiece coffee table books that make up the contemporary view of a photo album or book. I mean photos printed from film negatives glued or taped on to sheets of spiral- or otherwise delicately bound cardstock, whose dense pages grow thick and frail and sit stacked among more of the ilk, depicting no particular event but rather everyday life, people, and that which matters on such an inherent level as to warrant a photograph in spite of the cost of the camera, film, and processing. That treasure chest I found in my family’s villa contained just such captivating relics.

… a quiet chore …

… familiar yet faraway faces …

… a parent ages away from being so (wasn’t my dad precious?) …

… a war happening in their very backyard …

… an era of style that my grandmother so elegantly exemplified …

… and even earlier relations posing from a distant past.

Here’s a goal to strive for in the coming months: an old-fashioned photo album—not of events, but just faces. Faces I find important enough to include in this book of that which matters to me. Maybe even go so far as to print a collection in black-and-white (or might that be too Hipstamatic?). Either way, I might have to make this happen.