Archive for February, 2009

27
Feb
09

soup night.

I haven’t made soup since college, when I attempted a turkey meatball and noodle 30-minute meal. It sat in my refrigerator in a giant vat sporting no less than 20 servings. Needless to say, I made it through about four bowls before I wanted to toss it over the side of my balcony in a gesture far too dramatic for a Rachel Ray recipe. I’m now a vegetarian. Coincidence? Maybe, but it still made me shy away from delicious homemade soup for about three years.

Then, without a warning, I started craving butternut squash soup the other day. Fuuuck, what to do? I couldn’t allow myself to rule out yet another food group as a result of ill planning, because that would really polarize me at dinner parties. Instead, I decided to man up and give soup another go.

After quickly browsing some recipes online, I chose to loosely follow this one due to its simple-mindedness. It’s like an unassuming Ned Flanders of a dish. Who could resist?

I melted two tablespoons of butter, and then added about 1/4 of a massive Spanish onion to the mix. Once the onion turned translucent, I added a pound of cubed butternut squash, two carrots chopped and peeled, and four cups of vegetable stock. I seasoned with about a teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. I then covered the pot and simmered for about 20 minutes.

sim simmer

sim simmer

Meanwhile, I made a panini (all the better to dunk with, my dear) as such: I drizzled both halves of ciabatta bread with olive oil, and pressed them both for 3 to 4 minutes. Then, I spread one half with Taleggio cheese and a handful of arugula. I chopped the other 1/4 of my Spanish onion, and then sauteed it in olive oil on the stove top. Once the onions had caramelized, I spread about half of the mixture on the top of my ciabatta. I added salt and pepper, and then smushed the sandwich together. The entire thing went into the panini press for 5 minutes.

I removed the solids from my soup, and then pureed them with a hand-held mixer until they looked like this:

pureed butternut squash, carrots and onions

pureed butternut squash, carrots and onions

Finally, I stirred the pureed soup back into the broth, and simmered for a few more minutes. I tossed in a few dashes of cayenne pepper for a kick, and then ladled into a bowl. I added a dollop of Taleggio cheese on top, and then violated that soup with my pressed panini. The soup was really flavorful and so tasty, although in my haste to eat (it was 10:30 p.m. by then), I neglected a few wayward carrot and squash chunks. The cayenne pepper was a great addition, though. And as for the panini? It may have upstaged grilled cheese for LIFE.

Butternut squash soup with caramelized onion, arugula, and Taleggio cheese panini

Butternut squash soup with caramelized onion, arugula, and Taleggio cheese panini

27
Feb
09

dancing, yeah.

There’s this hip hop teacher whose class I liken to a roomful of Rice Krispee Treats holding hands with the Spring line from Free People. Meaning, it looks incredible and dreamy, and damnit I want to be part of that. He teaches at Broadway Dance Center at the most inconvenient times, though, such as 3 p.m. weekdays. Not so possible with my rigid schedule, Bam. The other day, I was randomly looking through the schedule, and GUESS who was subbing another teacher’s class at 7:30 p.m.? I got a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach that could only mean pure, unadulterated kismet, so I went.

My classmates included, but were not limited to, a boy who has yet to learn the meaning of testicular descension, two French girls, and a class heckler. I chose a spot midway back, next to the small child and clear across the room from the heckler. I wanted to swoon without mediocre commentary, thank you.

I don’t want to oversell this, but the teacher was better than Jesus. Well, Jesus never danced (to our knowledge), but if he did, I think my teacher could have taken him. I’ve been taking hip hop for years and even taught it while in college, relying on a few made up moves such as “the baseball swing” and “the bowling ball.” In central Florida, such moves could easily pass as edgy. This class featured not one, but TWO skateboard moves that would have sent my prior students into fear-induced comas. And my students were troopers. They once stuck with me through a troubling phase in which I added “the slow motion run” to damn near every combination. That gets tired, not unlike how tired one would be if doing the run in real time. Yeah, I went there.

Anyways, the class was kind of awesome. Now I want to sneak out of work next time he teaches one of his 3 p.m. classes. My skateboard moves had real promise.

24
Feb
09

pear & taleggio panini, carrot & chickpea salad.

I was so busy justifying the potential of my new Panini Press (i.e. indoor grill, inanimate lover, etc.) that I neglected to use it in its intended incarnation. Meaning, I, like, forgot to use it to press paninis and stuff. Here I was, all grilling up artichokes and boasting about its speed, efficiency, and undeniable beauty, and all of my meticulous plans for paninis were tossed by the wayside.

Once I reached by the wayside to retrieve my plans, they were decidedly amiss. So it goes. It wasn’t my intent to make Giada’s pear and taleggio panini immediately, though it was my sole reason for investing in the Press. I blame my elusive plans and the fact that all the ingredients were, like, conspiring against me while I was doing my grocery shopping this past weekend. Arugula, for instance, usually gets off on the fact that it’s oh so fantastic at hiding behind the common-folk, iceberg and romaine. And, for once, GUESS who was all front and center? And, at $1.99 a bag, I’d have to be batshit craaaazy to pass up that deal. Then, I went to the cheese shop, and taleggio was on special at $0.99. I’ve never searched for that distinct soft Italian cheese before, but I’m assuming it rarely hovers around affordable-even-by-my-poverty-line-groping standards. I was powerless, so I caved.

I bought a massive loaf of ciabatta bread and some Anjou (the firm, green ones) pears, and went to work. I didn’t alter Giada’s recipe in the least, so I started by drizzling both halves of my bread with olive oil. I then pressed the bottom half (the business end) for 3-4 minutes, until it looked like this:

pressed ciabatta

pressed ciabatta


Don’t you just want to shove it down as is? But wait, there’s more! I then removed the bottom half from the Press and tossed the top in. While the top grilled, I spread some taleggio on the bottom, then topped with sliced pears, honey, salt, pepper, and a handful of arugula. By then, the top was grilled, so I added it to the sandwich and placed the entire panini in the Press. I then grilled that for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made this adorable salad I found in the Food Network magazine. I sliced half a red onion and sauteed it in olive oil, and then added a can of drained garbanzo beans. I then peeled four carrots until they looked all pasta-like, and added them to the browned onion and chickpea mix along with a couple cloves of minced garlic and a handful of sunflower seeds:

chickpea, carrot and red onion salad

chickpea, carrot and red onion salad


The taleggio started to sizzle all impatient-like on the Press, so I knew it was time to deliver. I added just some salt and pepper to the salad, and plated them alongside my excess pears, drizzled in honey. In a word? Damn. The contrast between the sharp cheese, sweet pear and honey, and peppery arugula was unreal. My compliments to the Food Network:
clockwise from left: red onion, chickpea and carrot salad; pear and taleggio panini; pears and honey

clockwise from left: red onion, chickpea and carrot salad; pear and taleggio panini; pears and honey

23
Feb
09

spinning.

I went through a phase a few months ago in which I decided that 6 a.m. workouts were the new black. Temporary insanity? Maybe, but I had an excess of energy that can usually be attributed to, like, 7 consecutive shots of espresso.

It wasn’t long before I grew to resent the promise of vom when I ran before breakfast. As an alternative, I once went to a 6:30 a.m. spinning class. Ever since I flew off my Huffy at the age of 10, causing a gravel indentation in my forehead curiously resembling a snake bite, I just haven’t been THAT into the bike. Slim pickins before dawn, though, so I went.

spinners

spinners


Let’s start with my teacher, mmkay? He was a spastic character whose favorite motivational technique was to whisper, “touch it up!” into the microphone. Touch WHAT up? The room was so dark that I’m pretty sure I groped my neighbor while trying to adjust my seat. Maybe that’s what he meant? It did feel clubby with all that house music. For some reason, he slipped in at the end of class that he was looking to become a more involved father to his two sons, which really threw me.

Given all that, the most bizarre thing to me was the fact that the class was PACKED to capacity. I thought it would be just me and a couple of golden girls who were that committed to a.m. fitness, but people of all ages show up in droves. Since I added weekends to my repertoire, I realized tons of people go then, also.

For instance, this Sunday, I couldn’t get a treadmill for the LIFE of me. I want to start a campaign to make exercising less sexy. Maybe I’ll open up a Krispy Kreme franchise next door? Too obvious? I really need to “touch it up.”

23
Feb
09

green goddess.

I used to be so anti-egg yolk. If a yolk came up to me at a party, I’d sooner pretend to have a concussion that rendered me incapable of placing its identity rather than force pleasantries. I’d make a beeline for the closest safe haven (i.e. buttermilk pancakes drowning in Type 2 Diabetes-invoking syrup? So be it), and pretend to have been craving its company all morning. THAT’S how opposed I was.

About a year ago, though, I realized I need sauce in my life like a conjoined twin needs her..twin? I can’t survive without them, and there’s a good chance the honey mustard industry could not have prospered if it weren’t for my undying affection through the whole of the 1990s. And, what is egg yolk (excluding when it’s hard boiled) if not a delicious sauce? So, yolk and I had one of those slow motion running movie embraces, and we’ve been good ever since.

Having said that, I enjoy an egg white omelette at times. This Sunday, I decided to do just that, chopping up zucchini, avocado and spinach for my fillings. It was a sort of green goddess-type situation. How apropos 🙂 I only used two whites in a medium-sized pan, so the omelette itself was a leeeettle on the thin side. It happens. On the side, I had some grits that I made on the stove top, to which I added a jalapeno pepper and Camembert cheese in the last two min of cooking. The result? A green goddess and her spicy counterpart. Yum.

egg white omelette with zucchini, avocado and spinach alongside jalapeno cheese grits

egg white omelette with zucchini, avocado and spinach alongside jalapeno cheese grits[/captiolk

19
Feb
09

pasta and artichokes.

Recently, I decided life was meaningless without a Panini Press. If I can’t have a machine that makes food equal parts crunchy/melty AND also doubles as an indoor grill, then I don’t care to breathe. Extreme? Not at ALL. This may be the part of me that’s overcome with a professional infatuation for Giada speaking, though. Everything she makes on there looks INSANE. I once saw her make a pear and taleggio panini, and immediately called my parents to rave about the inventiveness. Then, I made them both swear up and down that by the next time I visit, they would have a platter of them waiting for me. They assumed it was a JOKE (it most certainly was not), but that’s neither here nor there.

I ordered this off Amazon late last week, and it was waiting for me Tuesday. (I knew you’d never keep me waiting, my new reason for continual aspiration). I almost wet myself, but luckily I refrained. That could have been dangerous around electronics. Instead, I made a little dessert panini (camembert and dried cranberries on a biscuit) and called it a night. Wednesday’s night din would make full use of my new toy.

Wednesdays are always a late night for me, because I take hip hop, so I’m never home before 9 p.m. My teacher prefers to walk the fine line between “gangsta” combos (I’m horrid at those), and those inspired by trannies. Last night was all about the trannies, so I nailed it. And, after purposely letting the over-eager boy band hopeful next to me overstep his space during the warm up, I had plenty of personal space. Success.

I planned to make pappardelle pasta, which is really just obese fettuccine, with roasted vegetables. Then, I would do my Press justice by making fire-roasted artichokes, courtesy of this recipe by Mario Batali. The artichokes are supposed to take about an hour to cook, so I made and ate my pasta first. How Italian is THAT?!

I chopped some zucchini and red onions, and tossed in olive oil, fresh thyme (dry seasonings will burn), and salt and pepper. Then, I threw them in the oven for 15 minutes at 450 degrees to roast. The thyme is seriously not to be overlooked. That is one herby and delicious smelling spice. I boiled my pasta in the meantime, and once my veggies were just the right amount shriveled and delicious, I tossed them all together with some pecorino romano cheese. I can’t decide if this pic looks great or gross, but see below for my first course:

primi: whole wheat pappardelle w/ zucchini and red onions

primi: whole wheat pappardelle w/ zucchini and red onions

It was goooood. Despite appearances. Afterward, I set to work on my artichokes. The prep is super easy, as Mario instructs you to just blend all the seasonings in a food processor, and then mix in almonds and chili flakes. I was halfing the recipe and using dried rather than fresh oregano (which is wayyy more potent, according to my dad), so I only added about 1/4 of a cup of that. Anything else would constitute a “shitload,” and no one wants THAT. I stayed true to the rest, though. See your immediate right:

artichoke innards

artichoke innards

Lovely, no? I plugged in the Press, and started opening the artichokes like flowers, per Batali’s instruction. HOW much does this remind you of a Georgia O’Keefe?:

artichoke, pre-fire roasting

artichoke, pre-fire roasting

Try and put the anatomy imagery out of your head, and just enjoy its beauty. I stuffed the little O’Keefe’s with the almond seasoning mixture, doused each in olive oil, and placed on the heated grill.

mid-grill stuffed artichokes

mid-grill stuffed artichokes

When all was said and done, I cooked them for prob about 15-20 min on each side. An hour seemed a little excessive to me. I topped with some hot jack cheese, and served with some spicy deli mustard. So good! Thanks, Mario.

Fire-roasted artichoke with almonds

Fire-roasted artichoke with almonds

17
Feb
09

free yoga.

When I can actually get up the energy, I like to trek down to the East Village for some free yoga at “Yoga to the People.” That’s right, FREE. As in, donations only. As in, sometimes I give just a dollar all folded up so it looks like a wad. I think they’re onto me, but no one even cares. We’re all there because we’ve decided stuff like, I don’t know, PEZ is a luxury. Also, it’s really unpretentious and one of the teachers is this unbelievably sexy Australian dude with the kind of tattoos that put Sean William Scott’s to SHAME.

I was talking it up to one of my friend’s who just moved here, and piqued her interest with my insistence that there’s minimal if any chanting, and very few refs to Vinyasa anything. And, sure, it feels like Bikram in the summer time when sweat is dripping into your corneas, but that’s the price you PAY. It’s the only price. Did I mention it’s free??!?!

Anyways, my friend and I met up once there, and I’ve been a lazy bum about getting back ever since. She, however, has been going more and more regularly, and saw MARY-KATE OLSEN in her class the other day. WHAT?!? Isn’t that, like, borderline offensive? Couldn’t she afford her own guru? Couldn’t she, like, BUY India? If she so pleased. If I know MK (and I think I DO) I’m gonna go with YES.

17
Feb
09

fish tacos.

I guess I should be forthcoming with my recent issues, because it’s probably coming across in my writing. It’s hard to admit, but Gym and I have had a hard time keeping it interesting as of late. We’ve fallen into a rut, as much as I swore that would NEVER happen to us. We’re so into each other! And I’m experimental; it’s not like I reach for the same machine each time. I’m willing to hit the treadmill really hard one day, and then totally snub it for a week in favor of a class, the elliptical, cybex, or stair stepper. The only thing I’ve yet to try is the stationary bike. I don’t really think it’s FOR us, not that I’m judging those who prefer it.

Anyways, it’s pretty unacceptable for me to be bored, so I’m stepping up my efforts. Tomorrow, for example, I’m taking a “belly moves” class. I’ll be damned if I’m letting our time together become “routine.”

To compensate for my treadmill and strength training (ugh, SO vanilla) weekend, my roomie and I prepared flavorful fish tacos for dinner. Weirdly enough, I had never actually prepared them before. I’ve had LOTS of memorable experiences with Tilapia, though (heya baby ;-)), so I wasn’t all that intimidated. I originally planned to marinade them, but then I came across this OBSCENELY easy recipe for mango chutney that I knew would complement my fish oh so well: it calls for one mango, 2 tsp of cilantro, and a dash of cayenne pepper. THAT’S IT. I could basically whip it up in a vivid dream. I can’t be trusted with knives in my sleep, though, so I had my roomie make it while fully alert. Safety first.

I was determined to make my own hard tacos, so I followed this recipe to do so. It instructs you to drape the tortillas, which you first coat with canola oil and cayenne pepper, over the wire oven rack for 7-10 min at 375 degrees. One burnt batch taught me that my super fast gas oven only allowed for a 4 min cooking time at 350. See below for the second batch mid-bake:

my precious crispy tacos

my precious crispy tacos

Meanwhile, I followed a little recipe courtesy of my friend Lauren. She sautees the fish WITH green bell peppers, onions, and olive oil. I started to cook the veggies first, and rubbed the fillets with salt, pepper, lemon pepper, and lemon juice. Once the veggies started to tenderize, I threw the fish in the pan and cooked it all like one big, happy family. I also added a little cilantro. See below for proof:

the innards

the innards

Once the fish were fully cooked, I hacked them up into bite-sized chunks. All the better to eat with, my dear. We had a smorgasbord of homemade guacamole, salsa, pepper jack cheese, and mango chutney for toppings. The meal was complete with a side of corn and a couple of Sam Adams. Mexican-American. Delicious!

mango chutney, guac, salsa and corn.

counterclockwise from taco: mango chutney, guac, salsa and corn.

14
Feb
09

eggs florentine-ish

I could never be a vegan, because eggs and cheese are like family to me. Well, family I keep at a distance and only allow mostly weekend visitation rights. Then, afterward, I always feel like I need to gym it extra long and hard so they don’t have TOO much influence on the rest of my life. It’s a dysfunctional family.

There’s this cheese shop in the East Village that has the most dirt cheap deals in the universe. They seriously have wheels of brie for $0.99. I WILL buy stock in the company if they ever decide to go public. A couple of weeks ago, I bought Camembert, a french soft cheese that is SO buttery and indulgent, for $1.99. SICK. I hope they treat their cheese importers okay to get deals like that. Maybe they have good benefits to make up for their poverty line salaries? Let’s hope.

I knew I wanted to have a piece of Camembert with brunch today, so I built my meal around that. Considering my professed love for spinach, I decided eggs florentine was my best bet. I started by sauteeing frozen spinach with yellow onions, which you see below:

greenery

greenery

I would have made hollandaise sauce, because it’s, like, obscenely easy to make. It’s just a mixture of butter, egg yolks, and lemon juice, but sadly we have no lemon juice on hand. It’s shameful. Instead, I found this recipe for Mornay sauce by Emeril, which I figured would be a decent substitute. It’s just butter, flour, and milk, which you simmer and whisk until it thickens into a substantial sauce. Mine came out kinda chunky and probs thicker than it should have been, and it tasted a little more like gravy from Cracker Barrel than I’m sure Emeril intended.

saucy

saucy

Ah well, it WAS my first time.

Meanwhile, I poached my eggie, and melted the famed Camembert on a biscuit in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. I spread the Mornay sauce on the cheese-less side of the biscuit, and threw the sauteed spinach and onions on top of the cheese. I added the egg on top of my little spinach bed (how romantic), and served alongside some instant grits which I DOUSED with red pepper flakes. Tada!

eggs florentine! ish

eggs florentine! ish

14
Feb
09

love in a salad.

My friends and I were talking about what we would each turn into should that whole “you are what you eat” thing turn out to be true. You just never know, so it’s nice to be prepared. One of my friends said she would be an egg sandwich (delicious), and the other decided she would probably be pizza margherita (equally delicious). When it came time for me to name my new identity, I hesitated because I love variety. And, as fond as I am of Rice Krispee Treats, I limit my intake to like two a season. Then, I realized approx 95% of my diet is spinach salads, so I told them that’s what I would turn into. They decided I was, like, intolerably boring, so I had no choice but to feign an affinity for grilled cheese. I couldn’t handle the collective judgment in their eyes.

In private, I still enjoy spinach salads 3-5 times a week. I mix up the toppings to keep it interesting, but it’s usually just a variation of the same fruit, cheese, and nuts combo. Yesterday, though, I made arguably the most adventurous salad of all time with dried chili-spiced mangoes, grilled paprika spiced polenta (SAME tube from huevos rancheros fame), grilled zucchini, toasted cashews, oil and vinegar. It was irrefutably GOURMET. Suck it, egg sandwich and pizza margherita.

As I was finishing off the deliciousness, I came across the most unbelievable thing: a spinach leaf shaped like a HEART! Por moi, Saint Valentine?

one love

one love




February 2009
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