Well Happy New Year, readers. I hereby resolve to make this the sweatiest and spiciest year of them all. These first two days have been pretty decent, so all signs point to continued success for the next 363. As I danced away 2010 on New Year’s Eve, a trusty vodka soda in hand, I spent a brief moment reflecting on all I experienced last year. My passport was covered in cobwebs of neglect since I’d tucked it away in 2005, but I revived it in March to go to Mexico and in June to visit Israel. I went to California twice while it was frigid in NYC, and I was even fortunate enough to experience Malibu in all its glory. Yep – I saw it nakey. I went to Austin and had the best damn fish taco of my life, which I bought from the back of a food trailer. I was promoted at work in May, and then I moved to my own apartment on arguably the best street in the East Village (next to 7th street) in October. Quite the eventful year, 2010. I’m sad to see you go.
It will be tough for 2011 to compete with my self proclaimed “Year of the Vacay” that was 2010. I hate to go all “lowest common denominator” on you and deem it the “Year of the Stay-cay,” but that’s pretty accurate as to how I see the year panning out. I’ve bought adorbs dishware, my first ever flat screen TV, and I recently upgraded to a 2-disc Netflix program, so I’m beginning to understand the joy in nesting. I also became reacquainted with the novel I started a few months back, and I’m hoping to actually finish it this year. It’s a marathon, yo. Books are so very long. In the meantime, I’m strongly considering giving birth to another blog that will operate in a more stream of consciousness manner. Stay tuned for that…
In between all the Netflix-ing I’ve been doing, I’ve managed to kick my glutes into shape. Who’s that girl logging an average 60-90 minutes of intense cardio along with more challenging strength training? Oh, that’s just me. I’ve been spinning, stair stepper-ing, ski machin-ing, and hitting a yoga class at least once a week. Suzanne Somers in the height of Three’s Company fame, you say? Well, I guess I have been mistaken for her once or twice.
I need to be bikini-ready for a wedding in Mexico this February, so I can’t exactly take my sweet time getting there. I’m off to quite the sweaty start.
As far as the spicy side is concerned, I’ve had a confusing last few weeks as there seems to be a holiday dinner party every other day that I need to mentally prepare for. The chances to cook have been pretty limited, but everything slowed down once a blizzard slammed the east coast and dropped 20 inches of snow outside my door.
I found myself ill-prepared, as my refrigerator boasted a modest two eggs, a bunch of parsley, and bread crumbs. I found myself impotent to create new meals from such limited ingredients, and I had just two dollars in cash on my person. Delivery was out of the question, and Fresh Direct had put a temporary moratorium on all deliveries. Nice one, blizzard. You win this round.
Left to my own devices, I ate poached eggs and worked on my novel for the full two days. On the third day, I emerged from the apartment to find an unplowed winter wonderland outside:
I so badly wanted to get to the Middle Eastern restaurant across the street for my falafel fix, but a guaranteed face dive in the snow kept me away. I decided to go home and make my own tabbouleh instead, because the market on my side of the street was much more attainable.
As someone who credits half her body weight to the existence of the chickpea – and more specifically, hummus – I’ve rarely attempted to make my own dishes. My sister and I once made a meal of Mediterranean sides in college, but I credit that olive tapenade, hummus and tabbouleh to her and her alone. I vaguely remember adding colorful commentary while I thumbed through Vogue and halfheartedly toasted pita chips, but I don’t recall actually making anything.
In my post-grad years, I once famously bought a jar of tahini so I could start making my own hummus. The tahini mostly sat in the refrigerator and worked on creating a rusty ring on the shelf from its tin container. I may have made my own hummus just once, but that one occasion reminded me of how much I loathe cleaning food processors. I went back to buying.
I was left with no choice last weekend as the Middle Eastern food craving had already hit, and I was a sea of snow away from the people who prepared it so skillfully.
I found this tabbouleh recipe in the Jewish cookbook that my dad gifted me a few months back:
1 package tabbouleh mix
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 red onion, finely sliced
½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint, chopped
juice of 2-3 lemons
¾ c of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
In actuality, the recipe called for cracked wheat or bulgar wheat, but the only open market was not too sophisticated. I wasn’t able to find either of the above, so I was forced to cheat with the ready packaged tabbouleh mix. I’m so ashamed.
I started by making the mix as instructed on the box. I was to mix the grains with the seasoning mixture with one cup of boiling water, and then remove from heat. It asked me to refrigerate for half an hour, and so I did as told. Meanwhile, I prepped all my veggies. La di da. When the tabbouleh was ready, I added the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, parsley and mint. Then I added lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. It was so tangy and herby, just as the recipe predicted. I ate it the first night as is.
The second night, I grilled some shrimp and ate them alongside the tabbouleh. While the Panini Press was heating up, I threw together this fun little rub to dip them in pre-grilling.
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
1/4 c Panko bread crumbs
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp red pepper flakes
dash of salt
I dabbed my grill with canola oil, dredged my shrimp, and let them grill for about two minutes each side. I’ve watched several hundreds of hours of the Food Network through the years, so I’m aware that for anything to stick one needs a binding element, such as egg. I was maybe a little over zealous with my shrimp rub, because I knew I’d like to avoid turning a simple, 5-minute meal into a more drawn out, painful process. As a result, the majority of my rub ended up stuck to the grill, and solely the flavor of the lemon juice penetrated the shrimp. I have a secret habit of eating grill scrapings and enjoying them far more than the actual intended meal, so I was all too happy to scrape off the cheesy mix and use it to top the shrimp. I did as such, and enjoyed a few shrimp with my tabbouleh. Don’t they look good together? It was yum, too: