Archive for June, 2010

June 29, 2010

Swiss Chard: From “Old Acquaintance” to “New Best Friend”

Lately I’ve been on a mission to buy and eat primarily whatever is in season at the markets. I thought it would be a fun way to try new things, expand my food vocabulary. But as it turns out, eating in season has proven to be not as challenging nor as adventurous as I’d originally anticipated. And I like a challenge.

I needed to raise the stakes.

I decided that I would start buying unfamiliar, possibly even unidentifiable things: things I don’t know how to cook or — even better — things I suspected I may not really like. I figured if I bought it and brought it home, my sense of responsibility for it (combined with my strong desire to avoid waste at all costs) would result in culinary ingenuity. After all, necessity is the mother of invention, right?

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June 24, 2010

The Little Things: An Ode to Eggs

You know how sometimes you start getting hungry for dinner half an hour, maybe an hour before it’s actually time to eat? Or just when you’re getting ready to leave work?

Well yesterday, the hunger started in earlier than usual — about three hours earlier, around 3 pm. Despite repeated attempts at diverting it with first one glass of water, then two, then a cup of coffee, and finally a homemade lemon bar that one of my lovely coworkers happened to have baked the night before, it continued to intensify until reaching a nearly unbearable pitch around 6 pm, just as I was stumbling into my apartment. Ravenous, I threw open my refrigerator door and grabbed the first thing my hands fell on: a big bunch of mustard greens.

Temporarily stumped, as I’ve only ever cooked mustard greens twice in my life, I summoned my courage and willed my creative juices to start flowing. Okay Self, I thought: time to turn this into dinner, pronto. You can do it!

After a quick internal pow-wow, I came up with what I thought was a good idea for Indian curried mustard greens with spring onions. I’d use half for that, and save the other half for a slightly safer backup plan for mustard greens in oyster sauce, in case the first idea didn’t work out so well. I had never made either, but had seen a handful of recipes similar to both, and figured I could pull it off. Spurred on by my hunger, I set to work.

Half an hour and a flurry of activity later, I had in front of me two differently seasoned, equally inedible bowls of mustard greens.

And I do mean inedible.

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June 20, 2010

Indulgence: The Healthy Elvis

I am eating banana ice cream for breakfast.

Ice cream for breakfast?? you may be thinking. How could you?!

You’re right. I couldn’t. I have rules about that sort of thing. I lied.

It’s not actually “ice cream”, as there’s no cream involved… but don’t let that fool you. It looks like ice cream, tastes like ice cream, has the creamy consistency of ice cream, and manages to taste wonderfully indulgent while also being far healthier than ice cream. This, in my book, is something far more valuable than ice cream — something to be coveted and raved about and devoured.

Immediately.

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June 13, 2010

Revelation: Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

Living alone in a studio apartment is great, in lots of ways. I don’t need to worry about anyone finishing the last of my milk, I can rock out to Lady Gaga when I roll out of bed at 7am if I feel like it, the only dirty dishes in the sink are my own and nothing is ever further than six steps away.

But one thing that living alone in a tiny apartment is not conducive to is cooking for others… and cooking for others happens to be one of my very favorite things to do. So whenever the opportunity to do so arises, I take advantage of it… and if the space between opportunities becomes too long for my liking, I bide my time until I can’t take it anymore and end up awkwardly blurting out an invitation to cook for whichever hapless victim lucky friend happens to be closest by.

a lone quinoa burger

This is exactly what happened this past Saturday night. I was on the phone with a friend making plans, talking about some party or other, and before I knew what was happening the words “Why don’t you come over and I’ll cook for you?” were out of my mouth. After a slight pause in which we both registered a touch of surprise (hers at the non-sequitor, mine from some distant corner of my brain that was dimly beginning to realize it was most definitely not in the driver’s seat), she accepted.

It wasn’t until after I hung up the phone that I remembered this friend is a carnivore: a big meat-lover.

I mean that literally. This girl has gushed about a good piece of meat with such passion that it practically made me blush… on more than one occasion.

Now, I don’t call myself a vegetarian — I definitely enjoy meat, fish and seafood on occasion — but I very rarely buy and cook it. In fact, I would venture to say that roughly 85% of what I make for myself on a regular basis (and therefore know how to cook) ends up being vegetarian.

And I definitely don’t have meat just sitting around my refrigerator, lying in wait for an impromptu dinner invitation for its chance to shine at the center of the plate.

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June 10, 2010

Carrot Salad with Parsley, Dill and Feta

This past weekend was lovely.

It was lively and relaxing, full of trips uptown to see old friends, trips downtown to see new friends, and trips to the farmer’s market, and perfectly balanced out with some quality time in my kitchen and quiet time on my couch. It was wonderful — except that it was beastly hot, and the thought of turning on the oven to make this olive oil cake I was hoping to bake Saturday afternoon for my friend’s birthday party was totally out of the question.

More to the point, it was time for lunch, and I was hungry.

I desperately wanted tabbouleh, but even the thought of boiling water to cook up some grains was enough to make me wilt. I needed something cold, something crisp and refreshing, and I needed it STAT.

Then, out of the blue, I remembered this carrot salad with harissa, feta and mint that I had salivated over stumbled upon earlier in the week while perusing one of my favorite blogs. It promised to be everything I wanted: crisp and refreshing; light yet satisfying; minty and herbal; sweet and salty. All of that, plus a little kick of citrus? I was sold. Once I got this recipe into my head, wild horses couldn’t stop me from making it.

And if wild horses couldn’t, then I certainly wasn’t going to let the fact that I didn’t have any mint on hand get in the way. Or any harissa. Hmm. Or caraway seeds.

Okay, so it looked like I was going to be winging it.

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June 9, 2010

Redemption

I just spent four dollars and twenty five cents. On a tomato.

A fragrant, deep red, admittedly adorable farmer’s-market fresh tomato with an endearing little split in the skin that tomatoes often get when they are literally bursting with perfect ripe deliciousness… but still just. a. tomato.

Ack!

I almost had a panic attack when this little dude went on the scale and I heard the words “That’ll be four dollars and twenty five cents, please” leave the farmer’s mouth. Four dollars and twenty five cents! For one tomato! Chaos, imagines of my balance spreadsheet spiraling wildly out of control, were whirling through my head and my brain was shouting PUT IT BACK as my mouth said “Do you have change for a ten?”

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June 9, 2010

Yogurt: A Love Story

Today I did something I love to do: I made my own yogurt.

If you’re sitting there wondering why on earth anyone would want to go to the trouble to make their own yogurt when there are already entire grocery sections devoted to the stuff, you clearly lack a sense of adventure don’t know me very well. I could go on a little rant about artificial flavors and sweeteners, fillers and gelatins and preservatives, or I could tell you that there’s something really wholesome and comforting about the process… but instead I’m going to tell you a little story.

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