Thursday, March 31, 2011

She Loves You, yeah yeah yeah

If someone would have told me that I'd be making dinner for P on his 48th birthday when we met 20 years ago I probably wouldn't be surprised at all actually. When you're young you sort of imagine 'your someone' - the little things like their sense of humor, the way they make you feel, the look in their eyes and everything that comes with that look. Its been my experience that you can see everything in that look if the fit is right.

When I met P he had all of those things I imagined and other stuff that I had hoped for like a love of music and movies, a kind heart, a different way of looking at the world. He was so creative and had a strong sense of self. He was like no one I had met. Through the years I've also learned a lot from him. Hopefully it works both ways. I had also hoped for a best friend and that's exactly what I got. Some people get their dreams fulfilled in other ways but I was pretty specific when I asked God for my gifts. This year I think I've learned to accept some of them and be very grateful. I no longer look for paradise in that home across the road.

P's birthday dinner plate was kind of a food poem of sorts. On it was a nice big broiled steak to represent his strength and stability that I admire and appreciate so much. I made some spicy BBQ shrimp - that represents the fun, the music, the art, the kick, the adventures that I hope never end. Then I had some stir fried Bok Choy with garlic and that stood for continued good health, peace and contentment. Rosemary Ciabatta bread to soak it all up, a crisp crust with soft open texture.

Mind you, I want to smack him after 5 minutes of being in the same room on a regular day but that is just how funny life can be. For that I made him some whacky guacky-mole.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I'm Just Sitting Here Watching the Wheels Go Round and Round

If it ain't broke right? Breakfast including eggs, bacon, OJ and toast is the perfect combination. I don't mess with things that seem to be going well. Why risk it? When you live a little longer you realize how much can go south on ya. So you really start to appreciate what doesn't. Saturday mornings are one thing that we enjoy and I don't wanna change.

I'd like to change my luck. I'd like to change my hair. I'd like to change my bedding. I'd like to change my financial situation. I'd like to change my outlook on some parts of life. I'd like to change and improve a lot of relationships. I'd like to change the way my refrigerator door opens. I'd like to change the color of our apartment walls. I'd like to change my job. I'd like to change this room around. I'd like to change my shoes, belt and lipstick color. I'd like to change so many things but not Saturday mornings featuring breakfast in bed. Feta cheese and tomato omelets. Not perfect, but it ain't broke.

If Lovin' Goo is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right

Simple all-American dishes are sometimes the hardest for me to, I was going to say master but I'm just trying to get it right. Like a really well done hamburger or fried chicken or say, the grilled cheese for example. It has to match the taste you have in your head, the memory 'right' taste. Although I will say there are so many great variations now that kind of surpass the simple diner grilled cheese. But which do most prefer?

Maybe its like covering a song. You either do it just as the original so that all the memory sensations register correct and its satisfying or you do your own stunning version and blow everyone away.

I used to love going to the Evergreen Diner in Times Square for lunch. They made a very respectable grilled cheese with tomato and bacon. White bread, crispy bacon and a thin sliced tomato with Velveeta-like cheese and I would imagine tons of butter on the grill. This deluxe plate came with a side of fries, a pickle and that little paper cup of coleslaw - damn near perfect f'you ask me. You can get away with that in a diner because no one has to 'see' what really goes on in with that dish in that kitchen. But the kitchen mysteries are no longer important once you bite down on that crisp buttery gooey toasted cheese and then have the pop of the sweet tomato burst in your mouth before the salty crisp bacon comes in to give you that meat satisfaction that only bacon can!

When you make one yourself, you have to be reasonable though. I mean I wanna make a good sandwich but I'm not trying to kill anyone. I made this one with wheat bread, real mild cheddar cheese, vine ripe tomatoes and turkey bacon.

I actually didn't taste it, I made it for P so he'd have something more than beer in his belly to record. But I could tell just by looking at it that it wasn't there yet. The cheese was not melty-cream-dreamy enough. I needed to use lower heat. I guess you have to get enough butter on that bread so that it feels kinda soaked too. Also, you should butter the bread inside as well. I did a light olive oil butter mix only in the pan.

In my opinion I accomplished neither the correct memory version nor an astounding adaptation. But its hard to really say without tasting it. That would be like looking an at album cover and deciding you hate the band without even listening to a track, which I do all the time by the way. P said he rated it superb. Go figure.

It's Ecstacy When Your Eggs are Next to Me

I like when a good picture really captures the essence of the dish. I send pics to my sister on email and she says its like food porn.

This is actually a pork steak. I dry rubbed it with my chipotle habanero powder and squeezed on some fresh orange juice. The room became toxic as soon as that steak hit the hot smoking pan. I about killed us both because the pepper doesn't allow you to breath when it smokes. But outside of the near death experience, it was kinda worth it. The juice caramelized on the top and the flavors of the rub became slightly sweet, lost most of their heat and just intensified the vim.

Dressed as he was, that steak was the perfect suitor for the lightly poached eggs with their milky white skin with hot yellow pillow-y yolks that flowed down like a river of molten lava onto its charred spiced meat.

Good Lord is it gettin' warm in here or am I just hungry?

Friday, March 25, 2011

You Must Have Known that I was Lonely, Because you Came to My Rescue

Ground turkey was on sale again down at the PathMark. Who hooo! I've begun to truly appreciate the flavor of ground turkey. It kinda saved me this year. I was drowning in a sea of chicken thighs and pork chops. And I thought I could never love another ground meat more than beef. Not true, in fact I'm kinda over beef. Turkey is light and has a distinct light taste that is perfect for sunnier day meals.

That one spring day sorta scared me straight as far as getting serious about cutting calories. Pretty soon I won't be able to hide the pudge under my winter gear so might be best to get a head start on shedding the winter weight.

I couldn't quite pull the trigger on full-on veggie burgers and like I said I had all this newfound love-meat on hand. What's a girl to do? I decided to make 'loaded turkey burgers' but load them with good-for-you stuff. I needed to lighten up my usual cheeseburgers so I thought to eat these like mini meatloafs of sorts, no bread, no cheese. The key to this burger was adding reconstituted dried cranberries. I let them sit in just boiled water in order to plump back up. They brought the whole patty to life, not too tart, not too sweet but just the perfect flavor combination with all the added veggies like corn, beans, jalapeno, red onion, broccoli and garlic.

I served with roasted asparagus with garlic and lemon. And now that I subtracted all the calories I just couldn't resist adding a few tater tots to the plate for a touch of nostalgic whimsy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Break

I ended up baking off a family pack of chicken thighs this week, half breaded and half dry rubbed to eat with assorted vegetable sides - dinner done. Of course it never sounds good after the 2nd night of eating the same thing. And then one day we had the most beautiful weather, like 70 something degrees! I caught the first buds on the trees outside in the sun.

That day a chopped salad was on the brain. Something fresh and clean tasting, a break from the hot plates. I love chopped salads! The idea of a bunch of vegetables being chopped to the same bite size chunks and drizzled in a tangy citrus dressing... Heaven! I love green apples so those of course went in along with corn, tomatoes, beans, red onions, avocado. I put it over a bed of greens, crumbled up some queso fresco cheese to top it along with the cubed up chicken. Because the chicken was seasoned well and baked, the flavors held up to the cold vegetables.

Chopped salads are a staple on my spring menus. They are so much better than a regular salad. Something about the size and the way the pieces compose a bite filled with all the tastes individual but then instantly combined. To me, there is nothing better. It highlights the fabulousness of vegetables and like guacamole, chopping and serving right away makes the biggest difference in capturing the flavors at their peak. I like giving them little themes, like this tex mex one.

The chopped salad must be like a second cousin to the tostada because it just exudes springtime.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dark Side of the Moon

I used to be sure I was full of love. Hmm, maybe that's not true. Or say, at least I knew I had plenty of love in my heart in the case I ever decided to share it with others. A good reserve.

Lately though I fear maybe love is like aging, you lose some over time like your hair. Or all the sudden you notice its sagging and looks like a lizard or maybe what I thought was love was just a big misunderstanding of life.
Either way, I'm starting to feel my supply is low. Don't get me wrong, I love my man, my cats, my few friends and most of my family but that is taking up like the last scrape of the jar.
I like to think I'm not like all these foul mouthed bitter ole' trolls I work with but I'm no different. Its all inside but its there. I judge people everyday, all the time. I am super annoyed by almost everyone that I have to 'service' in my sales job. I secretly sneer at them and my eyes roll back in my head all day long. My manners are good but I'm pretty hateful inside. And then I wince at all gum-snappin' weaved up cows that can't crack a smile or say hi back after almost three whole years of passing their tired asses everyday. I hate on every single person I pass that is driving with their friggin' cell phone and truckers that are texting while crossing the intersections and school bus drivers that cut a girl off just to make a light and save 3 minutes of their precious time.
I wasn't always this way. Maybe I was. I don't really know but somehow it struck me today that I need to get some more love up in this joint, as the kids might say.
I started making cookies, really in hopes of getting money but also just to do something nice for pretty much strangers at work. The guys in the warehouse seems to work really hard and what we sell upstairs, they have to actually pull and lift for the customers so I started baking treats for them. They seem to like it enough. I also make stuff for P to take to his job and those strangers seem to enjoy them.
I know I'm not a complete asshole or I wouldn't be baking cookies for strangers. Right?

We had a supermoon they called it the other night and I was hating on people and baking cookies again. I heard 6:43 was the best time to see it so me and P ran outside. Of course when there is tall buildings all around, its kinda hard to find the moon, so we ended up going around the block. I was in my pink heart pajamas mind you, running around Fort Greene like a lunatic, which is fitting. We had to find that moon! We finally ran up by Fort Greene Park, and there it was, big as ever and bright, really bright. We ran up the hill and saw a man with a twitch staring up, like he saw God. I actually felt something, like inside of me and I was moved by it. I was so freaking happy to see that damn moon and feel something that wasn't contempt or anger or rage or disappointment or fear or disgust.

The cookies are good, White Chocolate Chip with Macadamia nuts and dried cranberries.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I Saw the Whole of the Moon

I've always wanted to live in New York, since I can remember. I was a dreamer child and didn't miss a movie set in NY. Movies were an excellent source of escapism from my creepy childhood. It would calm me to hear it, to see it, to imagine the city streets, the sound of the heels on pavement, all the car horns, the endless windows and floors and buildings filled with people and happenings a goofy kid like me could only dream of.

It took way too long but I did manage to get myself here eventually. I've live here now just over 15 years. I wanted to see all of it, the good and the bad, the pretty, the filthy rich and the indescribable. Working in Times Square and Union Square provided a good perspective and vantage point to see a good deal. But now working by the old docks in a more desolate area of Brooklyn, I've actually seen the real New Yorkers. The Russians, the Poles, the Jews, the gays, the Islanders, the neighborhood people of every color and mix. The Puerto Ricans, the Dominicans, the Cubans, the French, the Swedes, the Mexicans, the Germans. The Spanish, not just Mexicans calling themselves Spanish. And on a daily basis. That is pretty cool and its real, its so real. Its not like a book where you read the essence of it all. I get to smell the breathe of these people...literally.

There is a full moon tonight and as usual my muscles are achy and I'm very unsettled and uncomfortable. I was particularly hateful at work yesterday, unknowing the approaching full lunacy was brewing.

I made poached eggs for breakfast this morning in my old little poacher that I brought with me all the way from San Francisco. It makes perfect circles but I think the taste and texture is better lightly poached directly in the water.

Just like me the egg has to really get right in there and let the water envelope him before he can truly cook.

It's fitting because in SF, people dealt more in theory and essence. My SF poacher actually steams the eggs rather than poaches. Here in NY you don't talk about living amongst every type of person, you just do it and not always well. The reality is as harsh sometimes as a dip in scalding hot water. I work at a job where I am right out there, with no protection of an office to hide in. I hear the accents and the opinions. I converse and share stories. I argue and yell back. I love it.

I've accomplished one of my Biggest dreams and that is to see and experience the real New York.

Now whens the next bus outta here???!

Ding, Ding, Ding Went the Bell

Roasted broccoli spears are super good and transform the regular flavors to something truly special. Right now broccoli is bountiful and inexpensive. I am a late bloomer when it comes to knowledge, not as sharp as I'd hoped. Sometimes the most obvious things are completly lost on me. Like cutting broccoli into spears. It was like a whole'nuther vegetable to me. I never got it before, how they got the spears attached to the florets. Just cut down the damn stalk and you've got yourself a spear. Eeediot! Bells are ringing, but only for me.

At work, we have a staff caf (eteria), and they serve BBQ chicken wings, ribs, mac and cheese, corn bread, fried plantains, lasagna, sweet and sour shrimp - All this amazing but fatTEE food that I can't really do unless I wanna gain tons of weight and be sleepy by 2pm. Instead, I eat the 'salad'. But its good, they provide fresh cherry tomatoes, black beans, cucumbers, shredded carrots, shredded cabbage, olives, cauliflower and yep, broccoli. So my lunch is mainly raw with sometimes a scoop of tuna or hard boiled egg. All for 3 bucks! I could get a side of soup and a fountain drink with that if I wanted. My catholic guilt with only allow water though most days.
I've come to appreciate the 'staple' vegetables more and more. If you eat enough of something raw then any type of cook on it probably is a step up flavor-wise. Broccoli roasted in the oven can give the florets almost a meaty taste and the stems become tender and juicy. I usually add bread crumbs or cheese but this time only garlic, lemon juice and some sesame seed oil at the end.

The other night we had take out from National, a local Thai restaurant that has amazing curries and is also affordable. P had the Kang Kyo Whan Nuur - sliced beef with eggplant, bamboo shoots, peppers and carrots in a green coconut curry sauce. I had the Kan Masaman, which is the sliced beef with potatoes and peanuts in a masaman coconut curry sauce. Both really different. P's was better but mine was good too, more unique. It was a little sweet, no heat from chile and the potatoes made it feel more home style. It was actually better the second time around, as a side dish to the small steak and broccoli.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The mystery of the quotient; Upon Us All a Little Rain Must Fall

When I was a young girl full of spit and vinegar and my whole world evolved around rock music, guitars, fun drugs, cute boys and best friends, I still had a big love of good food. I was born a foodie. Lots of nights were spent getting dolled up and romping around my home town. The music blaring out of my power booster, a friend holding one to blow in the park. Life was just starting, everything ahead of me and no rush to get there.
On mellower nights I used to love to pick up my sister and head out to a great restaurant. Lots of times it was my mom and dad's because really they had the best food. But one of our other favorite spots was Zoli's Italian Restaurant. They had candles, white table cloths and male waiters. We'd sit and drink Little Kings and chat for hours. Mostly, they had the BEST food. You could also take out and we took out their 'grinders' regularly. I've never had an Italian Grinder anywhere since.

Until today. This morning actually, which is kinda sinful but our logic was that if your going to eat a 1000 calories, best to do it early.

My sister was a foodie too. She understood a good dish. We could talk about what they did right, how they made it, what made it special. She was my best friend as far as I was concerned. We were two years apart but I related to her more than any of my other friends.

Grinders are unlike hoagies or submarines in that they are always toasted, they include a marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese and the meats used are a step up from regular deli meats, like salami and pepperoni. To me they were a cross between a hot sub and a calzone. The bread was crunchy with a bit of softness inside. God they were good. Grinders are a more serious dinner-type sandwich. They are the real deal.

I've craved them for years. This week I've thought a lot about my sister and that time, the 70's music, not caring about anything.

I guess making this sandwich became pretty important to me. I wanted to recreate it. I can't recreate that time of my life, I have to make new memories. I can't have it all back but truly only the best recalls were keepers and most of those are pretty fuzzy. The rest of the time was a lot of nothingness. Truth is that I was squandering my youth away. I had no clear direction and the weed in a midwestern town was not that good all the time and the drugs were questionable at best.

I split the bread and painted on a coat of homemade pizza sauce on both sides. I added slices of mozzarella, then roasted banana peppers, turkey ham, pepperoni, tomatoes, onions and pepperoncini peppers. Salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil with just a smattering of lettuce to wilt on top. Into a 400 degree oven until everything is toasty and melty. I pressed the two sides together and hoped for the best. I gave this sandwich every fighting chance for success. I wished for it to turn out good and it did.

Me and my sister are growing closer again and that is so important to me. We've both been through so much and lately things are looking up. This grinder is a tribute to the grind of life and giving it your best shot and honoring those two young girls with all their dreams ahead of them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dancing Days are Here Again

Its getting to be a bit spring-like! Food-wise you start to think lighter, more colorful vegetables, less hot soups and stews, fresh salsas and cold pickled crispy things. The rain starts to fortify you and melt away your cold winter heart. Or is that just me?? Tonight quick turkey cheese burgers with chips and salsa hit the spot.

This spring I'm determined to be extra sharp and catch all of these early blooms on the trees and budding trees. I don't want to miss anything. Depending on the weather, this process can happen overnight and before you know it the flowering trees have changed to green. Spring is like the weekend of the season. We worked so hard to get to this point in the year. Those bitter cold days of riding the bikes in the wind and ice on the roads. The dark mornings. The smelly face masks and snotty noses.

Today the sun is out, the air smells fresh, the birds are singing and the world opens the door a bit wider to happier days.

Later that night...Chocolate Chocolate-Chip with walnut brownies.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Para bailar La Bamba!

One of my favorite foods in the whole wide world is tostadas. Why? Because they have a bit of everything but are still light and refreshing. They are crunchy and partially hot, partially cold and a little bit creamy and a bit sour, a bit savory. And its a food you can pick up, which I also adore. Nothing fancy, very rustic and also very colorful. It reminds me of a garden.

I thought to make these the night before and they're easy (as is everything I make) but a little tedious. You have to make these when you're not feeling grouchy though, because they are festive. The next night I took pleasure in cutting up all the toppings and making a fresh pico de gallo. Its actually really a zen type of task, chopping vegetables and grating cheese, frying up the corn tortillas, spicing up the meat.
I smashed up some whole black beans with some spices and added some chopped pickled jalapeno.
I also mashed some fresh avocados with lime juice, salt, pepper.

The key to a good tostada is the layering. I admit, I always overload them but that's the fun part of eating them. They are messy like sloppy joes. First I smeared on a thin layer of the beans. My mom said to just paint them, no more or they'll get soggy. Then a layer of the avocado, some ground turkey. After that goes a big pile of leaf lettuce ribbons, a good sprinkling of pico de gallo, some shredded white cheddar and finally a dollop of Greek yogurt.

The lettuce, pico, avocado & yogurt should be nice and chilled and freshly cut and prepared. The meat, beans and shell should be warm and also freshly made. That is what makes this simple dish so delightful. One bite starts the opening verse of La Bamba in your mouth!