Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Don't Let the Sound of Your Own Meal Drive You Crazy

Quick and Easy tonight. I'm taking it easy. With a little help from the frozen food aisle I can still make something fun without re-inventing the wheel. Why stress?

Edamame soybeans to me taste like a soft version of the roasted sunflower seed. Salt brings out the flavor and I could eat them all day. These were frozen and out of the pod. Having never cooked them myself before, I put some hot chili oil, salt and soy on these little pearls. They would have been fine with just salt. Mmmmm or maybe a little butter! In restaurants I don't remember anything more. The subtle flavor could be left alone.
I served alongside pan seared BBQ pork chops and hey those look like tater tots! Giterdone! Hee Haw!!

By the way, speaking of help - Being a sucker for new packaging and anything that looks like beer, I tried the new Budweiser Smoked BBQ Sauce. Damn good...a cut above in flavor, although its much better to make your own, always, of course. This has some high fructose sugar and corn syrup but its hard to find one that doesn't. But it does have tamarind, beer, vinegar, mustard, etc, all the usual suspects. It really does taste better than others I've tried.

Fat Bottomed Birds You Make the Rockin' World Go Round

I take my reading glasses to walk up and down the meat aisles of the supermarket as you would in a book store. I hope to find something captivating to focus my attention on at least for a night. Does the meat have good coloring, too much fat? Would it be good to broil, braise or steam? Is it fresh yet affordable? Beef is generally too expensive for basic weeknight fare and therefore off limits. Chicken thighs are plentiful, inexpensive and versatile but how much chicken can you possibly eat in a year? Actually, I can answer that for myself at the end of this year. Pork, is the other go-to meat with it's right-priced chops and now ground family packs, the occasional pork shoulder to slow roast.

Turkey however should be cheaper but usually isn't. You'd think they'd push these darn birds on you between holidays. Do they just freeze them indefinitely? You can find giant drumsticks and whole frozen turkeys periodically on a deal, like every blue moon. This week Pathmark actually featured turkey thighs. What a great looking piece of meat! The skin was healthy and just like chicken, the thigh was nice and meaty, packed with all the flavor.

I baked them with fresh thyme and poultry seasoning lots of pepper and salt and some pats of herbed butter shoved under its thick skin. An hour and a half on 325 presented a crisp skinned tender surprise. The only downside was the old joke, it actually tasted more like chicken. Wonder why? You'd think the dark meat would have more turkey aroma too. Next time I'm thinking to stuff them and slow bake for two and a half hours. One thigh is a big portion but not quite big enough for two. Turkey won't win a Pulitzer or even replace pork as a #2 best seller but it is definitely worth throwing into your weekly rotation for variety's sake.

Falling In Love Is So Hard on the Knees

Sometimes monkey sees but monkey can't do. Days off are full of possibilities and choices. There are so many things to do and see. We love eating breakfast out and there are so many amazing inexpensive spots in the neighborhood. I also love making breakfast at home and spending the morning hours lounging, drinking coffee before heading out to meet the day.

Sometimes though, the axis tilts. The thought of sitting amongst humans and having to interact with the world is too daunting. Getting out of my bedtime clown clothing is just too much to deal with. I'm sure there is a pill I could take to help with this but I don't 'wanna be right'. I serve my time in life to receive these day passes and one should be able to spend them as they please. And if that means you don't get out of bed but to urinate, than who's business is it anyway?

Saturday was one of those days. Even walking the two feet from the bed to the stove to go fry an egg was an exhausting prospect. More coffee only confirmed that I was way unfit for exterior adventures. Now I was nervous and unstable looking.

Thank the Mexican take-out gods for Pequena. They understand these things. They provide comfort in a round foil container filled with your desires.

P had the bacon omelet, potatoes and toast. I had the Breakfast Burrito, beans and rice. Chips and salsa side. Heavenly. Even better when you can't get your head out of your ass enough to put on a shoe let alone operate cooking apparatus. Even sitting upright in a public place can prove to be overwhelming for the socially decrepit.

It's a Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Easter Dinner, a special celebratory feast. I truly look forward to Easter, the coming of spring, the hope, the promise of new beginnings. But this year especially it feels important to acknowledge, celebrate, honor and be present.

The fear brewing in my core is continuing to eat at my content, if I have any. I've been nervous since I was born. I'm pretty sure I didn't want to come out, be born at all really. I was born breach, ass-backwards and that's how I've felt ever since.

I'll admit, the crazy weather happening across the south and everywhere really is truly scaring me. And what's that now? Al Queada is trying to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge? Great. Someone stole my bike last night within less than 24 hours right outside the box I call our home. Two weeks before it was P's bike. That shit gets to you.

I have two days off which is dangerous for people like me because sanity is simply a series of looped distractions. Everyday life forces you into some stability wheel but let that top stop spinning and the fear sets in. Turn on the t.v. and there is always a pair of tanned, white teethed people to fill in the details of your waking nightmares. 249 dead in the recent tornadoes.

Easter is more important to me this year than ever before. I made a fresh ham with crackling in pan gravy. Good as it sounds and for the first time in my life I got those cracklings puffed up just right. Creamed spring peas, made with snow, snap & regular peas. Roasted radishes in browned butter. Better than I could have imagined and what a great idea. Radishes are dirt cheap. When roasted, they taste between a turnip and potato, the lemon and butter, lots of cracked pepper and sea salt give them outstanding flavor. The only miss was the sweet potato wheat biscuits. They didn't suck but something went awry. Also I made the Neely's BBQ deviled eggs and those were tasty.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Turn and Face the Strange, Ch Changes

I had a day off and I was determined that I wasn't going to spend it exactly like I always do, chained to chores. Laundry, then grocery shopping, hauling it back up the flights to then clean the whole apartment. Dang, when did I get so boring? I used to be cool! Or at least I thought I was.

Change comes slowly for me. I fear it yet want it more than anything. I long for change, I pray for change. And then again if it rang my doorbell I'd probably pretend I wasn't home.

I didn't actually do anything different but I spent so much time trying to come up with something fabulous that I got real hungry and fixed myself some French toast using dark german bread. I didn't have syrup so I sweetened the egg a bit with sugar and cinnamon, then topped the toast with a little strawberry jam and butter. I ate enough turkey bacon to clog an artery and that was different.

I don't often make breakfast for myself and it was nice to actually have the coffee, juice and hot plate all for me. A little self pampering. It was nice and you could call it a change.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When I Was Young, I Never Needed Anyone, And Makin' Lunch was Just for Fun

Imagine you have full access to a Mexican restaurant's kitchen. Vats of warming Mexican rice, spiced ground beef, refried beans, chips, salsa, guacamole, everything and its all pre-cut and ready to go. Okay, now imagine that you're only 10.

Before I was old enough to really get in my mom and dad's restaurant and make my own plates, I started making 'bowls'. And to this day, I think they are a great invention. I didn't know how to put an enchilada together but I knew it's main parts. Bowls for me are a mixture of hot and cold foods that taste great together when assembled and built properly but even super tasty and fun to eat when you put them on top of each other in some crazy food orgy. A bowl.

So for example I would get a bowl and put steaming hot rice and beans together with grated cheese and warm salsa, stir that up and then scoop ground beef on top and top that with a pile of cold shredded lettuce,tomato and avocado. I'd scoop it all together with warm chips. It was a meal that ate like a dip that tasted like heaven.

Once in a while now I'll have some leftovers in the fridge and I'll make myself a bowl. It works with most leftover meals. This time I had ground turkey, the Greek chopped salad and because tomorrow is grocery day, I made a quick stir fry of leftover veggies, zucchini, corn, green bell pepper, potato and onion. I put a layer of the hot veggies on bottom, then the meat, topped that with the cold Greek salad and some crumbled feta cheese. I scooped it into my mouth with warm pita bread.

When I was in junior high there was a kid I knew, but pretended not to because he tended to do disturbing embarrassing things. He used to take our satellite lunches which conveniently for him already came in this huge plastic deep container and he'd mix everything together and eat it with a spoon, no matter what it was. At the time, that seemed outrageous and disgusting. Yet now, maybe he was just really efficient. Why not? Saves time. Hell, Rachael Ray is making a career out of mixing themed-ingredient casseroles in giant baking dishes that she has trademarked and melting cheese over the lot and calling it 'what's for dinner'. So, yeah, why not? Bowls are a time saving, artful way of eating leftovers but you don't have to add extra calories to make them appealing because you build the layers with greens and vegetables.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cherish is the Word I Use to Describe

Gyros made with spiced ground turkey, Greek cucumber tomato salad, dill yogurt, feta cheese and Kalamata olives.

The challenge this week was to come up with something new to do with our new Flava Flav!!!...ground turkey.

Turkey chili, turkey burgers, its all so good but variety is the spice of life (says the girl who hasn't changed up nary a hair on her head in over 3 years).

So, I was able to herb-up the meat with oregano, dill, thyme, mint and parsley. The salad was chopped tomato, onion, green bell pepper, cucumber with lots of lemon juice, a little olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. The Greek yogurt also got a splash of lemon and dill, some chopped Kalamata olives. Warm wheat pita bread provided the final soft cushiony hug before heading down the food shoot.

Not to toot my own horn, 'cause that ain't Christian-like but...Crazy flavor explosion! I can hear Randy Jackson's voice saying 'GOOD ON YOU MONKEY, THAT'S THE WAY YOU DO IT!!!'....And the great thing was that it wasn't missing that authenticity like some of my international undertakings. I'm proud of this one.

Ain't Too Proud to Beg

Brooklyn had Red Hook Food Vendors forEVER before any of these Gourmet or Chef food trucks started coming around. Then, we didn't have to trek to the end of the earth when they conveniently came out to the Flea Market each weekend. For that we should be forever grateful and just shut up because that is some of the best Mexican and Central American food in New York period stop. Buuuut since time has passed a bit and every type of food truck has been seen parked around Manhattan serving up thier impressive fare, it feels sort of passed due for at least a decent taco truck in Brooklyn. They exist but not in my travels. But alas, on our walk around Fort Greene we fell upon one big green machine called 'The Jalapeno NYC'.

Yes, I think this will do just fine. I like the Flea Market but sometimes I don't want to brave a fenced in pen of a thousand hipsters just to get my huarache on. I don't want to look cute. I just want to grab my kill and drag it back to the cave.

The beef soft tacos were perfectly simple with seasoned grilled steak, radishes, lime to squeeze over top and a couple of noteworthy sauce condiments. I'm not crazy for tamales in banana leaves usually but we gave these a try and loved them. The masa was chickeny, moist and mild yet the flavors stood out. I'd definitely try their tortas and other meat tacos or quesadillas. I'm so glad they're here. I hope they stay. I pray they stay. We need them to stay.

Let the Sunshine, Let the Sunshine In

Poached eggs over wheat English muffins and turkey bacon, side of zucchini. Nothing new to see here for breakfast today but finally we're seeing some new buds on the trees and beautiful flower boxes going up. People are replacing the thawed dog poop and garbage out of their sidewalk planters with daffodils and tulips. I'd say that was a good sign.

I keep wanting to write 'spring is finally here' but to be honest, it smells and feels much more like November to me. Like its ready to start getting colder and we still have the sun but you want to run home and put on a warm sweater. Not all of the trees bloomed, like the one right outside my window. Instead its going into some sort of droopy in-between leaf stage. Where its supposed to go from pink flowerettes to maroon leaves, it skipped all of that and now has these fall colored orangy brown things. And its really crisp out, not melty sunny like spring can be. Yeah, I'm going on record to say its weird out! Is the weather changing in stranger ways then even I could ever imagine???

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ain't No Taco (Like the One I Got)

Some girls at work were ordering take out at a Bagel shop mind you that had a menu the size of a respectable Greek deli. The orders ranged from burgers to some fruit dessert and tacos. Of course I was all ears when I heard tacos. I needed to see what lurked. So the food came and one by one the girls ate lunch from this shared bag of mystery treats. I followed my coworker who ordered the tacos, got my salad from the staff caf' and began my inspection. She opened the box, three soft chicken tacos, thickly packed with pico and a side of salsa verde, looked appetizing to me. I would have been satisfied. She right away claimed they were way too dry to eat. This girl is from Trinidad and said the tacos from Yummy Taco were 'much better'. I scowled. Yummy Taco? Was she serious? These are the Asian run 'Tex-Mex' joints that existed before Mexicans came pouring into NYC years and years ago. The food is okay but certainly nothing to aspire to. But I could see liking it I guess. I'm not a food snob. I've been known to secretly enjoy an Olive Garden lunch. It is plenty different though really but then again so is a lot of the types of Mexican you get in the real restaurants here as much is mixed with other Latin cultures.

And then there is the sort of irony that there are tons of Chinese folks making Mexican fast food when you go to almost any other type of restaurant 99% of the time its Mexicans in the kitchen.

But there is definitely a good batch of new places on the rise. Mexicans now claim the 3rd largest Latin numbers in NYC. They say many of the people are coming from the rural vicinity of Mexico City. But most of the restaurants I notice are featuring Oaxacan fare.
Well, I forgot to mention Z, my coworker ended up putting yes, ketchup on her tacos to 'give them some moisture' she said, which I felt was almost sacrilegious. I couldn't look. I immediately raced home to undo the dirty deed by making some homemade ground pork soft tacos with fresh pico de gallo and avocado chunks in lime. I made my mom's Mexican rice too which I haven't always gotten right, but this time was off the charts, yo! I took my time. Seasoned the meat with just the right amounts of whole cumin seeds, onions and a touch of cayenne. Adding a bit of water really blends the spices and helps moisturize the meat. Made some cheesy doctored up refried beans from a can to serve alongside and there it was. What I needed to see and taste. A delicious properly done soft pork taco (albeit my own midwestern, 3rd generation Mexican memory take on 'right'). Every bite brought me sweet retribution.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My World Is Empty Without You Babe

The sun finally showed its face today which was a little bittersweet. Sort of felt like when you're fighting with your partner and you really want them to come talk to you but when they do, you're still pissed off and have to give them the cold shoulder out of spite. Or they take way too long to apologize and when they do your sort of over it. That's how this sunny day felt. For one, its only one day, they've already said the next day will be cold and rainy...and windy. So yeah, I was real happy to see the sun and I'm desperate for it. Who can be happy in this gloom doom gray morbid netherworld? We were promised spring! I was happy but also kinda like F you, where the hell have you been?! It's fucking April brother. Sheeez.

So to celebrate the happy spring blossoms and sun, I made a rejuvenating couscous salad with zucchini, tomato and mint to go along with my leftover pork stew. It was a mix of winter and spring, just like the weather has been. Dis.

His Get Up and Go, Musta Got Up and Went

When you're with someone a long time, you tend to put their faults into categories, like little piles of laundry. I don't concentrate on them or even give too much thought unless the pile is overflowing. Normally I just sort of acknowledge the failing and throw it in the mental bin. P does cool things to though. On the major important stuff, we gel pretty well. No big complaints.

One of the coolest things P ever did as far as everyday living sorta stuff was to say that he would begin washing dishes every other night. This was partly due to me strategically mentioning how in sharing stories with other women at work I'd noticed that husbands and mates seem to share chores more often than not. I like to cook so I make all the meals and serve them and get the groceries because I like to pick them. P never did the dishes or got the drinks or cleared the table. So when he said he was gonna do it every other time, well that was such a cool little gift.

One of the shittiest things P ever did was to make that promise, do the dishes three times and then never again!

Making breakfast in that tiny kitchen can create a big mess fast. I like to get it all on the table while the eggs are hot and when nothing is soggy. The whirlwind this morning was a Mexican take on Eggs Benedict. I had a piece of london broil that I sliced and marinated quickly. I toasted up wheat English Muffins, then poached eggs. Over that I heated some leftover tomatillo sauce I'd made the night before and topped that with the steak pieces, diced tomato and cojita cheese.

Yep, P loved it and said how much he appreciated it but he didn't get up and clear the plates or offer to do the dishes. I don't really care if he does or doesn't. I won't be pissed or even mention it any more. But its like that line out of Dazed and Confused when Matthew McConaughey asked in the car if the young kid had brought along some weed... it'd be a lot cooler if he did.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Time Has Come Today

Keeping the same theme as with the chicken legs, I braised some country pork ribs in red wine and onions and cumin seed. I wanted a hearty thick stew-like dish with fall off the bone pork. Something to warm your bones because even though we're supposed to be in spring, it's still damn cold out there but now the air is damp and goes right through you. Bonus bummer. I braised the pork for a little over an hour or so and then added corn, roasted bell peppers and onions, big chunks of roasted sweet potato and cilantro. By the way, leaving the onion in large chunks and roasting like this brings out the juiciest sweetest flavors - so right! This was basically a shorter version of a recipe I revamped from Woman's Day last year. If you're making a snarky face - Don't knock Woman's Day recipes actually. They are steppin' out a lot more and featuring cool user friendly recipes of Thai, Vietnamese, Brazilian, Middle Eastern food and much more. I've had good luck with all of them. You pay like cents an issue if you get a subscription, unlike those other schmancy gourmet food mags. Besides if you want an upscale recipe then there is Epicurious.com. They have great stuff too. I'm old enough now that I don't have to feel geeky reading Woman's Day although I've liked it all my life, secretly. Listen, I'm making meals to basically warm my knees now. I have two cats sleeping on me as I write this. Hell in 5 years I'm eligible for the seniors early shopping privilege up at the Pathmark! Just shoot me ferchrissakes, its obviously over!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shapes of Things Before My Eyes

I love rustic dishes. It reminds me of playing in the woods when I was little. I'd throw leaves in the creek and pretend they were fish and run to the other end to catch them before 'frying' them over an open fire. I'd batter them first in sand. The salad would be blades of grass, weeds and berries from the mulberry bushes. I'd make cakes out of mud and decorate them with flower pedals. I prided myself on those cakes and pies. Even then it was about what looked good to the eye and I still like cooking that way.

I braised some chicken legs in white wine and stock, then added wild rice and cooked that for another 1/2 hour. To that I added a bunch of roasted bell peppers and onions but instead of a cacciatore type dish, I wanted to do a take on arros con pollo but with tomatillo sauce. I made a green sauce in the blender with the tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice and added that to the pot and let all the flavors mix together for about 10 minutes before serving.

This was tangy and refreshing. It felt lighter than the traditional arros con pollo with red rice but just as satisfying. The sauce can be sopped up with warm flour tortillas.