Monday, November 30, 2020

And Let Me Live Again

A cake pan full of Thanksgiving leftovers is what this is right here.  Slight shame makes me hesitant to admit we did not share, meaning we each ate a full pan.  Foil wrapped and tucked in the oven until everything was hot and steamy. Thanksgiving but better because only the slightest effort was made to reheat. All the work has been done, now the only job is to enjoy.  I know many of you hate when the items touch each other on the plate but I can only say in this case, you're invited to blend each with the other to discover, their flavors only become heightened.  

Sunday, November 29, 2020

All You Jive Turkeys Clap Your Hands!

Turkey Soup made with the leftover broth, wings and legs of the Thanksgiving bird.  Not a new idea, but definitely a winning one.  It is often hard to use up the wings and legs in particular but a word of caution;  When you simmer long to get all the flavor, every inch of that leg will give it's meat but left in it's wake are dozens of tiny tendons that are dangerous if you happen to let one slide down your throat, so take the time to fish them all out.  

I added carrots, celery, peas, corn and diced canned tomatoes as well as chunks of potatoes, a bit of leftover wild rice and of course jalapenos to make this chunky soup burst with robust flavor.  A squeeze of lemon and cilantro to garnish.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

They Were All My Friends, and They Died

Every year if you've cooked a giant meal, chances are you have leftovers from Thanksgiving.  So, then you have an obligation, maybe even a little pressure to do something fun and exciting with them.  After all, basically you have about 5 or six ready made, extremely tasty elements at your disposal.  I personally love leftovers, simply reheated, as is.  For me, many times they taste even better than the first time because the stress level is down completely and much of the self criticism is gone.  Still, it's fun to try to create new ideas.  
The pizza slice place next door has saved us through the Pandemic, so naturally my thoughts went to making these stacked turkey slices.  I cut the cornbread like a pie, then in half.  I smeared a layer of mashed potatoes on the bottom, then gravy, shredded turkey, a bit of rice stuffing, pepper jack cheese and melted in oven.  I topped with a dollop of raw cranberry relish and not only were they super cute, they were delicious.  I've had issues with overdoing amounts of toppings in the past because I figured more was better but actually, I've learned a little something this year finally and that is what you layer, how you layer, and how much, all serves an important purpose in inching towards a more perfect dish.  
Even though it was all there, I walked in the kitchen with zero ideas, then suddenly this idea washed up in my brain.  That's a cool and mysterious thing that happens once in a while, if you're lucky with creativity.  

Another local mystery is happening in the waters behind my workplace.  This year I've marveled at all the fish feeding along the shore, more than any other year.  They were literally jumping out of the water and I felt like they were my friends to visit each day before work.   If you ignore all the garbage washed up on shore,  the Erie Basin is a beautiful life source for birds, turtles, and fish alike.  
I'd never seen so many before and wondered if it could be a bad thing that they needed to feed so close to the edge. 

And then now a couple of months later, I started seeing them circle towards the top, no longer in groups and it looked as though they were having trouble breathing.  I thought possibly they had spawned nearby.
And a few days after that this is a daily site.  Dead friends floating everywhere and the ducks aren't touching them and also seem scarce.  Thor Equities has been pounding the earth restoring the bulkheads on it's site all summer in order to build 23,000 square feet of retail and 795,000 square feet of creative office space right next door.  It will also feature a waterfront esplanade and open waterfront.   But it wasn't until the recent serious dredging of the Gowanus Canal's black mayonnaise have a I noticed dead fish.  Possibly, the new life I noticed this summer was coming from the disturbed habitat next door but now the killing may be from the devilish toxins in the canal also next door.  Yesterday (12/16) I walked past the Smith and 9th Street basin by the subway and there was the absolute WORST stench I had ever experienced for about 2 blocks.  The potency made you gag through two masks.  I have smelled weeks old decayed human bodies because I worked in an apartment rental agency in the 80's in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco at the height of the Aids crisis but this was even worse, most likely due to the amount they are dredging up. 
I rode out to the end of the pier where a teenage boy from the neighborhood stood looking down at the morbid site and I asked him if he'd ever seen anything like this before and he very sullenly said, 'Nah, I been coming here for awhile and I ain't never seen nuttin' like dis.  It's probably a mass suicide or something'.  I looked up and laughed at first, thinking he was joking but he stayed looking down and I realized he was serious.  I didn't want to bother him with my dimestore theories, so I just said 'Damn, I hope not. Hey, stay safe alright?' and rode away. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

How Wonderful Life is While You're in the World

Thanksgiving Plate 2020
2020 brings to mind many things.  Thanksgiving 2020 brings to mind one. Thank goodness all of our families and friends stayed alive through the virus.  Many friends lost family and coworkers were hit very hard.  But somehow, even with all the scares, we stand lucky and alive.  So even though 2020 itself was a major hardship, it didn't kill us.  For that, gratitude is in order.
I had one day off for the holiday so I was threatening a Reader's Digest version of dinner but in the end I was blessed with the Hunter's moon that put my energy stream into overdrive.  I made the pie after working late the night before to have with coffee in the morning and then just tackled each recipe with a focus only the full moon can allow.  
I finished the roast garlicky mashed potatoes in the crock with sour cream, milk and butter and they definitely became the creamiest ever.  I love the fresh raw cranberry citrus relish and the way it makes all the savory turkey flavor pop.  
The salad was a lightened up broccoli carrot and apple salad normally slathered with Mayo but I mixed in lots of yogurt and apple cider vinegar.  I have learned that although salads never sound great for this particular meal when you just want to get at the good stuff, they are very necessary for balance.  And somehow the vegetable essence comes through even more.
I made a 2020 version of my mom's famous stuffing with pecans, wild rice and exotic mushrooms and I loved it so much, I'd use it as a side dish in regular rotation. 
I fried my own shallot rings for the green bean casserole. 
I'm a hit and miss kind of gal with baked goods but this Buttermilk Cornbread was a big winner in the cast iron pan with a recipe from Damn Delicious, and that it was.  Buttery but loads of texture, moist enough yet not cakey in the least. 
My gravy was on point made with turkey drippings and stock from the necks of the the bird. 
My appetizer came in the form of this refreshing and bright Shrimp Ceviche!  I was too busy to enjoy it then but later that night was able to stand at the open fridge door, Nigella Lawson style and scoop up a bunch with crackers.  
The bird barely fit in my tiny oven, so it's little belly got some burnt buttered herbs but other than that it was what it should be.
I found out that many family members had gone against recommendations and gathered, traveled and you guessed it, all unmasked.  I wrestled with some odd desire to teach them a lesson, but quickly realized that a horrible thought.  To those of us that understand the risks, their carelessness felt shocking and slightly disrespectful, even though I'm sure it's not personal.  But in the end, none of that matters although now I hold my breathe in the hopes that I find them all healthy and fine in the coming weeks.  Regardless, I can take this day to remember how grateful I am for every single person in my life.  Even the stupid ones. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

And Now You're Back From Outer Space

A late night after work porking
Pantry staples brought this plate of slow roasted pork to life with some jarred salsa (I never ever use this product but in 2020, you gotta go with the flow).  Canned refried beans with added cheese and pickled jalapenos, cumin and a dollop of yogurt as a warm, creamy side. 

Retail Story #212
The old man came back that gave me such a tough time the other day causing me to call a manager after he insisted he knew the owner and I would be in big trouble if I didn't help him.  He yelled and called me names, came limping after me across the showroom as I scurried away.  He said I 'had' to stay and help him, which sealed the deal for me.  I don't 'have' to do anything but I do quite enough thank you and take more shit than I prefer from almost everyone.   

He was old, mean, grouchy and bossy.  He might suffer slightly from dementia so at first, I was very kind to him, gave him all the extra attention. Then it became apparent, he was very confused.  It seemed he already bought the same kitchen, a week before, now trying to purchase again, with slight variations.  But was so adamant and demanding, after I told him I couldn't in good conscious sell him pieces that didn't work.  So, when his arms started flying and his voice raised, then I promised to get some other clown person to assist him.    This store is so far from normal society that it follows it's own laws.  Lucky for me, no manager ever comes and I continue to operate as if I'm in the wild west. 
Then today, he's back but may have met his match with my colleague.  At first, I thought to warn my coworker but then realized without interference, the universe might just take care of this asswipe.  This kid helps out in the department but often screws up orders and insists on giving wrong advice with authority.  He's not the sharpest tool and has a bit of a temper himself.   I can only imagine what sort of retail mayhem will ensue after these two knuckleheads are finished.  So, I stayed circling like a little yipper dog, showing my teeth but keeping my distance.   
I know what you're thinking.  I failed to go 'high' like Michelle Obama and instead, just joined all the other swine in the swamp of shame.  It's true and I'm not proud.  Next time I'll do better.  But honestly, retail 2020 in Brooklyn, New York is a brand new game and I challenge most of you to be your best self consistently in these conditions.  

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Be Here to Love Me Today

A slow roasted pork shoulder
I don't much like pork anymore but I do love the smell of roasting meat, so much so that it's almost worth making an aromatic shoulder just to get that scent to fill the apartment.  
P loves pork and coincidentally a vat of meat for him provides satisfaction in another way.  The knowing that it's there waiting for him is comforting.  I think it serves some primitive anxiety from thousands of generations ago when men needed to go fetch their dinner in the wild.  Probably when they discovered they could dry meat or hang it in a tree from predators, it was a relief and allowed them time to become artists.  However all of this being said, I am reducing the amount of meat in our diets, mine more so just because my body is starting to reject it.  
Even though some might find this a horrible display, in reality a slow roasted pig is a beautiful, sacred thing.  Or it can be.  Whether it be a head of lettuce or the butt of pork, I think now more than ever you need to really honor the food that provides for you.  In the preparation, the handling and finally the serving and eating.  This little guy did not go to waste and was highly appreciated.

Originally not intended to be eaten, only worshipped "Highness" was a pig given to me and created by Hope Silverman and I have her proudly displayed in my living room as a reminder to honor our food always.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

After the Boys of Summer Have Gone

It's fall and time to embrace our root vegetables and less vibrant summer pals.
Sheet pan dinners just got sexier with the addition of loose pork meat!  Apples, cabbage wedges, red onions and accordion mini potatoes all played so nicely together, each bringing their own roasted-accentuated gusto.  I put the potatoes in first, needing slightly more roasting time and then added the rest.  I tossed everything in a Dijon mustard, garlic, oil dressing with crushed oregano and red pepper flakes, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  This made the sweetness of the apples and red onions burst with zesty goodness.  The pork gets this deepened meat texture and aroma.  I can't say enough of how much roasting enhances the humdrum life of ground meat.  For me this was a scientific breakthrough for home cooks that I'm sure others have done, but nobody told this girl, so I'm telling you.  
This could use a fresh green herb but other than that a dash of salt, drizzle of a good olive oil and a sprinkle of Parm on those potatoes completes a full sampler plate of taste sensations that only oven-roasting can put forward. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

And You Can't Keep a Secret From the Ground Beneath You

Pizza Burger 
With P gone, I tried to restart my love affair with food.  Preparing meals had lost some luster during the Pandemic and has felt more a necessity than pleasure.  Ideas weren't flowing, cravings were just faint whispers.  It's a slow climb back to cooking with carefree passion again.  I hope it comes back.  Even this was a half-assed attempt.  The toasted garlic rubbed, oiled Ciabatta bread was a nice topper to this zesty pizza burger but in the end, I lost steam and only had energy to open a can of soup to serve alongside.  In better days, I would have added mushrooms, onions and possibly green olives, slathered the sauce on and definitely served a zippy, fresh side.  Meh.  I did broil the burgers and that developed the flavors. 
I took a walk around the neighborhood to get some perspective and felt the universe was trying to communicate in these abstract images.  
The shortest story ever told
An imprisoned giant stuffed elephant laying on a couch with garbage bags
An S shaped tree plant and interesting door in an abandoned building across from the underpass
A pumpkin patch graveyard
Breakfast was a bright note with yogurt, fruit and nuts

Sunday, November 15, 2020

I Look at the World and It's a Different Story

Doctored Frozen Cauliflower Crust Pizza 
Added Pepperoni, red onions, green olives, extra mozzarella and anchovies topped this boxed frozen cauliflower crust pizza for dinner.  The theme of the week is duality.  I want to eat healthier yet I crave pizza.  I want convenience yet I also want home made food out of my own oven.  
I love interacting with people (in very limited time blocks) in order to learn about humans, yet customers can be tiresome pretty quickly.  I plan kitchen spaces in 2 hour appointments.  I love this and I hate this. My first of the day was an older German lady.  I joke that I am the Bill Burr of Bloggers, and the truth is that I came here to New York to study the intricacies of different people and I believe nationality and ethnicity are very important to describe an encounter.  I am not one to say we're all the same, in the way that many do.  I'm ecstatic that we are not.  I like different, I seek different.  But it doesn't mean that it's always pleasant or that all observations come in easy to swallow pills.  So she's older, a woman, a German, so what?  Well, for the story it sits a lady in front of you that you could imagine.  She wasn't a young, Japanese 30 male.  It means that she was, coincidentally, if you want to look at it that way, what society might call slightly abrupt, a little harsh in her demeanor.  She didn't listen to anything I said, which was all unique to her, but it made the process memorable.  I actually love the Germans or the common similarities I notice in many, because, like the Russians, that rough edge is not personal, it's simply a different way brought up by many factors.  They are to the point and not so emotional.   So to interact, is a lively game of ping pong for a sensitive little waif like me.  These personalities help me and I need that. Their energy is admirable and she was no spring chicken but she definitely gave me a run.  
She came in with a plan from another company and I said, what do you like about this and what are you unsure of.  No! I want this exactly as you see it. She responded.  Just make me a drawing using your products and give me the price! That's what I want from you. See, that's direct.  I'd point out things intermittently she could consider changing but her only answer was no, with an exclamation point, not mean, just decisive.  I'm aware she may feel a little uncomfortable in this cold retail environment so I try a few ways to ease her into a more creative mindset, to no avail.  She would come around to the more obvious advice but her initial answer was always no.  So I got used to asking three times. I figured she knew what she wanted and left it at that while still trying to help.  So after a long 2 hours I present her with the 10 foot island she requested, no pantry, although she said she desperately needed a space for all her cans and boxes and no recycle cabinet, although all pictures showed she had at least 3 trash cans on her floor in her high end apartment.  After asking if there was anything more I could do for her and if she was satisfied with the final plan, she nods clearly unsatisfied and I sigh, under my mask.  I was tired at this point and wanted this game to be over. I print out the pictures, tally the order and hand her a folder, ready to say goodbye.  As I move to get up, she says, 'Well, I mean if you have suggestions, I'm open to them' and then she proceeds to tell me multiple things she would like changed.  I actually loved that about her.