Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pancakes for one

I don't understand how people overeat when they're depressed. In my experience, breakups are Nature's appetite suppressants.

Cooking for one? What's the
pointSo much about the eating experience for me is about *sharing* meals and conversation, about nurturing those I care about with wholesome and delicious dishes. How many times this week have I opened the fridge and been completely disinterested? Who am I going to share good food and scintillating conversation with now that yet another relationship has tanked? My houseplants? The worm bin residents? My bicycle? Bah. Looks like cheese and crackers for dinner again. (It's a good thing I've had lots of cooking classes to teach, else I'd have wasted away altogether: who can resist sampling mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup and garden thyme prepared by 2nd graders, or beet and apple salad hand-grated by 4th graders, or spicy kale chips baked by middle schoolers? Not me. It may be significantly more lonely in my apartment these days, but thanks to my students at least I'm managing to get some good food in me a few times a day during the school week.)

The most depressing meal to prepare and eat alone, I've decided, is not dinner (partly because it's socially acceptable to have a couple glasses of wine during dinner) but weekend breakfast. You know, that time when one lazes around a bit in bed, snuggling and maybe dozing awhile before putting on some espresso and bustling about the kitchen to assemble a little something tasty for two. And then sometimes heading back to bed? That's the time I'm talking about, when loneliness is the most stark. Well, I'm tired of feeling sad. And today, for the first time in a week, I woke up hungry. So this morning, since I had minimal supplies around -- I am less motivated to buy food when self pity hits, too -- I decided to try a recipe my friend Carina had mentioned to me a few days ago: 2-Ingredient Pancakes. I had both ingredients and somehow this morning the idea of making pancakes for one seemed less pathetic than it did last weekend. Maybe it was the unexpected sunshine pouring through my bedroom window when I awoke. Maybe it was the fun time I spent with my dear friend Quynh last night. Maybe I'm starting to heal. Whatever the reason, the result was delicious and I devoured the whole plateful myself. And so, dear readers, single and otherwise, I offer you my adaptation of:

Flourless Banana Pancakes for One
Makes about 3 pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium, ripe banana
  • 1 large egg (or probably two small ones would work, and yield an extra flapjack)
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • 1 large pinch ground cinnamon
  • butter

Directions
  1. Heat a skillet on the stovetop to medium heat.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, mash banana well with a fork. (There can be small lumps, but you don't want big banana globs or it will be weird.)
  3. Mix in the egg, then baking powder and cinnamon.
  4. When pan is hot, add a small pat of butter, which will melt and coat the bottom of the pan.
  5. Pour a Tablespoon or so of batter into the pan and cook your awesome little pancake until the bottom appears set (20-30 seconds, when you see a couple small bubbles pop on top), then flip with spatula and cook another 10 seconds or so til cooked through, but not burnt.
  6. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm with butter and syrup.

I suspect this recipe scales up just fine, but it is handy to have a 2-ingredient, 3-pancake recipe around.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Squeaky clean


When folks hear that I biked around the country, some get the misguided impression that I'm some sort of crackerjack bike mechanic. Those of you who have been following the blog for a little while probably know otherwise. This year, feeling a little bit extravagant, I decided to take Ollie in for her first professional tune-up. After all, she'd be a solid sidekick for close to six years now. She deserved a good deep cleaning of the drivetrain, new cables and housing, non-ratty bar tape and handlebar hoods. In short: the works. (Okay, maybe some of this extravagance was brought on by the fact that the bike shop was having a half-price winter service special, but my steady Ollie has needed some serious TLC for a little while now, as evidenced by the fraying brake cables, missing screws, and squeaking crankshaft.)

It'd been three weeks since I left my dear two-wheeled partner in the shop, and I must say that when I picked her up from The Bike Rack yesterday, she looked beautiful. Now let's see if that persistent squeak in the pedals remains....

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Floridian foraging

This winter, after a trip even further north to visit friends in Connecticut, Vermont, and Canada, after Christmas, I was fortunate to head south at last with one of my oldest and dearest friends. The least expensive flights we could find were to Florida, and though Becky and I were both leery of the proliferation of pastel shorts and mobile homes, we could not resist the chance to be in a warm, sunny climate for a week. So we went.

After numerous flight delays and some misadventures with our first airbnb rental, we settled into things: long walks on the beach, cooking lots of fish and gorging ourselves on citrus, kayaking. On one of our final days in the Keys, as we headed out to run a couple of errands, Becky spied some low-growing banana trees. Sure, they were clearly on the edge of someone's yard, but c'mon, they weren't going to eat all of those... I kept an eye out for angry neighbors while Becky braved the potentially-tarantula-laden bunch to glean a few ripe ones for us to nibble on.


The next day, after a couple hours of pretty intense kayaking around the mangroves, narrowly avoiding getting pooped on by the many pelicans and cormorants and managing not to get stung by a beautiful but deadly Portuguese man-of-war, we noticed what appeared to be some ripe coconuts in the palms near where we'd pulled in. I was thirsty and they looked delicious. After some misguided attempts trying to climb the trees, then equally ineffective efforts to knock the coconuts out of the tree with some large rocks and chunks of wood -- most of which ended up perched high up in the branches next to the irresistible looking coconuts -- we hit on a foolproof strategy: using our paddles to knock the delicious treenuts down.

Success! And then, Lord of the Flies style, I smashed them against a nearby concrete slab. In the end, though the meat inside was not yet edible, we guzzled two green coconuts' worth of fortifying liquid and left the rest for the birds and lizards to feast on.

And vultures, apparently, though I didn't realize they were so abundant until we made our way to the Everglades on the last day of the trip....

Monday, December 29, 2014

I find your lack of cake disturbing

Thanks to all who helped to celebrate my 37th lap around the sun over the weekend! The food and company were, as usual, stellar. Dinners, silly hats, museums, yoga. Ahhh.

There was no lack of cake, BTW -- gluten-free rules don't apply to birthdays.

(Five points to those who can recite the original Star Wars line....)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

(Rose)mary Christmas

It's true that Christmas has never been my favorite holiday. I mean, seriously: it's cold, those muzak carols have been cranking in department stores since Black Friday, and there's all this commercial pressure to buy, buy, buy.

Bah humbug.

But I've been thinking I need to approach this holiday differently: by bundling up, avoiding department stores, and making some simple but thoughtful (and primarily edible) gifts for friends and family. And embracing the ridiculousness of the seasonal decor....
Check out this rosemary "living wreath." It was so ugly, I had to buy it (though I'd only technically stopped in to buy a bag of lemons). I giggled most of the way back from Whole Foods with it, thinking of edible decorations I could add to this most silly of herbal configurations.

What could complement rosemary better than garlic and hot peppers? Festive, no? And the added bonus is that I'll be all set for lamb marinades in the new year....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Salem Bug Trials

It had been a challenging morning with a particularly loud and distracted group of fourth-graders, but after nearly two hours of garden work, talking and writing about decomposition, and cooking, things were looking up. It was time to eat. As the group sat down to steaming bowls of Thai curry noodle soup -- one of the most delicious dishes you can imagine -- one young upstart called out, "There's a bug in my soup!"

Oh lord.

Suddenly, what was traditionally the most calm part of class -- the eating part -- turned into a modern version of the Salem witch trials: like a wildfire, one student after another shrieked about little blobs floating in their soup until nearly the whole class was in hysterics. Most of the parents tried to calm the 9-year-olds, insisting that what they were seeing were not bugs at all but merely bits of the spices we'd used -- curry powder, cumin, turmeric -- but upon closer inspection, I did see some distinctly insect-like corpses in my own bowl. "Well," I tried to explain, "this is part of what organic gardening is about. We don't use any scary chemicals, so sometimes bugs like to eat our delicious vegetables, too. If it really bothers you, though, just pick out the bugs." Nearby, a couple of boys agreed, "Yeah, it's no big deal. It's part of nature. This is delicious!" And they asked their neighbors if they could finish their uneaten soup. I love having allies, and I slurped my soup right alongside them.

I am sad to report that the vast majority of soup this morning went uneaten, though. Tomorrow, my co-teacher and I decided, we will skip cooking the bug-laden broccoli from our garden, lest another near-riot erupt.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bountiful broccoli

I do love broccoli. I couldn't resist picking up a few heads at the farmers' market a couple of weeks ago. It was just gorgeous, so I bought more than I should have for a person who lives alone and eats a diverse diet. Yes, I was downright brassica rich. After making a couple of batches of my favorite broccoli (with garlic, crushed red pepper, raisins, and almonds), and a couple of stirfries, I still had a few heads of the beautiful green veggie in the fridge. So I went to one of my favorite food blogs, Food52, for some inspiration. And inspiration I found.

I made a few adjustments, of course: more garlic, because the original recipe only called for 2 cloves(!), and the addition of a celery root because I had one and also because it turned out that when I measured it I did not actually have quite as much broccoli as I thought. (Must be those midnight elves who sneak in and eat my produce while I sleep... but who, alas, don't seem inclined to do the dishes while they're in my kitchen.) The result was so delicious, I made another big pot of it the following week, when a canceled class left me with a plethora of extra broccoli. It turned out perfectly again.

Since this recipe is too good not to share, I offer you:

Roasted Broccoli and Celery Root Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 heads broccoli, cut into florets, with stems peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 celeriac, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4-6 cups stock (depends on how thick you want your soup)
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan
  • juice from 1 lemon

Directions

Steam broccoli and celeriac til broccoli turns bright green. Drain well, set aside.

Add the olive oil and garlic to the pot, cook over medium heat for 2 mins, then add the broccoli and celeriac, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Cover the pot, turn the heat down as low as it will go, and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is soft enough that it yields when you press it with the back of a wooden spoon (it may brown a little during this process -- this is a good thing).

Add stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes.

Puree half the soup in a blender or food processor. Stir the puree back into the pot.

Stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice to taste. Enjoy!