Saturday, February 21, 2015

Seasonal eclectic disorder

Ah, another snow day. What to do? Laundry? Check. Clean kitchen? Done. Watch Downton Abbey on Netflix? Waiting on the mailman. Breakfast #2? Eaten. Catching snowflakes on tongue while running errands? Completed. It's been a busy morning. And it's after 5pm somewhere in the world: time for a cocktail!

I do like the frou-frou drinks, especially since trying to limit my gluten intake -- oh, beer, how I miss you! -- and discovering that the mixed drinks in my neighborhood are not what one would call inexpensive. Delicious, yes, and often creative, but not so gentle on the wallet.

Now, I do not purport to be a mixologist, but every so often I hit on a good experiment. This afternoon was one of those times. Inspired by the fresh mint I had leftover from yesterday's chard tabbouleh wrap making class, the blackberries in my produce drawer (see, I'm not a local, seasonal purist after all), and bourbon giving me the eye from the liquor shelf in my freshly cleaned kitchen, I was thinking about some kind of smash. Then I remembered having blackberry smashes over the summer with some teaching colleagues and a debate sparking about what, precisely, a smash was (besides delicious). According to imbibemagazine.com:

Like many cocktails, the question of the smash’s exact definition is a question of semantics. The smash is an open-ended cocktail, freely variable and seasonally flexible. There must be ice, though you may strain it out if you prefer. There should be fruit in season, though you may use it simply as a garnish. There should be a spirit base, though you may use your spirit of choice. Mint is a classic choice, though many other herbs can work. You may want to water your smash down a little or add a spritz of seltzer. At its heart, the smash is a wonderfully forgiving and flexible drink, made for hot days, for using what’s on hand and for smashing it all together over ice for pure sipping bliss.

Sounds fairly straightforward. And open to interpretation....

Sure, it's more of a warm weather drink, but I'm getting a little tired of hot toddies. Should you be so inclined for a taste of summertime, I offer you this latest recipe:

Winter Wonderland Blackberry Smash

Ingredients


  • 1 small handful fresh blackberries (or thawed frozen ones)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 shot bourbon
  • 1/4 tsp pomegranate syrup (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup packed fresh snow (make sure it's white because, you know....)
  • seltzer
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • 1 large slice of fresh lemon squeezed in at the end, if your drink is missing a little j'en est c'est quoi. (Thank you, creativeculinary,com, for that good suggestion, saving my drink from mediocrity.)

Directions
In a pint jar or sturdy glass, mash blackberries and sugar together with a fork.

Add bourbon and pomegranate syrup (if using -- I only did because I'm trying to use it up so I have a small jar for another culinary project, but it was a nice, tart addition).

While these flavors marinate for a few minutes, scamper outside to scoop up some snow. Add it to your mixture and top off the glass with cold seltzer.

Squeeze in lemon, then stir it all up with a mint sprig (or smash the mint with the blackberries in step 1).

Voila: happy summer-in-winter!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lady donuts

This recipe for churros, adapted from the How to Cook That blog, is an instant favorite. It was so fun to watch Jenn and Alison drizzle the batter into fun curlicues for our Galentine's Day brunch in Brooklyn this morning. I had the infinitely important job of cinnamon sugar coating and taste testing our funnelcake-like creations, which we eventually dubbed "lady donuts" (for their delicate elegance). Cronuts, get ready for the next big pastry craze....

Ingredients

1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablepoon of vanilla
Canola oil to fry in
Cinnamon and sugar for dusting

Directions

Melt the butter and the water in a saucepan.

Add the flour stirring continuously. Keep stirring over the heat until the mixture thickens and clumps together into a smooth 'ball'. (Kinda like profiterole dough, if that helps.)

Remove form the heat and stir in the eggs one at a time and watch your dough turn a lovely buttery yellow color.

Add the vanilla and sugar and mix til combined and creamy.

Spoon batter into a piping bag (aka ziploc bag with a small hole cut into one corner).

Heat the oil til a small piece of bread dropped in turns golden after about 20 seconds. Fish out bread tester.

Pipe churros batter straight into the hot oil. Use you fingers, scissors, or a knife to break off the batter when it is the required length. Jenn made some pretty shapes....

Once the curlicues are lightly browned, use tongs to lift them out and put onto a plate covered with some paper towels to drain. (Yes, one of the few times I will concede that paper towels are necessary - mark your calendar.)

Quickly toss them one at a time in a cinnamon sugar mix (1 part cinnamon to @ 10 parts sugar) and place in a pretty bowl.

Delish!

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....