27 October 2012

when the train isn't running

And you have an hour to kill and you haven't had breakfast yet, what do you do? Take a walk over to Smorgasburg. Yum!

25 October 2012

black cats and pumpkins

It must be Halloween, my favorite time of year full of costumes, spookiness and fall flavors!  However, one quintessential Halloween flavor has always escaped me.  That's right, I'm talking about pumpkin.  Sure I get pumped for the return of warm apple cider, but pumpkin spice?  No, thank you.  Honestly, I don't know that I've ever had a slice of pumpkin pie (stay away, angry mob!)  I love the flavors of ginger and cinnamon and cloves but something about pumpkin has just never done it for me.  Sure I always have a can of Libby's in my baking cupboard and I'll occasionally add it to pancakes or muffins, but the whole pumpkin spice craze of lattes and scones and cookies has never really appealed to me.  But I love squash.  Especially the big beautiful gourds that come out this time of year.  I love the sweet starchiness, the bright yellows and oranges, and all their versatility, from soups to fritters to casseroles... oh my, the possibilities seem endless!  So what's the difference?  I can't hold the Starbucks stigma against this simple vegetable.  So when my CSA had what seemed like an entire patch full of beautiful pumpkins, I decided to grab one for a little kitchen adventure.

The past few days have been pretty chilly so I thought a soup would be the best, and simplest way to cook up this great pumpkin that sat on my counter - something simple with a little veggie stock, some onion, maybe cumin and smokey paprika, I wanted the flavors to be warming.  But as I was dicing it up to steam, honey did what he always does and snuck a piece.  Despite my protestations (I was afraid that raw winter squash was like raw potatoes and could be poisonous; it isn't,) he nibbled on it and noticed something curious.  After I took my own tiny taste, we both realized that this autumn veggie tasted oddly like a summer fruit.  It had a distinct melon flavor to it.  How strange!  And how tragic that my bellywarming flavors would no longer work!  But with great team effort and much collaboration (and lots of hours and many glasses of wine,) my honey and I crafted a big ole pot of warm, delicious soup that filled the apartment with sweet and savory smells and filled our bellies with a goodness that worked some magic on me as I am now a lover of pumpkin.

We tweaked and adjusted throughout the cooking process, working mostly with what I had in the fridge and a couple of items from a quick dash to the grocery store.  Though our final product was delicious, we've decided to make a few adjustments, so you can consider this a recipe rough draft.  Once we get it right I'll post a revision, but I couldn't not share this tasty creation with you, dearies.  Try it out and don't be afraid to add an ingredient or two in to make it your own... but make sure you share it with me because I want this to be the best soup ever, and that might just take some help from my friends.

rough draft pumpkin soup
I forgot to measure so all of these measurements are "about"
4c sweet pumpkin, cubed
3c veggie stock
2 red peppers, cubed
1/2 c ricotta cheese
1/4 c bacon and prosciutto, sliced 
a few tbsp queso freso, grated
fresh parsley, chopped
salt & pepper
1. Steam the pumpkin in about 1c veggie stock until soft.  Add the red pepper and continue steaming until that gets soft, too.  Add to simmering veggie stock and let bubble up together until it gets even softer.  Using an immersion blender, blend it all together to a soup-like consistency and stir in the parsley.
2. With a tiny bit of warm veggie stock and some fresh garlic, crisp up the bacon and prosciutto. Once it has reached a satisfactory level of crispness, dump it all in the soup pot.  Stir together and let those flavors meld.
3. One heaping spoonful at a time, slowly stir in the ricotta cheese.  This will cut the slight acidity and make the soup creamy and thick.  Sprinkle in the queso fresco.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Easy enough, right?  I topped my bowl with a little extra ricotta and a chunk of grainy bread for good measure.  Very tasty.  So what we're thinking for next time is this -

  • A little more pumpkin! I want it to be really thick and hearty.
  • A little less pepper.  Sometimes red pepper just wants to take over the whole party and that is not okay.  We want the pumpkin to be the star of this show.
  • Cream instead of ricotta.  Yes, the soup is best as a cream soup, but the ricotta might be best saved as a topping.  And the queso fresco, though delicious, is maybe a little too off the flavor palette that we were going for.  Maybe a parmesan or ricotta insalata?
  • Pancetta instead of bacon or prosciutto.  It's heartier and holds a crisp better so it won't get lost in the soup.
  • Since we'll be getting all fancy and garnishing this soup with a dollop of fresh ricotta, let's throw a couple more decorative tidbits on top.  I'm thinking crushed, toasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of honey! This also pulls from our original melon inspiration (you know, melon wrapped in smoky meats with honey as a summer tapas?)

I'm hoping that we get to try this recipe out again soon because I have a feeling that as we tweak it, it will just get better and better until it truly becomes one of our signature dishes.  And how fun is it to create something like that with your honey?  Teamwork and kitchen fun, huzzah!  But wait... Honey and I couldn't be the only ones to indulge in and enjoy the harvest flavors of pumpkin soup.  What about our little buddy, Macaroni?  Honey hardly ever gives him fancy food, so I get to spoil him every once in awhile with the good stuff (that's how I make sure I'm always his favorite!)  Lucky for the little guy, I stumbled upon a pouch of Pumpkin Soup and Shredded Chicken cat food so we all got to have pretty much the same supper, like a big happy family!  Macaroni was so excited that he started lapping up the juicy morsels before I could even get them in his bowl.  Delicious pumpkin soup for everyone!  Happy almost Halloween!

23 October 2012

comfort comes with cinnamon on top

On a kind of dreary, sentimental day there's nothing that can drag you out of the doldrums more than comfort food.  Except maybe comfort food in the form of dessert.  A quiet moment in the park and a few spoonfuls of Rice to Riches almond rice pudding topped with cinnamon was just what I needed this morning.  Feeling slightly revived, I'm off in search of a new perfect fall sip.

19 October 2012

a feast for the feet

While perusing the internerd during a brief moment of quiet the other day, I thought I'd start looking for this year's perfectly perfect Thanksgiving dress (gotta love a theme!) I found a few dresses that may make it to the next round but then I stumbled upon these socks from ModCloth -

How adorable are they? Since I usually skip fancy footwear for this busy holiday, I usually don my boots and end up sliding around in colorful tights. Wouldn't these be absolutely ideal to slip on over a pair of tights to keep my toes toasty? I think I'll be adding these to my holiday shopping list... and I'll have one more thing to be thankful for this year!

04 October 2012

i am 16 going on 29...

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I am celebrating this magnificent occasion by taking a fabulous (and much needed, long overdue, well deserved,) vacation with my honey.  But since it's not right to celebrate unless the people that brought you into this world get to celebrate with you, last night we spent an absolutely lovely and perfect evening with Lizzie B and daddy-o.  Unfortunately, since I'm not entirely used to being able to take and post pictures and blog wherever, whenever I want with my fancy new phone, I forgot to capture any images of the festivities.  I'll try to describe it...

We headed West to the Tipsy Parson, a quaint and crowded little spot in Chelsea that was hip and hot enough to require a reservation.  Thankfully I have a honey who can be very convincing and after a perfectly timed wait that involved cocktails and birthday presents, we had ourselves a table.  Like so many restaurants of late, this spot had that homey, rustic, comfort kind of vibe that I absolutely love.  It's like being in someone's kitchen if that someone decorates like Martha Stewart and cooks like her, too.  We started off with some unexpected apps - fried green tomatoes and fried oysters.  Of course I'm a fan of anything that's fried, especially if it's buttery and briney or a vegetable so that I can pretend there's some semblance of healthiness to it.  Next came our entrees.  Normally, I choose the best dish on the menu and everyone at the table is envious of me; it must be a trait that I got from my father because last night, his was the tastiest selection, though no one else chose badly.  He had the pork belly with butternut squash puree and cavatelli and cheese, I chose the sliced duck breast with a sweet cherry sauce, corn spoon bread and candied brussel sprouts that were so itty bitty baby that they almost made me forget about the pear.  Lizzie B went with flank steak on top of spinach puree with a mushroom medley while honey had the papardelle with venison ragu.  Mmmm just like they claim, it was belly filling goodness.  So much so that we weren't able to squeeze in dessert.  Not that I needed it with vacation right around the corner; I want as much space available in my stomach so that I can fill it with beignets!

But wait... the gifts!  How could I have forgotten the gifts?  For my Sweet 16 I received two very special, very memorable gifts.  I got my first pair of Frye boots just like the ones my mom had when she was younger.  They were very of the times with a zipper up the side and a clunky heel but I loved them and seriously wore the heck out of them.  The other gift was a little but of razzle dazzle for my ears.  Classy, chic and simple, my earrings made me feel like a glamor queen.  Like my boots, I wore them nearly every single day.  But then, tragedy struck - I was burgled!  They stole nearly everything of value, including family heirlooms and my razzle dazzle.  They even went so far as to go through my board games in search of real money and not Monopoly money.  Soon after, on a snowy evening, I slipped on some ice coming of the M train and slid all the way down the steps, bruising my tailbone and cracking the wooden sole of my boots.  It was a very sad day but it was even sadder when the shoemaker told me that it would cost more to repair them than to buy a new pair.  I was heartbroken.  But for my birthday the next year, I got a brand new pair, even more classic than the last ones and I wear the heck out of them all year round.  So much so that I need to have them resoled each year, right around my birthday.  And then they're like brand new but even better because they're all worn in!  And this year, my folks surprised me with some new razzle dazzle for my lonely lobes!  It's like I'm 16 all over again, except instead of a busy colorguard schedule, I have a busy work schedule, and I'm a little less insecure and I've done a lot more cool stuff.  But I'm still a teenage girl at heart (working with a gaggle of kids certainly helps me feel young,) and these birthday gifts just reminded me that just because I'm adding another candle to my cake, it doesn't mean I can't have Sweet 16 shenanigans anymore!  And they will be had - tomorrow honey and I are off to NOLA for some birthday frolicking and fun times.  I can't wait!  Bon voyage and happy birthday to me!

03 October 2012

pear-ly there

I've never been the biggest fan of pears.  I've always found them to be a little too mealy and the skin is always so thick and they're either sickeningly sweet or boring and bland and, worst of all, they look like a lady with a fat butt which reminds me too much of myself!  Sure, when you cover them with caramel and brown sugar and nuts they can be delicious, but in a masked sort of way.  I think what bugs me most about pears is that they aren't apples.  That's right, I said it - pears are kind of like the lame cousins of apples, and frankly, I'm not too fond of them.  Or at least I thought I wasn't.  Then, I saw this itty bitty, teeny tiny pear.  I'm a sucker for all things adorable and this may be one of the cutest pieces of fruit I have ever seen!  It's like a teacup pig in pear form... and it doesn't even make me feel bad about my giant ass!

I ate the tiny pear for breakfast this morning and guess what - it was still thick-skinned and mealy.  But it was also sweet and juicy and crisp and tart, like an apple but not an apple.  Truth is, I'm still not convinced that I could love pears, but because of its cuteness and tastiness this baby one has weaseled its way into my heart and belly; enough to make me believe that I could learn to enjoy all pears as something other than an ingredient.  But it might take some time.  So until then, help me out and tell me your favorite ways to enjoy this other orchard fruit, darlings.

01 October 2012

happy october!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is finally here... my favorite month!  I woke up this morning all giddy and excited because after treading through the past nine months I had finally made it to October.  Honey asked me 'why is October your favorite month?  Is it because it's your birthday month?'  To which I staunchly replied 'absolutely not!' and then changed that to 'well, maybe a little, but for lots of other reasons, too.'  I suppose it doesn't hurt that my favorite month is practically kicked off with a celebration of me, and that my overly-celebratory family believes that a birthday is not nearly festive enough; I get at least a week or, more frequently, a month.  To start this festive time of year off on the right foot, I was finally allowed to open up this -

Yes, those are glittery purple balloons.  Lizzie B is just too awesome for words.  But really, October is certainly about way more than my birthday.  It's about color and flavor and change and growth.  It's the first full month of Autumn.  Let's face it, September is still half Summer here in the Northeast.  I sent most of my warm weather clothes into storage but still haven't felt the need to start bundling up quite yet.  Maybe a day here or an evening there has called for a sweater or a scarf, but nothing too bad.  October is another story altogether.  I walked out the door mid-afternoon today and was glad to have a light jacket on.  It's also the best time of year for sleeping.  I love to leave all the windows open until snow and frost starts coming through them (and even then the bedroom window stays open just a crack.)  In October this makes the room crisp and cool enough to warrant pulling out an extra blanket or two but not so cold that you need to bundle up with heavy comforters.  It's also a good excuse to snuggle up extra close to sleeping buddies!

October is about flavor and seasonal ingredients!  True, I try to use fresh, seasonal ingredients all year long but harvest time really is the best for that.  Last year, if you can recall, I made the world's best apple pie and put it in a jam jar!  This year, though the amount of free time I have has been drastically cut back, I plan on making at least a couple of variants on the original delicious treat.  Maybe I can even sneak out of work one day and go apple picking.  It's been far too long since I've done that and apple choosing at the Union Square market doesn't quite have the same feeling, though that warm cider is pretty darn delicious.  I love squash and the seasonal varieties that start showing up at the market this time of year are so good and lend themselves well to so many tasty dishes.  It's time to bust out the dutch ovens again and slow cook the heck out of some soups and stews and chilis, oh my!  October is the best on all calendars, especially the culinary calendar.

Besides my birthday, there are some other pretty awesome holidays this month - well there's Halloween and that's just the best darn holiday ever so it's all we really need.  And, since it happens to fall on my birthday weekend this year, I plan on celebrating the heck out of Columbus Day.  In fact, Honey and I are taking advantage of the long weekend and jetting off to the Big Easy for a Birthday Extravaganza!  So, I hope you can all understand why I love October so much and I hope yours starts off as happy as mine did.  And of all my birthday wishes this year, the one I'm really hoping comes true, is that I can find more time in my ever hectic schedule to spend with you, darling readers.  Maybe I'll unwrap some extra hours this Friday.

28 September 2012

a toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll

The other day, this conversation occurred between me and my honey -

Food Robin Hood!?!  I don't know if I should take offense to that or be flattered because Robin Hood was pretty rad.  Sure, I might take home some leftovers from work, a sandwich here and there, nobody wants to see it go to waste!  It's part of my charming frugality.  Thanks to me, neither of us has had to buy lunch for nearly a month.  And buying lunch every day can be super expensive so when you think about it, that's a lot of money we've saved up.  Money that we can spend on a fabulous vacation (more on that to come!)  Still, I thought calling me a food Robin Hood was a bit extreme; I hate to say it, but it's more like freeganism or dumpster diving if you think about.  Though when I thought about a little more, neither of those sound any better so I suppose I could deal with being a Robin Hood.  In fact, I think it's kind of awesome... and when I emptied out my bag of goodies last night, I realized that, maybe it was kind of true!

"we never rob. we just sort of borrow a bit from those who can afford it."

23 September 2012

matryoshkas in midwood

As many of you are well aware, the grocery store is pretty much my most favorite place in the entire world. And the only thing I love more than a grocery store is a foreign grocery store. For this reason (and many, many more) New York is the greatest city in the world. All you need to travel to a far off destination is subway fare, a bike, or a good pair of walking shoes. Today was my first day as the Sunday storyteller at a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in a neighborhood of my borough that I've never been to - Midwood. Down towards the bottom of the borough, Midwood is a bit like Brighton Beach with it's predominantly Russian and Jewish population. So you can imagine my delight when I realized that I had arrived early enough to pop my head into the local supermarket. It's called Meat Heaven. That name is not an exaggeration. They have so much cool stuff in there! But since I didn't have a ton of time, I could only choose one souvenir; I will, after all, be back every week for the next two months. So I picked out the sweetest, most culturally appropriate item I could find - this chocolate bar. How cute! If I had had more time and if I weren't on my bike I may have come home with an entire shopping bag filled with foreign goodies. Here's hoping for a rainy Sunday before my time at this branch is up!

By the way, kiddos... this is my first attempt at mobile blogging. The delirious kitchen has entered the 21st century! What do we think?

14 September 2012

now this seems more appropriate

Was today not a beautiful and almost perfect day?  Warm enough to wear sandals but cool enough to need a little sweater.  It was an absolutely ideal transition day, the kind that makes you think Summer is really laying out the welcome mat for Fall.  Since I'm still trying to kick this under-the-weather feeling that I've been having, I'm making sure to drink a lot of hot tea and oj and water, but mostly hot tea (hot whiskey tea would be even better but I have to work.)  And as you may remember from the other day, I sometimes need a little more kick than plain old tea.  And since today was a much more seasonally appropriate day, I decided to opt for one of my favorite seasonal beverages - a spicy, peppery chai.  Since this was an extra special treat (I don't often get more than one fancy beverage a week,) I wasn't about to settle for any old chai.  No no no, it had to be the best chai.  A quick search through a few trusted internerd sources and I found the perfect place - OST Cafe.  Just a few blocks, and a lovely walk from the library, this is the perfect East Village cafe.  And the advise of my fellow food bloggers was absolutely right!  This may be the best chai latte in all of NYC.  Made with real black tea, the combination of creamy, barely sweetened milk with the layered flavors of anise, cinnamon and cloves was oh so balanced and rich.  It was the perfect cuppa for a perfect day... and it was extra swirly, fancypants!  

11 September 2012

too soon?

I walked out of the house this morning in a plain old, ordinary outfit that I believed to be perfectly reasonable for an early September school day - a belted cotton dress, sandals, and a lightweight cardigan.  Very library appropriate.  But by the time I had hopped on my bike and riden around the corner and into the breeze, I was regretting not wearing tights and a parka.  Is summer really over?  Do I need to start wearing a jacket and stop strapping on my sandals?  Oh no!  All my fall clothes are in storage at my parents house... what's a girl to do?

Well, since I was already late I just ended up peddling extra hard to work and by the time I got to my fourth graders I was warm and flushed and slightly out of breath.  But that only lasted a few hours until my next venture into the out of doors; a dreaded trip to Macy's.  After spending an hour in the tie department (what's so bad about paisley and pink?), then trying on more styles of skinny bootcut jeans than I knew existed, then finding out that they no longer carry either of my makeup brands at Sephora (what have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?), and all in this blistering cold 75 degrees and sunny weather, I decided that I was due for a treat.  Once I had come to that decision, and took notice of what corner I was on, I knew exactly what I had to do.

There are many things I love about brisk Autumn weather - scarves, old-fashioned hats, leather gloves, boots, knee-high socks, pie, not being afraid to turn on the oven, leaves, train rides, and of course, seasonal beverages.  Usually I lean towards spicier drinks like a peppery cinnamon chai or a crisp and tart cider, but today was different.  I was feeling crummy and my brain was addled from the stress of shopping despite my super shopping skills, so I chose the only warm beverage that could cure my chilliness and my mopeyness... a thick and creamy hot chocolate from City Bakery.  I'm pretty sure I've raved about their hot chocolate before and if I haven't, you'll be hearing plenty in the next few months.  Their hot chocolate is like melted ice cream; it's so thick and creamy and heavy and dark and delicious. 

As I sipped at my sinful snack I wandered up a block to peruse the selection at Idlewild Books, fueling my already wanderlusty mind with dreams of my own personal Roman holiday.  And as I strolled through Union Square and back to the hallowed halls of the library, I thought to myself 'Is it too soon for this?'  Well, is it?  Have I fast forwarded through Indian Summer and Autumn only to land in a Winter wonderland that makes me dream of melting snow and Spring blossoms?  I prefer to think that I've just given myself a little preview of the coming attractions.  A taste of whats to come, a wake up call for my seasonal senses and just the kick I needed to get out of my frigid funk and back into the swing of things.  My minds is racing with all the exciting things I have planned for the fall.  Stay posted, kids.  This kitchen bitch is back!

07 September 2012

happy first day of school!

When I was growing up (that's not to say that I'm a grown-up,) I lived in a house of many traditions.  We celebrated a lot, were big fans of themed anything, and loved a good family dinner.  Pretty much every night brought the four of us to the table for supper together no matter if it was fish sticks and fries or homemade mac 'n cheese with ham and stewed tomatoes.  But one of my favorite celebrated occasions and one of my favorite meals was always our back to school supper - a bit pot of spaghetti and meatballs.  To this day, the smell of a huge pot of spiced and seasoned tomato sauce is one of my favorites.  It brings back a flood of memories of me and my kid sis doing out homework at the kitchen table, of my mom at the stove stirring a massive pot of delicious, the anticipation of meeting new friends and getting to know new teachers, and the stress of trying to pick out the perfect outfit for the start of a brand new year, a brand new grade!

Well, for me, none of that ever went away.  After high school came college, and then grad school, some substitute teaching and then I landed where I am today.  In a school.  As a school librarian.  And I love it!  Not just because it's pretty much the best job ever (which it is,) but also because it means that I get to keep the tradition of back to school supper alive!  This year, it worked out absolutely perfectly.

A few weeks back, I had a streak of crummy days that left me craving something warm and comforting despite the 90+ degree weather with monsoon-like rain.  After a very wet bike ride to pick up all the ingredients, I was able to whip up a marvelous meal for me and the dude-man.  Then, just a few days before school started up again, he got that very same craving.  Well boy was he in luck!  I broke out the frozen leftovers, added some fresh ingredients, tossed it all with fresh, curly spaghetti (I like the long, curly pasta noodles because it looks like my hair,) and some spicy sausage from Graham Ave. Meats and the tradition continued.  Not only did it continue, but it spread to a new family.  Honey's brother is taking classes again this semester and, though our first days did not match up on the calendar, I invited him over to relish in the new school year with us!  It was delicious and perfect and the best way to energize for the next day's new batch of kiddies.

Thank goodness I had all the carb-tastic energy stored up because this year's group of kiddies is a doozy!  But they're also smart, brilliant and amazing and I can't wait to work with them all and get book clubs started again and help them prepare for the great world beyond... college.  But no matter how many batches of students I watch graduate, I will continue to have a first day of school and a traditional back to school supper.  And what makes this longstanding tradition even better is the fact that what started out as my mom's tomato sauce recipe has now become completely my own.  Each year brings a little twist or an extra pinch of ingredients that make it hearty and wholesome and all mine!  That's truly one of my favorite things about traditions, how they naturally evolve.  Good luck learning about that in any of your classes, kids!

just like mom's but even better homemade tomato sauce
ingredients (the measurements are loose, everything is pretty much all to taste)
1 large can pureed tomatoes
1 tiny can tomato paste
1 small can diced tomatoes
6 - 12 fresh campari or roma tomatoes, diced and seeded
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 - 3 roasted red peppers, diced (optional)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
dash of very course salt
healthy heaps of black pepper and crushed red pepper
fresh parsley, finely chopped
lots of oregano
loads of fresh basil
1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and let simmer for hours.  If you're making meatballs, pan fry them first to maintain the shape and then let them finish off cooking in the sauce - it makes both the sauce and the meatballs taste that much better!

30 August 2012

croque madames

no calorie counting, no regrets
Last week I had the pleasure of dining with a very dear friend who I've known my entire existence.  You see, Lizzie B and Cathy grew up together with a bunch of other super awesome ladies and have remained dear friends since their teenage days (not that any of them are a day over 25!)  Cathy and her lovely family not-so-recently moved up to the city from the Jerz and I finally made the trip to the UES to have a visit with her.  Since both her girls are grown and out of the house and her hubby was away on business, we had the perfect excuse (not that we needed one,) to embrace our inner-fabulousness and go out as ladies who lunch.  After a few late afternoon hours of playing dress-up (thanks for the new wardrobe!) and getting all misty eyed over the pictures from kid sister's wedding (more on that in an upcoming post,) we headed a little further south to Matisse where we completely disregarded any kind of recommended daily calorie intake and indulged in a couple of croque monsieurs.  Now, most normal people would consider simply ordering and eating a croque monsieur an indulgence.  I mean, for heaven's sake it is fancy French grilled cheese - thick slices of white French bread smeared with loads of bechamel sauce, topped with thickly sliced ham and gooey Swiss cheese all melted together and served open-faced alongside fries and a 'petit' salad.  Not exactly part of a balanced diet but hey, it isn't every day I get to hang out with my longtime gal pal!  And because we were celebrating seeing one another, we may have gone a little overboard and ordered extra bechamel sauce and a side of homemade mayo with our fries.  Whatever, we got plenty of exercise by walking the 11 blocks to get there!  No judgement allowed.

my head looks so big! maybe that's where all the bechamel sauce went

It was an absolutely lovely day and I so enjoyed spending that time with my friend and hearing the funny stories she had about my mom and the gals when they were young.  It's also great just to hang out with another lady who's been through a completely different life than my own and who has the wisdom of a woman my mom's age but provides a different level of comfort... kind of like an aunt who likes to treat me like a fancy lady (I am so fortunate to have a few of those!)  I can't wait to get together again soon because I really do love a good lady lunch date.  Now if only we could get a few more of the original crew together so I could hear ALL the gossip about my wild child mom!  And maybe next time I'll convince Cathy to take a trip over the bridge into my borough... you hear that, Cathy?  Get your butt to Brooklyn!!!

24 August 2012

happy national waffle day!

It seems that each and every day is national something day, doesn't it?  One day it's national macaron day and the next it's hamburger day... how's a girl to keep up?  Well, there is a pretty comprehensive list over at The Nibble, but I prefer to just wing it.  I am usually informed of the holiday by another food blogger, my kid sister (how she knows about everything, always I'll never know,) or a news piece on some marvelous munchies and then I end up frantically rushing around to find said tasty treat or buy all the ingredients to make it all on my own.  And in my usual fashion, I found out about National Waffle day after breakfast and without anyone to share all those perfect little squares with!  Fortunately though, on an extremely long trek through the suburbia that is Queens, I stumbled upon this little gem -  

Holy cow, that must be the oldest carvel in the world!  Well, according to this ancient article from Gothamist, it isn't.  But according to the very sweet gals behind the counter, it's been around since at least the 1960s.  Now, while I did not celebrate the holiday with chicken and waffles or Waffle House or even Waffle & Wolf, I did celebrate it in a way that would make my daddy-o proud - with some vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone.  My dad loves Carvel.  I mean LOVES Carvel!  We used to drive nearly thirty minutes to go get flying saucers and soft serve cones when I was a kid.  And though it's true that waffle cones are better suited to scoop-able ice cream, the soft serve did just the trick on a celebratory hot and sweaty Friday afternoon.  So a happy holiday to you all!  Tomorrow morning will bring actual waffles (a day late and a silver dollar pancake short, but appropriate nonetheless,) my waffle maker is in need of some usage since I'm pretty sure I've only used it once since I got it for Christmas three years ago.  Yikes!  But celebrate we will and while we're at it, let's celebrate my daddy-o, too!

21 August 2012

peppery, buttery simplicity

I was cleaning out the fridge tonight and noticed that I had a big bundle of beautiful radishes that were in danger of going bad.  I hate to see good food go to waste and I wasn't about to just sit and eat a bunch of radishes at 9:30 in the evening, so I headed to the internerd to see what magic it could show me.  Being that I am a librarian, I like to think that I'm pretty good at searching for things but, despite my best efforts, a wide variety of radish recipes is not so easy to come by... especially when you're working with pretty bare cupboards, a very tight budget, and late-night laziness (don't judge me for thinking 9:30PM is late, I'm getting old!)  Of course there were beautiful, colorful summer salads with peas and Boston lettuce an bleu cheese.  There were hot and cold pasta salads with radish tops and seafood and parmesan.  And you mustn't forget the myriad recipes for pickled radishes; so many pickled radishes!  But it was too late for a meal and even if I were to save it for tomorrow, it would require a pricey trip to the grocery store and if I'm going to start pickling (which, heaven knows, I'd love to try,) I'd rather do it with good, old-fashioned cukes.  So what to do, what to do?

Among my search results were a lot of sandwich ideas.  Nearly all of them listed butter and salt among the ingredients to mix up with the pretty pink radishes.  Most of them simply said 'lightly toast brown bread, spread with butter, top with thinly sliced radishes and sprinkle with salt.'  That's it?!  I was dumbstruck by the simple beauty of this apparently widespread variety of tea sandwich.  And I was intrigued by the combination of peppery radish, creamy butter and salty salt.  But it seemed to me that those final three steps of the recipe could be narrowed down to one simple spread of a knife if the butter, salt and radishes were already combined.  Yes, I'm a genius!  So I broke out the food processor, pulsed the heck out of those radishes, creamed them with the butter and added some very course sea salt.  The pops of magenta in the creamy yellow of the butter look really lovely and, even more importantly, the burst of flavor in my mouth was so balanced and beautiful.  I can't wait to try this out as a sandwich spread - I'm imagining hearty pumpernickle bread, thinly sliced rare roast beef, and maybe some crisp English cucumbers.  Mmm now that's a tea sandwich I could get down with!  Maybe my next project will be to bake some bread, who knows?  No matter, I'll let you know what I end up doing with the mix so stay tuned!

radish butter
a big bundle of radishes (I used 7 pretty large radishes)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
about 1 tbsp very course sea salt
1. Rinse radishes and cut into pretty small bits.  Toss them into the food processor and pulsate until they've gotten teeny tiny but not mushy.  Wrap in a few layers of paper towel and wring them out really well to get rid of all the excess moisture.
2. In a medium sized bowl, cream the radishes with the butter (cut up in tablespoons) until well mixed and there are no large chunks of butter.  You want it all to be one beautiful, creamy spreadable blend.  Stir in the salt.
3. Scoop into an airtight container (I used my good old-fashioned mason jar) and refrigerate.  I'm guessing this will stay good for awhile but I'll let you know the specifics as I figure them out.  I may also end up freezing some because a whole stick of butter and that many radishes made more than I think I was expecting.

bakin' potatoes bakin' in the sun!

Not that Summer is anywhere near to wrapping up (I refuse to believe people who are starting to write up their 'What I did this Summer' posts,) but I wish I hadn't gone my entire beach season without this amazing piece of beach gear.  Don't get me wrong, I love my Coney Island mermaid beach towel, but this one has not just any lobster, but a B52s Rock Lobster!  I think I need to immediately get this for my last few beach trips this year... that, or I need to move to the Southern Hemisphere so I can have a whole Summer with it.

I can just imagine lounging around in the Rockaways, blasting oldies from my tiny transistor radio and praying that I have on enough SPF 50 so as not to feel like a lobster once the sun goes down.  I am way overdue for a beach trip... this weekend for shore!

I also think a good old-fashioned clambake is in order before we put our bikinis and beach bags away for the year.  A proper Frankie and Annette kind of event!  Oooo the theme party ideas are already overwhelming my Summer brain.

17 August 2012

we're going on a picnic and i'm bringing...

lobster rolls!  My summer is winding down and I came to the realization that I hadn't been on a single picnic this season.  How could that be true?  I have a beautiful picnic basket, a head full of fantastic seasonal recipes, and a pretty well-stocked kitchen.  So, on this beautiful, warm and sunny day, I packed up some snacks and trekked up to midtown for an afternoon lunch break with my honey.  Into the basket went dark russet potato chips, whiskey sour pickles, avocado and heirloom tomato salad, classic sodas, fresh berries, and whoopie pies!  Oh yeah, and buttery, toasty buns jam-packed with chunks of lobster dressed to perfection in mayo.  It was as if we were transported from the crowded, steamy streets of New York to a quaint little beachfront town in New England.  What a perfect way to start the weekend... why haven't we been doing this all summer long?  And why haven't I been blogging?  Well, I'm not quite sure why I took such a sudden hiatus but I'm back and I hope you're still here with me, beloved readers.  Check out my lovely luncheon and come back later on for some recipes and more detailed updates (oh yeah, and how about some back-posts?)  I've missed you all so much.  Let's dig in!

13 March 2012


I love field trips, always have.  So when the opportunity to chaperone a trip up to Boston with the school's jazz ensembles and jazz choir for the Berklee Jazz Festival, I said heck yeah!  True that I'm not a huge fan of Boston (it's cold and I've had a crummy time every visit I've made,) but there are a few things native to the New England area that I am a huge fan of.  Plus, by chaperoning an overnight trip, I got to stay in my very own hotel room and I lovelovelove hotels!  It was so cosy and New England-y with all the down pillows and comforters and a stunning view of the Boston skyline - well as stunning as it can be when all I can do is compare it to the NYC skyline that I can see from my rooftop in Brooklyn.  Even despite the lacking skyline, the hotel room was the perfect place to crash after a long, noisy bus ride with forty high school musicians.  But not without a nice bite with the grownups before bedchecks.  So off we headed to the hotel restaurant where I indulged in a bowl of New England clam chowder that was so chock full of buttery little shellfish and cream that completely beats out my Manhattan variety.  Let's face it, nothing beats a creamy soup, even if it does have a NYC namesake.  I was the perfect beginning to my plateful of baked, crispy cod with roasted vegetables.  Mmmm Boston knows how to do seafood, that's for sure!

After wandering around the convention center the next day, attempting to keep track of my 35 kids, getting them dressed and to rehearsals and performances on time, and enjoying some out of this world jazz music from young geniuses I got to wander around on my own.  But I stuck around to hear a few more great performances because despite the fact that I don't know my ass from my elbow when it comes to music (I still blame this on my mom not letting my take up the drums in fourth grade,) I do know that I love jazz.  A lot.  After my fill of music, I decided to wander around the Berklee area of Boston, beautiful, clean, snowy, kind of fancy pants posh.  It reminded me a bit of Princeton or certain areas of Baltimore with the boutique shops and historic architecture.  Unfortunately, Boston is not Princeton or Baltimore so I still wasn't able to fall in love with the city.  I think the next time I head up there, I'll definitely need to go with someone who knows their way around and can show me all the worthwhile stuff to do and see.  The lobster rolls and clam chowder bread bowls I devoured at some dive bar for supper after a long day of chaperoning and exploring came pretty close to converting me into a lover of Boston, but not quite.  So who's up for the challenge?  Who wants to take me on a grand tour of Beantown?  You just have to promise that we get a few more of these -

09 March 2012

putting the bean in beantown

This weekend I'm going to escape the city and head North for the Berklee Jazz Festival in Boston.  But before I hop on the bus, I wanted to whip up a batch of chowder the Manhattan way.  I'll have some of their style when I make it to New England and decide who's is actually better... but let's face it, it will probably be mine.

08 March 2012

nurse's orders

A few months back I was afforded the opportunity to do some temp work at the school with our new nurse, Nurse Betsy.  My grandma was a school nurse so I jumped at the chance because I've always had an affinity for caregivers.  The new nurse and I got the infirmary in order during her early months at the school and chatted about a few of our favorite things... well, mostly we talked about our mutual love of food.  I shared my blog with her and she shared some vegetarian and healthful options with me.  We had a great time working together but the project ended and now we only see each other every once in a blue moon when I have to bring one of the kiddies by for a bandaid or an ice pack.  But we try to intentionally bump into each other to chat about recipes, dishes and restaurants we want to try.  Recently, Betsy brought in the newest addition to her cookbook collection - Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi.  This collection of simple and elegant vegetarian recipes is fresh and seasonal.  And the photos paired with each recipe are straight up food porn.  The crispest, clearest, most mouth watering images of vegetables I've ever seen in my life.  When Betsy broke out this cookbook, I started to drool.  I wanted to try everything, especially after we discussed the need to stop by Kalustyan's for spices and ingredients.  Needless to say, I was a little envious of this work of literary foodieness.  Then today came along and when I brought a second grader by with a bloody nose, Nurse Betsy surprised me with my very own copy of Plenty!  Thanks to Nurse Betsy I will be able to follow through with my plan to cut back on my meat consumption (oh, did I forget to mention that I wanted to do that?  More on my plan later.)  We should all thank Betsy for what is sure to be some added vegetarian excitement to the delirious kitchen!  thankyouthankyouthankyou!

marinated buffalo mozzarella and tomato
lettuce salad

stark raving mad

I love counting down to things.  Whether it's a holiday, an occasion, or the release of something awesome, the anticipation and excitement that goes along with counting down to it makes the actual event even better.  There are a few things that I'm pretty pumped for right now but one far more than the rest - the season five premier of Mad Men!  And I'm not the only one who's getting super pumped for the big day (March 25th.)  Banana Republic is already displaying and advertising their line of 60s inspired clothes and Estee Lauder has released a Mad Men makeup collection.  And though I do look great in a wiggle dress and bright red lipstick, these "inspired by" collections aren't really what gets me going.  Instead, it's the themed viewing parties that are thrown by fans and for fans.  Parties where we can dress up and surround ourselves with all things 60s and drink classic cocktails, munch on favorite appetizers, dance to swinging sounds and watch as our favorite characters wrap themselves up in beautiful, stylized drama.  C'mon, we all know I love a good theme party!

Well, I don't have cable so my fellow Bettys and Joans and Peggys are going to have to find somewhere to go to watch the show, especially since the premier is an extra long, movie-like episode.  But that's just the viewing aspect.  The party can actually start at home with vintage cocktails and snacks.  And thanks to the smarty pants folks over at Nobody's Sweetheart, we've got Sally Draper's cocktail guides.  These are awesomely illustrated guides to all the classic cocktails seen on the show that you might stir up while slipping into your swing skirt or your skinny tie and suit.  Since the weather is warming up a bit, I suggest going with a nice, cool cocktail like a Manhattan or a Cuba Libre.  And if little Sally Draper can't seem to whip up something to your liking, head over to the official 1960s Cocktail Guide for Mad Men fans.  Quite a bit of crossover but the official guide introduces other libations like a tasty Negroni or the champagne classic and one of my fizzy faves, the French 75.  No matter what, make sure your liquor cabinet is fully stocked and that your freezer is packed with plenty of ice because when it comes to these, you might not be able to have just one.  And if your friends hear that you're whipping up a pitcher of Tom Collins', you might end up having an impromptu pre-viewing party party.  Also, to keep it accurate, make sure you've got the appropriate glasses.  I'm the kind of gal that drinks wine out of juice glasses and I have been known to take a shot of whiskey from an empty baby food jar, but that doesn't mean that I don't have a cabinet filled with proper tumblers and lowballs and flutes and other vintage barware.  If you want to make it truly authentic, get some tiny umbrellas and cute stirrers and colorful toothpicks while you're at it - getting drunk looks classier when you do it right!

But it's important to remember not to drink on an empty stomach.  So you'd better eat something before you start throwing back those Brandy Alexanders.  And what better to snack on than Trudy's Rib Eye in the Pan or Sal's Spaghetti and Meatballs or Betty's Around the World Gazpacho?  That's right, all your favorite Mad Men recipes have been compiled into a new cookbook for all of us fans of the show and theme parties.  It's got episode recaps, recipes from the show, and recipes from restaurants visited on the show.  And they've visited some really great restaurants on the show - Keen's, PJ Clarke's, and the Grand Central Oyster Bar to name a few.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men, hint hint to any of you looking to get me a hostess gift or something.

All of these resources combine to give you the perfect tools to create a pretty amazing Mad Men viewing party in case you can't find one that someone else put together and you can just enjoy.  But what's the fun in that?  Planning a party is half the fun!  And if you need more tips, check out the show website for an official party planning pack... and be sure to send me an invite.  I've already got this year's premier outfit all laid out!

07 March 2012

revuesday part deux - a Harlem photo story

As I sit at home, falling deeper andeeper into a soul food induced coma, I am attempting to conjure up enough words to type up a review of a phenomenal evening spent in Harlem.  After our delicious lunch at B&H and a bit of shopping with the roomie earlier this afternoon, I had to run off to the library for a few hours to shhh kids and shelve books.  Tuesdays in the library are, for whatever reason, notoriously loud and crowded.  It's only gotten nuttier since the track and baseball/softball teams started their preseason practices so my day was spent running around like a librarian with her head cut off or something.  So when the roomie came by to pick me up so that we could potentially go to the movies with a darling friend of ours.  After some debate however, we decided that our movie passes would be better off saved for a must-see-on-the-big-screen kind of flick.  But that didn't mean we were going to waste a perfectly good Tuesday night, hell to the no.  And onto the C train we went, all the way up to Harlem for cheap booze and fried chicken.  

today was a foodtastic slam dunk!

A quick stop into Harlem BBQ for a couple of oversized pina coladas.  I had the wild berry while my little Georgia peach had, what else but one with a hint of peach.


We worked through our brain freeze and were able to finish the crossword puzzle... unlike yesterday when we could barely get through half of it.  Will Shortz can be such a jerk sometimes.  We actually finished four crossword puzzles today.  We must be some kind of crazy geniuses or something... well, maybe just crazy/

in pen, no less!

Then it was off to 152nd Street for the ultimate fried chicken dinner.  Now, I know I claim to make some bangin' ass fried chicken, and trust me, it's good.  And the reason my chicken is so delicious is because I fry it up in my cast iron skillet.  Nothing beats fried chicken cooked in a cast iron skillet - nothing!  Imagine how much cracklin' good fried chicken you could make if your cast iron skillet was ginormous and your recipe perfected.  Well, Charles Gabriel of Charles' Southern Style Kitchen does just that.  But it isn't just chicken; no siree, Mr. Gabriel doesn't stop there.  He whips up fried chicken, barbecue chicken, smothered chicken in gravy, super saucy ribs that fall off the bone, collared green, mac & cheese, black eyed peas, limas, green beans, buttery sweet yams, brunswick stew, honey biscuits, corn bread, okra and potato salad.  Wash it all down with sweet tea, lemonade or a perfect combination of the two and then top it off with a heaping scoop of banana pudding layered with love and nilla wafers.  Now, normally I would be struggling to decide what two or three delicious sides I would want to pair up with my thigh and leg or order of ribs, but not at Charles'.  Nope, here you can stay til four in the morning and pay just 13.99 for an all-you-can-eat soul food buffet!  Yup, today was all about the most delicious cheap eats in the city.  But good luck trying to get through more than three plates of these savory treats - I can barely get through my third plate and y'all know this girl can eat.  Tonight I had to tap out a two plates in order to finish up with dessert.  But the amount they heap on your plate each time you head up to the counter will not leave you unsatisfied; no, it leaves you knowing that your money has been well spent and that you may need to be rolled home because you've been so gluttonous.  But I'm sure the nice folks at the Southern Style Kitchen would be kind enough to help you out the door because, seriously, they are some of the nicest people in the world!  But again, same as with B&H - I share this information with you, dear readers, because you are all food lovers like myself andeserve to know about the best of the best.  Just don't go crowding into my fave chicken spot on a random Tuesday night when the roomie and I might be headed up there!

round one: fried chicken, mac&cheese, collards, black eyed peas, green beans,
brunswick stew, sweet tea & an arnold palmer

round two: bbq chicken, ribs, more fried chicken, yams, honey biscuits

top it all off with gooey banana pudding loaded with nilla wafers. mmmm

Thank you Charles for an amazing supper and for what is sure to be a great night's sleep since I'm near comatose right now.  We'll be back soon, but not too soon.  Gotta digest and burn off this indulgent feast first.  But you're our new best friend... seriously!

we love Charles' Southern Style Kitchen! we love Charles!