Monday, February 21

Never Having to Say You're Sorry

I am, by nature, an apologizer. I'm klutzy, outspoken, and generally calamity-prone, so when trouble arises I just assume I caused it.

This characteristic has become especially salient at my new job.

I'm finally not fun-employed! Since I work at nights I can still take daylight photographs and cook intricate lunches and tend to my kombucha. Oh, and did I mention I am cooking in the most fantastic vegan restaurant.

Saturday, February 12

Sunny Salad

My mother's kitchen smells like a buttery, beefy, wine-drenched heaven. Over the past few hours the rich aroma has slowly pervaded the house until I can think of eating nothing else but beef. Alas I must wait. Tonight my grandmother celebrates her 95th birthday and we will bask in a candlelit glow and eat roasted leeks, green beans, the rag├╣ over polenta, and some sort of chocolate cake whilst wearing party hats.

But I cannot have the beef for lunch. It has another hour to braise and besides, I mustn't eat it right now. I will resist temptation and eat this salad instead. It's spicy and fresh and bright. CSA arugula, home-sprouted lentils, shiitake mushrooms, sesame seeds and a tangy lemon-miso dressing.  I will take my lunch outside to escape the cooking smells, and put on the song "The Circle Game" or "Woodstock" and close my eyes to pretend it's a chilly day in Laurel Canyon.

Maybe it's because I just read Emily Gould's essay on Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash on This Recording but right now I am craving a sort of sunshine and sprouts and bare feet kind of life. I should listen to more "Ladies of the Canyon" and less "Blue". I am sitting in the sun-dappled living room of the house I grew up in, listening to the glorious clatter-crashing of the wind chimes in the breeze. Outside it's 45 degrees and hopeful.

Thursday, February 10

Winter Greens Salad

The world seems utterly devoid of chlorophyll these days. Not that Philadelphia is a particularly green city to begin with, but at least in the summer I had glorious overgrown backyard jungles to stumble upon, perfectly square parks for eating perfectly square lunches, and that patch of green across the road from my house that hosted a weekly free dinner and occasional moon bounce sponsored by the local church. Even though I nearly roasted this summer, I can't help but feel nostalgic for sunshine and leaves. Now the city is slippery and gray and the parks are barren and empty. The most green I see is my yoga mat. I take what I can get.

Inspiration came to me as I was cleaning out the fridge in preparation for a weekend in DC to celebrate my grandmother's 95th birthday. I needed to finish a bunch of kale, but the sum of the ripped leaves were too paltry for my monster salad needs. I eat kale like nobody's business. I added in a few handfuls of fresh arugula from nearby New Jersey (yes, I can practically see New Jersey from my house)  that we got in our CSA, and topped it with a sprinkling of home-sprouted green lentils. A post on sprouts is soon to follow. Of course, I couldn't ignore the siren call of my Chipotle Sweet Potato Dip so I just put a dollop on top. Not even a spoonful of that stuff should go to waste. A slice of red onion tops it off, making the salad both beautiful and breath ruining.

Wednesday, February 9

Chipotle and Sweet Potato Dip

 Up until Saturday evening, I had no idea who was playing in the Superbowl. Seriously. It is because of this fundamental obliviousness that I am the black sheep of my Dad's family. While the Holdens have a fantasy football league, and I am the only exempt member. When we watch football at Thanksgiving I drink beer after beer and get angry and feministy at the commercials and try to act like I know what's going on but most of the time I am the girl who cheers when the wrong team scores a touchdown.

But I was weirdly really excited about the Super Bowl Sunday, mostly because it's the only holiday (yes, I am pretty sure it is a holiday in America) that encourages the consumption of copious amounts of dip, which is, by definition, delicious. It can go by so many names: hummos, baba ganoush, guacamole, aioli, chutney, tzatziki, etc etc etc. Is your mouth watering? I think I need to figure out a way to incorporate more dip into my life without being forced to watch football.

Thursday, February 3

Remedial Omelet Lessons

I have long believed that it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able – if called upon to do so – to make them a proper omelette in the morning. Surely that kind of civility and selflessness would be both good manners and good for the world. Perhaps omelette skills should be learned at the same time you learn to fuck. Perhaps there should be an unspoken agreement that in the event of the loss of virginity, the more experienced of the partners should, afterward, make the other an omelette – passing along the skill at an important and presumably memorable moment.

Anthony Bourdain

After reading this gem on my friend Ali's hilarious, thoughtful and awesome blog I had the harsh realization that at the ripe old age of 23, I have absolutely no idea how to make an omelet. Sometimes I make an elaborate egg-scramble and call it an omelet, but that is very very wrong. It looks kind of like this:

Tony would look down his nose at my efforts. Luckily he, along with Jacques Pepin and the internet,  teamed up to shepherd the wayward back to correct omelet making. Here is simple lesson on omelet making from one of the cooking masters. You're welcome.

Wednesday, February 2

Images of School Lunches from Around the World

          Looking at the images of American lunches, it is apparent that the US school lunch program is in dire need of an overhaul. Here's hoping the recently passed Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act that eliminates junk food and restrict fat and calories in meals affects some positive change, granting kids access to healthy, delicious lunches at school.

         In this NPR slideshow, images of school lunches from around the world convey a variety of approaches to feeding children, informed by both economic resources and cultural beliefs about nutrition.  These images also make me consider the "syntax" of a meal and how it varies based on location, a concept first introduced to me in an Anthropology of Food class that I took in college. A syntax would describe the various components, for example a starchy carb, a vegetable, a meat, a sweet, etc. For me, a properly constructed meal has to have something green. That is non negotiable. One of my favorite parts of being an adult is having the freedom to construct and concoct meals to my choosing.

          Also, given the choice, I'd lunch in Saint Etiennes, France, any day.

Tuesday, February 1

Eating Your Blunders

My original intention for this post was to write about beta-carotene, family politics, and the Super Bowl. The accompanying recipe was one I'd dreamed up a few days ago and I could not wait to share it. I still can't. Unfortunately I needed sweet potatoes to execute my vision, bright red beta-carotene rich sweet potatoes to be exact, and the ones I bought at the farmers market and set aside for the role baked up into a sludgy, sweetly rotten-smelling mess. They went straight into the garbage.

Still determined not to defer this dream, I snow-hiked over to my neighborhood supermarket, Thriftway (yes, I'm naming names), and perused the produce section for red sweet potatoes. A few months ago I was tricked by Thriftway into buying white sweet potatoes to make a pie for Friendsgiving, and was sorely disappointed when I sliced open the freshly baked spuds to reveal a bland creamy greenish yellow flesh. Gross. Luckily the caramel in the pie masked the color and flavor deficiencies, but I the lesson was learned: Beware of Thriftway.

This time I bought red sweet potatoes. I really did. At least that's what the sign said. I threw them into the oven and let my house fill with the caramel-sweet aroma. When they finally felt soft (after many peeks into the oven), I cut them open and prepared for rich jewel tones.


I nearly gave up. Instead I mashed up a potato with a generous pat of Amish butter and sulked for a bit while snacking and drinking tea. Then I took a deep breath and decided to proceed with the recipe, viewing it as a test batch. Figured that if it was atrocious I would throw it away. I used to eat each and every one of my mistakes, viewing the discomfort as penance for carelessness, but nowadays I don't think it's healthy to punish myself, or anyone else, for kitchen blunders. Of course choosing not to eat a mistake is a privileged position, and I recognize I am the luckiest girl to live in a house with well-stocked cupboards. I am also more resourceful than I was in the past, and these days I can pretty comfortably rescue most disasters and turn them into a passable meal. Just lopping off the burnt bits or adding a generous dose of Sriracha goes a long way.

The results of today's experiment were actually very good. So good, in fact, that I had to close my blinds so that the neighbors wouldn't see me eating it straight out of the food processor. With my fingers. Here is the first draft of my Chipotle-Sweet Potato Hummus. A recipe, as well as a rumination on football, family, and the vitamin content of a sweet potato are soon to follow.

What do you do with your kitchen blunders?