Monday, December 8, 2008

Attempting Resourcefulness

So, I embarked on this exciting project of a new food blog and then...neglected to update for over a month. My apologies, dear friends. Mostly I have been eating quesadillas, large quantities of polenta, and bowls of cereal. And though I myself could sing the praises of dry cereal or a quesadilla for hours, I'm pretty sure the rest of the world doesn't feel that way. But, never fear! You have not to snore through a post about the merits of Whole Foods generic brand "Peanut Butter Pows" cereal (it takes like Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch! But is marginally better for you!) Through this month, I did manage to make a few new and delicious dishes. The challenge of these past few weeks has been: "Try not to buy a bunch of things you are not going to eat, and make sure you cook with what you already have." This is particularly challenging for me, since I grew up in a household where seemingly hundreds of novelty food items crowded our pantry, gathering dust. Our family food ethic seemed to be "buy a ton of weird condiments and frozen appetizers and don't look at them ever again once you've stuck them in the fridge or freezer." As fun as it is to live that way, my pocket book can now scarcely handle such profligacy. And so! Gussied up leftovers! Here they come:

Scenario: Rooting around the fridge, hungry, on a Sunday morning.
To Work With: from a dinner the previous night, some leftover sauteed cod, and some rolls. Also had a few leaves left in a package of arugula, and some eggs. The result:

Amazing cod, egg, and arugula breakfast sandwich! I sliced the roll in half, toasted buttered it, warmed up and flaked the cod, fried an egg over-medium, made a little bed of arugula on either side of the roll, sprinkled just a little olive oil, pepper, and salt on the leaves, then assembled everything on the plate. Delicious.

Feeling malnourished and mildly woozy from too many bowls of cereal and not enough real food.
To Work With: A bunch of kale bought in a fit of concern for my health two days prior. Also some chorizo, some left over mushrooms, as well as some new potatoes, a shallot, and garlic from the farmer's market two weeks ago. The result:

Yummy kale, potato, and mushroom sautee with chorizo. I sauteed every element separately and reassembled them in a separate bowl; first the sliced shallot and minced garlic, then the mushrooms, then the kale, adding salt and pepper at each step and making sure to remove any burning bits before moving on to the next vegetable. In the meantime I boiled the potatoes until soft, let them cool, and cut them into quarters. I cooked the chorizo until the casing felt snappy, then removed them and fried the potatoes in the leftover fat until they were nicely browned and crisped on their sides. I sliced up the chorizo, and along with the potatoes, tossed everything together. Really yummy, and wholesome to boot!

Scenario: Thanksgiving withdrawal.
To work with: A butternut squash, a small red onion, some sage, a sharp knife. The result:

Almost-as-good-as-Thanksgiving roasted butternut squash with sage. The biggest challenge here is cutting and peeling the squash, which is why the sharp knife is absolutely necessary. I peeled the thing with my impressive little vegetable peeler, and then cut it into pretty thin slices (no more than 1/4" thick and 1" long). I sliced a very small onion, two or three cloves of garlic, and chopped a few leaves of fresh sage, then tossed everything with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then on to a cookie sheet, a bake at 375 for about 25-30 minutes with an occasional stir, and there you have it. Simple, seasonal, super tasty.

Ok! That's what I have been eating. Now back to studying for my French final, which really should take precedence. Who am I kidding? Food takes precedence, toujours.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I have started and stopped so many blogs in the past five years, and really I think I fail because I have felt conflicted about blogging. I've felt that I should be saying something important or clever...but no more. Nope. I just want to talk about food. Just food and how much I love to eat it and cook it, and watch people eat what I've cooked, and read about it, and watch it on television, and listen to people talk about it, and look at pictures about it. I love food. It's simple.

* * *
I've been thinking about eggs a lot lately. Eggs are so strange...the goo that makes a life, housed in an inedible, thin, shattering, ovid shell. They are beautiful to behold uncracked, perfect smooth rounded forms. And then you rap them against the rim of a bowl, and out slips this viscous blob, this translucent semi-liquid in which a bright, sunny yellow-orange orb is suspended.

And the things you can do with that goo! Cooking eggs is a study in transformation. You apply heat, you denature proteins, you raise or lower your flame, you traverse worlds of liquid gold or yielding yellow, or soft, pale comfort. Eggs over easy ("dim pohss"...that is what my Bengali brethren call it. A misnomer ["dim" means egg, pohss is the Banglicized pronunciation of "poached"] but an endearing one) were my favorite sort as a child and still are today. Runny yolks and buttered toast with which to sop. But then there are poached eggs, over asparagus or arugula, or nestled within a decadent Benedict. And soft boiled, balanced in a special cup, top slashed, probed with a spoon or a searching spear of toast. Then there's hardboiled, chopped into a salad, or swimming in a luscious dim korma (if you don't know what that is, and you most likely don't, let me just say that your life is the worse for it). And scrambled, of course. Again with toast, but this time with the eggs steaming precariously atop a crusty slice. Salted, peppered, hot, simple, I love a good egg.

And how did those first ingenious cooks know to gingerly remove that rich, fat little yolk from its transparent, gooey home and place it in another bowl for later, and then whisk and whisk and whisk that clear goo until it becomes a cloud-like mass of airy white? How did they know the magic that would follow in the form of a souffle, or a meringue, or a macaron, even. Oh, let us all breathe a sigh of gratitude for the macaron. That's the egg-white, flexing its subtle but powerful prowess. But what of the yolk? The yolk, whisked into a melted pool of shiny chocolate, along with a dash of cornstarch and sugar, and a cup or so of milk, becomes chocolate pudding that has you licking spoons and bowls and fingers clean. And it makes a bechamel taste royal, a lemon pasta taste round and complex. And did I mention the amazing spoonful of heaven that is called creme brulee?

Let's not get into a discussion of eggs as an emulsifier and leavener in baked goods. What would cakes or cookies be without eggs? Impoverished and undelicious.

What can I say? I have said a great deal already. But mostly I want to say that I feel reverent before eggs, especially when they are fresh, when they are eaten the morning they were laid by happy chickens. I will take an egg over almost any food. That is certainly true.