Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Kneading is a Homophone

Freshly rolled fettucini (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The dough speaks into your hands. It begs for touch, begs to be pressed and squeezed until the rocking of your hands is just the rhythm of breathing. It bends into your fingers, almost sighs as it twists into shape. Like a pliable lover, the dough responds to the guided pressure of a palm or the fingertips’ gentlest roll. The hands feel when the dough is done; the soft and elastic transition from disparate pieces to one yielding whole. The moment is indescribable, intuitive. And when the dough is done, you gently cover it and let it rest, somewhere safe and warm.

Last night, I rolled out dough for pasta. I heard my roommate say my name. “Are you ok?” she asked and pulled me back into the room. I felt my face loosen from its consternated knit and the rhythmic pounding of my hands slow to slackness. My knuckles rested casually on the dough, the touch a reminder of presence, and I laughed.

“I was somewhere else,” I said, and she laughed too. She went back to her phone conversation, and I began to roll out the dough again, but it was colder – stiffer, as if the break had ruined some fluid climax. As if it wanted forgiveness from my hands.

I’ve been kneading bread, pizza, pasta – and as my hands work into dough, I understand it’s just a metaphor for that other word, that I am needing, too – gentleness, patience, touch.

A friend of mine said, “My gift to the world is smiling.” And I realized, we don’t project nearly enough love into the world, especially in New York, where the train you need to take is always imminent, the line too long and slow, time too divided. Maybe that’s why I’m kneading. It’s nothing but time and some muscle, like love displaced into food, though for me, food is always love. » Continue reading this post…

Living Well on Yoga Stretches and a $5 Bill: Sweet Potato & Spinach Ravioli

Sweet potato and spinach ravioli (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“Well,” I said, “I can sit and watch you eat.”

He looked at me as if to say, Really, Lyz?  Don’t be dumb.

So I said, “Or… we can make pasta?”

Sweet potato and spinach ravioli recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

And that’s how we ended up taking the train back to Bushwick, stopping at Associated to pick up spinach and beer, and carting our yoga’d out bodies into my apartment, where the temperature was miraculously above 50 degrees.

Egg and flour volcano (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’d been thinking about this pasta all day. I’d had a sweet potato for lunch and wanted to do something more interesting with it than just heat it up with butter and brown sugar. So I posted my dilemma on twitter, and just moments later received a lovely suggestion to make ravioli. I had a pasta roller I hadn’t used yet and a self-imposed rule to spend no more than $5 on food and now, a friend with which to eat: oh yes, the stars had aligned.

Rolling pasta (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Feeding pasta through the machine (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Homemade ravioli recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Sweet Potato and Spinach Ravioli

For pasta:
2 cups flour
3 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil

For filling:
1 yellow onion
1 large clove garlic
1 bunch of spinach
½ roasted sweet potato
¾ cups ricotta cheese
fresh grated nutmeg to taste
salt and pepper to taste

On a clean, dry surface, make a volcano-like mound of flour. In the crater, crack three eggs; add salt and olive oil. With a fork, scramble the eggs and blend with the flour. If the dough is dry, add a few drops of water until you find yourself kneading a smooth, elastic ball of dough. (Conversely, if the dough is too sticky, add more flour.) Knead the dough for about ten minutes. Let the dough rest while you prepare your filling.

Finely chop onion and garlic and sauté in a healthy amount of olive oil until the onions are translucent. » Continue reading this post…

This Is It: Apple Pie

Apple pie recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We finally turned the heat on yesterday. There was snow and it was a struggle, since so far we’ve been doing well with slippers and puff vests. It’s not that we’re cheap, it’s just, well, masochism is so in this season.

But warmth is nice. From me, warmth elicits all my fuzzy tendencies, like doing other people’s dishes, talking for a long time on the telephone, and baking pie.

Cutting apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

So I spent the day making pie (and watching Netflix and sending emails and packing for vacation). After Thanksgiving, my mother sent me back to New York with a bag of apples grown in Adams County in South Central Pennsylvania. Our traditional Thanksgiving pie is always made from these apples, which are harvested in the fall and sold at orchard stands lining the hilly back roads. My apple pie recipe is really my mother’s, and what makes it so good is based largely on those fresh, Adams County apples. And a lot of brown sugar and butter. The pie is requested at most family gatherings, and for a long time, whenever she traveled back home, she flew with an apple pie in her carryon.

Butter and brown sugar crumble (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This pie has truly traveled the world. After my study abroad semester in Australia, two friends and I went to New Zealand to farm. Our second night in Christchurch happened to be Thanksgiving and this was the first time any of us hadn’t been with our family for the holiday. So we found a grocery store and bought a rotisserie chicken, a few potatoes, a packet of powdered gravy, a bag of salad, biscuit mix, a bottle of red, and a few apples. Back at the hostel, as Emma and Dan boiled and mashed potatoes, prepared biscuits and gravy, I made an apple pie. We sat at a small table with our improvised feast and gave thanks. » Continue reading this post…

Comfort Food and Pumpkin Things: Pasta with Tomato and Pumpkin

Pumpkin and tomato pasta (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I haven’t written about comfort food in a while. Although this is probably entirely untrue, since I was once accused of describing all foods as comfort foods, after which point I decided that food, for me, is comfort.

I wasn’t even going to make dinner tonight and just settle for the baguette with brie and a cappuccino that I snacked on a while ago while writing an article. But I got some bad news today, and bad news always makes me crave tomatoes. And, oh, the news is so tedious and repetitive (let’s just say it involves creepy crawlies…) that I don’t want to talk about it. But I do want to talk about this brilliant little tomato and pumpkin pasta.

We’ve been having a lot of fun with pumpkins here on Starr St. I bought a misshapen monstrosity at the grocery store the other night and scooped out all the flesh and Anette carved a very Matisse-esque design in the shell which lasted one whole candle-lit evening before the morning evinced a crumpled pumpkin looking like nothing so much as the old woman without teeth who sits on the stoop down the street. I made a pumpkin curry and pumpkin pie and roasted pumpkin seeds, and I still have enough pumpkin to last through the winter. One pumpkin is a lot of pumpkin.

Pumpkin monster (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

So tonight, I made a pasta sauce with pumpkin, whole peeled tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Served over angel hair pasta and topped with chunks of black peppercorn-encrusted creamy parmesan cheese.

Things are looking up already.

Pumpkin pasta (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Pasta with Tomato and Pumpkin

1/2 package dried pasta
1 yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 carrots, chopped
3/4 cup cooked fresh pumpkin
1/2 can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt & pepper, to taste
Grated parmesan

Set a large pot of salted water to boil. » Continue reading this post…

Christening: Chickpea Curry & Failproof Rice

The new kitchen (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Finally, a beginning.

Last night, I was talking with my roommate about the bedbugs. It’s still almost shameful to say, even though they are an epidemic in New York – apparently the whole country. The people I tell, I laugh and say, Oh, it’s fine, I’m just spending a fortune in laundry. But the bedbugs have brought out the worst in us. They have robbed us of our time and stolen our sanity. We bicker over little things and act selfishly because we can’t think otherwise. But mostly, we haven’t made our new apartment home. And somehow, it’s worse to expresses these fears than to suffer them in silence. But now you know.

We were in the kitchen, and I don’t remember why, but I wanted to know the secrets of making rice. My attempts always leave a thin burned layer of grains stuck to the bottom of the pot. I think of them as sacrificial grains.

Eulas started telling me his method for cooking rice – water to just cover the rice, cooked to boiling, heat turned low and covered while the steam works. Then Sarah – I’ve perfected my rice recipe. You need lots of time, at least 45 minutes. We debated rice cooking methods, discussed the merit of steam, water to rice ratios, pot types, rice types, and lids for half an hour. As the last few words were said, we began to separate; silence pushing us back to our rooms. We could make rice now, Sarah said. I’ll make beans, Eulas said, and with relief we drew together again in the kitchen.

Rice in the pot (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We cooked and talked – about something, I don’t even remember – as the music of cars and neighborhood children clashed outside our window. The redolent smell of cumin and pepper and the kitchen’s warm lights. » Continue reading this post…

Summer Lunch: Thai Chicken Sandwich

Thai chicken sandwich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Partly because it’s unbearably hot everywhere in New York and partly because I’ve been ridiculously busy, I haven’t really been cooking much, writing much, or even eating much. I’ve made pilgrimages to my favorites, Roberta’s and the Tortilleria, tried out new places like Taïm for falafels and the Shake Shack (more on that lovely experience later) for burgers and concretes, but for the most part, I’m living on ice pops, toast, and cold beer.

But since it’s only 88 today in Brooklyn and because I want to celebrate the lease I just signed, I decided to make a sandwich. A sandwich is very rarely inappropriate. There are sandwiches bursting with lettuce and avocados for summer or fresh paninis with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. For winter, there are concoctions of melted cheese and sweet onions. Olives, feta, roast beef, eggplant, actually anything can find a home between two slices of bread. Bread like a blanket. Bread like your mother’s arms or puppies or unexpected gifts. Bread the panacea.

Palette (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Peanutty Thai slaw (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I find a nub of cabbage in the fridge. I think it’s over a month old, but with the outer layer cut off, it’s still crisp and fresh inside. Cabbage, hardworking and versatile, resilient, maligned as famine food, but good in times of plenty, also. I dress it with tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime, drape it over two slices of toast and top with slivers of chicken breast. I wish I had better bread, but a sandwich is still good on Arnold’s whole wheat pre-sliced loaf, especially when the dressing is nutty, sweet, spicy, salty, and when there is cabbage to promise that under summer’s lethargy and sweat is something fresh and full of potential waiting to be revealed.

Summer Thai chicken sandwich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Thai Chicken Sandwich

1/4 of a  green cabbage, slivered
1/2 carrot, ribboned
1 green onion, diced
Generous splash of rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. » Continue reading this post…

Dips on Chips: Guacamole

Dip on a chip (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A legitimate question: why have I never written about guacamole? Because seriously, I make great guac. I’m sitting at my desk right now, listening to sweet summer jams and munching on chips and guac. I know it’s a little early for lunch, but I’ve been up since seven working on a writing project and running errands, and I just couldn’t resist that plump little avocado nestled between the onions and garlic saying, Eat me, eat me, I’m so squishy and green!

My passion for guacamole emerged out of on incredibly uncomfortable social situation, which occurred a few summers ago when I was leading backpacking trips with Davidson College. At the end of each trip, the group would go to a Davidson employee’s house for dinner. I don’t even remember who the employee in question was – all I remember is that she was in her late forties and worked in some sort of office and that along with us, she had invited her daughters and her new boyfriend to the dinner as well. Her boyfriend, whose name was Jaun, was clearly at least ten years younger – they had met while Juan and company were renovating her office, or something like that. Her daughters clearly didn’t like Juan and kept rolling their eyes at each other every time their mother said something about him.

Which was often, since she only talked about Juan, clearly to mitigate her daughters’ disapproval. Juan didn’t say anything.

The dinner was something Mexican. Juan is a really good cook. [Insert history of Juan’s family.] Juan, Juan, Juan, Juan. [Daughters roll eyes. Backpacking participants smile awkwardly. Juan smiles awkwardly.] I made these enchiladas just like Juan’s mom used to make. [Shoveling food into mouth to keep from having to make a comment. Silence. Longer awkward silence. » Continue reading this post…

Good News for Your Sweet Tooth: Blueberry Crumble Pie

"Pie" (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lately, I just can’t seem to get enough sugar. I want pudding, bread with peanut butter and honey, chocolate granola, jam and butter, cheesecake, and Nutella on anything. (Speaking of Nutella, anyone manage to catch its most recent commercial, where a doting mother/consumer is touting it as a … health product?) The problem is this: I rarely crave sweet foods, and I happen to never crave them at the grocery store, so I never have sweet foods on hand to munch on when those cravings strike.

The other day, the pain was particularly bad, and not only bad, it was specific. I wanted pie. I wanted pie bad.

Anette and I had just finished making a delightful lunch out of nothing (as usual), and I mentioned my craving. She said, “I have some frozen blueberries,” and in a flash I realized I could make pie. Or I could make something almost like pie.

I want to share this recipe with you because it was so ridiculously easy. We whipped it together in about ten minutes and then just sat back and relaxed while pie magic happened in the oven. So if you, too, find yourself pie-less, you can change the facts of your life with things you probably have somewhere. » Continue reading this post…

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