Midnight Feast

Baby octopus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There are few things for which I will willingly stay up late. Pork belly is one of them. Of course, as I trekked through the slushy Brooklyn night I had no way of knowing that a thick and streaky slab of raw pork belly was waiting for me just past the Bedford stop.

I was on my way to a midnight cooking feast. In two weeks of schedule scouring my friend Ben and I didn’t have one overlapping free hour to cook. And all we really wanted to do was cook. So lets cook at midnight, we said, and that’s how I found myself struggling to stay awake on an empty train, kicking myself for having agreed to something as ridiculous as not being in bed at midnight.

Our plan was to let ourselves be inspired. To not plan a single recipe until we looked at what we had. During his 11 pm grocery run, Ben bought whatever looked pretty and cost less than $2 a pound.

I felt like I was on Iron Chef, watching as he pulled each ingredient out of a Whole Foods shopping bag and laid it on the counter. Lemons. Eggplant. Baby potatoes. Red and yellow beets. Pork belly. Parsley and cilantro. Jicama. Tangerines and grapefruit. Fennel. And lastly, a small, brown paper-wrapped package. “Guess,” he said. “Chorizo,”  I guessed. “Stranger than chorizo.” “Tripe,” I guessed. “Less strange than tripe,” he said and unwrapped a tangled mess of baby octopi.

We threw around ideas for our meal – should we do an Asian-inspired glazed belly or slice it up and cook it like bacon – should we roast vegetables or frittata them – could we do anything without vinegar? (No, was the answer, and Ben made a quick run to the corner store for two bottles of vinegar.) We settled on belly flash seared and then braised in a citrus glaze and a jicama and roasted beet slaw. » Continue reading this post…

Sometimes We Eat Our Disney Friends: Lemon & Garlic Baked Flounder

Lemon and garlic baked flounder (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The cook book (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My evening commenced on the couch with a copy of the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and the smell of lemon and garlic emanating from the oven. I’ve been craving fish recently and I wouldn’t wonder if I’m overdoing it – snacking on fresh French bread with butter and sardines this afternoon and this flounder for dinner and baccalau soaking in the fridge for tomorrow. It’s just so good. So clean and comforting when outside is so cold and mean. This recipe is incidentally not from the Times cookbook; I made it up out of my own little head. I just feel like cookbook reading and cooking are the perfect components to perfect evenings, and so I mention my couching as a prelude to this delightful fish. » Continue reading this post…

Resolutions and Assorted Thoughts on Salt and Things

Chipped venison (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been a minute. I’ve missed you. I never told you about Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Years and all the magnificent food I cooked and holiday observations I made. I didn’t write about the Greek Meatballs or the Fancy Vegas Dinner, the Skirmish with Lamb Marrow, or the Million Clove Dinner Party. I took a few pictures, but not enough. I let my errands run me. But now I find myself wedged into a MegaBus seat with no WiFi, my copy of Fear and Loathing (plus commentary) finished, fifteen minute nap done (and besides, I told myself I wouldn’t nap this time), and I think it’s time to write a little. It’s part of my New Years Resolution, I guess – to write more. That, and to actually remove the makeup from my face before I go to bed, keep my toenails painted, and use my Crockpot more often. And to be generally nicer.

I’m on my way back to New York from a weekend visiting one of my oldest friends (by which I mean, we have been friends since the age of four) in State College, PA. It’s a snowy drive, and the big windows are streaked with salt spray, which makes the view grim. I feel especially sorry for the people who have been riding this WiFi-less bus since Pittsburgh.

Although it looks, at least, like everyone else’s seat reclines.

We’re pulling into a travel station, and I’m tempted to get a hot dog. Nothing as extravagant, of course, as the hot dogs my friend said she used to get at Hoss’, where they’d carve her name into the unlucky wiener. These are weird moods of mine.

It could be being back in Pennsylvania, where, growing up, a special meal out was at Applebee’s and something super fancy got celebrated at the Olive Garden. » 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…

Dinner Stroll: Fettuccine with Chicken-Liver Sauce

Chinatown, New York (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Our apartment’s fire alarm is hyper-reactive, erupting into warning cries at just the intimation of heat. This means that when I cook, I spend almost as much time running back and forth between the two alarms with a long wooden stick and disengaging them with a well-aimed prod, as I do standing in front of the stove.

I do a lot of walking in New York in general, so the fire alarm situation is nothing out of the ordinary. The other night, I met a friend for dinner after work. We were meeting at 6:15 and I was done with work at 5 – so rather than wait around uptown, I walked the thirty or so blocks from SoHo to 6th and 20th. I like to walk casually but with purpose, separating myself from the throng on the city streets. Everyone is stressed in New York, even the tourists, who must somehow subconsciously feed off everyone else’s frantic energy. To set yourself apart from this and still be in it is an almost elevated feeling of peace, like every commercial where there’s that one guy standing there while the rest of the world blurs by like water.

Uptown, New York (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I like the introspection that comes along with walking – the mind’s mimesis of wandering feet.

And especially walking in New York, I have these moments where I thrill that I live here. It’s a very special moment, to know where you are going, to know that after you leave your bank on Broadway and 10th, you can wander generally South and left (I actually do all my directions this way; I’ve mastered North and South, but I find East and West a little elusive), and you can pick up a bottle of cheap wine at the Broadway Liquor Warehouse, check on a new milk frother at Sur la Table and finally end up at your favorite pasta shop on Grand and Mulberry for fresh egg fettuccine and next door, a slab of Sicilian black pepper cheese. » Continue reading this post…

I Prove Myself Wrong and Bake Delicious Cookies: Brutti Ma Buoni

Brutti ma buoni recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I keep telling people I can’t bake. This, for the most part is true. My numerous attempts at banana bread are too dry or too soggy or too awkward. Regarding a dense and lumpy batch, a friend told me, “It tastes like vegan banana bread,” which I guess could be a compliment.  Or…

But today, while looking for recipes to use for my Thanksgiving dinner, I chanced upon this gem for brutti ma buoni. The name translates to “ugly but good” and these nubby little cookies are just that. They taste like something from my childhood, like afternoon walks in the fall and honeyed granola. And they’re easy enough to make that not even I can screw them up.

Tray of ugly cookies (Eat Me. Drink Me.) » Continue reading this post…

Even the Novelists Must Eat: Sunchokes in Cream & Greens with Cheese & Egg

Prepping (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I may have mentioned that I’m writing a novel. I thought I’d challenge myself and participate in the November national write a novel in a month thing. It’s painstaking. So far I have seventeen pages of what will undoubtedly be the next great American novel, and each paragraph is a tortuous crawl towards some enlightened end – that has as of yet not been revealed to me. I decided today that someone’s going to die, definitely. But maybe not until, like, page ninety. Which means I only have seventy more pages to fill with something that resembles plot. Even a goal of three pages a day is killing me. (And, do the math,  seventeen pages on November 9th equals clearly failing.)

When I write, I writhe. I sit in my desk chair with my sweatshirt hood pulled over my head and moan. I write a sentence, I delete it, I change the POV ten times, I do a series of gymnastic exercises in an effort to find a position in which I can write something I actually like. After every paragraph, I mumble, “Novels are haaaaaard,” and slump further in my chair before I can start another sentence.

I had to laugh today at the grocery store as I bought lunch for myself: two $1 frozen Celeste personal cheese pizza and a cherry Pepsi. I was still wearing my yoga pants, hoodie with the hood up, puff vest, and moccasins. I looked like a total dirty bum, and definitely not like the person who was writing what would (undoubtedly) be the next great American novel.

So I wrote and writhed and ate pizza and finished up seven (!) whole pages. When I was done, when I’d picked the person who was going to die and felt like there might be a story, I realized I was hungry. » Continue reading this post…

Those Onions Always Make Me Cry

Roasted potatoes and sauteed greens (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I had forgotten what real vegetables look like. I went to the Greenmarket in Union Square yesterday and walked past stalls where vendors, wrapped in balaclavas, parceled out apple slices and goat cheese on popsicle sticks, and every other stand sold hot cider. Walking through the Greenmarket is an exercise in maintaining your Zen, since everyone hustling in and out of stalls, vying for the biggest carrot. If you can keep breathing and let the crowd carry you instead of fighting through it, the market is wonderful.

I’ve gotten used to my Associated Supermarket on the corner and I’ve even started thinking, yeah, that’s some nice parsley. Maybe because compared to the bodegas where bunches of browning bananas and wilted bins of lettuce sit beside bags of chips and bouillon cubes collecting dust, Associated’s water-sprinkled produce glistens. Then I went to the Greenmarket and remembered what vegetables look like. And that they smell, even in brumal November. In the apple tent, giant lobes of jonagolds and pink ladys were musky perfume and there was a bunch of sage at one stall so fragrant I did a double-take just to close my eyes and smell. I found perfect red radishes, plump shallots and garden onions, goat cheese, greens, multi-hued fingerlings, sunchokes, tangy Kefir yogurt drink, and a spray of verdant flat-leaf parsley.

I carried the parsley in front of my face like a bouquet of flowers just to keep the fresh smell close.

Fresh parsley (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cooking from the farmer’s market is like adding an extra layer of love to what you make, since someone has loved the rutabaga before it was a rutabaga. A farmer’s market fruit is loved in a way a supermarket fruit has never known. When you cook with loved food, there’s less work to do. Greens wilt themselves into your skillet, tomatoes only ask for a little salt, onions are ferocious and tender. » Continue reading this post…

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