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…

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…

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