Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Merry and all that jazz...

A belated Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to everyone! Oh the time to be at home with the family. Joyous, right?

Hah, yeah, if that's the kind of masochism you're into.

I have approximately 10 more hours here in North Carolina (not that I'm counting or anything), with an insane 5:45 am flight out of Raleigh. And I'm dealing with a horrible head cold, the only benefit of this being that, with a quiet Monday around here, being sick reduces the motherly criticism to a dull roar. Oh yes, this time home has been a great joy. Mothers obviously have basic training learning how to ruin an otherwise perfect day by a few comments at the end of the night. (Or, that's just my mom's style...)

So, while Christmas was enjoyable, I'm ready to be back in NYC. And, you know, preferably gainfully employed. (My unofficial-official deadline is the end of March, when our current lease ends.) I hope your holidays were just as passive-aggressive and lovely as mine.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookie Takedown 2009 Verdict: Madness!

Pure and simply, that is what last night was… Or, more appropriately, that is what this weekend was. 1 small Brooklyn kitchen, 1 woman, 300 cookies.

And the verdict? Well, guess who FINALLY won! I tied for FIRST PLACE for the People’s Choice! Dude… excitement is totally an understatement. I’ll be honest, these food competitions are straight up fun for me. Stressful as all hell at times, but thoroughly enjoyable. Matt TimmsTakedowns are practically comical because the dude is just that. He’s goofy, funny and he likes having a good time, eating damn good food and embracing the amateurs. (Same for Cathy Erway and the Food Obstructions!)

But, now that I’ve won, well, hah, I get why it’s important and so damn fun to win. I still would have loved to win straight up, no splitting of the money, but, alas, the cookie gods did not allow for such to happen. Still, no shame in $50 and a fancy bottle of rum. (Yay!)

Funniest part about it was that the other winners not only had similar named cookies as mine but I knew one. Lee and I volunteered together at Twestival and he and his buddy were standing in for the cookie maker, their friend and fellow nacho fan. So, he was representing Nacho Mama’s Cookies, cute little nacho-esque butter cookies with orange buttercream. To be honest, I thought they looked more like grilled cheese halves, but still, adorable. Totally melt in your mouth like meringue. A bit of an unexpected win, to me, but I think the room was full of fellow nacho lovers.

And, guess what I just happened to name my cookies? Not Yo Mama’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yeah, how about that. And we were 3 spots away from each other. Our cookies were vastly different, which made life easier. My name came about out of the urge to name it something besides “Salted Brown Butter Pecan Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies” Which is what they were. I stand by my name, because dammit, these are Not Yo Mama’s Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I mean, look at that deliciousness. (Picture thanks to Metromix New York)

I know the only reason you’re here is for the recipe, so here we go.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Seriously Good Quiche

Quiche, really? The doubtful audience could easily question how ho-hum quiche sounds. And hell, I'm right there with you. I grew up with my mom's quiche lorraine. As classic a recipe as a Southern girl could make it, it was fine, but simply the same recipe. Over and over and over again.

But, when brunch plans started falling into place for this afternoon, at another awesome Emily's home just a few blocks away, quiche just sort of happened. Ok, well, what really happened were seriously good boozy cupcakes. (Honestly, make these now. They work for all occasions, from brunch to birthday to the holidays. Who doesn't need liquor during the holidays?) I made it in cake form for Katie's birthday back in early October and the recipe has been on the brain since. I offered to make them again, and voila brunch plans with the three of us, plus a few more.

So, you know, we needed some real food before the cupcakery. And, with a random Pillsbury pie dough sitting in the freezer from Thanksgiving, along with the general affordability of eggs, quiche it was. On a Smitten Kitchen kick (seriously, I love this lady), I perused her site and discovered a few quiches. The richness of the one I picked, though, just seemed to be a winner.

This quiche sort of knocked my socks off... It was incredibly custardy, rich and delicious. I loved the flavor tweaks I made (acorn squash and bacon, yum!) and it was quite easily my favorite quiche ever. I have a feeling the richness and slight looseness of the quiche was from the squash puree. Also, I did not par bake my crust, but I recommend doing so unless you're going to make the homemade crust from the original recipe.

Seriously Good Quiche
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups diced leeks, white and light green only (from about 3 large leeks)
1/2 cup diced onion
3 slices meaty bacon
1 tbsp rendered bacon fat (or olive oil)
3 eggs
1/2 cup squash puree - any sort of winter squash.
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch pepper
1-2 stems fresh thyme
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Dice the bacon into, um, pinky wide pieces? (Just make em squares somehow, it's fine!) and render in a large sauté pan (non-nonstick prefered) on low heat. Cook until a bit crisp but not well done, medium in color. Drain the pieces on a paper towel lined plate, reserving a tablespoon of fat, enough to coat the pan. In same pan, on low heat, sauté the leeks and onions in the olive oil 30 to 40 minutes until caramelized, occasionally stirring. Remove from heat and cool.

While that mixture is cooking, roll your prepared pie dough out into a greased and floured pie pan. I let it chill 30 minutes in the fridge. But, if I make this quiche again with crust that's not the recipe Smitten gave, I would parbake as directed in another SK quiche recipe.

For the filling, I roasted a small acorn squash in the oven, and then pureed it with a small amount of milk. I pushed the puree through a sieve to catch anything my blender couldn't handle. Then, add the puree back to your still dirty blender, add the sour cream, heavy cream, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Blend until incorporated.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the leek and onion mixture evenly over the base, add the bacon and then the cheese. Pour in the batter and place the quiche in the oven. The original recipe said it would take 25-30 minutes, but I probably ended up baking it for an hour - I originally underbaked it last night - the center was still soft. When I arrived to Emily's place, I put it in the oven for another 15 minutes at 350, 15 at 375. My crust never got too golden, thus why I think parbaking is necessary unless you're making the original recipe's homemade crust.

Notes: I can easily see this working with low fat greek yogurt instead of sour cream (sour cream that's been sitting in my fridge for a bit too long to admit) and also crustless if desired. I'd definitely consider it more of a "savory custard" if crustless. Also, this could be made incredibly easy by using the canned butternut squash or pumpkin puree, if desired!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Part II: The creation - How it all falls into place

So, technically, part ii should be recipe testing. That's probably where I would have realized how to degrease the potstickers OR where i would have realized how quickly the things cool down. But, you know, this is an amateur speaking. For someone that's not working, I surprisingly don't have time to test. Or maybe I'm lazy and just refuse to spend  the money to do so, haha. I mean, who needs to test a recipe, anyway? I've made potstickers before, I've roasted veggies before, I've pureed stuff before.

So in order to stretch a buck, include a Brooklyn product and make a very tasty filling, I created the merguez mix. I was inspired mostly by a random charcuterie blog I found upon Googling, which was quite helpful. So, inspired by Charcuterista and my general knowledge of Moroccan flavors, here's my homemade merguez mix.

Homemade Merguez
1/2 lb merguez sausage - 2 links of tasty stuff
1 lb 'meatball mix' - 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork, 1/3 veal
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoon harissa (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2-1 tablespoon spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ras el hanout (or to taste)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
2-4 turkish dried apricots, fine diced
2 medjool dates, fine diced
1/8 cup dry red wine, chilled

Remove the merguez meat from the sausage casing, and mix with the other meats. Add everything except for the wine and work together thoroughly. You want the fruits, garlic, spices and meats to combine together as best as possible. Add the wine  and finish combining. Let the mix marinate together for 12 hours minimal.
If you worry about erring on the side of too spicy, you can go light on the ras el hanout and harissa. Once the meat has marinated, I recommend taking a bite of the raw meat and cook it. At that point, you can up the spices and heat. I didn't take it light when originally seasoning, because I feel like more flavor is better. I ended up adding more harissa and the tomato paste, so tweak as need be. Don't be afraid!
This merguez is really damn tasty and can be used any way you could imagine!

Warning: this sauce is highly addictive. I recommend making it today, as it could really be used on, well, anything. really freakin tasty. This recipe is giant scale - feel free to scale down to use only like half of a squash.

Butternut Squash Saffron Sauce
1 giant butternut squash and 1/2  of a small squash, peeled and cubed
2 onions, chunked up
a handful of carrots (as much or as little as you want, really) (small cut)
olive oil, salt, pepper, stems of rosemary, thyme
1 cup + 2 tbsp heavy cream
pinch of saffron threads

Preheat oven to, um, 400?

Spread the vegetables on one or two cookie sheets and toss with the olive oil salt and pepper. Add the stems of herb and stick in oven. stir every 10-15, cook until fork tender.

Put your tiniest pot on the stovetop on as low as possible. Add 2 tbsp of heavy cream (basically just enough to cover the bottom of the pot). You don't really want to boil/cook the cream, that's not tasty, you just want it to warm up. once warm, take it off the eye and throw the saffron threads in. What I did was let it infuse for 15 minutes or so at room temp in a ramekin and then put it in the fridge.

Once the veggies are done, get out an immersion blender/food processor/blender. Depending on the size and power of your machine, put a little bit of liquid in (additional cream or high quality broth or water) and blend until as smooth as possible.

Push the blended veggies through a fine mesh strainer/sieve. This helps catch the herb stems, any onion skins and any chunks that didn't get pureed. (For me, the carrots weren't as tender as the squash so they had more trouble pureeing in my baby magic bullet.)

Depending on how much liquid you put in the puree, I  highly recommend throwing it back into a low temperature pot on the stove and cooking it lightly for five minutes.

Ok, so here's the thing - I whipped the saffron infused cream with the rest of the heavy cream until soft peaks, just to barely get it whipped up. but, once i added it to the hot squash, it collapsed. but i then used the hand mixer to whip the entire sauce lightly. A cup of cream with the puree makes it quite a loose yet thick sauce. So, really, whipping the cream may not be necessary, but I did it. It took just a minute. Whatever.

The saffron paired with the sweet yet savory butternut squash is so tasty. Seriously. it's tasty on a soft boiled egg. it's tasty as a cream replacement in mashed sweet potatoes. I bet it's tasty with the homemade butternut squash gnocchi sitting in my freezer.

Mo-Rockin Merguez Dumplings

Take 1/2 tsp merguez filling and place it in one wonton wrapper. wet the edges of the wonton with water and fold over to make a triangle. Keep both the wonton wrappers and the made dumplings covered with a damp cloth.

To cook: Heat a pan to medium, and I highly recommend using spray oil OR a pastry brush with veg oil. You do not want a lot of oil! Spray/brush bottom of pan, add a comfortable amount of dumplings to your pan (if it's a large pan, you can probably fit 6-8 easily). Cook for 1-2 minutes without touching, until brown. Turn down to low, add 1/3 cup water or broth and cover with a lid and let steam for 1-2 minutes.

To compose as an appetizer: place dumpling on a tray, squirt a dollop of butternut squash sauce on top of the dumpling, and top with a pinch of grated kohlrabi and apple, and a few toasted pinenuts.

Part I: Ideation - Where the heck does it all come from?

When time comes to serve the food to the crowd of hungry people, it always seems my food is far more complex than I ever expected. As you can see from the name, I had lots of flavors and stuff happening. With it being cold out, my brain gets stuck on roasted vegetables. root vegetables, winter squash, high heat, caramelization and deliciousness. Between last Food Obstructions and this one, I tried that amazing simple recipe that is butternut squash soup. I would have just as happily made butternut squash soup for FOII, but, uh, one of the winners last time had a thai butternut squash soup. So, yeah, I dunno, I knew if I was going to come in with soup, it had to be different...

Ok, so no thai curry, not really feeling indian curry, what's another tasty spicy region of the world? Well, of course there is the Middle East. and then, voila, merguez! Delicious Moroccan lamb sausage! So, yeah, at first, I was thinking of rendering merguez down in small bits to create sort of bacon bit style merguez bits, and adding a fresh little raw topping too, to add to the crunch and help with the richness of the soup. But, my brain can't keep simple enough alone. Soup and a little topping seemed ho-hum still. Brain started tinkering with a crouton, crostini, cigar, something... Something to expand upon the merguez part. Except, well, one of the obstructions this round is no butter. My brain kept focusing on phyllo, but without butter, phyllo is useless. Tinker, tinker, tinker, ooh, what about pie dough? But, that requires lard and rolling and, ugh, No. Oooh, the glory of dumpling wrappers. Maybe butternut squash soup with a merguez dumpling?

Once I finally started playing with the squash, and seeing how rich a simple squash puree is, I thought that if I do a flat, triangular merguez potsticker, it would be a great serving plate for the puree and, again, a fresh topping.

The same time I'm trying to come up with an idea, the obstructions keep my brain bouncing around. the obstructions were:
 1.Must contain an ingredient beginning with the letter “K”
2. Must not contain butter
3. Must contain an ingredient grown or produced in Brooklyn
4. Must contain rosemary
5. Must contain an ingredient with seeds

The "K" ingredient was going to be kohlrabi - because I had it from my CSA sitting in my fridge. An ingredient I've never eaten before but knew it could be roasted and thrown in the soup or eaten fresh. Obviously, the butter played a big part in the carbohydrate choice. The Brooklyn produced food was a bit more difficult for my wallet, but that's the merguez - made at Brooklyn Fare. Delicioso! The rosemary was just a flavor I wasn't going to play up madly, but would include. And the seeds, well duh, squash. That's one thing I enjoy about Food Obstructions - the guidelines are little walls for the atoms of my brain to bounce around in!

Diary of a Food Competition

As not to overwhelm with one gigantic post (where's the fun of that?), I am splitting up the process of ideation and creation for my most recent competition, Food Obstructions II, which was last Sunday.

My final product, which was no winner but it's damn solid eatin', was the "Mo-Rockin Merguez Dumpling", with butternut squash saffron sauce and kohlrabi and apple slaw. what i realized is my technique wasn't strong - the dumplings, which were really pot stickers, got far too greasy while cooking and got far too cold too quickly. Simply not transportable food, ya know?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My week

Well, to put it lightly, this week has had its share of interesting, writable moments. And yet, nothing has come from it yet. Hopefully soon, my sparse audience, we shall see. There are tidbits to share, I am just deciding what to share and when this writing will happen.

I hope yours has been just as interesting, hopefully far less scary than mine. Dinner party later tonight, lots of good food and booze, I'm sure, and Food Obstructions II happening tomorrow night. (Please come out if you live in the area!) Otherwise, I simply want to stay in my bed, as it's grossly cold and slushy here in New York.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

blogging on the go...

if by "on the go" means laying in my bed, far too distracted by my new toy. (no, not THAT kind of toy... but that's a gift I would rarely turn down.)

almost a week after taking the plunge and ordering it, new phone arrived. considering what it cost, i'm putting insurance on it and hoping and praying it will be a worthy long-term investment.

(i was far too spoiled and used to having a smartphone... in new york, once you get adjusted to that, it's difficult to go back to a "regular" phone. at least that's what i've. convinced myself of!)

so, for the readers that know me, please text/email me your number so i can attempt to rebuild my contacts. stupid old dead phone, you suck! everyone else, please do convince me i'm not batshit insane to spend so much (er, of not my own moola) on a piece of technology. plz?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's new?

For any of you that are curious, here's what's floating around in my brain and my life.
  • I had a halfway decent, halfway epically fail job interview last Monday. The last part of it was a computer exercise, and I sat down and my brain turned into a bowl of ice cream that's been sitting in the July sun
  • I thusly realized how much I miss and need a computer of my own so that I can practice and keep fresh on all this damn technology.
  • My birthday is coming up next week (wink wink) and I want to invite friends out to dinner, but I can't figure out where. Looking for a restaurant that's not too swanky but nice enough, group friendly, yummy, close to bars and such for post dinner birthday celebration continuum. Any ideas?
  • I'm planning on participating in the Food Obstructions II and super excited about the ideas I have for this time around. Moroccan spiced winter squash soup with baco-bits style merguez and something else to either dip or mix in. (Any suggestions?)
  • I've been on a cookbook kick. Not necessarily buying the all-time best books, but they're great sources of inspiration if nothing else.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another [picture-less] Recipe

Is winter squash soup an original idea? Hell no. Is it delicious? Why yes, yes it is. And perfect for winter. What I made was butternut squash Thai red curry soup, which was so, so, so delicious. But the fantasmic thing about this recipe is that it's versatile beyond belief:

It can be made from any winter squash (butternut, acorn, many other varietals, even pumpkin)
It can be made with any type of curry (Indian varietys, Thai red, green, etc.)
The root vegetables options are endless and, well, totally optional!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crrrazy for Casseroles!

So, I'm sort of back... [My brother] Omar has a computer now, so I'm now bumming off of his computer, which makes for generally shitty times all around, really. But, I have a little quiet time around here and a special request from a cooking competition and Twitter buddy. Another awesome Emily asked me if a recipe of mine was available online. So here I am.

What of casseroles, say you? Well, in mid-October, right before my lovely computer went kaput, I cooked for two different competitions, the Food Obstructions and the Casserole Crazy Party. Both were equally fun and interesting, with different vibes at both. [I do plan on posting my FO creation, but I think one recipe for tonight.] But, they ended up being three days apart from each other! Casseroles are a stretch for me, actually, but I signed up on a whim. So, after I recovered from Food Obstructions, it was time to put on my casserole thinking cap.

Casseroles are a tricky animal... I'm not really a cream of blahblahblah soup person, but I felt like going a bit trashy, unhealthy, and fun are necessary for this kind of shindig. So, my brain came up with this hybrid frito pie-chili cornbread casserole thing. Because it was a cheesy, fun, heart and stomach warming guilty pleasure type of casserole, I deemed it The Full House. Also known as 1990s' cheesiest sitcom.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Worst Timing Ever.

My computer bit the dust on Sunday. And I am le sad. To make it worse, not only am I job-hunting (or failing at doing so), but Omar is too. He left Centro, and went home for a bit last week. He's back here as is my older brother Easa and two cousins, Maher and (another) Isa. Once they leave, today, it's going to be sort of tough. Not only do we need the computer, but I'm not really looking forward to being home with my brother 24/7. While I am keeping busy, and still helping with that small part-time job, still... It's all sort of fail...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

You know I'm bad,

I'm bad, you know it.

So what do Michael Jackson lyrics have to do with Blog Action Day? Eh, I can't say there is any connection, but today is Blog Action Day, and the first time I saw anything about it was a tweet from Shelly with the BAD acronym used and it stuck.

What the hell is this post all about, you ask? Well, BAD is basically just a day of bloggers starting a discussion. This year, it's all about climate change. And the main reason I chose to participate when I heard about this is, well, today! I woke up to a rainy, 40 day in the middle of October. In addition, this summer gave New York a new nickname - NYCeattle. June 2009 had maybe four rainless days. The summer of 2009 in New York was pretty much nonexistant, and this stark entrance to winter is not pleasant to my mild weather loving self.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pet Peeve

[This post recevies a special co-title of Epic Fail]

So, for anyone (anyone? anyone?) reading this thing with some regularity, you probably remember my mention of a StyleCareers career fair coming up, yeah? Yeaaah, about that. While I should probably not automatically label it as #epicfail, to say it was frustrating and exhausting is an understatement. Over the course of five hours, I spoke with four (yes, four) companies, and spent 97% of that time standing in line. It was the ultimate clusterfuck, and while there were over a dozen, closer to two dozen, companies there, the lines were insane. You could not figure out what line was for which company, where a line ended, how long the line truly was.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tight Ass Tuesday: October's Bastardization

Because I'm still broke and always up for a challenge, I'm doing another Tight Ass Tuesday for Thursday Night Smackdown. I mean, I won the damn thing last month, I can't leave TNS hanging now! Yep, I won! Woo! So, I got to pick the cooking 'prompt' for October. Feeling incredibly uncreative, here was my idea:

"It’s time to bastardize your two (or more) favorite cuisines! The ever popular, mostly outdated fusion cooking style is the challenge. Be creative or play it safe (Indian-Thai), just don’t be a jackass serving falafel in a taco shell."

So what the hell did I come up with? Err, I'm not even sure, but I'm calling it ConFusion Curry Raviolis. Having quite a bit of leftover lamb curry and cooked basmati rice from the Lamb Takedown, I really wanted to use them up in some creative way. Plus, the lamb was FREE. Making this perfect Smackdown material! And thus, we have the rice and curry ravioli/dumpling/potsticker. I got stuck on the idea of using the rice in the way pierogi and gnocchi dough uses potato, and just winged it along the way. I yoinked Mario Batali's potato ravioli recipe, attempting to puree rice in my measly baby blender. Warning: pureed rice, egg, water is really. Fucking. Sticky. While I only added 3/8th cup to the rice in the bowl, during the course of trying to knead the dough, and then make each little dumpling thing, I used a lot of flour. It sticks to fingers and counters really easily and needed the flour. The curry recipe I used is made from two pounds of lamb, but I probably only used about a cup of filling, if that. That recipe is also really delicious, and I recommend making it next time you're craving curry.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wait, it's October?

Wait, wait, wait, can someone slow down the clock? Seriously, I've been unemployed for three months now (ugh) and the time is flying. This partially comes from all the good and awesome shit I've been doing, but then again, dude, I want a job. I want to be even busier than I am now. The past few weeks has just been insane, with the Soup Kitchen, the Vendys, and then the second half of this week was jam packed. I've been keeping up with Unemployed Brooklyn, and we had another get together on Wednesday in Greenpoint. It was a surprisingly small turnout, but just a nice afternoon with a cheap beer. Briana (UB) is just a sweet girl, so it makes any event worthwhile. Because I'm crazy, I bought a ticket to the Brooklyn Meatup that was happening Wednesday evening. Briana's friend had surprised her with a ticket (after she sort of made fun of the whole thing) so we ended up going down to the Bell House together. We spent most of the time chilling together with her friend; to be honest, there was a ton of people there. Lots of people + me doesn't = lots of success.

But, I did meet a cute guy towards the end of the night (I was lame and went home around 11:30). It happened actually away from the craziness, outside in the hallway by the 'post-it note personals. I was reading some, and another few girls were as well and we were sort of chatting. A guy was standing by the table and joined the convo, and was like "Hah, yeah I put one up. Pretty corny." While it was, I was intrigued, and we started talking. We probably talked for 15-30 minutes (I didn't keep track of time) and at the end, exchanged numbers. I had a total foot-in-mouth, I'm an awkward motherfucker moment at the end, but oh well, I am an awkward motherfucker. It seems pretty obviously platonic (on his end) but dude, I got a number. Now, um, where to go from here?! (Seriously, this chick is clueless.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Reflections

So, after Wednesday, there was still more on my plate for the week. The Vendy Awards are something I discovered earlier this summer, and it looked like an exciting event. But, pricy. After exploring the website, I realized there was a "higher purpose" to this event. The Street Vendor Project is basically a group that is trying to give street vendor projects a bigger voice. New York City has so many vendors; merchandise, groceries, or cooked food; and yet they have the fewest rights of business owners. I feel like the fact that my father and his (therefore my) family are immigrants had this cause calling out to me even more. Most of the vendors out there are immigrants; more than likely, if my father's family had come to the New York City area, they might be in those same shoes. Anyway, definitely read more about the SVP purpose on their site, as I could ramble for a while.

But, with my affection towards some of the nicer vendors I've met out there, along with that general love of good food, the prospect of getting to volunteer, and at least be around for part of the event sounded like fun. So, I emailed the volunteer address, and on Thursday, went to an 'orientation' that basically gave us more information on the Street Vendor Project. As volunteers, we are definitely a voice for the Project.

The day of was a long one - I had the earlier shift, so I had to be in Queens by 9:30am. That was a solid hour commute from Clinton Hill, which made for a delightful 6am wakeup call on a Saturday morning. (That was fun, especially since I went to a "going away happy hour" for a sweetheart ice cream lady, Miss Softee, the night before.) I was a little bummed that I found out I was a "subway guide" for the event, which, at the Queens Museum of Art, meant I was about a five minute walk away from the event for the first two hours. It's just a bit more boring being away from the crowd, but it was my job, and I'll be honest, it wasn't the easiest venue to get to. The subway stop is also Citi Field's stop, and the Museum is in a park, so it's literally a walk in the park!

Once my shift was done, I had about 2 hours to attempt to taste eleven different carts. Some of the guys were smarter and did sample sizes, while others were giving out full size trays. Seriously, you need the full 2pm to 7pm time slot to eat everything! It was fun, and I nibbled a bit around at most places, finally getting some really delicious falafel, along with good Indian food, bbq (yay!), and a few others. The awards were doled out and I headed out. I didn't necessarily agree with all of the awards, but hey, that's not necessarily the point. It was a GREAT day and I will definitely come back next year as a volunteer. I'm bummed I didn't have batteries for my camera that day, as there was a lot of great food, trucks and general environment to document.

Sorry if I sped through this day; there's tons of Vendys coverage out there for anyone that's ACTUALLY interested in who won, lost, was nominated. But for me, the purpose was really a great one. There's an incredible black market in New York for street vendor permits, and it's simply insane. The more you learn about it, the more frustrating and simply stupid the system can seem. Especially for people struggling to just get by; who are working incredibly hard, long hours for very, very little money.


[Apologies for the rather Delilah title but the creative juices aren't flowing when it comes to subjects.]

Last week was full of some rather interesting happenings in my life in terms of giving back and also just enjoying life. Yes, there was the somewhat unfortunate interview on Monday, but I was at least pleased with myself for actually sending out a thank you card! In a timely manner at that. But then, Wednesday was the first of two exhausting but enjoyable events. One aspect of the Souperdouper Soup & Sandwich Cookoff back in August was that the winner would have the pleasure of creating a 'gourmet' menu to cook and serve at the Greenpoint Soup Kitchen. Everyone else that entered the competition, along with anyone else that wanted to join, was invited and encouraged to help out on the day of said meal.

Wednesday was the big day, and Jui, the winner, had changed up her menu options because of seasonality. Back in August, the porchetta buns and tomato consumme was perfect for the weather and crops, but with the change in weather, she worked with it. Also, Greenpoint has a huge Polish population, and as we discovered, most of the soup kitchen attendees are a part of that populus. So, on that note, Jui created a pretty impressive Polish inspired menu.

Summer Borscht, with beets, yogurt, tomatoes, cucumbers
Cabbage Rolls, stuffed with rice, chicken, tomatoes
Potato Latkes, made with purple potatoes, turnips, scallions
Crepes, homemade ice cream and fruit compote

She was quite ambitious, as you can see, and everything was from scratch. A few people worked on Tuesday doing prep from 6pm until midnight, and on Wednesday, we were working for a solid seven hours. I arrived right around 3pm, and Jui and Noah, one of the Souperdouper organizers, were already there. By the time we served and washed (and washed AND washed) dishes, we left the place at 10pm. Fortunately, t.b.d., the same pretty awesome bar that hosted the Cookoff, was close, so a few of us went for a few beers.

The meal itself was a huge hit, even if we started serving just a bit later than normal. I think the soup kitchen attendees were mostly pleasantly surprised by the Polish (inspired) fare. Everything was, well, delicious, and it was also nice to be able to feed the normal soup kitchen volunteers as well. I think they were pleasantly surprised with what was pulled off. The great thing about the Greenpoint Soup Kitchen is that they have been able to connect with one (or some?) local CSA. Any leftover produce the CSA has at the end of pickup gets donated to the kitchen, and, from what I could see, it's usually a good amount of food!

Not only was it great to simply give back, but I got to know Cathy, Noah, Jui, and one or two others, better. You know, awesome Brooklyn "foodies" [cringe at the word]. In addition, Cathy nicely gifted me a few chickens from a nice little butcher in Chinatown they have a connection with. Free, fresh food? Yes please! I definitely have plans for homemade chicken stock from the leftover roasted carcass. (Mmm, I roasted a bird today and it's, well, delicious.)

Part Deux coming shortly.

Story Time

Last night I had a deja vu experience that was quite interesting for being so new to New York and Brooklyn particularly. It begins last year, at the end of my internship with Indigo Handloom. My boss and the owner Smita wanted to take the two interns left at the end of the summer (the third had started earlier in the summer and left mid-July) out to dinner. Along with the Tina (the assistant designer) and a few friends, we ventured around Brooklyn in Smita's car on a Friday night trying to find a restaurant that could take the six of us.  The intended restaurant had about a two hour wait, so we just decided to wander around this new (to me) neighborhood of "Fort Greene".  We found some dark, romantic little Mediterranean place in an otherwise residential part of the hood (maybe 2-3 blocks from a buzzing area). I remembered it was good, with lots of Greek style tapas and sangria. You know, typical chick fare, I guess. Not specific retails I could remember, but lots of general memories of a nice evening.

Well, last night, my brother wanted to go to dinner and had a few ideas of places, all in the same general area, he "might" want to try. Aqualis, Deniz (which we have eaten before, via delivery) Pequena and Olea (which are owned by the same people, who also own a decent comfort food joint, Maggie Brown). All in the true "heart" of Fort Greene, around Lafayette and Fulton - definitely a place I'd love to be able to move to. I do believe a solid 50% of restaurants in Brooklyn are closed on Monday, and so was true for Aqualis. We knew where Deniz was, and it was sort of the fallback option. We walked by Pequena and, well, it lives up to its name. Off to Olea, except as we started walking, we realized it was a bit separate from the others. "We may end up eating here by default," Omar said as we were almost there.

What do you know? As soon as we approached, the darker, moody vibe from across the street, in this residential spot, was indeed where the end of summer girl dinner was. Being so relatively new to Brooklyn makes experiences like this interesting and surprising for me. Sometimes, you know certain places so well, and yet don't even know it. And yes, this time around, dinner was good too. Quite good.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ooooh, art.

One thing the apartment is desperately in need of is artwork. My brother actually told me the other day that I am more than welcome to look for it, and he'll pay for it for now. Not to get all pluggy and such, but that's why when I saw this poster giveaway on another blog I somehow stumbled on, it looked, well, awesome. Diagnosis Deferred is giving away one 18x24" rolled poster print of your choice from "These posters are photo quality prints of any file you choose." Err, she's picking today, so go enter, quick. As for me, the never ending hunt for decent but not too expensive artwork continues.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

At least it was an interview?


Summation of my interview yesterday. Ok, well actually, it's more frustration than any other feeling. Maybe I completely misread the job listing, but the idea was was textile graphics AND prints job. Like 50/50, ya know? Prints are what I'm 'good' at; graphics... well, I mean, you have to create graphics to create a print, right? Right? Unfortunately, this company was looking more for someone who basically ate, drank, and breathes graphic tee shirts. Hah, I first typed shits... yeah, that should tell you how I feel about graphic tees.

Obviously, that was NOT what my portfolio contained, and thus, not the best interview. I'm sending out a thank you note today though, because, for ONCE, I'm on the ball. The job may not exactly be perfect, but damn it's upsetting. It's a corporation, but the office (a Junior's line in the big corp) had such a laid back vibe. Seemed like a pretty freakin nice combination of corporate (benefits, etc) and yet low key. Also, a bit upsetting when one of the first things you notice once sat down to the interview is, on the copy of my resume the interviewer had brought with her, a handwritten note at the top... "Looks good" Yes. Thanks for the waste of my time, Ms. I'm-Looking-for-a-Graphics-Designer but I'm going to bring in someone whose portfolio (which can be seen online) does not include them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guess whaaaat!

Someone's got an interview today! I've said it before, I'll say it now... I don't want to jinx it, but I also sort of want to shout it from the rooftops. I do!!! Always a case for excitement, stress, wracked nerves and a little shopping. Thanks Mom for encouraging me to do so, hah. It's corporate job (fiiiine with me), so that adds a whole other layer of unknowns and such, because while I worked for a corporation last time around, I never had to interview with them.

I try not to get ahead of myself, because it's so easily to do so. What one little ounce of positive news can do for this girl's hope.

I'm up early, trying to cook up a healthy breakfast (eggs, chorizo, maybe a bit of potato?) and composed and out the door in time to get a quick manicure before the interview at 11. I can't quite put into words what good looking hands do for confidence - while I'd easily polish these at home, my cuticles look pretty bad and it's just one of those cases for the salon. Can manicures be written off?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It is really nice to feel wanted

Tonight's Twestival was pretty awesome. It was really nice to just work on something, have a focus, and have people appreciating the effort. So, I admit it, I enjoy a bit of attention and appreciation. Not a ton, just a little.

Now, I have to get back to facing the fact that I am unemployed, and need to find a job. Soon. But, for now, I am going to take my grandma self to bed, for I am le tired.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

eating local: amateur style

When I stumbled across this post by Cathy [Not Eating Out in NY], I knew I had to do it. Not only have I dreamed of getting tickets for that event, but it's cooking, and cooking local. That's what I do. At the same time, I have a ton happening this week. Today is Twestival! This week has been crazy, with little time to actually cook. I picked up my CSA share for the week on Thursday; lots of tomatoes, lots of greens, some corn, among other things. Once I saw these items, some ideas started floating around, out of my control. I decided to take a riff on a dish I had at one of my favorite restaurants. A brunch dish in a casserole style, with greens, and egg and polenta, along with a bit of tomato sauce, I took it my direction.

I created a fresh corn "polenta", garlicky greens, homemade tomato sauce, topped with a fried egg. I personally love the runniness of yolk more than I like baked or scrambled eggs, and as for the "polenta"? Well, it's fresh grated corn; the best way to take something semi-healthy (vegetable) and turn it into a comforting, satisfying dish.

Fresh Corn "Polenta"

6 ears of corn, or about 2 cups final corn grate/juice (see above picture!)
Milk, water, or whey (leftover from homemade "ricotta")
Salt, pepper to taste
Rendered bacon (optional)

Either with a large box grater or a mandoline with the julienne blade in, grate the corn into a bowl. Basically grate as much as you can, getting all the juice/milk out. Once ears are grated, go back over the ears of corn with the back of the knife to get all the juice and guts out. (It's good stuff!) Put the corn into a pot on the stove and add enough liquid to basically thin it out a bit. I eyeballed, maybe had 1/2 cup? Salt, pepper to taste, and I threw in some rendered bacon to cook with it. Obviously completely optional, but if you're making the whole meal, it's a nice addition. Cook on low, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or more if you're patient. I have a feeling you could also bake this in the oven, if you so desired. I winged the whole thing, so who knows.

Garlicky Greens
2 slices thick cut bacon (or 3 if it's the thin, wimpy stuff)
4-6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
lots of greens, your choice
red pepper flakes, salt to taste

Cube and render the bacon, low and slow. Once done, remove bacon from pan and keep the fat in. Keeping the pan on low, add the garlic and let it slow roast in the oil for a few minutes. You want to infuse the fat with the garlic flavor, along with letting the garlic soften. Toss in your greens and cook quick. Salt, and quickly remove from pan. [Personally, I'd much rather have underdone greens than mushy ones, and the heat will keep cooking.] Toss with red pepper flakes, and adjust if needs more salt.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
I used:
6 cups peeled, large diced fresh tomatoes, juice, seeds, everything
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic
big pinch dried basil, oregano, red pepper flakes
1/3 cup fresh basil, rough chop/chiffonade
~1/3 cup? parsley, rough chop
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion until translucent, and add the garlic. Cook another 30 sec to a minute, and then add the tomatoes, dried herbs and red pepper and half of the fresh basil. Bring to a boil, and then let simmer. Mine probably simmered for about an hour, but 30-40 minutes is minimum for thickening. Add the parsley and rest of the basil, turn off the heat.

My egg was fried on low, because I was aiming almost for more of a poached consistency than the crispy fried egg. Either is delicious.

In a bowl, spoon 'polenta' [corn pudding is more appropriate, methinks]. Add a layer of greens, then the egg, and a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce. Hearty, warm, filling, and, ok, it's a lot of ingredients and steps, but was actually not too hard to make. Break into the yolk and take a big bite, as I did!

Being an overachiever, I decided to make a simple, delicious dessert. By no means original recipes, but still good! Sauted apples and homemade ricotta.

4 cups milk
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

Slowly bring milk and salt to a rolling boil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes or so. Line fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth, and add the ricotta to drain. I let it drain in the sieve about 15 minutes, then wrapped it up in the cloth with a twist tie and sat it in the fridge (still in the sieve, above a bowl).

I used the whey above in the fresh polenta; I've also read it can be used basically like milk. In crepes, etc.

Glazed Apples
Cubed apples (I used a honeycrisp; tarter than I expected for the name)
Cinnamon, nutmeg
Teeny bit of butter or oil

I put a bit of oil (tiny) in the pan, and heated it up. I added honey, enough to thinly coat the small pan, and a pinch of both spices. Heating the honey up a minute before adding the apples creates a nice glaze. Cook just long enough to get the apples warm and possibly brown. [Mine did not brown, but I didn't want to overcook the fruit or burn the honey.] Spoon the apples and glaze into a bowl, and add the fresh ricotta on top. Drizzle a bit more honey and dig in.

Ok, so where did these ingredients come from? Well, I'm a CSA member, as stated up top, and my CSA, Prince George, uses Norwich Meadows Farm, a certified organic farm [which I just realized while researching this] and is in Chenango County near Binghamton, New York. The CSA items I used were the greens, corn and tomatoes.

Everything else is from the Union Square Greenmarket. I love greenmarkets, I love the whole feeling. I'm a browser - I like to take my time, check out all the stalls, and then decide. Usually, Fridays at the market are packed with farmers. Unfortunately, yesterday was incredibly rainy, windy and cold, so my browsing options were limited.

The first stall I bought from is Samascott Orchards, from Kinderhook, NY. Searching for basic onions and garlic can be a semi-difficult thing at the market, at times, but Samascott had what I needed. They also had the "fresh picked" Honeycrisp apples. Those caught my eye and gave me the idea to do a dessert. I had never tried these apples before, and fortunately I found out today they were tart and perfect for a sweeter dessert.

From there, I went searching for milk since I had in mind to make ricotta. Milk Thistle Dairy, in Columbia County, NY, was one of the few (only?) people there with milk, and thus I made my way on.

Migorelli's, another large seller, out of Dutchess County, NY, is where I got the parsley for the sauce.

Tremblay Apiaries, Chemung County, NY, is a great seller of honey - the man at the stall yesterday was friendly, knowledgeable, and he had four varieties of honey. Tasting the most floral one, I knew I had found the right honey for the job. Full of flavor and simply delicious!

One of the last stops was the hypnotic bacon. Yes, bacon was optional in this dish, but once I saw the sign, I knew I had to stop. Tamarack Hollow Farms, which I just discovered is based in Vermont. When I saw their chalk sign regarding hypnotic bacon, and bacon love, I had to stop. A younger guy ran their stall, and was knowedgeable, friendly without being overbearing. While I'm not used to $11 bacon, it was definitely worth it.

As similar with milk, because the weather was so bad it was quite difficult to find eggs on Friday. I found another pig farmer, which I had missed, who was selling eggs, and again, very friendly. Flying Pigs Farm, in Washington County, NY, has great [chicken] eggs along with delicious looking chops, cutlets, bacon and other pork products.

On a side note, Central Valley Farm, usually out there on Fridays, not only sells good eggs, but the cutest little old man works the stand. Ask him the difference between jumbo and large eggs, please do. He tells the cutest story of how "Let me tell you, older does not mean better." (Jumbo eggs are from older chickens.)

Oh, a few other items! Basil is directly from my window herb garden, and the plant was bought at the greenmarket early in the summer. The only two things I can't claim are "local" is the teeny bit of oil and about 1/2 a lemon's worth of juice for the ricotta.

So... there it is. My best recipes, my not-so-great photography, and some great local farmers, products, and generally delicious food.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New name, same Emily

Just Emily was boring me... I didn't put much effort in the original name because I started this blog knowing good and well that it could have easily been dropped at the waist side any day. And still, it could. But, seeing how I'm somewhat dabbling into everything currently, I wanted a bit of a change. But, in the same vein, my day-to-day life is pretty boring. So, the name "[non] adventures of an amateur" was born.

I'm generally wanting to renovate the look of the blog, and that was my initial reasonings to starting the Tumblr site too. It's much more customizable, but to that same degree, I'm quite the HTML noob. Just looking for something clean, modern, a bit girly; me, obviously. So, if anyone has any good Blogger themes they can suggest, or would want to take on the task to either teach me more about HTML or do it themselves, do let me know.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What's in MY name?

Seeing the post over on Melting Mama, I decided to check out my name analysis and steal her idea, heh. I've always been intrigued by names, their meanings, their history, so I found it appropriate.


* The influence of Emily makes you positive, self-assertive, and independent.

* You can be creative, inventive, and ingenious in practical matters, such as handicrafts.

* When you have the opportunity to pursue your own goals and interests free from interference, you can feel very agreeable and express a buoyant optimism.

* On the other hand, you can be impulsive and forceful when opposed, and act without due forethought and discretion.

* Hence you have many bitter experiences and generally rather unsettled conditions in your life, with little progress and financial accumulation.

* You cannot tolerate any domination by others, or circumstances that restrict your freedom and independence.

* You are inclined to make changes abruptly in your life as an escape from such conditions.

* Although the name Emily creates an active mind and a restless urge to explore new ideas, we emphasize that it causes a blunt expression that alienates others.

* This name, when combined with the last name, can frustrate happiness, contentment, and success, as well as cause health weaknesses in the solar plexus, and tension or accidents to the head.

It's actually quite interesting how spot on some of those are, especially the first five! Yes, some it is very astrological and hippy-dippy, but I don't mind that. [Well, besides the fact that I don't really get that whole last bullet point.]

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tight Ass Tuesday! Fruity Steak Tacos

Back again, to Thursday Night Smackdown's Tight Ass Tuesday. What's better for a bored, broke amateur cook? Last month's winner, Dark Side of the Fridge (who will probably kick our asses again this month), declared that this month's challenge was to include fruit in the dish. No pussying out with a slice of lemon on the plate, a 'real' fruit component.

Thankfully, my CSA has included a small melon in two different weeks' regular vegetable share, so having this baby cantaloupe staring me down worked out. But melon, for dinner? For a CHEAP dinner? Well, duh, fruit salsa, you dope! What it ended up being was somewhere between salsa, salad and relish.

The thought process continued onto meat. Trying to find inexpensive, non-sketchy meat in Brooklyn or Manhattan is not easy. It does not exist, in most forms. So, when I stumbled upon london broil in my least-sketchy local grocery store for somewhere between $1.50-1.99/lb (I blanked on the price, whoops!), I grabbed it. I also accepted that I was probably going to have a chewy piece of steak, because that's what london broil is. Before last week, the only other form I've had London Broil in is killed beyond recognition in the oven by my mother. (Her specialty is Sahara-esque pork chops, chicken, beef.)

Anyway, chewy steak in basket and feeling otherwise stingy, I grabbed just a few essentials - an onion, cilantro, limes. At home, I had a box of tomatoes and jalapenos waiting for me from the garden. Not MY garden, but they were free to me, completely. Wanting to make something that would have a bit more shelf life than fresh salsa, I threw the tomatoes, an onion, a bunch of garlic and the two jalapenos I had into the slow cooker. Basically everything was in large chunks or whole (peppers, garlic).

That bubbled away on high while I worked on some tortillas. Yes, this amateur bread maker decided to make homemade tortillas for this tight ass meal. Following this recipe, which I have no idea how I found, I made the tortillas. Intelligently, I made them half the size as the recipe, for easier rolling and more taco-friendly sizing.

I cooked up the tortillas and kept them wrapped in a towel, while I threw the london broil in a pan. It had quick marinated in whatever the hell I happened to grab - lime, sriracha, garlic... a bottle of ghetto ginger beer that I have NO clue how it got into the fridge, and I added salt and pepper to it before pan frying. Because I worried of tenderness, and also because I love bloody meat, I just did a quick sear, a few minutes on each side, before the steak got taken out and rested on the cutting block. Somewhere in the middle of this, I pureed the cooked down salsa/gazpacho creation.

Oh, the fruit salsa? Yeah, about that. Recipe:

1 small melon (cantaloupe, honey dew) or 1/2 giant grocery store size
1.5-2 small cucumbers (or 1/2 of one of the giant english suckers)
3-4 baby red peppers (or 1/2-1 grocery store sized)
Teensy bit of onion
Lime juice
Mint, cilantro to taste (I used a little mint, a lot of cilantro)
Salt and pepper
Bit of olive oil

Melon was cubed up in my normal, inconsistent fashion, and the cucumber was diced, slightly smaller than the melon. Bell pepper also diced, even smaller than the cucumber. Grate or finely dice the onion, chiffonade mint and rough chop cilantro. Throw it all in a bowl, and season to taste, adding lime juice (I used 1-1.5 limes and they were juicy) and just a little oil. It's fairly heavy on the lime because the melon is quite sweet.

And then you make tacos! Because last time had no pictures, here's some step-by-step action.

One tortilla, nice and toasty. (And only slightly tough - I think I'm an overkneader.)

Spread on a thin layer of the (really quite spicy) cooked salsa.

Add some steak (if you're smart, stay away from the london broil and stick with flank/skirt, or chicken, pork, fish, whatever.)

Pile on the yummy, fresh salsa.

And om nom nom!

Final tally:

Pantry staples (Free!):
Tortilla ingredients (flour, water/milk, oil, baking powder), garlic
Garden (Free!):
Tomatoes, jalapenos, mint
CSA - 1/5 weekly draw - $1.85:
Melon, cucumber, red pepper
Steak - $2.25
1/6th onion ~ $0.10
1/10th cilanto ~ $0.10
2 limes - $0.50

$4.80 for 4 people, $1.20 per person.

I realize that some of the keys to being a tight ass cook come down to baking, gardening, and taking advantage of fucking awesome deals like CSAs. I joined it for the sake of cheap, local vegetables so I feel like it's a legit way to calculate my final costs. Also, if anyone thinks calling flour, milk or garlic pantry staples incorrect, feel free to call me out on it. But they are ALWAYS in my home, no matter what. So there.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oh New York...

You tempestuous little bitch. Some days, I'm not quite sure why I'm here; those lovely, dirty, crowded days where it all seems to go wrong. And then... Then you have days like Sunday where the torrid love/hate affair is reignited with full out passion. Sunday was just one of those days, full of new discoveries, old loves, new acquaintances, and a goodbye notwithstanding, a swoonfully fantastic day.

Sunday came to be from the goodbye to a new friend and family member that I semi-sort-of knew I had. Nadine grew up in Florida, but is more direct family with Basil and Mano. The Agapions are my Greek family-that's-not-family (who I adore and are talented fuckers). In the winter, Basil came to visit and we all went out - which was when I met Nadine. We went out a second time when Basil and the crew came up this summer. She's leaving New York, hopefully on to bigger and better things, so she had a last fling Sunday brunch (I know, how cliche NYC, haha).

Brunch in the West Village with a bunch of her girl friends - always fun to meet new people - at Garage Restaurant. Overpriced, slightly generic brunch, but most places are as such... From there, some of the big group walked up to Chelsea Market - Nadine had never been before. While it's not like "OMG the greatest thing in the world", it's one of those places you should go to at least once while living in New York. The walk there was nice - lazily walking through the West Village, gorgeous weather, and we met up with two of her guy friends. We walked through the Market, some of us got some Ronnybrook Dairy ice cream, and then decided to make our way to the Highline. One of those new places that I've been wanting to visit since it opened, it's a pretty kickass, above ground (old railroad line) park that's super green.

Side note: the water fountain(s) are one of the best designs I've seen. The runoff goes down into a drain and waters all the plants they have up there.

I'm sorry, but how cool is that?

So, after walking the full distance of the Highline, Alex, our tour guide for the day (the guy knew everything and everyone in NYC!), took us to a place called the Frying Pan. It's basically a kickass restaurant and bar on a barge (and the boat named Frying Pan, as well). Not only did we enjoy amazing views of the water (after struggling to find a table - the place was packed), but at the end of it, Alex basically took us on a probably-not-allowed tour of the boat. It was so crazy to be in this specimen of an old boat, with living spaces, nooks and crannies, just completely fascinating. Not something I would do on my own, but having Alex to basically show us took out some of the old, creepy fears I have.

Before I knew it, it was 8:30 - brunch started at 1pm! It was quite a great day, a really nice goodbye for Nadine and it was so much fun to just explore and interact with new places and people. Oh, and the day ended with Mad Men. Quite a memorable day, indeed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Souperdouper Pictures! Finally!

My XD card reader reappeared sometime last week (or so), but that whole uploading photos thing just happened. And, while it's old news, I made the effort to take picture while cooking, so dammit, I'm going to post about it!

All of the photos I took during prep are now on Flickr, so don't be shy - check them out!

So... my basic order of operations were:

Start boiling mint, water, sugar together to create a mint simple syrup. The original soup recipe I used as a reference added yogurt to the soup, but my mini test batch resulted in yummy, but mainly fruit yogurt. So, having my large container of yogurt that I wasn't going to otherwise eat, I thought mint would be a nice counterbalance to the sweet. Mint simple syrup + yogurt = problem solved. More complex flavors, less waste! Let the stuff cool on the counter once boiled - it never thickened much for me, but I don't seem to have luck with my syrups.

Then, on to the fruit. Basically, I hulled and chopped one one pound container of berries at a time, and was able to get them pureed in two batches on my little baby Magic Bullet. Each batch was strained through my mesh strainer - a step I didn't want to do at first but I was SO glad I did. Once all six pounds were pureed, I divided the one big batch, in the giant aluminum tray, into two trays, to equally add the massive amounts of vinegar.

(That's before dividing, adding vinegar.)

From there, basically I had to figure out how many ounces of liquid I had, and how much watermelon I needed to puree. It was all an eyeballing game. I was so worried about having enough (which ended up being TOO much for the final crowd). I eyeballed the sugar, a little at a time until it was sweet enough without being too sweet. Fortunately, making a slurry of powdered sugar with soup isn't so difficult and then just add it to the big batch and mix up.

I tried to knock out the soup and yogurt so I could get them refrigerated and cleaned up before tackling the sandwiches, but I know I was sort of multitasking. I finally got the soup into, um five or six containers - three big squeeze bottles, two or three random plastic containers. The yogurt, I minted to taste and attempted to whip it. It actually became much thinner, and I was unhappy about that, but that ended up being perfect for the thin fruit soup. It went into smaller squeeze bottles.

And now, the endearingly named "Oh SNABB!" ("Oh snap!") sandwiches.

I cooked a lot of bacon. A LOT. More than I ever want to see again in a long time. Enough that I don't even want to post a picture. You can see them on Flickr. Recommendation: don't cook lots of bacon if you don't have lots of cookie sheets or plates to drain them on. I live in NEW YORK. Massive quantities of kitchen supplies does not exist here. So, yeah, the bacon was a bit greasy, but oh well.

Sandwich composition was simple. Thin layer of nutella on one slice of sourdough bread, thin layer of brie on the other slice. Cover the nutella with thin slices of green apples, and then add bacon. I calculated eight slices per sandwich, but you could easily use six slices and it would be plenty of bacon.

Pretty, right?! So, from there, they were cut into eights. Which is harder than you think with fairly hearty ingredients and a generally completely inept knife in my kitchen. And each eight was toothpicked, usually having to be recomposed before picking. I had lots of sandwiches. Lots. Four smallish aluminum trays full of bites - 150+ bites. Way more than needed. The image below is less than half of what I made.

I was able to get all of the food made in time for about a... 30 minute nap and a shower, and I called a car service. Once I got to the location, I realized a few things.

1. We were outside. FUCK. Cold soup + yogurt + hot day = fail.
2. I should have brought the ingredients and prepped sandwiches there.
3. I really didn't need to cut my sandwiches so small.
4. Who knew people would bring panini grills to the location?!

I was unaware of what kind of prep time we would have, or I guess really, what pace we would be going at. I would rather bring the brie, nutella, pre-sliced, lemon juice soaked apple slices and cooked bacon along with a cutting board to compose sandwiches there. Then, I would also be able to judge sandwich size better, once I saw and realized that the people flow wasn't quite as high as hoped for.

The soup was ok, in terms of temperature. The bar the event was held at brought me a metal container and ice to store the soup in, but as the afternoon went on, the ice melted and I didn't have time to go in and get more.

Anyway, it was a great day even if I wasn't a winner, as I blogged about before. I mainly wanted to share with you all the photographic evidence of my creations. I have a few half-assed photos from the event that are also on Flickr here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

give this thingamabob a test

so the guys at the 405 club mentioned that tumblr is supposedly awesome. i do like that they have more design options, so i set up i'm importing my blogger stuff to there, but hopefully both sites will stay active. not that i particularly NEED two separate blog URLs.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Sometimes you just have to quantify exactly what it is you're doing when you're unemployed.

For example, this week has been generally insane and that wasn't expected.

Sunday: worked from 1:30-7pm for the cosmetics packaging lady.

Monday: went to the post office, went into the city to Union Square simply to enjoy the greenmarket and get some groceries. came home and made homemade ricotta and then turned that into a ricotta zucchini "cheesecake".

Tuesday: Went into the city to work some via Cosi WIFI. Got a text from cosmetics woman asking if I was available at all that day, so went back to Brooklyn and worked from 3-6pm. Then, came back into the city for Twestival meeting. It was almost 10pm before I got home.

Wednesday: The 405 Club had a picnic in Central Park from 1-4pm. I ended up being there until 6pm, and then that evening, my brother and I went to dinner in Fort Green.

Thursday (today): Got up, stayed home to be productive and was so. Went into the city to do one of my two or three 'required' volunteer shifts for my CSA. Was in the city from 3-6pm, and ran back home, dropped off my veggies, left again to go to the "Non-Motivational Speakers" event held by Gelf Magazine. My favorite Big Gay Ice Cream Man was one of the speakers, so that was the initial draw, but it was just a cool evening. As I tweeted, the three guys speaking presented this fascinating view of Manhattan and Brooklyn, both past and present.

And this morning, off and on from 8am-1pmish, this was my "Got Done" list I made after:
Emailed resume to woman I met yesterday at 405 Picnic (she's forwarding it on to a friend)
Typed up Twestival meeting notes (4 handwritten pages)
Filled out my profile for Twestival (questionnaire thing)
Sent a follow up email regarding a job possibility I had been contacted about by a recruiter last week.
Sent cover letter/resume to Gilt for PT job
Sent emails to 2 celeb publicists for Twestival

So, in reality, no, I haven't really gotten many job applications out there lately. That's the reality. But I haven't been hating my life totally like a good bit of July and August. The cooking competition totally spurred me on to just doing. More. Shit. (No matter what.) Twestival is awesome - the people I'm working with are great. I wish there were other "fashion" people at all working in the team of volunteers, but if nothing else, I have some great friends and personal recommendations from voices outside of my industry.

I was going to be all linky with my post, because I know they're handy, but damn I'm tired tonight. I ate Hormel Turkey Chili for dinner tonight (at, oh, 11pm) if that tells you my exhaustion level!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Glorious Bounty

Yes, this is a incredibly cliche but insanely appropriate term for this week's CSA share!

Starting at 12:00 and going clockwise, you have kale, 2 ears of corn, 2 lbs of summer squash, white and red peppers, 3/4 lb yellow cherry tomatoes, 10 oz of purple and yellow beans, either 2 or 3 lbs of tomatoes and a honeydew (or similar?) melon. Gorgeous! And think, I paid $225 for 20-24 weeks of this. Ok, this is the start of the really large, fantastic shares. But, in the cost scheme of things, I have to say that my CSA is a GREAT deal.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A recap of Saturday

The lovely Cathy from Not Eating Out In NY - where I heard about Saturday's competition - did a recap of the day on her blog. For anyone that's interested in seeing what delicious eats we had, or seeing the recipe for some awesome pork buns and tomato consomme, give it a whirl. Everyone out there Saturday was damn talented.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lovely soup creation...

A recipe for you! Pictures will come sometime in the future - my card reader is still MIA and Fuji uses stupid XD cards. My brother has a multi-card reader, but it reads everything BUT XD.

Anyway, here we go. I scaled the recipe down as best I could - the original made somewhere near the 150 oz mark, so I'm a bit unsure of how much this batch makes. I would definitely double it if you're cooking for a group, but if you want to test it out for you and your significant other, roommate, friend, give this scale a shot.

Chilled Strawberry Watermelon Balsamic Soup (also known as Kickass Soup!)

1 lb container of strawberries
7-8 oz watermelon juice
4 oz balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp orange zest

Hull and rough chop the berries. If you have a blender or food processor, the berries will probably fit in one batch. I personally was using my magic bullet, so I had to split each container into two batches. Anyway, once pureed, pour into a fine mesh strainer and push the berries through. Yes, it's another step, but I reluctantly did this and was so glad I did. The soup is fairly thin, so you want it as smooth as possible. For the melon, it's basically the same process. I'm unsure how much watermelon it takes to make one cup of juice, but I used about 1.5 small watermelons to get ~45oz.

Mix up the strawberry puree, watermelon juice, vinegar and zests. Taste first before adding any sugar - depending on the quality of the fruit, the soup could possibly be sweet enough. From there, I would add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar in at a time and taste test. You want the soup to be sweet enough, because the vinegar has its strength, but it's not sugary sweet, just fruit sweet. (Does that make sense?) The confectioners sugar will dissolve fairly easily, but you can always use a hand mixer to make sure it's all dissolved.

Side note: Another way to get the sugar well dissolved is to take a bit of the soup out, into a separate bowl. Mis the sugar into this liquid with a whisk until smooth, and then add back to the main batch. Very similar to how you add cornstarch to a dish.

I don't think you will need more than 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) sugar, if that, but again, best bet is to add in small batches and taste.

The soup is done! Put it in your refrigerator until it's cold, and serve cold. It's nice as is and great with vanilla ice cream. You can also serve mint yogurt sauce with it, as I did. Recipe follows.

Mint Yogurt Sauce
1/2 cup yogurt (whole milk or low fat could work)
mint simple syrup to taste

This is an easy sauce - throw the yogurt in a bowl and add the mint syrup to taste. My syrup never quite "syruped" for me, and I also used the hand mixer to mix it up, so this sauce is thin. This was an accidental move on my part, but with the thinness of the soup, this is actually perfect. You want the yogurt to have a nice minty flavor, and it's best to just drizzle a little bit on top of the soup. Keep this cold, obviously!

Enjoy! This soup is great for these hot, humid August days. And don't let the 'soup' label fool you - think of it as an ice cream topping or even a drink mixer. Can you imagine that with vodka and some club soda, or even lemonade? Yum! That was a common theme yesterday - one girl's spicy gazpacho would make a great Bloody Mary, my soup, etc.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Today was exhausting. In that crazy, invigorating way. I found out when I got to the event that it was outside. Yes, out. Side. In direct sun, for four+ hours. Great for a chilled soup, no?

To cut to the chase, I did not win/place. There were three honorable mentions, 3rd, 2nd, first, and popular vote. And there were 12 competitors total. I definitely made way too much food, spent way too much money, blah blah blah. But, the day just.... well, it sorta rocked. Seriously awesome people competing and tasting, a general vibe of a strong community, love for food, and admiration and respect for each other.

But, as I'm vegging out tonight, supposed to be washing dishes and such, I just wanted to throw up a few memorable quotes/moments from the day.

"Do you do this professionally?" To hear this question not once but at least a few times was sort of surprising. I feel like SUCH an amateur, so that just felt like a huge compliment.

"I've got to tell you, the sandwich is good. But the soup? It kicks ass!" Yes, that soup kicked ass. It really did.

And, a summary of a conversation I had with Matt Timms, who does these awesome food "takedowns" that I've never heard about. And that I will probably start doing. We were talking, and he asked me if anyone helped me, or came with me today. As I started telling him nope, I just sort of leaped in head first, etc, his response was so... positive? So much like "Damn, girl, you rock to do this solo, first time around." He's basically really encouraging, and that's an awesome type of personality to be around.

And that's the thing... Everyone there was encouraging, warm, and it seems like a true community. It wasn't that overbearing welcome, that smothering effect. Just a happy, cool crew of (mostly) Brooklynites and food enthusiasts. Yes, twas a fine day in Greenpoint.

it's 1am

soup is a little over halfway done - berries are pureed, vinegar is added, a bit of watermelon has been added. gotta zest a few lemons and oranges, maybe juice an orange or two, add sugar, and maybe puree some more watermelon. (i need to have at least 150oz, preferably a bit more. right now with the berries, watermelon, vinegar, i'm at about 138oz. but i would rather err on the side of more than enough soup.)

i made a mint simple syrup that i'm gonna mix into yogurt and put just a teensy bit on top of the soup (hopefully) to add some creaminess, body, and another nice flavor to go along with the vinegar and fruit.

all the bacon is baked. i'm worried that it's way too greasy, (basically, i don't have enough cooking vessels to properly lay slices out to drain.) EIGHT packs of bacon.

so i'm gonna finish up the soup tonight, for sure. i'm afraid to put together any sandwiches too soon for grease factor. basically, i need 21 sandwiches - 20 to cut into eights for the general public, and i'd prefer to give the judges fourths. if they get eighths though, not the end of the world.

the other concern, besides finishing, is getting there. because of the sheer amount of food, i have a feeling i'm going to have to call a car. which is the last thing i want to do. blah.

i'm tired, and i feel like i need coffee and a gallon of ice cold water. (which i don't want to drink.) gotta get back to the soup, and hope that all comes together by 12pm tomorrow!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Musings from an entrepreneur's daughter

I was walking in Manhattan, on my way to pick up my CSA share for the week, when my brain started wandering. In that urgent desire to write out what I was feeling, thinking, I actually stopped in Starbucks after the pickup, still in the city, to get my laptop out and write. Sometimes, I just know that if I don't get it out right now, it may disappear. And I don't think my brain benefits so much from these lost thoughts, bouncing around in my skull.

I don't consider myself a potential entrepreneur... Not even with this little experimental proposal. I don't have the true spirit of one, I don't think. Or maybe I don't have the balls to be one. I just know that if it ever happens, it's going to be when I am far more financially secure, when I am more experienced... when I'm an adult and not just feeling my way into it. Now, that could easily mean that it will never happen, but I always keep in mind that my father was in his late forties (probably more like right at fifty years old) when he opened the market. Anyway, tangents are my middle name, but me opening my own business isn't the point of this.

As I get older, I regularly realize small aspects of my personality that reflect what I grew up with to a tee. Things no one else may connect, but to me, it's oddly fascinating. How genes are passed, nature vs nurture, blah blah blah, have always intrigued me in a superficial way. So what's a better study than yourself? Anyway, as of lately, I've noticed how the way my father runs his business and the way his customers treat him are completely a part of how I treat business owners. While nothing is ever 100% true, if you're a small business and you do what you do well, I'm going to be a damn good customer. If it's possible, I love getting to know business owners on at least a slight personal level. I like connecting with people, and I obviously feel slightly knowledgeable in how it is to own your own business because I grew up around it. And because it was the only source of money in the household, the status of the store was news to know.

My dad's customers are pretty amazing. They constantly bring him food – homemade usually, or some interesting something or other they may have bought. There's art, trinkets, cards, just stuff. Ways they show their appreciation. I'm 99.9% sure that anything in the store that's 'plaqued' – newspaper reviews – customers did for him. Because my dad, while he is proud, is not overt. He's more of a subtle boaster - “Oh, it's just my little ol' store, nothing special.” When,you know it is something special and he damn well knows it.

As I spend more time in New York, and try to get to know businesses, cafes, restaurants, food carts, and I make connections with owners, I see the way my father's customers treat him coming through. My prime example of late is with the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. From day one, when I heard about him, I couldn't help but love it. Rainbow cone logo? Flamboyant and fun? C'mon, you've got your number one fan here. While ice cream is not what I should be eating, I still feel a camaraderie with a venture like this, and a desire to support him, even if it is not strictly financial. When you meet a business owner like Doug, who is a friendly, fun, creative New Yorker, you want to see them succeed. So, little things my father's customers do, I see myself doing. During one of my “I just must bake” fits, I took him some of the results. And then, I heard via Twitter that his truck was featured in the September issue of The Advocate (and that he didn't have a copy of the magazine yet). I was already in the Union Square area, so, even though I'm technically broke, I decided I would swing through Barnes & Noble and pick up a copy for him. One of those things where I know, being a business owner, and having a truck to tend to, that you don't have the time to go get something like that the days you're working. And your days off? It's called bed.

It's the small things that I really love doing for people. Surprises, things that make people smile because it's simply unexpected. And they're simple things. Things that so many people don't do anymore, which makes you value them even more. Yeah, I guess it's not just something I do for business owners I like, but more so for friends. I think that is something more people should consider these days – places you frequent, do you think of them as friends, or just another person you cross paths with? While I know every business isn't small enough to chat up with the owner, these are the places I love. I don't always get to do so, either because I'm feeling shy, rushed, or generally out of it. But in a giant city like New York, being able to connect with someone, even just the owner of your favorite market or your barista, on a more personal level is a great feeling. Yes, you can be a regular in this city!

[P.S. It seems like every post just gets more and more verbose...]

[P.P.S. I'll try not to gush about BGICT more... I realize my last post mentioned him too... teehee.]

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

...I think I'm crazy.

I'm not sure what has gotten into me today. Really. But all of a sudden, I just had to, HAD. TO., sign up for this cooking competition: the Souperdouper Soup Kitchen Sandwich Special.

Do I make sandwiches at home often? No, not really at all. Maybe a quesadilla every once in a while. Do I make soups at home? Not in the summer, and in general, it just depends. I read about this a few days ago, and it piqued my interest. But then, today, I was reading about the prizes, and all of a sudden, I had to do it. But it's not even about the prizes. Yes, they kick ass, but it was just this uncontrollable urge.

And then, the brain started churning. Ideas... ideas... Sweet and savory combinations are sort of ruling my palate lately, and the idea of a hot soup now that summer has finally smacked us in the face didn't seem right. I just recently had saba, a sweet, balsamic-y vinegar, and blueberries, and adored it. I also just bought a (ok, inexpensive) bottle of balsamic vinegar. Strawberry balsamic soup? But what to pair it with... I wanted to keep with the sweet and savory theme because I don't think an all-sweet or all-savory sandwich would work with a fairly sweet soup.

And, of course, the same person that introduced me to saba and berries once again popped into my head... The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck.... His choinkwich ice cream sandwich (chocolate cookie, chocolate ice cream, caramelized bacon 'wheel'). What about a bacon and nutella sandwich on sourdough bread?

So... decadent, yes. Yummy? I hope so. Since the competition is Saturday afternoon, I don't have much time to test it. (And don't really want to overly do so.) But, I think the sandwich needs a little something else along with the bacon and nutella to make it perfect... I'm thinking of possibly rubbing the bacon with a little chili powder to give it just a teeny bit of heat. I'll probably bake it, and hopefully get it nice and crispy/chewy. What does the culinary world out there think about just a teensy smear of a mild goat cheese on the sandwich? I think it needs something in there to pick up the flavors, and to go along with the soup. Thin slices of tart apple?

Suggestions and recipes are totally welcome!!!

Now, how to estimate how much food to buy. (Yes, this is silly, since I am unemployed, but I just. Gah. Had to do it.) Basically I need a bite of food for 150 people - 2oz of soup each and somewhere between 1/4-1/8 of a regular size sandwich. Christ. I just realized... That's still about two GALLONS of soup. About 19 sandwiches... Um.... what did I get myself into?!