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 LargeFormatPosters.com. "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.