slightly forbidden fruits

while we’re in the midst of lent, what is a better time to look at delicious things that you may or not have given up in your annual attempts at catholicism.  i may have just been talking about me, but….i think i’m not alone.

candied nutshere are some super addicting nuts i found on smitten kitchen.  they are fantasticly easy and almost impossible to stop eating.  i am glancing at them from across the room, like they will sprout legs and leave me before i ca grab another handful.  if you can afford to buy several pounds of nuts at a time, do it because they will vanish.

crackersanother option in my home-made christmas gifts were these cheese & herb crackers.  i saw ina garten make them and after trying it out myself, i really had to refrain from saying her ‘how easy is that?’ catchphrase, because, it really was that easy!  they taste like better versions of goldfish or cheeze-its, and will certainly make you think twice about shelling out five dollars for a sleeve of crackers.  you can probably do any cheese/herb combination  that you fancy.  both of these are surefire ways to impress at your next party, or to give as gifts if you’re not one for flowers or scented candles.

noche

these are the bows and struffoli (back) my mom and i make every year for christmas.  they are an italian specialty.  dough that is cut and pinched into ‘bows’ or wreath shapes, (struffoli are rolled out into marble sized balls) fried golden brown, and coated in honey.  according to my grandma, my grandpa preferred the way she made struffoli to his mother’s.  so what happens?  one day, his mother asks my grandma for her recipe!  the struffoli are much more commonly seen around, because the bows are much more labor-intensive.  passing the dough through the pasta machine, cutting them into strips, and pinching them together.  i think the greater surface area on the bows makes them better tasting, but struffoli are fun to pick at.  regardless of which is better, this is a unique tradition that i am glad to continue on for another generation.

caramellastly, here is a sea-salt caramel sauce i made.  if you have never made caramel before, it can certainly be a scary thing.  i was petrified, but the desire to make my own caramel just edged out the fear, so i continued.  melting sugar until it juuuust starts to smoke?  yes!  adding butter and cream that make it bubble and hiss at you?  yes!  potential for third degree burns?  you bet!  but i have made it three times now, and am injury free.  it’s great on apples, ice cream, or right out of the jar.

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so, does anyone watch the grammys anymore?

i say that every year, and then i end up watching the grammys because it’s sunday night and nothing else is on (except for those amazing atlanta housewives).  i used to be much more invested in the show when i was a teenager.  but now… it’s more of an afterthought, as compared to other awards shows.

i did enjoy jack white’s performance and his sparkly peacock/eyeball ensemble.  i’ve been a fan of his work since seeing him in the guitar documentary ‘it might get loud’ featuring himself, the edge, and jimmy page.  i went to see it, dragged my boyfriend to see it, i made absolutely sure to see it in the theatre, because i HAD to.  it ended up being a very different experience from most other movies because people were cheering when the musician they liked best appeared.  as a massive U2 fan i was giddy with excitement to see the edge.  and you know, that jimmy page guy is pretty cool, too.  everyone was excited to be there, and at the end there was wild applause and cheering much like the end of a concert.  this also happened when i saw U23D, which was another awesome experience.  i know all movies can’t be like that, but sometimes it would be nice.  so….was it like that with the harry potter/lord of the rings??

i wouldn’t know, as i have successfully managed to not see any of those.  i know, i know, you are incredibly disappointed in this information.  and this is probably difficult to believe, because, pretty much everyone has seen at least one of those franchises with a degree of loyalty.  but it’s true, and i’m okay with that.  i never read the books either.  some co-workers even tried to get me to watch the first lord of the rings a few years ago but it didn’t work out that well.  A+ for an incredible collaborative group effort but that’s where it ended.

and now in remarkably smooth transitions, an update on my 5k training efforts!  my battle with the weather is slowing down the amount of times i can go outside, which is not optimal.  and i still can’t bring myself to pay for a gym.  but i try to get out twice a week, three times if i am really on it and do laundry.  i probably need more running clothes, because weather is one obstacle, i don’t need the lack of clean clothes to set me back further.  i’m about 5 weeks out from the race, so it’s starting to get more…real.  just focusing on distance at the moment, and if i can work on my pace later on, then great.

i found my christmas food photos.  maybe i will post some later!

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think warm thoughts

so last week began my 5k training.  which went well in that i managed to get out and run every time i said i would, but that’s where it ended.  taking a 2+ month break is, as one would imagine, not a good idea when you are telling everyone you know that you intend on running a 5k.  i felt that if i kept saying it, then i couldn’t back out.  so there’s a good way to keep a new year’s resolution.  guilt.  you’re welcome.

i knew i was not going to jump right back to my usual pace, but when it was actually not happening, that good old standby, catholic guilt, kicked in, making me regret my break (but eating christmas snacks was so much fun!).

it was nothing short of a bloody miracle that my legs felt okay the next day.  now here we are this week and it’s a cold snap.  i went out yesterday in 19 degrees and wind.  that is all kinds of cold.  smartwool leggings, shorts, long sleeve wicking shirt, windbreaker, hat, gloves, scarf, sunglasses.  it was… a look.  as soon as i got outside i cursed, and bolted down the street in an effort to warm up.  it was not fun, but i did it.  it is strange- that i would feel warmer running outside than i do right now- inside my apartment.  the baseboards apparently need to be replaced.  our landlord knows, so i’m hoping the plumber is available tomorrow.  until then i daydream of ramen-filled bathtubs, and surrender my impulse to bake just to generate some extra warmth.  maybe it’s time to put that bouchon bakery cookbook to good use.

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dusting off the sneakers

quite literally. a family of dust bunnies made a home around my shoelaces in my hiatus from running. but it’s time to get going again, as i have paid money and therefore committed my time to running a 5k this march. i walked this 5k last year at 48 minutes (while my far more athletic friend ran the half marathon), so i am looking forward to finishing with a better time. last week i was just walking, and today was the first time i ran since october, so we’ll see how bad i’m hurting tomorrow. wish me luck!

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there’s no ssam like bo ssam like no ssam i know

i am completely ready to tell the tale of last week’s culinary challenge.  the pork shoulder was purchased on sunday with initial intentions of braising, which i love and have done many a time.  and, braising always makes it sound like fancy things are happening.  confident in my braising abilities, i scoured the internets for other things to do with 4 1/2 lbs of meat.  and then it hit me: surely david chang has some pork-tastic recipes for me, right?  i ran (ok, reached) to my pile of lucky peach magazines and found nestled in issue 1 the master recipe for the momofuku pork belly and shoulder.  finding out that i could easily attempt a dish they serve seemed like a great project.  then i found the recipe for his bo ssam pork online, which was essentially the same, plus one more step to finish.

what you do:

rub pork in salt and sugar, cover and let sit in fridge overnightIMG_2247

throw in a 300 degree oven for 6 hours, basting every so often

sprinkle with brown sugar, crank up the heat to 500 and let that caramelize and turn into meat candy

everything was going great, and the apartment was smelling so good you almost, almost believed you could chomp any object and it would taste like pork. IMG_2251 i prepared the two sauces and got the rice ready while i was waiting.

after hour 6 i dutifully removed the beautiful pork out of the oven to let cool a bit, and applied the brown sugar.IMG_2254i turned the oven up to the scary land of 500 degrees. i say scary because if you live in a small apartment with poor ventilation, that temperature can quickly turn into bad news bears and make a once confident home cook feel all sorts of nervous.IMG_2258

it’s only 15 minutes, i kept reassuring myself.  how bad could things get?

with 2 minutes to go the smoke detector got its cue and began to sing with great dedication.  evan lept up in attempts to silence it as i scampered around flinging open all the windows and sliding glass doors.  apparently, we learned, the smoke detector was hard-wired and could not be forced to shut up by removing the battery.  so he remained up high, holding on the silence button.  i opened the oven and smoke began to pour out of my poor le creuset.  i ran, with oven-mitts and bare feet, carrying over 4 pounds of smoking meat, around the dinner table, weaving between the christmas tree and flowers.  i ran to the balcony and set it down on the stone floor, still sizzling and hissing at me.  we let the apartment air out for a bit.  i was feeling a bit defeated.

and then, it was time to eat.  because i sure as hell wasn’t going to not eat something i had invested the past day and a half on.  amazingly, it was almost completely salvageable.  aside from some parts that were indeed burnt beyond edible reason, the rest of it played out like a dream.  from the ashes rose a delicious meal.  meat fell off the bone with the slightest of force.  paired with the ssam sauce, ginger scallion sauce, and some rice, i felt okay again.IMG_2260

i would totally do this again, minus the last step, well, at least until i have a sweet kitchen.  it’s a little time consuming but makes you feel very accomplished.  and it’s obviously delicious.

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kitchen projects

you thought i abandoned this thing again, didn’t you?  or maybe, after my last post about all the terrible thanksgiving travel tales that have happened to me in years past, you figured luck ran out and i finally perished on my adventure.  and you know, 6 hours in a car, both ways, can certainly make you feel like you are in some kind of purgatory, being punished for all your evildoing.  i am especially fidgety when i know i can’t move about freely for as long as i wish.  long trips in the car or on a plane are just awful.  i tire quickly of any activity i had planned on keeping me busy, and want to jump out the window an hour into the journey.  thankfully, i stayed inside the moving vehicle and we survived.

and now?  thanksgiving was already so long ago.  i had wanted to tell you and show you pictures all about my creations but now it just feels delayed and sad.  they were so good!  instead of the usual pumpkin pie, i made a pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting!  and honey cornbread muffins!  and fresh cranberry sauce!

and that was the kickoff to the holiday season.  last week i made some delicious boozy eggnog.  this week is going to be rather busy.  today, i’ve got a pork shoulder a la david chang’s bo ssam, in the oven.  then, friday i’m helping my mother make our traditional southern italian fried pastry bows dipped in honey and struffoli.  on sunday i am attending a cookie swap, so have a few dozen cookies to prepare.  and last, i wanted to squeeze in a trial run of a salted caramel recipe i may use as homemade gifts.

it smells of porky goodness all throughout the apartment.  it’s about 3 hours into a 6 hour cook time.  can’t wait for dinner.

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turkey lurkey

travel has always been a huge part of holidays, and thanksgiving has always seemed to garner the most for me.  i have stayed local, crossed the country, or just state lines, but there’s always a story to tell.  and now, submitted for your approval of the midnight society, and in accordance with the season, some thanksgiving tales.

sometimes they were mentally painful, like freshman year of college and my first experience of the chinatown bus on the sunday after a holiday weekend.  which, by the way, is a chaotic mode of transport on a normal day.  so, traveling on the sunday after thanksgiving?  long lines, screaming babies, and a 4 hour-turned 6 hour bus ride, was a guaranteed test of every fiber in my being.  i’m pretty sure the fung wah took a little bit of my soul that day.

or it can be physically painful like the following year, when, getting a ride from my cousin, i missed a step in their garage and rolled my ankle, resulting in a lovely swollen foot upon my return to the dorm.

but it’s not all disaster all the time.  i used amtrak a few times, which was more expensive, but rather lovely and stress free.

or there was no travel.  when living in los angeles, those of us who weren’t flying home would have what i called ‘orphan thanksgiving’ because we weren’t with our families.  i know, it sounds awful and i’m a terrible person.  it was in actuality a potluck.  then we would watch ‘home alone’ and eat pie.  it was awesome getting to spend a holiday in such a different way, and i miss it, and the company, dearly.

another fond memory is of earlier years when my parents and i were in the car.  we would drive down to south jersey to visit relatives and, while undoubtedly we were stuck in traffic on the turnpike, surrounded by refineries and ports, there was a beacon of hope.  around noon on the local classic rock station, every year they would (and still do) play arlo guthrie’s “alice’s restaurant”.   it’s not quite an adam sandler kind of song, but, for 20 minutes, it makes the traffic not seem so bad.

 

what are your thanksgiving memories?

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