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Ode to Lacey, O’ Queen of My Foodie Heart

19 May

Recently my beautiful friend Lacey invited my friends Scott, Mary, and myself to her idyllic lake house where she lives over for dinner. All I knew is that she said the key words needed to invoke my interest: barbecue, mojitos, and “private dock.” I’m in, duh.

She went bananas with the food, as she is wont to do since she is, especially when it comes to cooking, an ambitious tornado. Lacey has taught me the most about cooking, and when we worked together I learned new things every day. Even at a casual dinner, she teaches without pretension, which I adore. Here she casually murders a crab while some dreamy, cute music plays in the background. That is the essence of why I adore Lacey: she can disembowel a living sea creature while, you know, just hanging out. What a dreamboat.

 

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There were artichokes.

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And because she is ambitious and too generous, there were oysters. And crab. And new york steaks. Strawberry balsamic salad with feta, asparagus, angel food cake, and mojitos loaded with mint. Just like in that tragic scene from Dirty Dancing, I brought a watermelon. I was Baby. Clueless! Luckily there were no swarthy, gyrating Patrick Swayzes around to make me feel idiotic.

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As usual, she was gracious and welcoming. I recently picked up a hostessing handbook from the 50s at a rummage sale and ate up all the antiquated traditions listed in its pages. Not only did we break all those rules (no fingering the asparagus, elbows were all over the table, and certainly I was guilty of speaking with my mouth full), but it was positively perfect that way. If I were to write a book on hostessing, it would be a single sentence. It would read, “Just do whatever Lacey does.”

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The steaks rose like relics! Look at them! They were a work of art. And when it came to oysters she showed me a thing or two.

And then we slurped them down like an underwater circus act, rolled up our sleeves and ate the grilled piles of luxury like it was no big deal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when I grow up I wanna be Lacey.

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Single food

13 Mar

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WAH WAHHHHH…. wrinkly chicken in a plastic pan! So hopeless looking.

I’d always avoided the rotisserie chickens at the grocery store because they had that weird hot-plasticy smell emanating from the hot case and their lids were always beaded in condensation which is kind of off-putting. I mean, typically I don’t want my food to sweat. Sweating isn’t delicious. But because of my recent poverty and adjustment to single life, I’ve turned to the unassuming rotisserie chicken somewhat regularly to feed myself. Granted, those wet-looking chickens festering in the red lights of the hot table reek of desperation, but there’s something to be said for them.

A) They’re cheaper than a whole raw chicken, and I don’t even have to set off the smoke alarms in my house while tampering with my lowly rental-house oven. That oven is fickle and in dire need of cleaning, and roasting a chicken is often an unpleasant affair in my home.

B) You can do pretty much anything with them.

The key with these chickens is to pick the meat immediately. If you wait until there’s a half eaten carcass in your fridge, all bone and tendons sticking out like your bedhead, you’re never going to want to finish the job, let alone eat the thing. Nothing is quite as unappealing as a cold, half-desecrated chicken with the skin all congealed and hanging onto the meat like a needy, weird boyfriend. I particularly like the job of picking the meat, since you get to get sticky and reward yourself with the tender oysters that pop out perfectly from the top of the spine. Those little morsels are the best part of a chicken, hands down. It’s also pretty satisfying to tear dead animals apart, especially if you’re about to eat them and especially ESPECIALLY if you’re feeling all weird from some funky man-problem you’re dealing with. Nothing says I AM A BEACON OF POWER like a carnage-pile on your countertop and a neat container of all the good meat-bits in a tupperware beside it. It just screams, “I was conquered by someone who knows what they’re doing!”

Or maybe I’m reading into it a little too much, I don’t know. I like to personify my food. I guess I’m lonely!? Or hungry. A little bit of both…? WHATEVER.

Anyhow, I made this soup with it and it was legit. And now I have SO MUCH CHICKEN in my fridge to make into any number of things for the next several days, so I’m frugal and healthy and efficient and a superstar of successfully keeping myself alive via food even though sometimes it totally feels like the odds are against me on that one. NO BIG DEAL! It’s the small victories, guys.

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Here, make some soup! Squelch your sadness with me!

-Two heads of baby bok choy, chopped
-Handful of shredded rotisserie chicken
-Chicken stock
-Ramen noodles
-Dash of fish sauce
-Some dashes of soy sauce
-Chili-garlic sriracha
-Regular sriracha, because one kind of hot sauce is never enough
-Cilantro

Simmer the stock! Add the noodles! Add the other stuff when the noodles are done! Now eat it! Congratulations, you just kept your blood sugar from dropping to dangerously low levels for another four hours… YOU’RE AN OUTSTANDING HUMAN SPECTACLE.

New Things

20 May

This week has been so gloriously sunny that despite myself and my numerous lists I’ve resorted to pretty much passing out in the sunshine whenever I have a free moment. And then I feel bad for accomplishing nothing, so in order to make up for it I do something totally unrelated to anything I initially intended on doing solely for the sake of novelty. For instance, instead of working on an article, demolishing the massive laundry pile, etc, I chose to make sushi the other day. It was C’s idea, and I’d never made it before. While he was at work I made the sushi rice, dutifully cooling it with a fan and wooden paddle, sprinkling it with rice vinegar, and generally feeling like a badass. We prepped everything up: avocado, matchsticks of carrot (my ultimate nemesis), cucumber, smoked salmon, and shrimp. I ended up being the sushi roller, which is awesome, because it is clearly the funnest part of making sushi. And we ended up with these!

 

 

We ate them on the lawn in the gorgeous weather with plenty of pickled ginger and wasabi and soy sauce, along with some edamame on the side.

Grilled Pineapple Will Win You Friends

30 Apr

Here’s the deal: last Sunday at 3:30 in the afternoon I was yelling across the house to C, UUUUGH I WANT GRILLED PINEAPPLE SO BAD. And then, like magic, 45 minutes later we were owners of a brand new grill. It’s nothing fancy- a charcoal grill that cost $70 that came in a plethora of parts, but after an hour of assembly (and a couple un-assemblies… whoops) we were setting up a marinade and prepping our fruits and veggies for the grill. I realize that millions of people in this world own grills, especially in the U.S., but regardless it felt like something of a milestone for us as Capable Human Adults. We assembled a functional, utilitarian item without insulting each other! We can now be outside and cook at the same time! The world is my oyster!

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And since I was all hung up on pineapple, I figured I’d share with you the proper way to prep a pineapple for easy snacking and/or kebob-ing, depending on the size of chunk you decide you want. If you don’t already know how to do this… well, you need all the help you can get. But don’t worry! This is easy, and conquering an intimidating, spiny fruit will make you feel powerful. Powerful like a Capable Human Adult! Prepare for glory!

Step one: chop the ends off!

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Step two: shave off the reptilian layer! But don’t take too much off- cut off thin slices one at a time.

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Step three: Quarter the pineapple, then cut the hard inner rind off of each quarter.

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Step four: chop it up! For snacking, slice up the pineapple slabs into thin slices. For kebabs, take each quarter and slice again lengthwise, then cut into large chunks that can slide onto skewers.

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Step five: serve with grilled chicken, some mango-cilantro salsa, and prepare for plenty of ass-kissing to roll your way. Everybody on the planet loves grilled pineapple. Or at least, everyone on the planet that I’ve met. And they will say nice things to you and you’ll probably feel pretty good about that, like I did. So happy grilling!

Salmon mashed into cake shapes!

15 Apr

For months I’ve glimpsed the two golden cans of wild Alaskan salmon every time I opened my cabinets. And every time I’d think, oh yeah, salmon! I should make salmon cakes! But it took an inexplicable urge to actually MAKE dinner (and not just fajitas, or tacos, or any of the other commonly prepared Mexi-foods of our household) instead of eating out. So here you have it, my tried & true Sally-style salmon cakes recipe.

You need:

  • One tall can of salmon. Not the regular can size, and not the family size that soup comes in… you know. A tallish can. I’d say like, 20 ounces. Is that a thing?
  • About a quarter of a red or orange pepper, finely diced
  • About a quarter of a normal sized yellow onion, finely diced
  • Two eggs
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of mustard. I used honey-dijon, which was great. Don’t use regular yellow, that’d be weird.
  • Some of my buttermilk-lime and chili aioli, which I’ll tell you about it one hot minute.
First and foremost, preheat your oven to 425 F.
Nextly, saute up the pepper and onion with some olive oil and/or butter. While that’s softening up, empty your can of salmon into a bowl and pick out any skin or bones. I found like, a human spine, some finger-lookin’ bones, and a ton of weird black skin stuff. Don’t be alarmed, just be thorough and triple check that you got all the freaky bones out. Nothing says “scarred for life from fish products” like biting into a giant bone. Not like I know, TACO DEL MAR. Not like I SPENT A LOT OF TIME GETTING OVER THAT FISH TACO or anything. When the peppers and onions are softened, add them to the (perfectly edible) salmon, along with everything else, except the aioli, obviously. Mash all that up for a few minutes!
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or oil the sheet, whatever) and form the mixture into 8 cakes. They’ll be about 2.5 inches across and 3/4 inches thick. Bake them for about 15 minutes, or until they’re heated through and slightly browned on the bottom.
While they’re baking, make this aioli! If you already have buttermilk, use that, but if not, do this:
Take about 1 cup of milk and squeeze the juice from 3/4 of a lemon into it. Just cut the lemon in fourths and squeeze the juice into your hand so you catch the seeds and don’t dirty a juicer for a measly couple teaspoons of acidity. Leave that milk for 5 minutes to let it curdle and thicken. Now take a lime, and zest the whole damn thing! Chop all that zest up a bit and put it into your new buttermilk mixture. Throw in a couple tablespoons of sour cream or plain yogurt, salt and fresh ground pepper, and about 2.5 teaspoons of chili-garlic sauce. If you don’t already have a jar of this at your house, go buy it right now. It goes with absolutely everything.
Stir all that aioli up, drizzle heartily over those cakes, and serve with a little salad with sesame dressing and some of mom’s recipe cornbread, and you’re set. For the cornbread recipe, click here! It’s totally worth it if you have ten extra minutes to throw it all together, but if you’re really hungover or have another good excuse, just use two boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix. It’s super cheap, weirdly sweet, and pretty great all things considered.

Cioppino Quickie Christmas Phone Blog!

25 Dec

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Behold! Its Christmas and I’m venturing into the world of mobile blogging… gross. I never thought I’d type those words exclusively with my thumbs. C and I are working on cioppino for dinner,  and DAMN it is good to make such a luxurious dish on someone else’s dime and in a far superior kitchen! Can’t wait to share photos of the results with you. Until then, HAPPY CHRISTMASTIME!!

Stews and tattoos

1 Feb

My brother gave me a CrockPot for Christmas and I am infatuated with it. For once those canned-stuff sales and eerie, tough, stew meats at the supermarket have a purpose for me! Though whenever possible I like to buy fresh veggies and free-range, organic whatever, grass-fed happy meats, I am for all intents and purposes, a penny-pinching young person. So those crappy cuts of beef and 15 for $10 canned vegetables are pretty awesome when you’re broke and have a slow cooker to play with. Yesterday, after an awesome breakfast by C (whole wheat pancakes, Italian pork sausage, eggs, and pineapple… with previously posted sage and mint tea) I busted out the slow cooker to get dinner cooking while we were out enjoying the sunshine. Here’s a recipe! Whoa! It’s been ages! I am making this up as I type since I don’t remember the exacts! But dudes, this shit is eeeeeeasy. This recipe is inspired by my mom’s stew she used to make me growing up.

Starving Artist Stew (Contrary to what it’s name implies, this is MEAT-HEAVY. Because I’m a carnivorous artist. And you should be too. Well, on second thought, this would easily be made veggie-friendly if you just leave out the steak and substitute veggie broth. )


A package of the mysterious “stew meat” from your grocery meat section… I don’t remember how much weight it was. Just go with the amount of painfully tender meat you can imagine yourself eating in 6 hours from now and use that much.
1 can peas
1 can green beans
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can corn kernels
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cups or so chicken, beef, or veggie broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp crushed rosemary
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

Alright, nuggets! Pretty much all you do here is what you’d immediately assume based on this recipe. It’s made for morons. Or smartish monkeys. Brown up the stew meat in a cast iron or other heavy pan with a bit of veggie oil. I was going to sautee the carrots and onions in the meat juice but then I was like, “naaaaaaaah, I wanna do as little as possible, please!” If you’re following the so-easy-it’s-stupid way, do what I did! Turn your slow cooker to high and throw in the browned meat and accompanying juice. Then throw in everything else! All at once! If the cooker is piled high with too many ingredients and not enough watery stuff, just add more stock. Or water. I don’t care.

Now here’s the fun part: go do something else all day! I started this at 9:00 in the morning, went on a beach adventure for a couple hours, puttered around aimlessly for awhile, and then it was ready around 3. Well, it might have been ready earlier, but I didn’t check it. I turned it down to low around 2 (after 5 hours) but wanted to let it stew for longer since that is the glory of stews. I had my friend Orion over to my house to work on my veggie-skull sleeve and didn’t try the stew until I was 2 hours in and in need of a little break.

He worked on the reds and oranges (finally!) and after admiring the awesomeness for a few minutes I dove into that stew and took a much-deserved whiskey shot. The whiskey shot was… well… low budget. But the stew! It was lovely! The beef was flakey and tender, the veggies stock-saturated and melt-in-your-mouthey, and the seasonings were pretty much spot on, though I added more pepper since I’m a pepper freak. And just now I had some leftovers for dinner… because stew just gets better every time you microwave it! I don’t know why. But it’s science.


Why, baby Jesus, why?

5 Oct

I’m still very much in the clutches of this devil-cold, but last night I was dead set on fulfilling my promise to Riley of a Greek dinner. I haven’t made much Greek food before, but figured it couldn’t be that hard, and it wasn’t! I decided on spanakopita and lamb meatballs with tzatziki sauce since I was in the mood to fool around with phyllo dough and meatballs are a cinch and I LOVE THOSE DELICIOUS LITTLE MEAT JEWELS. Tragically this is going to be another photoless blog since even though I bought a new memory card, it decided to just not work. Right out of the package. As in, $25 was dropped on this useless piece of plastic and I plugged it into the computer and my computer was all, “I DON’T SEE ANY MEMORY CARD!” And then I looked it up and everyone’s all, THIS CARD READER IS SHIT AND DON’T BOTHER ASKING FOR A SOLUTION BECAUSE THERE ISN’T ONE. Oh, good. That’s really what I felt like reading when I came home from work today, pushed the hair plastered to my forehead into a heinous pile on top of my head, and thought the one thing that might bring me an ounce on enjoyment today is finally being able to upload my photos. But what’s that? No photo uploads for me? Well that’s just fine, I’ll just recount the horrors of the line today in my head instead! OH, GOOD.

Anyway, WOW, this is what happens when I write a blog before I’ve gotten a chance to complain to whoever will pretend to listen about my day. Which, now that I think about it, might be a good idea- maybe my friends will like me better.

So! Spanakopita was super easy and basically consisted of a sauteed garlic and onion, chopped spinach, feta, dill, salt, and egg mixture layered with a bunch of phyllo dough. The only problem was that I was so congested that I couldn’t taste anything. Like, at all. The texture, however, was outstanding. Flaky, buttery, and for all I know, it tasted like a filthy kitchen rag. Who knows? Riley and C seemed to like it. The meatballs were (I think!?) good, and as usual, so easy that a trained ferret could make it if it had opposable thumbs. Here’s a recipe! I made it up! The ratios are guesstimated so don’t look at me all wonky if it’s not exactly what you thought it would be! But I promise, it’ll turn out, meatballs always do.

Greek Lamb Meatballz

makes about 20? 25? meatballerz. Obviously I didn’t count. I just ate.

1 lb ground lamb
2 eggs
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 cup finely chopped sauteed yellow onions
3 Tbs chopped parsley
1/3 cup crumbled feta
2 tsp dill
salt and pepper to taste

Basically all you have to do here is throw all those ingredients in a bowl, plunge your (clean) hands into the mess, then pretend you’re massaging a rich guy’s scalp and pretty soon you’ll have a lovely, meaty mixture. Then oil a pan and shape little balls (ha. I said balls.) and drop them on the pan. The meatballs should be about an inch in diameter. I put them in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes, giving them a solid shake halfway through so they browned up. But the temperature and timing is variable, just as long as they’re browned on the outside and cooked through (just cut one open, those meat thermometers are more trouble than they’re worth). I served it with tzatziki sauce for dipping, here’s THAT recipe! It’s super easy! It’s probably not authentic because I kind of made this up, too! But it got solid results from my test audience, so THERE YOU GO.

Tzatziki saus

makes more than you need. I have no idea what to do with my leftover sauce. I probably have a cup left.

2 cups Greek yogurt
1/2 peeled and finely grated cucumber
(I realize you’re supposed to use more but I was lazy and had drunk several glasses of wine…the odds of cutting myself on that grater were not in my favor so I quit while I was ahead)
2 cloves pressed garlic
1 Tb red wine vinegar
1 tsp dill
pinch of salt

Yep… just mix all this together and you get something like tzatziki sauce. I think it was good. I told you, I couldn’t taste it. You’ll just have to trust me.

Maker’s Mark Catfish

12 Sep

I spent my Saturday painting my downstairs neighbor’s place to make a bit of extra money because, apparently, I have nothing better to do on my day off (which, incidentally, was probably the last nice weather day we’ll have until June. OH THE NORTHWEST!). It turns out that painting ceilings with a hand roller and a stepladder really does hell to your neck. After three hours the muscles in my neck were struck into state of fear-based paralysis, with every turn of my head threatening to send my whole body into a mess of complaints. So as I lay panting on my couch, carefully holding a food magazine parallel to my face so as not to aggravate my already useless muscles, C comes in with a bag of goodies to cheer me up. I guess since I made him like, ONE GOOD MEAL (read: pork chops) he now “owes me,” and bought something fun at the co-op: catfish! Catfish! Catfish!

This picture kind of blows since we ate at 8 o’clock and my indoor/incandescent/night time/food photography could use some work. But trust me, this meal was killer. I offered to help but, as I usually do, ended up leaning on the counter recounting stories about  nonsense and fiddling with the pile of produce that C was dutifully processing. He made a spicy rub for the catfish out of salt and pepper, chipotle, basil, oregano, paprika, and a hint of cinnamon. With some veggie oil he fried them up in the cast iron while the parsley-lemon rice simmered and the zucchini sautéed with a pile of quickly burning garlic. Surprisingly, the burny-ness  of the garlic worked well with the dish, a hint of bitter but not overtly so, softened with the mellow taste of the garlic that was sautéed to perfection. DELICIOUS. When the catfish was nearly done, he deglazed the pan with Maker’s Mark whiskey (a present from me to the both of us, a reward to myself for a fat paycheck and a raise at work) and made a sauce for the catfish: shallots, tomato, parsley, and (of course) heavy cream. Heavy cream, you are truly a gift of the universe! C knows my weakness for cream and wine and cooks accordingly.

Now the weather is surely turning for the worst, and autumn looms ominously… we’ve had days of downpour and wet asphalt, the wool sweaters have escaped my winter trunk, and I’m craving the foods I’ve missed for the past few months (but what a short few months of summer they’ve been!)… bring on the meat and potatoes, casseroles, stews, and roasts. I’m ready! I’ve got a new spatula and a knife sharpener! I’ve got a man who relishes food as much as I do and nothing to do! Tonight, pastitsio!

Za Za Za Za

18 Aug

I left you last with the pizza dough rising on my countertop. Well, hell, can you guess what I made?!

This here’s a margherita pizza with just basil, olive oil, tomato, and mozzerella. Perfect. Simple. KILLER.

And this puppy’s got Hempler’s pork sausage (No nitrates = possibly less chances of cancer! But probably not because everyone is doomed already!!!), artichoke hearts, basil, crimini mushrooms, tomato sauce, and mozzerella. Plus some red pepper flakes because I like things spicy sometimes. I love making pizza because the dough is dirt cheap to make and a cinch, and you can throw on pretty much any toppings you have lying around your house.

Easy Pizza Dough based off of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

3 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
about 1.5 cups water
1 tsp. rapid-rise yeast
2 Tbs olive oil

Combine the flour, yeast, olive oil, salt, and a cup of the water in a large bowl. Mix it all up and get it so that it’s no longer a stretchy, sticky, gluey mess. I’ve never been able to figure out how to do this with a spoon, so after I stir up the initial watery dough I tend to ditch the utensils and mash it together with my hands for a few minutes. If it’s just not coming together, add some water a little at a time until all the ingredients have pretty well blended and it’s looking like a fairly cohesive chunk of dough. Take it out and knead it for 5-7 minutes, until it’s a good solid ball and it’s not too sticky anymore (a little stickiness is good, though). Grease up the inside of a fresh bowl with some olive oil and let the dough rise in there. Cover the top of the bowl with a damp towel and set the bowl some place warm to speed up the process. Theoretically the dough should rise into a big, puffy ball, but let’s be honest, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING SO THAT’S NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO MY DOUGH.

Regardless, after an hour or two I punch down the dough and pretend it was a necessary step (who knows!?) and then let it rise for another 20 minutes or so. Then I rip the ball in half and form two small pizzas on cookie sheets coated in olive oil. Top them with whatever weird crap you’ve left festering in your fridge that you want to salvage, or, if you’re feelin’ rich, try going grocery shopping like a respectable adult.  My oven runs hot and unevenly, so I cook my pizzas at 400 for 15 minutes or less, rotating once in an attempt to coax my oven into cooperation. Typically you’d cook them at a higher temperature and for less time, but whatever works for you. Just make sure to check the bottom of the pizza once or twice while cooking to make sure they’re not burnt to hell. Then you feed them to the hungry man on your porch and listen to music and drink wine and sweat out your ears in the summer weather and swear off any and all cooking that involves ovens and/or stovetops until winter arrives.

Except that’s impossible and totally unrealistic, so whatever. I’ll inevitably continue my run as a rapid kitchen monkey regardless of the season. THE END.

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