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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.


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