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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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Tomato Jam, or, How I Became a Hypocrite & Hopped On The Food Trend Train

1 Jun

There are a few things I can’t stand:

French pedicures.
Small dogs that shake all the time.
Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” (in which he literally says “I know” TWENTY SIX TIMES IN A ROW. OH. MY. GOD.)
Incorrect apostrophe usage.
And of course, food trends.

There are more, obviously, because I am a Human Who Loves to Grumble, but I’ll stop there because that’s what we’re on about. I’ve previously mentioned how irritating I find food trends, though I can’t figure out how to link it back so I’ll sum it up for you here: I don’t like food trends because I probably already know what I feel like eating, and it’s not a cake pop, so please drop it already. Popular food trends just irritate me, probably because I’m somewhat lazy, fairly uppity, and pretty self-righteous, but maybe a liiiiiittle part of me is justified? Right? Because food trends make otherwise food-ambivilent people feel all gourmand-y just because they tried ramen and liked it! Well duh, it’s delicious! Start caring about food a little more, you indolent masses! Christ!

But now I will crawl off my soapbox because this post is all about how I’m a big ol’ hypocrite.

 

The other day at work we were a little slow, so I went across the street to the fruit and vegetable market, bought 2 pounds of roma tomatoes and set out to make the insanely popular tomato jam I’ve been reading about on every blog, cooking magazine headline, and trendy menu for awhile now. It’s been floating around for years, but I recently noticed it EVERYWHERE. I kind of wanted to hate it. But I didn’t. It was amazing. I was wrong! I’m sorry, universe! I followed Mark Bittman’s recipe because he is always right (I found his recipe on The Wednesday Chef), so much so that I’m fairly sure he’s related to the Dalai Lama. Here’s his recipe, from the NY Times:

1 1/2 pounds good ripe Roma tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste.

 

1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.

2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.

Yield: About 1 pint.

I first ran a special with the jam, bacon, a mixed greens on sourdough, which people seemed to really like. I couldn’t get enough of it at work so I came home and did the whole damn thing over again for myself. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s a great flavor combo that brings a hint of sweetness to savory dishes– it’s so versatile!

I was a sucker for the little bit of spice from the ginger and chili flakes. It goes with everything- I had it with eggs and toast for breakfast, with herbed goat cheese and salami on baguettes for a potluck, and on grilled chicken for dinner. Not all in a row, because that would be overkill, but still.

A little goes a long way with this stuff, too, so I still have leftovers (which included dinner for 6 and that potluck, so I was using lots). If I were into canning, this would be a good candidate, but since I am not at all motivated to go down that road, I’d suggest just halving the recipe if you’re concerned that you can’t use it up before it goes. So I guess I’ve got to officially stop knocking food trends… ’cause it looks like this mainstream food fad is actually pretty legit. But I swear to god, if cakepops don’t disappear from Pinterest soon I’m writing a letter to Al Gore to inform him that the internet is ruining food.

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!

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