Monday, December 31, 2012

The Things You'll Miss

It hasn't been all bad, these two years since I last posted.  DP and I got married, so now I have to figure out how to refer to her here.  I could go with DW,, actually I can't.  I hate it.  Oh, maybe TW for the wife.  I'll go there.  For now.  Anyhow, that was a wonderful, magical time, and it came together in a matter of months thanks to family, friends and strangers that pitched in to make it happen.  Including and especially my mom, who in the months leading up to the wedding hand made 80 champagne glasses and sock monkeys for people to take home as favors.  It was a beautiful, personal touch.  Incidentally, I would highly recommend the planing-your-wedding-in-2.5-months approach.  Takes a lot of the stress away when you don't have time to obsess over small details.  

Since we got married (and talked about having kids), we've been getting a lot of 'do this now' advice.  Travel now, read all the books you want to read now, go out to bars and get drunk now, and most recently, enjoy your time in the bathroom, alone, now.  I've been thinking about this advice today, partially because it's New Year's eve, and partially because we will (hopefully) be expanding our family of three (us and our cat) sooner rather than later.  Sadly, I have no money for travel.  I'll have to settle for pinterest browsing/living vicariously through my traveling friends.  Books, I have been reading.  I got a kindle for my birthday and I have been making the most of it (plus the progress bar at the bottom makes it feel like a competition, and I am nothing if not a competitive person).  Going out to bars and getting drunk, no comment.  And spending time in the bathroom...I feel like that's one of those things that I'll wish I had done when I can't anymore, but I probably am not going to savor it now.

So, the things that I'll miss.  Lazy mornings drinking coffee and watching TV.  Spontaneous museum trips.  Making long and complicated recipes.  Date nights.  Taking advantage of NYC.  Since I only do one of those things with any regularity (the first, obviously, although since school ended date nights have entered the rotation with more regularity), I decided to take this weekend, the last in 2012, to focus on the others.  I went to the Museum of Natural History and the beautiful Ann Hamilton exhibit at the armory yesterday.  I entered the drawing to win opera tickets for this weekend (potential date night).  And this morning, I made myself the kind of breakfast I always tell myself I should make.  The breakfast the girl I think/wish I am/was makes on a regular basis.  You know, the girl who is happy with a slice of bread and some cheese alongside a simple salad for lunch.  Who sits down for proper meals, instead of snacking on the go.  Who eats plain yogurt with a little bit of fruit for a snack, instead of chips and hummus.  Or who doesn't snack at all.  Basically I want to be a French woman.  Goals for the new year...

I made a simple roasted tomato sauce (from scratch!  for breakfast!), baked an egg in it, topped it with romano cheese and ate it.  A breakfast that took me a little over an hour to make.  That's something I'll miss, even if I've only done it once.  Actually, it was perfect for this little experiment, because while it took a long time, very little of it was hands on, and it turned out delicious.  In the winter, roasting plum tomatoes brings out their sweetness, which added a little bit of summer to the meal.  To make it even more perfect, I ate it lazily, drinking coffee, and watching a Buffy marathon on Netflix.  Here's to 2013, to saying goodbye to some of these things, and just maybe to discovering other things I love more.

(I couldn't find my camera, but in the interest of keeping this blog going I wanted to post, so I used my phone.  Unfortunately the second photo doesn't totally capture the deliciousness of this dish...)

Eggs Baked in Roasted Tomato Sauce
Lightly adapted from Food and Wine

2 lbs plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 glugs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp dried oregano
4-8 large eggs
Pecorino Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 400* F.  Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil, toss the tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil together, season with salt and pepper.  Make sure all of your tomatoes end up cut side up.  Bake for 15 minutes, then flip over and bake 20 more minutes.  Cool slightly, then transfer to a blender.  Add oregano and blend.  Can make ahead (see note).

Set oven proof dish (how ever many servings you are making--I just used one) on said baking sheet lined with new foil.  Pour 1/4 of the sauce into dish, add 1-2 eggs (I used one) and top with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes, until whites are set.  Serve with toast, coffee, and preferably several episodes of your favorite show, enjoyed with your sleeping cat curled up next to you. 

Note: If you make the sauce ahead, or have leftovers and are making it from the refrigerator, heat the sauce up before proceeding with the egg/oven step.  Otherwise your egg will cook unevenly, it'll take too long, and the yolk will most likely cook (speaking from experience, clearly).  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let Me Entertain You

It's been a while.  Last time I wrote, I had just moved into this apartment, and my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer.  A lot's happened since then, some of it good, some of it decidedly bad.  The haze of the past couple of years culminated in my mom passing away in April.  For a while, I stopped cooking.  I even quit the coop (aka the hippie store).  We ate lots of Trader Joe's frozen food, risotto (turns out the only takeout food worth eating in this neighborhood is risotto), and Fresh Direct.  We went back to our old neighborhood for Thai.

Since then it's been a slow journey back to myself.  A little heavy for a cooking blog, but what the hell.  It's been two years and it's my damn blog.  For a while after my mom passed away, one of my coworkers, who happened to lose her sister a week or two after my mom, would randomly turn to me at work and ask 'do you still miss your mom sometimes?'  So yeah, all day, every day, with every fiber of my being.  Indulge me in a little reminiscing.  

My mom was hysterically funny, and really had a handle on her particular brand of humor.  She would send me cards with whatever money she had in her pocket (one time $2.37) and instructions to buy myself a cup of tea, or as I got older a beer, with the money.  She would have one sided conversations with herself in said cards.  'How are you?  I am fine.  Your father and I are watching TV.  I don't have anything else to say.'  She would answer my calls when shopping, and then promptly announce that she couldn't multitask and hang up.  She loved to tell the story about seeing a horse with a large erection while we were driving cross country.  Suddenly full of understanding, she turned to me and started excitedly squealing 'hung like a horse! hung like a horse!' over and over again.  Spending time on Cape Cod, she would always get into the ocean first, and we would act out the old cartoon Cecil and Beanie.  She'd call, "Help, Cecil, help!" in a high voice, to which I would respond 'I'm coming Beanie,' and join her in the water, just past our heads, where we would tread water and talk about how many calories we were burning (usually 5,000/minute).  She would get so excited about gift giving.  She'd buy something, and then want to give it to the recipient immediately.  Instead of doing that, though, she'd run through some version of 'no matter how hard you try you are not going to get it out of me...don't even try...ok, I got you a puzzle.  I can't believe you made me tell you!' 

Yeah, I still miss her.  She was a great entertainer.  She loved to cook a huge spread and have people over--the more the merrier.  For her 50th birthday, we wanted to cater a party, or take her out to a restaurant, or rent out a hall.  She refused, and would only let us heat up food that she had pre-made for her guests.  One of my regrets is never learning her style of cooking.  My sister is better at it--I am a strict recipe follower, but my mom could throw together seemingly random ingredients and make it taste good.  Her version of writing down a recipe was 'croutons, sausage, celery, cream of chicken soup.'  Full stop.  My goal, in that and many things, is to be more like her.

(My parents on their anniversary trip to St. John.  We were pretending to be paparazzi.)

One of the new recipes I tried this summer is perfect for entertaining.  I saw it on a couple of different blogs, and then researched different versions of it.  It is ideal for a lazy summer dinner party.  It comes together quickly, and can be made while your guests nibble on starters.  I like to dunk my bites in a pile of extra Old Bay.  I made it for friends visiting from out of town, and again for family when I went to Cape Cod for the annual Carnival parade in Provincetown.  I wish I could have made it for my mom-she would have liked it (and probably would have uttered many effusive 'mmm's and 'this is the best meal of my life' type statements.  I'm not bragging, she just really enjoyed each meal and lived life like it would just keep getting better).

Low Country Boil
adapted from multiple sources, including
serves a lot

4 ears corn, halved
1.5-2 lbs shrimp (deveined but not peeled--my fish market did it for me)
1-1.5 lbs smoked sausage (such as kielbasa)
6 red potatoes, quartered
1-2 lbs quahogs (optional, in this version my father had gone clamming, so we had quahogs to spare)
Old Bay
4 lemons, halved

1. Fill a large pot with water, add lemons and old bay to taste (I just dumped it in until the water tasted spicy), bring to a boil.  

2. Add potatoes and kielbasa, cook 20 minutes.

3. Add corn and quahogs, cook 10 minutes.

4. Add shrimp, cook 3-5 minutes, until pink. 

Drain and serve with extra old bay and a nice, crusty bread.