Eating in Transition

I know you all know this but...I'm moving!  This Friday!  To Manhattan

Adam and I have moved a lot in our lives: California, Virginia, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Jersey, Queens...  While our last move from Jersey to NYC was a bit rocky, we've been kicking butt on this one.    

Most of our kitchen is packed up but, dammit, I'm still determined to cook at home this week.  Tonight was crostini with fresh ricotta, herbs, and sauteed grape tomatoes:

 I kept out the cast-iron grill - it's a must, really - and then drizzled the bread with olive oil (normally, I would brush the olive oil on but the brush is packed up!).  I grilled the bread over med-high heat until toasted and lightly charred and set aside.  I poured about two tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet (nonstick or stainless is fine) and put over med-high heat.  Throw in a half-pint of grape tomatoes and toss occasionally until charred (careful: they spit).  Meanwhile, I chopped up fresh thyme and chives.  I also mixed up a vinaigrette (2 servings): 1/2 tbsp whole-grain mustard, 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  We also had some salami hanging out in the fridge and so I sliced that up as well.  Once the tomatoes were finished, I added salt and pepper to taste.  It was simple and easy, and it had the vague promise of summer, thanks to the tomatoes.

Not bad when you consider that this is what my cupboard looks like right now:

And seriously, if my cupboard can look like this and I can still eat like this...

...then why can't you?

Eat, drink, and make the most of it.

NOTE: So I had a great conversation with my friend, Kathryn, this weekend and we talked a bit about making meals for our kids.  This one?  Well, Bug wasn't about to eat tomatoes or salad.  So her version was the grilled bread with ricotta (and if she had known that her bread had olive oil on it, she wouldn't have touched it...so...shhhhh!) then some salami slices on the side.  Then I gave her a big bunch of grapes, which she eats like candy.  So she still had the same thing as we did - because I try to avoid making her a "kid dinner" when possible - but just a slightly different version of it.  And that is how we get by as parents...


The Promise of Spring

The move to Manhattan is ON!  We'll be moving in a week - just one week! - but I'll do my  best to keep stopping by here.

Never for even a millisecond have I doubted this move - I'm so ready for the next adventure and new experiences.  That is...until I saw this this morning:

I planted garlic chives in the spring of 2009 and, as a complete surprise to me, they came back on their own last spring.  And here they are again.  And I have to leave them behind.

My friends in Queens, I know I'll see them again.  But my own herbs?  I'm not sure when I'll see those again.  I'm going to miss them...a lot.

Eat, drink, and transplant them?



My dear friend Jenn got me a signed copy of THE BUCOLIC PLAGUE: HOW TWO MANHATTANITES BECAME GENTLEMEN FARMERS by Josh Kilmer-Purcell - she is a librarian at a school in Manhattan that, awesomely, brings in adult book authors to speak to their staff in the name of professional development.

Did you read ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE by Barbara Kingsolver?  Well, this is a grittier, yet slightly more fabulous, and gayer version of that book - all in a good way.  Like lots of people, I read THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA and thought how great it would be to leave my city life behind and live off the land. Hell, I still harbor fantasies of leaving New York and moving to a farm to make my own cheese and preserve my own vegetable harvest.  Luckily, there are books that remind me of the realities of such a plan:

1. ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE reminds me that it is really hard, back-breaking work to grow all your own food.
2. A PIG IN PROVENCE by Georgeanne Brennan reminds me that, by raising goats (or any living thing, for that matter), you face death and sickness regularly (there's a goat-birthing scene in that one I'll never, ever be able to get out of my head. Ever.).
3. THE BUCOLIC PLAGUE reminds me that buying a farm and working it could, quite possibly, put my marriage in jeopardy.

Kilmer-Purcell and his partner are successful Manhattanites who buy a farm in upstate New York on a whim and, basically, become weekend farmers.  It's exhausting and amazing to read about how they juggle their demanding corporate jobs in New York City, a fledgling entrepreneurial business, and the nitty-gritty responsibilities of running a farm on the weekends.  As you can imagine, it does begin to crack their 10-year relationship and the unraveling is sad and real.

What I appreciated about this book was the honesty and authenticity of Kilmer-Purcell's voice; at no point did I feel like he sugar-coated anything.  I felt like I got a real glimpse of his life: funny, heartbreaking, ironic, difficult, and serendipitous.  I mean, aren't all our lives like that?

One of my favorite scenes takes place in Martha Stewart's vegetable garden and Kilmer-Purcell says this:

The problem with perfection, I realized, is that it leaves others with nothing to do but search for flaws.  In the Beekman garden, which had been sorely neglected lately, guests can wander and admire the plants and occasionally pull a weed or two.  It made them feel useful, helpful, a part of a bigger picture.  If the portrait was already completely painted, then there would be nothing left to do other than pick it apart.

Yes.  As someone who struggles with perfection issues, I found this endearing and poignant.  And it reminded me I should relax and let my dinner guests help me in the kitchen every once in awhile...

The food writing is superb, of course, and the birthday salad scene starting on page 220 is worth the price of admission alone.  Trust me.

This book is for those of you looking for a new perspective on the farming experience.  And think you might want to chuck it all and become a farmer?  You might want to read up first.  It can be beautiful, peaceful, and rewarding...but it ain't a walk in the park either.

Eat, drink, and be an armchair farmer.


Beer for Breakfast

As mentioned, we're in the middle of a move...which means that, basically, I'm semi-permanently in Grump Mode.  Love the excitement, love the adventure, love the promise of a move.  But hate the grunt work, the physical labor, and disorganization of it all.  I realize how silly it is for me to be so grumpy so I try to keep my head above water by playing lots of fun music, drinking an extra glass of wine or two, and trying unexpected recipes (where permitted since, you know, I've packed half my kitchen).

In the midst of weeding through my magazine recipes and articles, I found this one from Saveur, "Breakfast Times Two*."  It's a short blurby article about Munich, specifically, and their traditional zweites Frühstück, or second breakfast.  After a light breakfast, there is the late morning second breakfast, which usually consists of sausage, a soft pretzel, sweet mustard, and a beer.  A beer!  At 11:00 a.m.!  I knew this would be a brilliant way to alleviate my bad attitude.  I mean, how fun and out of the ordinary!

Adam and I started with some yogurt, granola, and coffee around 9:00.  And here was our 11:00 a.m. zweites Frühstück :

Now, I didn't have the traditional pretzel - I am so embarrassed to admit that I used those generic Super Pretzels - but, nevertheless, it was awesome.  The knackwurst we had with it was sweet, the pretzels were salty, the mustard was a tad spicy...and the beer washed it all down to perfection.

Like the photo in Saveur, we drank Schneider Weisse - first, we split a bottle of  the original Schneider Weisse, which was so light as to be almost "American lager"-esque.  Our second beer was the Weihenstephaner, which was a wheat beer with a little more heft and spice.  I liked it a bit more than the Schneider Weisse, but it was purely a personal taste issue - they were very different beers.  If you can't find either of these, you can just stick with anything German and/or wheat - you'll most likely get the spice you'll need for this.

Talking about spice and sausage aside, this is just what the doctor ordered.  We got out of our routine, Adam and I gushed about how delicious and fun it all was, and Bug got to be all shocked about us having beer at 11:00 a.m.  Lots of of laughter all around.  And you can bet that I matched the music: there's a German band that came on my radar a couple years ago, Wir sind Helden**.  They played in the background.  Overall, the whole meal was a triumph and started off my weekend just right.

Eat, drink, and Deutsch werden.

* Apologies for lack of a link to the article - it's not available on Saveur's website.  For the record, the short article was in issue #114, "The Breakfast Issue."
** Never heard of Wir sind Helden?  You don't need to understand German, I assure you, to get addicted to their sound.  Check out the concert footage here and here.  Try to resist the pop sound and the adorable lead singer!


Playlist: Coming Home

Moving to Manhattan in three weeks...Bug having bullying issues at school...all my weather-related depression (thanks, Kristin, for understanding the S.A.D.!)...it's been a challenging couple of weeks.

But I've been hanging in there.  Adam sent me tulips at work, promising me that spring would come soon.  The Soul Twin really is moving to NYC - I actually believe it for reals now.  And I have amazing food and wine almost every day.  So, through it all, I'm feeling rather blessed and lucky lately.

With that in mind, I would love to share my latest playlist with you: Coming Home.  Yes, that's what I named it and, yes, I came up with that name BEFORE I saw that craptastic GP movie, Country Strong*.  And, yes, I'm corny enough to listen to it on my subway ride home from work.  But, more importantly, I play it while I'm making dinner and while I'm cleaning it up.  Here is a sample of a few of the songs on the playlist:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Eat, drink, and rush home at the end of the day.

* Seriously, you have to see it ASAP.  It has the #1 qualification for a craptastic cult movie: you can make a drinking game out of it.


Recipe Review: Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup

I have folders where I keep all the recipes I tear from magazines (organized by category):

Lately I've been trying to go through them and make the dishes that have been sitting too long.  Tonight, it was Rachael Ray's Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup, which I have had in my folder since...wait for it...2007!  It was time to either make it or get rid of it.  So here's how mine turned out:

The verdict?  I probably won't make it again.  The roasted garlic combined with the roasted squash and the caramelized onion just made for a soup that was waaaay too cloying for my taste - it was really sweet, guys.  It would have been a total wash had it not been for the tartness of the yogurt to balance out the sweet.  If you make this, the yogurt is a necessity. 

I did make some changes to the recipe.  First, before serving, while the soup was on the heat, I added a tablespoon of heavy cream.  I wanted to loosen it up and smooth it out a bit.  I also had some leftover pancetta breadcrumbs from this ah-mazing recipe a couple nights ago and added that as well.

It was also a weird choice for Super Bowl dinner - I'm not quite sure what I was thinking - but it was fine.  

Ugh. Can't you sense my ambivalence about this one?  A lot of effort but not enough ROI (the marketer in me...Return on Investment).  As stated earlier, I won't make this again - there are just too many stellar, mind-blowing recipes out there to settle for blah.

Eat, drink, and weed the collection (that's librarian talk for de-cluttering...)


Flashback: June 2010

I'm losing it.  Seriously losing it.  For anyone living in a bubble, the Northeast has been hit exceptionally hard with storms so far in the New Year - I had no idea when I moved here four years ago that it could turn into Buffalo, New York, Jr.  It's pretty bad.  Both the weather and my Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So I was going through my past photos, just reminiscing and printing some of them.  And I found photos from this wonderful family dinner we had last year in June:


I sprinkled some of my sister-in-law's "Magic Dust"* on the fish (I think I used sole) and pan-grilled them on the stove.  I finished it with cabbage, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.  Then I poured a little Lillet on ice:

Bug helped:

We ate on the balcony and finished it with a little dancing out there:

Eat, drink, and look forward to sunny days again.

* How awesome is my sister-in-law?  She makes me rubs as gifts!  "Magic Dust" has the following (per the label she included): paprika, kosher salt, sugar, mustard powder, chili powder, cumin, black pepper, granulated garlic, cayenne