Tuesday, July 31, 2007


A few different blogs have posted about Mr. Lee, the cat photographer, whose owner equipped him with a tiny collar camera to find out what he gets up to all day. I had to link up to it as well, because the results are fascinating, and - at times - quite beautiful. I especially love the very first picture of Mr. Lee's chin and whiskers, but his encounters with other neighborhood cats and even a snake, are so interesting through his eyes. Opaw is a strictly indoor cat, so unfortunately a catcam would probably be a waste on her. You'd get a whole lot of shots of the dust bunnies under the bed or couch, or find out exactly what article of clothing she napped on that day (which I generally already know because it is still warm and furry when I get home). I do wish we had had one of these way back when Charlie was alive, though. He was a true feline adventurer, traversing the neighborhood via the sewers and socializing with dozens of other cats. He used to accompany us up to the bus stop on the corner, hopping down into the sewer near home, then popping up out of the sewer when we got there. He was an awesome cat.

Continue Reading "catcam"

bulk up those arm muscles

Make some risotto!

Last night I worked on my tank top arms by making Asparagus Risotto. Risotto is one of those dishes that I've made dozens of times, but I am still not entirely sure that I've gotten the technique just right. It seems that in some restaurants, risotto is thick and doesn't run at all, standing up and holding it's shape in the middle of the plate, like the picture above. But I've also had it runnier. I don't actually know which is more authentic. Mine pretty much always comes out thick.

This risotto recipe is another classic from Marcella Hazan. What I love about risotto is that there are seemingly endless possibilities. You take a basic white risotto and you can add anything to it, in this case the only addition is asparagus, blanched and chopped. You throw that into the butter/oil with the onions at the beginning and the rest is exactly the same as any classic risotto. Keep adding stock a bit at a time and stir stir stir until you go from this:

To this:

The flavor, despite having only one additional ingredient, is vastly different from a plain risotto because asparagus has such depth of flavor. It also helps to use the water that you blanched the asparagus in as part of the stock for the risotto.

Continue Reading "bulk up those arm muscles"

Monday, July 30, 2007

sunday supper: the steak is on sale

Fresh Direct had a special on NY Strip steak, and lord knows I can't resist a cheap steak. My childhood was full of overdone strip steaks at the local Ponderosa, and I even liked those, given enough A1 to mask the rubbery flavor. I simply salted, peppered and pan-fried these steaks for a couple of minutes on each side and although they ended up a little more done than the medium rare I generally prefer, they were flavorful enough to forgo the steak sauce. I did top them with a dollop of some tarragon herb butter which I haphazardly threw together when I realized that I had some leftover fresh tarragon from something I made last week. I totally don't remember what.

The accompaniment to the steak was a salad of baby red potatoes, string beans, and red onion. I blanched the vegetables until tender, sliced the onion really fine, and tossed it all with red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Since I also had some extra chopped parsley and tarragon from the herb butter, I threw that in as well. This salad does require a lot of flavoring, so be prepared to lay on the vinegar. It's even better cold, once the red onions have had some time to really marinate. Simplicity.

There was supposed to be a desert of raspberry souffle, but J-Cat came home with a bag of donuts from the Donut Pub and I was happy to just stuff those instead.

Continue Reading "sunday supper: the steak is on sale"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

my ambition is fading

There is something wrong with this world when after almost 2 whole months of earnest apartment hunting, I am on the verge of giving up and signing another lease at my current place. You know it's futile when you start seeing ads for $2300 "luxury" 1 bdrms across from the Marcy Projects. I did not make this up. I am not exagerrating. Check it out. I lost count on how many blatant real estate lies are flying around that ad. First of all, if the building is on the corner of Myrtle and Nostrand, there is no way you can try to claim that this is in Clinton Hill or even the Bed-Stuy/Clinton Hill border. Newsflash, generally if you're already past Bedford Ave., you're in Bed-Stuy. And I think when you get almost 10 blocks past the border, you're no longer "on the border". I'm not trying to knock Bed-Stuy, I actually think it's insulting to people who live in Bed-Stuy that realtors insist on calling their neighborhood Clinton Hill to make it sound attractive. Second of all, I hardly think that 20 blocks is close to the A or C train. I'll give them credit for not claiming to be "steps" from Ft. Greene Park. That would be a shitload of steps. I guess I'm looking at my sixth year in glorious East Williamsburg.

Continue Reading "my ambition is fading"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

welcome to the cute

I shall translate for you non-cat speakers.

"Hello, I am so cute, you want to touch my floofy belly. But it's just a ploy for you to pay attention to me, as I will immediately get up when you come to pet me and insist that you play with me. Paws up!"

"T-minus .385 seconds to attack."

Continue Reading "welcome to the cute"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

lazier than it looks...or not

This dinner literally took about 10 minutes from start to finish, if you don't count the amount of time it takes for the rice to cook or the water to boil. I don't count that time because I don't have to be anywhere near the kitchen for it. The berkshire pork medallions took 4 minutes to coat with spices, and less than 6 to panfry. The green beans blanched for less than 5 minutes in the same pot of water that the corn did. It only took 60 seconds to toss the beans with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. It was a no recipe, no effort dinner. I feel like I've reached new levels of laziness.

This is further evidenced by my new lazypants. These are Thai fishermen pants:

It does not get any more comfortable than this, but when I wear them I feel like I have reached new levels of slacker. They are so loose that you can barely call them pants. The superlow crotch borders dangerously on MC Hammer territory. I feel like I'm only inches away from a muumuu. Alright, I admit it, I often wear a little babydoll dress around the house that's pretty much a short muumuu. I don't know if there's any going back...

Continue Reading "lazier than it looks...or not"

sunday supper: return of pasta week

I'm back! I know I promised pics of all the delicious foods we were cooking and consuming over our family vacation, but...I didn't take any pictures. I'm lame, I know, but I couldn't remember where I stashed my camera until the last day when I was packing stuff up and found it underneath the giant bag of yarn I brought to work on my ripple afghan. Which I barely worked on. Oh well. We did eat and cook really well every evening, and everyone had their great contributions. Gene and I only made fresh pasta once, but it was fantastic. We had vastly different results when we each made separate batches of dough, yet when we cut and cooked it all together we couldn't tell the difference. Good pasta is good pasta I guess.

Speaking of good pasta, now I'm back and I've fallen right into the pasta trap. Sunday night's first course was an incredible pasta sauce from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Spaghetti with a Smothered Onion Sauce. This sauce is simply awesome. You would never believe how flavorful something that consists only of onions could be. This is going down as one of my very favorites.

Onions that start out looking like this:

Eventually turn into this:

Then seem to disappear when tossed with the pasta:

You may not be able to see it, but you can definitely taste it. I won't post the specific recipe since this is copyrighted in the book, but if you don't already own that book and love to cook, get thee to a bookstore immediately. It is a must-own and perhaps one of the best cookbooks ever written.

Continue Reading "sunday supper: return of pasta week"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ten minutes and a can opener

Who needs 30 minutes? Last night I got home too late to do any real cooking, and since J-Cat was going to be working into the wee hours I didn't want to bother with take-out or delivery. So I opened the cupboard and cobbled together a meal that I have no name for. Chickpea Stew? Garbanzo Bean Surprise? All I know is that the hardest thing about this meal was opening three cans, and it really wasn't half bad. J-Cat ate it cold when he got home and he seemed to really like it, but he could have just been starving.

I don't know if I can offer much in the way of a recipe, nor do I know if I necessarily want to. It was just 2 cans of chickpeas, 1 can of chopped tomatoes, a couple of minced garlic cloves, and a bunch of spices. I think I put in cumin, coriander, oregano, turmeric, dried red pepper flakes, salt, pepper. But honestly I was really doing that grab the spice bottle and toss some in thing and any number of other things might have gone in there. In the end, I'm not sure I'd choose to make this again over my infinitely more successful Chickpea, Fennel and Chicken Stew (I'll post that recipe some day), but it literally only took 10 minutes to open some cans, toss them in a saucepan and simmer until warm. The rice took longer than that. If you think about it, it's really not so bad for a lazy dinner, and it's actually a really healthy and hearty one.

Continue Reading "ten minutes and a can opener"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

remy's ratatouille

With a fancy name. You can make the Thomas Keller-designed movie version of the classic French peasant dish. Find the recipe here.

Continue Reading "remy's ratatouille"

in the soup

Not eating soup. Just walking around in it on these 90+ degree days in NYC. Needless to say, there is not much cooking going on when it's this hot out. It is also infinitely more difficult to apartment hunt. Our now annual family vacation is coming up next week, so I'm sure much cooking will be happening then. Gene and I have been discussing plans for what cookbooks will be brought, what knives will be brought (seriously), and what kinds of things we will deep fry once we're in a giant kitchen in a giant house by a lake in buggy Vermont. Rest assured that my camera will be coming along, and that internet access is supposedly available. So hopefully things will be much more entertaining around here next week.

For now, I won't bore you with my apartment anxiety, or my leaving Opaw for a week anxiety, or my bathing suit anxiety, or my mosquito anxiety. I need a vacation.

Continue Reading "in the soup"

Friday, July 06, 2007

toss in some sauces

Thursday dinners usually don't get the luxury of a lot of planning. It's nearing the end of the week, and I'm just tired. This week was especially annoying because of the holiday falling right in the middle. You'd think I'd be less tired after a day off, but I spent most of Thursday annoyed that I was back at work after only one day and that took energy. So last night's dinner was one of those dinners where I stood in front of the open refrigerator for a while and stared. What I ended up with was a pretty decent concoction. I had a big hunk of hanger steak, which I cut into strips, then marinated in an improvised sauce for about an hour. The sauce was made up of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and hoisin sauce. I have no idea how much I put in of any of those. I just threw them on the beef and set it aside to marinate, not really having any idea of what it would taste like, because in my brilliance I didn't mix the marinade up and taste it before throwing it on the meat. I literally just threw the sauces directly onto the meat and then tossed it, then realized that I can't taste it because it's all over the raw meat. When I was ready to eat, I simply threw the meat into a large saute pan for about five minutes, then after removing it I tossed in a sliced onion. The onion picked up the sauce that had stuck to the pan and turned out to be the best part of the dish. I served the steak on top of white rice, with a side of blanched sugar snaps peas tossed in sesame oil, salt, pepper, and some sesame seeds for texture. Voila! Easiest, most random dinner ever.

Continue Reading "toss in some sauces"

Thursday, July 05, 2007

memories: that berkeley slumlord

The rental applications for some brokers ask for contact information for at least two previous landlords. Being as how I never move, I have only lived in three apartments total over the last twelve years. That means that two landlords ago, I was still in Berkeley. I realized that I not only can't really remember what I paid for that crapshack on Dwight Way all those years ago, but I had no idea what my landlord's contact info was. Well, at least I remembered the name of the company, and being as how they were literally the largest real estate holders in Berkeley, there is plenty of info on them all over the internet. Especially this awesome article about how my landlord was arrested for importing underage sex slaves from India. One 17-year-old slave allegedly died from carbon monoxide poisoning in one of his apartments. Yeah, that sounds about right. My apartment was pretty big, and rent stabilized, but it was definitely pretty shitty, too. For the first year or so that I lived there, my next door neighbors were some "relatives" of the landlord. Their apartment was a mirror image of mine, a 1-bedroom, only they fit anywhere from 8-12 people in the apartment at any given time. They were really nice to me, but they were pretty loud, too. Thankfully, they were eventually moved to another one of his death trap buildings and my awesome neighbor David moved in.

Anyway, that notorious slumlord plead guilty to a variety of charges, but apparently they didn't take away his property and he is still worth well over $50 million. After reading some of this stuff, I realized that I never once actually saw the guy. I also never saw a super, never managed to get them to fix anything, and had to kick down my front door to get in on two occasions. Ah, those were the days.

Continue Reading "memories: that berkeley slumlord"

Monday, July 02, 2007

in season: peaches


You can't beat a fresh fruit pie, and peach is one of my favorites. Strangely enough, I've never made one from scratch. It's probably because peeling and pitting peaches seemed like quite a chore to me. Well, I was right. It's kind of a pain in the ass, but it's definitely well worth it.

Like the strawberry-rhubarb pie from a few weeks ago, I used quick-cooking tapioca as the thickener for the filling. Apparently I didn't use enough, because my pie ended up pretty soupy. It was awesome, if a bit messy. Basically, I recommend baking your pie on a sheetpan to prevent messing up the bottom of your oven when the juices overflow...

Isn't that a lovely shot of my decorative border? Let's just say that it didn't look that pretty all the way around. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from The Joy Of Cooking. [I adjusted the recipe to make a deep-dish, 9-inch pie.]

3 lbs fresh peaches, peeled and pitted, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3/4 cup sugar (adjust depending on the sweetness of your peaches)
4 tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1 recipe pie crust for a 2-crust deep dish pie
3 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 425ยบ. Combine sliced peaches, sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl and set aside for 15-20 minutes while you make the pie crust. Line a 9-inch deep dish pie plate with the bottom crust. Fill with the peach mixture. Dot the top of the filling with butter pieces. Cover with the top crust, crimp the edges, and cut vent holes in the top. Brush the top crust with milk or cream, then sprinkle sugar, if desired. Bake on the middle oven rack for 55 to 65 minutes until juices are bubbling and the top crust is evenly browned. Cool well on a wire rack before serving. Goes great with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Continue Reading "in season: peaches"

sunday supper: a little big of spring in the summer

We've finally gotten some truly beautiful weather this weekend, weather that didn't really show up when it was supposed to. So even though it's now technically summer (and it felt like it a few days ago), I'm doing a little spring celebration. On the menu last night, Pasta Primavera.

I don't know if there is one truly classic version of Pasta Primavera, but I always figured that the key is just to use whatever vegetables are in season and are the freshest at the time. I ended up with a mixture of broccoli, fresh peas, carrots, and yellow squash. It was beautifully colorful, so don't ask me why my photo above is so green. I guess I shot the wrong side of the plate...

Here is a better look at the collection of vegetables:

I didn't really use any one particular recipe, but I did consult The Joy of Cooking for some technique advice. Their recipe said to blanch some of the veggies - like asparagus and broccoli - but not others - like carrots or peas. Hmmm. I thought that was weird; carrots and fresh peas need more coooking time than asparagus or broccoli, so why wouldn't you blanch them, too? So I just blanched them all, and then I learned why. Recipe and stupid discoveries about vegetables after the jump:


1 lb fettucine or pasta of your choice
2 cups broccoli florets
3 small yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1/2 pound fresh peas, shelled
3 small carrots, cut into 1/3-inch rounds
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 cup heavy cream
10-12 basil leaves, chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
freshly grated parmiggiano-reggiano, to taste

Boil 4 quarts of water in a large pot. In a large saute pan, ,melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions to the butter and oil, saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. When the water comes to a boil, drop in all of the vegetables, blanch for 1 minute. The vegetables do not need to blanch longer, as they will cook further in the sauce. Remove the vegetables from the boiling water with a strainer and transfer them to the saute pan. [Here's where I was reminded that carrots don't float the way that other vegetables do, and thus they and the peas are a royal bitch to fish out of a pot of water with a strainer. I think sauteing the carrots with the onions might solve part of that problem, but I still don't think you can get away with not blanching the peas, they are just too firm. In the interest of not making too many dishes, I used the vegetable blanching water to also cook the pasta, you could certainly use a separate pot and drain the vegetables into a colander, thus removing the annoyance of fishing them all out with a strainer.]

Bring the vegetable water back up to a boil and add the pasta. Meanwhile, saute the vegetables and season with salt, pepper, and oregano. About 5 minutes before the pasta will be done, add the heavy cream and simmer lightly over a low heat to reduce a little. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the vegetables, add the basil, parsley and cheese, and toss to coat well. Serve with more grated cheese.

Continue Reading "sunday supper: a little big of spring in the summer"