I am currently avoiding doing laundry because I am lazy, the basement is cold, and I hate putting clothes away when they’re done being laundered. I not only have to wash my own clothes, but I also need to do bed sheets, towels, and throw blankets… the amount of laundry I should be doing right now is overwhelming. Oh well… I’ll have all week to do laundry since I will be completely and utterly alone the entire week. Or, I can just be a dirt bag who keeps re-wearing the same clothes over and over without washing them. Nothing new there…
Since my boyfriend will be in Italy and not driving or moving the car at all this week, I will be responsible for re-parking on the necessary days. I had my “second” lesson on learning how to drive stick shift today (the first time was on the Porsche and the tire blew out…not a good first time). I don’t know how well I’m going to be able to handle parking the car, but I am going to try my best…. I’ll only have to move it a couple of times and only a few blocks max to find parking. It shouldn’t be too hard, but it IS HARD for me. Not everyone can be good at everything, you know? Teaching me to drive stick is like taking the average man and trying to teach him ballet in one day, or taking a person who lives on take-out and barely knows how to boil an egg, and asking them to make homemade pasta and sauce from scratch. We all have our strengths and weakness, and given my poor peripheral vision and lack of basic gross motor skills, driving with three pedals and parallel parking on the streets of Brooklyn certainly are NOT my strengths.
Anyhow, onto the topic of food! I know I said I’m trying not to eat meat this year, but since most of the people in my life do eat meat, I still occasionally cook with it (** and will make an exception for steak tartare). I usually only cook meat once every two weeks or so – the rest of time I’m making pasta or seafood dishes. When I do cook with meat, I splurge to make sure it is the best quality possible – in today’s world of global warming and factory farming, I feel it’s important to do our part where ever we can. For me, this means buying meat, eggs and poultry that I know was raised humanely on small-scale farming operations and is free of hormones and antibiotics.
I’ve had a bottle of amarone in the apartment for the last month and have been saving it for a special occasion, and/or to accompany a nice steak. If you know me and my affinity for good red wine, especially amarone, you’ll understand how hard it has been for me to keep my hands off that bottle for the last 5 weeks :p
I decided to make a nice steak, not only to accompany the bottle of amarone (yes, I choose food to accompany the wine instead of the other way around), but also to celebrate. My boyfriend was off Friday night, and since he normally works, that was celebration enough. We decided to toast 2019 and send off 2018 with a big “F*CK YOU.” 2018 was not the best year and ended on a rather down note… but here we are, a fresh new year.
Dessert was a panettone bread pudding since we have had not one, but two panettone cakes sitting in the apartment since before Christmas. Neither me nor my boyfriend, nor anyone else I have ever met actually, seems to like panettone. I’m not really keen on the orange flavor many of them have or the abundance of liquor soaked raisins. However, I made it into a rather delightful pudding with chocolate chips and served it up hot with vanilla ice cream. It was pretty damn delicious as a pudding, but required 8 eggs and like 4 cups of milk/cream!!!!
UPDATE AS OF 01/14/2019:
I was unable to master driving stick shift in one day this weekend, and therefore am unable to park the car, which now has a ticket 🙂 I stalled in the MIDDLE of an intersection MULTIPLE times before I started crying and freaked out and had to switch seats with my boyfriend. I need a lot more practice…..
Now that I am home alone for the next 7 days, I will also probably be living on a diet of soups, salads, and random grains…. that’s what I usually eat when I have no one to cook for. Case in point, my sorry dinner tonight, that I consumed while sitting in a bubble bath, because I’m classy like that:
Have you ever been so tired, not just physically tired, but emotionally and mentally exhausted – so depleted of any and all patience you once had and any fucks you once gave, that you consider smashing your alarm/phone when it goes off every morning and never going into work ever again, despite the consequences? Are you so tired at the end of every work day and work week that even social engagements that should be fun seem like one more box to check off on your to-do list? You can’t even enjoy sleeping past 9am on a Saturday morning, because as you lie in bed knowing that even though you could easily sleep another 3 hours, you think about all the errands and cleaning you need to get done that you didn’t have time for on the week days? If this sounds like you…. welcome to the club, friend.
I never realized how exhausting daily life is until maybe around two years ago, when I actually started caring about the things I didn’t when I was 25… things like moisturizing my aging skin, washing off my makeup after being out late, making sure I have essentials like coffee, paper towels and toilet paper stocked before they run out and I wake up to no coffee and no TP, following up with friends, keeping a semi-full fridge so I can make real food instead of living on rice and frozen peas, and keeping mostly spotless floors and counter tops. Shit is exhausting on top of working full time to pay rent and bills! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have no idea how my mom worked full time, cooked most nights of the week, and juggled three kids and their respective schedules. I just juggle myself, a boyfriend and one very demanding cat, and it’s all I can do not to collapse on the couch as soon as I am home from work every day.
I’ve been thinking about the term “burnout” a lot today, after reading a pretty good article about it’s effect on my generation. I’m lucky I have a good full-time job and am not juggling multiple gigs, or even worse, unemployed and dealing with the stress of finding work. I am also lucky that I don’t have to worry about taking care of kids on top of everything else at this point in my life (although kids are a conscious CHOICE), so I shouldn’t complain, but goddamn I need a vacation or a life style change.
I think a change of city, state, or preferably country is in order. I think a simpler life, a life with less stress, could be achieved if I didn’t live in such a hard city to get by in. NYC is brutally exhausting. Time moves so fast and doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. I know that is true of anywhere, especially as one grows older and begins to feel time tick by in a way it doesn’t when you’re still an adolescent. However, I feel like there are places where people force themselves to slow down and appreciate the simple pleasures of life and the beauty of life and people who surround them – dinners with family and friends, grocery shopping and meal preparation on a Sunday afternoon; nature and all of its offerings, a work culture with ACTUAL FUCKING VACATIONS AND HOLIDAYS (Cough**ALL OF EUROPE! **Cough!), a work culture where you and your spouse will have substantial and PAID time off of work following the addition of a new child to the family. This…. THIS is the kind of life I want. I’m tired of living in a country where basic human needs aren’t met unless you score a decent job. Shouldn’t everyone be entitled to healthcare, good education, and paid maternity/paternity leave? I’m also so tired of the fucking rat race that is NYC. Why do I continue to live here? What reward do I get each day for making myself submit to the horrors of the MTA and hourly commute to and from the office? A paycheck that just about covers rent and bills? Is that a reward? I’m not rich…. and I certainly never will be if I continue living here and doing what I am doing for a living now throwing so much money to the wind each month for an apartment I will never own. Honestly, the only good things about living here at this point, are being close to my family, being in a hub of creative, liberal, and open-minded people, the endless amount of things to do, good places to eat, and places to party … oh, and the fact that every decent band or musical artist ALWAYS plays NYC….
I digress. Back to the food! Cooking is the one thing that a lot of people consider just another chore or something they need to do if they want to eat at the end of the day. I want to live in a place where it’s a way of life – slowly prepared and slowly eaten meals, enjoyed in the company of those you love with copious amounts of wine, and laughter. I want to be a part of a culture where food isn’t processed, cooked and eaten on the fly. Fuck Chipotle, and fucked your Chop’t salads. I want a finely aged balsamic vinegar, I want cured fish, and homemade pasta that it took someone all day to prepare.
I spent my Sunday actually relaxing. For me, this meant not leaving the apartment until 5pm to go to the grocery store. I decided to make another rich soup/stew, and because I wanted to cook a time-consuming dish, one that would allow me the pleasure of standing over the stove stirring a pot for 2 hours while simultaneously chopping produce and sipping wine, I decided to make bouillabaisse, which if you are unfamiliar, is a french seafood/fish stew.
*** NOTE: This is a pretty expensive dish to make – so I would suggest making for a hot date or a special occasion or cooking for someone you really love and/or someone you want to impress! Feel free to improvise with the fresh seafood – clams can be substituted for the mussels, fresh lobster if you’re feeling extra decadent and rich and willing to cook and clean it separately, or even calamari!***
4 cups (32 Oz.) Seafood Stock
A few threads of saffron (** hard to find and really pricey – this shit is like $20 for a few threads…)
1 fillet (about 1 pound) of cod or haddock
1/2 lb. of raw shrimp
1 bag of fresh mussels (clean and scrub outer shells)
1/2 lb. scallops
1 cup white wine (dry, not sweet)
1 small can tomato paste
1-2 cups water
1 large can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano is preferable)
1 small carton of grape or cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
2 bay leaves (dried are fine)
2 bulbs of fennel with the stalks attached (you’ll need the feathery leaves) (chop fennel into ribbons – set aside green feathery herb bits)
1 sack of small yellow or red potatoes, chopped in halves (the small round ones, or fingerlings)
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 of a white onion, finely chopped
1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
french baguette or a good loaf of french-style peasant bread, sliced, drizzled with olive oil and lightly toasted in over (bake for like 6 minutes at 400 degrees to golden brown)
Figure it out yourself.
JK!…. I’m so funny sometimes :p
Heat oil in large soup pot, add in onions and sautee over low heat until translucent and yellow.
Add in garlic AND bay leaves, and continue cooking over low heat for another couple of minutes… DO NOT BURN GARLIC!
Add in fennel and celery, continue cooking over low heat for another 7 minutes or so.
Add in chopped cherry/grape tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
Pour entire box of seafood stock into pot; add in entire can of tomato paste, and entire can of crushed tomatoes; add water as you see fit… probably around 1 cup or so.
Bring to a boil and then reduced heat.
***OPTIONAL*** (but also preferable): Blend about 3/4 contents of the pot in a blender and return to pot…. this will create a thicker, heartier stew as opposed to a lighter broth. If you are making bouillabaisse in true French style; you would actually blend everything in the pot, and then pass all liquid back through a strainer so as to ONLY have broth and then throw out any remaining pulp/chopped veggies.
Once you have attained the thickness/consistency you prefer for liquid portion of the soup by blending or not blending, straining or not straining, add in the potatoes and bring to boil.
Add in a few threads (a generous pinch) of saffron, along with cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, salt and pepper… this is the part of cooking where you use half your spoons to keep tasting your soup :p
Continue cooking at a low boil until potatoes are soft (use the fork to test).
Add in 1 cup of white wine and reduce heat to low-medium.
Add in the mussels and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add in the shrimp and scallops, cook another 3 minutes.
Add in the fish and cook another 4 minutes.
DO NOT OVERCOOK once the seafood has gone in, so as to avoid tough or rubbery seafood.
Serve hot with toasted bread and garnish of chopped fennel herb!!!
Another year has come and gone, and we are back to the boring, dismal, no-holiday-having month that is January. I don’t mind winter – I honestly love winter, as long as there is snow and not the dreary, depressing rain that is falling today. Today’s nasty rain is especially devastating, since most of the pretty Christmas lights have been taken down and everyone has kicked their poor tree to the curb. If snow was falling, I don’t think the city would feel so drab right now. NYC currently feels like a hole I can’t escape from – but we’ll leave that topic for another day.
I always get sad when both Christmas and NYE are over…. people return to their foul, sour-faced, pretentious city-dweller dispositions instead of the fake, cheerful ones they assume during the holidays – smiling and wishing everyone well with a smile on their face. Now it’s back to avoiding eye contact and looking miserable with a sour face on the subway. If I ruled the world, every day would be Christmas! I kid, I kid…
Now that the holidays are officially over, it is time to start planning something to look forward to again and working towards my New Year’s goals (hence me sitting here working on this blog). I am trying to invest more time into writing again, whether it’s about food, short-stories, or just general, self-centered thoughts. The older I have become, the harder it is to find enough time in the day for all the things I not only have to do, but want to do. Work, and commuting to and from work, takes up such a large portion of each day, week, month, and year, that I now truly understand why it is important to love the work you do…. If I can’t make a full time living doing what I want to do at this point in my life, I can at least devote as much time as possible to work towards those goals.
Between work, general household upkeep, maintaining my cat, maintaining relationships, cooking/cleaning, errands, and self-care, it sometimes seems like one more chore to make myself sit in front of my computer at night and write. Although, once I do sit down and start writing, it is never a chore; quite the opposite. Writing is like cooking is for me – pleasurable, relaxing, and often times hard to put a cap on it once I start.
Since we are in the throes of winter (despite the lack of snow thanks to global warming), my next few blogs will focus on comfort food and soups. Honestly though, I’m not sure who I’m trying to kid… pretty much everything I cook seems to constitute as comfort food, given that it’s usually laden with cheese, wine soaked, or carb heavy. Comfort food and comfort soup is the way to go when the weather is cold.
I had never made borscht before, but I had a craving for beets (I’ve always love beets and I always will…) and also for a thick, pureed soup, so it was only natural that borscht was on the menu! Since one of my other New Year’s goals is to completely cut out meat from my diet, I made a vegetarian borscht using vegetable stock in place of beef stock, and obviously did not put any beef in the soup.
4 fresh, large beets (or 5-6 smaller ones) (**beets should be cleaned, skinned/peeled, and cubed)
2 medium-sized carrots (chopped)
1/2 of a large white onion (finely chopped)
4 cloves of garlic (finely minced)
2 stalks of celery
1 large potato (Idaho or russet)
1 cup thinly chopped cabbage
2 bay leaves (dried are fine)
3 tablespoons of olive oil and/or butter
4 cups (one 32 oz. carton) of vegetable stock
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 TBS white vinegar
1 tsp celery salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream*to garnish
fresh dill *to garnish
YOU WILL NEED A BLENDER OR IMMERSION BLENDER!!!!
Prep the veggies – the beets should be washed, peeled (using a regular carrot/apple peeler), and cut into cube size chunks; carrots should be chopped, onion finely chopped, garlic finely minced, potato chopped into cubes, celery chopped, and cabbage thinly sliced and set aside (this will go in to cook when everything else has been blended)
In a large pot, heat olive oil and/or butter (I prefer a combination of the two for added richness) over low heat, add in the onions stirring occasionally and cooking over low-heat until translucent and yellow.
Add in the garlic and bay leaves and continue to cook over low heat for another minute or two. DO NOT BURN GARLIC.
Add in all of the other veggies, APART FROM THE CABBAGE (beets, carrots, celery, and potato), and then add in entire container of stock.
Increase heat to medium temperature so that the contents of the pot comes to a low boil. Continue to cook over medium heat for about 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check to see that vegetables are thoroughly cooked (soft) by poking with a fork. I suggest testing the beets and potatoes this way, since they will be the last to finish cooking.
REMOVE THE BAY LEAVES BEFORE BLENDING!
Using an immersion blender or a ladle to move soup into an actual blender, blend around 3/4 of the contents of the pot of soup. This creates a rich, thick puree, but also leaves some chunks of veggies for texture and aesthetic.
Continue to keep soup over medium heat once fully blended, add in the cabbage, smoked paprika, celery salt, pinch of cayenne, and regular salt/black pepper to suit your tastes (**the smoked paprika gives it a richer, smokier flavor and complements the earthiness of the beets!)
Once the cabbage is cooked through, add in the vinegar and stir
Serve hot, with a generous dollop of sour cream in the middle of the bowl (it takes it to another level that is orgasmic to the taste buds), and some fresh dill.
I also served some potato and cheese pierogies on the side to make it a heartier meal!!!! Very Eastern European…. but hey – when you’re just a boring, fourth-generation American, you’re allowed to pick and choose which 25% of your ethnic background you occasionally want to play up… on this day we went with the polski :p
There are so many other soup recipes I plan to share in the upcoming weeks; everything from my mom’s seafood chowder, to a thick-ass split pea soup, to a Tuscan bread soup called Ribollita. I just fucking love soup – I could probably live on a diet of soups, chowders, and stews!
We are currently on day 3 of Christmas… that’s right, Christmas is NOT over until January 6th, and if you’re the kind of sick, sad individual who rips your tree down on the night of the 25th or even the 26th, you should know that I don’t like your kind…
I like to keep the Christmas spirit and music going for as long as possible… I mean, we spend an entire month prepping for the holiday; why should it be over in 24 hours? I digress though – I am back in NYC after spending four lovely days with my family upstate. It was so nice to be home in the country, with snow falling, a fire burning in the wood stove, my mom’s cooking (that’s where I got my skillz yo’), and spending time with my family!
After four consecutive days of eating from sunup to sundown, however, I am now on a NYE diet so that I can look extra hot in my skin-tight, crotch-high dress. Therefore, I will be subsisting on a diet of wine and salad until Tuesday. And, so help me God, if I encounter one more food-pusher with a tray of Christmas cookies in-hand or one more invitation to a pizza party I am going to snap.
I made a vegan (well… ‘almost’ vegan, apart from the butter… ) green bean casserole from scratch for Christmas dinner, as well as a French fruit tarte! I’m obviously not a vegan, and sadly, not even a vegetarian, although I aspire to be a vegetarian in the new year (***apart from steak tartare, because it’s my favorite dish of all time). I just can’t quit steak tartare, especially from Quality Meats (my favorite dish ever!).
For the green bean casserole, I made the ‘cream of mushroom’ soup from scratch. I won’t provide the full recipe or instructions, because I am lazy and drinking wine, but I’ll give you premise:
Sautee onions, garlic, and fresh mushrooms (baby bella and white) in olive oil, or (if you can’t commit to being fully vegan, like myself) BUTTER… believe me, butter makes a big difference when the rest of the dish is vegan.
Make an EXTRA THICK mushroom soup from scratch; make a roux using flour and butter (or if you’re actually a vegan substitute the butter for olive oil)
Add CASHEW or ALMOND MILK (UNSWEETENED) in place of cow milk for the soup
Use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock
^^^ This is the fruit tarte I made for Christmas dessert! I was (and am) just so fucking sick of baked goods like cookies and cakes at this point, that when I was designated to make a dessert for Christmas dinner, I decided we needed something quasi-fresh. Enter the French fruit tarte. It was my first time making one, and I pulled from a few different recipes to make my own.
Again, I’m too lazy to provide a full recipe and break-down of the procedure. If I were to do it different, instead of making a puff pastry crust as I did, I would make a graham cracker crust used for a cheesecake.
So much for my diet… I just an entire pizza from Forcella….
I’ll leave you with some pictures of cheese plates I recently made… and am also trying to quit in the New Year, since I don’t want to eat abused animals or abused animal product:
After a full week of social engagements, too much boozing, and dinners out (not to mention drunken taco binges at 1am), I was relieved to have finally made it through to Sunday… my only day of rest and the only day I didn’t have any commitments apart from relaxing and sleeping in. Given that my Saturday night was spent getting rather plastered at a good friend’s annual Christmas party, I’m not exactly sure how I woke up sans-hangover (a Christmas miracle I’d say!) or how I was able to sleep past 7am. I must have narrowly escaped it the former through the consumption of the two generous bowls of fettucini I had after I stumbled home at 2am.
I digress though – Welcome to my new blog, where I will take you on a magical journey through my cooking, recipes, meal-planning, dining and wining endeavors, occasional travel, and generally degenerate escapades! Let’s get started…
I slept in until 11am on Sunday, which is pretty much impossible these days given my advanced age, weekday wake up call time of 6:30am, relentlessly harassing cat, and general guilt over laying in bed past 9am. I made a trip to Eataly (if you’ve never been, I suggest visiting!) with big plans to make homemade gnocchi and purchase a truffle for said dish.
I arrived in need of a glass of wine (red, naturally), so my boyfriend and I had shared a cheese plate and partook in some vino rosso before continuing with our shopping.
I must say, as great as Eataly is for pretty much anything Italian (cheeses, pastas, cured meats, candies), fresh meats and seafood, and even fresh produce, the truffles seemed a bit over-priced. Chelsea Market has much better pricing for truffles, and next time I will remember that.
The gnocchi takes about 2.5 hours to prepare from start to finish, so this is the perfect recipe if you have a free week-night or slow-paced Sunday free of time constraints (***most people would argue a meal that takes almost 3 hours to prepare is anything BUT relaxing… kneading and chopping shit helps me relax).
I never measure anything by weight or measuring cups when I cook – I go on taste and knowledge only (it’s only really necessary to measure accurately when baking). Because of this, I am not the best at translating my recipes for other people’s use… a lot of things in cooking are trial and error, knowing what flavors compliment each other, and also knowing when too much is too much (ie. salt, oil, sugar, etc.).
For the gnocchi:
3 large russet or Idaho potatoes, or 4 smaller ones
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
sprinkle of salt
1 1/2 cup – 2 cups flour
Pierce the potatoes with a fork and bake at 425 for an hour. You can check to see if the potatoes are baked long enough by stabbing with a fork when you take them out (if the fork doesn’t go smoothly in, they need more time).
Cut the potatoes in half while they’re still warm, and scoop the insides into a large bowl (no skins!)
Use a fork or a whisk to mash down the potatoes… try to make sure there are no lumps
Once the potatoes are a smooth consistency, add in (1) beaten egg and mix; add in the Parmesan, salt and flour next, stirring and then kneading to a dough consistency (keep adding flour as kneaded… dough should not be sticky or you won’t be able to roll it out)
Once the dough has a good consistency, separate it into quarters and roll into ropes on a WELL-FLOURED surface or counter top. The dough ropes should be no thicker than your thumb
Use a sharp knife to cut the ropes into the gnocchi – they should look like little pillows and each be about the size of a piece of a chiclet
Optional: for added texture, and for the purposes of holding more sauce, you can use the tines of the fork to make indentations on each individual gnocchi (this will add another 45 min on the process)
Add the gnocchi to a pot of BOILING (and yes, it must be boiling) and heavily salted pot of water…. have a slatted spoon ready to scoop them out – they only take about 2 minutes to cook since they’re fresh and homemade
You can use pretty much any sauce you want, store bought or homemade…. gnocchi are like pasta and very versatile. If you prepare them right, they should be light and fluffy, and not heavy or dense. I like to use fresh tomato sauce, or as seen above, make a cream sauce using heavy cream and melted cheese (taleggio, gorgonzola dolce, or any other soft cheese works well). It’s best to use a double boiler for this step (Google can show you how).
I topped it all off with that expensive AF truffle, pictured above. That lil’ baby was $50 for 12 grams! A little bit goes a long way though. I would also recommend a good truffle oil if you cannot find fresh truffle – the oil is often times more flavorful and fragrant I find 🙂