Entries from October 31st, 2012

Pasta Primavera

4

31.10.12

November makes me think of my youngest brother.

Kevin was born in November, when I was seventeen. At the time, he was three months premature — and in North Carolina.

So my dad and I spent a lot of time flying back and forth between L.A. and Chapel Hill to spend time with Kevin and Susie (my stepmom).

Kevin makes me think of high school. I recently found my Livejournal. That was embarrassing. And… I used to think I was really good at Photoshop. I guess we all need a reality check once in a while.

Bad photoshop and high school remind me of when I first toyed with the idea of being a graphic designer. I went to an art school open house when I was a junior, only to realize that I went a week late. I took it as a sign that I wasn’t entirely cut out to be a designer. Like my bad Photoshop skills, this also makes me smile.

I’m getting to a point in my life where the people around me, whether they’re close in age or they’re not, are starting to figure out what to do with their lives. It’s refreshing and exhilarating. Words cannot express how excited I am to see someone who was once frustrated start a new phase in life — doing what they love, loving what they do, and amazing the world with his or her spectacular talents.

Kevin, at age seven, is a pumpkin carving pro.

My dad likes to take Kevin to the pumpkin patch on Halloween, when pumpkins are in clearance mode. They purchase basically whatever is left at the pumpkin patch with however much cash is in my dad’s wallet. Last year, it was something like 14 pumpkins for one dollar each.

Kevin, unlike myself, can carve pumpkins for four hours straight.

For the first time in years, I’ll be sitting inside this Halloween. I’ll be hoping Sasha and Malia trick-or-treat at my house (my fingers are still crossed), while eating Ethiopian food and drinking this cocktail.

I’ve long since bid my farewell to summer. After all, my flip flops never really get too dusty, as I break them out every December for my annual trip to L.A. But this primavera — it’s too hard to let go of. I made this back when the vegetables were fresher and less expensive, but winter never stops me from doing anything now, does it?

Happy Halloween. It’s a good holiday, and I hope you enjoy it.

Pasta Primavera

Ingredients:
Note: measurements are estimates. Use your best judgement.
2 carrots, either julienned or finely chopped
Half an onion, finely diced
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of fresh broccoli florets
Drizzle of olive oil
Handful of fresh basil, sliced into strips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, minced
As much pasta as you desire. For two, I usually cook a half pound.

Instructions:

Fill a large pot halfway with water, and bring to a boil. Add a pinch or two of salt, and throw some pasta in. I used linguini, which takes just over 10 minutes to get to al dente. Have a strainer ready over your sink. Pour the contents of your pot into the strainer, under cold running water. The cold water stops the pasta from cooking — and you definitely do not want overcooked linguini. Once cooled, drizzle with some olive oil, and delve your hands into the pasta to toss it. You don’t want your pasta sticking to itself and drying out.

In a large chef’s pan over medium-high heat, saute your finely diced onions, your carrots, and your tomatoes. Once the onions begin to soften, add the broccoli, garlic and basic, and a little more olive oil. The tomatoes will start to cook, and their insides will provide a nice base for the sauce.

When the broccoli is cooked to your taste (I like mine still crisp, with parts of the edges browned), stir in the heavy cream. The sauce should take on a light tomato-cream consistency.

Toss the pasta with your primavera sauce, and serve with fresh parmesan cheese.

Five Things I Love About D.C.

3

24.10.12

Inspired by 17 and Baking.

1. Small city, big town.

In cities like Los Angeles and New York, it’s easy to lose yourself. Be it a good “lose yourself” or a troublesome one — it doesn’t matter. In cities like DC, it’s easy to keep your life in perspective. The buildings aren’t too big, the streets are definitely not too wide, and the exposed brick just keeps you in check. When I’m in DC, nothing really reminds me of anything else. Yet when I leave, I find myself searching for things that remind me of DC: town houses, brick walls, and stars that cover rebar between buildings.

In cities where you don’t lose yourself, you find yourself. I guess it could also work the other way around, but that’s not what happened to me.

2. Neighborhoods

Yes, they exist in every other city. But beyond demographic boundaries, there is character — and each neighborhood has its own distinct personality. I live in the H Street neighborhood: quirky, detached, yet still modest from its sketchy upbringing. It’s still young enough that the trees don’t quite reach out over the roads, so the houses get a lot of light, and even more sky. But the more refined and historic residential parts of Capitol Hill are an easy ten-minute walk away.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter what neighborhood you live in when you’re in DC — but everyone seems to be really, really into their community. That’s something you feel wherever you go, and it’s lovely.

3. Scenery.

Running is cool. Especially in DC. And what better way to get to know your city than by running it?

Even a few years ago, when we got our huge snowstorm, I’d be able to take a step outside and see at least a few people, all bundled up, powering through a pretty run. In fact, the powdery runs are my favorite. There really isn’t anything better than taking a lunchtime jog past the White House, down the National Mall, and around the Lincoln Memorial. DC is one of the prettiest things alive when it’s lightly dusted with snow.

4. Proximity to things that aren’t DC.

This city is small. Sometimes, it feels really small. For example: a girl I went to college with randomly met a friend that I went sailing with a couple of times. And then they met up with my sailing friend’s brother, who is best friends with my gay’s roommate.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. Long story short, if you live here long enough, you pretty much know everyone.

So sometimes, you have to get out (or just trick yourself into feeling like you’ve gotten out). Annapolis, Alexandria, the baytch, West Virginia, New York. It’s so easy to travel to and fro on this coast, and it’s all right there. And if you can’t get out, you can just go kayaking on the Potomac or picnicking in Rock Creek Park. You might just forget where you are.

5. The people.

My friends are the coolest, craziest, most interesting people in the world. There isn’t really another way to say it.

It’s eighty degrees today, but soup weather will come back at some point.

Tomato Basil Soup

Ingredients:
A drizzle of olive oil
12 oz. tomato paste (canned is fine)
28 oz. tomatoes, diced (canned is fine here, too)
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
salt to taste

Instructions:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil, and heat. We’re going to caramelize your tomato paste, which will add a nice flavor depth to your soup.

Stirring frequently, cook your tomato paste in the olive oil for about ten minutes, until the color changes to a deep crimson. At this point, use a spatula to push the tomato paste over to one side of the pan, and then add your minced garlic where the pan is clear. Saute the garlic — just a bit, to release some flavor. After that starts to get some color, add your 28 ounces of diced tomatoes. Stir until even, and let simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

In a separate pot or saucepan, combine your heavy cream, milk, basil, garlic, and pepper. I added a pinch of salt — but be careful, as your canned tomatoes are probably already heavily salted. Bring your cream mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.

Just before serving, combine the cream mixture with your tomato soup, and stir until even. If you like your soup smooth, then use an immersion blender (or a food processor) to grind out all the bumps. If you like your soup chunky, well, then you’re just all set.

Fig and Brown Sugar Ice Cream

2

10.10.12

It’s been awfully quiet, lately. I’ve been having trouble sleeping for the past couple of weeks.  It might be that I’m trying to go to bed earlier (because I am), or it could be all the little things that I think about right before I doze off.

Lately, those little things have been more stressful than warranted. So I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been taking Advil PMs on the reg. In my defense, I was sick last week, but not sick enough to need Nyquil, so the PMs conquered headaches and helped me rest enough to get better.

It’s boot weather again, which means I’m drinking hot coffee. Today, I’ve been gulping it down like water.

For most of my life, I’ve ignored everything my body has hinted at me. You know, when it pokes you in the head and says “Hey — hey you. Sleep more. Drink less. Stop running.” Yeah, that. Anyway, that I ignore my body is not that hard to believe, because I’m fairly career-obsessed, and have, for the most part, worked for people and/or organizations that DGAF about health (or their own health, since they’ve generally guilted me go into the office, even with the plague).

Since that crazy relay race, I had been running on empty. And then, this company asked me to do some 48-hour immediate freelance work for them. How does one even try to say “no” to Google? And right then, I knew that my body would shut down. It was already lightly tapping me on the shoulder, giving me a choice between fame and a social life. I chose fame.

And just like that, I fell into a cold. I let nature win. I succumbed to the autumn, and spent the weekend bundled up inside and on the patio, since the clouds and the breeze suffered their own bouts of indecisiveness. The weather facilitated some pretty rain, and my female non-lesbian soul mate wowed us with a wintry dinner. And I’m checking this bookmark as much as my seven year-old brother checks the Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve.

I spent too much on flowers, ate too many bagels, and finished my freelance projects. Life is good, the food is hearty, and there is still room for dessert.

Fig and Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Ingredients (note: measurements are more like rough estimates)
1/2 pound fresh figs, stemmed and quartered
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 egg yolks
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

In a medium saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of water to a slow simmer. Add in the stemmed and quartered figs, the brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Stir over medium heat until the figs start to break down and the mixture takes on a deep red color — this takes about 30 minutes.

At that point, using a slatted spoon, remove about half of the figs from the sauce, and set aside in a dish. You’ll want to use that as a topping, or swirl it in after the ice cream is done. Add the milk, cream and cinnamon to the saucepan, whisk vigorously, and bring to a boil.

When the mixture does boil, immediately remove from heat. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine your egg yolks with your sugar. We’re going to temper your eggs to create a custard.

Add some of the hot cream-fig mixture to your egg yolks and sugar, whisking vigorously. Start with a 1/4 cup, then slowly add more until it’s evenly mixed. When the tempered eggs are liquid enough, go ahead and throw them into the saucepan, and mix until even.

Let the custard chill completely, and then pour into your ice cream maker, according to its manufacturer’s instructions.

 

Pumpkin Swirl Coffee Cake

2

02.10.12

With the cooler temperatures and warmer colors, I find myself yearning for a couple of hours to curl up with a blanket, a cup of coffee, and a book of short stories by the bay windows. Or on a park bench.

Let’s be real. It will be at least another week before I have a couple of free hours.

Luckily, I had an hour to myself on a quick flight from Chicago to write this.

My favorite short story is a dark American tale by Flannery O’Connor. In A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery writes about the Misfit, and the unfortunate family that crosses paths with a serial killer somewhere in the rolling hills of Tennessee.

Despite the thriller undertones and the sadness you feel for each despicable character, the story always makes me wander through the mistakes I’ve made, and how they’ve affected those I care for, or those I should care for more. It always sparks some dark self examination that I would otherwise forget. As a single twenty something who doesn’t date enough, I sometimes find myself wondering if I misjudge character, or worse, if I misjudge my own.

The truth is, a good man is really, really, hard to find. Ask any woman that you truly respect — whether she has one, two or none, I’m sure she’ll agree.

An overdue reunion with someone who knew me long before I even knew myself helped confirm the necessity of leaving home, and the necessity of giving yourself the option of never looking back. We hesitantly caught each other up with those who were once important to us in our respective high school and college circles, and more easily about those who still are important. And the difference we would subtract between those we love and those we can no longer stand up for can be vastly oversimplified to what seems so hard to come by: self-respect.

Even through high school, when the levels of a teenage girl’s respect are generalized at an all-time low, she was one who, like all of us, needed reassurance, but unlike many, never compromised her self-respect. Seeing her for the first time in years, in the element so familiar to both of us — but thousands of miles from the last brief rendezvous — gave me the words that I’ve been so desperately seeking. And, although this is possibly the lesser of the reminders of why I love her so, she helped remind me to not let perceptions get in the way of good judgment.

So here I am, curled up in a new bed with an old comforter. I have not attempted to clean my room since before that 200 mile race, which was two weeks ago now — but don’t worry, the laundry has been conquered, so all hope is not lost. But there are days. We all have them. When we just can’t get ourselves to clean up the mess we’ve made.

Instead, I’m still savoring the steak she crafted. I’m still indulging in the conversation, the advice, and the comfort that never left. A conversation that can be somber, satisfying, and interspersed with giggles — that was something I desperately needed.

So, as 2012 winds down, I’m reminded of how thankful I am. To have a family that loves me, to have health that permits indulgence, and to have found friends like the ones I love so dearly. And more than anything, I am thankful to have found my voice. Looking back is not an option.

Pumpkin Swirl Coffee Cake, adapted from Saveur

For the crumb topping:  
1.5 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

For the cake:
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
2/3 cup milk

For the swirl:
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

To create the crumb topping, whisk your dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Then, add the cubes of butter, and really get in with your hands to crumb everything together — you should end up with a dry cookie dough consistency. And don’t even attempt to do this with anything but your hands. My friend Randall tried to use a fork, and ended up tossing it. It’s more fun to delve your fingers into a bowl of sugar and butter anyway.

Once the crumb is complete, set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip the 8 tablespoons of butter you have softened for the cake. Once it is light and whipped, add in the sugar and beat on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk until even and lump-free. Combine with the ingredients in your stand mixer, and beat on low with a dough hook until everything is smoothly mixed. Then, slowly add 2/3 cup milk.

At that point, add the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice, and either mix with a spatula or let the dough hook do a little more mixing. You don’t want to mix the swirl all the way in — after all, we want it to swirl with the dough itself.

Grease a 9×4-ish inch pan, or line with parchment paper. Transfer all of the dough to the pan, and then just dump all the crumb topping on there.  There’s a lot, but with crumb topping… I mean, the more the merrier.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until you can stick a toothpick in the center of the cake and have it come out clean.

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