When the weather gets warm, I get food lazy. As in, I’m too lazy to actually cook, and end up just throwing together meals I can eat raw — salads, carrots and hummus, fruit… you know. And it’s okay, because the produce tastes better in these warmer months, anyway. I’m just waiting for it to get really hot, because the only good part about heat and humidity is the tomato season.
And when summer hits, you start hearing everyone talking about adventuring for some crab meat — in this part of the U.S., that means getting your hands covered in Old Bay and picking away at some Maryland Blue Crab.
My first foray into crab-eating was when I waited tables — at that seafood restaurant in Southern California, that I’ve written about so much. I know pretty much everything there is to know about seafood because of that job, and I’m generally grateful for that.
At the restaurant, we had live dungeness crabs, but in most of the salads, like around most of the U.S., we used canned jumbo lump crab meat, caught and packaged in the South Pacific (not so glamorous, but just say “South Pacific” and everything sounds better).
Now that I live so close to Maryland, pickin’ at crab is a cherished summer activity, perhaps after a beautiful day sailing or floating on a donut-shaped inner tube at the shark tooth capital of the world. If you have access to fresh jumbo lump crab meat at your grocery store, it will taste slightly less briny and will only be slightly more expensive — but otherwise, canned jumbo lump crab meat works a-okay.
The tartness from the lemon makes this salad perfect for a hot day, provided you’ve just pulled the ingredients out of the fridge. I, in fact, ate one for dinner one night, and jarred another to take to work the next day. The flavors held up perfectly.
Crab and Artichoke Green Salad, derived from the Fast Diet Cookbook
1 can artichoke hearts
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3.5 oz. lump crab meat
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced chives
salt and pepper
1.5 teaspoons olive oil
3.5 oz (ish) arugula or mixed greens
First, remove and drain both the crab meat and artichokes from their respective cans. While they’re draining, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper and minced garlic in a small bowl. Slice the artichokes, if you prefer.
Toss the greens, chives, artichokes, and crab meat with the dressing. Serve with fresh shavings of parmesan cheese.
Summer has arrived, swiftly warning me of its brutality.
Today is my day off — I didn’t have much planned except for yoga this evening, but Kristen invited me to speak to her 6th and 7th graders about having a career in art. While one class seemed more interested in knowing if I knew “how to hack” or not (I told them that Google knew every single thing they did on the internet, so it was in their best interest to not hack), some students were genuinely interested in learning more about art and design.
I sure wish I had someone to talk to about careers in creative when I was younger! My newspaper advisor in high school (now a client!) was always supportive of my want to pursue design as a career, but being part of a family who only cared about finance made art school impossible.
It’s weird, isn’t it? I have friends working in almost every industry that exists. Some whose parents are creatives and encouraged creative careers — some of that backfires and sometimes it works. There seems to be a delicate balance. My parents strongly (forcefully) encouraged me to pursue finance and accounting. Sophomore year of college, I took an accounting class, and was doing pretty well. I hated every minute of every econ class I ever took, and I went into that accounting class with an A. But halfway through the final, I thought to myself, why the hell am I here? I hate accounting. I refuse to ever take another accounting class again.
So I walked out of the final exam. I got a C.
My dad wanted to kill me, but I knew I had made the right decision. It was the decision to choose my own courses, and to finally stop letting my parents dictate what I wanted. Back then, I wanted to be a CIA operative. I started taking Arabic classes, and I excelled. My parents rolled their eyes.
And don’t get me wrong, I loved my college experience, and my Arabic wasn’t bad — I had a couple of job offers for career paths close to being a CIA operative (but not quite the real thing). And I liked it, but there’s just no comparison to how much I love what I do now. I don’t think time was wasted, per se, but man, twenty-seven year old Sarah would loooove to travel back to 2004 and whisper some advice to high school Sarah. It wouldn’t be to specifically go to art school, but it would have been to stop letting my parents scare me into a career that I didn’t want.
Instead of the year and a half of economics classes for the business major, I could have been taking illustration and design. I can take those classes now, but sometimes, I wish I had a better base.
Of course, the grass is always greener. Who knows, if I went to art school when I was an undergrad, the recession could have killed any marketing budgets that could have funded a budding career — especially in Los Angeles.
It’s one of the many reasons why I love talking to kids about my job. I tell them about how I always loved art and creativity, and that I was somehow able to make it my full-time job, and that these days, it’s much easier to find work in creative than it was ten years ago. And half of the interesting stuff lies in the fact that I didn’t go to art school. I technically didn’t have to go to school at all. But it shows that you don’t need a degree in whatever the rest of your life will be spent doing.
And when the kids ask me how many hours I spend working, it’s always shocking to add it up and tell them sometimes up to 70 hours a week. I can see their eyes bug out, but I always supplement it with telling them: You know, if you’re lucky enough to really love your work, it won’t always feel like work. Which is true. Now, if I could just turn writing this blog and making yummy treats my full-time job. That would be a treat, wouldn’t it?
3/4 cup hazelnuts, finely ground
3/4 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Zest of half a lemon
1 pint fresh blueberries, cleaned and picked over
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Combine the flour, walnut meal, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork, and set aside.
In an electric mixer, cream the butter and the granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the sour cream and lemon zest. Slowly add the dry ingredients (I have this thing to keep my KitchenAid mixer from spraying flour all over the counter) and mix until just blended.
Pour the batter into your loaf pan, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean. Let cool completely.
Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.
Pour the blueberries into a baking dish or cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with brown sugar and butter, and stir to combine. Roast them in the oven until the blueberries are about to burst — about 10 minutes.
Serve each slice of cake with a spoonful of roasted blueberries, and garnish with mint (optional) if you like.
This weather has been absolutely delightful — hasn’t it? When I’m not slaving away at the day job, I’ve been hitting up three spin classes a week (holla! bring on the carbs) and spending the rare lunch break catching up on reading. I’ve rediscovered how nice it feels to unwind with a good summer read… and this is my current obsession at the moment. Give me two more hours of precious free time, and I’ll be through with that, too.
I haven’t been pinning much lately, but I thought I’d share some of my “recent” favorites with you all here. I’m ready for some perfect summer sunsets and a few trips to the “country” (ahem, West Virginia, or somewhere between here and Baltimore) for some rope swings and more opportunities to use my donut tube. The weekends feel so few and far between.
Hope you all enjoy the mild summer weather we’re having here in DC. And… make this ice cream. You won’t regret it.
Matcha Green Tea & Mint Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk 1 cup heavy cream 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves 5 egg yolks 2 tablespoons ground matcha powder
Combine the milk, cream, and matcha powder in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil for just a moment, and reduce the heat to low. Add the mint leaves into the saucepan, stir and muddle with a large spoon, and turn off the heat entirely. Let the cream steep with the mint leaves for 30 minutes to one hour — the longer it steeps, the stronger the mint flavor.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks and the sugar, mixing with a fork. When you’re done steeping the cream, run the mixture through a sieve to remove the mint leaves. Then, turn the heat back on, and bring the mixture to a boil once more, again, immediately removing the heat once the boil starts.
Using a smaller measuring cup (I used a 1/4 cup), slowly pour the hot mixture into the bowl with one hand as your vigorously stir the mixture with a fork in your other hand. Gradually add one or two cups until the custard is fully incorporated, and then combine the custard with the remaining cream in the saucepan. Run the mixture through a sieve one more time to filter out any egg scrambles. Let chill completely in the fridge, and run the mixture through an ice cream maker according to its manufacturer’s instructions.
The last time I went to Mexico, Kristen and I stayed in an amazingbungalow-style guest house that we found on Airbnb — it’s owned and run by Christine, a lovely Colombian woman who grew up in Germany, fell in love with a Frenchman, and decided to move to Mexico’s coast to open her gorgeous little guest house. It was the perfect experience for both Kristen and I: we were in desperate need of an escape, and being between jobs, I was pretty much broke. So we found $400 flights to and from Cancún, and shared a room in Christine’s guest house for $30 a night. It was 2 kilometers from the beach, so we rode bikes, played with Christine and Raúl’s cute dogs, and chatted with her in our broken Spanish about what she recommended we do on our trip.
Cenotes are apparently one of the things the locals get really into. You see some of the bigger, more touristy ones on pamphlets in the airport and as part of vacation packages at the hotels, but I knew that neither Em nor I would really want to go to one of those. And the one Christine sent Kristen and me to, years ago, was absolutely perfect. After some futile googling (there’s really not much info out there on the non-touristy cenotes), we decided to go to Siete Bocas — “seven mouths,” for the seven separate openings of the cenote.
On the collectivo to Puerto Morelos, I told Emily about the cenote. If nothing had changed in the past two years, it would still be owned by a tiny old Mexican lady named Maria. She kept it impeccably clean, and just to get there, we’d be driving on a dirt road for 10 minutes or so. She was lively and friendly, told us about the bottomless cenote with the thirty-foot jump, and was usually sweeping the pathways that were made, at their very core, of compacted dust. That’s something you’ll see a lot in remote places around the world — little old ladies sweeping away dust with a broom, when they’re surrounded by dust to begin with. That dust will never go away, but the pride these women take in keeping their home or their pathway clean really speaks to me.
Anyway, we got there, and sure enough, nothing had changed. José, our taxi driver, agreed to return after a couple of hours, so Em and I put our stuff down and climbed down the first set of stairs, descending, literally, into the blue. Not the turquoise of the Tulúm that you see in so many Corona commercials, but a royal blue that you don’t see very often in nature. When the light shines in the water, you just see rays of light extending as deep as the cenote goes. Little black fish skimmed the under the water’s surface.
Perhaps my favorite part about this cenote is how undiscovered it is. When Kristen and I went, there were a few families, locals who were clearly regulars to this cenote. This year, Emily and I got there around noon — and it was quiet. The sun shone through the gaps in the trees, and there was one Canadian couple, and a pair of very handsome Spaniards. They went scuba diving, and I had forgotten about them entirely, until I had been sitting on a makeshift dock at the bottom of the stairs. Huge bubbles started slowly making their way to the surface, but the divers were so deep that we couldn’t see them down below.
I was excited to revisit Siete Bocas for two reasons — one, because I’m pretty sure it was my favorite part of my last trip to Mexico, and I knew the amazement at something so beautiful and natural would still remain. My heart skipped a beat when I slipped into the still, blue water of the first boca we tried. I even looked at Emily and mentioned how I was still a little scared, even though I had done this once before. Two, because I was so excited for Em to have the exact same experience I did… and man, was she just as ecstatic as I was the first time I found myself in that beautiful blue water.
And, sure enough, we both jumped from the cenote with the thirty-foot jump, we emerged on the stairway and saw Maria, sweeping her pathway with a little broom.
I was lucky enough to spend the past week or so celebrating the wedding of one of my favorite college friends (ahem, the only other girl who was just as loyal to Taco Tuesdays at UCLA as I was). So, in addition to being part of an incredibly beautiful wedding, I was able to spend a couple of days exploring and revisiting the coast of Mexico in Quintana Roo — mostly known for the beautiful beaches that line it from Cancun in the north, all the way down to Tulúm. I had been here once before with another former roommate, Kristen, but that was two years ago. And, it was the trip I took right before starting the day job I have now. It’s so weird to think that it’s been two years since then, because I remembered the coast so vividly.
Anyway, Em and I peaced out of DC a couple of days early to make sure we would have a day or two to explore. We knew we wanted to see the ruins at Tulúm and then spend a couple of hours at a cenote, but we weren’t sure which one. In the end, we decided to pretty much do exactly what Kristen and I did in 2012 — we rode the collectivos buses south for about an hour, visited the ruins, and walked along the beach to cute place called la playa Paraíso, and the next day, we went to the exact same cenote in Puerto Morelos called Siete Bocas. Photos from the cenote tomorrow!
It’s been a while since I worked in the restaurant business. But, aside from the managers I worked for, I do look back on my days as a hostess and waitress pretty fondly. I was by far one of the youngest people working in that restaurant, and frequently referred to as the baby — which I never really minded. It was only another means for me to dip my toes into the social lives of the wait staff of Los Angeles, which is its own beast in and of itself.
Back then, I always felt like I had multiple lives. There was my life at UCSB, pretty and pristine on the beach, with jungle juice (bleghh), running to the Goleta Pier, and fake-fighting with my gay over the hot TA that would eventually become one of my oldest friends. Then, there was my life at the restaurant, counting cash in my parents’ car, triple-seating my ex’s new love interest whenever she picked a fight with the guy, and capping off our late-night shifts with underage cocktails at Fridays (the mojitos were exciting back then, but I shudder at the thought of ever going back to a TGIFridays in the San Fernando Valley). And finally, there was my life at UCLA — football games on the weekends, Red Bull all-nighters in Powell Library, and finally living in my own apartment in Westwood.
The worlds rarely collided. It was as if I teleported between entirely different dimensions when I crossed the borders between Los Angeles, Calabasas, and Santa Barbara.
I wouldn’t trade in those days for anything. Since then, friendships have come and gone, and my little brother is even working at that exact restaurant. I see patterns in his social life and his thought processes that reflect what I went through as one of the younger members of a restaurant that was about to graduate from college.
And he mentions things like trying to hide his relationship with another hostess, and, well, I did the same thing when I worked there. But in hindsight, I try to give him advice that would help him be less foolish than I was — even though I know too well that those words of wisdom would be fruitless to a 21-year old in lurve.
Perhaps I don’t want him to get attached because I know that it’s easy to get lost in these worlds. Being 19 or 22 in college in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara feels so unreal at this point in my life. The things I worried about then, the silly problems that stressed me out or made me feel invincible or made me cry — looking back, I wish I knew so much more about why they did or didn’t matter. I come from a family that doesn’t acknowledge emotions at all, so I had no idea what depression was when I went through it. I didn’t know what it was until it hit me in the face. But since leaving California, I feel like I’ve inadvertently surrounded myself with people who have their own stories, their own comparisons of their separate lives that have helped me understand my emotions, how to become more self-aware, and when to recognize when you have real issues to face, or when you’re having a mini panic attack over something that will be an invisible speck in the grand canyon view of your entire life.
And really, I’ve just recently come to terms with anxiety — what it is, what it actually feels like, and how to deal with it. Emotions are so incredibly layered, and part of me wishes I met the people I’m so close to now back in high school, when self-awareness could have come in so, so handy. These days, I can just pop some ibuprofen after one too many cocktails, or something else when I realize that I’m physically stressed about something that really doesn’t matter. Like when I’m suddenly overcome with doubt or guilt for some memory that pops into my head from my waiting days or from high school. It’s weird how the littlest memories can strike the most negative or positive emotions for me. Perhaps, you know what I’m talking about.
That being said, science is a wonderful thing. And so are friends who help you through your anxiety. Maybe I’m just rambling at this point.
This recipe was actually one of the recipes on the menu at that restaurant I worked at, where I went through just roller coaster after roller coaster of emotions. I even checked their current menus to see if it was still there, but they’ve since taken this artichoke item off — so I improvised as closely as I could. It was pretty successful, and brought me back a little bit, for better or for worse. For the good moments, it’s nice to sit in bed and reminisce the late nights we spent smoking cigarettes in backyards in Los Angeles, or the pool parties I used to throw in my parents’ Christmas-light-ridden backyard. For the anxiety-inducing moments that I can’t push out of my head on my own, well, there’s always a half a Xanax in my bag. I’ve never been so thankful for science.
I’ve been wanting to do a post on my gear for a while now — but it’s such an ever-changing and evolving topic. I’m in the process of really amping up my equipment, in hopes of picking up more food photography gigs! So I do, in fact, rent a ton of equipment. Not a day goes by where I wish to myself that photography weren’t such an expensive hobby.
1. Nikon D80 camera body – I’ve had this baby for almost four years now, and it’s served me well… from my first Dupont kitchen, to Capitol Hill, to Europe and beyond. So at home, I do a lot of shoots with this baby. But lately, I’ve been itching to upgrade to this model(which has video), or even to switch to Canon entirely (this is the cream of the crop). So, that’s up in the air. The D80 is a great DSLR to start with, but as you get more and more into photography, you’ll probably want to upgrade to a full-frame model.
2. Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom lens – Also known as the “wedding photographer’s lens,” this is by far my favorite lens in the entire world. I was first introduced to the 24-70mm at my office, because we have this one, and I use it for almost everything I photograph at work. It’s on the heavier side, but it’s such a versatile lens because you can go from a pretty wide shot to a nice zoom. Works well for food!
3. Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens – a great beginner lens. It’s not a zoom, but it would give you a good opportunity to learn about aperture and depth of field. I use this lens when I’m on the go, and when I know I won’t need any wide shots or a zoom. It’s lightweight, and does well in low light.
4. Lowel Ego Lights – I had been eyeing these lights for years, and finally bought them in prep for one of my photo shoots with Cava. Finally, I was able to photograph food at night! As I learn more about lighting and such, I’ve been thinking about purchasing some LEDs after working with the artistic genius behind Pornburger.
5. Manfrotto 131DB side arm – This piece. This is what I was searching for my entire life. I first saw it in a photo of Katie Quinn Davies(scroll down to the image that shows herself hard at work) and knew that I needed it. After sufficient Googling, I found the Manfrotto side arm tripod extension. It’s changed my life. I mean, let’s be honest. I have a huge life crush on KQD. It takes a lot of self control to not Google every piece of photography equipment she has and not purchase it for myself. A lot. of self. control.
6. Manfrotto 190XDB tripod, 804RC2 tripod head – This was my first big-girl-photographer tripod, meaning that this tripod has a removable tripod head. To be able to use the next item, I needed a real tripod that fully came apart. The great thing about this one, though, is that it has the horizontal tripod extension already built-in. So, if you’re working with a lightweight lens, you can position your setup for some overhead money shots.