Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hunger Strikes

Dear Boo,

Hunger is a bad thing. I'm not talking hunger on a global scale because DUH--I'm talking the bad decisions, bad moods, and general bad feelings that hunger can induce. As no doubt you know from experience, I become a hugely cranktastic bitch when it's been too long since my last snack. And I don't use that term lightly. Snack OR bitch. At the Big Apple BBQ in Madison Square Park recently, the Boyfriend literally thrust a pile of brisket into my face and said "I WILL NOT speak to you until you've had at least three bites of this." yowzah.

Now I know I'm not the only one whose capacity for reasonable behavior is severely limited by low blood sugar. One night last week, the Boyfriend had a rehearsal and would be gone all evening. I had no plans and said I was in for the night. An hour later, my friend called and said our old friend was in town from California and did I want to meet up for dinner. I thought of calling the Boyfriend but decided it was an abuse of cell phone power to leave a pointless message that he wouldn't get until after the fact, so I skipped off to dinner on my merry way. Partway through my macrobiotic sushi at Souen (deelish, by the way, despite the fact that the decor looks like the inside of Grey Gardens) and mid-discussion about how the introduction of credit in the 80s created a sense of complacency in the American public that has corrupted our sense of social justice and outrage (seriously, this is what we were talking about. this is what happens when you hang out with people from Northern California. And eat things like Wakame) I noticed a missed call on my cell. And by "a" missed call, I mean 16. And a series of increasingly alarmed text messages from the Boyfriend who, having not eaten since lunch, had gotten out of rehearsal early and come home to find me gone with no explanation or prior warning and no response to his calls, had gone into a spiral of HUNGER-AGGRAVATED panic. When I called to let him know I had not been abducted by a gang of wild urban ninjas, he was stalking around the neighborhood gnashing his teeth, too hungry and upset to stop for dinner. When I arrived home, I found a spent Boyfriend sitting on our couch eating what might be the exact OPPOSITE of a macrobiotic meal: an Italian hoagie, a 24 oz can of Bud Light and a LARGE BAG OF PORK RINDS. My penance, apparently, was watching him ingest this. (For the record, I love Italian Hoagies, but this wasn't even good. Visit this place for how it's really done.)

Moral of the story? EAT SOMETHING FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. If one person, just ONE person picks up a bag of peanuts before they make that fateful decision on an empty stomach, I have done my job, and all this blogging was worth it. Please, people, a panic attack and poor, POOR food choices could have been prevented with one well timed snack. Oh, and maybe a phone call.

The Mouse

In the interest of feeding your hungry faces before you do something stupid like buy a LARGE BAG OF PORK RINDS (sorry, I guess I'm just not over it yet), here is a fast dinner you can shop for and cook quickly. I recommend buying this Jamie Oliver cookbook since he's really good at this sort of thing and that's where our kickass spinach/feta/pea salad originates from, Boo. The fish part of this dish is from his book...

Take at Least Three Bites of This Before you Say Another Word Fish Dinner:

I'll make this quick. It really is easy. You'll need:
An oven and a roasting pan. Or cookie sheet in a pinch.
A few pieces of cod, or catfish or that sort of fish (ask the guy behind the counter if you're not sure)
Flat leaf Parsley
one fresh red chili
Pinch of oregano
2 limes
salad greens
balsamic vinegar
some small red potatoes
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 WITH the pan in the oven. Put a pot of water on to boil. When it comes to a boil, drop the potatoes in. They're done when a knife slides through easily. Chop up a couple of handfuls of parsley, the chili (minus seeds). Mix with a pinch of oregano. Spread a lil olive oil on the fish, salt and pepper, then pat the herbs on it. Pull out the pan and place the fish on it along with the halved limes. Hear the sizzle. Stick it in the oven for about 10 minutes, depending how thick the fish is. Take the potatoes out of the water and place in an oven-safe dish. with a spoon or fork, press down on the tops of the potatoes to break the skin and split the flesh open a bit. drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stick in the broiler for a couple of minutes until the tops brown.
Toss the salad in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, a bit of balsamic, and the juice of half a lemon. taDa.
When fish is done plate it up with a few smashed potatoes and a pile of salad. Serve with the roasted lime to squeeze over fish and some crusty bread. Easy Breezy Beautiful. Covergirl.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Poll Results: Summer Cookin, Had me a Bla-ast...

The Ultimate Summer Food is:
Anything Made on a Grill, Outdoors: 3 Votes
Corn on the Cob, Slathered with Butter: 3 Votes
Ice Cream. Preferably from a Musically-Challenged Truck: 0 Votes
A Vat of Frozen Margaritas: 4 Votes
Summer Food? I eat the same foods all year round because I'm BORING: 0 Votes
Nothing. It's too Friggin Hot to Eat.: 0 Votes

So apparently you're all a bunch of lushes. No surprize there. Who isn't. I say combine the three top answers and you've got yourself one heck of a summer evening. Or afternoon. Or hell, morning--It's summer!! Along these lines I'd like to share a little salad creation that really screams Summer to me. And is almost as corny as the title of this post. And is most definitely as corny as the pun I just made. AND, the Boo can eat it!!

Simple Spicy Summer Corn Salad

4 Ears of Corn
1 jalapeno
1 tomato (salmonella optional)
2 cloves garlic
1 small red onion
Juice of 1 lime
Olive Oil
Pat of butter (optional)
kosher salt
cayenne pepper
black pepper
parsley or cilantro for garnish

1) Cut the kernels off the 4 ears of corn. Stand the corn on one end, with some sort of receptacle at the other end or the kernels will go flying everywhere across your kitchen, and slice straight down as close to the cob as possible. Do a second scrape down to get out the milky starchy good stuff that's left behind.
2) Add a few glugs of olive oil to a large sautee pan over medium heat.
3) Toss in the minced garlic cloves and let them sautee a bit.
4) Add the corn and stir so its all coated in the oil.
5) Add finely chopped red onion.
6) Mince up as much of the jalapeno as you choose, according to your spice preference and toss that in (see guacamole entry for what NOT TO DO when cutting a pepper).
7) Chop up the tomato discarding as much of the seeds and liquid as you can, and add to corn.
8) Squeeze the juice of one lime into the pan and stir.
9) Add kosher salt, a bit of black pepper and some cayenne pepper to taste. Keep tasting so you can catch the corn just as it's fully cooked and delicious--probably about 10 minutes.
10) Chop up some parsley or cilantro (or chives, now that I think of it), and sprinkle over the top. Serve hot, warm, or cold. Yum.

If you're not the Boo and therefore can eat normal people food (tee hee), you can add a pat or so of butter and stir to melt it in. If you wanna go crazy, you could sprinkle some queso fresco in as well. If you want to take it a step further and make this a whole dinner, you could throw some shrimp in or some shredded chicken and maybe even some quinoa if you're crunchy like that.

ps. That lovely picture you see was taken by the incomparable Iracel Rivero!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sans Wheat, Sans Milk, Sans Soy, Sans Everything...

Dear Mouse,

Whew! A whirlwind week it has been in life and in diet. Many thanks for holding down the fort here at AMB while I spend my days studying Shakespeare (here) and evenings rehearsing this show that opens sunday... I am super exhausted at the moment so this will be short, and, like, probably not very witty. But I owe us all a bit of a report.

Ok. So yes, on the one hand, how could you post that thing about Sundaes and Cones?!! It sounds so delicious. (NOTE From the Mouse--they make all-fruit smoothies too!) On the other hand, I am in Week Two of Crazy Eating Restrictions and the biggest surprise of all is... No. Cravings.

Not really. Oh sure, at times I'm like, 'oh it would be SO easy to just get a sandwich right now for lunch... a muffin for breakfast... make this vegetable thing I like that has cheese in it..." BUT it's not like I really am feeling that deep down.

Mostly, my dairy/wheat/egg/gluten/sugar/soy-free lifestyle has had the effect of 1) giving me more energy than I thought would be possible while working this hard, 2) TOTALLY stabilizing my moods and my concentration, which is no small thing, and 3) completely controllling my appetite. I get hungry and eat regular meals, but I get, like, satisfied, by them, and not obsessive about where my next treat is coming from. Bad for the blog? maybe. But fascinating.

A big shout-out to Angelica Kitchen in the East Village, and to Cute AMB Fan/Friend o'Mouse who works there and who made my dining experience truly educational and a pleasure. CSFAMBF brought a whole BOOK to my table that listed EVERY ingredient in every dish on their menu, as well as a special page of gluten-free options. Everything was fabulous.

Because of the HEAT alluded to briefly :-) in your last note, I'll leave you with this recipe that I can eat!!! (ok it has some sugar... sigh) which is great for summer. Make these for someone and knock them back with a beer or a crisp white wine before dinner. Trust me. It is super easy and you will seem like an Earth Goddess.

Extremely Sexy Vodka Spiked Cherry Tomatoes w/Pepper Salt (from the Gourmet Cookbook) (I'm literally copying this, I feel so cheap).

I make about a third of the recipe for two people... but you can go to town.

3 pints red & yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 C vodka
3 tbsp white vinegar (must be white!!)
1 tbsp superfine sugar (totally can use regular)
1 tsp grated lemon zest (I made it with lime and it works too)
3 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tbsp black pepper

OK this part is a little effort, but it's where all the sexy is. Cut small X in bottom of each tomato. Then toss all of them for 3 seconds ONLY into boiling water, then get them out and immediately! put in bowl of ice to stop them cooking. Drain and then slip the little suckers right out of their skins - it's magical.

Stir vodka, vinegar, sugar, and zest in bowl til sugar dissolves. Pour it over tomatoes, toss to coat. Leave it in the fridge, covered, for at least a half hour.

Stir salt and pepepr together in cute little dish. Dip tomatoes in pepper salt with fingers or toothpicks. Eat. Smile. Suddenly the heat isn't that oppressive.


The Boo
p.s. Yes i have cheated: a bit of ketchup with bunless burger, chinese food that had soy in it for sure, a bite of ice cream, an untold number of cocktails I may or may not be allowed to have. but come on, something gotta get me through this.

Monday, June 9, 2008

My Apartment is a (Disco) Inferno

Dear Boo,

It's friggin HOT out there. Seriously, what the F? A minute ago it was 70 degrees and I was carrying around a jacket for post 7pm wear. Now it's like New York has been temporarily transported to somewhere super tropical, like OH I dunno, THE CENTER OF THE SUN? The Boyfriend turned on the oven for about 4 minutes to toast a bagel and spontaneously combusted from the heat (he will be missed). I have taken 5 showers in the past two days and if my computer were waterproof, I'd be writing from there right now. This weather makes me sweaty, cranky, and may be the only thing on the planet to deter me from eating. The only things that sound remotely appealing to me are a nice cool bowl of spicy gazpacho, a tub of watermelon cubes that I could sit in while I eat them, and a icy, creamy, frozen sundae.

In lieu of a recipe, because you'd be insane to turn on a burner, here is my recommendation to you:
1) Put on as little clothing as possible, but make sure you have pockets.
2) Stuff said pockets with ice packs, frozen grapes, and those plastic-sleeved, neon-colored frozen icee treats in case you need to stop for sustenance.
3) Blow up your plastic kiddie pool while in the A/C comfort of your home.
4) Take it with you to 10th Street, on that funny little block between 3rd and 4th Aves. There you will find a charming ice cream parlor called Sundaes and Cones. Its whitewashed walls, warm lighting, long glass counters and outdoor benches make you feel like you're in Nantucket or Montauk or Fire Island, anywhere but this bloody city. Ask for samples of the off-beat flavors on offer such as Sweet Corn, Wasabi, Sesame, or Taro Root, because how can you not at least TRY them before you order a waffle cone (oh, the smell of those baking!) piled high with maple walnut, chocolate peanut butter, or my personal fave, peppermint stick.
I'd say to enjoy your cone on the benches outside under the trees but who are we kidding. Stay inside, set up kiddie pool, (Store is remarkably spacious) and preserve the illusion of being on vacation.

Wait a second, am I being cruel and insensitive to you Boo? I think they have sugar free sorbet you could eat... Or just go and bask in the smell of the waffles baking and pretend you're 9 again on Summer Vacation. That's just as sweet.

The Mouse

P.S. I didn't actually have a photo of S&C so I borrowed this one from this cute blog. Don't be mad, k?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

An Herb Garden Grows in Manhattan

Dear Boo,

In case you were needing further proof that I'm a food nerd and slightly obsessed, I offer you this:

1) Out of hundreds of colors at the nail salon, I unknowlingly selected a lovely shade of orangey red called.... Cajun Shrimp. I kid you not.
2) I had a dream last night in which I ate a cupcake covered sky-high in bright royal blue frosting and when I woke up I said to the Boyfriend, "I'm so glad I ate the whole thing. I've had too many dreams where I turn down pastry because it's too fattening and then kick myself in the morning."
3) I actually teared up this afternoon when I discovered two little parsley shoots emerging from the pot on my windowsill.

See? Aren't they precious?

Allow me to back up...

I'm reading a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and I came across this quote that blew me away: "If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country's oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week." Damn! right?

Now, I've always wanted a garden, myself, despite the fact that I'm a) kind of lazy, and b) have a bit of a shriveled, blackened thumb. My general approach to fostering plant life has been more reactionary than nurturing, aka, if it looks like it's wilting, it's time to water it. But nonetheless, I fantasize about a home with sprawling gardens I can wander through to snip some chives and pluck some tomatoes just before serving them to my guests, still warm from the sun. Of course, in this fantasy I'm also 5'10" with long golden-brown legs and look fabulous in hats, but never you mind that.

I was recently given some seedlings by our lovely family friend who has a gorgeous garden on her roofdeck and encouraged me to try nurturing some of my own in my apartment. My dark, dark apartment. So, as you know, my home is lovely and spacious and I am very lucky. However, it is sandwiched between two tall buildings that block out all direct and even most indirect sun. If it weren't for the lone tree out my window in the courtyard below, I would have no idea what season it was, let alone the weather or time of day. Suffice it to say it's a bit of a challenge to grow anything under these conditions. But after reading that quote, I am determined to do my part to eat locally. Very, very locally, in this case. I know I won't ever produce enough basil or tomatoes or peppers (my three babies) to feed myself an entire meal, but it's the spirit of the thing. And in that spirit, and in solidarity with you as you embark on this journey of brown rice and salmon, I have vowed to eat one meal a week composed of entirely locally grown elements. With the farmers market mere blocks away and fresh direct's "local" section delivered right to my door, I have no excuse. Also, it's practically summer which means we should all be eating more fresh fruits and veggies. Here is my first attempt at a local lunch...

Asparagus from the farmers market sauteed with spring garlic (ditto) and olive oil (not local, but come on...)and
Red Potato Salad with Yogurt-Herb Dressing:
Boil 1 lb small red potatoes (local) until tender. Cool in the fridge. In the meantime, whisk together 1 cup yogurt (local), 1/4 C sauteed spring garlic (same--you get the pattern here), 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. When potatoes are cool, pour dressing over them and toss. Add one bunch chopped fresh dill and one small bunch chopped fresh cilantro. Mix together and reseason if need be.
Plate up the asparagus and potatoes salad and add a couple slices of local cheese like coach farms goat cheese, or a soft-boiled locally raised egg with salt and pepper, and you've done your part to reduce our dependence on oil. The earth and your belly thank you.


Hungry For More?
Go here to read a NY Times article about research of the health benefits of eating locally.