Friday, October 22, 2010

Eat This Poem

Dear Mouse,

In honor of apple season, I wanted to share this poem. My friend Famous Poet Guy was commissioned by this organization to write about kids' health and nutrition. Good message, good to remember in a time when it's easy to get conned into thinking "it isn't a problem if they can't sell you the cure".

Plus that kinetic typography just looks cool.

I'm going to eat a freshly-picked apple for breakfast right about now.
Preach it, Eat it, Reheat It, Repeat it.

(See? I'm a Slam Poet Too!)


The Boo
PS. Fresh cranberries are finally in the grocery store!!! Making muffins right now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Brooklyn Barn-Raising (with Quiche!)

Dear Mouse,

"I like New York in... October...
How about you?"

Oh, Autumn. I think it's only fair to say that probably my next three posts will be dedicated to this, my favorite season. Anyone who is not as enthralled as I am by fiery gold and magenta trees, boots and jackets, chill winds and bright sunlight, apples and pumpkins and squash, and the subtle surge of excitement as the Wheel of the Year turns once again...

Still Life w/apples and homemade challah (or "Jewish Egg Bread" according to the recipe that came with The Poets' breadmaker. Uh-mazing.)

Oh, as if there could be such a person. (What's the Fall version of Scrooge?). Anyway, my point is that once again we have entered the glorious Season of Change, and this one is more exciting than most. First of all, there is YOUR wonderful, exciting news that "The Boyfriend" is now a free handle for use in this blog. :-) Secondly, last weekend, I attended a gorgeously autumnal New England wedding on 10/10/10 and am now convinced that the October wedding is THE way to go... and, thirdly, THIS weekend ...I made quiche.

(Oh, and I'm gonna be in my first movie. !! But you can't eat that.)

Not just any quiche. Life-affirming, celebratory, in-with-the-new quiche. Also, really really easy to make, so I thought I'd share the details.

Not far from The Mouse House, in another part of the forest, another lovely couple were preparing themselves for a new chapter. My dear friends Mr. and Mrs. Poet, who regularly welcome what seems like NY's entire literary/performing community to their Friday Night table, are about 2 months away from a more permanent form of dinner guest. One who needs a room to sleep in, with a fresh coat of paint and cute stencils on the walls. And probably one or two embarrassing, rock & roll-themed onesies. Only time will tell...

"Come help us paint", said Mrs. Poet, "and we'll feed you."

Basically, I was at the door five minutes later bearing a large box of Dunkin' Donuts from the set. (Side bar: why, WHY, is there so much of this kind of food on movie sets? Why would you lock a bunch of actresses in a room together to prepare to be in your film and then buy them pastry? It's hilarious. There is more food available than at one of our family gatherings, and no one eats. )

Mr. Poet and I rolled up our sleeves and began to paint Little Poet's room a lovely dove gray. We hauled a set of bookshelves out to the curb and stained them dark brown as the sun began to slide orangely (orangely?) down the Williamsburg sky and the building's heat clicked on.

"One more coat", said Mr. Poet, "and then let's break for dinner." I thought about how there is something really satisfying about food that is eaten after manual labor, as replenishment and reward for a tangible, self-evident job well done. I thought about Amish communities, who all get together to build somebody's house. " I feel like I'm at a barn raising", I said.

Over glasses of Mr. Poet's father's buttery-toffee-scented, peat-smokey-flavored HOMEMADE WHISKEY (which it pains me to inform you that you can't get anywhere but at their house), Mrs. Poet (she was drinking seltzer, don't worry) said "I think I'll make a quiche for dinner with the eggs from our CSA."
Crust awaiting farm-fresh friends.

When I arrived for the Barn Raising, Mr. and Mrs. Poet were already busy in the kitchen. Their kitchen table was covered with tomatoes, potatoes, prune plums, turnips, a golden, dusty head of garlic, and a carton of eggs of delightfully varying sizes. It was their latest Farm Share haul, and they were sorting it into piles to muse on before tucking away into the fridge. Mouse, when I move back to your hood, we need to go in on a CSA together. It's crazy not to. For the uninitiated, a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) is a win-win situation where, for a yearly fee, you get to pick up a 'share' of fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs and/or even meat, sometimes flowers, that come straight from local farms. As the East Williamsburg CSA site says, "you are purchasing a direct link to the freshest local produce, providing farmers with much-needed capital at the beginning of the growing season, and investing in sustainable farm practices". Further info is at many web sites, but here's one for NYC folks, for starters.

AND more to the point.... you can taste the difference.

Farm-Share, Baby-Welcoming, Fresh-Egg Quiche with tomatoes, cheddar, and some kinda greens, I forget what, I was so enthralled with the taste of the eggs. Hard to describe, just delicate, super-fresh, and HEALTHY. And as always when eating REAL FOOD, I wondered "why would you eat anything else?"

This quiche was made out of local eggs and tomatoes (& store-bought grated cheddar thrown in, but it could easily have been farmer's market goat cheese, picked up on the way home from work). And - as all cooking is when you have stellar ingredients - it is SO, SO EASY. Mrs. Poet taught me this trick for the filling: Break the eggs into a measuring cup and whisk them. Then, just thinking "1/2 cup milk per egg" (because it doesn't actually measure out that way), pour milk into the same measuring cup til it reaches that line. ie, if you're using 4 eggs, pour in the milk til the "2 Cup" line has been reached. Then, whisk to combine and pour into a bowl.

Then, put ANYTHING you want in with the egg mixture -- a package of grated cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped fresh herbs, salt & pepper --- to heck with measurements - and pour it all into a prepared pie crust (yes, you can buy one). Bake it at 350 for probably 30 min (check at 20) or until a fork inserted in middle comes out clean and it isnt runny. Serve with a big green salad, and of course, movie-set-reject donuts afterwards. Expectant Moms will thank you.

What? What did I say? No pressure.



The Boo

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Snapshot of a Dinner

Dear Boo,

What you see pictured here is not my most inspired creation, nor the most aesthetically appealing dish to grace our table, nor the most perfectly seasoned. In literal terms, its roasted pears and fennel, with a bit of balsamic and a healthy dose of blue cheese, intended to top a salad of mixed greens. In not so literal terms, it is love.

There are, as our mother has astutely noted, some times in life when you find yourself, for some reason unknown to any but the deepest, most primitive, wisest, most tucked-away part of your soul, taking a mental snapshot of a moment. Years ago, before the Boyfriend was even a twinkle in my eye, before I could even imagine imagining where we'd go, when all I knew was that around him I laughed harder and wilder than with anyone else, producing snorts and whoops and wheezing I barely knew I was capable of--one night, I sat across from him at a rehearsal table and before my mind had a chance to process it, before it had even occurred to me (I swear!), a tiny voice I didn't even recognize as my own, peeped up from inside me and told me that some day I would kiss this person and that it would change everything. I remember that moment. I remember where I was sitting in the room. I remember what our chairs looked like. I remember the wood grain on the table. I remember the lights from the windows of the apartment building across the street.

Years from now, I will close my eyes and call up a snapshot of our dinner table. I will remember the candles. I will remember the light blue of the napkins we always use. I will remember dipping our hands into a giant bowl of mussels, trying, as we always do, to eat slower. Talking, as we always do, between bites of broth-soaked crusty bread. Laughing, as we always do, our mouths full.

I will not, however, remember this salad.

We never ate it.

For once in my life, I was actually too happy to finish a meal.

And so was The Fiance. :)


The Mouse

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

There's No Denying It.

Dear Boo,

Though this has probably been obvious for quite some time, it's only just been made blatantly clear to me that I am, in fact, a food geek. What clued me in, you might ask?

Exhibit A:
I recently donned pigtails and a gas station work shirt emblazoned with a name tag reading CARL, got on a ferry one early Saturday morning, and spent the day slinging pork for the Pig Island Event on Governor's Island, at the Grill-A-Chef booth.

If foodies attend such events, food GEEKS volunteer for them.

It was a blast.

Read more about it (and get the recipe) here.

Exhibit B:
The other morning, on a crowded subway platform on 168th Street, elbowing my way into the elevator up to street level, trying not to spill my coffee or drop my umbrella, I actually shrieked when, while listening to a podcast of the Sporkful, I heard the host mention my name and QUOTE me!

If a food nerd listens to a podcast called the SPORKFUL, then a food dork writes in to said podcast, and a food GEEK gets overly excited and texts everyone she knows.

I can't even touch the fact that the episode was about oatmeal and my comment was an impassioned vote for a savory breakfast version you see above. I don't even know what to call a person who does that.

Listen to it here! Or download the Sporkful podcast here! (I'm right towards the end. You can call me The Closer.)

Yours in Geekdom,

The Mouse

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hot Dogs for Breakfast (Chicago, IL)

Dear Mouse,

So there I was. A beautiful, autumnal Monday morning in Chicago, at I'm gonna say, 10AM (which was 11 for me, still on NYC time, but still - !), attempting to answer this question:

"So how would you feel about hot dogs for breakfast?"


The speaker was my host and companion Vitamin A, who my friend Dave likes to call "Abe Froman" (as in, Ferris Bueller's "Sausage King of Chicago"). I was pondering the irony of this when I realized A was waiting for an answer. He couldn't possibly be serious, so I just laughed ... and then, in the pause that followed, heard the unmistakable sound of a carefully-crafted itinerary crashing onto a hardwood floor. Hastily, I scooped up the shards and plastered them back together into something that sounded like:

"I mean, why not? That sounds great!"

and then, weakly,

"But I think maybe we should do EITHER hot dogs OR pizza "(which I knew was coming at dinnertime), "not both."

Here was breakfast:

"Chicago-style hot dog, with Everything" (pickle slice, onions, tomatoes, relish, mustard)

Marsala and Roasted Garlic Wild Boar Sausage. What.

and, as I'm sure will not surprise anyone, here was dinner:

Deep dish w/pepperoni, green olives, mushrooms, and fresh garlic.

There was a long walk in between; that's gotta count for something.

Vitamin A is one of those entirely suspect people who a) claims he rarely eats, b) eats, c) has out-consumed me every time we've eaten, and d) shows absolutely no evidence of this on his physical frame, du tout. You would never know, for example, that this was by no means his first time eating both "Hot Doug's" and Pequod's Pizza in the same day. Live and learn...

...and, when in Chicago, eat these things:

For Breakfast ...
Allow me to suggest a rich, cake-y, big ol' slice of banana bread with an umistakable cardamom streak and the crunch of sugar crystals throughout. Fabulous coffee. Natch.

For Alternative Breakfast... HOT DOUG's
This "Encased Meat Emporium" boasts a menu that includes Alligator, Wild Boar, Chicken, 'Bacon Sausage', Bratwurst, Andouille, and His Eminence the "The Dog", as seen above.

For Rainy Afternoon "Tea"...THE GAGE outside the Art Institute (where you should go for, you know, Art).
OK: Poutine is french fries doused in gravy and covered in melty cheese curds. I know, it totally sounded gross to me too. It's awesome. At this joint, it's fancified, involving "Elk Ragout" and bits of meat in the sauce. Also on the menu are brussel sprouts w/melted brie & bacon and if you don't order that you are Wrong. If, like me, you are not a beer drinker but are somehow seduced by the list of craft beers you can get a glass of beautifully autumnal Southern Tier "Pum-King" Pumpkin Ale. Pumpkin pie spice "on the nose", is what I'd say if I talked like that, and a flavor aptly described by our server as "roasted pumpkin". I loved it. If like A, you are an actual beer drinker, you probably will not. Order something more like Bell's Best Brown Ale, which is deep and nutty and I still can't drink more than half a glass of that kind of thing. It helps if it is a grey and blustery day outside. It does not help if you leave your umbrella there. Just FYI.

For Just-Off-The-Plane Kinda Fancy Dinner... West Town Tavern
"Contemporary Comfort Food". Yep. Pesto Gnocchi, Duck Confit, Trout, Apple Crisp. Done. Vitamin A claims that whenever I taste something delicious for the first time, my eyes inadvertently close, and this may be why I can't remember what the trout looked like.

For Last-Night-in-Town Flourish, We-had-Hot-Dogs-For-Breakfast Dinner...
Oh the honor and the glory. Chicago Deep Dish, I bow before you. As a New Yorker, I am obligated to balk at calling this "pizza", but can embrace it as just plain Joy on a Fork. Fresh garlic is IT; totally 'makes' the whole pizza and it is best to be sharing it with someone who is also eating it as they are not kidding about the garlic and it will seep out of your pores for the whole night (worth it). I carried a leftover slice in my purse all the way to NYC on the plane. Better the next day.

So long Chicago. I'll be back soon - you're a Hard Habit To Break. An Inspiration. (Couldn't resist!)

By the way, did you know that there really is an Abe Froman? I didn't.

The Boo