Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Secret Weapon

Let's talk about men for a second. I may be generalizing here, or have maybe just dated a certain "type" of guy, but food has always been something that was most definitely, as they say, the way to their heart. Now as a very single girl that's writing this, you can take it with a grain of salt, but let me just set the record straight and say that never once since I learned to cook for realzies has a guy listed among my faults what I fed him. In fact this particular recipe was a special treat for he-who-shall-remain-nameless, and just the accolades I received from him on it may have been why I haven't blogged, or to be honest even made this, since that person has ceased to exist in my life. And the big secret recipe? Why, stuffed mushrooms of course.
For all you non-vegans that'd be some mushroom bases, chopped up and sauteed with minced garlic, herbs like oregano and rosemary, and of course the piece de resistance... bacon. Always a good secret weapon with carnivore significant others, but it especially works with the earthiness of the mushrooms.

How to: Cut Asparagus

I, for one, have always loved asparagus. I still remember chowing down on it, definitely the canned kind (which, hey, it's not so bad) at my Grandparents house for our weekly "fancy big deal" dinners and it's always stuck with me. As a vegetable it's an easy go to. Great in pastas, on pizza, in couscous, blanched, sauteed, roasted. You name it, I'll eat it. Asparagus is just such a clean, perfectly springy vegetable.

But have you ever noticed the further you go down the stalk the tougher it gets, almost to the point of becoming a stringy, inedible mess? And if I told you there were a super easy solution to avoiding that annoyance in the future? Well here it is.
1. Wash asparagus stalks and let dry on paper towel

Friday, March 25, 2011


Amidst numerous 1/2 started posts and ideas in my head that I've yet to put on paper, I finally found it. The perfect vegan recipe. It was all thanks to a work friend, a girl who often shares various food ideas, as well as beauty secrets over our lunch hour, who pointed me in the direction of this fabulous recipe that I've already planned multiple variations of.

Can I tell you how easy it was? I was already making some of Francis Lam's Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free (with a twist- added currants and some red wine) Spaghetti for dinner and as I was going away for the weekend and trying to clean out the fridge I roasted up some leftover cauliflower and sunchokes with crushed garlic. Then simply cut up the extra firm tofu-key for this recipe- sprinkled some olive oil, oregano and salt over and baked for approximately 20 minutes. Together with some homemade whole wheat focaccia- just my normal focaccia recipe with the flour divided to 1/2 all purpose and 1/2 whole wheat- it was the perfect work day lunch, but over some polenta and perhaps slightly larger tofu slices it would be the best dinner.

Today a Little Blog Love: Home Away from Home*

Today I'm in Virginia at my sister (and boyfriends') place, just hanging while they're at work, having a much needed break from my non-stop life. I'm just relaxing on the couch, letting the sun from the window warm me as I listen to some Edward Sharpe and type and just reflect for a moment of how much I love this. Being able to hop on a train and in just a few hours be here with one of my best friends. In my time in New York it's the ability to so easily leave and in a few hours be in any number of other places I've always loved almost the most. It's something you definitely can't do everywhere and it's something that keeps me sane in the city. And don't get me wrong, I'm more often home in Brooklyn, and loving it, then other places, but in the back of my mind knowing that if I needed to leave at a moments notice (also without breaking the bank) I could.

In a few weeks I'll once again be hopping on a train, this time heading North, to see one of my favorite bands play in Boston. Sure, they're playing in New York, but the thought of seeing a new venue, revisiting a favorite city, taking a 24 hour me get away and just the fact that I can do this, was all too much to ignore.

You may or may not know where I'm going with this and the honest to goodness truth is maybe nowhere, but recently I've begun looking at my time in New York as something that might be winding down, and perhaps faster than I ever expected. Much like George Costanza, I want to leave on a high note, and it's caused me to start looking at the city I've had such an on-going love-hate relationship with through different eyes. No more is it the daily grind, it's doing wild things (well, wild for a little Texas girl)- riding subways, working a block away from the largest building in NYC, visiting all the neighborhoods with such different vibes, walking-walking for days, dodging tourists, going to places that don't exist where I'm from (vegan bakeries- and more than 1, bars with bocce courts, giant sprawling parks in the middle of metropolis' where amazing bands play, cutting edge original restaurants from up and coming chefs)... I could go on for days.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Miso Eggplant

Finally... a vegan recipe worth blogging about. But all I could think about while eating this meal was how great it would be with fish... some cod, or scallops, perhaps even shrimp? But I promise, it is great meal if you are a vegan and if you aren't I suggest this as an appetizer or side.
Setting up veggie prep. Love the different colors
Since I wasn't quite sure just the eggplant would be enough for dinner, I threw in some tofu, baby bok choy and mushrooms. Best with the eggplant was the bok choy, with the contrasting textures it worked to not feel completely like I was just eating mushy baby food- which sounds worse than it actually was, but just eggplant, tofu and mushrooms was not enough bite. I served with some quinoa... a first time making, and in retrospect wish I had done with a nice fluffy white rice, but next time. And tonight I'll actually be recreating this miso glaze, but for scallops, so the glaze is really where the money is.

Second Best Baked Good

After pie dough that is, but I think because the making of the 2 are so similar... the desired fat and flour crumb consistency, just enough liquid, the necessity for the fat to be as chilled as possible before and after combining. That'd be the cheddar chive biscuit, from BLT Fish. I figured since I just mentioned it, and turned down one straight from the source, the least I could do is give you the recipe, right?

One thing Laurent Tourondel has excelled at (or perhaps more correctly, his pastry chef's) is the unique baked goods served at his restaurants. I was in love at first bite with the cheddar chive biscuits and bought a popover pan after having his gruyere popovers at BLT Prime. He's also so nice to give you a little recipe card, gratis, along with the baked treats. And it was through this that I was able to make and eventually perfect my biscuit making skills.

Checking In: Week 1 1/2

It's so hard to sit inside and blog when it's beautiful and sunny out. And lately it seems I'm either at work or sleeping, so when I have the choice to not do either I'm working out or running errands (check both off that list for today, yay!). But I've been up and out since 8:30 this morning and have the good excuse of finally getting my neglected laundry done so here I am at last. 
The lone biscuit I couldn't eat. *tear*
Mood: I'm doing good. If you saw my post from last Tuesday, it's been just a good, happy mood combined with some fun, interesting things happening in my life. I think I've said this before but under normal circumstance I'm usually pretty happy, but it's more of an even keel... since the pesca vegan though it's definitely been elevated and I am not complaining at all. Even with my amped up responsibilities at work, bring it on, I'll get it done with a smile.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Maybe not quite as much as Boston or Chicago but New Yorkers definitely know how to party for St. Patty's Day. I work on a street with a few major Irish bars that are usually a first stop for most of the b&t New Jersey and Long Islander's coming off the trains at Penn. While making my lunch (a sad little vegan burger) 6 floors up I could hear all the revelry below, even bag pipes (aren't those Scottish? Does it matter today?), carried up. To top it off it is absolutely beautiful today, sunny, 60, not a cloud in the sky. Perfect to be out celebrating. But alas work calls and I cannot get away... at least not until 4p when my work is having a happy hour in the office. Did I mention I work at one of the best places ever or at least in New York City?

Today, even in the office with everyone scrambling to get 2Q ready, it looks so festive with most everyone in their green, some having even taken it to an extreme (our lone guy assistant in a green seersucker jacket for one) and another co-worker brought in some Irish Soda Bread, which I wish I could enjoy but she assured me there were definitely eggs, butter and milk in it. Sad day for vegans.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to: Chop an Onion

Yeah, we all know how to chop onions, I'm sure you're saying. Easy peasy. But... can you chop an onion into perfectly even little pieces in less the 60 seconds, Top Chef style? Oh no? Well watch and learn my friend.
1. So you take an onion and chop it in half. Lop off the top (not the part with the roots, the other end). Remove all outer skin and maybe a layer below that, depending on how tough and/or dry it looks to you

It's All in the Dough

My Mom can always tell when I've been near a pie. The crust might be slightly lopped off in some places, hastily reconstructed in others. There's no way around it, I love pie crust. I'd like to say that I love pie, the whole thing, but the sweet just gets to me so half the time I'll end up scraping out most of the filling and just eat the crust. One of the few and most favorite desserts of mine was just leftover pie dough after the pie was made, cut into strips with some butter spread over and then a little sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top. The cinnamon toast of pie dough, if you will.

Baking has always been my greatest challenge. I've always been very fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to cooking (add a pinch of oregano here, let's try some aji with that there) and baking is just not conducive for that attitude, which has gotten me into trouble... on more than one occasion. I've only recently purchased dry measuring cups, if you can believe it I've been using my wet Oxo measuring cup (a fantastic purchase btw) anytime I needed to bake. For me it's just soooo tediousss to follow directions word for word and measure by measure but I've recognized this weakness and tried to improve. This is where my bread baking resolution stemmed from and why I'm always the first to sign up for bake sales. Forget the charity, this is great practice.
My rustic (read interesting) tempeh and eggplant potpies. The dough got me though this tempeh experience

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Fabulous Sandwich Formula

When I was little my mom would give us mashed avocado toast for a snack. The creamy avocado over crispy toast with just a pinch of salt and pepper, this just brings me back to childhood. It's so simple, and almost overly so because I had nearly forgotten it until I read this post from Luisa of The Wednesday Chef. And yes I know I'm constantly referencing her, but it was thanks to her blog, along with LCC, that made me just fall head over heels with the idea of writing about my love of food just for the sheer pleasure of it. The way her stories capture, how her beautifully photographed pictures just draw you in... if you haven't checked out her blog yet, you should get on that.
Today has been another one of those absolutely happy with no major reason why days. I woke up rested, made my 9:30am spin class without being edged out by earlier risers for the first time in over a month (which I attribute to overly eager new years resolutioner's and their now waning exercise habits), wandered around my beautiful neighborhood and came home having worked up an appetite. So why not enjoy one of my favorite foods that fits perfectly with this pesca vegan challenge, and I'm serious when I say avocado is not just a favorite vegetable but is legitimately one of my favorite foods. I'll eat it with nearly anything.

Vegan Fail

I love Korean food. The do it yourself bbq meat, the perfect combination of spicy and tart pickled vegetables, the fact that they aren't afraid to throw a raw egg into a scalding hot bowl of rice, that it satisfies almost every usual craving of mine in one fell swoop. Prior to the vegan challenge I made a Korean dinner part of my last hurrah, as it's one cuisine I'll definitely miss especially working so close to New York's Little Korea, and immediately began thinking of ways to incorporate the cuisine as much as possible into my challenge.
Enter Mother In Law's Kimchi. In my mad dash Wednesday night to Whole Foods, I stood gaping openly at the soy-Asian refrigerated section and when I saw this innocent little jar of kimchi, complete with the design friendly label, it was an immediate grab. Of course I didn't read the ingredients. It's kimchi. It's spicy, tart, fermented. At worse as far as meat of any sort goes there's shrimp paste, fish sauce and/or anchovies. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pesca Vegan- 3 Days Checking In

This has been alternating between absolutely frustrating and not too shabby. I'm hoping as I continue to get into the swing of things I'll feel more comfortable, but until then I feel like I'm on guard when it comes to what I consume. I promised myself when this started that I wouldn't beat myself up if I cheated, either intentionally or not as this is all about making positive decisions, but to just try as much as possible to stick to the pesca vegan plan.

Day 1 had it's own set of unique challenges- crazy work day, frustrating lunch, rushed to mass, home late but ended well, as you can see from the tasty recipe in my previous post. I felt overwhelmed, especially at the store worrying about buying enough produce and proteins but also trying to keep costs down. I'm big on buying meats and freezing them but don't feel as comfortable with fish- I prefer to cook it as soon as possible. I picked up some tempeh, soy milk, hummus and miso- all have long shelf lives- and nabbed some vegan black bean burgers (note: I learned from my vegan friends that most veggie burgers have eggs in them, so I had to be careful looking at ingredients) and a few other vegan frozen foods for those late nights... just in case.

Now Day 2... how do I describe day 2? If you know me personally you know I'm fairly laid back and usually am a pretty happy person. Sure, a few things have happened this and last year that does sometimes attribute to bringing my mood down but overall, I don't dwell. I do what I have to do that's healthy to get myself back on a positive footing and move on as much as possible. But yesterday I woke up in one of the best moods I'd been in for a long time. It was strange, completely bizarre. I wore a wildly colorful dress that I usually only wear to go out in with some leggings, complete with my Frye boots, and the fact that it all worked, and looked so sunny and spring-y on a dreary day made me feel even more amazing. It wasn't even that everything was going my way, generally speaking, there was nothing particularly different than any other day- I was just in the best mood.

Mustard Salmon with a Panko Breadcrumb Crust

Mustard and Panko Salmon
1 salmon fillet per person
2 Tbl. mustard per salmon fillet
2 tsp panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

1. Set oven to broil. Set salmon fillet, skin side down, in an oven safe dish. Salt and pepper the fillet, then top liberally with mustard and make sure all sides, especially the top are coated. Top with the panko breadcrumbs.

2. Broil for 6-7 minutes until fish flakes but is still pink and moist in the middle and the top is golden brown.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shrove Tuesday... aka the Last Pancake

A few months ago my friend Robin and I started doing these weekly dinners. At first it was just a means of survival for me after my breakup. A way to see a friendly face that didn't involve boozing it up, more a ladies lunching outing complete with gossip, sharing our dating woes (and some successes) and providing support for each other as we were 2 girls far from home.

With her being a fellow Texan at first we started with our favorite Texas BBQ place in the city, then it was their fried chicken off shoot and somehow from there we fell into an ethnic food kick, both of us being adventerous eaters. There's been Indian, Korean, Ethopian, etc. So when she suggested I come by her church tonight for a traditional Swedish Shrove Tuesday pancake supper I couldn't resist. It's not what you typically think of when someone mentions ethnic cuisine... but it does fit the requirement.

One Day Away...

It's officially right around the corner. That's right, the pesca vegan-ism ultimate 2011 Lenten challenge. As I'm constantly treating this blog as half food information and half dear diary and since this challenge is not only changing up my diet but my overall lifestyle, therefore bound to affect my moods, I want to document as much as possible. But have no fear, I'll keep posting recipes and will try to keep them as friendly as possible to all eaters of food, no matter personal preference. I'll also need an outlet to express myself and that just happens to be best said here. So here goes.

The Good News: I'm feeling a lot better than I was yesterday. I had been doubting a lot of things and feeling very set back, and with this challenge approaching, it wasn't helping. But making that great dinner last night that could easily be vegan* changed my mood a bit. And a lot of good things happened yesterday that I was able to fully digest today.

My Concerns: It's been a bit overwhelming because food is an important part of what makes me happy, and really it's not even the eating part that comprises the majority of my happiness but the preparing. I'm worried that I'll lose interest in food if I'm constantly eating the same thing, but I'm hoping this will also challenge me to try new dishes, especially fish or vegetables I've been scared to cook. I've been prepping for this by researching recipes, checking out vegan blogs and just checking myself over the past few weeks with what I make and asking if it could somehow be vegan. I'm also concerned about eating out, and sales lunches, dinners and parties are a big (fun) part of my job. This Thursday I actually have a lunch at one of my favorite steak houses which is beyond frustrating, but it's just part of the challenge and I'm grateful it's at least happening early on.

Monday, March 7, 2011

La La Love You

Oh. You thought I was talking about the Pixies song? Well I was actually referring to my 3.5-qt Le Creuset dutch oven... but yeah, the Pixies are pretty awesome too, though No. 13 Baby would actually be my fav song on that very amazing album. Speaking of, I'm not a person with very many regrets in my life but not going to see the Pixies when they did their Doolittle tour a year ago is probably one of my top 3 regrets of my life. Even though I'd been laid off for nearly 8 months, with no job prospects and a rapidly dwindling bank account. Rent or Pixies? If I could go back practical me would probably still pick rent... but it'd be a very tough choice, again. There's always Canada though...

Just go with it right?

I don't know what did it. I'd been feeling overworked, underappreciated, alone with my family so far away and 2 major vacations of the year already come and gone. I've been going out too much, having too much fun and when it's all over, well yes there are the wonderful memories, but also just a yawning sort of emptiness of the daily grind that finally caught up with me today.

It didn't matter that a woman I work with and absolutely adore called me up out of the blue to have lunch. It didn't matter that my highly coveted Frye boots arrived today... and fit. A major coup for the anti-internet shoe shopper. It didn't matter that my EVP (that would be my boss' boss' boss) wanted me to do a write up today for my CEO showcasing the work I've done for my client. The minute I walked in my door tonight the waterworks started. And I just stood there in my darkened doorway and sobbed.
Beauties though, no?


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