For Hillary

This is just going to be a personal post. It’s not going to be inspiring (though, links at bottom) and it will definitely sound super selfish. Commiserating today has been helping me. So, this is where I am at for now.

I still feel sick. I’ve been crying for two days straight. My heart—and you know I mean this, because I hate talking about my heart—is broken into a million, billion pieces. For me, for Hillary, for our country, that we don’t get to see her as president. I wanted that more than anything.

On Tuesday night, before I went to sleep—around midday in East Coast time—I had never been so excited in my life. I’ve been waiting for this since the 2008 primaries. I’ve loved and admired Hillary for a really, really long time. I honestly don’t remember how I decided on her back then. I remember how excited and proud I was, standing in a New Haven library and filling in my ballot for her, to be voting for a woman, a strong, progressive, feminist, just fucking awesome badass woman. And I’ve been with her ever since—just, really quietly, because of all the times I’ve had people (mostly men) tell me I was wrong. And then. Well.

In my Russian conversation class today, when we were talking briefly about the election, my teacher said to me, “All the students have been in bad moods today, but you seem really upset. Why is this so close to you?” I just kinda mumbled, “It’s hard to say.” Partly because I didn’t want to start crying again, partly because many of the reasons were things I wouldn’t have felt safe saying while I’m living in this country, partly just because it is hard to explain.

I’m a Jewish, queer, slightly mentally ill woman. That’s not really why this scares me so much. I’m white, and I can hide the rest of it, which I do, most of the time, which I’m ashamed of. So, hi—here’s the truth. This election will change me. It’s hard to say “home” right now when I think of that place, but: I will do everything I can to change this country when I get home.

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I made baked ziti tonight (sort of). This post was going to be about it. About how it’s my home, but that sounded stupid. And it’s not MY home that matters. But this is how I am trying to make myself stop being so tired and sad and despairing and get up. It didn’t work, but I’ll try again.

 

I’m also collecting links to YES LET US GO FIGHT articles:

Ask Polly
Daily Kos
Deadspin
HuffPo
Jezebel
Leslie Knope (Vox)
Man Repeller
Medium 1
Medium 2
Slate

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THE RETURN OF THE COOK!

Many things have happened since last I wrote, both in life and apparently in WordPress. Everything looks very scary and confusing. (Am I talking about life or WordPress?! You’ll never know.)

So I have returned from glorious Estonia 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪 🇪🇪  and am in AMERICA for like a month. I have been enjoying my gluttonous, wicked comforts, such as air conditioning and General Tso’s chicken (haha lol oops vegetarianism). And I bought challah. And the chip-and-pin machines don’t work here. And everyone speaks English, which is terrible, because you have to hear all the very dumb things they say. Personal favorite: “I totally just had the runs in that bathroom!” I heard that on 6th Avenue and 34th Street. And I keep drinking Starbucks, because they don’t have it in Estonia, and in Russia I can’t understand what they say because they speak in Russian. Basically I’m enjoying myself.

I was *extremely* thirsty while I was grocery shopping just now, so I bought, among other things, Gatorade (bright green because I love green), watermelon, and the ingredients for dill pickles (or basically just dill and cucumbers since I forgot all the other ingredients). If we have vinegar in the house, I am going to make them.

After searching for vinegar: Here is a picture of all the vinegars we have in the house. Most of them were donated to my parents by me, two years ago, when I moved out of the Official Relatively Shitty Apartment. And none of them is white vinegar, except for the one that is white vinegar, but there’s like hardly any white vinegar left.

I also found a six-pack of Harpoon Rye IPA, which sounds like the best thing ever, but it was filled with Sam Adams. Ahem, parents.

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Frazzly, sour, bitter, hot

I have, in my long life, come across recipes for kimchi fried rice many times. It never seemed remotely appealing. I don’t like kimchi: it’s too cold, sour, spicy, lip-puckering, shriveling. It always comes before something better, something I want much more.

But when I came across it on Pink Basil, it suddenly looked perfect—red, hot. Full of onion and chewiness and oil; I thought it would be cooling. And I anticipated a week or two of Pantry Staples because of various traveling.

So I bought kimchi (which totally destroyed my $5 rule—that I can’t buy any single thing that costs more than $5, ingredients-wise; this rule is frequently destroyed, most recently by CHERRIES), and it sat in my fridge for a while. Kimchi, if you are not aware, is basically fermented cabbage. It is also very good for you, in a yogurt sort of way, if you catch my meaning. The brand I bought—no idea what the name is; it just says “New York Kimchi” and then some things in Korean—contains cabbage, apple, salt, ginger, garlic, green onion, anchovy broth (SURPRISE! not vegetarian!), pepper, chile powder, and some sort of bacteria that’s put there on purpose.

Today I finally made the fried rice.

I have purchased a new friend. His name is Mofo, Do Not Rob Me Or You Will Regret It. I will keep him under my pillow. This reminds me of an Eddie Izzard bit, but I cannot find it on YouTube.

“Glang Gling Gling Gling … Gling Gling.” That was a barrel organ version of “Jerusalem,” which was a British, a British Empire type song. It’s a hymn, you know, one that we’d sing in church as a kid, I used to [sings] “And did those feet Boom Boom Boom Boom in …” you know. And it’s got really weird lines in it, and it was “And shall my sword sleep in my hand.” Not a good idea. You’re gonna roll over and cut your bits off, aren’t you. And then it’s that Godfather scene of [holding things to his face] “Uhh, Uhh, Uhh, Uhh, a head of a horse, and my willy.” “Should my sword sleep near my bed, but not too close so it cuts my bits off.” That’s how the line should go.

(Thank you, wonderful people who have transcribed all of Eddie Izzard.)

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Baked orzo with chard

This post could also be titled: how I planned to follow a cool recipe and then decided just to make something that tasted like my favorite baked ziti and was way better than the original plan. The recipe had leeks, dill, and feta cheese, and I spent all day convincing myself that I wanted to eat these things, but I absolutely did not; I went home and made it with onions, some basil pesto from the freezer, and mozzarella. It is pretty much my ideal food, but if you don’t like pasta with tomato sauce and cheese you shouldn’t bother making it.

I will also do a tutorial on Swiss chard, since there have been questions. I love Swiss chard—it’s my favorite leafy green—but it has a very distinct and slightly weird taste, so you probably shouldn’t make it the centerpiece of your meal unless you’ve tried it. I really like it sauteed until entirely wilted and silky, with lots of garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. So you should try this.

Anyway, here’s a bunch of Swiss chard (regular, not rainbow—rainbow is prettier, but I don’t think there’s any other difference. Oh, Wikipedia says rainbow isn’t even a breed, just a bunch of different colors put together…).

The stems don’t look great—most recipes tell you to throw them out, but this one uses them, which I like. But you still have to separate them, since the stems take much longer to cook than do the leaves. You fold the leaves together behind the stem and grip the leaves in one hand, near the stem; then you just use the other hand to pull the stem out. It’s easier than it sounds. I can’t describe it properly. It’s also not an exact science.

Then you chop it.

This is maybe an excessive number of pictures of chard.

Then you combine it with onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes. For some reason, this smelled AMAZING. I mean, I thought it would smell good, but it just smelled ridiculously great. It was weird.

Oh, also, you should be listening to the MOTH Story Slam while you do all this. This episode was on. In all sincerity you need to listen to the second one, “Franny’s Last Ride.” I have somehow heard it twice and may or may not have cried both times.

Anyway. Add your chard leaves after a few minutes, then your tomato paste (TIP: You will never ever use a whole can of tomato paste before it goes moldy; stick it in the freezer) and then crushed tomatoes. I also added a few frozen tablespoons of pesto at this point, as a sort of substitute for the dill. I had added less oil than was called for at the beginning (possibly), so I figured the extra oil was OK at this point. Then orzo, cheese, etc., bake.

I baked it for only twenty minutes and it was perfect and finished and bubbly and melty.

This will not in any way serve six. Unless you and/or your friends and relatives eat far less pasta than you should.

Baked Orzo with Chard, Mozzarella and Pesto
(adapted from Serious Eats)

2 tbsp olive oil (less if you plan to use pesto, or the same amount if you don’t care how much oil you eat, which is proper and correct)
1 small-to-medium onion (depending on how oniony you want your pasta), diced
1 large bunch chard, rinsed well, leaves and stems divided; stems cut in ribbons, stems diced
2 medium cloves garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
Basil, chopped, or pesto
1 c (5 oz) uncooked orzo
4 oz mozzarella, cubed

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a two-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray (or not. I cooked it on the stove in my Dutch oven and then just transferred the Dutch oven to the oven).

Heat olive oil until shimmering. Add onion, chard stems, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook about four minutes, until not quite brown. (I don’t even know what that means. It’s not in the recipe.) Add tomato paste and cook for another minute; add chard leaves and cook until wilted. Add crushed tomatoes and orzo and bring to a boil. If you’re using frozen pesto, you might as well add it now so it can defrost and become incorporated. Stir well and remove from heat. Add mozzarella cheese (and fresh basil, if using. I can’t comment on what happens to basil when you bake it but I assume it’s fine. Basil rules).

At this point I just covered the Dutch oven with its lid and stuck it in the oven for twenty minutes; if you’re Dutch-oven-less, put a piece of aluminum foil over your baking dish and cover tightly. If you wish, uncover after twenty minutes and bake for an additional twenty. My orzo was cooked after twenty and I was OK with the level of browning so I didn’t bother.

 

Something amazing recently happened to Fitzpatrick: he is now a unicorn.

A Call for Comfort [Food]

It’s not hard to deduce from my few posts that much of my initial cooking experience is owed to the blog smittenkitchen. Deb Perelman’s anyone-can-do-this adaptations of recipes from well-known sources eased me into the idea of producing real, edible meals in my very own home. Successes from those recipes gave me enough of an ego boost to host my own seder (gasp!). The only real victim here is my boyfriend (you may know him as my handy kitchen assistant) who was perfectly happy ordering in 6 nights a week, reserving the 7th night for Trader Joe’s amazing 99-cent macaroni and cheese. You know, the one from the box with the little packet of orange powder. Okay also maybe my wallet.

The finished product is spectacularly beautiful, with an orange hue you don’t often get with sticky buns.

To get to the point – I serendipitously happened upon the BAKED shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn around the same time this pumpkin cinnamon roll recipe popped up on smittenkitchen. It felt a little bit (a lot a bit) like fate, and it was probably less than 24 hours later that I ordered the BAKED: Elements cookbook from that site I sometimes refer to. Of course, having the recipe (and two versions at that) is only the beginning. Months went by without any legitimate reason to actually make these buns. I hardly ever kept my pantry full of specialty goods like pumpkin, bread flour, or whole milk (I suppose nobody keeps milk in the pantry, unless it’s that new-fangled ultra pasteurized stuff, which I am skeptical of). I can’t even believe I used to consider those “specialty.” I mean, really, I get anxious now when there isn’t pumpkin in my pantry, right alongside shelf-stable cartons of cream. Regardless, it wasn’t until life got a bit more interesting (if you want to put it that way) that I decided to finally spend a good few hours learning some new techniques and making something I’d be able to indulge in as days upon days continue to unfold. A true comfort food emerges. As a side note, I also made ice cream (technically malted frozen custard with chopped hazelnuts. Yes, you want some.). Next week calls for chocolate cake (so stay tuned).

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Marcella’s tomato sauce

Last week was a week of healthy Indian food, low on carbs, and tons of kickboxing. I was kind of hungry and salt-deprived all week and was generally feeling weird and dizzy and light-headed, so I decided I should return to my food roots this week and just have tons of pasta. This is the way my body is used to functioning, and things turn weird when I don’t eat enough pasta/carbs. (I am actually serious about this. I think it’s my metabolism. I can’t get full unless I have a lot of carbs.)

So I wanted to find a way to make pasta interesting, since usually I just put some things on it and that’s it. I am planning to do Swiss chard, chickpeas, and cheese (gruyere and/or mozzarella), in the vein of that one thing I made a while ago and took horrible cell-phone pictures of, but then I thought I would do a real tomato sauce. I have made tomato sauce before, but always just by throwing things into a pot of simmering crushed tomatoes—I wanted, this time, to do a big, real one. So I’m doing the one Marcella Hazan describes as “the most concentrated and the most strongly flavored”: Tomato Sauce I. I’m using canned tomatoes because it is April and there are no good tomatoes anywhere (and also because even when it is tomato season all the tomatoes I can ever find are nasty).

This recipe involves a full half-cup of olive oil. Ew. I am sautéeing 1/3 c onions in it now, and will soon add carrots and celery, finely diced. (That’s what I meant about a real tomato sauce—so many small bits in it.)

There are very few pictures for this post, and all of them are very bad.

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Under Pressure

In the spirit of the last few posts, tonight I’ll be going into a bit of minor detail on how to deal with a pressure cooker when making Indian style lentils. My household recently acquired one, after many weeks of deliberation over the huge range of styles, sizes, and brands. We were finally able to bust it out tonight and give it a spin. Luckily, it didn’t actually do any spinning, but we did duck for cover just in case.

Here is a picture of carrots, since it was requested of me to not include the picture of someone literally ducking for cover. I don’t like carrots, unless they’re candied, in pancakes, or, apparently, highly pressurized.

Our recipe for Curried Lentils came from a book we found at the NY Public Library called The Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook. The ingredients were simple:
2 cups lentils (we used green)
1 cup coconut milk (we used light)
1 cup stock (we used vegetable)
2 tsp. madras curry powder (we used “hot curry” powder)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 tbsp oil (we used olive)

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Red-lentil dal and naan

This post was going to involve a lot of complaining about Mark Bittman, because I was thinking about something I thought he had once said—that some recipe of his was quicker to make than it would be to order in, and tasted better, too. I was going to say that Mark Bittman only dislikes greasy, salty Chinese takeout because he hasn’t eaten a drop of high-fructose corn syrup since he was fifteen and in his rebellious stage. But I can’t find this supposed quote, and also I like Mark Bittman, so I should probably stop complaining.

After last week’s Indian mini-debacle (I’m declaring it a debacle because I have to eat it for lunch all week and this thought fills me with dread), I wanted something simple for dinner. So obviously I decided to make dal and naan. But I chose two recipes from Budget Bytes, and her recipes are simple, well-illustrated, and suited to my American palate. (That sounds like a terrible insult; I just mean she doesn’t use crazy spices, and that’s what I wanted this week. Something that would at least approximate the familiar.) And I wasn’t really in the mood for cooking; I had Chinese takeout yesterday, so now all I want in the world is MORE CHINESE TAKEOUT. But no.

Naan dough, pre-rising. I didn’t knead it NEARLY enough because it was super sticky and I couldn’t tolerate it. I also didn’t form it into a ball. See: stickiness.

Red lentils are beautiful?

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How to: Make brown sugar

White sugar is just brown sugar that’s had the molasses removed from it, so to make brown sugar you just add molasses back to white sugar. If you happen to have bought molasses for a random recipe, you can use it to make your own brown sugar, and then you don’t have to keep buying two different kinds of sugar. Ta-da.

This is a mise-en-place. Or maybe a mis-en-place. But I think the former. (The Prego jar on the left is my brown sugar container.)

I got the measuring spoons at a bridal shower.

Put one cup of white sugar in a bowl. Add one tablespoon of molasses.

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How to: Make burnt almond butter

I’m starting a new series where I teach you how to make ingredients. Mostly because I want to have all the recipes in an easily locatable place and don’t have to go all over the Internet the next time I want them.

This one is even less of a recipe than the others, though: almond butter.

I first made almond butter when I bought a bunch of raw almonds from Fairway intending to make chocolate-covered almonds, which I love. (I lost my taste for peanuts and peanut butter after using them in 15 mouse traps, so I had to move on to a different nut.) However, then I realized that buying ready-made chocolate-covered almonds from Fairway was less expensive per ounce, and I was really annoyed at myself and had no idea what to do with raw almonds. For some reason roasting them just seemed horribly daunting.

Anyway, eventually I roasted them, butterized them, and ate it very happily, mostly on pancakes with honey. When I ran out I decided I needed more. Trader Jacqui bought me some cheap almonds from Trader Joe’s, her homeland. I roasted them today while simultaneously crisping macaroni and cheese, and as a result waaay over-roasted them. This wasn’t actually clear until I started pulverizing them, but IMPORTANT NOTE: Your almond butter should NOT be the color mine is in these photos. I’m posting this anyway because the process is the same whether you have burnt the shit out of your almonds or not, but almond butter should be much lighter!!! Just keep that in mind. Continue reading