Just me and my creatures

It is the end of week five of quarantine, and things have invaded my home.

There’s something living in the wall. It scratches and turns around. The space is too small for it.

There are small black bugs that ignore the lucious lures I’ve set out for them and instead scamper up and down the walls, turn upside down in utensil drawers, wait for me to set them upright in a moment of softness.

There’s a large fly named Loretta who talks to me when I try to write and leaves out the window when asked.

I have discovered at least seven new personalities of my own during this time.

Anyway, here are some things that I have been drinking.

  1. Cider. Cider is better than beer. That is because it is sweet and tastes good.
  2. Vodka with blackcurrant juice and simple syrup infused with baies roses. This is, I think, the best thing I have ever made on my own. Probably because I was only using things I happened to have (OK, sidenote, I no longer keep interesting food in my house because I kind of hate cooking now, but I will hereafter be like, oh yes, I just whipped this up with some *flips hair* blackcurrant juice and rare pink peppercorns I happened to have lying around) so I couldn’t follow a recipe, I was just extremely bored and going insane. (This was like three weeks ago, when the progressive verb could still be used; we are now in past perfect territory.)

Anyway, so, I made it on my own, and didn’t have to worry about “is this right??? is this real? is this authentic? is this a real thing?” and just did it. IT WAS REALLY GOOD. I would make this even when I wasn’t quarantining. Haha, just kidding, I will run for the hills as soon as this is over and will never make my own food or drink again.

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Toaster cake and the end of an era

The end of the era is not the end of this blog. This blog is eternal, like … two very small eternal things. However: I did today finally finish this Russian TV show I’ve been watching for like 700 years. (And before that, I was watching a different Russian TV show that this one is a spinoff of.) This is very momentous and all that.

(Also, there is going to be a spinoff of the spinoff. The first comment on the trailer on YouTube says, “Who is going to watch that… WELL nonsense completely.” [Directly translated from Russian.] The second comment says, “Hurray!”)

I just tried to find a clip of the show to embed here for you, but I could not find a good one; it is a very bad show. Here instead is a clip from Kukhnya (Kitchen), the original series:

 

As you can see, it is a work of great comic genius. (They are trying to cure someone of the hiccups by scaring him with a cat; instead, the wrong person gets scared, and is cured of their stuttering.) This clip also features Fedya and Senya, great best friends after whom I am going to name my cats someday.

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SOOUUUURRRDOOOUUUGHHHHHH

This post is approximately one hundred years in the making, i.e., I’ve been thinking about and putting off making sourdough for roughly one hundred years. HOWEVER, I’m writing a story where the protagonist basically is having a mental breakdown and makes a lot of bread (which is obviously autobiographical, but she’s more advanced than me and makes sourdough, so I figured I would have to learn so as not to let her get ahead of me) (and also so I can see if the story makes any sense). I’ve been working on this story for almost a year and I’m SO tired of it (I’m on draft 6.2, per my numbering system) and I’m hoping that the sourdough experiment will somehow push it into being finished.

So I got this brilliant idea at the library during writing group, and then I got home and started preparing, and then realized that Passover starts on Friday. But I think the starter itself will be ready right around Friday, so then I can put it in the fridge (where it will enter a state of suspended animation) and revive it after Passover ends (much like happened to Khan, but hopefully the starter will be less distressed/violent). And then I can have sourdough to break Passover. It will be very exciting.

I am starting with Phickle’s sourdough starter tutorial; it’s based on Tartine Bakery‘s book (link courtesy of my neighborhood independent bookstore!), and thus should be good. It looks easy to follow, thus its appeal (and it was the first thing I found). If anything goes terribly wrong I’ll consult Breadtopia, which is a very soothing and lovely site.

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Everything is going exactly according to plan, no issues here whatsoever.

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Always obey the New York Times. (NOT.)

On Wednesday I got back to work from vacation and was reading my email and the New York Times was like, you should make broccoli rabe lasagna this weekend, and I was like, YES IN FACT I SHOULD. I very impressively went grocery shopping after work the next day in the middle of a polar vortex or whatever it is this time (it WASN’T THAT COLD, PEOPLE. You all need to spend a winter in Estonia). (Or Siberia, I guess. But I got there after January and it wasn’t that cold. Only like -10°C. I once told my teacher I was cold and she gave me this very pitying look and said, “This is very warm for us.” But now I know that she was doing that thing where you try to seem cool by pretending you’re not cold. I have embraced it, as you see. But it’s really not that cold here though. The inside of your nose doesn’t even freeze.)

Anyway, I decided there was no need to leave the apartment all weekend, since I had to finish copyediting (I want to link to the book but I can’t decide if I shouldn’t???), and also use the cold as an excuse to have a much-needed two full days without talking to anyone. I had stocked up on baking and food things, so in between copyediting I made toasted rye molasses chocolate chip cookies (we hate Chris Kimball now, though, right? oh well) and pear bread and watched Good Behavior, this show I became obsessed with on the plane back from Shanghai and which caused a rift in my friend group because I said the main guy was the hottest guy of all time and none of them agreed. Anyway, a lot of exciting things happened on the show, so I made extensive mistakes in the baking processes, but it’s fine.

Cookies

So beautiful cookies. They taste like normal cookies.

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The last new place / последнее новое место

I guess this is now a tradition: the first post in the new kitchen in the new country. I’m in Siberia now (since Thursday) and I’ve been eating only pelmeni since then (literally), but today I finished cleaning, and it was -27°C outside, so I decided to stay in and make dinner. Cook something other than hot-pot mac-and-cheese for the first time in five months.

While I was chopping the onion—or actually crudely hacking it—I was thinking: this is just making a normal weekday dinner, this is not “deciding not to bother and going out to Cooksoo at the last minute” or “let’s experiment with cool Estonian things I found in the supermarket”—this could just be, I’m at home and living my life. Like I will for the entire rest of my life. This is what it will be like when I get back to the US in June after three years abroad—exactly the same as it was before I left (except worse, because without my cat, who cruelly and unnecessarily abandoned me by dying). I don’t want to stay abroad but I don’t want to go back either.

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This is the view from my kitchen table/desk. ПРИВЕТ, РОССИЯ!

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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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Spanish tortilla, aka food without cheese

Because I had a grotesque and horrible cold last week (well, I don’t know when I’m going to post this… so let’s just say sometime in the recent past), I needed a dinner recipe for the week that involved no cheese. This was very tragic for me. My first thought was something Asian, but ultimately I chose a Spanish tortilla, and then went to Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. (I was sick and in no mood for doing any further research.)

I first spent ninety-seven years slicing three enormous Yukon Gold potatoes (or U.K. Gold, if you are my supermarket and speak imperfect English) and one small onion. I can thereby attest that you should not make this on a weeknight unless you have a mandoline, which I do not. I am, however, an exemplary slicer. But it still took forever.

I cooked the potatoes and onion in a terrifying amount of oil

(most of it gets discarded later, though; so I now have a totally solidified Grey Poupon jar of potato-y, onion-y olive oil in my fridge) for about ten minutes; I should have done slightly less, since the pan I was using was far too big and thus most of the potatoes were in direct contact with the heat source. (SK tells us to use a nine-inch skillet, but I only have one skillet and it is enormous; I didn’t want to risk using a frying pan and having an eggsplosion. This seems like the sort of thing that would happen to me.)

I drained the oil using a colander over a bowl, added s&p, and let them cool a bit while I beat my seven eggs (!!!!). I added s&p and then poured in the potato/onion mixture. They mingled for ten minutes while I did my Russian homework. Я учу русский язык.

I added some oil back into the skillet, then added the egg mixture; I cooked for a bit, trying to let the egg run around the sides as she said, but the pan was so oily that the entire tortilla kept moving whenever I tried to do this.

Once the top was mostly solidified (I’m sorry but I don’t even remotely remember how long this was… five, ten minutes??), I spatula-ed it onto a dinner plate. That part wasn’t too hard—it came right out.

Then I turned the skillet over the plate.

Then I went, what in God’s name do I do now.

I think I just sort of stuck my oven mitt–encased hand under the plate, and then, with my other oven mitt–encased hand on the skillet’s bottom, flipped it over. It was actually not as hard as it sounds, but it was anxiety-provoking.

I put the skillet back over the flame, and learned that the bottom of my tortilla was way too dark. I either overcooked it or had it over too high a flame. (I think the latter; I am overall satisfied with the amount of cooking.)

Then it was done shortly thereafter.

I didn’t think it would be that exciting-tasting, but it was REALLY GOOD. It was like… potato omelette… but in cake form… and it was weirdly addictive and I couldn’t stop eating it. That said, I can’t really imagine ever doing this again, but it was a good experience. And yummy.

I ate it with arugula-and-cherry-tomato salad.

 

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen; not adapted, so just look at it on her site.

Israeli couscous with eggplant and tomato

Here is the very belated second post of the week. While I am writing this, I still haven’t tasted it because of hopefully unfounded stomach fears… but I’ll have some soon and let you know. It smelled and looked amazing, so I think it will be fine.

I had been meaning to make this for several years, but never got around to it, even after Jacqui found and bought me some whole-wheat Israeli couscous (for less than like $8/lb, which is what Fairway sells it for, blehhh).

I don’t know if it’s because this happened so long ago or because it was really easy, but I can’t think of a whole lot to say about this. It was easy.

I take a LOT of pictures of steam by accident.

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You will regret reading this. It’s disgusting.

A few notes on this post (ugh, this already sounds like a work e-mail):

  1. If you don’t like it, you may blame Fig’s aunt. (I won’t link to her in case that’s weird.) She requested a new post. I was going to write one anyway, but then I started to feel gross, so I changed my mind, but then I changed it back again.
  2. There is a very small chance I am dying. If you don’t hear from me in a week, you may assume I am dead and move on to greener blog pastures.
  3. Everything you are about to read is gross and unpleasant, and will involve conversations with things and creatures that cannot speak in reality. (Update: I was going to relate a conversation with Fitzpatrick, but I won’t bother. It was even weirder than the rest of all this.)

A straggly band of loners. The roots of tomato disease are already visible.

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What I did for food

Woah.

I have just made an unbelievable salad.

I know.

It’s from Plenty (but I modified it; also, wow, the American edition of the book is actually prettier), and it was easy, and it is amazing. Vinegary. Broiled tomatoes. Sweet. Aaaah.

Tomatoes before broiling

(Also, I created a very deep gash in my thumb during this evening’s cooking festivities, and bandaged it up and went right on chopping. It was one billion percent my fault—I’m not used to using knives that can actually cut you and did something truly moronic, and cut myself right after thinking “This may not be safe”—and actually it was while I was chopping for things for r&b for lunch, not for this. But still. Also, no one wants another post about r&b, so I have to tell you about it here.) Continue reading