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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Hot plate hot problems

I don’t really know what the title of this post means. I only have a hot plate in my kitchen here, so I am going to be experimenting with Hot Plate Cooking. I haven’t even made the dish in question yet, so maybe it will be fantastic. Haaahahaha it will not.

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This picture has nothing to do with the post, I just like it. It’s from the Osh Bazaar.

Today I discovered a horrible truth: there are apartment-hunting websites far, far, far, far, far worse than Craigslist out there. Like, I am sitting here actively thinking I WISH THERE WERE CRAIGSLIST IN BISHKEK. This seems like a very bad sign just about life in general. (The ads here either don’t tell you where the apartment is or who the roommates are, or they want a girl who will pay no rent in exchange for making borsht.) Continue reading

COLD SESAME NOODLES!!!!!!!

Dear Sam Sifton,

You are the best person ever.

Love,

Julie

I just made his cold sesame noodles and then I died because they were SO GOOD and I was SO EXCITED THAT I MADE SOMETHING THAT TASTES GOOD. I AM GOING TO EAT THESE NONSTOP FOREVER.

Anyway, so it is ridiculously hot in New York these days and I decided I should try making cold sesame noodles, even though I’ve never actually eaten them. After extensive research I settled on this recipe, mostly because I love Sam Sifton (ah, the roller coaster of emotions when he was appointed restaurant critic, and then again when he stopped being the restaurant critic).

To go with them, I decided on an Asian-ish vegetable stir-fry with tofu. The stir-fry was made up; I figured it should involve snap peas, because I love snap peas, and baby bok choy. I also bought scallions and then discovered they weren’t in the sesame noodle recipe, so I included them in the stir fry. For the bok choy, I cut the ends off and then just sliced them; I broke up the stems a bit more so I wouldn’t have huge bites of them. (See note below.) For the snap peas, I de-stringed them—you just pull the little string thingy and they sort of unzip; it’s very satisfying—and broke them in half.

I stir-fried the baby bok choy, scallions, and snap peas with garlic, ginger, and a little soy sauce and toasted sesame oil (not enough of either, actually). I pan-fried the tofu until golden. For some reason I thought it would mingle with the vegetables, which would impart their flavor to it; but then I just ate it plain, which was sort of gross, but serviceable, I guess.

Continue reading

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.

Challah: A Tale of Suspense

Today at work I kept reading and rereading the Kitchn’s article on making challah—I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures. Having nothing to do tonight, I decided to make it; and in the middle of a yeast freakout, I decided to liveblog it. Behold. (This recipe is entirely the Kitchn’s; I would never dream of adapting a bread recipe.)

7:26 PM. I add 2 tsp yeast, 1 c lukewarm water, and a pinch of sugar to a small bowl and wait to see if it will froth.

7:27 PM. Start frantically Gchatting everyone in the world and asking them why my yeast won’t froth. Curse yeast.

7:28 PM. IT’S BUBBLING. Get extremely excited. (This is both a command and a statement.)

7:29 PM. It’s not really bubbling any more than it was thirty seconds ago. Perhaps this is a bad sign. DAMN YEAST. Should I start assembling the dry ingredients or not bother? Perhaps the Tale of Suspense will end here.

7:30 PM. I’ve just concluded that it frothed so much that the entire top layer of the bowl was froth, so I didn’t realize it was froth.

7:34 PM. Finish mixing the dry ingredients (4 c flour, 1/4 c sugar, 2 tsp salt).

7:37 PM. Create a well by pushing the flour mixture to the sides, and crack in two eggs, one egg yolk (separated by hand), and a quarter-cup of canola oil. (It said a neutral oil and vegetable oil freaks me out.)

7:52 PM. I made a “slurry” by whisking together the aforementioned wet ingredients, then poured the yeast mixture on top (which was REALLY frothy and cleary enjoying its life) and then mixed everything together until it had formed a shaggy ball:

I then turned it out onto a floured surface (first a piece of wax paper on the counter, but then I got rid of the paper and just used the counter itself) to knead. At first everything went excellently: the dough was smooth and soft and lovely, and I was calmly whacking away at it. (Ew.) (The way I knead is by folding the dough over, pushing it in with the heels of my hands, turning it, folding again, etc. I believe I got this method from the Joy of Cooking, or possibly another cookbook. It’s legit; I didn’t make it up. You can use it safely.) After the flour sort of ran out, and the dough was just sitting directly on the counter, things became unhappy. I think this is because I had very thoroughly scrubbed the counter right before this and it was still damp; every time I added more flour (which I was nervous to do, because I tend to vastly overflour my bread-type goods), the dough instantly and delightfully behaved. After I taste it, I can let you know if I used too much flour… Anyway, after about ten minutes, I stopped flouring, put it in an oiled bowl, covered it with my green kitchen towel, and put it in my Official Bread-Warming Spot, the chair next to the heater.

(Note: You’re supposed to add more flour during the kneading process as necessary.)

I will be back in approximately 1.5 hours. Now I will make an unexciting dinner. (I have been having unexciting dinners this week, thus lack of blogging about them. Ugh I really don’t want to make dinner. There’s no food here.)

8:23 PM. I am in the middle of eating lettuce out of the salad spinner and cooking home fries. Yum. (I have already sauteed onions in butter, and the potato pieces are now sauteing.) The kitty is missing. There were some bad noises coming from the microwave earlier. Note to self and the world: It is difficult to cook when you have no kitchen towel. (Also, I cleaned the counter, which was covered in dough. I wished I had a dough scraper and then felt bad for making fun of Jacqui when she said she needed a dough scraper the other day. Oops.)

8:36 PM. Eating home fries and fried eggs. Yum.

8:38 PM. Sort of wish I had done a better job of making these home fries. So much pepper, not enough paprika.

8:58 PM. I am full, and bored. Rise dough rise!

9:15 PM. I just looked at the dough and then informed Fitzpatrick (my foster cat) that “this is the most beautiful thing I have ever created.”

9:26 PM. HOW IS THIS WORKING?!?!?!? I just put the dough on the cookie sheet, divided it into three (uneven) parts (IT WAS GLUTENY AND STRETCHY!!! AAAAH!), and braided it. This is amazing. Woah. Now it is sitting under its dish towel in its spot by the heater. I had to move some furniture around because it now only fits on the coffee table, not the chair, and Fitz is now glaring out from inside his box because he is semi-barricaded in there.

9:44 PM. It is impossible to concentrate on anything while challah is rising nearby.

10:18 PM. I just looked at it. It is becoming big and fluffy and springy and puffy. And other good bread-type things. I am now preheating the oven. (I may or may not have just stuck my head into the oven and gone, “Ooh, it’s nice and warm in here.”) I am worried about my capacity to do an egg wash (brushing egg, in this case just the white, which I think is unusual, on something… that was a terrible explanation) without a pastry brush (a paintbrush except with rubber bristles) (sort of).

10:37 PM. The challah is in the oven, but the egg wash has gone awry. It spilled everywhere, including on the floor of the oven, the door of the oven, and the Mouse Danger Zone. It now smells burnt in here. I have turned the fan-thingies on. Alas.

10:39 PM. It smells like burning. I tried to clean the burnt egg from the inside of the oven with metal tongs. Do not recommend.

10:41 PM. Cleaned the egg out of the Mouse Danger Zone. Do not wish to discuss what I found in there. (Will say that there were actually no mice or … mouse products, though.) Smokey smell is making me very anxious.

10:52 PM. The smell has become less “oh-god-do-i-need-to-evacuate” and more “i-probably-do-not-need-to-evacuate.” Halfway through baking, more or less.

11:07 PM. Just looked at the challah. I said, “HOLY SHIT.” (It looks good.) (And it smells like Judaism.)

11:13 PM. I have taken it out of the oven and am speechless with pride and joy.

11:17 PM. The challah is fucking amazing and I am awesome in every possible way.