Tuesday, September 29, 2009

As American As

OK maybe 30 pounds of apples was a bit optimistic, but I'm not giving up yet. This pie only my first effort with the apples, and it only used 1/15th of my stash. That's both good and daunting. But yesterday, I skipped yoga to run outside--it suddenly feels so important to soak up all the sun and warmth available to me, maybe that's why fall is my favorite season. I listened to the National (as promised) and Joshua Radin, whose music just exudes love to me. All while I rolled, peeled, chopped, baked and made the usual mess. The pie ended up extremely juicy, so juicy that some splashed on the floor when I pulled it out of the oven. I wiped it up, it was still sticky, so Megan wiped it up. Then my shoes stuck to the floor again this morning, and I wiped it up again. Perhaps apple pie juice will be one with our kitchen floor from here to eternity. The pie crust was perfect though--flaky just how I love it. And the autumnal spices paired with apples just spelled fall to me--so tart, sweet and savory. Not much can beat warm apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Apple pie a la mode is such a play of textures.

I went to a wedding this weekend for a couple friends. It was an incredibly lovely event that reflected the amazing couple so well. But part of the judge's "sermon" (?) stands out to me. She read court rulings from different marriage cases, most of which defined marriage as a socially accepted institution, a definition I found a bit cold for a wedding. But she closed by quoting from a California court ruling that said something like, "Half of marriages today end in divorce, the fact that people still choose to get married reflects the triumph of hope over experience."

So here's to hope and apple pie.

Pie Crust: from Better Homes and Gardens Baking Book 2 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup butter, cold 6 or 6 tablespoons cold water Now that I've conquered pie crust, I find it a very rewarding task (as with most anything involiving eating--hello, that's why I like to cook). In a large bowl, mix flour and salt together. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces. Incorporate into flour mixture using a pastry blender. Mash together until mixture forms pea-size crumbs. Add cold water a tablespoon at a time, using your hands to mix the dough until all of it is wet and it forms a ball well kneaded slightly. (Here's where things get messy and fun.)
Split dough in half. Form each half into a ball. Turn one ball out on a heavily floured surface. Smash a little with your palm. Using a rolling pie, roll dough straight back and forth a couple times, then rotate dough from 12 to 2, roll back and forth, rotate from 2 to 4, roll. Rotate, roll, etc. until the dough forms a 12-inch circle (or something resembling a circle). Roll dough onto rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Gently unroll, squarely onto pan. Do the same with the other ball of dough. For a lattice top, just slice dough into 1-inch strips. Later, when you're attaching the lattice to the bottom layer of crust use a bit of lukewarm water to adhere the dough to each other.
Classic Apple Pie: from Better Homes & Gardens Baking Book 2 pounds of baking apples (I used Jonathon, but Makintosh works, just anything tart) 1 tablespoon lemon juice 3/4 cup sugar 2 tablespoons flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon allspice All these pie recipes call for pounds of apples--do these people think I have room in my kitchen for a scale or something? I totally overestimated, but all I really needed was five regular-size apples (I peeled 9).
Preheat oven to 375. Peel and thinly slice your apples. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice--this will keep them from browning.
Here's the fun/easy part. In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to apples and toss with a spoon until completely coated. Place in crusted pie pan. Closer her up with your lattice top. You can paint the top with an egg white wash, but I didn't and it was fine. Bake for 50 minutes. Let cool and serve.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Picking Apples, Making Pies

I am eagerly anticipating digging into the thirty pounds of apples gathered this weekend at a Nebraska City orchard (It was Kimmel--the orchard was great, but holy crap the kitchen service was unbelievably awful. It took five people to microwaved everything, including our cider!). My family used to take yearly pilgrimmages to Nebraska City (home of Arbor Day, y'all!). I have incredible memories from touring the Arbor Lodge--there's a bowling alley in the basement a la There Will Be Blood. One year, I must have been seven, but I had just learned how to jump rope. So everywhere we went, instead of simply walking, I jump roped. My legs were so skinny back then that every time I hopped my knees would knock together. By the end of the day, I had matching bruises on the inside of my knees. I'm glad I have parents who weren't embarassed by me. So far I have plans to make apple pie, apple crisp and apple butter. I think that may take up all my apples. But are there any other recipes I should try? I know everyone thought I was crazy for wanting 30 pounds of apples, but I don't think I'll regret it. I'll be listening to The National Fake Empire whilst I cook, it's going to be glorious. That album is the perfect soundtrack to fall.
Cordell loved the hay rack ride, tractor and orchard. The apples were so big he could barely pick them up. Gah I love this kid. He just learned how to say my name--the. cutest. thing. ever.
Below are Jared and Amy going for some Pinova apples.
There were, of course, bees. But they were very well behaved.

Roasting Tomatoes

Though Friday was chilly and perfect for soup, I can't help but feel that I wasted five superb tomatoes on a soup when they would have been devine as a caprese salad (yes, I'm obsessed). I could have used hard, unripe, orange, grocery-store tomatoes on a soup. But if I was to make another soup, I'd make this roasted tomato puree.
Friday evening the apartment smelled like glorious, glorious garlic and tart roasting tomatoes, while I unwound on the couch, beer in hand. It was a busy week of work, and for once, I left feeling completely spent though with some tasks for The Reader still undone. I even managed to not make a complete, horrid mess of our stovetop and kitchen that is miraculously still spotless--I'll blame Megan for that. The tomato sauce did indeed splash all over the floor and counters, but I had a paper towel on hand to wipe it before it dried. Maybe someday I'll get the hang of this clean-as-you-go business. I'm very much a make-a-huge-mess-then-perform-damage-control kind of person, in and outside the kitchen. This soup harkens summer, is roasty, creamy and just awesome. (How's that for stunning prose?) Get ready for loads of soup not that fall is here. Roasted Tomato Soup: from Gourmet
2 pounds tomatoes
6 garlic cloves
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 white onion, chopped
1/2 cup cream
parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Cut tomatoes in half. Arrange on a baking sheet with unpeeled garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Peel the garlic.
In a medium saucepan on medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and oregano to saucepan and saute until onions are translucent. Turn down heat and add the whole tomatoes and peeled garlic. Simmer covered for about 20 minutes. Carefully, spoon soup into food processor to puree. Pour pureed soup through a sieve back into the saucepan. On low heat, bring back to a simmer. Add cream (or as in my case, ricotta cheese, which will not incorporate the way you want it to but will still taste awesome) and parmesan cheese. Serve garnished with fresh oregano--if you're fancy enough to have some (which I am). Add parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'll Stuff Your Eggplant

Yesterday I was angry. After a great week of feeling all peaceful and lovey, driving home from work I wanted to throw something breakable--at no one in particular but yet at everybody. Stupid boys, stupid rapists, stupid garage doors that come off their tracks, stupid gnats thatt fly in my mouth and eyes, stupid stupid stupid. But instead of breaking glass I smashed an eggplant to smitherines while listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And then I ate that stuffed eggplant. But that didn't make me feel better. So I went on a run. That made me feel a little better. But I'll tell you what fixed it all: bowling. Bowling with these people. I've been going to small group with some of these folks for a year and a half now--they're hilarious, fun and just awesome all-around. I'm very thankful for them. Life is good even when you're mad and especially when you're with friends.
Jamie from Jamie's Recipes suggested I give this stuffed eggplant recipe a go(go).
Stuffed Eggplant: 1 eggplant olive oil 1/2 teaspoon cumin 1/2 teaspoon coriander 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 2 tomatoes, diced bay leaf 1 cup ricotta cheese 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese 1/2 cup ham or bacon or sausage, chopped (optional) salt and pepper 1 egg, beaten Preheat oven to 400. Cut eggplant in half from the stem down (hotdog way not hamburger way). Place skin-down on a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly, but keep the oven on. Scoop out the fleshy part of the eggplant with a spoon, preserving the eggplant skins.
On medium heat, saute the cumin, coriander and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet for several minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and a bay leaf and saute for another 5 minutes, until juice from tomatoes has reduced slightly. Throw in the eggplant and mash with a spoon until the mixture is of an even consistency throughout, saute for another 5-8 minutes. Turn the stovetop heat off, stir in the salt and pepper and ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Remove the bay leaf. Once mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the beaten egg.
Turn the oven down to 375. On a baking sheet, scoop the stuffing into the skins of the eggplant. Bake for 30 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese. Serve.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Summer

Summer can be over now that I've made bruschetta. I'm ready to move on to fall, which means I will be going to pick apples in Nebraska City this weekend and I will be wearing a 10-year-old hoodie while I do it. Ooo, and maybe some boots too--my mom would HATE that outfit (even better). Fall does have good parts to it, even if those parts don't include tomatoes or late sunsets. My hayfever has started, the leaves are beginning to change, and every good night of sleep is a victory (I almost made it last night except for a noise and a very strange dream that involved me and my dad smuggling ourselves out of Australia). Goodbye fresh tomatoes from my mother's garden, and hello blazers, squash, hayfever, apples and bonfires.
Bruschetta: from One Year Ago couple fresh tomatoes, diced garlic clove, finely chopped handful fresh basil, chopped dash or two of dried oregano splash of equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar spalsh of lemon juice salt and pepper to taste I didn't give exact measurements because it doesn't really matter. The most important part are the tomatoes, so have the most of them. For one big tomato and one small tomato (Roma-sized) I used one big garlic clove--you can always adjust for taste later and add more. I shook about 1/2 a teaspoon of dried oregano onto my tomatoes, one good glug each of olive oil and vinegar and a bit more heavily on the lemon juice. I serve it with toasted French loaves painted with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Imitating Selby and The Smile

Inspiration for this dessert came from The Selby, a photographic project by artist/photographer Todd Selby. He goes into the homes of creative people (plus Peaches Geldof--who I do not consider to be particularly creative, am I right?) and just takes photos of them and their stuff, books, art, stuff that inspires them--some of these people are serious pack rats.
But Selby recently did a photo shoot for Cole, Rood and Haan (you know Cole Haan, shoes, bags, whatever) that I am probably the most obsessed with. He went to some of his favorite places in New York, one of which is a restaurant/cafe/gallery/gathering place called The Smile (I even love their Web site). On long days at work, I'll distract myself by clicking through the photos on this series and swooning over The Smile's dark wood and cozy atmosphere, this girl's boots (obviously Cole, Rood & Haan) and then I noticed this photo:
See that Fage Greek yogurt in the background. I had forgotten that I bought that brand of yogurt a week or so ago and it was sitting, lonely, in a drawer in my fridge. It's plain yogurt and it's pretty sour tasting--I'm not quite hardcore enough to eat it plain. I had thought of pairing it with honey and some granola, but this is even better. Tastes sort of like ice cream. And look how pretty.

Yogurt and Jam: plain yogurt jam almonds

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eggplant, Pretty on the Inside

Can you see why kids may not like eggplant? It sorta looks like vomit:
And it's purple on the outside. And it's a vegetable. That's weird. But like Mom always said, it's what's on the inside that counts.
But this eggplant marked the return of something beautiful: Monday nights. I like to think of myself as crazy and adventurous. But I love my routine. I must have it. Let me explain an insight to Lainey. About a year ago, Megan gave me this Meyers Briggs book about personality types. I'm an ENFJ--extrovert, intuitive, feeler, judger--yes that's right, judger--I'm probably judging you right now. The J part of me has lists and schedules. The J part of me gets annoyed when Travis comes into my cubicle with an invite to sushi that day--"But I already brought a turkey sandwich." My J squirms when my boss cancels Wednesday meetings half an hour before they start. But my N gets excited about sushi and exploring new things and is laid back about last minute changes. If you're me, you're constantly wanting to do crazy things but have a serious conversation with yourself about the pros and cons--the con being: It's not on the schedule! Just this morning I battled out whether or not to go to Gerda's for coffee and a doughnut. I went. They were closed. Should have listened to the J, but the N shrugs its shoulders and eats a scone. You do not want to be in my head. So Monday nights are for the J. I come home from work, go for a run, make dinner and watch Gossip Girl. Every. Monday. Night. Except last night I did something crazy and rode my bike to the Dundee Theater to watch Adam. I didn't plan on it. I didn't even know which showing I would go to until I left. The N part of me loved it. See how well I compromise! And it all worked out so perfectly. Even the ratatouille, which looks sort of like a chunky, orange bowl of mush. And we're getting it. It's coming together. I know where things are in the apartment--except for the bike helmets, mystery. I live close enough to ride my bike to a movie theater. And everything was so peaceful last night that I had to make tea just to contribute my bit to the universe.
Ratatouille: from A Homemade Life (obviously, you should all buy this book)
olive oil
1 large eggplant
1 zucchini
3 green onions
3 garlic cloves
1 red pepper (or green or yellow)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (only because I ran out of fresh tomatoes because I made caprese salad three times last weekend)
bunch of thyme
bay leaf
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Cut eggplant in half, long ways, then slice into half moons about 1-inch thick. Arrange on a baking sheet. Pour some olive oil into a bowl, using a brush paint the eggplant rounds with oil, turn them over and coat the other side with a thin layer as well. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and turn over. Bake for another 15 minutes. Remove and allow eggplant to cool. Chop into 1-inch cubes.

Slice zucchini into coins (see photo above). In a large skillet on medium heat, saute zucchini in olive oil until softened and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and put in a bowl. Chop the onions, garlic and pepper. Saute the onions for several minutes then add the garlic and pepper and saute for 2 minutes, being careful that the garlic doesn't burn. Add the can of diced tomatoes and toss in the eggplant, zucchini, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf and basil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the juice from the tomatoes has reduced. Season to taste. Remove bay leaf and serve. Best if eaten with your lovely, smiling roommate.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Scones for President

I don't like how messy scones are to make. Which, now that I write that, seems counter to my cooking personality. But there's soggy dough stuck in every crack on my dry hands after kneading. And I always forget to take off my rings before digging into stuff like this. But for once the scones were worth the effort. This recipe is so biscuit-y, and I mean that in the best way. The jam was the perfect topper, if a bit too sweet.
Scottish Scones: from Orangette 2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick cold, unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 or 2 cups of raisins
1/2 cup half-and-half--I substituted yogurt mixed with some milk
1 large egg Preheat oven to 425. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir together using your fingers--this was according to directions in A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg and I really liked the technique. Add the sugar and butter, continue mixing with your hands until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
In a separet, smaller bowl, whisk together yogurt and egg (adding some orange peel here would be tasty). Pour wet mixture into large bowl, stir with a spatula until dough is moistened. Turn dough out on a floured surface. Knead five or six times, being careful not to overwork. Spread out, using your hands, into a circle about 1-inch thick. Cut into 8 pieces of even thickness and equal size. Arrange on a baking sheet. Brush with milk. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How Stilettos Are Like Tomatoes

In the words of Rachel Zoe, I die. (Feels so much better when you're saying that about fruit that someone gave to you rather than a $5000-plus Birkin bag.) My mom stopped by my office just to drop off some tomatoes (God bless her), and to talk about my 15-year-old sisters upcoming homecoming dance. She has a date, the cutest dress from Anthropologie and the stubborn refusal to wear heels--we're just happy she's wearing a dress while making only minimal stinks about it. Remember when you were 15 and the hardest thing was fighting with your mom about what you were going to wear? Oh wait, that still happens to me 10 years later.
But when it comes to tomatoes, my mom and I see eye-to-eye, though that has not always been the case. There was a time when I found tomatoes to be smushy and nasty, much the same way that Emily thinks of heels and skirts. But I came into tomatoes about the same time I came into my first pair of stiletto heels, which was in Spain in 2004.
I had owned and worn heels before, but they were always those big, chunky ones popular (again) in the 1990s, along with crushed velvet and midriff shirts. But these heels were chic. Smooth black leather, European size 38, with thin heels and a pointy toe. I walked miles back from Plaza Nuevo to our apartment near Viapol in Seville, and I sort of wanted to die. The balls of my feet never knew such pain. But I still wore them out to a club called El Doblon (it was pirate themed). I couldn't dance, and I actually, literally fell on a boy when I was introduced to him--slowmotion, just like in the movies.
I was sitting on a bar stool next to a barrel (pirate theme, remember) with my heel hooked on one of the rungs. I leaned across a bit too far in order to shake his hand, lost my balence and was unable to unhook my heels from the rung before he stopped my face-plant. Note: In real life, these scenes do not end in romantic flings. You're embarassed, and you never look that person in the eye again. I had to walk home early that night because of the piercing pain, and I even took my shoes off. My feet were completely black by the time I made it up to our apartment. I washed my feet off ... in the bidet.
All throughout Europe, I did the same thing with all the food I encountered. I tried it. No, not just tried, I dove in head first. Before I liked beer, I ordered a liter of weisbeer in Germany. We drank scads of cheap wine, I ate mushrooms by the plate when they drew a gag reflex, and I ate tomatoes. Raw. With olive oil, mozarella and basil, seasoned only with salt and pepper. And my mom was right about all those things. Just like she was right about the heels.
Caprese Salad:
mozarella cheese
fresh basil
olive oil

The most important thing about making a good caprese salad is having good, fresh tomatoes. Straight from the garden is the best or from a farmer's market or produce stand. I have yet to find a good tomato from a grocery store. These fruits are so finicky, and I'm convinced the only reason why people don't like tomatoes is because they've only ever eaten bad ones.
Slice your tomatoes. My mom slices her mozarella cheese, but I just ripped off pieces. Wash and dice your basil. Arrange on a plate and sprinkle salad with olive oil, salt and pepper. Good served with crusty bread or eaten with a fork. (Follow these directions for toasted bread.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You Say Tomato

Unfortunately, I had to abandon my garden prematurely--just as my tomatoes (all five of them) were ripening. This way I can blame my failure on someone aside from myself. But five tomatoes! That's four more than I grew last year. Nevermind that two of the green tomatoes fell off the vine while I was harvesting the ripened fruit--I can't even be bothered to care about that except to stomp my feet once or twice. And I have the consolation that the cucumbers reproduced like bunnies, as cucumbers are wont to do. Plus, I never have to set foot in that chigger-infested, weed-laden, lead-poisoned, home-of-snakes backyard again so long as I live. DO NOT TELL OUR LANDLORDS, but I left our grill in the backyard (hopefully, they mistake it for our downstairs neighbor's). Bob the Landlord is already fuming and withholding our deposit for the 25 nails left on the walls (there when we moved in), for us not vacuuming the blinds and for moving into a neighborhood that is just as dangerous as the one we vacated and we better watch out. Oh really, because I think our neighbor WARREN BUFFET would disagree. And we may or may not have broken a few windows--what's a girl to do when she accidentally locks herself in the vestibule to her apartment, obviously it's break a window with her bare fist and jump down seven feet just like MacGyver (someday, my dear children, I'll tell you all the ridiculous things that happen to me). Nevertheless, my dream of consuming more tomatoes than necessary has hit a major set back. I haven't even made bruschetta yet, and I've only eaten two caprese salads with mozarella, basil and tomatoes. This weekend I plan to fully make up for it. In the meantime, I found inspiration on Orangette and borrowed some grape tomatoes from my mother's garden to make this tomato crouton salad. The bread is more than a day old, and I completely doused it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (which I swear I could drink with a straw). I even had enough basil leftover on my sad, sorry little plant to finish off the salad with something green. Tomato Crouton Salad: from Orangette day-old, crusty bread olive oil salt and pepper cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced 1 clove garlic, minced fresh basil splash of balsamic vinegar Tear bread into bite-size pieces and toss into a medium skillet. Saute on medium heat with olive oil until bread is toasted, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss in tomatoes and minced or finely diced garlic clove. Saute until garlic is lightly browned and your nose crinkles. Add basil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reflection Is Bunk

I've been blogging for more than a year now. In the blogosphere I'm way past overdue for a cushy, reflective post about how my life has been transformed through blogging--just so long as this post and this post don't count as cushy and reflective. This is the point in a blogger's life that they are approached by big time publishers to print the records of their trials now overcome by romantic love or self-love or self-actualization or blah blah blah and how blogging helped them live their life to the fullest. How recipe after recipe, each blogger has moved past fears, loneliness and illness to be a truer version of themselves. Transformation is packaged for film by film by film by bestselling novel by self-help book, and I buy it and you buy it and I totally believe in that I can change into this version of Lainey that lives the ideal life. But how much of change is opening up a door to what you already were. I change my clothes every day. I change my hair. I move into a new apartment. I get a new job. I write a different story. I use a new recipe. So yeah, I've changed. But when I look back, I always loved squash, I just didn't know it yet. I always had wavy hair, I just didn't know how to work with it. I've always been adventurous, I just used to be afraid to be alone. There isn't an ending; there isn't a final epiphany; it keeps going. Last week I made quiche, Monday I made ratatouille and Tuesday I made tomato salad with croutons. Sunday I was strong, Monday I was scared, Tuesday I fell in love, Wednesday broke my heart. I and you and we get knocked down, cry our tears, learn our lessons, and (however long it takes) we get back up and do it all over again. And in the meantime, we make jam. Not dramatic jam. Not lyrical jam. And NOT transformational jam. Jam is not a metaphor. IT'S JAM.
Jam with handpicked strawberries--ones we gathered on our hands and knees along with a load of chigger bites, but we did it all by ourselves. Jam with juicy peaches and orange juice, vanilla and amaretto. And it tastes just like summer, as literally as a season can taste like something. We make a humongous, sticky mess in the kitchen and clean it up afterwards. And we share. (Now we're to the climax of this dooce-like monologue.) We share our runny, sweet jam. This is life people! Transformation happens every day.
Peachy Sunrise Jam: adapted from Barefoot Contessa and Crane Coffee's smoothies 2 pints hulled strawberries 2 peaches, diced 1/4 cup Jonathon apple, diced 2 cups fine sugar 1 tablespoon orange juice 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 1 teapsoon vanilla optional: pectin or citrus peal Wash all fruit. Cut up the bigger strawberries, otherwise leave them whole. Place strawberries and peaches in a heavy saucepan. Toss sugar, vanilla, orange juice and liqueur in with the fruit. Put saucepan on medium heat and bring to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. Add apples while the fruit mixture is boiling. Continue boiling until sauce reaches 220 degrees (on a candy thermometer)--takes about 25 to 30 minutes. Once sauce reaches desired temperature, turn off heat. Skin the foam off the top of the jam. My jam didn't get as thick as I would have liked. Adding citrus peal or pectin would have helped. I followed directions on Ball's (the mason jar people) Web site, FreshPreserving.com. But here's a quick rundown. To sterilize the jars, I placed the jars, lids and bands in boiling water. That was wrong. So I had to do it again in not-quite-boiling water. The only thing wrong with that is the rubber on the lids can't take the heat. So I used different lids. K, jars are sterilized. Without touching the lids or the lips of the jars, I poured the jam into the jars and placed the lids on the jars with a pair of tongs (also sterilized). With the jars filled and the bands secured, I placed the jam in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. Without removing the jars from the hot water, I turned the heat off and let the water and jam cool slowly. An hour or so later, I removed the jars from the water. The seals still hadn't popped, which caused a bit of concern. But as I was staring at the jam, all the seals popped in. And voila, preserved strawberry jam. Please also follow the directions on FreshPreserving.com.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Le Quiche

The new kitchen has been officially christened. Christened with le quiche, finalmente (best if read with a hoity toity French accent). I finally get back to what I love. It may be boring and predictable, but give me time to cook after work, a short run and the television at least one night a week. I must have it, it's for my sanity. And it's best with bacon--fatty, greasy bacon--but throw in some tomatoes for good measure. Except I sat there eating, staring across the table at Megan. Both of us too stressed to cheer each other up. She about planning a wedding in the spring (!), and me about boys. I'm like what do I do, and she's like what do I do. And we're still both too tired and bogged down to cheer each other up. The house has this heaviness, I think because we're both scared. So we turn to Friends, real friends and Rachel-Joey-Chandler-etc. Friends. I watched all the seasons that Megan owns last summer, and we're going through them again. Last night was Thanksgiving Triffle--"custard good, jam good, meat good." And then Katy came over and did distract us. We downed a bottle of white wine between the three of us and chomped on quiche intermittently. And we laughed. And it'll get easier, one bottle of wine at a time, one episode at a time, one quiche at a time. BLT Quiche Pate Brisee Crust: from Martha Stewart Living 2 1/2 cups flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 cup butter (very cold, straight from the fridge) 1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water Le Quiche: 4 eggs 6 slices of bacon, already cooked 1 Roma tomato, chopped grated cheddar cheese milk salt pepper For the crust: In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Then cut butter into 1/2-inches chunks and mix into flour with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1/4 cup of cold water to mixture. Incorporate using your hands by kneading the dough. Add more water if it's still too crumbly. If you overdo it, you can always add a bit more flour. Once dough is solid and maleable, wrap in Siran and place in the freezer. Here's a good time for a run. Come back from your run, remove dough from freezer even though it's supposed to be frozen for an hour. This recipe will make two crusts for a pie, quiche or tart or one crust and top for a fancy pie. I sort of messed up here and, long story short, my crust was too thick so definitely follow these directions. Using your hands for this type of crust, place your dough in the middle of a tart pan. Spread out the dough with your fingers to an even thickness. Preheat oven to 425. On to the quiche part. In a small bowl, combine eggs, tomatoes, bacon, cheese, salt, pepper and milk. Whisk until eggs are beaten smooth. Pour egg mixture into crust. Pop it in the oven and bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges of the crust are browned as is the top of the quiche.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

These Are the Breaks

I promised myself I would cook or bake or do anything once I moved. And now I've moved and no cooking. Instead I put some strawberries in my cereal and called it good. I thought I could fix it. Someone broke into my apartment three weeks ago, while my roommate and I were at home, probably with intentions to assault or do worse to either myself or my roommate. Thankfully (gross understatement), this person was scared away when he opened the door to my roommate's room and she woke up and said my name. And I thought I could fix it. I could go through the steps to make myself and my dear friend safe. We could move to a nicer neighborhood, we could lock the windows this time, leave the lights on, we could get alarms to put on the windows and the doors, we could get more locks. But we still have to go outside, we still need to breathe the fresh air through an open window sometime. Something could always happen. To make myself feel better I told myself that worse things happen. People die, people starve, people have cancer and they live in war-ravaged third-world countries, they are soldiers in Iraq and serve their country and see unspeakable things, come home and are expected to fit right back in. I used logic to fix it. I was annoyed when others, specifically my lovely roommate, responded emotionally. When people asked about the story, I said (in a robot voice) "It was very very scary," because it's too scary to tell. I relied on a relationship to give me some joy through the time and to take away some of my stress--perhaps too much and in the wrong way. For a reason I will learn to respect that relationship broke. My plan broke. I broke. Thinking if I can just move I'll be fine. But then the water heater was turned off and I had a minor meltdown. The boy left, and I had an excuse to cry. I scraped my car trying to get out of our new garage. Our new-to-us washing machine wouldn't drain. My former landlord called and yelled at me and tried to scare me on purpose to make me feel bad--it worked--and I had major meltdown. I have to deal with what I did to a certain friend. And it's all so heavy. And I think if I can just cook, I'll feel better. I don't think that's going to work out the way I plan it. Just like everything else. My plan made me hopeful for a moment, but. But. But I know I can pray, and I know God is there. And so is my family and my friends. So I'm thankful for faith, hope and most definitely for love, even when it's difficult to see it. And everything happens for a reason and I'll be a better person, right? That is going to happen? And maybe tomorrow I'll cook something. Photo stolen from http://www.flickr.com/photos/32752680@N00/3649513996/ because I can't find my camera in the rubble of the move.