Monday, October 25, 2010


Well, what should I do? Almost a whole month, and no follow-through. Would you rather I renewed my hope each time of committing to more regular posts, or that I didn't bother with the apologetic language and just came out with something when I had it? Why don't we try the latter model for a change, see how we like it?

So, I made my first loaf of bread last weekend. Started Friday evening. Failed to get proportions of liquid to flour right. Discarded into sink. Started over with new batch. Didn't rise fast enough before sleep, so stuck it in fridge. Realized that discarded yeat mixture turns to cement. Next morning (Saturday), tried to rise again, but it wouldn't. Left for a date, so had to stick it in fridge again. Returned to get to rise again. After not much change (Saturday evening), I proceeded with the second kneading in the baking pan anyway. Didn't seem to hurt it. Baked for exact amount. Crisped out of pan for exact amount, after top and bottom both sounded actually hollow! Set to cool for 1 hour (couldn't stand prescribed 2 hours). Delicious.

Thank you, James Beard. You are my Number One. (Well, okay, Number Two)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Recent Recipe, for a change

I am here to tell you about a simple unassuming recipe I made last weekend (how's that for recent?).

This recipe is from Simply Recipes, a blog by Elise, who lives in California in a very nice area that I have actually visited. Her entries usually manage to cheer me no matter what the topic is- her positive and teasing tone, along with great ideas that seem both creative and easy-to-try, make her blog one of my favorites. Oh, and she's also so consistent. Something which not all of us, ahem, manage to be.
Yum-o! I even managed to construct a brand-new spatial arrangement for chicken tenders- maybe I should patent it?- it's called 'Zenga Tenders'! :-)
So, as usual I made a lot of changes. Let's see:
  • 2 lbs chicken tenders (about 12 pieces) (halved the recipe, for starters)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk* (cheated with the ol' lemon in regular milk, since, honestly, who BUYS buttermilk??)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (used panko- an improvement for every time something calls for bread crumbs)
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning herbs** (I didn't have al the herbs below, so I played up the thyme, rosemary, and oregano, all dried. It was still good enough that I opened the oven to check and said, "Now THAT smells Italian!" Take that whatever way you wish.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
Tomato Dipping Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste (I used a T of concentrated red pepper dip to liven it up, and because it's so good)
  • 1 15-ounce can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes (perfect! I had half of a can I needed to use up)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (pinch)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (pinch)
*You can make a substitute for buttermilk by adding a tablespoon and a half of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 1/2 cups of milk and letting the mixture stand for 10 minutes. (I think I was a little impatient)
**A mixture of dried herbs often used in Italian cooking such as marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil

I followed most of the instructions after that, except for the blending of the sauce (too finicky). I ask you, WHO wants to clean out a food processor container, blade, and lid, when in exchange you could get a textured and tasty tomato dipping sauce? I think we all know the answer to that: not me!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More District fun shots

 You wanted a can a soda, right?
A statue that had its end cleaned up before its front

A goofy grin on a good friend

 A reminder of Grandpa and the U.P. Go Yoopers!
[It says: My heart is in da U.P. but my ass is stuck right here!]

A portabello mushroom sandwich indulged in on a market day, and someone misspelling my name. *Sigh*

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bricks in DC

My theme (since I feel a need for one) for this post is Bricks in DC- pictures of my current city that involve bricks. Not a surprising element when you recall that much of DC was constructed between 1902 - 1922.
We'll start with one of my favorite buildings in DC, and I'll give you a sort of tour. This is the National Building Museum, which used to be the Pension Bureau and then government offices. They give fascinating tours of the place and its history - for free!

This is a neighborhood building- a corner lot at 12th and P Sts, I believe. Its front yard is covered in bricks, which is not very picturesque. But if one looks UP, one finds the cutest, most picturesque little turret window. I looked up at that turret window for a while (hope the residents didn't get weirded out), and I'm not quite sure how it's used. It's not big enough for a body, so maybe as a skylight? A very creative or very whimsical architect must have been given some free reign (but not with the patio), which makes me grin.

This one is located very near my apartment building. There is a seemingly abandoned building (but in good shape- not sure what the circumstances are) across the street, and which has become a beacon for neighborhood cats. Not because there are plenty of mice-- no, they're too spoiled for that! Someone puts out cat food and water (cat water?) for them here, and they end up hanging out in the grass of the overgrown lawn and having kittens all the time....  it's definitely not a dog's life!
I thought this was a cute one, and knew I just had to bie my time before I would get this shot. I believe this is from my phone camera, as I was coming from or going on a run- pays to keep the eyes open! Now I've made you cat-lovers smile. :-)

Here's an interesting one- I don't know much about the building, although I'd like to.
It's on New York Ave, heading NE after the Convention Center, and I turned around and saw this one morning while running. Gem? Looks like a perfect fixer-upper!
The sign says "Rebirth: Howard Theatre" and so I was able to investigate. Here's what I found:
"The famed Howard Theatre in Washington, DC, at the corner of 7th & T Streets, launched the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Roberta Flack and many many others. This year as this local landmark celebrates its 100th anniversary in a sad state of disrepair, it’s just on the verge of undergoing a 28-million dollar restoration project which will return it to its glorious beginnings."
All RIGHT! Love historical restorations.

I'm currently on the mend from a toe sprain, which I've been informed takes ages to heal, so I may actually have time to catch up on the photos in the mornings! :-) I do hope it heals soon though, as not running now makes me feel less of a fully-alive human bean!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Flood of NY Pictures

Port Washington dock
Sign about Port Washington Dock
My first run!
Shadows on leaves
My shadow and the blue, blue water
Foliage on the art museum grounds
Ginny and Irene
Cindy and Irene
Nassau County Fine Arts Museum- home of the angry geese!
Lesson: BE HAPPY!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Co-dinner party!

This is how it happened. My friend Saqib and I hadn't seen each other in a while, so we set a date for a weeknight dinner to catch up. I veered us the way of home cooking instead of going out, and he veered us the way of his apartment instead of mine. So far, so normal.
Oh, and this was last week, so a recent event, with beautifully gentle summer weather. Also coinciding with the night before Eid.
My friend Lisa had recently mentioned getting together to catch up as well, s I cleared a few other guests with Saqib, since tetes-a-tetes can be good, but more people can make it lively, and that was all right, so we each invited a couple more. Ok, I invited 4, but there was an attrition rate of 50%, so that was fine. Saqib invited Nora and Michael, again with an attrition rate of 50%. Still good.
Our very full, very provided-for plates
But it turns out both Saqib and I have latent (or maybe obvious) tendencies to Provide, i.e. we cooked food for 8, expecting 6, and in the event having 4. Ah, the beauty of leftovers... :-)
So here is what we made:
Buttermilk Barley Salad, adapted from 101 Cookbooks' Buttermilk Farro Salad (when farro is $10 for a half a pound, I substitute. I still have not tasted it!) I made some of her substitutions mentioned in this post, and also a few more: no zucchini, but cucumbers, and red onion, yes. And on the buttermilk ranch dressing, without going out for fresh herbs, I used dried thyme and dried dill, in small quantities, since it was enough to give the taste. Yum.
Eggplant with basil, Thai-style. This was Saqib's creation, and so I don't have a link, but it seemed pretty easy - except for the sheer amount of chopping involved and the timing and quantities for sauces added- that looked a bit tricky. Came out very well though, with a hint of kick, but not too much for this wimp. :-)
Soy-glazed sweet potatoes, here. Also pretty easy, although mine cooked up soft and creamy instead of crispy as I expected. And I wouldn't recommend doing the basting thing, since it led to a sticky, baked-on kind of syrup to clean up. I'd just go for it as a dressing next time, since I don't think it added much to do it in the oven. Very good though.
And now for the piece de resistance! Well, not really. In fact, it was absolutely the opposite. I sliced up the peaches, leaving the skins on. I put them in a pan they just fit in, so there wasn't a lot of room to coat and toss with sugar and flour. I forgot to add the spices I had brought: ginger and pumpkin pie spice (for the cardamom), so the latter went on after the topping. The topping itself (an adapted crisp) was casually scaled down (meaning I did not really do any conversions, just slapped some sugar (brown and white), flour, melted butter, and the chopped toasted pecans together) and stirred a bit before pressing on top of the peaches. Here is the inspiration (love this blog) for my version above, and I will say, I got no complaints!

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Strange and Wonder-full Place

I have been wonderfully taken up with fun activities and thus not as committed to this 'do whatever, however, whenever, in any order' to get my backed-up entries onto the blog. I have also been up and down with work being crazy-busy then crazy-boring (the occasional lull). I take advantage of the lulls to recover.
Which is to say that I don't use that free time sorting through photos, organizing them in folders, loading them in groups of 5 to the site, and piecing together formatting and text to make the entries work. It can get a wee bit tedious. I have been outdoors! The weather has turned beautiful in the past couple of weeks, and I am enjoying pretending I am back in my home region (yes, once a spoiled Californian, always a spoiled Californian).
I still remember you're here though!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spare ibs

Do you remember in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when Tumnus the faun mistakes Lucy saying "spare room" and thinks it is "Spare Oom" of which she speaks? Well, now you do. (Around 6:50) I'm not sure how to explain the cut of meat that I used for this sparerib recipe, other than to say go here, where Simply Recipes described it originally.
The would-be competitors
Two positive factors were working in the recipe's favor: 1) I had just seen Monica cook up ribs in a hour or two in her oven, and 2) this recipe looked darn good and darn cheap. I had the BBQ sauce (but got another kind for reinforcements and variety, it turned out it accomplished neither function, but oh well), I had the time (oh lordy), and I wanted to make something that fell apart ingratiatingly when I stuck a fork in it. This fit the bill.
I don't think I did anything differently this time. I faithfully 'painted' the BBQ sauces over the spareribs at 90 min, and 4 times thereafter, before sentencing it to the broiler for caramelization.
I stowed the pieces away in 3 separate containers, knowing that I would be giving away at least one, and labeling them carefully. :-)
It made my heart lift a little to do just that. And then, since it was 10 PM and I shouldn't be eating right before falling asleep, I only snatched a few cracklings for the emptied roasting pan. Talk about heaven. I can empathize with Bo-bo.
My work station

Work Station? Or work of art? Hehe...
I highly recommend this one- go to!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Where (and How) the Magic Happens...

Mixing the ooey-gooey for Peanut Butter MAGIC Bars
Back in June (yes, still in the past), I had just commenced the frantic stage of a work project that involved not only an online election, but an offline election as well, to be managed in tandem, for all intents and purposes, by me. June was a bit of a blur.
Cookie-crumb crust-- nothing but the best!
But one of the silver linings was that I got to work with 2 computer programmers from Tennessee who were pretty dang chill. I was in a situation where I needed to funnel a lot of information to them and see it go up quickly online, and they were so smart and responsive about it, it just took a load off my mind. Plus, they have a great sense of humor. So I decided to send them a care package for all their (overtime-inducing) hard work-- baked goods!
I was inspired by the recent candy theme of this particular recipe, which was at the time on the blog of my friends Katie and Becky Bignell: Sunday Treats. This is a another pair of really wonderful people, in this case, twin sisters, who have only recently started their baking blog, but have obviously long been pliers of the trade.
She's drowned, captain! (in sweetened condensed milk)
I also added my own version of Midnight Chocolate Cookies from Love and Olive Oil. Here, "my own version" means that I had to tweak a lot of things because I didn't have exactly what she add, but I was aiming for the same effect: TOTALLY CHOCOLATE-Y. I figured that flavor has an audience, somewhere.
Troops ready for battle/ Care Packages ready for assembly
And then for good measure, I rounded it out with something vaguely healthy: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, which will do for the less exuberant connoisseur of chocolate. This recipe came from another one of my favorite blogs (but whose author I don't personally know, to my chagrin): Pink of Perfection.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First pizza and other creations - from June

Pappardelle (from Smith Meadows) with Chermoula and fresh tomatoes. An artful mix.
And this is what I did with that pizza dough from a few posts down: I plunked some seasoned, smashed tomatoes on top of it and baked it! As suggested at In Praise of Leftovers (one of my favorite blogs), I just turned over a baking sheet and used that as my peel and my pizza stone- if only it didn't have that habit in hot ovens of warping a few minutes in... It came out a little dry because there was no cheese or caramelized onion layer, but it was fine as a sort of pizza bread- much better than the ones you'd get with a Domino's pizza, par exemple.
And finally:
Michelle's evidence that I have been using her birthday present! more to come on what that eventually turned into...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Visitor

Keeping with my theme of random selection (see, I can be consistent!), I had a lovely visit back in June from my friend Sarah. She was able to take a long weekend from work and fly out to stay. I've only seen her once since graduation, so it was fabulous to be able to catch up and have it be like old times, with so little effort. I love those kinds of friends, don't you?
We had breaded broiled tomatoes with chermoula, orange-nut couscous, and a green salad dressed a la francaise.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Skipping around...

This post actually goes with the Virginia Foray one below, chronologically. But the photos weren't Liz- or food-centered, so I didn't include them there. Lucky for you, I'm sticking them here! Without further ado, Shenandoah State Park countryside:

A plant that smelled heavenly, but not sure what it was... something in the honeysuckle family?
A very interesting plant- different colors indicating seeds ready for flight or not... any clue? It reminded me of a belly dancer's waist 'necklace' the way the seeds dryly rustled against each other.
And me, getting "down in the weeds" as a corporate type might say.