Easy, Quick and Not Fancy

Oh, hey, hi!  I’m still here.  *waves from corner of the kitchen*

Remember me?  Yeah, well, I managed to make it through another school year and we are well into our summer (hooray!) and I am already starting to feel the stress of the next school year.  Today, however, I blissfully ignored it and read a book.  A whole book.  My children watched a lot of DVD’s and ate cake and applesauce and I read. a. book.

That has nothing to do with food, except for the cake, of course (more on that, later, I hope), but I had to say it.  Gleefully.

But that’s not what I came here to post about this time.  This time, I wanted to post about a recipe that has become a quick, easy standby.  One that works when I don’t feel like cooking and one that works when I have very little food in the house.  It’s even something that 3/4 of the people I usually cook for will happily eat.

It’s spaghetti carbonara.  Yes, I know, it sounds fancy and incredibly unhealthy but it’s really not so much either of those things.  I use Ruth Reichl’s recipe and she refers to it as “bacon and eggs with pasta instead of toast.”  I’ve found that the recipe is pretty flexible.  I almost never measure my cheese, I sometimes add an extra egg or egg yolk, or sometimes add some of the pasta water to make it slightly more creamy.  I made it most recently when my dad was visiting and his response was that it was delicious and that he’d had it the last two times he visited and this time was the tastiest.  I guess I make it more often than I’d thought.  But maybe I’m just…. perfecting my technique?

At any rate, it’s delicious and comforting and not super heavy.  An easy meal to whip up in a short period of time and most people seem pretty impressed with it.

Ruth Reichl’s Spaghetti Carbonara

Ingredients

1 pound spaghetti

1/4-1/2 pound thickly sliced bacon  (don’t use maple flavored….ick)

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 large eggs

1/2-1 cup grated parm cheese, plus extra for on top

black pepper

Directions

Get a large pot of water, salt it and bring it to a boil to cook your spaghetti.  Once it’s boiling, add the spaghetti and cook for 8-10 minutes or whatever your package of spaghetti recommends. While it’s cooking, you can get everything ready.

Get out your bacon.  I keep my bacon in the freezer.  Yes, I am the only person in the world who isn’t obsessed with bacon and who actually doesn’t use a whole package at a time.  But keeping it in the freezer makes it easier to slice, as it’s less sticky and fragile.  Plus, then I always have bacon.

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Get your bacon out and get ready to slice.

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Slice into thick-ish, but small pieces.

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You will also need garlic.  I keep my peeled garlic in the freezer.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  If you let it thaw on your cutting board for about a minute, it’s super easy to smash/chop.  You don’t have to do that for this recipe, whole cloves will be fine.

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Get your bacon into a pan and cook over medium-high heat.

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You want it to be brown and cooked but not too crispy.

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Add your garlic in- I always sort of smush my garlic once it’s in the pan.  But Ruth recommends that you take it out before mixing it into the pasta.  I always leave mine in both because I am lazy and because I like cooked garlic.

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Crack your eggs into a large bowl.

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I used an extra egg and yolk in this version because my eggs were medium sized but 2 large eggs will be plenty.  Add the pepper (a few grinds) and the cheese.

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Whisk it all together.

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Once your spaghetti is ready, scoop out a cup of the cooking water and then drain your spaghetti. You have a few choices.  Ruth says to put the hot pasta into the eggs and to mix thoroughly, “the heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce.”  Then add your bacon and toss again.

I, on the other hand, tend to toss it all in at once, starting with the bacon and then the pasta.  You can drain the fat from the bacon before you add it, if you want to, but you will lose a great deal of flavor that way.  Better to just add it all into the pasta.

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Mix it well, making sure to coat all the pasta with the egg/cheese/bacon mixture.  I sometimes add a little bit of that reserved pasta water to help with the coating.  A few tablespoons should do it- you won’t need the whole cup.

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Serve immediately.  Add more cheese on top if you like.  Gobble it up and tell me that isn’t the easiest yummy pasta ever.

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Group Cooking

I am part of November Project which is something I am sure I’ve mentioned a few billion times on this blog.  One of the best parts of it is the community and friends I’ve made.  One subset of this community is in love with pizza in a pretty serious way.  As a result, when this pizza bowl video was making the rounds on facebook, there was immediate buzz and plans were made to try it out in real life.  We decided it should be documented someplace.  So here goes….

Pizza Bowl

Ingredients

(makes one)

1 bread boule
1 cup marinara sauce
8 oz fresh mozzarella
6 oz pepperoni
½ onion, sliced
½ cup basil
1 cup cooked sausage
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 cup white cheddar, shredded

Directions:

Slice off the top of the bread round and scoop out the inside, leaving it hollow.  This leaves you with A LOT of extra bread.  Maybe feed the ducks?  Make bread pudding? Make breadcrumbs for later?  I don’t know, but it’s a lot of bread.  Spoon your tomato sauce into the bread bowl.

Add cheese and toppings and layer as you like- add more sauce, more toppings, more cheese.

We used these toppings:

Make sure to finish with a layer of of cheese and then replace the top of the bread that you cut off earlier.  Wrap it tightly in foil and then- according to the recipe linked to above, put something heavy on top of it for 30 minutes.  Surprisingly, none of us- and there were probably 15 of us at this pizza event- had bothered to read that part.  So we improvised.  And sat on the pizza bowls for a few minutes.

Once you’ve let them sit for 30 (or just a few) minutes, unwrap them and put sauce and cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Now, we baked some that way, and others we baked in the foil.  We were taking all kinds of liberties with this pizza thing.

To be honest, it was good.  I think it would have been better had we let it all smoosh longer.  (They aren’t kidding about the 30 minutes under something heavy)  It was sort of like a very crunchy calzone or a very full panini.  I think I might prefer actual pizza.  But it was a fun night.

Do you ever get together with friends and cook?  This group of us try to have dinner together, in some combination every few months.  It’s neat- one person hosts and cooks the main meal and the rest of us bring wine, sides and desserts.  It’s a lot of fun and way better than going out to a restaurant.

 

 

Fast Savory Meals For Winter

In my last post, I featured all sweet things.  In this one, I want to share with you two fast, savory, yummy meals that we’ve been eating lately.

The first is this soup, which I posted about a few years ago, had in pretty serious rotation and then… forgot.  I am so glad I remembered it because it is so good.  Slightly spicy, warm, full of healthy vegetables and soothing noodles.  This time around, I used onion, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, baby bok choy and carrots.  I think I added chicken that I had previously baked as well.  Soy sauce, sriracha and a dash of fish sauce rounded out the broth.

I’m not kidding when I tell you that this soup was gone in two days.  Twenty minutes to make.  Amazing flavor.  No regrets.

When I was traveling, I had the chance to read for fun (imagine that!) and i ended up reading Ruth Reichl’s Garlic And Sapphires:  The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.  It’s a delightful read and she sprinkles in recipes here and there.  I was intrigued by her Spaghetti Carbonara recipe which she says is “the perfect last minute dinner, and I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t like it.”

While it was in fact, easy and good for a last minute dinner, of course MY children didn’t like it.  Which is fine, really.  More for me!

More Sweet Things

I am constantly, CONSTANTLY, thinking that I need to cut back on sugar.  Not candy, so much, as I am able to resist that but cookies, cakes, brownies, bars, ice cream, etc.  So every few weeks, I decide I am done and I stop eating desserts.  Which lasts between two hours and two days.  Then I remember that I am over 40, I work out almost daily and I will never be thin.  Therefore, why should I deny myself the yumminess?

So, in the last few months, I’ve made a bunch of different sweet things.  I managed to photograph the final product but not usually the process.

First were these divine cookie dough bars.  They taste like raw cookie dough but have no eggs in them so they are safe to eat.  I have to say, I found them very, very sweet and rich and had to cut them into smaller pieces.  But, so good.  Note: the chocolate topping has peanut butter in it but I suspect could be left out if you so desired.

The kids and I made a vanilla chocolate chip cake with milk chocolate ganache frosting, just because.  It, too, was delicious.  But I can’t remember what recipe I used.  I do remember facetiming my math friend to help me figure out the ratio for the ganache.  (Insert eye roll here, for me not being able to do fractions on my own).

I attended an event at a friend’s that was titled “My Drunken Neighbor Totoro Night”.  We watched this wonderful, beloved movie and, well, drank.  Or at least they did.  I know my limits, and as the oldest person in the room by at least 20 years, I stuck to water.  But Micah and I made Totoro cookies for the occasion.  They were a pretty good first attempt but I am sure I can do better.  Micah, on the other hand, is a master cookie cutter outer.  We used this sugar cookie dough and glazed them with the chocolate ganache.

Finally, we just celebrated Purim.  In our house that means we read the Purim story (which is way darker than I remember!) and make hamanaschen.  We used this recipe and then were a little…. creative…. with our filling.  We had traditional strawberry and blueberry.  But we also used mini reeses cups, milk duds (SO GOOD), Israeli chocolate spread and caramel chips.

See? Why give up sweet things?  All in moderation, right?

Authentic NY Egg Cream

If you are from Massachusetts, and you are of a certain age, and you enjoy ice cream,  I can name a few places that will surely bring nostalgia to your hearts.  Friendly’s, Brigham’s, Bailey’s, Steve’s and Herrell’s.  There are probably countless others.  All of these are ice cream stores/parlors that have closed or have dwindled down to just one or two in the area.  But these are the ice cream places of my youth.  Bailey’s used to have sundaes that were so messy that the toppings dripped over the sides of the metal fluted cup, falling into the metal saucer placed there for just that purpose (The only place that comes close to this today is Cabot’s in Newton, which I highly recommend).   Friendly’s was where I got my peanut butter sauce fix.  Steve and, later,  Herrell’s was where we “smooshed in” toppings into the ice cream.  Brigham’s was the place where my mother would double park, hand me $2.10 and send me in for two cones, mocha almond for her, usually m&m chocolate for me.

If you’re from Massachusetts or really, New England, then you already know that ice cream is a year round necessity, not saved just for summer.  But in the summer?  For me, there is nothing more refreshing than an ice cream soda.  Perhaps you’re not familiar? According to Wikipedia (that trusted source), ice cream sodas also go by the name ice cream float.  To me those are completely different things but Wikipedia says, “it is a beverage that consists of ice cream in either a soft drink or in a mixture of flavored syrup and carbonated water.”

If you’re from New York, you probably know what an egg cream is, right?  Chocolate or vanilla milk, with carbonation from seltzer.  New Yorkers get very particular about their egg creams- very specific about the brand of chocolate syrup, about the type of seltzer, about the milk.  For me, an ice cream soda is an egg cream with ice cream on top.  The perfect blend of Boston and New York.  It’s refreshing, sweet and not too filling.  When you’re hot and thirsty, the best part is definitely the cold, not too carbonated, creamy soda part.

I was recently taught how to make an authentic New York egg cream by a native New Yorker.  And when I say taught, I mean that I watched while he made it for me.  He narrated the whole process and I will do my best to offer that narration as I document it here.

Authentic New York Egg Cream

Ingredients:

Whole milk

Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup (no other brand will do)

Fox’s U-Bet Coffee Syrup (again, only this brand, lest you be mocked by true New Yorkers)

Plain, unflavored seltzer (we used the local kind, from Polar)

Directions:

Gather your ingredients, along with a tall glass and a long spoon.  Make sure that your milk and seltzer are very cold.

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Now, there were no measurements for this.  My New Yorker was able to do this all by sight/feel/taste.  Bear with me, we can figure this out.

Mix some chocolate and coffee syrup in the bottom of your glass.  Should be way more chocolate than coffee.

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I was told that the coffee syrup enhances the chocolate flavor (I do this with coffee powder in chocolate cake so I was completely in agreement).  Add a little bit of milk (maybe 1/4 of the glass?) so that you can mix it all together.

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Once it’s mixed, add about 1/4-1/3 cup more– enough to be a little more than half the glass.  Mix it well.

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Now it’s time to add the seltzer.  Apparently, you are supposed to hold a spoon in one hand, and sort of pour the seltzer down, over the spoon.   Sort of like when you pour a black and tan except instead of having the spoon upside down, it’s right side up.  So, do this and pour in enough seltzer to fill the rest of the glass.  (Shhh!  Don’t tell NY man but I’ve done this without the spoon trick and it’s JUST AS GOOD.)

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Once you’ve added the seltzer, give it a quick stir- but not too much, as you don’t want to flatten the carbonation- just enough to combine it.  Then?  Drink away.

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Sweet, bubbly, creamy and cold.  Just the thing for a sweet treat.  But as a true Boston girl?  I’d have to add a scoop of ice cream on top, perched on the side of the glass.

But?  You do you.  Yummy, regardless of how you do.

 

 

 

So Sorry… or What I’ve Been Up To for, oh, seven months…

Hi There.

 

Remember me? I used to cook and blog about it here.  You know, before kids.  Before lots of work.  Before, well, this life I have found myself in for the last few years.  I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t leave a bunch of time for blogging.

So, I’m still faithfully taking photos.  I just can’t quite seem to get around to posting them with accompanying text.  I’m going to post a bunch here and try to write up a few others with recipes…  Wish me luck!

I’ve traveled a bit over the last seven months.  I ate really well during a long weekend in Portsmouth, NH.

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My ever-present extremely dirty martini.

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An outstanding breakfast sandwich from Popover’s On the Square.

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Which was followed by delicious key lime tart since my traveling companion for that trip loves key lime pie. And what’s breakfast without dessert?

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We had so much fun wandering Portsmouth, eating and drinking and looking in shops.

We sampled egg creams from Fezziwigs:

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We also ate delicious Mexican food at Agave, and had delicate, sweet french cookies from La Maison Navarre, which allowed my traveling companion to impress me by speaking fluent French with the sweet bakery counter service woman.

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I also met a friend in Denmark  a few weeks ago and ate so much good food.  I can’t recommend enough that if you go to Copenhagen, that you should go to two places.  Copenhagen Street Food which is a big warehouse space filled with food trucks and stands from all over the world.  Cozy fires to sit by, big tables to share.  It was so good, we went twice and really tried to eat everything (impossible).  The other place not to miss is a bit out of the way but was across from the houseboat on which we were staying (yes, a houseboat.  SO COOL!), La Banchina.  It’s a tiny, maybe 10 table, place with the smallest kitchen ever.  Seriously, it was the size of my living room and the food was outstanding.

My favorite meals in Denmark were actually at my friend’s house and on the houseboat.  Of course, these are the ones I didn’t bother to photograph.  I got one, of the last night, where we were using up all the food.

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Finally, Valentine’s Day happened and in the spirit of posting food from outside my kitchen (as this post has been), I was gifted these adorable creatures of chocolate from L.A. Burdick’s.  Almost too cute to eat.  Almost.

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Stay tuned.  I’m hoping to use this snowy, at home day to catch up a bit on posts.  And you know, get some work done…

Rosh Hashanah 2016/5777

In some ways, this year’s dinner was exactly the same as previous years.  Many of the same foods, same faces and same amount of love and laughter.  In some ways, it was different.  Different foods, different faces and different conversations.  As always, I remain grateful for and humbled by the diverse group of family, family-by-choice and friends that have surrounded me.  The discussion topics that I heard included educational reform, mindfulness and the role of self-care and train engines.  These people are lawyers, doctors, teachers, administrators, consultants, doctoral students, craftsmen, mathematicians and playmakers.  I am in awe at the good that is put into the world by this group of people.  We are all so lucky to have them and I am the luckiest- they are my support system.

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I cooked for about a day and a half.  I had company and multiple sous-chefs.

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Although one sous-chef failed at one task, due to timing, but made up for it by helping with clean up at the end of the night.  This sous-chef also provided a beautiful cake.

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I made all the usual dishes:  mashed potatoes, brisket, squash soup, steamed green beans with butter, roasted carrots, chicken with Israeli spices, fancy salad, buttered noodles.

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I tried something new this year- I made knishes.  Knish?  Is there an actual plural?  I’ve never made them but The Hungry Hippo did and blogged about it here.  I used roasted sweet potato, garlic and caramelized onion for the filling.

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The dough was pretty simple.

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The end result was tasty but strange-looking.  I need to learn how to fold them better.

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My honey cake was also a bit of a disaster.  My daughter was with me and said, “oh no!  But that’s okay Mumma.  People will still like it because it’s yummy.”  The next day she told me, “See, Mumma, I told you!  Everybody ate your cake!”

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We had other cake, as well.

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It, too, was delicious.

The next day, the kids, my mum and I went for haircuts and the other food of our people at Joyful Garden.

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Last night, I made butternut squash mac and cheese, using the squash soup as the base.  Wasn’t cheesy enough but it was still good.

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I hope that the coming year is a sweet one.  I expect mine to be- as always- a mix.  But as a wise friend told me recently, “The deeper the bowl is carved and hollowed, the greater its capacity to be filled.”  I am trying to live by that these days.  So, may your bowls be deeply carved and filled to the brim with joy, laughter, happiness and good food.