i am obsessed

with baking. this morning i rolled out of bed and could think about nothing but baking.

i'm starting out with the easy stuff, so i just finished making buttermilk biscuits. i seem to have anxiety with these types of dough where it's "mix until just combin
ed". i am always wanting to make it smooth and wet, like cookie dough. so when i make something like biscuits, where it is only just coming together and remaining flaky, i am overcome with self-doubt and have a difficult time trusting it. the story of my life, huh? maybe if i can start believing in myself and trusting the dough ... who knows what will happen in my real life ...

buttermilk biscuits: saving the rest for tomorrow morning to cure my inevitable new years hangover with (fake) sausage and gravy and eggs ... ymmm!!


menu plan for week 3

martha should be paying me for all this advertisement!! this week is all martha, all the time. i ordered her everyday food "great food fast" cookbook, and this week's menu plan comes from that. while there is a lot of meat in these recipes, many can be made with meat substitute as well. i love the luscious color photographs, as always.

and i especially love the idea of recipes centered around the seasons. of course sometimes i buy fruit and vegetables out of season, but the anticipation of certain items is what makes some dishes so deliciously divine to begin with. the anticipation of winter squashes for warm soups. the anticipation of late spring and the arrival of artichokes and spinach. and the downright impatience for summer's best tomatoes.

so here is our menu plan for week 3, centered around winter warm dishes.

tonight: mediterranean shrimp stew with polenta and green salad
monday: baked ravioli with green beans and shallots
tuesday: rigatoni with sausage and fennel/orange salad
wednesday: leftover ravioli
thursday: i am home alone! i guess that means chinese take-out :)

mediterranean shrimp stew: serves 4
original recipe with chicken, from great food fast (2007, p. 287)

1 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can cannellini beans
4 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tb chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. season shrimp with salt and pepper. heat oil over medium heat. add shrimp and cook, turning once, 3-4 minutes. transfer to plate.

2. reduce heat to medium low. add oil and sautee garlic for about 30 seconds. add beans and 1 cup water. bring to boil, cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

3. add tomatoes, cook over medium heat until they start to break down, about 3-4 minutes. add olives, vinegar, and shrimp. toss until warmed through. stir in parsley.

let's break bread

i don't know why i am on such a martha kick. it all started back in october. i was flying out from newark to geneva again for work with the international centre for migration and health. because mr. mimi was dropping me off, that meant i was going to get to the airport a ridonkously 3 hours early. being on time, for me, means getting there at the start of boarding, hehe. anyhoo, so i had forever time to kill, much more than usual. i wandered to the bookstore and bought a bunch of magazines, including martha. and since then ... i have been hooked!

folding in thirds

this month's living issue had a beautiful article on baking bread. if there is one thing about me, it's very clear that i am not a candidate for the atkins diet. i LOVE french baguettes and ciabattas and foccacia and all things doughy and yummy. i figured, if i'm going to keep eating bread, why not start making my own? at least i will feel a *little* less guilty ... maybe ... and so i was inspired.

rolled out
the bread making today was a combo of the recipe from this month's living issue and the baking handbook, p. 312. i mainly followed the book, especially for ratios, but i did reference the magazine for some of the folding techniques and rising times.

the verdict? well, for my first attempt, i am pleased. the texture is perfect: crunchy crust and chewy inside, with lots of air pockets. the taste is good, but i made a mistake. the recipe called for coarse salt. i used fine salt, but the same measurements. so it tasted more like a pretzel than a french baguette. which, in itself, is not entirely terrible, but wasn't what i wished for. next time i know ... reduce the salt or buy some coarse for baking!


crunchy + chewy = delicious!


also, if anyone happ
ens to be reading this ... if you know why my bread didn't brown on the bottom please let me know? i baked it on a parchment sheet on a baking stone. i did have a skillet of water for steam. as you see, the top browned nicely to a crunch, but the bottom remained soft. any ideas?

even though french bread is not technical, it is time-consuming for the rising and resting. this is definitely a project for only a lazy sunday, but i will definitely be doing it again!

note: because the recipe is long, i am not re-typing it here, but if you're interested let me know and i'll send your way!

butter is a sweet baker's best friend

well, no one ever said baking was good for the figure. we decided on the classic crumb cake for our first baking afternoon. (french baguette will come later this evening). we stocked up on flour, sugar, new vanilla extract, etc. we also scored a deal at fairway for organic butter. even though i bought nearly everything else organic, normally i might not splurge on this considering how many sticks i was buying, and instead go for a typical (cheaper) butter like cabot or breakstone. but one glance at the ingredient list on those, and you'll find "natural flavors". because the FDA doesn't regulate the term "natural flavors" that could mean anything, including some things a normal person might find quite unnatural. sigh. but luckily, horizon organic butter was on sale for the same price, so i stocked up on 6 pounds of that. i don't even like buying horizon brand because i prefer smaller farms. but i figure, if the first thing i am baking requires over 1 pound of butter, i mizewell (how does any one spell that??) get the good stuff. it's just cream and lactic acid! what else do you need in butter?

the verdict: we just tried it, and mr. mimi, who is a crumb cake connoisseur, pronounced this one the best he has tasted, ever!!

now who else wants a piece? :)

classic crumb cake: serves many
from martha stewart's baking handbook (2005, p. 56)

1 1/4 sticks (10 tb) unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for greasing pan
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup sour cream
crumb topping
confectioner sugar for sprinkling (optional ... we forgot, oops!)

1. pre-heat oven to 350F. generously butter a 13x9 inch baking pan and set aside. whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in bowl.

2. beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (we used the lovely miss kitchen aid), about 4 minutes. add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. mix in vanilla. add flour mixture and sour cream. beat until just combined.

3. spoon batter into pan, smoothing with spatula. sprinkle crumb topping evenly over batter. bake until cake is golden brown, about 40-50 minutes and rotating halfway through. knife in the center should come out clean. transfer to wire rack to cool and dust with confectioner sugar if desired.

crumb topping
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tb cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp

1. in medium bowl, whisk to combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. cut in the butter using a pastry blender (or mix in food processor; we actually used miss k. a. again) until large, moist clumps form.

first bite

need a laugh?

even if christmas is past, this is one of the funniest blogs i have read recently: tacky christmas yards


there is only one reason to like winter

i absolutely hate winter with a passion. i get up for work in the dark, i leave the office in the dark. snow is alright, but here in the city it's usually windy and sleeting. i hate even the slightest inkling of winter. the minute it starts to be in the 50s sometime in november i start bitching and shivering.

but something also wonderful happens in the winter.

the arrival of citrus. oranges, grapefruits, blood oranges, meyer lemons, clementines. i know, some of you must be thinking, but of course we can buy oranges and grapefruits any time of the year? but have you tried an orange in the summer? and compared to the sweetness of the in-season citrus of the winter? it's like night and day.

spanish clementines

california clementines

a random thought occurred to me last week as i bought my first box of clementines. how come they all arrive from spain? surely sunny california or florida could grow these lovelies? or is it something about the mediterranean soil and water? well, tonight at fairway, i found these ... clementines from california. they're called "cuties" and i didn't make that up. i haven't tried one yet, because i still have my box to finish. they seem a little larger and the skins seem a little dimply and thicker. but i haven't met a clementine i didn't like.

28-23 ... eli is finally kicking ass ... although the pats are always getting the lucky flag breaks huh? i still put my bets on the giants.

update: what the frick? at 12-up and eli looking good and the giants putting up a fight, this was their game to lose, and well, they did. although can anyone tell me what happened with that mysterious penalty in the 4th quarter? hats off to the pats. but i'll still be rooting against you in the superbowl!!

meet the new queen of the family

miss kitchen aid, proper name soon to follow ...

for some odd reason i am just in love with baking right now. i don't even have a fancy for sweets. but there is something about baking. the pacing. the precision. the ability to make something that so many people enjoy. so last night we trekked to macy's (just as bad an unforgivable scene in the after christmas frenzy) and picked up one of these beauties. even though we have a red motif going in our kitchen, we weren't impressed with the rouge red. it was just a bit too dark and matte (a cherry red would've been a winner). so instead we chose the metallic chrome. utilitarian, but smart looking. crumb cake and french baguette to come tomorrow! :)


meet the family!

such cuties! JOJO is missing because she hates people, and therefore is unphotographable when you want her to be. she's named after the character in my favorite movie, mystic pizza. i have some older photos of her, but would need to scan them in, and i'm too lazy right now. but here are our three other furry family members.

MILO (mee-low): exhaustedly stretched out after hunting for kitchen scraps from dinner. she was adopted 8 years ago, from a place on hudson street in the west village. she is my baby and sleeps under my arm ever night. her nickname is milosh. or me-lord.

CHEWY (chew-ee): he came from the mean streets of park slope! last year he visited our window a couple of times, gazing lovingly into our apartment. and finally he came right through the back window! he's been a cutie ever since, but also the craziest. his name comes from the fact that he often, and loudly, makes crazy noises like chewbacca. his nickname is chew-balls. or sometimes choo-choo.
TIKI (tee-kee): looking for a little love! tiki was adopted 4 years ago, originally from dwight street in red hook. he has a foot fetish. after a couple of weeks in the kitty juvenile delinquent penitentiary last year, he came back home sweeter than pie. his nickname is teek-tock or teek-balls.
SAMANTHA (nickname, sammy) is now in kitty heaven, but we miss her too, and will always be part of our family :)

das leben der anderen

the lives of others. i know this film is already a year old, but i just rented it last night and it was one of the best films i have seen this year, and maybe one of the top 10, ever. i just loved it. some people might have thought it was too slow, but i loved the pacing. and i loved the end. four simple words, but i keep playing it over and over again in my mind. there are so many different layers of this story that i keep thinking about.

if you haven't seen this already, rent it today! i promise you won't be disappointed.

post-christmas dinner

well, this won't be a "real" recipe because it's top secret. mr. mimi's dad is still in town with us, and we asked him to make his world famous turkey meatloaf, inspired by marcella hazan's essentials. it's turkey, egg, white bread soaked in milk, bread crumbs, grated parmesan, onion, and garlic. for the sauce, there is tomatoes, porcinis, white wine. after browning, you pour in the white wine and then the other sauce ingredients. turn it every 15 minutes, and after an hour and fifteen minutes, voila! a stovetop meatloaf like you've never had before. i can't give up the recipe because it's family heirloom secret! but suffice to say, it was delicious tonight! we served it with garlic mashed potatoes and german red cabbage. turkey came from dipaola farms at the farmer's market on saturday.


ready to eat! (it's not really that red, but that's how the photo came out)


merry christmas!!

it's a quiet christmas day for us. last night we were at mr. mimi's mom's place in the west village, with some family and friends. on the menu: parmesan crusted cod, fingerling potatoes (recovery dish after the le creuset crisis with the originally planned scallop potatoes), toasted brussel sprouts, and german red cabbage.

toasted brussel sprouts: serves 6-8

3 lb brussel sprouts
8 garlic cloves, sliced
olive oil

1. clean and score brussel sprouts. pre-heat oven to 400f. bring salted water to boil.

2. add brussel sprouts to boiling water, stirring occasionally and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. while cooking, slice garlic cloves.

3. drain into large bowl. toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and sliced garlic.

4. place evenly on baking sheet (regular, NOT non-stick). roast in oven until light brown, about 10 or 15 minutes. (sorry for the blurry photo, i am used to slide film in my old SLR camera, not this point and shoot digital!)

on saturday, my parents came down and we all went to the most fabulous restaurant in brooklyn (maybe even the city). because mr. mimi is a chef, people often ask him what his favorite restaurant is. they typically expect to hear an answer about per se, or daniel, or union square cafe or something of that order. first of all, we can't afford to eat at those places on a regular basis. and second of all, while we are sure those kind of places have amazing food, it's not really the scene that we enjoy for dining.

so his answer is always this small, unassuming italian restaurant in downtown brooklyn called noodle pudding. i hate to even tell anyone lest it gets even more busy! if you don't like to wait, or have a large group, then definitely go early or late because they don't take reservations. but it is so worth it ... the menu is always changing with seasonal specials, but even the standard inexpensive pasta dishes are delicious.
the wait staff is always professional and just there when you need them. the owner, tony, is friendly and remembers everyone. mr. mimi says they have the best tiramisu, ever. it isn't fancy on the decor and maybe this is "just" a "neighborhood" restaurant, but it really is the best. of course, we did have our wedding there so maybe we're a little biased too :)

here is a photo of tony and his amazing food buffet at our wedding


cats not rats!

from working class cats, this little cutie needs a new home
update: he's already adopted! but check out the website anyway :)

since mr. mimi is a chef, a couple of years ago he took the new york city dept of health food protection class (and of course he passed with flying colors). his teacher was a former inspector and off the record, he had no problem with cats being in stores. he was a realist and to him, in the hierarchy of cleanliness, cats trumped rats.

the city law was passed a couple of decades ago to get rid of feral cats, and this included banning cats in all food establishments. the campaign was "successful" in that the feral cat population was reduced and contained (although i guess not at kennedy airport). but in the meantime, the rat population skyrocketed. there are stories all the time of rats running around like kings. besides the taco bell video, and the usual subway denizens, now they are scurrying around in city parks.

as this article describes, there is another reason to support letting bodegas, delis, and restaurants have a cat around legally. besides the rat issue, if it is legalized, regulations can be put into place that would require spaying/neutering and other health care for the cats. although it is a cost, i'm sure many owners would be willing to shoulder the one-time couple of hundred dollars for health care to legally keep a cat around rather than risk increasing health code fines into the thousands. plus, look how cute these cats are! can you say the same about that wet rat hiding in the pantry?

so what do you think? whose side are you on? cats or rats??

jewish penicillin

two things are true. i am still sick (what, is this the fourth week of snottin' and coughin'??) and i am eating meat again. yesterday mr. mimi and his dad went to the farmer's market and amongst other animals, he bought a skinny chicken from a local, organic, humanely raised, pasture-fed farm. it's amazing how small a "real" chicken is compared to the pumped up crap you get in the supermarket. today is a rainy, windy day ... the perfect afternoon to stay inside and treat ourselves to chicken soup with crusty sourdough bread for late lunch.

mr. mimi learned this technique at the culinary institute of america. it was confirmed by the ages old jewish wisdom of mimi's nanny (of the grandmother type, not the mary poppins type) although she puts a whole tomato in the mix, for color and flavor. we'll see tomorrow if it worked or not!

jewish penicillin: serves probably about 8

1 whole chicken, leaving skin on
5 large carrots, chopped 1"
1 bunch celery, chopped 1"
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 bunch leeks, white parts and tiny bit of green, sliced
3 bay leaves
salt+pepper to taste
cold water

mirepoix, plus leeks

the blessed skinny chicken

1. add all vegetables into large stock put, evenly mixed.

2. rinse chicken until water runs clear. then place on top of vegetables, and add cold water until chicken is covered 3/4. add bay leaves. bring to boil and then down to simmer.

3. cook for 3 hours total, turning the chicken over halfway through and seasoning with salt and pepper. skim off fat periodically. if you get a good chicken there won't be that much fat or scuzz.

4. carefully pull out chicken, discard skin, and pick off meat from bone. chop up meat, add to soup, simmer for another 20 minutes or so and taste for salt and pepper. enjoy and feel better!!

hot, steamy jewish penicillin!


a little light night reading

i'm in love with russian literature. my first love was german. but then i read crime and punishment and fell in love all over again. then i read war and peace, translated by maude. then i took a class in undergrad with an amazing professor (even if i think her ways for grading was high schoolish) and i loved learning about russian history, and the names, and different words, and the rich, amazing meanings and insinuations within the text. i loved how much they used language, play on words, etc. my favorite book was gogol's dead souls. LOVED it. mr. mimi is not one for fiction but even he really liked it.

so last week mr. mimi picked up my copy of war and peace and began reading. i became a little jealous. all those wonderful scenes and intrigues he was talking about! so i bought my own copy, the new translation by pevear and volokhonsky. i already read their version of brothers kamarazov and when i re-read anna karenina for class i chose them too.

some people think they are too close to the russian and not enough catering to a modern english reader. most people know war and peace from the old standard british translations. there are some interesting articles about how p+v work in their translation (he does the english, she does the russian) but i won't link them here mainly because i'm lazy (a quick google search will suffice). some people complain about all the french. although everyone agrees that yes, tolstoy used the french on purpose in certain passages to convey a certain tone, message, or meaning ... however, many people rebut that in those days, literate people knew french, whereas nowadays nobody does. i didn't know the lowest common denominator was the requisite for good translation? what a bunch of baloney!

so now i will begin re-reading my copy of war and peace, alongside mr. mimi. i'm excited! i'll love to see what each of us pick up in our reading. i can't think of a better way to spend the next month while i'm off from school. i wonder when i will ever get to travel to russia?


menu plan for week 2

spinach ravioli with broccoli rabe

well, this isn't really week 2 (in consecutive terms) but it is (in blog terms). so far, menu planning has taken a back seat to school and holiday planning. i know that's a cliche excuse, but as hillary says, it is what it is.

i am also sick ... again. i must not be eating enough fruit or something. but for the whole month of december i have felt like shit.

not much else new. i am looking forward to four weeks of no school. actually, it's not really school that bothers me. but school, coupled with full-time work, is a lot. i would really much prefer full-time school and no work. but whatever. it is what it is!

tonight: spinach ravioli with broccoli rabe
wednesday: dinner out with visiting family

thursday: dinner out with friends

friday: dinner out with visiting family

see, like i said, the holidays kind of frick up the menu planning :)


holidays are meant for food and drink shared with friends and family

holiday party last night was a resounding success. probably the best one we have hosted so far. i think what is really super about our parties is that most of our friends don't really know each other. there are friends from a decade ago to friends we just made a couple of months back. from all parts of our lives ... work, school, neighbors, friends of friends, etc. because it's a lot of people meeting for the first (or second) time there are none of those typical party cliques or couples that only hang out with each other. everybody is out there mingling, chatting, and laughing.

unfortunately because we had so much fun hosting, there are no photos of all our delicious food! but in case you're interested, this was our (entirely home-made) menu:
hors d'ouevres ... apricots, grapes, nuts, and olives; deviled eggs with caviar; parmesan rosemary icebox crackers with artichoke dip; crudite with onion dip; shrimp cocktail; gruyere stuffed mushrooms.
dinner ... toasted garlic brussel sprouts; steak fries; pernil.
dessert ... chocolate fondue; cupcakes.
booze ... lots!!

so the only photo i have to share is the post-party clean-up scene :)


prep for party

first off ... i am done!! my paper is submitted, albeit 40 minutes late (deadline was midnight). but i am done with my semester. hopefully something pays off from being in H's class. i am just happy to have a month before school again!

the rest of the day was prepping for our holiday party tomorrow. at last count, we'll probably have 27 people over. that's a lot for our small 1 bedroom apartment! but the more the merrier.

since my husband is professionally trained, everything has to be mis en place (everything in its place and ready to go). he's amazing. here was our to do list, posted to a kitchen cabinet. things we prepped tonight: mushrooms, artichoke dip, boiled eggs, pernil marinade, shrimp cocktail and sauce, brussels, onion dip. things we finished tonight: crackers.

ah, yes, the pernil. some of you probably already know this is a popular dish celebrated in puerto rico and other caribbean nations. so how am i, the supposed vegetarian, serving pernil?

i first became vegan after reading diet for a new america by john robbins at the tender young age of 13. i was shocked to learn about how animals were raised and slaughtered in america. i was never a real big meat eater anyway, so it was easy for me to go green. i was all animal rights crazy, protesting the circus, letter writting to proctor and gamble, debating dissection in biology class.

then when i was around 21ish or so, i started eating meat again. like in a big way because by that time i met my future husband to be and he was just gratified to be serving a former veggie big bountiful meals of meat. i ate meat i never had before, and i was especially in love with flank steak.

but then somewhere in my later 20s, i became morally repulsed by all that flesh eating. because i'm crazy, i asked future husband to be if he would be willing to go vegetarian with me. i expressed how important it was to me, that if i wasn't eating meat, i didn't want it in the house either. and ewww, kissing a meat eater! that was kind of gross too. amazing man that mr. mimi is, he agreed. but we compromised on eating fish.

and then sometime a month ago i realized eating fish, especially commercially farmed or caught fish, is just as cruel in its slaughtering methods and environmentally devastating a process as factory farmed animals. i needed to reconcile this contradiction. either i stop eating fish and truly become vegetarian or i start eating meat again.

so that's why we're serving pernil. i did a lot of research and found a wonderful local farm, herondale organic farm. i made mr. mimi call the farmer and ask him slaughtering questions. i know, crazy! but it was important to know how they did it. honestly, i'm not sure how this will be. i won't be eating meat in a restaurant (unless i can be assured it is local, humanely raised, etc) and i probably will only eat meat once in awhile at home. but for now, this is where i am at.

full recipe for pernil (and other items) will come later. for now, just enjoy the photos! while i try to get some shut-eye before everything else tomorrow.

pernil rub items: cilantro, garlic cloves, green pepper, habenero, onion, and lime juice

pernil rub after combining in food processor

pernil rub on shoulder
artichoke dip, ready for baking tomorrow (from the latest issue of martha stewart's living magazine)

parmesan rosemary icebox crackers (from martha stewart's hors d'oeuvres handbook)


stress comes but once a semester

because i like to procrastinate (that's who i am, please don't try to change me) i always find the last week of class to be especially stressful. add the fact that i was completely out of commission last week because i was sick (i finally had to give in and get antibiotics yesterday). add the fact that our holiday party is this weekend. and fuggedabowt! and menu planning? yeah, non-existent at the moment. 

speaking of procrastinating ... isn't that why i am here blogging away instead of writing my paper?? ;)

so here is my schedule for this week. read it and weep!

school: write draft of gbv paper; email karin; organize slides for studying; review self-evaluation (frick, i have no idea what this assignment was supposed to be??)
macys: return le creuset; buy roasting pan; pay bill
ann taylor: use up coupons!
crate and barrel: buy ice bowl, wood bowl, egg plate, candles
dinner: spinach raviolis with green salad

school: finish self-evaluation; print any missing slides; begin studying for exam; print info for gbv paper; last field class
party prep: make cracker dough
dinner: boca with sweet potato and broccoli

school: finish studying for exam; revise gbv paper (hopefully it's written!); exam!!
lunch: with H
dinner: end of school party
party prep: dishes

school: finish gbv paper, due at midnight
party prep: all day: shopping, marinating, cooking, prepping, make music mix

party prep: all day: cleaning, cooking, prepping
7:00pm: martini time!! :)


i love the holidays

i remember christmas as a child fondly. our living room had a door on it, so there was this keen level of suspense. we'd all wake up early, eat chocolate dipped donuts in the dining room (i have no idea where that tradition came from) and then race up the hallway to the living room. mom and dad would creep inside and take photos, and then we'd be allowed to open the door and see all the glittering gifts inside. we'd rush to open them all up and then play for hours afterwards.

when my parents divorced, christmas became a little different. but hanukkah then became something special. my sweetest memory is when pop-pop laid out all the gifts in the shape of a menorah on his living room floor. it was such a giddy, abundant celebration. he always hung up my silly hanukkah menorah craft, even when i got older and it wasn't so cute anymore. we miss you pop-pop.

as i entered the years of young adulthood, christmas wasn't necessarily a special holiday for me. because i'm such a paper and typology fanatic, i did always enjoy the cards and gift wrap and ribbons. but it wasn't until mr. mimi came into my life and we bought my first ever real christmas tree together from the awesome firemen in highland did christmas become a treat.

i love christmas now. i love the lights. i love trying to pick out the perfect tree, the smells of the fir in the house. i love buying new ornaments. i love having friends and family over. i absolutely hate the beginning of winter and cold weather, but the fun of christmas makes up for it.

we bought our tree this afternoon. a little shy of 8 feet, douglas fir. straight as a whistle, and not too wide on the bottom. it's a really nice shape. the front of our apartment has a bay window type of alcove, and the tree fits perfectly. it's a bright beacon of happiness from the outside. we always decorate our fireplace mantle too, with some extra branches and the heavy ornaments that don't really fit on the tree (or the special ones that need to be out of reach of kitty paws). next weekend is our holiday party, can't wait!


pardon the blurry photo ... no tripod! :(


movie night!

now that the cold weather is here, movie night has been born. since i haven't seen a movie in the theatres for what seems like ages, there are a lot of movies that i really want to see. volver. lives of others. some other ones i can't remember.

so to go with movie night, it's also pizza night. i've been wanting to make home cooked pizzas for what seems like forever. i finally bought a stone like two months ago but still no pizza. tonight was the night! i like lots of veggies, so we did grilled zucchini a
nd eggplant. we didn't cook the peppers so they would give a little crunch. kalamata olives and a little bit of fresh mozzarella. i don't know what i was expecting. and my blah night could be because i'm still congested and feeling lousy. but pizza night was eh, it was anti-climatic ...

mr. mimi making the pie

pizza with zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and olives

the best pizza is at bedouin tent on atlantic avenue in brooklyn. i know they are not "real" pizzas, but i just LOVE them. i could eat them for lunch like two times a week. uh, well sometimes i do, they are that good!

because i wasn't feeling so great, i wanted to watch a light comedy. we rented superbad. i coudn't finish it. did people really like this movie???

i hope to get rid of this nasty cold/flu. it is coming at the fricking wrong time. i have way too much work to be finishing. it is going to be a looong week to come.


menu plan for week 1

this blog has helped me ... basically waste time that should be spent on school work :)

but, i should be fair ... this blog has also helped me focus on menu planning. i should also be honest ... the cooking is mainly done by mr. mimi, who is a cia-alum and professional chef. my creative part is the menu selection, the seasoning (i am kick ass at seasoning), the stirring, and a couple of select dishes that strangely come out better when i cook them (risotto being one of them). i also do the baking. but the dicing, the slicing, the combining, the sauteeing, and the broiling is all thanks to the wonderful talents of my other half, mr. mimi. so this blog (at least the culinary parts) is a labor of love between both of us.

here is our plan for the week, not including sides:
monday is boca chick patty with olives and raisins
tuesday is movie night! pizza topped with grilled eggplant, zucchini, and olives
wednesday is chard and onion trouchia
thursday is whole wheat pasta with gorgonzola and escarole
friday is, as always, dinner out

tonight was butternut squash gratin with onions and sage. we've made this before, but i am not feeling well (flu anyone?) and it didn't taste as yummy as i remember. way back when, i was just a youngin working at the bookstore. i had (and still have) a terrible weakness for good cover design, and i promptly fell in love with vegetarian cooking for everyone by deborah madison. at that time, i didn't cook one single meal, so i only admired this book for it's beautiful cover. when i met mr. mimi, this was the first cookbook we bought together, and for the past years it's been a staple for many of our dinners. there has not been one thing made out of this cookbook that didn't come out delicious. which, i believe, is a rarity with cookbooks. if i were to suggest a vegetarian cookbook to anyone, i would definitely pick this one. and no, i don't work for broadway books!

butternut squash gratin with onions and sage: serves 4
from vegetarian cooking for everyone (1997, p. 287)

4 cups onion, thinly sliced
6 cups butternut squash, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 tb sage, chopped
1/2 cup flour
salt + pepper
2 tb parsely, chopped
1/2 cup gruyere, grated
1/2 cup plus 2 tb whole milk
1 cup fresh plain breadcrumbs

1. preheat oven to 350f. lightly oil or butter a 2-quart gratin dish.

2. heat half of the oil in skillet over medium heat. add onion, thyme, and sage and cook until the onions are highly caramelized, about 15 minutes. season with salt and pepper to taste. spread in the gratin dish, return skillet to heat, and add remaining oil.

3. toss the squash in the flour, letting excess fall away. add to pan and cook until it begins to brown, about 7 minutes. add parsley, salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute more. layer the squash over the onions, cover with cheese and add milk.

4. cover and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover, add bread crumbs, and bake until the top is browned and liquid absorbed, about 25 minutes more.

butternut squash gratin with onions and sage

pie for breakfast?

two years ago i bought the joy of cooking, all about pies and tarts. i am not even a sweets person, but i love baking, especially in the colder months. i easily made some very delicious key lime pie, banana cream pie, and pear streusel. easily because the crust was either pat in the pan butter crust or graham cracker. last summer i tried making peach pie with the standard flaky pastry dough, and although tasty, the crust left much to be desired. it certainly didn't look like the cover!

at our last grocery shop we bought a bagful of organic braeburn apples. they were unbelievably tart, like sour patch kids but without the benefit of being a sticky chewy candy. you couldn't eat them. left with 6 or 7 apples, we decided to bake my first apple pie last night.

as you can see, a year of not baking did nothing to improve my flaky pastry dough methods! i do the cutting part well, but i am so unsure about the moisture part. i'm always afraid i'm adding too much water, but it never seems to be the right consistency. i know that baking is a lot about how it feels, but since i've never felt it "right," i don't know what i should be striving for. at the same time, i know i am doing something wrong, as the dough is difficult to roll out and it bakes up definitely flaky, but not amazingly flaky. if any one is reading this and has any suggestions, please write a comment!

apple pie: one 9-inch pie, serves 6-8
from joy of cooking, all about pies and tarts (2002, p. 38)

flaky pastry dough
2 1/2 lb apples (about 5-6 medium)
3/4 cup sugar
2-3 tb all-purpose flour
1 tb lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
2 tb unsalted butter, small pieces

1. pre-heat oven to 425f with rack in lower third. peel, core, and slice apples 1/4 inch thick (for 6 cups). combine with sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt. let stand for 15 minutes, gently stirring several times.

2. pour mixture into bottom crust and level. dot the top with butter. brush the edge of the bottom crust with cold water and cover with the top crust. seal the edge, trim, and cut steam vents. sprinkle top with sugar and cinnamon.

ready to put cover on

3. bake pie for 30 minutes. slip a baking sheet underneath, reduce heat to 350f, and bake until the fruit feels just tender when knife pokes through steam vent. juices should just begin to bubble out. it should take about 30-45 minutes.

4. cool on rack for 3-4 hours. eat to your heart's delight! we made it late last night, so it became breakfast this morning :)

sunday breakfast

three things you should know about

1. welfare and child support. i remember first learning about this in my social welfare policy class last year. i couldn't believe it then, it just seemed so incredulous. now there's a recent new york times article about it. in a nutshell: mother has child and receives welfare benefits. father is out of the picture, to varying degrees. state gets involved to collect child support payments and is successful. and then, instead of giving the money over to the mother, the state keeps that money so that the state can "recoup" the costs of providing the welfare benefits. there are so many things wrong with this system besides the obvious stupidity of the states that don't realize withholding those payments (which are rightfully hers!) can help reinforce the poverty for which that mother turns to the welfare system to alleviate. it's the payments, stupid! read times article here.

2. sexual violence in the eastern congo. while war rape isn't a new phenomenon, the scale and brutality of rape in the eastern congo is horrifying. read this new york times news article. to watch an amazingly moving trailer for a documentary about rape in the congo ("the greatest silence"), click here. while not specifically about the eastern congo, if you are in the united states, urge your senators to support the bi-partisan international violence against women act (s2279). for more information, check out the women's commission for refugee women and children legislative alert.

3. child soldiers. an estimated 250,000 children, sometimes as young as eight years old, are "serving" in armed conflicts around the world. many female child soldiers are forced to serve as sex slaves of military commanders. the united states' state department identifies nine countries where child soldiers are fighting in government forces or goverment-sponsored militias. of those nine, eight are given military financing and support by the united states. the bi-partisan child soldier prevention act (s1175) would restrict military assistance to governments until they end any involvement in the recruitment of child soldiers. please contact your senators today and urge them to support this bill. for more information, human rights watch has a take action page. you can also learn more at the coalition to stop the use of child soldiers website.


random questions

1. should i study french in france next summer or travel to africa?

2. what country should i write about for my gender-based violence in complex emergencies class?

3. how many friends will end up attending our holiday party?

4. what should be our final menu for the holiday party?

5. should i go vegetarian again? sigh ...

6. stay in brooklyn or move uptown?

7. how do i keep to my budget now so i have enough money when i stop working next year?

8. will i ever meet zach braff? and is he as cute in person as on the big screen?

parmesan crusted flounder

saturdays are the best day for a home cooked dinner. although we live in the city, we are blessed with amazing farmer's markets (for more info, click here). and even though it is the first of december, there are still many stands with last of the season spinach and greens, apples, pears, and herbs. our favorite fish monger is still there too, blue moon fish from long island. when at all possible, we buy organic ... but when we have a choice, we prefer supporting our local farms.

tonight's dinner was flounder from blue moon fish and sauteed spinach from phillips farm in new jersey. freshly picked spinach is amazingly richer and spicier compared to those usually bland pre-washed spinach leaves you find in the supermarket; even tastier and finer than fresh bunched in the supermarket too (organic or not). we also used leeks and herbs from phillips farm. and as the starchy side, leftover risotto!

parmesan crusted flounder: serves 2

1 lb flounder (usually about 2-3 filets)
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely diced
1 bunch leeks, thinly sliced (white parts and little bit of greens)
1/4 cup dry white wine
4-5 thyme sprigs
old bay
salt + pepper
1/4 cup grated parmes
an cheese
1 lemon
vegetable stock
olive oil
parsley for garnish

1. pre-heat oven to 375f. heat oil in saute pan. add onion, and sautee for 2-3 minutes. add leeks, and sautee until translucent. de-glaze with vegetable stock. add thyme leaves off sprigs. simmer until most of the liquid has been cooked. take off heat.

2. pour onion/leek mix
ture into bowl and add breadcrumbs, 1/2 lemon juice, parmesan cheese, old bay, salt and pepper. mix with spatula until well combined.

3. lay fish filets with skin side up. layer half of the stuffing on one side, and then fold over. place fish into pan (we used our wonderful le creuset stoneware oval dish, but feel free to use a roasting pan). season with old bay and spoon the remaining stuffing over fish and around the bottom of dish. add 1/4 cup white wine to the pan.

ready to go into the oven

4. put pan on middle rack and cook until internal temp is 140f. squeeze remaining lemon juice when finished and garnish with a little bit of parsley. voila!

5. serving tip: the top will be crusty, so make sure to spoon up some of the softer, mushier stuffing from around the pan when serving. this gives a delicious mix of crusty and buttery smoothness.

dinner is served!

the best part of fish night: feeding some scraps to that eternally hungry beast, otherwise known as my lovely kitty, milo (pronounced "mee-low") ... and yes, she will really stand on her two paws for food! but no, her tail isn't really that short, it's just a weird photo angle :)