hello, again

it's been 4 months, nearly to the day. i know a lot of you aren't reading anymore, or should i say i know that many of you probably don't have me in your reader feed anymore since there was nothing more to read.

at first i was going to blame it on work, and say it's not my fault, i was in the philippines responding to the emergency after typhoons pepeng and ondoy. and i was, but that was back in october and only for 4 weeks. so what happened to the other 3 months?

(for my other photos from the philippines, they're all on flickr).

and then i was going to blame it on this sort of late-early life crisis i'm having. you know the kind where you go wtf am i doing with my life? and perhaps it coincides with me coming back from the philippines because after i read this beautiful writing, i was left with that painful feeling that even though everything i've been doing for the last several years has me on the path to the success i've always envisioned for myself, now that i can see it closer, that version of success doesn't really seem to be what i want, afterall. or when i think about it honestly, that version of success doesn't match with what makes me happy, day in and day out.

but i'm still here, cooking and taking photographs, and occasionally baking. and what better way to start off this little blog again, then by sharing a quick and easy hors d'oeuvres that could easily start off your new years eve party coming up (we made them to start off our christmas eve dinner). i found these on smitten kitchen, who happened to find them on the nytimes. they just looked so good on her blog i knew i had to try them.

i made slight variation here and there, sometimes based on what we had in the fridge (sour cream instead of heavy cream) and sometimes based on the "classic" french method mr. mimi knows best (see note below). but they disappeared as soon as they were done. so easy, delicious, and does exactly what an hors d'oeuvres should -- whet your appetite for the next course!

so let these tasty creamed mushroom toasts whet your appetite for my blog again. i promise i'll be back soon with the rest of the holiday dinner, and lots more kitchen adventures for next year!

creamed mushrooms on chive toast:
serves 2-4 (it served 2 of us gluttons, but you could, i guess, serve 4 people with this recipe)
adapted from smitten kitchen

note: this mixture is basically a standard duxelles. the original nytimes article, and smitten kitchen's recipe, has you chop the mushrooms to 1/4" and then cook. but to prepare this in the "classic" french method, the mushrooms are roughly chopped (or even not at all if they're small enough) and then after cooking, finely diced. the reason for this is because of the relative high water content of the mushrooms. cooking them on high heat nearly whole (or in bigger pieces) will make them brown nicely and sear in this moisture. i'm sure another reason is because the french like to make things more complicated than they seem, bien sûr! :-)

1/2 lb cremini and shiitake mushrooms
2 tbs butter
1 large shallot, chopped
2 tbs dry white wine
1-2 tb sour cream
salt + pepper, to taste
challah or brioche bread, 4 slices about 1/2" thick and then cut into points or other shapes
1 tb chopped chives

1. brush off dirt from mushrooms, de-stem, and chop mushroom caps.

2. melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat, add shallot and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. turn heat to high, add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes. mushrooms should be soft, and a deep golden shiny color. add wine and de-glaze, reduce until almost dry, about 2 minutes.

3. put the mushroom-shallot mixture back on the cutting board, and finely dice. return to the skillet on medium heat. temper sour cream and add to mixture (you could use regular heavy cream instead). season with salt and pepper.

4. toast bread (technically this should be a "buttered" toast recipe, but because challah or brioche is so rich already, we just toasted them and didn't butter. if you're using only white bread, you probably might want to add some butter after toasting). top each toast with mushroom mixture and sprinkle with chives.


grilled lamb chops with salmoriglio sauce

grilled lamb chop with salmoriglio sauce

wow for someone who was vegetarian for about a decade, i do seem to eat a lot of meat now!! it's not something i'm necessarily happy about. i would be lying if i said i didn't like the taste of certain pieces of meat. but i would be definitely lying if i said it didn't make me feel morally conflicted.

i try to assuage this conflict by at least only buying locally raised meats from the farmer's markets. this past weekend i went to a new farmer market (new for me folks, and that was thankfully light years better than that other one i tried out) and some of the farms even had photo albums of all their happy chickens, sheep, pigs, and bison in real fields and mucking grounds. it certainly convinced me that, indeed, these animals probably lived their lives as naturally as possible. but it made it that much harder for me to look at those photos and then buy a piece of cryovacked loin. but like i read somewhere recently, these chickens had a really good life for several months and then one very bad day.

salmoriglio sauce

i don't mean for this to devolve into a manifesto of sorts, although i do believe too little attention is paid to what we put into our bodies. i spend the majority of my disposable income on food. i believe that i should spend an equal amount of thought and conscious effort in making sure i know the provenance of that food. if not because of the animal i am eating, or the inevitable environmental damage, but at least because of the very fact that i am ingesting it!

i might think a lot about food, but when it comes to cooking, simpler is a lot of times better! i was looking for a new lamb chop recipe and came across this unassuming idea. salmoriglio is a strong, pungent lemon-herb sauce, originally form calabria and sicily. i could not believe how delicious it was! if you like lamb, please try this recipe! and then we can go back to debating whether i should be vegetarian again :-)

grilled lamb chop with salmoriglio sauce-2

grilled lamb chops with salmoriglio sauce: serves 4
from gourmet (may 2000, original recipe click here

1 1/2 tb finely chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 tb finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tb fresh lemon juice
1 tsp coarse salt
salt + pepper to taste
6 tb olive oil
4 shoulder-blade lamb chops

1. grind herbs, zest, lemon juice, and 1 tsp coarse salt to a paste with a mortar and pestle. transfer to bowl and add oil in slow stream, whisking until emulsified. season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. pat lamb dry and season with salt and pepper. heat a lightly oiled well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. then grill lamb, turning once about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

3. spoon sauce over lamb. if this is how the sicilians eat, then i need to move there.


chicken fajitas with mojo de ajo

mojo de ajo (garlic oil)

when i lived in new york city i had a favorite quick, cheap mexican place as a go-to for dinner. it wasn't nearly "authentic" mexican, but somewhere between that and the oozy, greasy, cheesy, incarnation that tex-mex often becomes. it had all the usuals, and normally i like fajitas because i'm such a sucker for sizzling platters of food! but i wasn't terribly fond of the fajitas at this particular place because while sizzling in temperature, it never seemed to really dazzle me in flavor.

so when i saw this recipe in martha's magazine a couple months ago i definitely wanted to try it. and fajitas are one of those recipes where one can think, do i really need a recipe? cut up some peppers, onions, meat and toss it in a hot skillet! and true, it doesn't really get (and shouldn't get) much more complicated than that. but i was really curious about this "mojo de ajo," especially since we loved bobby flay's
mojo on a grilled pork tenderloin.

evidently mojo is the cure-all because it's definitely what my go-to place was missing in their fajitas! plus the combination of thighs and breasts (gee, that phrase seems awkward, huh?!) made it so much more flavorful. we only served ours with guacamole and pico, no cheese or sour cream (the guacamole is creamy enough!) i think this is a perfect dish for impromptu summer dinner -- quick, easy, and ready to share with friends or family!

chicken fajita

chicken fajitas with mojo de ajo: serves 4
adapted from martha stewart living (june 2009, original recipe click here)

mojo de ajo
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tb minced garlic (4-6 cloves)
3 tb fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 tsp red-pepper flakes
1/2 tsp coarse salt

1 tb olive oil
1/2 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (about 1 cup)
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced 1/2 inch thick
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2), slicked 1/2 inch thick
8 small 6-inch flour tortillas, warmed
salt + pepper to taste
pico de gallo

1. make the mojo: cook oil and garlic in small saucepan over low heat until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes. remove from heat, stir in lime juice, red pepper, and salt.

2. heat large skillet over high heat, add oil and gently coat. add onion and bell pepper, season with salt. cook, stirring frequently, until onion is bornwed in spots and pepper has softened slightly with blistered skins, about 5 minutes.

3. add chicken, salt, and stir and cook until chicken is browned and thoroughly cooked, 5-7 minutes (you can finish in the oven if you chose).

4. add mojo de ajo, and stir to coat. season with salt and pepper. serve immediately with guacamole, pico de gallo, and warm tortillas!


pork chops with rhubarb-raisin compote


yes, yes i'm still here!! although i have had a lousy track record, these past two weeks were not entirely my fault for not posting. i finally started a new job, yay! but it meant leaving my beloved new york city, sniff sniff.

except i haven't had really any time to mourn the loss of living in the best city in the USA because i received the offer one week, and moved myself down the next weekend (with the faith that i would be lucky enough to find an apartment in a day, and not be camping out on a park bench), and started working last week! i'm still living in a basically empty room -- i'm living on an aerobed and not much else! -- because the rest of my belongings don't come down until next weekend. and hopefully mr. mimi will follow soon thereafter.

so you see my absence was not intentional, and to prove it here's a post about an obviously previously made dinner. why obviously? because folks, it has rhubarb!! and we all know the peak rhubarb season is only in spring. i was a little late to the party because i was in nigeria, but there were still some good bunches left in june.

pork chop with rhubarb-raisin compote

we didn't have cherries so we used the raisins from the pantry. the compote (as expected) was delicious and could easily be used with a chicken dish as well. in this heat of august you probably won't find any good rhubarb around, but bookmark this for next spring and i'm sure you'll love it!

for the recipe, click here.


tangy sweet coleslaw

slaw with ribs-2

wow, you're still here?! thank you for hanging in there with my non-existent blogging. i'm not sure why i've been so quiet since i returned from nigeria.

i think part of it was because i kept a daily journal while i was there in order to reflect on what i saw and felt and also to keep my sanity when i was lonely. and when i was really, completely, desperately bored and lonely i would actually write backwards. yes, longhand writing but with the letters and sentences written backwards -- sort of like in a neurotic heeere's johnny kind of way. so to be back home and not have to write at all felt liberating.

another reason was because my taste buds were so disappointed when i first came home. my last week in nigeria i really started thinking about foods from home. i mean, the best thing about living in new york city is its sheer variety of cuisines. but when i came home, nothing tasted good at all. restaurant or home cooked -- everything was bland, nothing was satisfying. i was cranky and that made me crave even less, which only made me more cranky.

what slowly pulled me back to american style food was the grill. and everything that dining al fresco in my own backyard brings with it -- the charred meats, longer nights, white wine, and relaxation.

baby back ribs


one of the first grills we had was baby back ribs, something i've never had before. actually i don't think i've ever had any kind of rib before. i liked them, although i don't know if i'd necessarily make them again [mr. mimi interjects here, "whaddaya mean?!? they were great, you loved them!" -- i did?! i honestly can't remember, which makes me believe that i didn't.]

but i found a great slaw to go with it. coleslaw is so easy to make, there's no reason to buy supermarket slaw that's gooped up with heavy mayo and all sorts of preservatives. this slaw by martha uses half mayo, half plain yogurt and it was refreshing. i was on the fence about the tomatoes -- i like tomatoes, and it adds color, but i didn't like the soft texture with the rest of the crunchy slaw. either way, if you invited me to your potluck grill, i might bring this side with me! for the recipe, click here.

slaw with ribs


good-bye nigeria, hello new york

my workday lunch spot

it's been a week since i left nigeria. it all went by so quickly. you wouldn't know it since i haven't posted anything in like forever, oops!!

people keep asking me if experienced "culture shock" in nigeria? honestly, not at all. i'm not sure why? i guess because i lived in the capital city and my travels were to large cities as well. i mean, yeah life was a little different here and i ate different food and listened to different music and saw some of the poorest of the poor. but it's not like i was living in a bedouin tent in the middle of the sahara, going to work on camel back for the past three months.

i bring home many stories with me, some that i will share, some that i will just hold in my visual and mental memory. i might not have experienced culture shock but i definitely understood that my life is very different, and not because of me as a person -- but only because of the sheer circumstance of where i happen to live.

before i left i bought my taxi driver a goodbye gift, we were in the store together and i told him to pick out something for himself. he immediately proceeded to show me an electric hair shaver. i was like umm, ok if that's what you want??!! it cost 2,300 naira (about $18). to me that wasn't expensive but to him (and to anyone of his class), that was a generous gift. but i was thinking -- of all the gifts you want me to buy, you pick out an electric hair shaver??!!

on the car ride home he gave profuse thanks, and appreciated how generous i was and how happy he was. i asked if he had one already but was broken? he said no he doesn't have one, he goes to the barber and his son goes too -- but he worries about HIV/AIDS infection and so he is so grateful that he can now cut his hair and his son's hair at home. and immediately i realized, to me it was just 2,300 naira spent as a gift for a friend here, but to him it meant so much more -- to him, to his wife, to his family.

that's when i realized what the real difference -- the real "shock" -- is between me and everyone i met there. it's not about their culture or what they eat or wear or how they live. it's the fact that i go to the salon and get my haircut and my only worry is i hope it doesn't look like crap. my friend goes to the barber and he worries about being infected with HIV/AIDS.

i tried to anticipate how i might feel when i'm back in new york city. i remember when i came home from a two month stay in geneva. i hated the city, i hated the noise and sidewalk litter. i absolutely hated the MTA (can ya blame me there?!) -- but in about a week i fell back in love again with all the things that's amazing about new york.

this time is a bit different. i've never had to deal with such noise pollution (honk, honk, hooonk, HOOONKKKKK!!) as i've had in the streets of abuja. so now new york city is like an oasis of calm and quiet! but a week later and i still don't feel quite at home. i have less patience for the constant jockeying along the hipness and coolness spectrum that is the circus life of new york -- even if i don't join in on the circus, it's become tiringly annoying to watch. i also don't have my tastebuds back yet -- everything i eat leaves me unsatisfied.

but in my downtime i'm catching up on the (literally) thousands of blog posts i've missed in my google reader and i can't wait to start cooking and baking again -- i promise mimi on the move will be busy again soon!


nigerian field visits photos

As most of you know I'm in Nigeria for four months to finish my masters, working with an international NGO.

This past week I was able to visit the three child protection teams in northern Nigeria -- Bauchi, Kano, and Kaduna.

It was a great experience, and sits with me deeply. All my senses were taking it in -- the sights of the never ending rubbish, goats at every turn of the road. The smells of all those motorbikes, rubbish fires, and at times, sewage. The sounds of all those motorbikes, the hawking, the mosque calls to prayers. The taste of northern Nigeria cuisine, which even the same basic item (fried yams) tasted different.

And of course, the children. I'm not sure what I think. On one hand, it's easy to be angry when every corner in Kano has a bunch of Almaijari boys begging at every car that passes by -- you spot them by their plastic bowls. Boys are sent to the Almaijari "schools" which are Koranic boarding schools where neither the Koran or any form of education is taught. Instead, they are forced on the streets to beg. Millions of boys in northern Nigeria are in this situation.

But it becomes much more complicated when you travel to the communities. Beyond the poverty, you see so many children during the day who should be in school -- in the streets, hawking, working, caring for other children. It's like another world -- especially in Kano, where these communities are basically a hidden world from the main tar streets. But it's not just as easy to say "well, they should all be in school!" At the schools -- the children enrolled are easily identified by their uniforms, but many more children hang around the schools who are not receiving an education.

However the reaction of the children to the foreign oyibos are always the same regardless. With the little ones, it was like a running, screaming mob. For the older ones, we would walk into a classroom, and they would all be hushed by the teacher. They would sometimes sing a song, or merely say in their loudest, proudest English a big "dank you!" -- and once we walked out, it was like pandemonium as squeeling of delight and wonder filled the room. It was impossible not to hear the children and see their laughs and smiles -- and feel relieved and happy. But at the same time -- I always wondered how naive or presumptuous I was to feel that. How cliche, right?

And for the moment you were all waiting for -- yes I took photos, finally!! I didn't get as many photos of images/experiences that I wanted to. Mainly because I was "working" and not travelling, where I could stop as I'd like. And even when I did get to take photos, it never seemed to capture what I was seeing/feeling.

But they are up on flickr, so click on this link to view --



three random stereotypes that are relatively true

1. women carry huge amounts of X, Y, Z balanced on their heads -- well, this is only partly true because plenty of men are hawking items along the street, even if the majority are women. but you see them everywhere, balancing a huge bowl of bananas, mangos, water, rice, etc etc while walking down the hot, dusty sidewalks.

i try not to be impressed by such feats of balance but more than once i wish i could try to do such balancing myself without (a) dropping the load on my feet like the lame oyibo i am or (b) appearing condescending or naive like the out of touch oyibo i am.

2. nigerians drive like shit
-- ok, you want me to be kinder and gentler? how about they drive like crazy crap. this is something that photos cannot do justice to, nor even mere narrative. i cannot describe what riding around in a taxi is like here -- this is something that can only be experienced first hand. but all those rumors i heard about driving on sidewalks, cutting people off, no headlights at night, burn-out car crashes in the middle of the road etc etc are very much true here.

part of the problem is that there are too many cars. everyone owns his/her own car because taking taxis all the time can add up pretty quickly (i should know). so it's a source of pride -- you always see people cleaning up their cars to a glittering sheen, whether it's a brand new peugot or a beat-up 20+ year old volkwagen with no door handles and cracked windshield.

however, once they get on the road -- it's the law of step aside bitch, me first. i like to believe they don't necessarily do this with malicious intent. the truth of the matter is the process of getting a driver's license consists of forking over the required "fee" and there you go, you're ready to drive! it's all about money, baby. so i say a good majority of the drivers out there have never really "learned" how to drive.

so a road technically wide enough for 3 lanes easily becomes a 4 lane road. or even funnier, when the 3 lane road becomes a 2 lane road -- nigerians seem to love to think of lane markings as what you drive over, as if it's a monorail tracking. i've finally gotten used to 4-way intersections with no street lights where the law of step aside bitch, me first is quite an adventure. basically i hold my breath and hope not to get side swiped. only one taxi ride (out of many) have i ever felt "are these my last thoughts? am i going to die here in abuja, alone, in this taxi?" -- but it still doesn't get any easier.

3. nigerians love obama and think of him as a brother -- this is also very much true from my unscientific sampling of taxi drivers and other local folks. the best conversation i've had about obama though was from a taxi driver who was amazed that a black man could become president of the US -- his voice was filled with awe and he felt that made the US a wonderful country where anything was possible, and he only hoped for such greatness to be able to happen in his country. i admit (and i don't even like obama) that i was pretty proud to be representin'!

tomorrow i leave for nothern nigeria -- bauchi, kano, and kaduna -- for a week of field site visits. bauchi recently had some riot troubles, but the curfew has been lifted and so we're going ahead. i'm pretty excited, especially to see historical kano. this is supposed to be work and i'm not really supposed to act like a tourist but i hope to have time to see the famous dye pits and the ancient city walls (what's left of them). i'm also bringing my camera so hopefully i'll have photos soon!


abuja, nigeria

it’s been over two weeks here in nigeria and i still haven’t written. i guess partly that’s because there is no cooking or baking to tell you about. it is so hot (even by nigerian standards - every day has been easily over 100F degrees) that the thought of turning on the stove or oven seems a cruel punishment. but hot weather has never deterred me before.

then i realized it’s because i don’t have any one here to share it with. i never think of food as purely sustenance. i’m fascinated by the rituals, customs, and habits of people sharing food. i enjoy cooking and baking because i enjoy sharing it with others. my fondest memories are embedded in events surrounded with food. baking is a solitary activity for me - but it's always shared with others afterwards. and my favorite part of cooking is doing it together with mr. mimi. so when it comes to cooking or baking by myself, and for myself - i’m at a loss.

so unless you want to hear random stories about nigeria i probably won’t be writing much here. if i bring out my camera maybe i’ll post some photos. right now i’ve only been using my iphone to take quick photos - certainly not blog-worthy!

until next time, as they say here - you’re welcome!


banana bundt cake

banana bundt cake slice

how appropriate that i'm here on a tuesday with a dorie recipe. it's bittersweet because i no longer bake along with the lovely tuesdays with dorie group, although i do follow many of them along the way. i don't believe this one has been made by the group yet, but i know they will love it once they do!

this was my first time making a bundt cake in order to justify buying the pan a couple months ago!

so simple, and probably my favorite recipe so far. it came out so moist and the banana-sour cream flavor was perfect. when googling around to find an online print of the recipe, i found that dorie made these into banana cake muffins with half the recipe - what a terrific idea for an easy portable breakfast treat!

banana bundt cake

for dorie's banana bundt cake recipe, click here. i did not use chocolate (the book recipe does not include it either), but i did add a lemon glaze once it cooled.

for some strange reason, this is my fourth post on banana baking! i either really love bananas, or i routinely let them brown-rot far too often. but for other banana bread/cake ideas, click here or here or here.


orange cream cheese muffins with pepita crunch

pepita crunch close-up

citrus is pretty much my favorite fruit and one of the very few reasons i can tolerate winter at all! however, when i was a wee girl of about 6 impressionable years i was at a family dinner function of sorts. towards the end, fresh fruit was served, including orange wedges. after eating mine and leaving the rinds on my plate, one of my ornery uncles cleverly said "hey, why aren't you eating those? you're supposed to eat all the orange parts!" i had never heard such a thing but i was the quintessential curious kid, so i bit off a big piece of the rind ..... and a thousand glasses of water couldn't get rid of that bitter, awful taste!!

orange pulp

ever since then i've had an unnatural, neurotic obsession with peeling off every dangling piece of rind and white pith whenever i peel an orange. yes, even though i know the white pith has all that good nutrition! but what can i say, my taste buds were traumatized and now i can only have my oranges naked.

so i was a bit wary, to say the very least, with this recipe that asks for the orange - flesh, pith, and rind! - to be incorporated. as a pre-caution, i zipped it to a pulp.

muffin cups

but my fears were unwarranted, because these muffins turned out so good. i'd even prefer them a bit more orangey (maybe a round 1/4 cup?) and the pepita crunch was a lovely topping.
here's to a yummy breakfast treat!

orange cream cheese muffins with pepita crunch: makes 12*
from great coffee cakes, sticky buns, muffins & more (2007, p. 106)

for pepita crunch
1 large egg white (reserve yolk)
2 tb plus 1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup pepitas

1. preheat oven to 350F. spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray or line with parchment. in small bowl, whisk together egg white and 1 tb of sugar. add pepitas and toss well. pour onto cookie sheet and spread evenly in single layer. sprinkle 1 more tb of sugar over pepitas. bake for 7-8 minutes.

2. stir pepitas with fork and bake for another 7 minutes. stir pepitas again, sprinkle with remaining 1 tsp of sugar and bake for another 3 minutes. remove and allow to cool; set aside.

for muffins
1/2 small navel orange, cut into 6-8 pieces (rind, pith, and flesh)
4 oz cream cheese, room temp, broken into 3-4 pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, slightly firm
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk (from pepita crunch)
1 tsp vanilla

1. increase oven to 375F. whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and bakng soda; set aside.

2. turn on food processor and drop orange pieces through the tube. process until finely chopped. measure out 1/4 cup pulp and return to food processor bowl (discard any excess orange). add cream cheese and process in three 10-second intervals, scraping the sides after each.

3. but butter into 1-inch pieces and with electric mixer and paddle attachment, mix on medium speed until smooth and light, about 1 minute. stop and add cream cheese/orange mixture, mix on medium 1 more minute. add sugar in steady stream, then blend in eggs, yolk, and vanilla.

4. reduce mixer to slow and add flour mixure in three additions, mixing until just blended after each addition.

5. portion level scoops into muffin pan. sprinkle top of each with 1 tb of pepita crunch. be sure to use any sugar that remains in the pan.

6. bake for 22-25 minutes, rotating halfway through, until golden brown and tops are spingy. cool on rack.

* note: despite ms. walter's annoying insistence on making 14 muffins in her recipes, i just whip up the whole batter and make 12 and it's never been a problem. however, i have to wonder, why write recipes for 14 muffins??!

orange cream cheese muffins with pepita crunch


roasted chicken stuffed with dried fruits

roasted chicken stuffed with dried fruits

how fitting that my election night post was about roasted chicken, and here we come back to roasted chicken for today.

besides my political dreams, as an adolescent i also thought i was going to be a famous artist. i'd skip classes for days on end to be in the art class studio all afternoon. i was passionate about van gogh, cezanne, and kandinsky. i loved hopper. i was sure i was going to be the next contemporary brice marden or julian schnabel.

then my tortured adolescence of drawing and painting came to an end, but i still loved visuals - typography, design, illustration. and so when i ended up working at a bookstore, i was always a sucker for the cover of a book. i bought man without qualities because when both volumes are put together, the spines are a image of his face. and no, i have never gotten past page 100, but i still love that cover.

another thing i learned working at the bookstore is that the holidays are prime cookbook buying time. who knew? but several years ago we joined that tradition and bought claudia roden's middle eastern book for someone. back then i was pretty ignorant and all i knew about middle eastern food was your standard kebabs, hummus, and tabouli. and i was definitely ignorant about what a great writer claudia roden is. she doesn't just give recipes, she's a storyteller - of food, history, and culture. honestly i really didn't know anything except that this book had a gorgeous cover! so gorgeous in fact that i had to buy a copy for ourselves the next year.

and after all that babbling, all i have to say is: make this chicken. you will love it.

dried fruit stuffing

roasted chicken stuffed with dried fruits: serves 4-6
adapted from claudia roden's new book of middle eastern food (excellent book, highly recommended, 2000, p. 225)

1 chicken, about 3 1/2 - 4 lbs (preferably organic, humane)
1 onion, finely chopped
olive oil
1/2 lb dried prunes, soaked, pitted, and chopped
1/2 lb dried apricots, soaked pitted, and chopped
1/3 cup raisins, soaked
2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (a specific type is not mentioned; we used granny smith)
salt + pepper
1 tsp cinnamon

1. preheat oven to 325F. fry the chopped onion in 2 tb butter until soft and golden. add chopped fruits and raisins and sauté for a few minutes. season to taste with salt, pepper, and cinnamon.

2. stuff the chicken with some of this mixture, securing the opening with a toothpick. rub chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper. put the remaining mixture in a roasting pan. place the chicken - breast side down - on top of the mixture. salt and pepper. (this roasting method of breast side down is unsual, but mr. mimi is convinced what gave the chicken such great flavor and moistness and wants to try it with other dishes.)

3. roast the chicken for about 1 1/2 hours total, turning the chicken over after 40 minutes. serve the chicken with the extra stuffing mixture, accompanied by rice.

roasted chicken stuffed with dried fruits


honey shortbread cookies

shortbread crust

i admit, i only wanted to make this because (a) it has five ingredients, easy-parcheesi! and (b) i've never made shortbread before. can you believe i've never made shortbread - even though trefoils are my third favorite (behind thin mints and samoas, of course!)??

well i'm glad that oversight was rectified because these are some the yummiest cookies i've ever made! everyone knows that the combo of sweet and salty is near goodliness, and for any skeptics, the case was confirmed with that famous new york times article last year that caused legions of bloggers to take note and bake away with a little sprinkling of sea salt!

i used a scant 1/2 tsp of fleur de sel instead of kosher. all i had in the pantry was wildflower honey, which i normally find too floral but once it caramelized it was fine. and of course, the sprinkling of salt made it perfect!

a sweet and salty slice

sprinkling or pour? as you can see, i was a wee bit generous with the salt. but i am someone who will pick popcorn and chips over chocolate and ice cream any day, so - uh - i guess that means no problem for me! but even my sweets obsessed mr. mimi thought it was just fine. so i guess it just looks too salty in photos even though technically it didn't taste over-salted. also, it was a teeny tiny bit crumbly when i cut the slices. but only really at the narrow apex and it totally had no impact whatsoever on the "oh. my. goodness, these are so insanely yummy!" that we mumbled between each bite.

the recipe suggestion was to serve once cooled completely, although i preferred the cookie just on the edge of slightly warm. mr. mimi preferred them room temp to better appreciate the sandiness of cookie. in the end, i would have preferred if i didn't eat almost all of them!

for the
fine cooking recipe, click here.

honey shortbread cookies

i am also sending this on over for the weekend cookbook challenge of five ingredients or less!

honey shortbread cookies


chunky peanut, chocolate, and cinnamon cookies

chunky peanut, chocolate, cinnamon cookies

i have finally settled back into new york city after a really great holiday vacation in san diego, san francisco, and sonoma. and now i have just a little more than two and a half weeks before i leave for nigeria.

it's a strange feeling not having a place to report to. since i can remember, i have always had to - in theory, folks - be at work or in class. but now, in between a few school papers due and and a couple of travel-related errands, i really have nothing to do.

i guess i should cherish this downtime, but i have heard i will have lots of it in abuja!! so i decided to take the next two weeks and bake every day. all those things i have wanted to try again and get right, all those bookmarked blogs, and tagged book pages. of course, i can't get to it all, but there is really no excuse to start having fun again in the kitchen.

lotsa chocolate

so sit back and enjoy the treats. my first bake is by request of mr. mimi: chunky peanut, chocolate, and cinnamon cookies. honestly, i hardly tasted any cinnamon, but they were still very good. i did add the vanilla in with the wet ingredients instead of at the end (as instructed) because it just seemed very weird to me to do otherwise.

i used the recipe from her book, in which she suggests that you can make ahead and bake-off when needed. simply form the dough into 1-inch balls, flatten them slightly, freeze them on cookie sheets until firm. keep in resealable plastic bags for up to one month. i froze about 3/4 of the dough and baked some off last night. i love that i have cookies waiting for me in the freezer!

for the online version, click here.


happy new year!

i wanted to try to blog while on vacation ... but alas, vacation took over ;-)

now vacation is coming to an end and in just a few more days i'll be back home freezing my tuchus off in cold, wintery new york city. i don't have any food-related items to chat about now (plenty of eating, just not any cooking involved, it is vaca after all!) but i'm a list-lover.

so when i came across these two from mary schmich of the chicago tribune via nonsociety (yes, i admit it, my daily guilty pleasure) i had to be a virgoan over-achiever and fill out both of them. enjoy and i'd love to see what's on your list!

(click here and here to see both original lists)

looking back on 2008
- I gained two very good friends
- I lost the patience to sit through classes that bore me to tears
- I stopped thinking about my ex-friend who was never my friend to begin with
- I started eating meat again
- I was hugely satisfied by our visit to kruger park
- And frustrated by the inability to connect
- I am so embarrassed that I was socially awkward in front of my new friend
- Once again, I googled RL and couldn’t find her
- Once again, I did not run a 5k
- The biggest physical difference between me last December and this December is I lost 10 lbs … but I think I gained it all back on this vaca ☹
- The biggest psychological difference between me last December and this
December is more confusion
- I loved spending time playing tennis
- Why did I spend even two minutes trying to chase that which was not going to be mine?
- I should have spent more time riding my bike
- I regret buying so much clothing
- I will never regret buying our trip to south africa even though with that money I could have bought a lower credit card bill
- I procrastinated way too much
- I didn’t become healthy enough
- H drove me crazy
- Was our annual holiday party crazier than ever last year? Or was it me?
- The most relaxing place I went was south africa
- I feel so happy when I write that down
- Why did I go to social work school?
- The best thing I did for someone else was forgive
- The best thing I did for myself was buy a mac
- The best thing someone did for me was give me the chance
- The one thing I’d like to do again, but do it better, is make people laugh

and looking forward to 2009
- One thing I will learn: french
- One place I will go: nigeria
- One physical habit I will break: sleeping in late
- One physical habit I will cultivate: running
- One mental habit I will break: regret
- One mental habit I will cultivate: patience
- One relationship I’ll repair: sex life
- One home repair I’ll finally get around to: moving
- One work habit I will change: arriving late
- One thing I’ll throw out: clothing that doesn’t fit
- A second thing I’ll throw out: old files
- One thing I’ll eat more often: fruit
- One thing I’ll eat less: meat
- One thing I’ll drink more: good wine
- One thing I’ll drink less: cocktails
- One overdue e-mail I’ll send, or overdue phone call I’ll make: honestly couldn’t think of anyone
- One resentment I’ll get over: losing RL through nobody's fault but my own (albeit more like regret, not resent)
- One person I’ll treat more respectfully: my husband
- One thing I’ll spend less money on: clothing
- One other change I’ll make in my finances: I’ll get a job
- One thing I’ll spend less time doing: second-guessing myself
- And a thing I’ll spend more time doing: being happy with feeling happy
- One resolution I’ve made before but will honor this time because I really do believe that with a little effort life can be better: just do it