Friday, January 29, 2010
Tofu enters the picture, and it's another thing entirely.
Since almost half my friends are vegetarian, I've done a lot of cooking with tofu. What else are they supposed to eat? I like the challenge of working with different ingredients, I like the versatility of tofu. I like the green movement it stands for, the nutritional benefits. I like the idea of it.
But tofu itself? I hate it.
I become a different chef when I'm cooking tofu. Instead of taking charge with reckless abandon, I turn into a hesitant, unsure cook. I want someone to tell me what to do- heck, sometimes I just want the tofu to tell me what to do. I become a sous-chef in my own kitchen.
And unfortunately, the tofu also ends up taking a hit in the process. Because I am always trying to use it as a substitute for a recipe that calls for meat.
If there's one thing I've learned about tofu it's this- what you see is not what you get. How in the world do people make this look appetizing? And why have so many healthy chefs insisted it's easy to work with?
On this attempt, I used coconut milk and red curry as a marinade for a block of medium-firm tofu. First mistake- I didn't press the water out of the tofu first. Second mistake- I should have used extra firm tofu. I don't understand what difference it makes.
Doesn't it look like the tofu is laughing at me? It must be amused that I served it on a bed of wild, not jasmine, rice.
So tofu makes me second guess. So I have to double check my recipe, fiddle with the oven temperatures, add things. So I hold my breath when I take my first bite, unsure of the results. I refuse to let it beat me to submission.
This tofu business just makes me crave real food even more. Luckily, I planned ahead and pulled camembert out of the fridge before I started the tofu abuse project of the day. Cheese and crackers never looked so good.
Run and hide, tofu. I'm going to be your master one of these days.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Here's a great one I heard in Brooklyn. I look forward to adding more as they come along. Feel free to submit one of your own!
Teenaged boy 1: My skateboard ain't got enough pop.
Teenaged boy 2: Yo, my skateboard tail got more pop than Beyonce's booty.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Life in New York has presented some obstacles. Finding steady work, making ends meet, dealing with the massive crowds, being without a car and away from family are only a few of the countless challenges of living in the big city.
When I was ready to hang up on New York completely, I had a change of heart when a dog entered the picture. Actually, it was more like a pack. I became a dog walker.
You may think the last thing a disenchanted New Yorker in February needs is a job walking the streets and picking up poop all day. Yep, that's exactly what I needed.
I am a tunnel-visioned speed walker who marches from point A to point B with little patience. Put a leash in my hand and I'm a different woman. I lengthen my gait. I really open my eyes and look around. I notice relaxing park benches I never knew were there. I walk by literary cafes to add to my "must go to" list. I notice the ornamental hardware on buildings. I get out of the tunnel.
I owe it all to Marley. (Yes, dogwalkers, like teachers, do have favorites.) He is a handsome boxer with an unparalleled joie de vivre and enthusiasm for New York that instantly rubbed off on me and changed my outlook.
Boxers are easy to misjudge. Their good looks and over-the-top perkiness reminds me of a high school cheerleader and makes them come off as dumb. Don't be fooled, these dogs are just trying to contain a heart and soul that's too big for its body.
The uncontrollable licking, I'm convinced, must be the result of a tongue too big for its mouth. Or a sensitive palate.
Next time you go through an existential crisis and want to flee, take a deep breath and unpack your bags. Maybe you just need more dogs in your life.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Of course, that leaves the question of where to put the wine. Tough choices. I guess it's all in your priorities.
Since my storage is limited to the space under my bed, I cram all my yarn in a Rubbermaid sweater box and use Ravelry to organize my stash. I can not even begin to go into all the ways Ravelry benefits knitters through free patterns, keeping track of what yarn you've used, a forum for getting knitting help, and how to display your projects and materials. It is the social network site, or facebook, for knitters. Yes, it's totally dorky, but sign up now. Just do it. Please. It will change your life.
In the meantime, if you have an open space in your wine cellar, claim a cubby for projects. It's still too early to abandon hope on New Year's resolutions, so get organized!
Now I just need to find a way to fit a wine rack under my bed.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I love New York. And when I start to forget why, something will accidentally remind me. Last night, a dead cell phone led me to Midtown. When it couldn't be fixed, frustration led me to Bryant Park.
I LOVE Bryant Park. It is such a wonderful open space on the most crowded street in Manhattan. Though sandwiched between Grand Central and Times Square on 42nd Street, it's surprisingly not obnoxious. I prefer it so much to Union Square, because it serves the public as a place of leisure and not a place of stress and shopping.
Take the pond. It is transformed into a free ice rink in the winter, and an open lawn in the summer for yoga classes, movies and more.
Throw in a fountain that turns into a huge ice cube when the holidays hit. Add some Parisian cafe tables and chairs for people watchers and chess players. Plant some twisted beech trees, and in the spring, tulips and daffodils.
Hang a sliver of a moon in a black sky and let the lights of the city be the stars. Trust me, they will help you find your way.
Monday, January 18, 2010
And it was! I've dabbled in a bit of drama since moving to New York, but this was the first play that didn't leave me feeling alienated and confused (oh, thank you for that, Richard Foreman).
Afterwards, we went and got drinks at the Dumbo General Store, which had a huge range of high brow brews and also the gritty stuff for a divey girl like me. One of which was:
... which is really funny when you're with a good friend who also finds the idea of pigs slapping bellies a hilarious thing to put on a beer label. Other great beers included Coney Island Lager, with popcorn and caramel notes, Double Daddy Imperial IPA (from Speakeasy Brewery in San Francisco), and the Human Blockhead Barrel Aged Lager (also from Coney Island), aged in Jack Daniels barrels. Yum! Max is contemplating the overwhelming bouquet at the bottom right.
Yep, the Porkslap label is still really funny. They know how to do it upstate in Garratsville.
A treat for your ears, actors from the Kneehigh company came out after the show to play a couple ditties with a throwback to ska. They covered Destiny's Child's "Survivor," "The Time of my Life" from Dirty Dancing, and, my favorite, "Final Countdown!" Not the greatest footage, but any of you Arrested Development fans out there will appreciate this:
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
A) noodles are the greatest food in the world and
B) they're so cheap that even the brokest Brooklyn girl can buy a week's worth for only a buck or two.
Some people can't stomach it once reaching adulthood- like jello shots, it can take you back to memories of frat houses, poverty, all nighters and malnutrition. College was a great time in my life, so I love the attached sentiment.
But mostly, I just love noodles. I was stoked to find Japanese ramen called Neoguri made with udon noodles and with little bits of extra seasonings and vegetables in the package. Do freeze dried carrots boost the nutritional value?
Seriously, ramen is absolutely delicious when you add "stuff" to it, like soy sauce, Sriracha hot sauce, and I like throwing in some mixed frozen stir-fry veggies when I've run out of fresh ones. It makes a quick and cheap hot meal.
Ramen is also special for me because it was the first thing I learned to cook as a kid. So be proud when you eat it- gussy it up with post-collegiate expertise and see what crazy leftovers in your fridge you can add to it to make a faux pho.
If ramen can grow up, then so can I.
Monday, January 11, 2010
So I have to give a huge apology for already, this early into January, BREAKING one of my resolutions. I have to back post a couple in the next day or two. I know, I know ... but the blogging still isn't into my regular routine yet and I've been juggling a lot this past week.
Who knew so much study would be involved with carpentry? I thought I was familiar with the different screwdrivers and my Leatherman, but I was so, so wrong. There are about eight different saws I need to learn, a zillion hammers and clamps, and I have yet to tackle the combination square. Just had my first shop class- I never took that in junior high, so I feel extra behind, since most of the ladies have already worked on sight. I can wrap my head around reading blueprints, but for each little new detail I can wedge into my memory, I feel like something else important falls out.
Okay, week two. Give me all you've got- I'm still with ya. Hope you're with me, too, and can spare an extra minute to scroll down for old posts this week!
Friday, January 8, 2010
My timing was perfect and I got to be part of the magic this morning when I was walking dogs on the Upper West Side. It wasn't too cold and there was no wind whipping my face from the wind tunnels between buildings. There was a stillness in Central Park, even in late morning, where rolling pathways and stone walls buffered the sounds of bleating taxis and buses from the street.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
If you're still wondering, it's me. Great, that means I did well on the tests! Here's the bad news: we are supposed to implement the union hierarchy into our groups, so the group leader is supposed to delegate and supervise the crew. Questions for the teacher or other group leaders can only be directed through your group leader; just like in the real world, a first-year apprentice can't saunter up to the foreman when they have a question.
When you're in charge of a group of women who are each at least two or three times bigger than you, and you have no practical experience or history of doing hard labor, then it's not necessarily something you want to be assigned to. And judging from a contentious phone conversation I overheard before class, I have a sneaking suspicious that one of the girls is out on parole. Let's just hope it wasn't a felony.
On leadership: some are born leaders and have the skills to organize and motivate others. Some are better at simply following orders and getting the job done. I consider myself to fall somewhere in between- I like working independently but have learned how to be a strong team player. Until I can identify a tool other than a phillips or flathead screwdriver, my plan was to stay under the radar to foster my handy skills, or lack thereof. I guess plans change.
I'm going to have to step up to the task of being a leader, because tonight didn't show anything besides my skill to fetch all the group's materials and my sweetest how-can-I-help-you attitude. I will have to come up with a new strategy or I'll be eaten alive before I even enter the workshop.
Being sweet coincides with pastry, but it doesn't operate heavy machinery. It's time to woman up.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
After setting it aside as one of those things to learn some day far off in the future (along with changing a car's oil, learning to put up wallpaper, and bullfighting), I stumbled upon a fantastic program in New York aiming to bring more women into tradeswork dominated by men.
Nontraditional Employment for Women, or NEW, is a 6-week session where ladies can get familiar with tools, construction mathematics, basic carpentry, and reading blueprints. Upon graduation, students are qualified to join unions at entry level positions. Learning how to measure and notate to 1/64th of an inch makes me feel empowered already, and it's only been a day. I can't wait to share more of my adventures- though I'm afraid photos are going to be limited (serious skills are involved and tourist snapshots aren't welcome).
When I got home from class last night, tool talk, hard hats, and our continuing cold weather in Brooklyn inspired me to make meatloaf. (Actually, I was planning on making it for when Bessie got back, but fell behind.) Meatloaf is one of those wonderful things that you can modify according to what's in the fridge. Some people like adding a full miripoix of celery, onion and carrots.
Mine is less the garden variety and more double the meat- I wrap it in bacon when I have it, then add lots of condiments. Careful if you do this or the meatloaf gets really soggy and gross. I've learned the hard way not to add too much liquid because it makes the whole thing crumbly.
Here's what I like to add to my meatloaf:
-1 1/2 pounds of ground beef (it's lovely to mix pork, veal, and beef)
-1/2 can tomato paste
-2 cloves chopped garlic
-1/2 T Dijon mustard
-1 tsp. soy sauce
-2 tsp. Sriracha rooster sauce
-salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together with bare hands (unless you're a vegetarian, you'll find it extremely satisfying). Form into a loaf (not too thick, or it will take forever to cook.) Wrap in foil and place in bread pan or sheet pan. Bake for approximately 55 minutes at 375 degrees, or until internal temperature is 160 degrees (ground meat needs to be more thoroughly cooked than steaks, so if you like a pink center, cook at your own risk).
Why do meat and manual labor go so well together?
Have some garlic chopped to mix into ground beef.
Monday, January 4, 2010
When you've had a zillion different roommates and living situations (including living with a rat in your room), there's a point where you're ready to live alone. I'm there, but I'm not quite ready to separate from Bessie, who knows, tolerates, and probably even loves all my weird idiosyncrasies. And today she's coming home!
Bessie and I have been roommates in the same apartment for over three years. She's been my only constant roommate in New York and I can't imagine living with anyone else. I also can't imagine anyone else tolerating me to the point that she does.
Our usual routine after a separation is to scrub our apartment from floor to ceiling while watching the BBC's version of Pride and Prejudice, drinking Blue Moons and eating popcorn.
I'm also looking forward surprising her with homemade eggnog. It's pushing the end of the eggnog season, but I love it and I'm itching to try out this recipe from TLC, which claims it's the perfect eggnog.
I can't finish the holiday season without an eggnog success story. I tried Alton Brown's version a few days ago. It was delicious, but it called for separating the eggs and whipping them each. I had a rough time with it because I did it all manually- at least my whisk and wrist got a workout!
The TLC version has the eggs neither separated, nor beaten furiously for 45 minutes, so my hopes are high for a lower maintenance nog.
It will be go nicely with the instant gratification of a clean house and two Brooklyn girls who are finally home together at last.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
I made some French onion soup today. This can warm up even the coldest person in an instant. First, saute an onion with garlic in a little olive oil. Turn the heat down and add some brandy or sherry, if you have it. When the onions are cooked down, add a quart of beef stock and reduce about a third of it (I don't like to go too far, or the broth gets too salty).
I used an old hoagie bun, but it's much, much better to place a piece of crusty french bread in an oven-safe bowl, pour the soup over, grate cheese over (I used Asiago from Wisconsin, but gruyere or any other mild cheese works well), and put under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes until the cheese gets all melty and bubbly over the bread.
As you exited the exhibit, there was a great corner set aside for kids and crafty adults to make a messy collage from old music magazines. I love interactive exhibits.
And by 9 o'clock, the atrium of the 3rd floor had turned into a massive rave. Is this normal? They don't do this at the Met.
In the lobby, karaoke was going on. My hat's off to the people who can get up and do this in a civilized setting, because I can only do it when lots and lots of beer is involved.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Climbing, cooking in someone else's kitchen, beer, friends, laughing, and a hot tub. It's like the best of all possible worlds collided into one perfect evening. I can't think of a better way to spend the first day of the year.