Sunday, February 28, 2010

Artichokes and Old Friends

What a wonderful Sunday! All my friends are getting married or having babies right now, which is definitely telling me spring is on the way. It also gave me the chance to catch up with Maria, one of my dearest friends from college, who could rival the sun in lighting up the world.

Brooklyn can't decide if it wants to be winter or spring, and the afternoon brought a schizophrenic frozen rain after days of snow. I'm gearing up for spring with a little help from the steamed artichokes I had for dinner tonight.

If you know how to boil water, you can do this.

Trim the stem of the artichokes, steam them until the base is tender (about 15-20 minutes), and voila! Spring forward.

Some of the photos are out of sequence due to my continuing technology struggles. Oy vey. Bear with me.

Melted butter is the perfect accompaniment for dipping your artichoke leaves. Butter is my dip of choice, but some like mayonnaise, aioli, or vinaigrette.

Don't worry if some of the outer leaves get seared. A steamer is best, but if you don't have one, leave an inch of water at the bottom of a pot, cover, and check frequently if you need to add more.

You can trim off the tops if you like. I left them alone because I thought they were so pretty.

I love getting down to the heart of the matter. (Sorry, I'm a sucker for puns.)

College pals have the biggest hearts of all.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mulligatawny Soup for the Soul

It has been snowing cats, dogs and elephants for the past couple days, so I've decided to make the greatest soup in the world: Mulligatawny soup, the Indian version of chicken noodle. No, it's not great because of Seinfeld. It's great because the broth is so simple and round and harmonious that it makes regular chicken soup seem alienating and cold.

This was introduced to me by one of my roommates in college who said, "it doesn't really matter what you put in it because of the broth- you could put a boot in it and it would still be amazing."

This is best when you use a leftover roasted chicken- pick any leftover chicken from the carcass and throw all the bones in a pot. Top with water, onion skins and any other veggie scraps to make the stock. If all you have is the chicken, that is totally okay for this recipe.

Making stock may seem like an overwhelming task but once it's on the stove, you can forget about it and go about your business. Once it barely boils, I turn the heat down to low and prepare other meals or clean the house for the next hour or two. Go on facebook. Call your mother and let her talk your ear off. The longer you cook your stock, the richer it gets.

If time is of the essence, you can always cheat with bouillon cubes or the boxed stock, but the integrity of the final broth will be compromised.

Once your stock is ready, strain and set aside.

Now for the soup. The best part is, there are only six ingredients. You won't believe how easy it is.

As with everything you prepare, it's best getting all your ingredients chopped and ready so you don't have interruptions along the way.

Chop 1 small onion, small dice
Chop 2 garlic cloves fine
Peel and mince a small piece of fresh ginger (not much bigger than your thumb)
And remember, you've already got your chicken pieces set aside (the darker the meat, the better, and you don't need much more than half a chicken)

Now we're ready to go. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. NOT olive oil- this is India, not Italy. Cook onion till it begins to caramelize and add the garlic and ginger. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of curry powder and the chicken with a couple tablespoons of water. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. When the curry is mixed in and absorbed, you can add the chicken stock. Simmer at least 15 minutes.

This is how you can utilize every square inch of your kitchen. (This is all the work space I get in my Brooklyn kitchen):

When you are five minutes away from serving, add 1 cup of coconut milk. Let it simmer 5 minutes and serve with a slice of lemon. This is great over rice or on its own.

Enjoy and please leave a comment if it changes your life as it has mine.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Procrastination Station

Blogs are funny things. They can be read by zillions of people. They can be read by a tiny handful. They can be written several times throughout the day. They can have one or two entries and then abandoned entirely (as is usually the case with the already-taken clever blog names you wish you had thought up first).

Or they can be somewhere in between. They can be thought out and polished, or raw, stream of consciousness diary entries filled with monotonous details of the ordinary and routine. They can be a message board for you to share your stories with friends, or a goal you have for the way you want to live your life.

The thing about blogs is that it's really easy to get behind.

Get behind? you ask. Who's setting the deadline? Well, when you let a day or two slip by and then it becomes three or ten, you end up starting a traffic jam of stories you want to share. Your blogging dashboard can have a list of drafts glaring up at you with blue lettering, a to-do list of photos that need to be edited and added, unfinished musings, or text that never got a second read before that post button was clicked because you got distracted by facebook updates.

Let's just say, hypothetically, that your blog goal is to contribute every day or so. I know some people who do well with routine and regimen. For me, committing to even one task each day is difficult. And darn it, as much as I need my pen, I also need my freedom. Or an excuse. Or ten.

So when you're ready to start writing again, do you move forward, or rewind to the stories from before? Do you backdate your blog posts to make it look like you never skipped? (Guilty!) Do you write stories ahead of time to plan ahead (ooh, that's kind of a good idea). Do you break down and get wireless so you can actually depend on having an internet connection and one less obstacle?

Well, after meditating on this subject for several days, I've decided I'm going to do a combination. Just as soon as I finish my laundry.

That's the good thing about procrastinating- it can make you incredibly productive in other areas of your life, such as eyebrow tweezing maintenance and closet organization.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Back in a Flash

You know your schedule is a little too crunched when you struggle to remember the last time you washed your hair. No, it hasn't actually been that long (I don't think), it's just the days keep bleeding into each other with very little distinction.

And it's only Monday.

I'm behind on just about everything, but the good news is I'm wrapping up my pre-apprenticeship class. Graduation is next week! Check back over the weekend and I will have lots of the gaps filled on what I've been up to.

Otherwise, wish me luck in studying, presenting and testing. Believe it or not, there's about a 2-inch binder's worth of information to memorize, so I will return to the computer screen as soon as I get my head around exams.

Have a great week.