Wednesday, September 24, 2014

since u been gone.

I don't mean to insinuate that it is your fault that we haven't spoken in so long, blog.  It is my fault.  I am the one to blame.  I have thought about you often, and even written in my day planner things like To Do: NSED and remember nsed? and WILL YOU WRITE A GODDAMN BLOG POST JESUS CHRIST, but then when I get home from work I mostly just collapse onto my bed and fall asleep.

It has come to pass, you see, that I am now an adult.  A Brooklyn-residing, New York City-working, bridge-running, tiny-kitchen-cooking, still-need-to-buy-a-bedside-table-and-a-lampshade-and-figure-out-the-F-train adult. I have a job and a lease, but also a box of cereal that I found in my bed this morning because I dunno maybe I fell asleep eating cereal who are you the POLICE?

Adulthood is a farce.  But it is FUN and this city is WILD and I mostly always wake up grinning so I say let's keep doing it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Been gone a week, already feels like a fake dream time in my mind.

Hasta luego, Madrid.  There's no way you're rid of me forever.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

crow's nest.

Zara top; H&M pants; VAS Spanish answer to 'stocks; Badgley Mischka bag

I have a staring problem, but because I feel so well-intentioned in it, I am hesitant to change my ways.  I stare because I love what you're wearing.  You're killin it today, and now I'm sorry but there is just no minding my own business.  I'm Cam Jansen-ing the shit out of you.  The way you've tied your scarf, your cuffed jeans and flats combination, how you layered those shirts --- the front of my brain is like, "Damn, lady!  Good work!" and the back of my brain is like, "REMEMBER THIS! STEAL THIS!"  I am the girl peering at you across the aisle of the train from over the top of my book because your skirt is so good.  I whip around on the street like a creep when someone awesomely dressed walks by just to snag another look at what they did with their chambray button down.  It's not subtle.  I passionately complement strangers.  "Whoa, your bag is incredible," I say to the lady waiting at the crosswalk.  She's either super flattered or she clutches it to herself tighter for fear that the strange girl talking is gonna snatch it away.  It's whatever.  You have to learn how to dress somewhere, and I've never really been one for magazines.  Pinterest will do in a pinch, and sometimes I let Tommy Ton and Scott Schuman do the work for me, but I am most inspired by fashion when watching real women on the street.

In Madrid, for example, apparently nobody overheats ever, because deep into June's 80 degree days, women are slaying the pants game.  This is an all-pants-all-the-time kind of city, derived probably from Spain's overwhelmingly modest dressing tradish, and I love it.  I am learning so much about pants.  Occasionally my body begs me to be freed into a flowy dress and I comply, but for the most part I am having fun pretending to be things I am usually not, ie: structured and semi-classy.  And then today I was a sailor.  So.

(Side note lemon olive oil cracked pepper Maldon basil pine nuts BYE)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

its been a lite 9 months.

God I love when websites post "definitive rankings" of things.  Cereal.  Disney songs.  Instagram filters.  Its like...who says?  Who decided?  You? Why are you the boss?  I did not vote for you.  You are a Buzzfeed staff writer who lives in Brooklyn!  We probably have very dif--- no yeah the exact same taste I take it back.

So because nobody elected me, and nobody died to make me queen, and the best part of having a blog is that you can post Big Ass Statements on the internet and there ain't nobody around to stop you: BEHOLD.

All of the Spanish Sweets I Have Eaten In Madrid, Definitively Ranked

8. Turrón

Large rectangles of almond nougat popular at Christmas, and probably the only sweet capable of vanquishing me. I tend to have no limits when it comes to candy consumption, but one small piece of turrón knocks me straight out.  Comes in two varieties: duro (aka de Alicante), which features whole almonds and the consistency of honeycomb candy, and blando (aka de Jijona), which is mushy and, as my sister astutely noted, tastes like eating straight almond butter in block form.  Really heavy, all of it.

7. Torrija
I was too busy dying to snap a pic of my torrija, and now that Holy Week is long past they are no where to be found.  I borrowed this picture from a list of the best torrijas in Madrid (fitting, no?)
An Easter-time tradition, which I ate standing up at a counter bakery in Sol with a lot of old people (Spanish breakfast, I will never get over you).  I thought I was going to explode.  This thing is an eggy french toast log stuffed with cream and then doused in cinnamon sugar.  Jesus.  I subtracted probably 4 years from my life consuming this.  I regret it a little bit.

6. Churros

Not your county fair's churros.  Subtract cinnamon sugar, add a CUP OF MOLTEN CHOCOLATE.  Oh man.  This is Spain's answer to doughnuts, if in America we ate doughnuts in the early morning to sop up all of the gin and tonics we'd literally JUST finished drinking.  The more famous churrerias in Madrid are old-timey and quaint, but their goods are always super greasy (big crowds=fried in advance=sitting in pond of own oil=very cute).  The truly crunchy numbers are killer, if hard to find.  These are from Churreria Chocolateria Las Farolas, near Tribunal.

5. Tortas de Aciete

I remember seeing these in Whole Foods, which is weird.  They are essentially big crackers brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with white sugar.  A little floral (whole anise seeds will do that), a little greasy (surprise), and so good.

4. Violetas

Only widely available in Madrid, these hard candies are considered a delicacy, and are definitely not for people after something...normal tasting.  I'm all for floral-flavored stuff (rose gelato oh my god, lavender shortbread kill me now), so I dig them, though I believe if you were to eat an aromatherapy candle the experience would be similar.  I don't know how to tell you that they somehow manage to be the tiniest bit medicinal and also so addictive without making you think they are drugs, but that's what's up.

3. Rosquilles de San Isidro

Something Spain does so well is assigning sweets to specific parts of the year.  Bakeries only produce them for a limited time, so you HAVE to go get them before they're gone.  Brilliant marketing scheme slash a great way to tie religious holidays to personal gluttony, Carbs 4 Jesus, etc etc.  In Madrid, rosaquilles are little crumbly biscuits inexplicably associated with San Isidro, the patron saint of the city who is celebrated for two weeks every May.  They come in two varieties: clara (aka egg white, and so is topped with meringue) or tonta (which means dumb, because thats what you are for ordering an unfrosted anise-flavored biscuit).  Elsewhere in Spain, rosquilles are deep-fried sugar-rolled anise-spiked doughnuts.  I ate them hot in Barcelona out of a huge paper sack, and they were amazing.

2. Naranjines

Somehow crunchy and melt in your mouth at the same time, and so SO good with coffee, these orange extract cookies are one of the specialties of the Monjas Carboneras, from the Monasterio del Corpus Christi in Madrid.  They're a cloistered order of nuns, so they literally cannot deal with you in person because you are a member of the outside world, which means that in a spy-like turn of events, you have to wander down back hallways of the convent and then pass notes to each other through a spinny window in a wall.  Not joking.  It's crazytown.  And they sell baked goods, and they are GREAT.  Near-top billing for not only being delicious, but an adventure to procure as well.

1. Batido de Horchata

Theres just no going back from this milkshake.  This beaut was from Horchateria Alboraya, which is billed as the best horchateria in Madrid, and who are we to argue with such a bizarre website.  OR THIS MILKSHAKE HONESTLY I MEAN COME ON.  Horchata gelato + actual horchata, all milkshook together in glory.  The sooner you give yourself over to this the better.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

lock it up.

Ugh.  All hail tahini.  I am such a disciple.  Catch me in the kitchen singing hymns in its name.  If you haven't bought a (big) jar for yourself yet just to see what's up, I honestly can't yell at you loud enough.  Recipes call for only a tablespoon here and there for added creamy nuttiness, but the results are so addictive you'll be making them UH LAWT.  Examples: this dressing has made me crave leftover salad for breakfast on more than one occasion.  And halva spread on apples (Molly says 4:1 tahini to honey, but I go closer to 2:1 because I have a sugar problem) is currently sitting pretty in the top spot of my afternoon snack hierarchy.  Mediterranean dips and spreads are tahini's most common uses, and the following, while not being hummus, is as good a sesame paste gateway drug as any.  Do you wanna be cool or not?!!!?1

(Note: this is totally baba ghanoush, but for some reason the recipe I found and followed did not call it that, so in case I'm missing something **vital** I am going to try to refrain from using its much more fun to say name alternative.

Damn.  Can't find a good Wedding Crashers clip anywhere.  You and I both know what I mean though so let's pretend I linked it.  Cool.)

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread
Makes 2 mains, 4 sides

Assemble spread according to this recipe.  Make sure your oven is generally cleanish first because if there's a weird piece of something in there, at 475 degrees it WILL catch fire and smoke like an SOB and you will have to open all of the windows and gag for a bit.  Moving on. 

for tabbouleh:
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
juice of half lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium cucumber, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped (or 1 container cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley 
salt and pepper

Bring quinoa and two cups water to a boil, then reduce heat a little and let simmer until grains are cooked and water is evaporated.  Fluff with a fork.

Stir together lemon juice and olive oil, mashing in the minced garlic.  Pour over quinoa, tossing to coat.  Add veggies and parsley, and mix.  Season with salt and pepper  

Top a little mound of tabbouleh with a scoop of (((baba ghanoush))).   Gobble.  Have crackers or something at the ready on which to slather extra spread because that stuff is so wonderful you will not be able to ignore the leftovers.   All of this would ALSO be delicious and portable if stuffed into a pita.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

how dangerous tis.

I am really only interested in cakes that can be breakfast, dessert, or your birthday cake -- equal parts homey and celebratory.  This is not an easy combination to pull off, so discovering something that checks all of those boxes is cause for immediate action.  

I started researching recipes for lemon raspberry polenta cake on my phone after ONE BITE of the lemon raspberry polenta cake at Federal.  Literally while still at the table in the restaurant.  Publicly googling cake.  It was crazytown moist, so bright and fruit-studded, I couldn't stand the thought of not having it whenever (day, night, or partytime) I wanted it.  

Growing up my grandma would make lemon cake with lemon filling for my birthday, so anything baked and citrusy makes me think of turning 5, and also of my grandparents' kitchen in San Jose, which is all 70's yellow and brown, much like the cooked edges of a lemon cake itself.  This is a gluten free and frosting-less variety, sun-colored and tart enough to be nostalgic.  

Lemon Raspberry Polenta Cake
adapted from Nigella

for cake: 
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, soft, + extra for pan
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup polenta
1 cup almond meal
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
the juice and zest of 2 lemons
1 package raspberries

for syrup:
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar

for serving:
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter a springform pan and line the base with parchment paper.

Beat butter and sugar together until creamy (if you don't have a mixer, very soft butter and some muscles work fine), and add then the eggs one at a time, whisking between additions.  Mix in the rest of the cake ingredients (minus the raspberries) and stir until well combined.

Pour half of the batter into dish, then spread half of the raspberries out in a layer.  Cover with remaining batter, and then the rest of the berries, pressing them in slightly.  Bake for 50 - 60 minutes until golden and set.

While cake is finishing up (ETA 10 minutes), heat the remaining lemon juice with 1/2 cup sugar in a sauce pan, simmering until the mixture reduces into a thick syrup.  Use a skewer to poke holes all over the finished and slightly cooled cake, and brush the top with syrup, letting it soak in and get dreamy.  

Allow cake to cool completely before un-springing the pan and removing the sides. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.  This cake melds well, a technical term my dad uses to mean "gets even more delicious after hanging out for awhile."  If you can, cover the cooled cake, stick it in the fridge, and wait to eat it tomorrow. 

"They will find the cake and they will gobble it up, because, having no mother, they don't know how dangerous tis to eat rich damp cake." Peter and Wendy, J.M. Barrie 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

sleeveless and posi.

H&M kimardigan (kimono + cardigan? I'm gonna make this term a thing); Zara tank; Betsey Johnson pants; espadrilles that a man made me in his shop for 8 euro

Got hit in the face by a really awesome bit of America yesterday when I walked into a coffee shop to find a dude in a Hossa jersery straight up shouting to the girl at his table about wanting to grow a "power stache as an ode to the 90's."  She looked a little embarrassed about his lack of volume control, but mostly interested in his theories.  "Its the funniest thing you can do to your face, hands down," he said.  "Cuz then every girl like gasps and is totally shocked when she sees it."  I almost hugged him, that lil slice of silly bro-dom in this wash of Euro hombres.

I cannot grow a power stache --- believe me, I have been trying --- and instead will have to honor the decade of my birth with a pair of harem pants and some nearly floor-grazing layering.  Looks like I'm going to bed but actually am entering the real world?  Sign me UP.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

lit - starved.

I stole a magazine today.

It was sitting in a pile on the counter at a coffee shop, the Things We Provide To Read While Hanging Out pile, not unlike the heaps of wrinkled glossy paper at a hair salon, and I pushed the stack to the side to make room for my laptop without really taking notice of its contents.  It wasn't until a few hours later, when I was packing up to leave, that I glanced at the title of the booklet on top.  Madrid Comestible, it read, above a picture of two hands cupping a small scoop of cheese crumbles.  Edible Madrid.  I flipped to the center of the magazine and was met with a full spread of lovely images in faded light: a bunch of dirty indigo grapes; old men (one bearded, one in a hat) considering the wine in their glasses; a blurry bottle on the edge of a table.  I flipped again to find a bread recipe, and again to a collection of watercolored spring vegetables.  This was a stunning food magazine, the kind I devour in droves in the US but was certain could not exist in a country so thoroughly satisfied by salty red meat and little else.  Where fish, strawberries, chocolate, chard all receive the same praise if enjoyed: que rica.  How could these people --- with ONE PHRASE for when things taste good --- sustain 84 pages of aesthetically beautiful food love?

I had to know.  So I peered around, verifying relative anonymity, and shoved the booklet in my bag.

The lesson today is that Your People exist everywhere.  Even if they're hard to find at first, there are theatre geeks at the arts desert of a high school, there are raver bros in the church congregation, there are food lovers in the way that I know them to exist in the capital of Spain.  They are hiding in a little shop down an alley somewhere, and you cannot see them for all of the ham hanging in the windows of the stores that flank it.  It will take some time, and work, or possibly petty theft, to locate them.  But they are there, and they are taking stunning dusty pictures of pots bubbling over, and illustrating recipes for lamb stuffed with leeks and quinoa, and writing reviews of website-less holes in the wall that apparently serve roasted beet sandwiches.  I am being a dramatic nut about this because it feels warranted, ok?: in this city of 3 million individuals very much not like me (at least in terms of what we're making for lunch), I have located a small sliver of kindred hungry people.

Alright.  End of absurd statement-making.

Madrid Comestible is so new that their website has nothing on it.  Spring 2014 marks the first of what they promise will be a trimestral review of local food, and even though I am google translating 67% of the articles because I have heretofore had no reason to know the word for "grated" (its ralladura, duh), I am totally hooked.  I want to subscribe.  I realize that will not be cost effective or even really helpful from the United States but I am inclined to tell you to take your logic elsewhere.  I want to go to dinner with the editor in chief, I want them to hire me, I want eat at every restaurant they mention, I want to write them love letters.  I guess I lied about it being the end of absurdity before.

Tomorrow I'm knocking the first of the profiled places off my list: Federal, a bright cafe whose green smoothie with chia seeds is supposedly not to be missed.  Leave it to me to hunt exhaustively and fruitlessly on the internet and on foot for seven months in this baffling metropolis for a damn green smoothie only to have all of my dreams realized in a single second on page 41.

Monday, April 21, 2014

just a meeting.

I know I mentioned this yesterday, but I just need to give you some banana bread details so you can make it happen in your own kitchen.  Or you can wait for my birthday party in 7 months to which everyone is invited and at which we are going to sit around in silence and eat salted caramel banana bread in large quantities.

If that seems too long to hold out, I completely understand.  Here is the math:
This banana bread + the following caramel sauce + a small sprinkle of coarse salt = in your mouth, whenever you can justify a trip to the kitchen.

Salted Caramel Sauce
adapted from She Wears Many Hats
makes about 1 1/2 cups

Pour 1 1/2 cups sugar into a pot and cover with 1/2 cup water.  Swirl around a bit so the sugar is level at the bottom of the pot.  Heat over medium until boiling.  Do not stir.

Hang out here for a long while.  You will get impatient and think you did something wrong because why isn't it changing colors yet?!?! but you're totally fine.  Resist all stirring urges.

The sugar will bubble and dissolve and the water will evaporate, and then, at last, the whole mix will start to get golden, smoking a little and smelling caramel-y.  Once it gets orangey-brown (still bubbling ferociously), remove the pot from heat and quickly add 2 tablespoons salted butter2/3 cup heavy cream and a dash of vanilla extract. You can stir now!  And you should.  The mix will froth up and get crazy for a second, but then will relax into a beautiful, smooth sauce.  Use warm immediately, or store covered in the fridge and heat before using.

"A party without cake is just a meeting."  Julia Child

Sunday, April 20, 2014

pretty bits.

An Easter Sunday round up of things.

A teeny little initial that came in the mail because I am Very Lucky; in addition to being wonderful, hilarious and kind, my friends also happen to have really great taste. 

Iced coffee horchata.  Entirely different in Madrid, since Spanish horchata is made with chufas, or tiger nuts, instead of rice, and everyone thinks I'm a major weirdo for wanting to put it in my coffee, but we soldier on in the name of hot weather traditions. 

It was sitting in the To Be Read pile on my bedside table underneath some nonfiction, but the passing of a genius means his work rises to the top.  

Spying on the neighbors' cats with a collapsible brass wonder (Very Lucky x2) from my sunny spot on the terrace.  When did this get to be my life?

I like to make sweet things for the host fam for when they get back from traveling, and I couldn't really deal with the fact that they'd never heard of banana bread (never HEARD of BANANA BREAD?!) for a single additional minute.  So here we are. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

girlfriend should learn how to white balance.

I guess this is how new recipes come to be.  You have a food related idea, think about it for a few days, go buy the ingredients, stare at them on the counter and in the fridge for a solid 12 hours, and then get up early on a Friday you have off to see what can become of them.  Now that I think about it, that is sort of how everything in my life comes to be.  Today was just the first time it happened with asparagus.

Ugh the glory.  Seeing this bad boy in the produce market was what started it all.  I had this lemony shaved fennel salad that I'd eaten in Paris banging around in my brain, plus this really good falafel, and as soon as I remembered that it was spring and I had stalks on stalks available to me, I set out to shake up my flavor memories and make myself some lunch.

This is really good, you guys.  Not even humble brag, mostly just regular brag.  This is really good tasting.  You should make this today.

Baked Eggplant Quinoa Cakes with Shaved Asparagus Salad

for the cakes:
(makes 6 large rounds but a ton of little falafel-esque nuggets would be a great thing.)
1 medium eggplant, chopped
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 egg
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/3 cup flour (I used corn flour because we had it)

for the salad:
(I don't understand giving measurements for salads.  You know how to make a salad.)
1 bunch asparagus
half a lemon
coarse salt (Mal-duh)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cook the eggplant along with the garlic and oregano in olive oil over medium heat, about ten minutes.  Your goal is not browned so much as mushy; about halfway in, add a teeny bit of water and cover the pan to help this along.

Dump eggplant mush into a bowl and mash it a little bit with the back of a spoon.  Add the egg, cooked quinoa, flour, salt and pepper and mix until combined.

Using two spoons, form little mounds of batter on a lined baking sheet.  The mix will be too wet to handle with your hands, but easily formed into flattened rounds.  Again, mine were big.  By using less, they would have been smaller.  Science.  You do you.  Bake cakes for 15 minutes or until they hold their shape when pressed but aren't crazytown dry.

While cakes are baking, assemble the salad.  Shave raw and washed asparagus using whatever tool you have; I had a way easier time with this cheese slicer, but I imagine a good potato peeler would work just as well.  Holding the base of the stalk with one hand, run peeler up from about half an inch from the bottom all the way through the spear.  One fell swoop makes for a pretty piece of shaved thing.  Continue until each stalk is shaved through, discarding the ends.  I left some shaved pieces super long, and cut some in half, just for variety's sake and for ease of eating.

Toss asparagus ribbons with a bunch of arugula, crumbled feta, and fresh lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.

SIDE NOTE: I bought Dodoni feta at the Greek imports store (because that's a thing) and someone in America needs to tell me if it is available there.  Because this Change Your Life feta.  This is bomb-ass feta.  I didn't think you could improve upon feta but here is the proof.  I will say feta again now to drive the point home.  Feta.  Thank you.

Place a cake in the center of a flowery plate and smash it down with a spoon.  This is wholly unnecessary but makes for a bigger salad base.  The floral plate, though, I think, is required.  If I could do this again, I would have smeared hummus across the top of the cake.  Not because it needed anything in particular; things are just improved with hummus. Top with a handful of salad.  Serve at a fancy garden party, or eat it by yourself while sitting on the floor of the kitchen, writing this blog post with your forkless hand.

Monday, April 14, 2014

post vacation cleanse.

Right, so probably normal people don't return from five days in Paris and immediately make cookies, but being normal is not fun and also includes less cookies.

Yesterday I returned from France, slept for an exorbitant number of hours, heaved myself from my bed at 11 this morning, went out for iced coffee (which was made in a martini shaker, so brilliant), and then came home to whip up these Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

As their name may have suggested to you, these guys don't need any flour (surpriseeeee), or a mixer, and can go from a counter-full of ingredients to a stomach full of sweets in a grand total of 20 minutes; they are Anytime Cookies; they are All The Time cookies.  There are no such thing as chocolate chips in Spain, so I bought a chocolate bar and hit it with a hammer.  You should use chocolate chips, if you can, because its less violent.  And if you don't finish them with a hit of sea salt, then, god, Jed, I don't even wanna know you.