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 feta...is 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.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

for this i win a nobel prize.

It came to me while I was hungry, which is when either brilliant or strongly inadvisable food ideas tend to happen.  I'mma go ahead and say this one leaned pretty heavily in the direction of genius.

Sriacha Lime Agave Popcorn

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Pop a bag of microwave popcorn (or do the cool stove thing if you know how to do that) and dump the finished product into a large bowl, removing all unpopped kernels.

Drizzle agave and sriracha over the popcorn in a ratio of about 3:1 sweet to spicy.  Squeeze the juice of half of a small lime evenly over everything as well.  Do not think you have to turn the popcorn red!!! In fact definitely do not do that.  Use less sriracha than you think you need.  I was at the end of my bottle and was originally bummed because I thought I wasn't going to have enough to get a real kick, but I was wrong.  Plus I know you think it'll be too sweet with that ratio, but you need enough agave to stand up to both the spice of the chili and the acidity of the lime.

Toss popcorn in the bowl until nearly evenly coated (with clean hands is the easiest way).  There is magic in the imbalance of some super spicy bits and some less spicy bits, so let that happen.  Try a piece.  Ugh, yeah.

Pour sticky mess onto a lined baking sheet and spread into a single layer.  Let dry out in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the chunks.  Allow to cool, pour back into original bowl, and then decimate the entire thing in front of that Christmas episode of The West Wing where Josh has PTSD.  Think, briefly, about how perfect a bar snack this would probably be with margaritas, if only you liked margaritas.  Make a mental note to tell your mom about it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


My grandma being awesome and hot is that weird to say I'm over it ps her skin still looks that good, and later: American Apparel jacket; Topshop tank and boots; BDG denim

We tease my maternal grandmother -- all 4 feet and 11 inches of her Japanese bad self -- because she only ever wears neutral colors.  Lots of cream on that lady.  Khaki pants, taupe cardigan, white shirt, hair pulled back neatly and pinned on either side.  On Easter she has been known to break out a yellow sweater to the collective exaggerated shock of everybody else at brunch.  I have heard stories about the fur coats and staggeringly high heels of her youth, but in my mind I can only paint her with the same colors tract home contractors pick for walls: Swiss Coffee, Ashen Tan, Bone, Linen, Silver Fox.

It has become increasingly clear that this woman, besides definitely contributing to our genetic makeup, is one of my and my sister's major style icons.  With each passing year, our closets become less and less vibrant in color, my sister's erring on the side of endless beige and mine a sea of black on black on black.  Sometimes when we're both home, we get dressed to go out for dinner and emerge from our respective rooms to find that we --- all three of us, my mom included --- are in skinny black pants, a sandy colored knit, and boots.  And then we're like nooooo not agaaaaaiinnnn and fight about who has to change.

I'm not on board with normcore as a thing predominantly because I do not think it is real.  Whether you define the "movement" as dressing like the plainest version of yourself  or carefully cultivating a lackluster style sense, I think giving a name to jeans-tee-and-sneaks is a lame effort to justify outfitting yourself in a way that feels comfortable and safe.  Which like, is not a thing that needs justification.  It is just allowed. You can wear basics and not feel bad; you can wear basics and not have to be subscribing to something. Ok? You don't always have to be killin it!  I don't know.

I think maybe a better implementation of the term would be to use it to define what our style sense would look like (which might be decidedly unstylish) without outside influence.  If the world was trend-less, fad-less, cool-less, what would you put on your body?  Impossible to know, certainly, but fun to close your eyes in a dark room and try to guess.  My conclusion is this: if that were true, my normcore would be dressing like my grandma after years of finding it adorable and aged of her: black and all of its diluted hue children, head to booted toe.

juevery inspirational.

Just some things to get you (me) going on this sunny Thursday.

The Madewell lookbook -- its called Cool Sexy Tomboy, which, I don't know, might be what I'm always striving for.  Teaching me all the ways to wear denim for the rest of my life, and also taking note of my seventh grade habit of wearing cargo shorts from the boy's section of Hollister and saying, You can do that again, but you need to do it better.

Some street style genius.  Buh.  Effortless day dress wearing is not easy, and "Jess in Istanbul" is really killing it.


Sourceless pinning leading me to a top notch pink and a well done center part. I fear both things, but it's the good kind of fear.  Lipstick and a comb coming my way, probably.

This crazybeautiful carrot cake from Two Red Bowls that makes me want to rupture the space-time continuum so I can be in California two months ago and make it for my dad's birthday.  What do you say, Dad?  Cake date in July?

Taking digital walks in Le Marais and reading a bunch of David Lebovitz aka six days til Paris y'all.