Monday, August 30, 2010

spaghetti with lamb sausage and spicy tomato sauce

I'm not sure, but I might even be able to handle a meal like this these days. The doctors told me no chewing, so I've been trying to adhere to that, but I suspect that spaghetti and tiny slices of sausage would no longer be beyond my mending jaw's capabilities.

Nathan made this dinner for the two of us back in June. Even though it was perfectly delicious, he has declined to feature it in a blog post of his own. He says its too boring. But how could delicious spaghetti in a slightly spicy, onion laden tomato sauce with organic lamb sausage from the Union Square Market be boring?

Topped with grated cheese and served up with a side of sauteed spinach and some Italian bread, this so-called "boring" dinner is the kind of good eating I've been sadly deprived of for far too long.

My next doctor's visit is tomorrow, so please say a prayer that they go ahead and take all this metal out of my mouth! I'd do anything to have an unencumbered mouth for the last week of what has been an incredibly disappointing and depressing summer. Is a good Labor Day weekend too much to ask for?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

cucumber and roasted red pepper soup

cucumber soup with roasted red peppers

I will tell you up front that I didn't like this as much as my other cucumber soup. It wasn't bad, but the flavors just didn't meld together as well as the previous soup. This probably had something to do with the fact that the other soup was a tried and true flavor combination, and this soup was just me throwing whatever food co-op veggies I had left in the fridge in the blender and hoping for the best. Sometimes improvisation can be a recipe for success, but in this case it was a rather forgettable endeavor.

Basically, I roasted, peeled and seeded a sweet red pepper, and blended it up with a cucumber, a couple of scallions, peeled seeded tomatoes, a slice of jalapeno, sour cream, plain yogurt, dried cumin and garlic powder. It was fine, but a little strange. I probably should have added a lemon or something, because it was a little dull, aside from the hint of heat from the jalapeno.

Though this was ultimately a forgettable meal, I do want to show you something I am currently so, so happy not to be doing: straining my foods for bits of skins and seeds too large to enter a wired shut jaw.

a laborious task

For four long weeks, this time consuming task went hand and hand with eating. Scraping a spoon back and forth for what seemed like an eternity, coaxing little clumps of pulp and fruit flesh to pass through the fine mesh strainer so I could finally eat. It was by far the most frustrating part of the whole experience and delayed my meals considerably. It's no wonder I didn't have the patience to go back and add lemon juice after such an ordeal!

Right now, I am still on a soft food diet and cannot chew, but straining is thankfully a thing of the past. Hopefully, the coming week will see further improvement and allow me to eat more substantial foodstuffs. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

avocado chocolate pudding

So in the event that you break your jaw, you'll probably end up googling your condition. Before too long you'll find the number one food blog on the subject, Jaws Wired Shut. I have to admit, I didn't spend all that much time poking around there, mainly because finding a bunch of specialized recipes would mean accepting that this injury would be defining my diet for a significant amount of time. Even after the two weeks of wires turned into four, I was still in a bit of denial. Frankly, I wanted to avoid dwelling on my situation, and a lot of the suggestions were things I figured out on my own, like adding peanut butter and bananas to my milkshakes.

However, I did find a couple of ideas during my limited browsing. For one, I blended one of the cupcakes Laura and I bought for our friend Matt's birthday from Magnolia bakery into a delicious milk shake. The second meal I prepared is currently the most recently posted entry, a avocado chocolate pudding, playfully called "chocomole." It sounds pretty bizarre, I admit, but the picture looked just like a creamy, rich chocolate pudding should.

avocado chocolate pudding


All you need is a food processor and a few simple ingredients, and you can transform an avocado into a very unlikely dessert. I substituted cocoa powder for the 3½ tablespoons raw cacao powder, but other than that I followed the recipe as written. One avocado, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼-½ cup water, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ⅓ cup maple syrup, and ¼ teaspoon salt simply blended together in the food processor = pudding! It sounds crazy, but it really does work.

It was good, but it had a rather oily texture that became rather unpleasant after awhile. I poured some half and half on top, which helped with the sliminess, but it was still a bit too cinnamonny. I think that this is a rather clever way to make a more healthy and nutritious chocolate pudding, but it was a little strange and probably wouldn't appeal to people who aren't on soft or liquid diets.

half and half makes everything better

This wasn't a failure by any means, but there was definitely something slightly off about it. Just not quite the pudding you're used to. Which I suppose shouldn't be surprising, since it's made from avocados.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gyro Smoothie

A couple of weeks ago, there was sort of a pity/sympathy party at Sarah's place. We made a bunch of smoothies and stuff in sort of a solidarnosc moment, since her jaw was wired and she was subsisting on a liquid diet.

Most people were content to puree fruits, ice cream, and the like. Their smoothies were delicious, yet mundane, the sort that any Tom, Dick, or Harry might make if armed with a fistful of berries and a blender. I, however, was not content to settle for mediocrity. In the best traditions of philosophy, science, and exploration, I resolved to go beyond, to push the boundaries of pureed food and challenge preconceived notions of what a blender could do. I did not simply want to make food; I wanted to craft a legend.

I made a gyro smoothie.

I journeyed to the local gyro guy (I refuse to call them halal carts, also that's gyro not yeero) and picked up a lamb gyro in a pita. Normally I would go for a mixed over rice (that is, both lamb and chicken over yellow or orange rice), but I felt that it would not make a very good smoothie due to the large amount of rice. The gyro guy produced a nice, packed gyro, with plenty of lamb topped with hot sauce and white sauce (is it tzatziki? is it just mayo?).

Smug as hell, making history

After arriving at Sarah's house, I cut the gyro into four pieces to facilitate blending. It needed some coaxing, by way of chicken broth, to truly form a puree, but once enough was added, I managed to puree the sandwich to a drinkable consistency.

Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Getting psyched, getting very pumped.

It looked a lot like barf, it smelled a little like barf, but it did not taste like barf. At the start, I was very happy about the flavor, with its strong notes of lamb and pita. I quickly drained about half of the thick puree before slowing down between 50 and 75 percent of the way through. My initial enjoyment of the concoction was tempered by its thick, heavy starchy quality. The crispness, brightness, and tartness that the lettuce, tomato, and white sauce give a gyro all kind of got lost in the middle of lamb and pita. I tried to remedy this by adding hot sauce halfway through, but this did not help much. Ultimately, I was only able to get about 80% of the way through the gyro smoothie.

Smells like victory.

The next night I was discussing my monster with a Greek gentleman, and we brainstormed some ideas. He suggested that up to four times the usual amount of tzatziki would have helped. I agree. Additional lettuce, tomato, and possibly cucumber would also improve the flavor and consistency. As I write this, I am even reconsidering the use of chicken broth as the blending liquid - probably yogurt would help preserve the gyro flavor better and result in a lighter drink.

If any of you has the stones to walk in the footsteps of a giant, maybe you could try some of these suggestions and let me know how they work out. Until then, I think I will stick to solid gyros.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

corn pesto

So while I was home last week I came across this amazing recipe for Tagliatelle with Corn Pesto from Bon Appetit.

creamy corn pesto with bacon and basil

As pointed out by the folks at Serious Eats, while the dish is called pesto, it bears a fairly strong resemblance to carbonara thanks to its creamy corn sauce and crunchy bacon.

As it just so happens, pesto and spaghetti carbonara clock in at my number one and number two favorite pasta dishes of all time, so for me, this recipe was an immediate showstopper. Combining the best worlds of carbonara and pesto with sinfully sweet summer corn? Broken jaw be damned, there was no way I wasn't going to make this immediately, especially with my parent's fridge full of beautiful food co-op corn and basil that I had dutifully carted home from Harlem on the LIRR.

First, I fried up the bacon. Then I shucked the corn, broke each ear in half and cut off all the kernels. I recently read a piece in Cook's Illustrated claiming that you lose much of the corn's natural sweetness by removing the kernels, and that you should scrape the knife up and down to remove the milk from the cob, so I did that too. Meanwhile, the bacon was nice and crispy, so I took that out, and then cooked the corn and a couple of cloves minced garlic in the greasy pan with salt and pepper. There was so much corn that this took a couple of batches.

The recipe then called for blending this together with toasted pine nuts and parmesan in the food processor. I changed all three of those things: toasted walnuts, romano cheese, blender. The first two substitutions worked fine... the last one didn't. There wasn't enough liquid in the corn to blend up properly, and everything kept getting stuck. Since we used gluten free pasta, which makes the pasta water incredibly nasty slimy starchy, we couldn't thin the sauce with pastas water as suggested, so I just added more olive oil. Eventually I managed to blend everything into a reasonably smooth sauce, but it was kind of a pain in the ass.

We drained the pasta, and tossed it with the corn pesto, reserved corn kernels and bacon. My mom chiffonaded a hefty amount of basil, which we stirred in. For purposes of presentation, it would have looked better if we sprinkled some on top, but we'd been blending an insane amount of corn pesto for like ten minutes, so that wasn't really on our radar at that point. Anyway, season with last and pepper, and you're done.

As for what I thought of the dish, it was pretty damn good, even though I only had a pureed strained version. I will say that the proportion of corn to pasta, (6 ears to a half a pound!), in this recipe is quite insane, but that is ok. I only used 5 ears of corn rather than the suggested 6, and doubled the amount of pasta. Even then, there was so much thick corn puree that I didn't mix in most of the reserved kernels, and I also held aside a fair amount of the sauce to further puree and drink myself. I'd say you really need four large ears of corn at the very most to comfortably sauce a pound of pasta. Also, there could easily be more bacon in this dish, but when is that ever not the case?

Strange ratios aside, this pasta dish is super delicious. If you tossed in some rip red tomatoes, it would be the perfect ode to summer's bounty. It would probably look prettier that way too, as it's really not much of a looker!

For me, it wasn't such a bad dinner, between corn pesto puree and cream of mushroom soup. That doesn't mean I wasn't jealous of the rest of my family getting to eat the unadulterated dish! And don't even get me started on how I bummed I was that I had to skip the main event. Look at how beautiful these pork chops look! What ever happened to solidarity?

pork chops of unfairness

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

homemade chicken stock

mirepoix of food co-op carrots and red onion, and store bought celery

With all the soups I've been covering in light of my current diet, I figure a post on chicken stock is long overdue. This might be slightly crazy, but in the last year or so, I've been pretty much exclusively making my own stock from scratch. I am well aware that canned stock is one of the most universally accepted cooking short cuts available to the home chef, but I am pretty fully committed to homemade stock. It tastes better, for one, and as an added bonus it's not loaded up with sodium and other additives. The way I see it, if I'm going to be making a long simmered soup or luscious risotto, I'm putting a lot of time and love into that dish. Why would I want the base of all that to be some processed, watery stuff from a tin can?

Plus, stock is really easy to make. You have to chop up some veggies, but all the odds and ends can go right into the pot, which saves you time of peeling carrots. Also, you don't have to worry about things being cut evenly or whatever, since you're going to be cooking all this for a really long time and it will all inevitably turn to near-mush, even if some of it cooks slightly faster or slower.

To make chicken stock, you need only a few things: chicken bones, carrots, celery, herbs and water. Obviously the least straightforward ingredient is the chicken bones. The trick is to save the bones from another chicken dish, like a delicious roast chicken or even a rotisserie bird from the supermarket. Alternatively, you can be a bit more labor intensive about it...

One of my favorite dinners that I ate growing up was my mom's simple breaded and pan fried chicken cutlets. My mom would buy chicken breasts and bone them herself, cutting them into cutlets and whacking at them under wax paper until they were uniformly flat. The little chicken scraps became chicken nuggets, and the medium sized ones were chicken fingers. It was only upon watching Super Size Me that I even realized that fast food chicken nuggets, which were my go-to order on the rare occasions that friend's moms took me to McDonalds, were such a terrible Frankenstein food.

While boning a chicken breast is a little messy and can be tricky to manage for a first timer, these added steps do have their upside. Whole chicken breasts are generally cheaper than pre-butchered cutlets, and my mom claims to like the look of them better as well. I guess maybe the pre-cut cutlets have more surface area exposed to discolor or whatnot. Anyway. That's what my mom does, and now that's what I do too. And, like my mom, I too wrap up my chicken bones and freeze them for stock!

The one thing that is tricky about stock is that you need to have at least a couple of hours for it to cook, and ideally you'd want to keep your stock simmering for up to eight hours. These days, I generally content myself with 5 or 6, but I have made perfectly good stock in only two hours. The longer you cook your stock, the more concentrated the flavor becomes, so set aside as much time as you possibly can.

Once you've found the time to make stock, the rest is easy. You begin your stock with a classic French mirepoix: carrots, onions and celery. You can use all carrot and celery ends, and even the feathery carrot tops, since it will not be eaten. Though it's not strictly necessary, I like to brown them in butter or oil a bit before continuing. If I have carrot tops, I add them after this step.

Then I add my chicken bones. These can be cooked or raw, and you can even add them straight from the freezer. Then you fill the pot with water, and add your herbs, also called a bouquet garni. Generally this is comprised of parsley, thyme and a bay leaf, but I almost never have thyme and generally forget the bay leaf, so don't fret too much if you are short of herbs.

chicken bones and veggies

One thing you don't need to worry about is seasoning. Leave the salt and pepper to the eventual end product of soup or risotto. This broth will cook down and get reduced, and so if you add salt now, you run the risk of it getting overly concentrated and ruining your end dish. For now, just focus on steeping those bones and veggies.

Once the pot is full, bring the liquid up to a simmer. You don't want to boil your stock outright, or it will turn cloudy. Just let it simmer away for however many hours you have at your disposal. If the top starts to get scummy or foamy, just skim that right off with a spoon.

For the most part though, you can leave your pot alone. You can watch a movie, read a book, clean the bathroom, do your homework... I've even been known to run a quick errand or two, although you really shouldn't stray too far from the kitchen when the stove is on. Your active cook time is done, and all that's left for you to do is to strain out the solids in, oh, about 5 hours?

You can store the stock in the fridge for a couple of days, but if you aren't going to use it right away, freezing it is your best bet. If you like, you can put it in ice cube trays and then transfer those to a zip lock bag, so you have smaller portions around for when you only need a little bit of stock. Otherwise, a larger container will do, and you'll be set for your next big soup or stew.

If I haven't convinced you of the merits of homemade stock, I'd like to remind you of the saying "he comes from good stock." It means that a person's good qualities reflect well on their family and upbringing. Of course, there are exceptions, where people rise above humble beginnings, or fail to live up to the advantages afforded to them. Far be it for me to say that no one has ever made a crappy soup from homemade stock, or that you can't make a delicious soup from commercial stock in a pinch. That being said, I believe the maxim still applies. Dishes that are made from real homemade stock have an extra depth of flavor that can't be faked. If you take lots of shortcuts, you can taste them, just like you can tell when a well made soup comes from good stock.

So put on a pot of chicken stock after work, or on a Sunday when you're lounging around in pajamas. It takes very little active effort, but pays off with big flavor!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

release/cream of mushroom soup

So, today I was finally cut free, the wires locking my jaw in place replaced with the far more forgiving rubber bands. I still can't really chew, but I can open my mouth and that is enough! On the down side, the past month has NOT been good to my poor teeth. I couldn't stop crying when I was finally able to open my mouth and see just how disgusting they had gotten. I am terrified that this is going to have a long term effect on my teeth, but hopefully a prompt trip to the dentist once the rest of the wires and rubber bands are removed will reverse all the damage. Say a prayer on that one.

Anyway. Nasty teeth and blackened tongue aside, today should be a day for celebration, as much as they dampened any enthusiasm I was initially feeling. I took the rest of the day off from work, and I'm going to see Salt with Paul at 5:20. Then, at 8:00, I'll meet Jess, Grace and Laura for whatever soft Mexican food I can gum down at Toloache, which is celebrating its third anniversary with live music and $3 margaritas. I was hoping to try the manchego cheese quesadilla with truffles and huitlacoche salsa, but I'm not too sure that'll work out in this stage of recovery. Even so, more foods are possible for me this afternoon than they were this morning, and despite the general unpleasantness of a liquid diet, I did eat some good things this past month.

cream of mushroom soup

For instance, this soup was the most delicious and perfect of all those that I made during my mouth's incarceration. For those of you who are counting, that includes zucchini basil soup, corn soup, tomato soup and broccoli chard soup. It also includes sad soupy guacamole, runny hummus and pureed ratatouille, overly oniony gazpacho, and overly green-tasting spinach and carrot soup, not to mention one horrendous experiment with liquefied pork fried rice that you should count yourself lucky to have never ingested. Considering how poor so many of those eating experiences were, you might think this soup is only good by comparison, but I assure you that is not the case. This soup is genuinely delicious, liquid diet or no.

Because my mom is awesome and thoughtful, she bought some mushrooms and made some chicken stock before I arrived home last Thursday, with the idea that I could make a mushroom soup. I love my mom.

If I had known what she was up to, I would have brought home some of the gorgeous dried porcini mushrooms Nathan had brought me back from the San Lorenzo Market in Florence. I'm sure they would have upped the deliciousness ante, but this soup was singing with mushroom flavor even though we only used lame generic white button mushrooms from the supermarket. Using the smitten kitchen as a general guide, we came up with a deliciously light and creamy mushroom soup that was quite similar to the mushroom ravioli dish I made in this blog's infancy.

Anyway, first I sauteed some onions with salt and pepper in hot olive oil. Once they were nice and soft, I added a package of mushrooms, which I had cleaned with a paper towel and sliced thinly. I also tossed in a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a small knob of butter. I cooked all that for about 15 minutes, which is probably why everything tasted so strongly of mushrooms in the end. They got nice and brown, even though I probably could have given them more space to breath. (You know, "don't crowd the mushrooms!" and all that.)

At that point, I added my mom's chicken stock, which she had reheated in a separate pot. She says this is to kill off any bacteria that might have been breeding in there. Normally I just dump frozen stock into the pot, so maybe I should rethink that!!! We really didn't cook it much longer after that, to be honest. After about ten minutes at most, we added some half and half, and then it simmered for maybe another 15 while we finished the dinner for the rest of the family.

The soup went into the blender with a couple of sprigs of parsley. A few quick pulses emulsified everything and took care of the oil slick that had formed on the top of the pot, since I probably used too much olive oil. After that, you're good to go, unless you're me, in which care, it will also need a good straining. So glad those days are behind me, with more and more solid food on the horizon!

As pleased as I am to be off the restrictive liquid diet, this is one recipe that will still be welcome in my kitchen. Rich but light, earthy and creamy and a snap to make, this soup is a definite keeper!

Monday, August 23, 2010


So awhile back when I gave up drinking nasty ensure and was looking for other ways to add protein to my diet, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea: make a nice watery hummus for dinner!

soupy hummus

I would start with canned chick peas and add fresh food coop cilantro and a roasted red pepper and garlic. I'd make my own tahini by smashing toasted sesame seeds, season with freshly ground pepper and coarse Kosher salt, and stir in plenty of lemon juice and olive oil. It would be smooth and creamy, and a delicious way to sneak protein into my liquid diet.

canned chick peas and their juices, one sweet roasted red pepper, cilantro, two roasted garlic cloves and toasted sesame seeds mashed into tahini paste seasoned with kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Well, somehow, even though I did just that, mixing it all up with the immersion blender, something about it was all wrong. Maybe it's just that hummus is intended to be a thicker paste spread on crackers. Maybe my mind rebelled against the lack of contrasting crunch and texture. Maybe I used too many chickpeas and not enough of the other ingredients. Maybe it's just that foods become far less appetizing when you're slurping them off a spoon and getting food all over your mouth with every bite. Whatever it was, eating this hummus was a struggle. It was never very appealing to start with, but with each passing bite, it became more and more difficult to convince myself to continue.

this hummus was my foe

Ultimately, I had to toss the leftovers in the trash. I did the best I could, but that hummus kicked my ass and sent me packing.

Unfortunately, this was all too often the case with the food I cooked myself during my time on the liquid diet. It's a real challenge to create meals that remain palatable when strained through your teeth, and while I made progress, I never quite mastered the art. I'm set to have my wires cut and rubber bands put in tommorrow, only two weeks later than planned, and I can't tell you what a relief it will be to be able to open my mouth and brush my tongue and lick my lips and put soft foods on a spoon and eat them without slurping or drinking through a straw. Trust me, it can't come quickly enough.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

soup revisited

As you probably know by now, having your jaw wired shut jaw really limits your dining options. Milkshakes and smoothies get pretty tiring after awhile, which is why it's good to switch it up with some nice savory soups. Today I'd like to talk about two different soups that I've made in the past couple of weeks. I've actually covered both tomato soup and broccoli soup before in the earliest days of this blog, but in both cases I did some things differently this time around.

a roasting pan of tomatoes

For the tomato soup, I put some of my beautiful food co-op tomatoes to good use by rubbing them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting them on a baking sheet in the oven at 375° for 45 minutes. I also roasted a handful of garlic cloves, two sweet Italian peppers and almost all of a jalapeno, which was cut open and deseeded.

tomatoes and peppers from the food co-op, and garlic

I neglected to photograph everything after it's stay in the oven, but rest assured that everything was deliciously shriveled and blackened. If I wasn't reduced to only the smoothest of purees, I might have been tempted to stop at that. Roasted tomatoes are a beautiful thing. However, under the circumstances, soup was my only option, so I plowed ahead without even so much as tasting one of my roasted beauties.

While the tomatoes were roasting, I started the soup on the stove top, sauteing onions in some hot olive oil with salt and pepper. Then I added a can of whole tomatoes, and let that cook. Then I added a couple of cups of homemade chicken stock, which has been a big part of my liquid diet and will be covered separately eventually.

Once my pan of tomatoes had cooled off a bit, I set aside one of the sweet peppers and two garlic cloves for hummus, but added the other red pepper and all the tomatoes to the soup. I discarded the jalapeno, because I could tell just from smelling everything that a good bit of its heat had run off into the pan juices. This proved to be a wise move, as the soup was almost spicier than I could handle as it was. I can't even imagine the damage that any jalapeno solids would have done, if the juices alone were that potent. Unfortunately, the red pepper kind of got lost amid all the juicy tomatoes and the heat of the jalapeno. If I made a tomato soup with peppers again, I'd probably use almost as many peppers as tomatoes.

tomato and red pepper soup with fresh basil

To finish things off, I added a large handful of basil leaves and then went to town with the immersion blender. Because I didn't peel or seed my tomatoes, I had to strain this soup in order to drink it. This is often the case, and it's definitely a pain. However, this soup was good enough that I didn't resent my time spent straining.

a spicy soup

The second soup was a broccoli and swiss chard soup, and it was very easy. Just some garlic and onions cooked in butter, and then chicken stock with broccoli and chopped chard. Once everything was nice and soft, I blended it all up and put it through a strainer. I also added some grated romano cheese. I lost a great deal of the broccoli when I strained the soup, and what was left separated from the broth, which actually turned green from the chard stems. It was definitely not the world's prettiest soup, so I didn't take any pictures.

Interestingly, I eventually doctored up both soups with some cream, albeit for very different reasons. As I mentioned before, the tomato soup, while tasty, was just a little too spicy for my liking. Some heavy cream smoothed things out quite nicely. The broccoli soup suffered from a very different problem. It tasted like bad health food or something. It was just "green" tasting, with no richness or other flavor. Some grated cheddar and half and half made a HUGE improvement. The soup that I'd been struggling to stomach was suddenly tasty! Dairy really does make all the difference.

Monday, August 16, 2010

chicken marsala

I know I said I would talk about soup, but frankly, I'm sick of soup, and I don't want to talk about it anymore. And, even more so than my broken jaw soups, this is a long overdue post. According to my Flickr, this photo was taken on June 9th. Wow. Nathan was supposed to cover this entry, but he claims he has nothing to say about this dinner. As you've probably noticed, his contributions to the blog have been few and far in between, so this really isn't that surprising.

Anyway. Chicken marsala. We had bough a nice bottle of marsala wine to make Jody Adam's mushroom fricasse and gnocchi, and we had plenty leftover for this classic chicken dish.

chicken, mushrooms, and angelhair pasta in a marsala wine sauce

Nathan had mentioned many times that his former roommate Dan's mother made awesome chicken marsala, so he inquired after her recipe. It turned out to be from Martha Stewart, and relatively straightforward. We also consulted a Giada DeLaurentis recipe, but ultimately decided against adding either mustard or marscapone.

Basically, all there is to chicken marsala is cooking the chicken and then onions, garlic and mushrooms, adding the wine and reducing it to a glaze. It's never been my favorite dish, but it's pretty tasty. We served our with capellini, but I'd suggest a less delicate pasta like spaghetti or linguini. We also made some green beans with toasted almonds, but they were from a crappy Harlem supermarket and pretty tasteless.

Really, there's not that much more to say. If you have marsala wine, this is a great thing to make with it, but unless you're particularly fond of this dish, this probably isn't something to go out of your way to make. It's yummy, but something about chicken marsala just screams catering hall to me. Not that I wouldn't jump at the opportunity to eat some right now, after three weeks of liquid foods!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

many milkshakes

I know I promised you soups and such, but first I have a simple little post about what I'd mainly been subsisting on before I broke down and actually cooked something:


This one was peanut butter banana nutella. It was tasty once blended.

I've also been using a lot of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and even some cantaloupe. In the beginning I mixed in sour cream and yogurt into these shakes, but lately it's been ice cream. I have vanilla, chocolate, peach, and orange sherbet/vanilla creamsickle.

As a liquid mixer, I was using Ensure, but I wasn't crazy about the taste, so when my supply ran out after two weeks, I opted not to buy any more, switching over to milk. I also have some Tropicana orange juice, and these delicious Naked juices my neighbor Leah was kind enough to bring by when she heard about my injury. The blueberry and mango blend well into fruit smoothies, but I kept the green machine flavor to drink on its own, mainly because it's a very dark green color and I thought the color wouldn't do my smoothies any favors.

My friends Marc, Salmaan, Dave, Grace and Lauren came over on Friday for a puree party, but we only ended up making milkshakes. (Except Nathan, who insisted on making something so disgusting that it will have to wait for another entry.) We didn't add any berries to our Friday night milkshakes, which was a nice change of pace since I didn't have to strain out the seeds or blueberry skins. Just nice smooth ice cream, bananas, milk and oreos.

As an added treat, Grace bought me a fun sundae glass and some pretty colored straws. They are awesome and cheer up any sad puree.

Look how nice my strawberry shake looks now!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

a long and boring story about my broken jaw

My last trip to the oral surgery clinic, the doctor gave me some bad news. When I was first told that my jaw would have to be wired shut, I was told that it would be for five weeks. This, of course, was the last thing I wanted to hear. The next day, when I went back for the surgery, I was given the much more hopeful prognosis of two weeks of wires followed by two weeks of rubber bands. Still pretty miserable, but considerably better.

So it was on Tuesday that I went back with the expectation that the wires clamping my teeth together would be removed and replaced with rubber bands. While I would still have limited motion in my jaw, this would allow me to open my mouth and ingest soft foods. This would make a huge difference in my quality of life, so I was really looking forward to it— I would be able to talk more clearly, yawn without the discomfort of trying to wrench my wired teeth apart, and brush the inside of my mouth. Most importantly, I'd be able to eat mashed potatoes, yogurt, eggs, polenta... really anything that was soft and mushy.

In addition to being a rather unpleasant sensation, having to strain all my food through my teeth means I have to painstakingly remove all the seeds or bits of skin in all my soups or smoothies, which can take over a half hour at times. With rubber bands, this would be a thing of the past. Additionally, I'd be able to lick my lips again! Fit a spoon inside my mouth! All the simple pleasures of feeding oneself that we usually take for granted!

Alas, that was not to be. When I arrived, the interns consulted my chart, which said I was due to get the wires off. I allowed myself to believe it was almost over. Then my doctor, Whitney, came in and said she would have to double check before she went ahead and freed me. Uh oh.... Sure enough, when she came back, it was to tell me what I had been secretly dreading all along. Not only would there be two more weeks of wires, but there would also be two weeks of rubber bands after that, extending my healing process by 50%.

Even though I had suspected something like this might happen, I still couldn't believe what she was telling me. I had been so close to release, and it had slipped right through my fingertips, leaving me utterly dumbfounded and distraught. I was a total wreck after I left the hospital. Then on top of that, I tried to use my Optimum Rewards card for free tickets to Middle Men, and the movie was sold out a full two hours beforehand. So was Dinner for Schmucks, and pretty much everything showing before 8:00. At 4:30. I was absolutely livid. We're talking black out levels of rage. It was NOT a good day. I was a total wreck.

By the next day, I had begun to resign myself to being locked in the prison that is currently my mouth until the first week of September. It sucks, but it is what it is. That being said, I still don't understand why they didn't just give me the 6 week time line up front.

My jaw broke in two places. Up by my left temple, on the top, and on the bottom on the right front. The upper break is apparently held in place by the joint itself, or something, but if the wires holding my teeth together were to be removed, the lower break would shift around and not heal properly. Obviously, this is something I'd like to avoid, so I understand the necessity of leaving the wires on. What I don't understand is why anyone at the clinic ever thought that two weeks of full wires would be sufficient. The nature of my injury hasn't changed, so if two weeks aren't enough now, why would that have been long enough when I was initially wired? I wish they had just set me straight with this awful 6 week time line from the get go, instead of leading me to believe I'd be in the clear in less than a month. That made it that much worse.

Regardless, there's not much that I can do about it now. I sulked for a bit, and then I figured I had better cook some soups for myself since I was out of Ensure and not looking to buy more. (That stuff tastes funny.) I've gone on long enough for tonight, but I do have some food to talk about, not to mention the super sweet puree party my roommate Laura organized in my honor. I'm bummed that I'm still on all liquids, but at least I've got lots of food in the fridge for now.

Monday, August 9, 2010

liquid food.... I am getting the wires replaced with rubber bands tomorrow, I think. I hope. I haven't been able to lick my lips or unclench my teeth in nearly two weeks. It's been absolutely awful. I've been mostly drinking ensure mixed with ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, berries and juices. I am getting used to the kind of gross taste, actually.

I've mixed up a couple of savory things, but there's just something utterly unappealing about straining pureed spinach or avocado through your teeth, even if you've mixed it with black beans, sour cream, red onion, cilantro, lime, tomato, chicken broth, olive oil, cumin and garlic powder. It tastes good, but the act of drinking quickly kills any enjoyment of the meal.

Nathan actually liked my avocado drink and used it as a dipping sauce for a grilled cheese sandwich with black beans and avocado.

Boy would I kill to bite into something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich.

I've also been drinking a lot of corn soup. I had frozen the disappointing watered down soup I made a few weeks ago, so when I got more corn I simply defrosted it and added more corn kernels. It's much richer and sweeter with the extra corn, but I'm sick of it too, to be honest.

Here's a picture:

I can't even eat the cilantro garnish. What an utter bummer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

central park picnic

Look how awesome my summer was before I broke my stupid mouth:

That's me eating a delicious Viennese cucumber salad in central park before taking a free canoe ride on the Harlem Meer.

That's the salad before I packed it up to bring to the park. It was easy and light and summery. I tried to score the cucumbers with the tines of a fork, but it didn't come out quick as neat and pretty as I had hoped. The taste, however, came through in full force.

I sliced the two cucumbers as thinly as possible, and then tossed them in a colander with a tablespoon of salt. I drained that in the sink for an hour, and then rinsed with cold water and squeezed out the excess. I mixed ⅓ cup white-wine vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 2 teaspoons sugar, and a teaspoon of dillweed and heated it on the stove until the sugar dissolved. There was also supposed to be a crushed clove of garlic, but I forget to add it, (*GASP!*), and I actually didn't even miss it. I quickly cooled the liquid in the freezer, and then poured it over the cucumber, and let that pickle overnight. It was tangy and delicious, and not too vinegary. It was a nice thing to eat outdoors on a summer's day.

And look at me eating it! What a mouthful! It's kind of weird how I happened to take all these extremely "LOOK AT ME, I'M EATING WITH MY MOUTH OPEN" photos immediately before breaking my jaw. I miss that freedom. I miss that food. And that's not all there was either.

There was pesto, because that's what I make whenever I have basil, and it's always delicious.

And my handsome boyfriend, eating a corn salad with tomato, cilantro and black beans, all from the food co-op and the Mount Morris Park farmer's market. The two ears of perfectly sweet and crunchy corn were raw, the cup of beans was simmered for a couple of hours and it was all tossed with half a large tomato, a small handful of chopped cilantro, and some salt and pepper. It was tasty, but even better when I grabbed half a lime and added the juice the next day. Gotta love that acid.

I loved it all, but Nathan wasn't crazy about the spread I put together. He felt our lunch was a bit too light and not filling enough. He also apparently doesn't like corn off the cob. First, boy is crazy, and second, I'd give just about anything to be able to eat a lunch like this right now. This is the last entry I have of my life before my jaw is broken, aside from some much earlier stuff that Nathan was supposed to blog about but probably won't. I'm not sure what shape the blog will be taking from here on out... Stay tuned to find out what a food blogger does when she breaks her jaw...

Monday, August 2, 2010


I love the movie Ratatouille. When it first came out, I hadn't ever eaten the title dish, but I've since made it two times, with this dinner being my third. Last summer, Nathan smartly suggested I made it to use up some of my summer food co-op vegetables. Despite having seen the movie, I didn't even know much about the ingredient list, but it ended up matching up quite perfectly with a mid-summer's CSA share. Peppers, zucchini, yellow summer squash, eggplant, tomato, onions, tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley... All farm fresh and organic from the farm. With ingredients that good, you can't miss.

ratatouille, fresh from the farm

The second time, I made ratatouille for a cooking class I was teaching for my roommate Laura, who runs a Saturday club program for girls in middle school. It was still tasty, but not nearly as good with winter grocery store vegetables. This is a meal that really sings in the summer, when everything is at the peak of ripeness. I'm not one to strictly adhere to seasonal eating, but in some cases there is just no arguing against it.

My last food co-op share before I broke my jaw, I had to marvel over just how closely the vegetables we were given matched the ratatouille ingredient list. The only things it was lacking was parsley, which I had already gotten at the grocery store, and tomatoes, which I picked up at Harlem's new Mt. Morris Park Farmers' Market, a scant 13 blocks from my house. Armed with my first local tomatoes of the summer, I was ready to go. Almost.

Even though I'd made the dish twice fairly recently, I found myself without a recipe, and unable to find the one that had served me so well last year. From what I could remember, my recipe was fairly straightforward. The vegetables were all cooked together in the same pot, added one at a time. When I tried to find a recipe, most involved cooking each component separately, and for salting, draining and pressing the zucchini and eggplant. This was more work than I cared to do, and more than was actually unnecessary, if my last year's ratatouille wasn't just a wonderful fluke.

I wound up perusing a Chowhound thread on the subject, and while I didn't find a recipe exactly like the one I was looking for, I did read through enough of them to feel comfortable trying to recreate the one pot method I had found last summer, although I did decide alter it slightly by cooking the tomatoes separately.

I started with the onions, sauteing them in olive oil with salt and pepper. I also threw in some of the beautiful herbs of provence that Nathan's mom Tenli gave me for Christmas for a real French feeling. In a second pot I sauteed some garlic in olive oil, and then added one and half large chopped tomatoes. I let this sauce simmer while I took care of the rest of the veggies in pot number one.

I let the onions cook for awhile, and then I added in succession one green pepper, one yellow squash and zucchini and one medium eggplant, each cut into small chunks. I cooked each vegetable for five minutes or so before adding the next one. I added the eggplant last because I was worried about it soaking up too much of the oil. (That's why so many of the other recipes suggested salting and pressing it.) I'm happy to report that it worked out just fine. Once the eggplant had softened, I added the tomato sauce and a decent amount of chopped basil and parsley.

Ultimately, I was a bit worried that it would wind up bland, so I loaded up on freshly cracked pepper and added some dried oregano. I let that cook for maybe five minutes more, and then took it off the heat. When my mom tried it a few days later, she commented that there was too much oregano, so I may have been a bit over zealous there. Personally, I thought it was deliciously fresh and herbaceous; a perfect celebration of summer!

rustic ratatouille

Unlike the dish Remy the rat makes in the movie, my ratatouille is not particularly beautiful or elegant. It's a simple, rustic dish. Though it's not much to look at, it more than makes up for its humble appearance with its bold taste. If you're looking for something a bit more visually impressive, you can actually make the dish as seen in the movie, a fancier variation of ratatouille called confit byaldi. The official recipe comes from renowned chef Thomas Keller. Julia Child also makes a fancier layered version. For me, easier was better, what with the heat we were experiencing for most of July, but I'd definitely love to try a more high end version of the dish some day. Regardless of appearance, I'm sure it's hard to make a ratatouille that's anything but delicious, especially this time of year. It's just the thing to make with your summer vegetables!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

peachy blueberry muffins

peachy blueberry muffins crusted with butter, sugar and chopped walnuts

This recipe comes from my mom's best friend Julie, who is also my brother's godmother. She's the closest type of family friend. For example, we spend every Christmas Eve at her house, enjoying all sorts of Italian fish dishes prepared by Julie, her husband Jimmy and their son James. Fried calamari, penne alla vodka and stuff clams... Great cooks all of them, and my mom has certainly adopted more than one of the Frangione family recipes into our kitchen over the years.

This peachy blueberry muffin recipe is one of them, and it is without doubt a treasure. Julie told me she adapted it from Coldwell Banker of all places, adding the blueberries among other changes. Coldwell is a realtor and I guess they used to put out monthly fliers with house selling tips, one of which was to make these muffins for a summer open house. I have to say, if anything could sell me a house, it might be these muffins. They're not too sweet, and the fruit pieces burst open in your mouth like candy. The butter sugar and walnuts combine to form an amazing crunchy sweet topping, and the sour cream moistened batter is soft and delicious. Best eaten fresh out of the oven, these can get a bit soggy the second day, so it's best to revive them in the toaster before you eat them again. They work really well as muffins, but you could also bake them in a pan and cut into bars. However you make these, please don't skip them. There isn't anything better you could make with sweet summer peaches and blueberries. I'd be hard pressed to name a baked good I love more.

the fruit studded interior of a peachy blueberry muffin

My mom hadn't made these in years, probably not since before high school, but they still loomed large in my memory. Earlier in the week Nathan's grandma gave us each a pint of blueberries, (they were on sale, three for $5), and then I got peaches from my food co-op. My mind immediately jumped to these muffins. I called up my brother and asked him to scan the recipe for me. Matt actually couldn't figure out how to scan on the printer, so he took four photos of the recipe which I had to paste together. It was pretty ghetto, but had absolutely no bearing on the final recipe. When I baked these up last Saturday morning, New York was still in the middle of the heat wave from hell, but cranking up the oven and overheating my apartment before noon was still well worth it. They were just as perfectly delicious as I remembered.

Peachy Blueberry Muffins
1¾ cup flour
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cup chopped peaches (this was three fairly small peaches for me cut into sixths that I then chopped into thirds)
1 cup blueberries
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, soft

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder in bowl. Add mixture of eggs, sour cream, butter, vanilla, peach chunks and blueberries: mix till just moistened. Full 12 greased muffin cups three quarters full.Mix topping and sprinkle over muffins.

Bake at 400° for 25 minutes.

It actually took me at least 40 minutes to bake these, and there might have been a bit too much butter in the topping, but those are only the minorest of complaints when faced with a muffin this awesomely delicious.

the blueberries turned my tongue blue

I'll be happy when I can stick out my tongue like that again. This closed mouth thing is MISERABLE.