Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Soup Obsession

I realized last night that I've made soup at least once a week for the past two months. It started as a simple curiosity with the immersion blender, and soon became a full-blown obsession (coinciding with warmer weather, oddly enough). Some of the reasons I love making soup are:

1) Once you get the hang of it, there are endless possibilities. See below for a basic recipe, but definitely start experimenting. Last night I made a carrot-ginger-sweet potato soup that was delicious, and I've gone everywhere from the basic chicken and veggies to leek-asparagus to heavenly butternut squash and apple.

2) It is so affordable! For example, last night I made a soup that cost under $10 ($8.23 to be exact) and it fed a dinner for 3 plus leftovers for my lunch today. What can beat that?

3) The leftovers are a major plus for soup, and probably one of the main reasons I've continued to make it. I bring my lunch to work every day, and having soup on hand makes that so much easier. I'll bring a small tupperware of soup with an apple or some bread and voila! Lunch in 1 minute. I tend to make a ton of soup so that it will last the whole week, not just for lunches, but for dinner side dishes and small snacks too. You can't go wrong with fresh soup.

4) It is good for you! Soup from a (eek!) can or even "fresh" from a grocery store is often loaded with salt and butter. I tend to use a little bit of butter and olive oil, but otherwise let the ingredients speak for themselves. Really, its just water and fresh veggies with some spices (and maybe a dollop of milk..).

5) It's easy. It really is. I promise, just start making it and you'll never stop.

OK so here are the basic steps to making a delicious soup:

You'll need:
- veggies (a pound or two - and you can mix and match. Let's go with potatoes for the basic).
- onion (again, you can mix this up by using leeks, shallots, scallions, or a mix).
- water (or chicken stock or vegetable stock. I prefer to make my own stock, but if you get store-bought, make sure to get low-sodium/unsalted)
- olive oil/butter (just oil is fine, but if it's a creamy soup I'll throw in a tablespoon of butter)
- salt, pepper, and any other spices you have in your cabinet.

To make the soup (For this example, let's do Potato-leek):
1. Dice one onion and one or two leeks (depending on how much you get--be sure to wash thoroughly!). Peel and cut up the potatoes into 1-inch cubes.
2. Heat up a large pot at medium heat, then add about a table spoon of oil. Maybe some butter if you want.
3. When the oil is hot, add the onion and leek. Add a little bit of salt to help them sweat. Let cook for about 5-10 minutes, until soft and translucent.
4. Add the potatoes and stir around a bit. Maybe throw in some pepper if you feel like it.
5. Add the stock (I'd use stock for potato soup to add flavor), enough to cover the potatoes and then some. If you don't have enough, add water to compensate.
6. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes or more, until the potatoes are soft and cooked through.
7. Use immersion blender (or in batches in the regular blender) to make the soup smooth. Maybe since it's potato I'd leave some chunks.
8. Taste the soup. Add salt and pepper and taste again. Add spices, perhaps cumin or herbs de provence. Taste again. When it tastes really good, serve.
9. Cut up some chives for presentation and place on top. Serve with crusty bread.

So, for variations, you can use butternut squash and apples instead of the potato, or carrots or sweet potato or asparagus or anything really. Switch up your spices. Add ginger or garlic (about halfway through the onion sauteeing phase). Add chicken at the end (haven't tried to blend that, but chunky chicken and veggie soup is delicious). Don't blend it. Add cream. Add lemon zest. Do anything you want! It's lots of fun, I promise.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Airport Cuisine

Wright and I set a new record this weekend. All four of the flights that we took (New York to DC, DC to Nashville, Nashville to Charlotte, and Charlotte to New York) arrived EARLY. Can you believe it? Early. It was fantastic. Thank you, USAir, for making our Memorial Day vacation just that much better.

To go along with these early landings were two particularly long layovers (we decided to go for the cheaper, and therefore more awkward, flights). We had a three hour layover at Reagan on Friday night, and a 1.5 hour layover in Charlotte last night. Knowing this would require some serious meal-planning, I asked my resident airport expert (Dad) what his thoughts were when he dropped us off at the lovely White Plains airport Friday afternoon.

"First things first," he said, "there is only one small snack stand at the sole gate at White Plains, and it is a little known fact that they serve beer. I'll buy." Sure enough, as we wandered up to the peculiarly tiny snack stand, selling oreos and not even magazine, Dad's plan proved true. They had a keg behind the counter. After a cold Bud Light to offset to crowded gate, we were off and continued to put our food planning in Dad's hands.

Dad gave us two choices for Reagan, which were either the small, crowded sports bar in the terminal, or, with our three hours, we could venture out of security to the Legal Seafood in the main entrance hall of the airport. Since we arrived ten minutes early, making it a three hour and ten minute layover, and it was Friday night at 7pm, we decided to brave it and leave security.

It was definitely worth it. We ended up having a delicious (real!) meal at Legal Seafood, and totally stuffed ourselves. It was actually a pretty nice restaurant, and since it was outside of security, everyone was remarkably relaxed and kind. We went wild with the menu, ordering the crab cake (melt in your mouth!), a selection of raw oysters (for Wright), a delicious avocado, corn, etc salad with grilled shrimp, and the mussels. Everything was absolutely wonderful, and we kept forgetting that we were in an airport! It was a perfect Friday night date, and we made it perfectly on time back through security and to our gate.

Our meal on the return flight was not quite as glamorous, but we had an hour and a half to kill in the dreaded E terminal of the Charlotte airport (every time!), so I called up Dad again, and he immediately sent us to the Fox Sports bar, which was quite close to our gate. We had a couple of Carolina Blonde beers (go local!) and shared the chicken tenders. Hardly anything healthy, but after a nonstop weekend of fun and in the midst of a long night of traveling, anything fried is exactly what I crave. Particularly when dipped in a mix of honey mustard and ketchup.

Now, these airport food extravaganzas were only the bookends to a fantastic trip. Nashville was a lot of fun, and most importantly, it was great to see Billy and Winston and Wright's parents. Moral of this blog, though, is to call my Dad if you are ever in an airport and hungry. Apparently he's been there.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Traveling in America

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I hope everyone has plenty of corn on the cob eating, white pants wearing plans for the holiday. Wright and I are headed down to Nashville for the weekend to visit his brothers. I've never been before and am so excited to see the city. Anyone have tips on places to go to? We're hoping to find some fun live music as well as check out some of the sights.

Given the current economy, traveling within the US has really become the rage - I feel like I am constantly reading guides on weekend trips to cities like Portland, OR and Asheville, NC. I think it's a great time to support our country's tourist industry and to check out some cities that you might not get to (like Nashville!).

A few summers ago, Wright and I took a fantastic trip to Pittsburgh. No one really understood why in the world we'd choose this as our summer trip, particularly after the previous year's rendez-vous in France, but we were thrilled about it. The idea first came up because I was in a Warhol stage, and wanted to visit his museum. When we started to look into it, we realized that there were a lot of fun things to see and do there - we went to a Pirates game, a ton of museums, walked along the river, took the tram up to see a view from above the city (I can't remember the mountain/hill's name right now...see picture above) - it was really a blast. But it was fun, affordable ($43 round trip flights), and a great time to just spend together. And now we can say we've been to Pittsburgh!

Along with the big Nashville trip this weekend, we're hoping to do some more American traveling this summer, including possible trips to Chicago to see the new wing of the Art Institute, New Hampshire to see Kate's house, Idaho for a wedding, and Maine to visit my grandmother and camp. There are so many neat cities in the US, and while they may not be Paris or Amsterdam, they have their own special qualities and deserve some enthusiastic tourists!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let's go Yanks!

Last night, I made my glorious debut at the new Yankee stadium. If you live anywhere near the New York area, you have no doubt been unable to escape the overload of press that Yankee Stadium and Citi Field (the Mets' new stadium) have gotten, particularly given their gigantic price tags and the recent economic situation. A lot of the news, though, has focused more on the amenities at the new stadiums, in particular, the various new restaurants and food stands at the stadiums - Brother Jimmy's at Yankee Stadium and Shake Shack at Citi Field, to name a few.

With all this coverage, I approached my first game at the new stadium with a little trepidation. First of all, where were all these new eating adventures? How expensive would the beers be? Would the lines be insane? What if I get intimidated and prefer peanuts to fried pickles? Oh, and of course, would the Yanks continue their winning and A-Rod his home run streak? (Yes, they won, and yes, he hit a home run. It was wonderful.)

While Wright decided to go for some more upscale dining, my brother and I decided to forgo the aforementioned delights and stick with the original:

And let me tell you, my hot dog was delicious! No matter what fancy food is available, I'll always want to stick with Hebrew National to go alongside my $10 beer. You see, I love the Yankees, and I love going to Yankee stadium (new or old) because I have so many memories of going with my Dad when I was younger. Both Morgan and I do. Alas, we aren't in it for the fancy food, we're there for a hot dog, a win, and the YMCA dance during the 6th inning.

Now, the stadium as a whole was gorgeous. That's really the only way to describe it. It was new and bright, everything was clean, and there were lots of women's bathrooms. The one major difference, which I haven't quite decided is good or bad, is that since everything is new, it is very bright and open when you are inside (rather than out at seats). It is also all open-air, so that as you walk around the mezzanine or grandstand level, you are looking out at the game the whole time. This is fantastic in a) game-watching ability, b) making you feel like you aren't catching diseases, and c) allowing for less of a crowded, underground feeling and more of an open spaces, airy situation as you fight the crowd.

The negative, however, is that my favorite part of the yankees game has always been the moment you first see the field. You've been wandering in what feels like circles through a dark, dingy hallway, crowded with fans spilling beers and ketchup, and as you enter the tunnel that is your section entrance, the space around you goes from dark to light, making the experience and the stadium feel that much more grand and exciting. You suddenly leave the world behind and are in this beautiful ballpark, full of energy and neon lights. Perhaps tourists could compare this to coming up from the subway into Times Square? Or Virginians could compare to leaving the basement of New Cabell Hall and walking onto the lawn on a spring day? Whatever it is, there was a magical feeling when you stepped into the old stadium.

Anyway, since there are no dingy parts of the new stadium, this experience will be lacking from your visit. But, do not let this deter you! I highly recommend heading out to a game and checking out the new digs. You may have been hearing about the $2,000 seats, but believe me, cheap seats are available! Our tickets were only $19. Granted, our food cost more than that, but it was totally worth it when Jeter hit the 3-run double.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Aluminum Jungle

I've been either working or away most weekends the past few months, so this weekend I was really craving some museum time. I had major catching up to do on exhibitions (many of which I still haven't gotten to!) and planned my attack right as some other exhibitions were just opening. We saw five high-quality exhibitions this weekend, but the one that I've been thinking about the most is Roxy Paine's installation on the roof of the Met.

The roof garden (and exhibition) just opened last weekend, and on a warm, pre-Memorial day Friday evening, it was packed. The crowd, however, ended up really adding to the piece. Paine, who you may remember designed the aluminum trees in Madison Square Park a couple years ago, created an encompassing and tangled tree structure out of aluminum for the roof of the Met. It was invasive and complicated; confusing and elegant. Because of the crowds, you were constantly climbing through branches, meandering over and under these metal arms. The roof, crowded with ladies in heels and men in suits, holding cocktails and watching the sun set, literally became a jungle gym. It was fantastic!

The choice of aluminum made the sculpture light, rather than heavy, so it would sort of bounce around, and you could touch it and shake it, making branches on the other side of the space move in tandem. It was playful, and viewers were having fun. I was really surprised at how interactive the piece became - you could never just stand and look at it; you were engulfed by it.

This installation was a dark horse in the group of summer "blockbusters" we saw and I absolutely fell in love with it. I hope anyone who is in New York this summer will get a chance to see it!! The Roof Garden is open during Museum hours, as well as on Friday and Saturday evenings for cocktails, until 8:30pm. The sunset over the park is a must-see.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Tonight I am going here...

then here...

then here (Yum!)..

then here!


The New York Diet

One of my favorite weekly reads is Grub Street's The New York Diet, posted on Fridays. Each week, they ask someone to write simply about what they eat. The past two weeks have been chefs (Dan Barber and Jean-Georges Vongerichten), but their choices range from Broadway performers and models to editors and local politicians.

It's always interesting to make lists of what you eat, and voyeuristically look at other people's lists, but the way NY mag asks people to actually write about what they are eating - and why - makes it even more intriguing. You get to see the range of routines that people have, and it really makes you realize how our jobs and lifestyles end up dictating what/how we eat. After reading a few of them, you do start to see some patterns - generally people strive for healthy, but end up with at least a few (sometimes more!) gluttonous moments during the week - as well as the distinct individualism that comes with someone's eating habits.

If you're curious, I had plain oatmeal, vanilla yogurt, and homemade granola for breakfast. All mixed together, just the way I (and probably no one else) like it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Last night, I made spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Since I'm out of work at around 6, and Wright doesn't get out until 8 or 9 if he's lucky, it's been a lot of fun to take the time to make quality homemade meals for dinner recently (especially now that its warm enough to walk down to Whole Foods). Plus, Wright and his roommate Mike generally think anything I make them is great, so it's nice to know I'll be getting complimented no matter what disasters occur!

After I shot down Wright's meatloaf idea (I'm 23, I'm not making meatloaf) for our meal, I decided to compromise by making spaghetti with meatballs. Boring, perhaps, if I didn't have three hours to kill/cook. But with the time on my hands, I decided I'd make everything (minus the pasta - not enough counter space) from scratch. I also put a salad on the menu, being the typical girl I am. I went to Whole foods straight from work, spent under $15 for a meal for three (with leftovers!), and the food was delicious. Timely, yes, but very, very simple. Below, the haphazard recipes, written by moi and therefore probably confusing. Just ask if you have any questions.

Shopping List:
- 1 28 oz. can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 carrots (at WF they have a "loose carrots" bin - clutch)
- 3 onions (I like Vidalia - they are sweet)
- 1 lb. fettuccine (one box)
- 3/4 lb. ground beef
- arugula (enough for side salads for everyone)
- parmesan

Other ingredients I had on hand (but you may not):
- garlic (need about 3 big cloves)
- bread crumbs (need about two cups)
- one egg
- olive oil
- balsamic
- salt, pepper
- mustard
- chicken stock (about 1 cup)

Get going on the sauce right away, because you want it to cook down as long as possible (it was about 2 hours in my case). Dice two of the onions. Heat a large pot on the stove at about medium, add about a tablespoon of olive oil, and once it gets hot, add the onions. Add a handful of salt and let them sweat, oh I'd say about 5-10 minutes, until they are translucent and soft and juicy. While they are sauteing (and you are occasionally stirring) peel and dice the two carrots and two garlic cloves, then add them to the pot. Stir around and let cook until the veggies are soft. Add some pepper. Then, open up the can of tomatoes and put them in the pot. Add the chicken stock to make it more liquid-y, then bring to a boil. Then, bring the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer and cook down, it will start to thicken up eventually. Keep taste-testing and add any spices you wish - I threw some paprika in there, and more pepper. You'll probably want to heave in salt and pepper at the end to really fill it out. Also, I like a sweet tomato sauce, so if you want it more rustic, head towards spices like oregano.

Make your meatballs about 45 minutes before eating. Preheat oven to 350. Dice your third onion (smaller dices this time) and your garlic and put them in a mixing bowl. Add to the bowl the ground meat, about 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, the egg, and some freshly grated Parmesan. Mix with your hands to incorporate everything together. Add more breadcrumbs if they feel too goopy. Pour the rest of the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl. Make even sized meatballs out of the meat, roll them in the breadcrumbs, and place them on a baking dish. I think we had almost 20 meatballs total. Whenever you are 20 minutes away from eating, put the meatballs in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until cooked through, might be more like 25 depending on your oven and the size of the meatballs.

Ten or fifteen minutes before eating, get the pasta going (the usual boiling water routine). Cook the whole box. To make a simple vinaigrette for the salad, put 1 tablespoon of balsamic in the salad bowl. Add salt and pepper, as well as 1/2 tablespoon of mustard. Usually I use Dijon, but last night I used a whole grain for fun. Whisk together, then slowly pour in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, as you are whisking, so that everything incorporates. Taste, and add more of anything necessary. Then throw the arugula in the bowl and toss. I'm a big fan of really simple salads.

When you're finally ready (well, when the pasta is about ready), go ahead and hit the sauce with a little immersion blending. Unnecessary step if you don't mind a chunkier sauce, but I did like a half-blend, so that it was smoother, but still fairly rustic. Drain the pasta and put it back in the bowl. Add the sauce (we added all of it, maybe this is too much sauce for you though). Remove meatballs from oven. Serve pasta with meatballs on top, salad on side, while watching Gossip Girl. Monday night perfection!

Friday, May 08, 2009

May Flowers

Despite the exact date, we've certainly gotten our fair share of "April Showers" in New York the past week and a half - the rain just won't stop! Outside of my office window, however, the May flowers have finally arrived. When I started working here in January, my window view consisted of what I thought was a dead tree. But this week, it has suddenly bloomed, and not even with leaves, but with bright, beautiful, purple flowers!

I realize this isn't the most beautiful of images, especially with the screen in the bottom part, but I hope you can at least see the lovely purple color of the flowers! It looks much brighter in real life, I promise. Oh, and my office is on the 5th floor, thats why it is just the top of the trees (well, maybe it just looks like floating purple on the image to get a little bit of a better view)

The image above is the view out of my window to the right. Just for fun, I thought I'd share my view straight ahead:

A rainbow of catalogues! Quite picturesque, if I do say so myself. And believe it or not, I do have to sort through these and find certain ones fairly often.

And this is what my desk looks like. I try not to be messy, but I'll be honest, it usually does consist of "organized" piles like this. Anyone who knows me well knows that although I put off an air of organization and cleanliness, I am really not very neat at all. Anyway, now you can picture me at the gallery everyday! I know you are so thrilled. Hope you enjoyed this lame post. I'm going to see Model as Muse at the Met tomorrow, so I'll try to post a review shortly thereafter! Have a great weekend.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Rampalicious Vegetarian Dinner

On Saturday night, Wright and I hosted friends for dinner.  We played the usual "anything you don't eat?" game, and one friend was a vegetarian, which we aren't.  Here, a tale of the meal. 

Colleen and Phil were bringing wine and cheese, leaving Wright and I on our own for the main meal (which I think tends to be preferable when you're hosting, rather than trying to combine aspects or make them cook in your kitchen or deal with tupperware, etc.). Since the signs of Spring have been coming to New York in full swing the past few weeks, we spent the morning at the Farmer's market to prepare supplies.  Wright was really disappointed when I told him that no, we could not get a leg of lamb and make Phil starve. We'd do vegetarian, and I reminded him that even we have vegetarian meals sometimes without doing so on purpose.  It would be a healthy, fresh dinner. 

Since I've become creepily obsessed with Wright's immersion blender, I immediately thought to make soup.  Pasta would be an easy go-to, but I thought soup would be more creative.  Plus, it can be made in advance, so we could enjoy the wine and cheese without spending time in the kitchen (I say this as if the kitchen is separate from the living room, but of course it's not.  We ended up having cocktails on Wright's roof, which was perfect).  Anyway, we settled on a simple potato leek soup, and to promote eating [non-greenhouse] local foods, we grabbed some garlic chives to put on top.  I threw together a simple arugula salad, and Wright picked out a fresh baguette to do a roasted garlic bread.  

As I said, it was difficult to find anything actually grown locally and outdoors this time of year (not that I'm particularly picky about this, but when you go to the Farmer's Market, you might as well attempt to ride the wave of locavorism).  It being May 2, the only thing we could find (other than the garlic chives) that was in season for the area were ramps.  Now I've been perusing a few articles about ramps on various local-eating blogs (see post below), and they didn't sound all that exciting for the hype, but since they were the first crop of the season, we figured why not, and grabbed a bunch. 
Everything went swimmingly, and Phil and Colleen were excited to try cooking ramps.  [By the way, ramps are wild baby leeks, and they look kind of like scallions but leafier and with more of a bulb]. Since we were already being so brave with our decision to throw the ramps into the mix, we decided to hold back on the fancy preparation, so we (Phil) just sauteed them in butter and oil, holding the pan at an angle (like a Ramp!) so that the leaves didn't overcook while we waited for the bulbs to get tender.  

The verdict?  They were sweet, soft, and delicious.  The stems were a little chewy, but the flavor overall was great, and they were a lovely side dish for our soup and salad meal.  The crusty bread, fresh and simple salad, and creamy soup all made for a wonderful and surprisingly filling meal.  I'm sure Wright is grilling a steak for dinner tonight to offset the vegetable overload, but I for one felt great eating vegetarian - a light dinner was the perfect way to usher in Spring.  Almost as perfect as the buckets of rain we'll be getting all week, but that's a whole different story.  

Let me know if you want more info on what we made and how.  I'm sure I'll do a full post on the immersion blender soon, as it's my favorite toy. 

Friday, May 01, 2009


So, during these four months without writing my blog, I began to read some more blogs. I've gone through a few phases where I stick to certain kinds of blogs, or have become overwhelmed with too many blogs, but at this point I've tried to hone down my reading to a few highlights, and occasionally doing a big re-vamp/exploration where I go through blog lists and hunt for new ones. It's kind of fun. It's 2009.

So, for your perusing pleasure during your last few hours of the work week, here are some blogs that I've gotten into. Not a particularly secretive list or anything, but I hope there are at least one or two that you've yet to discover.

Food blogs: This is where I began my blog-reading habits a few years ago, and still my favorite kind of blog.
Smitten Kitchen
I recently discovered this blog and couldn't believe that I hadn't found it before. I love it.
Really great, simple recipes.
My cousin is a wonderful cook and currently in culinary school. She writes a wonderful blog about all of her adventures with food.
Big Girls, Small Kitchen
This blog is a great break from the prettypicturesandrecipes hole that many food blogs fall into. The "quarter-life-cooks," who are friends of a friend of mine, share their recipes and experiences with entertaining in New York.
Grub Street
I love New York Magazine.
I recently read Molly Wizenberg's book and couldn't put it down. Thus, I realized I needed to catch up on her blog, which launched the book. Backwards, I know, but the blog is great.
United Taste With Richard Reuben
Richard Reuben was a cooking instructor I had at ICE last summer. His blog focuses on fresh, local ingredients, providing recipes and whimsical writing. Great for keeping up with what is growing locally.

Art/Fashion/Culture blogs: I used to read these a lot more, but have recently trimmed my selection down to a few necessary highlights.
Style File
The best.
The Cut
The funniest.
I read it for the Lost episode recaps every Thursday morning. Hilarious.
A friend of Wright's started this website, which is somewhat New York focused, but provides great info on exhibitions, shows, and parties.
The Sartorialist
As I said, I used to read a lot of these types of blogs, but really have cut down to only Scott's. I find him to be the most timeless, since a lot of these are too trend-driven for me.
The Moment
A great combination of things, this is the blog for the Times' "T" magazine. They could work on the formatting, as its not my favorite, but still interesting.

Home/Lifestyle blogs:
Is it dorky that I love these? Well, I do.
I love the sneak peeks into various homes and apartments. Some people are so creative! This blog makes me really excited to move.
The Pioneer Woman
This blog has won countless awards. At first I didn't really understand why anyone would want to read the random musings of a woman who lives on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, but I've grown to absolutely love it. Ree is a transplanted city girl, now raising four kids and running a cattle ranch with her "Marlboro Man" cowboy husband. Its quite funny, and she takes beautiful pictures.

OK that's all for now. have a great weekend!

PS. How many times do you think I used the word "blog" in this post? It's really difficult because there are no other words for it. It sounds so funny when read aloud.