Wednesday, February 24, 2010


About a year and a half ago, I started watching the TV show Lost from episode one. About a year and 5 months and one week ago, I had watched four seasons and could not think about anything else. Luckily, I made Wright and my mom start watching as well, so I was in good company.

Lost has become one of my favorite TV shows, by far. And no, I'm not normally into sci fi or drama shows, I tend to watch bravo and sit coms. But this show.... it's just so good. Good enough that every Tuesday night (or in last season's case, Wednesday night), my plans center around it. And the next day, well, any Lost fan can tell you what they do the day after the episode (ahem).

Last night was no exception. Our Lost group gathered at Wright's apartment and we drank Dharma beer and ate boar and papaya (well, pork tenderloin with a pineapple relish). We talked and talked about theories and got excited about the episode, which, by the way, was hands down the best episode I've ever seen.

Lost is an addiction, and one I'd recommend, even if just for the theme dinners.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ina Garten's Parmesan Crackers

I've been thinking about this recipe, from Ina Garten's most recent cookbook Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics for awhile. Something about it was so intriguing. Perhaps it was the fact that these crackers sound dull and look dull? Or that the recipe was bizarrely simple? I just couldn't imagine them being anything but tough, thick, boring, and thirst-inducing. But I trust Ina. I knew she'd prove me wrong.

The crackers are so easy and are officially the best make-ahead appetizer. I did the dough about four days in advance of cooking them and left it sitting in a log in my refrigerator. When I was ready, I just sliced and baked! In twenty minutes, I had delicious crackers that packed a punch of flavor with such simplicity. I really couldn't get over it. They were the right kind of buttery - enough to not be crumbly, but not so much that they are greasy. Ina pulled through, per usual, and totally impressed me with this recipe.

Parmesan and Thyme Crackers
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup grated parmesan
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1. Cream the butter for about a minute using an electric mixer.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and combine
3. Dump dough onto floured board and form into a log. If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water (I did)
4. Wrap log in plastic and place in freezer for 30 minutes, in refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in freezer for up to 6 months
5. Bake at 350 for 22 minutes, until slightly golden. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Please Fix My Hard Drive Pasta

I had a hard drive issue last weekend, you can read the complete story here. One of my favorite go-to dishes for things like begging friends to help me with technological traumas or making dinner for my boyfriend's roommates while he is away is this pasta dish. It takes some time, but the actual in the kitchen effort is quite minimal. It's also something that's easy to do in someone else's kitchen, as there aren't too many tools involved, and the ingredients are easy enough that someone else can pick them up for you. Are you catching my drift? This dish is simple and it totally rocks.

Please Fix My Hard Drive Pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 yellow onions
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage
1/3 cup white wine
1 28-oz can of whole tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound pasta (I like to use fettucine or linguine for this sauce)
Fresh Basil (a large bunch)
Freshly grated parmesan

1. Dice onion. Set a wide, heavy pan or pot on the stove, medium heat. Add olive oil and once hot, onion. Saute, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.
2. Mince garlic. Add to onions. Add salt and pepper. Stir.
3. Cut open sausages and remove the meat from the casing. Add meat to the pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Allow to brown, turning only occasionally, about 10 minutes.
4. Pour in wine and let reduce for a minute or two. Add the can of tomatoes and bring to a boil.
5. Let boil for one minute, then turn it down to a simmer. Add paprika and cinnamon.
6. Simmer for as long as you can, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Make pasta as instructed on the box, and add it to the sauce when almost al dente. Let it finish cooking in the sauce, and serve with plenty of basil (julienned) and parmesan.

Technology Trauma

I'm going to tell a [kind of long] story about my weekend last weekend. No, this was not my entire weekend, I also went to see the movie Valentine's Day. On Valentine's Day. True. I should also preface that my boyfriend was away this weekend, so I was fending for myself. And yes, I had to fend. Fend off technology disasters. Anyway, the story.

I got home late Friday night to a bizarre clicking noise in my apartment. What could it be? After stumbling around flipping switches and unplugging and plugging everything from my laptop to my hair dryer, I decided to just get in bed and watch TV to drown it out. Turns out the clicking noise was my TV. My cable box, to be more specific. So there would be no drowning it out with TV. I unplugged the cable box and went to sleep.

I woke up wishing this situation was a dream. It wasn't. My cable box was broken and I had a weekend ahead of me where I was planning on doing things like avoiding the cold by catching up on my DVR and avoiding Valentine's Day by watching romantic comedies that would undoubtedly be on TV all weekend. Fail. Anyway, I spent much of Saturday morning on the phone with the cable company and eventually we figured out that my hard drive was broken. Yes, apparently cable boxes have hard drives. I was unaware.
The cable box would need to be replaced. Next available appointment? NEXT Saturday. Or I could bring my box to a local payment center. I scheduled the appointment. About three minutes later, however, I decided I'd just have to bring it in. I couldn't do a week, and I had to face the music: the local payment center was only 5 blocks away, so it really would be pathetic to not go.

Fully prepared to face the line of people carrying cable boxes at Time Warner, I was stopped dead in my tracks. My cable box is set up underneath my TV. As in, my (very heavy) TV rests on top of it. In order to get the cable box out, someone had to lift the TV up. How could I do this by myself? I couldn't. Two people were required. A mere 12 hours went by with Wright away and I already was a disaster. I called him, obviously in a complete panic. He reminded me that Hallie lives in my building and she has a strong boyfriend. They could help me. They did. I was very thankful.

I went to Time Warner. It was unbelievably easy. Within an hour my cable was up and running and back on track. Look at me! Solving problems! I quickly sat down and began setting up my DVR recordings but immediately realized that one channel in particular did not work. Just one channel. And of all the channels, it was the Food Network. Cue "dun dun dun dunnn" music.

Back on the phone with Time Warner, only to find out that this is a normal issue, it would be cleared in 24-48 hours. Phew! And guess what? A silver lining! I had access to ALL channels. As in HBO, Encore, Starz, Showtime, everything! A frenzy of recording movies ensued.

I lasted 24 hours until I had to put in my food network DVDs to make up for the loss. And sure enough, when Food Network came back on Monday morning, all of my movie channels turned off. To be honest, I didn't care. The movies I'd recorded still worked (!!) and Food Network mattered more. I just can't survive without Ina. It's embarrassing, but true. Almost as embarrassing as the fact that I loved the movie Valentine's Day. Or that I just wrote a whole post about my cable box.

Alas, the story does not end there. There is another chapter. There was another crash. Another hard drive crash. Only this time, it was a hard drive I knew about: my external hard drive. The one that holds all of college on it. And all of my pictures. The back up one, that I thought I was being sooo good about having in the first place. Yeah, it crashed on Sunday.

This story is shorter, but much more emotional. It was Valentine's Day. Wright was away. I potentially lost all of the photos documenting our trips, our memories, our last six years together, everything. There were tears. There was panic. There was wine.

Ever-wonderful Wright eventually called back overly emotional Calvine (and by eventually I mean three minutes later, which felt like an eternity) and reassured her that it would probably be fine, and if not we'd just go on all of our trips over again. That made me laugh and I was okay.

As luck would have it, one of Wright's best friends and roommates is a computer genius. I brought the hard drive to Brian on Tuesday, made him dinner and asked him if there was any chance in the world he could fix it. He was not all that comforting, I won't lie. But he got out his tools, which looked so foreign to me it was embarrassing, and began to do things to the hard drive that I won't even try to explain. The important part is, two hours later, we were eating homemade linguine with bolognese and looking at pictures from my trip to Costa Rica with Wright. He saved everything on four backed up hard drives, so this would never happen again, and all was right in the world. Wright came home the next day and life continued.

The end.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

After such a success with the coffee cake last week, I've been on a bit of a breakfast baked goods kick. I enjoyed my slice of coffee cake and half grapefruit so much each morning, why not spend the time to make a batch of muffins or a loaf of bread over the weekend that you can enjoy for the remainder of the week?

My timing was perfectly aligned with Mark Bittman's Whole Wheat Muffin article in last week's Dining Section, so I knew exactly what I'd be making this weekend. His article is a basic method for whole wheat muffins, with a lot of room for experimentation and flavor additions. This is my favorite kind of recipe: it gives you a solid foundation upon which to work, but allows you to make decisions and additions that help you feel like you're making something that is your own.

The muffins were delicious, and the process so simple. I decided to use up the last of my frozen roasted pumpkin for the main flavor, and also added golden raisins and toasted walnuts. The recipe is very flexible - feel free to substitute the pumpkin for (as Bittman suggests) mashed bananas, apples, zucchini and the like. Add-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, dried cranberries, or coconut are another way to come up with an interesting flavor combination.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Raisin Muffins
Adapted from Mark Bittman

1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin (canned is okay)
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts (toasted)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Either butter or place paper linings in muffin tins (makes about eight muffins).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
3. In a medium bowl, beat egg. Whisk in melted butter (cooled), pumpkin, and buttermilk.
4. Fold wet ingredients into dry and mix until combined. Stir in raisins and walnuts and scoop into muffin tins.
5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until muffins are pugged and turning golden brown on top.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day Coffee Cake

Is there anything better than a snow day? There's a beautiful storm outside my window and I've got the day to myself. I sprung to action and hit the grocery store early - what else would I do but play in the kitchen when it looks like this outside?

I decided immediately that it was time for my first coffee cake. This is one of those breakfast items that I just never get around to making - who has the time to spend almost two hours baking before eating breakfast? Not me. But with the gallery closed and a winter wonderland outside, today I have the time. (Don't worry, I had a grapefruit to tide me over earlier this morning).

The cake was very easy to pull together and came out exactly like I'd hoped it would. I ended up bumping up the flavors a fair amount, so this ends up being a little bit more interesting than your standard coffee cake. The topping was flavorful and not overly sweet; the cake was moist and delicious. It was the perfect texture - dense enough for a breakfast cake but light enough that you aren't overwhelmed. I'm certainly going to be making this again, and I won't be waiting until the next snow day.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

pinch of cloves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Place parchment paper on the bottom.
3. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until combined after each. Add vanilla and sour cream.
5. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until combined.
6. Combine chopped nuts, brown sugar, remaining cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl (or just use the dry ingredients bowl you already have out). Use your fingers to make sure the brown sugar is properly broken up.
7. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Cover with half of sugar/nut/spice mixture. Pour remaining batter over, and sprinkle the top with remaining mixture.

8. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the cake has set and a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Sunday Routine

Each Sunday, the New York Times interviews a New Yorker about their "Sunday Routine." The activities are as varied as the New Yorkers - from David Chang to John McEnroe - but one thing remains the same: a routine. I love the idea of having a Sunday routine, and recently realized that I've subconsciously developed one myself. Isn't a relaxing routine what Sundays are for?

I almost always sleep in on Sundays, and then Wright and I have a lazy morning of reading the paper. We've even gotten down the system of who reads which sections first - he likes Week in Review, I must begin with the cover. Sunday Styles is always saved for last, because it is the best. Book Review second to last. I sound like the commercials. Anyway, there is nothing more relaxing than reading the Sunday Times and ordering bagels for delivery.

If there was a new episode of Saturday Night Live on the night before, we'll turn that on at some point. It's nice to have in the background of paper-reading, so that you can ignore skits you don't like and watch those you do. DVR has done wonders for this show, I think - I'd never really watched it live before, since at 11:30 on a Saturday night I'm either out, or if I'm home, I'm already asleep. Anyway, it's been fun to watch, and I like Kenan Thompson, since he reminds me of being a pre-teen and watching All That on Saturday nights.

Around noon or 1pm, we'll venture outside, even if it's freezing. It's just nice to bundle up and brave it, even if only for a few minutes. We usually run errands, almost always to Barnes and Noble, the Whole Foods Beer Store, and Kiehl's. They are all kind of in the same area, and though varied, each is a fun trip that almost always leaves us with empty wallets. But that's okay, it's relaxing!

We then hit one of two places for lunch: Defonte's of Brooklyn (the Manhattan one, on 21st and 3rd) or Luke's Lobster. This weekend we went to Luke's - I'm not sure why lobster rolls taste so good in the winter, but they really do. I guess it's the taste of summer! And Defonte's is super comforting - they have delicious heroes, my favorite being the eggplant parmesan.

By this time, it's about 3pm. The past few months, we've then headed back to Wright's or to a bar to meet up with friends and watch whatever football game is on. After this weekend, though, that plan will be moot, so we'll have to see what new routine we fall into. Let's be honest, it will probably involve cooking!