Sunday, August 22, 2010

25 things

The reason I moved is this: Exactly a month ago, I parted ways with my now ex-boyfriend. It was finally time to accept that we did not bring out the best in each other and move on. I walked out of that life right into a summer as a single lady filled with fun things and happiness. I so appreciate the dear friends who helped make that possible, including the support of many of you reading this now.

With this new beginning, comes the chance to take on a whole host of adventures. My birthday is in just a few months at the end of November, and I decided to put together a list of 25 things to work on accomplishing before I turn 26 (inspired by these lovely ladies). The focus is on cultivating an active social life, tackling green projects I have been meaning to do, and reviving my musicianship. Clearly, I've got a good start on this list over the past few weeks.

1. Visit Gina in Colorado. 11/4-11/8 recap pending
2. Visit little miss homebuyer Caitlin's new house upstate. 8/21 a night at her lakeview bungalow with a fire pit!
3. Visit the Jersey shore with my family. last weekend of August
4. Have a dance party in an apartment. 7/24 one of Jamie's infamous dance parties until the sun came up.
5. Go to a dance party at a bar. 10/30 Halloween party at Union Hall and others since.
6. Stay up until sunrise. see #4
7. Throw a party. 9/24 party with cupcakes
8. Host ThanksgivingFAIL in 2010. cooked all the side dishes for Thanksgiving 2011.
9. Attend more concertshave been good about going to about 4 shows a month.
10. Get a tattoo, or think about getting onedecided not to get one because i am worried about putting toxic inks into my body.
13. Attend a Transportation Alternatives meeting. got involved with the Bushwick Food Coop instead.
15. Make homemade deodorant and other body productsmade deodorant in October 2011; need to blog about this
16. Trim my hair12/25/2011 finally
17. Write something every day. started a journal to write at least a sentence or more about each day.
18. Write a new song. 9/9/10 done, several written since then.
19. Play a show at Rockwood Music Hallit's harder to get a show at Rockwood then I thought. played four shows in 2011.
20. Collaborate with musical friends. joined the band Sexy Neighbors
21. Play in the folk jam at Sunny's in Red Hook.
22. Audition for a choir. 8/15/10 waitlisted. not currently interested in joining a choir again. 
23. Fit into my skinny pants. decided i don't care as long as i know i'm getting my exercises in by bike commuting and feel healthy
24. Model in a shoot for my photographer friend. she shot my band photos but still no solo promo photos.
25. Knit a scarf. 10/19/10 birthday gift for a friend. March 2011 knit a scarf for myself as well.
26. Get a new job9/9/10 new position at same organization....1/4/11 new job at new organization!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Almond Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

My blueberry lavender ice cream was good, but a bit too novelty for my taste. My favorite ice creams have lots and lots of chocolate chips or other fillings with a contrasting crunch. I thought about making mint chocolate chip with fresh mint from a recently purchased herb plant, but read that mint extract is what's actually needed to achieve the traditional mint chip flavor. Lacking in mint extract, I realized I did have almond extract hanging around. So, almond chocolate chip it would be, tinged with the essence of almond, and amplified with crushed nuts and chunks of bitter dark chocolate.

Yes. This was so effing good. And this time the hand churning worked like a charm, yielding parlor-quality fluffy, creamy ice cream. You need to make this now, before summer's heat wanes. I made my roommates and everyone who came over this week partake in a tasting, which they were all happy to do. I savored the final scoops last night and am preparing another similar batch already.

Almond Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from Cathy Erway's mint chip ice cream

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 3/4 cups whole or reduced fat milk
2/3 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup almonds, preferably roasted and crushed or finely chopped
3.5 oz. (1 bar) 70-85% good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped

Warm cream, milk, and sugar in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved and just before steaming. Remove from heat and wait approximately 30 minutes to let cool. Whisk three egg yolks in a separate bowl. Slowly whisk half a cup of the milk mixture into the eggs, and then another half cup, to temper the eggs. Then, slowly whisk the egg mixture into the saucepan. Cook over low heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, add almond extract, and let cool. Transfer to an airtight container in fridge overnight to chill completely.

Prepare according to ice cream machine directions, or hand churn by putting container in freezer and removing to whisk every 30-90 minutes over the course of a few hours until it reaches the desired consistency. Add almonds and chocolate chips. Scoop. Enjoy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fried Green Cherry Tomatoes and Okra

Unfortunately, I was unable to rehome my tomato plants when I moved, because I had let them grow too tall and spindly, making them cumbersome to transport. These three cherry tomato plants had thus far only produced a few ripe red fruits; given another two or three weeks they would yield a bountiful supply of tomatoes, but under the circumstances, I made the best of it and picked off all the little green tomatoes. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life gives you green tomatoes, you fry them, which likewise transforms the bitter to the sweet.

While I was at it, I decided to also fry okra, which is currently available at the farmers market. Fried okra makes a nice little snack, and I'd always wanted to try making it myself since a picnic long ago, when a bowl was passed round full of crunchy little okra bites perfect for popping into our mouths.

It turns out that cherry tomatoes are not ideal for dredging and frying because there are not enough nooks and crannies for the cornmeal to cling to. You can see below the little green globes devoid of fried goodness. I still enjoyed it, but I'd recommend sticking to full sized sliced green tomatoes and/or okra for this preparation.

Cornmeal Shallow-Fried Okra
Chop okra into 1/2 inch round slices. Chop cherry tomatoes in half. Prepare one bowl with an egg, whisked with a little water. Prepare another bowl with 1 cup cornmeal, salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Working with batches of okra a handful at a time, stir okra into egg mixture, and then transfer with a slotted spoon into the cornmeal mixture and toss until thoroughly coated.

Many recipes call for deep frying in a pot of oil, but I don't think that's necessary. Instead, I pour a shallow layer of sunflower or olive oil into a pan and heat until sizzling. Let the vegetables fry a few minutes until browned, and then flip to brown the other side. Remove to a plate lined with paper or cloth towel to absorb some of the oil. Repeat with remaining batches. Let cool before serving.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Scallops over Summer Vegetable Couscous

While staying with friends last week, I wanted to extend my thanks by cooking them dinner. I decided on an easy summer meal of quickly-cooked scallops over a couscous salad featuring tomatoes, corn, peppers, and basil. This is a relatively sweat-free dinner, as scallops only take a few minutes to cook on each side in olive oil in a hot pan, until lightly browned. And couscous! It's so amazingly speedy that I don't know why I ignored it all these years, especially since you can also find whole grain durum varieties.

I had some awesome sweet and tender scallops from Pura Vida Fisheries (found at Union Square Greenmarket on Fridays) earlier in July, so this dish was inspired by my craving for more of that. Unfortunately the market was already sold out of scallops this time around, so I bought a bag of frozen scallops from Whole Foods. The frozen ones were passable, but were nowhere near achieving that same taste. Despite letting the thawed scallops drain beforehand, they released too much water during the cooking process to brown quickly and ended up on the tough side. Now I know for next time it's only worth it if I can get scallops fresh from Long Island. Plan on approximately a quarter pound of scallops per serving.

Before preparing the scallops, get the corn started: bring a large pot of water to boil, shuck corn, add to pot and let boil for approximately five minutes. Use tongs to remove corn from pot and set aside. After corn has cooled, run a knife along the cob to cut off the corn kernels.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of 1 1/4 cup of water to boil with a splash of olive oil and salt. Stir 1 cup of couscous into the water, remove from heat, let rest covered for five minutes, and then fluff with a fork.

Dice tomatoes and peppers. Pick a handful of basil or other herbs such as parsley and chiffonade herbs into tiny strips.

Combine vegetables and couscous in a large bowl. Serve a few scallops atop each plate of couscous. Makes approximately five small servings. We complemented this meal with a lovely salad prepared by one of my friends, and they claimed it was one of the best meals ever shared in their home.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

July Farmers Market Hauls and Heirlooms

July is the delicious month when all the summer bounty appears at New York farmers markets. I missed a few markets this month due to camping trips and moving apartments, but let's reminisce on how happy I was to see tomatoes, corn, and peppers!

July 17: Bluberries, raspberries, baby-sized carrots, and Cato Corner Bloomsday Cheese (their sharpest and nuttiest cheese, my personal favorite) for a picnic on Governor's Island. First peppers and eggplant of the season! Corn in the second week of its season, and tomatoes in their third. Eggs, milk, broccoli, and peaches, as well.

July 24: A smaller haul because of my nomadic nature that week in between apartments. This was my first time buying okra for making southern-style fried okra. That big pink tomato at top is Brandywine, an heirloom variety, best sliced and eaten simply with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil to savor its sweet flavor. Unlike the majority of tomatoes found in supermarkets everywhere, which have been bred to withstand long travel and still look uniformly round, heirloom tomatoes are unique varieties that were historically cultivated by small farms for their unique tastes. Commercial hybrid varities have come to dominate the market, edging out small farms and heirlooms, which offer greater diversity of pest and disease resistence and adapation to specific growing conditions. Buy some to help preserve biodiversity and to support farmers! Coming up are recipes to highlight these stars of summer produce!