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The best laid plans…

27 Jul

Last night I arrived at Holly’s apartment for book club, only to find her in the kitchen, holding a huge watermelon.

“Here,” she gestured toward her laptop. “Look at this site and see if you see anything easy on it that I can make.”

The website featured watermelon carvings that looked pretty professional. “Um… you’re going to try to make one of these for book club?” I clarified.

She nodded. “I hate watermelon. But I thought it would be refreshing. And I could make it look cool.”

“You think you can pull this off in 15 minutes? Because people are going to be here soon and they look kind of complicated,” I was impressed by her ambition.

Again she nodded, then, turning to me, she said, “You know, I think I’ll make a boat and put this pineapple top on it like a tail!”

And as she said this, behind her, in what seemed to be slow motion, the watermelon proceeded to roll off the counter and land on the floor, where it broke into two chunks and splatted juice everywhere:

Kind of looks like a crime scene, no?

“Well, I think that makes the decision easier,” I told her.

“Did I mention?” she responded, “I fucking hate watermelon.”

It would’ve looked better with a flash.

23 May

Oh. I also made the bowl, bitchez.

Tonight I had a “clean out the fridge” dinner that ended exceptionally well. So well that I felt compelled to post it on Facebook, jot down the recipe (so I don’t forget it in a drunken stupor) and snap a photo of it with my phone before eating. Wow. Pretty ambitious for a Monday, don’t you think?

Anyway, here’s the recipe, straight off the press, as I remember it.

Clean The Fridge Stuffed Pork Chops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butterfly pork chops.

Prepare five bowls:

  1. Diced arugula drizzled with lemon juice.
  2. Freshly grated parmesan cheese. Maybe a few cubes of mozzarella if you have it on hand.
  3. Whisked egg white.
  4. Bread crumbs (salted and peppered).
  5. Diced rehydrated sundried tomatoes seasoned with dried basil and oregano. (Or, you can totally substitute tomato pasta sauce with basil – but go light on it.)

Stuff each porkchop with arugula, cheese, a dollop of tomato “sauce,” then pass through egg whites and bread crumbs.

Top with any shredded parmesan that is left. The more, the better.

Bake uncovered for about 55 minutes on 350 on a rack. You can also put asparagus (with olive oil, parmesan and salt) on the rack for the same amount of time.

YUM.

Shit that is really not helpful.

22 Apr

Just finished making dinner. Despite the fact that I like to cook, tonight’s meal is Ramen Noodles. That’s right – 33¢ per pack, friends. A staple of college students everywhere. And me. Because I love them. They’re a Friday Night Guilty Pleasure if ever I’ve had one.

Creamy Chicken is my favorite, but most DC stores don’t sell that, so I settle for the shy half-sister, straight-up Chicken flavor. And don’t even get me started on the noodles I remember from my childhood… there were Ramen that were 2-3 times as wide as these, and a bit firmer. They were (sigh) awesome. And are now utterly discontinued. (Double sigh.)

And as one further side note, let’s all send a mental “thank you” to my mother, who taught me that the key to awesome Ramen is to drain off the water and eat them as seasoned noodles rather than soup. For a woman whose other speciality is fried okra, that is what we call VERSATILITY.

So I’m making them (by which I mean BOILING them) with the timer set for three minutes. I know: when something only needs to cook for three minutes, I probably shouldn’t set the timer and go back into the living room to read. I should stand over the stove and wait. Or wash a dish or something while I wait. But I’m OCD so my kitchen is already spotless, and I’m uber-efficient so just standing there seems like a waste of time.

The point is, I set the timer and sat down. And then it beeped. Fair enough. Time to get the noodles. But I wanted to finish the paragraph I was on, and Ramen noodles really aren’t at risk for OVER cooking. Not like you can spoil a 33¢ meal.

But the timer just kept beeping. And beeping. It reminded me of the scene from “Three Amigos” where Steve Martin was  trying to discreetly get Martin Short and Chevy’ Chase’s attention by whistling, “Look up here!” repeatedly, as if he were a bird. (No clue what I’m referencing? Check out this video:)

Hey Mr. Engineer: Not Helpful. Let me guess, your mom was something of a nag? She wouldn’t leave you alone until whatever it was that was on her mind was addressed?

Well guess what? The rest of the world doesn’t function that way. Tell me once that my noodles are ready, then let me be a big girl. If I want to wait until the water has evaporated and they’re stuck to the bottom of the pan, then so be it. Much more preferable than listening to you chirp away harassing me.

On the fourth set of chirps, I finally responded, stomping into my kitchen ready to stab the timer button with one of my new Shun knives and leave it completely immobilized. But guess what? There, in my kitchen, stood Steve Martin, holding a plate of perfectly cooked Ramen for my dinner and glaring at me for not realizing they were waiting.

So I let it slide. Just this once.

Shuns: what ninjas use when they’re not performing stunts.

22 Mar

Let me start by claiming I’m a pretty decent cook. I’m curious about food. I read about food. I have a pretty good sense of what flavors complement each other, and what techniques best develop those flavors. And – most importantly – I spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen experimenting.

Knowing this, Alan has found it inexplicable that I stubbornly use a set of poor quality kitchen knives that I won via a contest back in the late 1990s. (Yes, let’s digest that for a moment: WON KNIVES IN A CONTEST. My life parallels the plot from “Glengarry Glen Ross” with surprising detail.)

Back to the knives. In my defense: they were sharp when I got them. I guess (like anything else) I’ve just adjusted as they gradually lost their edge.

This fall I finally confessed that I agreed with Alan’s assessment, that they were CRAPPY knives. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, he responded with, “Great. That’s what I’m getting you for Christmas: real knives.”

We finally went this weekend to Sur la Table so I could handle all of the knives and see what felt right. Forty minutes later, we walked out with a set of Shun Premier knives. Holy awesomeness.

I’ll admit, I was initially prejudiced against the Shuns based on appearance. As I told Alan, “If I didn’t know anything about knives and saw these in someone’s kitchen, I would assume they bought them at World Market for $50.” They just look a bit OVER THE TOP.

And by “over the top,” I mean they look like something a samurai should carry in sheath, not something for my urban kitchen. On the up-side, I figure if I ever have dinner guests and the conversation stalls out, I can whip out one of these knives and use it to segue into the story of my surviving a car accident due to my mad ninja moves.

“I realize these aren’t traditional knives,” I can imagine myself saying. “But ever since my ninja training saved my life, I feel a real affinity for all things Asian.”

Anyway, suffice it to say: if I chose the knife that I liked least on the basis of appearance, it must mean it did something pretty spectacular when I held it. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

I’ll admit, these knives are more than a little frightening. Having had a dull set for over a decade, I realize how easy it would be to cut myself. I’ve already told Alan it’s a foregone conclusion that it WILL happen, so he shouldn’t freak out when I tell him it has.

He just shook his head at that thought. I guess I’ve done a good job desensitizing him to random ER stints… as any good ninja should. Now bring me some tin cans so I can show you what these knives are really capable of!

I think I might explode.

8 Mar

Whoa. I finally got around to cutting the fresh bacon slab I ordered from Arganica last week.

(For those of you in the DC area, an Arganica membership is worth it just to get this meat; if you live in Pennsylvania, then you can just walk your sweet ass over to Schmidt’s – assuming you can find Steelton, PA – and pick up a slab.)

And yes, you heard me correctly: the bacon arrived fresh in a slab, meaning it was uncut. That’s why it’s extra fun and super special.

Tonight I hacked the pound into “lardons” (see THIS for an explanation if – like my sister – you think a lardon is a hard-on caused by bacon), and decided to fry up a few to make a Salade Paysanne for dinner. I haven’t had a true Salade Paysanne since I lived in France, but tonight’s meal brought it all back. If only I’d had a glass of Cotes du Rhone to go with it, my memory would be complete.

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