Thursday, August 28, 2008


Here are two of my favorite things for dessert.  Actually, I have a lot of favorite things for dessert.  These just happen to be 2 of them.  :)  Banana bread and these cookies called melting moments.  Both recipes come out of this cookbook that is so retro it's post-modern.  No, really.  It is called The Pleasures of Your Food Processor, by Norene Gilletz.  It is the anti-food-porn cookbook.  It's food porn literotica, I suppose.  It is brown and yellow, and I don't just mean the stains on the pages.  The book is in a binder form and my mom's had it forever.  I used to resent this particular version of banana bread when I was a kid when all the other kids had their beautiful white slices of cake from cake mixes.  I had my funky brown 'nanner bread to go with my gazillion pounds of fruit and stanky hummus and baba ganoush ethnic sandwiches, and boy, did my life suck at lunch time.  

But now, in my advanced age, I realize that this banana bread is in fact a gem in its moist brown caramelized gorgeous state.  It is particularly delicious when a slice is soaked in a bit of rum with vanilla ice cream on top.  ...Because we all have to go to heaven sometimes, here's the recipe:

3 med very ripe bananas (blacker the better)
1 c sugar
3 tsp baking soda
dash salt
2 eggs
1/4 c oil
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c butter milk/sour milk. (aka, 1 tsp lemon juice and milk to equal 1/2 c)

- Dump 'nanners in food processor and puree, followed by sugar, soda, and salt; process for 30 more seconds.  
- Add eggs and oil, process till blended, ~10 sec.
- Pour flour over, add buttermilk, and blend 8-10 sec until smooth.

Line a loaf pan (9x5) with buttered parchment paper (I used a buttered and floured tin; it works perfectly).  Dump in batter, and bake at 275 F for 2 1/2 hours.

Yeah, I know.  2.5 hours.  It's a lot, but baby, it is SO WORTH IT.  Also, I like adding a lot of walnuts.  They get brown too in there.  This is what all banana bread recipes should aspire to.  And it freezes well.

Ok, so this other recipe is good for when you have to bring something to a party.  It isn't super high-yield, so I'd go for 2 batches if you have to bring it somewhere where there are more than 12 attendees.  These cookies are called melting moments (from the same cookbook as above), and they're nothing but butter (or margerine) and flour and sugar, just you don't have to monkey around with a stupid cookie press.  With the use of margerine, they effortlessly translate into a vegan dessert.  If you don't tell anyone but the resident vegan(s), no one else will know.  

3/4 c butter or margerine in chunks
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 c pecans/walnuts/I tried almonds, and they're good too.
powdered (icing) sugar

- process butter with brown sugar and vanilla until well-creamed.  Add flour and nuts, processing until just mixed with several on/off pulses.  Form into small balls with your hands, ~1 inch in diameter, and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 F for 20 minutes.  Let cool completely, and dust with powdered sugar before serving.  

You can add chocolate chips with or instead of the nuts, but I'd stick to 1 c of add-ins total.  These puppies disappear in no time, hence the name.  They're not too sweet, and they have a sandy, crumbly texture.  My mom used to make them all the time, and the smell of them baking always makes me think of holidays and family gatherings.  Be careful, though.  Ration them carefully.  Because you'll keep going back for one more and they're small, so the "just one more" is far, far too easily justified.  They freeze really well, so you can ration them out and put the rest away... out of sight, out of mind, no?  :)

Anyway, I never post dessert things.  Life is too short to miss dessert.

Curried Chicken

This recipe for curried chicken allegedly came out of the Bombay Jews.  I'm nicking it from this cookbook my dad has.  Stay with me here because there are a lot of ingredients.  I know, not easy, but SO worth the effort.  It's not hard - it's essentially a stew after all - but it's not salad.  

- oil to sautee 
- 2 med. chopped onions
- 1 lb chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned, should be ~ 3 cups; I've used pureed tomatoes from a can and everyone loves it)
- 1 tblsp basic green masala (I'll post this below)
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp dry masala for meat (posted below)
- 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- salt to taste
- 3 1/2 lbs chicken, skinned with excess fat trimmed off (I like thighs and drumsticks on the bone, but you can use whatever you want)
- 1/2 c water
- 2 medium potatoes, cubed.

- Stirfry onions in oil until brown but not burned.  Add tomatoes and stir briskly for 2 min, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add all three masalas and spices (ginger and turmeric and salt), stirring for 5 minutes.
- Add in chicken and water, cover and cook ~45 minutes until chicken is done.  If water evaporates too fast, add more.  
- Add potatoes, simmer until they're tender, ~15 minutes.

About the spices... buy garam masala at your local Indian grocery.  

Dry Masala for Meat:
1 tblsp hot chili flakes
1 tblsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground anise seed
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

Mix and store.  This will obv. last a while...

Green Masala
4 oz fresh cilantro leaves
1 head of garlic, ~8 cloves
4-6 oz semihot green chili
1/2 tsp salt

Blenderize and put in the fridge.  You don't have to make the above for one batch of curried chicken.  Just chop a tbsp worth of cilantro and garlic.  Then throw in as much chili as you want. 

I know the recipe seems like a big deal, but dude.  It is so tasty.  I think of it in three stages, the sautee, the spices, and the simmering.  The onions and tomato are the sautee, all the spices are next, and then the chicken goes in (followed by the potatoes) which is the simmer.  Serve it over rice, basmati if you have it.  You can leave out the meat for a vegetarian crowd and use several cans of beans instead.  I've never tried it with tofu or tempeh, but I doubt that'll be bad.  If you want to control the heat, leave out the chili flakes in the masala for meat.  (NB: Masalas are just spice blends.)  You can also ratchet up the heat by tossing in more chili.  Even sans capsaicin, it's very flavorful.  I made it with just the slightest hint of heat, and it was good for everyone, with minced fresh cayenne peppers on the side (from my mom's garden, of course!).  

This is one of my favorite things to eat.  Try it.  :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Night of Glop

Tonight, we shall be feasting upon glop! Yes, after the fried chicken and booze festival, everything is back to normal. There's a thing of hummus with the appropriate hot stuff to put on top, eggplant mush, and guacamole. And some sauteed beet greens in garlic. The beet greens were FREE. So that means they taste even better than normal because I'm a graduate student, and I take the garbage from the farmers because it's FREE. FREE BEET GREENS FOR ALL. Oh yes. They're normally quite tasty, but nothing goes better with garlic and olive oil than FREE.

But for all the glop (hummus, eggplant, guacamole), I need some pita (because pita, tortillas; corn, wheat; what's the difference, really?). I also need to make some lima and dill rice (it's a Persian thing) because we got fresh giant lima beans at the farmers' market the other day. And I have some zucchinis, which will be turned into zucchini, onion, and tomato glop.

And I think I'm going to roast the cauliflower that's been languishing in the veggie drawer of the fridge. No idea what to put on it. Maybe I'll blenderize a sauce out of mustard, capers, and vinegar to drizzle over the finished product... hm. I like that. But first I'm going to the gym.

You know, I've always been afraid I'd be that moron who trips and shoots off the back of a treadmill... so far it hasn't happened. I'll surely write about it if it does.

Monday, August 18, 2008


This is what I had for dinner last night and for lunch today. It's miiiighty tasty, and it fed 2 people supplemented by 2 small corn tortillas with cheese and roasted poblanos each.

- 6 eggs.
- 1 large tomato, chopped.
- a loose handful of basil leaves, chopped, chiffinaded, ribboned, whatever you feel like.
- 2 small cloves of garlic, minced.
- 1 jalapeno, chopped with seeds and ribs discarded.
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
- a small pinch of ground cumin, black pepper, and salt.

Crack the eggs and beat them in a bowl, adding in the basil. Take your chopped tomato and throw it in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil. Let it cook, stirring so nothing gets burned, until it's soft. Add in the jalapenos and garlic, continuing to sautee. Then add the chickpeas, letting them heat up a bit. Throw in the cumin and cracked pepper, mixing occasionally. Then pour the egg in, turn the heat down (because you want the egg to cook all the way through without scorching the bottom), and cover it. Let it cook until the egg is just set. Slide out of the pan, slice into wedges, and enjoy! :)

I didn't add milk to the egg because the tomato had enough moisture. And obviously everything is a million percent riff-able...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Still not together, buuuuut...

...Either I've discovered the ultimate way for me personally to achieve my life's goal of being able to eat nonstop through my twenties like Michael Phelps, or I've got the first documented case of exercise-induced ADD.

Why is it that I can go swim for 35 minutes (naturally alternating strokes every other or every two laps), rinse, and then go to fencing practice, kick some ass in fencing, and think it's a grand idea to jump rope, but I can't for the life of me bring myself to run for 30 minutes?

Or I can jog a 1.25 mile warmup in 12 minutes, followed immediately by rowing 2100 meters in 10 minutes, and follow that with 18 minutes of interval stair climbing (1.75 miles) and a 2 minute warm-down, but again... just can't manage to run 30 minutes???

What the hell.

I will never ever be able to be one of those people who can say "Hey, I've run a marathon." Why? Not because I'm a wuss or because I'm weak or lazy or what-have-you, but because I AM COMPLETELY INCAPABLE OF MAKING MY BRAIN AND BODY FOCUS THAT LONG ON PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER AT A REASONABLE PACE.

So I'm sticking to fencing and getting crowned Queen of the Cross Training Maniacs.

The upshot to all this is I've become a human vacuum cleaner. Seriously. I've been scarfing down eggs, actually craving runny yolks (which usually I avoid like the plague because the greasy richness feels overwhelming), made a giant hunk'o'cow into an AMAZING stew which I had today on mashed potatoes and rutabaga, and digging avocado and tomato salad sandwiches.

My whole focus on food is shifting to dense high-calorie offerings. A couple apples need to be supplemented by bagel chips to constitute a filling snack. My legs hurt and my forearms are sore. And I feel awesomely at peace with the world... when my stomach isn't growling, that is. So I'm just kind of going with it. I've been acheiving that bottomed-out feeling at the ends of workouts again, where it feels like I'm breathing from the bottom of my lungs and I can feel the bones in my legs. Then I stop, change, and go home to scavenge for whatever is in the fridge.

To blog about when I have more time:

- My mom's ultimate banana bread recipe
- Melting moments
- The stew I made
- Curried chicken

It will happen. There will be recipes. And in the meantime, GO US WOMEN'S SABRE FENCING!! Medal sweep! Woohoo! :)

(You can watch it on and it's a nice recap. I wish they'd show more action, though... sighhh...)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back to the Food

I will be posting about 2 things, once I get my shit together the rest of the way...

- Curried chicken

- Melting moments

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Posts of FURY

Ok, so that last post served its purpose.  I was able to put all my feelings about being screwed over out there in cyberspace for the world to see for about 24 hours, I feel ever-so-much better, and now I can take that hate-drivel down.  Done, and done.  :)  

It still exists if I ever feel the crazy urge to commit an act of charity.  See, charity isn't really my thing, especially not right now.  I'll go ahead and say it; community service never gave me warm fuzzies.  I did it because it was a good thing to do and all that, but eh.  So, when I do something kind or good or let down my I'm-going-to-get-screwed-over guard and it backfires and I get screwed over, it REALLY gets me fired up.  

You see, if I chose NOT to help out my ex-roommate and get my name off the lease, I'd have never needed to look back.  She'd have floundered and gone down all by herself.  She'd have had to pay the $3000, and I would have shrugged and walked away.  Instead, I tried to save her $200 and then got landed with the fallout of her general ineptness; a/k/a 2 months of rent as penalty for not giving 2 months notice of vacating.   So, I bailed me out and she rode my coattails in for the ride.  And did I get a thank-you?  Oh, of course not.  Because that's why I and the rest of the world exist; to bail her out.    

The time it took me to get 2 people in our apartment was the last week my advisor was in town to proofread my proposal.  Hence, my incredible amount of animosity.  See, if she had winched her lazy ass off whatever couch it was breaking, walked into the chem and biochem graduate office, said "Can I have the list of the emails of all the incoming graduate students?  I have an apartment I need to rent," followed by an email to them all, she could have actually accomplished something tangible in 3 days.  

It kills me that I wasted that last week when she literally HAS NO JOB.  No one in the department is going to hire her because she behaved incredibly unprofessionally during her rotations.  Hence, she has NOTHING to do this summer.  At all.  But I have what to do.  I have research, and candidacy, and 2 papers I have to write.  

At the crux of it all is the simple fact that if I had messed up like she messed up and either (a) didn't read the lease or (b) didn't understand the 60 days notice part, I would be so embarrassed.  I would never in a million years consider asking a relative stranger to help me pay for my foul-up.  I was brought up to take full responsibility for my failures so that I could have equal ownership of my successes, and seeing someone with such a sense of entitlement at the rip young age of 23 or whatever she is makes me despise her to an astronomical degree.  And not even a thank you.  How did she get this far in life without some kid beating the ever loving shit out of her in the playground?

I have no shame in feeling what I do.  I also have no shame in saying that whatever my faults may be (a firm belief in dealing out karmic retribution, a temper, extremely confrontational), I am a motherfucking badass because (a) I pulled this off, (b) I finished my proposal, and (c) I am still alive and kicking.  And with that, I wish everyone a happy successful week... forge ahead!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


After crash-coursing in optics (5 textbooks and 2 angry phone calls), I just watched the Diane Von Furstenberg fall/winter 08/09 runway show.  

Here's what I thought:

wow.  what awesome clothes.  classy.  classic.  buttoned up but sexy.  very golden age.  ooh, i like the music, too.  so upbeat!  it's a shame the models aren't smiling.  man, i'd be totally rocking out if i was there.  they need to put those clothes on a nice curvy body.  why don't their hips move?  they look like they're walking to their deaths.  ecchhh.  the models look like they're playing dress-up in their grandmothers' closets at age 12.  oh, come on, shake it, sister!!  nope.  just uninspired clomping.  

I ended up totally not paying attention to the clothes because there was such a huge dissonance between the clothes and music, and the models' body types and expressions on their faces.  I don't think every style looks good on every body type.  That may be nasty of me, but it's true.  Those retro looks suit a curvy gal.  Not even plus-sized.  I'd say, well, pretty much anyone larger than a 2 or a 4, unless they're short.  If we're talking close to 6 feet, I'd keep it at a 6 and up for a runway show, and DVF messed up there.  They don't even look haughty.  They look bored, scared, and dead.  

I can get behind the automaton look in the name of theatrics, but just as a very minimalist, dark, lean look comes to life on someone extremely skinny, the retro 50's look falls flatter than some of those girls' chests.  

Words I Am Trying To Sneak Into My Proposal

I am going to try to sneak some good words into my proposal.  So far, I have two noteworthy ones:

- queried
- behooves

My advisor may have chopped out "behooves," but I am SO going to sneak it back in.  Screw it.  I don't care if those words aren't typically used in science.  They are lovely 2-syllable words, and frankly, my committee will just have to break out the dictionary to check the definitions because to use the word "questioned" roughly 8 bazillion times goes against everything I stand for.

Oh, Ms. Tavolacci (my TOTALLY EFFING AWESOME English teacher of 2 years in high school), you would send these scientists from your classroom sobbing if they ever were taught by you.  I actually miss Classical Roots and Shoots.


Beautiful Day

It seems that the state of Maryland has forgotten that it's August, but I'm not complaining.  Usually in August, it gets so hot and humid here, even walking to your car makes you feel like breathing is a terrible idea.  I'm surprised no one sprouts gills or grows algae like three-toed sloths.  I mean, this is nothing but a giant swamp.  No idea why our Founding Fathers decided to put the nation's capital in the middle of a swamp, but it's here and we have to deal with it... except on weeks like this upcoming one, where for some unknown reason, the temperature will be in the 80's and so far, the mugginess factor is nowhere to be seen.  Huzzah!  

So my plans for today include finishing my proposal.  It has been dragging on like nobody's business because of some amazingly, unbelievably, astoundingly ridiculous roommate issues which I will discuss at a later date because thinking about them right now makes me indescribably furious, and I have to concentrate on my paper.  To think I was worried I'd offend that lying, irresponsible, lazy failure if I called her out on breaking my couch.  

Anyway, I figured out where I could stream WQXR on iTunes.  I really love that radio station.  The DC classical station is nowhere near as good.  In particular, I miss WQXR's morning programming, which - at last listen - consisted of really up-tempo upbeat pieces.  It was perfect to wake up to.  It was lovely classical music so it wasn't jarring, but it got you moving nevertheless.  DC's classical station is draggy in the mornings which makes me want to crawl back under the covers and snooze.  Happily, it is streaming now through iTunes.  I love that thy have commercials about piano liquidations.  Much better than what they used to advertise; cancer treatments and cancer treatment centers in the greater NY metro area.  I mean, that was just depressing.

So, what else is on tap for today... finishing up all the greens in the fridge in a massive salad at some point because they're going to rot if I don't, and nothing makes me sadder than having to throw out rotten food.  I still have about 1/3 of the total amount of pasta I made at the beginning of the week, but that won't go bad.  I need to cook this chuck roast I picked up on sale the other day, too.  I think a very long slow braising post-browning in a 275-300 F oven in water and wine with garlic, onions, celery, carrots, some rehydrated mushrooms, bay leaves, rosemary, and significant amounts of black pepper.  

In the more long-term foodstuff category is the next beer Danny and I will make.  We totally rocked a Belgian wit (wheat) beer with coriander and orange peel.  It was so good it made people literally wax poetic.  Too bad Danny has this email a friend who's a homebrewer himself wrote about our beer or I'd quote it here.  So, our tentative plan is to try a fruit beer.  After reading several beer recipes, I think the best thing to do is to take the Belgian wit recipe, and add the fruit to it - we were thinking apple - and maybe alter the spices a bit.  I do love the coriander and orange peel, but it might be nice to add some cinnamon and cloves or allspice or nutmeg to the mix. We're shooting for an autumnal beer, something to mature for Thanksgiving.  The nice thing about the wit base is it won't be too heavy and it'll have a little tang, so it'll offset the sweetness of the apples.  I'm thinking we'll stick with a Belgian yeast strain because they typically tolerate higher alcohol concentrations, and this one will be a killer because of the fruit.  It will likely be around 7%.  

...I just hope it doesn't decide to explode this time... 


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An aside...

Is it in completely bad taste that I would do not only Daniel Craig, but also Jeff Goldblum circa "Independence Day?"  

Maybe at the same time.  I haven't decided yet.

Monday, August 4, 2008

On top of spaghhhheeeeetti, all covered with cheeeeeeese...

...I loooooost my poor meeeeeatbaaaaaall, when somebody sneeeeeeeezed.

What a great song.  What a classic.  My grandma taught me that when I was younger.  My dad, meanwhile, taught me and my little brother how to sing a very rude song about a cow on a hill in Hebrew.  We had no idea what we were singing, but we sang it anyway because it made my dad and his friends laugh.  However, the song was subsequently banned.  

Anyway, I ate spaghetti tonight.  With sauce, and some parmesan cheese, and yeah, some anchovies thrown in for saltiness and meatiness.  I got to thinking about anchovies.  When you read the Joy of Cooking, the old-skool edition with the instructions for skinning game, anchovy paste is in EVERYTHING.  And it's kind of funny, anachronistic, and slightly gross.  I mean, anchovy paste.  Echhh.  

But then... I thought some more.  (Always dangerous.)  And I reached the conclusion that Thai style fish sauce is our generation's anchovy paste.  We put it in our marinades and dressings and sauces for the same reasons, saltiness and meatiness.  Then I didn't feel so weird about heaping anchovies on top of my pasta.  

Danny's away at a conference and now's my time to eat all kinds of strange preserved fish products that he can't stand.  I love fish.  I know not everyone does, but here's a way to experience fish and eastern Europe in a very concentrated form that doesn't involve currency exchange or a passport.  I am writing this in honor of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who just died; may he rest in peace.

For the ultimate eastern European experience, here's what you need:

1 loaf of traditional, old skool, excellent rye bread or brown bread.  
1 or more containers of matjes (pronounced "maht-yahs") herring or shmaltz herring (Wikipedia's entry is just lame; but matjes and shmaltz herring are really about the same).  
Thinly sliced onion
Thoroughly chilled vodka (good vodka, Stolichnaya, or 42 Below, or something good, you know?) and shot glasses
One or more friends with whom you want to commiserate about the shittiness of life, and with whom you don't mind getting drunk, and who can properly appreciate the sadness of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's passing on, and possibly engage in a literary critique of "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."

Now, these types of herring are very strong and salty.  They are fishy.  But they're strong and fishy in a very appealing way, if you can believe that.  The onion is oniony.  You will be able to generate a very authentically rank Russian fish-onion-alcohol smell in a matter of 3 shots.  But here's the thing.  You take some bread, put a bit of fish on it, and top it with an onion.  I like to eat the fish-onion-bread and then wash it down with the vodka, but some like to do the vodka and use the fish-onion-bread as a chaser.  If you're unsure, try it both ways.  But be careful, because you might get sucked into a never-ending cycle of fish-onion-bread, vodka, fish-onion-bread, vodka, etc. and then you'll end up vomiting, and this is not something you want to vomit.  You'll feel like a seagull feeding its young.

Anyway, you can find these weird fish products most likely at your local kosher supermarket.  You don't have one, you say?  Well, let me tell you that I typed "Kansas kosher" into google maps, and it found 4 places.  In Kansas.  That's right.  The Jews got dropped there by a tornado, I guess.  Maybe if you don't have Jews or tornados, then you're out of luck.

Another thing... usually, there are hardcore garlic pickles, bread, smoked fish (I remember one time someone got their hands on sturgeon, which has been fished to near-extinction; it was meaty and amazing, but I don't advocate eating it in this day and age), assorted sausages, pickled cabbage, and random meat also available for food.  I left out pickled green tomatoes.  And, well, anything else that's been pickled.  Maybe some cucumber or potato salad, too.  The way any group of people who make drinking toasts to each other, themselves, to their families, and life in general a social event is to eat continuously; not eating is a mistake Americanized frat boys make.  And there's usually lots of talking.  And music.  And the volume tends to increase as time goes on and the vodka bottles empty.  It's a lot of fun.

So celebrate Solzhenitsyn.  Get stanky, fishy, and crunk!

Or just eat spaghetti.  I think that's where this post started, anyway...