I have been promising this one for a while.
Mostly because I cannot tell you the number of times I have watched someone sidle up to a table of potluck munchies, select his or her preferred scooping mechanism – pita chip, carrot stick, extended finger – load it up and then, upon chomping down on a crunchy bite, proceed to light up (hyperbole)*, exclaim in ecstasy (gross exaggeration), and, head-spinning cartoonishly (now I’m just being silly), demand to know what mere mortal summoned from the heavens such a sanctimonious mouth-pleaser.
*Definitely snagged that paranthetical aside (and the use of an asterisk for an asinine comment mid-buildup) from Tina Fey’s Bossypants, in which I’ve been so immersed that I missed my stop on my way home today. (If I tell you that my commute currently averages an hour-fifteen and that I compulsively count down the last few stops unless thoroughly distracted, this may mean more to you.)
Okay, so about that hummus descended from heaven. It’s not really. Descended from heaven, that is. But I am constantly amused at how oddly dumbfounded many of my friends are by the idea that, rather than running into [insert health-food store of choice] to buy some overpriced pre-prepared hummus in an easy-to-transport disposable container, I would instead whip up a batch myself. “WHAT?! Seriously, YOU MADE THIS???”
As flattering as this response always is, I can’t help but reply with a sheepish grin before explaining in earnest that it’s actually super easy and that you, too, can totally make your own hummus! Depending on who I’m talking to, this tends to get one of two reactions: over-enthusiasm in the form of vigorous head nods, bulging eyeballs, both lips and eyebrows that arch creepily skyward (presumably followed by heavy eye rolls once I turn around) OR enthusiastic suggestions that I should post the recipe to my blog.
Oh yeah. I did say I wrote one of those, didn’t I?
A shameless perk of writing your own food blog is that you can post your favorite recipes to the Interweb to refer back to in a snap.
Earlier this week, I opened the ol’ blog to reference the Spicy Tortellini with Eggplant and Peppers recipe and was hit pretty hard by the fact that it was the last thing I’d posted. I’m not one to make the same thing week after week because, frankly, it bores me. (Also because I’m constantly tearing out new recipes and sticking them to the fridge, which results in a revolving collage of culinary inspiration.)
Thus, my circling back to the tortellini not once but TWICE was speaking loudly to my absence from the blogging arena. To make it up to you, I shall deliver upon my return a most wondrous dish: Asian Turkey Balls. Erm, Meatballs.
The name may not activate your salivary glands or get your tumbly rumbling, but let me be perfectly clear: These Asian Turkey Balls are so savory and succulent that once you’ve tried them, you won’t care what they’re called. ‘Nuff said.
I used to think my vegetarian friends’ lives were seriously lacking. Meat is so tasty, why go without it? Other times, I’d think, Man, they’re brave, knowing that I wouldn’t last a week. Sometimes, this led to resentful, defensive dialogues (with my own thoughts, mind you) about how they just couldn’t appreciate food as much as I could, what with my extremely developed taste buds, and were simply incapable of understanding how to enjoy a cut of savory, succulent meat like I could. In a whirlwind, I would suddenly pity them, their mediocre palates and inevitably malnourished bodies (ya know, since there’s no way to get sufficient nutrients without consuming tender slabs of cooked animal flesh).
Well. After sitting down with a few good nutritional reads (including Clean Plates NYC and Food Matters), watching Food, Inc., familiarizing myself more with the misinformation distributed by our government (and you trusted the Food Pyramid all these years) and doing some general boning up on the subject of food nutrition, I’ve learned a thing or two.
When I was a kid, I hated breakfast. Clearly, I had issues.
I liked some cereals but without milk. And by some cereals, I mean those of the sugary toxic persuasion, mainly the attempts of candy companies to clamber onto the kiddie-level shelves of the cereal aisle. If milk made it into my bowl, with say, Cheerios, they were accompanied by an equal pairing of sugar, which I meticulously scraped from the bottom of the bowl with every spoonful. My irrational father commanded that we not let perfectly good milk go to waste and thus enforced a strict protocol of slurping down the remaining cereal milk, with its sickly color and floating particles of soggy Froot Loops. (Thus, the dry cereal.) Yogurt was weird. (But chocolate pudding was a go.) Pop Tarts made the list, but only if they weren’t toasted and I was permitted to leave the crusts.
And while most of the population perked at the special-occasion offering of homemade pancakes or French toast, I replied with a grimace, much to my poor mother’s dismay. Years later, I am much wiser and realize that this is ridiculous.
I love shrimp. They’re heart-healthy, quick to defrost and great with endless flavor combos, so I always keep a bag of them in the freezer.
This fall, I also fell in love with arugula and its peppery taste and crisp, yet tender bite. I pick it up in bulk, rather than pre-bagged and keep it in a sealed Ziplock with a paper towel, which helps it stay fresh longer. It’s great for salads and on sandwiches, but as I’ve noted the abundance of recipes incorporating it into warm dishes, I recently tried one out to great satisfaction.
I actually found this recipe in the pages of Everyday Food’s June issue, as I had recalled a feature on arugula, but it was a light and tasty dish for a weeknight and literally took 15 minutes to make, as promised. Plus, arugula and tomato are both sources of Vitamin C to help stave off seasonal colds.
When I was about ten, my younger brother and I sat at the dinner table alongside my dad with grimaces on our faces as we peered at the foul-smelling, mushy green spheres taking up real estate on our plates. As smelly steam rudely crept into our nostrils, my mother grabbed her purse, kissed us on the heads and scooted off to her monthly neighborhood Bunko night. Before the door closed, she promised over her shoulder, “Just eat ’em, they taste like lettuce.”
A bigger lie has never been uttered.
Brussels sprouts, unarguably, have a bad rap. Especially among clans of playground-dwellers. Before I’d ever laid eyes on one, I knew the ominous veggie was no good and that I should do everything in my power to steer clear. They were the butt of jokes and the focus of books in which kids were forced to sit at the table until they choked them down. (Those books also tried to convince you how tasty and nutritious Brussels sprouts are for you, but we knew better.) I considered myself immensely lucky for never having personally experienced such a torment.
Lucky, that is, until that fateful dinner.
I’m sure I’ll start whining about the cold soon, but for the moment, I’m loving how the days have been bright and breezy and the nights have cooled enough for jeans and a cardy. Cooler temps also mean it’s finally appropriate for me to post one of my favorite comfort food recipes: hearty eggs in marinara. Put an emphasis on hearty, folks, because this is not a breakfast dish but rather a great excuse for eggs in the evening.
As an equal opportunity omnivore, I am generally open to eating anything, anytime of day. During debauchery-filled college weekends, my roommates and I would arise in the p.m. hours, groggy and in need of sustenance, and while Rachael habitually required classic breakfast fare for her first meal of the day, I was content nuking leftover pizza.
This is probably why, when I spent a semester of undergrad in Alicante, Spain, I was completely at home with their custom of serving eggs with everything at any time but breakfast. Hamburguesa especial, a burger piled high with the standard fixin’s and topped with a slice of jamón (the Spanish love their ham) and a fried egg, was a particular artery-clogging fave.
Susana, the sweet Argentine woman who played the part of my madre while I shared her brightly furnished apartment, also loved topping fried pork cutlet with marinara, melted provolone and, of course, a fried egg. (This delicious culprit was a contributing factor to why, despite my pedestrian lifestyle and the five flights of stairs I regularly climbed up to our brightly painted piso, I did not, in fact, lose weight during my six months on the Mediterranean coast.)