kickin’ homemade hummus.

kickin’ homemade hummus.

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?

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spicy tortellini with eggplant and peppers.

spicy tortellini with eggplant and peppers.

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.

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not your ma’s brussels sprouts.

not your ma’s brussels sprouts.

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.

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hearty eggs in marinara.

hearty eggs in marinara.

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.)

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homemade falafel and cucumber sauce.

homemade falafel and cucumber sauce.

Know what’s great about New York? Well, plenty. But one of those great things? You can get some falafel on every corner. It’s a beautiful thing.

And as convenient as that is when you’re on the run or desperately seeking to fala-fill an after-bar craving, regularly shelling out $5 to $7 starts to seem increasingly less appealing for us Starving Foodies of the world. However, making tasty balls of mashed chickpea in the comfort of your own kitchen? Delicious, kinda fun and super cheap.

After we’d passed the 3,291st Halal cart and the subsequent drool-inducing aromas of the Mid East wafted into our passing noses, I resolved to do just that. Fueled by the two-thumbs-up from my zucchini patties, I  announced that I’d try my hand at some patties of the chickpea persuasion. (I’m in a very cheesy mood, bear with me.)

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scallion-ginger broth with shrimp.

scallion-ginger broth with shrimp.

Alas, this post I found in a dusty back corner of my blog’s draft storage room, piled beneath several other incomplete ideas. I thought of it because a lovely fellow blogger requested recipes with fresh ginger, but upon digging into storage to get her a link to this recipe, I discovered I had completed all but the last sentence or two. Ugh.

Nevertheless, I tell myself, as this was a savory treat made early this summer, it’s likely to be a more appealing experience now that the season is tempering and giving way to cooler, breezy nights (at least in New York, anyway).

Note: I’ve left the rest of the post intact to maintain its original integrity… and because I’m lazy.

Despite the steamy weather, I’ve been on a soup kick. My subscription to Everyday Food Magazine was one of the best $10 investments I’ve made in a while. Each issue is chock full of useful tips and practical recipes… and because the issues are pint-sized, you can easily tote one in your purse or back pocket on a grocery run, keep it handy without taking up valuable counter space as you cook and stash it with your cookbooks for future referencing.

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heavenly zucchini patties.

heavenly zucchini patties.

Guess what! It’s been a week of life in the Bronx, and we’ve lived to tell the tale! This may have something to do with the fact that, according to Josh’s Internet research, the neighborhood surrounding the campus is the safest in the borough (listening, ma?). But beyond survival, we’re evolving and on our merry ways to even thriving.

One pleasant feature of this evolution is that we discovered our new go-to grocery stop. It’s a bit more of a hike, but the route is definitely better than walking the sketchy train underpass to Pathmark. Now, we meander west on Morris Park past townhomes with modest side yards, a small garden of fig trees, tomato vines and squash blossoms in full bloom. I found this gem on Yelp as Rosa Frasca Grocery, but the bright green overhang on the building reads BIG DEAL SUPERMARKET. Whoever you are, little market, I’m thrilled you’ve come into my life.

Based on the abundance of pizza and pasta joints in the area (and the parking meters painted to resemble skinny Italian flags), we’ve determined that this new supermarket sits cozily in the middle of one of the Bronx’s Italian neighborhoods, although Arthur Avenue, the tri-boro’s version of Little Italy, we’ve heard has a more affordable, down-home feel than Manhattan’s. Correspondingly, BIG DEAL is smaller and homier than Pathmark and boasts healthy-looking produce, cheeses and even freshly prepared pizza dough (which will hopefully be included in a future post!), as well as a pretty impressive beer selection considering the size of the store. We even walk straight up to the register each time (we were told to avoid Pathmark like the Ebola virus during peak hours) and overall, this locale is much more what we’d envisioned as a grocery home in our new city.

Anyway, the reason for the trip was to pick up some zucchini, mozzarella and breadcrumbs for a meal I’ve had a hankering to make ever since the Allrecipes.com Daily Dish recipe popped up in my inbox: Ms. Sherlie A. Magaret’s Zucchini Patties.

In short: Yummm.

These simple and comforting crispy, gooey rounds will surely make it into your rotation and are a great way to use up a mish-mosh of cheese that’s on its way out.

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