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Archive for the ‘General’ Category


-Painting pictures for the newest baby of our acquaintance (welcome to the world, Charles Morrison Herbert!)

-Making a new friend
-Finishing up every scrap of freelance work I had
-Pounding the pavement for more work
-Feeling proud of my friend Jia Lynn’s cover story WITH BYLINE ON THE COVER
-Going for an accidentally really long bike ride

-Staring at another rainy day
-Reading 8 trillion library books
-Gearing up for lap swimming lessons/possibly getting hurt getting into my new swimsuit
-Listening to Berlitz Italian cds
-Not planning our spontaneous trip to Italy in May
-Avoiding cleaning my office
-Obsessively checking the trees outside for leaves
-Dreaming of chucking it all and moving to France

I definitely feel like life is on hold right now. I need a burst of energy and inspiration! Maybe I’ll start with the much-needed office organization. I do have loads of photos uploaded, dating back to late February, I just can’t seem to bother writing about anything! Merp.

Wishing french tulips were all over the house:

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Back soon

This has been a Hell Week, college style–I was on the road and I have three deadlines Monday, but I will be back soon. Hopefully spring will be here, too–last night I dreamed that there was a magnolia tree outside my window, and it was just starting to bloom. (The result of seeing the budding magnolias in DC this week?)

Unrelated, and found through Rebecca’s work-mandated Twitter: Overheard in the Newsroom, which really does give a very accurate peek into the lives of journalists everywhere.

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Oh, brussels sprouts, I love you so. The one downside to the CSA was the fact that they didn’t grow (or had bad luck with) sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower last year, and since I was working my way through what they DID grow I never bought any, either. Ben actually accused me of withholding sprouts, can you believe the nerve?

In response, I bought two pounds from Trader Joe’s and went to town. Herewith, a window into how food and leftovers live out their lives Chez Girl Reporter.

The first night, I roasted all two pounds.

brussels sprouts

brussels sprouts 2

roasted brussels sprouts

I won’t lie, I don’t have the roasting quite perfect. I feel like they get smooshy by the time they are cooked and not bitter. Maybe next time I’ll parboil them? Actually, next time I’ll shred them in the food processor and then roast them on high heat like Greta does. Oh god, that’s good.

Anyway, we ate them with polenta cakes and sausage.

sausage dinner

Now, two pounds is a lot of brussels sprouts, even once you’ve trimmed about a third off. The next night Ben was at a meeting, so I was on my own. We had some no-knead bread that was bordering on stale, so I toasted it up, heated up some sprouts, and fried an egg in olive oil. Truly an awesome dinner.

fried egg brussels sprouts

The next day at lunch there were still a few left. Also, two rounds of polenta. I don’t have a photo of the cold brussels sprouts (sue me) but here’s what I ate on the side while I fished them out of the pyrex bowl, still cold and more delicious than ever:

polenta

Ok, so Ben, who was so concerned about Sprout Deprivation, only got to eat them for one meal and I ate them for three. But I also cleaned them all: fair’s fair!

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I finally caved and joined Twitter, after watching Aileen …tweet….things all weekend. If you are interested in scintillating stuff like what I’m eating for lunch or what the squirrels outside my office are up to, I’m here.

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Zigs and zags

In late January I suddenly decided I couldn’t live with the drab faux-oriental rugs we had in the bedroom and dining room. Couldn’t stand them for another minute. I picked up a striped rug for the bedroom from PB, and ordered the (back-ordered) zigzag rug from West Elm. At the same time, I finally found a new coverlet for the bed–ours was a bit too small and very thin. Finally, last weekend I went to Ikea and got frames for some of the vintage photos I’ve been collecting for years. (I always get sucked in by some of the faces or scenes and feel like I have to take them home with me and make up stories about them.) Today the rug arrived and I finally made the bed up with the new coverlet and took a few pictures. It feels good to freshen things up!

Dining room before:

dining room before

Sigh, blurry pics. Next week I’ll have Ben help me move the rug/table properly under the chandelier. I HAD to see how it would look, so I managed to replace the rug myself this morning. I may be broken. Anyway, Dining room after:

Oh, those are the finished chairs, too!

rug and chairs

No before pic of the bedroom since I carefully cropped the rug out of everything.

bedroom rug

I love the yellow with the blue walls.

And the photos in my office–it’s hard to see them and I’m trying to decide whether to add two more on top or put them somewhere else. You can’t tell in the photo but the biggest frame (containing a wedding group portrait from Brooklyn in the 20s) is hung w/ fishing line from a picture hook, so it’s a little hard to put anything over it.

old photos

By the way, I hung all the small ones with those “command” velcro-ish strips from 3M. My friend Ann told me they worked great for her, and sure enough, they do!

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Ben has moved on from breakfast pancakes or oatmeal on weekend mornings, and has discovered the connection between organized personalities and the joys of baking. In addition to churning out no-knead bread for his lunch sandwiches, he has recently started baking biscuits.

Our downstairs neighbor, Jean, is a lovely lady who hails from North Carolina. At her annual pre-Christmas tree-trimming party, she serves about as much food as a table can hold, but the highlight is the delicious ham accompanied by basket after basket of tender buttermilk biscuits. This year we asked for the recipe, and not only did she e-mail it to me, she brought us back a bag of biscuit flour from her holiday trip down South! Now that is neighborly.

Ben and I made the biscuits together the first time, but since then he’s been making them before I wake up on the weekend, including Valentine’s morning. I strongly equate love with baked goods (don’t we all?), so it was a wonderful start to the day!

BEST BISCUITS
(From Jean)

Cut together 2 cups self rising flour with 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter (I use unsalted) until well blended. Add a pinch of salt if you want. I do this step in the food processor, then dump it into a bowl to add the buttermilk.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and gently mix until moistened. Do not overmix

Turn out on a floured surface and knead very gently a few times (pat it, really) until the dough forms a coherent ball. Do not knead vigorously like you would knead bread.

Pat out to about 3/4 inch think, cut with a round cutter, and bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

The biscuits will be better if you use Southern Biscuit or White Lily flour –something about soft wheat, I think. But they will be good anyhow.

This was the first batch, a bit raggedy because we were so careful not to overwork the dough. It does need (ha!) a few kneads to pull together.

One of Ben’s finished batches, complete with lovely presentation!

Topped with my mom’s raspberry jam, they are unspeakably good. Sadly, we used up the last of the jam in the biscuit mania.

Not bad, right?

Now, as if waking up to fresh biscuits weren’t the way to a girl’s heart, Ben made me dinner for Valentine’s day. But not just any dinner. I ordered him to take photos, but I had no idea what he was making, and he recreated the meal I always always order at my favorite restaurant in NYC, Inoteca. At least, what I always ordered: On my last visit it came to light that they have changed the fantastic romaine-raddichio-ricotta salata salad that I’ve loved for years. Good thing we started making it at home a while ago.

Ben’s perfect salad (he added a couple drops of truffle oil for good measure):

TRUFFLED EGG TOAST!!

I have meant to make that at home for years but never did. There was a slight mis-reading of the recipe (you’re not supposed to use whole eggs, just egg yolks), but on the whole it was a swoonily romantic and delicious gesture. Best Valentine’s ever! (He even got cupcakes for dessert.)

Here’s what he made Sunday morning:
french toast

He’s making meatballs again as I type. I think Ben has spent much more time in the kitchen than I have lately, and I’m not complaining.


Stay tuned for brussels sprouts (and creative use of leftovers) and an epic mess.

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Simple dinner trick

Ugh, I have barely been cooking lately. Ben’s been working or at meetings a lot of evenings, and we’ve only been averaging a real dinner about once a week. Not good. I miss the casual “come on over for dinner” atmosphere of Hanover, which motivated me to try new recipes!

Anyway, one night last week we grilled some frozen tuna that I wanted to get out of the freezer, and since I hadn’t really grocery shopped in ages (aside from picking up coffee and milk) I pulled together sides from what I had on hand. I made my old carrot salad again, but this time with an asian-inspired dressing of rice vinegar, sesame oil, plain oil and a bit of chili sauce. I thought it was a great change of pace, but Ben wasn’t an enormous fan the first night. When he ate leftovers a couple days later he loved it and asked if I’d made a new batch, so who knows.

Ben requested israeli cous cous as a side, but I was bored just thinking about serving it plain. (Can you tell I have cabin fever and a terrible case of ennui?) I dug around in the freezer and found a bag of frozen shelled edamame, which I threw in with the cous cous to cook. After those were cooked and drained I dressed the whole pot with more sesame oil, salt and pepper, and was delighted by the combination. Crazy easy–no more trouble than the plain cous cous, but a bit of added color and protein.

cous cous edamame carrots

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Woe is me

Domino Magazine is folding? *Weeps*

It seems awfully short-sighted to me, but I shouldn’t be surprised. The rumors have been swirling for months. I do hope Condé Nast keeps the website up, since it’s become a great repository of cool images and home tours, and I love the My Deco Book function.

A real entry will follow soon. About food. And decorating, maybe–I’m helping a neighbor redo his place!

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Since my cooking was pretty patchy and my posting even patchier as the end of the year drew nigh, I’m just going to post the last three mondo Winter CSA Share allotments all at once. Most of this stuff stores well; I have loads of potatoes, onions, garlic and squash in the pantry, and the veggie drawers in the fridge are stuffed with turnips, rutabaga, beets, carrots, etc.

#2 arrived right before Thanksgiving:

-Salad greens
-Kale
-Butternut squash
-Celeriac
-Red and yellow potatoes
-Turnips
-Rutabaga
-Cabbage
-Parsnips
-Carrots
-Garlic

#3, from early December:

-Bok Choi
-Leeks (used on the pizzas for the Christmas party)
-Carrots
-Onions
-Potatoes
-Kohlrabi
-Butternut squash
-Chili peppers
-Garlic

And the fourth and final share, from the week of Christmas:

-Salad greens
-Spinach
-Potatoes
-Celeriac
-Daikon radishes
-Onions
-Popcorn
-Garlic
-Rutabaga
-Carrots
-Beets!!

I’m saving those beets for next week, but I can taste them already!

By the way, last night I thawed out a frozen portion of the beef, leek and barley soup I made a couple months ago. I thought that recipe was really bland, and recommended searing the meat next time, at the very least. Well, it was just as bland upon reheating (shocking, I know), so in addition to salt and pepper I added a ton of grated parmesan cheese. It made the difference; the soup was delicious. Just a nice reminder of the power of umami… If you’re cooking something and it tastes bland, add soy sauce or parmesan, depending on which one seems logical, to get a nice flavor boost.

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New Year, new goals

This doesn’t have much to do with food.

I’m not one for resolutions; my attention span is far shorter than a year, and Back to School always feels more fresh-startish than January, to me. But I feel like I slipped into a bit of a funk as the year wrapped up, and I am at a bit of a crossroads in terms of work and health and so forth, so I do want to take the New Year as a chance to re-set and try harder.

For the blog: I did much better in December, but during the fall I really let the blog slide, and only posted a handful of times per month. I want to try putting myself on a schedule (I’m a journalist; without deadlines I can procrastinate until the cows come home), posting on Tuesdays and Fridays at a bare minimum. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s worth the effort, right?

I also want to work on the quality of the photography… Enough with letting the terrible kitchen lighting serve as an excuse, I have little studio lights and a lightbox/diffuser thingy, and I just need to be more consistent about taking stuff into the pantry and shooting it. Not sure what can be done about things I’m actively cooking, but I’ll get there. One day.

Finally, I want to be more specific with recipes. I’m lazy and tend to just say “eh, an onion or so, some olive oil, blah blah blah,” but when I think about the blogs I find most useful, they isolate the recipe so it’s easy to follow, in addition to writing about the process.

For me, I mostly want to figure out if I can freelance full-time for a while, or if I need to go back to an office job. I like working from home, but obviously it’s not the most stable thing. If I stay home, I need to make a major effort to, um, leave the house. For exercise, for socialization, for fresh air.

During the fall I took a drawing class at the MFA’s museum school. It was rigorous and challenging and I learned a ton, but I can’t justify doing something like that right now, so I want to make sure I also keep drawing, get back to painting, treat photography more seriously, etc. I am also hoping to help a few people with some interior design advice. Finally, while I write for a living I’d also like to write something different, for pleasure. Fiction, maybe? I doubt it but I’ll try, perhaps.

sketches
[For my class, we worked on a final project consisting of a series of studies and drawings on one topic. I chose ballet, and used a couple books of photos of the New York City Ballet as my subjects.]

The greatest lesson I learned in my drawing class was how to relax. At the beginning of the semester all my drawings were in pencil, mostly of interiors, very literal, very precise, not very dynamic or interesting. I never expected to enjoy figure-drawing and I never thought about charcoal one way or the other, but those two things brought me tremendous joy. Charcoal is messy and it didn’t let me stick to my precise lines. I couldn’t really use a ruler. And drawing the figure made me want to explore movement. I want 2009 to be like that. I’m feeling closed in and limited in a few ways, and I want to break out and try things I hadn’t considered, even if it means I have charcoal-stained fingernails.

Or hands that smell like garlic. I’ve never minded that!

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I hope everyone else had a Christmas as relaxing as mine. My dearest friend came to stay (before flying out this evening) and we got to visit with another good friend—complete with much-delayed arrival and impromptu sleepover—on Tuesday night. We ate a delicious dinner Christmas Eve (more on that later) and slept in late this morning. Santa blessed us many times over.

Before Christmas is 100% over, a few shots from our holiday party earlier this month. I think about 30 people ended up coming; I focused on food that would let me enjoy myself for once, so I made a couple things in advance and the only hot food was a giant pile of mini pizzas that I’d par-baked in the afternoon and reheated during the party.

I made one dip with butternut squash, a bit of crème fraîche, roasted onions and garlic, lots of parmesan, and sage. That was ok but not something I’d make again. Another dip/spread was basic white bean spread like we’ve always made, but dressed up with a little rosemary and lemon. Easy and so good:

I sautéed the garlic and onion until soft, then added in two cans of organic white cannellini beans and some very, very finely chopped rosemary. Chop as finely as possible; that texture is not good. They are technically already cooked but I find that they always need quite a while to take the canned edge off. I added a bit of chicken stock every so often to keep things from drying out, and cooked uncovered for a while, then covered until the beans tasted good.

I mushed them around a lot with the spoon so that it turned into a chunky spread instead of a pile of beans.

I stirred in lemon juice (about half a lemon) and topped with a bit of zest. I’d seen a Bittman riff on a Marcella Hazan recipe for a bean spread (canned beans uncooked, but pureed in the food processor) that included lots of lemon, and I will definitely add it from now on. It brightens up the beans and really offsets their earthiness and the rosemary flavor. Yum! I could have kept this a little wetter; next time I’ll do a bit more broth towards the end. Still, very very good.

The mini pizzas were a bit of an ordeal but fantastic as party food–easy to eat, no mess, hot and comforting and tasty. I used dough from Trader Joe’s; four bags divided into six little pizzas each. I topped them with sautéed leeks and sausage.

(I cooked them until just golden; during the party I heated them up so they were nice and crispy and cut each one in quarters.)

The living room, ready to party:

Ben’s chocolate chip cookies top the dessert offerings:

A crowd in the dining room:

And, just because I promised, here are Ari and Alex from Ben’s office (they’re not a couple, ladies). Alex is a faithful reader of the blog and likes to inspect Ben’s lunches when I send in leftovers. I hear he’s quite a cook, too!

Now we’re off to our friends’ wedding in CT, then a visit to Long Island before coming back to Boston for New Year’s. Enjoy the weekend!

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