Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Hurricane Irene put a damper on our original plans, but no matter. We holed up for the weekend, slept a lot, made a lot of food, and I actually got to read.
We ventured out to have our dinner out at Dora's Brazilian Grill. Grilled meat + sangria + stud muffin = bliss, right? During dinner, we both agreed that being married to each other is pretty awesome. I won't harp much longer, except to say, we did it baby! one year <3
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Each day that I find myself at work, I marvel at the miracle. One, because I am grateful to have a job. But also, two, because I am so dang tired these days that it's a mysterious thing that gets my physical body into the office every day. Admittedly, and sadly, a small part of this mysterious thing may have to do with the promise of a big cup of coffee to put in my face.
So I'm shuffling through the weekdays, not just figuratively, but also very literally, because my knees have decided to let me know they are not satisfied with life, and are a-creakin' and complainin', making it difficult for me to get my cardio and sweat on. Knees, I am being very kind and gentle to you these days. I hope you are realizing this and respond kindly in return by doing what you're supposed to, thanks.
Is this a downer of a post? Well, in better news, I got to see my family this past weekend and as crazy as things have been lately, I am very proud of everyone and really proud to be a part of this family. It sure would be nice to have everyone live closer together! Let's all keep being grateful for each other and let's also all continue to brainstorm about how we can become billionaries so that we can fly around and take trips together and see each other more.
Monday, August 15, 2011
I have been listening to some pretty rad podcasts lately (will post about podcasts another time), and one of my favorites is called The Table Set, by these three guys that talk about food, entertaining, throwing parties, and cocktails. What is not to love about that! Their suggestions always get the wheels of my foodie brain churning, and I get amped to try new things. Sometimes the combination of foods that they describe when they are explaining a dish, blow my mind. My favorite is when they discuss cocktails (things to try: French 75 and Armagnac as an aperitif) and also when they casually reference things like bacon salt, fennel powder and Vadouvan French curry powder. Their most recent episode was on food for brunch, my favorite meal of the day. I die.
Anyways, on one of the podcasts they were discussing dishes that can feed a lot of people, and Moussaka was mentioned. Have you had Moussaka? It’s pretty spectacular, especially if you like eggplant. (This is also a good dish if you are trying to avoid carbs. In some respects, you can describe it as a lasagna that substitutes eggplants for pasta). There are many variations of this but I’ve usually had it of the Greek variety and always liked it, so I thought, I should make this!! So I did.
So here is a very thorough explanation of how I got through making my very first Moussaka, not to mention my very first time working with eggplant. Here is the good, the bad, and the delicious lowdown (all photos taken with iphone).
First of all, it takes quite a bit of time, especially if it is your first time making it. More time than I thought it would. So take an afternoon or a morning where you have about 2-3 hours of time and enjoy the process. In my case, it was the first weeknight that I had free in a long long while, so I decided to make an event of it. I stopped by the market on my way home and picked up the rest of the ingredients that I needed. Again, there are many different ways to go about this, but this is what I used. Ingredients: 1) 2 lbs of ground Italian sausage – 1 lb of sweet and 1 lb of spicy; 2) 3 globes of eggplants* (yes, globes!); 3) 1 onion; 4) 3 potatoes; 5) 1 cup of tomato sauce; 6) 1 lemon; 7) ½ cup of red wine; 8) 1 cup of grated cheese; 9) 1 stick of unsalted butter (or less); 10) 4 cups of whole milk; 11) 1/2 cup of flour; 12) 4 egg yolks
Other things that you should have nearby: 2 Tbsp of olive oil, 4 chopped garlic cloves,1 tsp of cinnamon, 1 tsp of black pepper, 1 Tbsp of dried oregano, salt to taste
*[Tip for picking eggplants: the darker the better! And when you press against it with your hand you should get a spongy resistance back]
The prelude: wine. I love me some wine sippage while I cook, it relaxes me and it gets my senses and taste buds all perked up and ready to go. It gets me in the mood to smell and taste, smell and taste. A good pairing for Moussaka is a lush red, like a Cabernet, and I had picked up a bottle of Gouguenheim as the accompaniment. I find I am fond of Cabs from South America (Casillero del Diablo is another example of a really good Cab around $10), and this one did not disappoint.
Now! to really start. The best way to think about cooking this dish is in stages: eggplant – potatoes – meat sauce – béchamel.
Eggplant. I tackled the eggplant first because I had never cooked with eggplant before. I cut off the top and the bottom ends, and then peeled most of it off, leaving a few strips of skin for a little texture. Then I sliced into rounds, placed them on paper towels, and sprinkled with salt to leave sitting for 20-30 minutes. The salt is supposed to take the bitterness out of the eggplant, and after a while you will notice the slices have gotten wet. Note: Not too much salt! I made this mistake). Leave them, then wash them, and then dry them off. I used a lot of paper towels. Then brush them with some olive and oil and broil them in the oven for 3-4 minutes on each side.
Potatoes. Peel, slice, drop them in salted boiling water for 5-8 minutes. They don’t have to be cooked all the way but they should not be crunchy anymore.
Meat sauce. Like making pasta sauce. Brown meat, onions, and garlic. Add tomato sauce and sprinkle in salt, pepper, oregano and some cinnamon. The smell of this cooking with the oregano and cinnamon is ama-zing. Notes for next time though: less cinnamon, more tomato sauce and add in mushrooms and zucchini. Why not? Cook for a few minutes and add in red wine. Let simmer for 20 minutes, then taste and add spices as you would like. Then add in lemon juice and some zest. If it is too watery, drain a little bit of the liquid off.
Bechamel. This is a really neat technique that I had not tried before. It's kind of tricky in that it was new to me, but it worked out. First, heat the 4 cups of milk on medium heat until steamy, but don't let it simmer. Then in a separate pot, heat the stick of butter, and when it is melted, slowly whisk in the 1/2 cup of flour. Have this butter-flour mixture simmer for a few minutes. Then pour in the steamy milk, stirring constantly. It will set up and thicken weirdly at first, but keep adding milk and stirring. Return the heat to medium, add a pinch of salt and nutmeg and stir well.
[Side Note: I really like that our kitchen is open enough that I can do one of these numbers in order to check out recipe as I go and/or listen to music. And while we are looking around the kitchen, aren't these tea towels the best things ever! Birthday gift from Martha.]
Assemble! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put a layer of potatoes at the bottom of a 13x9 pan. Make sure there is some overlap. Then do a layer with eggplant (use about half the eggplants). Add in all of the meat sauce on top, and then use the rest of the eggplants for the next layer. Sprinkle half of the parmesan cheese. Top the whole thing with the béchamel and sprinkle on rest of the cheese. Pop in oven for 30-45 minutes and watch for browning.
When it is out of the oven, let is sit for 15 minutes. Then, cut up, serve, enjoy.
[Notes for next time: Less salt, butter and cinnamon. More vegetables, like maybe adding in zucchini and mushrooms to the meat sauce].
Friday, August 12, 2011
Seriously though, after speedily going through Radiolab (the best) and a variety of other podcasts, my ears are ravenous for things to grab, soak and ride. Long paragraph short, the uhh yeah dude podcast is how I get through my work day these days. But more on that later. I'm going to list some things that I'm into right now, with links, can you dig it?
If your house was burning, what would you take with you?? It's oddly comforting to look through these pictures, in a slightly creepy, voyeuristic way.
So many movies are CRAP right now. Just straight up green crap in a big ceramic bowl. Am I wrong? I pretty much have to fight through it in order to see anything good. I recently watched, 'The Illustionist' (NOT the one about the magicians) and was super impressed with the animation and illustration. It was a breath of minty freshness on my emotional cheeks. This is the kind of animation I want my kids to watch. Not as much of an upper as I'd hoped, but an extremely pleasant watch, nonetheless. And Win Win is probably the best movie I've watched this year. Other movies I am itching to watch:
Even the Rain. Gael Garcia Bernal. A commentary on modern globalization colliding with colonial exploitation. What else could a girl want?
The Future. Miranda July is odd, but I love it. Her stuff always make me feel like I'm reading back on my journals from high school.
This Way of Life. I need to watch this movie AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I just do.
Midnight in Paris. I have been trying to watch this movie for the past month. Husband, just take me to go watch this movie already.
Also, somewhat interested in The Help and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Yes, both have Emma Stone in them. That girl is getting around. In a good way.
These are the books next up on my list. Most of them recommended by Coco. Sometimes at work I fantasize about being able to spend an entire day, maybe two, going back and forth from reading Emily Dickinson and doing paintings inspired by her lonely yet excitable words. That would be a dream. Someone, please pay me to do this. Also, I would really appreciate it if the world would leave me alone for a hot second so I could finally get through Moby Dick. And in a completely different genre, Bossypants by Tina Fey is exactly as amusing as you'd think it would be.
Revlon's Cloud is still my most favorite polish of the summer. Fancy, in a super subtle kind of way. My favorite summer sandal, in blue though. And these suits be so ugly: I don't understand the random cut-outs. This article about amazing public pools made me so dreamy-eyed and wanderlusty. Speaking of wanderlusty, my dream vacations right now are wine tour in Italy and surf camp in Costa Rica. I am very open to hoping about these things happening. I am so into Pinterest right now. I would be even more into it if I had the time to spend on it. How do we feel about Google+? I finally heard the Mumford & Sons album for the first time today, thanks to Diane who thanks Tyler, and I was very impressed. I want to go to bed with it. The desire to live at the beach only grows as I get older, and I sure wouldn't mind living in a place like this. Obviously, the views, and I love one-story homes. I am in denial about the fact that summer is going to end. It won't. Right? Right? Here is some fun August wallpaper to tide us over.
And to end,
This is what is happening right now in our house, a calm Friday night, chillin' like a fresh villain. I spy Rusty's eye.
Have a good weekend, everyone.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
WHY I do not work a job where the appropriate and requisite attire is a swimsuit, I do not know. But while we think about that, here are some pictures from our VA Beach trip, taken with awesome underwater camera (Sony Cyber Shot) by Saena (of The Elegant Shoe) and B.Shin.
this is real life
and whoa,wait, mermaids?
Friday, August 5, 2011
Also, it was sister-in-law, Amy's birthday! And we celebrated with friends and family in a boat, then on a tube. Stylin'.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I could pretty much spend my days going between ocean, boat, pool, sand, and a cold drink. Throw in a bowl of fruit and some seafood, and I'm set.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I was going to do a birthday post ON my birthday, but a girl gets busy yo and before you know it, she's 28 years and 8 days old! Just like that. But better late than never ever, right? So here's a quick what's up to the day and events that celebrated me being a year older and a year wiser.
The real life story is, I always love my birthday day. I like waking up and thinking, hey, it's different today! And it's special because it's a mile marker day. It marks progress, which is almost always good, but specifically, I like having a day to remember and be happy about the goods and the greats. I like the natural surge of gratitude I feel on my birthday...for life.
1. Early morning prayer time with lovely ladies
2. Giant blueberries
3. Walking to cafe during my lunch break so I could Skype with sister in Russia.
4. Birthday love and shout outs from family and friends.
5. Hot and sweaty run with Rusty the dog after work
6. Hot and sexy husband giving me presents, hugs and kisses, and a giant fluffy cupcake card (see picture above).
7. Dinner with said hot and sexy husband to eat whole fried flounder with sweet red chili sauce. I just had a hankering. I love fish.
8. Presents through snail mail!
I then got to celebrate more birthday with dear friends from New York in Virginia beach this weekend, along with birthday of sister-in-law, but I shall save that for another post. Thank you all for your birthday wishes and love that you sent my way, a fist pump for another year!