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Very Orange

In Uncategorized on 03/31/2010 by evinthecity

It seems that the foods I eat follow themes, depending on the week. There are times when I crave textures, such as crisp salads, crusty bread or fresh, silky fish (usually in the form of sushi). There are also times when I long for certain flavor combinations – sweet and creamy gelato, salty, smoky barbecued chicken or my mother’s perfectly sweet Sunday marinara sauce with just the right touch of heat, fat (from the meatballs) and garlic. My diet changes like the seasons of my sentiments and these seasons only rarely integrate.

This week, however, it’s all about orange.

Kabocha squash has been on my mind, big time. Out of the many foods I’ve come to love, my relationship with this deceiving sweet thing has been especially heated. The affair began last fall, when after curiously meandering by the piles of green pumpkins stacked in my favorite Chinatown markets for weeks on end, I finally mustered up the courage to buy one of my very own. I brought it home, hacked it open with abandon, gutted its virgin seeds and tossed it into the hot oven for nearly an hour. After my first taste of the warm, smooth-but-substantial, sweet but not too sweet flesh, I was over the moon for it. I’ve used the squash in curries, soups, warm vegetable salads, sandwich spreads, oatmeal additions – the permutations are endless.

However, I’ve discovered that not all kabocha squash are created equal. Many kabocha converts I’ve talked to prefer theirs on the sweeter, softer side. Not I. I prefer my squash to be less ripe, starchier, firmer and less sweet – it’s a lot more versatile in savory recipes and holds together better.

Like this easy one.

Soy and sesame braised cauliflower with kabocha squash.

Really, there’s no “recipe” involved. It goes like this:

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Innards

Cut open a kabocha squash and scrape out the seeds. Flip it cut side down onto a foil lined baking sheet (this isn’t how it’s pictured – the cut sides are facing up here), and bake for anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour, depending on the size of the squash. This was a hefty fellow.

When the squash flesh is fork tender, peel it if you want to – but the skin is edible (and delicious!). Let it cool completely, and voila! You have a roasted squash at your disposal for any recipe your heart desires. It’s a culinary Choose Your Own Adventure.

For the cauliflower part, you need the following:

Soy sauce

Cauliflower, rinsed

Sesame oil

1-3 Garlic cloves, peeled

Sriracha

A 10-12 inch, relatively deep skillet with a lid

As much cubed, roasted squash your heart, stomach or cravings desire.

And here’s what you do:

Cut the cauliflower into small-medium sized florets.

Mince those garlic cloves.

Add the cauliflower, garlic and a few tablespoons of soy sauce  and a tablespoon of water to the skillet and cover until both steam. When the cauliflower is “al dente,” add the squash to heat it through and cover, about two minutes. For the last few moments of cooking, remove the lid and let the rest of the liquid evaporate (the squash is GREAT at sucking up the soy sauce), and drizzle the mixture liberally with sesame oil and sriracha, stirring it gently. Plate and devour.

That’s all she wrote.

Like I said, I prefer my kabocha to be on the starchy, mildly sweet side for savory recipes. This one was a bit too sweet and ripe for my tastes, so I was left wondering what to do with it.

Enter kabocha oats with coconut buter.

Simply cook some old fashioned oats on the stovetop and add:

Cubed, sweet kabocha

A spoonful of artisana coconut butter, melted slightly in the microwave

A splash of vanilla

A dash of cinnamon

A hit of brown sugar

Eat up.

Oh, and that’s another thing.  I’m currently in love with Artisana Coconut Butter. It smells like heaven and melts like luxurious frosting when heated gently. Over sweet potatoes, in oatmeal, on top of spaghetti (hey, if that’s what you’re into)…it’s a product that I always like to have on hand, because it’s absolutely delicious. And healthy too!

I have a train to catch, but expect a new post quite soon! I hope I gave you your daily orange fix.

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Aaaand we’re back.

In Uncategorized on 03/22/2010 by evinthecity

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Honestly, I don’t have any excuses except that I’ve been enjoying senior year while it lasts before venturing out into the real world (i.e leaving the city, living at home and working full time). My spring break was this past week, and it absolutely did not go as planned, but it was nice to be home and relax before I start commuting back to CT two days a week to work and then back to the city for classes.

I was supposed to go to Greece with my school, Steinhardt, to do a climate change project over my break, but our flight was cancelled on the Sunday we aimed to leave due to bad weather. All the international flights turned out to be cancelled and the earliest time that Delta could fly my group of 40 out was Tuesday with a layover in Amsterdam, meaning we’d get there on Tuesday night and our first full day would be Wednesday. I was in the international terminal and as each flight was successively cancelled, people started freaking out. The smart ones rushed down to the baggage claim to be the first in line to grab their bags and head home for the night while waiting to rebook their flight. We, on the other hand, had to wait for the professors to try negotiating with our travel agent to get a flight for 40 students rebooked within 24 hours – and we were not so lucky.

On top of this, Delta lost my bag. So the gist of the situation was as follows:

-Drive BACK to CT after spending money to get there and come back to JFK two days later (WITHOUT LUGGAGE) to do it all over again.

-Have an extra long travel time with a layover in Amsterdam.

-Cram in 8 days worth of research (already a tight schedule) into 5.

-Hope my luggage turns up while living off the clothes on my back.

-Fly to the city on Sunday night and cram in a hefty paper about the 5 day experience over the next week

This predicament made something in me, like, shut off.

In the past, I would grin and bear it in situations like this. I’m a textbook perfectionist – if I don’t make a good impression on my professors and peers and deliver A+ work with an A+ attitude, I feel like I’ve failed. Throughout college, I’ve purposely taken the hardest classes and really worked at my studies; I’ve interned since Sophomore year and haven’t allowed myself to be a normal college student because I felt like it was “wasteful.” Choosing not to go to Greece was the most difficult decision I’ve made yet at NYU – but I didn’t just do it to evade the chaos that my last spring break at NYU would become. I also did it out of a subconscious desire to just BE for a week – no agendas, no work schedules, no papers to write about the experience. My summer and winter breaks have always been consumed by internships; my spring break has usually been taken over by paper writing or traveling. It’s not that I wanted to go and get schwasty on a beach somewhere, but for once in my young adult life I feel the urge to do absolutely nothing before I rush from graduation to working. Of course, I spent time on the phone with the professors to make sure that my GPA wouldn’t be affected by choosing not to travel, and although I feel guilty and a little bit ashamed for not going, I believe to my core that it was the right decision.

This craving for relaxation is a huge deal for me. The biggest indication was when, 1 month ago, I just stopped running. Now, this is coming from a girl who’s logged at least 30 miles a week since high school. When I got back to school from President’s Weekend at home, I started to suit up for a long run in the cold. As I went to grab my headband and my iPod, I caught a look at myself in the mirror.

I looked…tired and tight. Tight is the best word I can use to describe my general disposition and expression. I had to go running because I eat this much (too much) and need a forum for sorting out my thoughts (too many) and finding my zen without accumulating a beer gut (homegirl likes her drinks!). My mind has been on this single track for years, especially since college started, and I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I realized then and there that the activity I used to love had become a chore; my legs didn’t crave 30 miles a week like they used to. Contrarily, they felt tired and creaky. I felt like this knot in my general psyche loosened, and I took off my sneakers, threw on some spandex, grabbed my yoga mat and set off for Yoga To The People.

…And I haven’t looked back.

I’ll go for one run on the weekends now just to offset the beer and sort out my thoughts from the week, but yoga has been SO therapeutic for me. It satisfies me in the same way that running used to, and it’s a challenge! I didn’t realize how parts of your body can be so out of shape while others can be completely fit. Yoga, at least for me, is the tangible evidence that I need to slow down for now and find new ways to feed my body and soul. I generally feel lighter, calmer and more at peace than I have in years.

It’s also changed my eats.


My favorite breakfast: 1/2 c oatmeal cooked with a d’anjou pear and refrigerated overnight, topped with vanilla, sugar, chunky peanut butter and cinnamon the next day and eaten cold.

Changes made: 2% greek yogurt instead of fat free. It’s a lot more delicious; you don’t need to use a ton.

Ina Garten’s French Apple Tart. This is positively wonderful and simple alongside vanilla ice cream.

Changes made: absolutely nothing. Sugary, buttery goodness is just as good for you as broccoli in moderation.

A typical dinner: a quick saute of a carrot, a parsnip, half a red pepper, canned diced tomatoes, sweet balsamic vinegar, chopped onion, garlic, cremini mushrooms, red pepper flakes and herbes de provence. Topped with pecorino romano cheese.

Changes made: a liberal drizzle of good olive oil over the top right before serving. I prefer when possible to use extra virgin olive oil as a finishing ingredient rather than one for cooking; it’s the only way to reap the benefits of all the good properties in it.

Whole roasted mackerel stuffed with thyme, lemon and garlic slices and parsley. Served alongside sauteed spinach with shallots and cremini mushrooms.

I love roasting whole fish – it’s a lot easier than one would think, and it’s a fun way to eat. You really know where your meal comes from when it’s prepared like this, and nothing is wasted (lots of fish parts are wasted at the supermarket because fillets are usually the most highly demanded item at the fish counter).

All you need is a whole fish that’s big enough to feed one person (usually 3/4 lb – 1 lb is ideal). Have the fishmonger gut and clean it for you. When you get home, give the fish another quick rinse and pat it dry inside and out. All you need is a foil lined baking sheet and a rack that fits into it – arrange them like so.

Stuff it with anything you desire – limes, chiles and cilantro? Go crazy! I chose the ingredients mentioned above: a few sprigs of fresh thyme, garlic and lemon slices and fresh italian parsley. Make sure that you SEASON the inside of the fish too, because it’ll make everything taste better!

Drizzle it in olive oil and roast at 400 degrees. My rule of thumb is 10 minutes for every inch of thickness; a 3/4 lb whole fish usually takes between 12 and 15 minutes. When you take it out, let it sit for up to five minutes. It just tastes better when you do.

Simple food like this embodies the state of mind I’ve been in. Pure ingredients, uncomplicated preparation, but really satisfying flavors. Like many of the bloggers whose blogs I read (Heather and Gracie especially), I’ve also been trying to incorporate more fat into my diet for several reasons (I’ll get to discussing them soon), and I’ve already seen amazing results. The key for health, fitness and general wellness is moderation in everything, and it’s something that I’ve known for a while, but for the first time I’m actually teaching myself to do, rather than safely settling into the austere.

What a post!! And there’s more to come.

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first post!

In Uncategorized on 01/15/2010 by evinthecity

I’m going to begin this blog with a quote from Oscar Wilde, who once wrote that “only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.”

Now, not to put down one of my favorite witty writers, but I beg to differ, big time.

You see, the life of a food enthusiast begins at breakfast – or even beforehand with dreams of it upon waking. My world is colored by the foods I cook and eat, and food and drink is the primary lens through which I choose to view the life that I live, and I’m not just ok with that, I’m damn proud of it! I find that there’s a lot we all can learn about ourselves and someone else through what they eat, what they don’t eat, and how and why they choose to cook or consume the things they do. Taste memories are some of my most intense and definitive ways that I reflect and negotiate my own identity in the present, as I’m about to graduate from NYU and stumble out into the real world – and I’d like to think that many people feel the same way, whether they know it or not.

Despite the troubling facts and figures concerning our factory food system here in the U.S, I’m actually optimistic and excited for the decade to come. When I started reading food blogs back in 2004, the genre was paltry and food policy stories were far and few, and this is certainly not the case anymore. We’ve entered a decade in which food has entered the limelight as a major player – not just in directing political conversation, but also in shaping cultural and social dialogue; it has become a major signifier of identity for many people, not just “foodies,” which seems like an expired term now. I’m interested in the way that the foods we eat make us who we are, in every sense of the word.

As for me, here’s just a few things about me, just based on eats.

1. I intern at Fine Cooking Magazine and love every minute of it.

2. I chose to live in Chinatown 2 years in a row at school, not because the dorm is great (it’s actually terrible, right nextdoor to a homeless shelter, a stone’s throw from Canal St. and across from a family court), but because Chinatown and Little Italy are paradises for unusual eats and inexpensive groceries. Living here has really helped me to step outside my comfort zone in the kitchen (and save money while doing it).

3. Not only am I a chowhound, but I also believe in the healing power of running, yoga and nutritious, whole foods as part of a balanced, healthy and happy life.

4. My favorite taste memory is also one of my earliest; my mother made a croquembouche with all the trimmings when I was four – including a delightful mess of spun sugar, using a tiered rack. When the croquembouche was assembled and the sugar caramelized and spun, I was given the leftover crystalline, lacy caramel threads. It’s my earliest memory of anything.

5. My favorite meal of the day is breakfast. For me, it’s the one (almost) guaranteed time of solitude and consistency in a day where anything can happen in a New York minute.

6. I enjoy wine and cocktails almost as much as food, and the dancing that goes along with them. Since I’m in college, sometimes balance is a difficult feat to achieve, and I’m not perfect – I’m constantly working to find it.

7. I live with three gorgeous and unbelievably bright ladies, and I’m the cook in the room. Our first “family” meal? My dad’s freshly caught striped bass, braised with zucchini, tomatoes and mirepoix, served over whole wheat couscous with some Pinot Noir. Followed by a night out on the town, dancing and bottle service. Yes.

8. My favorite cuisine? Israeli, hands down.

9. My day always ends with chocolate.

10. I fell in love for the first time while sharing the warm chocolate cake with white chocolate ice cream at Balthazar with my date. Although the relationship has long been over, the feeling of falling in love will always remind me of warm chocolate cake with white chocolate ice cream – of dizzily giving yourself away to the temptation of the rich dessert, of the contrasts against hot and cold, bitter and toothachingly sweet, and the satisfaction of an inexplicable hunger that transcends the physical in every savored forkful.

11. One more, just for kicks. I hope to become a food editor and writer “when I grow up.” There’s no way I can take a job that doesn’t involve my number one passion.

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while, because quite simply, I want to share my eats, musings and crazy 20-something life with the world “out there.” So, I give you Brilliant at Breakfast, where I’ll be showing you some of my daily eats, experiments and experiences in the kitchen, at the table and beyond, because a rich and exciting day really does begin at breakfast, and it evolves one bite at a time.