Thursday, September 29, 2005

The joy of fish cubes


This is one of my favorite things to make these days, and I'm eternally grateful to FreshDirect for providing me with a cheap, constant supply of fish cubes. It's quick, easy and delicious.

Ingredients (serves 2):
Fresh ginger (a big, fat piece), grated
4 or 5 garlic cloves, minced
3 or 4 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons chunky or smooth peanut butter
A few drops of pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
A few tablespoons of white wine, vermouth or pineapple juice

1/2 pound similarly-sized fish cubes (or a fillet cut into cubes, or two fillets from different fish cut into cubes)

For the rice:
1/2 cup white or basmati rice
1 cup water (or a mix of water, chicken broth, pineapple juice, sake, or whatever)

Special equipment:
2 skewers, soaked for at least 20 minutes in water
A broiler (salamander as we call it at the FCI)

1. Mix together the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lemon juice, peanut butter, and pepper sauce. It should be thick but wet and not gummy. Add enough white wine or pineapple juice to make it saucy.
2. Put all of the fish cubes in the mixture and leave them there for at least an hour.
3. Brush some oil on your broiler pan and set the oven to 'broil'.
4. Make the rice in the standard way (one part rice to two parts liquid, bring it to a boil, cover, put the heat as low as you can and don't touch).
5. Skew the cubes, shaking off excess marinade.
6. When the rice is nearing completion, stick the skewers under the broiler. They should be done after about 5 minutes.
8. Heat up the remaining marinade in a saucepan, adding wine or juice if needed.
7. Serve them over the rice. Garnish with a few basil leaves and a lemon wedge, or some watercress, or with nothing at all (although it's nice to have something green on the plate). Drizzle some of your lovely sauce either on the cubes or the rice.

You can make this more or less garlicky, spicy or gingery. I've been really into ginger in the last 6 months or so, so I tend to use a ridiculous amount, just because I can. The cost of all of these ingredients together is about $5, so be decadent however you choose.

I went through a similar phase with nutmeg a couple years ago, and now the mere thought of that spice makes me squirm. I'll try to control myself this time.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Garlicky weekend fun

After reading an article last week in the Times about buying plastic containers of pre-peeled garlic, I decided to give it a try. Garlic at whole foods is overpriced anyway, so it turned out to be a better deal to get the peeled stuff. I made practically the same dish two nights in a row, loosely based on one of Mark Bittman's recipes. Both times it was delicious and easy. I couldn't get my hands on any cheap, fresh basil, so I used some leftover pesto. Also, tomatoes were looking pretty sad at Whole Foods (except for the $4 per pound heirlooms), so I got canned, peeled ones.

ingredients:
olive oil
peeled garlic cloves
salt
1/2 pound of thin pasta (for 2 servings)
a few tomatoes, chopped
lots of basil or pesto
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese (optional)

Put at least a cup of olive oil in a skillet over low-medium heat, and leave a truckload of peeled garlic cloves in it, turning them occasionally, until they turn soft and brown (at least 30 minutes, but less than an hour, or they'll turn mushy). Add salt liberally. In the meantime, make the pasta. The first night I used spaghetti, and the second night I used farfalle. I prefer the spaghetti, but either way is good.

In a warm serving bowl (I made it warm by leaving an inch of boiling water in it for a few minutes), combine the tomatoes and basil, and mash them together. Add the garlic and the oil it was cooked in, and continue to mash. When the pasta is done, toss it all together. Add a fat pinch of salt and a heavy grinding of pepper, and serve. I added parmesan cheese once it was plated. The second night, I added chicken.

You'll definitely want to serve bread with this, because the juices are delicious. I didn't have any FCI bread this weekend, so we had to resort to a pathetic whole foods wonder bread-esque baguette. Never again.

Anyway, I'm excited for this garlic business. I have to find a place down in Chinatown to get it on the cheap. okadots, let me know if you see it on your Grand Street fish runs. I love to cook with garlic, but it's a mess and a pain to peel, especially in such large quantities.

Last night we saw Flightplan with Jodie Foster. It ruled.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Harvest moon


n8 and I had dinner at Oka's swank LES pad last night. She made delicious salmon (which she pan fried wrapped in aluminum foil, both for the containment of flavor and ease of cleanup). I had been craving salmon all day, and Oka managed to cook it all the way through without losing any of the moist salmony goodness.

After dinner we retired to her enormous, comfortable roof. We had a gorgeous view of downtown all the way up to the Chrysler building. The moon was so beautiful that I texted Jeannie and told her to look. When we talked later I learned that she recently fractured her poor little Korean elbow while skateboarding in her office.

Last night was also the season premiere of Lost. If any of my, I don't know, 4 readers has never seen this show, get thee to netflix and rent the first season. I can say without hesitation that it's the most engaging and well-acted show I've ever watched.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Freak-a-leek


I made the braised leeks and was sorely disappointed. I don't know what anyone wants with a whole damn leek on their plate. It tasted ok, but they're a pain to cut and chew. n8's trying to sell me on how good they were. They weren't awful, and they certainly looked pretty on the plate (with sautéed chicken breast and tomatoes), but I won't be making them again anytime soon.

My grandma and her sister arrived more than two hours late, so it was an abrupt dinner. Despite my mother's endorsement, I don't find Sid to be all that nice. That's probably because she told me that my leeks didn't taste like anything (which is true), but who the hell says that when someone you're meeting for the first time makes you dinner?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Parties parties parties

n8 and I went to three parties on Saturday, which was just about all we did outside of the apartment. In the afternoon, we went to Jersey City with n8's boss for a party at their coworker's house. Yes: house. When I go to the suburbs and see places like that, I get a little crazy. The house was amazing. Fireplaces and high ceilings and that old-timey felt wallpaper. Laundry rooms and pantries and floor-to-ceiling medicine cabinets and linen closets. A backyard, a garage, a front porch, a roofdeck. They've been in it for three years and working constantly. They still have a long way to go, but it's a beautiful place.

So, for about 20 minutes, I was a little dizzy from the house tour and started flirting with the idea of leaving the city. Then I quickly changed my mind when I realized that there is nothing more impressive to me than a really beautiful Manhattan apartment. When people have very little space to work with and they make it more than liveable, that impresses me to no end. I think that once we can afford to buy something and we have 600 square feet all to ourselves, I'll be happy. I mean, I'm happy now, but I would like one more closet and a dishwasher.

After the Jersey party, we headed home for a rest. (Incidentally, it's super easy to get to JC from downtown. The path train is at 6th ave and 9th st, and it's only $1.50! Cheaper than the subway!) At around 10:30, we went upstairs to our neighbor's roofdeck for a couple drinks. There weren't many people there by the time we left, but it was fun. From there, we went to a friend's birthday party at apt on West 13th. We tried going there a few months ago when I had friends from England in town (it was their idea, and I always encourage guests to have their own agendas). Naturally, they wouldn't let us in, so I couldn't believe someone was reckless enough to have a birthday party here. There was a group of 6 people ahead of us in line, and the queeny little bitch doorfag told them that, without a reservation, entry was impossible. I braced myself for the worst, but he let us right in! Maybe it was because there were just two of us, maybe it was my Agnès B top. Either way I couldn't help feeling special.

We stayed at apt until about 1:30. Outside of partying, I did a lot of reading. I finished Jeffrey Steingarten's "It Must Have Been Something I Ate," which I really enjoyed. I'm waiting for his other book at the library, because I want to have read both of them before I meet him, which could be any day! When I finished that, I moved on to Ruth Reichl's "Comfort Me With Apples." I enjoyed her as well, though I don't find her nearly as witty as Steingarten or MFK Fisher. She's got a Berkeley mentality, and I got a little tired of hearing about her life in the Channing Way commune.

My grandmother and her sister, the mysterious Aunt Sid, are staying with us tonight. I have no recollection of Sid, though my mother claims I met her when I was little. I'm planning on making braised leeks and scallops, but that might change.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Drinking all day all weekend long

My weekend got off to a quiet start on Friday. I thought I'd be going out with Jonathan (my older brother), but he got lost when came through the Holland Tunnel, didn't get to his friend's apartment until late, and they didn't go out till after 1. So, luckily, I missed that action. I did, however, meet up with them at about 1 pm on Sunday at a bar on the Upper West Side called Jake's Dilemma. We drank $7 pitchers of beer for about 3 hours. I was with Jon, his friend Charlie who lives in Queens and works at my Whole Foods, and their friend Georgia from Australia. From there, we drunkenly ambled down to the Sheep Meadow in Central Park and cut up in the grass until we got hungry. For dinner we met n8 and went to Cedar on University Place (a place we had formerly been boycotting because we thought it was cheap but in fact it's kind of expensive). We had delicious burgers and were home by 8, early enough to have a rest before going out. (My 'rest' was spent cleaning up the mess I made earlier in the day. Have you ever made candied walnuts? It's no small chore. Details below).

That night we went to a party at Emily Miller's new apartment on West 87th Street. She and her roommate just moved into a sizeable two-bedroom on the 25th floor. It's a nice view, but I'm terrified that her adorable puppy is going to jump over the ledge.

Now for the picnic...

Yesterday was Emily B's Prospect Park Potluck Picnic. Emily frequently has parties such as these, sending everyone into a tizzy about what to make. But we always have fun and enjoy each other's food, so I can't complain. This time I made spicy candied walnuts. They were delicious but a real pain to clean up. And I burned myself on the hot syrup. That stuff is like molten lava (until it dries, then it's like a rock). I also made the summer rice pilaf that I made for dinner with Bianca and Joe a few weeks ago (involving corn, shallots and mint). I made some adjustments to Martha's recipe, though. I found it too shalloty last time, so I left the shallots in the pan for an extra 10 minutes or so. People seemed to enjoy it.

The party itself was tons of fun. Emily has such a nice variety of friends and family at all of her get-togethers. There were about 20 of us in all, including Jake (who I haven't seen in ages) and his girlfriend, Bridget, who I'd never met. Uncle Ted was there, as were Emily's parents, her grandma, and a bunch of French people.

We sat around in the hot late-summer sun for a good 4 hours, drinking wine and eating everything. My candied walnuts were a huge hit, especially with Emily's gran, who couldn't get enough of them. Smart lady. We finally got home at about 6, and I immediately fell asleep and napped until after 8.

Emily's girlfriend's friend Jess, who works for my food idol Jeffrey Steingarten's wife, informed me that Mr. Steingarten just moved to the building either right next door to or right across the street from mine. That means that a) he will be in my block association, and b) I will get to meet him and become an important part of his life. Ok, well that's probably not true, but I'm on a mission. Stay tuned.

This is bound to be a crazy day at work because Chef Pépin is going to be in. This is his office, so I can't be here all week. I don't know exactly where they're going to put me. :\ I'm not complaining, though, because I'm lucky to have an office at all.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Nano!

I wonder if I'll get in trouble with Apple for posting this picture on my weblog. I kind of doubt it. So, this is the iPod I've been waiting for ever since n8than got his Shuffle in May. I have had my big clunking 10-gig iPod for nearly three years. The plan was to keep it until it broke. Unfortunately, the little bastard works as well as it did three years ago. I have seen so many newer iPods break in those three years--I don't know what Apple was doing right that they are now doing wrong. Anyway, I'm not worried because, as n8than pointed out, these babies use flash memory instead of a hard drive, so there is less chance of internal meltdowns (Also, I used the Amex, which doubles my warranty). I ordered the white, 4-gig one. I originally wanted the black one, but I decided that: a) iPods are white, and b) the black one would probably always look dirty. I can almost see grubby fingerprints on it at right.

Now I have to wait a few days for it to be delivered, but I don't know when the Apple store will have them in stock. Seems like they should have an unlimited supply of new products, but as of this morning they don't even have anything in the window.

Otherwise it's been an uneventful week. Last night I tried to make a special dinner but was not pleased with the result. I took a brioche home from work and stuffed it with scallops, caramelized onions, spinach and parmesan cheese and then baked it for a while. It was tasty, but I didn't consider how dry it would be. If I make something similar again I'll make some kind of creamy sauce to put on it once it comes out of the oven.

Two nights ago I made a delicious dinner with FreshDirect's fish cubes. They sell these little cubes of fish, which I guess are left over after they cut fillets and steaks. They're only $6 a pound, and it's good fish (tuna, salmon, swordfish, halibut, etc.) I doused them in a ton of ginger, garlic, basil, peanut butter, shochu, soy sauce and chili sauce, then I put them on skewers and broiled them for about 5 minutes. It came out really well.

Yesterday's staff lunch at the FCI was the best yet--they cooked Korean! (I think--can you verify, Jeannie?) Spicy tofu meatballs, Korean barbecued steak, delicious greens, sesame noodles, etc. My colleague Brendan and I tore it up. Speaking of Brendan, it turns out that he and n8than were in French class together at Virginia Tech. It doesn't get much more random than that.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Take ya shirt off!

n8than and I just got back from our Labor Day weekend beerfest in Chapel Hill, NC, where we sang Petey Pablo all weekend. I had never been to visit Molly before, and now I can't wait to go back! Here's a rundown of all of our fun activities:

On Friday night Molly picked us up at about 10 pm in her cute little red tuna can of a sports car that we crammed into over and over for three days. We went out that night to a bar called the Library on Franklin Street with Molly's friends Katie and Mark. In typical Molly fashion, she was down with the bouncer, so none of us had to pay. I stuck to beer that night while n8than enjoyed shots of tequila and his very first Jäger Bomb. We stayed out until two, went home, ate goat cheese and hummus, then slept till 11.

The next morning, hungover and feeling lazy, we cruised over to Katie's apartment to lounge by the pool for the afternoon. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We were joined at the pool by a young Swedish couple reading American gossip magazines. We called them the Katürter Frürters and made fun of them for the rest of the weekend.

From there, we went to buy liquor at the ABC store, and I bought five pounds of Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter (because I can't find the 40 oz. size anywhere up north anymore, not even in Pittsburgh.) That night Molly made her famous "Lasagna on a Stick," which was a real marvel of culinary engineering. Then we got all gussied up (see photo at right) and went out again to the Library and also to a really classy establishment called Players. Molly, of course, knew a bartender there, so we didn't pay for anything.

We slept in late again the next morning, made a big breakfast, and then watched three hours of the third season of Dallas (which n8than and I had been waiting for for months, ever since we finished season two in the spring!). Once we finally rallied ourselves a bit, n8than put on his pink visor and we went to Molly's friend's house for a barbeque. This guy had a duck who we had fun chasing around and feeding ground beef to. We played lots of bachelor games at his house like foosball, lawn darts, and air hockey.

From there, we went home to meet another old friend of Molly's, and the four of us went to Cold Stone Creamery. It was my first trip there, and I'll have to remember to get the small next time. I ordered a small but was talked into getting the medium ("It's only 30 cents more and it's twice as big!"). Stupidly, I was sold, and I threw away more than half of the ice cream. Who the hell can eat that much ice cream? It was a pint! That night, we went out with Katie to a bar called He's Not Here. We drank beer from giant cups called Blue Cups and went home at around 1 since we were all tired.

On Monday, we had a quick Mexican lunch then went to the airport. I miss Molly already! When we got home last night, we watched the final five episodes of Lost, Season 1. I had nightmares all night, and I won't be able to concentrate until the season premiere on September 21!