The boy who played the violin

January 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

When I was a freshman in college, I liked this boy who played the violin.  I didn’t know him or anything.  I just liked that he wore old man clothes and rolled his shirt sleeves over his forearms.  I had a four o’clock class that began when his class ended, and the only time I really saw him was when we would cross each other in front of the art building.  It was my last class of the day, and I used to take these GIGANTIC “power” naps in the dorm that would start at two and end at ten til four.  Sometimes I would over sleep, and get super bummed out as I’d watch from my window as this boy walk across the street.  And then I’d sigh a little.  Sigh.

Later on in the semester, I would go down to the building a little earlier and sit on a cold cement bench in front of the building.  The shadow of the clock tower kept the bench cool, but the sun always peeked beyond the trees enough to warm my legs.  And I was never without a book.  It had to be something smart and showy.  Freshman year, I think it was Sartre.  And Camus.  Anyway, I would position myself in such a way where it would look like I was reading, and for the most part I was, but when the time was right, I could just peer over the top of my book and glance at this boy.  It used to make my day.  Sometimes he would look back at me.  Sometimes he would half-smile.  Sometimes he wasn’t there and I would feel really stupid about waiting.  But for the most part, he’d be there, and it used to give me little heart-skips and jumps and twirls to see him walk past me.

At some point, maybe a year or so later, we met and became friends.  This boy who played the violin became different to me then.  Less quixotic.  Less mysterious.  I always wondered if he knew I’d been watching him from my bench as he’d walk across from me, violin case in one hand, Norton’s Anthology of American Literature in the other.  Maybe I should have asked.

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And, she’s back…

January 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I know, I know…Three months, right?  I can come up with every excuse that the holidays bring–too busy, too tired, too many parties, too many guests, too much blah blah blah–but the truth is that I was just too lazy.

I was baking, I promise.  So much so, that I will be happy to share some pics with you of what I spent my time making.  But writing, bleck.  No way.  Couldn’t bring myself to sit down and do it.  However, seeing as it is a New Year, and new years are always about resolutions–at least, at first–I resolve to pick up my blog again.  And I will never leave you, nor forsake you.  Until I do.  Heeheehee.

In addition to blogging regularly, some other new year’s resolutions:

  • Lose some weight.  I got married and gained 8 pounds.  My husband got married and lost 5 pounds.  Can someone explain this to me?
  • Stop complaining.  I admit, I’m a whiner, and yes, I’d like some cheese with it.  But probably people somewhere are complaining about me complaining so much.
  • Read my Bible everyday.  Totally will help me with the complaining, I’m sure.

I think that’s a decent start.  It’s probably better to start with just a few things anyway.  You know, before I just forget about them all together.

Anyway, as promised, a collection of my baked goods:

Twice-Baked Potato recipe courtesy of A Cozy Kitchen

Cinnamon Swirl Bread recipe courtesy of The Pioneer Woman

Coconut Macaroons recipe courtesy of Godiva

Three lunches…

October 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve decided to be more patient.  There.  I said it.  So when you hear me complaining about a line being too long, or a driver taking forever to merge, or a “maintenance” man pretending to know how to fix a broken refrigerator by blankly staring into it, as if he can fix it through sheer will power, you can hold me accountable for saying that.  You can nudge me in the arm and say, “I thought you decided to be patient.”  You can stop me mid-sentence, singing, “Paaaaaaaatience…”  Or you can just intentionally put me in situations that test my patience. No, actually, don’t do that.

You see, I’m learning that patience is a virtue, and it’s not God-given.  It’s something you (I) really have to work at continually.  So it may be easier to cry with tears of frustration, yell at strangers, or snap at people I love, but is that really solving the issue?  Wouldn’t it just be better to go with the flow and not sweat the little things in life?  I think so.

But, I think there are times when impatience is hard to overcome.  Like when I’m hungry.  I can turn into the Incredible Hulk if I-Don’t-Get-Something-To-Eat-Right-Now!  Come on, you know what I mean. So I picked out some quick and easy lunches this week to encourage my more patient outlook on life.   I’m all about quick.  And easy.

Oh yeah, did I mention delicious?  And Delicious.

Chili-Lime Chicken and Squash Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

By the way I quartered this recipe to make it for one person.  That’s me. Oh yeah, and the original recipe used acorn squash, but I like the sweetness of kabocha.  (Actually it was all I had, but worked really well.)

  • 4 6 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened to 1/2″ thickness
  • 1 kabocha squash, peeled and sliced into 3/4″ slices
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 red chili, minced
  • 2 tbs chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 230C (450F).  Season squash with salt, pepper, and olive oil, then arrange on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, heat a medium size skillet on medium-high heat and drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Cook 3-4 minutes per side.  When chicken is done, remove to a plate and allow it to rest for about five minutes.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, lime juice, chili, and cilantro.  Whisk in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Set aside.

Transfer squash and chicken to a platter, then drizzle with the chili-lime vinaigrette.  Really, really addicting.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tacos From Joy the Baker

Again, I just quartered this recipe to make it for one instead of four.  Also, I added corn and red bell pepper to the cabbage slaw.  I didn’t include it in the recipe below though.

For the potatoes:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • olive oil
  • salt and chili flakes, to taste
  • juice of 1 lime

For the cabbage slaw:

  • 2 cups of cabbage (I used a red and green mix)
  • 1/4 c yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbs cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • salt and red chili flakes. to taste

For the beans:

  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 c yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 (15 oz) can of black beans
  • juice of 1 lime
  • small corn tortillas
  • optional: hot sauce and cheese

Preheat oven to 200C (400F).  Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and season with salt and chili flakes, squeeze on the lime juice, and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss together, then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until tender and brown.  I like to shake them a couple of times through the cooking process.  But that’s just me.  Remove when cooked through and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the cabbage, yellow onion, and cilantro for the slaw.  Add the lime juice, salt, and chili flakes.  Set aside.

For the beans, heat some olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add the onions and cook until translucent, about five minutes.  Add cumin and stir until fragrant.  Add the beans and lime juice and cook until heated through.

For my tortillas, I drizzled my favorite hot sauce (Valencia) on top, then sprinkled them with some grated Monterrey jack cheese.  I put them in the oven to broil for about five minutes, until brown and bubbly.  Serve with potatoes, beans, and slaw.

Avocado and Edamame Salad Adapted from Joy the Baker

This is the recipe for ONE PERSON.  I divided it for you.  Go me.

  • 15 shelled edamame, thawed
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • squirt of honey
  • 2 tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • 1 tbs chopped cilantro
  • 1 handful baby spinach
  • 4 radishes, sliced
  • 1/4 cup avocado, diced
  • sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over edamame until covered.  After a few minutes, drain the water and allow them to cool.  Set aside

For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, garlic, ginger, lime, salt, and pepper until combined.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the cooled edamame, green onion, cilantro, radishes, spinach, sesame seeds, and desired amount of dressing.  Toss together.

Hopefully you were patient enough to read all these recipes so you’ll never ave to be patient for food ever again.  Just focus on being patient for everything else.  I know I will.

Strawberry Cupcakes and a Baby Shower…

October 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Marrying into a different culture has afforded me many opportunities to make a complete ass of myself, although through no fault of my own.  The latest blunder being a baby shower for my sister-in-law.  Rakesh and I had bought a gift that wouldn’t be delivered until a few days after the event, and not wanting to show up empty handed, I thought I would make some delicious strawberry cupcakes.  I wanted them bright pink, since the baby will be a girl…Duh.

I got there a little early, so I signed a huge congratulations poster at the front of the room, then sat down at a table next to my mother-in-law, who speaks very minimal–minimal–English, and one of my sister-in-law’s friends.  As I chatted with the girl, I noticed that next to decorations saying, “It’s a girl!” were an equal number saying, “It’s a boy!”

“Why do they have boy decorations up?  That’s so weird,”  I said to the girl.

“Oh, because they don’t know the sex of the baby yet.”

“No way, really?” I asked, completely confused because the whole time I’d been told it was a girl.  “But Rakesh and I got them all girl stuff!”  I then called over to my sister-in-law to confirm whether or not the baby was a girl as I thought, or if I was going crazy.

“It is Indian tradition,” she said, “that only the family should know the sex.”  Oops.  I hoped I hadn’t spilled the beans too much, and looked guilty over at my bright pink cupcakes.  I was able to move past the incident, until a few days later when I saw pictures posted of the shower.  Someone took a picture of the giant poster/card and posted it with my announcement that I couldn’t WAIT to meet my new NIECE!  Oh the horrors.

Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart Show February 2008

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

  • 2/3 cup whole frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup strawberry yogurt, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside.

Place strawberries in a small food processor and process until pureed.  You should have 1/3 cup of puree.  Add more strawberries if necessary.  In a medium bowl, sift together flower, baking powder, and salt.  Separately, mix together milk, yogurt, vanilla, and strawberry puree.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about five minutes.  Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined.  Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add the egg and egg whites until blended.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the milk mixture, until blended.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula until blended.  Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.  Bake until tops are dry to the touch 20-25 minutes.  Cool cupcakes completely before icing.

Sprinkles’ Strawberry Frosting from Martha Stewart Show February 2008

I found that this recipe made WAY too much frosting, even though it says it’s for a dozen cupcakes.  I only used about half  that the recipe called for.  I’m writing the recipe as is, but it can–and should–be halved if using for 12 cupcakes.  Just saying…

  • 1/2 cup whole strawberries, thawed
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place strawberries in a small food processor and process until pureed.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce mixer speed and slowly add sugar.  Beat until well combined.  Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons of strawberry puree; mix until blended, but be careful not to overmix.  Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy.

No, no gnocchi…

September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

I made a boo boo.  Not that I never make mistakes or anything, but I was really disappointed in this one.  I made a doughy gnocchi.

It’s not often that I indulge in a bowl of pasta–it’s hard for me to balance the guilt of a carbohydrate-filled meal–but gnocchi has a soft spot in my heart.  I’ve seen it made on TV a dozen times, and it always looks so easy, so when I saw a recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a Butter Sage Sauce, I mean, come on.  Who wouldn’t want to dive in, right?  Roasted sweet potatoes mixed with autumnal spices, turned into pasta, then bathed in brown butter.  Mmmmmmmmm…

Everything started out easy enough: roast potatoes, allow to cool, remove skin, place in food mill…oh, I don’t own a food mill.  So I decided to grate the potatoes with a standard grater, but got frustrated with goopy hands.  That’s when I made the ultimate mistake–I decided to use an immersion blender.  Gnocchi is silky smooth, right?  Big time boo boo.  While I did end up with silky sweet potato puree, I also pulled out practically all of the water that is inside (and should stay inside) the potatoes.  Naturally, this meant that I had to add more flour to get it the dough the right consistency.  Maybe I should have taken a hint when I added the second cup of flour (when the recipe called for 1-1 1/2 cups), or even when the dough turned from a happy orange to a dilapidated brown–but alas, the light bulb above my head had not switched on yet.  Don’t get me wrong, I was sure something went awry, but I couldn’t be sure without tasting it.

I continued to make the sauce and cook the gnocchi, assuring myself it couldn’t be that bad.  Oh, but it was.  And a real shame too because the brown butter sage sauce was heavenly.  Rakesh, as kind as he is, decided to eat it with a massive amount of hot sauce.  I couldn’t stomach it and threw it right into the garbage.  Thank goodness for frozen pizza.

 

P.S.  Apparently a grater would have worked just fine, if only I didn’t mind potato  fingers…

 

Homesick Cookies and Eggplant Bruschetta

September 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

I don’t like traveling without my husband.  Like, ever.  Especially not to a foreign country where English is barely spoken and I am meeting a massive amount of relatives that don’t speak English either.  But last week, I traveled to India–without Rakesh–for his cousin’s wedding.  Despite the language barrier and some room confusion (yes, I stayed in a one-bedroom hotel room with my in-laws for two awfully long nights), I actually had a lot of fun.

Although it was my third time being in India, and my fifth Indian wedding, I still appreciate being pawed at like a shiny new toy.  I actually enjoy being asked to have my picture taken with a mother and her baby, or being pulled into a large circle of dancing  to expose what little rhythm I posses. I met my mother-in-law’s six sisters and one brother, all of their children, and some of their children’s children.  I wore shimmering saris and glittering bangles.  I got to learn a little Hindi and try it out on Rakesh when I got home.  I say it was a big step for me.

Four days may not seem like a long time, but I missed home.  Rakesh seemed to miss my cooking more than anything else, because the same night, I was in the kitchen whipping up some tasty treats.  (Although I’m sure he enjoyed the freedom of watching college football all night without me screaming at him to, “Come to bed already! You have to work tomorrow!”)

Homesick Cookies Adapted (barely) from Barefoot Contessa

This recipe is derived from Ina’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies, but with a lot of changes.  First of all, there’s no raisins or pecans.  Secondly, I omitted half the sugar.  But I like the base of this recipe because the cookies come out just soooooo chewy!

  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 sticks unsalted, room temperature butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1 cup white chocolate, chopped


Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Place the hazelnuts on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool, then remove the thin shell.  The oils should cause the shell to release easily.  Chop nuts coarsely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla.

Separately, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Add the oats, cherries, white chocolate, and hazelnuts.

Using a small ice-cream scoop, drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Flatten slightly.  Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Transfer the cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.  These make about 3 dozen, so be prepared to share!

Eggplant Bruschetta  Adapted (of course) from Smitten Kitchen

This is actually called “Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint” on the site, but it is basically bruschetta without the bread.  Which I love love (yes, love love)  so much that I ate the whole eggplant.  By myself.  Really, really fast.  So this is how I made it with just me eating it for lunch.  Although, if a person only eats two rounds, it would be 4 appetizer size servings. (Blush.)

  • 1 medium eggplant cut into 3/4 inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium tomato seeded and diced
  • 3 yellow cherry tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 220C (450F).  Coat a large baking sheet with olive oil and arrange eggplant slices in a single layer.  Sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper.  Roast, without disturbing, 15-20 minutes.  Flip each round–the undersides should be blistered and dark–then sprinkle with additional salt and pepper.  Return to the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix together feta, capers, onion, tomatoes, basil, vinegar, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  And salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange eggplant on a serving dish and scoop and spoonful of the tomato mixture on each slice.  It might be best to eat immediately, but they taste great at room temperature too.

Lamb gyros, a Labor of Love…

September 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I don’t like going to the butcher.  Not in Dubai.  Apart from the whole skinned goats hanging behind the counter, the fresh cow hearts, and mutton tongues in the display case, it’s just not something I fully understand or am very comfortable with.  In Florida, you go to your butcher, ask what’s on special, order your meat, say how you want it cut, make some jokes, get cooking suggestions, give out recipes…it’s quite an affair.  But here, it’s, well, challenging.

I learned this very early on when I ordered a boneless lamb shoulder.  The butcher looked at me quizzically, shook his head and richly answered, “No, with bone.”  Fortunately for me, You Tube has plenty of videos of deboning anything, right in your very own home.  Occasionally, I get lucky, find lamb chops, rack of lamb, ground lamb, lamb kofta, and then I go lamb crazy and buy a kilo of each (yes, the metric system).  This week it was lamb chops, so I decided to make lamb gyros just in time for Labor Day weekend!

Since I live on the 22nd floor of a balcony-less apartment building, actual grilling is out of the question–but my 15dhs Ikea grill pan worked perfectly for my chops, which I marinated over night.  Combine that with some crazy silky homemade tzatziki sauce and I was in Mediterranean heaven.

Mediterranean Lamb Chops Adapted from Ina Garten

  • 4 Lamb chops (4 oz each or 500 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups plain low fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, whole
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest and juice from half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

Tzatziki Sauce Adapted from Alton Brown

  • 2 cups plain low fat yogurt
  • 1 small cucumber, seeded and shredded
  • 6 mint leaves, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Additionally, for the gyros assembly, I use thick arabic bread–much nicer than “pita” which tends to be flat and dry.  Also cherry tomatoes, quartered and seeds removed, chopped red lettuce leaves, and sliced red onions.  You could use olives if you like.

 

For the lamb marinade, in a medium mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, oil,  rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, and juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Place the lamb chops in a freezer bag, then pour the marinade on top. Seal the bag, and spread the chops out to ensure they are evenly coated with the mixture.  Refrigerate overnight. Before grilling, remove the chops from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature.  Prepare a grill pan on medium high heat and place the chops in for 6-7 minutes per side for medium chops.  Remove from the pan and allow the meat to rest 10-15 minutes before serving.

For the tzatziki, line a sieve with paper towels, then place the sieve over a bowl.  Pour the yogurt into the sieve and refrigerate for two hours.  This will drain the water out of the yogurt and make it super thick.  (I forgot it in the fridge over night, but it didn’t matter.)  Place the shredded cucumber in a towel and squeeze all the liquid out.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. This should keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Now to assemble the gyro, I grilled up the bread, spread two large dollops of tzatziki, piled on tomatoes, onions, lettuce, salt and pepper, followed by some sliced lamb.  Then I ate it.  Just like a Greek taco.

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