Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Have a Date Too

Nobody would begrudge a girl a date on a night when her husband is off next door playing cards with his friends, right? That's what I thought too, so to console myself while hanging out at home all by my lonesome I made a date for myself. And not just any date, but one stuffed with creamy goat cheese, wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto, and tossed in a warm pan for no more than 30 seconds until the prosciutto softens around the date and the goat cheese melts just ever-so-slightly. Yum. Somebody's missing out, no question about it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Haaaaaa - llelujah!

Imagine a massive choir breaking into the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. That's how I felt on Friday night at about midnight when, after 4 hours marinating in the fridge, I finally took a bite of my first ever homemade ceviche. For those who are not yet members of the Ceviche Fan Club, ceviche is basically raw fish marinated in citrus juice, usually lime. The acid in the citrus lightly "cooks" the fish and makes for a wonderful and refreshing appetizer or snack. You can eat the marinated fish solo or pair it with herbs, fruits, or vegetables for a little variety.

Ceviche is one of those foods that I swoon at the thought of. The kind of thing that I order without fail if I see it on a restaurant menu. One of the dishes I've been planning to try my hand at ever since I got into this whole cooking thing.

I started with fresh yellowfin tuna (only about 1/3 of a pound, since this was experimental after all) and 1/2 cup of lime juice. I chopped the fish into chunks and marinated it in the lime juice for about 1 hour. That was when the creativity came in. I decided to split the tuna and lime juice into two bowls to try out two types of ceviche, because I really wanted at least one to turn out well! I was loosely inspired by this recipe from Epicurious and this recipe from The Foodnetwork.

Here's how it all went down:

Bowl Number 1:
1/2 the marinated tuna and lime juice
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup grated jicama
dash of cumin
dash of cayenne
2 tsp jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 Florida avocado, chopped into chunks
Bowl Number 2:
1/2 the marinated tuna and lime juice
3 tbsp mashed or pureed avocado
1/3 cup ripe mango, chopped into chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup jicama, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped

1. Mix ingredients together.
2. Return to the fridge for as long as you like--I left it three hours.
3. Remove and enjoy as midnight snack.

Both turned out very well. My preference was for the spicier selection in Bowl Number 1. I think Ash preferred the sweetness that the mango added in Bowl Number 2. Next time I am going to be a little bolder and try incorporating some coconut milk! If you're a ceviche fan, I definitely urge giving the homemade variety a try. If I can do it, clearly it's not too tough, and then you can save yourself all the dollars that they love to charge for this appetizer in restaurants.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kids in my Neighborhood Say the Darndest Things...

Overheard on Montague Street yesterday evening:

Woman: You must be excited that you will get to be part of the wedding celebration!

4 year old boy (who cannot yet say his "R"s): Well, yes and no. I don't mind being the wing bea-woo, but I weally don't want to weah that suit. It is not my style. It's pwetty ugly, weally.

Overheard on Henry Street a while back:

Girl about 4 years old: Look at my new purse.

Boy about 6 years old: Yeah, so?

Girl: It's Prada.

Boy: I don't think that's a Prada purse.

Girl:'s pink....

Boy: Yeah, but I don't think that makes it Prada.

Girl (very sadly): Oh....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pickled Pink

Dorky, I know. Couldn't help myself. Tickled pink is what I am in light of my new discovery--making pickles!

I am a worshipful devotee of pickles of all varieties. My grandparents literally stock extra pickles in their fridge when they know I am coming to town. Now that I have begun experimenting in the kitchen, with a long term goal of learning to make from scratch all the food items that I love and adore, pickles had to come up eventually.

I have already experimented with pickling of the international variety. This time, spurred on by encouraging posts from Smitten Kitchen and Orangette, I tackled the standard dill flavoured pickles we know and love in the United States.

It took about 20 minutes. Less even. I boiled up a cup of cider vinegar and 1 1/2 cups of water, added a tablespoon of sugar, a few cloves of minced garlic, dill weed, and salt, and then decided to get creative and tossed in a few other items I thought might spice things up a little--mustard seed, peppercorns, cloves, and maybe some other stuff I don't remember. I let the spiced liquid simmer for a few minutes and then poured it over my carrots (the easiest thing I could find in the house to practice on). I let them cool and they went into the fridge overnight.

All in all, a good showing on the pickle front. Nice crunch, nice acidity level. Perhaps I tossed in those extra spices with a tad too much abandon; I would have liked the dill flavor to dominate a little more, but hey, that is what experimenting is for.

There are many more pickles to be attempted, both foreign and domestic (bread and butter, sweet, Japanese oshinko, Indian mango pickle, the list is endless...) Surely I'll get to them all eventually. Stay tuned.

Note: Those who have heard me lament previously about the fact that my kitchen is lopsided, have a look at the level of the brine in the pickle jar--there's the proof!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Catching Up

This week has been so crazed that it is now Thursday and I am only just getting a chance to post this picture I took last Saturday. This little purse full of chocolates was a treat for each guest at my friend Jen's bridal shower last weekend. (And you'll know what I mean by a crazed week when I tell you that I haven't even had time to eat all of my chocolates yet. Usually those babies would be gone in an hour!)

The celebration took place at Rosa Mexicano, home of New York's best and freshest guacamole (made right at your table), as well as some pretty excellent other dishes.

Being at that shower reminded me how much I enjoy seeing a friend in a new context. Isn't it odd when you have only known someone as a colleage, and then all of a sudden you are meeting their parents, grandparents, cousins, and future in-laws? It gives you such insight into a person's life. I love that. And it's all the more enjoyable when you get to see what kinds of gifts other families give to one another on special occasions like these. Matching bride and groom teddy bears that sing I'm Getting Married in the Morning? I'm guessing Jen wasn't expecting that one.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Something to Reflect On

The other day my father sent me a link to a series of photographs by Seattle artist Chris Jordan. I found it so thought-provoking I had to share it here. The series is called Running the Numbers: An American Self Portrait. Check it out.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Cooked with Jamie

Not too long ago while wandering around The Strand, I came across this cookbook. Having read a review here and there, I was inspired to open it. A word to those who are vulnerable to cookbook temptation: if you don't need another cookbook do not even open this one. You will instantly be hooked.

When I came across Cook with Jamie I did not need a new cookbook. In fact, I had just put a moratorium on cookbook-buying until I made some headway into the ones I already have, so I could not allow myself to purchase it. Happily, however, someone noticed the forlorn look on my face when I put the book away and bought it for me as a surprise. Thank you Ashkon.

Last weekend was the first chance I had to flip through the book with the time to try out something from within its pages. A second warning: have a tea towel or something nearby as you read. It could come in handy in case of drooling. The dishes look that good! The photographers, David Loftus and Chris Terry, deserve some serious praise. (And Jamie, of course, for creating such tastiness in the first place.)

After many mouth-watering options were weighed, I settled on a spinach and goat cheese risotto. I just made a basic risotto recipe to start. Then cooked up a 1/2 lb of spinach with a clove of garlic and pinch of nutmeg, and pureed it in a food processor. When the risotto was ready, I folded in the spinach puree and added about 4 oz. of goat cheese, 2 handfuls of grated Parmesan, and an indecent amount of butter, and crumbled a little more goat cheese on top. Easy-peasy and very yummy. I knew Jamie wouldn't lead me wrong. More to come from this cookbook soon, to be sure.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I said I would be posting a few more photos from Montreal, and now I am finally getting around to it. Let me begin by apologizing for the fewness of pictures I have to share of the Old City and the outdoors in general. The shooting conditions were less than ideal. In other words, my fingers do not operate well at subzero temperatures. Nonetheless, in the moments before frostbite set in I did manage to capture a couple of winter scenes.

As we were tramping through the Old City trying not to think about the snow soaking our pant legs and getting into our boots, I found myself wishing I could be pulled along on a sled like the lucky little person above.

I have to accompany this second shot of the Hotel de Ville (or City Hall) with a thank you to my brother and husband, who waited patiently on the sidewalk (without gloves! or hats!) while I tried to get a crisp picture by balancing my camera on top of a precarious makeshift tripod consisting of my phone, my wallet, and my camera bag stacked in a tower on the hood of someone's car. It worked well enough in a pinch, though it took some maneuvering.

We really enjoyed Montreal, though our exploring was somewhat limited due to our wimpy-ness in the face of cold (and our lack of proper snow-going attire). We got to enjoy an unfamiliar and beautiful city with some old friends and their adorable daughter. We even got to attempt a little French conversation. ("Un pizza s'il vous plait?") What could be better? (Well, I guess the American dollar could have been a little stronger, but I won't even go there.)

Last shot--our final view of Old Montreal before we headed home:

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Our Little Bundle of Joy

Yes it's true. There has been a new addition to the family. It's a bonsai tree! And I have decided that he is a boy. He is a cascading juniper, age 6, and has already received 2 years of training. Ash and I are thrilled to welcome him into our home. He was a gift from my brother, who departed yesterday after three happy weeks of visiting.

Like all young things, the little fellow is going to need some care. Baths every couple of days (no kidding), regular spritzing with a mister (to encourage good behavior), feeding (with fertilizer) between the months of April and October, and pruning twice a year (so that he can grow and develop into the lovely grown-up bonsai we know he can be).

The first line of business is picking a name for our bonsai. And it needs to be a good one, because he is going to be part of the family for a long time. Bonsais can live to be 400 to 600 years old, and if all goes well, we will be able to pass him on to our grandchildren some day! So I'm taking suggestions. Bonsai names.... Any thoughts?

Saturday, January 5, 2008


There is no doubt that our niece Ariana has the title of "Cutest Little Girl on the Planet" all sewn up, but she may have a little competition coming her way from the Brazil/Japan/Canada corner. We spent last weekend hanging out in Montreal with some of my friends from high school days, and finally had a chance to meet their daughter Bianca. (Naturally, I am a member of the Bianca Fan Club on Facebook, but this was my first in-person meeting). Within about 30 seconds we were all eating out of Bianca's hand. She had enough adorable antics to keep us all oooh-ing and cooing for most of the weekend. Good thing too, as Montreal was so cold and snowy, we spent most of our time indoors. And really, why venture out when you can watch Bianca smilingly try to eat your wristwatch instead?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Welcome to 2008

I rang in the new year in Montreal and took so many photos I haven't had a chance to properly sort them out yet. I will share a few in the next couple of posts. In the meantime, I thought I would begin 2008 with some lights!

While in Montreal I had a chance to try duplicating one of the photos that I liked on the Splendor-Solis photo blog a little while back. (Ian was kind enough to share his technique with me, which made it much easier. ) I love the surreal effect.