Everything

My boyfriend does this maddening thing whenever we go out for weekend bagels: he orders a PLAIN one with PLAIN cream cheese. Yes, that’s right. DOUBLE plain action.

I mean, really. The horrors!

I, on the other hand, always go for an everything bagel. The cream cheese changes (tofu if I’m trying to cut back on dairy, chives if I’m going all out, low fat if I’m feeling guilty about going all out too much) but the bagel is always the same: everything.

I want the salt flakes, the sesame seeds, the pepper, the poppy seeds, the onion, the garlic. I want everything! Which is why when I came across The Doughnut Project’s Everything Doughnut, a hybrid of sweet and savory breakfast favorites, well… I had to have it immediately.

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The Everything Doughnut

My boyfriend, who by the way, unlike me also hates sweet-savory combos, was horrified, so I went alone.

While reflecting on the ol’ theory that opposites attract, I tore into the Everything Doughnut, a big, plump, doughy affair that would’ve been great to share. Underneath its thick cream cheese glaze and photo ready coating of everything seasoningSea salt, pepper, garlic, sesame, even pumpkin seeds! was a pretty classic soft yeast doughnut, not too cakey, not too sweet. The cream cheese glaze was good, sweet and just a little tangy, like the frosting on a carrot cake, while the savory blend of seasoning made for a surprising mix of textures and flavors, the kind of thing that slows your chewing and makes you go, “Hmmm ok. This is…interesting.”

And really, I think that’s the best way to put it: The Everything Doughnut was interesting. Not bad, kind of fun and quirky, but maybe just a little too savory for something I have always associated with being sweet. I’d say it’s something to try once for the novelty but when it comes to “everything” breakfasts, I’ll reserve that for bagels.

Ready for sunshine and lobster rolls

Knowing myself, I have no doubt that I will very soon regret ever having said the following statement, much less putting it down in writing, but I’m gonna go with it, regrets be damned: I am ready for summer.

:: Sigh ::

I know, I know. It’s not the oppressive humidity I’m ready for, nor the ever present trickle of sweat running down my back on the subway on my way to work, nor the aggressive growl of my AC window unit adding to the cacophony I already deal with, and it’s definitely not the constant stench of garbage baking on the sidewalk. I’ll never be ready for any of that.

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Is it summer yet?

But after a recent sunny (yet still crisp) early spring Saturday spent walking around Red Hook, I’m ready for something other than grey skies, heavy coats, and frigid gusts of air drying out my eyes and turning my nose into a cherry.

I want long afternoons and late dinners after sundown. I want to hide behind sunglasses and feel the sun on my shoulders. I want to throw on a dress, slip on some sandals and be ready. And after lunch at Red Hook Lobster Pound, I want frosty beers to wash down pink, perfect hunks of lobster meat toppling out of warm buttered buns. I want to lick seasoning spices, butter and mayo off my fingers, and think, “Mmmm, tastes like summer.”

Red Hook is one of my favorite parts of town, mostly because be it summer or winter, it always feels quiet and far away, a break from the rest of the city. When you do find a pocket of people and activity, it still feels laid back, cool without trying super hard. That my favorite lobster roll in the city is also found there just makes Red Hook that much better.

While I know I don’t have to wait for summer to go down there and have that buttery, delicious lobster roll, if there’s one thing to make that experience better, it’ll be just a smidge of summer, a warm, sunshiny day and maybe a light breeze. Yup, that’s what I’m ready for.

 

*Note: Yes, I did skip right past spring, because spring in New York is mostly just Winter Lite. It also lasts all of about five minutes, while summer stretches out and feels like an eternity by the time fall rolls around.

Eating to remember… and forget

It’s been almost nine years since I lived in Italy and almost six since I last went back to visit, and sometimes I miss the damn place so much.

Let me be clear, there’s a lot I absolutely don’t miss, but sometimes, like last night while eating a homemade dinner of gnocchi in an herbed tomato sauce with olives and capers, I just miss Italy in general. I miss the food, the pace of life, the “not this” of it all.

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Note to self: eat more gnocchi

With Plated‘s help once again (cause you know, I’d be lost otherwise), I made one of my favorite Italian meals, and an easy one to boot: gnocchi, those perfect little pillow-like potato dumplings that are even easier to cook than pasta. My favorite thing about them? You’ll know when they’re ready because they’ll float up to the top of the boiling water they cook in, only after two to three minutes. Bloop bloop bloop.

My recipe card walked me through making a rich and flavorful, deliciously comforting chunky sauce, made with oregano and rosemary, garlic and onion, fat, juicy tomatoes, crushed red pepper, plump, buttery Castelvetrano olives (my faves), and the tiny little bursts of briny goodness that make every dish with them delicious, capers.

It all came together quickly and easily, and the end result was so very good that I think my stomach couldn’t help but remind my heart of all the times I sat around similarly easy, delicious meals, and how they made all the not-great things about Italy tolerable.

Grubbing in Guatemala

I must’ve been a gypsy in a past life or rolled with some sort of nomadic tribe, because if it were up to me, I’d roam the earth and live out of a suitcase.

If I had the right kind of job, or the right kind of bank account, I would probably do just that but since I don’t, whenever I do get the chance to travel and go somewhere different, somewhere new, somewhere far, every particle of my being revels in it.

And in what will be surprising to pretty much no one, one of my favorite aspects of traveling is eating. Even in a city like New York, where the cuisines of the world are available to me, still nothing beats eating local.

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I’m always happy to go.

When a good friend decided to get married in Antigua, Guatemala, a Central American country I’d never been to, I was just as excited about being a part of his big day as I was about exploring and eating my way around town.

There was lots of good food involved over the course of the long weekend I was there, everything from junk food like Doritos with funny names and peanuty snacks called Double Nuts to elegant and delicious wedding rehearsal and reception dinners to some pretty serious drinks, like the hilarious-to-say Cuchurucho, a cocktail of tequila, rum, vodka, triple sec, gin, red wine and hibiscus liqueur. (The Guatemalan Black Out, if you will.)

But my favorite meal of the trip, due to price, ambiance, and most importantly food, was a casual lunch at Rincon Tipico.

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Chicken, potatos, and guac with a cup of horchata? Si por favor.

While most places took credit cards and dollars, this place only took local currency, the Guatemalan quetzal. A little inconvenient since no one in our group had any, but I took it as a good sign anyway.  Instead of a menu, the waiter rattled of  in Spanish the only three or four options. (Another good sign if you ask me.) The place itself just looked like the real deal. It was homey and colorful, hot under the midday sun and only slightly breezy from ceiling-rigged fans. A no-nonsense looking woman pounded away at fresh corn flour, grilling it into tortillas on a large flat top that was so hot I don’t know how she didn’t melt standing over it.

And when our food arrived, with baskets of warm, fresh tortillas and plastic cups of cool creamy, cinnamony horchata (all you can drink, by the way), I was smitten.

I went with the chicken option, partly because I could see a giant wall of splayed out  chickens roasting in the open kitchen, the fiery heat contributing to the temperature at the tables, and the smell was wafting around me and making my stomach growl. And when it came out, served in a sturdy, no frills, terracotta like plate, the giant chunk of chicken was roasted to a perfect golden crisp, the meat underneath plump and delicious. With it, a generous plop of fresh ground guacamole and juicy, roasted potatoes.

It was simple food and it was great, nothing wildly inventive or groundbreaking, but deliciously satisfying, comforting and filling. And with the bottomless horchata included, it also came in at just about $4.

Even in New York, I don’t know where I would have found that. So maybe I did have to travel 2,000 miles to properly enjoy it and I’m more than happy to keep doing it as often as I can.

When you just need/want noodles

 

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These noodles got me doodling hearts.

Ever have something so good that you’re still thinking about it days later, weeks even, and you stare longingly at the picture you took of it, wishing it was in front of you and you could just enjoy it all over again? No? Really? Just me, huh? Ok.

Well, I’ll tell you this much, a bowl of Xi’an Famous Foods‘ noodles will have you doing just that. I’ve been daydreaming about the deliciously spicy, chili oil seared noodles I had there a few weeks ago and really, I need to just go back and have them again, because at this point it’s getting distracting.

Every lunch I eat, usually boring and healthy, I think, “Why aren’t you noodles?” Every time I’m cold or stressed or bored or need a hug, I think, “Noodles. Nooooodles.”

They were just so…good. So freakin’ good. Simple, wide floppy noodles in a spicy hot oil that not only tasted great but cleared my sinuses and warmed my insides. Comforting, tasting, filling, warming.

I need more of this in my life. I need more freakin’ noodles.

And for my next trick: spaghetti squash!

Ok, I need to ask a serious question here for a second: where— WHERE!— has spaghetti squash been my whole entire life?

Listen, I own one of those little hand-held spiralizers and have actually used it a bunch. I’ve had zoodles and whatever else you want to call noodle shaped food really made out of vegetables and not good ol’ fashioned carby pasta. I’ve had zucchini noodles, carrot noodles, the squash-that-looks-like-a-yellow-zucchini noodles.

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It’s not a great picture, but that’s fully MY fault, not the meal’s.

They were alright. Sometimes, buried under some delicious sauce usually reserved for bowls of pasta, they were even good(ish).  But they were never as good as the real thing. And they certainly weren’t ever something I would rave about and call the most delicious thing I’ve ever cooked.

But spaghetti squash, well ho ho HO, let me tell you… it’s blown my mind. Having it for dinner the other night, thanks to Plated, really felt like unveiling a magic trick. Cut the squash open, pop it in the oven, pull it out and scrape the inside with a fork, and  TA DA! BA DA BING BA DA BOOM! SHAZAM! a delicious, yellow heap of something that looks like noodles, but is in fact JUST vegetabley goodness.

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Again, bad lighting, not great photo, but a damn GOOD forkful. 

I kid you not, folks.

Plated’s recipe  had me make a delicious sauce from tomato paste, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, harissa, cream, garlic and onion which I then dumped the scraped out squash into along with some feta, and mixed together until it was perfectly coated and almost indistinguishable from a plate of angel hair pasta. I then spooned this delicious creamy sauce back into the scraped out squash shells and topped it with another mix, this time made of bread crumbs, parmesan, oregano, before popping it all back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

What came out of my oven was— no exaggeration— one of the best things I’ve ever made… which yea, I know, there’s not a ton of competition in that department, but still! Delicious, filling, vegetarian, and my new magic trick!

Pasta will forever hold a place in my heart, but since it also loves to hold a place in other parts like my thighs, I’m thrilled to have something to substitute it with every now and then that makes for just as delicious of a meal.

Be here. Have cake.

I’ve been daydreaming a lot lately about living in a different city, and possibly because it was the last place I visited and because I loved it so much, my reveries have mostly been about New Orleans.

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Get you a friend who can bake

I spent a week there with friends during the holidays and a few weeks after my trip, The New York Times released its annual 52 Places To Go list, and whaddaya know? New Orleans snagged the number one spot of places to go for “escaping into the world.”

That happens to be exactly what I want to do, but since I can’t at the moment, I’m mostly just going to daydream about it. And because no daydream about New Orleans would be complete without food, that’s where my mind often wanders.

Since we’re in the time of year after Epiphany (Jan. 6) leading up to Mardi Gras (Feb. 13 this year) known as Carnival, I wanted to get my hands on some king cake, a traditional treat served all over New Orleans this time of year. When I saw that Joy the Baker, one of my favorite food bloggers who also happens to live in New Orleans, had her own recipe, I had a better idea: solicit the help of my talented baker extraordinaire friend, Stas, and make one ourselves.

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King cake in the making

She had most of the ingredients already (cause that’s just the kind of always-prepared-for-cake kind of badass she is) and I added the rest, mainly the fun accessories, Mardi Gras colored sprinkles (purple, green and yellow) and a historically accurate baby Jesus figurine.

King cakes are served in lots of other countries  (mostly the Catholic ones) and come in  different varieties but for the most part the New Orleans kind is a cinnamon roll-like doughy treat covered with frosting, and usually includes a small plastic baby hidden somewhere inside.

Stas had already made the dough when I came over, so we rolled it out and then made a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar to spread over it before sprinkling it with pecans, rolling the whole thing up and shaping into a giant ring. She then sliced it and twisted each slice so it made kind of a big, wonky looking flower, which we let sit for a bit before popping in the oven. Once it had risen and turned a nice, golden brown, we took it out, covered it in cream cheese frosting, topped it with the Mardi Gras colored sprinkles and plopped a little brown baby on top. (We didn’t hide him inside because we weren’t sure if he’d melt and we weren’t trying to do baby J like that.)

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Unto them a delicious cake was baked!

It was deliciously doughy and sweet, the comforting smell of  cinnamon and nutmeg wrapping us up in a warm hug as we tore off chunks of cake and licked globs of cream cheese frosting from our fingers. Sometimes it just takes a good friend and a warm, fresh cake to put my reveries on hold and make me happy being exactly where I am.