Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sorry I've been out of touch - I've got lots of pics waiting - Italian meatloaf and homemade applesauce and sweet potato latkes! I'll get to it soon, I promise.

Have a great turkey day!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eat your vegetables

I wasn't going to post anything, but I was dicing up this butternut squash -

- and damn, it smells good. It's almost citrus-y and sweet and the color is so gorgeous. I've been reading Marcella Hazan's memoir (you know, the Italian cooking lady on PBS with the lame arm? Anyone?) and she talks about how Italians don't eat vegetables because they're good for you or because the government says so, but because they taste so good (the vegetables grown in Italy, not the crap you get in American supermarkets - I'm paraphrasing here, but that's the general idea).

If you're so inspired, go get a locally grown butternut squash and make this. It's delicious, I promise. And watch PBS.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A legendary soup

You may have heard me talk about how much I love Julie Powell (the author of Julie and Julia). In her book, she talks about making Julia Child's Potage Parmentier (that's potato leek soup for you non-French speakers) and how great it is. So I figured I should give it a try. I realized I had five leeks and a bag of yellow potatoes in my fridge, so this seemed like a good day to go for it.

It is very simple (so says Julie Powell), which doesn't mean easy. You have to peel a bunch of potatoes (about 1 pound) and then slice or dice them up. Then you slice the same amount of leeks and wash them really well in a colander (mine were from my CSA box and were completely covered in dirt).

Then throw them in a pot with 2 quarts of water (or chicken broth - I did a mix of both) and one Tbs of salt - simmer them over moderate heat for about 45 minutes, partially covered (I balanced the pot lid over one side of the pot and my little espresso maker - I am such a professional). Once the vegetables are tender, it's time to blend them up.

Julia asks that you don't use a food processor or a blender - she wants you to use a food mill or a fork. I did just get a food mill (another wedding present - woot!) but I was too lazy to set it up. My immersion blender just called out to me, "Lena! Use me! I am so easy to use and already out of the box!" So I pureed about half of it with the immersion blender and left some chunks of potato in tact (as a sort of compromise with the ghost of Julia Child). Then I adjusted the seasoning and adding some cream (Julia says! She wanted me to add 6 Tbs, but I added about half that in deference to my girlish figure).

It's good - very filling, but it's not a wow. It's kind of bland for my taste - but it would be a good first course type thing - just not a whole meal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I can't stop eating these

When I got a brand new oven, one of the first things I thought was "Score! Now I can make those candied pecans that Bryn makes for me!" I love these things. They are addictive. I just keep popping them in my mouth, but you can also use them in a salad (Bryn uses them in salad with blue cheese, pear, avocado, green onion and an oil and vinaigrette dressing - which is great).

Candied Pecans - adapted from Bryn Kahn


1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 lb whole pecan halves
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. In a bowl, mix together sugar, salt and cinnamon and set aside (normally in baking, I skip this step. But I did it this time because it's important to get the sweet/savory taste correct).
3. Beat egg white and water together until just frothy, not stiff (I just used a whisk and beat it a few times by hand. It's easy - don't let it scare you). Add pecans and stir until well coated. Add sugar mixture, mixing pecans until well coated.
4. Spread evenly onto a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and separate pecans as they cool. Store in a tightly closed container.

Eat until your mouth feels weird from eating too many nuts. That is an unintentionally dirty sentence. My subconscious mind is in the gutter.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm pretty sure that Staten Island isn't really a part of New York City

So, like four years ago, my then-roommate and gay husband Josh said "Oh my god, I just went to Staten Island and had this amazing pizza, it's at this place called Joe and Pat's. You have to go there!" And I said "Dude, it's in Staten Island. I'm so never going to go there." But little did I know.....

This morning, I woke up at 5:15am to do three shows in Staten Island (oh the glamorous life of a professional actress) and by 11am, we had done two shows and were freaking starving. I dug through the back of my brain and said "we have to go to this pizza place!" Luckily, my fellow cast member had an iPhone and after some intensive googling of "famous pizza Staten Island" and me sifting through names, going "not it, not it, not it," we finally stumbled across the name "Joe and Pat's." Eureka! My brain rejoiced. That's it! The iPhone told us that it was a mere nine minute drive from the school we were at, so off we went.

We started with an arugula salad. It was about six times the amount you see below.

It was really great - fresh arugula and cherry tomatoes with shaved Parmesan and vinegar. I could have skipped the raw red onions though. It was a surprising salad for a pizza place - we were expecting some iceberg lettuce with thousand island dressing - this was awesome. We also got practically a full loaf of warm fresh baked bread. Yum!

Then we had pizza.

One slice pepperoni, one slice cheese. It was thin crust, which I wasn't expecting. I am not a fan of thin crust in general but this rocked. I feel like some thin crust pizza is stiff and snooty (you know, all pretentious with a dollop of cheese and fresh basil), but this was like if you took an authentic New York slice and then slimmed it down. It was crispy but still malleable. It was manly thin crust. I loved it.

Is this worth a trip to Staten Island? Maybe not, but if you're already there, well go for sure.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I love my kitchen stuff

The great thing about getting married (along with vowing to spend the rest of your life with somebody awesome and having a great big party) is that people give you really cool stuff! Now I'm going to let you in on a little secret - our apartment isn't big enough to hold all of our cool new stuff, so some of it is piled up in a corner next to the couch. But every once in a while, I get frustrated that I have all this stuff that I've wanted for ages that I'm not actually using and I break something out of the corner. Today that something was my immersion blender.

Last week at Vesta, Joe had some awesome squash soup and I said, "hmmmmmm, I could make soup." I happen to have 3 acorn squash (not to mention about 1,000 apples) sitting on my counter, courtesy of my CSA, so I pulled a recipe from Martha Stewart/Emeril Lagasse off the internet and decided to give it a shot.

Acorn Squash Soup

3 acorn squash, halved, seed removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped (I used two small random green apples in my fridge - the ones that were going a little soft and I didn't want to eat)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
4 cups low sodium chicken stock (you could use vegetable broth or water - but don't unless you're a vegetarian)

Preheat oven 400 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, roast the acorn squash, cut side down, until soft, about 45 minutes. Scoop out the squash flesh and set aside.

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Saute carrot, apple, and onion until soft. Season with ginger and allspice. Add the squash and the chicken stock. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (I added about 1/2 tsp of salt as well - I just don't think it's cooking if you don't add salt).

Remove the pot from the heat and puree with a hand-held immersion blender. Yay! I got to use my blender. My sister thinks these blenders are evil, but that's just because she stuck her finger in the blade part and turned it on. Seriously. But don't let that turn you away from trying the soup.

It was very good - simple, but not bland. It's also creamy without having anything bad for you in it - which is the holy grail of cooking, as far as I'm concerned. I served it with a little salad - it was a great fall meal.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This is an administration I can support

Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of In the Heights) performs a hip hop song about Alexander Hamilton at the 1st ever White House Poetry Jam for the Obamas. It's like my inner American history nerd self and my musical theater nerd self and had babies that were in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda.