Category Archives: Cooking

C-ing past Corona

0DB47822-785B-4765-87CE-FB02C5144FA6I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more than a little overwhelmed by the constant barrage of CoronaVirus related news. I’m feeling anxious and isolated and sort of cast adrift as I struggle to figure out how to do my job from home.

While I’ve been escaping with live streamed yoga classes, professional Zoom meetings and binge watching Sex and the City, it isn’t enough. For the rest of my waking hours, irregular as they may be, there are two C words beyond Corona that are occupying my time – cooking and cleaning.

Since grocery shopping is such an ordeal these days and we’re encouraged to remain at home, I’ve been trying to cook out of my pantry and my crisper drawer. Last night’s meal nicely capitalized on what I happened to have on hand – broccoli rabe, chickpeas, canned tomatoes and an open container of veggie stock.

Now, if you look at this NYT recipe you might notice that it doesn’t actually call for broccoli rabe, listing kale instead, but this is very much a recipe that one can modify according to whim or ingredients available. My take on it, after reading some of the comments on the NYT website, doubled the chickpeas and used the liquid from the canned tomatoes and veggie stock instead of water. I also tossed in a Parm rind for some added flavor and increased the crushed red pepper by a generous extra pinch.

DB984C4F-F9E3-4D70-BEEA-684206D4BAEDServed with grated cheese, it was a cheap and healthy dinner with the bonus of being delicious.

Cooking the Pasta e Ceci  was easy and satisfying – just like some of the recent home projects I’ve taken on. Since I frequently find myself wandering from room to room in my house, I’ve done a fair amount of organizing and weeding of items that I’m prepared to eliminate from my home. There’s been quite a bit of dusting also and I actually removed the three milk glass sconces from my bathroom light fixture and gave them a good washing. I learned that they are in fact not milk glass. They were just really dusty.

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On the menu for the upcoming week – Asparagus Pork Stir fry, cleaning the ceiling fans, and moderating my news consumption. How about you?

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, DelSo, Dinner, Food, ideas, News, Observations, Recipes, Recommendations, Spring, stress, upstate New York

When culinary worlds collide – Peking Duck Mac and Cheese at New World Bistro Bar

Mashed potatoes aside, mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food in my world. When I make it at home, I consider it an emptying-of-the-cheese -drawer exercise, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy in multiple ways. (I hate wasting food.) The randomness of the cheese selections means it may never quite taste exactly the same twice, but believe me, it’s always good.

While consistency may not be my personal strength, chef Ric Orlando has been hitting it out of the proverbial ballpark for decades. I can’t think of another person (except maybe Dimitrios at City Beer Hall) who has so successfully merged seemingly disparate cuisines into fantastic and memorable dishes. Thai and Italian? IRC’s done that. Traditional dish with an ingredients twist? Of course!

For the recently held Mac & Cheese Bake Off at Keegan Ales, Ric combined two of my favorite dishes – Peking Duck and Mac & Cheese into a dynamite skillet of deliciousness. I dropped in on Tuesday night to sample the dish and was very happy to have had the opportunity to make a meal out of this small plate which satisfied two cravings with each forkful. Three, if you count bullshitting with Nick at the bar.

Served piping hot in a cast iron vessel, the plate was a delight of creamy, crunchy goodness with lovely and tender slices of duck hidden beneath toothsome noodles, mung bean sprouts and chopped scallions. There were also swirls of hoisin (plum?) sauce and gorgeous buttery breadcrumbs, making this a perfect marriage of many flavors taken from two very different and individual cuisines.

The dish was a special Tuesday, (3/3/20), so call ahead or check NWBB’s website for availability. At $12 it was a bargain, paired with a glass of wine it was a meal. Can’t get enough of Mac and Cheese in all its glory?   Here’s your chance to sample more delectable variations this weekend – and raise some $$ for a good cause.

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, Local, Recommendations, upstate New York, winter

Staycation 2020 – Crazy things I think of and do when I have too much time on my hands

  • Binge watch television programs. I demolished Sex Education and am aggressively working me way through Schitt’s Creek. The later is growing on me with each episode, while the former grabbed me immediately and remains in my thoughts. Of course, I relate to Maeve more than any of the other characters, but, damn, Gillian Anderson’s performance in this series is remarkable. Wow. This quote keeps echoing in my hear and my heart:
“Try to stay honest because once you start lying it’s hard to stop.”

Amen.

  • I was thinking that ma’am just doesn’t agree with me. I’m not attempting to claim the title “Miss” but I’d much prefer “Milady.” It’s dignified, but still fun. I’m just not ready for ma’am.
  • I’m surprised that my knee doesn’t hurt me more. It’s feeling a little tight, but I imagine that to be some moderate swelling because you know I hate the ice when I’m injured. It’s very difficult to stay still when there isn’t pain.

Relationships being the exception to that rule.

  • Speaking of pain and relationships, Jeter has been amazingly calm since I came home from my surgery. He’s been on the couch right next to me consistently. I walked him this morning and he was sensitive to my hobble, even when that squirrel practically danced in front of Jeter as I fastened his harness.
  • On Monday, I did a flurry of cooking, roasting broccoli, pickling red cabbage from my Field Goods bag and making #thestew from the NYT with the addition of cubed tofu. I love having prepared food in my fridge.

A unexpected side benefit from all the cooking was a couple of cups of gorgeous purple liquid that I couldn’t resist pouring over my hair. I mean vinegar adds shine and who knows? Maybe my ends will absorb some of the color. I’ve been toying with adding a little color to my tips and this just might add a little tinge of purple.

 

How’s your week?

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Filed under Cooking, Eating, musings, Observations, Recipes, Recommendations, television, upstate New York, vacation

The enchantment of the holidays

The holidays are a magical season. Money, resolve and time all disappear faster than you can say “abracadabra” during these short December days. Accepting that what one gets in exchange for those commodities are opportunities to share time and laughter making new memories, it’s a trade I’m happy to make.

This first weekend of my holiday break has been filled with activity – and cookies. Lots of cookies. Friday’s original evening plan had been to revisit Soul Night downtown at Lost & Found. We went last month and really enjoyed the music, vibe and diverse crowd. But, I caught an ad on Facebook for a Funk Night at Savoy, which was easily within walking distance, and it appealed on a cold night. No regrets – DJ Trumastr was on his game as usual and the Manhattans (yes, two) were impeccably crafted. It was a fun night.

Saturday brought another opportunity to stay in the neighborhood, but this time it was DelSo, rather than Center Square. A neighbor’s annual holiday party brought together a wonderful crowd of yogis/educators/creative types who all shared at least one common friend, the hostess, but often the connections between guests exceeded that minimal number. Albany, Smalbany, I love you. Another merry event with lots of laughs.

Sunday it was our turn to host for the first night of Hanukkah. The plan was traditional latkes, soup, salad and a couple of quiches. And cookies, of course. Prep, beyond the task of preparing and frying latkes, was well in hand until minor tragedy struck – or stubbed, as in a broken toe which required medical attention and prevented the potatoes from being transformed into latkes. What to do?

Not actually our latkes. We ate them too fast for photos.

My friend and uber talented chef, Ric Orlando, had shared on FaceBook that New World Bistro Bar was featuring his “Beat Bobby Flay” latkes…hmmm. Why stress when I could place an order and simply stop to pick them up on my way to my sweetie’s house? Done – and no lingering odor of frying at home with which to contend.

While nothing replaces a hot latke out of the pan, Ric’s latkes were wonderful. They’re large and magically manage to be crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and nearly devoid of oil or greasiness. After reheating them on a rack on a baking sheet, everyone happily loaded on sour cream and applesauce and we feasted. Crisis diverted, we enjoyed  a festive evening with lovely people.

I’m  not going to claim that bringing latkes to dinner for the first night of Hanukkah is a miracle or anything, but I believe many would be happier to see a resourceful woman  arriving with award winning latkes, than three “wise” men bearing Frankincense.  I know I would.

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Filed under Albany, Christmas, Cooking, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Dinner, Eating, Events, Food, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, Recommendations, sunday, vacation, winter

So many pancakes, so little time

After not getting around to making a pot of sauce with meatballs and sausage a few weeks ago, I found myself with a container of ricotta cheese for which I needed to find a purpose. After a quick Epicurious search I came up with the perfect use – Ricotta Pancakes.

In my house, we’re big on pancakes. Since being shamed by a foodie friend for using Bisquik, I’ve been making mine from scratch and I actually have the recipe* committed to memory. It’s so easy it makes me regret all those years of paying for a packaged mix filled with all sorts of unpronounceable ingredients. I use the same basic recipe for waffles and play around by adding canned pumpkin and nutmeg or using buttermilk or almond extract to change things up because, like I said, we like pancakes and variety isn’t a bad thing when it comes to breakfast.

But, back to those ricotta pancakes.

The recipe I found was simple and used common ingredients. Separating the eggs and beating the whites into lovely peaks is the second hardest part, with the most challenging thing being finding the ability to stop after eating two. Or three. These pancakes are wonderfully light and airy with orange zest adding a delicious punch. I bet a dash of Grand Marnier would be an amazing addition.

This recipe, along with the NYT’s Dutch Baby recipe, is a keeper. Do you have a favorite pancake recipe I should try?

 

*1 1/4 c flour

2 T sugar

2 t baking powder

1 egg

milk to the consistency you like, more milk = thinner pancakes

dash of salt

maybe a t of vanilla or almond extract?

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Filed under Boys, breakfast, Cooking, Eating, family, favorites, Food, ideas, Recipes, Recommendations

Winds of change

There’s been so much talk this spring about the rain. Many people seem to feel that we’ve had an excessive number of stormy and wet days. Until recently, I believe, there hadn’t been more than an instance or two of our stringing more than three rainless days together since March. Or something like that. Rain doesn’t bother me too much, especially since I’m finally having some necessary work done to my house to ensure it remains dry when it rains. The wind, though, is a different story.

I was thinking about wind and why it makes me uncomfortable and I think it’s because wind is 3-D. I mean, if 3-D is defined as being discernible with three different and unique senses, that is. Is that what 3-D means? Wind is audible, visible and physical, which is kind of a lot, don’t you think? I don’t know if it’s a childhood spent watching The Wizard of Oz every year or what, but wind frightens me. It’s powerful.

It’s going to sound completely ridiculous, but I’ve been working on becoming more comfortable with the wind. For a long time, actually. I know wind and change are partners in moving life along and I’ve gotten better at swaying when in a gust, instead of going with my usual response of digging in and refusing to let go. I’m a work in progress. Mid-gust, shall we say?

One recent change that I’m trying to relax into is the diminishment of family dinner nights. I think it’s more a function of the season than a complete breakdown of family time, so I’m tolerating it. Time will tell, but for now I’m going to cook when I feel like it and continue to make an attempt to prepare meals that can be reheated or repurposed. Case in point, last night’s baked ham with scalloped potatoes and broccoli, became the foundation for a pasta with cubed ham, peas, arugula and grated cheese. Tomorrow I plan to eat some leftover scalloped potatoes with poached eggs. Is it morning yet?

Has the rain or wind impacted your mood? How old were you when your parent stopped regularly cooking dinner?

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Filed under aging, Boys, breakfast, Cooking, DelSo, Dinner, Eating, family, Food, moms, musings, Observations, Spring, upstate New York

More carbs, please

I don’t know what it is, but I can’t stop eating. Carbs are my thing and recently I have been going to town cooking, and eating, pasta. It’s a little too soon to be officially “carb loading” for either of the 1/2 marathons for which I’ve already registered, so I have no excuse other than it tastes good. And I like it.

Last week, I made a spicy bolognese sauce that I thought was delicious, albeit a little meaty. I will definitely riff on that recipe in the future because it was hearty, simple and really easy to put together in a single pan. I love that!

Over the weekend I made a lentil and butternut squash soup that ticked all my current boxes – lentils and orange vegetables. Again, the list of ingredients was reasonable and the prep practically effortless, an ideal combination of circumstances when one is planning lunches for the week. I mean, come on, how great is it to pull out a pint of homemade soup for lunch on a cold day? With a little forethought, you could be living the high lunch life

The more labor intensive culinary project of the weekend turned out to be gnudi. Have you had them before? I think the first ones I ever had were made by Nick Ruscitto and they were delightful. Lighter than gnocchi with a softness that proves the delicacy of their maker’s hands, these ricotta cheese dumplings are pillows of tenderness perfectly finished with the most simple of sauces. I had to make them.

I found a recipe and got busy, draining the ricotta and exploring methods for how to eventually form and cut the gnudi. After chilling the dough, I opted for the long log technique, slicing the log into .75” pieces which I then gently placed in boiling water. Like many Italian recipes I’ve prepared, the challenge is the amount of time required, not necessarily the level of skill of the cook.

I cooked the gnudi in batches, resting uncooked ones on a plastic wrap covered baking sheet and cooling the cooked ones off under in a colander. Eventually I placed all the gnudi into a plastic container and drizzled them with olive oil. I was saving them for Monday’s “meatless” dinner when I planned to sauté them in olive oil and a dollop of bacon fat with mushrooms, onions, garlic and roasted cauliflower.

Mondays can be rough after a busy weekend, but when dinner and multiple lunches are prepared before Sunday officially ends, they’re not so bad at all.

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Filed under Cooking, Dinner, Eating, favorites, Food, ideas, Observations, Recipes, Recommendations, soup, winter