Routines: Moving, Cooking, Spending

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Routines come and go throughout life. What a bland and boring statement, and one that may not be qualified to start off a post of any nature – even those from years ago when angsty teens used to use livejournal as a publicprivate journal. But, as mundane as those six words may be, they really are (together) the subject line of my past week.

I moved recently. More appropriately, I moved about three months ago, which means I think I am all settled but there are still boxes I haven’t unpacked and surely forgotten about.  And since then, my routine has gone in a complete tailspin, again. Moving to New York inspired me to run everyday again, since Korea lulled me into a strange every-other-day routine. Then moving to a less luxurious part of town stopped me, seeing as it might not be so safe to run around in short shorts and a headband. My third move brought me closer to a park, and that lead me to that running every-other-day, seeing nature and refreshing me. Now, I cannot even come up with a reason not to run seeing as I live half-a-block from Central Park. I even woke up early this morning, coughing, and kicked myself out the door to see the most spectacular park I’ve seen in a while. That short and narcissistic story goes to show that I am affected – strongly no less – by location as to what I may find in my everyday routine.

One could argue that it can’t be said about food as well; you live in an apartment or house and you have a kitchen and you eat. Well, I’ll argue against it. I live in New York and work around food – why would I ever want to cook when I have free “family” meals and there are more restaurants to go to? I have gone through every incantation of eating in New York. Cooking exclusively at home and packing my lunches, eating only at Farmers markets even if that means traveling over bridges to get there, eating out enough to break even every month, falling into that dastardly trap of ordering food online (grubhub, you are a dirty temptress), and then finally finding a middle ground. Why? Oh, only because I live right next to the best grocer in all of the City, and a Farmers Market pops up every weekend. How can I say no to cooking incredible ingredients? Again: Routines come and go throughout life.

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The other night I had a decision to make: would I go and spend thirty on dinner, or take that thirty and hit up Fairway. The latter won out, and now I sit happy on my fifth meal from that purchase. To celebrate my brilliant decision – which I must say was the only decision made when I was growing up; this whole eating out more than once a week was a recent acquisition; I cannot blame parental choices for that – I chose to cook a little summer spread. Starting in this culinary world, I was a vegetarian so every time I cook proteins, I feel like I am doing something special (see: the tilapia I cooked that evening).

To start my summer off, a luxurious caprese salad with farmers market tomatoes sliced thin, slapped basil, a drizzle of truffle oil, and slices of fresh mozzarella – slightly salted.  Fresh, simple, rich, deep, delicious.

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With my cast iron skillets sizzling hot, the main dish started to sautee together. Onions and garlic kicked off the meal with yellow peppers and farmers market zucchini shortly to follow. In the pan right next door, Jersey asparagus and broccoli were blanching in seasoned water. The tilapia was sitting, waiting, on the counter, seasoned with salt and celery flakes. Couscous on the back burner, slowly expanding in it’s hot water bath. As the onions started to caramelize, and the zucchinis browned in that beautiful way they do, a slab of butter was added to the mix to give a little depth of flavor (aka, my heart will always have a touch of southern love in it, always will). With that tender combination tossed into the anticipating couscous, the tilapia took its sizzling spot in the hot cast iron, lightly wading in a combination of olive oil, butter, toasted garlic and translucently sweet onions. Spending only a few minutes on each side, small blackened pieces of the fish flaked off into the sautee sauce, quickly finding their way into the hot couscous salad, connecting a through line from couscous through to the protein. With the al dente asparagus and broccoli in the plate, the couscous as foundation, and the tilapia sitting, flaking apart, on top – the birth of a new cooking routine was born. Routines come and go throughout life.

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Maybe this will hold, maybe this won’t, but I am thoroughly enjoying my little brown stove in my apartment.

Ps. The whole meal paired surprisingly well with a Budweiser. At least this 20something thought so.

 

 

 

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Homes and Homies

I look for reasons to go over the top with food. It doesn’t always happen – that is to say on a day-to-day basis at home, I’m not cooking a four course meal with an amuse-bouche du jour and dessert. Couscous-zucchini-citrus vinaigrette and some ice cream afterwards is definitely a staple. But when I can go over the top, flex my culinary muscles, I get giddy with excitement.

These moments sometimes are pushing it. Say, for instance, a friend has a great day. I can’t really be like “Oh, why don’t I do a quick something for you, plate it, serve it to you, and pair it with wine, you lucky goat you!” But when someone moves into a new apartment? That’s fair game.

At least that’s what I called fair game a couple of weeks ago. A friend from years when we only had one number to our age, Sophie, just moved from Manhattan into Brooklyn, and only five minutes from my current place, no less. I helped her move a bit, “Martha Stewarting” her kitchen, and trying to arrange as much as possible to help ease the burden of moving (cause, well, it’s no stroll around a lake). I also decided to christen her oven with a brief meal for five of us. I admit, I might have gone over the top. No courses, but different sections on our plate and pairings of flavors for sure.

Her place is beautiful. It’s a two bedroom in Prospect Heights with a wall of exposed brick. Dark wood and new appliances – a find for sure. It seemed the best place to go a little over the top. As you can tell, I try to rationalize with myself for spending over two hours in a kitchen during a beautiful summer-fall day in the city.

With Emily’s CSA at my disposal, I put seasonal produce to use: Eggplant, Beets, Carrots, Daikon Radish, Kale, Tomatoes. I added a few foreign goods like asparagus, pita, hummus, and chevre. After looking through the heaps of Saveur and Bon Appetit magazines I’ve accumulated while abroad, I decided on a menu.

Pita & Hummus with fresh cracked Black Pepper

Roasted Eggplant with Root Vegetable Salsa and Herbed Chevre

French Lentils with Kale, Roasted Tomatoes, and Butter Sauteed Asparagus

The menu isn’t too over the top but the fact that I then opened wine, poured Sophie, Emily, Rachel, and  Madeleine wine, and plated the food… like I said, maybe over the top, but I have to say: everything was finished. And enjoyed! Dessert was on Sophie, and she brought out some delicious culinary muscles of her own with a plum nectarine crisp with a hefty and hearty granola-like crust. Vanilla ice cream on the side, but of course.

We dined until we were sated, and then some, and then some even more. All together, it was a feast for good people, no matter how “over the top” it might have been. Sometimes, it needs to be a little extravagant.

Want a recipe from this post? Holler at the comment box and I’ll reply with it!