Tag Archives: Spicy in the City

On Flowers and Food Processors: A Fall in Review

13 Jan

Considering I am The Ultimate Justifier (seriously, throw me your conscience’s roadblocks, I’ll blast them apart with my shaky moral chainsaw faster than you can yell VICE!), the truly bizarre San Francisco winter/summer parallel would be enough for me to jump right back in like no time had passed whatsoever since my last post. But, skipping over the many months of milestones that have kept me busy since – or at least the meals I made during – would belie the bite-sized lessons I’ve learned over their course. So, since you didn’t ask, some highlights:

1. Don’t be a tool. Or, don’t worry so much about yours.

The setting: A Friday afternoon that finds me deliciously not at the office, but rather in the midst of a Los Angeles Indian Summer. Relishing the idea of playing housewife to my beloved Telanor Kousman, out slaving away on his glamorous Hollywood set, I want to find a dish that’s not only appropriate for the heat, but that will showcase a true labor of love in the rare daylight I’ve stolen. Spying the base of a food processor under his butcher’s block, I decide to cobble together my take on Jamaican Jerk Chicken – more or less this New York Times recipe but with four hours of marinating instead of 12. Apparently, house-wifery requires advance planning.

So, I drag my sweating, sundressed-self to the supermarket to gather my fresh fixings (three different kinds of hot peppers, green onions, shallots, ginger, garlic and thyme), clean and prep them, de-shoe so as to be appropriately barefoot, and set them all triumphantly in front of the food processor, ready to grind them into the “course paste” the paper demands.

Only… where’s the damn blade? I look for an hour. Sticky and defeated, I’m about to give up and trek to Joans on Third for some absurdly fancy and correspondingly priced charcuterie (which let’s be real, I did anyway), when it dawns on me – did the Maroons dragged to Jamaica as slaves who created this dish  have food processors???

No. No, they did not.

So, two hours (/two conference calls) later, knife skills vastly improved, I had my precious paste. Did it look perfect? No. Did it taste incredible? Yes. Did I find the missing blade while cleaning up after dinner hours later? Of course.

Since I don’t have a photo of that particular creation (my Blackberry was angry enough at having to pretend to function while smothered in honey and hot pepper juices – this was my passive-agressive way of punishing it at this point in our relationship), here’s another following the same principle. Martha Stewart’s Winter Fruit Crisp, valiantly executed with not a cheese cloth or electric mixer in sight.

(what’s left of) Madge’s Winter Fruit Crisp

As you can see, it was enjoyed – with nary a comment on clumpy topping. Granted, I made it for my boyfriend, who is arguably obligated to tell me it’s delicious if he wants the real sugar… but he did have three servings, take the rest home and ask me to help him translate the recipe into Arabic for his sister, so I guess we’ll take his word for it.

2. Recycling: Not just for your Diet Coke can; Or, the Evolution of a Saturday Dinner.

Turns out, recycling is also ideal for the paella made for two that you both somehow thought would be a fitting amount:

Miss Aarti, or now truly “Spicy in the City” in her awesome new Marina digs, is one of my absolute favorite cooking buddies, but we do seem to share a rather unfortunate quantity-gauging problem…

In our defense, I’m not sure which 4 – 6 people Mark Bittman, whom I love, intended to serve this yellow rice abundance. Perhaps they are professional class salsa dancers? (I’d say sumo wrestlers, but Marky just seems more refined.)

In any case, I was able to add the ridiculous amount of leftovers (less the tomatoes which became a bit soggy) to a bit of sauteed garlic and tomato paste in my Dutch Oven, split a few cherry tomatoes over the top, and rebake for an even more flavorful, crispier go the following night.

In its second life, the rice served as the perfect base to soak up the juices from Martha’s Clam Pan Roast with Sausage & Fennel, which I made as a Sunday evening dinner for my seafood-loving boyfriend (should there be any other kind?). Seriously though, click through to Madge’s little photo. Great little serving for two, right? Ha. I was eating that rice and sausage (Moh took care of all the clams that actually opened like they were supposed to, briny little bastards) for lunch and dinner for the next two days.

And the potatoes? They were soaked in a slick, delicious broth too good to waste but hadn’t quite cooked through, so I saved them in their own Tupperware. Two nights later, the lovely Carrie came up the street and we halved them again and “olive oiled” them (it’s like pan-frying, but makes me feel better about my life – try it sometime) for a good long time. We ate those damn tasty taters alongside my favorite buttermilk chicken, with a cornbread-ing this time around, and a salad. Which I then had for lunch the next day, with the rest of the potatoes, sauteed spinach and poached eggs doing just fine for a quick, cheap dinner that night.

Moral of the long-winded story? What started as one meal rolled along into feeding me and several other people for the better part of the week. Your food might really hit its stride the second time around.

3. Stop talking, Katie.

Seriously. I had some more lessons planned but even I’m sick of me. And since I’m actually sick, I’m justyifing retiring with my Vitamin-C system shock smoothie (thanks Moh! He threw peeled fresh oranges, lemons and honey into my blender and I feel ten times better already) and last night’s Top Chef (although I swear if Jamie doesn’t FINALLY pack her knives and go, I will).

But I’ll be back, well before the SF fog at long last rolls out for the refreshing spring we all know will come soon enough. Promise.

You're right, EShea, this is pretty much my jam these days. Sometimes a picture is worth more than the 1000+ words that came before it 🙂

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Summer Tour, Part II: The Capitol Charade

3 Aug

So, friends: we’ve arrived. We’re officially past the honeymoon (or in twenty-something commitment-phobe terms, with which I’m HOBviously more comfortable, the everything-you-do-is-cute-i-just-want-to-text-you-all-the-time phase) and into that supremely awkward discovery-of-things-we’d-rather-not-know stage. When getting to know me, this typically involves a very genuine, but I’m sure no less frustrating, disappearing act.

So, my apologies. July took me on a whirlwind tour – and I promise, delicious recipes inspired by these journeys from coast to coast will soon follow – but for now, I leave you with some ruminations on a stop I keep coming back to.

WASHINGTON, D.C. Our nation’s capital. I’d always expected this to be a very dry, white-washed place – and no doubts pockets of it are, and will become again. I think what struck me most about it was this two-sided shock of arrogance : first, that I could believe a place so truly rich in history could actually somehow be devoid of an energy sparked by those driven to live there; and second, by the arrogance of a place that draws such fascinating people from all backgrounds, yet still takes its own identity from a symbol it’s literally impossible to capture in a manner more complex than this:

Really, America? Really.

Seriously, though. I tried as we walked the miles up the mall. I tried from a distance and I tried close up. But you just can’t avoid this:

no but REALLY.

Truly, though, besides the allusions I have a tough time…um… swallowing… I once heard DC was a place that had a million different underground scenes, and I think what’s so different about it than other places I’ve been is that they’re not really underground – here, expressing what you find important is expected. Staying with the person I am lucky enough to count a friend whom I admire most in the world, GlyderGrl (uh oh, sorry friend, but I just found your classy-ass professional profile), I was introduced to a world full of bougie pleasures, free from much of the guilt I typically associate with indulging these – because these people are actually involved with something they care about. I’ll repeat in case many of you didn’t understand, actually involved with something they care about, namely through the Congressional Hunter Center (though I gotta be honest, it’s no “Center for Justice,” Kate’s previous place of employ – perhaps my favorite organizational title ever).

Our generational struggle for a way to pay to rent that doesn’t suck our collective soul in the process is something that seeps guiltily out in various ways. One of the silliest?

The prime hipster food obsession dujour: the food cart. After all, what better way to escape the mundanity of your daily cubeland braindead zone than by hopping on the “social network” we all know is most useless to chart out the location of overpriced, mediocre lunch food sloughed from a moving target?

And sorry San Francisco, though you may take your greatest pride in what you percieve to be your undisputed hipster foodie superiority, you’ve been SERVED.

Curry Up, the Indian burrito truck Aarti and I took 45 minutes out of one typically annoyingly busy day to find and wait in an impossibly creeping line for in our own Financial District, served up chalky cheese that left me feeling full of unpleasant sensations I don’t feel the need to detail for my closest friends and farthest internet acquaintances. Ultimately, all they’ve got going for them is one pun. Please.

DC’s Fojol Bros of Merlindia, on the other hand, manages to dish all the ridiculous ish you should if you’re making your daily living desperately trying to legally park a food truck in the barren concrete wasteland of an American center of global commerce.

The lack of soundtrack is really making these baggy officeworkers look sad.

Ridiculous conceit? Check. Blaring disco music and flashing mirrors? Yuh huh. Organic-sustainable-better-than-you folosophy? Obviously. And last and in this case, probably least, yummy food for a price that won’t give you indigestion? Even that.

this picture even LOOKS humid. 100 degree july, how i secretly miss you.

So maybe that’s it. Washington, D.C., seems to do things with a conviction that make the rest of us, busy pretending to have things like “pride” and “cynicism,” look like the sheepish commitment-phobes we are.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever believe any principle enough to stand behind it as much as those who populate this city clearly do whatever theirs may be; but in the meantime, I can certainly try to hold myself and my surroundings to a standard of which they’re deserving.

Like maybe writing in this godforsaken blog once every week. 😉

“Summer” Place Cocktail Lounge

25 Jun
The setting: A typically blustery June evening in San Francisco, mist cutting through cold air in slanted grey gusts blown across soft pastel rooftops from the ocean nestled safely from view not five miles beyond.

The coldest winter Mark Twain ever spent did not involve the Summer Place.

The scene: A faux-stone facade tucks away one of the city’s rare indoor havens for the social smoker, invited to share a fag or two (or ten) in likeminded company lounging in rolling black leather captains chairs at the foot of a gently crackling fireplace.  Punk and standby rock classics stream from a jukebox with its own agenda – love a good piece of thinking machinery.

The players: Yours truly and the Unsinkable Miss M., fresh from Pride Kick-off at the Sir Francis Drake and a thrilling run-in with Mr. Harry Denton himself, whom we caught surveying a grey San Francisco skyline from a boat of a red booth in his namesake Starlight Room at the hotel’s peak.

At the bar we meet Sasha Fierce, my favorite Massachusetts Ex-Patriot. <Sidebar (for those of us who don’t know how to actually create one): Sasha claims to be not of Russian descent, but rather named after a character in Dr. Zhivago. Someday I will meet this mother of his, also said to have threatened her small son with beatings if he returned from school with a Bahwstan accent. A personal hero for obvious reasons.> <Sidebar 2: Sasha is soon to be introduced in his own words via a guest column I managed to coax him into as the evening progressed – Gardening for Dummies – get excited, fellow dummies. This will be just one of many guest columns I hope to coerce all of my nearest and dearest into – so far I’ve signed on Aarti for the hotter than hell “Spicy in the City.” Holler if you’ve got an idea before I come a-knockin. And yes, if you’re reading this, you best believe I’m talking to you.>

The Fringe: Unexpectedly, the place was a total couplewatch, with one canoodling at the bar hot and heavily for two plus hours, others enjoying whiskey and cigarette rounds in passing. My favorite?  A skinny boy in skinnier jeans with a shaved head and two tiny hoop earrings alongside an Asian girl with bleach blond hair, Elvis Costello glasses and a trench coat. The Bro Love Connection selecting “Come on Eileen” for background was another gem.

The Action: Four rounds of modified gin rummy (in typically Unsinkable fashion, my roommate solidly swept the game), a collective five Camel Lights, two Bud Lights, three Miller High Lifes (mini-review: sticky crappy beer) and no advertised Wilderberry Schnapps $3 Specials later, we make our way back into the wind and rain feeling a little toastier, and a whole lot closer to home.

M + S. Clearly, crappy blackberry photos are not going to cut it much longer.