Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pre Thanksgiving


Oh my Monday, it is hard to get back in the swings after a holiday, isn't it? I mean, not only in terms of the daily rat race, but also, to a certain extent, the internet, eh? It's almost intimidating checking your blog reader, isn't it? But you don't want to miss anything, do you? But then again, it just all comes at you like a relentless mudslide and the posts, board chats, emails, etc. sludgily roll right over your face.  So here I am to add to it all.

In the interest of mercy, I will give a quick rundown. But I'm also a liar, so believe what you will.


Before the actual holiday hit, we had some folks over for a potluck.

And I decided to decorate.

With glittery autumn leaves that insisted on falling down no matter how much painter's tape I attached.

I know, my artistic skills blow me away.  

So I relied on someone else, and strung up a Thanksgiving banner.

A few folks, including my *mom*, actually asked me if I made the above. The answer would be no (I mean, does she even know me).

No one asked me if I made the below. Because they clearly came from a corner bodega. I highly recommend them.

I did, however, make a littler favor table.  With boxes and ribbon from Paper Presentation, oh so lovely Reeses' butter cups and other random assorted candies from the local drugstore, and cute little favor tags from Etsy.

Yes. I *folded* pre-made boxes and *tied* ribbons.  Take a moment.

Then I decided to shift things around due to lack of other level, raised surfaces in the apartment, in order to accommodate the pumpkin pie and cranberry apple crisp desserts.

I also decorated the dining table.

I went a little crazy with these cool pine cones.  And candles from Pottery Barn (there's a sale).


paper plates.  But if you know anything about me, you know that there's a good reason for this. Of which I am not ashamed. At all. Maybe a little. But not really. Yes. No. Maybe so. Yes, maybe so. But not enough to change my ways.

As I said, it was a potluck. Much food went unphotographed, because I have not yet taken the step to hire someone to photograph pics of the food.


Portobella mushroom caps with rice, lentil, and tomato stuffing!

 Subpar acorn squash with cranberry stuffing! (I'm not a jerk, this was my dish)


 And Kevin.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Orecchiete with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

This dish is one of my favorites.  Fairly easy, very flavorful, and includes your carbs, protein and veggies. Perfetto.

Personal note:  I made this dish last week and am posting about it now.  I cooked nothing this week. NOTHING. Liberating.  Kevin was out of town this week, and plans kept cropping up for me in the evenings, so I didn't need to cook.  But I also have to admit that most of my nesting habits, not only cooking but cleaning as well, pretty much went out the window this week.  I didn't even hang a little Thanksgiving wreath that I bought (and which is very very cute).  I'm sure part of it was the busy schedule, but I'm also wondering how much of it was Kevin's absence.  Which is pretty lame, as if whether I keep up the apartment depends, at least in part, on whether he's there.  I hope it was more the busy schedule. I did, however, take out the trash and recycling.  And give the pugs a bath. And spend extensive time on Etsy looking for Christmas decorations. Huge honkin' pat on the back for me.

  • 1 lb sausage, casings removed (I used turkey sausage)
  • 2 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 bunch of broccoli rabe (about 1 lb)
  • 1 lb orecchiete pasta 
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (or to taste)
Serves 6-8.

Heat a few tsp of olive oil in a large deep skillet (or, like me, use your damn Le Creuset pot for everything even though it doesn't brown meat that well) over medium heat. Crumble up the sausage into the pot.

Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until nicely browned.  In a skillet this would probably take about 7-10 minutes, for me it took longer because of my big steamer pot.  Remove sausage with slotted spoon set aside.

While the sausage is cooking (or after it's done), wash your broccoli rabe.  Cut off the dry ends of the stalks. 

Peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler.  This step is a bit of a pain in the ass but I think it makes a huge difference when you're trying to eat the stalks, which have somewhat of a thick skin.  Just lay the stalk on the cutting board, swipe it with your peeler, turn the stalk to a new side, and swipe again.  I do this about three time to each stalk, but two is probably enough.  

It does NOT have to be perfectly peeled--you just want to remove some of the tougher outer layer so your teeth can sink and in break through the stalk, as opposed to struggling with an unbreakable stalk and looking like an idiot.

Chop the broccoli rabe into about 3-inch pieces. 

Back to the pot. If dry, add a tsp or two of olive oil.  Toss in the garlic slices and red pepper flakes.  

Cook just until garlic turns lightly golden, and then add in half the broccoli rabe.  Toss to coat.  When it wilts down a bit, add in the other half.  Toss to coat, and add some salt and pepper (not too much because the sausage probably has quite a bit of salt).

When the broccoli rabe has wilted down, pour in about 3 TBS of water.  Cover the pot and lower the heat, simmering the broccoli rabe until desired tenderness, anywhere from 5-10 minutes.  Lift the cover occasionally and stir, and add a little water if it looks too dry.

You'll end up with something looking like this.  Which oddly doesn't look terribly different than the one above. Hm.

While broccoli rabe is cooking (or if you're like me, after the broccoli rabe is done and you've turned off the heat under that pot), cook pasta according to directions, shaving off a minute or so.   Before draining, ladle out about 1 cup of pasta water.  Drain pasta and add to broccoli rabe, along with the cooked sausage.

Add in however much cheese you like, with some of the pasta water to help loosen things up. Start with a smaller amount of water, like 1/4 cup, and work your way up from there.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Top of Ol' Smooookeeeeyyy,...

Oh puuuuh-uggs! Where are you my little ones? 

Are you in your usual spot, stuffed in the corner of the couch, the couch we always have to cover with a fugly blanket because of your prolific shedding? 

Not there.  Mr. Santa will not give up the location of the pugs. Mr. Turkey stays face down, uncooperative as usual.

Or perhaps you are in daddy's favorite chair, where you can scratch up the leather?

Hm, I guess not. 

Now I *suppose* you could, horrors, be in your beds, though I highly doubt that.  Still, I will check.

Should I being to panic? Wherever could you be hiding in out 500 sq ft apartment (there, I admitted it--go ahead and feel sorry for me and my booger-sized apartment)?  I will take one last look at the couch, just in case I missed anything.

Wait a minute, do I see two furry potatoes yonder there in the corner? 

Why yes, the pugs have found a new nesting place.  Perched on top of the couch cushions.

I believe Bunni began this habit, and Rikki probably joined her (sitting on Bunni in the process) because she is a dominant little monster.

No Rikki, momma's not giving you any treats. You can go back to bed.

Maybe I should suture their heads together.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ravioli with Arugula, Pancetta and Tomatoes

Giada has a big smile.

It's hard to believe one has that many teeth.

Anyway, she made just the kind of dish that I love the other day--a simple pasta with a few ingredients that still packs a lot of flavor. Pay me Food Network! Pay me my honorarium!

Anyway again, it was ravioli with arugula, pancetta and tomatoes.  I made a few changes to the recipe, because oddly I couldn't find 1 lb packages of ravioli, and I also wanted to make a double-batch in order to have leftovers.  Also, the original recipe has a very light tomato sauce--a 15-oz can of diced tomatoes, drained--more like bits of tomato scattered throughout the pasta.  That would be great, especially if you don't have a lot of time, but I had time, so I made a thicker tomato sauce. Plus, I didn't like the thought of throwing away the canned juices.  Do what you will.

Adapted from Food Network.

Ingredients (this serves about 6 hearty portions, so adjust as you see fit)
  • 1/2 lb to 3/4 pound pancetta, chopped into about 1/4" cubes (you could also use thick-cut bacon or guanciale) 
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 28 oz whole peeled tomatoes (again, the original recipe was for 15 oz of diced tomatoes, drained, for 1 lb of pasta--if you want a more scant tomato sauce for this double batch recipe, you can drain a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano (optional)
  • 6 oz arugula (basically the bagged packages that they sell--or use about 5-6 cups of loose arugula) 
  • 1.5 lb to 2 lbs cheese ravioli (I had two 13-oz packages)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Whoa nelly, pancetta--come to momma.

The store didn't have rolled pancetta--just these slabs, and actually they smelled awfully like bacon. I was robbed. Doesn't matter.  Anyway, chop those suckers up and put them in a large pot, then turn the heat to medium low.  Stir occasionally and cook until fat renders and the pancetta becomes nice and crispy--the time will vary depending on lots of factors, but mine took at least 10 minutes.  

You want to do this slowly. If the heat is too high, the fat won't get a chance to render and it will be a little too uncooked in the middle of each cube, although not life-threatening or anything.

Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon and pour out all but about a TBS of the fat.  Okay, this is a lie. I didn't pour any of it out.  I did see some fat floating around while I was cooking the sauce, though, so do feel free to drain if pork fat floating around in your sauce it not your pleasure.  Me, I didn't care so much.

While the pancetta is cooking, roughly chop the canned tomatoes, or crush them with your hands. I was in a chopping mood.

Add the chopped garlic to the remaining pancetta fat in the pot, and cook on medium heat for about 1 minute, until barely lightly golden.  

This is where a really quick recipe will diverge from a slightly longer (20-30 minutes more) recipe.  If you want the quick version, add the drained diced tomatoes, and skip to the arugula portion of the recipe below.  If you have a little more time, try the steps below. 

Add in the tomatoes, thyme and oregano.  Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce cooks down by almost half, about 20-30 minutes (I had time so I cooked it down for a long time to get a thick sauce, but you don't have to do it for so long).

Add in the arugula.  It looks like a lot, but it will cook down.

See, I told you.  Season with pepper.  I would hold off until the end to see if you need salt, but the pancetta provides a lot of salt, and the ravioli you buy may have a good amount as well.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain, and add to the tomato sauce along with the reserved pancetta.

Serve, and sprinkle with just a tad of parmesan.  This was actually probably overkill because I used so much pancetta that the dish was plenty salty.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Upstate New York

While I've been crying woe is me here and there (and everywhere) that Kevin works the longest hours, we did take some time in the past couple of months to enjoy Hudson Valley (in upstate New York) on a few day trips.  The Hudson Valley is known for its gorgeous foliage in the autumn, and after years of living here, we wanted to take advantage.

On the first trip we went apple-picking, and the second we did a hike on Bear Mountain

Trip Numero Uno

Before going to the apple orchard, we dropped by Blue Hill at Stone Barns (basically this sustainable, fancy farm/restaurant built on Rockefeller land) to grab a bite to eat at the cafe.

And meet some turkeys.

Do they look fat enough yet for Thanksgiving?  Perhaps not.  We offered them some tasty prey to help remedy the situation.

Bunni and Rikki were neither amused nor fooled, and stayed back.  Rikki yapped her little head off from a safe distance.

Then we headed west to Warwick to pick apples. Lotsa lotsa apples.

View of some of the trees and surrounding hills.

There was this artificial lake that afforded some nice views.  The lake made me think of this episode from Tales from the Crypt where teenagers are sucked into the pond by a black blob.  Some of them try to find refuge on the floating dock thingy (like at the right of this picture), but they die anyway.

Happy picking. 

We weren't the only ones having a good time.

She can't even hold her tongue in her mouth.

Nothing like happy pugs.  After seeing our pictures from this trip, my mom got upset at Kevin for not taking enough pictures of her beautiful daughter, who is too good for Kevin.

Trip Numero Dos

We had so much fun on our first trip (despite there being no photographic evidence that I was even present), that we returned shortly afterwards to hike on Bear Mountain.  This is unusual for me. I don't particularly like being away from my TV and refrigerator and an ice cream store.

There was a little Oktoberfest and we partook of the sausage, kraut, beets and German potato salad.  Good to fortify with 10x more calories than we would expend on the 2-hour hike.

There were some beautiful views, even before we started the hike.

Then we started.

Shortly after this picture, the path veered rather sharply up towards the sky, at approximately a 70 degree angle. I'm not joking.  I thought my thighs were turning to acid and that I was going to pass out.  Ne'er you mind that a 70-year old woman booked it past me, muttering something about "slowpoke" as she shoved me aside.

But it was worth it in the end for some really wonderful views.

Look, it's the tall white man and his little Asian bride!

After we hustled back down the mountain, we figured we deserved some good grub. And good grub we got, in the form of soondubu jjigae at So Kong Dong in Fort Lee, NJ.  I'd tell you in detail about the meal, but Serena over at Big Apple Nosh gave a great rundown of the restaurant and you must be tired of me at this point.  But still, a few pictures.

There was even a Trip Numero Tres with my friends to enjoy the Halloween events of Sleepy Hollow, but the pictures bite the big one so I'll just say it was lovely and awesome, especially to have some girl-time.

How's everyone's autumn going?