Monday, May 23, 2011

Fear of Commitment

I know myself. I change my mind. I'm lazy. Also, I don't like the feeling of my lungs burning.  You may wonder how that last sentiment fits in with all this.

In my last post, I quickly ninja-style threw out there that I had started the Couch to 5K program.  My sister had done it and now she's a friggin' running FIEND, Jessica did it and finished her first 5K (congrats!), and...okay that's actually all I know but whatever, it seemed the world had turned a corner.  You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. My sister used to preach fire and brimstone against running, and was machine-gun ready with sarcastic (and well-reasoned) retorts against the purported benefits of running. And now look at her. She has special socks for running.  She tells me now that her new goal is to "improve her time". What the hell happened.

I used to run. The same way I used to go the gym. I always hated running. In college, having previously never gotten off my lazy ass for any exercise, I felt a lot of peer pressure to join the ranks of  walkman-toting, sports-bra clad hard-assed bodied females running all over my college campus. So I joined.  It was torture. I would count in my head or pray for Prince to hurry up and finish singing "Raspberry Beret" so that I would know my trials were over.  One time, I started running, and about 2 minutes into it, I just stopped. I pulled a U-turn and headed back to my dorm (with the comfort of an open, communal kitchen that was stocked with Mrs. Field's raw chocolate chip cookie dough batter in the freezer in convenient softball size). I clearly remember saying out loud, "I hate running."

So I can tell you a lot about how I hate running, but I can't tell you why I've started on this program. It's probably a combination of boring things:

  1. I need to exercise
  2. I need to exercise for free or low cost
  3. I need to exercise in a manner that doesn't take me far away from home
  4. I'm turning 35 and at some point I actually have to get in shape so that I have a long, happy life.  Especially if I have kids and am trying to keep up with them when I'm 70 (they'll be 10 years old by then, at the rate I'm going).
  5. I can feel my muscles going into atrophy
  6. Yoga wasn't cutting it. Not that I do yoga anymore.
My sister is excited and very supportive of my new endeavor.  She sent me an email with three 5K choices, so that I would have a specific race to work towards.  I replied "no". 

Then she said dogs were allowed at one of the races. At first I was like "Double No!" because of the mental image of carrying a pug for 5K, but she meant as a cheerleader. How cute would that be? So I said "okay, but I may not continue with running if it gets too hot".  Because I just can't commit. I don't know whether I'm going to finish this program.  I'm already behind, for crying out loud. 

I'm supposedly on Week 3 but like I said, I'm behind. I have no idea where I am. I just know that running for 3 minutes straight BURNS me like Gollum with the rope around his throat. 

So this post is pretty much about nothing.  Thank you and Happy Monday!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two Sides: Asparagus Gremolata and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

So, where was I? I don't remember. I think I baked some fish. Yes, yes, I think I did. Along with that baked fish, I made some asparagus with gremolata and roasted fingerling potatoes.  For the sake of thoroughness, I present to you two perfect side dishes for your springtime meal.

Non sequitur: I'm going the Couch to 5K program. Yeah, me. Get outta town! I've heard a lot about people getting fit lately, and combined my recent discovery that I need a hobby and that at some point, I need to actually make do on my promise to improve my cardiovascular health, I've made the plunge. I am amazing. Truly magic.

Non-sequitur #2: once as the temperature is regularly in the 80's, that will spell death to my running because I am not going to run in hot weather.

Asparagus with Gremolata

  • 2 lbs asparagus, trimmed (I also give the stalks a quick peel, but that's not necessary)
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 2 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBS chopped parsley 

Prep your asparagus by trimming off the tough ends.  I also ran my peeler against the stalks to remove the tough outer layer. It was a weekend and I had time--otherwise I would probably skip this step.

Boil a large pot of salted water.  While the water is boiling, get a big bowl, fill it with ice and cold water--this will be the chilly reception your asparagus received after being cooked.

Cook the asparagus in the boiling salted water until just crisp-tender, about 2 minutes (I prefer mine underdone instead of overdone).

Drain or fish out asparagus with a slotted spoon and place into ice water bath.

Let them cool for a few minutes and then drain.  If you like, this part of the recipe can be done up to a day in advance--wrap the cooked asparagus in paper towels, the plastic, and refrigerate. Let them come to room temperature for about 15 minutes before moving on with the recipe.

Prep your lemon zest and garlic. Oh the aroma.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add lemon peel and garlic and stir 30 seconds.

Add asparagus and toss to coat. Sprinkle lemon juice over.

Sauté until asparagus is heated through and coated with butter sauce, about 3 minutes. Season asparagus with salt and pepper. Transfer to platter. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Hm, guess I took a picture before the sprinkling of the parsley. I am remiss.

The "recipe" for the roasted fingerling potatoes isn't really a recipe.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Clean 2 lbs of fingerling potatoes--slice the large ones in half.

Toss potatoes with a TBS or more of olive oil, 2 chopped garlic cloves, a 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes, and about 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper.

Place on baking sheet and roast until browned on the outside and cooked on the inside, about 20 minutes total.  Toss the potatoes about halfway through.  If you feel like they're browning too quickly on the outside, turn temp down to 350 degrees to give the insides of the potatoes a chance to cook. When ready to serve, sprinkle with some parsley.

And serve it with your main course (you know, the one you made a week ago).


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Baked Lemon Sole with Lemon Caper Topping

A doctor I visited told me that I should incorporate more fish into my diet.  That was not the only thing she told me to do.  There were in fact many a thing she suggested, many of which I have not done, which perhaps contributes to the fact that I have not seen her again out of guilt...but that's besides the point.  I'm not a big fan of pan frying/sauteeing fish because of the stubborn and lasting smell it creates in my kitchen, so I'm a sucker for recipes that involve baking the fish.

Basically, this recipe is using sole (dover, lemon, grey, whatever)--basically a thin fish--with a flavorful bread/butter/caper/lemon topping. You could probably use tilapia.  Or for that matter, any fish as long as you adjust the cooking time.  Have at it.

The original recipe calls for fresh bread crumbs and walnuts for the topping.  I didn't have fresh bread--enter panko crumbs (other dried breadcrumbs would do). I didn't have walnuts--enter sliced almonds (or just leave it out, it's okay, I won't tell Satan that he should sent you an invitation.

Adapted from Food Network/Sunny Anderson

For topping:
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs), or 4 slices fresh white bread, crusts discarded (I tried writing "decrusted" for the sake of brevity but sounded odd), and bread quarter
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup nuts of your choice (walnuts, almonds, whatever)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 TBS olive oil
For sole (or whatever fish):
  • 4 lemon sole fillets
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 TBS butter, plus extra for baking dish (you can lower the butter amount if you're concerned about calories/fat)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 TBS capers
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter a 9 x 12 inch casserole dish (or use cooking spray).

Combine bread, lemon zest, nuts and cheese.  You can do this in a food processor, and then drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing.  Or, be like me, and just mince everything finely and toss 'em together before mixing in the olive oil.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, then add the lemon juice and capers.

Rinse fillets and pat dry with paper towels.

Season fish with salt and pepper, and place in baking dish.

Pour butter/lemon/capers mixture over fish. Then sprinkle crumb topping over fillets.

Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes.

I served this with roasted fingerling potatoes and asparagus with gremolata, which I will discuss in great and fascinating and mind-blowing detail in another post.

This dish was a winner.  Next time I think I might go lighter on the topping, but this was great.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Linguine with Clams

I don't think I really ever had linguine with clams until I had it at my sister's house. Wanna know why? Two reasons.

Nuuuumbeeerrrr One!
Da clams. From da farmers' market. Which, according to the...clam-monger, were harvested the night before.

They were sweet, flavorful...cannot type...for having gnawed...knuckles...bloody...

Nuuuumbeeerrr Two!
Da pancetta. My sister made it.  Yeah, you heard me. No, she didn't make the pig or anything, but she bought the pork, seasoned and cured it. Herself. Her badass self.

Can you believe she cured this herself? HERSELF? 

The recipe was adapted from Saveur, but honestly, this is all my sister.


  • 1 lb. pasta, preferably linguine
  • 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil  
  • 4 oz. pancetta (or chorizo), finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Fresno or Holland chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise (okay, I don't know what either of those are--go for a jalapeno or serrano)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 ls. littleneck clams (about 30), scrubbed clean
  • 1⁄3 cup dry white wine or vermouth
  • 3 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add chopped pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer lovely crispy pork bits to a paper towel; set aside. 

Return skillet to medium heat and add garlic and half the chiles.

Cook, stirring, until garlic is light golden brown, about 3 minutes. 

Add clams and wine (or vermouth), increase heat to high, and cook, covered, swirling pan occasionally, until clams open and release their juices, 5–10 minutes. 

Can't you hear the clinking and clacking of those lovely clams cascading into the skillet?

Using tongs, transfer clams to a plate, and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1⁄2 cup pasta water, and set aside.

Bring sauce to a boil over high heat, return meat and shallots to pan, and add reserved pasta and 1⁄4 cup cooking liquid. 

Cook, tossing pasta occasionally, until sauce clings to pasta, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in some more of the pasta cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Add 2 tbsp. parsley, season with salt, and toss to combine.

Transfer pasta to a serving bowl, arrange clams over pasta, and pour any clam juices from the plate over pasta. 

Wait, I think we ran out of parsley. Bad us. Delicious anyway.