Food Memory: Mediterranean with Sister

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My sister doesn’t indulge in eating out often, so the week I joined her in Georgia and we each did homework all day was punctuated by trying most of the exotic restaurants she hadn’t tried herself. This sampler had baba ganoush, hummus, phillo pockets, and falafel with sauce. While each individual item wasn’t filling, eating a bunch of tiny things was so fun because it was something to talk about with my sister that wasn’t the long essays we were each writing, her for college and me for graduate school. The past few years have been really great for our friendship, and memories like this one have helped.

19. S’s Creamy Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

IMG_3826S and I have seen each other through a lot: in particular, we’ve each moved upwards of 5 times since we met in high school, and somehow, calling each other and chatting for hours is still our method of coping with new things. When Husband hears me say “Hi S” on the phone, he knows to go do other things because it’s going to be a while.

S’s recipe comes from a friend she visited on a big moving-to-a-new-state road trip last year, and she said that even though she doesn’t have a physical copy of the recipe, she would email it my way.

S’s sweet potato recipe came at a great time for me – I had a big carton of coconut milk in the fridge and a pack of sweet potatoes that needed to be cut up and used in some way. The kick of spices added to this dish made up for the fact that, because I was trying to get the sauce to congeal up a bit, I left them in the oven for longer than recommended. I would definitely add a step of mixing the potatoes around and make sure that there isn’t enough cream (or in my case, coconut milk) that they basically stew instead of roasting. The result was delicious but not at all firm/crunchy the way sweet potatoes can sometimes brown up.

It’s been almost like a spicy breakfast porridge for me this week, which has been full of cold days and quiet rising early on the weekends. Having steaming sweet potatoes with the peppery kick to them gets me energized for days of reading and writing and crocheting and walking, which are the things I like best on the weekend… other than eating.🙂 I called S right after making this dish, and got filled in on her life, job, new friends, etc. This is part of why the blog was so important for me and why it has lasted these first two months: when I’m making the dishes that people I love gave me, I seem to really make the effort to stay in touch.

That being said, I am wondering: what does modern long-distance friendship look like? A lot has been said for how Modern Romance (yes, the Aziz Ansari book is one example) is happening, but I wonder: do you play Words with Friends with your grandma? Do you call your friend and talk for an hour while absentmindedly cleaning house? Are you a texter or a messager or what?

At the same time, I’m finally making some friends here in my new town! I don’t have recipes from them yet (haven’t shared the blog with them… eee!) but I’m hoping to get them in on this too. One new friend, B, is big into urban gardening and I am a total newbie to gardening in all forms, so I’m hoping that more of my food can be local and actually from gardens I participate in!

Enough updates for now. Here’s S’s Sweet potatoes:
– Preheat oven to 350 (or maybe 375?).
– Cut up a bunch of sweet potatoes.
– Put them in a pan (that has edges) with a bit of oil and salt and pepper.
– In a pot, mix together cream, chipotle peppers (from a jar, or in dried/seasoning form), and a hefty amount of Adobo. Heat on medium; don’t let the cream boil.
– Pour cream mixture over sweet potatoes (they should be covered but not drowning). Bake at 350 deg. F for about 40 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.

Food Memory: Quiet Time at Soup-remacy

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Conferences inspire a somewhat-unnatural efficiency in me – I want to see as much as possible, with the time spent in only the most useful ways. I’m the opposite of a smell-the-roses  gal when I’m also trying to learn for graduate school or work. One time, though, in Indianapolis, I happened to be headed back to the hotel for a lunch break, thinking I’d probably eat a protein bar and catch up on email, when I saw Soupremacy. It was a long narrow restaurant, and sure enough, it mostly sold soup. The lunch special was 3 small bowls of soup, you pick, with a hunk of bread big enough to dip in them all. I got a potato bacon soup, a tomato bisque, and a curried squash soup, all of which brought the warmth back into me. I know it’s technically possible to snarf soup down quickly, but the hot creamy soups at Soupremacy beckoned me to slow down, or risk spilling all over my business casual clothes. Soup is nice like that – I felt less lonely despite slowing and hearing my own thoughts as I looked out on the busy street.

18. A’s Baked Mac and Cheese

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Husband is the friendly sort, and invited his two ex girlfriends to the wedding; one of them gave us a recipe for macaroni and cheese. I’d never met her before, but she has a warmth and kindness that I noted in the barn where we all ate dinner and danced the evening away, and I see why he liked her. I felt a weird kinship with her, for having liked the same man.

Early on in our dating time, I met one of Husband’s best friends, D. It was at a dinner with friends of mine, and everyone was treating us somewhat like untested material – my friend L was asking all kinds of questions about Husband and telling him ridiculous stories of me in college, embarrassing me thoroughly and delighting him. D had only one question for me, so I thought I was going to get off easy, but it was an odd one. “Do you like condiments?” he asked, causing Husband to chuckle.

I uneasily said “Not really?” because I had always thought bright red ketchup and scary yellow mustard were awful. I didn’t load my sandwiches up with mayo or hot sauce, though I did sometimes want something, barbecue sauce or something else, to dip my french fries in. But even that was a recent development – I hoped that D wasn’t about to tell me that Husband was a die-hard ketchup fan. “Good,” he said. “(Husband) hates condiments.”

As I’ve gotten more into cooking and developed a healthy respect for the utility and deliciousness of sauces in general, I’ve eased up on a variety of condiments, but Husband stands strong – other than a little cup of buffalo sauce to amp up any particular dish that doesn’t properly singe his insides, he doesn’t partake. One of his favorite dishes from Cincinnati, chili cheese coneys, customarily comes with a dash of bright mustard that is mostly swallowed by other flavors. I have grown to like it in that moderate capacity; Husband, on the other hand, actually sends his food back if someone forgets and puts the dread mustard on it.

All of this to say that when A’s baked macaroni and cheese recipe contained a teaspoon of dry mustard, I knew that I was being given a challenge – could Husband figure out that this recipe has mustard in it and turn up his nose, or would it amply disguise itself amongst the other delicious flavors? I appreciated A issuing this challenge for me.

I personally still don’t favor traditional mustard – it’s stringent in a way that I just cannot abide. What has truly won me over is honey mustard – I rarely want honey by itself except as a sweetener in baked goods, but there is something truly separate about the mixture of honey and mustard, creating something unlike either of the previous flavors. I recently tried a blackberry-flavored honey mustard and it was all I could do not to slurp it up straight from the jar – so delicious.

Still, I thought the dry mustard was an important investment because if mac and cheese took on a honey flavor, even if it was unexpectedly delicious, it was sure to cue Husband in and make him guess the ingredient. And obviously I’m looking to deceive him, not make a delicious dish… oh wait… anyway.

Showing my true colors, I was so amped up about sneaking mustard into my husband’s food that I didn’t take the time to actually buy… noodles. I assumed, because of my love of tricolor rotini and Husband’s penchant for angel hair, we both bought plenty of pasta over the weeks and we’d obviously still have some… right? As it turned out, we had exactly 1/2 a cup of rotini and a half box of angel hair left. Does angel-hair make mac and cheese? In our house, I guess it does.

In the end, Husband loved my weird cheese and two-kinds-of-pasta mixture, but I am certain it needed a second go of it. I made the dish again a month later, to much better results. Still, I felt triumphant that first batch, because Husband dug in with gusto and the presence of the mustard evaded his senses. When told, he continued eating. His rationale? “Dried mustard isn’t as bad as real mustard,” he said. I maintain that I pulled one over on him; anyone who knows his penchant for teasing and pranks knows that this is only what he deserves.

A’s  Baked Mac and Cheese

 

  • 1 cup cooked elbow noodles
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1tsp of dry mustard
  • 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup milk

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place mac in 1 qt. cassarole dish and stir butter, egg, salt, mustard, and 2.5 cups of cheese. Pour milk over mixture. Top with remaining .5 cup of cheese. Cover with foil and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!

 

Food Memory: Spicy Brunch with J

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J, funnily enough, was my boss for a summer, but she also went to grad school near mine and when I went to visit her, our most treasured tradition was a visit to a wonderful brunch restaurant. I’d eat my sour-cream-topped latkes and my poached eggs on black-bean-cakes and feel the spice burning my tongue while we washed down our many chats with milky coffee. She made me feel a part of her world at a time when I was in between close connections, and ever since I’ve associated sweetness and wisdom with any food we’ve shared.

17. T and K’s Root Beer Chicken (repost)

rootbeerchickenT and K are some of the happiest people I met in school. Not that they are cheerleader-excited about everything, but just that most of the times that I see them, they are reasonably optimistic, have something exciting they’ve recently learned or experienced, or are willing to slough off a bad day with a funny movie or a chat. At school, where I’ve started to learn a lot of people aren’t particularly happy, these kinds of people are so important. K and I studied some similar things and even though we didn’t get to hang out all the time, his excitement reenergized me when my homework got monotonous. T is a photographer and her work always makes me feel like the world is a little more mysterious and beautiful than I see it through my phone’s camera lens.

They made a delicious, surprising crockpot dish themselves for the dinner party, which has an amazing 3 ingredients (this is the kind of recipe of my dreams, folks). The result, despite tasting like root beer which I’m not a fan of, was awesome: moist chicken with just a slightly different take on barbecue-flavor, a bit of that rooty tang with a sustained sweetness. It would be really good on sandwiches, too, I think, without really needing to be “pulled,” just taken off the bone. om nom nom.

Recipe here! http://thefrugalgirls.com/2014/08/crockpot-root-beer-bbq-drumsticks-recipe.html

15. C’s Jalapeño Cheese Dip (repost)

jalapenodipOne of the dinner party recipes, which appeals to me in my current state because I’m hungry and I miss spicy cheese. It’s a pretty constant state of missing spicy cheese – I first discovered queso at a great burrito joint in my college town, and had a standing weekly date with an old friend to complain about life while dunking chips there… mmm. C’s recipe took me back.

C, like Jalapeño Popper Dip, is more than meets the eye. She’s quiet, a studious member of the classes I’ve taken with her, and thus the more clueless members of the class don’t get to see her sense of humor, her wide ranging knowledge of topics of all kinds, or her intense observation of human nature. She once told me that in a class she would watch my facial expressions change and laugh at me; this is a person who knows what’s going on.

Jalapeno Popper Dip looks like a vat of cheese – nothing wrong with that. However, inside, it’s got corn and spicy pepper bites, turkey bacon and a creamy blend of cheeses that make it perfect for right-before-dinner noshing. We dug in almost immediately, a crowd of hungry guests who wanted to wait for everyone to arrive before beginning the plate-filling in earnest. As a person who regularly longs for queso because of a few summers spent working in Texas, I crunched my way through a slew of tortilla chips covered in this stuff. It was nicely serendipitous: one moment, I’d get only creaminess, the next, a fiery bit of pepper. C also keeps me guessing: I like hearing her take on things because I cannot predict it. I hope to share spicy cheese with her many times in the future.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/238668/jalapeno-popper-dip-with-bacon/?lnkid=fb1506