Monthly Archives: October 2011

Broccoli and feta pasta

Happy Halloween!

This year’s spooky day snuck up on me.  I have no holiday-appropriate post.  No candy, no pumpkin, no orange food, nothing at all about putting on costumes and demanding sugary treats from strangers.

What I do have is tonight’s dinner, which accidentally turned out looking like something you might use in a haunted house to imitate human innards:

That’s Halloween-y, right?

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Mushroom lasagna

Riddle me this. When it’s a Monday, and you’re so tired you can’t keep your eyes open at work, and you can feel your exhaustion slowly sliding into something like a low-grade fever, what’s the normal-person response?

A. Tough it out at your desk until the end of the workday.

B. Hide in the supply closet with a mug of tea and a sweater.

C. Go home early and sleep.

D. Go home early and spend an hour and a half at the stove making mushroom lasagna with bechamel sauce, from scratch.

Yeah. Turns out I’m not so normal.

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Digression: beautiful bride

This weekend I was a bridesmaid for the first time.  It was a crazy adrenaline-fueled whirlwind of a weekend.  Some of the bridal party were old friends of mine; some were out-of-towners I was meeting for the first time.  For four days, we convened at a beachside resort and did our absolute best to make sure the bride went to pieces as little as possible.

I was prepared for the trappings of it: the late-night bachelorette festivities, the group-bonding nail salon appointment, the last-minute run to Macy’s, the gaffe-filled and generally hilarious wedding rehearsal, the crowded and chaotic rehearsal dinner, the ceremony itself.  What I wasn’t expecting was the emotional wallop–or the weirdness of seeing my dear friend, the bride, turn into a glowing postcard version of herself.

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Snickerdoodles

On “Inside the Actors’ Studio”–one of my not-so-guilty TV pleasures–James Lipton always starts his famous questionnaire with, “What is your favorite word?”  Were I to suddenly, magically, improbably become a movie star, and get invited onto the show for a profound exploration of my life and craft, I’m not sure I could whittle down my list to just one word.  Not even for the great, scrumtrulescent James Lipton himself.

I’m a fickle creature.  Right now, on this day, in this room, my top five are:

Gandy-dancer, n: an old slang term for a railroad maintenance worker

Soporific, adj: causing sleep

Yurt, n: a tentlike dwelling

Chortle, v: to chuckle gleefully

Snickerdoodle, n: a type of sugar cookie made with cream of tartar and rolled in cinnamon sugar

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Pan-fried Tuscan beans

So I was going to get all ranty on here about an ad I saw the other day, and medicine and concern-trolling and the “headless fatty” phenomenon.  Maybe someday soon, I will.

But you know what?  It’s been a gorgeous sun-drenched week in San Francisco, and I made some damn delicious beans the other night.  I’m not going to let The Advertising Man get me down.

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French toast, hold the sugar

Time for another entry in the list of breakfast foods that don’t have to be sweet:

French toast.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sugary, crispy custard-bread is a fine foodstuff indeed.  There’s a tiny roadside diner in Belchertown, Massachusetts that makes a gingerbread French toast I’ll remember for years. But for my money, that’s not breakfast.  It’s dessert.  It’s bread pudding by another name.

Breakfast French toast, in my book, is bread soaked in scrambled eggs, with enough salt and black pepper to make you sneeze. I love it especially when it’s made with Jewish deli bread: caraway rye or even a good chewy bagel.

Yes, I said bagel.

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Peanut butter and improvisation

Several years ago, I worked as a supervisor on a high school volunteer project in Panama.  It was a hard summer, filled with heartbreaking complications.  A couple weeks in, the project staff found out that our local general store sold American peanut butter–the kind choosy moms choose.

I learned an important lesson that summer: there are few situations so awful that they can’t be brightened, at least for a moment, by sticking a spoon in a jar of peanut butter and eating yourself silly.

We bought so much peanut butter we couldn’t eat it all.  So we started making stir-fries for our communal staff dinners, thinning out spoonfuls of peanut butter with bad soy sauce and purified water and tossing it with vegetables and rice.  To this day, whipping up a peanut stir-fry sauce is a quick-and-dirty way to make me feel a little better about things.

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