Friday, April 11, 2014

Okonomiyaki with crispy pork

One time in 2007, my sister and I decided to make okonomiyaki. We had never actually seen okonomiyaki in person. We'd just watched way too much Ranma 1/2 when we were kids. The recipe we used was from before the rise of food blogs. They turned out terribly. My friends Yoshi and Ryan gamely (or just boyishly) ate one each, but my sister and I barely managed a couple bites.

The urge to try again has been brewing for a while (since I made onigiri a few years ago), especially now that I've actually seen (and eaten!) okonomiyaki in real life. And I'm going to a Japanese street festival in a few days, but I can't wait that long, obviously. The recipes I looked at were from here, here, and here.

1 cup Okonomiyaki flour (or wheat or white flour--add a little bit of salt if you're using regular flour)
1 cup water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups finely chopped cabbage
1 cup grated carrot
3 finely chopped green onions
1/3 cup panko or tenkatsu (tempura bits)
pork belly or thick-cut bacon
vegetable or canola oil
toppings of your choice (I used sriracha mayo, more green onions, and bonito flakes)

Make sriracha mayo by combining 1/2 cup mayonnaise (the "Kewpie" kind from Japan is traditional but it doesn't really matter), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons sriracha. Or adjust to your taste. Stick it in the fridge.

Once all the vegetables are chopped, whisk the flour into the water in a large bowl. It will form a smooth batter. Add the beaten egg, panko, and chopped vegetables and mix through (don't overmix).

Heat a small amount of oil on a griddle at 400°F or in a large frying pan on medium heat (or whatever you'd normally use to make pancakes--my stove is kind of weird). While it's heating, cut the pork belly/bacon into small pieces (or keep it in strips--I think it's easier to cook in little bits).

Scoop out about 1/4 of the batter and drop it onto the pan. Use a spatula to flatten it until it's about 1/2" thick. Cook for about 3 minutes, while you put the pork on top of the okonomiyaki. Press it into the batter a little bit so it sticks.

Flip the cake over and cook for about 3 more minutes, or until the pan-side surface of the pork has crisped but the batter side is still soft (if you're using thinner bacon, just let it crisp all the way through).

Flip it again and cook the bottom for another 2-3 minutes, until it's crisped and the insides have cooked.

Move it to a plate, sprinkle with toppings, and enjoy. I think traditional okonomiyaki are bigger than mine, but they're so dense and delicious that I doubt I could actually eat more than one.

Obviously this can easily be made vegetarian, or with different toppings, or other vegetables mixed in. I'm going to try a seafood one next. If you come up with something brilliant, let me know.

Ukyo, the Okonomiyaki chef/spatula-wielding martial artist who started all this nonsense.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

10 years of adulthood

10 Years by Esti Brennan on Grooveshark

So, I turned 28 on Saturday and it seems like a reasonably significant birthday to me: ten years since I finished high school, started my love affair with higher education, moved out of the house I grew up in, had a job that wasn't working for my mom, got a Facebook account (for whatever that's worth), became a legal adult (obviously still working on the mental part of that).

Here are some albums that will also turn ten this year, that have been on my rotation the whole time. And also a little playlist of songs from them. Which were really hard to choose in most cases.

Arcade Fire, Funeral
Black Keys, Rubber Factory
CocoRosie, La Maison de Mon Reve
Devendra Banhart, Rejoicing in the Hands
The Fiery Furnaces, Blueberry Boat
Loretta Lynn, The Van Lear Rose
Of Montreal, Satanic Panic in the Attic
Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous
Tilly and the Wall, Wild Like Children

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sós Stangli (Hungarian Cheese Sticks)

In my family, these cheese sticks were as omnipresent as... well, whatever normal kids eat all the time. Apples? Cheerios? My grandmother made endless batches of them, usually presenting us with new ones before we'd finished the old ones. Clients at the salon would rush to book appointments on Thursdays, when she'd bring a batch of these (or occasionally of pastries) in for the table in the waiting area. When my siblings and I left for college, bags of cheese sticks were still delivered regularly, via mail or our mother. Our friends learned to love them as much as we did, and we, accustomed to the bounty, handed out whole bags, confident there would be more to come. But eventually, of course, the flow of cheese sticks stopped. My grandmother simply wasn't up to it any more. But she did give me the recipe. Which I promptly lost for about two years. But that's all fixed now.

Sós Stangli (Hungarian Cheese Sticks)

2 sticks margarine
3 cups flour
2 cups fine grated cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch each garlic powder and white pepper
8 oz sour cream
caraway seeds
baking spray
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 340ºF. Work the margarine, flour, and first cup of cheese together with the baking powder, garlic, and pepper.* Add the sour cream and mix through, kneading the dough until it is smooth and shiny.** Make two balls, roll each out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured board, and slice into sticks (a pizza cutter works pretty well). Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the second cup of cheese and the caraway seeds (very much to taste--my sister hates them, my brother and I would practically trade the cheese for them).

Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray and wipe with a paper towel to spread evenly. Move the cheese sticks to the sprayed sheets. They don't expand, so you can put them fairly close together. Bake for 35-50 minutes, reducing the heat to 325ºF after ten minutes. (If you're baking one sheet at a time, just let the other one sit on the counter until you have oven space. They won't spoil.)

One batch makes about five dozen sticks, depending on how you slice the dough. The slow baking makes them pretty dry, so they'll last for ages in a ziploc bag (our record is at least six months). You can freeze them and then re-toast them, too.

* I did this with my hands, but some sort of stand mixer attachment would probably serve just as well. The point is to mix the dry ingredients into the fats, so it doesn't have to be perfect. Just enough that when you grab a handful, it stays together.

** Again, started with a spatula, ended up using my hands. Because mucking about in dough is fun.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Sriracha Lentil (Vegetable) Soup

This recipe is mostly this one, which is one of my favorite things I've ever found on the internet and definitely the soup I've made most often in the last couple of years. It's basically a perfect recipe (except for where it says to simmer for an hour--you really only need like twenty minutes). I'm mostly posting because I added extra veggies this time and don't want to forget.

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (any color is fine. I used red this time.)
10 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups tomato sauce
2 1/4 cups red lentils (sorted and picked through, rinsed)
2 quarts water or vegetable stock (I used half and half)
1 cup carrots, julienned or just chopped into little pieces
1 cup chopped broccoli
sharp cheddar cheese (optional)

Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a big pot, and cook the onion until it's browned (5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and spices and cook for 1 more minute. Pour in the tomato sauce, stir through, and simmer for 10 minutes. Sort through the lentils while it's simmering.

Add the lentils to the tomato mixture and stir. Add the broth/water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the carrots and broccoli, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to make the soup semi-smooth. Stir in as much sriracha as you'd like (lots, obviously). Serve with sharp cheddar stirred into each bowl until it melts (Without the cheese, the soup is vegan. With it, it's even more hearty and comforting than before. You can also use cream or coconut milk for this purpose.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

matzoh ball stir fry

A (very rough) recipe for a strange thing I made for dinner tonight that turned out to be totally delicious. I've been eating matzoh ball soup for a couple of days now, and still have lots of ingredients left, but I'm sick of it. Jackie suggested making a stir-fry for dinner. Here's the franken-food that resulted. It took about ten minutes and made two portions.

2 large carrots, chopped into chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup sesame ginger dressing or stir-fry sauce of your choice
matzoh balls (Joan Nathan's recipe is easy and obviously excellent)
chopped green onions
sriracha sauce

Heat the oil in a wok and add the carrots. Cook over medium-high heat until they start to soften, then add the ginger and garlic. Cook for another minute or so, then add the sauce.

When the sauce is heated, stir in the chicken. Keep cooking until everything is hot and the chicken has soaked up some of the sauce.

Serve with matzoh balls, topped with sriracha and green onions.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

pesto two ways

I made spinach pesto ages ago, and it was fabulous. But today I made a more traditional version for the first time. And promptly decided to put it on everything I eat for the next week. Possibly including my Thanksgiving pie. Hopefully there will be more pictures to come. The first variation uses spaghetti squash, which I've been rather addicted to this autumn. The second puts the pesto in a creamy sauce over pasta. To my surprise and delight, coconut milk makes an even richer and more dreamy sauce than the usual cream.

Basic Pesto Recipe

2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup walnuts (because pine nuts are way expensive. but use those if you want.)
3 cloves garlic
a bit of salt to taste
1/2 cup good olive oil

Put the first four ingredients (adjust proportions according to taste, whim, or contents of your pantry) in your food processor. Turn it on, and slowly pour the olive oil in through the lid.

Variation one:

Inspired by my go-to spaghetti squash recipe, courtesy of Big Girls Small Kitchen.

1 medium-size spaghetti squash
1 cup pesto
4 oz ricotta cheese

Roast and gut the spaghetti squash (The Kitchn does a good job of explaining how to do that.) and pat the innards with a kitchen towel to remove extra moisture. Mix in the pesto and most of the ricotta. Transfer to a baking dish, dot the top with the rest of the ricotta, and stick it under the broiler for a few minutes until the top starts to brown (you can skip the broiler if you're in a hurry, but it's worth it if you have time).

Variation two:

Pictured above. Inspired by the Silver Palate pasta with pesto recipe and The Rising Spoon.

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup pesto
2 teaspoons crushed pepper
salt to taste
1/2 lb pasta
parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta, drain, and set aside. Return the pot to the stove on medium-low heat. Melt the butter in it, then whisk in the coconut milk. Stir in the pesto, crushed pepper, and salt, and continue heating until the mixture is hot but not boiling. Stir in the pasta. Top with parmesan.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Strawberry Scones

"She said that you were a Mr. Hottie...ness. And that she would like 
to go out with you for... texting and scones." - The Doctor

That quote has nothing to do with anything except that it mentions scones and is incredibly amusing to me because I am a dork.

I was all excited to make these crumpets, but then realized I don't have any cookie/biscuit cutters in which to cook them... but I'd gotten a request for another batch of honey butter and something to spread it on. Therefore scones. (That's kind of a wonderful sentence fragment, I think. Therefore scones.)

Recipe adapted from here.

6 Tbsp cold butter
2 cups flour
3 Tbsp sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
2-3 large strawberries, chopped into small bits

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Chop the butter into small pieces and return it to the refrigerator.

Sift the flour, 3 Tbsp sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Make a well in the middle and pour in the cream and eggs. Stir gently until it almost hangs together. Add the strawberries (this adds a little more moisture--add some flour if it's too much) and stir until the mixture forms a dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and pat into a round, then press down until it's about 1-1 1/2 inches thick. Brush the top liberally with cream. Use a large knife to cut the circle into eight pieces. Sprinkle with another couple tablespoons of sugar.

Transfer to a baking sheet, placing the scones at least 1 inch apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they're turning golden brown on top. Serve with butter or jam.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

couscous salad

This might be my family's ultimate recipe, and I've made it dozens of times, but I've never blogged it because I never remember to take a photo (as with everything else that languishes in draft posts). The other day, however, I had the terrifying experience of realizing that I'd somehow lost the recipe (or perhaps Gmail couldn't resist swallowing it). Luckily, I'd shared it around to a bunch of friends and one of them was able to swoop in and save me. Be warned: this recipe makes a party-sized quantity of food.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups Moroccan-style couscous
1 large tomato, chopped and drained*
1/3 cup minced green onions
1/3 cup minced black olives
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup crumbled feta**
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil
pepper to taste

Bring the broth to a boil, stir in couscous. Remove from the heat and let sit for five minutes. Stir and transfer to a large bowl. Let it cool while you chop the vegetables.

Add the onions, olives, cilantro, and pine nuts. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil and pour over the couscous, then mix through with a large spoon. Add the feta and pepper and mix again. Let the salad sit for an hour (or overnight) in the fridge. Serve with pita. Or a big spoon.

* I'm not a fan of raw tomatoes, so I usually use a red bell pepper or sun-dried tomatoes.
** Totally optional. If you leave it out (and are careful with your vegetable broth), this dish is vegan. You can also leave it on the side for people to add to their own plates.


This recipe came from my mother's cousin Zsuzsi, who learned it from my grandmother. The baffling way the original was written confirms that it is indeed an "old family recipe." To my delight, they came out tasting almost exactly like I remember them from my childhood.

Fasírozott (Hungarian Hamburger Patties)

1 1/2 lbs mixed ground meat (pork/beef/veal)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp paprika (1 sweet, 1 hot, or however you prefer)
5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 small white onion, grated or minced
1 tbsp flour
pepper to taste
3 thick slices white bread
2 eggs

Soak the bread in a shallow bowl of water for a few minutes, then wring it out and put the mush in the bottom of a large bowl. Mix in the meat, salt, paprika, garlic, onion, flour, and pepper.

Lightly beat the eggs and mix into the meat. Form small patties, about 2" across, and coat in breadcrumbs.

Either fry for 5 minutes on each side or bake in a 350ºF oven for 25-35 minutes until the meat is cooked through, flipping over for the last 10.

The recipe makes about two dozen patties. You can also bake some and then refrigerate the leftover meat mixture for a few days. Or do what my grandmother did and prep the patties, breadcrumbs and all, on a baking sheet, then cover with wax paper and foil and freeze until you want to bake them. If only we all had that kind of freezer space.

Best leftover trick: crumble/smoosh one patty onto a tortilla, top with cheese and hot sauce, cook as a quesadilla. Seriously addictive.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

artichoke and roasted garlic dip

This stuff is so good that I couldn't even get a picture before people swarmed in and ate it. I found this recipe while trying to think of something to do with roasted garlic that was not 'eat it with a spoon because it's magically delicious.' Original is here, but I modified it quite a bit.

Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Dip

2 heads garlic
olive oil
1 can artichoke hearts, diced
2-4 green onions, sliced thin
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2-2/3 cup sharp cheddar (or similar)
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tablespoon whole-seed mustard
1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup panko
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Slice the top 1/2 inch or so off the heads of garlic, and discard any loose bits of peel. Put the garlic on a square of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Loosely wrap the foil around the garlic and bake for about an hour or until the cloves are soft and mushy. Be smarter than me and wait until they cool before squeezing the softened cloves out into a large mixing bowl.

Mix the artichokes, onions, cheeses, mayo, mustard, and sriracha in with the garlic, and add salt and pepper to your liking. Transfer to a baking dish. Mix the topping ingredients together and spread evenly over the dip.

Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes (depending on how deep your dish is), until the panko browns a bit and the edges of the dish are bubbling. Serve with baguette slices or crackers.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rosemary-Black Pepper Drop Biscuits

Round 2 of my bake-a-thon (unless you count the bread dough that is currently rising to be baked tomorrow, which I made after the almonds). Another Budget Bytes recipe, because she is my favorite. Original is here, as usual my changes involved upping the herbs and spices by quite a bit. I am pretty sure these are the first really good biscuits I've ever made. I'm a little speechless with their deliciousness.

Rosemary-Black Pepper Drop Biscuits

2 cups flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried or fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp sugar
about 1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, pepper, and rosemary in a large bowl.

Cut the butter into pieces and work it into the flour mixture, either with your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the whole thing is more or less the texture of sand (specifically the sand you'd find along the shore of Lake Erie, not that fine-grained ocean stuff...).

Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in 3/4 of a cup of the milk (I actually used half-and-half because I had it on hand, no problems so far). Mix the milk through the flour and butter, stirring as few times as possible but making sure everything is sticking together. Add a little more milk if you need it.

Use two big spoons to drop dollops of the batter onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. The recipe should make between 8 and 12, depending on how big you want them. Bake for 18-28 minutes, until the biscuits are brown on top. Serve immediately, or toast in the oven later. Slather with honey butter.*

* To make honey butter, let a stick of butter sit on the counter for half an hour and then use a fork or electric mixer to blend in 1/3 cup honey. Lick your fingers.

candied almonds

I've had a bag of almonds sitting around for months (pretty much since the original recipe was first published), but I finally had the type of free time where I decided that 'bake allllll the things' was the order of the day. Didn't change anything on this one except to double the cinnamon, because that's what I do.

Candied Almonds

1 lb shelled almonds (peels on, preferably)

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Mix the brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a small bowl.

Separate the egg white from the yolk, and discard the latter (or save it for an omelette or something). Whisk the white in a large metal or glass bowl until it's entirely foam and no liquid. Add the vanilla and whisk a bit more.

Toss the almonds in the egg white until they're coated, then add the sugar mixture and stir through.

Spread the almonds on parchment paper or foil on a large baking sheet. They don't have to be spread evenly, but avoid big piles, as they'll stick together.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let the almonds cool for at least half an hour, and then stir again to break up clumps and shake off excess sugar.

Then hide them from yourself because otherwise you'll eat all of them.

Monday, February 4, 2013

lazy lettuce wraps for the win

If you ever need to use up a whole bunch of lettuce but are incredibly sick of salads... order Korean street food take-away and use the rice and pickled radishes to make lettuce wraps (or you could, you know, spend ten minutes making some fried rice). Have no excuse for the fried chicken, but damn was it tasty. And I ate three heads of Butter Lettuce in two days, which means I don't feel bad about accidentally buying way too much.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ottolenghi's Surprise Tatin, Mostly

Over the last two weeks, I've made four different vegetable pies/tarts either directly out of or based on recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi's spectacular cookbook, Plenty. Three of them were made yesterday, because I'm a little bit insane. I am actually planning to announce my engagement to this magical book to my family at Christmas. Because... it's just that good. Here's the first of the recipes, and definitely my favorite of the four pies. I made a number of changes to ingredients based on what I had on hand, so if you'd like the original recipe you can find it here. (Note on the photo: I forgot to add the herbs before the potatoes, so they're hiding underneath. It would look much nicer if they were on top.)

surprise tatin modified recipe

2/3 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 lb baby potatoes, washed but not peeled
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for dish
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1 sheet puff pastry
1 small egg, beaten (optional)
parchment paper

Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water for about 20 minutes or until softened. Drain and cool. Trim the tops and bottoms, and cut into 1-inch-thick discs. Preheat the oven to 400F.

Sauté the onion in the oil and a bit of salt over medium heat, or until brown. Add the garlic for the last few minutes, and cook until softened.

Pour a small amount of olive oil into the bottom of your pie pan, and use a paper towel or basting brush to wipe it evenly over the inside of the dish. Cut out a circle of parchment paper and line the bottom of the pan.

In a small pot, cook the sugar and butter on high heat until it forms a semi-dark caramel. Quickly pour the caramel into the pan (on top of the parchment paper) and tilt the dish to spread it evenly (you may need to use a spoon to help spread it). Scatter the chopped sage over the caramel.

Place the potato slices close together on top of the caramel, filling the pan. Gently press the onions, garlic, and sundried tomatoes into the spaces between the slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and spread the cheese slices evenly over the vegetables.

Roll out the sheet of puff pastry until it's a little bigger than the pan, and cut it into a circle. Place this on top of the cheese, tucking the edges down around the potatoes. Brush with the beaten egg if you have it on hand. 

Bake for 25 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350F and bake for another 15 or 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and puffy. Remove from the oven and let sit for a couple of minutes. Set a (heatproof!) plate upside-down over the dish and quickly flip them over so that the tart falls gently onto the plate.

The fact that I managed to flip this without damaging it is one of my proudest moments of the year. That never, ever works for me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crisp vegetable stir-fry with peanut sauce

I'm posting this more because it was so damn pretty than because it's a unique recipe, but it was damn tasty as well as being lovely. Nothing even vaguely authentic, just something I threw together because I had lots of vegetables and some leftover peanut sauce.

Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter
2-3 dashes soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
sriracha sauce to taste

Mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha, and garlic powder together until the mixture is smooth. You may have to heat it a little to get it to mix, so do the mixing in a microwavable dish or a small saucepan. Add water, a tablespoon or so at a time, until the mixture has a thin-ish sauce consistency. Dip stuff into it or put it on stuff. Will last at least a week in the fridge.

Crisp Vegetable Stir-Fry

1 large carrot, chopped
1 large bell pepper or 4-5 mini ones, sliced
5-10 thin slices of lotus root
4 large radishes, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly shredded
1 package firm tofu, baked/fried or steamed (your choice)
1/3 cup peanut sauce (plus a little more water)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon mirin
soy sauce to taste

Heat the oil in a large wok or pan, and cook the carrots over medium/medium-high heat for about three minutes. Mix in the mirin and a few splashes of soy sauce. The idea behind this dish being 'crisp' is that all the vegetables retain some of their crunch, so don't let anything cook too long.

 Add the peppers and lotus root. Cook for two or three minutes, then add the peanut sauce. Splash in another tablespoon or so of water to help it liquify if it's not melting, and stir to coat the vegetables.

When the sauce is evenly distributed, add the radishes, and cook for another minute. Stir in the tofu, coating it with the sauce. Add the basil and cook another few seconds, until it's just barely wilted.

Serve with rice, sriracha, and black sesame seeds.

Friday, October 5, 2012

apologies... but an alternative!

I haven't really been cooking lately, so it's been all too quiet over here... but I've been cramming my tumblr with pretty things and stray thoughts (mostly during class or homework time, shhh), so you can get your fill of my impeccable taste over there. The only real news is that I moved into a completely gorgeous new apartment, one corner of which you can see above. Sorry if you missed me. I promise I miss you too.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Hey, Good Lookin' by Hank Williams on Grooveshark

We can probably assume that Hank Williams will now get trendy with the young ones, thanks to this film. Maybe also Françoise Hardy. I'm hoping the floral smocks and fantastic eyewear also catch on.

It was a lovely film. I got to flatter myself by seeing a lot of me-at-12 in Suzy (I mean, running away with a suitcase full of hardbacks? Obviously.) and the romance was sweet. And the girl was taller than the boy, which is a sweet bit of realism that I think most filmmakers wouldn't have admitted. I would have liked to hear more of their penpal letters, and see more of Frances McDormand and Bruce Willis interacting. The latter relationship seemed like shorthand, just a suggestion and "well you know how these things go." Which isn't wrong, really, when you're used to Wes Anderson's world, but I love them both so much I just wanted to see them together a bit more. 

As fantastic as the kids were, I was at times more invested in the adults and their panic. I guess that means I'm on the wrong side of the Peter Pan divide these days. Or maybe because it was just obvious from the beginning that this is a happy-ending American fairy tale, not a dark European one where Siegfried and Odette go over the cliff at the end. So the adults seemed to have more at stake--their problems were trivial compared to world-creating young love, and therefore they might actually have been in danger of losing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Spend an Afternoon Avoiding Napping (With Bonus Lo Mein)

1. Come home from work very, very tired, a little after 4 p.m. You've barely slept the last two nights because you were speeding through Mike Carey's awesome Lucifer comics and then some random books you loved in fifth grade. Wish you could take a nap, but know that this will extinguish any hope of actually sleeping tonight.

2. Realize you're very, very hungry. Of course you are--you stayed up until 5 a.m. and had to be at your internship by 9, so you didn't get up until 8:23 when some telemarketer called you. Feel grateful to the telemarketer because you'd already slept through both your alarms, and proud of yourself because you managed to wash your hair and still get to the internship on time. But you didn't eat breakfast. Actually, you never eat breakfast.

3. Unfortunately pride in your clean hair doesn't negate hunger. You ran straight from internship to work, so you didn't have time for lunch either. But now you're done for the day, so you can eat! A coworker mentioned Chinese food on the way out. Spend forty minutes scrolling through Chinese delivery menus online. Actually start an order for pork buns and the fried tofu dish you love from that one place in Cleveland but that's never all that good anywhere else. Get all the way to typing in your card number and then realize that by the time the food gets there you'll have lost interest in it.

4. Decide to make Chinese food yourself. Or something like it. You bought some lo mein noodles last time you were at the big grocery store. And there's a bunch of broccoli in your fridge that was going to be soup until the world decided a week or so averaging 96ºF was a reasonable way to kick off July.

5. Drain a block of tofu, wrap it up, and put it on a plate. Stack on top of it: one glass baking pan, one very small cast iron skillet, two cook books (Andrew Swallow's Mixt and the anniversary edition of Silver Palate) and two graphic novels (Habibi and American Born Chinese), because they're on top of the stack next to the kitchen counter (it's a tiny studio apartment, these things happen). Boil the lo mein noodles. Immediately notice that there are way more than you expected.

6. Think vaguely about buying some more vegetables. Realize that the little, overpriced grocery store around the corner is actually open, since for once you didn't get out of work at 9 p.m. Dump the last of your sugar into a pot with some water and make simple syrup, because you're out of it and now you can actually buy regular white sugar, which the (much nicer) co-op with better hours doesn't carry. Cover the syrup and go to the grocery store. Purchase a bottle of white vinegar, honey in a bear shape, 5 pounds of sugar, and a bottle of seltzer so you can make sangria (what did you think the syrup was for?). Ignore the vegetables.

7. Return home. Fry the tofu, which somehow bucked all the books off the pile and onto the kitchen floor while you were gone. Chop every vegetable you possess. Swear at the onion and nearly take your eye out wiping away tears without putting down the knife. Put the tofu on a plate, drain out most of the oil, stir-fry the vegetables. Dump in rice wine and soy sauce and some other things. Do the thing where you put some water on some cornstarch and add it so you can call what's in your pan "sauce." Boil it, because simmering is for patient people. Add the noodles. Add sriracha, and some black sesame seeds, because they go on everything.

8. Realize you've just spent three hours obtaining dinner, even though you were hungry enough you were worried about fainting. At least you didn't take a nap. Write a blog post about it because you're too tired to figure out a recipe for the lo mein and just tired enough to think the whole thing was funny.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sweet Potato Corn Fritters

The basis for this recipe is from the excellent Budget Bytes, but I changed it a fair bit based on what was in my fridge. These things are ridiculously delicious, look reasonably nice on the plate, and only require you to actually be near the stove/oven for a couple of minutes total--excellent summer recipe. Serves two to four people, depending on whether it's a side dish or main course.

2 sweet potatoes
10(ish) chives, chopped small
2 tsp hot paprika
2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup breadcrumbs or panko
2 eggs
1 cup corn kernels (if they're frozen, let them sit out while you mix everything else)
a few tablespoons of vegetable oil
dip/sauce of your choice

Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake at 375ºF until the insides are soft enough to scoop out and mash--about 45 or 50 minutes. Or else use the very clever microwave trick from the original recipe, which I can't try because I don't have a microwave.

Let the potatoes cool for a while, then mix in the eggs, chives, spices, and cornmeal. I ended up doing this in my food processor because I got impatient (hungry) and took the potatoes out early and they weren't quite soft enough, but you can just stir if you don't feel like doing more dishes than necessary.

Stir in the breadcrumbs and corn kernels, cover, and refrigerate for half an hour. Take the opportunity to make some sriracha mayonnaise like mine (Recipe: stir sriracha into mayo until it's almost too hot to deal with, refrigerate until needed.) or garlic yoghurt sauce like the original.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Form the potato mixture into small patties and fry them for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until they're a little bit crisp. Serve with your sauce. Try not to immediately make three more batches, unless you're inviting a whole bunch of people over to share the magic.

I am still obsessed with the Flower Pepper I bought at Trader Joe's nine months ago. 
It goes on everything.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Titan AE and stuff

So, I'm re-watching this movie because someone on io9 mentioned it and I was like "oh that one was fun." It's not very good, really, but I just realized that 

a) this is the movie I saw on what I suppose was my first date ever, which was twelve years ago give or take a few weeks

b) Joss Whedon was one of the writers. 

Also it's the movie that introduced me to Cynthia von Buhler's rad old band Splashdown (actually I think it was her ex-husband's, but she was pretty involved?), which led to me getting into bands (or alt-cabaret acts?) like Rasputina and the Dresden Dolls (and therefore the most wonderful Amanda Palmer) and thereby developing really good taste in music that didn't necessarily depend on the latest recommendation from proto-hipster sites like early-days Pitchfork and Auralgasms or on my mother's extensive love for Janis and Joni (not that any of those were bad things by any means, but a healthy variation of influences was good for me).

So I guess I have a lot to thank it for and should just shut up and enjoy it instead of making fun of it on the internet. Plus, that late-90s, early-2000s animation style where everything looked like Cowboy Bebop was pretty rad.