miso eggplant with green tea rice

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This week promises to be a frenetic one, with dinners, meetings, catch-ups and appointments. To that end, I’m feeling the need to retreat a little bit, to be pensive and get my proverbial house in order as I’ve got an interesting few weeks ahead of me. So pardon me if I’m short on words today, but perhaps this serene, healthy dish can provide some inspiration, as I work to quiet a lot of the ambient noise.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron
2 Japanese eggplants
1 bunch cilantro (1/4 cup chopped)
1 piece ginger (enough to fit onto a tablespoon measure)
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup sushi rice
2 tbsp white miso
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp green tea powder
1 tsp black sesame seeds

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DIRECTIONS
Prepare your mise en place: Pre-heat your oven to 500F. Slice the eggplants in half, lengthwise, then width-wise. Rinse, dry + finely chop the cilantro. I tend to use a knife to rake the leaves off the stems as I’m stem-averse. Finely chop the garlic + ginger, set aside.

Cook the rice: Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil on high. Add the rice, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain the rice and set aside. To be candid this is the first time I’ve cooked with rice without considering ratios, but perhaps this worked since I’m dealing with sushi rice.

Fix the eggplant topping: While the rice cooks, in a small bowl whisk the ginger, garlic, miso, mirin + half the soy sauce. Set aside. Lightly oil a baking sheet lined with tin foil {for easy clean-up}. Spoon the mixture on the flat side of each eggplant. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and the topping is lightly browned.

Finish the rice: Add the cooked rice back to the pot and mix in the rice vinegar, sugar, green tea powder, and chopped cilantro. I love how the green tea dyes the rice a sublime green, and the taste is spectacular and unexpectedly cool against the charred eggplant. Divide the eggplant and rice between two plates, serve + chow down!

pizza paninis, red leaf salad, and a hand worth playing…

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Those are the facts. Now I lie in the sun and play solitaire and listen to the sea (the sea is down the cliff but I am not allowed to swim, only on Sundays when we are accompanied) and watch a hummingbird. I try not to think of dead things and plumbing. I try not to hear the air conditioner in that bedroom in Encino. I try not to live in Silver Wells or in New York or with Carter. I try to live in the now and keep my eye on the hummingbird. I see no one I used to know, but then I’m not just crazy about a lot of people. I mean maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game? One thing in my defense, not that it matters: I know something Carter never knew, or Helene, or maybe you. I know what “nothing” means, and keep on playing. ― Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays

Even thought it’s last call, I still want to sing the songs that used to make us laugh, the hymns that once made us happy. Even though the floors stink of chlorine and wet mops and the lights glare bright, I want to belt octaves. Every song comes to an end but that doesn’t mean we stop longing for the music. Instead we lift the needle, settle it down, and play it all again. Hoping that the melody will transport us back to a time we were wide-eyed and wet behind the ears, when every day was filled with so much possibility. It reminds us of childhood when we’d make a mess of things, but we didn’t care; we’d run around until nightfall, until we were called back inside. Until we collapsed in our beds and shut our eyes to the dark. We’d live in this private fiction until the adults found us out. There was always a snitch in the group.

Children create worlds that adults find ways to ruin. Because that’s what we do — wreck beautiful things and spend our lives in disrepair. We bring in the suits with their calculators, shiny gadgets and fast maths and they run the formulas, assess the damages and deliver a report that tells us what we already knew: we should have left well enough alone. The cost of repair is so far beyond what we’ve lost. The suits shake their heads, You should have just let them play it as it lays.

Some of us make it out before we get sick on the nostalgia; shuffling the deck we are determined to play out a new hand. When no one is looking we sometimes hum the songs we use to know. Others lock themselves in their private prison of regret, listening to scratched records on repeat. Few of us never look back.

This week is the first mark of the end of an era. A man who has been an incredible mentor to me has left, and it took everything in me not to cry. During his farewell party I read a speech I’d prepared and my hands shook as I read the words aloud, and I told to a roomful of people that I was a better woman because of his friendship and a better leader because of his tireless mentorship. For three years we stood in integrity and one of my favorite people is gone. He is one of the best men I know; he’s one who pushed me to realize my greatness, and my heart broke when he left. All I wanted to do was stop the clocks, rewind, and go back to the days I sat in his office prattling on about this and that. And although I know that our friendship will grow and he’ll be present in my life, it’s still sad that every day I won’t hear the voice that is the only one louder than my own.

So forgive me as I try on sadness for size. Today I told someone that it’s so fucking sad. What’s sad, he asked. All of it. Every last minute of this. Think of it like the loss of a great love. You know that this person isn’t the one, but the break still hurts regardless. You still bruise and ache and cry your eyes out.

What stops me from stepping into that prison and listening to those scratched songs is that there’s a bigger hand left to play.

So I came home, mourned a little, cooked a little, and started shuffling the deck.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron
3 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 shallot
1 persian cucumber
1 carrot
1 sprig fresh oregano
1/2 head red leaf lettuce
fresh mozzarella
1 16oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 ciabatta rolls

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DIRECTIONS
Get your mise en place: Peel the garlic, onion, shallot, cucumber and carrot. Finely dice the onion, garlic and shallot. Thinly slice the cucumber and carrot. Pick the oregano leaves off the step and roughly chop. Wash, dry, and roughly chop the lettuce leaves. Slice the mozzarella.

Make the sauce: Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic for one minute under low heat. Add in the can of tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium-low for ten minutes until the sauce thickens. I loathe chunky tomatoes so I used an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce once it was done. But this is me and I have texture issues so if you love the chunk, embrace the chunk.

Make the dressing: While the sauce is cooking, whisk the shallots, 3 tbsp olive oil, mustard and vinegar in a bowl until completely combined. Set aside.

Assemble the panini: Slice the ciabattas in half. Spread a thin layer of sauce on both rolls. Top 2 halves with 2-3 slices of fresh mozzarella and sprinkle half of the oregano on each. Season with salt, pepper and sprinkle a tsp of parmesan cheese over both halves. Carefully put the two halves together.

Grill the panini: I’m privileged that I had a panini press so I went crazy and added the sandwiches to the press. If you don’t have one, don’t fret. Heat a large pan until medium-hot and add the sandwiches. Place a heavy pot to weigh them down. Cook about three minutes a side until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasty.

Dress the salad + serve!: Toss the greens, carrots, cucumbers and dressing together in a large bowl and prepare half of the salad on two plates. Serve with the piping hot paninis, careful not to burn your mouth like I did!

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tofu fajitas, whole wheat tortillas, pursuing a new book project + the business of leaving

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Lately all I can think about is writing a new book and what that means in age of distraction, abbreviation and constant connection. It’s been a long time since I’ve written long form, since I’ve thought about crafting a narrative, developing characters, finding the in of people. Someone once told me that writing is much like an exorcism — you obsess over the things for which you’re most passionate, and writing allows you to write them out, to give your obsession new shape, color and form. Years ago, when I was playing around with being a “line” writer {think Gary Lutz or my friend + prolific author, Kira Henehan, those who are obsessed with the architect of a sentence versus the development of a story}, someone in my Columbia workshop told me that the family story has been done. Naturally, this statement was followed by an exaggerated sigh, to which I responded in laughter. Every story has been told, but it’s the telling and the voice that make it new. I still believe this. Even now, years later, after so many people have asked if I plan to return to the terrain of my previous book.

To which I’ve responded with a very firm, no. I wrote that obsession out, practically underwent a blood-letting, and now I’ve quietly placed a clean sheet over it, kissed its cheek and allowed the waves to carry it out to the ocean.

However, what I have been obsessed with is what I like to call the business of leaving. Years ago, I wrote a story collection, which turned out to be my thesis for the Columbia MFA program, about a series of characters affected by leaving. I don’t do well with loss, abandonment, leaving, and even though I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been, leaving gnaws. When my best friend of seven years got married and excised all contact it took me a full year to barely recover. When a great love laid my heart out to pasture I was devastated. And when my father called me last week and told me his dearest friend of twenty-five years died of leukemia it took everything in me not to race home and cry alongside him.

The interesting part in all of this is that food always plays a part in every story. From ruined restaurants to beloved recipes, food has always been the center, or the character, in my life. Love, loss and what I ate will be the heart of my new project. It won’t be the sort of thing where I tell as story and dump a recipe at the end, as that’s not how I think. I’m not linear {can’t you tell?} in how I tell a story, so food has to be woven throughout, it must be integral. So this has me exploring new forms. New ways of telling a story in a new age.

Let’s see what unfolds…

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
1 bunch cilantro (2 tbsp, rough chop)
1 ripe avocado
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 package superfirm tofu (you can opt to use chicken, beef, shrimp or other protein alternatives)
1/4 cup sour cream
4 whole wheat tortillas
2 1/4 tsp fajita dry mix

DIRECTIONS
Prepare all your veggie by slicing all veggies {peppers, onion, avocado} into big chunks or strips. Squeeze some lime juice all over the avocado to prevent it from oxidizing {turning brown}.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet with the heat set to high. Drain the water from the tofu and cut into strips. Transfer the strips to the pipping hot pan and cook until browned on both sides (4-7 minutes/side). While the tofu is cooking, add the peppers and onions along with the fajita seasoning and stir until well-cooked and combined. You want your veggies softened, but still crunchy and the tofu, browned.

In a separate pan, heat the tortillas on both sides until warmed and set aside.

Distribute the mixture to all your tortillas and add the avocado + sour cream + spritz with lime and serve!

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greek salad on toasted whole wheat pita

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Believe me when I say that I’m on the virtuous comeback tour. We’re going to forget the gourmet pizzas, angus cheeseburgers and numerous chocolate confections of last month and a woman is ready to start anew. While last month was the food massacre, this month will be all about regeneration. In short, I MISS KALE {cue heartbreaking song: while my guitar gently weeps}.

So after my workout buddy, Paula, berated me for spin addiction, I joined her in a new Equinox class called “Stacked.” Essentially, it’s 45 minutes of high-interval training where you perform six exercises and stack them on top of one another, with 30-second breaks in between. What started out as squats with a body bar ending with me moving through six strenuous exercise with no breaks. Although I was shades better than my normal fat kid in gym class routine, I’ve realized that I seriously need to mix in strength training on the regular.

When I got home I proceeded to shovel this salad in my mouth and now I’m lying on my couch watching horror movies. Life is GOOD, people.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron*
1 small cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 green Cubanelle pepper
1 head romaine lettuce
6-12 Kalamata olives
2 whole wheat pitas, cut into triangles
1 bunch fresh oregano (enough for 2-3 tbsp)
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp olive oil
4 oz feta cheese

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DIRECTIONS
First, pre-heat your oven to 400F. It’s time to get your mise en place, kids. Peel the cucumber, de-seed it with a spoon, and chop into cubes. Chop the peppers until they’re approximately the same size as the cucumbers. Wash, dry, and rough chop the romaine lettuce and add it to a large bowl. Pit and chop the olives, and guess what? Chop the oregano. Slice the shallot in half, and fine dice one half and slice half-moons with the other. Peel, smash and chop the garlic. In a small bowl, add the red wine vinegar, finely diced shallots and garlic. Set all your goodies aside.

Spread out your pita triangles on a baking sheet and coat them lightly with olive oil. Season with salt + pepper. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the chips are a golden brown.

While your chips are chipping away {sorry, I couldn’t resist!}, whisk in two-three tablespoons of olive oil to the red wine vinegar mixture. Set aside.

Now assemble your salad by adding all the ingredients and half the feta cheese. This can serve 2 quite well, and 4 as a side dish. I actually broke apart my chips and added them to the salad, much like a fatoosh, instead of having them sit on the side as the recipe calls.

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*I’m absolutely in no way, shape or form remunerated for gushing over Blue Apron. I subscribe to their weekly service and I’m a true brand evangelist.

coconut jasmine rice with bok choy, cashews + golden raisins

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It does not seem to me, Austerlitz added, that we understand the laws governing the return of the past, but I feel more and more as if time did not exist at all, only various spaces interlocking according to the rules of a higher form of stereometry, between which the living and the dead can move back and forth as they like, and the longer I think about it the more it seems to me that we who are still alive are unreal in the eyes of the dead, that only occasionally, in certain lights and atmospheric conditions, do we appear in their field of vision. ― W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

It occurs to me that I’ve been artfully dodging mirrors. Washing my face in the dark, making absurd small talk in the bathroom, squinting at mirrors, always — it’s been a long time since I was fearful of the person on the other side of the looking glass. A small part of me knows, but a large part of me doesn’t want to know. That part only wants to fast forward the tape and press play. That part whispers, Soon, soon, not yet. Easy, easy, you’ve got her too high. That part paces the floorboards at night, hoping to smother the clocks. Praying that they don’t start their cruel tick.

But they do, and you freak, and you quote the dead {HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME} and watch the same horror movies on repeat. Your lidless eyes press shut. Alexis Murdoch croons the word shine for six minutes. For a time you used to stutter when you were young, and now you realize you took comfort in the repetition, the duplicative nature of the echo. It’s a lullaby that tricks you into thinking that time hasn’t moved at all. Then it occurs to you — and this is the violent shaking of a small plane that numbs you down to the bone — that you’re not frightened of seeing your living reflection, but you’re petrified of being imprisoned by your dead one. Hands waving.

That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!
You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!

The shift to second person was deliberate. Consider it an inversion of the first for those who need a bit of distance. But you remind yourself that this is the year that you plunged your hand into the earth and you said the words: it’s time. Last month was the ticking of the bomb. This month and all the days forward are the harvest. Come springtime the body was rise, dewy-faced, anew. That once murmuring heart, smothered by the peanut-crunching crowd, will suddenly t. ti. tic. tick. TICK. . Creating an indelible print on the glass. Then spoke the thunder.

But first things, first. Let’s undo the food-shame that was the past month and drown ourselves in a verdant bowl of green…

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron
1 cup jasmin rice
1 5.6oz can coconut milk
1 head bok choy
2 tbsp cilantro
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup dried coconut flakes
1/2 cup cashews
3 tbsp golden raisins
1 lime

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DIRECTIONS
In a medium pot add the rice, coconut milk and 1 1/3 cup water. Heat to boiling on high and then reduce the heat to lower and simmer the rice, covered, for twenty minutes. While the rice is cooking, finely chop the stems {I nixed the stems as I don’t prefer the texture} and rough chop the leaves and set aside. Finely dice the cilantro and three cloves of garlic and set this aside, as well.

Toast the cashews and coconut on a hot pan on the stove for under a minute. Definitely check the nuts + coconut often as they can burn pretty quickly. Remove from the heat when they’re fragrant and golden and set aside.

When the rice is done, fluff with a fork and add the juice from 1/2 lime, the cashews and golden raisins, 1/2 of the cilantro and toasted coconut. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, add a tablespoon of olive oil to medium-high heat and sautée the bok choy and garlic for 2-3 minutes, until the leaves are wilted and the stems are softened. Add the bok choy to the rice, and add the remaining cilantro and coconut. Serve hot + enjoy!

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foodie find: blue apron foods

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You don’t often find me talking about brands or reviewing products on this space. When you’ve been in my line of work for as long as I have, you start to see how a courtesy of changes people and the content that they share with their readers. Once passionate, hungry and scrappy bloggers who wanted to simply wanted to create and share now wax poetic about monetization and blogger agents. They’ve become deal-makers, product-shillers and somewhere along the way they left they checked their integrity at the door. I too struggled with this a few years back, as the products and gifts and delicious soirees make it hard to resist, but I started to read my blog posts, really read them and they felt airless, dispassionate, rote.

Granted, the bloggers who have become commodities, traded on an open market by brands like lucrative stocks, may not be the norm, but my small taste of it has me running skidmarks in the opposite direction. As this space is my own personal scrapbook of the food I make, buy, bake, and swoon over, I care less about traffic numbers and analytics and more about how I, and others, feel when they read my content. Food is inexplicably bound to memories or emotions within me, so every post has to be thoughtful, personal and evocative.

This is a long-winded way of saying [COME ON, ARE YOU SHOCKED?] that I’m very selective when it comes to reviewing products or services on my blog, and when I do it’s MAJOR.

Simply put, Blue Apron is the coolest concept I’ve discovered in a long time. The grocery delivery concept is pretty straightforward. Each week you get three recipes and all of the ingredients to craft your meal. No measuring, no fuss, no long supermarket lines or fear of missed ingredients — just a box of simply-packaged ingredients, all meant to make a delicious meal. And the recipes? So simple any one can make them. Each 8×11 recipe card tells you a bit about the dish, lists the ingredients, serving size, calorie counts, and gives you step-by-step visual + text instructions on how to fix your meal. Not only was I impressed by the delivery (all of my food was wonderfully packaged), but the ingredients were first-rate, and you can see the care and thoughtfulness that went into every step — from recipe concept to ingredient selection. My first week I had chicken paillard with warm potato salad, fish tacos with avocado and radish + lamb sausage with late summer Moroccan couscous. ARE YOU NOT PALPITATING?

For now, Blue Apron is available on the East Coast (primarily) via Fedex delivery + local delivery (in Manhattan). The prices are about $60/week, and in my opinion WELL WORTH the money. For a delivery map, click here.

Full Disclosure: Blue Apron was kind enough to let me sample their services, gratis, for a week.

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