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Archive for March, 2009

Planning my trip to New York Z wanted me to meet a friend of his, L, and make dinner together. I thought this was an awesome idea as I love cooking with others and feeding people I love. I had been storing recipes and ideas in the rolodex that is my brain for weeks, trying to have something tasty for whatever shiny happy foodstuffs we fell upon.

On Saturday, Z and I did a lot of eating, concluding it with a walk through Union Square Greenmarket. It was late in the afternoon and a lot of the good stuff (free range chickens, LAMB BACON (I’m still pissed about missing that one), ripe hydroponic tomatoes) was gone. What we did find was delicious local cheeses, greens and bread. We picked up Bianca cheese (a soft fresh whole milk cheese), an 18 mo. sharp cheddar and 1/4 lb. mache from Hawthorne Valley Farms in Ghent, NY. This got the cogs in my brain turning: what is one of the most perfect foods? Mac ‘n Cheese!

Z has ate at S’mac a few times. He called it “just okay,” I think. This drives me bonkers, as he and I are NOT the “just okay” type. Obviously I had to show Z what real mac and cheese is supposed to taste like. We went to Whole Foods with L on Sunday afternoon and picked up a few more ingredients: some intense, earthy Gruyere, a milder, more buttery cheddar, milk, flour, butter and something unusual: seabeans. I had sea beans once when I was in London and loved the briny, asparagus-like flavor. L picked up ingredients to make a pie she had thought of: chocolate orange swirl.

L got to work on her pie: a chocolate cookie crust filled with chocolate ganache, swirled with tangerine curd, topped with cocoa-tinged meringue. While she did so, I prepped for the mac: I chopped the cheeses by hand (being the typical bachelor Z doesn’t possess a cheese grater) and minced the bread into crumbs (nope, no food processor either- L had to beat her cookies with a pan). Here follows is my receipt:

Boil your pasta to al dente, maybe even a little toothier as it will bake. I used lumache, which has large holes to be filled with tasty sauce.

Make a mornay sauce with the following ratios:
– 8 tbsp. each unsalted butter and AP flour (1/2 cup) to 1 quart whole milk
– 24 oz. cheeses: I used Gruyere, mild and sharp cheddars
– 1 Tbsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper (white or black), 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Fold the pasta into the sauce, place into a buttered casserole and top with sliced tomatoes and buttered bread crumbs. Bake at 375*F for 30-45 minutes until bubbling and browned. Let cool for a few minutes to tighten up and serve.

I served this mac with a salad of mache, bianca cheese and dried cranberries, tossed in a homemade vinaigrette:

The juice of a lemon
A squeeze of honey
1 tsp. dijon mustard
S&P (be aggressive, you are seasoning the greens, too!)
Delicious single-origin olive oil, such as Arbequina (olives from NE Spain) olive oil.
– Whisk oil into ingredients to create a silky emulsion. Great with herbs, too.

Finally, L helped me out by sorting through the seabeans and removing bad bits and I simmered them in a bit of water, rinsed them and sauteed in butter with shallots and garlic. When they started to caramelize, I added some white wine Z and I picked up at Chambers St. Wines. The seabeans were pretty salinic, but they were a nice foil to the rich, heavier mac. Z commented they were even “meaty.” I would have to agree, they added a great substance to our plate.

It was wonderful cooking and eating with my new friend, L. She’s a great baker, as that pie kicked some major ass. I was eating little bites of it for breakfast for the rest of the week. Stay tuned, as I will be reviewing our meal at Babbo and talking about the mechanics of making an emu omelet in a 6’x6′ Manhattan kitchen.

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Back from New York

Took the weekend off from work; this is the second time I returned from New York with a cold. I just finished sieving the chicken soup I made for myself and the water’s on for the noodles (yes, nurses nurse themselves!). I would love to get better naturally and not have to see my nurse practitioner again. This has been unusual year for me as I rarely get sick, I guess there is something in New York that I’m not used to.

This was my third trip to Manhattan in the last four months, I’ve grown to really enjoy the city despite it’s difficulties. I can imagine myself living there, but working as a nurse in New York? I’m not so sure. I hope that this summer I can spend a longer period in the city so I can really feel what it is like as well as to see how well Z and I get on. This is really just the start of our relationship since we don’t get to see each other very often. My feelings for him continue to grow and now when I think of him I ache for the next time we are together.

Z and I had an amazing time. Saturday we put on our fancy-pants and listened to Il Trovatore at Lincoln Center. Walking up the steps and seeing Lincoln Center lit up and glowing is an image I’ll never forget.

I was 19 when I heard my first opera here in Fort Wayne. It was on a whim on a humid early spring day and I received tickets for $12 and attended with a coworker. She and I were not even amature enthusiasists, we walked into the Philharmonic not knowing what to expect. We didn’t even know what we were going to hear, we were that innocent. It was Verdi’s La Traviata. I had absolutely no knowledge of opera and I remember thinking during Alfredo and Violetta’s duet Un di felice, eterea, “Holy shit, this is what the human voice is capable of.” Opera is what made me see that the voice is an instrument capable of such range not just of sound but of emotion. When I hear an aria it is not merely the purity of the woman’s voice that moves me to tears but the part of her soul- and the soul of her character- that she includes in the notes. Opera moves me because I am eternally connected to the composers and singers through what they have given me to listen. Furthermore, I love opera because everyone in the house is capable of having the same experience. You don’t feel opera more fully if you’re wealthy. You may not see as well in the third balcony but you can still hear the power and tenderness. Music is the great equalizer.

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