Monday, August 30, 2010

Sock-it-to-Me Halloumi

Dear Reader,

The fine people at CSN Stores asked if I would be kind enough to review some of the products they have on offer.  The answer, of course, was yes, I am kind enough!  About a week later this All-Clad Grill Pan arrived. 

I am a fan of All-Clad, though it doesn't look like that in the photo.  The pan is sturdy, pleasing to the eye, seemingly capable of grilling up the meatiest brontosaurus rump roast.  But what about something more delicate?  I put this grill pan to the test with Halloumi, the salty Cypriot cheese of my dreams.  I marinated the Halloumi in a little lemon, garlic and olive oil then tossed, not really tossed, more like gingerly placed, the cheese in the hot pan.  Then I took some sliced baguette, anointed with olive oil, and thunked that down in there, too.  The cheese was delicious, and my husband suggested it should be served, "with a cucumber," which inspired me to create a lovely little cucumber and tomato salad to go alongside.

But what to serve for the rest of the meal?  For me, cheese and bread is the ideal meal, but perhaps not for most.  I settled on a recipe that had been torn from the New York Times about five years ago and stuffed inside one of my cookbooks.   Turkish Bride Soup.  Yes, I know that Greece and Turkey don't really get along, by why can't they at my dinner table?  After all, I'm not 100% sure I really know where Macedonia even is, or what all the fuss was about in the first place.  The soup called for bulgar, but I don't really want a box of that stuff clogging up my cupboards, so I used basmati instead.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Lemonade for Pakistan

Dear Reader,

On Friday my children decided they were going to have a lemonade stand.  There was much discussion about signage and profit sharing, what would be offered in the way of merchandise (lemonade obviously, as well as cookies and jokes) and how the millions they were anticipating would be spent (mostly on Gummy Bears).  I brought to their attention that if they were to raise this money for charity, they would probably bring in more, and I offered to give them a bonus for their efforts.  And so Lemonade for Pakistan was born.  Here are the highlights:

The day began with the children drinking their product.  All was tasty and refreshing.

Curious onlooker.

First customer!  She had lemonade and a cookie, but didn't get to hear the joke because-

-she was interrupted by her friend.  The friend did not partake of our refreshments.

This guy said, "Good job!" and threw money in the cookie bowl.

Happy customer enjoying the jokes.  She heard "A mushroom walked into a party.  The guy said 'Hey! You weren't invited!' The mushroom said, 'Why? I'm a fungi"  Most of the jokes were mushroom-based.

This gentleman thought my children needed to know how much money our government was spending on the war in Afghanistan.  He really, really wanted them to fully understand the financial devastation this war was bringing to our great nation.  Next!

My daughter thought that wearing her visor might boost sales.

Then she had the great idea that we should also offer dog treats.  This led to them screaming "Ice cold lemonade plus cookie and a joke only one dollar! And if you have a dog, we have dog treats! Help flood victims in Afghanistan, I mean Pakistan!" which is a really long slogan.

This man visited us several times.  Here you see him instructing the children on proper selling technique. He then told me that he was going to stand in front of the Chelsea Hotel and paint a picture and try to sell it for $50.  Bon chance, monsieur!

Someone didn't realize this would also be a math lesson.

The grand total!

All in all it was a highly successful venture!  I learned a great deal that day - namely that most people are really very generous.  A woman leaving her shift at Dunkin' Donuts, where she could clearly snack on goodies for free, donated three dollars.  Several people gave us ten dollars.  I also learned how very many people are drunk in the afternoons.  And that those drunk people do not get even the most basic of jokes.  I would go so far as to say that not even knock knock jokes should be attempted with afternoon drunks.

If you did not get to stop by the lemonade stand, but wish to contribute to Save the Children's efforts in Pakistan please do so, because for some reason this tragedy has not sparked the public reaction caused by the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami. Where is George Clooney with a telethon?   Where is Julia Roberts?  No matter, here's how to help.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lovely To Look At

Dear Reader,

Here is a really lovely video from photographer William Hereford.  When I make dinner, there isn't somber Yves Montand playing in the background, but I wish there were.  Must make a mental note to download some today.  This video is really stunning, and I could certainly learn a thing or two from him.  Well done, Mr. Hereford!

Cooking Dinner Vol. I from William Hereford on Vimeo.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What To Listen To, Podcast Edition.

Dear Reader,

Before you pack up the car and head out on summer's ritual road trip, here are my recommendations for what to put on your iPod for the journey.  I love podcasts, and there are a few to which I am addicted.

First and foremost there is Stuff You Should Know.  I love these guys.  Josh and Chuck are hilarious and explain, in terms you can understand, some of the coolest stuff in the world.  Literally, it's stuff you should know.  And they do good things, too.  I'm on their Kiva team, and you should be, too.

Stuff You Missed In History Class is also from the good people at  These ladies are very smart and will have you, if not actually reading histories, then vowing to at some later date.  The podcasts about the Tudors and the Stuarts are particular favorites.

Radiolab from WNYC is totally cool, sort of like This American Life's cooler younger brother.  Here is a little video that goes along with their podcast called, Words.

You can literally download hours and hours of these for free, and maybe learn something while you're at it! Go figure.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hudson River Creamy Corn Chowder

Dear Reader,

I don't know about you, but I am ready for these long and humid summer days to be over.  I yearn to put away the salad spinner and break out my Le Creuset cookware.  My kids are driving each other nuts, which is in turn driving me nuts, which in turn drives my kids even further to the far edge of nuttiness.  This morning, in search of a little adventure, a friend and I took our kids on New York City's FIREBOAT.  I had heard of this boat before.  It is in fact a little famous, being the subject of the succinctly titled children's book Fireboat.

It sounded like fun.  Rendezvous at Pier 66 at 9:30 AM for a quick chug down the Hudson and back.  The website warned, "You might get a little wet," so I packed our snacks in a baggie, brought along an umbrella and some extra sweatshirts and headed out.

Today is the first day of summer that seemed like it might be sort of rainy, so of course we couldn't get a cab.  I hopped on the bus along with six hundred other people and crawled across town.  The kids and I pushed our way out when we reached the river and ran as fast as my daughter's flip flops would allow.  We got on board just before The Harvey pulled out.

A very nice gentleman told us the horn would be a little loud, and offered as an aside, "The only place you're not going to get a little wet is inside with the Captain."  We laughed, and hoped it wouldn't rain.  We headed down the Hudson along with a well-dressed guy from Fox News who was covering today's mission.  Apparently a man has paddled his surfboard all the way from Key West to NYC, and The Harvey was welcoming him to Manhattan.  Clearly this man left before Shark Week, because I wouldn't get on a surfboard in the Hudson River if you paid me.

We took pictures, ate pretzels and pointed out New York City sights to the kids.

Like where they play baseball.

Where my sister lives.

Where their teacher lives.

You know, all the big attractions.  Up ahead we could see the surfer paddling down by South Ferry.  We waved.

He waved back. 

Then we heard over the loudspeaker, "Water."

There was a crushing, clanging sound and suddenly rust colored gushes appeared from around the taps, flooding the floor we were standing on.  I looked up and giant plumes were shooting into the air.  Miraculously we weren't getting wet at all!  We took pictures.

Then the Captain turned the boat around, and thousands of gallons of brackish water from the Hudson River came crashing down, kids were screaming, as all Hell broke loose.  I tried desperately to keep my phone dry in my pocket, even as I could feel the water pooling in my underwear.  My daughter was hysterical, panicking, screaming, "Mommy! Make it stop! Make it stop! I want to go home!" She tried to climb down the ladder to get inside, but the water was worse down there, and I was worried she might get shot over the side into the river.  We clung to each other, a huddled mass, yearning to breathe free, or breathe at all, tempest-tost off the coast of Battery Park City.

And then, just as quickly as it had begun, it was over.  I tried to cheer up the younger kids who were still crying and show them that really, this was very funny.  We all took a deep breath and were just about to laugh when we heard, "Water."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" screamed my daughter. I grabbed onto her before she could throw herself overboard.  Like a monkey I carried her down the ladder and below deck.  We were soon joined by the others, all of us stuffed in the tiny room like steerage passengers on the S.S. Ramshackle.  The man from Fox asked if he could please, please, get off the boat.  The Captain nosed up to a dock and the intrepid reporter leaped off as the Captain joked he was going to quickly throw the boat in reverse.  "What's one less reporter from Fox News?"

We waddled to find taxis, came home, showered and put on our winter clothes.  I made a delicious corn chowder, adapted from the Fields of Greens cookbook by Annie Somerville my mother gave me.  It seems I had found that rarest of days: one when you hunger for warm, thick, comforting soup, and corn is actually in season.

Hudson River Creamy Corn Chowder

You will need:
7 cups Corn Stock
5 or 6 ears corn, kernels removed
1 pound potatoes, cubed
Salt and Pepper
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs. butter
1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rib celery, diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
Tabasco, or other hot sauce

Dump sopping wet clothes in the washer, and bundle up in your coziest robe.  Turn on the television for the children and heat up corn stock in a pot.  Add 2 cups stock, all but 2 cups of kernels, and half of the potatoes to a soup pot.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The stock should be slightly less salty than the gallons of Hudson River water you ingested this morning.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes while you take a steaming hot shower.  Puree the corn and potatoes with a few cups more stock in a blender, being careful that none shoots out the top like the freezing geyser that rained on your head earlier.  Pour it back into the pot with the rest of the stock, bay leaves and simmer over low heat.

Meanwhile, brandy is in order.  If you don't have a Saint Bernard, you'll have to get it yourself.  Three glugs should do it.  Heat the butter and oil in a pan and saute the onions, dried herbs and some salt and pepper, until the onions are as soft and soggy as the sneakers you left outside your door.  Add the garlic, celery and the rest of the corn and potatoes.  Cook until everything is soft, add the wine and cook a few minutes more.

Mix everything together, season with salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes more while you watch iCarly with the kids.  Stir in basil and enjoy with spritz of Tabasco, being thankful that school will be starting soon.