Sunday, April 29, 2012

On discrimination

Everyone's guilty of it. Don't pretend like you aren't. We've all shunned the oatmeal cookie in favor of the far sexier chocolate chip. We have brutally discriminated against the oatmeal cookie: refusing to let it into our lunch boxes in middle school, leaving it forlorn on the platter at bake sales, walking right past it without a hint of acknowledgement in the grocery store. We've segregated our cookies into the delicious and potentially healthy, and we have made life a living hell for those potentially healthy cookies. Forget being dunked in the same glass of milk: these guys never even had a chance. Until now. Today, I can proudly say I am a part of integration. Today is a day of the delicious oatmeal cookie: full of both raisins AND chocolate chips. I have a dream where I am free to dunk my oatmeal cookie in a glass of milk without feeling shame. And the Civil Rights jokes end here. So seriously, I made these for my friend who is a lightweight rower for Georgetown. Those unfamiliar with the tiny world of rowing: they're pretty good. And being a lightweight rower is sheer hell. These boys have anorexia down to a science. Ask them about their joint MyFitnessPal accounts where they can track their every calorie down to the very last shred of lettuce. Anyway, this week Connor was free from the scale and got to eat pretty much whatever he wanted, so I made him cookies. He ate about a dozen of them in a very short amount of time. Chalk it up to his starvation diet if you want, but  I prefer to believe it was my incredible cooking abilities. My friend James who ditched us for the dirty Jersey and a race at Rutgers missed out. This recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Feel free to add other shit like butterscotch chips or toasted coconut if it makes your heart glad.

2 c. rolled oats
1 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. raisins
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 375. Beat the butter on high speed for about 30 seconds until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat to combine.

2. Lower the speed to medium and add baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix well and then add eggs and vanilla.

3. Beat in as much of the flour as you can on low speed, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add oats, raisins and chocolate chips by hand.

4. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. These don't spread too much but don't space them too closely together. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are a light brown.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How to follow a recip--look, a squirrel!

I am incapable of following a recipe. If I had an Indian name, it would probably be Princess Cannot Follow Recipe...Dancing Deer or some shit. It's bad. But sometimes, it works in my favor. I wanted to make a light lemon shrimp scampi when my friend (and soon-to-be roommate) Lauren came over for dinner, but I didn't have the right ingredients. So I improvised. It turned into a great, refreshing and light pasta dish that I will totally make again. I'm lucky that I had lemon pepper linguine in my cupboard thanks to one of my best friends who made me a gourmet food care package, but any linguine will work just fine.

2 c. small shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/4 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tbs. olive oil
1 lemon, cut into quarters
1 1/2 c. fresh spring peas, shelled
1 lb. pasta, cooked according to box
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a medium sized saucepan, saute onion and garlic with the juice of one of the lemon quarters and the italian seasoning
2. As the onions and garlic cook, add the shrimp and cook over medium heat, stirring often so that the shrimp begin to caramelize, add the juice of another lemon quarter
3.  Steam the peas over low heat with the juice of another quarter until tender but not mushy, about 3-4 minutes
4. When the pasta and peas are cooked, drain together and then add to saucepan with shrimp, stir to combine

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and the last wedge of lemon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nonconformist pizza

Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day. Brunch, to be technical. As Brittany S. Pearce of the once tolerable show Glee pointed out, you can have sweet or salty. If I can't think of anything to make for lunch or dinner, invariably I'll make an omelet, or pancakes or whatever. One breakfast trend I haven't dipped my toes into is that of the breakfast pizza. I see it all over Pinterest among the cats, kitty cats and kittens:   bacon, eggs, cheese and a sprinkling of parsley on top of a pizza crust. Hard to argue with that. But that's kid shit. Bacon and eggs is old news. My version of breakfast pizza involved fresh avocado and lemon juice, bright spring flavors that give greasy pizza a makeover it never expected. Best part is, this is ridiculously easy. I expect the hardest part will be making the eggs. If I had a gas burner, I would have toasted the pita over the flame instead of in the toaster oven because I like a little charred taste but any way you want to do it is fine.

1 half avocado
1 whole wheat pita
2 eggs
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Garlic salt, to taste

1. Crack the eggs into a small frying pan, cook over medium heat until whites are solid but eggs are still slightly runny

2. While the eggs are cooking, toast the pita

3. Spread the avocado over the pita in a thick layer. Squeeze a quarter-segment of a lemon onto the avocado. Slide the eggs onto the avocado. Sprinkle with ground pepper and garlic salt to taste.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bananas in pajamas

Okay, they're not really pajamas. They're actually tiny paper wrappers. But the important part is the banana. Everyone loves good old banana bread: with chocolate chips, walnuts, cinnamon sugar, whatever. What I made is banana bread's sexier younger sibling. Banana bread cookie bites. You read that correctly. It's a cookie dough that tastes exactly like banana bread and it's in a mini-muffin cup. It's full of chocolate chips and walnut pieces and I dare you to eat just one or two. Or five. The best part is, these take practically no time at all. The recipe is beyond easy and because they're baked at 400 degrees, they only take a few minutes. You can also shape these as regular cookies and they're equally good. I just happen to like things better when they're put into a pretty wrapper. No, that was not a condom joke. Fuck off.
Makes about 3 dozen.

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup crushed walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together, and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the mashed bananas. Add the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets or by teaspoonful into mini-muffin wrappers,
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chicken dance

For my friend Bernie's 20th, I did what any sensible female would do and made him dinner. In my cherry-covered apron. The highlight of the menu was this oven-baked chicken that I found on the Food Network website. Despite the fact that it has some obscure ingredients (fucking Melba toast?) it was genuinely delicious. Literally, finger-lickin' good. And I happen to love fried chicken, but I can't eat it, so this was a pretty good in-between. Aside from being super easy, the chicken stays really moist (sorry) from the mayo/Dijon coating. Definitely use a food processor if you have one for the crunch, I just mashed it around in a plastic bag and some of the pieces were a little big. No cousins were married in the making of this chicken.


1 1/3 cups rice-corn crispy cereal, (recommended: Crispex)
2 1/4 cups broken bagel chips or Melba toast
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 bone-in, skinless chicken pieces (about 6 ounces each)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Set a rack on a foil lined baking sheet. Spray the rack generously with cooking spray.

Finely grind the cereal and toasts together in a food processor. Transfer crumbs to a large gallon size plastic bag. Add the oil, salt, cayenne, paprika, and ground pepper and toss to mix thoroughly. Whisk the light mayo and Dijon mustard together in a medium shallow bowl. Add chicken to mayonnaise and turn to coat all the pieces evenly. Drop the chicken into the plastic bag, seal and shake until each piece is evenly coated. Place coated pieces on the prepared rack. Spray the chicken pieces evenly with cooking spray, and bake until the coating crisps and browns, 35 to 40 minutes.

The birthday boy digs his chicken.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Red, white and...blah

It's always bothered me that American "cuisine" is either deep fat-fried, stolen in part from some other country (I'm looking at you TexMex) or just plain boring. Why did we get stuck with fried fucking Oreos as the pinnacle of our culinary offerings when Thailand gets to parade around sticking Kaffir lime leaves into their coconut curries, Mexico pimps mind blowing sauces like mole and China has jellyfish salad? Don't even get me started on French food because although they are white-flag wavin' little bitches, they know how to cook. Given my general dislike of American food, it baffles me as to why I thought my experience would be different at Joe's American Bar and Grill.

Joe's is a chain and there are a bunch of different locations but Tommy and I plus his third-wheelin' best friend Taggart chose the one on Newbury street. It's right across from Stephanie's on Newbury, which is delicious, and I had a strong urge to make a U-turn and head straight into the waiting arms of some truly beautifully braised lamb shank that I knew was waiting for me in Stephanie's.

I should have made the U-turn. Joe's is a fine place to eat under four circumstances:
A. you are close to starvation or
B. you don't know any better or
C. you have no expectations
D. Yelp gave it 4 stars and you fell for it

Tommy and I were consequences of circumstance D.

Here's the basic rundown if you don't feel like reading the rest of this:
Our waitress rushed us along, the food was greasy and unimpressive, the bathroom was dirty, it was unbelievably noisy and I wouldn't go back unless it was the only restaurant left standing post-nuclear Armageddon.

Taggart was displeased to find out that the lemonade was by the glass...when we got the bill. Sneaky motherfuckers.

We ordered a nachos grande appetizer and it was, in true American fashion, grande. The calorie count on the thing could have fed all of Somalia. It wasn't bad, but I am a snob and found the ice-cream shaped globs of sour cream and guacamole on top of the nacho  mountain unappetizing.

Taggart got a sirloin and mashed potatoes, Tommy got fish and chips and I ordered a chicken Caesar salad. When our meals got to the table, it was immediately clear that plating was not something they covered in training the line cooks. I actually laughed when our waitress set down Tag's plate:

They also don't know what medium-rare looks like; Taggart said his steak was reasonably overdone, if not well seasoned. He said the mashed potatoes were good though.

Tommy's fish and chips were equally unimpressive. Though he ate most of them, he said the breading-to-fish ratio was lacking, and he prefers a thicker coating of breadcrumbs on his fish and chips.

My salad was laughable, but maybe I deserved what I got. It was a head of iceberg lettuce, chopped and drowned in bottled Caesar dressing. The grilled chicken was fine, but I could have made better at home and I'm a terrible griller so that's saying something.

I'm always a lot more picky than Tommy but I think the issue with Joe's is really that what we call "American" is really just other country's food done poorly. Fish and chips is British, nachos are (ostensibly) Latin, Caesar salad was Italian long ago. And no one country can really claim 'steak' as a native food. Beyond the bad cooking, the rushed feeling of the meal, the dirty paper towels all over the floor of the bathroom, it was inauthentic. If you're going to serve burgers and fries, do it well. If you're going to serve TexMex or quasi-Italian, do it well. It would also be nice if I could find a truly American restaurant serving native American cuisine. Now that is a culinary adventure I look forward to.

2 stars

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chocolate wasted

Happy second full day of Passover! And by 'happy' I really mean how depressed are you today? I swear, we have a huge jar of Utz's pretzel rods sitting on our fridge that hasn't tempted me since the day my roommate brought it home from Costco but now it mocks me every time I walk into the kitchen. I hate this holiday. The only saving grace of matzoh is that it lends itself to being covered in things: namely chocolate and toffee and other delicious confections. This is a very basic recipe for Passover toffee that gets pulled out every year, and for good reason. The only way to eat matzoh is if you can't taste it. Because the matzoh toffee is covered in dark chocolate, it goes well with any sort of red wine. L'chaim to that.

Passover Toffee:

4 or 5 pieces of matzoh
1 C. white sugar
1 C. butter
10-14 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
1 C. chopped pecans or sliced almonds (optional)

1. Cover cookie sheet with foil
2. Cover foil with the matzoh
3. Melt the sugar and the butter on the stove over low heat, stirring occasionally
4. When the sugar and butter are completely melted, increase heat and boil for 3-4 minutes until the mixture turns a light brown
5. Pour butter/sugar mixture over the matzoh
6. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top, enough to cover (plus a little more)
7. Heat for 5 minutes at 400 degrees to melt the chocolate chips
8. Remove from oven and spread chocolate with an offset spatula
9. Cover with the sliced almonds or chopped pecans
10. Let cool until all the chocolate has hardened, then crack into pieces

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Too fruity to function

As any good Jew or moderately knowledgeable goy knows, Passover starts this Friday at sundown. Cue funeral march.

I love being Jewish because, face it, we're just plain better (if you want to argue just go look at a picture of Natalie Portman and eat some brisket) but Passover BLOWS. I'm all for getting out of Egypt and sticking it to Pharaoh but leavened bread is the greatest thing since the 10 plagues. And giving it up for 8 days, substituting delicious and fluffy bread items with cardboard (matzoh) that sits in your stomach for at least a week after Pesach ends is the pits.

In short, Pesach is a sad and bloated time for me. I pine after Life cereal and massage my stomach, counting the days until I can throw away every piece of Passover-related food in my kitchen and dance around with a hunk of bread in one hand and a doughnut in the other. And I don't even really like doughnuts. That's how much matzoh meal gets to me.

While I can't give any cure to hating unleavened bread less, I can make your stomach stop hurting quite so badly with the ugliest recipe I know of: fruit compote.

It's just every dried fruit in my kitchen with a few healthy teaspoons of cinnamon and a splash of orange juice that's been simmered away for at least an hour. It's easy and tasty and, as an added bonus will make your house smell good. Don't eat too much at once though or you will be very sorry. FFTFW.

Fruit Compote 
Prunes, raisins, apricots or whatever other dried fruits you have on hand (the more variety the better)
1/2 C orange juice, plus more if needed
3-4 heaping tsp. cinnamon (depends on amount of fruit)

1. Put all fruits in a big stockpot
2. Cover with water, add ½ Cup of orange juice
3. Add cinnamon, stir
4. Cover and let come to a boil
5. Reduce heat, then let simmer for at least an hour
6. If liquid dissipates, add more orange juice

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's not easy being nice

Ed. note: If you're looking for my typical snarky opinions in this review of The Paramount, stop looking. I actually have good things to say. Let me say here and now how painful it is for me to be nice and let that reflect upon the quality of the restaurant.

In Boston's upscale Beacon Hill neighborhood on a cobblestone street lined with stores I can't even afford to walk into is The Paramount. A diner slash cafeteria with only maybe a dozen tables, The Paramount has been around since 1937 and is still going strong.

I've been to Paramount twice: the first time, the line was so far out the door I just kept walking. The second time was a few weekends ago, when Tommy and I went on a Friday morning to avoid the weekend hangover brunch rush. The line was still almost out the door, but apparently that's about as short as it gets.

To order your food at The Paramount, you wait in line until you get up to the long griddle behind the counter, above which is painted the menu. Shout your order to one of the grill guys, grab a tray and slide down the metal counter, receive and pay for your food, and get a table. Yes, table last. Very high school cafeteria-esque, except the food is so much better than anything a high school could ever hope to emulate.

 Though breakfast-y items take up a good portion of the menu, there's also a section for hefty sandwiches and burgers, some truly delicious sounding salads and a whole host of dinner classics like chicken Marsala and various teriyaki glazed meats. I wish I was going back up to Beantown anytime soon so I could get the crab cake BLT.

Let me repeat: CRAB CAKE BLT. HOLY SHIT.

Anyway, after a pretty extensive wait, Tommy and I finally got to order. I got the french toast with strawberries and bananas, he got the huevos rancheros. I was very nearly coerced into ordering the caramel banana french toast (so someone could eat 95% of it) but I held firm and I'm glad I did.

Our table was right across from the grill so we sort of had people all up in our business the whole time we were eating but it didn't matter. The food was that good.

The french toast, albeit a little greasy, was light and fluffy and they certainly did not skimp on the fresh fruit topping. I also got orange juice, only because it was freshly squeezed and not from concentrate or from a bottle like every other restaurant. So delicious. Like living inside a fresh Florida orange.

Tommy's huevos came with a couple slices of fresh avocado and some truly excellent salsa fresca -- the flavors were simple and perfect. Tomatoes, onion, cilantro and a little bit of heat. So good.

As usual, Tommy ate both of our meals and I was sorry I let him. I have since dreamed about that french toast, covered in syrup and hulled strawberries and huge chunks of bananas. Holy shit. I'm drooling all over my keyboard.

In short: it's worth the wait. The place isn't cheap, but it's well worth the price. Let the fact that my usual meanness was almost totally gone in this review speak for itself.