December 17, 2015

Doughnuts, coffee, and Shirley Jackson

"The bright sunlight across from Mrs. Nash's kitchen doorway, the solid table bearing its plates of doughnuts, the pleasant smell of the frying, were all symbols somehow of Mrs. Nash's safety, her confidence in a way of life and a security that had no traffic with chicken killing, no city fears, an assurance and cleanliness so great that she was willing to bestow its overflow on the Walpoles, bring them doughnuts and overlook Mrs. Walpole's dirty kitchen."
—The Renegade, Shirley Jackson

I am pleased to discover that Shirley Jackson's collection of short stories, The Lottery, is all it's cracked up to be. 

She knows how to write horror into her stories in a subtle but effective way. No gory details or gushing blood or monsters here. The real monsters among us or inside of us. The real monsters are the husbands who don't care or the neighbors who gossip or the polite young men who lie. Among all the horrors of society, one can always count on doughnuts as a symbol of safety. They will always one of the most nostalgic foods for me, too. 

During my growth spurt, I once ate half a dozen doughnuts for breakfast without breaking a sweat. Allow me to explain. There was this fantastic doughnut place near our house called Christy's Donuts (sadly closed now). 

Los Angeles is home to a lot more independent doughnut shops than New York (probably because of lower rent). Here in New York, the doughnuts are either super fancy (Dough, Doughnut Plant), or of the chain variety (Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons, etc.). The exception is a wonderful place called Donut Pub (probably my favorite doughnut spot in New York). It's never pretentious, always open, and always tasty. But I digress.

Christy's Donuts carried the most light-as-air sugar doughnuts in the world. That's how I was able to eat six of them in one sitting. I think I only stopped because the other six in the box were glazed (my sister's preference). I have no idea what my parents thought about this abnormal eating behavior. 

Note to self (and other doughnut lovers): a baked cinnamon doughnut recipe to try someday. 

September 17, 2015

The Most Enchanting Eggs

"Auntie Beth ducks her head as she eats the donuts, wiping the crumbs from her mouth. The two talk about a lot of things. They talk about baking; the old woman used to make all her own bread. They talk about kids. Beth says she never had any of her own. She was a spinster. 'Maybe my sister turned me off of all that,' she says. They talk about shame and life and the deep orange color of a good farm egg."
—The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld

I didn't particularly enjoy this book, but I liked the few parts about Auntie Beth. She really knows how to enjoy food. 

The first time I saw the "deep orange color" of an egg, it was on TV, more specifically, an episode of Nigella Bites. She cracked an egg open and I remember marveling at the rich color of that luscious yolk, and wondering what it could possibly taste like.

To this day, I don't know what it's like to eat a fresh farm egg (except maybe the one from Blue Hill?), but I imagine it must be heavenly. Until then, I make do with my normal store-bought eggs and cook them the best way I know how: with my little trusty stainless steel pot.

It's easy to make eggs that have a jelly-like yolk. If you squint at 'em you can pretend they're a the "deep orange color of a good farm egg." 

Take your eggs out from the fridge and leave at room temp for about an hour. If you don't have time, it's ok to skip this step. 

Bring a pot (I use a 2.5-qt. one) of water to a boil. Drop the eggs in carefully with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat down to medium and set your timer for 8 minutes.

When the timer goes off, drain the pot and fill with cold water. Drain again and fill with cold ice water. After the eggs have cooled slightly, peel and smash one over toast or eat with a simple sprinkling of salt and pepper. Or cut one in half and nestle it on top of a hearty bowl of ramen. Itadakimasu!

April 6, 2015

One-pot pasta

So...I've had pot on my mind a lot lately. Why is that, you ask? Well, my neighbor has been smoking pot every night. Sometimes two times a night. The smell comes into my apartment through the bathroom.

Maybe my neighbor is psychic. Because today, I saw "pot-ready thin spaghetti" on sale at CVS. What be this newfangled pasta invention? OK, so it's basically just thin spaghetti cut in half. You just add water to your pot and boil it for a while. Then the pasta soaks up all the water so you don't have to drain it. Cooking it this way even helps make the base for a lovely pan sauce. 

When I looked online to see if everyone else has been experiencing this awesomeness, I found a message board where people were actually complaining about its existence! These fancy foodies claimed that you could just break your spaghetti in half (true, I suppose) and that it was an indication of the sad, desperate level of laziness for the common man. 

Maybe something's wrong with me, but I'm personally fascinated by this simple concept! I hate draining pasta! And it even saves water. Plus, cooking the pasta this way lends itself to recipes that go the pasta route or the lo mein route. Add chicken and broccoli and you have a nice weeknight dinner.

1 pot, a bajillion possibilities!

Lemon Chicken and Broccoli One Pot Spaghetti
1 lb. chicken breast, cubed
1 bunch broccoli florets (about 3 small heads)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. pot-ready thin spaghetti (or 1 lb. thin spaghetti, broken in half)
4.5 cups water
1 lemon
Optional seasonings: Italian seasoning blend, nutritional yeast, salt & pepper

Heat a large deep skillet or wok (something with a lid) over medium heat. Cook the chicken breast in olive oil until browned. Remove from pan & set aside. 

Stir fry the broccoli with olive oil in the pan for about 5 minutes and remove from pan & set aside.

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add a drizzle of olive oil, the garlic, spaghetti & water to the skillet/wok and cover. Bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to medium. Let cook for about 8-10 minutes until the water has evaporated and the pasta is al dente.

Add the chicken and broccoli back into the pan. Squeeze the lemon over the pasta and stir. Season with Italian seasoning and salt, and sprinkle with nutritional yeast or Parmesan cheese for a bit of extra oomph. Proceed to carbo load as if you're going to run a marathon tomorrow.