Eat Me. Drink Me.

Why We Eat. Why We Drink. Why We Write.

Month: March, 2009

Drink Me, Mr. Morning (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

Why do I think so much about the morning and breakfast? Maybe because it’s a fresh start to a day, a clean slate, or maybe it’s just because. Who knows.

Speaking about Breakfast, oh blog partner, I don’t think I could go a morning without at least thinking about coffee. That doesn’t mean I have to have coffee, I just think about it. If I’m at home, my morning routine almost always consists of washing my face, brushing my teeth, contemplating what I’m going to have or make for breakfast, emptying yesterday’s filter full of coffee grounds and either setting up for a new pot of coffee, thinking about setting up a new pot of coffee, or going to the local coffee shop. No matter what, I have two or three cups of coffee in the morning. If I’m in the backcountry, hiking around in the woods, when 8am rolls around I will always be hankering for some deep roasted, milky coffee.

I haven’t decided if this is what addiction is, but I still like to think of it as a choice. Coffee doesn’t quite control me yet, I still control my urges. I think. Read the rest of this entry »

A(nother) Moveable Feast (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

I have been to the taco truck four times in the last seven days, and I just can’t seem to get enough. Set squat in the middle of the Citgo parking lot, the taco truck doesn’t look like much. Its whitewashed walls are stained with cooking smoke and the menu scrawled in magic marker is just barely legible. But out of that trailer, hitched to the back of a pickup truck, drift the most magical smells of lime, sizzling meat, and roasting jalapeños. One woman is responsible for all of this, simultaneously taking orders, assembling tacos, and pressing fresh corn tortillas as she whisks her way around the small insides of the truck.

Let me preface my enthusiastic endorsement of the taco truck by saying this. I do not like Mexican food. I will almost always pick somewhere else over the kind of Mexican restaurant where one dish is indistinguishable from another, where every plate is a variation on the theme of refried beans, rice, meat wrapped in tortilla and smothered in iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. If this what you like, don’t expect it from the taco truck. There aren’t many options–eight types of tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and hamburgers–but even still, I’ve never known anyone to eat anything but the tacos. These are served simply, in a Styrofoam box lined with aluminum foil, garnished with queso and crema, and served with a roasted jalapeño, lime wedge, and salsa verde.

I’m not sure if I can do justice to the fiery, flavorful taste of a taco truck taco. Although they’re so small you can finish one in three bites, those pungent bundles pack a big punch. The basis for each of the tacos is meat; there’s beef, chicken, chorizo, tongue, and barbeque, among a few other options that my extremely limited Spanish cannot decipher–pastor, campechanos, chicharron–and this is really the heart of the tacos. So marinated it crumbles in your mouth, the meat blends delicately with just caramelized onions, fresh cilantro, salsa verde, sour cream, lime, and the balancing austerity of a hot tortilla. There’s plenty of oil, in both the marinade and the onions, which makes one of these tacos not so good for the waistline but magnificent for the taste buds.

If you’re feeling adventurous after one of these miniature culinary marvels, take the jalapeño and eat it in one bite, feeling machismo until your eyeballs start to melt with heat. Today, after popping one of those sneaky buggers, Josh said, “I can’t feel the top of my head,” and I sympathized because of the pepper I had eaten yesterday which made it feel as if I was boiling drinking water in my mouth.

Peppers aside, these tacos are amazing. Go to the taco truck, and if you don’t speak Spanish, order whatever sounds good to you right then, because I guarantee you’ll go back. After the first addictive one, you’ll have to try them all.

Directions to the taco truck from Exit 30 (Davidson) on I-77*
1. Go north on I-77 to Exit 33
2. Turn left off the exit
3. Make a right into the Citgo parking lot

*The taco truck is only open for lunch

Remember the Radish (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

I have just one question. What happened to radishes?

You haven’t thought about radishes for years. They belong to the arsenal of easy vegetables to grow when you’re in fourth grade and learning about gardens and seeds and sex life of plants. After your science class munches those crunchy, rosy bundles, you forget about them completely until one day, you’re walking through the grocery store on a produce kick and wonder what a radish actually tastes like. You remember not being particularly fond of them back in fourth grade, but you have no idea why. Out of curiosity, you buy a bunch. And bam! They’re delicious! You can’t stop eating them! They’re crisp, with the consistency of a water chestnut, but a cleaner taste, and an almost peppery bite.

Ok, so maybe that’s very specifically my relationship to radishes, but I’m willing to guess it’s similar to other people’s as well. If radishes are so good, why are they so easily overlooked? The reason, sadly, could lie with their lack of versatility. Radishes are much better cold than cooked, and are quick to disregard since a bunch bought to chuck in a salad can’t later be made into a sauce or soup. They’re a pretty useless vegetable. They’re hard to cut, hard to use, and hard to remember.

And while radishes make great snacks on their own and are good for you to boot, with lots of folic acid, potassium, ascorbic acid, and vitamin B6, when it comes to recipes, options are limited. It looks like salad, salad, and more salad is the fate for almost all radishes. If the radish is lucky, it may end up in a relish or salsa, but mostly – it’s salad.

Sigh, said the radish.

The conclusion is sad – but not hopeless. Radishes are, after all, good as snacks and good in salads. Though not so versatile, they certainly spice up a little drab green or a flabby palate.

And so the radish waits, its red cheeks blushing patiently in the produce aisle like the awkward girl with braces and pigtails at her high school prom just waiting to be asked to dance.

Make the radish’s day. Pick the radish and ask it to dance.

Easy as Dressing Yourself. Or a Salad. Whichever. (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

There are a few things that I think people need to make at home. Salad dressing is one of many. No more buying them at some store for too much money. It just seems like a waste to have the ingredients in your kitchen, and also a big jar of Ranch dressing (made of who knows what).

This banter is mainly from my countless dinner parties where someone would ask “is there dressing on the salad yet?” “yeah” “oh, what kind?” “I don’t know, I just made it” “OH! How! I don’t think I could do that.”

Yes, yes you can. And yes, those exclamation points are in there for a reason. It’s real simple, though, to make a salad dressing. I’m going off of a vinegrette (and not anything heavy), but here are the basic ingredients:

Read the rest of this entry »

Egg-in-Toast Grows Up (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

Breakfast has never been a big ritual in my family. Cereal and milk, Pop Tarts, granola, leftovers from dinner the night before – anything went as long as it was fast and could be gobbled up before the bus drove by. Besides Christmas morning, the only time that breakfast was anything special was when my grandparents came to visit. Oatmeal is forever associated with my grandpa, though I know now that the creamy butter and brown sugar confection he served me was far from the ascetic, heart-healthy version he ate. When my grandma came, she’d almost always buy a pack of bacon and I’d eat far more than any child should eat in one sitting. But my favorite grandma specialty was one that goes by different names for different people, but which we always quite unassumingly called egg-in-toast.

Egg-in-toast is simple. It’s a piece of buttered bread with a hole ripped out of the center that gets browned in a skillet and serves as a holding pen for an over-easy egg cracked right in the middle. So simple, but so good.

I remember egg-in-toast being a given on weekends, when there was also time for bacon and sometimes oatmeal as well, but there’d be at least one school night where my grandma would say, “Don’t forget to wake up early tomorrow so I have time to make you an egg-in-toast.” And though I hated waking up early, egg-in-toast was always a good reason to get up.

Today, through a series of budding coincidences – some leftover freshly-made, organic bread, one lone egg in the carton dying to be eaten, cilantro on the brink of ruin – I realized I had everything I needed to make my own egg-in-toast for breakfast.

It felt strange to stand at the stove, ripping holes out of bread and cracking eggs into a hot skillet, because I’d only ever watched it happen. For some reason, as I got older, my grandma stopped making me egg-in-toast, though had I asked, I’m sure she would have gladly cooked it. Like other things – being sung to sleep, walked to the bus stop, waited up for in the evenings – I don’t know when they stopped, but their ceasing seemed natural. Standing at the stove reminded me that I hadn’t had an egg-in-toast in years, probably not since I couldn’t see over the top of a burner. All at the same time, I was my grandmother, my child self, my present self, and still in front of me the same egg-in-toast.

Although my egg-in-toast was an aesthetically different bird from my grandmother’s – a bit more “grown up” with organic wheat bread and cilantro, its principle components were there, as were the memories in each bite. And memories like that taste good.

(serves one)
1 slice bread
1 egg
Cilantro (roughly chopped)
Freshly ground pepper

Butter one slice of bread on both sides, then cut a circle out of the middle. Place bread in skillet over medium-high heat and crack egg into the hole. When the egg is solidified on the bottom and the white is cooked most of the way through, flip the whole bread-egg unit to the other side and cook just until the whites are solid. The egg yolk should be runny on the inside and the whites sealed to the bread on the outside. Remove from skillet. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

I’ll Take the Hamburger, Hold the Burger (a post by Lyz and Josh)

by lyzpfister

Request! Request! We have a Request for a “vegetarian section with yummy recipes that don’t require a 100 different ingredients.” I think we can do that. Maybe 99 ingredients, but who’s counting?

For me, vegetarianism always seemed like something I should try out. I couldn’t tell you what it was that specifically tipped me over to the other side, but I can say that whenever anyone asked the “why?” question, my response followed:

“I don’t like the taste of meat. And I feel really lethargic after I eat any meat, and that’s not really what I want to feel after eating, you know?”

Both of which are still true today, but I’ve relaxed a bit as to my meat restrictions. Basically, now I don’t cook meat for myself but I’ll have it if someone offers me a meal with meat (see: first day on a farm in New Zealand, and the owner tells me that we’re having lamb that he just killed yesterday).

Partly I don’t cook meat for myself because I don’t enjoy it all that much, but mostly because I can’t cook it. See, I started cooking during my vegetarianism stint in roughly 11th grade. So, most of my repertoire is vegetarian based. Because of that, I used to focus mostly on side dishes, appetizers and some baked goods. I thought entrees consisting of only vegetables would be boring and not satisfying at all. But I had to branch out somehow – I would come home from waiting on tables at 11pm and have to cook myself something to eat. A bunch of side dishes only cut it for so long. So I would scrounge my fridge, throw some oil, garlic and salt in a pan and hop to. A few of these recipes stay as appetizers or side dishes, trying not to call too much attention to themselves, but some of them really started to shine.

– Signing off for now, Josh

I used to call myself an adamant carnivore. Vegetarians were weirdly cult-like people who couldn’t recognize a good thing if it bit them in the face. I persisted in these beliefs for a long time, relishing meaty steaks, barbequed chicken, pork chops, you name it, and judging vegetarians because I assumed they judged me.

It wasn’t until I started cooking for myself that I realized I actually liked cooking vegetables more than meat. They were so versatile and had more potential for experimentation than, say, a grilled piece of chicken. I thought about my diet, and noticed that even as a child, I consumed primarily vegetable rather than meat based dishes. Meat was something I ate in restaurants or when my dad was tasked with feeding us.

I approached vegetarianism with an open mind and a new consciousness. Not only was it the way I ate anyway, but it came with a number of benefits as well, not least being its sustainability and healthfulness.

When I told my best friend from home that I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian, she laughed out loud, stared at me, and said, “That’s funny.”

I wish I could say I became indignant, threw down my glove, and called for a duel, but what really happened was that I thought about my proposition a little more, realized it would never happen, and got a hamburger for lunch.

I may not be a vegetarian, but I highly support those who have committed to the cause (although I do not support “animals are cute” vegetarianism; I think asparagus is cute and I eat it anyway). While I’d jump all over a juicy steak if you handed it to me, I can’t remember the last time I ate meat, and I still feel fine.

– Signing off for now, Lyz

Josh: I broke my vegetarianism in college, because the last thing I wanted to do was to worry about food in addition to classes, friends, clubs, and other extracurricular activates. But I do remember a dinner with Lyz, in the last days of the Spring Semester where we had nothing to do but hang out, cook, and eat.

Lyz: I have, in fact, had a number of very memorable vegetarian meals – the graveyard feast being one of them. But like the rest of my relationship to vegetarianism, I hadn’t realized that it was a totally vegetarian meal until Josh brought it up.

Josh: It was a hodgepodge meal – no cohesion other than our favorite recipes. Lyz with her appetizer, some left over pasta, and me with my mushroom(s).

Lyz: It was the end of the semester, the sun was shining, we were hungry, dare I say the planets had aligned? Kate, Josh, Ben, and I met in Kate’s kitchen to collect our ingredients and see what we could come up with. I had wanted to make one of my favorite recipes of all time – olive tapenade with goat cheese on garlic-rubbed baguette. That, plus the pasta we had on hand, settled the Italian theme, whose beauty is in the smell of garlic and olive oil that haunts you while you cook, pervades the tomatoes and bread you eat, and even scents your pores when it’s all over.

Josh: I was still really into reducing balsamic vinegar and wanted to spread this news to my good friends, so I decided to take on sautéed, baked, reduced mushrooms. It sounds a lot more complicated that it really is. You’ll see. Anyway, we hopped to; Lyz began at one end of the kitchen by cutting the bread, mixing the olives and just getting plain messy with her ingredients. I think I remember her laughing her way to the floor with hands covered in goat cheese, some pepper, maybe even some honey and olive flakes.

I was pouring over the stove, waiting for my vinegar to turn from that flavor to a sweeter, more agreeable taste with the mushroom caps absorbing the glaze as if they were sponges.

In the background, music blasted, the doors were open, and Kate and Ben were dancing all over the apartment waiting for our well-timed meal to finish.

Lyz: After realizing that the dishes had been packed away already, and all we had to eat with was what we’d cooked in, we grabbed our pots and baking sheets and trekked outside to find the perfect spot. We stumbled upon the graveyard – I hadn’t even known it was there, and in delicious irony, ate our vital meal among the dead.

Josh: Oh, what a day for the vegetarians. Enjoy what we’ve made for you to make.

Baguettes with Olive Tapenade and Goat Cheese:

For the tapenade:
1 can black olives
About 7-9 sundried tomatoes (preferably in oil)
Handful of basil
2 large garlic cloves
1 tbsp capers (optional)
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop olives, tomatoes, basil, garlic, and capers together. There’s no definite right blend, but the tapenade should be colorful, so don’t skimp on the tomatoes or basil.

For toast:
1 baguette
2 garlic cloves
About 8 oz. fresh, plain goat cheese

Cut baguette into ½” slices and toast lightly under the broiler until crisp. Cut open a garlic clove and rub it over the surface of each toast. Spread goat cheese thickly over each toast and top with tapenade.

Balsamic Portabella Mushroom brimming with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts:

4 Portabella Mushroom tops (stems cut off)
4 Cloves of Pressed Garlic
Balsamic Vinegar
Goat Cheese
Pine Nuts

First, pre-heat your oven to 350.

Cover the bottom of the pan you’ll be using to sauté the mushrooms with Balsamic. Let that pan sit on the stove on medium heat for 2-4 minutes just to get it warmed up. What we’re going for is a Reduction, which is going to sweeten the vinegar.

When the vinegar is nice and warm, add the mushrooms tops. Depending on the size of your pan, it might be two and a time, or one.

Sautee the mushrooms for 5-7 minutes, adding salt, pepper, or vinegar to your liking. There should be enough vinegar in the pan so the mushroom doesn’t sit on a dry pan.

When the mushroom is almost done (5-7 minutes into the sautéing), transfer to a baking sheet.

In the shroom’s cap, place goat cheese, pine nuts, the rest of the syrupy Balsamic and the pressed garlic.

Bake that concoction for 5-7 minutes


Better Days Are Here Again (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

The end of Spring Break and the beginning of actual Spring in Davidson are coinciding nicely. Although I ate nothing if not well at the lake, by the end of the week, I found myself craving fruit and sunshine – which could have been the effect of a self-imposed exile to relatively little movement, starch-heavy foods, and the indoors.

Yesterday, after donning an appropriately awkward sunburn gleaned at a table outside the coffee shop, I made the ten minute trek to Harris Teeter (a grocery store chain, if you’re not from the South), and proceeded to buy almost every single piece of produce in the store. Lettuce still dewy from the miniature sprinkler, plump radishes, avocado, cherry tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, handfuls of lemons and limes –

And so on.

Since bringing those groceries back to my apartment, I’ve been snacking on fruits and making myself delightfully crisp, vegetable-rich meals (avocado, cherry tomato, blue cheese on baguette – go). But my favorite concoction so far has been this pecan, pear, and blue cheese salad. I ate the whole thing slowly, carefully putting together perfect bites of sharp, creamy cheese, sweet pear, and mellow pecan with the perfect amount of spinach and Boston lettuce to curb the richness. Eating this salad, sitting on my front porch, watching people walk by – nothing could be more perfect. Unless, of course, I could enact this scene again without the sunburn.

Pecan, Pear, and Blue Cheese Salad:

Toss these ingredients to your taste:
Boston lettuce
Baby spinach leaves
Crumbled blue cheese
Toasted pecans
Thinly sliced pears

Drizzle with:
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

In Defense of Eating Together (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

It’s Spring Break season for colleges across the country, and gaggles of students are discarding books in favor of sunscreen, fleeing the ravages of grades and midterms for salt water and sand, leaving irresponsible drinking behind and adopting a more well-rounded schema of poor decision making.

So that was a gross generalization.

For the past three years, however, I have done the absolute opposite of that stereotypical tanning and headed north to a snow-wrapped, fireplace-boasting cabin in Deep Creek, Maryland. My friends and I spend our days reading, watching movies, lounging in the hot tub, and listening to the soothing voice of Rodney Yee guide us through Relaxation Yoga. We also do a lot of cooking.

This year, our menus have included jambalaya, huevos rancheros, chicken noodle soup, baked ziti, goose steaks, home made pizzas, and literally millions of chocolate chip cookies. Today, we’re working on an exceptionally complicated batch of bourbon-banana bread pudding.

My favorite part of cooking at the lake house (because it’s definitely not the two-burner kitchen or the randomly-equipped pantry) is the sense of camaraderie I feel jostling around whoever is washing the dishes or chopping carrots or stirring a simmering pot of ragout. Everybody makes his or her way to the stove at one point or another while dinner is being made–to talk, smell, taste, or make suggestions for the next night’s meal. The kitchen is an intimate space where even silence is shared.

There’s an aphorism that goes, “The family that eats together, stays together.” I would take that one step further to say, “and the people who cook together become family.” To make a meal with someone is to acknowledge a basic, shared need. And to expose our needs to others is to admit that we rely on them and trust that they will provide what we need. Families share food, shelter, and clothing. What is Spring Break at the lake if not sharing what we have with each other and caring for each other’s needs?

Cooking for a large group of people also means eating with a large group of people. Dinner at Spring Break is when the Xbox gets turned off (do boys ever grow out of this?), job searching is put aside, and headphones are unplugged. We gather at the table–sitting all week in the same seats we picked out our first night–and begin the ritual feasting.

Dinner is a rowdy affair–Andy makes a joke, Howell laughs too loud and spits his drink back out, while Idris makes a sly, amusing comment that only Liz and I manage to fully hear, while Kevin interjects an inappropriately timed quotation from True Lies in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. The roles switch, the scenes are enacted again, dinner progresses. It’s amusing. It’s incomprensible. It’s crazy. But I like it.

Food brings people together in a way that not many other things can. And good food sears the memories created with those people into our minds. There’s a reason the smell of cinnamon and brown sugared apple pie makes me think of my mother in the Fall or the taste of sangria reminds of that one time I sat philosophizing in a tapas bar for hours with a good friend.

This is our last year coming up to the lake. We’re almost all seniors now and will be moving around the world to find other lives. It’s frightening to move from comfort to insecurity, but when we sit together at the dinner table, we remind ourselves that wherever we go, if we invite people to share our meals, we will never be alone.

I guess what I mean to say is that sharing meals makes me feel closer to the people I love. It strengthens new friendships; it makes me see strangers differently. When I cook for people, I am sharing the part of myself that says, “I care about you,” without using any words.

We have a tradition in my house of holding hands and issuing a rousing chorus of guten appétit while we shake our held hands up and down. I suggested this on our first night at the lake, and to my joy, this tradition became one we adopted every night during Spring Break. It is, after all, a family thing.


Oh Sweet (Second) Home (Savannah) (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

For the past few summers, I’ve worked as a backpacking leader, tramping around the Appalachian Trail with rising college freshmen for entertainment and for some cash. This is all fun and dandy – I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend a summer – but the breaks in between the sessions (24 hours a day for eight days) don’t come soon enough sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong here: I love hiking. I love being with new people. I love cooking in the woods. But I think what I miss the most is the ability to pick up, go some where beloved, and chow down on some good food. I want to say, I can cook a mean gourmet-backcountry-meal. I just love eating fresh crab from the Georgia coast more.

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Brenda’s Carrot Cake (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

Friends often know each other by many names. Sometimes relevant, sometimes obscure. Just yesterday I got a letter from an elementary school friend, who currently lives in the 7th in Paris, addressed to me as “carrot cake.”

I think I first made this tempting dessert when I was 16 – after an eight hour day of bussing tables. During that shift, my boss had revealed the dessert of the week – carrot cake. It was good, but a typical semi-dry, walnut laden, not so sweet cake trying to border “good for you” and decadence. At that point in my career, I had established a semi-serious competition with the dessert chef. With this new revealing, I had another opportunity to top the chef.

At home that night, I searched through online and hard cover cook books to find a recipe. Epicurious again prevailed – a carrot cake with Maple cream cheese frosting. Giddy and ambitious at midnight, I started prepping the ingredients as if I was going to be able to finish that night. Carrots shredded in a bowl topped with brown sugar, cream cheese sitting out to acclimate to room temperature, flour sitting in a fluffy pile, I was well on my way when my post-work high faded. I left everything out that night, which turned out to be my best use of procrastination.

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