Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Category: Cooking for One

Slaw That

by lyzpfister

Speak to me wonders, oh cabbage slaw. Your rings, wound and crenellated round a core. Sliceable, screaming of spring. Fit for kings, yet cheap enough to make poor men sing. Cabbage, cabbage, speak to me divine things.

As we tentatively dive into spring, I find myself increasingly drawn to greener things and (clearly also) 18th century romantic poetry which inspires me to write extravagant and rather ode-ish sentences to cabbage.

Nothing wrong with that. Cabbage is great.

Cabbage gets a bad rep for being cheap and one-dimensional, but I would like to do a little salvaging on behalf of the image. Cabbage is versatile. Main ingredient in stir-frys and slaws, stew-filler, a hull for ground beef and spices. A pinch of crispness in a rice salad or the vinegary tang topping a pulled pork sandwich. And the types of cabbage – there’s red cabbage, green cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Savoy, Napa, bok choy – and here in Germany, I’ve discovered yet another lovely variety called Sptizkraut.

It’s a spitzkraut I’m working with today, a baby one about the size of a kitten with smooth, light green skin. It squeaks apart as I cut it into perfect rings with my knife.

The fresh, green foods I crave in spring mean my meals all take a healthy bent – not a bad thing, considering my cooking habits in Germany have inclined towards excessive use of butter and heavy whipping cream during this past winter. But as usual, I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while, and all I have in the fridge is this cabbage and some chiles, some slim pickings of condiments.

Though to make a springtime lunch, that’s all you need. Dijon mustard and farmer’s cheese spread thickly on freshly toasted bread, topped with a simple slaw of cabbage, red onions, and chiles – the dressing no more than rice wine vinegar, grainy mustard, lemon juice, sriracha, mirin, honey, salt, black pepper, and garlic.

I eat my open-faced sandwich, I’ll make a cup of coffee and sit in the kitchen letting the sunlight in through the windows, pretending its warmer than it really is. Read a magazine. Let the lightness carry me away. Oh cabbage, oh cabbage.

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Sometimes We Eat Our Disney Friends

by lyzpfister

My evening commenced on the couch with a copy of the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and the smell of lemon and garlic emanating from the oven.  I’ve been craving fish recently and I wouldn’t wonder if I’m overdoing it – snacking on fresh French bread with butter and sardines this afternoon and this flounder for dinner and baccalau soaking in the fridge for tomorrow.  It’s just so good.  So clean and comforting when outside is so cold and mean.  This recipe is incidentally not from the Times cookbook; I made it up out of my own little head.  I just feel like cookbook reading and cooking are the perfect components to perfect evenings, and so I mention my couching as a prelude to this delightful fish.

Lemon and Garlic Baked Flounder
1 flounder filet
1 yellow onion
1 plum tomato
5-6 mushrooms
5-6 okra pods
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
½ tsp capers
1 tsp fresh oregano
juice of ½ lemon
generous splash of olive oil (1/4 cup?)
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350°.  Rub the flounder with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place it in a shallow baking dish.  Chop onion, okra, tomato, and mushrooms and add to flounder.  Smash garlic with the edge of a blade and add, along with capers and salt, pepper, oregano, and just a dash of red pepper flakes.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon (or a whole lemon, if your lemon is stingy) over the vegetables and fish and top with a generous chug of olive oil.  Mix as best as you are able, without breaking the fish.  Or even better, take the fish out, mix the vegetables and then arrange the fish back in the dish and artfully cover with the vegetables.  Place dish uncovered in oven and bake approximately 15 – 20 minutes or until fish is done.  I wish I could be more exact on the time, all I can really say for sure is that I had just finished the “Appetizers” section in the New York Times Cookbook.

Even the Novelists Must Eat

by lyzpfister

I may have mentioned that I’m writing a novel.  I thought I’d challenge myself and participate in the November national write a novel in a month thing.  It’s painstaking.  So far I have seventeen pages of what will undoubtedly be the next great American novel, and each paragraph is a tortuous crawl towards some enlightened end – that has as of yet not been revealed to me.  I decided today that someone’s going to die, definitely.  But maybe not until, like, page ninety.  Which means I only have seventy more pages to fill with something that resembles plot.  Even a goal of three pages a day is killing me.  (And, do the math,  seventeen pages on November 9th equals clearly failing.)

When I write, I writhe.  I sit in my desk chair with my sweatshirt hood pulled over my head and moan.  I write a sentence, I delete it, I change the POV ten times, I do a series of gymnastic exercises in an effort to find a position in which I can write something I actually like.  After every paragraph, I mumble, “Novels are haaaaaard,” and slump further in my chair before I can start another sentence.

I had to laugh today at the grocery store as I bought lunch for myself:  two $1 frozen Celeste personal cheese pizza and a cherry Pepsi.  I was still wearing my yoga pants, hoodie with the hood up, puff vest, and moccasins.  I looked like a total dirty bum, and definitely not like the person who was writing what would (undoubtedly) be the next great American novel.

So I wrote and writhed and ate pizza and finished up seven (!) whole pages.  When I was done, when I’d picked the person who was going to die and felt like there might be a story, I realized I was hungry.  I almost warmed up the second Celeste pizza for dinner – and then I remembered those clunky nubs of sunchokes from the farmer’s market and the parsley, the bacon, the greens, and felt, in good conscience that I couldn’t put a frozen pizza in the microwave two times in one day.  And, as the next great American author (undoubtedly), I had to atone for the poor PR generated at the grocery store earlier in the day.  No seriously, I watched the guy in line behind me judge.

Anyway, I am just so excited about this food.  It’s fresh and easy, and I love how green it is for November.  This is my first time eating sunchokes and I love the center’s nutty, creamy taste complimented by the crunch of the outer edges.  I know it looks a lot like my last meal, but it tastes so remarkably different: smooth and warm and gentle with whipping cream and fried eggs instead of vinegar’s tang.  And it’s so beautiful to look at.  I think I make a better cook than novelist.

And on that note, I’m going to wash the dishes before my roommates come home and kill me and my novel is never finished.

Market Dinner for One
Sunchokes in Cream and Greens with Cheese and Egg:
Fry three slices of bacon; when almost crisp, set aside.  Reserve bacon drippings in skillet.  Scrub and wash a handful of Sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes), then slice them thinly.  In the meantime, heat bacon drippings with a splash of olive oil.  When warm add chopped shallot and two chopped garden onions or half of a yellow onion; sauté until translucent.  Add sliced sunchokes and sauté until tender, about seven minutes.  Add a splash of heavy whipping cream and chicken stock, salt and pepper to taste, and ½ tablespoon butter and turn heat to low for another five minutes until sauce reduces.  In another skillet, melt ½ tablespoon butter.  Add washed and coarsely chopped greens and chopped bacon.  Sauté for two minutes until limp; move to plate and cover.  Fry an over-easy egg, making sure to leave the yolk runny.  Flip the egg on the greens and top with crumbled goat cheese.  Add sunchokes to plate and garnish with chopped parsley.

Summer Lunch

by lyzpfister

Partly because it’s unbearably hot everywhere in New York and partly because I’ve been ridiculously busy, I haven’t really been cooking much, writing much, or even eating much.  I’ve made pilgrimages to my favorites, Roberta’s and the Tortilleria, tried out new places like Taïm for falafels and the Shake Shack (more on that lovely experience later) for burgers and concretes, but for the most part, I’m living on ice pops, toast, and cold beer.

But since it’s only 88 today in Brooklyn and because I want to celebrate the lease I just signed, I decided to make a sandwich.  A sandwich is very rarely inappropriate.  There are sandwiches bursting with lettuce and avocados for summer or fresh paninis with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.  For winter, there are concoctions of melted cheese and sweet onions.  Olives, feta, roast beef, eggplant, actually anything can find a home between two slices of bread.  Bread like a blanket.  Bread like your mother’s arms or puppies or unexpected gifts.  Bread the panacea.

I find a nub of cabbage in the fridge.  I think it’s over a month old, but with the outer layer cut off, it’s still crisp and fresh inside.  Cabbage, hardworking and versatile, resilient, maligned as famine food, but good in times of plenty, also.  I dress it with tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime, drape it over two slices of toast and top with slivers of chicken breast.  I wish I had better bread, but a sandwich is still good on Arnold’s whole wheat pre-sliced loaf, especially when the dressing is nutty, sweet, spicy, salty, and when there is cabbage to promise that under summer’s lethargy and sweat is something fresh and full of potential waiting to be revealed.

Summer Lunch Sandwich
1 nub of green cabbage, slivered
½ carrot, ribboned
1 green onion, diced
generous splash of rice wine vinegar
1 tsp tahini
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
½ tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp sriracha
juice of ½ lime
1 small clove garlic
salt
freshly ground black pepper
½ chicken breast
1 tsp safflower oil
dash of sesame seeds

Toss cabbage, carrots, and green onions together and douse with a generous splash of rice wine vinegar.  For the dressing, mix tahini, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime, sriracha, garlic, salt, and pepper until smooth.  Blend into cabbage.  Toast two slices of bread.  Thinly slice chicken breast and sauté in safflower oil until golden.  Assemble sandwich: bread, slaw, chicken, sesame seeds, bread.

Well Hello, Stir Fry

by lyzpfister

Sometimes, there are no words.

onion, garlic, carrot, baby bok choy, green pepper, mushrooms, cracked egg and pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, udon sauce on white rice

That’s When I Gave Up My Writing Career to Make Tacos

by lyzpfister

Here’s something I’ve gotten really good at, as the title implies:  making tacos.  I’m not really sure what inspired these beauties, but I have a feeling a conversation with a coworker of mine started the whole thing.  I was raving about my first trip to La Isla, a tiny storefront on Flushing where you can get a half chicken, rice, and beans for $5.25.  Whoa, right?  Enough chicken, rice, and beans to last for four meals anyway.  I was talking about maybe making tacos when she mentioned this Honduran crema she makes for her family – sour cream mixed with heavy whipping cream and a little bit of salt to taste.  Yes, please.

The whole delightful combination on a corn tortilla: diced tomatoes, slivers of jalapeño, shaved cabbage, a bit of melted cheddar, and cilantro on rich, salty rice and black beans mashed with juicy chunks of roasted chicken and topped with crema.

So it’s not traditional or authentic – but if it’s good, does it have to be?

Broke Eating 101, a Blog Post for Cedric

by lyzpfister

Last night at work, I found myself talking about food.  Again.  This happens to me often, usually because I bring my own lunch and when someone asks me what it is, I can’t just say “pasta.”  I have to say, “bowtie pasta with a sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers, and onion topped with grated Sicilian black pepper cheese.”  And then, invariably, we start talking about food, or I launch into some rhapsodous description of what I made for dinner last night.  And, invariably, it’s the same few people who walk in on me, talking about food, again, and say, “Lyz!  You’re always talking about food!”  I mean, maybe.  But I have other hobbies.  Really, I do.

But last night, after going on a foodie spiel, I was asked by a co-worker my advice on cooking cheaply and healthily for yourself.  He was taking notes.  No one had ever taken notes.  But, since there’s no better way to make yourself an expert than to just present yourself as one, I launched into an avalanche of advice.  Really, I’m no expert (I lied, I’m sorry, forgive me), but I think I do manage to make delicious food for very little money.  And so, in the interest of sharing, here are some basic tenets on my approach to cooking and how I manage to live on mostly nothing.

The Kitchen’s Golden Rule
Banish your fear.  Fear is your worst enemy in the kitchen.  You don’t need to measure things exactly, you don’t need to use parsley or caviar.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t be afraid to not follow a recipe exactly.  If you don’t have an ingredient, substitute something else – it might sound strange, but it could be delicious.  (See: the other day, I was making a mango milkshake, but was out of yogurt and used sour cream instead and ohmygoditwasamazing.)

Start With the Basics
Some things are easier to make than others.  Some things are easier to experiment with than others.  If you’re just starting to cook on your own or you want as much variation with as little redundant grocery buying as possible, start with these four things:  grain-based salads, sandwiches, pastas, egg dishes.  More on this later.

Develop a Good Staple and Spice Collection
This is really the key to making delicious food.  Here are some things I always have on hand:
Olive oil – both extra virgin to use cold (especially for salad dressings) and regular for sautéing and drizzling over roasting vegetables
Vegetable oil – for frying and baking
Seasoned rice wine vinegar – goes into every dressing I ever make
Spicy whole grain mustard – same as above
Honey – I like a light-colored honey to sweeten dressings, curries, roasts
Balsamic vinegar – I use this less than rice wine vinegar, but a splash of this is nice in dressings
Sriracha – the best hot sauce in the world, it goes with everything
Soy sauce or Shoyu – great for stir frys, dressings, sautéing vegetables
Mayonnaise – I’m not really big on mayonnaise as a thing itself, but I do use it in cooking as a binder for sandwich fillings or in dressings
Olives – not really a condiment, but I always have some on hand to chop up
Capers – same as with olives; they add such a great, briny flavor to pastas and salads
Peanut butter – the poor man’s power food; you can spread it on bread and use it in sauces for pastas and salad dressings
Brown Sugar – A great sweetener for curries, to make caramelized onions, and in tomato-based sauces
Butter – I mean, a little melted butter, some onions, an egg…
Salt and pepper – duh
Dried herbs – oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil
Spices – curry powder, berbere, turmeric, crushed red pepper flakes

Non-Perishable Foodstuffs I Usually Have
Think of these as your canvas and vegetables and meat as paint.  There are so many different types of grains out there that can be way more interesting than just rice and pasta, though those are good too.
Rice – there are so many different types of rice; I prefer white rice for hot dishes and brown rice for salads
Pasta – again, so many types; I like to have a few varieties on hand
Bulgur – delicious hot or cold, beautiful nutty taste
Couscous – also good hot or cold, soaks up the flavor of whatever you put on it
Quinoa – a lot like bulgur, different texture
Grits – great for breakfast, with melted cheese, hot sauce, or buried under eggs
Flour – super basic, great for thickening sauces and baking, of course
Breadstuff – this can include sliced bread, tortillas, or pitas (I know this is perishable, technically, but it fits better in this category…)

Perishable Foodstuffs I Usually Always Have, Too
You can use these things for EVERYTHING, so I try to always have some on hand.
Onions – use sliced, sautéed onions in pretty much everything
Garlic – ditto for garlic, a little bit goes a long way; also great in salad dressings
Potatoes – roasted, sautéed, mashed, and always filling
Parsley – people underestimate the power of garnishes, but there’s so much flavor in parsley and it brightens up any carb-heavy dish
Cilantro – you either love or hate cilantro, but if you love it, use it in salads, tacos, sandwiches, anything cold
Eggs – so versatile, more on these later
Cheese – I usually have a few types of cheese on hand; always a block of parmesan, and then I rotate between brie, feta, goat, blue, and cheddar
Cabbage – hot or cold, stir fry or slaw, another versatile food that lasts forever
Greens – a bunch of greens is so cheap and lasts for over two weeks

Grain-Based Salads
If you’re broke, you need to eat cheap, but you don’t need to sacrifice taste or health for something that’s going to fill you up.  The key is grain-based salads.  It’s simple: choose a grain (like rice, bulgur or quinoa) and cook it, chop up some veggies (carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, cucumber, beets, jalapenos, cilantro, canned corn, red or green pepper, whatever), make a dressing (olive oil, rice wine vinegar, honey, mustard, salt, pepper, fresh herbs), and mix it all together.  Grains are super cheap and a little bit goes a long way, since it’s very filling.  So having a salad made with a grain base is great because you don’t need a lot of veggies to make a really great meal.  Use this principle to make pasta salads as well.

Sandwiches
There is nothing you can’t put between two slices of bread.  Forget sliced deli meat, yellow cheese, and mayo.  So boring.  Think:  crumbled blue cheese or feta, bacon, lettuce, homemade slaw, pequillo peppers, avocado, egg, mushroom – basically any leftovers you have in your fridge, throw it on bread.

You can even take some of your leftover grain-based salad, put it on a pita and then make a little cabbage and carrot slaw – and bam, you have a wrap.  Waste nothing.  Put it in a sandwich.

Pastas
What you can’t put in a pasta sauce… Think of pasta sauce as a way to use up leftovers.  Nubs of carrots, canned tomatoes, olives, capers, peppers, onions, eggplant, egg – just sauté veggies until soft, cook pasta, toss together.  Shave some parmesan on top.

Egg Dishes
Kind of the workhorse of broke cooking.  You can put anything in eggs (trend, anyone?).  A frittata can include: potatoes, onions, broccoli, greens, leftover pasta, parsley, tomatoes, chicken – or whatever else you happen to find.  Just soften everything in a skillet and then crack two eggs into the pan.

Some Final Thoughts
There’s more.  There’s always more.  But this is a great place to start if you’re new to cooking for yourself – or if you’re new to not having any money.  Especially if you’re new to not having any money and needing to cook for yourself.  Remember, just don’t be afraid to do anything and it’ll all turn out ok.

A New Thing
I’d like to ask your input, your advice.  We’re all about as expert as each other.  What can’t you cook without?  What do you always have on hand?  Ready: respond.

On the Insides of Eggs (a poem!? by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

The perfection of four egg halves, which had previously been

two whole eggs, broken open on whole grain toast, hummus,

cilantro, the sting of salt, pepper, hidden red chiles.  The morning,

expansive, deceptive winter sunlight warming inside the windows.

I’ll clean them soon, I think, and return to my book – a cataclysmic look

at the apocalypse and a world of rats.  I eat my eggs.  The three men

with whom I share this space are somewhere behind their closed doors,

and I am alone with the contested floral carpet, the drum set,

the hookah still set up with last night’s coal.  I remember the eggs

before I broke them, mysterious and round, one brown, stolen

from my roommate, the other white, the last of my own eggs.

One egg cracked the second it hit boiling water, a filament of space

furrowing inside the shell.  But broken open, on the whole grain toast

with the hummus, the cilantro, the salt, I can’t tell which egg is which,

and each bright yolk reveals itself the same.

Briefly, A Method (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

I have to share this recipe, mostly because I was sure it was going to taste awful. It’s another child of the experimenting I’ve been doing with the leftover food in my pantry slash fridge slash freezer, and like the last fifteen things I’ve made, features feta cheese from the farmer’s market. It was delicious.

Method: Pasta with Hot Italian Sausage and Feta

Per package directions, boil as much pasta (or as many lonely strands left in the box) as you want. Remove skins from two hot Italian sausages (preferably ones that have been hiding in the back of your freezer for five months) and break up meat in skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few pearl onions (leftover from Spring Break when you sent boys to buy scallions), some berebere spice (a Christmas gift), cinnamon, and brown sugar. When the meat and pasta are both fully cooked, add the pasta to the skillet of sausage and drizzle some olive oil on top. Continue to sauté the pasta until coated with spice. Add some shredded parmesan cheese (but only from a mostly rock-solid block) for good measure, and toss until the cheese melts. Serve in a bowl and garnish generously with feta cheese. Make your roommate eating Easy Mac jealous.

The Mother of Invention (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

As my college career draws to a close, I find myself running into one problem more consistently than any other. I have no food. The budget is low, time is tight, and the tamarind paste to usefulness ratio is completely out of whack.

There have been some successes in my quest to empty the pantry, but there have also been some definite mistakes. Pasta, cottage cheese, red pepper flakes. Not so good. Lasagna with curry sauce. Not so good. Today, however, I came up with one of my greatest wins. Steamed greens topped with a fried egg and crumbled feta cheese.

Last Saturday was the opening of the Farmer’s Market in Davidson. I love the market, because it’s the best place to buy produce in this area. The meats and some of the cheeses are a little expensive (though delicious), but you can’t beat a big bag of mixed greens for $2. I found a new vendor at the market selling some of the best feta I’ve had – crumbly, yet thick and salty with a finishing bite of brine. In addition to the greens and feta, I bought baby cabbage, freshly picked strawberries, kohlrabi, arugula, tomatoes, and a basil plant. A good day.

My Farmers Market purchases have been seeing me through the past week. One day I had toasted flatbread with tomatoes, basil, and feta. On another, boiled kohlrabi tossed with butter, rice wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. But today’s invention has definitely been the best.

I’d never cooked greens before this batch – partly because I’d never eaten greens before coming to school in the south. I decided to try a variation on steaming, which involved sticking wet leaves into a skillet with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then covering the skillet with another skillet. (Don’t judge the improvisation – it’s college.) Thinking that the wilted greens seemed a little lonely, I grabbed one of my last two organic, free-range eggs and fried it lightly enough for the bright yellow yolk to be runny. As a last minute touch, I crumbled some feta over the whole thing. It was so pretty, I had to take a picture of it, even before I’d eaten any. Luckily, the taste lived up to the picture.

I wish I had more greens to go with my last egg and the last block of feta, but I guess this is how using up the pantry goes. Who knows where those leftovers will take me?