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Tag: eggs

Things I’ve Never Done

by lyzpfister

spaghetti carbonara

I don’t think of myself as a particularly brave person. I don’t have stories about skydiving in New Zealand or bungee-jumping off bridges. I’ve never lived in a third-world village or gone on a solo trip through some really high mountains in a country whose language I do not speak.

I was having dinner with a friend a while ago, and he asked me, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”

I said, “I… don’t know.”

And I honestly couldn’t think of anything, with the exception of a few stupid stunts I’d pulled in college. And those were stories which, though funny then, would make me seem like that person now. So – no.

My life is lame, I thought. I should pack up my bags and go to Nepal or live with the Massai for a year or go ice fishing with the Inuits. And learn Yupik. Probably I should learn Yupik. Or something.

But is that what it means for me to live an interesting life, a brave life? Is living bravery on a smaller scale still as brave? Is it relative?

People tell me I’m brave for having moved to New York, for then having moved to Berlin, without knowing (in various combinations for each place) whether I’d find a job, an apartment, friends… But I don’t think of these moves as being brave things. They were just things I had to do. So I did them.

If I don’t feel compelled to go skydiving, does that mean it’s cowardice not to go?

I’ve been thinking about these questions as my life in Berlin settles into place. I’m getting comfortable. Comfortable in my routine, in the way I understand myself and who I am here. But I’m happy. And the feeling I felt before I left New York, that anxious, twitching itch like a circus troupe stuck in my gut – I don’t feel that now.

Berlin

I don’t want to believe that living a brave life is dependent on where you are – and how exotic it sounds. I want to believe that the daily practice of bravery can sometimes be simple and small and that only we can rate its worth.

My version of bravery is this: asking for enough money for my work , standing up for the things I need, allowing myself to fall in love.

spaghetti carbonara

I could add eating raw eggs to the list – though I’m sure my mother would say that this isn’t bravery, jut a bad idea.

I want to talk about spaghetti carbonara, which until recently, was something I’d never done before. Partly because my mother has instilled in me a pure terror of eating raw eggs and partly because the idea of having to quickly transfer hot noodles into raw eggs and mix in some other stuff with just the right rhythm before the eggs curdle and you’re left with nasty pasta egg stuff kind of scared me.

Spaghetti carbonara is simple – it’s pasta, eggs, ham, cheese, and pepper. The only thing that makes it slightly complicated is the technique – the order in which you put it together, the quick wrist flicks that turn raw eggs into silky, rich sauce.

spaghetti carbonara

As I stood at the stove, however, separating egg yolks from white and listening to the sizzle of fatty pancetta cubes crisping up, I wondered what I’d been afraid of. There was nothing to it but a little prep and a little confidence.

Is this bravery? I wondered. Can bravery be so little as to cook something you’ve never cooked before – something which you were afraid of, though in the scale of fears it was a small fear?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But for right now, the circus troupe is still. I don’t want to go swimming with sharks and no, I don’t want to learn Yupik and live with the Inuits. I like my life. I like where I am and what I’m doing. So for now, spaghetti carbonara and other small braveries will have to do.

spaghetti carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

(for 2)

Set a pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime, heat ½ cup cubed pancetta in a slip of olive oil on medium-high heat. When the pancetta has crisped up and slightly browned, remove from heat. Drain the drippings from the meat and reserve. Set the pancetta aside and allow to cool slightly. In a bowl, whisk together 3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg. When your water is boiling, add pasta – enough for two people – and cook according to package instructions. Prepare: ½ cup grated pecorino cheese and 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper. When the pasta is al dente, drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water. Add pancetta to eggs, then add pasta and cooking water to egg mixture. Using two forks, toss the pasta to coat. Gradually add pecorino, tossing pasta until everything is one beautifully luxurious melted cheese, egg mess. Add pepper and salt to taste and give it one last, loving toss.

*A side note on semantics: I realize it’s a bit of a bold move to conflate “a brave life” with “an interesting life.” I look at it in this sense: an interesting life is one in which an individual makes brave choices on a daily basis. And yet, when I think of an interesting life, I tend to think of something more glamorous than what I’m doing, and therefore much harder than what I’m doing, and therefore requiring more bravery than what I’m giving. So really, the semantics are personal and wide open for debate. Discuss.

spaghetti carbonara

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.

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.

Breakfast is Beautiful

by lyzpfister

I have been trying to write this post for a while.  I’m not really sure why it’s so hard for me to articulate what I want to say, because really, it comes down to this:  breakfast is great.  And sub-points:  breakfast is great because of the epic struggle for supremacy between variety and ritual.

Sub-point A: Variety

Today, for breakfast I am eating a pita fried with two over easy eggs and topped with cilantro, avocado slices, and hot sauce.

But it could just as easily have been oatmeal.

There are so many breakfast options.  Toast, pancakes, waffles, cold pizza, bagels with cream cheese, herring and crackers, biscuits, bacon, homefries, hashbrowns, cereal, müsli, grits.  Let’s not even get into eggs.

With all those delightful choices, how could you limit yourself to the same thing every day?

Sub-point B: Ritual

Most people breakfast alone.  The unspoken rule is that plus one makes brunch.  This could be because brunch is festive (this, in turn, could be because it’s still faux pas to have bloody marys with breakfast).  Or it could be because we each have morning rituals, performed in solitude, to gather energy and sanity for the rest of the day.

When and how I make breakfast is a part of my silent, calm morning time – the actions themselves rituals.  I’ve been waking up early recently to do writing in the morning when my brain is fittest (post-college, I realize that I’m a morning person).  So I wake at 8:30, crawl down from my loft, brush my teeth, sit at my desk and try to form my first coherent thought, pick the clothes up off the floor from where I threw them the night before, and go make breakfast.  Then, I sit here looking out at the freshly fallen snow (Editor’s note: see how long I’ve been trying to write this?! It was 74 degrees the other day) through my floor to ceiling windows, making sure the ratio of egg yolk to sriracha to parsley to buttered toast is just right and being warmed by hot cappuccino and the space heater plugged in next to me.

Having a morning routine does not necessarily mean eating the same thing every breakfast, though it might.  One of my roommates, for instance, eats two pieces of toast spread with hummus and topped with two soft-boiled eggs every morning.  Every morning, my father has a cup of coffee and a slice of toast with marmalade or apple butter.  Until it began to conflict with his current diet, my grandfather ate oatmeal every morning for breakfast.

Argument: How, like two great white sharks, ritual and variety battling for control of the ocean creates tension, like a tightrope with the strength to support the rest of the day’s struggles as well as any mixed metaphors you might encounter

I find myself to be somewhat of a rogue breakfaster.  Other than my morning cappuccino made with Illy espresso, frothed milk, and sugar, anything goes.  (Editor’s note:  Finding the coffee mug in these pictures is sort of like playing Where’s Waldo.)  Since moving to Brooklyn, I have made some beautiful breakfasts.  Some of my most brilliant creations have evolved out of a desire to use up leftover food in the fridge.  See: a stack of pancakes topped with bacon, crumbled blue cheese, and agave nectar.

My breakfasts are not always complicated.  Sometimes, I boil an egg.  Or stick a Pop Tart in the toaster.  Or have a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.  My current breakfast binge is a toasted bagel with cream cheese, which is straightforward enough.

Let me explain the tension:  In the morning, life is still uncomplicated (ok, this is so, so poetic-general).  What to eat for breakfast is the first real choice you have to make for the day.  What do you want that will focus your mood and energy and what do you need?  Most of us are probably not conscious of making these choices, being still sleep-groggy.  But it’s the reason you choose Earl Grey and buttered toast instead of waffles and syrup.  What all of my breakfasts have in common is that they are chosen based on how I feel within the constraints of my morning ritual.  Variety within ritual.  Take that, great white sharks.

Thesis: Breakfast is great

In other news, I have started writing a weekly food column for the blog Glasses Glasses, so if you want to join the game called “Lyz tries to find something creative to write about food at least once a week,” check it out!

Ingredient: A Quick Shout-Out to Semolina

by lyzpfister

A few months ago, when I was about to move to New York, I decided to clean out my parents’ pantry of all the things that had been sitting on the shelves for years (not hyperbole) and would most likely be doomed to sit there for many more.  I snatched some canned jellies, pickles, pastes, pates, spices, curds, and pastas, knowing they would never be missed.  I’ve been slowly working my way through my parents’ pantry here in Brooklyn, and I’m often grateful for that swiped can of anchovies (sorry, mom, I know you would have probably used those) or am inspired by a bag of chocolate pasta I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to buy.  Sometimes the food has been sitting around so long it’s already stale – I’ve eaten some disappointing packets of oatmeal, slurped stale Ramen soup, and given away old-tasting pretzels to my less discerning roommates.  But so far, the best find from the pantry has been semolina flour.

I had never eaten semolina flour before yesterday.  My roommate and I had gone to a kegger in Williamsburg with free Kombucha and free Sixpoint beer, and by the time we left we were feeling hungry and tired after long days.  In the mood for a movie and comfort food.  I remembered a recipe from last month’s Bon Appétit that I had wanted to try – deep fried eggs with sriracha remoulade, which sounded like the bastion of comfort food: warm, soft-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, spice, pickles, and fried goodness.  So I picked up a six-pack of Sierra Nevada at the corner Bodega and made small talk with the owner, who was feeling glum about spending his Friday night stuck under fluorescent lights.

Back at the apartment, I found my neighbor on the couch and told her she was going to have to stay for deep fried eggs even though she had work to do.  So we put on Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dace With Somebody,” which is perfect comfort food-making music, and set about whipping up a remoulade and boiling eggs.

I’ve almost forgotten that I’m supposed to be telling you about how great semolina is.  Here’s where it figures in this story:  our soft boiled eggs were first rolled in a mixture of white flour and semolina flour, dunked in a blend of buttermilk, egg, and sriracha, and then covered with panko and salt.

Almost everything I’ve ever tried to deep fry has ended up tasting embarrassing, but last night it was as if deep-fry gods had smiled upon the Whitney and the Sierra Nevada and the good company.  The eggs were perfect – light brown, crunchy fried crust, which, when cracked open hissed out steam and molten yolk.

Comfort food brought to you by semolina (and eggs and sriracha and mayonnaise and fried goodness).  But anyway – that’s not how I really discovered the goodness of semolina.  That’s just why I happened to open the bag.

Today, as I was cleaning up the kitchen, something which clearly didn’t happen last night, I saw a recipe on the back of the semolina for breakfast porridge, which involved emptying the whole pack in two liters of boiling water.  Not so practical.  But, using my cook’s intuition, I figured the standard two parts water to one part grain ratio would work relatively well.  So as I made my morning cappuccino, I set a pot of water to boil, and when it was bubbling, added the semolina flour.  Which, contrary to the instructions on the package (five minutes), cooked in about five seconds.  The ratio was a little off – semolina requires about an extra ¼ – ½ cup of water, but I managed to smooth out most of the lumps.  The result, plus milk, butter, and brown sugar, was a creamy, sweet porridge that was truly comforting to eat.  Sort of like a cream of wheat that tastes more of mornings in the country and less of old people.

And to wrap up the whole semolina story, for lunch I threw the leftover cooked semolina (I couldn’t eat it all in porridge), in a skillet with green onions and mushrooms, and topped it with a fried egg and shavings of grated Sicilian black pepper cheese.  Delicious.

So semolina, the grain I tried for the first time yesterday, has featured in my last three meals in three very different ways.  From creamy to crunchy, to crisped – this versatile staple might just be my new comfort food.

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.