Sunday, January 22, 2012


I have always believed bread to be a fundamental component of human existence, kind of like gravity…and beer. Some years ago, in the course of my foodie-geek reading, I discovered that anthropology bears out this concept: Early human culture developed along with yeast cultures, as our formerly nomad-hunter-gatherer ancestors transitioned toward settling in one spot long enough for those spores to ferment, in order to produce bread…and beer.*

Baking bread is also a wonderfully mellow, good-for-the-soul experience. Although it does take time to let the dough rise, not much of that time is spent working. And what work you do feels therapeutic, or possibly even spiritual: The hippie in me believes that all that kneading transmits positive prana into the dough through your hands, so that the eater receives the good energy you put into it.

There are a lot of complicated bread recipes out there, but there are plenty of simple ones out there as well, and I suggest starting with those and working your way up to more ambitious projects.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Double Leftovers Love: Baked Stuffed Potato & “Taco Shells” Pasta

My two-prong 2012 resolution was to do more cooking at home, and to end up throwing out fewer leftovers by repurposing them for future dinners and/or work lunches. This resolution seemed like a manageable, money-saving one that will yield some good meals and blogging inspiration. Plus, I figured, if the world is going to end this coming December, there’s no point in resolving to exercise, eat healthy, or quit smoking—amirite, gentle reader?

Anyhoo, I have done pretty well thus far—I've brought lunch to work more days than not, and managed to make some creative use of leftovers. The Taco Night I recently blogged about actually occurred twice over the course of a few weeks—once with corn tortillas, once with flour. And following both occasions, I came up with excellent ways to use up the leftover ground beef filling.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Saturday Night Comfort Food: Ravioli alla Tortorella

Last night, I invented this dish and named it in honor of the New York Rangers’ coach John Tortorella. There is no particular significance to the ingredients as pertaining to him; I just wanted to pay tribute to the man who has led my secret boyfriend Henrik Lundqvist and his teammates to be NUMBER FREAKING ONE IN THE NHL AND WINNERS OF THE WINTER CLASSIC!!! And whose name just sounds like it should be a pasta. Originally I was actually thinking of inventing a Tortellini alla Tortorella (you know how I love geeky wordplay, gentle reader), but I figured ravioli would work better, because the meat sauce would mingle with the cheese filling once you cut into the ravioli, whereas tortellini are all wound up tight (much like Tortorella).

While heating a large pot of salted water for a package of cheese ravioli (13 count), I sautéed a little over a pound of ground pork in a couple tablespoons of olive oil with a medium chopped onion, a bunch of minced garlic, and a 10-oz. package of cremini (a.k.a. "baby bella") mushrooms sliced and halved. Oh, and coarse salt and pepper of course, and some fresh thyme leaves. I broke up the meat with a wooden spoon as it cooked.

Once the meat was cooked through (it doesn’t really brown, it more like…whites), I added maybe 1/2 cup frozen peas, stirred them in to mix, and transferred the meat mixture to a bowl.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Taco Night!

As countless NYC food carts have proved, there are an infinite ways to make tacos—with a matrix of practically every meat/fish/veggie/legume you can think of, tons of topping combos, and of course, soft vs. hard/corn vs. flour tortilla. I grew up with Taco Night starring the classic American incarnation of ground beef/hard corn shell, but I have no use for the hard shells, which invariably shatter as soon as you take a bite if they haven’t already shattered in the box (plus they’re overpriced and a huge waste of packaging). So, this is my alternate take on the ground beef taco using soft tortillas.

  • When I made this recently, I heated some bacon fat—but you could use a couple tablespoons of olive oil—to brown 1.5 pounds ground beef over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (you could use a cast iron skillet or a non-nonstick frying pan; nonstick doesn’t brown the meat properly).
  • Sprinkle kosher salt, ground cumin, chili powder, and paprika over the meat before using a wooden spoon to break it up so it crumbles as it cooks.