Friday, July 30, 2010

All about Michele

I told my sister to read my blog.

"I love it! Although, I should be on here somewhere. I do eat all your food." So this entry is all about Michele. Just the way she likes it.

Meet Michele.

Michele is the youngest out of the three of us. She is 24, four years younger than me, and we are often confused for twins – which means she looks old, or I look young. I prefer the latter.

When I think of Michele, I think of wasabi dumplings.

Although I hate her Tony Soprano-esque-poke-around stirring technique, Michele is coming into her own as a lover of food (good thing she has such an awesome mentor). Armed with her Bon Appetit gift subscription, and panini press (you're welcome), she is a fatty in training. Before she knows it, she'll be buying kohlrabi at the farmers market and waxing poetic about the merits of a grassy EVOO. She moved back in with our parents about a month ago and already has them going to better supermarkets to buy organic groceries. Huzzah I say.

Michele is lucky that she has me to pick up her slack. And by slack I mean ice cream since she is lactose intolerant.

And ok, fine, I'm lucky to have her too.


Wednesday is usually derby day off for me, which means time to play with my food!

I got some great green tomatoes from one of my teammates who had an overabundance of them in her garden. I decided to pickle them along with a sliced yellow onion in a simple light brine of celery salt, pickling salt and 1/2 white wine vinegar 1/2 water .

I bet they'll be good with some barbecue....

Also, we got a shit ton of organic strawberries on sale at Whole Foods, so I decided to dehydrate them for my morning bowl of athlete gruel (oatmeal) and possibly some baking.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I am prone to random proclamations.

Like when I claim that grilled cheese will make me rich someday.

But it will! I am not sure exactly how yet, but there is one thing I am sure of. I can make a mighty tasty gooey cheese sammich.


Grilled gruyére and comté on sourdough with arugula, sauteed red onions and peppadews. Bottom one also has bacon.

There are a few principles I follow when it's time for a snazzy grilled cheese dinner. Or lunch. Or even breakfast. Whenever.

1. Let creativity ooze the way the cheese should.
Oh boy. Where to begin... there are so many types of cheese to choose from for your sandwich. As long as it is a type that melts well, consider it an option. I like to pick two different cheeses to work with. One type is fine as well, but you get more complexity with two. I think three would start to make the cheeses compete instead of working together. But hey. Prove me wrong and make a six-cheese sandwich!

The next thing to decide on is what else will go into the sandwich – you didn't think it was just cheese and bread now, did you? Think of all of the foods that pair well with cheese: eggs, meats, pasta, tomatoes, pickles, jams, fruit, hot peppers, mayonnaise, hummus, hot sauce, vinegar – this is possibly and endless list – lettuce (so many kinds!), sprouts, hot dogs, bacon, french fries, zucchini, cucumber, sprouts – I am going to cut myself off now. But see what I mean about the creative possibilities? Making a great grilled cheese sandwich is all about experimentation– just like college.

2. What goes in is what comes out.
The better quality the ingredients you buy, the better the end result. If you go to the corner bodega and buy white bread, American cheese slices and some Oscar Meyer bacon, you are going to get a sandwich that lives somewhere between the school cafeteria and 7-11 in Flavorland. Take a trip to your local farmer's market and get inspired! See what produce looks the best this week. Chances are you'll see something that you wouldn't have normally considered for your sandwich... ramps maybe? Lambsquarters? Dandelions? Apples? Also keep an eye out for some tasty slabs of artisan meats, fresh eggs and home-made condiments.

As much as I love love love a farmer's market, I think my most favorite part of the whole ordeal is shopping for cheese. For me, making grilled cheese is the perfect excuse to spend time at the amazing Murray's Cheese! Ah, beautiful Murray's. If they had the space, I would live there (I hope they like cats). If you claim to be a cheese lover and you have never been to Murray's Cheese, do yourself a favor and drop what you are doing right now, walk out the door and go visit them on Bleecker Street. Just a warning, it's extremely addicting and you may experience vivid cheese dreams afterwards.

A store like Murray's is a great place to start because not only are there limitless cheeses to choose from, but the cheesemongers there really know their shit and if you ask them for recommendations they'll give you great advice... and samples... SAMPLES!

And then, while you're there, you might as well walk a couple of doors over to Amy's Bread and grab yourself a fresh baked, crusty loaf. I BEG YOU... don't overlook the bread! Choosing the right bread for your sandwich is just as important as choosing all the other components. Consider the flavor and texture of the bread just as you would the fillings. It's no good choosing challah bread if you are trying to build a strong, savory, hard sandwich. Plus, just like with the cheeses, there are so many great options!

3. Take it to the stove!
If I had to sum up this step in one word, it would be patience. Rushing the grilling process will get you nothing except a sandwich with some burnt, greasy bread.

Start by preparing any ingredients that you need to cook, for example, sauteeing onions or frying up bacon. Next, slice your cheeses into thin slices, no more than 1/4" thick, so they melt easily.

Pick a clean nonstick skillet and heat it up over a lower medium flame. Let's say like a 4 out of 10. While the pan is heating up, assemble your sandwich. Spread any condiments such as mayo or hummus onto both slices of bread, then the cheese on both slices, and the other ingredients between the cheese. This makes the cheese act as a glue, holding the bread together with the other ingredients. No need to butter the outsides of the bread slices.

Grilled cheese myth #1: you do not need loads of butter to make a crispy sandwich!

Once the pan is thoroughly heated, about five minutes, drop a small dab of butter, no more than half a tablespoon into the middle and spread around. The pan should be hot enough to melt it immediately. Once the butter is melted, place sandwich in the pan, and do not touch.

Grilled cheese myth #2: high heat will make a toastier sandwich.

Cook over medium heat, periodically checking bottom to make sure bread is not browning too quickly. The goal is to get one side to brown as the cheese is about half way melted. Adjust the heat accordingly, never exceeding that 4 out of 10 flame. Gently push down on sandwich with spatula once or twice to work melting cheese through ingredients.

Grilled cheese myth #3: constant flipping prevents the sandwich from burning.

When the first side is thoroughly browned, about 5 - 8 minutes, flip sandwich over. If the pan looks dry, add a bit more butter before placing the sandwich back in the pan. Do not flip sandwich again. Periodically check to make sure bread is not browning too quickly again, and give it a few more presses with the spatula.

If the bread is browned thoroughly but the cheese looks like it could use a few more minutes, this is when you can flip the sandwich and press it every ten seconds or so to help melt the cheese without browning the bread too much more.

Remove sandwich from pan, cut into halves and serve. I like to serve grilled cheese with an arugula salad with citrus in it to cut through the grease of the cheese.


Friday, July 16, 2010

recipe: Lemon poppy seed muffins

Makes 12 Muffins


2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
¼ teaspoon baking soda 
¼ teaspoon salt 
¾ cup Greek yogurt, like Fage (whole, 2% or fat free will all work fine, it's up to you. I used fat-free) 
2 large eggs 
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
4 tablespoons poppy seeds (more than most recipes, I like to really emphasize the poppy flavor. SO GOOD!)

1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted 
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Center a rack in the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin pan with butter. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet. 
In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and the lemon is distributed evenly.  Whisk in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to blend gently and quickly with a rubber spatula. Don’t worry about being thorough, a few lumps are better than over mixing the batter.
Stir in the poppy seeds.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Cool the muffins completely on the rack before icing them.
To make the icing:
Put the confectioners' sugar in a small bowl and add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice.  Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. Then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely.

Cook for Independence!

Mmmmm. Fourth of July. Aaaaand instantly I'm thinking of smoky, tender barbecue and sweet summer pies.

Fourth. Of. July. Shhhhh.... relish the images for a second.

July 4th also happens to be my dad's birthday, so there's usually a small gathering of some sort at my parent's house in Jersey.

I think I should take a small detour right now to define a small gathering. To my dad, that means somewhere between 30 and 50 people. Blame it on the Italian heritage, but to my dad, everyone is like family and the table can always fit one more. Before any holiday where family gets together (which is basically all of them), my mom swears up and down that "it's going to be small this year, last year was too much work! We made too much food! We just want it to be us." And somehow, "us" always turns out to be neighbors, cousins, coworkers, second cousins, friends with nowhere else to go and whoever else my dad runs into at the supermarket.

Enter Jon and me. Finally! An opportunity to make copious amounts of food for all of those hungry guests/lab rats. Cooking for a big group of people is the ultimate test for your food. Sure, you can swear up and down that your food is amazing, but it's when you have 50 people (you know, just us) drooling over your collard greens, that you know you're on the right track.

The Fourth of July is EXTRA exciting because we get to make real, true barbecue! We have a smoker that was passed down to me from my uncle. I am not too sure how keen the Borough of Manhattan is about using one of these babies on your fire escape, so we are forced to leave it out in the 'burbs and wait for those special summer weekends to use it. It's like Christmas. In July.

So after days of menu planning, we pack up most of our spice rack, the fancy knives and the cats/furry children and ditch the city. We make the necessary trip to Fairway for a week's pay worth of goodies, then, let the cooking party commence!

4:30 am in Jersey. Jon's in the corner, starting up the smoker.

This year's feast included:
smoked whole turkey breast with simple seasonings
grass-fed beef brisket rubbed with toasted Costa Rican cocoa nibs
pork ribs with citrus ginger barbecue sauce- mom's specialty!
root beer baked beans
chipotle cole slaw
corn on the cob with honey chipotle butter
smoked jalapeno cheddar cornbread
sweet cherry pie
a partridge in a pear tree

(we went light this year)

The brisket and turkey had amazing flavor- just the right amount of smoke, spice and lovin'. We were saving the cocoa nibs for a smoked brisket and they were perfect. The meat cooked a little faster than Jon expected, so it was pretty dry, but was all devoured by happy eaters nonetheless. 

We smoked some jalapenos and habaneros and used the jalapenos in the cheddar cornbread. Devoured.

Root beer beans and cole slaw were spicy and delicious.

But the winner of the day were my mom's ribs. Her and I collaborated on the sauce- it was her usual kick-ass orange marmalade sauce and then I added in some Reed's ginger beer, Chinese five spice, and some other goodies. She broiled them and finished them on the grill... they were addictive! Over 70 ribs were gone. GONE. Soooo good. 

Then mom challenged Jon to a rib-off. I ofered to be the judge. 

Fortunately for the cooks but unfortunately for my camera, most of the food was out of the smoker and ovens, cut and served before I could snap photos of the pretty finished products. I did get the baked goods though.

Lemon poppy seed muffins with glaze

Sweet cherry pie


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

That's me.

photo by Jeff Bachner

Yep, that's me. Sweet Sherry Pie or, "Pie", derby girl extraordinaire and lover of all things edible (and some not so much). Luckily, those two claims balance each other out perfectly. I eat what I want, then burn it all off the next day when I go to derby practice.

I'm a fatty trapped inside an athlete's body. Not a bad life, I gotta say.

I skate for Gotham Girls Roller Derby and have since 2005. I am the captain of The Manhattan Mayhem and also a 4-year member of the Gotham Girls All-Stars, currently ranked #1 in the nation. Really, it's pretty kick ass and if you haven't heard about the derby renaissance yet, you should come out from under that giant rock... just for a minute. Maybe grab something tasty to eat while you're at it.

When I'm not skating, I am fooding. Eating food, cooking food, watching food and reading food. Sadly, since I practice three to four nights a week on top of a full time job (gotta pay for all that food!), leisurely cooking time is hard to come by. But I fit it in.

Lucky for me I have Jon, my fatty enabler, to help me along my never ending eating quest.

Jon, weilder of bacon fat, cast iron aficionado and olive oil junkie

Some great stuff comes out of our little Manhattan apartment kitchen: pies, bread, pickled whatevers, fancy-shmancy grilled cheese sandwiches, the "best lasagna I've ever had in my life" (why thanks, Jon!), and lots and lots of huge egg breakfasts...

... after all, an athlete's gotta get her carbs abd protein somehow!