Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday night, 11 PM


First day back to work after vacation.
Tired from derby practice.
Aaaaand, of course, hungry.

What to do?

Make grilled cheese!

Gruyere and cheddar with arugula and a hard fried egg on sourdough, with a little bit of sweet-hot mustard for dipping.

And then, bedtime.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recipe: Summer Couscous Salad

This is a great summer dish: light, refreshing, super healthy, filling and requires very little stove time.

Just a warning though, the measurements may be slightly off due to my being Italian-American, but as long as the proportions look and taste right, that's really what matters.

This recipe makes like, 8 servings... ish. Let's just say a really big bowl.

for the couscous:
2 cups couscous
1 - 2 cups of vegetable stock, depending on preference and couscous directions

for the salad:
2 braeburn apples, small dice
3 green onions, thinly silced, white and light green parts only
1 carrot, small dice
1 green pepper, small dice
1 cup-ish of dried cranberries
5 or 6 stalks of fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, small dice
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
a few tablespoons of rice vinegar (white vinegar is fine too)
try and cut all the vegetables in about the same size pieces, about the size of the cranberries.

for the dressing:
(this is where that Italian thing comes into play...)
hrm... about 3/4 cup (?) quality extra virgin olive oil- you want the really good stuff!
the juice of 1 - 2 lemons
cumin powder to taste
tumeric powder to taste
kosher salt to taste
pepper to taste

Cook couscous as directed. Use either entirely vegetable stock, or cut with water, your choice. The more stock you use, the better the flavor. Add some kosher salt and pepper to taste. Once done cooking, transfer to bowl and put in fridge to cool. Stir every once in a while to aid cooling.

While couscous is cooking, prepare vegetables. One note: as soon as the apples are cut, toss them with the vinegar – just enough to coat them – to prevent them from browning. Combine all the vegetables in a bowl big enough to add all the couscous later. Place in fridge while couscous is cooling.

Once couscous is thoroughly cooled, combine with vegetables in vegetable bowl.

Whisk the olive oil and the juice of one lemon together in a small bowl. Add enough cumin and tumeric so that you can definitely taste it and it's all balanced, but not so much that it overpowers the dressing. Think light, tangy and refreshing, not curry. Start with a small amount, and add more as you taste and whisk. Do the same with the lemon juice. Finish with some kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss, a little at a time. Add only enough to thoroughly coat the salad, you don't want an oily salad. Finish with a little more kosher salt and pepper if it needs it.

Great alone or as a side for grilled chicken or tofu! Yum!

A Plethora of Produce!

Between our trip to Stone Barns on Saturday and food shopping on Sunday, we found our fridge to be overrun with produce! We quickly took care of that blueberry galette (WOW, YUM!), but we are leaving for vacation today and wanted to make sure any of this stuff didn't to go to waste:

red onions
yellow onions
spring onions
yellow peppers
green peppers
braeburn apples
goat cheese
sourdough bread
fresh eggs
fresh herbs (thanks Wheelie and Dad!)

What to do, what to do......

Cook, of course!

Jon made an amazing Sunday breakfast: fried eggs with tarragon on sourdough toast with Humboldt Fog goat cheese; sauteed red and yellow onions, kohlrabi and fennel; and a baby arugula salad with red onions, kohlrabi, fennel, yellow peppers and fresh mozzarella. Oh, and bacon for Jon. 

Drooling yet?

I made a Couscous salad with peppers, carrots, apples, onions and dried cranberries

And we got to add to the lard collection in the fridge:

Look at all that bacon grease! From 4 STRIPS of bacon! That's 4 oz of lard, folks. Jon saves the grease from good bacon to chill and use as cooking lard. Apparently, it's actually better for you than butter..... but I'm not quite sold on that. I am sold on the flavor though. (Yes, I know, bad vegetarian!)

Also of note, that is Jon doing the dishes – and I caught it on film! It's like getting a photo of Bigfoot!

Ahhhh, but what a great gluttonous Sunday it was. The couscous was the perfect lunch for the week, the fridge is just about empty (I am finishing the milk by drinking lots of protein shakes... eggh) and we are almost away to a fantastic Oregon vacation filled with food, friends and of course, ROLLER DERBY!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stone Barns!

Another family-filled weekend!

This time it was off to Tarrytown to spend some quality time with Jon's sister who is visiting from California. We met up at their dad's place and piled in the car and it was off to...

... Stone Barns!

Stone Barns is a farm in Pocantico Hills mostly known for being the home of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, an amazing restaurant that uses the daily harvest from their farm (and other local farms as well) to create their daily multi-course tasting menus. Blue Hills is unique in the way they present you with your meal options. In short, you don't get any. Instead of choosing a dish from a menu, you are given a list of the day's harvest and from there it's up to the chefs – but I'd trust them!

I am saving my pennies for someday when I will have dinner there.

ANYWAYS, enough of Blue Hill and my piggy bank.

One of the many rolling pastures

Stone Barns is beautiful. I think it was originally part of Rockefeller's land in the 30's. Now it's a non-profit working 80-acre farm committed to raising public awareness about the benefits of sustainable food and farming practices, growing quality and responsible produce and livestock, and even providing internships for aspiring farmers. The property is open to the public most days and offers tours, classes, demonstrations and a farmers market.

Small lettuce & herb garden outside the hothouse

Well it's not called Stone Barns for nothin'

Fortunately for us, we brought along our own tour guide, Eric. Eric is Jon's 5-year old half brother and besides being blonde, he's a spitting image of Jon– huge melon and all.

Our tour guide leading us around the farm trails

He was especially enthusiastic about the turkeys.

What do you call a baby turkey anyways? A turklette?

I am now convinced that turkeys are zombies...

I did feel that perhaps our tour guide was a bit confused when it came to the Berkshire pigs though. When Jon exclaimed "that's some fiiiine looking bacon", Eric became huffy as he sternly set Jon straight. "No, Jonathan! PIGS ARE NOT BACON!" Hmmmmmmmm.

Pork butt. HAHAHAHA!
So he was removed from his tour guide position and placed back in the role of little brother.


Then it was on to the hothouse and beyond.

red onions hanging out in the hothouse

the secret to Stone Barns' success... CHIA!

itty bitty plant sprouts

Their hothouse was pretty neat. It had a retractable roof so on nice days, the plants could "go outside"

Guess what? A STONE BARN!

And then... yes. It was time to eat. We went to The Blue Hill Café, a little place on the grounds where visitors can pick up a fresh, quick lunch. Hey, it's from the Blue Hill kitchen, so I was excited!

Fresh grain salads, open faced sandwiches, chicken and frittatas were the offerings of the day

Onion and potato frittata, panzanella salad, and heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese on focaccia

Onion and corn on focaccia, pork and corn couscous, chicken, and panzanella salad
Ahhhh, fresh, tasty goodness. Everything tasted like it was right out of the ground and onto the plates. And again, with those summer tomatoes! This time paired with yet another one of my favorites, goat cheese.

Best part of the meal:

Me: Hmmm. I think my frittatas are better.
Jon: I think so too.

HA! Sherry: 1, Stone Barns: 0.

And then after a quick sweep through the farmers market (by quick I mean breakfast sausages, bacon, kohlrabi, red onions, fennel and a dreamy FRESH – like still warm from the oven  – blueberry galette from Red Barns Bakery), we were back in the car and on our way.

Talk about a free-range chicken!

Eric was kind enough to invite us over for a play date before we headed back to the city, so of course, we obliged him.

It was the least we could do in return for his wonderful tour guide services.

Coloring time

"Jonathan! Come in my tent!"

Friday, August 6, 2010

Crutches, Slings & Caramel Things

Remember that part about me playing derby?

Yeah, well it's not all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns as you may have imagined. Being a legit contact sport, there are injuries involved and the Derby Gods have decided that it was a good idea to saddle me with not one, but TWO bad ones right in a row. Remind me to send them a nice gift basket.

For the second half of June I was on crutches due to a torn tendon in my thigh sustained during the Mayhem vs Gridlock game.

Me at ECDX in June, watching my team roll to 2 awesome victories. Clearly, beer is a great pain medication.
(evidence courtesy of Hela Skelter)

Then, just as that was finishing healing up and the prospect of playing in the next All-Star game in July was looking strong, guess what? Here Pie! Have a separated shoulder! So, it was back to the sidelines for me, this time in a sling. (By the way, slings in July weather = very not fun.)

Obviously as you can imagine, these little annoyances made cooking quite the task for me. Precisely the reason why I keep a Jon around the house! I was more than willing to hand over the kitchen – dirty dishes and all – for a while, and despite my constant cries of making sure I eat healthy and light because I wasn't able to do any exercise, Jon made sure I got my fill of calories.

My favorite was definitely the caramel popcorn. Sweet, sticky, crunchy and gooey.

Not even done and it's already stuck in his teeth.

Break out the dental floss!

And, thanks to a 3-armed trip to the farmers market, he put up his first batch of garlic dill pickles.

We got to eat a jar (well not the actual jar) two weekends back. They were garlicky with a perfect vinegar bite to them. Really snappy pickles! A big improvement from the batch last year, and I'm looking forward to more treats to spoil me from Jon in the kitchen! I could get used to this...

... but alas, the sling is long gone, I am four weeks into physical therapy and back to dirty dishes detail in the kitchen.

I'm feeling pretty strong and in shape thanks to some weight training, a bunch of brutal spinning workouts and many many (also brutal) protein shakes to help my muscles rebuild and strengthen from my injuries. I just got cleared to start skating again without physical contact next week and things are looking up!

I owe it all to the caramel popcorn. Thank you for coating my misfortune (and teeth) in sugary goodness. I hope we meet again, sans medical aides.

Oh, and Jon, thanks for doing the dishes.

Adhesive mustache kiss at ECDX!
(picture by Hela Skelter)

Monday, August 2, 2010

World's Largest Yard Sale!

Well, it was another fun-filled weekend at Danna homebase. No time for slow-cooked barbecue this time though (although I did get up early enough), because I was chest deep in 28 years worth of unwanted stuff that has been accumulating throughout two bedrooms, a spare room and the attic. Now multiply that by two parents, two grandparents and three children living in one house, then invite your cousins from down the street to join in, and there you have it: the World's Largest Yard Sale!

Talking Austin Powers cutout definitely attracted passers-by. P.S. Not for sale!

Ok, fine. So maybe it wasn't the world's largest yard sale – it was pretty huge though – but it was definitely the most eclectic... the family Danna is pretty colorful!

A portion of the shoes, dating all the way back to – gasp! – the 90's! Boy, were there some um, interesting ones.

It was great to go through the attic though. Lots of long lost treasures have been suffocating away up there and it was good to see them and either give them new life at the sale/Salvation Army or to hug them up and into your bedroom again.....

Some of our old toys. I had a hard time parting with my old Fisher Price stuff which was still in near perfect condition with all their pieces. A little boy and his mom bought the farm (HA!) and I caved in and kept the brown house... and the sheep from the farm, my favorite piece. His name is now "Chops".

Dad's old 8-tracks. Look closely. There is some great rock and, um, Barbara Streisand. Everyone wanted to buy them, but nobody had a way to play them!

This Santa is as old as I am. Except somebody colored in his face wrinkles with a purple marker, so he was better off entertaining from the bushes.



If anyone ever wonders where I get my personality, here's my dad demonstrating the glider to some interested customers.

Although it was a loooong, busy day, I did find some time to take a stroll through my favorite part of the property to grab myself a little snack-a-roo.

Hello little tasty squash blossom!

I am absolutely obsessed with summer tomatoes right off the vine. They are one of my favorite foods in the entire world... simply a fresh picked tomato and a pinch of salt. It's like you can taste the sunshine in them. I pout and pass by sandy, pale, tasteless supermarket tomatoes all year in anticipation for summer to roll around and these awesome flavor bombs to ripen. A supermarket tomato can't even hold a candle to a fresh in season one.

Tomato and basil leaf. Picked 30 seconds prior.

And then, right back to work!

Enticing potential customers with some choice sale items.