Monthly Archives: September 2012

Think Before You Speak (in Idioms)

(So sorry about the delay on this post, guys. SO much going on these days.)

Last weekend was really busy. Caro was preparing to move cities and into her very first apartment, and Lauren was in the throes of traveling back to our semi-native St. Louis for a visit. But, not to worry! Here at Cooking with Copy, we’re always thinking of and searching for new material to educate and entertain. In fact, Lauren’s latest, delightful (read: not even a little) airport journey included some experiences that provided the inspiration for this week’s lesson.

Two colleagues—a man and a woman—were standing behind Lauren in the security line. Due to the volume of their conversation, Lauren had the misfortune to hear this:

Man wearing sunglasses indoors: “(something about another colleague)”
Woman trying to sound intelligent: “He flew off the cuff!”

Out flew Lauren’s phone, with which she texted Caro about this verbal violation.

Perhaps the woman in line meant that the colleague flew off the handle. Or that he made an off-the-cuff remark. In any case, we can all agree on one thing: to fly off the cuff is not a thing.

This airport conversation brings us to our grammar lesson of the week. Welcome to Episode 1 of “Idioms and Their Misuse” (because enough misspoken idioms have crept into people’s vocabularies that we will, inevitably, need future posts to address all the one’s we’ve heard).

First, we’ll tell you a little of what we know about idioms. Idioms are not clichés. The difference, though, is difficult to elucidate. Clichés are hackneyed expressions, used by so many in the past that they’re now used as shortcuts—as pre-thought-out ways of saying something so that the writer doesn’t have to come up with his or her own unique phrasing. But that, as Caro can attest, is a topic for another day. Caro can also attest that she is actually really excited about that day. “I love clichés more than life itself!” she says. “I mean, not really. But see what I did there? Ha.” Anyway, according to Merriam-Webster, an idiom is a phrase peculiar (yes, not particular but peculiar) to a set of people, or a dialect.

Now, Lauren will tell you that if you’re going to use an idiom, you should be sure that you understand the meaning behind it so that you know what you’re saying and are capable of using the idiom correctly.

Caro, on the other hand, will admit that she rarely traces idioms back to their origins and just memorizes them and uses them only after she has heard enough other people use them that she can repeat them with some level of certainly that she is saying something that makes sense. (Phew, that was a long sentence. Sorry.)

Regardless of how you choose to verify the correctness of an idiom you’re about to use, please do verify. You might be surprised by the actual correct versions of some idioms you are absolutely sure you have right…

For example, Caro spent the better part of her life convinced that something deeply rooted could be described as “deep-seeded.” She figured seeds are deep in the ground… you know, it made sense. WRONG. The idiom is actually “deep-seated.” Deep-seated ideas, deep-seated traditions, etc.

In our best efforts to help you incorporate the proper versions of idioms into your daily vocabs, we’ve provided a list here of some common idioms and the ways they are messed up. (Remember, though… Episode 1! There will be so, so many more.)

Idiom #1: For all intents and purposes
Way It’s Messed Up: For all intensive purposes
We’ve all heard this one. Even Microsoft Word spell/grammar check tries to correct the erroneous version. No intensive purposes to concern ourselves with here, friends. Three words. Intents AND purposes.

Idiom #2: Home in on
Way It’s Messed Up: Hone in on
We’re not sure what to say here. We were pretty sure “hone in on” was correct. Just goes to show you should always Google an idiom before you use it and make sure you’re led to some reliable sources. (“Hone in on” is so common it’s practically considered correct, but we’re sticklers, so we’ll side with “home” on this one.)

Idiom #3: Pore over
Way It’s Messed Up: Pour over
This is Caro’s BIGGEST idiom-error pet peeve ever. She vents: “UGH. You guys. You PORE over a book. I am not sure why. But I know you do not POUR over a book. Pour what?! You pour syrup over your pancakes. You do not pour anything over your books. Unless, well, you do… but that’s just weird.” If you are carefully studying or looking through something, you are poring over it. Easy. Please remember this.

Alright. That’s enough for today. We’ll leave you with this video that has kept Caro in stitches (another idiom!) for most of this Friday evening. Have a laugh, and have a good weekend!

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Caro: Breakfast Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes and White Cheddar

Let me preface this post by saying that if you are currently faced with a problem, the solution is probably breakfast pizza. Don’t believe me? Fine. I’ll prove it.

breakfast pizza with cherry tomatoes and white cheddar

See? Don’t you feel better already?! Alright. Onward.

Ok. Lately, I have been all. over. the. place. I drove up to Tampa this past Saturday and started the process of moving into a lovely little studio apartment that I get to call home for the next 6 months. In these past few days, I have realized that there exists a considerable disparity between my dream life (how things would happen in my most ideal of situations) and my real life (how things actually play out… ideal situations be damned). Let me illustrate.

Dream life: Drive up to Tampa on Saturday, buy furniture on Saturday, build it on Sunday morning (with Dad’s help), put stuff away Sunday evening/night after parents are gone, wake up on Monday morning all nice and refreshed and accomplished.
Real life: Drive up to Tampa on Saturday, buy some furniture, crash, wake up on Sunday, exchange some furniture and buy some more, run errands into the night, build furniture until 2 a.m., pass out. Wake up at 8 a.m. to greet the internet/cable guy.

Dream life: Spend Monday-Friday walking around Tampa, lounging by the pool, and making use of the fitness center in my apartment complex, since everything is purchased, organized, and in its rightful place.
Real life: Spend all of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday running the errands and buying the things I forgot about over the weekend. Status as of Wednesday afternoon: Everything I brought from Miami or bought here is still on the floor.

Dream life: Spend the time in my apartment marveling at how very clean and new and nice it is.
Real life: Take a nap and wake up to the tickles of a family of ants crawling up my arm. Run to the bathroom to wash those suckers down the sink, only to find a dead cockroach on the floor.

Yep. It’s been a long few days over here. Given that, I was so excited to make something for my tomato week post. I figured it’d take my mind off everything left to be done and just let me focus on eating some delicious food.

Now, I’m really not a big fan of raw tomatoes… I do not understand those people who claim the little red guys are nature’s most perfect creations and insist that there is nothing better than biting into a ripe, juicy tomato. To be honest, the idea of doing that kind of makes me cringe. Cooked tomatoes, on the other hand, I love. I wanted a tomato-centric recipe for this post for obvious reasons. Enter roasted tomato soup as adapted from Bon Appetit by Deb of Smitten Kitchen. Unfortunately, the dream life/real life disparity crept right into my Tuesday evening. See here:

Dream life: Cook for the blog, since cooking relieves stress and is super fun. It’s tomato week, so I’ll make roasted tomato soup! So yum. I’ll eat the leftovers for days. Perfect.
Real life: 1. Set off the smoke alarm by preheating the oven to 400 degrees for tomato-roasting purposes. 2. Spill half my bottle of olive oil over the tomatoes in the lamest-ever attempt to drizzle. 3. Find that, despite my following the recipe to the letter, my “tomato soup” is really just a pot of chicken stock with an awkwardly separated mass of pureed roasted tomatoes on top. No, thank you.

Fail. I turned off the stove and just left the so-called soup there. I didn’t even wash dishes or anything. Super sad. I just went to sleep. Whatever.

Then I woke up today, Wednesday morning, with no food for the blog and no tomato soup for breakfast 😦 . And I realized I had a ball of Trader Joe’s pizza dough in the fridge with a sell-by date of… today. And tomatoes go on pizza! SO I MADE PIZZA!

I know tomatoes are not the key ingredient here. Sorry not sorry. It’s PIZZA, you guys. Don’t complain.

Pizza is, like, my favorite food ever. Even bad pizza is still bread, cheese, (cooked) tomato, and toppings. HELLO. You cannot mess this up. AND, since it was before 11 a.m., I made BREAKFAST pizza. If you don’t think pizza can get any better, put an egg on it. Just. do. it.

breakfast pizza with cherry tomatoes and white cheddar

And, just so you know, real life was totally in action here, too. As in, I forgot to pack my rolling pin… so instead of being the very picture of domestic-ness, I got to roll out my pizza dough with an empty bottle of cava. Yes. I really did that.

Real life. It is always going to happen. But… if the worst of your problems amount to a messy apartment, annoying insects, and kitchen-tool-related improvisation… life is pretty darn good.

So, take deep breaths, think happy thoughts, shrug off them worries, eat pizza. Repeat.

breakfast pizza with cherry tomatoes and white cheddar

Today was a good day.

Click here for the recipe!

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Lauren: (Heirloom) Tomato Stacks with Bocconcini and Kale Pesto

I arrived home from a trip to St. Louis last night and immediately began scouring cookbooks for something delicious to do with this week’s item—tomatoes (yay!). Some time around midnight, while snug in my bed, I came across this recipe for tomatoes with mozzarella and a kale pesto and could hardly wait for lunch today. The dish involved so many of my favorite things: pesto, kale, garlic, Parmesan cheese, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, that I naively assumed there was no way it could go wrong. While it didn’t go wrong per se, in the end it just wasn’t really my kind of thing.

Yes, I did tweak the recipe, which came from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook, but only ever so slightly. First, I used some tomatoes sold on the vine instead of heirlooms because I couldn’t find them. Next, I added roughly an 1/8 of teaspoon more salt and an additional 1/8 cup of parmesan to the pesto. Yet, when I finished this whole process and tried it, I found the taste of walnuts overwhelming (but, I’m never really one for nuts in my pesto), while my mother was upset that she couldn’t taste the nuts at all and was instead overwhelmed by garlic. Neither of us loved it, but it was a fine lunch. Fine being the operative word.

Keep in mind that my dissatisfaction might be influenced by my recent influx of allergies. After the first few bites of this dish, I could think of nothing but my apparently walnut-aggravated allergies and now-stuffy nose.

Some ways to improve this salad of sorts may be to replace the walnuts with pine nuts to make it more of a classic pesto, to use smaller garlic cloves, or to forget this recipe all together and make my favorite lunchtime standby: the tomato and fresh mozzarella salad.

For my salad there are no measurements, and for that matter, unlike a typical caprese, no basil. Just cut up a few really red tomatoes and some balls of mozzarella into bite-sized pieces, then douse the whole thing with unmeasured amounts of apple cider vinegar and olive oil, topped with a sprinkle of salt. Yum.

In case you’d like to try the namesake recipe of this post and tweak it your own way, behold:

Sprouted Kitchen‘s heirloom tomato stacks with bocconcini and kale pesto (with Lauren’s notes added in)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 small bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale, stemmed and chopped (about 4 cups)

2 cloves garlic

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus another handful if you like cheese)

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts

2 tablespoons water

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 to 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes (about 4 large tomatoes)—or, if you’re me, a bunch of smaller tomatoes a little larger than a golf ball

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon (or you know, if you aren’t in the business of eating artisanal salt (i.e. me), whatever you have on hand will be just fine)

1 cup small mozzarella balls (baby bocconcini or pearline), drained

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Recipe:

Wash, de-stem, and roughly chop your kale. Boil a pot of salted water, then quickly blanch the kale leaves until they turn bright green, which is about 30 seconds to a minute, then drain the leaves and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. After that, squeeze all the water out. I first pressed the leaves into the bottom of the colander, then removed the solid block of kale leaves and squeezed them between paper towels until they were pretty dry. You should end up with about 1 and 1/2 cups of kale.

In a food processor combine the garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and walnuts and pulse them. Then add the kale, water, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and pulse again to combine. Then turn the processor on and drizzle in the olive oil until you have the desired consistency. Sprouted Kitchen says to avoid making the pesto too thick since you’ll have to sort of marinade the mozzarella in it, but I like a thicker sauce so I added just slightly less than 1/4 cup of olive oil to mine. Then combine them all by pulsing.

Next, slice the tomatoes and place the slices in a bowl. Drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil on top and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt flakes. I massaged the tomatoes to ensure full coverage in olive oil.

In a separate bowl, toss the balls of mozzarella with 1/2 cup of pesto.

To assemble the whole thing, put a dollop of pesto in the middle of a dish, then layer about three tomato slices (I took some liberties here as you can see in the photo) on top of the pesto, interspersed by a few pieces of mozzarella and repeat with remaining ingredients. Sprinkle each plate with a bit of Parmesan and serve at room temperature.

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We could have come up with a better post title…

Welcome to what might be the least amusingly digressive post to grace the digital pages of Cooking with Copy. We apologize in advance. (Perhaps, though, you’ve been waiting for a break from our rambling writings. In that case, you’re welcome.)

We could have made this a long post. You heard us correctly: could have. This brings us to this week’s lesson. We’re going to be quick and to-the-point here. We have sleeping and packing and readying for real life to do, so listen up:

You could HAVE done something. “Could have” is commonly abbreviated as “could’ve.” Now, many say and write “could of” thinking it means “could’ve,” presumably because they roll off the tongue quite similarly. However, as you’ll notice, “could of” doesn’t actually mean anything.

This is because “could”  in this whole context acts as a helping verb, and so it needs another verb to help. “Have” is that other verb. “Of” is most certainly not a verb at all, so it is definitely not that other verb.

Think about it. “I could of eaten an 8th slice of pizza.” What?!

Truly, that does not make sense.

Could’ve ≠ Could + of. We know they sound the same… we know. But they are not the same.

Could’ve = could + HAVE. NOT OF, PEOPLE!

Same goes for should and would. Should HAVE, would HAVE. NOT should of/would of. Like “could of,” the latter mean nothing and are nonsensical.

Capiche?

Until next week, this is the Grammar Odd Couple signing off. Please see this video for the entertainment we failed to provide in this post. And good luck getting that song out of your head. “Help-a help-a help-a the kiiids…”

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Caro: Open-Faced Peach Sliders with Goat Cheese and Basil

open-faced peach sliders with goat cheese and basil

Confession: This is totally not what I wanted to make for peach week.

For a long, long time, the mere mention of peaches has been sending me into a dreamlike state, rendering me momentarily immobile as visions of peach and crème fraîche pie dance in my head. I have wanted to make that pie forever. But I never have an occasion for it. So you’d think, then, that when an opportunity like an obligation to write a post about any peach-related food came along, I’d jump at the chance to finally, finally make my dreams come true… to open my oven and slide out my very own rendition of that beautiful pie.

Alas. Not in the cards.

You see, through a blessed combination of qualifications and good timing, I have managed to land a seasonal job that’s taking me to Tampa until March! And you know what? Although I am so, SO excited about this whole deal, I am also kind of sad, because, dude, I am watching money FLY out of my bank account at a truly alarming rate.

Rent here, deposits there… plus unforeseen expenses coming at me left and right. And I haven’t even bought a bed yet.

And that pie, well, its crust needs a whole lot of butter, and I wouldn’t settle for anything other than organic (and thus especially FRAGRANT, as a walk through any produce section will tell you) peaches, and crème fraîche doesn’t exist in Miami anywhere other than at Whole Foods, and…

Butter? Expensive.
Organic peaches? Expensive.
Crème fraîche at Whole Foods (or anything at Whole Foods, for that matter)? Expensive.
Caro, preparing for a cross-state move? Not willing to part with the cash monies necessary to fund this indulgent pie.

So, the other day, when my tummy rumbled to signal the arrival of lunchtime, I ventured to Publix on a mission: lunch, under $5, incorporating a peach.

I took it as a sign of good things to come that upon entering the store, I saw, directly to the right of the door, a huge display of super-gorgeous organic peaches. I picked the prettiest one and went on my merry way.

I wandered up and down the aisles rather aimlessly, and I eventually made it to the dairy section. Where I found goat cheese… on sale! Snagged that. Then I ended up in the bakery section, where the just-baked baguettes made it pretty clear that some sort of sandwich was happening. I grabbed a warm baguette and decided to get some basil. Peach + basil = a really good thing.

Guys, guess what. My Publix doesn’t carry fresh basil. I mean, what?! Maybe it’s my neighborhood. I don’t know… do my fellow Hispanic people not consume basil? I was so confused. Whatever. To the checkout lane.

Total? $5.12. Close enough!

By the time I got home, I had a plan. I sliced/buttered/broiled some baguette and caramelized some peach slices (with dried basil, smh). I topped each toasty baguette slice with a bunch of the peach slices, and I sprinkled much goat cheese over top. Voila! Open-faced peach sliders with goat cheese and (kind of) basil.

open-faced peach sliders with goat cheese and basil

Listen. I don’t even know what to say. These were incredible (to me). Well, they were kind of confusing at first. I mean, the crusty bread and the goat cheese made me feel like I was eating a legitimate, sandwich-like meal… but the peaches! The sweet, spicy, buttery, slightly brightened-by-the-basil peaches. Total dessert material. What exactly was I eating? All I know is that I ended up eating the first two I made before I could even turn on my camera. So I made two more and actually photographed them. And then I ate those, too. If lunch and dessert got married and had stunning little children, those children would be these sliders. Who doesn’t want dessert built into his/her meal?!

open-faced peach sliders with goat cheese and basil

So let’s review what these have going for them: DELECTABLE, cheap, super easy to make, sophisticated enough to serve to others, and sweet as dessert while substantial as lunch. Perfect? Yeah, I thought so, too. Get to peachin’.

Click here for the recipe!

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Lauren: Fresh-Peach Drop Cookies

Martha Stewart’s Cookies is my boyfriend replacement. Seriously (sorry Chris, this is what happens when you’re 300 miles away). I take this book to bed (where it is with me right now) to induce sweet dreams, I pull it out on rainy days for a little fun, and I spend quiet hours with it during long car rides. You’d think after years of perusal I’d have memorized all the recipes, but no! That’s the best part! Each flip through the book seems to result in a new craving for a new cookie, that somehow went unnoticed before. Last week I flipped through and was suddenly struck by a new desire, one for a cakey cookie.

I was on the tennis team during my freshman year of high school. Each member of the freshman team was matched with a “big sister” from the junior varsity or varsity teams with whom she would exchange snacks and little gifts prior to each tournament. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have the slightest clue as to the name of my big sister, but she did leave me with this lasting memory: her cakey chocolate chip cookies. The first time we exchanged she gave me these, and while I didn’t even like them, I ate every single one because they were cookies and they were there. I’m still angry about the waste of calories ingested and to this day hate cakey cookies because they remind me of this culinary travesty.

See, I like my cookies chewy or crunchy. I like cake when it’s not overly sweet, but not in my cookies. And do not even get me started on soft cookies. I hate them. So, it was out of character for me to decide on these last week. But, with all the talk of fresh peach ice cream and peach caprese salads and such, it seemed like a delicious and seasonal idea, and one my peach-loving parents might help me polish off. Bonus: plans to visit my grandma and cousins in Indiana materialized—yet another opportunity to share! Plus I just really like making food for my grandma.

The recipe was very straight-forward and easy. The finishing touch? The recipe calls for a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar atop the dough balls before popping in the oven. I baked them a little longer to ensure they were done, and the cookies became fluffy, muffin top-like clouds of deliciousness that I can’t stop eating. They are indeed cakey but not in an undercooked kind of way like those of my big sister. They’re quite peachy in flavor, and the cinnamon sugar sprinkling adds nice warmth. As predicted, I brought them to my cousins’ football game in Indiana where we munched on them throughout the entire 50-degree night game. They were a big hit despite the upsetting game score (my cousins’ team lost 41-0), and there was even talk of a second batch immediately following the first.

If you made it this far, you deserve a treat, courtesy of my friend, Eileen. I’m going to go have another cookie.

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Caps On, Caps Off

We’re on the cusp of fall. Well, at least Lauren is, in Chicago. Caro, on the other hand, will tell you that Miami is doing anything but cooling off.

“Here,” Caro explains, “fall, winter, spring, and summer basically equate to summer, slightly less-intense summer, summer, and oh-my-goodness-I-can’t-leave-my-house-for-fear-of-going-up-in-flames summer, respectively. Ugh.”

Anyhow, as social media outlets are blowing up as people celebrate the long-awaited arrival of fall’s crisp evenings and bonfire-scented air, we’re reminded that seasons often suffer from improper capitalization. It seems like a fitting time for a refresher on some time-of-year-related capitalization rules people just can’t seem to wrap their heads around, doesn’t it?

Caps on, caps off! (To the tune of this, of course.)

Let’s go ahead and start with seasons. While fall, winter, spring, and summer might seem like momentous, specific events—ones celebrated by solstices and skipping around maypoles—they are not actually proper nouns. Winter is not a holiday; spring is not a place. The point is the following: Please stop capitalizing seasons!

Days of the week? Keep ‘em in caps (well, the first letter, anyway). Holidays? Sure. But you all need to quit it with the shift key when it comes to the seasons.

Next topic! Since we mentioned holidays, let’s talk a little about those. The writing out of holiday names seems to reveal a commitment issue other than the kind we girls commonly (and perhaps unfairly?) accuse the men in our lives of having (sorry, guys). A capitalization commitment issue, if you will.

Scouring internet holiday references yields mentions of “Valentine’s day,” “New Year’s eve,” and other such offenses. It’s as if the guilty start off loving capital letters, but then doubt rolls into their minds. “Do I really like them? Are they worth keeping around? Maybe we need some time apart.” And so we end up with holiday names gone wrong. We’re here to say that, in this case, you shouldn’t be afraid of commitment! Commit to capitalization for holidays, friends. In other words, people celebrate Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Columbus Day, Christmas Eve, etc. And Halloween and Easter, of course, but we assume you’re all pretty clear on those.

The last rule we picked to round out our capitalization discussion today is one that completely surprised us. We’ll start like this: Raise your hand if you say “Daylight Savings Time” and write it out just like that, capital letters and all. Before researching this topic, Lauren and Caro would have definitely had their arms proudly waving in the air, proclaiming, “Of course, that’s correct!” Well, on this day, our worlds have been shaken, albeit mildly.

When we took to the internet to verify that “Daylight Savings Time” was correct before sharing it with you, we discovered that we were wrong. About two things. (Caro would like to take a moment to point out how well this applies to the situation.) First of all, nothing in the phrase is capitalized! And secondly, we must drop the second s of the second word. That’s right, people. The correct way to write it all out is “daylight saving time.”

Actually, some debate exists over whether to place a hyphen between daylight and saving. The pro-hyphen side sees the words “daylight” and “saving” as forming a compound modifier that describes time. Caro has now enthusiastically declared herself a member of the hyphen-supporting set, as she inexplicably really enjoys compound modifiers. She is also willing to bet that the no-hyphen side is more apathetic than actually convinced there is a specific reason to omit the hyphen. Despite being a fan of compound modifiers in general, Lauren favors the non-hyphenated version, as Caro suspected, out of pure indifference. She just might change her mind, though, so keep tabs on this groundbreaking development as it occurs.

So choose freely between daylight-saving time and daylight saving time. Just remember: no capital letters, and no savings.

That’s all we have for you today regarding capitalization. The only other thing we can offer is this song, which is catchier than the common flu and is currently stuck in our heads. We’re spreading the love. Enjoy!

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Caro: Mattar “Paneer”

Let’s talk about fears. I have so many of them. Mine include, but are not limited to:

Being in the presence of mushrooms, cows, or big dogs
Sleeping in total darkness
Driving next to an absurd 16-wheeler on the highway (Even worse: driving between two of them. Cannot deal.)
NEEDLES (Doctors everywhere know me as “that 22-year-old who cries then often passes out.”)
Having people yell at me

And, unfortunately…

Trying new foods.

The rest of them are whatever, but that last one totally sucks. I can just generally avoid things like making people angry and hanging out in grazing pastures, but avoid trying new foods? Why me? It’s not like I want to be all weird about eating things I didn’t grow up with. I just can’t help it. Couple this trepidation with the fact that I am one of the pickiest eaters (like, ever), and “new foods” becomes… pretty darn close to everything.

Trust, it is no fun to be a passionate lover of food who only actually loves a few things (albeit loves them a LOT) and is afraid to venture out of her culinary comfort zone. I mean, I really think a dish with not-exactly-bold flavors (lemon! olive oil! butter!) can be 1000x the sum of its parts when executed well and with quality ingredients (and love), but sometimes I want to be that person who saves up for dinner at a fancy-schmancy restaurant, sits down to a 12-course tasting menu, and eats up every last bite of sweetbreads and caviar with gusto. Alas. Maybe someday.

But I am trying to change. And I’ve been thinking a lot about taking risks lately. So how perfect, then, that when we chose peas as our theme for week 2, the first thing I thought to make was something that kind of represents one of my first ventures into the Land of Exciting Eats: mattar paneer. Indian food!

Indian food was one of the first foreign things I dared to try. When I was… 17. I was spending the summer at Cornell for an architecture program, and my friends there wanted to go to an Indian restaurant. “Sure!” I said out loud. (“WHAT am I going to eat?!” I said to myself.) Someone told me to start with chicken pakora off the kids’ menu. I cut off a corner of the nugget, picked it up with my fork, did that thing where you squeeze your eyes shut and open one just a teensy bit to look at what you’re about to eat and then look around the table before closing your eyes again, and went for it. AND! I did not cry or hate it or pass out. Go figure. It was wonderful, duh. “Wow!” I thought. “A whole new world.” I was excited enough to steal some bites of my friend’s butter chicken. Umm, sold.

I’ve eaten lots and lots of Indian dishes since then. Not a big deal to most, but exciting for me. Mattar paneer is special not only because it’s become one of my favorites, but also because it’s the first Indian meal I ever made for myself.

mattar paneer!

It’s somewhat time-consuming (and dirties quite a few dishes/pans), but it is easy, super forgiving, and crazy delicious. And eating it always makes me feel just a little more bold. I think I’ll even shut off my nightlight tonight.

mattar paneer

Dear photography skills: Please develop soon. I promise that bite was way yummier than it looks.

Click here for the recipe!

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Lauren: Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy

I love cheese. It’s just something you should know about me. So when this week’s pea theme came around, I was lost in dreams of a goat cheese and pea spread that I (falsely? Can someone find this recipe?) remembered seeing in a cooking magazine from this past year. Yes, I could’ve simply tried my hand at creating said recipe from my imagination, but the rule-follower in me continued on her quest for an equally delicious recipe with instructions she could follow. The final two contenders were Jamie Oliver’s Cheesy Peas by way of Martha Stewart aaannnd, well, Jamie Oliver’s Mushy Peas by way of my FAAAVORITE PODCAST EVER, Spilled Milk. Caro told me about the podcast last summer while I was interning, and I listened to every episode almost every day of my eight-week-long stint. If you doubt my enthusiasm for the comedic tag team of Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg, just ask my parents. Every single time they walk into a room in which I happen to be, Spilled Milk is on. My mom has started calling them my friends. Maybe it’s the post-grad ennui; maybe it’s because they are my new best friends since mine have scattered across the country. But whichever it is, they’re on so frequently that my parents have started inadvertently memorizing the episodes.

Anyway, the duo recorded an episode all about peas where an angry Francis Lam ranted about the legume and his recipe for the mushy variety. It was the only pea recipe I could easily recall, so I looked it up. I don’t like onions (present in the mushy variety), and the thought of food-processed peas was less than appealing, so the moment I saw the cheese in the cheesy peas, the hunt was over.

Making them was easy-peasy. (See what I did there?) You boil some water with an unmeasured amount of salt in it, throw in the peas, drain the peas but save 4 tablespoons of the cooking water and add it back into the pot with the peas after draining, flip the heat to medium and add an entire TABLESPOON of butter and 1/4 cup of parmesan, mix the pot until the peas are coated, turn off the heat, throw in an unmeasured amount of chopped mint leaves with half a lemon’s worth of juice, and call it a day.

The peas were in this unappealing white sauce of melted butter and cheese by the end which was so watery that I just drained most of it. Leaving it at the bottom of the dish of peas may have increased the flavor, the lack of which is one of my complaints with this recipe, but I didn’t miss it. Upon first taste all I could think about was my friend Alexa, two Halloweens ago. Caro, Alexa, our other friend Johanna, and I dressed up as characters from the board game Candyland. Alexa was dressed as a girly incarnation of Mr. Mint, the candycane man from the game, and her favorite thing to do that night was exclaim, “I’m Mr. Mint!” at every possible moment. When I put the minty concoction in my mouth, “I’m Mr. Mint!” came instantly to mind. The most potent flavor in the recipe is the mint, followed by the zingy lemon. The peas were still snappy in texture, not mushy, which I liked, but the butter was so difficult to detect that it seemed unnecessary. I would have preferred more cheese instead of butter, and for the cheese to have been added later to ensure it didn’t melt and sink to the depths of the bowl. To combat this problem I added more cheese on top, because, as I said, I love cheese.

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To Care, or Not To Care?

Let’s broach the subject of caring. Sometimes you care a lot, and sometimes you barely care. At times you care so very little that, in fact, you could not possibly care any less. Care = zero.

So it should be obvious, then, that the phrase you would utter would be, simply, “I couldn’t care less.” Easy, right?! Not for everyone.

Lauren offers her take on the situation: “If I hear one more person butcher this phrase by saying, “I could care less,” I will physically make him or her care less. I believe what you are trying to say, you nincompoops, is that you COULDN’T CARE LESS!”

Caro’s opinions on the matter usually take shape much less eloquently. Upon hearing someone say, “I could care less,” she tends to make any of a series of frustrated sounds (like “ughhh!” or “arggghhh” or “skdksjwhejdxf”), run around in circles (arms flailing, no doubt), and yell, “SO YOU DOOO CARE!” Ok, maybe that’s what she does in her mind. In real life, the reaction is more like intense judging eyes.

Cleary, the misuse of this phrase makes us a little loopy. We’re out to make things right.

So, just for you, Lauren has created a hypothetical conversation and accompanying rant to help illustrate the issue:

Sally: “I really like green jello, and there are tiny blue men running around my house.”
Billy: “I could care less.”
Sally: “Aw thanks! That’s so sweet that you care!”

THAT, PEOPLE, IS WHAT SAYING “I COULD CARE LESS” ACTUALLY MEANS! It means you DO care and could possibly care less than you do. Instead, Billy should have said:

Billy: “Frankly, Sally, I couldn’t care less about your schizophrenia or passion for gelatinous desserts, but can we go to the movies now?”

BOOM.

Caro’s response to Lauren’s rant: “I like how Billy has diagnosed Sally with schizophrenia.”
Lauren says: “Oh? I couldn’t care less.”

So there you have it. Now you can confidently go forth and properly express whether you do or don’t care. If you DO care, you COULD care less. If you DON’T, the proper phrase is: “I couldn’t care less.”

Lesson #1 is complete. Over and out.

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