September 17, 2008

Ike food: part 4

Sunday morning. 7 AM. Saturday night reminded me of Father Justin's homily during our wedding, during which he commented that snuggling with your spouse must one of life's great joys -- unless it is hot, in which case all bets are off. I am seriously happy to wake up to cool temperatures and heavy rain, because sleeping in while it is raining is one of my favorite things ever. Never mind breakfast. Sleep.

10:30 AM. Coffee and leftover coffee cake. The pear I had planned to eat was squashed beyond recognition. Desperately hoping electricity would be restored. I make, I mean ask, Mark fan me with the top of the Scrabble box.

Lunch. Grilled Muenster cheese and tomato sandwiches. Handful of almonds. No power.

Early afternoon. Our friends who live nearby generously allowed us to come over to recharge our cell phones, laptops, and ourselves in the comfort of A/C. We left to go help a friend clean up her yard and, upon returning to our apartment, found power was restored. Hooray!

Evening. After reading online that many grocery stores won't have fresh food for awhile, I decide against running to the store for fresh ingredients. Dinner is very simple, homely, and restorative soup made of fava beans in their own broth, carrot, celery, garlic, chile, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

We ate our soup and drank wine and reflected on the weekend. We decided our first natural disaster experienced as a married couple was kind of nice, in its own way! We can depend on each other and work together to make anything fun. Next time, however, we will definitely have a battery-operated fan.

September 15, 2008

Ike food: part 3

Saturday morning, very early. Trouble is afoot; trees are down everywhere we look, there is no power, water quality is suspect, and Mark can't get his trusty camping stove to work. The prospect of not having hot coffee is worrisome, not to mention all my romantic plans to use the camping stove to make hot food the rest of the weekend.

Of course, Mark comes through --I didn't doubt him for a second, except for the 10 minute period when the stove is sputtering and our apartment begins to smell strongly of gas. Thanks to my Eagle Scout husband, we have hot coffee and reheated waffles (made and frozen last weekend) for breakfast. We boil water on the stove and use a Vietnamese coffee filter to make very good, very strong coffee. After breakfast, we transfer all the perishable food and lots of ice blocks to a cooler.

Saturday, early afternoon. Morale is high, despite all the destruction outside. We slice into the bread Mark had baked on Thursday in especial preparation for hurricane sandwiches.

A stash of bacon, sprouts, and a tomato means we can make BLT's, mine smeared with harissa. Good with cold bottles of Czechvar beer.

Saturday, late afternoon. We move errant tree branches out of the street, sweep the common area free of debris and leaves, play cards, drink more beer, and spy on our neighbors to pass the time. Three mid-20s dudes stroll to the pool and blast their unfortunate taste in music (Nickleback, help). Like we aren't traumatized enough?

Saturday evening. Morale is low. Hot. Muggy. We turn our energy to making dinner and happily realize our pantry allows us to make pasta puttanesca. We saute garlic and chile flakes in olive oil before adding canned tomatoes, anchovy paste, chopped olives, and capers. After the sauce has cooked down, it smells amazing and looks like this:

We toss the sauce with penne and drink a bottle of merlot. We watch the sun set. Afterwards, we eat blueberry frozen yogurt and play Scrabble by candelight. Houston has never been so dark, or so quiet.

Ike food: part 2

Friday, early evening. Lights are flickering, but our power is hanging on. Mark decides it would be tragic to let 1 egg and 1 tub of sour cream go to waste. Thumbing through Joy of Cooking, he seizes on a recipe for coffee cake. He is perpetually searching for the mythical coffee cake of his youth, made with love by his grandmother. Joy's version is not it. Yet, with a hot cup of coffee, it is just the thing to soothe my worries as nearby tree branches whip around more forcefully than I am comfortable with.

Friday, late evening. Hurricane talk is dominating all the HD broadcasts (except for that terrible show with Charlie Sheen and Ducky from Pretty in Pink which, inexplicably, is on all the time). Something comforting is in order for dinner: basmati rice; curried butternut squash; corn sautéed with scallion, ginger, and coriander; and green beans sautéed with onion and cumin seeds. Heavy on the carbs is good for stress eating.

After a few glasses of Harpoon IPA, we go to bed, sated and ready for whatever Ike would bring us.

September 14, 2008


I have heard from many of you --thanks! Mark and I are fine and our friends and family are safe. We woke early Saturday morning to exploding transformers, showers of light, and the scary sound of electrical arcs. Here are some pictures from Saturday afternoon:

Despite the craziness of this storm, Mark and I had fun using our reserves and cooking meals on the camping stove from Mark's Eagle Scout days in Washington state. I'll be posting some of the pictures later.

September 12, 2008

Ike Food: part 1

In the face of widespread power outages predicted for tonight, I woke up, called my family to let them know our plans, and put my energy towards creatively using up all the perishable food in our refrigerator and freezer. It has actually been pretty fun - who knew the french fries hiding behind our ice cube maker could be put to such good use? This is my first segment of what I'll call Ike Food, also known as living off our reserves.

We started with brunch. I took stock and found bacon, 4 eggs, frozen french fries (excellent to satiate midnight cravings), 1 red bell pepper, 1 onion, frozen berries, and limes.

The solution: French fry hash with chopped bell pepper and onion, seasoned with smoked hot paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper, and served with a fried egg and lots of homemade hot sauce. We usually do hash with regular potatoes or sweet potatoes, but the frozen french fries (baked, then chopped, then crisped in a skillet on the stove) worked pretty well. The potatoes were smoky and spicy and the peppers lent a touch of sweetness. You know the best part about a hash, right? Breaking the yolk and letting it mix with everything else. Diner food at its best.

Also, since school and work were canceled and we were potentially facing 80mph winds, peripheral tornadoes, falling pine trees, and the possibility of not having coffee tomorrow morning... making frozen margaritas seemed to be as good an idea as any! I make margaritas with equal parts lime juice, good tequila, and triple sec and, this time, I topped off the blender with ice and all of our frozen blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Excessive? Yes. But so delicious.

As long as we have internet access, I'll be posting our food adventures. We still have butternut squash, corn, green beans, sour cream, bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and other items to use up... can we do it??

September 5, 2008

chocolate chip cookie emergency? look no further

No, I didn't drop off the edge of the planet: I made a quick trip to visit my family and started my new job (which is going really great so far!). I have been adapting to my new schedule (i.e. joining all of you productive members of society in arising before 9AM) and blogging has taken a back seat. But, in a sneaky ploy to regain your attention, I'm going to have to resort to this:

I am 100% certain that posting my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe is probably quite unnecessary, given that everyone should already have their favorite version memorized or at least copied in a safe place. (If you already have your own recipe, feel free to ignore me.) But. If you are making your way through life without a ridiculously good chocolate chip cookie recipe, this is just for you.

Until last year, I was one of those people who relied on Nestle Tollhouse's wan, boring, inexplicably ubiquitous cookies for my fix. Thank goodness for my sister, is all I have to say. She brought these cookies to share with Mark and me and I am not exaggerating when I say I was gobsmacked by how great they were. These were the chocolate chip cookies of my dreams, the kind you wish were cooling on a rack when you got home from school (or work) on a bad day: chewy, chubby, tons of caramelized brown sugar flavor, and kissed with enough salt that the chocolate tastes richer.

You need more good news? They are a snap to make. Using an electronic scale (hooray for baking by weight!) and our stand mixer, I can have the dough ready in 5-6 minutes. With the baking time at 18 minutes, you could be eating warm cookies with a glass of milk in less than half an hour. Seriously.

Great Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from David Lebovitz)
Yields about 20 cookies.

My main tweak to this incredible recipe is to double the salt. I also omit the nuts because they don't do anything for me.

Oh, and despite my statement that you could have cookies ready in 30 minutes, well, I have another tiny piece of advice. Wait. Based on a recent NYTimes article, we have started to let our dough rest overnight. The article advances the opinion that letting the dough rest overnight allows the flour to better absorb all the liquid and makes for better texture and flavor. We have tried this a few times and I completely agree: they are worth the wait.
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
  • 1 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet for extra chocolate punch, but semisweet is great too - sweeter and less intense)
  • 1 cup (130 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

Adjust the oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 300F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone sheets.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda. Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts, if using.

Refrigerate dough overnight, up to 36 hours, if desired. When ready to bake, remove dough from refrigerator. You may need to let it rest 10-20 minutes until it is scoopable, but avoid letting it get too warm.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.