Thursday, June 24, 2010

Radishes with Herbed Butter

Growing up, my mom always had a Tupperware container with cleaned radishes sitting in the fridge. My father would breeze by, pop a few in his mouth like candy, and then move along to wherever he happened to be going. Unusual, perhaps, but The Pit is also a radish fan, and occasionally takes a little baggy-full with him to work as a snack. Apparently his co-workers mock him, but I bet they wouldn't if they got a taste of this preparation. I modified the original recipe slightly, and oh man, did this turn out delicious. I made a main course too, but The Pit and I basically shared a buttered and be-radished baguette for dinner last night.

What you’ll need:
  • 1-2 bunches of radishes (or about 8 oz cleaned up in the little bags), sliced
  • ¼ lb unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-2 stalks of green onion, diced
  • 2-3 teaspoons parsley, diced
  • 2-3 teaspoons dill, diced
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice (a few squeezes from half a lemon)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 French baguette (or Trader Joe's Par-Baked Ficelle)

1) Take the butter out of the fridge and leave it on a sunny windowsill to soften up.

2) Slice the radishes and dice the green onion, parsley, and dill. I went a little overboard with the parsley and green onion, and ended up using only about ½ of the amount shown below. On the other hand, I didn't have enough fresh dill, and supplemented with several shakes of the dried stuff.

3) Bake a par-baked Trader Joe’s baguette and slice. If you haven’t tried these yet, I highly recommend – you get two ficelles in a bag for $1.59, and they can sit in the fridge for weeks if need be. Then, when you have a craving for fresh hot bread, just pop one in the oven for 12-14 minutes. So good. If you use a regular baguette from the grocery store, I would slice and then toast the pieces slightly.

4) Mix together the butter, herbs, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. The original recipe recommended a hand mixer, but I had no problems with just a spoon.

5) Spread the herbed butter mixture over the baguette slices, and top with radish slices. Sprinkle with a little more kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

6) Stuff your face.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


So, no discernible progress on the job front, but people, I got up at 7 AM yesterday and went to the gym. Not only that, but I've in fact been to the gym every other day since I stated it as one of my goals a week ago. I mean, granted, that means I've now been to the gym five times total this calendar year, but I still feel that's an improvement over zero times.

In other goal-fulfilling news, long time readers might recall a pledge I made last year, to witness the full glory that is Rolling Thunder. The magical day was May 30th, and as it was supposed to hit 90 degrees, The Pit and I originally planned to take a short walk to an overpass and look at the motorcycles streaming by beneath us on the highway. We were almost out of the house before we realized that the overpass closest to our house is actually an underpass, and would therefore provide little in the way of viewing pleasure.

At that point, there was nothing to it but to hoof down to the Pentagon (2.5 miles away) and view the entire assembled throng in person. The walk there was hot but bearable, and you can see me holding up quite well in the following picture. Assembled behind me in one of the Pentagon parking lots are approximately 30,000 riders and motorcycles.

We then spent a half hour resting on a grassy hill, watching representative members milling around and getting perilously close to heatstroke. Behold a representative member below, with the Pentagon in the background:

Sadly I chickened out and didn't ask for pictures with any of the really picturesque specimens wandering around, but be assured there was plenty of leather, bandannas, facial hair, metal studs, and mullets in evidence. Also a fair number of cowboy hats, and I witnessed one dude strolling around in really awesome fringed leather chaps. How these people managed to survive the heat of the day wearing so very many layers of denim and leather is still puzzling to me. I mean, I wanted to die walking back home, and in fact presented such an alarming sight that passersby kept offering me water and/or sunscreen. I grew tired of explaining that it wasn't sunburn, just the normal tomato red color of my face when I'm feeling a wee bit exerted.

Bringing this post full circle, I'll reveal that my face turns this color not just when I'm about to collapse of heatstroke, but also after approximately 10 minutes spent exercising. I was not built for such strenuous physical activities, but I shall attempt to persevere.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Balsamic-Walnut Roasted Green Beans and Onions

As previously established, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an adventurous eater. However, I’m currently Andrew Zimmern in comparison to my childhood diet, which consisted almost exclusively of bread, fruit, raw vegetables, and fried pasta with cheese. When I was feeling really adventurous, I’d have some mashed potatoes. Seriously, it was a banner day in our household when I agreed that McDonald's fries were edible.

Because I hated cooked veggies, and also because they aren’t really a Russian staple, I was never exposed to green beans at home. I loved fresh peas straight from the pod, but while superficially similar, when seen in restaurants, cooked green beans looked about as far from appetizing as you could get.

In just the past year or so however, I’ve occasionally and very tentatively tried a green bean here or there, and they aren’t nearly as repulsive as they appear. Not particularly flavorful, mind you, but sort of mild and neutral tasting. The other day, I saw some green beans for sale for $0.99/lb, and thought that my husband(!) might enjoy this novel (for my cooking) vegetable.

Once I brought them home however, I realized I had no idea what to do with them. Searching my favorite recipe website yielded two potential options: Green Beans with Walnuts and Green Beans with Almonds. I had all the ingredients for the walnut recipe on hand, so I decided to go with that one, and am so glad I did, because this dish turned out delicious, although mostly due to the onions, walnuts, and coating involved, and not so much because of the beans.

What you’ll need for 2-4 side-dish servings:
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 2-3 yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2-3 handfuls chopped walnuts (probably about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2) Wash beans, then snap off the stem ends, taking off as much of the string as will come off with the ends. Below are my beans, lovingly and individually washed just as my OCD dictated.

3) Cut the onions into wedges, like you would to caramelize them.

4) Apply the tablespoon of olive oil to the beans and onions, and make sure they are evenly covered. Most people just chuck everything onto the baking sheet and use their hands to coat, but I hate getting the oil all over myself, so I threw the vegetables into a gallon size zip-lock bag, poured in the oil, and then sealed and shook before dumping everything on the baking sheet.

5) Sprinkle the ½ teaspoon of salt over the oiled beans and onions, using either your hands or tongs to coat, and make sure the vegetables are distributed in an even layer.

6) Roast for 10 minutes. While the beans and onions are roasting, mince the thyme and slice the garlic. In a small bowl, mix together the balsamic vinegar, honey, thyme, and garlic. Add in a little more olive oil if the mixture congeals around the honey.

7) After 10 minutes take the beans and onions out of the oven and drizzle with the mixture, using tongs to coat everything evenly. Put back in the oven for 12 more minutes, so that the onions have dark brown spots and the beans begin to shrivel.

8) While the beans and onions roast, toast the walnuts for a few minutes in a small frying pan. Stir frequently so they don’t burn, and take off the heat when they smell delicious.

9) When the beans and onions come out of the oven, grind some pepper on them, season to taste with more salt if needed, and then use tongs to transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

OL's Friends

As I may have mentioned before, OL has a lot of issues with her one and only son. She constantly mutters that he doesn’t take care of himself, that his place is a mess, and that his clothes are old and ill-fitting. He also doesn’t take responsibility and help her enough around the apartment, and he doesn’t communicate well. Additionally, he is a bad planner, and consequently her funeral is not yet arranged, and he will likely be ripped off when he tries to ship her body back to New Jersey. As these complaints are a constant drone from her, I now tune them out as background noise.

However, last week she mentioned something new and different, and my ears perked up. “He has nobody!” She yelled out of nowhere. “No friends, no nothing!” I made a non-committal noise to encourage further elaboration. “Not like me!” she stated emphatically. “I have The Doctor and The Man.”

Let me break this statement down for you. OL has several peculiarities, but one of her most puzzling is the refusal to use proper names: “He shouldn’t have done that!” she tells me, and “he” could range from former President Bush to the guy in line in front of us to her own son. She doesn’t like to explain herself, so OL’s audience is mostly left with context to figure out exactly who she means. However, after months of OL exposure I’ve narrowed down the possible options considerably. About 60% of the time it is OL’s son, 30% of the time it is either Bush or Obama, and the remaining 10% of the time “he” is a random person she has recently talked to or read something about. In the above case, OL was pretty clearly talking about her son.

Occasionally, OL will deign to give someone a title. This is the case with her physician, a lady with an office several doors down from OL’s apartment, who really does take extraordinary care of OL. “The Doctor” is how OL refers to her at all times, even in the presence of other doctors. This was particularly confusing when OL was in the hospital, and answered many questions with references to “The Doctor.” When pressed about which doctor she meant, OL would favor the unfortunate nurse/specialist/case manager with a stern frown, and stress it again: “The Doctor.”

That OL should consider The Doctor a friend is not all that surprising. This lady occasionally stops by the apartment with flowers, organizes restaurant outings on major holidays for OL and other patients who have no place to go, and just this past weekend took OL to Red Lobster to celebrate her 89th birthday.

The Man is a member of the service profession who has also gone above and beyond the call of duty when dealing with OL. He is her favorite sales clerk at Macy’s. The Man is a pious Malaysian Muslim in his fifties. Despite rather heavy accents on both sides, often leading to mutual incomprehension, The Man and OL have a bond going back years.

He carries a picture of her in his wallet, brings her novelty t-shirts when he visits his home country, and occasionally calls to check on OL when she hasn’t been to Macy’s in a while. The Man does not own a car or drive, and when OL was really sick, he and his wife took several buses in order to visit her at home for a few minutes. In return for this devotion, OL occasionally brings him candy bars at work and harangues him that he doesn’t call her enough. I’m pretty certain that she does not, in fact, know his first name.

How this relationship originally developed and why it continues is a mystery to me. I mean, OL does love Macy’s, but why this adoration was transferred to a short brown gentleman with an accent is beyond me. Even more puzzling is The Man’s continued attention to OL, especially given their significant communication hurdles. The Pit, ever of a suspicious bent, suggested that The Man is somehow stealing from OL. However, unless The Man is a connoisseur of rather dated knick-knacks, I’m pretty sure OL has nothing to steal. I think the more likely explanation is that she reminds him of his own constantly complaining mother. Either that, or The Man is quite a masochist.

So there you have it, OL’s friends enumerated. You’ll notice the conspicuous absence of a certain Peachy on her list…there’s gratitude for you.

Monday, June 7, 2010


So I discovered a couple of days ago that in all my 29 years of life, I have not, in fact, ever independently opened a wine bottle. This fact is not really all that shocking when you consider the following: I don’t drink wine by myself, and on all previous wine-drinking occasions, someone more alcoholic than I has always been around to do the bottle opening. What with my aversion to liquids of any kind, pretty much any non-Mormon fulfills the above criteria.

However, the risotto recipe I was preparing for dinner required a cup of wine, the Pitt was still at work, and the cheap Trader Joe’s vintage I had purchased for this purpose was sadly not so cheap as to have a screw top.

“Hmm,” I said to myself as took out the bottle. “I’ve seen people do this a hundred times, how hard could it be?” The answer, in case anyone is still wondering, is: surprisingly difficult for a person with a PhD.

I took out the corkscrew, idly wondered what the metal thingie on the end was for, and then proceeded to ignore it as I put the corkscrew in the cork. Step one successfully accomplished, I then pulled the corkscrew out of the cork by reversing my twisting action in the opposite direction. Anyone with bottle opening experience is already laughing, as of course this left a hole in the cork, but did not actually move it out of the bottle even a tiny bit. Perhaps, it belatedly occurred to me, I was supposed to pull without twisting the corkscrew out. I reinserted the screw, and then tried again. The cork very firmly did not budge.

As I considered the situation, it became clear that I was out of ideas. It was time to consult the Internets. So I pulled up Google, and typed in “how to use a corkscrew.” I was only mildly ashamed of myself at this point. Unfortunately, the eHow article I opened was incredibly useless, telling me to basically repeat what I had just done. So I tugged on the corkscrew a little more, but it was obvious that I had to take other measures, or The Pit would come home to an uncooked meal, not to mention a wine bottle shattered all over the kitchen floor in frustration.

So I bit the bullet and consulted my friend Eric, who was not only immanently qualified by virtue of being an alcohol-consuming male, but also getting ready to defend his PhD in physics. I figured he’d had plenty of practice explaining incredibly complicated things to dimwitted undergraduates, and thus should have no trouble with the particular instructional task I was about to present him.

Turns out I was right…he correctly treated me like the retard that I was, and first asked me if my corkscrew had a lever. This is of course the equivalent of asking your grandmother if she has pressed the ON button when she calls to complain that the computer screen is all dark. So naturally that little metal thingie I’d been ignoring had turned out to be crucial to the whole enterprise. It is invariably the case that when I'm being an idiot, it is because I'm blithely ignoring something obvious right in front of my face. Eric showed me the following picture, and instructed me on the magical properties of lever fulcrums. Physics to the rescue!

The wine bottle opening successfully accomplished, I proceeded to make my very first risotto. In case anyone was wondering, I was using this recipe with shrimp...despite the rave reviews on the website, we found the finished product kind of bland, and had to add significant amounts of parmesan and asiago cheese. However, sweet sweet cheese combined with sweet sweet physics eventually made this meal a success.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


  1. Start blogging again.
  2. Exercise every other day.
  3. Finish all wedding-related tasks.
  4. Find another freaking job already.
How do you like those priorities world? I've clearly begun #1 in earnest, and I went to the gym today for the first time in months and months. One would have thought I'd begun my health regime before the wedding, but one would be wrong. I completely and totally intended to exercise this winter, but then snow happened and I was lazy. Then I intended to exercise this spring, but a job happened and I also had to juggle OL. Well, and I was lazy. I'll give you three guesses as to how my latest commitment to exercise will turn out.

#3 above refers mostly to thank-you notes and pictures. On that score, will the kind person who sent us the Griddler, please leave a comment or send me an email? That thing is awesome, and I will blog about it as instructed, but at the moment I have no idea who you are, as you neglected to sign the attached note.*

* Well, that's not entirely true, I've narrowed down my list of suspects to 3 or 4. But I am too lazy to figure out a sensitive way to phrase a mass email on this point, so just announce yourself already.


So I'm only about three weeks late on this post but...we're totally married! With rings and everything. It's still a little surreal, but I'm really enjoying the superfluous use of the word 'husband' in everyday conversations. The stock-boy at Trader Joe's asks if everything is alright, and I go "Oh, I'm just trying to choose some beer for my husband." The dry-cleaning lady asks when I want to pick my clothes up, and I say "My husband will get them on Thursday." Our guests want to know what the whip/tickler* is for and the words slip out before I can stop them..."My husband."

* For the record, it was a gag wedding shower gift, and I think The Pit would rather be water-boarded than have it used on him. I just brought it back because I got a kick out of the look on his face when I stuck it and some other bridal shower gifts (a sex book and some furry handcuffs) in his luggage for transport out of California. What? My suitcase was full! As a bonus, here's a picture of my mother examining it quite thoughtfully.

Hmm, this post has really run away from me, and The Pit and his sense of propriety will probably make me take it down when he finds it, but for now, enjoy! I shall try to get back into the swing of blogging now that we're settled back in Virginia.