27 May 2010

a long way to a point

i'm amazed by so much in life. so much. the little things make me happy, they confuse me, they excite me, they challenge me, they inspire me, they amaze me. 

my junior year in college i took a course called "Chinese and Japanese Religious Traditions" with Dr. Oldstone-Moore, it was eye opening. i had already started down the path of simplicity, or at least what i thought at the time was simplicity. i had also always been really in-tune w. nature, i was into healthy food and my sister had introduced me to yoga principals and practices. but this class. this class blew my mind. i wasn't expecting much as this was my "required" R class for graduation and sure, i wasn't the only one thinking this class would be an easily filled requirement. much to my dismay, i fell in love. i have to be honest, i don't remember much of what we studied in this class, i just know it was taking me down a path.

then my senior year, when i had filled all of my requirements and didnt want to be a pud and not take ANY classes, i decided to sign up for another Oldstone-Moore class...this time around i tried "Buddhist Thoughts and Scriptures" the Wittenberg website states that this course is:
       Seminar studying the teachings and practices of schools of the Buddhist tradition through pivotal scriptures.  Sutras and other texts from Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism will be considered in their historical and cultural contexts, and within the framework of central themes of Buddhism.  Requirements include class discussion and presentations, two exams, one short paper, and a term paper.  Writing intensive. Every third year.
well, sure, thats what we did. i remember devouring the texts, relishing in writing my papers, but the most fulfilling part of this class was the monastic project. 

whats that you ask? it was when we became practicing monks for three weeks. we altered our diets (no meat, no coffee, no processed sugars, no white flour/rice...ALL VEGGIES/ALL ORGANIC), we had group meditation, individual meditation and a yoga practice, we journal-ed everyday, we didn't speak unless spoken to all three Monday's and when we ate we practiced eating meditation. where we weren't supposed to do anything but talk during our meals. no books, no tv, no music, just chewing and talking if anyone else was there. we also had to put our forks down after every bite and really chew and engage with our food. (i lived with three of my best friends my senior year and we had weekly family meals.  
[this picture is from sarah's wedding] we'd all cook together and eat together, it was one of the best things about my senior year and i was lucky that they all were patient with me during this monastic project and even, when we all ate, played along.) this project was awesome. it was really rooting and humbling. its established some of the ideas with which i live my life. its one of those experiences that i think back on all the time.  its the little things from the project that i hold onto and try to practice now and then.

it even helped me, subconsciously (i think), come up with my tattoo.
its in Sanskrit and says 'Chinne mūle maivashakhā na patram' (no branches, no leaves in the absence of the roots.) this is a vedic medical expression that i discovered. and the tree is a bodhi tree, the tree that Buddha was enlightened under. the idea of a tree came to me in a rough/transitional patch. you have to be grounded, rooted to solid ground personally and professionally. you have to have a strong body physically and mentally. finally there is a constant reach towards something, be it a goal, a dream, whatever. and there's also the idea of a cycle, with the leaves, it begins all over again...

where was i going...amazement. i think this foundation (i'd call it that, i guess) in buddhism and breaking down to the simplest form of anything is what led me to this whole cooking endeavor. this wanting to touch what i eat and know where it came from. this sharing of a process and eating at a community table with everyone i know... i wanted to share with you, if you haven't found it already, something that i adore. i can easily say - i effing LOVE this site: food. curated. (www.foodcurated.com) liza basically interviews local foodies, chefs, farmers, fisherman, bee keepers, etc. its pretty amazing. i want you to know about it because this is the sort of thing thats fueling me and inspiring me right now. i love love love it. and there are some really good and innovative ideas. theres all this talk about rooftop farms and backyard farms, its awesome. i think i sense something i may be looking into doing in LA...here we go new chapter.

what gets you going right now? is there someone, some place you go on a regular basis to infuse your life?

25 May 2010

essential tools for any kitchen

i really have to thank bon appetit for posting this from their cookbook. this is the original post about what is essential for a college graduates kitchen, i think it applies to any kitchen really. there are 73+ items on this list, seems like a lot... its not. its a superb list. i have...34 of these 73+ items about half. i think thats a good ratio, i'd love to say i have 100% but thats a long shot and will have to wait until i have a new kitchen in los angeles. 

wait, what? 

that's right folks...i'm moving to LA in the fall. (more later!)

enjoy this list, and do yourself a favor, have at least a quarter of these items in your kitchen. it will make your cooking life much much better. i'm 100% positive.

12 May 2010

things and stuff and things

so. this post is a shameless plug for none other than...ME! as you know, i act (duh). and as you also know, i'm part of the bushwick shakespeare repertory, which is an all-female collaborative focusing on giving women the opportunity to play roles from the Classics not traditionally given to women. which, as i can attest to, if awesome. and as you probably know too, cause i talk about it all the time, this past year of plays has been: romeo & juliet (the nurse) to as you like it (touchstone) to the cherry orchard (anya) to julius caesar (cassius and then some). needless to say it was a lot of classical theatre and lots of shakespeare. nobody blamed me for needing a break from shakespeare and boy was i desperate for something contemporary...

well, folks out there in blog world. i did it! i just got cast in a wonderfully silly production of the book of liz.  i am very excited about this show, mainly because its written by david and amy sedaris but also because it will be a good challenge. then, come to find out, i'm shooting this weekend with RADAR and a very cool guerrilla artist and i am doing background work on Rescue Me next week (will keep you posted on the airing). 

must say, i am pleasantly surprised and quite giddily happy.


01 May 2010


i must first begin with the facts that a) my birthday was a month ago and b) my celebration began on friday when my boss took myslef and my co-worker out to lunch and then called it a day!  we got to the restaurant (the standard grill) and ordered pimms...i had never had a pimm anything before and lemme tell you...this drink was delicious! we had H.M.S. PIMM’S, which consisted of pimm's cup no. 1, cointreau, lime juice, prosecco, winter berries, cucumber and mint. yum. and simple...you can probably make them at home. who am i kidding, probably? you can. period.
so good! i had mussels for lunch, with fries? bien sur. then for dessert we had a pecan pie that we all split and the waitress brought us all a glass of champagne...it was a really kickin' friday afternoon.
i'm 29!
whats nice (and not nice) about having a birthday so close to easter is you get to celebrate with family. the downside of that is going to an easter egg hunt with at least 50 children who range from 2 - 11 and having conversations about basement flooding and what company you should use for the repairs. it was all sorts of hilarious. it was nice because i love my sister and brother-in-law and i really enjoy spending time with my niece and nephew, but it was also very suburban.

i even got to make my own birthday cake with macy (my niece)! we used a basic white cake recipe from epicurious. [my birthday was now a long time ago...but the food and post are worth sharing] i will share the recipe but i gotta admit...not sure i am a fan of white cake. its sort of dry - or at least thats how ours ended up and the description said it would be moist...was not. it might be because there's no yolk, how do you have a cake without yolk?  you dont. you have white cake. 
i wanted to make something really simple and maybe a little messy (at least looking) for my cake. i didnt want a lot of sweet stuff, so i just whipped up some heavy cream and tossed some berries with a pinch of sugar then layered.

Classic White Cake
adapted from here

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg whites

3/4 cup milk
1. make sure you have 2 9-inch round cake pans, buttered (really well)
2. set your oven to 350 degrees and make sure your rack is in the middle of the oven
3. combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, mix well.
4. place butter and sugar in a bowl, beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until very soft and light. beat in the vanilla. 
5. whisk together the egg whites and milk by hand in another bowl until just combined.
6. reduce mixer speed to low and beat in 1/4 flour mix, then 1/3 milk mixture, stopping and scraping down the bowl and beater after each addition. (this may have been where macy and i messed up the cake) do this in this ratio until all combined.

7.scrape bowl well w. a rubber spatula, pour batter into the prepared pans and smooth tops. (i always tap my pans on the counter top, i think i say someone on the food network do this once to "get rid of air bubbles." its now part of my baking regime.)
8. bake layers for about 30 - 35 minutes, until they are well risen and firm and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean (also, where we may have messed up - i didnt check both, make sure you check both...also, our cake didnt really rise). cool the layers in the pan on racks for 5 min (seriously - no more, i think also may be where we messed up!), then unmold onto racks to finish cooling right side up.
see! she was happy with the final outcome, but cooking with a child under 10 is tough, she got bored very quickly. maybe there's a way to make baking/mixing/stirring into a game and that way she'd be all about it?

on to dinner. yes, i got to choose and make dinner on my birthday. you may laugh/gawk/shock, but hey, i love cooking, remember? (not to mention the salmon was cooked by my bro-in-law and my sister and i kept swapping positions) so, i chose mushroom risotto, asparagus and salmon. my big sister is sort of hilarious. we keep switching back and forth with the risotto...she got sooo bored of stirring. like mother like daughter? nah, my sister has a better attention span than a 7 year old. for the most part. all we did with the asparagus was boil them a little with salt water and then with the salmon, we baked it with olive oil and salt and pepper.

mushroom risotto
adapted from here

1 oz dried porcini (1 cup)
3 3/4 cup hot water

5 1/4 cup reduced(low) sodium chicken broth (42 fl oz)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lb Arborio rice (2 1/3 cup)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup finely grated parm-reggiano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. soak the porcini in 1/2 cup hot water in a bowl until softened, about 20 minutes. lift them out, squeezing liquid back into the bowl. rinse off any grit that may remain and coarsely chop. pour soaking liquid through a sieve line with a coffee filter or a dampened paper towel into a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, then add broth, soy sauce, and remaining water and bring to a simmer.
2. meanwhile, heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a 4 to 5 quart heavy potover moderately high head until foam subsides, then saute onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. add garlic and fresh mushrooms and saute, stirring, until mushrooms are browned and any liquid they give off is evaporated, about 8 minutes. stir in porcini and cook, stirring, 1 minute, then add rice and cook, stirring,, 1 minute. add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute. (MAN...that is a lot of stirring.)
3. stir 1 cup simmering broth into rice and cook, stirring constantly (serious?) and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. continue cooking and adding broth, about a cup at a time, stirring frequently (come on!) and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until ice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes. thin with some of the remaining broth if necessary. 
4. remove from heat. stir in cheese, salt, pepper, and remianing 5 tablespoons of butter until butter is melted.
5. if reserving some risotto to make risotto cake tomorrow, set aside 3 cups and cool to room temp, then chill covered with plastic wrap.
6. stir parsley into remaining risotto and serve immediately.
all in all. it was really lovely. just my sister, brother-in-law and me having dinner and drinking nice wine. we of course had cake, but the first pieces went to my niece and nephew, duh...you can't go to bed without dessert people, we all know this! too cute. 
i know its way way way past my birthday, but thanks for bearing with me.