Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sarah's Lentil Feta Salad

I had this really amazing Lentil Feta Salad from Food Emporium a few months ago. I ripped off the plastic ingredients list in the hope to replicate it at some point.
I made it tonight for lunch tomorrow. I ended up changing about half the ingredients, but I liked the use of feta and olives, as well as the use of Italian seasoning, so I used that as the basis of my creation. I replicated the recipes below, but before that, I must have a spirited discussion about salads:

Salads without lettuce are by far the most underrated and underseen culinary delights. I remember the first time I had a non-lettuce based salad. I was sixteen, in France, at a homestay. The family served a tomato salad. I couldn't believe it: a salad made ENTIRELY OF MY FAVORITE VEGETABlE, with cheese and oil and herbs!?

Since then I've experimented with vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber), beans (chickpeas, black beans, corn), bread (panzanella!) and now grains. One of my standbys, cowboy caviar, is a riff on salsa and actually supposed to be a dip for tortilla chips, but I prefer to eat it plain. That salad is a mix of black beans and corn, with tomato, avocado, green onion, and a cilantro and cumin viniagrette.

Here's the Lentil Feta Salad

2 cups green lentils, rinsed and cooked al dente
4 green onions
1/4 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
15 or so olives
2 oz feta cheese (more if you want it richer)
Juice of one lemon

The vegetables should be finely diced so they match the size of the lentils.

a few pinches each of oregano and basil
a couple pinches each of paprika and thyme
3+ cloves roasted garlic, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste. Sea salt recommended.
Several shakes of red pepper flakes. Turn up the heat!
Obviously, this is kind of a "season to taste" thing.

I can't wait to have this for lunch - it looks so colorful and beautiful and really elegant and sophisticated. I have always favored chunky dices in the past, because I like to be able to pick out the individual flavors of a dish, but there's something to be said for how the flavors meld with a fine dice and make the eating experience mysteriously complete: you see the different colors and taste slightly different textures, but each bite blends together, perhaps (trite line here) creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Ok - Project Runway time...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cooking for One

Inspired by a recent conversation with Anna, I thought I'd share some of the cooking tricks I've learned that help when you're only cooking for yourself.

When I'm at home with my family, I love to help with our big, elaborate meals. I think nothing of hanging out for an hour chopping and cooking for the night's dinner, and I bake ALL THE TIME. We have all the spices and ingredients you ever need, and when I make that batch of cookies or muffins I know my family will help me eat them. It's just about as hard to make a meal for one or four people, and therein lies the problem.

By yourself, it's too complicated and tiring to cook long things. Food goes bad, and even if I did want to invest tons of money accumulating every spice, vinegar, and canned good I would need, I don't have room in my tiny NYC apartment.

Problem #1
I can't eat a whole loaf of bread before it gets stale.

Traditional Solutions:
A. Eat sandwiches every day for a week
B. Freeze half a loaf of bread
C. Toast it when it starts to get a little off
D. Eat moldy bread by accident and spit it out

Sarah Solutions:
A. Turns out peasants back in Europe didn't like to waste bread either! There are gobs of recipes that actually CALL for stale bread. It's kind of amazing.

-French Toast: A real baguette gets stale the next day anyway, and it sops up the egg and milk and spices and tastes absolutely mind-blowing. Try it with Apricot or Peach sauce from Trader Joe's instead of maple syrup.
-Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad): One of my favorite salads, so simple to make and so satisfying
Italian or French Bread
-Mozzarella (fresh a bonus!)
-Drizzles of balsamic vineager, good olive oil, S&P, and fresh parsley.

Instructions: Cube everything into equal sizes, using the proportion of bread:vegetable:cheese you see fit, and enjoy.

Pita Bread
-Make Pita Chips in the oven. I just stick the pocket on the oven rack and break it apart into chips when it gets hard. If you're feeling less lazy, you can also do that beforehand on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle salt and spices and a bit of olive oil on it to make it more tasty.

C. Don't eat bread. Legumes and beans make terrific grain salads, are good for the last remaining carb-o-phobes, and keep you on the clock.

D. Forget about what I said about freezing bread. I keep a slice or two in the freezer in case I need breadcrumbs - I'm planning on making a casserole or eggplant parmesgan sometime in the next few months, and this is way easier than storing a jar of breadcrumbs in my too-small aparetment. This also works for stale-ish bread that you know would make terrific french toast.

Problem #2
I get really excited and buy tons of produce in the market, and then it goes bad.
This is kind of Sarah-specific, as I am terrible at planning meals and always buy random food that doesn't go together and then, on top of that, miss one or two ingredients I need to make a meal.

Bananas: I hate overripe bananas, so I'll slice one that's getting a little brown and stick it in the freezer. I either add the frozen banana to oatmeal later or eat them out of the freezer. They taste creamy, like sorbet, and also go well with peanut butter (in fact I am eating frozen banana and peanut butter right now...)

Try to keep frozen and canned food around that will go with the random stuff you bought, so at least you can get creative when you try to use the stuff up

When produce starts to go bad, COOK IT IMMEDIATELY.
I just learned how to roast vegetables this week, and it's kind of amazing. Chop stuff up, add some olive oil and spices, and bake it at 400 degrees until it's soft. Great warm or cold.

Make soup! Soup is kind of a single girl's dream food. You can freeze it in containers and have a healthy meal later, bring it to work. If you make chili you can use it in other dishes like nachos. Also, many soups are based on beans and tomatoes, which are two of my favorite foods, so I may be a little biased for this one.

Ok, another day, another Sarah "Cooking for One" blog post...

Where I've been in New York

I've been trying to keep a list of all the fabulous (and not-so-fabulous) places I've been in New York, and I thought I'd share it. I'm one of those people who loves accumulating - and this is a way for me to capture and accumulate places.

It's mainly restaurants and bars, with a few other things thrown in. I've been using this as my personal reference, with just a few lines to remind me of the place, maybe a good drink or dish or why I was in a random place.

P.S. You have to zoom in far to get anything interesting :)

View Larger Map

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Web Roundup

So in light of the Chinese New Year, I decided to look up my sign - I'm a rat, but a WOOD rat specifically, and it fits me with a surprising degree of accuracy. I've never bought into most of that astrology bullshit, as I'm decidedly not a Scorpio, but a rat I am!

(Maybe this explains why I like to stare at the train tracks late at night and watch the rats come out. Seriously, folks, it's better than the zoo. Sickening.)

Here's a googled profile, if you're interested. Let me know if you want to set me up on any blind dates with Water Monkeys.

Other cool articles about my new favorite subject, Class in America:

"A New Way of Looking at Race and Conspicuous Consumption"

This article basically says that if you feel you are ridiculously poorer than those around you, you won't even try to compete with that community's forms of conspicuous consumption. The author links this racially, noting that blacks are more likely than whites to be surrounded by those of similar (and smaller) incomes, which in turn provides an incentive for these "poor" people to acquire visible goods like sneakers, etc., that in turn gets them lambasted in outside communities for being frivolous and petty. God knows those sneakers ain't fooling ze rich peeps (that's what couture is for). Oh conspicuous consumption! According to my horoscope, my fascination with this subject is very rat-like. Do I smell an Anthropology PhD coming on?

"You Are What You Spend"

I'm inclined to disagree with this article on principle because of how its implications can be misconstrued as a way to revoke aid from the poor. These authors basically restack statistics of wealth to show that consumptions patterns do not vary drastically between the wealthy and the poor. I don't know how they got a $69,000 living expense average for the top bracket - they must have had to rule out a ton of those few-mil-a-year outliers to get to that conclusion. While I do think it is true that to be poor in the United States is a relative position, and does come with many benefits in terms of material comforts, what I don't like about this article is how it hides the assets of the wealthy. In particular the "financial flows" column has negative $10k for the bottom bracket and $55k for the top bracket. While the rich are saving, the poor are getting deeper into debt. Worse, the authors misattribute this outflow of wealth, implying that those dipping into their home equity are temporarily unemployed or on hard times, as opposed to being one of those families on daytime talk shows that has hundreds of thousands of well-concealed credit card debt (my first thought).

More on the weekend and drinking and books I read later...

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I love Greenwich Ave. I've finally been walking through West Village more often and have all kinds of places I want to try:

-Benny's Burritos: really cheap ($9.95 unlimited drink brunch anyone?), populated by chill young people, and also serves things out of Chinese takeout containers.
-Tea and Sympathy: afternoon tea. I want to take my mommy there.
-Soy Luck Club: delish veggie food cafe
-Snice: another delish veggie food cafe

...And not on Greenwich Ave
-Art Bar: hipsters!
-taim: the falafel there looks amazing, as described in one of the nyc food blogs I'm obsessed with, The Girl who Ate Everything.

Other thoughts...

As am update to my bouncer line post, I'd like to add that people who lay their gold card on top of their ID also do not deserve entrance. Keep it in your pants, boys.

Also, I really want to meet "Slut Machine" from Jezebel, who also recently wrote about how she hates club lines in Jezebel.

Her other blog (onedatatime) is amazingly hilarious. I imagine her being one of those people who's always the center of attention without hogging it.

4. Jess, the Milly show (seen via NYMag slideshow) was great.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I'm doing my one-week trial at Equinox (the third gym on my shopping list) and I am in LOVE. Sunday, I ran a quick warm-up mile on a nice video screen treadmill, then went down to the lap pool for a swim. It was a sad narrow little three-lane pool, but for Manhattan standards, I suppose quite reasonable. Considering Equinox's high standard of cleanliness, the pool was cloudy and needed to be backwashed. (I know this because I used to be a lifeguard!) One of the people there told me I should do their swim team. Unfortunately, I have some dinners/outings scheduled this Tuesday and Thursday, so I don't know if I'll have a chance to check it out.

Yesterday I experienced New York yoga at the Equinox level. People are SO good at yoga in New York. I'm used to my family YMCA, where child's pose is part of every flow, and my yoga instructor would say things like "You know, downward dog is really supposed to be a resting pose..." as people would go into child's pose after the strain of thirty seconds of down dog. I don't know what I would have done if I started yoga in a New York environment. Probably get better faster since I would have had no choice, but seriously, all those modifications at the family Y really helped!

I tried to do a headstand for maybe the second time in my life, and actually flipped over. I was really inspired by the yoga instructor and her "embrace your fear" speech, so at least now I know what it's like to flip over and make a loud thud in a quiet yoga class.

Yoga instructors are THE BEST. I've had many in my time, and they are the kookiest bunch of people I have ever met. I almost burst out laughing with all of this woman's new age stuff she was busting out, thinking it sounded like the dialogue of a Will Ferrell parody. She was one of the fortysomething type, slightly overweight but able to bust out moves like crow.

A shout out to my other two favorite instructors
Shannon: petite woman with a Mia Farrow haircut, soft-spoken in her Namastes
Rene: thirties, gay, planning a yoga trip to India, also known for his role as an instructor of the senior citizen "seated fitness" class. I loved doing sun salutations with him.

Enough with yoga, time to finish work before I go out and gorge myself on BBQ at Blue Smoke tonight...