Browsing Tag

lunch

book review, recipe

Bird Box + Tuna and White Bean Pasta Salad

I don’t always read “happy” books, but I typically do avoid scary ones. My imagination is too active for me to be able to read them without freaking myself out. For Josh Malerman’s novel Bird Box, however, I made an exception. Why? Because a few good friends insisted it wasn’t scary-scary, but also it was so good I had to. When one of these friends let me borrow her copy, I wasted no time jumping in. It was now or never!

Bird Box Book Cover

Truthfully, Bird Box isn’t a horror novel. If anything, it’s more like a thriller/suspense dystopia. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t creepy, uncomfortable moments. In a world where something unknown is out there causing people to turn violent, creepy moments are bound to happen.

Continue Reading

book review, recipe

Crazy Rich Asians + Chicken Satay

Kevin Kwan’s novel Crazy Rich Asians has been buzzed about since its debut five years ago, and that buzz has only continued to grow now that it’s becoming a movie (out on August 15 this year). The title is pretty self-explanatory – the novel is about the wealthiest of the wealthy families in Singapore, including the Youngs. But, when Rachel Chu’s boyfriend, Nick Young, invites her to attend his best friend’s wedding back at home, she has no idea what’s in store.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwon (Book Cover)

Together in New York, they work regular jobs, go out to eat occasionally and live in an average apartment. Her first hint that Nick’s life may be different than he let on is on their extravagant first class journey to Asia. Rachel realizes it’s going to be even harder to impress his parents than she expected, once she learns he is a member of one of the wealthiest families in the country (and likely, the continent).

Continue Reading

book review, recipe

Life of Pi + Dhal Soup

I rarely re-read books, primarily because there are so many new ones I want to read. My TBR list never stops growing – and it’s only gotten worse since I started blogging. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to make it a point to re-read more of my favorites. Or, more specifically, books that I enjoyed so much I bought a copy (with the intention of reading them again or lending them out for others to read). Anyway, when the Book Challenge by Erin included a category of “books that take place on a mode of transportation,” the first book that came to mind was Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. The challenge only allows for one re-read, and this was one I owned – and remember liking, so I decided to give it another go.

For the majority of the story, 227 days worth of it to be exact, Pi survives on a lifeboat with fellow passenger Richard Parker, who happens to be a Bengal tiger. Pi and his family were traveling from India to Canada with a cargo ship full of zoo animals when it shipwrecked, stranding Pi with an unusual boatmate. Though the premise promises adventure, it took a little bit to get into – the narrator describes how he stumbled upon Pi and learned his story. Pi also goes through a bit of a spiritual exploration prior to their scheduled journey, which slows things down even while providing some humor.

Continue Reading

book review, recipe

Turtles All the Way Down + Spiral Mac ‘n’ Cheese

John Green has written many young adult novels, including one of my favorites, The Fault in Our Stars. He has a unique way of tackling both the everyday and the unexpected parts of the lives of teenagers. His latest novel, Turtles All the Way Down, is no exception. Like other teenagers, Aza tries her best in school, has an understanding best friend, and doesn’t know exactly what to do when she finds herself in a relationship. Aza also lives with obsessive-compulsive disorder and an often crippling level of anxiety, much of which was drawn from Green’s own experiences.

Because of that, Turtles tells an excellent, unique story. Admittedly, some of the scenes where Aza is having obsessive thoughts were hard to read. It almost felt like I was in her head, and in those moments, I read as if hiding behind split fingers – not wanting to go on but wanting to know what happened all the same. I admire Green’s willingness to not only discuss his own mental health issues but to write about them too, in a way that’s real.

Stories like these help to make mental health something that’s okay to talk about. The existence of a likeable character that readers can connect to and empathize with can help teenagers (and adults) realize that mental illness is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. In Green’s own words, “it’s important for people to hear from [those] who have good fulfilling lives and manage chronic mental illness as part of those good fulfilling lives.” And because of that, it is absolutely a book worth picking up – even if you aren’t familiar with John Green, even if you don’t usually read YA.

Honestly, the first thing I thought of when I looked at this book’s cover was spiral macaroni and cheese. I think they eat it once over the course of the story, but in the end, I couldn’t get it out of my head and no other foods really stood out to me. So, no surprise, that’s what I decided to make. I found an easy recipe from Famished Fish and set to work for a quick, easy dinner one night.

To start, I brought my water to a boil and cooked my noodles according to the package instructions. The original recipe called for rotini, but I also think cavatappi would work great here.

While the noodles cooked, I made the sauce. I melted butter in a pan and then added flour to create a roux. To that, I added the dried mustard and paprika, slowly stirring in 1 cup of milk, so that it could fully incorporate with the roux and remain thick.

Then, I added in the remaining 2 cups of milk slowly, along with the salt and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I continued cooking the sauce, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes more or so, until it thickened. I stirred in three-quarters of the cheese so it melted and became incorporated.

I drained the finished noodles and poured the cheese sauce on top, stirring until the noodles were fully covered. To serve, I spooned the mac ‘n’ cheese into bowls and topped each with a sprinkling of shredded cheese.

It was delicious! And so easy that I’ll definitely be adding it to my repertoire.

Creamy Spiral Mac 'n' Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 16 oz uncooked spiral noodles (rotini or cavatappi)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ tsp mustard
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups milk, divided
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Directions

  1. Add uncooked pasta to a large pot of boiling water. Cook 9-11 minutes, according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. When butter has melted, stir in flour to create a roux.
  3. Slowly stir in 1 cup of milk along with the mustard and paprika. Stir and cook until the mixture thickens. Add the remaining 2 cups of milk and the salt and Worcestershire sauce. Cook and stir 5 minutes until has thickened.
  4. Stir in 1½ cups of the sharp cheddar cheese. Stir the sauce until the cheese has melted.
  5. Drain the pasta and return to large pot. Carefully pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta. Stir gently to combine the cheese sauce and pasta.
  6. Ladle the macaroni and cheese spirals into a large serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of sharp cheddar cheese.
  7. Serve immediately.

Adapted from: Famished Fish

This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

The Music Shop + French Onion Soup

If there are any music lovers out there, this book is for you. Rachel Joyce’s The Music Shop was similar in feel to The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, which I adored, except in place of a bookshop and bookworms you have a music shop and musicians (or at the very least, those who appreciate music). Though this book doesn’t hit shelves until January, I was lucky enough to get an early copy.

 

In a rundown neighborhood that smells of cheese and onion, in 1988, Frank is struggling to keep his music shop open. It is the age of the CD and though records are losing their appeal, Frank’s shop is something special. As a true connoisseur of music, he is able to recommend exactly the tracks his customers need, even if they didn’t know it was what they were looking for.

One day, a mysterious woman enters his shop, arousing the interest of the surrounding shop owners, who often congregate at Frank’s. He begins teaching her about music and everything begins to change. This novel has a wonderful, quirky set of characters and tells a heartwarming story. I only wish I was more into music, because I would have appreciated it that much more.

Though the book made the neighborhood’s pervasive smell of cheese and onion sound like a bad thing, I’ll admit it really just had me craving French onion soup. Full of caramelized onions and covered with melty cheese, nothing could be more delicious! I pulled out my trusty recipe from The Pioneer Woman, which I’ve been using for a few years now, and got to work creating my own cheesy, onion-y smells in the kitchen.

To start, I always slice my onions, since it takes a bit of time and I usually can’t finish slicing them all in the time it takes the butter to melt. I used 6 medium yellow onions, because that’s what I had on-hand, but if you’re buying them specifically for this recipe, you can substitute a few less large onions.

I melted a half stick of butter in my Dutch oven. (Ree uses a whole stick of butter, but over time I’ve adapted the recipe and use just half of that. Since we usually have leftovers, I’ve found that that much butter creates a pretty thick – and unappetizing – layer of solidified fat on top of the soup when it gets cold. It tastes just as good with half a stick, and is probably healthier too!)

To the melted butter, I added my sliced onions, which take up quite a lot of room in the Dutch oven – don’t worry! They’ll cook down considerably. I stir/toss the onions with a spoon to make sure they’re all pretty well coated in the butter and then I let them cook for about 20 minutes over medium-low heat while covered.

After they’ve cooked down a bit, it’s time to put them into a 400 degree oven, where they’ll cook for an hour minimum. I like to cook mine for closer to an hour and a half to really allow them to caramelize. My favorite thing about this recipe is that it’s perfect for lazy weekend days – it takes a while to make, but most of that time is hands-off. What you get in the end is a delicious, comforting soup.

Back on the stovetop, over medium heat, I used a wooden spoon to scrape off some of the brown bits, which are full of flavor. Carefully add a generous cup of dry white wine to the pot, all while scraping the flavor off the bottom and sides. (If you’re concerned about potential fire hazard, since alcohol is flammable, you can briefly turn off the heat, add the wine, and turn the heat back on. With such a large/deep pot, I don’t find that to be necessary.) I let that mixture cook down until the alcohol is mostly cooked off, about 5 minutes.

To the onions, I added the chicken and beef broths, minced garlic and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I allowed the soup to simmer for between 30 and 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, with about 15 minutes left on the soup, I prepped the bread to use on top of the soup. I sliced about half of a baguette, making sure to keep them on the thicker side. (I like to freeze the other half of the baguette for the next time I make the soup, or for another recipe.) I put them under the broiler for a few minutes, until they began to brown and get crispy.

When the soup was finished, I ladled it into a bowl for each of us, set two pieces of bread on top and covered that generously with grated cheese. (I used a nutty Swiss from Trader Joe’s, since they were out of my usual shredded mix – see notes. If the mix is unavailable or you’re not near a TJs and budget is a factor, Swiss is a great substitute for Gruyere, which usually runs $10/lb or more.)

Since my bowls aren’t oven safe, I used my old trick of popping each bowl into the microwave for a minute or less – I suggest watching through the door – until the cheese is melted. You don’t get the nice browning that you get under the broiler, but the meltiness is really what I’m looking for in a French onion soup anyway. Hope you enjoy!

French Onion Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ½ stick butter
  • 4 large or 6 medium yellow onions, halved root to tip and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (generous) dry white wine
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Several thick slices of baguette
  • 5 ounces weight (to 7 Ounces) Gruyere cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place pot into the oven with the lid slightly ajar to ensure the onions will brown. Allow onions to cook in the oven for 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring at least once during the cooking process so onions won’t stick and burn.
  3. Remove pot from oven and place back on stovetop over medium heat. Stir, scraping off all the brown, flavorful bits. Turn off heat and pour in wine. Turn heat back to medium. (If you do this carefully, you don’t need to turn off the heat.) Cook wine for 5 minutes, allowing it to reduce. 4. Add broths, Worcestershire sauce and minced garlic and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Butter one side of the bread slices and broil over low heat, allowing bread to brown and become crispy.
  5. When soup is ready, ladle into bowl or ramekin. Place crispy bread on top, and then sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly. (Alternatively, if you don’t have oven-safe bowls, you can place in microwave for 30 – 60 seconds, or until melted.)
  6. Serve immediately.

Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman

Notes: I prefer the Swiss/Gruyere shredded cheese mix from Trader Joe’s, if there is one near you. It’s more cost effective and saves you the trouble of grating. Additionally, you can substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth if you prefer. If you only have stocks on-hand, I’ve also used them in place of the broth(s), and the result is much the same – just check the taste and adjust seasoning as needed.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

The Other Einstein + Serbian Hamburgers

As the saying goes, beside every great man, there is a great woman. In many cases, those relationships are public and well-documented, as in the case of the Roosevelts. In the case of Albert Einstein, however, the life and accomplishments of his first wife Mileva are not widely known. A physicist and likely genius in her own right, her contributions to Albert’s theories has been debated in the physics world for decades. Marie Benedict’s novel The Other Einstein explores the life of this extraordinary woman a bit further.

Like the author before she dove into research, I hadn’t heard of this “other” Einstein before and I was intrigued when I learned about this novel last fall. The novel follows Mileva (or “Mitza”) from her time as the only female physics student at a Zurich university, where she meets Albert Einstein. Though she and Albert share dreams of living a bohemian life together of intellect and discovery, he doesn’t stand by her when his vision of success seems clearer without her.

As a feminist, the part of the novel I found the most particularly compelling was the meeting between Mitza and Madame Curie, where the differences between their husbands and situations could not be more clear. It is amazing how much can be accomplished by women when their husbands are not only supportive but treat them as true equals.

Mitza and her family were of Serbian descent and many new-to-me foods were mentioned through the novel. The one I bookmarked to make for today’s post was the pljeskavica, which when I looked it up later, was revealed to be a large hamburger. I found a few recipes, and though I borrowed from a few of them for inspiration, the one I most closely followed was from The Spruce.

First, I combined all of my ingredients to make the patties. I opted to use 1 pound each of ground beef and ground pork, but you can use a combination of beef, pork and lamb if you’d like (see recipe notes). To the meat, I added minced garlic, finely chopped onions, salt and paprika. I let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for a while before forming the patties.

I used a salad plate lined with parchment paper as my guide for sizing, using the paper to prevent the patties sticking to the plate or each other.

I grilled the burgers outside, approximately 7 minutes per side.

While they grilled, I prepared the pita bread by cutting it open partway to reveal the pocket. I also sliced some fresh tomato and lightly grilled some onions, being careful to not let them lose too much of their shape. Other serving suggestions include green onions, pickles and Kajmak cheese.

I slotted each cooked hamburger into a pita pocket and topped with my veggies and a dollop of quick homemade Kajmak.

Serbian Hamburger (Pljeskavica)

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • ½ pound lean ground pork
  • ½ pound lean ground lamb
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • ½ cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or hot paprika

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together ground beef, ground pork, ground lamb, garlic, onions, salt and sweet or hot paprika until thoroughly combined. Do not overmix because this will toughen the meat.
  2. Refrigerate meat mixture for several hours for the flavors to meld and for the mixture to firm.
  3. Heat a grill, indoor grill, broiler or skillet. Using slightly dampened hands, divide meat mixture into 6 portions. Form into thin patties, 9 inches by 1/2 inch or about the size of a small dinner plate.
  4. Cook pljeskavice about 7 minutes per side.
  5. Serve with green onions or chopped raw onion, tomatoes, ajvar, lepinje or pogacha bread and Serbian potato salad or cole slaw on the side. Some Serbs place the patty on a large bun like an American hamburger.

From: The Spruce

Note: Other recipes I read used the same amount of meat to make 4 patties, and so I ended up making just 4. This also kept the patties approximately as large as recommended – I used salad plates as my guide and did the best I could to get them that size.

If you can’t find ground lamb or don’t want to use it, I used a mixture of ground beef and ground pork, 1 pound each. The other recipes I found used only beef and pork as well.

Lastly, other recipes recommended using pita bread in place of lepinje, which is what I did. Though it made it slightly hard to photograph, I think it worked better than a traditional American bun would’ve given the size of the burger. The pita helped hold in all the toppings and didn’t fill us up too much with bread – the burger filled us up enough!


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

The Royal We + Tea Sandwiches

Happy Summer, everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve read a rom-com-type book, and I forgot what a breath of fresh air they can be. I was unable to resist the cover of The Royal We, which is clearly depicting a couple so like William and Kate that it’s surprising that it’s not them, and the novel ended up being an excellent way to kick off what promises to be a busy summer of reading.

This is totally fan fiction about everyone’s favorite British royal couple, with the major exception being that Rebecca Porter isn’t British at all – she’s American. She also has a twin sister who keeps things much more interesting than Pippa ever did. I wasn’t expecting an American girlfriend – expecting William and Kate as I was – but it was a nice surprise. Sort of like The Prince & Me, it gives American girls hope that they too can have a prince one day. There’s no denying it, I probably liked this book so much because the hope of a royal meeting was part of the my decision to study abroad in London too. 😛 No such luck, but lots of fun adventures, nonetheless! It brought back memories

Overall, the book was a tad drawn out, maybe a little bit longer than it needed to be, but the struggles Bex and Nick went through during their long courtship seemed pretty realistic. The story was really dramatic and entertaining, an (almost) endless will-they-or-won’t-they propelling it forward. I’m not sure I’d read a sequel (princess movies sequels are never that good…), but I certainly enjoyed this one.

When choosing a recipe for this book, it was a hard decision between Pimm’s Cup, which was not only a favorite of Nick and crew but also my favorite British drink while abroad, and tea sandwiches, which of course were ever-present throughout the story. Because England. In the end, I had to go with the tea sandwiches because while cocktails are a pretty big part of American life, high tea is something that comes along less often, and I love high tea.

I decided to make three different kinds – the classic cucumber, an egg salad with watercress (one of my favorite sandwiches while in London), and the tasty combo of ham, brie and apple.

I started by prepping the eggs, and while they were hard-boiling, I whipped up the cream cheese mixture for the cucumber sandwiches. The majority of tea sandwich-making is the actual assembly and, of course, the removing of the bread crusts.

To make the cream cheese mixture, I combined 1 package of cream cheese and ⅓ cup of mayonnaise in my food processor until smooth. To that, I added garlic salt and fresh dill. I don’t think you should be shy with the dill – I used around a tablespoon, while the original recipe called for 1 teaspoon.  

When eggs were finished boiling, I let them cool in an ice bath, peeled them, and used my egg slicer tool to chop them into small pieces. I combined the egg with mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and Lawry’s seasoned salt.

With the two main spreads done, I began prepping the rest of my sandwich ingredients. I sliced the cucumbers into thin slices, I rinsed the watercress and removed the leaves from the stems, and I sliced the green apple and brie for the last sandwich. Last but not least, I removed the crusts from my bread. For the cucumber sandwiches, I made the bread into rounds using a large cutter (no need to remove the crusts first if you’re doing this).

When it was time for the assembly, I set out the bottoms on a large cutting board and got to work. First, I spread the cream cheese mixture on the rounds and topped them with sliced cucumber.

Next, I spread a thin layer of dijon and butter on half of the remaining squares, topping it with ham, sliced brie, and thinly sliced apple halves.

Finally, I carefully put the egg salad atop the rest of the bread and placed some watercress on top.

Then, each sandwich got a lid and we were ready to go!

It’s really too bad I didn’t read this for book club. An afternoon tea theme would’ve been perfect for the meeting. Instead, Scott and I got to enjoy them ourselves, which wasn’t bad either.  

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

  • Servings: 20 rounds
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or to taste
  • 40 slices of thin sandwich bread

Directions

  1. Process cream cheese and mayonnaise in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides.
  2. Combine cream cheese mixture, garlic salt, and dill.
  3. If creating rounds, use a 2- to 3-inch round cutter to cut bread, discarding the edges. Or, if you prefer triangles or squares (which makes 80 sandwiches), cut the crusts from the bread and discard and cut into quarters.
  4. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly onto half of the bread slices. Place 3-4 cucumber slices per round on top of the mixture. Lightly coat the top slice of bread, just enough to keep the bread in place over the cucumbers and place on top.
  5. Serve immediately, or you may store cucumber sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 1 hour before serving.

Adapted from: Southern Living, by way of MyRecipes.com

You may use whichever type of bread you prefer. Traditional tea sandwiches are usually made with white bread. I used wheat bread, and the original recipe calls for one slice of each per sandwich.


Egg Salad Tea Sandwiches with Watercress

  • Servings: 12 halves
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • ⅛ teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt, or salt and pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 12 slices of thin sandwich bread
  • Small bunch watercress

Directions

  1. Roughly chop your hard-boiled eggs, or use an egg slicer if you have one. First, slice the egg horizontally, carefully flip the egg to the vertical position and slice again. (If you don’t have your own preferred method for hard-boiling eggs, please see notes below.)
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard and seasoned salt. Gently fold together.
  3. To construct the sandwich, remove the crusts from the bread and cut in halves, forming triangles (or your preferred shape).
  4. On half of the bread, add the egg salad and top with watercress leaves. Add a slice on top of each to complete the sandwich.

Adapted from: Serious Eats

To make hard-boiled eggs: Bring a pot of water to a boil, make sure there is enough water to completely cover the eggs. Once boiling rapidly, carefully add each egg using tongs. The eggs should be still cold from the fridge. Allow to boil for 12 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and allow to cool in an ice bath for 5 minutes, or until cool to the touch. Peel.

A note on sandwich size: I specifically used a loaf of “sandwich bread” from my grocery store, which were smaller and more square than a usual loaf of bread. These formed small halves, as you can see from my photos. If your bread is larger, or you want smaller sandwiches, feel free to cut into quarters.


Ham, Brie and Apple Tea Sandwich

  • Servings: 12 halves
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ½ lb deli ham of your choice (I used Virginia Ham)
  • 6 large slices of brie
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
  • dijon mustard
  • softened butter
  • 12 slices of thin sandwich bread

Directions

  1. Remove the crust from the bread.
  2. To assemble the sandwiches, spread half of the slices lightly with softened butter and dijon mustard. Place 1-2 pieces of ham on top of each, followed by 2 slices brie side-by-side lengthwise, and finally place 3-4 slices of apple on top. Finish with an additional piece of bread.
  3. Cut each sandwich into halves lengthwise to form rectangles.

Inspired by: The Food Network

A note on sandwich size: I specifically used a loaf of “sandwich bread” from my grocery store, which were smaller and more square than a usual loaf of bread. These formed small halves, as you can see from my photos. If your bread is larger, or you want smaller sandwiches, feel free to cut into quarters.


book review, recipe

All Grown Up + Grown-Up Ramen

There was a time before my blog, and before I became obsessed with Goodreads, that I kept track of what I read with a Google spreadsheet. It was pretty simple – title, author, notes, date finished and a Y/N column for whether or not I’d recommend it. That spreadsheet is my only memory of the last time I read a Jami Attenberg novel and my succinct reaction was “the ending was predictable; I cared about exactly zero of the characters.” Four years later, with her novel All Grown Up, I found myself having deja vu.

9780544824249_custom-378e8da65f06b2846e6b6c01b27adf75e2edb10f-s400-c85

Andrea is a thirty-nine-year-old single woman without children. She wanted to be an artist, but instead finds herself in an unfulfilling career so she can pay the rent. In New York City, that’s not remarkably unusual. What is remarkably unusual about Andrea is that she refuses to grow up, and the people around her think that’s perfectly alright.  

I didn’t find it predictable, though perhaps I should have – a 40-year-old woman who still acts like someone fresh out of college can’t be expected to grow up at that late stage – but I didn’t care about any of the characters. In the end, I found Andrea’s life and the novel on the whole quite sad, but on the plus side, Attenberg’s writing was lovely and made the less than 200 pages easy to get through.

In a transformation like the one I hoped Andrea would have, I turned a college classic into something a bit more put-together, a posh NYC favorite – Grown-up Ramen Noodles. I found a recipe from Fork Knife Swoon to go off of and set to work.  

To start, I began cooking a chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper in a skillet with olive oil. Once the rounded side was browned – about 7 minutes – I flipped it over and cooked the other side for another 5 minutes or so. I transferred it to a small foil-lined baking sheet and placed it in my preheated 375-degree oven to finish cooking.

IMG_3231

While the chicken was cooking, I began my broth and set the water for my eggs to boil. In a medium saucepan, I heated some toasted sesame oil before adding minced garlic and ginger. I allowed those to cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Then, I added the soy sauce and rice cooking wine, stirring to combine. After another minute, I added the chicken broth, covered the pan and brought it all to a boil.

Once boiling, I turned down the heat and allowed it to simmer for 5 minutes. I added the dried mushrooms and let the broth continue to simmer. Meanwhile, I removed the chicken from the oven and set it aside. I also added the two eggs to the separate pan of boiling water and set a timer for 7 minutes.

I used this time to prep my scallions and seaweed, and once the chicken had rested, I cut it into slices.

IMG_3232

After 10 minutes, I removed the mushrooms and placed them in the waiting bowls. (If I had sliced them, I would’ve done so here. If I was making this again, I would slice the mushrooms into more bite-size pieces, as noted in the recipe below.) I also placed the eggs into an ice bath so they could cool before peeling.

I added the dried ramen noodles into the prepared ramen broth, discarding the flavoring packets that come with the noodles. (College memories!) You could cook the noodles in plain boiling water instead, but I have always preferred to make them in the broth/flavoring to impart some of that flavor on the noodles.

IMG_3233

Once the noodles are ready, carefully place them in each bowl and top with the broth. Carefully peel each egg, slice in half and place in the bowls on top of the noodles and mushrooms. Add the sliced chicken, scallions and seaweed. Serve and enjoy!

IMG_3234

Grown-Up Chicken Ramen

  • Servings: 2
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to season
  • 1 TBS unsalted butter, or olive oil
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 tsp fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 TBS low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 TBS rice cooking wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • ½ – 1 oz dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 2 (3 oz) packs dried ramen noodles
  • optional: roasted seaweed snacks, in ribbons, for serving

Directions

  1. Cook the chicken: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Melt the butter (or heat olive oil) in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken breast, round side down, and cook until golden brown and it releases easily from the pan, about 5-7 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until golden.
  2. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you may transfer the chicken to a small baking sheet lined with foil.) Remove from the oven, transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil until ready to serve.

  3. Make the ramen broth: Heat the sesame oil in a large pot over medium heat, until shimmering. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the soy sauce and rice wine, and stir to combine. Cook for another minute. Add the stock, cover, and bring to boil. Remove the lid, and let simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, then add the dried mushrooms. Simmer gently for another 10 minutes, and season with salt, to taste.
  4. Otherwise, take the mushrooms out of the broth using tongs, and carefully, slice them into thick bite-size slices on a cutting board. (For particularly large mushrooms, you may cut them in half before slicing.) Place in bowls for serving.

  5. Make the soft-boiled eggs: Fill a pot with enough water to cover the eggs, and bring to a boil. Gently lower the eggs (still cold from the fridge) into the boiling water, and let simmer for 7 minutes (for a slightly-runny yoke) or 8 minutes (for a soft, but set-up yoke).
  6. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. When the timer finishes, transfer the eggs to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Wait at least 5 minutes, or until cool enough to handle, then carefully peel away the shell and slice in half, lengthwise. Set aside until ready to serve.

  7. Assemble the ramen bowls: Meanwhile, chop the scallions and slice the seaweed snacks into ribbons (if using). Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Set aside. When the eggs are in the ice bath, add the ramen noodles to the broth. Cook for approximately 3 minutes, until soft, then divide the noodles into two large bowls, next to the mushrooms. Add the ramen broth, dividing evenly. Top each bowl with half of the sliced chicken breast, a soft boiled egg each, fresh scallions and the seaweed. Serve immediately.

Adapted from: Fork Knife Swoon

To save some time, or if you’re making this on a warm day like I was, substitute pre-made rotisserie chicken.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here

book review, recipe

The Boston Girl + Fried Rice

Anita Diamant’s novel The Boston Girl had been on my to-read list for a while and when it finally got selected for one of my book clubs, I was excited. I didn’t know much about it beyond the description; it was about a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston with her immigrant family.

the-boston-girl-by-anita-diamant

Though this had quite a different story to tell, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the lovely Lillian Boxfish (which I had just finished a few weeks before). Both stories follow strong females making their own way in big cities during a time when most women were supposed to be making families instead. This one is also narrated by an 85-year-old woman, this time Addie, as she tells her granddaughter how she got to be the woman she is today.

Our book club’s consensus was that the story was “so light” but as we dove in, we realized it actually wasn’t. Perhaps it was the narration style or the benefit of knowing it all turned out okay (after all, Addie was here telling us what happened so long ago), but Diamant tackles quite a few tough issues and Addie certainly has her share of hardships throughout the novel.

Despite the fact that she ate “pie for breakfast every day [one] summer,” food isn’t a key player in the story. It does make an appearance in the few dinner dates that Addie shares with us, and on one such evening she is introduced to Chinese food for the first time. In the retelling, she asks her granddaughter, “Did you know there was a time before all Jews loved Chinese food?” I had recently read an article around Christmas that tackled this very question, which I had found quite interesting. Chinese food has since become so interwoven with Jewish culture and there is such joy in the experience that Addie describes, I knew what I had to make.

I found an unintimidating recipe for fried rice and got to work. (After actually making it, however, I don’t know why I was ever intimidated – it’s quite easy.) I began by prepping all of my vegetables. I finely diced my onions and carrots and chopped my chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I was using leftover white rice, so thankfully that was already set to go. I put my egg into a small bowl, added 3 drops each of soy sauce and sesame oil and beat it until well-combined.

I let one tablespoon of oil heat up in my wok, then added the chopped onion. Once they were cooked through and starting to turn light brown, I removed them and set aside.

img_2575

With another small amount of oil heated in the wok, I added the mixture of egg, soy sauce and sesame oil. Once it was cooked, I transferred it to a cutting board and chopped it up.

img_2576

Again, I heated another tablespoon of oil and added the chicken, carrots, peas and cooked onion. (I would recommend adding the carrots in a few minutes earlier – perhaps even up to 5 minutes before the rest of the ingredients – to ensure that it gets cooked well enough to be a bit soft. My carrots ended up slightly crunchy, on the underdone side; my only complaint about the dish.)

img_2577

Once the chicken was mostly cooked, about 3 or 4 minutes, I added the rice and green onions (I didn’t use bean sprouts this time) and cooked for another 2 to 3 minutes. I was a little wary of undercooked chicken, which is why I cooked each stage a little longer than recommended in the recipe. Cook as long as feels/looks right to you, making sure to note that it will keep cooking throughout the process.

img_2578

For the last step, I added 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (plus a little extra) and the chopped egg, allowing the entire mixture to cook through for another minute and a half. The finished dish was quite tasty, one I would definitely make – and not be intimidated by! – again.

img_2579

Chinese Fried Rice

  • Servings: 4, 1 cup each
  • Print


From: Sue Lau on Food.com

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2½ tablespoons oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (or more eggs if you like)
  • 3 drops soy sauce
  • 3 drops sesame oil
  • 8 ounces cooked lean boneless pork or 8 ounces chicken, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrot (very small)
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 cups cold cooked rice, grains separated (preferably medium grain)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (add more if you like)

Directions

  1. Heat 1 TBS oil in wok; add chopped onions and stir-fry until onions turn a nice brown color, about 8-10 minutes; remove from wok.
  2. Allow wok to cool slightly.
  3. Mix egg with 3 drops of soy and 3 drops of sesame oil; set aside.
  4. Add 1/2 TBS oil to wok, swirling to coat surfaces; add egg mixture; working quickly, swirl egg until egg sets against wok; when egg puffs, flip egg and cook other side briefly; remove from wok, and chop into small pieces.
  5. Heat 1 TBS oil in wok; add selected meat to wok, along with carrots, peas, and cooked onion; stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  6. Add rice, green onions, and bean sprouts, tossing to mix well; stir-fry for 3 minutes.
  7. Add 2 TBS of light soy sauce and chopped egg to rice mixture and fold in; stir-fry for 1 minute more; serve.
  8. Set out additional soy sauce on the table, if desired.

book review, recipe

The Trespasser + Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza

I read Tana French’s first Dublin Murder Squad novel, In the Woods, about a year and a half ago. It reminded me of all the hours I had spent as a young girl reading Nancy Drew books and then, when I was little bit older, devouring Mary Higgins Clark mysteries. I read the second book about a month later, but until The Trespasser, I hadn’t picked up one of the series since then.

29430013.jpg

This time, the detectives are trying to hunt down the person responsible for killing a woman in her apartment. With a boyfriend who insists he’s innocent, the spotless crime scene doesn’t help, but Antoinette and her partner are seemingly being pushed into charging him. They have to follow their guts without raising any flags.

Unless it pertains to the crime, this genre of novels aren’t usually rich with descriptions of food. In this case, the victim’s table was all set and ready for a romantic dinner when she was murdered, but the dinner itself hadn’t yet made it to the table and it was ruined by the time anyone found it.

That wasn’t exactly appetizing, but with all of the late nights on the case, there was ample opportunity to make something for an after-hours snack. I seized the opportunity and made pizza. Having once made an unexpectedly delicious strawberry balsamic bacon pizza, I was interested in trying out one that similarly unique. In honor of Ireland, where the novel takes place, I scouted out a recipe using classic St. Patrick’s Day fare – corned beef and cabbage (and potatoes).

I used store-bought dough, but otherwise I followed this recipe from the Food Network.

First, I sliced my potato, covered the slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and placed them in the pre-heated oven on a sheet pan.

While those baked, I chopped up the cabbage, so it could begin to cook down on the stove with the pickling spices (below, before I wrapped them in the cheesecloth).

img_2544

Once the potatoes were done, I put the pizza dough into the oven to pre-bake for 8 minutes, as directed on the package. I also roughly chopped my corned beef and shredded my parmesan and combined the cheeses.

With the dough and toppings all ready, it was time to assemble the pizza. I sprinkled the dough with olive oil and covered it with the cheese. I then layered on the remaining toppings – the cabbage, the corned beef, and last, the potatoes. A sprinkle of salt and pepper and it was all set for the oven. After about 12 minutes, it came out all gooey and smelled amazing. We couldn’t wait to dive in!

Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza

  • Servings: 4 with 2 slices each
  • Print


Adapted from: Food Network

Ingredients

  • Store-bought pizza dough, enough for 2 pizzas
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups sliced green cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spices, tied securely in cheesecloth
  • 1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 6 ounces sliced corned beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

[/recipe-directions]
1. Prep/prepare your dough according to directions or your own recipe.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, season with salt and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pickling spices and just enough water to cover. Simmer over low heat, covered, until the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the cabbage and set aside (discard spices).
3. Place a pizza stone in the oven, if you have one, and preheat to 500 degrees. Toss the potato with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet until golden, about 15 minutes.
4. Place one round on a floured pizza peel (if baking on a stone) or a large oiled pizza pan (if using two regular pans, you can prep both pizzas together].
5. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Scatter half of each of the cheeses, corned beef, cabbage and potatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper. Carefully slip the pizza onto the hot stone, if using, or place the pan(s) in the oven. Cook until golden and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough and toppings, if needed.
[/recipe-directions]