Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lassi is More

Today was the first day that I looked out my window and the trees were actually budding green leaves… ALL of them, spontaneously. One day, the trees are bare, the next, they’re green. Mother Nature is a funny old lady, I tell you, but at least she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve.

To celebrate the good weather I took to the streets for several hours and while walking home, I realized I was damn hungry but couldn’t get the courage to cook anything, or even, heaven forbid, put forth the effort to chop some veggies and make a salad. I may love eating but sometimes my laziness + a hot day = me not cooking and scrounging for any food stuffs that I can pretend equals a meal.

Then it hit me. The only thing I ever really want when it’s warm and I just need to cool off from the inside out: I wanted lassi.

First things first. Let’s learn how to say this word. You definitely do not pronounce it like that famous dog of bravely epic proportions, “Lassie.” You pronounce it like “Luss-y” for mysterious reasons that I’m unaware of, but thems the facts, folks. Just accept it.

Lassi, that classical Indian yogurt mixture, is literally the drink of my childhood, adolescence, and adult life in Arizona. Since it was almost always hot, my mom or G-ma prepared it often and served it in tall iced-tea glasses with flecks of ice glinting in the sun. I kid you not, this is a magical drink and you will laugh with glee at how easy it is. Here I am sitting an hour and a half after I downed a glass, and I’m STILL cooled off, and my belly is content and things are just pretty copasetic right now.

From new year, new food

You take yogurt (I use low-fat, but go for the whole milk yogurt if you want to as well. I tend to avoid fat-free dairy products…hello! It’s weird!) You dump about a cup and a half of yogurt into a blender, a solid handful of ice, a splash of either milk or water and a few tablespoons of sugar (to your liking). You blend the whole thing up until it’s frothy but with a few crunchie ice pieces still floating around…and then… you pour it and drink it. It’s pretty amazing, you know. When you feel like getting fancy with the flavors, add some mango nectar (or chunks of very ripe peeled mangoes) and blend it up too. I’ve read that other traditional Indian lassis use spices and are salty, but in my family it’s always been the simple yogurt, ice, sugar mixture and truly it’s a drink of beauty. It curbs hunger, satisfies a slight sweet tooth, and cools you off completely. Trust Indians don't mess around when it comes to yogurt.

From new year, new food

( is lassi looking out the window to the poor sweaty people below.)

For those of you who are keen on the new “natural frozen yogurt” by the likes of Tangysweet here in D.C., lassi tastes almost exactly like the “Classic” flavor of that yogurt…except in smoothie-riffic form, and is cheaper since you can make it at home. Sometimes, less is more. Or, in this case… lassi is more. Ha! Mother Nature might have a few tricks up her sleeve, but I have my own with lassi and it’s heat-defeating capabilities. I think that’s a pretty good start.

Oh! And I haven't forgotten about getting more vegetables on this site, but I just couldn't bring myself to write about braised cabbage when it was 90 degrees out. I'll work on it, I promise.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vagabondy Python and the Search for the Holy Cookie Grail

Ah, April.

It’s really the one big glitch in springtime, as I see it. I suppose life is always a delicate balance, and, to even out the lovely weather and flowers and green things, we have rain and allergies, and…taxes.

This year, I’m turning to cookies to see me through…and, hopefully, a healthy refund. Thanks, IRS!

I love cookies. Remember Cookie Monster?

That should give you an idea of how I feel about a good cookie. While I don’t go bat-crazy and stuff them in my face like he did, give me one well-made cookie (or two, if I’m being honest here), and I’m a content girl. I especially love me some oatmeal cookies. Maybe it’s the part of me that pretends that this is a “healthier” dessert choice, but dang it all if oatmeal cookies aren’t near perfection. Chewy, hearty, sweet and a bit salty, nothing whispers comfort like oatmeal cookies on a gusty spring day.

Here in DC, we’re lucky to have a local chain called Teaism, where a few years ago I was introduced to the glories of the Salty Oat Cookie. This year when I moved to DC, I discovered its spunky twin, the Chocolate Salty Oat Cookie. Oh. My. Goodness.

Salt on TOP of a cookie? Oh, yes. For those of you out there, like moi, who have a penchant for salty foods, this cookie is a dream. The first bite is salty, and as soon as that passes, the richness of the oatmeal kicks in and the added sweetness from a raisin or chocolate chip finishes it off nicely. Next thing you know, you’re left wondering where the hell salty oatmeal cookies have been all these years, hand sadly empty, crumbs trailed along the table and your shirt, a testament to the awe-inspiring power of new and exciting food combinations with sugar and salt.

Ever since my encounter with the mythical Salty Oat Cookie, I always put the salt required for oatmeal cookies on top of the dough right before it sets in the oven, and really…it’s pretty clever.

From new year, new food

Speaking of clever, I thought it would be pretty great to throw in some dried cherries and walnuts and chocolate chips into this oatmeal cookie recipe I found online that claimed to be the be-all, end-all of oatmeal cookie recipes. Quite the claim, but I'm a gullible person you know. Actually I prefer the term trusting, but whatever, anyway, this cookie recipe did NOT in fact bowl me over with its awesomeness, nor did my mouth do somersaults when I took a bite, nor was I super proud to share this with people at work. I mean... this cookie recipe is fine. It is, in fact, good. But when you have great expectations, and the result is only pretty good rather than spectacularly amazing, its a bit of a let down. They're crispier than I like (I prefer big, soft, chewy oatmeal cookies) and I thought it was strange the recipe didn't call for any vanilla. I should have known. Anyway, the quest is still on for the best oatmeal cookie recipe ever, which means I just get to eat a lot more cookies, which isn't really a travesty at all. Also, when I brought some in to work today, the whole bag was gone before lunchtime, and were actually pretty good when warmed up in the microwave for twenty seconds.

From new year, new food

By the by-- cookies are a great way to pay off your one friend willing and kind enough to do your taxes. I mean…SOMETHING has to nourish them through this trying time, no? At least, that’s how I see it. They spend an hour and a half on my taxes, I spend an hour and a half on cookies, and look: an in-kind trade that makes both parties happy and good with the government for another year. Thank you, Michigan-Tax-Man-Friend: you’re buena gente. Also, the cookies will be in the mail tomorrow, and, like I said, don't get upset that they're not absolute perfection.

Up next? Probably a re-cap of all the veggies I ate this week in an attempt to be slightly more loving to the vegetable section of the food pyramid. You have Asparagus and Cabbage to look forward to, you lucky tax-burdened beasts, you. In other news, my lovely sister Natalie and our good friend Jared are coming to the District THIS THURSDAY to visit with me for the weekend! Joy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Curds

They say that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.

That’s fine and dandy and all, but lets be honest--that’s a lot of lemons to squeeze. Also, when I get a tall glass of fresh lemonade, it’s usually downed pretty quickly because I love the stuff. But who wants to take their lemons and make something so fleetingly good? I say, when you get a bunch lemons (metaphorically or literally) go for the gold. The lasting kind, or, at least, something that lasts a few more days than fresh lemonade.

Go for Lemon Curd.

Don’t let the name fool you. Everyone knows and generally likes lemons, but curd? It reminds me of those small, light-yellow cheese curds they try to sell you in stores. Or in Wisconsin and Minnesota, where, while visiting a friend, I was once told, “The sign of a good curd is that it squeaks when you bite it.” Squeaking curds?? Um….

It also makes me think of that nursery rhyme:

Little Miss Muffett
Sat on a tuffett
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider
And sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffett away

I don’t know about you, but I’m still not quite sure what a tuffett is, exactly. When I was a kid, I had a dim picture in my mind of some soupy-porridge substance that made me feel terrible for Miss Muffett and her lunch. The only bit I understood was the part about a spider freaking Miss Muffett out so badly that she couldn’t eat her meal and actually ran away screaming, curds and whey left toppled upon the ground rather forlornly.

All in all, I say that curd, in its 2 various forms, gets a strange and mysterious rap. Not too many of us think “Man. I really wish I had some curd right now.” Or “Hey guys! Who’s in the mood for curd tonight?” Unless, maybe, you are from Minnesota and grew up with the squeaking cheese curds. I, on the other hand, Arizona raised, did not have cheese curds. What I did have in our front yard, however, was a variety of citrus trees laden with grapefruit, oranges, limes, and, of course, the humble lemon... which led to my favorite curd: the lemon kind.

Needless to say…it’s been one of those weeks, you know? The kind where work gets even more workish than normal and personal events take interesting and somewhat unexpected turns, all of which throw off your groove and leave you scratching your head and thinking “What the…? Where the…? ...I need to go to bed.”

To celebrate the lemons of life, I actually bought some rather sunny-looking specimens at the grocery and decided, rather smartly, that while it was still too early for lemonade it was perfect timing for some lemon curd. Now, I’ve only made it once before, for an Easter lemon pie I tackled last year, and I will say that while the pie was fine, I fell much more deeply in love with the custard I had created to fill said pie with. And while I love me some pie, in this case, I loved me the lemon curd more.

From new year, new food

The thing about lemon curd is that it is a great little topping to have a jar of. According to my mom and other various gourmet sources, its perfect in tart shells with berries on top, on hot scones or toast, on shortbread cookies, and, now that I think about it, could be pretty delicious on some raspberry sorbet. The possibilities are endless, and dang it all—its high time lemon curd gets the proper respect it deserves.

From new year, new food

(Whoops! How ever did my Dogfish Head 60 Minute I.P.A. get in that picture?? Mmmm.)

The premise is simple: fresh lemon juice (or lime, if you want to get even fancier with your curd), sugar, a pinch of salt, lemon zest, eggs and a healthy heap of butter, when stirred over medium-low heat for about ten to fifteen minutes, turns the sharp tang of lemons into a sweetened creamy spread that’s thick enough to stick to a spoon (which is another way to eat it, as I’ve happily discovered). Even better, its super easy to whip together after a long day, which means it’s great to have on hand for breakfast the next morning (as everyone at work thought when I brought a jar in.)

From new year, new food

(It's like bottled sunshine. But tastier.)

Either way you look at it, having a lemony week actually turns into something much better… a couple jars of tangy-sweet awesomeness that you can share with the people around you. And, might I add, much easier and longer-lasting than a single glass of lemonade. Between you and me, when lemons are concerned, I think I got the better end of the deal.