Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Eatin' fun times

I bought a fancy new photo card thingymajig and now I can't get my food photos off the camera.

And I am too tired to go root out the camera-to-computer cable.

But I have been eating non-stop, so here is a list to keep you entertained while I go find that frickin' stupid cable.

1. June Jam - I typically will not take anything a defense attorney tries to give me because usually it involves work and something protracted and difficult. However, there is one who I like very much and her name is June and I know she is reading this blog and when she gives me something protracted and difficult, she makes up for it with jam. June and I talk about food - what we eat, what we make, the how's and the why's. So when she made jam, I gave her a couple of starter pointers and she in return gave me a jar of both her strawberry jam, and of her apricot jam. Both of which were gone almost immediately. The strawberry jam I ate on toast for three days straight and the apricot jam, which I got today, half the jar was gone within minutes. When my co-worker asked me if June had really given me a half-eaten jar of jam, I had to sheepishly explain that I was the one who'd eaten it. Whoops!

2. French fry & ketchup sandwich - yes, this is what I had for lunch today. Don't worry I canceled the point value out by having a Diet Coke with it. When I called Ugi's to order french fries and toast, the kid was like "french fries and toast? that's it? really?" I was like "don't judge me home slice!"

3. Five ears of corn on the cob - this is what I had for dinner tonight. I bought fresh corn and I had to use it or lose it. So I had it for dinner - slathered with butte and rolled in Old Bay, curry, chili, and garlic. It was delicious! I ate it over the sink and played my music a little loud. It was great. My chin is still shiny from the butter.

4. Stonyfield Minty-Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt - quite possibly the best pretend ice cream out there. I can't write anything more about this stuff because then I am going to want it and there is a pint of it in my freezer and I don't want to finish this post and then have to go finish the pint. Y'know?

5. Fried baloney sandwiches - this weekend I was at the NASCAR race in New Hampshire and I was intrigued by these sandwiches. They were $6 which was out of my price range for a fried baloney sandwich, but I sort of wanted one anyway. Although just typing that made my heart cramp a little. And you know what else? I have a doctor's appointment next week and while my doctor is the best, she is sneaky. She will smile and tell me I am awesome, but then she will make me get a cholesterol test right then and there instead of letting me have, oh I dunno, three months to prepare with oat bran. Note to self: no more french fry sandwiches. Right. But I am still thinking about that fried baloney sandwich.

6. Saddest food story this weekend - was again at the New Hampshire Speedway. I watched as a kid was following his mom up the steps and she looked totally aggravated and the kid was carrying a plate of fried dough and he was trying to keep up and he tripped a bit on the tread and the fried dough flopped onto the ground. I could see that he was contemplating using the five second rule, but you could tell that when he looked up at the faces around him looking at him he was sort of intimidated. And his mom was like "oh well, too bad, so sad" and kept going. He seemed so bummed out. In my whole entire life I have never wanted to buy someone fried dough as badly as I wanted to right then. Every single person knows what it is like to have a special food treat flop to the ground. It is a crushing disappointment. And everyone around me felt it too.

7. Five dollar appetizers at Rocca in the South End - as soon as I can figure out the photo thing, I am going to post about that visit. But in the meantime, GO. Go immediately for this deal. It is delicious. At five pm they have a five dollar appetizer menu. Also go for the drink made with blueberry vodka from Maine - so delicious, you won't even care it hasn't been properly sunny for 42 days.

8. Cold River Blueberry Vodka - holy crap this stuff is delicious! I love blueberries as it is, but this is a marvelous vodka, it smells like a blueberry and tastes like a blueberry and is really easy to drink. Hooray for Maine and hooray for vodka+blueberry! If you see it, buy it. You won't regret it, well, you won't regret it in moderation anyway.

And that is what I got. I was going to try for ten, but you know what? A list of ten is a cliche.

(well if I had to put a number 9 it would be that I am already excited about Three Sisters Marshmallow Oaties for breakfast tomorrow.... but you know, now I am getting ahead of myself.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Finally, dinner at MY house

I am a pretty lackadaisical housekeeper at the best of times. Candlelight and wine definitely help to cover up the awkward bits.

But you know you can't live with CHAOS (can't have anyone over syndrome) forever. You can I suppose, but then you start with one cat for company, and the next thing you know you have 87 cats and newspapers stacked to the ceiling. Oops!

So I lugged all the mess into the basement, swept a little, stuck candles everywhere, and told everyone to BYOB and lots of it!

Then I made a nice little late lunch/early dinner to celebrate Father's Day. And also that it is Dad's birthday, Mom & Dad's wedding anniversary, and the longest day of the year....

For the first time in a very long time I had a little tiny party and I didn't sweat it really. I did what I could do to tidy up everything and then I made a very easy meal.

A friend had given me a gigantic slab of very expensive & delicious cheese that I could not otherwise afford on my tuna fish budget. He was going out of town and wanted to get rid of the perishables, to that end he also gave me an enormous amount of basil and about a pound of sliced red peppers, both of which I used to make a baked chicken dish - recipe below. For a side dish I made couscous with feta, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and olives - recipe also below.

Then I bought a chocolate angel food cake and some ice cream, which I served with the strawberry-rhubarb-rum compote I'd made during the week.

Like I said, easy and delicious. Because between the idea of cleaning and hostessing, I was trying not to freak!

Easy Peasey Baked Chicken with Basil

I used 8 skinless chicken thighs with the bone in because I wanted leftovers -use more or less if you want.

Firstly I sauteed three onions and about 3 red peppers together until soft and the onions started to caramelize. Let cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally while you make the pesto. It's okay if they get nice and dark brown.

For the pesto I used about two cups plus of basil, whizzed it in the food processor, added in olive oil, whizzed it some more, then added a few peeled heads of garlic, some salt & pepper, and then I whizzed it some more, until it started to look like a runny pesto. You do want to make a good bit of this stuff.

Put the thighs into a baking dish. Pour the pesto all over the top of the chicken. Add the cooked onions and peppers over the chicken.

Put the whole thing into a 350o - 375o degree oven for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Until the meat is falling off the bone, the pesto is bubbling and the whole thing looks and smells lovely and delicious.

Note: I went the extra garlic step and tucked in some whole peeled garlic cloves around the dish and they turned lovely and soft and basil-y. And you know, if you don't have peppers and onions, or don't like them, use seasoned breadcrumbs instead. Whatever works for you.

Really Delicious Couscous

From the antipasto mix & match bar at Whole Foods you will need a container of the following: diced feta with olives, roasted garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes. It's sort of expensive, so you can also make it for yourself - just use those basic ingredients, stick them in a jar, douse with light olive oil and some whole pink and black peppercorns, and leave in the fridge until you need it. If you do this, I suggest chopping the sun-dried tomato into small pieces beforehand.

Ok, I made a whole box of couscous, and for this you will need about 2 or 3 cups of the above mixture. Be sure to use a slotted spoon when you are taking it out of the container - you will want a little olive oil in the dish, but not too much - then pick out and chop up the olives (be sure to remove the pits) and the sun-dried tomato. The feta and the garlic can be left whole.

Make the couscous according to package instructions, wait until it's mostly cooled, break up the lumps with a fork, and then blend it together with the antipasto mixture, some salt and a little pepper. Do this part gently because you don't want to mash everything together.

You can season it with a little cumin if you like, or paprika.

Serve it warm or room temp.

Note: You can use whatever antipasto mixture you like. Caperberries would be nice, and roasted red peppers. Use whatever you have, keep it easy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sad News

As some of you might remember back in December I hosted a round of Operation Baking GALS. The fantastic members of Team Calamity Shazaam sent nearly two dozen boxes of cookies to SFC Kevin Dupont who was stationed over in Afghanistan.

Even though the boxes arrived in time, Kevin had been out on a mission until January. However, according to Lisa (his wife) the cookies were mostly intact by the time he returned and were well enjoyed!

Sometime at the end of February, beginning of March Lisa came by the office to say "Hi" and we were chatting about how she was relieved because she had finally heard from Kevin after not hearing from him for several weeks. She played a voicemail from him and we giggled like schoolgirls because it's love and it's goofy and it's a relief to hear from someone you love so much after not for so long.

But war and things military being as they are, a few days later I got a call from Lisa's boss who told me that Kevin had sustained severe burns in an explosion. An IED had hit the truck he was in, killing another soldier. And that Lisa was on her way to be with him.

It was totally shocking. Which honestly seems absurd. In war how can anyone think that everyone will be ok? No. People don't always make it. And even though I think Lisa is such a wonderful human being, simply thinking that nothing bad should ever happen to her because she is such a great person doesn't make it so.

Un-f*cking fair if you ask me.

Kevin has spent the time since March at the Brooke Army Hospital in Texas trying valiantly to recover. Lisa has nearly daily updated his online journal, even early this morning she shared that Kevin was due to receive the Bronze Star this morning. Sadly a family friend later updated the journal to note his passing at 9:14am. Geez I still can't quite believe that he succumbed to his injuries. I really, naively believed he would make it.

So say a little prayer or whatever you do for Kevin Dupont, his wife, and his whole family at this sad time, and raise a cookie to toast his life and to the lives of all the people who serve this country of ours.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

All rhubarb, all the time

Ok you know what? After today, how about I not post about rhubarb again this season? Hmmm, I will see what I can do, but I am not making any promises.

I made jam finally.

And you know what is one of the most satisfying noises in jam making? The little pop-blurp when top seals properly and pops in. Right now I am listening to the sweetly weird symphony of pop-blurps.

Alright. So when I make jam I kind of wing it. Well, frankly, when I cook I am pretty much winging it. The only part I actually follow exactly is the canning part because if you f*ck that sh*t up you can KILL people! Yipes!

To be honest with all the rhubarb and strawberries I bought I've been eating it a little at a time, trying to prolong the deliciousness. Tonight I cooked some with a little brown sugar and rum - different and delicious! The other night was with a little mint - which was gross. But I really bought so much that jam seemed like a great way to cook up lots of it in a hurry before the deliciousness turned into rotteness.

So I started looking about for a recipe. The one thing I have found about most jam recipes is that they all seem to use waaaaaaaaaay too much sugar. As it is rhubarb is going to wear off the enamel on your teeth, so why compound the rot with sugar?

The other thing I have found it that lots of recipes call for jello. Blech. Why do that to lovely old jam? In my own experience jam becomes jam at 220o or so. I bring the jam to a boil, then to a really good boil for a few minutes at 220o, and then take it off the heat and jar it up. So far, so good, most of the time anyway.

Yeah, so I just wanted a plain old rhubarb-strawberry jam recipe and found a reasonably easy one over on The Rhubarb Compendium website. The only thing is that it called for way, WAY, too much sugar. I think it was like 12 cups of chopped fruit to 6 cups of sugar, which seems fine in theory I suppose. But it made my teeth wince.

So I used 12 cups of chopped fruit and about 3 cups of sugar. I also added in a little chopped candied ginger (such a culinary cliche at this point), a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt.

I chopped the rhubarb about 1/2 inch thick, added in some bits of chopped candied ginger, and then covered them in 1-1/2 cup sugar and let that sit for about an hour and a half. Then I cut up the strawberries and covered them in the rest of the sugar.

After about half an hour I smooshed up the strawberries a little, just a little really because you do want a few pieces of fruit poking about, and then mixed them in with the rhubarb. The whole thing then went into my big yellow enamel pan over a reasonably high heat.

If you are going to can this stuff, don't forget to have your jars already ready.

Let the mixture come to a nice boil and then turn the heat up. This will start to really boil, and spatter super hot pre-jam all over you. If you are not used to being burned, use oven mitts while stirring.

I use a regular old candy thermometer to tell me when it gets to 220o and when it gets there, I let it boil away for a few minutes, 5 or 7 maybe.

Here is the thing about this step. You have to remind yourself that with all that sugar cooking what it really wants to do is turn into a thick candy mass. The point of cooking it to a certain degree is to get it to the set point and keep it from the candy point. So use your noggin and look at what you are cooking. If it starts to look like it is thickening into something that resembles a melted Jolly Rancher, pull it and can it.

Once I pull it off the heat, I put it in my sterilized jars immediately. Cap, band, and into the water bath they went for 10 minutes.

Let me just say that I just bought a funnel and a jar lifter and I cannot believe I did not do that sooner. And also I got the pint sized funnel - it works in both pints and wide mouth jars, but the wide mouth funnel is only good for the big jars, so don't bother. As for the jar lifters, well I used to wrestle the jars out of the water bath with a pair of metal tongs, praying each time that I wouldn't drop the jar of boiling hot jam on my foot. So the jar lifter is really a wise investment.

Now I am just waiting to see how this sets up. Of course I saved a little aside to test and that was pretty good. But I can't tell if it is because it is good, or if I am just loving the rhubarb.

I will post a photo tomorrow. So I guess there will be one more rhubarb post.


Rhubarbiola - have you heard of it?

I doubt it. I just made it up. It is how I am now referring to my love of rhubarb that has now become a fever: rhubarbiola.

It can only be cured by eating rhubarb until it is out of season. Or until your teeth fall out from the ill effects of oxalic acid.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I brought back an armful of rhubarb from Vermont this weekend. I have had every intention of making rhubarb & strawberry tarts and rhubarb & strawberry jam, but the reality is that I have been making plain old rhubarb & strawberry cooked in a little sugar and vanilla and then eating it directly from the pan.

Ahhhh, rhubarbiola!

But today is THE day I make jam. Dammit!

And first I had lunch with the Evil Twin because she is hands downs my most favorite person to spend time with ever in the world. Woot!

Pictures and other stuff will be posted later.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vacation Day Breakfast with Sister

It is a fact that whenever I have a day off and the Evil Twin and I get in a car together, we somehow end up driving around for f*cking hours and hours just messing about.

It is hysterical.

Today we started off planning to go to Friendly Toast in Cambridge, then ended up going to Sorella's in JP because we sort of thought we'd go visit Grandpapa in rehab. Yeah, I have a Grandpapa in rehab. Woot!

But then the food at Sorella's took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to come out and by the time we were done we had to run off to an appointment (the Evil Twin works for herself and her vacation requests are always denied. Bitch boss right?) and then off again to another appointment. After which we stopped at the area big box so I could get some canning jars (rhubarb!!) and some jar lifters. The Evil Twin bought some yarn and a cap organizer.

Oh and then we had to run back into town to drop some papers off at my Grandpapa's apartment.

By that point I was like oh holy crap, get me the hells outta this car before I vomit so I got dropped off. And the Evil Twin took off because she had a couple more appointments.

Ohhhhh yeah right, this was meant to be about the food at Sorella's. Let me tell you, that place is lucky the food is delicious because it was freezing cold due to the door being left open, and I kept getting a whiff of dirty. You know how when the tables get wiped off with a too-dirty dishrag? Yeah, dirty like that. And then it took waaaaay too long to get our food anyway. People who came in much later than we did got their orders long before us, and then my food came out before the Evil Twin's did. Boo hiss..

(boo hoo, no food)

However, it was seriously delicious and worth every cranky moment.

I got Mexican polenta and the ET got the homemade polenta

Homemade polenta with marinara & mozzerella.
Broccoli & home fries.

Spicy Mexican polenta with vegetarian chili & home fries.
Oh and melted cheese under there. YUM!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ahh happiness....

You know if we were all happy all the time, we wouldn't even know it.

Which means that when I am happy, I am really grateful for it. Like today. I went to Vermont this weekend and brought back an absurd amount of rhubarb and strawberries. The warm, clear red scent of really ripe strawberries in my kitchen makes me nearly delirious with the joy of being alive in the same way that just bloomed lilacs do. Or the same way the woods smell make me happy, like spring water and leaves and dark damp earth and filtered sunlight. Happiness!

The other thing I brought back from Vermont was our old kitchen table that had been stored up in the barn at the camp. And this has made me much happier than I would have thought.

So as I mentioned in a previous post we all went through the cabin up in the woods to see if there was anything that we really really wanted. I took a million photos to send to other family members to see if there is anything they all want and then I realized that everything up there belongs there. Taking the one item out will never represent the camp experience for me. The camp is the sum of all the parts: the old woodstove we make eggs and bacon on, the battered kitchen chairs we perch on to drink and talk long into the night, the kerosene lamps we light in the absence of electricity, the wood & enamel kitchen sink, the stinky old outhouse, the weathered shingles that smell like maple syrup when heated by a long warm fall day...

This is all part of the experience at the camp and to take away any one item didn't make sense to me. It would just be a reminder of something gone - parceled out and carted away.

But then I realized I really wanted that old kitchen table set.

Rosebud, right.

Anyway, this set came from a summer house my parents had years ago. When they sold it, they carted all the stuff up to the Vermont camp. It reminds me of fun summer days and of shared family memories, of being barefooted and bathing suited and carefree and I wanted it back in my own kitchen.

How could something that reminds me of so many good times not bring me a little joy in my own house?

So once I clean it all up - it's been in a barn for probably 15 years - I will take and post a few photos. If for nothing else, this table has definitely been great incentive to finish cleaning up the kitchen once and for all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vermont for the weekend

And all I can think about is if I will find rhubarb for sale somewhere on the road....

It's a sickness I tell you.

Anyway, yes, so my family is selling the old homestead. Only the buyer can only take the land so the house is available.

Can't you just picture yourself living in this house? Making jam and drying stuff in the attic loft? Yeah, I totally can. Which is hard because I am going up there this weekend and I know that all I am going to want to do is figure out a way to move the house somewhere so that I can give up this city living and go live in the Little House in the Big Woods. This has been my dream since I could read.


I bet you didn't know that about me huh.

Anyway, so I am going to go and I SWARE I will sort out the kitchen when I get back. Sware.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Encore pasta!

Yeah, yeah, the kitchen is STILL a f*cking massive sh*tshow.

Oh well. It's Wednesday. The most effective way to deal with a tipped over kitchen is to ignore it as much as possible.

And eat lots of pasta.

Pasta requires one pan, and maybe a strainer, if that.

I pretty much made the exact same recipe as the other night. A chopped head of garlic (yes, an entire head), some tomato paste, basil, bucatini, oh and this time I added a giant spoonful of chili & garlic sauce.

Because I wanted to light my mouth UP!

Although to be honest, I didn't feel the heat too much because I had already scalded my mouth with the rhubarb-strawberry compote I made for dessert. As per usual I could not wait to eat the rhubarb. Oh and thanks to the oxalic acid in the r'barb I cannot feel my teeth either.

You know, all things considered, as to what I eat, it sometimes is a marvel to me that I am still alive.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Yep, I took no further action in the kitchen.

Instead, me n'Even Steven went for dinner at dbar and I ate steak and drank cosmos.

But my excuse is, not that I need an excuse, is that I was out with Even Steven to celebrate his being out. Out of the closet that is.

Yep that is correct. It is officially Pride Week! Hooray for gay people everywhere!

And hooray for drinking cocktails with very nice people I like very much!

PS: Get your gay pride vodka drink ideas here, complete with a very cool intro from Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag: Absolut Colors

Day 1 (too many) of the Unfortunate Kitchen Incident

I don't know if I can call it an incident so much a made-by-me-clusterf*ck, but I don't think that this kitchen is EVER going to get sorted.


Don't get me wrong, I have every intention of coming home after work to get going on it, but then my energy level peters out right around the minute I flip open the laptop and decide to rearrange my blogs and write some posts and read some recipes and respond to some emails.

It ridiculous really. And really I can't wait to get to the part where it is all organized so that I can start cooking again.

Which I need to do stat because I've promised to make a friend some soup & stuff and besides I am all out of leftovers.

I wish I was that person who could tip it all into the garbage..

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pretty soon I will be eating cake out of the trash*

I ate half a cold leftover bacon cheeseburger. I did not even warm it up, or even take it out of the plastic takeaway container. I ate it at the tiny bit of counter that is clear, dipping it every other bite into ketchup.

This is the same hamburger that sat outside for, oh, a good few hours yesterday afternoon. Really this is just a test of the emergency expulsion system - I will either be seriously ill later, or I won't.

But I am totally unrepentant because it was f*cking delicious. So there.

Oh and a side, unrelated note, if I listen to anymore Iron & Wine I am going to vomit up an entire Robert Pattinson. True story. Ok, well maybe just that one song.

*The above headline is a reference to a very funny scene from Sex in the City when Miranda uses cake as a substitute for sex.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Quiet weekend.

Well Friday night I stayed in, which for me personally is something I enjoy. I can watch all the crap tv my little brain can handle, eat popcorn and chocolate chips for dinner, and drink a 2-liter of soda straight from the bottle without worrying that the caffeine will keep me up. Ahhh yeah!

Which was just as well because then on Saturday I pulled my kitchen apart. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip.


I did not mean to go as far as I did. There is sh*t EVERYWHERE. But my original theory was that I was going to reorganize everything, and get rid of the stuff that doesn't fit back.

Which is a totally bogus original theory, in case you were wondering.

For example, the reason I keep all my plastic lunch containers in the lazy susan thingy is because they don't quite fit in their new storage spot in the sideboard. Which is a major bummer because now they are all sitting in a storage box because I can't put them back in the lazy susan thingy due to the fact that now that is where I am storing food things - all the food things that used to be stored in the hall pantry. And the reason I keep the food in the hall "pantry" is because it won't all fit on the shelves in the kitchen. All I can say is thankfully tomorrow is Monday and I can go to work instead of dealing with this mess.

*sigh* Are you still with me?

So now I am thinning out the junk I keep. Like the jar of preserved/pickled lemons. I bought them one day because I had this vague idea that I would make some sort of Moroccan chicken and lentil dish with them. Never happened. And then there are the 37 different boxes of tea. I will never drink all that tea, but for some reason when I am in the store I am totally convinced that I am, in fact, a tea drinker. An herbal tea drinker. Well, the reality is that I am a one kind of a tea drinker and that is of Irish tea. With milk and sugar.

There isn't one clear surface in my kitchen right now. I have a massive headache just thinking about it. And instead of spending all day Sunday cleaning it, I spent all day Sunday working a yard sale where I also sold some of my stuff, making a cool $50.

Which ridiculously I want to spend on more stuff for the kitchen.

Like tea. Or something.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mutti Tomato Paste

I love tomato paste. I will eat an entire tube of it at one go.

Did you know that tomato paste is very nice on buttered toast? Well it is.

Anyhow. Since you asked. The paste I prefer is..... (drumroll please....):

Mutti Double Concentrated Tomato Paste.

De-licious. I got it at Salumeria Italiana in the North End but I am pretty sure I saw it at Whole Foods.

And for Ms. CDB, since you asked, the thing that I can't stand about all tomato pastes is how sometimes it has a sort of metallic tinge to it. Blech! I read somewhere once that the cure to this is to always saute the paste a little before using, to cook that taste out. I find that cooking helps, but also that the Mutti brand is pretty delicious without.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fast & Spicy Tomato Sauce

Last night I had pasta. Tonight I had pasta. Sometimes I think the hole at the bottom of my stomach will never be filled.

In fairness, the pasta was really just a vehicle for garlic.

The sauce for the bucatini last night was made from a whole chopped head of garlic which I sauteed with basil in olive oil and then added a bin of cherry tomatoes and let stew for a bit. It was delicious. Frankly that is enough garlic to give an elephant explosive poops, but I needed to burn the allergies out of my head.

Which it didn't do sufficiently enough for me.

Today I came home and went immediately to bed. I was so exhausted I was incoherent. I fell asleep at about 5:20 and woke up at 8pm starving.

So I made a big pot of linguine and pasta sauce. I love this tomato sauce because it is fast, easy, spicy and delicious.

Sorry, no pictures. Too tired. As soon as I finish this post, I am going back to bed.

Fast & Spicy Tomato Sauce

Make some pasta and when cooked, drain, and leave pasta in colander. Return pasta pot to medium heat.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil, the same of tomato paste (I love the double concentrate and will eat it straight out of the tube like toothpaste), a teaspoon of hot sauce (see note below) and as much minced garlic as you like - I used three cloves.

Saute for a few minutes, stirring everything together, then add a few cubes of frozen basil if you like. If you don't have that, leave it out. Or if you only have fresh, chop some up and add it in at the end.

Then add a box (or large can) of chopped tomato and stir together. Let cook until piping hot and then dump in the cooked pasta. Stir together the pasta and the sauce until the pasta is well coated.

When you serve it, salt and pepper to taste. And it will taste even better tomorrow.

Note: The hot sauce I used is literally called Hot Sauce. It came from the asian market and is made from broad bean, soybean, salt, peppercorn, and red pepper. It is made in Taiwan and all the other writing on the jar is presumably in Taiwanese. It provides a perfect amount of heat for this dish, but if you haven't got any, you can used crushed red pepper instead - about two teaspoons or so should be enough. Or you could use a few squirts of sriracha, but go easy because that is an easy blast of heat and too much will taste like shit.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cheap Eats on a Monday Night

In life, cheap is relative.

For some there is perfume while for others there's Designer Imposters. Some people want imported mortadella, while others settle for bologna.

When I talk about cheap eats, I usually mean it is cheap relative to the place where I am eating. Because otherwise a cheap eat will always be the dollar menu at McDonalds.

One of my all time favorite eating companions is Pam from Cave Cibum. And tonight we cheap ate at two South End restaurants. There are definitely cheaper places to eat, but for the South End, these were considered cheap.

The first place we hit was Pho Republique. I ate there years ago when they first opened, before I realized that I could get the same thing cheaper in Dorchester - pho at Pho Republique starts at $14 a bowl. But you know, you gotta start somewhere.

We went for the "Two Dollar Dim Sum" menu which is no where to be found on the website, so I took a photo of it for you:

We ordered one of everything except for the seaweed salad, which despite numerous attempts to like, I haven't managed yet.

The one of almost everything platter looked like this:

(Is it me, or does that egg roll look like a penis? It's me, I know it. Sorry.)

Ok so here is the platter from another angle:

Not on the two dollar menu was the cocktail, a coconut martini. Which was delicious - like melted coconut ice cream alcohol. Oh and also the bartender is the most lovely person ever. Her name is Emily and she has that kind of easygoing personality that is rarely found on Mondays.

Coconut martini:

My favorite item, after the coconut martini, was the candy rib. I really believe that meat and sugar belong together.

After absorbing as much almost passe trendy hipsterness as we possibly could, we bid farewell to Emily and headed out to Sage.

Which is about four shops down from Pho Republique.

If Pho Republique is the red satin sheets in the bordello, then Sage is the Frette sheets you nicked from that fancy San Fran hotel.

I have often wanted to try Sage, but it's a little out of my price range. However, they now offer a deal on the stuzzi menu - from 5pm to 7pm (or so) you can get three stuzzi dishes for ten dollars. Which frankly it is the only way I can afford to get in the door.

We each picked three dishes, Pam got a cocktail, and I got a glass of rose. Let me state two things for the record: 1) I have always liked rose wine. I did not just jump on the rose band wagon this year. And 2) I can never ever remember what drinks Pam got. Not this time, not anytime we've been out together. Weird.

Side note: The menu they have online is NOT current. Argh.

As you can see, stuzzi is mostly fried. Not ordinarily a bad thing, but it sort of overwhelmed me, especially after the Two Dollar Dim Sum. The standout dish for me was the chickpea caponata which was delicious.

As you can see, we made a pretty decent dent.

(Is it me, or do those arancini look like testicles? It's me, I know it. Sorry.)

The bartender is a nice guy by the name of Samuel. He definitely appreciates food and is not in the least bit snobbish or pretentious, which is pretty remarkable since he is not only working in the South End, but also really good looking. If you have any questions at all about the menu, just ask him. He was very good with the explanations.

I did like Sage overall. It's tough because I don't like to say anything about how someone else runs their business, because what the heck do I know. But I do get the feeling that Sage could make a few changes to the menu and to the dining room that would bring in more people. Maybe they don't need more business, but there is something about the dining room and the menu that didn't quite rhyme to me. Maybe it was the artwork on the far back wall? I don't know. I am not going to think about it anymore because it is not my restaurant. But I did like the food and surprisingly all that fried food wasn't greasy.

The other thing I liked about Sage was the view. It looks out at the cathedral, which changes perspective depending whether you are looking at it from the street outside, or from inside the restaurant, framed by the restaurant windows.

The other thing I love about the view is the play of light on the brick buildings, there is a certain warmth of the sun on the brick when the light hits the building at a certain angle.

Overall I might go back to Pho Republique for the coconut martini and a candy rib. As for Sage, well I won't be back for dinner because I can't afford it. But I am likely to go back to the bar for another glass of wine and maybe try out some of the other stuzzi.