Month: July 2017

Lemon Olive Pasta

I started this whole thing saying that I was going to share family recipes, and so far the only one I’ve posted was the very first entry. Time to change that with this lemon olive pasta. This has always been one of my favorite dinners, and it’s so good as leftovers too. Of course, that means not overeating and finishing off everything I’ve made for dinner, and I’m not so good at that when dinner is something this delicious. I’m working on it. I just kind of like food. Just a little bit.

Moving on from my gluttony. I love garlic. Until a couple years ago, almost everything I cooked had at least some garlic and onion to it. Sadly, a few month before I turned 28, my body decided it to say ‘haha, you’re almost 30!’ and won’t let me eat (or even drink) lots of the things I always loved. Like asparagus, and eggs, and beer, and most red wine. And especially garlic and onions. My body really doesn’t like garlic and onions anymore. At this point it’s been a few years, I’m now so used to it that my tongue is starting to revolt against them too, and my poor boyfriend whose body was just starting to think that just maybe garlic and onions were okay has now gone back to not being able to eat them at all either. Basically, eating in our house is a constant struggle to find the line between who can eat what without feeling awful, and how much of those things we are willing to suffer for anyway in the name of deliciousness. I have found, though, that I can handle small amounts of chives and the green parts of scallions, so I can still enjoy some of the flavor without feeling horrible afterwards.

The upside of this is I can eat the chives he really wanted to grow in our garden. Yay! And have I mentioned our garden? Because I’m loving having it! Living in an apartment building in the city, garden space isn’t exactly easy to find. Luckily for us, there’s a community garden about a 3 minute walk from our building, and we got a space for this year. It’s one of my favorite investments, worth every penny we put into it, and we are both loving having something to do that’s outside, productive, and doesn’t involve us spending our days off spending a ton of money because we can’t think of anything better to do than go for long walks around the city and inevitably stop at 1-2 different places for food and a quick drink. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love walking around Boston and stopping into whatever restaurant we happen to be near or feel like getting to, but it doesn’t really help me save money. Getting to actually eat the things that we’re growing, too, makes them just that much better, and it’s so satisfying to know that we grew them ourselves, and that there were no harsh chemicals or anything involved (it’s an organic only garden).

This is the first time either of us has really had a garden before so we’re learning as we go, but I have to say I’m pretty impressed with us for being novices. If only we can figure out how to actually stop the squirrels and chipmunks from getting to all our cucumbers and tomatoes! They also seem to love our cilantro. Not the parsley, for some reason, or the basil. Really just the cilantro. Sadly, though, all the cucumbers that were there just a few days ago have now been devoured by the tricky little guys, and without building some sort of net roof I think that’s just the way it’s going to be. Luckily, they really aren’t getting to the parsley, basil, sage, rosemary and chives, so we get to enjoy them ourselves. It makes me so happy 🙂

This pasta, when we made it growing up, always used a clove or two (or three) of garlic, so please please please add it if you like it! It was incredible with the chives instead, but that was initially done because I needed a substitute. Plus, why would I not add fresh herbs that I picked just a few minutes before I made dinner? That would just be silly. I said in my initial post that part of the inspiration for the name ‘Lemon & Biscuits’ was my lifelong love of everything lemon, and this dish is definitely case and point. You can always adjust the lemon to suit your preferences, adding more or less juice and zest, tasting a bit as you go. I could have easily added even more lemon and still been super happy, but this had such a good balance of flavors that I didn’t want to push it. I also could have cooked more pasta and had just a bit less of the lemon and olive sauce coating everything, but that ‘s another thing that can be trial and error when you make it yourself. For me, this was the perfect amount of sauce for about 4 servings.

You can make the lemon and olive sauce a bit before you’re actually ready to make dinner. Honestly it’s better if you do, the flavors meld together if you give them an hour or two to soak each other up. If you don’t have time for that, though, it will still be super tasty. A bit of fresh parsley and cheese on top makes it perfect. The boyfriend went with parmesan, but I had picked up a sheep’s milk feta at Whole Foods and oh my god. It was nutty, buttery, creamy, soft but still firm enough, and just amazing. Not as salty as I tend to think of when I think of feta. Pretty sure I won’t be buying any other kind for quite a while, unless I’m adding it to watermelon or something where the saltiness of a classic cow’s milk feta would be a better contrast. In this case, the sheep’s milk version was the perfect pairing with the lemon and olives.

Lemon Olive Pasta

July 14, 2017
: 2-4
: 5 min
: 15 min
: 20 min

Delicious warm or cold, topped with feta or parmesan, and with whatever pasta you prefer, it's a perfect picnic dish!

By:

Ingredients
  • 1C chopped kalamata olives (pitted, obviously)
  • 1/2C lemon juice
  • 1/3C olive oil
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 4-5 chives, chopped
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1/2t black pepper
  • 1-2T chopped parsley
  • 8oz pasta of choice (roughly 1/2 a package, usually). Fusilli is a great choice, something with ridges and dips to catch the sauce.
  • Crumbled feta or grated/shaved parmesan (optional)
Directions
  • Step 1 Mix all the ingredients except the pasta and parsley together, and let sit. If you have time, leave it for an hour or two.
  • Step 2 Boil a pot of heavily salted water and cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. In my case, the pasta needed about 6-7 minutes to be al dente.
  • Step 3 Drain, return the pot, and pour in the lemon olive sauce, mixing together well.
  • Step 4 Plate, and top with the fresh parsley and cheese of choice (if you want cheese).
  • Step 5 Enjoy the deliciousness!

 

 

Sesame Crusted Tofu with Tamari-Lime Sauce

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I last posted something! I apologize for disappearing, I was taking the first real vacation I’ve had in at least five years, if not almost ten years. It made me realize that I need to stop waiting for the timing to work out, and to make it happen myself. It’s not like I’ve had no time off at all in those ten years, but not the week and a half I just took. It was a busy vacation, but so necessary, and filled with all good things. I got to go to the wedding of one of my oldest friends, and spend about 36 hours back home on Mt. Desert. Sadly neither of my sisters were able to make it, so the simple Father’s Day breakfast we had planned ended up being a much smaller affair, but I’m so glad I was able to get to spend a little time with my parents and Quintus, the 150lb beast who thinks he’s a lap dog.

Then it was a long day of driving back to Boston to swap out luggage (including exchanging my wedding guest dress for my maid of honor dress), before heading to Cap Cod to spend the week with the bf’s family. His parents live in Japan, so we don’t get to see them nearly as often as we’d like, it usually works out to once every year or two, but his sister lives in St. Louis so we get to see her at least once a year, and she was here with her husband and their two adorable little nuggets. It’s awesome to watch them grow into real humans, especially since it’s always months between visits so they’re always leaps and bounds ahead of where they were the last time we saw them. Or at least it is for now, while they’re only 2 and 4. After a (mostly) relaxing 5 days, I got up crazy early, had the bf drive me to Providence to catch the train, and went to Philly for all of 24 hours to be able to be there for wedding celebration 2.0 for one of my best friends and her fantastic new husband. I am so glad she asked me to be her maid of honor, and that I was able to be there not just for their small wedding ceremony in Maine, but to be able to make it down to Philly for the huge reception with their friends and extended family too. It was the first time I’ve had to go to a wedding alone (the bf’s parents were still in town, I couldn’t have him join me), and it was so much better than I expected.

(Michelle and Andrew got married at the Azalea Gardens in Northeast Harbor, ME. I mean really, could you ask for a better venue? And how amazing did Michelle look?! Photos by Sheila Irene Photography.)

And now this is about to get serious and confessional. For those of you who don’t know me, or don’t know me well, I’m usually very anxious and uncomfortable in new situations, and as a typically shy (until you get to know me or I’ve had a couple drinks) type person, events where I don’t know anyone are hugely challenging for me. But Michelle and Andrew are amazing, their friends and family are wonderful, and I still had a great time even without the bf’s company. I would never have let my anxiety stop me from going, but I’m so glad I’ve gotten myself to a place where I was able to go without expecting to feel insanely awkward. Honestly, this vacation had a number of those moments, and I’m so grateful to be at a point where I can acknowledge them. Some of you will know what I’m about to talk about, but for those who don’t, I had a hard time with a number of my classmates growing up. I was one of the girls they singled out to pick on, and I could never understand why. I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I don’t fit in and to be honest wishing that I didn’t exist. Not in a ‘I don’t want to exist anymore’ kind of way, but in the sense that I wished I never existed in the first place. It took me 30 year to be able to express that feeling in words, and I swear it was one of the biggest self-revelations I’ve had, being able to coherently state that particular sentence. Scared the hell out of me, too, and almost made me feel even more broken than I’d already spent my life feeling. It was like a dam had broken open. I was always on the verge of tears. But it was also a turning point in that getting to that place where it was an actual sentence, something I could explain, opened me up to be able to both say it out loud to those people I have around me, and to actually hear others when they in turn acknowledged what I was saying and told me that they’d heard similar things from other people who were honestly able to find ways to pull back from that precipice feeling. I FINALLY got my shit together enough to start seeing a therapist, which had always been a weird point for me. I felt like I wasn’t damaged enough to need one, which was just so ridiculous. It doesn’t matter how damaged a person is, seeing someone to talk through even the smaller challenges of life can never be a bad thing. But I also still sort of struggled with a sense of shame in the idea of going to a therapist. Again, ridiculous. I should have started seeing someone 20 year ago. It has made such an incredible difference in my life, and it hasn’t even been a full year. But my outlook on life, and my reactions to situations that used to overwhelm me, are night and day from where I was a year ago. I mean, I still get super stressed and worked up over some things, but that’s just always going to happen. But when I do get that way, I’m better able to acknowledge it and let people know what I might need to get out of that headspace, and that alone is a huge change.

Now the reason I’m sharing all of this is because the wedding up in Maine included a number of people that I’ve known forever, who I was close to at various times, but who were also part of my life during the years that left such damaging impressions on me. I’ve seen almost all of them enough that I am honestly very comfortable with them all, but it’s been years since I’ve been around such a group of people at once from a period of my life in which I really felt outside and quite frankly disliked. I really want to emphasize that I didn’t go to this wedding with any expectations of negative feelings, but I was aware that those old feelings and insecurities might surface in this particular context. They usually have in the past, in similar situations, so I wouldn’t have been surprised to find myself uncomfortable. Kind of like going to the other wedding alone, though, the bride and I have been friends since we were 6 years old, our families are very close, and there was never a single moment when I would have even considered not going. Instead of finding myself at all awkward, everyone I saw was so incredibly supportive of this whole food blogging endeavor I’ve now embarked on, going out of their way to mention it, to tell me they read it, to tell me they can really see me and my family in it, to tell me I have talent. It was one of the most validating moments I’ve had in years, possibly ever, and I’m so incredibly grateful to every single one of you that took the time to tell me that you’ve even seen this blog or that you really do read it, or are excited to try any of the recipes, etc. It means the world to me, and I honestly cannot express how much I appreciate it. I had also made the dress I wore, and the comments on that were amazing on their own! I was nervous to wear something I created based on a picture I saw on Pinterest, and while so proud of myself (especially when I hadn’t sewn anything in a few years), it was incredible to hear such affirmative reactions from others.

Long (very long) story short, while this vacation was so necessary just for being a vacation after years of not taking one, it was also amazing for my mental health in such wonderful ways, more than just getting a break from the every day. And I’m so so grateful for it.

So now back to the food. It’s been hot and humid, and basically summer here in Boston. Since, you know, it’s summer. Our apartment definitely likes to trap the heat, too, so it just sort of sticks around and makes it even harder to want to spend much time in the kitchen, or to eat anything very heavy.

What I love about tofu is that it’s so quick to cook up, and just needs a little delicious sauce to make it a wonderful weeknight dinner. The sauce for this one also takes no time at all. And minimal stove time means even less heat in our already warm home.

Sesame Crusted Tofu with Tamari-Lime Sauce

July 7, 2017
: 4
: 20 min
: 20 min
: 40 min

I usually serve this with rice, but it would also be great with your choice of noodles.

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 block extra firm tofu, drained and sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices or squares
  • 2t wasabi paste
  • 2T black sesame seeds, plus more if necessary
  • 1/2C tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1 1/2 limes, juiced
  • 1 1/1t chopped chives
  • 1 inch chunk ginger, minced
  • Dash of togarashi or crushed red pepper
  • 2-3 bunches baby bok choy, leaves separated
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • Vegetable or peanut oil for sautéeing
Directions
  • Step 1 Combine the tamari, lime juice, chives, ginger, and red pepper. Set aside until the end.
  • Step 2 If you’re making rice, start it now, if making noodles then start the water.
  • Step 3 In a large pan, heat some oil, and add the vegetables to sauté. They’ll take about as long as the rest of the tofu itself. Pull them off earlier if you want them a little bit more crisp. Really, whenever they’re as done as you like them. I like to add a couple spoonfuls of the tamari-lime sauce towards the end to cook a little of the flavor into them, too.
  • Step 4 Put the sesame seeds into a small bowl or plate.
  • Step 5 Coat each slice of tofu with a small amount of wasabi.
  • Step 6 Cover with the seeds, pressing them lightly into the wasabi so they stick.
  • Step 7 Heat a bit of the oil in a large saucepan on medium-high.
  • Step 8 Place the tofu slices in the pan, I add them in a circle (the way you’d cook scallops), then leave them to brown! Seriously, don’t touch them for 2-3 minutes before turning them over to cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side.
  • Step 9 Plate. I like the tofu and the vegetables on the side of the rice, but again, that’s up to you. Pour a bit of the sauce over everything and enjoy!