Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Time Is The Enemy...

So this entry is my first attempt to bring out my truly pensive/moderately Debbie Downer-esque side to the fore...let the world see Dark Toni, if you will. It is not so much that she is that off-putting. In my typically droll, British-humor-esque way, I feel compelled to make light of everything and sometimes the contrast between my naive/pie-eyed and deeply cynical self is a little shocking; the chiaroscuro too jarring. Nevertheless, sometimes I have to talk about serious things, all the more so as a recovering/former Psychology major and someone who often thinks very deeply on the human condition. Don't worry--I am still going to talk about food, but bear with me as I go on this amazing journey of a segue :)

Let's talk about the scary L word [no, not lesbianism which is def. in and not at all scary]-loneliness. You see--even obnoxiously gregarious and affable people like me suffer from a severe case of it. No, I am not in some delusional world where I haven't noticed that the reason I don't have friends is some major shortcoming on my part or a function of really bad halitosis...or at least I don't think so, in view of the fact that I have micro-analyzed myself to a fault. I just really *don't* have friends. I am not talking about true-grit-friends...I am even referring to something as simple as "someone to hang out with and who might answer the phone if I call him/her." I like to think that this is a function of the shifting social milieu-a lot of trends aligning together to create one vast landscape of loneliness. A howling chasm worthy of a Poe poem--I mean, wasn't he the original lonely guy, talking to a raven and all?

"Time is the enemy..." I doubt Quantic were referencing what I am here, but when you are alone, time *is* the enemy. And this makes me profoundly sad on such a cosmic level because it seems like time is the most precious commodity of our modern existence. It is coveted, sought after, saved, coddled, and used as currency and even a metric system. Tomes have been written on how to preserve its magical/mythical essence.
I have a much more banal take on this--painfully banal, really. When you are alone, you have too much time. Time becomes my enemy because it has to be filled. I am fighting time with ingenuity and desperation. Before you accuse me of being lazy and unable to find activities, let me stop you there. In theory, do you *really* want to spend entire days reading, by yourself or turning yourself into a perfect superhuman with endless skills...I am a reader and I like to think fairly good at finding things to do, but ultimately and unquestionably, I need humans around me. I need people to chill with, hang out with, talk with, and learn things from. Some of you might dismiss me as "needy" and sure, you may or may not be right, but I find that my [moderately] creative mind really flourishes when around like-minded people. Plainly put--I need cool and *breathing* humans around me. If I was born in a different age, I would probably be in some Anais-Nin/Henry-Miller-esque crazy artist commune, but the future which promised me electric cars has instead only brought me Twitter, Facebook, and Kim Kardashian, none of which warm the cockles of my human heart.

In one of my favorite X-Files episodes, Milagro, Scully declares loneliness to be a "choice." I think it could be...although I certainly can't viscerally process why anyone would elect it. I know I certainly don't. So, let's assume--you have no one to hang out with and you are lonely. Well, I take that and raise you one. Precisely because I am in this boat...dinghy...whatever, I feel like whatever simple "human comforts," I can bring into my life, I will not deny myself them. The other day, I finished reading The 4 Hour Body and one major theme that jumped out at me was the author's insistence on doing things to "save time." Things as outlandish as eating out of microwaveable plastic containers to avoid doing dishes and to essentially eat on the run because "who has time for cooking." I, for one, refuse to live like some kind of a near-Neanderthal so I can "save time." Save time for what? To be by myself more?

With that in mind, dear reader, remember--single and lonely is all the more reason for you to cook for yourself, to take care of yourself, and to "waste time" on yourself. I am NOT encouraging egomania and self-myopia [yes, I coined that word, Toni Ti trademark :)] or frivolity, but I am reminding you that a nice meal you cooked for yourself will introduce a modicum of human comfort, even if you have to eat it alone at your dining room table with your newspaper to keep you company.

And I should also mention that I am quite fed up with America's obsession on how-to books for everything! Case in point, cooking-for-one cookbooks! Articles, Joe Yonan from the Washington Post's book, trees upon trees felled. Let me tell you something--cooking for one is like cooking for two or three or four or five. In fact, cooking for one has compelled me to make some of the most creative dishes because the way I and other "natural cooks" [that's my word for someone who can just cook and will make something out of nothing, as all great grandmas can] cook is we open our fridge and attempt to make something edible and tasty from all the stuff that is about to go bad. I do not go to the store every night with a grocery list. I am too cool for that, loneliness whine notwithstanding. I will give you an example. The other night I opened the fridge and found snap peas. That is literally all I had...with some whole wheat pasta and a jar of harissa [Moroccan spice paste--I have 10 permutations of fire-inducing sauces in my fridge]. I didn't sit there and wait for the manna from the heavens to give me an idea on "how to cook for one." I started cookifyin', yo.

Turmeric-Harissa-Snap Peas Farfalle

1. I discovered a really nifty technique I wanna share :) Cooking pasta in water with 1 tsp. of turmeric not only makes it a lovely golden color, but also gives it great flavor, which is especially useful for cooking whole wheat pasta. Cook the pasta according to directions and drain it. When draining, reserve about 1/2C of the turmeric/pasta water liquid.
2. In a separate pan, saute some shallots + 2-3 cloves of minced garlic. Add a splash of white wine [if you have it] and a generous tsp. of harissa or anything spicy...harissa is great though as it has some preserved lemons diced in it for a piquant flavor.
3. Add in a good amount of snap peas, but do not overcook them. Maximum 2 mins.
4. Combine the pasta + the snap peas mix + some of the reserved pasta water.
5. Top with some nutritional yeast or cheese [believe it or not, the nutritional yeast tastes super on this].

So, yeah, necessity is the mother of invention. I totally improv-ed this meal and now I constantly find myself craving it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

With A Broccoli Soupernova In The Sky...

So, looks like my ten-day-long bout with the Bubonic Plague [just kidding--only influenza] is nigh over. It gave me ample opportunity to work on some soupernova, souper-duper soups.

Asparagus Egg Drop Soup

1. Dice [large dice] half a white onion and saute in some olive oil.
2. Add 2 C of veggie broth + 1/2C water.
3. Cook for 10 mins. Add 3-4 stalks of diced asparagus.
4. Do not bloody overcook the asparagus! Max 1-2 minutes till it is a verdant green. This is what separates the girls from the women [j/k]--always when cooking soups think about cooking times. Do not put nicely green vegetables at the beginning causing them to turn into Cthulhu green ooze by the end of your little cooking endeavor. Do not be an amateur. Seriously.
5. Beat an egg. *Slowly* and in a circular motion swirl it into the soup, stirring it with a chopstick or fork--you get a beautiful "egg drop" effect.
6. Take off the stove immediately--i.e. do not overcook cook the soup with the egg already in there. Salt & pepper to taste.

Broccoli Soup

I invented this one because as you will read many a time on this blog, cream of any sort [even half-and-half] is my mortal enemy, ever since I was little. I am so hateful of it, I can even *smell* it in soups. Most restaurants will serve you over-salted, over-cremated [yes, literally] broccoli soup. Why subject yourself to this abomination!? Yes, you could also use soy milk, buttermilk, skim milk, unsweetened hemp/rice milk, regular milk, and a number of other permutations thereof, which I can address in the future, but why do that when I have discovered the perfect smoothing/thickening agent. *drumroll* The Baked Potato! Yes, it's that easy, friends.

1. In a pot, saute half a diced white onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic in some olive oil.
2. I experimented with a roasted jalapeno also added here. It really gives some amazing flavor, but you can omit this step altogether.
3. Throw in 2C veggie broth + 2C water.
4. Add in a chopped, baked potato.
5. Boil for maybe 10 minutes on medium heat.
6. Roughly chop a head of broccoli [I like to use even the tough parts] and throw the tough parts in first and the tops a little later.
7. Once the broccoli is in, only cook until a little green so maybe 3-4 minutes max. Do not let it get brown.
8. Take the entire soup off the stove, let it cool, and transfer to a blender to blend in batches.
9. Once fully blended, adjust salt and pepper and throw it back onto the stove to warm up/thicken for 1-2 minutes.
10. Serve with maybe a slice of Parmigiano Reggiano and flatbread.