Sangria + A Birthday!

Yesterday was my 25th birthday- does this mean I should be hitting my quarter-life crisis- you know, if ideally I live to be the nice ripe age of 100?  I mean, in the past few years I graduated from art school, realized I wanted nothing to do with it, took a year off, started going back to school to be a registered dietician and now I'm trying to be a full time food blogger.  Maybe I have been going through a quarter-life crisis.  At least I feel like I'm finally getting to the other side of that hump.

Homemade Sangria

When I was younger and going though my angst-y, awkward teenage years in middle school and high school I remember consistently feeling sad and disappointed on my birthday because my friends or classmates didn't remember and decorate my locker with balloons and confetti and cards etc (no idea if they still do that now but that's what girls did in my high school).  Mind you, this was before Facebook so you weren't automatically notified of your friends' upcoming birthdays and it was an actual skill that took effort to remember special dates such as birthdays.  I wouldn't tell anyone my birthday was coming up and I also didn't tell people it was my birthday the day of and then- surprise- found myself lonely and unhappy when people didn't somehow remember.  I'm pretty sure this is a byproduct of being an only child- you somehow think everyone's life revolves around you and if they don't remember then it just ruins everything.  

Homemade Sangria

My god, I was so young, selfish and egocentric.

I'm pretty sure I'm still all three of those but maybe a little less selfish and a little less ignorant about people and life.  These days I don't selfishly expect people to just remember.  I'm still incredibly egocentric though so instead, I make sure to excitedly remind my friends that my birthday is coming up.  I plan and organize my own parties to hopefully make it a fun and relaxing day for everyone.  I no longer rely on other people to do things for me so that I can have a fun day.  I make sure it's going to be a fun day no matter what and this year was just that kind of day!

Homemade Sangria
Homemade Sangria

I wanted to invited lots of people so rather than going to a bar or restaurant which might require reservations and a specific time to be there etc (not to mention spending money) I decided to organize a birthday- style picnic at Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

It was a relaxed event with everyone sitting on blankets and food and covered alcoholic beverages spread around and the weather was gorgeous!  It got a little chilly later in the evening but we just wrapped ourselves up in blankets.  I was so happy that so many people were able to come!

Homemade Sangria

While I made a lot of different foods for the party, one thing I particularly wanted to make, which I haven't done in a long time, was sangria.  My family has our own recipe and while I often find sangria from restaurants to be too sweet, too carbonated or some combination of the two, I love our recipe.  It's easily adaptable based on personal preferences too.

Sangria

2 Bottles (1500ml) of Red Table Wine (I used inexpensive bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon I got from Trader Joe's)

3/4 Cup Brandy

1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Apple

1 Lemon

1 Orange

Club Soda

Chop apple and slice the orange and lemon into 1/4 thickness and add to a large pitcher.  Add sugar and use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and muddle slightly.  Pour in brandy and wine.  Cover pitcher and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.*  Top with club soda when you are ready to serve.

*It can be used immediately but I find the flavors combine better when they've been mixed a day ahead

Sangria

Red White and Green Farfalle Pasta

After weeks of measuring and weighing everything out exactly, I'm really not into it much these days.  I now revel in literally throwing things together.  I used to read and follow directions more and now I look at a recipe a few times to get the gist of it and then just go for it and I love it!  I feel like it's steps like these that are slowly making me a better cook.  I pay more attention to what I'm making and being in the moment with what's happening to the food in front of me rather than to the written recipe.

I've always struggled with pasta recipes- particularly getting the sauce right.  Tomato sauces never end up thick enough or flavorful enough and cheese or cream sauces always end up separating because I cook them too high.  

I was always in a rush and for me, rush= high heat.  For everything.  As I've discovered, I can toss together a pasta dish in a flash but I really don't need much heat at all!  Just let the ingredients do their thing.

Red, White and Green Farfalle Pasta

This recipe was inspired by The Chiappas' Speedy Tomato Lemon and Rocket Pasta Sauce.  I used some of my home-canned tomatoes that I chopped up, added some creamy feta and made some changes to the lemon usage.  I loved adding lots of "rocket" (or arugula, as I'm used to calling it)- adds some healthy greens to the meal!

Red, White and Green Farfalle Pasta

In the spirit of going with the flow, I'm going to write this recipe a little differently- no need for exact measurements, just eyeball it and adjust as you go!  Listen to your ingredients!

Red, White and Green Farfalle Pasta

Adapted from The Chiappas.

Makes 2-3 Servings

Fill a large pot with water and add a small handful of salt.  Bring to a boil and pour in half a bag of farfalle (about 8oz).  Cook until al dente.

In a medium skillet, add a glug of olive oil and heat on medium.  Toss in 2-3 whole smashed garlic cloves and 1/2-3/4 cup of chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for several minutes before adding a squeeze of lemon.  Turn of stove and remove from heat.  Toss in pasta, several ounces of crumbled feta cheese, arugula and grate in some fresh parmiggiano.

Toss to coat and adjust accordingly- I'm always in favor of more cheese! 

Red, White and Green Farfalle Pasta

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

So!  Back on track with recipes- I promise!

Last week and this week I've been having so much fun cooking and baking (maybe a little too much fun, says my ever expanding belly).  During prep I had compiled a huge list of things I had wanted to make once I was done and well...I've been working on it.  I currently find myself with more food in the fridge than I or Mr. C can eat (god, I feel/sound so entitled saying that).  I've only made a few recipes so far but I've been working on pawning food onto people with- sadly- only marginal success.

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

I spent a lot of time looking at recipes but in the last few weeks I also started studying different cooking and baking techniques.  Julia Child became a favorite to watch (of course) but I also enjoyed a lot of Jamie Oliver, Alton Brown and America's Test Kitchen, amongst others.  One of the techniques I studied was how to poach an egg.

I have a small farmer in Maryland who has some chickens in his backyard and lets me buy eggs from him and I must say- they are the best eggs.  I only buy eggs from local farms and while I've tried a lot of different farms in Maryland and New York, I have never found eggs as dark in color or as rich as his.  Must be from all those cantaloupes I used to bring for his chickens!  Whenever I'm in Maryland or my mom is coming up to visit, I give him a call and stock up on eggs.

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs
Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

With so many beautiful eggs I wanted to do something special with them, such as poaching one.  

As I discovered it was not that far out of reach.  In fact, it wasn't that complicated at all.  No more hard boiled eggs with lunch here- we are gonna be getting fancy in the future!  Eggs Benedict for breakfast?  No longer a meal only available when going out for brunch- I relish the challenge of making it at home!  

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs
Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

I spent a lot of time reviewing the advice and tips from various aforementioned chefs and in the end, decided to go with Alton Brown's technique for poaching eggs which you can see here.  The technique involves filling a pan with an inch and a half of water and bringing it to a light simmer.  Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar before carefully placing the eggs in the water and cooking for four and a half minutes.  Carefully remove the egg with a slotted spoon.

See?  Not that tricky!

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

Serves 2

2 Poached Eggs* (see notes and video link above)

1/2 Cup Cream of Rice

2 Cups Water

1 TBSP White Miso

2 Scallions

1 TBSP Sesame Oil + extra to drizzle

1 tsp Soy Sauce

1/2 tsp Sugar

Freshly Grated Pepper

Add water to a pot and whisk in miso as you bring it to a boil.  Stir in cream of rice and continue stirring until thickened.  Remove from heat.

Cut off green tops , slice thinly and set aside to reserve for later.  Slice white parts of scallion in half lengthwise before cutting into 1 inch strips.  In a small pan, heat sesame oil on medium.  Add chopped scallion whites and sauté for a minute before adding soy sauce and sugar.  Cook for a few more minutes until scallions soften and begin to brown.  Remove from heat.

Divide porridge into bowls and top with poached eggs, sautéed scallions and scallion tops.  Drizzle on sesame oil and season with some freshly grated pepper.

Miso Porridge with Sautéed Scallions and Poached Eggs

Weekend Stuff

Saturday we went to visit a friend of mine who lives up around Westchester.  Whenever we go to visit her and her family, it's like a mini vacation- a reminder of what Mr. C and I want in our lives: a house, space, a (eventual) family.  Room to BBQ and garden in the backyard and privacy.

My friend requested to not be photographed herself but I was able to take pictures of her beautiful family.  Her son Leo is a real handful- so much energy and so strong!  He never stops moving and bouncing around.  I guess I don't have good maternal vibes because every time I tried to hold him he starts to cry but Mr. C has more experience in that area; Leo loves him!  I joke that the only reason I bring him along is to keep the kids happy.

IMG_4723.JPG

My friend always prepares a whole feast when we visit.  I try to help out as much as possible but it usually becomes a matter of keeping the kids busy and out of the kitchen.  This is the first time we brought the dogs up and while Ada was thrilled to play with them, Leo wasn't so sure...

IMG_4705.jpg

Sorry- I just can' help it- this photo sequence just kills me everytime I look at it.  His face!

Being one of the first beautiful weekends of the season, David took out the grill and went into serious grill-mode with a large cut of lamb.

We spent most of the afternoon cooking and playing both inside and out and enjoyed a large delicious meal on the back porch in the evening.  We stayed pretty late but left around 11:30 to return to Brooklyn before it got too too late.

It's moments like this that I'm so glad I brought my car back to the city with me.  Sure, it's annoying to deal with street parking, but being able to escape the city without much hassle and have a relaxing day or weekend away is so wonderful and refreshing.  Looking forward to many more weekends like it!