Monday, November 10, 2014

on cooking + lentils with sausage and kale

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It’s 6am Sunday morning and the house is blissfully quiet. Andrew is still sleeping; and Forrest is doing that thing where he sits on various window sills of the apartment for long stretches of time watching the birds and the squirrels with the kind of rapt attention usually reserved for very important things. We call it “morning cat office hours”, because he takes his job very seriously. When the squirrels make it dangerously close to the window, you can see Forrest pacing back and forth behind the curtains, clearly unnerved by what he clearly believes is them taunting him.

I’m finally writing in our new-ish office where we hung the Elfa shelving from the Container Store. We didn’t need that expense making a dent in our bank account, but we had no choice. The home office is a tiny room hardly the size of a closet, and the way our desks were set up, things were piling up everywhere. To let the Container Store guy do its job (aka hang shelves in the home of two home-improvement illiterate Jews), we had to move all the furniture and detritus out, which of course, meant that we could no longer find things like staples and tape, notebooks and printing paper, post-its and paperclips, and most importantly – bills.

Saturday morning buckwheat waffle things.

Yesterday, was the first day we had of no plans, no extended stay visiting family or friends, no obligations, no books to edit (me), no breaking stories to cover (Andrew) – and I, in my crazy nesting stage, demanded we put our home office in order. The chaos of it all, loose papers everywhere, was clouding up my mind and affecting everything else; it was even making it hard to breathe. And that’s what we did pretty much all day. Five loads of laundry, a trip to the post office, and the organization of our home office. I made sour milk waffles for breakfast, the ones I tend to make the most around here given my inability to plan such things, and swapped in a third of buckwheat flour for the all-purpose. Andrew declared them even better than the original, and I think a new family favorite is born. At the end of the evening, we rewarded ourselves with some excellent Indian take-out which we ate while watching SNL reruns.

Outside of organizing the home office, not much happened. I vowed that today I’d make pie crust for Thanksgiving and the secret soup which I’m surprising our families with. We’re hosting again, but this time, our holiday will be a bit more modest given that I’m operating with a larger belly and am not making a dozen sides to go with our turkey. A handful will be plenty and good enough. Plus cooking ahead, in stages, is making it easier for me.

It’s been a funny thing cooking at home since I started work in September. I love my job, love the work, and I love each new challenge. I don’t so much love having to edit two books in addition to the job despite my love of both books. It’s hard: weeknights and weekends spent poring over books line by line, and being pregnant is a bit draining especially at night.

Rainy day granola - a short break from editing. Also, the slow-cooker has commenced its 2014-2015 season. If I have to stay cooped up and working, I might as well make the house smell amazing and cook a few hands-off things.

And I’ve had a harder time, than I’d expected, adjusting to the demands of working full-time in an office, the daily commute, plus dinner prep. If you had talked to me last month, I’d tell you that I’m kind of failing on the home cooking front. There’s been a lot of takeout and not a whole lot of cooking. But in the last month or so, I’ve come to be gentler on myself – I’m doing the best I can.

Curiously enough, there must be something in the air about cooking at home, because there’s been a flurry of articles and blog posts about it, with some pieces charged and maybe a touch incendiary, and others calmer and more neutral.

Cooking at home, especially for an adult who commutes daily to a full-time job, but most certainly for all, is another logistical piece of the time management puzzle. How often is often enough; how does one feel about nightly weeknight cooking; is there guilt involved when it’s not frequent enough (whatever “enough” means)?

Continue reading on cooking + lentils with sausage and kale.

Friday, October 24, 2014

friday link love

Bump.

Hi friends, happy Friday, and no I haven’t forgotten about this site – or you. I simply just can’t fit everything in these days, and am doing my absolute best to prioritize. Work, wellness, and family and friends, of course, come first. And everything else winds up being a bit marginalized. So with that in mind, a few of these links are quite dated, given that news doesn’t stay “new” for long, but I still found them to be interesting enough to include – I hope you agree.

Last week, we had our apartment painted and revamped our home office. The painting meant that we had to take all our books off the shelves and move them from room to room (after work at night) while the painters painted certain rooms. As a result, we’re still unearthing things and still finding new homes for them. This is what happens when you get home at 7:30pm and still need to eat dinner, make some calls, answer a few emails. The home office installation – I’ll take some pictures in once we settle in – came from Elfa and the folks at the Container Store. They were having a massive sale, and we decided to make an investment into our work space. Andrew works from home enough for it to be meaningful, and I may do some work from home as I get closer to my due date. The old set-up wasn’t working for us – such a small room needed built in shelving and smart use of every single inch of space.

A few of you have emailed me to ask how I’m feeling and what we’re doing to the nursery, i.e. can I share pictures and decorating ideas. I’m feeling, generally, pretty great, knock on wood. It’s getting hard to bend down to tie my shoes, and I’m finding new and creative ways of doing it, but it is funny to find yourself faced with this problem all of a sudden. As for the “nursery” – trust me you do not want to see the mess that room is in. In general, I don’t think we’re going to get the room ready before the baby. We’ve registered for the necessities, we’re hoping to start out with less than with more first. And we’ll see what we need. The one thing we’re both really keen on, however, is artwork. While neither one of us is an art connoisseur, we’ve decided that we don’t want any art that the baby will ever grow out of. We’re hoping to hang a few things that will look good in any room down the road. I’m a huge fan of these as well as this (the framed pieces). And we’re keeping the room white with grey trim at the bottom. That’s about as much of an update as I can give.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. To the links! Enjoy your weekend – we’re away, belatedly celebrating Andrew’s birthday. I hope there’s some apple picking in our future! And then, the upcoming week, there’s lots to do at work, my cousin is coming to visit from Israel, and I have two of my books to edit (one I’m given less than a week for – ha!) – I guess I better rest up! xo, olga

Continue reading friday link love.

Friday, October 3, 2014

friday link love

If you know nothing else about my workplace, know this: it's the kind of place that keeps communal pickles for a snack. And that's all right by me.

Hi friends, happy Friday! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I missed you and this space. How was your September? Mine was a blur: I started work at Phaidon; I edited two books I wrote this past year; I went to London for work and came back with a cold so fierce I’m still fighting it.

On the other hand, Andrew got the beloved yo-yo biscuits from Ottolenghi* as a souvenir. This doesn’t seem fair to me: I get a cold; and Andrew gets biscuits, but I suppose jet lag + suppressed immune system (thanks, pregnancy!) is a perfect combination of ingredients to yield something resembling a cold, except this was so much worse.

Something is going around here and over on the other side of the pond – some vicious bug – that takes hold of you and makes you cough for about three weeks, no matter the medicine, rest, what have you.

So – between work, two books, a cold, and this tiny human I’m growing, September wiped me out. And so here we are, October 3. Erev Yom Kippur. Guess who’s not fasting?

Guess who’s also barely figured out how to make dinner on weeknights? That’s right – me. It’s not the cooking – well, sometimes when I get home late it is – it’s the planning, the balance of full time work + freelance book work I am committed to completing, that get me. And things come up. Lovely friends come through town last minute and you drop your homemade dinner plans to see them. Or you get held up by work and come home entirely too late, so you cheat and call takeout. But we’re slowly falling into a pattern here, and I’m happy about that.

If you’re observing Yom Kippur, I wish you an easy fast. Otherwise, have a lovely weekend, and hopefully we’ll meet back here again next Friday if not sooner. xo, olga

Continue reading friday link love.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

baby burrito – a tiny announcement

This needed to happen today.

Hi.

I’m looking at the calendar — it says that it’s August 28, and my brain can’t process that. I could ask where the summer went, but it went by while I was working on two books – that’s where. Somewhere in there, I also landed a dream job, and now, like a kid before her first day of school, I’m full of anticipation, sharpened pencils and all. On Monday, I had a pre-work meeting with my boss and we talked about specific books and projects on the docket, and I walked away with a level of excitement somewhere in the eeeeeeee! stratosphere. I can’t wait to get started.

Over the last several weeks, I cooked a lot of different things from blogs, books, and magazines. Something to the tune of a dozen, and not a single one is worth mentioning here. They were solid recipes, but not anything I’d tell you to drop your planned dinner for or anything that I’d repeat – some had good potential but were only so-so in the end; others were lacking balance, like a touch of acid, or a light punch of heat. The last of these recipes, Butter Chicken, from the Sunday New York Times Magazine, was a solid recipe, but it needed (forthcoming) some major tweaking. I was promised a dish “astonishing in its richness and depths of flavor”, but in the end, it tasted a bit bland on my palate – rich in texture, but lacklusters overall – and I wanted more flavor, more intensity, something that would stop me in my tracks.

Stay tuned for that, I’m not done with this one yet. But if you do attempt your hand at it, do make it with ghee instead of butter – and use Heidi Swanson’s excellent primer.

My cooking plans for August, derailed as they were (I get easily distracted!), were dead simple: lobster rolls (check), lots of salads and eggplant caponata (check and check), Swedish cardamom buns (one unsatisfactory attempt to be continued when it’s not 90 degrees out), Dutch baby pancakes (I keep forgetting), and burrito bowls (check, again). On the whole, it’s safe to say that I’ve consumed more burritos (and burrito bowls) this summer alone than collectively in my entire life, and there’s a good reason for it besides the fact that burritos are supremely delicious and gratifying on their own. There was that one day when I had two burritos for lunch and one for dinner – and that was a very, very good day. (Also, if I am forced to count burrito bowls, then the estimates of burrito consumption are far higher…)

Which brings me to this next tiny announcement… I’ve never been good at these sorts of things, and I don’t like to beat around the bush. I’ve been known to bury the lede in the past; I don’t do it intentionally, so let’s just get right to it, shall we?

Continue reading baby burrito – a tiny announcement.

Friday, August 8, 2014

friday link love

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My month of loafing has been off to a non-loafing start. Let’s hope that after today loafing commences at full force, though I’m not so good at doing nothing, so knowing me, I’ll probably reorganize our hallway closet or something. Because I was busy tying up a few loose ends for one of the books, I was a bit preoccupied and didn’t read as much – hence the short list of links. At least I got to cook a fair amount this week – always a good thing – eggplant caponata, broccoli slaw, blackfish with olives and lemon, a black currant streusel cake I’m testing (still have a round or two left to tweak), lobster rolls, lots and lots of pesto to make good use of the most immense pile of basil I got at the market. I made lobster stock with the lobster carcasses – and now I’m thinking of ways to use it up. Lobster + corn risotto? Fancy seafood chowder? Any other ideas, friends?

I hope you have a great weekend ahead. We’re off to Home Depot – again. Hoping to finalize our balcony door solution – the frame, as well as the door, are rotted through and through – and we need to do something about it. Until next week. xx

Continue reading friday link love.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

mario batali’s eggplant caponata + some news!

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Folks, I have much to tell you, and I had hoped that August would be off to a slow start, but I was wrong. It’s been pretty busy and a few things here and there needed to be done for one of the books, so that’s kept me occupied. We had family visiting over the weekend, and by far, my personal highlight was going through The Food of Spain with my two-year old niece who was riveted. She fell completely and unabashedly in love with Angelita Carcia de Paredes Barreda (an 84-year old Franciscan nun) on page 214 and for twenty minutes straight we played the game of “Where’s the old lady?” She was also really taken by the fried goat cheese, but then again, who wouldn’t be? Fried goat cheese is stuff of the gods, right?

I don’t know why, and there’s no segue or connection to my news or to eggplant caponata I wanted to tell you about, but I’ve been thinking – a lot – about a really good high school friend of mine. When I say really good, she might have been one of the biggest influences in my life. She was fiercely smart – smarter than anyone I’ve ever met – and well educated. She spoke, and picked up, languages with great ease: Russian, Arabic, Farsi. She taught herself ancient Greek; she was fluent in Latin. She introduced me to authors and food; music and theatre – and she had a razor sharp wit. I always, always, looked up to her. She pulled me through some hairy situations and it was wonderful and lovely to spend our post high-school and college years in New York. She took me to a hole in the wall restaurant that served outstanding pasta alla carbonara, she extolled the virtues of cacio e pepe; and I still fondly recall our incredible meals at the now-shuttered, excellent, Cookies and Couscous that served, well, you get the idea. She was incredibly hard to get to know, but through our many years of friendship, there were moments when she’d open up. She was like a sister to me.

And then one day she stopped answering her phone. And then the number became disconnected.

Continue reading mario batali’s eggplant caponata + some news!.