Tuesday, October 21, 2008

cheese quesadillas with guacamole

memories of high school

My sophomore year in high school, my roommate taught me how to make quesadillas. We had to take turns in the dorm periodically cooking for our floor-mates whenever we had meetings. And Diana, being homesick for her friends and family food, wanted to introduce us to her favorite snack – the quesadilla. Hailing from East L.A., speaking fluent Spanish, she felt torn away from her Mexican roots. We spent many a night on our dilapidated couch talking about home, being scholarship kids in a prestigious school, trying to blend in and make friends. Our two favorite indulgences back then were fried dumplings and cheese pizza – we practically lived on those two things.

the makings of a quacamole

That is until quesadillas came into my life. I remember how the first bite tasted and I remember, I couldn’t stop eating them. While we couldn’t get our hands on real Mexican queso, Diana confided that her family used Monterey jack cheese for years and they liked it just fine. And since I’m a fan of melted cheese in general, it was quite all right by me as well.

not yet melty - but soon!

And so the day after my housewarming party – which was quite a bit of fun and well attended, though I missed some friends who were stuck in airports and under the weather; I needed a lazy day of cleaning up, catching up on reading and some comfort food. It was the first really chilly day of the season and as I went through some old pictures, I came upon a picture of me and Diana, on our first day at school. And I knew exactly what I was making for dinner that evening. With my new kitchen island assembled, I had space to chop the ingredients and set them aside. I enjoyed each bite and even though my tomato went rotten and got chucked, and I forgot to pick up a jalapeno, the quesadilla and the accompanying guacamole were heavenly, making my Sunday evening feel almost like a mini-vacation.

the cheese is INSIDE!

Not that I wouldn’t turn down a real holiday – I’m long-overdue since the last one was in March. Any suggestions where a cash-strapped girl might go? I’m kind of thinking the West Coast.

Continue reading cheese quesadillas with guacamole.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

braised peas with spring onions and lettuce

braised peas with scallions, onions and lemon

My goodness, where do I even start? Since I have posted last, so much transpired in that time. The markets have fallen a precipitous amount with yesterday’s capitulation being quite brutal for the S&P 500. The world is a different place now and it will be interesting to see where the chips will fall or where the bottom might be. But enough of that. This is, after all, a food blog. And you come here, not for my financial take on things, but hopefully, to find recipes for good food.

And yet, partly because I spend my days working in the financial industry and partly because what is happening right now is so big, it’s hard to extricate yourself completely from it, even if your industry is as far away from the markets as it gets. It has affected and continues to affect us all. The restaurants are emptier and it’s now easier to get a reservation at historically difficult to book places. My friends and I are cutting on going out, instead choosing to cook our meals. And as our jobs and our savings are in flux and on a southward spiral, we turn to foods of comfort and greater simplicity to fix some of the anxiety. I know I’ve been eating more mashed potatoes lately – my food equivalent of a security blanket.

porcini flavored salt mmmmmm

Well, this recipes here I have for you here is a doozie. It’s so perfect, I’m annoyed with myself for having taken nearly two weeks to write about it. It’s a triple threat of amazing, with everything you could possibly want in a meal at stressful juncture: easy to make, delicious and comforting, and extremely wallet-friendly. Oh and it feels luxurious too. The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook “Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook” – Jamie Oliver, is known to many as the Naked Chef – and I’ve been a longtime fan of his easy, delicious recipes. His premise is elementary – good food need not be complicated or elaborate – sometimes things taste best at their simplest.

Even better, the dish requires minimal counter space – something that came in truly handy because I was making it at the time when my kitchen cart, stood (for nearly 4 weeks!) half-assembled in my kitchen, with spare parts strewn around the rest of my apartment. It was impossible to truly cook or to truly live – I felt like I was dealing with an obstacle course – not a home. The kitchen cart, with its generous counter, also comes with a fold-out breakfast bar – which means more counter space – a lucky find for me!

kitchen cart with a fold out breakfast bar

This is the first recipe I have made from this book, but already, I’ve dog-eared many a page and can’t wait to give other recipes a go. And with my kitchen cart constructed and ready for use – I have no excuse not to cook anymore. All I need it a few more volunteers to drop in for dinner and I will be all set.

Continue reading braised peas with spring onions and lettuce.