Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hot and Fiery Kitchen Experiment

My cooking desires seemed to have fired up lately.  I'm not sure if it's a result of all the good food I had in Maine...or a result of the high amounts of money spent and stomach pains that came as a result of so much eating out.  I think it's a mix of that and I happened upon a new website recently on Google +,  The Gracious Pantry.  Seeing all the tasty recipes on there has made me remember how much fun it was to cook good food and how easy it is too.
Well to that point, this weekend presented me with an excellent opportunity.  1. I had a $30 groupon to spend at a local butcher that was about to expire and 2. My cycling friend offered me up some fresh peppers from his garden before our ride this morning.  When life brings you fresh produce and access to good meat...FEAST it is!
I was literally excited all day about this dinner.  It was an uncharacteristically productive Sunday and I spent a few hours after my bike ride working at the coffee shop, getting things done. But really my mind was on dinner..counting down the hours.
So finally 6:25 rolls around, I had passed the final hours with a movie on Netflix and I think..."okay, it's time".
SO thus I share with you the story of my adventure tonight trying to create Peppered Garlic Swordfish with Roasted Pepper Farro pasta!
The guy at the butcher really sold me on the swordfish..I really went in with no idea what I wanted.  I had to spend $30, so I grabbed a few other random ingredients as well. 
Step 1: Gather the ingredients
About 3/4 lb swordfish steak, home grown peppers, lemon infused olive oil, garlic, lemon , farro pasta and a Pineapple Coconut Mango seafood sauce
Step 2: Prepare the peppers for roasting
It's best to start with the peppers.  Because roasting takes about 20-30 minutes and then you have to wait for them to cool so you can remove the skin.
I had no idea how hot the red peppers were.  So after reading recommendations online I decided to take no chances!  But, lacking latex gloves..plastic baggy was the next best thing
 I cut each of the peppers in half and removed the seeds..this proved a little difficult for the smaller peppers but not as hard as when some Jalepenos as the seeds are a little bigger.
In hindsight I'm not sure why I added seasoning because the skins were going to be removed eventually but I coated all the peppers in lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and garlic salt
Once the peppers were oiled and seasoned I stuck them on a baking dish in the oven at about 425 degrees.  Then I turned up the music on my Pandora and went to work on my next step.
Step 3: Prepare the Swordfish
Oh the mighty swordfish!  Apparently a very large was my steak.  I really have little experience cooking fish, especially this particular fish and on this particular scale.  I was set for the adventure though!  I chopped the smaller end of my red pepper into fine pieces along with a clove of garlic and rubbed the swordfish down with that + pepper and the lemon infused olive oil.  Wrapped it in tin foil and went back to enjoying my Pandora and sipping my beer 
The decorated Swordfish
I was checking my peppers periodically but they seemed to be spontaneously ready.  I yanked the suckers out of the oven and had my first bit of nervousness.  They looked pretty well done and I didn't oil the tin foil so they were a little stuck too.  But I managed to remove them and place them in a covered bowl so they could steam and cool.
Not so pretty when they first come out
As those sat, I let the oven cool a little bit to 375 degrees and then stuck the Swordfish in.  I also lit the fire on some water for the Farro
Never had Farro before, it's a rather bulky tough looking pasta, but surprisingly cooked pretty fast
Step 4: Peel the Roasted Peppers, Stir the Pasta..take a drink of beer and dance around to random Pandora music.
Not sure why I'm talking in steps..I'm really in the zone at this point..I pull out the peppers and the skins are really easy to remove.  The red peppers I find don't really have a separation so I just cut those up and stick them with the roasted green peppers
Step 5: Frantically Google "How do I know when Swordfish is done?"
I checked my swordfish after 20 minutes..still seemed a little real flaking..checked it 5 minutes later and I really couldn't tell if it was close to being done.  So I looked up several websites and decided after about 30 minutes that it was done enough and took it out.  I think the trick is to take it out when it seems like it's ALMOST done, but not quite.  Apparently it cooks more after it's removed anyway.   Because I had wrapped it in tin foil to keep the moister in, there were a lot of oils seeping after it cooled a bit I dumped off the oil and scrapped off some of the fat that had bubbled to the surface (just for appearances sake really).  
It's hot and juicy!!
Towards the end I started feeling like I was on one of those food network cooking shows.  I realized my pasta wasn't really done all the way so I quickly threw on some more water and boiled it a little longer, while adding some garlic to olive oil in a saute pan.  Plus taking the swordfish out at the same time I didn't tend to the cooking garlic so burnt garlic it would have to be.  I quickly threw the pasta in a colander, tossed in a bowl, dumped the peppers and the burnt garlic with the oil, FRANTICALLY stuck a slice of the swordfish and portion of pasta on a plate and realized SHIT there's a hole! I need something else.  I SWUNG the fridge open and grabbed a cuc, quickly sliced it, threw it on the plate with some tomatoes, grabbed the camera...and took a picture :) was delicious :)
ANNND...leftovers :)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cherishing Those Slow Weekends

This blog has been floating in the back of my mind, almost haunting me, for quite some time.  Life has been a bit of a whirlwind for the past few weeks and it seems like forever since I've had my butt planted in my apartment on a Saturday morning slowly taking in hot tea, fresh steel cut oats and natural sunlight through my windows.  I used to fret over the times like this, frantically coming up with plans to fill the hours of the weekend.  I've learned to slow down a bit, and appreciate my personal time..although I can't say I'm any better at planning it all out.
The past few weeks I've probably only been alone in my apartment for about 3-4 days.  People who know me know that I am not one to keep my feet planted for long.  I have a constant desire to go somewhere, see and do things.  Either it's a result of my day job (sitting) or just an inner hyper activeness that, while it exhausts me at times, I hope I never lose it.  A few weeks ago I whisked myself back home to spend a weekend celebrating the birthdays of two of my favorite ladies and the adventures have just been non stop since then.
A few days following my quick trip down to the steaming south, my friend Eli came for a long visit to CT.  He helped me drive up here back in January and has been looking to return when things aren't so..snow crazy.  Well I took advantage of having a convenient partner in crime and we kept the schedule busy.  I explored new areas of NYC, went to a concert which I randomly picked and ended up being really awesome.  The band is called Moonface and the singer is from the band Wolf Parade.  The venue was on the lower east side, just on the border of the East Village and reminded me a lot some of the intimate, dark, low key venues we have back home.  (I would post pictures, but due to numerous drinks and a long train ride home, my flashy new camera is sadly no where to be found :( )
Last Friday was my first Yankees game.  I'm not a Yankees fan, but I do love watching baseball.  We spent the afternoon before the game exploring Chelsea, walking through Chelsea Market and paying a visit to High Line Park which is an old elevated railway converted into a little over a mile stretch of gardens, artistic benches and the occasional patch of grass littered with sunning New Yorkers.  The day we went may not have been the best, as it was an uncharacteristic 100 degrees.  But we braved it, got a ginger plum Popsicle to cool us off and replenished our fluids with a cold beer at the end where they have street vendors and a bar set up underneath the park.
Sliding lounge chairs built into the tracks
Enjoying one of the great views elevated above NYC
But perhaps the greatest adventure, and the real reason I wanted to post a blog, was our road trip up to Maine.
We lucked out the whole way, planning things out as we went and finding places to go ahead of time.  Our first stop in Maine was at a little restaurant right on the coast, tucked away in some houses.  I had seen the restaurant on Food Network, called Lobster Shack at Two Lights and really wanted to check it out.  I had never eaten a lobster before either, so of course I had to give it a try.  THis place definitely didn't disappoint!  You can order a lobster dinner, complete with a whole steamed lobster, biscuit, coleslaw and fries and enjoy savagely tearing into your lobster on picnic tables listening to the crash of waves on the rocky coast of Maine. And when I say savagely, I mean eating a lobster is no easy (or clean) affair.  Upon first breaking of it's tail I was introduced to the dirty dead of dismembering a whole lobster, organs and juices still in tact.  What followed was a tasty adventure that involved lobster juice flying everywhere, getting poked by pieces of sharp shell and pausing only to breath and take in the fresh salty air.  The mess below shows the aftermath.
We headed from there up to Camden, ME where we had decided Thursday morning we were going to camp.  Once again, Maine did not disappoint.  We arrived shortly before sunset and upon the recommendation of the park ranger, we set up tent in a flash and drove up to Mt Battie to catch the view before the sun set.  Breath taking is really all you can say about the view.  Below you can see the quaint harbor town of Camden and beyond you can see the jutting coast, islands and beyond the horizon, kissed by sunshine.
Atop the tower at Mt. Battie
The next day we explored Camden, took a touristy sail trip and perused the little shops downtown.  I will definitely have to go back and explore by bike, there are several towns along the coast there that we didn't quite get to.  We left in the afternoon to get to our next nights stay.  Eli hooked us up with his discount on Historical Hotels of America and we stayed at this very cute, inclusive type resort on Southport Island.  It is tucked away on some back highways near Boothbay
For the rest of our stay in Maine we explored Boothbay Harbor, Burnt Island, a small general store with some awesome lobster rolls and a little hike through a nature preserve on another local island.
The beach we rode bikes to

Typical rocky coastline on the property of our hotel

Where we spent the last morning in Maine, beating the noisy kids to the pool

Seeking further adventure, we took to kayaking

Eli exploring Burnt Island, a stop on our Kayak trip

A hidden beach on our hike through the Nature Preserve
So Maine, I will be seeing you again.  Perhaps with a new partner in crime or just Rosalita (my bike).
Time to go enjoy my Saturday...I see a farmers market in my future :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Going Mental on You!

This is an abnormal one..just putting it out there to vent some frustration and hope for some potentially helpful feedback from my wise and experienced readers and friends.
The evolution of the mind..typically it grows..absorbing all that is around it and learning to adapt to it, react to it, understand it and use it.  Is this the case?  Does this happen naturally, or is our mind a garden, constantly needing tending, weeding, watering, and re soiling?  I ask this broad question mainly because I struggle with it.  I struggle with this process and the understanding that some of it does happen naturally.  For me, it seems to often times be the opposite.  Perhaps those who really have the ability to understand how people work and how their own mind works can shed some light on this.  Is it possible that either circumstances, stimuli or is it personal ability control how smart one is and how smart one becomes?  I find it has become almost impossible, to the extreme, to teach myself anything.  After college..maybe even High School!  Am I concentrating too hard on the process?  Why am I unable to focus enough?  My brain seems to work..I have lots of thoughts..but I cannot help but struggle with this feeling that over the past 2 years something has happened to me and I am trapped in my current constantly bewildered mind.  Words form in my head, but they do not come out right..I seldom express my opinion and I seldom feel like I know what I am talking about.   I struggle every day just to focus on tasks and process information, use it and add to it.  Sometimes I feel like I am just watching things happen, thinking about watching things happen, and thinking about listening to someone talk..but never processing it.
I am sure you are thinking it is not helpful to admit or bemoan over something like this about ones self.  But, honestly, I need some help!  It has come to the point in my life where I need a little focus and direction..I have sent my kite to sail and it has reached some stormy clouds..uncertain how to navigate.  I feel I could almost pinpoint the moment this all started to get all happened just a couple of years ago..this change in my mental behavior..that time brought a lot of changes and while the issues have subsided I don't feel like they have entirely gone away.  Medication?  Personal stress?  What factors cause us to lose focus?  How do we teach ourselves to focus again?  Meditation creates focus..but it is but in the moment, clarity..replaced with status quo upon subsiding.  Perhaps I need more practice..but there in lies the challenge..focus, once again...
I would be interested in any thoughts, readings or advice..sometimes I feel improvement..but most of the time I still struggle.  I want to decide the next step, how I'm going to play this curve ball I've been dealt..I think I need to address several personal issues first.
I promise I will keep these blogs less focused on inner turmoil and more on adventures and explorations in the future..but I needed a forum for this and so I'm starting here..