Paperbag Princess Potatoes

Even though I was on a budget, I could help but place a jar of red caviar (a.k.a. salmon roe a.k.a. ikura) into my shopping basket when I picked up groceries at Citarella. At $10.99, it wasn't breaking the piggy bank but it certainly wasn't a necessity either. I was getting bored with my usual salads and rotisserie chickens. Sometimes you have to splurge a little on an oddball item to get creative in the kitchen. 


3 small boiled red potatoes
Melted butter
Fresh dill
Fresh chives
Red caviar
Maldon sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

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1. Slice the potatoes into disks and lay down on a plate.

2. Drizzle melted butter over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

3. Snip lots of dill and chives on top. 

4. Spoon red caviar randomly over the entire dish as garnish. 

 *If you have gravlax/smoked salmon and/or crème fraîche, add them to the plate to turn this into a more substantial #singlegirldinner.

 

The Definition of a Huckleberry Friend

One of the many iconic scenes in Breakfast at Tiffany's is when Paul Varjak tears himself away from his typewriter upon hearing the strumming of a guitar from his downstairs neighbor Holly Golightly. Normally dressed to the nines, this quintessential New York party girl is seen perched on a windowsill, pared down in a sweatshirt and jeans with a towel wrapped around her head, stealing a contemplative moment to herself as she croons "Moon River." There was one line from that song that stood out merely because I had no idea what it meant: "My huckleberry friend." For years, it hung in my mind. I searched Paul Varjak's relationship with Holly Golightly for the answer. Theirs was a mutual adoration laced with innocent flirtation; there was a certain playfulness that freed them from being neither friends nor lovers. What was between them was open to interpretation. It was beyond definition.

Everyone should have a huckleberry friend at one point or another. It is an experience that showers your life with magic for as long as it lasts, whether it be for a couple of weeks or a couple of years. The after-effects, however, last for much, much longer. I met my huckleberry friend at the very end of a dinner party uptown in 2008. He introduced himself just as I was leaving. His eyes contained big, blue floating orbs that were at once angelic and impish. Although we'd never met before, I felt a curious kinship with him. He began inviting me over to his apartment, just to talk over tea or cocktails. I always felt deeply insecure that I wasn't interesting enough for him to want me as a friend, but the invitations kept coming anyway. 

His tastefully appointed studio apartment was more like a private parlor in which he could host the people he liked–and he wasn't fond of very many. He served his tea and cocktails on a silver tray with proper china and glassware. The tea was always either loose jasmine tea leaves from Chinatown or a sachet of Lipton tea; the cocktails were made from old, long-lost cocktail recipes that he had scribbled down on a notepad. He had undeniably good taste and was more than happy to impart his opinion at any given time. He convinced me that white jeans were chic all year-round and that I should sometimes wear sunglasses with prescription lenses indoors just for fun.

In the beginning, I had written him off as one of those flighty, fabulous people that say "Let's do something" and never do, but he proved me wrong. He was reliably available which allowed us to develop rituals around each other's company. He'd meet me at Citarella to keep me company while I grocery-shopped. We had dim sum lunches in Chinatown on random weekday afternoons and ordered the same dishes every time. On Sundays, we'd stroll through the neighborhood and top off the afternoon with a strawberry ice cream sundae at Lexington Candy Shop. With him, every moment was crystallized into a charm.

Years ago, after a particularly heated fight with an ex that left me in tears, I called him because he always knew how to cheer me up. He invited me over to his apartment for a little tea and sympathy. I made the walk down Park Avenue that winter’s evening, with a big fox fur hat on my head, clutching the front of an oversized gray wool coat closed with a gloved hand. My nose, pink; my eyes, puffy. Crashing into his sofa, still upset, I recounted the argument with bewilderment and confusion as he poured hot water into a pair of mixed matched teacups. He pulled out a small, clear plastic dessert box from his mini fridge. “I bought you a slice of pumpkin cheesecake because girls like sweets," he said with a shrug. He cut the wedge in half and placed my half on a zebra-patterned plate with a red rim. 

That night, he decided that the ultimate pick-me-up was to go dancing at Beatrice Inn, the louche subterranean West Village hot spot which has since been closed down by authorities. We hurried down the steps and pushed our way through the dark crowded room. With our drinks in hand, he led me up to the black and white checkered dance floor where we danced the night away, brushing shoulders with everyone around us. Then, there was a change in tune. I recognized the opening notes and the beat. It was Roxy Music’s “More Than This." 

I could feel at the time, there was no way of knowing...   

"We have to dance to this song," he said, turning his baseball cap backwards and holding out his hand. “Will you dance with me?"

It was a slow-dance. Our faces were close but facing away from each other. The rest of the room faded away. What year is this? Where are we? What is happening? I thought moments like these only happened in movies. I felt like I was falling in love, but suddenly I didn't know what love was anymore. I thought we would kiss, but we didn't. When the song ended, we hopped into a cab uptown-bound. I dropped him off on Park Avenue and rode the rest of the way back to my apartment. 

When Christmas rolled around weeks later, he asked me to meet him in Union Square for lunch. He had a gift for me. It was wrapped in brown paper with a hunter green ribbon. With it, he gave me a tiny white envelope sealed with a messy little blob of red wax. “Don’t open it now," he insisted, “It’s embarrassing." I stuck it in my bag and we went to lunch as usual. When I returned home, I opened the gift, a CD, The Best of Roxy Music. The second track was “More Than This." The card said:

To J:

This is the only present I bought this year that has any meaning.

x E

 

What To Do When You're Sick and Single

Ooh. My forehead feels a little warm.

Mouth is a little dry.

*Ahem, ahem* Ouch. Throat is kinda sore.

*Sniffle sniffle*

Definitely on the verge of getting sick, no doubt about that.

The sucky part about being sick and single is that you have to fend yourself when you're energy level is moving slower than molasses. Therefore, you have to take preemptive measures. When you've sensed that you're right on the cusp of being ill, drag yourself to the grocery store and stock up on soup or soup-making ingredients. 

Citarella has this great pre-packaged bundle called "Soup Greens," which contains carrots, leeks, onions, dill, parsley, turnip, parsnip and celery. Having it all portioned out for you saves a lot of time. Then, you don't have to think "Well, how many carrots will I need?" And you won't have a whole bushel of dill that will inevitably rot in the vegetable drawer in your fridge. Roughly chop up the herbs and veggies and let it all simmer away for about an hour and a half to two hours in a big pot of boiling water with chicken wings, sea salt and black pepper, and a cup of rice. Making this sort of soup requires no more attention or effort than the occasional watchful eye. You'll be comforted to know that there will be nourishment on-hand when you're all by your lonesome at home. 

Since your nose is already stuffy, and your eyes watery, you might also feel like it's okay to shed a few tears. About whatever you like, really. Perhaps you have this yearning that one day, when you're sick, you'll have someone who will care for you and make you a lovely soup. It's the sweetest thing to have someone care for you when you're sick. When was the last time that happened anyway? For me... Probably when I was a youngster, still living at home with my parents. My mother's go-to recipe was a soup made with cauliflower, a handful of elbow macaroni, tiny flecks of ground beef, and seasoned with a few dashes of Maggi. It was quick and simple, but made me feel so special.  Will I ever feel that cared for again, you might wonder.

Right.

And keeping a box of Kleenex on the bedside table would, obviously, be a good idea.


Bohemian Steak & Egg

A steak dinner always sounds a little fancy, but you need not shell out the bucks for one when you're #singlegirldinnering at home. Sure, I'll select a choice cut of ribeye for myself from time to time, but for a regular weeknight meal I discovered something called "bohemian steak" at Citarella. This long, well-marbled strip is actually the tail of a porterhouse or T-bone steak. It's really flavorful and just the right size for a #singlegirldinner. Here's a little insider secret from a Paper Bag Princess (i.e. me): the one I bought was $3.96.

*There were quite a few more slices than what you see above in the pic–just couldn't fit on the plate.


1 strip of bohemian steak
Maldon sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Taco seasoning
1 organic egg
Olive oil
A pat of butter

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1. Season the steak with salt, pepper, and taco seasoning. Drizzle with olive oil. Massage everything into the beef. Set aside.

2. Cover the pan with a slick of olive oil and heat it up on medium-high heat. If you have a cast-iron, it would be best in order to create a browned crust on the exterior.

3. Throw in the steak. It should sizzle. Leave it alone for a couple of minutes so that it can brown. Once browned, flip to the other side. Cook to your liking. I like mine medium-rare, more on the rare side as you can see.

4. Remove the steak and turn off the heat. Let it rest on the cutting board for 5 minutes or so. Slice.

5. Add a pat of butter to the pan and once it melts and gets foamy, crack an egg into the center. Cook to your liking and arrange everything on a plate. Grind black peppper over your eggs. You can shake a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce on top of your steak, if you like. I definitely did!

A Major Roast Chicken Salad

To me, making a salad is like painting. It's a creation that's both composed and ad-hoc. There's layering involved. Balance. Thought. It's not hastily chopping up a bunch of stuff and dumping it into a bowl with no rhyme or reason. I've always believed that a great salad requires great care. How you cut the ingredients can completely change the nature of a salad. Here, the cucumbers are cut into matchsticks, the grape tomatoes are cut into round slices, and the red onion and avocado are sliced very thinly. There's no tossing involved, so this composition is purely guided by your eye and intuition.


2 cups of mesclun salad leaves
1/2 small kirby cucumber, cut into matchsticks
A few thin slices of red onion, cut into half-moons
1/4 avocado, thinly sliced
6 grape tomatoes, cut into small round slices
Cold leftover roast chicken, torn into shreds
Crumbled feta cheese
Citarella's tartar sauce, or another creamy dressing like ranch or blue cheese
Fresh dill, chives, tarragon, or chervil
Maldon sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

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1. Start with a large white dinner plate. This is your canvas. Prime the canvas with a generous layer of mesclun salad leaves. Make sure the leaves are clean and completely dry. 

2. For a crunch factor, sprinkle the cucumber matchsticks over the salad.

3. Tear the cold roast chicken into shreds by hand and evenly distribute--the quantity will rely on your appetite! 

4. Separate the rings of the onion slices and lightly scatter to add a nice kick and heat.

5. Drape the avocado slices gently around the plate.

6. Strategically place the grape tomato slices where a punch of red is needed.

7. Add the crumbled feta and small spoonfuls of your creamy dressing, here and there, being mindful of the balance of white splashes to the composition.

8. Pick off bits of the fresh herbs and decorate the plate.

9. Finish with a pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes and a shower of black pepper.

10. Cut into your masterpiece, fork-and-knife style, and mix it all up!