My Inner Picky Eater

What's the deal with hummus? I mean, seriously. When guests come to the ranch, they always bring at least two tubs of hummus. It doesn't matter if it's roasted red pepper flavor or roasted garlic with gold-leaf and white truffles, nobody ever eats it. You know why? Because there are OTHER OPTIONS. Nobody willingly goes for the hummus when there are other things on the table. (Don't be that person who brings hummus to a party.) Dieters, especially, believe that hummus is a "healthy" snack, but it's actually loaded with carbs and it tastes meh. Meh, I tell you! It's edible, but it's not fantastic, by any means. It certainly doesn't warrant all of the oohing and aahing that it gets. I've heard people gushing "Omg, I loooove hummus" as they scoop up a gob of it with a baby carrot and I just want to grab them by the shoulders, look them square in the eyes, and say: "It's OK. It's not that great. You don't have to fuss over it. Try the Doritos over there. Those are great." Dips are meant to be fun. Hot spinach and artichoke dip in a bread bowl is fun. Queso con carne with tortilla chips is fun. And, if you want something fun for your baby carrots, try whipping up a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Dip with sour cream–that's fun. Garbanzo bean paste? Not fun. It's suffice to say that I'm not that into hummus. 

Or beans and lentils, in general.

Tell me, is there anything more unappealing to look at than a bowl of mushy brown lentil soup? You can try to garnish it with a sprig of parsley, but it's like putting lipstick on a pig. It's another one of those things that's marketed as "healthy." I'd beg to differ. A bowl of simple chicken soup is much healthier for you, and your stomach won't feel like it's filled up with slop when you're done.

You know, I never thought of myself as a picky eater. I eat liver and sea urchin and anchovies and headcheese, for crying out loud. I've always kind of prided myself on being open-minded when it comes to food. Only recently did it occur to me that I might be a closeted picky eater. 

For example, whenever I order pancakes with bacon and eggs, I always ask for the pancakes on the side because I can't stand when the syrup touches the eggs and bacon. And, speaking of breakfast, I can't stand omelettes either. I think people go too crazy with the ingredients: ham, cheese, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, spinach, turkey, sausage... I've even seen chicken quesadilla omelettes on a menu! Stop the madness already! I rarely stray from soft-boiled or sunny-side up because I like my eggs yolky, with the whites barely set. When you ask for them scrambled, it's never done properly. It's either too dry or not whisked well enough. Scrambled eggs should have a certain creamy look that takes skill to achieve.

Caramelized onions? Not a fan. Just because you get caramelized onions on your hot dog or burger does not make it fancy. It just makes it complicated. I do, however, like thinly sliced raw red onions on my burger, but not lettuce–because it gets soggy–unless it's shredded, which is fine. I usually skip the tomato too, due to the sogginess factor. For the tomatoey-ness, I can get that from ketchup. Plain or sesame seed-topped hamburger buns are acceptable. As are soft potato buns. Brioche is a no for me–too sweet. And don't even think about putting a burger patty between a ciabatta roll. Are you insane? It's too chewy. 

French onion soup. I don't mind the soup part, but it's impossible to eat gracefully because when you dip your spoon into the thick blanket of gruyère, the melted cheese seems to string on forever, like an endless strand of spaghetti. Do not order this while you're on a date at a French restaurant. This sort of thing can only be eaten if you're dining alone and your table is completely shrouded by a thick curtain. 

Bell peppers. You know how Nicolas Cage is always Nicolas Cage in every movie he's in? Well, anything that a bell pepper touches tastes like a bell pepper. It doesn't enhance whatever dish it's in, it just overwhelms it. Therefore, I refrain from using bell peppers in curries, stir-fries, fajitas or pizzas. On the other hand, I like them as cold and crunchy slices on a crudité platter, or as the star of a dish, as in Stuffed Bell Peppers. Let's just say they don't do well as a member of the supporting cast.

I'm such a purist when it comes to classic dishes and this could not be more apparent than the night that Mountain Man cooked "spaghetti bolognese". You cannot put chunks of carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, blue cheese, coconut milk, curry powder, and tons of hot sauce in ground beef and tomato sauce and call it "bolognese"! A twist here or there, like adding a splash of heavy cream, can still qualify it, but not a full-on Frankenstein situation. 

Swiss cheese, like the cartoon one with the holes in it. It tastes like rubber! We can also add Jarlsberg and provolone to this category. They're all flavorless. I mean, why bother? 

Meat dishes that contain cherries, dates, apples, raisins, currants, pomegranate seeds, or any kind of fruit or berry. And may I also add: no pineapples on pizza. Just not into it. Same with nuts. Nuts are totally overrated. Also, do you know how much fat is in a nut? Who can stop at six almonds? 

Rhubarb. It's so ridiculously tart and sour. Why is it used as pie filling? Blech. In the same dessert vein, toasted coconut flakes always texturally feel like they don't belong on whatever they're sprinkled on. Kind of like finding a hair that has accidentally fallen into your food.

Quinoa, buckwheat, bulgar, barley, farro, and other grains. I must not have the same tastebuds as a horse because I cannot down any of the aforementioned grains. Yet another thing labeled as "healthy". Listen, I've tried living on a macrobiotic diet for four months in my twenties, and grains were put on a pedestal, but, for slimming down, I'm all about the high protein/low- or no-carb aspects of diets like the Dukan Diet or the Paleo Diet. I can't stand when I see a "quinoa and kale salad". The kale would taste so much better on its own without those soggy clumps of quinoa!

Broccoli. Poor broccoli. It's kind of an outdated vegetable and it smells awful when you cook it, no matter whether you're steaming it or puréeing it into a broccoli and cheddar soup. My thought is, why not eat broccolini? It has a much nicer flavor and doesn't stink up the house. Or try cauliflower, which looks like an albino version of broccoli, but has a nice mellow sweetness to it. 

Chicken feet. 'Nuff said.

 

 

 

 

Sour Cream Pancakes

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If you've never tried sour cream pancakes, well, you must. They are fluffy and light and wonderful. The basic concept is that the batter is primarily sour cream instead of flour, so you don't feel like you have bricks in your tummy after breakfast. 

The Pioneer Woman has a great recipe for them on her blog, which I've adapted here. I already had some pancake mix on hand, so I just used 1 cup of sour cream to 7 tablespoons of pancake mix and 2 eggs. Maybe I should try to making them from scratch one day as she does, but these turned out deliciously well too!

Monte Cristo Æbleskiver

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Æbleskiver (pronounced ebb-BLUH-skewer) are a Danish-style pancake that's shaped like a donut hole. They've become a breakfast favorite here at the ranch. We just use regular pancake batter and pour it into a cast iron æbleskiver pan, which has seven hemispherical pockets. Butter it well! You pour the batter in halfway, add whatever filling you like, then, when it starts to bubble, you use a skewer to turn them (traditionally, one would use a knitting needle). Lately, we've been doing a riff on the Monte Cristo sandwich: bits of chopped ham, a blob of Brie, and a dab of strawberry jam. These golden puffs are then dusted with powdered sugar. For something so quick and easy, they sure do make a morning feel special!

The Possibility of an Island [Kitchen]

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It's not hard to get inspired to cook in a kitchen like this. It is truly a ranch kitchen: oversized, fully stocked, and beautifully rustic. A real playground! The only thing my little shoebox of a kitchen in Greenwich Village inspired me to do was order Thai delivery via Seamless. Yep, it was one of those narrow, windowless ones that ends up never being used. Carrie Bradshaw was onto something with using her oven as wardrobe storage space.

Environment is everything for me. Here, I get plenty of sunlight and lots of space and access to a bountiful garden–and, of course, the luxury of time. (Really, who has time to cook in New York?) There's also something to say about having someone to cook for that makes you want to flex your culinary muscles a little more too. If it were just me, I'd be fine munching on a plate of green beans with a glass of wine and calling it a night.

Out here, I've been making things I'd never make for myself, including something as simple as pancakes for breakfast. I feel like a caged wild animal that has just been released into her natural habitat! I'll be posting more recipes soon, and, true to form, they're all more or less simple and easy.

I do miss tearing into the pad ped moo krob from Zabb Elee on Monday nights, though. The anticipation of the delivery guys' arrival... And eating it standing up at that dreadful Formica-topped kitchen counter. That, you can't get that in the mountains.

 

 

Just Like Diane

"So... We play an ice-breaker game every time we have a first-time visitor," said a friend of mine, pulling out a seat for me when I stopped by her office to say hello, "You have to pose a question to the group and everyone takes their turn to answer it."

I looked around at the smiling faces at the table. What a way to put a girl on the spot! 

"OK!" I said, clasping my hands together, "I've got the question."

I cheated a little because I had already played this game back in college. The question was: "If there was a movie made about your life, who would you pick to play you?" 

The only difference, then, was that, instead of answering it myself, my college roommate answered for me: Parker Posey. (At the time, we were all obsessed with two Parkers: Parker Posey and Sarah Jessica Parker.) I was honored. Parker Posey was an unexpected and non-obvious choice. She has a wicked sense of humor and, despite being supremely talented and cool, she has always flown under the mainstream radar.

Therefore, when it was my turn, I knew exactly what I was going to say: "Parker Posey."

"Really?" asked my friend, "I'm surprised. You know who you remind me of? Diane Keaton."  

"Diane Keaton?!" 

"Yes! Especially in that movie Something's Gotta Give." 

"Really?! Why?" I wasn't sure how I felt that a 50+-year old actress could play me. (And I'm not talking about looks because Ms. Keaton looks damn fine.) Did I act twenty years older than my own age???

"Well, she's a writer... And she always wears sweaters,"  she said, thoughtfully.

I looked down at what I was wearing. Hm. A cashmere sweater in the middle of the summer. Well, what can I say, I am definitely a sweater girl, through and through. She might be be onto something.

When I randomly bumped into an ex-boyfriend from high school, he also brought up the same connection. He mentioned that Something's Gotta Give was one of his favorite movies and Diane Keaton's character always reminded him of me. It was interesting coming from someone whose #1 favorite movie is American Psycho, to say the least.

Diane Keaton plays Erica Barry, an accomplished playwright and divorcée who lives in a gorgeous house in the Hamptons and finds herself caught in a love triangle between a man of her own age who is the ultimate modelizer (Jack Nicholson) and a younger hot doctor who is completely enamored with her (Keanu Reeves). Nancy Meyers, the writer and director of the film, didn't make it difficult to see why these two polar opposites were clamoring for her attention.

Erica Barry possesses a sparkly independent spirit, but is also a creature of comfort. She's complex but not complicated. And she's nurturing but not in a trite way. She also makes things like blueberry pancakes at midnight and eats scrambled eggs straight out of the pan on rainy evenings.

I recently watched Something's Gotta Give again the other night. OK, so there are some similarities. There's the writing thing and the sweater thing, for one. But, geez, her hairstyle and my hairstyle? (I swear, I feel perpetually stuck in this mid-length layered haircut.) Then, there's her easy-going nature that makes her so approachable. And the fact that she has no problem spending time alone. Oh, and how she romances Paris... Although what woman doesn't?

I adore Diane Keaton in general, so I'm very pleased to know that there are at least two people in this world who associate me with her character in this movie. I hope I live up to it. Like Erica Barry, I hope I produce some great piece of writing, find someone who gets me, and own a fabulous home in the Hamptons.