So far, this has been the rainiest month that I can remember. Nearly every day has been awful, wet, and cold, or at the very least dreary. I wouldn't complain, except for the fact that it's June.
If memory serves, right about now summer should be gracing us with the last few of it's more temperate days before ramping up to the uncomfortable heat and infamous humidity of NYC's July and August. We should be taking long, lazy walks, reading by the river, and drinking coffee on our balcony. Instead, most of my days have been spent rushing around under the half-collapsed flimsy of a $10 Duane Reade umbrella, freezing--still half-wet--in the presently unnecessary air conditioning that has turned my office into an icebox, and rushing home at the end of the day to stir up a big pot of soup.
But I did say nearly every day, which means there has been a handful of clear-skied days to briefly interrupt this sogginess. Yesterday was one of them.
After a long week (two, really) of working insanely late every single night, Chris felt anxious to break the cycle of working, coming home, and crashing. So we grabbed a cab and rode down to the lower east side to Pala, a pizzeria on Allen and Houston with gluten-free options.
I have what one could call an obsession, maybe even bordering a full-blown addiction. I have a virtually insatiable desire for Kettle Brand Sea Salt and Vinegar potato chips. Really, it's a problem.
All through childhood, I was never a huge fan of potato chips. And then I grew up and stumbled upon Kettle Brand. Their chips are the perfect thickness for a truly satisfying crunch and do not have the same greasiness that is characteristic of so many other brands. I used to love the Cheddar Beer flavor, which has been discontinued and would now be off limits anyway (barley malt, anyone?). The Backyard Barbeque: delicious. The krinkle-cut Salt and Pepper: tasty. The Sea Salt and Vinegar, though? My absolute favorite. Ever.
If you love the intense, biting tang of a salt and vinegar chip, try these. I will warn you, however, they will ruin you for any other. All I have to do now is open the bag to know that a chip will not compare. When you open a bag of Kettle Brand's, your senses are instantly assaulted with that sharp, stinging vinegar scent. And the salty, tongue-eroding flavor leaves my taste buds literally aching for more.
I can't not eat a whole bag. I've resigned myself to the impossibility of it. Were I not concerned for the nutritional ramifications related to the fact that I'm eating potato chips, I could easily put away two whole bags. Probably three. I could go on. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I dream of the day when someone ponies up some money or a shiny prize to test just how many bags I can consume. I can put caloric concerns on the back burner for cash and prizes.
And the caloric concerns are an issue. This is largely because I get stuck in a cycle every so often and (this is where the addiction part comes in), for an entire week or more, I will sit down with a bag every night. I am not exaggerating, and this is something that my twice-a-week Pilates sessions just can't stand up against.
But I think I have found a solution: baked potato chips from Kettle Brand.
Chris and I used to order pizza, oh once, maybe twice a week.
There's an amazing Italian place just two blocks down the street from us with doughy, chewy coal oven pizza. I don't think that the sauce consisted of anything more than, sweet, hand-crushed tomatoes, and each pie was covered with bright, white slices of fresh mozzarella and a few leaves of basil. I still count it among the best pies I've ever had. We ate it often, and with relish.
Then there were those nights, usually on weekends or a late night after a long and stressful day at work, when we craved the kind of pizza that promises to arrive in thirty minutes or less. You know, the kind that comes with garlic-butter sauce on the side and makes you feel a little less human post-consumption?
In any and all of its forms, we loved pizza.
And then I went gluten-free (cue dramatic music).
For obvious reasons, it was immediately apparent that we would no longer be ordering our pizza, so we began to search for GF alternatives. Fortunately, we very quickly came across a well-reviewed, packaged pizza crust mix has changed the way we think about pizza for dinner. Chebe pizza crust cooks up thin and crisp and cracker-like. The blend of dried herbs in this mix was unexpected the first time we made it, but is very good and goes surprisingly well with any combination of toppings or sauces. We now buy it in bulk and always have it on hand for a quick and easy dinner. We have truly come to love this pizza.
If I were to show someone a snapshot of the Monday through Friday weather here over the past two and a half weeks, I'd be willing to bet that I'd have difficulty convincing anyone that we're now slipping into mid-June. Isn't the phrase "April showers"? At least the weekends are looking like summer.
So, despite the date, I'm still finding myself looking to cold weather fare. I promise, though, once the rain lets up, I'll have some lighter, more summery creations to share!
That being said, dinner last night was an exercise both in comfort and creativity: pan-seared pork chops and a Dijon gravy with caramelized shallots and thyme, and buttermilk parsnip puree with roasted garlic.
In conceiving of this dish during the day, I imagined that the pork chops would finish with a subtle sweetness and the parsnips would be a salty, creamy contrast. The exact opposite was true. The pork chops browned up with a nice, salty crust and the gravy carried over the deep spice of the Dijon and shallots. The parsnips were smooth and tangy and slightly sweet, with an almost celeriac twang. It's a fresh flavor that I'm looking forward to pairing with light, flaky white fish or tender sea scallops...once this unseasonable dreariness clears.
Having grown up in Wisconsin, it was probably inevitable that I would one day wind up making my own cheese.
I am always up for a culinary adventure and after discovering this, I just couldn't resist. Last year I ventured out and made my own pumpkin puree for Thanksgiving pies, so making my own ricotta didn't seem that big of a stretch. Plus, the recipe looked simple enough, and--believe me--it was.
You start with whole milk, buttermilk, heavy cream, and a bit of salt in a large pot. This would have appeared a monstrosity to me months ago, but since eliminating gluten, my lactose intolerance has vanished. Today, it was beautiful--so thick and clean and white. Pulling my spatula through the mixture, it looked as though I were stirring marble.
It took maybe half an hour or so for the milk to begin to curdle. Small, fine grains of white began to separate from the thin yellowish whey. It didn't look like there could possibly be enough actual cheese in that pot to measure out at the two and a half cups promised by the recipe, but I turned off the heat and walked away anyway.
Ten minutes later I returned and began to transfer the curds into the cheesecloth-lined colander waiting in the sink. I didn't have a wire mesh skimmer, and my slotted spoon wasn't able to do much of anything beside release the curds straight back into the pot. So, I used a regular old spoon, slowly transferring the curds and whey into the colander and letting the cheesecloth do it's work.