Sunday, August 31, 2014

Therefore In The Right Place


      When I made my living in kitchens I used to wake myself up in the middle of the night with the residual scent of onions and thyme, once delicious sauteing on the stovetop, accosting my dreams. At first it was nearly sensual, like how your upper lip smells of your kissing partner long after they've gone home. But before long (much to the aggrieved heart in its longing!) their perfume fades away and you're left with yourself, ready for bed and in need of a toothbrush. The slippery smoke of cooking food marches to a different drum; it creeps into your ears, clings under your nailbeds and sets up permanent camp in the metallic pores of any jewelry you may have forgotten to remove prior to handling garlic. And if you're cooking in your own home, the fumes will sneak into the cupboards and nestle into curtain folds, lingering after the dishes are washed and the feet are propped.

     Among the many ways to mitigate a meal's clinging scent (running around with a burning piece of newspaper or simmering water and cinnamon on the stove), the best way may be to simply tie your hair back, open a window and let it wash over you -- like winter, it won't last forever. MFK Fisher (once again) nails it: " can broil the meat, fry the onions, stew the garlic in the red wine...and ask me to supper. I'll not care, really, even if your nose is a little shiny, so long as you are self-possessed and...your mind is your own and your heart is another's and therefore in the right place."

Lemon Roasted Potatoes with Garlic
inspired by Flora Maranka

      One of the many things I do miss about working in the kitchen is my friend Flora. She's read almost every book in the world and has a sense of humor that has left me doubled over in a fit of laughter at least five dozen times. She is one of the founding mothers of the Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca, NY and has a cool sensibility about food that has inspired me time and time again. Amy and I learned this recipe from her and are indebted to her (in a calm, collected way).


a pot of boiling salted water

6 medium potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled 
5 T olive oil
1 t sea salt

4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
the juice of one lemon (about 2 T worth) 
1/4 c water 

some sort of chopped green herb for garnish (optional)


       Bring a pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cut the potatoes lengthwise in half and then lengthwise in thirds again so that the potato is cut into six pieces. The uniformity of shape and size is important for even cooking and is a simple technique to get under your belt for the future.

      Preheat the oven to 400F. Add the potatoes to the boiling water for about 5 minutes -- this will create a starch coating around the outside which will bind to the oil and crisp up gloriously in the oven. Drain the potatoes totally and toss with 1 t salt and olive oil.

      In a pan or cast iron skillet large enough, arrange the potatoes in a single layer, cover with foil and it all in the oven. After about twenty minutes, remove the foil and let the potatoes keep cooking for about twenty five minutes more or until their undersides are crisping and beginning to brown.

      Pull the pan/skillet out of the oven and add the garlic, lemon juice and water. Gently fold the potatoes into the mixture so they are bathed in the liquid and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

      Remove from heat, place in a serving bowl and garnish with chopped herbs if you so wish. Serve alongside a green salad, grilled fish or meat or with a poached egg.

Yields: a side dish for 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, mostly unattended

Writing by Adria Lee | Photography and Styling by Amy Pennington

Friday, August 1, 2014

Form and Function

      I'm wrapping up an accelerated anatomy and physiology (the study of form and function) class and my mind is stupefied by just how miraculous everything is inside of us. Sometimes my teacher will step back from his lecture after explaining some incredibly complex concept like the concentration gradients in the medulla of the kidneys, shrug, and say, "It's a wonder we all don't just go up in smoke."

      There's plenty I could say that could make a person impressed to the point of being unnerved with how perfectly delicate our systems are but instead I'll say that most of our mandatory functions boil down to one thing: protein*. Everywhere you turn in physiology, protein seems to be the leading lady -- in everything from the myosin and actin filaments in muscle contractions to ATP synthesis to the whole purpose of DNA. Since it's so important on the molecular level and since we're all in this together, let's celebrate protein in the tangible realm with something for everyone -- vegan, gluten-free or care-free.

       (* I also have to say that calcium is incredibly important, too. So is potassium and sodium. Okay, and oxygen and carbon, too.)

Maple and Smoked Chili Braised Tempeh

      A lot of people have asked me what to do with or how to make tempeh delicious. Here is the technique I learned from Peggy upon which many liberties with flavors can be taken depending on the palates involved. Tempeh is a flat, fillet-like piece of fermented soybeans and a terrific alternative to the non-fermented but popular tofu, with twice the amount of protein and fiber. It can be found in many health food stores in the refrigerated section.


1 hearty 8oz piece of plain tempeh, sliced (see instructions below)
3 T olive oil (or butter for the non-vegans)
1/2 t sea salt

1 or 2 chipotle peppers, minced
2 T maple syrup
2 T whole grain mustard
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 t sea salt
1 c water

minced purple onion and cilantro, for garnish (optional)


      This slicing aspect is simply to increase the surface area for flavor saturation. Cut the tempeh in half. Place it on its cut edge and carefully slice the entire piece lenthwise, as though you're slicing a fillet. Do the same with the other piece. Finally, cut each fillet into 1" or 2" cubes (or whatever shape you want -- I like triangles).

      Mix the chipotle pepper, maple syrup, mustard, garlic, 1/2 t salt and water together. Set the mixture aside.

      Heat the oil or butter in a skillet over medium high heat and add the tempeh in a single layer (do it in batches if you need to). Sprinkle with 1/2 t sea salt and let fry for a few minutes. When the tempeh has browned on the skillet side, flip the pieces and fry again until browned.

      Add the chipotle and maple syrup mixture and reduce the flame to low. Cover the skillet and let the tempeh bathe in the braising liquids for 20 minutes, flipping once. If the liquid seems to be evaporating too quickly, add more water.

      When the liquid has reduced and is nearly gone, taste a piece of the tempeh and adjust the flavors if you'd like. Remove from heat and serve immediately alongside hot rice or quinoa or let cool and serve atop a tossed salad. Garnish with minced onion and cilantro.

Yields: tempeh for two
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes

Writing by Adria Lee | Styling and Photography by Amy Pennington

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Heady Time

      I'm chagrined to entertain the idea that this nook of my world has gone on the back burner over the past few months. It's been a heady (but lovely) time full of a big, big move to a wonderful new apartment, an accelerated anatomy and physiology class that has left me stunned, and perfect weekends away with dear friends celebrating love (read: weddings).

     In my not-very-often-still moments, I find myself propped on my right elbow, staring out the window at the way the breeze blows the leaves on the trees in a million directions. My mind is full (and I mean to the brim) of physiological principals that are loosely connecting themselves to the Eastern theories that I love. A lot of the time I feel like those leaves -- spinning and snagged in so many directions. It's a heady time, figuring out the next steps to take, which is probably just my excuse to eat more frozen yogurt to slow down my brain cells and to encourage you, in whatever corner of the world you're in, to do the same.

Wild Blackberry Frozen Yogurt
inspired by Amy Pennington

     Amy saw wild blackberries (also known as blackcaps) growing next to our house. It was her idea to make frozen yogurt and add them to it, so she deserves all the credit. Summer is the season of the Heart and Small Intestine in Chinese Medicine, so blood-building berries of all kinds are good to emphasize.


24 oz container of whole milk Greek yogurt
3/4 to 1 c cane sugar

1 c blackberries, smashed ("Git your hands in there and squeeze 'em good", she says.)


      In a bowl, mix the yogurt with the sugar and let sit for about 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Taste and add more sugar if you want a sweeter experience. Combine the blackberries with the yogurt. Churn in your ice cream for about 30 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Eat immediately and freeze any that remains.

      Because there's no corn syrup or alcohol involved (anti-freezing helpers), let the yogurt sit on the counter or in the fridge for a while before you eat it again.

Yields: frozen yogurt for 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook/churn time: 30 minutes

Writing by Adria Lee | Styling and Photography by Amy Pennington

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Like a Great Love

      Like a great love, there are certain recipes that will measure everything that comes next.

Buttermilk Ice Cream
from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course


2 c buttermilk
pinch of salt
1 t vanilla extract or ½ scrapped vanilla bean

2 c heavy cream
1 c sugar

6 to 12 egg yolks


    Combine the buttermilk, salt and vanilla in a large bowl and set it in your sink with a fine mesh strainer resting on top. Rest it in an ice bath if you’re thinking of churning it soon (I let mine rest overnight in the fridge before churning it).

    Over medium heat, bring the heavy cream and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly add ½ c of the hot mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly; this is to introduce them to heat so that they won’t curdle.

    Add the warmed yolks to the hot cream, place over low heat and stir often, if not constantly, until the mixture turns to a custard that will coat the back of a spoon – 10 minutes.

    Remove from heat and pour the custard into the buttermilk, discarding anything solid that is caught in the strainer. Let the mixture cool in the fridge until cold and then churn in your ice cream maker, according to the instructions.

    This is especially good with fresh peaches or plums.

Yields: ice cream for 8
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cool time: an hour
Churn time: 30 minutes

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Secret Sorrows

       Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, "Every man has secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad."


      I could go into the paralyzing effects of small town or office conclusions (read: gossip). Or I could talk about the simple-seeming man who comes into the food co-op that I cashier at who buys dozens of apples at a time and always frets about being able to fit on the city bus for his trip home who I just learned owns the coolest artist warehouse in the city. Or I could talk about the wonderful lady from Ghana in my biology class who I seriously doubted would do very well considering the language hesitation who has ended up with the highest score in the class.

       But I think it's best to talk about tofu.

       It looks like a cube of soap, it doesn't taste like anything and only hippies eat it. Sound familiar? I can't change your mind but I can offer you the opportunity to change it yourself. In the spirit of Longfellow, suspend your judgement and try this recipe; I believe you'll tap into a precious kernel of truth in addition to realizing that Chinese haute-takeout is available atop your tiny stove.

Caramelized Black Pepper Tofu with Edamame, Broccoli and Pickled Radish
inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi

      A little known but wildly effective macrobiotic home remedy for kitchen (or other) burns is to put a slice of cold tofu directly on the burn until the pain subsides. It's incredible and so is this recipe, especially paired with hot, fresh rice.


1 block of firm tofu cut into 1" cubes
4 T cornstarch

1/4 c olive oil
3/4 t sea salt

another 1/4 c olive oil (or butter/ghee -- not vegan but very recommended)

1 purple onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T ginger, finely grated or chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1/3 c tamari (or other soy sauce)
 1 T cane sugar (or maple syrup, but it'll change the taste quite a bit)
2 T freshly ground black pepper (do not use pre-ground)

1 cup lightly steamed edamame (frozen is fine)
2 c lightly steamed and salted broccoli

2 scallions, slivered

4 radishes, thinly sliced and pickled *
freshly cooked rice ** (curry powder optional)


       * Pickle the radishes in 2 T rice vinegar, 1 t sugar/maple syrup and 1/4 t sea salt. Let rest until serving.

      ** Rinse 1 1/2 cup white basmati rice and add it to a sauce pan with 3 cups of water, 1 t curry powder, and 3/4 t sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to lowest heat possible and let cook for 20 minutes, undisturbed. Remove from heat, keep covered, and let rest until serving.

      Cut the tofu into 1" cubes and gently toss to coat with cornstarch, tossing any that doesn't cling to the tofu. Line a plate with a paper or paper bag to drain the fried tofu upon.

      In a saute pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot (when a test cube is added and begins to sizzle vigorously), add all of the tofu and sprinkle with 3/4 t sea salt.

      Flip the tofu with a fork (be brave with the spattering oil!) when the tofu begins to brown and give the other sides a chance to do the same. When the tofu is sufficiently crispy, transfer it the prepared plate to let drain.

      Meanwhile, wipe the saute pan clean of any extra oil or residue. Add the remaining 1/4 c olive oil and heat the oil over the medium-high flame. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeno and saute until softened -- about 10 minutes.

      Reduce the heat to medium and add the tamari, sugar and black pepper and stir to combine. Add the tofu and stir gently to coat. Add the edamame and broccoli, stirring gently and at the very end, add the scallions before removing from heat.

      Serve atop the hot rice and garnish with pickled radishes.

Yields: dinner with leftovers for 2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes (includes rice cooking time)

Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography (on the iPhone -- sorry!) by Amy Pennington

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Holy Spirit, Like a Siren

      Melissa, my sister, wrote me a while ago to gasp about a passage that struck her from a John Irving novel about an older man recalling his life: "And then fifteen unremarkable years passed...".

      "Adria", she said, "I never want to go through even a year that I feel ambivalent about."

      I can't help but take a few proud and enchanted moments today to remember that a year ago Amy and I finally reached Santiago de Compostela in Western Spain after walking for six weeks from the south of France.  It is called el Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage established by Christians (specifically St. James, whose remains rest in the cathedral in Santiago) in their relentlessness to spread Christianity to the Moors. Each year the trail is walked by thousands of pilgrims, some for religious reasons but many, including us, for personal reasons -- from pushing the restart or recharge button to letting go of grief. Whatever the objective that one begins with, by the end of the pilgrimage, no one is able to say that a holy spirit is far from them.

      To exert one's physical strength the way that the Camino necessitates (the day after day factor of averaging fifteen miles with a pack, in addition to the loud snoring in the albergues each night preventing restorative sleep) requires a tremendous amount of determination and faith. To learn to share space with Europeans who are accustomed to sharing space with each other takes inordinate patience. And to walk alongside your significant other is an act of will. Amy and I joke that the only way we were able to complete it together was by me carrying the water and her carrying the peanuts and raisins.

      "They say that it calls you back, the Camino". We rolled our eyes and gagged when we heard this from a fellow pilgrim on his second Camino; my left knee was screaming and Amy had too many blisters and a collapsed arch to be able to imagine being able to even stand at the end of it. But sure enough, by the time we reached Finisterre on the Atlantic Coast after 1,000km, with nowhere else to walk, we felt ourselves bloom with immediate nostalgia for the tiny Spanish towns in which we had spent our nights and for the encounters along the path -- the tavern owner and his grumpy sunflower seed eating wife in Castro de Jerez with his generous pour, the Irish couple with whom we gulped down pulpo in Melide, and even the Korean umpire who took a fancy to us and could be heard shouting our names from two kilometers away through most of Galicia.

      Indeed, the Camino calls to us like a siren and we travel back all the time in our minds. Though it'll be a while before our feet touch Spanish soil again, what we'll do in the meantime is what you should do: put down your phone, take a few deep breaths, and start walking with your eyes open. Your body wants to carry you to beautiful places and your eyes want to widen with happy amazement. And eat some garlic rubbed tomato toast while you're at it.

Pan con Tomate 
      I've written about this recipe before. This is a traditional breakfast in Spain and will surprise you with how beautifully it works. This is equally as good if you throw the bread on a hot grill if there's one around.


2 slices of good bread, toasted
1 clove of garlic, sliced lengthwise
1 large ripe tomato, sliced lengthwise
olive oil (Zoe is delicious)
nice quality sea salt (Mitica or Maldon is great)


       Once the bread is done toasting, rub each side of the toast with the juicy part of the garlic clove.

      Place the toast on a plate and vigorously rub the cut side of the tomato onto it so that all of the seeds, pulp and juices go onto the bread. You'll be left with messy hands and some tomato skin (discard it and wash your hands).

      Drizzle at least 1 tablespoons of olive oil onto the bread and finish with a bold sprinkle of salt per slice of toast.

Serves 2, very modestly.

Prep time: 3 minutes.
Cook time: 2 minutes.

Writing by Adria Lee | Styling and Photography by Amy Pennington