Women on the Verge of a Dietary Breakdown

Location: Finale Emilia, in the Italian province of Modena
Person: Samantha
Recipe: Spaghetti Carbonara

March is the month in which human beings – trapped inside for months to avoid winter – finally allow ourselves to, well, go a little crazy.

And, being the wise creatures we are, we humans have also realized it’s better to ritualize our weather-induced insanity, rather than let it run amok by, for example, grabbing a club and galumphing over to Frank’s cave next door to knock him upside the head because he and Brenda totally dropped the ball on our plans for a joint Florida cruise!!!!!!

Ah…that feels much better.

How do humans ritualize March madness? Well…

Catholics, and some Christians, celebrate Mardi Gras.

Jews celebrate Purim.

Sports fans celebrate the NCAA Playoffs.

And women celebrate….
Wait a second? Are you kidding me?
That’s how we’re supposed to let loose after months of having to trudge through the snow in our Manolo Blahniks???
By celebrating Women’s History Month????
NO FRIGGING WAY!!!!!

You call this a party???

Okay…deep breath…stay calm…must think…Ides of March…ideas…
Wait! Got it!

Alright people. Listen up:

I’m hereby announcing the Female Version of March Madness:

This March, instead of a respectable, feel-good holiday about all things femme, I’m advocating a release of seasonally-induced craziness (as opposed to the hormonally induced one, already discussed in an earlier post) by exercising our right to a Hall Pass:

In other words, a week in which women can eat all the de-stressing, comfort food we want, without having to worry about our weight!

Just imagine it ladies: ice cream, pasta, tater tots (even if some cheerleading instructors among us consider them a controlled substance).

Mercedes on Glee fights for her right to tot.

That’s right.
Stand away from the pantry, boys.
This March, we are WOMEN GONE CULINARILY WILD!

The Couchsurfing Cook goes mad.

Here in New York City, my Italian friend, Samantha, got a few of us ladies off to a smashing start the other night by making spaghetti carbonara. Her recipe is simple and delicious and, better yet, I’ve provided a non-bacon version for the vegetarian and non-pork eaters among us.

Last, but not least, in another bout of madness for the CS Cook, I’m hosting my
first-ever contest:

Take a picture of your favorite comfort food and tell me in 200 words or less why you love it.

The winner, chosen at random, will win a copy of The William Sonoma Comfort Food Cookbook or, if you’re anti-cruelty, The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook.

The contest is open to all. You don’t even need to have XX chromosomes to enter. Deadline for entries is Sunday, March 13, 2011, at midnight. Winner announced March 16, 2011.

Samantha's amazing Spaghetti Carbonara.

* Check out the Website Samantha writes for, NUOK.IT, the Italian’s guide to all things New York.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Servings: 3 to 4

Ingredients:

8 ounces spaghetti – 250 grams
3 egg yolks
12 ounces bacon (We used Wegman’s uncured bacon or substitute equal amount of turkey bacon or baby bella mushrooms) – 340 grams
ground black pepper
Pecorino romano cheese (to taste)

1. Chop bacon into small pieces. Cook in skillet over medium heat until crisp but not burnt. If substituting mushrooms, first heat 1/4 cup (59 milliliters or 2 UK liquid ounces) olive oil in skillet. Once hot, add chopped mushrooms and a pinch or two of salt. Allow to cook 10-15 minutes until tender.

2. In small bowl, beat egg yolks, then add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Cook pasta in large pot of salted water. When done (al dente, a little chewy still), pour approximately 4 ounces (118 milliliters), approximately half a glass, of pasta cooking water into a bowl and allow to cool slightly.

4. Once cooking water is warm, add three-quarters of it to the egg yolks. Whisk to combine.

5. Return skillet with bacon to stove under low heat.

6. In a colander, drain pasta from large pot, then toss in pan with bacon.

7. Add eggs to pan. Toss to combine. Turn heat off and keep tossing.

8. If pasta looks dry, add more of the pasta cooking water to moisten.

9. Serve immediately in individual bowls. Top with grated pecorino romano and pepper.

** Want to know the inspiration for the black and white photos above? They came from this year’s TED Prize Winner, graffiti artist JR. **

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恭喜發財! Gōng xǐ fā cái!

Congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red envelope! – Chinese New Year’s greeting

For those who don’t live in a multi-culti city like New York, it’s possible you were blithely unaware that Chinese New Year began yesterday.

This is the Year of the Rabbit when we’re supposed to eat carrots, hop around, and have sex as often as possible. I don’t know if any of that’s true, but I just added it to Wikipedia for the heck of it.

Now in 50 years, we’ll all know when Chinese New Year is because, by then, the Chinese will rule the world – if not the universe and most of the alien galaxies – which means it’s only a matter of time before we’re counting on abacuses, silverware as we know it will have disappeared, and our grandchildren will be speaking to us in Mandarin so that, not only won’t we be able to hear them, we’ll have no idea what they’re saying.

To give those of you who’ve never experienced Chinese New Year a 50-year leg up on the competition, I’m sharing photos of what it was like yesterday in New York City’s faux Chinatown; I mean faux only in the sense that, in the real China, people probably don’t hawk “I Love New York” T-shirts alongside their black market “Black Swan” DVDs.

The air was chill that morning, but the streets felt warm as we wandered among crowds dressed in bright colors, some beating on drums. Policeman stood by while firecrackers popped and cracked. Even they had no intention to stop the fun.

Firecracker droppings

Dragons shook and danced their way into stores, sending New Year’s greetings and asking for gifts. Store owners obliged by giving the dragons money in small, red envelopes. I’m told it goes to the benevolent associations and not the gangsters. Hey, what can I say? I’m cynical. I live in New York City.

Dragons roam the streets.

My co-workers and I celebrated by having lunch at Joe’s Ginger, the country cousin, though no less delicious, version of Joe’s Shanghai.

Joe's Ginger at 25 Pell Street

My co-worker, also named Joe, suggested we order soup dumplings. I’d never had one before. They sounded scary.

Filled with fat mounds of pork with soup snuggled inside – all of it held together by a spiral twist of sticky dough – soup dumplings pop a dollop of liquid in your mouth if you’re not wise to the fact before biting down. Joe advised we poke a tiny hole in the sack to let a little juice slip out first. Ha! I’m no fool! I knew to tuck a napkin under my chin to prevent squirtage.

Plate o' soup dumplings

Then we shared plates of cold noodles with sesame sauce and Shanghai-style eggplant with garlic. The eggplant had a little pork too. It was an awful lot of pork in one day for a nice Jewish girl like me, but I didn’t want to be rude so dug in with the others. Of course, God punished me later that day by having me lose my subway Metrocard. Darn you, God!

After lunch, and despite being stuffed as dumplings, we went scheming for dessert. First we hit the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, but the scoops were expensive – $3.75 for flavors like green tea, lychee, and almond cookie – so we kept walking.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory at 65 Bayard Street

Heading back to the office, we found many shops closed for the holiday, but luckily one of our favorites was opened: EVERYTHING FROSTED! And whether you like cupcakes or not, you have to admit it has the best name in the whole, wide world.

John Wu, owner of Everything Frosted at 105 Mosco Street

The owner, John Wu, makes cupcakes in exotic flavors like pink champagne and tiramisu and in Chinese flavors like jasmine with vanilla bean frosting and green tea with black sesame frosting. He trained under the Executive Pastry Chef at the White House. Do you think that means they served cupcakes for dessert at the recent White House dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao?

Joe liked the cupcakes so much, he bought six. Each one cost $2.50. A lot less than that $3.75 ice cream cone!

Now $2.50 times six equals…uh…uh… Well, if I was one of those whip-smart Chinese kids, I’d have figured it out by now. Too bad I’m just a dumb-ass white lady licking frosting from my fingers, when I should be using them to count!

Joe’s Ginger, 25 Pell Street, 212.285.0333
Chinatown Ice Cream Factor, 65 Bayard Street, 212.608.4170
Everything Frosted, 105 Mosco Street, 212.227.9828

Cooking Like a Couchsurfer

My Brooklyn Kitchen

Where the Magic Happens

I don’t own a TV so therefore I don’t watch cooking shows.   I guess it’s ironic then that I’m about to start one.  A cooking show that is.  I mean, I do cook.  I like to cook.  Sometimes.  But other times I’m lazy and the idea of washing dishes sends me straight to my phone to order in Chinese.  So why would I want to start a cooking show? Online? Because I’m also a couchsurfer.  And I love hosting people from all over the world.  And when they’re here, I like to cook with them!

That’s right, starting May 12th.  I’ll be hosting couchsurfers in my one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn and cooking with them.  Dishes they like and make at home — or ones their mother or grandmother or uncle makes — specialties from around the globe.  And I’ll be interviewing them.  About their home country, what they eat for breakfast.  Anything really. And you can send in questions too.  I’m game for anything.

What’s different about the show?  Well, for starters, there are no star chefs here.  Just real people.  So you’re likely to see mishaps.  Maybe lots of them.  Stuff may spill.  Things could burn.  But that’s reality.  In the kitchen.  My kitchen anyway. Stay tuned!