Archive for March, 2012

March 28, 2012

Raviolis and Buff Triceps

by Kathryn Baldwin

This is what I looked like when I thought constructing raviolis from scratch would be as fabulous as woofing them down at Rocco’s Pizzeria.

I made a crater of flour, dropped some eggs into the well like I was Anne Burrell, kneaded until my arms were sore, and rolled until I was sweating.

An hour after the cooking endeavor began, my famished boyfriend took control of the rolling pin. I caught my breath on a stool and drank another glass of Apothic Red Wine while I stretched my triceps.

He wrestled those gummy globs until he got thirsty for another Corona and I took over again. Soon the bag of Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita chips were out on the counter and the filling for the unfinished pillowcases became an appetizer dip.

The outcome: beautiful pillows with chewy, rubbery, almost inedible, edges. Thus, I learned that adding too much flour and having no pasta-dough flattener attachment for my Kitchenaid is like going to the gym. Seriously, I felt like I needed a Whey protein shake after I finished constructing them.

I was definitely NOT Italian in a past life; or if I was, I was an Italian with celiac disease. And next time I passively take my boyfriend’s request for what I should make for my weekly, KathrynGuacamole lesson, I will do a little more research first.

Officially, the only thing I can promote about the recipe I used is the filling: it was fast, decadent, and contained a pound of Spinach. These are three things we will always agree on. I beg of you, buy some Spinach and add it to everything. Because at the end of the day, even if everything goes wrong, you can always look back and say, “Well shit, at least we mowed on hella calcium, vitamin K, and iron.”

           

PS: Please donate to my Kitchenaid, Pasta Roller Attachment Fund by leaving me a comment with your credit card number, expiration date, and security code. Thank you. Come again.

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March 21, 2012

Attention to simple…

by Kathryn Baldwin

It has been brought to my attention that my posts are too long. Normally I would argue that I am simply a long-winded person… a modern Proust. But something happened this week that made me think: can something short and simple provide an even more complex sort of comfort?

Here’s the story (it’s short… well short for me… I promise).

***

For years after my 5-year-old graduation from Forest Hills Preschool, my parents would honk the horn every time we drove past the school. And we would wave through the window as if to say “Hello again! We miss those carefree, preschool days!”

17 years later, last Sunday, my boyfriend was taking me on the scenic route to Target when suddenly he honked. I slapped my ponytail into the sides of my headrest, trying to find a manic, intrusive driver, when I suddenly spotted my old preschool’s fence shrinking in the right, sideview mirror. Letting out a gasp of excitement as though I were a Kindergartener all over again, I turned to look at my driver. “What?” He said as he leaked a proud, guilty smile and continued steering down the road.

***

One half honk—a slight beep really—and I was left to wonder: when, in these past five years, had I told him that my family maintained such a quirky tradition?! Who knows. Whenever it was, he remembered, and he put away his obsessive un-use of his horn just to let me know that he listens when I tell useless stories.

If one beep can provide decades of comfort, maybe petite ideas do pack heavy force. (I’ll try to work on applying this idea to creating shorter blogs. Just not today.) Now, I encourage you to find your simple comfort this week. Just, please, don’t go honking around town. Leave that to me.

Recipe:

In the spirit of simple comfort, I learned to make a creamy, oh-so-simple pinto bean puree soup  (inspired by my “Mamá” in Cuernavaca, who often began our comidas with this smooth, tummy warmer).

Sauté a chopped onion with a Serrano chile about five minutes. Add two minced garlic cloves to the pan and sauté another minute or so.

Pour in a 15oz can of pinto beans (plus the luscious liquid). Pour in a cup of vegetable broth. Salt and Pepper the beauty! Cover and simmer for about fifteen minutes.

 

Then, take out the chile, puree the soup until it’s smooth, and serve piping hot!

My Mexican Mamá used to chop corn tortillas into small, friable squares and set them to drain in a paper-toweled ceramic bowl. We would all take turns dropping baby, fried chips into our creamy bean soup, as though adorning a cake with rainbow sprinkles. My favorite thing to do, though, is to swirl Mexican Crema Casera onto the surface. The more I swirl the cream into the soup with my spoon as I eat, the more comforting and complex it feels.

(See Marcela Valladolid‘s “Mexican Made Easy” for other simple Mexican dishes like this one.)

March 14, 2012

Burrito or Buritto?

by Kathryn Baldwin

On Sunday, a trip to Oakland with my boyfriend and his mom to investigate a discount furniture store (Famsa) led us on a detour past an inspiring gas station sign:

Who’s idea was it to distort the spelling of a beautiful, two handed meal wrapped in foil? BURITTO?!?!?! Since when is it OK to create an American spelling for a Mexican culinary masterpiece? Let’s consider the facts… shall we?

You could argue that Mexico is Americanizing, but I can’t help but notice the Mexicanizing of America. (Or should I say re-Mexicanizing, considering President Polk stole this territory from Mexico in an unfair, 1845 treaty.) The two-way cultural exchange is blatant. Discotecas in Guadalajara blare Pit Bull’s Give Me Everything Tonight. Maná concerts fill up the San Jose, California’s HP Pavillion. Words like “troca” replace the regular word for camioneta or truck on both sides of the boarder. Mexican families sit at the dinner table in Cuernavaca, chewing slowly as they read the subtitles to CSI. S.F. Bay Area commuters (people like…me) listen to Piolín Por la Mañana, the most insanely successful Spanish radio station in the country, as a Mexican morphine drip to remedy thick traffic.

Then there’s food. In my opinion, the most fabulous piece of culture that flows freely into the U.S. involves an endless menu of Latin spices: steaming, flattened corn cakes, mounds of different shades of browns and reds piled onto a giant plate, shredded cheese spreading and glistening under a broiler, plump chiles and pickled, spicy carrots hidden in the mix, sliding down little hills of sour cream. (Nevermind the fact that the United States’ introduction of things like packaged Doritos have propelled Mexican youth into the number one spot for obesity in the world.)

I argue that Mexican cooks are, in a sort of backward, unexpected way, making me proud to be an American. Cinco de Mayo, any taquería, Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, Fuddruckers; Mexicans and Mexican Americans are the majority of the culprit behind the counter in these magical food experiences no matter the restaurant.

And the Burrito? We eat these things every day but are they really “Mexican?”

Ironically, studying abroad in Mexico, my “house mother” asked me what food I missed and craved the most after four months away from home. “Burritos!” I answered without delay, considering I hadn’t seen a single burrito on any Mexican menu since leaving California. She turned to her husband to clarify how these “¿Burros?” (“Donkeys?”) are made. The next day, an oversized fajita sat lonely in the middle of my plate: a motherly attempt at easing my homesickness.

If my Mexican Mamá didn’t know how to make a true burrito, I had to find out… WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?!

El Farolito in the S.F. Mission District, El Tepeyac in East L.A. (among other small Mexican restaurants established around the late 1950s) argue over who created the burrito first (check out this guys blog about it). Some say the one handed, open-ended burrito my Mexican “Mamá” concocted for me originated in Sonora, Mexico.

Well, I’ve decided I don’t care where it originated. The cylindrical envelope of endless fillings that we Americans woof down with two hands and wide-mouthed chomps is now a necessary part of my life. The hybrid culture of Mexican-American, or American-Mexican, that nobody can pinpoint, the beautiful international nationality that feeds me from all angles is nourishing, intoxicating, satisfying, and addicting.

Spell it however you want. As a true American, as a true Mexico-lover, I LOVE BURITTOS.

Try constructing this one that I stole from my Mexican Cookbook. The ground cloves warmed my body in the midst of all this unexpected March rain.

-Boil two boneless, skinless chicken breasts for ten minutes. Let them rest a couple minutes on a plate. Shread the cooked meat with two forks.

-Sauté an onion with some ground cloves and oregano.

-Boil white rice and a little salt for 8 minutes. Rinse. (then add to the onion mixture)

-Add a 7oz can of tomatoes and their juice to the rice and onion mixture.

-Add the shredded chicken to the rice/onion mixture along with as much Jack cheese you want (maybe a cup and a half)

-Get some giant tortillas, warm them (wrapped inside foil on a plate above boiling water).

-put a mound of the chicken/rice/onion mixture in the middle of the circle and fold in all four sides. Cut it in half if you want to make it pretty 🙂

-garnish with sour cream? Salsa? More cheese? Fresh Oregano? Fresh Cilantro or Parsley? Make it how you want it. After all, it belongs to you not Mexico nor San Francisco, not L.A, nor Sonora, not President Polk, nor …. well you get the picture…

 

March 8, 2012

Melancholy Medicine

by Kathryn Baldwin

For forty days each year, I remove a bad habit that should be removed year-round, and I reflect on ways to live a happier, healthier life. As of two Wednesdays ago, I haven’t had a single piece of dessert and I’ve only eaten after 8pm one…two times (Bows. Curtsies. Bows). As for the happier life, I have–Thank God?–noticed a trend. I can be the type of person who’s abs get sore from uncontrollable laughter, but I can also be one who gets nauseous over uncontrollable stress and unnecessary loneliness or depression. These waves of insanity are characterized as follows:

1) I can NOT do any writing while in this state unless I can find people who enjoy a twelve-year-old’s diary (if only I had a plastic, heart-shaped lock and a miniscule hidden key).

2) Lifetime movies never seemed so compelling, even with their horror-story commercials and the fake-grass growing, bump-it placing, couch-enforcement installing infomercials that I accidentally memorize.

3) Nothing is more cozy and liberating, nothing is more narcissistic and self-loathing than my door closed, my lights out, and my pink blanket wrapped around my cold feet.

 

Are you depressed yet? So, thanks to some Lent-style reflection, I have come up with my antidote to these embarrassing strides of wallowing in self-pity…

 

Sunday bike rides!!!

 

If you need a happier vision of life, I promise this advice will give you better results than any opaque, mustard-yellow pill bottle could ever award you. (Speaking of infomercials) Here are the two reasons this works.

 

1)    “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!”… Take it from Legally Blonde, if you hop on a bike, especially on the cruiser-capable, paved, Iron Horse Trail in the east bay, your muscles slowly heat up and your self-loathing steam disintegrates into the passing wind. Literally, my smile starts in less than a mile. Plus, the trail, especially on Sundays, is full of people who also have been letting off their own boiling insanity for a mile. These flashes of stranger-smiles, as you ding your bike-handle bell, force you to love your life.

2)    “An apple a day may keep the doctor away… but A Margarita a week is a God-send, so to speak.” (I love Lent) All bike trails pass a Mexican restaurant along the way. By the time you meet one of these Latin Lures (La Tapatia, Mi Casa, Randy’s Bar & Grill) your smiles have already begun and you may be motivated to wait for the next town down the trail. When you find one that looks particularly seductive, string your bikes to a tree, take off your helmet, let out your braid, find a bar stool or a window seat, order a house margarita on the rocks and start in on a heaping basket of warmed, salted tortilla chips (you earned it all!). It only takes one margarita (or one double margarita) to solidify your rediscovered love of life. Then you can race home with a warm tummy and start your week in a happier fog.

 

Of course, it occurs to me now that this Melancholy Medicine is much more enticing with a friend. My boyfriend is always up for a bike ride and a margarita, but I’m sure my mom, my sister, my cousin, shoot, even my dog would probably be down. Would yours?

 

Oh one more thing. If for some reason your Saturday night leaves you squinting at the site of drinking anything from the bar’s menu, I recommend either a giant glass of Jamaica, or my first love, Horchata (and there’s a whole other story there but I’ll save that for another time).

 

Pedal on and switch gears, my friends. (sips… ahhh.) Pedal on, and switch gears.