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That’s right.  My boyfriend plays D&D.  Yeah, you heard me right.  D&D, as in Dungeons & Dragons. They call him the “dungeon master”, which I’m guessing means that makes him extra cool and awesome.  I’m told I’m not to be ashamed.  So I’m not.

How does this affect my life?  Aside from the crazed D&D girl groupies knocking down the door on a day to day basis and the rare appeal that I create a character and play along, not that much.  Except, some nights, dinner needs to get done in a flash in order to allow ample time for D&D shenanigans to play out.  Tonight the deadline was 8:30.   We didn’t get home until late because we were busy doing important things like buying a Trader Joe’s basil plant and arguing about whether grocery bags should be put on the floor of the car where people’s feet go (I don’t care; he cares very much).

Even after coming home with too many groceries and endless possibilities, sometimes you still want the simple things.  Like runny eggs on toast.  Here’s a quick and delicious rendition from Cooking Light magazine (adapted a bit because I like to use butter and Cooking Light doesn’t, and also because I ran out of lemon so I used  bottled yuzu ponzu).

So… I guess the next time we talk, we can pretend we didn’t have this conversation.  Right?

Open-Faced Sandwiches with Ricotta, Arugula and Fried Egg
Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2010

Yields 6 sandwiches


6 slices sourdough bread
unsalted butter
4 cups arugula
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons lemon juice (I used 2 teaspoons Japanese yuzu ponzu because I didn’t have lemons!  Sounds weird but it works)
6 large eggs
1 1/2  cups part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1.  Preheat broiler to high.  Lightly butter both sides of bread and lay on a baking sheet.  Broil 2 minutes on each side or until lightly toasted (a toaster oven would work perfectly for this)

2.  Combine ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses with thyme and salt to taste.  Set aside.

3.  Combine arugula, 1 tablespoon oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

4.  Heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  While the pan is heating, spread toasted bread with the cheese mixture and top with a handful of the lemony arugula.  Arrange on a large tray or plate and set it near the stove for easy access.  Working with 2 or 3 eggs at a time, depending on the size of your skillet, crack eggs into pan and cook approximately 2 minutes.  Cover and cook an additional 2 minutes or until the whites are completely set but the y0lk is still jiggly (that’s a technical term).

5.  With a wide spatula, carefully transfer cooked eggs to tops of arugula and cheese-piled toasts.  Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Repeat the process with the remaining eggs.  Serve, with plenty of napkins and perhaps a side salad (we had a baby heirloom tomato salad with balsamic and basil from our new basil plant!)

A gluten-free aside: For the guys, I used sourdough bread, but for myself, I wrapped my egg, cheese mixture and arugula in a brown rice tortilla.  I’m trying a gluten-free diet for personal health reasons.  It was mighty tasty!


I’ve been singing it in the shower.  I’ve been humming it a little too loudly on the train from work.  What’s the Frequency, Kenneth is the tune.  REM is the band (duh).  Michael Stipe is the voice.  I came online today determined to write a post, but all I could do is play this youtube video of an old favorite, marvel at the orange uni-brow and  funky dancing, and relish in the feeling of  spastic excitement I still get when I listen to this song.  I know lots of people wouldn’t say it’s a classic, but I don’t care.  It’s a classic to me.  REM rocks my socks (if I had any).  The term “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” came before REM’s time, supposedly originating from an attack on Dan Rather near his apartment in the ’80s, whose attacker continuously asked him “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” as he beat him to a pulp.  It seems the song doesn’t have much, if anything, to do with that incident, but used the catch-phrase to express an older man’s frustration as he attempts to understand the younger generation.  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

What does this have to do with food?  Absolutely nothing.  But here’s how I have decided to pitch it to you in order to convince you it is food-related so you let me guiltlessly listen to this song on repeat for another hour:  REM → vocalist Michael Stipe → happens to be bestest friends with Mario Batali → I made Batali’s pasta recipe and would also like to be bestest friends with Mario Batali → maybe Michael Stipe has found himself eating a plate of Mario’s pasta at Mario’s house on some frigid New York evening (on numerous occasions, I like to imagine) → maybe Michael Stipe loved the pasta intensely, as I do → erego, Michael Stipe and I have something in common and could possibly be bestest friends.  In another time.  And if I were a genius.  And grew a bitchin’  beard.  And wore orange Crocs…

Yeah, there’s no real logic there.  But hey, does it help my cause that pasta is mentioned twice in the previous paragraph?  I’m betting on a yes!

Pasta dough, post-knead and pre-30 minute rest.

Okay, I’ll get serious for a second (just a second!).  Pasta is simple to make.  It just takes a little practice and some elbow grease.  The result is absolutely worth the effort.  Fresh pasta dough is more tender than dried pasta and, with plenty of kneading, can be simultaneously tender and toothsome.  The clean flavor of fresh eggs in the dough can’t be beat.  I topped my pasta off with Mario’s rich and tangy Sausage, Basil and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce, also in the book and a suggested accompaniment to fresh pasta, but any velvety sauce will do.  Just be careful not to over-sauce!  Let the clean flavor and texture of the pasta shine.  For pasta, it’s ideal to have a pasta machine (the cheap, hand-cranking variety is great and easily found at any kitchen goods store), although you can just roll out the dough as thin as possible and make noodles with a sharp knife, too!

Basic Pasta Dough

from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

5 large eggs, organic

1.  Mound the flour on a clean work surface.  With your finger, create a well in the center of the mound.  Add the eggs to the center (they should not spill out the sides of the mound).  With a fork, beat the eggs together in the center of the mound and slowly incorporate the flour from the inner walls of the mound.  As you do this, use your free hand to push flour up and around the mound to maintain the mound shape and keep the eggs contained in the center.  Once about half of the flour is incorporated, you’ll notice a dough starts to form.  Continue to incorporate the remaining flour and begin to knead the dough, using your weight and the palms of your hands.  Once you have a cohesive mass of dough, put it to the side and use a bench scraper to scrape up straggling bits of flour and dough.  Discard.  (Admission: I do not have photos of this first step because my eggs escaped my flour mound and I had a slight freak-out.  This happens sometimes.  Nothing a bit of frantic mopping with hands and intense praying can’t fix.  Practice prepares me for disaster; it does not make me perfect!)

2.  Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for another 10 minutes or so.  If necessary, dust your work surface with the additional flour as you go.  You are done kneading when the ball is elastic and sticky (not clumpy and dry).  If the ball is clumpy and dry, just keep kneading.  It also helps to just let the ball of dough rest under a bowl for a few minutes (at which point you can grab a cocktail if you’re frustrated!).   The dough will relax and you can continue to knead until you reach the desired consistency.

3.  Wrap up the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling and cutting.  (If you desire to freeze your dough for later use, once the dough has rested, stick it in the freezer!)  While allowing your dough to rest, set up your pasta machine at the edge of your counter, per the set-up instructions.

Mr. Cranky pasta machine.

4.  Once you’ve allowed your dough to rest, it will be more soft and pliable.  This is the desired effect of the resting period.  Cut your dough into 4 pieces.  Keep 1 out to work on and place the other 3 under plastic wrap to keep from drying out.  Flatten out your piece of dough into a burger shape (slightly thicker in the center than at the edges).  Set your pasta machine to its widest setting.  Dust the rollers with a bit of flour to be sure they are completely dry and free of crumbs from previous pasta-making sessions.  Using one hand, crank the hand to start the rollers and feed the dough in with your other hand.  As the flattened piece of dough emerges, let it fall into your hand and guide it away from the machine, but do not pull the dough (as you keep going and the dough gets thinner, this step becomes more important.  You don’t want the dough to fold on top of itself and create a jumbled mess).  Fold the dough into thirds, flatten it a bit, and roll it out again.  Repeat this process 5 times, then set the rollers to the next-thinnest setting and repeat the folding and rolling process 6 times.  At the third setting, repeat the process, but only 3 times.  At this point, the dough may become too long to easily guide away from the machine while cranking with your other hand.  In this case, just cut the piece of dough in half and continue the process.  If your dough sticks, dust it very lightly with flour.  Continue to roll the dough out through the thinner settings without folding again until you have reached the thinnest or next-to-thinnest setting (depending on the thickness you desire of your pasta).

5.  Using a knife or the cutting setting on your pasta machine, cut the sheets of dough into ribbons, strands, or other shapes.  At this point, you can use the sheets to make ravioli, as well.  Let the pasta dry for a bit on a floured work surface (I used a cooling rack and a baking sheet).  Dust with a little flour or corn meal to keep you pasta pieces/strands from sticking.

6.  To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water to taste.  Drop the pasta in and cook until tender.  In my case, I made tagliatelle (a medium-width pasta, like fettucine).  It only needed to cook for about 2 minutes.  Just taste test for doneness to get the texture you like best.  Add to your sauce of choice and enjoy.

Cooked pasta tossed with sauce.

I wish I could say I make a new dish every day, that I am continuously forging ahead to learn something new and exciting when I cook.  Actually, I can be a bit of a bore.  More often than not, I find something I like and I make it for, like, a week.  Or two.  Or… months.  My friend, Bonnie, likes to ask me all the time if I’m going to cook “red noodle”.  This is because for almost the entire year I lived with her before she moved out and became a mom to the cutest baby on this planet, I would make some sort of concoction of red food, meaning basically anything with tomato sauce in a pot.  I mean, this happened 2-3 times a week for a year.  It’s embarrassing.  I’m pathetic.  I’m kind of gross.  Yes, yes, and yes.

Aside from pointing out my sad tendencies,  I bring this up because, for the past week, whenever I’ve had the chance to eat at home I’ve prepared some combination of roasted vegetables  topped with a tangy, garlicky yogurt sauce.  So not gross.  So very yum.  I yearn for satisfying vegetables tossed with bright flavors that make me feel better about all the gluttony and debauchery I’ve participated in this past weekend.  Heck, let’s be honest.  This past year?  Yeah, I’ve been a bad girl.  A bad girl that  just turned 26.

Mid-twenties* crisis, anyone?   Hey, at least a few great recipes were discovered as a result of my mini-freak out.  And more to the point, I discovered that sometimes, ruts can be utterly delicious.  And simple, to boot. (Thanks for the balloon, Lily.  And the pretty yellow flowers to distract me from its depressing message!) 🙂

Because I have been an extremely delinquent photographer (and using my cell-phone camera, no less),  I only have two recipes for you today.  The first is for crunchy toasted  chickpeas, which are usually a party snack (think tres chic Chex Mix, people), but I have discovered I love throwing them in with my main dishes, like the second recipe to follow, for some satisfying crunch and flavorful punch.     The second recipe I will leave you with is  simply roasted parsnips and potatoes topped with a cucumber yogurt sauce, which is very similar to a raita (photo unavailable as a result of aforementioned delinquency).   Make extra of the sauce.  It’s good on/in practically anything else (pita chips, rice, fish, salad, soups, and as we discovered this evening, a welcomed diversion from an over-cooked pork chop).

Hope you can try and enjoy!  Or give me some tips.  Since I will be eating this for a while, I could use some variation.

Crunchy Chickpeas


1 16-oz. can chickpeas, drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons garam masala (or more, if desired)
handful of cilantro, chopped (stems and all)
kosher salt to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 450° F.
2.  In a  bowl, pour olive oil over chickpeas and toss to coat.  Add the garam masala and salt and toss again.  Take a bite of one to make sure it’s adequately seasoned.
3.  Spread the chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet.
4.  Bake in oven for approximately 50 minutes, or until crunchy.  Toss with cilantro and serve.

Roasted Parsnips and Potatoes w/ Garlicky Yogurt Sauce
Turnips, beets, sweet potatoes, or just about anything else would be great this way, too


6 small potatoes, scrubbed and halved (I use red bliss or new potatoes)
5 parsnips, washed, peeled, and quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt (can use sourcream or a blend of yogurt and sourcream for a richer sauce)
handful of fresh dill, washed and chopped (or 2 teaspoons dried dill, although fresh is best)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 English cucumber, peeled
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 450° F.
2.  On a large baking sheet, toss potatoes and parsnips in olive oil, salt, and pepper (sound familiar?)
3.  Bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until nicely golden grown and crispy.
4.  Meanwhile, using a microplane or the small holes of a grater, grate the garlic into the yogurt (watch your fingers!).  Then, use the larger holes of a grater to grate in the cucumber.
5.  Add lemon juice, chopped dill, and salt.  Mix and give it a taste test.  Adjust seasoning as desired.

Serving Suggestions:  Toss the chickpeas with the roasted vegetables, add a dollop of the sauce and enjoy!  This is not necessarily a main course (although I do sometimes enjoy it with a simple green salad on the side to make it a full meal for myself).

* Is 26 considered mid-twenties or late twenties?   I argue for late twenties but many disagree.

I am quite proud of myself.  I’m slowly but surely becoming a leftover queen.  See, I’ve always aspired to be a leftover queen; to be like my mother who can make something delicious out of bits and pieces of previous meals.   Prior to arriving at my current status of queen-in-training, I was wallowing away in leftover boredom.  I was the from-the-fridge-to- the-microwave type.   I know… shocking that a queen-to-be could come from such humble beginnings.  But no longer!   This girl can  turn a lonely chicken thigh into a hearty fried rice with a little egg and roasted nori.  Overcooked leftover brown rice magically becomes porridge with almond butter and blueberries for a healthy breakfast treat.  And a lonely piece of Niman Ranch smoked bacon, dried out cornbread, and a smidge of leftover cream becomes something comforting and yet oh-so-divine.  Ladies and gentlemen, the leftover queen-in-training presents…

The baked egg  (mini tada!)

You can bake an egg (or 10, as I happened to do…), with just about anything else you have lying around.  In this case, I set my oven to 350° and buttered up a casserole dish, covered the bottom with cubed cornbread and some cream.  Then, I sliced the bacon into 1/2 in. pieces (or lardons, if you want to get all technical) and cooked them on low heat until they got nice and crispy.  Out came the bacon to drain and into the hot pan went some sliced shallots and mushrooms (with a little bacon fat left in… well, because… duh). Once the shallots and mushrooms were browned and caramelized, I added a bunch of spinach to wilt in the pan and seasoned to taste.  This mixture was spooned evenly over the cornbread.   Then the eggs were carefully set atop the layers of cornbread and vegetables.  Finally, another few splashes of  cream atop the eggs (this helps keep the whites from drying out), a sprinkling of fresh thyme and freshly grated nutmeg and in to the oven it went for approximately 12-15 minutes.  Top with any additional herbs you fancy (I had chives so I used those).

Keep an eye on the eggs to make sure they don’t overcook.  As you can probably tell from my photo up top, my yolks were slightly overdone for my tastes.  Yeah, I’m a runny yolk kinda girl.  Adjust the cooking time to suit your yolk personality!

Baked eggs can be made with almost anything (and can be made more waistline friendly than this particular one).  Bread, no bread.  Tortillas? Rice? For sure!  Layer with tomato sauce, pesto, cheeses, leftover sausage or other meats, beans,… oh, the possibilities.  I’ve been on a tortilla and chipotles in adobo kick as of late.  I’m thinking my next version will have a little Mexican flare.  Or maybe Japanese inspired rice casserole of sorts topped with eggs, umeboshi plums, and furikake?  Yum?

What’s your favorite leftover mashup?  And more importantly, how do you like your eggs?

I have a confession to make. My boyfriend, Amir, sometimes eats vile things.  As a case in point, on occasion he will devour greasy, textureless “pastries” you often see at your local grocery store, waning away in some dodgy deli corner.  Those things that dare to call themselves cheese danishes.  In Amir’s defense, he is perpetually busy  and a tireless hard-working entrepreneur.  He gets hungry.   He reaches for said things out of long-established habit.   I grimace and panic at the amount of preservatives and trans fats I imagine wreaking havoc on his body.  He amusedly waves greasy dough rag in my face.  I run.  We turn into spatting toddlers.  We laugh at our ridiculousness.  The end.

Recently, this scenario played out yet again and, instead of staring with intense disgust and seething in blind rage (yes, it drives me that crazy), I decided to do something about it.   I was going to give him the real thing- a homemade cheese danish. Granted, I’d never made a danish in my life, but I was certain I could make something better than that thing.  My first frenzied Google search for a recipe rendered a slew of instructions that required no dough preparation whatsoever but,  rather, the use of frozen puff pastry or crescent roll dough from a can.  Well, I thought, that can’t be right!  After flipping through many recipes, I settled on the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking, a gift from my sister this Christmas.  There I found the answers.   The preparation of danish dough is exactly that of the dough laminating process you would use to make croissants, except with the addition of eggs,  more sugar, and a subtle hint of cardamom that drives me wild (I recently died and went to heaven and came back again in a non-Jesus way after making Dorie Greenspan’s Cardamom Coffee Cake).  Anyway, back to danish dough!  You literally fold a block of cold yet pliable butter (that you’ve beat into submission with a rolling pin) into a yeasted dough envelope of sorts and upon multiple foldings, rollings, and chillings (called turns), you have a package of multiple layers of dough and butter that create a light and flaky pastry that retains a bready interior upon baking.  Because butter plays such a significant role in the dough, I decided to use a high quality, low-moisture Plugra 8 oz. block of unsalted butter, which is also convenient for the butter packaging process- you don’t need to pound two 4 oz. sticks of butter together!  The handiest tool in this process was my ruler.   I have problems with squares and rectangles.  And counting.

For the filling, I wanted to add a little brightness to the rich dough while remaining somewhat true to the store-bought version in order to make something that Amir recognized as a cheese danish but I knew would taste loads better, so I decided on a citrus and cream cheese filling.

The result?  Buttery, flaky pastry to perfectly accompany your morning hot beverage of choice and a happy, trans-fat free boyfriend who loves him some homemade danish now. The flavors of citrus, cardamom, and butter are all pristinely clear.  These danish are not heavy in the least, and perfect for re-heating in the toaster oven (or conventional oven).  Most importantly, after a refresher course in dough lamination, I feel confident enough to say these will make a regular appearance in the “all I want to do is bake, and watch Lost in my PJs” Sunday morning routine.

Danish Pastry
This recipe makes enough dough for two recipes of 8 danish


5 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 2 packages)

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup warm water, 105-115 degrees (I go by touch)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg, plus 2 large yolks, at room temperature

1 cup whole milk, at room temperature (2 percent milk works, too)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

Butter Package:

1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour


The filling recipe is mildly adapted from Ina Garten’s Easy Cheese Danish recipe

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature

1 egg yolk

zest of 1 lemon

zest of 1 orange

1/2 cup powdered sugar

pinch of salt

Pastry Assembly

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)

1/4 cup coarse sugar, like turbinado (optional)

Danish Dough Preparation

1.  Sprinkle the yeast over warm water, along with a pinch of  sugar, in a small bowl.  Let sit until foamy (approximately 5 minutes).

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed, mix together the remaining sugar, the salt, cardamom, melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla until combined.  Switch to the paddle attachment  on your stand mixer and add the yeast mixture and then the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, while mixing on medium speed just until the dough comes together.  It will be a gooey, tattered clump.  At this point, your dough may too sticky to turn out onto your work surface.  If this is the case, you may mix in up to 1/4 more flour but no more.  (If you do not have a stand mixer, this dough is very easy to work by hand.  Use a whisk to mix the wet ingredients together and then switch to a wooden spoon once you add the yeast and flour).

3.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Pat the clump of dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick.  Place on a half-sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill in the refrigerator for approximately 45 minutes (enough time for an episode of Lost, just in case you were curious).   A few minutes before you are about to take your chilled dough out of the fridge, make the butter package.  Place your butter on a clean counter (unfloured).  Whack the butter with a rolling pin until flattened and pliable.   Sprinkle the butter with the flour and continue to beat the flour into the butter.  Using your hands or the rolling pin, shape the butter and flour mixture into an 8×7 in. rectangle.  If the butter gets too warm during this process (ie, the butter gets at all greasy or mushy), wrap it up and stick it back in the fridge for a few minutes.

4. Retrieve chilled dough from the fridge and, on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a 10×16 in. rectangle.  With a short side (10″ side) facing you, place the butter package on the lower half, leaving a 1 in. border on all sides.  Fold the upper half over the butter and press the edges of dough together to seal the butter in the dough (no butter should be peeking out).  With the folded side to your left, roll the dough into a 12×20 in. rectangle.  With a short side (12″ side) facing you, fold the bottom third up,, then fold the top third down (like folding a letter).  You have now completed your first turn!  Return the folded dough to the sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.   Return the dough to your lightly floured work surface with the folded side to your left and repeat the rolling, folding and chilling process 3 more times (for a total of 4 turns).  Once your 4 turns are completed, refrigerate the folded dough block for at least 1 1/2 hours or up to overnight before rolling out, cutting and shaping.


1.  Combine all ingredients together with a hand-mixer or stand-mixer until smooth.  Set aside while rolling and cutting the danish dough.

Danish Assembly

1.  Line 2 half sheet-pans with parchment paper.

2.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into an 8×6 in. rectangle.  Cut the dough rectangle in half lengthwise, and then cut each half crosswise into 4 squares to total 8 squares.  The dough thickness should be about 1/8 in.  Transfer 4 squares to each lined sheet-pan, leaving about 2 in. between each square.  Puddle approximately 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of each square.  Tug on two opposing corners on the square to extend into little flaps for folding (your square will now look more like a diamond).  Fold one corner  to the center of the pastry, brush the end of the folded corner with egg wash and then fold the opposite corner of the square to overlap the first corner.  Press ends gently together to fasten corners.   Repeat this process with the remaining 7 dough squares.     Place the sheet pans in a warm, draft-free spot and cover loosely with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.  Allow pastries to double in size, approximately 45 minutes.

3.  In the meantime, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425° Fahrenheit.

4.  Lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the pastries and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.  One sheet at a time, bake the pastries until golden brown , approximately 15-18 minutes.  Transfer sheets to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely on the pan.  To store, place pastries in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator.  They are best eaten fresh, but they can be kept overnight in the fridge and lightly toasted in the toaster oven (they just won’t be at their peak).