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Archive for September, 2010

New Job, New Chapter

The whole month of September really snuck right by me, probably because I was in the midst of a carefree, jobless splendor for close to five weeks. On Monday, October 4, my sweet ride through life will make an abrupt halt as I return to work, full-time, as a Children’s Librarian. I will miss all of the cherished Me Time, during which I accomplished many tasks, honed my abilities as a domestic goddess, and caught up on some hobbies. It has been a great month, but it will also be nice to get back into a normal routine, make money, and, as someone I live with might say, “get off [my] ass and get a job.”

Though I am excited to be working again, I’m feeling a little apprehensive about the big picture. Change is scary. To a person who ate an egg sandwich for lunch every day for four months in a row, starting a new routine, job, and commute is a pretty big deal. I also can’t help but think about how I’m stepping onto the next stepping stone of Life, and because things happened the way they did, and because of the job that I’m about to start, these things will, in turn, affect the next step that comes along. Like I have done in the context of many other jobs, a couple of years from now I’m sure I’ll be saying, “Can you imagine what would have happened if I didn’t get that job in Piscataway? If I never worked there, I never would have done X, Y, and Z.”

Some people might look at life’s events as a series of occurrences that were meant to happen in order for me to fulfill my destiny or purpose, while others may see these events as random and serving no ultimate goal (e.g. Jack v.s. Locke). I still don’t know which side of the spectrum I fall on. I just thought it would be worthwhile to acknowledge the fact that one chapter is ending and another is beginning, and this will likely lead to scenarios that will only materialize as a result of this specific change.

Pretty fuckin’ crazy, I think.

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Yes, I am still on a roll with bread baking in my last weeks of unemployment. The next bread on the list was Portuguese Sweet Bread, and it came out pretty well. I was also able to make it in one day, which was a plus. I made the starter a couple of hours before making the rest of the dough. This one was nice and bubbly.

Since this is a sweet bread, the recipe called for eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, lemon, and orange extracts (I actually omitted the orange because a tiny bottle cost about $5). I started the dough by creaming the butter and sugar, and then added the eggs. At first it felt like I was making a batch of chocolate chip cookies rather than a loaf of bread. But, then I added the flour and starter and it started to feel like bread dough again. After a 10-minute kneading session, I formed the dough into two boules. Boules are my favorite kind of loaves—they’re easy to make and they always come out beautifully!

The instructions said to put the boules into pie dishes, but since I don’t have any I just used cake pans. It didn’t really make a difference as the loaves didn’t even rise enough to touch the sides of the pans. Most other bloggers complained of a lack of rising as well. Anyway, they baked for about an hour and made the house smell lovely. I forgot to take a picture of the loaves after they came out of the oven, but here’s a shot of one after I hacked it up.

The loaves stayed perfectly round and developed a nice, dark brown color on the outside. The crust was quite hard when they first came out of the oven, but slowly became more spongy as the loaves cooled. This bread was great to have as a morning toast, and it also made some delicious French toast as well. Two thumbs up!

In other news, you may or may not have noticed the two new additions to my blogroll. If you look, you will see a link to my friend Emily J’s blog, worms in my closet (a blog about composting!). Also, you should check out Michael’s new blog, Brew to Live, which will take you through the trials and tribulations of being a home beer brewer/aspiring brewery owner.

Stay tuned for Potato Rosemary Bread.

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I know what you’re thinking. More baguettes?! I thought the same thing when I flipped to the next recipe in the book and saw them sitting there waiting for me. These are known as Poolish Baguettes, “poolish” referring to the type of starter (the flour, yeast, water concoction) that I had to make the night before. Baguettes are definitely not my favorite, since I have a lot of trouble getting them to look the way they’re supposed to look. I will say, however, that this was probably my most successful attempt so far.

I made the aforementioned starter the night before making the rest of the bread. After mixing the dough (sans mixer…I decided to go back to my roots), I formed it into three loaves, which sat in my makeshift couche (fancy, cloth bed in which the loaves have their final rise) for about an hour.

I scored them right before they went into the 500° oven, and this is how they came out.

Like I said, they were definitely my best baguettes yet. Although I think they might be too big to technically be called baguettes. They’re more like regular loaves. I wanted to make them longer and skinnier, but was restricted due to the size of my baking sheet. Oh well. It still tasted good!

In other news, I’ve been reading Anthony Bourdain’s newest book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. It’s been an interesting read and I would recommend it to anyone who is a Bourdain fan, or a food and restaurant fan in general. One chapter was broken down into descriptions of what I assume to be the most memorable things he has ever eaten. He had a short paragraph about baguettes (I know—what a coincidence!) that I felt obligated to post.

Six o’clock in the morning is when the pains raisins come out, and already the customers are lining up in the dark outside this tiny Parisian boulangerie waiting for the first batch. The baguettes are ready—piping-hot from the brick oven, fabulously, deliberately ugly and uneven in shape, slashed crudely across the top. They’re too hot to eat but you grab one anyway, tearing it open gingerly, then dropping two fingers full of butter inside. It instantly melts into liquid—running into the grooves and inner spaces of white interior. You grab it like a sandwich and bite, teeth making a crackling sound as you crunch through the crust. You haven’t eaten since yesterday lunch, your palate is asleep and just not ready for so much sensation. The reaction is violent. It hurts. Butter floods your head and you think for a second you’re going to black out.

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There used to be a restaurant called Kira Kira on Broad Street in Bloomfield. But it wasn’t just any restaurant. It was a sushi mecca, and I will even go as far as to say it was the greatest sushi restaurant in New Jersey. Maybe the country. Maybe the world. Not only was the food always fresh, delicious, and meticulously prepared by the talented sushi chefs, but the staff was very likeable as well. The service was great, everyone was friendly, and once Michael and I eventually established ourselves as regulars, we would rarely get dinner (dine-in or take-out) without receiving some sort of freebie—be it edamame, ice cream, or an extra roll here and there.

The restaurant itself even had its own little charm. Dim lighting, a samurai sword display, small paper cranes adorning a section of one wall. In earlier days, we’d hear what sounded like traditional Japanese string music playing over the sound system. But, upon further scrutiny, we discovered that the music was mostly instrumental covers of contemporary songs, including a few songs by The Beatles that were pretty heavy in the rotation. It was cute. They later switched to a regular radio station, which was kind of a bummer, but I forgave them.

Why am I spending so much time singing Kira Kira’s praises? Well, because Kira Kira is no more. About a month ago, the establishment came under new management. Michael and I called in an order last weekend, and when I went to pick it up, it was like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it. Gone was the intimate lighting, which has been replaced by much brighter fixtures (almost unpleasantly bright, I’d say). Gone were the samurai swords, gone were our friends, gone were the freebies. The new staff tried to be nice, but I could tell they were different. The food was still decent, but was missing something. Love? Yes, maybe love, but they also forgot to include a soup or salad, one of which was supposed to come with the meal (not to mention, soup AND salad were always included in a Kira Kira meal).

Needless to say, we are done with Kira Kira. Or whatever the new name of the place is. I suppose nothing lasts forever, but why mess with perfection? Why? I keep thinking about the following quote:

People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all…has happened.

—You’ve Got Mail

Oh Nora Ephron, you get me.

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I’m back on the breadwagon!! Well, technically, it wasn’t bread this time around—which sort of made for a smooth transition back into the project. With the 90 degree weather behind us, I was more than willing to fire up the oven for a night of delicious pizza. Reinhart’s dough recipe is a little bit more time consuming than the recipe I’d been using in the past. It is a quick dough to make (flour, water, yeast, salt, oil, mix, done), but it had to sit in the refrigerator overnight. I divided the dough into 6 pieces and kept them in oiled tupperware containers, which was easy enough. You can also freeze the dough for later use, but I wasn’t sure how much we would need (I am a repeat offender when it comes to underestimating how much food will be enough), so I kept it all in the fridge.

Again, this pizza continued to require a lot of planning. I had to shape the dough into small discs 2 hours before assembling my pies.

After the 2 hours were up, it was time to shape the dough. I always start out pretty well when it comes to making pizzas, probably because my patience level is at its highest point. I tried tossing the dough into the air like the hardcore pizza guys do, but it didn’t really work out—probably because the dough ball was rather small to begin with. So, I mostly just stretched it out until it looked close to circular. I then added sauce (jarred—I’m not making dough AND sauce!), a packaged “six-cheese Italian blend,” some freshly-grated mozzarella, and a little bit of parmesan.

Eight to ten minutes in the oven and they came out like this:

I baked them on the back of a sheet pan instead of a pizza stone, because I still do not have a peel with which to slide the pizza on and off. Even on the baking sheet, I got a pretty nice crust.

And Michael made a pie too. This one has artichokes on it.

So, the first recipe after my hiatus came out rather well. And as I finish this post, I have another dough bubbling away in the kitchen. I’m totally on a role with this whole ‘not working’ thing!

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Top Chef Predictions

Well, it seems like just yesterday that I was writing about my initial thoughts on the season premier of Top Chef: Season 7, and here we are—a week away from the finale. I am proud to announce that two out of three of my picks for final remaining contestants were accurate (I predicted Angelo, Kenny, and Kevin).

Like most people, I was pretty disappointed to see Tiffany go home two weeks ago with her botched, mussel-less sauce. Now that we’re down to Angelo, Ed, and Kevin, it’s a tough call. I definitely want Ed to win. He’s very likeable and a great chef. HOWEVER, he has been going pretty strong lately and that can sometimes be the kiss of death on Top Chef. My guess is that his confidence level is going to be very high going into the final competition, which could prove to be his downfall. He may try something a little too risky, or simply crack under the pressure like many finalists before him. Angelo, on the other hand, nearly got eliminated on Wednesday, which will provide him with even greater motivation going into the final. If Ed wavers a little bit, Angelo definitely has a shot to swoop in and take the title from him—something that viewers are all too familiar with. You may remember these sweeps from the past:

Season 5: Carla cracked under the pressure and stupid Hosea swept in.

Season 3: Casey cracked under the pressure and Hung swept in.

Yes, these examples are going back a ways, and don’t think I would be able to remember the names of all these people unless I checked Wikipedia.

I realize that my debate has centered on Ed and Angelo—and perhaps it’s not fair to not give Kevin a sporting chance…but my gut says it’s not going to be him. So, the question remains: does Ed have it in him, or will he follow in the footsteps of the others who have fallen just short of the finish line?

Only time will tell.

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New Cereal

Gotta have me my boats and ho’s.

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