30 Before 30 Or #28 – Make A Video For The Blog

When I was in college, I used to make these silly movies about my friends. Little moments captured on film set to whatever song I was in love with that week.

They were by no means good, but I really enjoyed doing it and have been meaning to get back to it for a while now.

This video didn’t start off as a blog project. It was just capturing a weekend with D and Ashley while we ate, drank and celebrated the fall. Something for us to look back on and laugh.

But I felt I had to share it. In the hopes that doing so would inspire me to keep this up. To remind me that I need to do more of what I love and that includes making tiny movies of perfect little moments.

Sidebar: The part with the chickens? I talk to pretty much all animals that way. Sometimes, even pictures of animals. Like this one of D’s dog, Phoebe:

Lookit how cute! She’s a little Phoebedoglet froglet! Look at her little nose! She’s gonna go trick or treating and get all the bones!

See? I’m a legit crazy person when it comes to absurdly cute animals.

30 Before 30 Or, #5 – Dinner and A Movie – The Godfather II and Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Last year, I watched The Godfather and made a spaghetti pomodoro that was so good, I inhaled it before I was five minutes into the picture.

So for The Godfather II – a bigger, bolder film — I decided to make a bigger, bolder pasta dish.

Spaghetti alla puttanesca.

In Italian, the dish translates to Whore’s Style Spaghetti and there are several apocryphal stories as to its name:

The bold, spicy scent would lure in new customers.
It’s a dish composed of pantry staples that would be easy to whip up between appointments
It’s bold, pungent and spicy much like the creator of the dish…

I don’t know what the true story behind it is and I don’t really care. What I do care about is diving into an absurdly large amount of this spicy, garlicky dish while watching a cinema classic.

As usual, the music is the most important part of an culinary adventure and today, I’m kinda feeling The Black Keys – smoldering and salt-crusted, these boys are welcome in my kitchen any time.

Let’s get started, shall we?

You will need:

1 teaspoon of crushed chili pepper — My general rule when it comes to pepper is eyeball it. More if you’re any sort of real man; less if you’re some whimpering baby child.
1/4 cup of pitted black olives
1 14oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot
3 cloves of garlic
1 serving angel hair pasta
Parmesan cheese to taste

Two notes:

One –

Traditionally, spaghetti alla puttanesca contains anchovies.
Being a vegetarian, I don’t eat anchovies.
I do, however, guzzle gallons of Worcestershire Sauce.

Yup. I’m a hypocrite.
Just like Michael Corleone.

Two –

You’re going to have leftovers when it comes to the sauce. No fear because tomorrow morning, you can make Uova in Purgatorio or Eggs in Purgatory. A poetic name for eggs poached in delicious, delicious tomato sauce.

Let’s get cooking, shall we?

Slice up the garlic and shallot. Try to get the garlic as thin as possible. Think Paulie in the jail kitchen scene in Goodfellas.

Chop up your olives into rough chunks.

While I was cooking, I got to hang out with Dana and that was awesome. You know what’s great about technology? Drinking with one of your best friends even though you’re 1000 miles apart.

Drizzle olive oil into a pan over medium-high heat. Throw in the garlic and onions and cook until brown.

Add the tomatoes and break down the tomato chunks with the back of your spoon. Let this gloriously aromatic mixture simmer on your stove for fifteen minutes. Your kitchen should smell incredible at this point.

While that’s cooking, start boiling water for your pasta. I used angel hair but you can use whatever you want – spaghetti, fettucine, linguini. I once heard that pasta water should taste like the ocean so salt it liberally.

While the pasta cooks, add the olives, crushed chili pepper and capers to your sauce. Simmer for ten minutes.

Ladle the sauce over your spaghetti, add parmesan to taste and dinner is ready!

Final verdict:

Delicious. The sharp briny taste of the olives and capers really plays well with the bite of crushed chili and garlic.

Dishes like this make me wonder why anyone would ever buy spaghetti sauce out of a jar. Twenty minutes, a couple of ingredients from your pantry and you’ve got an amazing, quick dinner that you’d be proud to serve guests.

Also, I think I have a new theory in regards to the dish’s etymology. When you eat it, you make the same noises one would make if they were patronizing a bordello.

Oh God.
That’s not just me, is it?

Now, if you’ll excuse me — I have a date with the Corleones and a very large bowl of spaghetti alla puttanesca.

I hope you make it and if you do, please let me know what you think.

Adventures in Culinary Assembly Or, Gazpacho/30 Before 30: #2 – Make Gazpacho From Scratch

My second 30 Before 30 Goal was to learn how to make gazpacho.

I’m a big fan and it’s actually way tougher to get right than you’d imagine. There’s a lot more to it than dumping a bunch of green peppers and cucumbers into a chilled bowl of V8.

I figured what better time to learn than on the eve of the 2012 Spain-Italy Euro Cup final. In making this dish (as well as the sangria blanco earlier), I’m hoping to send a little good mojo to the Spanish national team.

Dear God, I hope they destroy Italy. Like, thoroughly embarrass them all over the pitch. I’m talking a five-nil victory that sends the Eye-Ties home in tatters and shame.
Oh, what?
They sent my boys home on penalties – penalties! – and every last one of them acts as if they’re playing for an Oscar as opposed to a cup.

So to Espana, I have but one thing to say – Olé, Olé, Olé!

As usual, the most important part of any meal is the music and today’s adventure featured The Gipsy Kings providing the soundtrack.

Let’s get started!

You will need:

– 2lbs of tomatoes
– Half a loaf of bread (sidebar: the recipe technically called for day-old bread. Yeah…that’s not a thing in my world. You know what I call day-old bread? Gone. Digested. Dudes, I’m the girl who once split half a loaf of French bread with Biffle while waiting 20 minutes for a pizza. As my boy says, fat kid swag)
– 1 medium cucumber
– 1 small jalapeno
– 1 small ear of corn
– 3 cloves of garlic
– 1 shallot
– Olive oil to taste
– Balsamic vinegar to taste
– Salt and pepper to taste

Can I take a second to talk about tomatoes? You know how some people find peace in looking at a fishtank or staring into a fireplace? Well, I swear I find it in chopping tomatoes in the sunlight. A warm day, a little Spanish guitar, sunshine and the zen of  chopping tomatoes in a quiet kitchen.

Alright, I’m gonna stop being a crazy person now, but seriously – just look how beautiful these are:

Start by slicing up your bread. Once you’ve sliced approximately half the loaf, tear it into small pieces and put in a bowl.

Quarter your tomatoes and dump them into the same bowl. Add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Set aside for 20 minutes to soak.

While that’s soaking, roughly chop your cucumber, garlic, shallots and jalapeno. Set aside.

I wanted to garnish my gazpacho with roasted corn and avocado, but unfortunately – the latter was a little unripe.

Shuck an ear of corn and remove all extraneous matter. Then, set the heat to medium and slap that sucker right on your stove. Keep an eye on it and turn every couple of minutes. The whole process shouldn’t take more than ten minutes and you’ll know when it’s done because it’ll be charred and delicious.

While that’s cooking, you can start blending your soup.

Since I have a Not Magic Bullet, I had to make mine in small batches and that whole emulsifying with olive oil bit? Just not happening.

If you have grown-up appliances, please use them.

I blended the now well-soaked tomato-bread mixture together and added the vegetables afterwords coupled with a couple of healthy glugs of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Careful on the latter, it changes the color of the dish in a pretty drastic way if you add too much. Personally, I like the pretty coral hue so I tamped down on the vinegar in a serious way.

Refrigerate immediately. I’ve heard that gazpacho needs up to 12 hours of chilling to firm up the flavors. I’m not certain of the veracity of this, but I do think that soups and stews usually taste better on the second day. So, do with this information what you wish.

Yo, remember that corn you were grilling on the stove? You should check that again. It’s probably done.

Now, if you weren’t blessed with asbestos hands like me, let it cool before you touch it. However, if you possess this utterly useless skill, start removing kernels.

I did this while Skyping with my parents. Paps spent ten minutes criticizing my kernel-removal technique:

Paps: Jemmy! You’re going the wrong way!
Me: There is no wrong way! It’s an ear of corn!
Paps: Why are you being so stubborn?
Me: I learned it from you!
Mom (thinking): Which God did I anger to end up with these two jugheads in my life…?

Then, Mom showed me up my stripping an ear of roasted corn in less than half the time it took me to do mine.

Story of my life – Mom is better than everyone, especially me.

Since I am all about instant gratification, there was no damn way I was waiting until tomorrow to eat this, so I toasted a few slices of bread with olive oil and salt and went to town.

I am proud of this dish. Let’s face it, most of these culinary adventures are just me faffing around the kitchen trying to stave off boredom until the next episode of Justified but I really feel like I made a quality summer meal today. I would gladly serve this to someone I loved.

Final verdict – It tastes like summer. The cucumbers provide a clean brightness, the tomatoes and shallots are sweet and compliment the hit of garlic really well, the jalapeno hits you last – the barest whisper of heat and the corn? Every now and then, you’ll get a really charred piece and the smoky taste just sets the whole thing off.

I usually eat dinner in front of the television, but today – I sat up straight at the dinner table. I ate a really good meal. I looked out of the window at a blue sky while listening to Paco de Lucia and felt at peace with the world.

I hope you make it and if you do, please let me know what you think.

Today was a good day and tomorrow will be an even better one because Italy’s going down hard.



Edit: 7/2/12

So, Spain annihilated Italy 4-0 and today, I had leftover gazpacho for dinner. With avocado and El Yucateco Chipotle Hot Sauce. And it was glorious.

30 Before 30 Or #7 – Learn How To Apply Lipstick

Today was a good day. I didn’t even have to use my AK…

Wait. That’s Ice Cube, not me.

But today really was a good day for several reasons — there was a Buffy episode bonanza on Logo, I got a free caramel macchiato and a birthday gift from Sephora, I saw 21 Jump Street with good friends (blog post to come) and I got a make-over and met make-up mogul, Bobbi Brown (she’s really nice and tiny).

I don’t really know anything about make up. Mom raised us with the belief that we didn’t need it.

A line of reasoning that works when you’re this flawless, green-eyed beauty like Mom, but not so much when you have a forehead the size of an IMAX screen, skin that possibly inspired The Exorcist and a mouth that looks like it was dropped on your face as if in casual afterthought.

As part of my birthday present, Augs’ mom, sister and I headed to Nordstrom and got our pretty on.

Theresa was less a make-up artist and more a magician. I don’t know how she did what she did but after 30 minutes – I looked like a polished grown-up as opposed to a mad toddler run amok in her mother’s make-up bag.

And best of all, she taught me how to embrace color and apply bright pink lipstick, thereby helping me complete the first of my 30 Before 30 goals.


One down, twenty nine to go.

Oh and don’t worry – one of my 31 Before 31 goals is to learn how to take pictures without looking like a total dipstick.

I predict failure.

30 Before 30

Twenty nine - balloons, Tex-Mex, frozen yogurt, fruity margaritas, ruby red slippers, cappuccino, Ron Livingston and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

It took me a month to come up with this list. A solid month of mulling things over and determining what was genuinely attainable and what was a pie-in-the-sky flight of fancy (visiting a flamenco bar in Madrid with Dana, hiking in the Grand Canyon, adopting a rescue dog and naming him Fitz – all things that are not feasible this year but hopefully, will be soon).

So, in no particular order — here is my 30 Before 30. Here’s to good things, meeting goals and becoming a more well-rounded person.

Or, in the words of Coach Taylor – clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.

1. Read the collected works of Shakespeare. The comedies, the histories and the tragedies all available here thanks to MIT. Any lit nerds out there feel like doing tutor duty and discussing our boy Billy Shakes with me? I’ll buy the coffee.

2. Make gazpacho from scratch.

3. Organize my mp3s. Album names, cover art – the whole bit.

4. Make more tea. Drink more tea. Fully embrace those English and Indian roots. I visited Pom Pom, fell in love with their tea special (raspberry peaches and creme) and figured making my own tea is probably both cheaper and healthier for me than Diet Coke.

5. Five Dinner and a Movie Blog Posts. Last year, I made spaghetti pomodoro and watched The Godfather. It was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to doing it again. Any recommendations?

6. Become a much more active Yelpistador. As the daughter of a small businessman, I know how important good word of mouth is and if you like a place, you should tell people. Last month, I became an Elite Member, so I figure it’s something I should keep up with. Also, sometimes when you give people a good review – they hook you up with parsley-herb sauce.

7. Learn how to apply lipstick. Not some pinkish-brown subtle shade but statement lips – bright pink or va-va-voomy red. Since I can barely apply Chapstick, this should be entertaining.

8. The STTOY Project – Saw This, Thought Of You Project. Basically, I’ll be sending more care packages and cards. I picked this goal for two reasons:

A) Getting an unexpected card or treat can turn your whole day around. If it makes someone happy, it’s worth doing.

B) I love the Post Office. Along with the public library, it is my favorite government organization. Think about it. I can cram a box with assorted goodies and send it to a loved one all the way across the country for the low price of $10. Ten bucks! That’s it! And for the meager amount of $0.45, I can send a card from Capetown, California all the way to Eastport, Maine. They’ve gotten a bad rap and this is my small way of supporting a great institution.

So, I’m sending at least ten care packages this year.

9. Familiarize myself with the work of ten poets who aren’t Charles Bukowski. Any recommendations?

10. Email people I don’t know. Again, a bit odd, so let me explain. My life is filled with awesome stuff created by people I don’t know – art and articles, blog posts and books. So, if I come across something, like it and discover there’s an email address attached to it? I’m sending an email to say so. (Besides, sending an email to someone I didn’t know is how I ended up with Augs. Smartest thing I ever did…besides the decision to flat-iron the shit out of my hair).

11. Make bread from scratch because bread is magic.

12. Incorporate more leafy greens into my diet. Eat more kale, drink more green smoothies, sub spinach for iceberg whenever I can.

13. Go to the gym/do yoga twice a week. Yes, that’s a pathetic goal BUT it’s one I’m much more likely to achieve than if I set my sights higher, abolish carbs from my diet and decide I want to look like Adriana Lima by the time I’m 30. The plan is to print out a hi-res image of Ron Livingston, slap it on the treadmill and run towards it.

Any excuse, y'all. Seriously, how is this man even real?

14. Buy a domain name and establish a much prettier and more functional blog. I’m going to need help with this, so any advice would be much appreciated.

15. Maintain my GoodReads account and read 50 books. Last year, I essentially forgot how to read. This year, I will not be falling victim to the same folly. I am planning on wearing out my library card.

16. Make samosas from scratch. Every time I order samosas, they pale in comparison to the ones Mom makes. I’m tired of being disappointed by the wrong spices and a skewed crust to veggie ratio, so I decided that it’s high time I learn to make my own. Expect disaster. And cursing.

17. Get properly fitted for a bra (thanks for the inspiration, Drea!). Ninety-two percent of honeys be walkin’ around wearing the wrong size bra. Ninety-two percent, yo (and if you get that reference, we’re destined to be best friends). I am the 92% (in addition to being the 99%) and need to rectify this.

18. Make a memory box. I have a bunch of stuff from Augs just hanging out in my crafting supplies – cards, petals from the first bouquet of flowers he ever got me, a leaf in the shape of a heart we found – So, I figure I should craft a special place to keep it all. Also, painting on wood.

19. Keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge at all times. Breaking out the bubbly for special occasions is great but you know what’s even better? Champagne, bread and cheese on a Tuesday night. Just because.

20. Play one song on the guitar that isn’t Frere Jacques. For real this time.

21. Make a video for It Gets Better.

22. Make Orangette’s tomato sauce for Dinner and a Movie with The Godfather II (this is separate from goal #5. Wanna come over? I’ll make popcorn too)

23. Send self-created Christmas cards.

24. Take a good collection of photographs of me and Augs — take two because seriously dudes, he is so cute.

25. Learn how to do smoky eye-makeup. My eyes are like a damn Disney Princess and it’s about time I learned how to make them up right.

26. Make a piece of jewelry.

27. Completely overhaul the short story I’ve been working on for the past four years so that way when I re-read it, it doesn’t make me want to throw ALL the things.

28. Make a video for the blog. One that doesn’t feature excessive cursing, the ingestion of Vegemite and the worst shot of me ever committed to film.

29. Go on a real date with Augs. We’re lo-fi and a great date for us usually consists of going to the movies and grabbing a really good burger afterwards. But this year, I want to go on a real date with the best-looking guy in the room. One where we dress up, order cocktails and go for a moonlit walk or something afterwards. .

30. Get a piece published.