Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Artisanal Angst?

People sneer at the word Artisanal. I don’t know why. 

I totally get it. I don’t want to sit at a desk all day. Could I survive with my own line of brandied cherries or custom dog scarves? Can we simplify—build that pizza oven and not work for The Man? Can I learn a craft, and learn it slowly and thoughtfully? Can I wrap it in pretty fabric and attach a letter-pressed card made out of old tissues?

What is the threat anyway? Does it matter if I buy $7.00 mustard or shop for blue eggs? Is my support of these companies a threat to big business? Are they not the American Dream? I love finding special chocolates made from beans that were tickled to death by dwarf bunnies. I love going to New Amsterdam market and Smorgasburg and Hester Street Fair. I love Farmers’ Markets and canvas bags. I love the Fair Trade, the locavore and the heirloom. I love hipsters.

NYMag article that causes a lot of sneering.

JustAwesome’s video. Worth every minute (seven). Please repost it, if you like it. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Recipe for Success

Disaster struck, but sadly not in this way. We had hoped to make two kinds of pastas last night but the dough just wasn’t right and, well, that’s all she wrote.

JustAwesome and I took 2 cups of GoWithTheFlow and poured into a large bowl with 1 cup of RunToTheStoreForPasta. Then added 2 Fun Friends with a certain amount of spice, mixed with wine/beer and tossed in one cute baby with a giant sense of humor. And stirred. On high.

Crisis Adverted. Serves 5.

Fortunately JustAwesome made this cake which might be the easiest cake ever. It tastes like an ice cream sandwich and ages beautifully (read: Sunday breakfast). Basically you layer cookies and whipped heavy cream, put in the fridge for a few hours, and top with chocolate (we smushed a Flake). Ours looks a little messy but...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Taste of a Memory

Fresh Matzo from Streit’s

One of my favorite things about living on the Lower East Side is walking past Streit’s Matzos on Rivington Street. Skip the store and walk to the factory window. Say hello, smile, and within seconds a sizzling hot piece of fresh matzo will come through the window. Everytime. There is nothing better on this earth. Be careful not to burn your tongue.

I eat matzo (or matzah, or matzoh) all year round. I love Matzah Brei*. Maybe it is nostalgic—the taste of a memory: my sister, Wendle Wigs, making it for me after school, or having it at Dubrow’s with my grandmother before she went to work in the garment district. But I love it. It always lifts my spirits when I’m blue.

Obligatory follow up matzah brie discussion: scrambled versus pancake, sweet versus savory, soak the matzo or rinse the matzo. Scrambled, salt & pepper, rinsed.

After eating my hot matzo, I decided to pop into the store to see what else they sell. I found these cookies called Kichel, that were just mentioned in the book that I was reading. (Unorthodox. LOVED IT!) I hoped that they’d be savory, almost like the British baked goods that JustAwesome covets. Savory, yes. Delicious, no. Maybe this is something you need to be nostalgic for. They taste like stale soup nuts, that had maybe been wet once, with a bit of sugar on top. Horrible. The taste of someone else’s memory.

Fortunately, JustAwesome had bought some chocolate spread at Pain Quotidien last week.

And so she made lemonade from lemons. Not horrible.

Kichel with chocolate spread

*notice the second comment on the Bittman article!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day is a great night to stay home, cook and watch a movie. And an even better excuse to eat my new favorite vegetable. Cabbage. It is like an entirely different vegetable once we started cooking it. An exciting new vegetable!!

Pasta with Caramelized Cabbage,
Anchovies and Bread Crumbs

So, we made this. It was way more delicious than imaginable. Definitely adding to our repertoire of pantry meals. Like this one.

And for dessert, mint ice cream. Mint tastes green. Mmmm.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Sláinte.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Home Cookin’

I find this blog to be a little embarrassing sometimes. The feedback I receive tells me that people think that I am either a very good cook (I am not) or a food snob (I am not). I do this blog because JustAwesome wanted me to start cooking a meal a week, you know, to help out.

I am just learning how to cook and while I’ve gotten much more comfortable and proficient, I am not a great cook. I follow recipes. I lack instincts. I lack comfort. And most of what I blog here, JA pulls together. But I am helping more and being more of a participant in the planning of what we eat. I think that takes some of the burden off of her. This is the shot heard round the world. And writing this blog gives me something to do, rather than stare at her all day. (She even set up the Blogger account and named it Feral Cook. True story. I am that annoying.)

I am not a snob. I love to eat. I don’t even think I have a very sophisticated palette. But I get to eat lots of great, healthy and creative things—that JA cooks or tricks me into cooking—AND we do what other nonparentswholiveinNewYorkCity do—we eat out a lot. I am starting to taste more, really taste what is inside of each dish. More tasting, less shoveling. I am not a snob but I’ve been around. I love a good taco just as much as a 5-course tasting menu at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Well, maybe not just as much, but yeah, a lot.

So what do I do with my time? What does the Feral Cook, who is neither Feral nor a Cook do? I celebrate JustAwesome. Everyday. I try to do little things around the house, like organizing her t-shirts or cleaning the liquor cabinet. That’s when I’m really cooking—when I am doing little things to show my love. And in return she makes me yummy food and keeps me healthy. Win-Win.

Life is short. Celebrate your loved ones. Everyday.

The Great T-Shirt Project!
Stay tuned for The Great
Sock Project...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Science of Chow Fun

I really wanted a big bowl of greasy chow fun last night—the ultimate comfort food, to me. Apparently there are scientific reasons why we eat/overindulge when we are sad. I ain’t no scientist but I know its true! I am half expecting Richard Simmons to knock on my window one of these days. Overeating. Overindulging. Big time.

I loosely followed this recipe, but not really. I wish my photos looked half as good as that one, but honestly, it tasted pretty perfect. I went with a garlic-ginger-onion concoction with soy, rice wine vinegar, hot sesame oil and whatever else I had in my fridge. Fresh peanuts. (We’re not traditional here...) And I added roast pork to mine. Within 5 blocks of my apartment I was able to get the works: fresh rice noodles, vegetables, pork, sprouts. Yay!

Could I have bought a better one for way less work? Yes, of course. But mine was fun to assemble and had way less oil in it! And I’m supposed to keep busy (also science!)

Scientific conclusion: YAY!! Frown is upside down with anticipation of leftovers for lunch.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I am a roasting machine

Onions, and Cauliflower

Almost 2 years ago I discovered my oven. I discovered roasting. Since that time, I have figured out that there is NOTHING you can’t roast. Roasting season: Oct-May. As often as I can. Sometimes everyday. I throw in whatever is lying around the house. Whole carrots couldn’t be easier or more delicious. Onions get sweet and make me smile. Garlic. Parsnips. The list goes on. And on.

Inspired by the fellas at Roberta’s, I decided to roast some cabbage.

The result? YUM!!!!

Great as a side.
Great in a fresh salad.
Great on pizza.

Cabbage on Pizza (with other veg)

It is a great way to use up the extra cabbage.

What are you roasting, Feral Reader?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wintery Summer (or Spring) Rolls

These are the best spring rolls I have ever had. Ever. They are fresh and light and satisfying—ginger-onion paste, cilantro/basil/mint, mushrooms and tofu. It was a lot of prep work but the yield makes it totally worth it. And once you’ve got your assembly line going, it goes pretty quickly.

I can see grabbing some for lunch, or snack. A perfect grab and go. Best airplane meal ever.

This blog won’t be the same without my Number One Reader. She would’ve really freakin’ loved these rolls. Whatever they’re called.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Onigiri, First Attempt

During Christmas week, JustAwesome and I went to San Francisco. We saw some old friends (and their babies), ate some amazing chow, and (my personal highlight) stayed in Japantown. It was like sleeping at Mitsuwa but way better! I loved it. Lots of shops and restaurants and spas. Lots of Japanese knick knacks. JustAwesome came back to the hotel with this:

Rice Ball Face Maker

Um ok, I guess we’ll make some rice balls. We had just been talking about it. What a great afternoon snack it’d be (JustAwesome), what a delicious breakfast (me). We tossed in the drawer with some other single-task tools and quickly forgot about it.

Until I saw this post.

Brown Rice Ball with tuna (from a jar)

Our first try was Delicious (cap D) but I don’t think we packed the rice enough. But so cute, with those little faces! I think we’ll probably try again soon (tonight if JA has her way). I don’t blame her. The possibilities of these are endless.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Garbage Night (aka Playing Ketchup)

Empty Fridge with film and ketchup

The refrigerator is oddly empty so I’ve decided that tonight should be Garbage Night. Tonight we will eat whatever crap is in there. Hopefully it isn’t a gross combo…


• Whitefish salad (Russ & Daughters) on cracker. There is only one cracker’s worth (each) left. And that sh!t is too good to toss.

• Edamame from freezer. (see, NEW RULES)

• Salad. Definitely the last day for the greens. Thankfully we’re getting more food tomorrow.

Pea Soup. Just made from frozen peas.

• Butternut Squash SoufflĂ©. Heated up in oven from freezer. I have no idea where they came from or when we bought them. (see, NEW RULES)

• Sausage. Grilled in pan. A little salsa on top. These are the most delicious vegetarian sausage in existence. We discovered this company at Bark. I like them better than meat sausages. We always have these around and are great when you need a protein. No, I’m not a vegetarian. Yes, they’re very good.

• Vanilla ice cream. Leftover from the tasting. Can probably find some cookies, too.

• Beer or wine, water or seltzer.


No more frozen fruits and vegetables. Not until we prove that we actually eat it. We never just “toss some in” as we think we might. And we don’t bring edamame as snacks. We just don’t. Keep buying peas though. It’s a good soup and only takes a few minutes to make.

No more impulse buys at Trader Joes’. Under what situation will frozen File of Sole suddenly sound appealing? And, please, no more random meals from Asian markets. There is too much sodium. And questionable ingredients. I am too afraid to actually try them. Yes, (vegetarian) mackerel would be delicious as an appetizer with nori and avocado, I just can’t imagine defrosting that thing when I happen to remember to buy nori and my avocado is perfectly ripe.


I think Garbage Night was a success. The fridge and freezer are neat and organized and I didn’t spend a cent. I had some protein, some veg, some carbs, some fiber and some fat. And I stayed on Plan. With all of the money I saved, maybe I should buy a new pair of skinny jeans...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Years’ Resolution

This year I vow to make more cocktails.

I love a great cocktail but I don’t really know much about them. I did go to bartending school once for kicks but never really made any. Yes, we have our small repertoire of pretty good drinks (our favorite is The Back Forty, which I can tell you how to make but then I’d have to kill you so...) but mostly we drink beer* or red wine**. Honestly, I didn’t know much about beer or wine (or cheeses), or much of anything, until I met JustAwesome five years ago. She knows quite a bit about beer (even started a brewing collective once upon a time), but the other things just developed as things do...

We started at Saxelby Cheesmongers and Anne suggested, we tried and loved it, Anne suggested something else, we tried and loved it again. And so it grew. And then we tried this olive oil and that olive oil. And so it grew. And as I began to taste, I began to read more. I read about this new chef and that new product. And so it goes...

For wine, we just picked a good local shop, which had nice employees and good picks for under $20 and ordered a mixed (red) case. And we drank. And drank. And drank. And then we ordered another and another. And so it grew. And now I can go to a restaurant and pick out something that I’d like. I’m not intimidated. Do I know anything about wine? No, not really, but I’m definitely in a different place than I was 5 years ago. And so it goes...

We found a bartender (Michael C from Savoy) and he introduced us to bourbons and Meyer lemons and the freshest of freshest ingredients. And we drank. And then we tried cocktails at different places and found more bartenders (none as wonderful as Michael C) and drank more drinks. And so it goes...

I sometimes say I never tasted or smelled or saw color before I met JustAwesome. This embarrasses her, but it’s true. I really began to taste. She does have an amazing palate—she can really pull out ingredients from a particular dish—which helps (and also embarrasses her) but really she taught me to slow down and pay attention. This is our slow food movement. Discovering and enjoying new things with each other. And stopping to taste. Really taste in. It is a fun hobby.

So, where to begin? We downloaded a copy of The PDT Cocktail Book onto the iPad and we’re ready to jump in... Let the games begin!!!

L’Chaim! And a Happy New Year to you all!

*I think beer deserves the same respect that people give wine, damn it!

**We tend to drink the Italian & French ones, assuming that those come by boat, rather than Californian, which would presumably come by train. True? I don’t know. But they’re less expensive so that’s how we do it at the Feral Casa.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Auntie Feral’s Root Beer Tasting

My niece, Rad Wigs, was coming to town and we wanted to have some fun.
Pizza night, of course. But then JustAwesome confessed that she was feeling JustAwful from her cold so we needed a new plan. And quickly!

And so I present:
Auntie Feral’s Root Beer* Tasting 2012

The Judges:
• Feral Cook, aka Auntie Feral
• Rad Wigs, a nine year old representing the state of Colorado
• JustAwesome, feeling JustAwful

The Categories:
• Smell
• Body
• Flavor
• Sweetness

The Contenders (I know, I did the best I could!):
• Boylans
• Gus
• A&W
• Mug
• C&C
• Stewart’s

The Winner(s):
Believe it or not, A&W and C&C did the best!
Next time, we should make our own root beer!

Some of our notes said:
Not as minty but not as sweet. Thick body, hints of vanilla. Smells like wintergreen.

Root Beer Floats with Adirondack Creamery Vanilla Ice Cream.
(The only nice thing that bodega sells!)

*Root beers came from our local supermarket so...