Waste Not 2

food

I’ve been reading about other chefs and laypeople who decided to go waste free. The Zero Waste Chef did something called the Use-It-Up Challenge, and it really aligned with what I was planning for my week (or however long it takes to eat the food in my house). One particular section caught my eye: the inventory. The chef took inventory of everything in their kitchen, so I did the same. I looked in every cabinet, my refrigerator and the freezer to itemize exactly what I have, and honestly I was shocked.

Here it is. The Inventory as of 9/26:

  • A big bag of yellow onions
  • 3 bulbs of garlic
  • Spices, oils and honey
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 can of white beans
  • 1 box of pasta
  • Half a bag of whole grain egg noodles
  • 3 cans of tomatoes
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Flour
  • Chicken Stock
  • Trader Joe’s squash soup
  • Peanut Butter
  • Espresso
  • Frozen Bolognese sauce (thanks, mom)
  • Frozen plantains
  • Frozen hamburgers
  • Frozen hot dogs
  • Frozen hot dog buns
  • Frozen Italian sausage (sweet and spicy)
  • Frozen chicken breast
  • A little bit of black beans
  • Yogurt
  • Half a bulb of fennel
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Cooked peaches
  • Jalepeno peppers
  • Tomatoes (from my mom’s garden. Thanks, mom)
  • Hummus
  • 1 pita
  • Shredded Cheddar
  • 1 avocado
  • Cooked rice (of unknown age)
  • 6 eggs
  • Fresh sage
  • Fresh thyme (both from my mom’s garden. Thanks, mom)
  • Grapefruit peel (for my bourbon)
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Assortment of hard cheeses
  • Half a container of almond milk
  • Leftover tomato sauce
  • Seltzer
  • Cooked spaghetti squash
  • Roasted spaghetti squash seeds

This is so much food, and yet my fridge looks sparse. I’m shopping for one person with a fridge the same size as the one 4 girls share in college. I have enough food.

Today was day 1 of this challenge. Here’s what I ate:

  • Espresso and yogurt with strawberries and cooked peaches
  • Lettuce-less salad of tuna fish, black beans, fennel and cucumber with balsamic and oregano-infused olive oil.
  • A teeny bag of potato chips
  • 1 pita with hummus
  • Pork chops with fennel pesto and roasted fennel stalk and onion

My portions are small since I tend to graze throughout the day. I spent $0 on food and ate everything or saved it for later (like the massive dinner I accidentally put together).

I’m proud that I ate an entire vegetable, root-to-stalk, this week. With the remaining bulb of fennel I have and the other delicious findings from my cabinets and fridge, I think I’m going to tackle Tomato and Fennel Soup, something I’ve seen on many a hipster menu this time of year. Chilly days are ahead of us, and soup seems to be the only remedy.

Get Lost in the Sauce

food

There’s a maintenance man at work who always enthusiastically tells me about his tomato sauce. It started because my name, Marcella, is literally so Italian it becomes synonymous with pizza and pasta to most people. Besides that, I love that this sweet guy tells me when he makes sauce and asks for help when he needs to improve it. I’ve opened him up to simmering to thicken and adding a bay leaf to reduce acidity (you’re welcome, by the way) and he can’t believe his results. It’s very sweet.

That being said, I thought I would try to actually follow a sauce recipe for the first time in my life. As an Italian woman you’re born with an innate knowledge of how to make sauce exactly how you like it. So why a recipe? Bon Appetit’s Basically is doing 10 recipes in 10 weeks, the first one being sauce. I was going to make something else for dinner but plans change and I had all the ingredients sorta. I used passata instead of peeled tomatoes and pecorino romano instead of parm (because money) but everything else remained true. The garlic, red pepper flakes and fresh basil were pretty routine, but it was the technique at the end that transformed this from good to great. Cooking the pasta below al dente, saving some pasta water and finish cooking the spaghetti in the simmering sauce with butter really made this a home run AND that’s something you can do with any pasta.

The other thing that really made this pop was the amount of salt I added to the pasta water. Add so much salt that you feel bad about it because as Samin Nosrat says in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat most of that salt will go down the drain with the extra water, but a lot of salt is needed for the noodles to absorb flavor. Salt isn’t a spice, it’s an essential mineral that when used will enhance the flavor and texture of your dishes. Don’t oversalt, but start to build your flavors and enhance what’s there by using salt.

Really what I learned is that technique can be everything, and technique can be simple for the home cook. Sure, maybe 5 star french pastries won’t be coming out of your kitchen any time soon, but damn good pasta will be minutes away every night.

Firsts

lifestyle

Hey folks and fans. It’s been a minute, but I finally have wifi in my FIRST APARTMENT. That’s right. I moved two weeks ago into a real fixer upper of a one bedroom apartment. I started with low expectations of both myself and the space, but after two weeks of a little bit of work each day it’s coming together. Of course, I couldn’t do it without help from friends and family, specifically my mom, Dave (my mom’s boyfriend) and Nick (my boyfriend). You can see some of my projects, additions and adventures (when I remember to post) on Instagram @picturemarcella.

Along with the FIRST apartment comes my FIRST electrical bills, FIRST internet bills and FIRST furniture purchases, which have all been their own unique version of exciting. That really sums up my FIRST apartment. It’s hard work, and you need to be a bit of a pain in the ass to get things done (ie. get your landlord to fix your sink) BUT it’s all part of the life lessons that come with being in your early 20’s. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, right?

My next FIRST is having my FIRST article published at my current job. I had the opportunity to drink beer on a boat and I wrote all about it here. I work in marketing, but once in a while a fun assignment will pop up with my name all over it (look out for the hard cider pairing chart coming out soon). Food has always been a passion, and I’ve had a knack for writing since I was published in my town’s local newspaper at age 11 (for a sports story, imagine that). I never imagined that I would be so heavily associated with the beer scene in the Hudson Valley, but since my sample article for my job application was about the local hiking & beer scene, it’s been my claim to fame around the office. I’ve got no problems with it.

I absolutely love my job. I come into work every day ready to put my best foot forward and contribute to the local farm, food and beverage scene. It inspires me to read about, write about and experience the food and drink cultures around me. I want to somehow do it all and I’m not sure where to start: wine, beer, meat, cheese, agriculture—there’s so much involved! Since I’ve been plowing through books (currently on Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat—amazing, btw) please let me know if there are any smart reads on any of the above subjects. What are the holy texts of food? Contribute to my list of FIRSTS, give me some tips!

Don’t Choke

food

My life is coming to a stand still and I’m struggling to cope with that. It’s been building up for the past two weeks or so, but I just read a Washington Post article about speaking to recent graduates and it kills me knowing that my generation is prone to the anxieties that come with the unknown. I feel like I’m wasting my time without a purpose, but I’m here trying to produce as much content as possible to fill the void.

Stuffing the void, if you will, like I stuffed these artichokes. They were rough around the edges, like life can be, but after all the work it took to clean them, trim them, soak them, stuff them, and simmer them, the artichokes became beautifully fragrant and delicious. I’ve never had a full artichoke, I’ve only had the delicious marinated hearts. The whole  artichoke takes time and effort to deconstruct and consume. Each green petal was scraped against my bottom teeth, getting all the earthiness out of the petals. The reward? The soft, sweet heart that, after hours of simmering, could be spread across crusty bread.

Waiting was worth it. Waiting is usually worth it, but I like to have objectives or tasks or projects while I wait. I need to always improve myself in the down time, otherwise I feel like I will get stale and no one will want me (not even for croutons). As I scroll through Indeed and watch Sex and the City (ya know, for inspiration and research purposes) I wonder: will my waiting be worth it?

Beans, my dude

food

Beans are so underrated. They transform over time and take days to make perfect, but the transformation is worth the wait.

All over Italy at those beloved outdoor markets vendors sell dried beans. I don’t know how, but they’re far superior to anything we can get in America. These dried beans are large to begin with, but after an overnight soak and another day of simmering on the stove, they become so large that they require cutting with a fork and knife just to eat. The beans soak in water first, then garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and olive oil are added before they simmer on low all day.

I think my favorite part of this (aside from the creamy beans you get after over 24 hours of preparation) is the vintage crock that these beans soak and cook in. The reddish-brown clay pot was my great grandma’s and it’s a piece of cookware that inexplicably produces the best foods. There’s something about old cookware: I’m not sure if it’s a placebo effect or if the age makes a difference, but this is not the only piece of old cookware that produces the best of the best. My dad’s mom (my nonna) makes focaccia in her old pan. It inexplicably comes out better than any bread on this earth. We think it’s the pan, but it could just be Italian nonna magic.

Whatever it is, my dudes, I guess what I’m trying to say is that nonnas know best about everything from love to beans. Fill your soul with love, that’s what food (and nonnas) are for.

Spritz Season

drink

I miss Italy. I lived there for four months during a semester abroad and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I never felt more myself. I embraced the culture and the culture embraced me. Something new and exciting that I enjoyed frequently was the spritz, specifically the Aperol spritz. Aperol is a bitter liqueur made from non-specific herbs. The liquid is bright red, like some magic love potion you’d see near a witch’s cauldron. Its a little bit bitter, a little bit sweet, and a whole lot delicious. Aperol is most commonly served in a spritz: a drink consisting of prosecco, Aperol, club soda, and an orange wedge. The drink is perfect for almost every occasion. Eating a panini on a hot day? Spritz. Getting ready for dinner? Spritz. This is a cocktail that quenches thirst and satisfies your senses. Even the appearance of the drink is enchanting due to the signature red hue of the liqueur. The bitterness of the Aperol contrasts with the sweet effervescence of the prosecco. I simply adore everything about it.

To me the drink reminds me of warmth and happiness. There are so many versions of spritzes consisting of those three main components: bitter liqueur, wine, and seltzer or club soda. I bought an entire book devoted to the art of the spritz. I’ve had versions with Campari instead of Aperol, making the drink more bitter, and different herbal liquers, like the Hugo spritz. Today I made mine using rosé, Aperol, and a splash of seltzer. The sweetness from the rosé against the bitterness of the Aperol created a refreshing drink that didn’t taste alcoholic in the slightest, meaning it was a dangerous concoction and I should only have one.

The Aperol spritz reminds me of my second home: Italy. It reminds me of the great times and adventures I had. It reminds me of the little things, like tasting new foods, that made me excited to wake up every morning.

Try your hand at a spritz, traditional or of your own creation, and celebrate the little adventures you can only hope to have each day.

For the spritz I made for this post, check out this link.

The Smelly Lunch

food

TGIF, ya know? It’s been a long week of “so what are your plans now?” and it’s time to take a breather.

Remember when you were in elementary school and your lunch said just about everything about you? Gazing at the children unbagging Lunchables and Capri Suns I open up my bag to take out my Tupperware of tuna fish; stinky, smelly, delicious tuna fish. The smell today still makes me remember a time when I ate my lunch ashamed at the fact that my food was not the glamorous pre-sliced, mini ham and cheese sandwiches that kids assembled from their Lunchables.

Today I needed to feel like a kid so I can get those creative juices flowing (and figure out what on earth I want to write about). So I opened a can of oil packed tuna. Man oh man is that familiar. I’ve evolved since elementary school, and apparently so has everyone else because I’m sure most people would kill for the gourmet lunch that, in retrospect, was far better than an Uncrustable. I dumped the tuna, after draining some oil, onto a bed of greens with fresh tomatoes and a light vinaigrette made of olive oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice. I finished with salt and pepper (duh) and with one bite I felt a lot better. Taste is an incredibly strong sense, and with one bite I felt the weight of the world off of me. It’s sort of stupid to imagine that stinky tuna could do that, but for the 15 minutes that I ate my lunch I didn’t refresh my email inbox to see if I earned an interview. I didn’t refresh Indeed to see if my dream job opened up. I just ate my lunch and enjoyed the sunshine.

Merry Christmas

Photography, professional

Who doesn’t love a Spritz and an oyster? I love the way even the food at Christmastime seems to glisten and glimmer alongside the holiday spirit. I think food exemplifies a mood and a culture, and we accompanied this food with smiles, stories, and lots of laughs.

I grew up on a pretty sophisticated diet: lots of fish, lots of vegetables, and lots of smelly Italian lunches. However, it has made me a more understanding eater, and a more adventurous eater. Interestingly enough though, last Christmas was the first time I tried a raw oyster. Since then, I tried tripe, pate, raw shrimp, and who even knows what else during my travels. This time of year I think about the new things I want to experience in the new year: new food, new places, and new attitudes. What will be my next oyster?