Feta & Honey Appetizer – Feed a Small Crowd in a Hurry

Appetizers with a minimum of prep and fuss that manage to elicit a collective cheer and plate scraping from those gathered rank about as high as bulldog puppies, really fresh spinach, white orchids, and baby belly laughs in my book of wonderful life things.  Credit goes where credit is due, but unfortunately I can’t remember where I initially saw a derivative of this recipe.  So you’ll just have to send all the thank you notes to me.

Feta and Honey Appetizer

Large block of good feta (I really like Valbreso, which is made from sheep’s milk)
Honey
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Good crackers

Preheat oven to 350.  Put a little olive oil in the middle of an oven-proof pan or dish. Place block of feta on the oil (cut the block into two large pieces if it’s more than 3 inches in width to start). Drizzle the block(s) with honey (as liberal as you want it), a little more olive oil, and grind on some black pepper. If you have truffle oil, feel free to add a bit to elevate the dish to an even higher level of amazingness.

Bake for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on the honey to make sure it’s not smoking. Finish off under the broiler until the honey/oil/feta juices are bubbling and the edges of the feta block are beginning to turn brown.

Remove from oven, hit with another drizzle of honey, and serve with good crackers after letting it cool for a minute or two.  If you want to make it pretty, throw on a sprig of fresh rosemary before serving. Your guests will love you.

The Mexican Teardrop

A few weeks ago, two of my sisters came up for a weekend Beantown visit.  Friday night saw dim sum at Myers & Chang, Saturday dawned with the trade of a BC football game for a lazy Cambridge afternoon, a pit stop at the Garment District for post-Halloween KISS costume accoutrements (we’re weird but we’re not that weird. It was for a charity fundraising event), and then meticulously crafted drinks at…Drink.

There’s something about the atmosphere of this place, with its cool subterranean concrete, raw bulb light fixtures, exposed brick, entomologist’s collections of pinned bugs under glass, bearded and flanneled patrons all in a row, that sort of makes me want to rise to a new level of badass-ness, so my only course of action was to order a scotch. Everyone else went off menu, naming their preferred alcohol and flavor profile for the evening to the contemplative server, who then delivered perfectly mixed drinks in perfectly mixed antique glasses that also accompanied a bowl of praline cashews with bacon and soft pretzels with mustard. The favorite boozy beverage by far was a tequila concoction, made with a magical spice mixture (though not cardamom. They’ve got just about everything except cardamom).  Dubbed the “Mexican Teardrop,” it was delicious, and everyone around us was totally jealous.

The Mexican Teardrop. So Delicious It Glows.

At this point it was still early evening, so we headed back to the apartment for a feta-honey appetizer (next post!) and a frittata.  Fueled by this and a few beers, the evening quickly accelerated into the age-old “let’s see what weird songs come up in iTunes shuffle” which then led to “remember the music video to that song?” which then led to the disjointed mess you see below and a dance party at The Good Life.

 

In my world, nothing good happens after 2 a.m., which is the uncharacteristically (because some of us are 28 going on 107) late hour we left the bar.  But my sisters were in town, so I made an exception.  Also, when the DJ is spinning Bone Thugs, Ginuwine and Boyz II Men, it’s just hard to tear yourself away.  So the walk home meant that we traversed the nightlife territory on Tremont Street just when the bars and clubs were spewing out girls in teeny skirts and teetering heels (or the opposite, no shoes at all!) and the shellacked and cologne-soused boys who were gunning for and hollering after them.  It was rowdy and animalistic and awesome.  Wish I took pictures.

Thanks, sisters (and Jesse!), for an awesome weekend. Come back and visit soon!

The Threat of the Weekend

You know what the excitement of an impending Friday plus a little Woodchuck Hard Cider (it’s delicious) will do to you?  I suppose it depends on your life circumstances, but it just might compel you to go through your Shazam tag list on your iPhone, download a bunch of random songs, and then actually take iTunes’ genius recommendations very, very seriously.

And then you may even be suckered into buying songs like this because you remember your dad mention in passing that he liked Conway Twitty:

 

Should you find yourself in a similar situation, please remember the stack of unread and dust-blanketed books languishing next to your bed and step away from the electronic devices. Very, very slowly.

A Lentil and the ABCs

Some of us have been waiting with bated breath for the sequel of one of the better YouTube videos around.  That’s right, folks. Marcel the Shell is BACK.

 

In a similar vein, I just learned that a video I posted, oh, five years ago, has reached 9,659 hits.  Obviously the Marcel the Shell video got about ten times that many views in its first day alone, but for a rudimentary, pixelated midterm editing project that I shot in my living room with a green sheet, semi-posable art class wooden hand, and the patient help of an awesome, awesome friend, 9,659 hits is pretty great.  Even if they were spread over five years.  The best part about the whole thing isn’t even my juvenile approach to stop motion (for which I earned an A, HA!); it’s the song. You can’t find this video if you search for it with general terms in YouTube.  It’s buried waaaay deep down.  So while I guess those 9,659 people who watched it might be spending a little too much time online, I thank them for their viewership. Onwards to 10,000!

 

A’s Medical Fact of the Day

Photo from Debtorby.typepade.com

My sister A, a second-year med school student, occasionally contributes Medical Facts of the Day. Though I’d prefer not to sandwich food posts around information like you’ll see below, these are fun for their shock appeal. Don’t you feel bad that she has to sit in class and absorb all this information?  With a straight face?? And more fun for me – I get to create the most eclectic group of tags ever separated by commas in the history of blogging!  Without further ado…

A’s Medical Fact of the Day:
Lessons from Immunity, Infection and Disease
Activities, places, food, and other things to avoid if you do not want to catch a horrible infection or parasite:
  • walking barefoot
  • spas and pools
  • fresh water
  • brackish and salt water
  • the tropics
  • the town of Norwalk, Ohio
  • caves
  • pine forests and river basins
  • anywhere a saguaro cactus is growing
  • breathing in urban areas
  • breathing in rural areas
  • meat of all varieties
  • sushi, oysters, crab
  • fresh-water fish
  • salt-water fish
  • you vegetarians think you are safe? watercress, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, spinach, raspberries, snow peas, lettuce, cantaloupes
  • Jamba juice (strawberry)
  • fried rice
  • food at catered events
  • marijuana that has been stored in barns
  • air conditioning cooling towers
  • hotel bedding
  • cruises
  • triathlons
  • 9-banded armadillos, prairie dogs, beavers, bats, reptiles, pigeons, pet birds, dogs, cats
  • bugs with 6 legs
  • bugs with 8 legs
  • centipedes
  • daycares and children in general
Now, go enjoy life! Just don’t buy marijuana from anyone who grows cantaloupes on a cave farm in Norwalk, OH, has kids, and runs triathlons on cruise ships with catered food.

Make It On Sunday, Eat It All Week

With the advent of a new job and the proportionate decrease of free time that accompanies a steep learning curve, weeknight dinners have taken a blow. I wouldn’t say they are bad, exactly, just hurried, harried, and uninspired.  I’m down for some good cooking shortcuts and quick meals, but where to look?

Certainly not towards Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade. Not because semi-homemade is bad – far from it. Any cooking is better than no cooking (I consider assembling a sandwich “cooking”), and sometimes boxed mac & cheese is what makes my world continue its orbit.  But her shortcuts are sometimes bizarre and often unhealthy, and with all her white teeth, unblinking alien gaze, and nary a hair out of place, that Sandra Lee gives me the creeps. Sorry, Governor Cuomo. She also makes specialized cocktails for most meals. As appealing as that is, if I followed her recipes I’d be half in the bag most of the time and way over-sugared.

So forget Sandra Lee and her wasteful table decorations, and make some polenta. It’s warm, it’s filling, it’s cheap, and if you take the time to make some, you can sup on the leftovers all week long. This particular recipe results in a firmer polenta, intended for chilling on sheet pan, slicing in to squares, and then giving a quick sear to make a crispy exterior. Then just pile whatever you have on-hand on top. Fresh herbs make it pretty.

Polenta for Slicing*

1 cup non-instant polenta
1 cup whole milk
2 cups water, plus some
Pinch of baking soda**
Teaspoon of salt
Knob of butter
Fresh rosemary, if desired

Heat the water and milk in a pot that has a lid. When they’ve reached a boil, whisk in the salt and the baking soda, then whisk in the polenta.  Continue to whisk until combined.

Turn the heat to low (the polenta should stay at a very low simmer), and cover the pot. Check on the pot every 5 minutes or so, giving a vigorous whisk.   If it seems like the mixture is getting too thick, stir in a few tablespoons of water or milk. Taste after 20 minutes, and add more salt if needed.

After 30 minutes, remove from heat. Stir in a knob of butter and the chopped rosemary, if desired. Pour the polenta onto a sheet pan and even out the top with a spatula.  Let cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge. The polenta will harden a bit more as it cools, and then you’ll be able to slice it into squares.  Freeze some for later in the week (wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then foil), or heat up a spill of olive oil in a saute pan and give the polenta squares a crispy edge.

*Note: This recipe uses a 3 to 1 liquid to polenta ratio, which means it’s going to turn out pretty thick. If you want a creamier polenta (not intended for slicing), use a ratio of 4 to 1 by adding another cup of milk or water. Finish with a shower of grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese after cooking, and enjoy immediately.

**Note: I was once told that baking soda helps prevent lumps from forming in the polenta.  Internet research supports this theory. Another way to prevent lumps is constant stirring. It’s a really good arm workout.