Monday, August 31, 2009

not that lucky

Do you remember last week's poll question? Well, the reason concerts were on my mind was because I'd just scored a pair of tickets to see Britney Spears (my erstwhile arch nemesis). I didn't buy them (I didn't do a complete one-eighty) -- they were a gift from a group I work with in my role as intern coordinator. And although I'm not a huge fan by any means, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about: Her shows are rumored to be amazing. So last Wednesday, my friend, Jill (a true trooper), and I went to Madison Square Garden.

The show was...lacking. Had I known more of the songs, or Britney cracked a smile, or sung even though her mic was off (could you sing and dance for 90 minutes and sound good?), it might have been enjoyable. But I didn't, and she didn't, so it really wasn't. Instead, I just found myself feeling completely sorry for her and even a little bit bored. There were a few interesting parts: the staging, effects, dancing, and costumes were decadent (it was circus-themed), but even so, I felt like I pretty much wasted an evening. At least we'd seen the set list...we left right after "Baby, One More Time" (and, yes, I sang at the top of my lungs), the second-last song, and got home in record time.

Okay, it wasn't a total waste of an evening. Jill's a blast.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

it's delectable, it's delovely

Yesterday afternoon, we treated ourselves to a movie at the theater (hey, they have functioning AC...can you blame us?). Julie & Julia was a wonderful distraction from the super-humid, drizzly day. We both would've been happy with a movie only about Julia, but the Julie part wasn't that bad, and it was fun to see random parts of NYC that we recognize...and she's a blogger. What's not to love?

The movie inspired us to make something exciting for supper (shocking, right?), and we had just the our freezer. A few weeks back, we made ravioli from scratch. My folks gave us this cool ravioli mold as a gift last spring, and we wanted to put it to the test. It worked flawlessly (not one ravioli blew up in the water!) and the pasta was delicious. Much to our delight, the original batch had such a high yield that we were able to freeze half (just pop raw ones in a Ziploc freezer bag, nothing fancy or complicated). When we cooked them up last night, they turned out just as well as their counterparts had in their debut.

So here's how we made the ravioli...the ravioli recipe was inspired by America's Test Kitchens. We threw together the sauce ourselves.

For the filling:
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
1 oz. low-fat, pre-shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg yolk (set aside the white, you'll need it later)
4 chives, minced
3 oz. prosciutto (we used 18-month aged), chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix it all up and set aside.

For the pasta (sorry, no photos):
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
3 large eggs, beaten

1. On a cutting board or clean counter, form the flour into a mound. Make a little well on top and pour the eggs into it. Rough it up with your fingers until the dough looks like little peas.
2. Add water, 1/2 tsp. at a time, and start forming the dough into a ball. If it starts to get sticky, add a pinch of flour.
3. Knead the dough until it's smooth, about 2 minutes. Set aside and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.

For the sauce:
5 red and yellow tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced
A good handful of basil, cut into strips (I rolled them in a chiffonade and used a scissors to make this easier)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

While the dough rests, mix up all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Assembling the ravioli:
A pinch of salt
1 egg white

1. Fill a large saucepan with water, throw in a pinch of salt, and turn up the burner to high.
2. After your dough has rested, roll it out on a floured cutting board or counter top.
3. Once it's about 1/8 of an inch thick, lay a sheet of it over the ravioli mold. Press the bubbly white thing over the top to make the pockets for the filling.
4. Spoon about one Tbl. of the filling into each pocket. Brush egg white around the edges of the pockets and cover with another sheet of pasta. Press down to seal and cut the edges. Gently flip the mold to remove the ravioli. Set them on a baking rack to dry for a little while (10 minutes, maybe).
5. Once the pasta feels a little bit cool and dusty, drop the ravioli into the boiling water and allow it to cook for around 4 minutes (they'll float, and will look bumpy). Fish them out of the water, top with sauce, and serve immediately.

Monday, August 17, 2009

yaaaa hoooo woooo!

My brother, Andrew, and sister-in-law, Amy, paid us a visit this weekend. Since Amy had been here before but Boo hadn't, it was a fun challenge to combine touristy things with activities we locals enjoy. So we did things a bit differently this time: cooked a lot, didn't take the train much, relaxed a bit more, and went to a bar or two. Here's what we did:

First thing Friday, we headed toward Coney Island. But first, we stopped at Istanbul Grill, a restaurant Andrew found that serves doner kebabs which are similar to the style common in Australia, where he fell in love with them. How'd they measure up? "Pretty good. Yeah, pretty good."

Next, we took the train to Coney. As soon as we got there, we hopped on the Cyclone, the oldest roller coaster in the US (maybe anywhere). It is seriously frightening, but fun. We also rode the Wonder Wheel (a must) and went to the freak show, primarily to stay cool. Andrew's assessment: "Awesome, but creepy." Then we headed to the Brooklyn Cyclones game, but not before we stopped at Nathan's to have a hotdog.

Boo literally chased down this mascot (there were five costumed characters at this game -- no joke) to get his picture taken with it, and was, by far, the oldest fan to do so. The Cyclones won, there was a fireworks display after the game, and we had a great day all around.

On Saturday, we went to see the Broadway revival of West Side Story. It was beautifully done. I loved the changes the director made in the 50 years since its debut, but of course, the storyline has remained the same. Here we are in Times Square. The city recently closed off the surrounding streets to traffic so people can mill about. They even set up tables.

After the show, we went over to The Pony Bar (our new favorite). There was a great selection on tap, and we ended up eating dinner there, which was the best, most inventive pub food I've ever had (I ordered a pork sandwich with a spicy mango-cabbage slaw on top).

Since it was so close, I insisted that we walk over to see the sun set over the Hudson. It was gorgeous. We walked through a little park on a pier that had fountains for kids to play in and a dog run, and it's also where the USS Intrepid is docked. After a scorching day, the temperature was perfect for an evening stroll.

Sunday found us walking through Central Park. We went to Belvedere Castle (by way of the Shakespeare Gardens) to look over the Turtle Pond (which is covered with green algae) and then over to the Bramble. It was almost too hot to be outside.

To beat the heat, we went to our favorite neighborhood pub, Soldier McGee's, to have some cold drinks and play Golden Tee. Amy had a pretty impressive game for a beginner, and the guys had a good start, but I came out swingin' for the win. I don't like to play golf in real life (well, mini golf obviously, but who doesn't like mini golf?), but for some reason, I love this video game.

This brings us to the end of the weekend! It was wonderful to see the A-Team, as we and so many others so affectionately call them. I'm so glad I'm friends with my brother (and all my siblings-in-law!). It's made my life a lot richer.

One more thing: Little Wonder and the Sun Machine just celebrated its first anniversary! Can you believe it? Whether you've been a loyal reader since the beginning, or you've happened on this blog sometime since then, thanks for reading! Here's what I was up to on this day last year.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

operation clambake

Last night we had the pleasure of getting together with our friends, Candice and Bryan. We met for beers at our favorite new bar, The Pony Bar, and then headed back to their apartment for an at-home clambake.

A couple of weeks ago, Candice asked me if I'd ever done a clambake -- I hadn't. So she experimented with recipes and invited us over once she'd developed a good one. I helped her this time, and it was so easy. We filled a big pot with clams, mussels, shrimp, corn, chicken broth, and a little butter. Then we put on the lid and boiled it for about half an hour.
Meanwhile, Candice, Bryan, and I prepped the rest of the food while Ian made friends with their cat, Shadow.

We lugged it and the rest of our meal (French potato salad, asparagus, rosemary bread, and Prosecco) down to the fourth-floor observation deck and dug in!

It was the perfect night for eating al fresco. We had gorgeous weather, a great location, delicious food, and best of all, fantastic company!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

the high line

We "discovered" the coolest park last weekend. Several blocks' worth of abandoned elevated railroad tracks in Chelsea were recently converted into a park: The High Line. The design is, naturally, very industrial and modern, but instead of including sparse, "clean" landscaping, they chose to create this almost overgrown look with all sorts of native wildflowers which are planted in the track bed -- sometimes the rails are still visible. Given that it's a couple of stories up in the air, the views are fantastic as well. We got to watch as the sun moved over the Statue of Liberty and the Hudson and sank behind the New Jersey hills. If you ever get the chance to go, please do.

And, with that, some photos. (Speaking of high, I don't trust myself to write anymore. My codeine has just kicked in and, as Ian says, I'm feeling "floppy." My lip should start looking and feeling pretty close to normal by this weekend. Yay! Thanks for all your well wishes and prayers, by the way!)