Rapid Growth

It has started. People have begun offering me their seats on the subway. It usually happens after I have been on the train for a couple of stops. Sometimes I hear whispering, or consulting with a friend, "I think she might be pregnant.  Do you think she's pregnant?" The first time it happened I was totally surprised, a man reached over and touched my arm. I was just about to shoot him the don't-touch-me-you-creep look when I saw him smiling kindly and looking at my midsection.

For those who have seen me recently, this may come as a surprise. I wasn't that big at all. I am still not big, but definitely a little rounder in the belly. I know this sounds crazy, but its really surprising how quickly I am growing. Every night I lie in bed with my hands on my tummy thinking, "holy cow, its getting bigger!"  I know, you are probably thinking, well, duh...  But honestly, I didn't anticipate feeling such rapid changes. I am only 17 weeks and I  can't even do up my pants.

Which brings me to my next point: maternity clothes are awesome. I honestly wonder why women who aren't pregnant don't wear them all them all the time. Granted, I am an elasto-phobe, and hate wearing anything that is tight around the waist.  I also love loose tops and frequently have to undo my pants after a big meal (damn you skinny jeans) so I am all over the idea of a belly band, which basically allows you to pull down your fly and still look presentable in public. I will definitely be wearing these long after the baby is born...

The two dresses at the top are from Asos Maternity. The tops and belly bands are from TopShop Maternity.


Fire Island Will Never Get Old

Blue skies on the ferry ride.
When I tell my kids about Fire Island, NY,  I'll tell them it's a magical place that can only be accessed by boat, where there are no cars, and where dogs, babies, and deer run free. And I will be telling the truth.

There are few places that I can think of that are quite as relaxing as Fire Island. Dave and I have been trying to pin point just why that is - most people have wifi and you can check your cell phone on the beach, so its not like you are completely disconnecting from the world - but there is something about the pace at which one moves while in Fire Island that instantly slows your heart rate. As previously stated, there are no cars on the island, except for maintenance and emergencies, so the main modes of transportation are bikes and two-feet-and-a-heartbeat. The island is about the width of a long New York City block, and after your swim, you can stroll across it barefoot in less then three minutes. The beaches rarely get crowded, so there seems to be little incentive to rush anywhere. Even the (mostly) modest beach houses on the island seem to be telling you to just chill out for a minute.  

Being in good company definitely helps too.  This is the second year that we have had the good fortune of staying with friends in Fire Island. Last year we stayed at Todd and Margaret Muhlfelder's house, this year at Jesse and Pam Ellis's. Like last year, the six of us spent most of our weekend together, playing with kids and dogs on the beach by day and eating good food at night. A routine I am pretty sure I will never get tired of.
From left: Dave, Jesse, Pam.  Dogs: Saydie (ours, black fur), Elvis (Pam and Jesse's dog, white fur)
Saydie. I couldn't help myself.
Olivia Muhlfelder, 1.5 years old tests the waters, with her family's support. Photo by Pamela Ellis.
 How cute is that? Photo by Pamela Ellis.
Dave, Todd and Olivia. Photo by Pamela Ellis.
Elvis Ellis trying to chase Saydie down. Photo by Pamela Ellis.
Saydie hangin with her old pal Milo (Todd and Margaret's dog) after a long day of playing.
An Instagram photo from last year's trip: A deer and I check each other out on my trip to the market.
Fire Island Sunset. Photo by Pamela Ellis.

Also: check out this short BBC clip on architecture in Fire Island that just came out this past week. Thanks for sharing Andrew!


House update!

This will be the family room but is currently our art storage room.
I'm interrupting the tomato series to show you how the house is coming along. I haven't posted about the house in a long time because, well, it didn't look that great. There are only so many times that you can post pictures of dust, plaster and floors covered in cardboard boxes.

After the hardwood floors went in, despite the fact that the baby room/ workshop is still a disaster and the second bathroom is nowhere near done, we decided that it was time to clean up and start moving in. Dave and I spent the better part of Sunday removing the cardboard that was covering the floors, dusting, vacuuming, and unpacking our artwork and furniture. Here is what the place looks like now.  Not bad eh?

This will be our bedroom, but don't look too closely at the blinds! They are temporary and more than slightly crooked.
I can't show a bedroom pic without showing the fireplace.
Main bathroom which still needs a good cleaning, not to mention mirrors.
This is the view of what will be the dining room and kitchen. Ignore the mess! On Sunday morning it was just a dusty pile of boxes.

To end a long day of work we decided to go on a date! We hope on our bikes and rode to Bunker restaurant in Queens. The food was delicious. I have to say though, my favorite part of the night was the bike ride through Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and Ridgewood, Queens.  I hate to admit that I rarely see these parts of the city, it was wonderful riding through neighborhoods with driveways in front of every house, with beautiful views overlooking the city in Queens; industrial neighborhoods peppered with hipsters, trendy restaurants and huge immigrant families enjoying the evening on their stoops in Bushwick; and streets where literally every fire hydrant was spraying water to cool things down in Bed Stuy.


Catalan Bread with Tomato

What it should look like (imagine the grill marks)
I first learned this recipe when I was in Chad, working with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) Spain. It makes for a really tasty vessel for other Spanish goodies like Manchego cheese, Iberico ham and chorizo. First I will tell you the real way to make it (or at least the most real way that I know) and then I'll tell you the way that I usually make it.

Catalan bread with tomato (Pa amb tomaquet) - the real way:
- a nice bread like a baguette or thick country bread.  If using baguette, cut down the center length-wise and then section in to ~4" pieces, if using a country bread or other loaf, cut into thick slices
-garlic cloves cut in half (roughly 2 per loaf so adjust according to the amount of bread that you have)
-3-4 ripe tomatoes, halved
-extra virgin olive oil
-coarse salt

How its done...
-When done properly, bread is cooked over a grill, either gas or charcoal, the bread is done cooking when grill marks appear or when the bread is slightly charred. It can also be cooked in the oven.
-Remove the bread from the heat and immediately rub the top sides of the bread with the cut side of the garlic clove, then rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the tomato. This step is really like crushing the tomato into the bread so all the juices come out.
-discard the tomato shells (this is all that should be left of them at this point)
-drizzle olive oil over the bread, season with coarse salt
-serve with iberico ham, Spanish chorizo, manchego cheese or olives.

How I eat it...
I usually wind up making this for myself when I have nothing in the fridge but cheese and happen to have some tomatoes lying around.  I do more or less the same thing, but will often cook my bread in the toaster and omit the garlic (this is pure laziness, I almost always have garlic around). I also usually cannot bear to get rid of the tomato shells, so I eat them - unless they were overripe, as this is also a good way to use overripe tomatoes.  Today I had a combination of ripe and overripe tomatoes and even went so far as to add sliced tomatoes to my bread after having crushed the overripe ones. I usually partner the tomato bread with whatever nice cheese I have around.
I worked with MSF Spain in Chad, Niger, South Sudan and Ethiopia, where it was rare to find all of the above ingredients together at any given time.  I learned that the key ingredients here are really the olive oil and the bread.  Bread, olive oil, and cheese?  Delicious.  Bread, olive oil, and chorizo?  Awesome.  Bread, olive oil, and garlic?  Also great. Heck, bread and straight olive oil? Perfect.


Spaghetti with Roasted Tomatoes

This is a great recipe that I turn to whenever I have extra tomatoes kicking around, but it's good enough to go out an buy fresh tomatoes for. Its not so much a recipe as a list of things that go well together, and it's really easy to adapt. Things like capers and roasted or sauteed onions also make great additions.

Spaghetti fresh is best but use what you have around.
Tomatoes - I think cherry or small tomatoes are best for this, but if you have some larger tomatoes that you need to get rid of, go for it, but I would probably cut them into quarters thick slices
As much as garlic as you like – thinly sliced, I would probably use 6 cloves for 1 box of pasta. Some people prefer it smashed or grated.
3 tablespoons nice extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Whatever fresh herbs you have like basil or chives (or both!)
Shaved Parmesan, for serving (if you don't have Parmesan, feta is also great)

Heat oven to ~400° F.
Start cooking your pasta.
Toss the tomatoes and garlic in some olive oil (enough to cover) and salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet.
Roast the tomatoes, tossing once, until they begin to burst, 20 to 25 minutes. If you are cooking larger tomatoes wait until they are shriveled, oozing juice and starting to turn gold / brown.
Toss the pasta with the tomatoes and herbs, adding enough oil to make the mixture moist

Serve with Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste 

Image from the Rainy Kitchen


Open Faced Tomato Sandwich on a Montreal Bagel

If I had to eat one meal every single day for the rest of my life, this would be it. While some prefer this in regular sandwich form, I like to maximize tomato intake by eating it open faced.

Here are the basic ingredients:
-  The best, freshest tomatoes that you can find.  In the summer there are many to choose from at your local farmer's market, in the off season cherry tomatoes or Kumato tomatoes will have the best flavor.
- Hellman's regular mayonnaise, seriously, it has to be Hellman's, full-fat, no-frills mayo.
-The best bread you can find, toasted. Some prefer country bread or white bread, but for me nothing will ever beat a fresh Montreal bagel.
-Fresh ground pepper

Instructions: toast your bagel, spread mayo, add sliced tomatoes, season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

Here is another tasty tomato sandwich that Dave and I made this morning with an avocado that needed to be eaten: we took our toasted Montreal bagel and drizzled olive oil over it. In a separate bowl we took one avocado, mashed it with a fork, added fresh lime juice, chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. We then spread the avocado over the bagels, added our fresh tomatoes just like the recipe above, and added more salt and pepper to taste. One avocado made for two Montreal bagels worth of spread but could potentially be spread out to cover three...


Going Tomatotarian

Guys. I love tomatoes. A lot.

This time of year I basically boycott any meal that does not include tomatoes. So I am going to indulge myself and write a series of blog posts purely about tomatoes. I will start with one of my favorite tomato recipe (if you can call it a recipe) and how to treat your tomatoes with the respect that they deserve.

How to keep tomatoes

My heart breaks a little every time I see a beautiful tomato in the refrigerator.  Here's the deal: according to the USDA's agricultural research service, keeping tomatoes at a temperature lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (the average fridge is about 35 degrees)  results in measurably lower aroma volatiles.  These aroma volatiles are primarily responsible for our sense of taste, so when we refrigerate tomatoes we are inadvertently making them lose flavor.

Refrigerating tomatoes also damages the cell membranes, which leads to the tomatoes having a mealy texture, similar to what we see in tomatoes at the grocery store in January.

When it is okay to refrigerate tomatoes

I won't lie: sometimes I get a little overzealous with my tomato purchases. If I am not able to eat tomatoes while they are ripe, I do refrigerate them, but the key is that after that point I won't eat them fresh.  Later this week I will post a delicious recipe for spaghetti with roasted tomatoes that is my go to whenever I want to use refrigerated tomatoes.

The simplest, easiest and most delicious tomato 'salad'

Can you really call something a recipe when its only ingredients are tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper? That is all that is required here. Just take some fresh tomatoes - local are usually best and freshest - heirlooms from your local farmers market, Jersey tomatoes or delicious pink Quebec tomatoes.  Slice them (see above), drizzle with a nice olive oil, and add ground pepper and coarse salt.  This takes about 2 minutes to make and is a perfect side dish for any summer meal. Of course you can always add basil or chopped red onion or fresh mozzarella cheese, all of which will be tasty, but you don't need to.

Coming up soon:

The best tomato sandwich
Spaghetti with roasted tomatoes
Tomato and grilled corn salad


Bed Stuy Represent

I am not a food blogger, but this Kale salad is pretty good.

This is a repost from last year, but this salad is so good that I keep coming back to it...

This is an abbreviated version of Health Food for Living's blog post, so if you want more pictures and details, check it out.  The recipe calls for toasted almonds and dried coconut - I haven't done that, partly out of laziness, and partly because it's delicious without.  It takes about 5-10 minutes and you can play with the portions.  I just use plain old extra virgin olive oil, and my friend Lesley made it with brown sugar instead of honey and it was still great.
Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 1 bunch kale, leaves torn from the stalks and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp agave nectar or honey (maple syrup also works)
  • 2 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 ripe but firm avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup toasted unsweetened flaked coconut

In a large bowl, toss the sliced kale leaves with a small drizzle of the olive oil and a bit of Kosher salt; massage with your hands until the kale softens and wilts, about 2-3 minutes.
In a small bowl or jar combine the remaining olive oil, honey, and salt & pepper to taste. Whisk or shake until well-combined.
Toss the massaged kale with the dressing and add in the diced mango and avocado.
Serve at room temperature topped with the toasted sliced almonds and flaked coconut.
Can be made a few hours in advance.