The Bare Necessities

If you’re living in an eerie space for up to a month’s time, maybe more, what things are necessary for your functioning?

As it turns out, my necessities were primarily kitchen-related. It seems that all those other things lying around our house weren’t that important after all. Although let’s be honest – I do miss my couch, but I couldn’t justify moving that big ol’ thing around.

Yes, I had all my oils and all my spices sent here to our temporary apartment. Don’t judge; it’s hard enough grocery shopping with an empty pantry and fridge, and having at least some of my regular items on hand certainly makes the temporary stay more bearable.

Also, Chris unpacked everything and alphabetized my spices prior to my arrival – he is definitely a keeper.

What else? Oh yes. I will also be lugging my Dutch oven over to San Francisco once our temporary stay is complete. It seems I couldn’t imagine being without it for that long, and that was probably a good decision, what with the 3 pots and pans they have at this apartment. Cheap ones, too.

Prior to packing, I had a flashback to two summers ago in Hilton Head, easily recalling how shabby utensils are in furnished living quarters, and in light of said flashback, I quickly dug my old culinary school roll-up bag from the depths of a closet and loaded it up with all my favorite utensils, including my knife. That was definitely worth it, already. My knife needed sharpening, but thank goodness I packed my quick n’ easy sharpener too!

It seems I also can’t live without wine, because we brought all 3 boxes with us. We claim it’s because we felt more comfortable storing it here rather than a weird warehouse, but I’m not sure who we thought we were kidding when we used that excuse. Regardless of why, we’re already glad the wine is here.

Although the cooking has definitely taken a back burner, per se, having all my ‘necessities’ around has most certainly motivated me to toss a few ingredients together for dinner, especially since dining out nightly isn’t the best idea for these jeans I’ve been wearing every day that might bust at any given moment. So with that, another pasta dish has surfaced, this one loaded with kale, one of my favorite greens and meanwhile, my jeans (and my dignity) have been spared for yet another day.

Rigatoni with Kale, Bacon, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted, barely, from Cooking Light, December 2010; serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
8 oz rigatoni
5 c roughly chopped prewashed kale (~2 medium bunches)
2 slices center-cut bacon
1/4 c oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, rinsed, and roughly chopped
1/2 t crushed red pepper
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t salt
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
2 T fresh lemon juice

instructions
Cook pasta in boiling water 8 minutes or until almost tender. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and let dry on a paper towel-lined plate; crumble and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add sun-dried tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and garlic to drippings in pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add pasta and kale, reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid, black pepper, and salt to pan; toss to combine. Top pasta mixture evenly with bacon and cheese; drizzle evenly with lemon juice.

Time Flies; a Countdown

Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? In no time, I’ll be trying my hand at lemon-growing, learning to surf, biking through the Redwoods, driving with the top down while wearing a tank top, and relaxing on the Pacific shores, local brew in one hand. (Wine in the other, of course.)

Ok, ok, maybe not ALL of those things, but still. It’s definitely going to be different. Different and a little bit warmer. I must say I am very excited about being a California girl. Not that I really know what that entails, but next time you hear from me, I’ll be ‘on the other side’.

Meanwhile, I thought a countdown might be fun. You know, just for shits and giggles. Hopefully, more giggles though.

Let’s start with 20 and work our way down, shall we?

20: days until I start my new job. (Yes, I already have a job! I need an easy button for this one.) I still get to work at a fancy place (Stanford), but I get to work with preggers ladies instead of talk about hereditary cancer risk. Man, I will miss my job, but I think this will be a good change.
19: the number of dirty socks and underwear in a bag in “my room” at Jennifer & Jon’s. I need to do laundry. seriously.
18: how many different restaurants I’ve been to in the last two weeks. Yes, my pants are tight, too. By the way, Vancouver is a really cool city. I’ll talk about that in another week or so.
17: the number of times Riley has licked my feet in the past week. apparently, my feet smell special, and i don’t know if that’s good or bad…
16: yikaroonies, my niece turns this age on Sunday! Happy Birthday, Ash, and drive safe my dear!
15: how long it’s been since I’ve seen my kitty cat. Mama’s comin’ soon, Tange!
14: “free” days to figure out my surroundings once in CA. this includes finding a place to live. no pressure.
13: the number of lime-flavored chips I could eat right now. ok, double it.
12: how many times I look at craigslist-SF each day. also how many times I almost crap my pants at rent prices in said city.
11: a rough estimate of how many pounds I’ve gained in the last month, thanks to having tons of awesome friends who want to go out for “one last [insert drink/food/drink and food]”.
10: how many times Chris has tried to forward our mail. apparently the USPS doesn’t like that we live(d) on North Avenue. this also means I am not getting my food magazines. or bills. One of these is bad; I’ll let you decide which one.
9: this is how many pairs of shoes I have to find room for in my suitcase come Sunday morning. needless to say, I will be wearing rain boots to the airport, rain or shine…
8: how many sandwiches are on the menu at Grahamwich, which is where I’m eating with Caroline today. I already know what I’m getting though.
7: how many nights I’ve been lucky enough to eat dinner at ‘home’ with J&J. Jennifer made some amazing General Tso’s chicken one night, Jon whipped up cupcakes and tasty cucumber cocktails, and I made short ribs (of course) and some pork chops, also a winning pulled pork dish. Cooking with friends is one of my favorite things. Do i say that a lot?! Cuz it’s true.
6: months until we’re back in Chicago! Felicia, I’m glad you’re getting married :).
5: this is how many hours it takes me to get from Chicago to San Francisco. minus 30 minutes. hello blood clot and swollen feet. Dramatic?
4: four nights left of sleeping alone. Chris better watch out – I’ve gotten really good at taking up the whole bed.
3: three more days working with some really lovely people, at a really lovely job.
2: the number of clinic notes I have left to write. i have three days left to do it though, so no worries!
1: one more weekend, which means some quality time with J&J, Riley, and Chicago. It better not freakin’ snow.

So there you are. These are the things that are on my mind lately. Short ribs included, especially these ones. They are tender, they are smothered in wine and tomatoes, they are served atop carbs. They will make you wish it was December all over again, when you can focus on comfort food for another three months instead of cold, rainy Spring days or days when you just have to eat something hefty, instead of a salad, or something else non-hefty.

For me, they were even better, because they were made and eaten with some of my ‘besties’. J&J, I will miss you guys terribly. Please move West already.

Tomato-Braised Short Ribs.
inspired by Pioneer Woman, serves 4

time commitment: 24 hours; 45 minutes active time (start the day before you want to eat!)

printable version

ingredients
1 T olive oil
4 honkin’ bone-in grass-fed short ribs
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t sugar
1 t cinnamon
1 large can (28 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 c good red wine
salt and pepper
1 box whole wheat linguini (or gluten-free linguini)
parsley, for garnish (optional)

instructions
on med-hi, heat olive oil in large dutch oven. brown short ribs on each side, about 2 minutes per side. remove and set aside.

toss in onions, garlic, and cinnamon. saute, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. add diced tomotoes and red wine, and bring to a boil. add salt and pepper to taste. nestle short ribs into tomato sauce, turn heat to low, and cover. simmer for 3-3.5 hours. remove from heat and let come to room temperature. refrigerate overnight for best results.

the next day: remove from fridge. fat from short ribs will have risen to the top and hardened. This is the best time to get it out – just remove it with a knife/spoon/whatever (it sorta looks like candle wax… appetizing, no?!). warm the short ribs and sauce over medium heat.

meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, and serve with warmed short ribs and tomato sauce. garnish with parsley if desired. enjoy a nice hefty red wine alongside ;).