Archive | February, 2012

Questioning My Commitment to Toasting -or- “It’s Always the Blue Wire”

28 Feb

Dear Yolo,

After years of smooshing my face up longingly on the glass in the frozen food section where they keep the breakfast waffles, I finally broke down and  purchased a toaster from Overstock.com last month. My criteria for toaster selection was something like “cheap and doesn’t look totally stupid”.  Oh Black & Decker!!! You know exactly what girls want! As most of us know, there are some really embarrassing looking toasters out there that fill all those see them full to bursting with contempt and disgust.

I have just used the aforementioned toaster to heat an organic, gluten-free waffle which I am dipping in whipped cream (like a boss) from yesterday night’s dessert. So I put the toaster waffle in for a second session  to keep it warm while I hunt for waffle fixin’s. As any warm-blooded child of the 80s must know, a full second sesh is way too long to toast a toaster waffle. I expected to simply reverse on the toaster lever, a classic maneuver which often gives dramatically shoots your breakfast into the air. Perhaps saying “dramatically” is an exaggeration. It’s more like the mad hops of a fat kid at basketball camp but I’m all about making breakfast exciting.

Anyway, there I am trying to liberate my waffle from a certain fire-y fate and the lever won’t reverse.  It is completely locked. There is a moment of panic as I repeatedly yank on the lever to no avail. My emotional life is that of the bus driver at the beginning of Speed. For a moment, I consider turning the toaster upside down, but I immediately dismiss that idea as it violates some basic sense of decency. Then, my razor-sharp powers of observation are drawn to 4 blue-lit buttons. The first one is “CANCEL” followed by “BAGEL”, “FROZEN” and “REHEAT”. The scene where Keanu, as Officer Jack Traven in a heated moment decides which wire to cut is brought to mind.

I consider “BAGEL” for a moment, because I’d like to think it will turn whatever is in the toaster into a bagel. But I am visited by a moment of clarity like the eye of a storm, and I push “CANCEL”. Imagine my relief when the waffle is released into my eager, trembling hands. I exhale and wish I had  a cigarette to light up and/or co-pilot I could turn to and say, “That was a close one.”

My long winded point is this: my toaster takes itself too seriously. Has the toasting process become formalized to the point that my toaster questions my decision making abilities by foisting a “CANCEL” button on me, which imploying how uncertain I am about my commitment to toasting? Do you see where this is going? Didn’t the people at Black and Decker see Terminator? Blade Runner? I, Robot?

A day of reckoning is coming my friend. We best prepare ourselves. That is all for now.
Love,

Maroon

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An Act of Whimsy

26 Feb

Dear Yolo,

Are you back from Argentina yet? Man. Ok, anyway– last week Maya Rudolph hosted SNL and it was the best one they’ve done in a million years. Do you remember when we saw the Groundlings our freshman year? We saw her!

My favorite is that Maya Angelou sketch. And as a tribute to the Oscars tonight, here’s a sketch where she’s playing Beyonce below. Taran Killam does a hilarious Brad Pitt and Justin Timberlake is Bon Iver. It’s awesome.

Love ya!

Maroon

I found this when I was cleaning out an old notebook from college. That night we say Maya Rudolph, Cheryl Hines and Will Forte before they hit the big time.

Two Dessert Rule: Amaretti Cookies

26 Feb

Dear Yolo,

I’m every so slightly fuzzy brained this morning as last night we the Hurtys over for dinner and I drank oodles of wine. The husband Bernard is a friend of Roscoe’s from cycling and his wife Phoebe is a writer. They’ve lived in Brooklyn for a million years. We’ve been to their house a couple times (they live in the most gorgeous brownstone in Park Slope) and we were finally able to coax them over to our apartment. They’re really lovely people, both so intelligent, interesting, lively and idiosyncratic and they are SUCH a cute couple. They just celebrated their 29th anniversary and you can still tell how much they love eachother. Not in a gross or obvious way.  They’re what Kurt Vonnegut describes as a “duprass” in Cat’s Cradle if I remember correctly.

For my part, I think the guests felt welcome, the kitchen wasn’t a wreck, and while we had several courses, I don’t think it looked like I was working too hard. And, the results of my labor were well received by our gracious guests so I think I count the evening as a success.

As is my custom, I made two desserts.  This way, if dinner sucks, everyone can just fill up on dessert. Everyone loves dessert! AND, as I like to try out experimental recipes on new victims guests if I make two desserts, I can be fairly certain at least one of them will turn out okay. Plus, two desserts feels decadent and fancy and scores me big points with anyone who was raised, as I was, to equate food with affection. I am so simple. I can’t believe I wasn’t abducted as a child.

Last night was one occasion where I was relieved I made two desserts. I tried making a Tangerine Bavarian which I thought would be light and refreshing. Bavarians are one of those weird desserts in the back of The Joy of Cooking and Julia Child’s books that I’ve always wanted to try. I understand it had its heyday as a sophisticated dessert in the 60’s and since has fallen into relative obscurity. It’s essentially fancy-pants custardy Jello.

I couldn’t find tangerines so I used oranges and I must have overcooked the custard because it ended up tasting very eggy. And that eggy-orangey taste combo? Not good. Darren even said he liked it but I thought it was gross– I couldn’t eat it. The accompanying Tangerine Caramel Sauce made it slightly better because of it’s strong flavor, but while the sauce was interesting (a Bay leaf was involved) it still wasn’t what I would call good. I kind of want to give the Bavarian another crack– maybe a more basic flavor like chocolate which seems like it would be harder to screw up but possibly they’re just gross and that’s the reason no one ever makes them.

All this would have been traumatizing but I had baked some Amaretti this morning as dessert #2 to serve alongside the Bavarian. I like mine a little chewy and these are certainly that. Plus, they’re way easy to make and there’s no flour. It’s a one bowl food processor affair.

I whipped a first batch of whipped cream with zest to be folded into the custard for the Bavarian a little too long (it hadn’t turned into butter yet but was just a little too stiff) so I put it aside and used that as filling and made little macaron style sandwich cookies. They were a hit and Phoebe asked for the recipe.

I have photographed them here with Bernard’s placemat that he colored because it’s awesome and Roscoe and I agree the best placemat a guest of ours has ever colored.  So 2012. So now.

And now the recipe. 🙂

Amaretti Cookies
Chewy, sweet, flourless Italian almond cookies.
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2009

Similar to macarons but much easier to make! I don’t have a pastry bag, so I roll hood-style with this and use a ziplock sandwich bag and cut one of the corners.

Yield: About four dozen cookies, or half as much if you sandwich them

1 (7-ounce) tube pure almond paste (not marzipan; 3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
Pinch of Kosher salt
2 large egg whites at room temperature for at least 30 minutes

Preheat oven to 300°F and place racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.

Pulse almond paste, sugar and salt in a food processor until broken up, then add egg whites and puree until smooth. Transfer batter to pastry bag  fitted with a 3/8-inch tip and pipe 3/4-inch rounds (1/3 inch high) about 1-inch apart in pans. Dip a fingertip in water and gently tamp down any peaks.

Bake, rotating and switching position of pans halfway through, until golden and puffed, 15 to 18 minutes.

[These will puff up, so do leave that 1″ between.]

Let cookies cool almost completely in their pans. Once cool, they’re much easier to cleanly remove from the parchment. You can make them into sandwich cookies by spreading some jam between them. You can also use (as I did) stiffly whipped cream with some zest or liquor to flavor or ganache (3 ounces of semi-sweet chips melted with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cream, then left to thicken a bit would be enough to sandwich the whole batch).

Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a day or two or frozen up to one month.

Sashay! Shante!

24 Feb

Dear Yolo,

Captain’s Log:  Day 2 at QVC. I have slept for 2.5 hours in the last 48 hours. I have consumed strange cafeteria foods like crinkle cut fries and eaten mysteriously-sauced soggy breaded chicken… copious amounts of Mike & Ikes. The QVC madness is upon me.

Yesterday night, your email address was hacked because you sent me an email with a link for buying life insurance. I have to tell you I am disappointed your hacker was not more articulate. This was such a lazy hack. You deserve at least to be hacked by one of those guys claiming to be a Nigerian Prince with an elaborate story that includes buried treasure, international intrigue and the gift of hundreds of thousands of dollars… all mine in exchange for a simple act of goodwill– oh, and my bank account number.  Those emails are always written in the most stilted and charmingly bizarre prose. I wish whomever was teaching those guys English would come to the states and teach Americans too.

So anyhoo, I have been entertaining myself by Dragulating my co-workers. I have had some very talented make-up artists dragulating me for real so I feel I can only return the favor the best way I know how: with my iPhone. The evidence is above and below. Note my liberal use of the “hot dog” accessory.

Ru Paul’s Drag Race is pretty much the best show, and definitely the best reality show ever on tv. It is total and complete entertainment. It is the Pizza Hut/Taco Bell of television shows. If you have not watched it, you must. It’s on the Logo network or you can just watch it online here. Seasons 2 and 3 are the best. Do you already watch it?

So. Tired.

xxo Maroon

Bonsai Tree Houses

21 Feb Bonsai Tree House

Bonsai Tree House

Bonsai Tree HouseBonsai Tree House

Dear Yolo,

Terry Gilliam meets Japanese precision and eats one of the cakes from Alice in Wonderland small… Check out this artist Takanori Aiba I found perusing Colossal. I have always wanted to live in a tree house and now I have finally found my dream real estate in miniature. I already have two cats Tiny Maroon could ride– one for everyday and then one for special occasions. Bonkers kind of looks like a cat Aslan. Anyway, about the dude who made this stuff:

For nearly a decade since the late 1970s Aiba worked as a maze illustrator for Japanese fashion magazine POPYE. The following decade he worked as an architect and finally in 2003 decided to merge the two crafts—the design of physical space and the drawing of labyrinths—into these incredibly detailed tiny worlds. Using craft paper, plastic, plaster, acrylic resin, paint and other materials Aiba constructs sprawling miniature communities that wrap around bonsai trees, lighthouses, and amongst the cliffs of nearly vertical islands.

Click here to see more of his work.

Thought you would enjoy it.

Love,
Maroon
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Bonsai Tree House

Setting the Table at Downton Abbey

20 Feb

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Dear Yolo,

We have Downton Abbey madness. Maggie Smith is the SHIT, son! One of the little details I love about the show is the lavish, ritualistic dinners. It’s giving me positively evil ideas about what to put on my our wedding registry.

Here are the some pieces I would use to set my table for the bourgeois version of a Grantham dinner. I’ve provided a couple options, one aspirational and one more easily attainable. As for the guests: formal attire, gentile appetite, dry sense of humor and starched underpants required.

As a bonus, here’s a Daily Mail article about the research that goes into executing the DA dinner scenes. I tried to get Roscoe to agree to a Downtown Abbey themed wedding, but he said no. Blast!

Ta.

Maroon

Aspirational: Marie Antoinette Dinnerware by Reynaud. $539 5-piece Place Setting at Gracious Style.com
Attainable: Anna Weatherly Simply Elegant Gold Dinnerware. $188 5-piece Place Setting at Gumps.com

Aspirational: Apple Placecard Holders by Ercuis. $159 Set of 6 at  Gracious Style.com
Attainable: Love Bird Cardholders with Brushed Silver Finish. $20.90 Set of 8 at Amazon.com

Aspirational: Tiffany & Co Silver Salt Cellar and Footed Pepper Shaker. $152 at eBay.com
Attainable: Vintage Silverplate Open Salt Cellar Set with Lion head. $42.95 at Etsy.com

Aspirational: Wedgwood Stemware, Knightsbridge Platinum Collection. $43-$50 at Macys.com
Attainable: Vintage Pineapple Cut Stemware. $24 Set of 8 at Etsy.com 

Aspirational: International Silver “Joan of Arc” Sterling Silver 5-Piece Place Setting. $725 at Macys.com
Attainable: Hampton Forge Flatware, Kingsley Gold. 45 Piece Set $130 at Macys.com

Vintage Gold & Silver Candelabra. $122 at Etsy.com

I Heart Grahams

16 Feb

Dear Yolo,

I have no auditions and no castings today, and I am avoiding my taxes by obsessing over vintage sautoir necklaces on eBay. I’m pretty sure Roscoe will stage an intervention for me soon. Writing makes me feel ever so slightly more productive.

We went to Odam’s (Adam+Owen) apartment for dinner on Sunday. We were joined by their friend Ryan who is a photographer,  also awesome. He and his wife are having a little girl named Wren in a couple of months.

It was a fancy pizza party: homemade dough tossed with expertise acquired from a part-time job during art school and a delicious but super simple sauce made by Adam. Roscoe and I love a good Neopolitan pizza with anchovies, capers and fresh mozzarella but my favorite was a white pizza with mozzarella, taleggio, roasted yukon gold potatoes and rosemary. SO GOOD! I wish I had taken pictures.

I brought s’mores for dessert. I made the graham crackers and marshmallows myself, because I enjoy comparisons to Martha Stewart. Making the marshmallows was fun because I had no idea if I would be successful and it seemed kind of magical turning sugar water into fluffy, bouncy marshmallows. It really impressed people, because no one knows what marshmallows really are but the 1Tbsp of vanilla the recipe called for is way too much for those thangs. They’re killer in hot chocolate though. The graham crackers were phenomenal. Adam emailed me for the recipe the next day. I got both recipes from the Smitten Kitchen which is a food blog I like. I usually like my cookies (esp. chocolate chip) undercooked but don’t do that with these grahams because it affects the taste (not good). You read any food blogs regularly?

Graham Crackers
Recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.

If you’re new to graham crackers, do know that the word “cracker” is misleading. They’re moderately sweet, like a cookie or biscuit, but they do have the snap of a cracker. I can’t say that I’d serve them with cheese, but if you’ve never schmeared them with cream cheese frosting, you’re missing out.

The topping amount will make a heavy coating, like the store-bought ones. Make only half if you just want a light-to-moderate sprinkling.

Makes 10 4 x 4.5-inch graham crackers or 48 2-inch squares

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour (a swap of 1/2 cup with whole wheat flour or 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour works well here, too)
1 cup (176 grams) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (4 grams)
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces or 100 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup (114 grams) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons (77 grams) milk, full-fat is best
2 tablespoons (27 grams) pure vanilla extract

Topping (optional)
3 tablespoons (43 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) ground cinnamon

Make the dough: Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.

[Alternately, if you don’t have a food processor or electric mixer, you can cut the ingredients together with a pastry blender. Just make sure they’re very well incorporated.]

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and dust it lightly with flour, then turn the dough out onto it and pat it into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Wrap it, then chill it until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the topping, if using, by combining the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and setting aside.

Roll out the crackers: Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. [This makes a traditional graham cracker shape. I rebelled and made mine into 2-inch fluted squares with one of these.]

Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes in the fridge or 15 to 20 minutes in the freezer. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Finally, gather any scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll.

Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Decorate the crackers: Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough (again, this is for the traditional cracker shape). Using a toothpick or skewer (I like to use the blunt end of a wooden skewer for more dramatic dots), prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.

Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. [The baking time range is long because the original recipe calls for 25 minutes but my new oven — which I suspect runs crazy hot but have yet to confirm with the actual purchase of an oven thermometer — had them done in way less. Be safe, check them sooner. Nobody likes a burnt cracker!]

Subway Stalker

16 Feb

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Dear Yolo,

 So here are a few images I’ve taken of people on the subway, a little photo project of mine. None of the subjects know that I’m taking their picture. Creepy? Perhaps. There is just something very beautiful about these stolen moments of public solitude when people are quiet and alone, on their way to someplace else and their thoughts and attention are far away or maybe deep within. I adore something about all of the subjects I photograph. More to come. Enjoy.
Love,
Maroon

An Extra Sleeve for Dreams and Ideas

13 Feb

Dear Yolo,

Bahahaha! You have left me alone with our blog! Right now, I imagine you are probably somewhere in Santiago, bartering for chewing gum and Tempranillo with packs of feral children, gnawing on fine steaks and… flamenco-ing your face off? I hope you are wearing sensible footwear.

Here’s a welcome home present for you from me. Ok, it’s from Zooey Deschanel’s SNL episode from last Saturday but I swear it’s actually really good.

Love,
Maroon

French Sea Turtles and Pics from the Week

10 Feb

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Dear Yolo,

 Are you excited about your trip? When do you leave? You best take a buttload of photos! I wanna see what Argentina looks like.
I loved Kevin the Giant Cat. He is beautiful. I wish my cats were bigger. The biggest cat I ever saw was in France when I was living with my Aunt Nath. It belonged to some friends of hers who lived on a farm in some mountains near Toulouse. This thing was as big as a beagle, I swear. I’m pretty sure I wrote you about it. I’ll bet it’s still alive and lives for one hundred years. Maybe we should start calling giant cats “French Sea Turtles”.
Moving on, here are some things that have been going on this week:
1)  It has become clear to me that anyone named “Nina” is totally awesome.
2)  I found a pigeon wing on the street. If I had more time, I would have picked it up and then wandered around asking people “have you seen my pigeon?”
3) Sat next to thug looking dude on the train who solved his rubics cube about 5 times during the few minutes I was sitting next to him. His best time is 20 seconds, though the world record is 7 seconds. I wish I had taken a video of him. It was pretty awesome.
4) Shot some video for a jewelry company website. The hosts were stylists or stylish quasi-celebs– Deborah Norville, Phillip Bloche and this chick Kelley Dooley who has a line of sassy sportswear (rhinestones and some bedazzling are involved) called BodyRock. They were all super nice people– Deborah Norville is one of the most genuine and kind people you could ever meet– I adore her! And Kelley even gave me one of her sportsbras which is actually the best I’ve ever worn. I may have to give up my slobby t-shirt at the gym habit.
5) Oh, and in other news, I am having a major wedding planning crisis, but I’ll save that for another time.
I am trying to take better pictures, but anyway, here are a few snaps.
I miss you and I hope you have safe travels lady! Big hugs and kisses!
Love,
Maroon
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