Scene. A large room, painted white. White desk, white curtains, grey couch. A plant on the desk. Generic and green. A smell in the air of Cotton Febreeze and laundry that is clean. Big windows that gaze at a city in distress: filled with bad taste, chaos and waste. Luckily enough it’s a sunny day and everybody knows sunny days make everything better. If you expected me to keep on rhyming, well, you were wrong.
Behind that big, white, shiny desk sat a woman. Upright, cross-legged, stiff everywhere but loose in the hands. She is waiting for her next patient to come and spill the beans. Another individual that had it bad in his teens. She wonders what kind of abuse has this poor soul endured. Was he raped, beaten, or maybe severely insecure? Uuuuh, maybe he’s a repressed gay man that’s been living a lie! She’ll listen to him and then help change his life! She smiled, giddy as a child at the thought of maybe, actually fixing someone, a he or a she. Yes, a naive child, indeed.
A knock at the door. The damaged one is here. “Oh, come in, you poor darling! I’ll make your pain disappear!” She thought that, but she, of course didn’t say it. How inappropriate and awkward would it be?! (No, seriously, on a scale of 1 to 10? 1 being cringe-worthy and 10 being bat shit crazy?) Control yourself, lady! That’s why you got into psychology! Breathe in, breathe out!
(The man enters, head down, shy and polite. He looks positively troubled, disturbed and fucked up. He’s biting his nails, his eyes look like shit and I’m not even gonna talk about the circles underneath!)
The troubled young man: Uhm, hi! I mean, hello, doctor... uhm...
The eager young psychologist (goes in for a repressed hug/awkward handshake type of thing): Amy! Just call me Amy. I mean, doctor Amy. And you must be Chris.
The troubled young man (visibly nervous): Yes, yes I am.
Amy: Please, sit down, Chris.
Chris (he wipes the beads of sweat running off his forehead and sits clumsily): Thank you.
Amy: Tell me, Chris, why are you here? What’s been bothering you?
Chris (with growing despair): Well, you see, I’ve been hiding this thing, this... terrible thing for half of my adult life. I... I seemed to be fine with it but lately it’s just been so much more difficult. I mean I can’t sleep, I can’t work, I can barely eat! Everywhere I go, with every person I meet I have to face this... this demon that keeps tormenting me! I can’t escape it, doctor! (starts weeping loudly)
Chris (swallowing his tears): Amy...?
Amy: Or doctor Amy. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Please go on.
Chris: I’ve been keeping this secret for so long... I can’t bring myself to say it out loud. It’s too hard.
Amy: Chris, you are in a safe environment. You will not be judged here. You have to tell me your secret in order for me to help. Otherwise, there’s nothing I can do. Plus, you’ve already been charged for this session, so get in there, get your money’s worth! ( chuckles then gets embarrassed)
Chris (trying to gather up the courage): I... I have... Whuuuuu... Aaaaa... (losing it) I can’t, I just can’t. I wanna say it but then I can’t breathe and I feel like I’m choking and I’m seeing spots and whoooooooo...
Amy: Ok, Chris, take it easy. Breathe in (does it), breathe out (does it). You don’t have to say it. But you do need to, and what’s more important, you want to! Right? That’s why you came here. Now...start by saying it in your mind over and over again. Ok? Just... say it to yourself.
Chris (slowly nodding and trying to convince himself): Ok, I can do that. I can do that. I can do that! I can do that.
Amy (impatient): Then do it! (softening) Go on, slowly but surely.
(Chris begins saying the phrase in his head. It is visible that he is struggling but the more he does it, the easier it becomes. When he reaches a comfortable state Amy intervenes.)
Amy: Great job, Chris. Don’t stop, keep saying it in your head and when you’re ready start whispering it to yourself. Alright? (he nods). Let’s try it.
(Chris goes slowly and fearfully from no voice to the faintest whisper.)
Amy: And now, you keep at it and everytime I touch your arm, like so (demonstrates with a simple, gentle tap on his arm) you will go up a level. Slowly increasing, ok? Nothing to it, you can do this.
(Chris breathes methodically and nods his head. Things go as planned and slowly we start to make out what he might be saying. Amy is growing more and more excited, she tries to hide it but curiosity is eating at her like a mouse at a big chunk of smelly cheese. She is also breathing methodically in an attempt to contain her emotions and not scare the mouse back into head voice mode. At this point in time, she taps his arm and starts to make out some words.)
Chris: I... have... never...
(Amy listening intently, taps his arm again.)
Chris: I have never had salad.
(Amy’s face drops in disbelief and confusion. That can’t be it. She taps again.)
Chris (louder): I have never had salad.
(Amy could not believe her ears. In a frenzy she started tapping Chris’s arm over and over again, his voice was getting louder and stronger. She tapped madly, he yelled freely: I HAVE NEVER HAD SALAD!!!! They both stopped. They were sitting there, exhausted. Him, relieved and almost victorious. Her, stuck and almost immovable. Her eyes were moving left to right like crazy and then words started bursting out of her mouth like water from a fountain.)
Amy: Salad? You’ve never had SALAD? That was it?! The big secret?! The great, dark demon that torments you at night?! The thing that’s stopping you from being at peace with yourself?! Are you fucking kidding me? Is this a joke? (he has no time to respond, she is really going for the jugular here). I have dedicated all my years, all that energy, all the hopes of uncovering extraordinary past traumas!!! For what?! For this?! For someone who has never had salad?! ( laughs a maniacal laugh, like you see in the movies) I mean, my God, that’s ridiculous! At least tell me you’re gay! Please!!! You have to be gay! I mean look at you! You’re like a hungover Prince Charming! You look neat, you smell like fresh raspberries and your hair is simply surreal!!
Please, God let him be gay!
Chris: I... I’m not...
Amy (not missing a beat): How does that even HAPPEN? HUH? HOOOOW?! How the fuck do you go through life and never stumble upon a salad?! I mean, they’re everywhere, God damn it! Oh my God, I am hyperventilating, I can’t stop, I’m freaking out.
Chris (baffled and confused): Doctor Amy?
Amy: I just... I mean what kind of person has never had salad before? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that! (can’t catch her breath)
Chris: Are you ok?
(Amy nods a desperate “no” while breathing heavily.)
Chris: Take it easy. Just sloooow it down. One breath iiiiiiin, one breath ouuut. Nice and steady. In and out.
Amy (calmer): I’m so sorry, I’m sure there are extraordinary circumstances that lead to this... uhm... situation. That was so unprofessional! I’m so ashamed! I... I have to explain myself. You see, I was so ready to help you. But I was ready to help with issues that I knew how to... well, handle. And then you sprung this on me... and I didn’t know how to help and I... I rrreally need to help. That’s what I do! Otherwise I feel useless. You made me feel useless. Well, no, not you! Just your... situation. I’m making it worse, aren’t I?
Chris: No, weirdly enough you’ve made it better. Finally someone else freaked out over something that I’ve been freaking out about forever! I felt... oddly understood.
Amy: Hmm, did not expect that. I mean, yeah, I know! I intended to do that! That was totally planned. It’s a new method, it’s called “Man In The Mirror”.
Chris: Man in the mirror? Like the Michael Jackson song?
Amy: Yup, mhm, inspired by the man himself. Too late to help him, though. He was long dead when we came up with this! (nervous laughter) I’m sorry, I say inappropriate things when I’m nervous.
Chris (smiles): I wish I could do that.
Amy: So, what happened? How did you manage to avoid salads for half of your life?
Chris: Well, you know, classic “mom dies choking on a salad leaf, boy never eats salad” story.
Amy: Oh my God, really?!
Chris: No, not really. At least I would have had a real “reason” if that were true. Truth is I didn’t eat salads when I was a kid because I found them gross, I guess. Just the way they looked! Everything thrown into a bowl and mixed together so randomly. And then as time went by, the pressure grew, that pressure that I had to taste one! And then I saw how people judge other people that don’t like or don’t eat salad! It terrified me! I got more and more afraid to find out. I much-preferred the coward approach. So, I kept stalling... But I’ve just reached a point where I’ve lied to everyone I’ve ever met! It’s too much
Amy (enthusiastic, figuring things out as she goes): Oh my God, I totally know what’s wrong with you! I mean, not that anything is actually wrong with you! You’re just afraid. When you were a child you were afraid of independence, of the chaos that awaited for you in the real world! You must have been a really insightful child! You correlated the uncertainty and the chaotic aspects of life with...well, salads. But what you did not realize is that you make your own salad, Chris. You choose what goes in there. You are the master of your own salad. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious, tough to be fair, not this anxious.
Chris: What if I put the wrong things in there? What if they don’t work well together? What then?
Amy: Those are just mistakes you have to make, they’re chances you take. If they work, great! If they don’t, now you know what to discard and next time you make a better salad. I hate cucumbers in my salad! How did I find out? I put cucumbers in my salad! Then I knew I did not want them there ever again!
Chris: That makes sense.
Chris: As for people judging you based on your salad preference, you need to let that go. I’m sure they judge you plenty for all the other things. Kidding! People are assholes and they will judge you for the weirdest “reasons”. You have to stop depending on what others think of you. Allow yourself to be free and experience life! Stop hiding behind a salad, Chris. It’s not very effective. Plus, you’re too pretty to be this afraid.
Chris (blushing): Wow, that’s a lot to take in… You’re pretty rough! And sneaky too!
Amy: Hey, I could have dragged this for another 3 sessions but I think it’s in your best interest to spend that money on salads.
Chris: Haha. You’re funny too!
Amy: You pay for the full package. Are you not entertained?
Chris (coy): Oh, I am.
Amy: So, I know you’ve never had a salad but have you ever had your salad tossed?
(They went back to Doctor Amy’s place - she insisted to be called Doctor Amy for this part - and she made him his first salad. And it was this one right here. I shit you not.)
Disclaimer: There are no precise measurements for this one, so go crazy boys and girls! Your life in a bowl! Go ahead, mix it up, have some fun, make some fucking mistakes and learn how to get over them. Life lessons from a salad. This is what my life has come to.
Step 1: Make the vinaigrette by mixing together the olive oil (aprox. 1/4 of a cup), the mustard, the balsamic vinegar or the lemon juice (1 tbsp), le moutard aka the mustard (Dijon, cause we're a bunch of snobs), the salt and pepper. Needless to say you adjust this to your needs. Have you learned nothing from that long ass story? Oh, also, I only used a third of that vinaigrette for that amount of salad bush. Yes, I call that a salad bush. How very naughty, I know.
Step 2: Dress the salad bush a bit. Not too much. Think erotica not straight up porn.
Step 3: Make it rain with micro-herbs. Bitches loooove micro-herbs. I know I just called myself a bitch. It's self awareness week. Unagi, I am always aware ;)
Also, if you're wondering what the fuck are micro-herbs and why you need them in your life, listen up. They are very tiny herbs. You don't need them, they just look purty and make you feel better about yourself.
Step 4: Bring on the cheese, the figs, the blackberries. Top with pecans (I keep mine in honey, cause it makes me feel precious).
Step 5: You know what to do. Toss that salad, baby. Ain't nobody watching you (read this in Barry White's voice). You're welcome.
Amy: So, what do you think?
Chris(thinking about it): I'm thinking about it...
Amy: Well, think faster, I wanna know!
Chris: I loved it. If all salads are like this, I'm in! I mean, sweet, salty, tangy, soft, crunchy! Man, that was a sweet ride!
Amy(pleased with herself): I knew you were a salad man.
("Barry White - Can't get enough of your love, baby" playing in the background).
And then they tossed the salad and it was gooood (yes, with plenty of ooooo-s).
Man, I wish I had a monkey! Then I wouldn't need an excuse to listen to that song. I'd call her Cheesecake, and she would be my Cheesecake! I'd teach her how to cook and we would make wonderful,slightly hairy treats together! She'd d have a tiny apron that says “go bananas” and she would. And I'd say “Cheesie, stop going bananas, we need to get those cookies in the oven!” And like a good sidekick, she would listen. In one year tops, we'd have our own tv show “There's a monkey in my kitchen!” and thus Ratatouille will be long forgotten because Cheesecake will be in your homes every Saturday evening, basically saying that if a monkey can do it, you can do it too! I think that is the perfect angle and my key to that door called “success” that I can't seem to find on my own. That's why I need a monkey! If tomorrow, this idea still sounds as life changing as it does now, I'm going ape! I swear I'm not high, nor drunk. I do crave cheesecake like a mother fucker, so maybe that explains a piece of the craziness you just witnessed. The other piece has no excuse. It's merely a result of the lack of grip over my own life. So, nothing new there. Fortunately, Wikihow truly has the answers for everything!
Hey, I'm all better now! Anyway, the episode is “The one with all the poker” and the recipe is “Salmon roulletes with assorted cruditees”. Sounds fancy as fuck. It's really not a big deal, don't be deceived. If you translate it into regular, non-posh vocabulary, it's just salmon rolls with raw veggies. It was either this or “pretz” and I just found this more appealing.
Things and stuff:
a couple of bowls
It was this big:
5 crepes, 1 big roll, 10 pinwheel shaped rolls
It took this long:
15-20 min preparation, 1 hour for the crepe batter to sit before using.
THE CREPE BATTER
Step 1: Crack the eggs in a mixing bowl, near the flour. Do it in a silly way, so that it looks like a flour-eating monster.
Step 2: Start killing the monster with a whisk. As in beat those eggs into submission.
Step 3: Incorporate the flour into the eggs. It should be fairly thick and lump free.
Step 4: Add the milk, slowly but surely. Then throw in there the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a lil' bit of salt. Cover with cling film or a plate and leave to sit for at least an hour.
Step 5: Heat a pan. Non stick, if you want your life to be easy and crepes to be crepes. Convince a knob a butter to melt, and then pour a ladle of your batter and swirl it around until it evenly covers the bottom of your pan. Leave it to cook for a minute or so and then flip it like there's no tomorrow. Another 30 seconds on the other side and you are done! Repeat until you're out of batter! Ta-daaa:
Step 1: Mix the goat cheese with the greek yogurt, sage and pepper.
Step 2: Chop the avocado.
Step 3: Do nothing to the salmon.
Step 1: Take a double piece of cling film, large enough to fit 2 crepes, slightly overlapping each-other. Like so:
Step 2: Layer that with your goat cheese and yogurt filling.
Step 3: Salmon time! Squeeze some lemon juice on that layer of pink, it will love it!
Step 4: Get that avocado in there!
Step 5: Roll it like a cigar and smoke it!
Umph, there it is! Do not attempt to *really* smoke it. Let's play pretend, act like it comes naturally ;)
Step 6: Leave it in the fridge to think about its new found salami shape.At least half an hour, or up to one day. I used mine the second day.
Step 7: Slice those babies up, arrange them on a plate with your veggies of choice and a olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.
Feedback: Easy to make, they look fancy enough to fool a bunch a people expecting fancy things from you and it's delicious! I see no down side to this. I wonder what Cheesecake would think of these. She's more into desserts really, but I do trust her monkey taste buds.
I bid you farewell, homies! Until the next one, happy eating! ;)
Whenever I travel, I am on an eating mission! Sometimes I amaze myself with the ability to focus solely on the food I will be eating and forget anything else. Vorfreude definitely applies here. (Vorfreude = the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures) Excuse me if I sounded snobbish, totally accidental.
First stop: Maverick, near London Victoria station. It's a lovely little place, fuss-free atmosphere, intimate and friendly in a cool, minimalist way. Loved the music! The waitress was nice enough to show me what playlist they had on, because I got stuck on a song I loved but couldn't identify (Shazam failed me). The song, just in case you are consumed by curiosity, was Down in Mexico by The Coasters. Soul in my ears, pizza and wine in my mouth, friend I haven't seen in forever across the table. Life was sweet that day.
Now let's talk pizza. There were three of us so I got to taste more than one pizza. Yay! I'll start talking about the dough, because a pizza's magic starts with the dough. It was Italian honesty on a plate. Crusty, thin, not oily. A delight in its simplicity. I had the Genovese. Classic gal (pesto, cherry tomatoes, rocket) with the twist of smoked mozzarella. I've always loved smoked cheese, but rarely had it on pizza successfully because it tends to overpower all the other flavours. Here it added another layer for my taste buds to explore. Add this to the amazing pesto, that is surely made by the hands of a wonderful human being, and you are in a world of intense, soulful flavours. The cherry tomatoes complement this perfectly, they bring that freshness and sweetness we all crave in our pizzas - and in our personal lives. Rocket and Parmesan on top, and that's it. Beautiful.
Second pizza choice at the table was Capra. Goat cheese, red onion, pomegranate drizzle. A good combo, if you're looking for something less traditional. And again, these people know their cheese! Not too much, so it doesn't steal the show. Balance, my friend. The last I tried of the three was the “Bianca”. Marinated aubergine, smoked mozzarella, rocket, basil, Parmesan shavings. This one I found to be a bit dry for my taste, the aubergine needed more seasoning, and overall it felt like it lacked flavor. I like my pizza on the juicy side, so maybe that is just my opinion. Or maybe not. Keep you guessing.
There was this one place that slightly changed my life. We looked for it like one looks for Neverland, we waited for it as one awaits that letter from Hogwarts that's lost in the mail, and we walked like Frodo walked to throw that damn ring in Sauron's bitch ass face! We skipped lunch in order to get to that damn bridge, missed afternoon tea, clearly my judgement was clotted. Uh, I mean clouded, damn scone craving keeps following me around! By the time we were eager to sit down and have an amazing meal, we were long hungry and tired. Every place we liked was full, while every ugly-ass “ we have a buffalo head in the window”- place was of course empty. One moment I'm saying we have to keep looking, not settle, we waited so far, we have to find a good place with awesome food, otherwise all the sacrifice was for nothing! (Dramatic, I know. It's how I roll.) The next moment I'm willing to eat soup in a plastic cup in a sad looking place, that's gonna close in like 10 min. “Fuck it, I just want hot something in my mouth and a place TO SIIIIIT!” I miss seating! Remember seating?! And being warm?! I get awfully cranky and desperate when not fed. My friend, who knows me, knew I would soon regret giving up, so she pulled me out of it and we kept looking for that place, that magical damn place that would put delicious stuff in our mouths, dim lighting on our faces and good music in our freaking ears!
After realizing we're in the wrong part of London, we took a bus, we saw a place and immediately got off there. If you know what I mean. French, dim, jazz, baguette at the door, oh my! Purrfection! Je vous presente Cafe Rouge, mes amis!
We had the Lobster bisque, the Plateau a partager ( board of charcuterie, olives, pâté, soft goats' cheese, rocket and a selection of bread with d'Isigny butter) and the holy trinity dessert. Washed down, of course, with wine. Because of all the reasons. The lobster bisque was so dreamy. Like Colin Firth in The Bridget Jones diaries. Sweet, steamy, intense, rich, creamy as fuck, respectful and loves you for who you really are! Also, the puddle of melted butter in the middle was “make you weak in the knees-decadent”. Wink wink, baby! I didn't think anything could top this, until I had a lusty love affair with the pate. I've never known pate like this, I was living in the dark 'till it came along and showed me what true pate tastes like. It had such complex, complete flavours, 5 dimensions all in one bite! His heart, core, grounded, meaty flavour, the base that then sustains the sweetness, and then the lightness, and then the perfume! Oh, the perfume! And the texture! It was like cutting into cheesecake, creamy, airy, layered! Imagine this: a slice of baguette- crusty outside, soft inside, cut in a big, inviting chunk, drizzle that with melted butter with garlic and herbs, then top with the pate. I got dizzy at one point. Orgasmic. I swear! I have dreams about that pate. Pate has become my life's new goal. Obsessive? You bet! That's what great food does.
That platter was amazing. The goat cheese was just as it should be, and the meat was chewy and salty and sweet! In perfect harmony with everything there!
For the dessert we had miniature tarte tatin, tarte au citron and fondant aux chocolats. Even though I wasn't blown away by this (not sure I even had the capacity at this point) it was all good. It was the perfect ending to a decadent meal. I don't have a picture for this one, because we rushed everything into our mouths. Like animals. Graceful, slightly boozed up animals.
When I planned the whole London fast get away, the only thing I did was ask someone who is as passionate about good food as I am, where must I eat? One of the places on her list was The Breakfast Club. We were pretty far away from city center, so by the time we got there is was lunch, and it was full and we were far too hungry for a 30 min wait. We vowed to return the second day, and headed to 5 Guys Burgers and Fries to stuff our faces with something downright dirty. It did not disappoint. That was the dirtiest breakfast I've ever had. I mean if you're looking to eat good bad stuff, this is the place to go. It's greasy, it's saucy, the potatoes are real, "you bite the fry, the fry bites back!" and the burgers are made of fat dreams. Unfortunately for me, my stomach prefers the French decadence over the American splurge. By the end of that meal I just felt like I've been stuffed like a turkey and then punched in the stomach. Don't worry, an entire day of walking took care of that.
As promised, the next day we went back to the Breakfast club. At around 3 a clock. No, we are not morning people. Their shit is clearly the good kind, because the place is packed! You either get there early enough to say "Top o' the mornin' to ya' laddies!" or late late lunch, when people with jobs and such are not having lunch. The place is like a beehive, buzzing with loud talk, fast food, good music, and generally a very hungry energy. The lucky thing was that we already had breakfast so we were not hungry, we went there to stuff our faces with pancakes. And everybody knows you don't need to be hungry to eat pancakes. When I saw their menu I suddenly got a Sophie's choice kinda feeling. I looked around and everybody had delicious looking stuff on their plate! Huevos rancheros, Pulled pork sandwich served with fries, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and oh Lord, The Pancakes! I mean The All American just brings one to tears: pancakes, eggs, sausage, homestyle fried potatoes, streaky bacon and maple syrup! Pancakes and fries on the same plate?! Clearly the work of the devil! Because we weren't hungry, we decided to meet in the middle. So we got the Eggs Benedict and The Pancakes & berries. My boyfriend had the coffee and I had The Slow Boy juice (Apple, Carrot, Orange, Ginger). And boy, was it slow! They kinda forgot about us for a while, it was clearly a mistake that doesn't happen very often and they handled it perfectly. They took responsibility for the mistake, apologized, served us promptly and said that the bill is on them, because we had to wait for so long. 10/10! I will probably repeat myself on this subject! A lot! The food was amazing! The eggs were just how The God of Eggs intended! Poached to perfection, placed on a toasted English muffin dressed in ham clothes, topped with creamy hollandaise sauce and sent off into the world!
Perfect and untouched. Just like a freshly snowed road. And then, you gotta walk all over that! Poke it, and surely yellow goodness will overflow!
And right when I'm about to say that there just is no better way to a breakfast-loving-heart, the pancakes and berries appear like a gift sent from heaven! 'Cause why else I am hearing angels sing?! Those pancakes are the thought that keeps me balanced in times of madness! There are animals being hunted by stupid assholes, people being murdered by insane assholes, injustice, poverty, fear and more assholerry! A cruel world. Yes, but also a world with amazing pancakes. That you share with friends. Or that you eat alone, to fill the friends-shaped-hole in your heart. With pancakes. All I'm saying is as long as there are pancakes like these, there is hope. As fluffy as a bear cub's bottom, as chewy as Chewbacca and as sweet as a squirrel in the snow (a bunny would have been too sweet, a squirrel is perfect), these pancakes are the past, the present and the future! And if that wasn't enough sitting on top of this glorious stack of happiness, is a luscious vanilla cream that sits there like lipstick on a pretty girl's lips. Effortlessly. Like it belongs. Like it's been there since the beginning of time. You think I'm done? I am not done. On and around this mountain of joy, topped with a fat cloud of fat, berries of all kinds are sprinkled around. Like precious beads of freshness that bring out the very best in you. All of this sitting in a puddle of maple syrup, also known as the Elixir of life and love and all that is good in the world. So next time, I'm in London, you know it's gonna be pancake time! Oh, Lordy, Lordy! It turns out I do wanna roam again!
Also, I love Borough Market. I wanna live there. I'll be a market child, wild and free.
Ladies and gentlemen, this was FoodTalk. Come again.
Finally, cookie time! Tananananananana can't touch this! Break it down!
Now, some people may be confused by the title and mistakenly believe that I'm talking about the “Nestle Toulouse” cookies. No. The cookies in this episode are Pheobe's “best oatmeal cookies in the world”, that she offers Rachel after this particular incident:
Pheobe: Ok, uhm, we haven't known each other for that long a time, and, um, there are three things that you should know about me. One: my friends are the most important thing in my life. Two: I never lie. And three: I make the best oatmeal raisin cookies in the world. Rachel: Ok, thanks, Pheebs. [tastes cookie] Oh my God! Why have I never tasted these before?
Pheobe: Oh, I don't make them a lot, because I don't think it's fair to the other cookies.
Yeah, that sums it up nicely. Now that you know where we are on the cookie scale, let's get down to bussiness.
As far as utensils go, you will need: a big bowl+a big spoon, an electric mixer/a whisk and some willpower, a sieve, a baking tray, parchment paper, ice cream scoop (not necessary, but helps get your cookies the same size) and a genuine love for cookies.
Most recipes I researched used two types of sugar. As I find myself so sick of unnecessary usage of sugar, this whole sugar conspiracy where there's sugar even where no sugars should be, I decided to use just one type of sugar, the better type–brown moscovado sugar. This one creates an awesome chewy texture and gives a caramel flavor, which creates amazing depth. You feel like that cookie could go all around the universe and back, that's the kind of magic I'm talking about! I'm not here to bash white sugar, but I always find myself (no matter what recipe I follow) overloaded with sugar. Every-time I make a new recipe I cut down 20-30 gr. of sugar from the start, and most of the time the end result is still too sweet! I find that usually half the amount of sugar is sufficient! Desserts are about more than sugar! They're about butter, and cream and eggs, and cinnamon and I don't need sugar overshadowing all that! Don't get me wrong , I love decadence in food, I'd just rather have in the french way: de la creme, du bon chocolat, beurre! No matter how amazing a dessert is, if after two bites I feel like I'm getting diabetes, you lost me!
That being said, you should know I did the same thing for this recipe and I think next time I'll make these, I'll cut another 10-15gr. of sugar, so that they're perfect for my needs.
This batch made 18 giant cookies. If you make the normal-sized ones you will get about 30 cookies.
1.Ingredients and quantities
Given the fact that the weather was partly sunny, my camera's battery was fully charged this time, and I was baking some goodness, I felt pretty happy so I played with the camera a lot. About 200 pictures were taken for this particular post. Don't worry, only a few made it here. I present to you still life with spoons and vanilla:
The very first thing you need to do is get the butter and the eggs out of the fridge. Everything needs to be at room temperature and the butter needs to be soft enough so that it blends easily with the sugar. I got mine out of the fridge about an hour before I started using it, because it's a whole pack, it needs some time to adjust. Have patience. Don't rush the butter. Just remember to do this first! Consider this like a pre-step to the entire process.
Next, soak your raisins in warm water. This makes them nice and moist and prevents them from burning in the oven. The initial quantity of raisins was 220 gr. I soaked them and everything, and then I realised that that can't happen. Way too many raisins! So I used half – 110 gr.
Turn your oven on so that it's nice and pre-heated for the cookies. It is indeed too early, but I tend to get wrapped up in the dough making process and forget about it. So I'd rather be too early than too late.
When your butter is soft enough that a butter knife cuts through it easily, no opposition, we are ready to rumble.
Cut the butter into small cubes and throw it in your big sexy bowl (1).
Add the sugar (2) and mix them together until you get something that looks creamy and intense (3).
Add thy eggs and vanilla, fair maiden (4). Mix. Now it should look lighter and looser (5).
Now, gently (or roughly, who am I to judge?) throw in there the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and incorporate.
This is how it looks like:
Now is a good time to strain your raisins. And mix in the oats:
This is the moment I realised I underestimated the power of raisins and decided half is plenty:
Incorporate the raisins, cover the bowl with cling film and chill your dough for 15 min in the fridge.
After chilling time: tray, parchment paper and scoop, baby, scoop! This is my favorite part!
Don't crowd them, they need space to “deflate” and you don't want them to form a monstrous coalition and take over your tray.
Now bake those pretties in the oven on what should be 180 degrees for 10-12 min, or until the edges are golden brown.
This is the perfect moment to tell you that my oven is weird. The heat is awkwardly distributed, the temperature is very hard to control, it's either too high or too low, doesn't really seem to have a middle ground. I have an oven thermometer so that I at least know how wrong it is and try to work with what I have. Of course, it broke. You may think I'm joking or making stuff up. No, it just stopped working. So, I was completely in the dark. I put the tray in the oven, had no idea what temperature was actually in there (even though theoretically gas mark 4 should be the equivalent of 180 degrees, my oven is not trustworthy) and also forgot to turn on my timer. Success all the way!
I am the living proof that you can make these cookies without the usually needed precision. Just go with your gut feeling, keep an eye on them and that should be enough. It was for me!
Get the tray out of the oven and do not attempt to move the cookies, they are slightly too soft when hot. Don't worry, they're supposed to be like that. They get stronger with time. Like people! There's a little cookie-life-philosophy for you :P.
After they have cooled enough to hold their shape move them onto a cooling rack/grill thing and get ready for the next batch.
I had mine with black tea with milk and honey, and I would repeat that combo any day! Except black tea makes me dizzy so I had a sip of tea and many cookies. You do what you have to do.
Drumroll! Batch number two, boy, are we ready for you!
This was my first time making oatmeal raisin cookies and I actually believe they might outshine chocolate chip cookies! Just in MY heart! No need to start throwing rocks! I love the chewiness of the raisins, the sticky texture and the slightly burnt caramel flavor given by the brown sugar. The complete lack of white sugar did not affect anything! No regrets!
In the first day these cookies were sweet and soft. The next day, I got to feel those little grains of salt here and there and I was bewitched, bothered and bewildered (the Ella Fitzgerald version). If you know the song, sing along!
If you are anything like me and enjoy your cookies as they toughen up, don't put them in a jar (just because you wanna be able to say that you have a cookie jar). They will get softer and softer in there, they'll feel safe and relaxed and they will never get strong enough to face life. So do them a favour, put them on a plate and let them evolve and grow. That is, before they find their end in your hungry mouth. Oh, what a lovely way to go!
And I'll tell you, it really isn't fair to the other cookies.
Next day, rise and shine, hungry people! Hopefully eat lasagna tonight.
Today we're walking on the creamy side of the street. That's right, the Bechamel sauce.
You will need a pot, a whisk, a wooden spoon and a lil' bit o' courage. No biggie. So put your bechamel face on and let's do this!
Yes, that is my game face of choice. Feel free to channel your own here.
1.Ingredients and quantities
100 gr. of butter- any temperature will do (it's gonna melt anyway)
100 gr. flour
1 l milk-fresh and full fat
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
The recipe apparently asks for - or suggests - 00 flour. I had the opposite, which is strong white flour. Still works fine. The difference is that the 00 flour is fine flour, not fine like a booty is fine, but more like refined and dusty, which makes it better for thickening sauces. My bechamel turned out all right without it, so don't worry.
Please use the handy collage you see below, it's there to guide your steps into the mysterious world of bechamel. Melt butter in your pan (1). Low heat, my friends. When melted, add flour. Mix well. What results is called a roux, and yes, it's supposed to look like that (2). The key to this is cooking the flour, so don't rush to add your milk just because you fear it's gonna stick to the pan or something. It won't, that's why the butter is there. The easy thing to remember is that the butter quantity and the flour quantity is the same. This is for a medium thickness sauce. The amount of butter and flour are the ones controlling this. So, if you want a thicker sauce, increase the butter and flour amount, if you want a more liquid sauce, diminish the butter and flour content. Or, if you realize you want a more liquid sauce when you're almost done, add more milk and thoroughly incorporate it. I don't know if it' s recommended, but I found myself in that situation, and that's what I did, and it turned out fine.
Can't stress enough how important it is to cook the flour at this point! (3) Otherwise your bechamel will have a pasty taste. Unpleasant.
Next step: take the pan of the heat. Add a third of the milk (4). Now, some recipes say the milk is supposed to be warm, others say that having the milk cold helps prevent the formation of lumps. I tried both versions. When the milk is warm, you have to move faster, because the process of cooking is faster. Having the milk cold slows things down a bit, you need to whisk just as thoroughly, though. The result were good with both methods.
After incorporating the first part of the milk, it should look like this (4). Creamy and thick. Put it back on the heat. Whisk, whisk. Take it off, add the second part (5). Incorporate. Back on the stove. Whisk. Do the exact same with the last third of milk. At this point it should be liquid enough so that it doesn't hold onto the whisk, as you can see in the picture (6). Add salt and nutmeg.
Put in back onto low heat, all the while whisking.This is consistency that my sauce had (8).
The thing I think I did (twice) was let it get a bit too thick, because as it cooled it got even thicker, so I added a bit of cold milk to it, whisked and it loosened right away. So, have that in mind, the fact that as it cools it thickens too. If you know you are not using it immediately, pour the sauce into container that doesn't hold onto the smell of other foods (like glass, ceramic) - you don't want your bechamel infused with the smell of old fried onions or whatever, cover it with cling film and let it cool gradually. Second component, done!
Last piece of the puzzle: the lasagna sheets.
I thought about making them from scratch, I really did, but them I remembered I'm not Superwoman. And I also remembered that I have an amazing little Italian restaurant around the corner, that also sells fresh pasta. Problem solved! I strongly recommend using fresh lasagna sheets as opposed to the dry ones. One day I will try to make my own and let you know how that went.
Now that everything is ready, lets put this baby together. First layer is a thin bolognese one, this is to prevent the bottom of your lasagna sticking to your tray. Next, the lasagna sheets; have them overlapping a little bit so that they don't run away from each-other when you add the heavy load.
Then bechamel, then ragu, and last but not least, some grated Parmesan cheese. Repeat this process until you hit your final layer (I had 3 layers).
For the last bechamel and ragu layer, I mixed them together and added them as a unit, as a team, as one (read this in a dramatically and over the top fashion) then topped it with a bit of the tomato sauce I mentioned at one point (wish I had a bit more, preferably without the tomato chunks that I now cannot unsee). For the final step, grate glorious Parmesan over your much worked for lasagna.
Look at it and sigh a “Oh, my cheesy, overweight baby! You're finally here”. Don't judge, talk to me after you have gone through the same thing. We'll compare. Exchange notes, even. Now pop that in a pre-heated oven, at 150 degrees for approx. 50 min. Thank [insert preferred deity here] for my oven thermometer, cause otherwise I would be completely lost. My oven is weird, but more on that in a different post.
The way I checked up on it was by inserting a trusty fork in there. She went in easily, no opposition, then came out, told me everything was fine and I believed her. Call me crazy, if you wish, but she was right.
Now, the pictures I took, are few and let's face it, not so good. My only excuse is that I had 4 man-sized hungry boys, surrounding me like vultures, so I did what I had to do. Lil' tip: don't rush into cutting your lasagna the minute you get it out of the oven (that's madness!) because it's gonna be very hot and it won't hold its form (not even if you beg) and it will look like a melted lasagna monster (which is not a thing, I just made it up).
Feedback: I had two Germans, a Romanian and a Polish guy at the table. The Germans were not very vocal, but they did ask for seconds, the Romanian attempted to ask for a third and the Pole offered me money in order to make this again. I thought I went a little overboard with the filling, because I was mostly terrified of ending up with a dry lasagna, but it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Not the prettiest dish I've made but definitely one of the tastiest.
This was my very first post. I had a number of difficulties and realizations while making this. First of all, will improve photography skills. Second,will remember to photograph ingredients and everything important. Third, will enjoy this process. Will take my time to prep, and play and experiment. If that means I will be eating frozen pizza, so that I am not hungry and in a rush when doing this, then be it. Cooking and cooking for blog are different. Must get out of the ''make it quick and delicious'' mindset and step into the slow, creative, attention-to-detail one. We'll see what comes out of it.