May 31, 2012


Meet my massive basil plant. His name is Legolas. (Yes, I do name all of my potted plants.) His name is Legolas because initial harvest/trimmings have left him kind of... leggy. I've also been watching the LoTR trilogy a lot lately, and have a fatal predisposition towards terrible, horrible, weaksauce puns. So. Legolas.

Massive basil gets it's name from it's leaves - massive basil is massive, ya'll. I know - I'm going to let the profundity of that sink in for a bit. I have to remember to take a leaf or two every few days, lest Legolas become too top-heavy. Today's lunch made good use of their elephantine, cup-like figures by holding a deconstructed caprese salad.

I can't wait to use my own tomatoes for these - caprese salads are one of my favorite summer meals.

And yes, I did eat this in front of Legolas. He remained stoic, moving only to shoot down an Uruk-hai that was trying to sneak up behind me. That dude's a pro.

May 30, 2012


Lately I've been trying to prepare food that can be used over a few days: basic meal components with endless permutation possibilities, so lazy last-minute lunches/breakfasts/dinners can still be delicious and interesting and potentially more nutritious.

Case in point: I think I've perfected a go-to granola recipe. I took my own advice from this attempt, and now stick to a combination of oats, sunflower seeds, and nuts (this time, almonds). It's still my default summer breakfast, and it's been integrated into more than a few Weekend Breakfasts and desserts lately.

Also, now that we're grilling maniacs (more on that later), I've started adding a few skewers of seasoned veggies to the line-up to use for future pizzas/rice bowls/omelets.

I'm feeling pretty good about it right now. But I'm so aware of how pro-actively awesome I'm being, that the pre-made stuff is all I can think about when preparing meals, so I've been running through it way quicker than I normally would. A problem I don't mind having.

May 29, 2012


Top two: Saturday's breakfast. Biscuit topped with hot pepper jelly, a fried egg, sauteed mushrooms, and caramelized red onions. A side of apple crisps with yogurt, homemade granola, and agave nectar.

Middle two: Sunday's breakfast. Cheesy veggie omelet with a side of breakfast sausage and a fruit salad. Omelets are becoming my preferred hangover food.

Bottom two: Monday's breakfast. Roasted red pepper and pea pesto (leftovers from a backyard grill-out, made by a friend, and sent home with us) on toast, topped with a poached egg and basil from the garden.

Three for the price of two! It's fun to see so many Weekend Breakfasts all in a row. It illustrates how similar they are, that all we truly do is make a pile of things on-hand, and top it with an egg that makes it's own sauce. But it works. Micah and I joke that we should start a food truck - or photography book - of egg piles. Brainstormed names for the truck/book include: Pile Up, Around the World in 80 Piles, and Pile Driver.

May 25, 2012


Above: an abandoned gas station somewhere in rural Virginia. Sometimes you just gotta stop and smell the gasoline.

Oh look - what's this? - why, it's a long holiday weekend. It's so shiny and pretty. I think I'll use it to kick off the best summer ever (well - one of the best summers ever). We're going to a little backyard grill-out at Naurnie's house, watching Game 1 of the Thunder/Spurs series (another Texas team? Bring it.) and hopefully exploring more of Eno River State Park.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, America.

May 23, 2012


As soon as the weather started warming up, I bought myself a bottle of Hendrick's gin. It just screams (yeah, it's probably the only gin on the market capable of screaming) summer to me. I love the added cucumber and rose essence, and to be honest, I've completely fallen prey to it's unique branding and impeccable design.

I've started making these cocktails for myself when I get home from work. In my head, I refer to them as "Strawberry-Basil Smash," because, well, there's smashing involved, and by the time I get home from work, I'm done being clever for the day.

The strawberries are from the Durham Farmer's Market. They're so perfectly ripe and sweet that they don't really require any sugar/simple syrup to get them going. I just lightly muddle (I like my drinks chunky) one or two with a few basil leaves. (These are "Massive basil," from a seedling I also bought at the Farmer's Market, to tide me over until my sweet basil starts to mature. And then I'll have entirely too much basil. So. Get ready for that.) Sometimes I add a lime wedge, if I have it. Then in goes a shot of Hendrick's, a big ice cube, and I top it off with a hefty splash of tonic. Voila.

This drink is best enjoyed while walking around Englewood Gardens and surveying the estate, or on the front porch, watching a ridiculously well-mannered North Carolina storm roll in. Cheers.

May 22, 2012


Last week, I surprised Micah with a simple charcoal grill. I claimed it was to celebrate his first anniversary in Durham, but since that's still a month away, I think he suspected the truth: that I just want him to grill all of our meals for the rest of the summer.

On Saturday we started with kebobs full of veggies and kielbasa, packet potatoes, and corn on the cob, slathered with jalapeno butter. We loved it so much that we recreated it almost exactly the next day, but with different kinds of marinated shrimp. Amazing. We're now completely obsessed and open to any and all grill-based meal recommendations.

As with most things I love, the power of grilling is in the process. Dudes seem to absorb serious man-pleasure from all aspects of preparing and managing their grills, and I seem to absorb serious lady-pleasure from hanging out in the backyard for hours, drinking beers and "supervising." The food is almost just a byproduct. A perfectly charred byproduct, slathered in jalapeno butter. Win-win.

May 21, 2012


Above: Saturday's breakfast. Micah asked me what I wanted for breakfast as soon as I woke up, and apparently I answered, "cookies." This is what he came up with: biscuit cinnamon rolls topped with caramelized apples and a fried over-easy (I think?) egg. True love.

Two years ago today, I arrived in Durham, North Carolina. Tired from driving 20 hours east on I-40. Unsure of what the future held. Thankful my mom insisted on coming with me. Two years later, it's proven to be one of the best decisions I've ever made for myself. It's home. I'm celebrating tonight by watching the Thunder beat the Lakers in the Western semis at my favorite wine bar. You're all invited.

May 18, 2012


Top: A bird (or some other species of asshole) clipped off a bit of my chocolate mint plant about a week ago. I put it in water and willed it's infamous runner roots to take hold. Success! (For the time being.) Yesterday I transplanted it to a peat pot. We'll see.

Middle: The first fruits of our labor. Puns!

Bottom:  The North Plot. Here it is a month ago, and here it is six weeks ago.

Two weeks ago I thinned out the Swiss chard and beets. That was some Sophie's Choice shit. But it has to be done, or else the seedlings will start to compete for space and nutrients. The cilantro I reseeded seems to have taken hold, though those plants in general don't seem to thrive under my care. Whatevs. The basil though - hot damn! I've separated some of the clusters so they don't Sophie's Choice themselves, and it seems to have worked. The tomatoes I transplanted two weeks ago are thriving now.

Also. I got fed up with taking care of the "adorably and infuriatingly tiny" spearmint plants as they continued to take their sweet time. So I planted them in the dead space around the rosemary (in the bottom right of the bottom photo), and kind of gave up on them. Of course, now they're beginning to thrive. And yes, I know that the one thing you're not supposed to plant in the ground is mint. That it grows perennially like weeds, takes over beds, and can't be stopped. But guess what, naysayers? One - this is a rental, and I probably won't be here forever. So, it won't be my problem. Two - is it a problem? To have mint that grows like grass? How is grass even better than mint? You can't make mojitos with grass, I'll tell you that much. It makes me want to have a meadow of mint behind the next home I own.

I'll get off of my ridiculous minty soapbox now. Have a great weekend, everyone.

May 15, 2012


On Sunday afternoon, Micah and I escaped Durham's Mother's Day/graduation weekend insanity and drove out to Eno River State Park to get our nature on. It was only about a ten minute drive, but I felt like we were really far from home - in a good way.

There were a lot of different trails to choose from, but we just kind of started walking and hoped for the best (but not before peeing one last time in the awesome state park cabin-bathrooms). It reminded me of being a kid - when you were just shoved outdoors and expected to explore and make your own fun. That suspension footbridge was some epic Indiana Jones shit. We also came across a weird grey stork-like bird fishing (where was David Attenborough to narrate?) and an abandoned cabin (probably totally haunted).

We'll definitely be back. I can't imagine how beautiful it would be in the fall. Next time, I want to find some cheap aqua shoes so we can splash around in the river. They also have a picnic area equipped with old-school built-in grills and fire pits that we need to take advantage of. Burgers and corn cobs and s'mores, oh my!

May 14, 2012


Above: Smoked salmon, take two. On buerre blanc toast with fresh spinach, a poached egg, and green onions from the south plot (which he harvested in their extreme infancy to make way for okra plants). Oh - and a citrus salad with "Kentucky Colonel" spearmint from the garden. We're slowly but surely starting to make use of our bounty.

May 11, 2012


Last night I ate at Commonwealth in downtown Charlottesville.

It's amazing how much a well-designed experience and ambiance can elevate a meal. The interior was this perfect blend of industrial, modern, and rustic. The menus looked like something I would've designed in college (in a good way). Oh - and the food and drink were awesome as well. I had a solid mint julep, and a delicious braised root vegetable plate with brussels and a dijon buerre blanc.

The weather was absolutely perfect for patio-dining, so unfortunately the Skybar was packed and not an option for us, but all of their huge garage-style roller doors were flung open in the restaurant, and dining pseudo-al fresco got me seriously excited about summer.

Overall: Commonwealth came highly recommended and I would continue to highly recommend it to anyone in need of a good meal and a great experience in Charlottesville.

May 10, 2012


I'm in Charlottesville, Virginia for a few days on business. Cool town. And staying in hotels always makes me hyper-aware of my surroundings - all the new lines and symmetry... it's nice to change up your perspective from time to time (blah pun intended).

May 8, 2012


Above: Looking pensively off into the middle distance while rocking my "I Voted" sticker and some uncharacteristic hot pink lipstick. Democracy!

Today I voted as a resident of North Carolina for the first time ever. Awesome. I don't vote a lot (only in each of the presidential elections since I became of age), because politics is usually something I don't find worthwhile of my time or energy. There's too much information to wade through, too many Sisyphean arguments to get into, and the finer points of each party line sometimes seem so similar that voting for either feels inconsequential.

But I voted today because I was able to vote with my gut (and my heart). Against Amendment One. Because it is so simple, and so important. I hope the rest of my new state agrees.

May 7, 2012


Top: Loot from the farmer's market. Baby squash, beets, strawberries, and garlic scapes. Not gonna lie, we also got a pepper seedling or four.

Middle: Sunday's breakfast. Smoked salmon on puff pastry with roasted asparagus, topped with a poached egg and a garlic scape.

Bottom: Sunday's dinner. Pork tenderloin on mashed potatoes with creamed beet greens, horseradish sauce and roasted baby squash.

I think Micah is feeling the pressure from my Weekend Breakfast posts. Smoked salmon?! Garlic scapes?! That was some classy shit. And I love how the scape is tied in a little design-y pretzel. He also regularly makes a mean Sunday dinner - it's usually one of the most meat-and-potato meals I have all week, in the best way possible. I was proud that both meals made good use of the farmer's market loot.

May 4, 2012


Top: Before.

Middle: During.

Bottom: After.

So, I've already broken my word about being hands-off with the third plot. No one is surprised. I had two grape tomato plants that couldn't fit in the main plot, and were just plain suffering in their tiny unfertilized pots. So, on my recent mental health day, I took a bread knife to that weed-tree and started hacking.

I cut down the tree, broke up all the big roots, and dug out that decorative grass in clumps. I thought about guerilla-planting in somewhere else in the yard - but realized the tomato plot could use buffer zones on either side of it, and decided to repurpose. (Our trash cans sit just to the left of the plot, and the flower bed is just to the right of it. Everyone needs boundaries.) I broke up the soil, worked in some fertilizer, replanted, and crossed my fingers.

Both plants have already perked up and gotten nice and dark green. The recent heatwave probably helped as well. And the plant on the left (which to be perfectly honest, I thought was going to die) has a little baby tomato bulb on it now.

We'll see.

May 3, 2012


My winter/fall go-to breakfast is oatmeal with a little bit of brown sugar and cinnamon. Warm, comforting, filling. Fiber! But it's getting a bit warm for that jazz, so I decided to finally transition into one of my spring/summer breakfasts, and make some granola that I could stir into yogurt. ("Random fruit" is another spring/summer go-to. But there's no recipe for that. Bo-ring.)

Actually, there's no recipe for this granola, either. A base of oats, dotted with whatever I had on hand: salted peanuts, a trail mix with pepitas, walnuts and raisins, a handful of dried cranberries (much like these granola bars). Bound together with a swirl of agave nectar and some vegetable oil, and spiced with cinnamon and vanilla bean. Baked at about 350ยบ and stirred every 7-8 minutes until deep golden-brown.

This is the fourth morning in a row I've had it for breakfast, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. Next time I think I'll omit the dried fruit entirely, or wait until after baking the granola to add it in - those were a bit tougher than I'd like, but clearly not enough for me stop eating it, or pick them out, or go back to that insufferable hot oatmeal.