I’ve had these photos in store, but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and put together a decent set of words.
There’s probably just a handful of days left in DC for grabbing summer tomatoes — run! do so quickly! — so I figured I needed to post this recipe ASAP.
It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks, filled with freelancing and negotiating photo rights, but I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend filled with yoga, sleep, and reading. I’m putting a do-not-disturb sign on my life. Have a great fall weekend! Xo.
I’ve only had two jobs in my life that were so unbearably horrible that I hate to think back on. The first was when I was sixteen — I worked at one of those tutoring centers in the San Fernando Valley. Not the good kind, where parents send their over ambitious children to get ahead… it was the opposite, where lazy parents sent their rowdy, manner-less kids to terrorize sixteen-year olds, like me. I lasted three months — and when I gave my four weeks’ notice, my manager took me outside and gave me this incredible look, and scolded me for not giving her enough notice. She was terrible.
The other was my first real-life job after graduation, when I was twenty-two. I was working for an agency selling Xerox machines, six months after the big recession hit in 2008. It. was. terrible.
It was one of those work environments that was really responsible for giving sales people a bad name. The managers preyed on their employees’ profits, the company tried to sell products that were clearly terrible, and literally every person in that office spent a good deal of time applying to other jobs. Anything. I was even interviewing at restaurants all over Los Angeles, and striking out, partially because I had left restaurant work already, for a desk job. What they didn’t understand was that I would have gladly gone back to a job that I really loved — waiting tables — to escape the terrors something I hated and just wasn’t cut out for.
Anyway, the three months I spent at Xerox weren’t a complete loss — I became friends with someone I’m still friends with today. In fact, she came to visit DC once (and we frolicked around Dupont Circle with Kristen in leotards) and we even traveled to Bogotá together. And when we were both incredibly miserable at Xerox, we would drive off to our sales territories together, do the minimum required to make a few sales/not get fired, and spend the rest of our time applying to jobs. A regular lunch spot there was a little Mediterranean sandwich shop which has since shut down — but I became friends with the owners, who were very Lebanese, so I got to exchange a little Arabic banter and enjoy their amazing Lebanese sandwiches.
I’ve since gone back to Monrovia, hunting for that shop, and that’s how I know it’s now gone. And I’ve been hunting for similar shops that mimic that impeccable flavor, but have really just failed.
So when Food 52 published a recipe for shish taouk, I couldn’t help but try it. And while I almost always turn to F52 as a cooking resource, this recipe was just a tad complicated and involved for me to carry out fully. So I broke it down, and simplified it into a meal that I could quickly throw together after a long day at work or a rough spin class at the gym.
It’s barbecue season, and I was missing my beloved Weber grill last weekend. Before I moved into my first apartment in college, my dad took it upon himself to teach me how to use a charcoal grill — because nothing beats a burger cooked in your own backyard over a charcoal grill.
Since then, he’s upgraded to his own outdoor poolside kitchen, complete with an obscenely productive vegetable garden. Oh, to have a California summer. I do miss unlimited tomatoes!
Anyway, I had the day off today, so I got to catch up on sleep, cleaning, and a workout after a weekend filled with food and sailing. Hope you’re all having a lovely Monday! Xo.
You guys — lobster tails were on sale at Whole Foods last week (tipped by Shaeda) so naturally, we went a little crazy. I picked up a few tails, and was pretty set on making some butter-poached lobster rolls.
My first lobster roll wasn’t too long ago — as a kid, I wasn’t always the biggest fan of lobster. I didn’t dislike lobster, but I did (and for the most part, still do) feel that lobster was unnecessarily expensive. It’s good, but it’s not as good as say, a fantastically prepared steak.
I haven’t had many opportunities to chow down on seafood this summer (less sailing, few trips to the north east), but we made sure to get back on track with homemade lobster rolls. The butter-poaching process gives you an even more tender meat, and I’m personally a bigger fan of the hot lobster roll, the simpler, less-mayo-y version that leaves you with chunks of meat, tossed in melted butter, chives, and salt and pepper.
If you luck out at Whole Foods and find lobster tails for $5.99, get some, and give yourself a real piece of summer :)
The past couple of weeks have been weird for me, and filled with situations where I’ve felt unlike myself. I won’t get into too much, but part of it might have had something to do with having Airbnb’rs and cat sitting for Winston and second guessing when my move to New York actually will be. Rest assured, I’ve figured it all out. And once I did, I took Saturday night to myself — I took advantage of a quiet apartment and read most of the current summer read, and ended up taking a late night trip to the gym. I missed the spin and yoga classes, but generally, I’m okay with that, because I can just hop on a bike and coach my own spin class. The Sarah Gerrity spin class.
On my walk to the gym, dusk was setting and the fireflies just started appearing — side note, we don’t have fireflies in California, so they have a special place in my heart, and I still get excited every time I see them — but on my walk back from the gym, it was dark. There were some straggler fireflies, and the crispness of the night instantly brought me back to my first summer in DC, back in 2010. Having recovered from my first, very brutal winter, I was more than ecstatic to have a spring and a summer, filled with rooftop bars and embassy parties, and cooking dinners on my Dupont patio. Watching the flight patterns landing and departing from DCA, with a glass of wine and usually while sharing hookah with Kristen or Rachel was the usual. Saturday night reminded me of that. So naturally, I was wistfully remembering the days of my youth. Not that I’m not still young, but it’s weird how much you could change in four or five years.
Back then, I thought I’d live in DC forever, I thought running was the only exercise I’d ever need, and I also wanted to stay in that first group house until everyone else moved on, so I could just buy it for myself and gut it completely when I was ready to have a family of my own. Oh, how things have changed. I’m trying to savor my last summer in DC as much as I can. The days aren’t quite numbered yet, because a few things are still up in the air. The air is crisp, and I’d hate to say things are changing, because I’ve said that so many times and the changes I think might happen don’t actually come about. But as much as I love the winters, the summers are nice too. And I’m going to soak up every inch of not-urban jungle that DC is.
When the weather gets warm, I get food lazy. As in, I’m too lazy to actually cook, and end up just throwing together meals I can eat raw — salads, carrots and hummus, fruit… you know. And it’s okay, because the produce tastes better in these warmer months, anyway. I’m just waiting for it to get really hot, because the only good part about heat and humidity is the tomato season.
And when summer hits, you start hearing everyone talking about adventuring for some crab meat — in this part of the U.S., that means getting your hands covered in Old Bay and picking away at some Maryland Blue Crab.
My first foray into crab-eating was when I waited tables — at that seafood restaurant in Southern California, that I’ve written about so much. I know pretty much everything there is to know about seafood because of that job, and I’m generally grateful for that.
At the restaurant, we had live dungeness crabs, but in most of the salads, like around most of the U.S., we used canned jumbo lump crab meat, caught and packaged in the South Pacific (not so glamorous, but just say “South Pacific” and everything sounds better).
Now that I live so close to Maryland, pickin’ at crab is a cherished summer activity, perhaps after a beautiful day sailing or floating on a donut-shaped inner tube at the shark tooth capital of the world. If you have access to fresh jumbo lump crab meat at your grocery store, it will taste slightly less briny and will only be slightly more expensive — but otherwise, canned jumbo lump crab meat works a-okay.
The tartness from the lemon makes this salad perfect for a hot day, provided you’ve just pulled the ingredients out of the fridge. I, in fact, ate one for dinner one night, and jarred another to take to work the next day. The flavors held up perfectly.
Crab and Artichoke Green Salad, derived from the Fast Diet Cookbook
1 can artichoke hearts
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3.5 oz. lump crab meat
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced chives
salt and pepper
1.5 teaspoons olive oil
3.5 oz (ish) arugula or mixed greens
First, remove and drain both the crab meat and artichokes from their respective cans. While they’re draining, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper and minced garlic in a small bowl. Slice the artichokes, if you prefer.
Toss the greens, chives, artichokes, and crab meat with the dressing. Serve with fresh shavings of parmesan cheese.
It’s been a while since I worked in the restaurant business. But, aside from the managers I worked for, I do look back on my days as a hostess and waitress pretty fondly. I was by far one of the youngest people working in that restaurant, and frequently referred to as the baby — which I never really minded. It was only another means for me to dip my toes into the social lives of the wait staff of Los Angeles, which is its own beast in and of itself.
Back then, I always felt like I had multiple lives. There was my life at UCSB, pretty and pristine on the beach, with jungle juice (bleghh), running to the Goleta Pier, and fake-fighting with my gay over the hot TA that would eventually become one of my oldest friends. Then, there was my life at the restaurant, counting cash in my parents’ car, triple-seating my ex’s new love interest whenever she picked a fight with the guy, and capping off our late-night shifts with underage cocktails at Fridays (the mojitos were exciting back then, but I shudder at the thought of ever going back to a TGIFridays in the San Fernando Valley). And finally, there was my life at UCLA — football games on the weekends, Red Bull all-nighters in Powell Library, and finally living in my own apartment in Westwood.
The worlds rarely collided. It was as if I teleported between entirely different dimensions when I crossed the borders between Los Angeles, Calabasas, and Santa Barbara.
I wouldn’t trade in those days for anything. Since then, friendships have come and gone, and my little brother is even working at that exact restaurant. I see patterns in his social life and his thought processes that reflect what I went through as one of the younger members of a restaurant that was about to graduate from college.
And he mentions things like trying to hide his relationship with another hostess, and, well, I did the same thing when I worked there. But in hindsight, I try to give him advice that would help him be less foolish than I was — even though I know too well that those words of wisdom would be fruitless to a 21-year old in lurve.
Perhaps I don’t want him to get attached because I know that it’s easy to get lost in these worlds. Being 19 or 22 in college in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara feels so unreal at this point in my life. The things I worried about then, the silly problems that stressed me out or made me feel invincible or made me cry — looking back, I wish I knew so much more about why they did or didn’t matter. I come from a family that doesn’t acknowledge emotions at all, so I had no idea what depression was when I went through it. I didn’t know what it was until it hit me in the face. But since leaving California, I feel like I’ve inadvertently surrounded myself with people who have their own stories, their own comparisons of their separate lives that have helped me understand my emotions, how to become more self-aware, and when to recognize when you have real issues to face, or when you’re having a mini panic attack over something that will be an invisible speck in the grand canyon view of your entire life.
And really, I’ve just recently come to terms with anxiety — what it is, what it actually feels like, and how to deal with it. Emotions are so incredibly layered, and part of me wishes I met the people I’m so close to now back in high school, when self-awareness could have come in so, so handy. These days, I can just pop some ibuprofen after one too many cocktails, or something else when I realize that I’m physically stressed about something that really doesn’t matter. Like when I’m suddenly overcome with doubt or guilt for some memory that pops into my head from my waiting days or from high school. It’s weird how the littlest memories can strike the most negative or positive emotions for me. Perhaps, you know what I’m talking about.
That being said, science is a wonderful thing. And so are friends who help you through your anxiety. Maybe I’m just rambling at this point.
This recipe was actually one of the recipes on the menu at that restaurant I worked at, where I went through just roller coaster after roller coaster of emotions. I even checked their current menus to see if it was still there, but they’ve since taken this artichoke item off — so I improvised as closely as I could. It was pretty successful, and brought me back a little bit, for better or for worse. For the good moments, it’s nice to sit in bed and reminisce the late nights we spent smoking cigarettes in backyards in Los Angeles, or the pool parties I used to throw in my parents’ Christmas-light-ridden backyard. For the anxiety-inducing moments that I can’t push out of my head on my own, well, there’s always a half a Xanax in my bag. I’ve never been so thankful for science.
Disclaimer: I promised Shaeda I would wait to make this until she was in my apartment. I broke that promise. But can you blame me?
Toad-in-a-holes take me back to being a little kid, visiting my grandmother. I don’t know if you all remember this, but before the American Girl dolls were a thing, the American Girl books and paper dolls were a thing. And being the bookworm that I was, I powered through all of them. Naturally, I look most like Samantha (most is a stretch) so she was my favorite, but my grandmother, having grown up in New York during World War II with the victory gardens and all, well, her favorite was Molly.
And when I was sufficiently obsessed with the book series and the stories of all of the characters (Grandma read every single book after I powered through each one), they came out with a series of cookbooks. I can’t remember if I had every single one, but I know that I had Molly’s. And, one of the recipes we made — usually for breakfast for Grandpa — was the toad-in-a-hole. A piece of toast with a hole in it, and a fried egg right into the bread. It’s delicious.
And I’ve had this idea for a few weeks now. A toad-in-a-hole grilled cheese. It’s been making me salivate. And with all the spin classes I’ve been going to, well, I’ve been letting myself ease into some carbs. So I made this.
But I wanted it to have a kick. So I threw on some sriracha. Obviously, it would be fun to use homemade sriracha, but I haven’t been home much lately, so I haven’t made any of that this year. The classic green top worked out great.
My only regret is that, next time, I’ll add in some slices of avocado. Now that would be perfect.
I wanted to save this picnic-y recipe for later in the year — needless to say, the past couple of months have been INSANE and I did so without even trying.
This past weekend was my much-needed antidote to traveling too much and letting stress creep back into my life: spending Friday night relaxing, Saturday at spin and reading on a patio, and Sunday bike riding all over DC and paddle boating in the Tidal Basin really helped me lower the blood pressure spikes that come as a consequence of freelancing too much, wishing I was in New York, and missing the beach.
I will admit, there are plenty of reasons to get tired of DC… but when DC does weather right, it’s just enough to make you fall in love with the city all over again. That sums up my Sunday. Beautiful weather, biking, and a couple of Moscow Mules.
Anyway, it’ll be another long week at work, ending with the most important of all days: the end of my mid-twenties. I’m looking forward to wrapping up some event photography from the day job and relaxing on a patio with the closest of friends, one of them being a a late-twenties favorite — Spanish sangria.
Major props to Cava for providing the delicious dips for me to work with! I’ve been obsessed with the spicy harissa dressing ever since my first on-site photo shoot, and I was pretty excited to use this one in a mash-up of a finger foods snack that Emily introduced me to: sausage rolls. These would be a perfect appetizer for a dinner party, or even a picnic. Jazz in the sculpture garden, anyone?
1 package puff pastry, thawed
4 or 5 pieces sausage of your choice — Andouille would be my favorite for this recipe.
Cava harissa — I used about half of an 8 oz. package.
1 egg, beaten
Sesame seeds, black or white
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
Flatten out your puff pastry sheets, and measure them out to fit each link of sausage you have, with about a quarter-inch of extra pastry on each end of the sausage. Also measure how wide the pastry should be — you’ll want just enough to roll around the sausage and then seal with a fork.
Using a spoon, spread a generous amount of harissa dressing on the puff pastry, distributing as evenly as you can.
Then, place one link of sausage on the pastry, and carefully roll the sheet of pastry around it. Use a fork to press into the dough at the end, sealing it tight. Set aside, and repeat until you have used all of your puff pastry or sausage. Place on a plate, and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
When chilled, remove the rolls. Using a sharp knife, slice into half-inch rounds, and arrange on your prepared baking sheet. Combine 1/4 cup water with your beaten egg, and brush the egg wash onto each piece of puff pastry. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the puff pastry is a golden brown.