Recipe, Review

Shake it Right

When I lived in Pennsylvania as a child, there was a pharmacy right by my house. This pharmacy was pretty standard for a local pharmacy: wizened pharmacist in the back along with medications, followed by rows of outdated perfumes, discount chapstick, hair products, and hand mirrors that were collecting a thin film of dust. But this pharmacy was also a pharmacy in the old-school sense: the front of the house boasted a small diner with a long formica counter, ’50s Coke advertisements, and shiny metal diner stools. To this nine year old, who could barely climb a stool by herself, the pharmacy was a place of wonder: it had all of the Americana foods, from the Wonder Bread grilled cheese (delicious, if a bit flat) to New York egg-creams. (It was a sad day indeed when I finally tried an egg cream only to realize it was not the custardy, creamy goodness I had imagined, but essentially chocolate syrup and soda water, with a splash of milk.) On the rare occasion we were allowed to get dessert, my sister and I knew exactly what to order: proper milkshakes, with whipped cream and a canned cherry on top. Out came the milkshake, and out came the silver blender cup. Ah, the silver blender cup. If you happened to finish your “official” milkshake, then there really was no being fancy about it – it was time to break into the reserves. The silver blender cup was my salvation. So what if it always put me a little too much past full, every time?

Alas, that pharmacy closed years ago. While I have almost broken my blender from use at college these past three years, I don’t buy many milkshakes these days. McDonalds? Perkins? It’s too disappointing.

Let it be known that chivalry is not yet dead. At The Malt Shop in south Minneapolis, they still do right by you and your shake. They have a veritable army of shake flavors, ranging from the common (vanilla, chocolate) to the intriguing (fig, cantelope, orange) to the outrageously rich (peanut butter, apple pie, butterscotch). You can combine flavors, but a single flavor will only set you back around $5 with tax. If this sounds a little expensive, let me remind you: it comes with the silver cup, no questions about it.Recently, my spoon scraped along the side of a mint milkshake, which has to be one of the most refreshing flavors there is. The Malt Shop lets you order your milkshakes with ice cream or frozen yogurt, and I found that my frozen yogurt shake seemed to be a little thicker and creamier than the ice cream version. The following is a recipe for a Malt Shop-inspired shake. Fig and banana is a beloved flavor of theirs, and I made my own Mediterranean-style treat.

Banana Date Milkshake
Serves 1

4 medjool dates, pitted and diced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 banana, sliced in small pieces
1/2 cup almond milk (lactose-free milk such as soy, coconut, or almond yields creamier shakes)
3/4 cup Greek frozen yogurt (try Ben & Jerry’s, Adonia or make your own)

Combine all ingredients in a blender, adding more fro-yo or milk to achieve shake consistency. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and enjoy.

(Originally posted on SKC.)

Links, Musing, Uncategorized

beautiful things

It’s well known that we make judgements about anything – resumes, attractiveness, interests – within seconds. Websites are no different. We’re in a constant state of scanning & analyzing web content, trying to decide what we like and whether a page is worth a deeper look. This all comes down to visuals. You can have exceptionally well-written, witty, quirky, and downright interesting things to say, but you can also undermine all of that with a poorly-designed website. And here’s the thing: in the words of Austin Kleon, “Creativity is subtraction.” So no, you don’t need to worry yourself over fancy HTML and things like that, especially if web design isn’t your forte. Make it simple, stupid!

The following are three food websites that I love, each with a different design. Some are a little more complicated than others. But all of them are methodical, like a clean, organized kitchen. And if we’re going to take this metaphor and run with it, make your design simple and accessible, make your kitchen neat & clean, so that you can get up to some mischief. So that you can be creative, and messy, and ultimately have something to show for it. Did I also mention these food photographs are…amazing? Avoid the urge to stroke your screen.

Love & Lemons is a blog run by a couple based in Austin. Everything about the site, from the programming to photography to design, is a joint effort. It has a wonderfully quirky, retro design (I adore the font they use) and they have an ideal number of photos per post. This is something I think is pretty important: unless all of your photos are well-lit, sharp, and serve your “step-by-step” purpose well, keep it under 4. Some bloggers use more photos to take an instructional approach, like the Pioneer Woman. In most cases, though, they end up superfluous, and a burden to your reader.

Fashionably Bombed is a mixologist blog run by two sisters. The site showcases their love of candy, colors, and creativity. They’re not afraid to amp up the saturation, get a little crazy with fonts, and wear sombreros. Their site is always a treat to visit, and the design is fun but doesn’t get out of hand a la 90’s Geocities. Scrolling through all of their juicy-looking drinks wakes you from your desk job food-porn surfing. All you want to do is fast-forward to Friday and grab a bathing suit and a blender.

From the Source is a website I got wind of thanks to Twitter, and I’m so glad I did. Michael Lamotte photographs local food, identifying the vendor and the source in an attempt to “promote small, local food purveyors and foster appreciation.” The site is at its most minimal, like a gallery, allowing one to focus only on the photos. At first I was struck by Lamotte’s photos are they are all black-and-white. Normally, color is essential for conveying the nature of food. But Lamotte’s photos are meant to be focused on in a deeper way, beautiful meditations on texture and light. Spend time with these photographs, and you begin to see things – the ripples and lines of slab bacon, the fractal-like pattern of romanesco broccoli, a portabello mushroom that Ansel Adams would have loved.

Food, Recipe

the living’s easy..

So much has happened these past few weeks. Last Saturday, I graduated from school in Minnesota. I can remember when I first visited Carleton, thinking it would be crazy and funny for this East Coaster to come out to a completely unknown region for four years. But secretly, I loved the idea of something so new. This past week I’ve been transitioning into Minneapolis where I’ll be for the summer, at least – job hunting, exploring, cooking, & surfing the internet will be the next stages of my life. Add to that trying to stay cool in the non air-conditioned house I’ll be subletting. But it’s in a great, quirky part of Minneapolis, and I’ve already been to several eateries, anticipating my new home. Currently, I have three suitcases, one night stand, my Bittman, and a copy of Bon Appetit’s Fast, Easy, Fresh in my possession, ready for use where ever I end up. I have a few goals in mind (update the food blog more often, continue to work on my website, get to know the city lakes, figure out how to keep cooking exciting on a modest budget) and will be trying to structure my free time so it doesn’t turn into one of those high school summers. (Which are glorious in their own right, buuuut, I’ve got places to go and things to do.)

How great is asparagus this time of year? Forget fancy recipes. I could eat stalks and stalks of it cooked in a little basil oil and sea salt. Tonight I made some to accompany a Trader Joe’s frozen Greek chicken dish (hey, even culinary-minded people love TJ’s frozen foods) along with this killer fruit salsa. This salsa is really versatile, probably because it can’t decide whether its predominantly sweet or spicy. You can push it in one direction – adding or subtracting spice – but the identity crisis keeps one’s taste buds going.

Pineapple Mango Apricot Salsa

 1/2 pineapple, cut into small chunks

1 apricot, finely diced

1 mango, cut into small chunks

3 medium tomatoes, diced

1/4 white onion, diced

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1 tablespoon pepper pineapple marinade (found this in the fridge – substitute 2 tsp chili pepper flakes mixed with 1 tablespoon  citrus marmalade)

1/3 cup cilantro, shredded

salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything in a bowl and stick in the fridge, allowing to flavors to combine for about 30 minutes. Serve as a topping for meat/fish, with eggs, with chips and guac, on toast…you get the idea.