I am a lover of any type of noodles. Spaghetti, ramen, mac n’ cheese: they’re all my favorite. Sadly, I developed an addiction to the worst type of noodles (if they can even be considered that) CUP NOODLES. Not just the regular cup noodles full of sodium, but the ones full of sodium and artificial spice that undoubtedly wreaks havoc on your stomach lining. Since I developed my addiction in the cold winter months, I have been doing my best to wean myself off of the food that makes me feel guilty before I can even finish it. This attempt has led me to explore local ramen options, and though I know its not really REAL ramen, they are surely better than the type that comes in a styrofoam container. The Big Little Diner in Newton has a good ramen dish, but the noodles are so soft that they fall into pieces when you grab them with your chopsticks. Itadaki on Newbury St. has good noodles but the broth doesn’t taste very fresh. It wasn’t until I wandered into Wen’s Yunnan Noodle and Ramen next to Itadaki a few weeks later that I found perfectly cooked noodles and flavorful broth. After reading the reviews on the internet for Wen’s I realized that ramen is a sensitive topic for many foodies–many weren’t nearly as impressed as I was. Regardless, I’m happy to say that I have found my favorite ramen joint where they allow me to get chicken instead of pork, the noodles are on point, and the broth tastes fresh. (Pictured is my friend’s Tofu ramen)
You know those times when you know you have so much good stuff in your fridge, but you know it will go bad if you don’t use it soon? Well, on Sunday night, I realized that was the exact status of my fridge. Thankfully, I knew all my roommates (and then some) would be wanting dinner from me, so it was the perfect excuse to make a bunch of different meals. Some might call this a chore. Some might call this silly. I call this capital F Fun
First up was a classic southern favorite: fried green tomatoes. There’s a restaurant in my hometown of Atlanta called Horseradish Grill which serves all classic southern dishes, and their fried green tomatoes are unreal. They are topped with a remoulade sauce, goat cheese, and candied pecans. Sometimes when I miss home I start to crave them. Trying to recreate them was not easy, but I think I did alright. Hopefully I get the real thing sometime soon.
Then I made my mom’s caesar salad. I had some bread that was a few days old, so croutons absolutely had to be made. My mom’s best friend gave her this caesar recipe about 15 years ago, and it is a staple in my house. It is more tart than it is creamy, but that dressing is so light and perfect as a compliment to a main dish or the star of the show. The salad is good, but it’s nothing without homemade croutons. I just toast them in a pan with olive oil and garlic salt. And a salad goes from drab to fab just like that.
I made chicken marsala for a group of big football players who live next door. They tend to smell food and knock on the door. All you need is chicken cutlets, lemon, parsley, mushrooms, and marsala wine. This recipe comes from one of those old, brown, pictureless, storyless, cookbooks that my grandmother probably got at her church for $3 in 1955. There’s really nothing to it, but it feeds a crowd and tastes, well, like your grandmother has made it for 60 years.
My roommates bought some veal scaloppine and herb pappardelle from Savenor’s the previous weekend, and she never used them. Can you imagine not using those the minute you buy them? Her excuse was that she spent the nights in O’Neill all week. Some people really just have their priorities out of whack. Luckily, I was there to save the day and make veal milanese before it was too late.
My other roommate went to Eataly on Sunday and brought home fresh cacio e pepe ravioli, hoping that I would have time to make them for her for dinner. I’m not one to say no to cooking for people, so even though I was already making a million other dinners, I knew I could make it work. I had some sage, so brown butter it was. Only took about five minutes and 3 ingredients, and it was probably the best thing I made all night.
Finally, I just emptied the fridge onto platters. We had some cheese, we had some veggies, we had some store-bought cookies and brownies (eyeroll. who bought these.) and I had a pizza dough, so I threw some of the veggies on the dough and voila. We had about twenty people in and out all night to enjoy my lets-empty-the-fridge-and-make-voute-a-restaurant night. I think I had more fun cooking than I did eating. Gonna miss this dorm life.
A few weeks ago, my dad came to visit me for the second time since I’ve been at BC. A true Texan, born and raised, he openly abhors Northeastern weather and refuses to step a foot into Logan airport unless it is absolutely certain that the temperature will be above 60 degrees. Needless to say, there have been very few chances for him to come during the school year, so it was great that he made it up here while we’ve been having some of the best weather I’ve seen in Boston since my arrival. I swear, you never know when it’s going to be nice here. One moment, it is cold and rainy and the wind feels like ice. The next, the sun is shining brightly and there’s purple flowers everywhere and you can’t fathom where the hell they came from, you’re just glad that they’re there and you hope that they don’t retreat back into that frost that’s soaked into the sidewalk. Brrrr. We’ve had some cold winters here, but it sure does seem like Spring is on its way.
And that’s what my Dad said when he first got in. “Wow, I didn’t expect it to be this sunny.” I smiled and gave him a hug. It’s always nice to hear a parent talk about the weather. Older people seem to have an uncanny understanding of the seasons, probably because they’ve been here for so long- by now, I suppose that they’ve gotten used to it. The first thing that we did was go for a drive along the river, the Charles River, where already, Harvard and BU kids were rowing their boats along the canal, making trails that rippled behind them like the Slinkys that my Dad has always hated so much. “They’re too cheap,” he complained. “And they never work how they are supposed to.” I sighed. “They go to Harvard, Dad. I’m sure that they work as hard as they can.”
The sun eventually set and my Dad had long since stopped talking about the dangers of eugenics, so we decided that the only thing left to do was get some dinner and call it a night. I did a quick Google search in my phone and came up with a place called “Trattoria II Panino,” located in the North End. There was limited parking on the sidewalks so we navigated through the narrow alleyways in order to find a mythical parking lot that Apple claimed was real, but you can never be sure. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were promptly seated at a table for two, with a cramped kitchen behind me and an outdoor patio to my right, enclosed due to burgeoning rain. Beside the patio there was a narrow staircase that descended steeply into what I imagined to be the bowels of Paul Revere. I laughed about this, weirdly, and we ordered some pasta. They used the pans that the food was cooked in as plates, and Dad and I both agreed that Boston’s Italian food would be hard to beat, anywhere.
In all, it was a really good visit.
Last Friday, April 28, 2017, was one of the best nights of my entire freshman year at BC. It had to do with a lot of things, like having fun with all of my close friends at least once during the night at my culture club VSA’s first formal, a GREAT concert, a chill afterparty, running around campus, and a sleepover. But, it started before the formal in one of my closest friend’s kitchen on Lake Street.
On the Tuesday or so before that Friday, I stumbled upon a Facebook video of Kimchi fried rice and corn cheese. You know, one of those flashy aesthetic videos with music and close ups and slow motion that you watch either to procrastinate or late at night when your stomach is aching with cravings and watching food videos is probably the worst thing you could do. Well, while I was supposed to be doing my homework, I instead sent that video to my friend Allison (who was probably procrastinating just like me since she responded a second later) and decided to make it with her that weekend. I was stoked.
She got the ingredients on Thursday, and on Friday, I went over with my backpack of clothes to change into for formal with extra energy flowing throughout my veins. I mean, can you blame me? I was going to cook delicious Korean food that I had been deprived of for so long. SO long. And it would be fun!!
Honestly, I don’t need to go into the process so much; it wasn’t that complicated. We cooked the vegetables and eggs, added cooked rice, kimchi, soy sauce, and other seasonings in the biggest pan that our other friend brought by. I’m used to somewhat sticky kimchi fried rice (not super dry and fried), so the others thought I put too much water, but I loved it. And, the flavor balance was just right so that it wasn’t too salty but still bursting on the tongue, so we were all happy. For the corn cheese, Allison and I both dislike mayonnaise and didn’t have it, so we just made it extra cheesy and buttery. When everything was cooked and scooped into a huge aluminum pan, we covered it with saran wrap while we got ready for the formal, allowing the steam to accumulate like a mysterious veil over our treasure.
Though we were late arriving at the venue, I still felt BOSS stepping in with my sharp heels and black slip dress on, carrying a shining tray of gourmet food. OK, maybe it wasn’t gourmet, but I was proud, and it showed because as soon as I set the tray down, I was begging people to come try it. Maybe I seemed a bit needy or extra as I watched each spoonful enter people’s tentative mouths, after which I asked with wide eyes, “Do you like it??” but seeing people pleasantly surprised and even excited to dig in for another bite filled me with ecstasy. Of course, I piled a plate for myself (two plates, actually). I thought I would eat even more (I hadn’t eaten all day), but I was surprised to find that bringing joy to and feeding my friends made me feel fuller already. That night, it’s true that everything else that unfolded really made it the special memory it was, but it certainly would not have started off so well without the chance to make and give what I love to those I love.