Why I'm Fussy About Both Men and Food

Syndicated

My Aunt Emily sends me a birthday card every year. But it's my responsibility to IMMEDIATELY call her upon receipt of this card. Or else. I'm done. Seriously.

On my last birthday, I received my card as usual. So I called.

"Thank you for the card, Aunt Emily," I shouted. (You may recall that she can't hear very well.) "How are you?" Demerits are also given for not immediately asking how she is doing.

"Oh I don't want to talk about that. I want to hear about someone special." Translation: She wants to know about my love life.

Really?

"There's no one special right now, Aunt Emily," I responded, still loudly, and through gritted teeth.

"Well, you're just getting fussy," she decides.

Fussy? I have two things to say about this:

1. The last time she asked me this question, I happened to be dating someone. When I told her this, she took me aside and whispered in my ear, "Play the field." Huh.

2. Yes, indeed, I am fussy. Here's why:

I will demonstrate with the use of pie charts (this is a food blog, after all).

As demonstrated above, I have a perfect right to be fussy. There aren't many guys that fit into that narrowest pie piece. And I feel the same way about food. Do you have a favorite food? Just one? Would you eat it, if you could, every day?

Why would I eat sub-par pasta? What's the point? I'm not looking to fill a void (although my stomach is frequently empty). I want those calories to count! As the above chart suggests, I do have a few foods that I would eat every day.

Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Cranberries

I actually do eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Add that to the list of things you really didn't need to know. Usually, my cabinet is stacked with this brand, but recently I decided to give baked oatmeal a try. What resulted was the equivalent of a giant, chewy oatmeal cookie that filled my apartment with the aroma of cinnamon and warm blueberries. Here's the recipe, which was inspired by this one at Fresh and Foodie.

What you need:
2 large eggs
1/2 cups sugar (you can use brown sugar)
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons ground flax seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
3 cups rolled oats
As many blueberries and cranberries as you want to throw in there. Or none - your call.

Top with: Nuts, and warm milk

What To Do:
Lightly grease an 8″x8″ baking dish (I actually used a round one).

Mix eggs and sugar in the bottom of the dish, whisking to remove lumps. Add melted butter and carefully whisk to combine. Add baking powder, vanilla, ground flax seed, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt directly to the dish and whisk well. Add the milk and stir to combine.

Stir in the toasted coconut and oats, folding into the mixture, making sure everything is combined well. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the oatmeal for approximately 45 minutes, or until the edges are brown. (I actually woke up, popped it in the oven, set my alarm for 45 minutes and went back to sleep. When I woke up breakfast was served!)

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then cut yourself a piece, top it with milk and whatever else you want. Make sure you get some of the crispy edges in your slice.

Lunch: Sweet Potato Fries with Arugula Salad (AKA Working French Fries into Your Daily Diet)

I get a little overwhelmed when I try to express my love for French fries. Where to start? The salty, crispy outer shell or the inner mushy, slightly sweet center? I like all varieties: original, sweet potato, truffle flavored, those Old Bay seasoned ones you get at the Frying Pan... a perfect food. Except for all that business about the health detriments of fried food. What's a fussy girl to do? Make my own roasted sweet potato fries, that's what! Then stick 'em in a salad for some leafy-green balance. Here's how:

What You Need:
(serves 1)
1 sweet potato
Handful of arugula (enough to cover the bottom of a pasta/salad bowl
Sun-dried tomatoes
Roasted brussels sprouts (recipe here)
Sprinkling of goat cheese

Dressing: Balsamic vinegar mixed with extra virgin olive oil and a touch of sea salt.

What To Do:
Heat up your oven to 400 degrees. Peel your sweet potato, then either cut into wedges or use a mandolin to make waffle fries! Place your cut, raw potatoes in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Space evenly on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven. After about 15 minutes (for wedges - less time for thinner cuts), flip them over so the other side can get nice and brown). Use a spatula, please. I don't want any martyrs or burn victims. Roast for another 10 minutes or so, keeping a sharp eye the whole time. Take them out, let them cool slightly.

Prepare your salad by starting with a layer of sun dried tomatoes on the bottom of the plate. Then pile on some arugula, a layer of your sweet potato "fries," and Brussels sprouts. You should now have a nice tower of vegetables. Top with crumbled goat cheese and if there is some white wine wandering around your place, pour yourself a glass of that too. OK, not for lunch. Well, maybe.

Dinner: Pasta Cacio e Pepe

When I was in Rome this past October with Marmo, I had my favorite meal at Roma Sparita: their Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe which was served in a bowl of fried cheese. Fried cheese bowl! What's not to love? You can see the original here.

I decided I needed to make this for myself. It's such a simple dish and a very traditional Roman one too. The main ingredients are just Peccorino Romano cheese, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. However, it feels luxurious. A little swirl of reserved pasta water added to the cooked spaghetti gives the dish a creamy texture. Swirling this pasta around my fork, I pretend I'm sitting at Roma Sparita's blue-checked outdoor tables with the sunshine gleaming through my decanter of wine.

I purchased the cheese at Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleecker where the helpful cheesemongers picked out a nice sharp variety with a dark rind. The cheesemonger BEGGED me to eat the rind (please, PLEASE eat the rind, he said). So I did. When I grated it on my pasta, I made sure to grate the rind as well. It added pretty flecks of brown and gray to the the dish, as well as a bit of texture.

Here is the recipe I used, which is based on this one from Smitten Kitchen:

What You Need:
Serves 1-2 (depending on how much you eat)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 pound dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (don't forget the rind!)
1 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt (optional)
Reserved pasta water (about a cup)

What To Do:
Cook spaghetti in well-salted boiling water in a large, wide-bottomed pot. Drain spaghetti, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Dry out your pot, then heat the olive oil over high heat. Add drained spaghetti and 3/4 cup of reserved pasta water and watch out as the pot is very hot and will make the water splatter around a bit.

Add butter, cheese, ground pepper and cayenne and toss together with tongs. Taste, adding more pasta water, cheese, pepper or salt to taste. Be careful adding salt as Peccorino is a salty cheese.

Serve immediately, sprinkling with reserved cheese and an extra grind or two of black pepper.

I'm still working on the fried cheese bowl...

Got a food you would eat every day? Tell us about it in the comments section. The fussier, the better.

Elana Iaciofano

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