The Elevated Egg Sandwich

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Cohabitation brings many perks but one of my utmost favorites is the joy of cooking together and for one another. But it also means shelving the roster of old standards you became used to as a single person—you know those dishes you pull out of your arse at nine p.m. when looking at the clock after an evening of binge-watching Netflix with half a bottle of red wine and lukewarm kale chips and realize you need to eat something of substance.

One of my old stand-bys has always been the fried egg sandwich. Bonafide egg whores like me will agree that nothing quite fills in when you need something quick, easy, nutritious and slightly seedy than a buttery egg between two luscious slices of bread with whatever adornment you desire. When my daughter was younger, she would liltingly ask for an egg sandwich every morning before school. Her order was persnickety and always the same: sunny side up on one piece of toasted, buttered French bread with a tiny creek of runny yolk and lots of salt. Then another piece of toast to shred and dip into the sunshine yellow until the creek ran dry at which time she would gobble down the rest.

IMG_7658For me, being of a more adventurous palate, I have created and adored many a variety of the classic egg sandwich. So when I found myself alone at home for dinnertime recently, I decided to revisit and elevate my old friend with a naughty multicultural crossbreed that did the trick. I fried the egg in luxurious French butter like an indulgent Marie Antoinette and then plopped it onto a slice of hearty multigrain toast whose better half was already spread with thick Armenian labne (a tangy, cultured kefir cream cheese) and Ajvar (an addictive roasted red pepper vegetable spread). The result was a fluffy, warm and bright rendition that went splendidly well with a healthy side of blanched, olive oil tossed kale from the garden.

Dinner for one can still be quite fun!

Millionaire Fit for a Big Blonde

IMG_7646This evening while the Cute Gardener is cooking up his famous fried chicken, I’m sitting on the couch watching Stephen Colbert and slurping on a Millionaire. No, the CG hasn’t lent me out on some bizarre Indecent Proposal in his own house; I am merely channeling one of my favorite writers and biggest sardonic influences Dorothy Parker, who once said, “I hate almost all rich people although I’d be darling at it,” which I wholeheartedly agree with. You see, I have stumbled upon “Under The Table: A Dorothy Parker Cocktail Guide” by Kevin C. Fitzpatrick who also happens to be the president of the Dorothy Parker Society and am immensely enjoying a drink from the book in her honor.

BigblondeMy Big Blonde Painting

 When I was a weird little book girl in a Catholic school uniform I encountered Mrs. Parker and her Algonquin Round Table in the stacks of my public library. Imagine my glee over the fact that while wearing attire designed for me to religiously conform (blue plaid and white knee socks), I was also reading the lascivious literary social satire of a woman who loved to cocktail, chide the pretentious, and topple polite society with her on the dot wit. I loved her story Big Blonde about the boozy floozy who disturbs the otherwise perfect façades of upscale dinner party women but whose power is lost in her absolute need to be adored by men. So much so in fact that I made my best friend dress up as my version of that character complete with cigarette and Scotch glass to model for one of my earlier paintings. In my gimlet-eyed early attempts at short fiction I oftentimes had a dame in distress narrating her woes with a cocktail such as the heroine of the Five and Dime who drinks whiskey sours on her red-eye 3 AM “lunch” break in lieu of a sex life. Dorothy was one of those females who made me realize it was okay for a girl to walk into a room, be better friends with all the males than the females, and in her cutting one liners – completely one up everyone else regardless of class or circumstance. She was definitely a hero.

THE MILLIONAIRE
1½ ounces gin
1½ ounces absinthe (or Pernod)
1 teaspoon triple sec
¼ teaspoon grenadine
1 egg white

Vigorously shake all ingredients over cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or an old-fashioned glass filled with ice cubes.

 

Absent Mother Sacral Stew

IMG_7602 Good things take time. This is a concept that is often lost in this Internet age where large doses of information get put out into the ethers daily and people are expressing themselves in ten second tweets and status updates rather than considering poetry or taking time to craft meaty sentences and mind their words.  I have been working on a novel for two years now and have found myself feeling guilty that it is not yet done when I think of the mass amounts of do-it-yourself-ers out there publishing at breakneck speeds. But then when I actually read the amount of stuff that’s being put out there in the guise of literature these days, I am proud to be one of those old fashioned writers who is taking my time to concoct a well written tale. My only problem is that I have been stuck for five months because I am at a point in my tale that is serious and psychologically deep and hits a chord close to home for me so I have been experiencing major resistance in putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). I decided to join National Novel Writing Month this November to pump up my juices and also, to gain the benefits of having a writing buddy.

I am so glad I did. I find that in my otherwise hermit existence, whenever I open myself up to connection with another human being who is interested in the same things I am and who is living their life in a way similar to mine, I actually benefit from mysterious riches that could not have been foretold otherwise. For NaNoWriMo, I put out a call for a writing buddy who would write every day with me and with whom I could share daily emails rich with inspirational quotes, mutual cheerleading and general support as we committed to writing our 1,500 words a day for thirty days. Cyndy answered, a woman I had met at a mutual friend’s art gallery in the desert five years ago, but had only known through her Facebook posts (enough to admire her fantastic abstract artwork) since.

In that mystical and synchronistic way of the universe, these past seven days have not only produced glorious amounts of words for both of our books but in our morning emails to each other we’ve encountered an emerging friendship built on unknown commonalities like our deep respect for herbs and roots and traditional Chinese food and medicine wisdoms, our paths as independent female artists and an unlocking of stories that have been buried deep within that have been dying to be told. Neither of us has gone a day without weeping open various pockets that have been closed shut for years; cleansing old wounds; and uncovering that our own resistance in writing the stories we wanted to write had led us here to this point where we are both ready now to open and share.

Yesterday, after my sixth cry on this journey while listening to Beethoven in my darkened office, and in homage to the love of sacred food Cyndy and I share, and because both of our hearts were particularly hurting, I decided to concoct a sacral chakra stew for the both of us. It became Absent Mother Stew, an earthy, grounding dish for those with hurting hearts who need the energy of mother to comfort them and ease their pain. For those without nurturing mothers, or those who never had a real mother, or those who are just missing their mothers who are not around, this stew is for you!

IMG_7599ABSENT MOTHER SACRAL STEW
Recipe © Kimberly Nichols (aka Unorthodox Foodie)
Serves one

1 dry jujube date (found at Chinese markets)
1/2 c. dried mung beans that have been soaked overnight (by the time they have soaked overnight they will have bulked up to about 1 to 1-1/2 cup)
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 one inch piece of turmeric root, peeled and sliced into coins
1/8 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon of butternut seeds (Sunflower or pumpkin seeds may be substituted.)

Bring the mung beans and jujube date to boil in three cups of water and then simmer uncovered for 1-1/2 hours. Then add the carrots, turmeric, walnuts and simmer another 15-20 minutes. Then put in a bowl and salt to your liking and sprinkle the seeds on top.

The Key To My Heart Is Cake

IMG_7532There are very few people who know this but the key to my heart is cake.

Cakes do evil things to me. They make me conniving. They make me whine with cravings. They make me eat ten times the normal amount of food I would normally eat in one serving. They make me suck spoons, bowls and my fingers sloppily to get every extra ounce of frosting. They make me wake up in the morning wanting a slice for breakfast to dunk messily into tea. They make me drive across cities. They make me order dessert at restaurants after full meals. They are the absolute one thing I can never say no to. And if there is a cake nearby, chances are I will find a way to make it mine. or at least a portion of it.

That being said, I am very picky about cake. I DO tend to try cake whenever there is the opportunity to. I DO manage to eat it all even when it’s sub-par too because it’s one of those food items that even messed up can still be satisfying. But my list of requirements for a cake that will make me swoon is as follows:

It has to be dense and moist.
No dry, fine crumbed cakes for me.
I want it to sink down while my fork goes through it, not hold up like a fortress.
I want the cake part to be rich.
I want the frosting part to be in perfect ratio to the cake part so I get an equal amount of both in each bite.
I want the frosting to be fluffy and light, although completely, sinfully buttery and creamy in flavor.
I want at least two layers, no sheet pan scrawny square for me.
No need to muck it up with fruits, or jellies, or weird liquid fillings unless you are the bakery Portos and the cake is the Milk and Berry cake, then I’ll fold.
I want chocolate cake and I want chocolate frosting as a given.
I will take any other cake besides that if chocolate with chocolate frosting is not available and be perfectly happy, too.
I am particularly fond of white coconut cupcakes but am hard pressed to find really good ones, although I gladly continue the hunt.
I’m also a carrot cake with white sugar cream cheese frosting whore.

My daughter inherited my love of cake. When she was little she used to beg me to buy her the whole chocolate cake at Kentucky Fried Chicken (which wasn’t even that good). The sad part is that I mostly caved in, knowing that I would be sitting in bed with her later as we watched awkward Kirsten Dunst cheerleading movies during both of our “that time of the months” forking cake into our mouths until the entire thing was gone.  The even scarier thing is that we still re-enact this freaky girl gorge fest like the time last summer we sat in a Santa Barbara VONS parking lot in my car using plastic forks to devour a large fudgy slice we had just driven across town for.

The saddest part about this whole cake obsession (or perhaps, according to my thighs the luckiest) is that I don’t actually know how to make a cake. So when my daughter was scheduled to visit this past week and the first thoughts that sprung to my mind were: BIG. CHOCOLATE. CAKE. CUDDLE. COUCH. The first thing I did was find the Cute Gardener, give him a kiss on the lips, followed by a hug, and ask as sweetly as possible: “Will you help me make a cake for my daughter?” (I was hoping the fact that I had driven through freeway traffic recently to buy him a coveted pie during pie season would score me points.)

Out came the Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Recipe” bible and after spending a morning in the kitchen together, I had managed to watch the CG whip up the most lusciously perfect Sour Cream Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting*. It was perfect and is my new favorite cake to date. The way the sour cream adds a consistency of melting fudge to the cake layers as they fold into the soft buttercream frosting that adorns them is something I won’t be able to erase from my mind for a while. And, of course, my daughter and I spent shortly under 24 hours with two pieces each inside our guts together in bliss, including some binge television watching on the couch, just like old times.

A week later and we still had frosting to spare so this morning the CG whipped up a smaller, yellow cake built up into a neat cube for our football watching day. With a huge dollop of frosting on my fingertip about to licked, I told him that he had found the key to my heart: all he had to do was continually make me cake. See how easy I am.

  • Instead of the buttercream frosting that came with this recipe, we used another basic buttercream one that the CG had used before and liked better with the addition of chocolate. It is as follows:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg, beaten

Melt the chocolate until smooth creamy, mix in the vanilla. Set aside. Beat butter in bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed until fluffy, about one minute. Reduce speed to low and add sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating 15 seconds between each addition. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add chocolate and vanilla mixture and egg: beat on low speed to combine. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula. Increase speed to medium and beat until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. (Buttercream may be covered and kept at room temperature for several hours or refrigerated in an airtight container for a week. Bring to room temperature before using.)