Fregola with Shrimp and Tomatoes

OH, what a weird time in my life, though maybe they've all been weird? The point is that whatever specific space it is that I need available in order to commit to trying new recipes is so so hard to come by. Even this attempt you see here is highly fraught with almost not happening at all. But after reading through this recipe months ago, I'd already made the action step of purchasing some fregola. Then, this Sunday when I was at the butcher's, the shrimp looked so pretty. I knew we had some of Matt's chicken stock in the freezer, and so I bought the expensive shrimp and figured I could make some version of this recipe happen. Some version is key because if you compare the recipe below to the original Milk Street one, you'll see many differences. (Like, I didn't have the two bottles of clam juice. Instead, I simmered the onion in some white wine. I also used canned tomato instead of fresh and left out the carrot altogether.)
What else is going on? Well, I was almost hoodwinked into writing a pretty cheesy (figuratively) cookbook AND doing the entire marketing campaign for a very, very paltry paycheck. After they approached me for the project, and after several calls, NDA signings, and a clear promise that I was simply the hired writer, they pulled a bait-and-switch and were basically like: SORRY! On second thought, now that we're ready to go and sign this contract, we've decided it's a package deal. You have to do all the marketing toooooo. Mind you, the marketing requirements outlined in the final contract were, to put it mildly: insane.

In an attempt to communicate like a human being and not some business robot, I sent the individual I was dealing with the following message:

I'm sorry but I really don’t want to engage in the marketing. There’s a great NYT piece about the soul-crushing work that is selling your own writing / self after having written the thing and I just can’t do it for [x amount of money]. If you’re curious, here's the link: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/24/opinion/sunday/gig-economy-self-promotion-anxiety.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

Long story short: I feel super grateful that I could and did turn them down. Moving forward, I wish the company nothing but the worst. Well, I dont know if that's true--wishing them the worst--but they're stupid and bad and I can't say their name here though I wish I could.
ANYWAY. For Mom Rage, my co-host Edan booked the journalist Virginia Sole-Smith who wrote The Eating Instinct. I started the book out of duty and in order to be a good interviewer, but I tore right through it, nodding my head as I read and occasionally gasping at all of the ways we've messed things up when it comes to eating and diets and weight. At the same time, I also felt an overwhelming gratitude for this old blog, which pushed me to cook and interrogate food culture, and which eventually gave way to a kind of healing.

As they say in stand-up comedy: WELL, That's my time! See you in four to eight months?? Maybe I can pull together a gift guide...

Fregola with Shrimp and Tomatoes adapted from Milk Street

1 to 1 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, peeled (shells reserved), deveined and patted dry
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
salt and pepper
1 14 or 15 oz. can chopped or crushed tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped.
1 cup fregola
lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
grated Parmesan (optional and most likely controversial for some)

In a medium stockpot, combine the shrimp shells, broth, bay, and peppercorns. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for four to five minutes, until the shrimp shells are nice and pink. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl; discard the solids int eh strainer.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. In a large pot over medium-high (I re-used the stockpot here), heat one tablespoon of the oil until barely smoking. Add half the shrimp and cook without stirring until well browned, two to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Repeat with another 1 tablespoon oil and the remaining shrimp. 

Return the pot to medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil. Add the onion and a big pinch of salt and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine and garlic and simmer until most of the liquid has cooked down.

Add the fregola and stir a few times before adding 2 cups of the shrimp broth. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to medium and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in another cup or so of the broth, return to a simmer and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid is again absorbed, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining cup of broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the fregola is tender and creamy but not soupy, 6 to 8 minutes. 

Off heat, stir in the shrimp and juices, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, lemon juice and parsley. Cover and let stand until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. (We added grated Parmesan to our bowls and loved it.)


Hangtown Fry

Oh, hi. I've been having a hard time lately, and concurrently, making life difficult for those around me. Friday night, Matt said something like, "I know Bon Appétempt has run its course, but it would be nice if you had some kind of outlet, like a Sut Nam Bonsai." (Hi, Kara!)

I didn't think too much of it in the moment, but then the next morning, after stumbling upon someone else's horrific tragedy online, I was jolted into gratefulness. A little later in the day, I thought to myself: YEAH. IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE SOME KIND OF OUTLET. This thought was followed by: Why not post on Bon Appétempt?

I'd been wanting to make this ridiculous "gold-rush era" recipe called Hangtown Fry, which I discovered via that egg book I like so much. The ingredients are eggs, freshly-shucked oysters, bacon, butter, and scallions. Basically, you fry the bacon with butter (which felt like overkill). Then, you add the shucked oysters, quickly followed by the eggs and green onions.

It was delicious, although I could barely taste the oysters, which felt wrong.

I think that one of the reasons I stopped wanting to post here is because the beautiful photos of my own life began to feel saccharine or maybe just no longer representative of the truth. I DON'T KNOW. I do know that right now I could use this kind of filter. Like, I know that my life is beautiful, but for reasons I don't want to get into right now, it's been difficult to see it. Having Matt take these photos and curating them here is helping me. 

That being said, I also think it might help me to show you some of the other shite (Scottish accent), good and bad, going on in my life right now.

1. [GOOD] We're overhauling our parkway, which was previously just an area where grass was slowly dying.

It's not done yet. We're getting two tons of crushed granite (plus a boulder or two!) delivered on Thursday, but I'm very excited about this development. Admittedly, Matt's done the bulk of the work, but I HAVE DONE SOME OF IT TOO.

2. [GOOD] We got some worms and started a worm bin. I love it so much. They've been eating all of our vegetable scraps and soon we'll have enough of their poop to use as compost in our garden.
3. [GOOD AND BAD?] I had to get a fucking biopsy on my thyroid. I hated the entire process of it, BUT AM BEYOND GRATEFUL TO REPORT THAT I DON'T HAVE CANCER.
No one asked me about my fears and anxieties.
4. [BAD] Teddy fell off the headboard of our bed (which he shouldn't have been standing on) and landed face-first on the corner of the bedside table. 
5. [BAD] I broke my goddamn finger at gymnastics.
6. IT'S OK. I'm super lucky.


Teddy and Isaac / Time Marches On

Though I've been neglecting this space in favor of other pursuits, I couldn't not post Matt's yearly video of the kids. Spoiler: Isaac falls in love with a goat. 

Hope you all are well!


Chocolate (Strep) Cake with Raspberry Buttercream | Matt's Birthday

Did you know that small children can be "carriers" of strep throat but not show any visible symptoms? Did you know that Matt is a very open person who shares water glasses with the kids and is ready to receive slobbery kisses on the mouth from them at a moment's notice? This is all true and it's also the perfect storm to get strep throat three times in the span of five months. After Matt got it the second time, my mom mentioned the whole "they could be carriers" thing. I took the kids to the pediatricians and found out that yes, they both "had" strep. Point being, when it came time to decorate this cake (in the style of Wolfie of course) those cherry Ricolas felt juuuuuust right in celebrating Matt's year. (The plastic bug thing was Teddy's idea.)
As is the family tradition, when it's your birthday you get to pick what kind of cake you want made for you by me. Matt is typically a vanilla cake and vanilla buttercream kind of guy, but because Teddy's chocolate birthday cake was so delicious, he decided to go for this chocolate/raspberry combo. I used two different recipes: the cake is Lori's Chocolate Midnight Cake via Samin Nosrat. And the icing is from Yossy Arefi's Sweeter Off the Vine.
Isaac wasn't thrilled about the idea of waiting to eat the cake.
I don't think I've ever a made a buttercream the way this recipe instructed me to do it: you whip egg whites and sugar together in a heatproof bowl over simmering water until the sugar is completey dissolved and the mixture syrupy. Then, you whisk it, via an electric mixer, for 7 to 10 minutes, until it's super glossy and can form stiff peaks. Then, once it's at room temperature, you switch to the paddle attachment and add two whole cups of butter, one tablespoon at a time. (Teddy helped me at this stage, plopping each tablespoon in with his buttery fingers.)
The result is superb. It doesn't have that shocking sweetness of frosting made with powdered sugar. And when you get a bite of cake, fresh berry, and buttercream, it tastes like a richly flavored, multi-textured trifle. I like it a lot.  

For those of you who have tuned into Mom Rage, thank you so much! (We fixed an audio glitch so along with some great interviews with fellow parents, in two or three more weeks, you can look forward to some super clean, crisp audio too.)
In short, happy birthday, Matt! May this year bring you joy aaaaaannd far less strep! xoxxo

For chocolate cake recipe, go here:
Raspberry Buttercream via Yossy Arefi's Sweeter Off the Vine

8 ounces (225 grams) raspberries + another 8 ounces for the top of the cake
5 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup (250g) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
2 cups (450g) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into tablespoon-size pieces

Use an immersion blender or potato masher to puree the raspberries, then pass the puree through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the seeds (or feed them to a four-year-old kid who is helping you).

In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large heat-safe bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, but rests just above it. Cook the egg whites and sugar, whisking often, until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are syrupy and very hot to the touch. 

Remove the egg whites from the double boiler and, with the whisk attachment, whip on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the salt. Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the mixer down to medium low. Slowly add the butter to the meringue, tablespoon by tablespoon. During this step, it is likely that the frosting will "break," and you will think you have messed up. You didn't! All you have to do is turn up the speed on the mixer for a few seconds and the buttercream will come back together.

After all the butter has been incorporated and the buttercream is smooth and fluffy, very slowly stream in the raspberry puree and mix until well combined. 


Hot Dog Rice Bowl + Mom Rage!

I wanted to make something special for you to officially announce the launch of my brand new podcast: Mom Rage. I was thinking about something akin to a Mom Rage Pie or Mom Rage brownies. I dunno. It didn't happen! What you get instead is the above Hot Dog Rice Bowl™. It's kind of an LOL, but also pretty delicious. It's a version of a typical weekday meal for us. Instead of hot dogs, I usually serve it with roasted garbanzo beans and a fried egg or two. If we're going to add hot dogs, I prefer the turkey variety, but alas, they were out of those at the grocery store, so what you see here is a mix of chicken and all-beef hot dogs atop basmati rice with a delicious salad (Kenter Canyon Farms winter greens, cucumbers, goat cheese, and a lemon juice and olive oil dressing). We always serve this kind of bowl with whole-milk yogurt and chili-garlic sauce. Bon appétit, guys! (Looking very forward to this post kicking off a major hot-dog rice bowl trend. You saw it here first!) 

OK, and now introducing: Mom Rage

I hope you'll listen. It's a passion project for me and my friend and co-host, Edan Lepucki. Our goal is to expand the conversation about motherhood. We're approaching this by talking honestly about our own lives as well as talking to other parents. In my more ambitious moments, I like to think about it as a podcast version of Stud Terkel's Working. I've also taken to riffing on a line from Women who Run with the Wolves. The line is: "Every woman is entitled to an Allelujia Chorus." And what I've been saying to Matt is: "Every woman is entitled to an interview on Mom Rage!" 

Here are the first two episodes! You can listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Please also note that the fanastic theme song is by Matt, Teddy, and Isaac.

Let's rage!