Weddings, Luxury Living Style / Chocolate Zucchini Bread

IMG_0954

This week’s recipe: Chocolate Zucchini Bread

“It has an article in it about wedding trends,” my kindhearted future mother-in-law told Mark as she handed him the summer issue of Luxury Living magazine. “Maybe you’ll find some useful ideas!” Well, I did find some useful ideas – for a lazy blogpost when I can’t think of anything else to write about and I just feel like making fun of something. So thank you!

Luxury Living is everything that its title implies. It’s one of those magazines that exist mostly to sell ads to the demographic of people who summer in the Hamptons. I opened it to four random pages, and the ads were for Jaguar Land Rovers, pearl necklaces, Rolexes, and booking the yacht club for your next event. The articles are about a celebrity chef, the hottest restaurants in the Hamptons, an opportunity to purchase Grey Gardens now that it’s back on the market, a charity founded by Matt Damon, a resort in Dubai, and, of course, summer weddings. Mark and I had many a good laugh over this last article’s, uh, suggestions for what you need to make the ultimate wedding in 2017. First of all, the article writer’s name is Claudia Gryvatz Copquin, which is really just the best. And now, I invite you to enjoy these totally normal and reasonable wedding trends and recommendations:

-Invitations: make these from combinations of non-standard materials such as moss and acrylic or linen, silk, and branches. To make your invitation really stand out from those lame-o Minted ones, you can also include a pearlescent wax seal or have it engraved on a piece of slate.

-Menu: if you met at an Asian food restaurant, you had better have an Asian food station or an event planner from Bridgehampton will come and murder you. You may also consider having menus printed on rawhide and barnwood for that extra touch of rustic-ness at your $80,000 rustic wedding.

-Décor: a wedding wish tree is a “unique idea” that is also “trendy.” How can something be both unique and trendy? Shut up, that’s how. If you want something more high-tech, just hire a Tony-winning set designer to incorporate projection image mapping onto your venue.

-Leaving the wedding: sparkers, a horn section, fancy fiddling, doves.

-For the bride: every wedding photo you’ve ever seen has included a bride holding her purse, so go ahead and splurge on a $681 Swarovski-beaded opera clutch.

-For the groom: Why get fresh flowers when you could spend $250 on a flower pin made from burlap or “upcycled denim,” whatever that means. He’ll totally wear it again!

-For the bridal party: $158 cashmere and fox fur pom-pom slippers. Having been a bridesmaid, I’d really rather that you just give me the $158 to offset the $1000+ I am spending to be in your wedding, but I guess I’d rather have the slippers than the $85 “Birch Wood Meditation Box,” which is literally just a box filled with sand.

-For the newlyweds: a $240 butter churn. The perfect gift for the couple that just had an $80,000 rustic wedding.

So anyway, here’s some zucchini bread. I know it looks more chocolate-y than anything else, but trust me, it has zucchini in it, so it’s basically a salad. It’s so moist and rich and chocolate-y that you’ll never know it has vegetables in it! Eat your heart out, Jessica Seinfeld.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

From Two Peas and Their Pod

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth. You might have a few small brown sugar clumps and that is fine.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, don’t overmix. Stir in the shredded zucchini until just combined. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips over the top of the bread. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out mostly clean, you might have some melted chocolate chips on the toothpick and that is fine. You just don’t want a lot of gooey batter.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the bread and carefully remove from the pan. Let the bread cool on the wire cooling rack until slightly warm. Cut into slices and serve.
Advertisements

Jonah / Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

IMG_0956

This week’s recipe: Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

The story of Jonah is well-known. God commands Jonah to go to the city of Niniveh, where the people are sinning, and warn them that their city will be destroyed unless they repent. Jonah instead attempts to run away, boarding a ship to another city. When God sends a storm to toss the ship, Jonah reveals to his crewmates that the storm is punishment meant for him, and insists that they toss him overboard. God then sends a whale (technically, a large unspecified sea creature, but commonly translated as whale) to swallow Jonah. Jonah prays and repents for three days and three nights, at which point the whale spits Jonah out onto dry land and he goes to Niniveh to fulfill God’s commands. The people repent and everyone is saved. Yay!

Except the story doesn’t end there. There’s a lesser-known coda in which Jonah, angry that God forgave the people of Niniveh despite their many sins, is resting and waiting to see what will happen to the city. God causes a plant to grow over Jonah, giving him shelter and shade. When Jonah wakes up the next morning, he finds that God has sent a worm to kill the plant, leaving Jonah in the hot sun. Jonah is furious that God would allow the plant to die, and God essentially responds, “Look at how upset you are about the destruction of a plant that you didn’t tend or water, that only existed for one day. But you would ask me to destroy a city full of tens of thousands of people and animals, all of which I created?”

Yom Kippur, which begins tonight, is a holiday about reflection, repentance, and forgiveness. We are supposed to apologize for our sins against God and our sins against each other, and contemplate how we can do better in the next year. It’s always a powerful and meaningful day, but especially now, especially this year. There are so many people who are full of hate. There are so many people who are purposefully, even gleefully, hurting other people. There are so many people who want to deny the rights and the humanity of others. It’s hard to forgive that kind of behavior. But it’s especially hard when they’re so convinced that they’re right that it would never occur to them to ask for forgiveness. We live in a country where you can commit treason and start a bloody war over your right to own human beings, and 150 years later, people will (sometimes violently) argue that you deserve to be honored in perpetuity. There are plenty of Jonahs warning us about our sins, but too many people refuse to listen.

But then there’s the story of the plant. The sins of Nineveh aren’t specified, but clearly they were significant enough that God was willing to destroy an entire city. This was their last chance, and they took it—a rare instance of redemption in an Old Testament filled with ancient blood feuds, stiff-necked peoples, and implacable enemies. Every year, we get the same chance at redemption, even though there will be those, like Jonah, who feel we don’t deserve it. It’s easy to get carried away with your own righteousness when you’re sure you’re right, but it’s hard to know what’s actually in people’s minds and hearts, the circumstances of their lives that brought them to where they are, and whether or not they’re capable of change. Only God can know that, but people—including me—can try to be like God, instead of like Jonah, who couldn’t forgive. We can try to speak out against and, if necessary, punish evil and injustice wherever they exist, and also recognize that change and repentance are always a possibility. Chatimah tovah.

So anyway, here’s a cocktail. We’re now officially a week into fall but it’s still warm out, so if you want to celebrate the last of the summer weather, this cocktail is for you. It’s very easy to make and very tasty to drink. You can substitute vodka for the gin or, if you’d rather make it non-alcoholic, just use water instead.

Frozen Watermelon Lemonade Cocktail

Adapted from Delish Knowledge

Ingredients

  • 4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bunch mint leaves, (plus more for garnish, if desired)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemonade juice
  • 3 tablespoons gin

Instructions

  1. Cube the watermelon and place in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze, at least 2 hours. Keep frozen until ready to use.
  2. Place the sugar, water and mint in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until reduced and sugar is completely absorbed. Let sit for at least 15 more minutes off heat so that mint can be infused into the syrup. Before using, remove the mint leaves.
  3. Place all of the ingredients in a high-powered blender (if you use a regular blender, you may need to add the frozen watermelon cubes in batches): frozen watermelon cubes, mint syrup (with mint leaves removed) and lemon juice. Puree until thick, then slowly add in gin until a thick and creamy texture develops. Depending on the strength of your blender, you may need less or more water.
  4. Divide into 4 glasses and serve!

Unetaneh Tokef / Honey Cake

IMG_0962

This week’s recipe: Honey Cake

2017 Unetaneh Tokef, aka the anxieties that keep me awake at night:

On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

How many will live and how many will die

Who by nuclear attack and who by conventional weapons

Who by rising sea levels and who by wildfires

Who by hurricanes and who by earthquakes

Who by being deprived of healthcare and who by corporate neglect

Who by lead-tainted water and who by pollution

Who by terrorist bombs and who by mass shooters

Who by gang killings and who by police brutality

But wisdom, leadership, and sheer dumb luck can avert the harshness of the decree.

Hopefully.

So anyway, here’s a honey cake. It is traditional to eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, in the hopes that the coming year will be sweet. This cake is definitely sweet (don’t look at how much sugar and honey are in it!) and also a little spicy, with a nice gingerbread-type flavor. It has a dense crumb but tastes relatively light, and while the original recipe calls for it to be served with grilled peaches, it would also go very nicely with a bit of whipped cream, if you’re in the mood.

Honey Cake

From The Community Table

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups boiling water
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups honey
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • ¾ cup raisins (optional)
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Instructions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil three 9- by 5-inch loaf pans and line their bottoms with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the boiling water with the baking soda (to eliminate any bitterness). In the bowl of a standing mixer or with hand beaters and a large bowl, combine the sugar, honey and oil and beat at medium speed until completely combined, 2 to 3 minutes. (Alternately, mix by hand in a large bowl.) Add the eggs, 1 at a time and beating after each addition. Add the dissolved baking soda and beat until combined. Add the raisins if using, and stir to incorporate.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt and zest and blend with a fork. With the mixer at low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the honey mixture. When combined, slowly add the remaining 2 cups boiling water. The batter will seem quite thin and a bit runny; this is normal.

Divide the batter among the pans. Bake the cakes on the center rack until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch, 45 to 50 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Ted Cruz / Whipped Goat Cheese Spread

IMG_0782

This week’s recipe: Whipped Goat Cheese and Honey Spread

Ted Cruz sucks.

This is not an original observation. I just finished Al Franken’s new book, and his chapter on how much he hates Ted Cruz alone is worth the price of admission. And I don’t think you need to be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal like Al Franken or me to believe that Ted Cruz is a mendacious, demagogic, showboating, power-hungry, cynical, smug, heartless, antisocial piece of shit. He is the dictionary definition of “unpleasant.” He is ugly inside and out. He is like the photo-negative of a good person. He’s kissed the ass of a man who publicly insulted his father and wife. He called the Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage “among the darkest hours of our nation” (take a hike, Pearl Harbor and 9/11!) He thinks that federal disaster relief is a boondoggle when New York is hit by a hurricane but necessary and proper when Texas is hit by a hurricane. He said, with no evidence, that the majority of violent criminals are Democrats. Almost all of his political positions are built on a foundation of lies.

So I am really relishing this moment when, if you look Cruz up on Google, all of top News stories and six of the 11 links that show up on the main search page are related to his Twitter account “heart”-ing a porn video. From what I’ve read about the video, it’s very standard-issue, vanilla stuff, just what you’d expect a respectable Republican to be into. But we all know that deep down, Ted Cruz is so much more twisted and perverse than your average Republican. Here is just some of the freaky shit I think you would find if you were able to find his porn history (and thanks to Cruz’s sponsorship of the bill that allows ISPs to sell individuals’ information, we may be able to do just that one day):

-The middle class getting fucked by high-income tax cuts

-Cancer patients getting fucked by Obamacare repeal

-Schoolchildren getting fucked by insanely permissive gun laws

-The earth getting fucked by oil pipelines and climate change (that one’s a gangbang, alas)

-Merrick Garland getting fucked by Senate Republicans

-American democracy getting fucked by limitless campaign spending

-American taxpayers getting fucked by unnecessary government shutdowns

-The memory of Dr. Seuss getting fucked by Ted Cruz attempting to wield Green Eggs and Ham as a political weapon

Keep on keepin’ on, Ted, and hopefully the only thing that will get fucked is your political career.

So anyway, here’s some cheese. Specifically, it’s a tasty, savory-sweet goat cheese spread with honey on top. I made this for friends of ours when they came over for a game night, and I am only mentioning this because we played Settlers of Catan and I managed to come from behind and WIN despite not being able to build any roads. It was my first time winning Catan other than when I played my nine-year-old nephew and my mom (who really wanted the game to end and so would give me whatever cards I wanted if it would make things go faster). My wonderful aunt and uncle gave Mark and me a cheese board for our engagement, so we decided to make it a cheese-and-whiskey-and-game night, making this recipe the perfect thing to serve. Heads up that this makes a LOT of cheese so unless you are feeding a large crowd (or Mark, who can eat unlimited amounts of cheese), you will probably want to halve or quarter the recipe. I halved it and it still was still too much for the four of us, even with Mark’s aforementioned Olympic-level cheese-eating abilities.

Whipped Goat Cheese and Honey Spread

Ingredients
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cups goat cheese, softened
  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Toasted sourdough or crusty French bread, for serving

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, garlic and thyme. Cook slowly over low heat, being careful not to brown or fry the garlic, until the garlic becomes very soft, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain the oil from the garlic, reserving the oil and placing the garlic in the bowl of a stand mixer; discard the thyme.
  3. Using the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the garlic until it starts to mash. Add the goat cheese and cream cheese and whip for about 15 minutes to reach a perfectly smooth texture.
  4. Slowly add the heavy cream, and then add 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil (reserve the remaining garlic oil for another use) and whip for another 2 minutes to incorporate.
  5. To serve, fill a glass jar or serving bowl with the whipped cheese and drizzle the honey over the top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve the toasted bread on the side at room temperature.
  7. Any leftover whipped cheese may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Hitler / Pan Fried Gnocchi

IMG_0784

This week’s recipe: Pan Fried Gnocchi

I’m reading Volker Ullrich’s Hitler: Ascent, which covers Hitler’s life from his birth until the start of World War II. It was the subject of that famous Michiko Kakutani review before the election that none-too-subtly drew parallels between Hitler and Trump, though without ever using the latter’s name. it’s extremely good so far, and because it’s 2017 and God forbid Trump not occupy our minds for more than 90 seconds at a time, I am constantly thinking about the similarities and differences between the early years of the Third Reich and America today.

Fortunately, there are many more differences than similarities. For one thing, we are seven months into the Trump administration and he has yet to impose a totalitarian dictatorship or set the Capitol building on fire as a pretext for jailing his political enemies. It’s truly amazing how fast Hitler was able to consolidate absolute power—five months. Everyone in his way got bamboozled, co-opted, or forced out. As with Trump, there were plenty of politicians and power brokers who showed great distaste for Hitler, but who thought they could ride the wave and ultimately exploit this useful idiot for their own ends. As with Trump, they learned their lesson, though getting sent to Dachau is significantly worse than being humiliated on Twitter.

Another difference is the level at which street violence was considered an accepted part of life. I was pleasantly surprised at how Charlottesville dominated the headlines for days, considering that our news media typically has the attention span of me in third grade math class. But in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, that sort of violence was considered just another Tuesday. These things are definitely becoming more frequent in America but it’s good to know that we still find them shocking. (An obligatory note about Antifa: I’m no expert on it, but I can certainly see the danger of a bunch of masked vigilantes whom no one elected and who are accountable to no one, deciding—often on sight—who qualifies as a fascist and therefore deserves a violent beat down. A totalitarian worldview that disdains democracy and the democratic compact; using force to impose your version of acceptable speech and politics; declaring that people who don’t conform to your vision don’t have the right to, say, non-violently protest in a public space—all sounds pretty fascist to me.)

But the biggest difference is simply that Trump lacks Hitler’s canniness, discipline, and will to power. I know it’s been said a million times before, but it’s our nation’s one great fortune in these dark times that he is stupid and lazy, because if he had even one-tenth of Hitler’s ruthless vision and drive, we’d all be in even deeper doodoo than we are. The closest thing that his administration had to a Hitler-level strategic thinker/ideologue was Bannon, and I can’t overstate my relief that he’s gone. That doesn’t mean that Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller, Kris Kobach, and other ideologues in high places can’t do some serious damage—indeed, they already have—but reading this biography has been oddly reassuring. For now, we have government institutions, a free press, and a population all willing to push back, none of which existed in Nazi Germany. Whatever catastrophes the Trump presidency brings on us, at least they’ll be met with a fight.

So anyway, here’s some gnocchi. This was seriously one of the fastest, easiest dinners I’ve ever made, and so delicious too! I can’t believe I didn’t know about the wonder of pan-frying gnocchi until this recipe. The original recipe calls for mushrooms, which I of course left out—NEVER will you see a recipe calling for mushrooms on this blog—but if you feel like eating fungus, knock yourself out and add it back in. This is a great dinner to make for a crowd, because you can make multiple batches very quickly. I doubled the recipe, which was lucky because it was so yummy that everyone had two servings!

One Pan Gnocchi with White Beans, Sundried Tomato, and Spinach

Adapted from Sweet Peas and Saffron 

Ingredients
  • 500g/18 oz packaged gnocchi
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼-1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup sundried tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups loosely packed spinach
  • 540mL/19 oz white beans, drained and rinsed
  • Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a medium pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the gnocchi and separate them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes, or until golden and slightly crispy.
  3. Add the sundried tomatoes, spinach and white beans. Stir until spinach is wilted and everything is heated through.
  4. Add additional salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
  5. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

The Parent Trap / Homemade Thin Mints

IMG_0721

This week’s recipe: Homemade Thin Mints

Last weekend, Mark and I looked after my two-year-old niece because everyone else in the family was out of town. We stayed at my parents’ apartment, since they have a crib for her. My parents have a big, boxy TV from the late 90s and a VHS collection to match, with only basic cable and definitely no streaming services, so once we put my niece to bed, we decided to raid the VHS cabinet. I had a lot of thoughts about our choice, the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap. For those of you who don’t know the plot—and shame on you—the movie stars a prelapsarian Lindsay Lohan as both Hallie and Annie, twin girls who meet for the first time when their divorced parents, Liz (Natasha Richardson) and Nick (Dennis Quaid), coincidentally send them to the same summer camp. Annie, who has lived with her mother in London all her life, and Hallie, who has lived with her father in California, decide to switch places, on the theory that their parents will have to meet up in order to switch them back and will, duh, fall in love as soon as they lay eyes on each other. Does it work? Of course it does! I must have watched this movie so many times in my childhood that I wore out the tape (or maybe that’s just the crappy late-90s VHS quality), but I haven’t watched it in ages, and there were a few things that, uh, stuck out to me this time around. I hereby present:

Thoughts on Watching The Parent Trap, 19 Years Later

-I know that Liz and Nick don’t have much of a relationship but if I were Liz and were sending my kid to camp in the States, I would probably give Nick a heads up in case of the admittedly extremely rare coincidence that he would ALSO choose to send his kid to a random camp thousands of miles from home.

-Why does everyone have such a hard time distinguishing between Hallie and Annie at camp? Annie has long hair and a British accent, it’s not that difficult to tell them apart.

-I don’t know if it’s because I always preferred girly girls to tomboys (I was an Ashley, not a Mary Kate), but I always like Annie a lot better than Hallie, and that still holds up. First of all, Hallie starts the whole feud by pulling Annie into the trough and then dissing her in front of everyone after Annie makes an innocent mistake and then tries to help Hallie. Annie is forced to cut off all her hair but Hallie refuses to make an equivalent sacrifice by letting her ear holes close up. And during the whole switcheroo, Annie is forced to be clever and resourceful under trying circumstances while Hallie gallivants around at photo shoots and drinks merlot and refuses to help her sister out until things really spiral out of control. Team Annie forever.

-What is an “Isolation Cabin,” and why is it so much nicer than any bunk from the summer camp I used to go to? Is it really isolation if there’s another girl in there with you? Do the parents know that they’re sending their children to a camp that employs (semi-)solitary confinement as punishment? I mean, there appears to be no adult supervision at this camp other than the camp director and her daughter so I guess the standards are pretty lax.

-“Yes, we are completely identical, we have the same birthday, but what it really takes for us to realize that we’re twins is that we both have half of a ripped-up photo! Isn’t it lucky that, of all the pictures that possibly exist of our parents, both of them chose to give us half of this ripped-up photo?”

-Hallie and Annie’s whole plan is predicated on the idea that their parents will be forced to see each other again in order to switch them back. The assumption that their Liz and Nick would switch them back in person seems like quite a stretch for two exes who hate each other enough to have purposefully avoided contact for 11 years; who have seemingly unlimited financial resources at their disposal; and who were willing to put their kids on planes unaccompanied to fly to and from camp. Especially Liz – it’s Martin who brings Annie to camp, not her, and she doesn’t even bother to pick her daughter up from the airport when she comes home. That’s pretty cold, Liz.

-“Last call, Annie James!” says the assistant camp director, as if Annie’s limo is going to leave for the airport without her.

-I know he’s European so it’s hard to tell, but there is no way that Martin is straight. But of course he ends up with Chessie because they’re both servants! It’s as inevitable as two black sidekick characters ending up together in a Hallmark Channel movie.

-I didn’t know this was a Nancy Meyers film when it first came out, because I didn’t know who Nancy Meyers was when I was ten years old, but now it’s blindingly obvious to me. This movie is nothing but rich people wearing gorgeous clothes and living inside of an Architectural Digest spread.

-Why is everyone acting like Hallie is a goddamned genius for choosing a white hat (instead of a black hat) to go with a white wedding gown? That seems like the most obvious call in history. I also have a hard time believing that the photographer would be cool with an 11-year-old invading his photo shoot, even an 11-year-old as cute as 1998-era Lindsay Lohan.

-Meredith (Nick’s girlfriend) is 26! I feel old.

-Annie (as Hallie) tells Chessie that she was talking on the phone to her friend who was on vacation in Bora Bora. When the movie came out, everyone in my class assumed that Bora Bora was a made-up place. I eventually figured out that it was real, but was fuzzy on the details, so when bin Laden escaped Tora Bora a few years later, I was deeply confused as to why anyone would choose to vacation there.

-So Hallie goes off to camp, and during the eight weeks she’s there, Nick meets Meredith, starts dating her, and decides to marry her, all with no input from the so-called most important person in his life, his daughter. What is it supposed to say about Nick’s character that he was so easily taken in by this obvious gold-digger? Unless he’s been living like a monk since his divorce, he’s presumably familiar with the type and should be able to see right through her. Or maybe he has been living like a monk and he’s just so desperate to get some that he’ll do whatever it takes.

-I don’t care how cultured you are, I don’t know why you would start ranting in your non-native language when you’re exceptionally stressed.

-Ugh that scene where Meredith runs her fingers through Nick’s chest hair is so awkward and tonally inappropriate for a kids’ movie.

-The scene on the boat has brought home that this movie is based on an extremely shallow understanding of adult relationships. People get divorced for lots of reasons. There’s probably a reason—many reasons, actually—why Nick and Liz aren’t together. Reason 1: After the opening montage showing Nick and Liz’s wedding, it says “11 years and nine months later.” That, of course, makes no sense, since Hallie and Annie are about 11 years and nine months old at the start of the movie, and Liz was not heavily pregnant the night she got married, but whatever. Let’s assume that Liz got pregnant essentially the night she and Nick met. Hallie and Annie both refer to their parents breaking up shortly after they were born, which means that Nick and Liz’s marriage lasted less than a year. Even most celebrity marriages last longer than that! There have to be underlying reasons. One of which is Reason 2: Professional fulfillment. Nick and Liz are both very successful in their careers…on opposite sides of the planet. I suppose that Liz could move her wedding dress design business to Napa, which as everyone knows is the fashion capital of the world, or maybe Nick could try cultivating some of those famous London vineyards. But that wouldn’t solve the real problem, Reason 3: Liz is an abusive spouse. She screamed at Nick and threw a hairdryer at his head! They laugh about it later like it’s no big deal, but if a man did that to a woman, you would tell her to get the eff out of that relationship. Which Nick did! And he should probably not return. Though to cut Liz some slack, it would seem that she was pregnant for at least three-quarters of the time they were married, so maybe she was just hormonal.

-I think we are supposed to see it as some sort of romantic resolution when Nick says that he didn’t go after Liz when she left because he wasn’t sure that he wanted her to. But surely they must have communicated in order to work out the (world’s dumbest) custody arrangement? Unless Liz packed Baby Annie in her suitcase, left Baby Hallie with Nick, and that just became the status quo?

-I do have a hard time believing that someone who is as fit-looking as Meredith would have such a hard time doing a not-very-arduous hike.

-Meredith threw a rock at Nick’s head. Well, more of a pebble. Guess he has a thing for abusive women.

-If only California had known that the solution to the drought was to have the twins part from each other. It always rains when people are sad.

-Martin proposes to Chessie at Nick and Liz’s wedding. Dick move, Martin.

-The movie ends with the song “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love),” which is funny because their marriage will probably only last a year again, maybe less!

So anyway, here are some cookies. Anyone who has ever had the exquisite pleasure of tasting a Thin Mint—particularly one fresh out of the freezer—knows why their allure eclipses that of all other Girl Scout offerings. Samoas, Tagalongs, and Do-Si-Dos all kneel before their acknowledged ruler. So the Internet teems with attempts to recreate them in all their crispy, minty, chocolate-y goodness. Below is just one attempt, which did not taste all that much like a Thin Mint but was still delicious. I found that I needed more chocolate for the coating than the recipe called for, but be sure to keep the cookies cold until you eat it, because that melty chocolate coating will get all over your fingers and stain your white dining room chairs, dammit.

Homemade Thin Mints

From Baked by an Introvert

Ingredients

For the cookie

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

For the coating

  • 12 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Instructions

Make the cookies

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk; set aside.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand-held mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg white followed by the vanilla and peppermint extract. The dough may appear curdled, this is normal. Gradually add the flour in 3 additions, beating just until incorporated after each one. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time. Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll it to a 1/4 inch thickness. Leaving the dough in between the parchment paper, transfer it to a baking sheet. It’s okay to stack the slabs of rolled dough. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or freeze it for 1 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Working with one disk at a time. Remove the top layer of parchment paper and cut circles with a 2-inch cookie cutter. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets about 1 and 1/2 inches apart. Gather the scraps of dough, re-roll and chill to continue cutting and baking.
  6. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the cookies feel firm to the touch. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the coating

  1. Combine the chocolate, oil, and extract in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Stir continuously until melted and smooth.
  2. Using a fork, dip each cookie into the melted chocolate, turning to coat and tapping off any excess. Place cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate the cookies until set, about 10 minutes. Cookies are best when served cold.

Make ahead tip

  1. The dough can be rolled out and kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Cut and bake as directed, even straight from the freezer.
  2. Baked (uncoated or coated) cookies will keep for up to 7 days in an airtight container stored in the refrigerator or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Crime and Punishment, Trump Administration Edition / Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

IMG_0579

This week’s recipe: Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado, the title character sings a famous song about “let[ting] the punishment fit the crime” when it comes time to sentence criminals. Since we almost all agree (ahem Jeff Sessions) that this country incarcerates too many people, and since at least some members of the Trump administration seem destined for criminal charges, I have taken it upon myself to come up with some punishments that I believe will fit their crimes while leaving almost all of them (ahem Jeff Sessions) out of prison. Here is my very humane endeavor to turn these evil livers into running rivers of harmless merriment. In a few years’ time, we can all hope that the following members of the Trump administration and adjacent will be doing the following:

Donald Trump – middle school janitor making $30,000 a year
Mike Pence– case worker for foster kids in a state where abortion is illegal
Steve Bannon – head of public affairs for the Anti-Defamation League
Reince Priebus – Chief of Staff in the Trump administration, has name changed to “Reince Priebus”
Kellyanne Conway – can keep doing what she’s doing, but only allowed to speak to the deaf
Ivanka Trump – sent to work in a Chinese sweatshop
Jared Kushner – forced to reapply to Harvard every year until he gets accepted on his own merits
Don Jr. and Eric Trump – Tiffany’s personal assistants
Stephen Miller – nothing, looking the way he does at age 31 is punishment enough
Jeff Sessions – sentenced to life in a for-profit prison, assigned to an all-black cell block
Michael Flynn – official Polonium Tester for Vladimir Putin
Tom Price – party clown who performs at children’s cancer hospitals
Sean Spicer – mans a Dippin’ Dots stand
Sarah Huckabee Sanders – spends the rest of her life fruitlessly submitting God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy for various literary and journalism prizes
Scott Pruitt – cleans up Superfund sites
Mick Mulvaney – sent to take remedial math classes at an underfunded public school
Betsy DeVos – sent to teach remedial math classes at an underfunded public school
Mitch McConnell – bottom of Yertle the Turtle’s stack
Paul Ryan – forced to have sex with an Ayn Rand lookalike
Chris Christie – parking attendant at the beach, but he’s never allowed to go in

P.S. While researching this blog post, I read Kushner’s Wikipedia article, and I have to say that it has some EXCELLENT shade in it. Some choice excerpts:

“According to a Kushner Companies spokeswoman, he was an honors student and a member of the debate, hockey, and basketball teams. Former school officials described him as a less than stellar student.”

“In 1998, Charles pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University and smaller amounts to Princeton and Cornell…Kushner matriculated at Harvard in 1999.”

“Trump put Kushner in charge of brokering peace in Israeli–Palestinian conflict as well as making deals with foreign countries, although in what way he is in charge is unclear.”

So anyway, here’s a cake. This tasty guy comes courtesy of A Cozy Kitchen, where it looked so beautiful that I just knew I had to make it. As is usually the case when I make mint things, I added more extract than the recipe called for, but I was definitely glad I used cacao nibs, they tasted awesome! I am glad to be posting this recipe on the day that my nephew comes back from his first summer away at sleepaway camp, since mint chocolate chip is his favorite flavor. I’m sorry he missed this delicious cake but maybe his return is an excuse to make it again!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake

From A Cozy Kitchen

Ingredients

To make the chocolate cake:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
To make the mint chocolate chip frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 drop of blue food coloring
  • 1 drop of yellow food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon of cacao nibs

Directions

To make the cake:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans or two 8-inch cake pans. Butter and flour your cake pans. If you’re like me and are a little paranoid of a cake sticking, line it with parchment, too. Set the pans aside.
    2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand-up mixer (with the paddle attachment), add the all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined. Next, crack in the egg and egg yolk, pour in the buttermilk, warm water, olive oil and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth, about 1 minute. The batter will be thinner than cake batter that you’re probably used to—that’s ok!
    3. Divide the cake batter amongst the cake pans and transfer to the oven to bake for 27 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Clean out the bowl you used to make the cake and dry it thoroughly. While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting.
To make the mint chocolate chip frosting:
    1. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment, add the butter and heavy cream. Beat until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Take the paddle attachment off and place a sieve on top of the bowl, sift in the powdered sugar. Turn the mixer to low until the powdered sugar is almost incorporated. Add the peppermint extract and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add one drop of blue food coloring gel and then 1 drop of yellow food gel coloring. Lastly, add the cacao nibs and mix one last time, until they’re evenly dispersed throughout the frosting.
To assemble the cake:
  1. Place one layer on a cake board or cake stand or plate. Add about 1/4 cup (you can eyeball this measurement) to the top of the first cake layer; smooth it out so it’s a nice even layer of frosting. Place the second layer on top and repeat the process, then frost the outside.

Save the Dates / Oven Baked Fries

IMG_0603

This week’s recipe: Oven Baked Fries

Our wedding is a long way away, but because it’s on a holiday weekend and therefore a popular date to get married, we are already in the thick of planning. Our need to get everything locked down over a year in advance was brought home to us this week when we found a photographer whose pictures we loved, and when we contacted him about our wedding that’s in over 13 months…he was already booked.

Because of the aforementioned holiday weekend, we are also sending out save the dates earlier than usual so that NO ONE ELSE CAN STEAL OUR DATE YOU DEVIOUS BITCHES. We have found some designs that we like, but it seems like, unlike for invitations, most save the dates (or STDs as they are colloquially known in the event planning world) feature photos of the couple. And not just any photos. They must be professionally taken, and follow certain strict parameters, with slight allowances made for hipsters versus yuppies:

She: has long, luxuriously wavy hair. Is wearing either an off-the-shoulder top/ long flowy gown/floppy hat/wreath/other Coachella-appropriate wear (hipster edition) or the latest from the J. Crew collection (yuppie edition)

He: has about a week’s worth of beard growth and is wearing either a long-sleeved plaid button-down shirt or a tight t-shirt that shows off his biceps (hipster edition) or is clean-cut and looks like he’s doing this shoot during his lunch break from Goldman Sachs (yuppie edition)

They are softly lit, shot from behind, embracing on a beach boardwalk/mountaintop/field of wildflowers. Or they are nuzzling each other’s noses in what used to be known as an Eskimo kiss but is probably considered racist in 2017.

And apparently you can only get married if you have a gender-ambiguous name that could also be a last name. Let’s play a game and see which of the couple names below are taken from the mint.com Save the Date collection, and which I made up for comedic effect:

  1. Bailey and Jamie
  2. Emery and Hayden
  3. Reese and Avery
  4. Addison and Cameron
  5. Morgan and Loren
  6. Devon and Tanner
  7. Aubrey and Harper
  8. Leighton and Reed
  9. Kennedy and Marley
  10. Francis and Grayson
  11. Moore and Ashton (was this one inspired by a certain May-December celebrity romance of the mid-2000s?)
  12. Dallas and Logan
  13. Harley and Gray
  14. Kendall and Presley
  15. Kennedy and Campbell
  16. Emerson and Mackenzie
  17. Taylor and Nolan
  18. Sydney and Theron
  19. Asher and Skyler
  20. Kelley and Holland
  21. Hadley and Dylan
  22. Rowan and Sawyer
  23. Parker and Payton
  24. Carson and Finley

Answers: 1-24 were all taken from mint.com. No joke.

The point is, until white people learn how to give their kids “normal” names (i.e. names from the Bible, kings and queens of England), they can’t be trusted.

So anyway, here are some fries. Getting oven fries to be crispy is always a trick but the whole soaking-for-as-long-as-possible method seems to have been quite effective–these were much crispier than normal oven fries after only 90 minutes of soaking. And they were tasty to boot! (I mean, what’s not to love about potatoes, oil, salt, garlic, and rosemary?) Enjoy these French beauties over your Bastille Day Weekend!

Oven Baked Fries

From Vegan Family Recipes

INGREDIENTS
  • 1.3 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼ inch strips
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh, chopped rosemary (can use dried rosemary as well)
  • ¼ of a teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (can always use more if you’d like)
  • ¼ of a teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Soaking: Soak your peeled and cut potato strips in a bowl of water for as long as possible. If you can soak them overnight, that’s awesome! If you can only soak them for an hour or two, that’s great! Even just soaking them for just 15 minutes is better than not soaking them at all!
  2. Preheat your oven to 410F (210C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Remove your soaked potatoes from the water and pat them dry using paper towels. If you forget to pat them dry, you’ll end up with steamed potatoes and not deliciously, crispy ones.
  4. Place the dried off potato strips in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, rosemary, salt, garlic, and pepper until coated well.
  5. Bake the fries for 30 to 45 minutes, flipping them twice while baking, until fries reach desired crispiness.
  6. Remove fries from the oven, season with more salt and pepper to taste before serving them with your favorite ketchup or sauce.

1776 / Rhubarb Sour

IMG_0509

This week’s recipe: Rhubarb Sour

1776 is the second-greatest musical ever written about the American Revolution. Yes, we all know what the first-greatest is, but Thomas Jefferson is the only character in 1776 to overlap with Hamilton. (Mostly: George Washington appears frequently by missive in 1776, and John Adams appears in the lyric, “Sit down John, you fat mother******” in Hamilton—a lyric that is in fact an homage to 1776.) But 1776 has much to recommend it. It has Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World as John Adams, unsung hero of the Continental Congress. It has dirty jokes. It has, to my knowledge, the longest-ever break between songs in an American musical. It has a truly chilling villain song about the hypocrisies inherent in the Triangle Trade. It has Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom in an incredible dress that I want for my wedding. It has what is maybe the best summation of our politics today in the line, “Don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.”

But most importantly, it deglazes the mythology from the Founding Fathers. The movie ends with the Congressional delegates posed similarly to the famous John Trumbull painting, as the Liberty Bell rings. But by that point, you know that the men posed like heroic statues at this solemn historical moment are just humans, with all the human weaknesses and pettiness. They’re snobs and insult comics; brawlers and cowards; horndogs, fatties, and alcoholics. (Even the brilliant Jefferson can’t get it together to write the Declaration of Independence until Adams arranges a conjugal visit for him.) And that’s just the protagonists. The movie’s main villains are more sinister, evincing a deeply cynical attachment to the privileges afforded to them by the status quo. To work with them, the heroes have to sacrifice and compromise, and the stuff of those sacrifices and compromises— racism, state’s rights, regionalism, who qualifies as an American—are the seeds of so much of what is wrong in today’s politics.

Still, I come back to a memorable exchange where Adams tells Benjamin Franklin that if they strike a reference to slavery from the Declaration, posterity will never forgive them. Franklin replies, “What will posterity think we were, demigods? We’re men, no more, no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed. First things first, John. Independence, America. If we don’t secure that, what difference will the rest make?” 241 years later, what difference has it made, if we’re still fighting over the same shit? It feels like our country is very sick. We have self-styled “patriots” calling the Declaration of Independence trash because the references to King George remind them too strongly of their Dear Leader. We have TV personalities filming commercials that call for true lovers of liberty to gun down their opponents in the streets. Things feel less safe and less stable than they have in my lifetime. It’s nice to think that the Founders went through the same struggles and arguments that we’re going through today – hopefully we can come out of it as well as they did. Happy July 4th 5th.

So anyway, here’s a cocktail. Every year, a friend and I watch 1776 on or around Independence Day, and since she doesn’t like wine, I take it as an excuse to try a cool new cocktail. There was some nice rhubarb at the farmer’s market last week so I decided to make the rhubarb sour recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Date Night In. It was the perfect mix of sweet and sour, and the nutmeg adds an unexpected twist. I liked it so much that I told my sister about it, and we tried to make it at our aunt’s house on July 4th, except our ingredients were limited and we had to substitute vodka for the gin and Newman’s Own pink lemonade for the lemon juice. It made rather a different sort of cocktail, but still yummy!

Rhubarb Sour

From Date Night In

Serves 2

Rhubarb Sour

  • 3 ounces of gin
  • 3 ounces of rhubarb syrup (recipe below)
  • 1.5 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Lemon peel (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

Rhubarb Syrup

  • 1 pound chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Additional flavorings: cinnamon stick, freshly grated nutmeg, vanilla bean, or citrus peel

For the syrup: Place the rhubarb, sugar, water, and your choice of flavorings into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly so the mixture continues to boil gently for 15 minutes, or until it is reduced by nearly half. The rhubarb will break down and the liquid will get syrupy. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature. When cool, strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve. Transfer the syrup to a storage container with a lid. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

For the cocktail: Combine the gin, rhubarb syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into two glasses and garnish with lemon peel and nutmeg, if desired.

Harry Potter / Lentil Salad with Fried Halloumi

IMG_0483

This week’s recipe: Lentil Salad with Fried Halloumi

Happy 20th birthday to the Harry Potter series! Like many of my friends, I grew up with Harry and Co. The first book was published in the US six months before I turned 10, and the last book was published a month after I graduated high school, so my own coming of age tracked neatly with the Hogwarts class of ’98. Over that decade, the stakes of the plot grew from “oh no, who’s going to win the House Cup?” to “oh no, the Death Eaters have taken over the Ministry, invaded Hogwarts, and are murdering people left and right.”

I’ll never experience a phenomenon like that again in my lifetime. Since the books were always released on Friday nights (i.e. Shabbat), I never lined up at a bookstore, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t chafing to get my hands on a copy whenever a new one came out. At camp, they didn’t deliver mail on Shabbat, so we would wait desperately for Saturday night when we could tear open our packages and hopefully read fast enough that nothing got spoiled. When the last book came out, my sisters and I all received our packages at the same time, and we all ran to the couch and started devouring our separate books.  It’s been so much fun watching my nephew dive into the series. We spend hours playing a Harry Potter-themed 20 Questions-type game, and he spent all of his savings at a visit to Harry Potter World last year.

I love Harry Potter for the plot, the characters, and the world-building, but most of all, I love it for the emotions it evoked in me. I’ll never forget the feeling of having the rug completely pulled out from under me when Harry, in his search for the Sorcerer’s Stone, passed all the obstacles, got to the last chamber, and found not Snape but Quirrell. I gasped at the reveal that Sirius was actually a good guy, and at the callous, arbitrary nature of Cedric’s death. I cried so hard when I thought that Harry had died at the end of the seventh book (though I quickly stopped when I realized that there were still about 75 pages left in the book and therefore he couldn’t possibly be dead). And of course, like nerdy, bookish, frizzy-haired girls the world over, I identified with Hermione more strongly than with any other character in children’s literature. Harry Potter is rip-roaring good storytelling, though it’s dismissed by some as just a children’s adventure story. But when the world is falling apart, it’s comforting to remember that love, friendship, and loyalty can triumph over greed, bigotry, and lust for power.

Still, the books are far from perfect, and I have some questions that, as far as I know, remain unanswered 20 years later:

-Does anyone else find the notion that Harry survived because his mother loved/sacrificed for him kind of offensive? Voldemort was leading an army of Death Eaters for over a decade, during which time they killed mercilessly and indiscriminately, and we are supposed to believe that Harry’s mom was the only one who loved and died for her child? Seems unlikely.

-What is up with Slytherin? Who thinks it is smart to put all of the evil kids in one house? How many times do Dark wizards have to come out of Slytherin before someone realizes the pattern and tries to do something about it?

-There are a lot of areas where Muggle technology is superior to Wizard technology. Why are they still using quills and parchment instead of computers, owls instead of email or telephones, and candles instead of electric lights?

-Where do young wizards and witches go to school before Hogwarts? How do they learn to read and write and all that?

-I’m concerned about Hogwarts’ financial solvency. I accept the theory that Harry’s Hogwarts class was so tiny because few witches and wizards wanted to have children during the First Wizarding War, but the teacher-to-student ratio at Hogwarts is out of control. How much is tuition, to support all those professors and staff, not to mention maintenance on the castle? Wizarding economics in general confuse me. For instance, how would a Muggle-born like Hermione pay tuition? Did her parents have to trade in a certain number of pounds for galleons and knuts, and if so, what is the exchange rate?

-Dumbledore surely knew that the Invisibility Cloak he gave to Harry in the first book was one of the Deathly Hallows. Did he seriously think it was wise to give 1/3 of the tools necessary to become Master of Death to an 11 year old?

-In the fourth book, why did Barty Crouch Jr. (disguised as Moody) go through the whole rigmarole of helping Harry win the Triwizard Tournament so that he could touch the Portkey and get transported to the graveyard? There were plenty of times when he was alone with Harry; couldn’t he have turned, say, a book into a Portkey and said, “Hey, Harry, grab that book for me,” thus avoiding much risk and effort? Also, in the movies, at least, taking Polyjuice Potion doesn’t alter your voice, so it’s pretty amazing that Barty Crouch Jr. was able to perfectly ape Moody’s voice for an entire year. There are a lot of plot holes in this one, is what I’m saying.

-Harry seems remarkably well-adjusted considering that his parents were murdered, he grew up with an emotionally abusive family that forced him to live in a broom closet, and he and his friends spent their teens as essentially child soldiers. Does the wizarding world have therapy?

-Why didn’t Voldemort just shoot Harry? You know what can’t be stopped by the power of love? A bullet.

-Did the Hogwarts professors ever sit around and talk about how calm and normal life at school used to be before this freaking Harry Potter kid showed up?

Don’t mean to rain on Harry Potter’s parade on this wonderful day. Thank you, JK Rowling, for the wonderful gift you’ve given us, which will continue to enchant children and adults for generations to come.

So anyway, here’s a lentil salad. For those of you who don’t know (i.e. me, a week ago), fried halloumi is magic. It is so freaking good. It’s all the glory of fried cheese, but without any of the greasy messiness. And the rest of this dish is so healthy that you won’t feel guilty about it either. This is a visually beautiful dish that screams “summer.” Seriously, it will grab you by your lapels and scream, “SUMMER, MOTHERFUCKER!” Better eat it all up before it embarrasses you in public!

Lentil Salad with Fried Halloumi

Adapted from The Almond Eater

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils (I used  green)
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 package halloumi (approx. 8 oz), sliced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz. grape tomatoes
  • ¾ cup red onion, diced
  • ¼ tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: microgreens for garnish
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine lentils and water in a saucepan and cook according to the instructions on the package.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350° and place tomatoes, along with 1 tbsp olive oil, on a baking sheet and into the oven. Roast tomatoes for approximately 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are softer.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet and add sliced halloumi. Fry halloumi until both sides are golden brown; set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, add 1 tbsp olive oil, red onion, zucchini, and tarragon and cook until onions and zucchini are soft.
  5. Assemble the bowl: lentils first, and then add the halloumi, roasted tomatoes, zucchini and onion.
  6. Top with microgreens, salt and pepper and enjoy!