I have been burning the candle at both ends and recently, I’ve needed a blowtorch to get either fuse to spark. Instead of gazing out the window on the train in the morning or going outside to watch the sun set, I spend my spare moments of “downtime” multitasking – shoveling dinner into my mouth from a plastic container while texting one of my colleagues while throwing a stick for Penny while doing my leg stretches while contemplating the existential questions of our time while debating the pros and cons of scheduling a lobotomy.
While vacuuming a healthful on-the-go snack into my pie hole on the train into the city Saturday night and purposefully skimming this week’s Talk of the Town, I caught a glimpse of myself in the train window. “Who is that pale hag?” I thought, glancing at a red-headed, squinting woman in black. “Oh right. That’s me. “
Tears welled and violins reached a dramaturgical crescendo in my addled little mind; waves of self pity crashed and threatened to pull me into a whirlpool of shame and blame. Then a pack of drunken, sunburned college kids got on the train in Scarsdale and started a Congo line down the aisle of the train. Generally public displays of fun on public transportation bring out my inner traffic cop, but these privileged little Westchester Ivy League monsters were just too genuinely silly-loving and perky to mind. Not too long ago, I would have probably joined the line and had a crazy night out with them.
But I had zany plans of my own to attend to. I tore myself away from the New Yorker, giggled at the Congo and tried to actually savor the moment for once. I was headed for one of my dear friend’s bachelorette parties. Helen Matatov is getting married, and I couldn’t wait to drink a glass (or three or four) with her, Lorraine, Ajla (in spirit), Ellen, her sister Michelle and the rest of the crew.
What happens at bachelorette parties probably doesn’t involve as much tickling and pillow-fighting in underwear as the husbands to be seem to like to imagine, but it still shouldn’t be sullied with a public airing (besides, I missed the really juicy parts since I had to catch the 12:37 am train back to Westchester). Suffice to say, many hearty sips were enjoyed, of vintages as ancient and storied as Pabst Blue Ribbon. Nothing’s too fancy for our Helen!
I will say this: we managed to get air-humped by a member of the Housewives of New York City’s louche band of bejeweled, tanned and bleached side-kick B-List characters. In addition to the impressive display of his hip flexor abilities, we were treated to his off-key, lusty version of B-52’s “Love Shack”. He may have been in his cups at that point. Other than that (and the brief assist I gave to a street-walker who couldn’t zip up her micro minidress), our evening was remarkably crises and uh-oh feeling-free.
And Sunday? I sat outside. Join me! Put down the smart phone. Go outside. Smell the roses while they’re still in bloom.
Oh, and I also cooked. Stephen and I made a Sausage and Leek Casserole, Beet, Squash and Goat Cheese Napoleons and Corn and Cheese Quesadillas. Plenty of carbs and happy fats to soak up any leftovers from the night before. (Stephen was jealous of my girls’ night so he launched a boys’ night in the East Village, which is a story for a different post). Click on for recipes!
Sausage and Leek Casserole
Makes 6 servings
- ½ leek confit (to make about 1 cup of leek confit, clean 4 leeks very carefully, slice in half lengthwise and cut into thin half-rounds; melt 4 TBSP butter in medium stockpot; add leeks, a few tBSP water, plenty of salt, a grind or two of pepper, cover and cook over low for about 30 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and they’re soft; remove cover and cook over medium, stirring, until excess liquid is absorbed; I got the recipe from Molly Wizenberg)
- 1 pound ground pork sausage, with sage, if possible
- 1 roll Challah bread (or about 1 slice), buttered, with a layer of yellow ballpark mustard, torn into bits
- 2 cups of grated cheese (we like a combination of Parmesan or Pecorino Romano for salty bite and havarti for smooth meltiness)
- 6 large eggs
- 2 TBSP chopped chives
- ½ cup milk (whole!)
- ¼ cup cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cayenne to taste if you like spice
- Brown sausage in fry pan, with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook through, breaking into chunks over medium heat and stirring occasionally. About 10 minutes.
- Whisk eggs, chives, cream, milk, salt and pepper together. Fold in leeks.
- Spray casserole dish (glass, ideally) with vegetable spray. Sprinkle bread on top. Add a bit of cheese (about 1/3 of a cup). Add the sausage. Add more cheese, about 2/3 cup. Pour in the egg mixture. Top with cheese. Refrigerate for 2 hours to a day, covered in foil.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake the casserole for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through. (Test with a toothpick or knife in the middle to see if it pulls out “clean”). Let it sit for about 5 minutes and dig in!
Nutritional Breakdown for Sausage and Leek Casserole: About 450 calories and 29 grams of fat per serving. Not bad for such a hearty brunch. It also keeps well for lunches on the go. Brimming with protein … and cholesterol. No slouch in the saturated fat department either.
Cost Breakdown for Sausage and Leek Casserole: About $2.50 a serving.
Verdict / In the Future: Great balance of fatty, brunchy goodness. This was a fattier take on my Mom’s classic cheese and bread casserole, an equally delicious, but slightly more healthful version of this. I may nix the sausage next time and stick to buttered bread, cheese and eggs.
Beet, Squash, Goat Cheese Mousse Napoleons
Makes 4 servings
- 1 pound beets
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 summer squash, cut into ¼” thick rounds
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 2 TBSP heavy whipping cream
- 2 TBSP chopped chives
- Good olive oil, to taste
- Roasted nuts
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off beet stems and sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper. Throw in glass casserole dish and add about 1/2 inch of water. Cover with foil and roast until fork tender, about 1-2 hours, checking every 15 minutes after the first hour. Cool to room temp, peel off skin and cut into 1/4 rounds. (Keep the extra ends for salads and sandwiches).
- Cut summer squash into 1/4 inch rounds.
- Heat balsamic vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan to simmer over medium heat. Cook until it reduces to a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Braise the beets and squash for about a minute on each side in the mixture and set aside to cool. Do in batches if necessary. Pour any remaining syrup over the beets and squash.
- Using an electric mix, whip the the goat cheese and cream together until smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add chives, salt and pepper to taste.
- When ready to assemble, put one round of beet on a plate, add a dab of the cheese mousse, add a squash round, another dab of mousse, a beet round, a final dab, drizzle with olive oil, garnish with nuts. Two-four stacks work well for a little appetizer serving. Use the extra mousse in salads and sandwiches, or in quesadillas!
Nutritional Breakdown for Beet, Squash, Goat Cheese Mousse Napoleons: About 100 calories and 7 grams of fat per serving with a good glog of oil and sprinkling of nuts. Full of good fats, omega-3’s, omega-6’s, Vitamins A, C, E.
Cost Breakdown for Beet, Squash, Goat Cheese Mousse Napoleons: About $1.50 a serving.
Verdict / In the Future: I adore them, Stephen hates them. “This is so not my thing,” he muttered, eyeing the stacks suspiciously. After a tentative bite, he said, “I’m going to put this over here.” Far, far away from his eating zone.
Corn and Leek Quesadillas
Makes 6 small servings
- 3 heads corn (shucked and cleaned)
- ½ cup leek confit (recipe above), or other aromatic of your choosing, ideally sauteed or roasted in a bit of fat to mellow its sharp bite
- 3 TBSP or so goat mousse (recipe above), or soft cheese of your choice
- 2 ounces grated cheese of choice (we like havarti for its meltability)
- 6 corn tortilla flats
- 2 tsp or more vegetable oil to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped chives for garnish
- Guacamole, sour cream or salsa for dipping
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Salt and pepper corn generously, wrap in foil. Pop in oven and roast for 8-10 minutes. Remove, when cool, cut corn off the cob.
- Spread out the tortilla “bottoms” and garnish with leek confit, corn, dabs of mousse, sprinkling of cheese. Add tortilla top.
- Heat skillet over medium heat. When hot, add oil. Fry each quesadilla until golden, about 1-2 minutes each side. Cut with cookie cutters into rounds if you’re lame, like me. If not, cut in two and dig in. Great with salsa, guac and the like.
Nutritional Breakdown for Corn and Leek Quesadillas: About 200 calories and 7 grams of fat. Decent source of calcium.
Cost Breakdown for Corn and Leek Quesadillas: About $0.50 a serving.
Verdict / In the Future: You can put anything between two wads of carbs, fry it and serve it to me. I’ll always enjoy it.