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Around this time of year—the dregs of the winter—Kevin and I are prone to hermitism.  It’s a serious condition that affects those of us in the northern reaches of this country, confining us to our homes, leaving us yearning for turtleneck sweaters and hearty food.  Sure, we leave the house for work, but happy hour?  No thank you!  Dinner down the block?  Are you nuts?  A walk around the neighborhood?  Take a hike!

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So, I was downright shocked to find us triple booked for the Super Bowl last Sunday.  Triple!  Booked!  Frankly, I didn’t even think we had that many friends (or maybe I just didn’t remember them, given that we are weeks into the whole hermitism thing at this point and, I dare say, some of said friends have perhaps fallen prey to the syndrome too).  In the end, we could only make it to two of the parties, which was about as much social interaction as us hermitism-afflicted souls could take.  Hermitism side effects aside, two parties meant one thing: two treats.

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The past two mornings, I have actually been grateful for the mirrored elevators that usher me up 43 floors to my office everyday.  Usually, I find these mirrored elevators to be a real conundrum.  How do I abide by the socially-acceptable (totally SNL-skit-ish) custom of staring straight at the closed elevator doors, carefully avoiding all eye contact with my fellow elevator passengers when doing so leaves me staring directly at, well, myself? It’s weird.  But the last two mornings, as I said, have been different.  I have stepped onto the elevators, heard the recorded elevator lady saying “Going Up” in her ambiguous, international accented English, felt the doors slide quickly closed and said a silent thank you as I looked directly into the mirrored walls.  Because doing so allowed me to confirm that no, my face had not actually frozen off during my brief walk from the gym to the office.

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It’s been that cold.

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Chickpea Salad

February 2, 2009

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My girlfriends and I threw a bridal shower for our friend Emily on Saturday night. It wasn’t a run-of-the-mill shower, by any means. It was at night, for one thing. And we traded dainty cups of tea for icy blood orange margaritas. Oh, and one other thing: the bride was already married! (She went and had such a quick engagement that we didn’t have time to fête her before the nuptials; thankfully, we (and she) subscribe to the better late than never philosophy.) All in all, the tequila and the darkness and the married lady made for a great bridal shower.

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Surprising no one, I jumped at the chance to cook for the shower. I’ll admit that the first item on the menu was the margaritas. But today’s recipe was the second thing I added to the menu. I knew Emily liked chickpeas and I did all sorts of brainstorming for a chickpea dish. Again and again, I came back to a chickpea salad that has become a staple for us since I discovered it on Orangette.

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Straight to the Top

January 29, 2009

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I am not privy to the produce world’s inner pecking order.  But if I were, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that potatoes were the plain Janes of the lot.  While gourds sashay around in their vibrant colors (think butternut) and artichokes wow with their spicy, layer-y outfits and chard and kale splay out into bouquet-ish bundles, potatoes—with their mottled brown jackets—fade into the background.  Some potato varieties—the jewel-toned purple ones or the luxe yukon golds—might get a second look, but the good old russets, I’m guessing, are the last to get picked for a schoolyard pick-up game.

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This recipe aims to shake up that vegetable social hierarchy.  This recipe will send the baking potato straight to the top.  Like the ugly duckling morphing into the swan, if you will.  Because this recipe is undeniably luxurious and incredibly delicious.

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I’ll Do it Myself

January 26, 2009

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I spent good chunks of the first two weekends of January working, which, in this economy, is not really something to complain about.  So I won’t gripe about the work.  Instead, I’ll whine about the lunch.  Because I was otherwise occupied, most of the lunches were delivered.  And while you can’t beat the convenience of sandwich delivery on a subzero Chicago Saturday, I swear to you: the order was never right.  My reactions ranged from unattractive gagging noises when I discovered a sandwich slopped with mayo, something akin to a temper tantrum when another sandwich came with coleslaw instead of chips, tears when I opened a sack to find a white bread-ed sandwich when I’d ordered multigrain, to (worst of all) oh-no-they-didn’t-forget-my-pickle.

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So last weekend, when I did not one minute of work (ahhh), I decided that when it came to lunch, I’d do it myself.  Thankyouverymuch.   I started out with beautiful, fresh ingredients: slices from a loaf of burnished whole wheat sourdough; folds of black forest ham the light pink color of a flush cheek; slices of havarti, as lacey as a delicate doiley; peppery leaves of baby arugula; spicy Dijon mustard; kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper; thin slices of juicy bosc pear:

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Blood Orange Granita

January 21, 2009

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As a kid, I had a thing for magenta. Not red, not pink: magenta. I liked the sound of it, for one thing. Try it now: mahhh-gen-TAH! It also happened to be the hue of my eight-year-old self’s favorite outfit (a stripey multiples number, complete with cumberbund, if you must know). I also adored the book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, but that’s neither here nor there, is it?

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Magenta also features prominently in one of my favorite childhood memories. A distant cousin (second cousin, I think, but really: what does that even mean?) came to visit, decked out in magenta (knowing it was my favorite shade) and took me to the zoo. We rode camels and ate magenta-colored snow cones, and, well, that’s really all it takes for an eight year old, isn’t it?

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Small Victories

January 20, 2009

 
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I think we’ve come to the point in the winter where you have to grasp at the small bright spots—pin pricks of light on what seems like an inky dark horizon.  Take yesterday:  Kevin and I took a walk through the neighborhood and marveled at how downright pleasant it was.  Sure, we had to pick our way over snow drifts and patches of ice—but the sun was shining and the temperature was in the double-digits.  Small victories, but victories, nonetheless.

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There are other bright spots to January: the day light slowly but surely lengthens; there are so many good movies out that you could contemplate moving into a theatre near you, subsisting on pocorn alone; it’s a new year, which, this year, comes with a new president.  Better than all of these things, though, (except maybe the new president part!) is citrus.  Like the friend who knows you better than anyone, it arrives in your darkest hour (or, say, month), just when you need a pick-me-up.

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