Wednesday, April 20, 2005

open face italian sandwiches

Since this is my first foodblog entry, I think it's only fitting to start out with breakfast and an introduction.

I've always loved food, and have always loved writing. Quite a bit ago, I considered foodwriting as a career, but then turned back to poetry for my main energies in writing. However, life has given me some oh-not-so-subtle hints that even though poetry remains my first interest, I will always be writing about food as well.

I think that a lot of creative writers are also very interested in food. I know that Maya Angelou has recently released a cookbook. My private theory on this matter is that I'm a complete sensualist, and food is one of the nicest ways to indulge the senses. I think that that's the charm of reading for me: I get surrounded by this whole world of someone else's imagining.

For now I'll be writing from Manhattan, but in a half a year, I'll be somewhere else, certainly. In the meantime, please enjoy all my recipes and tips on where to get food, or where to eat in the Manhattan/Brooklyn stomping grounds.

How I got started on cooking:

My 3rd year of college, I moved into a co-op, called the Zu, no, not like Tillsammans or Together as it's called in English, but it was about 20 people, and we cooked with a partner every two weeks a complete dinner for around 30 people, since people were always bringing guests. The main point of the co-op was to eat Vegetarian and heathily. It was quite the crash course in cooking. I spent a lot of time asking my mom for advice on how to make things over the phone to California.

My mom brought us up on a fantastically healthy diet of Asian foods. We always managed to eat vegetables and fruits with every dinner, and those habits have thankfully followed me into adulthood. However, my mom mostly only cooked Asian food for dinner, and after leaving for college my palate quickly became more international, and now I crave nearly every cuisine under the sun. This makes it difficult to have the correct pantry. Due to budget concerns, my pantry is Asian, and from there I can quickly make Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Korean. I'm drawn to Burmese, Vietnamese, Indian, Sri Lankan, as well, but I'm not as familiar with cooking those cuisines. Recently I have gotten into cooking Middle Eastern food after visiting Bamiyan. In Stockholm, when I visited in February, I also ate at Pascha's Deli, and had a very delicious mezzo, which made me long to be able to make the same sort of food at home, and for less money.

Living in Sweden and Japan also caused me to cook a lot more. Here in New York, it's pretty simple to buy a meal for around $10 or less, but due to financial constraints and much more expensive dining in Europe and in Tokyo, I was forced to figure out how to make food for myself. Thanks to Mom I realized that for the largest part I wanted to cook healthy delicious food.

While living in Lund with Swedish University students, we often got together for dinners and cooking for each other. It was a really cozy habit, and one I'm sorry we don't do as often here in the U.S. The easiest, of course, was pasta, and even easier was making something with a cream sauce. I am not against cream in the least, but I do feel like sometimes it can be the easy way out to make a dish taste good.

Recently my older sister Jan told me that pasta is not even a main dish in Italy, but just an appetizer. This seems to make sense, in this fanatical Atkin's crazed time, that pasta is too carbohydrate heavy and should be eaten in smaller portions.

In terms of my tiers of recipes, the first tier is fast, delicious, and healthy. Maybe I'm the result of modern times and quick paces, and fast food culture, but quite often I'm already hungry (not a good start) and tired and just would like to eat something within about half an hour. The second tier is recipes that will take more preparation and time. The third tier is gourmet recipes, which are generally more richer with more expensive ingredients.

All in all, I find cooking to be a relaxing activity. It's a low stress way to be creative and at the end you have something Iovely and delicious to share with yourself and loved ones.

Lately, I have been reading The Perricone Prescription I stumbled upon his book through Oprah (such an influential lady) since he had a list of fruits and vegetables and how they beautified, protected, and nourished different aspects of your body. Things I remembered were like watermelon improved your natural SPF, and eating pumpkin gave your skin a rosy glow! I love those kinds of tangible details.

The short of it is to eat lots of fruits and vegetables that have noninflammatory properties (which cause your skin to act up), and to eat lots of salmon. The other "lesson" I culled from the book is to eat protein first to prevent raising my blood sugar levels too quickly. Heehee, well I used to eat cupcakes first before eating, but I guess I'll have to save those for later in the future.

After a visit to Samurai, a Japanese outlet store I regularly frequent, I went to DiPalo's, my absolute favorite Italian deli. Finding an Italian deli was a fruitless search when I lived in Orange County, but here in New York City, there are more than a few places. DiPalo's treats you with small town warmth, and that is very hard to find these days.

I bought spicy soppresata, prosciutto di parma, boccocini (bite sized mozzarella), a wedge of parmesan reggiano, and marinated artichokes.

This morning I put together this delicious breakfast, open faced Italian breakfast sandwiches, served with honeydew chunks (part of the Perricone recommended diet), and iced jasmine-green tea (green tea is full of antioxidants).

Open Face Italian Breakfast Sandwiches

Two slices of multigrain bread from Bread Alone
Two eggs from Sunrise Mart
Six small bite sized fresh mozzarella balls
Two thin slices of prosciutto di parma

Freshly grated parmesan
Wee bit of butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

As with the best of cooking timing is everything. Piece apart the mozzarella balls, and put them atop the the two slices of bread and put them into the toaster oven. Put a tiny bit of butter in the nonstick pan, fry the two eggs, before they set entirely sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and parmesan. Turn on the toaster oven to medium high toast. Finish the tops of the eggs by adding a little water in the pan and cover to steam until water is evaporated entirely. Transfer the two slices of bread with melty mozz onto a plate, top each with one egg, with the yolk still tender, top with prosciutto slices.

I'm still trying to get used to eating a solid breakfast, but I think it's a good start. Bon appetit!

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