A West Side story... featuring Miso

This post is bittersweet as it will most likely be the last one coming from this kitchen. Let me explain.

About two months ago, my roommates and I got a letter from our landlord informing us that our rent would be going up $300. PER PERSON. And I've got two roommates. Those of you with even sub par math skills will realize that's a $900 per month increase! Insane, right?! We were all outraged!! OUTRAGED. Yet completely helpless... soooo long story short, we're all going our separate ways. Beth has moved out of NY to pursue her career as a stylist on film sets (she will soon forget us and the French girls who blast techno upstairs) while Jess is moving in with a friend downtown (too trendy for me). As for me, where am I going?.... oh, reader, wherever shall I go? *dramatic pause*

Apartment hunting in Manhattan is NO FUN. I saw ads for semi-nudist roommates and friends-with-benefits roommates and then there were the weirdos... And during my apartment drama, I was missing my mom so much and her cooking. So after talking to her, I decided to make something warm and comforting, like her miso soup which I know is super easy to make. But when I got to Whole Foods and saw that they have, I kid you not, 6 different types of miso paste... I couldn't take it anymore... red miso, barley miso, sweet white miso, mellow white miso... how am I to know?? I've never bought miso before! I CAN'T EVEN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. It was too much. I was like 'Are you f*cking kidding ME?? Seriously. All I wanted was a simple f*cking bowl of miso soup to have before I have to resort to living on the streets.' All of this I of course said in my head because I internalize all my miso-issues, like a normal person.

I called my mom on the spot and told her my sob story as I picked up and examined each container of miso (can the company that makes miso paste please make transparent containers?). You guys probably think I'm mental, as does my mom. She was just as confused about the whole miso situation as I was, but told me to get the mellow white miso. And you know what, she was right... she's always right. So I got home after my miso meltdown and made myself some soup. And it was good. Oh, and then I got an apartment... on the UPPER WEST SIDE.

The UWS feels like 'grown up' New York to me. Very eclectic and interesting, yet not grungy or noisy. I'll probably befriend Woody Allen or Nora Ephron and become one of those cynical NYers with killer one-line quips. Plus, my new apartment is still close to work so it's a win-win all around. It was a rollercoaster of emotions finding this new place but now that I have, I'm so thrilled and relieved. And the best part is that there's a washer-dryer IN THE APARTMENT. When I told my friend Morgan this, I felt like a Neanderthal. 'Is that not, normal?' she asked. Well... 'Me No More Use Quarters. Me No Wash In Laundromat With Angry Laundry Ladies,' I responded. Basically, it's the NY equivalent of apartment nirvana.

So at the end of this month, I will be moving my stuff into a new apartment with new roommates in a new neighborhood. This will be my third move in NY and hopefully the last, for a while. Oh sweet Lord, please don't make me craigslist again. Unless it be thy will, thy sick and twisted will.

As a dedication to my current apartment and newfound sanity, I figured I'd utilize the very item that brought me to my breaking point and ultimate revelation: miso paste. As the last recipe in this apartment, it's a solid one. Miso Glazed Salmon with Garlic Snowpeas. YUM. I'm totally making this for Woody and Nora when they come over...

Miso Glazed Salmon with Garlic Snowpeas 

  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons miso (I used Miso Master Organic mellow white)
  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick), skinned
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onions
  • 1 pound snow peas, ends trimmed (about one big handful per serving)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper

(1)  Preheat broiler. (2)  Combine brown sugar, soy sauce and miso in a bowl, stirring with a spoon. (3)  Arrange fish in a shallow baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon miso mixture evenly over fish. (4)  Broil 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, basting twice with miso mixture. (5)  In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the snow peas, garlic, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Sauté until all the snow peas are cooked but still remain slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. (6)  Arrange a pile of snow peas on each plate and top with a salmon filet. Sprinkle each filet with some chopped green onions.

Makes 4 servings

Italian tragedy... NYC comedy

Once upon a time, there lived a lovely maiden with raven hair and rosy cheeks (I'm talking about me here). This maiden liked to eat and cook or better yet, eat while cooking. One glorious semester her dreams came true when she found herself in the land of milk and honey and arancini a.k.a. SICILY. There she devoured such morsels as this...

and kissed every toad/blood orange in sight...

All was wonderful in the kingdom of Sicily until one dark and stormy night. That evening, the maiden and her fellow cooker-eaters embarked upon a Sicilian cooking class. All seemed well. The students were adorned in matching aprons as they prepared the menu rich with authentic Sicilian specialties such as Pasta alla Norma and sweet cannolis.

But all was not well. Soon the students realized that their matching aprons were actually uniforms for labor, as their cooking class turned into a Sicilian sweatshop. Put to work, their hands burned from squeezing salty eggplant and brows sweat with the piping of every pastry shells (Disclaimer: Any similarity to actual personsliving or dead, is purely coincidental).

At the end of the 3 hour "cooking class" (slave drive), the exhausted maiden sat down to a much deserved dinner only to find... there was not enough food for everyone. The evil slave-drivers had not prepared for there to be enough food for all the hardworking sweaty servants. Suddenly... the demure maiden became very impatient and hangry (hungry + angry) with rage. For everyone knows you don't stand between an American maiden and her pasta. From that day on, she cursed the day she ever made PASTA ALLA NORMA.

Almost 3 years later, the maiden found herself in yet another amazing yet strange land where the people walk very fast and like to nosh on round bread with a hole in the middle. Yet the curse of Norma still haunted her. Until one fine day, she decided to once again test fate and purchased an eggplant...

40 minutes later, with not a single Sicilian in sight, she had done it. She had made Pasta alla Norma... and it was as Norma had always intended it to be: truly delizioso. The curse had finally been broken. The townspeople of Apt #5 rejoiced as all was right in the land and in their bellies. From that day on, the dish was renamed Pasta alla Margaret after the perseverant maiden who never lost hope when it mattered the most.

Pasta alla Norma

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • kosher or sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups basic tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ pound penne pasta
  • about ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese (traditionally: ricotta salata)
  • freshly cracked black pepper

(1)  Slice the eggplant into ½-inch slices and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Allow to drain in a colander for 15 minutes. (2)  Rinse the eggplant slices in cold water and pat completely dry on paper towels. Cut into 1-inch cubes. (3)  Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, then add the eggplant. Sauté the eggplant, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes.  Cover the eggplant for 5-7 minutes to cook all the way. (4)  Once the eggplant is tender and golden brown, add the tomato sauce, chopped garlic and crushed red pepper. Bring to a simmer. (5)  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta according to directions for al dente and drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water. (6)  Add the pasta to the sauce and toss together. If a bit dry, add the reserved pasta water.  (7)  Serve on a plate or pasta bowl with a (big) dollop of fresh ricotta (or grated ricotta salata) with freshly cracked black pepper.

Makes 4 servings

And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.