good morning

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i have a new work schedule that wakes me up hours earlier than i’m used to and is cutting severely into my spare time …and to my surprise, i am loving it. i get up when the day is still fresh and cool, get so much done during the day, and come home satisfied with the work i have put in.

the grace of summer’s long days means i get out in time to meet the sun on its way down, casting all sorts of lovely light around the broken city i call home. but these days, i am finding the morning light just as enchanting. i suppose it’s partly because it goes along with a feeling: that one of hope and possibility for a day not yet started, of beginnings. i have the deepest rooted night-owl tendencies, but maybe with practice over time this summer, i can learn to take on the optimism that goes with being a morning person. and more days of dappled morning sunshine will lie ahead.

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pulled pork sandwich

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and here it is, folks. i told you last week how i had prepared the barbecue sauce for these sandwiches, crossing my fingers that it’d turn out right. it is always a bit of a risk to try out a new recipe and then turn around and debut it to a hungry, expectant crowd, after all.

the recipe calls for a 6- to 8-pound cut of meat, but – with my guest list in mind – i bought two 5-pound picnic roasts instead, stuck them in a baking dish side-by-side, and let the oven do its thing. and after a good, long afternoon in there, the hulking pieces of pork roasted to shredability just fine. taking tips from the recipe reviewers, i made sure the internal temperature of the meat reached about 190º f before taking it out, and i made a surplus of sauce to douse the pulled pork in (i ended up needing 1 ½ times the amount that the original recipe would have yielded). the sauce ended up being just about the perfect dressing for the rich, savory meat: sweet with just a little bit of burn.

piled onto some hamburger buns with a top plop of coleslaw and a glass of something ice-cold to wash it on down… the chatter of friends old and new filling the otherwise quiet evening air, sun setting down behind you all… why, yes. i do believe this is the way to start summer.

homemade bbq sauce

i find myself in a generally better mood when i’m not trying to finish cooking five dishes the day of a dinner party, so a couple nights ago i got a head start on prepping for my barbecue this weekend. the stars of the menu are pulled-pork sandwiches, something i’ve been wanting to make for a while since i’m a fan of eating them. i did my homework, researched some recipes, read through reviews… and one from emeril lagasse seemed to be a safe bet.

there were three main steps to preparing the sandwich filling: roast the pork, shred the meat, then toss it around in some homemade barbecue sauce. quite a few reviewers mentioned how the flavor of the sauce improved after some time in the fridge, so on a wednesday night i found myself watching old episodes of friends while chopping a whole lot of onions.

after they got a good and buttery sauté in the pan, a generous amount of spices went in, too.

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plus, like, twelve thousand cloves of garlic. divided by a thousand.

then tomato paste, cider vinegar, and some water before things really started blurbling.

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pretty soon, the aroma of the sauce hung in the air and my little house was smelling awfully sour. indeed, there were some recipe commenters who worried over the vinegar content in the recipe, but for this first time out, i decided to follow it faithfully; i’ll just keep my bag of brown sugar close by for emergency adjustments. i haven’t tasted the sauce yet – the tupperware’s currently resting quietly in the fridge – but i’ll be roasting the pork later today, so we’ll see then how well the two get along.

to be continued…

milk

IMG_0077milk is one of those places that really belongs in l.a. the interior is bright and white, and the place just gleams from the street corner on a cool june night. with its bold red sign, you really can’t miss it driving down beverly boulevard. then upon entering, you become so enamored by the sight of all the different ice cream products that you are confused into paying $3.25 for a scoop.

the first time i went to milk, i ordered a scoop of banana dulce de leche and it was pretty good. but it was more banana than dulce de leche, and that’s the wrong side to err on in my opinion. then i stole a taste of my friend’s coffee toffee. it was rich and robust; the coffee flavor really punched through. i was promptly enveloped in jealousy.

last night, after all that beer and basketball, we went to milk, and this time i ordered a scoop of coffee toffee. i reveled a bit in the strong, creamy-coffee flavor and the crunchy shards of toffee. then i took a bite of my friend’s strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. one little bite and the strawberry flavor swept my mouth, and there were delicious little crumb clumps embedded in the coating, too. i was promptly enveloped in jealousy.

now guess what i’m determined to get next time. this is going to be a vicious (delicious!) cycle.

milk also has a substantial food menu (i was intrigued by the crispy skin ½ chicken i saw scrawled on the specials board) and a side case of baked goods (their blue velvet cake is pretty popular, i sense), but if i’m going to bookmark this place for anything it’ll be for the ice cream. you can justify plunking down a fistful of dollar bills for homemade ice cream if it leads to a night of thrilling conversation, right?

now, you tell me: would you rather date a guy with a comb-over or a guy who’s 4’11”? or: a girl with a moustache or a girl with four missing teeth? we sat outside in those metal chairs till closing time hashing these complex issues out, and it just wouldn’t have worked without the ice cream.

beer

Yardhouse1there was some kind of basketball game going on yesterday. the bar was packed. purple and yellow everywhere. people cheered… and i sat quietly at our table, facing “the wrong way,” admiring my pretty pretty beer.

we had gone to yard house early and claimed some seats outside. since we knew we were going to be camped out there for a few hours at least, my friend suggested we pace ourselves with the ordering of food and drinks and order a little at a time. oh, you mean i have to sit here and try a bunch of different appetizers? and i have to keep ordering drinks? and plates will continue arriving throughout the evening? hm, interesting. perhaps i like this “watching sports” thing.

i eventually got around to trying one of yard house’s beer blends: the youngberry chocolate. it’s a half-half combo of lindemans framboise and young’s chocolate stout. i’d seen this on the menu before and always thought it was kind of gimmicky – one of those things that only sounds appealing. and i love the framboise on its own (meets my very strict tastes-like-juice criteria for alcoholic beverages), so why mess with it? plus, i don’t even like chocolate with raspberry in real life. but when my drink arrived, i …uh, kind of sucked it down. it was pretty delicious. what makes the blend a great idea is the fact that the creamy stout offsets the acidic pucker of the lambic and adds that velvety layer of foam on top. foam, foam, foam, i love foam.

i may not have come away from last night caring any more about basketball than i did before, but youngberry chocolate: i smack my lips at you.

blueberry crisp

this post is going to be all sorts of mediocrity. first of all, i don’t know how to shoot pictures when there isn’t sunlight available.

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meh.

those are supposed to be blueberries in a lovely yellow baking dish (that my momma bought for me, aww). but instead they are grayberries. in a reasonably yellow dish.

second, while the finished product had a nice balance of crumbly crisp topping and soppy-syrupy baked fruit beneath…

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the fruit part didn’t have enough kick to it and the crumb part had a little too much salt. maybe a lot too much.

i got the recipe from the latest issue of living, needing a way to use up a leftover half-box of blueberries. the recipe was just all right, but despite its flaws, i won’t be throwing it out entirely. for some reason i always manage to mess up crumb toppings (they are forever melting into non-crumbness in the oven, making me oh-so-sad because the topping is always my favorite part), but this one turned out just right, texture-wise. i’ll just have to fiddle around with the flavor balance some more. fortunately this round was just a test run, and nobody had to eat it except me, and luckily i will still be my friend.

here’s to hoping the dessert planned for my barbecue next weekend turns out more fantastically, because people are actually going to have to eat that one.

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traces

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i work not very far at all from where my parents live. i stop at home on a pretty regular basis to pick up this or that, but because of their work hours, i rarely see my mom and dad and often have the house to myself. sometimes i feel like a ghost in the house i grew up in, coming and going, leaving traces of my presence behind: the tv turned to a different channel, shuffled issues of magazines, or – when i’m feeling like a good daughter – a rack of just-washed dishes.

tonight i dropped in to do a load of laundry as i sometimes do. while the machine rumbled and whirred the week’s clothes, i went out the screen door to the backyard and sat at the patio table with a book. under the broad umbrella, i sat down to enjoy the warm evening. there, i noticed a large double-wick candle, a box of matches, and a couple grains of rice left on the seat. i put the pieces together and stitched an unfamiliar image of my parents’ life at home. they, too, like to take their dinner outside on a pleasant, almost-summer night? they buy heavily scented jar candles and sit by their glow?

sometimes it’s strange to think you are like your parents, especially when all you’ve felt these past years is the distance. then suddenly without even trying you find your habits tracing over theirs, effortlessly, with no thought to it at all. sometimes it’s the bad habits, like my mom’s stubbornly nocturnal sleeping routine, but today it was nice to draw the pretty lines back to my family.

the other night

my friday evening at target…

scenario 1: man approaches me

“excuse me, do you know where i can find maxi pads?”
“…  yeah, i think they’re over in that aisle.”
“haha, boy, this brings up bad memories of my mom asking me to pick these up for h– ”
“yeah, i’m pretty sure they’re in that aisle.”

scenario 2: man rolls his cart by while i am picking out some crackers

“no, don’t get those. they’ll make you fat.”

scenario 3: man walks by me while i am holding a dish rack

“that is a dish rack.”

why, yes, strange sir, it is. i go back to my car now and eat with my friends at señor fish, ok bye bye.

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