14.8.16

Simple Eggplant and Tomato Stew


Hi! I've missed you. I've missed blogging. I've missed cooking. 

It's been a bit of a miserable summer of bar studying, but it's finally, finally OVER. 


Summer is always one of my favorite seasons for cooking because of the fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere, so it was hard not to have much time for cooking this summer.  I ate a lot of cereal and take-out. Not great.

Although our squash plants didn't end up having much of a harvest, we've had a ton of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. I did manage to make refrigerator pickles and some simple pasta dishes with tomatoes.

Now that I'm easing my way back into the kitchen, I knew I had to make something with cherry tomatoes, and once my mom gave me this beautiful Japanese eggplant from her garden, I knew just the thing: simple eggplant and tomato stew.


This recipe is inspired from one of my very favorite dishes at Med Deli in Chapel Hill--their eggplant, squash and tomato stew.  It's essentially eggplant, tomato, and onion that are cooked for a long time until everything is disintegrated and delicious.

I'm not sure if everyone is a fan of vegetables cooked until they're totally falling apart, but I can assure that in this instance, it's wonderful.

The recipe here is very loose here--feel free to add more or less of what I have, or add in other vegetables as well. There's no way to mess it up.  To take it in the mediterranean direction, add cumin and paprika and maybe sprinkle it with feta cheese at the end. To take it in the Italian direction, add parmesan cheese and fresh basil at the end.  Either way, serve it with some bread for dipping. It makes the whole experience.


Unfortunately, after just finishing a busy season of studying, I'm now about to enter another season of busyness. In the next week, I'll be starting my new job and we'll be moving. We haven't found a permanent home yet, so we're moving into a sort of temporary housing situation, which we just learned doesn't have a full kitchen.  :(

What this means for the blog, I'm not sure. BUT, Adam and I also just returned from a wonderful trip to Colorado, and I have lots to share about what we did and where we ate. 

Thank you, as always, for reading along. 



Simple Eggplant and Tomato Stew


Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 a medium onion
pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1-2 small eggplants, chopped
1 green pepper chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
~1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

For serving:
fresh basil
parmesan cheese
naan or pita bread for dipping

Directions:
Add butter and olive oil to a large saucepan over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, add the onions. Cook for a minute or so and then reduce heat to medium low. Continue to caramelize the onions, stirring every few minutes, as you prepare the other ingredients.

Once the onions have caramelized to your liking (I cooked mine for 15 minutes or so, you can do longer if you have more patience), add the cherry tomatoes. Raise heat to medium and cook tomatoes and onions for an additional 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and started to burst.

Add the chopped green pepper, eggplant, and garlic. Stir to combine, then cover. Continue cooking the vegetable mixture for about 20 minutes.  Every few minutes, remove the lid and stir. The tomatoes should have produced lots of liquid, but as the liquid starts to evaporate, add water.

I consider the dish complete when the eggplant pieces have started to disintegrate and the whole mixture resembles something you want to scoop up with pita bread. Be sure to season liberally with salt and pepper.

Serve with pita bread or naan and chopped basil and grated parmesan cheese, if desired.


22.6.16

Checking in


Hey friends! I'm sorry for the long absence. I thought I would be able to post at least occasionally during the first part of bar studying, but I underestimated how all-consuming studying would be.  This will probably be my past post until August, but I wanted to check in with a few recipes and restaurants that I'm loving lately. 

Despite spending most of my waking hours studying, I've managed to find time to check out a couple new places around town.  A new favorite is Honeysuckle Tea House, where I got the beautiful smoothie bowl above. This one had banana, dates, mango, coconut milk, bee pollen, and edible flowers!


Adam and I have also become obsessed with Ponysaurus, a new brewery in Durham.  It has a great outdoor space, including this rooftop with string lights. It's a great place to watch the sunset, sip a beer, and maybe work on making notecards.... 

They have sweet and salty snacks on hand and a local food truck is usually there too.


Because most of my mental energy has gone toward studying, I haven't attempted any new recipes lately, but we're still making our favorites.  A big hit recently was my panang curry recipe served over rice noodles instead of rice. It's SOO good. Please try it.

I've also made greek chicken pitas (with grocery store rotisserie chicken) and my favorite chopped salad.


I'm so excited for later in the summer when some of the veggies from our garden are ready for harvest. So far we have lots of baby squash (aren't they the cutest??) and some green cherry tomatoes. Watering the garden everyday has been a good study break for me, and I think it's helping my sanity just a little bit.


What recipes or restaurants are you loving this summer? Any favorite squash recipes? I think we're going to have a lot. . .

Happy Summer!  

22.5.16

Small Batch Kettle Corn (with video!)


If you've been reading for a while, you know that I have a tendency to become obsessed with particular street foods and then seek to recreate them at home.  First it was arepas, then soft pretzels. Today, it's kettle corn. 


I've always been a fan of kettle corn.  It's my go-to at the state fair and the air show, and any other event with vendor food.  Adam and I have been on a homemade popcorn kick for the past few months, but I neglected to make kettle corn until just recently.  I assumed it required special equipment or long baking times, but it doesn't!

Now, because I don't have a real kettle or specialty corn kernels, this isn't exactly like the kettle corn you'd buy at the fair, but I think the favor and texture is pretty darn close. 

Also, because we're nerds, and because I have one more day of freedom before bar studying starts, Adam and I made you a how-to video: 


I call this small batch kettle corn because it makes enough for 2-3 servings, which is perfect for us. Enjoy!



Small Batch Kettle Corn


Ingredients:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons sugar
salt for sprinkling

Directions:
Add canola oil to a medium-sized saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat.  Add three corn kernels and place lid on the pot. Listen carefully.

Once one of the kernels has popped, quickly add the remaining corn kernels and sugar. Shake the pan to evenly coat the kernels in oil and sugar. Continue cooking over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Once the popping slows, remove from heat quickly to avoid burning.

Spread popcorn out over parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. Let cool and dig in!

8.5.16

Thoughts on the Law School Job Search


When I finished teaching, I had all sorts of profound thoughts about how teaching had shaped me for the better.

I don't have quite the same feelings about law school. While teaching made me a better and stronger person, law school has helped me to know myself better, and to think critically about what really matters. (Mostly by rejecting what law school has told me I should value.)

In short, I've faced a lot of rejection and self-doubt over the past three years.  I think where I've grown the most has been through the agonizing job search process. I hesitate to share any advice, because I know everyone's experience is different.  But many of my brilliant classmates are still in the midst of their search, and for those who will be job-searching in the future, I thought I'd share what I've learned. 

1. Relax. 
Finding a job is important, but it doesn't have to be EVERYTHING. When I was feeling stressed about not having a job yet, I would think about all the other wonderful things in my life that I was thankful for and that, in the big scheme of things, are way more important than securing employment.  This calmed me down. 

Also, don't let other people's success make you feel frantic. I was one of the last of my friends to get an internship for 1L summer, 2L summer, and in securing a job for after graduation. During each of those periods, I was happy for my friends who got great offers for internships/jobs, but I also felt increasingly discouraged as more friends got jobs while I remained jobless.  I think this feeling is natural, but it's also not productive. 

2. Network.
Ugh, do you hate the idea of networking? I do too. I remember at one of our first career sessions, a career counselor emphasized how important networking would be, and I rolled my eyes thinking, "Nope, I won't need to do that."  Wrong. 

A small percentage of people find their jobs through on campus interviews and a few more find them through postings on the law school employment page, but I think most people end up finding jobs through networking--myself included.  It's hard, and it can be awkward at first to reach out to people that you don't know, but it's worth it.

My main take-away from this experience was that genuine connections with people make a difference. This could be a connection with someone that you've worked with in the past or a connection that you form with a new person over coffee.  Also, never underestimate the power of a kind email. 

3. Don't let rejections affect your self worth.
We have a very dangerous tendency in our culture to equate our jobs with our worth as individuals. I say dangerous, because once the number of rejection letters you've received nears 20, you start to go down a bad path. (me)

I believe that as human beings, we each have unsurpassable worth.  Because we exist in the world, we are worthy of love and belonging. This is not affected by anything we do or accomplish.  It's helpful to remind ourselves of that when we're in the midst of a difficult season.

4. Pursue what you are passionate about.
I was nervous at various points throughout law school because I realized that all of the practical experiences I had were in one particular area of law that I happened to be really interested in.  I feared that this would limit my marketability to employers, and it probably did.  But it also made me more qualified for the jobs I really wanted, and for me, that trade-off was worth it in the end.

5. Don't be afraid to turn down an offer that isn't right for you. 
Law school career counselors would be horrified that I'm saying this, but I think it's true.  In November I received an offer for a prestigious position in another city.  It was an amazing opportunity that I was very fortunate to receive, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to move to that city.

I agonized over the decision for weeks. On the day I was going to send an email declining the offer, I called my mom sobbing. "What if I regret this decision later?  What if this is my lean in moment and I'm missing it?  What if this is the only job offer I'll ever receive?"  My mom told me that she didn't believe in regrets, and that all I could do was make the decision that felt right for me in that moment.

During that time, I also thought a lot about an advice column I'd read by Sheryl Strayed entitled The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us.  In the column, Sheryl gives advice to a 40 year old man deciding whether or not he and his partner will have children.  Sheryl says that when we're faced with such an irrevocable life choice, there's no way to know exactly how our lives will pan out.  She quotes Tomas Transtromer, who wrote that that every life "has a sister ship" that follows "quite another route" than the one that we choose to take. This was helpful imagery for me as I imagined the life I would live if I accepted the offer and life I would live if I rejected it, which was still very uncertain at that time.  Ultimately, Sheryl's concluding words gave me much comfort:

"I'll never know and neither will you of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore."



For those of you still searching for a job, or for your life path, I wish you clarity, courage, and perseverance.

Also, happy Mother's Day to all the mamas out there!  I'm especially thankful to mine for her wisdom and unending encouragement.

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