Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Grilled Peaches

I couldn’t believe it when I swiped my subway card one morning last week and the words “insufficient fare” flashed up leading to me awkwardly backing out of the stall much to the irritation of the ten people practically running me over Pamplona-bull style as they tried to get to the train before the train operator – who sees you running at breakneck speed –inevitably shuts the door in your face. I digress. Those two words “insufficient fare” meant that I had been in NYC for thirty days. I had used up my first metro card. I took a moment to savor this instant before being pushed aside by the next rush of people.

In these past thirty days I have celebrated a birthday, experienced an earthquake on the 18th floor of a high rise, scared my mother to death by calling her and exclaiming “Mom, you aren’t going to believe this! We just had an earthquake!” and educated my co-workers on the proper Hurricane preparation techniques North Carolinians get used to (fill the tub with water, buy bottled water and stock up on non-perishables like apples, boxed milk, Fig Newton’s and M & M’s.) I have explored several neighborhoods in Brooklyn, checked out a local comedy club on a Saturday night and had my fair share of New York style cheese pizza.

And now the summer is winding down. The day after tomorrow is September 1st and you can already feel that crispness in the air. The breeze off of the river is much chillier than it was two weeks ago and the leaves that Irene left on our trees will inevitably start showing a tinge of Autumn soon. But what a summer it has been. To celebrate the winding down of the past few months, I decided to send Summer off with one more peachy-keen dish. Literally. This dish was a simple, light and delicious dessert that I will plan on having again – only for breakfast. Because I like to pretend I’m adult enough to have a fruit dessert but in reality I just want a giant hot fudge sundae with sprinkles and will save my sophisticated fruit concoctions for a time more appropriate for those ingredients – like breakfast.
Grilled Peaches
Adapted from Weight Watchers

cooking spray
1/4 cups low fat cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
1 tablespoon honey (I would increase this -- or at least add an extra drizzle once the dish is plated. You can never have too much honey.)
3 peaches, pitted and halved

Heat a grill pan (or a regular grill if you live in more than a ten by ten foot space and have the luxury of an outdoor space) and spray with cooking spray. Place peaches cut-side down until marked. (Mine never got marked and I kept them on there a couple of minutes. But they were still sweet and delicious.) While peaches are grilling, mix cream cheese, sour cream and honey in a bowl until smooth. Place cooked peaches on a platter, cut side up. Garnish with a spoonful of the cheese mixture and drizzle with extra honey.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Orzo, Zucchini and Shrimp Salad

We made it! The past two weeks have come and gone and each new day brings a new experience of the wonder, magic and inconveniences of living in New York City. But I love it and Robbie loves it and we have a home of our own now. And that is what is most important. I have wandered aimlessly for blocks at a time, I have taken the subway to work like 95% of the other New Yorkers, I have dined out more than I have dined in and I have obtained my New York City Public Library card. My goal next week is to reenact the scene from Funny Girl where Fanny belts out Don’t Rain on my Parade on a chug boat as she blows past the Statue of Liberty. Instead of meeting Mr. Arnstein, I will meet Robbie on Governor’s Island who will greet me with a Mister Softee ice cream cone. Fingers crossed the weather cooperates!

Now, about those inconveniences . . . Our brownstone, which is broken up into several apartments, was built in 1900. There is a beautiful wooden staircase that goes up the center of the building, lifting its residents to their respective floors. It’s very Edith Wharton-like. Unfortunately, we are on the 5th floor. That’s right, don't let the apartment number 1E fool you. At least once a day, I travel up five flights of stairs to get to my apartment, inevitably remember an errand I forgot to run, turn around, sulk down the stairs, run the errand, and return – for another 5-flight walk. At least we won’t have many visitors. Or robbers.

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that FedEx, USPS, and UPS all dislike residents living on the fifth floor of walk ups and conspire to make it an act of Congress to get any item of mail bigger than our 4 x 12 inch mail box/cubby hole delivered. Currently, FedEx holds our new router after an ‘unsuccessful’ delivery on Friday and USPS is holding, since Thursday, the microwave we bought after an ‘insufficient address’ claim. I think it was a ‘no-way-am-I-walking-up-5-flights-of-stairs’ excuse but that was not an option in the electronic thing they carry around. Alas, several calls later and trips to the local FedEx store we still do not have our respective items but we remain optimistic that this week will bring success. And clarity as to how you actually get packages delivered in NYC.

The lack of a microwave has created challenges to my cooking repertoire. I really like to make things that I can get at least an additional meal out of but without the 20th Century luxury of the ‘reheat’ button on the microwave, I have been limited as to what I can make. So during our first week, I made this easy orzo pasta dish knowing that you could have it cold if in dire straits (which we did, and it was not that dire). It was our first home cooked meal in our home and we raised our Coke Zero’s to New York City.

Orzo, Zucchini and Shrimp Salad
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Coarse Salt and Pepper
1 cup orzo
1 tbs. + 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 med. zucchini, quartered and chopped
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1 to 2 tbs. white wine vinegar
1 pound of salad ready shrimp (already cooked)

Cooke orzo according to the package instructions. Allow to cool. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally until crisp-tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add shrimp and stir for another minute or two. Transfer orzo to a medium bowl, add zucchini mixture, basil, vinegar and remaining teaspoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Makes four servings.