Friday, February 26, 2010

Struggle Gets Dishy Volume 3

In honor of my upcoming trip to Turkey (more on that later), I've been getting really into lamb, yogurt, conversion by the sword, geometric patterns, Byzantine mosaics, and the works of Salman Rushdie. Ha, I'm just kidding with that last one, I'm not trying to start no trouble with the Ayatola. Fatwa free is cool with me. Anyway, my point is that I've been experimenting with yogurt in my mutfak (Turkish for kitchen, you're welcome) and I couldn't resist whipping up a side dish (or main dish, if meat isn't your treat, man, I'm on a ROLL today with the rhyming, rap career here I come!) using the key staples of Turkish cuisine. Foolish, you say, to gourge yourself on roasted eggplant with yogurt mint sauce right before a ten day stint in Istanbul? Well, I say to YOU....that's something I probably should have thought about earlier. Oh well. I'm a struggle for a reason.

In a move sure to anger and infuriate Turks the world over, I've used Fage Greek yogurt in my recipe. In my defense, however, when was the last time you saw Turkish Yogurt on the shelves at, say, any supermarket or grocery store? It's this kind of quick thinking that defeated Xerxes during the Persian Wars, and it's that kind of availability that means you can make an exotic seeming dish trading any camels to do so. And in THIS economy, who really has livestock to spare?

Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt Mint Dressing:
 1 large Italian eggplant OR three medium sized Japanese eggplants (Japanese Eggplants are a lavender color and are generally sweeter and faster cooking then their bulbous deep purple Italian counterparts)
5 cloves of garlic, minced (3 for the eggplant, 2 for the sauce)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt if your allegiance to the Turkish flag prohibits such a thing)
1/4 cup of chopped mint leaves
the juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
salt, pepper
olive oil or cooking spray

Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the eggplant into rounds between 1 and 1/2" thick (depending on your eggplant choices these will resemble Hannukah gelt or small coasters). Toss the eggplant with salt, pepper, 3 minced cloves of garlic and oil or cooking spray depending on your preference. Lay the slices out on a baking sheet, making sure that none of the slices overlap. Roast for 30 minutes or until done. The Japanese eggplant may take less time and the Italian more, but you will know the eggplant is ready when the outside is dry and a little browned and the inside is soft and gray.

Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, mint, lemon juice and zest, and the garlic. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. The sauce is honestly better when it has some time to blend, so make it the day ahead or that morning if you can count on yourself not to spread it on everything possible before you even buy the eggplant.

Serve the roasted eggplant with a generous dollop of (or all of) the yogurt sauce. Savor the taste of Turkey, enjoy, and try to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Struggle Takes Five

Part of maintaining one's Real Estate license in the fine state of Strugglevania is the abominable and painful task of continuing education, which occurs once every two years and requires 14 hours of mindless, boring and totally redundant classes which make you want to stab your eyes out with a fork. Not that I'd had that thought or anything. And while I personally will be doing my continuing education classes online, preferably with old episodes of 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation playing in the background. But some of us, and by some, I mean my entire office, seemed to feel the need to sit through actual classes for 7 hours, so this past Wednesday and Thursday I was alone in the office, fielding whatever problem came my way.

Now, let me tell you something about real estate. The selling and buying part? That has it's issues, but in general, in comparison with the property management part, it's a WALK IN THE PARK. Because managing properties, that is, dealing with apartments and the people who use them, well, I have to assume that that is some kind of punishment for something my family and I did in a past life. Were we murderers? Cossacks? God help me, rodeo clowns? Well, whatever it was, I'm really sorry, universe, but I think you've had your just desserts, because you've saddled us with a set of task that has us dealing with people at their absolute worst.

Look, I have nothing but sympathy for people who arrive home at their apartments at 7pm and find themselves confronting real, actual, unlivable problems, like, for example, their pipes have frozen and burst, or their ceiling has collapsed, or their closet opens into a snowy kingdom that's a metaphor for Christianity. These are all real problems, though that last one might be fun if you dress warm and stay away from the Turkish Delight, and we would be happy to help you with them as soon as is humanly possible. But really, and you can trust me on this, true emergencies only take up about 30% of my time, and that other 70%? It's chock full of crazy.

Here's one for you. While I wandered around the halls of our darkened office, the printers and copiers silent, the computer monitors turned off, only the quiet sound of the footsteps of little mice to keep me company, I received a phone call so strugglesome, so insane, so stupid, that I continue fume about it even now. The caller, who shall remain anonymous just so that no one becomes as enraged as I am, hunts them down, and hits them in the face until they look like they just won the big fight with Apollo Creed, was extremely upset because, apparently, a post man was daily entering the building in which they rent a commercial unit and using the (public) bathroom. And this was NOT their regular postman, but some strange postman. And he takes up a spot in the PARKING lot. And he brings a NEWSPAPER in the bathroom with him, so you know he's going to be taking his time. And this is a DEEPLY upseting and serious problem, and just WHAT do we plan to do about it, the caller would like to know? Oh, the postman is black. Does that help?

When I asked this person why they themselves didn't, I don't know, call their local post office or confront this wiley postman before or after he did his daily business, they were shocked and affronted. WE couldn't possibly do anything, we have to protect our anonymity! Postmen TALK!  (I suppose that's true, I mean, I've never met a mute one.) We must get our MAIL!

Now, in the face of all of this ludicrous insane strugglesomeness, did I scream? Did I laugh? Did I imply that this may be one of the ten thousand reasons to look into this whole "email" thing so popular with the young folks these days? Did I even hint at the fact that this at the end of the day was one of the most worthless complaints I've ever heard? No, I did not. I took the nice crazy person's information and promised to do all I could do about the defecating public servent who is, apparently, ruining this caller's life. Because I am a professional. I am a grown up. And I am getting paid for this.

Whatever we were in a past life, I can't wait until we've made our karmic restitution. Because if hell is other people, then greetings from the 7th circle, and Dante has nothing on us. Clearly, the man knew nothing about Real Estate.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Struggle Gets Dishy Volume 2

Whatever else it may imply, having friends in town is, frankly, an awesome excuse to cook all fancy like. For example, when I visited my friend Andrew (hi, Andrew!) in London, we roasted a chicken, made risotto, two kinds of soup, and Andrew rocked a tiramisu so hard it's like the Pope itself had blessed it. Now, are we big food geeks who wanted to save some money? Mayhap, gentle reader, mayhap indeed. Nevertheless, it was awesome.

So when my friends Ben and Jon (Hi, Ben and Jon!) decided to venture back up to the great city of Struggledelphia this weekend, I wanted to pull out all the stops. For a dinner that is sure to impress, without hours of labor and time spent in the bathroom sobbing because your soufle wouldn't rise and your sauce wouldn't reduce and no one will EVER LOVE YOU, or, you know, whatever, I can always recommend Tuna Steaks. Simple and tasty, as long as you get good quality fish the dish just speaks for itself. Here is one recipe I tried this weekend, which I served with roasted potatoes, red wine, and no mention whatesoever at all of being single on Valentine's Day. Not even the one time.

Provencal Tuna (Adapted from Bon Appetite):
2 tuna steaks of 1" thickness ( I like Ahi Tuna, but do whatever works)
2 zucchini, cubed to 1/2" cubes
1 medium eggplant, cubed like the zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grape tomatos
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provance (it's a mix of herbs, a popular gift to bring home from trips to France, Thanks, Lisa. If you can't find it, you can use a combination of  equal parts dried thyme, basil, savory, and fennel seeds.)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small white onion, chopped
salt, pepper

Combine the zucchini, eggplant, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, garlic and onion in a small roasting pan or baking sheet with raised edges ( just so nothing falls out, burns up in your oven, and causes an awkward morning in the burn unit). Broil mixture on high heat until the zucchini and eggplant are cooked through and the mixture begins to brown, about 15 minutes or more, depending on your broiler. Once the mixture is cooked through, add the tomatoes and mix well. Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan. Dry each tuna steak well, to brown, and sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Sear the steaks, about 3 minutes per side for rare centers. Serve steaks topped with vegetable mixture and starch of your choice. Entire bottle of wine and good company optional, but recommended.