Cooking Spree: Fancy Egg Salad

Here’s something that’s been sorely missing on this blog for awhile … food. I used to do so well, cooking all week for nourishment and experimenting all weekend for stress relief. But I haven’t been doing any of that lately. I think it means I’m less stressed out, but also busier, if that’s even possible. Plus, who wants to cook (or eat) when it’s 100 degrees outside?

Lately I’ve been eating the weirdest things for dinner. Like peanut butter on a handful of Triscuits. The other night I ate shrimp salad on saltines with sesame noodles. This is what happens when you go to the grocery store hungry. My go to, weeknight, starving when I get home at 9 p.m. dinner, though, is egg salad. It makes a killer packable lunch too. All you need are 2 eggs, some mayo and a nice piece of crusty bread. Everyone has that in the fridge, so you can make a feast for yourself in 15 minutes. And when you want, you can also make it fancy.

When I lived in New York, there was a chain of European (well, Euro-style, at least) cafes called Le Pain Quotidien. They have great coffee and beautiful pastries, and everyone sits at long, rustic, wooden communal tables. Ooh la la. But the highlight is the tartine sandwiches — all manner of French-style, open-faced sandwiches served with tart cornichons (tiny pickles) and a green salad. They are delicious, and eating them makes me feel so cosmopolitan. As if I am dining on the sidewalk in Paris, instead of just the loud, dirty corner of 57th Street.

My favorite tartine at Le Pain Quotidien is the egg salad, and they make theirs with a few unique ingredients. The French may love mayonnaise, but here they actually use olive oil as a binder. It may sound odd, but it’s very good. Even I, a mayonnaise connoisseur, didn’t even miss it. In fact, the olive oil somehow makes the egg salad lighter and more buttery. The other special ingredient adds a shock of salt and tang: capers. Capers are apparently a berry from the caper, or Flinders rose, bush. The little, green berries are often pickled and used in Italian and Meditteranean dishes. To me they’re naturally kind of bitter, and then the pickling adds a vinegar bite. I confess I’m not often a caper fan because the flavor can be quite overwhelming, so I enjoy them when used sparingly or hidden in other dishes. In this, they are a great complement.

So, the next time you want to transform your home into a Parisian sidewalk cafe and feel a little fancy, try this egg salad. It’s much cheaper than the plane ticket.

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Fancy Egg Salad

2 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil (or more)
1 teaspoon capers, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

To boil the eggs, place them in a pot and fill with cold water just to cover them. Heat the water on high until it boils, then turn it off, cover the pot and let the eggs sit for 10-15 minutes. This apparently helps to prevent that green ring that can appear around the yolk, but I don’t care so much about that.

Remove the eggs from the water, and let cool or run cold water over them until they’re cool enough to handle. Peel and slice into a bowl.

Using a pastry blender (or a fork), mash the eggs until there are only small chunks.

Chop the capers and add them to the eggs.

Add the olive oil and mix everything together. At this point, you should taste it and add as much salt and pepper as you like. If the consistency is too dry, or you like yours creamier, add more oil a little bit at a time.

Spread the salad on a good piece of toasted bread. I didn’t have any, but you could add herbs or top with sprouts or shaved radishes or even mixed greens to make it truly fancy.

 

The next time.

Last week, a former coworker of mine, Regina, passed away from breast cancer. She was 34. I can’t say that we were especially close, but we were more than acquaintances. Friendly acquaintances, I guess. After I moved away from NYC, I saw her once when I visited and we exchanged Facebook messages as recently as a couple of years ago. By that time, I knew she had been diagnosed but was improving. She invited me to her walks and events, and I watched the “Rally for Regina” messages and photos pour in through Facebook. I got updates on her through our mutual friend every so often, but I had no idea that her condition had become so dire.

So when I got the email about her passing, I was surprised and sad. We tend to say typical things when someone dies: “She was kind.” “She had the biggest smile and the biggest heart.” “She was the life of the party.” “She would do anything for anyone.” But, really, Regina was all of those things. I can still hear her booming laugh and voice as clear as day, five years later. The tragedy of Regina’s passing didn’t truly hit me until this morning, when I read her obituary. I remembered that we were fellow Geminis, and bonded to some degree over that. But when I saw her birthdate, it came into focus — I am exactly one year and five days older than Regina. That’s how much more time I’ve been allotted. Continue reading

It's a small world after all.

Small-world coincidences always throw me for a loop. I don’t know why. I suppose it’s that it seems outrageous that in this world of nearly 7 billion people, we can be connected across cities, states and continents, that the theory of six degrees of separation is true. Maybe I’m way too independent and comfortable with anonymity, and such connections are a tap-on-the-shoulder, wake-up call that I’m really not as detached as I think.

But they’re also neat when they happen.

For example.

Meet Dave.

Dave and I worked together at my first job in NYC — along with fellow hard working, hard playing 20-somethings who were taking the NYC PR scene by storm (so we thought). The lines between life and work constantly blurred, which brought an inordinant amount of drama, as you can imagine. But it also forged possibly life-long friendships. I was on the periphery of the main, inner circle: friendly with everyone, invited to the parties, but since I was younger (and more junior), I was slightly removed.
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London, Day 1: On Arrival

Oh, London.

I’m freshly back from my London Jubilee/birthday excursion, and missing it already. That’s a little unusual, because as much as I am enamored with British culture, television, tea, accents, history and the royal family … I’ve just never really liked London. On this trip, though, I think the love affair began.

London’s such an easy city — to get to, to get around in, to visit alone. Though it’s nothing like New York, I felt a distinct and similar cityness — on the tube, in the hum of commuter rush hour, in just its oldness. But in that, of course, New York has nothing on London. I just felt surprisingly comfortable, and loved being back in the middle of the bustling city — you know I can throw an elbow in a crowd, hurl myself into a packed train car and speedwalk past the tourists with the best of them.

Now, it wasn’t a relaxing holiday, not like laying on a Caribbean beach with a mai tai for a week. And I killed it, every day, which means I made it through most of the sites on my to do list. It also means I hardly slept, mostly because I never acclimated to GMT. It sure made the coming home easier though — no early waking and to bed at 8 pm for me.
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Hot town, summer in the city.

I don’t know if you are aware, but the city I live in is quite happenin’ right now. Yes, as of 2012, Charlotte is officially “on the map.”

I mean, it’s already home to Bank of America headquarters, whose front door has been on the news every night for the last four years, and who’s constantly in the running for “most hated company in America.”
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Over my dead body.

I’m nearing the end of another one of those crazy periods in life, full of stress and errands and little sleep. Which, with the dust storm and the new job and some unexpected medical issues of Oliver’s, is probably understandable. (Oh, how quickly I forgot those fleeting days of retirement.) And last weekend was the culmination, the prime reason I had cleaned for weeks and shopped and chewed all my fingernails off.  I graduated from business school.

My family descended on my barely-cleaned home to witness my walking across a stage in a cap and gown one more time and to celebrate such an accomplishment. It was three and a half long, yet still quick, years in the making, and during the weekend I reflected often on the friends I’d made, the classes and people who made me want to pull my hair out, the lessons I’d learned, those stressful times where I’d barely known my own name, my South Africa trip, and ultimately all the fun I’d had. It’s the end of an era, which is always bittersweet.

The best news is that, while it was unnaturally hot in early May, it was my first graduation ceremony ever that wasn’t affected by rain. At my high school graduation, the downpour on the coliseum’s tin roof completely drowned out all the speakers. And the douse of big, fat rain over the outdoor stadium before college graduation just made everyone mad and uncomfortable. So, it was a miracle that we had a clear, if a bit steamy, day this time. And all the scheduling went smoothly — everyone arrived on time and was able to secure decent seating, I didn’t trip over my robe or otherwise embarrass myself and dinner was a big hit.
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A day like any other.

Everybody knows what today is. And I still don’t know quite how to process what it all means, or what it should mean. Every year for the past 10, I reflect on that Tuesday morning, the days leading up to and following it.

I’ve tuned out all of the media coverage this week, not because I’m avoiding it but because I hope September 11, the actual day, can become a day like any other. The event is something that will forever mark and shape the rest of our lives, and we will always talk about it. I mean, I was at a party last night and we were all preparing to wrap up and leave, but someone mentioned air travel or New York or security or something, and we stayed in the kitchen another hour discussing where we were and how we felt about it. We had a special and important conversation. I will never forget what happened, those we lost, those who showed unimaginable bravery. I think of them almost every day, especially when my eye catches the clock at 9:11 a.m. or p.m. That eerily happens a lot. I need September 11 to represent a reason that we celebrate love, life and service, not one that stops us in our tracks every year.
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