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FERRAGOSTO 2016: New Orleans

4 Apr

I only just barely qualify as a Millennial (and even then only because the state of Pennsylvania wouldn’t change my birth certificate so I could refute that title forevermore), so while I don’t have the “if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen” mindset, I do suffer from “if it’s not on your blog, you’ll never recall it” syndrome. Being on the border of  today’s annoying younguns means that I’ll be old pretty much by tomorrow– so although the 9th annual FERRAGOSTO, happened 8 months ago, we’re talking about it now before JetSet and I reach the age where we can’t remember whether or not we brushed our teeth in the morning.

And this is truly one year not to forget: for years, JetSet and I have debated inviting others to our bizarre, tradition-driven little jaunts, and this year we finally found just the right beta tester–none other than the beloved DonQuixoteKef! Since you will see him only in the same teeshirt and cargo shorts from here on out, here’s what he looks like when he’s not in his trademarked travelwear:

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Alright then, on to it: wouldn’t be FERRAGOSTO if the shenanigans didn’t start off right off the bat. Immediately upon landing in the Big Easy, we had to find an urgent care that was still open because I had fallen while running in DC that morning, went to work all day, and then decided that our first order of business in New Orleans would be seeking out someone to stitch me up. As one does.

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Seven sutures later (3 internal, 4 external, for the curious among us), we were on Frenchman Street, where the beignets were frying and the brass bands were playing:

After eating more fried food than was healthy, we strolled the French Quarter, which was made infinitely better when we realized we could get our craft cocktails to go. Feeling the itis and the time change, we decided to call it an early night. We headed back to our beautiful and well-located AirBnB, but not before one more stop at our soon-to-be favorite take out bar, The Franklin. This is when I realized that I had become the third-wheel on my own vacation.

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Toasting the age old question: why ARE there so many songs about rainbows?

The next morning, JetSet took off an a hot, humid, long run and DonQuixoteKef and I took a pilgrimage to find the brick memorializing his grandfather at the World War II Museum  Along the way, we made the obligatory stop at Cafe du Monde, enjoyed the beautiful architecture, and popped into the Lafayette Cemetery. The great news about wandering around a new place with DonQuixoteKef is that he stops to read all the plaques, and then generously summarizes the interesting parts for you. That’s service with a smile, people.

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Just before lunch, we caught up with JetSet post-run and set off across the Mighty Mississippi to the 15th Ward, Algiers.

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We poked about, ate lunch at the super sweet Tout de Suite Cafe, and headed back across the river. We were having a great walk along the river, when a torrential downpour came out of nowhere and we had to go all Esmeralda and claim sanctuary in the St Louis Cathedral.

…but first, we took a selfie.

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We walked between raindrops, NOLA style–which is to say we followed the awnings from bar to bar. This was the perfect time to be in a group of three, as at any given stop only two of us really felt like a beverage so we could keep the afternoon under control by alternating drinking and seltzering without anyone feeling left out. And to think, just ten years ago I was partnered with DonQuixoteKef so he could help me finish off the second 40 taping our hands together, and now we needed each other for the sobriety triangle. #ReallyNotMillennials

After witnessing a strange Porsche Parade complete with police escort (no, really…) we continued our rainy walk through Louis Armstrong Park and into the Treme.

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We swung by the storied Kermit’s Treme Mother in Law Lounge, where we instantly killed the vibe a few regulars had going at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon.

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On the upside, we did learn a ton about a the eponymous New Orleans Jazz legend, thanks to the 30For30 style documentary they had playing on loop.

Finally, we stopped by St. Augustine Catholic Church, which houses the Tomb of the Unknown Slave.

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On this October 30, 2004, we, the Faith Community of St. Augustine Catholic Church, dedicate this shrine consisting of grave crosses, chains and shackles to the memory of the nameless, faceless, turfless Africans who met an untimely death in Faubourg Treme. The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is commemorated here in this garden plot of St. Augustine Church, the only parish in the United States whose free people of color bought two outer rows of pews exclusively for slaves to use for worship. This St. Augustine/Treme shrine honors all slaves buried throughout the United States and those slaves in particular who lie beneath the ground of Treme in unmarked, unknown graves. There is no doubt that the campus of St. Augustine Church sits astride the blood, sweat, tears and some of the mortal remains of unknown slaves from Africa and local American Indian slaves who either met with fatal treachery, and were therefore buried quickly and secretly, or were buried hastily and at random because of yellow fever and other plagues.

Even now, some Treme locals have childhood memories of salvage/restoration workers unearthing various human bones, sometimes in concentrated areas such as wells. In other words, The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is a constant reminder that we are walking on holy ground. Thus, we cannot consecrate this tomb, because it is already consecrated by many slaves’ inglorious deaths bereft of any acknowledgement, dignity or respect, but ultimately glorious by their blood, sweat, tears, faith, prayers and deep worship of our Creator.

A humbling reminder of the power of taking responsibility for our country’s dark history and the tremendous amount of work left to be done to undo the oppressive systems left in its wake. End rant.

We headed back to home base, took a nap and a shower, then headed to dinner… of course with a stopover to see our friends at the Franklin. For the record, I am generally a woman who drinks about one glass of wine per week… but when I realized I could strut about with my champagne, I was just bubbling over with excitement (har har har). We ate a delicious meal at Peche, then went for cocktails at Arnaud’s French 75.  Anyone keeping track realizes that, by this point, my whopping four drinks in 24 hours had me feeling like a million bucks, so I abstained when JetSet and DonQuixote stopped by Franklin’s for one more roadie.

And yet, somehow, I still participated (instigated?) this late night selfie stick session

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which devolved into my brother and I DEMANDING that Don Quixote join, in a ruckus very similar to an entire amphitheater full of fans chanting “one more song!” that didn’t end until the man himself appeared

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and finally agreed to “snuggle and selfie” with us

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two of these people are related by blood, and one of them is sorry he ever set eyes on the FamiliaKef. You do the math.

 

And then, like a rockstar who suddenly realizes the groupies he thought were hottie-patotties are actually thirty-something siblings, DonQuixote was gone as quickly as he came.

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Suddenly, it was morning, and we decided to be industrious grown ups again. A quick trip to the oddly all-inclusive convenience store down the street for provisions revealed the sign JetSet hopes one day to hang on his office door:

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It was our last day in the Big Easy and we were on two missions: get to the Audobon Zoo, and find a muffuletta on the way. We achieved the latter first, which gave DonQuixote just the boost he needed to rebound from the night before and trek across the city, plus all the calories he needed for the next four days of non-travel detox:

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Luckily, we were greeted with perfect weather for our final hours, and we managed to squeeze in the Zoo as well as mini-campus tours of Loyola and Tulane, plus an attempted-but-ultimately-barred jaunt through one of New Orleans’ most exclusive gated communities.

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We zoomed home on by streetcar, and snapped this lovely shot:

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And that, friends, wraps up FERRAGOSTO 2016. No word on where we’ll head this year (or whether DonQuixote’s Stolkholm Syndrome is severe enough to agree to join us again), but as it is the TENTH ANNIVERSARY, we have some exciting possbilities in the mix.

It won’t, however, be Cleveland:

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The Best Ice Cream I’ve Ever Made (Or: Why Your College Roommate is the Best Person To Keep in Your Life Forever)

25 Aug

Sometimes you gotta let the world know: something INSANE just came out of your kitchen. So, here I am telling you- this ice cream is gonna change the whole game. And I’m not talking about a pickup soccer match cut short for rain– this ice cream is a game-changer on the level of an epic Cricket battle that has gone into days-long overtime. That’s how good it is. OH- and it’s vegan, refined-sugar-free, and off-the-charts easy to make.

You already know- SO not my picture. Thanks to the Tasting Table for this recipe and picture!

But before we get to that, a word from our sponsors. As I’ve written about before, QueijoKef and I spend a lot of time texting/emailing/’graming each other delicious things we’d like to cook or eat. It’s just one of the reasons she is so great (see also: our quick trip to Miamithe epic bike ride inspired by our friendship’s soundtrack, the gnocchi we both die for, and her signature non-dairy creamy sauce). She has an excellent track record of picking awesome recipes (this matcha gingerbread cookie is a fan favorite), so when she sent me this turmeric-cardamom-coconut milk ice cream, I knew she was on a mission to keep her streak alive.

This ice cream has a seriously complex flavor profile (how’s that for food blogger lingo?) that is somewhere between sweet and savory. In another life when I never have to go to school again, I would make grainless graham crackers, slather this ice cream between ’em for an ice cream sandwich, and make my millions selling them on Georgia Ave. A girl can dream.

I followed this recipe exactly, and you should all go over there to give credit where it’s due and support The Tasting Table with all the clicks you can muster. Because I love this recipe so much and would be devastated if it ever went away, I am reproducing it here for posterity (because if Cooking Up Kefi can outlast Gawker, clearly I’ll be here long after The Tasting Table is gone).

Golden Milk Vegan Ice Cream from The Tasting Table

Ingredients

  • 3 c coconut milk
  • ½ c cream of coconut (here on amazon)
  • One 1-inch piece ginger, grated
  • ¼ c honey
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (I used 1-1.5 tsp vanilla extract)
  • Chopped candied ginger, for garnish (optional)

Assembly

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together all the ingredients, minus the candied ginger, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Let cool completely, then refrigerate overnight. Make sure you freeze the bowl of an ice cream maker during this time.

2. The next day, strain the base into the bowl of the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Scrape into a shallow dish and freeze for at least 4 hours. Scoop the ice cream into bowls and drizzle with honey. Garnish with chopped candied ginger, then serve.

How to Have an Awesome Month in Ten Easy Steps

5 Jan

Everyone else got in their year-in-reviews last week but, per usual, I’m tardy to the party. Since this post is already past its blog-by date, I’ll keep my best of 2014 focused to the final 31 days. Ten steps to an awesome month:

1. Have a sensational best friend who is turning 30 (nb: I think that adjective is gonna stick). Scour Etsy for party favors and make sure there is photo evidence of your respective fiancees enjoying said favors (check out this awesome shop for lots of fun glittery goods and these guys for the perfect cake topper… oh and here, too!).photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 42. Watch your brother live out a lifelong dream. See here for more details.photo 13. Rent a private karaoke room for one of your oldest friend’s birthdays. Sing and dance your little hearts out. Bonus points if it’s country.photo 34. Set up your Christmas tree. Smother your amazing FianceKef with thanks for arranging to have your mom ship all your childhood ornaments to your house!

photo 3 4a. Wake up to find the first fatality of Christmas, courtesy of your cat.photo 55. Go out for game-filled night with nearly all your favorite people.photo 4

and maybe even buy a fancy frock for an upcoming event!photo 2

6. Rally with some really righteous people, including this Grandma (who is only a shade less stylish than your own.)

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7. Make your first pot roast for your Fiance’s first annual law firm dinner. Worry that it’s not actually done and have no idea if it’s good or not because, you know, you don’t actually eat meat.photo 4

8. Go home to the beautiful Hudson Valley for another legendary Christmas by MamaKef.

photo 58a. Receive a selfie stick. Proceed to run amok with said device and realize that true Christmas joy can be yours for a mere $8.

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I can’t decide whether or not those should get captions… so let’s just say they’re available upon request.

9. Bring your beloved out to what he refers to as a “Townie Bar” and watch him make friends with everyone in the room, even if they graduated from your high school in… 2011. (Optional: have small crisis about the fact that people who graduated from high school in 2011 can drink legally.)

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10. Celebrate the following Christmas miracles:

spanakopita, which should always be treated as a gift from Godphoto 5

the fact that this Facetime session between MamaKef and GoesDarkKef really and truly did happen
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and the discovery that gluten-free baklava is out there, and it’s ChampagneOnlyKef-approved! photo 1

Finally: ring in a New Year with the most lovable guy around.

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The Great Guster Ride of 2014, Creme Brulee, and the East River Park

28 Jan

There ought to be a word or phrase for a weekend so good it keeps you smiling through Monday. I’m fresh out of ideas- anybody have a suggestion?

I skidaddled up to New York this weekend for a Welcome Back dinner for JetSet Kef that included several of the usual suspects, most of whom have been on the roster for more than a decade. The idea was this: JetSet Kef and I would convene a strange mishmash of the people who made our respective lives at the same college really fun, throw in some adult beverages in a chic setting, and watch shenanigans ensue.

Before I reveal if said scheme resulted in said shenanigans (spoiler alert: it did), I have to introduce today’s recipe: a playlist for an awesome spin session. Settle in kids, this might be a long post.

Last week was a tough training week with back-to-back BRICK work outs (long bike ride followed by a medium-long run). As such, I was not really feeling like going to the gym before taking the train up to NY and would have preferred to just sit around laughing at pictures from college on The Facebook that were posted when Facebook still used the preceding article. Then the solution came to me: I could drag myself to the gym and psych myself up for the night to come all at once by blasting the tunes of 2004 while spinning. Problem solved.

So began The Great Guster Ride of 2014. It was a big risk: my music collection in those days was marked by mostly indie pop (forgive me, Jean Grae), which is not exactly the music I listen to these days to do anything, let alone to get my blood flowing.  Plus, my relationship to the college era is a complicated one–let’s just say I had a lot of fun about a third of the time, but never really fit in with the vast majority of people at my school, most of whom probably still listen to indie pop. Enough said? I thought so.

ANYWHO, as I began my time on the bike I got really nostalgic–we crammed a lot of fun into some long nights and very small apartments.  I spent a lot of my ride thinking about what luck it is to keep in touch with people who knew you at some other point in life when you were a blurrier, less-sure version of your self, and what a joy it is to get to watch them become distinct, fuller versions of all the different selves we were trying on back then.  I left college on a very different track than the one I thought I came in on and, like many of us, my life has gone in directions my 20-year-old self could never have imagined. I feel so glad to know that there are people out there who still appreciate my humor after I decided becoming a heady, humorous writer (who would invite them to all the Vanity Fair parties) was no longer my path, who still come to visit me after I  discovered New York is not, in fact, the only acceptable place to reside, and who still love me after all those years of overwrought hand wringing about how I could balance the life I live and the work I do. Of course, there were thing that made me sad, too– friends I’m not in touch with anymore, people with whom things used to be easy but are now awkward, and missed opportunities. But that’s another ride and another playlist. Before I knew it, 26.2 miles and 1:04 had flown by.

Which brings us to the dinner. JetSet Kef and I are committed to eating at as many Tables for Two restaurants as our budgets and waistlines will allow (tellingly, he has the advantage on both counts). QueijoKef suggested Lafayette, which was an awesome pick — sophisticated without being pretentious, great service, and a menu that makes up in perfect execution what it lacks in innovation. I drank French 75s all night and JetSet and QueijoKef treated the other diners to Jay Z’s verse in “Heart Breaker.”

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Two sets of siblings plus some other fun connections- and one is from Alabama. Volume turned, unapologetically, to TEN.

It’s amazing what ten years can do.

Just when it seemed the night could not get any better, our Joseph-Gordon-Levitt doppelganger of a server brought us a complimentary creme brulee that was the biggest we’d ever seen

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Forearm inserted for scale.

and had the most PERFECT brulee, as tested by JSK and GeographicHegemony Kef.

photo-75Flash forward a cozy drink at a cool East Village bar and one fight about $3.00 soda water later, and it was 9:15 am and JetSet Kef and I woke up in his wonderful bed without having to snuggle with a sibling because he had the good sense to buy himself a grown-up queen-sized bed instead of using the twin bed he has had since he was ten.

We went for a windy run in East River Park, and I wish I had a picture of my brother because all the cold gear spandex made him look like he was auditioning for the Blue Men group.

Thanks to East River Runner for the picture!

Thanks to East River Runner for the picture!

After some spinach stew, I hit the road and was blessed with the quietest, most traffic-free Greyhound bus ride that has ever been. We left at Port Authority at 4:05 and arrived in DC exactly 4 hours later. Isn’t life grand?

So you can see why I’m still smiling. Now, for your listening and maybe spinning pleasure, I present you with a list of the songs that I thought were really cool/deep/fun during college. For the spinners in the crowd, I have noted the drills/intervals I used during each song. Don’t like how I used the music? You just go right ahead and do you.

An Uncharacteristically Indie Playlist to Spin to While Thinking of Hilarious Things that Happened in College

  • Caring is Creepy – The Shins (warm up)
  • Island in the Sun – Weezer (end of warm up)
  • Sound of Settling– Death Cab for Cutie (6/10 tension, 75-80% race pace/sprint during chorus)
  • Let Go– Frou Frou (seated climb/sprint during chorus)
  • Come Down Stairs and Say Hello – Guster (long climb- start at 5.5-6, add 1 full turn every 45 seconds, stand when you have to)
  • Happier – Guster (endurance climb- pace matches beat, maintain 7.5-8.5 tension)
  • Just for Now– Imogen Heap (recover until verse stars, maintain race pace through remainder of song)
  • Girlfriend – Phoenix (energy ride)
  • Hollaback Girl– Gwen Stefani (80-90% race pace at 6 tension for 30 sec/ 45 sprint at 7-7.5 tension)
  • Young Folks – Peter Bjorn (ascending sprints 30,45,60,75 seconds with 30 sec recovery between)
  • Two Points for Honesty– Guster (whatever steep standing climb you have left in you)
  • Don’t Stop– Brazilian Girls (endurance climb- pace matches beat, maintain 7.5-8.5 tension, seated during vocals, standing at instrumentals)
  • California – Phantom Planet (rolling hills- incline during verse, downhill sprint during verses)
  • Something Pretty – Patrick Park (cool down)
  • In the Waiting Line– Zero 7 (end cool down/ stretch)

Return of the JetSet Kef

15 Oct

Big Brother Kef is back in town. Usually it is my dear sister who does the dirty work in the kitchen while I keep the water boiling as the Executive Sous Chef of Keftown (see here for more on that).  But, inspired by the post-DNC 2012 “Clinton bump,” she’s decided to call in the old dogs to teach some new tricks.  During her tenure, two very prominent themes have emerged:

  • dishes are meatless
  • photos of said meatless dishes range from unappetizing to “…oh, I see how that might actually taste good if that were a better picture.” (I love my sister and her food–but seriously, she really could have benefited from the photography class all the “artsy” kids in our high school took junior year.)

So after months of hiatus from this blog, it is with great pleasure that I break one of these trends and bring you today a great MEAT recipe I promise you will come out beautifully…except you’ll have to make do with a truly non-illustrative picture in typical CUK style.  I assume by now you are used to this. LebKef and I made this dish together for Greek Easter 2012 in Beirut and it was a show stopper.  Look closely at the picture below and you will find this perfectly-prepared lamb in between lots of other wonderfully-made dishes:

Still don’t think this lamb will be the best thing you put in your mouth this week? Ask yourself this: would a man who willingly dresses like this

ever steer you wrong when it comes to some lamb? I don’t think so.


LebKef’s Lamb Chop

Ingredients
  • 3 tbs Dijon Mustard
  • 6 tbs Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic
  • 1 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 double rack lamb rib chops, or 8 lamb loin chops

Assembly  

1. FOR THE VINAIGRETTE: Combine Dijon, balsamic vinegar, and garlic in non reactive metal bowl. Whisk in extra virgin olive oil. Remove rosemary needles from sprig. Chop and add to vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.
 2. Cut lamb into individual chops by cutting down between the bones (each bone should have a nice round piece of meat attached).In plastic bag with half of the marinade, marinade for 10 minutes (or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator). Reserve half of marinade for finishing chops with sauce for serving.
3. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium to high heat.Remove chops from marinade. Wipe off excess liquid and season chops with salt and pepper.
4. Grill chops for 2 to 3 minutes per side (or until meat is medium rare).
5. Remove chops from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve lamb chops with reserved marinade.



Berry Sangria

1 Oct

Once upon a time, when it was fall, someone’s birthday, and someone’s turn to go study abroad, we made sangria in 25 liter batches. Yes, you read that correctly.

These days, birthdays are not the excuse for debauchery they once were (and my liver thanks you for that, Lord!), but they still make an excellent occasion for some sangria. In general, I find restaurant-made sangria too sweet (and if you’re drinking the pre-made Sutter Home stuff, please check yo’self) so I endeavored to make my own with all the flavor, but not so much sweetness. Enjoy!

Grown Up Berry Sangria Fit for a Birthday (but not a Rubbermaid Vat)

Ingredients

  • 750 mL berry vodka (I used Ciroc)
  • 1 bottle Sweet Red wine (I used Barefoot–it does not need to be a medal winner)
  • 1 juggo red wine (don’t pretend not to know EXACTLY what size bottle I’m describing) of a sweetish variety (shiraz is easy found and affordable)
  • 1 pint of strawberries, sliced thin
  • teensy bit of honey 
  • 1/8 cup water

Assembly
1. Put sliced strawberries in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and drizzle (seriously, people–not a lot) honey over. Let sit in the pan (no heat yet) if you have time for about 15 minutes–apparently sugar brings out the juices and flavor of berries.
2. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and let this simmer for 12-15 minutes, until berries take on a stewy consistency. Remove from heat, let cool.
3. With a bowl under a strainer, separate what solid fruit is left from the juice–yes, some of it looks like goop. That is right.
4. Put the solid parts of your berry stew (even the goopity-goop) in the bottom of your containers. Mix together your berry juice, vodka, and wine, and add to the berry stew in the containers. Chill and enjoy!

Steamed Broccoli and Creamy Avo-Yogurt Sauce

25 May

College is not known for its culinary delights.  Late night pizza, over-greased dining-hall food, and all that beer-flavored water… not exactly the kind of place where a blossoming chef thrives.

Unless, of course, you lived with a Brit, a Brazilian, a Republican, a 16-year-old, a self-described “uh-oh Oreo Cashew” (I’m not even gonna break that down for you), and a rotating cast of semi-feral males from JetSet Kef’s apartment collectively known as “the boys.”  Between the lot of us, someone was always cooking something (well…most of us), and every now and again something good came out of our tiny, sticky-floored kitchen while “Holla Back Girl” blared from the stereo to drown out the smoke alarm that went off if we so much as opened a jar of hot sauce. 

Back then, I would bring back two things from the grocery store: broccoli and ingredients for dessert.  I ate some kind of steamed broccoli stir fry pretty much every day for four years (every day, that is, when I wasn’t busy eating pizza or the aforementioned desserts).  On the other side of the kitchen, my friend Christine (here after- Queijo Kef) would be making one of two things: vodka-infused gummy bears (terrible idea- do not try at home!) or some kind of creamy sauce.  Let me tell you: you’d be hard pressed to find that girl eating something that wasn’t topped with or accompanied by some kind of sour cream/yogurt/cream cheese/gratin sauce. Girl loves her some damn CREAM.

Queijo Kef, posing pre-party.

So, on the eve of my 5-year reunion (which I am very much not attending–if you were my friend in college and want to see me, you probably already know how to get in touch with me), I bring you the beautiful lovechild of Chef Kefi and Queijo Kef’s favorite things: steamed broccoli with a creamy, tangy avo-yogurt sauce.

Ingredients 

–2 heads of broccoli, chopped
–1 avocado, sliced and shelled
–half of a Fage Greek yogurt 
–juice of half a lime

Assembly
1. Steam broccoli. I do this by throwing about 1/8 c of water into the skillet with broccoli and cooking covered for about 4-5 minutes. You do you.
2. While the broccoli is steaming, Mix together lime juice and avocado, then yogurt. Stir vigorously and mash up the avo as much as possible.
3. Combine broccoli and sauce. Enjoy!

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