The Danny/Gwyneth Project: New York Edition

So here we are in New York City. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s been quite the week, what with driving two 16-hour days to get to Wisconsin, sadly leaving my dog behind with my parents (who, I should gratuitously mention, are absolute saints), and arriving in New York on Sunday morning. Since then, I’ve been touring apartments around the city like a lunatic, trying desperately to secure a place to live before I start work next Monday (and expect a forthcoming blog post on how Gwyneth is actually helping me find a place). In the meantime, my friends Nora and Mandy are graciously allowing me to impede on their space and sleep on their couch in Chelsea. To make up for this, I cooked not one, not two, but THREE Gwyneth recipes for dinner recently. Let’s see how my first NYC cooking experience went!

First of all, I should apologize for the quality of the pictures. I have no idea where I packed my camera, so I had to resort to using my two-year-old phone’s camera, which led to pictures like this:

We had a lovely dinner in the middle of a haunted house, clearly.

Anyway, the recipes I decided to cook were: Italian Chopped Salad, Fried Zucchini Spaghetti, and Sauteed Greens with Onions & Soy Sauce. The last one didn’t really go so well with the first two, but I was nervous about trying anything too crazy my first time in a new, small kitchen, so I wanted to take it easy. So we had two Italian dishes and a vaguely Asian side, because New York is a melting pot? Sure, let’s go with that excuse.

First, I had to do some grocery shopping, so I trudged down to the Chelsea Trader Joe’s and spent the better part of an hour maneuvering through cramped aisles, and ended up waiting in the check-out line for nearly half an hour. JESUS CHRIST, THIS CITY. And this was at 2:00 PM on a Monday afternoon, so I can’t even imagine what that place is like during prime shopping hours. I then hauled the bags for what felt like miles, my first lesson in how to properly grocery shop in a big city. Lesson #1: Barely buy anything if you live 20 blocks away from the store.

As most of my belongings are currently locked up in a very inconvenient storage space (it’s actually one block away from Nora’s apartment, but the last time I went up there to retrieve my running shoes I ended up getting stuck for 20 minutes since no one was operating the elevator, and a creepy man in a dark hallway was staring at me and I’m pretty sure contemplating whether he had enough space in his storage unit to fit my body), I unfortunately had to buy some of Gwyneth’s more ridiculous ingredients all over again, even though I have half-full (or half-empty?) bottles of this crap packed in boxes somewhere. So now Nora and Mandy are the proud owners of their very own bottle of agave nectar! Congratulations, ladies!

My first step was to roast a red pepper, something that is old hat at this point. However, the girls don’t have a pair of tongs, so I rotated the pepper over the stove using two spoons, which actually worked quite well. Improvising! Thinking on my feet! While the burnt red pepper steamed in its little plastic-covered bowl, I sliced two zucchinis very thin (but not thinner than paper, Gwyneth cautions, as if we are all capable of slicing a zucchini thinner than a sheet of paper) and doused them in flour. In the largest frying pan I could find — which, this being a small New York kitchen, was roughly omelet-sized — I heated up a bit of olive oil and got to work frying all the zucchini slices, a tedious process that took over half an hour. But this is mostly due to the size of the frying pan, so we can’t blame Gwyneth. I’m sure she has a frying pan the size of your car.

Frying like ten zucchini slices at a time.

Meanwhile, I assembled the salad, which was very easy. Lettuce, scallions, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, small balls of mozzarella, steamed green beans, and the sliced up roasted red pepper all thrown into a large bowl. To make the dressing I whisked together Dijon mustard, agave nectar, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. And that was the end of my very first NYC Gwyneth Paltrow recipe! Laughably easy. Coincidentally, Gwyneth says this was one of the very first salads she ever made (sidenote: who the hell remembers the first salad they ever made?). Following in her footsteps!

My camera makes the salad look much more disgusting than it really was.

As I cooled and drained the fried zucchini strips on a paper towel, I boiled water and cooked the spaghetti noodles. Meanwhile I prepared the “sauce” for the pasta, which was literally olive oil and Parmesan cheese. That’s it. To make the dish, I simply mixed the cooked noodles with the “sauce” and folded in the fried zucchini and some fresh basil. Jesus Christ these two recipes were easy.

Speaking of easy, I still had to make the side dish, which was even easier: I sauteed some onions, and then tossed on top of them a bunch of kale, which quickly wilted. Over the mixture I poured a bit of soy sauce and let it cook for a minute or two more.

Sauteed greens and onions, although my camera is just making everything look like sauteed barf.

Spaghetti. You know what? Let’s just stop with these pictures.

There! Three recipes completed in a tiny amount of time, in an entirely new kitchen, with very limited cooking utensils. Even though these recipes were laughably simple, I felt proud of myself for creating an entire meal on only my first full day in the city. One aspect I was particularly pleased with was my ability to finish all three dishes at roughly the same time, allowing me to plate everything without forcing one dish to sit and cool while the others finished cooking. I’ve always been terrible at timing this sort of thing, and I couldn’t help but wonder as I successfully tackled these recipes like a goddamned Top Chef, has Gwyneth actually made me a better cook? The thought is enough to send chills down my spine.

As for the food, it was all pretty boring. I wish there was more of an exciting sauce to the spaghetti, although the fried zucchini was pretty good on its own. The favorite dish seemed to be unanimously the sauteed greens, although that’s probably because the soy sauce made it really salty in contrast to the bland pasta, and you know how Americans love their salt. I enjoyed the salad and dressing, but, again, it was all pretty standard. Ho hum. I apologized to Nora and Mandy and promised better meals in the future, hoping this wouldn’t cause them to kick me out on the street.

It remains to be seen what New York has to offer as far as this project is concerned — and I’m more than a little nervous about the idea of carting whole dark carcasses and lobsters through the subway system in the middle of winter — but maybe being on Gwyneth’s home turf is going to give me an advantage. And rumor has it there’s a place in the city where I can find duck bacon…

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5 Comments

Filed under Pasta, Salads, Sides

5 responses to “The Danny/Gwyneth Project: New York Edition

  1. Ceri from the place you used to work

    First NY Post First Comment to a New Yorker! Welcome to the big apple Danny! We miss you. Loved hearing about your big city adventures, and sorry you had to leave Bark Anthony behind. May you be reunited soon.

  2. Not Your Sister Nikki

    Aw I wish you had seen this first. I remember sweating in to the zucchini the first time I made it, and it took way too long. Of course, Gwynnie kindly leaves out the most important tips in this recipe, which she shares in the video. http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/food/recipes/fried-zucchini-spaghetti/ Good luck in the big apple.

  3. lily

    Trader Joe’s delivers locally for like $5-$10, or you can try Fresh Direct! It is a little more expensive but you save your precious time!

    • Ceri from the place you used to work

      OMG Danny, people DELIVER things out there! You can have something other than pizza delivered to you now. Your not in Portland anymore!

  4. So glad you finally made it there, but, sorry Bark Anthony couldn’t join you.
    Carting groceries around NY sounds exhausting. I’d look into that Trader Joe’s delivery if I were you.
    Hope the storage guy doesn’t get you. In case, let someone know which storage facility ;).

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