A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. Pause, savor, remember.
There are approximately ten trillion things I love about where we live.
I love the bay breeze and the blue skies (there isn’t a blue sky like a California blue sky, I swear), the length of the tomato season and the allegiance to progressive politics that can be found at (nearly) every juncture. I love the beautiful tree with unpalatably sour grapefruits in our backyard, the taqueria up the street from our house, and the reclaimed vacant lots brimming with urban gardens. I could go on. I could go on, and on, and on. In the eight (8!) years since I moved here, this small pocket of California has become my skin–sun-soaked and rain-drenched and home. Read the rest of this entry »
No recipe today. Just a moment instead.
We spent Saturday afternoon in the kitchen. John whipped up a gorgeous roast chicken, stuffed to the brim and lying in a bed of sweet potatoes, carrots and onion. It was simple and fresh and, after Maxine was in bed, it made the perfect date night dinner (we have dates on Saturdays, come hell or high water).
We’ve got a finicky eater on our hand. By finicky I mean that someone in this household who is only about yay high has issued a moratorium on trying new things. And by new things I include hot chocolate. No matter the deliciousness, Miss M simply refuses to let anything new cross her lips. Thank god we’d gotten a few super nutrients over the threshold before the embargo settled in. The fact that she will eat interesting and strongly flavored foods (such as garlic and ginger), though, makes her refusal to continue adventuring all the more frustrating. John and I both offer her things to try with confidence that she’ll like them, only to find our spoons butting against her cheek instead of her open mouth.
As my mom mentioned on Monday, illness has descended upon our household. And despite our best efforts, over a week later we’re still kicking this uninvited visitor around. John was all ready to sit down and write a post for today (it is his Friday after all), but then I made puppy eyes and asked him to make dinner instead. So, I’m sitting in bed with a heap of tissues and he is off scrounging together leftovers from a most excellent visit we just had with family.
Oh man–mentioning a heap of tissues on a food blog is probably something you’re not supposed to do unless they accumulated from patting something fried down. Oh well. My nose, throat and brain are proverbially fried so…deal.
One of the things that I’ve really been enjoying about generating concoctions for M in the kitchen is that so many of these dishes are simple and make excellent sides for those of us with bigger appetites and more teeth than an almost one year old. It’s been a cool minute since I spent any time rethinking side dishes, usually whipping up something from a rotation of standards that are yummy but, you know, maybe appearing a little too often on our dinner plates. Anyway, in the past few weeks I’ve come up with two meals for M that are absolutely fabulous. They’re simple, interesting and healthy, too. Give ‘em a try and let us know what you think!
ingredients (for 4)
1 large carrot
a knob of ginger
6-8 T. applesauce (homemade, right? right)
Halve carrot lengthwise and then slice. Put into pan over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil (to prevent sticking) and a dash of salt (to help the carrot cook and to open up flavors). Thinly slice ginger and then mince (do this to taste…we can eat a lot of ginger in this family, but I know not everyone can so start with about a tablespoon and build from there) before adding to skillet. Once carrots have begun to soften (around 10 minutes), add applesauce by the heaping tablespoon, stirring well. If using store-bought applesauce, I’d suggest adding cinnamon to taste, too. Saute until carrots are cooked and serve.
ingredients (for 4)
1 medium zucchini
2 large coves of garlic
freshly shaved aged parmesan
fresh cracked pepper
Peel zucchini. Halve lengthwise and then slice. Place in pan over medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt (wait–this sounds really familiar, right? See–I told you these were simple sides). Mince your garlic and add, sauteing until zucchini is cooked. Remove from pan and toss with fresh cracked pepper and parmesan to taste. Serve and watch everyone smile.
Janet here: When I stopped eating red meat over 30 (!) years ago, the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook was my bible. Mollie Katzen’s hand-scrawled recipes with quirky drawings was my go-to spot for figuring out how to serve a meal to my new live-in boyfriend (now husband) after we left working at a private school and actually had to fend for ourselves. What does one put on a plate that does not have meat as its centerpiece? I couldn’t just serve salad — my mainstay at the boarding school. We needed to eat a “meal.”
Moosewood came to the rescue big time. I went through just about every recipe in the iconic lilac covered book (except those with major mushrooms because I can’t stand mushrooms) and bought the second — and third and fourth books — as soon as they came out. I had only one failure in all those recipes — zucchini pancakes that just turned into glop in the frying pan.
Moosewood took a back seat when we had children because, well, I didn’t have children who liked vegetables that much. So we added chicken and fish into our meal plan. It was just easier than fighting.
But now that they’re gone, we’re back to eating more all-veggie meals. I pulled Moosewood a couple of weeks ago. It was like reconnecting with an old friend: instant ease and lots of good memories. I made a variation on Moosewood’s vegetable cheesecake and it was just as good as the first time I pulled it off.
Do you have a go-to cookbook? What makes it so special? We’d love to hear. I’m always looking for another cookbook.
serves at least 8
1 cup each grated carrots or zucchini or whatever you like. I did carrots and some leftover cauliflower. If you do zucchini, be sure to put in a sieve with a little salt to get rid of excess moisture. Don’t do more than 2 cups of veggies altogether.
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup minced onion
2-3 gloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon basil and oregano
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 large eggs
1 1/2 medium tomatoes slices
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt the butter in a sauce pan and saute the onions, garlic with the flour. Add the veggies with spices and cook for a few minutes until just tender.
In a large bowl stir together the eggs and cheeses. Add the sauteed veggies and pour the entire bowl into a spring-form pan that has been dusted with bread crumbs.
Cook for 30 minutes at 375. Then add the tomatoes, which you have dredged in bread crumbs, to the top. Lower heat to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and open the oven door. Let sit there for 10 minutes. Then take out and let rest for another 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
So, I had plans. Not big plans, but fresh vegetable plans. I was going to make egg noodles with green beans, mushrooms, those little grape tomatoes (I could eat these by the cup) and fresh grated parmesan cheese. It wasn’t going to be fancy, but it was definitely going to be good and I was really looking forward to it.
And then the plague happened.
Not the real plague, but our first full-on, everybody’s-down-for-the-count family-wide illness. I thought I had been sick before, but I now know that you have NEVER been sick until you’ve had a baby (ok, not really…I’m only talking about illnesses that come and go within a week’s time). I did not know what it was like not to be able to sleep all day and all night, waking only to blow your nose or pull the tissue out from your sweatpants that somehow weaseled its way in there while you were snoring (blissfully!) through two nostrils with–yup, you guessed it–tissues stuck in them. I did not know. But I digress…
The byproduct of the arrival of the plague was a complete and utter lack of desire to make the aforementioned dinner. In fact, I can’t even remember what we ate during those days of disease. What I was left with, then, was a bunch of vegetables on the brink of turning.
As I know I’ve mentioned before, we often have portions of homemade chicken stock in our freezer. As of late, I’ve been saving our vegetable bits in a bag in the freezer to, all in the name of letting them accumulate and turning them into soup one of these days. Yesterday was just the day.
M and I thawed the stock, chopped the veggies, sauteed them and combined everything. A sprinkle of that parmesan from the dinner-that-never-was on top, a piece of toast, and I am one happy eater.
(Ok, maybe M was more into her new dinosaur booties than our kitchen project, but I can dream…)
Janet here: Much of my current cooking life involves cooking ahead because I work out of town part of the week and I want to make sure my husband and son don’t starve. I mean a duo can only eat so many hamburgers and fries, I don’t care how delicious Peter’s version is. So I assuage some of my traveling guilt by cooking ahead.
What I have realized in the two-plus years I’ve been doing this is that it’s actually a brilliant idea to cook ahead one day of the week and ensure you’ve got stuff to heat up easily when you come home from a trying day at work. I can remember my children asking me in the car on the way home from school/music lessons/sports/day care what was for dinner. My standard response, because I hadn’t really figured it out and was feeling kind of tired myself, was, “Arsenic” or “Ardvaark noses,” depending on my mood. Why didn’t I think of cooking ahead decades ago? Imagine the peaceful bliss of walking in the door, popping something in the oven and everyone happily playing together while the food warmed up … or something like that.
At any rate, this recipe I’ve adapted from the original Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen is great the first time and reheats beautifully. I hope you learn something from my story and cook at least one meal ahead. It’ll change your life.
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
worcestershire sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups macaroni
Boil the macaroni in water until al dente. Drain.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
While the macaroni is cooking, combine the sour cream, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese and onion in a large bowl.
Saute in butter the cabbage, carrot and caraway seeds until the cabbage is wilted and just beginning to brown.
Add the sauteed ingredients and drained pasta to the large bowl. Stir until combined. Place in a casserole. Bake covered for 40 minutes. Easily microwaved for reheating.
Rachel here: Ah…reheating. I have three midterms this week, in addition to a paper due and 600 pages of reading. It’s one of those weeks that the mere anticipation of is enough to make my stomach churn a bit. It’s also one of those weeks that leaves me wanting to eat quick and easy comfort food. While I can’t say that pizza won’t be ordered in my house in the coming days, I can say that tonight it will be nice to sit down to a warm bowl of reheated homemade chili (for the recipe, see my post here). When I originally made it a few weeks back, I made a giant batch. John and I ate a bit of it, I gave a bit away to a friend of mine with two kids (oh, dinner is the best surprise), and I froze the rest in portions in microwavable containers that just need to be pulled from the freezer. Tonight, healthy heartiness (as opposed to the greasy deliciousness that is pizza) will fill our bellies and it will feel good. What do you stockpile in your freezer for these crazy weeks?
Janet here: I have a new favorite vegetarian cookbook, New Vegetarian by Robin Asbell. I have made two recipes from this cookbook and they both have totally rocked. If you like vegetables, you won’t go wrong with this cookbook.
I decided to make the roasted parsnip and gruyere strudels for one reason and one reason only: It involved phyllo dough. The flaky, buttery goodness of phyllo dough makes it one of my all-time favorites. It’s a bit of a pain to work with, but once you get past your inhibitions about it, you’ll never go back. If a recipe has phyllo dough, it will be good. Period.
And before we go further, a word on parsnips. I thought they were like turnips. I was wrong. They are sweet, not bitter, and tasty. I now have to make up for lost decades and eat a lot of these since I ignored them before. As for this recipe, it’s an appetizer, but these are fairly substantive so you could make this as an entree to go with soup and/or salad and you would be good to go. We had plenty left over from our little dinner party and my friend took some home and ate one for breakfast. Yum!
Roasted Parsnip and Gruyere Strudels
makes 12 appetizer-size pastries
2 pounds parsnips, peeled, quartered and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled, quartered, and sliced
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (I used dried; it was fine)
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (I used dried; it was fine)
4 ounces gruyere chees, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil spray
6 sheets phyllo
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Place the parsnips and carrots in a large roasting pan. Add the onion, thyme and olive oil. Toss. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes, stir and re-cover and roast for 20 minutes more. Then ucover and roast for an additional 10-20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool
Mix the parsley and cheese with the parsnip mixture and season with salt and pepper. Coat a sheet pan with olive oil spray.
Place the phyllo on the counter, cover with plastic wrap, and then cover with a barely damp towel. It’s important not to let the phyllo dry out.
Take a sheet of phyllo, cut in half across the short side and spray it with olive oil. Fold the half-sheet in half, making a tall strip. Place 1/4 cup of the parsnip mixture on the bottom of the sheet and fold up flag-style, forming a triangle as you pull the lwoer left corner up to the right edge, and then the lower right corner up to the left, alternating as you go. Place seam-side down on the sheet pan. Repeat with all sheets.
Bake uncovered until browned and crisp about 20 minutes. (I brushed them with olive oil before baking, which I think made them even a little crispier.) Serve warm.