After decades of mistakenly (and obviously stupidly) assuming (you know what they say about doing that!) leeks were just “another onion,” I, for reasons I can only attribute to the gods who were looking after me on that particular day, tried leeks last year and have been obsessed with them ever since. So it was impossible to pass by this recipe in the May Real Simple. Not only did it keep me on track with my promise to deal with my ripped page recipe “challenge,” but it also yielded this tasty morsel for you all to try. I brought it to our friends’ house for dinner and it received rave reviews. It also is super simple to make.
Ok, so yesterday my mom wrote this post about how she like, doesn’t need to follow cooking rules or some madness like that. She claims her cooking is not only fine, but good, rules be damned.
I grew up eating her food. I turned out fine. She rarely repulsed me (except by refusing to believe that I hate broccoli and cauliflower until I was well into my 20s) and some of her dishes remain my all-time favorite meals to eat (her Greek Pizza and granola are unrivaled in my opinion). However, the woman isn’t a professional. She just isn’t. And, as her concession that letting dairy products warm to room temperature before baking does, in fact, improve the end product suggests, maybe the pros are onto something.
Apparently I am a bit of a cooking disaster waiting to happen. At least I am according to the experts interviewed by Real Simple.
The January issue has a story called How to Fix Dinner: 17 all-too-common cooking mistakes (plus easy tips to avoid them). I do (or have done) about half of these tips regularly — mostly without any ill effect.
Take number two: using the wrong knife. Been there, done that, do that all the time. I don’t even know which knife in my fairly nice Cutco knife set (Rachel spent a brief foray one summer in this selling cult so we of course now have many Cutco knives purchased before she quit) is supposed to do what. It’s a complete mystery so I just grab the one closest at hand and hack away. Mostly that method works just fine. The Real Simple story, however, suggests that this approach will “damage your food.” If I used the correct knife, I would be more efficient and my dicing would be neater.
Summer has finally graced the west coast, sending the rain that nagged us through May packing. Fresh fruit and veggies abound and we’ve been gobbling down stir-fries and salads in our house, delighting at M’s appreciation for berries and bok choy and all sorts of other simple yumminess.
The shelves at the grocery store are overflowing with chard and the first local tomatoes have made an appearance.
Have I mentioned that I absolutely adore tomatoes? Because I do. I’ve been known to stand over the kitchen sink with a salt shaker in hand and tomato juice streaming down my chin, beaming. Tart and sweet and juicy…what more could you want?
Anyway, today I offer this simple recipe for Chickpeas With Chard and Pan-Roasted Tomatoes. I found it in an old copy of Real Simple magazine. It is, you know, a really simple recipe. And really delicious. And super nutritious to boot. I highly recommend you give it a whirl.
Rachel here: My brother G is staying with us for a while which means I am finally feeding the number of people I cook for (I seem doomed to cook for four, which leaves John feeling compelled to eat for three…when he and G combine their appetites, I am cooking for four). In addition to the noticeable decrease in leftovers, it’s just really nice having my brother here and watching him and M play together and whatnot. Plus, he’s pretty helpful.
Anyway, I’d been wanting to make this dish for a while and finally got around to doing it the other night when G arrived. It is super yummy and, frankly, I could eat these potatoes on their own. We rarely eat mashed potatoes because they feel like too much work, but smashed potatoes? Oh yeah–these will be cropping up on dinner plates in our house with regularity.
I got the recipe from Real Simple. Click here so you can have this super delicious and awesomely easy dinner tonight.
Rachel here: Contrary to the photos I’m offering up today, Plum Upside-Down Cake is amazing. This cake is fluffy and light and the perfect amount of sweet. Plums are everywhere around here these days and one of my favorite fruits so I’m always looking for ways to maximize my consumption of them (besides eating them raw…which I can do multiple times a day). Anyway, these photos are from the first time I made this cake, back in the days before M was even an idea…back, you know, when I made cakes for fun. I’m sure those days will return, though right now they seem pretty distant. Anyway, this cake is super easy and incredibly good and I highly recommend you make it as soon as possible. Your only problem will be sharing it.
Get the recipe (and see a better photo!) here. The only thing I did differently was add a squeeze of lime juice to the plums when I cooked them (I’m forever adding citrus to things). I totally suggest doing the same, though I can’t imagine the cake isn’t awesome without this addition.
Janet here: Much as I enjoy cooking, there are certainly days when I walk in the house, exhausted, and all I want is for dinner to magically appear. And while I love, love, love my man, Peter, with the exception of going out to dinner (we don’t live in a take-out or deliver-in area, sadly), if I don’t cook it, we don’t eat. It’s one reason why I find a man who cooks so hot — only in my mind of course.
Anyway, it’s good to have a couple of go-to, fast recipes for days like these. This one from Ellie Krieger’s So Easy is just that. If you have pasta and frozen shrimp on hand, all you’ve got to do is add a little basil and a tomato and you are good to go.
What’s your I-Don’t-Want-to-Cook-But-I-Have-To dinner?
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds large shrimp (20-25 per pound) peeled and deveined (I keep a pound frozen in my freezer all the time just for nights like this.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
3/4 cup dry white whine
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup finely-chopped fresh basil (I used dried and it was fine)
3 cups cooked orzo pasta
Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet until not but not smoking. Add the shrimp and cook, turning once, until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stire in the tomatoes and basil and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Return the shrimp to the pan and cook until just heated through. Serve with the orzo.
Added idea: a little crumbled feta works very well with this combination.
Rachel here: Oh, fast dinner. On those days that feel interminable, dinner can feel like the last great mountain to climb before release. As I head into my last few weeks of school, I anticipate more and more of those (in addition to feeling more and more exhausted as this baby grows). Anyway, I keep vowing to make a big batch of pasta sauce (because homemade pasta sauce is far superior to store-bought) to have on hand for evenings such as this but, alas, it hasn’t happened yet. And so, this week I’ve turned to my tried-and-true friend, the quesadilla. See my take on this quick and easy staple here. How do you navigate this type of evening?
First an apology. We’re having trouble loading our post so I’m trying it without the pictures to see if that works. Hopefully we’ll get this resolved soon. In the meantime, use your imagination.
Janet here: Part of what I want from a meal in winter is comfort. The weather is generally dreary and when I come in the door after work, I want warmth — literally and figuratively. I want a fire roaring in the fireplace and I want to create a warm feeling for my family by the food I cook. It’s a tall order I know but if I can make it happen even one day a week, I’m happy.
For me, soup figures large in this elusive formula. I’m not sure why really. It’s not as if I grew up on homemade soups. But for some reason slurping on soup just makes me feel cozy, and potato leek soup makes me feel coziest of all. Here’s hoping it makes you feel the same with the people you love. I plan to serve mine on a busy night this week when both my husband and I have to go out again after work to various functions. I will probably add grilled cheese on some good bread and maybe if I’m feeling really ambitious, a salad. It’s a hearty meal for a cold winter’s night, which is what every night is like here in the Northeast where I live until, oh, April … if we’re lucky.
Potato and Leek Soup
2 tablespoons butter
3 medium leeks, well cleaned and diced–not the green part
1 yellow onion, sliced
4 large Russet potatoes, cubed (I leave the skin on because that’s where a lot of the nutrients and fiber are but you can skin if you prefer)
32 oz. vegetable broth (yes you can make your own but I’m a working mother so I use Trader Joe’s hearty organic vegetable broth. If you make your own, you are an instant cooking goddess in my book.)
milk (amount to be determined by how soupy you like your soup)
salt, pepper and chives to taste
Melt the butter and saute the leeks and onion until translucent in a large pot. Once done, add the potato cubes and the vegetable broth. Simmer until the potatoes are done. Let cool and then throw into the blender. You’ll have to do it in bunches because it won’t all fit. Then add some milk to get it to the consistency you like (add a little at a time so you don’t overdo it and end up with milk soup) and voila! Fabulous hearty soup. Try adding some chives and grated cheese on top right before serving.
Rachel here: So, I want to go have dinner at my mom’s house because potato leek soup is one of the better things in life, I think. When she told me she was making it I decided to try to make a soup that got me just as excited. And so, for the first time ever, I made french onion soup. It seemed so warm and sweet and tangy when I thought of it. Plus, I had seen a recipe in Real Simple magazine a few months back and the picture that accompanied the recipe made my mouth water every time I turned to that page. The end product, while totally satisfactory, was a soup that both my partner and I felt was missing a certain something. We’re not sure what it is, but we both felt that this recipe was a little too basic tasting. We suspect the issue could be with the store-bought broth (since we are definitely make-your-own-stock people…alas, the move…and, as an aside, if you save those chicken bones from my mom’s chicken salad she posted the other day you’re on your way to making your own delicious reserve of chicken stock!) It was, however, a vehicle for toasted bread with cheese and so, dutifully, we each devoured our bowls. Anyway, if you have your own french onion soup recipe that you think hits the nail on the head, or if you’ve tried this one and have similar sentiments about it, I’d love to hear from you!
3 T. unsalted butter
2 lbs. onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 c. dry white wine (somewhere I saw a recipe that called for cognac…anybody ever tried this?)
1 c. low-sodium beef broth
4 1/2 inch-thick slices of country bread, cut to fit across serving bowls
1 c. grated Swiss cheese
1/2 T. fresh thyme
Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat and add the onions, 2/3 tspn. salt and a dash of fresh pepper. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 10-15 minutes). Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, until the onions are golden brown. This will take a while (at least 30-40 minutes) and you should stir the onions occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot when you do to get the fullest possible flavor.
Add the wine and cook until slightly reduced (about 2 minutes). Next, add the broth and 3 c. of water and bring this to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, heat the broiler. Broil the bread until each side is golden brown (1-2 minutes or so per side). Remove, sprinkle with cheese, and place back in broiler to melt.
Pour soup into bowls, top with bread and add a sprinkle of thyme. You will be warm and toasty in a no time.