We are very happy to introduce Caroline Barrett, a food blogger — you can catch her musings and terrific recipes at Table for 5, one of our faves — and a mother who tries to find creative ways to feed her growing family. We’ve been a fan of her blog and her writing for a while, so we asked her to do a guest post for Food for Thought Thursday. We love what she’s written about and can completely identify with both the need for something sweet after dinner and the sneakiness dilemma. Enjoy!
We are very happy to have a guest blog today from Tom Bradley, a freelance writer, blog fan, new cook and friend. As his story shows, cooking does more than simply nourish your body.
Tom here: For the first 48 years of my life I rarely cooked. I grew up in a home where my mother did all the cooking, and I had no interest in learning how the food found its way to the plate. I was satisfied that it was there. I made the usual bachelor survival foods in college — mac and cheese, grilled steaks and burgers – in the days before Hot Pockets and microwave burritos. And then I married young, and happily returned to the days of enjoying the food that appeared on my plate every night. I was always grateful, mind you. And I did pitch in during the baby years, cheerfully, but unenthusiastically.
Rachel here: Seriously? I have an awesome husband. Not to gloat, but I really do, and only one of the reasons is that he is a great cook. Throughout our relationship he has been making me linguini (almost always freshly made with his own two hands) with clams and other various undersea creatures, and every time he does, it feels wonderfully decadent, partly because I have never made clams in my life and so it’s a food I feel like I access through his culinary prowess. The other night, though, I asked him to teach me how one deals with these little shelled critters, and he did. John doesn’t use recipes; he just thinks about food and then makes it and so, what you’ll find below are loose guidelines for approaching a seriously delicious (and, to my surprise, rather easy if you don’t make the pasta) and hearty dinner.
linguini (As I mentioned above, John usually makes it fresh; this time we bought it freshly made at the grocery store)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how garlicky you like your food)
1 small shallot, diced
chicken stock (see recipe)
white wine (see recipe)
2 T. butter
clams (we used 8 small ones per person, although John prefers using the large ones–and thus fewer per person–for better flavor)
2+ T. parsley, chopped
grape tomatoes, large handful, cut in half
Make your linguini, cooking it until it is nearly done. Remove from heat and douse in cold water to stop the cooking. If you are using fresh pasta, toss with olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking to itself. Wash your clams. In a large pan, saute the shallot and then the garlic. Add 1/2 c. to 1 c. white wine and 1/2 c. to 1 c. chicken stock (using less will make a less brothy meal, more will make it brothier…this second way is how we prefer it) plus the 2 T. butter to pan. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon in and add the clams. Cover the pan and simmer until the clams are cooked. Once the clams are cooked (they’ll all be open now), add the pasta, parsley and a large handful of grape tomatoes. Other additions that are yummy include capers, chili flakes, or a little cayenne. Serve with crusty bread and a wedge of lemon and enjoy!
Janet here: I am a huge shrimp fan and was very excited to discover this recipe in Ellie Krieger’s cookbook, The Food You Crave. My parents loved to eat out and on Saturday nights, we often traveled an hour away to a restaurant my dad had somehow discovered in the pre-internet era in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. Cows munched contentedly in a field across from the farmhouse restaurant. Inside, my sister and I had run of the place while my parents enjoyed a cocktail with the innkeeper before we ordered dinner in front of a roaring fire.
Shrimp cocktail was one of my favorite hors d’oeuvres. I felt so grown up munching on jumbo shrimp and sipping my Shirley Temple (later named a Barbra Streisand by my father when I was older). This baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta isn’t the same obviously, but if you love shrimp, you’ll love this. I served it over orzo, which worked quite well.
Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
serves 4 (with plenty for leftovers)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 ounc cans diced tomatoes with their juices
1/4 finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh dill (I used dried because I didn’t have fresh and it was fine)
1 1/4 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper or to taste
2/3 cup crumbled feta
Heat oven to 425 degrees
In an ovenproof skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook one minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 5 minutes until the tomatoe juices thicken.
Remove from heat. Stir in the parsley, dill, shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Springl the feta over the top. Back until the shrimp are cooked through and the cheese melts, about 12 minutes. Enjoy.
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.