Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting for Baby

There is a possibility that I have been too prepared, too soon for this baby. I mopped a week ago, cleaned the corners, washed the windows, put a meal or two in the freezer. And the baby did not come. So every day this week I sweep the floor again, wipe the spots off the floor, do another load of laundry, make another loaf of bread and eat all the easy meals that I had stockpiled, when all I actually want to do is have this baby and start our family babymoon.

So, I am saying hello here again. Mostly to distract myself, but also because there are a few things I have found lately that are too good to keep to myself.

First, yogurt cheese, otherwise known as labneh. This amazing website explains how to make it, although I confess that I am a bit less professional. I simply put the yogurt and salt into a cheesecloth-lined colander, set it over a large bowl, and leave it overnight in the fridge. I love it on toast in particular. Is it terrible to admit that I sometimes put a layer of butter on my toast, AND a layer of yogurt cheese, AND a drizzle of honey or swipe of strawberry jam? Another toast variation is found here, and this one is good enough for dinner. It is powerfully delicious.

Secondly, this crunchy broccoli salad is delightful. It was a perfect fall salad. I only wish that I had doubled the amount of the crispy fried shallots, for I loved the salty flair they added.

Finally, I have completely swallowed the hype about elderberries and immunity. Rowan is very prone to catch every cold that crosses our path, due to his respiratory issues. However, we have escaped two of the last bugs that invaded the church nursery, and I am willing to credit the elderberry. Or maybe I just really like elderberries. Regardless, I paid a fortune for a small bottle at Whole Foods, which was gone in the blink of an eye. Then I found this video and ordered a pound of dried elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs. The savings are tremendous. The main cost is the honey, for it is essentially elderberry flavored honey. Good stuff. Completely harmless, can be eaten by the spoonful or drizzled into yogurt or ice cream, and prevents the dreaded cold...what could be better! Plus, it is fun and easy to make on a cold and gloomy day. Have I convinced anyone yet?

That's it for now. Hopefully baby will come and you will not hear from me for a very long time again:)

Monday, July 12, 2010


Just a quick word about hash. For one thing, I love saying "hash". We ate "hash" for dinner, etc... For another thing, I kind of forgot about how much fun it is to fry up a bunch of random ingredients and put them all together, bound into deliciousness by the two main ingredients, fat and salt (and potatoes).

Last night we had a few things to use up, post haste. A potato. A half-pound of frozen shrimp. The first little beet greens from our garden. Mushrooms. A nearly fermented lime. I began by trying to cook them all separately. The beet greens were sauteed with garlic. The potato was chopped into tiny bits and fried with an onion. The mushrooms were sliced and the already-cooked shrimp was tossed with garlic. I had every intention of composing an elegant little plate with perfectly cooked, individual little dishes. But the heat rose, the hunger grew, the clock ticked. I threw the mushrooms into the cast iron skillet with the potatoes. Added more butter. Looked at the shrimp and garlic. Threw them in too. (Added more butter.) Finally I glanced at the beet greens, noticed they looked lonely, and tossed them in as well. More salt, a squeeze of very ripe lime juice and a hasty scoop onto the waiting plates. It was ugly, to tell you the truth. It was also not nearly enough. Rowan, who has been off-feed and sick for several days, ate so fast and so much that David and I had to share the rest of ours with him. Reluctantly. He didn't even notice the mushrooms in there, much less the dreaded slimy green things.

The moral of this story can fry up a lot of things with potatoes and salt, and it will be good. Add an egg and it will probably be even better. I had forgotten this, but no longer. David actually loves it when I tell him that I am going on spate of frugality. To him, this means hashes and lentil concoctions, and Tabasco. Bless that man. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Perfect Dinner Companion

Plumped with pine nuts, cilantro, raisins and cumin....
Slathered in BBQ sauce and slipped into a crusty roll...
Simmered in a cardamom-spiked broth with chickpeas and spinach...
Dipped in a lemon and garlic yogurt sauce...
Scattered over a bed of couscous, roasted vegetables and harissa....
Tucked into a plate of spaghetti and fresh tomato sauce...
Dunked in roasted garlic mayonnaise along with roasted potatoes and green beans...
Dribbled over mashed potatoes and gravy...
Or, simply, coated in ketchup straight out of the leftovers bowl (as my son prefers them...)

Yes, I am talking about meatballs. Every time that I find myself in a budget crunch, anxious to serve good-quality meat inexpensively and unsure of what else to cook (besides tuna melts) - the lowly meatball comes to my rescue. Humble, malleable and a droll little crowd-pleaser, the meatball is a lifesaver. If you have ever had dinner at my house, chances are you that you have encountered a meatball somewhere on your plate. If you were at our wedding (six years ago!), you probably ate a meatball. I love them. I love them partly because they are delicious, and partly because they never taste the same way twice. Hence, the overwrought list beginning this post.

However, after years of haphazardly throwing meatball components in a bowl and hoping for the best, I have finally written down a formula. The basic meatball. From there, you can do whatever you want to with them.

The Basic Meatball
(serves 2-4)

1 pound ground beef (or turkey, or beef and sausage, or lamb...)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 Tablespoons catsup
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
(Fresh parsley is always nice, regardless of cuisine)

Gently mix together with your hands (DO NOT OVERWORK!) and shape lightly into 1-2 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake in a 400 degree oven until done on the inside and slightly browned on the outside (about 15-20 minutes). If they are small and sturdy, you can toss them into a hot skillet and crisp them up a bit after they come out of the oven, although no one really complains about the lack of pan-frying when they are eating them, bite after delightful bite, for their dinner.

Now, let your imagination run wild!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Eating This Week...

Having exhausted the internet, our budget and our taste buds last week, we are going back to the basics for this menu...

Saturday: Waffles and Bacon

Sunday (with company): Roasted Chicken and Olive Aioli, Chopped Salad, Bread

Monday (with company): Chicken Sandwiches (chicken, aioli, tomatoes, basil), Salt and Vinegar Chips, Lemon Buttermilk Sherbet

Tuesday: Eggs, somehow (maybe Turkish?)

Wednesday: Cheeseburgers and Watermelon

Thursday: Pantry Night (involving peas and harissa, probably)

Friday: TBD

PS: The brisket was as good as it smelled and fed us for days...Rowan woke up this morning at 5:00 demanding, simply, "I want meat!"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Kitchen Today

Perhaps I am driven to write because my kitchen smells so amazing. I don't even need to taste this dish to know that I will love it forever. Chipotle, molasses, cumin, tomatoes, vinegar, slowly braising brisket...the smell is mingling with the welcome rain to make the whole world seem delicious. It was also incredibly easy. It is two o'clock and dinner is done. All I have to do is make a quick coleslaw, retrieve the red onions currently pickling in the fridge, and warm up the tortillas. What a beautiful day.

In other menu news, the pizza was delightful. I finally succeeded in stretching the crust suitably thin after an overnight rest in the fridge, and I loved every salty, chewy bite. The topping was fantastic, although I left out the egg and preferred it with the prosciutto and parmesan baked right along with the rest of the pizza instead of scattered on top. I have a suspicion that my pizza appreciation mojo is not sufficiently evolved.

As far as the Rosemary Olive-Oil Cake and the Carrot Harissa Salad...well,  they have already been admired in words far more eloquent than my own, and all I can do is agree with them. They are both recipes that I will keep for a long, long time. The Lemon Buttermilk Popsicles? Too sweet, and Rowan highly disapproved of the largish chunks of lemon zest. I guess we are back to our old (and more healthy) combo of plain yogurt, OJ and frozen banana and mango.

One final bit. I finally bought another Lodge cast iron skillet, after deserting ours in the mad rush away from Florida. How did I live so long without it? It fries a perfect egg for us, every morning. It tolerates the broiler. And I just seared the brisket and toasted the spices in drippings, only to wipe the residue away without even a hint of exertion or elbow grease. It's proving to be a Most Valuable Player in my kitchen.

That's all. I am enjoying life and my kitchen is blithe once again. Thanks for listening.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The First June Menu

This is going to be a very June sort of week. A number of delightful things are happening... Sarah's birthday is on Tuesday, which she is celebrating with a glamorous picnic in Annapolis...our dear neighbors are getting married on Friday (at a castle!)...and Saturday brings the infamous Honfest to our back door, during which David will be playing the lap steel as our friend Cameron covers some Hank Williams tunes!

In keeping with such a fun week, our menu is chock full of recipes I have been anxious to try. A summery menu, a spicy menu, a June menu. I will let you know how it all turns out.

Saturday: Lentil and Rice Salad, Lacinato Kale Salad, Baguette and Chile Chocolate Granita

Sunday: Asparagus and Prosciutto Pizza

Monday: Southwestern Pulled Brisket (including the Slaw and the Pickled Onions)

Tuesday: Rosemary Olive-Oil Cake and Carrot-Harissa Salad for Sarah's Picnic

Wednesday: Pantry Night (i.e. use things up and attempt to be frugal night)

Thursday: Rehearsal Dinner at Abacrombie's

Friday: Wedding!

Snack and Lunch Ideas: Spiced Nuts and Seeds, Lemon Buttermilk Popsicles, Homemade Creme Fraiche Dip with Veggies and Smoky Deviled Eggs

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Garden

It is June, and we are settling into summer with ease. The mornings are brilliant, the afternoons sticky, the evenings practically paradise. And I finally feel like enjoying life again.

Not only did summer bring relief from constant nausea, it also brought us a lovely plot in the local community garden. We had already started a wee stoop garden...a wine crate with lettuce and radishes, two buckets of Tumbling Tom tomatoes and tins of basil, cilantro, mint and rosemary. But now we have real riches. Ten by fifteen feet of real dirt! This last weekend we poured body and soul into that dirt, and are now waiting anxiously for carrots and beets and beans, parsnips and cucumbers, kohlrabi and squash and marigolds. We were also given four tomato plants, two basil, six kale and two cabbages, which seem to have survived our novice touch thus far. I cannot even say how much joy this tiny bit of land has given me already. Just washing our filthy jeans and T-shirts after the long hard day of tilling and planting made me feel a bit more solid. Cleaner, even. Difficult to explain unless you have ever had dirt on on your knees and a blister on your hand and something to show for your work.