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Work has been stressful, and I’m getting very sick of winter. Chris has been the inventive cook in our house the past few weeks, making tons of homemade sauces and tasty portobello burgers. I’ve been unenthused. But then I started reading Gabrielle Hamilton’s new book (rather, listening to it on Audiobook). Blood, Bones, and Butter is an awesome memoir, made awesomer by the fact that she is chef/owner of my favorite restaurant of all time, Prune. I’ve spent a few birthdays there, and held the (somewhat) quieter part of my bachelorette party in it’s basement. Her book reminded me of the immense joy I take in simple food, and I went to Trader Joe’s Saturday and picked up ingredients for one of my favorite lunches ever: a par-baked baguette, prosciutto, cornichons (tiny, garlicky French pickles), and radishes. I was thrilled with my cornichons, radishes dipped in butter (ripped off from Prune), and my prosciutto laden baguette (smothered, guiltlessly, with olive oil AND butter).

Tonight, I’m back in the game, and I’m creating a quick recipe for some (alas, frozen) yellowfin tuna steaks Chris and I bought, feta, tomato, and couscous. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Planning for the Week

I have to go back to work on Monday, which sucks. We’ve been having so much fun cooking, and I’ll have way less energy for it while I’m working, so I’m trying to plan.

Today, I’m making this vegetable stock. I think I’ll make a lentil soup one day, maybe with some chicken sausage. I’m also going to use the stock to make a meatless chili this week, which we can reuse for a taco night, too. I almost bought El Paso refried beans, but have you ever looked at the ingredients?! It has a ton of chemicals, and lard, which probably is why it’s so delicious. And gross. We’re going to Jeffrey’s Meats tomorrow to pick up something for Sunday dinner.

We still have some tofu to use up. Any suggestions? We’re having trouble finding appealing tofu recipes.

McDonald’s Nasty Oatmeal

Ugh: It contains about 11 ingredients, disgustingly, and costs almost $3. This link, via Bittman, explains how to make your own instant oatmeal for like 43 cents a serving, and bring it to microwave at work or whatever.

Fritatta, Salad, and No Meat

As part of our pretty dedicated quest to eat less meat, we’ve had a vegetarian day. I made homemade biscuits for breakfast, which we served with Bonne Maman mixed berry preserves. I halve the biscuit recipe, but use an entire half cup of (nonfat) yogurt, and just spoon the dough out into rough drop biscuits. Then, for lunch, Chris boiled some of our frozen ravioli and served it with mushrooms sauteed with butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a splash of cream at the end. Delicious.

Dinner was a very easy fritatta, fueled by a late, vacationy afternoon of beers and Dickel whiskey at Black Swan. Chris made a salad on the side with homemade croutons, baby spinach, red onion, and our honey/mustard/balsamic/olive oil dressing. My fritatta was even easier. Chris pre-chopped my scallions and sundried tomatoes, afraid I’d chop off my fingers with the knife, and I sauteed them in some olive oil for two or three minutes before adding five eggs, beaten with a teaspoon of cream, two tablespoons of goat’s cheese, and salt/pepper. I stirred this around lightly over low heat, to make sure the goat cheese was mixed in, while trying to keep the omelet intact. I heated the oven to 350, and when the omelet’s edges were all set, and hte thing was just runny around the middle, dumped a bunch of parmesan on top and stuck it in the oven for 5 minutes to set. What was left was a nice quiche-y item, sans pie crust, and Chris and I each had two hearty pieces for our dinner.

Who needs meat, on a night like this?

Dessert will be Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch. Yum.

Vacation Weeknight Dinner

Though I’m on vacation, I feel like I’ve been running at pretty full speed, catching up on chores and dealing with doctors. Tomorrow I have ANOTHER appointment, so a comforting, and easy, dinner seemed fitting. I made fancy BLTs, and homemade tomato soup.We picked up some gorgeous sourdough bread in our travels, at this new market/cafe called Brooklyn Commune. I flavored some plain mayonnaise with sundried tomato and basil, and used spinach in place of the classic lettuce in the sandwich. I made a super easy tomato soup on the side. The recipe follows. It’s inspired by my favorite pasta e fagioli recipe:

  • 1/2 piece of bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • small celery stalk, diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups crushed tomatoes
  • Fresh rosemary, thyme, and/or oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs. heavy cream
  • basil, for garnish
  1. In a medium sized sauce pan, saute the bacon pieces until slightly crisp, and some fat is rendered, about 5 minutes.
  2. Saute the onion and celery in the same pan, using only the bacon fat, until onions become translucent and celery is softened, about 5 more minutes
  3. Add stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add tomato and fresh herbs, on their stems. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to a boil. Cover, and lower to a simmer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the heavy cream and cook, just until all the flavors are nicely married, about 2 minutes.
  5. Fish out the herb stems with a spoon and serve, garnished with a little bit of basil.

It was delicious and satisfying, with a glass of white wine, and some more of Chris’s fantastic lemon bars for dessert.

Roast Chicken

My mom’s recipes are all pretty open to interpretation, as her style is pretty old-school. There’s always “a little of this, and a little of that,” and many suggestions for variations. Her roast chicken has always been my favorite, bar none, and when I wanted to make it, I obviously called her. Her recipe was simple:

  • rinse the chicken in some salt water
  • dry well, salt liberally
  • stuff some herbs (and, maybe, a piece of onion and/or lemon) in the cavity
  • slather the chicken in herbed olive oil (I used rosemary, thyme, and crushed garlic)
  • stick a piece of bacon over the chicken’s spine and drumsticks (my favorite mom trick to keep it moist and add great flavor)
  • roast the chicken on a pile of oiled potatoes and onions, breast up, for about an hour at around 350 degrees, basting with some oil or butter halfway through

I had a few problems, though. First of all, my oven sucks, and my chicken wasn’t browning after almost a whole hour. (I should note that our chicken was fairly small and, apparently, Buddhist. We bought it at Jeffrey’s Meats and, spurred by our new sense of food responsibility, we bought the Bobo Chicken.) Secondly, our very complicated meat thermometer continues to confound us, and we haven’t yet bought a simple one. Bobo Chickens don’t have the trusty poppers my mom relies on, so we had to trust our instincts, which stressed me out. Finally, I started preparing the meal at like 8:30pm. I was also surprised by how grossed out I was by the whole process of dealing with a whole chicken. It’s body sort of reminded me of my cat’s, and it was disconcerting. But I got over it, and used my hands to oil it up and shove stuff in the cavity, etc.

I texted mom in a mild panic at around 9:30 when the skin was crisping, but not browning, and she suggested slathering on a bit of butter and turning the heat up for a bit. This seemed to work, but by the time I sat down to eat, I was totally exhausted. And, despite over an hour in the oven, a few of the potatoes remained undercooked.

It wasn’t quite the tour de force I’d hoped for, and my cell phone couldn’t get an appetizing looking picture of the thing. But I did conquer my fear of roast chicken, and will try it again, making a few adjustments, with my sucky oven in mind.

Meatless Monday

I had a stressful beginning to my vacation. This week, it seems, will be filled with doctor visits, and I’m not pleased. My lovely husband, however, poured me a glass of white wine and made me a delicious dinner to help me forget my troubles. Later, we’ll visit my buddy Emily at Don Pedro’s to watch the always extremely moving and serious Tarkan vs. the Vikings over cheap beer.

Formerly resistant Chris has now read Omnivore’s Dilemma and gotten behind this Meatless Monday concept, so he prepared (almost entirely from scratch!) an AWESOME dinner. We had portobello mushroom burgers on onion rolls with herbed goat’s cheese, a spinach salad with homemade croutons and our honey/mustard/balasmic dressing, and (homemade) lemon squares topped with (homemade!) whipped cream.

We got the awesome onion rolls, and a great ciabatta, from Pain D’Avignon in the Essex Street Market, where they also sell bunches of fresh herbs for a buck apiece.

Chris adapted his burger recipe from here, simplifying the marinade to olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. He marinated the mushrooms for about 40 minutes (turning them over and freshening up the liquid after about 20 minutes). He baked them in the oven for about 15 minutes. He took plain old goat’s cheese and jazzed it up with a few sundried tomatoes and basil, which was a perfect condiment.

Homemade croutons are stupidly easy, and everyone should make them. Take some slightly stale bread (we used the aforementioned ciabatta), cube it up, drizzle or spray with some olive oil, season with your favorite stuff (we just used salt and pepper), and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until they reach your desired texture.

The lemon squares were a fantastic, and refreshing, end to this meal. He made them yesterday, to accompany my roast chicken (more on that later), following Mark Bittman’s recipe. They came out perfectly, especially since it was his first try. The crust is particularly exceptional. He wants to experiment with them in the future, as he thought they were a little too sweet. I thought they were delightful, especially so since they were made by someone else who loves me.