Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

You know, if I were to write a parody of Real Simple and other magazines aimed at over-scheduled upper-middle-class suburban moms (and those of us who will no doubt be OSUMCSMs (catchy) in a few more years, heh) I would probably focus the food section on how rotisserie chickens are The Answer! To Everything!

And I’ve never bought one.

But last month I was down in CT visiting Greta and Jack, along w/ our friend Ann, while all the husbands went skiing for the weekend, and Greta turned out a series of awesome meals while also chasing after a toddler, and one night she pulled out a rotisserie chicken and we pretty much just ate it while standing around the kitchen counter and pulling pieces off with our hands, and I thought “Genius! Ready-to-eat meat, plus leftovers!” as if I hadn’t read that exact tip 9000 times.

So I had Ben pick up a rotisserie chicken, and when he got it home I looked at the weight and thought “good lord, a pound and a half? It’s minsky!” but then I got three meals out of it and still had leftover shredded meat, which I never did use because I’m a mess.

Anyway. Night one: Chicken w/ fried polenta cakes and cavalo nero slow-cooked with garlic. Oily and delicious, just the way I like it.

Night two: Shredded chicken quesadillas. (I shredded the chicken and heated it up in a bit of broth with taco spice from Christina’s spice shop in it, but I don’t think I used enough spice mix.)

BTW, I use greek yogurt instead of sour cream. My mom always used plain yogurt and you don’t really notice the difference, especially w/ greek yogurt, since it’s so thick.

Night three: Nachos! It was Friday.

Once again Trader Joe’s impressed me: I used their “longboard” corn chips, which were delicious, and the mild salsa that isn’t chunky, from the refrigerated section. That was *awesome*.

I’m in a funk, guys. I miss NYC and I’m kind of lonely in Cambridge. I don’t leave the house enough, especially when the weather is bad. I feel like there are art projects or something exploding inside me, but I can’t seem to actually do anything. I am excited to work on updating my downstairs neighbor’s apartment: He has loads of great antiques and things, but needs a hand picking paint colors, rearranging the rooms, and paring down. I already found him a leather chesterfield sofa on craig’s list for a song, which was satisfying. And yesterday I amused myself drawing a floorplan and playing with furniture placement. But what am I to do with all the inspiration pictures I just put in Domino Deco File books last week? Sigh.

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Bubble and Squeak

I’m obsessed with Jamie Oliver‘s show Jamie at Home, and have saved nearly every episode on my DVR (messy!). This might sound ridiculous, but this is the only modern cooking show I’ve seen that captures a bit of Julia Child’s spirit: Jamie is having so much *fun* and is so relaxed and human on camera (not to mention so free with “tablespoons” of salt or butter that look more like quarter pounds!). Anyway, I usually just watch it for technique ideas of how to use my CSA vegetables, since the whole show is based around seasonal cooking using what’s in Jamie’s garden. I haven’t looked up many of the recipes, though I did give my mom the show cookbook for her birthday.

But considering that my fridge is fairly packed with rutabaga (or “Swede,” in the UK), turnips, carrots and cabbage, I couldn’t resist giving the Bubble and Squeak recipe from the “Winter Veg” episode a try. And it ACTUALLY SQUEAKS. I stood in the kitchen giggling, no joke.

[I didn’t make the onion gravy, and we just grilled some sausages. I want to try again and make the gravy; this was delicious but could have used an extra boost of moisture and flavor.]

Basically you peel and trim and cut up a one-to-one mix of potatoes and assorted winter vegetables; a bit more than a pound each. I used white potatoes, white and red turnips, rutabaga and a bit of cabbage:

Cover with water and boil until fully cooked. My vegetables cooked at really different rates, and I’ll play around with cutting the denser ones into smaller pieces next time. Jamie says 15-20 minutes to cook, but I think I needed about half an hour since some things wouldn’t soften!

Drain the vegetables and heat olive oil and butter in a large nonstick pan; add the vegetables and mash them together (add salt and pepper now) to make a giant pancake/hashbrown sort of thing:

Then all you do is cook it on medium heat for about 30 minutes. Every few minutes, when the bottom gets golden, you flip the pancake piece by piece and mush it together again. Eventually you get the delicious crispy bits all through the pan, not just on the top and bottom. And meanwhile, listen for the squeaking! I think it’s air escaping from within the smushed-together pancake.

This was a great side dish with sausage, but would also be good with pork chops (and apples, for some juice), or with a stew.

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So here’s a problem I’ve never had before and doubt I’ll ever have again: We are the owners of too much steak. We received generous and delectable assortments of steak from two sources in the last six months, and our small freezer drawer was beginning to get a bit unruly. We gobbled down two of the NY strips at Thanksgiving with my parents, and by mid-December I thawed a couple filets for a randomly fancy weeknight meal.

I’m not a fan of filet mignon, to be honest. It’s a bit mushy and bland for me; I like strip steak or, better yet, hangar or flank. But who am I to look a gift cow in the mouth? I almost never buy any beef except the stewing kind, so grilled steaks are always a treat. I dug through the CSA bounty and emerged with some parsnips:

And a head of bok choy that needed to be used ASAP:

I pureed the parsnips. It’s the second time I’ve pureed parsnips, but the first time they were in a 50-50 mix with potatoes. I didn’t love that, and I definitely hated this; they are just too sweet for me. Next stop (I still have *more* in the fridge): roasting.

I sauteed the bok choy, stems first, and dressed with with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce. Not bad for a Tuesday, right?

But I was bothered by that sickly-sweet parsnip puree. The next week, for Christmas Eve dinner with Bridge and Ben, I thawed two more NY steaks, and tried again. This time I made celeriac puree and a wilted spinach and bacon salad. Success! Without the nauseating sweetness of the parsnips (ahem. I hated them.) it was the perfect simple meal, requiring very little time in the kitchen and thus allowing more time spent with Bridge’s superior eggnog concoction.

For the celeriac I followed a recipe from Alton Brown, roughly. I had two heads of celeriac–celery root, for the uninitiated. They’re funny, knobbly, muddy things, and the hardest part was scrubbing them clean and peeling them with a paring knife.

After softening the sliced celeriac with garlic and oil, cover it with chicken stock and simmer until it is soft; about 20+ minutes. This part smells ridiculously good and will bring everyone into the kitchen to investigate.

Once the celeriac is soft, add in a bit of butter and cream and whizz it with a stick blender, making really weird sucking sounds and splattering it around a bit:

Appetizing! But trust me, it’s awesome.

Once that was ready I put it in a serving bowl, covered with foil, and put in a warm oven until we were ready to eat. I had saved about 3 tablespoons of bacon fat from breakfast the previous weekend, along with a giant freak-slice of bacon. That saved me cooking any specifically for the salad; I cut up the freak-slice, melted the fat in a big pan, and threw the bacon back in to crisp up a bit, along with a finely-sliced shallot. When the shallot was soft, I added some mustard and red wine vinegar, and a pinch of brown sugar. Mixed it around a bit to create another unappetizing mess:

But once I wilted the spinach in the warm dressing (I pulled the pan off the heat almost as soon as I put in the spinach, and I was using hearty, mature leaves–with baby spinach I’d pour the dressing over the greens in a bowl to avoid the hot pan)… Magic. It had been years since I’d had a warm spinach salad but I can’t imagine why. The bite of vinegar with the richness of bacon is so perfect. The celeriac puree is a great substitute for potatoes, with a nice mild vegetable flavor that keeps it from being too rich with red meat.

Bridge had brought a lovely bottle of wine, and it was, I have to say, one of my all-time favorite meals I’ve cooked. And so easy!

In other news, I am very flattered to say that there’s *another* tour of our apartment up online today, this time at Apartment Therapy Boston. Check it out!

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I decided to prolong the CSA season with a winter share: four heavy payouts every other week in November and December. Here is the first installment, which nearly killed me as I biked it home in a backpack:

-Winter melon (it developed a sketchy spot and died a sad death within a couple days, sigh.)
-Salad greens
-Mystery squash
Several pounds each of:
-Sweet potatoes

But the real news that week was the batch of leftovers I spent most meals consuming. Over the weekend Ben got a bee in his bonnet about meatballs, and decided to make a batch. He claims they were not an unalloyed success, but I beg to differ. Despite a bit of crunch to the onions, I think they were damn good, and besides, who argues with someone else cooking them dinner!? After a brief chopping lesson I was not allowed in the kitchen while he cooked, but here’s the triumphal plate in extreme close-up:

He used this recipe from Everyday Food, and the only adjustments we’d make next time would be to up the amount of sauce and to chop the onions finer. Oh, and after a tragic ground-turkey incident a few weeks before (how do you make a virtual sign to ward off the evil eye?), Ben subbed in ground beef for the ground turkey. I do not vouch for the turkey version, be healthy at your own risk.

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So the end of October (for shame, Kate!) marked the end of the regular 20-week CSA season. I signed on for the winter share, as well, so I’m still getting vegetables bi-weekly until Christmas.

-2 apples
-1 kohlrabi
-1 ear popcorn
-Carrots (Mostly cropped out of the photo on the right by the stupid, stupid wordpress template…)
-Sweet potatoes (Ditto)
-1 bunch kale
-1 bunch chives
-2 yellow and 2 red onions
-1 bulb garlic

That week we had some friends over for dinner and I made the Suzanne Goin short ribs again (Now With Less Plastic Wrap!), along with a nice beet salad and an apple crostata.

How pretty are the pearl onions, all ready to be roasted? I think I’ll change the image at the top of the blog to have those for a while. I’m tired of the spring onions!

This time I got the cross-cut ribs that Goin calls for…They were much tricker to fit into a pan for braising!

I had to use my enormous roasting pan, and I thought I’d be short on liquid so I put in placeholders (they ended up being unnecessary).

Roasted beets in a bit of dressing, with m√Ęche, ricotta salata and toasted walnuts:

The short ribs, served over fried circles of polenta (with chard and pearl onions):

Crostata–still the simplest and most satisfying dessert (recipe here):

But as long as we’re thinking about pie, check out the *amazing* chocolate cream pie at our favorite diner on the North Shore:

Real pudding, real whipped cream…Perfect fortification for a walk in a wonderful state park:

And I’m always charmed by mushrooms!

Sigh. A couple months ago I changed my blog template because all the photos were suddenly square. Now it’s happening again and I don’t know if it’s because I’m uploading to Picasa on my Mac? Or….something? Argh.

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So once it’s been actual weeks between posts, it starts getting harder and harder to write. Especially because a lot has happened in real life lately, and I haven’t really been focused on food. But ONWARD. I will post some short little recap things to get back in the swing of things.

Here’s what I got many, many weeks ago in the 16th week of the CSA. Like, early October.

There are:
-Sweet potato fingerlings
-More purple peppers
-A Napa cabbage
-Decorative squash
-Salad greens

It was finally getting chilly, so I hauled out the slow cooker and did a pork loin roast.

In the past for similar meals I’ve used hard cider, but this time I used regular–I prefer it with the bite of hard cider, which even a few splashes of cider vinegar weren’t able to match. This was too sweet for me. But anyway.

Chop up a couple onions, a few potatoes (I used smallish brown ones of an undetermined variety!), a few cloves of garlic. Sear the pork shoulder (season first w/ salt and pepper). Soften the onions and garlic in olive oil, then throw every else–potatoes, 2 cups cider, a sprig or two of rosemary, the pork–in the slow cooker.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

I was lazy and didn’t trim any fat off the pork, so the liquid was pretty fatty. I poured the liquid into my gravy separator to get some of the fat off before I reduced it.

It’s not a pretty dish. Next time I’ll serve it with some chard or other greens, and find other ways to liven up the presentation:

Still, nothing beats walking into the house to the smell of dinner all ready to go!

Other housekeeping notes:

-Here’s one of those chairs with a couple coats of stain on it:

And as a reminder, the before:

We just need to finish staining the other three and then get fabric and do the seats. Before Thanksgiving.

-We visited my favorite baby again a couple weeks ago, too. Gah, the cuteness!

That more than makes up for the frumpy dinner, right?

-I am back to freelancing full-time. Need some writing done? Shoot me an e-mail!

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Ok, vacation. Greta and I spent some time before the trip working on a google doc (brilliant) spreadsheet to plan the meals we’d each cook and what groceries we were each bringing. I hadn’t thought of using google docs and it was perfect–I highly recommend them if you’re working on anything like an address list or planning document that a couple people might edit.


We each had a few dinners to plan, plus lunches. For breakfasts we all just had english muffins or cereal, though Greta made her famous sausage balls on my birthday!

Happy times, the lake…

Night one: Kate

I brought vegetables from the CSA–small cavolo nero leaves I had blanched ahead of time, as well as a couple summer squash. I also brought cheese, etc. Greta brought dough, since she makes pizza every friday night. The dough rested at her feet during the 9 hour (lots of stops!) trip up to the lake (Ben and I were glad to have traded the 6 hour drive from NY for the 2 hour drive from Boston), and it was a little odd to work with but tasted fine.

(This one also has basil from my happy plant on the porch!)

We had a big salad, as well.

Night two: Greta
Greta made sirloin tips (marinated in Soy Joy), cous cous and roasted asparagus. I was in charge of getting the charcoal grill going–Dad would be proud of my chimney-use skills, though we never quite mastered cooking on charcoal instead of gas!

It’s important to keep your strength up at the lake, since the days are packed with strenuous activity:

Best Lunch Ever

Ok, fine, we didn’t have the baby for lunch, but doesn’t he look edible with his cabbage leaf hat? That day we actually had grilled hotdogs and cabbage slaw, and it was awesome. (The first full day we were all swimming when we got hungry, and Chris had brought beers down to the lake so we maybe had a beer or two before lunch (yikes) (it was late!) and I tipsily made sandwiches, then put them in a ziplock bag and paddled them out to everyone, floating in floaty-chairs and the canoe out on the lake! Whee!)

Dinner three: Greta

Pork tenderloin in a dried cranberry/red wine reduction, with roasted potatoes.
Delicious. Tender and tangy and luscious. She’s something, that Greta.

Wait, maybe THIS was the Best Lunch Ever

The next day we had a whole extra tenderloin all cooked, and Greta had the brilliant idea to make BBQ pork sandwiches. We got onion rolls and barbecue sauce and OMG SO GOOD.

The boys had gone out sailing and ran into some problems, so we ate around 1:30 and they ate around…4:30? At which point I had another little snack, too.

Night four: Joint effort

We were supposed to eat halibut and other lovely things for dinner, but shockingly no one was really in the mood after the heavy, late lunches. Greta (a veritable font of brilliance) suggested breakfast for dinner, and broke out one of the FOUR 1-pound packages of bacon she’d brought. Ben made blueberry pancakes. I made mimosas. We ate around the coffee table around 9:30.

Um, the four of us ate the entire pound of bacon.

Wednesday we rented an old-school pontoon boat for the day, and rolled like old people in total floating living room comfort. The guys really enjoyed being outside:

Jack was impressed when we went back to the house for panini and salad dockside at lunchtime:

And we all swam a lot:

We ate dinner that night early, at a restaurant in town. Everyone was tired, but Jack and Greta were able to play cards for a while:

While Chris kicked back:

To be continued, with back-to-back birthday dinners…

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