Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breakfast for Dinner

Today has been a long day in the middle of a long week. As I drove home, I couldn't imagine being able to muster up the energy to make a pot of chili, which is what our menu says for tonight. So when I got home, I asked the kids if they were in the mood to have breakfast for dinner. They get a kick out of eating cereal and eggs in the evening so they were happy with the suggestion. While Nina ate scrambled eggs and Rita filled herself with cheerios, I made my own dinner. 

Breakfast foods are what I crave when I want comfort food and this was just what I needed to restore my equilibrium tonight. I minced some onion and garlic and started them in olive oil in a skillet while I shredded and rinsed a big bunch of kale and Swiss chard from my farm share. I threw the wet greens in with the onions and garlic and then added some chicken stock, a little coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, and covered it to let it cook down. With the greens underway, I fried a farm-fresh egg over-easy (these are incredible eggs, a gift from chicken-raising friend, writer BJ Roche). Finally, I toasted up an English muffin and slathered it with butter. I served the egg over the greens and dotted the top with Sriracha chili sauce. When I cut into the egg with the side of my fork, the perfect, bright yellow yolk just oozed out over the greens. I was in heaven.

I know this is no one's idea of "cuisine," but for me this is one of the most satisfying meals that could land on my kitchen table. I am almost revived enough to make that pot of chili for tomorrow's dinner.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall dinner

As I'm stirring, Paul asks, "Aren't you sick of risotto?"

Stirring the risotto
"I don't think that's possible," I reply. We're making dinner. He is responsible for grilling the pork chops. I am making pumpkin risotto with smoked paprika and a side of sauteed zucchini.

I was driving home from work tonight, thinking about what to do for dinner (I swear that I do most of my best cooking while I'm in the car).
I knew I didn't have time to make pumpkin ravioli with Romesco sauce, which I have been craving. It will have to wait until the weekend. However, I really wanted to do something with the pumpkin from the farm share. I had baked, scraped and mashed it on Saturday.

While I was driving, I was thinking about the amazing dinner we had last night at Venus and the Cellar Bar, in our hometown of Easthampton, MA (I promise to write about it soon). I was re-living the quinoa risotto that I had savored, then I thought about the pumpkin puree in the fridge and thought, "Hmmm, that would work really well in risotto and would pair nicely with those chops."

For me, the act of making risotto is almost as wonderful as the eating of it. You saute minced onions in olive oil until they are translucent, then you add the arborio rice (one of the most versatile and luscious ingredients imaginable) and cook and stir until it glistens, then you slowly add the liquid - first some white wine, then some chicken stock and pumpkin puree - just a little at a time and keep stirring until it's incorporated, then you add some more - until it's absorbed about 3 cups of liquid per one cup of rice. Then, you finish it with at least a tablespoon of butter, a little coarse salt and some freshly cracked pepper.

The beauty of arborio rice is that it can handle being combined with an array of flavors. It takes them on and makes a subtle, complex dish. Tonight I made pumpkin risotto, seasoned with smoked paprika, cumin, allspice and a little cocoa powder. Another night, I might use soaking liquid from wild mushrooms, along with white wine and chicken stock and season it with sage. I've made scallop and saffron risotto and risotto with Parmesan, prosciutto and peas. I've had an incredible dish of risotto flavored with white truffle - subtle and spectacular. The rice itself lends itself to any number of combinations, becoming creamy and absorbing the flavors. It's really remarkable. Mostly what it takes to make a good risotto is patience.
Plate and present...

So, for our dinner tonight, Paul grilled the pork chops to perfection while I stirred the the risotto. I piled the rice on our plates and topped each with a chop. We ate the zucchini out of a communal bowl between us. And there it was, dinner.

P.S. Thanks to our friends, Lauren and Aidan, who invited our kids over for an impromptu dinner play date tonight. We owe you one.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lazy morning breakfast

On the weekends, I'll often make a big batch of pancakes. I reheat the leftovers for a quick breakfast during the week, or I'll freeze them to use another time. This recipe is one of my family's favorites. They go over well when they are covered in maple syrup with some bacon on the side.

Carrot Cake Pancakes:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1 heaping TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP ground flax seed (optional)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash cloves
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 TBSP melted butter
1 medium carrot, finely grated

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Lightly beat the egg with the milk and butter, then add the grated carrot. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until just combined. Pour onto your pre-heated griddle. Serve. Eat.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Garden Overflow - Part I

Over the weekend, I started harvesting my pole beans. I plant two different kinds - the standard Kentucky Wonder and an heirloom variety, Rattlesnake Pole Beans. I get the Rattlesnakes from a friend who grows them and saves the seeds each year. I like to plant both varieties together and see what happens. Well, this year, what happened was a big crop!
Bringing in the goods.
Even after I shared some of the harvest with my neighbors, I still had a lot of beans. While I like to say that I've never met a vegetable I didn't like, my kids, unfortunately, do not have this same attachment to green things. This means I have three options: steam and freeze, give some to friends, or make a big batch of something that will last a while in the fridge and continue to improve in flavor over time (and take it for lunch all week). Luckily, I found Sheila Lukins's Three Bean Salad with Lemony Dressing from her U.S.A. Cookbook (1997, Workman Publishing). I mostly follow her recipe...

First you, clean, snap and steam a pound of beans. Then rinse them under cold water so they stop cooking.
These are the Rattlesnakes, aren't they gorgeous?
Unfortunately, they do lose the purple streaks after they are cooked.
Then you whip up a dressing of lemon juice and zest, dijon mustard, a little sugar, salt and pepper, and whisk in some olive oil. Put the green beans in a big bowl and add two other kinds of beans - I use red kidney beans and chick peas. To that you add some finely diced onion or scallions and parsley. Pour the dressing over the top and stir to combine.

I love how the dressing makes the salad glisten. It's sooo good!