Saturday, April 09, 2005

Tonight's victim

Tonight's intended victim:

Now that's what I like to see--
a bottle of wine next to a keyboard
and an unfinished manuscript...

Later this evening some friends are coming over to drink a lovely 2002 River's Edge Pinot Noir and watch the DVD of Sideways. I purposely did not see the movie in the theater so I could watch it with my own good glass of wine. I already tried a bottle of this wine and it was terrific--I got it at Big 10 during a recent mixed-case sale. I think with the discount it came to $16, and it proved to me that spending about $5 more per bottle can really be worth it. That said, I also got some bottles for about $10 which are good for every-day drinking.

Last night, I had the asparagus and idiot salad all prepared to go when Brian came home with a welcome craving for Japanese food. So the veggies were chucked back in the fridge and we picked up some take-out from Saica. Their bento box is really an insane amount of food--I could only get through half of mine. Here is what it consists of (for $15):
  • small portion terriyaki salmon
  • a california roll
  • tempura (2 shrimp, 3 vegetables)
  • salad
  • miso soup
  • rice
  • some sweet braised vegetables (carrot, mushroom and something un-identifiable that we referred to as "the orb")
  • a potato croquette
  • a handful of edamame
  • two gyoza
  • a piece of sweet omelet
  • a slice of cantaloupe and orange
By the time I had finished the soup, salad and tempura I was full. And I hadn't even opened the main box yet! I bravely stuffed on and tasted a little of everything in the big box before putting it in the fridge for lunch today.

So that leaves the asparagus waiting for dinner tonight. After last night's break from the kitchen, I'm a little inspired to do something new with the asparagus, rather than my usual roast (with olive oil) or steam and top with lemon and salt and pepper. I've never tried the egg/asparagus combo, but have seen recipes for asparagus topped with poached egg and a recent Amanda Hesser recipe in the Sunday NY Times Magazine for asparagus with a sieved soft-boiled egg topping that sounded appealing. Maybe I'll remember to take a photo before we start woofing it down...

Friday, April 08, 2005

speedy meal

Tonight it's going to be a super speedy meal--not because I'm pressed for time, but because I'm uncharacteristically not in the mood to spend much time in the kitchen. The warm-ish weather also has me thinking about my future vegetable garden and that means I should probably use up the pesto I made last summer, much of which is still sitting in its little frozen cubes in the freezer (if you've never frozen pesto before, it does OK in the freezer, though it gets a little muddy colored when it is defrosted. I freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop out the solid cubes and put them in ziplock bags.) I also have some "idiot's salad", that is to say, pre-washed over-priced baby greens and some asparagus that should be used. So the menu stands at pasta with asparagus and pesto and salad with whatever accompaniments can be dug out of the fridge (I think there are some beets and feta in there that haven't gone bad yet but will have to give them the sniff test before using...)

Report from last night: the collards with tomatoes were terrific and super easy; I just added 1/2 C canned diced tomatoes (Muir Glenn) and a bit of salt and pepper to a big bunch of collards and cooked them up till tender. Nice to know I can have collards without having to manhandle a smoked pig foot.

And thanks to Ami's recommendation, I took the comfort food up a notch by making a batch of this month's Cook's Illustrated Ultimate Oatmeal Cookies. They were packed with toasted pecans, dried cherries and chocolate chips and were a big hit.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Comfort food

The sun has gone back behind the clouds and I'm feeling stretched thin today, so tonight we are having comfort food for dinner. I'm going to make The Splendid Table/Lynne Rosetto Kasper's 21st Century Mac and Cheese and some collards. I'm going to try the collards with tomatoes like I had down in NC. The Mac and Cheese recipe is one of my favorites and doesn't require making a white sauce (not that white sauce is hard to make, I just have never found it terribly fun). The onion and garlic blended in it gives it a punch and makes it feel a bit more grown-up.

Do you have a favorite comfort food recipe? If so, send it my way.

Here's the recipe (with my alterations)

21st Century Mac and Cheese

Serves 4 and doubles easily.

  • 1/2 pound (2 cups ) raw penne pasta, cooked and drained (I like Trader Joe’s whole wheat penne--it adds a nutty flavor and unlike some whole wheat pasta, doesn't turn to mush.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3/4 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 generous cup (5 ounces) shredded good quality, extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, cut into small, sticky cubes
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon each hot red pepper flakes, salt, and freshly ground black pepper
  • Generous 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup Panko or regular bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish with non-stick spray, and add cooked pasta.

2. In a blender combine egg, milk, and garlic, and blend. Add onion, cheeses, peppers, salt, and paprika, and blend 'till all mixed up. Pour over the pasta. Casserole could be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 24 hours at this point.

3. To bake, bring casserole close to room temperature. Melt butter in a small dish or pan and toss Panko or bread crumbs with it. Spread over top of casserole. Sprinkle with a little more paprika if you like the stuff. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, or until thick yet creamy. If top is not golden, slip under broiler for a minute. Remove from oven, let stand about 5 minutes, and serve.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tag, you're it

Along the same lines as the interview blogging phenomenon, I have discovered from my friend and terrific blogger, Lynne, that there is a book "Tag" game going on. She tagged me as one of her required three book junkies, so here is my response to the questions:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 since high school so I had to look this up to find out the rules. Apparently, “the main character joins an outlaw band of scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature.” I’ll choose a book that I’d love to have the opportunity to re-tell over and over to people: Charles Baxter’s First Light.

The last book you bought is:
I, too, am a library junkie. I usually buy books as gifts and I gave 3 people Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated this past year for Christmas. The year before I gave copies of Rosina Lippi’s Homestead. Those two were probably my favorite books of 2004 and 2003 respectively.

The last book you read:
I keep a running list with comments as a subset of this blog.

What are you currently reading:
The same link as above applies to in-progress books. I rarely have just one going because I need a selection of books that will suit whatever mood I’m in and the circumstances in which I’ll be reading.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:
I’m going to be uncharacteristically cheerful here and assume I would be rescued after a nice period of relaxation. So rather than stock up on the classics, I’d bring some books I’d like to re-read:

1. Michael Cunningham, The Hours
2. Esther Freud, Summer at Gaglow
3. Ron Hansen, Mariette in Ecstasy
4. Jane Mendelsohn, I Was Amelia Earhart
5. All of these are writers I admire and I want to learn from their craft, so I'm going to stretch the rules and make my fifth book my novel-in-progress Strange Animal. I'd also like a pen, if that's not too much to ask...

What three people will you pass the stick to, and why?
Well, that assumes that anyone is reading this blog…but what the heck. If any of them are reading this, I’d like to ask these questions of three of my writer friends Ami, Mary Jean and Sarah. They are all so perceptive about good writing and I’m hoping they’ll continue to share their insights with me.
As far as I know none of these folks have decided to occupy their spare moments by blogging, so they’ll just have to e-mail me with their answers. Sorry if this breaks the blogging trail of connectivity.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Recipe--Healthy Banana Muffins

By popular demand, here is the recipe for the healthy banana muffins. Ian ate 4 yesterday (and Fiona shredded one all over the back seat of the car, grrrrr. She definitely is a salt-tooth not a sweet-tooth) so I think they will become a regular feature over here.

Thanks for all the food inspiration. —Sue'’s mention of couscous and the beautiful weather yesterday have my brain considering the couscous artichoke walnut salad that’s in the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home book (which I find far more palatable than the regular Moosewood cookbooks.). It'’ll necessitate another trip to the store for some fresh dill (separate gripe: why is there no single store in Ann Arbor where I can get everything I need? I find myself continually roving between Meijers: —good produce, Hillers: —good meat, fish and exotic grocery items, Busch’s: —good meat and grocery items, Krogers—: good grocery/shelf items, Whole Foods: —expensive as hell, but good meat, usually good produce, cheese and bread, and Trader Joes: —some of the few foods that Ian eats plus good frozen stuff....It often hurts my brain trying to figure out where to do the damn shopping).

Healthy Banana Muffin recipe

1 C all purpose flour

1/2 C whole wheat flour

1/4 C white sugar

1/4 C either brown sugar or honey

1 C wheat germ (I like the toasted kind)

3 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

2 medium sized bananas, mashed (3 if you want really moist, heavy muffins)

1/2 C milk

1/4 C canola oil

2 eggs

1/2 C chocolate chips

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Measure dry ingredients into bowl and stir well.

Combine wet ingredients in a bowl and mix 'till blended.

Add wet to dry all at once, stir just until all the dry stuff is incorporated, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray or line with papers, fill 2/3 full. For small muffins, bake 15 minutes, for big ones between 20-25 minutes. Makes about 18 small muffins, 10 or so large.

Happy Baking!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Chez Moi….

The fridge has been restocked and it is time to start cooking again after my week off!

I woke my son up with these relatively healthy banana muffins (part whole wheat flour, lots of wheat germ, and yes, some chocolate chips for the under-5 picky eater set).

It’s Indian food for dinner tonight:
A north Indian Chicken Curry recipe that I got out of Fine Cooking back when I still subscribed to it and probably the stewed Indian Green beans from Madhur Jaffrey’s great book Quick and Easy Indian Cooking (minus the mushrooms she calls for), raita and some plain basmati rice.

Later this week I’ll try the scallops with soba noodles recipe (I got to the Asian food store for the soba noodles over the weekend, but still need to track down the scallops).

What are you cooking? Inspire me.