Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hot, Tired, Hungry

Since the Era of The Kid (EK) began, my time in the kitchen has shrunk. We get to the end of the day, the baby's in bed, the most urgent chores have been done, and we have about 45 minutes to cook and eat before our foreheads start drooping table-ward. But I hadn't realized exactly how much things had changed until recently.

The other day, feeling that the man of the house deserved an extra-good dinner (I don't remember now what feat of domestic heroics he had performed--they tend to run together these days), I made one of his old favorites from the Era Before the Kid: Pasta with Kale, Sausages and White Beans. This is a fairly straightforward recipe, and I used to make it all the time, EBK. But going back to it after more than a year, I couldn't believe how long everything took. You par-cook the sausages, then slice them thinly at an angle, then brown the sausage slices (on both sides!), then take the sausage out of the pan again, then deglaze, then saute the garlic, then put the poor beleaguered sausage back in, along with the kale, which had previously been blanched and chopped, and the beans, which are easy. Good god. Now I know what I did with my time before Cleo was born. Apparently, I spent the last ten years cooking dinner.

But, by this spring, I had pretty much come to terms with the new normal, and had some good standbys: pizza, curry, chili, soup, and pasta-with-stuff, all of which could be cooked mostly if not all the way ahead, and so I could make a bunch of dinners at once. This routine worked well all the way through a cool, rainy early summer, but then the weather changed. The last few weeks have been hot and humid and sticky and horrible, and while we've coped fairly well during the day (wading pool, one window AC unit, and, if all else fails, The Horrible Mall), dinner is a challenge. I don't mind eating something warm for dinner, but I draw the line at standing by the stove while it gets that way. All my best summer recipes are from EBK, and so involve a lot of labor and/or a lot of farmers' marketing. So I'm at a loss. This is not one of those times when I recount a dilemma and then recount my solution. No, this is one of those times when I say, "Help! What do you make for dinner when it's hot, you're exhausted, and you have 20 minutes until plate/table contact?" Extra credit if you chime in in the next two hours, and you suggest something that uses only ingredients currently in my fridge.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quinoa Salad

This is a magical recipe. It's not only tasty, it's also vegan, gluten-free, delicious with meat, great by itself, very healthy, can be made ahead (but doesn't have to be), is good at any temperature, and is pretty cheap given how marvelous it is. If you're still not convinced, know that it's also pretty, with its flecks of red and green and gold. Its only drawback is that it takes a little bit of work--but just tedious work, nothing finicky. This makes a lot--maybe 10 servings as a side dish? Great leftovers, great packed lunches, great for a crowd, so I always make a lot.

It's based on a recipe from the 1997 Joy of Cooking, but over its years in our kitchen it has evolved quite a lot. So change it at will, and let me know if you discover any particularly crackerjack variations.

1.5 cups quinoa
1 large clove garlic, minced
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans
2 red peppers
1 vidalia onion
1 cup sun dried (or roasted) tomatoes
1 bunch parsley
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
red pepper flakes to taste
salt to taste

First, cook the quinoa in 3 cups water (I use the rice cooker). While it's cooking, here's your list of tasks:

Mince the garlic.
Mix garlic, olive oil, and cumin in a large (huge) bowl.
Add each ingredient to the bowl as it's ready:
Rinse and drain the garbanzo beans.
Dice the red pepper and onion.
Finely chop the sun-dried tomatoes.
Finely chop the parsley.
Toast the pine nuts.
Stir in the vinegar, pepper flakes, and salt.
Add the cooked quinoa.
Mix, eat now or later.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


It's been a busy summer. Cleo would now walk everywhere if only we would let her (out the door! straight off the front porch steps, Wile E Coyote style! down the street after the garbage truck!). She also has a single tooth and a burgeoning vocabulary, which I will lovingly list, in order of appearance:

Dada: Dada
Mama: Mama
dado: [sweet] potato
nana: banana
buh: ball
buh: book
buh: block
buh: baby

Yeah, maybe a few of those are a reach. However, there's no disputing that she is the master of the urgent point-and-grunt, her main way of telling us that she wants more food/our keys/to go on a walk/to send a text message to all her little baby friends so they can plot their mass escape.

In addition to baby development, there's been a lot of traveling (for all of us) and teaching (for me). Which brings me to the item that made me break my silence here: pastry. 

One of my students this summer brought Bismarcks to our last class. I was unfamiliar with both the pastry (insanely delicious) and the name (curious). So, being like a dog with a peanut-butter-filled bone when presented with curious information, I googled. And, dear reader, came up with the blog that I would aspire to write were I a Pastry Master: Joe Pastry

He is funny, informative, well-organized, comprehensive. What are you waiting for? Go be amused and/or learn something.