Category Archives: Cooking

Sunday supper – Carbonara with delicata squash

imageThings have been so busy lately that I’ve fallen a bit behind in my Bon Appetits. I finally took a few minutes this weekend to catch up on the most recent issues, and the timing couldn’t have been better – there was a simple pasta recipe and, other than the pancetta, I had everything on hand. A quick trip to the grocery store and I was all set.

This recipe is easy – a handful of ingredients and very little hands on prep until the very end. I could definitely imagine swapping out the squash for cauliflower or some other roastable vegetable (sweet onions?) according to season.

Bon Appetit has really been killing it lately. The recipes, articles and illustrations have been wonderfully inspiring while remaining approachable, unlike, in my opinion, Gourmet. If you’re looking for a simple and quick meal that is perfect for family, or someone you may be interested in impressing, this just might be the one. Two thumbs up.

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Filed under Cooking, Dinner, Food, Recipes

Gifts of the season

So far, it’s been a particularly relaxed holiday season. I’ve been on my game – my freezer has 8 quarts of assorted homemade cookie dough ready to thaw and bake, the door has a wreath and the dining room a decorated tree. The last of the Christmas cards went in the mail 3 days ago and I’ve got 4 rolls of wrapping paper – and tape.

Holiday preparations are so well in hand that I’m adding challenges to the upcoming days. I’ve got a few recipes which I’ll be debuting over the next few days, a riff on apple fritter waffle donuts, overnight pull-apart brioche cinnamon roll bread and a killer roast for Christmas Eve. And, yes, I already ordered the beef from the butcher. How did I manage to be so on top of things? I’d have to say it was because I remembered to put a few things for myself on this year’s gift list.

Last week, I loaded two of the three boys into the car and drove to go pick out a tree. At Price Chopper. Yep, we bought our tree from the Golubs, the same folks from whom I bought the potatoes and onions for our latkes. Talk about one-stop shopping! Generally we go out to rural Rensselear County for our tree, not suburban Slinglerlands, but the week’s wet snow made the appeal of tromping through a field searching for a tree pretty minimal. I gave myself the gift of simplicity. $35.00 and car filled with pine needles later, we have, as always, the perfect tree.

Last night, I had a hankering for latkes. Even though it was Friday and I felt kind of beat, I made the effort to grate the potatoes and chop the onion and fry a batch of latkes. With each step, I considered, then accepted, what I had to do next to get this out of the norm meal on the table. As the pancakes fried, I peeled apples for a quick sauce and grilled sausages. We didn’t sit down to enjoy our dinner until after  8:00, but I felt so relaxed because I didn’t rush the process or myself. I gave myself the gift of indulging in something I was really craving – sour cream and generous glass of Riesling included.

During these often hectic holiday weeks, when so very much (festivities, shopping, food and drink) is crammed into each day, I purposefully left my calendar open. I quietly refused to commit myself or take on obligations. It has been remarkable. I’ve been available to do some fun relatively last minute things.  I’ve been writing and reading, taking long walks with Jeter and enjoying my home and boys. I gave myself the gift of time.

I hope you’re giving yourself something priceless, too.

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Filed under aging, Boys, Christmas, Cooking, family, holidays, musings, writing

The multiculturalism of crepes

DSC_0002My youngest son goes to a magnet elementary school in our neighborhood. The latter fact is more the reason he attends that particular school than the arts and humanities centered curriculum, but we do enjoy many of the activities based upon the school’s theme.

This week the school community’s marked their Third Annual Multicultural Celebration. My son came home very excitedly to share that his class would be representing France. After a visit from a French college student, he was obsessed by the thought of making crepes as our contribution to the event. The sound of his voice repeatedly saying “crepe” in an attempted French accent, convinced me that this was an idee fixe that deserved to be indulged.

After a tedious remarkable number of suggestions from my 9 y/o with regards to how to make crepes (the batter must be made the night before cooking, beer is a necessary ingredient…), I located a reasonably simple recipe on Epicurious. Late Wednesday night, after closing the Wine Bar, I stirred up a triple batch of the recipe and went to sleep with a clear plan – and conscience.

After school, I hit up the store for a medium sized jar of Nutella and, upon arriving home, immediately got busy heating up two nonstick sauté pans. I brushed the hot pans with melted butter and got into the rhythm of working two pans, while also peeling and chopping a few apples to cook with brown sugar and cinnamon for an alternate filling.image

The process was satisfyingly quick. In barely an hour, I had approximately 40 filled crepes, divided into two dishes with about twice as many Nutella ones than apple. I dusted the crepes with powdered sugar and we were on our way.

The event (and the crepes) was fantastic. The number of nations represented on the incredibly laden tables was mirrored by the audience in the multifunction room. The smells and flavors were rich in a way completely unrelated to any world currency. It was positively heady. I am so lucky to live in a city where my children have the opportunity to attend school with such a culturally diverse population. C’est magnifique!DSC_0004

 

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Filed under Albany, Boys, Cooking, Education, Events, family, Food, Local, Recipes, Schools

“Stuff” to do with your Field Goods

 Have you ever participated with a CSA?  I did one year and found myself more than a little overwhelmed by the array of obscure greens and heritage vegetables.  While I enjoyed the challenge of trying to create meals from previously unknown ingredients, I have never been tempted to commit again to the responsibility of having to retrieve my bag of goods from a remote location.  Field Goods and their convenient delivery to my school has proven to be the ideal solution for getting fresh, and sometimes frozen, produce into my kitchen and my tummy.

This week’s bag included some beautiful Portobello mushrooms and the timing of this exchange on Twitter could not have been more perfect:

twitter

 

Ding, ding – dinner has been determined!

I started by wiping the mushroom and removing the stems, trimming the ends a bit.  Using a combination of olive oil and butter, I sautéed the chopped stems, adding minced shallots* and chopped onion* and basically softening everything up.  I had about 2/3 of a cup of leftover couscous and tossed that in as well.  Rummaging through the fridge, I also found a few sprigs of (kind of) fresh thyme and minced that up to add to the pan along with about a ½ cup of bread crumbs.  I seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and turned the oven on to 350.
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I placed the intact caps in a shallow baking dish and drizzled them with a little olive oil and put them in the oven to soften up a bit.  After about 10 minutes, I filled the caps, generously piling the stuffing on.  I had some kind of crappy parmesan cheese in the cheese drawer and grated it over the mushrooms and covered the baking dish with foil.  I heated everything through (maybe 7 or 8 minutes) and then uncovered my tasty meatless dinner.

Delicious and satisfying!  I will definitely make these again.  Maybe, once Lent is finally over, I’ll add a little sausage or ground turkey…

Leftovers lunch!

Leftovers lunch!

* the shallots and onions were both from previous weeks’ deliveries.

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Bon Appetit and me

As a wedding gift, nearly a couple of decades ago, I received a subscription to Gourmet magazine.  I very much admired the glossy photos and exotic locations featured in the magazine, but found myself discouraged by the recipes.  It seemed to me that each one had a minimum of 12 ingredients and involved at least 3 different and necessary purveyors.  I didn’t have time that.

I don’t remember how I came to subscribe to Bon Appetit, but suspect there was a niece and a school fundraiser involved.  How it started doesn’t really matter, I suppose.  The important fact is that I have continued to renew this subscription, even when I get totally annoyed because they repeatedly send me renewal notices for months and months prior to my present subscription expiring.

The latest issue caught me at a perfect time – a midwinter’s week at home with the boys. As I leafed through the magazine the other morning before heading to the grocery store, two recipes caught my eye, the Fauxtisserie Chicken and the Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder.  As is generally the case in Bon Appetit, the ingredient list was reasonable and easily obtained.  The only item which provided some challenge was the fresh marjoram, a new herb in my repertoire, but one I was willing to invest in since it was present in both recipes.

My chicken after about 2 hours of low roasting.

My chicken after about 2 hours of low roasting.

Friday’s chicken was as tenderly falling apart as promised, yet moist with a surprising spicy kick.  The potatoes which had been roasted alongside the bird were tasty, yet a little more firm than I expected.  There was a lack of basting juices so I added a few ladles of water about an hour into the three-hour roasting time.  Next time, I’ll add a little more.

My 7lb Boston Butt prepped for a looonnng slow roast.

My 7lb Boston Butt prepped for a looonnng slow roast.

Saturday’s slow roasting pork roast was a seven hour promise of what was to come.  My entire house was filled with the fragrance of Dijon mustard, sage, garlic and marjoram – intense and mouth watering.  After removing the roast from the oven, I deglazed the pan with a bit of red wine and tossed Friday’s remaining potatoes into pan juices for a quick reheat.  The pork was fork shreddable with a delectable skin crowning a layer of fatty deliciousness.  It was truly outstanding.

I never claimed to be a Gourmet, but I am all about Bon Appetit.

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Last Run and a good run

This past weekend may have been close to perfect.  One of my favorite girls arrived prior to the snow and we settled in to an afternoon of satisfying household tasks.  There was cooking, roasting and baking.  A tree was agreed upon and chopped down, by me. Later, it was beautifully decorated, not by me.  I call that a win-win situation.

With our bellies full of delicious chili and layers of spandex and Lycra firmly in place, we ventured downtown to the starting line for Albany’s 2013 Last Run. Being smart and all, we stashed some clothes at the Wine Bar for a post-race nosh.  We are not amateurs, my friend.
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I’ve done this race three years in a row and I have to tell you – it is the most fun race I do each year.  The fireworks, the costumes, the crowd, the lights – it is consistently a blast.  This year, despite the weather conditions (pretty damn cold with face freezing precipitation) I had the most fun ever, probably a combination of the perfect running friends and an entire day devoted to holiday tasks and festivities. Joy to the world, for sure!
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We followed our exertions with a fantastic dinner at the Wine Bar.  You might think that I praise the food at the Wine Bar with such frequency because I work there, but you’d be wrong.  The reality, though, is I work there because the food is so damn good. Truth.  My meal, from the grilled Caesar salad to the phenomenal pork shoulder to the epic wedge of cheesecake from Cheesecake Machismo was flawless.  Perfect.
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There was another Lilly enjoying her weekend’s activities and menu, Cassidy Bono.  She feasted on sirloin steak, ground beef, sardines and chicken breast, punctuated with plenty of biscuits.  There were lots of cuddles, along with belly rubs, and what turned out to be our last weekend together will always be a time which I will treasure.
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We both had a good run.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Christmas, Cooking, Dinner, Events, favorites, Food, friends, Lark Street, Local, running, snow, winter

Beans & Greens, uncountable variation

DSC_0008If you’ve been around here for a while, you know that I love beans and greens.  I’ve been known to make it with a variety of different varieties of greens, including broccoli rabe and escarole  but generally I go with bacon as my salty, meaty addition.  Recently, though, I had a hankering for sausage, which coincided with there being an excess of kale and a new variation was born!

This dinner takes 25 minutes – start to finish, and only requires a handful of ingredients.  It’s also one of those recipes which comes from the pantry,  the freezer and the produce drawer.  You know, a little of this, a  little of that, stuff that you probably already have on hand.  Here’s what you need:

  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5-6 sausages  – your call on sweet or spicy, chicken or pork
  • 1 can of canellini beans – rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of chicken broth
  • 1 generous bunch of kale, coarsely chopped
  • Olive oil, salt & pepper, crushed red pepper flakes

Start with a few tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic in a fairly deep pot.  Did I mention this is a one-pot meal? As the garlic lightly browns over low heat, slice sausages into rounds and add to the pot, increasing heat to medium. Another option would be to use loose sausage or remove the casings, breaking sausage up with a wooden spoon as it browns.

When sausage is still a little pink, or slightly undercooked, toss in the kale and chicken broth.  Cover and cook until the kale wilts a bit and gets tender.  Throw in the beans, heat through, season and enjoy.

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