Progress and Peaches (in a Frittatta)

22 Aug

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“I remember and know that blue mist, the same as the mountains in Switzerland.  The mist that envelops everything during the blissful time when childhood is just coming to an end, and the path away from that vast, cheerful, happy circle grows narrower and narrower, and you feel cheerful and eerie entering that suite of rooms, though it seems bright and beautiful…Who hasn’t gone through that?”

Leo Tolstoy, from Anna Karenina

Transitions, inescapable once entered and hardly ever easy, they often create a feeling of displacement that is disorienting- a sort of “this isn’t my life” kind of feeling which is hard to articulate but recognizable to anyone who ever takes risks or is forced to make a change beyond his or her control.

In the worst moments, it is hard to remember that this, too, will become the new normal at some point.

Even though I don’t relish these phases and feelings, I do know that I never want to be too long without them.  Even as I feel like I am questioning every part of who I am, and at times reinventing (or at least reevaluating) myself, I try to remember that transitions are a necessary part of personal growth.

Nothing meaningful will ever come without a level of discomfort, or, in Anna Karenina’s case, dishonor followed by death.  Fortunately, my changes are hardly as wild, risky and generally emotive as hers, but I am certainly adjusting into a new role professionally and leaving my classroom for the unknown has been hard.

This recipe was also a departure from my “norm.”  I have never made a sweet frittatta for one, but also, I followed a recipe almost exactly because it was somewhat out of my comfort zone.  I would say a couple of things about the final product.  One, I thought the sugar was too much.  I would probably cut it down to from 1/3 a cup of sugar to 1/4 a cup of real maple syrup.  Two, I think the recipe was actually really good the next day when it was cold out of the fridge.  It tasted sort of like a custard at that point and was actually better than the first serving.

The side is a simple, delicious sauteed chard that takes few ingredients and has beautiful color.

Ingredients

One cup of sliced peaches

One cup of pitted and halved cherries

6 eggs at room temperature

1/4 cp. of milk

1/3 cup of sugar

1 tbsp. of chopped fresh thyme

1/2 tspn. of kosher salt

Oil to coat pan

1/3 cup of goat cheese (I used chevre)

Optional: Maple syrup and/or extra fruit to top the frittatta

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2.  Lightly beat the eggs and add all of the other ingredients and stir in the fruit

2.  Heat oil in the skillet over medium heat on the stove top (use cast iron or other skillet that can be placed in the oven later)

4.  Add the egg mixture to the pan and top with cheese, cooking until the egg starts to set in the pan

5.  Put the skillet in the oven and cook until the egg is cooked through and puffs up in the oven

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Here is the original recipe from Food Network.

Here is the recipe for the chard:

Ingredients

Bunch of swiss chard

One onion thinly sliced

One garlic clove, minced

EVOO and salt and pepper to taste

Optional: a little red wine vinegar or a little lemon juice before serving

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Directions

1.  Wash and trim the chard.  Separate the stems and ribs from the leaves with a knife

2.  Heat some EVOO in a pan with a lid; once the oil is heated, add the onion and the garlic and cover

3.  Cook the onions  and garlic until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally

4.  Add the chard stems and ribs and cook until softened (5-10 minutes depending upon the chard)

5.  Add the chard leaves, salt and pepper- cover and cook another five minutes or so; if the leaves seem to need a little liquid to cook, you can add a couple of tablespoons of water

6.  If desired, add a little lemon juice, lemon zest or red wine vinegar to taste before serving

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Enjoy!

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Aside

Herbed Chevre and Dichotomy

10 Aug

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“An estimated one-half of American meals are prepared from home.  We spend far more in restaurants than we do in grocery stores each year…  Across America we’ve experienced an eating-out revolution that’s changed the way we perceive food.  From Big Macs to “small plates,: restaurant-prepared food is an everyday commodity and plays a part in popular culture more than ever.”

Cathy Erway, The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

I just finished reading Erway’s personal account of living in New York City after giving up eating in restaurants.  I can’t say I loved the book (or even appreciated the writing at all times) but I did like the premise and the topic of focus (food).  In the introduction, she discusses the dichotomy of giving something up in order to gain something else, and often times, something greater.  In her case, the benefits of no longer eating out are more money, the skills and rewards of becoming a more practiced home cook and, probably, better health.  However, there is also a greater reward to be gained from giving up something that one loves (or uses as a crutch), be it coffee, a glass of wine to settle the day, or, one of my personal worst habits, sacrificing eating peanut butter and cereal in a coffee mug after my kids go to bed (can’t do it!).  Even beyond food, sacrificing creature comforts (in my experience) does bring a new appreciation to the value of those things.  It can also force me to try something or see something I wouldn’t have otherwise.  This being said, if I gave up restaurants I wouldn’t be able to have a beautiful layout of Korean food like this one.

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This is from date night two of our kid-free weekend when we enjoyed some Korean “hot pots.” The combination of veggies, fried egg and (in my case) tofu were served in a VERY hot bowl that sears the rice on the sides. I would highly recommend it.

I found this quote from Thoreau on Erway’s blog, “None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage point of what we should call voluntary poverty.”  This might seem a little self aggrandizing when talking about “not eating out,” but I think  “voluntary poverty” can be any time one chooses to live without some of those things that are available to us in order to gain something greater despite the fact that we can “afford” them.

In honor of simplicity, this is a VERY simple but quite delicious recipe for a spreadable cheese that I decided to use with veggie sandwiches.  It is also an easy way to use up fresh herbs you might have on hand from other recipes.

I should begin by stating that I had never heard of chevre until we started receiving it from a local vendor in our market bag.  Now that I have had it, I have to say it is one of the most delicious cheeses ever- in small quantities.  It is very strongly, almost pungently, flavored, which is great if you are watching calories; a little goes a long way.  Neufchatel is a great low-fat replacement for cream cheese, so it balances out the richness well.

Ingredients

Equal parts chevre and either cream cheese or neufchatel cheese (dependent on the quantity you want to have.  The recipe I used called for 4 oz. each)

Chopped fresh herbs of choice (I used a couple of tablespoons of flat leaf parsley, a tablespoon of dill and a little rosemary I had on hand)

A crunchy baguette or nutty loaf of choice

Sliced avocado with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Grated carrot

Assorted sliced veggies of choice (I used cucumber; I think a ripe tomato would have been a great addition, too, but feel free to experiment.)

Optional: balsamic vinaigrette to drizzle on the sandwich

Directions

1.  Combine both cheeses and the chopped herbs, stirring the herbs in evenly

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2.  Set the cheese aside in the fridge.  If it sits for longer, the flavors will merry together more.

3.  When ready to serve, spread a generous portion of cheese of both slices of bread and assemble the veggies and avocado in the baguette or sandwich slices.  If you so choose, drizzle the balsamic on the veggies before you close the sandwich

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Recipe modified from this Herbed Chevre Spread

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City on Fire

4 Aug

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I Want to Sing

By Nikki Giovanni

i want to sing

a piercing note

lazily throwing my legs

across the moon

my voice carrying all the way

over to your pillow

             i want you

i need i swear to loll

about the sun

and have it smelt me

the ionosphere carrying

my ashes all

the way over

to your pillow

              i want you

Taken from:

Giovanni, Nikki. The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni. New York: Harper, 2003.

I was first introduced to the beautiful poetry of Nikki Giovanni when I was given her little book of love poems in college by a friend; that same cherished book still sits on my shelf today.  She has a way with concise language and striking imagery that I admire, and although her other poetry is interesting to me, it is in her love poems that I feel the thwack of  recognition hit my chest.

This poem is particularly relevant for this post.  Courtesy of my generous parents, my husband and I are currently enjoying a childless weekend, and Friday night, we decided to check out Waterfire Columbus  and see the band Forest and the Evergreens.  Waterfire is an event where a fully volunteer staff brings in local music and lights bonfires on the city river which they maintain by adding logs from boats created specifically for these event.  There is nothing more appealing to human nature than the smell of a crackling fire, but combining that with a beautiful skyline on the river and the live music in the background made it one of the most interesting things I have done in the city.

Beyond the aesthetics, there is something so precious about time spent alone.  Between all of the things we are supposed to be and do, there sometimes seems little time and energy left to appreciate one another as individuals instead of parents and task managers.  It is nice to remember all of the things I love about the other person who makes this life with me.

This recipe is for a salad I made for our picnic next to the river.  It is modified from this recipe on Food Network’s website.  I will say that this salad, for me, was really about learning a few new techniques and using up some beets we had gotten in our market basket.

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They are really strange little things- beets I mean.  They don’t taste like anything but themselves.  If you have ever had pickled beets, they aren’t far from fresh or roasted ones.  They are sweet and earthy and VERY messy- even after having been cooked.  Good picnic food they are not (for future reference).

The first time we got them in our basket, we thought they were radishes before we cut them, and all of us ended up beet-colored everywhere from trying to peel them.  Our toddler thought it was awesome and spent our prep time (and dinner after) angling around us to to get his little fingers in the beet juice because he wanted “pink hands.”

This being said, I was reluctant to believe that after roasting these things the peel was just going to fall away if I rubbed them with a paper towel, but it worked.  I was careful to keep the beet within the towels to avoid looking like I had murdered a small animal for lunch.

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The other interesting thing I learned from this recipe is how to easily segment an orange.  The recipe assumed that one knew how to do this, but I did not.  This short little video is really informative, and it inspired me to want to create a simple desert we had in France where an fresh orange was segmented and served in a slightly sweetened version of its own juice, simple but refreshing.

Without further delay, here is the recipe for Roasted Beet Salad.

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Ingredients

4 or so beets with the tops cut off, scrubbed, tossed in EVOO, and all wrapped together in foil

segmented citrus fruit (the recipe called for two navel oranges, but I used one orange and one red grapefruit)

1/4 cp. toasted hazelnuts (or more- these were great in the salad)

salt, pepper and EVOO to taste

Rinsed and cut bibb lettuce or any other soft, buttery salad

Optional: top with goat cheese, Pecorino, or other preferred cheese (I omitted)

Directions

1.  Set the oven to 400 degrees and roast the beets for an hour to an hour and a half with the foil packet on a roasting pan.  The beets will be soft all the way through when they are done cooking

2.  Segment the citrus and save the membrane and any peel with citrus left in it

3.  Squeeze the leftover membrane and peel for the juice in a separate bowl

4.  Toast the hazelnuts in a pan on medium heat for a few minutes- just until they are fragrant.  Be careful not to burn them

5. After the beets are cooled (I did this hot as I do not fear burns and was late for a play date) rub them with a paper towel to remove the skins and slice them

6.  Toss the bibb lettuce with a few tablespoons of EVOO, salt, pepper and half of the citrus juice

6.  Put the beets on the lettuce, then add citrus segments and a little more salt, pepper, citrus juice and dab of EVOO to taste.  Lastly, sprinkle the whole thing with the toasted hazelnuts.

Enjoy!

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Vacation Recovery Meal

1 Aug

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Family Vacation

by Judith Slater

Four weeks in, quarreling and far

from home, we came to the loneliest place.

A western railroad town. Remember?

I left you at the campsite with greasy pans

and told our children not to follow me.

The dying light had made me desperate.

I broke into a hobbled run, across tracks,

past warehouses with sun-blanked windows

to where a playground shone in a wooded clearing.

Then I was swinging, out over treetops.

I saw myself never going back, yet

whatever breathed in the mute woods

was not another life. The sun sank.

I let the swing die, my toes scuffed earth,

and I was rocked into remembrance

of the girl who had dreamed the life I had.

Through night, dark at the root, I returned to it.

Taken from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/244806

What is it about vacation that sometimes leaves our worst selves exposed?  It is as if, taken out of context, our rationale selves and the selves of our loved one’s sometimes melt away to reveal all of the secret and forgotten parts: the impatience, the bad habits, the selfishness and jealousy we assumed we had outgrown expose themselves as if they were always there, bubbling underneath.  For myself personally, some of my absolute worst behaviors have been hundreds (or thousands) of miles from home in a beautiful place with the people I love most.  I remember one particularly bad moment with my husband and his best friend on a New Year’s eve in a New York subway soaked in rain and dripping mascara at some very early hour of the morning.  I grimace imagining it, so I won’t fill in all of the details.

It is hard to say why this happens, but it does add an element of relief to the day one returns.  I remember how lucky I am during that first solitary run in the morning, the first cup of hot, bitter tea at my beat-up kitchen table before my sleepy-eyed children awaken and I am greeted by my life.

I remember that this is the beautiful life I have chosen, every day, over and over.

This is one of my favorite tofu recipes.  It tastes fresh and healthy, but has really enticing sweet, salty and spicy flavors.  It is a perfect post-vacation, light meal to ease back into the usual grind and feel good about life in general.

Sauce Ingredients:

1 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar

2 tbsp. soy sauce (I use low sodium)

1 tspn. grated or minced fresh ginger

1 tspn. hot chili garlic sauce

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Other Ingredients:

1 14 oz. container of extra-firm tofu

Oil to cook (optional dash of sesame oil)

32 oz. container of vegetable stock

3 cups of instant brown rice

2-3 cups pre-shredded carrots

1 bunch of asparagus

Directions:  

1.  Drain tofu in the container and then wrap it in a paper towel and place it between two plates to drain extra liquid

2.  Peel and mince ginger and combine with all other sauce ingredients and set aside

3.  Wash and trim asparagus

4.  Prepare rice according to instructions using the vegetable broth instead of water.  Add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

5.  Heat about 1 tbsp. oil with an optional splash of sesame seed oil (if you prefer) over medium high heat

6.  Unwrap the tofu and slice it into six “steaks” and salt and pepper the steaks on each side

7.  Once the oil is very hot, place the steaks on the skillet.  You may jiggle the pan a little to make sure they don’t stick, but do not flip them until they are a nice, golden brown.  This will take 4-5 minutes per side

8.  After the steaks have been flipped, in the last minute or so spoon a tablespoon of sauce on each steak and let them simmer, soaking up the sauce.  Set aside and cover until ready to serve

9.  Remove the steaks from the pan, lower the heat to medium, and add the asparagus.  It is ok (and even good) if there is still sauce in the pan.  I like to saute the asparagus for a few minutes and then add a little of the extra vegetable stock and the carrots to the pan and cover a few more minutes to cook.

10.  When the vegetables are brightly colored but still crisp, add the extra sauce to the pan to coat and lower the heat

11.  Serve the tofu and vegetables over the rice

Enjoy!

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A Little Folly… and Bruschetta

1 Jul

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“An impertinent question I know, but they are the only interesting ones.”

-Jude Morgan, A Little Folly 

So true, Morgan, so true.  I am a loather of small talk- possibly because I fail at it, but I love people who are a little bit awkward…  Who knows why?

I am also a huge fan of Georgian era literature, especially Austen.  I relish the mundane nature of the plot, and I love all of the witty, snarky little comments the characters are always whispering to one another- at which point I usually like to say something out loud like “Aw, snap!”  It is just how I like to nerd out, comparable to how my boys like to play Magic cards and talk about video games; it is not cool, but it is just how I roll.  Reading from the genre is comparable to curling up in  fuzzy blanket in the afternoon and taking a nap while it is raining.  I did not know Jude Morgan until a few days ago, but I LOVED A Little Folly for all the usual reasons and promptly found three more of his novels to take on vacation with me next week.

In this muggy weather, I was craving something cold to go with my musings on manners.  I decided to make some bruschetta with a little roast asparagus twist for dinner.

Cold Ingredients:

Chopped tomatoes (about 3 cups)

One small, finely chopped onion

Chopped fresh basil (to taste- I like a lot, about 1/4 cp.)

1-2 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar (to taste)

1 tbsp. good EVOO

Salt and pepper to taste

For Roasting:

1 bunch asparagus

1 tbsp. EVOO

3-4 garlic cloves

A squeeze of lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Toast for Bruschetta:

Sliced french bread

EVOO or baking spray

Mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on bread at the end of toasting

Directions:

1.  Combine all cold ingredients, mix and set aside

2.  Set the oven to 400 degrees and cover a pan in aluminum foil

3.  Snap asparagus, peel whole garlic and toss in a bowl with all other roasting ingredients

4.  Put the mixture on the aluminum foil covered pan, spreading to create a single layer

5.  Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so, or until the tips of the asparagus are browning

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6.  While the asparagus is cooling, either spray or drizzle oil on the bread and toast in the over until brown- about ten minutes.

7. The last couple of minutes, sprinkle cheese on the bread

8.  Chop the asparagus and garlic and put in with the other cold ingredients.

Serve the cheese toasts with the bruschetta ingredients on the side or on top.

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 Yummy!

Here are the five-star ratings from my boys:

Littlest veggie eater: “Yummy” (doesn’t understand numbers)

Medium Veggie Eater: 3.5 and says “Crunchy”

Biggest Veggie Eater: 4 and says “Refreshing”

A Sweet Start

30 Jun

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Peach
by Jennifer Tonge
“He said
to stay a while
         and we could talk The sun
was going down I said no thanks
         I’d head
         out on
the late train but
         could I still have the peach
and what else could he say to that
         but yes”
Deserts are paramount on my list of necessities; cake is my absolute favorite food.  Despite this, I rarely make deserts at home and defer to the experts for my chocolate (or more likely peanut butter) fix.  I think the real reason I do this is because the word “rich” is not in my vocabulary, so I prefer not to see the scoops of butter and mounds of sugar in my treats before consumption.
Today, however, we had a wealth of peaches to use from our weekly veggie delivery, so I decided to make a peach crumble.

I used five or six small peaches, a leftover plum and some fresh blueberries sprinkled with a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar.

For the crumble itself, I used a recipe I found on Eating Well (see below).  I halved the recipe and sprinkled the top with a little extra raw sugar before baking.  Here is the recipe for the crumble as I altered it:

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup pecans, or almonds, chopped

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour, or all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

It cooked for about 35 minutes at 400 degrees and was delicious with vanilla ice cream.

 

Here are the five-star ratings from my boys:

Littlest veggie eater: “What are you talking about mommy?”

Medium Veggie Eater: 4.5 and he says “Delightful”

Biggest Veggie Eater: 5 and he says “Scrumptious”

 

Here is the original recipe for the crumble:

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/crumble_topping.html

Here is the link to the lovely poem:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/29690

 

 

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